Cowtown Wichita and the Wild,Wicked West

by Stan Hoig, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 2007, $19.95.

Wichita is certainly one of the best-known cattle towns of Kansas, “a model community,” historian Stan Hoig notes, “of what has come to be known as the American Wild West.” And for its part in creating both myth and reality of the Wild West, Wichita has often been chronicled in television, film, fiction and histories. The latter includes Harry Sinclair Drago’s Wild, Woolly & Wicked, H. Craig Miner’s Wichita: The Early Years, 1865-80 and Robert R. Dykstra’s The Cattle Towns.

Hoig, the professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Central Oklahoma, re-creates Wichita’s cow town legacy with anecdotes about the people who populated the town during its wickedest and wildest days. One such story is the meeting of Tom Wells and John Lawton in July 1867 when Lawton, sitting on the counter of the Lewellen-Davis store, said he’d shoot any Army deserter. “Evidently Wells was a deserter himself, for in a fit of anger he pulled his revolver and shot Lawton twice, committing the first known murder at Wichita.” Yet Hoig traces Wichita before such ruckuses became common, before a Who’s-Who of Westerners (Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Mike Meagher and Pawnee Bill among them) began hanging their hats in town. He traces Spanish explorers and their pursuit of gold, Indian agent Jesse Leavenworth and his pursuit of peace on the Little Arkansas, and Jesse Chisholm and the trail he blazed.


Originally published in the October 2007 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here