EDWIN T. BIDWELL. A resident of Kansas since 1876, Edwin T. Bidwell's activities for many years have identified him with Kinsley, where his father's family located as early as 1878. Mr. Bidwell is one of the old time western cattle men, was in that industry during the range period, and has many interesting experiences to relate concerning frontier conditions, the old cattle drives and trails, the incursions of Indians, and the gradual settling up and developing of this part of the United States.
Mr. Bidwell was born in Litchfield County, Connecticut, June 21, 1851, but when seven years of age his parents came west. They lived for two years at Beloit, Wisconsin, where he first attended school, and they next settled at Cambridge, Illinois. Mr. Bidwell continued his schooling in Henry and Knox counties, Illinois, and had one term in Lombard College at Galesburg.
He was twenty-five years of age when he came to Kansas. He entered land in Comanche County, but let that claim go and was soon active as a stockman. He was connected with a large company operating on the range basis and with headquarters at Bluff Creek near Protection and in Southern Kansas. His operations as a cattle man continued in Northern Oklahoma and Southern Kansas fourteen years. This outfit operated the "Half Circle Box" ranch on the Salt Plains of the Cimarron River just south of Coldwater, Kansas. The company also operated large amounts of land in the Cherokee Strip. When the cattle were ready for market they were driven to the railroad shipping point at Caldwell, Kiowa, Woodward, Protection and Dodge City. This was one of the largest firms operating in that region. When the railroads penetrated the country the headquarters of the company were moved to Coldwater from Kinsley. Arthur Gorham, manager of the ranch, was once assistant land commissioner of the Santa Fe Railway. These extensive holdings of the company were finally sold. This was largely due to the fact that cattlemen were ordered out of the Cherokee Strip by the Government. About that time Mr. Bidwell returned to Kinsley and engaged in merchandising.
In 1878 Mr. Bidwell was present when the Northern Cheyenne Indians raided Kansas. About 900 of these Indians had been moved from Red Cloud, Nebraska, to a reservation in Indian Territory. In a few months they became dissatisfied and restless and finally broke away from their reservation, and started back to their old haunts. They committed many depredations along the way. These depredations particularly affected the cattlemen in Indian Territory and Kansas. It was early one morning that they made the raid on the camp on Bluff Creek where Mr. Bidwell was stationed. The Indians took all the loose horses they could find and killed a number of cattle. A boy in an adjoining camp was killed and several people lost their lives as the Indians went through Comanche and Clark counties, Kansas. Mr. Bidwell helped bury four of the victims. The Indians, who were under the command of Chief Dull Knife, continued their trail of slaughter and blood clear back to the Red Cloud Agency, from which they had been moved. Mr. Bidwell joined the party of soldiers from Fort Dodge which met the Indians near Ashland in Clark County. The battle continued all day, but at night the Indians escaped. These Indians were supplied with both guns and arrows. The arrows they used to shoot sheep and lambs, whenever they came upon a flock.
After locating permanently at Kinsley Mr. Bidwell became associated in business under the firm name of Marsh & Bidwell. John Marsh, the head of this firm, was subsequently murdered on the streets of Kinsley. The son continued doing business until 1908, when it was succeeded by Ehlers Brothers, who are leading merchants of Kinsley today.
For many years Mr. Bidwell had extensive farming interests in Edwards County. As already stated, his first effort to secure a Government claim in Comanche County proved a failure. Later he made another filing in Hodgeman County, but this he also abandoned. On the Hodgeman County land he planted trees, but they refused to grow. In Edwards County he has been a factor in breaking out and improving land, and through many years he has pinned his faith to wheat as the banner crop proposition. At times some of his acreage in wheat has produced as high as thirty bushels to the acre, and he had one crop of 400 acres in Kiowa County, which yielded more than twenty bushels. In 1914 he enjoyed a banner wheat crop. As a dealer Mr. Bidwell has bought wheat as low as 30 cents a bushel but has never sold it less than 65 cents. Some of his own crop he has sold as high as a $1.59. For a quarter of a century Mr. Bidwell has been a stockholder and a director of the Kinsley Bank, and has erected some of the permanent business houses as his contribution to the upbuilding of Kinsley. For forty-five years he has been identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. A number of years ago he sat in the Grand Lodge, and is one of the older past noble grands in the lodge at Kinsley. At Coldwater, Kansas, he joined the Masonic Lodge, and is past master of the Kinsley Lodge and past high priest of the Kinsley Chapter, has taken both the Scottish and York Rites, and is a member of the Appollo Commandery of the Knights Templar at Larned, the Wichita Consistory and the Isis Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Salina.
Mr. Bidwell represents some very old American stock in his ancestry. His grandfather was Truman Bidwell, who was a produce shipper and dealer with southern ports from New York. He died in Louisiana while on a trip to New Orleans with a cargo of cheese and other commodities. He left only two children, George E. and Susan. The latter married Albert Welton, and died in Cambridge, Illinois. Her husband was one of the early settlers of Nebraska, where he developed a large tract of land.
George E. Bidwell, father of Edwin T., was born at Kingsville in Ashtabula County, Ohio, August 22, 1824. He learned the trade of locksmith, and went to Connecticut, where he followed it for several years. After moving to Illinois he engaged in farming and in 1878 he brought his family to Kansas and bought railroad land near Kinsley where he farmed for a number of years. He finally sold his land and moved into Kinsley, where he died December 7, 1904. He belonged to no fraternity or church and was an active republican, serving at one time as supervisor of his township in Knox County, Illinois.
George E. Bidwell married Martha Amelia Wadhams, who was born at Goshen, Connecticut, April 4, 1829, and died in Edwards County, Kansas, November 12, 1882. She was a daughter of Edward and Mary Lewis (Tuttle) Wadhams. The Wadhams in America are directly descended from John Wadhams, who came from Somersetshire, England, and settled near Weathersfield, Connecticut, between 1645 and 1650. John Wadhams was elected constable of his village and was a land owner and freeman. From this original ancestor to Mrs. George Bidwell the line of descent goes through the following heads of generations: John, who married Hannah Bidwell; Noah; Jonathan, who married Judith Howe; Abraham Wadhams; and Edwin, father of Mrs. Bidwell. Edwin married Triphena Collins. This family was represented in the military service of the colonies in the person of Abraham Wadhams, a son of Jonathan and Judith Howe Wadhams. Abraham Wadhams enlisted at Litchfield, Connecticut, January 21, 1776, for eight weeks in Col. Andrew Ward Jr.'s company under Major General Lee. Later he was a member of Capt. Stephen Godwin's company at Goshen for six months. He took part in the battle of Long Island in 1777. The Collins family was represented in the Revolutionary war by Lieutenant C. Collins, who took part in the capture of General Burgoyne's army in Northern New York. He was the father-in-law of Abraham Wadhams.
The children of George E. Bidwell and wife were: Edwin T.; Miss Florence, of Waterbury, Connecticut; Minnie, who married Chester Jones of Waterbury, Connecticut; Susan, who married the late John F. Marsh and is now living in Tulsa, Oklahoma; George Henry who died in Kinsley; Ralph Wadhams, of Briggsdale, Colorado; and Caroline, who married Thomas D. Barlow of Waterbury, Connecticut.
Edwin T. Bidwell was married in Meade County, Kansas, September 12, 1903, to the widow of his brother, George H. Bidwell. Mrs. Bidwell was born at Red Rock, Iowa, in 1872, daughter of James W. and Jane (Petite) Harp. Her father was a native of Galesburg, Illinois, and her mother of Netherland, Tennessee. Mr. Harp spent his life chiefly as a merchant at Red Rock, Iowa, but in 1885 removed to Kansas and located near Mullinville in Kiowa, County, where he and his wife spent their last years. They reared the following children: Thomas, who died in Kiowa County, unmarried; Edith, wife of A. N. Reed, of Greensburg, Kansas; James, of Mullinville, Kansas; W. C., of Mullinville; Mrs. F. M. Steele, of Liberal, Kansas; Mrs. N. T. Cox, of Greensburg; J. D., of Mullinville and Mrs. Bidwell. By her first husband Mrs. Bidwell had three children: George, born December 3, 1896, is in the naval aviation school in Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Curtin, born September 30, 1899, is a volunteer for aviation service; and Susan, born December 26, 1900. Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Bidwell have two children: Myra, born November 4, 1904; and Jessie A., born May 8, 1906. Mr. Bidwell for many years has maintained his annual membership in the Kansas State Historical Society and he is also a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, being eligible to that order through his Wadhams ancestry.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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