GEORGE W. REIGHARD. Of the personalities of the old times of ranch and range, frontier forts, Indian fighting, buffaloes and overland trading expeditions, few are left to detail their experiences. One of them, and in many ways one of the most interesting characters of Southwestern Kansas, is George W. Reighard, a retired ranchman and cattleman of Dodge city.
Mr. Reighard's experiences in Western Kansas began nearly fifty years ago and before the days of transcontinental railways and when Western Kansas was truly the country of romance and adventure. But Mr. Reighard had lived close to the realities of existence even before he came to Kansas, and it is necessary to begin this story with his birth.
He was born in Bedford, Pennsylvania, February 1, 1846, and is now a man who has lived out his full three score and ten. His father, John R. Reighard, was born and reared in the same section of Pennsylvania, was of Pennsylvania Dutch stock, was a jeweler and farmer, and died at Bedford in 1890, at the age of ninety-seven. He married Julia Carrol, who was a native of Pennsylvania, of Irish parentage. She died in the old state in 1858. George was one of ten children. He got a country school education and was only fifteen years of age when the war broke out. Two or three years later he was working for $3 a month and gave up that unremumerative occupation to enlist, Ferbuary[si]c 29, 1864, at the age of eighteen, in Company A of the One Hundred and Eighty-fourth Pennsylvania Infantry. His commanders were Capt. M. C. Evans and Colonel Stover. His regiment was assigned to the Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He joined that army the second day after the battle of the Wilderness and was in the great campaign led by Grant in Virginia in 1864. He was wounded at Cold Harbor June 3, 1864, but after a month in hospital rejoined his command above City Point, Virginia, and remained there until his discharge at Philadelphia May 15, 1865.
After a brief stay in Pennsylvania after the war Mr. Reighard started west in 1867, and for a time worked as a farm hand in Illinois. From Champaign County in that state he came to Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1869, and after a few weeks went on to Hays City or Fort Hays, where he was employed as a Government teamster. With a freighting train he drove a six-mule team from Fort Hayes on the Kansas Pacific to Fort Dodge and Fort Supply. At that time no settlements had been made south of Hayes, and Sheridan, Kansas, was the western terminal of the Kansas Pacific Railroad. The plains were covered with antelope and buffalo, and during the summer seasons Indians were numerous, though in the winter months they retired to the south. The freighting trains with which Mr. Reighard had his experience on this trip were thirty in number, each consisting of six mules. There was a wagon master and an assistant, and besides the drivers one or two extra men, all of them supplied with arms for the Government. One time just after they had arrived at Fort Supply the Indians attempted by waving their red blankets and firing guns to stampede the mules, but the party had made a hurried drive over the 200 miles trail from Fort Hayes, doing it in six days, and the mules were so tired that they refused to be stampeded. During the summer of 1869 or 1870 Mr. Reighard states the Indians killed some section hands of the Kansas Pacific at Fossil Station where Russell now stands, and he was one of the expedition sent out to capture them. He followed the trail through to the Saline River and up that stream opposite Fort Hayes where the Indians turned north, the trail being lost in the buffalo grass.
In the summer of 1871 they took some troops from Dodge to Fort Sill, Indian Territory. As a driver Mr. Reighard was a member of General Grierson's expedition after some Indians under Chief Big Tree, chief of the Kiowas, who had refused to turn in their arms and ponies as the Government had ordered. These Indians scattered and the expedition never succeeded in running them down. Later on in the winter the chief and many of his warriors were captured.
About December, 1871, Mr. Reighard left Fort Sill and returned to Leavenworth, Kansas, and from there again to Fort Hayes, driving a mule team which he had bought. At that time he became a buffalo hunter for the meat and hides. This was perhaps the most profitable business on the plains at the time. Besides buffalo hunting he also gathered a number of wolf hides. About that time the Santa Fe Railway was being constructed, and in the spring of 1872 Mr. Reighard hauled supplies from Russell, Kansas, to the road-grade along about Great Bend and Larned and continued the work up to Dodge City.
The Santa Fe construction reached Dodge City in July, 1872. After that Mr. Reighard resumed buffalo hunting and was a member of the large army that exterminated this noble game. At all times of the year the firing of buffalo guns could be heard in almost any direction on the prairie. Practically everyone was in the business in some relationship. Mr. Reighard's camp was located on the spot where Ashland, Clark County, now stands. His kill at that camp amounted to about 2,000 buffalo. The Indians ordered the party to leave and by starting a prairie fire drove the hunters away. They next moved further west and camped on Sand Creek, where they killed about 3,000 bison. The highest price Mr. Reighard received was $2.80 for a good bull hide, while the cow hides, which would make the finest robes, sold for about $2 apiece. Mr. Reighard confesses that his heart was never fully in this work of slaughter, but as everyone else was in the business he thought he might as well get his share.
Single handed and by the method of "still hunting" Mr. Reighard killed many herds of twenty-five or thirty. "Still hunting" consisted of sneaking up on a herd and with a Sharps 50 buffalo gun killing one or two and producing such confusion that the others would start "milling around" and before they could get started in one direction practically all of the animals would be slain. After the breeding season, says Mr. Reighard, July and August, the bulls would form one herd and the cows another. The largest kill he ever made at a single stand was sixty-eight, comprising an entire herd, and all of them were slain within a distance of a quarter of a mile. With these special buffalo guns it was possible to kill an animal at a distance of 1,000 yards. Mr. Reighard sometimes employed four or five men as "skinners."
This life was not without its danger in many forms. January 27, 1873, Mr. Reighard encountered a blizzard on the Cimarron, where a number of hunters were frozen to death. He too suffered severely but his good camp protected him. The buffalo having been generally exterminated or driven away, Mr. Reighard next bought a ranch on Bluff Creek in Clark County and set up what was called a "road ranch," keeping supplies for freighters. He also used his own equipment for hauling freight for Lee & Reynolds, Indian traders at Fort Supply, and continued in that business until the spring of 1877. After the buffalo had been slaughtered a sequel to the business was gathering bones that strewed the prairies in all directions. Mr. Reighard had his share in this business also. As a freighter his outfit consisted of six eight-mule teams. In the spring of 1877 he went to Sidney, Nebraska, and freighted from there to Deadwood, Dakota. Mr. Reighard formed a personal acquaintance with many of the noted characters of the frontier. "Wild Bill" Hickok was a scout for the Seventh Cavalry when Mr. Reighard was at Fort Hayes, and at Deadwood he again saw that noted westerner a short time before his tragic death there. Mr. Reighard and party were in camp at Boulder Park near Deadwood when a six-inch snow fell on the 7th day of June, 1877. In that section supplies were very high. Mr. Reighard himself sold flour at $100 per sack to the placer miners.
Selling his mule train in 1878 he returned to Dodge City and entered the cattle business. It was his practice to buy one or two year old Texas steers, run them on the range for two years and ship to market at Kansas City, Missouri. This was a very profitable enterprise, and for several years he suffered no loss from range running. He had about $30,000 invested in livestock in 1884, when the severe winter struck the country and hundreds of his cattle died of exposure. Mr. Reighard shipped a carload of hides taken from his frozen cattle. Out of one bunch of 1608 head he saved only sixty-six, and only thirty from another lot of 600. This was a staggering calamity and all but put him out of the cattle industry.
Having a few cow ponies left and having taken up a homestead, Mr. Reighard mortgaged his property for $500 and started anew. It was his purpose to hold his stock at home and feed them, but in 1886 the "settlers" came into Southwestern Kansas, put in crops, and especially in Eastern Gray County, where Mr. Reighard was then located, they followed the practice of "impounding" the range cattle for more or less alleged damage to the crops. This interfered so much with the operations of the cattle men that Mr. Reighard sold his 600 head of cattle and then bought a farm 1 1/2 miles east of Dodge City. This farm he used for the growing of alfalfa and some livestock and during the ten years he stayed there he made numerous improvements and left it a first class farm. Mr. Reighard retired to Dodge City in 1900 and then built his present home at 213 Military Avenue. This is a two-story, eight-room modern house and furnishes all the comforts and conveniences. Mr. Reighard owns some stock in the Dodge City Alfalfa Milling Company, and most of his property is in the city, with some business property at Pretty Prairie. He has sufficient investments to insure his comfort and independence for the rest of his life.
In December, 1881, Mr. Reighard married Anna Gyles. She was born in Chicago, Illinois, August 8, 1863, a daughter of Henry J. Gyles, a pioneer rancher of Ford County, whose career is detailed on other pages of this history. Mr. and Mrs. Reighard have three children: George H., the oldest, is a railway switchman at Dodge City and by his marriage to Ellie Strange has two daughters, Margery and Eleanor. De Ette is the wife of Cecil Stewart, a pharmacist at Pretty Prairie, Kansas, and they have a child named Chad. Dorothy, the youngest of the family, is a student in the Dodge City High School.
Mr. Reighard has had a career of experience in many ways and there should be no failure to mention his important public service. He served as county commissioner from 1898 to 1901, and during that time did much to improve the county bridges. For eight years he was township trustee of Dodge Township, and while living in a portion of the country attached to the Dodge City School District served as a member of the board of education for about eight years. Politically he is a republican, and is interested in church affairs, his wife and family being active Catholics. As an old soldier Mr. Reighard is a member of Lewis Post No. 294, Grand Army of the Republic at Dodge City and has been twice senior vice commander and is now commander of the Post.
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.
Tom & Carolyn Ward
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