From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
A man who, with but one eye could see better in the opinion of most of the pioneer kids of North Leavenworth, than any other human with two eyes of perfect vision and a binocular telescope...a man who, when, when on the extreme northwest portion of the US military reservation, could hear the crack of a 22-calibre rifle fired over near the waterworks . . . a man who was credited with an uncanny instinct that led him to any portion of he rserve where youngsters (and oldsters, too) were poaching for prairie chicken, quail or rabbit was none other than James M. Beddow, range rider and inspector on the reservation from 1877 until within a few years of his death which occured at the Soldiers' Home December 3, 1915. He was 89 years old.
And many of the kids who were chased from the lands upon which "Jim" Deddow ranged will claim that it was the rare combination of man and army mule that snooped them out, no matter where they were hunting illegally or what kind of firearms they carried. Two out of every three of those nimrods who transgressed on Beddow's domain further asserted most vehemently that the mule never hesitated, while chasing poachers along the Kansas Central, Missouri Pacific or Santa Fe railway right of way, or balked when confronted by a railroad trestle that had to be crossed in running down culprits.
Some of those fellows, even to this day, will assert that the mule never even looked down to see where the cross-ties were, but just ambled along as confidently as tho' it were on a broad stretch of concrete highway.
the writer, in his younger days, was among those who often came into contact with "Jim" Beddow, but always got off with a reprimand because his dad and the range rider were old time buddies. But most of the poachers caught, either were forced to hand over their guns, or be herded by man an mule to the Fort Leavenworth guard house where the officer of the guard reprimanded them, usually returned their firearms, but warned that a repetition of their unlawful act meant a cell in the army hoosegow.
How efficient Beddow and that mule were in chasing poachers from the reservation was related some years ago by a lad who claimed to have been an eyewitness to the following incident. Believe it or not:
A party of young hunters, returning from the Missouri bottoms to Leavenworth, clambered down the hill at the west approach to the North or Fort bridge to the Missouri Pacific tracks. North of the mouth of One Mile creek, Charley Jackson, a Negro boy, spotted a covey of quail. Being quick on the trigger, tho' previously warned that Beddow would catch him if he did any shooting on the reservation, he unlimbered his 10-guage shotgun. Hardly had the explosion occurred than there, on top of a slight rise the boys saw Beddow on his mule. He had seen Jackson shoot so the race between boy and army mule was on.
Jackson, in his flight over One Mile creek trestle had to find landing fields for two feet, while the army "hinny" was handicapped in that it had two sets of landing gears to put down on the ties. Jackson gained on the trestle, but on the straightaway between One and Two Mile trestles..considerably less than one mile apart . . . the hybrid closed up the distance considerably.
The framework over Two Mile trestle being much longer than the one over One Mile proved a greater handicap for the army canary. Jackson crossed in "nothing flat," and made such a gain that Beddow gave up the chase just south of the structure. Jackson, by that time had forgotten what he called his "second wind" and continued the marathon, not feeling secure until he had passed the old intake of the waterworks, his companions lost sight of him.
Some years later the writer, then city editor of The Times, decided to do a little investigating as he had his serious doubts as to the veracity of some of the fellows who were telling about it. Jackson was asked, among other things, how he could run so far, so fast. He grinned as he replied:
"I just kept saying 'Feet don't fail me now' all the time I was getting away and they didn't. I dog-trotted on from the waterworks to that log chute that ran under the railroad tracks from the river to the old North coal mine sawmill. I knew I was safe there cause that was on the line between the city limits and the reservation and I knew Beddow couldn't arrest me there."
James Beddow at the time of his death was the oldest settler in this part of Kansas, having come here in 1848. He was with the First Dragoons, Us, army, in the Mexican war and was service on the plains of Kansas, Colorado, the Dakotas and New Mexico. In 1877 he became connected with the quarter-master's department. In 1877 he was appointed range rider, in chargeof all government lands. His tour of duty in those days took him over the 5,800 acres of land in Kansas and 999 acres in Platte County, Mo. His orders were to protect government property and keep poachers on the jump, which he carried out to the letter.
How Beddow lost his right eye was always a debatable question with the boys who roamed the reservation, but the following paragraph will set at rest any further argument.
During what was known as the Kansas war in 1856 he carried dispatches from Fort Leavenworth to commanding officers in the field. During the opening months of the civil war he was a ranger over a large tract of government land in Nebrasks.
While there he was attacked by highwaymen who supposed he was carrying money to pay off his men. By these ruffians he was badly beaten, andin the fight lost the sight of his right eye. He lost consciousness and lay for eleven days on the prairie. For ninety days after he was found he hovered between life and death.
During his early days, Beddow took part in fights with the Pawnee and Cheyenne Indians; his life was one of exposure and hardship, and he recalled in later years that for many nights, in prairie blizzards he slept on the ground with only a blanket for cover. However his robust constitution was not impaired and throughout his long and active life he had excellent health up to within a few days before his death.
On July 21, 1899, he celebrated the fifty-third anniversary of his connection with the government service. His long years of faithful duty were recognized by the US Army and his remains were interred in the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, December 7, 1915..