Ellsworth - The Cowtown and Fort

Marker in downtown Ellsworth
        When the Union Pacific built through here in 1867 this was buffalo country. As the engines chugged on west, the Hays newspaper reported: "Passengers on the cars between here and Ellsworth have almost daily fine sport shooting at buffalo, immense herds of the huge beasts constantly entering for races with the locomotives." Ellsworth, founded in 1867, was a main terminus of the Texas cattle trade in Kansas, 1871-1873. As such it was one of the wildest of the cowtowns. There were shootings and even a fabled tour down Main street by one of the dancehall girls in the costume of Lady Godiva. South of Ellsworth was the Mother Bickerdyke Home for old soldiers and their families, named for Mary Bickerdyke, famed Civil War nurse and social worker.

        Fort Ellsworth was established four miles southeast of this marker in 1864. Two years later it was renamed Fort Harker and in 1867 was moved northeast to present Kanopolis where four of its stone buildings may still be seen. Here General Sheridan planned the winter Indian campaign of 1868-1869. Other famous generals, including Grant, Sherman, Hancock, Miles and Custer, visited or were quartered at Harker. The post was abandoned in 1873.

Erected by the Kansas State Historical Society

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December 5, 2003 / Kansas on the Net / Wichita, Kansas / history@kslib.info

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