Doing Great in 1888
Most of the historic Old West gunmen and desperadoes who had operated or lived in Kansas were deceased or tamed by this time. James B. Hickok, also known as "Wild Bill," had died from a gunshot 12 years earlier in South Dakota. Henry McCarty, also known as William H. Bonney and "Billy the Kid," was fatally shot in New Mexico seven years before. Jesse James, also known as Thomas Howard, had received a terminal bullet wound and was buried six years earlier at his childhood farm home near Kearney, Mo. Frank James became a bouncer in a St. Louis saloon, while his old pal, Cole Younger, was away in Minnesota, serving a long sentence at the state penitentiary. Younger was rumored to have had a daughter by Myra Shirley, and the girl's mother had only a few months left to live. Also known as Belle Starr, Myra would get shot out of the saddle in early 1889. Bartholomew was the given name of a fellow called "Bat," but he had long since renamed himself William Barclay Masterson, and the 35-year-old Canadian native was putting his literary talents into practice as a New York City newspaper sports reporter. Wyatt B. S. Earp eventually wound up in California working in the motion picture business. The most noted of all buffalo hunters, William F. Cody, later achieved even wider fame as a Wild West showman. All these famous and infamous characters spent time in Kansas and were a part of Kansas history.
Gigantic clusters of bison, predominant only a quarter century before, had been diminished by hide hunters, leaving only a few surviving beasts. Believing he was saving the last existing herd, in late 1888, Charles Jesse Jones bought 50 animals from Major Sam L. Bedson of Winnipeg, Canada, and had them shipped by rail to his ranch near Garden City, Kan. Enroute from Minnesota, a calamity interrupted the journey when several head of "Buffalo" Jones' recent purchase chose to liberate themselves and stampeded in Kansas City, Mo.
During 1888, the heavyweight boxing champ was the 30-year-old "Boston Strong Boy," John Lawrence Sullivan. Next year down in Richburg, Miss., "The Great John L." would defeat Jake Kilrain in the last bare-knuckle championship bout, taking a mere 75 rounds to finish off his challenger.
(Early in the 20th century, according to sportscaster Bill Stern in 1941, Sullivan officiated a boxing match between two sporting youngsters who also loved football. After the bout, Sullivan invited the congenial combatants to dinner, where he suggested they give up boxing for something better. The old Champ advised them both to go to college. The Norwegian native named Knute Rockne and the smalltown Kansas boy named Dwight Eisenhower, the same pair whose fight was refereed by the former world's champion, went on to attend separate colleges but remained lifelong friends.)
The 1888 presidential campaign was called the most corrupt in U. S. history. Incumbent Stephen Grover Cleveland won more popular votes than his opponent, but somehow Benjamin Harrison wound up with the larger share of electoral votes. Charles Paine's yacht, the Volunteer, won the America's Cup in 1888. Mark Twain was in literary demand as the most popular writer of the day. John Pemberton of Atlanta, Ga., died in 1888, only two years after he had invented Coca-Cola, leaving it for someone else to come up with Diet Coke. At Hope, Kan., David Jacob Eisenhower gave up hope for his failing general merchandise store and took his family on the Katy Railroad down to Dennison, Tex. His son Dwight would be born there in autumn of 1890 before the Eisenhower family was to return to Kansas the following spring. 13 years earlier, Walter Percy Chrysler was born at Wamego; and now having just become a teenager in the year of 1888, he was about ready to launch a successful career beginning as a machinist's apprentice.
Boston Corbet, avenger of Abraham Lincoln's assassination and who later served as a doorman at the Kansas state legislature, was in a Topeka mental institution. Teddy Roosevelt returned to his native New York after working on a South Dakota ranch, and had just failed in an attempt to be elected mayor of New York City. John Foster Dulles, Maurice Chevalier, Thomas Edward Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Eugene O'Neill, Adolph "Harpo" Marx, Knute Kenneth Rockne, and Irving Berlin were all born during 1888. Born the following year were Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Adolf Hitler of Austria, Buck Jones and Thomas Hart Benton of the United States, and Charlie Chaplin of England.
1888 brought a "Great Blizzard" to Kansas and Nebraska early in the year. Also known as the "Schoolchildren's Blizzard," it was perhaps the biggest and most severe snowstorm to ever strike the U. S. Later that year another major blizzard paralyzed the East. Back east, the Landon family acknowledged the first birthday of baby Alfred in West Middlesex, Pa., on Friday, September 9. (Just days before his death, the former Kansas governor and presidential candidate would celebrate his 100th in Topeka with President Ronald W. Reagan paying him a respectful visit in 1987.)
The "Gay Nineties" era was approaching when much of society consolidated their concepts of social standards and behavior. It was a time of dignity and propriety, but also a time to enjoy what American life had to offer.
In 1888, Kansas was the nation's leader in laying new rails for trains. More track enabled better access to the larger towns and brought settlers of many professions to pursue opportunities in the west.
At Kansas City, the KC W & NW had its main office at Eighth and Wood streets on the Kansas side of the Missouri River, which coursed down from Omaha, St. Joseph, Atchison and Leavenworth. Several other railroad companies were also operating nearby through river bottom lands of both Kansas Cities, where the waters from the north merged with the Kaw flowing across from Topeka and Lawrence. These rail transport companies of 1888 were:
Chicago, Santa Fe & California
Chicago & Alton
Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific
Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul
Hannibal & St. Joe
Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs
Burlington & Missouri
Kansas City, Ft. Scott & Memphis
Missouri, Kansas & Texas
Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific
Copyright © 1996 Dick Taylor All Rights Reserved