A Day in the life...
First hand accounts from our local citizens
My acquaintance with Butler County, Kansas dates only from the spring of 1865 - a short time when I consider that people of some intelligence resided along the rivers hundreds of years ago but who left no history.
I found a few white people when I came - perhaps 150 but of those early settlers few remain. They were encamped I the timber at Sycamore Springs. Dave Ballon, a Cherokee, with his three wives and followers were there at Sycamore Springs, also, with Dick Pratt. He was a showman all dressed in buckskin, gay ribbons, a pair of recyclers, and an elaborate scabbard. He had long, glossy, black hair hanging in ringlets to his shoulders. He was merry, handsome, gay, and a complexion of a woman.
Further down the Walnut River we met another type of persons. Judge J.C. Lambdin and George I. Donaldson and their refined and hospitable families, who had come from the east. Near by two or three buildings were called Chelsea, which was the county seat. Here I met Mart Vaught, Dr. Lewellen, Henry Marlin, the Benus family, the politics talker - Judge William Harrison, T.W. Satchell, Mr. Jones, "Whiskey" Stewart, and D.L. McCabe. The Africans were there too. The Gaskins family just above El Dorado were there.
Going on south I made camp at Old El Dorado south of present El Dorado. Here was the crossing of the great "California Trail", also the Osage Trail to their hunting ground on the Arkansas River. Here Stine and Dunlap's famous Indian trading store was located. Some buildings had been built to rent but they were deserted because of the war of the Rebellion (Civil War) to the and savage tribes to the west.
One of the two families lived at the crossing near by Jerry Conner, which had a house and claim; also Harvey Young. Some others I have forgotten, Lieut. Mathew Cowley and Mr. Johnson were living on the West Branch.
As I wanted to hunt big game and engage in the fur trade, I followed the Osage Trail west to the Whitewater, the last settlement this side of New Mexico.
Finding a lovely spot by the big spring with abundant timber near, I pitched my camp to stay. I bought out J.C. Chandler's buildings and holding, put up other buildings, brought my wife and baby boy, put in a stock of goods for my neighbors, my hunters, and the Indians who soon came in by the hundreds.
There wer a few settlers on the Whitewater at that time. Williams Vann, Martin Huller, Dan Cupp, who helped build my house; Anthony Davis, Old Man Gillian; at Plum Grove lived Joseph Adams. Soon came Samuel C. Fulton, Mrs. Lawton, and her son Jack; and others.
As soon as I was settled, I made a hunt on the Arkansas River to show what could be done in that line. I took two inexperienced men with two teams. and in three weeks we were back with 330 buffalo hides, 3500 pounds of buffalo tallow, some elk and antelope meat. Soon I had half of the men in the country hunting and trading. These I outfitted and supplied their families while they were gone. None of them failed to make returns; people were honest in those days including our red brother. Of the Indians one winter I obtained 3000 buffalo robes.
The government sent agency Major Milo Gookins to look after the various Indians tribes. He established his agency at my place. We had a school in a log building on the hill where Towanda is built. Father Stansburg preached once a month at my house, sermon pure gospel without price or creed.
Life has its tragedies then as now. Of those employed by me, George Adams died from exposure in the icy waters of the Arkansas, Jack Lawton was shot by an outlaw a the mouth of the Arkansas, and Sam Carter died of cholera at my house.
At my home and trading post, widely known as "Meads Ranch", were born to me two daughters and a son, and there passed to her long rest, my beloved wife whose life was full of love and kindness.
The seven years I lived in Towanda from 1863-1869 were full of activity and success with much joy and sorrow. Butler County in those years, was as nature made it, was beautiful to the eye, green prairies, gushing springs, stately timer, clear flowing streams; birds and fish abounded and nearby were elk, deer, antelope, and buffalo innumerable, free to all for the taking.