This is not collectible.
While I have lived in Texas for nearly 50 years, I was born and grew to an adult in Kansas. When I tell someone of my origins, they almost always respond in one of two ways: “I have been there but I don’t remember much about it” or “that 400 mile drive across the state on Interstate 70 is really boring.” There is more to the state than that.
Kansas achieved statehood in 1861, but it was far from civilized. From 1850 until 1900 the region was a frontier, and at the center of important events in US history: there was the westward movement of pioneers from Europe and the eastern US and the subsequent conflicts with Native Americans; the Santa Fe Trail crossed the state and the Pony Express and the Oregon Trail passed through a corner; there was a border war because Kansas was a free state and a center of the abolitionist movement, whereas neighboring Missouri was a slave state; and finally the several new railroads were extending into hostile territory and some Kansas railheads were the destinations of cattle drives from Texas. Each trackable in this series of metal travel bugs is named for towns with interesting histories (at least to me), some of which have connections to my youth.
Baxter Springs is in the extreme southeastern corner of Kansas. In the spring of 1849 the Reverend John Baxter, his wife and eight children moved from Missouri to 160 acres of land near Spring River. Flowing from the side of a hill near the Military Road that ran between Fort Scott and Fort Gibson, was the natural spring that the Osage Indians had long visited. Near the spring he set up "Baxter’s Place,” an inn and general store. However, Baxter would not live to see the city that would eventually take his name. The Reverend Baxter, who was well known in the area as a gun-carrying preacher, was shot down in a property dispute in 1859.
Fort Blair, also referred to as Fort Baxter, was established in the spring of 1862 to protect Kansas residents against the frequent attacks from Confederate regular and guerilla forces during the Civil War. Located north of the springs, it was here that the battle referred to as the Baxter Springs Massacre occurred. Confederate guerillas, under the command of William Quantrill, struck the fort then moved on to massacre a contingent of troops being led toward Fort Smith. Nearly 100 Union soldiers were killed in the guerilla attack and are buried in the Baxter Springs Cemetery, just west of the city.
The first Kansas cowtown to develop was Baxter Springs. In 1865, after the Civil War was over, a town was laid out on 80 acres. Missouri had quarantined Texas cattle so Baxter Springs welcomed them to Kansas. The community built stockyards with corrals capable of holding 20,000 cattle and provided range land with plenty of grass and water. Though the town took on all the appearances of prosperity, it also inherited a reputation for being one of the wildest cowtowns in the West. Baxter Springs remained cattle outlet through the 1870’s as the herds were driven up the Old Shawnee Trail.
After the long cattle drives from Texas, cowboys found the town a welcoming sight after several months on the dusty trail, making the most of the numerous Baxter Springs saloons. Offering up flowing liquor, card games and available women, every third business in town was a gambling house or a saloon. Public hangings, gunfights and saloon brawls soon became common occurrences. But soon, the railroad pusheds south into Texas and further west into Kansas, and the Baxter Springs cattle industry died. However, in 1872, the mayor of Baxter Springs, J.R. Boyd shot down C.M. Taylor, the city marshal, over a dispute regarding a warrant for an arrest.
On April 19, 1876, two members of the James-Younger Gang, Charlie Pitts and Bill Chadwell, rode into town and robbed the Crowell Bank. Almost three thousand dollars (1876 dollars!) were said to have been taken.
In 1926, the Mother Road, Route 66, came through the town providing an additional source of revenue as gas stations, cafes and motor courts sprouted up in the town. In the 1930’s during the notorious run of Bonnie and Clyde, the Baxter Springs General Store was said to have been robbed by the infamous duo twice within one week.
My own history with Baxter Springs is limited to one weekend, on a class field trip. However, it is the hometown of a guy I met in college. I don’t know why it is so, but we have been friends since 1966 and work together when our schedules allow.