The route of the Santa Fe Trail has been marked, mapped and honored in many ways. A few of its deep ruts are still distinguishable; we preserve what we can.
The opening of the great West is one of the most fascinating and cherished happenings in our nation's history. It was, and still is, difficult for people of small, crowded countries to even imagine the scope of the westward movement. The individuals who made up this migration of the eighteen sixties, seventies and eighties were as varied as were their life stories. This man was Albert Henry (A. H.) Boyd of Boyd's Ranch near Pawnee Creek which wound its way across the prairie.
In the spring of 1864, young Albert Henry Boyd left Will County, Illinois with $5.00 in his pocket. His immediate destination was Leavenworth, Kansas; his ultimate destiny was to be a firm place in the history of frontier Kansas. Recently discharged from the Union Army following a two year term of duty with the Army following a two year term of duty with the Army of the Potomac, Boyd had fought in several major battles of the Civil War and served as scout under leading generals of the Union Forces. Upon reaching the frontier, Boyd led four separate wagon trains across the plains before taking a contract to supply wood to Fort Larned in 1867. Twice over, Boyd was attacked by Indians. In both instances, his partner was killed, and he himself narrowly escaped the scalping knife.
However, Boyd should not be remembered because of his military or frontier exploits, but because of his keen sense of entrepreneur ship. Boyd was an opportunist in the best sense of the word. When Indians stole his freighting team two days in succession, he immediately recouped his losses by taking a contract to supply hay and wood to nearby Fort Larned. When the rail road reached the Pawnee Valley bringing civilization and an immediate change in social expectations, Boyd converted his ranch from a roadhouse to a respectable family farm. When he found his position as city councilman and saloon owner in Dodge City untenable during the infamous saloon wars, he immediately sold out his interest in the Dodge House and removed himself to the obscurity of a Larned drug store. Boyd was a decisive business man, prompt to action and quick to capitalize upon a given moment.
In this little volume, an attempt has been made to trace Boyd's steps from the place of his birth in Vermont to his boyhood home in Illinois; from his dramatic, if brief, military career to his days as a wagon master; from his life at the ranch to business ventures in Dodge City, Kansas; from his return to Larned to his subsequent and final days in Kansas City, Missouri. The chronology of these 70 years (1841-1911) is presented in four short chapters: The War and the West; The Ranch; The Hotel; The Aftermath.
Hopefully, additional information may soon be discovered about A. H. Boyd which can add substance to this altogether brief account of his life.
The War and the West
Albert Henry Boyd came from a long line of adventurers. His great grandfather, a Revolutionary War veteran, had immigrated to Vermont from Scotland in the eighteenth century. His grandfather, Hiram, soldiered in the War of 1812 as did his father in the Civil War. When Boyd enlisted in the Union Army, he became the fourth generation of the Boyd family to serve in American military forces.
Boyd, the third in a family of 11 children, was born October 6, 1841 at St. Albans Bay, Vermont to Nelson and Hannah Colgrove Boyd. Boyd's family moved west in 1853, settling first in Chicago, and a year later moving to a farm in Will County near Plainfield, Illinois. There, Boyd continued his schooling in the common schools and also was enrolled at Clark's Seminary in Aurora, Illinois for a year and a half. While at Clark's Boyd supported himself by working on farms adjacent to the school.
In the fall of 1861, Boyd enlisted in the 8th Illinois Cavalry Co. K. Serving with McClelland in the Penisular Campaign, Boyd fought in the battles of Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Chancellorville, first and second Fredricksburg, and Gettysburg. Detailed as a scout, Boyd served under Sumner, Richardson, Pleasanton and Meade. Part of his duty was spent at headquarters in command of the scouts. When his tour of duty was completed in September, 1863, Boyd returned to Will County where he resided until the following spring when he left the home of his youth for the frontier of Kansas.
Upon his arrival in Kansas, Boyd was employed in the quartermaster's department at Fort Leavenworth. He maintained that position until the following fall when he took command of 25 wagons in a train of 300 headed to Denver. This was the first government train to cross the plains since the Indian trouble of 1864. During that uprising, the Kiowa, Santana, raided Fort Larned, driving off a number of horses and mules.
Upon reaching Denver, Boyd took charge of a government train to southern Colorado and New Mexico. Returning to Denver the spring, he headed another wagon train in the summer of 1865 to establish camp Wardwell in southern Colorado. Boyd returned to Leavenworth in the early winter of the same year where he secured command of a wagon train to Santa Fe. During this trip, Boyd became acquainted with both Forts Larned and Dodge; and in the fall of 1866, Boyd returned to Fort Dodge where he became associated with a wood contractor for six months. From Fort Dodge he moved to Fort Larned where he received a contract to provide wood until December of 1867. In the following year, July, 1868, Boyd purchased the remains of a ranch attacked by Indians the previous year.
The ranch, originally established by Samuel Parker in 1865, was located two and a half miles from Fort Larned on the Pawnee River about a quarter of a mile south of the plateau which came to be known as Jenkins Hill. Parker sold the ranch to Fortas and Fletchfield who in turn sold it to Draight and Wagginer. Mrs. Wagginer was reported to have been the first white women in the area. Draight sold out to his partner in 1867; and in the same year, Indians raided the ranch, burning the house and driving off the livestock. Ironically, Wagginer had no legal claim to the property he sold to Boyd. However, Boyd did later file for legal ownership of the quarter section and received a homestead patent in 1874.
Boyd immediately set up housekeeping in a dugout while he began work on a sod house. This house, the first permanent, civilian settlement between Fort Union, New Mexico and Council Grove, Kansas, became a major landmark in the latter days of the Santa Fe Trail. Dimensions of the house vary from one account to another. Ella Boyd Wormwood, Boyd's sister who came to live at the ranch in 1877, recalled some 70 years later that the house measured 100 feet long by 50 feet wide. In another account, Boyd's sister remembered the house being 60 feet in length. Still another description, written by a Sumner County lawman named Freeman who visited the ranch in 1872, depicted the house as 20 feet in width and 40 feet in length. Freeman's description is likely to be more accurate and is in keeping with a photograph of the structure taken in 1886. The photograph shows small patches of plaster remaining on the house, the rest of the plaster having been devoured by grasshoppers in the plague of 1874. Boyd's sister recalled that the walls and ceilings of the house were covered with white muslin, and the roof was constructed with wood shingles. All the out buildings, except the frame chicken house, were made of sod, even the corrals were sod structures, four feet high and eighteen inches thick.
The interior descriptions of the house also varied form source to source. The 1872 Freeman account described the house as follows:
". . .the barroom was in the southwest corner, the balance of the west side was partitioned into small rooms in which was a bunk or bed, to accommodate one man. A hall ran through the entire building, and the east side was arranged in a similar manner to the west. Opposite the barroom was a room in which was kept guns and saddles."
One of Boyd's sister's accounts depicted the building as containing a living room, a dining room, and kitchen on the north side with three bedrooms on the south. Her other account speaks of seven rooms. A sketch of the house drawn in 1916 indicated eight rooms and a hall, also a tunnel leading to the river.
Surely the interior of the house was modified through the years, but whatever shape the structure took, it was recognized as a definite landmark. As early as 1871, David Heizer and George Moses, caught in a blizzard, sought the safety of Boyd's ranch. Some 60 years later, Heizer wrote, "The sailor on a spar in mid-ocean never welcomed the sight of a sail more than we did the sight of that old sod house." In 1880, a newspaper account stated that: "Al Boyd talks of building a residence in Larned, Kansas. We hope he will not demolish the old ranch which has such a classical history."
From this sod house, Boyd launched a number of business ventures. Initially, he sold provisions to buffalo hunters, and in turn became a dealer in hides and pelts. He also established a freighting business hauling goods from Ellsworth and Hays, Kansas to both Fort Larned and Fort Dodge in Kansas. On October 2, 1868, Indians ran off the stock at the ranch including the draft horses Boyd used in his freighting business. The following day, Boyd, accompanied by a man designated only as McGinnis, went to Fort Larned and purchased a span of horses. Boyd and McGinnis each mounted a horse to return to the ranch. Halfway home, Indians charged from the creek bank and Boyd urged his horse to safety of the ranch. McGinnis, however, turned back toward the fort, but was shot and scalped. The loss of two teams in as many days left Boyd in debt. To recoup his losses, he secured a contract to supply wood and hay to Fort Larned. He also became engaged in cattle trading, a business which he pursued at various intervals for a number of years, filing for the second cattle brand registered in Pawnee County in December of 1873. Another 1868 venture was the toll bridge Boyd built on the Pawnee at the crossing near the base of Jenkins Hill. The bridge, crudely made of logs, accommodated travelers on the trail during times of high water. A Kansas City Daily Journal account of October 5, 1879 reported that the original toll board had been found ten years after high water washed away the bridge in 1869. The rates of toll, still intact on the weathered board were as follows: "Two horse wagon, loaded, $.35; four horse wagon, loaded, $.50; eight horse wagon, loaded, $1.00; four ox wagon, loaded, $.50; twelve ox wagon, loaded, $1.25. Other rates in proportion."
Boyd's Ranch also served as road house for civilian and soldier alike. In 1869, two letters were written by the commanding officer, Capt. Dangerfield Parker, at Fort Larned to the Department of Missouri headquarters complaining about the liquor traffic at Boyd's Ranch. In 1867, a reservation of sixteen square miles had been established around Fort Larned, and no hard liquor was available to the enlisted men within reservation limits. However, the soldiers had only to travel down river about two and half miles to Boyd's Ranch where a plentiful supply of spirits was kept in store. Also assumed to be available at the ranch was prostitution. Almost every western fort had adjacent to its boundaries a roadhouse which offered among its wares, both liquor and women. Such enterprises were commonly called "Hog Ranches." There is no definite reference to prostitution at Boyd's Ranch, but the Freeman description of the interior of the sod house with the many small rooms would seem to indicate a series of cribs common to the pioneer houses of ill repute.
Boyd also ran afoul of the military in other matters. Captain H. B. Bristol wrote to "Mr. Boyd, Pawnee River, Kansas" to admonish him for allowing his cattle to trample the garden plots planted at Fort Larned. Captain Bristol impounded the cattle and only released them after Boyd paid damages and promised to keep his cattle away from the gardens in the future.
In 1871, Boyd established the first farm west of Newton, Kansas, and by 1879 he had 300 acres in cultivation. An 1883 newspaper item reported that Boyd had harvested 4,000 bushels of grain that fall.
The last loss of livestock to Indians in Pawnee County occurred in May, 1871 when ten horses and six mules were ran off from Boyd's Ranch. Boyd's sister recalled that her brother was later remunerated by the U.S. Government for this loss. A letter from the Commanding officer at Fort Larned, Major Richard I. Dodge, the date June 30, 1871 confirms this raid.
At some unknown time Boyd acquired a partner at the ranch, the Mr. Beale Mentioned in Commanding Officer Parker's letter to the Department of Missouri headquarters dated April 10, 1863. The 1870 U.S. Census listed a Henry Beale, age 29, with real estate valued at $1,000 and personal property valued at $1,400. Beale's occupation was recorded as a keeper of saloon and ranch. Beale is mentioned in another unusual account written by David Heizer. Heizer recalled that in 1871, Boyd and Beale brought in a herd of hogs from Missouri and turned them loose near the mouth of the Walnut River. In turn, they hired a hunter to kill buffalo to feed the hogs. The rationale, according to Heizer, was that although buffalo meat, free for the taking, was much tastier than pork, it could not be kept and cured. Pork could be cured, and thus transported to market.
The Freeman description of Boyd's ranch may contain a veiled reference to the shady side of Boyd's partner: "This ranch was well known throughout the West, and by some it was presumed to be the hiding place for criminals who were being searched for by the law." The only person at the ranch when Officer Freeman arrived in pursuit of the horse thief, Tom Smith, was the bartender who denied having seen the thief in question. This denial was later proved to be a falsehood. Conjecture is that the bartender must have been Henry Beale.
In 1872, Boyd appeared to have found a new partner in George B. Cox, the first postmaster of Larned, Kansas. As Beale may well represent the questionable past in Boyd's life, so Cox may refer to the future of Boyd as citizen and business man, respected entrepreneur of both Larned and Dodge City, Kansas.
With the coming of the railroad in 1872, the frontier was pushed westward. The iron rails quickly replaced the worn ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, and personnel at Fort Larned was reduced to a skeleton crew. The fort was finally abandoned in 1878. The last buffalo in Pawnee County was killed in 1884. In less than a decade, the buffalo hunter, soldier, and frontiersman had all but disappeared from the prairie scene.
With the rail road came civilization and government, but not without some uncivil action. In order to secure the signatures of 40 electors on a petition to organize Pawnee County, Boyd and Henry Booth reportedly stopped an immigrant train heading west on the Santa Fe Trail and forced the men in the caravan to sign the petition. In turn, Booth and others, on October 7, 1872, swore under oath before George Cox, Boyd's business partner, postmaster, and justice of peace, that "the above signatures are the genuine signatures of householders and legal electors of the County of Pawnee." Subsequently, Governor Harvey granted Pawnee County official status, and appointed a temporary board of commissioners on November 4, 1872. Boyd was one of those appointed to that board, and the following day was elected as Pawnee County Commissioner.
Thus, Al Boyd, proprietor of Boyd's Ranch and partner with Henry Beale quickly made the transition to A. H. Boyd, County Commissioner and business partner with George B. Cox. In addition, Boyd was chosen as treasurer of his township and served as juror in the first district court trial conducted in Pawnee County.
In Keeping with his new image, Boyd and his new partner, in 1872, built a hotel in the lower part of the town, or as one account reads, "under the hill." As the major public building in the newly formed townsite, the hotel served as the first voting place in Larned. Cox and Boyd closed the hotel in January of 1873, and on May 10, the County Commissioners rented the building for $350 per year payable quarterly in advance. By contract, Boyd was to keep the building in repair. When he failed to do so, the Commissioners cancelled the contract and rented space in another hotel in November of the same year.
In the meantime, Boyd had initiated new business interests in Dodge City which was organized in 1872. By November of that year, Boyd had established feed stables and a tannery. He also engaged in buffalo hunting and the buying and shipping of hides. The very month Boyd and Cox closed their hotel in Larned, they opened the Dodge House.
In December of 1873, Boyd married Emma A. James, daughter of Henry and Elizabeth James of Atchinson, Kansas. Even though Boyd maintained official residence at the ranch as registered in the 1875 Pawnee County Census, he spent most of his time at the Dodge House looking after his many business enterprises. In relation to the hotel, Cox and Boyd opened a saloon, a restaurant, and a billiard hall. Other investments included a livery stable, a laundry, and a number of dwelling houses. Boyd himself purchased a 160 acre farm near Dodge City and increased his holdings at the ranch to 400 acres. In addition, he acquired several pieces of property in the city of Larned.
The Dodge House, which was recognized as the principal hotel in Dodge City form 1872 to 1883, boasted 38 rooms and could accommodate 90 guests. The hotel's register read like a who's who of the old West. Among its most prominent guests was Doc Holiday who sat up dental practice in Room 24 during the summer of 1878. In 1874, the U.S. Weather Service established an observatory at the Dodge House. Early day photographs clearly show the instruments installed on the roof.
In August, 1877, Boyd's sister Ella and his brother Fred with his three children came from Plainfield, Illinois, to look after the ranch. Boyd's mother, Hannah, joined the family in November of the same year. Immediately, Boyd's wife left the ranch to live in Dodge City with her husband. Evidently, since the marriage, she had lived at the ranch while Boyd maintained residence at the Dodge House, making an occasional visit to Larned. On one such visit, Boyd's sister recalled the Indians attacked her brother and a partner as they were returning to Dodge City on horseback. Boyd raced to the safety of his corral, but his partner was killed. At a later date in Dodge City, when the Indians had become friendly, the leader of the band told Boyd that they had not intended to harm either Boyd or his partner, they only wanted the fine horse Boyd was riding. Even after Mrs. Boyd joined her husband at the Dodge house, A. H. came by train to Larned about every six weeks to visit the ranch. In Fact, Boyd's sister stated that while other families in drought stricken Pawnee County were existing on rice corn, her brother's visits kept a constant supply of food coming to the ranch.
Evidently, Boyd's marriage was not without problems, and four years after his wife joined him at Dodge City, a divorce was granted on September 20, 1881. The next month, Boyd married Mattie McKeel in the Baptist Church at Wahoo, Nebraska. Boyd's sister later referred to the second wife as "his partner McKeel." Evidently, she had difficulty in accepting the second marriage and returned with her mother and two of her brother Fred's children to Plainfield, Illinois, in 1882.
By this time, Boyd was finally established as one of the leading citizens and businessmen of Dodge City. He was included in the United States Biographical Dictionary, 1879, and elected to the City Council in 1881. In the following year, Boyd was reelected to the Council.
In May of 1883, the infamous saloon wars erupted in Dodge City, pitting the Luke Short faction against the city authorities. Associated with Short were Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. Boyd must have found his position as city councilman and saloon owner untenably. He sold out his half interest in the Dodge House to Cox for $14,000 and immediately departed to his Larned ranch. The exact reasons for his leaving are unknown, but financial reverses must have contributed to his departure. At the time of his death, the Dodge City Globe reported Boyd had made a fortune and lost it at Dodge City.
Upon his return to Larned, Boyd immediately opened a drug store, and his wife occupied the second floor of the same building with a millinery shop. Even though Boyd continued to operate the drug store for a period of time, it is evident that his main interest was cattle trading. When mustered into the G.A.R. in September of 1883, he was identified as a cattle man. The 1885 Census listed him as a ranch man; and an 1885 newspaper account reported Boyd and two partners driving cattle to Colorado.
In 1885, Boyd left the ranch and moved to the Dudley house in the City of Larned. In the following year, a newspaper account described Boyd's property at 8th and Toles as having a beautiful yard where "a year ago only a buffalo wallow existed."
Details of Boyd's life from this point on are scarce. Conjecture would have it that he must have experienced more financial reverses. In 1887, Boyd was reported to have sold lots in Dodge City for $22,000 and in 1888, Boyd deeded the ranch to Peoples Bank. A Larned newspaper spoke of Boyd's 1889 visit to Larned from Buthrie, Oklahoma, and an 1891 news item reported that the Boyd's had moved back to Dodge City. Boyd's address in 1898 was listed as Dodge City in a suit he brought against the government for losses suffered in Indian raids. Boyd's sister recalled her brother owning the Dutton house in Topeka. That hotel was listed in 1899 as being managed by Mattie A. Boyd. Boyd's sister also remembered her brother owning another hotel in Marion which was destroyed by a flood. No record remains of that property.
Later, Boyd did operate a boarding house at 916 Washington Street in Kansas city, Missouri. In fact, Boyd died of burns and smoke inhalation from fighting a fire which destroyed the house on January 5, 1911. The Kansas City Star reported his death in General Hospital on January 25, 1911. Boyd's wife died the following year at St. Joseph Hospital, also in Kansas City; and was buried with her husband in Mount Washington Cemetery, Kansas City, Missouri.
The United Sates Biographical Dictionary 1879 eulogized Boyd's thirty-two years before his death as follows:
"He is universally respected where he is known and, although much of his life engaged on the frontier trading with Indians, hunters, and frontiersmen, he has ever borne a high character for honor and integrity. As one of the earliest settlers of Dodge City, his name will be cherished for work he has accomplished in building up the town and developing the county around it."
Should the biography have been written at the time of his death, the writer probably would not have been so generous; but the sensitive reader will remember A. H. Boyd with respect even though his final years were spent in a Kansas City boarding house for removed form the raw adventure of the Kansas frontier and the glamour of the Dodge House.
Foolk, Odie B., Dodge City, Oxford University Press, New York, 1977.
Freeman, G. D., Midnight and Noonday, G. D. Freeman, Caldwell, Kansas, 1892.
Heizer, David No., Mirages of the Plains, Century One Press, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1980.
Miller, Nyle H. and Shell, Joseph W., Why the West Was Wild, Kansas State Historical Society, 1963.
United States Biographical Dictionary, 1879 Kansas Volume, S. Lewis and Company Publishers, Chicago and Kansas City, 1879.
Zook, Paul W. (ed.) Panorama of Progress, Tiller and Toiler, Larned, Kansas, 1972.
Daily Journal (Kansas City, Mo.): 10/5/1879.
Dodge City Globe: 2/16/1911.
Larned Chronoscope: 1/29/1880; 1/5/1911; 1/26/1911.
Larned Eagle Optical: 11/25/81; 5/18/1886; 5/21/1886; 3/25/1887; 8/16/1889.
Star (Kansas City, Mo.): 1/26/1911.
Tiller and Toiler (Larned, Kansas): 11/19/1926; 2/16/1947; 8/26/1948.
Booth, Henry, Centennial History of Pawnee County (as read at the celebration of the Fourth of July, 1876, at Larned, Kansas).
G.A.R. Enrollment Book, B. J. Larned Post No. 8.
Letters from Capt. Dangerfield Parker, C. O. Fort Larned to Dept. of Mo. Headquarters: 7/28/1869 and 4/10/1869.
Letter from Captain H. B. Bristol to Mr. Boyd, Pawnee River, Kansas: 6/23/1872.
Letter from Major Richard I. Dodge, Co O., Fort Larned, to Dept. of Mo. Headquarters: 6/30/1871.
Rice, Elsie, "Mrs. L. P. Wormwood, Larned, Kansas American Guide Series, Updated.
Sketch of Sodhouse (Made by Curtis Monger, 1916; Fort Larned National Historical Site Library).
Used With Permission of the Author
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