Celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Chisholm Trail
2017 Anniversary events
Newton & the Chisholm Trail in 1871
* Kansas Day Celebration: Western trails presentation by Jim Gray, 11 a.m.; Family activities, 1-4 p.m. Kauffman Museum, North Newton. Free admission
* Chisholm Trail Anniversary Western Art Show: March 18-May 13 at Carriage Factory Art Gallery, 128 E. Sixth St. Free during regular gallery hours.
* "Pioneer & Indian Trails in the City of Newton": Lecture by Brian Stucky. 2 p.m. March 19, Harvey County Historical Society, 203 N. Main St., Newton. $5.
*Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra: Enjoy Western-themed music as part of NMKSO's spring pops concert. 4 p.m. Memorial Hall, Bethel College, North Newton. Tickets $15 for adults, $7 for students.
* Author talk: Gary and Margaret Kraisinger discuss their newest book "The Shawnee-Arbuckle Cattle Trail" at 7 p.m. April 18 at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak St., Newton. Free.
* Chisholm Trail Bike Ride: Annual ride in Newton area features three route lengths. Start at 8 a.m. May 6 at Athletic Park, Newton.
* Book discussion: Newton Public Library will host a discussion of "True Tales of the Prairie and Plains" by David Dary at 7 p.m. June 15 at the library, 720 N. Oak St., Newton. Free.
* Brown Bag Movie: Patrons can bring lunch and watch "High Noon" (PG) at noon June 19 at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak St. Free.
* Author talks: Bill and Blake Rush and N. Jade Gray will discuss their books at 7 p.m. at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak St. Free.
* "Cowboys and Clerics": Author and historian John Burchill will discuss the early years of Kansas clergy and colorful characters in our early faith communities. 7 p.m. June 20 at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak. Free.
* Brown Bag Movie: Patrons can bring lunch and watch "The Cowboys" (PG) at noon July 3 at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak St. Free.
* "Cowboys of Harvey County": Darren McMannis will present a discussion of Harvey County's western history. 7 p.m. July 18 at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak St. Free.
* "New Women of the Trail": Photography discussion by Dave Leiker. 7 p.m. July 25 at Newton Public Library, 720 N. Oak St., Free,
Newton Saddle Club Rodeo: Aug. 4-5 at fairgrounds arena, First and Grandview, Newton. In conjunction with Harvey County Free Fair. 316-284-3960
Harvey County Chili Cook-off: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 30 on Sixth Street between Main and Poplar. Benefits Harvey County United Way.
* "The Chisholm Trail: Driving the American West": Traveling exhibit opens Dec. 19 at Kauffman Museum, North Newton. On display through April 1, 2018. Admission $4 for adults, $2 for children.
* "Up the Beaten Path: History of the Chisholm Trail": Exhibit part of permanent collection at Harvey County Historical Museum, 203 N. Main St., Newton. On display through Dec. 2. Free.
Click here for complete event calendar
Newton was established in 1871, as the Santa Fe Railroad chugged westward across the plains and cowboys drove cattle up the Chisholm Trail from Texas.
Newton’s only season as the Chisholm Trail endpoint was the year of its founding, and during that summer south central Kansas was overflowing with longhorns. According to the Harvey County Historical Museum’s exhibit “Up The Beaten Path: History of the Chisholm Trail,” estimates of that year’s drive are generally believed to be about 600,000 head of cattle.
“The entire country east, west and south of Salina and down to the Arkansas River is filled with Texas cattle … The bottoms are overflowing with them, and the water courses with this great article of traffic … And the cry is, “still they come!”.
Life in Newton in 1871
Despite Newton’s single summer as a trail head, the new town was notoriously rowdy. Texas cowboys flooded Newton after a long drive along the trail. Saloons joined the grocers, clothing and entertainment establishments popping up in the wooden buildings that lined Main Street. Hide Park, located south of the railroad tracks and west of Main Street, was so named because the “girls showed so much of their hide,” according to Harvey County Historical Museum. Some of the largest saloons were located in this red-light district. With no true police force yet in Newton, violence and shootings were not uncommon in the summer of 1871. The most notorious of which is the Newton Massacre.
The Newton Massacre, also known as Gunfight at Hide Park, began Friday, Aug. 11, 1871, with an argument between Mike McCluskie and Billy Bailey, which turned into a fistfight that ended with two shots being fired at Bailey, who died the next day. McCluskie fled town to avoid revenge from Bailey’s friends, but had returned to Newton by the following Saturday.
Late in the evening on Aug. 19, McCluskie was in Perry Tuttle’s Dance Hall, which was located on west Second Street in Hide Park. Sometime after midnight on Sunday, Aug. 20, Hugh Anderson and three other Texas cowboys entered the dance hall. Anderson then pulled a gun and shot McCluskie. Exactly what happened next is uncertain.
McCluskie attempted to fire his gun before he died from his wounds. Whether he hit the second man shot, believed to be Jim Martin, or whether there was a second unknown shooter, is unclear. Martin escaped the saloon, bleeding from the neck, and collapsed and died in front of another nearby saloon. According to the Harvey County Historical Museum, after Martin, six more men were shot and the original shooter, Hugh Anderson, was severely wounded. When the shooting stopped, four men had been killed in the early hours of Aug. 20 and another three, including Anderson, were wounded. Anderson’s father came to Newton following the shooting and ultimately arranged for his injured son to be snuck out of town on a train.
Violence continued through the fall in Newton, but by 1872 the climate of the town had begun to change. The trailhead had moved south to Wichita by that spring, and many of the businesses catering to cowboys followed. In September 1872, the newly established Newton Kansan reported “one by one these old barbaric domiciles are being remodeled into fit places for good society.”
Read Harvey County Historical Museum's narrative of the Newton Massacre. Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.
Noteworthy Chisholm Trail Landmarks in the Newton Area
Chisholm Trail Swales
Located on Kauffman Museum property on the Bethel College Campus in North Newton. Follow the paved wooded trail to the north of the museum. The path will fork twice during the short walk, follow the right fork both times. After the second fork, cross Kidron Creek and continue along the path to the clearing. The swales are visible in the clearing at Chisholm Trail Park. The depression in the ground runs parallel to the east bank of Kidron Creek, where cattle crossed at a low spot. An interpretive marker in the park explains some of the trail history. Accessible during daylight hours.
Chisholm Trail plaque
Located on the Bethel College Campus in front of the Luyken Fine Arts Building.
The plaque reads "Beaten hard by the hoofs of millions of Texas cattle, the Chisholm Trail, from 1867 to 1871, wound northward past this knoll on which Bethel College was established a few years later. Newton became the notorious "Cow Capital" of the West and in one year over 600,000 cattle were herded over this trail to eastern markets. Santa Fe Railway agents and government officials sought farmers to settle in Harvey County and build homes, churches and schools ... so, in the wake of the cowboys and their six-shooters came Mennonites with their plows and Turkey Red Wheat. The trail lined with the bleaching bones of longhorns gave way to the railroad and to wheat fields destined to become a breadbasket of the world."
Chisholm Trail marker
Located 0.2 miles west of the intersection of 36th and Kansas Avenue on 36th Street West.
White posts, like this one near the Chisholm Trail Shopping Center off of I-135, were established from Texas to Abilene to mark the route of the trail. Ten exist in Harvey County, with this marker being the closest and most easily accessible to Newton. Most of the rest of the markers in Harvey County are along K-15 in the north part of the county.