RESEARCHING the KANSAS of the 1870s


Kathryn Albright board

Researching – Kansas

How is that for a title of a post? I’m not sure it is very catchy.
We’ll have a little fun at the end. Promise!

I often want to include more history than necessary in my stories. (I find it fascinating!) My editor will put a ‘?’ by a sentence to indicate ‘What has this got to do with the story?’ when I include too much research. She reminds me that I am writing a historical romance—with the emphasis on the romance—and not a straight historical novel!

One thing that I needed to know for my new series set in Kansas was the Native American situation and whether it was realistic to have any Indian/Settler skirmishes at the time that my stories take place which is 1878-1880. By this time, Kansas was already a state in the Union. Statehood happened in 1861 and the story of how it came to be is an entire post in itself!

Kansas Seal 1861

Here is short timeline of things going on in 1870’s Kansas. I strive for historical accuracy and often information like this inspires my plotting. Some things I needed to know:

1. Whether Native American’s lived in the area and if they were friendly or otherwise.
2. When the train service began for shipping cattle to markets in the east.
3. The prevailing attitude about alcoholic beverages. (Mail-Order Brides of Oak Grove, the kick-off book to this
series and available now, touches on the subject of alcohol and the twin heroines that run into trouble with their medicinal tonic and takes place in 1879.)

The following list is not exhaustive by any means, but it was pertinent to my new series–

1870 – The Kansas Pacific Railroad extends from Kansas City to Denver.
1871 – April 15 — ‘Wild Bill’ Hickok became the marshal of Abilene.
1872 – June 17 — Hoover’s Bar established in a tent shop five miles west of Fort Dodge.
It was the founding business of Dodge City. Up to then the town had been dry.
Ellsworth became the northern shipping point of the Texas cattle trail. (Succeeding Abilene.)
The Santa Fe Railroad was completed to the Colorado border and succeeded the Santa Fe
Trail as the main transportation route to the southwest.
1873 – The Kaw Indians were removed from their reservation in Morris County to Oklahoma
Grasshopper plague from the Rocky Mountain Locust devastated the corn crop.
Four Kansas railroads shipped 122,914 head of Texas cattle in eight months.
1874 – Mennonites from Russia introduce Turkey Red wheat to Kansas.
1875 – Most of the buffalo in the state have been destroyed.
1876 – Wyatt Earp moved to Dodge City.
1878 – Cheyenne raid in Northwestern, Kansas. In Oklahoma Indian Territory, the Northern
Cheyenne left their reservation and headed north to their lands in Yellowstone. They were
stopped in Northwestern Kansas at Ladder Creek (known as Beaver Creek today.)
The last Indian raid in Kansas occurred in this year.
1879 – Prohibition is at the forefront of the Kansas legislature.
1880 – Kansas became the first state to pass an amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages.

The decade of the 1870’s went a long way in changing Kansas from a windswept open prairie to America’s agricultural heartland. The tranquil appearance of the vast open spaces belies the state’s rough and sometimes bloody path to the Kansas of today. Until I started delving into its history, I knew little about this fascinating state and the people that lived there.

OkaDog namey –so now for the fun part 🙂

I’ve started on the last book in the series (I think. It’s never a definite :-0) and I need a name for this cutie pie. I believe this little scruffy pup is going to be a miss not a mister. For a chance at a copy of my latest book, please suggest a name! That’s all there is to it.


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32 thoughts on “RESEARCHING the KANSAS of the 1870s”

  1. What a wonderful article. I live in southwestern Kansas and I go to Dodge City quite often, as well as Ft. Dodge. You’re history for this adopted state ( I’m originally from Stephenville, TX) I love in, is spot on. The last Indian fight was on the Ladder Creek and I’ve been to the spot, very beautiful historical marker they have erected for the site.
    So for the name of your puppy, I select a Kansas town which sets on the Arkansas River in Hamilton County, KINSLEY. It’s a very small farming community that is about 10 miles east of Syracuse, KS. Good luck on your new series and book.

    • Thanks for the suggestion, Tonya. I hadn’t even thought of using a town name. I may have to see if the town was “there” in Kansas at that time and use a tie in if I go with this name. And it is a name that grows with the dog.

  2. What a great article! I love reading about historical facts in romance novels! It just brings them to life for me.

    As for the puppy, I think Buttercup would be a great name! It just looks like a Buttercup to me. And what an adorable puppy it is!!! I just recently rescued a puppy and shes a tornado right now! hahaha Last night she chewed on my husbands Father’s Day gift that my son worked VERY HARD making for him in Shop class. I guess it just adds more character to the gift. lol 😉

    I wish you much success in your writing!! <3

    • Hi Dale,
      Buttercup is a cute name! Oh I feel bad for your son and his gift! I didn’t realize they still had shop class in school. It is becoming a lost art and I hope more schools push to keep it in.

      I have always loved Golden Retrievers and have had several over the years. Our last one chewed on everything! Now that she has passed away, I have many mementoes of her puppy days. As crazy as it sounds…I like the reminders. I miss her.

    • Thanks Debra,
      Now there’s an interesting name. The woman who takes her in is an easterner. This might be a way for her to cling to some of her eastern seaboard ways.

  3. What a nice article to read, while having morning coffee, It is always nice to learn some history while reading, It makes the story more real.
    as for the adorable puppy, if boy or girl here is a name that stuck out AKKI,

    • Hi Elaine,
      AKKI sounds like it could be Native American. I will have to look that up. I am having a Native American give her the pup. I will have to think on this…perhaps have the pup named before she gets it. Thank you for your suggestion.

  4. Loved your blog. Keep on researching the history for your books and putting it in your books. I have learned more about history from historical romance novels than I ever did in school!

    I chose Zarah for your pups name. Zarah was a fort in Barton County, Kansas, northeast of present-day Great Bend, Kansas, that was used from 1864-1869. I think Zarah would make a great German Sheppard name. I’ve always thought German Sheppards should never have an ordinary name.

    Pick me for your book! I haven’t read a book from you yet. I just started reading again after a couple of decades almost. I have now almost read 70 books since the end of October and could never afford my new addiction without the help of others!

    • Hi Stephanie,

      Thanks for your suggestion! That is an interesting name and I love the background for it. I like all these names that bring a part of Kansas into the mix. So many wonderful choices!

      I tend to read in spurts…although I’ve never had a lull that lasted decades! I also vary it up with non-fiction, classics, and contemporary books. I’m glad you are reading again. We authors need and love our readers!

  5. I enjoyed the history – thanks. I’m going with Sunflower with the nickname of Sunny – it’s the state flower of Kansas 🙂

    • Oh–I like this! Another name that comes from Kansas!

      So many great choices. It is going to be hard to make a decision and stick with it. Often I’ll start with a name in a manuscript and then halfway through realize it doesn’t work for the person’s (or in this case–animal’s) personality. I end up using the “Find and Replace” tab to change names several times until I have just the right one.

  6. Kathryn, I loved your post…so very interesting! And, I love the picture of the precious four legged friend. I think her name needs to seat with a K for Kansas and Kathryn so I am going with Kanz. Short, sweet, strong!

  7. Kathryn, what a great post. My youngest daughter and family moved to Kansas a couple of years ago. My SIL and I love to go out on ventures, so he’ll be happy to see this list. The last time I was there, it was too rainy to go far, but we hit two cemeteries. Now it’s my job to research some of the names to see what I can find out about them. Our next trip is to Independence where Mickey Mantle began his career in 1949 with the Independence Yankees. Thanks for the information. Also love the cattle. Hugs, Phyliss

    • How nice to have a sister filly drop by! Remember that this isn’t an exhaustive list! It’s just things that will be pertinent to my series. There is oh so much more to Kansas’s history.

  8. I love this kind of research. Interestingly, my newest novel, not fully written yet, is set in the 1870’s as well. Fort Leavenworth will be in the story — but the story isn’t centered in Kansas. I love Kansas, by the way. : )

  9. Thank you for sharing this interesting post, Kathryn! I’m going to suggest Koko for the puppy’s name.

  10. The giveaway is closed for this post now. The winner of a copy of MAIL-ORDER BRIDES OF OAK GROVE is Elaine Hathaway! Congratulations, Elaine!

    It was lovely chatting with all of you! And thank you for the WONDERFUL suggestions for names for the little pup in my next story!

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