Caldwell “The Border Queen” – Caldwell, KS
Business Genre: Attractions, Community Information, Family Fun, Lodging, Specialty Shopping
Short Description: Caldwell is located on the Kansas-Oklahoma border and served as the first sign of relief and refreshment on the long drive up the dusty, treacherous Chisholm Trail from Texas through then Indian Territory. Established in 1871, the town took on all the elements of a lawless frontier settlement as it catered to the many cowboys who passed by with their large cattle herds on their way to Abilene, giving the town its nickname, the “Border Queen.”
Long Business Description:
Welcome to Caldwell, the “Border Queen” and a true child of the Chisholm Trail, born due to her location on the trail. Though established in 1871 by opportunity-seeking Wichita businessmen to set up shop on the border of Indian Territory, there was a general store/dance hall on the bluffs south of town in 1869 called The First Chance/Last Chance Saloon for the weary cowboy after months of driving the Chisholm Trail from Texas. “First Chance” for thirsty young cowboys heading north, but “Last Chance” for liquor and supplies for those same cowboys heading back south through Indian Territory.
True grit formed this trail town, with 4 murders, 2 lynchings, and a classic gunfight in its first year. By year 3, they were trying out their 9th marshal, only to quickly need a 10th. It remained little more than a trading post until the Santa Fe Railroad extended its line to Caldwell in 1879. This rail restored the idle Chisholm Trail back to its glory days, bringing more than a million longhorns thru town. During its reckless cowtown period between 1879 and 1885, Caldwell boasted a higher murder rate and loss of more law enforcement officers than other more famous cowtowns. Life was rough, but a glorious place for villains and desperados to escape to lawless Indian Territory. As you can imagine, it provided a place for young cowboys to go wild after long months on the trail, sampling the 14 saloons, brothels, and gambling dens to see if they could make it out alive!
Gunfights, showdowns, general hell raising and hangings soon became commonplace. Finally a glimmer of hope arrived in 1882; Henry Brown saved the day, becoming our marshal after riding with Billy the Kid, acquiring skills to wrangle a rustler and unarm a gun slinging drunkard. Peace was kept until he rode west to Medicine Lodge with his deputy Ben Wheeler and two others, attempting to rob their bank. After killing two bank employees, they rode away unsuccessful and with no cash. After their capture by a posse, later in the night, Brown was shot by a raging mob that broke into the jail, and Wheeler was shot AND hung to die. Talk about making a statement!
Caldwell settled down until 1893 when Congress opened the Cherokee Outlet south for settlement. Soon, the town was filled with thousands of land hungry pioneers preparing for the last great land rush in America. At high noon on Sept 16, 1893, 15,000 people gathered in Caldwell, awaiting the cavalry soldiers’ gunshots to start the mad rush for land. Today, it’s a quiet agricultural community of 1,100 settlers with an Opera House, museum, silhouettes on the southern bluffs, and historical walking tour signs to guide you through our raucous youth. The Chisholm Trail is celebrated every first weekend in May where we relive our Wild West days with pub crawling, ghost tours, gambling parlors, gunfights, saloon girls, and opera house shows.
Welcome to town! We’re friendlier now.