Beginning shortly after the Civil War, westward expansion created friction between settlers and Central Plains tribes. There were numerous reports of Indian attacks on white settlers and the Hancock Expedition in the spring of 1867 was meant to quell the attacks by holding council with the tribes. The tribes agreed to meet, but backed out and ran from the military expedition, leaving everything behind. Hancock’s men burned the village and pursued the Indians, but never reached them.
In response to this failed attempt at a peace treaty, a peace party was sent to engage in treaty talks with the tribes. In October, 1867 the Peace Commission arrived in Kansas. Its personnel had been chosen from both military men and civilians. Generals Terry, Harney, Sanborn, and Auger, while Commissioner Taylor upheld the interests of the Indian Bureau (William T. Sherman had been assigned by the military to attend, but was called back to Washington by President Johnson. He was replaced by Auger). Senator Henderson, of Missouri, represented congress and Col. Samuel F. Tappan stood for the nation at large.
The treaty site was about 70 miles south of Fort Larned where Medicine Lodge and Elm Creeks joined. The tribes were encamped all around the area. Estimates of the number of Indians present vary from five thousand to fifteen thousand. The tribes represented were the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache.
Two treaties were drawn up and signed. On October 21 the commissioners reached their final agreement with the Comanche, Kiowa and Apache tribes. The Cheyennes held off until a week later, when they and their Arapahoe allies came to terms. The two treaties were nearly identical. According to the final arrangement the Indians agreed to
(1) Withdraw all opposition to the construction of the Pacific railroads.
(2) Relinquish their claims lying between the Platte and Arkansas.
(3) Withdraw to reservations set apart for them.
In return the Indians received the following concessions:
(1) A large reservation and an enormous amount of supplies. The Comanche, Kiowa and Apaches were assigned to a reserve north of the Red river. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe were allotted about three million acres in the Cherokee outlet in Indian territory.
(2) The right to hunt south of the Arkansas River so long as the buffalo ranged there in such numbers as to justify the chase. No white settlements were to be allowed between the Arkansas River and the southern boundary of Kansas for a period of three years.
Contrary to a general impression which has grown up in the United States, the Medicine Lodge treaty did not bring peace to the frontier. After loading the Indians with guns and ammunition the Peace Commission promised to provide more for them the next spring. This mistaken policy on the part of the commissioners practically undid everything that had been accomplished by the treaty. It remained for the military authorities to bring about peace.
The city of Kiowa, in Barber County, Kansas, has occupied two different sites during its history. When the first settlers arrived in 1872, they established a village along the west bank of the Medicine Lodge River, a few miles north of the Indian Territory line. Surviving an attack by Osage Indians in the fall of 1872 and another in 1874, the town was incorporated and a post office established in the latter year.
Although the town’s growth was slow, A. W. Rumsey’s mercantile store became a trading center for ranchers in the area, for traders, and for immigrants on their way west. Most of the inhabitants lived in dugouts or sod houses and burned “prairie coal” (buffalo or cow ships) for fuel. The hazards of living included: prairie fires, gray wolves, rattlesnakes, grasshoppers and a river with no bridge. Recreation was limited but the Fourth of July and Christmas were celebrated with basket dinners and dances.
Kiowa lost its chance to be a railroad town when the town site owners refused to donate 80 acres to railroad officials for a deport and trackage and to allow them a 50-50 division of the town site. With 5,000 acres purchased from W. E. Campbell, a rancher who owned 48,000 acres on the southern borders of Barber and Harper counties, a new hastily formed town company laid out a town site four and a half miles southeast of the original village. Railroad officials were granted 40 acres for a depot and stockyards in what was known as New Kiowa. It was incorporated in 1884 and businesses began moving from the old town.
Cattle raising was the main industry in the region. Ranchers with huge acreage and thousands of cattle, organized into cattle pools for the sake of economy, better protection of the herds, and the opportunity to upgrade them. A pool captain supervised the riders of all ranchers in the pool, calves were branded according to the brand of the cow, and the business, was transacted by a vote of members of the pool as in a joint stock company. Some Cherokee Outlet cattlemen formed the Cherokee Strip Livestock association to keep trespassing cattle off of their ranges which were rented from the Cherokee Indian Nation.
On August 4, l885, the Southern Kansas Railroad reached New Kiowa and the town immediately became a major shipping point, handling thousands of cattle from the Cherokee Outlet, Texas and New Mexico. The Southern Kansas became the property of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad on October l, l887. Large shipments of cattle from New Kiowa ended, however, when President Harrison ordered all cattle removed from the Cherokee Outlet by Dec. l, l890, preparatory to opening the Oklahoma lands for settlement. Altogether, there were 10 openings and in 1893, Kiowa was one of the starting points for the biggest land run into the Cherokee Outlet.
On September 15, l890, with Old Kiowa largely abandoned, a petition was granted to change the name of New Kiowa to just Kiowa.