Created By: Old Cowtown Museum
The Heller Cabin in the Wichita Beginnings section of Old Cowtown Museum represents a trading post that would have been used by Town Founders such as J.R. Mead or Dutch Bill Greiffenstein. Their activity represents the roots of pre-railroad Wichita. hunting trapping and trading with the Native Americans were the only economic ventures in the area. The Buffalo Hunter and Trader was a businessman whose activity paved the way, as well as overlaps the cattle and farming economy that builds Wichita.
The Osage Nation, people of the middle Waters, is a Midwestern native nation of the Great Plains. They originated in the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys and later occupied the area across Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma. They became the dominant power in the region who depended upon nomadic buffalo hunting and agriculture. The land that Wichita was built upon by treaty was owned by the Osage Nation. As the opinion of the value of the land that the Osages and other relocated Nations inhabited changed from the Great American desert to the future breadbasket of the nation, the United States government worked to relocate the Native nations once again to a new Indian Territory that would become the state of Oklahoma.
The Wichita Nation inhabited the area that became the city of Wichita in the 1500s. Unfortunately by the 1860s they had been driven South by other nations to the northern part of Texas. With the outbreak of the Civil War the Native Americans took sides, with most hoping for a better deal from the Confederates. The Wichita sided with the Union and was moved for their protection to the future city site of Wichita for the duration of the war. They were removed back to Indian Territory after the war. It was this nation that the town took its name.
Jesse Chisholm was a freighter, trader, guide and interpreter who mediated relations between the native and white people. He was an essential negotiator for many treaties in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. A trader by occupation he knew 14 different languages and traveled extensively through the area. Some call him the Prairie Ambassador as he was trusted by all sides for his neutrality. One of his trade routes became known as the Chisholm Trail during the Cattle Trail years.
William “Dutch Bill” Greiffenstein of Germany had an understanding of big business as well as knowledge of urban areas and the way that they grew. He was involved in trade with Native Americans in Oklahoma but was charged with selling contraband and exiled from the area. Coming to the Wichita townsite he bought Trading Post and plated a pair of town south of the competing town created by the Wichita Town and Land Company between present-day Douglas and Central Avenues. The two towns joined and Greiffenstein s business and promotional skills dominated the town sites. As the owner of the southern town he could give away land, cut deals and entice businesses to relocate from the Wichita Town and Land section. Greiffenstein also worked with J. R Mead to develop Douglas Avenue as a cattle thoroughfare to the Stockyards. They also constructed the Douglas Avenue Bridge over the Arkansas River to make it possible for cattle herds to come in on the west side of town and pass all the businesses on Douglas Avenue before stopping at the Stockyards.
James R. Mead was a hunter, trader, merchant, naturalist and state legislator who was one of the founders of Wichita. He aided in directing the cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail to the city in the 1871 as one of the “Four Horsemen” who induced the first herd of the season to avoid town rival Park City. This set the stage for Wichita's rise as a cattle town. He was instrumental in the creation of the Wichita on Southwestern Rail Road that linked the Santa Fe Rail Road to Wichita. He provided land for the Presbyterian Church and Wichita schools. He possessed a lifelong interest in biology and ethnology. Later in life he wrote articles for the Kansas State Historical Society and the Kansas Academy of Sciences. His memoirs were published in the book "Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains 1859 to 75."
Southwest trading table with large buffalo hide. West wall display of hunting goods.
Southeast corner with a display of trade goods.
Northeast wall with informational pannels, the kitchen area and green buffalo hide on floor.
Second floor viewed by mirror on east wall - rope bed in living space.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Old Cowtown Museum Tour