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Explorer

Mead as an explorerIn May 1859 James R. Mead left his family homestead in Davenport, Iowa, and ventured west to explore Kansas Territory. That summer he staked a short-lived claim in Burlingame, where he unsuccessfully tried to break the soil for farming. Mead, an expert marksman, formed a hunting party in September and journeyed west through the Smoky Hills region, killing his first bison. Late in the year he established a ranch on the Saline River, where he traded with Indians. In 1860 and 1861 Mead hunted along the Saline, Smoky Hills, and Solomon Rivers, which, at that time, were almost unknown to white men; his success in killing bison and then selling their hides allowed him to marry Agnes Barcome in December 1861. Mead built a house in Salina the following year and expanded his hunting and trading business. In 1863, he and Agnes settled in Towanda, where Mead established a trading post on the White Water River. The next two years saw the installation of more trading posts between the Little and Big Arkansas Rivers, on the Ninnescah River, and at Round Pond Creek. Following the death of Agnes the next year, Mead settled in Wichita to pursue new business interests.

FEATURED DOCUMENTS

Saline River diary, October 1860

James R. Mead’s Saline River diary, which recounts hunting for buffalo and wolves

Correspondence of James R. Mead and other material, c. 1850s-1860s

Includes list of game shot or trapped by James R. Mead (April 30, 185[1?]); trading contract (1860) between Mead and the Comanche and Kiowa Indians at Towanda, Butler County, Kansas; letter to James R. Mead from John Reed regarding gold prospecting near Pikes Peak, Colorado (Jan. 5, 1860).

Drafts of "The Saline River Country in 1859," c. 1905

Mead's essay which tells of his settling in Kansas along the Saline River and of the pioneers and Indians he encountered.

Letters from James R. Mead to his family, May-November 1859

Correspondence from James R. Mead to his parents, Enoch and Mary E. Mead, and his sister Lizzie. These letters contain descriptions of the country and difficulties Mead faced while traveling west to Kansas (May-July), concerns about land claims (July-August), remarks about the hunting in Kansas (Nov. 11, 1859), and a note (May 8, 1859) describing the territory and the company with which he is traveling

Travel journal and account book of James R. Mead, 1859-1868

Travel journal kept by James R. Mead during his trip from Davenport, Iowa to Kansas (pp. 30-46) dated May 4-June 14, 1859. The book was also used as an account book for the Salina River Ranch 1860-61, (pp. 68-82), for the White Water Post in 1863 (pp. 1-14), and for the Coal Valley Lumber Yard in June and July 1858. Journal entries include descriptions of the terrain, difficulties in trapping game, and Mead’s feelings upon entering Kansas. A list of land parcels belonging to Mead is also included (p.124)

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