Friday, September 27, 2013
THE FIRST BUFFALO BILL
"IT WAS A HARD LAND AND IT BRED HARD MEN
TO HARD WAYS."
Before Buffalo Bill Cody there was Buffalo Bill (William) Mathewson. Of Scottish descent, he was a friend and contemporary of Kit Carson. He hunted, trapped,and traded across the plains and in 1853 created the Cow Creek Ranch near the Great Bend of the Arkansas River. Always a quiet and modest man he became a legend in the eyes of the Indian and white man.
Chief Satanta of the Kiowa tribe tried to take goods from the store without paying for them. Satanta was an exceptionally tall Indian for the time and a perfect physical specimen. Mathewson proceeded to give Satanta a tremendous thrashing and kicked him and his group from the store. The incident made him famous among the plains Indian tribes and the Kiowa named him 'Sillpah Sinpahor' or ' Long Beard Dangerous Man'.
The incident made lifelong friends of Satanta and Bill. When the Kiowa went on the warpath Satanta rode hundreds of miles to warn him. On June 20,21, & 22 Bill, and five employees held off a superior force of attackers. As a wagon train approached on the Santa Fe Trail the Indians turned the attack on them. The column was lightly armed. The teamsters did not know that their load contained firearms and munitions.
Bill armed himself to the teeth and in a scene from a John Wayne movie, single handily rode through the Indians and warned the wagon train informing them of their cargo. Boxes of guns were opened and the group fended off the attacking Kiowas.
Bill rode scout for General Blunts expedition and did much to bring the tribes together for the Little Arkansas Treaty. This proceeded the great Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty. Bill went out to villages which was hazardous work. He made it a practice of sneaking up on the villages and just appear.
In his lifetime Mathewson was responsible for returning no less than fifty four women and children captives. He was involved in an incident from early Wichita that could have turned into a bloodbath had it not been for his clear thinking. Little Rea Woodman was assumed to be kidnapped by a group of "Pants" Indians, who were traveling from Wichita south. Bill, Rea's father, and another man circled the Indian encampment on Cowskin Creek and rode in from the south. The men were invited to stay and fish with the tribe.
Feigning ignorance Bill asked if the Indian's had anything to trade. They had this girl that had crawled into their tents and was found sleeping. They were willing to trade her quickly. The deal was struck for fifty cents and Rea's dad kicked in a pocket knife.
Had the citizens committee not waited for this all to happen it could have been a massacre. Here demonstrated Bills coolness and clear thinking. later in life when Rea would misbehave her father would chide her saying "I sure miss that pocket knife".
William Mathewson was a very modest man and would not talk about his exploits or to newspaper reporters. Buffalo Bill Cody acknowledged Mathewson as being the first Buffalo Bill. Mathewson shot buffalo sending the meat back into Eastern Kansas in the 1860 drought saving many starving people.
Bill was an early resident of Wichita he had one of the first log cabins built there. It was put up under the direction of JR Mead who Bill was being supplied by while trading down in the nations. His fourth and last house is still being lived in in Wichita.
Mathewson and Cody had a tentative friendship. Mathewson thought that Cody was a braggart. There is a picture of them setting on the porch at Cowtown and the Sedgwick County Museums.
Of all the plainsmen and colorful pioneers of the west Buffalo Bill Mathewson should be famous. His exploits were worthy of movies and his life more interesting than fiction. His great, great, great, granddaughter has written a children's book of his life that should now be on the stands.
Also Mathewson's pasture was the site that many circus's would set up in and it was the first site of Joyland Park.