View the h-shgape Discussion Logs by month
View the Prior Message in h-shgape's August 2000 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
View the Next Message in h-shgape's August 2000 logs by: [date] [author] [thread]
Visit the h-shgape home page.
To: "H-Net Gilded Age and Progressive Era List" <H-SHGAPE@H-NET.MSU.EDU> Subject: and now for something entirely different Date: Wed, 16 Aug 2000 03:24:49 -0400 Jones, Buffalo ( Jan. 1844-1 Oct. 1919), frontiersman, rancher, and conservationist, was born Charles Jesse Jones in Tazewell County, Illinois, the son of Noah Nicholas Jones and Jane Munden; the exact date of his birth is unclear. His father often served as an election judge and reportedly once hired Abraham Lincoln as an attorney. Charles, the second of twelve children, grew up a backwoods farm boy on Money Creek, in McLean County near Springfield, Illinois. From an early age he developed a passion for wild creatures and often kept several as pets. Although he studied for two years at Wesleyan University in Bloomington, a bout with typhoid fever cut short his college education. Subsequently, "itchy feet" prompted Jones to move west, and in 1866 he settled at Troy, in Doniphan County, Kansas. There he set up a fruit tree nursery and married Martha J. Walton. They had four children, two of whom died from a severe blight when they were young. Despite some moderate success with his fruit orchard and grape vineyard, the lure of the wilderness spurred him onward. By 1869 Jones had sold his Troy interests and moved his growing family to what would later become Osborne County, Kansas, where he built a sod house. There he began hunting buffalo, initially for his own family's needs and later to market the hides. These early hunting exploits eventually took him into West Texas, where he became acquainted with Pat Garrett and John R. Cook. He also had his share of encounters with Indians. According to some accounts, Jones was a participant in the battle of Yellowhouse (or Thompson's) Canyon against Black Horse's recalcitrant Comanches near present-day Lubbock, Texas, on 18 March 1877. His hunting prowess soon earned him the sobriquet "Buffalo" Jones. Even as he was hunting bison, on occasion he captured and tamed several buffalo calves, selling them for $7.50 a head or exhibiting them at county fairs. In 1878, along with the brothers J. R. and W. D. Fulton and others, Jones laid out the town of Garden City, Kansas, and was elected its first mayor. In that capacity he came to know such legends as Wyatt Earp and "Buffalo Bill" Cody. He also became involved in real estate and occasionally drove a team of buffalo calves through the streets of Garden City as a promotional stunt. Increasingly concerned with the threat of extinction of the buffalo, Jones set out from Kendall, Kansas, in April 1886 toward the Texas Panhandle to see if any were left in that area. On finding several, he lassoed eighteen calves and took them back alive. That and similar such feats brought him increased publicity, particularly from writers like Emerson Hough. Having apparently learned of pioneer rancher Charles Goodnight's success at raising buffalo, Jones established a ranch across the Arkansas River from Garden City. There he experimented at crossing buffalo with cattle to produce the cattalo, a sturdy breed with good qualities but too often sterile. Between 1886 and 1889 Jones accumulated over fifty head, including the buffalo herd he purchased in 1888 from Sam I. Bedson of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and shipped them with some difficulty to Garden City. From this herd Jones began selling a few choice animals to zoos, parks, and other ranchers interested in preserving the bison. Once he personally delivered ten buffalo to a purchaser in Liverpool, England, who paid him $10,000 for his efforts. However, financial difficulties brought on by the panic of 1893 and compounded by the failure of a second ranch in Nebraska forced him by 1895 to sell off his herd to ranchers in Montana and California. In 1897 Jones and several companions journeyed to the Canadian arctic to capture the musk oxen, an animal then seen by few Americans. Despite opposition from local Indians, who considered the oxen sacred, the party wintered in a cabin they had built near the Great Slave Lake until February 1898, when Jones figured the icy weather had driven the oxen south. Eventually he and John R. Rea roped five calves, but these were killed by superstitious Indians and afterward devoured by wolves. Jones returned to Kansas via Alaska and the Aleutian Islands, and while he realized little profit from that venture, his feats as a game catcher had extended his fame worldwide. In 1899 he captured a bighorn sheep for the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., and, with Henry Inman, published an autobiography, Buffalo Jones' Forty Years of Adventure. Jones's story of how he and his party shot and fended off a hungry wolf pack near the Great Slave Lake was verified in 1907 by Ernest Thompson Seton and Edward A. Preble when they discovered the wolves' remains around the abandoned cabin. On hearing of the proposed buffalo herd at Yellowstone National Park, Jones offered his services to President Theodore Roosevelt and in 1902 was made a park game warden. (The story of how he roped an unruly bear to a tree and spanked its behind "to teach it some manners" added another dimension to the Jones legend.) But while he successfully developed the Yellowstone buffalo herd from Texas and Montana imports, his strict rules against drinking, smoking, and gambling led to dissension with the men working under him, and by 1906 he was discharged. Undaunted, Jones next started a new buffalo preserve and experimental ranch on the Kaibab Plateau, north of Arizona's Grand Canyon, bringing in animals by rail from Montana and California to Lund, Utah, and trailing them to the new site in June 1906. These became the nucleus of the herd now maintained in the House Rock Valley, east of the Kaibab. In the summer of 1907 Jones led the aspiring writer Zane Grey on a hunting trip in which he roped mountain lions and captured wild mustangs. Grey subsequently launched his writing career by publishing his impressions of Jones in The Last of the Plainsmen (1908). Jones also engaged in nationwide lecture tours, which increased after his wife's death in October 1907. Eastern audiences, particularly those of the Camp Fire Club and other conservation groups, eagerly absorbed his colorful narratives, which he sometimes embellished. Late in 1909 Jones persuaded industrialist Charles S. Bird of Willapah, Massachusetts, to finance a game-catching expedition to East Africa. With two cowboys, Marshall Loveless and Ambrose Means, plus twelve cow ponies and several hounds, Jones arrived at Nairobi, Kenya, on 3 March 1910. In the Kenyan savannahs they managed to rope warthogs, elands, zebras, a rhino, and a lioness (which lived at the New York Zoo until 1921). Then in 1913, in company with Means, Dallas McDaniel, and Ohio business magnate William Moguey and his wife, Jones traveled to the Belgian Congo (now Zaire) to capture gorillas, but that effort was less successful; finances ran out, and the expedition broke up in disarray, resulting in bad feelings between Jones and his sponsors. Weakened after contracting "jungle fever" on that escapade, Jones died of a heart attack in Topeka, Kansas, at the home of a daughter. He was interred in the Valley View Cemetery in Garden City, next to his wife and sons. Flamboyant in personality, Buffalo Jones was a true pioneer in the establishment of America's game preserves and wildlife refuges. Bibliography Most of Jones's surviving papers may be found in the files of the Yellowstone Park Headquarters and the Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka as well as in the collection of the Finney County Historical Society of Garden City, where his home is maintained as a museum. See also Ralph T. Kersey, Buffalo Jones: A True Biography (1958); Robert Easton and Mackenzie Brown, Lord of Beasts: The Saga of Buffalo Jones (1961); and Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, vol. 2 (1990). Obituaries are in the Topeka Capital and the New York Times, both 2 Oct. 1919. H. Allen Anderson ------------------------- Suggested citation: H. Allen Anderson. "Jones, Buffalo"; http://www.anb.org/articles/20/20-00519.html; American National Biography Online Aug. 2000. Copyright Notice Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of the American National Biography provided that the following statement is preserved on all copies: From American National Biography, published by Oxford University Press, Inc., copyright 2000 American Council of Learned Societies.