740 East Avenue
Baxter Springs, KS 66713
P.O. Box 514
Baxter Springs, KS 66713
|Tuesday - Saturday||10 AM - 4:30 PM|
|Sunday||1 PM - 4 PM|
Free and donations are gratefully accepted.
Free. Donations Accepted.
Mary Billington, Director
The Baxter Springs Heritage Center & Museum, functioning under the Baxter Springs Historical Society, is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the rich regional history of Baxter Springs, Kansas.
In the spring of 1849 John J. Baxter, his wife and eight children moved from Missouri to 160 acres of land near Spring River. His land included a spring which flowed from the side of a hill near what is now Military Road, where he set up and operated an inn and general store which came to be known as "Baxter's place". "Baxter's place" was incorporated in 1868 and was renamed Baxter Springs in honor of it's early settler.
"The First Cowtown in Kansas"
In and around 1868 there became a great demand for beef in the northern cities. Texas cattlemen and stock raisers, collecting large herds of cattle on the southern planes, used Baxter Springs as a way point for the journey to the northern markets. Knowing the benefits of continual cattle flow through the town, an active Stockyards and Drovers Association was organized for the purpose of buying and selling cattle. Corrals were constructed for approximately 20,000 head of cattle with ample grazing lands and fresh water. Texas cattle trade stimulated the economy and Baxter Springs grew rapidly. The city voted bonds to various organizations to enlarge city limits and acquired an immense debt in the process. In 1873, a bond of $4,000 for street improvements, made the indebtedness greater than the entire assessed valuation of all property. Soon after a railroad moved into Texas making it unnecessary to drive the cattle to Kansas. Since Baxter Springs was no longer a booming cattle town, most of the population left, leaving the immense debt to the few stable citizens left. In 1878 a suit was filed for the collection of the debt, when the Mayor and council members were ordered to court to explain why they had not paid, the entire staff resigned leaving no officer whatsoever. The town remained that way for more than a year and a half forcing the high court to develop a plan compromise settlement, which enabled the remaining townsfolk to carry the bond through and the debt was finally paid.
Early visitors to Southeastern Kansas were often impressed with it's beauty. The river that flows through this section of land was fed by many springs and was remarkably clear. As early as 1838 the river was known as Spring River. In 1867 a cable-ferry boat was instituted and operated into the early 1880's when the first bridge was built over the river. As the city grew, so did the activities around the river. The local citizens gathered for all manner of reasons, from the Fourth of July celebrations, to the Old Soldiers and Sailors Reunions. In the latter part of the nineteenth century a three story frame structure with two turbine water wheels, and a grinding capacity of 50 barrels of flour a day was built and known as the Baxter Springs Flouring Mill. It was the only manufacturing plant in town. Today the river is used mainly for fishing and camping. This October will mark the fourth bridge that has been erected on that site.
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