started out to write about the cattle trails through Meade this time,
but it seemed like everywhere I looked, I kept running on to Hoodoo
Brown, whose story seems to be a history lesson in itself. My research
found me at the Meade County Courthouse, in old Meade newspapers, and
books at the library and museum. The best account of this colorful
character comes from a book called Lost Trails
of the Cimarron, which I located in the
library of the Meade County Historical Museum.
little life history….
“Hoodoo” Brown was born in Newton County, Missouri, March 20, 1847. At
the age of eighteen, he volunteered for service in the Union Army and
served with the 3rd Regiment of Missouri Volunteers.
Following several engagements he fell sick at Little Rock and later
rejoined his outfit in Tennessee. When the war was over his unit drew
horses for service on Dakota’s northern plains. Here, he first fought
Indians and learned the ways of the Plains Indians.
When he was
discharged, Brown left Illinois, going west to Abilene that fall of 1868
and working at the shipping yards established by Joseph G. McCoy. Later
he helped drive a herd of cattle to Colorado, at which time he first saw
Dodge City. After cowboying, bullwhacking and freighting to Forts Harker,
Dodge and Hays, Brown and a friend, the scout Charles (Jack) Stilwell,
were hired by General Carr to accompany elements of the 7th
U.S. Cavalry to the Republican River in a scout against Indians. Brown
was with the cavalry from the Republican to the Washita before being
discharged from duty, and served with scouts, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Lt.
Silas Pepoon, Wild Bill Hickock and others in the campaign.
discharge as a scout, Brown went west to Denver. Soon he took up buffalo
hunting to supply the army posts with meat, which led to the killing for
hides. He was engaged in hide-hunting in 1871-72 when he started a
saloon business in Dodge, the second business in the new town. Brown
hauled plank wood from Fort Hays to construct his small building, a
shack on the south side of the tracks and near the bank of the Arkansas
where it was handy to get water to cut his whiskey with, as well as for
the Texas men to water their livestock.
George W. "Hoo Doo" Brown
Brown was back at the buffalo hide business, one which he followed until
the end of the buffalo herds, killing his last buffalo in the year 1885,
the same year Meade became a town.
around 1875 when the Jones & Plummer trail was established between Ft.
Dodge, Kansas, and Ft. Elliott, Texas. This trail was apparently named
for the Jones & Plummer Cattle Co., which brought it’s cattle from the
Texas Panhandle on the Canadian River to Dodge City. It was used as a
freight and stagecoach route between these and intermediate points until
the coming of the railroad forced its closure in 1887. According to an
account published in the Meade Globe Press
in 1971 by E.E. Innis, the route extended south and west from Ft. Dodge,
across Mulberry Creek south of Dodge City, down through the present main
street of Fowler, along the east side of the Crooked Creek valley to
present Meade. It crossed the Cimarron River near the old Busing
crossing, the Beaver River just north of Beaver, and from there, south
and west to Ft. Elliott.
connection to Meade….
It was in the
winter of 1877 that Hoodoo Brown and another freighter spent a bitterly
cold night on a high, rounded, windswept hill just east of where the
town of Meade now stands. On this hill lies Graceland Cemetery which on
the west side overlooks the city park across the road from the banks of
As the two
shivered beside their freight wagons in their buffalo robes, the other
freighter pondered why no one had thought to build a road ranch at this
spot on the trail. There was no other road ranch closer than Jim Lane’s
place on the river at Beaver City to the south. Brown thought the matter
over in the night, and by morning he had decided to start up such a road
ranch. He would have been thirty years old at the time.
erected a sod cabin to serve as his store. He built a second one to
house his family, his wife, Sarah, and his three children, Nellie, Sonny
and Grace. The soddies he located at “The Wells,” as they were called,
or artesian springs. A half mile downstream he erected strong corrals to
hold the ox teams and mule teams of the freighters. In a nearby meadow
he cut hay for winter feed. At this location Brown dispensed flour,
meal, bacon, dried fruits, gunpowder and guns, rope, harness, saddles,
ox yokes, canned foods, spices, tobacco, sugar, tea and the thousand and
one items used by the people on the frontier. His customers were the
freighters from Mobeetie and Fort Elliott, plying between there and
Dodge, and the cattlemen who brought their herds to Dodge for shipment.
In 1885 when
this part of the state was opened for homesteads Hoodoo applied and was
issued a land office receipt for the NW ¼, Section 12, Twp. 32, Range
28. He and his wife, Sarah, sold the property before they received their
patent from the U.S. Government which was dated December 28, 1889.
operated his road ranch until the closing of the trail in 1887, at which
time he moved to Meade and operated a hotel with a partner, Charles
Edwards. It was here in 1887, that his daughter, Grace, for who
Graceland Cemetery was named, her brother and a sister of Mrs. Brown,
died of scarlet fever. They were buried on the Brown homestead. On
September 15, 1888, the Browns deeded 40 acres of their homestead to the
Graceland Cemetery Association.
It would have
been shortly after this that the Browns left Meade, for Hoodoo is
reported to have made the rush into Oklahoma in 1889. Still later he was
reported living on a good farm near the town of Henrietta, Oklahoma.
found accounts in the Meade Globe News
of Brown’s returning to Meade in 1924 for a visit. He would have been
seventy-seven at that time. According to the report, “Needless to say
some interesting tales of pioneer life in Meade County will be related,
when those who survived gather for an ‘experience’ meeting.”
A man of
has been given the dubious distinction of being a “gunman,” at least by
one western writer. There is little to support his statement, though
Brown was a hard-bitten frontiersman, perfectly capable of taking care
of himself in any given situation. He once told of an Indian coming to
his camp and asking for food. The hunters shared their buffalo meat with
the visitor. Questioning him, they found that his own camp was a couple
of miles downstream on the creek where they were camped. While two of
the hunters remained at the campfire, entertaining the Indian, the other
three took their guns and crept down to the Indian camp. Though it was
late for feasting they found the Indians, four of them, eating buffalo
ribs and steaks, talking and laughing. The hunters quietly talked the
matter over among themselves. They felt that the Indian lad who visited
them had been a scout to see where their camp was located and that an
attack was planned upon them for that night. The hunters silently took
beads on the Indians and shot them down before they could escape.
recounting the massacre many years afterward, said that they told no one
about the matter, feeling that the Indians would have massacred them had
they not beat them to it. As a sort of atonement, they let the Indian at
their camp go free the following morning. It was a period of “kill or be
killed” on the frontier, and they took no chances.
At a later
time while Hoodoo Brown was operating his road ranch east of Meade he
killed a man under somewhat unusual circumstances. Two men rode up to
his soddy on a black night. As Brown heard the horses approach, one of
the men called out, “Hoodoo!” Opening the door a crack, Brown saw one of
the men quickly rein his horse and turn it into some nearby trees and
bushes where he sat waiting. Now suspicious, Brown stepped out the back
door with his double barrel shotgun and gave the rider a blast. He fired
the other barrel at the man nearest the soddy as he leaped to his horse
from the ranch yard, dropping him into the yard, dead.
Bernard Lemert, son of Laben Lemert, who was a member of a stockman’s
group that investigated the incident, they found that the dead man had
worked for Brown previously and that Brown owed him a considerable sum
of money, some said $700. The shooting had its strange aspects, but when
the evidence was all in, Brown was exonerated by the cattlemen. In that
age, one never rode up close to a man’s door (either at a cow camp or a
ranch) without halooing from a distance first and being invited to ride
in. To announce your arrival was the friendly thing to do, but to draw a
householder from the safety of his abode while a murderous companion
lurked in the shadows waiting to kill him was an old trick, too old to
catch a wise old fox like Hoodoo Brown.
Brown was arrested for this murder of “Crazy Burns” in 1889. He was
taken to Kingfisher, Oklahoma, for the trial, since he was a resident of
Oklahoma at the time. On December 26, 1889, the
Dodge City Times carried the
ago Hoodoo Brown ran a road ranch a few miles south of Dodge and had at
one time a large number of cattle. At that time, the cattle thieves were
very numerous and many cattle were stolen. There was then a man here who
went by the name of Crazy Burns, and who when full of whiskey was a
dangerous man. Burns with several other thieves started out to steal Mr.
Brown’s cattle, and Brown and his men waited their coming, being
appraised of the fact. When the thieves saw these men, a general fight
commenced with six-shooters and rifles. After the fight was over, it was
discovered that Crazy Burns was killed, but the cattle were not stolen
from Hoodoo Brown. Last week Mr. Brown, who has been in Oklahoma for
some time, was arrested for the murder of this man Crazy Burns and will
have his preliminary trial at Wichita on next Saturday. Mr. Merriam
Brown, a brother of Hoodoo Brown, has been in the city most of the week
gathering facts of the case in order to have his brother released.
Hoodoo Brown is known by all old-timers here, having lived in this
country for over twenty years, and being always an honest, upright
citizen, during his stay here, the people propose to see that he is not
allowed to suffer for the killing of a man like Crazy Burns, because
there is no testimony to show who it was that killed him. It certainly
is an outrage for having him arrested, and we hope to hear of his being
released when his trial takes place.