Charging angrily into history

It was a warm summer day more than 145 years ago that townsfolk in Howard discoverd a pair of buffalo — previously thought extinct — had come to town. The story of how those "beasts" were chased Main Street until being gunned down by local pursuers has become legend — and likely a little embellished along the way.


Local News

August 16, 2021 - 9:51 AM

A buffalo, much like the one pictured here at Sefker Farms near Moran, was killed in Howard after being pursued by the townspeople (1875). Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

It was a beast born from the depths of hell …

At least that’s what the editor of the Howard Courant said of the infamous buffalo that found its way onto the city’s streets in the summer of 1875.

It all began on a warm Sunday morning, folks recalled, when Frank Dewey sent his 12-year-old grandson, Van Flagler, to tend the cattle.

Not long after leaving for his chores, however, the boy returned looking as though he’d seen a ghost.

Two alien beasts, it seems, were grazing with the usual herd, and looked like nothing that the young Flagler had ever seen before.

AFTER quickly mounting his horse, Dewey rode out to investigate.

He galloped across the landscape at a clip, the surprisingly soft July air lightly playing with his movement toward the destination.

It was then he saw them: two lumbering giants, namely a shaggy buffalo cow and bull, who had decided to share breakfast with the herd of cattle.

There they stood, nonchalantly chewing away, as though they’d always belonged there, barely even looking up to note Dewey’s presence.

In response, he decided it was time for a buffalo hunt, and returned to fetch his gun.

MIND YOU, by this time, most folks thought the buffalo had been completely eradicated, and thus the story is told as involving “the last wild buffaloes” in the region.

That didn’t stop the residents of Howard, however, from determining it was time the beasts met their maker.

Dewey returned with gun in hand, flanked by several friends, many of which were also armed.

The group separated the buffaloes from the herd, and soon the chase was on, with them stampeding across the wild and untamed prairie.

A shot from Dewey quickly felled the buffalo cow, sending her crashing into the dirt.