The background research our company performs prior to archaeological investigations causes me to dig in for the earliest historical accounts of an area. I love digging in deep, finding information to make our reports more than just names and dates. Trying along the way to ferret out the whys behind the locations we investigate. One of my hobbies (I have many that I’ve picked up in my background research) is documenting trading posts and traders. The fascinating stories that follow these guys captivate me. My newest bunny trail caused me to follow Ewing L. Moxley, a trader among the tribes in Sedgwick County, Kansas.
Moxley grabbed my attention because in my quest to find out his importance to the area, I found actual descriptions of his physical appearance as well as his character. He is described as having a fair complexion, with “light hair and whiskers” (Oskaloosa Independent 1863: 3) and as being “a thorough frontiersman, born in the wilds, an unerring marksman, fearless, honest and simple and tender as a child” (Mooney 1916:105).
Moxley and his trading partner Edward H. Mosely were among the first Euro-Americans in Sedgwick County, Kansas. Moxley’s background is rather hazy. He is potentially born prior to 1837, the son of Judge Solomon R. Moxley of Lincoln County, Missouri, but that remains to be proven (Goodspeed Pub. Co. 1888: 583). His partner Mosely was an Indiana native (Medicine Lodge Cresset 1886). The two were noted as first meeting in Coffey County, Kansas around present day LeRoy (Mead 1986: 139; Medicine Lodge Cresset 1886). Apparently, Mosely and Moxley attempted farming, but on account of the drought found a more profitable business in trading. It is highly probable that their early introduction to trading could have been by utilizing trade along an Osage trail at the nearby Burlington Crossing (Burns 2004:75)
In 1857, the two were among the first settlers in Sedgwick County and established a mercantile or trading post on the Little Arkansas River where an Osage trail crossed. The pair capitalized on the buffalo hunting in the area and would sell the surplus of their hunts as well as other trade goods to the inhabitants of the surrounding area (Medicine Lodge Cresset 1886). This was the first “ranch” in the county along with one established by Bob Duracken a few miles away, but it consisted of little more than a cabin on a claim but was profitable for the pair.
By 1858, Moxley was in Butler County in the Chelsea area. Chelsea, now defunct, was an up and coming town in this period and was at this early date the county seat of Butler County (Mooney 1916: 54). Butler was among the first 36 counties established with the organization of Kansas Territory.
Even with his travels, Moxley’s home base was in Jefferson County, which further intrigued me because that is the home base of Buried Past! In 1857, with the sale of the Delaware lands in that county, Moxley purchased the northwest 1/4 of Section 19, Township 8 South, Range 20 East for farming purposes. He is noted as working with two other settlers of the area, George W. Crump and Joseph Hicks to establish a territorial road from Crump’s land in Section 9 of the same Township/Range to Osawkee (now near modern-day Ozawkie) (State of Kansas 1861:317).
When the war erupted Moxley ran what famed buffalo hunter James R. Mead called a “side show” to the Union army, picking Confederates off their horses with his Sharp’s rifle or Navy revolver and taking their horses for his pay (Mead 1986: 140; Moxley 1865). Moxley met his end while attempting to swim some of his contraband stock across the Kansas River at nearby Lawrence. His short but varied career gathered a sizeable estate valued at $1200.99 and no one around to claim it (Oskaloosa Independent 1863; Moxley 1865). He had limited contact with his family at the end of his life, and his final resting place is unknown (Moxley 1865).
Burns, Louis F.
2004 History of the Osage People. University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL.
Goodspeed Publishing Company
1888 History of Lincoln County, Missouri, from the Earliest time to the Present. The Goodspeed Pub. Co. Chicago, IL.
Mead, James R.
1986 Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains, 1859-1875. Rowfant Press, Wichita, KS.
Medicine Lodge Cresset
1886 “Our Early Settlers” Medicine Lodge Cresset (newspaper), Medicine Lodge, KS. May 27, 1886, p. 1.
Mooney, Vol. P.
1916 History of Butler Co., Kansas. Standard Publishing Co., Lawrence, KS.
Moxley, Ewing L.
1865 Probate Case Files (Estates), ca. 1858 - 1917; Indexes, ca. 1860-1960; Author: Kansas. Probate Court (Jefferson County); Probate Place: Jefferson, Kansas, No. 416. Accessed on-line: Ancestry.com.
1863 “Notice to Unknown Heirs”, Oskaloosa Independent (newspaper), Oskaloosa, KS. August 8, 1863, p.3.
State of Kansas
1861 House Journal (Extra Session) of the Legislative Assembly of Kansas Territory for the Year 1857. Sam. A. Medary, Printer, Lawrence, KS.