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Charles Jesse Jones, known as Buffalo Jones (January 31, 1844 – October 1, 1919), was an American frontiersman, farmer, rancher, hunter, and conservationist who cofounded Garden City, Kansas. He has been cited by the National Archives as one of the "preservers of the American bison".[1]

Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones
Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones photo IMG 5896.JPG
Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones as he appears at the Finney County Historical Museum in Garden City, Kansas
Member of the (politics)
Personal details
Born(1844-01-31)January 31, 1844
Tazewell County
Illinois, USA
DiedOctober 1, 1919(1919-10-01) (aged 75)
Shawnee County, Kansas
Spouse(s)Martha Walton Jones (married 1869-she predeceased her husband)
ChildrenJessie Jones Phillips

Olive Jones Whitmer

(Two sons died in childhood.)
ParentsNicholas and Jane Munden Jones
Alma materIllinois Wesleyan University
OccupationRancher; Conservationist


Early yearsEdit

Jones was born near Pekin in Tazewell County in north central Illinois, to Noah Nicholas Jones and the former Jane Munden. His father was a farmer and election judge who once hired Abraham Lincoln as an attorney. The second oldest of twelve children, Jones was reared on a farm at Money Creek in McLean County in central Illinois near Bloomington. Jones became involved at an early age with the capture of wild animals and kept several as pets. For two years, he attended Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington but withdrew after being stricken with typhoid fever. In 1866, at the age of twenty-two, Jones came to Troy in Doniphan County in the northeastern corner of Kansas, to operate a fruit tree nursery.[2] In 1869, he wed the former Martha Walton, a descendant of naturalist Izaak Walton. The couple had two sons, who died in childhood, and two daughters, Jessie and Olive.[3]

Soon, Jones left the tree nursery and headed west to Osborne County in north central Kansas, where he built a sod house and began earning his livelihood by hunting bison and capturing wild horses. These lengthy hunting trips took Jones into West Texas, where he met the famed lawman Pat Garrett (who in 1881 killed the desperado, Billy the Kid) in Fort Sumner, New Mexico Territory. Some accounts place Jones on March 18, 1877, at the Battle of Yellow House Canyon (also called the Battle of Thompson's Canyon) near the future Lubbock, Texas. His success at hunting earned him the sobriquet "Buffalo" Jones. In addition to hunting bison, he tamed buffalo calves and sold them at county fairs.[2]

Garden CityEdit

On April 8, 1879, Jones, along with John A. Stevens and the brothers William D. and James R. Fulton, founded Garden City in Finney County in southwestern Kansas. Each man homesteaded 160 acres (0.65 km2). The Jones addition lies west of 8th Street.[1]

Jones was elected the first mayor of Garden City. In that capacity, he met such western figures 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, a practice still followed twice daily with cattle in the Fort Worth Stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas.[2] Jones promoted Garden City as the county seat and donated land for the first courthouse. He built the Buffalo Jones block on Grant Street, the Herald Building, and the Lincoln and Grant buildings on 8th street, named for Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant. His home at 515 North 9th Street is still used as a residence.[1]

Jones was the first member from Finney County to the Kansas House of Representatives. He served two interrupted terms, first as an Independent from District 127 (1885–1886) and then as a Republican in District 122 (1889–1890).[4]

He organized four irrigation companies to take water one hundred miles from the Arkansas River to aid in the cultivation of 75,000 acres (300 km2) of land. Jones contracted with the former Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad to build a depot in Garden City. He encouraged the movement of thousands of settlers into the region.[5]

Preserving the buffaloEdit

Undated photograph of "Buffalo" Jones

Meanwhile, Jones started several buffalo herds about Garden City that served as the foundation for both private and public herds in the region. He found only thirty-seven bison in the area. His small herd provided ten animals for a private zoo at a cost of $1,000 each.[6]

In the spring of 1886, alarmed about the pending extinction of the bison, Jones set forth from Kendall in Hamilton County, Kansas, toward the Texas Panhandle to find remaining animals. He lassoed eighteen calves and took them safely back to Kansas. Such western authors as Emerson Hough began to notice Jones's contributions. Jones met the pioneer Texas rancher Charles Goodnight, who was crossbreeding buffalo with cattle to produce beefalo, also called cattalo, an otherwise sturdy breed often born sterile. Jones himself later tried producing cattalo. From 1886 to 1889, Jones accumulated more than fifty head, including a buffalo herd he had purchased in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which required shipment to Garden City. From this herd, Jones sold animals to zoos, parks, or to other ranchers. He personally delivered ten buffalo to a purchaser in Liverpool, England, a task which earned him $10,000, then a large amount of money. Jones was a victim of the Panic of 1893. A second ranch he purchased in Nebraska failed, and he sold his remaining herd to ranchers in Montana and California.[2]

On September 16, 1893, Jones used two horses to make the run for land into the Cherokee Outlet of Oklahoma. From 1897 to 1898, he traveled to the Arctic Circle, where his party wintered in a cabin they had constructed near the Great Slave Lake. He captured five baby musk oxen, which were afterwards slaughtered by superstitious Indians.[1] Jones' exploits of how he and his party shot and fended off a hungry wolf pack near Great Slave Lake was verified in 1907 by Ernest Thompson Seton and Edward Alexander Preble, when they discovered the remains of the animals near the long abandoned cabin.[2] In 1899, Jones captured a bighorn sheep for the National Zoo in Washington D.C. That same year, with Colonel Henry Inman (1837-1899), he published an autobiography, Buffalo Jones' Forty Years of Adventure.[2]

Other endeavorsEdit

In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed his friend Jones as the first game warden at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, where Jones also introduced a buffalo herd. A story at the time told how Jones had roped and spanked the behind of an unruly bear.[2] He successfully developed the Yellowstone bison herd with imports from Texas and Montana. Jones's strict rules against alcohol, smoking, and gambling led to dissension with the men working under his supervision, and he was discharged after four years as warden.[1]

In 1906, Jones began crossbreeding cattalo, these particular buffalo crossbred with Galloway cattle on a government ranch located along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in the Kaibab Plateau area of northern Arizona.[6]

In 1907, Jones introduced the western novelist, Zane Grey to the Southwest. Grey modeled several of his characters after Jones, including the central figure in the nonfiction The Last of the Plainsmen.[5] Grey's nonfiction Roping Lions in the Grand Canyon is also based on the author's experiences with Jones.[1]

Reporter Marguerite Martyn readies herself to approach Buffalo Jones for an interview in St. Louis, November 1911 (self-sketch).

Late in 1909, "Colonel" Jones, as he was then known, persuaded the Massachusetts industrialist Charles S. Bird to finance a game-catching expedition to Kenya. With two cowboys (Marshall Loveless and Ambrose Means),[2] a guide and several porters, Jones traveled to Nairobi. In the savannas of Kenya, they roped warthogs, elands, zebras, a rhinoceros, and a lioness, which lived at a zoo in New York until 1921. Jones also employed two filmographers who documented his activities. He then showed his films across the United States, including a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City, in which he narrated the highlights of his hunting trip.[5] He was awarded a medal by the British King Edward VII for his efforts to preserve animals.[1] In 1914, Jones organized a second, but unsuccessful, African hunting trip for a gorilla. The failure to capture a huge gorilla created a breach between Jones and his sponsors. While in the Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo), he contracted malaria, was placed on a stretcher, and evacuated on the last departing boat, just as World War I was declared in Europe.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

This statue of "Buffalo" Jones is located at the Finney County Courthouse; Jones donated the land for the courthouse and was one of the four founders of Garden City.

Jones never fully recovered from the malaria. He spent his last years in New Mexico, San Antonio, Texas, and Denver, Colorado. He patented an irrigation device and sought backers for the project.[5] He also envisioned crossbreeding domestic sheep with Rocky Mountain bighorns.[7]

Jones became ill in 1917, and died two years later of a heart attack at the home of his younger daughter, Olive J. Whitmer, in the capital city of Topeka, Kansas. His other daughter was Jessie J. Phillips of Chicago, Illinois. Jones was interred beside his wife and sons, all of whom predeceased him, at Valley View Cemetery in Garden City.[8]

In a long obituary published in The New York Times, Jones was described as having been "known throughout America as 'Buffalo Jones', famous cowboy and big game hunter and friend of the late former President Theodore Roosevelt."[9] There is no mention in The Times that Jones was "the first, great, and highly original preserver-user of North America’s wildlife."[7]

In 1959, Jones was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Great Westerners of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. On July 4, 1979, a permanent exhibit in the Finney County Historical Museum in Garden City was dedicated to Jones' memory.[1] There is a statue of Jones at the Finney County Courthouse, and the Buffalo Jones Elementary School in Garden City bears his name.

The movie Buffalo Rider fictionalizes his life, depicting him as a loner named Jake Jones who rides a tamed buffalo.

Jones's museum exhibits conclude, as follows: "He was a frontier entrepreneur willing to take risk to win rewards. Throughout his life, the capital which he never lost was energy, imagination, and willingness to take personal and financial risks."[5]


  • Robert Easton and Donald Mackenzie Brown (1961). Lord of Beasts: The Saga of Buffalo Jones. ISBN 0-8165-0281-1.[10]
  • Ralph T. Kersey (1880–1972) (1958). Buffalo Jones: A True Biography. Garden City, Kansas: Elliott Printers. LCCN 58035851.[11][12]
  • Guy H. Scull. Lassoing Wild Animals in Africa.[1][13]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "C.J. "Buffalo" Jones". Archived from the original on May 3, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Buffalo Jones". Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  3. ^ "Charles Jesse Jones Collection". Arizona State University. Archived from the original on August 10, 2007. Retrieved November 4, 2010.
  4. ^ "Kansas Legislature: Past and Present". Archived from the original on November 25, 2010. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones exhibit, Finney County Historical Museum, Garden City, Kansas
  6. ^ a b "Bison: the Amazing Animal, section Saved from Extinction" (PDF). Kansas State Historical Society. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  7. ^ a b "Arctic Profiles: Charles Jesse Jones" (PDF). Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  8. ^ "Death notice of Charles Jesse Jones". Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  9. ^ The New York Times, October 2, 1919.
  10. ^ "Lord of Beasts: The Saga of Buffalo Jones". University of Arizona Press. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  11. ^ Advertisement: Buffalo Jones. Boys' Life. July 1959. p. 61. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
  12. ^ Ralph Kersey also wrote The History of Finney County, Kansas.
  13. ^ Lassoing Wild Animals in Africa. National Geographic magazine, Vo. 22, Issue 5. Retrieved September 4, 2010.

External linksEdit