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James R. Mead Map
James R Mead

James R. Mead


Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains book cover



Towanda trading post
Towanda Trading Post
Courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives,
Wichita State University Libraries


Mead Grave Site


James R. Mead was born in New Haven, Vermont, on May 3, 1836. In the fall of 1859 he arrived in Burlingame, Kansas, having ridden from his home in Iowa on horseback, and he fell in love with the Kansas countryside. He established a trading post 20 miles above the Saline River, trading with Indian tribes in the area. Mead named several of the creeks that led into the Saline River: Beaver Creek, Spillman Creek, Twelve-Mile Creek, Wolf Creek and Paradise Creek, all of which hold those names today. Mead resided at his trading post until 1862, then moved to Salina in 1863. He and his first wife, Agnes Barcome, had four children, one of whom died as an infant. They opened another trading post in Towanda, as well as another branch at the mouth of the Little Arkansas River in 1864, the first building of which is now known as the city of Wichita. He was known as being an honest man and upright trader, allowing him much influence with the Indian tribes of the area.

In 1864, Mead was elected to the state legislature representing Butler county and in 1868 was elected to the state senate for the district comprised of the counties of Morris, Chase, Marion and Butler, as well as the unorganized territory west of the Kansas state line. In 1868, Mead was a great influence in incorporating the town of Wichit,a which he chose to name after the Wichita indians who had occupied the territory for so long. In 1869, Mead's wife died and he relocated to land just outside of Wichita and began to build up the city. In 1871, he organized the Wichita & Southwestern Railroad, helping to make Wichita one of the fastest growing cities in Kansas, and assuring it would become the metropolis it is today.

In 1873, Mead married a second time only to again lose his wife to death in 1894. His third and final marriage occured in 1896. James R. Mead loved biology and ethnology and was a member of the Kansas Academy of Science for thirty years. He also served as president of the Kansas State Historical Society, working to preserve pioneer annals. Mead wrote many articles for the Kansas Academy of Science and the Kansas State Historical Society which can be found in the Kansas annals today.

James R. Mead died in 1910 after contracting a cold that turned to pneumonia, which the doctors of the time were unable to treat.

(parts of biography taken from KS-Cyclopedia - 1912)

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Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  


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Writing Samples  

James R. Mead writing to his father

James R. Mead letter to mother

James R. Mead letter to sister

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Kansas Cyclopedia - 1912

Western Trails

Wichita State University Special Collections

James R. Mead residence in Wichita

Review of Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains

James R. Mead by Dr. Jones

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