Despite Failure, Shanklin's Story Is Still Interesting | Past & Present

Jul 10, 2018

In May 1871, Wichita founder James Mead famously led a team of horsemen out to divert a cattle drive from going through Park City, returning the cattle trail to its original route by Wichita. The drovers had planned to go west of Wichita up to Brookville because of the efforts of Henry Shanklin, an agent with the Kansas-Pacific railroad. While the so-called “four horsemen” are celebrated as local heroes in Wichita, Shanklin often gets dismissed as the one who failed. However, his story is just as interesting.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Shanklin arrived in Lawrence in the late 1850s to operate a boot and clothing store. During the Civil War, he served with the militia, and afterwards, was a prominent citizen known for his political connections and his productive orchards. Shanklin sought appointment to be the Indian agent for the Sauk and Fox and when that failed, found himself agent to the Wichita people. Shanklin oversaw the relocation of the Wichita from this area back to Indian Territory in 1867. By 1870, he was exploring opportunities in getting Texas cattle up to railheads on the Kansas Pacific, efforts that likely benefited from the fact that his son, Joseph, was an agent for that railroad. 

Shanklin’s attempt to be a cattle agent ended that summer in 1871. In the years that followed he moved several times, even living for a few years in Wichita. In 1887, he received an appointment to serve in the pension office in Washington, D.C., where he remained until his death in 1905.