BAXTER SPRINGS, Ks. — One weekend each Spring, Baxter Springs celebrates its history with its annual Cowtown Days. The annual event kicked-off Thursday. As for the name, Baxter Springs – ever wonder where it came from?
Wonder no more.
The springs portion of the town’s name comes from a number of natural springs in the region, some of which, according to native American lore, had restorative qualities. The Baxter portion comes from the larger than life John Baxter, the city’s first official resident, who brought his family to the area in 1849 and literally towered over the community and it’s residents.
Phyllis Abbott, Curator, Heritage Center & Museum, said, “John was a 6 foot 7 inch tall fella, who was a preacher, I don’t know if he was self ordained or regularly ordained, but he was a gentle giant, and everyone liked him and he was really helpful.”
Baxter Historian Phyllis Abbott says Baxter, who along with his wife, had eight children, would eventually build an inn and trading post and was beloved by towns people, but not by one group of visitors that he believed to be trespassing on his family’s land.
“John Baxter and two of his relatives accosted these people by saying get out, you know, this is our land and a battle ensued, gunfight, John Baxter lay dead, mortally wounded, so that was the end of that era, it was about a 10 year era he was here.”
With the patriarch of the family dead and buried, exactly where in town is still not known, conflict tore at this and many other four state families.
“That family became quite divided with one son becoming an officer in the Union forces during the Civil War two other who joined the Confederate forces in Texas.”
This community, founded by John Baxter has undergone a number of name changes over the years, originally it was called Baxter’s Place, then Baxter’s Spring, now it’s known as Baxter Springs. Abbott says the entire Baxter family left town just a decade after they came to the area and eventually settled in Texas. The museum, by the way, will be open Saturday as part of the Cowtown Days festivities.