Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones
Southwest Kansas promoter, buffalo breeder. Born: January 31, 1844, Illinois. Died: October 1, 1919, Topeka, Kansas.
In his western saga The Last of the Plainsman, Zane Grey dramatically portrays the conversion of Charles Jesse "Buffalo" Jones from hunter to preserver of the American Bison. The flamboyant, boisterous Jones gained worldwide attention with his exploits of capturing, taming and breeding the threatened buffalo.
Born in Tazewell County, Illinois, in 1844, he was the second son out of 12 children. Jones developed an early interest in wild animals. Schooling for Jones was limited; he could only attend two or three days out of the week or when the weather was too cold. Jones attended Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois when he was 21. He left however, due to eye problems. In 1866 he moved to Troy, in northeast Kansas. There he married Martha Walton in 1869, and planted hedge and fruit trees.
Jones became interested in the Fulton Brother's prospect of promoting Garden City, and he left to join them in 1879. While present, Jones became heavily involved in city building.
Jones launched a buffalo breeding business after surveying thousands of frozen range cattle that perished in the 1886 blizzard. Jones figured by breeding cattle with the hardy buffalo he could produce a stock able to survive the high plains, yet gentle enough to herd and brand. He captured a number of calves and brought them back to his Garden City ranch where he bred them with cattle. This early experiment with "cattalo," the name Jones used to advertise the new animal, failed because the species could not reproduce. In addition, it seemed the animals lost none of the spirited buffalo temperament.
Taming buffalo and even successfully training buffalo proved more successful for Jones who even worked a pair in harness. Jones' herd grew to become the largest in Kansas, close to 150 head. But financial troubles during the hard times of the 1890s forced Jones to sell his herd to pay off his debts.
Buffalo Jones' efforts contributed greatly toward the preservation and perpetuation of the once threatened American Bison, which today is the official state animal of Kansas.
Entry: Jones, Charles Jesse "Buffalo"
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: June 2015
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