Relive the Old West Legend of Dodge City Through Exhibits, Education and Entertainment.

Merritt & Elizabeth Beeson, 2017 Cowboy Historians


“My own life, of sixty years, have been spent among these characters and surroundings; I have faithfully tried to record in this labor.” In a 1913 letter from Merritt to Brown Shoenheit.

Merritt Beeson was born in Dodge City to Chalkley and Ida Beeson on December 29, 1878. Elizabeth Irene Beeson was born in Appleton, Wisconsin on January 17, 1892 to Phillip V. and Appolonia Bloedel Schaetzel. On March 13, 1913 the two were united in marriage. Mr. and Mrs. Merritt Beeson began operating the Beeson Museum in 1932 in the basement of their home on the southwest corner of Beeson Road and Sunnyside Avenue. They had had assistance from Merritt’s brother, Otero. This institution arose from the collection started in the 1870’s by Merritt’s father, Chalkley. By the time Chalkley died in 1912, the family had many souvenirs and relics from the late 19th century. Included in this assortment were items used by Chalkley’s Cowboy Band. Prominent were a pair of golden eagles and musical instruments. Many heirlooms from both his and from his wife’s family graced this assembly of artifacts. Documents and photographs also made up an integral part of this large collection. Later, the Museum expanded and moved east to a the “Corral” on South Second. The Beeson Museum was a repository for scholars studying the history of the area, and it was a Mecca for tourists. Numerous letters to and from the Beeson’s in the Boot Hill Museum archives attest to the fact Merritt himself was a “go to” source for early Dodge City history. Both Mr. and Mrs. Beeson corresponded with prominent Dodge City old timers and family members of early Dodge founders. Josephine Earp, Wyatt’s last wife, was one of these, as were members of the Masterson family and Samuel Crumbine, who had become nationally famous in the area of public health. After Merritt died Jan. 28, 1956, Elizabeth managed the Museum until it closed in 1964. She died on October 15, 1984 at the age of 92. The legacy of Beeson Museum lives on at Boot Hill Museum which acquired most of its collection when Beeson Museum closed. Many of these artifacts are displayed in the “Beeson Gallery,” with others housed elsewhere throughout the complex.

Merritt and Elizabeth had two children; a boy who died in infancy and Irene Cross. Irene died in 2016, and had three children; Jan Shaw, Mark Cross, and Wade Cross. Wade passed away in 2016. Merritt had one child, Ida Elizabeth “Betty” Beeson Miller by his first wife, Marie Mary Douthitt Beeson. Betty had two children who have passed away; Michael Beeson Miller and Vee Ann Miller.

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Joyce Thierer, 2016 Cowgirl Historian

thierer_joyceWhen I die the best thing people can say is that I was a hard working woman.

Joyce Thierer is of the fifth generation of a Flint Hills farming family. Her parents, Lowell and Myrtle Gustafson Thierer, lived near Volland when she was born on September 3, 1949. Her grandparents lived on ranches within a few miles of each other. Joyce got her start at first-person interpretation when her grandfather Thierer told her stories about her great-great grandmother, Mary Fix who came to Kansas in 1856, one of Joyce’s favorite first hand presentations to this day is that of Mary Fix. Joyce also was inspired by the story of Calamity Jane, who lost her mother at the age of 14 and had to learn to support herself. Calamity Jane also trusted her horse as her best friend, just like Joyce at that young age. Joyce’s mother was a true cowgirl, and was a great inspiration to Joyce when she wanted to study vocational agriculture. In the 1960’s her parents created a museum and started a living history festival, Molasses Days, which brought people to their homestead for 20 years. When Joyce entered Kansas State University, she intended to study Animal Science, but opted for American History instead, receiving a BS in 1972. Joyce has gone on to further her education with several degrees, including, Masters in Library Science from Emporia State University 1980, Masters in American History, Emporia State University 1986, PhD in American History, Kansas State University, 1994. Her long list of distinguished awards includes, We Kan! Award, Mary Headrick Award, You Make a Difference Award, Fellowship of Performance Art-Kansas Arts Commission, Santa Fe Trail Association Education Award, Ruth Schillinger Faculty Award, and the Liberal Arts Science Teaching Award. She has developed numerous academic and history presentations including the Ride into History first person presentations she performs with spouse, Ann Birney. She also is a member of the Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma Humanities Councils Speaker’s Bureaus. Thierer is the author of “Telling History: A Manual for Performers and Presenters of First Person Narratives.” Joyce Thierer and Ann Birney received an NRCS/USDA EQIP grant to bring back the Tallgrass prairie on land Thierer inherited. After restoring the prairie by removing non-native vegetation, Thierer and Birney received a Grassland Award from the Wabaunsee County Conservation Program. Joyce’s son Chris Wisneski lives in Albuquerque, NM and plans to return to Wabaunsee County in the near future, so another generation can live in and appreciate the Flint Hills of Kansas.

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Gary and Margaret Kraisinger – Cowboy Historians

Gary and Margaret Kraisinger Cowboy Historians 2015“If no one had written about it [the Western Trail], it would have been lost to time.”

Both Gary and Margaret Kraisinger are descendents of Kansas homesteaders. Gary was born on November 6, 1939 in Hays, Kansas, to Alfred and Christina Kraisinger. Margaret, his wife, was born on July 14, 1941 in Garden City, Kansas to Archie and Livona Beller. The couple met in 1960 at Fort Hays State University and were married in 1963. Gary received a BS at FHSU in 1963, and Margaret a BA from FHSU in 1964. As a partial requirement for his MS degree at Emporia State University, Gary wrote his thesis on “The Garden City Nickel Plate Railroad – C.J. Jones’ Dirt Railroad.” His 1966 degree was in Geography and Cartography.  In 1967, Margaret got a Master’s in Business Education at ESU. Both taught for a short time in the Dighton school system. It was during this time they became interested in the cattle trails across western Kansas. In 1968, the couple moved to Wichita where Gary worked in the cement, sand, and aggregate industry for more than 40 years. Margaret continued to teach in Wichita and Halstead until her retirement in 1997. Soon after, she began writing history and purchased an old hardware store in Halstead. The couple has been enthusiastic about cattle trail history since early in their marriage. Together the Kraisingers have written two books on the Western Cattle Trail. The first one, “The Western, The Greatest Texas Cattle Trail 1874-1886,” was published in 2004 and the second, “The Western Cattle Trail 1874-1897 Its Rise, Collapse and Revival,” was published in 2015. A third book, “The Fort Arbuckle Trail, 1867 – 1871,” is scheduled for release in early 2016. The Fort Arbuckle Trail located in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) funneled longhorns into Abilene, Kansas. Gary is a board member of the national Great Western Cattle Trail Association and of the Kansas Chapter. He is a member of the Kansas Cattle Towns Association, International Chisholm Trail Association and of its Dodge City/Fort Dodge/Cimarron Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association. Gary and Margaret ardently write and educate the public about cattle trails. The Kraisingers have three children, Kurt, Eric and Kristi Stewart, and they have eight grandchildren. Margaret and Gary live in Halstead, Kansas where Margaret operates the Old Hardware Store, a business in a historic 1879 stone building.

Year inducted: 2015

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Fredric R. Young – Cowboy Historian

Fredric R Young Cowboy Historian 2014“The truth about its early days is far more violent, exciting, and ‘romantic’ than the fiction,” from the preface of Young’s Dodge City, Up Through a Century in Story and Pictures.

Fredric R. Young born in 1931 in Dodge City, is a fourth generation Dodge Citian, with his grandfather arriving in the area in 1879. Fred majored in accounting at Kansas University. He was not interested in history until the 1950’s when Boot Hill Museum’s, George Henrichs, raised his curiosity. Henrichs granted him access to Museum records from early Dodge City. In 1965, Fred married Alberta Marie Timm in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1971, Henrichs asked Fred to write an historical book for Dodge City’s 1972 Centennial. He hurriedly put together his records and used photographs graciously provided by Boot Hill Museum and the Kansas Historical Society to write Dodge City:  Up Through a Century in Story and Pictures. This book still considered the “bible” for Museum employees and those interested in early Dodge City history. He has spent over 50 years researching Dodge City history pouring over court records, deeds, early newspapers and letters from Boot Hill Museum, the Kansas Heritage Center in Dodge City and other sources. In 2009, he completed another book The Delectable Burg:  An Irreverent History of Dodge City – 1872 to 1886, which presents early Dodge City from a unique viewpoint. Fredric R. Young refers to himself as an “amateur historian.” Fred and Alberta live in Dodge City and have two grown children who live out of the area, Robert Young and Elizabeth Tybinkowski. His only grandchild is Elizabeth’s son, Alex.

Year inducted: 2014

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V. James “Jim” Sherer – Cowboy Historian

V James Jim Sherer Cowboy Historian 2013He was an exceptional community servant. He always had an upbeat and positive attitude about the community, and it was contagious.”John Deardoff, former Dodge City Manager

Jim Sherer was born on April 15, 1942 in Canton, Ohio to John H. and Frances G. Hendrichs Sherer. His family later moved to Kansas. Jim graduated from Kismet High School in 1960 and received an Associate’s Degree at Dodge City Community College in 1962.  He went on to Pittsburg State University earning a BS in Education in 1964. While at DCCC he met Nancy White marrying her on June 9, 1963. This union resulted in four children, Kristen Miller, Dr. Ryan Sherer, Tyler Sherer and Kerri Kannady. From 1966 to 1979 he was in administration at DCCC. In 1979, he became Executive Director of Boot Hill Museum, a position he held until 1991, when he was deputized as a Boot Hill Honorary Marshal, at Boot Hill. He was one of just a handful of Dodge Citians to receive this cowboy accolade. He returned to DCCC administration in 1992 spending eight years. He then moved to the Kansas Heritage Center as Director until his retirement in 2007. In 2004 he was elected as a Dodge City Commissioner and served as Mayor in 2006 and 2007. Sherer’s greatest passion was Dodge City history, particularly that of the cattle trails and the Santa Fe Trail. Jim was a founding member of the Dodge City/Fort Dodge/Cimarron Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association and of the Kansas Chapter of the Western Cattle Trail Association. He served as President of both these chapters. He has also served as an officer of the Ford County Historical Society. In 2011, he was coordinator of the SFTA Symposium held in Dodge City. That same year Jim, was inducted into the Dodge City Community College Hall of Fame for Outstanding Service. Jim Sherer died on May 21, 2013 in Dodge City.

Year inducted: 2013

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John F. Vallentine – Cowboy Historian

John F Valentine Cowboy Historian 2012“It was the cattleman rather than the cowboy that was the central character on the ranching frontier.”

On August 1, 1931, John Franklin “Frank” Vallentine was born in the Lexington Community of Clark County to John Fillmore and Venna Eletha Irene Vallentine. He was raised on a stock farm at this locality. While attending Ashland High School, he met future wife, Bonnie Blanche Clawson. They were married on August 10, 1950. They both attended Kansas State University.

He served in the U.S. Air Force. Continuing his education, he received an M.S. degree from Utah State University and a Ph.D. degree at Texas A & M. He held faculty positions at Utah State University and the University of Nebraska before settling at Brigham Young University in 1968, where he was a professor of range management until his retirement.

John is a professional genealogist and local historian, and has authored several books on ranch management and family history. He considers Lexington history a specialty. Notably, in 1998, he penned Cattle Ranching South of Dodge City – The Early Years 1870-1920. It is a thoroughly researched and well-written account of the early ranches and cowboys in the area. Bonnie Blanche passed away in 2004. John lives in Springville, Utah near his three children, John, Dixie Lee Davis and Cindy Richins, and his six grandchildren.

Year inducted: 2012

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Joseph McCoy – Cowboy Historian

Joeseph McCoy Cowboy Historian 2011“Among the earliest vocations spoken of by the sacred historian is that of the producers of livestock….”

On December 21, 1837, Joseph Geiting McCoy was born on a farm in Sangamon County, Illinois to David and Mary (Kirkpatrick) McCoy. He schooled in the local area and spent one year at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. In 1861, he married Sarah Epler and began raising mules and cattle. McCoy is the founder of the Great Western Stockyards at Abilene, Kansas. Through his efforts the Chisholm Trail became the primary route for cowboys driving their herds of Texas longhorn cattle from Texas to Abilene. Joseph McCoy transformed the cattle business into a national industry. He was able to overcome the obstacle of a tick borne disease, Texas fever. Longhorns were immune to it, but they passed it onto to other types of cattle to which it was fatal. McCoy joined the interests of  the railroads, which wanted to expand freighting in the west, with that of the Texans wanting to sell their cattle back east. He advertised in Texas to lure the herders to the market in Abilene, and in 1867 the first herds arrived. Rival cow towns emerged and McCoy moved on to these new venues. According to accounts, McCoy bragged he would bring 200,000 head up in 10 years, when in truth, two million head passed through in only four years. Some argue the phrase “It’s the real McCoy” was inspired by McCoy. Drawing on his understanding of the cattle industry from rancher to packer, McCoy wrote Historic Sketches of the Cattle Trade of the West and Southwest. Published in 1874, this work established McCoy as the first cowboy historian and it is a primary source for our understanding of the era of the big cattle drive and the inner workings of cattle marketing during its formative years.

Year inducted: 2011

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David Dary – Cowboy Historian

David Dary Cowboy Historian 2010“It would be impossible to understand the culture of the cowboy without considering his history.”

David Dary was born on August 21, 1934 in Manhattan, KS to Russell and Ruth Dary near where his great-grandfather, Carl Engel, settled in 1865. David graduated from Kansas State in 1956 and received a graduate degree from the University of Kansas. He began his journalism career in Topeka where he worked in radio and TV. He worked in Texas before joining CBS News in Washington, DC, where he transferred to NBC News. In the late 1960’s he returned to Topeka to help build an NBC station, and began teaching journalism at the University of Kansas. Twenty years later he became chair of the School of Journalism at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He retired in 2000 and is now an emeritus professor at Oklahoma. Dary is the author of 20 books; three deal with journalism, the rest are about the West. Titles include Cowboy Culture, The Santa Fe Trail and True Tales of Old-Time Kansas. One title, The Buffalo Book was a “Book-of-the-Month” Club selection and a Pulitzer Prize nominee. In 2008 he wrote Frontier Medicine which won him the Dr. Walter Alvarez Award from the American Medical Writers Association. He has received two Wrangler Awards from the Cowboy Hall of Fame, two Western Writers of America Spur Awards and the Westerners International Best Nonfiction Book Award. In 2002 he was honored with an Owen Wister Award from the W.W.A. for lifetime achievement. In 2008 the Oklahoma Center for the Book gave him an Arrell Gibson Award, also for lifetime achievement. Dary has chaired numerous historical organizations. He currently resides in Norman, Oklahoma with his wife, Sue. They have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Year inducted: 2010

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Harold Dawley – Cowboy Historian

Harold Dawley Cowboy Historian 2009“This building is my life now.”

Harold Dawley was born to Lloyd and Nettie Dawley on their family farm north of Spearville in rural Ford County on February 19, 1923. After his family moved to Ford, he worked for many area farmers, graduating from Ford High School in 1942. Harold served his country in World War II in the Armored Infantry and was seriously wounded in northern France. After a medical discharge he returned to Ford County where he married Alice Williams on November 6, 1948. Both were actively involved in the Boot Hill Saddle Club for many years and always had horses. Alice passed away in August of 1972. Their son John lives in Pratt and has one son, Scott. In the 1950’s Harold started collecting horse bits and bridles. For decades he attended every farm sale in the area looking for items to add to his collection. Over the years his assortment has grown to one of the finest and largest collections of bits and bridles. To house these items, Harold built an addition to his residence which was known as the Bits and Bridle Museum. Harold’s research and vast knowledge are a major source of information for the Encyclopedia of Bits and Bridles. As a member of the National Bit, Spur and Saddle Collector’s Association, he has been honored with a Life Time Achievement Award. Harold is friendly and very likeable, and interested in all things western. Harold has been a real cowboy all his life, but made a living from the Kansas Highway Maintenance Department, retiring from them in 1988. He currently lives in the Wichita, Kansas area.

Year inducted: 2009

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Don Rowlison – Historian

Don Rowlison Historian 2008Don Rowlison is a Sheridan county resident and native, being born in Hoxie, Kansas on March 18, 1950 to Johnny and Elda (Barr) Rowlison. Don is a fourth generation cowboy in Kansas and he grew up with cowboys while his father operated a feed store. After attending school in Hoxie he went to Colby Community College and later to Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison. He transferred to Kansas State University where in 1972 he obtained a B.S. in Anthropology with an emphasis on Archeology. In 1973 he went to work for the Kansas State Historical Society as an archeologist. After a stint of managing a ranch in the Flint Hills, he returned to doing archeological work for the KSHS. In 1976 he received a Master’s in Education from Kansas State and became a project archeologist for the KSHS until 1980 when he became the first State Public Archeologist for Kansas. In May of 1985 he married Pratt, Kansas native Mellanie Nossaman who also studied archeology at Kansas State. They have a son Ian who was born in October 1993. He has been at the Cottonwood Ranch State Historic Site in Sheridan County since 1985 and is currently Site Curator. Don has spent many hours in the saddle as a working cowboy at the Historic Site and in the Flint Hills. He was first a cowboy and later developed an interest in cowboy history during his University studies. He is a member of the Friends of Cottonwood Ranch and the Morland Community Foundation. He coordinates the Annual Sheep Dog Trials, the Barbeque Contest, Christmas at Cottonwood and the Cottonwood Ranch Trail Ride.

Year inducted: 2008

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