Bill Brooks’ stagecoach connected El Dorado to Kansas
Settled and founded through the struggle to establish Kansas as a Free State, El Dorado has a rich history that has been buried and lost to the passage of time.
In celebration of El Dorado’s anniversary as an incorporated city, which is recognized on September 12, 1871, this ongoing series will unearth those stories and revive the ghosts of El Dorado and Eldorado’s past.
Stories will air each Wednesday, at 12 p.m. on local radio station KBTL 88.1, and streaming live online at kbtl.butlercc.edu
This week’s episode In the September 9, 1870 issue of the Walnut Valley Times, comes a story about the Southern Kansas Stage Company and it’s driver Wm. Brooks. The editor, T.B. [Thomas Benton] Murdoch gives a glowing recommendation for the company and Brooks.
The stage coach company operated four-horse coaches between Eldorado and Emporia. The ruts of which are still visible today, on the North end of El Dorado.
The article says that Brooks drives on this end of the route and is one of the most experienced drivers in the west.
“Travelers can ride with safety while under his care. Considering the beautiful scenery, comfortable coaches, fast time, safety, and the courteous treatment of this line, we would recommend the Southern Kansas Stage Company to travelers.”
According to the Kansas State Historical Society, William L. (Billy) Brooks, was a stagecoach driver; a Marshal of Newton, Kansas; a Policeman in Ellsworth, Kansas; and a criminal.
In several incidents, Brooks was reported to have shot and killed men. According to several newspaper articles, Brooks was killed for stealing horses and interfering with the transportation of the U.S. Mail.
Brooks died in February 1873 and his obituary appearing in the February 19, 1873 Wichita Beacon, described his demise.
“Bill Brooks who used to swing the longest lash and make the best time on the old stage line between Newton and here, died with his boots on at Dodge City, Sunday night, he was shot dead. Billy of late lived at the revolvers mouth, and has finally died there. He was clever and brave but merciless to a foe. He was the intrepid marshall of Dodge City, ‘One by one the leaves are falling.’ ”
In all likelihood, Brooks found his final resting place at Boot Hill, however, in 1878, all graves were moved from Boot Hill to the, then new (now defunct), Prairie Grove Cemetery.
According to The Dodge City Globe of February 4th, 1879, “The skeletons removed from the graves on boot Hill were found to be in a fine state of preservation, and even the rude box coffins were a sound as when placed in the ground. The reason of their keeping so well was because they were buried on the side of the hill where the water ran off instead of soaking into the earth. Colonel Straughn, the Corner, removed them, says they were as fine a collection of the extinct human race as he ever handled.
“Some were resting quietly with the boots on, while others made more pretensions to style, having had their boots taken off and placed under their heads for a pillow. Only a few of them could be recognized, as all the headboards if there ever were any, had long since wasted away, and nothing remain to denote where their bodies Lee but little mounds of clay. They are now all resting side-by-side, like one happy family, at the lower end of Prairie Grove cemetery, north west of the city. The enchanting click of the festive revolver they no longer hear. The sighs of the Kansas zephyrs are unheeded and the supportive grasshopper, perched on a headboard, chews his cud and chants his harvest songs without the fear of God in his heart.”
According to The Dodge City Globe of September 6th, 1887, the County Clerk was taking bids for the removal of the county dead from the old cemetery, Prairie Grove, to the new one Maple Grove Cemetery.
While the final resting place of Mr. Brooks may be forever lost to time, the story of his contribution to early Eldorado is not forgotten.