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.
Jones was born in Tazewell County, Illinois, in 1844. He developed an early interest in wild animals. In 1866 he moved to Troy, in northeast Kansas. In 1869 he married Martha Walton. In Troy, he planted hedge and fruit trees.
The colorful southwest Kansas promoter launched into the 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 survive independently. In addition, it seemed the animals lost none of the spirited buffalo temperament.
Jones had better luck taming buffalo, even successfully training a pair to work 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. Still Buffalo Jones contributed greatly towards 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: August 2013
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