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Lewis Lindsay Dyche

Teacher. Born: 1857. Died: 1915.

Lewis Lindsay Dyche came to Kansas Territory as a baby with his parents who settled in Osage County. The oldest of 12 children, much of his boyhood was spent working on the farms his family owned. An outdoors man, he hunted and trapped and visited local Indian tribes, where he ate with them and listened to their stories and lore.

By the time he was 16 he had gone to school only a few weeks. Realizing he needed an education he sold the cattle he had bought and raised and used the money to enroll at the Kansas State Normal (teacher's) School in Emporia in the Fall of 1874. He crammed the basic educational courses into three years and graduated. He then enrolled at the University of Kansas with an eye toward studying science. Inspired by KU's science professor Francis H. Snow, Dyche pursued his studies with zeal. Things were different then. In 1881 while on a field trip to New Mexico, the group of KU scholars just missed being attacked by a band of Apache warriors.

In 1882 Dyche was a junior at the university. Like many students with limited education, he had spent his first few years taking "preparatory" or high-school-level courses. Snow encouraged him to take an instructor's job and teach courses in zoology.

In 1884 Dyche graduated from KU with two bachelor's degrees. He married Ophelia Axtell and continued teaching at the university. He spent the summer of 1887 in Washington D. C. training under the National Museum's chief taxidermist, William Temple Hornaday. Dyche became a skillful taxidermist. In 1891 the U.S. Army asked him to preserve the remains of the old cavalry horse, Comanche, the only survivor found on the Little Big Horn battlefield after the defeat of George Armstrong Custer's Seventh Cavalry. He also helped assemble specimens for the Kansas exhibit at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Dyche continued teaching at KU and devoting his summers to collecting animal specimens. He collected many from Arctic areas. In 1901 the state legislature voted to build a natural history museum at KU, something that had been urged on them by Snow and Dyche. Dyche spent years helping to design the structure and providing it with exhibits.

In 1910 Dyche became the state's fish and game warden, in addition to his other duties. Under his leadership the state fish hatchery at Pratt was enlarged into one of the biggest and most modern in the country. He wrote legislation that protected endangered species and set hunting seasons for most mammals and game birds. He also spoke on the need for soil and water conservation.

The natural history museum was renamed the Dyche Museum of Natural History, which still stands on the KU campus.

Entry: Dyche, Lewis Lindsay

Author: G. Joseph Pierron

Author information: Judge Pierron serves on the Kansas Court of Appeals and has an interest in Kansas history.

Date Created: November 2012

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.