Historically Speaking: Life of cattleman "Doc" Barton

Kathie Bell
Special to the Globe
D. Welborn "Doc" Barton herded cattle through Dodge City in the 1870s and became Gray County Sheriff in 1889.

This man was truly a pioneer. He brought cattle up from Texas before there were cattle drives coming this way, or even before the railroad reached Dodge City.

D. Welborn "Doc" Barton was born in Burnet County, Texas on December 22, 1852 to Stephen D. Barton and Susan K. Hightower Barton. Little is known about Barton's life before he reached the age of 20 other than he had nine brothers and four sisters.

In 1872, he, his brother Al, seven other cowboys and a cook took a circuitous route up to Dodge City from Burnet County with 3,000 head of cattle.

Due to hostile Indians, rather than heading north, they went west into New Mexico and followed the front range of the Rockies to Pueblo, Colorado where he met up with Charles Goodnight. From there they traveled east to Rocky Ford, Colorado where "Beatty" joined them.

They continued east into isolated territory - the Santa Fe Trail had fallen into disuse due to problems with the American Indians. Along the way the party encountered large herds of buffalo and observed a wild and untamed land. They eventually made it to Dodge City. However, as the railroad had not yet reached Dodge, they continued to Great Bend where they could load their cattle.

Ben Hodges, a well-known Dodge City "character" made his first trip to Dodge as a teenage cowboy on this drive. As a "wanted man," he refused to return to Texas, which is how he ended up spending the remainder of his life here.

In 1879, well after the railroad reached Dodge City and the buffalo hunt was over, Barton brought another 3,000 head of beeves from Texas.

Though he took the more traditional route during the more traditional time, the second drive had its perils.

His wife, Belleiver Vandeveer Barton, with their infant daughter Willie, was driving the chuck wagon when a band of Comanche approached the wagon which was a quarter-mile behind Doc and the main herd. The horses got startled and the wagon got stuck in a rut. Fortunately, instead of attacking, the Indians freed the wagon and let her go on her way. It was her husband's positive attitude and way of treating the indigenous people that helped her out of a difficult situation.

The Barton's went on to have three other children, Wilson, Clayton and Gilbert.

In 1884, organizers assigned Barton the task of obtaining bulls for the Fourth of July bullfight. As a rule, bulls are bred specifically for fighting.

But Barton assembled 12 of the most sprightly and belligerent Texas bulls from nearby grazing grounds. One of the bulls was named "Doc" in Barton's honor. They did not prove good at their task of fighting. Despite this, the town was enthusiastic and showed great interest in the bulls he chose. This was one of the few, if not the only, bullfight to take place in the United States.

The blizzards of 1886 put an abrupt end to Barton's cattleman career. He turned to farming around Ingalls. Barton served as Gray County sheriff in 1889. His house, built around 1880, was moved to its current location at 202 S. Edwards, Ingalls in 1896.

In 2010, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Its original 850 square feet structure has a whopping number of eight exterior doors.

Doc Barton died at the age of 95 around 1947. He was buried along with his wife, who died in 1929, at the Ingalls-Logan Cemetery.