Wilde, Colorado: Colonel York, the Bloody Benders, and West Point.


Wilde was founded by Colonel A.M. York from Fort Scott Kansas.

The town, Wilde, Colorado is not Baca County.  It was technically in Old Bent county or what is now Prowers County just west of Two Buttes Mountain and north of Butte Creek. However, most of us from Baca County feel the mountain, just over the county line, and the area just north of Two Buttes  lake are just as much a part of us as if they had always been on our side of the county line. Wilde was another of those 1887 SE Colorado Boom Towns. Wilde was founded by Colonel A.M. York from Fort Scott Kansas.


Fort Scott Daily Monitor March 13, 1887

An 1887 town company ad described it as 2 1/2 miles from the TWIN BUTTES and 1 1/2 Miles  (north) of BUTTE CREEK. Sam Konkel tells us in the July 5, 1918, Springfield Democrat Herald, Wilde was located on the old road from Vilas to Lamar, west of the Twin Buttes, something like a mile north of Butte creek, and from half a mile to a mile east of the present Springfield – Lamar road. Refer to the Southeast Colorado Boom Town Map blog for another reference to the location. Various other news clippings such as the one below  provide insight to the 1887 town.


Medicine Lodge Cresset February 23, 1888

The town company ad paints a “pen picture” of Wilde as follows,

WILDE AS A TRADING POST

“It is safe to assert that there is not an equal to Wilde in the Bent Land District except Lamar as a trading and distributing point, and that this the one great thing to give our place a prominence over other places.

But aside from the importance Wilde possesses as a trading point, it most beautifully located about 2 1/2 miles from TWIN BUTTES, one of the greatest natural curiosities in Colorado.  The Buttes rise abruptly from nearly a level prairie to the height of several hundred feet and conical in shape, with an almost regular slope form base to summit. The view from the top of the Buttes is indeed grand.  The vision reaches over a great distance and several towns can be seen. Almost immediately south of the Buttes, and distant about one mile, is one of the most picturesque canyons outside of the mountains. North and west about eight miles are the “Cedar Hills,” a range of hills covered with red cedars, which for beauty are unsurpassed. At one place there is a miniature “Garden of the gods,” which excites the wonder and admiration of all beholders.”

BUTTE CREEK, a clear, beautiful stream of running water, timbered with cottonwoods is 1 1/2 miles south of Wilde.

THE BLOODY BENDERS

Colonel York’s brother, Dr. Wm. York,  was a victim of the infamous Bloody Benders of Labette County Kansas.  These “innkeepers” welcomed unwary visitors with jackrabbit stew, a sledgehammer to the skull and a trap door to quickly remove them from the table.  They would then be buried somewhere nearby. NOTE: The distance reference below describes a distance of 10 rods. A rod is 5 1/2 yards.


The Head-light (Thayer, Kansas) · 7 May 1873.

The Bloody Benders had a remote little inn not far from the Kansas homestead of Laura Ingalls Wilder.. Wilder mentions two brushes with the Benders, who are sometimes referred to as America’s first serial killers.

Wilder says, “while Pa watered the horses and brought us all a drink from the well near the door of the house. We did not go in because we could not afford a tavern” Sometime later, “on his trip to Independence to sell his furs, Pa stopped for water, but did not go in for the same reason as before.”

If Pa Ingalls had been able to afford to go in, Laura may not have seen her Pa again.

Colonel York’s brother was not so fortunate and ended up as one of the Bender’s victims. The official word is that no one has ever been able to prove what happened to the Benders even though a a large reward was offered (see below) and nationwide manhunt turned up suspects for many years after.

Bender reward

The Weekly Commonwealth (Topeka, Kansas) · 28 May 1873

During the boomtown years 1886-1889,  Sam Konkel, as editor of “The Boston World” had the opportunity to interview Colonel York, and tells an interesting tale of the Bloody Benders from Colonel York’s perspective.  Here is a July 5, 1918, Springfield Democrat Herald article by Sam Konkle recalling that interview:

An interesting  thing in connection with Wilde is that its mammoth residence-hotel was built by Col John York, brother of the Dr. York murdered by the notorious Bender family of Labett county Kansas in the early settlement of that country, we believe about 1873.

We became acquainted with Col York after he built his wonderful Wilde castle, and at one time had an extended talk with him with regard to the murder of his brother, and thus got information of the hunt for the notorious family that was never before revealed.

It will be remembered that a number of people seemed to be swallowed up in Labett county — could be traced about so far, and then were never heard of again.

Dr. York of Ft Scott was the last one to be swallowed up.  The Yorks were wealthy and influential, and immediately started a number of detectives and others on a hunt for Dr. York.

Some of the posse called a time or two at the Bender home and when a number of them one day rode up to the Benders they found the family had fled.  Then an investigation of a well-cultivated patch of ground near the log cabin proved to be a graveyard, and in one of the graves was found Dr. York.      

Posses started out in all directions for the family, and the state of Kansas joined in the hunt, but never an authentic hide or hair was ever found of them, though all kinds of wild rumors of their being here and there and how this posse and that posse captured them and executed them found occasional newspaper circulation for years afterwards.

Of course in talking with Col York the subject of the mystery of the Benders naturally came up, when the colonel stated positively that to him and others there was no mystery in connection with what had become of the family, though at the time for reasons well understood they could not give certain information they had to the public.

Even after those many years the colonel didn’t care to be explicit, but stated that to him and others there was no mystery about what had become of the notorious outfit, that they went after them and and that after coming back from the hunt he had no more interest in the family and knew that no one would ever find them, thus conveying the direct inference that they had found the Benders, put them underground and returned home.

We never heard further of Col. York, but presume he went back to Ft.Scott, and so far as we know may be living there now.

The colonel was a brave man, but after he had made his getaway from these wild shores we don’t suppose that money or commands could have induced him to face those experiences a second time.

And for that great magnificent palace that cost in the neighborhood of $10,000 he likely got something in the neighborhood of $500 — maybe something more, may be something less, but that was about the way houses sold after possibly nineteen – twentieths or more of the settlers had gone out of the country.

WILDE and WEST POINT

It also appears that in Wilde, there was a school and in June of 1890 D. H. Dickason of Turan, Kansas received a contract to teach at the school.  Various reports indicate his parents had settled in Wilde. The following sequence show his coming to southeast Colorado and his subsequent appointment to West Point.


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 12 Jun 1890


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 18 Sep 1890


The Philadelphia Inquirer
(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) · 19 Sep 1890



Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 1 Jan 1891



Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 15 Jan 1891


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 22 Oct 1891


Turon Headlight (Turon, Kansas) · 29 Oct 1891