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Past and Present

The Success Of An Early Kansan

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As we think of the founders of the Wichita area, some names are well known: Mead, Greiffenstein and Munger among them. Others are less known but worth considering. One of them is Feldin Buckner.

Buckner was the slave of a Judge Buckner in Kentucky. When Judge Buckner moved to Missouri, he freed Feldin... or "Fielding," depending on the source. Feldin Buckner married and had a large family. We know from the birthplaces of his eight children that the family moved to Iowa and Nebraska before they arrived in Kansas in the late 1850s, settling along the Whitewater.

The 1860 census recorded the Buckners as living near Towanda in what was then Otoe County. Here, in the hinterland of what was still the Territory of Kansas, a freed slave was one of the most prosperous landowners in the area. When a drought struck that year, one report noted that, “he is the only person who has not deserted that neighborhood.”

By the time James R. Mead established his trading post that vicinity in 1863, Buckner had already been there for three years. A decade later, the Buckners had moved to Osage County, where newspapers reported him again being one of the most successful landowners in the area.

So, during this Black History Month, take time to think about the early African American settlers to this part of Kansas, some of whom were here even before the more famous figures we usually read about.