Caldwell was founded in 1871 astride the then new Chisholm Trail as an economic adventure of a group of Wichita entrepreneurs. The trail, running from Texas to the Intercontinental Railroad in northern Kansas, guided over a million longhorn steers and their guardian cowboys through Caldwell.
This vintage cowtown --- a place of cowboys, saloons, gambling, and violence --- boasted a longer cowtown period (1880 - 1885), a higher murder rate, and loss of more law enforcement officers than other more famous cowtowns. Being the first town north of Indian Territory, cowboys went wild in this untamed "Border Queen City" after months on the dusty and treacherous trail. Gunfights, showdowns, hangings and general hellraising were commonplace. From these true stories came the romanticized American cowboy and the love of the Wild West. In 1893, Caldwell was also a starting point for the famous Cherokee Strip Land Run, when Oklahoma Territory was opened for homesteaders to stake land claims.
Caldwell's riotous past is acknowledged with a life-sized silhouette of a trail cattle drive, historical markers everywhere you turn telling the cowtown stories, boot hill cemetery with "Talking Tombstone" re-enactors, and celebrations that bring history to life.
In 1912, Carnegie library was established and still serves Caldwell with a good collection of Kansas references. St. Martin's Catholic church was built in 1924 in the style of old Spanish Missions. It's a beautiful old stucco and terra-cotta building. The Stock Exchange Bank is still located in the stone building at Main and First. It cost $5,000 to build in 1881. The lobby still has the marble teller area installed in the thirties, and the horns from a longhorn grace the entrance to the vault. There's a little park with a pleasant gazebo across Main Street from the Stock Exchange Bank. One of Caldwell's many murals graces the adjoining wall. There is also a more extensive park with a pool on the West side of town. The Post Office is a gracious Depression-era brick building. Inside, there's a mural entitled Cowboys Driving Cattle by Kenneth Evett.
Caldwell is an attractive small town- a good place to live and raise a family or to spend the retirement years. People are lured to Caldwell by the low crime rate, excellent schools, numerous churches, excellent medical facilities and thriving small businesses. It is ideally located in southwestern Sumner [SU] county only 14 miles west of the Kansas Turnpike on US 81 and K-49 highways. It is approximately 60 miles from Wichita, 26 miles from Wellington and 31 miles to Arkansas City, 50 miles from Enid, Oklahoma and 60 miles from Ponca City, Oklahoma. The downtown area is full of old stone buildings and historical markers; plan to spend some time just walking around. Caldwell has a well-organized walking tour with lots of historical signs in the downtown area. Stop by the Cherokee Strip Center at Main & Central for a free map. Highway US-81 and K-49 pass through Caldwell and the Union Pacific serves Caldwell over track once owned by the Rock Island connecting Wichita and nearby Enid, Oklahoma. Caldwell is one of the few towns where the graveyard is a neat place to visit. Check with the Chamber of Commerce about the "Talking Tombstones".