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National peace closed the conflict in eastern Kansas. Virtually all Indian titles had been extinguished there, and that part of the State was now free to plow its fields, plant orchards and vineyards, develop mines and manufacturing, and extend railroads. By 1870 the agricultural college at Manhattan, the State Teachers' College at Emporia, and the University at Lawrence had been established, as well as various denominational institutions. The first unit of the capital building at Topeka had been completed and was occupied. Coal was being mined in two counties, and gas lights were in use. Meat packing had been established at Wyandotte, and the first beef shipped to New York in refrigerator cars. A cotton gin was in operation at Burlington and woolen mills at Lawrence and Fort Scott. Bridges were spanning the Kansas River at Wyandotte and Topeka, telegraph lines crossed the prairies, and railroad tracks reached a total of 1,283 miles. The population had increased to 362,000, and the improved acreage totaled 1,020,610. 

Up to the close of the Civil War few settlers had ventured on the Plains in western Kansas, for there was no timber for building, and the Indians were hostile. This section of the State was left to another type of pioneer the cowboy. When the Union Pacific Railroad reached Abilene in 1867, Joseph G. McCoy conceived the idea of driving long horned native cattle from Texas to fatten on the convenient buffalo grass before shipping to market. His idea proved profitable and in the next two decades the Plains developed into an immense cow country. Riotous cow towns grew up of which Abilene and Dodge City were typical with saloons, dance halls, gambling dens, and loose women; and made colorful by the cowboy in broad brimmed hat, chaps, and kerchief, accoutered with spurs, lariat, and revolver. 

Infesting the prairies was another group, the border criminals cattle thieves, bandits, and desperadoes who, in turn, called forth such fearless and straight shooting characters as Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson, and Buffalo Bill Cody. In 1871 "Wild Bill" was installed as marshal at Abilene, where he served so effectively that other towns wanted him to act in the same capacity. About the same time "Buffalo Bill" was employed to provide buffalo meat for the Union Pacific workmen. It is said that in 18 months he killed 4,280 buffaloes for that purpose. 

The cattle period was as short as it was lusty. On May 20, 1862, Congress passed the Homestead Law, making it possible to acquire 320 acres of Plains land by homestead and preemption, with special inducements to ex-Union soldiers. On March 3, 1863, it further provided that all Indians should be removed from Kansas, an objective that was gradually accomplished. But the most important factor in populating the range was the railroad.