Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Quarterly 32:4 (Fall 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska.


This narrative opens in typical form for a biography portraying the life of a nineteenth- century frontiersman in the American West. Ned Wynkoop sought adventure on the American frontier, encountered various Native American cultures, engaged in resource speculation, attempted to enter territorial politics, and served with distinction in the Civil War. These common attributes, however, are only a small part of Wynkoop's historical significance. His worldview was completely transformed after prolonged contact with Native peoples and the events surrounding the massacre at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory, in November 1864.

Ned Wynkoop arrived in Colorado Territory by a circuitous route in the late antebellum period alongside thousands of emigrants seeking their fortunes in the newly acquired territories. He quickly became a notable figure in Denver and ingratiated himself with many powerful individuals. Like many strong personalities, he also acquired a sizeable array of detractors who appear from time to time throughout his life. Initially, he had a very stereotypical opinion of Native peoples and believed that the reservations would create more vices than virtues. With the start of the Civil War he quickly sided with the Union and served in Colorado and New Mexico territories. During the conflict he refined both his military skills and political acumen, which served him well after the conflict.