Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 18, No. 4, Fall 1998, pp. 342


Copyright 1998 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


William Fairholme (1819-1868), a twenty-year-old Lieutenant of the British army, and six fellow officers shared a sporting expedition to hunt buffalo on the Kansas Plains in the summer and fall of 1840. They made one of only five parties to travel the Santa Fe Trail that year, its lowest incidence between 1822 and 1843. Fairholme's journal, therefore, provides an important record of the Great Plains for the year 1840 from a British officer's perspective, particularly in its vivid descriptions of cities and towns between lower Canada and the Missouri settlements.

Fairholme tells us a lot about traveling in the 1840s. Not only did his party use the commercial route of the Santa Fe trail, but also traveled by boat, stage, carriage, horseback, and steamboat, experiencing no conflicts with Indian tribes along the way. These gentleman of leisure were not on an intelligence-gathering mission for their government, a government concerned about joint-occupation of the Oregon Country, but on a buffalo hunting trip to present-day Kansas, pure and simple. The party included Lt. Col. William Greenwood, Charles William Ridley, Robert Vansittart, Charles Ashe Windham, Henry James Warre, William Henry Leicester, and Robert Paterson.