The area that grew into the modern town of Medicine Lodge was considered sacred ground by the Kiowa tribe of Native Americans. Around 1874, during a period of contention with local natives, a fortified camp was built in Medicine Lodge. Several early settlers were killed within a few miles of the compound, but no direct attack was made on the fortifications.
An annual pageant is celebrated every three years in the Fall to remember an earlier peace treaty (1867) that ended the disputes with the five plains tribes. Carrie Nation was married to a preacher who brought her to Medicine Lodge and later divorced her. It was while she was living here that she became actively involved in the temperance movement.
In October, 1867, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapahoe, Apache and Cheyenne Indians signed peace treaties with the Federal Government. 15,000 Indians camped near by during the council, among them the famous chiefs Satanta, Little Raven and Black Kettle. 500 soldiers acted as escort for the U. S. commissioners. Interest in this colorful spectacle was so widespread that Eastern papers sent correspondents, among them Henry M. Stanley, who later was to find Livingstone in Africa.
While the treaties did not bring immediate peace they made possible the coming of the railroads and eventual settlement. The site of the council was at the confluence of Medicine river and Elm creek, a little southwest of Medicine Lodge. Every five years a treaty pageant is re-enacted in this amphitheater. In Medicine Lodge there is a commemorative monument on the high school grounds.
The Early History of Medicine Lodge
by Frawk W. Blackmar (1912)
Medicine Lodge, the county seat of Barber county, is located in the northeastern part of the county on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. and is also the terminus of a branch of that road which is extended from Kiowa in the southeastern part of the county. The town is situated at an altitude of 1,468 feet. It has substantial business blocks, good graded and high schools, 5 churches, 2 state banks, and two newspapers (the Barber County Index and the Medicine Lodge Cresset). There is a daily hack to Eagle and Lasswell.
The town is supplied with telegraph and express offices and has an international money order post office with two rural routes. The population, according to the census of 1910, was 1,100. This is the home town of Chester I. Long, and was the home of the late Carrie Nation, before she began her career of wrecking saloons. Medicine Lodge was named after the river which flows along its southern edge. The Indians were in the habit of camping here to make medicine. The town was not founded until 1873, but there were settlers at this point before that date, as it is recorded in the historical collections that the Indians made a raid through this territory in 1868 and murdered women and children at Medicine Lodge.
In Feb., 1873, John Hutchinson came with a party of men and laid out a town on a site of 400 acres. The first building was a hotel erected by D. Updegraff. A number of buildings were erected, including two stores. Immigration was very rapid during the first year. The first physician to locate was C. T. Trigg; the first attorney, W. E. Hutchinson; the first druggist, S. A. Winston; the first merchants, Bemis, Jordan & Co. The postoffice was established in 1873, with S. A. Winston as postmaster. It was made a money order office in 1879. The town was incorporated in that year, and the first officers were: Mayor, W. W. Cook; police judge, H. M. Davis; city clerk, S. J. Shepler; councilmen, W. W. Staniford, J. N. Iliff, George Mitts, J. Storey and D. M. Carmichael. The first newspaper was the Barber County Mail, which was started in 1878 by M. J. Cochran. The first school was taught in 1873 by Miss Lucinda Burlingame.
The community is located at the junction of US 160 and US 281. Medicine Lodge is located at 37°17'4N, 98°34'52W (37.284352, -98.580977). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.1 km² (1.2 mi²). 3.1 km² (1.2 mi²) of it is land and none of it is covered by water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,193 people, 922 households, and 609 families residing in the city. The population density was 705.6/km² (1,823.7/mi²). There were 1,085 housing units at an average density of 349.1/km² (902.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.08% White, 0.36% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.09% Asian, 0.36% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.69% of the population.
There were 922 households out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.8% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.90.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.1% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 24.7% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $35,262, and the median income for a family was $41,053. Males had a median income of $30,319 versus $18,750 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,231. About 7.4% of families and 9.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.7% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.