Barber County, Kansas.  

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BARBER COUNTY, KANSAS: HISTORY & GENEALOGY
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Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong, Stage Coach Driver

Last of Riley Lake Stages with Charles B. 'Keno' Armstrong driving. Taken in Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas, early 1900's.

Photo from the collection of Carol (Lake) Rogers, courtesy of Kim Fowles.
Last of Riley Lake Stages with Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong driving. Taken in Medicine Lodge, early 1900's.
Photo from the collection of Carol (Lake) Rogers, courtesy of Kim Fowles.

Last of Riley Lake Stages with Charles B. 'Keno' Armstrong driving. Taken in Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas, early 1900's.

Photo from the collection of Carol (Lake) Rogers, courtesy of Kim Fowles.
Last of Riley Lake Stages with Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong driving. Taken in Medicine Lodge, early 1900's.
Photo from the collection of Carol (Lake) Rogers, courtesy of Kim Fowles.

Photograph taken about 1903 south of the Grand Hotel in Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas. This party was leaving for the Kingman Ranchers Picnic, an annual event. Left to right: the driver, Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong, Frank Gordon and Elbert Heflin. Center row, left to right: Cassie Watson Kitchen, Mrs. Scott Rupert and Mrs. Irena B. Gordon, wife of Frank. Rear, left to right: Jerry Gano and Scott Rubert.

Charles B. "Keno" Armstrong was born October 3, 1861; he died March 16, 1923 at the home of his sister in Sentenial (sic) Washington.


Barber County Index, March 29, 1923.

KENO DIES MONDAY

A telegram was received here Monday that Keno Armstrong had died at Senterial (sic), Washington at 6:15, aged 61 years, 5 months and 13 days. Keno was born in Illinois, but while a young man came west and for years was a stage driver in this country, but of recent years has been a cripple caused by a kick from a horse. A few months ago he left for Washington and he knew that the end was near. He has many friends in Barber County that mourn the loss of a friend.


Keno Armstrong was here Monday from Lake City and being in a reminiscent mood he had much to say about Cannon Ball Green and expressed regret that it was impossible for him to attend Green's funeral. Mr. Armstrong was one of the old stage drivers that plied between civilization and the frontier villages and while he never drove for Green was intimately acquainted with him and valued Cannonball's friendship very highly. Mr. Armstrong is now so badly crippled up that he uses a wheeled chair in which to get around, or as he calls it "his roller skates" and he is never so happy as when visiting among the old timers that congregate on the streets of Medicine Lodge.

-- Excerpt from Cannon Ball Green, The Barber County Index, August 24, 1922.


What old settler in Comanche-co. did not at some time take a ride on one or more of the flying stage coaches which made regular trips between Coldwater and Kinsley, Larned, Kingman, Medicine Lodge, and later with Ashland, Protection and Avilla? Then for a time Coldwater and Comanche City (by way of Avilla), Protection and Kinsley, Ashland and Dodge City and Avilla and Kiowa were connected by stage lines. In some cases trips would be made each way every other day, but between the larger towns daily stage lines were maintained.

I wonder if there are not a good many old settlers still living who remember the owners and drivers of those stage lines - such men as "Cannonball" Green, Riley Lake, "Keno", M. L. Baxter, Sam Presson and the firm of Rosenbaum, Lehr and Frazier. They were the fellows who did much to "blaze the way" for the splendid civilization of today in this country. They knew every foot of country over which they traveled, and they were acquainted with hardships which tried men's souls.

-- Excerpt from More About the Early Stage Lines, The Western Star, July 10, 1925.


Mr. Holderby received his appointment as postmaster at Red Bluff after having been recommended for the position by Senator P. B. Plumb, then one of the senators from Kansas. Several months later when Ashland was started, the postoffice was moved from Kline to that place and the name changed. For some time, M. L. Baxter, now of Protection, was the mail carrier between Ashland and Coldwater, connecting here with the stage line from Medicine Lodge and Sun City and which was then driven by the famous stage driver, "Keno".

-- Excerpt from H. O. Holderby Tells of His First Trip Here and of Other Early-Day Events., The Western Star, April 8, 1921.


Riley Lake and Rube Lake of Lake City, gave us our first stage coach line from Medicine Lodge and "Keno" was the best driver that ever held "ribbons" over six mules. He drove a rockaway stage, now extinct.

-- Excerpt from Early Days In Coldwater, by C.M. Cade, The Western Star, March 17, 1922.


"Chas. B. Armstrong, better known throughout Colorado and Kansas as "Keno," is a man about forty years of age, of medium height and rather thick set. He has been holding the lines on four and six-horse teams for nearly a third of a century. For several years, when a boy and young man, he was in the employ of the Kansas Stage Company, having most of the time from 1872 to 1888, driven in southern Kansas and the Indian Territory. For a long time he has held the ribbons on some of the best stage teams in the Rocky Mountains. At the World's Fair, in 1893, for six months he drove one of the great Columbian coaches in Chicago. During his career as a stager, in the '70's, he made a daily run of forty miles in four hours. In 1877 he made a drive of twenty-six miles in two hours and fourteen minutes, with one four-horse team, stopping to change mail and watering the animals twice on the road. For one year, ending September 7, 1884, he drove a distance of seventy-eight miles six times a week, making a total of 24,414 miles. On the 3d of July, 1886, he drove a six-horse coach with fourteen passengers sixteen miles in one hour and twelve minutes. The longest drive he ever made in his long service in the stage business was in September, 1886, when, without sleep, he covered a distance of 610 miles in 119 hours. When I last rode with "Keno" on the box of a six-horse stage-coach out of Cripple Creek, just before Christmas, 1894, he told me he had then driven, all together, a distance of over 325,000 miles--an average yearly drive of more than 13,500 miles; or, during the entire period, enough to make over a dozen trips around the world. "Keno" drove on the Cripple Creek stages almost from the settlement of the camp, and in the early '90's his name was familiar though-out the district. If you speak of him as Armstrong, not one person in a hundred would know who is meant. A more genial, warm-hearted driver never sat upon a stage box."

-- Source: The Overland Stage to California


Also see:

Riley Lake, owner of the Riley Lake Stage Line.

Bill Horn, Barber County stagecoach driver.

Sectional Map of Comanche County, Kansas This map shows routes of the stagecoach lines in Comanche County, note the Lake Stagecoach route.

Donald R. "Cannonball" Green Founder of the Cannonball Stagecoach Line; father of Greensburg, Kansas.


"The first roads were simply mowed swaths from one location to another. In one instance a prairie fire burned off the grass and it was hard to find the road toward Kinsley. This road quickly became a "main-traveled" road. Some freighting was also done from Medicine Lodge. Stagecoach lines started and did a thriving business. One of the first was the Coldwater-Kinsley line, owned by Doak and Clinton. Soon Col. D.R. Green had his famous "Cannonball" stage line in operation between Kingman and Coldwater, giving daily service. The Coldwater - Nescatunga - Sun City - Medicine Lodge line started with Riley Lake as principal owner and R.A. Callaway as driver most of the time. Pat Gallagher also had a line between Coldwater and Sun City. Later the "Western Stage Line" started between Coldwater and Ashland, stopping at Protection and Red Bluff. The following year, a stage line ran out of Coldwater to Avilla and Comanche City." -- Excerpt from Coldwater Centennial Notebook, by Evelyn Reed.


Thanks to Carol (Lake) Rogers for contributing the stagecoach photo. Thanks to Kim Fowles for the historical information and for arranging the contribution to this web site! Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding and contributing the obituary.

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