Plummer, Joseph H. (unknown–unknown)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Updated: May 4, 2019

Font size: A / A reset

Joseph H. Plummer, buffalo hunter and freighter, was an enigmatic frontier character who played a brief but important role in the history of the Texas Panhandle. He appeared in the vicinity of Dodge City, Kansas, in the early 1870s and began buffalo hunting in the company of such hide men as Billy (William) Dixon, James H. Cator, Bartholomew (Bat) Masterson, and J. Wright Mooar. He probably first became acquainted with Charles Edward (Ed) Jones at that time, and in the spring of 1874 the two were hired as teamsters by Alexander Charles Myers and Frederick J. Leonard to trace a suitable route between Dodge City and the newly established trading post at Adobe Walls, Texas. In Adobe Walls, Plummer formed a partnership with David Dudley and Tom Wallace, whom he had met in Dodge, and they camped near the post to await the spring migration of the buffalo herds.

In early June the trio moved their campsite fifteen miles southeast to Red Deer Creek, near its junction with the Canadian River. Later that week Plummer took a wagonload of hides back to Adobe Walls and exchanged them for supplies. On returning he discovered that a party of Kiowas led by Lone Wolf had raided the campsite and murdered and scalped his companions. Plummer hastily rode toward the post to spread the alarm. On the way he encountered Frank Maddox's Houston and Texas Central Railway surveying party, among them William B. Munson, who helped Plummer bury his comrades before hurrying back to the safety of Camp Supply. Plummer retreated to Adobe Walls, then left for Dodge City a few days later with J. Wright Mooar's organization. On the way they came upon Ed (Charles E.) Jones driving a freight wagon to Adobe Walls; Jones delivered his goods and then rejoined the Mooar caravan on Palo Duro Creek, in what is now Hansford County. Although Plummer missed the second battle of Adobe Walls on June 27, he and Jones volunteered as army scouts with Col. Nelson A. Miles's regiment in July. However, their apparent scorn for military discipline soon led to their dismissal by Lt. Frank (Francis) D. Baldwin

At that time Jones and Plummer began their renowned partnership. In the fall of 1874 they arrived with a wagonload of supplies at Wolf Creek, in what is now Ochiltree County, where Jones had traded the year before with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes. There they erected a trading post, complete with a bar and living quarters, out of cottonwood pickets and sod. For the next four years they continued freighting and welcomed Indians, teamsters, cattle drovers, outlaws, and lawmen to their road ranch on the Jones and Plummer Trail. Early in 1878 the partners started a cattle ranch. Such an occupation apparently was unsuitable for Plummer, however; in July 1878 he terminated the partnership, leaving Jones with the ranch's assets and liabilities, and departed for Dodge City, where for a time he loafed and raced horses. Even before he had gone to Adobe Walls he was said to have owned a gray mare that he raced for both pleasure and profit. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, Joe Plummer vanished in obscurity.

T. Lindsay Baker and Billy R. Harrison, Adobe Walls: The History and Archaeology of the 1874 Trading Post (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986). Wayne Gard, The Great Buffalo Hunt (New York: Knopf, 1959). C. Robert Haywood, Trails South: The Wagon-Road Economy in the Dodge City-Panhandle Region (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

H. Allen Anderson, “Plummer, Joseph H.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 20, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995
May 4, 2019