Boot Hill Man
Backstory and Context
This 1971 seven-foot-tall limestone statue by local sculptor Pete Felten, Jr., was created to stand at the Ellis County Historical society's new headquarters at Hays Boot Hill. Also known as "The Homesteader," it stands in the town's first cemetery.
Hays, Kansas, sculptor Pete Felten, Junior, made a Yankee pioneer family for Oberlin and a Volga German family for Victoria in the 1970s, but most of his work focused on Hollywood-inspired imagery of the Old West such as frontiersman-turned-entertainer Buffalo Bill Cody.
The Ellis County (Kansas) Historical Society commissioned Felten to produce a “dignified and suitable”1 figure of a plainsman, but Felten incorporated Old West mythology to honor those who had died “’with their boots on’ as victims of knife, gun, or rope.
In its early days, Hays City had a wild and wicked reputation. Several of those buried at the Boot Hill cemetery were victims of violence connected to alcoholism, mob violence, suicide and shootouts. Boot Hill Man's dedicatory plaque declares that upstanding citizens “have rested here alongside ... murderers, horsethieves, and loose women” since the era of Wild Bill Hickock, Buffalo Bill and Calamity Jane.
1 Susan Armstrong, “Hays ‘Boot Hill’ to Get Major Renovation,” The Salina Journal, April 17, 1972.
“Felten Art Show at Museum.” Great Bend Tribune January 5, 1975.
“Sculptor’s Works Proving Popular,” The Salina Journal, January 12, 1966.
Prescott, Cynthia Culver. Pioneer Mother Monuments: Constructing Cultural Memory. University of Oklahoma Press, 2019.
"Boot Hill Cemetery." http://www.visithays.com/191/Boot-Hill-Cemetery Accessed August 1, 2019.