In the half forgotten era,|
With the avarice of old,
Seeking cities that were told
To be paved with solid gold,
In the Kingdom of Quivera
Came the restless Coronado
To the open Kansas plain;
With his knights from sunny Spain.
In an effort that, though vain,
Thrilled with boldness and bravado.
League by league in aimless marching,|
Knowing scarcely where or why,
Crossed they uplands drear and dry,
That an unprotected sky
Had for centuries been parching.
But their expectations, eager,
Found, instead cf fruitful lands,
Shallow streams and shifting sands,
Where the buffalo in bands
Roamed o'er deserts dry and meager.
Back to scenes more trite, yet tragic,
Marched the knights with armored steeds;
Not for them the quiet deeds;
Not for them to sow the seeds
From which empires grow like magic.
Never land so hunger stricken
Could a Latin race remould;
They could conquer heat or cold
Die for glory or for gold
But not make a desert quicken.
Thus Quivera was forsaken;
And the world forgot the place
Until centuries apace
Came the blue-eyed Saxon race,
And it bade the desert waken.
Sturdy are the Saxon faces,
As they move along in line;
Bright the rolling-cutters shine
Charging up the State's incline,
As an army storms a glacis.
Into loam the sand is melted,
And the blue grass takes the loam
Round about the prairie home,
And the locomotives roam
Over landscapes iron-belted.
Cities grow where stunted birches
Hugged the shallow water line,
And the deepening rivers twine,
Past the factory and mine,
Orchard slopes and schools and churches.
* * * * *
We have made the State of Kansas,
And today she stands complete;
First in freedom, first in wheat,
And her future years will meet
Ripened hopes and richer stanzas.
But if Coronado failed to discover the "Seven Cities," it was only because he started too soon. Those "seven cities with houses five stories high, and shops in which the workmen work in gold and silver exclusively," are yet to be found on that same identical ground. Those cities are growing. They have not yet reached the wealthy condition pictured out by those early Spaniards, in 1530 to 1540; but it is only a question of time. It remains for some later explorer to discover those rich cities. All the difficulty with Coronado was that he slarted out several hundred years too early. How long yet will it be before they are discovered?
THE first Americans to visit this region was Lieut. Zebulon M. Pike's exploring party on their way west to the Rocky Mountains in 1806, the same year that Aaron Burr was making such grand attempts to "make a settlement on the Washita" in the territory of Louisiana. They followed the trail of Spanish soldiers frcm the Pawnee village till they lost it among the "numerous buffalo paths between the Smoky and the Arkansaw."
Near midnight, on the 13th of October, 1806, the party reached the most northerly bend of the Arkansas river (section 32, 5 or 6 miles east of the city of Great Bend). The party arrived in a drenching rain, and remained two weeks to rest and recruit their animals and lay in a supply of meat. At 10 a.m., October 28th, Pike, with most of his party went west along the north bank of the river, and Lieut. Col. Wilkinson, Pike's superior officer, with a small party, went down the river by boat. However, finding the river unnavigable, they abandoned their boats after going down five or six miles, and landed on the southwest bank of the river, near where the southwestern end of the Ellinwood iron bridge now rests.From Pike's Expedition.
In 1812 this trail was first traveled with pack mules by McKnight's party.
In 1818 Mr. Bringier came up the Arkansas, and speaks of finding a "large body of blind coal, (anthracite), equal in quality to the Kilkenny, and by far the best he had seen in the United States, immediately on the bank of the Arkansas in latitude 38 deg. and longitude 98 deg," (about the place where Hutchinson now is.)
Marcy's Rep. p. 158, citing Am. Jour. Sci., vol. 3, p. 80.
In 1820 Maj. Long's expedition passed through toward the west, the object, similarly to that of Lieut. Pike, being to find, if possible, the scources of the Red river of Louisiana.
On August 9th the expedition reached "the narrowest part of the valley, at the great bend of the Arkansas," (the same place that Lieut. Pike stopped, five or six miles east of the city of Great Bend), and finding good feed for their
|OF BARTON COUNTY, KANSAS||9|
horses, staid over the 10th.Long's Expedition.
In 1821, a pack-mule train, sent out by Cooper & Bucknell of Boonvilie, Mo., went through to Santa Fe. This was the commencement of the commerce of the plains.
In 1825, the Santa Fe Trail, a wagon road from Independence, Mo., to Santa Fe, was established by Major Sibley, under an act of congress.Annals of Kansas.
The trail from the east strikes the Arkansas river half a mile west of Ellinwood. Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, page 313, has the following:
|Independence, Mo., to|
|110 Mile Creek||30||95|
|Big John Spring||40||143|
|Arkansas River (Ellinwood)||16||265|
|Ford of Arkansas||20||387|
|Sand Creek (leave Ark. R.)||50||437|
|Middle Spring (upper Cimarron)||37||481|
|Cold Spring (l've Cim. R.)||5||530|
|Point of Rocks||19||610|
|Santa Clara Spring||21||657|
|Rio Gallinas (Vegas)||20||699|
|Ojo de Bernal (spring)||17||716|
In 1832, Washington Irving visited Kansas as a tourist, came to the Arkansas Valley, and gave this glowing account of its wilderness charms:
"After resuming our march we came in sight of the Arkansas. It presented a broad and rapid stream bordered by a beach of fine sand, overgrown with willows and cottonwood trees. Beyond the river the eye wandered over a beautiful campaign country of flowery plains and sloping uplands, diversified by groves and clumps of trees and long screens of woodland; the whole wearing the aspect of complete and even ornamental cultivation, instead of native wilderness. * * "We were overshadowed by lofty trees, with straight, smooth trunks like stately columns; and as the glancing rays of the sun shone through the transparent leaves tinted with the many-colored hues of autumn, I was reminded of the effect of sunshine among the stained windows and clustering columns of a Gothic cathedral. Indeed, there is a grandeur in our spacious forests of the West that awaken in me the same feeling I experienced in those vast and venerable piles; and the sound of the wind sweeping through, supplies occasionally, the deep breathings of the organ.
"It was a bright, sunny morning with a pure, transparent atmosphere that seemed to bathe the very heart with gladness. Our march continued parallel with the Arkansas through a rich and varied country; sometimes we had to break our way through alluvial bottoms and matted with redundant vegetation, where the gigantic trees were entangled with grape vines hanging like cordage from their branches; sometimes we coasted along sluggish brooks, whose feebly trickling currents just served to link together a successsion of glassy pools imbedded like mirrors in the quiet bosom of the forest, reflecting its autumnal foliage and patches of clear blue sky. Sometimes we scrambled up broken and rocky hills from the summit of which we had wide views, on one side over distant prairies, diversified by groves and forests, and on the other, ranging along a line of blue and shadowy hills, beyond the waters of the Arkansas."
In 1846, during the Mexican war, Gen. Kearney and Col. Doniphan crossed to Santa Fe and stopped at the "Great Bend," August 18th. A Mormon battalion also went west with their families, and having their ox yokes tied across the bases of the oxen's horns after the primitive style pictured out as having been followed in the east 5,000 years ago. Francis Parkman, Jr., historian, met this "the first army to pass through the Valley" on his return from the Oregon Trail.Parkman's Oregon Trail.
In 1849, during the California hegira, and subsequently, "the Great Bend" became a noted point on this most noted of highways. For a century, the Great Bend of the Arkansas has been known as the grand feeding ground of the buffalo, and favorite hunting and bloody battle ground of the Indian.
IN April, 1853, young, vigorous, and never having seen as much of the world as generally fills the ambition of fellows in their early days of manhood, I engaged as teamster to drive through with a train of ox-wagons loaded with merchandise for the Santa Fe trade. We left La Fayette County, Missouri, the 24th day of April; our company comprised 45 men, armed with the old-fashioned long-range rifles, each, a Colt's navy revolver and bowie knife. Our teams numbered 210 head of cattle in all.
Kansas was then one vast wild plain, over which roving bands of hostile Indians were constantly cutting off emigrant and freight trains on their way to New Mexico and the Californias.
After leaving the settlement some distance, we overtook twelve men with three wagons, who had discovered there was danger ahead and were awaiting reinforcements before venturing farther. This increased our fighting force to 57 robust, well-armed men.
Our first serious trouble began after reaching the Arkansas Valley, at a point near where Hutchinson now stands, and where we had gone into camp about noon of May 21st. While at dinner we were suddenly startled by the alarm cry "Indians!"
Before we had got our teams and wagons fairly in corral, they were charging around us on their horses, yelling and firing like demons. Taken at such a dangerous disadvantage and surprise, we were just in that position which makes men fight with desperation, and instantaneously our rifles were pealing forth their notes of defiance and death to the dusky murderous foe.
We were completely encircled by the savages, who proved to be Comanches, swinging upon the opposite side of their ponies exposing but little of themselves to our aim by firing under their horses' necks. Their deadly missiles were soon playing havoc among our cattle. The creatures were madly surging and bellowing around, endangering us to a death beneath their feet, worse to be feared within the enclosure than the foe without. This new danger soon drove us outside the enclosure of wagons in full view of the Indians.
We had now fairly got our hands in and were tumbling their ponies at a rapid rate. Few Indians after their ponies fell, escaped a rifle bullet. The Indians were narrowing their circle until twenty-five yards scarcely intervened between us. But the motion of their steeds unsteadied their aim until it was but random, while the closer they pressed us the more destructive became every shot we fired.
Such fighting could not last long. After the first few rounds the savages mostly substituted the gun with the bow and arrows. Finding themselves getting most terribly worsted in the combat, they made a dash to ride down and tomahawk us all in one death struggle. I tell you, then, we had no child's play. Outnumbering, four or five to one in a hand-to-hand fight to the death, is a serious thing. We were soon mingling together, but driven against the wagons, we could dodge or parry their blows with the tomahawk, while the rapid flashes from the celebrated "navy" in each man's hand, was not so easily avoided by the savage warriors. We made the ground too hot for them, and with yells of baffled rage, they broke and fled, carrying off all their killed and wounded but three, which they had to leave.
Now for the first time since the fight began we had time to take in our situation. One of the bravest and best of our comrades, young Gilbert, was shot through the heart while fighting the savages back with clubbed rifle, his revolver having missed fire. He lay as he fell, with his hand clenched around the stock of his gun as though he would take the weapon with his departed spirit to the other world where he might avenge his death upon the savages who had paid such a dear penalty for their last work. Many others of our company were wounded, two of them severely. The dead and dying ponies were scattered about on the prairie with the arms and accoutrements of their savage owners about them; while several of our cattle were also dead and dying from wounds made by missiles aimed far us.
The remainder of the day was spent in burying our poor comrade on the spot made sacred by his life's blood (which we did as well as we could under the circumstances,) caring for our wounded, and gathering up the spoils of the fight. We destroyed everything belonging to the Indians that we could not carry away, and along towards night-fall moved a mile up the river, where we went into camp.
After the excitement consequent upon the fight began to subside, we had much to talk over about our chances of fighting our way with such a small force through the entire boundless plains before us to New Mexico. The future looked hopeless indeed, but J. W. Jones who commanded the outfit, swore he would go to Santa Fe or go to . We dare not show the white feather, then.
Transcribed from Biographical history of Barton County, Kansas. ; Illustrated. Published by Great Bend Tribune, Great Bend, KS : 1912. 318 p. : ill. ; 28 cm. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, July 2006.
| Tom & Carolyn Ward
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