Although sometimes arduous and inconvenient, there was a breezy, tonic effect to the manner of traveling in Kansas in the days of stage coaches, when they plied between Concordia and Waterville, connecting daily with the Central Branch of the Union Pacific railway and a daily line to Junction City, connecting with the Kansas Pacific railway, giving to the settlers rapid transit of mails and passengers to and from the east. Those were halcyon times in Kansas and each succeeding day helped to swell the population of the thriving young commonwealth.
F.P. Benjamin operated a stage line with Concord coaches running out of Concordia to the northwest.
The mail route from Waterville to Clyde was established October 1, 1870, via Cook's crossing, on Pete's creek, and Clifton. The mail was carried semi-weekly. The route was established under a special contract given to S.C. Wheeler, of St. Joseph, Missouri.
In the parlance of this western country, those were the days when there was "something doing" before the advent of railroads, modern travel, bridges, etc. Instead of the latter the old time ferry was brought into use, and a "whoop" more or less brought the assistance of the proprietor whose benign countenance would illumine with smiles at the prospect of the coveted fare for his services.
In the early 'sixties the repeated indications and threats of Indian outbreaks retarded the settlement of the country and caused many who had already ventured to the "New West" to retrace their steps and forego their intentions of building homes on the frontier.
Each succeeding year the dangers became more imminent, but the courageous frontiersman who remained proceeded to plant and till the soil of his limited, sod turned acres.
The country was infested with roving bands of savages; they were oftentimes lurking-in the most unexpected places, and, with the stealth so characteristic of their wily natures, would appear as suddenly as if they had been silently and mysteriously precipitated from the clouds. Upon these occasions their savage presence - for they were armed "to the teeth" - would strike terror to the stoutest heart.
Among the first outrages perpetrated in Cloud county (then Shirley) was in May, 1862 - an inhuman and fiendish attack upon the person of Mrs. Ann Wilson, one of the settlers' wives, who had been visiting a family on Elm creek, where her husband, George Wilson, was working. Their home was on what was later known as the William Cranmer farm. Her husband accompanied the unfortunate woman as far as the old Elm creek ford, and thinking there was no further danger, returned to the place where he was working, leaving his wife to make the rest of the journey alone. Mr. Wilson had not been gone from her side but a short time when the woman, who was left alone on the isolated and dangerous frontier, was suddenly confronted by six Indians on horseback. She was subjected to most brutal assault by five of her assailants, while the sixth stood guard to sound the warning note of alarm at the possible approach of a settler. The babe she carried in her arms was seized by the brutal monsters and ruthlessly thrown upon the ground several yards distant from its terrorized and outraged mother. The condition of the poor woman was pitiable in the extreme, as horror-stricken she gathered her infant to her bosom and dragged herself to the nearest settlement to relate her wretched and harrowing experiences.
That this fiendish outrage should go unavenged seems almost a sacrilege, but when the condition of the settlers is considered - the little handful in numbers - their incapacity to cope with the overwhelming odds of the savage warriors, their scarcity of horses and what would be of vast importance in those strenuous times - ammunition. Had they pursued the hostiles in this instance, the result might have been a general massacre of the settlement. As the growth of the country assumed greater proportions they sought to avenge the atrocious crimes, but not without bloodshed and loss of life, as the experiences which follow will demonstrate.
This account is given in substance as told by J.M. Hagaman and demonstrates how the Indian, if taken at disadvantage, will show the "white feather."
A party of Wichita Indians were camped on Elm creek, just above the settlements. They begged during the daytime and after having received generously, stole their horses under cover of darkness the following night. Messengers were sent about the community, and as "Old Sol" sank to rest twenty-four hours later he seemed to smile an approval upon the fourteen men who were armed and ready to begin pursuit. The horses were well selected, the trail easily discerned under the light of a full moon, and as day began to dawn the thieves were overhauled.
As they discovered the hobbled horses, a halt was ordered and Lewis Cassel and J.M. Hagaman were delegated to reconnoiter the camp, which was performed so cautiously that the position and number of hostiles were revealed. Returning without having alarmed the camp, the two spies notified their party of the result, a council was held and it was decided not to kill unless the Indians showed fight. Mr. Hagaman was chosen to lead the attack. He divided the men into three squads, with eight in the first line, four in the second and two in the third. To give the idea they had other men in reserve, it was arranged that the second line was to appear over the intervening hill just as the camp was aroused by the first, and the plan worked well. The first line was discovered by the chief's wife. At the alarm given by her, like a flash of lightning every warrior was on his feet and tightening their bows.
At this exceedingly war-like movement the men appealed to their leader "For God's sake, give orders to shoot." But their command was to "keep cool." "There is an old Indian in the hollow with his rifle cocked and pointed at you," said one of the party, addressing the leader, but still he bade them hold their fire.
In the meantime Mr. Hagaman was parleying with the chief, at the same time holding his cocked revolver pointed directly at the heart of the red skin, whose naked body was not more that two feet from the muzzle of the gun. Perhaps the certain death of their chief withheld the deadly bullet from the settlers' captain.
The chief, vehemently denied any knowledge of the stolen horses and called God-the-sun, to witness. The leader, with as much decision, told him "You lie! You stole our horses last night and now have them."
"White-man sleep," said the old chief.
"White man no sleep; saw you steal 'em."
He then turned to his band and said something very much in earnest, upon which they flung their weapons to the ground, jumped into the creek, swam over and rapidly disappeared in the shadows of the timber.
All that was left for the elated party of settlers was to gather up the spoils of their bloodless victory and return to their homes. There were thirteen ponies and horses, one mule, one excellent target rifle, a number of blankets, some bows and arrows, powder horn, moccasins and sundry other articles, all of which confiscated goods they agreed to surrender upon the return of their horses within thirty days. They never came to the terms of the treaty and after making whole those who lost their stolen horses, the remainder of the booty was equally divided among the fourteen men in the party.
In the latter part of May, 1866, a buffalo hunting party consisting of Lewis Cassel, William and John Collins (brothers of Mrs. Oscar Taggart, of Concordia, and to whom the writer is indebted in substance for much of this account), Walter Haynes, John C. Roberts and T.B. Tallman were massacred on the Little Cheyenne, a tributary of Buffalo creek, about twelve miles from where the city of Concordia now stands. As the hunting party did not return home when expected, a feeling of uneasiness began to prevail among the settlers, who were always on the alert and fearful when any of their number were away from the settlement. The first party of searchers came upon some Otoe Indians who were hunting on Buffalo creek, about twenty miles west of the salt marsh. The settlers were informed by this tribe that the Cheyennes had been lurking around the vicinity and pointed out to them the direction of the abandoned camp. They hastened thither and found upon arriving near the head of Brown creek some harness buckles, which gave evidence of foul play, and the first tangible trace of the fate of their friends. Among other relics of the camp was found the pocketbook identified as belonging to Walter Haynes and the filing papers of Lewis Cassel.
From the conditions surrounding the camping ground they discovered there had been a large number of the band and that it would be worse than reckless folly to pursue them further with so small a party, and they returned borne for reinforcements.
The story of their probable murder rapidly circulated throughout that region of country and a party of about fifty armed men equipped for the expedition started on a thorough and extended search. After finding where the hunters had camped, they followed the track of their wagon to Buffalo creek. This was difficult to do, owing to the hardness of the ground and the devious windings made by the hunters, and the trail was lost at various times. On the third day the anxious rescuers were further assured of the fate of their fellow men by coming upon the ox wagon belonging to the Collins brothers, and near lay the dead oxen that had been slain. They were yoked together and their bodies were shot with both bullets and arrows. This seemed to be the point of attack. Indications revealed an Indian had been killed there. The grass had been wallowed flat and blood was on the ground; also the headgear of an Indian lying near. From here the hunters seemed to have appropriated the other wagon, which was drawn by horses and retreated in a southwesterly direction toward Cheyenne creek. Their only remaining chance was to cross that stream ere the Indians could cut them off, the distance being nearly twelve miles in a straight line, but the cunning savages had evidently planned the attack beforehand in a manner to make escape impossible.
They changed their course many times as the track of their wagon indicated, but would come upon an ambuscade of the redskins, forcing another change, only to meet another and similar murderous onslaught. This running fight of blood and death must have been continued for about twenty-five miles. To trace the devious meanderings of the fleeing hunters was a long and laborious task, a day and a half being spent in this way before any success was promised their undertaking. Then they found the body of the dog that had accompanied the party, with two arrows in its body.
Just prior to this event the situation seemed hopeless and they were about to abandon the search as fruitless. They were out of rations and well nigh exhausted, but they were stimulated by finding the body of the dog and pushed on. The next day in the afternoon they came upon the scene of the terrible butchery. The massacre of the unfortunate doomed party had occurred near a crossing of Cheyenne creek. The hunters were on the narrow ridge that furnished a road to the creek bottom between two ravines.
The inevitable conclusion was that the Indians charged upon them from these ravines and their destruction was but the work of a moment.
The bodies of the Collins brothers, Roberts and Tallman, were found near the wagon. Lewis Cassel and young Haynes had evidently broken through the Indian lines. The body of the former was found in the bed of the creek and that of the latter lying on the bank. All the ghastly butchering and mutilation practiced by murderous savage warfare had been inflicted upon their bodies, the details of which are too horrible to publish - a scene too revolting for description. The wagon was shot full of holes. The circumstances demanded the immediate burial of the poor victims, the bodies having laid there for two weeks. They were laid to rest temporarily in the lonely spot where they had fallen after making such a desperate attempt for their lives and the late R.P. West, who was one of the most efficient members of the searching party, offered a prayer at the grave. The bodies were removed the following spring and interred near Clifton. The family of Walter Haynes lived at Clifton.
The wife of Lewis Cassell was enroute with her parents to join her husband in the new western country and did not know his awful fate until her arrival there. One of the most pathetic scenes of the tragedy took place in the home of B.P. Morley, where the young wife of J.C. Roberts was staying. She seemingly had a premonition that evil hovered over her husband's life and entreated him to remain at home, but he, like most of the old settlers, could not forego a buffalo hunt.
The time for their return had no sooner dawned than the young wife's hopes died within her breast and she declared to Mr. Morley she would never see her husband again; for she had "dreamed the entire party were massacred. It was to satisfy her that the first party started out when they did. While the tedious search was in progress the suspense was maddening to this poor creature, but she was brave, however, and contained herself as only a woman can who clings to one last but fast disappearing hope. When the rescuing party returned and reported the fate of the unfortunate hunters, her grief was heart-rending. She threw her arms around Mrs. Morley, who had been her comforter, counselor and friend, and burying her head on her bosom, sobbed out her bitter grief for one hour, then raised her head and was calm, but her sad heart was broken. She wrote the following lines to a brother in Iowa: "Dear John is gone. Come quickly," and signed her name. During her grief she sobbed, "To think he served through the war and suffered the torments of a southern prison to come west and be butchered by the Indians." Her brother came and took her to their Iowa home, where the sorrow-stricken woman became hopelessly insane.
The Collins brothers were young men, and the sons of William Collins, who had recently settled in Cloud county. Their mother, Mrs. Reed, is still living and a resident of Concordia. It is impossible to depict the gloom this event cast over the new settlement and many moons came and went ere they emerged from under its shadow.
While the White Rock massacre did not occur in Cloud county, it was in such close proximity and when the settlers for miles around were as one neighborhood, that at least a brief account would be conspicuous by its nonappearance.
Early in April, 1867 a band of Cheyennes came into the settlement and brutally murdered three persons - Nicholas Ward, Mrs. Sutzer and her ten-year-old son. While attempting to make his escape, a young man living in the Ward family was wounded, but not fatally, and made his way to the settlement, where he communicated the dastardly attack. There were mile of the savages and under the guise of being friendly Otoes were admitted into the Ward home. After having been provided with something to eat from the frugal board of the settler, one of their number lifted Mr. Ward's rifle from its position on hooks, attached to a beam overhead and shot the unsuspecting man while he was smoking his pipe. The two boys ran for their lives, but the Indians fired, bringing them both down, one fatally. While this was taking place the horror-stricken wife barricaded the door, awaiting, she knew not what. They broke the door down with an ax, pillaged the house of such contents as they desired, seized Mrs. Ward as their captive, tied their confiscated plunder on the two mules belonging to the Wards and with their terror stricken prisoner, whose fate was far worse than that of her murdered husband, tramping on foot by the side of her fiendish captors, they started to join their tribe, traveling over hills, through creeks and on for miles until they reached the Solomon river.
The settlers from Cloud and Clay counties formed two parties provided with rations. They followed the trail by feathers that had been emptied from a feather bed the Indians had taken, and as a few adhered to the tick they would blow off and form a trail as they traveled along. On crossing a stream they found the imprint of a woman's foot in the soft earth, evidently made by the wretched woman that her friends might discover and aid in her rescue. They followed the trail to Limestone and were forced to abandon it, as there were but twelve men in this the Cloud county party. The savages had several days the start and it was useless to go farther.
Mrs. Ward's fate was never known and remains as much a mystery to-day as when the foul deed was perpetrated thirty-six years ago. But it is safe to conjecture she was subjected to the most revolting treatment and abject slavery. She was a delicate woman and in all probability was relieved by death ere many months elapsed.
Through the courtesy of Mrs. Phoebe Snyder, Mr. John Mann and others of the pioneers who were among the unfortunate settlers at the time of this event, the author is indebted for a truthful recital of the occurrence, Prior to the date of this massacre the settlers of he[sic] Solomon valley had been alarmed at the threatening attitudes of the moving hands of Indians, but not until August 11, 1868, was there an outbreak in this locality.
The Indians began their depredations on the claims of John Batchie and Henry Hewitt, who lived near the river. They approached their victims, saving, "Good Cheyennes," and suggested shooting at buffalo heads, soliciting the white men to shoot first. The unsuspecting settlers complied, both emptying their guns at the same time, thus leaving themselves without defense, and no sooner were they unarmed, than true to the treacherous nature of the savage, they turned and shot them both down. They also wounded young Hewitt, a son of Henry Hewitt; shot him through the leg, but he escaped by getting into the timber and dragging himself home after nightfall. The news of this outrage traveled through the settlement and consternation of the wildest sort prevailed. Messengers were started out to get more information regarding the reports and finding the facts confirmed, they at once began to gather reinforcements, while the women and children were huddled together like frightened deer. The next morning nine armed men rode over to Asher creek, and upon arriving there found three more settlers had been added to the victims of the bloodthirsty savages - Bogardus, Bell and Randall. The settlers were gathering for the purpose of moving to the stockade, but while they were preparing to flee to a place of safety the demons swooped down upon them. Robert Missel (now of Concordia) and his little brother, Benjamin Missel, were overtaken while making a dash for neighbor's. Both were captured, but Robert Missel was more fortunate than his brother; for, though they fired several shots after him, they were without effect; but his little brother was cruelly killed. John Wear was killed and Mrs. Henry Hewitt seriously wounded. Miss Jennie Paxton, a brave young woman, was teaching school in the little log hut where Glasco now stands. A message of warning was sent to Miss Paxton and her little flock, who hastily repaired to the nearest house, that of H.M. Spaulding. As they fled this heroic young woman held her position between the frightened and panic stricken pupils and advancing savages, but all reached a place of safety except Lewis, the little eleven-year-old son of Captain and Mrs. Phoebe Snyder.
Lewis, not realizing the imminent need of hasty action, returned to the school house for his coat and being in the rear was overtaken. Young as he was, the little fellow made a valiant resistance but was left on the prairie for dead. Mrs. Snyder was preparing clothing to take to the stockade when she was startled by the blood curdling war whoop of the savages. She ran to the creek, waded the bed of the stream until opposite the Spaulding claim, and then through the corn field to the house, where the anxious mother found all the children except her son Lewis had reached in safety. The pupils reported they had seen the redskins "whipping him." They had, seen them spearing him. Mrs. Snyder was prevented from going at once to find her boy, but believing him to be dead and past human power to aid John Mann and Dan Teasley began to institute a search when they met Henry Spaulding and Anderson Bagwell carrying the little sufferer in their arms. The child was found lying upon the ground with seven spear wounds between his shoulders and it was thought he could not possibly survive the night through, as there was no physician nearer than Minneapolis, Kansas, and the way fraught with danger from the skulking Indians. His wounds were not dressed for nine hours. However, he was not mortally wounded and finally recovered, though the incident left him a nervous wreck for more than three years. He was conscious when they found him and related how he had practiced strategy on his would-be murderers by closing his eyes and feigning death. The plucky boy was conscious of Indians passing around him and one of them kicking him, remarked In English, "Now the d- little b- is dead."
Young as he was, he expected momentarily to he scalped by them and this would undoubtedly have been his lot had not the cowardly villains been in a hurry to beat a retreat. Mr. Randall, one of their victims, was enroute from Manhattan to his home on Asher creek with a load of provisions when he was overtaken and murdered. The flour, meal, etc., that with a happy heart he was taking to the now desolate home, they ruthlessly destroyed by ripping up the sacks, and appropriating their victim's horses, rode on to commit other diabolical deeds. After placing their families in safe quarters, the settlers returned to bury the dead of their number. They remained the following winter at Solomon, but the heroic settlers returned to their claims in the spring time; for a militia, headed by Captain John A. Potts, were stationed at the stockade.
An account of a raid which occurred further down the valley on the Solomon river in Ottawa county is given in the sketch of Robert Smith. His father and brother were killed there.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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