PIONEER HISTORY OF KANSAS

by Adolph Roenigk


CHAPTER XIII
UNCLE MART
A Pioneer of 1866; How He Carved a Home for Himself and
His Posterity; His First Buffalo Hunt; Contending with
High Water; An Old Time Ring Contest.
*Note: Deceased since writing the above.


    *Martin Hendrickson is a living pioneer who has survived to witness all the changes, transforming a territory of buffalo, Indians, wolves, grasshoppers, drouth and lawless men, into an improved and well ordered land of plenty; and while the transformation was taking place, freely employed his strong hands and willing, honest heart in the furtherance of the change. He has endured all that a pioneer could well endure, suffered as all pioneers had to suffer, and came through all, the rest at last, honored and respected, in the shadow of his own vine and fig tree, awaiting a final summons from above. He with his wife and some small children, came to Kansas in October, 1866, and settled on a claim in Colorado Township in the eastern part of Lincoln County. This farm he still owns and calls home, although for many years he has lived in the town of Lincoln. “Uncle Mart,” as he is now known, was at that time a man just approaching the prime of life, unlettered but rugged and powerful, with a heart and a will fully compensating for any educational shortcomings.
     It is superfluous to enter into the description of the surroundings of his cabin home, for the country for miles to the east and hundreds of miles westward, was in the stage of primitive wildness given it by the Creator’s hand. Hendrickson set to work to carve out a home and a future for himself and his little family, but it was almost a discouraging prospect. The sod of the river valley was tough, requiring two yoke of oxen to draw the plow. These hardy animals were used in preference to horses, in view of their cheapness and the fact that they could subsist entirely upon the rich, wild grasses of the country and still do a fair amount of work.
     The Union Pacific Railroad was then building through this part, but passed up the valley of the Smoky Hill River, leaving the Saline where Hendrickson had settled, many miles to the north. Prior to the arrival of the railroad at Saline, Junction City was the nearest mill.

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     When Uncle Mart talks of those days, a feeling of thankfulness pervades his words, and thus the listener is led to believe the necessities of life were not so difficult to procure as some assert, but when he tells of going a hundred miles to mill and paying $12.00 for a barrel of salt, we conclude no exaggeration has been made.
     Very soon after his arrival he went on a buffalo hunt. Seven men with two wagons drove west to Paradise Creek, in Russell County, where buffalo were plentiful. He had the pleasure of bringing down his first buffalo with a shotgun, loaded with a ball and some buckshot. On this trip he was early initiated into the terrors of the plains, for they were approached by a band of thirty Cheyennes. The seven men stood firm, drew up their guns and warned the Indians away. They made pacific signs, but their war paint and bonnets belied their words. The savages carried lances, which, to the little band of men standing on the defensive, looked to be fifteen feet long. Seeing the hunters were not frightened into a panic, the Cheyennes passed on and were seen no more.
     They secured all the meat they wanted on this trip, but one of their horses died, leaving them to bring in two loads of meat with three horses.
     Uncle Mart tells of once going to mill at Junction City requiring sixteen days for the round trip. He was accompanied by Tom Faith and two brother named Henderson. They had paid as high as $2.50 a bushel for some corn, and now encountered many difficulties in getting it made into meal. The weather was rainy; streams were swollen; when they came to the mill they could not deliver their grists, the mill being on the opposite side of the river, and the river, bank-full, but to these men nothing was too hazardous or difficult. They removed one of the wagon boxes and converted it into a boat. Hendrickson took charge of the improvised craft and by the aid of this crude and dangerous vessel, the grist was ferried over, ground and returned. On the return trip they found the Solomon river out of its banks and spread over the bottoms to the width of six miles. The weather was now cold and the water running mush ice. Uncle Mart’s yoke of oxen was the largest in the outfit. The other men were fearful of attempting to cross the flood before them so he took the lead, wading

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beside his oxen. They came to a place where the water was so deep that it nearly floated the beds from their wagons. Uncle Mart took his large oxen and brought the other wagons through this, one at a time.
     They were more than three hours in crossing the inundated country with the water and slush ice from knee deep to four feet. When at last Hendrickson reached home he found the neighbors had eaten all his seed corn.
     The writer, some years afterward, then only a child, lived with his parents some miles above Hendrickson’s claim. The father was away from home to be gone some days. Terribly desolate and lonesome it was for the mother left with only two babies to keep her company. The danger of Indians was not yet passed, and every approaching object was viewed with apprehension. An ever present danger also threatened them--the hunger to which no pioneer was a stranger but one day, looking from the door of her cabin the mother saw an ox team approaching; the driver, who was a large, powerful man, came to the house carrying a quarter of freshly killed buffalo. “Don’t you want a quarter of meat?” was his words. “Yes, we would like to have the meat but my husband is away, and he has left no money,” replied the mother. “Never mind that,” said the hunter, cheerily, “he can pay me just any time,” and with that he laid down the meat and drove on. The reader can well imagine how timely was the leaving of the fine quarter of meat, and not until years afterward was the identity of the generous hunter known.
     Father had dug a hole in the bank of the Saline river, roofed it over with logs and dirt, and called it a shop. Here he did wagon work for the settlers. Hendrickson had some repairs made on his wagon and when settling for the work, spoke of leaving a quarter of buffalo meat at his house years before. Right gladly did father allow Uncle Mart for the meat, upon which he had placed the munificent valuation of a dollar and a half.
     If there is any suggestion in this for those investigating the high cost of living, it is given gratis.
     Hendrickson was a man of unusual physical strength, and his courage was no less than his strength. These qualities stood

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him in good stead on many occasions. It is not to be supposed that the pioneers were any more Godly than their progenitors of Puritan fame; there were personal differences, quarrels, and sometimes, fights. Hendrickson did not shrink from these when necessity called; he had found it in order on one or two occasions to soundly trounce a bully, or an overbearing ranchman. For this undesired notoriety he incurred the enemity of a noted scrapper, who announced his intention of whipping Uncle Mart on sight. This scrapper came across the country some distance to find the coveted opportunity and was waiting Hendrickson’s arrival in a small trading point. In some way Uncle Mart learned of the treat in store for him and as he drove up, saw the challenger a short distance away, surrounded by his backers. To use Hendrickson’s own words, “The sight of him made me so mad that I didn’t wait fer him to git ready, er fer anybody to give the word; I jest throwed the lines and jumped out of the wagon and lit onto him. He was that took by surprise that I had him whipped before he had time to strike ary lick. I got his head under my arm and while I was a whippin’ him you could a-heerd him yell for a mile. It was the last time ary man ever come down on the river to lick Mart Hendrickson.”
     As all the settlers tried their hand at taming the wild sod of Kansas, Hendrickson broke out some land and planted corn. He says it did well, in fact “sod corn” often proved more able to resist drouth and insects than the same crop on older land.
     The year of 1867 was so filled with Indian horrors that he left, but returned the following year, only to find he had come back into the very midst of dangers had had thought to escape.
     On the 30th of May, 1869, he in company with John S. Strange, Thomas Alderdice and some other neighbors, went to Salina for supplies and to transact other business. Uncle Mart declares an inward monitor warned him of evil, making him uneasy and restless. He determined to return the next day but the others objected, saying it would be too severe on their horses. However, all went on to Salina and loaded up their goods. The following morning at 10 a. m. a dispatch was received stating the Cheyennes were on the warpath, plundering and murdering the settlers. On receipt of this news they hitched up and started home as fast as their horses could travel. Hendrickson, as though gifted with powers of prophecy, fore-

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told the coming of a messenger with bad news. All were worked up to a high pitch of excitement and anxiety. True to his forebodings, a mounted messenger was soon seen approaching from the west. Without waiting for him to deliver his message Uncle Mart turned to the others, saying, “Strange, your boy is killed: Alderdice, your family is all killed or captured.” Such proved to be the melancholy tidings borne by the courier. They new redoubled their haste, although their horses were almost exhausted. Those who had lost their loved ones at the hands of the murderous fiends were beside themselves with grief and despair and urged their horses to still greater exertions. Hendrickson begged them to spare their teams or they would fail entirely. When they drove up to his house they found the sole survivor of Alderdice’s family, a stepson named Willis Daily, lying on a bed, transfixed by an arrow. Mr. Washington Smith, afterward county superintendent of public instruction, assisted by Phil Lantz and Hendrickson, drew out the fearful shaft and the child lived. We believe, if correctly informed, that he draws, or did draw, a pension deducted from the annuities paid to the Cheyennes, of which the band was comprised.
     Hendrickson was often called upon to assist the distressed, or rescue the perishing. The following circumstances he relates in full, and from what we know in part, we believe the entire happening is faithfully represented:
     During the summer of 1868, a party of thieving Pawnees (perhaps Cheyennes) struck across the northwest part of the county, frightening the settlers, stealing horses and capturing three white women; one of the women, Mrs. Bacon, was so terribly unnerved by the frightful circumstances attending her capture, that she was unable to sit on the horse which the savage gave her to ride, and either fell off, or was voluntarily liberated by her captors. The exact details of her horrible experience she could never fully recollect. At any rate she was left wandering on the pathless prairie in the darkness of the night, as utterly wretched and forsaken as any creation of Dante’s fertile imagination. Her home was on the banks of a small stream, which to this day, is called Bacon Creek. When the Indians made the attack upon the cabin, she and her husband ran to some timber nearby. She was overtaken nad carried away; he concealed himself in a hollow log, around which the

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Indians vainly searched, until after nightfall, when he made his way, barefooted, over twenty-six miles of prairie, arriving at Mart Hendrickson’s after midnight. From stepping on small stones and the fearful spines of cacti, Bacon’s feet were, as Uncle Mart affirms, “A gore of blood.” The unfortunate man was in a pitiable condition, both physically and mentally. His account of the fearful experience he had passed through was incoherent. When asked about his family he said, “He did not expect to see Janie (his wife) for three long years.” Hendrickson did what he could for the afflicted man and prepared to make a search for the woman. He says he was exasperated at the way in which Bacon talked, seeming to feel more concern for the property he had left on his claim than for the dreadful fate of his wife. It turned out that all three of the women had escaped, or were set free. Hendrickson prevailed upon a young man to accompany him in a search for them, and rather poorly armed, they set out, going in the direction of Bacon’s claim. After traveling a number of miles he saw what an he thought was a human figure ahead. His companion, fearing an ambuscade, wanted to turn back, but Uncle Mart kept on until satisfied it was one of the women. Of all the clothing she had on when captured, there remained only the yoke of bodice.
     The day was cool; Uncle mart wore a long coat. With the chivalry of an olden knight, he removed this coat and turning away, awaited until the woman had enveloped herself in its ample folds. She was so exhausted that he was obliged to hold her on his horse on the way back to his home. This woman was Mrs. Bacon. When she had recovered her strength she returned to her parents in the east and Bacon became a wanderer on the face of the earth.
     Many years afterward he stayed over night at the home of the writer. He was then returning from a horseback ride through Canada. He was at that time a frail looking man of cleanly personal appearances. His mind had taken on a deeply religious trend, and his words and manner betrayed the deep melancholy and religiously unbalanced. He was engaged in a self appointed apostolic mission, and gave the writer a card containing a phonetic alphabet of forty-two letters, to be used, he said, by all his cult. When questioned he expressed reluctance to tell of the stupefying horror of that day and night, but

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his story, or such part as he was willing to relate, corroborates what has been given. No doubt the gentle troubled spirit of this pioneer has long since gone to the peace and quiet of the tomb.
     Uncle Mart, with a party of settlers, went up to Bacon’s claim some days later and saw the signs of the Indians’ presence. He says they saw where Bacon, in his race for life, had leaped the creek, a measured distance of thirty-six feet, a jump, we must conclude, rivaling Alverado’s famous leap. Three women had been captured, Mrs. Shaw and Mrs. Bacon the same year that the Indians raided Bacon Creek, a war party committed some depredations in Mitchell County and among other villianous acts, carried away two little girls. They were the daughters of a man named Bell, who lived near Beloit, and when they were taken he gave them up for lost. It is probable that the Indians were a band of Cheyennes out on one of their periodical raiding expeditions, as they left their reservations on many occasions without the government’s permission. The two children were left by the Indians near the mouth of Spillman Creek, west of Lincoln. They were found and taken home by Martin Hendrickson. He tells how the same promptings that so often assailed him in time of trouble or impending danger, made him set out upon the search that resulted in his finding the two little girls.
     It was on Sunday and he had some visitors at his home; he felt vaguely uneasy and could eat no dinner. At last he announced his intention of going out to look for someone that needed his help. They all tried to dissuade him but he was unable to resist the call, and catching a young horse, rode away, accompanied by his neighbor. They took no weapons except a large navy revolver, as Uncle Mart declared there were no Indians to be met, but some of their victims needing assistance. They rode on in the direction he felt impelled to go, and at length saw something red above the grass. It was a shawl worn by one of the children. Hendrickson’s companion wanted to fire upon the object but he objected, and riding forward, found the two girls huddled in the grass. They were very much afraid, and so starved as to be like some ravenous wolves. One of them told afterward how the Indians made them ride ponies, barebacked, all the way from the Solomon River to the Saline, where they were freed and left to starve or be eaten by wolves,

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They had nothing to eat for many hours, except a few berries which they found on a bush and divided between them. They were kept at Hendrickson’s house and tenderly cared for until their father arrived to take them away. Three men, Aaron Bell, Chal Smith and Polk Tripp, carried the news of the finding of the two children to Delphos.
     They were about five and seven years of age.
     The savage nature of the Indian made him incapable of an act of mercy, but policy at times turned his course in this direction. When in danger of capture the Indian usually disencumbered himself of all that might interfere with his chances of escape, or be used as damaging evidence against him in the event of his having to sue for mercy.
     While talking with Uncle Mart over the many incidents of those early days, it seems almost incomprehensible that the very place in which we sat, now a busy town with all modern improvements, had often been the camping place of wild men; where we now saw paved streets, there the Indian poines cropped the grass planted by the hand of nature centuries ago; where that bevy of noisy, happy school children were at play, a pack of half-wolf, flea-infested Indian dogs fought over a few smoked and well picked buffalo bones left from their owner’s last meal. Where those well dressed ladies are passing, a camp of Indian wigwams stood, presided over by the sullen, unhappy females of the tribe, and where that great flour mill carries on night and day its useful labors, the lazy, cruel, tyrannical Indian brave angled for the finny creatures in the bright waters of the Saline. And we wonder still more when we gaze upon the two pictures, one with the mind’s eye and the other in happy actuality, that it has been permitted one man to mingle in all these kaleidoscope changes and still live to tell of it, let us hope, for years to come.

     Note: If correctly informed, we believe this band of Indians were pursued by a detachment of United States troops and very closely pressed, which may account for their abandoning the little girls.


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Transcribed and submitted by his Great Grandniece L Ann Bowler

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