John Cline Recalls Helping Find Massacred Hunters in 1864
Lincoln Republican, 10 October 1912
Forty-eight years ago John Cline, a member of a freighting party, came out from Salina and found the bodies of J.L. Moffitt, T. Moffitt, J.W. Houston, and J. Tyler, Lincoln county’s first settlers, slaughtered by Indians. On last Sunday Mr. Cline, now a resident of New Cambria, in Saline county, went out with John McCurdy and revisited the scene of the massacre for the first time.
It was in a rocky spot near Beaver creek, two and one half miles southeast of Lincoln, on what is now the Dan Day farm, that the Moffitts, Houston and Tyler lost their lives on Aug. 6, 1864. The lapse of nearly half a century had not dimmed Mr. Cline’s recollection of the scene, and he went over it with keen interest, pointing out the exact spot where each body was found, and describing graphically the whole affair.
Mr. Cline was a young man 22 years of age in 1864. He had just returned to Salina from a trip to western Kansas with a freighting outfit when Mrs. Houston, wife of one of the murdered men, arrived in that city with the news of the massacre. Cline and 12 other men at once came out, found the bodies and buried them a short distance from where they fell. The graves of Houston and Tyler are still there. The bodies of the Moffitts were disinterred and taken to a family lot in the east, a few weeks after the first burial.
“The first night we camped at the Haines and Mead ranch, east of Tescott,” Mr. Cline said in describing his experiences. “The next day about 10 o’clock we got to Beaver creek. We scattered out over the prairie hunting for the remains of the boys, and we found where their wagon track left the cabin and then followed it over the prairie we saw where the track turned around and started east toward the creek. Frank Harrington was ahead and I saw him stand on a rock and wave his hat. We went to where he was, and there we found the boys lying between two ledges of rock. I knew the Moffitts before and so I recognized them. ‘Jock’ Moffitt was crouching on his knees with his head between two rocks. His brother, Houston and Tyler lay a little to the east, all with their heads to the north. The wagon and team were south of them, the horses dead and the wagon partly burned. It was evident that the Indians had been fighting from the north, and some of their number had gone around and made an attack from the rear. There must have been nearly 75 arrows sticking in Jock Moffitt’s back.”
A written statement was obtained from Mr. Cline by John McCurdy for the historical records of the old settlers’ association.