A few weeks ago, there appeared an item of news in one of our the Lincoln papers, the statement the Pioneer Hotel was fast disappearing, that with a few more days work the old landmark will have passed into History.
I have been hoping that someone who was better able than I, would write a reminiscence of things that happened in and near that old house, more particularly the part composing the southwest corner.
This log house was built by John Hendrickson, in the fall of 1867, on the Saline bottom, near the bluff, and just below the mouth of Lost Creek. When the Indians attacked the settlement in August 1868, the first attack was made at this house, but fortunately for the settlers, Col. Benteen with his troop of the 7th U.s. Cav., were out on a scout from Ft. Harker and they surprised the Indians soon after the attack was made. Benteen drove the Indians northwest. The Indians scattered into small bands and darkness caused a halt of the pursuit. Col. Benteen and his troop, no doubt, saved the lives of some of the settlers on the Saline River that day. This was the commencement of the Indian war on the Saline River.
Very soon there was a call for men to join what was later known as the Forsyth scouts, and most of the men of the River that could leave their homes joined this company.
The State called for men to join the militia for three months, and Capt. Henry Baker with his company of state troops, about 30 men, made this house their headquarters during their term of service. The government built the block house on Spillman creek soon after.
In the battle of Beecher Island and Washita, the Indians were severely punished. At the end of the winter campaign which was something new in Indian warfare, the Cheyenne Arapahoe, Kiowas, Comanches and the plains Apaches were forever pledged to peace, and it was said that the homes in Kansas, Nebraska and do other western states were for the first time made as safe from the Indians as Ohio or Indiana.
Safe! Could the Indian commissioners have been ornamented with a few Indian arrows driven into their thick hide up to the feather, they would have known how it feels to be safe on the board when the red man is on the warpath. Safe – with no troops to protect us on that May day in 1869 when so many of the settlers were killed by the Indians that the Indian commissioners said were at peace.
Most of your readers have read of the Spillman raid. All night of May 30 1869, mounted men were warning the settlers of the danger, asking those who could, to report at Schermerhorn’s ranch before daylight. At early dawn these men were in the saddle, and in the first big bend of the Saline river above the mouth of Lost Creek, about one half or three quarters of a mile west of the house they found two murdered children, of Mrs. Alderdice, and one that was badly wounded.
Willis Daily was unconscious, there was an arrow between his shoulder blades. He was first taken to this house, and then to William Hendrickson’s where the arrow was removed.
On the afternoon of May 30, a troop of U.S. Cav., went into camp near the mouth of Bull Foot. They were enroute to some river north. The commander knew that the Indians had attacked the settlement, but without orders he would not go to their relief. I had sent a courier to Ft. Harker to report conditions, to tell, I suppose, the Indian commissioners he was safe. The surgeon with this troop refused to go to see the wounded child. I do not remember what troop it was, I do not want to remember the commander or doctor’s name. I have met many army officers and found most to be honorable men, and grand comrades. This one was in the shape of a man, but it ended there. He was a ----- ----- but my old comrade, the late Thomas Boyle, sometimes said, “There were things that cussing did not do justice to, so I will refrain.”
A call for state troops followed the raid, and part of Company C, 2nd Battalion, Kansas State Militia, 56 men under command of 1st Lt. H.H. Tucker, after camping a short time on Beaver and Yauger creeks, moved to this house and used it for quartermaster stores, until the weather drove them from this camp nearby, to the house and dugout.
To locate the spot where the house stood, go west on College Ave. to the residence of Mr. Mason. His house is near the north line of the corral. A little east of his barn can been seen some of the earth stones that were the foundation of the old chimney which was on the east side of the house. A little east and south can be seen a hole in the ground that was a dugout used as a guard house, for which he had very little use.
I do not remember of but few arrests. Still farther south east the two dugouts, the north one used for quartermaster stores, after we moved into the log house, and the one south of that was used for cook house. The corral extended east from the south line of the house to the rocks, and north from the west line of the house fifth or sixty feet. The house was a quarter of a mile east of the Saline River and half of that distance south of Lost Creek.
Most of the men had seen service on the plains. Our commander was with us about one fourth of the time. He was very much interested in the welfare of a young lady who lived in Salina. Cap, as we called him, won the girl. They lived together many years. He died in Oklahoma, March 6, 1908. I think this the only case on record where the state paid the courting expenses.
We drilled over the ground where Lincoln now stands. I do not think it was the best drilled company on the plains at that time, but I do believe when the company cooks called “grub pile” we would ranked A.1, in the short time it would take us to obey the call. We had a bathing place on the Saline River west of the camp. The river was up considerable that summer, so the banks were very soft. We had slides, shoot the shoots, and if we wore the slide down so we struck a root and snap we looped the loop. Coney Island, N.Y., may have things more up to date, but we were first with the difference kinds of slides. When in tents on the side of the hill we would have our camp fires in front of the tents and the first would generally go out during the night.
(Continued in next issue.)
One morning Mike Lyden did not get up as soon as his tent mates thought he should, so they took him by the heels and pulled him out of the tent, to the ashes where the fire had been the evening before, and there they left him. With a yell that would make a fair sized war whoop he sprang to his feet with a half dozen live coals sticking to his back. We did not wear pajamas in those days. Mike was well branded and off duty for a week.
I never knew why Joe North, one of the members of the company, enlisted, but think he had gotten into some trouble and wanted to hide for a few months. Joe had been in the Saloon business in Rome, a town near Hays, City. Joe did his duty well. He was generous, kind hearted by nature and made lots of fun for the boys. His ambition seemed to be known as wild and wooly, and hard to curry. Before he fully established the reputation he coveted, his career ended at the rope of Wallace, Kan.
We made a trace track a quarter of a mile long just north of the small ravine north of the camp. A little before sundown when the track in good condition we would have from one to three and sometimes five pony races.
Our horses were shod at the Schermerhorn ranch. We would take over in the morning, as many horses as the blacksmith could shoe during the day. The Saline River was so full that we would leave to swim the horses over. One day we had a horse named Preacher which was drive into the river with the rest and went out of sight. Soon we could see the end of his nose. He was swimming about the middle of the river, his nose pointed upstream. We threw dirt and sticks at the horse, finally hitting it, when he went to the south shore. I do not know what denomination that Preacher belonged to; he surely did not known much about water.
Col. M.W. Keogh, commander of Company 1, Seventh U.S. Cav., visited our camp. The colonel was an officer in the Papal army in Italy before the Civil War. Through the influence of some Catholic Bishop, I have read or heard quite a number of young Irish boys who were in the Pope’s army came to the United States and enlisted in the Union army. Keogh arose to the rank of Col. of Volunteers. After the war he was given a Captain’s commission in the regular army. He was with Gen. Custer and the Seventh Cav., June 25, 1872, at the Battle of Little Big Horn. He commanded the right wing and died with Custer and the rest of the two hundred [words missing] men. I knew Col. Keogh well; met him first at Camp Beecher, where Wichita now is, during the summer of 1868. The first work I ever did as a scout was hunting for him and his troop. After riding two hundred miles I found them near Limestone Creek on the Solomon river.
Capt. A.J. Pliley of Co. A, Kansas State militia, who was in command at the Block house, visited our camp several times. He is the only one of the four scouts that left Beecher Island for help that is now living. There are scars in his feet made by the prickly pear thorns going through his feet during that 90 mile walk in the night from that island to Ft. Wallace. He commanded Co. A, 19th Kansas, during the winter campaign of 1868-69, and was present when Mrs. Morgan and Mrs. White were rescued from Dull Knife’s band of Cheyennes.
Many a dance we had in the camp. Some of the boys taking the part of ladies. In September we moved into the house, and built bunks on the west and north walls, four or five tiers high. As the evenings grew longer we would all gather around the fire, sing songs and tell stories of war, the hunt, the march and the camp. Sometimes the stories would turn to the sad parts of army life. With his voice trembling with emotion a comrade would tell where his bunkey [sic; I assume he means former bunkmate] fell and of his lonely grave in the sands, or the bleak plains, or near some river; perhaps when the only light was from the twinkling stars, they dug the grave and left the loved comrade to sleep in an unknown and unmarked grave.
We were paid off the latter part of November. I think a troop of U.S. Cav. were camped here a short time the next winter or spring. In 1870 or 71, H.J. Wisner bought the place and added to the house one or two rooms. A party of men came here from Pipe Creek claiming that he had an underground stable, where stolen horses were kept. They put a rope around his neck, gave him but a few minutes to live if he did not show them where he kept the stolen horses. The party did not find what they sought. Wisner, although his given name was Higby Jedediah, lived to be past four score years.
About the time the Lincoln town company was organized this house was moved to Lincoln. The men who were accused of murdering Ezra Hubbard at Abram which was then the county seat were held as prisoners upstairs in the Pioneer Hotel The second story of the old log house was all one room. Soon after the preliminary hearing commenced, Avery Allen, the Justice of the peace in the case, became insane and was taken to Osawatomie. John Spurgeon, a Justice of the Peace, took charge of the court. It took quite a number of men to guard the prisoners. At one time a party of their friends started from Ellsworth to rescue them. It was reported at the time, that their whiskey run out, so they did not get any farther than Bull Foot. Two of the party came to Lincoln. They were soon disarmed and placed with the other prisoners. They were released in a few hours and told not to get the sun go down on them in Lincoln. A week or more after the arrests, business kept me away from Lincoln two days. I was undersheriff. When I returned I went directly upstairs at the hotel. The stairs were on the south side of the west room of the log house, the upper landing was at the southwest corner, when near the head of the stairs I saw John Lyden, one of the prisoners. He stepped rapidly to a small table that stood close to the west wall, very near the head of the stairs. He got to the table before I got to the top of the stairs. I then saw that there was a belt and holsters containing a brace of revolvers on the table. John placed his hands on the revolvers, although I was armed. I saw he had the drop, if he wished to use it. I did not make a move toward my gun. If John had said, “Hands up,” mine would have gone up, away up. All he said was, “Jack, they do not guard us as close when you are not here.” We walked down the hall to the farther end where the guards and prisoners were.
John Lyden was in the army under Gen. P.H. Sheridan, and was with Forsyth in 1868. I was with him often in 1869-70. He was a splendid revolver shot with either hand. If he ever used liquor or tobacco, I did not know it. I found him to be a true comrade, and a pleasant companion. Although he was accused of assisting in the murder of Ezra Hubbard and I do not believe he was an accessory before or after the fact.
Much more could be told of the haps and mishaps that took place near the old log house. What I have written is mostly from memory.
Metaphorically speaking, it was born on the bank of the Saline River, when the wild Indians claimed this country as his hunting ground. In its childhood it saw the horrors of an Indian raid. Moved to a town while still quite young, it passed through a county seat war. Then came long years of peace. At times it sheltered the best that came to our doors. In old age it was called a “fire trap.” Before its eyes were closed in death it saw people risking life and limb riding over the beautifully undulating highway from the foot of main street to the depot.