of Ferdinand Erhardt
Lincoln Sentinel, Oct. 13, 1910
(Transcribed by Clarence Suelter, a descendant of Ferdinand Erhardt.)
At the suggestion of one of our old settlers, I have written a few reminiscences of our departed friend Ferdinand Erhardt, ordinarily called
Fred. He was one of the foremost of the old pioneers whose name deserves to be perpetuated in history.
He saw as much, or perhaps more service and had as many narrow escapes as any other man, not only as a soldier in the army of the rebellion but also
in the Indian campaigns in the far west.
Settling here in the early days, 1867, he did as much, or more than any other man in the early settlement and up building of this county. He was
kind hearted, unassuming and fair minded toward his fellow beings, and yet he was a man among the bravest of the brave, a hero among men.
During the Indian trouble in this county, having had experience, he advised the newcomers in regard to the Indians and when they were in trouble he
went to their relief.
At one time while the settlers with their families were huddled together in a log cabin on the Saline river in fear of the Indians, he in company with
another man, reconnoitered the valley: they found two children, girls, nearly starved; they had been in captivity by Indians, and were dropped
while being pursued by a company of cavalry, the children were brought to the settlement and cared for and in this instance two human lives were saved. This has been related before.
At another time a man named Hauser, in fear of the Indians, had abandoned
his claim and his personal property consisting of a team of mules, some
cattle and household goods. Mr. Erhardt volunteered his help to bring this
property to a place of safety. His offer was accepted and the two men
proceeded to the claim and arriving there they hitched the team; the owner
driving and leaving Mr. Erhardt behind with the cattle. They had gone but
a short distance when the owner became stricken with fear and hastily fled
leaving Mr. Erhardt and all his property, and drove toward the settlement
as fast as his mules could go. Mr. Erhardt continued alone, driving the
cattle on his way, reaching the Saline Valley and following down the team
on the north side, he saw Indians toward the east ahead of him in the
distance; he still staid with the cattle, and changing his course he drove
them south toward the timber, crossing the river and arrived safely home.
All this he did without remuneration of any kind; he was a help, in
assistance to any one in trouble who might ask it and not enough praise can
be given such a man.
Mr. Erhardt worked for the United States government at Fort Harker in 1867
prior to his coming to this valley; he continued to visit the post
occasionally in the following years. I also had worked there one year
later in 1868, but we never met and so we were not acquainted at that time.
Of late years while we were neighbors here in Lincoln at times when in a
reminiscent mood we would sit down together and swap stories about those
times; he having had so much more experience could tell ten to my one, some were quite comical and it may not be amiss to repeat one or two here. Ft.
Harker (now Kanopolis, Ellsworth county) was headquarters for a number of
scouts, among which were Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill; some of these did not
have the best reputation and among them the latter. It was said when not
on scout duty they frequented the saloons and gambling houses regularly and
were hardly ever to be seen outside, but never failed to put in their
appearance on the day of the arrival of the paymaster. There was an old
German, also a government employee but who had not been long enough in this
country to know how to speak good English and who undertook to censure Wild
Bill on the errors of his ways when Bill answered him "What is it of your
business you old s__ of b____." "No you are sun fish." the German answered
in broken dialect in return.
The calling a man a liar or bad name in those days generally meant serious consequences for one or both participants, but no harm befell the German as
the word sun fish sounded so comical and amusing to the by standers and including Bill himself that they bursted out in laughter.
Another story was about an incident that occurred while he was in a mess house for a number of workmen at the post, the provisions were rations
drawn from the government. At that time there were a great many polecats in the vicinity of the mess house, a temporary building made of boards with
cracks in the sides and flooring. One night a number of skunks got into the kitchen, leaving a scent that ruined all the provisions on hand and of
course there was no breakfast at the mess house in the morning. Mr. Erhardt promptly applied at the commissary for more rations but was denied.
The men had drawn their rations and there were no orders for more. None could be bought as the only store in a military post is the settlers that
carried in stock only a part that was needed. At noon there was no dinner and instead there was a council held by the hungry men. Mr. Erhardt
explained the situation, that he did everything in his power but without avail. He said, "I am here to do the cooking, if you bring me the
provisions." There was plenty of everything in the government commissary but these were guarded by a sentinel day and night. But there were several
cars standing on the railroad sidetrack loaded with government supplies that had arrived from the east. That night one of these cars loaded with
provisions were broken into and a quantity of goods taken.
After this the holes in the floor of the kitchen were repaired to keep out the skunks and the mess house resumed operation the same as before.
Mr. Erhardt lived to a ripe old age, nearly 81 years, raised a large family, was a kind husband and father and highly respected by all who knew
him with scarcely an enemy in the world. In late years he was troubled considerably with asthma, with the exceptions of these spells he was
cheerful and when his last hours arrived was ready to go. Towards his last, asthma had left him and surrounded by his family and friends he fell
asleep without suffering. May his ashes rest in peace.
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