Reprinted in the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, Sept. 22, 1932
On Sunday afternoon at Conway Springs were held funeral services for Thomas Alderdice, one of Sumner County’s most famous historical old characters, and one of the last three survivors of the famous Battle of Beecher’s Island, or the Battle of Arickaree, around which Margaret Hill McCarter wove her Kansas drama, "The Price of the Prairies."
Up until a year ago Mr. Alderdice was often called upon to relate his Indian experiences to school students, Boy Scout meetings and upon other occasions, and the thrill that came to the young listeners as this old warrior vividly lived over those old days was something always to be remembered.
A son, William, has been in constant attendance caring for his parents for the past several years.
Mr. Alderdice served in the union army during the Civil War and after the war received from Fort Leavenworth a discharge in order that he might enter upon the then more important service of a government Scout. He was carrying government messages from Fort Harker to Fort Hays when word came to him that the Indians, who had threatened to clean out the white man east of the Missouri River, were making a raid of plunder and murder through Lincoln County. Alderdice immediately gained permission to go to his family in their little home located on Spillman Creek near Lincoln Center and was given one of the general’s horses, with promise that a troop of volunteers would immediately follow him. When he arrived upon the scene the Massacre of Spillman Creek had taken place, his home was burned, his two months old baby had been brained against a cottonwood tree, a boy lay with seven arrows in his body, another lad who had been plowing lay by the plow, shot to pieces. The volunteer troop then set out on the trail of the Indians and the camp was found near Red Cloud, Neb. [While the obituary makes it sound like only a short time had passed, in fact it took the troops several months to catch up with the Indians.]
When the savages saw the volunteers approaching, Mrs. Alderdice was tomahawked and the baby she carried in her arms had been killed on the trail a short time before. Reliable information on this massacre is told by Mrs. Wiekle, who now lives at Lincoln, Neb. She was among those women captured in the raid, but one night she managed to escape from the Indian camp. [Not true; she was shot by the Indians as the troops approached but survived and was rescued by the soldiers.]
A monument in the courthouse yard at Lincoln Center has been erected by the Masons of the place [actually by subscription], commemorating this raid.
Naturally the tragedy intensified Alderdice’s Indian fighting activities, and he was connected with many acts of daring and heroism in connection with Indians during the following few months that have never been recorded. In September of the same year came the famous Battle of Beecher’s Island or Battle of Arickaree which is perhaps the outstanding historical event of Indian warfare in the plains country. It was at Beecher’s Island at the fork of the Republican River in Yuma County, Colo., that the company of 51 brave government Scouts under Col. George Forsythe was surrounded by hundreds of Indians under the famous chieftain Roman Nose, who lost his life in this battle. History has told of that battle, of the heroism of that little group of nation builders, and many have listened to the story from the mouths of the now few survivors.
The death of Thomas Alderdice brings the list of survivors to only two. They are Thomas Murphy of Caldwell, Kan., Sigmund Schesinger of Cleveland, Ohio. One of the other survivors of the battle, Howard Morton, who carried a bullet in his head from the battle, died of cancer resulting from the wound, at Palo Alto, Calif., only a few weeks ago. In this battle those 51 men lived on horse and mule meat for nine days until Scouts who had gone for help returned with Gen. Carpenter’s command of colored troops who routed the Indians and rescued the survivors on the island.
J.J. Peate, now of Beverly, Kan., was one of those scouts from the Saline Valley, and he preceded and led the rescue troops to Forsythe’s men on Beecher’s Island.
Thomas Alderdice was born in the city of Philadelphia, on the 11th day of March 1841, and died at Conway Springs, May 29, 1925, aged 84 years, 2 months and 18 days. He had been bedfast for several months.
In his boyhood he came west with his parents and they settled on a farm near Springfield, Ill. When the Civil War came on, he joined Capt. Gaylord’s company, Co. E, Second Regiment of the U.S. Volunteers. November 1865 found him still in the service and doing duty at Ft. Leavenworth and on the 7th of that month he was discharged that he might enter another and much needed service of his country -- that of Scouting. He continued in this service three years. In 1865 he was married to Mrs. [Susannah] Zeigler Daily, who had two children at the time, and later when they had two children of their own, one two years old and the other three months old, the Indians swept down on them and killed three of the children, as they thought, and then carrying away the baby and mother in the raid of May 30, 1868 [sic, actually 1869]. It was in May 1868 [sic] that the massacre of Lincoln County took place where Mr. Alderdice’s first family was all murdered [one of Mrs. Alderdice’s sons, Willis Daily, survived the attack and was raised by his Zeigler grandparents] and in September of the same year that he went through the Battle of Beecher’s Island.
On Aug. 17, 1873, he was married to Mary Philenda Lepper of Delmar, Iowa, and to this union were born eight children. One child, Amly May [sic] died in infancy.
After his second marriage in Iowa, the couple came immediately to Dodge City, Kan., where he worked for a time as a locater in the government land office. He then went into the cattle business about 25 miles north of Cimmarron and accumulated property. From Cimmarron the family went to Texas County, Mo., and then it was about 28 years ago that the family moved to Sumner County near Milan, then to the present home in Conway Springs.
Funeral services were conducted last Sunday afternoon at the Brethren church. Interment was in Milan Cemetery. Mr. Alderdice’s old comrade, Thomas Murphy, with his wife and son, were here from their home near Caldwell.