KANSAS COLLECTION ARTICLES


REMINISCENCES OF WILLIAM DARNELL -- Part Three

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A short time after we came to the territory an old man and wife and their three sons and their families camped on the hill above Moodyville spring. When father learned they were there, he and I went over and called on them, to do what we could to help them. The old gentlemen wanted his folks to settle in the valley to the west, but the young women in the party wished to return East. I finally left and made my way home, while father remained and tried to persuade them to locate. They decided not to stay, however, and left. I never learned who they were, or where they came from. Apparently they were well fixed; had good horses and teams, were well dressed, and would have made fine neighbors.

The first school in the neighborhood was taught in 1856. Four families furnished the children of school age, as follows: Dave Guard, three children; Uriah Cook, who later served as the first treasurer of Pottawatomie county, three; Charles Jenkins, two; James Limerick, two.

Henry Rammelt and Andrew Knoll are named as the first settlers on Rock creek, arriving in the latter part of 1854.

Charles Jenkins, a brother of Gaius Jenkins, an early character of Lawrence, was an early settler in the Rock creek neighborhood.

One of the first settlers in our immediate neighborhood was a widow -- a

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Mrs. Adamson, who with her two grown sons and a daughter of about thirteen years took a claim at the base of a high hill, later known as Mount Ephraim. I think they came from Iowa.

About December, 1855, a man named Hazen arrived and purchased the claim of Mrs. Adamson. He was married and had a son about three years of age. Hazen was nearly dead with consumption when he arrived, and died about a month later, this being the first death in the community. He was buried on the farm, and James Limerick and his son William, and father were the pallbearers, they being the only grown men in the neighborhood at the time.

In the spring of 1857, Mrs. Elizabeth Hazen, the widow, moved up to a colony which settled at a point named Barrett's Mills, near the mouth of the Black Vermilion, where she took a job of cooking. Barrett's Mills took its name from A. G. Barrett, an Ohioan, who settled there with a colony about 1856. While at Barrett's Mills Mrs. Hazen became acquainted with John McKimmons, who came there from Iowa. They were married a year or so later, and came back to the old camp ground at the Rock creek ford, settling on what later became known as the McKimmons farm. There a son, John, Jr., was born, who in later years served Pottawatomie county as treasurer.

The Hazen claim, already mentioned, was next sold to an old sea captain, a man named Bertram. He had a wife and three children, one of whom died in 1857. Frank Jenkins, a cabinetmaker, who lived on a claim about five miles away, made the coffin this child was buried in, as there were no undertaking establishments near.

The next year Russell Church rented the claim of Bertram, and lived there a year while he was getting his own ground broken.

Samuel Findley was the next settler in the neighborhood. He lived on Darnell creek, half a mile north of father's place. Here he built a cabin in which he lived for some time, later moving it to a claim about one and one half miles distant.

The next settler in the neighborhood was a man named Russell, who, with his two sons, settled on a claim and stayed during the winter of 1857. Mr. Russell had a fine herd of cattle, and bought considerable feed of father, for whom he worked at odd times. He left owing father some $300, which he forgot to pay.

John Whearty was the next settler, locating on the northwest branch of Rock creek. He arrived in the spring of 1857, coming in a covered wagon drawn by a span of horses, which at this time was a sight to arouse the curiosity and interest of us youngsters. Halting at our cabin, the men climbed out of the wagon, and the driver, without permission or "by your leave," began unloading the contents of the wagon, piling the plunder on the ground. Father was not at the house at the time, and we children looked on with considerable curiosity and wonderment. Two hundred pounds of flour was the first thing unloaded, then came an assortment of staple groceries, such as coffee sugar, bacon, etc., and a sack of potatoes. A roll of bedding, a shotgun and ammunition, a planter's or grubbing hoe, a brand new spade, and a good axe constituted about everything else. Father came up just about the time the unloading was done, and learned that the men were brothers, Whearty by name. It was now about dinner time and father asked the men to stay for

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dinner. The owner of the team declined, saying he was in a hurry to get back to Leavenworth. He then drove off, and we never saw him again. The other one, John Whearty by name, went up on Rock creek, a mile or so above father's and a short distance above the Moodyville spring selected a claim.

After building a little shack to live in, he cleared off a small tract of ground in the edge of the timber, and having no team to do any plowing, set to work with his spade, turned under sufficient ground and planted his bushel of potatoes. The season was a favorable one and the potatoes thrived. With the warm weather came enormous swarms of potato bugs. Nothing daunted, Mr. Whearty declared war on the bugs, digging a ditch between alternate rows, shaking the bugs into the ditch and covering them, then tramping the ground besides. This was his daily job for awhile, but he stuck persistently at it, and finally harvested a fine crop of potatoes for his pains. Some of his neighbors who paid no attention to the bugs had no spuds that season. This John Whearty was the grandfather of F. L. Whearty, county engineer of Pottawatomie county.

A man named Halleck, of Leavenworth, took up a claim on the northwest branch of Rock creek. Later on, a man named Mathburn, together with his son-in-law, settled on this same claim.

Sergeant and Ben Moody, brothers, settled on a claim known at the present time as Moody's Springs.

The first marriage in the community was in 1855 or 1856. Thaddeus Jenkins and Miss Emily Limerick were the contracting parties. Thad claims he was not a Mormon. However, he claims to have married fifty per cent of the unmarried marriageable women in Pottawatomie county at the time -- there being only one other -- my sister, Lucinda Darnell. The next winter Lucinda was married to John Nidey. She died in 1863, and is buried near Farley, Mo., opposite Leavenworth.

As late as 1859 horse teams in our vicinity were scarce enough to attract attention. That summer a young man and his wife drove up to our cabin and stopped. They told mother they lived on the Red Vermilion, had a sick baby, and were on their way to get medical aid. Mother went out and brought the baby in and placed it on a bed where it died about two hours later. Here they were, among strangers, quite a ways from home, and with a dead baby on their hands. They needed a coffin or box to place the body in for the return journey, so father volunteered to make a coffin, using the "over jet" of the wagon the family came to Kansas in, even making the nails in his blacksmith shop to fasten the little box together. The young couple were more than grateful for what we had done, and after loading the little box into their wagon, started mournfully back to their claim to bury their little one near home.

The year 1860 hit the early settlers pretty hard. There was much suffering when the drought came. During the winter Sam Findley, father and myself were delegated by our neighbors to go to Atchison for some of the aid supplies. A heavy snow fell during the trip, and it was necessary for some one to break a road through the snow, which was about two feet deep on the level, we men taking turns in breaking a path. For the return trip Sam had got hold of a jug of whisky to warm the inner man as occasion demanded. By the time we pulled in at the crossing on Soldier creek, Sam attempted to

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walk out on the wagon tongue to fix something about the team of oxen. He was considerably under the influence of the contents of the jug, and in some manner slipped off the tongue into the deep snow, the wagon wheels passing close on either side of him, but not touching him. I attempted to "josh" him a little on his mishap, but the old man did not appreciate my attempts at pleasantry just then.

When father settled on his claim there was a heavy growth of big timber along both Rock creek and the branch called Darnell creek. Most of the big timber has long since gone -- cut out for use, washed out by floods or wrecked by storms. These two streams now (1927) are covered with a dense jungle of native timber, all of comparatively new growth. One of the old cedars cut on the side hill and opposite our old home showed by its annular rings to be in the neighborhood of 350 years old.

Father resided on his homestead, which lay to the northeast of the present Westmoreland, and here he reared his family. In 1862 he sold the old homestead to Louis Vieux and rented the farm west of Louisville, where he lived until 1873, when he gave up farming. That year he moved into Louisville, and was engaged in the mercantile business for a time. Here he lived out the balance of his allotted years in peace and quiet, passing on to his reward on July 3, 1880.

Now something about myself. When old enough to start, I attended a country school in Illinois, about two years in all, never having the opportunity of getting beyond the second reader. A Miss Delia Smith was my first school teacher. I was reared on the farm.

When I was a little past ten years of age father decided to come to Kansas. In our new location I soon found plenty to keep me busy -- tending cattle, breaking ground, planting, making hay, cutting wood, tending garden, milking, running errands, and a thousand and one other things that can be found for a boy to do on a new farm. Those early days were busy ones, and with lots of hard work as well.

The first year in Kansas our family lived in a tent while our house was under construction. Before even the tent was up, I was down in the timber where father and John Nidey were chopping house logs. As fast as the logs were chopped they were dragged out of the timber, eventually forming a sort of path. I was following this path home one day, when as I crossed a little creek, or really a dry bed that the path crossed, I came upon a yellow-pointed rattlesnake. I ran to the house and begged mother to let me take the big shotgun down to kill it. she consented, and I hurried off with the gun. It was loaded with twelve buckshot in each barrel. The gun was so heavy I was not able to hold it from my shoulder and take sight. I squatted down, and rested the gun on my knee, with the stock well back under my arm, as I could not reach the trigger otherwise. I took aim as best I could, and pulled the trigger. How the charge of buckshot made the rock and gravel fly. However, I cut the snake in two. Father heard the shot and came running up, all excited, to see what the shooting was all about. Later, George Twiss, who was staying at our place, cut the head off the snake, propped its mouth open so as to show the fangs, and then placed it in alcohol. Later he took it back to New York to show what kind of snakes there were in Kansas.

Bourbonnais, a prominent Pottawatomie Indian, was alive when I came to Rock creek. He died some six or more years later. An Indian graveyard was

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located on the farm of Frank Bourbonnais, on Bourbonnais creek, about two miles east of St. Marys. Old Bourbonnais was buried there. He was a big man in the councils of the Pottawatomies, but was not a chief. I recollect when he died. He was buried on top of the ground, with a kettle of food placed at the foot of the grave to sustain him while on his journey to the happy hunting ground. At the time I examined the grave the body was badly decomposed, and the stench was simply awful. The grave was just a short distance south of the Union Pacific railroad, and a few rods west of the farm of J. Nadeau.

The first School in the village of Louisville was taught by a Miss Kate or Stella Juneau. She was of Pottawatomie and French parentage, and came from the vicinity of Lake Michigan. Her school was held in a small log building, and her pupils, numbering from twelve to fifteen, sat on primitive benches and stools, fashioned from logs split in half and dressed to a smooth surface on top. Louisville was platted in 1857, the land first being preempted by Robert Wilson, and the town named for his son Louis. The town is located at the old military crossing on Rock creek.

Living so far west of the Missouri line, father escaped much of the unpleasantness that existed along the eastern border counties during the territorial days. Being a Free-state Democrat in politics he was looked upon with suspicion by the proslavery element, and mistrusted by the Free Staters. When the Civil War broke out his status was all the more acute, as all Democrats generally were suspected of being disloyal to the government. Many so-called "law and order" organizations that sprung up here and there committed many acts of robbery and violence against men who had been neighbors and friends, upon whom suspicion, however unjustly, had fallen; men with whom they had been living at peace and amity during the earlier struggles.

One day in July or August, 1862, word was passed down the Rock creek valley that on a certain night a vigilance committee was going to make a visit to the homes of all Democrats with the object of hanging all whom they visited. This committee had headquarters in the vicinity of Manhattan. About this time a band of horse thieves was organized for the purpose of running horses out of the country, and it was suspected that this vigilance committee was made up to a more or less degree of members of this horse-thieving clique, who found the expedient of intimidating settlers considerably of a help in procuring horses without the formality of paying cash for them. In order to make their work easier they carried an American flag with them, which they conspicuously displayed while engaged in their underhanded work.

One Rock creek settler, Uriah Cook, familiarly known as "Old Man Cook," was in due season visited by this gang. One of the gang shook the flag at Mr. Cook while delivering a harangue. This aroused the ire of the old gentleman. In a burst of indignation he grabbed the flag and took it away from the individual who was shaking it, and roared at him: "Don't you shake that flag at me. I've lived under it a good many years longer than you have." He kept the flag, too. Mr. Cook was a Mason, and getting word of the proposed raid, brought word to father and the other settlers on Rock creek to be on the lookout for the party. Uriah Cook and his wife are both dead, being buried in what is known as the Cook graveyard, on Wilson creek, west and south of Westmoreland.

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The same night that committee visited Cook's we were visited. Having received word that horses were the real quest of the raiders, our horses were driven into the timber and hidden, while father and I betook ourselves with three guns to the opposite side of Darnell creek. There in a deep gully in the steep bank we secreted ourselves where we had a good command of the road which ran along the creek on the opposite side. Having been without food for some time, that night I volunteered to slip over to the cabin and bring back something to eat. While I was gone father heard some horsemen ride up to the vicinity of our blacksmith shop and barn, talk a few minutes in undertones, and then pass on in the direction they came. After I got back with the food father asked me: "Who were you talking to near the barn?" "I haven't talked with anybody except the folks in the cabin," I answered. "I heard some men talking across the creek while you were gone, and they are after horses. From what I could hear, they are from Manhattan."

These same marauders made a visit to the home of another settler on the creek. The wife was at home. Finding her alone they began shooting her chickens wantonly. The woman protested and told them, "My husband is in the army. If he were here you wouldn't dare do this." The "committee" laughed in her face and continued shooting her chickens as long as the sport amused them.

After two days and one night in this deep gully, father concluded the danger was past and decided to go back to the cabin. On rising up from my hiding place I saw a large chicken hawk perched in the branches of a bur-oak tree some distance away. In a moment my rifle came up to my shoulder and I fired. The shot was a pretty one and the target to my liking, and the hawk fell at this one shot. Father, who still had fears that some "Jayhawkers" might yet be lingering in the vicinity and would hear the report of the gun, could not help but feel proud of the shot, nor resist the opportunity to give me a lecture for my foolhardiness.

One day three men, all armed to the teeth, rode up to the cabin and asked father if they could get breakfast and have their horses fed. Father told them they could, and invited them in. Mother at once set about preparing the meal for them. Our guns were hanging from pegs on the inside walls of the cabin. The visitors noticed them, and either by accident or design, took seats between us and the guns. Father noticed the men eyeing those guns more than once, but never let on. In due time mother had their meal ready and the men sat down and ate. When they finished one of the men asked how much they owed for their breakfast. "Nothing," father answered. "I've never turned down a hungry person since we came here." The men thanked him for the meal, climbed on their horses and rode away. If they had been on mischief bent, they had us at their mercy, as we could not get at our firearms. But perhaps it might have been a lack of nerve to start any trouble at that time.

Not long after this father was at Louisville to get the mail and do some trading. He stopped at the post office, which was then kept by a cripple named John Daniels, who also ran a store. Father tied his horse and went inside, got his mail and was about to make his purchases when a stranger stepped in. "I'm looking for a man named Darnell," he said. Father came forward at once and said, "I'm the only one of the name around here that I

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know of. Guess I'm the one you are looking for." "Let's find a place to sit down. I've heard of you and want to have a talk with you." Father was a good talker and his companion was a fine conversationalist, and soon they were both enjoying each other's company. The forenoon slipped away before they realized it. "I want you to come over to the hotel and have dinner with me," said father's companion, "and we'll just send the horses over to the stable and get them fed." After dinner the conversation was resumed and they chatted away for the afternoon, when the stranger remarked that he would like to visit still longer. "Come out and stay over night with me. We can then talk as long as we wish." "I'll just do that," his companion said. All that evening, long after the youngsters had gone to bed, the men chatted, and after breakfast the next morning it was resumed, and continued until after dinner, when the stranger said, "Mr. Darnell, I must be getting back home. Before I go, I am going to tell you the real object of my chat and visit with you. I am Captain Hammond, and am stationed at Fort Riley. I have heard several times that there was a big rebel named Darnell down here on Rock creek, and I came down on purpose to investigate for myself. I have had a good long talk with you, and have enjoyed my visit and chats. The very next time any prowler molests you, shoot him deader than hell, and then report to Captain Hammond. If you are a rebel, then I am a rebel, too."

Father was never bothered from this time on. Captain Hammond strongly urged father to pull up stakes and move to the vicinity of Fort Riley, telling him that with a herd of good milk cows he could make a good thing of it supplying butter and milk to the garrison there.

Elections during the first year or two were held at the home of Charles Jenkins, about four miles distant from father's cabin.

Uriah Cook was appointed county treasurer of Pottawatomie county July 1, 1861, and the office of county treasurer was in his cabin for the first two years, and there the early settlers met to pay their taxes and transact the other business with the treasurer. Father was accounted one of the heaviest taxpayers of the community in early days, his taxes amounting around $10 yearly. George Wright, a well-to-do German, living in the vicinity of Louisville, one year lodged a complaint about his taxes which were $4, and which he considered a little exorbitant at that time.

During the first few years we were without a regular minister in the community. Rev. A. Millice, a minister of the South M. E. Church, was assigned a circuit beginning at Leavenworth and running west up the Kaw valley as far west as Randolph, thence along the east side of the Big Blue, and he covered this territory, making a round trip once in about every three weeks. he held Services in the Rock creek neighborhood at the cabin of Uriah Cook. This cabin was a one-room log structure about 14 by 14 feet in size, and housed Mr. Cook s family of five, besides the necessary furniture. Here the neighbors for several miles around met when there was preaching, everybody bringing something to eat and joining together in a regular oldfashioned picnic gathering. When preaching began, Rev. Millice took his place in one corner of the little cabin and the congregation crowded in to hear him. My father says the cabin was never full, as there was always room for one more! However, he says on many occasions during mild weather some

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of the men folks elected to remain outside near the door when they were able to get the benefit of the sermon. There was always plenty of singing at these gatherings, and father's strong tenor voice could always be heard as he did his share of singing. Going out to these services was an all-day affair as the journeys had to be made behind a yoke of oxen, and they always took their time.

"Rev. A. Millice spent a year or two among the Indians, and was at one time associated with Mr. L. B. Stateler among the Delawares. Rev. W. S. Woodward says: 'He was a Dutchman and a curiosity. He possessed a good intellect and fair preaching ability. He would have his audience convulsed with laughter one moment, and the next they would be in tears. While preaching once upon the power to keep evil thoughts from our minds he said: "I cannot keep the birds (pointing to the little songsters twittering among the trees) from flying over my head, but I can keep them from building nests in my hair." (At the same time rubbing his hand over his shining pate, on which there was not a single hair.) The people on Big Blue, where he traveled in later years and where he ended his labors on earth, April 8, 1859, loved to talk of his eccentricities, which were harmless. His ashes rest in a graveyard gently sloping toward the west, overlooking the waters of the Big Blue river, not far from the present town of Garrison, Kan. He was born in Shenandoah county, Virginia, and spent about twenty-five years in the itinerancy."' -- [From "Life of Rev. L. B. Stateler," by Rev. E. J. Stanley, pp. 134, 135.]

In 1855, the year my parents arrived on Rock creek, the timber was full of wild game. There were some deer, and I have heard reports of there being bear, though I never saw any. Wild turkey were plentiful, and we saw antelope occasionally. Wolves, bobcats, coyotes, wild pigeons, minks, beavers, otters, muskrats, coons and oppossums, ducks, geese and rabbits. I have seen the creeks literally alive with wild ducks, and their quacking was something awful. On one occasion I got four at one shot. Rabbits, squirrels and ducks were the most common forms of wild meat on our bill of fare. Father was a good rifle shot as well as an adept with the shotgun, and I soon became quite proficient in their use. One day I was roaming through the timber with the old shotgun, accompanied by our old family dog "Drum." Drum had flushed a small flock of wild turkeys and started in pursuit. One of the turkeys lit in a tree that stood on the edge of a hill a short distance north of our cabin. Stealing up to within shooting distance, I knelt down, rested the gun on my knee -- not yet being able to hold it from my shoulder. I took good aim and fired. A second or two later I was surprised as well as elated at seeing the turkey come tumbling down pell-mell to the ground. Dropping my gun where I stood, I rushed up to the tree to get my turkey, thinking how proud and surprised mother would be when I came marching in with my first one. When I reached the tree I was dumbfounded. There was no turkey there. I circled the tree several times in ever widening circles, finding nothing more than some good evidence that a turkey had been flopping around there quite recently, as the beaten down grass evidenced I had reached the end of my string, and was about ready to give up when old Drum arrived on the scene. He picked up the scent, started down the hill through the brush with me following as fast as I could make it. At the foot of the hill, about seventyfive yards distant from the tree where I had shot it, he located my turkey, which I soon got a firm hold on. I took it at once to the house and proudly

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presented it to mother. Wild turkeys were plentiful along the creek bottoms those days.

I went out buffalo hunting a few times with father. The last time we went was in the fall of 1861, I think. The plains Indians were troublesome at this time, and many war parties were out. Our party was on the headwaters of Cow creek, not far from Fort Zarah. While hunting we always left one of our party to guard the wagons on the last day of this hunt father was the one left in charge. During the day four Indians, one of whom could speak a little English, came up to the wagon and asked for food. Father showed them the dressed buffalo meat and told them to help themselves. The leader of the Indians said they did not want buffalo. They wanted something good -- sugar, coffee, and things of that sort. He then tried to force his way into our tent. A hunter's ax was fastened to the center pole of the tent, and father laid his hand on this ax. As he did so the other Indians got out their bows, and quick as a wink. he heard the bow strings come taut. The Indian who wanted to get in stood his ground for a few moments, then in a bitter tone said: "You damn mean man." A moment later they departed. They were part of a band of about twenty-five Indians who were camped in the sand hills a short distance away.

That day or that night this same band of Indians had a fight with a Kaw hunting party in which the Kaws were whipped, one of their chiefs being killed. The Kaws were happy in that they prevented their enemy from scalping the chief. When we broke camp and started for home we were on Farris' ranch. The Kaw Indians were encamped on this ranch also. We were headed for Salina.

That morning I saw four young Indian bucks come out into the road and gaze around. I wondered what they were thinking about. Presently one of them spied a big dog sitting on his haunches about a hundred yards away. Quick as a flash he slipped a blunt-pointed arrow into his bow, drew back and took a shot. The arrow hit the dog squarely at the root of the tail. With a howl, the dog made a quick get-away.

During the spring of 1857, Green Russell and brother, Oliver Russell, slaveholders of Georgia, arrived in the Rock creek neighborhood. From St. Louis they had come as far as Kansas City by steamboat, making the balance of the journey from there to Rock creek on foot. James and Robert Pierce, nephews, accompanied them. Green Russell and brother bought the Hall homestead from father. That winter Green returned to Georgia, and the Pierce boys purchased the farm. The Pike's Peak gold excitement started in 1858, and that spring Green Russell arrived from Georgia with a party of gold seekers who had set out from the south for the new gold diggings. They came at once to the Rock creek neighborhood, and having completed all arrangements, started for the mountains about the first of May. Among those in the Russell party were Green Russell, leader; Oliver Russell; Doctor Russell, who had but recently obtained his diploma as an M. D.; James and Robert Pierce, nephews; and Sam Bates, who came from Georgia, besides several others, whose names I have forgotten. Father was strongly urged to go, but did not care to risk it. Lebo Dodgion, a brother-in-law of father, now a resident of Grand Junction, Colo., said that John Russell, a son of Green, was with his father on this gold hunting venture, and that he was severely injured by a

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cave-in while engaged in mining. He started home on foot after the accident, and is said to have died shortly after reaching there.

All sorts of fairy tales were told of fabulous riches being found in the new diggings. Sam Bates was credited with having discovered some fine particles of gold in the bed of a small stream where he had stopped to wash his face. Rumor said he washed out about $13,000 worth of gold from this pool shortly after. But no other gold was ever found in that locality.

That fall Green Russell and Robert Pierce returned to the Rock Creek neighborhood, and stopped at father's. Pierce alighted from his horse and entering the cabin threw a buckskin sack on the table, saying to mother: "Aunt Lottie, see what I've got." Mother took hold of the sack which was well filled with gold-dust and found it was not so easily lifted.

Green Russell went on back to Georgia, returning to the mountains later. By the time the Civil War broke out he had accumulated another stake, said to have been about $40,000. With this he started back for his old home in Georgia, his route this time taking him close to the Mexican border. On this trip he was captured by soldiers who robbed him of his gold before turning him loose.

Russell's wife was one-sixteenth Cherokee, and it is said he finally settled among them, spending the declining years of his life sitting on the banks of streams fishing, finally dying from exposure.


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