William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


The oldest settlers in the Vermillion Valley say when they came there they found two families -- the head of one a Sioux half-breed named Louis Tremble, whose wife was a full-blooded Sioux. The other family consisted of a Frenchman named Changreau and his wife, a Sioux woman; her sister, a girl of fifteen, and numerous small children. Tremble built a bridge across the Vermillion, and charged the Western pilgrims toll for crossing. Changreau opened a farm of about fifteen acres, raising vegetables and produce, which found a ready sale to the travelers.

The Kansas, or Kaw Indians, as they are now commonly called, are a branch of the Sioux, as are also the Otoes, Omahas and Iowas. The country embracing all of northeastern Kansas was occupied by the Kaws, when in 1825, the Government opened negotiations with them for the purchase of a part of their territory. Between the Kaws ant the Sioux, the parent tribes, there was an implacable hatred. Whenever the bands of the two tribes met, no matter where, there was a war to the knife, and whoever was not killed, but captured, suffered death by torture the most cruel and devilish. "No Sioux or Kaw could meet each other and live." These two Sioux families were aware that they had located in the old territory of the Kaws, and that the residence of their perpetual foes was not far distant; but trusted to their neighbor Sioux for protection.

One spring day, while Changreau was in the field plowing, the house was suddenly surrounded by a band of mounted Indians, numbering a hundred or more. The women made an effort to conceal themselves, but failed. The Indians professed friendship, but helped themselves to everything that they fancied. After reckless pillage, the chief suddenly seized the young girl, bound her to his pony, and mounting, they all disappeared.

Changreau, who was at once notified by his frantic wife, of what had occurred, suspected who the visitors were, and knowing that a fate worse than death would await the helpless prisoner, made a most pressing and urgent appeal to his white neighbors to go with him to the rescue. A few responded, and John D. Wells, and a few others, started with Changreau and followed the trail for many hours, when fearing ambush, they turned back, with the exception for the Frenchman, who pushed on alone. Changreau followed the band for many days, until they camped on the Neosho River, near Council Grove. The Frenchman, who had kept himself concealed, saw that unusual preparations were being made and then knew that the worst was to come. But what could one man do against one hundred? He had followed without hope, in utter despair as to the accomplishment of any good so far as the captive was concerned.

Soon after the lodges were erected the Indians had a feast, which they devoured with unusual dispatch. Then the fires were relighted and made to burn with great brilliancy, lighting up the demoniacal group, and glaring in the darkness upon the distant and rounded hill slopes. At last Changreau saw an Indian, whom he had observed have his sister in his keeping, lead the helpless and devoted captive into the semicircle and bind her to a tree. The Frenchmen could witness no more. Mounting his pony he turned his face on the scene, and rode away in the darkness. He was soon miles and miles away, and all that night circled around the Indian camp, not seeing but knowing what was being transacted there. In the gray dawn of morning he rode back to the camp, and creeping almost among the lodges, saw seated by the warning camp fires, a row of Kaw hags, gibbering of what had happened, as they talked they pointed their bony fingers at a figure, rendered indistinct through the smoke and darkness, bound to a tree trunk. As it grew lighter he saw that his sister was dead -- her lifeless body covered with gore; whips and scourges lay at her feet, which showed that the girl had been whipped to death amid the war dances and battle orgies of the night. What he dreaded as the worst he now was sure of, and with his sad and fearful tale he returned to his family and hastened to move them to a place of greater safety.

Marshall County during the war was one of the border counties, and was several times the seat of panics arising from depredations committed by the Indians. Emigrants and ranchmen in the overland road were often driven in, as were also the new settlers, who had taken up claims west of Marshall County. At times apprehensions were felt that the Indians would extend their devastations to the older settlements, depleted as they were of able-bodied men, from enlistments in the army.

The first panic occurred in May, 1862, being occasioned by an Indian raid made into Washington County. In consequence, a detachment of recruits being raised at Marysville was sent out on a reconnaissance, but no Indians were seen.

The greatest panic was created in August, 1864, by a raid made by Indians on the Little Blue. On the 10th of August refugees from the scene of the massacre began to pour into Marysville. Teams with wagons filled with settlers, station-keepers and ranchmen, with their families, flowed into the town, each bringing stories of the outrageous murders and torture of men, women and children, and beseeching aid in recovering their captured friends. The militia companies were immediately mustered, and after making hasty preparations, left for the scene of trouble. One company under the command of Capt. Frank Schmidt and one in charge of Lieut. McCloskey were under march the day after the first intelligence arrived. They were also joined by a company from Vermillion, under Capt. James Kelley, and one from Irving, under Capt. T. S. Vaile. The Marshall County troops were under the command of Col. E. C. Manning. They were followed by a brigade expedition composed of portions of the Nemaha, Riley and Washington County regiments, under the command of Gen. Sherry of Seneca. Both expeditions, after traveling and seeing evidences of the Indian warfare, but meeting none, returned to their homes. Many of the refugees from the overland road and the counties west remained in Marshall County two or three weeks before returning to their homes.


Grasshoppers. -- The gryllus or grasshopper family made their appearance in Marshall County in great numbers, in August, 1867, and "destroyed every green thing." In August 1868, they re-appeared in untold millions, remained three days and departed, doing comparatively but little damage.

In the summer of 1874 the grasshoppers again appeared in the county and commenced their ravages on corn and other products, and soon everything was destroyed. The green foliage on the trees and bushes was next attacked, and was as soon stripped. After eating every green thing they departed for realms unknown. The county was self-supporting during the plague.

Cyclone. -- It is seldom that the historian is called upon to chronicle so sad and terrible an event as occurred in this part of the State, and in Marshall County in particular, three years ago. Many are the once happy homes that were rendered desolate and forsaken on that memorable occasion, by the most terrific of storms -- the cyclone.

On the morning of may 30, 1879, the sun rose in all its magnificence, shedding its beautiful rays over the broad and fertile prairies, of which this county may well be proud, and showing in every beam the gladsome tokens of a pleasant day. During the afternoon of the same day, an observer might notice a change in the atmosphere, the temperature being cooler by some thirty degrees, and also see that a few dark and angry-looking clouds appeared in the northwest, while now and then sharp electric flashes lit up the horizon, intermingled with heavy claps of thunder. In a short time a severe storm was raging throughout the southern portion of the county, carrying death and destruction before it in some localities, while in other sections leaving but the ordinary traces of a severe storm.

Waterville. -- It is undoubtedly a fact, that the destruction of property at this place was caused more by severe wind blowing from the west towards the cyclone proper, which was at that time raging in Irving, and not by any cyclonal vortex or whirlpool. Although no loss of life was occasioned by the storm, the destruction of property was very great. In the vicinity of the city, near the mouth of Coon Creek, and on the Little Blue River, considerable timber was destroyed, undoubtedly by whirlwinds, the largest of these being not more than twenty yards in circumference, and remaining in contact with the earth for but a short distance. In the vicinity of the city about twelve buildings were destroyed -- either wholly or partially -- occasioning a loss of about $2,000. In the city, the damage done was necessarily greater, not less than fifty structures being more or less damaged. The estimated loss of property was placed at from $3,000 to $4,000.

"By the peaceful silent river.
Where the waters flow forever,
     Like fancies of a dream
Strode the Storm King in his power.
In that sad and awful hour
     When death should reign supreme."
Irving. -- At this place the storm seemed to concentrate its demoniacal strength and vent it fury upon, where had been a few hours before one of the pleasantest little villages in the country. No tongue can tell nor pen portray the scene as the ruthless whirlwind swept its way through the devoted village. All was blackness, dispair and desolation. It heeded not the groans of strong men, the shrieks of frantic women, nor the heart-rending screams of innocent children, but continued its way unmindful of the misery and woe it left behind.

The air was filled with flying debris, while now and then a house would be lifted bodily from the ground and carried through the air intact, then be dashed down and broken into a thousand pieces; limbs and trunks of trees, wagons, farm machinery, huge foundation stones, bricks, lumber, animals and human bodies were hurled through the air like feathers. The heart-rending cries of the wounded and dying, mingled with the terrific roar of the remorseless element, made it a scene never to be forgotten.

The whirlwind was seen approaching the town from the west, between 5 and 6 o'clock P. M., and presented the appearance of an immense funnel-shaped cloud, moving at great velocity.

Before the terrified inhabitants had realized the amount of damage done a second storm burst upon them, and although smaller than its predecessor, was more furious and destructive to property. To add to the horror of the situation, a deluge of rain descended shortly after the wind had ceased its work.

Messengers were immediately dispatched to the surrounding towns for help, which soon arrived, and all through that dark and dreary night the melancholy task of gathering up the dead bodies and caring for the wounded was performed. Following is a list of the killed: Mrs. W. J. Williams, Mrs. Susan G. Buckmaster, Elizabeth Buckmaster, Alice Buckmaster, Laura Buckmaster, Celestia Buckmaster, Mrs. Emma Sheldon, Miss Fannie Swach, Mrs. Thomas Noark, Mrs. George Martin, Clinton Keeney, John Keeney, Mrs. Flora Keeney, Jacob Sabins. Number of wounded reported, thirty.

In Irving and vicinity about forty buildings were completely destroyed -- in some cases not enough timber being left to mark the site of the structure. Among the property destroyed in the village was the Presbyterian Church -- a large stone structure -- with the exception of the steeple, which was left intact; the public school building -- a brick structure -- from which school had been dismissed but an hour previous; a portion of Wetmore Institute building; and two spans were taken out of the iron bridge across the Blue River -- the approaches being left uninjured.

The burial services of most of the victims of the storm were held on the following Sunday, June 1. The occasion was an impressive one, rendered doubly so by the sad fate of the victims; the frantic outburst of grief displayed immediately after the storm, had given way to deep, quiet sorrow, which was visible in the tearless eyes and voiceless lips of the afflicted.

Frankfort. Here the storm was very destructive to both life and property. An eye-witness of the storm, after acknowledging his utter inability to adequately describe the fearful spectacle, says: "At first there were cloudy pillars resembling smoke, afterwards assuming an inky blackness, all rolling, dashing and clashing with each other as if engaged in a furious battle, and to battle they were mustered, and onward and upward they rolled with a deafening roar, mowing everything down before them, scattering death and destruction in their course. The storm clouds were a grand scene to behold, but their work is fearful to contemplate."

To sum up, five persons were killed as follows: James Downs, Mrs. James Downs, John Howe, Mrs. Henry Johnson, _______ Grove. About fifty were wounded -- some seriously, and property destroyed to the amount of $150,000.

At Blue Rapids and Vermillion the damage done was slight, compared to other localities and no one injured.

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]