KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


MORRIS COUNTY, Part 4

[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]

THE GREENWOOD TREATY.

Several years later, in 1862, renewed trouble arose on account if this Greenwood treaty. By the provisions of the treaty a commission was appointed to allot the lands to the several members of the Kaw Indians, giving to each forty acres. The land to be thus allotted was denominated the "Diminished Reserve," and upon this some white people had settled as early as 1856, and though they had been regularly warned off about every year since the Montgomery survey in 1857, they persisted in holding their claims. The admonitions and warnings of the Government were utterly disregarded, until finally the Government sent a company of soldiers to remove them. Knowing well the utter inutility of resisting United States troops, the settlers offered no further resistance, but quietly packed up their goods and departed from the Reservation. The following day the soldiers, also, took their departure, but they were not gone over twenty-four hours when the settlers all moved back on to their claims.

The Government finding that, in order to keep the settlers out of possession and to prevent a conflict between the whites and the Indians, it would be necessary to establish a military post, made a proposition to the settlers to pay them for their improvements, which was accepted, and thus the complications that arose over the Diminished Reservation were peacefully settled and amicably adjusted.

During 1861 and 1862 the population of the county remained about stationary, neither increasing nor diminishing, although the vote cast in 1862 was a little less than that of 1861, which, doubtless, can be accounted for by the fact of a number of the people going into the army. There is, probably, no county in the State that has experienced such trouble over the Indian lands within its boundary as has Morris County. They have been a perpetual drawback to the county almost to the present time, and frequently gave rise to difficulties that threatened serious results. Thus in 1862 we had the "Kaw Trust Lands" coming up as a bone of considerable contention. Under the Greenwood treaty, these lands to be advertised for sale and the bids were to be made under seal. The settlers having received, through a friend in Washington, a copy of the appraisement, bid in every instance the exact price fixed by the appraisers. Month after month passed by but still the settlers heard nothing from their bids. They called upon their representatives in Congress for information, but could receive no satisfactory answer.

While in this state of doubt and uncertainty as to the disposition of the lands, it was brought to their knowledge that some parties had overbid them a few cents on the acre, and such a storm of indignation broke forth that showed they were in no spirit to be tampered with. They demanded of their Senators and Representatives in Congress an explanation of the facts connected with the bids, but these gentlemen could not enlighten them. Through a friend in Washington they ascertained that one Robert Corwin, of Ohio, was the highest bidder for about seventy of the choicest claims, he having bid from one to ten cents an acre more than the settlers.

On learning this the wrath of the people knew no bounds, and they instantly made their case known to Hon. J. N. Lane, who was at that time United States Senator from Kansas, and to Hon. A. C. Wilder, who was then Representative in Congress. These gentlemen immediately addressed a communication, of which the following is a copy, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:

                              WASHINGTON CITY, D.C. 
                              March 7, 1863.
Sir: We have just been informed that the sealed bids for the Kaw Trust Lands have been opened, and develop the fact that the hardy actual settlers upon such lands are about to be robbed by a heartless speculator who has never been upon said lands. That said speculator, intending to filch from the settlers their homes and hard earnings, has overbid them a few cents on the acre in the expectation of obtaining the title to some seventy-five farms, proposing to sell the same to the settlers at an advanced price or drive them from their homes, many of whom are now in the army battling for their country.

In the name of these, our constituents, and as their representatives, we do solemnly pray you to accept the bids of the actual settlers and reject the bids of the heartless speculator, and if, in discharge of your official duty, this cannot be done, award the lands to the settlers at the advance price bid by the speculator, giving them a settlement time to signify their assent to the same. In behalf of the people of Kansas, and in the name of justice, we file this, our solemn protest, against permitting one acre of the land of the actual settlers going into the hands of the cormorant speculator, who has bid thereon, until the actual settler has had a fair opportunity to purchase the same. Yours truly,

                              J. N. LANE. 
                              A. C. WILDER.

HON. W. P. DALE
   Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 
     Washington, D.C.

In order to give better and more forcible expression to their indignation, a meeting of the settlers was held at Council Grove, on April 4, 1863, and in the preamble and resolutions adopted they pledged themselves to stand together as one man in favor of the settler. They resolved that any person, either at home or abroad, who attempted to rob a settler of his claim was no better than a robber, and should and would be treated as such. The Interior Department at Washington was strongly condemned and denounced. They resolved that the robberies committed upon the Government and the Indian by Corwin and others in building contracts were a disgrace to the nation; that they had reason to believe that Corwin received $20,000 from Stevens' contract for putting up buildings for the Indians; that they would defend their rights to their lands to the utmost extremity, and before yielding to heartless speculators and robbers they would destroy their improvements and would pursue any other course that would render the locality extremely disagreeable and uncomfortable for speculators or their agents. The people were thoroughly aroused and in earnest, and any effort to enforce the award to Corwin would surely have caused bloodshed. The opposition to the lands being awarded to Corwin was so great and promised to be productive of so much trouble that all the bids submitted for the "Trust Lands" were rejected, and on August 31, 1863, the lands were again advertised, and bids were to be received until October 5 following.

In 1860 and 1861, one Robert Stevens, who had previously entered into a large contract with the Government to build houses for the Indians, finished his contract, having erected in all one 150 stone houses, but as the old settlers of Morris County still characterized the job as a huge swindle, and as it has little bearing upon the history of the county, we will say nothing concerning it further than that after the houses were completed the Indians used them for stables and dwelt in their tents.

BORDER TROUBLES.

We now arrive at that period when events took place that not only startled the settlers of Morris County, but the people of the whole country, the year that ushered in the War of the Rebellion. After the commencement of hostilities between the North and the South, the people of the county were kept in a constant state of feverish excitement by perpetual threatened invasion from hostile Indians on the south and west, and by incursions of guerrillas and bushwhackers from Missouri, who, after committing all manner of violence in the eastern portion of the State, were working to the mountains and plains of New Mexico and Colorado where they could prey upon trains crossing the plains, and murder all the defenseless people who favored the Union. It was during one of the bushwhacking raids in 1862, by the gang known as Bill Anderson's, that Judge Baker, one of the most respected citizen of the county, and his brother-in-law, George Segur, were murdered at Baker's home on Rock Creek.

At the commencement of the war, the Anderson family, the male portion of which consisted of the old man and two sons, Bill and Jim, lived in Kansas and not a great way from Baker's. They were natives of Missouri, and had moved to Kansas in those ante bellum days when it was thought Kansas could be made a slave state by colonizing largely from the South. The people of the neighborhood looked upon the family as hard characters, and it was an open secret that they had committed several murders. To kill, steal, and plunder was their business, and they became quite a terror to the community. The breaking out of the war opened up to them grand opportunities for carrying on their hellish business, of which they were not slow to take advantage. About this time several other desperate characters joined them, and among them one Lee Griffin, and a notorious scoundrel, named Reed. They established their headquarters at Council Grove, and from this point would sally out and commit all manner of depredations, including murder, rape and horse-stealing. In one of these marauding excursions they stole two horses from Mr. Segur, who was father-in-law to Judge Baker.

On hearing of this, Baker, with several others, started in pursuit and overtook the party on the Santa Fe trail, some distance west of Council Grove. The horses were recovered, and Baker swore out a warrant of arrest against the Andersons. This coming to the knowledge of old man Anderson, he swore he would take Baker's life, and arming himself with a rifle, and with murderous intent, he went to Baker's house. Baker having been previously informed of Anderson's design, met him prepared, and before the latter could carry out his murderous purpose Baker shot him dead.

The following night the young Andersons, with Griffin and Reed, went to Baker's house, intent on killing him, and called him out, but Baker, apprehensive that something of the kind would occur, had secured a friend or two to stay with him, and when he made his appearance he did so fully prepared and determined to sell his life as dearly as possible. Finding themselves thwarted in their purpose to kill Baker that night, they retired to the brush where they lay concealed watching for an opportunity to dispatch their victim. After thus waiting for a week or two without finding the opportunity they sought, they departed for Missouri, the resort during the war of guerrillas, bushwhackers and cut-throats.

More than a month passed by without anything being heard of the Andersons and their gang, and a faint hope began to be entertained that they had seen the last of them in the neighborhood, when on the morning of the second day of July, 1862, the Andersons were discovered skulking in the vicinity of Baker's house. They had returned the evening previous, and with them was another villain, a stranger, unknown to anyone in the community. Learning of Baker's absence from home, the Anderson gang secreted themselves in the neighborhood, leaving the stranger to watch Baker's house and apprise them of his return. On the evening of July 3, Baker, with his wife, returned from Emporia, which fact was immediately communicated by the stranger to the Andersons.

At that time Baker kept a supply store near the Santa Fe trail, which stood about seven or eight rods from his house. The Andersons were not long in perfecting their plans. The stranger was sent to Baker's house, instructed to tell him that he was "boss" of a train that was camped a short way off, and that he desired to purchase some supplies. Baker never having seen the stranger before, and this being a usual occurrence, was entirely free from suspicion, but yet in those unsettled times when every man on the frontier went armed, he took the precaution to buckle on a pair of revolvers, and thus prepared, and accompanied by his brother-in-law, George Segur, he went with the stranger to the store. It was now well into evening, so that under the darkness the Andersons could station themselves close to the store without running much risk of detection.

Baker had just about finished putting up the stranger's order when the Andersons, with their partners in crime, rushed into the store and fired, wounding both Baker and Segur in the first discharge. Taken thus by surprise, and being outnumbered two to one, Baker and Segur in their wounded condition sought shelter in the cellar, where the murderers sought to follow them, but Baker, firing through the cellar door, wounded Jim Anderson in the leg, breaking his thigh bone. The Andersons then withdrew from the building and set fire to it. In the cellar Baker told his brother-in-law that he was mortally wounded and could not live long, and advised Segur to escape through the cellar window, which, after much difficulty, he succeeded in doing. While the store was being devoured by the flames, the desperadoes watched outside lest Baker should escape, and thus one of the most respected citizens of Morris County was burned to death in the cellar of his own store by this gang of cut-throats, after having been mortally wounded at their hands. Segur died from his wound on the following day. After finishing their hellish work in Morris County, the murderous gang returned to Missouri to ply their nefarious business of guerrilla warfare and bushwhacking.

Although Col. S. N. Wood had, by authority of the Secretary of War, and of the Governor of Kansas, organized the "Morris County Rangers" in the early part of the year 1863, guerrillas were not deterred from making plundering and murderous incursions into the country. Thus we find that on the 4th of May, 1863, Dick Yeager and his band of guerrillas encamped in the vicinity of Council Grove. No doubt his intention was to sack the town, but the people armed themselves and posted sentinels each night and frustrated his plans. After domineering over the citizens for some time with high hand, and using threats and insults, he withdrew with a portion of his band to Diamond Springs, where, without either ceremony or provocation, they shot and killed a citizen named Augustus Howell, and severely wounded his wife.

Another thing that tended to save Council Grove and its people from the ravages of Yeager, was the fact that Capt. Rowell, with a company of the Second Colorado Regiment, was stationed close to the town to guard the mails and Santa Fe trains. Throughout the year 1864, the people were kept constantly on the alert. Now it would be a guerrilla raid that would call them to arms, and now a visit from hostile Indians. Many were the depredations committed this year by marauding bands of both whites and Indians, but the people, knowing the insecurity of life and property in those harassing years, were always on the qui vive, and while the depredations perpetrated in the adjoining counties were quite serious, Morris County escaped with but few, and these were of a trifling character.

In the year 1867 occurred the lynching of one of the guerrillas, and the affair caused a great deal of excitement in Council Grove. In the fall of 1866 a man named McDowell came from Missouri and made Council Grove his stopping place. As was subsequently ascertained, McDowell, during the war was a guerrilla and bushwhacker, and when the war closed, having no desire to cultivate the arts of peace, became a desperado, and many are the dark deeds laid to his charge. Of these he boasted, and seemed to take pride in telling how many men he had killed in his time. People paid very little heed to his boasting at the time and set it all down to braggadocio. At that time one W. K. Pollard kept a livery stable in Council Grove, and one day McDowell went to the stable and hired a team for ostensible purpose of going to Junction City. As the sequel proved, in hiring the team he had no other object than to steal it. Not returning that day Pollard became suspicious and started after him next morning. On reaching Junction City he found that McDowell had gone farther, and was, by that time, probably out of the State. His next step was to procure a requisition from Gov. Crawford, after which he started in pursuit of the thief, and succeeded in overtaking him at Nebraska City, where he arrested him and brought him back to Council Grove. Here he had a preliminary examination and was held for trial at the District Court.

In all probability he would have been tried by ordinary process of law but for a little transaction that took place that changed the aspect of affairs. While McDowell was under confinement it so happened by some mysterious agency that the Deputy Sheriff of Shawnee County, one Cunningham, put in an appearance, and whatever freemasonry existed between McDowell and Cunningham will never be known, but certain it is that Cunningham secretly passed McDowell a revolver for the evident purpose of securing his escape by shooting the guard. Cunningham was detected in the act, however, and before McDowell had an opportunity of using it for any purpose it was taken from him. If ever Cunningham stood upon the brink of eternity it was then, for no sooner was it made known what he had done than he was surrounded by as an indignant and determined a set of men as ever cast a noose around the neck of a villain. He trembled with fear, and well he might, for he was facing a crowd of resolute men, never to be moved by threats, and, in his case, not easily moved by appeals for pity. The rope was prepared and certain doom seemed to await him, but through some mysterious and unaccountable agency, known only to the initiated, he was saved, but never will he be so near the grave again until he enters it, as he was upon that occasion. He immediately left town, nor did he stand upon the order of his going.

The more the people thought and talked of what had taken place, the more exasperated they became, and that same night a body of disgusted men surrounded the guard, seized McDowell and carried him to the center of the bridge that crosses the Neosho River at Council Grove. He begged and pleaded and screamed for mercy, but all his begging, pleading and screaming fell upon deaf ears, for he was about to taste of that kind of mercy that he, by his own boasting, had shown to his helpless victims when they appealed to him. A rope was brought, one end of which was fastened around his neck, after the fashion usually adopted in such cases, and the other was made secure to the railing of the bridge. Up he was lifted and over he was dropped, and there he was left dangling until the next morning when he was taken down and an inquest held on his body by J. T. Stevenson, a Justice of the Peace, and a verdict rendered according to the facts--death by strangulation.

A few days after this occurred, the whole community was thrown into considerable excitement by a rumor that a party of Quantrell's band and Bill Anderson's, to which McDowell had belonged, were on their way to wreak a terrible vengeance upon the people of Morris County, and Council Grove in particular. It turned out to be mere rumor, however, but the excitement was none the less for all that.

THE CHEYENNE OUTBREAK.

This occurred on the 3rd of June, 1868. Like a thunderbolt bursting from a clear sky, and without the least note of warning to indicate what was about to happen, four hundred Cheyennes burst upon the town all armed and painted for war. When the Indians reached the west end of the town, they divided their forces, one-half following along Elm Creek to the south of town while the other continued to march along Main Street. The people were taken completely by surprise, and could not surmise what the approach of so large a body of Indians, all painted, bedecked and mounted for war, meant, unless it was indiscriminate slaughter of the whites. Notwithstanding this assurance, the settlers, knowing the treacherous nature of the red men, were not altogether at ease and held themselves in readiness for whatever might happen. The Kaw tribe was at that time stationed about two and a half miles east from Council Grove, on Big John Creek, and the agent for the tribe was Major E. S. Stover.

The cause for the Cheyennes being on the war path may as well be stated here. During the year previous, the Kaws and Cheyennes lived at peace with each other, and visited the wigwams of each other in a friendly manner. Not far west from Council Grove both tribes herded their ponies within easy distance of each other and between the two.

              "All seemed as peaceful and as still 
              As the mist slumb'ring on yon hill."

The Cheyennes had about one hundred ponies in their herd, with eight or ten Indians to watch them, and the Kaws had about fifty ponies in their herd with only one of the tribe to watch them. From where the Kaws were at that time encamped, on the high land on the south side of Elm Creek, they could see anything that transpired on the plains where the ponies were being herded. One day the Kaw who was herding the ponies of his tribe saw several Cheyennes come toward where he was stationed, and thinking they were coming for no other purpose than to make a neighborly visit, and exchange a friendly pipe, he lay couched upon the grass awaiting their approach. Before the unsuspecting Kaw had an idea of what was going to happen, his spirit was sent to the happy hunting ground, and all the Kaw ponies driven off. The Cheyennes thought they were unobserved, but a party of Kaws had been watching their movements from the high ground where they were encamped. Their natural cunning told them not to drive the Kaw ponies directly to their own herd, and they therefore made a wide detour to the south and west, expecting thereby to reach their own camp, and at the same time, throw the Kaws off the trail.

This stratagem might have been successful had it not been for the observations taken from the camp. Comprehending at a glance the object and movement of the Cheyennes, the Kaws instantly mustered a party of their own warriors and intercepted the Cheyennes, whom they set upon and killed seven out of eight. The Kaws not only recovered their own ponies, but captured about forty of those belonging to the Cheyennes, and thus between ponies and scalps, they returned triumphantly to camp. They celebrated the affair by a war dance, at which many of the people from Council Grove and surrounding country were spectators. It was to avenge this act on the part of the Kaws that the Cheyennes appeared in the streets of Council Grove on the morning of June 3, 1868.

About two miles from Council Grove, on the east side of the Neosho River, was established the headquarters of the Kaw Agency, the agent, as already mentioned, being Major Stover. On hearing of the approach of the Cheyennes, the Kaws took up a position in the brush along the margin of Big John Creek. The Kaws were greatly inferior in numbers, but vastly superior in arms. The Cheyennes were mounted, while the Kaws were on foot.

As the Cheyennes approached, Major Stover rode out and met their chief; several of their braves between the two contending lines, and held a consultation with them in the interest of peace. Nothing would satisfy the Cheyennes but the scalps of seven Kaws and forty of their ponies, to which Major Stover would not listen.

While the consultation was being held, some of the more fiery and impetuous of the Indians exchanged shots. Among the Kaws was a brave who was looked upon as a kind of leader, named Bill Johnson, and when the firing commenced, Bill cried out, "Take care, Major Stover, you'll get hurt. Major Stover go away, you'll get hurt, I say." Nothing was accomplished by the parley between the Major and the Chief; the Cheyennes would be satisfied with nothing but the scalps and the ponies, and these being refused they determined to exterminate the Kaws.

The Major, finding his efforts to secure peace fruitless, returned to where the Kaws were posted in the brush, and it is said the first and only command he gave them was, "Give them h--l, boys." The Cheyennes were extremely wary about attacking, and the Kaws being dismounted and greatly inferior in numbers, were just as determined not to be drawn from their advantageous position. The Cheyennes would form in line out in the open ground, and then, facing to the right, would make a charge in Indian file, and when the head of the line would come within shooting distance of the Kaws, (they were mostly all armed with revolvers), the first man would fire and wheel to the left, and so on throughout the line, each warrior following his leader until they had formed quite an extended circle, and in this fashion they would ride and fire; always sure, as they approached the Kaws to throw themselves well over on the opposite sides of their ponies.

This kind of running fight was kept up for several hours, when the, fearing to attack the Kaws in their position, and being unable to draw them out into the open ground, retired from the field. The casualties were, three wounded, one of whom died the following day. There is good reason to believe that the Cheyennes had designs of perpetrating outrages upon the whites, because, instead of returning to camp, they moved up to the Solomon Valley, where they killed quite a number of settlers and committed other depredations.

[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]