KanColl Books


Indian Alliance

     Yes, marriage was very definitely in the offing. Before Charles Rath, who was twenty-four years old, took the plunge, however, he may have talked with William Bent. He has been quoted as saying there Were two ways to get on With the Indians-sell them liquor or marry into the tribe. He himself had chosen the latter, marrying Owl Woman first and after her death there was the sister Yellow Woman. So the young Rath's eye Was "peeled out" for Making-Out-Road, Whose name, Without doubt, he quickly shortened to plain Roadmaker.

     In her younger days Roadmaker had been vivacious and beautiful, turning many a man's head at Bent's Fort and an Indian brave's as well. While this is dipping considerably into the future and going far ahead with the story, this fact may be something to mention here - Charles Rath named their only child Who was born in August, 1861, [1] near Bent's Fort, Cheyenne Belle, probaby for two reasons. Because of Roadmaker's popularity she had been designated the Belle of the Cheyenne, partly for another reason for Roadmaker belonged to the Little Bear group or clan.

     Mrs. Hattie Crump, Calumet, Oklahoma, granddaughter of Roadmaker and daughter of Cheyenne Belle, says, "The sacred arrows belonged in mama's clan, the Little Bear group or tribe, and the Women and girls had to go bathe in the early morning, to jump in the body of water. Even when the water was frozen over they would break the ice and jump in. They had to do it because they were the family of the keepers of the four sacred arrows. They would leap from the Water, Wrap a buffalo robe around them and dash back to the lodge." And she Went on further to explain, "The Indians always camped by a body of water."

     William Bent's wife Owl Woman also belonged to the tribe that had charge of the four sacred arrows which had been brought to the Cheyenne in the beginning of time by Sweet Medicine. Ac cording to family history and records John H. Seger obtained when Cheyenne Belle was entered at Darlington school, Roadmaker was a sister of William Bent's wife, [2] a fact not commonly known to historians.

1. Geary-Times News. May 5, 1939. probably correct; however records at Concho, Okla., give Aug. 1863.
2. Family history but a fact not commonly known to historians.* *As is the way with Indians, some have said she was a sister of William Bent's two wives, Owl Woman and Yellow Woman, which seems to be given the most credence with the relatives; others have said she was a cousin of the two women.


     The write-up in the Geary Times-Journal at the time of Cheyenne Belle's funeral, May 5, 1939, states, "Her father, Charles Raff (Rath), was associated with Col. Wm. Bent in trading with the Indians and later was a licensed Indian trader. Her mother was a Cheyenne woman who was a sister of Col. Bent's wife." According to information, chiefly from the Indian relatives, twenty-four year-old Charles Rath brought rich gifts to lay before the door of the lodge where Roadmaker lived. It was an honor for a family to sell a daughter. The gifts were duly accepted by a male relative and that one may well have been Man-Walkingon-a-Cloud. Undoubtedly Roadmaker was much older than her husband for she already had been three times married, and a Cheyenne maid seldom married until she was in her middle twenties.

     Cheyenne requirements for marriage were pretty stiff. A man must have killed a buffalo with one arrow to prove that he was old enough to keep a wife, then cut up the meat; only after that did the Cheyenne oldsters figure he could keep a wife. The woman had to be able to cut the meat in great thin slices to be hung on racks to dry. Later over a fire turned to coals, stakes would be put up and the meat toasted above it, on one side and then the other; however, sometimes the woman boiled the meat instead of toasting it. All this to prove she was ready for marriage.

     Roadmaker's first marriage to Kit Carson lasted little better than a year, a time of violent quarrels. [3] Carson claimed she was spoiled and wanted too many "fafurraws." When they lost their only child shortly after its birth, Kit found himself, his daughter Adaline by his Arrapaho wife "Wa-nibe," and all their belongings pitched from the tent on a day when he returned from a trip. Shortly thereafter Roadmaker married Flat Head, then Wolf Man, both Cheyenne and both divorced Indian style. [4] It is not recorded how she got along with these two husbands but probably none too well, for the divorces in short order should tell their own story.

     No doubt Charles Rath had seen Roadmaker often at Bent's Fort and certainly more often after he took up his abode among the Cheyenne. She had four children, twin boys, a girl, and an other boy, for by Indian custom the mother kept the children after a divorce.

     If Charles Rath wanted help in getting along with the Cheyenne, he chose the right woman. Her name, Roadmaker, original Making-Out-Roads, did not mean "laying out roads or paths" as many historians have stated. Neatha Seger said, "Her name meant "laid down the law" as many a man had ample reason to

3. Kit Carson by Stanley Vestal; letter to author from Mrs. Caroline Bent Taylor.
4. Records at Concho, Okla.


learn throughout her lifetime. And he went on to state, "Nobody pushed Roadmaker around." [5]

     Mr. Seger also stated, "I remember her and know she was in a way, at least, outstanding in some respects. She was a very determined woman, was able to put Belle's husband in his place When he got too rough acting with his mother-in-law. My mother spoke of an instance or two that I remember. I do not think she was especially more beautiful than other Cheyenne women."

     Of course, talking with William Bent about the coming marriage, Charles Rath most certainly knew what his obligations would be and accepted them. When he married into the Little Bear Tribe, he not only was responsible for his immediate family but his wife's as well. And in a way he was supposed to look after the welfare of the whole tribe to which the wife belonged, often advising and counseling them and mostly seeing that there was food for everyone. In fact according to the Indian's way of thinking, all white men had a very great abundance of this world's goods.

     It is quite possible the first request Roadmaker made after her marriage was for white canvas to make a bed-set. It was a good luck charm, supposed to bring harmony and happiness into the home; in fact, a bed-set was something very precious to the women for not everybody had the set because they could not afford one. Most certainly Roadmaker would have felt that Charles Rath could pay for it. To make one, there would be required a white canvas bedspread and a piece full-length that hung on the wall on the side of the bed, beaded according to the directions of a head woman. They used white canvas and always had the woman who directed the marking of it to come in. Rows would be so many inches apart. She marked it and prayed over it.

     Under the canvas would be the presents they wanted to give for it, mocassins, blanket, dress goods, whatever they wanted to give. No one was supposed to make one without this woman's instructions for others would bring bad luck. The Indians were very sure of its charm, also of its curse if made without the head woman's instructions. Mrs. Gordon Crump reports that her husband, thinking to please her, bought an Indian made bed-set at a sale. She began having backache and severe headaches. She told her mother, Cheyenne Belle, about her ailments, backache and headache.

     Belle, ever a gentle soul said, "The bed-set was made without the blessing. It brings bad luck. I did not want to tell you." The story goes, when the daughter got rid of the bed-set, the headaches and backaches went with it. One may be sure the one Roadmaker had was made with the blessing.

     Perhaps nothing was said in the beginning about making a

6. Neatha H. Seger, Geary, Okla., in conversation with author.


home elsewhere than among the Cheyenne for Rath was a member of the tribe by adoption. In fact, Roadmaker listed Charles Rath as Cheyenne instead of white in the Darlington records. When the matter came up later as it was bound to do, Roadmaker must have chosen to remain with her people, the Cheyenne. After all she had the four children and her decision may have been a wise choice. However it may have been, Charles Rath must have left shortly after he moved into the lodge, thereby establishing a pattern that was to be carried out during his entire lifetime, being away for long periods of time, while a wife was left behind to worry about his return.

     Perhaps he did not know that the ranch near the present site of Ellinwood would be headquarters for him in Kansas, when he left the Cheyenne camp to resume freighting. It was probably before 1858 that he took over this farm. By 1859, Daniel H. Jones Was managing it for him. He had come from Ringold, Iowa, and found his first employment with Rath. Charles Rath speaks of this other ranch in his second deposition in the Indian depredation case of 1864, saying, "At Great Bend, at their station or branch, and also at the station above," which undoubtedly refers to the ranch Dan Jones managed for him.

     So he still had this ranch long after he took over the business on the Walnut which W. H. West managed in the beginning for him, coming from the ranch near Ellinwood. Harvey West, as he was called, and Dan Jones had often accompanied Charles Rath on trading trips among the Indians. Here on the Walnut, as in his later business ventures, Charles Rath always had a trusted friend in charge for he looked after the buying and wagon trains as well as other business. He was never a man to be tied down in a store, but free to come and go as dictated by his idea of what he should be doing and where he should be going. We hear of him often in other places.

     Homer H. Kidder, Great Bend, Kansas, reported that when he came from Michigan in the middle of the summer, 1863, he was taking in the sights of Kansas City when he met William Bent and Kit Carson. [6] They were preparing to take a trip west and offered to take him along. Knowing he would never have a better chance to see the West, he gladly accepted their offer. when they were ready to leave, besides the other two men, Charlie Rath was along. They went up the river to Leavenworth. While he does not state the mode of transportation, it was wagon trains, Bent's and Rath's. Quite likely Kit Carson was with Bent. At Leavenworth, they joined up with a mule train of about ten wagons and because he makes a point of the mules, Bent and Rath probably had ox trains.

6. Biography of Barton County.


     Their route was by way of Topeka, then a small town. From Council Grove, the party reached the mouth of the Walnut in September, about an hour before sunset, and went into camp being about one hundred miles from the nearest white settlement. In the fifties and early sixties the Indians were mostly friendly with the Wwites. They would be especially friendly with such well-known men as William Bent and Kit Carson and Charles Rath, among the train personnel. Indian lodges dotted the prairies here and there and herds of ponies grazed nearby. A great number of the Indians rode into camp and dismounted. After shaking hands all the way around and greeting, in their soft-spoken tongue, "Hou, hou," they all sat down. Then the white men and the Indians all smoked the pipe of peace. After spending an hour or so in conversation, they all lay down on the ground to sleep.

     This camp was probably as close to Rath's trading post as a Wagon train would come for oxen needed grazing land. The chances are that the Bent train had crossed the Walnut before camping as that was customary, the wagon master thinking that if the creek would come up in the night they could still go on their way, otherwise they would be delayed. If that was the case Charles Rath had stopped off at his own place; if not, he had driven on to it for there were still daylight hours. He was never one to stop until he got where he was going. Homer H. Kidder then said that after a few weeks, while they traded with the Indians, he went on to Fort Larned and hired as clerk in the quartermaster's office for the winter. It was a bitter winter with a long spell of intensely cold weather and considerable snow. Many freighters lost their cattle by freezing and stampeding and several bull-whackers froze. In truth hardships Were more common than otherwise.

     In the spring he had resigned the clerkship and returned to Walnut Creek Where he built a ranch that served as home for his years on the frontier. He had built near the creek to be near water. In those days, Walnut Creek was a very deep creek with very high banks and there was a ravine that cut into the bank, also very deep. He cut the sod for his home with an axe. While his ranch home must have been neighborly close to Rath's Ranch, he and Charles Rath never knew the close friendship Rath had with many other men.

     Early spring, 1864, Mr. Kidder says the Indians were about to break out, also that Fort Larned to which the settlers looked for protection was a small adobe fort. In the beginning, 1859, the fort Was called Camp Alert and was then located right across the timbered ravine northeast of where the workmen Were building the real fort. Probably the next spring, the name sas changed to Fort Larned.


     It was considered the most important post on the Santa Fe Trail. As there was great unrest among the Indians, even then, soldiers stationed at the fort escorted the mail and patrolled a region of the plains notorious for Indian killings and plundered wagon trains. It was here that Jesse Crane got the original appointment for the sutler's post in 1859.

     He had clerked for Bob Wilson, original sutler at Fort Riley and secured his appointment that way. Crane had come With his parents to the new town of Topeka in 1855. No record is left telling how or when Jesse Crane and Charles Rath first met, maybe Topeka, most likely at Fort Riley. However that may be, the two men became fast friends and their friendship endured to the end of their lives. While Theodore Weichselbaum, who settled at Wabaunsee, speaks warmly of Charles Rath, saying, "He was a nice fellow," their friendship never seemed to get beyond the point of just being friends. All this seems strange but the fact stands, they were never the staunch and lasting friends that Jesse Crane and Rath were. Most certainly he had met up with Robert M. Wright, the man who was to be his partner in many a store venture, both very dear friends, for Wright had come into the country in 1859. [7]

     He had a ranch at Spring Bottom, 20 miles north of the Point of Rocks until the summer of 1864. After the Indians cleaned him out, he moved to Fort Aubrey and had a fine ranch there. Later both moved to Dodge City in 1872 to start the Charles Rath Mercantile Company store, taking in with them, Wright's old-time partner in many a venture, A. J. Anthony.

     At his ranch on the Walnut, Charles Rath, if such could be possible, seems to have branched out in a number of other ventures, more so than at any other time. Here as at all his stores and ranches, he had placed a trusted friend in charge. If Harvey West was not there right in the beginning he was there shortly and took full charge. Rath trusted him implicitly. He went about seeing that his freight wagons were kept going, getting contracts here and there, probably the greater portion of the freight was hauled between Fort Hays and Fort Riley. He made frequent buying and selling trips to Kansas City, others for lesser items to Council Grove. At the ranch beside Harvey West, Rath had one man whose sole duty was to look after the stock and ranch in general as well as helping to care for the exchange horses for the stage.

     Just how often he went on trading trips with the Indians is not known but there seemed to be Special times for going. Between freighting trips, he and his brother Chris would go on an

7. Cowboy Capital.


Indian trading trip, neither going together, but each having his own outfit. In a letter from Walnut Creek Plain, September 8, 1863, to S. N. Wood, Rath writes, "You have mentioned that you wanted tow black spotet pownees there will be no chance for eny just now the Indians have all left here and it is too soon to go to their camps to trad but after while when I go trading with them I will git you a pair if possible." [8] And he adds that "I will be down in about a month or five weeks." That meant to Fort Larned.

     However he and his brother Chris must have gone trading with the Indians at all the proper times, with headquarters at Rath's Ranch which was now known far and wide. And about this time, Charles Rath was becoming known as a man of great affluence, having accumulated quite a start in life.

     He never liked to stay put, was always on the go, never complaining of times or stations; rather, in fact, giving his place of abode a boost instead. A number of relatives said, "Uncle Charles talked so much about the West and expansion that our parents were always commenting, arriving at the opinion, he was sure a restless spirit."

     Along in 1862, Caroline Rath came to Kansas to visit her brothers, Charles and Chris. She must have had as restless a spirit as the relatives declared Charles had, to have brought her to the plains at this early date. Without doubt, Charles must have met her at Council Grove and he may not have brought her on to his ranch. And who knows he may have been the one who introduced her to Joseph H. Morrison, the man she married a year later. After her marriage, the couple lived in Council Grove for a year, in Americus for a short time, and later settled at Osage City. But sooner or later, this brave girl would travel on to her brother's ranch.

     The trading post, stage-stop, lodging house, and restaurant, all housed in one building, lay on the north bank of Walnut Creek Where it emptied into the Arkansas River. It was said one could stand in the doorway and cast a stone into either stream.

     A description of what the building at the ranch finally came to be is recorded in "Ruins of Old Fort Zarah."

On section 36 Township 19 South, Range 133 West, about 100 rods south of the southeast corner, near where the old Toll Bridge crossed the Walnut, appears the most formidable ruins of any. At first sight, there would seem to have been a fort there once; but it must be

8. Letters from the Manuscripts Division of Kansas state Historical Society, and General Services Administration, Washington, D. C.. stating, "S. G. Colley was the agent for the Upper Arkansas Agency in 1863, located at Fort Wise and Fort Lyon in the Colorado Territory in that year; Mr. John W. Wright served the Bureau of Indian Affairs in several capacities in the Colorado Territory, including the fulfilling of contracts to provide goods for the Caddo Indians and to survey the boundaries of the lands occupied by several tribes of Indians in the area. Mr. Wright visited Washington during August, 1863, returning to Fort Lyon the following month. It is possible that he discussed the matter of Mr. Rath's application with Commissioner of Indian Affairs William P. Dole during his visit. This would account for the absence of any written correspondence on the subject."


remembered that in those days herdsmen were obliged to build for defense. Besides the oldest inhabitant, H. H. Kidder, assures us that there never was a fort there, only a ranch. The main building is 70 feet long north and south, by 30 feet across. A cross wall divides it into two rooms - the north one 30 feet square, the south one 30 x 40. There are still some very heavy rocks in the foundation of the walls though most of the material of which the walls were composed has long since been carried off. The debris is still eighteen inches to 2 feet high. Attached to the southeast corner appears to be a hexagonal ruin of earth and rock, each of the sides being twelve feet long. On the West side of the building are earthworks, about 60 x 80 yards, with various cross works and walls. These were the walls of the corral which was divided into apartments. The present owner of the ground has some field crop growing over the ruins; but it seems like farming under difficulties for the soil is not so rich and damp as ordinary prairie soil.

     Of course all this was not there in the beginning. But with what he had to begin with Charles Rath began stocking the ranch with horses and mules he got in Indian trade, and he probably had oxen too. He may also have taken in lame oxen from wagon trains going through, getting extra money in that way, for he had a fair price for the oxen he sold and the money he could get from the lame one when it had rested up and was again able to travel.

     There was a trait of the now influential man of the West that seems hard to understand - he hired practically everything done. This was rather inconsistent and not what one Would expect of the man in the West. Apparently, though, he knew nothing of building or work of that kind. Much later, his Wife at the time, Carrie Rath, Was wont to say to their son Robert, "You are just like your father. He couldn't drive a nail straight if his life depended on it." As a boy on his father's farm, he had been accustomed to manual labor but apparently turned his back upon it. Again, it is not easy to see his point of view for, of his own free will, he had chosen a life of hardship on the plains. His attitude didn't seem to make sense but he always had the "wherewith" to pay his men so fortune was kind to him. He would serve as teamster for his own freight Wagons as late as the last of the fifties, although no Word has been handed down that he ever used the great bull whips that Were made mostly by the colored slave men, who became very proficient at the task. It is said W. Zere Hickman as a boy had Watched the slaves making the whips, so was able to repair them. In later years, he was a most Welcome addition to any wagon train because of this knowledge. However, during these days, Rath's brother Chris Was generally along, strong as an ox and as prac tical as any farm hand should be, ready and Willing to find a way to handle any emergency that might arise.

     Always after those early days, Charles Rath had a fine saddle horse, the best that money could buy. He had a passionate fondness for fleet-footed horses and he sat in the saddle proudly. In later years, he accompanied his trains in great style, often being far ahead acting as a scout and shooting game for the larder. Perhaps he was the last man to leave when freight had been delivered unless he already had a contract for other hauls.

     He hired white men as teamsters and helpers, always men he trusted and was willing to call a friend. And it is said that he paid them well, always the going wage and oftentimes more, so men liked to work for Charles Rath; also because they knew he was a kind and patient man, always understanding when difficulties or delays occurred. And he was a gentle man, even as his father, with a tender heart for man and beast, and he had a great love for children. As one might suppose he liked law and order.

     Charles Rath Was one of twelve men Who banded together to hold an election at Beach Valley, Peketon County, Kansas Territory, November 6, 1860. "Beach Valley" was the crossing of the old Santa Fe Trail over Cow Creek, four miles West and one south of the present town of Lyons, Kansas, probably named for a Mr. Beach who ran a trading post, along with "Buffalo Bill" Mathewson, at that place. Little is known of the origin of "Peketon" as a name for the county which at that time extended West as far as the Colorado line. [9] S. N. Wood wrote to Ed. Downer January 15, 1878, saying that Peketon County Was so named at the request of A. Beach and his son, Dr. A. J. Beach, surgeon of the 9th Kansas. Why the two men selected the name seems to be a matter of guesswork. There is no assurance that all of the twelve men lived at Beach Valley, the Cow Creek crossing. Charles Rath lived at his ranch on the mouth of the Walnut. His brother Chris Was either there or away on a freighting trip. And at both of his ranches, Rath Would have had his regular help but none of the names sound as though they were his hired help. As was often done in those early days, men traveling through may have been enlisted as voters. However that may have been, the following officials were elected in Peketon County, With A. J. Beach, William Mathewson, and R. Odell, serving as judges and William J. Mason signing the list as in the capacity of clerk

     For the legislature, S. N. Wood; County Commissioners, H. Bickford, A. J. Beach, George M. Gordon; county assessor, Hubble; Probate Judge,W. D. Wheeler; County Clerk, Robert Odell (prob ably a colored man) ; Sheriff, Wm. J. Mason; Treasurer, Wm. N. Edwards; Justice of the Peace, Chauncey Jones; Constable, Charles Rath.

9. KSHC 12:463 note 33; The Story of Early Rice County. Horace Jones.


Gordon and Mason received eleven votes each -the others the full dozen. If the election seemed easy, getting a license for trading with the Indians took a bit of a busy man's time and was also a worry until it was granted, according to the following quote from a letter.

Walnut Creek Plains, Kansas, July 28th 63
Mr. S. N. Wood
Dr. Ser.
I have seen maj. Colly indian agt. about my lisence, he tells me that he ded not intend to refuse my lisence at all that he had sent to Washington to the commissioner of indian afares to git them approved of wich is his duety to do, before he can issue lisence to any one, and as soon as the aplications will return from there, he will emiediatly give me lisence without eny more hasitation, he has gave me a written premitt to trad on till that time, so there will be no use of Mr. Write saying eny thing about it at Washington, maj. Colly tells me that he told Mr. Write that he would ess me the lisence as soon as he could git the bond approved of by the commissioner.
I will be down in a short time and satisfy you for the troble wich you have ben to but I wish you could inform Mr. Write of this before he goes to eny troble about it at Washington.
Very respectfully Your obt. svt.

Again September 8,1863, Charles Rath wrote S. N. Wood Esq. [10]

Dr. Sr.
I received your letter by the last mail. About Mr. Wright he has been here a few days ago with Col. Leavenworth but he never told me his name nor eny thing els never mentioned any thing about the lisence to me they was in a grand hurry came here in the evening and left in the early morning I intended to speak to him about it but I had no chance.
Yours Respectfully

The two letters show how Charles Rath was improving in his studies. And it will be interesting to learn how he comes out with his Indian license.

10. See note 8, preceding.

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