In 1867 I was working for the Government at Fort Harker. Here I knew, personally, some of the prominent military men and noted scouts of this time, such as General Custer, Wild Bill, BuffaloBill and others.
Here I made the acquaintance of Lon Schermerhorn, chief clerk of the Suttler. Shermerhorn the same year came over toElkhorn Creek, where he took a homestead, which is now the Suelter farm, and opened a small store. A saw mill was located on the south side of the Saline River, east of Rocky Hill, directly south of what was called the Berry farm. The mill was owned by a man named Hyaat and the lumber it produced was hauled to Fort Harker for building purposes. About eighteen men were employed and I was hired to cook for them.
About that time I also took my claim on Bull-foot Creek, where for several years I had the whole creek to myself. Settlers came in and took claims, but as soon as Indians appeared they would pull up stakes and go--others would repeat the same thing.
After the work was finished at the saw-mill I bought two yoke of oxen through the Suttler at Fort Harker, paying $125 a yoke, and went in partnership with a man named Phil Lantz, who also had a yoke of cattle. Homesteaders were coming in and in order to hold their claims it was necessary to make certain improvements, and we got all the prairie breaking we could do at four dollars per acre.
Schermerhorn was a sort of headquarters, a stockade was there and the soldiers and government teams generally camped there when in our valley.
The Indians in those years became very troublesome, so much so in fact, that the government decided to build several stockades for the protection of the settlers on what was then frontier.
A General came over from Fort Harker to make arrangements for the building of the stockades, his name has slipped my memory (Gen. Alfred Sully). He gave the work in charge to a Lieutenant named Hale. One day I went over to Schermerhorns. Soldiers were camped there, both Cavalry and Infantry and a number of government teams. I was well acquainted with the wagon boss who told me I could get a job with my cattle and that the General had been at my house looking for me. I reported to him and was hired with our three yoke of cattle at eight dollars a day to drag logs up the bank of the creek. There logs were to be used in building the stockades.
The next day we started north. The soldiers and teams crossed the Saline river about the Thieman farm on a bridge of driftwood. The river was blockaded at this point for perhaps a quarter of a mile with driftwood, which the high water took out later. We went up the Saline and Spillman and the first stockade was built near the mouth of Bacon Creek. Logs were set in the ground two or three feet deep, with about ten feet above ground. The logs were set very close together and notches were cut in them for port holes. The enclosure was quite roomy with a log house inside. The work occupied about two weeks, and when finished we started for the Solomon to build another in the vicinity where Cawker City now stands.
The Lieutenant in command had overloaded my cattle with a heavy load of two-inch planks, and when we came up on the divide in the Blue Hills my cattle gave out and could not keep up with the command. I notified the Lieutenant, who then detailed me an escort of three men and gave me some rope to tie the cattle at night. So we stopped and went into camp. After supper and letting the cattle graze, we tied them to the wagon. In the morning we turned them loose again to graze while we got our breakfast. Suddenly we heard a thundering nose behind us, and here came a stampeded herd of buffalo directly toward us. My cattle took fright and with tails up away they went with the buffalo and there we were.
As luck would have it, some government teams came along during the day, on their way to the Solomon, and we sent word
of our loss to Lieutenant Hale. He sent back three six-mule teams to bring my load and wagon, a Sargeant, seven cavalrymen and a mule for myself to ride to help hunt the cattle. We went about three miles, and seeing nothing, it got tiresome. The men began to grumble and finally the Sargeant said he had not enlisted to hunt cattle so we turned and started for the camp on the Solomon. Now I had nothing to do but draw my ration, cook, eat and sit on the bank and watch the government mules dragging the logs up the creek bank that my cattle had formerly done. After about two week more the work was completed and we all went back to Fort Harker.
Major Inman was quartermaster. I went to him and presented my claim for lost cattle. The Major said, I have no right to pay you for those cattle. I was on good terms with Lieutenant Hale who helped me in presenting my claim. He told the Major the circumstances, that I was not to blame, that I was doing work according to his orders and that it was work I was not hired to do, etc. Finally the Major said to me, How much were your cattle worth. I told him $125 per yoke, or $375 for the three yoke. He turned to his clerk and said Figure the amount into days at eight dollars a day. I was given a voucher for the amount and in that way received payment for the lost cattle. I then went home. Some time later a secret service man called at my place and said that Major Inman wanted to see me. The lost cattle had been found and were held by a party in Manhattan, and he wanted me to go down and identify them. I proceeded to Fort Harker on horseback and there, my horse being tired, I was furnished a mule which I rode to Manhattan, a distance of eighty miles, where I identified two yoke of the cattle. I found them in the possession of a man who had traded a span of horses for them. I took charge of the cattle and drove them to Fort Harker and turned them over to Major Inman. The other yoke we never heard of.
Referring to the Indian raid of the Saline Valley in 1869, I will say that I was well acquainted with several of the victims who had made their home with me for several weeks prior to the massacre. Among them was a Mr. Weichel and his wife. By some people their name has been spelled Wetzel, but they, having lived at my home, I believe the name is correct the way I have given it.
In those days things happened that seem curious now; hardships were endured that deserve mention--some also had a comical side. One of these was a funeral procession that turned into a buffalo chase. An armed funeral procession would be something unheard of these days, but we did have such a one at that time. It was the funeral of Harrison Strange, one of the victims of the massacre that had just taken place (a full account is given in another chapter). The funeral procession had gone to the cemetery located on the Schermerhorn place south of the river. The body was lowered into the grave and the ceremony was over, when a buffalo was seen coming from the south. On account of Indians, people had been staying close to their homes and many were short of provisions. A number of the mourners carried guns and when the buffalo came up we gave chase, ran him north into the Saline River where he was killed and the meat divided among the people.
A funny episode happened at one time while we were on a buffalo hunt on Wolf Creek. There were five of us, one a German named Rudolph Stein, who was simpleminded in some things. Shortly after the raid he was nicknamed Crooked Powder. There are yet a few people in this country who remember him. While with us he did not pretend to hunt buffalo but was handy about the camp and helped to take care of the teams. We had crippled a buffalo a short distance from camp and now was Steins chance to get a shot. He got on a mule and with a revolver in his hand rode up to the buffalo and fired shot after shot at him without visible effect. Finally the buffalo got tired of it and charged upon his tormentor, but the mule would not budge an inch to save himself. To save himself Stein jumped off and ran. The mule now also took a notion to run and, being the faster, came in ahead while the buffalo was gaining on Stein at every jump, and had we not run in with our rifles and shot the buffalo down he would certainly have overtaken and killed him.
In those days game was very plentiful, especially buffalo. Settlers would sometimes catch the calves which were easily domesticated and would run them with their milk cows. Deer and elk were also found here, the latter quite numerous one year along the Bullfoot. Large numbers had been seen by the neighbors about a mile above my claim where the cows were having their young.
Going back to the time of the war, I recall an incident in which I came very near being one of the victims of the Quantrell massacre at Lawrence. I was near there on the fearful twenty-first day of August, 1863, belonging to Company K of the 11th Kansas. I was stationed at Independence, Missouri, at that time. On account of some urgent matters that needed my attention at home I asked my Captain, John M. Allen, for a furlough. He would not grant it. However, he got a furlough for himself and went home. The First Lieutenant of our Company, Maas by name, said he would recommend me to General Ewing for a 30-day furlough. Accordingly we went to the General, who granted my request. About that time our regiment was changed from Infantry to Cavalry. The horses were ready for distribution. I got an order for a horse and the next morning I saddled up and started for St. George, Pottawatomie County, by way of Lawrence, arriving at that place in the early evening.
Here I met a comrade of my Regiment from Company H, whose first name was Charlie, but his other name after these many years I have forgotten. His home was in Lecompton. He asked me to stay with him at Lawrence that night and the next morning we would travel together. I would have been glad to accept his invitation, but I had about seventy miles to travel the next day as I wished to get home that night. I told him so and told him I wanted to go out of town, if only a mile or two so as to get an early start the next morning. He urged me quite a bit to stay with him, but I stood by my resolution, and that is what probably saved my life. I went out of town and stopped at the first farmhouse I came to. The next morning the farmer was up ahead of me and told me that Quantrell was in Lawrence killing the people and destroying everything and we could plainly see the smoke of the burning town. I got home that night. When my furlough expired I returned to my regiment and then learned that my friend, Charley, had been killed in the Lawrence massacre that morning. Had I stayed with him no doubt I would have shared the same fate.
Going further back to the time when Kansas was yet a Territory, I will mention an incident where I was once favored and substantially benefited by General Lyon, the hero of Wilson Creek, while he was stationed at Fort Riley. In 1858 I was living with my wife and family at St. George, Pattawatomie County. A short distance north of us was the Military road
between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley. The time of the Pikes Peak excitement, a constant stream of people traveled west on that road toward the new discovered gold fields, in every conceivable conveyance, horses, mules, ox teams, even push carts, one man pulling the other pushing, hauling their belongings. Some of these men are now millionaires living in Denver. Those were hard years, we had very little land in cultivation, the seasons were dry; we raised little and were very poor. The year 1860 was especially a dry year, as the settlers of that period remember. I had planted potatoes in a favored spot and raised about forty bushel. My wife and I agreed that I haul them to Fort Riley, which was our nearest market, sell them, and with the proceeds buy things needed for winter. When I came to Fort Riley, General Lyon (he was only a Captain then) had just arrived from the west with his command. He came to my wagon and I offered him my potatoes. He looked at them and asked me if I had raised them. I told him I had. He then asked how much I wanted per bushel. I answered a dollar and a half. He said Take them around to the Commissary to have them measured, unload and bring me the number of bushels, and I will pay you for them.
I did as he said and while counting out the money to me he said that it was quite a snug sum of money for a load of potatoes. I then told him my circumstances, that this was all I did raise, that I had entered government land, but had yet to pay for it, and had no money. I couldnt even use this money as it was needed to buy clothing and other necessaries for myself and family for the coming winter. Lyon was a very kind hearted man who sympathized with us northern people, while many Army officers sympathized with the South. He said to me, As for clothing I may help you some. He went into another room and brought out several arms full of clothing and about a dozen pairs of boots. He sorted them into several arms full of clothing and about a dozen pairs of boots. He sorted them into several lots then said, These I will keep, you may have the others. I thanked him very much and went on my way rejoicing. We made good use of them and got along very well. When the war broke out Captain Lyon was made a General and many of my acquaintances and friends served under him, my own brother-in-law, Adam Reinoel, being one of them. He belonged to Captain Walkers Company First Kansas Volunteers. His service to his country was short but he gave all he had, his life. He fell the same day General Lyon did at the battle of Wilson Creek.
Biography of a Friend
Ferdinand Rehardt was born near Ludwigsburg, Wurtenberg, Germany, in 1829, came to Philadelphia in 1854 and to Kansas in 1858. In 1862 he enlisted in Senator Plumbs Regiment, the 11th Kansas, took part in the battles of Maysville, Cane Hill, Prairie Grove and Prices Raid. Early in the year 1865 the Regiment was ordered to the Indian country in the West. He was stationed at Platte Bridge, Wyoming, July 25, and was one of the twenty-five men sent to the relief of Sargeant Custard, who, while escoring a wagon train, was attacked by a large band of Indians. In the fight eight of the twenty-five men were killed and also nearly of Sargeant Custards men, twenty-one in number, not including the wounded. This is now on record, page 352 of Volume 8 Kansas Historical Collections. Mr. Erhardt is a member of the Lutheran Church south of town. To the question as to whether he ever killed any Indians, he admitted that he had, when closely pressed by a friend.
Fight At Platte Bridge
I enlisted in Company K, 11th Kansas Cavalry, at St. George, Pottawatomie County, in 1862, Captain John M. Allen.
Five wagons came up from Fort Laramie with orders to send a twenty-five-man escort with the wagons up to Sweet Water. They got up there all right and unloaded. On the way back about five miles from Platte Bridge they were attacked by Indians. They corraled the wagons to defend themselves. We heard the shooting and our Captain said, Our boys are attacked, we had better help them out. Twenty-five of us saddled up and went across the Platte Bridge as fast as our horses could carry us. We got about a mile from the Bridge when it looked like Indians came out of the ground everywhere. A Lieutenant from the 11th Ohio (Caspar Collins) was in command. His horse scared at the Indians and ran away with him and that was the last we ever heard of him alive.
I cannot tell today how we got scattered. The first thing I knew, I was alone with about 100 Indians after me. One of
them came close enough to strike at me with his tomahawk. I let my horse have the reins and I took my carbine and let him have it, and he fell from his horse. I made for the bridge, emptying my Spencer. After that I dropped my carbine in its sling and took my revolver, pointing it at the Indians to check them, discharging a few shots. I made three or four charges for the bridge but the Indians cut me off. They did not shoot, they tried to capture me alive. Another of our boys came up from another direction, the Indians ran for him, and I got on the bridge. They got eight of our twenty-five men. The others came in, Henry Grimm with one arrow in his back and another through his thigh.
The telegraph wires were cut, and we could get no word to the next station. We were in just as much danger in camp on account of not having any ammunition. Major Anderson hired some friendly Indians or half-breeds that were at the bridge tanning buffalo robes, to take word to the next station for help. We never were so glad as when relief came. One comrade, Sebastian Nehring, a Prussian about fifty years old, had a white beard and a bald head. We used to plague him, called him Papa, and tell him the Indians would never scalp him, but he was butchered up the worst of any. They cut his heart out, chopped it into small bits and sprinkled it all around him. They cut him up joint by joint and the body was stuck full of arrows. His legs were cut off at the knee joint and the stumps tied up to his body with telegraph wire. I had a good horse and he saved my life. I wanted to buy him from the government and would have paid a good price, but I could not get him. I always managed to stand guard at the Commissary, where I could get some corn for him when we were short of forage.
I will relate some incidents which happened about a week before the fight. The telegraph wire was cut, and six men were repairing it about a half mile from us. I think it was six miles below the Platte Bridge. One of the men was Henry C. Merwin, a young man 17 years old, being the lightest, and he was asked to get up the telegraph pole (a ladder being used). When he was about half way, he saw an Indian in a ravine close by (who with others, was concealed) taking aim at him with a rifle. Merwin pulled out his revolver and shot the Indian, killing him, and the rest of them ran. After the Chief was killed the
boys scalped him. Henry C. Merwin, who killed the Chief, was a son of a Minister and was enlisted from Lawrence, Kansas, in Company K, 11th Kansas. This Indian proved to be the biggest Chief of one of the tribes, and I believe it was on account of this that the massacre was intended. The Chiefs jacket was buckskin, decorated with beads of every color, and around the neck were scalp locks with seventeen different kinds of white womens and childrens hair fastened to it. Merwin was offered fifty dollars for the jacket but would not take it. The six men, including Merwin, belonged to our Company (K) and the last I knew of him was when we were mustered out at Fort Leavenworth.
The Indians frequently cut the telegraph wires near a ravine and concealed themselves nearby, and when the soldiers were repairing the wire they would make an attack with five men to our one.
Mr. Erhardt is one of those unpretentious kind-hearted folks of the early pioneers, generous to a fault, ever ready to help any one in need. In those early days many a settler made his temporary home with him while looking for a claim and making the necessary preparation for a home. He is one who is entitled to credit for doing his share toward the upbuilding of Lincoln County and the State of Kansas.
Mr. Ferdinand Erhardt died October 2, 1910, at the age of 81 years.
In 1884 the writer, with a companion was visiting at the home of Ferdinand Erhardt, two miles south of Lincoln. While we were conversing about the early days, Indian troubles, etc., he told us the following incident: Some time after he located on the homestead, in 1867, he accompanied by his dog, was looking for cattle near the south bluff on Bullfoot Creek when he noticed his dog dragging a human skull. Looking around, he found a cave in the rocky bank containing a number of Indian skeletons. When this find became known to the military authorities at Fort Harker, it created considerable curiosity among the officers; an ambulance was sent to the cave and some of the skeletons were gathered up and conveyed to the Post.
BATTLE BETWEEN PAWNEES AND POTTAWATOMIES
NOTE: For details of the battle see Indian Raids, by C. Bernhardt, Lincoln, Kansas.
Had we taken a photograph of this inscription at that time, it would have settled all dispute later as to the number, different settlers claimed to have seen it there, but neither of us was interested enough at the time to do so.
Some twenty years later, when Old Settlers Reunions were held, and people in general were taking interest in marking historic places, I brought the matter to the attention of Hon. George W. Martin, Secretary of the State Historical Society, who tried to get the story of the battle from the Pottawatomies themselves, but he did not succeed.
At that time I went to the Bullfoot valley with a Kodak intending to take a photograph, but to my surprise I could not find the cave. Brush and saplings of trees had grown up the past twenty years to such an extent as to change the looks of the banks along the bluff. After consulting Mr. Erhardt (who then lived in town) I made a second trip and found the cave, but the inscription was not to be seen. The elements, such, as rain and frost, had entirely obliterated the lettering. A number of people living in the neighborhood had seen the cave and inscription, and I found several who remembered seeing it, but as usual in such cases no two persons agree on the number. The number of Pawnees killed, as per inscription, was stated to have been from 9 to 16.
After annihilating their enemies on that day in 1863 the Pottawatomies left for their Reservation in the Eastern part of the state, going down the Saline valley, where they were seen by several settlers who remembered the occasion. Solomon Humbarger told me about seeing them at that time. He said, They stopped at my cabin and they had with them one dead and one wounded member of their tribe and told me about the battle. In 1906 while Secretary Martin was attending our Old Settlers Reunion at Lincoln, he, with a number of friends and local historians, went out to the Bullfoot valley to see the cave. On this occasion this picture was taken.
From all evidence we were able to obtain from oldtimers of four or five different sources, we have come to the conclusion that this unfortunate band of Pawnees came from their Reservation in Nebraska, and were going south on a horsestealing expedition, as they were in the habit of doing.
How they were met by the Pottawatomies and why the encounter took place is unknown.