KanColl Books


by Adolph Roenigk

An Account of a Massacre of Pawnee Indians by Soldiers and
Settlers; Indians Were Not Always the Agressors.

     In the settlement of our state a half century ago, many glaring accounts were reported in our newspapers, dwelling on the depredations and atrocities committed by Indians, most of which were true, but seldom, if ever, a line appeared about the white man being to blame. The following story will show that the Indians were not always the aggressors; in fact, there are authorities who claim the white man was more often to blame than the savages.
     The Mulberry Scrap happened so long ago no one seemed to know anything about it. It was considered a myth, like many other tales, when upon investigation we find there is nothing to them. But when Miss Elizabeth N. Barr undertook to write the history of Lincoln County, she interviewed a Mr. Richard Clark, a man nearly eighty years old, one of the participants of this affair who gave her the account which I hereby copy.

NOTE:  John Alverson was born about 1840, and with his parents came to Salina, Kansas, in 1858. We, with his father , hunted along the Smoky and Saline Rivers, often camped with Indians and conversed with them. He was quite intimate with the Kaw Indians, who often came to Salina. Both he and his father knew the country to the west well. Alverson Sr. was engaged in surveying the Butterfield Overland Stage Route from Salina to Denver in 1864.
     Father and son made many trips in winter time when fur was prime, poisoning wolves and taking their pelts. many interesting episodes transpired during these trips, and we will here relate one which he told during a conversation.
     “On one occasion,” he said, “while out on the western prairie in the vicinity of Ellis County, we had killed a buffalo, and were taking off the hide and getting some meat, when a number of wolves gathered around. They were very tame, no doubt hungry, and were sitting up on their haunches like dogs looking on, waiting for us to leave. I took my rifle, “ said John, “to kill some of them when my father stopped me saying, ‘Don’t scare them away, in the morning we will gather their pelts,’ so we did. After taking the meat we wanted for ourselves, we put strychnine in the meat all over the carcass and the next morning we gathered over fifty dead wolves. We had so much work taking off the pelts that we made no search for those in the distance. Many were strewn all over this neighborhood which we did not take time to gather.”
NOTE:  Eli Ziegler had been a scout in the command of Colonel Forsythe who fought the battle of Beecher Island only five months prior to this. He was a veteran, although he was only 19 years old. There were also several other men among the party of settlers who pursued these Indians, who, like Ziegler, had fought with Forsythe at Beecher Island. It may be said, on account of the suffering and hardships endured, they had an intense hatred of Indians, and it seems, whether peaceable or hostile, to them they all looked alike.


    “The Mulberry Scrap is the name of an encounter which occurred the 2nd of February, 1869, on the Mulberry, between the Indians on one side and some Lincoln County settlers and soldiers on the other. Of course, the Indians got the worst of it, as usual, and this is how it happened.
    “A band of about a score of Pawnees were coming through the neighborhood, and stopping at Tom Skinner’s home, compelled Mrs. Skinner to cook for them.
     When the settlers heard of this they gathered together to see what had best be done. Several suggestions were made, but it was decided to go for the troops that were camped not far from the present site of Lincoln. John Alverson, Eli Ziegler and Chal. Smith
went. The captain told them to have the settlers ready by day break and he would have some soldiers there at that time.
     “Accordingly, a Lieutenant with about a dozen soldiers, took up the trail with the settlers the next morning. They followed the Indians to Table Rock Creek, where they found their camp fire and from there to Mulberry, where they overtook them. The Indians had stopped at the home of Charles Martin to get food and tobacco, but the advance scouts did not succeed in holding them until the main body of men came up.
     “The red men scattered and the settlers began hunting them up and down the creek. Some of them went south across the stream to a high bluff. As they stood looking four Indians raised up side by side. They had discharges from the army, and one of them handed his discharge to the whites. It was passed from one to another. While this was going on, Alverson, who was in the crowd, slipped off his horse and shot the Indian leader dead. The Indians began firing, and the troops soon appeared on the scene. There were two or three more Indians killed.
The Lieutenant wanted to take them to Fort Harker and civilize them. General Isaac De Graff sat down on the ground and also on the Lieutenant’s proposition, saying they could make good Indians of them right there. The men dismounted and leading their horses, followed the Indians down a ravine. The redskins were shooting arrows, and one of them hit the Lieutenant’s horse, causing the animal to jerk loose and get away. The Lieutenant then said he would kill every Indian. They followed the red men to a rocky gorge where sixteen of them


took refuge in a cave.
     “One of the soldiers who was not careful to keep out of range, was shot by an Indian and died at Martin’s house two hours later. Eli Ziegler sustained a slight wound.
     “Finding no other way to get the Indians it was decided to throw hay into the mouth of the cave and fire it. Seeing what was about to be done the Indians dashed out of the cave under a rain of shot. All but three were killed before they got out of range. The men quickly mounted and pursued the remnant. Richard Clark and Vollany Ball shot two of them at one hundred and fifty yard range. The other was captured and the Lieutenant took him to Fort Harker.”
     While the account of Miss Barr is incomplete it gave us the key for further investigation. After the massacre the soldiers and settlers went home to forget it. Some of the settlers moved away, others died, until there were very few left who knew about it, and thus the matter rested for forty years, so long that it became a myth.
     The question arises: What kind of a report did the Lieutenant and Captain make to their superior officers? Four of these slain Indians had discharges from the army; they were veterans. Why did not the government institute an investigation? Why did not the Indian Agent at the Pawnee agency take up the matter and report to the government?
     About 1910 after a lapse of more than forty years, Thomas Alderdice, one of the participants of the massacre was here in Lincoln on a visit, and I asked him these questions. He answered, “The government did hold an investigation at that time, but no witnesses were found who knew anything about the matter.”
     Eli Ziegler and John Alverson moved to Oregon. In 1912 I was visiting a brother-in-law in that state. The homes of these former Lincoln County settlers were near my line of travel, so I stopped off to visit them. The accounts of the Mulberry Scrap, as related to me by these men, were practically the same as written by Miss Barr. As to the number killed they said the Indians were widely scattered and they could not say exactly, but thought the number as given was about correct.
     Ziegler told me that he and a settler named Ed Johnson were in advance of the party and found the Indians inside of the cabin


of Charles Martin. The cabin was crowded with Indians, who had the owner scared, and made him cook for them. He said, “When we came to the cabin and found the Indians inside, we intended to hold them there until the rest of the party came up. I stood guard. Repeatedly the Indians attempted to come out, but as one appeared at the door, with the muzzle of my gun (using his own words) I punched him in the belly and made them keep back inside. Then I let Johnson stand guard, while I went to notify the rest of the party. I told Johnson not to let them out, but he did let them out. When I returned they were gone. They had run away and were hiding scattered along the creek.” Then happened what has been related above.
     During our conversation both Ziegler and Alverson told me the following: The next day after the massacre, while they were at home, located on the north side of the Saline River, they saw a lone Indian coming north, apparently on his way home towards his reservation in Nebraska. It was thought this Indian might have been the one whom the Lieutenant had taken to Fort Harker, where he had been given his freedom by the military authorities. Ziegler and Alverson went to meet him, and as he approached the river they shot and killed him. Thus, according to the statements made by several of these parties, not one of these Indians escaped.
     Alverson by himself also told me that while the party was following the trail of these Indians, the soldiers had urged him to start something as soon as they caught up with the Indians, and he did, by shooting the leader. I did not press the matter further as to more details. I considered it an awful act, and suppose they might have looked at it in the same light. These people were then good law abiding citizens and might have been sorry for their actions in the past.
     A year ago I made the acquaintance of Mr. A. M. Campbell, Secretary of the Salina Historical Society, who is a historian of note. He, like myself, was very much interested in this affair. While Charles Martin was living, Mr. Campbell, accompanied by a stenographer, went to Mr. Martin’s home and took his statement in regard to this matter. All Mr. Campbell knew was what he learned from this statement. He did not know the first part, which happened in Lincoln County, as told in the first part of the story. By putting together the several


statements we get the whole which enables us to draw a conclusion.
     We have the statement of John Cline, Solomon Humbarger and other hunters and early inhabitants of the Saline valley, who tell us the Pawnee Indians came through there regularly every season on horse stealing expeditions. I will hereby quote from the writings of James R. Mead: “This part of the country, Spillman and Wolf Creek, was on the road used by the Pawnees upon the Platte River, whose main occupation was stealing horses from the wild tribes on the Arkansas and south to Texas. The Pawnees in parties from two to thirty, would start down from their reservation on foot, with five or six extra pairs of moccasins and several lariats, subsisting on game. They knew the country perfectly, as they formerly occupied it and still claimed it. The Pawnees had a regular route of travel from their reservation southwest to the big bend of the Arkansas and from there wherever Indian camps could be found, traveling by night when near other Indians. On one occasion they found a camp of Commanches somewhere in the south, had got near a lot of horses in the night, but were discovered and pursued. Some of them were killed, while others threw away their arms, clothing, everything to escape and scattered to meet at a prearranged place. One of them was shot through the thigh with an arrow. They were nearly naked and their sole weapons for the whole party of a dozen were two bows and arrows. When the Cheyennes discovered that a bunch of their horses were stolen they would start in hot pursuit like a swarrm of angry hornets. Other times the Pawnees left their reservations on foot and returned well mounted.
     Besides the above statements made by hunters and settlers I will also quote from an earlier authority who testifies to the same. Mr. T. S. Huffaker of Council Grove says that “as late as 1850 to 1857 the Pawnees made incursions into Kansas for the purpose of stealing ponies from the Kaws, then in Morris County, and besides robbing the Indians, drove off stock from

     NOTE: In the statements of Charles Martin to Mr. A. M. Campbell the substance is about the same as given by Eli Ziegler and Richard Clark and in addition he said, “The next day, or shortly after the Indians were killed a negro with an ambulance came from Fort Harker. He cut off the heads of the dead Indians, put them in gunny sacks and hauled them to the Fort.” He also said that this negro received good pay for his services from the officers who employed him. For what purpose these Indians heads werewanted is unknown.


a neighboring white settler, taking forty or fifty ponies that he was keeping for Northup and Shiek. Although an agent sent to the Pawnee villages identified these ponies, the Indians would not return them. The government paid for one lot of ponies some years later.” (See footnot, page 243, Vol. 9, Kansas Historical Collections.)
     At times passing on their way they made considerable trouble for the settlers, begging and scaring the people as was the case related above. If not successful in obtaining horses from their enemy tribes they would take any loose horses belonging to settlers or anyone else. The Pawnees were looked upon as an annoyance, or rather a pest, fit only to be exterminated, and it was dangerous for them to pass through the settlements.
     The conclusion is that these Indians who lost their lives in the Mulberry Scrap were bent on a horsestealing expedition, as they had been many times before. They had left their reservations without the consent of their agent. If any of them had been left alive, they would have been in no position to make complaint. Those settlers who took part in the massacre afterwards proved to be representative citizens; some of them were elected to county offices. The general feeling of the settlers at that time was “that the only good Indian was the dead Indian” and they acted accordingly. The Pawnee horsestealing expeditions did not cease until so many met with disaster that no more were attempted after 1869.
     Several more parties of Indians passed through this county later but these had interpreters with them, and they did not beg and were not molested by the whites.
     After writing the above I have had opportunity to learn more about the Pawnee Tribe of Indians. I have been informed by reliable authorities that the Pawnees were repeatedly employed by the government, and did good service as scouts during the military campaigns subduing the hostile tribes and protecting the settlements in Nebraska. In at least one case a Pawnee Indian received a congressional medal for bravery on the battlefield. So we must give credit where credit is due.

     NOTE: Richard Clark (now deceased) was a prominent farmer near Beverly, Kansas. He was born in Decatur County, Indiana, in 1830. He crossed the plains before the Civil War and became one of the early


inhabitants of Colorado Territory. When call came for volunteers he enlisted in the First Colorado Infantry and marched with his regiment to the border of Mexico and fought the battles of Apache Canon and Pigeon Ranch, assisting in driving the enemies out of New Mexico. Returning to Colorado they were stationed at Fort Lyon and there were made into a cavalry regiment. When Indians were causing trouble on the plains the cavalry was detailed to escort the overland mail coaches through the danger zone. This command had a leading part in the massacre of a hundred and fifty Cheyenne Indians on Sand Creek, Eastern Colorado, in 1864. It was said two-thirds of these Indians were women and children. For this outrage the commander of the troops, Major Chivington, was cashiered and dismissed from the army. (See page 67, Vol. 7, Kansas Historical Collections.)
     The Chivington fight occurred in the autumn of 1864. In the summer of that year a band of Cheyenne Indians under the control of Black Kettle and White Antelope, about four hundred and fifty in all, together with about fifty Arapahoes, under the leadership of Left Hand, known as friendly Indians, came to the vicinity of Fort Lyon, Colorado, in compliance with the order of Governor Evans, acting superintendent of Indian affairs. This was done with the understanding that they were to be protected from the soldiers who were to take the field against the hostiles. They remained in this camp for some time, giving up their arms, and depending upon rations for their food. Their weapons were then restored to them by Major Scott J. Anthony, who had in the meantime superceded Major E. W. Wynkoop in the command of that military district, and they were told to go into camp on Sand Creek, about thirty-five miles from Fort Lyon. This they did, relying on the hunt for food, and maintaining friendly relations with the whites. On the morning of November 29th, about daybreak, they were surprised by troops under Colonel Chivington, the commander of that district. An indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children followed. The three principal chiefs were killed. Many of the Indians escaped on horseback and on foot, though followed by the mounted soldiers. Of five hundred in camp, about one hundred and fifty were supposed to have been killed. (See official records of war, Vol. 41, pt. 1, page 948.
     Richard Clark belonged to the Company of Colorado boys who came through the Saline Valley in 1865 and was one of the six who settled here early in 1866. From these settlers Colorado township in Lincoln County derives its name. He was the first Sheriff of Lincoln County.

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