KanColl Books


by Adolph Roenigk

Victims of Indian Resentment--The Number Never Accurately
Determined--Monuments Erected by the Union
Pacific Railroad

     All great works are wrought with some sacrifice. Man pays the toll with his own life as the price of his most admirable achievements. The building of the Union Pacific Railroad, that daring project requiring a nation as its sponsor to assure success, was no exception to the rule. The number of employees who fell victims to the redman’s hatred and resentment will never be accurately known. Most of the men killed by Indians were buried where they fell. The right-of-way was the location of many an unmarked and lowly grave. Some of them were marked temporarily but the rude marks have disappeared and no one remains who knows even the location of these graves. Quite a few are in Russell County. The railroad having been built through this section the year previous to my arrival, the roadbed and graves looked comparatively fresh. One grave was located one and a half miles, and another two and one-half miles east, and still another two and a quarter miles west of Fossil Creek Station, now Russell; all were on the south side of the track. All of these were unmarked. Another grave was located on the west bank of Walker’s creek, also on the south side and near the track. This grave was marked by a limestone tablet with the victim’s name cut in the stone, which forty years later was pronounced to be the grave of Theodore Goeckler, by W. K. Beach, a fellow worker.
     Seven men were killed in a railroad cut one mile west of the north fork of Big Creek, now Victoria, in Ellis County. The body of one of these men was shipped back to his old home in Wisconsin.

     NOTE: Situated upon the west bank of the north fork of Big Creek, just in the edge of the town of Victoria, Ellis County, is a knoll fenced with stone posts and iron pipe. This small inclosure contains in all eleven graves, of which six are accounted for by a granite boulder having an inset plate inscribed as below: “This stone marks the burial place of six track laborers who were in the employment of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, and, while on duty about one mile west of here were massacred by a band of Cheyenne Indians, October, 1867. Erected by the Union Pacific Railway Company.”


Victoria Monument

Monument erected by the Union Pacific Railroad at Victoria, Kansas, in
memory of seven track workers, who were killed by Indians

     Seven graves lie in one row. Each has a weather beaten limestone tablet at the head, one bearing simply a deep cut cross, another the words, “Here Lies h--,” as though the wielder of the chisel and mallet was interrupted in his task, or the lettering chipped out by frost; and another this full inscription. “In memoriam. Henry McDonney of Cambridge, Mass. Five persons here to me unknown. To their Memory I’ve carved this stone. Killed by Indians in the year 1867. Dock Williams.” Four unmarked graves lie opposite the seven. In the absence of any information we are left to conclude these low laid ones were also victims of violence in those stirring times.
     Most of the railroad men went armed, ready for an emergency; the one killed were those caught out without arms. These men would become negligent and forget there were any Indians within a hundred miles, when suddenly the redskins


would swoop down upon them with destructive results.
     At one time four or five of us were working on the track some miles east of the station when two of us were sent after some tools a mile away. When we had gone but a short distance we observed three horsemen coming from the south. They were quite a distance away and we could not make out their identity. After watching them for a while it was apparent they were watching us, and we also saw something glisten in the sunlight which we took to be gun barrels or spears. I said to my comrade, who was a discharged soldier, having been in the regular army, “Let’s go back and get our guns.” “No, come on, they won’t bother us,” said he. “Not by any means,” I objected, and returned and secured our guns and ammunition. He continued on toward the tools and I now followed.
     The object looked to me very much like those seen on a former occasion, and might have been the advance guard of a considerable body of Indians. The horsemen presently disappeared and we never knew who they were. They might have been deserters from the army as they were plentiful enough in those days. Two deserters worked with us for a while but we did not know them to be deserters at the time. One of them went by the name of Con Creedon.
     During the summer of 1911 I became acquainted with a Mr. W. K. Beach (former county commissioner of Waubanse County), a resident of Maple Hill, Kansas, who had been a member of a grading gang while the road was being graded through this part of the state. From him I learned that he knew much of the Indian raids and happenings of those days. Some time after making his acquaintance an old settlers’ picnic was to be held at Hume’s grove, on Cedar Creek, north of Bunker Hill, in Russell County, when three of us old-timers, whose story is found in another chapter), and myself, were invited and attended the picnic on August 30, 1911.
     While here we three, together with a party of local historians, went over this part of the line where Indian raids had occurred June 21, 1867. Making the trip by automobile we first drove to the now called “Phinney Springs,” the site of

     NOTE: Twelve years prior to this time a skeleton had been dug up by Mike Reis at this place. It was examined at the time by Coroner J. L. Phinney, N. A. Gernon, and others and reinterred.


the old overland stage station near Fossil Creek, where Mr. Beach recognized and pointed out the location of a grave where a stocktender had been killed and buried on the day of the raid.
     Returning with auto we followed along the line nearest to the railroad and next viewed the place where the Indians attacked us on May 28, 1869. I recognized the ravine Kitt’s Fork, and the lay of the country, but the looks of the vicinity has changed very much, as the land there is now in cultivation and no sign of the old sidetrack remains to be seen. From here we drove to Walker’s creek, where the graders’ camp was located while grading the railroad in 1867. Mr. Beach here also readily recognized the location of the former camp where he had been staying while working on the grade for contractors named Irvin and Van Antwerp. Mr. Beach pointed out to our party the pits in the west bank of Walker’s creek, the former habitation of the grading gang, which are almost due south of the present steel bridge on the railroad. North of the railroad in this vicinity a man named Theodore Goeckler was killed on the day of this raid. Mr. Beach gave us the following description of his death. He said: “Goeckler, with a team of mules, was hauling building rock from a quarry located some distance north. It was about 12:30 as the stone haulers were rather late that day in geting back with their loads of rock at noon. The rest of us were getting dinner when he was attacked. He was unarmed. He saw the Indians coming and managed to get one of his mules loose and mounted him, but was shot by an Indian and fell to the ground. He got on his feet again and made an effort to get away but was speared by an Indian. This happened about where the Catholic church stand today at Gorham, Kansas.
     Theodore Goeckler was American born, Pennsylvania German, who had served in the Eleventh Ohio regiment during the Civil War. He was buried on the west bank of Walker’s creek, on the south side, and near the railroad tracks. A stone tablet was put up at the head of his grave with his name cut in the rock. This tablet I saw one year later, as mentioned above. Mr. Beach said in this raid five men were killed. Three of these belonged to an outfit of a contractor named Atkinson, who was located near Fossil Creek. In regard to the number of graves seen Mr. Beach’s account corroborates the statements I have made years ago, which were published in the local newspaper of Russell at that time.


     To sum up the casualties: In the two years of 1867-69 fourteen men were killed from Fossil Creek Stage Station to the north fork of Big creek, a distance of about twenty-three miles. Thirteen railroad men and a stocktender were killed by Indians, and besides one railroad man was shot by deserter from the army. They were numerous other Indian raids along the line when men were killed, and men were driven from the works to such an extent that the work was temporarily abandoned. The railroad officials applied to the Governor for protection. A battalion of the Eighteenth Kansas Cavalry was organized, who took the field, and the railroad was completed to Sheridan, within a short distance of Fort Wallace, the west line of the state. A corporal’s guard of the Tenth Cavalry (negroes) were stationed at each station along the line. These later were replaced by infantry who were still guarding the stations when I left the road in 1870.

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