PIONEER HISTORY OF KANSAS
In reading the several accounts of the Indian raids of that time, one is impressed with the idea that there were no more troubles after the winter of 1868-69, after the Indians had been quelled by Custers Seventh Cavalry and the Nineteenth Kansas; but the fact is that the Cheyenne Indians, or a least a part of them, followed the troops right back to this country.
Salem, Oregon, Feb. 24, 1909.
J. J. Peate, Beverly, Kansas,
John Alverson and Eli Ziegler and family
weeks for ourselves and horses, expecting to be away that length of time. We started from fathers place (near where Beverly now is) Sunday, May 30, 1869, and got up to Thomas Alderdices at noon and ate our dinner there. Thomas Alderdice, I think, was in Salina. I do not remember of talking with any man in that settlement. Reports said that Indians had been on the Solomon River a few days before, but they had been driven off by a company of soldiers. My sister, Mrs. Alderdice, mentioned that and told me to keep a sharp lookout. After eating dinner with my sister, I bade her goodbye--little thinking that she would be in the hands of Indians before sundown, her children killed or wounded, and that I would never see her again.
After going a short distance I saw a man on horseback up toward the head of Lost Creek, riding fast toward the west. John thought he looked like an Indian spy, but I thought it was someone looking for cattle. We kept close watch on him to see where he was going, but he gained so rapidly on us that we could soon see him only on the highest hills. He was still riding at full speed and the last we saw of him was on the hill east of Trail Creek, and the course he was taking he would cross Trail Creek about where the wagon road crossed, or a little above. We kept on going across Trail Creek when John made the remark that he did not like the appearance of things.
After we left this creek, going toward Spillman Creek, and as we approached high ground, we could look up the bottom on the south of Spillman and there we saw a party of horsemen quite a ways up the creek, and coming down the bottom quite rapidly. We stopped a moment to look at them, and John thought they were Indians and that was their spy who went ahead of us, but I thought that they were soldiers returning from the Solomon River. They deceived me by the way they rode, riding like a company of soldiers in uniform line, and coming at a fast gallop. The sun glistened on their guns so plain that I still thought they were soldiers, but John would not have it that way. He insisted they were Indians, and I had about made up my mind that they were, too. By this time they were getting about opposite us and we had tried to count them several times. As near as we could make out there were between 45 and 60 of them. At this time they were still south of Spillman Creek and a little above the Dane settlement.
We had made up our minds that there was no way of avoiding an attack. Just then we stopped, and we stopped only
a moment, the distance between us being about one-half mile. Then they all started for us on the run, except ten or fifteen who went down the creek toward the Dane settlement. There was a knoll just north of us, and I thought best to get on that and fight them, thinking we would have time to unhitch the horses and tie them to the wagon before they got to us. So we drove to the knoll. I jumped out to unhook the horses, but John thought it would not do to stop there. There being so many Indians he thought it best for us to get to the creek. I jumped back into the wagon and we started for Trail Creek, going in a northeasterly direction to the nearest point. We came to the creek about half a mile above the crossing. As we were not very well armed we talked the matter over while going to the creek. I had a needle gun and about forty rounds of cartridges and John an old muzzle loader, so we concluded that I would do the shooting and John would hold the load in his gun as a reserve shot.
When we got to the creek the Indians were close behind us. I looked across the creek and thought there was a little bank on the other side that would protect us some, so I drove across. But John misunderstood me and jumped out into the creek and I drove up the bank. John ran along under the bank on the side I was on and the Indians were coming across the creek within a few yards of us, shooting and yelling. John was calling for me to get out of the wagon. When I got to that little bank I stopped the horses. Seeing that nothing more could be done to save the team and that we must defend ourselves, I dropped the lines, grabbed my gun and jumped out on the off side of the wagon. Reaching in the box for my cartridges, I could get only the box, about twenty rounds.
While I was getting the cartridges the Indians were close all around. One of them rode up and picked up the lines just as I had laid them down and he held the horses. I thought sure I would put a hole through him, but before I could get my gun around he jumped off his pony down beside the wagon and still held the horses. The Indians were shooting all this time. John was calling for me to get under the bank. Just then another Indian darted up right close to the wagon and I thought I would get him, but before I could cover him with my gun he jumped his pony on the opposite side of the wagon so I could not get him. John was still begging me to jump over the bank and I had about made up my mind to do so. As I stepped out
from the wagon I looked toward the rear and behind the wagon and saw three Indians standing about four rods away, having me covered with their guns. I had no time for a shot, so made a spring for the creek bank. My foot slipped and I fell just as they fired. I think they overshot me. I also think that the slip is what saved me. I kept going on my hands and feet over the bank.
As they were pouring the shots right at us at short range, we saw a log lying up the bank a little below us and we ran to that, thinking that would protect us on the side. We expected a good, long, hard fight but as we ran to the log and jumped over, getting ourselves into position, the Indians, I guess, saw that we were going to try to protect ourselves. They kept back on the bank and out of sight and drove the team away just after we got behind the log, and the Indians quit shooting at us. Then we could hear shooting down the creek near the Dane settlement, when John said, My God. They are fighting down at the Dane settlement. This firing did not last long, and we thought it was the small band that went down that way, and that there would be enough of the whites there to stand them off and get in position by the time the band that had attacked us concluded to withdraw and go down and reinforce their comrades.
We kept waiting behind the log for some time expecting the Indians were going to slip up on us in some way around the creek banks, and we were prepared for them. If John had had a good repeating gun when we were under the creek bank, he had plenty of opportunity to make a few good Indians, but did not dare to shoot that one load out while by himself. We lay there by the log quite a little time in readiness. We did not hear any more of the Indians and did not see anything of them. I then crawled up the creek bank to take a look. Away down on the east side of Spillman Creek I saw two or three horsemen, which I thought were Indians.
Concluding that the Indians had left us, we decided to try and go down to the Dane settlement. We expected the Indians to lie in ambush for us along the creek, therefore we worked our way slowly and carefully, every little ways going up the bank to see if we could see anything of the Indians. Seeing no signs of foes, we could keep on going and we passed the Dane settlement before sundown. We would go up the bank, watching closely and listen, expecting to hear somebody or see where
the Indians had been. We knew there were settlers near there, but did not know where their house was located. Not seeing their house, we passed on, continuing our journey along the creek clowly and cautiously. We thought the Indians had not gone farther than the Dane settlement and that they had probably gone back, as we could not see or hear anything of them. It was now growing dark, and we thought it best to be on the safe side and keep close to the creek, so that in case they had gone farther down and were on their way back, we would meet them in a place where we would have the advantage.
We followed Spillman creek down to its mouth, then down the Saline. I do not know what time of the night it was, but it was several hours after dark. We had not seen or heard anything since leaving our log on Trail Creek, and concluded that the Indians had not passed down Spillman Creek farther than the Dane settlement and that they had not been in the settlement on the Saline River. We were about a mile west of where the depot now stands at Lincoln, when the stillness of the night was broken by a loud war song northeast of us and down the valley. John said, My God, Eli, they have been down to the settlement. We heard more singing farther down and nearer to the river. Yes, John, I fear it is a big party, and think it is different party from the one we ran into.
I thought this was a larger party that had come down the Saline, probably dividing on Wolf Creek. We could tell they were moving up the Saline bottom by the noise they made, sounding like a large party or else they were scattered out. They did not seem to be coming very fast, some were singing and others talking loudly. We got to the bank of the river, one of the bends which points to the north. When they got opposite and close enough we were going to fire towards them. We were going to fire together and I was to keep firing while John loaded again. If the Indians came toward us, we would cross the river, but we did not think they would attack us in the dark. By this time they were pretty well north of us, but commenced hollowing and fired several shots. As the last shots were fired we heard a woman scream, one loud piercing scream, more horror than agony, then all was still.
We could not imagine who it was that had fallen into the hands of the Indians, there being no one living in the direction from which the scream came. We almost held our breath while we listened, wondering what the Indians were doing, and which
way they were moving, waiting and listening, and waiting for the sound of their poines, walking through the grass, a voice, a sigh, or a moan, but not a sound reached us. In a few moments which seemed hours to us, we heard them east of us down the river. John thought it best to get down the river ahead of them but I could not see how we could head them off if we were to follow them directly down the river. Being sure that they were now down in the settlement, we crossed the river in the direction of Bullfoot Creek, for by so doing we could travel faster and get ahead of the Indians.
Starting a little east of south, when we got on high ground between the Saline and Bullfoot we saw several fire signal arrows shooting into the sky, from up Bullfoot west and south of us. Thinking then that there must be three bands of Indians, one coming down the Spillman, one down the Saline, and the other down the Bullfoot, we feared that when daylight came, all we would see would be Indians, Indians everywhere. Wishing to get ahead of them we turned a little east, getting to the creek as soon as possible; then thinking we were below them we hurried down the creek as fast as we could under the circumstances, keeping our guns ready to fire at the first sight of a moving Indian.
We had made up our minds if we ran into them again we were to do shooting at the first one we saw, without waiting for a good one or a fat one. Traveling down the creek, dawn was fast approaching, we were still hugging the creek for protection in case of need. We had not heard a sound or seen a signal light since those mentioned.
About sun up or a little after, we were near Fred Erhardts place, where we found a company of United States Cavalry camped. We reported to the captain what we had seen and told him what we had heard in the night out on the Saline River bottom, and of the fire-arrows we had seen just a little above Bullfoot. I begged him to saddle up at once, to furnish me a horse and I would lead them right to the Indians camp, where I thought we could catch them if we moved at once and moved quickly. He replied, I can not move any farther until I get orders to do so. The Indians were in the settlements over the river yesterday afternoon, but I do not know how much damage they have done. He had sent a dispatch to Fort Harker for orders and would wait there until he received an answer. We were disgusted with his reply, drank a cup of coffee, ate a hard
tack and started on home, keeping south of the siver, and just before noon got home. I got my pony, intending to go back up the river, but as we had told the folks the story, they would not let me go until the next day. But the dead, except one, had been found, and all the wounded. My sister, Mrs. Alderdice, had been captured. The next day Mr. A. M. Campbell and some others came up from Salina, with whom I went up on Spillman Creek to look the ground over and to see if we could find Peterson, the missing Dane. Finding his body, we dug his grave where he fell on the south side of Spillman.
We also saw the graves of the others the Indians had killed. They were buried by the party that were there May 31, 1869. We also saw where the Indians had been at the dugout, where the Danes lived. I knew now that we were wrong in thinking there were three parties or bands of Indians. There was but one band. It was following this party around that made us think we were seeing different bands. The shooting on the Saline River was where the two men, T. Meigherhoff and C. Weichell were killed, and Mrs. Weichell was captured. They must have crossed the river after killing these two men near us, and went over to Bullfoot, and not down the river, as we thought at that time, and following them around caused us to think them another party.
Yours very truly,
*NOTE: The number of Indians, and the number of separate bands who were making this raid in the Saline Valley, will never be known. The conclusion of Mr. Ziegler that there was only one band, which he and his brother-in-law unintentionally followed around in the night is erroneous, which is proven by the fact that another band of Indians attacked the settlement down below on the Saline River, where Harrison Strange was killed and the Smuts boy was mortally wounded, which happened prior to, or about the same time the attack was made on Spillman and Trail Creek. The two locations are ten or twelve miles apart, and it appears from the statement in Mr. Zieglers letter that one band was in camp at night shooting arrows as a signal for the other band who was coming in.
The description of the location of the camp where the fire arrows were seen agrees with the location of an old Indian camp on the Marsh farm, about two miles up the creek from the Erhardt place, where the soldiers were camped on that day. This well sheltered place near the creek, surrounded by bluffs on one side, and timber on the other, was recognized by Mr. Marsh as an old Indian camp. He planted an orchard there. When plowing the sod, and afterwards, numerous Indian relics were found. Red brick dust in many places was turned up by the plow, indicating the numerous spots where campfires had been. On the high banks on the south side of the creek were several Indian graves which were explored by relic hunters, but little of value was found. No doubt the former savage inhabitants of the Saline Valley camped here for the last time on May 30, 1869.