PIONEER HISTORY OF KANSAS
The greater part of a long and useful life has been spent in braving the dangers and enduring the privations incident to the settlements of a new country. His military service in the defense of Kansas and his flag are deserving of a page in any volume of history, and we give the incidents of the life of this pioneer with confidence in their interesting character.
While getting ready to return, my grandfather formed the acquaintance of my grandmother and they were married. She would not allow him to return to the wilds of Kentucky, which
decision, it is said, made Boone very angry. From Virginia my grandmother moved to Tennessee and settled on the French Broad River, lived there a few years, then moved to Overton County, Tennessee. This was the year 1789. He continued to reside at this place until his death which occurred in 1853. His given name was James and may be found on the military records of the U. S. at Washington, D.C. He had a family of thirteen children; my father, William S. Fancher, was one of this bakers dozen. He emigrated from Tennessee in 1850 to Harrison County, Missouri. He raised ten children, I being the oldest, having arrived at my 77th mile post on January 18, 1812.
If not out of place I will make a brief digression to speak of my fathers oldest brother, Wesley Fancher, who was a volunteer under Gen. Jackson in the Indian war in Florida and who endured many hardships, even to that of having to boil their moccasins of rawhide and drink the soup so made to preserve life. He also took part in the battle of New Orleans when the British redcoats received such a bloody repulse. My uncle was the soldier who shot the famous Indian chief, Tecumseh, while serving under Gen. Harrison in Indiana. The chief had Gen. Harrison singled out and was behind a forked oak firing at him. He fired twice, the first passing through Harrisons hat and the second cutting away the epaulet from his left shoulder. The General then turned to Col. Johnson, whose regiment was engaged near by, and said, Colonel, if you or your men do not get that Indian, his next shot will get me.
Johnson turned to Wesley Fancher and said, Well, cant you get him? pointing out the tree where the Shawnee was ramming a load down his rifle. The Indian turned his head and looked through the fork of the tree to see if the General was still in sight. As he did so, Wesley fired and the savage fell. It was my bullet; it struck him one inch above the eyes and straight with the nose, and the mark was found as he gave it. He never cared to talk of this incident in after years. He was Johnsons son-in-law and held a Lieutenants commission. It was told of him that he could shoot out a squirrels eye two hundred feet away.
In the spring of 1853 I and a gentleman by the name of Moore were living near the town of Missouri City, east Clay County, Missouri, crossed the river at the Blue Mills about four
or five miles northeast of Independence, Jackson, County, Missouri. We came to Independence afoot hunting a job of work. At that time there was not a pound of railroad iron west of the Missouri River. Freighting overland was the only means by which supplies were carried westward to their destination. The freight was loaded on large, strong wagons drawn by mules or oxen. My object was to hire to some government agent to drive a team of some kind either to Santa Fe, Laramie, Fort Smith or some other distant point. There were agents at Independence, Leavenworth, Westport, Shawnee Mission, and a little fort eight miles down the river from the present location of Kansas City, Missouri. We tried all the above agencies except Leavenworth. There was a town of about 200 population in and around Westport. West from there to the landing on the Missouri River there was no town then. There was a long cottonwood log staked against the bank for the boats to land against in lieu of a wharf.
There was about 100 Mexicans camped near Westport with burro outfits. Every three or four hours half a dozen wagons would start for the landing. There was a government blacksmith shop located at about where is now Main Street, Kansas City. The shop consisted of two forks about eight feet high set up about fifteen feet apart, a good sized pole was laid in the forks and 1x12 cottonwood boards sloped back against the bank for a roof. There was a rick of steamboat cord wood about fifty feet long, also a box house about sixteen feet square made of new, raw cottonwood boards with the marks of the circle saw on them. A single rough twelve-inch board was placed as a counter and the first saloon was complete. The stock of liquors never consisted of more than a five gallon keg of whiskey, a jug of wine and one of gin.
The two blacksmiths at the shop were busy shoeing the burros. The Mexicans would lasso the burros, throw them, whirl them on their backs, draw their feet all up in a bunch, then they were all ready to be shod. The blacksmith would run out with a hot shoe, hold it to the burros foot until it would burn itself set, then cool it off and nail it on, taking not more than five minutes to the animal.
While we were at the landing a boat came up and put off her cargo for Santa Fe. As the teams were shod and laden
they would return to the camp at Westport and wait till all was ready, then the train would start on its long, dangerous journey. They were generally supplied with a guard of soldiers to escort them through. Sometimes they were ambushed or openly attacked and the whole outfit captured or killed. Dangerout as was the occupation of drivers in these trains there were always plenty of applicants for the position.
Well to the west from the landing, over gullies, ridges, bluffs and into what is now called West Bottoms we passed, crossing drifts left by the flood of 1844 some twenty feet high and almost impassable. These bottoms were heavy timbered; grape vines entwined with the underbrush and treetops made a fearful laybrinth. We struck the Kaw River a little above the mouth. There was a Wyandott Indian on the west side in a log canoe; we made motions for him to come over to us; he did so and set us over the river and pointed out the way to their village, also four white men who had married Indians wives. There were about 1,500 Indians in the village. One of these men was the chief interpreter. We asked the Chiefs permission to pass through his reservation. He told us, through the interpreter, that we could go to Leavenworth, but as he did so he made signs with his hands to go fast. As he spoke in the Indian tongue I asked the interpreter what the chief meant; he said he meant, go fast, like a turkey running, not let grass grow under the moccasin, and we didnt. There was a sort of a trail from their village up to the fort. The fort was about seventy-five yards north of where Grants statue now stands. It was about one hundred yards square with a parapet at each corner. It was pierced with port holes on all sides and had trenches running all around it. The fort was built of stone with offices inside. Fort Leavenworth was established in 1827 by a detachment of the 3rd U. S. Infantry, and named in honor of Col. Henry Leavenworth, of that regiment.
There were 2,000 soldiers stationed there at the fort at the time I was there. This was about the first days of May, 1853. We went to the Quartermaster and I hired to drive a four-ox team with a load of 6,000 pounds to Fort Laramie, Wyoming, for which I was to receive $35 a month in gold. But the ox teams were not to start until the 15th of May as by that time the grass would be sufficiently matured to sustain the cattle. The train was to consist of one hundred ox teams and one hundred mule teams, all to travel together. The mule train was
already loaded up and out on the Grasshopper Creek with orders to wait until we moved out to their camp. As it was yet two weeks before our ox wagons were to move, and we could not draw rations until actual service, we crossed back into Clay County to the settlement where we could find a stopping place until the 15th of May. I took a contract to cut and split 1,000 oak rails at fifty cents a hundred. I finished the work on the 13th of May, and that evening our Wagonmaster came down from the Fort and informed us that we would not be needed, as they had taken on several more drivers from the immediate vicinity. He told us how the mule train had become restless waiting so long, and moved away up on the Platte River in Nebraska, near Grand Island. The next morning at break of day the Indians had surrounded their camp and killed all the men but three who managed to break through the savages and return to the Fort with news of the massacre. The Indians took the mules, loaded the rations upon them, and after burning the wagons, struck for the mountains.
The soldiers were called in from all nearby points to Fort Leavenworth, but it was not until the 10 of June that they were fully equipped for pursuit. They took up the trail at the camp and followed it into the mountains where the Indians scattered in all directions. Though the soldiers searched the mountains the remainder of the summer they never found the mules, plunder, or Indians. The soldiers returned to Leavenworth in the fall, dirty, ragged and half starved. Many of their horses died or grew so weak they were abandoned, and what did survive were mere skeletons, scalded and scarified with sore backs.
When I Iook back and view the past and consider the privations suffered by the early pioneers, then look about me and see how few of them are enjoying the fruits of their labor, a deep feeling of sad regret fills my mind. While the generations of pioneers labored to make the west the Eden of all the world, the message telling of its accomplishment only brought to our land a host of grafters upon our heritage. The early settlers of Kansas did not know the value of the land they rescued from savagery, but let it pass to easily from their possession, and now many, well along upon the highway of life, must crouch by the cold ashes of the campfires of the past.
Soldiers in the West
The Enlistment of Negro Soldiers Ordered Stopped; Order Number Eleven
By losing the position of driver in a government supply train I probably lost the chance to have my scalp scientifically taken, although I was often exposed to this same danger afterward. In the fall of 1853 I returned to my home in Harrison County, Missouri, where I remained until the spring of 1862, at which time I enlisted for the war in Company G of the 6th Regiment of Missouri Reserve Guards under the command of the gallant Colonel Catherwood, which was organized at Cameron, Missouri and ordered to Sedalia, Missouri.
While stationed here I recruited 300 colored men into the service of the United States, acting under a commission from Colonel Pilles of St. Louis, Missouri. In a short time I was ordered to discontinue the enlistment of slaves by General Brown, Brigadier commanding the Central Division of Missouri, he being a Southern sympathizer.
I sent a part of the colored recruits to the 1st and 2nd Kansas at Fort Scott. I then made out a report of the affair to Abraham Lincoln, asking him to lay the matter before the War Department. This resulted in stopping all recruiting of blacks until there was a special action on the matter. The decision was in favor of the move, and thereupon General Winfield Scott, commander in chief of the Army of the United States, issued the famous Order No.11.
I was now out of the business, but the enlistment of negro troops continued, and they did good service in assisting to break the fetters that had been fastened upon their race. Our next move was to Warsaw, Benton County, Missouri. While there I was detailed as clerk in the Provo Marshalls office. Orders were issued for all citizens to come in to take the oath of allegience to the United States. Many did so voluntarily; some had to be brought in by force of arms. The clerks had to administer the oath and in doing so, had many laughable experiences with the mountaineers. After taking the oath each man was given a certificate to preserve and carry as a reference and protection. When next moved we went to Springfield which continued to be our headquarters when not in the field
until we were discharged the 21th day of May, 1865, just at the close of the war.
Our regiment was engaged in thirty-odd skirmishes and battles; some were closely contested fights and some were bushwhacking scraps. Scouts from three to thirty days occupied our time. The longest one I participated in was in the summer of 1863. We were out forty-two days steady marching and fought two battles. We started from Springfield with 300 loaded supply wagons accompanied by 450 mounted guardsmen; Our destination was Fort Gibson near the mouth of the Neosho River in the Territory. The Neosho was then called Grand River.
When within about fifteen miles of the fort, Jo. Shelby thought he would scare us from the train of wagons as we were crossing a small prairie. He made a flank move on us with 800 men, coming down in a trot. We corralled the wagons, got behind them and waited until they were within 150 steps when Shelby concluded we were going to stay with the train too well to suit him, made a left wheel and trotted off in the finest of order without a shot being fired on either side. We concluded they were as willing to go on without molesting us as we were to have them go, but after they left, our teamsters did not spare the whip. We could smell the small pox, miles out from the fort. There were all told, white, red, black, big and little, about 15,000 persons at the fort; 1,500 had the small pox, the death rate from starvation and disease amounting to a large number each day. It was all our soldiers could do to keep back the rush for the provisions. We left 150 of the wagons at the fort and the next day took the others across the Arkansas River and about fifteen miles south where we joined Gen. John Blunt, who was camped awaiting us with 11,000 men. At 4 oclock next morning we moved by way of McAllister on a forced march of 65 miles. By 10 oclock that night we reached Berryville, Prices headquarters. It was drizzling rain, but without a moments pause we open order, charged their batteries and took them after they had fired one round. Some of the guns were spiked when we captured them. The rush of the rebels to get away was something awful; they fairly fell over each other in their desperate haste.
We captured 16 cannon, 15,000 stand of arms, 15,000 rebel uniforms and a large amount of commissary stored, all of the latter, except what we needed for immediate use, was burned; we also burned the town, which consisted of only seven or eight
houses. Our casualties were five killed and fifteen wounded by the explosion of a shell. We moved on half a mile and there rested until 4 oclock in the morning, when we were aroused and started on the back track. We made the return trip of 65 miles the next day, having marched 125 miles in about 60 hours, and not a man fell by the wayside.
The forces of Price were divided, there being about 15,000 at Berryville and 1,500 at Fort Smith. Berryville was on the head branch of Boggy Creek in the Choctaw Nation, Fort Smith on the Arkansas River on the present line between Arkansas and Oklahoma. We were camped 40 miles west of Fort Smith the next morning. We started again at 4 oclock in the morning, taking a due east course for Fort Smith. About 3 P. M. we struck the Poteau River at a point 15 miles southwest of the fort. Here the entire force of 15,000 rebels had assembled to oppose our advance. They had masked their cannon on a bluff commanding the crossing on the river. We halted two miles west of the ford to feed our horses, as there was a 40-acre field of corn very handy. I, with about 500 others, taking a blanket apiece, flew into the field grabbing for the ears of corn, and we as expected to bring out corn for our whole command we had laid off our arms. We were scattered all over the field in five minutes, like Negroes in a melon patch. I was about the middle of the field with my blanket full of corn when a tornado of rifle bullets clipped the corn stalks all around us. I started for the fence in a hurry when the thought struck me it would be better to have breastworks behind than in front, so I slung the corn upon my back and waded for camp. We had to get over a high stake-and-rider fence. As I was climbing this fence, about a dozen minnie balls struck the panel I was on, one knocking a sliver in my face. I did not take time to look back; I just rolled off that fence, corn and all, and shot for camp. Our pickets were due east, at the lower end of the land leading to the corn field. As I neared camp I met Colonel Cloud of the 2nd Kansas Cavalry with about 100 mounted men. Where are those devils? he asked me. At the north end of the the field; they will try to take off our pickets, I replied. Ill be with them, replied the Colonel, and away he went on the double quick. But the enemy saw him coming and pulled for their camp, Colonel Cloud after them for a two-mile chase. He ran them right into the ford of the river directly under the muzzles of their batteries. As he right-about wheeled, the rebel gunners ran to their guns
and fired into the tops of the trees, cutting off limbs and brush but not hurting a man.
There were three or four killed in the corn field, but Clouds men retaliated by killing fifteen or twenty at the crossing. There were about 300 rebels who had come across the river and these were lying in the brush to await our coming. About the same number had fired into us in the corn field; all this retreating force was mixed up in the ford, which was about four feet deep. On his return Colonel Cloud made a report to General Blunt, who immediately gave orders for a general advance. In twenty minutes we were at the ford and a great sight was presented to our view, for the whole mountain side was a working mass of fleeing rebels, We rushed across the river where we met a rear guard of about 300 men, and routed them, killing and capturing half of their number. We lost about fifteen of our men in this skirmish. The enemy now divided, about 800 returning to the fort to take charge there, the rest of their force retreating towards Hot Springs. Our army pursued them as far as what was called The Devils Backbone of the Iron Mountains. There they were drawn up in line of battle. A hot fight then ensued, lasting until dark, when Blunt flanked them and they fled.
The losses on either side were about 300 killed and many wounded. Blunt returned to the fort next day, capturing 15,000 stand of arms, as many uniforms and a large amount of supplies.
Our detachment was sent back to Springfield, Missouri, having been in the saddle almost continuously for 42 days without a change of clothing except as we would rinse our shirts in some pool or stream. Our garments would be as stiff as boards from sweat and dust. It was awful to endure, but we have only to think of Shermans definition of war, and we are reconciled to the greatest hardships. It is to be regretted that this civil war of ours had to be, with its great expenditure of blood and treasure on either side, but its effect, like the effect of a tempest on the weather, was salutary to the nation.
Kansas, that great battle ground between the forces of Liberty and Slavery, was by this war forever freed from the unholy possibility that the hand of the boundman should toil in her fertile fields, or his feet should tread the road to a mart of slavery.