KanColl Books


by Adolph Roenigk

Indian Skull Found in the Vicinity of the Battlefield of Summit
Springs and Its Probable History.

     During the winter of 1920-21 I was living in Denver, Colorado. During my leisure hours I visited the Historical Natural History Society building located near the capitol. Looking over the many interesting collections of articles displayed there, I came to a showcase containing relics, among which was an Indian skull that attracted my attention more than anything else. A label attached to at read thus:
     “Skull of an Indian found in 1883 half buried in a place about twelve miles southeast of Sterling, Colorado. It is believed that he was a member of the band of Indians who had a fight with Federal troops in that locality in 1869 in the Indian War of that period. It was supposed that the perforation in the skull was made by a bullet. Dr. J. W. Hall of Denver, donor.”
     Seeing the skull and reading the label attached to it, the thought struck me at once that its history might be connected with what has been written in the foregoing chapters. I copied this label for the purpose of making an investigation. I went to the office of the curator who had charge of the rooms and historical collections to learn the address of Dr. J. N. Hall, the donor of the skull, to make inquiry to learn the particulars of its history. I was told Dr. Hall had left the city and his address was unknown.
     The statement on the label of the skull, that it was found southeast of Sterling and was believed to have belonged to a member of a band of Indians that had a fight with Federal troops aroused by attention, as the locality where the skull was found was in the vicinity of the battleground of Summit Springs, which is described in the foregoing chapter. It may seem strange, almost incredible, that this skull could have had anything to lo with what happened a half century ago that directly concerned me. That this could have been the skull of an Indian belonging to a band that chased a party of us at one time, and came very near getting my scalp; yet I believed it possible.
     The identity and movements of the hostile Indians who took part in the raids in Kansas has always remained obscured more or less, because the story from the Indian side has never been


told (it has been told since), and the white people were unable to keep track of them in the then wild country. We will here trace these bands of whom we have no doubt of their identity, from place to place on their raids and where they came in contact with the troops, and from the result form a conclusion that this band, or bands were the same that took part in those raids and battles that occurred during the ten months time beginning September 17, 1868, at Arickaree and ending July 11, 1869, at Summit Springs.
     The number engaged, likewise, was never positively known. That the tribes and bands separated, and again joined each other at certain places was well known. They were members of the tribes that had inhabited Northwestern Kansas, the Saline, Solomon and Republican valleys, and while on the war path in the summer of 1868 were driven out of these valleys toward the west and on September 17th Forsythe’s scouts encountered them and fought the battle at Beechers Island. From here these Indians went south into winter quarters on the Washita River, where Black Kettle’s camp was located, which was destroyed by Custer’s Seventh Cavalry on November 27, 1868.
     It should here be stated that, according to history, it was quite uncertain that Black Kettle’s band had deserved such a fate; but that the real guilty bands who made the Solomon Valley raids were encamped farther below on the Washita River, who, at that time made their escape and went west into Texas, where a short time later they were forced to release the two women captives which they had taken in the Solomon Valley as has been related.
     After being placed on reservations, as soon as the grass came out to furnish feed for their ponies, these Indians again broke out, left the territory, and went on the war path. Coming north they attacked the railroad men at Fossil Creek May 28, 1869. The writer was one of these men and here was where they came very near getting my scalp.
     From there they made for their old haunts to the northeast, where, two days later, they attacked the settlers in the Spillman and Saline valleys, May 30th.
     From here they turned in a northwest direction where two days later they encountered Humbarger’s party of buffalo hunters in Asborne County, June 2nd.


     About six weeks later we hear of this same band of Indians (having with them the two captive white women from the Saline valley) on the Republican River in Southern Nebraska, where General Carr with the 5th Cavalry was pursuing them in a northwest direction when the final battle took place and the renegades received their just desert, July 11, 1869.

     As no other fight occurred between Indians and Federal troops in those years, that is known to history, we may conclude it to be within the range of possibility that the Indian skull in the historical rooms above referred to belonged to a member of a band who attacked us at Fossil Creek Station, May 28th, and raided the Saline Valley May 30th, about six weeks prior to meeting their own defeat.

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