KanColl Books


by Adolph Roenigk

DR. N. C. FANCHER, Continued

Saw Mills on the Present Site of Kansas City; Indians Celebrate
the Installation of one; Helping Name the Town of
Chanute; Had First Stock of Drugs in Neosho Co.
Meeting with the Klu Klux Klan in Arkansas

     In the spring of 1867, on the 1st day of May, I came to Kansas City, which then had a population of about 3,500. There were five little stream sawmills running in the immediate vicinity, three of them in the West Bottoms, or Kaw River Bottoms. There was one at the mouth of Turkey Creek on the Missouri River, about one block west of the Loose-Wiles cracker plant, where now stands the cold storage; one a little east of the Loose-Wiles cracker plan; one across the Kaw east of S. and S. packing house; one about where Oak Street strikes the Missouri River, and one near where 15th Street strikes the Blue River, four or five miles southeast of town.
     That same spring there was a half-breed Kaw Indian (perhaps Wyandott) who was schooled in Chicago, bought a small saw mill and located it on the Kansas side near the bluff, then a few yards north of where Central Avenue Elevated Electric viaduct passes off the bluff going east. There was an old Kaw River bed of a lake, some 150 yards wide and lay along the western bank a distance of nearly half a mile. By this lake the Indian erected his mill, engaged two white men, an engineer and head sawyer to set the plant in running order. I witnessed the christening of the mill.
     There were still Indians located at 7th and Minnesota Avenue, about 1,500 or more, so the morning the mill was to start, the owner and some twenty young bucks came down to give it a proper audience. The mill men had a cottonwood log on the stage. After the Indians had all mounted the pile of saw logs, for all the world like a flock of curious turkeys, the operatives started the mill. They rolled on a log about two feet in diameter and fourteen feet long, slabbed it, turned it, dogged it and started to open it in the middle. The saw just sizzed

     Note: Dr. Fancher says he was an eye witness of the incident which, quite in accordance with Indian custom, fixed upon the enterprising young savage the name of Splitlog, but in his account nothing is given to connect this person with the Indian known as Mathias Splitlog, who built, or caused to be built, a considerable mileage of railroad which was called the “Splitlog” Railroad. In the absence of data we are not positive but believe these notable Indians to have been one and the same.


through the green log; the Indians became greatly excited by the spectacle; they began to shout and jump, and ran to the owner of the mill and carried him around and around, yelling, “Heap split log!” and from that day on the much admired mill owner’s name was changed from the original Indian to “Splitlog.”
     There is an avenue in Kansas City named Splitlog. This Indian, Splitlog, held claim to a great portion of the land now in the city of Kansas City, Kansas. A man from Canada and myself took the contract of cutting, scoring and hewing 265,000 feet of timber that was used in making the coffer dams around the piers of the Hannibal Bridge across the Missouri River, a little northeast of the old Union Depot in Kansas City. All of this timber we bought from Splitlog for ten cents a tree. We were all summer of the year 1867 at this work. The timber was cut where the heart of Kansas City, Kansas, is now located.
     Chanute was the engineer of the bridge. He was a German, and his name was afterward given to a town. A man by the name of Tye and myself laid out the town of Tioga, and in order to consolidate what was then called New Chicago and Tioga, gave it the name Chanute, which measure was successful in quieting two warring factions.
     In the year 1868 I had my right leg and ankle fractured while in Kansas City, Missouri. This disabling accident caused me to turn my attention to drugs. I took the first drug stock to New Chicago, Neosho County, Kansas.
     I engaged a doctor as clerk, and when I had recovered from my broken limb, took a contract to build a stone house for Seth Jackson in the southwest corner of Allen County, and also built one for myself one and a half miles from Chanute on Little Turkey Creek. This quarter section was afterward claimed by the M. K. & T. Railroad. They also claimed every alternate section for ten miles on each side of their line through the counties of Neosho, Labette, Crawford and Cherokee.
     Many of these lands were occupied by settlers, who were converting them into homes, and they resisted the railroad’s claim which was acquired after these homesteads were taken. They organized the Settlers Protective Association with the object of fighting the railroad to a finish. I was secretary of the branch established at Chanute. The organization employed an attorney in Ohio to take their case through the various courts,


which caused it to drag along for four years, the settlers losing out. It cost them $35,000. They then agreed to pay the attorney an equal sum if he would take the case before the United States Supreme Justice. This proceeding dragged along another four years. Meanwhile I sold my improvements for $185; they were easily worth $1,000. At last the case against the railroad was decided in the settlers’ favor by their setting up successful contention that the United States Government could not make a grant to lands already otherwise apportioned.
     My next move was to Sumner County where I located six miles northeast of Caldwell on the Chikaskia River. In 1872 I built the first two stone houses in Sumner County; one for J. Hildreth and one for William Nelson. It was while in Sumner County that I began the practice of medicine.
     During my life in the pioneer days of Kansas I saw many curious things come to pass and had many lively adventures. I hunted buffalo all over Southwestern Kansas and was over a great portion of Southeastern Kansas in 1868. During my various rambles I made a trip into Northwestern Arkansas and while there, filed on a claim in the north edge of West Prairie, three miles south of Southwest City. My military record made me unpopular with the natives--the Klu Klux Klan ran me out--I let them have it their own way and went out into the Indian Nation for safety. From there I struck north to Baxter Springs. While there a half-breed told me of a cliff called Lover’s Leap. He related its history to me which was something like this--About the year 1830 there was a young Indian buck who had united his affections with those of a beautiful young squaw, the daughter of the Chief of a tribe who was near by this cliff. The young warrior had asked the chief for the hand of his daughter, but met only a scornful refusal. One morning the two were missing from their tepees. The entire tribe turned out to chase the fugitives; the trail led to the fatal cliff where the two lovers had stood side by side, and clasped in one last fond embrace, leaped to their death. Their crushed and broken bodies were found at the foot of the precipice.
     The cliff was ever afterward known as Lover’s Leap. One morning I thought I would visit the spot so hallowed by melancholy annals. To reach it I went down the river two miles below Baxter Springs where Spring River has washed away the point of a little mountain, making a perpendicular


cliff seventy-five feet in height.
     After viewing this sad monument to the cause of thwarted love I went across to an Indian camp where I bought some dressed deer skins and started to return. The road crossed the river just below the little mountain, and as I struck this road I heard a terrible roaring behind me. Not a cloud was in the sky. While searching for a reason for the rumbling I looked down the road where a cloud of dust was boiling up. Soon the horns and heads of a vast herd of Texas steers --4,000 in number--appeared. The great herd of semi-wild cattle had been stampeded by Indians and were now running amuck. It was prairie up to the foot of the mountain, which was clad with brush and timber. The timber was about 200 yards away, and I barely had time to select a large oak and get behind it when the cattle were upon me. They flew by in a compact mass, snorting and grunting, their long horns scraping the bark of the tree right into my face. There never was, before or since, an oak hugged as tight as that one was. The cattle never halted a moment for the river; they just plunged over the perpendicular bank twenty-five feet high, filled the river, and the remainder passed on over the dead, crippled and drowning ones. The river was dammed by the carcasses and cut a channel on the other side. There were more than 400 dead steers in the river and as many more crippled. It was an awful and terrifying sight. The herd was scattered for twenty miles along the trail. It took the drovers a month to round them up.
     Such stampedes were not uncommon: the loss to the drover was always heavy; lo, the poor Indian was always ready to profit by the white man’s loss. He hung on the flanks of a stampeding herd, ready to cut off the terrified stragglers or ply his keen knife on the fallen ones. A stampede meant a feast, and plenty in his tepee for several suns. With the destruction of the Indian’s natural food, the buffalo, the white man’s “Whoa Haw” came next, there being a certain amount of grim justice in the change.


     In a few days I started for Kansas City afoot. Near Galena I showed a settler where he could strike lead by digging a few feet. He decided to profit by my advice and sunk a shaft eight


feet at which depth the lead was found, the first found in that vicinity.
     While near Ft. Lincoln I stopped and built two chimneys, one each for an old man named Loudenback and his son. The night after I Ieft them I stayed over with a couple of old fashioned squatters. Their cabin home was small and I had to sleep on a pallet on the floor. They had an open barrel of meal standing near my bead. It was dark when I stopped at the cabin and I saw nothing wrong with the household arrangements. At daybreak I heard a terrible scratching near my head. As it drew lighter I saw an old rooster and three hens roosting on the edge of the meal barrel. I saw also that the lady of the house had been a little neglectful of her chores the previous evening and had failed to adjust the fowls properly before retiring. Bringing the chicken in the house was about the only way to save them in those days, as small “varmints” were plentiful and wolves made the night hideous with their howling. The next morning when the squatter called me to breakfast I was too sick to eat, and to tell the truth I have felt conscience stricken ever since, for I had to both tell and act a lie to save my stomach.
     The spring of 1871 found me again in the drug business in Arkansas City in Cowly County. While there I heard of a claim about forty miles west, in Sumner County, on the head of Fall Creek. It was said to have some timber on it, so I started to look at it. When I found the claim did not suit me I started to return and stayed over night with a cattle herder. It was some fifteen miles back on the Chikaskia river to a settlement of four or five families. I liked the looks of that valley so I started toward it early the next morning. I had to go several miles out over the high prairie where I struck an Indian trail which I followed a short distance.
     The grass had been burn off on the northeast side of the trail. I had not gone far when I saw to the south of me what I took to be the head of a large grey wolf looking at me out of the high grass. I stopped about 150 yards away and began to hallo at it, when the animal raised up and started to circle around me. As it drew nearer, although I kept yelling all the time, I saw that instead of a wolf it was a large panther. It kept circling until it came to the windward of me, then stopped about sixty paces away. Having nothing to defend


myself with except a very small penknife, my condition was desperate. Looking around I selected a solid buffalo skeleton, the prairie being plentifully strewn with them at that time, set the head with the horns yet tightly on by my feet and took the two large femer bones in my hands. When the panther stopped it was broadside to me. It raised its head and looking straight at me, sniffed the air. It appeared to be about seven or eight feet long with a tail four feet long that swept the ground.
     Now about this time there were drops of sweat about the size of marbles rolling off my face, and I could feel spots a foot in diameter, all colors of the rainbow, coming all over my body. I knew I dare not take my eyes off the beast for a moment, and to run would be worse than useless. I began to jump, dance and crack the bones together, also to roar like a mad bull. (Certaintly I did not feel like one.) The panther observed my antics for a minute or two, then all at once crouched down like a cat and started crawling toward me. It was then I came near giving up the ghost. But I made one more desperate effort to save my life; I bellowed desperately, whacked the bones savagely together and stamped my feet as loudly as I could. Upon this the animal stopped, raised its head and looked away from me for the first time. It then turned and started to trot away, just as a cat would trot. I watched it until it passed over the divide three-quarters of a mile away.
     The terrible fright I had received left me so weak I was obliged to sit down to rest every few hundred yards. I saw no more of the panther, but a few months after that the Osage Indians were on a hunt some fifteen miles south of where I had my meeting with it, and while on Deer Creek, in the Nation, a large panther attacked one of the Indians. He was said to have been a gigantic warrior, not afraid of man, beast or devil. As the huge feline sprang to alight upon him, he deftly stepped to one side and buried his hatchet in its brain. It had been seen on several occasions throughout a certain territory. It had killed a hog for a man living on the Chikaskia, also had been heard by a number of settlers.
     I will now make some reference to a few of the things I have seen and learned of the very early explorations and settlements of our state.
     When I first came to Kansas City in 1853 there was an old


Spanish fort in Kansas City, Kansas, located on 15th St. south of Central Avenue, just at the top of the bluff. It was built of stone, was about a hundred yards square with parapets and a trench all around. There were breastworks running from the fort north to the Missouri River, a distance of two and a half miles. Inside the fort was a magazine some thirty or forty feet long and eighteen to twenty feet wide. One the west side of the breastworks reaching the river was a ditch its full length, which was still there when we were getting out the timber for the coffer dams. There was also a shaft sunk near Fourth Street which was about sixty feet deep. At the bottom there was a large stream of water running that came out in the edge of the river a hundred and fifty yards south of the shaft. It has always been a source of speculation as to who did this work, as the Indians claimed they knew nothing of it.
     From reading the history of the Spanish in North America we are inclined to believe all these military and mining operations are of Spanish execution. It is claimed by some historians that the Spanish settled and cultivated lands along all the principal streams of the Kaw valley from Kansas City to Great Bend on the Arkansas River. This was done from about the year 1545 down until the beginning of the 17th century. During this period there was a settlement that was cut off from Mexico and their source of supplies, consequently ran out of arms and ammunition. They were obliged to take up the Indians’ weapons of the bow and quiver of arrows as a means of defense and to kill game, in consequence were called Quivirians. Their settlement extended to the valleys of the Neosho, Arkansas, Spring River and the Cowskin, as well as a number of others not named. The chief occupations of the men was hunting and mining, while the women and children were busy with domestic affairs at their homes.
     The scope of country embraced in Southeastern Kansas, or Northeastern Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and Southwestern Missouri was all mined and prospected over to some extent. I have seen the little mounds of dump dirt all over that part of the country. About a mile and a half north of Gravette on the Kansas City Southern Railroad there is a tunnel nine feet across and about as high cut with an arched roof in the solid rock. The tunnel entered the north side of the bluff, running due south a distance of 600 yards. I was told of this tunnel by a friend who went with me to examine it in 1895. He thought it to be a


natural cave until I called his attention to the marks of pick and chisel used in its construction. A distance of fifty yards from the entrance of the tunnel it had been filled to the roof with dirt and stone.
     Three miles east of Sulphur Springs we visited a cave situated in a high bluff, containing a shaft six or seven feet across. We carried a lantern, as the shaft was well back in the cave. We found a pole ladder supplied with rawhide rungs projecting from the shaft. We could see down some distance but of course did not venture to descend, as the ladder was ready to crumble with its great age. Four years ago (1907) there was a Spaniard came to Gravette, direct from Madrid, Spain. He carried a parchment giving the exact location of the tunnel, this parchment having been handed down to him from his great grandfather’s great grandfather, who had engineered the tunnel. The parchment stated that there was a shaft in the tunnel, reaching a ledge of silver ore, which had been sealed up before the Indians had forced the operators to leave the country. They had left their mining tools, also three bales or rolls of copper wire and a large mastadon tooth.
     The Indians had pursued six Spaniards who took refuge in the tunnel where the savages, to insure their destruction, filled in 150 feet of tunnel as found. The skeleton of the unfortunate men of course still remain in the tunnel. The Spaniards hired twelve laborers, made cars using wooden rails for track, and set to work re-opening the tunnel. It occupied the force employed six weeks to clean it. The tunnel was described as having six rooms cut in its walls, but two were not found. The rooms were partly filled with stalactites, so it was necessary to get down to a crawling posture to enter them. The skeletons were found, two of them sitting against the wall with hands on their knees, the remaining four lying stretched out around them. The copper wire was, of course, in perfect condition; the tooth had undergone no changes but the tools were partly rusted away.
     The tunnel is now in the hands of Kansas City, Missouri, company who charge visitors an admission fee. The Spaniards conveyed the minerals taken from their works throughout these regions, on burros to the Osage, Arkansas and White Rivers, where it was loaded on canoes and barges and by means of the Mississippi, reached the gulf where it was transferred to


vessels bound for Spain. Since losing these and other mines, Spain has greatly declined from a commercial point of view.
     Coronado in the year 1541 started from New Mexico in quest of the Quivirian settlement. He marched east some seven days, then turned north until he struck the Arkansas River near Fort Dodge. He then traveled northeast until he reached the present location of Great Bend. Four miles northeast of there was then a lake eight or ten miles long and four miles wide. On the west shore of this lake was a village of the Quivirians. From them he secured a supply of buffalo meat, then proceeded east to the settlement near where Kanapolis in Ellsworth County now stands, but south of that point, on Thompson Creek. He then followed down the Smoky Hill River about to Lindsborg in McPherson County, thence north to the Saline River. As he passed through Saline County he camped a few miles southeast of Salina at a spring that came out of a small cliff. The water from this spring ran off, making a bog a short distance away. During the night one of the cavalier’s horses mired in this bog and in the morning was dead. They cut on the rocks above the spring a brief account of the incident with the date in Roman numerals MDXLI (1541).
     They then followed up the Saline river to the present site of Lincoln Center where they camped on the bluff south of town. Between the river and Yauger Creek in a cave in the cliff they cut a dart, a fish, a beaver and a prairie hen. Winfield Rees, while excavating for a cellar near this point, came upon an old Spanish gun barrel three feet below the surface. On top of the cliff they had sunk a small hole and filled it with peach seeds. These were petrified into a kind of hard sandstone for a depth of two feet; below this was about a hatfull of the seeds in fine condition, being packed in loose sand. I still have in my possession a fine specimen of the petrified seeds, a chunk weighing five or six pounds.

     Note: The proud and haughty nation of Spain at one time sat as receiver for the great store-houses of wealth broken into by her brigandish explorers and colonial managers; both North and South America having contributed millions in precious metals to the coffers of Castile, but the principle of wringing a country dry, giving nothing in return, resulted in their losing continents, islands and isles from their outlaying possessions, while the decay of their once splendid marine keeping pace with colonial losses, has left them little but their ancient pride upon which to fasten their empty titles.


     Note: We are not sure that Dr. Fancher’s brief account of Coronado’s expedition agrees entirely with contemporaneous history. However, for that matter, the best historians do not agree with each other and not always with themselves. The writer has been a close observer of things and events and has often had to pause in indecision upon finding accepted history and demonstrated theory flatly contradicted by visual evidence. Pictured rocks are a frequent occurrence throughout all Indian countries. The savages used this rude means of recording their history and leaving messages or directions for later comers; it was their sole substitute for a written language, embodying some of the principles of the hierogliphic alphabets of the Eyptians and others, but here we come to a point where this specific line of reasoning is at fault. The presence of Roman numerals among those sign-pictures must be taken as certain evidence of the presence of enlightened Europeans. As the Spanish was the first of all white races to visit our part of this continent, who then, will deny the authorship of the dates left upon the face of those cliffs?
     Coronado’s route through Kansas is not positively known. Twelve miles of Lincoln, Kansas on a small tributary to the Saline River, is a point of rocks having engraved on their perpendicular faces, horses, teppees, bows and arrows and buffalo, with here and there letters of the Roman notation. Now must we conclude that Coronado visited this place also, or shall we fall back upon this ingenious theory, viz.: The Spanish conquerors and explorers always carried out their high-handed work in the name of their religion and patron saints; while their openly avowed intention was to rob the savage upon every opportunity if he possessed anything worth taking, they were very solicitous about his soul’s welfare, and were zealous in saving a few souls when convenient, even if it became necessary to cut the possessor’s throat to accomplish the salvation. To assist them in the work of instructing the savage in the ways of righteousness, their expeditions were always accompanied by a Padre, or man of the cloth, who, to do him justice, was usually conscientious and zealous in his ministrations. To facilitate the transmission of ideas, the Indians were instructed, in a limited way, in the art of letters. Some knowledge of the Roman numerals may have been acquired by tribes with whom the Spanish came in contact, and this faint gleam of the superior knowledge of a more schooled race, carried in the retentive mind of the Indian, was handed from generation to generation until during the more recent visits of the Indians to our part of the country was inscribed with other symbols beside the tepee and the pony. Unless, indeed, we wish to embrace the plausible but farther-fetched theory of Ignatius Donnelly that there is a close tie between all the brotherhood of man, whereby, without knowledge of each other, the various races produced signs, languages, alphabets and crafts in duplicate.

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