Transcribed from Biographical history of Barton County, Kansas. ; Illustrated. Published by Great Bend Tribune, Great Bend, KS : 1912. 318 p. : ill. ; 28 cm. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, July 2006.

1912 Biographical History of Barton County, Kansas


And so the season wore on; we usually got our supplies from the passing trains; so that, in reality, our life was an easy one, yet full of excitement on account of the Indians who often tried to get our stock, but failed; until September, when they made a grand successful rally, and drove off all my stock, killing my herder.

The loosing of several thousand head of cattle gave me the blues, and shortly after I accepted a situation as mail carrier on the Santa Fe stage line of Barlow, Saunderson & Co., where I remained more than three years, but still keeping up my ranch, having to pass it weekly going out and returning to the States. During that time I crossed the plains 150 times.

During the fall of 1867 the Indians attacked a mule train, enroute for Mexico, near the mouth of Walnut Creek, cut off an ambulance from the rear end and killed an old lady and gentleman, cut the old lady in quarters, piled her clothes n the remains and set them on fire, and carried off the bleeding scalps of both at their belts.

This was the year that Fort Zarah was built and occupied by troops. During this same fall, a short distance this side of Walnut Creek four government teams loaded for Fort Larned were attacked by Indians, who succeeded in killing and scalping the drivers, and running off the stock. The Post Commander, thinking it not a safe place for him, kept his quarters, and gave us what we could get oust of the wreck; we went out and made a nice haul of coffee, sauerkraut, beans, flour, sugar, etc.

Cow Creek crossing had many a fight between freighters and Indians, and many killed on both sides. Once, when a small party (three men and one woman) with an ambulance, were going to Fort Harker, they were attacked about a mile east of Cow Creek crossing; they stopped over a deep buffalo wallow, and all got down into it for protection. While in this condition a company of troops commanded by a captain who had been sent out to look after them, came up on the west bank of Cow Creek in plain view of the scene, and after looking at them a few moments, turned his command around for the west, without attempting to render them any assistance. One sergeant in his company begged the captain to cross the creek and relieve them, but instead of so doing the captain put the sergeant under arrest and returned to Fort Zarah with his company, thus leaving the small party to perish at the hands of the red devils, which they most certainly would, had it not been for the timely arrival of a dozen scouts on their way from Fort Harker to Fort Larned, who arrived on the spot just as the deserted party had used their last shots at the Indians. They killed three or four Indians, and on the other hand the Indians wounded the entire party. The cowardly captain was cashiered and dismissed from the service for the act.

We raised onions, tomatoes and potatoes, that year (1867) near the ranch on spaded ground, they being the first vegetables ever raised in Barton County by white men. We had rains enough to keep them in good growing condition, and they matured of good size, and shape.

That fall everything went on in the usual way, the Indians taking the west end of the road above and around Fort Dodge. A mild winter followed; and when spring returned so did the Indians, who kept up their attacks during the summer at every opportunity. They kept things livelier than usual for us.

During the fall of 1868 we fought the last Indian fight of Barton County, four miles below where Great Bend now stands, on the Arkansas river. We numbered twelve men and the Indians about seventy-five. We fought them for three hours, killing and wounding several, also killing several ponies. We lost two men in that engagement; shot with both bullets and arrows. The Indians finally left the battle ground, carrying of their dead and the battle ground, carrying off their dead and I sent my colored man out for some stray stock; the Indians cut him off from the ranch, captured him, cut off his feet and one of his hands, skinned the muscles off his limbs, skinned the whole top of his head—taking every hair, ripped him open from end to end, and left him. He crawled several rods in that condition, until he reached an elevation in sight of the ranch, and expired.

During the same fall, and a short time previous, the Indians killed and scalped a white man of mine, near where now stands the Great Bend stock yards.

Another engagement was had in September, (I think), that same fall, only a short time previous to the last one mentioned, just this side of Walnut Creek, and near where the railroad bridge now is, between the Indians and soldiers of the Fort. The red devils captured the teams and killed some of the soldiers. Indian fights were frequent along the Santa Fe trail, that season, and many of good white man was put under the sod on that account.

Cholera extended from ranch to ranch, nearly crossing the plains, in 1867, and many died in consequence.


WE are informed by Mr. T. J. Richardson, a settler near Rush Center, that in September, 1860, while returning from a trip over the Rocky Mountains, he stopped over night at "Peacock's Ranch," an abode concern then situated a short distance below the Walnut, about where Fort Zarah was built. There he learned of the massacre of


Mr. Peacock and five others, part of them members of his family, by the Kiowa Indians, one or two weeks previous. One man escaped whose name he did not learn. Our informant did not know where Mr. Peacock was from, and did not state how long he had lived at the ranch. The Indians carried off all the stock connected with the ranch, and committed sundry other depredations on emigrants.


FORT ZARAH was established September 6, 1864, by Gen. Samuel R. Curtis, then in command of the military district, and named in honor of his son, Maj. H. Zarah Curtis, who was killed at the Baxter Springs massacre while on the staff of Gen. Blunt. October 6th, 1863. It was completed in 1867, and spoken of as an outpost.

The site of the Fort is well known to all—at the southeast of the Walnut. It stood on a gentle eminence, nearly surrounded by a shallow creek which might easily be made a means of defense by filling with water.

It was built of sandstone, quarried in the neighboring bluffs about three miles off. These rocks were mostly of a deep purplish brown, varying to a light brown. They were usually hewn to a pretty smooth face, and laid up in the rough, in good solid mortar. The outer walls were about 16 inches thick, the inner walls one foot. The walls inside were all well plastered. The roof of the building was often plastered. The roof of the building was of tin, 116 feet, with an average width of 50 feet. The main portion was divided into 7 rooms, somewhat resembling a "hop-scotch" bed. It was two stories high except 24 feet of the eastern part. The main entrance was at the eastern end, opening into the officers' quarters. There was only one window in the entire building, and that was at the eastern end. There were loop-holes along the northwest, and south sides. At the southeast and northwest corners there were hexagonal, two-story towers, with two sets of loop-holes for musketry. These loop-holes were arranged in sets of three on a side in each story, and presented a face opening of two inches wide by 16 inches high, widening in the wall to a breadth of about 16 or 18 inches on the inside. Beneath the rooms running across the ends, there were cellars dug 8 feet deep and walled with stone. To the west, at a distance of 20 feet, was the magazine, which was 12 feet square, and connected with the west cellar by an underground passage 4 feet wide. A short distance to the southeast of the fort stood the guard house, a stone building about 14 feet square. We herewith present a plan of the fort:



There are many evidences of occupation surrounding the Fort, such as cellars, remains and traces of ranches, huts, shanties, tents, etc. On section 36, township 19 south, range 13 west, about 100 rods south of the southeast corner of the reservation, near where the old toll-bridge crossed the Walnut, appears the most formidable ruins of any. At first sight there would seem to have been a fort there once; but it must be remembered that in those days herdsmen were obliged to build for defense. Besides, the "oldest inhabitant," Mr. H. H. Kidder, assures us that there was never a fort there—only a ranch. The main building is 70 feet north and south, by 30 feet across. A cross wall divides it into two rooms, the north one being 30 feet square, the south one 30 by 40. There are still some very heavy rocks in the foundation of the walls, though most of the material of which the walls were composed has long since been carried off. The debris is still 18 inches to 2 feet high. Attached to the southeast corner appears a hexagonal ruin of earth and rock, each of the sides about 12 feet long. On the west side of the building are earth-works, about 60 by 80 yards, with various cross-works and walls. These were the walls of the corral, which was divided into apartments. The present owner of the ground has some field crop growing over the ruins; but it seems like farming under difficulties, for the soil is not so rich and damp as ordinary prairie soil.


About 300 yards northeast of these ruins, in Section 31, T. 19, R. 12 W., is the old grave yard. This bears evidence of more recent use. There are about 18 or 20 graves in all; though many were difficult to distinguish, and there may be more or less. Many of the graves have no stone or stick to mark the spot, and can only be detected by a slight ridge or depression. Several have sandstones raised at the head and foot.

Only one grave has a stone with any inscription. This, a brown sandstone, is broken down, and bears the following well carved, but partly effaced, inscription:

Who Died Mar. 22d, 1872.
Age 1 yr and 2 Months.

The age was the most effaced, and may have been something else. At the foot a neat cross is engraved on a standing brown sandstone. The grave is covered densely with buffalo grass, and appears much older. At the foot of one grave there is a cottonwood board, without any inscription. At the heads and feet of a few, small stones are stuck in the ground.

Three of the graves, which are probably those of soldiers, are surrounded by stone walls 18 inches high, which are filled within with earth. These are in the best condition of any of the graves.


Fort Zarah Military Reservation was established September 30th, 1868, by order of the president, and surveyed and laid out the same year. It is about two by two and three quarters miles in extent, and reaches from the railroad north to the hills. It contains about 3,698 acres.

On February 24, 1871, an act of Congress provided for bringing into market the lands of the Fort Zarah Reservation; and on August 11, 1871, "the Surveyor General was authorized to extend the lines of the public surveys over the same."

In July, 1874, "the lands having been appraised at from $3 to $10 per acre," were offered at public sale at Salina, at which sale "only two lots, containing together 45.20 acres, were sold at $4.00 per acre, leaving the balance subject to private entry at the appraised value."


The Fort was "dismantled" in 1869. Among other work of dismantling was the removal of the tin roof at an expense to the government of $20,000; and the removal of the same to Fort Harker at a further expense of $10,000; —fat jobs for some poor contractors. On arrival of the tin roof at Fort Harker, the receiver wouldn't receive her; so the thing was dumped down on the prairie a short distance from the fort; and it has since done good service in sheltering various settlers on government lands. The original cost of Fort Zarah was $110,000.

After the abandonment of the Fort it became a den of thieves and general rendezvous for bats and marauders. These occupied it day and night by turns,—the former hiding by day, the latter by night.

Settlements commenced in 1871. Almost immediately the hand of the granger was laid upon it, and it began to disappear little by little. Capt. E. V. Rugar was appointed a marshal to take care of it, which he bravely did by going to California in 1874, and letting the Fort take care of itself.

Shortly after the sale of lots mentioned above, Mr. E. C. Sooy put up a notice forbidding anyone to remove any rock from Fort Zarah, as the property had been purchased and now belonged to private individuals. The notice held good until all the best rock had been hauled away from the Fort by various parties at Great Bend, who made quick work of it for a short time, when the rumor was spread that there had been no sale, and the valuable stone remaining at the old Fort lasted but a very short time after; and today only a heap of rubbish, overgrown with rank weeds is left to mark the spot where the proud Fort once stood. Fort Zarah has passed into history.



In 1868, Indians were very troublesome to the settlers and ranchers in the country at that time. They would attack ranchers and wagon trains, run off the horses and cattle, and some times kill the people.

On or about the 12th of August, 1868, word came to Fort Zarah that the Indians were murdering the settlers on the Saline, and Col. Menteen, with his company of 7th Cavalry, "marched swiftly" to their relief, and run the Indians about ten miles.

On October 2nd, 1868, Gen. Hazen reports that "about 100 Indians attacked the Fort at daylight, and were driven off; then they attacked a provision train, killed one of the teamsters, and secured the mules from four wagons; then attacked the ranch eight miles below (near Ellinwood) and drove off the stock."

On the 10th, Lieut. Kaizer, 3rd Infantry, reports that "at 4 p.m. a party of Indians surrounded and drove off six hcrses and two mules from citizens near Fort Zarah."


By Ed. W. Dewey

ABOUT the 7th of July, 1871, I came into Barton county from the town of Russell, Russell County, Kansas. At that time the population of Barton County consisted of but few inhabitants, and they were scattered along the banks of Walnut Creek. There was no settlement on Blood Creek at that time.

One of the first settlers in Great Bend township was Mr. John Cook who, in June, 1871, built a dugout on the bank of the creek, about three miles from the present site of Great Bend. There was no stone or frame house in the county at that time. Mr. A. C. Moses and Mr. J. H. Hubbard were preparing to build frame houses. Mr. A. C. Moses had a few boards put up like a tent, and Mr. Hubbard was hauling stone for a foundation. They had located about two miles below Mr. Cook, on the creek. The country was overrun with buffalo, which kept its awake at night with their continual bellowing and stamping. I settled on a piece of land on the creek—the southwest quarter of section 4, township 19, range 13—and took out my papers about the 15th of July, 1871. The section on which Great Bend now stands was then vacant.

There was no reliable survey of that township, as there were no corners marked within the township by the government surveyors. At this time there was a surveyor by the name of H. Meriton, camped at the old fort, and laying out a town site near where old Fort Zarah used to stand, with whom I had worked during the fore part of the summer, and so I helped him lay out the townsite of Zarah—as it was called—and we also ran several lines for different parties, mine among the rest.

That, I think, was the first survey in the county, after the government survey. At that time there were no section corners marked in any way within township 19, range 13 west. About the last of August there was a government surveying party at work sectionizing the land lying south of the river. At that time the river was nearly dry—no water running above the mouth of the Walnut. The land south of the Arkansas was not then considered good for anything by the settlers.

Early in September a party of Pawnee Indians, numbering about 400, all on foot, passed through the settlement, going south to trade for ponies with the southern Indians. They were all armed, and occasioned considerable alarm among us; but they were peaceable, and committed no depredations. They returned late in October, having plenty of ponies and but few arms. Two or three of them were sick, and annoyed the settlers a good deal by begging, etc. One of them died on Blood creek.

We had to send or go to Salina, on the K. P. R. R., to transact all our land business. The railroad land had not yet came into market.

There was not much land broken that summer, and the only crop raised was a small piece of sod corn, about five miles up the creek from my place, which did very well. No wheat of any importance was sowed that fall.

The town site of Great Bend was surveyed out, and a large house (now the Southern Hotel) was built, the lumber being hauled from Ellsworth, on the K. P. R. R., a distance of 50 miles. A few other houses were built during the fall.

Winter coming on, I made a dugout on the banks of the Walnut, on my land, and my family cattle about the 16th of November. The next day it began to rain and sleet, finally turning to snow. Our things had not yet arrived, and we were compelled to sleep on some old hay in one corner of the dugout. The rain and snow beat in at the door. It became terribly cold before morning, and we came near freezing to death. The creek froze nearly solid.


As the winter progressed the wolves and coyotes became very savage, and it was dangerous for a person to be out on the prairie after dark. Sometime in December I had an adventure with wolves, which I will relate to


illustrate the terrible ferocity of the wolves at that time:

One evening as myself, wife and babe were returning from Mr. E. J. Dodge's (whose family had recently arrived, and where we had been on a visit). I had on a pair of skates, and my wife and babe were on a rude sled, which I had constructed, and was pushing it before me on the ice on the creek. When we had proceeded about one-half the way, we heard the wolves howl on the banks of the creek right ahead of us; and pretty soon their gaunt forms were outlined against the sky. It looked like certain death to go ahead, and almost as certain to turn back, so I pushed ahead and the wolves ran along on the banks beside us until we were nearly home. Then, as if they were afraid that we would get away, they became bolder, and finally, as we turned a bend of the creek, there on the bank, not 10 feet off, stood about half a dozen hungry, howling wolves. As we swung around the bend, two big grays made a leap for the sled, but we were going so fast that they fell short of their intended prey, and as they tried to stop themselves their nails scratched on the ice right beside me, and I felt their hot breath in my face. Immediately I heard them coming behind, and now it was a race for life. I skated as I never skated before or since, and in a few minutes we arrived at the dugout. We ran in, and grabbing my gun I shot two dead within a few feet of the door. I shot at several more, and soon they disappeared.

The winter of 1871, was one of the coldest that I have experienced in this country. A man by the name of Jamison had about 4,000 head of Texas cattle in the bottoms, by the creek, and, as the river and creek were both frozen nearly solid, the settlers had to cut holes in the ice for the cattle to drink from. The cattle suffered terribly with thirst, and became very ferocious. They would often attack a person unless he was on horseback. Several people were attacked by them, and the settlers killed some to protect their lives, and for meat, as the cow-boys had run all of the buffalo out of the valley for several miles. Considerable trouble grew out of this, but no lives were lost.

The settlers lived on corn bread, molasses, and meat, and sometimes a little flour. Every- and meat, and sometimes a little flour. Everything we obtained had to be hauled from the K. P. R. R., and that made prices very high. Flour was $8.00 per cwt., and molasses $1.50 per gallon; bacon, 20 cents per pound; corn meal, $5.00 per hundred weight, and everything else in proportion.

There was some little talk of a railroad coming up the Valley, but the prevailing opinion seemed to be that it would cross the Arkansas at some point east and go down through the Medicine Lodge country. Many settlers came in during that fall, and several houses were built.

The spring opened very fine, and the prairie schoonrs carrying sttlers came in very fast, and the talk of a railroad in the near future assumed more definite shape. Considerable land was broken and planted to corn, etc., and the desert, which has since delevoped into a full blown rose, began to bud. Breaking was worth $4.50 to $5.00 per acre. The town of Great Bend commenced to build up, and things were lively. Hauling from the K. P. R. R. made work for those who had teams and some for those who had none.

The railroad reached Barton County some time in the month of June, 1872, and thus opened up communication with the east.

There were several houses built on the town site of Zarah during the fall of 1871 and spring of 1872. There was a big dance in Buckbee's store at Zarah on Christmas eve, 1871, and a merry time enjoyed by all.


By David N. Heizer of Colorado Springs, Col.

I CAME to Barton County in May, 1871, in company with J. H. Prescott of Enterprise, Miss., W. W. Weymouth of Springfield, O., and Wm. Finn and Albert Griffin of Sedgwick, Kansas. We were looking for a location to engage in stock raising.

We arrived at old Fort Zarah about the 18th of May, 1871. On the night before our arrival we camped with the officers and directors of the A., T. & S. F. railroad, who were returning from a prospecting trip up the Arkansas Valley, over the proposed line of their road. They assured us they would build their road as far west as Fort Zarah within two years.

With this information, upon seeing the magnificent body of land on the Big Bend, as it was then called, we concluded that. here would be a favorable place to commence and build up a settlement. Accordingly we spent several days in surveying and tracing out section lines in township 19, range 13, and after concluding to locate a town on section 26, and making a survey and plat of the same, we organized a town company with J. H. Prescott as president, and authorized him to go to Salina and file on said land, under the Town Site Preemption Act—which he did. I must here recount the scenes of our first buffalo hunt


On our arrival there were myriads of these noble animals on the south of the Arkansas.

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