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


J. H. Prescott, Al. Griffin, and myself mounted three horses and set out. Griffin had a Henry rifle and a pair of revolvers, I had a needle gun and a pair of dragoon revolvers, and Mr. Prescott not being a marksman, but very fond of adventure, went along to enjoy the fun. We crossed the Walnut just opposite the old fort, and came to the river. It was high, the sand-bars being covered; we knew nothing about it, and felt very doubtful about being able to cross, as it looked very angry and deep. After debating some time as to whether we would venture, we concluded not to give up unless we were obliged to, and that one of the party should doff his apparel and investigate. As I was the only swimmer it fell on me to explore. I prepared myself after the manner of a theater actress—only more so. The water seemed to be deepest near the bank; I expected to be thoroughly baptized at the first jump. I made a tremendous jump, and lo and behold, the water, mud, sand and all was not knee deep. The spectators encored me, and the rest of the performances consisted in my running and skipping along in water from six inches to five feet deep.

We then crossed, and within a mile of the river came to where a small herd of buffalo bulls were grazing in the sand hills. Griffin and I dismounted and taking our rifles crept to the crest of a ridge about 300 yards of them. I had formerly thought buffalo were about the size of ordinary cattle, but as I looked at one through the sights of my gun, thinking what a terrible beast a wounded buffalo was reported to be, he looked to be as large as an elephant or a common sized barn. I concluded there must be telescopic sights on my gun, and drew it back to look it over; the gun also seemed to have the ague. We finally concluded to both fire at the same bull, and becoming brave, we did so, but without any great damage to the bull, as he went galloping off with the rest. He was hurt, however, as he limped badly. This was encouraging; and getting very brave, we mounted our horses, left our rifles with Dr. Prescott, and pursued with our revolvers.


The flight of the bulls had started a large herd just beyond another hill, which we had not seen; we, taking a southeasterly and they a southerly course, we flanked them about the middle of the herd. We then went wild, and dashed right into the midst of the herd, determined to have a buffalo. I could, with the fast horse I had, ride onto any of them, and finally succeeded in shooting a fat cow through the loins, so that she fell out of the herd, disabled. I was so close onto her when I fired that I could have kicked her. The rest of the herd passed on, and Griffin came to the rescue. After about a dozen shots, made in circling around the enraged beast, we brought her down.

We were not yet satisfied, and seeing a small herd of cows and calves off to the northeast, concluded we must have a calf, as they would be better meat. We dashed for them, and after a two mile chase, got one, which we dressed, threw across my horse, and then set out for camp, leaving the old cow for the coyotes and wolves, which were then here by the thousands.

It was some time before we could find the doctor, whom we had left behind, and almost night before we reached camp, tired and hungry. Never did meat taste better than did steaks from that young buffalo. We ate and were satisfied, for we had possessed the land and proven ourselves worthy huntera of the chase. But to business.

At about this time there were several prospecting parties camped near us on the Walnut, among whom was M. W. Hasley, now of Lakin township. I made up my mind to stay, as did Wm. Finn, of Sedgwick City. Messrs. Weymouth and Prescott went with me to Ellsworth, where they took the train east for Ohio, to return in July or August.

After making a tour up the Saline river, I returned to our ranch on the Walnut, as we had taken possession of and left our stores in an old deserted stone ranch near Fort Zarah.

Finn and I remained at this ranch until about the 20th of June, when E. J. Dodge and Aaron Hartman called on us one evening, having walked across from Russell, and about perishing on their way from thirst. I shall never forget a little incident that occurred that night.


Messrs. Dodge and Hartman had made their bed on the floor (a dirt floor) and were about to retire. As I walked by the foot of our bunk I heard a familiar sound; calling for Finn to bring a light, which he did, we proceeded to kill a very healthy young rattlesnake and cast him out. Dodge and Hartman proceeded as vigorously to gather up their bed and divide the same, preparatory to climbing a tree or seeking some other safe place to sleep. However, Mr. Dodge has always insisted that he felt safer when I told him that was only the second one we had killed that evening, when usually we killed five or six before retiring.


Next day, in true land agent style, we proceeded to locate Mr. Dodge, who wanted claims for himself and sons. He then selected the quarter in section 10, T. 19, R. 13., on which he now lives; but we did not get through until he succeeded in getting my team stuck in the Walnut—a little episode I have never fully forgiven him for.


About the 4th of July of that year, T. L. Morris and Judge Mitchell of Quincy, Ills., made a trip to this point, on a buffalo hunt and a prospecting tour for the Great Bend Town Company. They prospected some and hunted enough for the Judge to get heaped


on the plain by an unruly buffalo bull. The said bull did about "Testy-eye dollars worth of goring on the Judge's horse—no computation made as to amount of damages done to the Judge's dignity, as the liveryman made no claim on that.


About the same time, a survey for the town of Zarah was being made by one Meriton, for the Zarah Town Company, with Judge Miller of Ellsworth as president. Also, in the latter part of June, John Cook, John Hubbard, A. C. Moses, Ed. W. Dewey, and D. E. Benedict made calls, and Logan Reynolds and J. P. Bissell followed soon. When I first came there were no settlers below Section 14, in township 9, range 16, on Walnut creek.


Later, either in July or August. T. L. Morris came out again in the interests of the Great Bend Town Co, and selected section 34, township 19, range 13, as the site for their town. Geo. N. Moses, A. B. Robinson, Frank Day, and Hiram Bickerdyke were in the party with him. Afterwards, he changed the location to section 28, the present site of the town.

In September. he began the erection of a hotel, now a part of the Southern Hotel, which was completed during the winter and occupied by Thos. L Stone.


Considerable rivalry was rife between the Zarah and Great Bend town folks, which finally resulted in the downfall of Zarah and the triumph of Great Bend.


The winter of 1871-2 was a very hard one for this latitude, and not much was done for the advancement of the town and settlement until spring, The prospect of the early completion of the railroad, thereby making Great Bend with its rich grazing country a desirable shipping point for Texas cattle attracted the attention of business men who had been identified with the Texas trade at other points; and during the spring of 1872 the town made a very rapid growth. Business houses sprang up around the square as if by magic.


By Edward J. Dodge of Great Bend

I LEFT Wisconsin on the 6th of May, 1871, to settle on a piece of government land in some part of Kansas and arrived in Kansas City on the morning of the 8th. After stopping in the city until the 12th, and posting up as best I could in regard to different points in Kansas. I left by the afternoon train on the K. P. road bound west.


I stopped at Junction City, where there was a land agent named Pierce, who was a wonderful man to advertise the broad acres of Kansas which could be had for little or nothing, and it would cost nothing to look. I thought he would be just the man to advise with, so I soon bowed myself into his office. I found the gentleman in, and after half an hour's cooversation with him, I made up my mind he was willing to help a stranger in more ways than one, as he very kindly offered to take me out in the country three or four miles the next morning, and show me some of the most beautiful land in Davis county all for the trifling sum of $20, assuring me that if I would get some one to go with me and got him to pay half of the amount he would let me off for $10, seeing it was me and i had come so far, thanking him for the interest he had taken in me, I told him if I concluded to go I would be on hand early the next day.


That night I put up at the Hale House or "Bedbug Corral," just across the street. Next morning I arose early, though not until some of the boarders (bedbugs) had been to breakfast, of which I was a smarting witness. Thinking my old correspondent was more eager to get my $20 than he was to find me a good location; and not caring to ask him what his charges were for advice. I left on the morning train for the west, and stopped at Ellsworth.


Ellsworth, having been the terminus of the K. P. road for some time, had become notorious for its rushing way of doing business, its cattle trade, and for being one of the roughest and most desperate cities in Kansas. I secured lodgings at one of the best hotels in the city, and next morning rambled about and witnessed the off-hand way in which all business was done.


At the ringing of the bell I walked in to breakfast, and sat at the table alone. Presently another gentleman walked in and took a seat directly opposite me, placed a heavy revolver by his plate, and inquired of the waiter what kind of meet he had for breakfast. "Beef and pork," said the walter. At this the boarded swore and said "That will not do for me; I will have a piece of a man!" and suiting his action to his words, he gave me a terrible demoniac look; but only for a moment. I met his gaze with a steady countenance, and he quailed. He got up, with revolver in hand, stepped to the door, and shot dead the milkman, who was just then passing and whom this fiend had never seen before. In five minutes a crowd had gathered about, placed a rope


around his neck, run him across the street, and stood him upon a barrel under a tree, with the rope thrown over a limb.


As the mob came up, "Rowdy Jo," a German who was keeping saloon near by, inquired what they were going to do with that man, saying that their prisoner owed him $2 for whisky, and that they must make some arrangement to pay that before they fixed him. They frankly told Jo that their prisoner had killed a man without cause and they were going to hang him for it. Jo simply said, "Hold on then; I won't let anybody hang on my tree midout I say sometings," and at the same time ran into the house and brought out an English bible, and undertook to read a verse in English; but made a poor job of it, and, throwing the bible down on the ground, said it was "no use making so much fuss and trouble over such a little thing as dat," and immediately ran up and kicked the barrel from under the wretch and sent him swinging into eternity. And the executors of the law and justice adjourned to the nearest saloon (Rowdy Jo's) to congratulate each other on their prompt, willing and ready way to punish crime.


After a little review of the morning's exercises I concluded I did not want a claim just around there, as I did not like the way they did business quite as well as I thought I should.


The next train bound west took me to Wilson station where I stopped off a couple of days to look up land; then went to Fossil, at present Russell. This was the 16th day of May. At this time, aside from railroad buildings, the county of Russell contained only three houses and not more than twenty-five inhabitants. Here I was convinced that I had gone far enough west if I wanted to make farming a profession in Kansas. The land was high and dry. I couldn't make up my mind that Russell County looked like a farming country.


While looking about, a gentleman that afterward proved to be Lo. Reynolds, came up to me and with a "how are ye? are you going to stop wih us?" waited for an answer. I told him I was, at least until the train went east. He very politely asked me if I would stop at his house. Not knowing his house from any other I said "Certainly, I would as soon stay with you as anybody." So saying he picked up my valise and walked to a small shanty made of rough lumber. I asked him if that was his house.

"It is. Haw do you like it?"

"First rate. How long have you been here?"

"Eight days. Sit down, sit down, sir; my wife has gone out on a buffalo hunt; she will be home in a couple of hours, and we will have some supper."

"Where did you say she had gone?"

"Out on a buffalo hunt, sir. We have lots of fun hunting buffalo in Kansas," saying which he walked out doors, leaving me alone to consider the consistency of Kansas fun.


I reasoned thus: "A lady out on a buffalo hunt! A new thing to me!" Having never seen my mother, sisters or neighbor women engaged in that kind of sport, it really seemed novel to me. This was my mental picture of her. "A large, masculine, red-headed, freckled woman; voice gruff and harsh; gray eyes; thin lips; and uneven tusky teeth." A good description of a female buffalo hunter.

I had not much more than completed my fancy picture when in walked a lady of more than ordinary beauty; she was small and graceful; had a full black eye, which bespoke good language, modesty, and refinement; easy in her manners; and a very pleasant conversationalist. This was the woman I had so misjudged in my idea of a female buffalo hunter.

I afterward learned it was the common custom of this country for ladies to join in the sports of hunting buffalo, elk, and antelope, in which the western part of Kansas abounded.


On the 17th. 1 got a livery rig of a young man by the name of Flack and drove northwest from Russell, in company with a couple of gentlemen from Baltimore 23 miles and back the same day, found the country hilly, rough, and stony. Shot a buffalo and brought home the hams, out of which the whole city of Fossil had beefsteak the next morning. Every man would come and cut off a piece without a word.


Having a curiosity to visit the Valley of the Arkansas, I started, the morning of the 18th, in company with Rev. Mr. Annis, a Baptist minister from Omro, Wis., in a two-seated buggy. We started south at a rapid rate, making Smoky Hill river in less than two hours, a distance of ten miles. At this time the river was quite low being only eleven feet wide and three inches deep. At 12 m. we found ourselves at the head of South Fossil, a brook skirted with elm, ash and cottonwood. In a few minutes our dinner was ready. This consisted of dried buffalo meat, crackers, coffee, and canned fruit. After resting about an hour we resumed our course, traveling over a beautiful country of rolling prairie a distance of about ten miles, to Blood creek, one of the pleasantest valleys in Kansas.


Keeping our course we soon came in sight of the valley of the Walnut creek. I can say


I fell in love with it at first sight. The broad extent of beautiful prairie it contains—level without being low, flat, or marshy; undulating without being hilly, rough, or stony; and about equally divided by one of the most beautiful streams of water that ever coursed its way over the green prairie—the Walnut creek. The banks are fringed with elm, hackberry, ash, cottonwood, and black walnut; the very sight of which made the traveler feel like pitching his tent and possessing himself with as many acres as Uncle Sam would allow him to own.


We reached Walnut creek at a point a few rods east of where the upper iron bridge now stands. Seeing a young man and a small house on the south side, we made direct for it; and I was not a little surprised to find G. F. Mecklem, an old Wisconsin neighbor its inmate and possessor. I felt comparatively happy that night. I felt as though I had found a paradise in the house of a friend, he being the first settler and built the first house in Barton County. May 19th, we took leave of this frontier hermitage and found our way down to Fort Zarah, a distance of about ten miles.


Fort Zarah was at this time occupied by outlaws. We came to the fort about noon, and found a man known as Jo Bowers dead drunk, lying on the dirt floor. Within thirty minutes there came in six other young men, well dressed, and fine looking. They seemed to be well supplied with whiskey, and the bottle passed around quite freely. They soon got quite lively and musical, and turning Jo over on his back commenced playing cards on his stomach, asking us our business and if we had money to buy land. Elder Adams, not feeling at home in just such a meeting as that, remarked to me "I guess we had better go and run that herd of buffalo across the river." I consented and told Paddock to hitch up, and in five minutes we were ready.

"Where are you going?" said one of the gentlemen.

"To run that herd of buffalo over the river."

"How long will you be gone?"

"It will not take us long."

"Will you be back here tonight?"

"Most certainly; where else should we stay? You keep the only hotel in Barton County."

"Ha! ha! That is so! But don't forget to come back as we have something to say to you that will interest you more than anybody else."

"What time will you have supper?"

"Early. Don't fear, you shall hear the second bell before you go to sleep."

"All right! Drive on, Paddock! How many miles can you drive before dark?"

"Thirty, if necessary."

A herd of buffalo was feeding near where now stands the school house three miles west of Ellinwood. We soon came up to them, and a few shots stampeded them across the Arkansas river, after which we returned to the buggy.


"Well, Dodge, which way shall we go now? Are you anxious to go back to the Fort?"

"Not at all anxious, Elder; my advice is that we leave that range of bluffs to the left, and go north as fast as those two bronchos can take us."

"That is my mind, exactly."

In less than three minutes we were driving at the rate of ten miles an hour, toward the east side of Cheyenne Bottoms. Leaving the hills to the left, and running into a clump of timber now known as Daiziel's grove, we soon fed and watered our ponies and made coffee for ourselves. As soon as possible we were on our way again, expecting that every hill we passed over we would be able to see some of the Fort Zarah outlaws on our track.


Evening came and we found ourselves camped on Coal creek in Russell County. We drove back to Fossil the next morning, it being the 20th day of May, thus making a running trip through Barton County. I saw enough of the broad and beautiful valley of the Arkansas and Walnut creek, blended together as they are, to make such an impression on my mind as prompted me to return.


By Fred W. Warren

ON the night of December 24th, 1874, Ellinwood had the first Christmas tree in Barton County. It occurred somewhat after this manner.

Our town, being so fortunate as to have five or ten of the most wide-awake, go-ahead ladles to be found in Kansas, thoroughly alive to every social interest of the town and country, determined to make one happy time for the children during these grasshopper times. Accordingly a committee consisting of Mrs. Hollinger, Mrs. Landis, and Mrs. Bay, went to work in good earnest thus showing their motherly aptitude in providing for the little ones of the community, made all necessary arrangements, and in due time had a very respectable


evergreen in position, in the school house, profusely decorated and literally loaded down with beautiful cornucopias and large, neatly ornamented and embroidered stockings, well filled with candies, nuts, and goodies of all kinds. These, and the material of which the cornucopias and stockings were composed, were bountifully furnished by Messrs. Landis & Williamson, but very little help having been given by other parties. The expense of the tree was defrayed by Mr. Geo. W. Hollinger. Indeed the profuseness and generos!ty with which the tree was furnished is very creditable to the liberality of our citizens.

Reaching Ellinwood's handsome school house at an early hour we were astonished to find the house literally jammed from parquet to dome;—not even a seat in the gallery could be obtained for love or money. We have attended many a similar gathering—have often seen the lamps shine "o'er fair women and brave men," but never such a crowd as this. Not our least surprise was the iarge number of handsome young and married ladles (the committee by no means excepted) who adorn this vicinity.

The exercises of the evening were conducted by Mr. Chalfant with a masterly hand; and considering that the program in which had been previously arranged was "noncomeatable" on account of the failure or lack of promptness on the part of those who had had parts assigned them, the impromptu programme was carried through very creditable and successfully.

A melodeon was on hand, furnished by Miss Etta Avery, and played by J. H. Bross, who conducted the musical exercises of the evening.

The exercises were opened with music—"Let the Master In"—by the choir, consisting of Messrs. Chalfant, Shannon, Geo. Barngrover, J. H. Bross, A. R. Huffman, of Nickerson; Mrs. Royal Harkness, Mrs. John Shiminins, and Mrs. W. W. Shannon.

Opening Prayer by Mr. Shimmins.

Music by Choir.

Opening address—Our Sunday Schools—Mrs. Shimmins.

Solo and Duet—The Old Mountain Pine—by Messrs. Huffman and Bross.

Followed by a very amusing description of Santa Claus by Mr. B. B. Smyth, teacher of the school, during which the tinkling bells and swift hoofs of reindeer were heard and suddenly in rushed Santa Claus, in the person of Mr. F. W. Warren, covered with fur and frost from head to foot, and loaded down with presents; and was introduced to the audience by Mrs. W. C. Bay, amid much commotion and merriment.

While Santa was behind the curtain placing the presents on the tree a piece of music—Meet Me Darling Josie at the Gate—was sung by Messrs. Bross and Huffman by special request.

Here a short and pithy address was made by Mr. A. McKinney on Christmas Customs.

Music, by the choir.

Then came the unveiling of the Christmas Tree, by Mrs. Bay, who made a very neat and appropriate speech showing the enterprise of Ellinwood in getting up a Christmas Tree in such hard grasshopper times.

Here Rev. Mr. Reed was introduced, who made an address to the children on "Our First Christmas Present." In the meantime the lights were rapidly burning on the tree, and the children were anxiously awaiting.

The distribution of presents, by the committee, assisted by the little Misses Lottie Towers and Kittie Halsey, as pages, and assisted also by Messrs. Chalfant, Warren and McKinney. Old Santa remembered every one of the 150 children present, by giving each one something to remember him by. Among the amusing incidents of the distribution were the reception, by Misses Carrie Bacon and Ida Forsyth, of immense dolls, dressed in the height of fashion. Mr. Bross' loneliness, too, was remembered; and he was presented with a very neat and pretty young lady in the shape of a doll. A young gentleman from Cow creek was presented with a penny American flag with which to celebrate the centennial. Simy Avery was presented with a broom, not to show, like a schooner, that he was the fastest young man in town; but to assist him in his prospective housekeeping. Mr. Halsey received a candy marble, and several other important personages received a stick of candy each.

The exercises closed with music—Waiting On, by the choir; and "Larboard Watch Ahoy," my Messrs. Dross and Huffman.

The evening's entertainment closed harmoniously, and everybody went home to enjoy a Merry Christmas.


By Luther Frost of Liberty

I CAME to Kansas early during the spring of 1872. Great Bend was then in its infancy, with only a part of what is now the Southern Hotel and two other small houses built.

During the month of August, 1872, some of my neighbors and myself concluded to try our hand at killing buffalo, as the grasshoppers had destroyed our little crops of sod corn, gardens, etc.

August. 13th, we fitted up and started for the present site of Dodge City. While eating dinner near the lone tree on the Arkansas river 25 miles below Fort Dodge, a flock of black

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