PIONEER HISTORY OF KANSAS
by Adolph Roenigk
Proof of the Writers Contention; The Foregoing Happened in
the Course of Evolution; The Fittest Will Survive.
History is often written from a certain point of view, depending upon which side the writer is most interested, without being conscious of the fact that he is prejudiced. The psychological makeup of a human being is such that he can only see one side at a time, and that is his own side. War stories or tales of strife are always told different. The parties may be honest but matters are seen from different viewpoints, picturing his own side as it appeared to him.
The story of the settlement of our country is always told from the white mans standpoint; the Indian side was neglected or purposely omitted as not being worthy of record. The Indian in his ignorance and savage nature was unable to take his part in the controversy and therefore his side of the story has never been told. In summing up the contents of the foregoing chapters I will point out the facts as we found them and the reader may draw his own conclusion.
It is the writers contention that all these events happened in the course of evolution, and no one was to blame or could have changed the course of nature. From the time the pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock the Indians were driven westward from one reservation to another until they finally submitted to civilization and accepted their parcel of land in severality. The savages condition is his misfortune, and greatly our fault. Enlightened, or savage, human nature is much the same.
The conflict between the Indian tribes and the white man could not have ended in any other way than that which has come to pass; this beautiful country could not have been left to a handful of savages, knowing little of agriculture, or manufacture, or trade, among themselves, having no conception of private ownership of land, possessing social ideals and standards of life based on the chase, could not and should not have remained unaltered at the expense of a higher form of life. The farmer must always have right of way against the hunter; and the trader against the pilferer. In the end, by whatever route, the Indian must have given up his hunitng grounds and contented himself with progress into civilized life. The route was
not one which he would have determined for himself; the stronger race had to determine for him. Under ideal conditions, it might have been determined without loss of life, without promoting a bitter hostility that invited the extinction for the inferior race.
The Indian needed maintenance, education, discipline and guardianship, until the older ones had died and the younger accepted the new order and all might have been provided. In theory the disposition of the government was benevolent, but the system was badly conceived, while human fraility among officers of the law and citizens as well rendered execution of duties short of such ideal as there was.
As is the purpose of this book, I will dwell here only on the Indian struggle in Kansas. Numerous treaties were made with the Indians, which were always broken by the whites as soon as the land of their country was needed for the settlers. The newcomer, whether foreign or native born, came only for one purpose, to obtain a home for himself and family, to procure one of these homesteads; to own a farm, thousands of which were lying idle awaiting the settler; whether the land belonged to the government or Indians made no difference to him. No thought of the rights of the Indians ever entered anyones mind. It may be safe to say that not one settler in the state ever considered the rights of the Indians and in saying this, to be truthful, we must admit that this includes the writer and all of his relations, who profited by acquiring land in the homestead region in 1870 after the Indians had been driven away.
The Indians resisted the encroachment of the whites by attacking the settlements. Numerous massacres were committed by the redskins, not sparing innocent women and children, and the whites retaliated by treating the Indians in like manner.
More humane treatment could and should be expected of a civilized people than of savages, but, to tell the truth, the whites did little better; they surprised and massacred the Indinas, as
NOTE: Within the last few years statements have appeared in newspapers that the Indians were getting wealthy and their number increasing. Such statements are misleading, as only a very small per cent became wealthy on account of the royalty of the oil fields in Osage nation. Their increase in number is due to intermarriage with the whites. Only the mixed bloods are on the increase. This information was obtained at the Haskel Institute.
is recorded in history and related in the foregoing chapters. It is said civilization is only skin deep, and when you scatch civilized mans hide the savage appears. To surprise and be surprised was the Indians mode of warfare; he expected it, and the white men retaliated in like treatment. Massacres of inoffensive Indians by whites happened several times during our stay in the West. To illustrate: I will first mention the Sand creek massacre, in which an acquaintance of mine, a well-known and respected citizen of Lincoln County, while serving as a private soldier in the ranks of his regiment, took part. See note in Chapter, Mulberry Scrap.
For this outrage, the commander of the troops, Major Chivington, was cashiered and would have been dismissed from the army had not his time of service expired. By Eastern humanitarians, he was looked upon as a monster, and came in for a great deal of criticism at that time, and one would suppose that such an officer; being guilty of such a deed, with subsequent dismissal from the army, would be disgraced, a stigma on his character; but in this case, it was not so; on the contrary, Major Chivington is greatly honored by the people of Colorado to this day. A life-sized protrait is now adorning the walls of the Historical and Natural History Society rooms in Denver. Looking from the standpoint of a Colorado citizen, why should he not be honored? Did he not obey the instruction and command of Governor Evans of Colorado to make war on the Indians? He did. And was Governor Evans to blame for giving that command? No. Did he not act according to the sentiment with, and the full knowledge of, the people of Colorado? He did. This, then, seems to have been a seriously mixed up affair, terminating in the destruction of a part of this band of Indians; for which ourtrage there seems to have been no one responsible. For full details see page 71, Vol. 13, Kansas Historical Collections.
To an intelligent person, it must appear ridiculous that such things could happen in our enlightened times of the Nineteenth century. But this is not the only slaughter of Indians which happened in the West in those years. In the early seventies, the citizens of Tucson, Arizona, retaliated against the excesses of the red men by equal excesses of the whites. Without any immediate provocation, four-score Ariva Apaches, who had been concentrated under military supervision at Camp
Grant, were massacred in cold blood. See page 368, The Last American Frontier, by Fredrick Logan Paxson.
Aside from what has been related in the foregoing chapters, I will enumerate several incidents which happened in our vicinity, during our residence in Kansas, and came under our own observation, which illustrates the feeling and temper of many of the settlers towards the Indian. It has truly been said that a human being largely is what his environments make him ; he will adapt himself to existing conditions and do things under certain circumstances that he would not do under others. Some of our old-timers were no angels by any means; they killed and scalped the Indians, which happened numerous times, either in battle or when the Indians were caught at a disadvantage, even when claiming to be peaceable.
In the early days I have heard of old settlers with whom we were acquainted who were accused of doing such things, but in this case I gave it little credence, until, at one time, I happened to converse about such matters with a prominent old settler who told me of a certain pioneer who, in his time, had killed and scalped three Indians and the ghastly trophies were still in existence somewhere among the relatives of the family, who were then living in Kansas some distance apart from each other. I was interested, I wanted to see these Indian scalps. In search for them, I spent considerable time interviewing these people, until I finally located the party who had the scalps. However, two of them had been moth-eaten and decayed; only one was left; this one was kept disinfected and preserved and was shown me.
The sum and substance of the following was told me by the widow of a prominent pioneer and former official of LIncoln County:
In the latter part of the sixties, three settlers, P. B. Reed, Thomas Boyle, and a man named Foster (it was rumored in the settlement), had killed three or four peaceable Indians, who meant no harm to the settlers, but were probably passing through the country towards the Cheyennes, or other hostile tribes in the southwest, on a stealing expedition, to obtain a supply of horses. Little was said about it, but it was admitted by these settlers that the Indians offered little or no resistance, leaving the status of the fight in the nature of a massacre
rather than a battle. It was rumored in the settlement that a number of Indians horses or ponies were afterwards seen in possession of the men who took leading parts in the episode. Some of the settlers did not approve of the killing of the Indians and the matter was brought to the attention of the Governor of Kansas, who promply forgot it.
It was a hard matter to distinguish the peaceable Indians from the hostiles as both classes when on the march or hunt habitually went armed with their most effective weapons, and the conclusion reached at the Governors office was that all kinds of Indians had better avoid the settlements of the whites owing to the fact that the latter had an inborn antipathy for the red man; and so the matter rested and remains in early day tradition to the present time.
Rumors how this particular conflict came about reached my ears from several sources, but were little credited at the time. After much inquiry, when opportunity offered, while visiting a Mr. Eli Ziegler, who was then living near Salem, Oregon, I learned the facts. Besides other information he gave me, he said: At that time, in the latter part of the sixties, he, and some other parties went out on a buffalo hunt, expecting to secure a load of meat. Upon making inquiries along the road of settlers and other hunters, the last man interviewed was Thomas Boyle. When asked if any Indians had been seen, he answered: There had been Indians but he did not think there were any about at that time; and after making this statement took them to a secluded spot nearby and showed the hunters some new-made graves. The burial party had not taken time to dig the sufficient depth as the toes of one of the unfortunate Indians was sticking through the covering of the loose dirt.
This same old pioneer afterwards was a kind, obliging neighbor, an honest, upright citizen, raised a respectable family, and was held in high esteem by the people. He was repeatedly elected to one of the highest offices in the country. He died of old age some years ago.
Another incident, where innocent, peaceable Indians were roughly treated, I will mention, happened at Ellsworth, in the forepart of the winter of 1868-69, while I was at Fossil creek. A party of Pawnee Indians were returning from the south where they had been employed in the winter campaign against
the hostiles. On their way home to the reservation in the north, made a stop at Ellsworth. Entering the town, they hitched their ponies to posts along the streets; some of them were in the stores and others in the streets about the town. On account of depredations committed by hostiles a few months prior to this time, the inhabitants of Ellsworth had an intense hatred of all Indians.
It appeared that the Pawnees were not wanted in town; word was passed around by the citizens to drive them out; and, when someone fired a shot as a signal to commence action, immediately firing began. The Indians offered no resistance, but mounted their ponies to retreat out of town and across the river but were unable to make their escape until five or six were killed. My informant, who witnessed the afair, told me that one of the Indians, badly wounded, fell from his pony after crossing the river.
We heard about this affair at the time, that it was entirely without provacation. It was pronounded a dastardly outrage, but never have I seen a line in a newspaper or anything in history in regard to it from that time to this. The only excuse the people of Ellsworth had was their intense hatred and revengeful feeling against Indians on account of a raid committed by hostile Cheyenne in the summer, about four months prior to this.
At that time, the hostiles captured a herd of mules on the bottom across the Smoky Hill river, a short distance south of town. With the mules were two herders who were taken prisoners by the Indians. The savages proceeded to torture the victims by stripping them and tying them down on the ground, stretched them out with hands and feet tied to stakes driven into the ground, building fires on their breasts and bodies, torturing them until death relieved them. The Indians were in such numbers and the town so small that the few inhabitants, at the time, had to listen to the victims cries of agony until away in the night, unable to bring relief. The next morning, the Indians were gone; but the blackened and half-burned bodies were found still fastened to the ground, not only scalped, but horribly mutilated. The Indians were very bold as this happened within four miles of a military post, Fort Harker. The peaceable Pawnees shot down by the Ellsworth citizens were
in no way connected with the hostiles who committed the depredation.
As seen by the illustrations in the foregoing chapters, we have erected monuments to the memory of those who lost their lives in the struggle making the attempt to wrest the country of he savage from him and make it a fit place to live in for whites, but no monuments are erected for the Indian. The burial ground of slain Indians in one instance is now a cattle yard, as has been stated, and the battle field of Summit Springs, where fifty-two or more Indians were killed, was entirely forgotten; it could not be located when I visited the vicinity in 1923. Such as this could only happen because no one took the part of the Indian side, there was no one to preserve or keep in memory the Indian cause.
In settling the new country, the savage was not the only obstacle with whom the settler had to contend. There was the tough white element who were generally among the first to leave the old states and take up their abode in a new country. On the arrival of immigrants, they were compelled to adapt themselves to existing conditions; they made laws among themselves and for themselves which were later generally approved by the lawmakers. The cabins of the Forty-niners were open to the hungry man who happened to pass by; he was at liberty to help himself and to satisfy his wants in estables and shelter, but woe to the man who took more than that. No mercy was shown a thief.
Like all new countries, Kansas had its share of the rough white element. In those years the country and frontier towns were infested with bad men, gamblers, horse thieves and the like, and many horses were stolen. There were drunken brawls, roberies, and murders were committed.
In the frontier towns there came a time when decency finally exerted itself in the only possible way to repress lawlessness. In the absence of sheriff and constable, and jail, in which, to incarcerate the offender, the vigilance committees were organized, and if, after a trial, a culprit was found guilty he was summarily hung to a tree.
NOTE: I was working for the government at Fort Harker, about two months after this raid happened, while the winter campaign against the hostiles was in progress, and the story of the Indian raid was told me at that time.
In some parts of the state the whole male population of a county organized to put down lawlessness. At Caldwell, Sumner county, in 1874, several horse thieves were hung to a tree and with them a lawyer who had continually defended the lawless element, manipulating their cases, furnishing alibis until it became impossible to convict any of them.
I am relating this the same as a friend of mine told me who had lived there and had a part in it. On request, he wrote a history of many interesting events that took place during his carer, but left out the main part. When asked about that, he said: I wouldnt write that, it wouldnt do, people are living today who took part in it; some of them afterwards became prominent in politics.
Many such things could be told of frontier towns. If a certain cottonwood tree standing on the south side of the Smoky Hill river at Ellsworth could talk, how many such stories it could tell. While I was at Fossil Creek Station, within forty miles of the town, we would now and then hear of a hanging, but it was so common that a man might go to that town, a few days later, and scarcely hear of it, it had been forgotten.
On arrival of the first church bell at Ellsworth in 1874, I saw a writeup in a newspaper giving the description of the transformation of the town from bad to good. I did not pay enough attention to save the clipping and do not remember the name of the paper, but I do distinctly remember that the article stated that twenty-eight men were hung there in the short space of a few years. I personally knew there were quite a number.
Summing up all the evidence gathered by experience these many years, I have come to the conclusion that no one was to blame; these incidents naturally happened in the course of transforming the country from a savage to a civilized state.
The early pioneer was kind-hearted and liberal to the deserving and severe on the law-breakers. There were no murderers escaping justice on a technicality; or criminals well fed and pardoned after serving a short term in prison; and, after all, perhaps there was as much justice in those days as there is today. The common feeling among the pioneers was that the tough white element and Indian must go.
There is no justice in war, nor is there justice in subduing the savage and appropriating his country; but the savage oc-
cupied too much space, the fertile plains, this now prosperous country could not be left to a comparatively small number of hordes of savages. Whether it is pleasant or not to relate such things, the fact remains that the statements made are true, which is proven by numbers of cases on record and can not be disputed.
Nations come and nations go as in races of the lower animals--the races of mammoth came and passed away; the red man is passing away. Right or wrong, nature takes its course and proves the contention of the scientists that the fittest will survive.