LINCOLN COUNTY KANSAS
1864 and 1869
Story of those killed, with a history of the monument erected to
by: C. Bernhardt
their memory in Lincoln Court House Square, May 30, 1909
published: Lincoln, Kansas - by: The Lincoln Sentinel Print - in: 1910
(complete text transcribed online by Joan Stevenson)
Massacre of the First Settlers.
The first settlers in Lincoln County, John L. Moffitt, Thomas Moffitt, John W. Houston and James Tyler, were murdered by the Indians, August 6, 1864. The only reliable information we have regarding the settlement here of any of these young men is derived from letters written to members of their family by the Moffitt brothers. Through the courtesy of George W. Moffitt of Lawrence, Kansas, I give the following extract from a letter received by Robert Nichol Moffitt, and written from Kansas by his brother John, dated May 13, 1864. The letter says:
"We came here March 16, 1864. We are twenty-five or thirty miles from Salina, up the Saline river. We are now thirteen miles from the nearest house. We put up a stable thirty-five feet in length, a house twenty-two feet, of logs." - Lincoln County Sentinel, Feb 11, 1909; also published in the Lincoln Republican and Sylvan News.
These were the first substantial buildings in Lincoln county so far as I have knowledge, and were located on the southwest quarter of section 10, in what is now in Elkhorn township, Lincoln county, in the bend of the Saline river, just below the present site of the Rocky Hill bridge. The letter which follows was written by the younger brother Thomas, to his sister in Philadelphia. The mother was then living in Henry county, Illinois, from whence the brothers had emigrated to Kansas.
Letter from Thomas Moffitt
"Salina, (Kansas), July 30, 1864.
"McCanless and Nancy:
I suppose it is my time to
write now, as I have left home. I have no chance to hear from you through any letters that you may send others. I have not had a letter from home since I came away, and I have not heard from Philadelphia for a long time; you must try and write as soon as it will be convenient, for I am dreadful anxious to hear from you.
"I left home the middle of April and came to Kansas to Jack. Although I don't like Kansas, I think I will stay for awhile. Jack and I have brought about fifty head of cows and heifers. We are going to raising stock. I think we can make a living easier raising cattle than working so hard as we used to.
"This is an excellent grazing country and is very poor farming country - the fact is, it is too subject to drouth for farming.
"We were doing very well and would do as well now if it were not for the Indians. We would make five or six dollars a day hunting buffalo, but we have been obligated to give it up for the present. The Indians are so hostile to the hunters and settlers that we dare not go from the house.
"When we have to go we go armed. Even when we go to the stable to take care of the horses we carry our revolvers along; rather hard lines these from what we have been used to. The government has sent out several companies of soldiers, but they can't fight the Indians as well as settlers themselves. Some of the folks that have families are leaving Salina for a more safe place. Some expect there will be a regular Indian war, but I don't think there will be any trouble in the settlement from the Indians.
"Jack just got back the other day in company with two other fellows, and fetched a load of hides.
"As I have nothing that is interesting to you I will fetch my letter to a close.
"Direct to Salina, Saline Co., Kansas
"Give my love to Uncle and Aunt and all my friends."
This letter from Thomas Moffitt dated July 30, 1864, was written just six days before his death. The two hunters spoken of in the letter are probably the two men killed in the battle on August 6th, 1864, with the writer, namely, John W. Houston and one Tylor, although one might have been Charles Case, as he was known to have been with the Moffitts at various times and became administrator of the estate after they were killed by the Indians. But it is likely it was Houston and Tylor who were
there on this 30th day of July, spoken of in the above letter.
This letter also refers to the country as an agricultural possibility, and it seems to indicate that the Moffitts' estimate and opinion of the country was not much different from that of other early pioneers, that this part of Kansas was not fit for anything but buffaloes and cattle. To the everlasting honor of the pioneer, this very neighborhood has been changed from a barren wilderness to the garden spot of the state.
This letter further seems to convey the idea that there were several companies of soldiers sent out by the government for the purpose of protecting the settlers from the Indians, but from the sentiment of the letter it seems as though the settlers had but poor faith in that kind of protection.
TROOPS ON KANSAS FRONTIER
The troops on our frontier during the Civil War, were very poorly armed, as is shown in a report made by Capt. O.F. Dunlap of the 15th Kansas Cavalry, commanding Fort Riley, May, 1864, in which he says that he had "furnished such arms as were at hand to Captain Booth stationed at this post. Those arms are of various kinds, cavalry and infantry, and are unfit to issue to either except in case of emergency. - "Officials Records of the Rebellion, Series 1, vol. 34, pt 3, page 425. Henry Booth was captain of Company L. Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, which was raised in the neighborhood of Fort Riley. In the summer of 1864 he was in command of a battalion on duty in the neighborhood of Saline and Lincoln counties. His battalion was composed of a detachment of cavalry from co. H, Seventh Iowa, Second Lieutenant Ellsworth in command, a detachment from Company L, Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, Second Lieutenant William Booth in command, and detachments from the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Kansas State Militia, numbering in all about 92 men. In a report of a scouting trip along the Smoky Hill and Arkansas in the first days of August, 1864, and dated the 5th, at Salina, Captain Booth mentions finding a recent camp site of from four to five hundred Indians having a lot of stock, on Big creek, probably in what is now the southeast corner of Ellis County. He
concludes: "I think from present indications the Indians are upon the Saline, Solomon and Republican rivers, as the buffaloes are plenty upon these streams, and they depend entirely upon them for a living. Undoubtedly they are encamped upon one of these streams." From this it would seem that the country was overrun by Indians, and that the tragedy reported in his next communication might have been expected.
REPORT OF THE MOFFITT MASSACRE BY
CAPT. HENRY BOOTH
"HEADQUARTERS, "Sir: I have the honor to report the following facts in regard to the killing of four men by Indians near Beaver Creek, about forty miles from this place, on the north bank of the Saline River. Saturday evening, August 6, 1864, four men, viz: two men (brothers) named Moffitt, one Tyler and one Hueston, started from their ranch to kill a buffalo for meat, taking a two-horse team with them. Upon reaching a top of a hill about three-quarters of a mile from the house the Indians were discovered rushing down upon them. The horses were turned and run down toward a ledge of rock where the men took position. They appear to have fought desperately and must have killed several Indians. Three of the men killed were scalped, but one of the scalps was left upon a rock close by. The horses were both shot through the head. This probably was done by the ranchmen to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Indians. The wagon was burned. The Indians made a descent upon the house, in which were an old man and a woman. The old man shot one of the Indians through a hole in the wall, whereupon they all fled. They judged the number of Indians to be about 100. When the messenger arrived at this place a party of twelve citizens, with Sergeant Reynolds, of H Company, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, proceeded to the spot. They learned about the facts. The Sergeant says the Indians retreated up the Salina River (west). As all the ranchmen have left the country west of this point, the Indians will be obliged to fall upon the settlements next for plunder. It seems as if they were determined to pick up all the stock possible and kill all they can overpower. The people of Saline County met in mass-meeting this afternoon "to devise ways and means to protect themselves
Salina, August 11, 1864
and property from the ravages of the red skins." I would state here, General, my urgent need of more cavalry horses to mount my company. I have as yet only eight Government horses, the balance (thirty) being private.
Capt., Co. L., Eleventh Kansas Vol. Cavalry, Commanding Post." - Furnished through the courtesy of Geo. West Moffitt of Lawrence.
"The scene of the awful tragedy where two of our clan were filled with arrows, scalped and left naked and dead upon the prairies, was in what is now Lincoln county, Kansas, the rocky ledge upon the Northeast quarter of section nine, township twelve, range seven in Elkhorn township.
"The brothers belonged to a Country Antrim, Ireland - Philadelphia line, being John Leach Moffitt, born January 29, 1837, at Gracehill, County Antrim, Ireland, and Thomas Moffitt, born 1841, at the same place. Both were killed as above mentioned, August 6, 1864. Robert Nicol Moffitt, an elder brother, came from Illinois to Kansas to recover the bodies. On September 20, with an escort of soldiers with headquarters at Salina, he went up the river to his brothers' graves, disinterred the remains and removed them to Westfield, Ill., where they rest in the family lot in the cemetery. The parents of the brothers who thus lost their lives almost without warning, were David Moffitt of County Antrim, Ireland, and Elizabeth Nicol of the Island of Guernsey; both parents died in Illinois."
"We are told from Illinois that a woman in the log house was the daughter of the old man, the wife of one of the men killed, and the sister of the other, who, with two children, had come on a day's visit to John and Thomas Moffitt; the buffalo hunt was organized partly for sport and partly for meat for the visitors." - Published in the Lincoln Sentinel, Republican and Sylvan Grove News of Lincoln county, Feb. 11, 1909.
The Indians did not burn the Moffitt house, nor did they steal any of the live stock which the Moffits had in their possession. The Moffitts killed their team and burned their wagon so the Indians could not get possession of them. There are many old settlers who can remember the location of the house and stable. There are yet a few remnants left of both. The stable stood there for some time after the Moffitts were killed. The buildings were rather pretentious structures for that period, and they were beyond
a doubt the first permanent buildings erected by white men in Lincoln county.
The spot where the battle took place is on an adjoining section, so the distance from their dwelling to the battle ground is not much more than one-half mile in a direct line. But Beaver Creek is between the battle field and the house, and the banks are very steep in most places. They were evidently cut off by the Indians and unable to get home or into the creek, and this probably accounts for the stand which they took at the rock ledge spoken of. If they had secured this protection they would have been saved, as I have failed to find a single instance where any whites were killed in their homes or in a well protected river or creek. The Indians always tried to secure their victims in as easy a manner as possible, and the rock ledge where the Moffitts took their last stand gave the Indians an excellent opportunity to carry out their method of warfare.
DEFENSE OF MOFFIT HOUSE
The old gentleman and the woman mentioned by Captain Booth were the father-in-law and wife respectively of Houston. Tyler was a brother of Mrs. Houston. The old man was from forty to forty-five years old, and the woman about twenty-five. The child spoken of by my Illinois informant was only a few years old. These people told the following story as to how they escaped: The Indians came to the cabin the same evening after they had killed the Moffitts, Houston and Tyler, and the woman wanted her father to shoot at them, as there was only three or four of them; but the old man declined, as he was afraid to provoke them. They rode up to the house and told the occupants to come out as they were good Indians, and that they had nothing to be afraid of; but they kept themselves in the house. The next morning the Indians came again, and the woman induced her father to pull out a chunk in the wall between the logs, and he shot one of the Indians. Whereupon they turned and went back to camp. The old man and the woman and the child kept to themselves barricaded in the house for about two days, and then made their escape to the Tripp
homestead, just east of what is now Tescott. From there they went to Salina, leaving the town shortly afterward, and were not heard from again.
HOUSTON AND TYLER
Since the above was written I have found another version of the man and the woman in the Moffitt house at the time of the battle. This has been furnished me by Mrs. Emma Wensink, of Tescott, Kansas, who is a daughter of William Tripp and a sister of Woodfield Tripp who was one of the party that helped to bury the Moffitts. Mrs. Wensick's story is as follows: The man and woman came to her father's house near Tescott, Ottawa county and staid there for a while, and the girl (Houston's daughter) always addressed the man as "Uncle." The woman gave her name as Mrs. Houston and said that the man named Tyler who was killed was her brother; and this will fairly correspond with what has been written before, with the exception that the man in the house was not the father of the woman and Tyler, but he was their brother. The brother, who was left in the house was not very bright, therefore he was left at home for company for his sister. The Tyler who was killed was referred to as James Tyler, so I am reasonably satisfied that I have his given name correct, and also the correct relationship existing between all of them.
The place where the four men were killed has been badly marred, next thing to destroyed since the battle took place. The victims were all buried a few yards east of where they fell. Houston and Tyler still rest there in unmarked graves, and the exact spot is not known. Why would it not be fitting for the citizens of Lincoln county to have a search for the bodies of those two pioneers and place them in the cemetery? The Moffits were removed to Illinois shortly after the massacre.
BURIAL OF THE MURDERED MEN
The names of the parties who came up from Salina to bury the dead as furnished me by Hon. Tom Anderson of Salina, is as follows: Tom Anderson, now living in Salina; Ervin Harris, dead; O.P. Hamilton, dead; Albert
Brown, dead; Peter Geirsch, Jr. now living near Shady Bend, Lincoln county; Hiram Mosier, dead; Thomas Boyle, dead; Charley Robinson, dead; Woodfield Tripp, dead; John Cline, now living in New Cambria; and Adam Caldwell. The last named claimed that he was there, but it is doubted by some of the parties. Those men came from Salina to Beaver Creek, a distance of about thirty-five miles, to perform the sad funeral rites, and not a soldier was with them; yet the commanding officer had the honor to have reported the killing, yet had not followed up the Indians or offered any assistance.
The funeral party found the bodies in a very decomposed condition, as they had been exposed to the hot August sun for several days. They were all wrapped in blankets and buried in one grave side by side, near the spot where they were killed, and a headboard placed at each one.
After burying the Moffits and their companions, the funeral party started on their return to Salina and got as far as the Tripp homestead east of Tescott. There they got a little to eat and were going to stay all night, but Tom Anderson had left his young wife in Salina, so he went and saddled his horse to go to Salina during the night. A Mr. and Mrs. Harrington, who were under suspicion of being cattle and horse rustlers, were staying at the Tripp homestead over night. When Mrs. Harrington heard that Mr. Anderson wanted to leave, she seized a butcher knife and told Mr. Anderson that she would cut the heart out of any s---- of a b---- that would attempt to leave before morning. She was possibly afraid that he would go and report to an officer in Salina. This little incident shows the state of mind that prevailed at that time. The whites were afraid of the whites as well as of the Indians. Mr. Anderson left for Salina just the same, and he took his heart with him.
NUMBER OF INDIANS IN THE BATTLE
After the funeral the party made a little tour of inspection around the battle field. Mr. Anderson reports that there were by actual count, on the top of the hill west of the battle field, not far from where the new Rocky Hill school house is now located, the fire places of fifteen Indian
tepees that had been pitched a few days before the funeral took place, so that there must have been fifty or more Indians in the bunch. It has been generally supposed that the Indians camped on Bullfoot creek the night after killing the Moffitts, but the camping place on the top of that hill would indicate that they camped right there on the same quarter section where the battle took place. This would make it one mile or more between the Indian camp and the Moffitt house, so it had been hard for the man, woman and child in the house to escape. The funeral party found any number of marks on the sides of the rock ledges, made by bullets fired by the Indians. Two of the party picked up an armful of arrows, showing that the Indians were well armed with both firearms and bows and arrows. Mr. Anderson is of the opinion that this was the hardest fought battle between whites and Indians in this part of Kansas, and a good many of the Indians were certainly killed in that battle. About two miles north from the stone ledge, up the creek, a buffalo robe was found by the funeral party. This robe was to all appearances fixed up for carrying things from place to place, and was blood stained all over, showing that it certainly had been used for carrying the dead and wounded from the battle field on Beaver creek. That would make the location of the place where it is thought the Indians buried their dead not far from where our present County Farm is located.
SKULLS IN BULLFOOT CAVE
Some years ago, Mr. Ferdinand Erhardt found some skulls in a cave on Bullfoot creek, and it was generally supposed to be the skulls of the Indians killed in the battle with the Moffitts, but that has been found to be incorrect, as a company of Pottawatomie Indians camped or visited the cave some years later and told Mr. Erhardt that the bones in the cave were of the victims in a battle in 1863 between Pawnees and Pottawatomies. In this battle the Pawnees became hard pressed and took refuge in the cave and were all killed there by the Pottawatomies, so the bones were not brought there from the Moffitt battle.
The buffalo robe found in the described condition and in an opposite direction from the Bullfoot creek cave, seems to prove that the dead Indians, if any were killed in the Moffitt battle, were carried north. Mr. J.J. Peate of Beverly claims to have seen the place where the Indians buried their comrade who fell in that battle, and says it was about three-fourths of a mile north of the battle field, and he is sure fifteen Indians were killed in that battle. The Indians, after they broke camp, went west up the Saline river, according to all the accounts of their movements at that time.
The cave on Bullfoot referred to is located on the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section thirteen, in what is now Indiana township, Lincoln county, Kansas, and is now owned and occupied by Fred Opplinger. There had been some inscriptions made on the rocks by some fairly educated Indians. The inscriptions told of the battle and that it took place in 1863, and that nine Pawnees and two Pottawatomies were killed, eleven in all. the inscription on the rocks is said to have been very plain some years ago, but there is no trace now.
REMOVAL OF THE BODIESOF THE MOFFITT BROTHERS
The following "Petition to remove the bodies of John and Thomas Moffitt" to the home cemetery in Illinois, is found among the probate records of Saline county, and is addressed to Robt. N. Moffitt, a brother of the deceased:
"Kewanee, [Ill.], September 12, 1864.
"Rob: - We received your letter on last Thursday. We were glad to hear that you had arrived safe to Salina. You must do your best to get the boys' bodies, if you can get enough people to go with you to get them. I have been talking to several persons here, they say there will be no difficulty in taking them up if you can get enough to go with you to protect you from the Indians. Charles Miner took up his son, Bill, he had been dead four months, and was buried only six inches under ground, without any coffin. If you can get enough to go to protect you from danger, hire men to take them up and put them in coffins, if it should cost one hundred dollars apiece. If you don't get them now and they will have to be got in cold weather, and that would only be double expense to do that. Mother says they will have to be
brought home if it takes all they had themselves, and half of all she has got to do it.
(Signed) "ELIZABETH M. LYLE for her Mother, E. Moffitt"
"Salina, Saline Co., Kansas, September 23d, 1864.
"I certify that the within is a true copy of a letter received by me from Mrs. E.M. Lyle, (my sister), dated September 12, 1864.
(Signed) "ROBT. N. MOFFITT"
"Recorded on page 41, on the 26th of September, A.D. 1864.
(Signed) "A.A. MORRISON, P.J."
In compliance with the above request, Robert secured the bodies of his brothers, and made the following report of his progress to his mother:
Salina, (Kansas), September 30, 1864.
Dear Mother: I went last Tuesday and got Jack and Tommy's bodies. They were very much decayed - more than I expected, but I got them without much trouble. I had twenty soldiers and four citizens with me. We were gone three days. The Indians were back and had burned the house.
I got back yesterday. I have made a box then will hold both coffins and packed them in sawdust. I will take them to Leavenworth that way and get the cases there. I will start from here next Monday. It will take seven days to go to Leavenworth, so it will be Sunday night before I get there. If I get the cases, which I have no doubt of, I will leave either Monday or Tuesday, the 10th or 11th of October, and will be home the 11th or 12th of October. I will send a dispatch from St. Joseph or Quincy.
I have got some of Tom's hair, but there was no hair left on Jack's head.
I was very sick with diarrhoea while I was after the boys, but I am getting well again. We had to drink salt water, I think was the cause of it.
I remain your affectionate son,
From this letter we learn that twenty soldiers were placed at Mr. Moffit's service to go the Beaver Creek to get the bodies They were accompanied by four civilians, as follows: Thos. Boyle, Fred Rhoads, Adam Caldwell and Woodfield Tripp. Three of those four helped bury the Moffitts.
It seems that Mr. Moffitt got somewhat sick on the way
from drinking salt water. I do not like the idea prevail that the water in the Saline valley is salty. it is only the water in the river that is salty, and at that time there was not more than one well between Salina and Beaver Creek, and that accounts for the salt water spoken of in the letter. The same letter speaks of finding some hair on Tom's head, but none on Jack's so it might have been that the scalp of Jack Moffitt was the one found on the rocks after the massacre.
ADMINITRATION OF THE MOFFITT ESTATE
I now return to the Moffitt brothers. The following papers comprise all of the records regarding the property left by them, and were procured at the Saline county court house through the courtesy of Judge Supple, now Probate Judge of Saline county. I am under obligations to Miss Grace Dawson and to Miss Lillian Lowell, both of Salina, for their kindness in copying the documents. They are all official, and the information is therefore reliable.
"12th of August, 1864, Salina, Saline Co., Kansas
"Application in regard to letters of administration of the estate of Thomas L. Moffitt and John Moffitt, his brother, and John W. Houston, partners who were hunting and were killed by the Indians. Case of John W. Moffitt & Co.
To all whom it may concern:
"State of Kansas "Know ye, that whereas John Moffitt & Co, are now dead, having been killed by the Indians and having left property which may be lost or destroyed if speedy care be not taken of the same; to the end that said property may be collected and taken care of according to law, we do hereby appoint Chas. Case administrator of all and singular, the goods of the foregoing firm or deceased partners, to settle and dispose of their effects according to law; and to collect and dispose of all things in reference to the firm, and to perform all other things which are or hereafter may be required of him by law. In testimony whereof, I, A.A. Morrison, clerk of the Probate Court, in and for the county and state aforesaid, have hereunto signed my name and affixed my private seal, no public seal having been provided as yet.
"A.A. MORRISON,Clerk and Judge of Probate Court"
"Salina, Saline Co., Kansas, 17th August, 1864
"Application for letters in regard to the estate of John
Moffitt and Thomas Moffitt, his brother, who were lately killed by the Indians up the Saline, on the Beaver creek, has been made, and Mr. Charles Case has agreed to attend to the business."
"ADMINISTRATOR'S OATH, 17th AUGUST, 1864
"You, Charles Case, do solemnly swear that you will make a true and perfect inventory of an appraisement of the estate of John and Thomas Moffitt, deceased, and pay all the debts as far as the assets will extend, and account for and pay over all assets which shall come to your knowledge or possession according to law.
"The within is recorded on page 63, and a partial settlement on page 60.
"Recorded this 31st December, A.D. 1864:
" A list of the goods of John and Thomas Moffitt, brothers, who were killed by the Indians out on Beaver creek, up the Saline stream. Charles Case, administrator, as charged with having received the effects of the Moffitts, deceased, which is reported as follows:
|Other goods according to the appraisement list:|
|1 Dragoon bridle bit, appraised at||.50|
|1 three gallon keg||.50|
|3 coats, one vest and other clothing||15.00|
|1 box and a lot traps||1.00|
|11 bottles strychnine||3.30|
|6 boxes of G.D. caps||.50|
|2 saddle trees and one pair stirrups||5.00|
|1 plane and bit||1.00|
|1 harness leather||3.00|
|1 brace and bitts||2.00|
|1 hand saw||1.50|
|1 map of western states||.25|
|9 books appraised at||5.00|
|4 boxes of capps||1.00|
|1 trunk and a variety of clothing||27.00|
|1 pair of pants||7.00|
|1 grass mower||150.00|
|3 buffalo robes||1.00|
|2 pitch forks||2.50|
|4 two year old heifers, each $14||56.00|
|5 cows and three calves||100.00|
|20 yearlings, $10 per head||200.00|
|1 cow and calf||25.00|
"The whole amount of goods as made known to me,
"A. A. MORRISON,, Probate Judge
"P.M. Brown, on his note on page 37, was allowed $10 for crying the public sale of property of the Moffitts on 15th September, A.D. 1864
"A.A. Morrison, Probate Judge
"October 4th, 1864, in open court, settlement of Moffitt's estate............$1,082.55 "Salina, September 26th, 1864.
"Received of A.A. Morrison, Probate Judge of Saline county, Kansas, the sum of twenty-five dollars out of the estate of John and Thomas Moffitt.
"ROBT. N. MOFFITT
"Bills allowed to the amount of.................................................................. 125.51
Total..................................................................................................... $ 957.04
"Estate of John and Thomas Moffitt to Charles Case, Dr.: For appraisement of property and inspection of papers of the said estate, by Erwin Farris and Robert Parker, one day each, at $3) three dollar per day, $6.00.
"CHAS. CASE,"by J.B."
The State of Illinois"I, Robert Moffitt, of said county and state, do hereby make out and state the above and foregoing list is a true copy of the appraisement list of the goods, moneys and effects of Thomas and John Moffitt, deceased. Received by Charles Case as administrator, and for which he is chargeable as furnished to me by A.A. Morrison, Probate Judge, Saline County, Kansas.
"ROBERT N. MOFFITT"
"Sworn to and subscribed before me this 19th day of December, A.D. 1865"
"J.H. HOWE, Notary Public"
"Charles Case, Esquire, Administrator of the Estate of John L. Moffitt and Thomas Moffitt, deceased, Salina, Saline County, Kansas:
"Pay to Hon. Hugh Osborn the sum of nine hundred dollars ($900) assets in your hands realized by you on
the settlement of the estate of John L. Moffitt and Thomas Moffitt, and this shall be your receipt for same.
"ROBT. N. MOFFITT,
"for himself, and as attorney in fact for the other heirs.
"Kewanee, Henry Co., Ill., Nov. 9, 1866
Kewanee, Illinois, November 10, 1866.
"Hon. Hugh Osborn,
"Dear Sir: Your favor received informing me of the settlement of the estate of my brothers.
"Herewith find order on Case for the money. I wish you to get the money and send it to me by express or draft as you think best, deducting for your trouble. I think there ought to have been at least $1,100, but send it along. Hoping to hear from you soon, I am
Kewanee, Henry Co., Ills., November, 12th, 1866
"Hon. Hugh Osborn,
"Dear Sir: Yours without date was received on the 9th, requesting an order on Case for the balance in his hands, or rather in Mr. Jones'. On last Saturday I attended to the matter. Gen. J.M. Howe, a lawyer of Kewanee drew the order and also wrote a letter in my name instructing you to forward the money in any way in which you could, and is practicable, which I suppose is all that is necessary. But as you may perhaps expect me out there, I deem it just to write this and let you know why I do not come at present. I am just beginning to husk my corn crop, and have no one to help me as yet. I cannot make arrangements to go at present. If you receive the money please forward it if you can, if you can't, lose no time in writing to me, and I will come out myself, but if I can avoid it, it will save me both trouble and expense. It would cost me about one hundred dollars to go there, and at present the loss of time would be no small matter. I intend to go there this winter anyhow, and have the matter settled, or put in the hands of someone that would. If you will do the business, paying yourself for all necessary trouble, and forward the balance to me, I will be much obliged to you, but do not fail to let me know if anything turns up to prevent a settlement at this time. I think I will wait at present until I hear from you, which I hope to do in a few weeks. Please write immediately and if necessary I will come out there.
(Signed) R.N. MOFFITT"
State of Kansas You are hereby commanded to notify Charles H. Case, administrator of the estate of Thomas and John Moffitt, deceased, to appear before me, Charles S. Hussey, Probate Judge in and for Saline County, at my office in said County, during the April term of the Probate Court, of Saline County, Kansas, commencing on the first Monday in April, 1869, which term will continue during the said week to exhibit statement in regard to the said estate above referred to.
You will make due return of this writ as the law directs. Given under my hand and seal this 8th day of March A.D. 1869.
(Signed) CHARLES S. HUSSEY, Probate Judge.
To D.R. Wagstaff, Sheriff of Saline County, Greeting:
Received March 8th, A.D. 1869, at 4 o'clock P.M. and after diligent search have been unable to find the within named Charles H. Case in my county. March 18th, 1869
Fees 50c. (Signed) D.R. WAGSTAFF, Sheriff.
It appears from these records that John W. Houston was a partner of the Moffitt brothers, yet that is the only mention of Houston. There appears to be nothing in the records to show that he had either heirs or a share in the estate. There is an account given of thirty-four head of cattle, which fairly well tally with the number of cattle given in the letter that opens this book. This would seem to indicate that the Indians did not drive any cattle away and the inventory shows that nothing was taken from the house. Furthermore, the parties who did the work of burying the dead found the team killed and the wagon burned where the dead bodies were.
The records also show that Robert Moffitt got only twenty-five dollars when he came after the bodies of his brothers. This is all that the relatives ever got out of all that the boys left. The inventory of the estate is rather interesting at this time, for we read that "three buffalo hides were listed at one dollar." If we had three buffalo hides now we might buy a farm with them. Right below we read, "two hay forks two dollars and one half." The difference then and now in that buffalo hides grew here, while hay forks had to be hauled from Leavenworth.
The shawl spoken of in the inventory was not necessarily a woman's shawl as men in the frontier camps used them very often for convenience sake, as they were nice to roll up in and go to sleep on the prairie when they were out on their hunting trips.
It further appears that Charles Case was appointed administrator of the estate, and from what the records show, and from information that I have from the Moffitt relatives, it would appear that said Mr. Case administered the whole business into his own pocket. Anyway the relatives did not get anything. The records also show that the sheriff of Saline county was sent out on the 18th day of March, 1869, to bring the said Charles Case for a settlement, but the papers were returned, as Case could not be found. He was said to be in Kentucky then, money and all. And it is reported that he afterwards appeared in Illinois and told the relatives of the Moffitt boys a very hard luck story, and no prosecution followed.
EARLY PROBATE RECORDS OF SALINE COUNTY
The entire settlement of the Moffitts' estate seems to have been handled in a very careless manner, not only by the clerk who acted as probate judge, but also by the regular Judge after Saline county became organized. The administrator was permitted to get away with the entire proceeds of the estate, and the records show that more than five years had elapsed after the administrator was appointed before an effort was made to get him to settle according to law. It will be noticed that there was no bond given for faithful performance of duty. This copy of administration is a very good criterion to go on in regard to the early days. It is worth of a very close study, and even then we may have some difficulty in understanding what is meant by some of the documents on file in the Salina records. But there is nothing omitted here that is recorded, as I have had every item copied in full. I have done this as a matter of history, as a curiosity to the present and future generations.
It is something very interesting to search the old records, as it throws light on how public business was done in those early days. In the first place I had trouble to
find what I wanted in the Saline county court house, owing to the fact that book "A" could not be found in the office of the Probate Judge. This book was what was wanted in order to get the necessary information. The clerk could not find it. He then 'phoned back that the book was there, in the court house, and that he would be over in a few minutes to find it. The judge then started for another hunt and found a very small book that did not look like a book of record. This book was marked "A," and everything in it is written with pen and ink, and it was neither ruled nor lettered.
The copy of the administration herein submitted shows that there was no Probate Judge in Saline county at that time. The county was organized but not fully officered. What is now Lincoln and Saline counties was at that time attached to Ottawa county for judicial purposes, and a clerk from Ottawa county was stationed at Salina and had charge of the probate work. The office at Salina had no seal, and the clerk had to use his own private seal. All of this goes to show that Salina in the year 1864 was a very small frontier town. But there were men in it to push it ahead to a very high state of civilization.
The book "A" referred to is about twelve by fifteen inches and about an inch thick. The record of the Moffitt administration is recorded on page 60 and when the Judge discovered the records in the book, he took from the vault all of the papers pertaining to the Moffitt estate.
CHARACTER OF THE MOFFITTS, - THE BATTLEFIELD
Before I leave the subject of the Moffitts, I desire to call attention to a few facts. The foregoing letters and documents seem to indicate that the Moffitt brothers were well fixed in life and came here with the bona fide intention of working up the wilderness so that it would resemble a garden spot, and not a wild state. Second, the letter seemed to indicate that they were quite tender hearted, and not like the hard hearted and in some cases fugitives from justice who went to the front or a little beyond the line of civilization. The third thing that I would call attention
to is the battlefield. On the northeast quarter of section nine, township twelve, range seven, in Elkhorn township, Lincoln county, Kansas, is the only known battlefield in Lincoln county, where whites and Indians fought a real hard battle. The place is about three miles from Lincoln Center, and for this reason it ought to be purchased: Say five or ten acres, fenced in and made into a public park, and the rock ledge preserved as much as possible. It must be remembered that Houston and Tyler are still buried there. This would be a fitting finish to our pioneer monument and a great help to preserve our history for future generations. And further, Tom Anderson, of Salina, one of the men who helped to bury the Moffitts, informs me that there were so many arrows left at the rock ledge that they could be gathered up by the armful, which seems to indicate that this was a very hard fought battle and therefore the spot ought to be taken care of for the future. There are a number of other historic spots in Lincoln county from that early period that ought not to be forgotten, notably the cave on the Opplinger farm on Bullfoot creek, that is large enough to accommodate about twenty persons.
Transcription ends here by Lincoln County KSGenWeb volunteer. TO BE CONTINUED ONLINE.
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