Bypaths of Kansas History - February 1938
(Vol. 7, No. 1), pages 98 to 105.
Transcribed by lhn; digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
NEWS FROM THE PLAINS IN 1859
From the Rocky Mountain News, Auraria and Denver, December 1, 1859.
We are indebted to Dr. J. W. Lee for some items of interest respecting the late trip of the freight train of A. P. Vasquez & Co., from the Missouri river to this place.
The train left camp near Westport, Mo., on Sunday the second of October, and was fifty days in making the trip, by way of the Arkansas river route and Pike's Peak. Buffalo were very plentiful from Little Corn [Coon?] creek to the Santa Fe crossing of the Arkansas river. They passed the graves of some fourteen persons who had been recently killed by the Kiowa Indians, among the number was one woman. A. S. Jenny, of Kansas City, Mo.-a passenger by the train-unfortunately killed himself by the accidental discharge of his gun in taking his coat out of a wagon, at a point about eighty miles below Bent's Fort on the Arkansas. He was decently interred, and his effects brought through to Auraria, where they were taken charge [of] by A. P. Vasquez and sold at auction-any one properly authorized to receive the proceeds of said sale, can do so upon application to Mr. V. Dr. Lee and his party saw but few Indians on the route, and had no trouble with them except by their intolerable begging. They saw no Kiowas, and but one Comanche, who they one night surprised in their herd and took him prisoner, and kept him as a hostage for some days.
From The Neosho Valley Register, Burlington, March 20, 1860
Messrs. Hunt, Peck and Corning, residents of this county, living on Big creek, returned home on Monday, 12th inst., from a hunting expedition out on the plains, having been gone two months. They brought with them three hundred and forty wolf pelts, forty dried turkeys, several hundred pounds of "jerked" buffalo meat, and a large number of buffalo tongues. They traveled a distance of about two hundred miles, in a southwesterly direction from Burlington, before they came to the buffalo region, and when there the buffalos were never out of the hunters' sight.
Their mode of hunting wolves was as follows: They would first kill a buffalo, cut a certain quantity of its meat into small pieces, on each of which they would sprinkle strychnine, and then scatter the poisoned bait around the buffalo, within a circuit embracing several rods. A respectable distance from these baits the hunters would pitch their camping tent. In the night the wolves would be attracted to the baits by the scent of the buffalo, and the baits being of the size of a good mouthful for them, they would at once proceed to devote their carnivorous attention to them, and ere they could et to the buffalo, the most of their appetite would be forever appeased.
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In the morning they would be found lying dead around the buffalo, by the dozen and score.
These gentlemen have made quite a profitable trip. Wolf pelts are worth from one dollar to two dollars apiece, and "jerked" buffalo meat sells at eight cents a pound. Considering the amount of money their pelts and meat will bring them, together with the fun and pleasure which they experienced on their expedition, and it must be admitted that they passed the last two winter months to good advantage.
It is their intention to go on another wolf hunt next fall.
FORT LARNED IN 1863
The killing of a Cheyenne Indian and a Fourth of July celebration at Fort Larned in 1863 are the principal items reported in this letter by Capt. A. W. Burton of Bourbon county, to his brother, Isaac Burton. The letter was given to the Kansas Historical Society by Nellie Burton Carr, of Mound City, a daughter of Captain Burton. Mrs. Carr writes (October, 1937) that Isaac Marrs, who figures in the letter, is a resident of Mound City and the sole surviving Civil War veteran in Linn county.
FORT LARNED, KANSAS, 11th July, 1863.
Your letter of the 21st June came to hand last. mail and I will now try to answer it. You wrote me that Pa and Hettie had written to me before you but I have not recd. their letter, but hope to next mail. We are having a heavy time of it here at present with the Indians though no fight as yet, but I think that it will come before long. We have a great deal more excitement just now caused by the killing of a Cheyenne the other night. A little fellow in our company named Isaac Marrs from Bourbon county was on a beat close to my tent, and I was unwell and was lying awake. About midnight I heard a horseman coming just outside of the breastwork, and I heard Marrs challenge, "who comes there, who comes there, halt, halt, halt." Still the horseman did not stop and the sentinel fired and I heard something fall. He then called for the "Corporal of the guard" and Lieut. Pellett who was officer of the day ran out and asked him what the matter was and he replied that he had killed "some feller" out there. Pellett told him to load his gun and he replied "it is loaded sir." On examination we found him to be a Cheyenne Indian, and he was shot right through bead and of course was instantly killed. Marrs is nothing but a little boy not as large as Benton Elliot, but he is all soldier.
Colonel Leavenworth sent for all the chiefs and explained the whole matter to them, but the Indians are very much excited and the Cheyennes want the sentinel given up to them but of course we will take good care of the brave little fellow. Since writing the foregoing page I have been out to a council of a delegation of Cheyennes and officers of the garrison and they agree to settle the difficulty if Marrs is given up to them. I do wish that we had a few more troops here so that we need not listen to the monsters, and as it is if I was in command I would let them know that I asked no favors of them.
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let it come to what it may, one hair of Marrs head shall not be touched until they have killed every man in this little garrison. You have no idea of the vast number of Indians there are around this fort. There are no doubt twenty or thirty thousand of them within a few miles of here, and I have seen as many as two thousand of them here at once. We will probably be relieved of duty here before long, and will go south. I shall have an opportunity to come home, and you may be sure that I shall improve it to the full extent. I understand that there is a company of infantry on the way now to relieve us but we can't get off as long as this Indian difficulty continues. I also hear that the 3rd Wis. Cav. is ordered here and if that is so we will leave immediately after its arrival. I recd. a letter from Caroline and Newton a few days ago. They are well. Newt has bought 80 acres of school land and paid $2,500 for it. Don't you think that is paying for the whistle? I have not heard from *111. since I wrote you. Lieut. Berthoud of the 2nd Col. has just returned from "America" and gives glowing accounts of the crops in Kansas. By what I hear Kansas will redeem herself this year. Caroline writes that the crops in Ohio are not very good, except the fruit. Have you any peaches this year? I expect to be at home in peach and watermelon time, but then I may be disappointed. I did think that I would try and get my money home some way, but I am afraid it would be lost, and as there is a prospect of my coming in I will wait and bring it with me. If Hettie is strapped tell her to collect that note on Dunlap and spend the money for any thing that she may need. You wrote me that the crops in your parts were good. Did you get your wheat up in good order? Does my tenant work his crop and does the crop look well? I think that the wheat ground in my place will need ploughing early if possible as the fall will probably be very dry and the weeds must be very bad. You spoke as though it was possible that you would put the wheat in, and if you do conclude to I wish you would have a first rate harrow made for me and I will pay for it, as I think that a good harrow is every thing almost in putting in wheat well and easily. About the first thing that I get when I get out of the service will be a Buckeye reaper & mower as I think the wheat crop is a sure thing in Kansas, and wheat straw will do to winter stock on if you can't get anything else. The news from the seat of war I think is not very favorable but we can't tell any thing about what turn things may take, but I do hope that Lee's "raid" into Pennsylvania will work for good to the government rather than evil. The 4th passed off quietly here, without any accident. We raised the garrison flag at noon on a new flag staff, (the first that was ever raised at this post, and for which we had to send thirty-five miles, as this is not what would be called a timbered country) and fired a national salute from the battery. We also in our enthusiasm gave a few cheers for the old "Gridiron" and Col. Leavenworth made a few patriotic remarks of the Star Spangled banner order to the battalion. I then in my official capacity, as post adjutant "dismissed the parade" (that, and to wear good clothes was all that I had to do). The boys then amused themselves by running three or four hundred horse races and drinking a "few pints" of that seductive fluid denominated rot, interspersed with an occasional foot race which was highly gratifying to them, and they declared that they had as good a time as they could have had, had they been in "America."
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Well Ike I have written too much already and must stop. Excuse all nonsense if you have to excuse the whole thing. Write as often as you can afford to reply to my miserable epistle, and believe me to be
Your affectionate Bro A. W. BURTON.
ARBOR DAY IN TOPEKA IN 1875
Tree planting was the hobby of J. Sterling Morton, pioneer Nebraskan. To encourage the same practice on the part of others he urged that one day each year, to be known as Arbor Day, should be especially dedicated to that purpose. Starting in 1872 on a day officially set aside by Nebraska the idea spread, and in 1875 it seems to have struck Topeka and the statehouse square leaving a young forest. The ceremonies which were held on April 23, 1875, were described in The Commonwealth, of April 24.
The tract of upland prairie in which the capitol building of Kansas stands, has been from the start a very aggravating and expensive rectangle to the state and to this city.
It was originally surrounded by a stone wall of the ordinary farm pattern, but this proved a frail protection, and unsightly gaps became visible in it, so that the wall, never ornamental, soon ceased to be even useful. Under Mr. Asa Hairgrove's administration when state auditor, an appropriation of $1,000 was made for the benefit of the grounds, and a large number of locust trees were set out, but the whole locust outfit went into involuntary bankruptcy, and a portion of subsequent appropriations was used in grubbing up the stumps of Hairgrove's enterprise. Small appropriations were made from time to time, aggregating, it is said, $5,000, and went like soap suds when poured into a rat hole, and still the statehouse grounds were not happy. In 1872, W. H. Fitzpatrick, senator from this county, worked like a horse and secured an appropriation of $5,000 for the grounds. Then it was believed that the grounds were to be improved to a dead certainty. A Chicago landscapist drew an elegant looking plan, the old wall was taken away and the present board fence substituted, and there was shoveling and scraping and plowing done till you couldn't rest, and trees were set out on the outside of the square, paths were laid out and paved with coal cinders, and evergreens were scattered about the grounds on the interior. But after all this the improvement came to naught. The evergreens died; so did a good many of the elms outside. Weeds grew in the paths, and the town cows again returned to their old pasture, and the square seemed as neglected and desolate as it did when Hairgrove first struck it.
The failure of this last appropriation to make the square "a thing of beauty and a joy forever," "salivated" the legislature. That body provided for the erection of a new portico in place of the old wooden "cattle shoot," but members sneered bitterly and said something about "frod" when the subject of the grounds was mentioned.
But there is a tide in the affairs of capitol grounds which, taken at the flood, leads on to tree-planting. A few weeks ago some newspaper "chaffing" brought
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out Secretary of State Cavanaugh, who expressed his willingness to do all in his power to effect the improvement of the grounds, and then Mayor Anderson, with how much deliberation we are unable to state, "evolved from his inner consciousness" an idea of an "Arbor Day," for the benefit of the state's wilderness, a proclamation was issued and the labors of yesterday were the result.
On Wednesday and Thursday last Cavanaugh had stakes driven twenty feet apart along the walks, and at other points indicated for trees in the plan of the grounds made by the landscapist, as hereinbefore mentioned, to indicate where the trees should be set out.
Early yesterday morning, nursery men had their trees "heeled in" at different parts of the grounds, and long before 2 p. m., the hour set for the tree planting to begin, many trees were in position.
The "trouble" began at between 2 and 3. The Commonwealth outfit, about twenty strong, headed by the colored band, with Prouty forming the principal portion of the leading "file," marched from the office to the ground, each man carrying an elm or two on his shoulder. On the arrival of the procession the trees, twenty-seven in number, were set out in "Newspaper Row," along the east fence', beginning about fifty feet north of the walk leading to the portico. At this time, and during the remainder of the afternoon, the grounds presented a lively, and, indeed, brilliant appearance. Groups of men, women and children were scattered over the grounds, the steps of the capitol were crowded with lookers-on, and some of the more adventurous climbed to the roof of the capitol. Trees rose more rapidly than they have since "Birnam Wood" called on Mr. Macbeth. The fire boys were out with their machine to furnish water, and two brass bands furnished wind, worked up into lively melodies. Stylish carriages filled with ladies moved slowly about, and altogether we do not believe another scene of so much life and gayety has been witnessed since the first grasshopper of 1874 crossed the state line.
It would have been a good idea to have provided a record book for the preservation of the names of the tree planters. We can only mention a few of them.
All the departments of the state government set out trees. Governor Osborn planted an elm, near the walk leading to the main entrance. Judge Kingman set a group of fine trees. The secretary of state's office set out nine trees, one for Mr. Cavanaugh and one for each of his assistants, while the tree in the centre is intended to keep green the memory of Capt. William H. Smallwood. The fire department set out eighteen trees.
Mr. John C. Searle, father of our city clerk, Mr. R. H. C. Searle, a gentleman over eighty years of age, set out a tree with his own hands, and one tree bore the name of Mrs. Giles, who is eighty-five years old.
Colonel Huntoon set out seven trees, one for each member of his family, arranged in the form of the letter H.
The Topeka Times people and other First Warders, concentrated their efforts in the transplantation of a very large and handsome mulberry. Poppendick, Gus. Hauschild, Zimmerman, Pape, Oswald, Miller and other Germans, selected a. spot on the path leading to the northwest gate, calling it, as Pape informed our reporter, the "Dutch quarter." These trees were set out with a great deal of care, Mrs. Zimmerman working faithfully with others in the cause.
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Various foreign "potentates and powers" were represented in the trees set out. Judge C. G. Foster, of the United States district court, set out two trees. Byron Sherry planted one for Leavenworth county, Mr. Bradford wielded the spade for Osage county, Job Throckmorton and P. B. Maxson for Lyon, C. H. Titus for Morris, Mr. March for Cherokee, Lew J. Best for Mitchell, Mr. Morrison for Smith, E. C. Manning for Cowley, and Messrs. Riley and Hutchings planted for Neosho county.
&Charley La Tourette states that himself and "mob" set out fifteen trees.
The Topeka Blade set out several trees.
The absent were remembered. A fine ash was set out for Capt. James W. Steele, United States consul at Matanzas.
Mr. P. J. Tormey, of Boston, set out two trees and appointed W. P. Douthitt his attorney to see that they were kept growing.
Among the varieties of trees set out were elm, maple, hickory (two varieties), cherry, Siberian crab apple, silver birch, red bud, mulberry, honey locust, mountain ash, cedar, box-elder, coffee bean, willow, Osage orange, cottonwood and honey locust.
The whole number of trees planted is not yet known. Late in the afternoon but before the work was completed, six hundred and thirty-five trees had been put in the ground; at least seven hundred were planted.
A great many interesting facts could be given, but we forbear, and close with the wish expressed on a card attached to a printer's tree in "Newspaper Row."
O gryllus, spare this tree, Bite not a single bough, In youth I plant it here- May God protect it now!
THE DEATH of "WILD BILL" HICKOK
From the Hays City Sentinel, August 16, 1876.
"Fort Laramie, August 10.-James B. Hickok, otherwise known as Wild Bill, a. scout of considerable renown in the West, was shot and instantly killed, at Deadwood, on the 2d of August. The murderer's name is Bill Sutherland. Hickok was playing cards in a saloon when Sutherland came up behind and fired, the ball entering just behind the right ear, and passing clear through the head, perforating the brain. The assassin attempted to escape, but was finally captured. He says in justification of his deed, that Wild Bill killed his brother, at Fort Hays, Kansas, some years ago. Others, who claim to know the antecedents of both parties, say the story is false, and that the real cause of the murder is found in the fact that Hickok outgambled Sutherland during the previous week. When I left Deadwood the trial was in progress at the theater, with a strong probability of the acquittal of Sutherland. Bill's friends, however, say that the assassin shall not leave town alive. The murdered man was taken charge of, and his funeral expenses paid by Charley Utter, known here as Colorado Charley. There is much excitement in Deadwood and Custer over the affair, as Bill was generally liked and his superb personal courage admired." So Wild Bill is dead at last. It is a wonder he has lasted as long as he has. Bill has killed many a man; and each death made him enemies, who but lacked
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the opportunity to kill him. Many a man has bit the dust when "hunting Bill," and many a man who has avowedly attempted to kill him, now lies with his toes upward. The tribute to his bravery is not exaggerated. James B. Hickok was a cool, collected man; not a rough nor a desperado, but a brave man. His courage was never questioned. If the occasion required it, he would face a mob of roughs, and, with that cool, self-possessed air so characteristic of him.
During his residence in Hays, Hickok was one of the best citizens of the town. He never commenced a muss; but he was always in at the close, and, as a general thing there was a procession up to "Boot Hill" on the same day. Bill always used to attend his funerals, and took a great, pride in conducting them properly. Like Buck Fanshaw, Wild Bill was a great disciple of peace, and he frequently killed a man or two to preserve it. He was sheriff of this county [city marshal at Hays] for a long time; and his shrievalty was one of peace, as compared to that of his predecessors. Physically, he was a perfect man, tall and commanding; and the surprising celerity with which he could draw one of his "Colts" was a. great peace promoter. Every old timer is chuck full of reminiscences of Bill, and at some future time we will reproduce some of them.
All concede that he was a kindhearted, gentle-mannered gentleman, and only when aroused was he dangerous. Many of his old friends now reside in Hays, and all express great sorrow at his untimely end. The story that Bill killed a brother of his murderer is disputed by people here who know the circumstances. John Hobbs says that Sutherland never had a brother in Hays. Sutherland himself is well known in Hays; and no such affair occurred. The man whom the above article has reference to was named Sam Strawhorn [or Strawhan], and not Sutherland. He was killed by Bill in the spring of '70, down in Oderfeld's saloon, on Fort street. Strawhorn and Bill had some trouble over a game of cards the previous evening, and Strawhorn threatened to kill Bill the next day. Bill heard of it, hunted up Strawhorn, and shot him. This was the general wind up of such affairs. In those days a man didn't say a thing unless he meant it; and after the thing was said, it was only a question of time as to who would be the chief mourner.
A PROPOSAL TO ANNEX KANSAS CITY, MO., TO KANSAS
From the Kansas City Times, Kansas City, Mo., December 14,1878
The only obstacle to the material progress of Kansas City is the state line. The Times has long recognized this fact, although it has not heretofore made it the subject of serious public discussion. Now, however, that the legislatures both of Missouri and Kansas are about to assemble, we feel impelled to suggest such concurrent legislation by the two commonwealths as shall make Kansas City in fact, as well as in name, the City of Kansas.
It is a proposition which we are satisfied will be hailed with universal approbation in Kansas as well as Kansas City, and one which ought not to encounter any serious opposition from any portion of Jackson county, or indeed the state of Missouri. The annual revenue which Kansas City pays to
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the state' treasury according to the auditor's last report, is about $67,000, and the redisbursement by the state to Jackson county amounts to $15,000 yearly, a difference of about $52,000 in favor of the state government, which would be the strongest argument that could be used against the cession of Kansas City to the state of Kansas. As to the territory required, let us suppose that the line of the Big Blue is made the new boundary, and the townships of Kaw, Westport and a section of Washington are comprised in the territory to be taken. We have thus a triangular shaped strip of twenty miles in extreme length by an average of two and a half miles in width, and comprising about sixty square miles, a territorial loss to Missouri that would be inappreciable, even to Jackson county.
That the state of Kansas would welcome the acquisition, we have the assurance of leading and influential men in all sections. The legislature of Kansas could do no wiser act than to effect a virtual purchase from the state of Missouri, by assuming to pay the existing state revenues of Kansas City into the treasury of Missouri for fifty years to come, or say a quarter million of dollars. It is not a question of politics, but of statesmanship. The argument in favor of annexation is incontestable. The trade of the state of Kansas is the life-blood of Kansas City. Cut off from us the patronage that comes from our sister state, and our city would relapse into insignificance. Indeed, the entire state of Kansas pays us tribute and fills our coffers. We see the faces of her people daily in our streets, in our stores, in all our marts of trade. Their names are on our ledgers. They read our newspapers. They think our thoughts. They are essentially a part of the same community, for we are practically one people. Who shall say that we have not closer commercial ties and stronger sympathies with the people of Kansas than of Missouri?
Kansas City, Mo., should therefore be not only set over into the state of Kansas, but Wyandotte and Kansas City, Kansas, should be incorporated with Kansas City under one municipal government. This would make community of interest and obliterate state prejudices. It would relieve a great commercial and political exigency by making it a Kansas City actually as well as nominally. It would increase our population tens of thousands yearly from the state of Kansas. It would give the people of that state an interest in our own municipal affairs that would develop itself in legislation to foster and promote its commercial and industrial advantages. It would make Kansas City the commercial, financial and social capital of Kansas, holding her people's loyalty and interest in firm allegiance and vital relationship to Kansas City, which would be in itself a miniature commonwealth.
An enabling act by congress, with concurrent acts by the legislatures of the states of Missouri and Kansas, would accomplish this purpose, and we trust the subject will claim the first attention of our local representatives at Jefferson City during the coming session. We are confident the legislature of Kansas would, upon invitation from Missouri, appoint a committee of conference to discuss the practicability and expediency of the project.