Kansas Historical Quarterly - Bypaths of Kansas History - May 1938
(Vol. 7, No. 2), pages 204 to 215.
Transcribed by lhn;
digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
NEWS FROM COUNCIL GROVE IN 1849
Correspondence of the St. Louis Republican republished in the supplement to the New York Daily Tribune, July 6, 1849.
COUNCIL GROVE, June 9, 1849.
I left Fort Leavenworth on the 16th of May, with the troops destined for Santa Fe, El Paso and different parts of New Mexico, which consist of the following corps: four companies of the Third infantry, two of the Second artillery, with 12 lb. mountain howitzers, and K company of the Second dragoons.-The latter company however, is to continue on to California as an escort to the United States Custom-House officers for San Francisco, who are at this time with them. They are some fifteen in number, clerks, assistants, &c., and surely look more like gold diggers than collectors of customs, and from all accounts 1 presume will find the latter business the least profitable. This company, and the party of civil officers, left our command a few days before we arrived here as they were in a hurry and could not travel with the ox teams which compose the baggage and supply train of the corps above mentioned, under Colonel Alexander. I have already stated the time we left the fort, but did not mention our delay on the Kansas river up to the 1st of June, awaiting the arrival of General Brook, who, we afterward learned, in consequence of the death of General Worth, was ordered elsewhere. The grass is very good and moist, from the immense rain that has fallen this spring, and all of the streams are high. The troops for the Oregon route and territory had not started when we left the fort, though I believe some two or three trains, with provisions for the several posts on that route, to be garrisoned, had left or were ready to leave. The disposition of the troops for that route and territory you are better acquainted with than myself. The health of the command is very good at present, considering the diseases that have raged among the troops, as well as the trains coming up the river from Jefferson barracks and while at Fort Leavenworth, from diseases contracted down the river. The cholera carried off a great number of soldiers and emigrants at the fort and other points on the river, and is not entirely out of some of the trains on that route yet, as every camp ground between here and Fort Leavenworth and Independence is marked with two or three fresh graves, as well as all along on the roadside. The Indians have all left the road at. every settlement contiguous to the roadside, on account of the cholera. I noticed at Bull creek, Kaw river and Willow Springs, among the Delawares and Shawnees, that they had all run off, and left their houses and gardens, with vegetables growing, to the mercy of travelers, who, you may know, are not very apt to sympathize with anyone else than themselves. We buried five out of the train that I am in while at the fort and since, though, as I before stated, the health of course is fast improving. We shall resume our march tomorrow again, for Santa Fe. The Quartermaster's train is undergoing today a transfer to Major Reynolds, from Lieutenant Ward, and that, with some little repairing of wagons, &c., have caused us to lay by today. We overtook ex-Governor Edwards of your
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state here, en route to California. There are a great many emigrants going via Santa Fe; the road is full, and we are constantly overtaking and passing trains. VENI.
Correspondence of the Philadelphia Inquirer republished in the New York Tribune, July 20, 1849.
COUNCIL GROVE, Indian Territory, June 4, 1849.
We start this morning for Santa Fe, having remained here two days repacking, and washing, and resting our cattle. Thus far we have had very good luck, plenty of grass, and the season has been so wet that there is abundance of water everywhere. We apprehend no scarcity of water on our journey to Santa Fe. The crowd is not very great on this road. We have organized our company. H. is captain and I am judge. Our health has been very good. There have been sickness and death from cholera on the road in other companies, but we admit no doubtful characters, and have no drinking men; so we are not so much exposed to the scourge. Mr. Collier, the collector of San Francisco, is behind us with an escort of dragoons, and there are emigrants, traders and soldiers enough to eat up every Indian on the road. We expect to be in Santa Fe in six weeks, and will send some of our men to the River Gila (pronounced Hela), to dig for gold, where it is represented to be found in large quantities.
A command of troops goes out to build a fort on that river. The road is very fine and hard, equal to any that you have ever seen. The traders carry in single wagons over sixty-two hundred pounds, which is an immense load for six or seven yoke of oxen. A Dr. McE. of Mississippi, travels with us. He is a wealthy gentleman; has his servant, &c. He travels with a mule carriage. Our oxen, however, keep up with him. We pass over from eighteen to twenty-five miles a day; the traders usually about six or eight miles.
Our cattle are strong, and are the better from having been driven from the northwest and fed on corn. The doctor goes through with us. You will hear of Indian wars and every other kind of rumor; you may, however, rest confident that we will not be engaged in any fight during our journey. We heard at Fort Leavenworth that the Comanches and our soldiers had had a fight; now we learn there is not a word of truth in the report; on the contrary, that the Comanches are disposed to be very friendly.
We are about 130 miles from Fort Leavenworth, in the Kansas country. There are about 100 of the tribe about half a mile from us. They are preparing to start on a buffalo hunt toward the Arkansas river. I am trying to keep a journal, but I find it very difficult; I have so many things to call me off. But I will try to notice enough that is worthy of preservation. "The Plains" are richer than I had supposed. The soil, instead of being arid and sterile, is very rich.-Here it is of a rock clay, very good for wheat, hemp and tobacco, but too strong for corn. Our Dr. C., I think, would have liked the trip vastly, as the Plains furnish flowers enough to meet the desires of any botanist. We find along the route almost everything that we cultivate in gardens. Strawberries and mushrooms grow very large, and are excellent, and being very abundant, we have quite good living. I will send you a line by every chance.
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From The Democratic Platform, Liberty, Mo., June 15, 1854.
We are in favor of making Kansas a slave state, if it should require half the citizens of Missouri, musket in hand, to emigrate there, and even sacrifice their lives in accomplishing so desirable an end.
AN ASIDE TO FISHERMEN
From The Herald of Freedom, Lawrence,
July 11, 1857.
A catfish was caught in the Kansas river near town, a few days since, which weighed 111 pounds.
The Topeka Tribune, April 21, 1859.
One of our compositors getting fishy, on Tuesday, he absconded and took to the Kaw for the purpose of trying his luck in catching whales, of which this river abounds. He brought one up, as a present to us, that weighs ninety-two pounds and a half. Great is the Kaw for catfish.
The Topeka Tribune, June 23, 1859.
BIG FISH.-Two large catfish were captured in the Kaw this morning. The largest one weighing, net, 160 pounds. The smaller one 110 pounds. The mouth of the larger one measured, on the inside, eight by twelve inches. That fellow could carry a pretty good lunch in his head.
The Topeka Tribune, September 3, 1859.
The Kaw river is said to be unsafe for the navigation of large-class catfish this season!
State Record, Topeka, June 10, 1863.
A catfish was caught in the Kansas river last week, near Calhoun's, two miles below this city, which weighed 106 pounds.
The Junction City Union, July 22, 1865.
A party of soldiers the other day hauled out of the Republican, with seine, at one time, seven fish, weighing from forty to 105 pounds. The two that we saw, weighing Sixty-eight and seventy-three, were four feet long. These finny gunboats ply the Smoky Hill, Republican, Saline, Solomon and their tributaries.
Topeka Weekly Leader, July 26, 1866.
We saw, the other day, four fine specimens of the finny tribe, weighing from sixty-five to 100 pounds, which some of Ike Walton's disciples had hooked from the Kaw.
The Junction City Union, October 6, 1866.
A catfish, weighing 125 pounds, was drawn from the Republican, at Bachelder, a few days ago. We saw one at Watson & Record's butcher shop, which was caught in the Smoky Hill, the length of which was about five feet, and about fifteen or eighteen inches across the head.
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The Junction City Weekly Union, August 17, 1867.
A fish was caught in the Smoky Hill last Saturday, and served up in one of our markets, which weighed 120 pounds.
The Manhattan Standard, May 8, 1869.
The editor acknowledges the receipt of a fine, nine-pound rock bass, caught by the Manhattan fishing company in the Blue, and presented by Mr. King for the company. It was a splendid fish, and made an ample meal for two families. The fishing company is catching large quantities of fish, and some of their hauls are magnificent.
The Manhattan Standard, May 22, 1869.
A GOOD HAUL.-The "King boys" caught 112 pounds of catfish one night this week at Rocky Ford, on their trot lines. . . . Part of them were sent to the Topeka market.
The Manhattan Standard, June 19, 1869.
SOME FISH.-Last week a fishing company that operates in the Kansas river south of this city, caught a catfish weighing 1311/2 pounds, and the next day one that weighed eighty-nine, and the day following one that weighed sixty-five pounds, besides large numbers of small cats (would they be kittens?). This is doing pretty well and it wasn't a good week for fish either. The Manhattan Standard, June 11, 1870.
FISH.-The Rocky Ford dam affords a splendid place for capturing catfish just now, and the people from all the country gather there for the sport. Some very large ones have been taken lately. Mr. Thomas Hair, from Wild Cat, took about 400 pounds a few days ago. On Thursday, Messrs. Jenkins, Horton, Elder and A. M. Tyler made a visit to the dam, and returned with about 100 pounds of fish. The largest cat weighed forty-eight pounds. They left a twenty pounder at "our house," whereat the editor makes his best bow. Baked catfish is good. The Nationalist, Manhattan, April 21, 1871.
BIG FISHING.-Harry Pipher caught on an "out" line one day this week, a catfish that weighed forty pounds. Harry himself weighs fifty-six. The Wyandotte Gazette, May 11, 1871.
Messrs. Fisher & Woodcock, who explore the muddy Missouri and the raging Kaw in pursuit of the finny tribe, caught a bouncing catfish Wednesday night on a hook set about forty rods up the Kaw from its mouth. As they carried it along the Street hung to a pole, supported on their shoulders, its tail dragged a foot of its length on the ground, and it weighed 139 pounds. We made a dinner out of a fine Steak of it Thursday, and it was very tender, rich and lucious. The Wichita City Eagle, April 19, 1872.
The vicious manner in which the little river is being dragged with hundreds of yards of net is depleting its waters of fish. One fisherman claims to have made a haul of thirty hundred. Sportsmen are growing justly indignant.
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The Wichita City Eagle, June 28, 1872.
Fish are being caught daily in large quantities from the river with hook and line. We saw a catfish weighing forty pounds brought to shore a few days ago by a staring-eyed amateur. We tried to coax him to run.
The Daily Kansas Tribune, Lawrence, May 22, 1873.
Fish stories in these parts have always been exceedingly plentiful, but fresh fish from the Kaw usually are quite scarce. A. V. Brown, the fisherman, in- forms us that he is now having splendid success, having caught a number of fish last night, one of which weighed eighty-four pounds.
The Miami Republican, Paola, June 2, 1876.
Tilton & Gano bought a nice lot of fish caught in the Pottawatomie, on Wednesday, one of them a "cat" weighing fifty-six pounds, and a number of them ranging from twenty to forty pounds.
The Daily Tribune, Lawrence, April 10, 1877.
The veritable old shovel-mud-catfish which Noah had in his Ark was caught in the Kaw the other day, and its head is on exhibition at Kretsinger & Timmons' grocery store-on so much exhibition that you have to go in at the back door to get out. at the front, the thing's mute sticks a good ways across the street. The whole institution weighed over 100 pounds.
The Western Home Journal, Lawrence, April 12, 1877.
A fish known as the "shovel-nosed cat" was taken from the river yesterday morning, its guessed-at weight being 250 pounds.
The Daily Tribune, Lawrence, April 28, 1877.
A fisherman was observed this morning going down street carrying one large and one small catfish of such weight as to almost dislocate his shoulder. Upon his countenance he wore a wan expression of weariness.
The Nationalist, Manhattan, June 29, 1877.
Last Wednesday night Lewis Glasgow caught a catfish in the Blue river that weighed ninety-one pounds.
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In order to secure more ready obedience to its mandates, the judge of this court was called "Old Brown," though Capt. John Brown was not in the territory at that time. Dr. Rufus Gilpatrick was elected judge of this court. As no Bible could be found in the neighborhood, witnesses were sworn on Dr. Gunn's Family Physician. The action and decrees of the court were generally satisfactory to the settlers.
A TALE OF HORROR
From the Rocky Mountain News, Cherry Creek, K. T., May 14, 1859. Mr. Williams, conductor of the express, informs us that he picked up on the plains a man in the last stage of exhaustion who had subsisted upon the remains of his two brothers who had died of starvation. Three brothers set out from Illinois for the Gold Region. From Kansas City they took the Smoky Hill route, found the distance much greater than represented, ate up their provisions and when near to death, one of them sinking more rapidly than the others, requested them to live upon his flesh and try to get through. He died and they commenced their horrible feast-ate the body and again braved starvation-another died and the survivor lived upon his remains, but the same fate had almost reached him when. he was found by an Indian, carried to his lodge and fed, the next day the express came along and took him in and brought him part way through, but was obliged to leave him because of his feebleness and delirium. He will be brought up by the next coach and probably arrive today.
Mr. Williams after hearing the man's story from himself and the Indian, searched for, and found the bones of the second one who died and interred them.
This we fear is one of a hundred tales of horror yet to be told of the Smoky Hill route-which will bring sorrow to many a hearthstone.
The Topeka Daily Capital, July 8, 1931. Henry Zart . . . had the thrill of his years as a fisherman last night. With a single line, be pulled a forty-pound yellow catfish from the Kaw river near Oakland.
A FRONTIER COURT
Land-claim controversies were quite serious among early settlers of eastern Kansas in the late 1850's. In November, 1858, a Free-state squatters' court was organized in the counties of Linn, Anderson and Bourbon for the trial of these claims and the settlement of the difficulties arising therefrom. A. T. Andreas' History of the State of Kansas (Chicago, 1883), p. 1323, reported:
KANSAS IN 1861
Editorial in the New York Tribune, February 5, 1861.
If any one suppose himself in need of new or striking proofs of human depravity, we advise him to collect and compare the articles of The Herald and kindred journals relative to the famine now desolating Kansas, and the efforts systematically made for the relief of the sufferers. If these do not. establish the point, it would be idle to ransack the chronicles of Sodom and Gomorrah, were those perspicuous and at hand.
There has been much bitter political controversy with regard to Kansas, and there was for a time a state of virtual civil war prevailing therein four to six years ago, whereof the embers have hardly yet died out, and there is now great and very general destitution there. The border raids and the famine have barely this connection: had there been no attempt to force
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slavery into Kansas by fraud, terror, and violence, it is quite probable that her people would have had more means, more food stored up, and been better able to bear up under their present afflictions than they are. But the visitation of God which is now chastening them has no relation to government or politics. It is caused simply and solely by the fact that, throughout most of the settled portion of the new state, no rain of consequence fell during the last spring and summer-very little from October, 1859, to October, 1860. Of course, there are indolent, improvident settlers in Kansas as elsewhere, but these are suffering in the main no worse than their energetic, industrious neighbors. In fact, had the tillers of Kansas kept their seed out of the ground and their hands in their pockets throughout 1860, they would probably have been in quite as good a position, in the average, as they now are. Some of them planted and sowed from thirty to eighty acres each, yet did not harvest enough to keep a cow through the winter; many secured a miserable fragment of a crop of wormy corn, which, for want of grass, they have fed to their animals, and thereby lost those animals by disease. Texas and most of the Gulf states were severe sufferers by the intense, protracted drouth of last summer; but their cotton, cane, &c., stand drouth much better than grain crops, so that their loss is but partial; but Kansas grows as yet little else than grain and grass, and her loss is nearly total. Had the prairies but yielded an average burden of wild grasses, so that cattle could have been carried through to next June without loss, and not one blade of anything planted or sown ever appeared above the surface, the people of Kansas would have been less afflicted, less destitute, than they are today.
A number have died already of famine, and the diseases thereby engendered; thousands more would have died, but for the benefactions already transmitted; thousands must yet perish if the contributions of the benevolent are not continued and increased. As yet, nothing has been done compared with the extent and urgency of the need. Of the 100,000 people included within the state limits of Kansas, perhaps a fifth have fled from starvation to temporary shelter with friends and relatives in the older states, intending to return to their cabins and quarter-sections in the spring; perhaps twice as many have resources which will enable them to worry through; while the remaining forty thousand unable to get away, destitute of food and means, must be relieved or must starve. Which shall it be? The acts rather than words of the people of the older states must speedily determine.
The amount actually needed to rescue these forty thousand unfortunates from the jaws of imminent death is not less than $1,000,000, whereof not more than $100,000 has yet been contributed, and this mainly in grain by Illinois and Iowa. From the slave states, scarcely anything has been or will be realized; but why the Democratic press and people of the Free states should stubbornly hold back, we cannot imagine. The relative strength of the two great parties in Kansas is about four Republicans to three Democrats, and any one can judge as well as we whether a majority of the two-fifths of the people of Kansas who must be saved from starvation by charity is not quite as likely to be Democratic as Republican. If it be paltry to revive party distinctions in view of such a common and fearful calamity, let the blame fall where it ought. To every observer it is plain that the Democrats as a party-with noble exceptions, of course-are not only withholding con-
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tributions for Kansas, but are discouraging the movement for her comprehensive relief. One of them starts and others circulate the manifestly villainous lie that provisions are distributed to Republicans only, when in fact all who come are served alike, and no questions asked regarding politics. General Harney officially starts and thousands eagerly circulate the atrocious insinuation that moneys contributed for the relief of the starving have been perverted to the purchase of arms and munitions for Montgomery's band; when in fact nothing like arms has been distributed or bought, and but very little, even of provisions, has yet been sent to Bourbon and Linn counties, where alone Montgomery's men are found. But we waste words on these miserable calumnies.
People of the United States! You gave freely for devastated Greece, for starving Ireland, for the Cape de Verds, for Madeira, and (more recently) for the victims of the Syrian massacres. This was right-it was noble-you did not give one dollar too much-and you are not this day a farthing poorer for it all. Well: here are forty thousand of your fellow-citizens suffering, famishing, dying, yet you have done little-far too little-to save them. They must have bread and seed, they should have at least 100,000 bushels of wheat to sow in February and March and it ought to be going forward at once.
It is not their fault, it is your good fortune, that the blight has fallen on them rather than you; and you should, you must, help to bear what is essentially a public calamity. Be entreated, then, to hold meetings, appoint solicitors, and thoroughly canvass your several localities forthwith, and see that it is no picayune business either. And be pleased to consider that whatever money is collected is to be transmitted, not to us, but to the duly-commissioned treasurer of the general movement, John E. Williams, president of the Metropolitan bank, New York.
HE GETS HIS MAN
From the Kansas Reporter, Louisville, May 3, 1877.
Sheriff [J. H.] Shehi has no use for handcuffs. When he gets a prisoner he just cuts off the fellow's pants buttons and keeps him busy holding up his breeches while the sheriff quietly marches him to jail without any trouble. Necessity is said to be the mother of invention, but in this case it is the father.
THE REPORTER'S PARADISE
From the Dodge City Times, July 13, 1878. Friday is said to be an unlucky day. It is hangman's day. Some star having special gravity struck with sporadic force yesterday, and illuminated some of the social phases in the zodiac of Dodge City.
There was a gambling sport who was chaired by a pugilistic concubine. A drunken prostitute led to the "tannery" by her stocking-leg protector. But it was no go; she broke loose and was again on the street. A gambler was spittooned on the head by a show-case sapper. Some blood. Another event. The morning air echoed with the cries of "police"-a
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stranger had come to town and was taken in, verifying the adage that a fool and his money is soon parted. He was from near St. Joe and on his way to the San Juan country. He had a pony he wished to sell, and was lured into an "insurance office" by a seemingly rural youth, who informed him that the "insurance" agent wished to purchase a hoss. It was the lottery agent who engaged the pretended rural youth in a game of chance, which induced the dubious Missourian to stake $81, which suddenly disappeared before two flying coat tails; but which was robbed from him, says the innocent Missourian; as he had no intention of betting on any game or engaging in any lottery scheme. After this, of course the pretended rural youth and "insurance" hoss dealer were not visible to the Missourian's optics-they had taken the back door, and old St. Joe, squealing like a stucked pig, rushed frantically into the street and vociferously yelled "police."
He represents that it was a clear case of robbery, and he was endeavoring yesterday to have the parties arrested; but did not meet with encouragement, as General Alibi would step in with his forces and vanquish the solitary wanderer, who being a stranger was kindly taken in and done for. This damnable and nefarious, robbing business cannot long with sweet forbearance be a virtue. It will meet with its deserts-it will find that there is a hereafter. The day draws nigh.
How our Missouri pilgrim could have been so easily duped, with the opportunities of being informed of the pitfalls in Dodge, as the character of this city passes current everywhere, is beyond reasonable comprehension. It is to be regretted that the warnings are not sufficient, but that the backwoods of Missouri must furnish a victim to the toils of the insatiate monster that has neither heart, mercy nor soul, and like the lion from its lair, pounces upon the unsuspecting with remorseless vengeance.
P. S. Since the above was put in type the "show cases," like the Arabs, have folded their tents and silently stole away. They left on the eastern bound train last night. The pressure was bearing a little hard, and they found it convenient to leave for other parts.
KANSAS HEARS OF CUSTER'S ANNIHILATION
From the Hays Daily News, October 14, 1937. A pioneer Hays newspaper editor, the late J. H. Downing, who published the Hays City Star, scored one of the outstanding scoops in the newspaper history of his day when he was the first to publish the news of the Custer massacre at the Little Big Horn.
Modestly, Mr. Downing in a later issue of the Star [July 13, 1876], recounts his coup thus: "The Star was the first paper in Kansas to publish the report of the Custer massacre. We published the news at 5 o'clock p. m. on the 6th of July, and the dailies of this state contained it on the morning of the 7th. This is the first puff that has ever appeared for the Star in its own columns, and we feel that there is no egotism in referring to its special." The issue of July 6, 1876, tells graphically the tragic story of the massacre of General Custer and his heroic band of 261 soldiers. This was the way Mr. Downing advised Hays readers of it:
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OUR TROOPS SURPRISED BY THE SIOUX
General Custer and His Entire Command Killed.
[Special Dispatch to the Star.]
Wallace, July 6, 1876.
News just received that General Custer had a fight with four thousand Sioux Indians on June 15. General Custer and his entire command, of five companies, are reported killed. Every member of Custer's family were killed, including his two brothers, nephew and brother-in-law. The fight took place about 30 or 40 miles below Little Horn Mountain. The troops were nearly all killed by the first volley fired by the Indians.
"A friend of mine whose name was Cushing, a telegrapher he was, had gone to Fort Wallace from Hays," Mr. Downing once recounted to a News reporter in explaining how his newspaper gave the citizens of Hays and the United States troops then stationed at Fort Hays one mile south of town, the first news of the massacre.
"He knew I printed the paper every Thursday. It was he who sent the first message over the wire to Fort Leavenworth, then headquarters of the Department of the Missouri, of the fight that had taken place three weeks previously resulting in the killing of Custer and his entire command on the Little Big Horn.
"But Cushing filed his message too late for the Leavenworth afternoon paper to get it in time for publication. Our forms were on the press and we had begun to print when I received the telegram. We stopped the press while I picked up a stick and put into type the news we had received and at 5 o'clock we told our readers of the disastrous result of the expedition against the Sioux.
"The officers at Fort Hays were greatly excited.
"When they got the news, cavalry officers came galloping over to town and crowded into the Star office. They said they didn't believe the story-that it couldn't be true, else the post commander would have received word direct from Fort Leavenworth. I told them I knew every word of it was true but I couldn't divulge the source of my information. To do so would in all likelihood have cost my telegrapher friend his job. Then the post officers telegraphed to Fort Leavenworth and a few hours later they received full information of the story we had printed.
"The next morning, Friday, July 7, the morning paper of Leavenworth printed the news of the massacre. I knew then we had `beat' every other paper in Kansas in publishing the news of the battle and in later years from all I could find, I was convinced we were twelve hours or more ahead of any other paper in the country."
From the Leavenworth Daily [Morning] Times, July 7, 1876. Yesterday afternoon, when the terrible announcement came flashing like a thunderbolt upon the ears of our people, of the wholesale massacre of Gen. Custer and his command, the excitement that prevailed was most intense. Large knots of citizens gathered on the street corners after reading the dispatch.
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and talked of the catastrophe with sorrowing faces, for many of the officers who were in the expedition were well and favorably known to our citizens, having been at some time stationed at the fort. Some endeavored to disbelieve the report, because of the suddenness of its arrival and the enormity of the result, but a seeming straightforward story had been told, and it was with sad hearts that it was taken to be too true. The brother officers and soldiers at the fort, when the dread intelligence reached that place, dropped all conversation on other topics, and each with amazement and chilled blood, listened to the tale of the horrid butchery of their comrades in arms, and when it was generally known, nothing else was thought of or talked about. The general feeling both at the fort and in the city, is nearly the same as if a large portion of our immediate community had been visited by some dread calamity.
MIRAGES IN WESTERN KANSAS
From the Dodge City Times, January 26, 1878.
We have often spoken of and admired the grand mirage view entertainments in the early morning hours here, but the most interesting panoramic moving scene in nature upon which our eyes have yet feasted, was presented at 7:30 o'clock Tuesday morning. To describe it minutely would be to describe the indescribable. We have watched the changing tints of nature's kaleidoscope at sunrise from the summit of Mount Washington and the Rockies. The scene was grand. From the heights of the Alps it was impressive; from the hurricane deck in mid ocean, when angry waves like mimic mountains rose and fell; it was sublime. But there is a peculiar beauty attaches to the shifting mirage sunrise scenes here in our grand prairie valley, that whilst not so sublime, so grand, so impressive, is hardly less interesting. To the west was pictured a vast sheet of clear water, which like a silver lake with beautiful shrubs and grasses glistened in the morning sun for a few minutes and disappeared. The villages up the line stood out in bold relief, the buildings towering high, like "castles in the air." Farm cottages ten and fifteen miles away loomed up for a few minutes and then disappeared.
F. I. Burt, of Manhattan, writes as follows of a few optical illusions he experienced in western Kansas:
It is said that sailors see fantastic ships that are not real. Might it be possible that the depth of the ocean is such a gigantic mirror that sights from other planets are reflected?
I have seen great sights on land, which I will describe, but all of them were reflections of places with which I was familiar. As a rule on the so-called flat lands of western Kansas one can only see seven or eight miles, the same as on the ocean.
I have seen Garden City up in the sky, forty-five miles away-and other scenes just as great.
I will begin with early morning scenes. One morning I started for the pasture on horse back; and as I glanced up, I pulled my horse to a sudden stop. It looked as if I were about to ride into a neighbor's yard a mile away.
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I looked around. The farm scenes were all brought close. A man milking and the chickens in the yard seven miles away were within a few yards of me. I saw a number of those morning scenes, which occur just before sunrise and only last a few seconds. At times I climbed the' windmill for a better view. I saw the buildings of a ranch thirty-five miles north, in the sky, when the closer places were not visible. The morning scenes were always different. I have seen farm buildings and stacks on cloudy days in the sky right side up and inverted. One cloudy day out in my pasture I glanced up and there in the rift of the clouds was a picture of our house, barn, orchard, ponds of water and alfalfa, a pretty picture. It lasted only a few seconds, a thin cloud floated by and the picture was gone when it passed. I have wondered if conditions were ever such that the same scenes appeared more than once.
We started for a ranch one afternoon and were directed to go to the north of "Dry Lake." On the way we saw a body of water on the slope of a hill which looked like a mountain with the buildings at the top, the place that we were headed for. In a few seconds it disappeared. After a few more miles we saw the lake, not dry, but a nice body of water a mile long and one half mile wide, not on the side of the mountain but in a nice valley. Why the lake was called "Dry Lake" I never learned for in the fourteen years that I lived in the county it was never dry.
On Easter Sunday, 1913, a hard west wind swept across Kansas. A prairie fire started just east of Garden City and by ten o'clock the sun was clouded by smoke and dust. We and our neighbors were anxious all day as the fire was coming toward us. The shifting wind was spreading the fire. About four or five o'clock the wind shifted to the north and the fire swept by us to the south, but not until eight o'clock did the wind go down so that we could go out to fight the fire. We lived in a valley and when we got out on the flats, what a sight we saw! As far as we could see, west, south and east fire running up the valleys and up the mountains to the sky. The greatest sight I have ever seen, large trees falling occasionally, animals running and disappearing, blazes ten to twenty feet high and not a sound. A few rods away we looked like big black giants. A six-horse team on a gang plow was a monster machine. In reality the large trees that we saw were dry weeds ten or twelve inches high. The blazes were only three or four inches high and the animals were only voles or rabbits. The wind had been so strong during the day that a building would not catch fire nor could you have set a fire. You may ask what kept it going. Electricity set it jumping ahead a quarter, half, or mile away. The electric storms of the West are a story in themselves. The skipped spots were what were burning and what would do the damage. As was the custom, men were out on all sides of that ten by seventy mile strip fighting most of the night.
The towns of Dighton, Scott City, Leoti and Tribune are on a line twenty-four to thirty miles apart and each have a similar lighting system. One high light on a water tower and some street lights can be seen every night by anyone a few miles away, but one night between one and two o'clock, when the ground was covered with snow, I saw a picture of all four of those towns up in the northern sky and two Missouri Pacific trains. I could see the drive wheels on the engines turning. These are only some of the sights I saw in my twenty-six years in western Kansas.