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Fort Ellsworth/Fort Harker Timeline

Fort Harker in 18671859-1863 - D. H. Page and Joseph Lemon (Lehman) operated a trading ranch and mail station on the northeast side of the Smoky Hill River at the point where the Fort Riley and Fort Larned military road crossed the river.

January 29, 1861 - Kansas entered the Union as the 34th state.

June 1864 - Lieutenant Allen Ellsworth and Company H, 7th Iowa Cavalry established a new post at the site of the abandoned trading ranch. General Samuel R. Curtis named the post after Lt. Ellsworth.

1865 - The Butterfield Overland Despatch (BOD), a freight and stage line linking Atchison and Denver, was established by David Butterfield. Following the 592 miles long Smoky Hill route, the BOD was 61 miles (nearly 2 days) shorter than the Platte River route previously used by freighters. Fort Ellsworth served as a home station, offering food, lodging, and fresh draft animals.

August 1866 - Cheyenne and Arapahoe chiefs, assembled at Fort Ellsworth for a council with Col. Wyncoop, promised to restrain their young men from attacking the railroad and settlers.

November 17, 1866 - Gen. Winfield S. Hancock ordered Fort Ellsworth renamed Fort Harker, in honor of Gen. Charles Garrison Harker, who died in 1864 from wounds received during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain.

December 1866 - January 1867 - Fort Harker was moved to a new site approximately one mile northeast of old Fort Ellsworth. Many men continued to live at the old post, while working at the new fort until buildings were ready.

February 26, 1867 - Ellsworth County, named after the fort, was established by the state legislature. During the spring the Ellsworth townsite was surveyed.

April 1 - 3, 1867 - Gen. Hancock stopped briefly at Fort Harker with an expedition force of approximately 2,000 men before meeting with representatives of the Cheyenne and Sioux at Fort Larned. Intended to "overawe" or defeat any Plains Indians, Hancock's expedition only managed to provoke full-scale war during the summer of 1867.

July 10, 1867 - The Union Pacific Railroad, Eastern Division (later Kansas Pacific), was completed to Fort Harker, and Quartermaster and Commissary depots were established. During 1867 and 1868, the post was the outfitting depot for the plains.

June - July, 1867 - Nine companies of the 10th U.S. Cavalry, comprised of black soldiers under the command of Col. Benjamin Grierson, were posted at Forts Harker, Hays, and Larned to escort stages and wagon trains on the Smoky Hill and Santa Fe Trails and to protect railroad construction crews. This marked the beginning of two decades of continuous frontier defense by the 10th Cavalry.

June - December 1867 - ASIATIC CHOLERA! Starting in late June, the disease spread among the troops, quartermaster and civilian employees, and settlers in the area. At Fort Harker, 892 cases were reported with 46 deaths.

July 1867 - September 1868 - Native American groups increased their resistance to the construction of the railroad, and hostilities along the route increased.

July 1867 - The 18th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry was mustered into service at Fort Harker under the command of Horace L. Moore. Within days they were patrolling along the Arkansas River.

August - September 1868 Gen. George A. Forsyth's frontier scouts, including 30 men from Fort Harker, were pinned down for 9 days by a much larger force of Sioux and Cheyenne on Beecher's Island. The detachment lost 8 men killed and 20 wounded before being rescued by a regular cavalry detachment from Fort Wallace.

Fall & Winter 1868 - Gen. Sheridan, determined to show the Plains Indians the futility of fighting the U.S. military, moved his headquarters to Fort Harker, transferred 7 troops of the 5th U.S. Cavalry to the post, and planned his winter campaign at the post.

May 20, 1870 - Gen. George Armstrong Custer was placed in charge of protecting the Kansas frontier during the summer. Commanding officers at Forts Harker and Hays were ordered to provide him with troops as needed.

1870 - The Kansas Pacific Railroad reached Denver. The usefulness of Fort Harker ended.

April 2, 1872 Fort Harker was abandoned as a military establishment.

Winter 1872 - 1873 - Troops were temporarily stationed at Fort Harker.

Summer 1880 - An act was passed opening the Fort Harker Military Reservation to settlement, and it was transferred to the Interior Department for sale.

1885 - Fort Harker's buildings and 4,740 acres were sold to an Ohio syndicate for $71,200.

Spring 1886 The town of Kanopolis was founded.


© Kansas Historical Society, 1998 - Fair use standards apply to individuals' use of this material. Requests for commercial use should be directed to the Director of the Library & Archives Division.

Created 6/27/97 by volunteer Carlene Vaughn.

Revised 2/25/99

Entry: Fort Ellsworth/Fort Harker Timeline

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: April 2010

Date Modified: October 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.