THE  HISTORY OF FORT RILEY Part 2

Becknell and four companions left Arrow Rock on the Missouri, September 1. 1821. About the middle of November they met a troop of Mexican soldiers who accompanied them to Santa Fe where they sold their merchandise at a good profit and were most enthusiastic over their venture. This train was composed of pack horses. Becknell has been called the father of the Santa Fe Trail of trade days.

This party started the return trip to Missouri in December, arriving there at the end of January, 1822. Tales of Becknell’s success circulated rapidly up and down the borders of Missouri and other trading expeditions to New Mexico soon followed. Becknell himself organized another company and started back to Santa Fe in June of 1822. This was the first expedition across the Great Plains and over the Santa Fe Trail in which wagon transportation was used. Becknell used three wagons drawn by mules to haul a cargo valued at about five thousand dollars. This was also the first expedition to travel over the Cimarron Route. During his travels over the plains, Becknell had conceived the idea that the nearest way to Santa Fe from the Arkansas River was by the Cimarron. Accordingly, he turned south from the Arkansas at a point afterwards known as the “Caches.” He was unfamiliar with the country and, as the area between the Arkansas and the Cimarron was totally devoid of water, his party had a difficult time for a while. After two days the water was gone, mirages taunted the party and finally, in despair, they were about to turn around and endeavor to regain the Arkansas when an orie of their number saw a buffalo come up out of a ravine. The animal was killed and opened and its stomach was found full of water which was drunk with as much gusto as though it were fresh from a bubbling spring. The search for the river was continued and in a short time the Cimarron was found. After that the expedition had no trouble and the venture was completed to the satisfaction of all concerned.

In 1812 a man named Baird had made an unsuccessful trip to New Mexico at a time when the Spanish were not particularly friendly. He was a prisoner of the Spaniards for several years but was not discouraged by his experience and in 1822 set out again. The start was made so late in the season that the party was overtaken by winter and forced to take refuge . on an island in the Arkansas River. The winter proved very severe and the party was marooned for three months, during

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at which time most of its animals died of exposure and starvation. When the weather improved the party left the island and dug pits on the north bank of the river where the goods were hidden. The party then went to Taos where animals were secured, returned, dug up the merchandise, and packed it to Taos where it was sold. •The holes in which the goods had been hidden were left open and remained as a landmark on the trail for many years. The point became known as the “Caches” and was about five miles west of the present site of Dodge City.

In the winter of 1824-25, Congress passed a bill authorizing the President to have the Santa Fe Trail marked from Missouri to the frontier of New Mexico. As Congress was afraid that the Indians of the plains might interfere with commerce over this trail. the Commissioners who were appointed to mark the route were also instructed to secure the consent of all tribes, whose lands were traversed, to the survey and marking of the road. The Commissioners met with the Great and Little Osage and Kansas Indians at Council Grove, August 11, 1825, and made treaties with these tribes. These treaties stipulated, in general. as follows: ( 1) That the tribes concerned consented that the Commissioners might survey and mark a road as they saw fit, through any of the lands owned or claimed by these tribes; (2) that the road should be forever free for the use of citizens of the United States and Mexico without hindrance or molestation by the Indians; ( 3) that the Indians should render such aid and assistance as might be within their power to any citizens of the United States or Mexico that they might meet on the road; (4) that the road should be considered as extending to a reasonable distance on either side of its limits as marked, in order that travelers might have the privilege of leaving it at any time to find food or camping places; (5) in consideration of these privileges the United States was pledged to pay five hundred dollars, either in cash or merchandise as the Indians might desire, to each of the tribes concerned. When compared to some of the deals entered into between the United States and the Indians, the above agreement was a model of fairness and generosity. The survey was completed in 1827.

In the fall of 1828 two men were killed by Indians on the return trip from Santa Fe. This was the first of many conflicts between traders and Indians. While the party to which these men belonged were holding funeral services for them on the banks of the Cimarron, a small party of Indians appeared on the opposite bank. These Indians were probably ignorant of the murder of the two white men but the remainder of the party made no attempt to find out. Fire was opened on the

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Indians, killing all but one, who escaped and told his tribe of the affair. As a consequence of the rashness of the whites, they were followed and robbed of their horses and mules and were obliged to carry their packs on their backs until they reached the Arkansas River. This, and other affairs with the Indians, caused the traders to ask the government for a military escort. The government, believing that a strong post on the border was sufficient threat to hold the savages in check, had established “Cantonment Leavenworth” where Fort Leavenworth now is, in May, 1827. As Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley are both intimately bound to the early history of Kansas and to each other, it may be of interest to digress for a bit and consider Henry Leavenworth and the fort that was named for him. The following quotation is from an old newspaper clipping published in Connelley’s “Kansas and Kansans.”

“General Henry Leavenworth was born in Connecticut in the closing year of the Revolutionary War, 1783. While a boy, he moved to Delaware County, New York, where he spent his youth. He afterward took up the study of law in the office of General Root of Delhi, with whom he formed a partnership after his admission to the bar.

“When the second war with Great Britain was declared in 1812, he helped raise a company and was elected its captain. This was the beginning of his military career. His company was assigned to the 9th Regiment of Infantry and attached to the brigade commanded by General Winfield Scott. He was active in the campaign in northern New York during the first year of service and was promoted to the rank of major. He was in the campaign for the invasion of Canada from the Niagara frontier, and was in the battle of Chippewa. He was breveted a lieutenant colonel for gallantry on this occasion. He afterward took part in the battle of Lundy’s Lane, and so distinguished himself that he was breveted a colonel.

“After the close of the war Colonel Leavenworth took up his residence at Delhi again and was elected to represent Delaware county in the legislature. He was soon after offered a major in the regular army and was stationed at Sackett’s harbor. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to the old 5th Infantry in 1818.

“He joined the regiment at Detroit and was soon afterward detailed to command an expedition into the great Northwest. After much active service among the Indians he established a post, now Fort Snelling, near St. Anthony Falls.

“When the army was reduced in 1821, Colonel Leavenworth was transferred to the 6th Infantry and placed in command of troops around Council Bluffs and other Iowa points.

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He was in command of the expedition against the hostile Arickaree Indians in August, 1821, and defeated them in a running fight lasting four days. For distinguished service in this campaign, Colonel Leavenworth came in for high commendation in the report of General Gaines and was especially mentioned in both the annual reports of President Monroe and Secretary of War Calhoun.

“Colonel Leavenworth was the originator of the plan to establish schools of instruction for officers and soldiers of the regular army. The idea of military schools, something after the method of the infantry and cavalry school at Fort Leavenworth, was strenuously advocated by him. In this connection, it would seem fit and proper that his body should be buried at the post named in his honor and where a great war college would be located.

“After considerable correspondence Colonel Leavenworth, in conjunction with General Atkinson, was delegated in March, 1826, to select a site for an army school on the west bank of the Mississippi River within twenty miles of its junction with the Missouri. Colonel Leavenworth finally picked out as a suitable place the grounds where Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis, is now located. He started with a detachment of his regiment to erect a large post and military school buildings. He received very little encouragement in the way of appropriations or aid from Washington. Before the school was fairly well started, Colonel Leavenworth was ordered to transfer his troops to points on the upper Mississippi, and the military school plan died and was not revived in a practical manner again until more than.fifty years afterward, when General Sherman established the Fort Leavenworth infantry and cavalry school.

“In March, 1827, Colonel Leavenworth received orders to take four companies of infantry and to ascend the Missouri River, and upon reaching a point within twenty miles of the mouth of the Platte River, to establish a cantonment. A permanent cantonment was to be located on the left bank. Colonel Leavenworth first picked a site near the mouth of the Little Platte, in the Missouri bottoms, opposite Fort Leavenworth. He explored the country and was soon convinced that the land on the east or Missouri side of the river would be flooded during high water, and that it was not advantageous for a permanent post. Without waiting for new orders, he crossed over to the Kansas side and picked the site for a cantonment where Fort Leavenworth is now located. The first camp on the site was pitched May 8, 1827, nearly seventy-five years ago, (Author’s Note-Nearly one hundred years ago as I am compiling this history. This newspaper article was written

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about 1900), and it was named ‘Cantonment Leavenworth’. Colonel Leavenworth sent a clear and beautiful description of the land and advantages of the new cantonment to Washington, and it was approved by a formal order of the War Department in September, 1827.

“During the next two years many of the soldiers were taken sick and died of malaria fever, mainly for lack of proper medicines to treat the disease, and Cantonment Leavenworth was looked upon as an unhealthy place. In less than two years the garrison was ordered withdrawn to Jefferson Barracks. This was in the spring of I 829, and the buildings deserted and were occupied by the Kickapoo Indians. The cantonment was taken possession of the second time in the Fall of 1829, about six months after its abandonment, by a new battalion of troops commanded by Colonel Leavenworth, in which General Phillip St. George Cooke, afterwards a noted cavalry officer, but then a second lieutenant, was a member.

“The name of the place was changed from Canton Leavenworth to Fort Leavenworth in General Order No. 11, issued February 8, 1832. It was never abandoned as an army post since the time mentioned in I 829, but came near being depopulated of both white men and Indians during a cholera epidemic in 1838. On this occasion, a boat came up from St. Louis loaded with troops and settlers. Cholera broke out among them the night the boat tied up at Fort Leavenworth. Many of the passengers on the boat died and were hastily buried in the ground where the commanding officer’s residence is located, and the new quarters for lieutenants are going up. The bones dug up recently in making-foundations for the new quarters were those of cholera victims. Those of the passengers who did not die were marched into a camp in Salt Creek Valley, and when the contagion broke out among the first soldiers in the garrison a panic set in, and practically every person at the fort left and camped in the woods until the ravages of the disease were over.

“While stationed at Fort Leavenworth in 1832, Colonel Leavenworth was assigned to the command of the Southwestern frontier. He conducted a campaign against the Pawnee Indians, defeating and subduing them. The campaign was a long one, but it was conducted with such skill that he was promoted to be brigadier general as a reward. The news of this promotion did not reach General Leavenworth before his death. He died after an illness of a few days while sick in a hospital wagon on Cross Timbers, near the falls of Washita River, in the Indian Territory, July 29, 1834. He was in command of an expedition against a band of hostile Indians at the time he died. His body remained buried at

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this place for several months, when it was taken across the plains and finally sent to Delhi, New York, where it is now buried.”

Sometime after this newspaper article was written, General Leavenworth’s remains were removed from Delhi, New York, and were reinterred in the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth on Memorial Day, 1902.

In the Spring of 1829, Major Bennett Riley, for whom Fort Riley was afterwards named, was at Fort Leavenworth. As a result of the requests of the traders for an escort, he was ordered to take four companies of the 6th Infantry and escort

· a caravan to New Mexico. The train reached Chouteau Island, in Arkansas, without having been molested. There Major Riley decided to camp for the summer. Ha could accompany the traders no further as the territory south of Arkansas was Mexican. The train had gone only a few miles from the river when it ran into Indians. An advance guard, or “point”, of three men from the train had dismounted to drink when a band of Kiowa Indians rushed upon them and killed one of their number. The traders sent back word to Major Riley who, altho he had no authority to enter Mexican territory, decided to take a chance and went to their assistance. The Indians disappeared and the escort accompanied the train for another day’s march when it returned to Chouteau Island to await the return of the traders in the Fall.

On their return the traders were accompanied to the border by an escort of Mexican troops and the Mexican and American troops were most friendly. Feasts and reviews were held at this lonely spot in the wilderness for several days. The traders and escort returned to Missouri without further trouble. This escort and another in 1834, under Captain Wharton, were the only escorts provided to protect the Santa Fe trade until 1843, when Captain Philip St. George Cooke escorted two different trains as far as the Arkansas.

In February, 1843, a rich Mexican by the name of Don Antonio Jose Chavez, of New Mexico, started from Santa Fe to Independence. Word reached the Missouri border that Chavez was going to make the trip and he was met on the Little Arkansas by a band of Americans, robbed and murdered.

Texas then extended across what is now Colorado into Wyoming. Its eastern borders extended from the Red River due north to the south bank of the Arkansas, about opposite Dodge City, Kansas, thence up the river to a point where it crossed the Santa Fe trail near Las Animas, Colorado. Trading expeditions going from Independence to Santa Fe had to pass through territory claimed by Texas and by Mexico. The United States, in order to protect the traders from attacks by

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Texans (Texas then being independent) sent troops to escort the trains to the Texas boundary where they were met by troops from New Mexico who protected them from there on.

In 184 3 the trains from Independence were larger than usual and were escorted by Captain Philip St. George Cooke, with four companies of the Second Dragoons. A man named Snively organized a force of about a hundred and seventy-five men in Texas, in May, 1843, for the purpose of harassing and fighting Mexicans engaged in the Santa Fe trade, Texas and Mexico being then at war. When Cooke and the trains he was escorting approached Arkansas, about ten miles from the “Caches,” he met Snively’s force, Cooke being on the north side of the river and Snively on the south. Cooke believed Snively to be in American territory and as Texas was then recognized by the United States as an independent nation, he regarded Snively’s force as an invading army. In fact Snively called himself Colonel and his force, Texas Volunteers. Accordingly, Cooke called upon Snively and his men to surrender their arms which, after some parleying, they did. Some of those who were disarmed were escorted back to Missouri and the others returned to Texas. The Texans were very much incensed at Cooke and nine years after this affair he was, while in Texas, exposed to plots and attempts of assassination. But this bloodless victory marked an end of Texas interference with the Santa Fe trade.

The only military expedition of any importance to pass over the Santa Fe Trail was that of Doniphan in 1846. ln,the spring of that year, a volunteer force was organized at Fort Leavenworth for participation in the Mexican War. The regiment, which was called the First Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers, Mexican War, marched June 26, 1846, and struck the Santa Fe trail near Brooklyn, reaching Santa Fe August 18, 1846. Up to the time the expedition reached Santa Fe it was under command of General S. W. Kearny but, after taking possession of New Mexico, General Kearny went on to California. Doniphan fought two or three battles, including that of Sacramento, and the expedition has always been called Doni­ phan’s Expedition.

New Mexico was secured without a battle, owing to the tact of General Kearny and the assistance of James W. Magoffin. Magoffin, while a native of the United States, had been a resident of Chihuahua for some years, had married a Mexican woman and was well acquainted with the best people in that part of the country. He was recommended to President Polk by Colonel Benton and was requested by the President to go to Mexico and assist the troops.

Magoffin joined General Kearny at Bent’s Fort on the 26th

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In July and on August 1, 1846, he was sent with an escort of twelve Dragoons under command of Captain Philip St. George Cooke (Second Dragoons) to Governor Armijo of New Mexico with a letter. The following quotation is from a letter of Magoffin to the Secretary.of War, published in Connelley’s “Kansas and Kansans”: “We were well received, and dined with his excellency, had a long conversation with him and proved to him from General K. letter that the troops then entering the Department were only to give peace and protection to the inhabitants and assured him that I had been dispatched by the President of the United States in order to inform him and the rest of the good people of New Mexico with whom I was acquainted that this was the only object of our Govmt.

“Genl. Kearny by his mild and persuasive manners has induced the good people of New Mexico to believe that they now belong to the greatest nation on earth, and that the Stars and Stripes which are now so gallantly waving over the capitol of this City, will always give them ample protection from foreign foes.”

Doniphan, with his regiment, played a not unimportant part in this war. He defeated a superior force of Mexicans at Brazito and at Sacramento, held the capital of Chihuahua for two months and defeated a band of Comanches at Paso. He returned to Missouri by way of New Orleans after having made a victorious march of 3,500 miles in fifteen months.

Prior to the year 1848, Independence, Missouri, was the eastern starting point for Santa Fe trade. Westport, or West­ port Landing, now a part of Kansas City, Missouri, was more advantageously situated to be the eastern terminus of the trail as it was nearer the eastern border of the plains and the junction of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. About this time Don Chavez, a rich Mexican and a· brother to Chavez who was murdered.was on his way to Independence when he fell in with a scout named Aubrey. Aubrey was a friend of the firm of Boone and Bernard at Westport and persuaded Chavez to go to that firm. Chavez had with him $100,000 in Mexican silver, which was then worth a premium in New York but Chavez was·so glad to reach Missouri unharmed that he told Boone and Bernard if they would get him the face value for his silver in New York they might keep the premium. There were no banks nearer than St. Louis so the silver was carried by boat to that place and the business was finally completed to the satisfaction of all concerned.

When this incident became known to Mexican traders, the Mexican business was directed to Westport rather than Independence and within five years Westport became a great trading center and outfitting point for traders. The trade from West-

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the port practically stopped at the beginning of the Civil War, not because trading over the Santa Fe Trail stopped during the War, but because the eastern terminus of the trail again moved westward, Fort Leavenworth, Atchison, and Nebraska City becoming starting points for the t,:ade.

F. X. Aubrey, variously referred to as Felix, Francis, and Francois, was a French-Canadian scout who became famous in the early fifties on account of some long distance horseback rides he made. In the Junction City Union of January 6, 1872, the following article appeared: “F. X. Aubrey was in Santa Fe just about to start for Kansas City (Author’s note: Evidently meaning Westport) when he made a wager of

$1,000 that he could ride from Santa Fe to the Missouri line, a distance of 800 miles, in less than four days. Before starting on his ride Aubrey had relays of fresh ponies stationed at regular distances across the plains. He rode day and night, stopping only long enough to dismount from his jaded animal and spring on a fresh one. He reached Westport, which was then considered the terminus of the great Santa Fe Trail, just three hours ahead of the time within which he was to make the trip. He made more than 200 miles every twenty-four hours, having rested only three hours for sleep during the four days and nights.“

The above quoted account cannot be taken literally, how­ ever, for in Volume VII of the Kansas Historical Collections we find the following footnote: ”Aubrey made two trips on horseback between Santa Fe and Independence, the first in eight days, in I 850, and the second, on a wager of $1,000, in five days, in 1852.” And on page 302 of Volume IX of the Collections is another reference to Aubrey’s rides: “Felix X. Aubrey in 1853 made the most celebrated horseback ride ever made on this continent. For a wager of $5,000, he rode from Santa Fe to Westport (now Kansas City), Mo., a distance of 775 miles, in five days and thirteen hours. Of course, he had a relay of horses.”

Whether Aubrey rode 800 miles in three hours in less than four days, or 775 miles in five days and thirteen hours, either deserves to be ranked with the great rides of history. At the slower rate he must have averaged 140 miles every twenty-four hours for five and one-half days, which is no mean feat. Authorities generally concur in giving him credit for having made the ride in five days.

Aubrey discovered a cut-off on the Santa Fe Trail shorter than the Cimarron route. Major R. H. Weightman, editor of a paper at Santa Fe, published an article casting some doubt on this discovery, the two quarreled in a saloon and Aubrey was killed.

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We hear much discussion today, both pro and con, concerning the selling of merchandise on the installment, or time plan. In the days of the Santa Fe trade, credit was furnished even more generously than it is today. In those days little use was made of banks on the frontier. There were one or two branch banks at Independence but they did little large-scale business and there were no large banks west of St. Louis. The merchant through whom a trader bought his goods became that trader’s “factor.” He outfitted the trader as completely as was necessary, depending upon the amount of cash the trader paid down. If necessary, the “factor” bought merchandise, wagons, and even advanced the money for expenses. • When receipts from the trip came in the “factor” was paid what was due him and the trader received the remainder. The traders of that time were very honest. It hardly occurred to them to do otherwise than to pay their debts when possible for them to do so. Almost the whole of the business was done on a credit of from six months to a year.

During the Civil War, no train was allowed to pass Fort Larned with less than fifty wagons and then it was accompanied to the Mexican border by an escort of troops.

Trading over the Santa Fe Trail continued to flourish until the building of the Union Pacific Railroad when it rapidly declined and the great period of railroad building that followed the Civil War put a definite end to the old ox and mule team caravans. The route of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad followed the old Santa Fe Trail very closely from the Great Bend of Arkansas to the west. Today, however, the trail may be followed by markers placed along its course by historical societies of the various states thru which it passed.

The valley of the Arkansas River, with its headwaters in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains, became the natural line of travel from the vicinity of Kansas City to the southwest. In like manner, the valley of the Platte River, with its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains in what are now the states of Colorado and Wyoming, became the natural line of travel from the vicinity of Kansas City to the northwest. The Kansas River did not rise in the mountains but its mouth was in the Missouri near Independence and its southern tributaries led easily to the Arkansas Valley while its northern tributaries led naturally to the Platte Valley. These facts considered together, made Kansas the starting point for all the early expeditions and trade routes, whether to the southwest or the northwest.

As we have already seen that man in his early development followed the course of waterways, we know that the valley of

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the Platte was a prehistoric route to the northwest, just as we know that the valley of the Arkansas was an ancient route between the Missouri and the southwest. It would be impossible to discover who was the first white man to follow this northern trail. It probably was followed by explorers, hunters or trappers, long before the record of any authorized expeditions.

The trail to the northwest, from the mouth of the Kansas River to the mouth of the Big Blue River, up the Big Blue to the Platte and westward in the Platte Valley to the passes in the Rocky Mountains, became known as the Oregon Trail. Exploration and a desire -to build up a trade with the Indians, were the first incentives of the early pioneers for travel to the northwest. In 1807, a man named Manuel Lisa organized an expedition to locate some trading stations at the headwaters of the Missouri River. For thirteen years Lisa and his partners were active in trade on the Upper Missouri. In 1811, John Jacob Astor’s company organized an overland expedition from St. Louis but, like the expeditions of Lisa, it followed the Mis­souri rather than the route later to be known as the Oregon Trail.

The Rocky Mountain Fur Company was organized in 1822 at St. Louis. One of the partners, Andrew Henry, believed a post at the mouth of the Yellowstone River was unfavorable and sent a party to hunt in the southwest direction. There is every reason to believe that this party went through the South Pass and that the members of it were the first white men to cross the Rockies there. The business of this company was confined to the valleys of the Missouri and the Platte Rivers. At what time trappers and explorers began to traverse the Oregon Trail, that is, to reach the Platte by way of the Kan• sas and Big Blue Rivers, there is no definite record. The route by way of the Santa Fe Trail, across the Kansas River at Topeka and up the Big Blue River to the Platte was undoubtedly well known by old hunters and trappers very early in the nineteenth century.

Fremont’s first expedition in 1842, followed the course of the Oregon Trail. He traveled over the Santa Fe Trail to where the Road to Oregon branched off. This point was a little southwest of the present town of Gardner, Kansas. The Santa Fe Trail having been first established, a sign board was set up later to indicate the junction of the two trails. This sign stood there for years and bore the simple legend, “Road to Oregon.” A quotation from Volume XI of the Kansas Historical Collections states very aptly, concerning this· sign, “Surely so unostentatious a sign never before nor since announced so long a journey.”

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Fremont did not cross the Kansas River at Topeka but instead crossed farther west at Uniontown in Shawnee county. This crossing seems to have been used a great deal, probably as much as the Papan Ferry at the Topeka crossing. Fremont followed up the valley of the Kansas River to the Big Blue River, which he apparently crossed near the mouth of Vermillion Creek. As a result of this expedition, Fremont was credited with some things he did not do. One was the discovery of South Pass. The great popularity of Fremont’s expeditions probably was due to the fact that his map and reports were published promptly and were the first printed works carrying information of the Oregon Trail to reach the public. Fre­ mont made four other expeditions across the Great Plains, none of which are of any particular interest to us in this work.

After the establishment of Fort Leavenworth in 1827, many expeditions to the northwest started from there. This branch of the Oregon Trail joined the main branch near the mouth of the Big Blue River.

The Mormon migration started about 1847 and continued until the building of railroads. While they followed all branches of the Oregon Trail, they usually established parallel routes because they preferred to be alone; to have trails of their own. One of the most interesting of these routes from a local point of view, was one that led from the Santa Fe Trail at One-Hundred-and-Ten-Mile Creek, northward to Fort Riley, crossing the river at Whiskey Point and leading north across the reservation to the Oregon Trail in the Platte Valley.

Theodore Weichselbaum, one of the old settlers of Ogden, traveled over this route when he came to Ogden in 1857. On the 17th of July, 1908, Mr. Weichselbaum made a statement concerning his early experiences and this has been published in the Kansas Historical Collections, Volume XI. In that statement, he had the following to say concerning the route: “I stayed there (Kansas City, Mo.,) until the 18th of December of that year (1857). My business did not suit me . so I loaded up my goods in three wagons and took them to Ogden. I followed the Santa Fe Trail with my three wagons until I reached the station at 110. From there I took the Mormon Trail and traveled three full days, and never saw a person or a house. On the morning of the fourth day I saw a house within three rods of where we had camped the night before. I went to the house to find out where I was, and found I was on the head of Humboldt Creek, in Geary County. From there I had to drive to Fort Riley, and crossed the Kansas River at Whiskey Point, just opposite the fort. There was quite a little town there then-saloons, stores, etc. The sol-

Digitized by GoogIe

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diers bought whiskey there. I then drove five miles northeast to Ogden, and put my goods into a little log store building, and opened them up for sale. The county seat was then at Ogden and the land office.

“I only knew the road as the Mormon road. Before and after I came to Ogden the Mormons traveled on that road, turning onto it from the Santa Fe Trail. They crossed the Kansas at Whiskey Point, where the Junction City Country Club is located, and climbed the hill on the east side of where the hospital is now. stands at Fort Riley and thence across• the country to Fort Kearney, Nebraska, and from there to Salt Lake City. I don’t remember any other emigration than the Mormons using that road.”

One Hundred and Ten Mile Creek is a branch of Dragoon Creek flowing about two and one-half miles east of Scranton, a town on the Santa Fe Railroad in Osage County. The Santa Fe trail crossed this creek at a point approximately east of Burlingame. This was formerly called “110 Crossing.” The crossing of Dragoon Creek near Burlingame was known in Santa Fe trade days as Switzer’s Crossing.

Approaching Fort Riley, the Mormon Trail came down over Grant Ridge at about the point where the Humboldt and Clark’s Creek road does now and from there it led to Whiskey Point where the river was crossed. Whiskey -Point will be referred to later in more detail. It was a small town on the south bank of the river, about 300 yards east of the present reservation boundary and about 400 yards from the present bank of the river, in a direction nearly due southeast from the smokestack at Godfrey Court. Here the trail led as described by Mr. Wichselbaum, north to a point in the rear of the present hospital where it crossed the rimrock.

The trail passed about a half mile east of Harvey place and left the northern edge of the reservation at a point about due north of the hill (1340) east of Estes Gates. Between the point where it entered the reservation and the point where it left it is almost impossible to trace the course of the trail today. We know that most of the trails of that time followed high ground and it is reasonable to suppose that from the point in rear of the hospital to Morris Hill, thence along what is now the Estes Road to Four Way Divide and north along that ridge to the point of exit, would have been about the course followed. However, there have been so many roads on the reservation, so many quarries, and so much plowing of ridges when the trees were planted, that the actual course of the trail must be left to conjecture.

Two facts must be borne in mind when attempting to ascertain the exact courses of ancient trails; the first is, that between

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fords, high ground was followed and second, that as soon as a track became deep and badly rutted the teams got out on each side of it and made new tracks until at the end of a season a road might be a mile wide strip of mud holes and humps.

The Republican River turns sharply to the west just as it leaves the northern boundary of Kansas and from there on to its source it parallels the Platte. The Big Blue River leads nearly north and approaches quite close to the Platte. Between the Big Blue River Valley and the Republican Valley there is a broad, flat ridge intercepted by numerous tributaries of these two streams. This ridge is a logical route for travel between Fort Riley and Fort Kearney. It was the general route followed by the Mormons.

The gold rush of 1849 caused a great increase in travel over all the old trails and the creation of many new ones. Leavenworth, St. Joseph, Westport Landing, Council Bluffs, and Bellevue, now Nebraska City, were some of the starting points of these seekers for wealth.

In 1857, the Mormon Rebellion developed and a military expedition was sent out from Fort Leavenworth over the Oregon Trail. It was under command of Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston of the Second Cavalry and was the last service rendered to the United States by that officer, as he afterwards became an officer in the Confederate Army. The expedition was composed of the Fifth Infantry and eight companies of the Tenth Infantry under command of Colonel E. B.. Alexander. This detachment left on July 18, 1857. Later the other two companies of the Tenth Infantry left under Colonel C. F. Smith. On September 16th, six companies of the Second Dragoons under command of Colonel Philip St. George Cooke left. followed the next day by Colonel Johnston and his staff with an escort of forty dragoons, probably from the Second Dragoons.

The first overland mail route between Independence, Mis­souri, and Great Salt Lake, was established in 1850. There was to be a monthly service. Later, the line was extended from Salt Lake City to California.

After the establishment of Forts Laramie and Kearney, it became necessary for the Government to contract for the hauling of freight to those places. The route followed to Fort Kearney led from Fort Leavenworth to Kennekuk, in the northwestern corner of Atchison county, then by Seneca to the Big Blue, up the Big Blue and the Little Blue to the Platte. The gold rush of 1857 and 1858 to Pike’s Peak caused a great increase in freighting over the Oregon Trail.

Contractors who carried mail to Salt Lake City, Denver ‘and California gradually began to carry passengers and this caused the development of the overland stage. In the winter of

54 THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY

1858-59, a daily stage line was established between the City of Leavenworth and Denver. The route was from Leavenworth to Indianola, a station on the Kansas River about three miles northwest of Topeka, up the Smoky Hill River to the plains east of Denver and thence to Denver. This line, which was controlled by the firm of Russell, Majors and Waddell, later consolidated with the Hockaday line from St. Joseph to Salt Lake City. Later Holladay became the great overland stage man and bought most of the lines then in existence.

As California and the West grew, the necessity for quicker communication between east and west developed. This finally resulted in the start of the Pony Express. The first rider to leave the east was John Frey. He left St. Joseph late in the evening of April 3, 1860. On the same day a rider named Harry Roff left Sacramento headed for the east. The mail started by Frey reached Sacramento in nine days and twenty­ three hours and that leaving Sacramento reached St. Joseph in eleven days and twelve hours. One of the westward riders on this first trip of the Pony Express was William F. Cody, then a boy of fourteen or fifteen years. The Pony Express was only in existence for about eighteen months when it was superseded by the telegraph.

This, with the era of railroad building, marked the end of the slow, laborious days of traveling trails and from then on the development of the West was rapid and comparatively easy.


CHAPTER IV

THE EARLY DAYS OF FORT RILEY

No comprehensive discussion of the early days of Kansas can be made without a consideration of slavery and the conditions prevailing throughout the country from the close of the Revolution to the beginning of the Civil War. The part played by Kansas in those antebellum days was an ·important and pivotal one.

For the first hundred years of independence of our country. slavery was the dominating issue. Ownership of slaves had ceased in those northern states where economic conditions made slave labor unprofitable and had increased in southern states where it was profitable. With the invention of the cotton gin, production of cotton was enormously increased in the South and, as it was believed that the production of the cotton crop depended upon slave labor, the abolition of slavery in those states became a political impossibility. Between 1800 and 1820, a series of compromises were made by which states were admitted to the Union in pairs, a slave state and a free state at the same time.

In the spring of 1818, Missouri applied for admission to the Union as a slave state. Its admission was opposed by the north. The application of Missouri was not acted upon until February, 1819. At that time Representative James W. Tallmadge of New York proposed an amendment to the Missouri bill, which provided, “that further introduction of slavery or involuntary servitude be prohibited and that all children of slaves born within the said state after the admission thereof into the Union shall be free.” This bill, as amended, passed the House but was rejected in the Senate. At this same session of Congress a bill was introduced to make Arkansas a state and fixing its north boundary as the line thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes north latitude. Prior to this, the Ohio River had been considered by north and south as the boundary between free states and slave states. The proposed north boundary of Arkansas being nearly a prolongation of that line, the bill was passed without difficulty.

At the session of Congress which assembled in December, 1819, the admission of Missouri was the paramount issue. At this time Maine came into the situation with a bill for admission into the Union as a free state. The bill passed the House but when it reached the Senate it had the Missouri bill attached

55

56 THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY

to it as an amendment. The Senate had already rejected the Talmadge amendment to that bill. As each side stood firm, the only solution was in a compromise which was proposed by Senator Thomas of Illinois to the effect: “That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees, thirty minutes, north latitude, not included within the limits of the state contemplated by this act, slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes, whereof the party shall have been convicted, shall be and is hereby forever prohibited.” This was the famous Missouri Compromise and by it Maine and Missouri were admitted to the Union. Maine was admitted at once, but another question, concerning the admission of free negroes to the State of Missouri, held up the admission of that State until the next year. The South gained Arkansas and Texas west of the Mississippi, but the North gained a much greater territory capable of furnishing many states.

The line, thirty-six thirty, ran parallel to the south boundary of Kansas in Oklahoma and by it the future State of Kansas was pledged to be a free state. In the early days of slavery discussions, the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland established in 1763-67, by Charles Mason and Jere­miah Dixon and known as the Mason and Dixon line, was the dividing line between free states and slave states. It was, however, insignificant in importance when compared to the controversy raised by the thirty-six thirty line.

The next serious issue involving the question of slavery arose in 1846 when President Polk requested an appropriation of two million dollars to promote peace with Mexico and secure some Mexican territory. Representative Wilmot of Pennsylvania insisted on an amendment to the bill as follows: “Provided, That, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States in virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the monies herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.” This amendment of Wilmot created a tremendous discussion. The North was in favor of it and all the legislatures of the free states except Iowa, passed resolutions to the effect that Congress had the power to prohibit slavery in all the territories and states, but the amendment was finally defeated.

Finally in 1850, a second compromise was made, called the Compromise of 1850. This was necessary because the Senate, being favorable to the contentions of the South, and the

THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY 57

Houses, standing against the extension of slavery, were dead­ locked. This bill was introduced by Henry Clay and provided: That California should be admitted as a free state; for the cre­ation of Utah and New Mexico as territories, to be admitted to the Union as states when ready, with or without slavery, as the people might determine; for the abolishing of slave trade in the District of Columbia but declaring the inexpediency of abolishing slavery in that District without the consent of Maryland and without just compensation to owners of slaves; and for a more effective fugitive slave law.

At this time Kansas was a part of what was known as the Platte Country, or Indian Territory. A very good picture of Kansas in those days was given by Percival G. Lowe in an address before the Kansas State Historical Society on January 14, 1890 entitled “Kansas as Seen in the Indian Territory.” (This address was published in Volume IV of the Kansas Historical Collections). Extracts from it are of interest.

“What I have to say of Kansas as I saw it in the Indian Territory is wholly from memory, having no record of occurrences. My experience commenced in December, 1849.

“The Indian Territory then extended from the west line of Missouri to the State of Deseret, (changed in 1850 to the Territory of Utah), and from Minnesota to Texas, out of which was afterwards carved Kansas.

“Fort Leavenworth was the steamboat landing from which all military supplies were sent by wagon, and from which all

. military expeditions started across the great plains. To the south ran the military road across the Kansas River at Grinter’s ferry to Fort Scott, and thence to Forts Gibson and Smith. To the west and southwest ran the military road crossing the Kansas at Pappan’s ferry, near where Topeka now is; thence to Council Gr :>Ve, intersecting the Santa Fe Trail from Independence a few miles east of that point; thence southwesterly, striking the Arkansas River at the ‘Big Bend,’ following it up to the Cimarron crossing, about twenty-five miles above where Dodge City now is.” (Author’s note: This was the crossing previously referred to as the Middle Crossing).

“In April, 1850, Major E. A. Ogden, quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth, with an escort and some Kickapoo guides, laid out a road northwest to a point beyond where Seneca now is, to intersect the road from St. Joseph, Missouri. At the crossing of the Big Blue River, now Marysville, he returned with his guides, and the escort went on to Fort Kearney.

“The Shawnee Indians were located south of the Kansas River, in what is Johnson County; the Wyandottes in .the forks of the Missouri and Kansas, part of Wyandotte County; the Delawares occupied a part of Wyandotte, Leavenworth and

58 THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY

Jefferson Counties; the Munchies, a small tract of land where the Soldier’s Home and Mount Muncie Cemetery now are, near Leavenworth; the Kickapoos were in Salt Creek valley and farther west; the Pottawatomies occupied the Kansas valley from the mouth of Soldier Creek to the Big Blue River. The Kansas Indians, called Kaws, were about Council Grove. The Osages and others in southern Kansas, I saw but little of. None of the reservation Indians were very much confined to boundaries. They all went to the buffalo country for a grand hunt at least once a year. The buffalo range was a little west of a line drawn north and south thru Fort Riley. East of that were plenty of turkey, deer, and other small game. The wild Indians, so called, never came east of the buffalo range. From the Shawnees, Delawares, Munchies, Kickapoos, Pottawatomies, and some other small bands, there was nothing to fear; they lived comfortably and were contented. The Kansas and Osages, while not considered dangerous on their reservation, were good stock thieves on the great overland trails, and not to be trusted at any time. The Pawnees ranged west of the Big Blue to what is now Norton County, south along the Republican, and north to and beyond the Platte. Their villages were on the Platte and Loup fork. Their war parties took wide range. They were at war with all the wild tribes on the plains; the Comanches and Kiowas on the south, the Arapahoes, Chey­ennes and Sioux on the west and northwest. Though not numbering near so many as their opponents, except the Arapahoes, they defended themseLves so successfully that the enemy rarely got away without leaving some scalps. They were also the worst Indians the whites had to contend with on the northern overland trail. Though they would not attack well­ armed parties, they were dangerous stock thieves, and the guards were always doubled when the Big Blue was crossed. Having passed the Pawnees some forty miles west of Fort Kearney, traveling was quite safe.

“The Cheyennes and Arapahoes were the habitual occupants of these plains from the Platte to the Arkansas, and from the forks of the Solomon to the mountains. I then thought, and still believe, that the Cheyennes were the handsomest, noblest and bravest Indians I ever saw in a wild state. I met them often, knew them well and their way of living. They fought their enemies with an unrelenting vigor-that was their religious duty from their standpoint. They were as virtuous as any people on earth; whatever civilized man may say to their table manners, their family government was perfect­ perfect obedience to parents, and child-whipping unknown; veneration and respect for old age was universal. In their relations to each other, crime was practically unknown. They

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worshiped God, in whom they had implicit confidence. They hated a liar as the devil hates holy water, and that is why, when they came to know him, they hated the white man so intensely.

“In 1850 Colonel Sumner established the post of Fort Atkinson, on the Arkansas, about six miles above where Dodge City now is. The soldiers dubbed it ‘Fort Sod’ and later ‘Fort Sodom.’ The walls were built entirely of prairie sod, partly covered with poles and canvas, and partly with poles, brush and sod. It was built by the soldiers. Company D, Sixth Infantry, commanded by Brevet Captain S. B. Buckner, now Governor of Kentucky, was left to garrison the post. It was the only military post between Fort Leavenworth and Radio, New Mexico, 650 miles. The Kiowas and Comanches frequently pounced upon freight trains, ran off stock and killed stragglers. They ranged from about where Marion county now is, west along the Arkansas River to the mountains, south­ west into New Mexico, and south thru Texas into Old Mexico. Their war parties sometimes reached north to the Platte. They were numerous; well mounted, savage, and treacherous.

“In January 1851, a complaint was made to Colonel Faunt­leroy, commanding Fort Leavenworth, concerning outrages committed by the Kaws near Council Grove. They had considerable stolen stock in their possession. Captain and Brevet Major R. H. Chilton, with his Troop B, First Dragoons, went out and captured the five principal chiefs and placed them in the guard-house at Fort Leavenworth, where they remained a long time, until all the stolen stock was restored, and good promises made.

“In April, 1851, Fort Atkinson was besieged by the Kiowas and_ Comanches, and the same troop went to its relief.

“At Fort Atkinson the Kiowa and Comanche camps P.X­ tended as far as one could see up and down the south side of the river. They seldom fought the ‘long knives’, as they called the dragoons, except by stealth, and considering their immense numbers there was not much hope of earthly glory in hunting them; so that there was a sort of a standing-off business all around, and the party who did the most successful bluffing was the winner. The threatening attitude of the Indians had caused the trains to move cautiously and well prepared for emergencies. A large military command went out to New Mexico, which somewhat overawed the Indians, and Major Chilton, with his troop, returned to Fort Leavenworth in July. About this time Lieutenant Heath, acting commissary officer at Atkinson, made a requisition for a dozen cats, and it was filled and the cats sent out. The prairie mice were destroying the provisions so rapidly that the situation became alarming. The sod walls made good shelters for them. This is said to

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it was the first time that cats were born on property returns in the army.

“The year 1853 was an exciting season. The Kiowas and Comanches were dangerous and threatening. A few men were killed. To illustrate: Major Chilton’s troop had spent the night at Cow Creek. The next camp would be at the big bend of the Arkansas. eighteen miles. About midway between these points, now in Rice County, was a line of sandy hills, called ‘Sand Buttes.· With his usual prudence and forethought in passing thru broken country and in crossing streams-a habit which had enabled him to travel with one troop thru all the tribes from the North Platte to New Mexico, and from Missouri to the mountains. without being surprised-Major Chil­ ton threw out skirmishers, a corporal and four men riding twenty-five or thirty yards apart. Having reached the highest butte, the corporal fired his pistol; the four men rallied on him, the troop moved forward quickly, part thrown out in a skirmish line. Ten yards from the corporal was a dead Mexican and within a hundred yards two more. One was still breathing, and fresh blood was still trickling from their scalped heads. Away down toward Arkansas was a large Mexican train. These men belonged to it. and were hunting antelope in the hills when killed. After following the trail a short distance it was obliterated by countless thousands of buffalo tracks. The Mexicans corralled on the plain below and the dragoons moved quickly to them, but they had only corralled to let the herds pass by, and had seen no Indians. This is but one of many incidents on this route.

“Company D, Sixth Infantry, moved to Walnut Creek, near where the town of Great Bend is now. (Mr. Lowe does not specify the exact date of this movement but it is apparent that it was in August or September of 185 3). Atkinson was abandoned. All the goods and materials of use at the new camp were moved, and the sod walls completely torn down, so as to leave no ambush for the Indians. It was so full of mice, fleas and snakes, that it was uninhabitable.”

Perhaps the first really definite step toward the settlement and development of the country soon to become Kansas was the establishment of Fort Riley. On July 31. 1852, Colonel

T. T. Fauntleroy. of the First Dragoons, while in Washington, wrote a letter to General T. S. Jessup, then Quartermaster General of the Army, in which he stated that sometime previously, while commanding officer of the post of Fort Leavenworth, he had refused to recommend an expenditure for repairs at Fort Leavenworth because he did not consider that post as best suited for the military operations in that quarter. He urged the establishment of a post “at or near a point on the Kansas

THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY 61

River where the Republican fork unites with it.” It is worthy of note that this, the first suggestion leading to the establishment of Fort Riley, came from a cavalryman. Colonel Faunt­ lerov also urged the “diSCOJ:\tinuance of the Leavenworth, Scott, Atkinson, and Laramie posts,” and the concentration of troops at the point he described.

September 21, 1852, a board of officers was appointed by General U. S. Clarke of the Sixth Military Department, in accordance with instructions from the Secretary of War to select the location for a new post in the vicinity of the forks of the Kansas River. This board consisted of Captains E. A. Ogden and L. C. Easton of the Quartermaster’s Department; CaptainC. S. Lovell, Sixth Infantry and Lieutenant J. C. Woodruff, Topographical Engineers. Late in the fall of 1852, Captain (Brevet Major) R. H. Chilton, in command of Company B of the First Dragoons, escorted the board to the prescribed vicinity. A camp was established on the present site of Fort Riley called Camp Center, because it was known to be very near the geographical center of the United States. The report of the board was submitted November 10. 1852, and approved by Secretary of War Conrad, January 7, 1853.

In the Army Appropriation Act, approved March 3, 1853, $65,000 was appropriated for the erection of buildings at Camp Center. On May 17, 1853, Captain Charles S. Lovell, with Companies B, F, and H of the 6th Infantry, established the first post according to the provisions of Orders No. 9, Headquarters Sixth Military Department, Jefferson Barracks, Mo., dated March 30, 1853. Some temporary buildings were erected in 1853 and 1854. After Major General Bennet Riley’s death in 1853, the post was named Fort Riley by the following order:

General Orders

War Department

No. 17

Adjutant General’s Office,

Washington, June 27, 1853.

III. By direction of the Secretary of War, the Military Post recently established on the Kansas River will be called Fort Riley, and that upon the Minnesota River, Fort Ridgely.

By Order,

S. Cooper,

Adjutant General.

Bennett Riley was born in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1787, and entered the army as an ensign of rifles from Maryland, January 19, 1813. He was promoted to the grade of third lieutenant on the 12th of March. 1813, to second lieutenant April 15, 1814, and to first lieutenant March 31, 1817. He


Major General Bennett Riley.

1787-1853

THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY 6._,

was regimental adjutant from December, 1816, to July, 1817, and attained his captaincy on the• 6th of August, I 8 I 8. June 1, 1821, he was transferred to the 5th Infantry and on the 3d of October of that year he joined the 6th Infantry. He was adept at campaigning on the plains, leading a wing of the Arikara expedition in 1823, under Lieutenant Colonel Henry Leavenworth, Fifth Infantry. For ten years’ faithful service in one grade he was breveted a major in 1828. As we have already seen, he commanded the first escort, composed of four companies of the 6th Infantry, over the Santa Fe Trail in 1829. He was made a major in the 4th Infantry, September 26, 1837, a lieutenant colonel in the 2nd Infantry, December 1, 18 39, and a colonel in the 1st Infantry, January 31, 1850. ·At Fort Leavenworth, he succeeded Colonel Leavenworth in command. In the Mexican War he was a trusted lieutenant of General Winfield Scott, who publicly attributed much of his success at Monterey and Cerro Gordo to Colonel Riley. On June 2, 1840, the day on which he fought the battle of Chokachatta, Florida, in which he particularly distinguished himself by bravery and good conduct and for long, meritorious and gallant service, he was breveted a colonel. He was breveted a brigadier general April 18, 1847, for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Cerro Gordo and a major general August 20, 1847, for gallant conduct at the battle of Contreras. In 1847, he was sent in command of the Division of the West to California, where he acted as last territorial governor and aided in forming the state constitution. He died at Buffalo, New York, June 9, 1853.

Considering the light of future events and keeping in mind the associations and importance of this post to the cavalry of the United States Army, it seems a little inappropriate that it should be named for an infantry officer. It would seem, for sentimental reasons at least, and with our present day knowledge of events, that it might have been more appropriately named for Colonel Fauntleroy, who proposed its establishment at this point, or for Colonel Philin, St. George Cooke, a dashing cavalryman at heart and one who was intimately associated with the early history of the post. How much easier it is to look back than to look ahead! These comments are made, not with a desire for change, but rather as thoughts that came as the data was gathered. One can readily imagine that the old timers who perspired and shed their blood for Fort Riley, that it might exist for us as it does today, probably would turn over in their graves, if such a suggestion were made, and they might well raise a mighty shout, comparable to that famous cry of the Senator from Arkansas, “Change the name of Fort Riley? Never, by – Sir! Never.”

64 THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY

In April, 1854, the Excel, a steamer built at McKeesport in 1851, and rated seventy-nine tons, made a trip up the Kansas River. She carried I. I 00 barrels of flour, belonging to Perry and Young, of Weston, Missouri, government contractors, from Weston to the site of Fort Riley. · The Excel made two or three later trips to Fort Riley with lumber, glass, nails, etc., for the post. On one of these trips in October, 1854, she made a short trip up the Smoky Hill, Lieutenant Sergeant from the garrison being a passenger. J. L. Tidball, Second Lieutenant 6th Infantry, made a survey of the Kansas River, under orders from Major Ogden in August, 1853. He found it necessary to use a sounding board, practically all the time. The principal object, he reported, was to determine the practicability of navigating the river by steamers or keel boats. He thought there was no chance to improve the river beyond removing the snags. For two or three years, about this time, there was an abundance of water and the impression spread all over the country that the Kansas River was navigable.

The point selected for departure was on the river about two miles below the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican forks, about a mile near east of the post. It was not considered important to commence operations higher up the river. This point probably was the location of the levee at the town of Pawnee near the old capitol building. Whether boats actually landed at the post proper is doubtful. Apparently part of the building materials for the construction of Fort Riley were brought up the river by boat and some were freighted overland from Fort Leavenworth.

Percival G. Lowe, who has already been quoted, was the First Sergeant of Troop B, First Dragoons in 1852, when that organization escorted Major Ogden on his first: visit to the future site of Fort Riley. Mr. Lowe was born in New Hampshire, September 29, 1828. His ancestors were active in the Revolution and the War of 1812. As a boy of fourteen he was a newsboy in Lowell, Massachusetts, later clerked in a dry goods store and was a sailor for three years. In 1849 he enlisted as a private in the regular army and was sent at once to Fort Leavenworth. At the end of his service (presumably his first enlistment period) he was appointed superintendent of transportation for Major E. A. Ogden and was engaged in the building of Fort Riley. In 1857 he was master of transportation for General Sumner’s expedition against the Cheyennes and in 1858 for General Johnson’s army against the Mormons. He quit the military service in 1859 and was engaged in business in Denver and later at Leavenworth, making the latter place his home. In 1868, 1869 and 1875, he was a member of the Leavenworth city council and from 1876 to 1881 served

THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY 65

as sheriff of Leavenworth county. He was a member of the state senate from 1885 to 1889. He was always interested in the State Historical Society, as a life member, serving as president in 1893 and enriching its publications with frequent contributions. His book, “Five Years a Dragoon,” is said to be one of the best of the western books. He died at San Antonio, Texas, March 5, 1908.

January 15, 1901, Mr. Lowe delivered an address entitled, “Recollections of Fort Riley,” before the Kansas State Historical Society. This address was afterwards published in Volume VII of the Kansas Historical Collections, and furnishes such an intimate picture of the early days of Fort Riley and particularly of the great cholera epidemic that resulted in the death of Major Ogden, that it has been quoted almost as a whole.

“Congress that adjourned March 4, 1855, made an appropriation for preparing Fort Riley for a cavalry post by erecting new quarters, stables for five troops of cavalry, storehouses, etc. The plans were prepared in Washington and Major Ogden was ordered to take charge of the work. The buildings were all to be of stone, to be taken from quarries in the vicinity of the post. The Major made contracts with Saw­yer and Mcilvain, or Mcilwain, of Cincinnati, for the necessary woodwork, doors and frames, window-sash, etc., to be made at the factory in Cincinnati and shipped, with the necessary lumber, hardware, glass, etc., by boat to Fort Leavenworth, and then by wagon to Fort Riley. Mr. Sawyer was employed as architect and superintendent. I was post wagon-master at Fort Leavenworth when the order came to furnish transportation for men to Fort Riley and a request from Major Ogden that I be placed in charge of it. With fifty six mule-teams, I met, on the Fort Leavenworth levee, about five hundred men, mechanics, laborers, etc., just landed from steamboats.“

They reached Fort Riley in four days and work began in earnest the first week in July.

“By the end of July one two-story stone building was finished and a number of others were well under way. This completed building was taken possession of for offices and two iron safes containing the funds for paying the men were put in the front room.

“Major Ogden, on horseback or on foot, was conspicuous for his general supervision of everything, ready to call attention to any neglect of work that did not seem to be going on to the best advantage, and in that one month of July I learned more than I ever have during the same length of time. There was very little friction, as the Major’s experience with men and material was extensive and his well directed energy and good Judgment made all of the departments move as nearly in harmony as was possible among men suddenly taken into camp from their city homes.

66 THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY

More than half of them lived in tents. Tfie teamsters probably lived better than any other class of men on the work, as they were accustomed to camp life; some had served in the army, and were therefore fairly well disciplined and well versed in cooking government rations. Towards the end of the month a few men became ill, and one or two men died of what was undoubtedly cholera. All hands received their half month’s pay on the 1st of August, and that evening Major Ogden and I rode from camp to camp inspecting all the messes and the manner of living. He talked freely and cheerfully, notwithstanding the feeling of unrest caused by the few cases of sickness, which had been promptly sent to the hospital. He dwelt carefully upon all the details and expressed the opinion that there would be little danger of cholera if the men lived well.

“When Major Ogden arrived to build the post, all of the troops had left for the summer’s campaign on the plains, So that of the military there was left only the army surgeon, Dr. Simmons, Chaplain Clarkson, Bandmaster Jackson, and a few other members of the band of the Sixth Infantry, the hospital steward, whose name I am sorry I do not remember, and a young soldier whose term of service would expire in a couple of months. He acted as orderly. for the major. During the night of the 1st of August, cholera developed rapidly. The morning of the 2nd dawned on a camp in great anxiety and distress. Major Ogden had been taken sick and although every effort was made to keep this information from spreading, it threw like wildfire and caused a panic. A burial party and a gang of men to dig graves were organized. Several died that day. Work was generally suspended, though Sawyer tried to keep the men at work, and a few did work, without stopping. I have no idea how many men were sick, but much of the illness was caused by mental anxiety. The slightest in­ disposition was attributed to cholera and often resulted in bringing it on. All sorts of wild reports were afloat, and a stranger coming in would think half the garrison in a dying condition, everything was so exaggerated. Sawyer and Hopkins, the chief clerk, gave special attention to Major Ogden. Martin, whose business it was to keep the men’s time, mingled with them in camp and quarters, including the hospital, and gave much attention to burying the dead and nursing the sick. I never saw a cooler or more intelligently nervy man.

“I moved all the teams four miles up the Republican River to a fine, dry camp, partly for the safety of the men and partly to prevent mules being stolen to ride away on, several having been already taken. I instructed the men not to leave camp

THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY 67

or allow anyone to approach it; built a corral of the wagons for present use: gave orders to corral the mules every night, and set the men to cutting cottonwood poles and building a large corral, which was needed. I knew that the distress was great enough to justify sending an express to Fort Leavenworth for medical assistance. The doctor was utterly unable to meet the demands upon him, and I told Mr. Orton, wagon­ master, to report to me ready to go, and mounted on his best mule, but not to let anyone know that he was going. I called to see Major Ogden in the fore part of the evening. There was no hope for him. Sawyer and Hopkins knew it, and asked me for reliable men to carry letters to Fort Leavenworth. I told them that Mr. Orton was ready, and that I had selected him, much as I disliked to part with him, because I knew he would get there as quickly as it was possible to go. He left about ten P. M., August second and delivered his letters at Fort Leavenworth about two P. M., August fourth, having ridden one hundred and thirty miles on one mule in forty hours. He fed himself and mule several times, but did not sleep.

“After Orton had gone, I went to the hospital with Martin. Sawyer had appointed nurses, with promise of extraordinary pay, and they seemed to be trying to do their best, but all the sick had not been brought there. Many were in the camps. The hospital steward was a good man, and stuck to his post cheerfully, but the doctor seemed to have given up and had not seen the sick since morning. Murmuring and discontent were general, and it was known that many men had struck off down the road on foot. About midnight Martin promised to keep moving about if I would lie down awhile, which I did, on a buffalo robe in the office where the safes were. I had scarcely closed my eyes when I heard groans in the room next to me. I looked in and found Hopkins in great agony, with a bad case of cholera. Two men were doing their best for him. I stayed with him for a few minutes and then went to the steward, at the hospital, who gave me some brandy. On my way back I called the doctor’s quarters. He came to the door himself. I told him of Mr. Hopkins’ illness, and asked if he could go and see him. I saw that he was nearly a physical and mental wreck. He shook his head sadly and said, while he shoved up his sleeves and rubbed his arms and hands: ‘Mr. Lowe, I am unstrung-unfit for anything. I want to take my family to St. Mary’s Mission. I wish you would send me an ambulance. I want to get off as quickly as possible.’ I told him I had no ambulance under my immediate charge-in fact, there was not then an ambulance at -the post. I returned to Hopkins with the brandy, and then went to Major Ogden’s

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quarters. Sawyer was about receiving his last message to his wife.

“The distress on August second was nothing compared with the horrors of the third. Brevet Major Wood had gone to Fort Kearney with his company, leaving his wife and two children. All had cholera. Brevet Major Armistead, afterwards Major-General Armistead of the Confederate Army, had gone up the Smoky Hill with his company, leaving his wife and two children. His wife had cholera. Additional cases were noted half over the post. Thus the morning of the third opened. An ambulance had gone after Major Armistead. Reverend Mr. Clarkson, the post chaplain, with his wife and niece, were the only nurses for Mrs. Wood and her two children and Mrs. Armistead. I never saw braver or more devoted nurses and. friends than the Clarksons. They took Mrs. Armistead’s two children home and did everything that could be done for the others. But Mrs. Wood and her two children and Mrs. Armistead died during the day. Mr. Sawyer wanted to use the messenger-the young soldier acting as orderly for the major-but I found him in the room over the office where I had tried to sleep, dying of cholera. Sawyer procured the lead linings from the tea caddies in the commissary and had Major Ogden’s coffin made air tight.

“Fifteen in all died on the third of August-Major Ogden, Mrs. Armistead, Mrs. Wood and two children, the major’s orderly, and nine workmen. A few men were at work all the time and Mr. Sawyer encouraged them to continue, but their surroundings were distracting. A delegation waited on Mr. Sawyer earnestly insisted that the balance due them should be paid and they were allowed to go. Sawyer explained to them that, even if they were entitled to more pay, it could not be given to them, as there was no one to pay them, and the money was locked up in the safe, which could not be opened. A little afternoon I galloped off to my camp on the Republican, found everything all right and no sickness among the fifty men there. I did not dismount, nor did I allow anyone to come near me. I returned to the post about three o’clock and saw Mr. Sawyer and Reverend Mr. Clarkson sitting on the latter’s front porch looking at a band of men in the middle of the parade ground. Sawyer called to me, and I hitched my horse and joined them on the porch. Mr. Clarkson made the following statement: ‘Mr. Robert Wilson, the post sutler, who had a very large stock of goods in his store, had locked up everything and taken his family away in the morning accompanied by one of Major Ogden’s clerks. Soon after I left, about one o’clock, the store was broken into by a gang of men, some goods scattered about, a barrel of whiskey rolled out, the head

Brevet Major E. A. Ogden

1811-1855

70 THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY

knocked in and, with tin cups, the men helped themselves. When well liquored up, led by a big stone mason, some of them broke open the building used for the post ordnance department and armed themselves with guns, pistols and ammunition.’ ,

“And there they were, in a half-drunken condition on the parade, airing their grievances, threatening to break open the safes and pay themselves, etc. But a small portion of the revelers armed themselves, about twenty-five, and they formed a circle, with their leader inside, while all sorts, drunk and sober, looked on. We could hear plainly most that was said, and they meant that we should hear; and, if carried out, it looked serious. A committee headed by this fellow had waited upon Sawyer before they broke into the sutler’s store and demanded the pay they claimed was due them. Sawyer was a man of good courage, but of quiet disposition, and not a very strong man. Seeing the apparent determination of the fellow and his following, Sawyer parlayed a little, and said that when I came we would consult about it. The man said that if I did not come darned quick they wouldn’t wait. And this violent demonstration on the parade ground seemed to be a warning to accede to their demand. Of course, Sawyer’s reference to me was a mere ruse to gain time and form some plan of action. I suggested that I go and talk to the men, since my name had been mentioned. I knew the leader pretty well and thought he would listen to me; at any rate I might check him up until we had a little more time, and perhaps bridge over until he would sober up. I never was more anxious for a good company of soldiers under a good officer.

“Sawyer rather demurred at my trying to pacify these men

-it was against his judgment and might precipitate trouble. I assured him that I would not make matters worse. The day was exceedingly hot and I took Sawyer’s umbrella. As I approached, I saw most of this valiant chief’s followers were hopelessly drunk. The leader stood in the center of the crowd, flourishing a pistol. A drunken man noticed me and cried out, ‘Hurrah for the mounted chief,’ a name given me because I was always moving about pretty lively on horseback. I stepped into the circle and said to the leader, ‘What is the matter?’ He sprang back and leveled his pistol and if it had been at full cock I would have been shot. Up to this time I had no definite plan of action-had no arms and no fixed notion of what I would do. Whatever I did dawned upon me instantly. The violent threats of the man caused me to act. The impulse was irresistible. Dropping the umbrella, I seized his pistol, gave him a trip and a quick jerk and he fell so heavily the breath was knocked out of him. I had his

THE HISTORY OF FORT RILEY 71

pistol and threatened to kill him if he moved. As soon as he could get breath he begged for his life. The crowd seemed dumb. With his left hand I jerked a gun from the nearest man, who was so drunk that he fell over. Throwing the gun on the ground, I told the others to pile their guns and pistols on it. I never saw an order more promptly obeyed.

“The mutiny, or rebellion, so far as these men were concerned, was over. 1 called a lot of carpenters and asked them to carry the guns and pistols to the quartermaster’s office, which they

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