over yonder.' The stage-driver know his business and went back to Moore's. I told them I was going to march in the morning at five o'clock. There was a woman with her children in the stage, too, by the way. The men were indignant at turning back, but the driver had the advantage. Well, next morning about 7:30 o'clock we saw the stage-coach behind us in the sand-hills, and out popped the Indians. Part of us got back and drove them off. The Indian does n't fight unless he has clearly the best of it from the start. Well, you ought to have seen the civilians who were so hot to go ahead the night before. They were shaking hands with everybody and crying and carrying on. The woman with the children sat inside the stage all the time cool as a cucumber and never cheeped. But some of the soldiers' wives with our main party, out of harm's way, bellowed and shrieked like all possessed. They came up to my wife, who was alone in an ambulance, and she told them they ought to be ashamed of themselves. They ought to act like soldiers' wives and not babies.
"Well, we went on, and found that the stage coming east from Denver on the strength of the report that I was going to clear the line and reestablish the stations, putting two of my men at each place, had been attacked and the driver and horses killed. The mail-bags had all been rifled and such envelopes as looked as if they might have money in them were ripped open. I shall always believe there was a renegade white man among them. But there was no trace of any passenger killed. And now comes the funny part of the story.
"After we got into camp again, as I was smoking after supper, a long, lanky, muddy man came up and introduced himself as Mr. So-and-so--I forget his name now, a minister from Denver--and wanted to borrow a rifle, so he could take the stage on east. Says he: 'I was on that stage that the Indians got yesterday.' I looked at him as much as to say, 'Tell that to the dog-robber.' He saw I didn't take any stock in his story, and he said: 'I suppose you hardly believe me.' 'Well,' says I, 'if you were n't a minister of the Gospel I should say you were a ---- liar.'
"Then he told me his story. He was the only passenger, and as it was a hot day he had his shoes and coat off and was dozing, when 'Bang! bang' went a lot of guns, and he looked out and saw a lot of Indians whooping and digging out for the stage-coach. He saw the driver keel over, shot through the head,* and the horses swerve from the road off onto the prairie. His first impulse was to get the lines and fetch the horses back into the road, and he believed he could beat the Indians in a race. So he climbed out of
*The team driven by Kilburn was four fine grays. When he had reached a point two and a half miles east of Godfrey's, where five Cheyenne Indians were secreted behind an old adobe wall, a volley was fired and Kilburn fell dead to the ground. His falling stopped the team. Instantly the savages made a rush and secured the horses, taking all the trimmings from the harness. They also cut the front and hind leather boots from the coach; then cut open and rifled the mail-sacks. There was only one passenger aboard--a minister of the Gospel, from Denver--and he, having his boots off, hurriedly jumped from the stage and ran back along the river bank to the station. Closely behind the coach was a boy with four stage horses, riding one and leading the other three. When he saw the Indians fire and Kilburn fall from the box, he instantly turned loose the three animals he was leading and ran them back to Godfrey's, thus saving the team and, what was of far more value to him, his own scalp. He escaped, but it was a very close call.
the window and got upon the box, but the lines had dropped on the ground and the four horses were just more than streaking it. He climbed down on the pole to pick up the lines, the Indians popping away at him all the time, and just then the coach struck a wallow, a sort of gutter about two feet wide and perhaps nine inches deep, and down he went into the mud, and the stage went on without him. 'Well,' thinks he, 'it's all up with me now. They'll torture me sure.' But whether they thought he was dead or that they would come back after him, they rode around him, and made for the coach. Then the thought came to him that he might give them the slip. 'I prayed to God Almighty for all I was worth,' he said, 'and then I slid along on my stomach in the mud till I got to where the ground sloped down toward the Platte river. But they saw me, and three of them came after me on their ponies. Well sir,' says he, 'I had only my socks on, and that place was as full of cactus thorns as a flax hackle, but I got away from them in a hurry, I tell you. I was a pretty good swimmer, and if I could get into the water I was pretty near all right. Just then the three Indians stopped and looked west. I turned, too, and there were two men with guns coming down the river bank on my side, as if to cut me off. But I had prayed, and I was n't going to give up then; so I made a bee line for the river, and got on the other side and was shaking myself when I heard somebody holler in English, "Come over! we won't hurt you." I told them I was just as safe where I was. Then they hollered back that they were two soldiers from Fort Sedgwick come out hunting, and, would you believe it? they had n't heard that there were Indians in the neighborhood.'
"You see they saw my force coming up the road and those two men coming along the river, and they thought we were going to surround them and bucket them to pieces; so they ran. Well, I gave the man his rifle, and I thought he'd earned it."
A number of heroic incidents occurred along the stage route in the Little Blue valley. Robert Emery, born at Industry, Me., a young man skilful (sic) in handling a four-horse team, happened to be in Atchison when a rumor came that the Indians were on the war-path and that the station of Liberty Farm had been burnt; also that his brother Charles, keeper of the station, together with his family and a number of other persons, were probably massacred. This rumor came when traffic by the stage line was at its zenith. In the face of such an exciting rumor, none of the old drivers in Atchison seemed willing to go out on the line and in all probability meet certain death at the hands of a band of savages. It was not so with Bob Emery, the young driver. He had relatives and friends at the scene of hostilities and he volunteered to take the coach to Liberty Farm. He left Atchison with nine passengers--seven men and two ladies. The rest of the story told on the following pages is from the Omaha Bee.
Map of "The Narrows," on the Little Blue river
"The morning of August 9, 1864 was
beautiful. The sky was clear and cool and a refreshing
breeze came up from the northwest. Th. coach left the
station at Big Sand, with its freight of human life drawn by
four large and mettled steeds in which the driver had
unbounded confidence and over them perfect control. The
journey was without accident or unusual incident until after
eleven o'clock, up to which time no signs of Indians had
been seen. But just as the lead horses had passed over the
hill and were on the spur that led into the bottom land or
valley--this was narrow, and bordered on either side by deep
ravines, worn by the water--and before the coach had
commenced the descent, the driver discovered a band of
Indians about thirty rods in advance. (Among the stage men
this locality was known as "The Narrows.") He wheeled the
horses in an instant--two rods further on he could not. have
accomplished the turn--and, laying whip to their backs,
commenced an impetuous retreat. The passengers were
terrified, and were at once on their feet. Emery said. 'If
you value your lives, for God's sake keep your seats, or we
the fretful porcupine.' They grazed young Emery on every side and cut the rosette off the head of the wheel horse, but the young man heeded nothing but his driving.
"There were two points at which all would have been lost but for the driver's wonderful presence of mind. There were two abrupt turns in the road where the coach would have been thrown over had he not brought the team to a halt and turned with care. This he did to the dismay of some of the passengers, who saw escape only in speed, but their subsequent praise of his conduct was as great as his courage was cool and calculating. George Constable, who was conducting an ox train over the route, saw the coach about a mile ahead, and at once corralled his twenty-five wagons.
"The brave driver drove his nine passengers into this shelter and safety. Words could not express the gratitude felt for their hero and deliverer. In the delirium of delight they embraced and kissed him, and thanked God that he had hold the lines, and that they were in a position where they could not interfere. The noble horses were not forgotten. The passengers petted them and put their arms about their necks with feelings of gratitude.
"This memorable drive would never be forgotten, though not recorded here; for the story would be handed down to posterity by the successive generations of the saved. The hero of that day's chase won not his best laurels in that hour; for wherever he was known his gentle mariner and kind deeds won for him a welcome in every heart, and wherever known there were praises heard. Devoid of boastful pretense, he wore meekly his well-deserved honors and silently carried a hero's heart.
"His health was frail, and in about a year he was prostrated with fever, and while upon his death-bed, yet still conscious, Mrs. Randolph, one of the number he had saved from a horrible death, placed upon his finger a beautiful gold ring, on which was engraved the following:
and Hattie P. Randolph, to
in acknowledgment of what we owe
to his cool conduct and good driving on
Tuesday, August 9, 1864.
Indian boys shooting at a target. Page 85.
transferred, with a number of other employees, from the
southern to the central route. He drove on the latter at
different points between the Missouri river and old
Julesburg, Colo., on the south side of the Platte, until
1867. That part of the great stage line between Atchison and
Fort Kearney was then knocked out by the completion of the
Union Pacific road from Omaha West along the north side of
ments of the hostile savages, likewise a dangerous position. For is services he was paid $200 a month; but the risks he ran of being scalped were too great, and even this handsome salary was no inducement for him to remain and put himself up as a target for flying Indian arrows or whizzing bullets. It was during the period of the Indian troubles, after the close of the civil war, and for a long time there was little peace for the stage men or for any one else traveling that region. It was a hazardous undertaking, and those who attempted to make the trip across the plains before the days of railroads west of the Missouri simply took their lives in their own hands.
Hundreds of miles, sitting up on the box, have I ridden with Cummings, when I was express messenger and mail agent on the overland stage line between Atchison and Denver, in 1863-'65. It is learned from a friendly chat with Mr. Cummings, since the old staging days, that he was in one of the liveliest Indian fights that ever took place on the Smoky Hill route. It was at Monument station, on the north side of the Smoky Hill river. The date was August 22, 1867, and the sight preceding the engagement he reports as the grandest his eyes ever feasted on.
A freight-train of about forty wagons belonging to Powers & Newman, of Leavenworth, was on its way across the plains to Denver, having camped the night previous along the banks of the Smoky Hill river. The Indians, on this occasion, it appears, were after stock; and, as is their custom, they did not hesitate in committing any crime that promised to secure for them what they desired. The entire force of stage party and freighters was in the engagement that took place, and they fought the combined Sioux and Cheyennes for thirty-two hours. It was never known for certain, but it is said, by those who claim to know, that the Indians numbered several hundred. All was commotion;
And mounting in hot haste."
The savages formed in line and made
their grand charge at a little after five o'clock in the
morning, just as the sun was coming above the eastern
horizon. They came from the west and were traveling east.
All were mounted upon their ponies, and, at the word of
command, pushed spurs into the flanks of their animals and
came forward with a mad rush, with the little party of
whites all was anxiety and excitement at the time.
A FIGHT BEFORE BREAKFAST IN WESTERN KANSAS, IN 1867. Page 367.
Two or three minutes later the most unearthly, hideous yells ever heard went up from the vast body of Indians, as they made their brilliant and desperate assault. While mounted upon their steeds, their faces ornamented with paint of various colors, and dressed in the peculiar styles so becoming to the red man, with their shields handsomely polished and guns burnished, everything on which the sun's rays were reflected shone with dazzling brilliancy. The cavalcade was a sight grand to look upon. No circus making its gorgeous entree at the beginning of an exhibition ever presented a more magnificent spectacle. In their brilliant attack, charging down upon the palefaces, with their hideous war-whoops, it was the intention of the Indians --in fact, they had so planned it--to stampede the stock belonging to the freighters and stage company, and, with their overwhelming numbers, run the animals off to their villages outside of civilization. But the brave little party, while thus besieged, was anticipating something of the kind and wisely had prepared for the occasion, thus, in a measure, forestalling the strategic move so cunningly planned by treacherous Mr. Lo.
While thus besieged, all the water Mr. Cummings and his party could get was by digging into the sand on the Smoky Hill bottom, where thousands of buffalo had time and again wallowed, and where, quite naturally, a terrible stench had been left. In order to drink the stuff called water, it was necessary to mix vinegar with it; and even with this it was impossible to force down but a swallow or two. When one drink of the nauseating beverage was taken it only created a thirst for another one. Between bad water and still worse Indians, the situation was serious, and not particularly interesting, for the mere handful of men composing the stage party and freighters. The whites anticipated the trouble and were prepared to resist the attack.
While the engagement was in progress, luckily a Government freight-train of some twenty-five wagons came along and corralled in the immediate vicinity of the hostilities. Accompanying this train was a small detachment of soldiers, and all together the employees of both trains made a pretty strong force, in the corral as they were, using the wagons for breastworks. Being on the defensive, they were able to, and did, successfully keep off the Indians, who numbered at least ten to their one.
After the exciting engagement, followed by the round-up, it
was observed that the Indians had a pair of sorrel bobtail stage horses taken from Ben. Holladay, proprietor of the central* stage line. The animals were run off from Lone Tree station, on the Little Blue river, in southern Nebraska, in a raid there by the savages three years previous. Mr. Cummings saw and recognized the horses as a span he had often driven in the Blue valley, on the overland stage route, when employed by Holladay on that line in the early '60's. On this occasion the animals were ridden by the redskins to a piece of low ground where they dismounted. At the time the animals were stolen, in the summer of 1864, when horse-flesh was up to war prices, they would readily have brought between $500 and $600. Three years' hard usage among the Indians had told on the horses. In this fight they were far from being the lively, spirited animals they used to be during their staging career; still they were pretty fair horses, capable of yet doing much service, but the Indians could, and actually did outrun them, after having dismounted.
It is not definitely known whether there were any casualties among the Indians, but the whites killed one Indian pony and the hostiles run off one mule; hence the fight was considered a draw.
Hunting a location.
Mardos Memorial Library