The Life of Hon. William F. Cody
William F. Cody
Part 1 out of 6
Produced by Papeters, Mary Meehan,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
THE LIFE OF HON. WILLIAM F. CODY
KNOWN AS BUFFALO BILL
THE FAMOUS HUNTER, SCOUT AND GUIDE.
To GENERAL PHILIP H. SHERIDAN, THIS BOOK IS MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
BY THE AUTHOR.
[Illustration: Yours Sincerely, W. F. Cody]
The life and adventures of Hon. William F. Cody--Buffalo Bill--as told
by himself, make up a narrative which reads more like romance than
reality, and which in many respects will prove a valuable contribution
to the records of our Western frontier history. While no literary
excellence is claimed for the narrative, it has the greater merit of
being truthful, and is verified in such a manner that no one can doubt
its veracity. The frequent reference to such military men as Generals
Sheridan, Carr, Merritt, Crook, Terry, Colonel Royal, and other officers
under whom Mr. Cody served as scout and guide at different times and in
various sections of the frontier, during the numerous Indian campaigns
of the last ten or twelve years, affords ample proof of of his
genuineness as a thoroughbred scout.
There is no humbug or braggadocio about Buffalo Bill. He is known far and
wide, and his reputation has been earned honestly and by hard work. By a
combination of circumstances he was educated to the life of a plainsman
from his youth up; and not the least interesting portion of his career is
that of his early life, passed as it was in Kansas during the eventful
and troubleous times connected with the settlement of that state.
Spending much time in the saddle, while a mere boy he crossed the plains
many times in company with bull-trains; on some of these trips he met
with thrilling adventures and had several hairbreadth escapes from death
at the hands of Indians. Then, for a while, he was dashing over the
plains as a pony-express rider. Soon afterwards, mounted on the high seat
of an overland stagecoach, he was driving a six-in-hand team. We next
hear of him cracking the bull-whacker's whip, and commanding a
wagon-train through a wild and dangerous country to the far West. During
the civil war he enlisted as a private, and became a scout with the Union
army; since the war he has been employed as hunter, trapper, guide, scout
and actor. As a buffalo hunter he has no superior; as a trailer of
Indians he has no equal. For many years he has taken an active part in
all the principal Indian campaigns on the Western frontier, and as a
scout and guide he has rendered inestimable services to the various
expeditions which he accompanied.
During his life on the plains he not only had many exciting adventures
himself, but he became associated with many of the other noted plainsmen,
and in his narrative he frequently refers to them and relates many
interesting incidents and thrilling events connected with them. He has
had a fertile field from which to produce this volume, and has frequently
found it necessary to condense the facts in order to embody the most
interesting events of his life. The following from a letter written by
General E. A. Carr, of the Fifth Cavalry, now commanding Fort McPherson,
speaks for itself:
* * * * *
"I first met Mr. Cody, October 22d, 1868, at Buffalo Station, on the
Kansas Pacific railroad, in Kansas. He was scout and guide for the seven
companies of the Fifth Cavalry, then under Colonel Royal, and of which I
was ordered to take the command.
"From his services with my command, steadily in the field for nine
months, from October, 1868, to July, 1869, and at subsequent times, I am
qualified to bear testimony to his qualities and character.
"He was very modest and unassuming. I did not know for a long time how
good a title he had to the appellation, 'Buffalo Bill.' I am apt to
discount the claims of scouts, as they will occasionally exaggerate; and
when I found one who said nothing about himself, I did not think much of
him, till I had proved him. He is a natural gentleman in his manners as
well as in character, and has none of the roughness of the typical
frontiersman. He can take his own part when required, but I have never
heard of his using a knife or a pistol, or engaging in a quarrel where it
could be avoided. His personal strength and activity are such that he can
hardly meet a man whom he cannot handle, and his temper and disposition
are so good that no one has reason to quarrel with him.
"His eye-sight is better than a good field glass; he is the best trailer
I ever heard of; and also the best judge of the 'lay of country,'--that
is, he is able to tell what kind of country is ahead, so as to know how
to act. He is a perfect judge of distance, and always ready to tell
correctly how many miles it is to water, or to any place, or how many
miles have been marched.
"Mr. Cody seemed never to tire and was always ready to go, in the darkest
night or the worst weather, and usually volunteered, knowing what the
emergency required. His trailing, when following Indians or looking for
stray animals or game, is simply wonderful. He is a most extraordinary
hunter. I could not believe that a man could be certain to shoot antelope
running till I had seen him do it so often.
"In a fight Mr. Cody is never noisy, obstreperous or excited. In fact, I
never hardly noticed him in a fight, unless I happened to want him, or he
had something to report, when he was always in the right place, and his
information was always valuable and reliable.
"During the winter of 1868, we encountered hardships and exposure in
terrific snow storms, sleet, etc., etc. On one occasion, that winter, Mr.
Cody showed his quality by quietly offering to go with some dispatches to
General Sheridan, across a dangerous region, where another principal
scout was reluctant to risk himself.
"On the 13th of May, 1869, he was in the fight at Elephant Rock, Kansas,
and trailed the Indians till the 16th, when we got another fight out of
them on Spring Creek, in Nebraska, and scattered them after following
them one hundred and fifty miles in three days. It was at Spring Creek
where Cody was ahead of the command about three miles, with the advance
guard of forty men, when two hundred Indians suddenly surrounded them.
Our men, dismounted and formed in a circle, holding their horses, firing
and slowly retreating. They all, to this day, speak of Cody's coolness
and bravery. This was the Dog Soldier band which captured Mrs. Alderdice
and Mrs. Weichel in Kansas. They strangled Mrs. Alderdice's baby, killed
Mrs. Weichel's husband, and took a great deal of property and stock from
different persons. We got on their trail again, June 28th, and followed
it nearly two hundred miles, till we struck the Indians on Sunday, July
11th, 1869, at Summit Spring. The Indians, as soon as they saw us coming,
killed Mrs. Alderdice with a hatchet, and shot Mrs. Weichel, but
fortunately not fatally, and she was saved.
"Mr. Cody has since served with me as post guide and scout at Fort
McPherson, where he frequently distinguished himself.
"In the summer of 1876, Cody went with me to the Black Hills region where
he killed Yellow-Hand. Afterwards he was with the Big Horn and
Yellowstone expedition. I consider that his services to the country and
the army by trailing, finding and fighting Indians, and thus protecting
the frontier settlers, and by guiding commands over the best and most
practicable routes, have been far beyond the compensation he has
received. His friends of the Fifth Cavalry are all glad that he is in a
lucrative business, and hope that he may live long and prosper.
Personally, I feel under obligations to him for assistance in my
campaigns which no other man could, or would, have rendered. Of course I
wish him, and his, every success."
E. A. CARR, Lt. Col. 5th Cav., Brev. Maj. Gen'l U. S. Army. FORT
McPHERSON, NEBRASKA, July 3d, 1878
* * * * *
Buffalo Bill is now an actor, and is meeting with success. He owns a
large and valuable farm adjoining the town of North Platte, Nebraska, and
there his family live in ease and comfort. He has also an extensive
cattle ranch on the Dismal river, sixty-five miles north of North Platte,
his partner being Major Frank North, the old commander of the celebrated
Pawnee scouts. While many events of his career are known to the public,
yet the reader will find in this narrative much that will be entirely new
and intensely interesting to both young and old.
THE AUTHOR, PORTRAIT, ON STEEL
SAMUEL'S FATAL ACCIDENT
BILLINGS AS A BOCARRO
BILLINGS RIDING LITTLE GRAY
STAKING OUT LOTS
MY FATHER STABBED
MY FATHER'S ESCAPE
LIFE OR DEATH
TWO TO ONE
KILLING MY FIRST INDIAN
A PRAIRIE SCHOONER
WILD BILL (PORTRAIT)
HOLDING THE FORT
CAMPING IN A SEPULCHRE
RAFTING OS THE PLATTE
RIDING PONY EXPRESS
SAVED BY CHIEF RAIN IN-THE-FACE
ATTACK ON STAGE COACH
ALF. SLADE KILLING THE DRIVER
THE HORSE THIEVES DEN
MY ESCAPE FROM THE HORSE THIEVES
BOB SCOTT'S FAMOUS COACH HIDE
"NEARLY EVERY MAN HAD TWO HORSES"
WILD BILL AND THE OUTLAWS
WILD BILL'S DUEL
GENERAL GEO. A. CUSTER (Portrait)
TONGUES AND TENDERLOINS
THE INDIAN HORSE THIEVES
THE MAN WHO FIRED THE GUN
"DOWN WENT HIS HORSE"
THE FIRE SIGNAL
KIT CARSON (Portrait)
A GOOD HORSE
A BIG JOKE
AMBUSHING THE INDIANS
DELIVERING DISPATCHES TO GENERAL SHERIDAN
THE TWO TRAMPS
GEN'L PHIL. SHERIDAN (PORTRAIT)
BATTLE ON THE ARICKAREE
BRINGING MEAT INTO CAMP
GENERAL E. A. CARR (PORTRAIT)
A CRACK SHOT
A HARD CROWD
CAMPING IN THE SNOW
A WELCOME VISITOR
THE RECAPTURE OF BEVINS
ROBBING A STAGE COACH
THE KILLING OF TALL BULL
AN OLD BONE
A WEDDING CEREMONY
A RIDE FOR LIFE
PRAIRIE DOG VILLAGE
FINDING THE REMAINS OF THE BUCK PARTY
SPOTTED TAIL (PORTRAIT)
GBAND DUKE ALEXIS (PORTRAIT)
TWO-LANCE KILLING A BUFFALO
AN EMBARRASSING SITUATION?
TEXAS JACK (PORTRAIT)
STUDYING THE PARTS
BEHIND THE FOOTLIGHTS
LEARNING THE GAME
A DUEL WITH CHIEF YELLOW HAND
SCOUTING ON A STEAMBOAT
ONE OF THE TROUPE
Early Days in Iowa--A Brother's Death--The Family Move to a New
Country--Incidents on the Road--The Horse Race--Our "Little Gray"
Victorious--A Pleasant Acquaintance--Uncle Elijah Cody--Our New
Dress Parade at Fort Leavenworth--The Beautiful Salt Creek Valley--The
Mormon Emigrants--The Wagon Trains--The Cholera--A Lively Scene--My First
Sight of Indians--"Dolly" and "Prince"--A Long-Lost Relative Turns
up--Adventurous Career of Horace Billings--His Splendid
Horsemanship--Catching Wild Horses.
BOY DAYS IN KANSAS.
My Indian Acquaintances--An Indian Barbecue--Beginning of the Kansas
Troubles--An Indiscreet Speech by my Father, who is Stabbed for his
Boldness--Persecutions at the Hands of the Missourians--A Strategic
Escape--A Battle at Hickory Point--A Plan to Kill Father is Defeated by
Myself--He is Elected to the Lecompton Legislature--I Enter the Employ of
William Russell--Herding Cattle--A Plot to Blow Up our House--A Drunken
Missourian on the War-Path.
At School--My First Love Scrape--I Punish my Rival, and then Run Away--My
First Trip Across the Plains--Steve Gobel and I are Friends once
more--Death of my Father--I Start for Salt Lake--Our Wagon Train
Surprised by Indians, who Drive us off, and Capture our Outfit--I Kill my
First Indian--Our Return to Leavenworth--I am Interviewed by a Newspaper
Reporter, who gives me a Good "Send-Off."
My Second Trip Across the Plains--The Salt Lake Trail--Wild Bill--He
Protects me from the Assault of a Bully--A Buffalo Hunt--Our Wagon Train
Stampeded by Buffaloes--We are Taken Prisoners by the Mormons--We Proceed
to Fort Bridger.
A Dreary Winter At Fort Bridger--Short Rations--Mule Steaks--Homeward
Bound in the Spring--A Square Meal--Corraled by Indians--A Mule
Barricade--We Hold the Fort--Home Again--Off for the West--Trapping on
the Chugwater And Laramie Rivers--We go to Sleep In a Human Grave--A
Horrifying Discovery--A Jollification at Oak Grove Ranch--Home Once
More--I go to School--The Pike's Peak Gold Excitement--Down the Platte
River on a Raft--I Become a Pony Express Rider.
ACCIDENTS AND ESCAPES.
Trapping on Prairie Dog Creek--An Accident whereby we Lose one of our
Oxen--I Fall and Break my Leg--Left Alone in Camp--Unwelcome Visitors--A
Party of Hostile Sioux Call upon me and Make Themselves at Home--Old
Rain-in-the-Face Saves my Life--Snow-Bound-A Dreary Imprisonment--Return
of my Partner--A Joyful Meeting--We Pull Out for Home--Harrington Dies.
ADVENTURES ON THE OVERLAND ROAD.
Introduction to Alf. Slade--He Employs me as a Pony Express Rider--I Make
a Long Ride--Indians Attack an Overland Stage Coach--Wild Bill Leads a
Successful Expedition against the Indians--A Grand Jollification at
Sweetwater Bridge--Slade Kills a Stage Driver--The End of the Spree--A
Bear Hunt--I fall among Horse Thieves--My Escape--I Guide a Party to
Capture the Gang.
Bob Scott, the Stage Driver--The Story of the Most Reckless Piece of
Stage Driving that ever Occurred on the Overland Road.
The Civil War--Jayhawking--Wild Bill's Fight with the McCandless Gang of
Desperadoes--I become Wild Bill's Assistant Wagon-Master--We Lose our
Last Dollar on a Horse Race--He becomes a Government Scout--He has a Duel
Scouting against the Indians in the Kiowa and Comanche country--The
Red-Legged Scouts--A Trip to Denver--Death of my Mother--I Awake one
Morning to Find myself a Soldier--I am put on Detached Service as a
Scout--The Chase after Price--An Unexpected Meeting with Wild Bill--An
Unpleasant Situation--Wild Bill's Escape from the Southern Lines--The
Charge upon Price's Army--We return to Springfield.
I Fall in Love--A Successful Courting Expedition--I am Married--The
Happiest Event of my Life--Our Trip up the Missouri River--The
Bushwhackers Come after me--I become Landlord of a Hotel--Off for the
Plains once more--Scouting on the Frontier for the Government--A Ride
with General Custer--An Expedition from Fort Hays has a Lively Chase
after Indians--Cholera in Camp.
A Town Lot Speculation--"A Big Thing"--I become Half-Owner of a
City--Corner Lots Reserved--Rome's Rapid Rise--We consider ourselves
Millionaires--Dr. Webb--Hays City--We Regard ourselves as Paupers--A Race
with Indians--Captain Graham's Scout after the Indians.
EARNING A TITLE.
Hunting for the Kansas Pacific--How I got my Name of "Buffalo Bill"--The
Indians give me a Lively Chase--They get a Dose of their own
Medicine--Another Adventure--Scotty and myself Corraled by Indians--A
Fire Signal brings Assistance--Kit Carson.
CHAMPION BUFFALO KILLER.
A Buffalo Killing Match with Billy Comstock--An Excursion party from St.
Louis come out to Witness the Sport--I win the Match, and am declared the
Champion Buffalo Killer of the Plains.
Scouting--Captured by Indians--A Strategic Escape--A Hot Pursuit--The
Indians led into an Ambush--Old Satanta's Tricks and Threats--Excitement
at Fort Larned--Herders and Wood-Choppers Killed by the Indians--A
Perilous Ride--I get into the wrong Pew--Safe, arrival at Fort
Hays--Interview with General Sheridan--My ride to Fort Dodge--I return
to Fort Larned--My Mule gets away from me--A long Walk--The Mule Passes
In his Chips.
General Sheridan appoints me Guide and Chief of Scouts of the Fifth
Cavalry--The Dog Soldiers--General Forsyth's Fight on the Arickaree Fork.
Arrival of the Fifth Cavalry at Fort Hays--Out on a Scout--A little
Skirmish with Indians--A Buffalo Hunt--A False Alarm in camp--A Scout on
the Beaver--The Supply Camp is Surprised--Arrival of General Carr--The
new Lieutenant and his Reception--Another Indian Hunt--An Engagement--A
Crack Shot--I have a little Indian fight of my own--Return to Fort
Wallace--While hunting Buffaloes with a small Party, we are Attacked by
A TOUGH TIME.
A Winter's Campaign in the Canadian River Country--Searching for
Penrose's Command--A Heavy Snow-Storm--Taking the Wagon Train down a
Mountain Side--Camp Turkey--Darkey Deserters from Penrose's
Command--Starvation in Penrose's Camp--We reach the Command with
Timely Relief--Wild Bill--A Beer Jollification--Hunting
Antelopes--Return to Fort Lyon.
AN EXCITING CHASE.
A Difficulty with a Quartermaster's Agent--I give him a Severe
Pounding--Stormy Interview with General Bankhead and Captain Laufer--I
put another "Head" on the Quartermaster's Agent--I am Arrested--In the
Guard-House--General Bankhead Releases me--A Hunt after Horse
Thieves--Their Capture--Escape of Bevins--His Recapture--Escape of
Williams--Bevins Breaks Out of Jail--His Subsequent Career.
A MILITARY EXPEDITION.
The Fifth Cavalry is Ordered to the Department of the Platte--Liquids
_vs._ Solids--A Skirmish with the Indians--Arrival at Fort
McPherson--Appointed Chief of Scouts--Major Frank North and the Pawnee
Scouts--Belden the White Chief--The Shooting Match--Review of the Pawnee
Scouts--An Expedition against the Indians--"Buckskin Joe."
A DESPERATE FIGHT.
Pawnees _vs_. Siouxs--We strike a Large Trail--The Print of a Woman's
Shoe--The Summit Springs Fight--A Successful Charge--Capture of the
Indian Village--Rescue of a White Woman--One hundred and forty Indians
Killed--I kill Tall Bull and Capture his Swift Steed--The Command
proceeds to Fort Sedgwick--Powder Face--A Scout after Indian
Horse-Thieves--"Ned Buntline"--"Tall Bull" as a Racer--Powder Face wins a
Race without a Rider--An Expedition to the Niobrara--An Indian Tradition.
I make my Home at Fort McPherson--Arrival of my Family--Hunting and Horse
Racing--An Indian Raid--Powder Face Stolen--A Lively Chase--An Expedition
to the Republican River Country--General Duncan--A Skirmish with the
Indians--A Stern Chase--An Addition to my Family--Kit Carson Cody--I am
made a Justice of the Peace--A Case of Replevin--I perform a Marriage
Ceremony--Professor Marsh's Fossil-Hunting Expedition.
The Grand Hunt of General Sheridan, James Gordon Bennett, and other
Distinguished Gentlemen--From Fort McPherson to Fort Hays--Incidents of
the Trip--"Ten Days on the Plains"--General Carr's Hunting Expedition--A
Joke on McCarthy--A Search for the Remains of Buck's Surveying Party, who
had been Murdered by the Indians.
HUNTING WITH A GRAND DUKE.
The Grand Duke Alexis Hunt--Selection of a Camp--I Visit Spotted
Tail's Camp--The Grand Duke and Party arrive at Camp Alexis--Spotted
Tail's Indians give a Dance--The Hunt--Alexis Kills his First
Buffalo--Champagne--The Duke Kills another Buffalo--More Champagne--End
of the Hunt--Departure of the Duke and his Party.
My Visit in the East--Reception in Chicago--Arrival in New York--I am
well Entertained by my old Hunting Friends--I View the Sights of the
Metropolis--Ned Buntline--The Play of "Buffalo Bill"--I am Called Upon to
make a Speech--A Visit to my Relatives--Return to the West.
Arrival of the Third Cavalry at Fort McPherson--A Scout after Indians--A
Desperate Fight with Thirteen Indians--A Hunt with the Earlof Dunraven--A
Hunt with a Chicago Party--Milligan's Bravery--Neville--I am Elected to
the Nebraska Legislature.
I resolve to go upon the Stage--I resign my Seat in the
Legislature--Texas Jack--"The Scouts of the Plains"--A Crowded House--A
Happy Thought--A Brilliant _Debut_--A Tour of the Country.
The Theatrical Season of 1873-74--Wild Bill and his Tricks--He Leaves us
at Rochester--He becomes a "Star"--A Bogus "Wild Bill "--A Hunt with
Thomas P. Medley, an English gentleman--A Scout on the Powder River and
in the Big Horn Country--California Joe--Theatrical Tour of 1874 and
1875--Death of my son, Kit Carson Cody.
A RETURN TO THE PLAINS.
The Sioux Campaign of 1876--I am appointed Guide and Chief of Scouts of
the Fifth Cavalry--An Engagement with eight hundred Cheyennes--A Duel
with Yellow Hand--Generals Terry and Crook meet, and cooperate Together.
Scouting on a Steamboat--Captain Grant Marsh--A Trip down the Yellowstone
River--Acting as Dispatch Carrier--I Return East and open my Theatrical
Season with a New Play--Immense Audiences--I go into the Cattle Business
in company with Major Prank North--My Home at North Platte.
A Cattle "Round-up"--A Visit to My Family in our New Home--A Visit from
my Sisters--I go to Denver--Buying more Cattle--Pawnee and Nez-Perces
Indians Engaged for a Theatrical Tour--The Season of 1878-79--An
experience in Washington--Home Once More.
THE LIFE OF HON. WILLIAM F. CODY
My _debut_ upon the world's stage occurred on February 26th, 1845. The
scene of this first important event in my adventurous career, being in
Scott county, in the State of Iowa. My parents, Isaac and Mary Ann Cody,
who were numbered among the pioneers of Iowa, gave to me the name of
William Frederick. I was the fourth child in the family. Martha and
Julia, my sisters, and Samuel my brother, had preceded me, and the
children who came after me were Eliza, Nellie, Mary, and Charles, born in
the order named.
At the time of my birth the family resided on a farm which they called
"Napsinekee Place,"--an Indian name--and here the first six or seven
years of my childhood were spent. When I was about seven years old my
father moved the family to the little town of LeClair, located on the
bank of the Mississippi, fifteen miles above the city of Davenport. Even
at that early age my adventurous spirit led me into all sorts of mischief
and danger, and when I look back upon my childhood's days I often wonder
that I did not get drowned while swimming or sailing, or my neck broken
while I was stealing apples in the neighboring orchards.
I well remember one day that I went sailing with two other boys; in a few
minutes we found ourselves in the middle of the Mississippi; becoming
frightened at the situation we lost our presence of mind, as well as our
oars. We at once set up a chorus of pitiful yells, when a man, who
fortunately heard us, came to our rescue with a canoe and towed us
ashore. We had stolen the boat, and our trouble did not end until we had
each received a merited whipping, which impressed the incident vividly
upon my mind. I recollect several occasions when I was nearly eaten up by
a large and savage dog, which acted as custodian of an orchard and also
of a melon patch, which I frequently visited. Once, as I was climbing
over the fence with a hatful of apples, this dog, which had started for
me, caught me by the seat of the pantaloons, and while I clung to the top
of the fence he literally tore them from my legs, but fortunately did not
touch my flesh. I got away with the apples, however, by tumbling over to
the opposite side of the fence with them.
It was at LeClair that I acquired my first experience as an equestrian.
Somehow or other I had managed to corner a horse near a fence, and had
climbed upon his back. The next moment the horse got his back up and
hoisted me into the air, I fell violently to the ground, striking upon my
side in such a way as to severely wrench and strain my arm, from the
effects of which I did not recover for some time. I abandoned the art of
horsemanship for a while, and was induced after considerable persuasion
to turn my attention to letters--my A, B, C's--which were taught me at
the village school.
My father at this time was running a stage line, between Chicago and
Davenport, no railroads then having been built west of Chicago. In 1849
he got the California fever and made up his mind to cross the great
plains--which were then and for years afterwards called the American
Desert--to the Pacific coast. He got ready a complete outfit and started
with quite a party. After proceeding a few miles, all but my father, and
greatly to his disappointment, changed their minds for some reason and
abandoned the enterprise. They all returned home, and soon afterwards
father moved his family out to Walnut Grove Farm, in Scott county.
[Illustration: YOUTHFUL ADVENTURES.]
While living there I was sent to school, more for the purpose of being
kept out of mischief than to learn anything. Much of my time was spent in
trapping quails, which were very plentiful. I greatly enjoyed studying
the habits of the little birds, and in devising traps to take them in. I
was most successful with the common figure "4" trap which I could build
myself. Thus I think it was that I acquired my love for hunting. I
visited the quail traps twice a day, morning and evening, and as I had
now become quite a good rider I was allowed to have one of the farm
horses to carry me over my route. Many a jolly ride I had and many a
boyish prank was perpetrated after getting well away from and out of the
sight of home with the horse.
There was one event which occurred in my childhood, which I cannot recall
without a feeling of sadness. It was the death of my brother Samuel, who
was accidentally killed in his twelfth year.
My father at the time, being considerable of a politician as well as a
farmer, was attending a political convention; for he was well known in
those days as an old line Whig. He had been a member of the Iowa
legislature, was a Justice of the Peace, and had held other offices. He
was an excellent stump speaker and was often called upon to canvass the
country round about for different candidates. The convention which he was
attending at the time of the accident was being held at a cross-road
tavern called "Sherman's," about a mile away.
Samuel and I had gone out together on horseback for the cows. He rode a
vicious mare, which mother had told him time and again not to ride, as it
had an ugly disposition. We were passing the school house just as the
children were being dismissed, when Samuel undertook to give an
exhibition of his horsemanship, he being a good rider for a boy. The
mare, Betsy, became unmanageable, reared and fell backward upon him,
injuring him internally. He was picked up and carried amid great
excitement to the house of a neighbor.
I at once set out with my horse at the top of his speed for my father,
and informed him of Samuel's mishap. He took the horse and returned
immediately. When I arrived at Mr. Burns' house, where my brother was, I
found my father, mother and sisters there, all weeping bitterly at
Samuel's bedside. A physician, after examining him, pronounced his
injuries to be of a fatal character. He died the next morning.
My brother was a great favorite with everybody, and his death cast a
gloom upon the whole neighborhood. It was a great blow to all of the
family, and especially to father who seemed to be almost heart
broken over it.
Father had been greatly disappointed at the failure of his California
expedition, and still desired to move to some new country. The death of
Samuel no doubt increased this desire, and he determined to emigrate.
Accordingly, early in the spring of 1852, he disposed of his farm, and
late in March we took our departure for Kansas, which was then an
unsettled territory. Our outfit consisted of one carriage, three wagons
and some fine blooded horses. The carriage was occupied by my mother and
sisters. Thus we left our Iowa home.
[Illustration: SAMUEL'S FATAL ACCIDENT.]
Father had a brother, Elijah Cody, living at Weston, Platte county,
Missouri. He was the leading merchant of the place. As the town was
located near the Kansas line father determined to visit him, and thither
our journey was directed. Our route lay across Iowa and Missouri, and the
trip proved of interest to all of us, and especially to me. There was
something new to be seen at nearly every turn of the road. At night the
family generally "put up" at hotels or cross-road taverns along the way.
One day as we were proceeding on our way, we were met by a horseman who
wanted to sell his horse, or trade-him for another. He said the horse had
been captured wild in California; that he was a runner and a racer; that
he had been sold by his different owners on account of his great desire
to run away when taking part in a race.
The stranger seemed to be very frank in his statements, and appeared to
be very anxious to get rid of the animal, and as we were going to Kansas
where there would be plenty of room for the horse to run as far as he
pleased, father concluded to make a trade for him; so an exchange of
animals was easily and satisfactorily effected.
The new horse being a small gray, we named him "Little Gray."
An opportunity of testing the racing qualities of the horse was soon
afforded. One day we drove into a small Missouri town or hamlet which lay
on our route, where the farmers from the surrounding country were
congregated for the purpose of having a holiday--the principal amusement
being horse-racing. Father had no trouble in arranging a race for Little
Gray, and selected one of his teamsters to ride him.
The Missourians matched their fastest horse against him and were
confident of cleaning out "the emigrant," as they called father. They
were a hard looking crowd. They wore their pantaloons in their boots;
their hair was long, bushy and untrimed; their faces had evidently never
made the acquaintance of a razor. They seemed determined to win the race
by fair means or foul. They did a great deal of swearing, and swaggered
about in rather a ruffianly style.
All these incidents attracted my attention--everything being new to
me--and became firmly impressed upon my memory. My father, being
unaccustomed to the ways of such rough people, acted very cautiously; and
as they were all very anxious to bet on their own horse, he could not be
induced to wager a very large sum on Little Gray, as he was afraid of
"Wa-al, now, stranger," exclaimed one of the crowd, "what kind o'critter
have you got anyhow, as how you're afraid to back him up very heavy?"
"I'll bet five to one agin the emergrant's, gray," said another.
"I'm betting the same way. I'll go yer five hundred dollars agin a
hundred that the gray nag gits left behind. Do I hear any man who wants
to come agin me on them yer terms?" shouted still another.
"Hi! yer boys, give the stranger a chance. Don't scare him out of
his boots," said a man who evidently was afraid that my father
might back out.
Father had but little to say, however, and would not venture more than
fifty dollars on the result of the race.
"Gentlemen, I am only racing my horse for sport," said he, "and am only
betting enough to make it interesting. I have never seen Little Gray run,
and therefore don't know what he can do;" at the same time he was
confident that his horse would come in the winner, as he had chosen an
excellent rider for him.
Finally all the preliminaries of the contest were arranged. The judges
were chosen and the money was deposited in the hands of a stake-holder.
The race was to be a single dash, of a mile. The horses were brought side
by side and mounted by their riders.
At the signal--"One, two, three, go!"--off they started like a flash. The
Missouri horse took the lead for the first quarter of a mile; at the
half-mile, however, he began to weaken. The Missourians shouted
themselves hoarse in urging their horse, but all to no avail. The Little
Gray passed him and continued to leave him farther and farther behind,
easily winning the race.
The affair created a great deal of enthusiasm; but the race was conducted
with honor and fairness, which was quite an agreeable surprise to my
father, who soon found the Missourians to be at heart very clever
men--thus showing that outside appearances are sometimes very deceptive;
they nearly all came up and congratulated him on his success, asked him
why he had not bet more money on the race, and wanted to buy Little Gray.
"Gentlemen," said he, "when I drove up here and arranged for this race, I
felt confident that my horse would win it. I was among entire strangers,
and therefore I only bet a small amount. I was afraid that you would
cheat me in some way or other. I see now that I was mistaken, as I have
found you to be honorable men."
"Wa-all, you could have broke _me_" said the man who wanted to bet the
five hundred dollars to one hundred, "for that there nag o' yourn looks
no more like a runner nor I do."
During our stay in the place they treated us very kindly, and continued
to try to purchase Little Gray. My father, however, remained firm in his
determination not to part with him.
The next place of interest which we reached, after resuming our journey,
was within twenty miles of Weston. We had been stopping at farm houses
along the road, and could not get anything to eat in the shape of bread,
except corn bread, of which all had become heartily tired. As we were
driving along, we saw in the distance a large and handsome brick
residence. Father said: "They probably have white bread there."
We drove up to the house and learned that it was owned and occupied by
Mrs. Burns; mother of a well-known lawyer of that name, who is now living
in Leavenworth. She was a wealthy lady, and gave us to understand in a
pleasant way, that she did not entertain travelers. My father, in the
course of the conversation with her, said: "Do you know Elijah Cody?"
"Indeed, I do," said she; "he frequently visits us, and we visit him; we
are the best of friends."
"He is a brother of mine," said father.
"Is it possible!" she exclaimed; "Why, you must remain here all night.
Have your family come into the house at once. You must not go another
The kind invitation was accepted, and we remained there over night. As
father had predicted, we found plenty of white bread at this house, and
it proved quite a luxurious treat.
My curiosity was considerably aroused by the many negroes which I saw
about the premises, as I had scarcely ever seen any colored people,
the few, being on the steamboats as they passed up and down the
The next day my father and mother drove over to Weston in a carriage,
and returned with my Uncle Elijah. We then all proceeded to his house,
and as Kansas was not yet open for settlement as a territory, we remained
there a few days, while father crossed over into Kansas on a prospecting
tour. He visited the Kickapoo agency--five miles above Weston--on the
Kansas side of the Missouri river. He became acquainted with the agent,
and made arrangements to establish himself there as an Indian trader. He
then returned to Weston and located the family on one of Elijah Cody's
farms, three miles from town, where we were to remain until Kansas should
be thrown open for settlement. After completing these arrangements, he
established a trading post at Salt Creek Valley, in Kansas, four miles
from the Kickapoo agency.
One day, after he had been absent some little time, he came home and said
that he had bought two ponies for me, and that next morning he would take
me over into Kansas. This was pleasant news, as I had been very anxious
to go there with him, and the fact that I was now the owner of two ponies
made me feel very proud. That night I could not sleep a wink. In the
morning I was up long before the sun, and after an early breakfast,
father and I started out on our trip. Crossing the Missouri river at the
Rialto Ferry, we landed in Kansas and passed along to Fort Leavenworth,
four miles distant.
General Harney was in command at Fort Leavenworth at the time of our
visit, and a regiment of cavalry was stationed there. They were having a
dress parade when we rode up, and as this was the first time that I had
ever seen any soldiers, I thought it was a grand sight. I shall never
forget it, especially the manoeuvres on horseback.
After witnessing the parade we resumed our journey. On the way to my
father's trading camp we had to cross over a high hill known as Salt
Creek Hill, from the top of which we looked down upon the most beautiful
valley I have ever seen. It was about twelve miles long and five miles
wide. The different tributaries of Salt Creek came down from the range of
hills at the southwest. At the foot of the valley another small
river--Plum Creek, also flowed. The bluffs fringed with trees, clad in
their full foliage, added greatly to the picturesqueness of the scene.
While this beautiful valley greatly interested me, yet the most novel
sight, of an entirely different character, which met my enraptured gaze,
was the vast number of white-covered wagons, or "prairie-schooners,"
which were encamped along the different streams. I asked my father what
they were and where they were going; he explained to me that they were
emigrant wagons bound for Utah and California.
At that time the Mormon and California trails ran through this
valley, which was always selected as a camping place. There were at
least one thousand wagons in the valley, and their white covers lent
a pleasing contrast to the green grass. The cattle were quietly
grazing near the wagons, while the emigrants were either resting or
attending to camp duties.
A large number of the wagons, as I learned from my father, belonged to
Majors & Russell, the great government freighters. They had several
trains there, each consisting of twenty-five wagons, heavily loaded with
government supplies. They were all camped and corraled in a circle.
While we were viewing this scene, a long wagon train came pulling up the
hill, bound out from Fort Leavenworth to some distant frontier post. The
cattle were wild and the men were whipping them fearfully, the loud
reports of the bull-whips sounding like gun-shots. They were
"doubling-up," and some of the wagons were being drawn by fifteen yokes
of oxen. I remember asking my father a great many questions, and he
explained to me all about the freighting business across the great
plains, and told me about the different government posts.
Pointing over to the army of wagons camped below us, he showed me which
were the Mormons' and which were the Californians', and said that we must
steer clear of the former as the cholera was raging among them. Five
hundred had died that spring--1853--and the grave-yard was daily
increasing its dimensions. The unfortunate people had been overtaken by
the dreadful disease, and had been compelled to halt on their journey
until it abated.
While we were looking at the Mormons they were holding a funeral service
over the remains of some of their number who had died. Their old cemetery
is yet indicated by various land-marks, which, however, with the few
remaining head-boards, are fast disappearing.
We passed on through this "Valley of Death," as it might then have been
very appropriately called, and after riding for some time, my father
pointed out a large hill and showed me his camp, which afterwards
became our home.
There was another trading-post near by, which was conducted by Mr.
M.P. Rively, who had a store built, partly frame, and partly of logs.
We stopped at this establishment for a while, and found perhaps a
hundred men, women and children gathered there, engaged in trading and
gossipping. The men had huge pistols and knives in their belts; their
pantaloons were tucked in their boots; and they wore large
To me they appeared like a lot of cut-throat pirates who had come ashore
for a lark. It was the first time I had ever seen men carrying pistols
and knives, and they looked like a very dangerous crowd. Some were buying
articles of merchandise; others were talking about the cholera, the
various camps, and matters of interest; while others were drinking whisky
freely and becoming intoxicated. It was a busy and an exciting scene, and
Rively appeared to be doing a rushing trade.
At some little distance from the store I noticed a small party of
dark-skinned and rather fantastically dressed people, whom I ascertained
were Indians, and as I had never before seen a real live Indian, I was
much interested in them. I went over and endeavored to talk to them, but
our conversation was very limited.
That evening we reached our camp, which was located two miles west of
Rively's. The first thing I did was to hunt up my ponies, and from my
father's description of them, I had no difficulty in finding them.
They were lariated in the grass and I immediately ran up to them
supposing them to be gentle animals. I was greatly mistaken, however,
as they snorted and jumped away from me, and would not allow me to
come near them.
My father, who was standing not far distant, informed me that the ponies
were not yet broken. I was somewhat disappointed at this; and thereupon
he and one of his men caught one of the animals and bridled her, then
putting me on her back, led her around, greatly to my delight. I kept
petting her so much that she soon allowed me to approach her. She was a
beautiful bay, and I named her "Dolly;" the other pony was a sorrel, and
I called him "Prince."
In the evening some Indians visited the camp--which as yet consisted only
of tents, though some logs had been cut preparatory to building
houses--and exchanged their furs for clothing, sugar and tobacco. Father
had not learned their language, and therefore communicated with them by
means of signs. We had our supper by the camp-fire, and that night was
the first time I ever camped out and slept upon the ground.
The day had been an eventful one to me, for all the incidents were full
of excitement and romance to my youthful mind, and I think no apology is
needed for mentioning so many of the little circumstances, which so
greatly interested me in my childhood's days, and which no doubt had a
great influence in shaping my course in after years. My love of hunting
and scouting, and life on the plains generally, was the result of my
The next morning father visited the Kickapoo agency, taking me along. He
rode a horse, and putting me on my pony "Dolly," led the animal all the
way. He seemed anxious to break me in, as well as the pony, and I
greatly enjoyed this, my first day's ride on a Kansas prairie.
At the Kickapoo village I saw hundreds of Indians, some of whom were
living in lodges, but the majority occupied log cabins. The agent resided
in a double-hewed log house, one of the apartments of which was used as a
school for the Indians. The agency store was opposite this structure.
All the buildings were whitewashed, and looked neat and clean. The
Kickapoos were very friendly Indians, and we spent much of our time among
them, looking about and studying their habits.
After a while we returned to our own camp, and just as we arrived there,
we saw a drove of horses--there were three or four hundred in
all--approaching from the west, over the California trail. They were
being driven by seven or eight mounted men, wearing sombreros, and
dressed in buckskin, with their lariats dangling from their saddles, and
they were followed by two or three pack-mules or horses. They went into
camp a little below us on the bank of the stream.
Presently one of the men walked out towards our camp, and my father
called to me to come and see a genuine Western man; he was about six feet
two inches tall, was well built, and had a light, springy and wiry step.
He wore a broad-brimmed California hat, and was dressed in a complete
suit of buckskin, beautifully trimmed and beaded. He saluted us, and
father invited him to sit down, which he did. After a few moments
conversation, he turned to me and said:
"Little one, I see you are working with your ponies. They are wild yet."
I had been petting Dolly and trying to break her, when my father called
me to come and look at the Californian.
"Yes," I replied, "and one of them never has been ridden."
"Well, I'll ride him for you;" and springing lightly to his feet, he
continued: "come on. Where is the animal?"
Accordingly we all went to the place where Prince was lariated. The
stranger untied the rope from the picket pin, and taking a half-loop
around the pony's nose, he jumped on his back.
In a moment he was flying over the prairie, the untamed steed rearing and
pitching every once in a while in his efforts to throw his rider; but the
man was not unseated. He was evidently an experienced horseman. I watched
his every movement. I was unconsciously taking another lesson in the
practical education which has served me so well through my life.
The Californian rode the pony until it was completely mastered, then
coming up to me, jumped to the ground, handed me the rope, and said:
"Here's your pony. He's all right now."
I led Prince away, while father and the stranger sat down in the shade of
a tent, and began talking about the latter's horsemanship, which father
considered very remarkable.
"Oh, that's nothing; I was raised on horseback," said the Californian; "I
ran away from home when a boy, went to sea, and finally landed in the
Sandwich Islands, where I fell in with a circus, with which I remained
two years. During that time I became a celebrated bare-back rider. I then
went to California, being attracted there by the gold excitement, the
news of which had reached the Islands. I did not go to mining, however,
but went to work as a _bocarro_-catching and breaking wild horses, great
numbers of which were roaming through California. Last summer we caught
this herd that we have brought with us across the plains, and are taking
it to the States to sell. I came with the outfit, as it gave me a good
opportunity to visit my relatives, who live at Cleveland, Ohio. I also
had an uncle over at Weston, across the river, when I ran away, and
to-morrow I am going to visit the town to see if he is there yet."
[Illustration: BILLINGS AS A BOCARRO]
"I am acquainted in Weston," said father, "and perhaps I can tell you
about your uncle. What is his name?"
"Elijah Cody," said the Californian.
"Elijah Cody!" exclaimed father, in great surprise; "why Elijah Cody is
my brother. I am Isaac Cody. Who are you?"
"My name is Horace Billings," was the reply.
"And you are my nephew. You are the son of my sister Sophia."
Both men sprang to their feet and began shaking hands in the heartiest
The next moment father called me, and said: "Come here, my son. Here is
some one you want to know."
As I approached he introduced us. "Horace, this is my only son. We call
him little Billy;" and turning to me said: "Billy, my boy, this is a
cousin of yours, Horace Billings, whom you've often heard me speak of."
Horace Billings had never been heard of from the day he ran away from
home, and his relatives had frequently wondered what had become of him.
His appearance, therefore, in our camp in the guise of a Californian was
somewhat of a mystery to me, and I could hardly comprehend it until I had
heard his adventurous story and learned the accidental manner in which he
and father had made themselves known to each other.
Neither father nor myself would be satisfied until he had given us a full
account of his wanderings and adventures, which were very exciting to me.
Late in the afternoon and just before the sun sank to rest, the
conversation again turned upon horses and horsemanship. Father told
Billings all about Little Gray, and his great fault of running away.
Billings laughed and said Little Gray could not run away with him.
After supper he went out to look at the horse, which was picketed in the
grass. Surveying the animal carefully, he untied the lariat and slipped a
running noose over his nose; then giving a light bound, he was on his
back in a second, and away went the horse and his rider, circling round
and round on the prairie. Billings managed him by the rope alone, and
convinced him that he was his master. When half a mile away, the horse
started for camp at the top of his speed. Billings stood straight up on
his back, and thus rode him into camp. As he passed us he jumped to the
ground, allowed the horse to run to the full length of the lariat, when
he threw him a complete somersault.
[Illustration: BILLINGS RIDING LITTLE GRAY.]
"That's a pretty good horse," said Billings.
"Yes, he's a California horse; he was captured there wild," replied
father. The exhibition of horsemanship given by Billings on this
occasion was really wonderful, and was the most skillful and daring feat
of the kind that I ever witnessed. The remainder of the evening was spent
around the camp, and Horace, who remained there, entertained us with
several interesting chapters of his experiences.
Next morning he walked over to his own camp, but soon returned, mounted
on a beautiful horse, with a handsome saddle, bridle and lariat. I
thought he was a magnificent looking man. I envied his appearance, and my
ambition just then was to become as skillful a horseman as he was. He had
rigged himself out in his best style in order to make a good impression
on his uncle at Weston, whither father and I accompanied him on
He was cordially received by Uncle Elijah, who paid him every possible
attention, and gave me a handsome saddle and bridle for my pony, and in
the evening when we rode out to the farm to see my mother and sisters, I
started ahead to show them my present, as well as to tell them who was
coming. They were delighted to see the long-lost Horace, and invited him
to remain with us. When we returned to camp next day, Horace settled up
with the proprietor of the horses, having concluded to make his home with
us for that summer at least.
Father employed him in cutting house logs and building houses, but this
work not being adapted to his tastes, he soon gave it up, and obtained
government employment in catching United States horses. During the
previous spring the government herd had stampeded from Fort Leavenworth,
and between two and three hundred of the horses were running at large
over the Kansas prairies, and had become quite wild. A reward of ten
dollars was offered for every one of the horses that was captured and
delivered to the quartermaster at Fort Leavenworth. This kind of work of
course just suited the roaming disposition of Billings, especially as it
was similar to that in which he had been engaged in California. The
horses had to be caught with a lasso, with which he was very expert. He
borrowed Little Gray, who was fleet enough for the wildest of the
runaways, and then he at once began his horse hunting.
[Illustration: EXCITING SPORT.]
Everything that he did, I wanted to do. He was a sort of hero in my eyes,
and I wished to follow in his footsteps. At my request and with father's
consent, he took me with him, and many a wild and perilous chase he led
me over the prairie. I made rapid advances in the art of horsemanship,
for I could have had no better teacher than Horace Billings. He also
taught me how to throw the lasso, which, though it was a difficult thing
to learn, I finally became, quite skillful in.
Whenever Horace caught one of the horses which acted obstinately, and
would not be led, he immediately threw him to the ground, put a saddle
and bridle on him, and gave me Little Gray to take care of. He would then
mount the captive horse and ride him into Fort Leavenworth. I spent two
months with Horace in this way, until at last no more of the horses were
to be found. By this time I had become a remarkably good rider for a
youth, and had brought both of my ponies under easy control.
Horace returned to assist father in hauling logs, which were being used
in building a dwelling for the family who had moved over from Missouri.
One day a team did not work to suit him, and he gave the horses a cruel
beating. This greatly displeased father, who took him to task for it.
Horace's anger flew up in a moment; throwing down the lines he hurried to
the house, and began packing up his traps. That same day he hired out to
a Mormon train, and bidding us all good-bye started for Salt Lake,
driving six yokes of oxen.
BOY DAYS IN KANSAS.
During the summer of 1853 we lived in our little log house, and father
continued to trade with the Indians, who became very friendly; hardly a
day passed without a social visit from them. I spent a great deal of time
with the Indian boys, who taught me how to shoot with the bow and arrow,
at which I became quite expert. I also took part in all their sports, and
learned to talk the Kickapoo language to some extent.
Father desired to express his friendship for these Indians, and
accordingly arranged a grand barbecue for them. He invited them all to be
present on a certain day, which they were; he then presented them with
two fat beeves, to be killed and cooked in the various Indian styles.
Mother made several large boilers full of coffee, which she gave to them,
together with sugar and bread. There were about two hundred Indians in
attendance at the feast, and they all enjoyed and appreciated it. In the
evening they had one of their grand fantastic war dances, which greatly
amused me, it being the first sight of the kind I had ever witnessed.
My Uncle Elijah and quite a large number of gentlemen and ladies came
over from Weston to attend the entertainment. The Indians returned to
their homes well satisfied.
My uncle at that time owned a trading post at Silver Lake, in the
Pottawattamie country, on the Kansas river, and he arranged an excursion
to that place. Among the party were several ladies from Weston, and
father, mother and myself. Mr. McMeekan, my uncle's superintendent, who
had come to Weston for supplies, conducted the party to the post.
The trip across the prairies was a delightful one, and we remained at the
post several days. Father and one or two of the men went on to Fort Riley
to view the country, and upon their return my uncle entertained the
Pottawattamie Indians with a barbecue similar to the one given by father
to the Kickapoos.
During the latter part of the summer father filled a hay contract at Fort
Leavenworth. I passed much of my time among the campers, and spent days
and days in riding over the country with Mr. William Russell, who was
engaged in the freighting business and who seemed to take a considerable
interest in me. In this way I became acquainted with many wagon-masters,
hunters and teamsters, and learned a great deal about the business of
handling cattle and mules.
It was an excellent school for me, and I acquired a great deal of
practical knowledge, which afterwards I found to be of invaluable
service, for it was not long before I became employed by Majors &
Russell, remaining with them in different capacities, for several years.
The winter of 1853-54 was spent by father at our little prairie home in
cutting house logs and fence rails, which he intended to use on his farm,
as soon as the bill for the opening of the territory for settlement
should pass. This bill, which was called the "Enabling act of Kansas
territory," was passed in April, 1854, and father immediately pre-empted
the claim on which we were living.
The summer of that year was an exciting period in the history of the new
territory. Thousands and thousands of people, seeking new homes, flocked
thither, a large number of the emigrants coming over from adjoining
states. The Missourians, some of them, would come laden with bottles of
whisky, and after drinking the liquor would drive the bottles into the
ground to mark their land claims, not waiting to put up any buildings.
The Missourians, mostly, were pro-slavery men, and held enthusiastic
meetings at which they expressed their desire that Kansas should be a
slave state and did not hesitate to declare their determination to make
it so. Rively's store was the headquarters for these men, and there they
held their meetings.
[Illustration: STAKING OUT LOTS.]
At first they thought father would coincide with them on account of his
brother Elijah being a Missourian, but in this they were greatly
mistaken. At one of their gatherings, when there were about one hundred
of the reckless men present, my father, who happened also to be there,
was called upon for a speech. After considerable urging, he mounted the
box and began speaking, as nearly as I can recollect, as follows:
"Gentlemen and Fellow-citizens: You have called upon me for a speech, and
I have accepted your invitation rather against my will, as my views may
not accord with the sentiments of the rest of this assembly. My remarks,
at this time, will be brief and to the point. The question before us
to-day is, shall the territory of Kansas be a free or a slave state. The
question of slavery in itself is a broad one, and one which I do not care
at this time and place to discuss at length. I apprehend that your motive
in calling upon me is to have me express my sentiments in regard to the
introduction of slavery into Kansas. I shall gratify your wishes in that
respect. I was one of the pioneers of the State of Iowa, and aided in its
settlement when it was a territory, and helped to organize it as a state.
"Gentlemen, I voted that it should be a _white_ state--that negroes,
whether free or slave, should never be allowed to locate within its
limits; and, gentlemen, I say to you now, and I say it boldly, that I
propose to exert all my power in making Kansas the same kind of a state
as Iowa. I believe in letting slavery remain as it now exists, and I
shall always oppose its further extension. These are my sentiments,
gentlemen and let me tell you--"
He never finished this sentence, or his speech. His expressions were
anything but acceptable to the rough-looking crowd, whose ire had been
gradually rising to fever heat, and at this point they hooted and hissed
him, and shouted, "You black abolitionist, shut up!" "Get down from that
box!" "Kill him!" "Shoot him!" and so on. Father, however, maintained his
position on the dry-goods box, notwithstanding the excitement and the
numerous invitations to step down, until a hot-headed pro-slavery man,
who was in the employ of my Uncle Elijah, crowded up and said: "Get off
that box, you black abolitionist, or I'll pull you off."
Father paid but little attention to him, and attempted to resume his
speech, intending doubtless to explain his position and endeavor to
somewhat pacify the angry crowd. But the fellow jumped up on the box, and
pulling out a huge bowie knife, stabbed father twice, who reeled and fell
to the ground. The man sprang after him, and would have ended his life
then and there, had not some of the better men in the crowd interfered in
time to prevent him from carrying out his murderous intention.
The excitement was intense, and another assault would probably have been
made on my father, had not Rively hurriedly carried him to his home.
There was no doctor within any reasonable distance, and father at once
requested that he be conveyed in the carriage to his brother Elijah's
house in Weston. My mother and a driver accordingly went there with him,
where his wounds were dressed. He remained in Weston several weeks before
he was able to stir about again, but he never fully recovered from the
wounds, which eventually proved the cause of his death.
[Illustration: MY FATHER STABBED]
My uncle of course at once discharged the ruffian from his employ. The
man afterwards became a noted desperado, and was quite conspicuous in the
My father's indiscreet speech at Rively's brought upon our family all of
the misfortunes and difficulties which from that time on befell us. As
soon as he was able to attend to his business again, the Missourians
began to harass him in every possible way, and kept it up with hardly a
moment's cessation. Kickapoo City, as it was called, a small town that
had sprung into existence seven miles up the river from Fort
Leavenworth, became the hot-bed of the pro-slavery doctrine and the
headquarters of its advocates. Here was really the beginning of the
Kansas troubles. My father, who had shed the first blood in the cause of
the freedom of Kansas, was notified, upon his return to his trading post,
to leave the territory, and he was threatened with death by hanging or
shooting, if he dared to remain.
[Illustration: MY FATHER'S ESCAPE]
One night a body of armed men, mounted on horses, rode up to our house
and surrounded it. Knowing what they had come for, and seeing that there
would be but little chance for him in an encounter with them, father
determined to make his escape by a little stratagem. Hastily disguising
himself in mother's bonnet and shawl, he boldly walked out of the house
and proceeded towards the corn-field. The darkness proved a great
protection, as the horsemen, between whom he passed, were unable to
detect him in his disguise; supposing him to be a woman, they neither
halted him nor followed him, and he passed safely on into the
corn-field, where he concealed himself.
The horsemen soon dismounted and inquired for father; mother very
truthfully told them that he was away. They were not satisfied with her
statement, however, and they at once made a thorough search of the house.
They raved and swore when they could not find him, and threatened him
with death whenever they should catch him. I am sure if they had captured
him that night, they would have killed him. They carried off nearly
everything of value in the house and about the premises; then going to
the pasture, they drove off all the horses; my pony Prince afterward
succeeding in breaking away from them and came back home. Father lay
secreted in the corn-field for three days, as there were men in the
vicinity who were watching for him all the time; he finally made his
escape, and reached Fort Leavenworth in safety, whither the pro-slavery
men did not dare to follow him.
While he was staying at Fort Leavenworth, he heard that Jim Lane, Captain
Cleveland and Captain Chandler were on their way from Indiana to Kansas
with a body of Free State men, between two and three hundred strong. They
were to cross the Missouri river near Doniphan, between Leavenworth and
Nebraska City; their destination being Lawrence. Father determined to
join them, and took passage on a steamboat which was going up the river.
Having reached the place of crossing, he made himself known to the
leaders of the party, by whom he was most cordially received.
The pro-slavery men, hearing of the approach of the Free State party,
resolved to drive them out of the territory. The two parties met at
Hickory Point, where a severe battle was fought, several being killed;
the victory resulted in favor of the Free State men, who passed on to
Lawrence without much further opposition. My father finally left them,
and seeing that he could no longer live at home, went to Grasshopper
Falls, thirty-five miles west of Leavenworth; there he began the
erection of a saw-mill.
While he was thus engaged we learned from one of our hired workmen at
home, that the pro-slavery men had laid another plan to kill him, and
were on their way to Grasshopper Falls to carry out their intention.
Mother at once started me off on Prince to warn father of the coming
danger. When I had gone about seven miles I suddenly came upon a party of
men, who were camped at the crossing of Stranger Creek. As I passed along
I heard one of them, who recognized me, say, "That's the son of the old
abolitionist we are after;" and the next moment I was commanded to halt.
[Illustration: LIFE OR DEATH.]
Instead of stopping I instantly started my pony on a run, and on looking
back I saw that I was being pursued by three or four of the party, who
had mounted their horses, no doubt supposing that they could easily
capture me. It was very fortunate that I had heard the remark about my
being "the son of the abolitionist," for then I knew in an instant that
they were _en route_ to Grasshopper Falls to murder my father. I at once
saw the importance of my escaping and warning father in time. It was a
matter of life or death to him. So I urged Prince to his utmost speed,
feeling that upon him and myself depended a human life--a life that was
dearer to me than that of any other man in the world. I led my pursuers a
lively chase for four or five miles; finally, when they saw they could
not catch me, they returned to their camp. I kept straight on to
Grasshopper Falls, arriving there in ample time to inform him of the
approach of his old enemies.
That same night father and I rode to Lawrence, which had become the
headquarters of the Free State men. There he met Jim Lane and several
other leading characters, who were then organizing what was known as the
Father was elected as a member of that body, and took an active part in
organizing the first legislature of Kansas, under Governor Reeder, who,
by the way, was a Free State man and a great friend of father's.
About this time agents were being sent to the East to induce emigrants to
locate in Kansas, and father was sent as one of these agents to Ohio.
After the legislature had been organized at Lawrence, he departed for
Ohio and was absent several months.
A few days after he had gone, I started for home by the way of Fort
Leavenworth, accompanied by two men, who were going to the fort on
business. As we were crossing a stream called Little Stranger, we were
fired upon by some unknown party; one of my companions, whose name has
escaped my memory, was killed. The other man and myself put spurs to our
horses and made a dash for our lives. We succeeded in making our escape,
though a farewell shot or two was sent after us. At Fort Leavenworth I
parted company with my companion, and reached home without any further
My mother and sisters, who had not heard of my father or myself since I
had been sent to warn him of his danger, had become very anxious and
uneasy about us, and were uncertain as to whether we were dead or alive.
I received a warm welcome home, and as I entered the house, mother seemed
to read from the expression of my countenance that father was safe; of
course the very first question she asked was as to his whereabouts, and
in reply I handed her a long letter from him which explained everything.
Mother blessed me again and again for having saved his life.
While father was absent in Ohio, we were almost daily visited by some of
the pro-slavery men, who helped themselves to anything they saw fit, and
frequently compelled my mother and sisters to cook for them, and to
otherwise submit to a great deal of bad treatment. Hardly a day passed
without some of them inquiring "where the old man was," saying they would
kill him on sight. Thus we passed the summer of 1854, remaining at our
home notwithstanding the unpleasant surroundings, as mother had made up
her mind not to be driven out of the country. My uncle and other friends
advised her to leave Kansas and move to Missouri, because they did not
consider our lives safe, as we lived so near the headquarters of the
pro-slavery men, who had sworn vengeance upon father.
Nothing, however, could persuade mother to change her determination. She
said that the pro-slavery men had taken everything except the land and
the little home, and she proposed to remain there as long as she lived,
happen what might. Our only friends in Salt Creek valley were two
families; one named Lawrence, the other Hathaway, and the peaceable
Indians, who occasionally visited us. My uncle, living in Missouri and
being somewhat in fear of the pro-slavery men, could not assist us much,
beyond expressing his sympathy and sending us provisions.
In the winter of 1854-55 father returned from Ohio, but as soon as his
old enemies learned that he was with us, they again compelled him to
leave. He proceeded to Lawrence, and there spent the winter in attending
the Lecompton Legislature. The remainder of the year he passed mostly at
Grasshopper Falls, where he completed his saw-mill. He occasionally
visited home under cover of the night, and in the most secret manner;
virtually carrying his life in his hand.
In the spring of this year (1855) a pro-slavery party came to our house
to search for father; not finding him, they departed, taking with them my
pony, Prince. I shall never forget the man who stole that pony. He
afterwards rose from the low level of a horse thief to the high dignity
of a justice of the peace, and I think still lives at Kickapoo. The loss
of my faithful pony nearly broke my heart and bankrupted me in business,
as I had nothing to ride.
One day, soon afterwards, I met my old friend, Mr. Russell, to whom I
related all my troubles, and his generous heart was touched by my story.
"Billy, my boy," said he, "cheer up, and come to Leavenworth, and I'll
employ you. I'll give you twenty-five dollars a month to herd cattle."
I accepted the offer, and heartily thanking him, hurried home to obtain
mother's consent. She refused to let me go, and all my pleading was in
vain. Young as I was--being then only in my tenth year, my ideas and
knowledge of the world, however, being far in advance of my age--I
determined to run away from home. Mr. Russell's offer of twenty-five
dollars a month was a temptation which I could not resist. The
remuneration for my services seemed very large to me, and I accordingly
stole away and walked to Leavenworth.
Mr. Badger, one of Mr. Russell's superintendents, immediately sent me
out, mounted on a little gray mule, to herd cattle. I worked at this for
two months, and then came into Leavenworth. I had not been home during
all this time, but mother had learned from Mr. Russell where I was, and
she no longer felt uneasy, as he had advised her to let me remain in his
employ. He assured her that I was all right, and said that when the herd
came in he would allow me to make a visit home.
Upon my arrival in Leavenworth with the herd of cattle, Mr. Russell
instructed his book-keeper, Mr. Byers, to pay me my wages, amounting to
fifty dollars. Byers gave me the sum all in half-dollar pieces. I put the
bright silver coins into a sack, which I tied to my mule, and started
home, thinking myself a _millionaire_. This money I gave to mother, who
had already forgiven me for running away.
Thus began my service for the firm of Russell & Majors, afterwards
Russell, Majors & Waddell, with whom I spent seven years of my life in
different capacities--such as cavallard-driver, wagon-master, pony
express rider and driver. I continued to work for Mr. Russell during
the rest of the summer of 1855, and in the winter of 1855-56 I
Father, who still continued to secretly visit home, was anxious to have
his children receive as much of an education as possible, under the
adverse circumstances surrounding us, and he employed a teacher, Miss
Jennie Lyons, to come to our house and teach. My mother was well
educated--more so than my father--and it used to worry her a great deal
because her children could not receive better educational advantages.
However, the little school at home got along exceedingly well, and we all
made rapid advances in our studies, as Miss Lyons was an excellent
teacher. She afterwards married a gentleman named Hook, who became the
first mayor of Cheyenne, where she now lives.
The Kansas troubles reached their highest pitch in the spring of 1856,
and our family continued to be harassed as much as ever by our old
enemies. I cannot now recollect one-half of the serious difficulties that
we had to encounter; but I very distinctly remember one incident well
worth relating. I came home one night on a visit from Leavenworth, being
accompanied by a fellow-herder--a young man. During the night we heard a
noise outside of the house, and soon the dogs began barking loudly. We
looked out to ascertain the cause of the disturbance, and saw that the
house was surrounded by a party of men. Mother had become accustomed to
such occurrences, and on this occasion she seemed to be master of the
situation from the start. Opening a window, she coolly sang out, in a
firm tone of voice: "Who are you? What do you want here?"
"We are after that old abolition husband of yours," was the answer from
one of the crowd.
"He is not in this house, and has not been here for a long time," said
"That's a lie! We know he is in the house, and we are bound to have him,"
said the spokesman of the party.
I afterwards learned they had mistaken the herder, who had ridden home
with me, for my father for whom they had been watching.
"My husband is not at home," emphatically repeated my heroic mother--for
if there ever was a heroine she certainly was one--"but the house is full
of armed men," continued she, "and I'll give you just two minutes to get
out of the yard; if you are not out by the end of that time I shall order
them to fire on you."
She withdrew from the window for a few moments and hurridly instructed
the herder to call aloud certain names--any that he might think of--just
as if the house was full of men to whom he was giving orders. He followed
her directions to the very letter. He could not have done it any better
had he rehearsed the act a dozen times.
The party outside heard him, as it was intended they should, and they
supposed that my mother really had quite a force at her command. While
this little by play was being enacted, she stepped to the open window
again and said:
"John Green, you and your friends had better go away or the men will
surely fire on you."
At this, point the herder, myself and my sisters commenced stamping on
the floor in imitation of a squad of soldiers, and the herder issued his
orders in a loud voice to his imaginary troops, who were apparently
approaching the window preparatory to firing a volley at the enemy. This
little stratagem proved eminently successful. The cowardly villains began
retreating, and then my mother fired an old gun into the air which
greatly accelerated their speed, causing them to break and run. They soon
disappeared from view in the darkness.
The next morning we accidentally discovered that they had intended to
blow up the house. Upon going into the cellar which had been left open on
one side, we found two kegs of powder together with a fuse secreted
there. It only required a lighted match to have sent us into eternity. My
mother's presence of mind, which had never yet deserted her in any trying
situation, had saved our lives.
Shortly after this affair, I came home again on a visit and found father
there sick with fever, and confined to his bed. One day my old enemy rode
up to the house on my pony Prince, which he had stolen from me.
"What is your business here to-day?" asked mother.
"I am looking for the old man," he replied. "I am going to search the
house, and if I find him I am going to kill him. Here, you girls," said
he, addressing my sisters, "get me some dinner, and get it quick, too,
for I am as hungry as a wolf."
"Very well; pray be seated, and we'll get you something to eat," said one
of my sisters, without exhibiting the least sign of fear.
He sat down, and while they were preparing a dinner for him, he took out
a big knife and sharpened it on a whetstone, repeating his threat of
searching the house and killing my father.
I had witnessed the whole proceeding, and heard the threats, and I
determined that the man should never go up stairs where father was lying
in bed, unable to rise. Taking a double-barreled pistol which I had
recently bought, I went to the head of the stairs, cocked the weapon, and
waited for the ruffian to come up, determined, that the moment he set
foot on the steps I would kill him. I was relieved, however, from the
stern necessity, as he did not make his appearance.
The brute was considerably intoxicated when he came to the house, and the
longer he sat still the more his brain became muddled with liquor, and he
actually forgot what he had come there for. After he had eaten his
dinner, he mounted his horse and rode off, and it was a fortunate thing
for him that he did.
Father soon recovered and returned to Grasshopper Falls, while I resumed
my cattle herding.
In July, 1856, the people living in the vicinity of our home--feeling the
necessity of more extensive educational facilities for their children
than they had yet had--started a subscription school in a little log
cabin on the bank of the creek, which for a while proved quite a success.
My mother being very anxious to have me attend this school, I acceded to
her oft-repeated wishes, and returning home, I became a pupil of the
institution. I made considerable progress in my studies--such as they
were--and was getting along very well in every other respect, until I
became involved in my first love affair.
Like all school-boys, I had a sweetheart with whom I was "dead in
love"--in a juvenile way. Her name was Mary Hyatt. Of course I had a
rival, Stephen Gobel, a boy about three years my senior--the "bully"
of the school. He was terribly jealous, and sought in every way to
revenge himself upon me for having won the childish affections of
sweet little Mary.
The boys of the school used to build play-houses or arbors among the
trees and bushes for their sweethearts. I had built a play-house for
Mary, when Steve, as we called him, leveled it to the ground. We
immediately had a very lively fight, in which I got badly beaten. The
teacher heard of our quarrel and whipped us both. This made matters worse
than ever, as I had received two thrashings to Steve's one; I smothered
my angry feelings as much as possible under the humiliating
circumstances, and during the afternoon recess built another play-house,
thinking that Gobel would not dare to destroy a second one; but I was
mistaken, for he pushed the whole structure over at the first
opportunity. I came up to him just as he finished the job, and said:
"Steve Gobel, the next time you do that, I'll hurt you." And I meant it,
too; but he laughed and called me names.
[Illustration: TWO TO ONE.]
At recess, next morning, I began the construction of still another
playhouse, and when I had it about two-thirds finished, Steve slyly
sneaked up to the spot and tipped the whole thing over. I jumped for him
with the quickness of a cat, and clutching him by the throat for a moment
I had the advantage of him. But he was too strong for me, and soon had me
on the ground and was beating me severely. While away from home I had
someway come into possession of a very small pocket dagger, which I had
carried about with me in its sheath, using it in place of a knife. During
the struggle this fell from my pocket, and my hand by accident rested
upon it as it lay upon the ground. Exasperated beyond measure at Steve's
persistence in destroying my play-houses, and smarting under his blows, I
forgot myself for the moment, grasped the dagger and unthinkingly thrust
it into Steve's thigh. Had it been larger it would probably have injured
him severely; as it was, it made a small wound, sufficient to cause the
blood to flow freely and Steve to cry out in affright:
"I am killed! O, I am killed!"
The school children all rushed to the spot and were terrified at
"What's the matter?" asked one.
"Bill Cody has killed Steve Gobel," replied another.
The uproar reached the teacher's ear, and I now saw him approaching, with
vengeance in his eye and a big club in his hand. I knew that he was
coming to interview _me_. I was dreadfully frightened at what I had done,
and undecided whether to run away or to remain and take the consequences;
but the sight of that flag-staff in the school teacher's hand was too
much for me. I no longer hesitated, but started off like a deer. The
teacher followed in hot pursuit, but soon became convinced that he could
not catch me, and gave up the chase. I kept on running, until I reached
one of Russell, Major & Waddell's freight trains which I had noticed
going over the hill for the west. Fortunately for me I knew the
wagon-master, John Willis, and as soon as I recovered my breath I told
him what had happened.
"Served him right, Billy," said he, "and what's more, we'll go over and
clean out the teacher."
"Oh, no; don't do that," said I, for I was afraid that I might fall
into the hands of the wounded boy's friends, who I knew would soon be
looking for me.
"Well, Billy, come along with me; I am bound for Fort Kearney; the trip
will take me forty days. I want you for a cavallard driver."
"All right," I replied, "but I must go home and tell mother about it, and
get some clothes."
"Well then, to-night after we make our camp, I'll go back with you."
The affray broke up the school for the rest of the day as the excitement
was too much for the children. Late in the afternoon, after the train had
moved on some considerable distance, I saw Steve's father, his brother
Frank, and one of the neighbors rapidly approaching.
"Mr. Willis, there comes old Gobel, with Frank and somebody else, and
they are after me--what am I going to do?" I asked.
"Let 'em come," said he, "they can't take you if I've got anything to say
about it, and I rather think I have. Get into one of the wagons--keep
quiet and lay low. I'll manage this little job. Don't you fret a bit
I obeyed his orders and felt much easier.
Old Gobel, Frank and the neighbor soon came up and inquired for me.
"He's around here somewhere," said Mr. Willis.
"We want him," said Gobel; "he stabbed my son a little while ago, and I
want to arrest him."
"Well, you can't get him; that settles it; so you needn't waste any of
your time around here," said Willis.
Gobel continued to talk for a few minutes, but getting no greater
satisfaction, the trio returned home.
When night came, Willis accompanied me on horseback to my home. Mother,
who had anxiously searched for me everywhere--being afraid that something
had befallen me at the hands of the Gobels--was delighted to see me,
notwithstanding the difficulty in which I had become involved. I at once
told her that at present I was afraid to remain at home, and had
accordingly made up my mind to absent myself for a few weeks or
months--at least until the excitement should die out. Mr. Willis said to
her that he would take me to Fort Kearney with him, and see that I was
properly cared for, and would bring me back safely in forty days.
Mother at first seriously objected to my going on this trip fearing I
would fall into the hands of Indians. Her fears, however, were soon
overcome, and she concluded to let me go. She fixed me up a big bundle of
clothing and gave me a quilt. Kissing her and my sisters a fond farewell,
I started off on my first trip across the plains, and with a light heart
too, notwithstanding my trouble of a few hours before.
The trip proved a most enjoyable one to me, although no incidents
worthy of note occurred on the way. On my return from Fort Kearney I
was paid off the same as the rest of the employees. The remainder of
the summer and fall I spent in herding cattle and working for Russell,
Majors & Waddell.
I finally ventured home--not without some fear, however, of the Gobel
family--and was delighted to learn that during my absence mother had had
an interview with Mr. Gobel, and having settled the difficulty with him,
the two families had become friends again, and I may state, incidentally,
that they ever after remained so. I have since often met Stephen Gobel,
and we have had many a laugh together over our love affair and the affray
at the school-house. Mary Hyatt, the innocent cause of the whole
difficulty, is now married and living in Chicago. Thus ended my first
In the winter of 1856-57 my father, in company with a man named J.C.
Boles, went to Cleveland, Ohio, and organized a colony of about thirty
families, whom they brought to Kansas and located on the Grasshopper.
Several of these families still reside there.
It was during this winter that father, after his return from Cleveland,
caught a severe cold. This, in connection with the wound he had received
at Rively's--from which he had never entirely recovered--affected him
seriously, and in April, 1857, he died at home from kidney disease.
This sad event left my mother and the family in poor circumstances, and I
determined to follow the plains for a livelihood for them and myself. I
had no difficulty in obtaining work under my old employers, and in May,
1857, I started for Salt Lake City with a herd of beef cattle, in charge
of Frank and Bill McCarthy, for General Albert Sidney Johnson's army,
which was then being sent across the plains to fight the Mormons.
Nothing occurred to interrupt our journey until we reached Plum Creek, on
the South Platte river, thirty-five miles west of Old Fort Kearney. We
had made a morning drive and had camped for dinner. The wagon-masters and
a majority of the men had gone to sleep under the mess wagons; the cattle
were being guarded by three men, and the cook was preparing dinner. No
one had any idea that Indians were anywhere near us. The first warning we
had that they were infesting that part of the country was the firing of
shots and the whoops and yells from a party of them, who, catching us
napping, gave us a most unwelcome surprise. All the men jumped to their
feet and seized their guns. They saw with astonishment the cattle running
in every direction, they having been stampeded by the Indians, who had
shot and killed the three men who were on day-herd duty, and the red
devils were now charging down upon the rest of us.
I then thought of mother's fears of my falling into the hands of the
Indians, and I had about made up my mind that such was to be my fate; but
when I saw how coolly and determinedly the McCarthy brothers were
conducting themselves and giving orders to the little band, I became
convinced that we would "stand the Indians off," as the saying is. Our
men were all well armed with Colt's revolvers and Mississippi yagers,
which last, carried a bullet, and two buckshots.
The McCarthy boys, at the proper moment, gave orders to fire upon the
advancing enemy. The volley checked them, although they returned the
compliment, and shot one of our party through the leg. Frank McCarthy
then sang out, "Boys, make a break for the slough yonder, and we can then
have the bank for a breast-work."
[Illustration: KILLING MY FIRST INDIAN.]
We made a run for the slough which was only a short distance off,
and succeeded in safely reaching it, bringing with us the wounded
man. The bank proved to be a very effective breast-work, affording
us good protection. We had been there but a short time when Frank
McCarthy, seeing that the longer we were corraled the worse it would
be for us, said:
"Well, boys, we'll try to make our way back to Fort Kearney by wading in
the river and keeping the bank for a breast-work."
We all agreed that this was the best plan, and we accordingly proceeded
down the river several miles in this way, managing to keep the Indians at
a safe distance with our guns, until the slough made a junction with the
main Platte river. From there down we found the river at times quite
deep, and in order to carry the wounded man along with us we constructed
a raft of poles for his accommodation, and in this way he was
Occasionally the water would be too deep for us to wade, and we were
obliged to put our weapons on the raft and swim. The Indians followed us
pretty close, and were continually watching for an opportunity to get a
good range and give us a raking fire. Covering ourselves by keeping well
under the bank, we pushed ahead as rapidly as possible, and made pretty
good progress, the night finding us still on the way and our enemies
still on our track.
I being the youngest and smallest of the party, became somewhat tired,
and without noticing it I had fallen behind the others for some little
distance. It was about ten o'clock and we were keeping very quiet and
hugging close to the bank, when I happened to look up to the moon-lit sky
and saw the plumed head of an Indian peeping over the bank. Instead of
hurrying ahead and alarming the men in a quiet way, I instantly aimed my
gun at the head and fired. The report rang out sharp and loud on the
night air, and was immediately followed by an Indian whoop, and the next
moment about six feet of dead Indian came tumbling into the river. I was
not only overcome with astonishment, but was badly scared, as I could
hardly realize what I had done. I expected to see the whole force of
Indians come down upon us. While I was standing thus bewildered, the men,
who had heard the shot and the war-whoop and had seen the Indian take a
tumble, came rushing back.
"Who fired that shot?" cried Frank McCarthy.
"I did," replied I, rather proudly, as my confidence returned and I saw
the men coming up.
"Yes, and little Billy has killed an Indian stone-dead--too dead to
skin," said one of the men, who had approached nearer than the rest, and
had almost stumbled upon the corpse. From that time forward I became a
hero and an Indian killer. This was, of course, the first Indian I had
ever shot, and as I was not then more than eleven years of age, my
exploit created quite a sensation.
The other Indians, upon learning what had happened to their "advance
guard," set up a terrible howling, and fired several volleys at us, but
without doing any injury, as we were so well protected by the bank. We
resumed our journey down the river, and traveled all night long. Just
before daylight, Frank McCarthy crawled out over the bank and discovered
that we were only five miles from Fort Kearney, which post we reached in
safety in about two hours,--shortly after _reveille_--bringing the
wounded man with us. It was indeed a relief to us all to feel that once
more we were safe.
Frank McCarthy immediately reported to the commanding officer and
informed him of all that had happened. The commandant at once ordered a
company of cavalry and one of infantry to proceed to Plum Creek on a
forced march--taking a howitzer with them--to endeavor to recapture the
cattle from the Indians.
The firm of Russell, Majors & Waddell had a division agent at Kearney,
and this agent mounted us on mules so that we could accompany the troops.
On reaching the place where the Indians had surprised us, we found the
bodies of the three men whom they had killed and scalped, and literally
cut into pieces. We of course buried the remains. We caught but few of
the cattle; the most of them having been driven off and stampeded with
the buffaloes, there being numerous immense herds of the latter in that
section of the country at that time. The Indian's trail was discovered
running south towards the Republican river, and the troops followed it to
the head of Plum Creek, and there abandoned it, returning to Fort Kearney
without having seen a single red-skin.
The company's agent, seeing that there was no further use for us in that
vicinity--as we had lost our cattle and mules--sent us back to Fort
Leavenworth. The company, it is proper to state, did not have to stand
the loss of the expedition, as the government held itself responsible for
such depredations by the Indians.
On the day that I got into Leavenworth, sometime in July, I was
interviewed for the first time in my life by a newspaper reporter, and
the next morning I found my name in print as "the youngest Indian slayer
on the plains." I am candid enough to admit that I felt very much elated
over this notoriety. Again and again I read with eager interest the long
and sensational account of our adventure. My exploit was related in a
very graphic manner, and for a long time afterwards I was considerable of
a hero. The reporter who had thus set me up, as I then thought, on the
highest pinnacle of fame, was John Hutchinson, and I felt very grateful
to him. He now lives in Wichita, Kansas.
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