William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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The Barber County Index, September 29, 1927.

THE GREAT WEST THAT WAS - CODY

Col. Wm. F. Cody, "Buffalo Bill" Tells of the Interesting Times
When the West Was in its Glory

I am about to take the back trail through the Old West - the west that I knew and loved. All my life it has been a pleasure to show its beauties, its marvels and its possibilities to those, who under my guidance, saw it for the first time.

Now going back over the ground, looking at it through the eyes of memory, it will be a still greater pleasure to take with me the many readers of this article. And if, in following me through some of the exciting scenes of the old days, meeting some of the brave men who made its stirring history, and listening to my camp-fire tales of the buffalo, the Indian, the stage coach and the pony express, their interest in this vast land of my youth shall be awakened, I shall feel richly repaid.

The Indian, tamed, educated and inspired with a taste for white collars and moving pictures, is as numerous as ever, but not so picturesque. On the little tracts of his great inheritance allotted him by civilization he is working out his own manifest destiny.

The buffalo is gone. Also is the stage coach whose progress his pilgrimages often used to interrupt. Gone the pony express, whose marvelous efficiency could compete with the wind, but not with the harnessed lightning flashed over the telegraph wires. Gone are the very bone-gatherers who laboriously collected the bleaching relics of the great herds that once dotted the prairies.

But the west of the old times, with its strong characters, its stern battles and its tremendous stretches of loneliness, can never be blotted from my mind. Nor can it, I hope, be blotted from the memory of the American people, to whom it has now became a priceless possession.

It has been my privilege to spend my working years on the frontier. I have known and served with commanders like Sherman, Sheridan, Miles, Custer and A. A. Carr - men who would be leaders in any army in any age. I have known and helped to fight with many of the most notable of the Indian warriors. Frontiersmen good and bad, gunmen as well as inspired prophets of the future, have been my camp companions. Thus, I know the country of which I am about to write as few men now living have known it.

I was born on a farm near LeClair, Scott county, Iowa, February 26, 1846. My father, Isaac Cody, had emigrated to what was then a frontier State. He and his people, as well as my mother, had all dwelt in Ohio. I remember that there were Indians all about us, looking savage enough as they slouched about the village streets or looped along the roads with their ponies. But they bore no hostility toward anything save work and soap and water.

We were comfortable and fairly prosperous on the little farm. My mother, whose maiden name was Mary Ann Leacock, took an active part in the life of the neighborhood. Educations were scarce in those days. Even school teachers did not always posses them. Mother's education was far beyond the average, and the local school board used to require all applicants for teachers positions to be examined by her before they were entrusted with the tender intellects of the pioneer children.

But the love of adventure was in father's blood.

A Famous "Big Chief" Peace Council.

At the close of the war, General William Tecumseh Sherman was placed at the head of the Peace Commission which had been sent to the border to counsel with the Indians. It had become necessary to put an end to the hostility of the red men immediately either by treaty or by force. His raids on the settlers could be endured no longer.

The purpose of the party which Sherman headed was to confer with the greatest of the hostile chiefs. Treaties were to be agreed upon if possible. If negotiations for peace failed, the council would at least act as a stay of hostilities. The army was rapidly reorganizing, and it would soon be possible to mobilize enough troops to put down the Indians in case they refused to come to terms peaceably.

The camp of the Kiowas and Comanches - the first Indians with whom Sherman meant to deal - was about three hundred miles southwest of Leavenworth in the great buffalo range, and in the midst of the trackless Plains.

By ambulance and on horseback, with wagons to carry the supplies the party set out for its first objective - Council Springs on the Arkansas River, about sixty miles beyond old Fort Zarrah.

I was chosen as one of the scouts or dispatch carriers to accompany the party. The guide was Dick Curtis, a plainsman of wide experience among the Indians.

For mile after mile I rode with Sherman, and we became fast friends. He asked me all manner of questions on the way, and I found that he knew my father well, and remembered his tragic death in Salt Creek Valley. He asked what had become of the rest of the family and all about my career. At the end of the ride I had told him my life history.

As we were riding along together, with the outfit following on I noticed pony tracks from time to time, and knew that we were nearing the Springs. Presently I said:

"General, we are going to find Indians at the Springs when we reach there." "How do you know?" "We have been riding where ponies have been grazing for the last mile."

The General in surprise. "Show me one."

I jumped off my horse and thrusting the buffalo grass aside I pointed out many tracks of barefooted ponies.

"When we rise that ridge," I told him, "we shall see the village and thousands of ponies and Indian lodges."

"I haven't seen any tracks," said the General.

In a very few minutes this prophecy came true. Curtis and the other scouts with the officers rode up quickly behind us, and we all had a fine view of this wonderful sight of the desert - a great Indian camp. As we stood, gazing at the spectacle we observed great excitement in the village. Warriors by the dozens were leaping on their horses and riding toward us, till at least a thousand of them were in the "receiving line."

"It looks to me as if we had better fall into position," said Sherman.

"It is not necessary." I said. "They have given us the peace sign. They are coming toward us without arms."

So Sherman, with General Harney, General Sanborn, and the other officers rode slowly forward to meet the oncoming braves.

"This is where you need Curtis." I told the General as he advanced. "He is the best Kiowa and Comanche interpreter on the plains and he knows every one of these Indians personally."

Curtis was accordingly summoned and made interpreter, while I was assigned to remain about the commander's tent and given charge of the scouts.

As the Indians drew near with signs of friendliness, Curtis introduced the chiefs, Santanta, Lone Wolf, Kicking Bird, and others, to General Sherman as the head of the Peace Commission.

The Indians, having been notified in advanced of the coming of the Commission, had already selected a special spring for our camp and had prepared a great feast in honor of the meeting. To this feast, which was spread in the center of the village, the Commissioners were conducted, while the scouts and the escort went into camp.

The Indians had erected a great canopy of tanned buffalo skins on teepee poles. Underneath were robes for seats for the General and his staff, and thither they were led with great ceremony. Near by was a great fire on which buffalo antelope and other animals were roasting. Even coffee and sugar had been provided, and the feast was served with tin plates for the meat and tin cups for the coffee. Another tribute to the customs of the guests was complete outfit of knives and forks. Napkins however, appeared to be lacking.

Indian girls, dressed in elaborate costumes, served the repast, the elder women preparing the food. Looking on it seemed to be the most beautiful sight I had ever seen - the grim old generals, who for the last four and a half years had been fighting a great war, sitting serenely and contently down to meet and drink with the chiefs of a wild, and till lately a hostile race.

After all had eaten the great chief Satanta loaded the big peace pipe whose bowl was hewn from red stone, with a beautifully carved stem eighteen inches long. The pipe was passed from mouth to mouth around the circle. After the smoke was ended Satanta raised his towering hulk above the banqueters. He drew his red blanket around his broad shoulders, leaving his naked right arm free for with his right arm an Indian is deprived of his real powers of oratory. Making signs to illustrate his every sentence, he spoke:

"My great white brothers, I welcome you to my camp and to my people. You can rest in safety, with out a thought of fear, because our hearts are now good to you - because we hope that the words you are going to speak to us will make us glad that you have come. We know that you have come a long way to see us. We feel that you are going to give us or send us presents which will gladden the hearts of all my people.

"I know that you must be very tired, and as I see that your tents are pitched it would make our hearts glad to walk over to your village with you, where you can rest and sleep well, and we hope that you will dream of the many good things you are going to send us and tell us when you are thoroughly rested and feel refreshed.

"I have sent to your tents the choicest of young buffalo, deer and antelope, and if there is anything else in my camp which make your hearts glad I will be pleased to send it to you. If any of your horses should stray away my young men will bring them back to you."

As the old chief concluded, General Sherman, rising, shook his hand, and said:

"My red brother, your beautiful and romantic reception has deeply touched the hearts of my friends and myself. We must heartily thank you for it. When we are rested and after we have slept in your wild prairie city, we should like to hold a council with the chiefs and warriors congregated here."

When the officers returned to their own camp, they agreed that the feast was very grand, that the Indian maidens who served it were very beautiful in their gay costumes and beautiful moccasins. Most of the them, however, had observed that the hands of the squaws who did the cooking looked as if they had not touched water for several months. It stuck in the memory of some of the guests that, in their efforts to clean the tinware the squaws had left more soap in the corners than was necessary. The coffee had a strange flavor of soap.

"If we are going to have a banquet every day," said one officer, "I think I'll do my eating in our own camp."

General Sherman reminded him that this would be highly impolite to the hosts, and ordered them, as soldiers to line up for mess when the Indians made a feast.

At ten o'clock the next morning the first session of the great council was held. For three days the white chiefs and the red chiefs sat in a circle under the canopy, and many promises of friendship were made by the Indians. When the council was concluded, General Sherman sent for me.

"Billy," he said, "I want you to send two good men to Fort Ellsworth with dispatches, where they can be forwarded to Fort Riley, the end of the telegraph line. After your men are rested they can return to Fort Zarrah and join us." When the two men were instructed by the General and were on their way, he took me into his tent.

"I want to go to Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River," he said, "then to Fort St. Barine, on the Platte, and then to Laramie, after that we will go to Cottonwood Springs, then to Fort Kearney and then to Leavenworth. Can you guide me on that trip?"

I told him I could, and was made guide, chief of scouts and master of transportation, acting with an army officer as quartermaster.

At Bent's Fort another council of ten days was held with the Indians. The journey homeward was made without difficulty. At Leavenworth I took leave of one of the noblest and kindest-hearted man I have ever known. In bidding me good-by, General Sherman said:

"I don't think these councils we have held will amount to much. There was no sincerity in the Indians, promise. I will see that the promises we made to them are carried out to the letter, but when the grass grows in the spring they will be as usual, on the warpath. As soon as the regular army is organized it will have to be sent out here on the Border to quell fresh Indian uprisings, because these Indians will give us no peace till they are thoroughly thrashed."

The general thanked me for my services and told me he was very lucky to find me. "It is not possible that I will be with the troops when they come," he said. "they will be commanded by General Philip Sheridan. You will like Sheridan. He is your kind of man. I will tell him about you when I see him. I expect to hear great reports of you when you are guiding the United States army over the plains, as you have so faithfully guided me. The quartermaster has instructions to pay you at the rate of $140 a month, and as a special reward I have ordered that you be paid $2000 extra. Goodby! I know you will have good luck, because your know your business."


Also see:

"The Medicine Lodge Peace Council": A Graphic Description of Famous Peace Council By An Eye Witness, Gov. A. A. Taylor of Tenn.
Barber County Index, September 29, 1927.

Ten Bears, Comanche Chief, Made an Eloquent Address At The Medicine Lodge Peace Council
Barber County Index, September 29, 1927.

The Medicine Lodge Peace Council Location:
Sworn Statement of I-See-O

Barber County Index, September 29, 1927.

"The Medicine Lodge Peace Council" by George Bent
Barber County Index, September 29, 1927.

"The Medicine Lodge Peace Council": Some More Interesting Articles Telling About Famous Medicine Lodge Indian Peace Council
Barber County Index, September 29, 1927.

Governor Paulen's Address Regarding the Medicine Lodge Peace Council
Barber County Index, October 20, 1927.

The Treaty of Medicine Lodge Creek   The text of the treaty, from Cyberlodg.com


Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!

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