Mrs. Jennie Osborn Writes Most Interesting Article Concerning Experiences In Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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The Barber County Index, September 29, 1927.

EARLY DAYS IN BARBER COUNTY

Mrs. Jennie Osborn Writes Most Interesting Article
Concerning Experiences In Barber County

(Contributed by Mrs. Jennie Stoughton Osborn)

In the year 1866 we moved from Pennsylvania to southwest Missouri and our home was there for eleven years. Some of our neighbors came out here to Barber County, Kansas, and they sent back such glowing accounts of the wonderful place that my father sold out, he and my brother came out here, bringing the stock with them without seeing the place first.

Sam Smith number one, and Mr. Cochran (who became Barber county's representative one term) were neighbors, who came here before my father and brother. My father had fed cattle seven long months a year in Pennsylvania, and was delighted when he came here and turned the cattle on good green grass in early March. My mother and I came in August. As near as we could get here on the railroad was Oswego, Kansas. My brother met us with the team and wagon. It seemed like a forlorn drive to us, so many miles and not many houses. Winfield and Wellington were both rather small towns, and Harper had only about six houses. There was but one shack between it and Medicine Lodge that we saw on our way. The Lodge had but a few houses and hard lookers at that. Mr. Ellis had the best looking house and it was not in the town. Sheldon's store and also Friedley's and Smith's Drug store, saloons and other shacks are all I remember.

Before we got quite to my father's claim we were told that the Indians had sent word that if men did not drive out the horse thieves they would make a raid on the Lodge. Also we were told a lot of men had gone after thieves. That was not soothing news to new comers, and that night, the neighborhood folks gathered at my father's place. They had heard that the Indians were coming through and killing people as they went. It was only a scare and no Indians came there, but they had gone through farther west and were trying to get back to their former homes. The morning came and the folks went home and we unloaded and tried to find places to stow things. The house was a hole in the ground with a log cabin built over it and a dirt roof. We did not know what to do with our canned fruit. It was too hot in the basement, for we had to cook down there, so mother and I started out to hunt a place. We found a few logs still laying up where an old stable had been and it made some shade. We buried the fruit in the ground in the shade of the logs, and not a can spoiled.

In about two weeks another scare came to the people. They came again but concluded to go on to where Ben Stockstill's mother lived. The ground was higher there and the Indians could not steal up on them so well. That was just a joke scare. Stans Parsons who lived with Street Jones on a ranch across the river south of where Forest City used to be, said the Indians were over on Dry Creek and had killed a sheep man and his herder, and were coming on to get the rest of the people. At least that is the way I hear it. Parsons thought it a joke, but it was a cruel one, because the folks were up all night with the little children. I do not know why the settlers rounded up that way for they did not act afraid. But I'll admit I was scared. It was all so new to me. That is how I was ushered in to be a citizen of Barber county.

There was so little work about the house that I could not endure the loneliness or idleness and started to hunt a school or some work. I sewed for a family for a week or so, and went to Sun City Fair with them. I shall never forget that fair, but will not describe it. I tried for the Dole School No. 16 and got it, and the clerk of the board also. That tied me here, Indians or no Indians.

When we were married and my school had closed we started housekeeping in a log cabin. Snakes were numerous. They would get in the house and give me some lively scares. One day I was lying on the bed, (there were no windows, only a chinking left out to give me some light) I heard a rustling and looked up and saw a large snake lying along the log. I ran out of the house and saw a man going by and called to him. He came and killed the snake. The man was a stranger to me but I was more afraid of the snake than of the man. A girl was staying with me and she was taking an afternoon nap one day on a swing bed in the loft. She felt something move under her pillow. She raised the pillow and saw a small snake under it. I could not keep her any longer. She went home.

In a month or so we built us a frame house of four rooms. It was the only frame house between the river at No. 10 school house and Lake City. All others were dug-outs or half dugout. The dimension lumber in the house was cottonwood, sawed at the Easley saw mill on what is known as the "Easley place." Mr. Osborn hauled the siding and other boards from Wichita and the doors, windows, and shingles from Newton. We could not get pine lumber any nearer at that time.

All I know about the Stockade days between the time Mr. Osborn came here and 1878 is what he told me and that which he left in writing. I will give you his own words about his trips hunting a claim and his experiences that followed.

"In 1873 I started west with a friend from Garnett, Kansas. We passed through Emporia, Cottonwood Falls, Marion Center and McPherson. All of these were small towns at that time. There were no roads but a dim trail, where a furrow had been plowed for some miles, east and west, to keep people from getting lost. We went on to Great Bend and camped north of Walnut near Ft. Larned. I think Great Bend had about two hundred people. We went up the Walnut to Rush and Ness. These towns were just laid out. There was just one small house in each town. At Ness Center we heard it was not far to where we could get buffalo. We went up to Leed and over on a creek called Hackberry, and camped. That evening we heard the roar of the main herd as they passed about a mile away. We could see the herd dimly in the distance. Next day while hunting I saw four large buffalo. I gave chase. Soon I came alongside of one and fired rapidly as I could with my revolver. All at once the bull turned and chased me, and nearly got me. Blood was running out his side and streaming down from his mouth, he looked terrible to me when he nearly caught my horse. After a chase of two or three hours, alternately chasing each other, he was killed. I found I had gone about twelve miles.

"Returning to Rush Center, I took claim in Rush county. Later, I found that I had filed on another claim. In the spring of 1874 I started west again. I came out to Great Bend, to Sun City, and on down the Medicine River, taking a claim at the mouth of Bitter Creek. I did not like it much and came on down and traded a watch for the claim that became my home in Barber county. My neighbor on the west was Nick Chrisman, on the south, Jack Stutsman, on the east, Oscar Vanslack. Mrs. Moore with three grown sons and three grown daughters, Mr. Wynkoof, wife and son lived up Cedar Creek.

"The Spring opened up favorably for the settlers with plenty rain up to May. About the twentieth of May while I was getting cedar logs, up Cedar Creek, to build my cabin near Howard Parker's place, the Indians came down the divide between the canon I was in and the canon west, and met a man by the name of Kime. They shot him, cut the harness from the horse, wrung the necks of the chickens he was taking to his claim, threw them on the ground, scalped Kime, took the horses and went on west. I came along in sight of the wagon. I saw the things scattered around but did not go over to the wagon. I soon met Stutsman and Garinghouse and they asked me if I had seen the dead man in the wagon and I told them I had not gone to it. They said the Indians had killed Kime and that two other men were missing from the Lodge, Kenady and Martin. (They were killed over on Walnut and were not found for a few days.) They asked me to take the Moore women to town and they would notify the other people. The Moore boys were gone to Wichita for supplies. I unloaded my logs and went to Moores and told them that the Indians were in the county and I was to bring them to town. One of the girls gave me a keg of powder to hide for them in the timber and a small revolver to keep guard while they got ready. It took them but a short time as their baggage was rather small.

It was after the first battle with the Indians in 1874 that Thomas A. Osborne then Gov. of Kansas organized the Kansas State Guards. Sun City and Medicine Lodge furnished the two companies for this section. Capt. Ricker commanded the Barber county organization. John Mosley was second in command. It was the duty of the Sun City and Medicine Lodge Militia to guard and keep the territory from Caldwell to Dodge City and south to the Cimmaron River clear of any marauding bands of Indians.

"The stockade was built by the militia and citizens and guards were placed. The west line of the stockade ran along the alley past the Badger Lumber Yard. South line past the Grand Hotel. The east past the court house and to near steps at the Presbyterian church. The north line was past the High School. The south gate was near the southwest corner of the Grand Hotel. The north gate was near the high school building.

"About two hundred people had gathered in the stockade with their wagons, teams, cows and dogs. Some of the families bunched together in empty buildings and some camped in their wagons, myself being among the number. It was in May when we moved out and moved into the Stockade and December when we moved out. There were many poor people and aid was sent from the Government. I went with my team to Hutchinson for a load of food and clothing. I received pay for the load, so did not require aid. There was a bale of blue army overcoats and as it was raining and rather cool I pulled one out and wore it. The office said, "isn't that one of the coats from the bale?" I said that it was and pulled it off and gave it to him. When I got down to the bus barn, there was Mike Sutton with the coat and he threw it into the wagon and said, "I saw the rascal take it from you and I stole it from him."

"There was no settlement between here and Wichita and at the first meeting of the Commissioners they hired a man with a team of oxen to plow a furrow to Wichita by way north of Sharon and then north-east. It was a sandy route and soon all travel went by way of Kingman.

"Our drill ground was outside and southeast of the stockade. A man was kept on guard on the top of the old stage barn near where the Chase hardware store is. When ordered every man had to run to the place he had been assigned to guard when a gun was fired. My post was the south gate when in town. We had target practice quite often and there were many good shots. The Indians never attacked the Stockade. The young men, who had no family, of the militia were kept scouting a good part of the time. There were over 100 miles of the state line to guard. There were no roads. Our outfit and rations consisted of Sharps rifle, carbine, 100 cartridges tied on saddle also a belt full, a grain sack with five days rations, consisting of army crackers, bacon, sugar, and coffee, tied on the saddle, with a frying pan and coffee bucket. It made quite a load. The rations got very stale toward the end of the trip because they were old and so shaken up. We were eager to get back with our scalps on. When scouting our rations always lasted because we killed some game. But in the stockade we ate everything up in a day or so before the next ration day. They had to grind corn on a coffee mill for bread and eat more buffalo meat. The meat wagon stood just north of Ed Adams furniture store (now Trice's) and every one helped himself to the meat. When the wagon was empty two men were detailed to go out and get more.

"The Militia had but one encounter with Indians. It was north west of Sharon at the foot of the big hills. There were about fifty Indians and six were killed. Fifty-four ponies, six mules, all their camp outfit, saddles, guns, bows, arrows, clothes, and scalps were taken.

"During the summer some of the people left the stockade. Some left the county to return when all the danger was over. Others never to return. Those financially able left first and by fall most of the people had left the stockade. Those left were ones who lived in the Lodge and some too poor to get away.

"Gen. Custer was camped on Cavalry Creek, and for two or three years sent a few soldiers the whole length of the Medicine River to warn the settlers when the Indians would break loose and start north. While in the stockade time sometimes dragged for the boys. The saloons had gone dry but there were plenty cards and most of the boys played all the time they were not dancing, which kept going in the cool of the mornings and in the evenings in front of where Chase's Hardware building stands. Many of them tripped the light fantastic in their bare feet. There was a minister here named Kellar, who said we were as bad as the children of Israel to forget God in such a way. So he announced preaching for Sunday at eleven A. M. to be held on the street in front of where the Citizens State bank is. Just before time for the service a good box was rolled out on the opposite side of the street and one of the fiddlers mounted it and began to play. He fiddled all the time during the sermon and had a larger crowd than the preacher, some would listen to the preacher and then go listen to the fiddle. In the evening at 7:30 there was a much larger crowd. All went well until the preacher said, 'Let us pray,' when about ten dogs began to howl. Some fellows had each caught a dog and when the preacher said, 'let us pray,' each fellow stepped on his dog's tail or foot and kept him howling all through the prayer. He never attempted another outdoor meeting.

"We had some thrilling experiences while in the militia. Once when we were scouting we were camped close to the Salt Fork River, such a heavy rain fell that night that it flooded our camp and swept all the saddles away and most of our rations. Strange to say, we were sleeping with our saddles for pillows. All were found but mine. Some years later it was found and returned to me by a man who had found it in a pile of drift. We were nearly starved when we reached Sun City on our way home, but were generally supplied by the good cooks of Sun City. Butter milk never tasted so good to me, as it did that day. The butter milk and food was furnished me by Mrs. Lusk, afterwards she became Mrs. Rankin.

"Once we were sure we had sighted a large band of Indians. Our captain was very sure of it. So he had us slip up, screened from them by a hill. We were all ready for the fight when we reached the top and came in sight again. On arriving at the top we saw a large herd of antelope and no sign of Indians.

"Another time we were caught in a snow storm when coming from Caldwell and we camped in a dugout. It had an ice floor. By that time I had taken a cold on the trip and when we reached the Lodge I was sick. The ice floor was too much for me. The doctor took me from my wagon where I camped, to an old cold shack and that was the last of my scouting trip. The militia was disbanded but I could not be present.

"We had a very unpleasant task to perform in the early days of the Stockade. That was when we found the bodies of two men, killed by Indians and had to prepare them for burial. They had been dead a few days before we found them. We buried them without letting their folks see them. They were killed on Walnut Creek.

"When I got back to my claim I found my house logs taken off for some other fellow's house and I had to get more. We hauled cedar posts and buffalo bones to Wichita to get money to live on and to improve our claims. I hauled a load of supplies to the post in the Territory. My team was tired and I fell behind the government's big mule teams. I saw a large band of Indians coming diagonally across my route and I whipped up, but failed to head them off and when they gathered around and began to jabber, I threw them off some boxes of crackers from my load and drove on. I was so scared I felt my hat sitting on the ends of my hair. On that trip I saw where the Indians killed Pat Henisey. They had tied him to his wagon wheel and burned him to death.

"While building my house I stayed in a cabin on the Bill Dole place. I was getting breakfast one morning and saw some Indians coming. I had some bacon hanging up. I grabbed it and hid it, and covered the pancakes I had been baking. Just then an old Indian came in and said, "How, Tobac." I had none. Then he wanted my gun. I would not let him have it and then an old squaw came in with her papoose. He said, "papoose hungry." Then I took one of my pancakes, spread molasses and gave it to him and they went away. They were a bunch of Kiowa and were moving. They were tame Indians. That was in the year 1875. The population of Barber county was 366. Medicine Lodge, 126, Lake City, 114, and Sun City, 126. 349 were born in the United States, 7 in Canada, 9 in Germany, and one in England.

"I built my house of cedar logs and clapboard roof. One room and a garret. Both floors were cottonwood boards sawed by John Easley on his sawmill on the river, the farm known as the Easley place. After putting in my crop I went to Garnett and bought some cattle and drove them to this county. I camped a few miles north of the Lodge. That night the wolves killed and ate all but the head of a two year heifer. Wolves were very numerous those times. I've seen the road tramped up by wolves between my place and the Lodge as much as a flock of sheep would track it. There were no more Indian scares until 1878 in August."


Also see:

Obituary: Jennie S. (Stoughton) OSBORN

Obituary: William George OSBORN, husband of Jennie Osborn.

Green Adams Describe Things As He Saw Them In Barber County In The Early 1870's
Barber County Index, October 6, 1927.

Barney O'Conner Tells of Indian Scraps Here:
Early Day Character Relates Incidents From Fund of Pioneer Knowledge

Barber County Index, March 27, 1930.

Indians Killed Her Father Here In 1874
Barber County Index, September 18, 1930.

Memoirs of Phoebe (Rogers) Gibson:
The Early Days of Barber County, Kansas

Barber County Index, May 16, 1929.

Lee Wynkoop: "Recalls Narrow Escape From Indians"
(Undated newspaper clippings.)


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

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