Oak Grove Massacre,|
Indian Raids On the Little Blue River
Oak Grove Massacre
Indian Raids On the Little Blue River in 1864.
BY JOHN G. ELLENBECKER
As Printed in the
Indian Raids of 1860-1869
by John G. Ellenbecker, Marysville, Kansas.
Editor's Note.--Herewith the Marysville Advocate-Democrat is publishing a series of articles by John G. Ellenbecker, which tell the story of Indian raids from 1864 to 1868 along the Little Blue river. This story which has never been published, was obtained by Mr. Ellenbecker after much effort, and is a valuable contribution to the frontier history of this section of the country. Six month's time was required to obtain all of the material, the writing of scores of letters being necessary.
During the period from 1860 to 1869 the Indians on the plains between the Arkansas and Platte rivers gave considerable trouble to the settlers, trade stations and freighters. The cause was the activities of developing the west.
The story tells of the capture by the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians of four persons, who were not ransomed for nearly a year afterwards. About 40 people were killed, among these being nine members of the Eubank families.
The Union Pacific railroad from Omaha west was surveyed during 1859. The transcontinental telegraph was completed in 1862. Gold had been discovered at Denver and at Idaho Springs in Colorado in 1858. This caused a great westward emigration.
By all this increase in travel and the coming of settlers the Indians could see that soon the buffalo would be either exterminated or driven away and the red man left without food.
The Indians had been driven away from their lands of the east and of the west. They now made their last stand on the great plains. It was a spectacle, serious and pathetic--a weaker race contending with a stronger people. In such cases there is always but one result. The weaker is vanquished. But the red man stood his ground bravely, was not afraid to fight nor to die for his birthright, and many of their leaders like Logan, Black Hawk, Red Cloud and Roman Nose have gone down in history as heroes and patriots of their race.
The total population of the plains tribes was around 60,000. The coming of the white man drove the Indians to inaugurate defensive measures to save their ancient home and hunting grounds. And it so appears that the Kiowas, Apaches, Arapahoes, Cheyennes, with the Bruele, Ogalalah and Missouri Sioux agreed to drive the white people out of their domain by any means that they could devise. The Indians had plenty of firearms and ammunition and their raids were well planned and timed and ingeniously carried out.
The Indians attacked the isolated settlers, cut the telegraph lines, robbed the wagon trains, and stage coaches, killed people wherever found, attacked the military posts, and stampeded the horses and cattle wherever they found a chance. During these eight years fully 1,000 people lost their lives and perhaps twice as many Indians were killed.
Part of these hostilities occurred during the years of our Civil war and the government could spare only a few soldiers to occupy the forts, guard the stage stations, settlers and wagon-trains. This warfare was particularly serious on the Overland or Oregon trail, along the Little Blue and the Platte river. Many cruel Indian raids were carried out, and many valiant defenses made by the soldiers and other white people on the plains.
In 1864 Major General G. M. Dodge, who had charge of all the military forces in the west, wrote to Washington: "I desire that the government may understand that it has either got to abandon the country west entirely to the Indians or meet the war issue presented; there are 25,000 warriors in open hostilities, and never before have we had so extensive a war on the plains and an enemy so well supplied as now."
The Army Posts.
On the North Platte in Wyoming were five little army posts: La Prelle, Horse Shoe, La Bonta, Deer Creek, and Platte Bridge, the latter being located about where Casper now stands. These forts were about 40 miles apart. Fort Kearney was on the Platte far to the east and Fort Laramie south of the Platte. The men at these posts were charged with protecting the U. S. mail and travel in general along the Overland trail. About 30 men were at each post and these were often divided to escort wagon-trains and stage coaches and repair the telegraph lines. While these little armed forces rendered gallant services, they were still continuously harrassed by the Indians who would try to, and did steal the government's horses, mules and cattle almost any time day or night.
Far to the south and west were Forts Halleck, Collins, Lyons and Wallace. Some of the post commanders were Col. Thomas Moonlight, later a noted Kansan; Col. J. M. Chivington of Sand Creek battle fame, Col. Baumer, Major Martin Anderson, Col. P. B. Plumb, later a United States senator from Kansas; Gen. P. E. Connor at Julesberg and Gen. Dodge at Ft. Kearney.
In the spring and summer of 1864 the travel on the Overland trail was very heavy. It was during the month of August that the concerted Indian raid was planned and carried out with the greatest secrecy and precision from Big Sandy station on the Little Blue west over 200 miles to beyond Julesberg.
The Cheyenne War of 1864.
In order to better understand the various raids and massacres it will be well to locate some of the principal stage stations and ranches on the Overland trail.
The first section of the eastern division of the Overland stage extended from Atchison to Ft. Kearney, a distance of 200 miles. Beginning at Marysville it was 12 miles to Hollenberg; 16 miles to Rock Creek, 20 miles to Big Sandy; 14 miles to Thompson; 14 miles to Kiowa; 14 miles to Little Blue station; 12 miles to Liberty Farm, and from this station, the last on the Little Blue, it was about 70 miles to Ft. Kearney on the Platte. From Ft. Kearney to Julesberg was the second section of the eastern division of the Overland stage, a distance of 200 miles. Twelve miles above Kearney was Platte station; ten miles farther on, Craig, and 17 miles farther was Plum Creek station, all on the Platte.
The Raids Along the Platte.
In that gigantic raid of August 7 in 1864, practically all the stations and ranches were burned from Julesberg to Kiowa station with the exception of Little Blue station; in all about 30 stations and five times as many ranches.
The raid was especially severe at Julesberg and Plum Creek, where every building and ranch were destroyed. At the latter station were encamped two wagon-trains, one of ten wagons with ten drivers and cook, all belonging to E. F. Morton of Sidney, Iowa. All the men, including Mr. Morton, were killed and Mrs. Morton taken captive. The 50 mules belonging to the train were driven away by the Indians. Likewise a six-wagon train loaded with corn and machinery belonging to Michael Kelley of St. Joseph, Mo., was captured and the owner and seven other men killed.
The Raid on the Little Blue.
The next severe attack was at Liberty Farm at noon, August 9. Here were encamped two wagon-trains. One belonged to Simonton and Smith, loaded with crockery and hardware for Geo. Fritch of Denver, valued at $22,000. The wagon boss was George Constable. The 150 oxen were put out on the grass a half mile south of the Blue with nine herders. The Indians killed the herders and drove all the cattle away. The other train consisted of 20 wagons loaded with liquor. As the 80 mules belonging to this train were herded north of the Blue, the Indians were foiled in their attempt to stampede the mules and capture them. But when night came the men of the two wagon-trains got scared out, unloaded the wagons of liquor and with the mules hitched to them hurried down to Kiowa station, 14 miles eastward, for safety. These stations were all on the north side of the Little Blue. The Indians, during the night, returned, burned the wagons and stole the goods.
The raid was also severe on the ranches between the Little Blue station and Kiowa station on August 7. These were in the fine bottoms of the Little Blue river and the rich soil, fine grass and timber had attracted many settlers and there were new and old ranches all along here. Two miles above Kiowa was Joseph Eubank's ranch. Four miles farther up was the E. S. Comstock ranch, then called Oak Grove ranch. The town of Oak, Nebraska, is now situated near this place. Two miles above Oak Grove was the Wm. Eubank ranch, at what is called the "Narrows" on the Little Blue; and a little farther up was the Kelley ranch owned by W. R. Kelley and Joseph Roper. The latter and his family lived on another ranch four miles west while Kiowa, the station owned by James Douglas, was in Thayer county. The ranches to the west were in Nuckolls county. Joseph Eubank, a son, had been employed on the Overland Trail for several years and had located his ranch as stated above and near Kiowa. On account of his description of this new country he induced his father, Wm. Eubank, sr., and his mother and their other six children (four sons and two daughters) to move from near Kirksville, Missouri, in the spring of 1864 and settle on a ranch just west of the Oak Grove ranch. Wm. Eubank the oldest son, was married to Lucy Walten of Missouri and they had two children at the time of the raid--a little girl, Isabelle, three, and a baby boy, Willie Joseph, nine months old.
Joseph Eubank, the second son, was also married, to Hattie Palmer, who was reared near, and whose parents lived south, of Beatrice, Nebraska, and who still has relatives living in that part of Kansas and Nebraska. Her brother, John Palmer, at that time was staying at the Joseph Eubank home, as also was Fred Eubank, a third son of the elder Eubank. Hattie's father was Elafilet Palmer.
For several days before Sunday, August 7, the day set for the general raid and attack on the settlers and stations, the Indians were seen moving eastward in small groups of ten or twenty. When asked on the Little Blue where they were traveling to, the Indians replied, "To St. Joe." So skillfully was all this outrage planned that the innocent settlers had not thought that they would soon be attacked.
It was a very warm day and the people in this frontier country moved about at whatever pastime or work their fancy dictated to them. Some visited and some even busied themselves at making hay for which there was a good sale.
At the Eubank ranch there were really two families living: the elder Eubank and wife and two daughters, Hanna, 20 years old and Dora, 16 years old, and two sons, James 13 years old and Henry, 11 years old and Wm. Eubank, his wife and their two children.
On the day of the raid Wm. Eubank, sr., and his son, James, had gone down to the ranch of his other married son with a wagon to which were hitched two yoke of cattle to help in the haying. Wm. Eubank, jr., his wife and children and Miss Laura Roper, who was then visiting at their home, walked up to the Kelley ranch to visit and to pick wild grapes in the timber. They were returning about 3 o'clock in the afternoon and but a half mile from home when they heard Dora screaming at the house. Wm. Eubank at once left the women in the road and ran to the house. It might be here stated that the 16-year-old Dora and her little brother, Henry, had remained at home, that is, at the upper Eubank ranch.
As Wm. Eubank came in sight of the house he saw it surrounded by Indians and they were trying to place the girl on a pony, but she refused to stay on. So they killed her and at once took after William on ponies. He ran up the road till near the river, jumped down the bank and crossed but they shot him with bullet and arrows so that he dropped dead on the opposite shore. They followed him and scalped him. This all happened near where the women and children had hid near the roadside. They might have escaped, but on account of the excitement and grief of Mrs. Wm. Eubank over her little girl could not be kept from crying and the Indians soon located them and took them captives, mounted the four on ponies and moved southwest toward the Republican river where the Indians had established a large camp filled with the loot of the raids.
Little Henry Eubank, who was with Dora at the ranch house, seems to have been struck with a tomahawk and left for dead; but he must have revived enough to crawl 20 rods from the house into the timber where he was found dead about eight days afterwards, under conditions which indicated that he died of wounds and starvation and exposure to flies.
According to some historians, the little girl, Isabella, on account of still crying, was also tomahawked somewhere on the prairie and left for dead. All this happened before her mother, who thought, however, till her death, that her child might have revived and was found by some white people and saved. And there are still other reports about her.
The Indians met Wm. Eubank, sr., and his son, James, coming west of Oak Grove with the wagon and four oxen about two miles from home. The father and son were at once killed with arrows and the son scalped. One ox was shot with an arrow into the side. The cattle hitched to the wagon, went on home, then down into the timber near the river, ran the wagon astradle of a tree and there were found a week later by a rescue party. The cattle were unhitched and all survived. The one ox still carried the arrow, which was removed. James Douglas and John Gilbert were with this party.
At the Joseph Eubank ranch Fred Eubank was mowing or raking hay south of the river; John Palmer and Joseph Eubank went out with him, but during the afternoon John Palmer had gone to the home after water and Joseph, on a pony, had ridden a mile east of Kiowa station to look for more grass to mow and hunt some estrayed cattle. So Fred Eubank was left alone one mile west of Kiowa station when the Indians appeared. They killed him with arrows. His body was lying across the wooden revolving rake when found. He was also scalped. The horses were taken by the Indians.
John Palmer, who was at the house with his sister, Hattie Palmer-Eubank soon learned what had happened to Fred. Fleeing settlers passed the house, among whom was John Gilbert, and they and John Palmer induced Hattie to mount a horse and accompany them on east to Kiowa station where they arrived shortly after in safety.
The Indians met Joseph Eubank riding toward home in the road just around the bend east of Kiowa station. They shot him with arrows and scalped him and took his pony also.
The reason why Kiowa station was not molested was because the two wagon-trains destroyed a day later at Little Blue station were camping near and had about 80 men with them.
The oldest Eubank daughter, Hannah, had worked up to July at the Liberty ranch and she with her mother, Mrs. Wm. Eubank, sr., who did not like the frontier, had gone east to Quincy, Illinois, on a visit. That is why they were not in the raid and survived. They also had visited at Kirksville, Missouri.
The Indians, who made these raids came along the roads, their ponies generally in a walk, and the white people mistook them for the friendly Otoes who had often come through there. That is why many of their victims rode right up to the savages when they could have escaped in flight.
On the same day, August 7, on the Kelley ranch were killed W. R. Kelley and Charles M. Butler. Their families and friends placed their bodies in the smokehouse. A day later the Indians returned to the ranch and burned all the buildings, cremating the two bodies in the smokehouse. W. R. Kelley was Joseph Roper's partner in this ranch and C. M. Butler a workman.
Not far from Oak Grove ranch several other people were attacked by the Cheyennes. Two miles below Wm. Bowdie was killed. About three miles above Kiowa, Theodore Ulig, a boy of 17 years was killed. The Ulig ranch was near the Oak Grove ranch and Theodore had been down to Kiowa and was running a race homeward with John Gilbert when he, being ahead, ran into the Indians. John Gilbert's delay saved his life, for he had paused at the Joseph Eubank home to learn why Mrs. Eubank was in tears. She had just heard that Fred had been killed.
At Oak Grove station were stopping a man and woman traveling by name Julian. Mr. Julian was killed and Mrs. Julian carried away captive. Here also two men were severely wounded: Nelson Overstrander, who died in three weeks at Seneca, Kansas, from the effects of arrow wounds, while Geo. A. Hunt, who was wounded in the knee, recovered and when last heard of was living at Crete, Nebraska. The others who escaped alive from Oak Grove ranch were E. S. Comstock, Harry Comstock, J. M. Comstock, wife and child, Ella Butler, Sarah and Mary Comstock, Tobias Castor and Mrs. Francis Blush and child. Wm. Canada was also killed on his ranch.
Still the people gathered and stayed over night at Oak Grove Sunday night and fought away the Indians.
Excitement at Marysville and Oketo.
Already the next day after the massacres on the Little Blue near Oak Grove ranch refugees arrived at Marysville, Beatrice and Oketo. It might be well to state here that Ben. Holliday's [Ben Holladay-chw] stages ran at that time over the Oketo cut-off from Guittard's station 45 miles to Caldwell's ranch in Jefferson county, Nebraska, where the roads came together again. But the wagon-trains never went over the cut-off, always going over the original trail through Marysville. There were from 75 to 100 ranches on the Little Blue and on account of the vast number of oxen used on the trail the cattle business was an important and profitable business on these ranches; some ranches had considerable livestock.
On the evening of the seventh of August the people began to flee under cover of darkness. The women and children and older men were placed in wagons with their few household belongings and hurried towards the Big Blue, and in a few days over a hundred wagons were in encampment from the village of Marysville out north towards where the St. Joseph & Grand Island water tanks now stand. People also gathered at Oketo and Beatrice. This threw these villages into a high state of excitement. The people of the surrounding homesteads would not stay on their farms over night and some were even afraid to remain there during the daytime. The fright of the women and children was intense and few dared to leave their homes even in town.
So, for over two weeks the people of the rural settlements and the refugees of the Little Blue hovered around Marysville, expecting to be attacked by the cruel Cheyennes and Sioux any hour of the day or night. An armed guard was formed which stood guard at the river crossing every night.
Mrs. A. J. Travelute, who still lives in Marysville, says, "My father, Jacob Mohrbacher, and family did not come to the village at night but we lived in constant fear." Peter Shroyer says, "My brother and I, boys of 12 and 14 years, stayed in our house while my mother and the younger children went out among the prairie hills to sleep each night. We two carried a basket full of rocks to the head of the stairway and awaited the unlucky savages. We tried to remain awake all night, but one night about 2 o'clock mother and the other children were driven home on account of rain. At the house she called and called to us boys without any reply. So thinking that we were killed, she ventured heavy-hearted upstairs and there found her two young heroes amid their primitive arsenal sound asleep." Mrs. Perry Hutchinson, who still lives here, says that they, with their three little children, resided in a cabin east of the river near the mill. They, too, each night carried their blankets away from the house into the woods to sleep.
During this time August and George Tillmann, whose parents resided on a claim two miles northwest of Marysville, were at Fort Kearney with two loads of corn. Corn brought $2 per bushel there. Becoming afraid to return home by way of the Little Blue, they drove down the Platte river nearly to the Missouri and then by way of Falls City, Nebraska, came home, arriving late in November to the delight of their folks and friends who had thought them killed.
Thomas Hynes and family lived on a claim on Walnut creek eight miles west of Marysville. They did not hear of the Indian depredations until Monday night. The horses were at once hitched to the wagon and the household goods and sleeping babies hurriedly loaded, and started for Maryville. When they were three miles away from home, about where the Fairfield schoolhouse now stands, they found that one little boy had been forgotten. So they hastily rambled back and secured the forgotten member.
Some of the frightened ranchers on the Little Blue after they had sent their families east to safety, rounded up their cattle, over 200 head, and drove them down the trail to a point northeast of Hanover at the head of Horseshoe creek and remained there ten days. Others who were braver remained about their ranches in hiding and slept among their cattle on the open prairie at night--and there was real danger, for the Indians did not leave the Little Blue until the approach of soldiers from the east. There was much suffering among the refugees. Many were poor, some feeble and sick--an old man, Joel Helvey, died here and was buried in the old cemetery on the hill.
Help Was Sent.
The appeals from the settlers on the Little Blue aroused the sympathy of all the people in Marshall, Nemeha [Nemaha-chw] and Gage counties. Two companies of men were at once organized at Marysville, one under Capt. Frank Schmidt and one under Capt. James McCloskey, and a little later one under Capt. Perry Hutchinson; also one under Capt. T. S. Vaile of Irving and one under Capt. James Kelley from Vermillion. All those were in charge of Col. E. C. Manning, who then edited a paper in Marysville. Five companies of men also came from Nemeha county under General Sherry. Thirteen companies were out on the Little Blue within eight days after the raid.
Ben. Holliday also collected a force all along his line and reached the raided country in about the same time. Three or four days after the raid, about 50 men from Beatrice reached Big Sandy just below Kiowa station. There they organized, with some ranchers, an independent company of 60, electing W. H. Stoner of Beatrice captain and John Gilbert, a workman of Oak Grove ranch, lieutenant.
This company under Stoner and Gilbert at once moved up to Pawnee ranch about 20 miles above Oak Grove. These men buried William Eubank, sr., the son James and daughter Dora in one grave near the Eubank's ranch site on section 7, town 3, north, range 5, west, and William Eubank where he was killed on the sandbar nearby. It was just one week after they had been killed. The little boy in the underbrush was found and buried a few days later. Joseph and Fred Eubank were found later and buried where found by other parties on section 16, town 3 north, range 4 west. Capt. Stoner's company found encamped at Pawnee ranch Capt. E. B. Murphy with a company of cavalry from Fort Kearney. The next morning Murphy and Stoner's companies moved down again to the Little Blue station.
It was known that there were many Indians toward the Republican southward, and as Capt. Murphy wanted to attack them, the independent company readily joined him. The weather was foggy and the soldiers were at a disadvantage. They drove the savages eight miles south in skirmishes, but as the rations of Capt. Murphy's company were about all consumed and he had left but one day of time according to his orders, the two companies retreated on Wednesday, August 18, back to the Little Blue station. George Constable, the wagon boss of the two plundered wagon-trains at Liberty farm and a few of his teamsters, had joined these two companies in the two days' battle. In the retreat George Constable was killed and buried near the mouth of Elk creek. There was one more casualty among the soldiers.
There were over 500 warriors between the Little Blue and the Republican and it was later reported by the white women captives (one of whom could understand the Cheyennes) that the Indian scouts had reported the ten companies from Marshall and Nemeha counties marching toward them. The companies were already at Big Sandy. Had it not been for this report and fact the Indians would have attacked Murphy's and Stoner's men at Liberty farm on Wednesday night, August 18, and perhaps inflicted a heavy loss. As it was, the Indians at once broke camp and set out up the Republican with their captives and loot for the mountains. This accounts for Col. Manning's and General Sherry's forces not finding any of the Indian raiders, and as the soldiers at the different forts did more effective work there were no more Indian raids in these parts until in 1868 on the White Rock. Laura Roper's father, Joseph Roper, was with the independent company and he was one of the most anxious to attack the Indians, for he wanted to help rescue his daughter.
The Captives Ransomed.
The news of the capture of those white women by the Cheyennes or Sioux was sent to all the army posts in Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado and the soldiers at all the army posts were on the lookout to liberate these poor women.
As soon as George Fritch heard of the destruction of his trainload of merchandise valued at $22,000 at Liberty farm, he requested Col. J. J. M. Chivington to intercept the Indians and recover what he could and punish the villains. Col. Chivington recruited his forces at Denver until he had over 500 armed men and through scouts like O. P. Wiggins and Bill Comstock kept posted on the movement of the fleeing Cheyennes. Bill Comstock was a half-blood Arapaho but true to the whites. When the Indians reached the Big Sandy about 100 miles southeast of Denver. Chivington gave them some Indian tactics. He sent a small force to them, who told them they were going to Texas to fight the rangers. So completely deceived were the Cheyennes and Sioux that some wanted to go along. During the following night he threw his forces around the Indian camp and during a blinding dust storm on November 20, opened his attack and killed over 500 Indians, mostly old men, women and children and recaptured over 600 horses, oxen and mules that the Indians had stolen from the government and settlers. But this cruelty of Col. Chivington is a blot on our pioneer history.
Mrs. William Eubank and child were with the Indians here, held by Chiefs Two Face, Doc Billy and Big Thunder. But during the battle these three chiefs with their captives and a small band of Indians got away and headed north for Cheyenne agency and the mountains.
About a month before, Laura Roper had been ransomed for $1,000, according to some reports and turned loose near Denver. It is said that her release was brought about through the negotiations with the Indians by Col. E. W. Wyncoop [Major Edward Wanshaer Wynkoop-chw] of the upper Arkansas Indian agency. It is also said that Capt. E. B. Murphy of Ft. Kearney did much to secure the freedom of the captive women. In her letter to me dated November 10, 1926, Laura Roper Vance says, "I was not ransomed, just set free at Ft. Lyons, October 12, 1864."
In Captivity 14 Months.
Mrs. Wm. Eubank and child were in captivity longer--some historians say 14 months and her son says nine months. Some time during the next spring and summer the Indians were sorely in need of guns and ammunition. Through the negotiations of Capt. E. B. Murphy and Col. Baumer at the Cheyenne agency, Two Face and Big Thunder agreed to deliver Mrs. Eubank and child at Fort Laramie for a certain quantity of ammunition.
The chiefs used all possible precaution not to be entrapped. They brought 20 warriors with them to receive the goods and, if necessary, to help fight, and Mrs. Eubank and child.
But Col. Baumer was too smart for them. Although he had to meet the chiefs two miles from the fort, he so handled his orderlies that at the right moment the orderlies got word to the fort and the cavalry came and surrounded the two chiefs and party and the chiefs were put in irons.
At the fort Mrs. Eubank, ragged and weak, told of the brutality of these two chiefs. This story with the news of their capture was telegraphed by Col. Baumer to Gen. Connor at Julesberg and he wired back that the chiefs should be immediately hanged. It was very promptly done, although Gen. Connor recalled that order in favor of first having a trial for them.
The two chiefs had $270 in their possession when captured. This money Col. Baumer gave to Mrs. Eubank, for she was sorely in need of new clothes--she had worn the same dress all the time while in captivity.
After her ransom she went to her relatives in Laclede county, Missouri. There she married again. This husband, after a few years, died.
It might be stated here that Mrs. Eubank left for her old home on a wagon-train from Ft. Laramie. Only a few soldiers from the fort could be spared to accompany this train. So quite a number of friendly (?) Indians were mustered in to help guard. But when out on the trail a number of wild Indians in ambush attacked the train and the "friendly" red men helped to fight the soldiers and trainmen so that the train and Mrs. Eubank were almost captured. This shows the cunning of the Indians.
After her second husband died she removed with her son William, who was then over 25, to McCune, Crawford county, Kansas. There in 1893 she married Dr. D. F. Atkinson. After a few years she was again left a widow by the death of Dr. Atkinson. After this she made her home with her son, William Eubank and family till her death, which occurred at McCune, April 4, 1913.
In two letters I received lately from her niece by marriage, Mrs. L. A. Atkinson of St. Paul, Kansas, I learned that few other women and mothers especially, have endured the trials that Lucy Walten (or Mrs. D. F. Atkinson) did--and yet she was of sweet disposition and kind to all who met her, even those who had done her harm.
After her mother's death, William Eubank moved with his family to Pierce, Colorado. I have had letters from him as well as from one of his ladylike daughters. They kindly answered my letters and I have gathered valuable information from them of the family history. But having lived far away from the site where occurred the tragedy of their unfortunate family, there is much history that they would like to get, to gather up the last threads of the family story.
One of them is that he shares with his sainted mother the idea that his little sister, Isabella, may still be alive somewhere and if she is, he would give all he possesses to find her. Such is his longing for his only sister.
The oldest Eubank girl, Hannah, married in Illinois, over 60 years ago, a man by the name of Dan Walten. They later moved to Missouri and her husband still lives at Shelton, Missouri, but she is dead. They have a daughter, who resides with her husband and family at Russ, Missouri. Her name is Mrs. Minnie Hough. Russ is in Laclede county, Missouri.
Lately I have had letters from her. Mrs. Hough says that she had another uncle who was not killed in the Cheyenne raid, for he was out west with a wagon-train. His name was George Eubank. He is now dead. She also asserts that her grandmother Eubank, and her mother, Hanna Eubank Walten, were at Quincy, Illinois, at the time the other members of their family were killed near Oak grove station.
John Gilbert's Letters.
One of the venerable men who saw much of this Indian raid on the Little Blue in 1864 and went through much other pioneer experience, was John Gilbert. He came to Oak Grove station to work for E. C. Comstock in April, 1859. He worked at several stations and ranches, drove stage and also was one of the Pony Express riders.
On the day of the Little Blue Indian raid he was at Kiowa station with James Douglas, the owner of that station, in fact he had hired out to Douglas to help put up hay and at the time he was racing up the road after Theodore Ulig; he was going to the Ulig ranch after sickle sections.
He saw many families leaving in haste for Marysville and other points on the Big Blue: the Jenkinses, Babcocks, Helveys, Lemmons, Weisels, Hackneys, Blockleys, Comstocks, Ropers, Blairs, Slaughters, Shumways, Walkers, Reeds, Broeders, Patches, Farrels and Holts, but he was one of the strong brave young men who shouldered a rifle, as we have seen him as lieutenant of the independent company and go after the redskins. He was at Kiowa Station on the ninth of August when Bob Emery had reached that station with seven passengers, and was bound to go up as far as Liberty farm to see what had become of his brother, Charles Emery and his family, who owned that station, and to bring them away if alive yet. When Bob waved aside all advice to go on, John Gilbert and James Douglas sprang aboard the stage with their rifles to defend the passengers in case of attack--and they were needed and did good work for, as the stage came near to the "Narrows" on the Little Blue, 40 mounted Indians led by a Sioux chief dashed out of hiding and raced after the fleeing stage which Bob, the driver, had skillfully turned around and was making that memorable race for life toward Kiowa that raised Bob Emery to a hero and undying fame.
After the destruction of the settlements on the Little Blue John Gilbert came back to the Big Blue, married, lived near Beatrice and DeWitt and, lastly, at Red Cloud, Nebraska, where some of his family reside now. A granite marker now stands near the site of this stage-coach incident.
In 1917 John Gilbert wrote a series of valuable letters about the Little Blue Indian raid for the Nebraska Historical society in which were reclaimed from oblivion many interesting facts about those arduous pioneer days. In one of these letters he says, " . . . So I stopped at the Joseph Eubank ranch to let my pony get a breathing spell. It was off the road about 50 steps. When I got to the house there was John Barnes (Palmer). Joe Eubank's wife was crying. I asked what the matter was and they said the Indians had killed Fred Eubank across the river, south, as he was raking hay, and scalped him and took the horse he was raking with. Then I forgot that I was chasing Theodore (Ulig) and we started back to Kiowa station. We told Mrs. Eubank to go on. She was riding an old horse . . . ."
In another letter after telling that he was mustered in, into the independent company at Big Sandy station on August 12, he said, " . . . . we went up the Blue until we came to the upper Eubank place. There were buried the Eubank families. The old man was not scalped nor was the girl. I took a close look at the old man because his hair was white, and at the girl because the Indians would call them squaw-killers" . . . . "I helped bury the members of the Eubank family who were buried at that place. We buried the old man, the young boy and the girl all in one grave and we buried Bill where he fell on the sandbar. Just dug out all the sand we could and covered him up."
He also states that Wm. Eubank, sr., and his 12 year-old boy were killed two miles east of their home, for some had seen the bodies lying there and that some friends must have taken the bodies up to the ranch for they found them near the Eubank home. He also states that the story about the youngest Eubank boy being found dead 20 rods from the house was correct, and that all were dead over a week before buried.
In another letter he states, " . . . . The old lady Eubank and the oldest girl (Hannah) had gone to Missouri, so they were not killed. . . . she (the girl) worked at Liberty stage station when I drove stage for the Overland Stage company."
In a letter I received from one of his daughters at Red Cloud, dated October 10, 1926, she says in part, " . . . . John Gilbert died February 5, 1926. He was 89 years old. Mrs. Joseph Eubank was not killed nor captured" . . . .
The Battle of the Little Blue.
The independent company of which W. H. Stoner was captain and John Gilbert, lieutenant, left Big Sandy on the twelfth of August and joined Captain E. B. Murphy's cavalry at Pawnee station on August 14. In the company of Stoner were 34 men, mostly from Beatrice: W. H. Stoner, captain; Wm. R. Jones, Hugh Dobbs, Samuel Jones, J. B. Weston, Oliver Townsend, H. M. Wickham, Daniel Freeman, Thomas Pethoud, James Pethoud, Enoch Henry, Louis Groves, Ira Dixon, R. C. Davis, Wm. Alexander, Leander Wilson, Albert C. Howe, Joseph Clyne. Among those of the Little Blue were John Gilbert, lieutenant; David Kneeland, Joseph Roper, James Douglas, George Constable, Ed. Wells, Charley Wells and ____ Bartley.
Capt. E. B. Murphy, in his memoranda, says he had in his command 145 men. These, with the 34 of the independent, made a total of about 180 men who took part in the battle of the Little Blue between August 16 and 18. They were opposed by about 500 armed warriors of the Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Sioux. But westward on the headwaters of the Republican were Indian camps of perhaps ten thousand redmen.
According to Laura Roper Vance, a grandson named "Connie Eubank" was staying at the Eubank ranch. He was nine years of age and also captured. At the Plum Creek massacre a little boy nine years old named "Danny" Marple or Mabie, was captured when his father was killed. These two boys and Isabella Eubank were given up by the Indians at Ft. Lyons, October 12, 1864, the same time Laura was turned loose. And she states positively that these three children reached the Planters hotel in Denver.
Mrs. Minnie Hough, of Russ, Missouri, in her letter to me also tells of the grandson (Connie Eubank), who was captured with Laura Roper and Mrs. Wm. Eubank. Only Mrs. Hough called this grandson "Ambrose."
Capt. E. B. Murphy also tells of the killing of a Mr. Julian near Oak Grove ranch and the carrying of Mrs. Julian into captivity.
One of the Nebraska histories states that Col. Wyncoop secured the liberation of Miss Roper for $1,000. She knows nothing about the ransom--and this might be true, for the ransom price was not made public, as a rule.
The reason why Mrs. Wm. Eubank, jr., and her son knew nothing about what had become of little Isabella was because in a few weeks after they had been captured Mrs. Eubank was sold by the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to the Sioux, and she never saw Isabella or Laura again.
Since Laura Roper was carrying little Isabella when the Indians captured them, it gave the Indians the impression that Isabella belonged to Laura. Even when the child cried for her mother the Indians would not permit the child to go to her mother.
Then Laura Roper and the three children were liberated in October, while Mrs. Eubank and her baby were held captives until the next May, and during that time the poor woman suffered awfully from the cold and exposure and was otherwise shamefully treated. She had all she could do to protect the life of her baby.
Some might ask why did not Laura Roper direct Isabella to her people. She did not even know where her own mother was. The child's father and other kin were murdered. And for her there was no Oak Grove or other ranch, for she saw same destroyed by the war club and torch on that awful day. Laura scarcely knew where her folks were or if they were alive yet.
When Mrs. Eubank got back to Missouri she was a physical and almost a mental wreck. Mails were slow, travel expensive and she a poor, unresourceful woman. And thus time--62 years have passed--and the question is still unanswered: Where is Isabella? or have the flowers bloomed on her little grave for over a half century? Who will clear up the mystery?
Letter from Wm. J. Eubank.
On September 2, Wm. J. Eubank of Pierce, Colorado, wrote to me as follows: "Dear Mr. Ellenbecker: I received your kind letter a few days ago. In answer to your inquiries about Oak Grove massacre on the little Blue in Nebraska on August 7, 1864, I will say, I am the boy that was taken captive with my mother Mrs. Wm. Eubank, Jr. My name is Wm. J. Eubank; my father's name also was William. My uncles Joseph, Fred, Henry and James and Aunt Dora Eubank were killed besides my father and my grandfather, whose name also was William, in this Indian raid on the Little Blue. Before her marriage to my father my mother's maiden name was Lucindy Walton. My parents at the time of the massacre had two children; a little girl Isabella three years old and a baby boy, myself, nine months old. The Indians I think scalped my little sister, taken captive at the time my mother and I and another girl (Laura Roper) were taken captives. They kept us prisoners nine months and gave my mother and me up at Fort Laramie, Colorado. My mother died in McCune, Crawfford county, Kansas, April 4, 1913. She was living with me and my family at the time of her death. Will you please tell me who gave you my address for I might find some of my relatives through your inquiries. May I hear from you again soon, Yours Truly, Wm. Eubank."
Since Wm. J. Eubank was but a helpless infant at the time of the Indian raid, and never having visited the county where his father and nearly all of his other relatives met an untimely death, he had to depend for knowledge of that tragedy on his poor mother's stories. And she being so ruthlessly torn from her home and loved ones and made a slave to brutal savages for nearly a year, even her knowledge of the happening on the Little Blue ceased when she with her baby in her arms was seated on an Indian pony, her feet tied together under the pony's body, and thus rode for days under a burning August sun until her back and limbs were raw with blisters and sunburn. At night with hands and feet tied together with thongs she was literally staked to the prairie sod which was her bed. And these are by far not all the horrors she suffered. No wonder she did not like to talk to people about such experiences, not even to her little son.
But now that time has somewhat healed such a painful memory. Mr. Eubank and his family have a desire to learn more of that awful event on the Little Blue, and they have kindly written to me to tell them all I might know about Oak Grove and also to refer them to reports and histories that deal with that portion of pioneer history in which his family played that sorrowful part. He sent me his picture and requests the whereabouts of relatives he had never seen. He had never seen Laura Roper to his knowledge and did not know her address until I sent it to him, and I am certain that the meeting of these two captives 62 years after they were in that pitiful thralldom, was filled with gladness and absorbing interest. His mother's picture was sent to me by Mrs. L. A. Atkinson of St. Paul, Kansas, Wm. J. Eubank married Jennie Frogue at McCune in 1895. They have a fine family of three daughters and five sons. The family moved to Colorado in 1917, living at Greeley and Kersey for some years and in 1921 took up their abode at Pierce.
Mr. John Brandenberger, who still resides in Marysville, says that he as a boy of eleven years remembers of going along with a number of men from Oketo, and saw them bury some of the victims of the massacre at Oak Grove. His parents were then living in Oketo.
Letter from Laura Roper Vance.
Through the kindness of the editor of the Beatrice Sun and several other people around Beatrice, I learned Laura Roper's present address and name. She lives in Enid, Oklahoma, and is Laura Roper Vance. Her first husband's name was Soper. He died several years ago. To Mrs. Soper were born two sons; Fred and Eugene, both also living in Enid. Later Laura Soper married James Vance, of Fairbury, Nebr.
As has been said before, the Indian raid around Oak Grove ranch occurred Sunday afternoon August 7, 1864. After the raid, and all Sunday night the people escaped by what ever means they could find. On many ranches all the cattle and horses had been driven away by the Indians even though the people at those ranches had not been killed. Luckily such a large number of wagons went east, and all those who were without conveyances went to Marysville with this train of freighters and ranchers.
The ranch of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Roper, Laura's parents was four miles west from Oak Grove. Their stock had all been driven away. So the mother and three children went with the refugee's train to Marysville and stayed two weeks at Mr. Jim Lemmons. Mr. Roper remained out on the Little Blue and joined Stoner's company to go after the Indians, who they thought had captured his daughter, Laura. When the company was disbanded, he came to Marysville and with his wife and three children went to Brownsville, Nebr., where their daughter Clara, was teaching school. She therefore was not at Oak Grove during the raid.
Soon after this Mr. Roper and the three children went back to Pennsylvania. But Mrs. Roper remained with Clara for they had heard that Laura was with the Indians and might be ransomed at any time. But the family did not remain in the East very long. They came back and settled on a farm near DeWitt, Nebraska, where Joseph Roper died. Mrs. Roper then went to Oklahoma to live with her daughters where she died later on. Clara married a man by the name of Kelley, and both are now deceased.
The following letter I received from Laura Roper Vance. It was written November 10, 1926 at Erick where Mrs. Vance was then visiting her sister, Mrs. Henry Jewell, formerly Frances Roper:
"Dear Mr. Ellenbecker: Your letter and questionaire were received and I shall try to answer the best I can.
"I was born at Scranton, Bedford county, Pennsylvania, June 16, 1848. My father's name was Joseph B. Roper and my mother's maiden name was Pauline Fletcher. We came from Pennsylvania to Brownsville in 1859 and soon after to Oak Grove. My parents had five children: Clara, Clarence (both now deceased) Frances (now Mrs. Henry Jewell) and Kate (now Mrs. Robert Braden), and myself.
"I was sixteen years old when I was taken captive. I was visiting at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Eubank and we were just coming along the road from a neighbor's where we had spent part of the afternoon. I was with Mrs. Eubank, her baby Willie, and little daughter Isabella. Mr. Eubank was ahead of us when the Indians killed him. We hid by the road side, but little Isabella screamed and the Indians found us and took us four captives. They took us southward and after a long ways we came to a large Indian camp.
"The Indians kept me captive till October 12, 1864. Then they turned me loose near Fort Lyons, Colorado. From there I went to Denver and from there to Nebraska City.
"They gave up little Isabella at the same time they gave me up and I think she died at Denver. Isabella was not scalped. I think she died about November 1, 1864. I was married to Elijah Soper in Tioga county, Pennsylvania, in 1866. He died in the East. James K. Vance and I were married in Kansas in 1885 and moved to Oklahoma.
"So far as I know Mrs. Joseph Eubank (Hattie Palmer) was neither killed nor captured. I never saw her after the massacre, and I do not know where she lives if alive yet." As soon as I get home I shall send you more data concerning my experience as a captive and please send me a copy of your history of the massacre. Respectfully yours, Laura Roper Vance."
Mrs. Perry Hutchinson is of the impression that Mrs. Joseph Eubank (Hattie Palmer) came to their house when the refugees reached Marysville. Hattie had worked for the Hutchinson family previous to her marriage to Joseph Eubank.
Frances Roper's Letter.
Mrs. Henry Jewell (formerly Frances Roper) a sister of Laura Roper Vance, residing at Erick, Oklahoma, wrote under date of November 10, 1926, as follows:
"Dear Mr. Ellenbecker: As I was only ten years old at the time of the Indian trouble; I cannot tell much but that event is imbeded on my mind as nothing else could be. "Laura (Mrs. Vance) went to Mr. Eubank's to spend Sunday and did not come home that night. She was sixteen years old. Mother wanted to go after her, but my father would not let her go. Then at midnight the folks came up from Oak Grove. (This no doubt means Comstock's) and went to Little Blue station (run by J. M. Comstock) and got those folks and returned and got us--my father and mother, and us three children, Kate (Mrs. Braden), my brother Clarence, now deceased, and me, and we all went down to Oak Grove.
"When we got to Kelley's ranch we learned that J. H. Butler and Marshall Kelley had been killed by the Indians. Mr. Kelley was father's partner and Mr. Butler was his teamster. These two men had just started to Brownsville for supplies and had only gone a few miles; their teams and everything else were taken.
The Indians killed several other people around Oak Grove, and wounded some. George Hunt, who later lived at DeWitt was wounded.
"We stayed all night at Oak Grove. Many settlers had gathered there and among them were the men of a twenty-wagon mule train. This train and the stage came from the East and did not dare go further West on account of the Indians.
"During the Sunday afternoon and evening we did not know that any one had been killed. We saw the Indians drive our stock away, and so were much scared. So when Comstocks came to our house late in the evening, mother inquired as to where Laura was. When she told them that she was at the Eubank home, they replied, 'Why then she is killed, for all the Eubanks were killed.' The men did not know then that some were taken prisoners."
"So as I have said before we went with them to Oak Grove. The next morning a train of fifty wagons started from there for Marysville and we all went along. It was an ox train, but we went as fast as the oxen could travel.
We stayed at Marysville over two weeks; while there we stayed with Jim Lemmons for we had nothing. Father came only to Big Sandy. There he joined a company of soldiers and went back to help fight the Indians. Later he came to Marysville, and he, mother and us three children, went to Brownsville, Nebr., where my oldest sister, Clara, was teaching school. There we heard that Laura was alive with the Indians, and mother waited there for Laura's return while the rest of us went on to Pennsylvania.
Laura got free, and came back in November. Mrs. Hattie Eubank was with the same wagon train to Marysville that we were on. That is all I know about her.
Please send us a copy of your story when finished. It just so happened that my sister, Laura, was here visiting when I received your letters for her and me. So we hasten to answer them, and may we hear from you again. Yours truly, Mrs. Frances E. Jewell."
Property Loss in this Indian Raid.
To form a correct idea of the magnitude of property loss and destruction by the Indians, it is necessary to take into consideration the length of the Overland Trail attacked. This was from Junction station on the Upper Platte to Hook's station on the Platte, ten miles east of Ft. Kearney, a distance of 300 miles, and from the Platte over the divide and down the Little Blue for 100 miles to Big Sandy in Jefferson county, Neb., making in all a distance of about 400 miles. On this stretch the stage stations averaged 14 miles apart. At each station were sufficient buildings to house a dozen people, barns for horses, mules and cattle and feed for all this stock. All these stations had stores as well as some of the ranches. Every article of food and clothing was high on account of being hauled so far. Corn seldom under $2 per bushel and hay from $10 to $20 per ton. Then there were many ranches maintained and owned by settlers, each of which housed a family. All ranches and all stations except one along the Overland Trail were burnt and all the stock driven away. For four weeks not a soul was found at any of these ranches or stations and the Indians did, and took what they chose. They drove all the stock away--over 1,000 head of cattle and nearly as many horses and mules. They destroyed the furniture, broke the stoves and dishes, carried away all bedding and clothes, emptied feather beds and pillows to the winds, and burned all wagons, harness and tools, even cut harness into small bits and tumbled in the adobe walls.
Ben Holliday estimated his loss at one million dollars and his claim is still before Congress unpaid. The travelers, freighters and ranchers lost almost an equal amount. Although it is quite certain that the Kiowas, Arapahoes, Cheyennes and Sioux did the destruction, no witnesses could swear to it, and hence the government would pay no claims, for such claims when paid are deducted from the annuities of the Indians, guilty.
Laura Roper's Story.
The narrative "Captured by the Indians" which will follow below, was prepared by Laura L. Roper now Mrs. Vance of Enid, Okla., in 1918, 54 years after the narrator had that awful experience. Many a time she had been asked to relate this episode in her young life to her friends and relatives, and she did. Often she had been requested to write the story of her captivity among the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, but she shrank from the task. And not until eight years ago could she be induced to put the story in writing, and then it was only done as a token of remembrance for her children. It has never before been given out for publication. She is now in her 79th year of age, and I am glad that when I requested her to let me put that valuable part of pioneer history before the public she readily consented. And hence, I herewith present her story as a captive among Indians, and trust that the many readers of it will not fail to catch its pervading interest, and fascinating charm. To get ourselves into the mood to properly appreciate this part of actual history let us go back to conditions that prevailed on the "Great American Desert" 62 years ago. Marysville and Beatrice were the only hamlets between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Denver. No railroads, west of the Missouri river in Kansas or Nebraska. Then a tender young girl was torn from her home and friends by savages who could not speak to her nor she to them, and made to flee through a wild and trackless country, practically day and night not knowing where she was, nor whither she or they were going. Neither did she know by day whether she would live to see the sun go down, nor at night if she might survive to see the day dawn.
She knew that her last home was in ashes, and uncertain whether a single one of her kin had escaped the crushing blow of the tomahawk.
Neither did she know where all this would end. Can you believe that this girl's observations were distinct and that her mental faculties were alert? This was at the age when a child's memory is at it's best and the perceptive facilities the keenest. Otherwise she could not have related this data, after the lapse of a half century--this story with almost unerring accuracy.
"Captured by the Indians."
"I was born in Bradford county, Pennsylvania, June 16, 1648; came to Nebraska with my people in February, 1860. We settled on Cub creek eight miles west of Beatrice, Nebr. From here we moved to Nuckolls county, Nebraska, on the Little Blue and at the time of this story I was sixteen years old."
The Indian Attack.
"On the seventh day of August, 1864, about 1 o'clock p. m., I left my house in Nuckolls county, Neb., on the Little Blue, to spend the afternoon with a neighbor's family by the name of Wm. Eubank, jr.
My father's partner, Marshall Kelley, and J. H. Butler were going to Nebraska City for supplies, as we kept a ranch-house and sold supplies to the emigrants. As they were going by this neighbor's I rode that far with them. A few miles after I left them, the Indians met them and killed them.
About three weeks before this, the Indians had stolen some horses from my father and also committed other small depredations around the country, which, of course, caused the people to have some fear of them. This being the case my father told me as I left to be sure and not come home alone as there might be Indians lurking around.
So we passed away the afternoon at Eubank's until about 4 o'clock p. m., at which time Mr. Eubank, his wife and their two little children and myself started for my home which was abount a mile and one-half away. At the same time Mr. Eubank's father and his little nephew nine years old started in the opposite direction. Before they reached their destination the Indians killed the old gentleman and took the boy prisoner and also killed their team.
We had gotten about one-half mile when we came to a place in the road which wound around the bluffs and was called 'the Narrows,' because the road was so narrow at that place along the Little Blue.
Mr. Eubank was barefooted and got a sliver in his foot and said he would stop and get it out, and for us to walk on and he would overtake us.
"We had gone only about 50 yards, around the bluffs, when we stopped to wait for him. Just then we heard terrible yells. I said I thought it was Indians so we turned and ran back until we came in sight of Mr. Eubank and he was running toward the house. We could see the Indians at the house and they were chasing Mr. Eubank's sister, a girl about 16 years of age. Then Mr. Eubank turned and ran toward the river, and just as he got to the edge of the sandbar, the Indians shot and killed him.
His two brothers that were in the house started to run up a draw and they were both killed. The sister started to run toward us and they tried to take her prisoner and she fought them and they stabbed her in the head and killed her.
"By this time we had gotten into the timber. I was carrying Mrs. Eubank's little girl, Belle, about four years old, and Mrs. Eubank had her baby boy about six months old. We ran right into a buffalo wallow and sat down on the edge of it.
By this time the Indians had killed everyone at the house and started for my father's place (going west). As they passed us I suppose the little girl saw them and gave an awful scream. They whirled their horses around and came right toward us. I had taken off my slippers and was carrying them in my hand. The first thing they did was to snatch my hat off my head and my slippers out of my hands. I had a signet ring on my finger and they took it off next. I had a watch chain around my neck several times. They tried to take it off, but could not.
Then they took us by the hand and told us to come. They picked us up and put us on the horses and took us back to Mr. Eubank's house. On the way back we saw this girl, Mr. Eubank's sister, lying beside the path about 100 yards from the house. We could see where they had stabbed her, but she was not quite dead then. We saw her throw her hand over her head. We had not been there (at the house) but a few minutes, when an Indian rode up with this girl's scalp on a spear. We knew it was her's because it was still dripping with blood. He was yelling like a madman.
When they got to the house they put us off the horses and began destroying everything in the house; broke the stove, dishes, guns and emptied the featherbeds and took the ticks with them. They were there about an hour.
While we were there they let us wander around and didn't seem to pay much attention to us. In the meantime we went over a little draw close to the house and I took my chain off and dropped it in my bosom. Mrs. Eubank got the baby two dresses while we were there; also a sunbonnet for herself.
Flight With the Captives.
By that time it was about 6 o'clock p. m. Then they put us on the horses behind them and started south. My father lived toward the west. We crossed the Little Blue river and still went south and traveled all night.
About the middle of the night an Indian rode up beside me and asked me if I was afraid the Indians would kill me. I said, 'No, I wasn't', because I thought if they intended to kill me they would have done so on the start. Then he said, 'No, I don't think they will kill you, I don't think they will keep you long before they will give you up.' Afterward I learned that he was a half-breed and that the government had hired him as a scout. But I never saw him again. He told me these Indians were Arapahoes and Cheyennes. His name was Joe Beralda.
We rode all the next day. There were just seven Indians that had captured us, but that afternoon five more joined us and then I got a horse by myself.
The second night we went down a deep ditch and my pony's saddle came off, while the pony fell and in trying to get up hit me with his hoof and broke my nose. Then the Indians took a sheet they had gotten at Mrs. Eubank's and wiped the blood from my face and nearly whipped the pony to death. Then the Indian that captured me took me on his horse with him and we rode the rest of the night and the next day until about 2 o'clock. In the meantime we had only had dried buffalo meat to eat. The next day they killed a wild turkey. They stopped abut 3 o'clock, on a small creek, to rest and cook the turkey.
By this time my face had swollen until I could scarcely see. They unsaddled their ponies and spread buffalo robes and motioned to us to lie down and rest. And we were so tired that we were glad of the opportunity. Here they painted my face with red paint and by morning the swelling was gone. We stayed here about two hours.
"They put the little girl, Belle, on another robe and would not let her go to her mother, and she cried and screamed all the time. When we got ready to travel the Indian that captured her wanted to take her on his horse with him and of course she screamed and wanted to go to her mother. The Indian grabbed her by the hair and drew out his knife and I thought he was going to kill her and I ran and grabbed the knife and the other Indians just laughed and called me 'brave squaw.' Then they wanted to put me on a wild mule and I would not let them and it amused them because I wouldn't. So they put me on my own pony and we started out.
Joining with the Big Camp.
"We traveled all that night and the next day till 3 o'clock p. m., when we came to a band of about 50 Indians. There they stopped and painted their faces, and put feathers in their hair and put on all their war regalia. Then they started on again, rode about one hour and a half, when we came in sight of their main camp. Here there were about 10,0000 Indians.
"When we got within one-half mile of this camp they started running their ponies, and yelled just as loud as they could and made for this camp. All the squaws came to meet us just yelling as loud as possible. Every one was yelling at the top of his or her voice. They rode right in the midst of the squaws and dropped me there. Then the squaws jumped on me and pulled my hair and beat me till I began to think my time had come. But that lasted only a few minutes.
"Then a squaw took me and led me into a tent and made me a bed of buffalo robes and motioned for me to lie down. I lay down and went right to sleep for I was so tired. They let me sleep about an hour, then they awoke me and handed me some buffalo meat and a piece of bark and motioned to me to eat, which I did and it tasted good. But of course they used no salt.
"The next morning we started traveling again--the whole ten thousand. From the time we arrived at the big camp I did not see Mrs. Eubank or her baby again. Because I carried or held little Belle at the time we were captured the Indians thought she belonged to me and brought her to see me several times. The Indians had stolen many shoes, and every time I saw the little girl she had on a new pair of shoes. But they gave me moccasins to wear just as soon as I got to the camp, and the last I saw of my poor hat an Indian man was wearing it."
During the past one-half century many people have been puzzled why Mrs. Eubank did not know what became of little Belle. The above statement of Laura Roper Vance should clear up this point--the fact that the mother and child were separated soon after captured, and never saw each other again. Neither did Laura Roper or Mrs. Eubank ever find each other after they had this awful experience. Neither did Wm. J. Eubank and Laura Roper Vance know each other's whereabouts until I told them about November 1, 1926. Let us remember that it is but 25 years that daily papers are common, and but three years that the radio is in use. Before this it was next to impossible to find people who were lost, no matter how earnest the search.
Continuing the captive narrative, Laura Vance Roper says:
"We stayed in camp one day, and this day an old squaw came up in front of the tent next to ours with a scalp stretched on a willow hoop. The hair on the scalp was brown and about 18 inches long. She had the loop fastened to a pole about three feet long which she held in front of her and danced until the spot where she stepped was eight inches deep, so rejoiced was she over this trophy of war.
"I was with these Indians for more than two months, and we were traveling practically all the time. We never stayed longer than two days at one place. The name of the Cheyenne chief was 'Black Kettle' and the name of the Arapahoe chief was 'Left Hand.'
Black Kettle and Chiefs at Denver.
At the back are, (left to right), Bosse, No-Ta-Nee, (Knock Knee)
and Heap of Buffalo.
Seated are, (left to right), White Antelope,
Black Kettle, (with pipe), Bull Bear and Neva.
"The one that captured me was a Cheyenne and he kept me for about a month, when he traded me to the Arapahoe for five ponies. The Arapahoe that bought me, his name was 'Neva.' His brother's name was 'Notany', (No-Ta-Nee, also known as 'Knock Knee', see photo above-chw.) They both could speak good English and were very kind to me. They always told me that they thought it wasn't right for me to be held there, but they thought I would be given up soon.
"One day as they were pitching their tents I noticed an Indian with my father's coat and vest on. I also saw two of my dresses, one a white and brown checked silk, they had cut in two at the waistband and the skirt was stretched on some poles for a shade and the waist was being worn by a little Indian. The other dress was in their pack. I asked Neva if they killed the people where they got those clothes and he answered, 'No, they had gone, but they burned the house;' which I found out afterwards to be true.
The squaws took great delight in combing my hair and with the exception of the first few days they were very good to me. One day when we were camped they ran a buffalo into the camp and an Indian shot it with an arrow and the arrow went through the animal. The Indian brought the arrow and showed it to me.
"Our main food was buffalo meat. Sometimes they would kill an antelope. The Indians were very fond of dogs and land terrapin which they roasted whole. But they never insisted on me eating those foods.
"After I had been with the Arapahoes about one week, they gave me back again to the Cheyennes who had captured me. Then in four days they sold me back to the Arapahoes that had me before. When they sold me I had several little trinkets that the Cheyennes had given me. The Arapahoes took these all away from me. From this time on I stayed with the Arapahoes till liberated.
"One day the Indians were making great preparations for something and I found out the Sioux were coming to visit the Arapahoes and when they were together they had a war dance. They danced one whole day with spears and scalps tied to poles. One day they brought a dead Indian that the white people had killed and such moaning and groaning I had never before heard. The way the Indians mourn is to cut gashes in their arms and legs with knives. As we were traveling along they all began to run their horses and yell. They ran up onto a little hill where there was a little forest and there up in two trees was a scaffold with a dead Indian on it. This is the manner in which they bury their dead. They stayed here about an hour and took on over the dead Indian.
"One night as we were ready to camp, all at once they began packing up to travel, and all the women and children started on the back trail, but the warriors went ahead. Afterwards I learned they had received word that the Commanches were coming and these and our tribes were at war. We kept on the back trail one night and one day and then the warriors came back to us. They found that it was a false alarm.
"One day I was sick and they steeped some herbs and poured the mixture hot onto my head. While I was feeling badly they let me ride in a thing (travaux) they had made of willows strapped onto two poles and the front ends of the poles fastened to the saddle while the other ends dragged on the ground. In this they placed blankets to sit on and it made a very comfortable way of riding. They put a little Indian child in this (travaux) with me and it was frightened nearly to death. They usually carry their children by strapping the child to a board and then hanging the board on the horn of the saddle.
"They would take me with them to get water and also when they went to pick plums and grapes. They dried some of these fruits. But they never asked me to do any of this work; the squaws did all the work. We always camped two hours before sundown, and they had two tents--one for the young squaws to make bead work and moccasins, and the other for the real old men to make arrows. I always slept in the tent with the girls that made the moccasins and beadwork. And these girls took me wherever they went and seemed to be very fond of me."
I have learned from several sources that the reason why Laura Roper got along so well with the Indians who held her captive was because she was cheerful, or at least made it appear that way. She knew that the Indians did not like anyone who was gloomy or who cried on account of pain or unpleasant situations. This has been noted in the general character of the Redman for it is said that Indian captives would under the cruelest torture never even give out a moan.
In her narrative Laura Roper Vance further states:
"Neva told me one day that they had sent two Indians to Fort Lyons where the Indian agent was stationed and the United States soldiers also. He said that if these two Indians got into the fort alive they would tell the commanding officer that the Indians had three prisoners and would give them up if the soldiers would come after the prisoners. Neva was afraid that the soldiers would kill these two Indians, thinking that they were trying to do some depredations. But that if they got there alright, in three days they would send up a signal smoke to let the Indians here know that the soldiers were coming after the prisoners.
"One day Neva came to me and showed me the signal smoke. That night our camp took the back trail and traveled all night. The next day I found out they had rallied all their warriors to go and meet the soldiers from Fort Lyons, and had sent back all the old men, women and children and me. In about three days the warriors came back and Neva told me that the soldiers were camped about a day's ride from us, and that if the Indians and the soldiers could come to an agreement they would give me up.
"It was beginning to get cold weather and the Indians were anxious to make peace and get blankets for winter. They, therefore, wanted the soldiers to take some of their chiefs to Denver to see Governor Evans, who had asked them to come. The soldiers agreed to take the chiefs to Denver and back again to their tribes in safety. Black Kettle was among these chiefs.
"So the fourth day Neva and another Indian put me on my pony and we started for the soldiers. We rode until about 4 o'clock in the afternoon and then came to where the soldiers had been encamped, but they were not there. They had gone and the Indians didn't seem to know what to do. We turned around and went back to our camp. I then thought my chances to become free were slim. You can't imagine my feelings when I learned that the soldiers were gone.
"The next morning Neva told me there was a lake with water about a day's travel from where the soldiers had camped and that they might have gone there to camp on account of the water and he would take me to that place, but if the soldiers were not there he would not follow them any farther and I would just have to stay with them.
Left to Right: Dannie Marble, Laura Roper, Isabel Eubank, Ambrose Asher.
"So the next morning we set out again to find them and about 4 o'clock in the evening we came in sight of Major E. W. Wyncoop's camp. When we got about within one-half mile of the camp Neva and the other Indians began running their horses right up to the camp where there were 150 soldiers with Major Wyncoop in command. I was turned over to the commanding officer at once. The Indians had brought along, also, three other prisoners with them, which fact I did not know till then: Belle Eubank, four years old; Dannie Marple, nine years old, whom they had captured at Plum Creek above Fort Kearney when his father was killed, who was from Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Connie Eubank, nine years old, who was captured on the Little Blue near where I was captured. But they did not bring in Mrs. Wm. Eubank and the baby.
Stay in Denver.
"We stayed here in this soldiers' camp about four days. It seemed that there was some dissatisfaction between the Indians and soldiers. The Major thought the Indians were probably planning on killing us and all the soldiers. But at the end of four days we all started for Fort Lyons. There were five chiefs with us. We were four days in getting to the fort.
"You can imagine my delight at getting to the fort among white people again. There were several white families living there. While here I saw the half-breed who talked to me the first night I was a captive--Joe Beralda. The Indians had given him up because he had been a traitor to both the Indians and the U. S. government. They executed him--that is the soldiers.
"We stayed at Fort Lyons about a week. Then Major Wyncoop and family, Captain Sole [Captain Silas Soule-chw] and wife, five chiefs, three children and myself and an escort of soldiers started for Denver. We arrived there safe and sound. We stopped at the Planters hotel and created quite a sensation. This was about the twelfth of October, 1864.
The arrival of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Chiefs and white prisoners in Denver, September 28, 1864.
"Of course everybody was anxious to hear the particulars. I was willing for a time to satisfy their curiosity, but it soon got awfully monotonous. While there I wrote to Nebraska City to see if I could find out anything about my people. We had lived there once and I supposed that if they had escaped alive they might have gone back there. I got in return a letter from my mother. This was the first she had heard of me since I was captured.
"While in Denver the people bought me clothes and everything else I needed. They could not send me to my folks until a wagon-train had been made up strong enough to be protection against the Indians, for the Indians were still on the war path. Two white children were brought into Denver that the Indians had killed."
[About five weeks after Laura Roper was freed the Battle of Sand Creek occurred in which Col. Chivington's soldiers killed over 500 Indians. Black Kettle was still in Denver.]
Black Kettle and Chiefs at Camp Weld, September, 1864.
At the back are, (left to right), Unknown (Simeon Whiteley?),
Dexter Colley, John Simpson Smith, Heap of Buffalo, Bosse,
Gov. John Evans and Unknown.
Seated are, (left to right), Neva, Bull Bear, at center, holding the peace pipe is Black Kettle followed by White Antelope and No-Ta-Nee, (Knock Knee).
Maj. Edward W. Wynkoop, (on the left), and Capt. Silas Soule are kneeling in front.
Photographed by Maj. Wynkoop's step-father-in-law, George D. Wakely.
"I was in Denver about three weeks. Then I started for Nebraska City. The wagon-train with which I came was protected by U. S. soldiers. I came with this wagon-train as far as Fort Kearney. From there I went with the stage coach to Nebraska City, where my people were. From there we went to Pennsylvania, my people's former home."LAURA L. ROPER."
"I learned a long time afterwards that Mrs. Wm. Eubank and baby were with the Indians three years but finally got away and were living somewhere in Missouri.
Letter of Mary M. Huff.
On December 30, 1926, I received a letter from Mrs. Mary M. Huff of Colorado Springs. Mrs. Huff is a daughter of Hattie Palmer whose first husband's name was Joseph Eubank, who was killed on August 7, 1864, at the Oak Grove massacre. Mrs. Huff's father's name was Joseph Adams."MARY M. HUFF."
"Dear Mr. Ellenbecker:
"Replying to yours in regard to the Little Blue Indian raid in 1864 will say that my mother, at that time Mrs. Joseph Eubank, was in that raid and her husband (Joseph Eubank) was killed at that time, as well as six others of the Eubank family.
"My mother and her brother, John Palmer, escaped by going with a wagon-train."
Then she relates the experience of Mrs. Wm. Eubank, who with her two children, little Belle and baby, Willie, were captured by the Indians and kept in captivity for nine months.
Continuing Mrs. Huff writes:
"My half sister, Josephine Eubank, was born March 15, 1865. She married Charles Smith. She lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, when she died in July, 1905. . . . My mother, Mrs. Joseph Adams, died in January 1915. . . . These facts are very meager. I only remember them as I heard my mother tell about them.
"I shall be very glad to receive a copy of your history of the massacre when completed. . . .
"With kind wishes, I am,
To the critical it may appear that there are disagreements as to detail in regard to time, place and other minor data between the parties quoted. Now, it is just possible that the Roper family tarried both at Nebraska City and Brownsville.
John Gilbert and Laura Roper do not agree as to whether Dora Eubank was scalped. This is unimportant. There is no doubt but what both were actuated in telling what they thought was the truth.
In a tragedy like this massacre, where nearly all the eye witnesses were killed, and killed singly, and the captives hurried away to suffer much and long, there is no wonder that some parts of such a story are vague and diverging. In the main it is true, and it is a wonder that there is a story at all.
The dangling threads of this event have been frayed by the winds of time for 62 years and when we take this fact into account this story of the Indian troubles of the sixties is the best that could be written at this time.
The stories given to me by Mrs. Minnie Hough of Russ, Mo., a niece of Mrs. Wm. Eubank, and by Mrs. Laura Roper Vance of Enid, Okla., agree almost to the letter, and these two people never knew each other nor compared notes. Mrs. Hough got her information from Mrs. Wm. Eubank, now deceased. Therefore, I have concluded that seven members of the Eubank family lost their lives beside little Belle Eubank, and she may be alive yet.
Laura Roper died at Enid Mch 11, 1929.
Belle Eubank adopted by Dr. Berdsal of Denver, 1864.
Ellenbecker, John G., Oak Grove Massacre, (Oak, Nebraska), Indian Raids on the Little Blue River in 1864. As printed in the Marysville Advocate-Democrat, Marysville, Kan. [1927?].
Notes and Acknowledgements:
Spelling errors have been silently corrected. All seem to have been slips on the part of the typesetter and not the author[s].
Several of the photos that accompany this piece, (which did not have any illustrations as originally published), were taken by Ned Wynkoop's step-father-in-law, George D. Wakely, including both group shots of the Indian Chiefs, including Black Kettle, and the picture of their arrival in Denver on September 28th, 1864.
I would like to thank my good friend Byron Strom,
firstname.lastname@example.org, for first bringing this mention of Silas Soule to my attention several years ago. There is some controversy over whether or not Silas was married at the time mentioned here, 1864, and Laura Roper's narrative seems to deepen the mystery. This is one heck of a story, Byron! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
Next I would like to thank Jim Kroll,
email@example.com, Manager of the Western History/Genealogy Department of the Denver Public Library for sending me a copy of this pamphlet. This is exactly the one I wanted! My deepest thanks Jim. You folks do a great job out there in Denver. I wish your library was located next door so I could spend a lot more time searching your collections!
All my best,