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I WILL here present to you items of interest per-
taining to the Cherokee Strip, including many
stirring incidents which have from time to time
been a matter of public record. The Strip was
a piece of land owned by the Cherokee Indians,
about one hundred miles square. It adjoined Howard
County, Kansas, five miles south of the town of Elgin.
I afterward heard that Howard County had been sub-
divided by the Government, and a portion of it called
Elk County.

A report gained currency that the United States
Government intended buying this strip and allowing
160 acres to each person having homestead or squatter
rights. Sutherland and I concluded to make a loca-
tion, and accordingly, settled ourselves on adjoining
pieces of land, but lived together. In the meantime,
the Osage Indians sold their lands in Kansas and
bought this strip from the Cherokees, before the
Government had concluded the deal. When they came
to take possession of it, they discovered that it had
been taken up by the white people. The houses which
we had built were of logs cut off the ridges, where
post oak grew plentifully. The houses were without
floors. The cooking was done in old-fashioned fire-
places. The houses were few and far between; this
being particularly true of the section where we lived.

One clear, moonlight night we were suddenly awak-
ened by a loud rapping. I opened the door, while Mr.


Sutherland stood just to one side with his Spencer
carbine ready for instant use. There I found three
mounted men, all armed to the teeth, and the hardest
looking trio I ever saw. After asking who lived there,
they wanted to know if I were alone.

"No," I answered, "Mr. Sutherland and wife are
here." Whereupon Sutherland stepped out from his
hiding place.

We were instructed by the unwelcome visitors that
they wanted something to eat at once. I was ordered
to take their horses to the corral and feed them, which
I did. Although it was nearly midnight, they com-
pelled Mrs. Sutherland to get up and prepare them
something to eat. One of their number, with gun in
hand, remained on guard on the outside and after the
other two had eaten, he came in and partook of the
food. When all had eaten, they went to the corral
where they spent the remainder of the night sleeping,
each taking turns at guard duty. At daylight they
came back to the house and the spokesman asked us
if we had any money. We told him "No," as we had
not yet raised a crop.

"Well," he said, handing me three twenty-dollar
greenbacks, "we will stake you. Give the man and
the woman one each and keep the other for yourself."

They then asked: "Does anyone live in that
house yonder?" pointing to a house about two miles

"Yes," I replied; "Mr. Kruger lives there."
"Has he any horses?"
"Yes, four head."

Whereupon they saddled up and left, we noticing
that their horses had a tired and jaded appearance.
In about two hours, Kruger came to our house with
his head bandaged up, and said that one of the men


had struck him with a six-shooter. Kruger was a
contrary German, and, having served in the army,
thought that he was king of the earth. He probably
became saucy when they wanted to trade horses with
him. They accordingly clubbed him, took three of
his best animals, and left their own in place of them.
Had he used better judgment under the conditions, he
might have made a good trade with them. He wanted
us to go with him and try to recover his horses, and
became very angry when we refused to do so.

Three days later a sheriff with three deputies,
in pursuit of these men, arrived at pur cabin and
made inquiries concerning them. We informed them
that three men had stopped over night with us and
had gone on, heading west. They then proceeded
on their way but returned the following day, having
evidently given up the chase, and informed us that
the men they were hunting were outlaws who robbed
a bank in Parsons, Kansas, killing two men who had
attempted to arrest them. The sheriff and his deputies
remained with us over night, departing early in the
morning. We were careful not to tell them that the
outlaws had given us any money. The next day
Sutherland and I went to town and bought many
necessaries in the way of clothing, groceries, etc. The
storekeeper expressed considerable surprise when we
handed him our greenbacks, as this form of money in
that country was very scarce in those days.

One bright morning not long after these events,
Sutherland and I went together on a deer hunt; he
took his Spencer carbine, and I borrowed a heavy
muzzle-loading rifle, equipped with a set trigger. I
was now to have my first experience at deer hunting.

Sutherland proceeded with caution along the top
of a ridge or hill, and I along the foot. I had not
gone far when I saw three deer pawing in the snow,
looking for acorns. They had not seen me, and I


quickly decided that here was the chance to secure
my first deer. Unfortunately, while in the act of
taking aim, I unconsciously touched the set-trigger,
resulting in the load going off in the ground about
ten feet from me. Hearing the shot, Mr. Sutherland
ran down and asked me if I had hit a deer. Not
wanting him to know that my rifle had been dis-
charged accidentally, I replied: "Yes, I hit him."
Whereupon he began to search, but no deer could be
found. Mr. Sutherland scolded me severely for my
poor marksmanship, and we returned home with-
out any game.

In the meantime, the Osages promptly appealed
to the government, and the latter notified us to
vacate. We refused, as we had improved the land
to a large extent by building rail fences, log houses,
etc. The government then sent troops and six-mule
teams there and moved us across the line into Kansas,
giving the Osages peaceful possession. This was, of
course, just, although we did not consider it so at
the time.

In the spring of 1867 the Osage Indians established
their new agency forty miles south of the Kansas line.
The location selected was at the base of a rocky hill,
which was infested with thousands of snakes. While
digging a well, it was our custom every morning
to lower a man in a bucket to the bottom. This was
for the purpose of killing snakes that had fallen into
the opening during the night.

There were twenty white men employed on this
agency, and the agent had selected an Indian by the
name of "Red Feather," who was to keep us supplied
with deer meat. One day, the agency's interpreter,
who was a white man, asked Red Feather how it
happened that he always had a full supply of venison.
Red Feather replied : "Some time I catch um deer and
some time dog; white man don't know." For a time


the interpeter kept this information to himself, but
finally, it being too rich to keep, told us. Our feelings
can be better imagined than described. Suffice to
say that Red Feather had his contract cancelled on
very short notice, and our fondness for deer meat
vanished. For a long time afterward, we could not
bear the mention of it.

Finally, becoming tired of agency life, and my
roving disposition as I thought requiring a change,
I started for the new town of Wichita, Kansas, which
at that time was a shipping point for Texas cattle.
I remained there but a short time. From Wichita
I went to Newton, Kansas then the terminus of the
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, and one of the
wildest towns in the state. Newton was a rendezvous
for gamblers and "sure-thing" men. There were
numerous saloons and two large dance halls, a few
merchandise stores and a hotel. At this particular
time, the female element consisted entirely of dance-
hall girls. The majority of the male population were,
what were then termed, gun-fighters ; the six-shooter
being the only recognized law there at that time.

Here I witnessed one of the most noted gun fights
that ever took place in the West. The fight was
between Kansas and Texas desperadoes. It occurred
in Tim Shea's dance-hall, and was a pre-arranged
affair. The Texicans had visited the town some five
days prior to this and ran things to suit themselves.
They then sent word that they were coming back on
a certain night and proposed to duplicate the act.
Tim Shea gathered together about thirty Kansas
gun-men whom he knew and could depend upon. True
to their threat, the Texicans arrived on the appointed
night. Shea, hearing them coming, stationed his men
at the rear of the dance-hall ; the Texicans riding up
to the front, entered the door, yelling and shooting
off their guns. Shea's men rushed in the back door,


and the shooting began. The lights were shot out,
all was darkness, and the entire thing was over in
fifteen minutes. When the lamps were relighted,
fourteen were found lying dead on the floor, but the
number of wounded will never be known. One of
the dance-hall girls was wounded in the right eye,
and ever afterward was known as "One-eyed Molly."
Few, if any, who took part in that fight are alive
today. I will give you the names of a few of the
prominent ones: Matt Reilly, Billy Brooks, Tim Shea,
Lushey Bill, Chris Gilson, Tom Sherman, Pony Spen-
cer. There were others whose names I cannot recall.

From Newton, I followed the extension of the
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad to the next
terminus, which was Larnerd, Kansas.




THERE was probably no railroad extension
westward ever marked by more lawlessness
than was that of the Atchison, Topeka &
Santa Fe. The next terminus was Dodge
City, two miles west of Fort Dodge, and of
which I will speak later.

Leaving Larnerd, I concluded to go northward to
Hayes City, which at that time was the terminus of
the Kansas Pacific Railroad, now a part of the Union
Pacific system. It was there that I first met J. B.
Hickok, better known as "Wild Bill." Bill was mar-
shal of Hays City.

A good many stories have been written from time
to time of this character, Wild Bill, but I am sure
none will prove of more interest to the reader than
that which I am about to relate. From the time of
our first meeting in Hayes City, my remarks are
based on personal knowledge and contact with him,
dating from the year 1868 when ,we first met, to the
time of his death, which occurred in 1876.

Our first meeting is indelibly impressed upon my
mind. I had been dancing all night in one of the
numerous dance-halls of Hayes City, as was the
almost universal custom in those days of strangers
looking for pleasure and entertainment. Morning
found me waiting outside for one of the dance-hall
girls, for whom I had formed a boyish fancy. The
night's entertainment had proved costly to me, my


finances having dwindled from forty dollars to a
dollar and a half. This extravagance on my part
had been noted by Wild Bill, unknown to me. As I
stood on the sidewalk, deliberating, someone touched
me on the shoulder. I turned, and found myself
face to face with the finest looking man I have ever
seen or ever expect to see; a man who excited my
greatest admiration. He was about six feet, two
inches in height; perfectly formed and of strong
physique, and at that time thirty-one years old. He
had long auburn hair, and clear blue eyes ; eyes that
showed kindness and friendship to all, except the evil
doer, to whom they meant the reverse. I was naturally
drawn toward him, and instinctively felt that no
matter how tough the town or its lawless characters,
I had met a friend. He asked me where I hailed from
and I replied: "From the Santa Fe Construction." He
gave me some very wholesome advice regarding spend-
ing my money so foolishly and asked me what I was
doing at Hayes City. I told him I was looking for
work. After a long pause, during which he appeared
to be sizing me up, he asked me if I could drive a
six-mule team. I could not, and frankly told him so.
He evidently thought I could learn quickly, for he
took me into a near-by saloon and taught me how to
tie a Government hame-string. The Government at
that time used a leather strap with a knot on the end
of it instead of the buckle and tongue of the present

The next morning he went with me to Fort Hayes,
two and a half miles distant. There we met the
corral boss, and Wild Bill asked him to put me to
work, stating that he had taken a fatherly interest in
me and wanted to see me get along in good shape. The
corral boss asked if I could drive a six-mule team. To
which Bill replied: "Yes." A mule collar was thrown
on the ground and I was told to tie the names on,
which I did. He then turned to Bill with a broad


grin and remarked, "You have drilled him well." He
then told me to remain at the post and he would put me
to work. During the day I got acquainted with some
of the mule drivers, who showed me how to harness
a six-mule team. The term used for mule drivers in
those days was "mule-skinners." The second morning
Bill came out to see how I was getting along, and to
his astonishment found me driving a six-mule team.
He rode by my side for some distance, giving me
pointers that afterward were very useful to me. I
worked at this post for six months, during which I
saw a great deal of Wild Bill, as I was in town nearly
every night.

I will now give you this wonderful character's
life as told to me by Bill himself, at my request three
months previous to his death in Deadwood.

Wild Bill was born in Homer, Illinois, in 1837.
His proper name was James Benson Hickok. He
enlisted in the Union Army in 1862, and became a
spy, operating principally in Missouri at the time
when General Price of the Confederate Army was
terrorizing the country with his lawless and merciless
deeds. Bill's duties as a spy necessitated his con-
necting himself with General Price's command. As a
result, he rendered invaluable services to the Union.
He was discharged in 1865. He then went to Spring-
field, Missouri, at which place he killed his first man
in civil life, a character by the name of Dave Tutt,
who had served in the Confederate Army and who
had a great reputation as a gun-fighter. The cir-
cumstances of this killing, which occurred on July
28th, 1865, (and were verified by me on the county
records of Springfield), were as follows:

On the night previous to July 28th, 1865, Tutt and
Bill were engaged in a game of cards, in which Bill
lost all of his ready cash. This resulted in his borrow-
ing twenty dollars from Tutt and handing him his


watch as security, the loan to be repaid the following-
morning. Bill was on hand at the appointed time,
but when he made a tender of the twenty dollars, Dave
refused to return the watch, claiming that the
amount borrowed was forty dollars instead of twenty.
Bill's indignation was further increased by Dave's
tantalizing remark that at twelve o'clock he would
walk across the public square with Bill's watch in his
pocket. Bill's reply to this insult was: "Sometimes
dead men wear watches!" Thus the matter ended
for the time being. Promptly at the stroke of twelve
o'clock Dave stepped out of the court house, Bill
approaching from an opposite direction. As they
spied each other, their hands went instinctively to
their guns, both quickly realizing that a life must
pay the forfeit. Bill's aim was steady and true, a
bullet through Dave's heart being the result, while
Dave's bullet went harmlessly over Bill's head. Thus
had Bill's prophecy come true.

Shortly after this occurrence, Bill left Springfield
and went to St. Louis, Missouri, where he was em-
ployed by Ben Holladay, who at that time was oper-
ating the Overland Stage Line from St. Louis to
San Francisco. Holladay had suffered no end of trouble
from gangs of desperadoes who were continually
holding up his stage coaches, robbing the passengers
and making off with the Wells Fargo strong box,
which was carried under contract.

Foremost among these desperadoes and the most
feared was the noted McCanless gang. Bill was given
instructions to exterminate this gang, which consisted
of nine men. He was asked how many men he would
require to assist him and replied : "None I" This was
certainly a good evidence of the man's grit and pluck.
Leaving St. Louis single handed, he made his initial
move by going to Rock Springs station on the Cim-
aron river, arriving at about four o'clock in the


afternoon and assuming- charge immediately. He had
been in his new quarters but one hour when McCan-
less, the leader of the gang, rode up and asked him
what he was doing there. Bill replied that he was the
"new station agent." McCanless' response was, that
if he (Bill) was not away from there within twenty-
four hours, he would be shipped to St. Louis in a
box. Bill's reply was that when they returned, they
would still find him on the job, for he had come to
stay. True to McCanless' word, the gang did return
on the following afternoon and gave bill the hardest
battle of his life. Approaching the station, in which
Bill was quartered, they opened fire on him, nine
men against one. They certainly were hardly pre-
pared for what was to follow.

In less time than it takes to write this, Bill had
shot four of them ; but at this critical moment, his
gun was knocked from his hand. Seizing a knife from
the belt of McCanless, Bill used it to advantage.
Again good fortune seemed to favor him, for regain-
ing his gun, he speedily exterminated the remainder
of the gang, except one, who had gotten some distance
away. One more shot from Bill's six-shooter, and the
extermination of the gang was complete.

Bill had not escaped unharmed. When he was
found by a stocktender shortly after the battle, he
was lying on his side unconscious and not a charge left
in his gun. He had received three bullet and two
knife wounds, which wounds came very nearly ending
his useful career. He was taken immediately to St.
Louis, where his life hung by a thread for a long
time, but his remarkable vitality finally predominated.
It was, however, fully a year before he was restored
to his full mind and vigor.

In the fall of 1867, Bill's restless, roving disposition
again began to assert itself. He left St. Louis; this
time going to Camp Supply and Fort Sill in the


Indian Territory, not far south of Fort Dodge, Kansas.
At Camp Supply, he was engaged by the Government
as a scout. This vocation he followed for about a
year, which was brought to a close by his meeting
General Custer, of Indian fame. Custer was en route
to Fort Hayes and prevailed on Bill to go with him.
While scouting out of Fort Hayes, the town of Hayes
City sprung up. This town, like all other terminus
towns of early days, had its full quota of the law-
less element and the question of keeping them in sub-
jection was a hard problem to solve. This particular
town got so bad that General Custer was appealed to
for military assistance, which he refused. He told
the citizens that he had a scout working for him by
the name of Wild Bill, and that if they could arrange
with him, he would guarantee that the lawless element
would be kept under control. These arrangements
were finally made and Wild Bill became the first
marshal of Hayes City. This was in the year 1868.
A marshal of those days was very different from what
the reader today might naturally suppose. He ' was
employed by the better class to maintain peace and
order, and his word and acts were the recognized law ;
there being no court of justice in existence at that
time, neither had a marshal any power invested in
him by the Government.

Bill was a man of great characteristics, of magnetic
power, and probably the quickest man with a six-
shooter the world has ever produced. He was never
known to shoot twice at the same man, the first shot
in every case meaning certain death. (This brings my
story of Wild Bill down to the time when we first

While Bill was marshal of Hayes City, I witnessed
his killing of seven soldiers, the circumstances of
which were as follows :


There were fifteen soldiers in the party, one of
them being a 1st Sergant, with whom Bill had pre-
viously had trouble at Fort Hayes. This had resulted
in ill feeling between the two, and further trouble
was certain. Meeting Bill on the street at Hayes
City, the sergeant having imbibed very freely and
throwing caution to the winds, invited Bill to put
away his guns and engage with him in a bare fist
fight. To this Bill readily consented and, handing
his guns to his friend, Paddy Walch, a saloon keeper,
Bill and the sergeant went into the street to fight it
out. Bill knocked the sergeant down three times.
The soldiers, seeing their sergeant getting the worst
of it, rushed in on Bill, one from behind placing his
knee in the small of Bill's back, forcing him to the
ground, the others in front kicking and striking at
him. At this juncture Walch, fearing that Bill would
be killed, came running up, handed Bill his guns and
told him to use them if he valued his life. Without
one instant's hesitation Bill seized his guns and com-
menced a rapid fire, killing two soldiers back of him
by shooting over his right shoulder, at the same time
killing five more in front with the gun in his left
hand. Naturally this created great excitement, as
killing a soldier, even by a town marshal, was a very
serious affair those days. Bill, knowing that General
Custer would give the matter a very thorough in-
vestigation, decided to leave the town and secrete him-
self in the hills until this was over.

General Custer decided that Bill was justified in
the killing and exonerated him from all blame. Bill
then resumed his duties as marshal. In the discharge
of his duties while marshal of that town, he had a
record of killing twelve men.

In the spring of 1869, the town of Abilene, Kansas,
sprang up. This town was composed of an entirely
different element from Hayes City, but the toughness


predominated to a still larger extent, if such a thing
were possible. Abilene was the rendezvous of cattle-
men and cowboys, who drove large herds of cattle
from Texas to Abilene, from where they were shipped
to eastern markets. Naturally, Abilene became the
scene of the wildest disorder; being marked by
drunken orgies, carousals without number, and num-
erous shooting scrapes that were the natural result.

The first marshal of Abilene was one Green River
Smith. This man, fearless and endowed with plenty
of nerve, and having a very good opinion of himself,
made many boasts; one of which was, that a bullet
had never been moulded that could kill him. A short
time after this boast, he was doomed to death, but in
a different way from that of a bullet.

Taking his deputy with him, he left Abilene in
search of two horse thieves who had been very
troublesome to many. The thieves were located in a
dug-out, three miles from town. Smith stationed
his deputy at the entrance, he himself going inside.
While in there, his deputy for some unexplained cause
became alarmed and disappeared. One of the horse
thieves, stepping behind Smith, struck him in the head
with an axe, killing him and decapitated him. The
news of Smith's death at the hands of the horse
thief quickly reached Abilene, and for two months
afterward the town was completely in the hands of
the lawless element; in fact, the state of affairs had
reached such a stage that the law-abiding citizens were
seriously contemplating abandoning the town. At this
critical time, a man who had just arrived from Hayes
City remarked that if they could but secure Wild
Bill, their troubles would be over. This was met
with instant favor and resulted in Wild Bill becoming
their next marshal.

Now, dear readers, we will pause for a moment as
I wish to impress more vividly on your mind the


state of affairs as they existed at this time, also the
Herculean task Wild Bill had before him. Here was
a town that for two months had been in the hands of
a drunken, desperate, frenzied mob. Many men even
of that day would have hesitated had they been
placed in the position of Wild Bill and allotted
the necessary work he was to set out to do, in
order to completely change the conditions of the town.

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Online LibraryHarry YoungHard knocks : a life story of the vanishing West → online text (page 3 of 17)