Copyright
Henry T Williams.

Pacific tourist : Adams and Bishop's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean : a complete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific railroads online

. (page 7 of 62)
Online LibraryHenry T WilliamsPacific tourist : Adams and Bishop's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean : a complete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific railroads → online text (page 7 of 62)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


place.

Stevenson has an elevation of 2,170 feet,
and is 201.2 miles from the Missouri River. It
is simply a side track with a section-house near
by. The way settlers have pushed up this valley
during the last five years, is marvelous.

M,m, Creek is 211.5 miles from Omaha,
with an elevation of 2,211 feet. In the first 200
miles of your journey, you have attained an alti-
tude more than a thousand feet above Omaha,
whore you started, and yet the ascent has been so
gradual that you have scarcely noticed it. Elm
Creek was so named after the creek which you
cross just after leaving the station going west.
It was formerly heavily timbered with elm, ash,
hackberry and a few walnuts and cotton-woods;
but the necessities of the road when it was built
required it all and more too. The town has one
or two saloons, stores, school-house and a few
dwellings. The creek rises in the bluffs north-
west, and sluggishly worries through them and
the sand, till it is fina'.ly swallowed up by the
Platte. But little timber remains in this vicinity.
The next station, some nine miles west of Elm
Creek, called

Overt on has the usual side track, school-
house, a store and some few dwellings. This



valley, to this point and beyond, would have been
thickly settled long before this but for climatic
reasons which we need not name. The Platte
Valley extends on either side here nearly as far
as the eye can reach. The town is 220.5 miles
from Omaha, at an elevation of 2,305 feet.

Josselyn, A side track ; will eventually be-
come a station ; named alter the pay-master of
the Union Pacific Road. It is 225.1 miles iiorn
Omaha, with an elevation of about 2,330 feet
above the sea.

Plum Creek. So named from a cm k on
the south side of the river, which flows into the
Platte nearly opposite the town. The stage-
station, on the old overland load was located
on this creek and in those days it was considered
q lite an important point Jt was the scene of a
number of conflicts with the savages- in iactone
of their favorite points of attack; eleven white
persons were killed and several wounded dining
one of these attacks. Four miles west of the
present 'town-site they captured and binned a
train of cars in 18G7; one of the train mm was
scalped and recently was still living in or near
Omaha; one was killed, and the otheis, we be-
lieve, made their escape. 1 he nature of the
bluffs here is such that they had a good oppor-
tunity to attack and escape belore the settlers
and emigrants could rally and give them battle.
The creek rises in a very bluffy region, and luns
north-east into (he Platte. Plum Creek is
the county-seat of Daw son County ; has about
500 inhabitants ; a fine brick courtrhouse with
jail underneath, one church edifice, school-house,
two or three hotels, stores, warehouses, etc. It is
a point where considerable broom-corn is pur-
chased and shipped ; has a semi-weekly stage line
across the Republican Valley to Norton, in the
State of Kansas, and a weekly newspaper. There
is a substantial wagon bridge across the Platte
River, nearly three-quarters of a mile in length.
It is located in the midst of a very fine glazing
country, though in favorable seasons crops have
done well. With irrigation, perhaps they might
be made a certainty. This town also enjoys
quite a trade with the upper Republican Valley.
Jt was formerly a favorite range for buffaloes,
and large quantities of their bleaching bones
have been gathered and shipped by rail to St.
Louis and places east. It is 231.4 miles from
Omaha, with an elevation of 2,370 feet.

Battle With the Indians at Plum
Creek. While the railroad was being built,
the engineers, graders and track-layers were fre-
quently driven from their work by the Indians.
Not only then, but after the track was laid and
trains running, it was some times torn up and
trains ditched, causing loss of lives and destruc-
tion of property. One of these attacks took
place near Plum Creek, as we will now relate.
In July, 1807, a train was ditched about four
miles west of the above-named station. It



34



was by a band of southern Cheyennes, under a
chief called Turkey Leg, who now draws his
rations regularly from Uncle Sam, at the Red
Cloud agency. He is a vicious looking fellow,
his appearance naturally suggesting him as a fit
subject for a hanging bee. At a small bridge,
or culvert, over a dry ravine, they had lifted the
iron rails from their chairs on the ties raising
only one end of each rail about three feet, pil-
ing up ties under them for support, and firmly
lashing the rails and ties together by wire cut
from the adjoining telegraph line. They were
pretty cunning in this arrangement of the rails,
and evidently placed them where they thought
they would penetrate the cylinder on each side
of the engine. But not having a mechanical
turn of mind exactly, and disregarding the slight
curve in the road at this point, they missed their
calculations, as the sequel shows, as one of the
rails did no execution whatever, and the other
went straight into and through the boiler. After
they had fixed the rails in the manner described,
they retired to where the bench or second bottom
slopes down to the first, and there concealed
themselves in the tall grass, waiting for the train.
Before it left Plum Creek, a hand-car with three
section men was sent ahead as a pilot. This car
encountered the obstacle, and ran into the ravine,
bruising and stunning the men and frightening
them so that they were unable to signal to the
approaching train. As soon as the car landed at
the bottom of the ravine, the Indians rushed up,
when two of the men, least hurt, ran away in the
darkness of the night it was little past mid-
nightand hid in the tall grass near by. The
other, more stunned by the fall of the car, was
scalped by the savages, and as the knife of the
savage passed under his scalp, he seemed to
realize his condition partly, and in his delirium
wildly threw his arms out and snatched the scalp
from the Indian, who had just lifted it from his
skull. With this he, too, got away in the dark-
ness, and is now an employe of the company at
Omaha.

But the fated train came on without any
knowledge of what had transpired in front. As
the engine approached the ravine, the head-light
gleaming out in the darkness in the dim dis-
tance, fast growing less and less, the engineer,
Brooks Bowers by name, but familiarly called
*' Bully Brooks " by the railroad men, saw that
the rails were displaced, whistled "down
brakes," and reversed his engine, but all too late
to stop the train. The door of the fire-box wus
open, and the fireman was in the act of adding
fuel to the flames within, when the i-rash came.
That fireman was named Hendershot, and the
boys used to speak of him as "the drummer boy
of the Rappahannock," as he bore the same
name, and might have been the same person
whose heroic deeds, in connection with Burn-
side's attack on Fredericksburg, are now matters



of history. He was thrown against the fire-box
when the ravine was reached, and literally
roasted alive, nothing but a few of his bones be-
ing afterwards found. The engineer was thrown
over the lever he was holding in his hands,
through the window of his cab, some twenty feet
or more. In his flight the lever caught and rip-
ped open his abdomen, and when found he was
sitting on the ground holding his protruding
bowels in his hands. Next to the engine were
two flat cars loaded with brick. These were
landed, brick and all, some thirty or forty feet
in front of the engine, while the box cars, loaded
with freight, were thrown upon the engine and
around the wreck in great disorder After a
time these took fire, and added horror to the
scene. The savages now swarmed around the
train and whooped and yelled in great glee.
When the shock first came, however, the con-
ductor ran ahead on the north side of the track
to the engine, and there saw Bowers and Hender-
shot i-n the position we have described them.
He told them he must leave them and flag the
second section of the train following after, or it,
too, would be wrecked. He then ran back, sig-
naled this train, and with it returned to Plum
Creek. Arriving there in the middle of the
night, in vain did he try to get a force of men to
proceed at once to the scene of the disaster. No
one would go. In the morning, however, they
rallied, armed themselves and went out to the
wreck. By this time it was near ten o'clock. The
burning box cars had fallen around the brave
engineer, and while the fiery brands had un-
doubtedly added to his agony, they had also
ended his earthly existence. His blackened and
charred remains only told of his suffering. The
rescuing party found the train still burning the
Indians had obtained all the plunder they could
carry, and left in the early morning. In the first
gray dawn of the morning they manifested their
delight over the burning train in every possible
way, and their savage glee knew no bounds.
From the cars not then burned they rolled out
boxes and bales of merchandise, from whicli they
took bright-colored flannels, calicos, and other
fancy goods. Bolts of these goods they would
loosen, and with one end tied to their ponies' tails
or the horn of their saddles, they would mount
and start at full gallop up and down the prairie
just to see the bright colors streaming in the
wind behind them. But the end of this affair
was not yet. The avenging hand ot justice \\as
on the track of these blood-thirsty villains, who,
for some inscrutable reason, are permitted to
wear the human form. In the spring of that
year, by order of General Augur, then in com-
mand of the military department of the 1'latte,
Major Frank North, of Columbus, \el>.. who
had had no little experience in tho business, was
authorized to raise a battalion of two hundred
Pawnee Indians, who were peaceable and friendly



35



towards the whites, and whose reservation is
near Columbus, for scouting duty. Jt was the
old experiment of fighting the devil with fire to
be tried over again. These scouts were to tight
the various hostile bands of the Sioux, Arrapa-
hoes, and Cheyennes, and assist in guarding the
railroad, and the railroad builders. At the time
this train was attacked, these scouts were scat-
tered in small detachments along the line of the
road between Sidney and the Laramie Plains.
General Augur was immediately notified of it,
and he telegraphed Major North to take the
nearest company of his scouts and repair as soon
as possible to the scene of the disaster. At that
time, Major North was about fourteen miles west
of Sidney, at the end of the track, and his nearest
company was some twelve miles further on.
Mounting his horse, he rode to their camp in
about fifty minutes, got his men together, and
leaving orders for the wagons to follow, returned,
arriving at the end of the track at about four
o'clock in the afternoon. By the time these men
and horses were loaded on the cars, the wagons
had arrived, and by five o'clock the train pulled
out. Arriving at Julesburg, they were attached
to a passenger train, and by midnight, or within
twenty-four hours after the disaster took place,
he arrived at the scene. Meanwhile other white
troops, stationed near by, had arrived. In the
morning he was. ordered by General Augur to
follow the trail and ascertain whether the at-
tack had been made by northern or southern In-
dians. With ten men he started on the scout.
The sharp-sighted Pawnees soon struck the trail.
They found where the hostile band had crossed
the river, and where they had abandoned some
of their plunder. They followed the trail all
that day, and found that it bore south to the
Republican Valley. From this fact, and other
indications that only Indians would notice, he
ascertained that the attacking band were south-
ern Cheyennes. Returning from this scout, after
about thirty-five miles' travel, he reported to the
commanding officer at Omaha, and received
orders to remain in the vicinity, and thoroughly
scout the country, the belief being generally en-
tertained among the officers that, if not followed,
the Indians would soon return on another raid.
Subsequent events proved this belief to be true,
and they had not long to wait. In about ten
days, their camp being at Plum Creek, one of
the scouts came running into camp from the
bluffs south of Plum Creek, and reported that
the Indians were coming. He had discovered
them in the distance, making their way in the
direction of the old overland stage station, which
they soon after reached. Arriving here, they
unsaddled their horses and turned them loose in
an old sod corral to feed and rest. They then
began preparations to remain all night The
scouts, however, proposed to find out who and
what they were before the evening approached.



Major North first determined to go with the
company himself, but at the urgent solicitation
of Capt. James Murie, finally gave him charge
of the expedition. There were in the command,
two white commissioned officers Lieut. Isaac
Davis, besides the Captain two white ser-
geants, and forty-eight Pawnees. The company
marched from their camp strain' ht south to the
Platte River, which they crossed ; then turning
to the left followed down its bank under the
bushes to within about a mile and a half of the
creek. Here they were discovered by the Chey-
ennes. Then there was mounting in hot haste
the Cheyennes at once preparing for the fray.
There were one hundred and fifty warriors to be
pitted against this small band of fifty-two, all
told. But the Cheyennes, up to this time, sup-
posed they were to fight white soldiers, and were
very confident of victory. Forming in regular
line, on they rushed to the conflict. Captain
Murie's command, as soon as they found they
were discovered, left the bushes on the liver
bank and went up into the road, where they
formed in line of battle and were ordered to
charge. As the order was given, the Pawnees
set up their war-whoop, slapped their breasts
with their hands and 'shouted "Pawnees." The
opposing lines met on the banks of the creek,
through which the scouts charged with all their
speed. The Cheyennes immediately broke and
fled in great confusion, every man for himself.
Then followed the chase, the killing and the
scalping. The Indians took their old trail for
the Republican Valley, and put their horses to
their utmost speed to escape the deadly fire of
the Pawnees. Night finally ended the chase, and
when the spoils were gathered, it was found that
fifteen Cheyenne warriors had been made to bite
the dust, and their scalps had been taken as tro-
phies of victory. Two prisoners were also taken,
one a boy of about sixteen years and the other a
squaw. The boy was a nephew of Tui key Leg,
the chief. Thirty-five horses and mules were
also taken, while not a man of the scouts was
hurt. After the chase had ceased, a rain-storm
set in, and tired with their day's work, with the
trophies of their victory, they returned to camp.
It was about midnight when they arrived. Ma-
jor North and a company of infantry, under
command of Capt. John A. Miller, had re-
mained in camp guarding government and com-*
pany property, and knowing that a battle had
been fought, were intensely anxious to learn the
result. When the Pawnees came near, it was
with shouts and whoops and songs of victory.
They exhibited their scalps and paraded their
prisoners with great joy, and spent the whole
night in scalp-dances and wild revelry. This
victory put an end to attacks on railroad trains
by the Cheyennes. The boy and squaw were
kept in the camp of the Pawnees until late in
the season, when a big council was held with the



36



Brule Sioux, Spotted Tail's band, at North
Platte, to make a new treaty. Hearing of this
council, Turkey Leg, chief of the Cheyennes,
sent in a runner and offered to deliver up six
white captives held in his band for the return
of the boy and the squaw. After th"i necessary
preliminaries had been effected, the runner was
told to bring the white captives, that the ex-
change might be made. The boy held by the
scouts was understood to be of royal lineage, and
was expected to succeed Turkey Leg in the chief-
taincy of the tribe. After the exchange had
taken place, the old chief would scarcely allow
the boy to leave his sight such was his attach-
ment to him, and manifested his delight in every
possible way over his recovery. The white cap-
tives were two sisters by the name of Thompson,
who lived south of the Platte River, nearly oppo-
site Grand Island, and their twin brothers ; a
Norwegian girl taken on tha Little Blue River,
and a white child born to one of these woimn
while in captivity. They were restored to their
friends as soon as possible.

The Next Attack. The Indians were not
willing to have the iron rails that should bind
the shores of the continent together laid in
peace, and made strenuous 'and persistent efforts
to prevent it. On the 16th of April, 1868, a "cut
off" band of Sioux, under a scalawag chief,
named Two Strikes, attacked and killed five
section-men near Elm Creek Station, taking their
scalps, and ran off a few head of stock. They
werj never pursued. On the same day, and evi-
dently according to a pre-arranged plan, a part of
tha sam -i band attacked the post at Sidney. They
cams up on the bluffs north of the town and
fired into it. But no one was injured from their
shooting at that time. Two conductors, however,
named Tom Cahoon and William Edmunson,
had gone down the Lodge Pole Creek, a little way
to fish. They were unobserved by the Indians
when the firing took place. Hearing the re-
ports they climbed up the bank to see what
was going on, and being seen by the Indians,
they ?,t once made an effort to cut tlvni
off, though they were only a mile or so from
the post. The savages charged down upon
them, and shot Cahoon, who fell forward on
the ground. The Indians immediately scalped
him and left him for dead. Mr. Edrnunson
ran towards the post as fast as he could,
and drawing a small Derringer pistol, fired
at his pursuers. Thinking he had a revolver
and would be likely to shoot again if they came
too close, they did not venture up as they had
done, but allowed him to escape. He got away
with some eight or nine arrow and bullet wounds
together and carrying four arrows sticking in his
body. He was taken to the hospital, and lapidly
recovered from his wounds. After the Indians
had gone, the citizen-* went after the body of Mr.
Cahoon, whom they supposed dead, but to their



surprise he was still alive. They brought him
into the post, where he recovered, and is now
running on the road.

Attack at OgalaUa. In September of the
same year, the same band of Sioux attempted to
destroy a train between Alkali and Ogalalla.
They fixed the rails the same as at Plum Creek.
As the train came up the rails penetrated the
cylinders on each side of the engine, as it was a
straight track there; the engine going over into
the ditch, with the cars piling up on top of it.
The engineer and one of the brakemen who was
on the engine at the time, were thrown thiongh
the window of the cab, and were but little hint.
The fireman was fastened by the tender against
the end of the boiler, and after the train had
stopped, there being no draft, the flames of the
fire came out of the door to the fire-box upon
him, and the poor fellow was literally roasted
alive. He was released after six hours in this
terrible position, during which he begged the
attendants to kill him, but lived only a tew
moments after his release. All the trains at this
time carried arms, and the conductor, with two
or three passengers, among whom was Father
Ryan, a Catholic priest of Columbus, Nebraska,
seized the aims and defended the train the
Indians meanwhile skulking among the bluffs
near the track, and occasionally firing a shot.
Word was sent to North Platte, and an engine
and men came up, who'cleared the wreck. Mean-
while word was sent to Major North, then at
Willow Island, to take one company of his scouts
and follow the Indians. He came to Alkali and
reported to Colonel Mizner, who was marching
from North Platte with two companies ot cavalry,
all of whom started in pursuit. They went over
to the North Platte River, crossed that stream
and entered the sand-hills, where the scouts over-
took and killed two of the Indians; the whole
party going about thirty-five miles to a little
lake, where the main body of Indians had just
left and camped, finding the smouldering em-
bers of the Indian fires still alive. That ni.sjit
some of the white soldiers let their camp fires
get away into the prairie, and an immense prairie
fire was the result. This, of course, alarmed the
Indians, and further pursuit was abandoned,
much to the disgust of the scouts. Colonel
Mizner also claimed that his rations were run-
ning short, but from all the facts we can learn,
ha Jacked the disposition to pursue and capture
those Indians. At least, this is a charitable con-
struction to put upon his acts.

In October of the same year (IS(iS), the same
band of Indians attacked the section-men near
Potter Station, drove them in and run oft about
twenty head of horses and mules. Major North
ami liis scouts were immediately ^ent in pursuit.
Leaving camp at Willow Island, the command
was soon on the ground. It was evidently a
small raiding party, and Major North sent a



37



Lieutenant and fifteen of his men after them.
They struck their trail, followed them to the North
Platte River, which they crossed, followed and
overhauled them in the sand-hills, killing two,
recapturing a part of the stolen horses, and re-
turned without loss. The Indians have made
some efforts to ditch a few trains since that year,
but have effected no serious damage. Their
efforts of late have mostly been confined to stock
stealing, and they never seem so happy as when
they have succeeded in running off a large num-
ber of horses and mules. Whan the road was
first built it was their habit to cross it, going
south and north, several times in each year. They
roamed with the buffaloes over the plains of
Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming and Kansas. The
effort of the government of late has been to
confine them on their reservations, and the rapid
disappearance of the buffaloes from the regions
named have given them no excuse for hunting in
the country now crossed by railroads and tilling
up with settlers.

Coyote is the next station, simply a side
track with a section-house near by. But little
timber is visible at this place, though the bottom
lands begin to widen, giving an extended view.
This is not a timber country, and wherever it is
found, the traveler will please bear in mind that
it is the exception and not the rule. The islands
in the river doubtless had soms timber, but the
most of it has long since disappeared. Occasion-
ally you may see a few scattering trees which
have been left by the prairie fires, and which
stand in inaccessible places. This side track is
233.1 miles from Omaha, and 2,410 feat above
tha sea. The next station is

Cozatl so named after a gentleman from
Cincinnati, Ohio, who purchased about 40,01)0
acres of land here from the railroad company ;
laid out tha town; built quite a number of
houses ; induced people to settle here ; has resold
a good deal of his land, but still has about 20,000
acres in the immediate vicinity. Along the, rail-
road track, w?,stof Plum Creek, the traveler will
notice that tha buffalo grass has been rooted out
by what is called prairie or blue-joint grass. This
last is an annual grass and is killed by frost,
after which it resembles dark colored brick a
reddish brown appaarance. It has but little nutri-
m nit after the frost comas, but if cut and cured
in July or August, makes an excellent quality of
hay. The buffalo grass is just over the divide a
little way, but is giving way to that just named.
Sonii men of capital near Cozad, are interest-
ing themselves in sheep raising, and frequently
from this place west you will see large herds of
cattle. Cozad is 24o.l miles from Omaha, with
an elevation of 2,480 feat. It has two or three
stores, school-house, hotel, several large dwellings,
and with favorable seasons for growing crops in
the future, will becoim quite a town. The Platte
Valley at this point is about twenty miles wide.



Willow Island is the next station; so
named from the large number of willow buohes
on the island in the river near by. It is 250.1 miles
from the Missouri, and has an elevation of 2,511



Online LibraryHenry T WilliamsPacific tourist : Adams and Bishop's illustrated trans-continental guide of travel, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean : a complete traveler's guide of the Union and Central Pacific railroads → online text (page 7 of 62)