William Henry Ryus.

The second William Penn; a true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe trail in the sixties online

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Second William Penn

A true account of incidents that happened

along the old Santa Fe Trail

in the Sixties.



Press of

Kansas City, Mo.

Copyright, 1913, by

Kansas City, Kansas

r K r



By Col. Milton Moore



OU who take the trouble
to read these reminis-
cences of the Santa Fe
Trail may be curious to know
how much of them are literally

The writer of this preface was
intimately acquainted with the
author of this book, and knows
that he has not yielded to temp-
tation to draw upon his imagina-
tion for the incidents related
herein, but has adhered strictly
to the truth. Truth is, sometimes, "stranger than fiction,"
and is an indispensable requisite to accurate history, yet it
may sometime destroy the charm of fiction.

The author of this book had a real and exceptional
knowledge of Indian character and Indian traits, and his
genuine tact in trading and treating with them, and the
success which he had in sustaining friendly relations with
them was one of the wonders of the West, and was a cir-
cumstance of much comment by those who had occasion
to use the Santa Fe Trail.

It is small wonder, then, that "Little Billy of the Stage
Coach" won for himself the title of the "Second William

In the early Sixties, the region through which the Old
Trail passed was an unexplored territory where constant
struggles for supremacy between the Wild Red Man and
the hardy White man were carried on.

Many and tragical were the hardships endured by those
who attempted to open up this famous highway and estab-

1 i ' i v ?i JVl All ;i I i I


lish a line of communication between the East and the
West. The only method of travel was by odd freight
caravans drawn by oxen or the old-fashioned, lumbering
uncomfortable Concord Stage Coaches drawn by five mules.

The stage coach carried besides its passengers the
United States mail and express.

An escort of United States militia often accompanied
the stage coach in order to protect it against attacks of
the Indians at that time when the plains were invested
with the Arapahoes, Comanches, Cheyennes, Kiowas and
other tribes, some of whom were on the warpath, bedecked
in war paint and feathers.

The Indians were often in search of something to sat-
isfy their hunger, rather than the scalps of the white men.
The author of this book won their confidence and friend-
ship by dividing with them his rations, and showing them
that he was willing to compensate them for the privilege
of traveling through their country. He had so many
friendly conferences and made so many treaties with them
while on his trips across the plains that he came to be
called the "Second William Penn."

He came into personal contact with the famous chiefs
of the Indian tribes, and won their good will to such an
extent that their behavior toward him and his passengers
was always most excellent.

The author has, in these pages, told of many encounters
between the whites and the Indians that were narrated to
him by the Indians. He holds the Indians blameless for
many of the attacks attributed to them, and calls attention
to the Chivington Massacre and the Massacre of the Nine
Mile Ridge, related in the following pages.

He begs the readers not to censure too severely the In-
dian who simply pleaded for food with which to satisfy
his hunger, and sought to protect his wigwam from the
murderous attacks of unscrupulous white men.


I gladly recommend this tale as sound reading to all who
desire to know the truth concerning the incidents which
actually occurred along the Old Trail, and the real friendly
relations which existed between the Indians and the white
men, such as our Author and Kit Carson, who were well
acquainted with their motives and characteristics.

Respectfully submitted,



"Bathe now in the stream before you,
Wash the war-paint from your faces,
Wash the blood-stain from your fingers,
Bury your war-clubs and your weapons,
Break the red stone from this quarry,
Mould and make it into Peace Pipes,
Take the reeds that grow beside you,
Deck them with your brightest feathers,
Smoke the calumet together,
And as brothers live henceforward."







W. H. Ryus, better known as "the Second Wil-
liam Penn" by passengers and old settlers along
the line of the Old Santa Fe Trail because of his
rare and exceptional knowledge of Indian traits
and characteristics and his ability to trade and
treat with them so tactfully, was one of the boy
drivers of the stage coach that crossed the plains
while the West was still looked upon as "wild and
wooly," and in reality was fraught with numerous,
and oftentimes, murderous dangers.

At the time this story is being recalled, our au-
thor is in his seventy-fourth year, but with a mind
as translucent as a sea of glass, he recalls vividly
many, incidents growing out of his travels over the
Santa Fe Trail.

Having the same powers of appreciation we all
possess, for confidences reposed in him, he lov-
ingly recalls how his passengers would press him
to know whether he would be the driver or con-
ductor to drive the coach on their return. Some
of these passengers declare that it was really beau-
tiful to see the adoration many Indians heaped
upon the driver, "Little Billy of the Stage Coach,"
and they understood from the overtures of the In-
dians toward "Billy" that they were safe in his
coach, as long as they remained passive to his in-
structions, which were that they allow him to deal
with whatever red men they chanced to meet.


Sometimes a band of Indians would follow his
coach for miles, protecting their favorite, as it
were, from dangers that might assail him. They
were always peaceable and friendly toward Billy
in exchange for his hospitality and kindness. It
was a by-word from Kansas City to Santa Fe that
"Billy" was one boy driver and conductor who
gave the Indians something more than abuse to
relate to their squaws around their wigwam camp-

The dangerous route was the Long Route, from
Fort Larned, Kansas, to Fort Lyon, Colorado, the
distance was two hundred and forty miles with no
stations between. On this route we used two sets
of drivers. This gave one driver a chance to rest
a week to recuperate from his long trip across the
"Long Route." A great many of the drivers had
nothing but abuse for the Indians because they
were afraid of them. This made the Indians feel,
when they met, that the driver considered him a
mortal foe. However, our author says that had
the drivers taken time and trouble to have made
a study of the habits of the Indians, as he had done,
that they could have just as easily aroused their
confidence and secured this Indian protection
which he enjoyed.

It was a hard matter to keep these long route
drivers because of the unfriendliness that existed
between them and the Indians, yet the Old Stage
Company realized a secureness in Billy Ryus, and
knew he would linger on in their employ, bravely
facing the dangers feared by the other drivers and
conductors until such a time as they could employ
other men to take his place.


Within the pages of this book W. Ryus Stanton
relates many amusing and interesting anecdotes
which occurred on his stage among his passengers.
From passengers who always wanted to return on
his coach he always parted with a lingering hope
that he would be the driver (or conductor, as the
case might be) who would return them safely to
their destination. Passengers were many times
"tender-footed," as the Texas Rangers call the
Easterners. Billy soothingly replied to all ques-
tions of fear, soothingly, with ingenuity and

Within Billy's coach there was carried, what
seemed to most passengers, a superfluity of provi-
sion. It was his fixed theory that to feed an Indian
was better than to fight one. He showed his pas-
sengers the need of surplus foods, if he had an idea
he would be visited by his Red Friends, who may
have been his foes, but for his cunning in devising
entertainment and hospitality for them. The
menus of these luncheons consisted chiefly of buf-
falo sausage, bacon, venison, coffee and canned
fruits. He carried the sausage in huge ten-gallon
camp kettles.

The palace coaches that cross the old trail today
pulled by the smoke-choked engines of the A. T.
& Santa Fe R. R. carry no provision for yelling
Comanches, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, etc. They lose
no time treating and trading with the Indians, and
are never out of sight of the miraculous changes
exhibited by the advanced hand of civilization.

In 1861 He Starts as Mail Driver.

In the spring of 1861 I went home to Burlin-
game, Kansas, and went to work on the farm of
O. J. Niles. I had just turned the corner of twenty-
one summers, and I felt that life should have a
"turning point" somewhere, so I took down with
the ague. This very ague chanced to be the "turn-
ing point" I was looking for and is herewith

Mr. Veil of the firm of Barnum, Veil & Vickeroy,
who had the mail contract from Kansas City, Mis-
souri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, stopped over at
Burlingame, Kansas, and there met Mr. Niles, the
man for whom I was working. Mr. Veil told Mr.
Niles that he wanted a farmer boy to drive on the
Long Route because the stage drivers he had were
cowards and not satisfactory. Niles told him that
he had a farm hand, but, he added, "he won't go,
because he has the ague." "Oh, well," Mr. Veil
replied, "that's no matter, I know how to cure him ;
I'll tell him how to cure himself." So they sent
for me, and Veil told me how to get rid of the ague.
He said, "you dig a ditch in the ground a foot deep,
and strip off your clothing and bury yourself, leav-
ing only your head uncovered, and sleep all night
in the Mother Earth." I did it. I found the earth
perfectly dry and warm. I had not much more
than engulfed myself when the influences of the
dry soil began to draw all the poison out of my
body, and I had, as I most firmly believe, the most
peaceful and delightful slumber I had ever experi-


enced since infancy. From that day until the pres-
ent time I have never had another chill. I gained
40 pounds of flesh in the next three months. I
have known consumption to be cured with the
same "ague cure" on the plains.

The distance from Kansas City to Fort Larned,
Kansas, is three hundred miles. The distance from
Fort Larned to Fort Lyon, New Mexico, is two
hundred and forty miles, and from Fort Lyon to
Fort Union it is one hundred and eighty miles,
from Fort Union to Santa Fe it is one hundred and
eighty miles, making nine hundred miles for the
entire trip.

The drive from Fort Larned, Kansas, to Fort
Lyon, Colorado, was known as the Long Route,
being 240 miles, with no stations between; but
across that treacherous plain of the Santa Fe Trail
I made the trip sixty-five times in four years, driv-
ing one set of mules the entire distance, camping
out and sleeping on the ground.

The trips were made with five mules to each
coach, and we took two mules with us to supply
the place of any mule that happened to get sick.
Sometimes, strange to note, going on the down
grade from Fort Lyon to Fort Larned we would
have a sick mule, but this never occurred on the
up-grade to Fort Lyon. When a mule was sick
we left it at Little Coon or Big Coon Creek. Lit-
tle Coon Creek is forty miles from Fort Larned.
When Fort Larned was my headquarters I always
went after my sick mules, if I had any, the next
day and brought them in. Fort Larned was the
regular built fort with a thousand soldiers, a set-
tlers' store, and the Stage Company's station with
its large corral of mules and horses; it was the


headquarters of the Long Route to furnish the
whole route to Santa Fe. If the sick mules hap-
pened to be at Little Coon Creek, the round trip
would be eighty miles, and it would sometimes
take me and my little race pony several days to
make the trip, owing of course to the condition of
the sick mule and its ability to travel. Camping
out on these trips, I used my saddle for a pillow
while my spread upon the ground served as my
bed. I would tie the lariat to the saddle so the
pony would graze and not get too far away from
our "stomping ground." If the wolves came
around, which they often did, the pony would come
whinnying to me, stamp on the ground and wake
me up. I usually scared them away by shooting
over their heads.

When we had several passengers, and wished to
make time, we took two coaches with two drivers
and one conductor who had charge over the two
coaches. There was the baesfage of several pas-
sengers to carry, bedding for ourselves, provision
for the whole crew and feed for the mules. We
usually made from fifty to sixty miles a day, owing
to the condition of the road and weather.

Sometimes coyotes and mountain wolves would
molest us. The mountain wolf is about as large
as a young calf, and at times they are very dan-
gerous and blood-thirsty. At one time when my
brother, C. W. Ryus, was with me and we were
going into Fort Larned with a sick mule, five of
those large and vicious mountain wolves suddenly
appeared as we were driving along the road. They
stood until we got within a hundred feet of them.
I cracked my whip and we shot over their heads.
They parted, three going on one side of the road


and two on the other. They went a short distance
and turned around and faced us. We thought we
were in for a battle, and again we fired over their
heads, and, greatly to our satisfaction and peace
of mind, they fled. We were glad to be left alone
and were willing to leave them unharmed. Had
we used our guns to draw blood it is possible that
they would have given chase and devoured us. We
would not have been in the least alarmed had we
advanced upon five Indians, for we would have in-
vited them to join us and go to the station with us
and get something to eat. Not so with the wolves,
they might have exacted our bodies before they
were satisfied with the repast.

I was never afraid of Indians, so hardly ever
took an escort. My greatest fear was that some
white man would get frightened at the sight of the
reds and kill one of their band, and I knew if that
should happen we were in grave danger. I always
tried to impress my passengers that to protect our-
selves we must guard against the desire to shoot
an Indian. Not knowing how to handle an Indian
would work chaos among us. The Indians did not
like the idea of the white race being afraid of them
-the trains amassing themselves together seemed
to mean to the Indian that they were preparing for
battle against them, and that made them feel like
"preparing for war in time of peace."

At one time on my route I remember as we were
passing Fort Dodge, Kansas, a fort on the Arkan-
sas River, there was a caravan of wagons having
trouble with the Indians. I had an escort of some
ten or fifteen soldiers, but we passed through the
fray with no trouble or hair-splitting excitement.

The Nine Mile Ridge Massacre.

During the coldest time in winter, in the month
of January, 1863, nine freight wagons left Santa
Fe, New Mexico, on their way East. A few miles
before they reached the Nine Mile Ridge they en-
countered a band of almost famished Indians, who
hailed with delight the freight wagons, thinking
they could get some coffee and other provision.
In this lonely part of the world, seventy-five miles
from Fort Larned, Kansas, and a hundred and
sixty-five miles from Fort Lyon, without even a
settler between, it was uncomfortable to even an
Indian to find himself without rations.

The Nine Mile Ridge was a high elevation above
the Arkansas River road running close to the
river, on top of the ridge. The Indians followed
the wagons several miles, imploring the wagon
boss to give them something to eat and drink,
which request he steadily refused in no uncertain
voice. When it was known by the red men that
the wagon boss was refusing their prayers for sub-
sistence they knew of no other method to enforce
division other than to take it from the wagons.

The leader of the band went around to the head
of the oxen and demanded them to corral, stop and
give them some provision. During the corraling
of the train one wagon was tipped partly over and
the teamster shot an Indian in his fright. Then
the Indians picked up their wounded warrior,
placed him on a horse and left the camp, deter-
mined to return and take an Indian's revenge upon


the caravan. The wagon boss went into camp well
satisfied but not long was his satisfaction to last.

After the Indians departed several teamsters who
thought they knew what was desired by the In-
dians reproached their wagon-boss for not having
complied with their request to give them food.
His action in refusing food resulted in a mutiny
on the part of the teamsters, and after the oxen
were turned out to graze, the dispute between the
teamsters and the wagon-boss became so turbu-
lent that if a few peaceably inclined drivers had
not arraigned themselves on the side of the wagon-
boss he would have been lynched.

Before daylight the Indians returned and at-
tacked the wagons and killed all the whites but one
man who escaped down the bank into the river.
He floated down until he was out of hearing of
the Indians. When he was almost worn out and
half frozen he got out of the river, wrung the
water from his clothing and started for Fort
Larned, seventy-five miles distant. After leaving
the water he noticed a fire, and knew instinctively
that the Indians had set fire to their wagons, and
wondered how many, if any, of the company had
escaped as he had so far done.

Late in the afternoon of the next day a troop of
soldiers discovered this man several miles from
Fort Larned in an almost exhausted condition,
dropping down and getting up again. The com-
manding officer sent out some soldiers and brought
him to the fort. I talked with this man, and he
told me that if the wagon-boss had given the In-
dians something to eat, entertained them a little,
or given them the smallest hospitality, he believed
they would all have been saved from that massacre.


He said the Indians plead with the wagon-boss for
food, and he thought if the teamster had not lost
his equanimity and made that first luckless shot
the massacre of the Nine Mile Ridge would never
have become a thing of history.

This tragedy created a great fright and made
traveling across the plains difficult. The Indians
were hostile only because they did not know the
minds of the white men, and what their attitude
toward them would be, if they were not always
prepared to defend themselves. Therefore the peo-
ple traveling on the plains in trains amassed them-
selves together for protection, and the people at
Fort Larned with their soldiers were very much
wrought up over the atrocious murders and the
destruction of property all along the whole West-
ern frontier. In time of war one false step may
cause the death of hundreds. In this case the com-
manding officer of the fort took the precaution to
send out runners to call the Indians together to
the fort, in order to learn, if possible, the cause of
this fearful massacre and to get their statement
concerning their action.

The two Indians who came in verified the state-
ment of the ox-driver, and declared that if the
teamster had not killed their inoffensive warrior
who only asked for something to eat there would
have been no trouble at all from them.

In defense of the Indian I will say that the peo-
ple in general were all the time seeking to abuse
him. In almost all instances where I have read
of Indian troubles I have noticed that at all times
it grew out of the fact that the whites invariably
raised the trouble and were always the aggressors.
Nevertheless, newspaper reports and any other re-


port for that matter, laid the blame at the door of
the wigwam of the red man of the forest.

It is my opinion that most of the trouble on the
frontier was uncalled for. The white man learned
to fear the Indians always, when there was no at-
tempt on the part of the Indian to do him harm.
Many times while I was crossing the plains have
bands of from thirty to forty Indians or more come
to us, catching up with us or passing us by. Had
I not understood them and their intentions as well
as I did we would more than likely have had
trouble with them or have suffered severe incon-
venience. We never thought of fear when they
were going along the road, and many times I would
call them when I would camp for meals to come
and get a cup of coffee. They would go back with
us to camp. We did not care what their number
was, we would always divide our provisions with
them. If there were a large number of Indians,
and our provisions were scarce, I would tell them
so, but also tell them that notwithstanding that
fact I still had some for them. Then if they only
got a few sups of coffee around and a little piece of
bread they were always profoundly grateful and
satisfied that we had done our best.

In order to let them know we were scarce of
bread, etc., I would say, "poka te keta pan;" in the
Mexican language that is interpreted "very little
bread." Bread, in the Mexican or Indian language,
is "pan," and when they understood they would
say "si," which is interpreted "yes." They showed
us their appreciation for the little they received
just as though we had given them a whole loaf of
bread apiece.

If we only had a few cups of coffee and had


seventy or eighty Indian guests we would give it
to one of the Indians and he would divide it equally
among his number. He would place the cup so it
would contain an equal amount of the coffee. Then
one of the Indians would get up from the ground
(they always sit on the ground grouped all about
us when they ate with us) and take the cups and
hand them around to every fifth man, or such a
one as would make it average to every cup of cof-
fee they had. The Indians would break the bread
and give to each one, according to what his share
equally divided would be. When they come to
drink their coffee every Indian who had a cup
would raise it to their lips at once, take a swallow
of the beverage, then pass the cup on to the next
one. They did the bread the same way. After
finishing their repast they invariably thanked us
profusely in their Indian style for what they had
been given. There were times when I had plenty
of provisions to give them all they needed or re-
quired to satisfy their hunger. At no time was
my coach surrounded with hostile intent without
departing from it in friendliness. At the same time
I knew they had some great grievances.


The First William Penn, in 1670, Treating with the Indians.

This picture is placed in the book for the purpose of drawing attention to the
methods employed by the First William Penn in connection with the same-
methods employed by the Second William Penn to successful treaty with the
Indians. His friendliness overcame any hostilities which they might have pre-
viously had.


Ryus' Coach Is Surrounded by Indians, Their

Animosities are Turned to Friendliness,

Through Ryus' Wit and Ingenuity

"Hail the Second William Penn."

At one time in the year of 1864 when I arrived
in Fort Larned on my way from Kansas City, Mis-
souri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico, there was a great
scare, and a commanding officer, Colonel Ford,
told me that they expected a raid on them most
any time from Indians.

In July of that year the Cheyennes, Kiowas,
Arapahoes and some Comanche and Hickory
Apaches were camped a mile north of Fort Larned.
The commanding officer of the fort told me he
could only let me have about thirty soldiers for an
escort. I told him that if we should have trouble
with the Indians thirty soldiers would be just as
good as a thousand, and that I had rather take my

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Online LibraryWilliam Henry RyusThe second William Penn; a true account of incidents that happened along the old Santa Fe trail in the sixties → online text (page 1 of 11)