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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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 5 of 11)
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The next day Major Pope was ordered back to
Kansas City to guard the city in case the rebel
soldiers should undertake to raid it.

Dear reader, please accept my apologies for hav-
ing left my original subject and brought you back
to the Civil war. Back to the Santa Fe Trail for

When I got in home at Wyandotte, Kansas, now
Kansas City, Kansas, a messenger from the stage
company was awaiting my arrival. He came to
get me to enter into a contract to again enter the
services of the stage company as conductor and
messenger of the United States mail and express
from Kansas City across the long route to Santa
Fe, New Mexico. I took the position and started
out the next morning.

My first noted passenger after I became con-
ductor of this stage coach was the son of old Col-
onel Leavenworth, for whom Leavenworth was
named, and who built the fort about the year of


After leaving Kansas City and getting settled
down to traveling, Col. Leavenworth Jr.'s first
words to me were, "Have you been on the plains
among the Indians long?" I replied that I had
been driving the mail among them for three years.
His next question was, "Do you know, or have you
ever heard of Satanta, the great chief of the Kio-
was?" I told him that I had seen him several
times and had given him many a cup of coffee with
other provision. Col. Leavenworth Jr. seemed
greatly pleased with my answer and told me that
he had a great affection for old Satanta and that
he was one of the nobles of his race, and also one
of the best men he had ever known regardless of
race. Young Leavenworth delighted in telling his
exploits among the Indians and I was no poor lis-
tener, for it always entertained me to hear some
one give praise to my Indian friends. Mr. Leaven-
worth told me that a great many of the different
tribes of Indians came to Fort Leavenworth to see
his father and that he had never had any trouble
with them, however remote. At that time young
Leavenworth was a ten-year-old boy and a great
favorite of Satanta, the Kiowa chief. Leavenworth
Jr. told me that he had gone on several hunting
trips with Satanta and be gone as long as two
weeks away from his father's fort. He told me
that at one time when he had been away from
home two years at school in St. Louis that Satanta
and his tribe were there to welcome him home.
The old chief wanted him to go on the prairie with
them to hunt the buffalo and be gone several
weeks, so Leavenworth Jr. told him that he would
have to talk to his father about it. Accordingly
Satanta went to old Colonel Leavenworth and told


him that he wanted to take young Leavenworth
on an extended hunting trip and might go over
into Colorado and other western states. The old
colonel was reluctant to let the child go with his
strange friends and told Satanta that if his tribe
should become involved in trouble with the whites
the boy might be killed. Satanta said "no such
ting." Santanta told the father that no matter
what war they got into they would protect the
boy and return him home safe and well. When
Satanta's whole tribe came in off the plains at the
specified time they all entered into an agreement
to protect the boy at any sacrifice if he was per-
mitted to accompany them on the hunt. In their
language they took the oath to protect the boy,
each one sworn in separately, and it was agreed
that Satanta would send two of his warriors to the
nearest army post every week to tell his father
that the boy was all right. The boy always wrote
brilliantly of his travels in the wild western coun-
try. His father considered with much pride re-
served all these boyish letters which are master-
pieces of landscape and scenic description. Copies
of these letters are still on file in the war libraries
and are set aside as "things of beauty."

Young Leavenworth in talking to me about his
travels with Satanta told me that they got into the
mountains about thirty days after they left Fort
Leavenworth and located in about where Cripple
Creek is now located. He said the Indians found
and gathered considerable gold. In two places in
particular the gold in the sands of the creek bed
was very rich. They gathered gold for him and
put it in a buckskin sack. What this gift amounted
to in dollars and cents I have forgotten, but it


amounted to several hundred dollars. He was
gone three months. That was the last time he
ever saw Satanta. He was sent East after that to
a military school. At the time he was crossing the
trail with me he had only recently become a col-
onel in the Union army and was ordered to Fort
Union to take charge of some New Mexico troops.

John Flournoy of Independence, Missouri, was
one of the drivers on the Long Route. When we
were at Fort Larned, Colorado, Leavenworth in-
quired of John if he knew where Satanta or any
of his tribe were. John told him they were on tfie
Arkansas river not far from old Fort Dodge.

We stopped at Big Coon Creek to get our sup-
per, that was twenty-two miles from where the
Indians camped. (We only cooked twice a day,
supper was about four o'clock, then we drove long
after nightfall). After starting on our journey
about five o'clock, going over the hills down to the
Arkansas river, we came in sight of the Indian
camp which was some ten miles distant. At this
camp there were perhaps thirty thousand Indians.
At about nine o'clock we were within three miles
of their camp and could hear distinctly the drums
beating and Indians singing. Col. Leavenworth
said, "That is a war dance, now we must find out
the cause of the excitement." There were no roads
into the camp and we couldn't get the mules to
venture any further on account of the scent of
green hides always around an Indian camp, so Col.
Leavenworth Jr. and I got off the coach and walked
in as close as we consistently could. Soon we saw
an Indian boy and Col. Leavenworth asked him in
Indian language what was going on at the big
camp. The boy told him that the Kiowas and the


Pawnees had been at war with each other and
that two of the Kiowas had been killed and one of
the Pawnees. They had secured the scalp of the
Pawnee and had fastened it to a pole, one end of
which was securely planted in the ground, and
were mourning around it for their own dead. An
Indian thinks he is shamefully disgraced if one of
his tribe gets scalped. They will go right to the
very mouth of a cannon to save their tribe of such
disgrace. Col. Leavenworth says, "I tell you, Bil-
lie, I was afraid that some of the whites had been
disturbing the Indians, but I knew if I could but
get word to Satanta we would be safe." When
the boy told us how matters really stood our "hair
lowered" and Col. Leavenworth asked the boy to
take us to Satanta's tent.

When we reached Satanta's tent the Indian boy
went in and told him that a white man wanted to
see him. The old chief came out we were about
twenty feet from the tent he looked at Colonel
Leavenworth first, then at me, whom he recog-
nized. He walked up to within a few feet of Col-
onel Leavenworth, eyeing him sharply. Colonel
Leavenworth spoke his name in the Indian lan-
guage. Satanta looked at him amazedly he had
not seen him since he had developed into a man
and could not realize that this was the favored idol
of his hunting trip through the Rocky mountains
of Colorado so many years ago. After this mo-
ment of surprise had subsided Satanta gave one
savage yell and leaped toward Leavenworth Jr.
His blanket fell off and he patted the cheek of the
colonel, kissed him, hugged him, embraced him
again and again, then turned and took me by the
hand, grasping it firmly. He gave me a thrilling



illustration of his joy over the return of his old-
time boy friend which impressed me with the sin-
cerity and true instinct of the Indian attachment
for his friends. Satanta called Col. Leavenworth
"ma chessel."



Billy Ryus and Col. Leavenworth Invade Camp
Where There Are 30,000 Hostile Indians.

When Col. Leavenworth introduced Satanta to
me he grinningly answered "Si; all my people
know this driver, for we have drank coffee witfi
him on the plains before this day." This was spo-
ken in the Indian tongue and interpreted by Col.

Satanta immediately ordered some of his young
warriors to go out and herd our mules for the
night he told them to stake them where they
could get plenty of grass and put sufficient guard
to protect them. I told Satanta that we would
want to start on our journey by daylight.

Leaving Col. Leavenworth with Satanta I re-
turned to my two coaches two and a half miles
back, accompanied by about two hundred or more
young Indian lads and lassies. The drivers un-
hitched the mules from the Concord coach and put
the harness up on the front boot of the coach. One
of the Indian herders asked me if I had some lari-
ats. I told him I did and he got one and tied it to
the end of the coach tongue, then put two lariats
on the tongues of each coach, leaving a string
about sixty feet long much to the wonderment of
the passengers motioned for me to mount the
seat and take up my whip. When I did this all
these young Indians, both boys and girls, laugh-
ingly took hold of the lariats and started to pull
our coach into camp. This occasioned much mirth.
This was a great sight for the tender-foot. My


passengers declared it excelled any fiction they had
ever read. The boys and girls pulling and push-
ing the coaches went so fast that I had difficulty
in keeping the little fellows from being run over.
I applied the brakes several times.

When we reached the camp the whole tribe be-
gan such screeching that my passengers took the
alarm again. Satanta came out, looking very erect
and soldierly, commanded the young men to haul
our coach to the front of his lodge so we could see
all that was going on. Satanta' s next order was
for the squaws to get supper. He said to the pas-
sengers, "We must eat together, lots of buffalo
meat and deer." After kindling their fire of buf-
falo chips they soon had supper "a-going." I or-
dered my drivers to take bread, coffee and canned
goods from our mess box and we dined heartily
and substantially.

At eleven o'clock I laid down in the front of my
coach and snatched a little sleep. I doubt whether
the passengers took any sleep. I know that Col.
Leavenworth and Satanta were talking at three
o'clock in the morning, at which time Satanta
called out his cooks and informed us that we must
"eat again." We breakfasted together. Just at
daybreak the Indians gave the whoop and the lit-
tle fellows were on hand to haul our coaches out-
side the camp. They hitched our mules and Sa-
tanta and the chiefs of the other tribes went with
us about ten miles and stopped and lunched again-

These chiefs begged Leavenworth to come bade
to their country and take charge of the tribes, giv-
ing him as their belief that if he were in charge
there would be peace. Satanta called his attention
to the battle on the Nine Mile Ridge as well as to


the massacre where they had suffered so unmerci-

Satanta told Col. Leavenworth during his ride
with us that morning that for the inconvenience
suffered by the public the Indian was totally blame-
less. At no time did his people make the first at-
tack on the whites and take their lives, but that in
approaching their caravans and asking for food
they were shot down as they had been on the Nine
Mile Ridge. The American soldiers had burned
their wigwams, slaughtered their decrepit men,
women and children and carried away their pro-
vision. Satanta told Col. Leavenworth that he
had heard of the newspapers, the press, and so on.
He told him that he knew that they were for the
purpose of prejudicing white people against his
race. Satanta said that the Indians desired peace
as much as did the white man. Leavenworth told
the old chief that he regretted the loss of life, but
Satanta told him that his regret was no greater
than his regret for both the Indians and the whites.
This ended the conversation between these two
friends. After many adieus they separated, each
going his own way.

* * * * *

On our journey to Fort Lyon I casually men-
tioned the name of Major Anthony (nephew of
Governor George T. Anthony, the sixth governor
of Kansas). I told him that Major Anthony was
very friendly toward the Indians. This is the same
Major Anthony who took charge of the Indian
agency when Macaulley was discharged so uncere-
moniously. I told Col. Leavenworth that Major
Anthony had such a rare character that if he had
his way about it there would be no war.


Colonel Leavenworth Jr. asked me to introduce
him to Major Anthony when we reached Fort
Lyon, which I did. Major Anthony asked me if I
would wait a couple of hours so he and Colonel
Leavenworth could talk over Indian matters a
while before we proceeded to Bent's Old Fort,
forty miles south of Fort Lyon.

After we started on our route Colonel Leaven-
worth remarked about the rains which had been
falling. I told him I was afraid we would experi-
ence some difficulty in crossing the Arkansas
river. Sure enough when we reached there the
river was a seething mass of turbulent waters, but
we succeeded in crossing safely at Bent's Old Fort.
Then we had eighty miles to go before we struck
the foothills of the Raton mountains, fording the
Picketwaire river at the little town of Trinidad,
Colorado, over the Raton mountains. In going
up the mountain we crossed the creek twenty-six

On this route was a place known to the train
men as "The Devil's Gate." This was a very large
rock extending out over the road running close to
the creek with a precipice below. We had to use
great care and precaution in handling our mules
around this rock to take the road. We saw sev-
eral broken wagons at this point where several
freighters had been doomed to bad luck.

We ascended the mountains to the foot where
were the headwaters of the Red river, four miles
from the Red river station of the stage company,
thence to Fort Union, where I delivered Colonel
Leavenworth. That was the last time I ever saw


A "Trifling Incident" Billy Ryus Runs Risks
With Government Property.

Six months after my visit to the camp of Sa-
tanta a trifling incident conies to my mind. Cross-
ing Red river which was considerably swollen due
to the heavy thaws the river at this point was
only about nine feet across and about two and a
half feet deep but it was a treacherous place be-
cause it was so mirey. It stuck many freight
wagons I was in a quandary just how I would
cross it. After climbing down off of the coach,
looking around for an escape (?), a happy idea
possessed me. I was carrying four sacks of patent
office books which would weigh about 240 pounds
a sack, the sacks were eighteen inches square by
four and a half feet long, so I concluded to use
these books to make an impromptu bridge. I cut
the ice open for twenty inches, wide enough to fit
the tracks of the coach for the wheels to run on,
then placed four of these sacks of books in the
water and drove my mules across Red River. I
was fully aware that the books were government
property, but from past experience I knew they
would never be put to use.

People all along the route were mad because
the stage company charged $200 for a passage
from Kansas City to Santa Fe and knowing that
we were compelled to haul the government mail,
heavy or light, in the way or out of it, and desiring
to "put us to it," kept ordering these books sent
them. They never took one of them from the


postoffice, hence the accumulation in the post-
office grew until there was room for little else.
These books were surveys and agricultural reports.
Unreadable to say the least, but heavy in the ex-
treme. The postoffice at Santa Fe was a little bit
of a concern, and the postmaster said there was no
room for the books there. Earlier in the year I
had carried one of these sacks to the postoffice
and had attempted to get the postmaster to accept
them as mail. I told him that it was mail and that
I had no other place to deposit it. Nevertheless
he said he would not have them left at the post-
office and told me to do anything I wanted to with
them, saying at the time that people all around
there had a mania for ordering those books, but
never intended to take them when they ordered
them. I took the books around to the stage sta-
tion and discovered four wagonloads of the "gov-
ernment stuff."

At the time I placed the books in Red river I
knew that the postmaster would not let them be
left there and I knew they might serve the gov-
ernment better in a "bridge" than otherwise.
Knowing this I felt that I had a remedy at law
and grounds for defense.

The four passengers with me "jawed" me quite
enough to "extract" the patience of an ancient Job
for having treated government property to a
watery burial in Red river. Two of the passengers
were Mexicans and two other men from New York.
However, the two Mexicans soon disgusted the
other two passengers, who took sides with me.
The Mexicans said they would report me to the
government, and I had no doubt they would.

As soon as I got to Santa Fe I went to see Gen-


eral Harney, ex-governor of New Mexico. I told
him what I had done and why I did it. General
Harney told me he was glad I had notified him
right away and said he would explain this trans :
portation of the patent office books to the fourth
assistant postmaster. I gave him a detailed ac-
count of my conversation regarding the disposi-
tion of the books to the postmaster the trip before,
which conversation he put in the form of an affi-
davit and took it to the postmaster to verify. The
postmaster refused to sign the document, saying
that he was no such a fool as that. General Har-
ney reported to the government who ordered the
postmaster to rent a room in which to store the
government books now in possession of the stage
company. I knew that the postmaster was going
to get these orders, so I told Mr. Parker, propri-
etor of the hotel (called in those days the "Fonda")
that he could rent the room to the postmaster for
$15 per month. He would draw $45 per quarter
and net the stage company $30. We conductors
made the drivers haul all the books over to the
postoffice, and when we had put all inside that we
could get in there, obstructing the light from the
one solitary window, we put several thousand up
on top of the postoffice. Everybody was looking
at us and everybody else was laughing.

In a squealy little old voice the postmaster came
out and told us to take them to "Parker's Fonda,"
that he had rented the room for the storage of
such trash. Thus it came that the books were
placed back in the same room in which they were
formerly stored, but they were now paying the
stage company rent for "their berths" and contin-


ued three years to net the stage company $10 per

This transaction caused the government to quit
printing these books. The governor sent direc-
tions to the Santa Fe Stage Company at Kansas
City that should more such books accumulate they
might be delivered by freight. There were no
more sent.


Tom Barnum Muses Over the Position the Gov-
ernment Will Take in Regard to the Bed of
Red River Being Suitable Resting
Place for the U. S. Mail.

After having deposited the patent office reports
in their watery grave in Red river I met and had an
interview with Tom Barnum, one of the owners
of the stage line. "Billie, you devil," were his first
words to me, "been puttin' the mail in the river,
be ye?" I answered, "Yes, sir." "Well," Barnum
said, "didn't you take some pretty risky chances
when you did this are you sure you won't get us
into some serious trouble?" I told him that I be-
lieved that I had just saved his company not less
than $5000 by "dumping" that bulky trash. I told
him that the company had made complaints to the
government about sending the reports into New
Mexico and that the Postmaster General had not
given us the consideration we deserved and the
postmasters had also refused their acceptance after
we had "carted" them to destination. It's my firm
belief that in using the books in the manner I did
they served the United States better than they
could have done any other way. I told Mr. Bar-
num how ex-Governor Harney had befriended me
in the matter and that I felt safe to say that no
bad effects could grow out of my conduct.

This pacified Tom Barnum and I told him that
I wanted his company to give me credit for half
the money I had saved them on this book hauling
business on the day of settlement. I also told him


that I had promised to "deadhead" ex-Governor
Harney and family (consisting at that time of wife
and one child, a daughter fifteen years old) to the
states and when they arrived in Kansas City, Mis-
souri, he was to see that they got a pass over the
road to New York City. Barnum wheezed out a
little laugh and an exclamation that sounded like
"h 1," but finished good naturedly by telling me
that he would do it. As our conversation length-
ened he said, "Billy, been thinking over this dead-
headin' business of yourn, Billy," again said Mr.
Barnum, "you're an accommodatin' devil. I be-
lieve if the whole Santa Fe population would jump
you for a 'free ride' to Kansas City you would give
it to 'em and our company would put on extra
stages for their benefit. It don't seem to make any
difference to you what the company's orders are,
you do things to suit your own little self, 'y bob !"
Barnum went on musing, but I kept feeling of my
ground and found I was still on "terra firma."
"Well," says I, "don't forget all those little points
on the day of settlement, especially what I have
saved on the book business in the way of 'cartage'
and 'storage/ ' I told him that I might want to
feather a nest some time for a nice little mate and
cunning little birdies. This conversation took
place at Bent's Old Fort. My next conversation
with him took place in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Tom Barnum Takes Smallpox. I Visit My Home.

Dr. Hopkins Gets Broken Window, a

Quarter, and the 111 Will of

the Stage Company.

During the year of 1863 I took a notion to "lay
off" and go home on a visit. Tom Barnum, one of
the owners of the road, was at Santa Fe at that
time and was to be one of the passengers into Kan-
sas City. I met Mr. Barnum in the "fonda" and
he told me he was sick, remarking that he wished
he would take the smallpox. I told him he would
not want to have it more than once. "Well," said
he, "if I took the smallpox it would either cure me
of this blamed consumption or kill me." I told him
that he wasn't ready to "kick the bucket" yet, for
the boys needed him in Kansas City.

Mr. Barnum had been exposed to the smallpox
but was not aware of it, so we started to Kansas
City. When we arrived in Kansas City we went
to the old Gillis hotel, the headquarters for all the
stage company's employees. When the doctor
came he told him that he had the smallpox, but
that he need call no one's attention to it until he
had given him leave. The doctor fixed up a bed
in the attic, tore a glass out of the window and
took every precaution to keep the pestilence from
spreading through the house. The doctor took
Tom Barnum up in the attic, placed plenty of
water within his reach and put a negro to mind
him. Then the doctor went to the office and told
Dr. Hopkins that Barnum had the smallpox and


was up in the attic. He said to the hotelkeeper that
there was no need of announcing it to the board-
ers, but Dr. Hopkins said he would do it anyway,
and for him to get Barnum out of the house and
to a hospital, that he would ruin him. That night
Dr. Hopkins announced to his guests that Barnum
was there with the smallpox. Sixteen of his board-
ers left "post haste," but the house filled up again
before night in spite of the smallpox sign. At that
time, in the year of 1863, the Gillis house run by
Dr. Hopkins was the only large house in Kansas
City in use. There was a new building, the "Bra-
vadere," up on the hill from the levee, but it had
not been furnished.

When Barnum got over the smallpox he took

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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 5 of 11)