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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the plains were thronged with Indians they were
looked upon as uncivilized and were uncivilized,
but were so badly abused, run out of their homes
and were given no chances to become civilized
or to learn any arts.

The Indians around Maxwell's ranch were
mostly a lazy crowd because they had nothing to
do. Maxwell fed them, gave them some work,
gave the squaws considerable work they wove
blankets with a skill that cannot be surpassed
by artists of today. Not only were these Indian
women fine weavers, but they worked unceas-
ingly on fine buckskin (they tanned their own
hides), garments, beading them, embroidering
them, working all kinds of profiles such as the
profile of an Indian chief or brave, animals of all
kinds were beaded or embroidered into the clothes
they made for the chiefs of their tribes. These
suits were often sold to foreigners to take east



as a souvenir and they would sell them for the
small sum of $200 to $300. Those Indian women
would braid fine bridle reins of white, black and
sorrel horse hair for their chiefs and for sale to
the white men. The Indian squaws were always
busy but liked to see a horse race as well as their
superior their chief. A squaw is an excellent
mother. While she cannot be classed as indul-
gent she certainly desires to train her child to
endure hardships if they are called upon to en-
dure them. She trains the little papoose to take
to the cold water, not for the cleansing qualities,
but for the "hardiness" she thinks it gives him.


General Carleton Received Orders from Mr.

Moore to Send Soldiers' Pay

Envelopes to Him.

In March of 1865 I made my last trip across
the renowned Santa Fe Trail from Kansas City,
Missouri, to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Somewhere on the route between Las Vegas,
New Mexico, and Fort Union I met a Mr. Moore
of the firm of Moore, Mitchel & Co. This firm
owned a "sutler's store" at Tecolote, Fort Bliss
and Fort Union. The store at Fort Union was
the general supply station for the other named
stores. The stock carried at the supply store
amounted to something like $350,000 to $500,000.
This stock consisted of general merchandise. It
was to this store one went to buy coffee, sugar,
soda, tobacco and bacon, calico, domestic, linsey,
jeans, leather and gingham, officers' clothing, tin
buckets, wooden tubs, coffee pots, iron "skillets-
and leds," iron ovens, crowbars, shovels, plows,
and harness. To this store the settlers came to
buy molasses, quinine, oil and turpentine, ver-
million and indigo blue. Everything used was
kept in this one store. During those times there
were no drug stores, shoes stores, dry goods
stores, etc., but everything was combined in one
large store. Calico was sold for $1 per yard,
common bleached muslin sold for $2 a yard, do-
mestic was from $1 to $1.50 and $2 per yard.
Sugar sold for 75 cents to $1 per pound. Coffee


brought about the same. Tobacco and cheap
pipes brought stunning prices.

Mr. Moore rode on with us for an hour or two,
then he asked me quite suddenly, "Aren't you
Billy Ryus?" I told him I usually answered to
that name. Then he asked me if I was ac-
quainted with John Flournoy of Independence,
Missouri. I answered, "Yes, we drove the stage
over the Long Route together for six months. "
Then Mr. Moore said that he wanted to take me
to one side and have a talk with me. Reader,
you are well aware that some men are born to
rule Mr. Moore was one of those men. He
never knew anything superior to his wishes.
"What he said went" with the procession. He
even went so far as to order General Carleton,
commanding officer of the troops in that portion
of the country, to make the payment to the sol-
diers and mechanics at Fort Union through him
and let him pay off the soldiers. These pay-
ments would run up to $65,000 or $75,000 per
quarter. Up to the time of his meeting with me
no one had dared to thwart his wishes.

At his request I walked out a piece from 'the
coach with him, and he said, "Billy Ryus, I have
been on the lookout for you for a year!" I was
astonished, and asked him what he had been look-
ing for me for. His answer was that he wanted
me to stop at Ft. Union on my way back from
Santa Fe and go up to their store and clerk for
them. I answered, "Mr. Moore, that is practically
impossible; I can't do it." Then he said, "you've
got to do it, I've spent too much time looking for
you already, you've got to clerk for us." I am a
little hot headed myself, and I answered him as


tartly as he spoke to me. "Mr. Moore," says I,
"I've got to do nothing of the sort." Then Mr.
Moore cooled down and talked more like a busi-
ness man and less like a bully.

"Now, Mr. Ryus," (I was young then and quick-
ly noticed the Mr. Ryus) "this is our proposition:
We will give you $1000 a year, board, and room
and you can have your clothes at cost. And," he
said, "I'll make you a check right here." I told
him that his proposition did not make a bit of dif-
ference to me, for I was working for Mr. Barnum
and could not leave his employ without first giv-
ing him thirty days' notice to get a man in my
place. Mr. Moore was quick to respond, "Ah, let
that job be da ed" This side of Mr. Moore's
character did not suit me, and I asked him what
he would think of Mr. Barnum if he should stop
over at his store and take one of his employees off
without giving him a chance to get another in his
place, and what would he think of the clerk that
would do him that way I told him that I would
not do him that way. Mr. Moore said that he saw
that I was "squeally" but that he saw my point,
and supposed I was right. "Now, Mr. Moore," I
said, "when I get into Santa Fe, if Mr. Barnum is
there I will tell him about your proposition, and
if he can let me off now, and will take the stage
back to the States for me, I will take your propo-
sition." He replied, "Well, that's all right, you
come back to us, if you don't get here for sixty
days, and we will pay your expenses here."

Mr. Moore put the spurs to his horse and gal-
loped out of sight. What my impression was of
Mr. Moore could hardly be expressed. I certainly
had not the slightest feeling of awe that one of


the passengers said he felt for the man, but I do
not know whether or not I felt any great confi-
dence in him. However, when I came to know
him, as I did by being in his society every day for
a year, I found him to be a man of many sterling

Mr. Barnum returned with me from Santa Fe
to Ft. Union and went up to the store with me.
Mr. Barnum told me that he regretted that I
wanted to leave his employ, but that if it was to
my benefit, he would have to take the coach in for
me and get a man in my place, "but," he added,
"I do not think I will be able to find a man who
can make peace with the Indians, as you have al-
ways done." Mr. Barnum told Mr. Moore that he
had never lost a life since I had been doing the
driving, and that I had not only saved the lives of
passengers, but that I had saved him money and

When Mr. Barnum prepared to leave the store,
he had the coach driven up and my things taken
off and put in the store, then he turned to me and
held out his hand, saying, "Billy, in making the
treaties with the Indians, such as you have, you
have not only saved the lives of many passengers
and won the title of the second William Penn,
but you have endeared yourself to me and to the
other boys in this company, and to all the settlers
between Kansas City and Santa Fe." I was great-
ly agitated and impressed by his impressive speech,
and I thanked him for his kind words of praise for
the services I had given in my small way.

The morning after Mr. Barnum left, I was feel-
ing a little lonely among my new surroundings,
and Kit Carson sauntered into the room. As soon


as I looked into his kindly eyes I knew I had met
a friend, and I also knew in a moment that it was
Kit Carson, of whose fame as an Indian fighter I
had often read.

I told him that I had heard many tragic tales of
his wonderful heroism among the unfriendly
Indians, and he told me that I had heard many a
"da er lie/' too, he reckoned. He never killed
an Indian in cold blood in his life. He told me that
if the Indians had not been trespassed upon, that
the great Indian wars would not have become a
thing of history.

The enormous trade at the "sutler's store" kept
us four counter jumpers continually on the jump
for a year. There was no five cent picture shows
to keep the clerks out with their girls there, and
the only amusement we had was to either play
cards or billiards, or to sit around and watch Kit
Carson and the boss play. Kit was a fine card
player and seldom ever lost a game, but he would
not put up very much. To see him play billiards
was one sport, every time he hit a ball, he would
kick his foot up and say, "A boys, ay."

This store of Moore's was built like a fort. The
walls a ISO-foot square and built of brick. Every
thing in New Fort Union was of brick. It was a
two story concern with a rotunda or plaza in the
center. Here the wagons drove in to unload and
reload. The front of the store was near the big
gate. It had a safe room, an office and the store
room proper.

One trip per year was made to Kansas City
with large mule trains to get goods to stock these
three stores. These trips were sometimes full
of suffering and hardships. Many a freighter


left his wife and babies never to return to them
more. They were often killed by Indians who
had come to their trains to get food, but were
repulsed by the poor policy of the wagon bosses
who have often ordered the ox drivers to "pull
down on the red devils" and so start trouble,
which was often disastrous for the whites, in
view of the fact that the Indians on those plains
were numerous while the white men were few
and straggling.

Sometimes the old Indian squaws would come
to the store to buy sugar, candy, nuts, tobacco
or coffee. She would come riding in on her
pony as slowly as her quick footed pony would
carry her, greatly interested in all her eyes be-
held. She was greatly attracted by the bright
colors of the calicos and I have often made treat-
ies with the Indians by offering their squaws
some bits of bright ribbon or calico.

The Mexican women were very fond of bright
colors. Their dresses did not amount to much.
They wore a short skirt and rebosa. Their
head-dress covered their hair and came together
in front under the chin and hung to the belt.
What dress she wore must be very bright and
gaudy and I have known a pretty Mexican girl
with about $2.50 worth of dress on come in and
purchase an $8.00 pair of shoes. If she wanted
an extra nice pair of shoes she said she wanted
a pair of shoes "made out of Spanish leather."
Such a pair as would look nice on the dancing
floors at their fandangoes. The serapa takes
the place of the American woman's bonnet.


In 1866 when the war was coming to an end,
trade began to get dull. I had been wanting to
get out of the store and "try my wings" at some-
thing else. When I began to cast my eyes about
for something different from the routine of store
work, I met a certain Mr. Joe Dillon, who offered
me the opportunity I was seeking.

Joe Dillon and I Go to Montana With Sheep.

Along about the 15th of March, Joe Dillon,
who had been a quartermaster in the Union army,
left the army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the
possessor of $60,000 and a mule train of fifteen
wagons, which he had obtained some way or
other, the Devil knows how. He was a pecu-
liar man and totally unable to keep a man in
his employ. He was abusive, bossy and alto-
gether uncongenial.

With his train loaded with goods which he
got in Kansas City and Independence, he started
with a wagon boss and several men across the
Old Trail to New Mexico, early in the spring of
'65, but he had so many altercations with his
teamsters some quit him, others would do as
they pleased, and altogether he had such a bad
time of it that he did not arrive at Maxwell's
ranch until after the snow fell the following

Every wagon that passed him brought news
of Joe Dillon's troubles to the fort. When Mr.
Dillon came to me in the spring of 1866, I knew
him pretty well by reputation. He approached
me and told me that he had bought 4000 sheep
from Lucien Maxwell and wanted to get me to
go with him to Montana to take them. I told
him I would like to go, but that I did not know
whether I could get away or not. I would see
Mr. Moore.


"Alright," he said. "I think I will see Mr.
Moore, and tell him I want you to go and boss
my crew." I replied that he must do nothing
of the sort, for if he did, Mr. Moore would not
let me off willingly. I explained to him that if
I went to Mr. Moore and told him I wanted off,
and gave him a plausible reason, he would let
me off without hesitation. However, Mr. Dillon
thought he had about made a "deal" with me and
he went into the office, and told Mr. Moore that
he had "hired your clerk" to go to Montana with
his sheep. Mr. Moore told him that "he guessed

Dillon had agreed with me that he would say
nothing to Mr. Moore. So he came to me in the
morning of the day after he first spoke to me
about the deal and said, "Moore said you couldn't
go." I was hot all over in a second. "Mr. Dil-
lon, you agreed not to speak to Mr. Moore about
this matter it was a matter between he and I,
and since your word cannot be depended upon,
our business relations cease right here." I con-
sidered his management bad and his word in
honor, worse. Mr. Dillon returned to Maxwell's
ranch and I continued in the store.

Finally, Mr. Moore approached me on the
subject. "Billy," said he, "thought you were
going with Dillon to Montana with his sheep ''
I then told him how it came about that I had
told Dillon I would speak to him about it first.
We had made no contract, for without first get-
ting Mr. Moore's consent I would not make any
contract with Dillon.

Now I could readily see that trade had fallen


off and I knew that some of the boys would have
to quit and seek other employment. There was
one man there with a large family in the states
who received a salary of $1500 a year. I knew
that he did not want to be thrown out of a job,
and I was eager to "try some new experience."
So I told Mr. Moore that I had heard from one
of Maxwell's clerks that Dillon did still want me
to go with the sheep, and if he was willing to let
me off I would make Dillon a proposition. "All
right, Billy, you can make a proposition with
Dillon and in case you do not carry it out, you
need not quit here," said Mr. Moore.

Joe Dillon came up the next Thursday night
and began to talk to me there in the store about
taking his sheep to Montana. I told him that I
would talk to him about the matter as soon as
the store closed that night, but that I did not
want to hear one word of it until that time.

After the store was closed up I told Mr. Walker
to stay with me and hear my proposition with
Dillon, and I wanted him to draw up our con-
tract. I told Dillon that I would take charge of
his sheep under these stipulations. I would have
to have absolute control of the sheep, men, mess
wagons, pack horses and everything else. I
would employ the men and discharge them. I
told him I would furnish $700.00 or $800.00 to
properly equip the train, and I would take a bill
of sale from him for all the sheep. I also told
him that he would have to go on ahead on the
stage coach, or do as he chose in the matter,
that he must absolutely remain away from our
camps and herds while I was in control. After


much deliberation, he agreed to my terms, and we
signed up.

I filled an ox wagon with bacon, flour, salt,
soda, tobacco and saddles. Mr. Dillon watched
me put tobacco on the wagon and said I was
loading unnecessary stuff on the wagon. I told
him that I would need all the bacon and the
tobacco, and perhaps several head of sheep to
make my treaties with the Indians when I took
my sheep through their reservations. Now this
little speech brought a sneer to the face of my
venerable partner. "No use of making treaties
with the Indians; you get a military escort with-
out paying anything out." I told him no mili-
tary escort would need to travel with me.

About the middle of April I received the 3000
head of sheep from Maxwell's ranch and took
my assistant, Mark Shearer to Calhoun's ranch
to get the other 1000 head. I had left the camp
in good trim there near Maxwell's and every-
thing was progressing nicely with my sheep on
the grass with good herders. At Calhoun ranch
we were delayed on account of Calhoun having
to shear the sheep. However, after four days'
delay we started back toward Maxwell's. Joe
Dillon met us not far from camp and told me he
had discharged four of my men and paid off two
in tobacco and the other two men would not
take tobacco. He said that he had hired four
more in their place. One was a hunter and he
had agreed to give him $80 per month to keep
the men in provisions. The other was a black-
smith which he thought we might need after
we started over the mountains.


"Now, Joe, do you think you can discharge a
man without paying him off?" I asked him.
"Well," he said, "I didn't have the money on
hand to pay him with/' I told him that his med-
dling with these men did not suit me, and that I
did not want his four men, moreover, I said, "I
will not move a peg from camp with them." I
employ my drivers and I discharge them."

When we got into camp the hunter had killed
a jack rabbit, all the meat he had provided since
he was employed four days before. After rein-
stating my men and making Mr. Dillon under-
stand that his place was at the other end of the
line, where he might as well be enjoying himself
until our arrival in Montana, we started on our

Dillon went on the stage to Kansas City and
en route to Kansas City he fell in with a sharper
at Bent's old fort, and told him that he had a
drove of 7000 sheep coming. The sharper had
20 blooded brood mares and a stallion, and ban-
tered Dillon for a trade. They made the trade
and Dillon gave the "shark" a bill of sale for
the sheep with the provision that I would agree
to it.

When we got within nine miles of Denver we
camped for dinner. While we sat around our
"picnic spread" a couple of men drove up in a
buggy and asked if Mr. Ryus was there. I told
him to "alight" and take a few refreshments with
us, that I was Mr. Ryus. He told me to come
out to the buggy, he wanted to talk with me. I
told him that "this is my office, out with whatever
you've got to say." He then asked me if the.


sheep were Mr. Dillon's. I told him they certainly
were not. They were mine. Then he buckled
up. "No, Mr. Ryus, they aren't your sheep, they
are mine. I bought them at Bent's old fort from
Joe Dillon, and I am going to take possession of
those sheep and take them to Denver and sell
them." I told him that "maybe he would and
maybe he wouldn't; we would see about that."
I then asked him what he gave for the sheep.
He told me he had traded some blooded horses
and a stallion for them. I then asked him if he
was dealing for himself or for other parties. He
told me he was dealing for himself. "For how
much are your horses mortgaged?" I asked him.
"Oh, something like $4000," he replied. I told
the "horse trader" that it wasn't worth while
to take up any more time. As for my part, I
had rather think of my buffalo steak right then,
and if he didn't want to get out of the buggy
and come and eat with us, to "drill on" toward
Denver, that me, the boys and the sheep were
going to Montana. He said, "Alright, Mr. Ryus,
we will drill on, as you say, but we will take pos-
session of those sheep before you get into Den-
ver." I told him to "crack his whip," and to go
to that warm place from which no "hoss trader"
returned if he wanted to, but for him not to in-
terfere with me or the sheep. Away he went.
My temper was at its best and thoroughly un-
der control, so I told the boys to not feel the least
alarm, no "yaller backed hoss trader" would get
those sheep, without getting into a "considera-
ble tarnatious scrap" with Little Billy.

It seemed that we were destined to have sev-


eral visitors before we arrived in Denver. This
time we had camped for supper and a lonely
looking half starved individual put in his appear-
ance with a saddle on his back. He asked me if
he could get some supper with us and I told him
to "lay to/' and he then asked me if I knew him.
I told him I knew him but it would not be to his

A few days before this I had seen an account
in the paper where a Mr. Service had shot and
killed a Mexican. I told him that there was
already a reward out for $1,000 for him. I told
him he needn't say a word about the affair to
the boys, and I wouldn't. He told me that he
had killed the Mexican because he couldn't avoid
it. It seemed that a very rich Mexican with a
twenty-wagon train and 100 yoke of oxen had
stopped near the little ranch of Service and Miller
to cook their meals. He had unyoked his cattle
and driven them to the creek for water and in-
stead of returning by the route he had gone,
threw down the fence and was driving his oxen
through Service's ten-acre corn patch. The corn
was up about two feet high and the cattle were
literally ruining the corn. Mr. Service attempted
to drive the cattle off the corn, but the Mexican
hollowed to his peons to drive them on through.
Mr. Service told him to either pay the damage
that his oxen had done his corn or drive them
off. The Mexican told him he would do neither.
By this time Mr. Service was thoroughly angry
and told the Mexican that he would either take
the oxen off the corn or one or the other of
them would die. Mr. Service was unarmed at


the time and he wheeled his horse around and
went to the house and got what money they had
there and his rifle and returned and shot the
Mexican dead. He then made the peons drive
the cattle away, and he started for Maxwell's
ranch on his pony. After reaching the foothills
of the mountains he dismounted and threw rocks
at his horse to make it leave, then he scrambled
on a few miles through the young timber until he
came to a hanging rock under which there was
a kind of cave. He crept into this place to rest
and snatch sleep if possible.

In the meantime the Mexicans belonging to
the train gathered up all the Mexicans they could
find scattered through the country, and without
molesting the partner of Service, started out to
hunt him. Service said that the Mexicans were
so close to where he was lying that he could
hear every word of their conversation in that
still, isolated place. He knew from their talk
they were going on to Maxwell's ranch where
they supposed they would find him. About ten
o'clock that night he crept out of his hiding place
and crawled and slipped until he reached Max-
well's ranch, then he went into the stable where
Maxwell kept his favorite race horse and led him
out far enough from the house to be safe, then
he jumped on him and rode him until the faith-
ful animal laid down and died of exhaustion. He
was left on foot some 75 miles east of where I
was. Service was so weak and exhausted from
worry, lack of sleep and nourishment that his con-
dition was pitiable. We had to watch him for
twenty-four hours to keep him from over-eating.


One ox driver who was an Irishman by the name
of Johnnie Lynch came to me and told me that
the other ox driver had told him he knew who
Service was and that he said he was going to
"give him up" when they reached Denver and
that when we got into Denver, they were going
to "give him up" and collect the $1,000 reward
for him. Johnnie Lynch said that he did not
want to see Service put in irons, and that he
thought Service did no more than was right.
"Wan more of those devilish Mexicans out uv
th' way don't hurt nohow," was his comment.
"Now, Johnnie," says I, "you go to my assistant,
Mark Shearer, and tell him to tell the wagon
driver that if he undertakes to hand Service over
to the authorities at Denver, that he will kill him."

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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 8 of 11)