George Elmore and Leo Oliva spoke about the history and importance of the site which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The evening speaker was Dr. Henrietta Mann, President of Cheyenne & Arapaho College in Weatherford, Oklahoma, who spoke about "Walking the Cheyenne Road of Life." More than 100 participants enjoyed the annual meeting. Next year's annual Mess and Muster will be on April 28, 2012. Please place this on your calendar and plan to be there.
Ellen Jones is New Park Ranger
My name is Ellen Jones and I'm the new Park Ranger at Fort Larned. I'm delighted to be working at the fort with a friendly and knowledgeable National Park Service staff. The past few months have been busy and exciting as I learn about the history of the fort and its inhabitants. I served as Park Ranger at George Washington Carver National Monument, Diamond, Missouri, from 1999 to 2006. It didn't take long for the power of interpretation to hook me for life. I enjoyed presenting both history and nature programs at Carver, New Mexico and to this day George Washington Carver, the great scientist, is my idol. I will often quote him if the circumstances are right!
In the summer of 2003 I enjoyed six weeks of travel, presenting programs with the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery II. I was also fortunate to assist the staff of Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in the preparation of opening its doors in May 2004. Topeka is my hometown and I was able to reconnect with people from my past, thanks to the National Park Service! In 2007 I was the program coordinator for The Landing - Minnesota River Heritage Park. The Landing is owned and operated by Three Rivers Park District, an independent park system of Minneapolis - St. Paul. The Landing features 39 historic buildings with a mile-long village road. It was there that the scale was tipped-I found myself solely on the history side of interpretation, but with my naturalist husband Barry, I'm able to enjoy nature quite often in my free time.
I most recently worked at the Santa Fe Trail Center in Larned, writing education programs and introducing new hands-on activities to the Santa Fe Trail Center tour guides, along with presenting to elementary students and teachers. When I arrived at the fort, I possessed a greater knowledge of the Santa Fe Trail era and a greater appreciation for the history of my home state. With this foundation I immersed myself into the history of Fort Larned. I knew the term "Dragoons" from reading the diary of Susan Shelby Magoffin. That was the extent of my military knowledge when I walked through the doors of Fort Larned! Now I am interpreting the history of the site to visitors and learning many new things every day! I will never tire of hearing the compelling stories of Fort Larned soldiers and civilians. Sharing those stories with others is a real joy for me. Outside of work I enjoy spending time with my husband, three children, and two grandchildren. Barry and I have been longtime birders and hikers. We often camp in state and federal parks. Our most recent camp trip was to Chiricahua National Monument in Southeast Arizona where the birding and mountain trails helped create a memorable adventure!
I look forward to meeting you at Fort Larned National Historic Site
Fort Larned Old Guard Chair's Column
by Rex Abrahams
A big "Thank You" to everyone who attended our annual Mess and Muster on Saturday, April 30, 2011. We had a tremendous turnout. Over 100 people made the trip to the Indian Village site to celebrate its addition to the National Register of Historic Places. What a wonderful accomplishment and what a beautiful day!
Several Indian tipis and campsites graced the sloping grasses along the creek. It was not hard to imagine what it might have looked like in April 1867 with the large Cheyenne and Sioux encampment covering the area. A talk by historian Leo Oliva took us up to the destruction of the village by General Hancock. Dr. Oliva stressed the misunderstanding and lack of knowledge about his adversary that led General Hancock in his decision to approach and ultimately burn the Indian village. Hancock's example and lack of knowledge is still used by today's army to educate their officers on how they need to understand their opponents.
Chief Ranger George Elmore then shared how he and amateur archeologist Earl Monger searched in their spare time for this location. It was interesting to note that they started by walking the creek heading North West. After a couple of years of searching and no results, they decided to start their approach from the opposite direction and headed South East. They finally discovered the site, in its original pristine state, about one mile from where they had left off their original search.Maybe there is a lesson to be learned about "going the extra mile." Ah, but that is another story.
The program returned to Dr. Oliva who wrapped up the story of the Village Site by bringing us full circle. After the first attempt to get it placed on the National Register of Historic Places failed, numerous phone calls and a rewritten application finally made the site a reality.
The evening program was held in the quartermaster building. A delicious BBQ dinner was followed by Dr. David Clapsaddle giving a fitting memorial to William "Bill" Chalfant. Bill, whose book Hancock's War came out last year, died on January 7, 2011. We were pleased to have Bill's wife Martha in attendance.
Retiring Board members Bonita Oliva, Linda Peters, and Aaron Fisher received Honorary Colonel Certificates for their dedication and service to the Old Guard. Each one served six years on the Board. Then, the Old Guard expressed its gratitude to Dr. David Clapsaddle for his Traveling Trunks program by presenting him with an Honorary Colonel Certificate, too, an honor he well deserves.
The evening ended with an insightful presentation about "Walking the Cheyenne Road of Life" by Dr. Henrietta Mann. The talk was a heartfelt presentation about being Cheyenne, their culture, their tribal history, and the healing Indian/White relations still going on today. It was easy to see why Rolling Stone Magazine named her one of the ten leading professors in the US in 1991. She has a deep, genuine concern for all people.We were inspired by her presentation. We are glad she brought her son and two granddaughters to the village site.
If you have not renewed your membership for 2011, please consider doing so. Your membership helps in so many ways. Thank you.
Fort Larned Superintendent's Column
"On Our Watch"
by Kevin McMurry
Here we are again, poised with all of our great partners for another busy summer bringing Fort Larned and Santa Fe Trail history to visitors of all ages. It is always exciting to see the season begin and welcome all our great seasonal coworkers and volunteers back to bring Fort Larned to life as a bustling frontier military post!
Although the winter "off season" was in the past a good time to catch up on everything needing done, those days it seems are long gone. Throughout the winter, with help from great friends like David Clapsaddle, we expanded the stories of Fort Larned to numerous schools, presented the Fort Larned Old Guard-funded Indian exhibit at the Tucson Book Festival, and completed numerous ongoing projects. David also conducted a great stage presentation on Santa Fe Trail history at the Fox Theatre in Hutchinson on May 9 and has been contacted by a growing number of elder groups for the traveling trunk programs. Please consider contacting your local schools to suggest Dr. Clapsaddle's programs and have interested folks contact him at (620) 285-3295. Information on the different trunk programs is available from David or at the fort's website
Work on the North Officers' Quarters is proceeding very well towards the public reopening. Put Fort Larned in your summer plans because you'll want to see this beautiful and fully-furnished addition to our visitor experience. The formal reopening celebration will be scheduled later in the summer when Congressional State and Local Representatives can be available to attend. Fort Larned Old Guard Members and Volunteers are welcome to special tours of the North Officers Quarters anytime!
The contract to resurface the company streets and walking paths all around the fort is nearly complete and this work will make touring the buildings easier for all our visitors. Additionally, fort staff have completed upgrade of the theatre to digital video and sound, and enhanced LED lighting. They have also installed a digital message board at the front desk with daily current information and schedules of events.
The project to reconstruct the historic wagon bridge in its original location is proceeding well and we expect 70% planning and construction documents from the Federal Highway Administration Engineers by August. Although funded in 2013 it is expected that the work could begin as early as October of this year. Folks are invited to stop by anytime to review the latest design drawings and visit the project site.
Fort staff and volunteer David Clapsaddle traveled to Tucson in March to display the Fort Larned Old Guard funded Indian exhibit at the Tucson Festival of Books cosponsored by our bookstore partner, Western National Parks Association (WNPA). The Indian exhibit constructed largely by Fort Larned Old Guard Board Member Ken Weidner was a big hit with the 100,000+ people who attended the event on the campus of Arizona State University. "On Our Watch," and with the generous assistance from employees, partners, and great volunteer friends, we continue to provide Fort Larned and Santa Fe Trail history for all to learn and enjoy. I personally invite you to be active in supporting the work of the Fort Larned Old Guard and hope to see you at Fort Larned soon and often during the upcoming Kansas Summer!
Fort Larned Old Guard Board Changes
Fort Larned Old Guard bylaws restrict board members to three consecutive two-year terms. This year Aaron Fisher, Bonita Oliva, and Linda Peters completed six years on the board and retired, with thanks from everyone for their years of service. All continue to be active members of the Old Guard. Linda Peters will continue to handle memberships (her address is 1035 S Bridge St, Lakin KS 67860).
New board members elected April 30 are Gary Anschutz of Galatia, Tom Seltmann of Larned, and Leo E. Oliva of Woodston. The board elected the following officers for the coming year: Chairman Rex Abrahams, Vice-Chair Chris Day, Secretary Janet Armstead, and Treasurer Leo E. Oliva. Oliva continues as manager of the Indian Village Site. Contact information for all board members is found on page 2. Fort Larned Old Guard also welcomes Park Ranger Ellen Jones as Fort Larned editor for Outpost, replacing Nathan King who relocated to Washington DC.
Somewhere in Kansas Bicycle Club Joins Fort Larned Old Guard
The Somewhere in Kansas Bicycle Club does a ride every spring "somewhere in Kansas." This year they met at Larned and rode around the area, including visits to Pawnee Rock, Santa Fe Trail Center, and Fort Larned. They attended the Fort Larned Old Guard Mess & Muster on April 30, with 18 of the group at the evening program. The bikers were so pleased with the experience that they joined Fort Larned Old Guard as a Camp Follower. Fort Larned Old Guard welcomes this organization, with thanks for attendance and membership.
Volunteer Roll Call: Green Thumb Volunteers
by Ellen Jones, Park Ranger
During the cold month of March the subject of planting a spring vegetable garden was considered. Garden work takes time and patience and success isn't always immediate. But with the guidance and assistance of a few very hard working and patient volunteers the Company Post garden has become a reality!
The planning and preparation was the most important first step. Fortunately, the fort staff knew an expert, Linda Bethke! Linda has been a volunteer at the fort for four years. She has cooked meals for special events and assisted with the October Candlelight Tours. After working as an interpreter at Boot Hill in Dodge City for six years, she developed the philosophy that if she "teaches one new historical fact a day, I have done my job." In the case of the Post garden, Linda was teaching us numerous garden facts all at once!
Linda is a trained horticulturist with years of experience in gardening. Born and raised in upstate New York, she remembers learning from her grandfather, a naturalist, about plants. He taught her which plants were edible and could be prepared by cooking. Every year her parents planted vegetable and flower gardens. So it wasn't surprising when Linda worked her way through college earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology with a Minor in Horticulture from Elmira College. She enjoyed work-study programs in Botany and Genetics throughout her college tenure.
Linda brought her plant knowledge to Kansas when she moved here permanently in 1982. She has had great garden successes but has experienced failures because of drought and pestilence. She says, "Mother Nature can produce and Mother Nature can destroy." Linda has been inspired in recent years to explore producing the highly-evolved orchid. This study is called Orchidology. Could we someday see orchids at the fort? Because of Linda's valuable advice on starting a vegetable garden we will be sure to ask her about flower gardens next time!
After deciding on which vegetables to plant, with Linda's help, we quickly prepared the ground with silty loam, peat moss, and manure. The 14 x 40 feet plot is behind HS-9, Junior Officers' Quarters. The garden will hopefully be producing spinach, lettuce, cabbage, and squash - to name a few. The tomato plants are heirloom plants. We plan to have a more historic-style garden in subsequent years.
Girl Scout Troop 78, Larned, has made the garden their service project. The scouts are half way to earning two patches for their time and hard work. The girls have planted, weeded, watered, and labeled the plants. The troop's leader, Beth Burke, is another volunteer with an immeasurable amount of garden experience. She has worked in a garden each year since childhood. Watching her work patiently with the Girl Scouts and her son, Max, a Tiger Cub Scout, anyone would quickly recognize that Beth is an educator with a green thumb. Beth brought donated butter bean seeds, potatoes, and holly hocks. Her philosophy is to "never give up and be patient." The troop also benefited from the leadership of Bill Wolfe who measured each row for the troop.
Beth's daughter, Hannah, along with other troop members, plans to earn a Bronze Award for service this year and Silver and Gold Awards for service in coming years. Hannah is 10 years old and appears to be very much at home in the fort's garden! The staff of Fort Larned wishes to recognize our green thumb volunteers for all their hard work! This is the first garden at the fort in the 21st century. We've made note of Beth's philosophy and plan to be patient while watching the garden grow!
Fort Larned Old Guard Roll Call: Leo E. Oliva
Leo E. Oliva is a charter member of the Old Guard and has served several terms on the board, including a few years as chairman. He has managed the Indian Village Site since it was acquired by Fort Larned Old Guard and now serves as Fort Larned Old Guard treasurer.
Oliva attended the centennial celebration in 1959 to commemorate the founding of Fort Larned. He has been engaged in research and writing about the frontier army in Kansas since. His publications include Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail (University of Oklahoma Press, 1967) and Fort Larned: Guardian of the Santa Fe Trail (Kansas State Historical Society, 1982). He is a frequent lecturer and is currently one of the 150th anniversary speakers commemorating Kansas statehood, sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council, with the program "Kansas Military Forts." He also portrays Robert Morris Peck, who served in the First Cavalry in Kansas, 1856-1861, and was among the troops that established Fort Larned in 1859.
Oliva taught history at Fort Hays State University, 1964-1978. He is honored to count among his former students Chief Ranger George Elmore at Fort Larned National Historic Site and Tim Zwink and Gary Anschutz on the Old Guard Board. Oliva will retire as editor of the National Santa Fe Trail quarterly, Wagon Tracks, in August, serving as editor since National Santa Fe Trail was founded in 1986. He is currently Fort Larned Old Guard editor for Outpost, sharing those duties with Fort Larned editor Ellen Jones. Leo and Bonita (who has served several terms as Fort Larned Old Guard secretary) operate the family farm near Woodston, Kansas.
Traveling Trunk Update
David Clapsaddle's Traveling Trunks Program was featured on May 9 at the Fox Theatre in Hutchinson. In attendance were 365 students, grades 3-7, and 20 adults. On the following day Volunteer Clapsaddle took the program to Pawnee Heights Elementary School at Rozel, Kansas. The attendance there of 50 students swelled the attendance of the program in school year 2010-2011 to over 4,000.
Plans are underway for the fall semester of 2011- 2012. The trunk and story presently under development will focus on Julio Hernandez, a 12- year-old boy who travels with his father's wagon train from Santa Fe to the railhead at Kit Carson, Colorado Territory. Julio will be the seventh in the Cast of Characters which include Box Elder, a Cheyenne boy; Marion Sloan, a seven-year-old girl who became a Santa Fe Trail legend; and four other assorted male characters, including Old Bill Williams who became the guide and hunter for the Santa Fe Trail Survey Team.
Quartermaster Report: Blockhouse
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger
[This is eighth in a series on the structures at Fort Larned.]
The Blockhouse is the only stone building at Fort Larned today that is not original, but almost 300 original stones were used in its reconstruction, including 93 stones as part of the loopholes (gun ports). All the stonework below ground is also original. The building was used in the 1880s as a barn when the property was privately owned, however it was eventually torn around the turn of the 20th century. According to the archeological evidence the building had an inadequate foundation, making the structure as a whole weak, which could be why the owners chose to dismantle it and put the stones to other uses.
There is no documentation to pinpoint the exact date for the building's construction, but it was most likely started in February 1865, after blockhouses at several other area forts were built. Work on these buildings began in the Spring of 1864 as a result of escalating conflicts between Whites and Indians on the Great Plains. The construction was carried out under the direction of an Army Inspector General, Major T. I. McKenny, who was on his way to Fort Larned at the time.
An incident specific to Fort Larned resulted in an order for blockhouse construction at all frontier military posts in Kansas. A party of Kiowas raided the fort in mid-July of 1864, making off with most of the fort's livestock. Following that incident, the Army's Department of Kansas Headquarters at Fort Leavenworth issued Field Order No. 2, ordering the construction of defensive enclosures for both men and livestock at all frontier military posts in Kansas. Fort Larned was reprimanded for having neither an animal enclosure nor a stone blockhouse.
There is some disagreement among historic sources on the actual plan of the Blockhouse, but archeological evidence confirms that the building was hexagonal. What information we do have about the building's details come from a report submitted by Lieutenant A. Kaiser, assistant adjutant and quartermaster, which included a brief written description of the Blockhouse. According to this report, the building's walls were 22 feet long with a 2- foot-wide foundation and an inside diameter of 34 feet, the roof was supported by a central post and a set of double doors covered the entrance. There were two tiers of loopholes around the interior, along with a cellar covered by 2-inch-thick pine flooring providing access to a covered passage leading to a well.
Although originally intended as a defensive structure, records indicate that Fort Larned's blockhouse was never used for that purpose. In a report dated October 19, 1867, Major M. Ludington from the Chief Quartermaster's Office in the New Mexico district noted that the use of the building had changed, "An octagonal [sic] stone building . . . was in use as [a] store house for clothing. It has been probably vacated before this date, and can be used as [a] guard house or for other purposes." By late 1867 this suggestion had apparently been instituted since a medical history of the fort written in late fall of 1868 stated that the guardhouse had been switched from the old adobe structure to the blockhouse.
The Guardhouse was the post jail and soldiers could find themselves confined there for any number of offenses, including absence without leave, sleeping on duty, theft, desertion, or any action considered harmful to good order, which could be anything from swearing to being disrespectful to one's superiors. The guardhouse was also the headquarters for the daily Guard Detail, one of the most important duties in the military routine of the garrison. Every morning during the Guard Mount the new Guard Detail would be inspected and then replace the previous detail. At this time a new countersign and parole would be issued, which were the passwords the sentries would ask for after Taps.
Guard Duty was twenty-four hours long, during which time a soldier would be on duty one hour, and then rest two. The soldiers of the Guard Detail were required to be in full dress uniform with accoutrements at all times. While on Guard Detail, the soldiers would eat and sleep in the guardhouse. The Guard provided sentries around the post both day and night, guarding the haystack, Quartermaster corral, stables, warehouse, etc. During the day the guard would also supervise prisoners on Police Guard.
by William Chapman
Shawn Calkins was promoted to Maintenance Worker from Custodian/Labor. Both Fred Barker and Dan Coaty have returned for the summer season. More on Dan in maintenance spot light. Since the last posting of maintenance news we have completed the wood graining of the north officers' quarters. We are installing the wood stoves and assisting the rangers with the furnishing of the rooms in anticipating open to the public soon. We have also assisted other parks: in February George Washington Carver National Monument and in April Great Smoky National Park. Those who went are greatly thankful to those who stayed behind to keep the Fort in the great condition it is in.We had minor damage from high wind event in April, and the staff quickly rebuilt 60 feet of fencing.
As stewards of the plant resources we installed waterless urinal at the visitor center and comfort station. Have some fun, swing by and hit the shell and save 3 gallons of water. In May we had a public health inspection conducted by the US Public Health Service and passed with flying colors thanks to the work of Troy and Shawn keeping all water systems in good order.
At the annual mess and muster meeting you may have noticed some excavation equipment on site.We are almost completed with the construction project to improve access to the fort's structures. This project will convert the loose gravel company streets to hard natural paved surfaces. As part of this project the board walk at officers' row was moved and widened. It will also construct both earthen and wood ramps to access the shop's and quartermaster buildings.
Other improvements that you and our guests will enjoy include the park's introduction slide show, which is now 21st century and presented via Digital Video Disc (DVD).We also installed a monitor in the visitor center which will display events schedule as well as safety and public notification information to our visitors.
Commanding Officers, 1862, A Year of Turmoil
by Celeste Dixon, Park Ranger
[This is sixth in a series on the commanding officers of Fort Larned.]
As regular Army troops were transferred East to fight in the Civil War, manning the frontier posts fell mostly on the shoulders of volunteer state militias. At Fort Larned, this meant the beginning of a succession of commanding officers, most of whom were only in command for a month or two before moving on. From June to December of 1862, no less than six men were in charge of the fort. The sixth officer to command Fort Larned after it was founded in 1859 was Captain Daniel S. Whittenhall of the Second Kansas Volunteers, who arrived at the post in June and succeeded Major Julius Hayden. Although Whittenhall apparently tried to instill some discipline and order to the soldiers, he also got himself in trouble with an unauthorized move of the area Indian Agency from Fort Lyon to Fort Larned. When the district commander, Colonel Jesse Leavenworth decided to go to Fort Larned to investigate, Captain Whittenhall fled from the fort.
Major Julius C. Fisk of the Second Kansas Volunteers replaced Captain,Whitehall on August 5. He was only in command a couple of weeks before Captain H. N. J. Reed of the Ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry took over as post commander on August 20.
Captain Whittenhall's actions in changing the Indian annuity distribution from Fort Lyon to Fort Larned had placed the fort in grave danger. Hundreds of Indians flocked to the area and when Colonel Leavenworth arrived the fort was surrounded by many Apache, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche in camps waiting for their goods and annuities. Colonel Leavenworth, along with Indian Agent S.. G. Colley, held meetings with the various chiefs and convinced them to return to their own lands to wait for the annuities.
By October 20, Lieutenant Colonel.Charles S. Clark of the Ninth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry had been placed in charge of Fort Larned by Colonel Leavenworth. There is little information about his tenure, although one consequence of the Indian scare brought about by Whittenhall's actions was a raise in troop levels at the fort to almost full strength. By November there were eight companies at the post from five different regiments-Second U.S. Infantry, First Colorado Volunteers; Ninth Kansas Volunteers, Ninth Wisconsin Artillery battery-for a total of 494 enlisted men and 16 officers.
By December 3, Captain Jacob Downing of the First Colorado Volunteers had replaced Lieutenant Colonel Clark as post commander. He was soon replaced by Lieutenant William West of the Second U.S. Infantry on December 16, who finished out the year as the fort's sixth commanding officer in as many months.
The latter half of 1862 was a tumultuous time for Fort Larned. The succession of post commanders disrupted the command continuity and the near disaster brought on by Captain Whittenhall's change of the Indian annuity distribution had placed the fort in very real danger of being overrun by Indians. However, this was only a preview of things to come for the remainder of the Civil War years. With intensified fighting in the East, Confederate forces would actively try to bring the Plains Indians to their cause in an attempt to disrupt Union hold on these frontier posts.
Engaged in Fort Fun!
by Ellen Jones, Park Ranger
The month of May was a flurry of activity at Fort Larned! On Friday, May 6, 500+ third-grade students from Central Kansas took part in the Annual Fitness Day at the fort. Each year students engage in activities ranging from Fort fitness - like pulling a cannon and stacking supply boxes to safety awareness in the Stop, Drop, and Roll relay. Stations were set up around the quadrant, including a hoop toss game, tug-of-war, and attempting to lift and cinch a saddle.
Mixed in with the activities was a little history of the fort. Most of the buildings were opened for the students and several provided living-history demonstrations, talks, and tours. In the schoolhouse students were treated to a slice of education on the prairie. Alice Clapsaddle, in period dress, rang the students to class, where they were given a history lesson on subjects and deportment during the time the fort was active. The 2011 Kansas Fitness Day is sponsored by the Governor's Council on Fitness as well as Safe Kids Kansas, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and American Family Insurance.
Saturday, May 7, 20 Junior Rangers, ages 6-12, participated in activities for Junior Ranger Day. The hands-on activities introduced the young rangers to various jobs held by enlisted men during the fort's active years. They experienced what it was like being an assistant baker by mixing ingredients for bread and also churning butter. They scrambled as hospital attendants in a relay by collecting wood, making beds, and bandaging fingers. The younger Junior Rangers worked in the commissary by weighing foods on three different types of scales. The older Junior Rangers tried their skills at communicating with Signal Flags. They all were invited to watch Pete the Blacksmith work at the forge. Every participant received a Junior Ranger badge, Fort Larned commemorative coin, and Kansas Symbols poster.
Gift Shop News
by Ellen Jones, Park Ranger
Fort Larned's gift shop, operated by Western National Parks Association, has made two new recipe books available for purchase. Your favorite cook may enjoy sweetening up a dish featured in Just Natural Sweet by Patricia Mitchell. This book has many recipes utilizing honey, molasses, and maple syrup without the use of refined sugar.
Those who enjoy combining history with cooking will want to purchase Pack the Skillet; American Pioneer Cooking, by Patricia Mitchell. This book uses entries from journals and diaries to illustrate certain aspects of pioneer life,with special emphasis on food.
Other titles related to cooking in our gift shop are:
An Army Wives Cookbook with Household Hints and Home Remedies
Eating Up the Santa Fe Trail; Recipes and Lore from the Old West
The Early American Cookbook
The Old West Baking Book
Blue and Grey Cookery; Authentic Recipes from the Civil War Years
The Aficionado's Southwestern Cooking
Rough Riding on the Plains
(continued) by Robert Morris Peck
[Robert Morris Peck, a private in Company K, First U.S. Cavalry, in 1859, was among the troops that founded Camp on Pawnee Fork. Peck published his memoirs in 1901. The portion of his memoirs detailing life at the military camp are continued here and will continue in future issues. This portion of his memoirs picks up his story of life at the new post in the winter of 1859-1860, including providing escorts for the mail wagons. His language is that of the day, calling Indians "savages." He wrote:]
Our quarters and stables being finished, hay stacked, and other preparations about completed for making ourselves as comfortable as possible for the Winter, our hay-makers were recalled from their camp on the bank of the Arkansas, and the Captain, with his party, taking the company horses, rolled out for Fort Riley. Before they started, however, the little herd of ponies we had captured from the two Kiowas who were killed, were sold at auction and the prize money divided between the 12 men who were of that party.
Our little post as been named Camp Alert (since named Fort Larned).
It is now the beginning of December, and still there are a few Pike's Peak emigrants straggling along the road to the mountains. They travel in such small parties, so scattered, so exposed and so unprovided for defense, that it is generally an easy matter for the Indians to get away with them; and when we warn them of their danger it is often hard to make them realize that the blood-thirsty Kiowas are on the warpath in earnest.
It is a wonder that any of them get through the range of the hostiles alive.Most of these gold-seekers are well armed, but being unacquainted with the treacherous tricks of the savages, they let the Indians "get the drop" on them. A few days after the departure of the company for Riley, I and nine other privates, under command of a Corporal, were detailed to escort a mail westward as far as the Santa Fe Crossing of the Arkansas.
A detail of mounted rifles from Fort Union usually meets the mail there and takes it on. If the mounted rifle escort don't meet us at the Crossing we are to go on, possibly clear through to Union.
In going to the Crossing from Camp Alert, instead of following the river road, the mail and escorts usually take a shorter cut called the "dry route," which strikes straight across the high prairie, and does not approach the river till near the site of old Fort Atkinson.
Except in a very dry time water is to be had on this route at the crossing of Coon Creek, which is a succession of water-holes strung along a prairie hollow, about half-way between Camp Alert and Fort Atkinson, where the road again strikes the river.
This makes the crossing of Coon Creek a common camping ground for most travelers on the "dry route." It must be remembered that there is not a stick of timber-neither tree nor bush-on this route from Pawnee Fork to the Santa Fe Crossing, nor for many miles beyond.
On this trip, as we approached the crossing of Coon Creek, and while yet several miles away, we caught sight of a white object, which soon proved to be a covered wagon. As we neared it we saw a yoke of oxen, with the yoke on, feeding around on the prairie; but no other sign of life. As we drove up to the still little camp several coyotes left some strange-looking objects that were lying around the wagon on the ground, and loped off on the prairie, disturbed by our approach.
What was our horror as we drove up to the wagon to discover that the strange objects that the wolves had been frightened away from were the naked, and mutilated bodies of four white persons-two men, a woman and a boy about 12 years old!
All were scalped and had other marks of brutal butchery and mutilation, besides the plainly distinguishable gnawings of the wolves. The woman's body had been ripped open, and near one of the wagon-wheels, which was bespattered with blood, lay a small mass of something bloody, which proved to be the body of a babe, which had been dashed against the wagon-wheel. (continued next issue)
Fort Larned Old Guard welcomes the following new members:
Life Member Dr. Mark Fesen, 2609 Linksland Dr, Hutchinson KS 67502
Annual Members Charles Astle, 1550 M Road, Larned KS 67550 Robert Bangerter, 814 N CR 7, Leoti KS 67861 Stan & Janet Crawford, 1809 200th Ave, Larned KS 67550 Linda Garrett, 2393 CR 29, Gem KS 67734 Kieth & Mim Hiesterman, 145 N Belmont, Wichita KS 67208 Lee Olsen, PO Box 62, Burdett KS 67523 Tom Seltmann, 602 W 6th, Larned KS 67550 Somewhere in Kansas Bicycle Club, c/o Mim Hiesterman, 145 N Belmont, Wichita KS 67208 Carol Thiel, 1245 Lattacienda Dr, Colby KS 67701
July2-4, 2011: Living-History Weekend at the Fort.
Oct. 8, 2011: Annual Candlelight Tour at the Fort.
April 28, 2012 Annual Mess and Muster
The officers, members of the board of directors, dues information and email's are listed on this page of information. Please feel free to contact any of us.
Santa Fe Trail Research Site
"E-Mail & Home Page"
Larry & Carolyn
St. John, Ks.