Citizens of Larned, Kansas have reason to celebrate the upcoming bicentennial of the Pike Expedition. The first is geographical. On October 29, 1806, Pike's men camped at the confluence of the Pawnee and Arkansas rivers. That location was about 500 yards southeast of the U.S. Highway 56 bridge at the south edge of Present Larned. The same site became the well-documented Pawnee Fork crossing of the Santa Fe Trail. The crossing is commemorated by an interpretive marker placed near the bridge by the Wet/Dry Routes Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail.
The second reason has to do with a niece of Zebulon M. Pike, who was an early-day resident of Larned, Sarah Wardell Sturdevant. She was born April 9, 1812, in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, two months prior to the inception of the war of 1812. Ironically, Pike, promoted to the rank of brigadier general, was killed during that war on April 27, 1813, at Toronto, Canada, one year and 18 days following Sarah's birth. Sarah recalled that, at age 13, she met the Marquis de Lafayette during his 1824-1825 tour of the United States.
She married the Reverend Charles Sturdevant on May 24, 1835. Her life with the Presbyterian minister was anything but commonplace. His ministry took the family to congregations in Indiana, Ohio, and Mississippi before he served as an agent of the Board of Domestic Missions for his denomination, Later he was superintendent of a female seminary at Springfield, Ohio, for six years. Subsequently, he was president of a female college at Indianapolis, Indiana, for four years. In 1865 the Sturdevants moved to Independence, Missouri, thence to Olathe, Kansas.
The exact date the Sturdevants moved to the infant town of Larned remains moot, but they were included in the 1875 census of Pawnee County. The reason for the move was that their daughter, Matilda Jane, had moved to Larned in 1873 when her husband W. R. Adams assumed the presidency of the Larned Town Company, succeeding Samuel J. Crawford, the former governor of Kansas.
Reverend Sturdevant served as supply minister of Larned's First Presbyterian Church during 1880-1881. He died July 31, 1886, and in the words of his obituary, he was "buried in the Larned cemetery, which overlooks the broad Arkansas River with its green islands and yellow sand-bars."
Mrs Sturdevant died on April 9, 1909, the 97th anniversary of her birth. Three years earlier, she had been invited to attend the centennial celebration of the Pike Expedition conducted at Colorado Springs, Colorado, within the shadow of the mountain which bears the name of Pike. Unfortunately, she was unable to participate in the event. She also was buried in the Larned Cemetery.
The Sturdevants produced three children, Matilda, Clara, and Charles, all resident of Larned. Matilda and her husband, W. R. Adams, had six children: Peter, Ernest, Charles, Sarah, Claribel, and Edna. Clara and her husband Thomas Byrne had three children: Charles, Larry, and Mabel. Charles had one daughter, Wardell. Thus the Larned lineage of Zebulon Pike is long: a niece, two grand nieces and a grand nephew, five great-grand nephews and five great-grand nieces.
Incidentally, Larned's first wedding uniting Emma Post and Daniel Bright was conducted on September 15, 1873, in the home of Mr. and Mrs W. R. Adams. At that time, the Adams family resided in the former sutler's mess house, which had been moved from Fort Larned into the new town in April 1872. The structure, which became known as the "little red house," served as Larned's first residence, post office, saloon, school, church, and court room.
It has been reconstructed at 2nd and State streets and is available for tours. Interested parties may contact the Larned, Kansas Chamber of Commerce for details. Interestingly, Larned's first bride was the grandmother of Norman Grove who built the house now occupied by David and Alice Clapsaddle, proprietors of the Little Red House and writers of this article.
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