Pioneer Days - Location of Old Fort Mann
There is particular interest in reviving incidents of early days, as it seems to mark the progress of life. There is eminent gratification when the old timer recounts the scenes of early days on the plains. Old age brings its reminiscences. The dead past confronts us at the grave. Recounting pleasant incidents of life is a spring of pleasure. Fixing on particular objects, now extinct, may be unprofitable, in the eyes of some people, but as we progress in life we correct the errors of the past, and we are making and correcting history as we journey from shore to shore from the cradle to the grave. These reminiscences are instructive to the youth they are consoling to old age.
The Topeka Capital of January 20th, contained an interview with Colonel Alexander Majors, the pioneer plains man, who did an immense freighting business across the plains 40 and 50 years ago. In the interview there is a dispute about the location of Fort Mann, Kansas on the Arkansas river. Major lnman, at whose home Colonel Majors was stopping while In Topeka, located Fort Maun at the "Cimarron Crossing" in Gray county, where Ingalls now stands; but Colonel Majors says Fort Mann stood exactly where Dodge City now stands. Col. Majors says he was there in 1848. Colonel Inman in corroboration of his statement, reminds Col. Majors that "he went down the steep bank of the Arkausas river on the dry rocks in crossing at the old ford at Ft. Mann."
We referred the dispute between the old plainsmen to Hon. R. M. Wright, who was a resident in this county as early as 1859. He says Fort Mann was situated eight miles west of Dodge City, at what is known familiarly as "Point of Rocks." It was sometimes called Fort Atkinson and another name. Colonel Inman's description of the descent to the river, would suggest that he was right that far, as the banks of the river at Point of Rocks is rocky and precipitous. It is said that both men finally agreed that Fort Maun was located 40 miles west of Dodge City. But they were both mistaken about the exact location of the old fort.
Mr. Wright says when he first saw Ft. Mann In 1859, there were remnants of fortifications, and three or four graves---- one the grave of an officer. He does not remember seeing head stones, but some head, boards marked the graves. He went with a government agent to identify the spot where Fort Mann stood. This was about the first of May in 1859.
There were remains of large fortifications at Fort Mann, which had been buildings and corrals. The fort grounds comprised several acres, and a large number of United States soldiers were stationed there. The fort was abandoned in 1857. In the hills near the fort were two or three lime kilns. Two or three well defined roads led from the fort to Sawlog creek, where the soldiers procured wood for fuel and burning lime. These roads were as well defined as the regular Santa Fe trail. Heavy government wagons traversed these roads thousands of times.
In those days the government freighted with oxen. A number of ox trains were wintered at Fort Mann, and many of the oxen died, during the severe winter of 1857.
Ox chains were worth $10 a piece at that time, and it is said many ox chains were "cashed" or buried and then washed into the river during the heavy spring rains. This circumstance gave rise to the rumors of the discovery of gold at Fort Mann, and many venturesome people went there to investigate the supposed find. It is probable that the chains were lost in the quick sand.
Above Chouteau island about 75 miles west of Dodge City, says Mr. Wright, a great excitement prevailed at one time, about the time of the abandonment of Fort Mann. There was discovered what was called "gold bearings," and in the early days "gold bearings" on the Arkansas river was not an uncommon thing. Fort Mann ox chains and gold banks of the Arkansas river were confounded, and hence the gold excitement. But there was some foundation for the excitement. Early miners or 49ers of California, on their return from the land of the golden fleece, camped on the Arkansas river at Chouteau island. They found "color" and made a permanent camp, and thought they could make it pay. But they soon pulled up traps and moved on to their destination east.
Mexican traders, who passed to and fro across the plains, saw these miners at work, and they gave the name of "gold banks." At this point is a ravine with upheavels or bumps, an uncommon condition of the prairie. Such a formation Is not found anywhere else on the river.
Rumors were rife in those days, about the time of the Pike's Peak excitement and the Arkansas valley was not an expidition to the prevailing gold rumors. It was said that when the Indians atacked the miners at Chouteau Island, the miners hid their California gold savings. Mr. Wright says he has known people to go there and dig for the supposed hidden treasure.
"Cimarron Crossing" of the Arkansas river, Mr. Wright says, was three miles west of the town of Cimarron. It was called the "Journey of Death." Over this breadth of sand and desert, and track less waste, it was 75 miles to the Cimarron river, or Cedar Spings. where the first water was found duing the entire journey of 75 miles. There was no water over this part of the land except during wet times. Many people and oxen perished on this journey from the Arkansas river to the Cimarron river. Mr. Wright gives an individual experience of crossing over this part of the state, and suffering severely for the need of water. He came near perishing, under a scorching sun and over burning sands, sometime in the sixties.
It is well to state what is meant by "Cimarron Crossing." This was a point in the river where the crossing was made for the Cimarron river. It was a short route to Santa Fe and other points in New Mexico. One trail followed up the Arkansas river to Colorado, and thence into New Mexico.
There was a crossing near where Ingalls now stands, but that crossing was used by the Indians in their northern and southern trails. In 1878, when the Southern Cheyennes made their flight through this country they crossed the river between Ingalls and Pierceville.
Mr. Wright in the later years of the 60's occupied a stockade at Cimarron Crossing. At this point, horses were exchanged in the transportation of mails, express and passengers, to and from points east and to New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona. A tower was erected on the top of the stockade, and from this point of observation the movements of Indians were noted. Several encounters with Indians occuired here, which have been published. There are still marks where the famous stockade was located, which was at a point neally midway between the towns of Cimarron and Ingalls. Those who are familiar with the spot recall the history of the times when it tried men's courage to be a frontiersman.
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