The Cock Robin of Ash Creek
Pawnee County, Kansas

     Northwest of Larned, one mile east of Ash Valley is a six foot concrete monument. Encased in the monument is a sandstone inscribed as follows:

A. D. 1841
W. D.

     Below the last word "with" is an inscription of an arrow. Originally, now long gone, a glass pane protected the stone from the elements. Inscribed at the base of the monument is the date 1917.

     A 1931 edition of the Larned Tiller and Toiler credits C. C. Like with the discovery of the stone while digging post holes previous to the time that the Arlington and Northern Railway laid tracks through that part of Pawnee County in 1917. Company officials ordered the erection of the monument on the right-of-way one mile east of Ely, later named Ash Valley.

     Who was W. D. Silver? The above mentioned newspaper account speculated: "Just how the murder came about will always remain a mystery. Mayhaps the traveler was a member of a covered wagon caravan surrounded by a tribe of warriors, and he was a victim of their onslaught. Or perhaps he traveled only with a single companion, who evidently escaped the deadly warriors."

     Such speculation is highly unfounded. In 1834, seven years before the date on the stone, the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act became law. The law stipulated that Indian Territory was to consist of all lands belonging to the United States west of the Mississippi not within the states of Missouri and Louisiana or the Territory of Arkansas. The law further prohibited white settlement in Indian Territory with certain exceptions: Christian missionaries sanctioned by the Department of Indian Affairs, Indian agencies, licensed Indian traders, and United States Army posts. All of the above, including Fort Leavenworth, were by 1841, established in the far eastern end of what is now the state of Kansas, far removed from the site of the Silver stone. To the west was Bent's Fort near present La Junta, Colorado, the anchor of the Bent, St. Vrain Company. Licensed to trade under Charles Bent's name, the company controlled all the Indian trade east of the Rocky Mountains, north to the Platte, and south as far as the Texas panhandle. The Silver stone was farther removed from Bent's Fort to the west then it was from Fort Leavenworth and the Indian-related settlements to the east. Thus, one could conclude that Mr. Silver did not hail from any settlement in present Kansas or adjacent territories.

     As to the possibilities of an overland traveler in present Pawnee County, the chances are slim to none. The Oregon Trail followed the Platte River many miles to the north; the Santa Fe Trail ran some 11 miles to the southeast of the Silver stone. It is not likely that a Santa Fe-bound traveler would have strayed that far from the Trail.

     To return to the original question, who was W. D. Silver? It appears that there are two choices, one akin to the newspaper speculation cited previously; the other choice, plain and simply, is that the story is a hoax.
     Used With Permission of the Author
     David Clapsaddle

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