Ed Miller Story

Ed Miller Grave Marker
Ed Miller Grave Marker

     The summer of 1864 was a period of unrest in the plains. The Indian tribes were well aware that the Civil War was raging in the East and that the quality of the troops stationed in the West was not of the highest caliber. On July 17, 1864 the Cheyennes along with the Kiowas and Comanches struck Fort Larned and continued their attacks toward the east. It was into this dangerous situation that a young man named Ed Miller rode on an errand of mercy to help a sick woman in Marion. His courage in the face of the Indian threat was to cost him his life.

     In July of 1864, Abraham Atlantic Moore, owner of Moore's Ranche at Cottonwood Crossing on the Santa Fe Trail, was in Marion with his family for a brief stay. During this time, Mr. Moore's wife, Nancy, was taken very ill, Mr. Moore decided to send for a doctor and Nancy's mother, Mrs. Eli P. Waterman who was known for her skills as a nurse. Mr Waterman and her husband lived at the Big Turkey Creek Ranch near present day Galva, Kansas. Mr. More first approached George Griffith to go after Mrs. Waterman, but Mr. Griffith's health and the fact that he was not very familiar with the Trail to Turkey Creek caused Mr. Moore to approach Mr. Miller. Mr. Miller's son Edgar, was a young man of about 18 years of age, who was kown as a good and fearless rider. Edgar Miller agreed to go.

     Word had come down the Santa Fe Trail that the Kiowas, Comanche, and Cheyenne Indians were on the warpath, but their exact location was not known. It was known that Edgar Miller might, at any time encounter a band of hostile Indians. Mr. Moore provided Ed Miller with his fastest horse and instructed him to go to French Frank's Ranch, operated by Frank LaLoge, at Cottonwood Crossing Hole aproximately six miles southwest of Cottonwood Crossing. There he was to exchange Mr. Moore's horse for the Frenchman's fastest horse.

     Edgar Miller left for French Frank's Ranch early in the morning of July 20, 1864. When he arrived he found that Mr. LaLoge had gone to Council Grove and had taken his fast horse with him. After eating breakfast, Ed Miller continued along his way to BigTurkey Creek leaving French Frank's about 8 a.m. He was accompanied along his way by a young man, Al Bichet, who worked at French Frank's. About 30 minutes later having gone about three miles the two parted company.

     Meanwhile, at Big Turkey Creek Ranch, a group of about twenty Cheyennes were observed about a mile east of the ranch. They appeared to have killed a cow and were butchering it. Mr. Waterman had a telescope and his son, Vat, climbed up on the roof of the ranch to observe the Indians. A lone horsemen was observed, coming down the Trail. When he reached the brow of a hill descending to the ranch, at that time he was within 200 yards of the Indians. The Indians grabbed their weapons and mounted their horses. Gunshots were heard at the ranch, and the lone horseman turned back along the Trail. From the roof of the ranch, the flight was observed for a considerable distance. Two days later, the Watermans decided to go to Marion to see their daughter who they knew had been sick. When they arrived, they were asked "Where is Ed Miller?" They had not seen Miller and related the story of the lone horseman.

     On July 23, Roddy Coble, Jack Griffith, Henry Roberts, Evan Hoops, and a man from Louisiana started down the Trail in search of young Miller. When they reached a spot about four miles west along the Trail, Evan Hoops noticed somethng unusual in the air. He said nothing until they had passed 150 to 200 feet past the site. All agreed to return to the place Hoops indicated, and began to search the area. They found the body about 50 feet south of the Trail, with one or two handfuls of weeds thrown upon it. The body bore the marks of torture with numerous marks of a lance or spear about the heels and ankles. Miller had been pierced a little above the pit of the stomach and shot in the head. He had been scalped, leaving only a small spot of hair about the size of a quarter in front of one of his ears. Upon the discovery of the body, Henry Roberts was sent back to French Frank's Ranch to get tools for burial of the body. He returned with a spade or shovel and a pick. The body was wrapped in a blanket and a grave was dug by Henry Roberts, Jack Griffith, and the man from Louisiana on top of a small hill about 100 feet north of the Santa Fe Trail. Roddy Coble and Evan Hoops kept watch.

     While the grave was being dug, Evan Hoops noticed a spindle of dust west of them with a larger cloud of dust behind it. Both were moving rapidly toward them. They decided to hold their ground for the time being and continued digging the grave. A sort time later, a lone horseman came up the road and when he came within a quarter mile he saw the burial party and swung southward about a quarter mile then eastward. When the rider determined that the grave diggers were white men he rode up to them. He told them that he was a wagonmaster in charge of a train of about 100 wagons which was surrounded by 2000 to 3000 Indians at Cow Creek. He had escaped and was on his way to Council Grove, Kansas to get army troops. He said that the last he had seen the Indians, they were about five or six miles back and advised them to stay no longer than necessary. After the man left, the party continued to dig the grave until they were down about 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep when they buried the body.

     The land surrounding the grave was obtained by Martin M. Jones in 1873. When he discovered the grave of Ed Miller, he set aside the part of his property for a cemetery. The cemetery was later named Fairview Cemetery and some of the earliest settlers of the Canton, Kansas area are buried in the cemetery. The last burial was over twenty years ago in the 1970's. About 1906 Henry Roberts placed a black granite marker on the grave of Ed Miller, giving his name, age, date of death and by whom killed. The date of 1864 has been changed sometime in the last thirty years to 1869. The actual date of death was 1864 according to several sources. The DAR marker was placed on the site about 1907.

Marion County Record, Marion, Kansas, 1911-12
Durham Centennial Book, Durham, Kansas. 1987
History of Canton Community, Canton, Kansas 1988
Kansas Historical Quarterly; 1972
Leavenworth Daily Conservative, Leavenworth, Kansas; July 30, 1864
Kansas City Missouri Journal of Commerce; July 28, 1864

     There are a number of stories by various authors about the death of Ed Miller. In the preceding narrative, the author has tried to consolidate several of the stories to confirm some of the facts, and to elimiate some obvious discepancies and errors in the reporting of other authors.

  1. At least one story attributes Miller with saying that he would undertake the dangerous mission because he had no living relatives to mourn him. The Miller family had moved from Illinois to Marion in 1860. Prior to their move, Miller's brother and sister had died. However, at the time of Miller's death in 1864, the family consisted of Miller's mother, father, and nine brothers and sisters.

  2. Some of the stories refer to Miller's first name as Edward. In a letter to the Marion County Record, Miller's brother calls him Edgar.

  3. Some stories concerning Ed Miller refer to him as a Pony Express rider. No evidence of his being employed by the Pony Express has been found. At the time of Miller's death there was a mail route along the Santa Fe Trail, with post offices at Big Turkey Creek Ranch and Moore's Ranch, but again, nothing has been found no record of his employment as a mail carrier. Miller's occupation appears to be that of a headman for cattle ranchers in the area.

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