Saturday, November 28, 2009

Kansas Famous Frontier Scouts.

Many a boy and young lady felt the allure of high adventure on the plains of the old west. It was the adventure of fighting wild Indians, looking for gold or discovering new places, the thought of crossing the high plains in a covered wagon or on horse back was very romantic. The old west was full of danger and adventure, but the truth was it was more dangers to roam the towns and cities of the west then the high plains. In the 1800, hundreds the new frontier of Kansas was full of adventure. The lure of Kansas brought many a young man looking for adventure and what could be more adventurous then being a frontier scout. Many other States had their frontier scout and some would become famous.

Kansas had many frontier scouts and some would become famous and have stories told and written about them. There were the likes of Sharp Grover, Bill Comstock, Charles Reynolds, Billy Dixon, Jack Stillwell, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, William Mathewson, Kit Carson. These men help make Kansas safe for those looking for a new way of life.

Note. The information for this page came from a article written by Paul I. Wellman called ( Some Famous Kansas Frontiers Scouts ), published in August of 1932, in the State Historical Quarterly.

Sharp Grover, who’s real name was Abner T. Grover is said to have been a “squaw man,” having lived as a member of the Sioux tribe and been married to a Sioux wife. When the expedition to the Beecher Island came along Colonel Forsyth took Grover as his head scout. Colonel Forsyth chose him because of his ability to speak Sioux and was an expert in sign talk the universal language of the plains and was moreover a finished plainsman.

With Grover’s guidance Forsyth was able to over take the Cheyennes and the Sioux, who were under the leadership of Roman Nose, and fought the almost disastrous battle on Beecher’s Island. During the battle Grover pointed out Roman Nose. Grover is reputed to have killed him. Although I was denied it was Roman Nose who was killed. It wa stated by the Cheyennes that Roman Nose was killed on the evening of the first day, instead of early in the fight as reported by Colonel Forsyth, but none the less Roman Nose was died.

At the time Sharp Grover was scouting for Colonel Forsyth, he was suffering from a still unhealed wound in the back which he had received by the Sioux Indians in August of 1868, on the Solomon river. This happened a month before the expedition. The wound would not prevent him from riding and fighting and scouting as daringly and as intelligently as at any period in his life.

Grover was killed in a shooting affray at Pond Creek, Kansas, the year following the expedition. He was shoot by a man named Moody in a saloon brawl. Grover was unarmed having giving his guns to the barkeeper. Moody was later set free as he claimed he had shot Grover in self-defense, thinking Grover was armed and when Grover who was drunk came towards him with a flow of abusive epithets, he shot him.

Billy ( William ) Comstock was Kansas scout, he was born in Wisconsin and came to Kansas at a early age, living on the frontier by preference. He was one of the original pony express riders, at the same time when Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody were similarly employed. In 1867, he got into rrouble in a fight with a cheating wood contractor who had agreed to pay him a certain sum of money if he would show him where a good supply of wood for the post at Fort Wallace could be found. Comstock lived up to his part of the agreement but the contractor failed to pay.

This man posed as a bad man and boasted of having been a member of the Quantrill raiders, but this made no difference to Comstock. He met the defaulter on the porch of the post trader and shot him dead. His arrest followed and he was taken to Fort Hays for trial. Arraigned before a judge there, he was asked how he would plead. “Guilty, sir,” Comstock replied. The astonished judge asked him if he wish to alter his plea. “No, sir,” said Comstock, who did not know what it was to lie. “In that case I discharge you for want of evidence,” said the judge, who seems to have known Comstock’s adversary. Ir seems that the judge thought that Comstock’s friends were intending to help him make his escape and decided that to dismiss the case was rhe easiest way out of the affair.

In 1868, he was employed by Gen. Phil Sheridan as chief of scouts. It was during this service that he met Custer. He was his chief scout during the campain which resulted in the massacre of Lieutenant Kidder and his men, and also in the fight of Colonel Cook with the hostiles between Fort Wallace and Fort McPherson. With Sharp Grover He was our on a scouting expedition to see if he could discover any traces of hostiles. About fifty miles from Fort Wallace they found the friendly village of Sioux under Turkey Leg, on the banks of the Solomon river. Grover knew these Indians well, as his wife was a member of the band.

He was informed by Turkey Leg, that Roman Nose and his Cheyenne dog soldiers was in the vicinity. Comstock and Grover took the warning and headed back towards For Wallace. It was known that Comstock had a beautiful ivory handled six-shooter. A young Indian had tried to trade him out of it, but he refused. On the way back to the fort they fell in with several young braves and were talking when suddenly two or three whipped out their rifles and starting firing killing Comstock instantly and wounding Grover in the back. Grover was finely able to drive them off with rifle. Badly wounded he was able to make his way to the nearest railroad station, where he was brought back to the post. General Bankhead sent out an expedition which brought in Comstock’s body and give him a Christian burial.

Another Kansas scout was Charles Alexander Reynolds, was born in 1842, in Kentucky, came to Kansas as a small boy of sixteen. While on a wagon train bond for California it was attacked by Indians on the Platte and most of the emigrants were killed. But Reynolds made his escaped, he became a Nemesis to the race which had done the deed. He later made his way to Atchison county, and at the opening of the war enlisted in a Kansas regiment for three years, chiefly as a scout. When the war ended he went on a trading expedition and again ran afoul of the Indians, his party was attacked on the Smoky Hill. A fellow trader of Reynolds was killed. Reynolds once again made his escape and took refuge in a wolfer’s dugout and stood them off till nightfall, when he made a run for it, and finally reached Santa Fe in safety.

In the summer of 1868, He hunted buffalo in western Kansas and eastern Colorado, where he made such a reputation as a plainsman that he was appointed an army scout. He was Custer’s chief of scouts in the 1874 Black Hills expedition. Reynolds was the one who discovered that Rain-in-the-Face, a Sioux chief was guilty of the murder of Doctor Hon zinger a veterinarian, and Balleran a sutler, during the Black Hills expedition. The chief later stated That; “ Charles Reynolds know me ( he was seen after the killings ) and told long yellow hair who did this brave deed.” However the chief was mistaken. Reynolds got the information much later, while the chief was undergoing the Sun Dance tortures. The chief had boasted of his exploits to keep his courage during the dance. Reynolds who was at the dance had heard him tell of his exploits and reported it.

Reynolds was chief of scouts in the ill-fated expedition to the Little Big Horn. He died trying to stave off the rush of the Sioux warriors who were shooting down the soldiers of Major Reno as they tried to retreat across the Little Big Horn river. He is buried and a tablet shows where he died bravely fighting on the field of the Little Big Horn.

Jack ( Charles ) Stillwell had been a member of the Forsyth expedition, and later became a famous scout. He was only nineteen when he enlisted at Fort Hays to go on Forsyth expedition, by this time he was known as a experienced hunter and plainsman. He took part in the Beecher Island fight. He and Pierre Trudeau where the first to volunteer to get through the Indian cordon, when night fell they left for help. They only managed to get a short distance when daylight over took them, they spent the next day hiding out in a washout, in full view of the Cheyenne camp. When might fell again they started out, and once again when daylight came they found themselves out in the open with no where to hiding but a buffalo wallow. Now the following may be true, no one knows for sure, but it makes a good tell and is worth retelling again.

Soon after they took refuge in the wallow a band of Cheyennes came up and discoursed about fifty yards away. At almost the same moment a rattlesnake made his appearance; crawling down into the wallow toward the two men. They were in a fearful silemma, If they killed the snake the noise would be heard by the Indians who were almost on top of them. If they did not kill it, it would be almost sure to bite one or both of them. Stillwell solved the problem in as unexpected way. He was chewing tobacco and as the reptile approached he expectorated a mouthful of tobacco juice all over it’s head and eyes. That routed the unwelcome visitor, which turned tail and crawled dejectedly away. Soon after the Indians also left and the men were free to continue, eventually reaching Fort Wallace with news of the fight. Because of his fearful exertions during this journey Pierre Trudeau would died the next spring. He was buried at Fort Sill.

After that, Stillwell’s reputation as a scout was made. He served under Custer and was guide for the Nineteenth Kansas during it’s winter campaign of 1868. He also served during the campaign of 1874, were he made a daring ride from the Darlington agency to Fort Sill, seventy-five miles alone through hostile county, to bring news of the outbreak and get help. Later he was scout for General “Black Jack” Davidson.

At the close of the war he acted for a time as a deputy United States marshal, and later was a United States commissioner at Anadarko. He spent his last days at Buffalo Bill Cody’s ranch in Wyoming.

Billy ( William ) Dixon was born in West Virginia, but came west to Missouri to live with his uncle at the time he was twelve years old. Two year later he went out “On his own.” To the plains of Kansas. In Leavenworth he took a job as a Bullwhacker for a wagon train operating between Leavenworth and Fort Scott. He would later freight between Leavenworth and Fort Collins Colo. He also drove a wagon for the peace commission to the treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867.

He went from Bullwhacking to wolf hunting and later into buffalo hunting, which he did from 1870 to 1874, he first hunted buffalo in western Kansas then moved towards the south into Indian territory, and on to the Texas panhandle. All the while he was becoming proficient rifle shot. He became so proficient he was thought to be the best in the whole southwest.

In the summer of 1874, Dixon was hunting in the vicinity of the old Adobe Walls near Bent and St. Vrain, when without warning the Indians went on the warpath. They killed a number of hunters and made a attack on the stockade where Dixon was at the time. Dixon wasn’t a lone there were twenty-five other men and a women, she was the wife of one of the hunters. Most were Kansas men from Dodge City, which was the buffalo capital of the world. The records shows that the A. T. & S. F. railroad shipped 459,453 buffalo robes in the years of 1872 to 74, from Doge City.

While they waited for help from Dodge City, they held of the attack with heavy losses. During the attack Dixon would make a shot that would make him even more famous. It was near a mile from the stockade that there was a steep bluff, where Dixon saw some Indians watching from it, he deiced to see if he could hit one. Dixon took his “50” buffalo gun and took careful aim and fired. Well as incredible as it seems he hit his target and a Indian fell from his horse and was carried away by his friends. Year later a surveyor measured the distance from the hill to the fort and found it to be 1,538 yards. Dixon years later call it his “Scratch shot.”

Some months later after the arrack at Adobe Wells, he was traving with a party with dispatches from General Nelson A. Miles who was then camped on McClellan creek, to Fort Supply. They found themselves surrounded by a war party of about 100 Kiowas. They were in a fight for there lives, Dixon fight from a buffalo wallow. There was other scout there one was Amos Chapman, and four soldiers. One soldier was killed and every man was for the most part seriously wounded, but were able to hold off the attack till help came. Dixon was able to save his friend life under the heavy fire of the Indians.

Every man of the party received a congressional medal of honor for there bravery. Dixon later took up ranching near the spot where he fright for his life many year before at Adobe Walls. Dixon would pass away in 1913.

His wife Olive K. Dixon who lived in Amarillo, was the author of Dixon's biography. She too would become will know in her own right, Being gifted in her writings of the history of the southwest and her activities in promoting the recognition and the marking of historical spots.

James Butler ( Wild Bill ) Hickok, was born in Illinois, and like many other men came to looking for adventure. He would serve as a attendant at a stage station during the time when the much publicized “McCanles gang” fight is said to have taken place. It is said that Wild Bill in a hand to hand fight he had killed ten desperadoes who made up the McCanles or McCandless gang, this was denied by Edwin L. Sabin. His version was that there was only three in the gang and that Hicok shot the leader Dave McCanles from behind a curtain with his rifle and finished his row friends with his revolver.

After the Civil war he came back to Kansas, where he would spend most of his remaining life, he scouted for Hancock and Custer, and later he was to go on to be marshal of a number of Kansas towns the likes of Abilene, Fort Hays and Dodge City. He would met his end in Deadwood, S. Dak., in 1876.

William F. CodyBuffalo Bill.” is so famous that there is little to add, he too was a Kansas scout, and scouted for Carr, Sheridan and Miles, which says he was very efficient and able in that line of work. Cody was reared near Leavenworth, he rode the pony express before his scouting and buffalo hunting days. He would be come world famous because of his wild west show and will always be a character of the frontier plains.

William Mathewson was a friend of Kit Carson and did much scouting for the government, but little is known about him. Mathewson was of Scotch descent, he was trapping all over the Rockies in the days before any thought of settlement. He traded with the Indians in western Kansas for years. In 1853, he established a post Known as Cow Creek ranch, which was station on the great bend of the Arkansas river. There Mathewson earned the Kiowa name Sillpah Sinpah, meaning “Long Bearded Dangerous Man” this came about from his treatment of the celebrated chief, Satanta, it seem the chief attempted to help himself to some of Mathewson stock without paying for it. Mathewson give the chief terrific beating with his fist and ended it by kicking him and his friends out of the store room. Later Mathewson and the great chief became life-long friends. Satanta was so much of a friend that he would ride hundreds of miles to warn Mathewson when the Kiowas went on the warpath in 1864.

In June of 1864, Mathewson and five of his employees in the Cow Creek ranch fought a three day battle with an overwhelming force of Kiowas, who had surrounded them. Finding they could not finish off the fort They turn their attention to a wagon train which came into the vicinity, it was bound for New Mexico, the wagons loaded with government arms and ammunition and guns. Mathewson know of the trains coming for several days before the attack. But for some reason the 150 men and the boys in the train had no idea what they were carrying. When the Indians attacked the train the men could scarcely defend themselves for they only had a few arms. Mathewson seeing their danger, leaped upon his horse, and rode right through the Indians lines and into the wagon inclosure. Mathewson had some of the boxes of arms and ammunition open. Soon the hostiles thought it better to retreat.

Mathewson rode as scout for General Blunt’s expedition in 1864, He did much to bring together the Indians for the Little Arkansas treaty which preceded the Medicine Lodge peace council. When Kansas was trying to remove the Indians into the Indian territory the called on Mathewson who went out and risked his live and went to all the bands and talked then into attending the council. Mathewson son William Mathewson Jr., told that his father chief danger in this perilous work was that he would be shot before he could identify himself to the Indians. Once he was known to them he was alright because of his reputation among them as a honest and generous trader and was universally accepted.

Mathewson made a practice of creeping up on a village, so that when he suddenly revealed himself he was close enough to be recognized, his son says. Largely through his efforts the tribes where gathered at Medicine Lodge, which history has recorded.

Mathewson was in fact the first to be called “Buffalo Bill,” due to his prowess in killing buffalo for starving settlers in the 1860’s. The title of “Buffalo Bill” given to Cody by a dime-novel writer by the name Ned Buntline, In a interview printed in a newspaper, Cody acknowledged that Mathewson was the “Original,” “Buffalo Bill.”

Mathewson exploits were many, one of the best known was the rescue of the Kirk-Pattick girls, Helen and Louisa, from captivity among the Indians. Through his influence with the savages he is said to have made for the release of no less then fifty-four women and children during his life on the frontier. Mathewson, modesty was such that he never give a newspaper interviews of his deeds but on rare occasions. He is deserving of a greater place in history than he has received.

Kit Carson got much of his experience in Kansas, his first Indian fight was in Kansas. Pawnee Rock is said to have been named by him in honor of a fight he had with that tribe which took place there. Carson would spend much of his time Kansas-Colorado border. He made many trips into Kansas, One occasion with two other trappers and three Delaware Indians, he was surrounded by Comanches in the southwestern corner of the state, and fought one of his most spectacular battles.

There has been many famous frontier scouts that call Kansas their home and Kansas is the better for it, these men help make our frontier safe not only for the white but for the red man as well.

The following men learned most if not all their will in Kansas.

Ben Clark, Amos Chapman, California Joe, Billy Peacock, John Cook and William Bent.

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