Thursday, December 3, 2009

Kansas Surveyors Massacred.

The following information was put together from a article written by Mrs. F. C. Montgomery, in titled: United States Surveyors Massacred, Published in the Kansas Historical Quarterly of May of 1932.

The completion of the task of surveying the public lands in Kansas was provided for by eight contractors, but two will only be stated here. These two men were Captain Oliver Francis Short and Captain Luther A. Thrasher. Their expedition was formed at Lawrence Kansas for the most part. On July 29, 1874, Captain Short being the ranking officer of the expedition headed for Wichita Kansas, where he bought oxen and equipment.

On August 4, 1874, he was joined at Dodge City by his sons Harry C. and Daniel Truman Short. Along with his sons were Captain Cutler, James Shaw and son J. Allen Shaw, and J. H. Keuchler, Fleming ( Clem ) Duncan, William and Richard Douglas, Frank Blacklidge and Harry C. Jones, who was the nephew of Captain Cutler. All were from Douglas county with the exception of the contractors and James Shaw, farmer, were young students of the Kansas University. They were later joined by Captain Thrasher of Iola Kansas, who was second in command, those who came with him were, S, W. Howe of Florence, Marion county Kansas, and a Mr. Woolens, There were others but are yet to be known.

The whole Meade county expedition had twenty-two men, eighteen for field work, and four for camp duties, including Prather a mulatto of Lawrence Kansas. The location of their main camp was on the northeast corner of section 4, township 33, range 28 west, just a short distance east of the old “Lone Tree”, which is a well known land mark on the east side of Crooked creek, which is about 60, miles west of Dodge City. Captain Short’s party was to survey the lines of township 33, and the party would be away from camp fro the entire week. The party of Captain Thrasher and Captain Cutler returned to camp each night after surveying the township into sections.

Between August 16, and the 22, Captain Short would write his wife and tell of finding water for the oxen and that a pump was driven at the camp which furnish cool water for the men, and there was plentiful stones for the cornerstone markers. It had been agreed on that if the Indians attacked, they would set fire to the grass as a signal to the other surveyors, but they had been forced to fight prairie fires to save their own oxen. On the last Sunday afternoon in camp, August23, Captain Short had read passages from his New Testament and joined in the singing of hymns. The morning had been spent washing clothes. His letters were sent to Dodge City, by hunters passing by camp on Monday morning of August 24, 1874.

On that fatal day Captain Short chose his party for a weeks survey. They were his son Daniel Truman Short, aged fourteen, James Shaw age fifty-one and his son, J. Allen Shaw age about eighteen, Harry C. Jones about twenty-two and John H. Keuchler who was between seventeen and eighteen years. Harry C. Short who had been chainman for his farher, was assigned to stay in camp that week to harmonize camp troubles. The other two parties took different directions to mark the virgin prairie into sections for future occupants.

About noon of Wednesday, August 26, Mr. Crist, of Thrasher’s party saw Captain Short’s wagon standing on the east side of Crooked creek about eight and a half miles south , and two and one-half miles from Meade. Captain Thrasher was notified and he reconnoitered with his force, including Mr. Woolens, S. W. Howe and Richard Douglas. They armed themselves, then unhitched their oxen from their cart and drove them ahead to the empty wagon. There they found the bodies of Captain Short and his five men lying on the ground in a row, as they had been left by the Indians.

The oxen were dead in their yokes, with the hind quarters cut off, and the camp dog lay dead beside it’s master. Captain Short, his son, and Harry Jones had been scalped and the others had their heads crushed. All the pocket’s of the men had been turned inside out. There were twenty-eight bullet holes in the wagon, and eight bullets were found in the water barrel. James Shaw was the last mam killed at this place, as shown by tracks made there by the iron on his boot heels. It was learned later that the Indians had carried off their wounded and dead. The bodies after a careful search, were put in Short’s wagon and drawn back to camp. They were buried near sundown, about 100 yards southeast of Lone Tree, and the same distance southwest of the camp. One lone grave three feet deep was made for all the victims, who were wrapped in tent cloth. Initials were carved on rough stones which were placed at the head of each body.

Next morning, Thursday, August 27, hunters passing by the camp reported they has seen a party of twenty-five Cheyennes about fifteen to twenty miles west of the camp. Waiting until the Indians passed well out of dight they examined the camp of the Indians. There they found Short’s compass, papers and chains; also Cheyenne arrowheads. It was learned later from Mochin a squaw of this party, and from the Indian agent that ir was the band of Chief Medicine Water. Truman Short’s horse was found in Medicine Waters camp about a hundred miles west of camp supply. Years later Chief Yellow Horse began to tell H. C. Perkins, of the auditor’s office in Topeka, about his prowess in the Short massacre, but then shut up lake a clam for fearing that Mr. Perkins might infrom the government about his deeds.

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