Thursday, 14 July 2016

On the Warpath

Tuesday April 19th
As a result of the flood of emigrants penetrating the west and depriving the plains Indians of their ancestral hunting grounds, tribal resentment and unrest was coming to a head by the early 1860s.  Emigrant trails up the valley of the Little Blue river were the focus of the Cheyenne war of 1864 which erupted on August 7th of that year, both settlers and emigrants being severely effected.  Many of the buildings formerly used by the Pony Express before its demise in 1861 were destroyed and burnt in Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux raids, and none survived along the section of the trail we were now following.
Oregon Trail marker at the junction of R Road and 5200 Rd which also gives the position of Kiowa Ranch....
...which was run by Jim Douglas and served as a pony express as well as a stagecoach stop.
 According to the marker, it was located somewhere in a field about 200 yards ahead of where this photo was taken.....
 There were now frequent reminders of Cheyenne war.  Only about four miles past the site of Kiowa Ranch this stone marked the spot where on August 10th 1864 stagecoach driver Robert Emery "discovering Indians in ambush on the trail just ahead 722ft due south of this point wheeled his horses and under hot fire raced back to a wagon train three miles east, saving the lives of three passengers"
The wagon train was in fact the remains of a larger company which had been attacked further west at Liberty Farm on August 7th and had retreated to camp near Kiowa station.
Only a mile and a half away on the same day, a pioneer couple were killed at the old Bowie ranch and around $10,000 of property and livestock stolen, so I was intrigued to come across the following sign by the side of the road ....
 ....though sadly I did not have time to investigate.  Dugouts were temporary pioneer frontier homes which were quite literally 'dug out' of slopes.

And another couple of miles brought us to a monument commemorating the Oak Grove Ranch raid of August 9th 1864. The buildings in the background recreate the original ranch buildings, although the original ranchhouse was a larger two storey building.
When about twenty Cheyenne turned up at the ranch following the Eubank Ranch massacre two days earlier (more of that later) the ranch workers were understandably nervous. And their fears were born out when the Cheyenne suddenly attacked, killing two hands while eleven others took refuge in the house.  They survived the attack when an ox train turned up, and escaped the next day before the attackers returned to burn the original buildings. The monument lists the names of the two victims as well as all those who escaped, which included four females.
The ranch was probably also the location of Oak Grove Pony Express station, run by Al Holladay.

Lady studies the Pony Express sign outside the little town of Oak..
 Just beyond Oak are 'The Narrows'  so called as the Little Blue river passes through a narrow, steep sided valley.  The emigrant wagons clung to a narrow terrace of land on the foothill above the river but below the rougher land above. We were unable to follow the trail through here, so we climbed up the gentle hill to where I had been told there were some very nice people who kept horses. And what a good decision as I received a warm welcome from Rhonda Yaeger, whose husband Gary Rupp is a retired vet.  The horses were provided with sweet feed and full hay mangers in a lovely old barn with access to an outside pen...
....while I was shown to a comfortable self-contained guest apartment above the garage. After a week of camping in outbuildings, it was bliss to have a proper bed not to mention shower and supper.
Rhonda was also able to regale me with the story of the Eubank Ranch massacre, which took place just across the Little Blue river from where they live.  When the Cheyenne made their initial attacks along the Little Blue on August 7th 1864, they killed seven members of the Eubank family. Mrs Eubank was abducted together with two of her children and a young girl visitor Laura Roper, all of whom were held captive for many months  The Eubank ranch was burnt to the ground.
For a more detailed account of the massacre and other raids along the Little Blue in 1864 see http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wynkoop/webdocs/oakgrove.htm

Rhonda sees us off on the morning of Wednesday April 20th, Mo sporting the Navajo saddle blanket Rhonda had kindly donated to replace the bath mats.
I had spent most of the week dodging thunderstorms, and here were more ominous clouds looming on the horizon...
 The rain had made the roads soggy and sticky, and I changed my route slightly to avoid the clinging mud of the dirt tracks.  The gravel roads were soft and slippery, and towards the end of the day I came across this sorry spectacle...
Efforts to tow the whole caboodle out of the ditch only resulted in more spilt bales, and it had to be put off until the next day.   However on the plus side for me, the bales were being delivered to a farm with horses across the road.  Kenny Shaw and Jo Theis were happy to accommodate both Lady and Mo, while I was able to use their horse trailer....
Thursday April 21st
A view of the Little Blue river from the line of the pony express trail on Rd 302 north of De Weese
Liberty Farm pony express station was about half a mile downstream of this point, at the confluence with Liberty Creek. It was most probably a home station and was managed by James Lemmons and Charles Emory.  It was also a stage stop and continued as such with J.M Comstock as station keeper after the demise of the Pony Express. On August 9th 1864 the station was attacked and burnt to the ground by the Cheyenne.
The stage station was relocated to Pawnee Ranch, a fortified road ranch near the mouth of Pawnee Creek.  An old barn on the ranch site, where we stopped for a midday break...
...courtesy of owner Doug Paus. And as a demonstration of Mid-Western hospitality, Todd Batteman  who had given me water and a sandwich a couple of miles back down the trail, suddenly turned up with a bottle of delicious home-grown pears!
Oregon and Pawnee Ranch marker...
 
The next Pony Express station is identified as being at Spring Ranch, but unfortunately there appears to be no consensus as to its exact location.  It was destroyed during the Cheyenne attacks of August 1986, as were two other homesteads in the area.  But here are Lady and Mo looking resigned just south of the old settlement of Spring Ranch.
Think we are on the right road..
A perfect end to a perfect day....
Keith and Pat Nejezchleb who took us in off the road.....
 Still a slight worry about being in tornado alley, not alleviated when Keith described how his pivot had been destroyed and his soya bean crop sucked up by a tornado.  Everyone here has a strengthened tornado room in the basement and I always check where it is. For those who do not farm in the USA a pivot is one of those overhead sprinkler systems which rotate round a central pivot.   

1 comment: