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Sketch of the Buffalo and Indian
T the period when immigrants began to make settlements along the frontier of
Kansas, buffalo was found in the eastern part of the state, but they gradually moved westward before the white population, and took possession in the limestone districts. In these comparatively low tracts they found an abundance of good grass in summer, and many places over-grown with bullrushes, together with the fine buffalo-grass, supplied them with winter food; salt water is found on the confines of the limestone, and there are several well-known salt licks where the buffalo were sure to be found; at all seasons of the year they wandered constantly from place to place, either from being disturbed by hunters or in quest of food.
They were much attracted by the soft, tender grass which springs up aster a fire has spread over the prairies. They were generally very shy, and took to flight instantly on scenting the hunter; they were less wary when assembled together in numbers, and would often follow their leader regardless of or trampling down the hunters posted in their way.
Herds of buffalo wandered over the middle and western counties as late as ’72, usually led by one remarkable for strength and fierceness. While feeding they would scatter over a great extent of country; but when moving they formed a dense and almost impenetrable column, which once in motion could scarcely be impeded even by rivers, across which they swam, without fear or hesitation nearly in the order they traversed the plains. When fleeing before their pursuers it would be in vain for the foremost to halt or attempt to obstruct the progress of the main body. As the throng in the rear advance, destruction awaited the foremost, unless they rushed pell-mell over the prairie. The flesh of the buffalo, when in good condition, especially the calves, is very sweet, juicy, and well flavored, much resembling well-fed beef. I have eaten the flesh of the buffalo calf that was as sweet and tender as young chicken. I have seen wagon loads of the meat enroute for market, each wagon drawn by several yoke of Texas oxen; but they have been slaughtered for their meat, their hides to make robes, and for mere sport, until at the present time, their numbers are few in Kansas; if any they are in the extreme western counties.
The time the massacre took place, of which I have given a picture, and of which I write in particular, was in 1869. At that time a considerable supply of the settler's meat was obtained from that source. There being no buffalo in the northern counties, east of the Republican river, in Republic County, they must necessarily go eighty or one hundred miles to find plenty of game.
In May, 1869, a party of seven, consisting of J. L. McChesney, a Mr. Cole and son, an uncle and cousin of Mr. M's., Phillip Burk, an ex-union soldier, Ruban Winklepleck and son, also a nephew of Mr. W., started from Waterville. Buffalo were not found until they had reached the head waters of White Rock, a tributary of the Republican; there they found the untamed monsters of the prairie in abundance. In a few days they succeeded in bringing down enough to load their wagons; also caught a calf, which Mr. Cole was going to take to Michigan as a curiosity.
They commenced their homeward journey in good spirits over their excellent success in hunting, little thinking the dark savage
with eyes full of vicious hate, was ploting their capture and destruction. A scouting party of Cheyennes had discovered them, and like the sly, sneaking coyotes of the prairie, they were planning their fiendish raid. The hunting party, unconscious of the impending danger, leisurely traveled down the stream, seeking a fording place.
The day previous to the massacre, small party of Indians made their appearance on a distant bluff. They approached near enough to ascertain the exact strength of the hunting party, so they could capture them without any trouble. After seeing the Indians, the owner of wagon threw his meat overboard, liberated the buffalo calf and made the best speed possible. The ammunition of the hunters was nearly gone, and any firing on their part would be useless. They were nearing the mouth of White Rock and must necessarily cross the Republican. Near the junction of the two streams was an old log fort, built by