Retells Grim Story of Slaying of Settler's Child by Indians in Sibley
(Cloud countians will be interested in the following bit of early history of this area, told by Mrs. Martha E. Lambert of Hollywood, Calif. who is a cousin of the Jane Adkins mentioned in the true story. Mrs. Lambert is 82. She has written the story from historical records in her possession which tell of a raid by Cheyenne Indians in the Lake Sibley settlement in which a boy of the Adkins family was murdered.)
WHEN THE CHEYENNES STRUCK LAKE SIBLEY
The sun shone with brassy brilliance on that fateful Wednesday, June 2, 1869. Sunflowers along the Republican river drooped their yellow heads, dusty leaves flopping in the breeze like mop rags. Farmers prayed for rain. It was typhoid weather and many in the settlement were afflicted. Anna Adkins was sick in bed and her brother Homer barely able to sit up. The Sanders boy had been buried the day before, making four graves in the new cemetery.
Indians had been restless with skirmishes and raids through Nebraska and northwestern Kansas, but this little settlement of homesteaders had not been molested.
The Adkins family had been on their claim for two years. The lure of 320 acres of FREE land (160 homestead and 160 timber file) in the young state of Kansas had been more than Homer Adkins could resist. His wife, Hannah, hadn't been so enthusiastic. From Hartford, Conn., Cloud County, Kansas seemed like the rim of Nowhere. And with six children in a prairie schooner! However, being the dutiful wife she'd argued but weakly, then planned carefully for the journey.
Hannah Adkins was not ignorant of the hardships ahead. She'd read plenty about the rigors of the uncharted plains. She knew about the thieves and cutthroats that infested Missouri ready to pounce on the unwary traveler, rob him of his team and leave him stranded without transportation. She'd read about the Indians too. The papers had been full of the story of Mary White who had been stolen, carried to the Red River country of Texas, and held prisoner for nine months until she was rescued by General George Custer.
All these things had been weighed carefully against a half section of land, in the Sunflower state. The Adkins' claim was on the Republican river seven miles from Concordia. Their first home was a dugout. Hannah sewed for her family and the neighbors. She canned fruit and vegetables. Every available cent was carefully tucked away at the bottom of the trunk. By 1869 she'd saved enough to send her daughter Jane to Agricultural college, at Manhattan.
Jasper, now a sturdy lad, had hired out as a farm hand for Mr. Himes. On this tragic day he'd ridden home to visit his sick sister, Anna.
About 4:30 when Mrs. Adkins began preparing supper so that Jasper could eat with them, she discovered she was out of flour. She called her eleven year old son, Ezra, and instructed him to take Jasper's horse and ride across the river to the Nils Nilsons' to borrow some. She also told him to bring home the cows that were grazing among the sandhills a mile away. Mrs. Adkins went down to the river to watch Ezra cross. She was always fearful of the quicksand in the treacherous Republican. In the valley across the river she saw some objects which she assumed were the cows. She advised Ezra to go first to Mr. Nilson's, leave the sack for the flour then round up the cows and start them home.
Here is the story in part of a letter written by Hannah Adkins on June 13, 1869, to her daughter Jane in Manhattan).
"Ezra went to Mr. Nilson's as directed, and then out among the sandhills after the cows. He was not aware of any danger until he was surrounded by some forty to sixty Cheyennes. Mr. Nilson could see him from his house about a quarter of a mile away. The Indians chased him for half a mile on horseback, then Ezra jumped from the horse and ran a quarter of a mile. Two Indians on foot ran after him and caught him. Then an Indian road up on horseback and shot him in the face with a revolver. Mr. Nilson said he dropped backwards, dead at the first shot, but the Indians kept on shooting. One pierced his left eye and came out the back of his head. The other bullet struck two inches above that tearing open the skull as as big as a man's thumb. The Indians robbed him of the little coat you made for him. His pants were so ragged they didn't want them. While the Indians were killing Ezra and capturing his horse, the Nilsons made good their escape, keeping the sandhills between themselves and the Indians until they came to the woods. They then came under cover of the woods until they got opposite our house where they waded the river.
"From our house we could see the Indians rob the Nilsons of their team and all their worldly goods. After about an hour they set the house on fire and walked leisurely away.
"Jasper and Mr. Nilson went out after dark that night to bring our dear boy home. We built a fire on the roof of the house so they could find their way back. I prayed that Mr. Nilson was mistaken about Ezra being dead, but, alas it was true. He was a mangled corpse, bespattered with blood and brains. Mr. Dutton said he saw the Indians shoot at Ezra four times before he jumped from the horse. The DuttonsNilsons left the settlement the next day. Men came from the settlement with horses and wagons to take us out or help us. Homer and Jasper were making a coffin. We had to bury him that day because of the heat.
"There were only twenty-four at the funeral. Men were afraid to bring their women because of the Indians. The funeral was conducted with more speed than solemnity. I asked to have a prayer or a hymn, but they thought it wasn't best.
"There were forty military men at our house on Friday and Saturday. They were called in such a hurry they came all unprepared, so our house was their headquarters, while they were roasting their coffee and enlisting men. Lucy and I had to cook for them. Captain Wintzel has been here today and says we will be protected. Your father has gone with them this afternoon to find a place to station the military men.
"From your affectionate mother, H. R. Adkins."
Hannah Adkins never quite recovered from the shock of Ezra's tragic death. At age fifty-eight she died in her sleep after having baked a cake for her youngest son's twenty-first birthday.