Monday, April 18, 2011

Cloud County Indian Raid - as told by James Nelson

This typed letter provides more detail than in the news reports about Ezra Camp Adkins

     This is an account of the Cheyenne Indian Raid in Cloud County, Kansas, which occurred on June 2, 1869, in which the Adkins boy was killed near the place where the Missouri Pacific railroad (Presser Ranch) now crosses the Republican River and about two miles north of Yuma, Kansas.
     This account is given by James Nelson at the urgent request of friends that the incidents of this raid be preserved for future time.
     James Nelson, at this time, being one of the few living survivors.
     This account was written September 2, 1934 by James Nelson.

     My father was emigrant agent for the Scandinavian Colonization Company and living in Chicago, Illinois; the members drew lots to divide out the land.  The land which he drew in 1868 and took out homestead papers in Junction City was N. W. ¼ Sec. I3-R.4 W-T 5S and is about two miles north of Yuma.  He had not seen the land until some of the family had moved to it.
     He sent my brother, Nels, and myself out to Kansas in March 1869 to work the farm and get it ready for the family to live on it.  We came in a covered wagon from Kansas City, Mo.  We liked the looks of the land and the location and were kept busy doing the necessary work on the farm.
     The neighbors told us about the Indian raids and depredations, but had not seen any Indians for some time.  In the meantime, my father, sister-in-law, Christine, and her one-year old baby boy joined us.  We had erected a small frame building to serve as a dwelling house.
     The second day of June, 1869, shortly before night, while Nels and I were breaking sod north and south on an eighty rod stretch and about forty rods from the house, and just as we were ready to start south, the Adkins boy rode up on a pony which his brother-in-law had borrowed from a neighbor.  The boy was about 11 years old and the son of our neighbor living to the north across the river.  He talked with us for a few minutes and rode on west about half a mile to get the Adkins cows that were grazing at the place.  Just as we were at the south end of the field and were turning around, we saw the Indians coming on their horses.  When they had covered about half the distance toward us, they discovered that Adkins boy and all of the Indians, but one, went after him.  This one Indian kept coming toward us.  I started to run toward the house.  Nels stayed with the team of horses.  The Indian undertook to cut me off from the house.  He had a spear in his left hand which he changed to his right hand and was constantly getting closer.  I kept a large revolver strapped to my belt as a part of my regular equipment; as I drew my revolver to shoot, the Indian swung to the far side of the horse and rode away to join the others.  They killed the Adkins boy, taking the pony, also the mules and horse which we had.  Nels and I made our way to the house and told the folks what had happened.  We decided to hide out as the best way to safety.  My father was an old man and quite crippled.  Father, Christine and baby went first.  Nels and I followed to protect them as best we could.  After the Indians had rounded up the pony, mules and horse, they came to the house and circled it a number of times, shooting into it as they went around to see whether or not it was occupied.  Finding it empty, they went in an helped themselves to whatever they could and wanted.
     We went to the Adkins place across the river, having to wade in the water.  As I was making my way across the river, I discovered Christine with her baby in her arms, afraid to wade further.  I put my guns down and waded out to her, taking the baby and leading the way across.  She placed her hand on my shoulder.  When we told the Adkins family that the boy had been killed by the Indians, they began to cry and scream and wish they had never come to Kansas.
     Not knowing the number of Indians that might be in the country, we waited until after dark to search for the body.  Nels and Adkins' son-in-law (Jap Scrivner) made the search.  It was about six miles coming and going to where they expected to find the boy.  Not having any roads, they were afraid they might have difficulty in finding their way back.  So we built a fire on the roof of the dugout to aid them in searching and finding their way back.  When they came back with the body of the boy there was further crying and screaming.  During the excitement we forgot about the fire on the roof.  It began to burn in the roof, so we had another scare thinking the Indians might have returned again.   When we saw what the trouble really was and became composed, we soon had the fire out.  It did very little damage.  When they buried the Adkins boy, they tore off boards from the buildings and constructed a coffin.  Some black calico and tacks were bought from town and the coffin covered with the black cloth.  When the procession started for the grave, every woman carried a gun.  There was not a flower offered up but many tears were shed.
     The next day after the raid, some of the neighbors came along with us to see our own home and to learn what damage had been done by the Indians.  It certainly was a sorry sight for us to see our things destroyed.  We had good feather ticks brought with us from our native land of Denmark.  The feathers had been emptied out and the ticks taken.  Our clothing and the washing done that day were all gone.  Corn for which we had paid a dollar and a half a bushel had been emptied out of sacks and the sacks taken.  In walking over the ground, I discovered where the Indians had emptied a hand bag of Father's in which kept some paper and some money among those papers.  There was an envelope containing 175 dollars, all of the money that Father had at that time.  We were certainly fortunate to find this as we were thus able to buy much needed clothing and provisions.  Father decided to go back to Chicago for a time and earn some money to enable the family to live.  I had a brother living near Topeka, Kansas, so decided to go to him and see if I could get some work to do.  Father and I had a chance to ride to Junction City, Kansas, with a man who had a team.  Junction City was the nearest railroad point at that time.
     As we were drawing near Clay Center we met the United States Cavalry from Ft. Riley on their way to Lake Sibley to look after the Indians.  On June 3, 1869, the day following the raid on us, the Indians made a raid on Scandia and killed a boy named Grandstead, also took a bunch of horses.  The Cavalry went up to Scandia and stayed the rest of the summer.  There was no further trouble with the Indians.
     I stayed in Topeka until the following winter when I returned to Cloud County and have lived in Cloud and Republic Counties since that time.  My father, the late Reverend Niels Nielson Sr., returned to Kansas in the spring of 1870 and in 1877 organized and founded the Saron Baptist Church which is 3 ½ miles n.e. of Jamestown, Kansas.  This is one of the few landmarks of pioneer days that still remain.
     Shortly after the Indian raid we put in a claim for $1400.00 for damage done by the Indians.  The Government told us we would have to name the tribe of Indians that did the damage; we called them Cheyennes.  47 years later the Government settled the claim for $800.00 without interest and called the Indians "Cheyennes" at that time.
James Nelson

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