Raid up the Platte

As we came over the road to Denver, we noticed many ruins of what had been feed stations. This was caused by a general attack on every ranch from Fort Morgan to Fort Sedgwick, a distance of one hundred miles, by from two hundred and fifty to five hundred Indians to each ranch. The attack occurred on the morning of the fourteenth day of January, 1865.

These feed ranches or stations were situated about twelve miles apart, a half day’s travel, to accommodate the overland travel with such supplies they often ran short of.

Every ranch, together with its stables and hay stacks, was burned to the ground, except one owned and occupied by Old Man Godfrey, ever afterward known as Old Fort Wicked.

Many people were scalped and killed, but the most complete annihilation at any one place was at the American Ranch, where Mr. Morris and five hired men were killed and his wife and two children (aged, respectively, eight months and a boy four years) were taken prisoners and made to ride bare back in their retreat and suffer all other kinds of indignities of these red devils in human forms. At the end of two days’ travel, when they were out of reach of pursuers, Old Two Face, a Cheyenne chief, who claimed Mrs. Morris for his captive, came to her and took the baby out of her arms, and naturally the child cried and wanted back to its mother, and when he tried to quiet it without success, he became enraged and took it by one foot and one arm and raised it as high as he could above his head and threw it to the ground with all his strength, then jumped on it, crushing its chest and ribs and then walked away. The mother took the child and did all she could to save it. In about two hours Two Face (who will be referred to later when he gets what is coming to him), returned and after seeing how near dead the child was, ordered her to go out on a sand hill near the camp and dig a hole with her hands and bury the baby. She vigorously refused to, so the chief then pointed to the sun and indicated by his hand that when the sun had moved a certain distance, indicating about one hour, he would return and if she had not obeyed his orders he would scalp her. Several squaws sympathized with her and offered to help her, knowing that Two Face would kill her if she failed to comply. Accordingly she went and dug the little grave, with the help of the squaws, and wrapped up the little form and buried it with her own hands, while it was yet alive. The little boy was traded off to another tribe and the mother never saw him again. After this great raid the Indians scattered in small bands, when out of reach of any soldiers.

Two Face, who had Mrs. Morris, went north and about three months afterwards appeared at Fort Benton, Montana, under a flag of truce and proposed to sell the white squaw to the commander of the post. The officer at once commenced negotiations, and after giving him a large amount of flour, tobacco, bacon and some trinkets, Two Face brought Mrs. Morris in and surrendered her and was allowed to depart as he had entered, under a white rag tied on a stick, called the flag of truce. The officers at once furnished her some money and transportation on a boat bound for St. Louis. When she arrived safely she wrote back all the particulars of her capture, long stay and abuse with the Indians.

We will now refer to the time when the attack was made on the American Ranch. All the men and family were in the room back of the one where all the goods were kept. Mr. Morris was playing a fiddle when suddenly Mrs. Morris heard a noise in the front part and at once called Mr. Morris’ attention to it. On opening the door he saw the room was full of Indians, who immediately gave the war whoop and tried to kill him. He then opened fire with his revolver and killed three of them before they could get out of the door. After barricading the door the men were able to hold their own until the latter part of the day when the Indians set fire to the stables and a large quantity of hay adjoining the house. The smoke poured into the house in such volumes that the inmates were about to suffocate. Seeing that it would be impossible to stand it much longer, Mr. Morris took half a bottle of strychnine that he kept to poison wolves with, and divided it into two decanters of whiskey behind the counter, after shaking it up; he told his wife to take the children and go out to the front door and give herself up, while he and the men would try to escape out the back way. It was a well known fact that the Indians seldom killed a white woman, hence the plan taken. The men, however, were all killed and scalped a short distance from the house.

Just before the attack, two men, Gus Hall and one called Big Steve (half or two-thirds of the transient men at the ranches were known only by nick names) left the ranch with ox teams and started to the cedar canons, sixteen miles away, to get a load of wood. About nine o’clock in the morning, soon after the fight commenced, the Indians discovered these two men, where they had crossed the river on the ice and eleven Indians went over to get their scalps. Nine of the Indians made an attack in front while two of them took positions on the ice under the bank below and above the two men. Here they maintained a cross fire. After several hours Big Steve was killed by the cross fire. Soon afterwards Gus Hall was shot in the right leg, breaking it between the knee and ankle.

It was getting late in the day and the farm house was burned, the women and children taken prisoners and the men killed, all right in plain sight of Hall, who was unable to render any assistance.

Hall had not seen the Indians on the river for some time and as he noticed the ones at the ranch preparing to leave, he decided to raise up and look over the bank and see what had become of the Indians that had attacked him. He had already made up his mind that they would soon get him anyway, for he could not protect himself and there was no white person for miles around, and Indians lurking everywhere. As he raised up on one leg and carefully leaned over the bank another object was just as cautiously raising a bow and arrow and aiming from under the bank. When Hall peeped over the bank, an arrow shot up and passed clear through his chest and slid twenty-two feet on the ice back of him. Hall said he fell backwards and the Indian leaped up the bank with knife in his hands ready to scalp him when he raised his revolver and shot the Indian, who fell dead over on him. The rest seeing the others leave the ranch pulled out and left.

Gus Hall, with one leg broken and pierced through and through, night coming on and the ranch laid in ruins and his friends killed, was left in an almost helpless condition. He thought the Wisconsin Ranch, fourteen miles down the road, might possibly be all right, and decided to try to get to it, so he commenced his journey, on his hands and knees, crawling down the ice. Arriving at the ranch, after a journey lasting seventeen hours, he found it in ruins and everybody gone. The sod walls were warm and the ground covered with a foot or two of grain and flour that was also warm. Hall made up his mind that he would die that night, and crawled in on the warm grain where he was sheltered from the wind by the sod walls and soon became unconscious. A train of wagons with about a hundred men was making its way down to Omaha. As it passed these ranches the men would investigate the ruins to see how many had been killed and to bury the ones they found dead. While one of the party was looking around he discovered Hall curled up in a corner and holloed to the rest, “Here is a dead man.” This aroused Hall and he said, “I am not dead yet, but I think I will be before long.”

They carried him out and put him in a wagon and cared for him the best they could. They took him on to Omaha, hauling him four hundred miles. When they arrived at Omaha the doctors amputated his leg and cared for the wound caused by the arrow. In six months’ time he got a cork leg and foot and came back to my place.

Mr. Godfrey’s ranch, known all over the western country as Old Fort Wicked, was the only ranch that was not either partially or totally destroyed by this raid.

Godfrey had his place well fortified and as fast as Mrs. Godfrey ran the balls, he would call to his daughter, “Hurry up, Celia; more balls, Celia.” As fast as Celia carried the bullets to him, he would fire at the Indians, and at every shot he would use an oath and say, “Take that, will you?” Nearly every shot took effect, and with another oath he would say, : There goes another.” The Indians, getting more than they bargained for, as Godfrey would state it, soon went on to the next ranch.

They succeeded in burning the hay stacks and sheds at the Beaver ranch, but the inmates saved themselves by using the sod walls as fortifications.

At the next ranch the Murray brothers had six hundred head of cattle shot down and left lying on the flat; the hay and barns were burned, but the men escaped.

Some of the Pioneers of Colorado

Source: True History of some of the Pioneers of Colorado, by Miss Luella Shaw, Press of Carson Harper Co, Denver, Colorado, 1909

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