Indians in Buffalo County after White
1300’s – mid-1800’s – Pawnee hunting ground
1675-1725 – Apache bands wandered in and attached Pawnees
1820 – 1870? – Brule Sioux attacks on Pawnee
1853 – attack witnessed by Wescoatt party
1864 – Indian attacks in Platte valley
1870’s – Indian wars and defeat of Sioux by US Army;
1871, May 13 - 1874 – Louisa Collins’ experiences with Pawnee
1872, Sept 1 – Pawnee hunting party came through – Achey desc.
1873 – April – attack 25 miles northwest of Kearney
1873 – Sept – (Come Back) Hostetter arrival, Pawnee at station
1874, April 1 – (Come Back) First fire, Indian wearing shawl
1870’s – Mrs. George Smith and Indians getting drink
1875 – (Come Back) Elizabeth Looker Brown – Common to see Indians on the
1876 – Removal of Pawnee to reservations in OK
1878 – (Come Back) Mrs Yourm – often saw Indians on the street
1880 – Probably all gone
Bureau of American Ethnology
The Bureau of American Ethnology (or BAE, originally, Bureau of
Ethnology) was established in 1879 by an act of Congress for the purpose of
transferring archives, records and materials relating to the Indians of
North America from the Interior Department to the Smithsonian Institution….
In addition, the BAE was the official repository of documents concerning
American Indians collected by the various US geological surveys, especially
the Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region and the
Geological Survey of the Territories. It developed a manuscript repository,
library and illustrations section that included photographic work and the
collection of photographs.
History of Buffalo County by Samuel Bassett, 1917
Bassett - Chapter 1, p. 1 – Indians in Buffalo Co
A report in 1896-97 by the Bureau of American Ethnology gave the names of
the principal Indian tribes and the location of their lands within the state
which they had ceded to the federal government.
The area generally east of Columbus and north of the Platte was claimed by
the Omaha tribes. That south of the Platte, east of Columbus was used by the
Otoe and Missouri tribes. The central part of Nebraska from Columbus to
North Platte belonged to the confederated tribes of the Pawnees. West of the
fork in the Platte and south of the river was claimed by the Cheyenne and
Arapaho. North of the Platte were the Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho.
The area including Buffalo County was a great hunting ground with much wild
game. The land south of the Platte was been ceded to the Federal government
in 1833, the Ft. Kearny Military Reservation in 1848, and the land north of
the Platte in 1857 in the Treaty at Table Rock. They retained a strip of
land along he Loup for a reservation.
The Pawnee had been living in central Nebraska for probably 300 years before
being displaced in the 1860’s. They were removed to a reservation in
Oklahoma in 1876.
Bassett, Vol. I, p. 46 -
In the spring of 1853 Riley and Jonas Wescoatt of Albia, Ia., arranged to
take a herd of 400 young cows across the plains to California….
They crossed the Missouri River on April 28th at Bellevue, then a trading
point, and Mr. Riley Wescoatt states that they saw no house or habitation
after leaving the Missouri River until their arrival in California, except
the ranch later known as "Boyd's Ranch" on Wood River, about ten miles
northeast of Fort Kearney, the location of this ranch being about a mile
west of the present Village of Gibbon in Buffalo County.
On May 28th, about one hour before sundown, when the party was about four
miles south of the present Village of Wood River, in Hall County, Nebraska,
and was preparing to camp for the night, it was noticed that there was a
commotion on the south side of the Platte River and the firing of guns was
heard. By means of field glasses which both commands carried, it was seen
that a large party of Indians had attacked an emigrant camp on the south
bank of the Platte and were scalping women in the camp. The fight appeared
to last but a short time, ten minutes, Mr. Wescoatt says, and while there
was some talk of crossing the river it was finally decided not to do so.
Bassett, Vol. I, p. 18 – quote from David Anderson’s account of coming to
"Ten miles west of Dobytown was the famous Keeler ranch. Here we met the
notorious Tom Keeler, the terror of the plains and especially of the
Cheyenne Indians. With all his native rudeness and roughness, however, Mr.
Keeler was one of the most hospitable and generous men that I ever met. His
buildings were all of sod, and the dwelling house was tidy and inviting. Mr.
Keeler was loyally and lovingly attached to his wife and children.
"One day during the war period a cavalcade of rebels who were fleeing from
the draft in Missouri stopped at his wells to obtain water for themselves
and animals. Their mules were decorated with flags of the Confederacy, and
the men were lustily hurrahing for Jeff Davis. This exhibition aroused Tom
Keeler's Union feelings so intensely that he stood before the well with a
gun in each hand, demanding that the rebel bunting be removed before any
Union Nebraska water should be drawn. His wife stood at the door, armed with
a double-barreled shotgun. After very acrimonious discussion the demand was
complied with and the boisterous fugitives congratulated Keeler and his wife
upon their courage and loyalty.
"A few weeks after we passed this ranch Mr. Keeler's stables, containing
forty head of horses, together with 200 tons of hay, were wantonly set on
fire by the Cheyenne Indians and totally destroyed. In later years Mr.
Keeler removed to Eastern Nebraska and settled on the Elkhorn River, near
Elkhorn City. In 1878 he met his death in a shotgun duel with Daniel
Parmalee, a prominent citizen of Omaha.”
Bassett - Chapter V – Johnson visits Indians in winter 1860-61
The Pawnee were living on their reservation at Genoa in Nance County.
Johnson visited and reported in the Feb. 21, 1861 issue of the Huntsman’s
Echo. Described their homes – like the one built at the Archway. They were
divided into three bands.
Bassett - Chapter XIV – Indian scare of 1864
August 1864 – Why the stampede out of the Platte valley when no Indians had
been seen within 100 miles?
Some background – People living here had dreaded an attack for years.
Indians had attacked and killed1-2 men at a time if caught out alone. Two
were killed by Sioux a few miles west of Wood River Center in 1863. Ted
Oliver remembered spending many long hours on the roof of their log cabin
watching for Indians.
Bassett’s theory – From 1837 the area on the north side of the Platte was
dominated by Mormons. Mormon leaders preached that the Civil War was
punishment of the Gentiles for their persecution of the Mormons and while
the war raged the Indians would raid settlements on their borders and kill
the settlers. In Minnesota the Sioux attacked and killed thousand settlers.
In July 1864 a bullwhacker on a freight train from Ft. Leavenworth to Ft.
Laramie later told of Indians, probably Pawnee, who visited them regularly
begging for food, until they reached Ft. Kearny. When they reached the mouth
of Plum Creek – south of Lexington – they saw where the Indians had attacked
a wagon train. On the return trip when they reached the same sot they saw
that a train of 11 wagons had been attacked and there were several fresh
graves along the trail. There were reports of attacks on settlers and wagon
trains in southeast Nebraska.
Ted Oliver and two other men were at the fort when news came of the Indian
attack at Plum Creek. Oliver and his friend were ordered to stay at the fort
and help protect it. The third man was allowed to leave and go warn the
settlers in the area and tell them to meet at Wood River Center.
FROM LOUISA COLLINS' DIARY
(In possession of Winona Whitney, Kearney, NE, now lost)
[May 13, 1871]
Saturday 13 …. Here my first sight of a Pawne such looking beings my heart
sunk within me with fear is my future home to be surrounded by such beings O
Lord save me how can I live in such fear and dread Glad we dont see any more
Pawnees Tonight (O how glad I am) my dear husband meets me I will feel shure
that I am safe
Oct - Nov 1872 One of the most horrible scenes I ever could feature or
imagine as a coming[?] event indeed in all my life I thought [that?].
imagine what my terror to live where I would see my window pane frequently
[?] the face of a s a v a g e We do not know what we can stand Today all
alone with little Lou no other human within a mile while sitting by my
window reading what should I see within three feet of me but the face of a
savage of the Pawne tribe pressed against my window pane in a few seconds
her[e] cam[e] another pressing his face against a second pane to Then they
stood grinning peculiar to a savage rather a smile at things in the house
They know they can not kill or rob merely stoped to beg and barter, the
appetites completely control them I know so that is why they dont steal as I
mentioned them to you anyway they started on a trip around the Platt River.
I cannot say I am really afraid but I confess to a wishing of not caring to
see them again When we were in a house with twenty or thirty men & so many
friends or relatives I own I am more brave. Perhaps my children some time
may chance to find this and wonder why mother was thus. We live almost on
the banks of the Platt on our homestead These savages in comming make me
feel a little lonely notwithstanding the many new building going up in the
Junction they look cold out side, and cozy inside.
Dec [Written in the margin: "Have not written on in a year I must rectify
Was at a Pawnee camp today an old squaw ran out and picked Lou up in her
arms and started on a run for the camp I with difficulty made her understand
to let her down
[Dec] 28 An old squaw came along to day bargained for a pair of mockisons
for Lou she held up five fingers saying she would bring them in so many days
I gave her all she could eat she said I was heep a good squaw
Apr 1st The first fire in our town today Smeads building burned to the
ground three families lost nearly all their goods But there is sweet with
the bitter the worst whisky & gambeling hole in town burned with it. Lulu
called me a moment come quick some Indians coming she likes them ever so
well had O such a good letter from Mrs Sydenham she is such a true friend
her poetry so good is usually on the crusades
Apr 2 /74 Have I O have I to go to that Homestead again will the Lord give
me g r a c e But our family is less as yet I hear the whispered murmer from
my heart will heaven ever relieve me of the homesteading life But sadness
has just come our Sister in law Sarah is gone poor brother Stover and little
ones I am thank God for a spared companion & children the question is now
who will break our band first The daily bequest ___ throne is [faded but
appears to read "to Heall Lets see what it says"]
Apr 7 All alone Lou & I Milton & Bell have gone down home to finish cleaning
their house Mr C & Finnie are out sewing wheat this morning Mr C & Milton
called us to the door to see a waggon load of Pawnees that were going to
ride down to the river with them.
Where the Buffalo Roamed, p. 418-19
Mrs. George E. Smith had the distinction of being the third arrival in
Kearney, among the ladies present. [Louisa Collins, Mrs. Norris were first
and 2nd] Her husband had preceded her here in 1871 and she reached Kearney
shortly after the Norris family in 1872. She said that there were only two
things she had a real fear of in those early days, the Indians and the wind.
The Smith family lived on their homestead, just north of town and they paid
fifty cents a barrel to have water drawn from the shallow well in town, it
being then thought impossible to have wells on the high bluffs or divides.
One day a large band of Indians came to the house and after flattening their
noses on the window pane to see who was home, came to the door and she
passed dipper after dipper of water out to them until the drank every drop
of water n the barrel.
Central Nebraska Press Daily, Kearney Junction, Nebraska, April 8, 1873,
April 7 paper reported the murder of two men 25 miles northwest of Kearney,
supposedly by a third man in the group. Someone arriving in town on this day
reported that that third man was found dead a short distance away. The three
men were Eugene Leak, Richard Bell and C. F Hilderbrand.
A telegram from North Platte said “There was a fight with the Indians 5-6
miles from here last Sunday. On the body of an Indian a number of white
man’s fixings were found, among them a receipted bill for traps &c., made
out to one Hilderbrand.”
People living in the area thought it was Pawnees. The North Platte telegram
said they were Sioux.
A newspaper in Benton County Iowa reported that the event occurred on Apr. 2
near their cabin and that they were not found until the 7th or 8th of April.
It was also reported that there was a coroner’s inquest and verdict
(resulting verdict not reported) and the burial took place in Kearney
Kearney Cemetery Records
Ben Hildebrand – location given but no dates of death, burial or age. Cause
of death: right side of skull broken. Remarks: Brown hunting clothes and
woolen socks. Remains from old cemetery re-entered on this lot and on lot
812. August 6 to 8 1889. (Old cemetery by Lake Kearney)
No records for Leak or Bell
Come Back Letters
Mr. & Mrs. D. C. Hostetter were living in the Soldiers Home at Burkett, NE
northwest of Grand Island in 1923. Today it is the Veterans Home which that
city has now grown out to surround. The Hostetters had the following
memories of early Kearney.
“We came to Kearney 50 years ago 1873 in Sept. We seen the ups and downs We
came late in the evening on the Burlington . Pawnee Indians were lying on
the platform wrapt in their blankets Several of them there campt on the
Island south of Kearney – first day of April 1874 we had our first fire a
frame building I think third lot north of the Opera House families roomed
upstairs My sister Mrs H Achey lost a bright colored shawl an Indian had
found it among there household goods things had been (tossed ? spilled?) out
loose they took it from him she got it again that day. The building burned
to the ground had only a bucket brigade pump and draw wells to get water.
The cowboys were bad when under the influence of liquor and that was only
time they came to town
Mr. & Mrs. Henry Achey
We sure were a Happy Bunch as thier not classed off as Rich or Poor[.] all
were Sociable with one another & all wanted to Get Acquainted with one
another[.] About 10 of Set [Sept.] 1872 the Pawnee Indians stop at
through(?) and camped for a Short Time[.] their were betwene 400 & 500 of
them[.] they were on thier fall Hunt going west – to hunt Buffalo & about
the middle of Oct they came back[.] at that time i arrived in Kearney & it
Sure was a great(?) sight for me to See Real Red Wild Indians[.] i was not
very much impressed with them as they were so dirty[.] the Braves al Rode
Ponies & the Poor Sqaws & thier Pappooses straped on thier backs & were
Leading Two or Perhaps 3 Ponies loaded with thier Belonges & meat[.] Some
Looked So tired & Some Had one or Perhaps 2 or 3 Little girls or Boy Running
a Long By thier Side[.] all on foot as the Ponies Had all the Load they
could carry[.] when the Boys were about 15 years old they were Braves & did
not work Any[.] carried a Bow & an Arrow[.] i sure felt Sorry for the Poor
Squaws[.] i Saw them -?-id & Pick Lice of[f] the childrens Heads & Eat grass
Hoppers & any thing hat was to dirty for any one to Eat[.]
Mrs. Mary Yourm of Marble, Indiana tells us,
“I came out to Kearney in 1878
and lived there for five years….When I first came out there we often saw
Indians on the street and when my brother-in-law – C. F. Bodinsen built his
first home in the 200 block in Kearney it was considered out in the
Carl Bodinsen owned a grocery store from 1878 to 1889 when he bought a
hardware store in Kearney. He built his home at 24th and A]
Elizabeth Looker Brown of Council Bluffs, Iowa, wrote,
“I will say that my
father Dave Looker came with his family of two little girls to Kearney in
1875 I was about 4 yrs old at the time and remember distinctly that Buffalo
Bill and his Indians had just arrived in town, starting out with his first
show coming direct from North Platte to Kearney. It was no uncommon thing to
see Indians on the street every day. Kearny consisted at that time of two
Hotels, the Grand Central and the Commercial – These sat across from the
Depot between that and our home were a large Livery Stabel where we watched
the stage coaches come and go.
“…my father died nine years ago and is buried in the Riverdale Cemetery a
corner that he donated from his farm.”
“Gilbert C. Fosdick II, Stagecoach Driver” by Mardi Anderson, Buffalo Tales,
Vol. 25, No. 3, May - June, 2002
When Gilbert C. Fosdick II arrived in Kearney in February 1877, he found
gold fever and Kearney business men laying plans to supply the prospectors.
Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills but that was Indian territory. A
treaty had been signed with the Sioux Indians so now the gold seekers could
enter the Hills legally. They were waiting for spring and the snow to melt….
Although Gilbert Fosdick had come west to seek gold, he had no funds when he
arrived in Kearney in mid-February. David Anderson was the county sheriff.
Fosdick appealed to him for help and apparently made a good impression on
the sheriff. Mr. Anderson took Fosdick into his home and helped him find a
job driving stage for the newly formed Kearney and Black Hills stage line.
The first stage left Kearney on April 30, 1877 with John Campbell driving.
Fosdick was assigned to a section of the route which started at Swan Lake in
what is now Cherry County and went about 20 miles northwest to the Snake
[part of a letter from David Anderson to Fosdick’s family]
The Particulars about the Killing as I learned it are as follows – On the
morning of his death he was told there was indians on the line and that he
had better not go with the mail. but – thinking it would look cowardly on
his part he sadled a mule and Started. and when last Seen alive he was about
Seven miles from the mail Station – and Some distance from the road running
from the Indians. The company looked for him for a week and found his body
Striped and Scalped – his body was buried by Mr. Hardenburgh the agent of
the road and another employee – the mule was Shot and male Sack has not been
recovered. Dick was Shot through the head and Shot through the Body. his
clothes and papers taken
Editor’s note: The following information was sent to us by Tom Powers who
found it in a report of a Cavalry officer who investigated the killing of
29 June 1877 – Fast Thunder, High Bear and Good Voice with Charles Tackett
as interpreter guided 2nd Lt. Frederick Schwatka, 3rd Cav, to the site where
the body of the mail carrier Fosdick had been buried. Schwatka reports of 8
and 9 July 1877 argues that Fosdick, a driver on the Kearny-Deadwood mail
route, had been killed by a white man named Hardenburg, not by Indians
because he was speaking out about the regular theft of Indian ponies from
the agencies. The body, when unearthed, had not been shot or scalped as
described by Hardenburg, and Good Voice demonstrated that Fosdick’s mule had
not been stolen but led down a canon and there shot by a man riding
Hardenburg’s horse. Hardenburg and George P. Clark were arrested, but freed
at Camp Sheridan for lack of evidence, [Department of the Platte, Ltrs
Recv’d, Box 51; National Archives.]