could be Buffalo's crossing the platte

 Research Papers

Today is:

Indians in Buffalo County after White Settlement

Today I want to talk about “the rest of the story.”

The “story” is about the Indians who lived here in this area before the white settlers moved in.

To learn about the life of the Plains Indians:
Plan to attend the Dancers of the Plains third annual Pow Wow
Great Platte River Road Archway
Friday, June 17 – Cultural Education Day
Saturday, June18, 2011 – Pow Wow Exhibition

Last month we talked about the very early settlers who came to Buffalo County, those who settled here before 1880. As the white settlers were moving in, the Indians were moving out.


Today the “rest of the story” about the Indians is the other half of the story we started last month


There were two cultures that overlapped here during that decades of the 1860’s & 1870’s

As one culture, the white settlers, was moving in, the other, the Indian culture, was, reluctantly, moving out.


A little background about the Indians


1896-97 report – Bureau of American Ethnology named the principal Indian tribes and the location of their lands in Nebraska


[Bureau of American Ethnology, established in 1879 to transfer archives, records and materials relating to the Indians of North America from the Interior Department to the Smithsonian Institution


became official repository of documents concerning American Indians collected by the various US geological surveys.


developed a manuscript repository, library and collection of illustrations and photographs]


According to this report – Nebraska divided into 5 areas

East of Columbus, north of the Platte – Omaha tribes.
                           south of the Platte – Otoe and Missouri tribes.

Central Nebraska from Columbus to North Platte – confederated tribes of the Pawnees.


West of North Platte, south of the Platte – Cheyenne and Arapaho

                                north of the Platte – Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho

[Buffalo County area - a great hunting ground with a lot of wild game]

Pawnee lived in central Nebraska for about 300 years before being displaced

Land south of the Platte ceded to Federal government in 1833
Ft. Kearny Military Reservation ceded in 1848
Land north of the Platte ceded in 1857 in the Treaty at Table Rock.
They retained a strip of land along the Loup for a reservation. [Genoa]

They were removed to a reservation in Oklahoma in 1876.

Indian activity as white travelers and settlers moved into this area:

Pawnee land – but Cheyenne & Sioux liked to hunt here also

Although Ft. Kearny was never attacked by Indians, there were hostile actions on all sides

Spring 1853

Wescoatt Bros. from Iowa were taking a herd of 400 young cows to California
Only habitation from Missouri River to California –
the ranch later known as "Boyd's Ranch" on Wood River
camped east of there [present Wood River]
Saw across the Platte, an Indian attack on a wagon train.
Did not cross because the river was too wide [spring flood time]

Fall, 1859

Quote from David Anderson’s account of coming to this area

"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….
"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…."

Winter 1860-61

Joseph Johnson visited the Pawnee
[probably on their reservation at Genoa in Nance County]

Reported in the Feb. 21, 1861 issue of the Huntsman’s Echo
        Described their homes – like the one built at the Archway
        Pawnee were divided into three bands.

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.
Ted Oliver remembered spending many long hours on the roof of their log cabin watching for Indians.
Indians took advantage of military preoccupation with the Civil War
They attacked and killed 1-2 men at a time if caught out alone.
Two were killed by Sioux a few miles west of Wood River Center in 1863.

July 1864 - freight train from Ft. Leavenworth to Ft. Laramie –

When they reached the mouth of Plum Creek – south of Lexington –

they saw where the Indians had attacked a wagon train.

August 1864 - On the return trip, at the same spot

they saw that a train of 11 wagons had been attacked and there were several fresh graves along the trail.

        [Plum Creek Massacre]
Ted Oliver and two other men were at the fort when news came of this Indian attack
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, them to meet at Wood River Center.
Result was the mass exodus to Omaha and points east

Moving into the 1870’s

From Louisa Collins' Diary

[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

Oct - Nov 1872 [1 ˝ yrs later]

        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 savage

        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 - 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

Mrs. George E. Smith

Married in 1873, came to Kearney at that time
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 [present site of Sun Mart]
They paid fifty cents a barrel to have water drawn from the shallow well in town
They thought it 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 in the barrel.

Come Back Letters, 1923

Mrs. Henry Achey

About Sept. 10, 1872 the Pawnee Indians stopped through and camped for a Short Time
There were between 400 & 500 of them.
They were on their fall Hunt going west – to hunt Buffalo [from reservation at Genoa]

About the middle of Oct they came back.
At the 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 all Rode Ponies

The poor squaws, their Papooses strapped on their backs, were leading 2 or 3 ponies loaded with their belongings & meat.

Some looked so tired & some had 1 or 2 or 3 little girls or boys running along by their 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.
They carried a bow & an arrow
I sure felt sorry for the poor squaws.
I Saw them pick lice off the children’s heads & eat grasshoppers & anything that was too dirty for anyone to eat

Mrs. D. C. Hostetter

We came to Kearney [about a year later]…in Sept. 1873….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

1st of April 1874 we had our first fire, a frame building…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 ?) out loose
They took it from him. She got it again that day.

Elizabeth Looker Brown of Council Bluffs, Iowa

“I will say that my father Dave Looker came with his family of two little girls to Kearney in 1875…. It was no uncommon thing to see Indians on the street every day."

Mrs. Mary Yourm of Marble, Indiana

“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"

A bad rap – Indians blamed for the actions of others
“Gilbert C. Fosdick II, Stagecoach Driver”

Arrived in Kearney in February 1877
David Anderson was the county sheriff.
He took Fosdick into his home and helped him find a job driving stage for the newly formed Kearney and Black Hills stage line.

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 River…

Died in late June 1877.

[part of a letter from David Anderson to Fosdick’s family}
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

After the story was published and appeared on our website we received the following information from a man who was doing some other research and happened across a report by a Cavalry officer who investigated the killing of Gilbert Fosdick.

29 June 1877 –

[3 Indians & an interpreter] guided an officer to the site where the body of the mail carrier Fosdick had been buried.

Reports argue that Fosdick 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,

One of the Indians demonstrated that the 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.]

1880 – Probably all Indians were gone from this area

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Revised: 02/07/2018