Title: Reminiscence of the early days told by Ferdinand Erhardt of Lincoln, Kansas

Author: Erhardt, Ferdinand

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Reminiscence of the early days told by Ferdinand Erhardt of Lincoln, Kansas

In the year 1867 I was working for the Government at Fort Harker, here I knew personnally some of the prominent Military men and noted Scouts of those times, like General Custer, Wild Bill, Buffalo Bill and others.

Here I made the acquaintaince of Lon Schermerhorn Chief clerk of the Sutler whose name was Osborne.

Schermerhorn the same year came over to Elkhorn and took a Homestead, what is now known as the Suelter Farm and opened a small store.

A sawmill was located on the south side of the Saline River, east of Rocky Hill, directly south of what was called the Sam Berry farm; It was owned by a man with the name of Hyatt and the lumber was hauled to Fort Harker for building purposes.

About Eighteen men were employed and I was hired to cook for them.

About that time I took my claim on Bullfoot, and for several years I had the whole creek for myself, settlers came in and took claims, and as soon as Indians appeared they would pull up stakes and go, others came in and repeated the same thing.

After the work was finished at the sawmill I bought Two yoke of Cattle through the Sutter at Fort Harker, paying $125.00 per yoke, and went in partnership with a man named Phil Lantz, who also had a Yoke of Cattle.

Homesteaders were coming in and in order to hold their Claims, had to make improvements and we got all the Prarie breaking we wanted at $4.00 per acre.

Schermerhorn’s was a sort of headquarters, a small stockade was there, and the soldiers and Govennment teams generally camped near when in our Valley.

The Indians in those years became very troublesome, so much so, that the Government decided to build several Stockades for the protection of the settlers on what was then the frontier.

A General came from Fort Harker and made arrangements for the building of the stockades, (his name has sliped my memory) He gave the work in charge of Leuitenant [?] Hale.

One day I came over to Schermerhorn’s. Soldiers were camped there   both Calvery and Infantry, also a number of Government teams; I was well acquainted with the wagon Boss who told me that I could get a Job with my Cattle, and that the General had been to my house looking for me.

I reported to him and was hired with our 3 Yoke of Cattle at $8.00 per day to drag logs up the banks of the creeks that were to be used in building building the stockades.

The next day we started north, the Soldiers and teams crossed the Saline River about where the Tiemann Farm on a bridge of driftwood: The River here was blockaded for perhaps a Quarter of a mile, which thehigh water took out later. We went up the Saline River and Spilman Creek and the first stockade was build near the mouth of Bacon Creek.

Logs were set in the ground two or three feet deep, with about 10 feet above the Ground and close together, Notches were cut in the logs for Port-holes, the enclosure was quite roomy with a log house inside.

The work occupied about 2 weeks; When finished, we started for the Solomon to build another in the Vicinity where Cawker City now stands.

The Leutinent had overloaded my cattle with a heavy load of 2 inch plank and when we came up on the divide in the Blue hills my cattle gave out, and could not keep up with the comand. I notified the Leuitenant who gave me an escort of Three men, some rope to tie the cattle at night and we stoped and went into camp

After supper and letting the cattle graze we tied them to the wagon. In the morning we turned them loose again to graze; while we were getting our breakfast we heard a thundering noise behind us, and here came a stampeded heard of Buffalos directly towards us, my cattle tails up and away they went, and here we were.

As luck happened some Government teams came along during the day on their way to camp on the Solomon, and we send word of our loss to leuitenant Hale.

He send back Three teams 3 six mule teams, to bring my load and wagon, and a Sargent seven men of Cavalry and a mule for myself to ride to help hunt the cattle.

We went about three miles, seeing nothing, it got tiresome, the men began to grumble and finally the Sargent said, he had not bee enlisted to hunt cattle, then we started turned and started for the camp on the Solomon.

Now I had nothing to do but draw my Rations, cook, eat, and sit on the bank while the Government Mules draged the logs up the creek banks that my cattle had formerly done.

 

After about two weeks more; the work was complete and we all went back to Fort Harker.

Major Innman was the Quartermaster. I went to him and presented my Claim for the lost cattle. He said to me that he did have no right to me for them.

I was on good terms with Leu Lieutenant Hale who helped me in presenting my claim, he told the major the circumstances, that I was not to blame, that I was doing work according to his orders and that I realy was not hired to do not intended hired to do and Etc, finally the Major said to me; how much were your cattle worth? I told him $125.00 per yoke or $375.00 for the three yoke, he turned to me his Clerk and said; figure the amount into days at $8.00 per day.

I was given a voucher for the amount and in that way received pay for the lost cattle and went home.

Sometime later a secret service man called at my place and said Major Inman wanted to see me, the lost cattle had been found and were held by a party at Manhatten and he wanted me to go down and identify them.

I proceeded to Fort Harker on horseback, there my horse being tired I was furnished a mule on which I wrote to Manhatten, where I Identified Two Yoke of the Cattle found in the possession of a man who traded a span of horses for them. I took charge of the Cattle and drove them to Fort Harker and turned them over to Major Inman.

The other yoke of cattle we never heard of.

Referring to the Indian Raid of 1869, I will say that I was well acquainted with several of the victims who had made their home with me prior to the Massacre. A Mr. Wichel and his wife (by others their name has been spelled Wetzel but they having lived at my house I believe the name to be correct as I spell it).

They were Germans from Hanover and had been in this country but a short time, and could not talk English. Wichel was a Brewer about Thirty years of age, his wife was about Twenty; They were educated people, by the clothes (and other goods) they brought with them it could be seen that they had been well to do; It was on the account of financial trouble that they came came to this Country and with them was a single man by the name of Mayerhoff, a Gardener by trade.

Wichel was looking for a claim and I showed him one above me on   Bullfoot creek what is now the Bockelmann farm and advised him to take it.

Wichel, while at the Schermerhorn store met several of the Spillman Settlers who were Danes and could talk German, they told him of the fine land to be had in their neighborhood and that it was better than it was down here.

I warned them and told them Indian of Indians having been there and would likly be there again.

They did not take my advise, but took claims on the Spillmann; Not more than a week later the Indians came on them (on Sunday May 30th) while they were out together looking at their garden which they had made in a bend of the creek, the two man happened to have their guns with them and made a desperate defence but were finally killed and Mrs Wichel was taken a prisoner.

Another man by the name of Hauser, a native of Schwitzerland had made had made his home with me for a while, he had taken a claim on Bacon Creek; he had a span of mules and some cattle.

He came down to my claim on a visit riding one of his mules, leaving the other mule one at home. On that Sunday while returning home riding his his mule and when within a mile of his claim he met and Indian in the road on a pony, leading his other mule which he had lft left home. Hauser said to him, where are you going with my mule? The Indian answered, Your mule? Hauser answered, yes that is my mule. The Indian was friendly and could talk some English; he meant well with Hauser and turned the mule over to him and made gestures, pointed towards the west and told him; many Indians over there, they will kill you and not to go there, but Hauser not taking things seriously, or not believing him started to go ahead when the Indian took the mule away by the bridle and turned him around and started them on the road by hitting them with this Quirt.

This scared Hauser and he came back to my place in the afternoon.

Shortly after that we heard of the Massacre.

He intended to abandon his Claim and everything that he possessed rather than go back to his claim.

I offered to go with him to get his wagon and other property and drive his cattle to my place which he thankfully accepted.

Afew days later we took each a revolver and rode to his claim together, we found everything undisturbed, as the main body of Indians had   not been there.

We harnessed the mules, loaded the goods on the wagon, Hauser driving while I was driving on foot driving the cattle. He was very nervous and the further we went the more nervous he got and finally he drove on as fast as he could, leaving me behind by myself driving the cattle.

When I got within a short distance of what is now the townsite of Lincoln, I heard firing and when I came in sight I saw Indiansahead of me they were attacting the Blacksmithshop of John Hendreckson’s who had a shop a little south of what is now the old creamery site. He had a horse they were after and exchanged shots with them until they left.

Seeing the Indians I changed my course, drove the cattle south toward the timber crossed the Saline River and got safely home.

In those days many things happened that seem curious now, hardships were endured that deserves mention, some had a commical side.

One of these was a funeral that turned into a buffalo chase; an armed funeral procession would be something unheard of now-days, but we did have one of those at that time, it was the funeral of Harrison Strange one of the victims of the Massacre. The funeral procession had gone to the cemetary located on the Schermerhorn place south of the River, the body was lowered into the grave, the ceremony over when a buffalo was seen comming from the south, on account of the Indians, people had been staying close to their homes and many were short of provisions, a number of the mourners carried Guns with them, when the buffalo came up we gave chase and ran him north into the Saline River where he was killed and the meat divided amongst the people. It was also about that time that we found our neighborhood short of arms and ammunitions. My Partner Phil Lants rode to Salina and back 72 miles ina day 3 in one day bringing back with him, 6 Spencer Carbines and large amount of ammunition.

A funny episode happened one time while we were on a buffalo hunt on wolf creek, there were Five of us, amoung us was a German by the name of Rodolph Stein, He was simple minded in some ways and was nicknamed “Crooked Powder” a name that he received when he was at one time buying powder at the Schermerhorn store. He left shortly after the Indian raid, but there are afew people in this county that still remember him. While with us he did not pretend to hunt buffalo, but was handy about camp and would help taking care of the teams. We had crippled a buffalo which with   a broken shoulder stood a short distance from camp. Now was Stein’s chance to also get a shot; he got on a mule with a revolver and rode up to him and fired, shot after shot after at him without visible effect, when the buffalo got tired, he made for him, but for some reason the mule would not bud an inch, to save himself Stein jumped of and ran; the mule also then took a notion to run and being the fastest came in ahead while the buffalo was gaining on him Stein at every jump and had we not ran in with our rifles and shot the buffalo, he would certainly have overtaken him and killed him.

In those times buffalo was very game was very plentiful especially buffalo. Settlers would sometimes catch young calves which were easily domesticated tamed and would run with the milk cows.

Deer and Elk were also found here, the latter were quit numerous one year on Bullfoot, large numbers have been seen by the neighbors about a mile from my place where they were having their young.

We had in our neighborhood a young man by the name of John Keller, he was somewhat of a footracer who prided himself on his running qualities.

He said if we would go with him he would show us what he could do He would outrun some of the young calves and catch them and we would have them for pets, so 4 or 5 of us accompanied him up the creek where we found a large heard 50 or more with a number of young grazing in the bend of the creek, on what is now the Opplinger farm. We kept out of sight and young Keller made a run for one of the calves and actually caught it but during the struggle Mother Elk came to its relief, Keller had to let go and run for dear life. We had a good laugh and returned home empty handed.

While I was in the the war I lost my wife and Two Children by Typhoid fever. It was a hard blow for me and shadowed my hope for the future, I had a boy 4 years old left and who was taken care of by friendly neighbors. I then lived a single life for 7 years, by that time I had gotten over my bereavements, I had good claim and concidered well fixed for them days, when I made the acquaintance of my present wife and in 1870 I decided to marry again. It may be all well here to describe the contrast between now and then; In makeing the preparation for such comming events ----while we now prepare for a wedding dinner and have the best of dainties, sweetmeats and often kill a fatted calf for that purpose.

In Those days we did not in making a start in life we did not have many of these good things, most settlers only had a few milk Cows and the

 

Young stock was wanted for the growing herd, we did not have a surplus of beefs to butcher for our own use nor did we need them we relied on the buffalo for our meat. Settlers returning from a successful hunt would divide with the neighbors then others would go and take turn about. I had planed to lay in a supply of meat, but when the time came for our wedding no Bufalo were in this vicinity; We made up a party of 4 with two teams, via Ellsworth started for the southwest, we found no buffalos except afew stragling bulls about Fort Zara near where Great Bend now stands, the Post was being abandoned by the Government by at that time buildings were being torn down, piles of lumber were laying around, some of which we used for our campfire, our horses we put into one of the vacated buildings, the Post was in charge of a former Corral boss named Schaffer. It was well that we were in shelter as a storm came up and it got very cold thick Ice formed on Walnut creek during the night; It was in February, We came up to a large herd of Buffalo on the other side of Fort Larnerd and in a short time we had all the meat that our teams could haul taking onley the hind quarters of the younger ones. I had a load of about 2500 pounds and the other party about the same, and our return trip was uneventful and ariving at home the first week in March and in due time I and my wife and I were married.

Going back to the time of the war I will recall and incident where I came very near of being one of the Victims of the Quantrall Massacre at Lawrence. I was near there on the fearful 21st day of August 1863. Belonging to Company “K” of the 11th. Kansas we were stationed at Independence, Mo. at that time; on account of some urgent matters they needed my attention at home, I asked my Captain John M. Allen for a furlough, he would not grant it, however he got a furlough for himself and went home. The first Leiutenant of our Company “Hass by name” said he would recommend me to General Ewing for a 30 day furlough accordingly we went to the General who granted my request. Just about that time our regiment was changed to from Infantry to Cavallry, the horses were ready for distribution. I get an order for a horse and the next morning I saddled him and started for St. George in Pottawatomie County by way of Lawrence, Kansas, arriving at that place in the early evening.

Here I met a comrade of my regiment on from Co “H”, his first name was Charley but his other name I have forgotten, his home was in   Lecompton, he asked me to stay with him at Lawrence that night and the next morning we would travel together.

I would have been glad to accepted his invitation, but I had about 70 miles to travel the next day as I wished to get home that night and I told him so, I said to him I wanted to get out of town if it was not more than a mile or so two, so that I could get an early start in the morning; He urged me quite a bit to stay with him but I stood by my resolution and that probably is what saved my life. I went out of town and stopped at the first farm house that I came to, the next morning the farmer was up ahead of me and told me that Quantrall was in Lawrence and we could plainly see the smoke of the burning town, I got home that night.

When my Fourlouh expired I returned to my regiment and then learned that my friend Charley had been killed that morning in the Lawrence Massacree; had I stayed with him no doubt but what I would have shared the same fate.

Going further back to the time when Kansas was yet a territory , I will mention an incident where I was once favored and a substancially benefitted by General Lyon; "the hero of Wilson creek” while stationed at Fort Riley. in 1858 I was living with my wife and children on a preEmtion claim near St. George, Pottowatomie County ,a short distance north of us was (the) military road betwween Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley. The time of the Pike ‘s peak excitement. a constant stream of people traveled west on that road towards the new discovered gold fields in every conceivable conveyance, Horses, Mules, Ox teams, and even push carts, one man pulling the other pushing all of hauling their belongings, some of these people are now millionares and li ving in Denver. These were hard years , we had little land in cultivation , the seasons were dry , we raised little and were very poor ,especially the year of 1860 was a dry year as the old settlers of that period remember.

I had planted Potatoes in a favored spot and raised about Forty Bushel.

I and my wife agreed that I haul them to Fort Riley ( That was our market then) sell them and buy grocerise for the proceeds buy and things needed for the wintn Winter.- When I got to Fort Riley, General Lyon (he was only a Captain then) had just arrived from west with his soldiers, He came to my wagon and I offered him my potatoes; He looked at them and asked me if I had raised them, I told him I had; He then said how much do you want   for them per bushel, I asked him answered a $1.50, he said well take them around to the Commisary unload and bring me the number of Bushels and I will pay you, I did so, and while counting out the money he made the remark that it was quite a sum of money for a load of potatoes. I then told him my circumstances that this was all that I did raise, that I had entered Government land but had yet to pay for it and had no money, e ven this money I could not use for this purpose as I needed it to buy clothing and other necessaries for myself and family for the winter.

Gen. Lyon was a very kindhearted man who sympathized with us northern people , while many of the other army officers sympathized with the South. He said to me: as to clothing I might help you some, he went into another room and brought out several arms full of clothing and about a dozen pair of boots; he sorted them into several lots and then said “these I will keep and the others you can have” I thanked him very much and went on my way rejoicing. We made a good use of the clothes and got along very well.

When the war broke out he was made a General and many of my acquaintances and friends served under him. My own brotherinlaw Adam Reincll Reinsel served under him ;He belonged to Captain Walkers Company “First Kansas Volunteers.”

His service to his country was short but he gave all he had ;his life.

He fell the same day that General Lyon did at the Battle of Wilson creek.

Biography of Ferdinand Ehrhardt by a friend.

Ferdinand Ehrhardt was born in Ludwigsburg, Wurtenberg, Germany 1829 Came to Philadelphia in 1854 and to Kansas in 1856 . In 1862 he enlisted in Senator Plumb’s Regiment the 11th Kansas, took part in the battles of Marysville ,Kane Hill ,prarie grove, and the Price Raid. Earl early in the y ear of 1865 the regiment was ordered to the Indian Country in the west and was stationed at the Platte Bridge ,in Wyoming July 25th. I was one of the 25 men that went to the relief of General Custers Seargant Custard man 31 in number besides those that were wounded.

This is now a record page 352 Vol Kansas historical collections.

Mr Ehrhardt is a member of the Lutheran church south of town and it is. to the question wether he killed any Indians, he was always reticent onley when closely pressed by a friend, he admitted that he had ,; Yes he said at the first charge with more than ten to one against us we came to close quarters , one of the formost Braves struck at me with his Tomakawk , I dodged the blow, with my Carbine close to his body I fired and he fell from his horse. Many Indians were killed but on the account of their overwhelming numbers they were victorious that day .I had a good horse and h he carried me safely through. When we were about to be mustered out I tried to buy him from the Government and I would have given any price fo for him but was unable to buy him do so.

I was allowed to keep him to Fort Kearney ,Nebraska on our homeward march to Leavenworth.

Mr Ehrhardt is one of those unpretentious , kind hearted of the early pioneers generous to a fault , ever ready to help any one in need.

In those early days many a settler made his temporary home with him while looking for a claim and making necessary preparation and for a home/ He is one of those that is entitled to credit for doing his shar to the upbuilding of Lincoln County and State of Kansas.

Two years ago he and his wife went to Denver for their health and returned last year greatly benefited. They are now again living here and expect to remain with us the re st of their days.

Title: Reminiscence of the early days told by Ferdinand Erhardt of Lincoln, Kansas

Source: Kansas Historical Society, Item Number: 219434, Call Number: Historical collections: Lincoln County, KSHS Identifier: DaRT ID: 219434

Author: Erhardt, Ferdinand

Sponsor: This project is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Geraldine W. & Robert J. Dellenback Foundation.

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