Last Indian Raid title

The Last Indian Raid: ‘Brutal, ferocious crimes’

This is the third post in a series about the Northern Cheyenne Exodus in Kansas. The first discussed the Battle of Punished Woman’s Fork. The second discussed the military’s response to the exodus following the battle.

The Last Indian Raid: “Such brutal and ferocious crimes”

“Of the many Indian raids in Kansas, none was ever characterized with such brutal and ferocious crimes, and none ever excited such horror and indignation as the Cheyenne raid of 1878.” — Clara Hazelrigg, A New History of Kansas, 1895, discussing the Last Indian Raid in Kansas.

Little Wolf, Last Indian Raid leader
Ó’kôhómôxháahketa at Fort Laramie, 1868

Tsistsistas leaders: Leave civilians alone

A trail of murders and rapes was not what the exodus leaders wished. They wanted to go home with as little trouble as possible.

Chiefs Vóóhéhéve (Dull Knife) and Ó’kôhómôxháahketa (Little Wolf) had urged their group to leave civilians alone. After Punished Woman’s Fork, Little Wolf said, “My friends, we must try to get through here without so much fighting, or we may all get killed. We must go faster.” Kill soldiers, he said, because they are trying to kill us. Don’t bother civilians. The warriors paid them no attention.

“They did not tell me what they did,” Ó’kôhómôxháahketa said, “because they knew I would not like it.”

As the Tsistsistas (Cheyenne) headed north, they fanned out along the plains. The warriors searched for places to raid. Many times, they approached the settlers in a friendly fashion, lulling people into trusting them. Trusting them until it was too late to escape. The violence began in Sheridan County.

Sheridan County falls victim to the Last Indian Raid

North Fork of the Solomon River along the Last Indian Raid route
The North Fork of the Solomon River in Sheridan County. John Young was shot along this river. (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

On Sunday, Sept. 29, John Young and another man were traveling along the North Fork of the Solomon River in Sheridan County. They had taken homesteads and were now headed to visit their homes in the east. They intended to stay at the Bayless Post Office.

As they arrived at the post office, they saw smoke rising on the horizon. Believing the smoke was from a burning home, they hurried to the scene. The sight was more complicated than a burning home. The Tsistsistas were doing the burning.

The Last Indian Raid’s first victim north of the Kansas Pacific Railroad

The men turned away, but not quickly enough. The raiders shot at them and hit Young below his shoulder blade. The bullet lodged on his breastbone. Young’s companion hurried the team back to George Shoemaker’s home along Prairie Dog Creek.

Cleversburg-Shibboleth plat
Detail of Prairie Dog Township plat showing Cleversburg and Shibboleth. John Young is buried in the Shibboleth Cemetery. (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

Shoemaker sent out men to warn settlers of the raiders. Young’s companion then headed about 12 miles north to Oberlin. He intended to find a physician and also warn the town about the raid. He reached Oberlin about 10 a.m. the next morning, Sept. 30, and warned the people. They ignored the warning, believing it to be a false alarm.

After the shot in the back, Young was paralyzed from the chest down. He died three days later and is buried in the Shibboleth Cemetery.

While Young’s companion rushed to save him and warn others, the Tsistsistas plundered the neighborhood around the Bayless post office. The raiders butchered livestock and enjoyed a big feast. They took whatever they found useful and destroyed everything else. They ripped open mattresses, perhaps looking for money, and scattered the feathers over the countryside.

The Bayless, Jack Leatherman, and George Kious families lost everything. With nothing left but their lives, they all fled.

Last Indian Raid continues into Decatur County

The warriors fanned out across Decatur County, where 17 settlers would die.

Before daylight, Shibboleth Postmaster Isaac Peck lost his property to plundering raiders. After striking Peck’s, the raiders headed north to the Robinson’s and James Gaumer’s ranches.

Then they went to the top of the hill south of Oberlin, where they saw a crowd. Several men were preparing for a trip to the railroad station at Buffalo Park, now called Park.

When the scouts saw all those men, they decided to turn away from Oberlin, thus saving the town from plunder.

Instead, the warriors turned southwest toward the Great Western Cattle Trail, rejoining the main group of Tsistsistas.

Homer D. Colvin
H.D. Colvin in 1905 (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

Colvins fight off the raiders

While one group was busy raiding along Prairie Dog Creek, another group raided along the South Fork of Sappa Creek.

About 8:15 a.m., Frances (Pelton) Colvin asked her husband, Homer D. Colvin, “Who are these people coming down the hills?” He thought the three or four horsemen were cowboys searching for something to eat.

She said, “No, sir. Those are Indians!”

The Colvins headed into their cabin, closed the curtains, and knocked gun ports in the chinking. “After some time, the Indians rode up a pocket draw east of the house,” Colvin recalled. Five raiders approached the house. Four of them crouched, but the fifth, “a young chief with a fancy headdress”, kept jumping around. He jumped backward and forward, always coming nearer and nearer the house.

Colvin had only enough powder to load his revolver once. He waited “as long as I dared. … Taking good aim with the revolver, I fired at him. Just as I pulled the trigger, he gave a spring backward, and I shot him in the arm. They all broke and ran for their horses.”

The Colvins escaped with their persons and property intact. That afternoon, they headed to Oberlin for safety along with others.

Smiths and Hudson attacked in their hayfield

Haying in 1881
Putting up hay (Internet Archive)

More Tsistsistas continued north of the Colvin homestead. They found James G. Smith, his 27-year-old son Watson (Wat), and John C. Hudson. The trio had started putting up hay and were armed with nothing more than rakes, spades, and pitchforks. They fought off the raiders while the warriors rode around them in circles.

“The Indians rode up to us … and commenced shooting at us,” Wat recalled. James was standing in front of Wat, and a raider came up behind them. The raider shot bullets and arrows over Wat’s head. “I saw my father fall.”

The raiders tried to grab Hudson’s horses. To take them, the warriors started cutting the horses’ harnesses. Smith tried driving away the warriors with a rake, but his desperate attempt was doomed. The warriors shot him. The shot frightened the horses into running away.

Hudson chased after his horses, “and the Indians shot him through the heart,” neighbor Joe Raab recalled. Hudson died immediately.

Eventually, the Tsistsistas chased the settlers into timber along Sappa Creek. They struck James with two arrows and two bullets. He crawled into a clump of willow trees. With Smith’s four wounds, the pursuers thought he was dead and left him. The raiders plundered the Smiths’ homestead.

Wat Smith escapes

Wat ran away, following the creek. One of the warriors followed the boy, but he was a poor shot. His arrows missed every time.

Finally, the raider approached Wat and raised his tomahawk. Seizing the opportunity, Wat stabbed the raider’s abdomen with his pitchfork. The raider had had enough of Wat and left.

Wat continued running down the creek until he reached the Raab claim. Raab was putting up hay northeast of his house. William Smith, a younger Smith son, was helping Raab.

The Raabs and others escape

After hearing Smith’s tale, the shocked Raabs loaded their wagon, then picked up Margaret Smith, Sarah Hudson, and their families. The horses pulled the wagon into Oberlin at a dead run. A tire came off one wheel a mile out of Oberlin, but they just continued flying down the trail. Tire repair could wait.

Colvin’s party found Hudson’s body on their way to Oberlin. They loaded Hudson’s body into a wagon and took it into Oberlin. The Hudsons had only been in Decatur County for a few days. They had been staying with the Smiths.

Searching for the wounded Smith

G. Webb Bertram
G. Webb Bertram (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

William Smith went to their neighbor, G. Webb Bertram. He yelled out the bad news: His father and Hudson had been murdered by Tsistsistas raiders.

Bertram quickly persuaded his wife that they should head into Oberlin. Bertram promised himself he would not leave Oberlin until all danger had passed. His promise didn’t last.

“Please find my father”

When Bertram, Colvin, and others met Wat Smith in Oberlin, Smith begged them to find his father. Tears streamed down Wat’s face as he pleaded. Wat said his father was not dead. He was suffering alone in the hot sun.

“His story would have melted the heart of a wooden man,” Bertram said.

The next morning, Bertram, Colvin, and others searched for the elder Smith. They found him around 9 a.m. He was still clinging to life, even though he was extremely weak from blood loss. He died in his own home at about 9 that evening.

“I’m not afraid of the Indians; I have treaties with all of them.”

Moses Abernathy, Oliver Palmer, and Marcellus Felt were rounding up cattle. Felt and Palmer were partners. Somehow Palmer escaped, warning other settlers on his way. When he arrived home, he gathered his family and two other people to safety.

Abernathy trusted too much in the tribe’s peaceful intentions. Earlier, Bertram had asked whether Abernathy feared Native Americans. No, he said, “I have treaties with all of them.”

The Colvin party also found Abernathy’s and Felt’s bodies.

The Laings and Van Cleaves suffer

On the North Fork of the Sappa River near the Rawlins County line, William and his 14-year-old son Freeman Laing were on their way to the Kirwin Land Office to pay for their claim.

Eva and Lou Van Cleave were riding along. They were headed to school in Norton. None of the four saw the raiders before they had come within gunshot range.

The raiders surrounded the Laings’ wagon and greeted the wagon riders. Two of the raiders grabbed the Laings’ hands, seemingly in a friendly way. Then two others shot them from behind. Both Laings died instantly. William’s body fell into a Van Cleave sister’s lap. Freeman sank to his knees.

The raiders plundered the wagon, feasted on the provisions, removed the canvas cover and took the horses. The raiders dragged the girls to their camp, where they stripped and raped them. The raiders left the Laings’ bodies in the wagon without mutilating them.

After they were finished savaging the girls, the raiders ordered them to leave. The Van Cleaves feared that the raiders would murder them from behind. The raiders taunted them before they were finally persuaded to leave. They walked to the Keefer ranch half a mile away.

Attack leaves the Laings destitute and bereft

As sundown approached, the raiders struck the Laing homestead on the North Fork of the Sappa. Julia Laing had just learned of her husband’s and youngest son’s deaths. The eldest Laing sons were finishing the day’s fieldwork. John was 20 and William, Jr., was 17. Their three sisters, Mary, 12 or 13; Elizabeth, 9 or 10; and Julia, 7 or 8; were about to ride in the work wagon.

The raiders shot the men. They fired at such close range that the men had powder burns on their skin. Seeing their sons and brothers murdered, the women hurried into the cabin.

The cabin was no protection. Warriors burst into the cabin and raped at least three of them. Then they burned the cabin. When the warriors left, the women fled. They walked naked eight miles to the Keefers’ ranch. They arrived around 2 a.m.

The Laings never returned to their home. Within a day, the Laing ladies had lost all the males in their immediate family and all their possessions.

Cattlemen help defend Keefers during Last Indian Raid

When the raiders arrived, Martha Keefer was preparing breakfast for cowboys Pat Lynch and his helper, 16-year-old Jimmy Kelly. Jacob Keefer was away from home.

Harry Anthony, Martha’s son, was tending the cattle. He witnessed the William and Freeman Laing murders. He saw the raiders steal the Laings’ horses. The warriors confiscated the horses to plunder Smith‘s and Hudson’s belongings.

Anthony ran into the house and warned his mother. Reacting quickly, Lynch ordered everyone to get ready. Lynch, Kelly, Keefer, Anthony, and her other children rushed into the Keefer dugout. The Keefer household was not well prepared for a siege. She only had three loaded shells. She gave Lynch her gun and barred the door.

At this time, the warriors released the Van Cleaves. When they approached the Keefer home, Martha opened the door and dragged in the sisters. As soon as the girls were safely in the house, the raiders attacked. They surrounded the house, including standing on the roof.

Lynch stood at the dugout’s single window. With the gun resting on the window frame, he killed the first warrior. After the death, the raiders left for good.

Abbott murdered while his father fends off attack

Henry Abbott was away from home seeking a stray horse when the Tsistsistas showed up at his father’s homestead.

At the Abbott homestead, his father, Christopher Abbott, saw a raider standing in some timber. He ordered Abbott to “go back.”

Abbott started back, then looked over his shoulder. The raider aimed his rifle at him. When Abbott saw this, he started running a zigzag pattern. When Abbott came about 100 yards from his house, the raider fired four shots. Abbott escaped and reached his sod house.

Once inside, he knocked a hole in the wall and fired 12 shots from his Winchester. Another Tsistsistas rider started circling the house. Abbott fired. The horse wheeled suddenly. The rider nearly fell off, and the entire group retreated up the creek.

The next day, the father found his son’s body with bullet holes through his head and hand.

Miskelly ambushed

Ed Miskelly was murdered from an ambush on the cattle trail north of the Sappa. Searchers found him on his back with a shot through his heart. His cowboy hat was on the ground nearby. He was still wearing his gauntlets, and his quirt hung from his wrist.

Raiders kill Foster

Alexander Foster had relieved Gus Cook from riding the night herd on the Sappa’s South Fork. Cook left and went to the mess wagon for breakfast and a fresh horse.

He was standing at the wagon when another cowboy galloped in. The second cowboy said he had seen some Tsistsistas in the draw. The cowboys grabbed their guns from the mess wagon.

So scared his hair stood straight

Cook and Charley Green jumped on their horses and headed toward Foster. They found him dead. The Indians had shot him three times, once each through the head, the body, and hand, Cook recalled.

When Cook and Green came to Foster’s body, raiders were combing through Foster’s equipment. Cook and Green scattered the raiders. The raiders had tried to take the cowboys’ spare horses. Cook and Green chased the untethered horses back toward the mess wagon. “The Indians were shooting at us from behind and from either side and hollowing [sic] as only an Indian can. I was thoroughly scared; my hair stood straight.”

Refused to leave before the Last Indian Raid

A few days before the raid, John Humphrey had visited Buffalo Park (present-day Park). He told his parents Ephraim P. and Eliza Humphrey that the Tsistsistas were south of the railroad. He recommended that the family leave for a safe place. The elder Humphrey declined.

About noon Sept. 30, the raiders arrived while father and son were cutting hay about a quarter-mile away from their home. A group of warriors rode up and shot them. The father died at the site. The wounded son escaped.

Brant Street went looking for volunteers to find John Humphrey. When they found him, he was nearly unconscious. Colvin’s party found Humphrey and the Streets the next day. They helped Street hitch his wagon, and load Humphrey and the Street family for a trip to Oberlin. Humphrey died in Oberlin four weeks later.

Hiding in underbrush

When the raiders had found the Humphrey homestead, Billy O’Toole, a cowboy; Eliza Humphrey; J.J. Keefer; Robert Bridle, his wife, their daughters, May, and Cary; and some other young girls hid in the underbrush while warriors rushed into the Humphreys’ home. O’Toole recalled that the warriors had filled “the valley with war whoops.” They looted the house and feasted on the stolen provisions.

An unlucky time to visit

Norton County dugout
A dugout in Norton County about the same time as the Last Indian Raid took place. (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

W.M. Lull had taken several claims in Decatur County. His friend John Irwin of Smith County (PDF) came to visit him for a few days. Unfortunately, Irwin’s visit coincided with the Last Indian Raid. Both died. Lull and Irwin had watched Abernathy’s and Felt’s deaths. They were in a dugout and had guns.

A dugout was like a little fort. Had Irwin and Lull remained inside their dugout, they could have successfully resisted. Instead, they became frightened. They tried to hitch their horses and ride away. They failed. The raiders killed the pair before they could ride away. The Colvin party found their bodies.

Not target practice

The Westphalens were new to Kansas. Ferdinand Westphalen heard the shooting. He believed other settlers were practicing target shooting. He had hitched up his horses when the Tsistsistas appeared. His oldest son John was riding his pony. The raiders demanded his horses. He refused. They shot both Westphalens. One of the raiders demanded Dora Westphalen’s money. She refused.

He shot her with an arrow. The arrow split. One half impaled her shoulder blade. The other half burrowed under her skin. She nearly fainted. The raider demanded money again. She fished the cash out of her bosom and handed it to him.

Peter and Bill Westphalen ran for their lives.

As soon as they could, Dora and the children ran to the creek and crawled under plum bushes. Anna had to pull out the arrow by pushing her feet against her mother’s shoulder. Even with exerting the maximum force, she could hardly extract the arrow.

Dora hid in tall grass with her other five children all night until she knew all the raiders had departed.

The Westphalens stayed hidden until the Colvin party came.

Two boys escape the Last Indian Raid

The Tsistsistas camped about a quarter of a mile from the Humphrey homestead. They stayed there until about 4 or 5 p.m. to allow non-combatants to catch up with the rest of the party. While the tribe gathered, Eddie Race and Elwin Judkins were on their way from the Judkins ranch to Oberlin. They decided to ride to Bridle’s place for dinner. While they were riding, they saw people they took to be cowboys.

The boys discovered their mistake, but their discovery came too late. The boys were trapped. The tribe caught up with them, grabbed them, and jerked their horses’ bridles. At a dead run, the raiders dragged the boys and their horses into camp.

Once in camp, the raiders took everything the boys had, including their cowboy hats. Then the raiders turned over the boys to the Tsistsistas women. The women surrounded the terrified boys. They threatened their lives by brandishing butcher knives near their heads and persecuted them in other ways.

After some time, Vóóhéhéve rescued them. He pulled them out of camp and ordered them to head east. They eventually came to Keefers, then on to Oberlin.

Keefer ranch becomes a refuge

After the raiders had left, O’Toole’s party went to the Keefer ranch. The house was full of refugees. Lynch donated beef to feed all the people who had sheltered at the Keefer place. People also gathered 13 bodies and brought them to the Keefers. The next day, people took the bodies to Oberlin.

C.F. Hamper grave marker
C.F. Hamper’s grave marker on a Rawlins County hill (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

Annotated map of Last Indian Raid in Rawlins County
Annotated map of the Last Indian Raid in Kansas (Kansas Memory/Kansas Historical Society)

A man named Rathbone and Frederick Hamper (PDF) were seeking stolen mules. They met two raiders who greeted them in a very friendly manner. After they parted from the warriors, Rathbone looked back. He saw the pair aiming at them. He screamed to Hamper, “Look out!” They fired at the same time.

Hamper died instantly. The bullet intended for Rathbone passed below his chin.

Rathbone tried to hold Hamper on his horse, but both men fell to the ground. Rathbone drew his revolver and began firing. He held off 17 warriors for the entire day, using a buffalo wallow as a rifle pit. Hamper is buried 3 miles east and 1.5 miles south of Ludell.

Three men give their lives to save three children

Janousek-Springler marker
Grave marker for the Janouseks and Springler in Rawlins County

Rudolph Springler, Peter and Egnac Janousek were all in a house with three children when the raiders came. They each grabbed a child and attempted to escape. The warriors cut them off and shot the men.

When they shot one of the adult Janouseks, the bullet had touched the infant’s scalp in his arms, then it went through his father’s head. This bullet struck so close to another child’s head that it burned the other child.

Their bodies rest four miles east, one-half mile north, and one-quarter mile west of Ludell.

Taking bread to the hungry ends in murder

When 17 warriors approached Frank Sochor’s house, he carried bread toward them, thinking they were hungry. The warriors repaid his generosity by shooting him through his open door.

They frightened away his daughter, Barbara Sperasek, but his wife, Mary, refused to leave him. They mangled his body in front of her.

Mother loses her husband and finds her children gone

Anton Stenner was plowing when the raiders arrived at the Stenner place. His wife Dina and children were in the house when she saw the raiders approaching her husband. She followed them. She arrived just in time to witness her husband’s murder.

Mother and children hid in a draw. About midnight, she left the children and sought help. Throughout the long night and into the morning, she desperately hunted for someone to rescue them. She found no one.

Finally, she returned about noon the following day. The draw was silent. Her children were gone. She discovered only a note on a stone, “Mother, we have gone.” They had fled to find a safe refuge. Dina was in agony at her children’s disappearance, and her agony would not be relieved for some days. The children had split up, and their reunion was delayed.

Settlers converge on Oberlin

Capt. Justin W. Allen, proprietor of Allen’s Store (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

The settlers dug rifle pits in Oberlin as protection from additional raids. They posted pickets at night. The men caught cattle and butchered them for the hungry refugees. Women cooked and baked day and night. Allen’s Store became a headquarters for those stranded in Oberlin.

Schoolhouse becomes a morgue

The Oberlin schoolhouse became a morgue while men built coffins. Women wrapped the corpses in sheets. When the coffins were ready, all but two of the Decatur County dead were buried in the Oberlin Cemetery. Miskelly was buried at Park, and Young at Shibboleth.

The Last Indian Raid cowboy posse

Forty cowboys, including O’Toole, formed a posse. They caught the raiders near the Laing place. A firefight ensued. O’Toole said the posse surrounded three raiders and killed two of them.

At some point, John Wright disappeared from the posse. Two weeks later, searchers found his body southwest of Lamb’s Draw’s mouth.

William D. Street
W.D. (Bill) Street (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

The Army hired Sol Rees (PDF), one of the posse members, and Bill Street as civilian scouts. Street stayed with the soldiers to Fort Robinson, Neb. He notified Maj. Thornburgh when the Tsistsistas crossed the North Platte two miles below Ogallala, Neb.

Burying the dead

At the request of Julia Laing’s brother-in-law, F.F. Bliss crafted four gravestones for the four Laing men. Bliss quarried them from magnesia rock seven miles southwest of Oberlin. He hauled them to town and prepared them, receiving $8 total. He also created stones for Smith and Hudson as a labor of love. These were the first stones in the Oberlin Cemetery.

The survivors ‘are left in dreadfully destitute circumstances’

Many of the settlers who suffered in the Last Indian Raid left Northwest Kansas, never to return.

The victims who remained were impoverished. “They are in dreadfully destitute circumstances,” C.E. Towne of Kirwin wrote. “They have lost their husbands, their property, their all.” Barbara Springler and her four children had no bedding. They were sleeping on the ground. The Springler children were ill because they had been forced to eat grasshoppers and cactus. Without medical help, Towne said, two of them were near death.

The victims petitioned the government for help. They received little and what they did receive was long delayed. Eventually, government officials held hearings on the Last Indian Raid and tallied up settlers’ losses. The losses are listed in painstaking detail (PDF) in the commission’s final report. Sadly, many of the settlers never received a cent in recompense for their horrific losses.

The strange story of Fred Walters

George Frederick Walters was driving his oxen and wagon home from Oberlin. When he saw the raiders, he unyoked his oxen and tied them to the wagon wheel. Colvin’s party found the oxen but did not find Walters.

Several weeks later, a prairie fire burned the area. The fire removed the vegetation that had covered his body. He was buried on the spot where he died.

Ten years later, the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans’ organization, exhumed Walters’ body and reburied him with the rest of the raid’s victims.

But maybe the body didn’t belong to Fred Walters. In February 1942, Dr. W.H. Goldsbury of Pauls Valley, Okla., wrote (PDF) to the Kansas Historical Society. In 1878, he was a few months old. He and his parents were living along Sappa Creek in Decatur County.

Their family knew Walters, the doctor said. “I know that Mr. Walters lived until after 1900. We visited his home near Hennessey, Okla., in 1901. He died there soon after.”

Indian Boy monument in Rawlins County
An unknown Tsistsistas man is remembered by this marker on a windswept hill in Rawlins County. He is likely the last Native American to fall in battle in Kansas. (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

The last Tsisistas to die in Kansas

Six weeks after the raid, on Nov. 15, 1878, Henry Abbott’s brother Arthur and his friend Harney searched for cattle. They found a young Tsisistas man who had been wounded in the Last Indian Raid. He had been living among the rocks for about six weeks. The two men took revenge for Henry Abbott’s murder and killed the injured man.

Sometime later, Mr. Blume and Mr. Bouda found the body. They started to Oberlin to deliver it to the Army. Along the way, Bouda grew afraid the authorities would charge them for the death. He refused to continue. Since Bouda owned the horses and wagon, Blume had no choice but to concede to Bouda’s fears. They unloaded the body and hid it.

A few days later, Blume returned with helpers. The corpse was gone. Perhaps the coyotes had gotten it, or the Tsistsistas had removed it. Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad President Charles E. Perkins later erected the monument where the young man had died.

Cheyenne prisoners in Kansas
Tsistsistas prisoners in Kansas involved in the escape northward. All prisoners were released free from charges. (Kansas Memory/Kansas State Historical Society)

Tsistsistas trial fails in Lawrence

In February 1879, the government returned several of the Tsistsistas to Kansas for trial. The trial was set for Dodge City with Ford County Attorney Mike Sutton prosecuting. At the preliminary hearing, their new attorney, Capt. Jeremiah G. Mohler successfully petitioned for a change of venue to Lawrence.

The trial date in the State of Kansas vs. Wild Hog et al was set for Oct. 13, 1879, at the Douglas County Courthouse. At 4 p.m., the judge called the trial to order. Prosecutor Mike Sutton failed to show up (PDF).

Sutton allegedly was more interested in his love life than in the trial. He married Stella Clemons on Oct. 1, left for a honeymoon, and then attended a party in Dodge City on Oct. 11. The party continued far into the night. Sutton could not have been prepared for any trial.

A few minutes after the judge had called the case to order, Abraham Jetmore arrived. He had been sent to take charge of the prosecution. He asked for a week’s continuance.

Mohler strongly objected. His clients had been sitting in prison for months. His case was ready to go. How could the state expect the court to cover for them?

The judge agreed. With little or no knowledge of the case, Jetmore could not proceed. He had no choice but to dismiss the charges.

The Tsistsistas walked free. The judge ruled that Ford County had to pay (PDF) the costs of the case. Sutton’s failure and the resulting bill outraged Ford County citizens. Sutton and his cronies were voted out of office in November 1879.

Northern Tsisistas gain Montana reservation

After many adventures and much adversity, the Tsisistas achieved their desired outcome of a reservation in their beloved Montana. The government established their reservation along the Tongue River in 1884.

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Last Indian Raid in Kansas
Last Indian Raid monument in Oberlin Cemetery

The Last Indian Raid monument honors those killed

On the Last Indian Raid’s 33rd anniversary, Sept. 30, 1911, Decatur County dedicated a monument (PDF) to those who had died in the Last Indian Raid.

The obelisk stands 22 feet high with a 14-foot shaft. It weighs 25 tons and is made from marble quarried in Salida, Colo. Nineteen names of those who were killed are engraved on the monument. The State of Kansas contributed $1,500 to the monument’s cost. Decatur County contributed $300. The Curry Brothers of Oberlin Marble and Granite Works received the contract.

Learn more about the Last Indian Raid

Last Indian Raid Museum in Oberlin
The Decatur County Last Indian Raid Museum, Oberlin

The Decatur County Last Indian Raid Museum in Oberlin is an excellent place to learn more about the Last Indian Raid. See the artifacts in the Last Indian Raid room. The museum also has excellent displays of other Decatur County historical events. Many local and regional history books are available in the museum’s gift shop.

Rawlins County Museum in Atwood and Mickey’s Museum in Hoxie are also worth visiting.

Check out what we’ve written about Kansas and specifically Northwest Kansas.

Related: Visit enchanting Oberlin.


I have extensively used the books From the Files of the Decatur County Museum, Perilous Pursuit: The U.S. Cavalry and the Northern Cheyenne, and W.D. Street’s Twenty-Five Years Among the Indians and Buffalo, The Indian Territory Journals of Richard Irving Dodge, edited by Wayne R. Kime; and John Monett’s Tell Them We Are Going Home. Holding Stone Hands and The Northern Cheyenne Exodus in History and Memory are also available.

I first learned about the Last Indian Raid while taking a geography class at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. We read Cheyenne Autumn, Mari Sandoz’s take on the raid. I’m skeptical of her conclusions, but I’ve been interested in the raid ever since.

The Kansas State Historical Society has done a massive favor for all researchers into Kansas history. Any Kansan with a driver’s license may log in to Kansas sources on and for free. Those resources are invaluable. is also invaluable as an image source. I am also indebted to organizations such as Google Books, Hathi Trust, and Internet Archive for digitizing public domain books.


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