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Pawnee County


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The following Family Recollections were provided by Jeanette Allee, 1 October 2000.  These are the recollections of Orlo Jared Smith written in 1940.   

Recollections of Orlo Jared Smith on settling in Kansas in the 1800’s.  These notes were written in the 1940’s while OJ was convalescing from an illness. (Apparently he had gangrene and refused to have his leg amputated.  While waiting it out he had these thoughts...)

Names referenced include: Peg Leg (Amos) Chapman, Arlo Fell, Taber, Dexter, Camp, Emory Gaston, Rev. Evans, Paul Curlett, Abe Myers, J.K. Barto, Keller, Walterman, Robert Smith, Geo Countryman, Charlie Bond, Mrs. M.E. Blaine, Jordan, Lowry Bros., Dave Madison, Deaton, Gordon, Tom Hill, Cora May Smith, Maude G. Smith, Herbert B. Smith, John Richey Smith, Mary Jane Fell, 
Frizell, Lee Ainsworth, William Stark, Kate Conde, W.L. Harris, Geo Laurence, and Earl Nettleton..


Later, in July 1875 John Richey Smith left Ovid, NY for Monett, MO to look for a home in the west. At St. Louis MO he was persuaded to join a train of land seekers headed for Larned, then the frontier town on the Santa Fe Railroad building to La Junta, Pueblo and west. Arriving at Larned three of the party hired horses, crossed the Arkansas river and went south and west 
across the river neer the bluff east of where Garfield is now located.  Struck the Pawnee creek at the foot of the Jenkins hill at the old Boyd ranch. The next day liking the looks of the land south of Fort Larned they took off up the north side of the river neer where Abe Myers was located.  They took off northwest and north across the Pawnee creek about where J.K. Barto later located. Went north a few miles, then east seeing a black object at the distance went to it. It was a sand stone about two feet high marking the northwest corner of the Fort Larned Military Reservation composed of sixteen sections or four miles square. From thare they 
continued north and east and to Larned.. The next day, J.R., as he was generally called, went to the land office, but not knowing the sections it was hard to locate. Being a Union soldier entitled him to a Timber claim and as he wanted both quarters close together as possible the land office records


showed practically all the land was vacant. So he filed on the quarters the reservation corner was on as it was a nice level level and could all be farmed northwest quarter section 24 twp 21-range 18 as a homestead and the southeast quarter of 14-24-21 Pawnee twp as a Timber claim. The next question was to locate his corners. Inquiring around he was told that a Mr. Walterman living about five miles west of Larned had done some locating so went to see him and found that he had located the section corners within three miles of his land. So they agreed on a day to do the locating. In the (Ornegld?) survey done about 1867. sometimes under military guard it was a haphazard job for one reason thare was no stone neer for markers. Stone was hauled from five to twenty miles. The surveyors would mark the corners by digging a hole about six inches square and as deep piling the dirt to one side in a mound for the stone wagon to place the stone in the hole but if the wagon was not thare at the time and was in a hurry he would throw the stone at the hole if it landed within a rod of the correct corner OK, he went on. Walterman and J.R. met on the day agreed upon three miles east of the corner of section 24. Their only instrument was a pocket compass as which was set pointing north. Thare they sighted west where a man


generally on horseback was stationed a mile or so away and the men at the corner would motion him to the right or the left until he was in line and then would pick out some object beyond him so they could go straight to him then they would tie something, generally a handkerchief, on the fellow of the back wheel of the wagon and drive as straight as they could to him.  They knew how many revolutions of the wheel made a mile and they began to look for a corner stone. Sometimes they could not locate it. So they repeated the operation for the next mile and eventually located all the corners. J.R. bought a team of horses, harness and wagons, hauled rock for a foundation and lumber from Larned and water from the Pawnee Creek four miles. Built a house 16 X 24 one and one half stories high. Completed it, and returned to his family by the middle of October and tharefore part of December the family consisting of wife four children, Mrs. M.E. Blaine, his wife’s mother, started on their journey west. In the party was Robert Smith a cousin who homesteaded a mile north in section 13, Geo. Countryman who settled west of Garfield, H. Adaury who homesteaded across the river later moved to Larned and moved houses done contracting, Charlie Bond a bachelor who located about 12 miles NW of Larned on Ash Creek. Coming as excursionists we travelled on a slow train and arrived at Larned in the night. Got located


at the Seely Hotel. Thare was about 6 inches of snow on the ground but not very cold. The next morning J.R. got his team and wagon loaded up with provisions. Coal and as much household goods as he had room for and the second day went to his farm, made two trips before taking the family out.  They thought it was awful as the last house that was occupied was the Walterman home about five miles west of Larned. Robert Smith came to Larned after the family in about a week in the timber wagon, sideboards and plenty of hay for the family to ride on. He being new to the west thought he had missed the trail going to the farm as thare was no road he turned off too 
soon after driving about 10 miles and seeing no house he realized he was lost. He spied the house about three miles to his left. He was very much pleased as it was getting late in the day and he knew he was completely lost but lucky. The winter of ‘75 and ’76 was a mild winter. J.R. broke sod in Jan. Feb. and March and in the spring planted a big garden and twenty acres of corn. Got a cow. She was Texas and would not be milked and would fight you every time she got a chance. Some chickens a dog and cat. Dug a well and started to make a home.


We got our mail, Paul Curlett, a frenchman run settler’s store and post office. In the winter thare were about 500 soldiers and 4000 head of horses. In the fall. about 2000 soldiers would return from scout duty on the frontiers, get a furlough until the next spring. The horses taken care of during the winter and feed the hundred tons of hay put up thare every summer. About May 1st the soldiers on furlough would return and go on protecting the frontier in squads of 50 to 300 and sometimes go as far west as Colorado, Oklahoma and New Mexico. They were great days. J.R. being an old soldier could buy sow bellys, beans and some other rations from them 
very reasonable and get a good price for chickens, eggs and butter. After a few years when the country was settled and the frontier moved further west the soldiers were moved except a couple guard and they had very little to do except protect the buildings until the homesteaders run short of funds in the early ‘80’s. They began to get wood from the Pawnee Creek which was against government rules and of course a number were caught, some a second and third time. Of course the soldiers could do nothing but take their names, have them unload the wood at the fort and let them go.


Some brass collar officer ordered a number of the wood moochers arrested and sent to Fort Dodge to appear before the Federal Court. Of course the guard at Fort Larned knew the conditions and did not blame the people that was trying to settle the country so they arrested J.R. who was cripple up with rheumatism, a Mr. Gordon a one armed soldier, Mr. Deaton who had lost a leg in the war and three from south of the Pawnee Creek. J.R. took them to Fort Dodge 85 miles in a covered wagon. After looking them over and hearing their story the judge said for them to go home and sin no more, or at least not get caught again. Times were really hard in the early ‘80’s, no rain, hot winds, prairie fires, grasshoppers. One year we had in 6 acres of broom corn, harvested 2 tons, sold it for $80 per ton. Next year planted 80 acres, harvested less than 3 tons of poor grade brush and sold it for $40 per ton about 1880 (1&2). Many settlers decided they could not make it, sold out for what they could get, and left in ’79. Every qtr of government land in Pawnee twp was settled and about all of the railroad land was contracted at $1.25 per acre. The government had given the Santa Fe a land grant of every other


section to build the road in 1882-3-4. Then almost every one left until thare was less than 20 farmers in the township. They wanted to leave but was too poor or had no place to go. Most everyone got a few cows and managed to exist for a few years until they got more rain and they learned how to handle that wild land and what to plant. J.R. planted twenty acres of buckwheat one year and harvested nothing. We generally got a fair feed crop, sorghum, millet and good old buffalo grass. Of course thare were some wheat and corn raised every year but it made a poor crop and the price was low but in the later 80’s and early nineties we got more moisture and began to get better yields of grain and the eastern investors and loan cos were anxious for a return on their investments so they began to have their land plowed up and sowed with wheat and got a fair return. A few years later the yields were better and so much of the land was in cultivation that thare was no more free range and the cattleman had to buy land for pasture or dispose of his stock and go to raising wheat. J.R. sold most of his cattle to Tom Hill, a butcher in Larned and went to raising wheat and buying land from $350.00


to $500.00 per quarter and in 1894 he had in about 400 acres of wheat and harvested 10,000 bushels of wheat, oats, barley and rye. After that he always sowed about that acreage every year until he sold the farm and moved to Larned during the hard times. Every fall for several years we would go east to Burton, Halstead, or some place where thare was a good corn crop, take two teams and wagons shuck corn for about three days. Father would go home with two loads of ear corn, the two wagons coupled together, return in about a week, shuck corn for two weeks and take loads of corn with us. Thare were several water mills in that country and we would sometimes take home 1,000 pounds of corn meal. By doing that we had grain to fatten our hogs, a beef or two and our horse were in fine condition for the spring work. After getting a small herd of cattle, one fall we went to the salt plains 120 miles south in the Indian Territories about 15 miles northwest of the present town of Freedom, Oklahoma. The salt water gushed from the springs along the Cimarron River and evaporated in the sun. Thare were hundreds of tons of pure salt and we were not long in getting our two loads. A few years later we went down in the spring and found the high


water had dissolved all the salt except a thick crust about 2 to 4 inches thick along the river bank…but a ranch man that came after salt and knew conditions brought forks and rakes. We pooled our forces and soon had all wagons loaded. Thare was some sand in the salt but the stock did not seem to mind. We used to take wheat to Brown’s Grove, now Burdett and have it made into flour at the toll mill run by water power furnished by the Pawnee Creek.

F. Taber who run a store in twp 20 range 20 was on his way home from Larned with a load of freight for his store. Thare was a long hill about 7% grade for over half a mile. He started up the hill in the main track which had been washed out until the ruts were almost axle deep. Anyone topping the hill could see ahead and if anyone was coming up the hill they was supposed to turn out of the main and take a side road as they had a down hill pull.  After Taber started up the hill in the main track Dexter Camp came over the hill with a load of lime headed for Larned. Instead of taking a side road kept in the main track and the teams met head on. Sparks flew for some time 
neither would give up. Taber unhitched his team


staked them out got some cheese-crackers and lunch meat from his wagon got in the shade and said he would stay thare until hell froze over as he was heavily loaded and had the uphill pull and it was Camp’s place to take a side road. Camp unhitched his team, sent a boy that came along to the Rev. Evans home for a lunch and was to show Taber that he could not hog the road.  Their being thare attracted a lot of attention as their teams passed going each way and of course stopped to get the facts. Along about 3 o’oclock a heavy cloud came up in the NW and rain would spoil Camp’s load of lime so he got out his spade and dug his way out. Later after the railroad was built up to Burdett and Jet(?) Taber ran a store at Rozel and sold lots of kerosene or coal oil when the barrel was empty he would send it to Larned on the morning train and it would return on the evening train or the next day.  It did not come that evening or the next day so Taber wrote to Frizell Hdwg. Co. at Larned as follows: Dear Mr. Frizell, can you tell me why in hell thare is no coal oil at Rozel?! The coal oil came on the next train. In the late 80’s and early 90’s thare was thousands of jackrabbits and they destroyed lots of young wheat, gardens and other crops. Lee Ainsworth


paid 3 cents for jacks and 5 cents for cotton tails and shipped them to New York City so us boys done a lot of hunting. Carrying four or more jacks is a load especially walking in the snow so we conceived the idea of tieing six or eight hundred feet of wire behind two wagons and drive four or five hundred foot apart to scare up the rabbits. To hunt that way it took 6 men, a driver in each wagon with a gun, two or three men following the wire, one man horseback to take the jacks to the wagon. From 60 to 90 was an average 
days kill. One day we killed 129. The price was low but paid for the ammunition and we had a lot of fun besides getting rid of the rabbits. Some of us boys went to the Indian Territory several times hunting, killed lots of quail, some turkeys but no deer did not know how to hunt for them. Was captured one trip by Chapman’s Indian Scouts not far from where Seiling, Oklahoma is now located. The government did not know how to handle them. (attached to #12 here) The Indians wanted to hunt, especially in the fall and winter. The government forbid them leaving the small reservation so the younger bucks would sneak away if they were unlucky in killing game. They would kill a beef or two as the land was leased to big cattlemen. Of course in a few days they were missed and so a squad of soldiers sent to look for them sometimes it was a month before they found them 50 or 75 miles away from the post. The Indians were brought back and put in the guard house from 5 to 10 days. Of course the Indians did not like it and was hard for the officers in command to control them. When Chapman was appointed to handle them he told them they could go hunting any time they wanted to but let him know and he would furnish them with a team, wagon, some provision, bedrolls, saddle horses and they could hunt as long as they wanted to but they would be accompanied by a sergeant and they must obey his orders. The Indians were very pleased and thare was very little trouble from then on.

(from small piece not numbered)

So they appointed Peg Leg Chapman, an old Indian Scout as agent at the Cantonment and Indian Schools located about 12 miles west of the present town of Canton, Oklahoma. The Indians of course took everything we had, ate our grub, shot our ammunition, whooped, hollered and danced, but treated us fine. The Sergeant had very little to say unless the Indians got too rough 
but told us we would have


to see Chapman but he was not likely to treat us badly. So after three or four days we were taken to camp but no one seemed to pay any attention to us. We ate with the Indians, sleeping any place we could around the barns, in hay stacks, or in open wagons with very little cover except hay. In our gang was myself OJ Smith - Arlo Fell - Dave Madison and Emory Gaston. Soon after arriving at the camp Arlo Fell went to see Chapman but very little satisfaction except being told we got no right being in the territory killing the Indian’s game but he would do what he could for us and told us to gather up our … and then last until we reached Kiowa, Kansas where we purchased groceries and headed for home. The Indians did not search us so we had some money, our watches and pocket knives. We were pleased to get away even if we did lose our guns, most of our beds and provisions. We had a fine time.


J.R.’s house was on the main Ness City trail and was called the Ten Mile House as the freighters always watered their teams thare and sometimes camped over night. Some days thare would be twenty freighters past thare hauling supplies to Bazine, Alexander, Ness City and other towns west. As thare were no bridges and poor roads a ton or 2,500 pounds was a good load and that whole country got their supplies from Larned for many years. M.A.W. Jordan and Lowery Brothers got most of the business as they were in the grocery business. Very little dry goods sold in them days as people had very little money. Thare were lots of buffalo bone hunters, and some hide hunters also. A man by the name of Keller lived three miles east of Larned on the Arkansas River gathared a load of bones and about thirty miles northwest of Larned and was on his way home when he saw two live buffalo about where Bill Haylock later built his house. Keller took his buffalo cap and ball rifle, followed up a draw until he got close enough to shoot. At the crack of the gun the buffalo dropped and Keller, being in a hurry, neglected to reload his gun. Walking up to the buffalo

#15 (marked #11)

he started to cut its throat when the buffalo came to its feet. As thare was nothing for Keller to do but run hoping the buffalo would not follow but Mr. Buffalo was mad and … bowie knife in … to regain its feet. As the beast overtook him, Keller dodged and as the buffalo went by Keller grabbed the buffalo’s… with his right hand and succeeded in getting a small ax, bone hunters always carried a hand ax in their belts, and chopped until he managed to hamstring the buffalo which he skinned and took the best meat from the carcass and started for home. He came by J.R.’s house, watered his team and gave J.R. about twenty pounds of the meat. In those days their 
were very few buffalo that neer Larned but lots of them a short distance west. But thare was thousands of antelope. The country was well settle before they all disappeared but the rattlesnakes, skunks, cyotes, prarie wolves and jackrabbits stayed with us a long time.

Unnumbered (page printed 99)

Thare were two boys Orlo J., Herbert B., two girls Cora May and Maude G. O.J. married Mary J. Fell. Her father Geo. settled thare in 1876. O.J. now lives at Manitou Springs, Colorado. H.B. married Kate Conde, now lives in Glendora, California. Cora May married Wilson Stark of Macksville, now at Stillwater, Oklahoma. Maude G. married W.L. Harris of Lodi, New York now at Salem, Oregon.

About 1878 we built a frame school house one mile north and half west of our home and named it (?)Economy in 1884. Thare was so few families left they moved the building away. Thare was more families living south and west of our place so they organized the Fairfield school district and a house in the middle of the half section of 27 two and a half miles southwest of our home. Geo. W. Laurance taught the school two terms and Earl Nettleton one.

Gold Bar

Last update: Sunday, March 23, 2003 00:11:30

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