Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm. [Vol. 2 contains biographical data. Paged continuously.]




Hardships and dangers were encountered by the men who went out for the United States government to survey the boundary line of the territories in the Indian country. But there was an odd fascination about it all. The story of how the line between Kansas and Nebraska was surveyed is told by Thomas J. Barker, who is still a resident of Kansas City, Kansas, to which he came in the winter of 1855 after the survey was finished.

"I was employed as a cook by Colonel Charles Manners at Leavenworth City, April 29, 1855, and continued with him until December 27th of that year. He had the contract to establish the line between Kansas and Nebraska territories at forty degrees north latitude from the Mississippi river to a point sixty miles west, from which point he was to run a guide meridian line to where it would intersect with the Missouri river, above and near Sioux City, and from this meridian line he was to run parallel lines east to the Missouri river every twenty-four miles. He was camped on Three-Mile creek in Leavenworth City when I engaged myself to him and, with a party composed of John Stout, Wm. Manners, his brother, R. L. Ream, Jr., Norman Diefendorf, Wiley, Garland, Hoyt, Cunningham, Ed. Keller and myself, left Leavenworth about the 4th of May.

"Colonel Manners had two mule teams and wagons, in one of which there was a cast-iron monument to be placed at the point which had been located by the government at the fortieth degree near the west bank of the Missouri river, some parties claiming that Robert E. Lee had located the place. We crossed the Missouri river at Weston on May 10th, passed through St. Joseph and Oregon and recrossed the river in a flat boat near where White Cloud now is and two miles above where we placed the monument. Colonel Manners spent two days and nights taking the sun and the north star, and adjusting his instruments so as to be sure that he had the right course. He had been a sea captain, took great pains and wanted to know that he was right.


"We made about three miles a day and reached the sixty mile point on the 2nd of June. Having run out of provisions we went to Marshall's ferry across the Blue river about fifteen miles southwest. Not finding the necessary supplies we took the military road to Leavenworth. When we arrived there several of the crew quit and the Colonel filled their places with Samuel Forsythe, J. V. Wright and others. After getting supplies we started back and arrived at the point where we left off on the 17th of June, when the Colonel commenced his work running twenty-four miles north, then east to the river, then going back to the guide meridian, again north twenty-four miles, then east reaching the river at a point one and a half miles north of Nebraska City, where Forsythe and others quit, and their places were filled with new men.

"My health was so poor I laid off and took Osgood's 'Collagogue' for malaria fever. I was, if able, to join the party where the next parallel came in near the mouth of the Platte river. After I had recuperated I went up to Plattsmouth on the stage and, while waiting there, heard that the Indians had killed about half of the party and that the others had gone back to Nebraska City. I immediately returned to that place where I met several of the party, who stated that when some of the men were on the line surveying they were surrounded by the Pawnee Indians and were supposed to have been killed. We organized a party at once and went out to where they had last seen their friends and Indians, and happily found them unharmed. This was about the 10th of September. The Colonel then finished the third parallel, which reached the river at the expected point right at the mouth of Platte river. We then returned to and ran the meridian line twenty-four miles north, crossing the Platte river at a point only a few hundred feet before we reached where the fourth parallel line was started.


"While in camp there, in the morning, just before the Colonel sent out a flagman east, we were visited by twenty-seven Pawnee Indians, ten of whom were chiefs, who ordered that the Colonel stop surveying, saying that it was their land and that they would not allow him to steal it. The Colonel palavered with them, thought he would go ahead with the work. So he set his compass and started out a flagman when, to our surprise, about five hundred Pawnees came up like magic out of the willows; the chiefs said, through their interpreter, that if we did not leave at once they could not prevent their young men from killing us. The young Indians showed such insolence and, to us, apparent desire to shoot, that we were more than glad to get away. We arrived at Omaha that evening, the 3rd of October; it had snowed nearly all day.

"When we arrived at Omaha, Colonel Manners called on the agent of the Pawnees. The agent loaded two wagons with with provisions, lead and powder, and with his missionary, the Colonel and his men, hurried out to the Pawnee village; the chiefs received the two wagon loads and held a council with the agent. The agent said to them that the Great Father had been talking about buying their land and had sent Colonel Manners to measure and look it over and see what it was worth, etc. They then promised not to further disturb us.

"The Colonel then run the fourth parallel which reached the river about eight miles above Omaha, where more men quit and he was delayed a day or two filling their places. As to myself I was so ill I could not go out, but had an understanding that I was to join the party as soon as I was able. I was suffering so severely I had to have a physician, but in about two weeks my health was much improved and I engaged digging potatoes for a Mr. Byers, whose place was about a half a mile northwest of the Douglas House, Omaha. Mr. Byers was a surveyor and expected to sub-divide for the government. I was treated with great kindness by him.


Thinking it was time to start to meet Colonel Manners at the east end of the sixth parallel I left Mr. Byers late in the day. I only traveled five or six miles and, night was coming on, I stayed with a man from Berea, Ohio. I started before breakfast next morning and in six, seven or eight miles I reached a place called Calhoun. I went into the only building of any size to learn if I could get breakfast. They had just got through eating, but there was sufficient left on the table for two or three hungry persons as myself. I asked the lady, Mrs. Moore, if I could have breakfast and she said I could. I said before I sat down to the table I wanted her to know that the least money I had was a two and a half dollar gold piece. She seemed to be a little slow in saying anything. I asked her how far it was to Tekama. She then said she could not change the two and a half dollar piece and that she had been imposed on so often by the Tekama people that she hardly knew what to do. I said all right, that I did not live at Tekama, but belonged to the United States surveying party. She then said: 'If you belong to the United States sit down and eat all you want.' I asked the lady what she charged for breakfast, and she said twenty-five cents, but to never mind that; I bade her good-bye and hurried on. I soon passed through Tekama, a village of five small cabins, intending to reach Cummings City that day. Seeing no habitations or wayfarers, I began to feel lonesome. Finally about 1 P. M. I saw a man on horseback coming. He seemed pleased and I know I was, for I wanted to make some inquiries. I learned the man's name was Cooper and he was formerly of Montgomery county, Virginia, which joined Giles county where I was from. He was now living in Cumming's City and as soon as he learned who I was and where I was going, informed me that he was a candidate for the territorial council and wanted me, if I was any place where they were voting on election day, to do him a favor, etc. I asked him about a place to stay all night and learned there wasn't any hotel at Cummings City, but he wanted me to say to his wife to take care of me for the night.

"I continued on my way and reached Cummings City at 6 o'clock - it was a place of four small houses, Mr. Cooper's being the largest. I was kindly greeted by what appeared to be all the inhabitants - three or four women and a few children. The men, except Mr. Cooper, had crossed the river to Iowa and the wind was so strong that they were unable to return. The Omaha Indians were camped near there and the bucks were galloping around on their ponies in their red blankets, which caused the ladies to be a little nervous - so they were glad to have one white man with them, though he was a stranger.

"The next morning I ate breakfast, got my gold piece changed, made the children each a present and, to the seeming regret of the ladies, bid them good-bye. I continued on my journey to Decatur, not meeting or seeing any one till I reached that place.


"When I arrived at Decatur, to my great joy Colonel Manners and all his party were in camp. It was in November and freezing weather, and the Colonel had yet between thirty and forty miles of line to run before completing his job. All hands were anxious to get through with the work. The ground was frozen and the flagman had trouble in placing his rod. The men building the mounds to mark the corners had to use picks and axes to cut the sod. The north and south meridian line soon reached the Missouri river bottom. We were short of rations and the Colonel sent two men to Sioux City for supplies; the river was so full of running ice that they were delayed two days, during which time we lived on rice and dried apples. When the men returned we had a good, square meal of corn bread, bacon and coffee. In four days, on the 30th of November, the Colonel had set the last corner where he placed a United States flag.

"Early the next morning we started south, hurrying along until we reached Council Bluffs. As we passed by Calhoun I called on Mrs. Moore, the lady I had breakfasted with, and paid her the twenty-five cents. She seemed pleased - said she did not care for the money and, as for herself, was not surprised at getting it; but her husband would be, for when she was telling him about letting me have breakfast he said she would never hear from me again. I thanked her and went on.

"All the Colonel's men, except J. W. Wright, Edward Keller and myself, were to be paid off at Council Bluffs, but we were detained there some eight or ten days waiting for the money which was finally received by express. After paying the men, we continued on our journey and on the second day we reached a point opposite Nebraska City, where we struck camp.


"The Colonel, with Wright, crossed to Nebraska City, where they met with some politicians. One of whom was J. Sterling Morton, who was afterwards secretary of agriculture under President Cleveland. They did not return until late in the afternoon, so we did not break camp until early the next morning. The next night we stayed with a Mr. Walkup on the Nischabottamy. Walkup was from Howard county, Missouri. It rained and sleeted that night so that the earth was covered with ice and this detained us another day. The following morning we started, although it was dangerous for the mules and the next night camped near South Point, Holt county, Missouri. The next day we passed through Savanna and reached St. Joseph. The following night, after traveling that day thirty-seven miles, we camped opposite Fort Leavenworth, and there Colonel and Mr. Wright left Keller and myself in charge of the team with instructions to remain there until their return.


"While we were there the Law and Order Party (border ruffians) threw Mark Delahay's press into the Missouri river. This took place, if I am not mistaken, on December 22nd. After several days Keller and myself received orders to go to Wyandotte. In passing through Leavenworth we bought a bottle of whiskey, thinking if we had to stay all night with an Indian it might modify our hotel bill. We did stop with an Indian by the name of Joe Armstrong who kept the stage stand. After Keller and myself had fed the mules we placed the whiskey on the mantel. Keller started to hand me the whiskey, and I said to him to pass it to the landlord first. When he offered it to Armstrong, he motioned it away and said he did not drink the stuff. We paid a reasonable bill the next morning and headed for Wyandotte. As we passed along, I threw the bottle of whiskey against a tree. Keller said the whiskey cost ten cents and what did I want to do that for. I said the price of the whiskey was not lost; that the Indian had taught us a good lesson.

"When we arrived at Wyandotte, December 27th, it was midwinter, the snow being two feet deep. Colonel Manners paid Keller and myself and discharged us. We were the only ones that had started out in the party that were in at the finish."

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