James R. Meade
Tells of Naming
County Waterways


From the Lincoln Republican, May 9, 1907

James R. Meade, in making an address before the state historical society in December 1904, gave the following interesting bit of Saline Valley history.
Mr. Meade made a hunting trip up this valley in 1859, starting from Salina, a small village then of about a dozen houses, and has said the the drift along the bluffs and in the trees indicated that the flood of 1858 had covered the valley above Lincoln to a depth of 10 to 15 feet deep. The people of Salina tried to induce him to settle there. He says:
"Colonel Phillips offered me one-sixteenth of the town site and vacant claim adjoining, if I would locate and help build the town. I was out for sport and adventure, not for town building. I replied that I already owned all of Saline County for a hundred miles west, with a million head of livestock, and that was enough.
For information I was directed to a young man named Spilman, who had been up the Saline to a large tributary which he descibed as very miry near its mouth, and that brief conversation gave his name to the stream which it still bears. The Saline river at that time was unexplored, and there were no names for the tributaries on the north side; so for conveniece I named them, and by those names they are still known.
Returning to the ranch with two men I had picked up, I fitted out a team to explore the country up the river to the west. A trail ran up the river on the north side a short distance, as all trails in central Kansas did. Our first camp was on a small creek with many beaver dams. We named that Beaver Creek. Here I shot two fat elk from a passing bunch. On the next small creek were evidences of war. Scattered about were broken pots, kettles, pans and camp equipage; probably a small hunting party of Delawares had been surprised and driven out by the Cheyennes, who were jealous of this, their country. What they did not choose to carry away they had destroyed. In walking along the bank of the creek my foot struck the end of the chain extending into the ground. On digging down we found a nest of heavy, new camp kettles, such as Indians use, cached. I gave the name of Battle Creek to this stream. Late that evening we approached a large tributary stream, and in the darkness drove into a salt marsh. I remarked, " We had found Spilman’s creek," and that name it still bears. On this large stream was an abundant game, and, in the thickets, shelters made of fallen wood, where small parties of Indians stopped overnight while on predatory expeditions. No large camp sites were seen.
Continuing on up the river we came to another large stream, which, from the large number of wolves we killed there, I named Wolf Creek, as it now appears on the map. On this creek I found the remains of two Indians, the flesh eaten by animals and ravens. Stuck fast in the bones were about 30 iron arrow points. Our verdict was thieving Pawnees, overtaken by Cheyennes, evidently a large party, as each one shoots an arrow into a fallen enemy, and those they cannot pull out remain, except the shaft, which is pulled off.
Wolf and Spilman creeks were on the road of war used by the Pawnees upon the Platte River, whose main occupation was sealing horses from the wild tribes on the Arkansas and south to Texas. The Pawnees, in parties from two to 30, would start down from their reservation afoot, with five or six pairs of extra moccasins and several lariats, subsisting on game. They knew the country perfectly, as they formerly occupied it and still claimed it, so they told me. These Pawnees had a regular route of travel, coming into the state near the northeast corner of Jewell County, south across Mitchell and Lincoln counties, across the northwest corner of Ellsworth County into Barton County and the big bend of the Arkansas, and from there wherever Indian camps could be found, traveling by night when near other Indians."

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