Indian Chief's Narrow Escape

By Ida Ellen Rath, published in Dodge City Daily Globe, September 2, 1946.

THE ADVENT OF SPOTTED TAIL, POWERFUL SIOUX CHIEF, brought about one of the most exciting episodes in the history of Dodge City. He arrived the later part of December, 1872, when water in the streams was frozen to a depth of 18 inches and powdery snow was banked against the rough stock lumber buildings in the newly organized town. At best there was a lawless element in Dodge City.
Buffalo hunters and skinners, driven in by the storm, were ripe for any excitement. One of the hunters, Kirk Jordan, a very desperate man, had sworn he'd kill the first Indian he saw, no matter what might happen later.
According to government treaty at Medicine Lodge, the Indians were to let the white men have safe passage through their territory but no more buffalo were to be killed by the whites south of the Arkansas River. Most buffalo hunters felt that the extinction of the buffalo would do more than all else to bring the red men to terms and the government evidently concurred for no effort was made at any time to stop the continual wanton slaughter for hides.
The Cheyennes, the white man's fiercest enemies, hearing rumors of an outpost to further the slaughter of buffalo, were very much opposed to the project. At one time, their chief, Spotted Tail, had gone to Washington, along with other chiefs, to intercede with the president on behalf of his tribe.
He was very friendly with the whites. So the Cheyennes sent Chief Spotted Tail to warn Charles Rath of the impending consequences if the post was established. Probably because the Indians feared Charles Rath, they also trusted him for he stood sponsor for the safe return of Spotted Tail.
Charles Rath, long a plainsman, even as early as 1853, had had a lot of experience with the Indians. He spoke the Cheyenne and Arapahoe languages and was one of the best of sign men. Rath had lived among the Indians and had earned

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their respect, although he never trusted them. One of Dodge City's first settlers, Rath had established the Charles Rath Merchantile Company, along with Robert M. Wright and A. J. Anthony, facing Front Street. Besides being resident and merchant, Charles Rath was one of the great buffalo hunters, an excellent shot with a gun and a deadly shot with a revolver. The Charles Rath Merchantile Company faced Front Street and, across Second Avenue to the west, was Fringer's Drug store and the post office. The building was of upright foot-wide stock hoards, probably freighted in from a sawmill near Hays. Fringer's room and Dr. T. L. McCarty's office were in the back part of the store.
Behind the drug store building, was a lean-to, divided into two rooms and, even as today, there was a housing shortage. The east room, its door facing east, was occupied by Charles Rath and his expectant, pretty blonde wife, Carrie. The west room, its door on the north, was occupied by Dr. McCarty and his brunette, Kentucky-born bride, Sallie. Between the two rooms was a door with a transom above it. The back yard, extending north to West Wyatt Earp Boulevard and to the west, had a stable in the northwest corner, the whole surrounded by a high board fence, a stockade for freighters.
During this critical, hunter-skinner loafing time, much to the consternation of Charles Rath, thirty-nine-year-old Chief Spotted Tail arrived with the incoming freight brought in by Lee & Reynolds. He came dressed in the spreading eagle feather headdress, decked with rows of colored feathers and many chalk-like beads. He wore beautifully-beaded moccasins and the traditional brilliant-hued Indian blanket. Chief Spotted Tail was both proud and haughty, handsome and fit, with a great faith in himself; truly, a resplendent figure. Besides his mission with Charles Rath, the chief expected to see the wonders of this much-talked-of town, its gambling houses, its rail system, and the Rath merchantile mart. But when Rath saw his old friend of earlier fur-trading days, his first concern was for his safety. Knowing Kirk Jordan was in town, Charles Rath realized, perhaps more than anyone else, the peril in which the chief was placed. He recalled the threat he had often heard Kirk Jordan utter-that he'd kill the first Indian he saw on sight. Jordan's sister's family had been wiped out by the savages, their home

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burned and their stock stolen. No one knew better than Charles Rath the hatred most hunters had for Indians; the loss and indignities many of them had suffered from their hands. He must get Chief Spotted Tail out of the store at once. "I will take him home." Rath thought, "until I can get him out of town."
No doubt, word had already gone to Kirk Jordan that an Indian was in town. He was well liked and had quite a following of hunters and skinners. No sooner were Rath and the chief on the street, than, sensing trouble, the sponsor-host looked back and saw the men coming.
Charles Rath raced the chief to the drug store and hurried him inside. He closed and barred the door. Only for a brief space of time would a locked door hold back a mob. Grabbing a hatchet on the run, Rath ripped loose a partition board. Motioning and pushing, he helped the now thoroughly frightened chief through the narrow opening, into a room adjoining, where his sudden appearance gave young Sally McCarty a great scare. A few swift blows and the board was back into place. Barely straightened from the task, Charles Rath saw the murder-minded mob pushing into the room; saw their perplexity as to the Indian's whereabouts.
Hurrying home, Rath saw men stationed, already, around the building. But quick-witted Sally McCarty had lost no time motioning the Indian to hide beneath the bed. When Charles Rath entered, he found the two young women clinging to one another for, the Indian disposed of, Sally had come to consult with her friend and neighbor, Carry Rath.
The situation explained, Rath ended by saying, "No hunter will invade the privacy of your home, so the chief is safe here for a time but I must find a way to get him back to his tribe." Then, remembering his duty as host, he turned to his wife, saying, "The chief must be hungry."
But Carrie Rath was too thoroughly frightened to cook and Sally McCarty, seeing her friend's predicament, volunteered, "I will cook for the chief."
Later, Charlie Rath and Chief Spotted Tail sat down to eat. Fearfully, Sally McCarty stood guard at her one small window. And Carrie Rath, her curiosity getting the better of her, climbed on a chair and stood tip-toe, peeking through the transom, watching the great Indian chief eat his dinner.

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The meal over Spotted Tail went back into hiding. Charles Rath departed to dispatch a courier to Fort Dodge asking the commander to send the cavalry for an escort. The commander refused.
Then Rath and his partner, Bob Wright, decided to make a try at getting the Indian to safety. While Rath instructed the chief he should mount and ride as fast as he could to his tribe, Bob Wright saddled the fastest horse in the stable.
When he started for the door, Bob Wright reports, no one was in sight but, before he rapped, at least 50 buffalo guns were levelled at him from the upstairs theatre, saloon, dance hall where Nevins Hardware now stands. Wright hurried the horse back to the shelter of the stockade and stable.
More anxious now than before, Charles Rath sent a second appeal for help to the fort. Not really expecting the aid and worried because dusk was coming on, he attempted another get-away. Rath persuaded Chief Spotted Tail to take off his regalia and dress himself in Mr. Rath's best tailor-made brown suit, much to his wife's dismay. The change made, Carrie wrapped the chief's clothing into a bundle.
Then Charles Rath said, "I will open the door and see how things are."
But Sallie McCarty remonstrated instantly, "No, Charlie, I'll go. I'm a woman. They won't shoot me."
So saying, she held the lamp high in her hand and opened the door. A glance and she quickly closed it, her face paling. Across the street, lined against Rath's store, stood a row of determined men, their guns trained on the house. Would they go away? What the night might bring, no man could say but Rath decided to risk all to get the chief out of town. He had a fast team hitched to the buckboard. He drove it to the east door.
With one hand, Rath held the lines, the other the edge of a buffalo robe. The Indian chief ducked out the door and under the robe. Before he was fairly settled on the floor of the buckboard, Rath lashed the team into a run, the frozen snow crunching under the flying wheels.
Caught off guard, hunters and skinners ran for their horses. The team thundered across the Santa Fe tracks. Presently, above the din of the mob and the runaways, Carrie and Sallie

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could hear the steady pounding of horses' hoofs on the frozen ground. In their glad relief, the two women embraced each other and wept. The pursuers fell back for they too had heard Captain Tupper's troop of the Sixth United States Cavalry from Fort Dodge.
As the days went by and her husband did not return, Carrie Rath was greatly worried. She confided her fears to her friend, Sally. Suppose the Cheyennes, in retaliation for their great chief's narrow escape, should scalp her husband?
However, after being gone better than a week, Charles Rath did return, bearing a gift from the great Chief Spotted Tail for the frightened squaw. The lovely beaded moccasins have outlived Bertha Rath Meyer's "playing Indian" days and are now on display at Beeson's Museum.
Robert and Bertha Rath often heard their mother say, "After events proved Chief Spotted Tail's advice, if followed, would have saved the terrible disaster at Adobe Walls on that early morning, June 27, 1874."
Then Carrie Rath always laughed and told them, "I thought I'd had enough excitement, so I went east to Ohio, Your brother Jesse was born there, the thirty-first of May, 1873. He would have been the first white child born in Dodge City if I had stayed here."

      A sketch of the life of Carrie Rath Bainbridge written by her daughter Bertha Rath Meyers for the author follows:

In a two story brick house two miles north of the Ohio River and twelve miles from Cincinnati, Ohio, Caroline Rebecca Markley was born on September 23, 1851. She was one of five children and the second child of William Henry Markley, a successful Hamilton County farmer. Her mother was Catharine Silver Markley, a descendant of a Revolutionary soldier.
When she was only two years old her father employed a young German boy of the neighborhood to watch over Caroline and her sister as they played during the summer time in the big shady yard or the nearby creek. This lad was Charles Rath who grew up, went west, and one day returned with wealth to court and marry the little charge who had grown up into a lovely young lady. "Caroline Markley received her education first in the Hamilton County schools and in 1868 and 1869 she was sent to Westerville, Ohio, to attend Otterbein College. With her

Indian Chief's Narrow Escape 71

studies she also was instructed in vocal and instrumental music, embroidery, knitting, and painting. This was learned from her diary which she kept at that time.
On May 26, 1870, Caroline Markley was married to Charles Rath. The wedding took place in the large brick house of her parents in Ohio. It was a large wedding with many relatives and guests attending. Many of the wedding gifts are preserved to this day. Photographs of the couple show the bride in a white silk alpaca dress and wearing jewelry which was a gift of the bridegroom. Their daughter Bertha now has this jewelry, consisting of brooch, ear-rings, bracelets, and long chain, all of yellow gold inset with pearls.
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rath went directly to Topeka, Kansas, but soon moved to Osage City, Kansas, where they built a home. In 1872, while Charles Rath had charge of building the Santa Fe railroad from Emporia to Dodge City, the Rath's moved to Dodge City, Kansas, then just a little town with a not very good reputation. With Dr. T. L. McCarty, they built a dwelling adjoining Fringer's Drug store, corner of Second and Front Streets. The two couples occupied it.
It was while the Rath's were living with the McCarty's that Chief Spotted Tail, King of the powerful Sioux tribe Indians, paid a visit to Dodge City. He came to warn Mr. Rath and Mr. Leonard against building a trading post in Texas at Adobe Walls. They made a mistake not to heed his advice. Mrs. McCarty and Mrs. Rath cooked the dinner this Indian chief ate with their families and one other guest.
To save him from buffalo hunters and skinners, Mr. Rath had pried a board loose in the back of Fringer's drugstore and pushed the Indian through into Sallie McCarty's bedroom. Both of the women were very much frightened but were brave about it. Chief Spotted Tail, dressed in Charles Rath's clothes, was driven away in a buckboard behind a fast team of ponies to Fort Dodge and safety. As a gift of gratitude, this Indian chief sent to Mrs. Charles Rath a pair of beaded moccasins, which are now on display in Beeson Museum.
Mrs. Rath left soon for her parents' home in Ohio, and in May 31, 1873, her first child, a son, was born. He was named Jesse, after Jesse Crane of Topeka. Jesse Rath, then an only child, died in Dodge City on April 15, 1876, and was buried in Ohio.

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In the spring of 1874, the trading post was established at Adobe Walls. History records the tragedy of the fight with the Indians in that terrible battle. One of the biggest thrills that Carrie Rath experienced was riding out to meet the few survivors of the memorable Adobe Walls fight, and one was a lone widowed woman. The meeting was one of shouting and sobbing embraces.
In October, 1876, Mr. and Mrs. Rath moved into a home on Front Street, right in the midst of the town's activities. On the west of the home of this woman of twenty-five was her husband's large store and to the east of her was the Long Branch saloon. The sounds of dance music and the hilarious laughter in the saloon were sometimes hard to shut out, and she told of seeing dead men lying in the streets for two days with the pigs pulling at their boot straps, and of looking with curiosity at the `painted' women going by.
The bright spots of her life were the shopping trips to Kansas City and Topeka, the inaugural balls at Topeka, the officers' parties at Fort Dodge, the concerts and parties among the pioneer families and the visits in Ohio. Carrie Rath possessed a lovely singing voice and sang with her friends in charity concerts and church benefits. As she had united with the church at the age of fifteen, she missed the religious atmosphere of her girlhood. She was one of the women who organized and helped build the first Union Church in Dodge City. In later years, she helped organize the First Christian Church of Dodge City and was one of its charter members. She died an active member of that church.
Mrs. Rath was an expert horsewoman and one of her side saddles is now at Beeson Museum. One of her life-long friends was Alice Lake, a famous equestrienne, who afterwards became the wife of Wild Bill Hickock.
While living in the new two story white frame house on the lot where the library now stands, built about 1876, their second child, a son, was born. He was named Robert and was the namesake of Robert Wright. The third child, a daughter Bertha, was born in Ohio in the grandparents' home.
While she was growing up, she delighted in dressing up in her mother's old fashioned dresses that she found in the attic. There was a light blue satin ball dress with pearl trimming, a cream brocaded silk, frothy with cream lace, and another she

Indian Chief's Narrow Escape 73

remembers as a black velvet with lace collar and cuffs and a whole regiment of black jet buttons running down the front. Many of the pictures of Carrie Rath Bainbridge show these dresses and also the elaborate hair dressing of that day.
The late home of Carrie Rath Bainbridge was built on the present site of the Lora Locke Hotel. After being a widow for several years, it was here that she married Thomas Bainbridge and it was here that her son, Roy Thomas Bainbridge, was born. She was again left a widow when Thomas Bainbridge, a passenger engineer of the Santa Fe, was killed by a mail crane near Holly, Colorado, in February 3, 1899.
And it was here in this home that Carrie Rath Bainbridge passed away November 27, 1923. The last seven years of her life had been spent traveling in Florida, Arizona, and California, in search of health. She was granted her wish to spend the last months of her life in Dodge City where she could be with her old friends, her memories of rich experiences, reminiscent of days of courage, memories that all pioneer mothers possess.

      After writing this sketch of her mother's life, Bertha Rath Meyers gave an account of her visit to the lodge of an Indian chief, to Ida Ellen Rath.

      Her father had come home, saying the Indian chief wanted to see his daughter and he asked his wife to get her ready to go. But little Bertie remembered a picture in a book of red blood streaming down a white man's face and she cried out, "I don't want to see the Indian chief."

      Mrs. Rath soothed her as she clothed her-white cambric panties with ruffles at the knees and snugly buttoned at the panty-waist. Next was the white under skirt with lace ruffled at neck, arm-holes, and the bottom of the skirt. Then white ribbed stockings with moss green stems and pink rosebuds embroidered on the fronts, and black patent leather shoes. And all the while she wanted to ask, "Will the Indian hurt me?"

      Her mother slipped a filmy pink dress over her daughter's head, then a crocheted slip above it, with great scallops at the bottom and pink bows at the neck and sleeves. While her father waited, her mother made a curl at either side of Bertha's forehead. On her arm was a bracelet, a ring on her finger, and a heavy gold chain around her neck. She clung to her mother's neck until her father took her hand.

      They went in a buckboard to the Indian encampment which

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Bertha thinks was near Fort Dodge. When her father lifted her from the buggy, she clung to his white gloved hand and hung back. Remembering the picture in the book, she asked, "Are we going into the tents?"

      "Tepees," he corrected and nodded.

      While she still hung back, he went to one that was larger than the others. He lifted the flap and they went in. The tepee was full of Indians sitting on the ground, their faces cold and unsmiling. She pulled back.

      Her father said, "Come, Daughter," and he led her past the two circles of Indians, past the center pole to where an Indian waited.

      She could barely breathe, fully expecting him to pull her forward and take her head off. Instead the big chief stooped and took hold of her hand.

      Her father said, "My daughter Bertie, and Quanah Parker, Baby, Chief of the Comanches."

      The big chief, still holding her hand, raised his other hand and said, "Hou, Papoose!"

      She remembered her manners and gathering all her courage, she said, "HOW!"

      Her voice sounded loud in her ears. The chief smiled and let go of her hand. Her father and the Indian talked words she did not understand. Carefully, she glanced at the sitting Indians. They had not moved. Then she looked at the chief. He had a blanket and there were feathers in his braids. After the Indian and her father held their hands high, her father led her from the tepee.

      Not until they were in the buckboard and well on their way back to Dodge City did Bertha breathe freely. The following afternoon, she saw some Indians on their ponies. "He is going away," she thought, "and taking all his Indians with him." And she smiled and waved goodbye.

      As far as is known this is the only child that was taken to see an Indian chief. She had been brought at Chief Quanah Parker's request. His mother was a white woman, stolen by Indians and raised in captivity.

Reference: Rath family history and The Rath Trail by Ida Ellen Rath; Henry Mueller in conversation with author and her husband; Sketch by Bertha Rath Meyers. Interview by author with Bertha Rath Meyers.

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