MENTION WAS MADE OF THE ADOBE WALLS FIGHT IN THE previous chapter and an article by the author will be used later in this chapter telling about it. While this fight was not in Dodge City, it involved buffalo hunters, skinners, aid freighters, also merchants and other business men--a considerable number and all from Dodge City. After the battle most of these hunters came back to headquarters in Dodge City and all of the merchants and business men returned.
Buffalo hunting was Dodge City's first big industry, a million dollar one. In the winters of 1873-1874, it has been said there were easily some 5,000 buffalo hunters in the area and for every hunter there were from two to five skinners, a couple of haulers, and the freighters who hauled the hides to market and often there was a camp cook. Some men, like Charles Rath, ran regular freight trains, guaranteeing to pick up buffalo hides wherever the hunter had a camp. During this two year period two million buffalo hides were shipped from the Dodge City area; from 1871 to 1876, shipping of hides ran to six million.
Dodge City thrived on this buffalo trade and from its followers who headquartered in the city awaiting the buffalo migration. Troublesome as they were, the townspeople welcomed them.
It was necessary to follow the buffalo migration if the hunter prospered. So there was much talk of trying to persuade merchants to establish a trading post in the Texas Panhandle. Charles Rath, merchant and famed buffalo hunter, along with Fred Leonard, had considered setting up a trading post at Adobe Walls. Everyone knew the grave danger to be reckoned with if they did. But the profits were great for all concerned and these rough and ready men were wont to risk their lives to carry on their profession. The lure of the buffalo hunt was that a hunter needed only a small stake to get into business. Often the men at the trading post staked him to grub and ammunition, getting his money when the hides began rolling in. A hunter could easily make
a hundred dollars a day if he was fortunate in getting a good stand, a goodly number in a favorable place. He didn't mind what he paid for supplies.
In those early days, no item of merchandise sold for less than a quarter. No hunter or cowboy would offer a child less than a quarter. One elderly man said they often got the chance for any small fry on Front Street thought nothing of saying, "Gimme a nickel, Mister."
A number of men who remained in Dodge City for many years were noted buffalo hunters. O. A. (Brick) Bond was often spoken of as the Champ and was a favorite with the rising generation who were always willing to listen to tales of buffalo hunting days. George Reighard was another buffalo hunter. Robert M. Wright said, "My old friend and former partner, Charles Rath, was a great buffalo hunter and freighter. No one handled as many hides and robes as he, and few men killed more buffaloes. He bought and sold more than a million of buffalo hides, and tens of thousands of buffalo robes, and hundreds of cars of buffalo meat, both dried and fresh, besides several car loads of buffalo tongues."
The hide yard was located east of the Charles Rath Merchantile Company store, on the ground where the Santa Fe depot and freight yard now stand. In a much publicized photograph of a rick of buffalo hides, Charles Rath is seated on the west end of the rick. The man in the white shirt standing beside the baler, the dog beside him, is D. W. (Doc) Anchutz, later of Meade, Kansas, who was employed by Rath at that time to run the baler. There were 40,000 hides in the rick and Doc Anchutz claimed there were 70 to 80 thousand hides in the yard.
The hide yard was 175 feet long by 60 feet wide, packed with hides to be baled most of the time. Where did all these hides go? Mostly to the eastern markets, where the tanneries, many of them in Pennsylvania, were delighted with this vast business. Many were tanned with the hair on to be used as robes, while others had the hair slicked off. There was also a tannery in Dodge City for the Dodge City Times, April 21, 1887, had this item, "The machinery and engine belonging to Rath & Co's old tannery has been sold to parties who are preparing to put it into operation again. It seems as though a tannery ought to do well."
Various industries found many uses for the tough buffalo hide after it was tanned. The buffalo robe business was enormous. Few owners of buggies and surreys would have had them outside the barn without having one or two buffalo robes to tuck around the passengers' knees. A buffalo robe went over a wagon seat and another robe covered the knees.
Any sitting room had a robe in the center of the floor. There was one on the floor beside a bed. The robes were felt lined for a higher priced rug, with a three toned scalloped edge. Quite likely, a bed would have a robe for a spread. In the days of cold houses and no night fires, oh, what warmth!
Almost any old timer can remember the men folk clad in winter with a buffalo hide overcoat. Any man who was out in the open in winter would have one of these warm overcoats. They had great wide collars that turned up as high as a man's head, the shaggy-brown-black fur and tough hide giving a man warmth.
Buffalo hunters were afoot and many of the great hunters had a man alongside to load his Sharps rifle. He carried two of them, using one while the other cooled. He hunted in the morning, generally, which allowed his skinners time to take care of the day's kill. Hides were staked out to dry, after which they were stacked or ricked to await the freight wagons. One can easily see, with this great trade awaiting them why merchants and hunters flocked to Adobe Walls. The article, Goodbye Adobe Walls Goodbye, by Ida Ellen Rath follows:
Like a rare flower in bloom for a day, the old old ruins of Adobe Walls sprang to life for a few short months and grew with the hustle and bustle of living on borrowed time. Its merchants and dependent buffalo hunters moved with the sureness and dispatch of men who gambled greatly and lost grandly. But, before the town's life span was ended, a soul-stirring drama was enacted on its stage.
hunters on Chicken Creek had been killed by the Indians. Deserting their camps, the others made a dash for Adobe Walls, hastily built, never completed, its defense plans almost nil.
Talk buzzed about Indian uprisings, buffalo killing being good. The upshot of the matter was that hunters refused to leave, determined to double up and take extra precautions against the Indian menace.
Their decision made, loaded and ready to go, the hunters gave way to a happy abandon. Many were late getting to their blanket beds, mostly spread on the ground. But O. A. (Brick) Bond on that hot sultry night of June 26, was already far on his way to Dodge City with a load of hides.
Around two o'clock in the morning, a loud report awakened men in Hanrahan's saloon. They thought the cottonwood ridge-pole supporting the room had snapped. The buildings were laid up with adobe blocks two feet thick. Cottonwood ridge-poles and branches made a framework for the roof which in turn was covered with sod. Soon most of the men were helping to repair the damage, getting the weight of earth from the weakened roof. Others rushed to the creek to cut a prop for the ridge-pole. The east was streaked with the light of early dawn when the task was finished.
A few of the workers sought their beds but most of the hunters prepared to take the trail. Blankets were rolled, tossed into wagons. The horses were in plain sight. Billy Ogg agreed to go for them but little did he know what lay beyond them.
No sooner was he well on his way, than he heard from beyond the willows, cottonwoods, chinaberry and hackberry fringe of Adobe Walls creek, the paralyzing yell of Indians on the warpath. Hundreds of mounted Indians emerged from the trees, spread like a fan, and swooped like an eagle toward him and Adobe Walls, lashing their horses at every jump.
The warriors rode their finest horses with scalps dangling from the bridles. Guns and lashes flashed above the shields of thick buffalo hide. Brilliant hued war paint shone on bronzed naked bodies; on the sides of running horses, their manes and tails decorated with bright colored feathers. With their jangling ornaments of silver and brass illuminated by the rising sun, the Indians in their plumed war bonnets lashed their mounts headlong toward the "Wail." But Billy Ogg had not tarried to look; he was making the fastest home-run of his life.
According to Andy Johnson, Ogg came running with bullets whizzing past him, yelling like hell, "Indians! Indians!" before he fell into Hanrahan's saloon where willing hands helped to drag him in and bar the door.
That early morning, June 27, 1874, twenty-eight brave men and one lone woman in the ill-protected settlement of Adobe Walls, Texas, faced the stark reality of a possible fate worse than death itself. Each thudding hoof from the creek a quarter-mile east, each hideous yell from the swiftly advancing Indian warriors, struck new terror into the hearts of the unfortunate group. But, with the strength those early day men exerted in desperate emergencies, they quickly made ready to defy the savages.
The besieged were not only unprepared for an attack but divided into three groups with only about fifteen guns that could be used. Of the three, Hanrahan s was fortified more quickly because the men were awake when the attack came. At Rath's, there were the fewest defenders, while the danger would have been greatest had the Indians known there was a woman in the building. At once every building was surrounded, every pane of glass was shattered.
The besieged barricaded even as they fought, firing, flanking the doors and windows with sacks of flour and grain. At Myer & Leonard's store, Fred Leonard, James Campbell, Edward Trevor, Frank Brown, Harry Armitage, "Dutch Henry," Billy Tyler, Old Man Keeler, Mike McCabe, Henry Lease, and "Frenchy." Hanrahan's saloon, James Hanrahan, Bat Masterson, Mike Welch, Shepherd, Hiram Watson, Billie Ogg, James McKinley, "Bermuda" Carlisle, and the famed Billy Dixon. Rath's store, James Langton manager, George Eddy, Thomas O'Keefe, William Olds and his wife, Sam Smith, and Andy Johnson. Adobe buildings with sod roofs can't be burned, otherwise the Indians would have burned the men alive.
All that livelong day, short of water, without time to eat, men fought for their lives and those of their comrades. They fought with the desperation of men who knew the fate of the Indians' captive, many in their bare feet, clad only in their drawers and undershirts. They fought while the Indians dashed boldly up to port holes and fired, while they charged three abreast and backed their horses against the heavy doors in an effort to break them down.
Minimic, Indian medicine man, had learned the habits of the hunters, how they slept with open doors and beside their wagons on the ground, and had promised them an easy victory. Chief Quanah Parker led the Comanches; Lone Wolf, the Kiowas; Stone Calf and White Shield, the Cheyennes.
When the fighting started, Andy Johnson grabbed a six-shooter from a table and stuck it out a port hole and shot every shell, later saying he was so scared he didn't know what he shot at. His tension eased, he helped in a grand way, barricading doors and providing water for fighting men.
The day grew hotter and mouths were parched for want of water. But no one dared to go outside to get it. Andy Johnson dug a well in the store, on a slope so he could walk down to the water. The ground was loose and sandy and he struck water at six feet, a godsend to weary, thirsty fighting men.
At noon, Hanrahan and Billy Dixon made a run from the saloon to Rath's store for ammunition. Because of the woman in their midst and the few defenders, Dixon remained. At two in the afternoon, the Indians showed more caution and got beyond the range of the deadly Sharp's, the first break the men had for a minute's rest. The Indians kept firing from a distance. Closer they were an excellent target for an expert marksman as the hunters all were. No more did the mysterious bugler sound the rally nor the charge, which ex-soldier hunters understood very well. At four, men began to venture out to see how others had fared.
Three men lay dead, scalped and mutilated. The Shadier brothers as they slept in their wagon. Billy Tyler as he was almost within Myer & Leonard's store. A count showed fifty-six horses dead and twenty-eight oxen, the others had been run off. Although the Indians strive valiantly to carry away their dead and wounded, thirteen dead Indians remained.
Grabbing axes, the hunters sharpened thirteen stakes in the stockade and jammed an Indian head on each, facing east, eyes staring and mouths gaping. Any live Indian who cared to look could see that, although Indians took scalps, hunters took heads. Then the weary fighters sought rest, knowing Indians seldom attack at night, preferring early dawn.
About nine o'clock, they heard a rider approaching and called, "Who are you?" And the reply, "What do you want?" Recognizing the voice, the hunters called unbelievably, "That you,
Brick?" To his answer, "Yes," they hallooed back, "Well, get in here quick. The Indians are thicker'n hell." His heavy load had mired down in the sand. "I couldn't get them out," Brick Bond explained, "so I got on my saddle horse and came back to the Walls."
Much later, talking to Little Robe, a Cheyenne Chief who was rather well liked by the hunters, Brick asked, "Why didn't you kill me? Didn't you see me?" To which the chief replied, "Indian no want to kill you." Brick Bond was a friend to white man and Indian alike.
The following day, Brick stood beside Billy Dixon who aimed his Sharp's 50 at an Indian almost a mile away and fired. Minimic, Indian medicine man, the target for the longest shot on record, fell from his horse and was later dragged away by other warriors.
By afternoon, George Bellfield and his men came in on the dead run. Other hunters rode in hurriedly. What to do was on everyone's mind.
"The Indians are all around us," Henry Lease said. "I will ride to Dodge City for help." Bellfield stepped forward. "You take my horse, Henry. He ride good." One and all, the hunters shook hands with Henry Lease and he set out on the dangerous journey.
Five days went by. There were almost a hundred men at the Walls and a number of horses. Sod look-outs were already built on Myers & Leonard's store and Rath's. In each someone watched continually, while others buried and dragged away dead animals. The cry of "Indians!" rang out, the inadvertent cause of tragedy at Rath's store.
Look-out Williams Olds started down the ladder. His gun went off accidentally, tearing off the top of his head. Mrs. Olds rushed in from the restaurant, only to see the body of her husband fall from the ladder and crumple at her feet. At evening, the hunters buried him on a little knoll about sixty feet southeast of Rath's store. It was their darkest hour.
Anxious men asked, "Had Henry Lease got through?" Hunter and merchant made ready to leave. Mrs. Olds was to go with the very first load of freight. Everything was planned while weary men waited and watched the trail.
Finally, a shout came from a lookout, "The wagons are coming!"
Carrie Rath crossed the river and waited in her buggy far out from Dodge City. She wanted to be the first to comfort her bereaved friend, Mrs. Olds. Then she went with Mrs. Rath to her home. For days the two women watched the incoming freight wagons returning merchandise to the Charles Rath Merchantile store. When the last load was brought in, Adobe Walls was again abandoned, left to the ravages of time. And again, as they had many times, Mrs. Rath and Mrs. Olds embraced each other, laughing and ended weeping. Later, townsmen and buffalo hunters "took up" a generous purse according to Heinie Schmidt to send her back to her home in the east.
Two survivors, Andy Johnson and Brick Bond, were taken to Adobe Wall site in 1922 at Thanksgiving time. Overjoyed, they ran like a couple of kids to the spot where Charlie Rath's store had stood, where they had fought an estimated 700 to 1500 Indians.
Ready to leave, after Andy Johnson and the driver, Tom Stauth, had climbed into the car, Brick Bond stood with one foot on the running board, the other firmly on the ground. Gripping the narrow-brimmed cloth hat he held in his hand, he faced the setting sun, the ruins of old Adobe Walls the site of that memorable battle ground, and the sure knowledge that he too had fought a good fight, had finished the faith. Before Brick climbed slowly into the car, he murmured, reverently, more to himself and his Maker than to the other two men, "Goodbye, Adobe Walls, Goodbye."
The following feature story, The Last Survivor of Adobe Walls, is by Heinie Schmidt, High Plains Journal, August 3, 1950, in his column, It's Worth Repeating:
June 27 marked the 76th anniversary of the famous battle of Adobe Walls, 1874. This prairie outpost was located in the Panhandle of Texas on the Canadian River, 125 miles southwest of Dodge City.
and one woman stationed at Adobe Walls, Billy Dixon of the Texas Panhandle was the only person not a former citizen of Dodge City.
It took me several months to get back into the good graces of Andy. After the battle, Andy stripped the warriors of their regalia and war bonnets, which he brought back to Dodge City with him. They were displayed in a building on Front Street until they were destroyed in the fire of 1885.
on one side and Bill Tilghman on the other. In looking at Andy's picture, you can see plainly the sacred memories that stirred in his heart.