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The Last Indian Raid On Kansas Soil

Rev. Reuben E. Bisbee III family recollections.
Were they really Indians?

"When I was in junior high my grandparents Milton and Jennie (Bisbee) wrote the history for me as they knew it about the last Indian raid and Reuben's part in it. He was a Methodist circuit rider and usually stayed at the Laing home after services in their area. For some reason (I have heard that it was a lame horse and/or also that Hannah his wife was ill), he went on home that time. All of the Laing men were killed in the raid. Reuben had 13 caskets from the slain lined up for the funeral service. This was not the entire group of people killed. I have not found any of this in the histories that I have read. Reuben never believed that the Indians were responsible for the killing but that white men dressed as Indians were the killers. My Grandfather Milton discussed this with my father-in-law who was very knowledgeable about the Indians' cultures and even corresponded with Chief Red Cloud's grandson Edgar. In the early 1990s my husband, son and I went to Devises to the cemetery and on to the museum in Oberlin. While in the museum we discussed the raid etc. The person there said that two weeks before we were there they had a Laing family from Ontario visit the museum and they were asking about any information that the killers were not Indians and family lore had it that they were not. This makes me think that the women of the Laing family must have gone back to Canada after the raid. Unfortunately no one that I know of has any proof, just hearsay in their family. Reuben did write some of his experiences after he was retired but it is so rambling and not very detailed about actual events. Reuben and Hannah are buried in the cemetery near Ford, KS, which is a short distance from Dodge City." -- Ivonne Burmeister, Otis, Kansas, Dec. 31, 2007.

The raid on the Laings happened early Monday morning, September 30, 1878, supporting the Bisbee family recollections. Two eye witnesses to this raid, Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Anthony, wrote of their experiences in Early N.W. Kansas Reminisces in which they mentions the Laings.

"As the years went by more families came to Decatur County. By the fall of 1878, our neighbors were not so few and far between. We were told frequently that the Indians were coming to make a raid on our neighborhood. We had heard it so often that we no longer gave it any thought. But on the morning of September 30, at about 9:00 am as my brother Harry, then about 13 years old was looking after cattle, he saw the Indians shoot to death two of our neighbors, Mr. Smith and Mr. Hudson. Harry was riding a gray horse. One of the Indians started toward him. He ran the horse home, and ran into the house to tell mother. The Indians took the horse and went back to where the others were gathering the horses and such other belongings as they desired of Mr. Smith and Mr. Hudson. Mother was getting breakfast for a cattleman named Pat Lynch and his helper, Jimmy Kelly, a 16 year old boy. They tied their horses to the fence in front of our dug out and had come in to eat. Mother said to Harry, ?Don?t be excited. We?ve heard that many times.? he said, ?But they are here. Come and see.? We went out on the bank about 150 yards from the house, on the road was Mr. Laing and son, Freeman, driving to town. We saw the Indians ride up to the wagon, shoot the men, and with large knives cut the harness from the horses. Eva and Lou Van Cleve were in the wagon and were held by the Indians until afternoon.

"More Indians were coming. Lynch said ?Let us get to the house and get ready for these fellows. Get your guns and ammunition.? The two men, mother, and we five children rushed into the house. Mother got the gun and three leaded shells, all the loaded ammunition we had. She gave the gun to Mr. Lynch and barred the door. The dug-out had only one window. The Indians had turned loose the captive girls who were wandering about near our dug-out. My mother opened the door and called them in. Mr. Lynch stood in front of the window with the gun, the hammer up, resting on the window frame. He shot and killed the first Indian who came in front of the window. I now have the bullet which killed him. There were about three hundred Indians on our place, on the roof and around the house. After the Indian was shot, they left us and did not return.

"Not far behind Mr. Laing on their way to town were Jr. Abernathy and Fred Walters. They were killed and their horses taken. Two men from Nebraska who had arrived the day before (a Mr. Hull and his partner, Mr. Young) were both killed. Mr. Westfall and son, William were killed a little farther SW while building their home. Mrs. Westfall was shot in the right shoulder with an arrow. In all, ten persons were killed within sight of our home, the only one for four miles around that was not destroyed. And ours was the only family for miles around that did not have one or more member killed.

"The Indian at our place was the only Indian killed until they reached Lamb?s draw on the North Fork where an Indian boy was shot from his horse. The Indians headed west from our place, going about five miles, killing R. Bridal and E.P. Humphrey and wounding John Humphrey who lived only a month after the raid.

"Near the Bridal home they came upon J.J. Keifer and Will 0?Toole, who stood them off by pretending ax handles were guns. The two men escaped by getting into the timber and running to the Bridal home. Getting Mrs. Bridal, Mrs. Humphrey and daughter, Ada Guipe and baby Pearl who were visiting Mrs. Bridal and ran into the timber and hid under a brush pile. Keifer had to choke the baby to keep it from betraying their whereabouts.

"Mrs. Guipe said, ?It is better to loose one life than six.? He would choke the baby then let it revive enough to cry and then choke it again when necessary, so that no lives were lost. The Indians burned several brush piles but did not molest the one in which they were hiding.

"After the Indians left, going NW, they started down the creek to the Anthony place. Arriving after dark they found the soldiers and volunteers who had killed a cow and were preparing supper and rations to follow the Indians the next day. The Indians had headed northwest to the north fork of the Sappa where they killed Wm. Lang, Jr. and John Laing, sons of the William Laing killed near our place.

"The mother said her two sons killed the Indians then came to the house and piled all the furniture and bedding in the middle of the floor, stripped two children 4 and 6 years of age and put them in the middle to burn them. The mother pleaded with the Indians and Dull Knife. The chief, took them off the pile and pushed them and their mother outside and said ?Go,? after she had given him $l000 she had. She wrapped her little girls in her petticoats and started for our place knowing Mr. Laing would pass there in the morning. She arrived in the night to learn that her husband had been killed. She was seriously ill for weeks. The Laings suffered the greatest loss. The soldiers followed the Indians and battled with them several times till they reached Ogallala, where they captured all that remained of the 300 rebellious Cheyenne's who left the Indian territory late in September, 1878, and their chief, Dull Knife. This was the last time the citizens of Kansas were bothered by Indians.


Owner/SourceIvonne Burmeister, granddaughter of Reuben E. Bisbee III
Linked toRev. Reuben E. Bisbee, III

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