by Charles W. Bowman
Other Pioneers – The Indians and the Military
Fitzpatrick retained the agency for the Indians of the Upper Arkansas till the
time of his death, in 1855. The rendezvous for the Cheyennes and Arapahoes was
at the Big Timber, that being the name of the site of Bent's new fort. A
considerable body of gigantic cottonwoods grew there at the time; in fact, large
timber was then quite abundant along the river. The Kiowas and Comanches
received their annuities at the old Cimarron crossing of the Arkansas.
Fitzpatrick was greatly esteemed by the Indians, and among white men since is
reputed to have been the best agent these tribes ever had. His wife was a
half-breed Arapahoe, a daughter of John Poisal. Poisal was an interpreter for
several tribes, and was known by the Indians as "Old Red-Eyes," on account of
the inflamed appearance of his eyes.
Fitzpatrick's successor was Robert Miller, who had been acting as agent in Kansas. His administration lasted only during 1856. He was accompanied out by John W. Prowers, then a youth of eighteen, who acted as his clerk in the distribution of goods.
There were still no improvements in the county outside of Bent's new fort. Charles Antobees, with a small settlement of Mexicans, was on the Huerfano, a few miles from its mouth: and Dick Wootton, with a few of the same sort, lived at the foot of the Greenhorn, at the place still known as Greenhorn. Both were farming, and found a market for what they could not consume at Fort Union, N.M.
Robert Miller was succeeded by Col. A.G. Boone, whose administration was distinguished by the first important treaty with the Indians, whereby they surrendered the ownership of the plains country of Colorado to the Government, and accepted a reservation. This occurred in 1860. The reservation assigned to them lay along the Arkansas on the north side, was bounded on the east and north by Big Sandy, and extended to within six miles of the mouth of the Huerfano. The consideration was certain annuities, the erection of a number of buildings, and a supply of implements and seeds for farming purposes. Under Agent Colley, in 1863, the agency was removed from Big Timber to the Point of Rocks. Buildings were commenced there on a large scale, and, the next spring, from 300 to 400 acres of land was broken up, planted, and an irrigating ditch taken out. But, as the farming scheme progressed, the Indians grew restless, and their dissatisfaction finally culminated in hostility. They opened the ball by stealing all the horses belonging to the contractor, and from that event forward, till 1865, there was no permanent peace.
The experiment at Point of Rocks has since had a parallel in that by N.C. Meeker at White River. The enthusiastic prediction of Fremont has scarcely been realized, but there is reason to believe that, under a different administration than Colley's, better results would have been reached.
A treaty was made in October, 1865, on the Little Arkansas, which removed the Indians entirely from the country, and located them at Darlington, Ind. T., where they have remained till now. At this council, William Bent and Gen. Carson acted as Government Commissioners. In the interval preceding this treaty, however, Col. Bent had held a "talk" with the Cheyennes and Arapahoes (summer of 1864), and procured a cessation of hostilities on their part, which continued in effect till the massacre at Big Sandy in November.
An important provision of the treaty of 1865 was the allowance to each part-blood Indian, child or adult, of one section of land, to be selected from the reservation of the Arkansas. These tracts have since been designated as Indian claims, and are numbered seriatim. They were selected by the claimants, as suited their fancy, usually embracing choice hay bottoms, their lines being governed by the Arkansas on one side, and the varying line of the bluffs on the other. From their irregular shapes, they have sometimes been denominated "beef-steak claims." In each case, a patent, with a carefully drawn plat, was issued to the claimant.
The first regular military post in Bent County was Bent's new fort, named by the Government Fort Wise. It was garrisoned by four companies of the First Cavalry, Col. Sedgwick commanding, in 1860. The troops had come out on an Indian campaign the year before. One column moved up the Platte under Col. Sedgwick. The latter took post at Fort Wise, and was joined by two companies of the Tenth Infantry. A.B. Miller, since of Denver, was post trader. A.T. Winsor, of Lexington, Mo., was next, and he was succeeded by Stewart & Shrewsbury.
To J.W. Prowers is due the credit of establishing the first permanent herd of cattle in the country. It consisted of 100 cows, bought of John Ferrill, of Missouri, and brought out by Prowers in 1861. Their range was from the mouth of the Purgatoire to Caddo.
Upon the opening of the war in 1861, the regular troops left Fort Wise, and were succeeded by various detachments of volunteers, usually Colorado cavalry. A notable war incident – perhaps the most important which occurred on Colorado soil – was the capture, in 1862, by Capt. Otis' company, First Cavalry, of a party of fifteen to twenty Confederate volunteers, under Capt. McKee. The capture was made on Clay Creek. McKee had organized his recruits at Denver, and was heading for Texas. The same year, a band of peaceable Indians, known as the Caddos, having been compelled to leave Texas on account of their fidelity to the Union, the Government undertook to locate them on the Arkansas. For this purpose, a site was selected by Gen. Wright, at the mouth of the creek still known as Caddo, where three large stone buildings were erected, designed as quarters. A few of the Caddos came up and inspected the place, but decided not to accept it, and the preparations for their accommodation were accordingly discontinued. The place was occupied by John W. Prowers, in 1863, as a ranch, from which he furnished supplies to the troops.
L.A. Allen and twelve other young Missourians arrived at Fort Wise (then called Fort Lyon) in June, 1863, driving a herd of 700 cattle for Solomon Young, of Jackson County, Mo., and, while encamped there, were required by the post commander, somewhat to their distaste, to take the oath of loyalty, after which they proceeded to Spring Bottom.
Their third improvement outside of the fort, as it appears, was that of old Thomas Rule, at the mouth of the stream which still bears his name. He came out in the fall of 1863, bringing his three sons, two of whom were married and accompanied by their wives. They built a small stone house, but soon abandoned it on account of the hostile attitude of the Indians. "Elder Rule" became well known in the several pioneer settlements, which he visited in the capacity of a missionary of the "Hardshell" Baptist denomination. He subsequently located on Turkey Creek, where, at last accounts, he still resided.
Thomas O. Boggs and L.A. Allen came over from Hicklin's ranch, on the Greenhorn, in the fall of 1863, bringing a large herd of cattle, the property of L.B. Maxwell. These they held on the Purgatoire, near Red Rock, till the next fall, when they returned, with what had not been killed or stolen by the Indians, to New Mexico. It was not long previous to this that Joe. B. Doyle, B.B. Fields, Mr. Kroenig and others had settled on the Huerfano and begun farming operations, selling their produce at Forts Union and Lyon. Nine Mile Bottom, a fertile and attractive park, nine miles in length by one and a half in and at once engaged in farming and stock-raising.
Thomas O. Boggs returned from New Mexico in 1866, accompanied by Charles L. Rite and L.A. Allen, and began his improvements at the place since known as Boggsville, three miles from the mouth of the Purgatoire. The first important enterprise was a large irrigating ditch, in which Mr. Boggs was joined by John W. Prowers and Robert Bent, a son of Col. Bent. Under this ditch, farming was at once commenced at Boggsville and at the Bent place on a large scale, and carried on with success. Over one thousand acres were in cultivation. It is needless to remark that good prices were realized, as, for example, corn, 8 to 12 cents per pound; flour, $8 to $12 per hundred; vegetables in proportion. A lot of potatoes brought from the mountains sold at 25 cents per pound. Wheat was hauled to Pueblo or Trinidad, where it was ground, and the flour brought back. The same year, several other ranchmen made locations on the Purgatoire and Arkansas, and a few herds of cattle and sheep were introduced. During 1866 and 1867, the Indians were comparatively quiet, and the settlements were quite rapid in various parts of the county.