Six Sioux Chiefs in the Jail Yard
Part Six: The State of Kansas v Wild Hog et al
From Ft Robinson to Dodge City
Apparently, President Rutherford B Hayes wasn’t thrilled when news of the tragedy in Nebraska reached the White House. Immediately, he appointed a Senatorial committee to conduct a thorough examination of Fort Robinson and the events leading up to it. All communications regarding the Northern Cheyenne were ordered to be printed, and everyone involved was scheduled to be interviewed. Epic games of “not me,” paper-shuffling, and finger-pointing began to play out among military and Washington officials.
Coincidentally, the seven Northern Cheyenne men named in the indictment from the state of Kansas just happened to be the only men who had survived the massacre at Fort Robinson. Citing precedent from a case in Texas and supported by the War Department, the Ford County District Attorney Michael W. Sutton and Kansas Governor John St. John carried through with their plans to begin the extradition process of Wild Hog, Old Crow, Strong Left Hand, Tangle Hair, Porcupine, Blacksmith, and Noisy Walker to Kansas. The State of Kansas wanted to begin civil legal proceedings for the crimes committed against the settlers during the September and October raids.
After being interviewed by military officials at Ft Robinson, two companies of cavalry soldiers accompanied the seven heavily-shackled prisoners and fourteen members of their families south to Ft Sidney aboard the Union Pacific Railroad. Since most of them had been seriously injured in the outbreak, officers requested medical supervision for the remainder of the journey to Ft Leavenworth. At Leavenworth, the seven prisoners would be transferred from military to civil custody, and then transported to Dodge City in Ford County, Kansas, to stand trial.
Dodge City, Kansas
By 1879, Dodge City had become a regional commercial trading center, and the new sheriff, legendary gunfighter Bat Masterson, had brought peace and order to the town once known for its lawlessness. Bat’s old friend, the not-yet-famous Wyatt Earp, had convinced him to settle down in Ford County with his brothers, Jim and Ed Masterson. Together, these lawmen brought an end to the rampant murders, rapes, train robberies, and lesser shenanigans in the notorious wild west cow town. The serving-up of some frontier justice to some deserving Indians was right up their alley.
On February 12, 1879, Sheriff Bat Masterson and four “eye-witnesses” who were prepared to identify the seven prisoners as participants in the Kansas depredations met with the recently sworn in governor of Kansas, John St John, in Topeka. They then boarded the train to Ft Leavenworth to identify and take custody of their suspects.
It seemed as though everyone within easy traveling distance of a railroad depot in eastern Kansas showed up to catch a glimpse of the “red devils.” Crowds assembled at every railway station along the way. At Leavenworth, all seven were positively identified and then transferred from military to civil authorities. Sheriff Masterson took them to a passenger room at the train depot where Leavenworth Sheriff Percival Lowe joined them. Several years prior, Sheriff Lowe had, on occasion, assisted a friend who owned a business that supplied beef rations to some of the Indian reservations. Lowe had accompanied his friend on some of the trips out to the reservation to distribute rations to the Indians, and had met a few of the Northern Cheyenne men. Sheriff Low brought along a clay pipe and some tobacco as a gift for his old acquaintances. The men smoked and relaxed for a short time before boarding the train to Topeka.
Sheriff Masterson and his posse guided the injured and shackled men onto the 10:40 train to Topeka where they spent the night locked up in the Shawnee County Jail.
Early the next morning, they continued on to their final destination via Lawrence, in Douglas County, Kansas. In Lawrence, a crowd of over a thousand was said to have gathered at the station. In the chaos, Masterson was said to have slugged a man— a man who turned out to be William Brockelsby, the city marshal. Only anecdotal evidence exists of the event, but it was rumored that the two lawmen talked things out before Masterson and his charges boarded the Santa Fe for Dodge City.
Masterson reported that two-day train trip was embarrassing and annoying. To Bat Masterson and his lawmen, the large crowds that gathered at every station along the way were unruly and inappropriate. They jockeyed for a glimpse of the “stinking savages,” not to pay homage to the legendary lawmen or to show their appreciation to them for their bravery and service. Masterson and his men were offended that the frenzied mobs were more anxious to see his menagerie of wild Indians than to lavish praise upon the storied gunfighter.
When the coach carrying the prisoners pulled into the station in Dodge City, there was no mob of excited spectators waiting to catch a glimpse of them. In fact, there wasn’t even a wagon there to give them a ride to the jail. The western Kansans weren’t as starstruck by the Indians as the easterners had been. It was quite the opposite back in Dodge City.
Injured and heavily clad in irons, the prisoners were forced to walk a few hundred yards to the the cage they’d call home for the next several months. One of them, probably Wild Hog who was still recovering after his suicide attempt, walked a few yards before sinking to the ground in pain, unable to walk any further. Masterson scrounged up a wheelbarrow from a nearby business, and deputies used it to transport the him the rest of the way. Over the next few days, the newspapers printed stories assuring their readers that in Ford County, the “gentlemanly savages” would be afforded the “luxuries of safe lodgment, full bellies, and plenty of tobacco,” the only things the savage Indian really needed.
Dodge City reported the names of the men somewhat differently than other sources. They were listed as Old Crow, Tall Man, Old Man, Run Fast, Young Man, Frizzle Head, and Wild Hog. But County District Attorney Michael W. Sutton didn’t particularly care what their names were. The case of The State of Kansas v Wild Hog et al would proceed regardless.
At the preliminary trial before County Judge R.G. Cook, Ford County Attorney Mike Sutton appeared for the prosecution and Harry E. Gryden appeared on behalf of the defense. Through Amos Chapman, their interpreter, the defendants requested subpoenas for several character witnesses, including many Army officers with whom they’d served in the war against the Sioux. Their requests were granted and the witnesses could be located and brought in for the district session in June.
Meanwhile, the seven men reported that they were being treated well. They were well fed, allowed to “bathe” in the Arkansas River, and were allowed visitors.
The Preliminary Trial
On June 24th, District Judge Samuel M Peters of the 9th Kansas District Court called to order the trial of The State of Kansas v Wild Hog et al. But a curve ball was coming. A young lawyer from Saline, Kansas had read about the case and sympathized with the defendants. He had been among their visitors during the preceding months, and had agreed to represent the seven men, free of charge. Agent John Miles had been called out from the Darlington Agency in Oklahoma, and had appointed Harry E. Gryden as the lead defense counsel. But the Indians declared that they intended to have Captain Jacob G. Mohler defend them instead. They did not want the government to have any say in their legal counsel.
Agent Miles objected. Mr Sutton objected. But Judge Peters allowed the change of defense counsel. Mr Gryden withdrew his counsel and Captain Mohler insisted on continuing without further government interference, thereby cutting out Agent Miles, the Department of the Interior, and the Commission of Indian Affairs. Mohler then made his final motion for the day: He requested a change of venue on the grounds that Judge Peters had become too socially active with his constituents in Dodge City, therefore creating a bias against his clients and tainting the jury pool. Judge Peters denied having any prejudice against the Indians, but granted the defense’s motion, stating that he always granted change of venue requests. Before adjourning, he set the new trial location: Douglas County.
The locals were not happy for myriad reasons. Firstly, Ford County had gone to great expense housing and feeding these “wild injuns” with “the choicest viands their market could afford,” fattening them up so “they may be in first-class condition” for the scaffold. Second of all, the depredations had occurred in western Kansas, and Douglas County was in eastern Kansas. In 1879, the difference between the two was like night and day.
Eastern Kansas was filled with bleeding heart Yankee intellectuals, and Lawrence, the Douglas County Seat, had been a political center for free-state abolitionism during the War. And lastly, they didn’t appreciate this “jack-legged pettifogger” from Salina in search of his fifteen minutes of fame waltzing in at the eleventh hour and whisking the trial of the century three hundred miles off to the east.
Newspapers called it the “Last Indian Farce.” Sheriff Masterson was most unhappy, and he filed a formal complaint. But, Judge Peters had made up his mind. Masterson prepared to escort the prisoners to Lawrence where they would sit in the Douglas County Jail for another three and a half months until the next district trial session was set to begin.
© Julie Dirkes Phelps; Photographer, Author, Researcher, Archivist, and Storyteller. © Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, reposting, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission. Be cool, don’t plagiarize. If you want to use something, just ask me. I try to make sure to attribute all images to the appropriate sources, but sometimes I inadvertently post an image from an incorrect source (or the image is incorrectly cited from my source), get images mixed up, or accidentally leave something out. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any corrections or concerns. Thanks.
Image Credits: Michael Sutton, from the book Tell them We are Going Home, by John H Monnett; Bat Masterson from pinterest (multiple sources; Sheriff Percival Lowe, Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka Station, ausbomp.com; Topeka Courthouse, Pinterest (kshs.com); Dodge City, Kansas, pinterest (multiple sources); Cheyenne defendants on the courthouse steps, from the National archives; JG Mohler, from Find a Grave; Douglas County Courthouse, the National Archives; Judge Samuel Peters, kshs.com.