Early Settlers of Jewell County, Kansas

In the spring of 1862, William Harshberger and wife settled upon land adjoining the present town of White Rock, and John Furrows took a claim just west of Mr. Harshberger’s farm. A. Clark, wife and child, settled just over the western boundary of what is now Republic County. Mrs. Clark and Mrs. Harshberger were sisters, the whole of the little colony coming from Knox County, Ill. They formed the first settlement in Jewell County, built cabins and broke ground, but were soon driven away by well-grounded fears of Indian raids.

A battle between the Pawnees and Sioux was fought near Mr. Clark’s cabin, and one of the former tribe was literally hacked to pieces. Upon this occasion these settlers were warned of a threatened outbreak, and were told that it heralded no good to the whites of White Rock Valley. They therefore left, and a second attempt at settlement was not made until four years thereafter – in the spring of 1866. At that time William Belknap took a claim five miles west of the present town of White Rock; John Marling with his wife and child, settled near the present town of Reubens (sic); Nicholas Ward, his wife and adopted son, Mrs. Sutzer and son, Al. Dart, Arch. Bump, Erastus Bartlett and a man by the name of Flint, took claims within two miles east of that town.

This settlement was broken up by something more than presentiments. In August of this year a party of forty Cheyennes attacked Marling’s cabin, and while he was gone for assistance the savages entered his house, dragged his wife into the woods with a rope around her neck, and horribly outraged her. They then stole everything they could find, set fire to the cabin and dashed off before Mr. Marling could obtain assistance from the stockade below White Rock City. After this, the entire settlement took refuge there, where they remained two days, and then went to Clyde, Cloud County. A few days afterwards, learning that the rumors of a general massacre were groundless, the settlers returned to their claims. They rested in fancied security until the following April, when occurred a horrible event which effectually destroyed the little settlement from the face of the earth. A detailed account of the massacre is taken from the county history prepared by M. Winsor and James A. Scarbrough, and from which many of the facts of the early history of Jewell County are condensed: “On the 9th day of April, 1867, the Cheyennes made another descent upon this devoted settlement, killing Bartlett, Mrs. Sutzer, her little son, and Nicholas Ward, and desperately wounding Ward’s adopted son, leaving him for dead, and carrying Mrs. Ward off a captive. The particulars of this horrible massacre are as follows: “The Indians came to Mrs. Sutzer’s cabin, where Bartlett was boarding, and demanded dinner, which she proceeded to prepare, in the meantime sending her little son across the creek to Ward’s to inform them of the presence of the Indians. Bartlett was down in the timber, splitting rails, and returning for dinner, was met by the Indians and tomahawked as he was passing around the corner of the house. He was found lying on his back, his iron wedge near his right hand and his own knife a dirk sticking in his throat. It is thought that when Bartlett was killed Mrs. Sutzer started to run. She was found dead about thirty yards from the house with her skull crushed with a rock. It appears that the cunning fiends had refrained from using firearms for fear of raising an alarm. After completing their bloody work at Mrs. Sutzer’s the Indians crossed the creek to Ward’s cabin, and again called for dinner, which Mrs. Ward prepared for them. They ate their dinner, smoked their pipes and chatted away in the friendliest manner.

At the conclusion of their “smoke,” one of them very coolly loaded his gun and asked Ward if he thought it would kill a buffalo. Ward replied that he thought it would. Whereupon the Indian instantly leveled his gun at Ward’s breast and shot him through the heart, killing him immediately. The two boys Ward’s and Mrs. Sutzer’s – then started to run. The Indians pursued them, following them to the bank of the creek, and shooting them down in the bed of the stream. The Sutzer boy was shot through the heart; instantly killed. The Ward boy was shot through the neck and left for dead. Some time during the succeeding night, however, he recovered his senses, and groping his way back to the cabin in the dark, found the door broken down and entered. Feeling around in the dark with his hands he stumbled and fell over the dead body of his adopted father. Procuring some blankets from one of the beds, he returned to the timber, where he remained during the night, and was found the next morning by a party of claim hunters, to whom he told the sad and harrowing tale. It appears that when the Indians ran out to shoot the boys, Mrs. Ward must have shut and bolted the door, when the Indians returning, broke it down and took her prisoner. Her sad fate will probably never be known, as up to the present time, after the lapse of eleven years, nothing definite has ever been heard of her.”

Of the original members of the settlement who were not victims of this massacre, Mr. Flint was absent at Clyde, the Darts were absent, Mr. Marling, wife and child, had returned to Missouri, and Messrs. Bump and Davis had been waylaid and shot in Cloud County during the previous May. The survivors, including Mr. Rice, all left the county, after this horrible affair.

In the winter and spring of 1868, Richard Stanfield and Carl G. Smith took claims in Sections 7 and 9, Township 2 south, and Gordon Winbigler and Adam Rosenberg near White Rock Creek and the town of Rubens. Mr. Rosenberg was with General Custer in his famous expedition to the Indian Territory, where Mrs. Morgan and Miss White were rescued from the Indians. When the Chicago colony of Scandinavians laid out Scandia, Republic County, in the fall of 1868, their settlements extended into Jewell County, though none remained here permanently until the spring of 1870. In May, 1869, the Excelsior, or New York Colony, “under the lead of one Walker, came into the county and took claims along White Rock Creek, as high up as Burr Oak, and as far down as John’s Creek. About two miles east of the present site of Holmwood, a blockhouse was erected for protection, and surrounded by two lines of earth-works.

Here the whole colony resided during its short stay in the county. Immediately after their arrival, they gave public notice that all claimants of land on the creek must be on their claims by a certain date, or they would be contested. This had the effect to bring to the creek a number of Swedes and Norwegians, who laid claim to nearly all the most valuable land. At this time, the latter part of May, 1869, there were over one hundred people in the county, all on White Rock Creek.” During this month a force of men was raised, and preceded to the scene of a late massacre in the northwestern part of Jewell County, in which four hunters from Nebraska had been killed. Previous to their return John Dahl, Indians killed one of the Scandinavian settlers,, Peter Tanner’s cabin was burned, and other outrages were committed.

The Excelsior Colony, consisting of Mrs. Frazier and her two sons, Mr. Walker, President of the company, and others, considered that they were “wanted elsewhere” than in this locality, and made immediate preparations to depart. While a portion of them were moving their household effects from their fort to the protecting care of Mr. Lovewell and his band, they were attacked by Indians, robbed of all their possessions, but escaped alive. Mr. Walker was at Junction City at the time, and hearing of the raid, sent up a lot of men and some teams, and in June moved away.
All the Scandinavian settlers had already gone, which left Jewell County entirely deserted. It remained in this desolate condition from June until August 1869, when Peter Kearns ventured hitherward and took the old Nicholas Ward claim. He worked it all of the following winter. In the spring and fall of this year, however, such men as James A. Highland, N. S. Cederberg, William D. Street and James McCraith, took claims, and finally became permanent residents of the county.

In February 1870, the great tide of immigration commenced to set into Jewell County. In that month John O’Roak, William Scott, Samuel Sweet, Wilson McBride, Chris. Erns, John W. McRoberts, Samuel Bowles, T. Bowles, Phil. Baker, Adams and Gregory came in, all taking claims on White Rock. In the same month, A. J. Davis, Jerry Burnett, M. L. Stultz, Benjamin Lewis and Charles Lewis came in and settled on Buffalo Creek.

The first permanent settlers of the Buffalo Valley were Henry Sorick, George A. Sorick, John A. Sorick, George W. Waters, R. F. Hudsonpiller, Thomas B. Hart and William Cox, who took claims in the immediate vicinity of Jewell City, April 8, 1870. The next arrivals were S. R. Worick, John H. Worick, John Hoffer, Joseph W. Fogle, Cyrus Richart, Chris. Bender, David J. Rockey, William H. Cameron, Samuel Krape, C. A. Belknap and A. J. Wise, known as the “Illinois Colony,” who arrived at the forks of Buffalo Creek, April 12, 1870. They all took claims in the vicinity of Jewell City, and all, with the exception of Mr. Cameron, remained until “the war was over” and very materially assisted in “holding the creek” during the somewhat troublous season of 1870. On May 13, 1870, twenty-eight settlers gathered at John Hoffer’s shanty, to discuss means of defense against a rumored invasion of the Cheyennes. William D. Street called the meeting to order, and suggested the building of a fort. His suggestion was at once adopted, and the following gentlemen organized themselves into a company – the Buffalo Militia – for the purpose of building that structure and protecting their homes: L. J. Calvin, F. A. May, W. M. Jones, Samuel Krape, Louis A. Dapron, C. L. Seeley, J. A. Scarbrough, Cyrus Richart, Chris. Bender, J. H. Worick, David J. Rockey, James W. Hall, Richard D. Fardy, Charles J. Lewis, C. A. Belknap, A. J. Wise, John Hoffer, William Cox, S. R. Worick, Allen Lightner, James F. Queen, J. W. Fogel, J. A. Sorick, R. F. Hudsonpiller, I. A. Sawin, Henry Sorick, William D. Street and John R. Wilson. Mr. Street was elected Captain; Charles J. Lewis, First Lieutenant; Louis A. Dapron, Second Lieutenant; James A. Scarbrough, Orderly Sergeant. At once selecting a spot fifty yards square, they plowed around it, laid a wall four feet thick and seven feet high, and in two days “Fort Jewell ” was completed. It is upon the present site of Jewell City, and the well which they dug, the first in the county, was situated at the edge of the present Delaware street. The Buffalo Militia “held the fort” until June, 1870, when it was taken possession of by the Third United States Mounted Artillery. They held the fort, but they never were called upon to repel an attack, although there is no knowing what would have happened had they not taken these wise precautions.

During the months of May and June, the numbers of those who located at “Jewell City” were increased by the arrival of Colonel E. Barker, Jesse N. Carpenter, O. L. McClung, W. C. McClung, R. R. McClung, Z. F. Dodge, J. K. Dodge, F. T. Gandy, H. P. Gandy, L. C. Gandy, Gabe. B. Wade, P. R. Deal, Samuel Cameron, C. E. Plowman, Jonathan Street, George F. Lewis, James Carpenter, Jacob S. Jackson, W. R. Phillips and others.

During the month of April 1870, quite a number of other settlers arrived and took claims in the southern part of the county.

Prominent among them were Charles L. Seeley, Isaac A. Sawin, Allen Lightner, William M. Jones, James W. Hall, Richard D. Fardy, L. J. Calvin, F. A. May and John R. Wilson. The majority of them remained.

The first white woman, who became a resident of the southern part of Jewell County, was Mrs. Annie Billings, wife of N. H. Billings, who arrived at Fort Jewell, May 22, 1870. She was accompanied by her little ten-year-old sister, Miss Jennie Jones, who is now married and lives on Wolf Creek, in Cloud County. The second invoice of white women who came to cheer the bachelor pioneers with their refining presence were: Mrs. Adaline Sorick, Mrs. Jennie Halstead, Mrs. Annie Waters and Mrs. Mariah Dodge, all of whom arrived at Fort Jewell on the evening of July 3, 1870.


Source: Jewell County, Cutlers History of Kansas, 1883

1 thought on “Early Settlers of Jewell County, Kansas”

  1. A Clark from the beginning of the article was Asbury Clark, a Methodist minister and farmer, 1831-1894, buried in Wildmead Cemetery in Nickerson, Kansas. Thanks for the story!

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