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Old January 29th, 2011, 01:17 PM   #31

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Sod...you continue to thrill us with stunning images and great posts! Keep it up and THANKS!!!!
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Old January 29th, 2011, 01:19 PM   #32

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Men like Gardner and Raynesford who documented this history are my heros, enjoy.
Sod, you are OUR modern day Gardner and Raynesford. Maybe a pictorial book is in your future? I will buy one if you sign it..deal?
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Old January 30th, 2011, 07:34 AM   #33

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I'm no Gardner, I wish. Nah, i'm not showing anything new here just maybe forgotten to an extent, my only wish would be that if you ever get a chance and are rolling down 70 across Kansas, jump a few miles to the south and check out a few of these places on the Smoky Hill Trail.

Next stop on this tour will be the site the Threshing Machine Canyon massacre near Bluffton station at Cedar Bluffs.

Thanks, jegates!
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Old January 30th, 2011, 01:03 PM   #34

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Originally Posted by Sod Buster View Post
Next stop on this tour will be the site the Threshing Machine Canyon massacre near Bluffton station at Cedar Bluffs.

Thanks, jegates!

Looking forward to it Sod!
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Old January 30th, 2011, 05:05 PM   #35

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Jan 29th 1861, Jan 29th 20011, 150 years.


Forgot to mention it but yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the state. January 29th 1861 Kansas entered the union as a free state.


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Old February 1st, 2011, 12:00 PM   #36

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Threshing Machine Canyon, Bluffton station, at Cedar Bluffs.


[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b8KsVnkcvs"]YouTube - Indian War Whoop Instrumental Song Music[/ame]

Cedar Bluffs reservoir has full hookup, to primitive camp sites and is a good base camp to explore the trail from, Hays Kansas is only about 20 miles east. Kanopolis, and Cedar Bluffs were needed to keep the feast or famine Smoky in its banks, as we have seen from the narative of how Harker and Hays along the Smoky Hill valley were flooded on occasion in the old days.

Threshing Machine Canyon is on the North east side of the lake, This is looking from the Bluffs north east towards the canyon. In these pics you can see the Cedar trees that the bluffs were named for, cedar is the dominant tree in some parts of western Kansas, but not all.

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You have to wonder how many moccasined feet, hob knobed boots as well as nike runing shoes have stood and looked out over this valley from this point on the Bluffs. Now you see a lake, then you would have seen the thin ribbon of the Smoky River runing below, and an old trail following beside just to the north. Probably looked close to this when the river was flooding.


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It is a beautiful prairie lake, looking from the north side of the lake back south west towards the bluffs.


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I circled the reservoir around to where Bluffton station sat on the trail, Bluffton, and the trail for the most part stays a mile or so north of the river to avoid the Canyons and draws runing to the river.


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This is looking south from Bluffton, you can just see the lake, you are still on open prairie here but heading towards canyons as you move towards the lake, (river then) this is where a convenient camp site near water probably cost these freighters their lives, instead of staying on open ground they pulled down in these canyons to camp.


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In 1867 three freight wagons rolled past Blufton Station on the Smokey instead of camping on the open prairie they pulled down into the rocks of Threshing Machine Canyon, into a perfect ambush site, the freighters were hauling three Threshing Machines bound for SaltLake City,Utah, property of Brigham Young. The closer to the river the higher the bluff walls are.


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Archeological survey was recently performed at site 14TO105 (Threshing Machine Canyon), Cedar Bluff Reservoir, Trego County, Kansas, on November 16-17, 1994. This work was undertaken by the University of Nebraska State Museum in conjunction with the United States Bureau of Reclamation. As evidenced by the rock inscriptions carved on the bluff walls, Threshing Machine Canyon was visited as early as 1849 (quite possibly earlier) and up to the present. The majority of the names, dates, etc. on the bluff are from the "Pike's Peakers" in 1859 and from U.S. cavalrymen (3rd Wisconsin and 13th Missouri) on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch in 1865.



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Looking east the tree line just showing is Threshing Machine Canyon, I have heard the attack came from this direction down the ravine runing straight away in the photo towards the canyon, but much of the detail to this site is lost Raynesford covers it some in his book, the old burned Threshers were visible in this canyon for years, thus the name.


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This is the area thought to be the site of the attack up along the bluff walls. The freighters, not sure how many lie in unmarked graves in the canyon.


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Big Mulie on the hillside just above the site.


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Looking north west up the canyon.


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Old February 2nd, 2011, 04:31 PM   #37

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Threshing Machine Canyon.


(From West of Wichita by Craig Miner.)

Kansas, has always had a problem dealing with this part of the history of the opening of the frontier, the New York Times in 1868 wrote That Kansan's trying so hard so quickly to get rid of the indians and get busy farming might be partly responsible for their own troubles.

The Civil War was over. The negotiators were ready, The soldiers were ready, The locomotives were ready, the plows were ready but the indians were not ready!


The army estimated that in Aug, Sept of 1868 that 79 settlers were killed in western Kansas.

It was a different experience to watch indians from a wagon train in the midst of of an armed group or from a moving railroad car than from an isolated farmstead about to be attacked.

As danger increased so did fear, as fear increased, so did intolerance and stereotyping, so it was with western Kansas.


(The attack would come down the ravine just a little left of the yucca stem, from the ridge above.)


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(This is a good read and description of a trip on the B.O.D, again this is from Howards , Raynesford papers, research of the trail taken from a journal.)


Would you like to imagine yourselves passengers on a trip over this trail? While in Topeka I found a description of a stage coach trip made in 1865, nearly 95 years ago and less than two months after this first coach carrying Butterfield reached Denver. We will have to cut out most of the interesting matter because of time, but possibly you can discover one of the principal reasons why the Butterfield Overland Despatch was not the financial success that it promised to be.



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A party of four persons, entirely innocent of any knowledge of the plains, left Atchison at sunrise on the 17th of November, 1865, and this narrative is taken from the writeup of one of the party.
"Our outfit consisted of a four-horse concord coach driven by a Jehu who had 'never upset at outfit' and who in his loquasity divulged freely. "Deers you're like to see this afternoon, buffalo tomorrow, and injuns, you bet you get enough of in two days from now." On reaching the first station out from Atchison, the whoop of the driver soon announced his readiness to proceed, fresh stock having replaced the team with which we left Atchison.
We were now fairly started on our journey. Long trains of prairie schooners were passed so frequently as to become too familiar to occasion remark, but they gave a picturesqueness to the plains that greatly enhances the journey across. Just at nightfall we arrive at St. Mary's Mission the Pottawatomie Reservation. The second day was almost without incident and at evening we passed Fort Ellsworth. At sunrise we were in the Indian country and as we came to the next station we fancied the wild unearthly whoop of the driver could only have been learned from a native whose garments consisted of the brightest paint.

(the opening to the ravine the attack came from.)

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Along in the afternoon we reached Ft. Fletcher, a newly established Government post garrisoned by a force of three hundred men under the command of Col. Tamblyn, who informed us that the Indians were not troublesome -- that is, they had not committed any outrages for a few days past. This was encourageing and we continued on our journey, arriving at Ruthden Station, Louisa Springs, 22 miles out from Ft. Fletcher, at sunset, where we found a small train camped, water and grass being plentiful. Our repast of Buffalo steak and etceteras disposed of, we started off on our journey. As the darkness settled down about us, a feeling pervaded the party that all was not right. Conversation turned upon Indians. We heartily wished that it was morning. Shortly after midnight the coach stopped. "Turn out!" shouted the driver -- "Indians!" We were off the coach in a moment. A small body of men were visible advancing towards us in the darkness. Revolvers in hand, one of the party started toward the strangers who were discovered to be white men. From them we learned that the coach preceding ours had been attacked by Indians, from whom, after a desperate struggle, these men had escaped. The men were perishing with cold, and were out of ammunition. The Indians were in strong force, and evidently intent on their work of murder and destruction. All things considered, it was determined to return to Ruthden and despatch a messenger to Col. Tamblyn asking for an escort.


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The coach was turned about, the newcomers having been made as comfortable in it as possible, and, as we proceeded on our return, we learned the story of our new passengers. Their coach had arrived at Downer's Station about two o'clock in the afternoon, one passenger, the messenger and the driver being the occupants. At the Station they found two stock tenders, two carpenters, and a negro blacksmith. The mules were unharnessed and turned loose, when a band of mounted Indians charged whooping among them; the men retreated to the cave, or dobe as they designate it. Indians came from all directions, and completely surrounded the abode, the occupants of which prepared to fight. A half-breed son of Bill Bent, the old mountain man, was one of the leaders of the Indians; being able to speak English he managed to call to the occupants of the abode that he wanted to talk. This being assented to, he came up and inquired whether the treaty had been signed. He was informed that it had, to which he replied, "All right." They would have peace if the occupants of the abode would come out and shake hands, leaving their arms behind, and the Indians would do likewise.


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The men came out and a general handshaking followed. The Indians still further deceived the party by driving up the mules that had been stampeded by them, telling the messenger that the coach should proceed without molestation. Such evidence of friendliness or friendship disarmed the party of any suspicion of hostility, though the Indians were in full paint and without squaws. In a moment all was changed. The Indians turned upon the party -- bows, arrows and revolvers were produced -- and a desperate attack at once inaugurated. The messenger, Fred Merwin, a very gallant young man, was killed instantly; others of the party were wounded and the two stocktenders captured. Mr. Perine, the passenger, the driver, carpenters and blacksmith ran for the neighboring bluffs, which they succeeded in reaching. Taking possession of a buffalo wallow [it is still there] they fought until nightfall, when the Indians withdrew, and they made good their escape.

(The cool thing about the above is Howard said that in 1960 that Buffalo Wallow was still visible. When Howard placed a marker it was not close to the trail it was on the trail, you look east and west and thats the trail!)


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Mr. Perine gives a very interesting account of the fight from the wallow. "They formed a circle about us riding skilfully and rapidly; occasionally one more bold than the rest would come within range of our revolvers, but he was careful to keep his body on the side of his pony away from us. Arrows came from all directions; a rifle or revolver bullet would whistle past us or strike the earth near. It was evidently their purpose to permit us to exhaust our ammunition when they would be able to take us alive. Of this fact we were painfully aware and only fired when we were sure of a good shot, which kept them at a distance.


(The ravine the attack on the freighters came from.)


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While we were fighting from the wallow we could plainly see the Indians that still remained about the station, at work torturing the stockherders that they had succeeded in capturing alive. One poor fellow they staked to the ground, cut out his tongue, substituting another portion of his body in its place. They then built a fire on his body. The agonized screams of the man were almost unendurable. About him were the Indians, dancing and yelling like demons. The other stockherder was shoved up to look at the barbarous scene, the victim of which he was soon to be, but they reserved him until nightfall, evidently hoping that we might be added to the number of their victims. There could not have been less than 150 Indians in the entire party -- that is, those that were about us and about the station. Bent told us that Fast Bear, a Cheyenne chief, had command, but Bent is worse than an Indian. Had there been a possible chance to rescue the stockherders we would have attempted it. When darkness came the Indians withdrew, and as soon as we were convinced of the fact, we followed their example, going, it is unnecessary to remark, in the other direction. Chalk Bluffs, really Blufton, we found deserted and the station burning. Then we heard the coach coming and came to it. The Indians would probably have taken you if we had not."


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By this time we had reached Ruthden Louisa Springs. It was not yet daylight but we made all arrangements for a fight if we should be attacked at dawn, as we fully expected. A messenger was despatched to Col. Tamblyn, at Ft. Fletcher, 22 miles east, the stock was picketed suffiently near the corral of wagons to enable us to drive them into the circle, our party was disposed at points sufficiently distant from the corral to give the alarm in case of attack, and we were ready to fight Indians. The day passed without incident and at nightfall we discovered a welcome sight -- soldiers marching toward us from the direction of the fort. Very soon the Colonel rode up to us with a small escort of cavalry. A company of infantry soon followed and camped near us. For the time being our anxiety was relieved.


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On the morning of the 21st we left Ruthden, but moved slowly to enable the troops to keep pace with us. Chalk Bluffs, Blufton, a picturesquely located station, we found deserted and burned. What strange convulsion caused this strange crag-like mass? It rises from the plains like a vast castle, fashioned by the most ancient of architects. A fine spring, the water of which is strongly impregnated with magnesia is located here.
In the afternoon we reach Downers. The devastation here has been complete. The coach and everything that would burn about the station was destroyed. The ground was everywhere tracked over by the unshod hooves of the Indian ponies. We broke camp at daylight and a few miles from Downer we found a body, or rather the remains of a man, evidently killed the night before. The scalp was gone and the few arrows that still remained in the ribs marked the tribe to which the victim belonged, Cheyennes and Arapahoes.


(Bluffton station on the ridge on the horizon, on the other side of the lake.)


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We will pick this story of a 1865 trip over the BOD in the next post.


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Old February 4th, 2011, 05:32 PM   #38

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Castle Rock on the BOD.


1894 Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill Show, Sioux.

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQGW5a0q51w]YouTube - Native American Sioux dance 1894[/ame]


This strip of land up the middle of the Great Plains was the mother load for the Plains Tribes, all of them hunted on it but none moved in and just claimed it, they would have been under threat of attack at all times from other tribes if they had. By 1850 they had pretty much figured out that each other was not the enemy and formed alliances, basically you could be attacked by just about any of the plains tribes, I think the Pawnee had pretty much deserted to the dark side, or seen the light, by the time of the BOD.


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One of the attacks that received some publicity was the Jordan Massacre in 1874 out of Wakeeny, Kansas. Two men are killed and Jordans wife abducted never to be seen again, not going to get into that one now ,it's about thirty miles straight north of Cedar Bluff.


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There is another tragedy that occured along this trail, it would be known as the German Family Massacre, I mentioned the family in an earlier post. Here is a little back ground on John German, from the Moccasin Speaks.


The German family and their age, John German (45), Liddia (Cox) German (45), Rebecca Jane (20), Stephen (19) and Joanna (15) were killed and the five victims were scalped. The survivors who would be taken captive. Catherine (17), Sophia (12), Julia (7) and Adelaide (5).


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At the time of the Sand Creek Massacre, john German of Fanin County, Georgia was serving as a confederate soldier in the Civil War. When he returned to his home in 1865 he found it in shambles. Only his wife, children and some livestock had escaped a guerilla raid. After a friend wrote of opportunities in Colorado, German decided to take his family west. About five years were spent in preperation before the family left Georgia on April 10, 1870.


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Travel in the homemade covered wagon was slow for they often stopped to work to earn money before they could continue their journey.At one time they took a homestead in Missouri but the climate was not favorable for German and Catherine, one of the daughters. German traded the homestead for another yoke of oxen and a covered wagon and the family again headed west.


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When they reached Kansas, German intended to travel northwest until they reached the Union Pacific Railroad.
At Ellis, Kansas, he was told that water was scarce. He then decided to follow the Butterfield Trail, the old stagecoach route that lay along the Smoky Hill River.

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When he asked about the dangers of the route, he was told that there was little danger as there had been no deeds of violence for several years. The few indians they had met had seemed friendly and they were unaware of the warfare between the Cheyennes and the Whites.



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1874 was known for being one of the hotest and dryest summers on record, the drought was in full swing on the plains, that winter would be one of the coldest remembered, to the south unknown to the German family the Red River War of 1874 1875 was starting, the Cheyenne were off the reservation and Quanah Parkers Comanchee had still not came into the reservations.

I will continue the German Family story a little further up the trail on a lonely piece of prairie, a partial days wagon ride from Fort Wallace, so close yet so far!



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It is about twenty miles west from Bluffton station (Cedar Bluffs) to Castle Rock, and the land will start to change the further into the high plains you move, as the pics will show.


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This pic is from about eight miles straight north of the trail and Castle Rock looking south, you can really see how these high bluffs and formations would have been used as landmarks, the bump on the horizon is the bluff above Castle Rock, and the Hoodoo's.


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Zoomed in a little more, out here when you get a little elavation it feels like a lot.


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The trail ran just this side of the bluff about three hundred yards out, left to right in this pic above, you could probably see stage dust from here if you had Kiowa eyes. The German Family would have stoped here I would have thought, when we get up on the bluff you will see what I mean, you would not be able to pass here without stoping for a look.

The Bluffs.


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If there had been a guest registry up there for the past two hundred years it would read as a who's who of names from the old west.


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The scenery here is really grand. One mile south is a lofty calcareous limestone bluff, having the appearance of an old English castle with pillars and avenues traversing it in every direction. We named it Castle Rock.... Lt Fitch 1865.


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She lost about thirty foot off the top in about 1981 in a lightning strike.


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Old February 6th, 2011, 03:00 PM   #39

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Castle Rock, Kansas.


[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDK8foA6GTU&feature=player_embedded"]YouTube - Eastern Eagle Singers Schemitzun 2007[/ame]






I have resented that prairie was not an indian word. It should have been. The one thing the indian came nearer owning than any other, was the prairie.
William A. Quayle
The Prairie and the sea (1905)


This is on private property but is left open to the public, tread softly if you visit, the road into Castle Rock enters on the prairie side of the bluff. South side.


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The Kiowas reckoned their stature by the distance they could see.
N. Scott Momaday.


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The children of the American revolution hesitated forty years at the western edges of the forest because they didn't trust the grassland.

(Looking north west towards the trail)



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Eternal prairie and grass, with occasional groups of trees. (Captain John) Fremont prefers this to every other landscape. To me it is as if someone would prefer a book with blank pages to a good story.
Charles Preuse
Elploring with Fremont(1842)



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1854, May 30: Kansas became a territory.

(Looking southeast into the Hoodoo's.)



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1858: Smoky Hill Trail regularly used since gold had recently been discovered at Cherry Creek, near Denver in Kansas Territory. Denver was founded and then named after Kansas Territorial Governor James W. Denver.


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1859, Spring: “newspapers on both ends of the route began lamenting about the hardships of the trail. Kansas City papers reported the stories coming from the trail and concluded: ‘How often will it be necessary to tell the public that there is no road up the Smoky Hill.’”


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“The Rocky Mountain News in Denver reported that men were arriving every day from the states by way of the Smoky Hill Trail and most of them were half-starved. One story reported that three men had starved to death on the trail. Still another story told by an emigrant, although it was unverified, told of seventeen men in one party who had starved to death. One emigrant reported that the remains of a hundred men could be found along the road.


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“An editorial in the News condemned the men and newspapers in the East that had encouraged people to start out on the Smoky Hill Trail with so few provisions, expecting to find a good road and good camps with plenty of wood and water. Instead, they had found no road at all, very little wood and, in many places, no water.”


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1859: The Smoky Hill Trail became known as the Starvation Trail when the Blue brothers were forced to cannibalism during a long and arduous trek to Denver.


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Alexander, Daniel and Charles Blue along with their traveling companion Soley, not only made bad navigation choices on the unmarked trail, but received erroneous information about the availability of food and water. They also encountered early spring blizzards which slowed their travel, plus assumed distances were closer than the actual miles.


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Although well supplied with food and a packhorse when leaving Leavenworth, Kansas, the brothers ran out of food somewhere in western Kansas and their packhorse had previously been stolen by Indians during the night. According to newspaper accounts, told by lone survivor Daniel Blue, they made a pact that whoever died should be eaten so the others would survive. Soley died first and the brothers consumed him even though this was a despicable act to them. Alexander Blue was next to die and the brothers eventually followed the pact to survive by eating their brothers’ body.


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Daniel and Charles had been trekking onward with the false hope that they were close to Denver, with Pike’s Peak in sight glimmering in the distance. Charles, the youngest of the three, could not make it any longer and also expired from lack of food and deplorable conditions. Daniel finally made the decision to use his brothers’ body for food sustenance to finish his long trip.


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After all these hardships, Daniel finally could not go on and laid down to die. Arapahoe Indians found his almost lifeless body and nursed him back to traveling health. On May 11th, Daniel Blue arrived in Denver telling his story which sickened even the hardiest of miners, townspeople, and pioneers. News spread quickly of the brothers’ ordeal and travel ceased on the Smoky Hill for a time. The route needed to be surveyed and marked to show for the best route for water and where the trail actually was located.



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1858-1860: Gold seekers walked, drove wagons, pushed two wheeled carts and lugged wheelbarrows across the plains to reach the gold fields. It was the shortest trail by one hundred miles to the gold regions.


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Old February 7th, 2011, 08:36 AM   #40
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Another example of your passion and some fine stuff. I'd be please to walk the Platte with you anytime SB. Great work.
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