|Birth: ||Jan. 29, 1837, Ireland|
|Death: ||Aug. 6, 1864|
Son of David Moffitt and Elizabeth Nicholl, came to the USA about 1840, settling in the east, around Philadelphia. They later moved to Stark and then Henry County, Illinois. In the 1860's two of the sons, John and Thomas went west. Their story follows:
INDIAN RAIDS IN LINCOLN COUNTY KANSAS
1864 and 1869
Story of those killed, with a history of the monument erected to their memory in Lincoln Court House Square,
May 30, 1909
by: C. Bernhardt
published: Lincoln, Kansas - by: The Lincoln Sentinel Print - in: 1910
(complete text transcribed online by Joan Stevenson)
Massacre of the First Settlers.
The first settlers in Lincoln County, John L. Moffitt, Thomas Moffitt, John W. Houston and James Tyler, were murdered by the Indians, August 6, 1864. The only reliable information we have regarding the settlement here of any of these young men is derived from letters written to members of their family by the Moffitt brothers. Through the courtesy of George W. Moffitt of Lawrence, Kansas, I give the following extract from a letter received by Robert Nichol Moffitt, and written from Kansas by his brother John, dated May 13, 1864. The letter says: "We came here March 16, 1864. We are twenty-five or thirty miles from Salina, up the Saline river. We are now thirteen miles from the nearest house. We put up a stable thirty-five feet in length, a house twenty-two feet, of logs." - Lincoln County Sentinel, Feb 11, 1909; also published in the Lincoln Republican and Sylvan News.
These were the first substantial buildings in Lincoln county so far as I have knowledge, and were located on the southwest quarter of section 10, in what is now in Elkhorn township, Lincoln county, in the bend of the Saline river, just below the present site of the Rocky Hill bridge. The letter which follows was written by the younger brother Thomas, to his sister in Philadelphia. The mother was then living in Henry county, Illinois, from whence the brothers had emigrated to Kansas.
Letter from Thomas Moffitt
"Salina, (Kansas), July 30, 1864.
"McCanless and Nancy:
I suppose it is my time to write now, as I have left home. I have no chance to hear from you through any letters that you may send others. I have not had a letter from home since I came away, and I have not heard from Philadelphia for a long time; you must try and write as soon as it will be convenient, for I am dreadful anxious to hear from you. "I left home the middle of April and came to Kansas to Jack. Although I don't like Kansas, I think I will stay for awhile. Jack and I have brought about fifty head of cows and heifers. We are going to raising stock. I think we can make a living easier raising cattle than working so hard as we used to.
"This is an excellent grazing country and is very poor farming country - the fact is, it is too subject to drought for farming. "We were doing very well and would do as well now if it were not for the Indians. We would make five or six dollars a day hunting buffalo, but we have been obligated to give it up for the present. The Indians are so hostile to the hunters and settlers that we dare not go from the house.
"When we have to go we go armed. Even when we go to the stable to take care of the horses we carry our revolvers along; rather hard lines these from what we have been used to. The government has sent out several companies of soldiers, but they can't fight the Indians as well as settlers themselves. Some of the folks that have families are leaving Salina for a more safe place. Some expect there will be a regular Indian war, but I don't think there will be any trouble in the settlement from the Indians.
"Jack just got back the other day in company with two other fellows, and fetched a load of hides. "As I have nothing that is interesting to you I will fetch my letter to a close. "Thomas Moffitt"
"Direct to Salina, Saline Co., Kansas
"Give my love to Uncle and Aunt and all my friends."
This letter from Thomas Moffitt dated July 30, 1864, was written just six days before his death. The two hunters spoken of in the letter are probably the two men killed in the battle on August 6th, 1864, with the writer, namely, John W. Houston and one Tyler, although one might have been Charles Case, as he was known to have been with the Moffitts at various times and became administrator of the estate after they were killed by the Indians. But it is likely it was Houston and Tyler who were there on this 30th day of July, spoken of in the above letter. This letter also refers to the country as an agricultural possibility, and it seems to indicate that the Moffitts' estimate and opinion of the country was not much different from that of other early pioneers, that this part of Kansas was not fit for anything but buffaloes and cattle. To the everlasting honor of the pioneer, this very neighborhood has been changed from a barren wilderness to the garden spot of the state.
This letter further seems to convey the idea that there were several companies of soldiers sent out by the government for the purpose of protecting the settlers from the Indians, but from the sentiment of the letter it seems as though the settlers had but poor faith in that kind of protection.
TROOPS ON KANSAS FRONTIER
The troops on our frontier during the Civil War, were very poorly armed, as is shown in a report made by Capt. O.F. Dunlap of the 15th Kansas Cavalry, commanding Fort Riley, May, 1864, in which he says that he had "furnished such arms as were at hand to Captain Booth stationed at this post. Those arms are of various kinds, cavalry and infantry, and are unfit to issue to either except in case of emergency. - "Officials Records of the Rebellion, Series 1, vol. 34, pt 3, page 425. Henry Booth was captain of Company L. Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, which was raised in the neighborhood of Fort Riley. In the summer of 1864 he was in command of a battalion on duty in the neighborhood of Saline and Lincoln counties. His battalion was composed of a detachment of cavalry from co. H, Seventh Iowa, Second Lieutenant Ellsworth in command, a detachment from Company L, Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, Second Lieutenant William Booth in command, and detachments from the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Kansas State Militia, numbering in all about 92 men. In a report of a scouting trip along the Smoky Hill and Arkansas in the first days of August, 1864, and dated the 5th, at Salina, Captain Booth mentions finding a recent camp site of from four to five hundred Indians having a lot of stock, on Big creek, probably in what is now the southeast corner of Ellis County. He concludes: "I think from present indications the Indians are upon the Saline, Solomon and Republican rivers, as the buffaloes are plenty upon these streams, and they depend entirely upon them for a living. Undoubtedly they are encamped upon one of these streams." From this it would seem that the country was overrun by Indians, and that the tragedy reported in his next communication might have been expected.
REPORT OF THE MOFFITT MASSACRE BY
CAPT. HENRY BOOTH
Salina, August 11, 1864
"Sir: I have the honor to report the following facts in regard to the killing of four men by Indians near Beaver Creek, about forty miles from this place, on the north bank of the Saline River. Saturday evening, August 6, 1864, four men, viz: two men (brothers) named Moffitt, one Tyler and one Hueston, started from their ranch to kill a buffalo for meat, taking a two-horse team with them. Upon reaching a top of a hill about three-quarters of a mile from the house the Indians were discovered rushing down upon them. The horses were turned and run down toward a ledge of rock where the men took position. They appear to have fought desperately and must have killed several Indians. Three of the men killed were scalped, but one of the scalps was left upon a rock close by. The horses were both shot through the head. This probably was done by the ranchmen to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Indians. The wagon was burned. The Indians made a descent upon the house, in which were an old man and a woman. The old man shot one of the Indians through a hole in the wall, whereupon they all fled. They judged the number of Indians to be about 100. When the messenger arrived at this place a party of twelve citizens, with Sergeant Reynolds, of H Company, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, proceeded to the spot. They learned about the facts. The Sergeant says the Indians retreated up the Salina River (west). As all the ranchmen have left the country west of this point, the Indians will be obliged to fall upon the settlements next for plunder. It seems as if they were determined to pick up all the stock possible and kill all they can overpower. The people of Saline County met in mass-meeting this afternoon "to devise ways and means to protect themselves and property from the ravages of the red skins." I would state here, General, my urgent need of more cavalry horses to mount my company. I have as yet only eight Government horses, the balance (thirty) being private.
Capt., Co. L., Eleventh Kansas Vol. Cavalry, Commanding Post." - Furnished through the courtesy of Geo. West Moffitt of Lawrence.
"The scene of the awful tragedy where two of our clan were filled with arrows, scalped and left naked and dead upon the prairies, was in what is now Lincoln county, Kansas, the rocky ledge upon the Northeast quarter of section nine, township twelve, range seven in Elkhorn township.
"The brothers belonged to a Country Antrim, Ireland - Philadelphia line, being John Leach Moffitt, born January 29, 1837, at Gracehill, County Antrim, Ireland, and Thomas Moffitt, born 1841, at the same place. Both were killed as above mentioned, August 6, 1864. Robert Nicol Moffitt, an elder brother, came from Illinois to Kansas to recover the bodies. On September 20, with an escort of soldiers with headquarters at Salina, he went up the river to his brothers' graves, disinterred the remains and removed them to Westfield, Ill., where they rest in the family lot in the cemetery. The parents of the brothers who thus lost their lives almost without warning, were David Moffitt of County Antrim, Ireland, and Elizabeth Nicol of the Island of Guernsey; both parents died in Illinois."
"We are told from Illinois that a woman in the log house was the daughter of the old man, the wife of one of the men killed, and the sister of the other, who, with two children, had come on a day's visit to John and Thomas Moffitt; the buffalo hunt was organized partly for sport and partly for meat for the visitors." - Published in the Lincoln Sentinel, Republican and Sylvan Grove News of Lincoln county, Feb. 11, 1909.
The Indians did not burn the Moffitt house, nor did they steal any of the live stock which the Moffits had in their possession. The Moffitts killed their team and burned their wagon so the Indians could not get possession of them. There are many old settlers who can remember the location of the house and stable. There are yet a few remnants left of both. The stable stood there for some time after the Moffitts were killed. The buildings were rather pretentious structures for that period, and they were beyond a doubt the first permanent buildings erected by white men in Lincoln county.
The spot where the battle took place is on an adjoining section, so the distance from their dwelling to the battle ground is not much more than one-half mile in a direct line. But Beaver Creek is between the battle field and the house, and the banks are very steep in most places. They were evidently cut off by the Indians and unable to get home or into the creek, and this probably accounts for the stand which they took at the rock ledge spoken of. If they had secured this protection they would have been saved, as I have failed to find a single instance where any whites were killed in their homes or in a well protected river or creek. The Indians always tried to secure their victims in as easy a manner as possible, and the rock ledge where the Moffitts took their last stand gave the Indians an excellent opportunity to carry out their method of warfare.
DEFENSE OF MOFFIT HOUSE
The old gentleman and the woman mentioned by Captain Booth were the father-in-law and wife respectively of Houston. Tyler was a brother of Mrs. Houston. The old man was from forty to forty-five years old, and the woman about twenty-five. The child spoken of by my Illinois informant was only a few years old. These people told the following story as to how they escaped: The Indians came to the cabin the same evening after they had killed the Moffitts, Houston and Tyler, and the woman wanted her father to shoot at them, as there was only three or four of them; but the old man declined, as he was afraid to provoke them. They rode up to the house and told the occupants to come out as they were good Indians, and that they had nothing to be afraid of; but they kept themselves in the house. The next morning the Indians came again, and the woman induced her father to pull out a chunk in the wall between the logs, and he shot one of the Indians. Whereupon they turned and went back to camp. The old man and the woman and the child kept to themselves barricaded in the house for about two days, and then made their escape to the Tripp homestead, just east of what is now Tescott. From there they went to Salina, leaving the town shortly afterward, and were not heard from again.
HOUSTON AND TYLER
Since the above was written I have found another version of the man and the woman in the Moffitt house at the time of the battle. This has been furnished me by Mrs. Emma Wensink, of Tescott, Kansas, who is a daughter of William Tripp and a sister of Woodfield Tripp who was one of the party that helped to bury the Moffitts. Mrs. Wensick's story is as follows: The man and woman came to her father's house near Tescott, Ottawa county and staid there for a while, and the girl (Houston's daughter) always addressed the man as "Uncle." The woman gave her name as Mrs. Houston and said that the man named Tyler who was killed was her brother; and this will fairly correspond with what has been written before, with the exception that the man in the house was not the father of the woman and Tyler, but he was their brother. The brother, who was left in the house was not very bright, therefore he was left at home for company for his sister. The Tyler who was killed was referred to as James Tyler, so I am reasonably satisfied that I have his given name correct, and also the correct relationship existing between all of them.
The place where the four men were killed has been badly marred, next thing to destroyed since the battle took place. The victims were all buried a few yards east of where they fell. Houston and Tyler still rest there in unmarked graves, and the exact spot is not known. Why would it not be fitting for the citizens of Lincoln county to have a search for the bodies of those two pioneers and place them in the cemetery? The Moffits were removed to Illinois shortly after the massacre.
BURIAL OF THE MURDERED MEN
The names of the parties who came up from Salina to bury the dead as furnished me by Hon. Tom Anderson of Salina, is as follows: Tom Anderson, now living in Salina; Ervin Harris, dead; O.P. Hamilton, dead; Albert Brown, dead; Peter Geirsch, Jr. now living near Shady Bend, Lincoln county; Hiram Mosier, dead; Thomas Boyle, dead; Charley Robinson, dead; Woodfield Tripp, dead; John Cline, now living in New Cambria; and Adam Caldwell. The last named claimed that he was there, but it is doubted by some of the parties. Those men came from Salina to Beaver Creek, a distance of about thirty-five miles, to perform the sad funeral rites, and not a soldier was with them; yet the commanding officer had the honor to have reported the killing, yet had not followed up the Indians or offered any assistance.
The funeral party found the bodies in a very decomposed condition, as they had been exposed to the hot August sun for several days. They were all wrapped in blankets and buried in one grave side by side, near the spot where they were killed, and a headboard placed at each one.
After burying the Moffits and their companions, the funeral party started on their return to Salina and got as far as the Tripp homestead east of Tescott. There they got a little to eat and were going to stay all night, but Tom Anderson had left his young wife in Salina, so he went and saddled his horse to go to Salina during the night. A Mr. and Mrs. Harrington, who were under suspicion of being cattle and horse rustlers, were staying at the Tripp homestead over night. When Mrs. Harrington heard that Mr. Anderson wanted to leave, she seized a butcher knife and told Mr. Anderson that she would cut the heart out of any s---- of a b---- that would attempt to leave before morning. She was possibly afraid that he would go and report to an officer in Salina. This little incident shows the state of mind that prevailed at that time. The whites were afraid of the whites as well as of the Indians. Mr. Anderson left for Salina just the same, and he took his heart with him.
NUMBER OF INDIANS IN THE BATTLE
After the funeral the party made a little tour of inspection around the battle field. Mr. Anderson reports that there were by actual count, on the top of the hill west of the battle field, not far from where the new Rocky Hill school house is now located, the fire places of fifteen Indian tepees that had been pitched a few days before the funeral took place, so that there must have been fifty or more Indians in the bunch. It has been generally supposed that the Indians camped on Bullfoot creek the night after killing the Moffitts, but the camping place on the top of that hill would indicate that they camped right there on the same quarter section where the battle took place. This would make it one mile or more between the Indian camp and the Moffitt house, so it had been hard for the man, woman and child in the house to escape. The funeral party found any number of marks on the sides of the rock ledges, made by bullets fired by the Indians. Two of the party picked up an armful of arrows, showing that the Indians were well armed with both firearms and bows and arrows. Mr. Anderson is of the opinion that this was the hardest fought battle between whites and Indians in this part of Kansas, and a good many of the Indians were certainly killed in that battle. About two miles north from the stone ledge, up the creek, a buffalo robe was found by the funeral party. This robe was to all appearances fixed up for carrying things from place to place, and was blood stained all over, showing that it certainly had been used for carrying the dead and wounded from the battle field on Beaver creek. That would make the location of the place where it is thought the Indians buried their dead not far from where our present County Farm is located.
David MOFFITT (1794 - 1854)
Elizabeth Nicholl Moffitt (1798 - 1891)
Created by: Old History Buff
Record added: Feb 03, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 24355526
Added by: Anonymous
Added by: Anonymous
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