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Skirting the Skirmishes

During the fall of 1864, as response in part to attacks by Colorado militia and in part due to disruptions caused by white incursions into tribal lands, bands of Oglala, Brule, Cheyenne, and Arapaho warriors launched a series of raids on posts along the main immigrant road following the Little Blue and Platte rivers. The raids closed the road to traffic, and forced the evacuation of settlers to safer territory. Many settlers on the outskirts of the skirmishes took precaution as well. One incident was recorded by L. A. Simmons at Saltillo, on the Nebraska City Road in southern Lancaster County.

Simmons's account begins on the morning of August 24, 1864, when "Government Scouts rode through the settlement warning everyone to congregate at the ranch station at Saltillo for defense against the Indians, that there was two thousand of them crossing the Blue River at Camden, twenty miles west. In a few hours every one in the settlement, with what they could put in their wagons with their families, gathered at Saltillo ranch and were assigned the east side of Salt Creek on the north side of the freight road.

"The scouts had held all freight wagons that had been camped there and stopped all west going freight trains, and by four P.M. about two hundred of them had arrived. . . . About four o'clock in the evening a train of two thousand Mormons arrived on their way to Salt Lake, they were placed on the west side of the creek, and south side of the freight road. About the same hour a company of regulars and a company of light Artillery came in from Nebraska City, on their way to Fort Laramie, they were placed on the west side of the creek, and north side of the road. . . .

"There was great excitement in camp during the evening, some wanting to move the families eastward toward the Missouri river at once, but the Government scouts advised against dividing forces until further investigating the situation. The next morning the Scouts reported that the Indians had not come any closer than Cheese creek ranch, located on cheese creek (now called Haines branch) about two miles south of the present town of Denton. The supposition being that the Indians had learned the strength of the defenders, and had turned back."

Following receipt of the good news, many families decided to remove east temporarily. Within two to three weeks, most had returned to Saltillo, never to experience a scare like that again in Lancaster County.

(September 1997)



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