Surrender of the Murders of the German Family
March 26, 1875
Surrender of the Murders of the German Family-
The Story of the Survivors.
[Cheyenne (Indian Nation) Letter to N. Y. Herald.
This wild western
country, uninhabited save by big strolling bands of Indians
here and there a government post, has never known a tragedy that equals that committed
in Central Kansas, September 11, 1874.
General Thomas Neil is the commander of the post, and in answer to a question by the
Herald correspondent as to the manner of the surrender of the Cheyenne’s he said:
“Stone Calf, the chief of the Cheyenne , came into the post on February 9th, saying that
the tribe would surrender. I sent out an ambulance for the two German girls, Catherine and
Sophia and on the 25th they were brought in. They were in a terrible condition. All the garments
they wore was an old army blanket, and their face and bodies were daubed with paint.
Mr. John D. Miles, the United States Indian Agent, took them immediately to his house,
where they were dressed and properly cared for.”
Catherine, the eldest is but seventeen years old, and is a young lady of neat figure and rather handsome.
From her manner it is evident that she has been well reared and that her family was well to do in the world.
Sophia fared better in here trials. She is eleven years of age, and like her sister, has dark hair ands blue eyes.
She is tall and well developed foe one of her years. Both of them were treated very horribly while with the
Indians, as their present condition shows.
Both were subjected to indescribable indignities and beastly outrages by nearly all the male Indians.
The family consisted of John German his wife, Lydia, and seven children, as follows:
Rebecca, 21; Stephen, 19, Johanna, 15, Catherine, 17; Sophia, 11; Julia, 7, and Nancy 5.
Five years ago they left Morgantown, Fannin County, Ga., and removed to Howell county, Mo.
In May, 1872 they removed to Merryville, Stone county, Mo., and in the following September
they emigrated to Elgin Howard County, Kansas, from which place they started to Colorado and
on the journey they were all with the exception of four murdered. On arriving at Smoky Hill River,
in the central part of Kansas only about fourteen miles from the Kansas Pacific Railroad, and
within thirty miles of Fort Wallace, they were attacked by the Indians.
Catherine, in an interview with a reporter of The Herald, said:
“Just as the sun was rising, and while engaged in driving the cattle up the river bank towards the wagon,
I heard shouts and yells, and running closer, saw my father fall, shot through the back by an Indian.
I was terribly frightened, but I can never forget the spectacle that there ensued.
My brother Stephen
was a half mile away hunting up some stock, and he had a gun
As poor father fell mother rushed toward him only to receive a shot from another Indian
who fired at her head, killing her almost instantly. My father was not killed at once, for
he moved his arms about as he was scalped by one of the party. They also scalped my mother.
An old squaw picked up our axe and struck it in my father’s head, leaving it fixed in his skull.
During the time this was going on one party rode after Stephen and shot and scalped him.
My sister, Rebecca, made a brave defense with an axe; she knocked down one of the Indians,
and would have killed him if she had not been tomahawked from behind. While half insensible,
and scarcely alive the Indians (five or six of them) despoiled her person and after that scalped her.
They then carried her neat the wagon tore off her clothes, piled them over her, with some other
things from the wagon, and while she was still alive set fire to the pile ands burdened her up.
Here the broken hearted girl broke down and the reporter waited some time before she could
proceeded Amidst sobs and tears, and in broken utterances she continued as follows, occasionally assisted by Sophia:
“After all were killed but we five sisters, they gathered around us to see which one should be put out of the way,
as they said they could only take four along. One Indian, who seemed to be a chief, came up and
looked at Johanna and me, suddenly drew up his gun and shot my sister’s head off. I was so
frightened that I could not stir for a long time. As soon as they got everything they wanted they
set the wagon on fire and killed the cattle; then made Sophia ands I get on horses and tied us on,
took our to little sisters up in front of them and started off as fast as the horses could go.
We traveled all day,
going due south. I should judge. One squaw tried to save
Rebecca’s life; but the Indian she hit with the axe said he would have her scalp, and so she was shot.
After traveling two days we crossed a railroad track. The day after we got over the railroad Medicine
Man, with a small party left, and were gone until late in the afternoon. When they came up to us they
had three fresh scalps and a number of articles of wearing apparel that must have belonged to a man,
woman and small
child; also had a lot of canned fruit and oysters.
after keeping us riding nearly two weeks the main camp near the Staked Plains was reached.
Stone Calf had command and when they brought us in all the tribe turned out and had a great time.
The same night they had a big scalp dance over the scalps of our family and made us all look at it.
Two days after the main body of Indians was reached. They took sister Julia and Nancy away
from the camp and I have never seen them since.
Sophia saw them
once, about December but for only a few minutes.
Al of us were one day placed on horses and after the Indian fashion made to ride as fast as
horses could go and the Indian who caught us had to take care of us for good.
Soon after this the whole body started north to get out of the way of the troops which, it was reported,
were close at hand. Stone Calf, with Sophia, was left behind with about one hundred more, and the rest
under charge of Gray Beard, Eagle Head, Heaps of Bird, and Lean Bear still kept on the north.
In about a week, while encamped on Wolf Creek, the soldiers again made the Indians run.
I did not see them, but heard the guns. All of this time I was on horseback, and a good
deal of the time very sick, had to ride all the time and at night was often whipped and
beaten because I
could not carry as much wood and water as some of the squaws.
All this time I was under charge of Long Back. At times I was nearly frozen, having
nothing but a blanket to keep warm with at night. Sometimes there would be a foot
of snow on the ground, but they made me work just as hard This was about December 1st.
My feet were frozen, and the nails on my right foot all came off. In January I met sister
Sophia for a short time, and she told me we were better to be killed.
The reporter asked Catherine if she thought they would kill her, and she answered,
“No; I always thought the soldiers would release us some time, and told Sophia not to be afraid.
In the latter part of January I received a letter from General Neil, brought to the camp by a Kiowa scout,
telling me to keep up good spirits and the soldiers would soon capture us.
A second letter was received after this but the Indians would not let me open it.
They said (this section black, blotted) ????? not let me take it. ?? hands. As soon as the letter was received I felt ever so much better.
We had little to eat. Horses and dogs were all the meat we had to eat.
(Next10 lines looks like ink blot unable to read)
Calf. At last Medicine Water came to my lodge and told me I was to be given up. I asked him to let
me see Sophia, and he answered, sister dead. I did not believe him, and one day Stone Calf told me she was alive and well.
About two weeks ago I saw a four horse wagon coming toward our camp, and as soon as it was near enough
I started to run out to meet it. The Indian would not let me, but made me go in to the tent.
Soon Romeo came to me and spoke to me in English. It was the first time I had heard it for months. He said
I might go with him and he would take good care of me. I got into the ambulance, and there for the first time in two months saw Sophia.
We at once left the Indians behind in two days came in sight of the soldiers tents where I saw General Nell,
Mrs. Miles and all the rest who were so kind to me. I could not help crying.
Mrs. Miles is as kind as a mother to us.
Did they take all the clothes away from you at the time you wee captured?
Yes; and only gave me an old blanket to keep warm with.
Can you identify the Indians who made the attack on your family?
I have seen them 50 times since and can tell them all.
How many were there?
Seventeen men and two squaws.
Have you seen the squaw who hit your father with an axe?
Was Medicine Water one of the war party?
He seemed to be the leader
Did they scalp all the family after they were killed?
All except Johanna. She had been sick and her hair was very short.
How was Sophia treated after she left you?
From what she tells me she had a much easier time than I had.
She was only whipped once or twice and did not have to carry so much wood and water.
Where will you go, now that you are rescued from the Indians?
I don’t know yet, she replied. I would prefer to remain her rather than return to Georgia.
If Sophia and I can get a good education here, I had rather remain here than go any where they are so good to me.