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1868 Indian Raid

Rumors of Indian depredation committed by bands of Arapahoe and Cheyenne alarmed the settlers of Douglas County in the late summer of 1868. The settlers built a fort on the site where the clay pit is, about half way between Larkspur and Tomah.

Pricilla Allafar Swinney's Story; "The settlers built a fort at the Ben Quick place on West Plum Creek. I watched the men build it. All the neighbors moved to the place. Some of the men took teams and wagons and axes and went to the timber and cut long poles and some men dug large post holes and they would set two posts a foot or two apart and some 10 or 12 feet between each set of two posts, then filled in between the posts to the top of the posts. They built it around the new house and the old house. The well was a large one and would furnish water for the people and their horses as it would be necessary to bring them in the fort. They finished the fort and all in one week. Then they went home and remained one week, and on a Monday night George Ratcliff came just after dark to Peter Brennan's and told us that the Indians had come to a Mr. Wells and the Langley's house somewhere above Larkspur and commenced shooting. Mr. Langley and Mr. Wells, who lived at the same place, hitched their horses to a wagon and the women laid down in the wagon and an Indian fighter that lived with them kept shooting every time an Indian got close enough. They finally got started. One held the lines and the other whipped with a black whip. The man in the wagon kept shooting when the Indians got within shooting distance. I saw this man the next day or the third day after. He wore a black coat and wide brim black hat. He had several holes in his coat top, sleeves and the top of the shoulders and several in his hat and not one bullet had drawn blood. How they missed him I do not know and I do not remember his name, but in 1913 he lived in Eastern Colorado. The Indians followed them until near the fort at the clay pit. I suppose they were afraid of them having a cannon at the fort. They left them.

George Ratcliff came to my mother and told us how the Indians had chased the Langleys’ and the Wells’ families but the men at my stepfathers thought as it was several miles to Larkspur from the Brennan place they would be safe until morning, but about midnight mother heard a man walking and she awakened the men, Pete Brennan, George Ratcliff and a man named Nelson, brother and I. it proved to be Ben Quick. He had walked to warn us the Indians had run Joe Desbrow from his cabin at East Plum Creek Canyon. (Mr. King tore the cabin down in 1935.)

The Indians chased him to the sorter place (now called the palm place). There were a few men there. The Indians left as they did not want to be shot. The Hopkins family came to the fort, all the families on West Plum Creek came to the fort that night. Some of the men went to each house to warn them. The men at our house stood guard while mother packed our things. She had a small light and in a minute one Indian whistled and another answered above the house but they did not come nearer. I don't think I ever saw a darker night. It had been a lovely day and mother, brother and I picked wild plums. However near midnight a few flakes of snow fell. My stepfather and the hired man, a Mr. Nelson, had been hauling hay and stacking it. They had a hay rack on the wagon and the men piled what they would be able to hold on it of our household goods that we would have to have. Then father loaded a musket with buck shot and said if an Indian shot at him and didn't get him he would shoot back in the direction from which the shot came. Mother held the Ballard rifle. Brother and I would hold up our hands to see if we could see them. It was so very dark. George Ratcliff rode ahead as he said his mare would know the road home. Father would ride behind him and Ben Quick and Nelson each rode behind the wagon.

When we arrived, the Fort Quick house was crowded with people that had come from their homes. No one had gone to bed as no one knew where to make their beds or sleep. As we were the latest to arrive lots of questions were asked if we had seen any Indians. Mother said she had seen the campfires in what is called Perry Park. We had come by a trail or a dim road that was closer to the fort than was the wagon road but was in view of the park. The men said they did not notice the fires. Mother told them she was afraid if she said anything brother and I would cry or make some noise that would attract the Indians but that if they went over there they could see where the fires had been. Sure enough 14 campfires had been built and for years the ashes and grass kill showed where the fires had been.

Several narrow escapes were the talk of the men during those exciting times. The stock had to be neglected, the cows were milked on Monday evening, some gave a water pail of milk at a milking and were not milked again until Friday afternoon. The men were after the Indians and the women had no way to go to their homes to care for the stock. The Indians killed some people but mostly took horses. They killed Mrs. Duterman and cut her up. They killed some men but most everyone got to safety.

There were many harrowing experiences in those days. Five Ute Indians followed the Indians (the Arapahos and Cheyenne's) for five days, Pete Brennan went with them. They followed their tracks for five days, slept on their trail when it got so dark so they could not follow their tracks. They said the Arapahos and Cheyenne's had killed their fathers and mothers and so many of their people they wanted to catch up with the bunch. The first night they came to Lake Gulch and a bunch of Germans were there. Mr. Brennan told the five to stay back as the Germans would not know the difference between Arapahoe and Cheyenne from the Ute's and as they knew but few words of English they had better not show up. Mr. Brennan called (they were eating supper) and several of them came out and called to him. A man knew his voice and said, “Be that you Pete“? Mr. Brennan said “That is me but I don't know you“. He then said “My name be John we worked on Cherry Creek at home in 1860.“ Then he told the other men were friends. Mr. Brennan told the man he had five Indians with him and that they were after the Indians that were killing people. The men said the Indians had been there that day shooting at them. Mr. Brennan and the Ute's followed five days then the Ute's said it was no use because the Indians were so far ahead of them they could not catch up with them. For years those Ute's would say Mericana man heap brave when any of our family should see any of those Ute's. The man got so close to the Indians that they dripped plunder they had taken from the settlers. One bundle upon opening it contained a little puppy they had taken from our house the night of the raid. They brought it to the fort and I knew it as one that Mr. James had picked from a bunch of pups and said for me to keep it for him. Those were exciting times the summer and fall of 1868.

My mother, stepfather, brother and I remained at the fort. George Ratcliff and Peter Brennan went to George Ratcliff's home (new part of Perry Park Ranch) to stack hay on wagons and hauled it to where they were stacking. Brother carried Peter Brennan's gun from one hay stack to the next and I carried George Ratcliff's gun close enough at all times so he could grab the gun out of my hands and Pete Brennan could grab the gun out of brother's hand and shoot back at the Indians if they showed up.

The Ride for Life

“The morning after our midnight ride to the fort 16 men said they would ride to the divide to see if all the people had been killed. They were as well armed as they could be with guns and ammunition that they had. They appointed John Corntz (spelled with a k or c) as captain. The men who went are as follows: John A. Corntz—captain, Peter Brennan, George Ratcliff, Lenn Wells, George Dakan, James Torrance, Obe Hopkins, Mr. Hopkins, John Kinner, Ben Quick, Mr. Nelson, John Morehead, Charley Goodwin, Horam Gove and two men on the Wells place.

I watched them start that morning,. I don't think George Nixon was along, I believe he was in Denver. After a short time George Ratcliff ran his horse to the fort telling us the Indians had all the men surrounded at the mouth of Plum Creek Canyon where Joe Desbrow's cabin stood. The men soon came as they had run their horses and very few had hats on. The Indians had all the advantages as lots of Indians were using the ditch for breast?

works and others were taking to the creek to shoot from the willows. Others were getting on their horses and going along the sides of the mountains and could have soon reached the fort. Mr. Goodwin, a very old man and Joe Desbrow who had run so far the evening before he was not able to ride after the Indians and one other old man was at the fort so there was not much protection for the people at the fort if the Indians had got to the fort ahead of the men.”

Written by Priscella Allafar Swinney - born March 24, 1860 Atchison, Kansas

Priscilla Allafar Swinney writes the following about her life.

“After my father died April 13, 1860, mother, brother and I lived with grandparents Charles and Sarah Frances Cummings 4 miles north of Atchison, Kansas until may 12, 1868. Mother brought brother and I to Denver, Colorado where she married Peter Brennan of Douglas, County, Colorado. We came from grandfathers to Atchison, Kansas, crossed the Missouri River on a ferry boat, went to St. Joseph Missouri on a train, then on a steam boat to Omaha, Nebraska, then on a train to Cheyenne, Wyoming, then stage coach to Denver, Colorado where we were met by Linza James and taken to his home. Eleven days on the trip. Then mother was married to Peter Brennan and he took us to his home in Douglas County May 23, 1868. Linza James lived somewhere on Stout Street in Denver, Colorado. He lived in a large two story house. There were about 20 invited guests at mother's wedding. We started from Denver early in the morning and arrived a Peter Brennan's home about 9 p.m. that day May 23, 1868.

There were no street cars in Denver at that time and no railroads in Colorado. There were no schools in Douglas County. Ben Quick hired Milly Boon, a sister of Mrs. Stevens to teach his children that summer and had school in their upstrairs. Brother and I went. She was teaching until her intended husband came one night and persuaded her to quit and get married. Then in 1870 they built a 12x14 boxed up one room house just south of where George Robinson's house now is. Will Thompson's sister, Mr. Norris, taught two months, Kate Reck taught three months. In 1870 Frank Saunders taught five months, in 1872 Kate Reck taught three months, in 1873 Kate Reck three months, in 1874 Miss Neff taught three months and in 1875 Kate Reck taught three months there and three months in a house Pete Brannan had. That was my last school.

King David Swinney, Priscilla Allafar Swinney, Schuyler Robbinson, George Robbinson, Nellie Street, Albert Dakan, Ora Dakan, Mark Wells and a colored boy from Perry Park ranch were the pupils. They were all that were in the district of school age. They had moved the school house down the creek. Tom Starr owns the land now. Then in 1876 they moved the school house near the highway below the John Kinner place east of the George Nixon place. It burned down then they built a house where the Glen Grove School House now stands. It burned down and they built the present one.”

The above was taken from the book "Larkspur '76ers.