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THE KILLING OF BENJAMIN WHITE AND THE CAPTURE OF HIS DAUGHTER, SARAH CATHERINE WHITE, BY THE INDIANS AUGUST 13, 1868.

Sara Catherine White (12/10/1850 - 5/11/1939)
Mother of Belle C. Brooks (12/12/1872 - 8/13/1951), wife of
Grant William Brassfield
(1/13/1869 - 2/17/1939)

That this oft repeated story might be given correctly, the author visited Mrs. White, the widow of Benjamin White and the mother of Miss Sarah White (now Mrs. Brooks), and through the vivid and interesting recitals of this kindly woman, who suffered beyond the power of pen to picture or the human mind to comprehend, a detailed account was obtained. It seemed almost a sacrilege to ask Mrs. White to rehearse the story that brought to her home such pain, grief and desolation, for who would not strive to blot from the memory, the heartaches and the sad recollections it must awaken, and the writer's conscience felt some misgivings when the invalid woman sorrowfully concluded, "In telling you this, I live it all over again." However, she gave the desired information cheerfully, for she realized it was a duty site owed to posterity. Chester Dutton and Virgil Brown also gave accounts pertaining to this tragic affair.

Benjamin White was one of the first settlers on White's creek, having come there with his family in May, 1866. The creek was then known as "Granny" creek, but sometime after the death of Mr. White, L. J. Crans, of Concordia, suggested at a picnic held in the neighborhood, the name be changed to White's creek in honor of Benjamin White, and the name was adopted.

On the fatal day of the Indian raid Mrs. White was alone with her daughter Sarah, a voting woman of about sixteen years, and three smaller children. They had finished milking the cows and returned to the house, when, without the least warning, they were in the midst of a prowling posse of six savages. The Indians divided into two squads on the opposite side of the creek and came around the bend of the stream, three from the north side and three from the south, led by a stalwart redskin who gave one of those fierce unearthly shrieks - the Indian yell - that once heard can never be forgotten, and especially if given when on the warpath. The house stood near the bank of the creek but a few rods distant from their present residence, and in the next instant they were surrounded. In all likelihood they had been skulking about the vicinity of the White home and were aware of the absence of Mr. White, consequently were brave, but to further assure themselves that the women were alone, they peered through the windows, and as their grim-visaged war-painted faces were pressed against the window panes they struck terror to the hearts of these helpless women and children. Not seeing any men, the brave and noble redmen entered the house and proceeded to make havoc with its contents, tearing up what they chose to leave, and proceeding to carry the remainder away as part of their booty. A more critical moment than this, with a helpless woman and her offspring at the mercy of these soulless demons, cannot be conceived. Their first thought was to escape while the house was being plundered and hasten to join Mr. White and his three soils, who were making hay on the Republican river, but the first move they made in that direction was thwarted by two of the Indians seizing the older daughter, a comely young girl just entering upon the dawn of womanhood. The frenzied mother resisted as much as possible, and with a child in her arms was dragged some distance, but her interference was useless. The powerful savages bore the girl away into captivity, her pitiful, agonizing screams wafted on the breezes to the half-crazed, suffering mother, growing fainter and more faint until they disappeared in the distance, leaving the desolate woman haunted by the worst fears - fears that her fate might be even worse than death.

The remaining four brought the other members of the family back and resuming their plundering, took everything in the way of blankets, shawls, etc.., and hung them on the fence. By this time they were laboring under marked excitement. Their posse had been lessened by two, and as they hurriedly skirmished around to get their ponies, Annie, the eldest of the three left with their mother, suggested they go and find Sarah. They started, but only succeeded In moving a few paces when, with menacing threats, they were ruthlessly pulled back to their stations in the little cabin that was being rudely divested of its contents - articles that had been hauled many miles to make them comfortable on the frontier. While the murderers and thieving brigands were packing the goods on their ponies their attention was so diverted that their usually eagle eye did not see the mother and her little children make the second exit. They reached the timber that skirted the creek and drawing themselves through the thick growth of underbrush they hid behind a large cottonwood log. They had no sooner reached this temporary retreat than the demons having discovered their captives had flown, started toward the creek in hot pursuit, renting the air with their frightful war whoops. while they tore up and down the stream like mad fiends, the brush snapping and cracking under the feet of the excited horses as their riders scanned the bends of the creek hunting for the fugitives. But probable fears for the safety of their copper-colored skins prevented them from making a more minute search and saved the scalps of the hiding refugees. The Indians then turned in the direction of the river and rode over to where Mr. White and his sons were working. The summer of 1868 was phenomenally dry and hot, even for Kansas. The productive creek bottoms, which in 1867 and again in 1869 were a great sea of tall blue joint, afforded nothing fit for the mowing machine, and settlers from far and near established camps along the Republican river and put up hay. The meadows between Yuma and Norway were full of hay camps.

Benjamin White and Virgil Brown were camped on the south just above where the railroad bridge now spans the river. Mr. White had been there more than two weeks. He kept a dairy and was providing winter forage for his cows.

William English, whose claim was on the river north of what is now the foot of Broadway, Concordia, and a Mr. Eaves, who lived further down the Republican, had established a camp on the opposite side of the stream from Mr. White and Mr. Brown on the land now owned by Judson M. Dutton. There were many other hay makers at various points along the river, among them Myers and Daugherty, of Salt creek, Cornelius Reed, Sr., Dennis Taylor, with his sons, Lieutenant Johnson and John Harris, the latter from Mill creek. Owing to the condition that they were all cognizant of the fact that an outbreak was liable to occur at any moment it is strange that these men were not armed, nor were there but few firearms in the settlement at that time.

The morning of the raid Virgil Brown had rode over to the camp of English and Eaves and was sitting on his horse conversing with these neighboring hay-makers when they discovered Indians were dashing into the meadow from the south side. Mr. White was standing on the top of a hay stack which they were topping off, while his three sons, John, Martin and Charles, were pitching the hay up to him from a wagon. Two horses stood harnessed to the wagon and four or five others were lariated a short distance away. The boys jumped down, mounted the horses (two on one animal) and rode away toward the river. An Indian charged upon John, knocking him off his horse with the butt of his lance. The other boys jumped, ran to the river and waded across. Meanwhile one of the savages was loosening the picketed horses and Mr. White, who was a brave and. fearless man, bordering on to recklessness, descended from the stack and walked toward the Indian, rapidly at first, then slackened his pace, and finally stopped, and after a moment's hesitation turned and started for the river. Just as he was hidden from view by the intervening timber Mr. Brown and Mr. Eaves heard the report of a gun and saw one Indian going across the prairie with Mr. White's horses, while the others galloped up the river. Mr. White had guns in the camp, but their tent was some distance away. Not thinking they were on the warpath, and being in total ignorance of the outrage just perpetrated upon his helpless family, he walked toward them unarmed, thinking they would desist, but the moment the Indians noted his disadvantage they fired and shot him through the body. John White, the older of the sons, says the Indians carried no firearms heavier than revolvers, but were armed with lances, bows and quivers of arrows. While John was knocked off his horse he skulked along in the grass and remained hidden until Mr. Brown and Mr. English arrived. Mr. White was not yet dead when they found him and anxiously inquired about his boys, but died a moment later. As was the custom in such events on the frontier, messengers were sent to herald the tragedy throughout the settlement and all the available men in the locality assembled to discuss the situation and devise plans for their safety.

Chester Dutton and John Harris had noticed what purported to be figures in the distance. Just as Dennis Taylor rode up the figures came into view again on the bench south of Oneonta. "I am going to see what those objects are," said Mr. Taylor, and putting spurs to his horse the crowd followed. The "objects" proved to be the sorrow stricken wife and mother, mourning the uncertain fate of her beloved daughter, enroute to the camp where she could pour her tale of woe into the ears of the devoted husband and father, and together devise some plan to rescue their child from the brutal savages. All unconscious of his deplorable fate, she, with her children, all barefooted, had trudged those five miles in desperation, alert to every sound, even the winds that rustled in the burnt grasses of the prairie seemed full of peril, and when they heard the sound of approaching horsemen they feared their doom was sealed and hastened on as fast as their sore and bleeding feet could carry them. But Annie had discovered the supposed enemy was not Indians, but white men of the settlement. Mrs. White told her story and then inquired for her husband and sons. Not for several moments could any of those stout, big-hearted frontiersmen reveal to this woman, whose cup of bitterness was already full to overflowing, the sad fate of her husband - the words that would convey his tragic and cruel death were frozen upon their lips as she looked from one to another for her answer. At length Leutenant [sic] Johnson broke the painful, melancholy silence. These were his words: "The boys, Mrs. White, are safe, but the old man is killed." A wagon and team was placed at the disposal of the brave but heart-broken woman, and she with her trembling little ones were taken to a place of safety.


Transcribed from E. F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n. p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.

Scanned from a copy held by the State Library of Kansas.  1999 by Tom & Carolyn Ward