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Pierceville, Kansas was a scattered village centered about a general store, was headquarters in 1872 for the Barton brothers, ranchers with a large herd of cattle. They arranged with the railroad to have the tracks pass their ranch house and laid out a town site, which they named Pierceville for Charles and Carlos Pierce, members of the town site company.

The railroad quartered 500 workmen in bunk cars parked at Pierceville and hired hunters to supply buffalo and antelope meat. A store, a post office, and several dugouts were built by settlers in the two years that followed. Pierceville,Kansas was on its way to rival Dodge City as the Queen of the cowtowns, but this was not meant to be because on July 3, 1874 tragedy struck the town.(1) 

On July 3, 1874, two buffalo hunters came into town to warn its residents about a band of Cheyenne Indians who had been defeated in a fight at Adobe Walls, Texas. These Indians were still on the warpath and were heading north. This band of Cheyenne Indians, were looking for settlements along the Santa Fe Railroad to raid. 

Mrs. Ellen O'Loughlin gives us an account of what happened next in a letter to her niece: 

"Immediately after hearing this news my husband hitched the horses to a wagon. We loaded it with some bedding and a few clothes. We put our son and daughter in the wagon and drove to a cow camp run by Bancrofts, near Pierceville, and stayed there that night. At this camp there were fifteen men, but I was the only woman. The men did not seem to be worried about a possible attack by the Indians, and left the horses staked out around the camp all night. The next morning they went out to bring them in, but they were on the watch for Indians. Suddenly a fast-moving body of color loomed in the distance in the sand hills south of the river, and as the thing began to take shape it looked like horses galloping in the air. However, they decided it was but the heat waves rolling up from the hot sand causing a mirage, which so frequently deluded them into believing they were seeing things. But they continued to watch and on it came. Presently they had to admit that it was no optical illusion -it was Indians! A number of mounted warriors decked out in all their savage war paint!" 

"The men did not wait to gather in the horses but raced back to the camp. This cow camp was built of pickets chinked with mud. The men knocked the chinking out just enough to get their guns through so they could fire at the Indians. As soon as the Indians got within range, and before they got to the horses they fired at them. The Indians turned and ran toward our store south of the railroad track." 

"We watched the Indians from Bancroft's cow camp. They rode around the store and dugouts several times before they went into the store. When they found that no one was there they went in, took what they wanted, and set fire to it. After this they started toward the Arkansas river." 

"About this time there was the sharp blast of a whistle, and a Santa Fe train came puffing into sight. A number of the Indians mounted on fleetest ponies ran down the track to meet it, but the train never stopped. The savages continued to chase it, and the noise they made seemed like pandemonium broke loose, above the shrieks of the steam whistle. They fired at the train, and into the windows with arrows and revolvers. It is not known whether any of the crew or passengers were hurt, for none of them ever returned to tell the story." (2)

Mr. Bancroft, who was in charge of the cow camp, had been a telegraph operator. He rode down to the railroad and hastily throwing a rope over a telegraph wire, he pulled it to the ground and sent the following message by touching the ends of the wire together: 

"For God's sake, come to Pierceville. Surrounded by Indians." 

He intended the message for soldiers at Fort Dodge, but the agent at Granada, Colorado, heard the message and sent cars flying to their relief. But long before any relief arrived, Pierceville lay smoldering in ruin, and the Indians were far on their way back to the Indian Territory. 

It was learned afterwards that these same Indians had attacked a family named German, killing the father, mother, son, and a little child, and took captive four girls. They had them when they passed through Pierceville, but they were rescued later. 

The Barton brothers later rebuilt their ranch house, but the town-site became a camping ground for Indians, cowboys, and immigrants until 1878 when the Government reestablished the post office and the town began to rebuild.(3)  

Footnotes:

  1.  Kansas, a Guide to the Sunflower State 
  2. "Conquest of Southwest Kansas" by Leola Howard Blanchard
  3.  Kansas, a Guide to the Sunflower State