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9/22/2004

Frontier Law

The frontiersmen who settled the early “road ranches” along the military trails running through central Kansas were a capable lot when it came to hardship and conflict. But, they weren’t stupid. Upon hearing war drums to the west of the Lehman & Page Ranch, where the group that had gathered for protection, the men realized that fighting would serve no purpose but to get someone killed. Frontier law didn’t always stand up to overwhelming odds, in fact Frontier law most often favored the idea of living to fight another day when odds would be in your favor.  
 
The ranchers gathered what they could and beat a hasty retreat to Salina, about 30 miles to the east. Approaching Salina an American flag could be seen flying in the midst of the small village. On closer inspection the ranchers found that citizens had been warned of the approaching Indians and had formed a circle of wagons in the street for protection. Within the circle Old Glory was raised announcing that Salina was ready to fight. How close the raiding party came is uncertain, but the Indians most certainly recognized the strong defenses of Salina and turned their attentions elsewhere. They would also live to fight another day. 
 
When it was deemed safe to travel out onto the plains ranchers and local militia ventured onto the Fort Riley Road. Each road ranch was found completely burned to the ground. At the Kansas Stage Station southwest of the Lehman & Page Ranch Suel Walker was found strapped to the corral fence. He was shot full of arrows, one being in his forehead. The men buried him on the spot. Nearly 60 years later, Henry Faris would remember his old friend and returned to the site. Suel Walker’s remains were recovered and interred in the Claflin cemetery.  
 
It was still too dangerous for the ranchers to return to rebuild their road ranches. All travel along the trail had come to a halt until the Seventh Iowa Volunteer Cavalry rode out to secure the trail in June of 1864. Lieutenant Alen Ellsworth had no idea he was riding headlong into enduring fame. 
So Long, 
The Cowboy  

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