feature By: Leo Remiger | October, 17
Rath and Company (represented by Charles Rath, Robert M. Wright, and James Langton), Myers and Leonard, and the Cator Brothers filed suit in the U.S. Court of Claims for the recovery of losses they suffered during and after the battle of Adobe Walls. Their sworn depositions contain interesting information regarding the actual battle of Adobe Walls and the immediate events afterward. Other individuals who provided sworn depositions either in support or contradicting previous testimony concerning the events at Adobe Walls were Andrew Johnson, William “Billy” Dixon and W.B. “Bat” Masterson.
The men were questioned individually and gave formal depositions at various locations and dates. Rath, Wright, Johnson and James Cator had gotten together some days before they were to provide their sworn testimony to discuss the events and refresh their memories. What’s interesting is even though these men had gotten together to get their stories straight, there was disagreement about the facts in the sworn depositions they gave.
This is a fairly long series of articles, as some of the depositions were quite lengthy. The information provided about the circumstances surrounding the battle of Adobe Walls, the differences in memory and styles of testimony, along with the general history of the great buffalo hunt certainly make them interesting reading and worth repeating here. We hope you agree.
We continue this series with the deposition provided by James Langton:
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CHAS. RATH & Co., Complainants
State of Kansas SS = V =
Sedgwick Co. The United States & the Cheyenne,
Kiowa & Comanche Indians
JAMES LANGTON – A Short History
James Langton was born in 1853 in Ireland. He moved with his parents to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as an infant. James relocated to Dodge City early in 1872. When Charles Rath and Robert M. Wright decided to open a branch trading post in competition with the Myers and Leonard concern in the Texas Panhandle, they decided to take Langton in as a full partner. The decision was twofold. First, to provide a manager for the remote store and second, to offset the additional burden of expense incurred through the purchase of supplies and freight charges to the remote location. Langton was chosen to manage the Rath and Company concern at Adobe Walls.
A train of wagons, teams and men was formed in Dodge City and pulled out for Adobe Walls. They left Dodge City and crossed the Arkansas sometime after the middle of April - with a load worth in excess of $20,000.00.
They reached Adobe Walls in the beginning of May. Charles Rath rode along to oversee the operation and construction of the new trading post. He brought with him Andrew Johnson, a long-time employee. On arrival, they set up temporary quarters in tents or hide tepees. Rath laid out a complex to consist of a store, corral and outhouse. Instead of erecting a picket building, they elected to use sod, a very common construction material in Kansas.
They used a special plow made by Patrick Ryan, a Dodge City blacksmith. It would cut about three to five inches beneath the surface of the ground and parallel with it. The strips were then cut into appropriate lengths for the walls. No mortar was used. They constructed a building 22½ feet by 59 feet. The base of the walls was nearly three feet thick.
They divided the store into three rooms: a kitchen, a salesroom and quarters for the employees. The roof consisted of cut lumber planks supported at their upper ends by a heavy cottonwood ridgepole that ran the length of the building. The plank roof was covered with sod to provide a weatherproof covering.
Langton was left with the following employees: Mr. and Mrs. Olds to run the kitchen, Andrew Johnson to finish the corral and George Eddy as bookkeeper and clerk. Sources vary as to whether Langton was actually on site when Rath left for Dodge City on May 20, 1874.
After the store was completed, work began on the corral and outhouse. The corral was to be 55 feet wide by 85 feet long and constructed of sod. It was never finished, probably because Johnson went to work on the second Rath venture, the Rath/Hanrahan saloon. Business may have become so brisk that there was not time, or the threat of Indian theft was so minimal that effort was expended elsewhere. Two hundred feet west of the store they erected a picket structure to be used as an outhouse for Mrs. Olds.
With the initial attack repulsed, the men in Hanrahan’s saloon discovered they were running short of ammunition. They decided on a plan to send Dixon and Hanrahan to the Rath and Company Store, and Masterson to the Myers and Leonard Store for supplies and also to learn the circumstances of the other occupants.
When Hanrahan and Dixon reached Rath’s store, the occupants pleaded with Dixon to remain. He did so while Hanrahan ran back to his saloon - as much to replenish the supply of ammunition as to protect his stock.
The attack was broken and things calmed down considerably. The men buried Billy Tyler and the Scheidler Brothers1 and fearing a night attack, they retreated to the two stores. Fred Leonard remembered, “Nearly everybody became panicky and nearly all went down to Langton’s, which was a large adobe building and I had a hard time keeping six men with me.”
After the battle of June 27, 1874, Langton remained behind to supervise the loading of merchandise and hides that returned to Dodge City. The Dodge City caravan arrived on July 22 or 23. Langton had to decide what to carry back to Dodge. He chose between 35,000 to 40,000 buffalo hides from the Rath Store. Since only about twenty wagons arrived from Dodge, Langton was forced to contract with hide hunters already at Adobe Walls to haul freight back to Dodge. By the time the train left for Dodge, it was composed of between 40 and 50 wagons. It arrived in Dodge City on August 5th.
The merchants kept some supplies on hand and retained a small number of hunters to guard the trading post until they could decide what to do. However, the buffalo never returned and the hunters soon became discouraged and left; by September the trading post was deserted, and by October it was destroyed by Indians.
On his return to Kansas, Langton turned to stock raising and merchandising. In 1877, he purchased half-interest in the post sutler’s store at Fort Dodge in partnership with Robert M. Wright. By 1882, Langton and Wright also jointly operated a meat market, and in 1888, Langton became co-owner of the Langton Hardware Company and partnered with William G. Sherlock in a sewer contracting business.
Langton left Dodge City in 1889 and moved to Rock Springs, Wyoming. From Rock Springs, he moved to Salt Lake City, Utah. He founded the Langton Lime and Cement Company. In 1913, he drove his automobile off the approach to a highway bridge and was killed instantly - one of the few Adobe Walls survivors to be killed in an automobile accident!
Langton filed with Charles Rath and Company in the U.S. Court of Claims to attempt to recover some of their losses. His Indian Depredation Case No. 4593 deposition is as follows:
State of Utah )
County of Salt Lake )
The United States and Kiowa, Comanche
And Cheyenne Indians.
I, James M. Smith, Notary Public, for the State of Utah and County of Salt Lake, do hereby certify, that pursuant to notice heretofore given, James Langton appeared before me, at Commercial Block, Room 6, in Salt Lake City, on the 28th day of January, 1896, and who being duly sworn by me according to law to tell the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in the above entitled cause, answered all questions required to be answered and signed each sheet of this Deposition in my presence. Present for and in behalf of the claimants, Edward F. Colborn, and for the Government H.A. Gudger, Assistant United States Attorney.
This the 28th day of January, 1896.
James M. Smith
Notary Public for Salt Lake county,
My Commission expires April 27th, 1897, State of Utah.
James Langton, being duly sworn deposes and says:
By The Notary Public
Q. What is your name, age, residence, and state whether or not you are the claimant in this case.
A. James Langton, age 46, residence Salt Lake City. I am one of the claimants in this case.
By E.F. Colborn:
Q. You may state whether or not you are a citizen of the United States.
Q. Native born or naturalized?
A. My father came from Ireland, I was about a year old at the time. My father took out his naturalization papers at Milwaukee, Wis., very shortly after he landed in the United States, and when I was still quite young. I can, and will furnish certified papers of my father’s naturalization papers.
Q. Where did you reside in June, 1874?
A. At the Adobe Walls, in the Pan Handle of Texas, Hutchison County.
Q. What business if any, were you engaged in at that time?
A. General merchandizing and trading for buffalo hides.
Q. With whom, if with any one, were you then associated in that business?
A. Charles Rath and R.M. Wright, under the firm name and style of Charles Rath & Company.
Q. When did you commence business at the Adobe Walls?
A. About the 10th of May, 1874.
Q. Were you at that time a citizen of the United States by the naturalization of your father?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. What, if any, event occurred about the 27th day of June, 1874 at the Adobe Walls, of particular importance?
A. We were attacked by the Indians.
Q. What Indians?
A. The Kiowas, Comanches, and Cheyenne Indians.
Q. State briefly what occurred.
A. They made the attack about daylight in the morning, between four and six hundred strong. We defended the attack, and the fight continued until 11 o’clock in the day. Up to that time three of our party were killed.
Q. Did that close the fight? And did the Indians then leave?
A. Yes, that closed the fight but the Indians remained four or five days.
Q. How long did you remain?
A. For about a month after the fight.
Q. What losses of property did you sustain by reasons of the action of the Indians? State fully.
A. They killed a horse and a mule; they knocked down the buffalo hides, which had been stacked, and they were destroyed by exposure to the weather. They drove all the hunters in so they could not hunt, which caused us to move back all the goods we could move to railroad, about two hundred miles, and desert our buildings, and leave heavy goods which it would not pay to transport to railroad. After we left our buildings were destroyed by the Indians.
Q. State what, if any, steps you were compelled to take to protect your property, buildings, during and after the fight, and until the goods had been hauled back to Dodge City.
A. Between two and three hundred hunters were driven in by the Indians at the time of the fight, I mean afterwards. We were compelled to board these men for the sake of getting them to help to protect us until the wagon transportation which we had sent for, to Dodge City, came after the goods. These men who came in were boarded by us but not paid any wages. We did pay, however, the regular help of the store, consisting of three men, to help guard the property during the time we were waiting for transportation. The train which came from Dodge City after our goods, came guarded by a paid escort, and we paid $250.00 to two men to carry the news of the fight to Dodge City, and our request for transportation to haul the goods there.
Q. What goods, if any, were not transported to Dodge?
A. The corn and flour. These could not be shipped back on account of the high freight charges, and we were compelled to abandon them.
Q. What was the value of the horse and mule killed?
A. $100.00 each. Total $200.00.
Q. What was the actual cost of hauling the goods back to Dodge City?
A. About $4,000.00.
Q. What was the value of the buildings destroyed?
A. Between $1,800.00 and $2,500.00, I cannot tell exactly.
Q. How much did you expend in paying for men in guarding the store, and what was the value of the provisions furnished these men while so employed?
A. Between $1,200.00 and $1,500.00.
Q. What was your estimate of the damage done to the hides by reason of the piles pulled down by the Indians, and the exposure of the hides to the weather?
A. About $1,500.00.
Q. What was the fair cash value of the goods you mention as having been left by the firm on the ground and so lost?
A. As near as I can estimate, $1,000.00.
Q. Mr. Langton, what was your particular duties in connection with the business of Charles Rath and Company?
A. I was Manager, and had full charge of the business at Adobe Walls.
Q. Were you present during the fight, and until the goods were transported to Dodge City?
A. Yes sir.
Q. Did you accompany the goods to Dodge City?
Q. Did you see the damaged hides? And personally examine them?
Q. State whether or not the goods and provisions furnished to the men, as you have stated, were delivered by you to them.
A. Yes, by myself and those in my employ, by my direction.
Q. Referring to the goods that were left and lost, were they selected by you to be left at Adobe Walls?
Q. Were the values you have placed upon the property reasonably worth the sums you have stated?
Q. How long had you lived at Dodge City, Kansas, prior to your removal to the Adobe Walls?
A. About one year.
Q. What were your facilities while you lived at Dodge City and at the Adobe Walls for ascertaining the relations so far as peace and war was concerned, between the white man and the Indians in the region of country where in Dodge City and the Adobe Walls were situated?
A. Dodge City was the center for the surrounding country. In conversation with parties coming to and from the Indian Territory, they stated that the Indians were peaceable, and for that reason we made up our minds to open up business at Adobe Walls, Texas.
Q. At the time you had the trouble with the Indians was there any general uprising of the Indians against the Whites, or had there been war declared between the Indians and the Whites?
A. None whatever.
Q. Does your last answer include the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne Indians?
Q. State whether or not at the time and after the fight the property mentioned in the petition was cared for and protected to the best of your ability?
A. Yes sir.
Cross-examined by H.A. Gudger, Assistant United States Attorney.
Q. You do not know of your own personal knowledge what became of the goods you left behind after you and the wagon train had started for Dodge City, do you?
A. No, only from hearsay.
Q. You do not know, of your own personal knowledge, how or who destroyed the buildings, do you?
A. No, only by hearsay.
Q. How many men did you board from the time the courier went to Dodge City until the wagon train arrived at your place of business?
A. There were between two and three hundred men there.
Q. The Indians, after a day or so, had left and returned to the Reservation in the Territory, had they not?
A. In about a week they disappeared from Adobe Walls.
Q. Is it not a fact that these men came into Adobe Walls, and that they simply staid there and boarded with you after all danger had disappeared?
Q. What was it worth in that community at that time to board a man by the month?
A. To my recollection, on account of the high rate of wagon transportation, the rate was about $1.00 per day.
Q. Then ought not your charge to have been, for two hundred men, from thirty to forty days, some seven or eight hundred dollars?
A. Leonard boarded some of the men.
Q. Were not these four or six hundred Indians by the time they attacked you all, and just before and just after, regularly on the war path?
A. They were on the war path after the attack but not before.
Q. You mean to say, if I understand you, that from four to six hundred Indians attacked your Company, killing three or four men, and requiring you to protect yourself and property, to obtain a guard of two hundred men, is not evidence that the Indians were on the war path? Is this true?
A. It would not be necessary for Indians to be on the war path in general to employ a guard.
Q. Did you give this property in for taxation in Hutchinson County Texas during the year 1874?2
A. Not to my knowledge. Partners doing business at Dodge City may have done so.
Re-Direct examination by E.F. Colborn.
Q. I will ask you whether or not many of the two to three hundred men you mentioned were not supplied with provisions there to fore provided by them, and that you did not supply these men with provisions during the time the property was being guarded?
A. Yes sir.
Q. Is it not a fact that predatory bands of Indians, of greater or less size, and portions of the tribes mentioned in the Complaint, were not given to excursions for the purpose of depredation upon hunters at a time to when the tribes themselves were at peace with the Whites.
Q. Was not your information at the time of the fight such as to convince you that this band of four to six hundred Indians which attacked you was a marauding band of Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne Indians which had broken away from the restraints of their chief for the purpose of robbery and murder, and that the said Comanche, Kiowas, and Cheyenne tribes were not then, as tribes by declaration of war or otherwise at war with the United States?
A. Yes sir, I would not have been there if there had been a declaration of war and I had known it.
Q. Do you think you would have known it if there had been a declaration of war?
A. Being only five miles from Ft. Dodge, I would certainly have known it.
SUBSCRIBED and SWORN to before me,
this 28th day of January, 1896.
James M. Smith
Notary Public for Salt Lake County,
1. Isaac “Ike” and Jacob “Shorty” Scheidler have been identified variously as Schaddler, Schadler, Shadler, Shadley, Shalder, Shidler, Shidley, Shindler, and even Shyler in various accounts. We are indebted to T. Lindsay Baker and Billy R. Harrison for finally researching, authenticating, and publishing the correct spelling of their name in “ADOBE WALLS-THE HISTORY AND ARCHEOLOGY OF THE 1874 TRADING POST.”
2. Hutchinson County was created in 1876 but not organized until 1901. It is named for Andrew Hutchinson, an early Texas attorney.
3. U.S. Court of Claims, Indian Depredation Case Files. Case 4593, Charles Rath and Company Claimants. Record Group 123, National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C.
4. Baker, T. Lindsay, “ADOBE WALLS - THE HISTORY AND ARCHEOLOGY OF THE 1874 TRADING POST,” Texas: Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 1986: 18, 20-22, 54-55, 61, 70, 81-82, 93, 99, 101, 104-105, 132.