This past Sunday afternoon, most of my family and I went driving around the countryside. We checked out old roads (cowpaths, practically!), drove through some small towns, and ate a little ice-cream while driving. At some point throughout our excursion, someone mentioned hearing about a grave of a boy that was killed by Indians. This sounded intriguing to all of us, so we went searching for the little cemetery. While the story is sad, it’s one of the many out there not found in our history books. That’s why I’m sharing it here.
Here’s what we learned after finding the grave at the Jones Cemetery:
Some say he rode for the Pony Express, others say he was riding to a nearby ranch for help for an ill family member or sent for help from a ranch besieged by the Indians.. But who he really was? A young man on an errand of mercy – Ed Miller, 18.
Now let me set the stage for you a bit – It’s during the summer of 1864. The Indian tribes are well aware of the Civil War raging in the East, and of the poor quality of troops in the West. It’s on the fateful day of July 17, 1864 that the Kiowas, Comanche, and Cheyenne tribes strike at Fort Larned and continue heading their attacks east. Into this terrifying situation will a young man ride, on an errand of mercy, and pay the highest price. His life.
July of 1864, Marion, Kansas. Abraham Atlantic Moore (the owner of Moore’s Ranch at Cottonwood Crossing on the Santa Fe Trail) and his wife, Nancy, are visiting family in Marion, when she suddenly takes very ill. Needing a doctor and Nancy’s mother (a trained nurse) Mr. Moore asks George Griffith to ride to Turkey Creek Ranch for help (where Mrs. Moore’s mother is). But, due to George’s declining health and not being familiar with the trail to Turkey Creek, he refuses. Mr. Moore then turns to Mr. Miller, who’s son, Ed, is willing to go. Ed is known as a fast and fearless rider.
Although the Kiowas, Comanche, and Cheyenne Indian’s are on the warpath, nobody knows their exact location – So it is highly possible for Ed to come upon hostile Indians at any point in his ride. Mr. Moore, giving Ed his fastest horse, instructs him to ride to French Frank’s Ranch (at the Cottonwood Crossing Hole, about six miles southwest of Cottonwood Crossing) where there he is to exchange his horse for the ranch operator, Frank LaLoge’s fastest horse.
When Ed finally makes it to French Frank’s Ranch, he finds that Frank is gone on a trip and has taken his fastest horse with him. Ed stays the night at the ranch and sets out on his trip the next morning with Alphonse Bichet, an employee of French Frank’s. It’s July 20th, and after riding together for 30 minutes and covering about three miles, the two part ways and Ed continues on.
Meanwhile, back at Turkey Creek Ranch, Mr. Waterman and his son, Vat, climb a roof at the ranch with “field glasses” in hand to observe something. They find what looks to be a group of about 20 Comanche Indians, about a mile east of the ranch, butchering a cow they had killed. Mr Waterman and his son soon see a lone horseman coming down the trail. He stops when he reaches the top of the hill, about 200 yards away from the war party. Upon spotting him, the Comanches grab their weapons, mount their ponies, and take off after the rider, who had turned and started to flee. From their perch on the roof, Mr. Waterman and his son continue to watch the chase for quite aways, until the lone horseman is overtaken by the Indians in a cloud of dust.
Two days later, Mr. Waterman’s family is heading to Marion to visit their daughter (Nancy) who they know has been sick. Upon their arrival, they’re ask where Ed Miller is. Nobody knows, and the Waterman’s tell their tale of the lone rider.
On July 23, Jack Griffith, Henry Roberts, Evan Hoops, Roddy Coble, and a man from Louisiana set out down the Turkey Creek Trail in search of Ed. About four miles west down the trail, Evan Hoops notices something unusual in the air, but says nothing until a couple hundred feet past the site. All agreeing to go back and search the site, they come across Ed’s body about 50 feet south of the trail. His body bares the marks of much pain. He has been tortured, shot, and scalped. Henry Roberts is sent back to French Frank’s Ranch for supplies to bury the body and returns with a shovel and pick. Wrapped in a blanket, Ed Miller is buried about 100 feet north of the Santa Fe Trail.
While three of the men dug the grave, the other two kept watch. It was Evan Hoops who noticed a bit of dust rapidly coming closer and closer to them with a larger cloud following it. Deciding to hold their ground and keep digging, a lone horseman soon appeared, rode around them, checking them out, and after determining they were white men, came up to them. He was a wagon-master, in charge of a train of about 100 wagons that were surrounded by 2 to 3 thousand Indians back at Cow Creek. He had escaped and was on his way to Council Grove to get army troops. Telling the men that the Indians were only five or six miles back, he advised them to quickly finish and leave. Digging about 2 1/2 to 3 feet down, the men laid Ed Miller to rest.
In 1873, Martin Jones became owner of the land surrounding the grave. After discovering Ed’s grave, he set aside that part of his property to be a cemetery. Later called the Fairview Cemetery (but also known as the Jones Cemetery), some of Canton, Kansas’s earliest settlers where buried there. The last burial in the cemetery was in the 1970’s. Henry Roberts placed a black granite marker on Ed’s grave in 1906 and the DAR (Daughter’s of the American Revolution) marker was placed there around 1907.