Thursday, July 16, 2015

History of Fort Wallace, Kansas by Linda K. Hubalek


I'm currently writing Sarah Snares a Soldier, Book 5 in the Brides with Grit series. This book mentions Fort Wallace in western Kansas so here's some of its history and a photo from FtWallace.com

    "First used in 1865, the Butterfield Overland Despatch (BOD) was touted as the best mail route from Atchison, Kansas to Denver, Colorado by its owner.  You could cross this great expanse of land for just $100. Stations were approximately 15 miles apart and were given different jobs.  One station would be a "home" station that would feed the travelers while "cattle" stations provided hay and "swing" stations provided fresh mules and horses.  The Smoky Hill Trail and the BOD greatly aided settlers in traveling over hostile Indian country. However, Indian raids became too frequent and there came a time when every wagon train had at least 22 wagons and 30 armed men.  Many of the stage stops along the BOD route were connected to a fort for the safety and security that the military provided.  

    Wallace County, Kansas had several BOD Stage Stops of its own. The most prominent, namely the Pond Creek Stage Station, was situated 1 1/2 miles west of present day Wallace.  A "home" station renowned for its food, this little stage stop saw so many Indian attacks that Camp Pond Creek, a military encampment, was situated right next to it.  When the BOD was sold to another company in 1866 (the Indian raids were so numerous by this time that the business had become unprofitable), Camp Pond Creek moved a few miles east to the Smoky Hill river and was renamed Fort Wallace in honor of W.H.L. Wallace, a general who died at the Battle of Shiloh.  


Fort Wallace as it stood in 1867

     Although Fort Wallace was no longer attached to the Butterfield Overland Despatch, soldiers stationed at Fort Wallace still had their hands full trying to protect those settlers who were moving through on their way west.  Many of the most prominent trails that pioneers used cut straight through the best buffalo hunting grounds. Indians, whose livelihood depended on the buffalo, did not treat the trespassers lightly. Instead, as buffalo began to scatter and become scarce, Indians began to view their new neighbors with something less than friendly eyes. This made the presence of Fort Wallace an absolute necessity. 

Although according to official counts the number of men stationed at the Fort never exceeded 350, these soldiers saw more encounters with Indians than any other Fort, rightfully earning Fort Wallace the distinction of being the "Fightin'est Fort in the West."  General George Armstrong Custer was stationed at Fort Wallace and saw his first battle with the Indians not far from the fort.  Other great frontier men, such as George Forsyth, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Wild Bill Hickok, were also stationed at Fort Wallace at various times."

Because I'm from Kansas and been through Wallace County, it easy to imagine the fort out in the middle of nowhere, because it's still open land today. The soldiers stationed there were a part of history, good and bad, even if they didn't know it at the time.

Could you have lived in this time and place? I'd love to hear from you readers "why" or "why not"!

The first books in the Brides with Grit series are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This clean, sweet western romance series features strong women finding love on the Kansas frontier.

Thanks for stopping by today at the Sweethearts of the West blog.
Linda Hubalek


8 comments:

  1. Oh gosh, Linda...maybe I could go back in time and live there for a day. But I so appreciate indoor plumbing, tampons and antiobiotics. I kinda live vicariously in our western romance heroines, but we often don't put all the harsh realities in our books. For one, I can't imagine wearing dresses all the time. I'm sure some women wore trousers and split skirts, but most of the historic photos show day-to-day women in long skirts...even if they did take up the hem a bit to avoid mud, which I've heard they did in the west. ..it still sickens me, the slaughter of the buffalo. I resent the killers being called "hunters..." there was no strategy behind that murder. Just greed.

    Thanks for a great post. I love learning about places from the past.

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    1. Hi Tanya, I'd like to "visit" the 1870's to see what my ancestors' lives were like back then, but I'd want back in modern times after a week!
      Thanks for stopping by and reading my post today.

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  2. Thanks for a great post. Kansas is pretty much foreign territory to me...a life long Texan...oh, but I did live three years in Oklahoma, so I do have some credibility there.
    Your series sounds wonderful.

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    1. Hi Celia, Parts of Kansas looks much like Texas, but we have some different history- but it's all fascinating to those who love western history.
      Thanks for commenting on today's post.

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  3. I love reading about that time, but am soooo glad I live now instead of then. My A/C, appliances, showers, and a brick home are things I wouldn't want to forfeit.

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    1. Boy I'll agree! I like my A/C and furnace, insulated house, hot running water...the list is endless!

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  4. Linda, I'm so sorry I'm late.
    It's hard to imagine a fort in the middle of open land. How in the world they protected that fort is beyond me. The weather there is also unpredictable and severe. Sheesh. This was an interesting article, Linda. It seems as though it would be kind of fun to be able to visit the places you research.
    All the best to you...

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    1. Hi Sarah, Since forts were out in the middle of no where- they had lookouts posted high up on all sides of the stockade. I image the guards saw rain, snow, tornadoes coming too- beside trouble. I hope you can visit our Kansas frontier sometime. We're still the "wild west" in many places!

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