Violent Encounter in Council Grove

In June 1859 a violent confrontation occurred between Kaws and area whites. This incident is portrayed dramatically in the Council Grove historical pageant, Voices of the Wind People, written by Ron Parks.

Two narrators having radically different points of view relate their versions of what happened. They are Seth Hays, an early-day resident of Council Grove and famous Santa Fe Trail merchant, and Allegawaho, head chief of the Kaws from 1867 until the early 1880s.


Seth Hays

The following is the section of the Voices of the Wind People script dealing with this confrontation:

"But things was pretty tense between the Kaw and us folks in ‘59 cus of a squabble that took place right here at this very spot. It seems that the Kaw had stolen a couple of horses from a Mexican trader. Well now, when we folks got wind of it, we weren’t about to stand for no thieven’ Injuns a hurtin’ our Santa Fe Road traders. It was important to us to keep in the good graces of them folks, as it was to our commercial advantage and all. So we sent word out to the Kaw to bring in the stolen horses and turn over the warriors who’d done the deed.

Well, one morning in early June they brought’ em in all right...

One hundred mounted Kaw warriors in full battle regalia rode down Main Street from the west and pulled up in front of my store. Allegawaho was their leader. You can imagine how terrified the townspeople were. A good many women and children scurried on up to the Kaw Mission for protection. I was a standin’ out in front of the store along with my clerks and a few of the local fellas, a facin’ the Injuns. Tom Huffaker was brought in to do the interpretin’ and ol’ ‘Wa-ho’ commenced to speak his mind."

Allegawaho: "I told Hays that we now return the stolen horses, but we do not bring the warriors who took them. These warriors think that taking the horses of the Mexicans is no different from taking the horses of the Pawnee. They have done no wrong, but since the Kon-zay want to trouble with the whites, we have brought the horses to you. But do not ask for the warriors who took them."

Hays: "It sounded to me like ‘Wa-ho’ was puffin’ hisself up and was almost down right insultin’. Now I’d been tradin’ with the Kaw for over a decade, and I knew the only way to handle these rascals was to let’ em know that we meant biziness. When ‘Wa-ho’ said he wasn’t about to turn over his thieven’ braves, I thought it was time to let ‘em know we warn’t just a bluffin’. So I told my clerk to go get my pistols. I shot ‘em straight up in the air. Well now, all hell did break loose at this point."

Allegawaho: "Hays did not listen. Instead he responded with contempt. Then he shot the guns. Understand, there were many warriors in the street. Those behind could not see, so when they heard the shots, they thought that the whites were shooting us, and so two braves each shot a white. Then we left, riding to the hills to the south. We now prepared to battle the whites, who we knew would be very angry.

Hays: "Well, danged if the Injuns didn’t shoot a couple of us, wounded a feller named Parks and a clerk a’ mine named Gilkey. Truth was, once I fired my pistols, and the commotion started, I ran into my store and barricaded the door. Course, I didn’t know poor Gilkey was still out front left practically alone to face the Redskins. Well, now folks got to thinkin’ that the Injuns were gonna up an’ massacre the whole lot of us.

So we sent messengers out to the countryside and before long the whole town started fillin’ up with armed men ready to wage all out war against the Kaw. We counciled; some wanted to attack right then and there and others to parley with the Injuns first. There were several hundred of us in town by afternoon, and some showed sign of lustin’ for Kaw blood.

Finally, we sent out a delegation to the Kaw sayin’ either they turned over the perpertratin braves or we’d exterminate the whole lot of ‘em."

Allegawaho: "At first we rejected the whites’ demands to turn over the two braves. But we could see that the whites were growing stronger and better armed with each passing moment and that many of them would like to get us permanently out of their way by killing all of us. Hear me, the Kon-zay are no fools when estimating the ruthlessness of armed whites. So we bound over the two young braves, one was the son of a chief. This we did with great sorrow and regret, but we must save the lives of as many of our people as we could."

Hays: "We brought the two Injuns into town. Then a crowd gathered around ‘em and there war some moments of confusion and doubt as to what was to be done. Then someone called out "hang ‘em," so we did the stretchin’ right then and there on the north side of Main Street. Left them there til’ the next evening, when the bodies were cut down, loaded onto a wagon, hauled out to one of the villages, and dumped out onto the ground. And that was the end of the process of justice, frontier style.

Allegawaho: "Now, hear me, when a Kon-zay dies, his soul returns to a spirit-village located where the Kon-zay lived before. And so, the spirits of our two young warriors returned to I’ve in the villages near the big river white men call the "Kaw." So it will be that one day, long after the white men have moved us from this beautiful Neosho Valley, as they will surely do, spirit hosts of Kon-zay dead will swarm in this valley, and white men, without realizing it, will never truly be alone here.