Hat Creek Dateline: 1876/12/16
Indian raid hits Hat Creek
by Ed Cook, Contributing Writer
First Lt. Charles Johnson who assumed command of Camp Hat Creek on Dec. 13 did not have to wait very long for some action to start. It has been nearly two months since any serious Indian raids in this area, however, last night at 11:00 three teamsters walked in from the east. They said their wagon train had been attacked by Indians when they were camped on Indian Creek some six miles from the military camp. The men were asleep in their tents when about 9 p.m. they were attacked by the Indians. Although the teamsters were well armed two of them were killed and six of their eight horses were run off before they could organize a defense. The three survivors then fled for the safety of Camp Hat Creek.
A squad of men led by Lieutenant Johnson responded and recovered the dead, one a German known only as Fritz, and the other B.C. Stephens from Salt Lake City. Both men had been shot and then horribly mutilated with a butcher's cleaver taken from one of the wagons. Scattered about the camp were flour, corn and other provisions. Many eatables were gone as were all of the flour sacks and the six horses. The attackers trail led eastward toward the Red Cloud Agency but soon petered out as the Indians evidently scattered. One of the wagons contained the imprint of 160 bullets.
Johnson brought the bodies to here for burial and filed reports on the event.
(Note: The Stephens and Fritz killings remained a hot subject of discussion for some time with some people thinking that Persimmon Bill and his gang of horse thieves had done it. However, by late December a letter from Major Julius Mason at Camp Robinson confirmed that 20 Cheyennes had indeed attacked the train and killed the men. The incident went down in history as the "Indian Creek Butchery."
(Information source: Fort Laramie in 1876, by Paul H. Hedren.)