Kidder Massacre

Kidder Massacre

Audio by Kay Melia

The massacre of Lieutenant Lyman S. Kidder, his escort of 10 soldiers, and a Sioux scout named Red Bead occurred in 1867, when this area was an unsettled frontier fiercely defended by the Indians against the Whiteman’s invasion of their hunting grounds. In a last effort to chase out the white man, large war parties of Indians roamed the area in search of small parties of soldiers or civilians that they could easily overcome.

At almost 25, Lieutenant Kidder was a handsome, experienced civil war veteran that had reenlisted because he enjoyed army life. He was stationed at Riverside Station in Colorado, one of the many forts established by the government to protect the stage coach lines from attacks from the Indians.

Late in June of 1867, Lieut. Kidder and his escort were sent from Riverside Station with a dispatch for General George Armstrong Custer. The route would take him east ward to a camp on a fork of the Republic River near the present town Benkelman, Nebraska where he was to deliver his message.  When he arrived, Custer was not there. Thinking that Custer might be heading for Fort Wallace, Kidder turned south following supply wagon tracks between the camp and Fort Wallace. His party of 11 was massacred at a point where the wagon trail crossed Beaver Creek, in what is now the northeast part of Sherman county, 20 miles NE of Goodland.

Custer had left the camp on the forks of the Republican late in June of 1867 traveling NW to Riverside Station with 1100 men of the 7th Calvary to quell the Indian uprisings. Upon arrival at the station, he was informed that he had missed the Kidder party. His anxiety for their safety was so great he returned to the meeting place immediately. Upon reaching the camp on the Republican, he turned south towards Ft. Wallace. On July 10th or 11th his advanced party found the decomposed bodies of Kidder, his 10 men, and Red Bead. The massacre had occurred close to July 1st. Every person had been scaled except for Red Bead and all bodies had been mutilated, burned, and pierced with arrows. By the light of a lantern, all the bodies were wrapped in separate blankets and buried in a common grave, none of the dead were recognizable.

In February of 1868, Lieutenant Kidder’s father, an associate justice of the district court of the Dakota Territory, received permission from Ft. Leavenworth to go to the massacre site. The bodies had been disturbed by animals but Kidder was identified by teeth and the neck band of his shirt made by his mother. The body was removed and taken to their home in the Dakota Territory for reburial. Later the remaining bodies of the massacre were moved to the Ft. Wallace cemetery. When Ft. Wallace closed in 1882, they were moved to the cemetery at Ft. Leavenworth where they remain today, and what was that important massage Lieut. Kidder was taking to Custer. It read, “Beware of the Indians, they are hostile.”