Attacked by
Doc Middleton!


Beverly Zuerlein's great-great-uncle was John Monk.  A letter
from the pen of this early-day Nebraska pioneer describes
a terrible 1879 skirmish with the notorious Niobrara outlaw.


      "I, John A. Monk, was born on March 24, 1858 in sight of the Mohawk river near Little Falls, Herkimer county, New York.  My father, Abner Monk and my mother, Mary Ann Fetterly Monk, were farmers and both good cheese makers.

      Our family consisted of Father and mother, brothers George Wesley, John Alonzo, sisters, Hariett, Brothers, William Walter, Purl H., Howard R., and sister Carrie.  Besides these there were two more twin sisters that died in infancy.

      Sister Harriett died with dyptheria, March 22, 1863, aged 4 years.  That was an awful time as for miles around children died at the rate of from 1 to 3 in a family with funerals every day.

      I know but little about my grandparents on my fathers side.  My Mother's father and mother died at our home in Nebraska at the age of 86 years each.  I think it was the year 1892.  Their name was Fetterly.  (Jacob Fetterly and Margaret Sisson Fetterly)   We were all Mohawk Dutch.

      During the fall of 1867 my father sold his personal property and thefollowing March moved his family to the state of Illinois.  We lived there six months.  That fall father bought a team, harness and wagon.  We covered the wagon with a canvas top, loaded in the family and started for White Rock, Illinois.  At that place we became a part of a wagon train headed for Kansas and Nebraska.  At Nebraska City our train split up.  Part of the folks took the Kansas trail and we moved on west and settled near the Little Nemaha river between the Omaha and Oto Indian reservations.  Friendly Indians often called on us.  Just a few miles farther west along the Blue river the Indians werevery unfriendly and many a poor homesteader lost his life.

      Our first residence was a dugout; a hole dug in the ground and covered with logs, grass and sod.  We lived in it six years.  Our mother was a very neat housekeeper and she made the dugout real home like.  Many a winter night we sat around our cook stoveparching corn (our most eaten food) while a blinding blizzard was sweeping the prairies outside during which many a man lost his life.  The early settlers of 1868 to 1871 saw many hardships.  I remember eating but one meal in two days and having no shoes to wear during the winter months.  Some months of the year game was quite plentiful.  Our meat was mostly buffalo and prairie chickens.

      During the year 1869 my great-grandfather, Daniel Fredrick Bakeman died at the age of 109 years of age.  He was the last survivor of the Revolutionary War.  Grandmother Bakeman lived to be 104 years old.

      At the age of 13 years I hearded cattle for a man by the name of Norman Snyder.  I followed that occupation for two years, then worked on a farm until I was 21 years old.

      During the fall of 1878 I was driving beef cattle from the state of Kansas north to the Omaha market.  The following spring I was employed by the Woods Brothers stockmen.  There were three brothers, Bill, Jake and George.  They were typical frontiersmen, over 6 feet tall with the smallest one weighing in at 210 pounds.

      They had located a stock ranch on the Niobrara river in northwest Nebraska and stocked it with sheep.  About June first we left Lincoln, Nebraska, with the sheep.  Our outfit consisted of three mule teams and wagons and our saddle horses.  As that was a new county infestedwith horse thieves and cattle rustlers, to protect ourselves we were furnished rifles by the Governance of Nebraska.

      It took us about three months to drive through.  The day we reached the Niobrara river we met Doc Middleton and his band of outlaws.  They were to attack us the next morning and would have done so had not W. H. H. Llewyn and his two detectives L. P. Heazen of Omaha and a man from Cheyenne, Wyoming, who met them first.  As the outlaws greatly out numbered the officers, the officers got the worst of it.  Middleton and Heazen came together, Heazen dropped from his horse and fired wounding Middleton.  The outlaw thenfired at Heazen three times each shot taking effect.  The officer fell badly wounded.  A few hours later Bill Woods and myself found Heazen lying in a ravine partly protected from the hot sun by a grain sack spread over some bushes and greatly bothered by flies and mosquitoes.

      Heazen had crawled through grass to the camp of a Preacher and his wife traveling in a light spring wagon for the preacher's health.  The officer told me later that he thought Wood and myself belonged to the outlaw gang and as we came up to him he drew his gun to shoot me.

      That night under cover of darkness we loaded the wounded man in the spring wagon and started for the nearest railroad station, 120 miles distance.  We traveled all night and the next day, changing horses at different stock ranches, with the outlaws in hot pursuit.As we had one night's head start on them they could not overtake us.

      While we were putting the wounded man aboard a Union Pacific train at Columbus, Nebraska, a message came over the wires from W. H. H. Llewyn at Fort Heartsuff to the Chief of Police at Omaha; "In a fight with Middleton and his gang we were greatly outnumbered and all broke up.  Middleton was wounded and Officer Hazen killed.  Will start back to the Niobrara with a company of soldiers today."  Hazen dictated a message delivered it to me with instructions to overtake Llewyn and his escort at Basset's ranch and deliver the message to him.  On arriving at the cow camp I was told that the troops had all ready gone through, having several hours head start on me.  That left me in the hot sand hills on foot twenty miles from the Niobrara river as I went in with the mail carrier on his buckboard as a blind.  As the day was nearly gone and the cowboys were going in to super, Mrs. Basset very generously asked me to join in which I was glad to do.  While we were eating two men came in to camp that I did not like the looks of.  I suspected them of being a part of Middleton's gang which later proved true.  Between them and the mosquitoes I did not sleep much that night.

      Early the next morning I was off headed for the Niobrara on foot over the dry sandy country carrying my coat, Winchester and ammunition and NO water to drink.  About ten miles out I met the soldiers on their way back to Fort Heartsuff.  The Sargeant incommand told me that Llewlyn had arrested Middleton, scattered his band through the sand hills and with his prisoner was now on his way back to Omaha.  As the troops carried water my thirst was relieved and I was off again for Woods Brothers Camp which I reached about one o'clock PM.  There I got something to eat.

      After an hours rest I went down on the Niobrara flats where I found Hazen's horse and in a near by log cabin his saddle and bridle.  I went back to camp with the intention of staying until morning.  This the men would not stand for as the Middleton gang were not far off and on the watch for me!  With a, "So long boys," I was in the saddle and off.

      I rode hard the balance of that afternoon and at sun set I was in sight of the head of Elk Horn River.  On a sand hill east of me stood an antelope.  I reigned in my horse and raised my rifle, fired and got him, but not without some misgiving, as I have always disliked killing one of those wild animals.  I took the hind quarters, tied them on my saddle and road down to the river where I found a man and his family camped beside their covered wagon.  The meat I exchanged for a cup of tea.  Tired and sick, covered with my blankets to fight mosquitoes, I laid awake all the time.  I think that the mosquitoes have the longest bills, bite the hardest and smart the worst of any pests that I ever heard tell of.

      The following morning I ate breakfast with my covered wagon friends.  Biding them a good-bye, I was in the saddle for another hard day's ride, keeping well in the sand hills I avoided meeting any of the Middleton gang.  At sunset I rode in to Quail City at that time a frontier town.  Here my troubles ended.  The following morning after a good night's rest and a real breakfast I was off for Columbus.  The last half of the day I walked as my horse was all in and could only carry my gun and saddle.  At Columbus I delivered the horse to his owner and took the train for Omaha where I found Heazen just able to get out of the hospital.

      I stayed in Omaha about three days then I went back to Bennet, Nebraska, and stayed with my Father and Mother on their farm until the first of October in the fall of 1879.  Then I was employed by J. E. Vanderslip as clerk in his General Merchandise Store.  I stayed with Mr. Vanderslip three years.  The spring of 1881 I was appointed by Senator VanWyk of Nebraska as farmer at the Mescalero Indian Agency in New Mexico (Apache Indians) under Indian Agent W. H. H. Llewyn.

      During the month of April, as I was about to leave for the Agency, I was married to one of the nicest school teachers in Lancaster county, Miss Luella Belt, at her father and mother's home on their farm three miles north of Bennet, by Rev. Orville Compton.  Soon after the Mescalero Indians took the war path and left the reservation.  That action altered my plans.  I rented a house in town.  My young wife and I went to housekeeping.  She taught in the Bennet school and I continued in Mr. Vanderslip's employ until the fall of 1882.  I was employed by Jesse Smith as clerk in his General Merchandise store where I stayed for three years.  During the winter of 1884-85 I filed on a 160 acre tract of government land nine miles south of Miler, South Dakota.  I took our household goods with me, built a claim shanty, 12' x 16', put in the goods, locked the building and took the overland stage for the Black Hills.  Our conveyance was one of the old type six horse state coaches.  We crossed the Missouri River at Pierre, S.D., about March 10, 1885 and started out in 2 feet of snow.  There were 13 of us aboard including the driver and two messengers or guards as this was the coach that carriedthe gold bullion from Deadwood to Pierre.

      After a journey of three days and nights, 180 miles across the Sioux Reservation we came in site of Fort Meade where I was employed by Edward A. Packard Post trader as dry goods clerk and collector.  Stationed at this post were four company's of the 25th Infantry and six Troops of the 7th Calvary, what was left of General Custer's command after the massacre of the Little Big Horn.  Colonel Tilford was now in command.

      Mr. Packard had displeased the Sec. of War, Robert. T. Lincoln, and was removed as Post Trader.  This store was closed and he was ordered off of the Garrison.  He, however, got an extension of 60 days time in which to dispose of his goods and buildings.  I was employed to help close out the stock.  I worked largely on the collections.  The following July the greater part of the goods were disposed of, the buildings were sold to the new post trader, Colonel Styles of Denver, CO.  Mr. Packard returned to Chicago.  I went to Lamars, Iowa where I met Mrs. Monk and our baby daughter, Nellie May.  Together we went back to our prairie claim.  We stayed there until fall.  Sold the land at $1.25 per acre and went back to my old job in Smith's store.  Stayed there until the spring of 1886 when I was employed by the National Lumber Co. of Chicago locating lumber yards along the B & M railroad from Grand Island, Nebraska, to Billings, MT.  My territory was from Ravana, Nebraska, to Broken Bow, Nebraska.  When the railroad was completed I was put in charge of a yard at Litchfield, Nebraska, and stayed at that place 3 years.  At the end of that time the Chicago Lumber Co. bought out the National and I was retained by the Chicago people.  Two years later they sold their line of yards in that locality toDurke Brothers of Broken Bow.  I was transferred from Litchfield to St. Paul, Nebraska, and put in charge of their yard at that place.  I stayed for one year."

      By 1891 John and his family moved on to Kalispell, Montana.  Here he homesteaded at LaSalle and later at Whitefish Lake where he owned what was called the ranch.

      Winifred was born here and died in infancy of infantile paralysis and was taken to California to be buried.  On this trip Jesse Earle Monk was born in Whittier, California, on May 20th, 1896.







© Oldtime Nebraska -- Attacked by Doc Middleton!   submitted by Beverly Zuerlein, September, 1998