Jayhawkers!      

The term 'jayhawker' in early-day Nebraska described a horse thief, and it meant little else.  This Nebraska usage vaguely resembles one of Webster's Dictionary definitions:  "A member of one of the bands of marauding guerillas, who roved through Kansas and neighboring states during the Civil War."

      During 1864, Nebraska was brimming with national patriotism.  In Pawnee county during the Civil War, being openly against "Rebel-sympathizers" was definitely the politically correct attitude of the times.  But residents also had to be especially wary of "jayhawkers," lest their horses mysteriously disappear, never to be seen again by either naked eye of the rightful owner.

      After being caught, the sneaky horse thieves spawned by the Civil War climate conveniently explained that their victims were actually "enemies of the Union."  Whenever jayhawkers would grow exceedingly fond of someone else's horse, they thoughtfully concluded the owner just had to be a Rebel-sympathizer.  Some of the emboldened crooks were previously unsuspected and regarded as regular members of the pioneer community.

      At Table Rock, one of the original settlers, 35-year-old Andrew Fellers, noticed that his fine team of horses was missing in mid-November, 1864.  John C. Peavy, Captain of the Regulators, and two of his men immediately traveled to Iowa and captured the fleeing alleged culprits, an Iowan and a Texan.

      Along with their local Pawnee county accomplice, the perturbed out-of-town suspects were being held under guard in the hotel at Table Rock, presumably anticipating an arrival of the county sheriff.  From different parts of Pawnee county, an angry mass of armed vigilantes soon converged and overpowered the guards, enabling the watchmen to take a break from the thankless chore of tending prisoners unappreciative of good old-fashioned jailhouse hospitality.

      Before long, in that late autumn of 1864 at Table Rock, the trio of condemned equine pilferers dangled from ropes, their tarnished souls sailing off into eternity.  A distressed Sheriff J. L. Edwards launched a follow-up investigation of the unapproved crime and the unauthorized punishment, scaring several citizens right out of the county, the absentees being perhaps a worried combination of horse thieves and lynchers.






copright © Dick Taylor 1996 - 2007, Oldtime Nebraska  "Jayhawkers!" -- submitted by Dick Taylor, June 1998