Prairie Fires & Indians – Great-Grandpa on the Prairie


James Hendrickson – Great-Grandpa

The little I know about my great-grandfather, James Hendrickson, was told to me by my Aunt Helen Hjetland.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Peggy Hjetland Kaiser)

James was born in 1849, in Indiana, to John Hendrickson and Lydia Ann Hatton; he was the third of 10 children. Although it took awhile for me to obtain his death certificate, it was that document that gave me his mother’s maiden name and opened up a whole new area of research.  As you can see on this death certificate, I’ve also noted the name of the undertaker, something for further research.

The Kansas Years

Some time in 1868, following the Civil War, John Hendrickson (James’ father) took at least part of the family to Lincoln, Lincoln County, Kansas. Also along with John was Mike Keller, husband of James’ sister, Martha.  According to Aunt Helen, one of the most vivid memories she had of James was his tales of prairie fires and Indian attacks.

Although I can’t track down the prairie fire story, I can confirm the Indian attacks. On May 30, 1869, Cheyenne Dog Soldiers attacked Lincoln, killing several settlers and kidnapping two women. The stories of this Indian raid are well-documented in these books. Among those killed was Harrison Strange, the 14-year-old son of my 2nd great-grandaunt.

Indian Raids in Lincoln County Kansas (free text)

Indian Raids in Lincoln County Kansas (paperback)

(Not to digress too far, but the Army caught up with the Indians at Summit Spring, Colorado; one of the kidnapped women was killed during the attack by (so they say) the chief’s wife, the other recovered and later married a soldier).

Dog Soldier Justice (the story of Susanna Alderdice, one of the kidnapped women)

The Summit Springs Battle

Black Sun (an extremely factual novel about the Summit Springs battle)

I think James must have told the story well as decades later it was one of the things my aunt remembered about him.

After Kansas

James went back to Missouri and became a schoolteacher in Pleasant Hill. Here is a photo of him (there’s an x above him) with one of his classes. He was married to Susan Strange in 1870. I have found no record of her death. In 1887, he married Ella Snow.  Ella died in 1913.

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Peggy Hjetland Kaiser)

On the 1920 census James was listed as living in Kansas City with my grandparents, my Aunt Lu and my 1-year-old dad. James eventually lived with my grandparents in St. Joseph, Missouri, where he died in 1929. James and his wife, Ella Snow, are buried in the Elm Spring Baptist Church Cemetery, Johnson County, Missouri.

I wish I knew far more about James’ time in Kansas. I really would like to have heard about those prairie fires.

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