Word reached Osborne County on October 7th via freight wagon drivers from Russell, Kansas, who by the time they arrived in the southern half of the county managed to change the message from “potential danger” to “they are coming!”
The domino effect continued. At Vincent in southern Osborne County a little girl mistook just cut stalks in a cornfield for Indian teepees and raced to town to warn everyone. Most of the community formed a small wagon train and fled northeast through the Blue Hills to the next small community of Potterville. Several men volunteered to stay behind and so give their loved ones a chance to get away. They raided the local general store for guns and gathered in Ira Pitzer’s stone house to make a last stand against the oncoming Indians. Only then did they realize that they had neglected to bring any ammunition along.
When the Vincent refugees reached Potterville that community was promptly abandoned at the news, the all-important post office was packed in a trunk, and still more wagons and people joined the growing train that now made its way fifteen miles northeast through the hills to the comparative safety of the town of Tipton in Mitchell County.
The Scare was in full swing by the time the news reached Osborne in the north central part of the county. Five hundred settlers overturned wagons, barrels, and anything else they could find to build a barrier, quickly dubbed “Fort Osborne,” behind which they settled all that day and through the next night, waiting in vain for Indian warriors that never came.
The next day, October 8th, the word reaching far eastern Osborne County from fleeing refugees warned that “the entire Indian nation in the West was uprising” and that “three million Indians” were bearing down on the poor settlers, causing still more panic. But by October 9th things began to die down as people started realizing that no real Indians had actually ever appeared. Sheepishly they began to return to their homes. But not all. The estimate is that approximately ten thousand people fled from Osborne County alone over those two days, and of that number nearly four thousand never came back. They had had enough of the "Wild" West.
In his 1882 “Osborne County Annals of the Year 1878” Osborne lawyer Zachary T. Walrond had this to say about the Scare: “October 8th: There is a great scare in the western part of Osborne County, the alarm originating from a rumor that the wild Indians are raiding down Paradise and Eagle Creeks; five hundred settlers go to the defense of Osborne. Chas. Branscomb [sic], an invalid, dies while his friends are removing him to a place of safety.”
Which brings us back to Charlie Brenscom.
So 23 years after that last photograph I and my recruited help, Merlyn Brown, owner of Osborne’s Merlyn Entertainment Group graphic arts company and an avid photographer by trade, found us driving the gravel roads of
toward the Mount Ayr Township . Fairwest School, seen here in center background
Mrs. Conrad had said that the stone was "just behind the schoolhouse." Well, it wasn't. We searched and searched, getting into some pretty rough overgrowth that stood taller than what the gravestone probably was. In the photo above the Fairwest School can just be seen to the left of the trees in the far background.
We continued to search in this overgrowth for nearly an hour in vain. If the stone was here it might be knocked over by now, and if that happened in this growth then there was no way to find it - unless one literally stumbled over it.
Over an hour later we were well to the south of the schoolhouse. No gravestone. Nothing else of worth to even photograph. Nothing but sweat, bites, welts, and a couple of small cuts to show for our efforts.
Taking a look at that 1977 photograph again, this time it registered that the stone might not behind the schoolhouse, but more to the south of the school. As in the next field? Merlyn went ahead of me, and sure enough, there was the grave. Hey, Merlyn, look behind you!
Charlie Brenscomb's grave lies at least a quarter mile south and just a smidgen west of the schoolhouse in the middle of a corn field. Just to the right of Merlyn's camera you can see the Fairwest School.
Considering its age (129 years), Charlie's native limestone, handcarved headstone is in remarkable shape and still quite readable.
We take one last photograph of Charlie's grave, secure in the knowledge that it was still to be found in the year 2010.
Flush with success, we head south to Natoma in southwestern Osborne County and stop at the cemetery there. Why? Why, so Merlyn can take photos of horses, of course!
We then turn east from Natoma down Kansas State Highway 18 under a beautiful sky. We are approaching the town of Paradise, Kansas.
In approaching Paradise one cannot help to see the iconic 1888 Post Rock Limestone city watertower.
Now, if one kept going on down Kansas State Highway 18 one will eventually come to the Garden of Eden, in Lucas, Kansas. Russell County, Kansas - one of only two places I know in the world where one can find in close proximity Paradise and the Garden of Eden!
Needing to get back to Osborne, we take the opportunity to drive down a few Kansas backroads so that I can take Merlyn to the Cedar Bluff Cemetery in central Osborne County, as he had never been there before.
And he was immediately captivated. What is he taking a photo of??
Ah. I see.
Cedar Bluff Cemetery is noted for the large cedar trees that tower over the cemetery.
Here in late May older strains of the iris flower abound around 120-year old graves.
Even the summer lilac can be found here!
This is the road into the cemetery. Some people, upon seeing it, might just be a little bit hesitant . . . .
. . . . especially when they see the old 1920s era bridge they have to cross!
The bridge spans Covert Creek, which is flowing nicely due to recent rains in the area.
And here the summer lilacs can really be found in full bloom!