Wray Museum : Beecher Island
  • Beecher Island Battle Ground Memorial Association:
    33041 County Road 20
    Wray, CO 80758

  • With the end of the Civil War in 1865, a great wave of migration started west to start new lives. The Indians, having enjoyed a few years of relative peace while Americans were fighting each other, were greatly alarmed by the mass of settlers making homes on their land. By 1868, what was left of the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe had formed an alliance and started a campaign to push the settlers out. By August of that beecheryear, many homesteads had been raided and the rail roads were having a hard time making their way west. In August of 1868, Colonel George Forsythe received orders to assemble 50 civilian scouts, and with Lieutenant Fred Beecher as second in command, engaged in battle against hostile Indians in the Kansas territories. 30 men from Fort Harker and 20 from Fort Hays were assembled and outfitted with provisions. They were to be paid one dollar per day plus 35 cents per day for their horses. They were issued Spencer repeating rifles and Colt revolvers. With these went 140 rounds of rifle and 30 rounds of pistol ammunition. On August 29th, Forsythe and his men left Fort Hays and headed west. Finding many Indian signs along the way, the scouts found themselves camped on the Arickaree branch of the Republican river on the night of September 16. Supplies were running short and the men were wary because all the Indian signs told the trackers they were following a large band and they were not far off. On the morning of the 17th, the scouts were awakened by gun shots and the cry of alarm from the watch.

  • As Indians charged from around the hill, the scouts gathered the horses and quickly made their way to an island in the river. For two days the battle raged. During the first day all the horses were killed, Colonel Forsyth was badly wounded, Lieutenant Beecher was killed, and the company surgeon was mortally wounded. On the first and second nights, two men snuck out to seek help. While suffering many casualties the scouts managed to hold their little island. They inflicted heavy casualties on the Indians including the great warrior Roman Nose. On the third day, the main body of Indians withdrew, leaving enough warriors to keep the scouts on their island for another seven days. During this time they survived on rotting horse meat and tended to their wounds as best they could. On the afternoon of the 25th, the scouts spotted an ambulance and a column of cavalry from the 10th division of Buffalo soldiers. The Battle of Beecher Island was over. Thirty years after the battle, two scouts, Chalmer Smith, H. H. Tucker and rescuer J. J. Peate returned to the battle site. With the help of some local settlers, enough rock was hauled in to erect a monument. Mr. Smith and Mr. Peate used their pocket knifes to mark the stone- the battle of Beecher Island fought September 17, 1868. This was the first reunion. It started a tradition that has lasted over one hundred years.
  • In 1899, the Beecher Island Memorial and Park Association was formed. In 1903, they were incorporated as the Beecher Island Memorial Association. A deed to the land around the battle site was signed to the association by Theodore Roosevelt. In 1925 the states of Kansas and Colorado put up $5,000 to build an auditorium. In 1935 a terrible flood scoured the Arickaree valley. This flood toppled the monument. The top three blocks were never seen again. What could be found was moved to higher ground and reerected with a new top. In the years since, a Sunday school, kitchen and rest room facilities have been added.
  • Every September the association welcomes hundreds of people from all over the world to the reunion. Everyone enjoys two days of food, games, entertainment and history. The grounds are open and welcome visitors 365 days a year.
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