Lyons News, December 13, 1984
Grandfather served at Larned Outpost - A Kansas dream while soldiering
by Carolyn Sayler
1. Mrs. John Buller is among descendants of soldiers who have
contributed to the history of Fort Larned National Historic Site.
2. Edwin Clem Mercer found his dream in Kansas while soldiering
at Fort Larned. At 19 he was a veteran of the Civil War and
Sherman's march to the sea.
The captain's quarters will be festively decorated. At
Fort Larned National Historic Site, staff members will dress in
uniforms and gowns of the 1860's to greet visitors at an open house
The event is considered "living history," based on research and
information from 220 descendants of soldiers located during the past
eight years. In re-creating a Christmas party of 1868, the staff
has decorated the parlor in Victorian style, and will use its square
grand piano for caroling Saturday evening.
Among descendants who have furnished bit of family history to
park archivists is Mrs. John (Viola) Buller, granddaughter of one of
several thousand soldiers who served at the fort from 1859 to
1878. Because of her ancestor's brief but significant assignment
following the Civil War, she long has been interested in the outpost
and its resurrection from oblivion into a national historic center.
Edwin Clem Mercer was 19 when he arrived at the fort in 1865
with members of his Illinois Cavalry company who had marched with
Serman to the sea. The youth had joined the Union Army at the age of 17.
With other soldiers accompanying wagon trains to and from the
fort Mercer camped at a spring and became so fond of the spot that he
began to think of it as a homestead, Mrs. Buller said.
The young infantry man, discharged six months later, returned to
Illinois and six years passed before he was able to pursue the
dream. He and his wife and three children traveled to Kansas in a
Mrs. Buller said that her grandfather acquired his homestead
near Pretty Prairie by timber claim, planting cottonwood saplings from
the Ninnescah River. The lad was granted in a document signed by
President Rutherford B. Hayes.
The family had been in Kansas only three years when the
grasshopper plague of 1874 descended upon settlers. Mercer
determined to stay, but sent his wife and children back to Illinois by
train. Mrs. Buller remembers her grandparents telling of the
decision, and believe that her grandmother and children departed from
Hutchinson. A fourth child, a daughter born in Illinois in
September, returned with them the following spring.
Mrs. Buller's father, Martin Sherman, named for his father's
general was the first child born in Kansas. The spot her
grandfather selected as a soldier was the site of two dugouts and then
a home with additions made during the years for the family of
nine. The farmstead now graced by 110-year-old cottonwoods has
remained in the family for five generations, Mrs. Buller said.
Significant to a nation, deeply personal to one Kansas family,
Fort Larned on Saturday will offer a sampling of that heritage in
holiday package for area residents.
Hutchinson News - Wed., Nov. 12, 1986 - Page 2A
Family carries on rich farm tradition
Above, Edwin C. Mercer, an Indian scout and Civil War Veteran,
and his wife, Hatty, began a family tradition back in the 1870s when
they homesteaded 160 acres near Pretty Prairie. Today the
Mercers' descendants remain on the same homestead. At right, the
current residents of the homestead represent six generations of the
family line. They are, from left to right, C. Darrell Treaster, Mr. and
Mrs. John Buller, Dolly Mercer, Mrs. Mark Treaster, sons Andrew and
Matthew Treaster. The farm has been in the same family for 114
Pretty Prairie - Forget Mother Goose.
Matthew Treaster, 5 son of Mr. and Mrs. Mark Treaster, prefers just one bedtime story.
"Tell me the story of Edwin Mercer, " he is apt to tell his
father, a teacher at Prairie Hills Middle School, near Hutchinson.
Edwin C. Mercer was Matthew's great-great-great grandfather, a
Civil War veteran and an Indian Scout who homesteaded the land where
Matthew, his 3-year-old brother, Andrew, and their parents now live.
The farm, 6 1/2 miles northwest of Pretty Prairie, has been in
the same family since 1872 - 114 years, and Matthew and Andrew
represent the sixth generation on the farm.
Edwin C. Mercer, who was born in Illinois in 1845, joined the
Army at 17 and, as a corporal in Company D, 17th Regiment, Illinois
Cavalry, was involved in Geo. Sherman's march to the sea during the
After the war, he was sent to Fort Larned. Troops
stationed there rode out to provide safe passage for wagon trains
coming west out of Fort Scott.
Mercer scouted for Indians along the way and often camped beside
a spring between what are now Pretty Prairie and Partridge.
According to Mercer's granddaughter, Mrs. Viola Mercer Buller of Lyons, Mercer was impressed by that campsite.
"He thought, 'When I get out of the Army, I'm going to see if I
can homestead this piece of land.' He was discharged Dec. 12,
1865, at Leavenworth and returned to his parents' homes at Bader, Ill.
"It wasn't until 1871 that Mr. Mercer started to make his dream
come true." Mrs. Buller said. "With his wife, Hetty Mae
Schisler, whom he married April 8, 1866, and three children, they
started for Kansas in a covered wagon."
Whey they forded the Mississippi River, the load was too heavy,
Mrs. Buller said, "so grandfather threw grandmother's chest with all of
linens, silver and many things she treasured overboard.
"Grandma said she cried when she saw it floating down the river. I don't think she ever quite forgave him for it."
The Mercers arrived at the southwest quarter of Section 26 in
Township 25, south of Range 7 West in February of 1872, the same year
the city of Hutchinson was founded.
They constructed a dugout that measured 12 by 16 feet and had a
buffalo hide for a door. During the first years, they ate plants
and wild game. For example, Mrs. Buller said, they used sour clover to
make mock lemon pie, they picked dandelions for greens and ate wild
Buffalo hunters took skins and horns and left carcasses in the
area. During the second year, Mercer gathered up buffalo bones and
hauled them 21 miles to Hutchinson, where he traded them for
supplies. The bones were used to make bone meal.
"Grandma Mercer told the story about three Indians who came to
their house and begged for food," Mrs. Buller recalled.
"While she was fixing some food for them, Grandpa sat with a rifle in
his hands, watching them."
In 1874, she said, grasshoppers "ate the clothes off the line,
stripped the grass, ate everything in sight. They couldn't see
the sun at times, because of the clouds of grasshoppers."
Mercer refused to give up and go back east, but his wife and
children went back to Illinois until the following spring. A
fourth child was born while she was still in Illinois.
A second dugout, consisting of two rooms, was built and it was
in that dugout that Mrs. Buller's father, Martin, was born Dec. 13,
Eventually, a two-room house was constructed on top of the
dugout and more rooms were added later. Mercer died in that home
Christmas Day, 1928. His wife, Hetty, died May 3, 1933, and both
are buried in Lone Star Cemetery near Pretty Prairie.
Mrs. Buller's father, Martin was the second generation to live on the farm in the house close to parent's home.
Edwin had been on the first school board for Riverton District
61, and Martin took his place. Martin's son, Loys "Slim" Mercer,
was on the school board until the district was taken into the Pretty
Prairie School District.
Martin was killed by an electric shock while fixing telephone lines after a July 31, 1919 storm.
The farm is still in a trust, held by Loys' widow, Dolly, who is
Mark Treaster's grandmother and who now lives at Pretty Prairie.
Loys was Mrs. Buller's brother. Loys and Dollie had one
daughter, Carol, who married Darrell Treaster. Carol was reared
on the home place, but did not live there after she was married.
She died in 1972 and her husband has since remarried. He
lives in Hutchinson, where he works for R.E.I.B., but he farms the home
place, raising wheat and milo.
The younger Treasters have sheep and chickens and hope to get into the cattle business later on.
Mark Treaster is in his fourth year at Prairie Hills, where he teaches seventh and eight grade in learning disabilities.
"My family lived in Kansas City until I was 10 or so and then we
lived in Hutchinson. I grew up right by Union Valley School.
The home farm had been rented out for about 16 years, until Treaster and his family moved onto it about four years ago.
"My mother (Carol Mercer Treaster) was an only child.
What's going to happen is that it (the farm will be passed along to
"I think it was my grandfather's dream that we would continue
owning the land. I mentioned to him once about the possibility of
living there and he said, "you could live there tomorrow if you wanted
His son, Andrew, is too young to understand the history of the Mercer farm, but Matthew is enthralled by it.
"Matthew loves the farm and he already says he wants to be a farmer," Treaster said.
"We have a neighbor who remembers Edwin. He's in his 70s now and he was 5 years old when he knew Edwin."
The neighbor is a living link for Matthew with his
great-great-great grandfather, and he is awed by the fact that
there is someone alive today who knew the old Indian Scout.