Ellis  County,  Kansas



One Man Killed and Others Wounded

The Sheriff Not Expected to Recover

About one o'clock Sunday morning a desperate row occurred in a drinking saloon at Hays City. The row commenced between a party of soldiers belonging to the Sixth cavalry and a number of citizens who were in the saloon. In the affray a man named Charley Harrison was fatally shot through the head. Sheriff Peter Lanihan interfered to quell the disturbance and received two shots in the body. Two soldiers of the 6th cavalry were also shot. The Call of last evening contains following particulars:

We have been shown a letter by a friend, just received from Hays. He says that the Sheriff is dying and that Mr. May, a freighter, had his thigh broken by a bullet and that a Mexican teamster was shot through the leg. It is also rumored that Capt. Ovenshine, commanding officer at Fort Hays, has serious thoughts of putting the town under martial law. We regret exceedingly to hear of our friend Sheriff Lanihan's mishap and hope he may not be so bad as reported. He was certainly a very honest and efficient officer. Harrison, the man killed in the affair, belonged at one time to the 7th cavalry. Kelly, at whose place the affair took place, was a discharged soldier and worked here a long time as runner for one of the railroads, and also for one or two clothing houses. He left immediately after the shooting had taken place and has not been seen there since. We are informed that there was serious talk of lynching him if found near the place. (Leavenworth Bulletin, July 19, 1871, page 4)

Note: A former deputy of Wild Bill Hickok, “Rattlesnake Pete” Lanihan (or Lanahan) defeated Hickok in the sheriff’s election of 1869.Evidently, Lanihan’s election upset some criminal elements and it is conjectured that they plotted to “set up” the new sheriff. On the night of July 16, 1871, a fight started in Henry “Dog” Kelley’s saloon, and when Lanihan attempted to stop the disturbance,he was shot twice. He died of the wounds within two days.


The Kansas City Times of Wednesday, has the following account of the murder of Sheriff Ramsey by a thief: Readers of the Times will remember an article to these columns a few days ago in which was given a brief account of how Sheriff Alexander Ramsey broke up a band of train robbers that had been for many months committing serious depredations in the vicinity of Hays City, Kan. Mr. Ramsey passed through this city the evening before that article appeared and the information therein stated came from his own lips to a reporter of the Tiems. he had in his charge three of the parties who had been robbing the cars and was returning with them from Julesburg, Neb., where he captured them to Hays city. Soon after arriving there he was informed of an extensive robbery being committed, in which a band of horse thieves had captured and taken away a large drove of ponies.

Summoning to his aid for that particular trip a man named Shepard, he started out on Monday for them. Traveling during the forenoon in a two horse wagon they struck the trail near Kill Creek. From the evidences of having been recently made and the tracks showing that a number of horses had passed there in a body, they at once decided that they were on the track of the guilty parties. Unhitching their horses they rode rapidly on until they reached Stockton, arriving there just after sundown.

They had not been mistaken.

They fond the droves of ponies there, and a man attempting to sell them.

Mr. Ramsey, ever fearless in the discharge of his duty, immediately walked toward the fellow and bade him hold up his hands, and declaring him under arrest. Dodging behind a pony the thief drew up his revolver and as Ramsey fired at him returned the shots. As he was protected by his horse Ramsey could not see him. Suddenly to the horror of all, Ramsey was seen to stagger for a moment after the discharge of the horse thief's revolver, and then pale as death, rush forward and send three bullets crashing through the skull and heart of his opponent. The man dropped dead, expiring almost instanatly. Ramsey sank to the ground, bleeding from a fatal wound, and was immediately carried to a drug store near by, where he soon died. Shepard, while the shooting was going on, went in search of the man who shot Ramsey and finding him in a store drew a revolver and another rattling fire of musketry was commenced. The thief fan, firing at Shepard on the jump, until he reached the street, when he jumped on a strange horse and slipping the bridle from off his head, thrust his spurs into his flanks and sped away like the wind. He did not sit firm in his saddle, but reeled from one side to the other. For this reason, Shepard concluded that one of his shots took effect. He, however, escaped, but left behind his drove of stolen ponies, over twenty in number. These Shepard took possession of and immediately started for Hays City, arriving there yesterday.

Poor Ramsey, as brave and honest an official as lived in the State, was carried back a corpse to a young wife rady to step into the grave with consumption who cannot survive her awful loss. The remains arrived in Hays City yesterday morning and will be interred today.

The thief who escaped is described as follows: Six feet in height, sharp features, dark complexion, small black chin whiskers, and mustache. In seeling the ponies he gave a bill of sale signed with the name of Stanley. (The Inter Ocean, June 11, 1875, page 1)

Note: Sheriff Ramsey was shot and killed when he and a deputy encountered two horse thieves while traveling to Stockton, Kansas. They observed a horse trail in Rooks County and went to investigate to see if the county's most wanted man and horse thief was involved. They encountered two men attempted to sell horses and a shootout ensued. Sheriff Ramsey and one of the suspects were killed. The second suspect was wounded and apprehended but acquitted in trial.


A Tragedy of Hays City, Kansas---A Man Murdered in a Saloon--His Murderer and a Horse-thief Chained to a Post in Jail and Shot by a Mob

Hays City, Kansas, is not a pleasant place to live in, or to die in. People die there more readily than they can live there; and the graves with which the Cemetery is abundantly studded are of what may be called abnormal origin. The revolver is a more prolific source of obituaries than any other disease, and bowel complaint is far less fatal than the Bowie-knife. For years past Hays City has been the abode of the most desperate characters in the Union, and consequently the scene of the most terrible tragedies which ever made even the inhabitants of that dark and bloody border country ashamed of the reputation and of their class and locality. On Thursday night last, in Hays City, there was done


And this was the deed and the manner of its doing:

A few days before one Jack Wright went to Hays City from Dodge City, the prospective terminum of the Atlantic, Texas, and Santa Fe Railroad, to buy some lumber for building purposes. In one of the low doggeries with which Hays City abounds, he met one McClelland, a resident of Ellsworth, and familiary known as the Wickedest Man in the State. Both parties had been drinking, and both were stimulated to jealousy by the presence of a trail if not fair one, in the person of Nettie O'Baldwin. Words ensued, and then McClelland loudly asserted that the only object which he had in going to Hays City was to kill Jack Wright, and that now was the appointed time. In a moment, amid a frightful din of profanity and remonstrance, pistols were drawn, and their short, sharp crak announced that murder was being done. McClelland's first shot pierced Wright's stomach, and he fell to the ground.


His death-wound, however, did not prevent him from thrice firing on and wounding McClelland. One ball took effectin the deperado's head, another in his left hand and a third in his abdomen--all three wounds being severe, but not necessarily fatal. In a moment the fight was over, and in less than half an hour after its occurance Wright was a corpse, McClelland a prisoner, and the woman, O'Baldwin, an exile, having departed no one knew whither. McClelland's wounds were dressed and he was placed in jail, the basement of a one-story frame building used as a Courthouse. A chain was fastened to his ankle, and the other end of it was fastened to one of the posts supporting the building. To the same post was fastened in a similar manner a well-known horse-thief, "Pony" Donovan, who had received frequent warnings to leave that section of the country under penalty of death, warnings which he had treated with contempt. The community had been terribly excited by the shooting affray and the arrest of Donovan, and suspicious knots of men met at all the street corners, muttering ominously that two such ruflians would not be allowed to leave the city alive, or, indeed, to see


The nigh, however, passed away undisturbed, and the pale beams of another morning sun shone in on the fettered wretches. This delay in the execution of the popular vengeance was only a respite and not a pardon; it was only accorded to await the return of a messenger, who had been sent to Dodge City to bring to Hays City a brother of a murdered man. The next night came. At the dead midnight hour a band of men met in the square; all were armed, all silent. They approached the jail and surrounded it. By the light of their torches could be seen crouching against the post to which they were chained the two desperadoes, the graver criminal, McClelland, swatched in bandage. The mob had no pity for them, who were fastened there like cattle awaiting the ax of the butcher. A curse of hatred broke from Donovan's lips. McClelland was asleep, but started up as the light flashed upon him. Its lurid glare was to him as the blaze of opening hell. In a moment the glistening barrels of a dozen guns were thrust throught the windows, a detonation followed, and when the thin blue smoke cleared away out on its curling wreaths floated


McClelland, a man of iron frame, was shuddering and moaning in an agony from which death soon relieved him. Thus perished, without a word of warning or a moment for reflection and repentance, these two miserable men.

The event has caused much excitement and much regret in Hays City. The public are divided in opinion, nearly all regretting that an act of popular violence should have occurred in the city when the regular authorities were abundantly able to vindicate the majesty of outraged law, while they all acknowledge that the murdered men deserved death, and that crime has attained to such proportions in the vicinity as to require vigorous repressing. Indeed, the whole country in the vicinity is ravaged by organized bands of desperadoes, whom to oppose or resist is to court violence and death.

Only a few days sinceone of these bands, under the leadership of Jack Donovan, a reputed brother to the one killed in jail, and Black


Fron the vicinity of Dodge City, and seriously wounded a man who was on herd at the time. They attire themselves Indian fashion, thus screening themselves from recognition, and shifting their crimes to innocent parties, thus when any member of these parties are caught they are most summarily dealt with, and evidence is point blank that these two who were thus suddenly hurled into eternity by an outraged and exasperated populace met a fate they only too richly deserved.
(Cincinnati Daily Enquirer ~ August 30, 1872)


And Kansan Would Be Glad to Trade Them for His Missing Windmill

John Chittenden, member of the legislature from Ellis County, went to Topeka Saturday with a tale of woe. He has a fine pair of silk bloomers that belong to someone in Western Kansas and someone has a wrecked windmill and some other property that belonged to Chittenden. The member from Ellis is an Englishman, who wears King George whiskers. He has served two terms in the legislature. He has no use for the bloomers.

One night last week a small tornado swept across Ellis County, and the Chittenden farm was hit. His barn was wrecked, his chickens all killed and his windmill blown away. Next day Chittenden began gathering up the debris. His windmill was entirely gone, but there was some lumber from his barn in a sadly dilapidated condition. Wound around a board was the pair of bloomers, which escaped without a scratch or a hole.
(Kansas City Star ~ August 22, 1917)


Las Cruces, N.M., July 8---John S. Bird, editor and publisher of the Ellis County News at Ellis, Kans., formerly one of the foremost instructors at the Kansas Agricultural college, writes to the chamber of commerce here that he is coming to New Mexico for an extended stay.

Mr. Bird recently passed through a siege of the flu and pneumonia and is coming to the southwest to recuperate. He will divice his time during the next eight months between Albuquerque and Las Cruces, where he has a number of friends, formerly residents of Kansas, among them being Dr. H. L. Kent, president of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. Clarence J. Smith, supervisor of manual training in Dona Ana county, and N. M. Smith, premier corn grower in this district.
(Albuquerque Journal ~ July 9, 1922)


HAYS CITY, KAN., Feb. 25---The Windsor hotel of this city, the finest in Kansas west of Salina, was burned to the ground this morning at daylight. It could easily have been saved by a fireplug stream, but the building of water works had been enjoined last fall. The loss was $13,000; insured for $6,800.
(Kansas City Times ~ February 26, 1889)

Back to Index Page

Copyright © to Kansas Genealogy Trails' Ellis County host & all Contributors
  All rights reserved