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Captain Byron P. Ayers


The Barber County Index, March 7, 1888.

Capt. Ayers Dead.

Capt. Byron P. Ayers died at Sun City, Kans., on the 29th of February after a protracted illness, at the age of 88 (sic) years.

Deceased was at one time one of the prominent men in Kansas, and during the war he served in both the 1st and 2nd Kansas regiments with distinction. After the war he was revenue collector for the state of Colorado, with headquarters at Denver.

He had domestic trouble that caused the breakup of his family relations and for years he had been averse to even referring to his family affairs.

He came to Barber county in 1874 and had lived here ever since. He was a good lawyer and at one time was county attorney of this county.

His mind at one time must have been an exceedingly bright one, for even when disease, age, sorrow and misfortune had bowed him low, when there did not appear to him one ray of hope for future happiness on this earth, Capt. Ayres was a most entertaining and instructive conversationalist, and was ever ready to add to the comforts and pleasures of those around him.

He was interred under the direction of the G. A. R. post of Sun City, on the 1st. inst., and his funeral was attended by many of his old Barber county friends. Rigg & Johnson, the undertakers of this city, furnished one of their richest caskets and in this let us hope that the worn out body will find rest, and that the spirit when called to the God who gave it will be at peace.

Close his eyes, his work is done,
What to him is friend or foeman,
Rise of moon or set of sun,
Hand of man, or kiss of woman?
Leave him to God's watching eye,
Trust him to the hand that made him;
Mortal love weeps idly by,
Christ alone has power to aid him.


The Union, March 2, 1888.

Died: Capt. Byron P. Ayers died at 10 o'clock Wednesday morning after a long sickness. The G.A.R. have been very kind to him and his friends, during his illness, and have given him a formal G.A.R. burial, at which there were a great number of people from all parts of the county present. He was highly respected by all who knew him.


The Union, March 9, 1888

Editor Union.

It appears to be the impression of some of the people in the vicinity of Lake City, that Capt. B.P. Ayers should have been buried in the Lake City Cemetery, as it was his wish according to their ideas.

If it had ever been his wish he certainly had changed his mind for, last fall, at a meeting of the Sun City Post No. 372 G.A.R., he insisted that the Post buy a lot in Hope Cemetery for the G..A. R. boys, stating that it was a necessity as he, as well as some other members of the Post, wanted to know where they would be buried, and he said he wanted to be laid where some of his comrades would be placed by his side.

The lot was bought by the Quarter-master of the Post and he is now laid away in it according to his own wishes stated in open meeting of Sun City Post No. 372 G.A.R.

Hoping this will satisfy all parties, we are yours &c.

L. Lockert, Post Com.
H.E. Van Trees, Adjt.


A Brief Sketch of the Life of Capt. Byron P. Ayers,
Late Editor of This Paper.

Capt. Byron P. Ayers, who died on Wednesday Feb. 29, 1888, aged 50 (sic) years, was born in New England, and his parents moved to Chesterville Ohio when he was about seven years old, where he went to school, and was always at the head of his class in his studies. But, like any other studious child, he was very grave, and did not mix in many of the sports of the playground.

At 14 years of age he was editing a small county newspaper; going to school, and studying law, all at the same time.

At 17 years of age, he was Principal of a High School, where he had gone as a scholar.

At 19 years of age, he came to Kansas, and studied law in a Law office at Leavenworth, where he remained until the meeting of some old friends from Linn Co. where he went to practice law with Geo. Mitchell.

He was clerk of the House of Representatives, (Held at Lecompton, of the State of Kansas).

At the commencement of the border trouble, he took a firm stand with the free state men, and had many narrow escapes from the border ruffians; as any of you can see that have the history of the border troubles in which there is an illustration, that shows him with a rope around his neck, and I have heard him say many times that it was nothing but coolness and cheek that saved his neck that time.

At the commencement of the war, he organized a company, and was made captain by a unanimous vote of the Co. which did some very effective service under him during the war. Many are the stories I have heard him relate of the narrow escapes from the Guerillas on the state line while transporting Bullion or Provisions from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott.

At the close of the war he fitted out a wagon train to freight goods from Leavenworth and other places across the plains and I have no doubt but that these lines may be read by some of the men that drove teams for Ayers and Gilbert, Government freighters; here it was he met with the greatest loss (financially) that he ever had in his life. The Indians attacked the teams and took the Animals. Piled the flour in pyrimidical shape without sacks; and put the bacon in ricks, then ran the wagons all together and set fire to them; and he said that he had the satisfaction of watching them burn, from a distant hill.

About this time he was appointed U.S. Commissioner for the District of Colorado with head-quarters at Denver City; where he remained but a short time when he was appointed Quartermaster at Fort Lyons, New Mexico, which he left very soon and came back to Kansas to practice law, where he was known as one of the best practical Lawyers in the State.

But there came a very bitter drop in his cup; of which, no man ever heard him complain; domestic trouble of some kind drove him to drink.

Ah, Ladies, you should be very careful of the Soul that you promise before God, to be a help-mate to; and not help them to perdition, instead of that world where all is light and joy.

He held many other prominent positions for a short time; he was a Maj. Gen for a short time. He came to this county in the spring of 1874 from Osage Mission, where he had held the office of Police Judge and Mayor, of the City.

I well remember the first time I ever saw him; it was during the Commissioners trouble, and at the time that some of our old settlers were wanting to hang the commissioners for their conspiracy in the bond steal.

I was standing on the streets of Medicine Lodge, when I noticed a prominent figure coming along the streets; as he approached I noticed a look of sorrow on his face, he wore a cap, an overcoat, a pair of shabby jeans pants and a pair of low shoes. He had just been on a "bender" and had got so low that none of his old associates knew him, but he afterwards gained the respect of almost every person in this county, and has held the office of Co. Attorney for two terms.

His right hand frequently pained him after he was shot through it in the Medicine Lodge trouble on Christmas 1874.

He commenced to make his home in Sun City in the spring of 1876, from which time he made it his home. During which he made many firm friends, who greatly deplore his death, and there are none that knew him that knew anything but;

--"Praise for the dead, who leave us when they part
Such hope as he hath left - the pure in heart."


The Union, March 23, 1888.

Scott Cummins has a poem in last weeks Medicine Lodge Cresset, which was written as a tribute to the memory of Capt. Byron P. Ayers.


Memorial Tribute by the Pilgrim Bard to the Memory of Capt. Byron P. Ayers
-- The Medicine Lodge Cresset, March 15, 1888.


Excerpt from "A Frontier Court"
in When Kansas Was Young
by Thomas Allen McNeal, pages 4-5.

It fell to Judge Brown to hold the first term of court in the newly organized county of Barber. Court house there was none, although the thieves who organized the county had incurred sufficient debt, ostensibly for that purpose, to have built a fine temple of justice. The opening term was held, I think, in a schoolhouse which had just been completed. The sheriff was a unique character by the name of Reuben Lake. With great dignity and solemnity the new judge directed the sheriff to open court. Reuben had somewhere learned the usual formula for opening court, and varied it with some observations of his own. In stentorian voice he announced to the assembled crowd:

"Hear ye, hear ye; the honorable district court for Barber County is now in session. All you blank, blank sons of blank who have business in this court will lay off your guns and come to the front, and all you blank, blank sons of blank who have no business in this court will lay off your guns and keep __________ quiet."

Just what the solemn and dignified judge thought of the manner in which the court was opened is not stated. The dean of the early Barber County bar was Captain Byron P. Ayers. Captain Ayers was born in Ohio, educated for a teacher, but studied law and wandered westward until he reached the territory of Kansas. He took some interest in territorial council back in the fifties. When the war came he was made captain of one of the Kansas companies, fought with Lyon at Wilson's Creek, with Blunt at Prairie Grove, and in the other battles of the West. With a wide acquaintance among the leading men of the new state and a creditable record as a soldier, his prospects were bright, but John Barleycorn got a strangle hold on him and made his life a failure.

He seemed to me to be a man who had been more than ordinarily gifted by nature and with really great possibilities, but who had entirely given up the fight. When knocked down in the first round he lacked the energy, determination, and courage to get up and fight again. To the hour of his death, however, he retained a certain marked dignity of bearing and distinction of presence which would have caused him to attract attention in any assembly. His conversation was remarkably free from inaccuracies of expression, his literary taste was excellent, and even when fairly well "tanked up" he was never guilty of vulgarity or maudlin silliness. He was, in fact, rather more dignified and precise when full than when sober.

His regular habitation was in the little hamlet called Sun City, but having been elected county attorney, an office which paid, as I recall, $500 a year in "scrip", worth at that time from fifteen to twenty cents on the dollar, he was a frequent visitor at the Lodge, and when there slept in the layloft of the livery stable.

One morning, following an evening and night of unusual potations, Cap awoke with that feeling that comes "the morning after". His eyes were bloodshot, and millet straw and millet seed were plentifully mingled with his hair and long auburn beard. Altogether he was a picture of disconsolateness and disgust. He sat up and turning to a fellow lodger he said in a mournful, almost sepulchral voice: "Ten thousand years hence, when we both are dead and damned, our ghosts will sit on the dark Plutonian shore and read the records of our misspent lives by the red glare of hell."

Speaking of Captain Ayers brings to mind another remarkable character, who came to the Lodge later. He always signed his name Dr. G.W. Ayers. He was a horse doctor, possessed of a most remarkable vocabulary, and a facility for original and striking expressions such as I have never seen equaled. I think that Doc and truth had never met, or at least had never formed a speaking acquaintance. There were times when I considered him one of the most spontaneous and delightful old liars I ever met. Back in 1874, several years before I reached Barber County, there was a saloon row in the frontier drink emporium, in the course of which Captain Byron P. Ayers was slightly wounded.

Doc Ayers came to the Lodge during the early eighties, but one day, forgetting that I knew when he arrived, he entertained me with an account of the old saloon row.

"I was the only doctor in the town," he said. "They sent for me. I found when I got there that a bullet had plowed across Cap Ayers' midriff and let his bowels out. It occured to me, when I looked him over, that he had more bowels than he needed and so I cut off a couple of fee of intestines, put the rest back and sewed him up."

This most marvelous surgical operation performed by a horse doctor, he assured me, caused Captain Ayers little inconvenience.

For many years the body of Capt. Byron P. Ayers has lain in what I presume is an unmarked and uncared for grave. As I think of his wasted talent I am reminded of Whittier's

"Of all sad words of tongue or pen
The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"


Excerpts from the journals of Russell B. Lake,
grandson of Reuben Lake.

"Cap" Ayres or Byron P. Ayres was the first elected mayor of Eire, Ks. Came to Barber County with Reuben Lake. Settled in Sun City. Notation in early Commissioner Minutes of bill allowed to B.P. Ayres of Sun City.

Byron P. Ayres filed on the SE4 of Sec 10-31-14 on Dec. 2, 1875. Then gave Warrantee Deed to Mary H. Lake on same day 12-2-75. Patent on this quarter was issued by U.S. to Byron P. Ayres on Nov. 3, 1876

B.P. Ayres was listed among lawyers at the First Term of District Court held at "Old Erie" Neosho County in Sept. 1867. Served as Trustee for Osage Mission before it was organized as a 3rd class city. Was councilman in 1869 and May 1870. H.of K. 826-30


Osage Mission

The town having been governed for six months by a Board of Trustees, consisting of John Ryan, president; John Moffit, clerk; B. P. Ayers, T. C. Cory (sic) and R. D. Coggswell, until October 25, 1869, was on that day organized as a city of the third class. John O'Grady was chosen Mayor, and B. P. Ayers, John Ryan, John Moffit, J. P. Morgan and R. D. Coggswell, Councilmen. The following is a list of the Mayors since elected, with the dates of their election: B. P. Ayers, 1870, re-elected in 1871; W. L. Simons, 1872; C. L. Lease, 1873; A. B. Stoddard, 1874; T. H. Butler, 1875; L. Steadman, 1876, re-elected 1877; L. S. Orton, 1878; W. H. Williams, 1879; J. L. Denison, 1880, re-elected 1881; L. Steadman, 1882.

-- William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.


Neosho County, Part 2

The first term of the District Court was held at Old Erie in September, 1867. Hon. W. A. Spriggs, of Garnett, was presiding Judge. T. C. Cory was appointed by Judge Spriggs County Attorney, and acted in that capacity throughout the term. T. J. Brewer was Clerk of the Court, and the lawyers in attendance from Neosho County were J. C. Carpenter, B. P. Ayers, Tom. Bridgens and C. F. Hutchings.

-- William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.


2nd Regiment, Kansas Infantry (3 months, 1861)

Organized at Lawrence for three months May, 1861. Mustered in at Kansas City June 20, 1861. Moved to Clinton, Mo., to join Lyon. Attached to Deitzler's Brigade, Lyon's Army of the West. Advance on Springfield Mo., June 29-July 5. Expedition from Springfield to Forsyth July 20-25. Action at Forsyth July 22. Dug Springs August 2. Battle of Wilson's Creek August 10. March to Rolla, thence to St. Louis August 11-22. Operations in Northeast Missouri August 30-September 7. Paris September 2. Shelbina September 4. Iatan September 4. Capture of St. Jo September 13. Moved to Wyandotte, Kan., to resist Price's invasion. Mustered out October 31, 1861.

Regiment lost during service 1 Officer and 12 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 3 Enlisted men by disease. Total 17.

Source: http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/


Letter, S. C. S. [Samuel C. Smith] to Dear Doctor [Charles Robinson]
Author: Smith, Samuel C.
Date: January 6, 1859

Samuel Smith wrote to Dr. Charles Robinson from Lawrence, Kansas Territory, regarding the latest election events within the Kansas Territorial Legislature. The positions of Speaker and Clerk were not secured by William Roberts and himself, as had been expected, but had been filled by Alfred Larzalere and Byron P. Ayres as a consequence of some questionable internal party politics, so described by Smith. Smith also wrote Robinson of George Deitzler's desire to resume correspondence with him, and of a recent incident in which James Lane's portrait was defaced.

http://lark.cc.ku.edu/~imlskto/images/originals/u002973r.jpg


"Tom Murphy, a cattle herder, had been caught out alone and true to his race and name he had died fighting. It may not be out of place here to publish the following brief but touching tribute to the Irish herder written by Capt. Byron P. Ayers, of whom I have made former mention, and published in a subsequent issue of the Barber County mail. "In your paper of last week you told that Tom Murphy was dead. The boys who knew him have asked me to say something about him and have you print it. I do not know what to say, except that he was a good man, always sober, told the truth, loved children and fought bravely to the last." -- WHEN KANSAS WAS YOUNG: The Last Indian Raid in Kansas, The Western Star, January 23, 1920.


Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above obituary from The Barber County Index and to Kim Fowles for the Union articles.

Thanks to Carol (Lake) Rogers for the entries from the Journals of Russell B. Lake!

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