The other day a Western Star reporter ran across Hiram O. Holderby, who was one of Comanche-co.'s early-day settlers, and it was not long until the conversation became reminiscent on the part of Mr. Holderby. Here, briefly, is the story of his pioneer experiences, as related by him.
"It was just thirty-seven years ago on Thursday, March 31, that I landed with my family on a claim about two miles northwest of Protection. My brother and I shipped out some mules, two wagons, household goods, etc., from Macon-co., Missouri to Harper, Kans., arriving there in February, 1884. Harper was then the nearest railroad point on the east of Comanche-co. I found it impossible to get a house in Harper for my family to live in, so was compelled to rent a house for a couple of months on a farm a few miles west of Harper. Toward the latter part of March, 1884, I, in company with my father, James Holderby, who had also come out from Missouri, struck out in a westward direction in search of a suitable place to locate. We drove two teams - one mules and the other horses. We came through the town of Medicine Lodge and from there on through Sun and Lake City. Not far this side of the latter place we entered the immense domains of the Comanche Pool, and then kept on our westward way. On Mule Creek there was Capt. Pepperd and a very few settlers, but none from there on until we struck the vicinity of the Gorham and Irwin (later the Flag) ranches along the Kiowa. Through Comanche-co. there was then a dim trail, which we followed. It passed just south of where the old Methodist church in Coldwater stood. There was no sign of a town here then, but soon afterwards Charley Bickford and a few others started the town at a point about three miles southwest of the present location. I recall that when we were at a point where the town now stands we happened to look off towards the southeast, and there on a small knoll about where W. M. Marley's house now stands plainly saw a good sized bunch of antelope, but we did not get any of them. There were hundreds of them in county then.
"As we passed through the county from Mule Creek we saw vast herds of cattle belonging to the Comanche Pool, of which Dick Phillips was a member and manager at that time, with headquarters at old Evansville in the southeastern part of this county. The north fence which enclosed the company's big pasture ran in a somewhat northwesterly direction, the northwestern corner being 6 or 8 miles northwest of the present town site of Coldwater. The fence then ran to the southwest, almost to where Protection now stands, and then turned in an easterly direction and extended for many miles through the southern part of this county into Barber-co. The big pasture thus comprised many thousand acres.
"On the first trip we drove out as far as where Meade now stands, but found nothing there that just suited us so turned back and finally picked out a couple of good claims located about two miles northwest of where Protection now stands, as already stated. There we drove our stakes, and not long afterwards I brought my family out. At that time there was a store and post office where Ashland now stands. The post office was called Cline, and mail was brought across from Dodge City. About a year later a post office was started on the Kiowa and called Protection. Among the prominent members of the old Protection Town Company were E. P. Hickok, W. P. Gibson, J. W. Johnson and one or two others, all republicans, good and true. When it came to selecting a name for the new post office, there was some difference of opinion, and it was finally agreed to leave the naming to the postmaster general, who was a republican also. In the political platforms of those days there was much said in regard to "protection," as compared with "free trade," when speaking of the development of American industries and the employment of labor, and it was but the natural thing for the postmaster general to think of the word "Protection" for the new post office on the Kiowa in Comanche-co., Kansas. That, as I understand it, was how the city of Protection got its name.
"My father died in the year 1890, and his body was taken back to Missouri for burial. My brother, Henry, now lives in Alfalfa-co., Oklahoma. I will add that we had a post office at Red Bluff for a while, just before the Protection office was started. I was postmaster there, and later at Protection, where I served until the time I came to Coldwater to enter upon the duties of county treasurer."
Hiram O. Holderby enjoys the distinction of being among the earlyday postmasters in this part of the state. In the latter part of the year 1883 Mr. Holderby who was then a young man not yet 25, decided to leave the state of his birth (Missouri) and seek a home in the new and rapidly developing country of southwestern Kansas. He had heard of Comanche-co., and made up his mind to take a good look at the country.
In the early part of January, 1884, he made his way through Kansas. He says that he will never forget his trip through what is now Comanche-co. There were scarcely any settlements then, and no towns at all. The country a few miles northwest of the present town site of Protection had a peculiar attraction for him. So he decided to locate on a claim in that vicinity, near what was then called Red Bluff, because of the peculiarly red appearance of the soil there.
Soon afterwards a Mr. Patterson, who lived a short distance north of him, and who kept a small country store, suggested to Mr. Holderby that they get busy and secure a post office for Red Bluff. This was decided upon, and Mr. Holderby assumed charge of the store and looked after the distribution of mail, which was then brought from Dodge City by way of Kline, which was then a postoffice located in a small building not far south of where Ashland now stands.
Mr. Holderby received his appointment as postmaster at Red Bluff after having been recommended for the position by Senator P. B. Plumb, then one of the senators from Kansas. Several months later when Ashland was started, the postoffice was moved from Kline to that place and the name changed. For some time, M. L. Baxter, now of Protection, was the mail carrier between Ashland and Coldwater, connecting here with the stage line from Medicine Lodge and Sun City and which was then driven by the famous stage driver, "Keno".
Early in 1885, the town of Protection was started, and as it was only a mile and a half from the site of Red Bluff an agreement was entered into between the leaders of the two town companies that they should combine. It was agreed that, if the two towns would unite, the Protection Town Co.'s officials - W. P. Gibson, E. P. Hickok and a Mr. Johnson - should be retained as the town officials. Hence in a short time the postoffice at Red Bluff was discontinued and Mr. Holderby received his commission as postmaster at Protection. Prior to that time C. E. Graves and been postmaster in Protection. Mr. Graves had succeeded James Holland, who was the first postmaster in that city.
At first Protection received mail from Kinsley, which was then the nearest railroad town. The mail was brought on horseback once a week by a Mr. Carl, and later he made the trip twice a week. W. P. Gibson, W. W. Baxter, W. C. Monticue, Claude Rowland and T. L. Chase have served as postmasters during the last 25 years. For a time during the early days the postoffice was kept in a sod house, but it was not long until better facilities were secured for that purpose.
In a future issue the Star will tell the story of the early day stage and mail lines into Coldwater and of the beginning of postoffice facilities in this city, with D. L. Cline, now of Medford, Okla., as postmaster.
The Weekly Ledger, June 28, 1887.
All persons knowing themselves indebted to the firm of Holderby and Gibson will please come forward and settle at once as I need the money.
H. O. HOLDERBY.
Anna Martha (Johnson) Holderby, wife of Hiram O. Holderby.
John James Holderby, son of HIram and Anna (Johnson) Holderby.
Rose Ann Augusta (Holderby) Taylor, daughter of Hiram and Anna (Johnson) Holderby.
The Last Indian Raid In Kansas, September 1878
reprinted in The Western Star, January 23, 1920.
Early Days At Protection by By Mrs. Blanche Denney-Towner
Coldwater Centennial Notebook by Evelyn Reed.
Comanche-co's Eleven County Treasurers
The Western Star, February 4, 1927.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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