Some suggested flight; but there seemed to be many obstacles to such a course. Nothing was known of the whereabouts of the Indians: they might be lurking near the cabin awaiting the appearance of its inmates for the purpose of picking them off as they came out. Again, they were more than fifty miles from any adequate place of refuge; while the nearest settlement was no less than fifteen miles away. But worst of all the snow was deep and there was not even a known trail upon the wintry wastes that could be followed with certainty. Moreover, there were among them three badly wounded people whose suffering would only be intensified by the cold and exposure incident to such a flight. And there were children in the party: would they be able to endure such a journey as flight would compel them to undergo? From the hardships encountered by Markham in his trip from the lakes it was known that a journey of fifty miles under the existing conditions of weather would be a hard trial of endurance, even for the strongest and most rugged person.
In the course of the discussion someone called attention to the fact that the Indians had driven away the Thomas horses. How were they to move Carver who was unable to walk and Thomas who was so weak that at best it was believed he could live but a short time? Carver was willing to be left behind if by so doing the safety of the others could be assured; but none of his companions were willing to consider such a proposition. When the thought of flight was about to be abandoned someone recalled that the Indians had not taken the Thomas oxen. If they had not been killed, they must be safe in the stable. Markham, who had twice before volunteered to risk his life, offered to go to the stable, and if the oxen were there hitch them to the sled and drive to the door.
Meanwhile, in the cabin preparations were to be made for flight. When Markham returned to the cabin he reported that every thing seemed to indicate that the Indians had given up the attack and left the vicinity. He had been gone nearly half an hour, which led the people in the cabin to fear that he too had fallen a victim of Indian lust. And so they were overjoyed when he finally appeared at the door with the ox‐drawn sled. Feather ticks were first taken to the sled and upon them the wounded Thomas, Carver, and Miss Swanger were placed. Around them were packed such articles as were deemed necessary upon the journey.
The night sky was obscured by clouds and the darkness was intense, which would make it possible for the fleeing settlers to elude the watchfulness of the Indians if any happened to be lurking in the vicinity of the cabin. About nine o'clock the nineteen frightened and wretchedly equipped refugees left the Thomas cabin. Ahead of the oxen walked Markham, Bradshaw, and Palmer, with rifles in their hands, ready to protect the women, children, and wounded from possible attack. Then came the ox‐drawn sled piled with feather beds, the wounded, blankets, bed quilts, and provisions. Upon either side and behind the sled walked the women, carrying or leading the children.
Progress was slow since no distinct trail could be discerned in the darkness. Frequently they would stop and by signs and consultation assure themselves that they were moving in the proper direction. Often they missed the way and were compelled to alter their course. At two o'clock in the morning, having made an advance of only five miles, they concluded to halt and await the dawn. Where they were they did not know. Blankets and bed quilts were spread upon the snow; and upon these the women, children, and wounded lay down, while the men stood guard. With the coming of day the refugees again pushed forward, but found that they could make little headway because of the deep snow drifts through which the men had to break a way for the oxen and sled.
In less than an hour the party, finding further progress well‐nigh impossible, decided to halt. After some deliberation it was decided to send Palmer ahead about ten miles to Granger's Point for help. Palmer, having succeeded in making his way to the Point without incident, returned with George Granger, who very willingly brought his ox team to the rescue of the stranded settlers. A Mr. Addington also accompanied Palmer upon the return trip. When about a mile to the north of Granger's place a man was observed on the open prairie. Addington jumped off the sled and started toward him. The man turned and ran, but was soon overtaken. He was found to be Dr. Strong of Springfield who had fled from the Wheeler cabin that same morning, supposing that his wife and children had been killed in the attack upon the Thomas cabin.
In the meantime the stranded settlers, thinking they saw Indians in pursuit, had left their wounded companions in the sled and taken to the open prairie in flight‐an effort which greatly exhausted the women. Returning to the sled the march onward to Granger's Point was resumed. After remaining here for two days to recuperate they continued their journey southward toward Fort Dodge.
It will be recalled that the Wheeler cabin had received but one volley from a group of three Indians who passed without stopping. The inmates had doubtless heard the continuous firing in the direction of the Thomas cabin during the afternoon and had surmised that something serious must have happened. As all was quiet at the cabin on the following morning, the anxiety of Mrs. Robert Smith to know what had really transpired at the Thomas cabin overcame her fears. With the fortitude characteristic of pioneer women, she determined to visit the cabin as early as possible. When she arrived at the cabin she found the body of Willie Thomas lying at the side of the doorstep. Greatly alarmed she investigated no further, but returned at once to the Wheeler cabin. Her hasty conclusion was that all the inmates of the Thomas cabin had been murdered by the Indians. Thus Dr. Strong, having heard the report of Mrs. Smith, concluded that his family had been murdered and that his own safety was all that was left for him to consider; and so he fled toward the settlements in Iowa.
The flight of Dr. Strong left Mr. Skinner as the only able‐bodied man at the Wheeler house. He and the three women‐Mrs. Skinner, Mrs. Nelson, Mrs. Smith‐decided to escape if possible before receiving a second visit from the Indians. Mrs. Smith strongly protested against the plan of leaving her husband, but he bade her go and save her own life. The problem of escape with these people was a vastly more difficult one than with the party at the Thomas cabin, since they had no team or other means of transportation. From the first it was evident that the disabled men must be abandoned‐ a plan in which the men themselves willingly acquiesced.
After providing for the comfort of those who were to be left behind, Mr. Skinner and the three women set out. Smith attempted to follow, but was compelled to return to the cabin after again overcoming the objections of his wife at going without him. The only individual, other than Smith and Henderson, who could not be taken was the little son of Adam P. Shiegley. After the departure of the grownups this boy made his way to the home of a settler who had not been disturbed and was there well taken care of until found by his father who later came in search of his son. Two days later, on Sunday, March twenty-ninth, the Wheeler party arrived at Granger's Point where they joined the people from the Thomas cabin.