Terra Coons of White City gave me a copy of a handwritten letter that should answer some of our questions concerning the bridge and artifacts found near Skiddy. The letter is dated June 24th 1965 and is Floyd W. Johnson’s response to someone’s asking for information about the dig.
Floyd says, “In regard to history of Skiddy Bridge my Father J.A. Johnson had the contract. We camped on the East side of the creek (Clark’s Creek) until the flood of 1903 ran us out. Stone work was completed. In Excavating on the East bank on oak tree had to be dug out and under it a Spanish coin and some Bones were found as I remember the tree was about 18 inches in Diameter. Father called the State Historical Society at Topeka they sent a Mr. Richey up and he Examined the Earth and took the Evidence there. I was 14 years old at the time just remember the highlights of the day. The stone work in the bridge contract price $1.90 one dollar & 90 cents per cubit (cubic) yard some difference in price today and then. Father was Early day Bridge & Building he was known as 3 finger Johnson.”
Further information comes from W.E. Richey’s address to the Kansas State Historical Society on December 1st 1903. He made numerous references to various archaeological finds throughout central and western Kansas and elsewhere that were associated with Coronado’s march through the Great American Desert. One item he mentioned is a Spanish sword which was discovered in 1886 in western Kansas near the Santa Fe Trail. The man who found this sword gave it to Richey in 1901 and then Richey presented it to the State Historical Society in 1923. For many years this sword was on display in the museum as an artifact from Coronado’s trek. In the 1980s, sword experts easily determined that it was not of 16th but 18th century manufacture and German at that. It is now believed that the sword was intended for army use or trade on the Santa Fe.
What concerns us however, is the following that Richey says about the Skiddy excavation. “Last winter Mr. J.A. Johnson, a bridge contractor, in excavating for the abutment of a bridge on Clark’s creek, a half mile south of Skiddy, at a depth of fifteen feet, unearthed a fireplace, or hearth, of matched stones, nicely fitted together, on a ledge of solid rock. On this fireplace Mr. Johnson and his workmen found ashes, coals, a buffalo bone, a flint knife, and a coin-shaped piece of brass. The flint knife was of a different color from that found cropping out of the hills near, and (had) undoubtedly been brought from a distance. It had, very likely, been used to cut the meat from the buffalo bone. Near the fireplace a spring or vein of water was uncovered. Above the fireplace, six or seven feet under the surface, an oak tree, two feet thick, had grown. The stump was removed in excavating. There is an unmistakable trace of an ancient channel a short distance east of the fireplace, which was, apparently, at one time west of and near this ancient channel. The present channel is west of and near the fireplace. In the depression where the ancient channel was many large trees have grown. Everything shows that this fireplace was used a long time ago. Another fireplace has since been unearthed in the same vicinity.”