Godfrey’s Ranch

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Part of our in-depth series exploring the forts of Comancheria

14-15 January 1865, Merino, Colorado: Due to frequent Lakota and Cheyenne attacks in the area, rancher Holon Godfrey made his home, about two miles upriver from American Ranch, into a fortress, surrounded by a six-foot-high adobe wall with fire ports. Next to his house was a tower, also with fire ports. Inside was abundant food, water, and ammunition. Godfrey was on his early-morning watch when Indians appeared on 14 January. Sanding by that day were several travelers and employees.

When 130 Lakotas and Cheyennes arrived that morning, the rancher was ready. The Indians circled around the fortress to draw fire, but the fire never slackened, and several Indians were hit as they closed in. The defenders moved from portal to portal, firing away, while the women and children kept the weapons loaded.

When the Indians broke into the corral to steal the stock, Godfrey said, "Let 'em go! We ain't gettin' outside these walls."

The Indians set a fire to burn the settlers out, but they formed a bucket brigade and soaked the ground. When Godfrey ran out to throw a last bucket of water, a warrior jumped in front of him, but Godfrey pumped a bullet through his shield and into his chest. Later, the Indians shot flaming arrows onto the roof; the defenders carried water up a ladder to douse the fire.

The siege lasted through the next day. On the second night, one of the settlers rode out to get help at Valley Station. Though only four soldiers would accompany him back to Godfrey's the next morning, by the time they got there, the Indians were gone.

Outside Godfrey's adobe walls were 17 Indian bodies. No one on the inside was hurt. The Lakotas and Cheyennes gave Godfrey a nickname: Old Wicked. Hen then christened his ranch Fort Wicked. It was one of the few ranches in the area to survive the January attacks.

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