The Saga of Nancy Jane Fletcher Morton Stephens

Written by: Leo Lawton

At age 16, in 1860, Nancy Fletcher married Thomas Morton in Iowa. In mid 1864 Thomas, in partnership with Nancy’s brother William Fletcher and their cousin John Fletcher, set out on an extended freight shipping trip to Denver, hundreds of miles west through Indian Territory. Nancy, not yet twenty, went along on the journey. They wended their way westward until the night of August 7th when they camped by Plum Creek near its confluence with the Platte River in Nebraska Territory.

Shortly after daybreak the next morning between sixty and one hundred Cheyenne braves charged down from a bluff overlooking Plum Creek. The nineteen-year-old Nancy Morton was hit by an arrow in the left side, and by another in the left thigh. As she hit the ground a following wagon struck her. She ran for the river where she saw her cousin, John Fletcher. Just then an arrow struck his chest; he shuddered and died. She spotted her brother hiding in the grass. As he arose telling her to run for the wagons, three arrows hit him. His final words were, “Tell my wife Susan I am killed. Goodbye my dear sister.” Nancy was then taken captive by the warriors.

A ransom was paid for Nancy Morton, but after she was released and rode a short distance, she was recaptured. She was ransomed a second time and again recaptured. Finally, in February of 1865, a Government agent was sent with a new tactic. He took a large herd of horses along with him on his journey. At strategic spots he left them in pairs, ever closer together as he neared the Indian encampment. When he paid the ransom and Nancy was released, he raced away from the encampment with the Indians once more in hot pursuit to recapture their valuable commodity. The agent and Nancy stayed ahead of the pursuers until they reached the first pair of awaiting horses. They rapidly switched animals and began leaving the Indians with their tiring mounts behind. This procedure was used again and again the entire distance back to safety. She always recalled that she had been treated with the utmost respect, the Indians keeping her merely as a source of wealth.

On November 19, 1865 this tenacious frontier woman remarried, this time to George Stephens. In August of 1866 she gave birth to her first of three children, a daughter she named Eveline. When Eveline was nineteen, in February of 1886, she married William Lincoln Lawton, the son of Philip and Jeanine (Gault) Lawton, born respectively in England and Scotland. William and Eveline had one daughter, Lulu Maud Lawton in 1893. She married Smead H Purinton.