But before the reader dismisses the legend out of hand, there may be some basis for the story. William F Drannan (1832-1913) in his 1910 account, Chief of Scouts as Pilot to Emigrant and Government trains Across the Plains fo the Wild West of Fifty Years Ago, recounted an incident in Nebraska in 1850:
Bridger and I rode down to where the emigrants were in camp, and we found the most excited people I ever saw in my life. They had passed through one of the most terrible experiences that had ever occurred on the frontier. There were thrity wagons in the train, and they were all from the southeastern part of Missouri, and it seemed that there was one man in the train by the name of Rebel who at the time they had left home had sworn that he would kill the first Indian he came across. This opportunity occurred this morning about five miles back of where we met them. The train was moving along slowly when this man “Rebel” saw a squaw sitting on a log with a papoose in her arms, nursing. He shot her down; she was a Kiawah squaw, and it was right on the edge of their village where he killed her in cold blood. The Kiawahs were a very strong tribe, but up to this time they had never been hostile to the whitles; but this deed so enraged the warriors that they came out in a body and surrounded the emigrants and demanded them to give up the man who had shot the squaw. Of course, his comrades tried not to give him to them, but the Indians told them if they did not give the man to them, they would kill them all. So know that the whole train was at the mercy of the Indians, they gave the man to them. The Indians dragged him about a hundred yards and tied him to a tree, and then they skinned him alive and then turned him loose. One of the men told us that the butchered creature lived about an hour, suffering the most intense agony. They had just buried him when we rode into the camp. The woman and some of the men talked about the dreadful thing; one of the men said it was a comfort to know that he had no family with him here or back home to grieve at his dreadful death.