THEIR WARS AND WANDERINGS - THEIR LAST STAND - THE DEATH OF TECUMSEH - THEIR COMING TO KANSAS - THE SHAWNEE PROPHET - THE GREAT CHIEF, BLUE JACKET - CAPTAIN JOSEPH PARKS - CLUNG TO OLD CUSTOMS - FAREWELL TO KANSAS.
Most remarkable in many particulars among the tribes of the North American Indians were the Shawnees. They represented one of the eleven or twelve branches of the extensive and powerful Indian family, the Algonquins, which included also the Delewares, Ottawas, Miamis, Sacs and Foxes, Chippewas, Pattawatomies, Powhatans, Mohegans, Narragansetts, and Pequods, all speaking different languages. These Algonquin Indians, in the early period of American history, occupied the territory stretching from New England west to the Mississippi river and south to the Gulf of Mexico. In the early part of the century preceding this one they were nearly all located in the territory lying east of the Mississippi river. Their bitter foes, with whom they were in constant warfare, were the Iroquois or Five Tribes, embracing the Senecas, Cayugas, Onondagas, Oneidas and Mohawks, to which afterwards was added a sixth tribe, the Tuscarawas. The tribes of the Iroquois occupied Canada, Upper New York and the south shore of Lake Erie.
The Shawnees were the most warlike of all the Algonquin tribes. From them sprang many of the most noted warriors and chiefs known in the annals of the North American Indians. From their wanderings through centuries and the difficulty of identification they seem to have had no fixed habitat. They were seen almost everywhere, always turning up in unexpected places. Writers have referred to them as "Gypsies," or as "Bedouins of the American Wilderness." They were with the Delawares in the treaty with William Penn. Later they were driven westward across the Allegheny mountains by the fierce and relentless Iroquois. They wandered farther south than any others of the Algonquin tribes, venturing even to the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes they were designated as "southerners." At another time they were found in the Cumberland valley and along the Upper Savannah river in South Carolina. Toward the middle of the eighteenth century they were in Ohio, at war with the whites. First they aided the French, but later the British won them over. Always they were warring against the white settlers who were coming to take their lands, their homes and their hunting grounds.
Aroused to a frenzy by the "land greed" of the white settlers, as the Indians called it, and fired with both real and fancied wrongs, only leaders were needed to cause an uprising. And those leaders were found among the Shawnees, the great chief Tecumseh, and his brother, the Shawnee Prophet. Tecumseh, in 1805, planned the formation of a great confederacy of the tribes of Indians of the west and south that he hoped might be strong enough to resist further encroachments on the part of the white settlers. At the same time the Prophet went among them, arousing their religious enthusiasm and appealing to their passions and prejudices by his mysterious charms and his sacred strings of beans, to forever put down the whites. The poison of British influence also was manifested and the Indians were found in full sympathy with the English against the Americans. On the morning of November 7, 1811, the Americans were fiercely attacked and many were massacred by the Indians assembled at Prophettown on the banks of the Wabash near the mouth of the Tippecanoe. In their savage hatred for the white settlers the mouths of those who were slain were stuffed with clay as evidence of the real cause of the Indians' displeasure, Governor Harrison, however quickly rallied his forces of American soldiers and the Indians were completely routed.
The battle of Tippecanoe was the most important that ever took place on Indiana soil. Through the victory for the Americans, the future of the northwest was assured. The spirit of the confederacy of Indians was broken and the great scheme of Tecumseh was overthrown. The warrior himself was absent at the time visiting tribes in the south. It is recorded that he became angry with his brother, the Prophet, for bringing on the engagement prematurely.
Filled with sorrow because his braves had thus been forced into battle before they were ready and realizing that his plans had been frustrated, Tecumseh joined the British with his faithful followers. In the battle of the Thames in Canada, October 5, 1813, not far from the city of Detroit, Tecumseh, "Shooting Star," as his name indicated, fell. And the most illustrious Indian statesman and warrior that ever battled for the rights of his people and for the lands they held dear, passed from the stage of action at the most dramatic period of American history.
The Shawnees were scattered like leaves of the forest before an autumn wind. No longer were they to hold out against the white settlers. One band, given lands by Baron de Carondelet, located in Missouri near Cape Girardeau. Only a remnant of the once great tribe remained in Ohio.
In 1825 the Missouri band of the Shawnees moved to Kansas, and six years later they were joined by the Ohio band. But always the Shawnees were seeking new homes. In 1854 a treaty was signed disposing of all their lands except 200,000 acres which was allotted to members of the tribe, and it was "move on" for the last time. The Shawnees that then found refuge in the Cherokee country in the Indian Territory, now Ohlahoma,[sic] had been reduced to a very small band.
Descendants of a long line of mighty warriors, reaching back centuries almost to the time of Columbus, came to Kansas with the Shawnees. But the white man's civilization was at work among them. The fight was all gone out of them. One of their chiefs was Charles Blue Jacket, descended from the great Blue Jacket who with Little Turtle, the Miami chief, led the Indians against the whites in 1790 in the great uprising.
THE SHAWNEE PROPHET.
And then the Prophet, brother to the warrior Tecumseh, strangest of all strange characters in Indian history. George Catlin, the artist, saw him here in Wyandotte county at Prophettown on the south side of the Kansas river, while making a tour of the Indian tribes. He painted the Prophet's picture and it now hangs in the famous Catlin Indian gallery, It is Catlin who gives us a clear insight into the character and personality of the Prophet and tells us how, with his sacred string of beans, he tempted thousands of warriors of other tribes to join his brother, Tecumseh, in a war for the extermination of the whites. The sketch appears in the Smithsonian Institution reports under date of July, 1885, and is as follows:
"Ten-squat-a-way (The Open Door), called the Shawnee Prophet, is perhaps one of the most remarkable men who has flourished on these frontiers for some time past. This man is a brother of the famous Tecumseh, and quite equal in his medicines or mysteries to what his brother was in arms; he was blind in his left eye, and in his right hand he was holding his medicine fire and his sacred string of beans in the other. With these mysteries he made his way through most of the northwestern tribes, enlisting warriors wherever he went to assist Tecumseh in effecting his great scheme of forming a confederacy of all the Indians on the frontier to drive back the whites and defend the Indians' rights, which he told them could never in any other way be protected. His plan was certainly a correct one, if not a very great one, and his brother, the Prophet, exercised his astonishing influence in raising men for him to fight his battles and carry out his plans. For this purpose he started upon an embassy to various tribes on the upper Missouri, nearly all of which he visited with astonishing success; exhibiting his mystery fire, and using his sacred string of beans, which every young man who was willing to go to war was to touch, thereby taking the solemn oath to start when called upon, and not to turn back.
"In this most surprising manner this ingenious man entered the village of most of his inveterate enemies, and of others who had never heard of the name of his tribe, and maneuvered in so successful a way as to make his medicine a safe passport for him to all their villages; and also the means of enlisting in the different tribes some eight or ten thousand warriors, who had solemnly sworn to return with him on his way back and to assist in the wars that Tecumseh was to wage against the whites on the frontier. I found, on my visit to the Sioux, to the Puncahs, to the Ricarres, and the Mandans, that be had been there, and even to the Blackfeet; and everywhere told them of the potency of his mysteries, and assured them that if they allowed the fire to go out in their wigwams, it would prove fatal to them in every case.
"He carried with him into every wigwam that he visited the image of a dead person of the size of life, which was made ingeniously of some light material, and always kept concealed under the bandages of thin white muslin cloths and not to be opened; of this he made great mystery, and got his recruits to swear by touching a sacred string of white beans, which he had attached to its neck or some other way secreted about it. In this way, by his extraordinary cunning, he had carried terror into the country as far as he went, and had actually enlisted some eight or ten thousand men, who were sworn to follow him home; and in a few days would have been on their way with him, had not a couple of his political enemies in his own tribe followed on his track, even to those remote tribes and defeated his plans by pronouncing him an imposter and all of his forms and plans an imposition upon them, which they would be fools to listen to.
"In this manner this great recruiting-officer was defeated in his plans for raising an army to fight his brother's battles; and to save his life he discharged his medicine as suddenly as possible, and secretly traveled his way home, over those vast regions, to his own tribe, where the death of Tecumseh and the opposition of enemies killed all his splendid prospects and doomed him to live the rest of his days in silence and a sort of disgrace, like all men in Indian communities who pretend to great medicine, in any way, and fail, as they all think such failure an evidence of the displeasure of the Great Spirit, who always judges right.
"This, no doubt, has been a very shrewd and influential man, but circumstances have destroyed him, as they have many other great men before him; and he now lives respected, but silent and melancholy in his tribe. I conversed with him a great deal about his brother Tecumseh, of whom he spoke frankly, and seemingly with great pleasure; but of himself and his own great schemes he would say nothing. He told me that Tecumseh's plans were to embody all the Indian tribes in a grand confederacy, from the province of Mexico to the Great Lakes, to unite their forces in an army that would be able to meet and drive back the white people, who were continually advancing on the Indian tribes and forcing them from from their lands towards the Rocky mountains; that Tecumseh was a great general, and that nothing but his premature death defeated his grand plan.
"The Prophet possessed neither the talents nor the frankness of his brother. As a speaker he was fluent, smooth and plausible, and was pronounced by Governor Harrison the most graceful and accomplished orator he had seen amongst the Indians; but he was sensual, cruel, weak and timid. He never spoke when Tecumseh was present. At the council at Vincennes, in 1810, the Prophet stood unmoved while his brother Tecumseh objected to a former land treaty, saying, 'What! Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the clouds, and the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?'"
The first mention in history of the Prophet was at the beginning of the nineteenth century, about 1808. The reservation in which he and his distinguished brother ruled was a Mecca to which discontented red men made pilgrimages. By some means he had come into possession of astronomical predictions of the eclipses of that year. He boldly announced the great eclipse of the sun that year, and offered to give the untutored Indians proof of his supernatural powers by bringing darkness over the earth at midday. When the day and the hour arrived the eclipse occurred just as foretold. The Prophet, standing in the gloom of darkness surrounded by his followers, who were stricken with fear, said to them: "Did I not prophesy truly? Behold darkness has shrouded the sun." The eclipse produced a strong impression on the minds of the Indians. It increased their belief in the sacred character of the Prophet.
The Prophet spent his last days in a house that stood on the side of the hill overlooking the beautiful valley of the Kansas river near the western part of the city of Argentine which now is a district of Kansas City, Kansas. The old man, ill and enfeebled, who had lived a life of seclusion after his charms had failed, desired not to be disturbed by the noise of the children in Prophettown. The Reverend Isaac McCoy, who went from the Shawnee Baptist mission visited him just before his death. Mr. McCoy writes: "I went accompanied by an interpreter who conducted me by a winding path through the woods till we descended a hill at the bottom of which, secluded apparently from all the world, was the Prophet's town. A few huts built in the ordinary Indian style constituted the entire settlement. The house of the Prophet was not distinguished at all from the others. A low portico, covered with bark, under which we were obliged to stoop in passing in, was erected before it, and a half starved dog greeted us with a growl as we entered. The interior of the house which was lighted only by a half open door showed at first view the taste of one who hated civilization. I involuntarily stopped for a minute to view in silence the spectacle of a man whose word was as a law to numerous tribes, now lying on a miserable pallet, dying in poverty, neglected by all but his own family. 'He that exalteth himself shall be abased.' I approached him. He drew aside his blanket and disclosed a form emaciated in the extreme, but the broad proportions of which indicated that it had once been the seat of great strength. His countenance was sunken and haggard, but appeared - it might have been a fancy - to exhibit something of the soul within. I thought I could discover, spite of the guards of hypocrisy, something of the marks which pride, ambition and the workings of the dark, designing mind had stamped there. I inquired of him his symptoms, which he related particularly. I then proposed to do something for his relief. He replied that he was willing to submit to medical treatment, but just then was engaged in contemplation, or 'study,' as the interpreter called it, and he feared the operation of medicine might interfere with his train of reflection. He said his 'study' would continue three days longer, after which he would be glad to see me again. Accordingly, in three days I again repaired to his cabin, but it was too late. He was speechless, and evidently beyond the reach of human assistance. The same day he died."
An unmarked grave on the side of the hill in Gibbs and Payne's addition to Argentine, now Kansas City, Kansas, near the old house in which he spent his last years in sorrow and remorse, is the final resting place of the Shawnee Prophet. It frequently has been sought, but in vain, by a few of the Prophet's descendants from the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, who have adopted Prophet as the family name. Charles Blue Jacket, the last of the Shawnee chiefs to bear the name, located the grave in 1897, when he was induced by Mr. E. F. Heisler, editor of the Weekly Sun in Kansas City, Kansas, to come from his home in the Indian Territory for that purpose. Chief Blue Jacket told stories and related incidents concerning the Prophet and the mysterious power he exercised over the Indians. The chief, then tottering with age, pointed out the place where stood the house in which the Prophet spent his last days and in which he died. A chill damp wind swept down the Kansas river valley on the day of that visit. Chief Blue Jacket returned to his people and died with pneumonia within a week.
CHIEF CHARLES BLUE JACKET,
LAST OF A GREAT FAMILY OF WARRIORS.
"It seems to have dropped out of the memory of the present generation of men, if indeed it was ever generally known, that Chief Blue Jacket was a white man. He was a Virginian by birth, one of a numerous family of brothers and sisters, many of whom settled in Ohio and Kentucky at an early day, and many descendants of whom still reside in this state (Ohio). His name was Marmaduke Van Swerangen. I cannot now recall the given name of his father, of the place of his nativity, except that it was in western Virginia. He had brothers, John, Vance, Thomas, Joseph, Steel and Charles, and one sister, Sarah, and perhaps more. Marmaduke was captured by the Shawnee Indians when out with a younger brother on a hunting expedition, sometime during the Revolutionary war. He was about seventeen years of age when taken. He was a stout, healthy, well-developed, active youth, and became a model of manly activity, strength and symmetry when of full age. He and a younger brother were together when captured, and he agreed to go with his captors and become naturalized among them, provided they would allow his brother to return home in safety. This proposal was agreed to by his captors, and carried out in good faith by both parties.
"When captured Marmaduke, or Duke as he was familiarly called, was dressed in a blue linsey blouse, or hunting-shirt, from which garment he took his Indian name of Blue Jacket. During his boyhood he had formed a strong taste or predilection for the free savage life as exemplified in the habits and customs of the wild American Indian, and frequently expressed his determination that when he attained manhood he would take up his abode with some Indian tribe.
"I am not able to fix the exact date of this transaction except by approximating it by reference to other events. It is traditionally understood that Marmaduke was taken by the Indians about three years before the marriage of his sister, Sarah, who was the grandmother of the writer of this article, and she was married in the year 1781. Although we have no positive information of the fact, traditional or otherwise, yet it is believed that the band or tribe with which Blue Jacket took up his residence lived at that time on the Scioto river, somewhere between Chillicothe and Circleville.
"After arriving at his new adopted home, Marmaduke, or Blue Jacket, entered with such alacrity and cheerfulness into all the habits, sports and labors of his associates that he soon became very popular among them. So much was this the case that before he was twenty-five years of age he was chosen chief of his tribe and as such took part in all the councils and campaigns of his time. He took a wife of the Shawnees, and reared several children, but only one son. This son was called Jim Blue Jacket, and was rather a dissipated, wild and reckless fellow, who was quite well known on upper Miami river during and after the War of 1812. He left a family of several children, sons and daughters, who are now living in Kansas, with one of whom, Charles Blue Jacket, the writer of this has long kept up a correspondence.
"I first saw Charles at the time the Shawnee nation was removed from Ohio to Kansas under the conduct of the national government, in 1832. He is a well educated, intelligent and highly intellectual gentleman, and in all respects - feature, voice, contour and movement - except as to his darker color, is an exact facsimile of the Van Sweragens. Charles Blue Jacket has been a visitor at my home in Ohio not above eleven years ago, and exhibits all the attributes of a well-bred polished, self-possessed gentleman.
"Chief Blue Jacket, Wet-yah-pih-ehr-sehn-wah, commanded the allied Indian forces that were defeated by General Wayne in 1794. This defeat was so crushing that the Shawnees sued for peace and never aftrwards[sic] as a nation made war on the whites. His name is signed to the treaty of peace made with the United States by the Wyandottes, Delawares, Shawnees and others, in August, 1795.
"Chief Jim Blue Jacket was a friend of Tecumseh, and one of his bravest warriors. He was in the battle of the Thames, in 1813, when his illustrious leader was slain. He was evidently a man of great bravery and ability, and had the full confidence and esteem of the great chief.
"Charles Blue Jacket was born in what is now the state of Michigan, on the banks of the Huron river, in 1816. Late in the year 1832 he came with his people to their new home in what is now the state of Kansas. He was educated at a Quaker mission school before coming to Kansas. At an early day he was converted from heathenism to Christianity and united with the Methodist mission. During his long life he was a faithful, consistent, and courageous Christian. No one ever knew a better or more honorable man. His brother Henry was also a member and an official in the Methodist church, but he died at an early age and there is little information concerning him. Charles Blue Jacket moved from Kansas to the Indian Territory in 1871, and died there October 29, 1897, aged eighty-one years."
This, the head Shawnee Indian chief, was born in 1792, probably in Michigan. He knew little of his parents, but according to his own account he lived in the family of General Lewis Cass for some years. It was through the interest General Cass took in the boy that he obtained educational advantages not enjoyed by other youths of his tribe. General Cass used him as an interpreter when he was in the Indian service, and the office of tribal interpreter he filled for many years.
In the spring of 1833 Captain Parks was commissioned by the United States government with the removal of the Ohio, or Hog Creek band, of the Shawnees to their new home in Kansas. He performed the work in a very satisfactory manner. During the Seminole war in Florida the government recruited two or more companies of Shawnees. Of one company Parks was made captain, and after serving through the campaign with distinction, he returned to his home with all of his men, only one of which was slightly wounded.
Captain Parks was a man of culture and of general information. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and had been for a number of years. He died April 3, 1859, at the age of sixty-six years, and was buried in the Shawnee Indian cemetery near the old log church in Johnson county. A fine monument bearing Masonic emblems marks his last resting place. At the time of his death he was a member of the Westport Masonic lodge. Captain Parks once told Joab Spencer, a Methodist missionary, that there was among the Indians an order almost similar to the Masonic order, with grips, signs and password. But among the Indians the lodge selected its own members from the worthy young men of the tribe. Captain Parks had been thus selected for the order. He had no knowledge that he was to be a member until notified of his election.
Captain Parks owned a fine body of land just inside the Kansas line west of Westport, on which he erected a spacious and attractive home. He was both wealthy and hospitable, and he freely entertained those who came that way.
Among others of the Shawnees who won distinction for meritorious work in aid of civilizing and educating the tribe was Paschal Fish. He was a local preacher and his brother Charles was an interpreter. They would listen to sermons preached by the white men in the missions and translate them for those of the Indians who could not understand English.
Although noted for courage and prowess and distinguished as warriors the Shawnees did not follow the warpath so persistently as did the Delawares after they came to Kansas. Yet they pushed their forays out across the plains to the west and the southwest more than a thousand miles. They were reluctant to give up their ancient customs, perhaps more so than any other tribe. Even in their semi-civilized state, with the Christian teachings of the early missionaries, they clung to many ideas of their primitive religion which originally was a form of sunworship, and, like the Prophet, many of them even despised civilization.
During the time of the occupancy of their Kansas lands only a few white men, aside from the missionary workers, came to live among the Shawnees, and they only because of some connection with the Indians; so they were practically left to enjoy their freedom. The earliest of these comers were the Chouteau brothers, three Frenchmen, who established trading posts among the Shawnees and Delawares in 1828 and 1829. Samuel Conatzer came in 1844 and a nephew of Davy Crockett in 1847. At different times a few other white men drifted into their country, but it was not until the fifties that the tide of white emigration from the east began to flow in.
But the reign of the Shawnees was soon to end. The emigration from the east and south in 1854 and the beginning of the struggle between the Free State and Pro-slavery forces caused the Indians to dispose of their Kansas lands, except 200,000 acres divided among the individuals of the tribe who desired to remain and who were so far advanced in civilization as to engage in the white man's method of farming. In 1869 the remnant of the tribe moved to the Cherokee country in the Indian Territory. The old missions, famous as the first Christian educational institutions in Kansas, were closed or converted into houses of worship for the white people. The Indians were gone, never to return.
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