THE SHAWNEE METHODIST MISSON - WHERE THE LEGISLATURE MET - THE MISSION GRAVEYARD - THE SHAWNEE BAPTIST MISSION - A NEWSPAPER FOR THE INDIANS - A VISIT TO THE MISSIONS - THE SHAWNEE QUAKER MISSION - SOCIAL LIFE ABOUT THE MISSIONS - DELAWARE METHODIST MISSION - DELAWARE BAPTIST MISSION.
The greatest forces for the civilization of the Indians in Kansas were those Christian missionaries who, forsaking homes and friends and social ties, came out into the Indian country to live among the red men and to labor for their spiritual and temporal welfare. In this great work Protestants and Catholics were engaged. The story of their hardships, privations and sacrifices forms one of the most fascinating chapters of the annals of Kansas. It has been eighty-two years since the first of these missionaries came. There are to be seen, even to this day, many the old landmarks and relics left behind to tell of these devout men and women who worked so well and faithfully, and the missions they established, but the monuments they builded were the imperishable records of their achievements in the cause of religion and civilization. There were three of these old missions located among the Shawnees on the south side of the Kansas river almost on the line between Wyandotte and Johnson counties - Methodist, Baptist and Quaker - and until the time when the Indians left Kansas they had an important part in the early history of Kansas.
The Shawnee Indian mission was the most ambitious attempt of any Protestant church in the early times to care for the Indians of Kansas. In 1828 what was called the Fish band of Shawnee Indians was moved by the government from Ohio to Wyandotte county, Kansas. They were under the leadership of the Prophet, the brother of the great Tecumseh, who made his home near the spot where the town of Turner now stands. The following year the Reverend Thomas Johnson, a member of the Missouri conference of the Methodist church, followed the Indians to Turner, built a log house on the hill south of the Kansas river and began working among the red men as a missionary. In 1832 the rest of the Shawnee Indians from Ohio rejoined their tribe in Kansas. The government allotted them a large reservation of the best land in eastern Kansas.
The Reverend Thomas Johnson, in 1836, induced the general conference of his church to vote seventy-five thousand dollars to establish an Indian Manual Labor School, and the government at Washington granted 2,240 acres of the finest land for his Indian mission. The missionary set to work at once to put up his buildings. There were no brick kilns and no saw mills near at hand. All the lumber had to be shipped from Cincinnati, and all the bricks came from St. Louis. Four brick buildings were finished in 1839. The main building was thirty by one hundred and ten feet and was used as a chapel and school house. The second building contained more school rooms and some dormitories. In the third building lived the superintendent of the mission and the teachers of the school. The fourth building was used as a school.
The mission grew rapidly, for Mr. Johnson was a great manager. Log houses and shops went up all over the place. Blacksmith shops, a brick yard and a saw mill, a grist mill and trade shops were added to the mission. The Indian girls were taught trades. Indians crowded the school rooms and traders for California passed along the road. The mission was a busy and thriving place.
Thomas Johnson was a member of the Missouri Methodist conference; he sympathized with the south when the troubles over slavery arose, and gradually the mission became a gathering place for southern sympathizers. When the first territorial legislature met at Pawnee on July 2, 1855, at the order of Governor Reeder in a stone building erected for its use, it unseated the free state members, seated the pro-slavery men instead, and then passed a bill "to remove the capital temporarily to Shawnee Manual Labor School." It did this because the Shawnee mission was well known as a center of pro-slavery sympathy.
The legislature met in the principal one of the Shawnee school buildings. In this building the legislature passed laws so stringent that they called forth the hot indignation of the free state men. Governor Reeder informed the body that it had no right to be in session where it was, and that its acts were all illegal. The legislature paid little attention to him, but continued to pass bills. It copied the laws of Missouri, except those that referred to slavery. One of the laws it passed was that a man who kidnapped a negro and sold him into slavery should be imprisoned for two years. On the other hand, it passed a law that a man who helped a negro escaped from slavery should be hanged. A man who refused to comply with the fugitive slave law should be disfranchised. The newspaper that spoke against slavery should be suppressed and its editor punished. Of course, these laws were not legally enforced. The questionable procedure of the legislature gave it the nickname of the "bogus" legislature, and it is still known under that title. The Reverend Thomas Johnson was an advocate of the passage of these laws. He was president of the council, which was the upper house of the legislature.
The old building with the white posts on the north side of the road has been entirely remodeled inside, and the room where the "bogus" legislature met no longer exists. But the outward appearance of the place remains the same. In front of it is one of the most picturesque, old fashioned yards to be found in the state. The trees, the shrubbery and the shape of the yard are all old fashioned. It is not well kept, but there is something about it very quaint and sweet. Up from the gate to the wide porch that runs along the entire side of the building is a walk made of stone slabs. It is there still, though the thousands of feet that have trod its stones have worn down the sharp points. It was laid when the house was built. Many moccasined feet, and many feet shod with boots and shoes, and some unshod, have passed over it in the seventy-five years of its existence.
When the war troubles made a visitation in the Methodist church and the Missouri conference was compelled to abandon the Shawnee mission, it found that, although the government had granted the land to the church, the title had somehow been made out in the Reverend Mr. Johnson's name. So Mr. Johnson possessed himself of all the mission grounds and divided it among his children before his death. He was shot in 1865 by bushwhackers - wantonly shot down at his front door. His body was buried in the old mission cemetery at the top of the hill southeast of the mission building. You may find the place by the clump of evergreens and other trees that mark it.
It stands on the top of the hill. Inclosed in a stone wall which Joseph Wornall and Alexander Johnson put up about eighteen years ago are the graves of the Reverend Thomas Johnson, his wife, brother and seven children, and members of the Wornall family. Outside the wall are other graves, some marked and some unmarked. Many of the stone and marble slabs that once marked the graves have toppled over and are being fast buried beneath the soil. Among the graves outside the wall is that of Mrs. J. C. Berryman, whose husband was superintendent of the mission in 1843.
Among the graves the one of Thomas Johnson is the most conspicuous. It is marked by a marble shaft which was put up by the family shortly after the war and which bears this inscription:
The Reverend Jotham Meeker, designated by the Indians as "He that Speaketh Good Words,' after working among the Ottawas and Chippewas in Michigan, came out in 1833 and founded the first Baptist mission among the Shawnees. He brought with him a printing outfit for the printing of hymns in the language of the Indians. The old "Baptist Mission Press" became famous, as from it was issued the first newspaper in Kansas. Mr. Meeker, having started the mission work, was relieved in 1837 by the Reverend John G. Pratt, who was sent by the American Foreign Missionary Society. Mr. Meeker then pushed his way farther out into the wilderness and established a Baptist mission near Ottawa. There he spent the remainder of his life in this noble cause, dying in 1854.
Associated with Mr. Pratt in the mission was Dr. Johnston Lykins, who was superintendent of the mission. The two labored together for the religious and spiritual uplift of the Indians. The mission was located a few miles south of the Kansas river from the Missouri line. An alphabet was invented, and a number of elementary books were written and published for the Shawnee and other tribes. Mr. Pratt had charge of the printing press, and not only published books of his own, but also for other missions.
It was during the administration of Mr. Pratt that the Siwinowe Kesibwi, or Shawnee Light or Sun, made its first appearance. Undoubtedly it was the first newspaper to be printed in Kansas. A copy of the paper is in the possession of E. F. Heisler, editor of the Weekly Sun of Kansas City, Kansas. It was given him by Chief Blue Jacket, who found it between the leaves of a Bible in the hut of an Indian who died in 1897 in Oklahoma. The title page reads as follows:
SIWINOWE KESIBWI. Palako Wahostata Nakote Kesibo - Wiselibi - 1841. J. Lykins, editor, November, 1841. Baptist Mission Press.
On one side of this old paper is the autograph of Charles Blue Jacket in pencil. On the other side is that of Electa Abrims, once a servant girl for Major John G. Pratt. The paper is about eight by ten inches, printed on both sides. A paragraph reads: "Siewinoweakwa Nekiuat a Sa kimekipahe eawibokeace kekesibomwi owanoke neketasbitolapso kwakwekeophe Keakowaselapwopwi nawakwa uoke wibanawakwa Skite ketalatimo lapwi howase lisimimowa cheno manwe laniwawewa eisiwekeati."
Mr. Pratt was called to other missionary work in 1844 and was succeeded by Dr. Francis Barker, a missionary who, with his wife, came out from the east. The Barkers were in charge of the mission for many years and their teaching made deep impressions on the minds of the Indians.
In her book, "Kansas Interior and Exterior Life," Sarah T. D. Robinson tells of a visit, in 1855, to the Shawnee Baptist Mission while Dr. Francis Barker and his wife were conducting it. She says: "The mission is situated about a quarter of a mile from the great California road, four miles west from Westport, and about two from Reverend Thomas Johnson's Methodist Mission. After the road turns from the California road, it descends slightly, and for an eighth of a mile is skirted with timber upon either side.
"We found Dr. Barker's family most hospitable and pleasant, and appreciated thankfully the prospect of a quiet resting place for a few weeks after this long, wearisome journey. How cheerful the fire beamed a welcome, and how genial its heat after such a chilly ride! The great logs were rolled into the huge fireplace, and burned and crackled until every corner of the room was as light as day. Supper being over, we were soon in dreamland; friends we had left were around us; the 'loved and lost' were near.
"One glance at the room was sufficient to show that our host was not born in this western land. Books, pamphlets, pictures, vases, etc., were on all the tables, walls, and everywhere. Sixteen years ago they came to the west; and Dr. Barker has worked indefatigably for the best good of the Shawnees. As minister, teacher and physician, he has labored for them; physical as well as spiritual good, through summer's heat and winter's cold, by day and night with unceasing effort."
Of Dr. Barker and his work James Little, in a little volume, "What I Saw on the Old Santa Fe Trail," wrote: "Dr. Barker, the superintendent of the Baptist mission, was perhaps the first or earliest missionary in Kansas. He told me he had been there nearly forty years. The Mission house stood in a dense forest of timber. When it was built the Doctor said it stood on the open prairie. The timber had grown up after that. The Doctor took a great interest in teaching the Indians music. He said all Indians had a talent for music. I attended preaching several times there. An Indian interpreter stood by the Doctor's side. He was Cor-mop-pee. Barker would speak a sentence in English and Cor-mop-pee would repeat the same in Shawnee for the benefit of the old Indians who could not understand English. Doctor Barker translated a collection of old familiar hymns such as 'When I Can Read My Title Clear' and 'Amazing Grace.' They were arranged so the hymn on the left was in English and on the opposite page the hymn was in Shawnee Indian."
The friends, or Quakers, were the friends of the Indians. When the Ohio branch of Shawnees came to Kansas in 1832 the Quakers obtained permission from the government and sent a deputation to visit them at their new homes. By the report of that deputation it appears the Shawnoes were located in a rich and healthy country, and well pleased with their change. The Indians received the deputation with gladness, manifesting gratitude for former labors to ameliorate their condition.
In 1834 a donation of three hundred pounds was received from Friends of London yearly meeting, for the Christian instruction and civilization of the Shawnee Indians. The donation was accompanied by a communication expressing much sympathy with Friends in their good work, and a desire that a "meeting for worship might be established."
In 1835 the committees of the Maryland, Ohio and Indiana yearly meetings, met at Mount Pleasant, Ohio, and revised the "plan of operations for the Christian institution and civilization of the Shawnee Indians," which, being submitted to the secretary of war, was approved. A deputation was then sent to visit the Indians, to submit the plan to them, for approval. During the year 1836 the committees were engaged in erecting the necessary buildings and opening a farm. In 1837 superintendents were employed, a school was opened and a meeting for worship was established. The superintendents were directed to have portions of the Holy Scripture read daily in the school and in the family, and to take particular care to instruct the Indian children in the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel.
A report of the work of the mission says: "From this time the committee continued to labor among them with pretty good success for several years, the school numbering from fifteen to forty scholars, who were boarded, lodged and clothed at the expense of Friends. During this period many of the Indians built comfortable houses, opened farms and prepared to enjoy the comforts of civilized life. A considerable number of the Indians were brought under conviction, and embraced the doctrines of the Gospel, but no provision having been made by our yearly meeting for their reception into membership with Friends they united themselves with the Baptist and Methodist churches. Some of the Shawnees, however, continued to attend Friend's meeting, and in 1852 an Indian by the name of Kako ("a" as in "far"), not feeling at liberty to join either of these societies, made application to the committee and was finally received into membership by Friends of Miami monthly meeting (Ohio), and during the remainder of his life his conduct and conversation were circumspect and exemplary. The closing scene of his life was rather remarkable. He had a large number of Indians collected, and was enabled to address them in a very feeling and impressive manner. His death was triumphant, exhibiting in a striking manner the power of faith."
Eli Thayer was superintendent of the Quaker Mission in the early fifties. He had come out from Miami county, Ohio, bringing his wife and two children, a son and a daughter. Eli was an invalid and was seldom out of the house. Mrs. Thayer was an excellent Quaker woman and she was a mother to the Indian children. Elizabeth, the daughter, a handsome young woman, reflected much sunshine about the Mission and the Indian girls all loved her for her kindness and goodness of heart. The boy, James, twelve years old, was a favorite with the Indians. The teacher was Richard Mendenhall, who had come from Plainfield, Indiana, with his wife, Sarah Ann, a plain, motherly Quaker woman, and their son Charles, who was ten years old and said "thee" and "thou." Cyrus Rogers, also from Plainfield, was the Mission farmer.
One fine Sunday afternoon while James Little of Indiana was visiting at the mission after his trip across the plains, a party was made up for a visit to the Chouteaus. The party included Rogers, Little, Elizabeth Thayer and four of the Indian girls. This story of the trip is told by Little: "The Chouteaus lived about two miles to the west. There were three brothers, all married to squaws. They were intelligent Frenchmen and owned slaves when Kansas was a territory. The girls were walking in a group a little ahead of us. Cyrus said: 'Jim, I will walk with Elizabeth and you walk with one of the Indian girls.'
"So I sprang forward and overtook them and offered my services to Mahala, as she was the most civilized one of them. It was a great surprise to her. She suddenly bucked, then I halted; then she pitched forward, and I ran and caught up; then she would dodge back and forth, and finally retreated back to the mission. I discovered I was not popular with the Indian girls. They never seemed to like me. The meanest thing they could say was to call me a white man. They thought the Quakers were a different tribe. I did not use the plain language. I told Cyrus that I would walk with Elizabeth and for him to walk with one of the girls. So he said he would make the attempt, but he did not have any better success than I. He had a terrible chase after one, and she got away and went back to the mission. So that only left us two. Matters were not right. We did not know how to proceed but we held a council and it was decided that I should make another advance. It was a forlorn hope, but I had orders and must not show cowardice; so I made another effort and completely failed. She would pitch out ahead of me and then jump back behind me, and I would charge up to her side. She called me all sorts of names, some in Indian and some in English. One I remember was 'Skunk.' She went back to the mission, so that only left us one and we did not want to lose her, so concluded not to try to go with her until we returned. We thought that certainly by the time we got back we would have her civilized so we could go with her.
"We finally arrived at the Chouteau house and entered. We found two old squaws sitting in the room and neither could speak a word of English, but they soon brought the two daughters in and they invited us into the Indian parlor. The house was a large, double-room log house with a kitchen shedded to one side. The parlor was neatly furnished. The young ladies were educated at the Methodist Episcopal Mission, South. They were rather good looking and reasonably intelligent, but adopted the custom of white people and made themselves agreeable. We had a pleasant evening and remained quite a while.
"When we started to return the Chouteau girls went a short distance with us. They then bade us good-bye and started to return to the house. By that time we reached the timber which extended to the Quaker Mission. So the time had now fully arrived to make an effort to break in on our only remaining wild Indian girl. We felt sure we had the cinch on her; she was a long distance from the mission. it was dark and the road was quite lonely and certainly she would accept an escort and be delighted with the opportunity. Taking all into consideration it gave me great confidence; so I approached her in as gentle a manner as possible and she started to run as fast as she could go, so I could not do anything but run after her. When I would overtake her she would dodge to one side and run back. I gave her several chances and she took to the brush, so she escaped from me and the last I heard of her she was making the brush crack so I gave up the chase. We never saw her any more and were afraid she would not be able to make her way back to the mission. We approached, with fear and trembling. But when we got to the house Richard Mendenhall came out meeting us and said with great earnestness: 'Cyrus, what have you and James been doing to the Indian girls?'
"We answered by saying that the object at the mission was to civilize them and teach them the customs of white people and we had only been giving them a lesson. He said they had been coming in one at a time ever since we started, and every one had told a bad story about how they had been treated. The one that got away and made her escape, had got in a long time before our arrival.
"I found out later where we had made a mistake. We trespassed on Indian customs. The saying is, 'when you are in Rome do as Rome does.' When a young buck Indian goes with a young squaw he either goes in front of her or behind her. It is bad manners to walk at her side. Indians while traveling on ponies always go single. It shows a lack of sociability, which Indians are much noted for."
The mission among the Delaware Indians was opened in 1832 by the Reverend William Johnson and the Reverend Thomas Markham, appointed by the Missouri Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church to take charge. Though the Delawares were advancing in agriculture and their fine prairie lands interspersed with timber were improved, they had but little culture. Many of the elder members of the tribe retained their ancient prejudices against Christianity and, in consequence, the membership of the Mission church was never large. But among them were some notable exceptions, such as Moses Grinter and family and the Ketchums who were as "the salt of the earth."
The Mission was erected in 1832 near a spring in a beautiful grove, some of the trees of which are still standing. The church was about forty by sixty feet and the frame was black walnut. It stood on the high divide on the site of the present town of White Church, facing east. The church was painted white, thus giving the name to the old town, which is about in the center of Wyandotte county. It was destroyed by a tornado on May 11, 1886. A stone memorial church recently was erected on the site of the one destroyed, in which are memorial windows for those pioneer missionaries who gave their lives to this great work, and the list includes the names of many of these workers. After the inauguration of the mission and school by the Reverend William Johnson and the Reverend Thomas B. Markham, E. T. Peery was in charge from 1833 to 1836 inclusive and afterwards at different times served five years. The Reverend Leamer B. Stateler, who came in 1837, served five consecutive years. M. J. Talbot and John Peery each remained one year. N. F. Shaler was sent to the mission eight years. Others who were connected with it were W. D. Collins, J. A. Cummings, J. Barker, N. M. Talbot, D. D. Doffelmeyer, B. H. Russell, the Reverend Nathan Scarrett for whom the Scarrett Bible Training School is named, and the Reverend Paschal Fish.
In the early days a log parsonage was erected and a camp ground was laid out in which great camp meetings for the Indians were held. These camp meetings were often visited by the bishop and presiding elders of the church. The present Bishop, E. R. Hendrix, who was at the head of the academic department of the Shawnee Manual Labor School, was one of the visiting preachers at the Delaware camp meetings. They were attended by Indians of various tribes, many coming in their blankets. Each tribe had its interpreters to follow the words of the preacher, or exhorter, and translate them into English. The two Ketchums, James and Charles, full-blood Delawares, were interpreters. Joab Spencer, one of the most powerful preachers of the period, once wrote: "Charles and James Ketchum have both interpreted for me. Charles interpreted a sermon for me at a Delaware camp meeting that resulted in from fifteen to twenty conversions. He was a notable Christian character, such as Blue Jacket.
Prominent among the Delawares was Charles Ketchum, for many years a preacher in the Methodist church. He was large and portly and of manly appearance. He was illiterate, but a man of good intellect and a fluent talker. In the separation troubles, in 1845, the Delawares went with their church to the southern branch. But Charles Ketchum adhered to the northern branch, built a church himself and kept the little remnant of the flock together. He had a good form, yet he accepted appointment regularly from the Kansas conference.
James Ketchum, a brother of Charles, remained with the southern branch. He was born in 1819 and early became a Christian, He began preaching in the Indian language at White Church. He also preached at Wyandotte, on occasion, to a portion of the Delawares after their removal to the Indian Territory. He was considered one of the most eloquent orators of the tribe.
Lewis Ketchum, a brother of Charles and James, was still living in 1903, ten miles south of Vinita, Indian Territory, nearly ninety years old and the oldest member of the tribe.
The interpreters for the northern branch were Charles Ketchum, Paschal Fish and Isaac Johnnycake. Those for the southern branch were James Ketchum, Jacob Ketchum and Ben Love. Henry Tiblow was the United States interpreter.
In 1844 the Delaware Indians made an agreement with J. C. Berryman the superintendent, by which they devoted all of their school fund for the education of their children to the Shawnee Manual Labor School for a term of ten years. The indifference of the Delawares in the matter of sending their children to the school was later a great disappointment to the founder of that school, the Rev. Thomas Johnson.
The Delawares were indifferent also about manual labor education. To encourage them the Methodist Missionary board erected a grist mill as a means of industrial education, but they allowed it to become a complete wreck; and it was the only mill in the Indian country near.
JOHN G. PRATT.
Mr. Pratt chose a location near White Church in Wyandotte county for his mission work among the Delawares. He here took charge of a boarding school for the Indians, built, furnished and sustained by the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, The Delawares showed that much appreciation of educational advantages, that they requested the governor to set aside a certain part of their annuities for educational purposes, to the amount of twenty-five dollars per year for each pupil in school. This was to clothe, feed and furnish the pupil and sustain the teacher, leaving the deficiency, of course, to be furnished by the mission board. In this school was taught all the elementary branches of an English education, together with algebra, natural philosophy and some of the academic branches.
The result of Mr. Pratt's large experience in teaching and preaching among the Indians is the opinion that if taken when young they are susceptible of a high degree of mental and moral culture. The small children were about as apt as white children of the same age, but after they become older, while not wanting in mental capacity, they have not the application necessary to insure rapid progress. From 1864 until 1867, Mr. Pratt acted as United States Indian Agent for both the Delawares and Wyandots. He paid the Delawares for their land in Kansas, and removed them to the Cherokee Nation in 1867. Mr. Pratt devoted the remaining years of his life to farming and stock raising on his farm not far from the old mission and school which, for so many years, he conducted. But even up to a few months before he died - in 1895 - he preached occasionally and conducted a kind of home missionary work on his own account.
Mr. Pratt was born in Hingham, Massachusetts, September 9, 1814, a son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth Pratt. His father died when he was quite young and, when four years old, he went to live with his grandfather, Aaron Pratt, a sea captain living at Cohassett. At the age of fourteen, he entered an academy at South Reading, now called Wakefield, and attended there two years; then matriculated in Andover Seminary, entering the classical department. He finished the entire course, theological included, and graduated in the fall of 1836. He was licensed, at Andover, to preach the gospel, and was immediately employed by the Baptist Society, and sent to the Indian country. Mr. Pratt was widely known and universally esteemed for his many excellent qualities of mind and heart. He was a man of fine culture, and his wife was in every way fitted to be a companion of such a man. Their home in Delaware township near White Church was a model of neatness, taste and refinement. It was always open to the Indians.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project