BURIAL PLACE OF THE WYANDOTS - REMINISCENCES OF THE EARLY DAYS - (MRS. LUCY B. ARMSTRONG).
The Wyandots at last came to the parting of the ways. They had improved their lands, established themselves in permanent houses, erected a church and a school, organized societies, instituted trade relations with their neighbors and had established a system of civil government. Now they were ready to discard the ancient forms and customs of their forefathers and become loyal citizens of the United States. On January 31, 1855, a treaty was concluded in Washington under the administration of President Franklin Pierce by which the Wyandots relinquished to the United States the lands they had purchased, in 1843, from the Delawares, the object of the treaty being to enable the government to subdivide the lands and convey them to the individual members of the Wyandot nation in severalty. The treaty was signed by George W. Maypenny, as commissioner for the United States, and by the following chiefs and delegates of the Wyandots: Tau-roo-mee, Matthew Mudeater, John Hicks, Silas Armstrong, George I. Clark and Joel Walker. The treaty is a model document reflecting a high order of statesmanship on the part of the Indians who framed it, right conceptions of justice, clearness of business judgment, as well as revelating their patriotic desires, their hopes and their ambitious. The first article of the treaty reads: "The Wyandot Indians, having become sufficiently advanced in civilization and being desirous of becoming citizens, it is hereby agreed and stipulated that their organization and their relations with the United States as an Indian tribe, shall be dissolved and terminated; except so far as the further and temporary continuance of the same may be necessary in the execution of some of the stipulations herein, and from and after the date of such ratification, the said Wyandot Indians, and each and every one of them, except as hereinafter provided, shall be deemed, and are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States, to all intents and purposes; and shall be entitled to all the rights, privileges and immunities of such citizens; and shall, in all respects, be subject to the laws of the United States, and of the Territory of Kansas, in the same manner as other citizens of said Territory; and the jurisdiction of the United States, and of said Territory, shall be extended over the Wyandot country, in the same manner as over other parts of said territory. But such of the said Indians as may so desire and make application accordingly, to the commissioners hereinafter provided for, shall be exempt from the immediate operations of the preceding provisions, extending citizenship to the Wyandot Indians, and shall have continued to them the assistance and protection of the United States, and an Indian agent in their vicinity, for such a limited period, or periods of time, according to the circumstances of the case, as shall be determined by the commissioner of Indian affairs; and on the expiration of such period, or periods, the said exemption, protection and assistance shall cease, and said persons shall then, also, become citizens of the United States; with all the rights and privileges, and subject to the obligations, above stated and defined."
The treaty expressly provided that the public burying, ground of the Wyandots should be "permanently reserved and appropriated for that purpose." It also conveyed two acres to the Methodist Episcopal church and two acres to the Methodist Episcopal church South. Four acres at and adjoining the Wyandotte ferry, across, and near the mouth of the Kansas river, were together with the rights of the Wyandots in the ferry, sold to the highest bidder and the proceeds of the sale given to the Wyandots. It provided for a survey of lands by the government and the listing of members and families who were to share in the distribution in the three classes:
"First, those families the heads of which the commissioners after due inquiry and consideration, shall be satisfied are sufficiently intelligent, competent and prudent to contrive and manage their affairs and interests, and also all persons without families.
"Secondly, those families, the heads of which are not competent and proper persons to be entrusted with their shares of money payable under this agreement.
"Thirdly, those who are orphans, idiots or insane.
Under the treaty, the council of the Wyandots were to appoint proper persons to represent those of the second class in receiving money due and payable to them, and also to be entrusted with the guardianship of those of the third class and the custody and management of their rights and interests. Provision also was made for those Wyandots who desired to be exempted from citizenship and for continued protection and assistance of the United States, through the appointment of an Indian agent expressly for that purpose.
Soon after the signing of the treaty and its ratification by congress the surveyor general of the United States, John Calhoun, established an officer in the Indian village and proceeded to make a survey of the lands. The surveyor general's office was in a double log house at what is now the northeast corner of Fourth street and State avenue. After the surveys were completed and the Indians received titles to the lands allotted them they began, in the winter of 1856-7, to dispose of their lands to white settlers. Some of them, however, did not desire to leave the homes they had builded in Kansas and remained here as long as they lived to become a part of the citizenhip[sic] of the territory - afterwards the state - of Kansas. But the majority of the Wyandots sold their lands and went to the Indian Territory to take up new lands subject to pre-emption and settlement under the treaty.
THE BURIAL PLACE OF THE WYANDOTS.
In the heart of the city, now occupying the place where the Wyandots erected their village nearly seventy years ago, is another city. It is a city of the dead wherein lie buried many members of the tribe or nation of Indians whose history is the most pathetic and poetic of all the North American Indians. The burial ground, known as Huron Cemetery, comprises about two acres, rising to a height of about twelve feet above the level of the streets. It is almost surrounded by long rows of business houses and public buildings. Ever and always is the rush and roar of traffic around and about, but they who sleep under the grass-covered mounds are undisturbed.The stranger often pauses in his travel, surprised at the incongruity of the view with its surroundings. But to the resident and daily passer-by, to whom it is a familiar sight, it is an interesting thought that in that place are buried the people who made the first history of Kansas and of their own county and city. It is pleasantly shaded with natural forest trees, such as black walnut, elm and oak. Some of the smaller trees are covered with wild grape vines, and the place, in its neglected condition, has the appearance of a primeval forest. It is picturesque, and, on account of its elevation, commands a good view of the surrounding city.
Many of the marble tombstones are crumbling and decaying, partly from neglect, partly from the effect of the gases and smoke from the neighboring buildings and industrial plants. Only a few of them are sufficiently preserved to enable one to read the inscriptions; so, with no records preserved, it becomes impossible to tell who are buried there. There are four family lots, however, in which there are beautiful monuments. Over the grave of the great and cultured leader, Silas Armstrong, a costly and handsome monument bears this inscription:
On another face of the monument are the following words:
Over the grave of George I. Clark, the last head chief of the Wyandots, is a tombstone with the inscription:
A beautiful shaft of granite rises above the graves of Hiram M. Northrup, adopted member and trusted friend and counselor of the Wyandots, and his wife, Margaret. Under her name is this simple tribute: "A true and faithful Christian and a noble wife."
Among others of the Wyandots buried there appear the names of Matthew R. Walker, Joel Walker, Charles B. Garrett, James Rankin, George Armstrong, the chief Francis A. Hicks, John Hicks, John W. Ladd, wife and daughter, Swan Peacock, James Washington and wife.
In the treaty of 1855, by which the Wyandots ceded their lands to the United States to be subdivided and deeded back to the members in severalty, it was the intent of the framers of that treaty to preserve forever the historic old burial ground. Article 2 of the treaty contains this provision: "The portion now enclosed and used as a public burying ground shall be permanently reserved and appropriated for that purpose."
Notwithstanding this clear and positive declaration, however, frequent attempts have been made in the last twenty years to sell this sacred plat of ground, and remove the bodies of the Wyandots buried there to the old Quindaro cemetery, which was given to the Methodist Episcopal church, now the Washington Boulevard Methodist Episcopal church, at the beginning of the Civil war when the denomination was divided. Senator Preston B. Plumb, in 1890, introduced a joint resolution in the United States Senate looking forward to the sale of the cemetery. In that resolution it was set forth that the cemetery was a nuisance and a majority of the Wyandots then living desired that their ancestors be removed to a more secluded place. The proposition was to improve the Quindaro cemetery, and it was estimated that the old Huron Place ground would bring $100,000. The resolution raised such a storm of protest from old citizens, members of the Wyandots and the descendants of Wyandots, that it was defeated.
The some proposition later was revived at different times until finally congress passed an act and a commission was named to sell Huron Place cemetery. After paying the expenses of removing the bodies and building a monument, the remainder of the proceeds were to be divided among the Wyandots. Objection to the sale again was manifested in the form of injunction proceedings instituted by Miss Lyda Conley, an Indian lawyer and one of the three sisters whose ancestors are among those who lie buried in this cemetery. With a devotion that was commended by many persons other than the descendants of the Indians, Miss Conley and her two sisters took possession of the cemetery, erected a little house in the center of the plot, guarded the graves by day and night and defied the officers of the courts to eject them.
The suit to stop the sale of the cemetery and the removal of the bodies of the Indians to Quindaro cemetery went through the state and federal courts, even to the court of last resort, the supreme court. Invariably, the courts sustained congress in authorizing the secretary of the interior department to appoint a commission to make the sale. Again and again another victory for the white man over the red man was recorded. Seemingly these old treaties were made to be binding on the Indians only; always it is the white man who breaks them.
The cemetery property has been appraised at $75,000, but at the beginning of 1911 the commission had found no buyer.
The square or block contained a small tract adjoining the cemetery, which was given to the Methodist Episcopal church to be held forever for religious purposes. At the time of the separation before the war the northern branch of the church was given a cemetery at Quindaro, the southern branch retaining the property adjoining the cemetery. To prevent encroachments, the other three corners of the square were given to the First African Methodist Episcopal, St. Paul's Episcopal and the First Presbyterian churches. It evidently was the intention to place such safeguards around the burial ground as to forever protect the remains of their dead from disturbance. How far their wishes have been observed may be seen from the fact that the ground which was given to the Presbyterians at the northeast corner of Huron Place square was sold and the Portsmouth office building and auditorium are now occupying it. The Methodist Episcopal Church South sold its corner (the northwest), and office buildings were erected thereon. The Grund hotel was built on the corner once occupied by the Episcopal church; the Masonic temple occupies the old African Methodist Episcopal church corner, and Huron Place has been converted within recent years, into a beautiful park with broad granitoid walks, flower gardens and grassy plots surrounding the handsome public library building. The square, or block containing these several grounds lies between Minnesota avenue on the north, Ann avenue on the south, Sixth street on the east and Seventh street on the west.
Mrs. Lucy B. Armstrong, writing from the Neosho Station five miles south of Humbolt, Kansas, December 10, 1870, on the twenty-seventh anniversary of her coming to Kansas with the Wyandots, tells of scenes, incidents and people of the early days. Her letter was printed December 29, 1870, in the Wyandotte Gazette (now the Gazette-Globe of Kansas City, Kansas). It follows:
"NEOSHO STATION, five miles south of Humbolt, Kansas, December 10, 1870. - This tenth day of December is the twenty-seventh anniversary of the day when my husband first brought his family into the first house occupied in Wyandot City. For three months and one week, we had been in Westport, Missouri, sojourning there until our chiefs and counselors could select and negotiate for a new home in place of the loved one on the Sandusky in Ohio, out of which the United States government had teased our people, after sending commissioners for that purpose, sixteen times, as I have been informed.
"Husband stowed his family, with all the baggage he could get in, into a double-seated buggy, which he had had made in Ohio and which, on account of its convenience and beauty, was a marvel to many of the old citizens of western Missouri, and drove down to the Kansas river. There being no bridge or even ferry-boat so that we could drive over, he unhitched his horses, took them to a farm half a mile back, to be kept there a day or two until he could return and take them on that side of the river, three or four miles, to a place where it might be forded.
"The weather was pleasant, and the children and I enjoyed our stay on the bank of the river and our first view of the new home, for, though wild, it was lovely.
"'So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between.'
"When my husband returned he called for the skiff on the opposite side of the Aver, unloaded the buggy, took it to pieces, and, by making several trips across the river, transported buggy, baggage, wife and three children into the Indian Territory, and, borrowing horses from Wyandots encamped there, we were soon 'home again,' in the cabin he had constructed for us, about half a mile from the mouth of Jersey creek and within two hundred feet, east, northeast of the northeast corner of what are known now as Wawas and Fifth streets. When my husband sought for a suitable building site for our new home, he followed the Kansas river to its junction with the Missouri, then went up the Missouri to the mouth of Jersey creek, and thence up the creek until he saw what he thought, from the view he could get of it through the rank growth of vegetation, a handsome elevation; there he built our cabin, without clearing more ground than was sufficient for the building to stand on. When I have heard ladies in our city complaining of want of room, I have looked back with gratitude to think how happy my husband's wife was that memorable tenth of December afternoon, in that sixteen feet square log cabin.
"The logs were scotched off in the inside of the building, and the chincking was put in neatly and closely to exclude dust; the puncheons in the floor, the clapboards in the ceiling and the poles on which the latter were laid, were all white and clean, and inside there was no mortar to clear away, or scrubbing to be done, and we soon had the furniture, which had been brought over from Westport, the day before we came, arranged in order. For a cupboard Mr. A. took the boxes in which we had brought our things from Ohio, knocked them to pieces, sawed them to fit a corner of the cabin and fastened them up for shelves; and thus we had a corner cupboard, which we shielded from dust and flies by a furniture chintz curtain. Then we had a toilet shelf, and a board stool under it for folding bedding, curtained with the same chintz, as well as was a high-post bedstead. In another corner of the cabin was another bedstead around which were hung curtains every other Tuesday night and each alternate Saturday night, to enclose a spare room for the United States agent to the Wyandots, who came over from his office at Westport and lodged with us, on the first named night, to attend council, and for the missionary who was to preach to us on the succeeding day, on the other. Space was left within the curtains for toilet conveniences. We had a trundle-bed for the children, a rocking settee for a cradle, six large chairs and one little one, a bureau, table, and cooking stove, and occasionally we put down a carpet. It was not convenient to keep it down constantly, for our potato hole was under the center of the floor, and we had to lift a puncheon to get the potatoes. Jersey creek was then a stream of nice, clear water, uncontaminated by slaughter houses or offal, and there were numerous springs in the neighborhood. Having good water; excellent bread made from flour and meal manufactured at the Shawnee Mission mill; plenty of meat purchased by the late Silas Armstrong, Sr., contractor for the Wyandot nation, with the addition of the first venison my husband ever killed, and therefore, the more delicious; hominy brought by the Delawares, as a present to their uncles, the Wyandots; the potatoes; some fruit dried and preserved the preceeding fall; a small quantity of butter, and groceries we obtained at Westport - we were comfortably fed, and, before the close of the winter, we had eggs and milk. In April, another room was added to our cabin.
"One week after the arrival at our cabin my husband's aunt, Mrs. Long, with the family, moved into a cabin on the opposite side of the creek, and by spring there were houses completed and occupied in the different parts of the city, but they were comparatively 'few and far between.' Previous to the emigration of the Wyandots from Ohio, a number had formed themselves into a company store, and it was established in Westport soon after the arrival in Missouri. As soon as a house was ready at Wyandot, a branch of the firm commenced selling goods in it. Our friend, Mr. Splitlog, put up and carried on a carpenter shop; we had a blacksmith shop furnished by the United States government, and by the first of the ensuing July a frame school house was built and occupied, my husband being the first teacher. The building is the old frame on Fourth street, between Nebraska and Kansas avenues, occupied later as a carpenter shop.
"Once a week we received our newspapers and other periodicals through the post office at Westport. Kansas City was not in existence then; its place on the river was known as 'Westport Landing.'
"With the exception of a few days we had very pleasant weather through the winter and on Sabbaths we all got into our buggy and drove to different places in the new settlement to attend religious meetings held in camps until the people got into houses. During all the time we were at Westport there was but one sermon preached in the town, though it had been settled sixteen years and contained more than six hundred inhabitants. Here among Indians, with about the same population, were nearly two hundred members of the Methodist church, holding five class meetings, and two public services on each Sabbath, a prayer meeting on Wednesday evening, and preaching on Friday evening of every week, without any aid, outside of their own people, except that a missionary from one of the other missions in the territory preached to them once on each alternate Sabbath during the winter and until our own missionary, Reverend James Wheeler, came out with his family in May, 1844.
"Esquire Gray Eyes, an ordained local preacher, a good speaker, was the most active and zealous of their preachers and exhorters, and, though not at all educated, was very useful and influential. At the close of one of the meetings in January, 1844, he said to some of the brethren. 'I want to build a meeting house.' Said one 'You have no house for yourself yet;' for he was living in a camp. 'I want a house for my soul first,' he replied, and he persuaded the men of the nation, whether church or not, to meet together in the woods, cut down trees, hew logs and haul them to a place near Mr. Kerr's present residence. The United States government had not paid the Wyandots for their homes in Ohio, and they had no money to pay for lumber or work; so they made clapboards for the roof, and puncheons for the floor and seats. In the latter part of April we worshipped in the house, the minister standing on a strip of floor laid at the opposite end of the building from the door, and the people sitting on sleepers not yet covered. On the first Sabbath in June, the first quarterly meeting in the territory, for the Wyandots, was held in the house, it being finished. The missionary was present, having arrived a few days previous.
"Those were halcyon days that I have thus hastily and imperfectly reviewed. Though we heard not 'the sound of the church-going bell,' our ears were not pained, nor our hearts grieved by the sound of the ax or gun on the Sabbath. Though our church was rude and the seats uncomfortable, yet they were always well filled with worshippers, and God was there."
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