On March 11, 1870, T. B. Murdock, editor of the Walnut Valley Times, El Dorado, Kansas, printed on the front page a report from Mr. T. A. Wilkinson, a member of the Norton party, from Delphi [later Arkansas City, Kansas], in which the following statement was made: ASuffice it to say that the Indians have all gone to the Mission from here, and have taken their dogs (of which they have many), with them. . . .@ The outcome of settlement might have been different if the Osage Indians had been present in Cowley County at that time.
Background on Osage Mission.
The Civilization Act of 1820, which led to Protestant Osage Missions, failed. The Osage Missions were closed in 1837, and for ten years, the Osage people had no mission or school. In a petition to President Tyler dated June 14, 1843, the Osages pointed out the Osage education fund created from the sale of lands under the Treaty of 1825. Since it was their money to be spent on education, the Osages asked for Jesuit missionaries. They were familiar with the Jesuits, known by them as the ABlack Robes,@ almost from their first contact with Euro-Americans. While many marriages between the French traders and Osage women were performed under Osage law, some were performed by the Jesuits as early as 1750. It was natural for them to want the familiar Jesuits as their teachers.
On August 8, 1845, the contract for erection of two school buildings was granted. Fifty acres of plowing was also included. By January 1846 this work was finished.
The United States government was reluctant to pay Osage education monies to the Jesuits. After examining the monies offered, the Jesuits refused to sign the contract; the Indian Commissioner Afound@ more money. At least $55 per pupil was available, but only $50 per pupil was paid to the Jesuits. Financial problems, government Ared tape,@ and travel diffi-culties delayed their arrival until April 28, 1847. Osage Mission school was officially opened May 10, 1847, and was called AMission of St. Francis de Hieronymo (Jerome).@ Believing that it would be a waste of funds and effort to educate an Osage boy, who could only marry an uneducated Osage girl, the Jesuits also instigated a girls= school, established by the Sisters of Loretto from Nerinckx, Kentucky. Mother Concordia and her assistants, Sisters Mary Petronilla, Bridget, and Vincentia, arrived at the mission October 10, 1847.
The following Jesuit fathers arrived in 1847: Fathers Schoenmaker, Bax, and Ponziglione. In a letter written June 1, 1850, to Father Peter John De Smet (then located among the Osages in Missouri), Father Bax gave the location of the various Osage bands. ABig Hill, situated on the Verdigris River, forty miles off, has a population of 600 souls. Les Cheniers, or Sanz q-Shantka-Sape village, fifty-five miles off, contains 400 inhabitants.
The above report differs somewhat with one given by Father John Schoenmaker to Mr. C. M. Scott, editor of the Arkansas City Daily Traveler, June 7, 1876, relative to the Great and Little Osages.
AThe States of Missouri and Arkansas were once territory belonging to the Osages, and some of the tribe who lived in 1847 were born where now is the city of Jefferson, and also along the Osage River, Missouri. They had a school near Pappinsville, in Bates County. In 1847 several half-breeds of the tribe had still farms on Mormento River, near Fort Scott. The tribe had now come to Kansas, and numbered 5,500, where whiskey did much harm among all classes. The Great George White Hair had a double log house for a dwelling place on a large farm, and owned a saw and grist mill five miles from Missiontown. This property the Osages destroyed by fire as it did not pay expenses. The White Hair band was kept within a few miles of the Mission school, and during the summer months the young men were always ready to work on the farm, and to split rails or firewood in the winter. Clammoretown was then where now is the town of Coffeyville, on the Verdigris River. Black Dog and Wolf towns were only three miles distant. The Big Hills were located ten or more miles away, sometimes north and at other times south of the Verdigris.
AThe Little Osages came formerly from Missouri and had joined the Great Osages and in 1874 were living south of the Neosho River. The owl family, however, pushed a few miles away and up Big Creek. In 1850 the number of Osage children began greatly to increase, and in 1852 fell victims to disease and 800 died of measles. Scurvey, a disease which is more generally thought to belong to sailors and those whose lives are spent upon the seas, then appeared with its train of alarming effects, and of the four hundred who lived near the Mission, forty died of this disease within one month. The tribe was also visited by small pox, some even suffering the third attack. In 1860 health and hope again prevailed; the Little Osages commenced raising corn and beans. The White Hair band fenced large fields, built houses, and raised cattle and hogs. The civil war that followed so soon destroyed their fields, houses, cattle, and other stock, and blasted even their hopes.@
Fr. Schoenmaker=s statement in a letter to A. J. Dorn, Indian Agent, dated August 28, 1856, was more than a little prophetic. AOur Osages are well aware that their former mode of living is fast closing upon them; ten years ago they numbered 5,000 souls, at present they hardly exceed 3,500.@
By the end of the 1850s, the Mission School under Father John Schoenmaker had reached a peak in attendance, and the Catholics who were supervising it had much to show for their sacrifice and efforts. The full-blooded Osages began to see that the time would come when they would be obliged to exchange their mode of living for a more civilized life.
With the approach of the Civil War, Andrew J. Dorn, the Indian Agent, sympathized and sided with the south. Without waiting for the appointment of his successor in office, he began to persuade his Osage Indian wards, whom he had treated fairly, to take up the southern cause. Father John Schoenmaker was a loyal supporter of the North and did, by his influence, succeed in keeping most of his former Osage students in allegiance to the Union. Dorn spent most of his time with the Indian bands on the Verdigris. Chief Black Dog and Second Chief, Wa-po-pek-eh, were most susceptible to his influence and soon joined in spreading his propaganda. Dorn later became a Quartermaster at Bonham, Texas, in the rebel service.
Captain John Mathews, a trader, who lived at Little Town (near the present Oswego, Kansas), was married to an Osage. He had sent his sons to the Mission School, and hoped to influence the Mission to the cause of the South. Unsuccessful, he gathered a large force of pro-Southern whites and Osage warriors and engaged in several skirmishes against civilians sympathetic to the Union cause in July and August, 1861. He made plans to march against the Mission and burn the town. One of his sons, however, had been a pupil of the Mission and was very attached to Father John Schoenmaker. He rode all night to alarm him of the danger. Father John lost no time in leaving for St. Mary=s in Pottawatomie County, where he remained eight months. A heavy rain fell the night planned for the attack, which kept Mathews and his gang from crossing Flatrock Creek; this saved the Mission. In September, 1861, Lieutenant Colonel James G. Blunt and the Sixth Kansas Cavalry defeated Mathews= company, routing it completely. Mathews was killed in the battle, and his death left the Confederate cause in southeastern Kansas without a leader.
The Confederacy sent Albert Pike, the superintendent of Indian agencies for the Confederacy and a persuasive orator, to form the Osage and other tribes into an alliance. Pike induced the Five Civilized Tribes and many Plains tribes as well to sign treaties with the Confederate government. On October 2, 1861, 57 Osage chiefs and councillors also signed a treaty.
Leaders of the Little Osage (Four Lodges, Little Bear, Hard Rope, and Striking Axe, and others) refused to sign the agreement. Chief Little Bear enlisted with some of his tribe in a Union force, the Ninth Kansas Infantry. These were the only Osage Indians who actually donned uniforms and attempted to become American-style soldiers. While the Osages furnished at least 400 men in the Union forces, the Little Osages who were not in the military made the greatest single contribution to the Union. For every Osage who supported the Confederacy, there were at least five who supported the Union.
On May 15, 1863, the Osages undoubtedly saved Kansas from a series of devastating Indian attacks. All three of the independent Little Osage bands had located their villages on the Verdigris drainage. The Claremore Big Hills were on Big Hill Creek downstream from Independence, Kansas. All the Little Osage villages were north of Independence. Both the Big Hills and Little Osage villages were on the east side of the Verdigris.
Hard Rope and eight or ten of his men had left the Big Hill village after a visit. Their intention was to go to Osage Mission before returning to their village. They had crossed Drum Creek southeast of Independence when they spotted a group of mounted white men. Approaching the party of about twenty-two men, Hard Rope asked them to identify them-selves. The men replied that they were a detachment of Union irregulars stationed at Fort Humboldt. Hard Rope told them he knew the men stationed at Humboldt and he did not see any familiar faces among their party. The men ignored the request of the Osages to accompany them to Fort Humboldt for identification. As they started to move away, the Osages tried to restrain them. In the ensuing scuffle, one of the white men shot and killed an Osage. Being outnumbered, Hard Rope withdrew his men and sent a messenger to the nearby Big Hill village for help. The Osage chiefs, Hard Rope and Little Beaver, set off with about 200 warriors in pursuit of the Confederate officers. When they overtook the soldiers, the Osage split into several groups, herding the Confederates about five miles from a loop in the Verdigris River, which ran swift and deep, cutting off an escape. During the chase, one Osage warrior and two Confederate officers were killed. The Osages used the timber on the flanks of the white men for shelter and ultimately forced the Confederates out on a gravel bar. From the tree shelter, the Osages fired upon them. Out of ammunition, the soldiers dismounted and faced the Indians in hand-to-hand combat. Eighteen were scalped and beheaded and two escaped. Finding that one of the dead was bald, the Osage warriors removed his long beard and added it to the scalps they carried off. From the uniforms and recovered papers, it was determined that these men had been Confederate officers. Their mission was to disperse among the various northern Indian Nations and to stir them into attacking northern settlements. Thus, the Osages saved Kansas from a series of devastating Indian raids.
By the terms of the treaty of 1863, made at LeRoy, Kansas, which was signed by the Osages but not ratified by the government, the Osages sold part of their land to the government and agreed to move westward to the Verdigris. It was understood that the government would sell the land thus acquired to settlers who began to come in great numbers even before the close of that year. In fact, the white settlers were so numerous, and insisted that their children be allowed to attend the Osage Mission School, that the Indian children were almost forced out, as pupils, by the overwhelming white children. This was quite a strain on the Mission, since the Osage Mission was primarily supported by the government for the Indians.
During a thirteen day council held in September 1865 at Fort Smith, Arkansas, four basic concessions were forced on the Osages and other tribes between 1865 and 1907.
1. Each tribe must enter into a treaty for permanent peace and amity among themselves and with the United States.
2. Slavery must be abolished and steps taken to incorporate the freedmen into the tribes as citizens with rights guaranteed.
3. Each tribe must agree to surrender a portion of its lands to the United States for colonizing tribes from Kansas and elsewhere.
4. Tribal leaders must agree to the policy of uniting all tribes of the Indian Territory into a single, consolidated government.
Concessions three and four were the two that had the most effect on the Osages. It was the third requirement that made it possible for the Osages to buy their present reservation. The Osages clung to the fourth requirement, which was meant to create an Indian State, until 1907. They were the last Indians to give up the dream of the Indian State. In lieu of an Indian State, the Osages demanded that their reservation be kept intact as one governmental unit if they were to agree to become a part of the proposed State of Oklahoma. This is why Osage County and the Osage Reservation have identical boundaries.
The first missionaries who ministered to the Indians and afterwards to the few Catholic first settlers in Winfield, Cowley County, were Reverends John Schoenmaker and Paul M. Ponziglione, the Jesuit Fathers from the Osage Mission, now St. Paul=s Mission in Neosho County, Kansas. Later the Catholics in Winfield were attended by priests from Independence and Wichita.
Winfield Courier, August 7, 1873.
AFather Paul (Ponziglione), of Osage Mission, will hold mass here next Saturday, the 10th inst., at the usual hour in the morning.@
Winfield Courier, October 16, 1873.
AThe Catholics of our city are notified that Paul M. Ponziglione, of Osage Mission, will hold mass next Sunday the 19th inst.@
Winfield Courier, August 21, 1879.
ARev. Paul M. Ponziglione, S. J., of St. Francis Institute, Osage Mission, is said to be a near relative of the present king of Italy. The people of Winfield will remember that Father Ponziglione had the Catholic Church of this place in his charge during a few of the first years, and was highly esteemed.@