AN EARLY PIONEER: REV. JOHN WESLEY McCAMY.
We are pleased to share the interesting story of Rev. John Wesley McCamy, which has been given to us by his grandson, Calvin S. McCamy, a resident in the state of New York.
Mr. C. S. McCamy wrote: “I ran across some items in a newspaper—not the New York Times or the Poughkeepsie Journal—and not last month’s paper. . . .”
Mention of Mr. Calvin S. McCamy’s grandfather appeared in the following paper.
Arkansas City Traveler, November 30, 1881.
Mr. J. W. McCamy, now a resident of our city, who is in charge of the Salt City mission under the auspices of the United Brethren church, called upon us on Monday last. He informed us that a protracted meeting was commenced last Sabbath evening in the Theaker Schoolhouse and will be kept up for at least two weeks. Quarterly meeting will be held at that place on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4th and 5th, with Rev. Lee as presiding elder. An invitation is extended to all to attend and participate.
John Wesley McCamy was born on March 12, 1842, in Farmland, Indiana, to Alfred and Anna McCamy. He attended school in Muncie, Indiana, and then became a teacher. He stayed at a nearby boarding house, operated by a preacher. He married his first wife, “Sarepta,” circa 1864, when he was 22 years of age. (Her last name is unknown.) They had a child, Daisy McCamy.
During the War of the Rebellion, now referred to as the “Civil War,” John Wesley McCamy served as a chaplain, and was among the guards over Abraham Lincoln’s coffin, while it was in Indiana.
Circa 1872 John Wesley McCamy went to Missouri on a hunting trip with his friend, Jack Poe, and other companions. While the party was sitting around a campfire one evening, a wildcat dropped from a tree, landed right in the fire, and went screeching off into the woods.
Rev. J. W. McCamy remained in Missouri for some time. When his first wife died, he married Mary Catherine Wilson on August 20, 1878, who was born in Nevada, Missouri, on October 22, 1858. They had the following ten children: Nellie Maud, born August 13, 1879 (in Greenwood County, Kansas); Eva Lenore, born June 16, 1881 (in Kansas); Sarah Lillie, born January 15, 1883 (in Cowley County, Kansas); William Albert, born September 11, 1884, Alfred James, born September 23, 1886, and Rose Ruth, born March 24, 1889 (all three in Chautauqua County, Kansas); followed by twins—Bessie May and Jessie Ray—born February 7, 1892 (near Pawnee, Indian Territory). They were followed by Benjamin Samuel, born April 16, 1896, and Elmer Delaplain, born May 4, 1898 (in Blackburn, Indian Territory).
[Calvin S. McCamy of New York is a son of Benjamin Samuel McCamy.]
Rev. J. W. McCamy participated in the land rush into Oklahoma in 1889. His daughter, Daisy, drove a second wagon. Both Rev. McCamy and his daughter staked claims. One of their friends broke a wagon wheel early in the day and was unable to complete his run. Rev. McCamy gave Daisy’s claim to this gentleman. (Years later it was intimated that the land first claimed by Daisy and given to Rev. McCamy’s friend spouted a vast fortune in oil.)
Rev. J. W. McCamy’s oldest son, William Albert or “Bert,” as he was generally known, settled in Ft. Worth, Texas in the 1930s.
Bert McCamy grew up with a wavy head of hair, and told his relatives about being “scalped” by his own mother in the early 1890s.
Rev. John Wesley McCamy was running a ferry across the Arkansas river in Oklahoma, and was on the far side of the river, when a whooping band of Indians circled the McCamy residence. Mrs. McCamy bolted the door and told the children to be quiet. There came a knock at the door and she opened the peephole. An Indian told her that their chief had died and that they wanted a scalp to put on his grave. She told him to wait right there. She then made Bert stand still and took Rev. McCamy’s razor and proceeded to shave his hair off. Both were shaky; and as a result, she nicked Bert a few times. She tied the hair together, sopped off the blood, and handed the “scalp” to the brave, who put it on the end of a spear. The party circled the house a few times and then headed for the hills. Soon after Rev. McCamy returned and found his family cowering in a corner and sobbing. Through a crack in the wall, they saw the Indians bury the chief on the top of a nearby hill. Rev. McCamy warned his family never to go near that hill.
Substituting hair for scalps became a custom among Osage mourning parties about the time Che-to-pah, Chief Counselor of the Osage tribe, passed away in January 1877. It is quite possible that the Indians who obtained Bert McCamy’s hair in lieu of a scalp were Osage Indians. The Arkansas City Traveler had a number of items in regard to this.
Arkansas City Traveler, August 22, 1877. Front Page.
PAWNEE AGENCY, INDIAN TERRITORY, July 20th, 1877.
Dr. W. McKay Dougan:
I found so much work awaiting me here, that it has been impossible to fulfill my promise sooner. However, the facts connected with the meeting of Alexander, Broome, and Walton, with a party of Osages, on Gray Horse Creek, June 19th, are as follows.
Upon approaching the creek, they were startled by yells and running horses from the rear, and were at once surrounded by a dozen Indians, who were mounted, armed, and painted.
They produced a trade dollar of Dunlap & Florer’s, and from signs made the whites understood that they wanted to trade it for hair. It was thought best to comply, under the circumstances, and Harry Broome, for and in consideration of the dollar check, allowed them to cut from his head a lock of hair.
The Indians were now satisfied and left while the whites crossed the creek and stopped for dinner. While in camp they discovered an Indian on a bluff in the distance, who seemed to be signaling someone on the opposite side of the stream, and as they were about resuming their journey, they were again approached by Indians; this time three in number. This party was unarmed, and one of the number spoke tolerable good English. They were talkative and said a large party of Osages were mourning the death of a chief. They also stated that they were poor and had no money, but that they, too, wanted some hair, so that they could have a dance that evening. Broome was asked to furnish the article.
They objected to Alexander’s hair upon the ground that it bore too close a resemblance to the hair of the horse and Walton was in no trouble as his hair was too short to admit of a close cut. I have written a faithful account of the affair as detailed to me by one of the party, in whose word I place implicit confidence. Very cordially, S. MATLACK.
Arkansas City Traveler, December 14, 1881. Editorial Page.
Big Chief, for fifteen years the head chief of the Osages, under Governor Joe, took his departure for the Happy hunting grounds on Dec. 1st, 1881. He was in every sense of the term a good Indian and his influence upon the members of his tribe had been most salutary for many years past. No stronger proof of his having overcome the superstitions of his race is needed than when visited on his deathbed by his Indian friends he particularly requested that no scalp be taken for him and not even a mourning party be sent out, thus verifying in a singular manner the appropriateness of his Indian name, “Che-sho-hun-kah” or the “Peace clan.” He will long be missed in the councils of his tribe.
In the 1930s Bert McCamy settled in Ft. Worth, Texas. He related that he revisited the old homestead in Oklahoma soon after he settled in Texas. He learned that the old house still existed. He informed the current owner, a farmer, about the existence of an Indian mound on top of a nearby hill. The farmer told him that he considered the soil worthless in that area and that he never went up there. He gave Bert a spade so that he could investigate the mound. Bert uncovered some arrowheads and other trinkets that had been buried with the chief. He later shared his souvenirs with his relatives.
Calvin S. McCamy, the grandson of Rev. John Wesley McCamy, stated that he received a small silver ring containing a white stone from his Uncle, Bert McCamy. He kept this ring on a key chain with other items while at North Dakota Agricultural College in 1943. His fraternity brothers joked that he would marry any girl who could get the little ring on her finger. It turned out that it fit the hand of his future wife perfectly. He married Mabel Alice Bellerud November 4, 1945. They have three children: Susan, Nicholas, and Carter.
Mr. C. S. McCamy, who has furnished the above information about his family, is listed in Marquis’ Who’s Who in Science and Engineering, Who’s Who in America, and “Who’s Who in the World. An optics scientist, Mr. Calvin S. McCamy retired on January 1, 1990, after a distinguished career in color measurement and control instrumentation. He recently discovered an optical illusion, based on the organization of the retina and optic nerve, which causes people to see black where it is actually vivid blue and to see vivid blue where it is actually black.
To my amazement I found Blackburn, Pawnee County, Oklahoma, still exists. Its present population is approximately 110.
Rev. John Wesley McCamy was in charge of the “Salt City” mission, according to the newspaper account given in the Arkansas City Traveler. For those who are not familiar with events that brought about Salt City, later known as “Geuda Springs,” I have compiled some information on the evolvement of Salt City into Geuda Springs.
[See file: “Remanto-Salt City-Geuda Springs.]
Mary Ann Wortman