JOSIAH JOHNSON FAMILY.
[From notes made by R. K. Wortman of a story compiled and written by Edna L. Johnson in American Frontier.]
The subtitle is “Notes about the Johnson Family during the early days of Kansas.”
Kay had three footnote notations in his narration of Edna L. Johnson’s story.
1) Edna L. Johnson commented that the story told to her by her Aunt, Caroline James, in November 28, 1938, agreed with the same account that she gave years before concerning her visit to the Osage Agency
2) Edna L. Johnson stated that she interviewed Sadie Ketcham January 13, 1937, and obtained the story of her visit to the Osage Agency when she was a child.
3) At the very end of Kay’s retelling of story, he had a footnote stating that in 1969 this antelope head was donated to the Long Historical Museum of Claremore, Oklahoma, which is, doubtless, the largest historical museum in the state.
“Encouraged by the provisions of the Homestead Law of 1863, which in substance, gave a title from the United States to settlers who would live on one hundred sixty acres of land for five years, and the modification at the close of the Civil War, which allowed the time of military service to be deducted from the five year requirement, a great ex-soldier immigration, as well as home seekers from the East, the North and the South of the United States, poured into Kansas.
“After a few years, when settlers had ‘proved up’ on their claims, many of them were anxious to sell their land and try their fortunes elsewhere. Kansas farms were advertised in eastern newspapers and land agents scattered broadcast information about the exceptional advantages which Kansas offered, and quoted prices very low for improved land.
“In 1884, when Kansas was about ready to celebrate her quarter-centennial, Josiah Johnson decided to leave his Illinois farm and ‘go west’ where he could buy cheap land in Kansas like his grandfather had done in 1816 when he left Kentucky and bought land in Illinois; however, when he with his bride arrived in the new territory, the lady viewed the wild, uninhabited area and refused to alight from the wagon. Consequently they returned to Kentucky where they remained until 1817 when many settlers and improvements made Illinois appear more homelike.
“I, a daughter of Josiah Johnson, have in my possession two warranty deeds which show that my father purchased three hundred twenty acres of land from two settlers, Henry Floyd and Joel Waggoner, for the sum of thirteen dollars per acre. Instead of a modern abstract, along with the deeds are the certificates issued by the United States Government and signed by President U. S. Grant. The land, located two miles east of Maple City, in Cowley County, was my early home. The improvements included a five-room house, a large barn, orchards of apples and peaches, prime for fruit bearing, and a variety of berries. It was said that the house had been the only available building for the earlier day Sunday school. (I was told of the improvements by my mother, December 25, 1936.)
“Mother said it was several months after we had arrived in Kansas before we saw any Indians. We had heard that they were peaceful and sought the white man only to beg for food, but we had also heard that they gloried in carrying away white children, that they committed thievery and were treacherous if they became offended.
“There was a mound of stone in our pasture that marked the grave of Henry Floyd, former owner of that farm. This man and a party of friends had gone into the Indian Territory to hunt for game. His friends left him at their camp fire with their provisions, his horses and wagon. When they returned with their game they found him murdered. His head, wagon and team could never be found. It was believed that Indians had committed the crime. (The story of Floyd’s death was told to mother by Mrs. Ramsey, her nearest neighbor in 1884.)
“The first Indians that came to our door seemed to frighten none of us except my aunt. She had visions of their carrying away the baby of our home, and to make sure that this would not happen, she with the baby, ran out of the house by way of the back door, through the orchard and into a corn field, and there hid the baby in the tall, green corn.
“According to the History of Kansas by Noble L. Prentis, as of that time when my aunt used green corn instead of a block-house as protection from the Indians, the year of 1884 was outstanding as an abundant yield of corn in Kansas. Some twenty-five thousand bushels were sent to flood suffers in the Ohio valley.
“The first covered wagon that I can remember was not that of a pioneer moving westward, but of a covered wagon filled with Indians who stopped at our house to barter and to beg. One big brave offered us sand plums for potatoes. The plums were carried in the horses’ feed boxes which were attached to the back of the wagon bed. As Mother looked at the plums, I got a peep into the covered wagon, but all I could see was Indian children. After the plums were exchanged for potatoes, this same Indian began to beg for meat (hoggie meat, he said). Mother was afraid to refuse because we two were alone; so she gave him a side of bacon. He took the bacon and said, “Now give my father some. She got long family, no meat.” My father arrived home just in time to get rid of the visitors in a peaceful manner; but the Kaw Indians came as beggars on many other occasions.
“During the early eighties, false hair in the form of curls attached to a woven base, to be worn on the top of the head and extending well over the forehead, was a style for ladies’ hairdressing. My aunt, who took pride in adopting the style, had neatly arranged the curls with water and a brush and placed them near the heating stove to dry, when in came two blanketed Indians to “warm by white man’s fire.” They soon forgot the cold and became intensely interested in the false hair. Much serious conversation took place between them, and finally their curiosity was so aroused that they carefully inspected the piece. To their great surprise they saw the woven base and had a hearty laugh. Evidently they had supposed it to be a human scalp.
“My Aunt Caroline said, “In 1887 the Osage Agency, now Pawhuska, was a trading post and also the United States pay office for annuities to the members of the Osage Indian tribe. The merchant (trader he was called), at that time was Mr. George Hartley. He and his wife, who were former Illinois friends, invited me to visit in their home during ‘payment’ of the Osages. I was anxious to go, and persuaded my girl friend, Miss Wilson, to go with me. We were fortunate in getting transportation with Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, who were our neighbors and interesting company. Mrs. Simpson was one-eighth Osage. She and her husband, a white man, had come from Kentucky to make their home on her government allotment of Osage land near the southern boundary of Kansas. She was a refined, well-educated lady. She had taught school in St. Louis where many of her French relatives lived. Her French overshadowed her Indian characteristics, but she often said that her disposition revealed the Indian trait that she “could be ruled only by love”.
“Mr. Simpson drove the ponies hitched to a spring wagon. Although we were a jolly party, the journey seemed endless. If the whip was threatened to speed up the team, Mrs. Simpson would say, “Why, Jim, have you no mercy on the poor ponies? There’s no need to hurry.” So we continued the tiresome jog all the way.
“The Hartley store supplied Indians with everything from ‘cook-stoves to coffins’. Prices were extremely high; Flour sold for eight dollars a sack; pumpkins at fifty cents a can, and beef at two dollars a pound. Hotels charged six dollars a day.
“The United States government payments were issued in the form of checks, which Mr. Hartley was always prepared to cash. In order to do this for the Indians, he, with four assistants had to bring the money from a bank in Arkansas City, a rather dangerous trip, which was made by going one road and returning by another. Of course, cashing checks meant that Indian bills would be paid at the store. At this time one Osage Indian refused to cash his check. The trader, feeling himself insulted, felled the Indian, beat him up, got himself into trouble with the United States authorities, and had to pay dearly for his rashness.
“To insure order, the government troops, under the command of General Miles, were very much in evidence. Their forty tents on the hill looked like shelter for a lot of soldiers. They marched while their band played; they danced at the town hall; they attended the Indian weddings, and in general, were vary agreeable.
“I, too, attended an Indian wedding. The Indian man sat in his tent with two cups of corn meal, one white and the other yellow, before him. The Indian maiden, dressed in finery, decorated with numerous strands of beads, was placed upon a pony which ran at full speed past the man’s tent. The man reached out and caught her from the horse as it passed his tent. Then the two sat down by the meal and mixed the two colors together. This completed the ceremony which bound them in matrimony until the mixture could be separated.
“At the Indian school, children were taught to be home-makers as well as given regular textbook instruction. During my visit in a classroom, I felt something constantly pressing against my back. On looking around, I saw a little Indian girl’s hand slyly feeling my blue velvet dress.
“There was a funeral, too, on that same day. This is what happened: A wagon came to the cemetery, unloaded a coffin near the place of burial, and a white man began to dig a grave, while Indians sat upon the coffin, smoking, laughing and visiting. After a long time the grave was finished and the coffin was lowered and covered. Then the friends began to mourn. Their weird cry lasted for about an hour, and then they drove away.
“On another day I saw a spring-wagon pass with someone wrapped in a new, red blanket, sitting in the back seat. My friends said: “That is an Indian man driving and his wife’s body is placed in the back seat. She died last night and he is going to set her upright on yonder hill and pile rocks around her, along with a dog and meal. The dog is to watch over her and the meal is for food.” The next day, on a vacant lot there was a kettle boiling and a number of Indians dancing, the men in one ring and the women in another. Apart sat the man whose wife was placed on the hill. He was fasting and mourning the allotted time, but his friends danced to ameliorate his suffering. Some of them offered to share his lot and thus shorten his time. That was their way of showing sympathy.
“Indian women left their little babies, fastened to planks, stood up against a fence, in the hot sun, while they made long waits in the office to get their pay checks. I felt sorry for the babies, but they never uttered a cry. When, at last, two mothers returned, they threw their babies into the bed of a spring-wagon, still fastened to their planks, while they, themselves, occupied the wagon seat, and drove away.
“During ‘payment’ a whisky salesman, not allowed to sell intoxicating liquor to Indians, made his sales secretly from a boat anchored on Bird Creek. Mrs. Simpson’s brother, a U. S. Marshal at the agency, received a report that Indians were getting whisky, and proceeded to investigate. He had a fine saddle, rode a beautiful horse, and wore a large star signifying his position. It was evident that he found the guilty salesman, for he, himself, was a very sick man the next morning, due to the effect of ‘fire water’.
“The water in Bird Creek was high with drift afloat. A small mill on the bank was surrounded and the water had entered the lower story, while the miller’s son was on the roof with no means of escape. It was thought that the building would soon, yet no one felt brave enough to offer assistance to the boy. The one who came to his rescue was a young Indian boy in his boat. Amid the discouragement of his friends, he passed his boat through the drift and carefully guided its course to the boy on the mill roof. He was cheered and praised for his bravery by the crowd which had gathered and witnessed the noble deed.
“My girl friend and I stayed a week at the Agency, spending some time in making new dresses for Mrs. Hartley. Our return trip was made in a buck-board. Our driver was one of the employees of the Hartley store. That vehicle had buggy wheels and only the floor of a buggy bed. One seat was fastened to the floor about half-way between the axles; no springs except what was given by the distance between the axles; there was no cover to protect us from the sun. We came through the Osage country which had been fenced into pastures of several thousand acres. There was no road, just the general direction toward Arkansas City afforded a guide. When the cattle saw the team they rushed toward it from all directions. Some bawled and crowded so close the we girls were frightened. I’m sure that the driver, too, had some fears, but he calmed us with the assurance that there was no danger unless the cattle turned the buck-board over. We could hardly hear each others voices because of the noisy crashing together of those long horns. Some of the cattle had horns a yard long. The horses were whipped to their greatest speed and somehow the cattle parted enough to let the buck-board through. Cattle continued to follow us during the remainder of the time that we were in the pasture; they followed right up to the gate, and after we had passed through the gate, the herd traveled up and down along the fences, bawling. One reason they were so exceptionally excited was because, only a few days before, a wagon loaded with merchandise for the store at the Agency, had started through the pasture, but was destroyed. The wagon’s slow progress offered the right opportunity for these cattle to do their worst harm, and this they did. They surrounded the team, wag, and driver, horned the horses to death, tore the wagon to pieces and killed the driver.” [Footnote Notation #1 Placed Here.]
“One of my earliest recollections is the weekly visits of Sadie Ketcham to our home. She taught my sister music, but rather her sweet disposition and refined manners, than her music made the lasting impression. Recently, at her home in Arkansas City, she told me some things of her parents and their early days in Kansas. Her parents had grown to adulthood and received their education on Long Island, New York. First, they migrated to Illinois, where her father taught school for several years, then, in 1874, the came to Kansas and entered government land. They built on it a claim shanty twelve by fourteen feet, as regulated by law, and was located one-half mile east of Maple City, Kansas.
“She said that, on the day following their arrival, Kaw Indians surprised a party of local men returning from an unsuccessful hunt for buffalo, and killed two of them. Those Indians fled with the body of Mr. Hildreth and his team after they cut the harness tugs and released the wagon. No trace of them could be found. Hildreth’s brother-in-law was the other slain man, whose body was found near the wagon. Mrs. Hildreth, widow of the slain man, was the first caller at the new claim shanty and told her sad story. Miss Ketcham said “I remember her well. She was a young woman, dressed in black calico.”
“Changing the subject, she said, “Very soon after our arrival, Father was sitting by the east side of our shanty to be shaded from the sun, when he was suddenly greeted by a number of young men. (There seemed to be only young men. I can remember no old men in that early day.) They came to ask him to organize a Sunday school. Father argued that there was no place in which to hold the school, and that there were no supplies. The men insisted, saying that they, each, had a bible and that Floyd’s house could be used as a place of meeting. The Sunday school was started and grew to be a very popular place. People came from Vinson, Cameroon, Silverdale and Dexter.
“A subscription school, instead of a public school, was being held for children, but before long, a school district was formed and a schoolhouse built. Father was the first teacher. The building became the center of social and religious meetings for many years. People had to make their own entertainment in those days, as the spelling-school, singing-school, lyceum and exhibitions were all well attended.
“Father was elected Justice of the Peace and was often called upon to perform marriages. He believed that the ceremony should be given a religious meaning as well as a legal one, so he included some passages from the Bible, while all present knelt, he offered prayer.
“One young man walked to and from Winfield for his marriage license, and met his girl friend at our shanty to be married. Father gave special care to the choice of his words, making the affair as impressive as he could. After the ceremony the two walked away to their new home, which was several miles distant. The moonlight furnished the only bit of beauty. That was a lovely night! There happened to be in our house on that night, a young man who gave the particulars of that wedding, not to a local newspaper editor, but the editor of the lyceum paper, who read the account to all the community at the next meeting of the lyceum.
“My oldest brother drove oxen when he broke the prairie sod. Dandy and Dick were their names. They were young and he learned to manage them easily, except when they took a notion to drink water. When thirsty they just started for water, regardless of driver, plow or distance. They were so useful to plow that they were often used to cultivate corn, because they had learned to stay well between the row.
“Big Black Joe was the chief of a band of Osages. He made several raids on other communities, and was often reported to be coming our way. Fortunately he never did, but those reports threw fear among us many times. He was so dreaded that some influential persons succeeded in getting him sent to an Indian school. When he returned he said that it took him years to learn how to behave, but he could go back to his old ways in only a few minutes.” [Footnote Notation #2 placed here.]
“My father thought it great sport to take a party of friends for a week’s hunting in the Osage Territory. There they found deer, antelope, coyotes, wild cats and wild turkeys. They were never discouraged by Indians. Even after the large pastures were fenced, it was discovered that eight antelopes had been enclosed. By an agreement with the ranchers the eight swift-running animals were not to be shot, but left for hounds to chase. By some mistake, two of them were killed by cowboys; after a severe blizzard, three were found frozen to death, but three remained for two years to furnish many hunting trips and hard work for the greyhounds. In 1889, the only remaining one was caught by my father’s hound, and its mounted head still has a fixed place in our house.
“Daily it gives mute evidence of the last survivor of its kind in the Osage Country, passing with the closing of the frontier in 1890.” [Footnote Notation #3 placed here.]