Archive for February, 2010

Pawnee Adoption Customs

February 26, 2010

Reader comments that prompted Tuesday’s blog and those that came afterward contained some interesting information regarding Pawnee customs. Not being Indian, I know nothing about the customs of the various tribes and nations other than what I happen to read about them. Some customs are relatively standard for a geographic area whereas others are unique to certain peoples. It appears that the Pawnee have many customs that are their own and differ from their historic neighbors.

I first learned a bit about Pawnee customs while researching Stacy Matlock. After his first wife died, he returned to Carlisle where he worked at the Indian school for a year. During that time he may have courted Blanche Bill, younger sister of his late wife, because they soon married and returned to Oklahoma. His student file found in the National Archives included this handwritten note: “Married Blanche Bill who was next in relative line when his wife died.” Stacy’s granddaughter, who was unaware of his first marriage, wrote a volunteer at the Pawnee County Historical Society that it was a Pawnee custom for a sister or brother to marry the widow or widower.

Frances Kotal, granddaughter of Rush Roberts, Jr., commented about another Pawnee custom—adoption of children by childless family members. Her grandfather’s daughter, Wynema, with his first wife, Sally, was adopted by his sister, Vivian and her husband, Walter Archambault, after Sally’s death. Alexandra Kay, one of Rush Jr.’s five children with his second wife, Gertrude, was adopted at an early age by Harold and Emma CurleyChief. Frances’s mother, Richenda Irene, remained with her parents and three other siblings.

These customs were very practical and helped solve problems that arose when parents died when their children were still young. One wonders if they are still practiced.

Rush Roberts May Have Been White

February 23, 2010

As I sat down to write today’s blog on an entirely different topic, a comment came in from a relative of Henry Roberts. Henry played football for Carlisle for just one year, in 1911. Prior to coming to Carlisle, he had attended Haskell Institute. The commenter, who wants others related to, or knowledgeable about, Rush Roberts to get in touch with him. In his comment, he mentioned that Henry Roberts wrote a story when in fourth grade that can be found on the web. With a little googling, I found what I think is that article: An annotation by Henry’s brother, George, that was later attached to the story, gives some background information about Rush Roberts that even he may not have known. George wrote that Rush Roberts was not born a Pawnee, that he was a white, perhaps German or of German descent, whose parents had been killed by Sioux. Later, some Skidi happened along to find the orphaned boy. Sitting Eagle and Roaming Princess took him in and raised him as their own.

George opined that the reason Rush’s adopted Skidi mother sent him to the new Pawnee Reservation School was because orphans were often sent there. Hampton Institute records indicate that Rush attended that school for a time as well. This is the first time I have read someone acknowledge that Indian orphans were often sent to government schools. In my research of Carlisle Indian School football players, I have observed that many, probably the majority, had lost at least one parent before coming to the school.

The commenter also mentioned that a photo can be found on the Internet of Rush Roberts with seven other surviving Pawnee scouts. In his opinion, Rush had Caucasian features. Here is a link to a site that has a number of photos including one that may be the one the commenter referred to: I’ll leave to the reader to determine if Rush had Caucasian features.

The Wheelock Family Tree

February 19, 2010

Researching the lives of Martin, Joel and Hugh Wheelock was made more difficult because their relationships to each other and to other Wheelocks at Carlisle Indian School, of which there were many, are not entirely clear. It wasn’t hard to determine who their fathers were. Censuses reflected that James A. Wheelock was the father of Joel and Hugh and Abram Wheelock fathered Martin Wheelock. James and Abram were surely related to each other and could have been brothers or cousins. The fun begins.

On the 1885 census, the earliest on I found that had Martin listed, no mother was mentioned. Eventually, I found the Powless Diary, which contained an entry for 1879 that stated, “Sunday, wife of Abram Wheelock, Mary Ann, age 26, died May 4.” Martin’s parentage was established—or so I thought. Then I encountered another entry that might be relevant: “Wife of Abram Wheelock, Lucy died August 29.” I then noticed that the entry was for 1869. Because Martin was born about five years later, Lucy couldn’t have been his mother. It must have been Mary Ann.

The 1891 Oneida census is the first one on which I found Joel (2 years) and Hugh (3/4 year) listed. Their father was James A. Wheelock and his wife was Sophia. The James Wheelocks’ had 10 children listed. The oldest was Dennison, 19, and the youngest was Hugh. However, they couldn’t have all been Sophia’s children because she was only 27 at that time. I noticed two gaps in the ages of the children: one between James R., 14, and Wilson, 11; the other between Josephine, 8, and Louisa, 3. Sophia was very likely the mother of Hugh and Joel. She could have been the mother of Wilson, Ida, Eliza and Josephine, but that’s not a mystery I have to solve—at least not yet. She surely isn’t the mother of Dennison and James Riley, as I have seen stated elsewhere, but that isn’t my problem, either.

Later, Sophia died and James A. Wheelock married Lena Webster and had children with her. The 1905 census lists her, then a widow, as the stepmother of Joel and Hugh and the mother of children she had with James. To complicate matters further, Lena soon married Martin Wheelock and had children with him.

Gus Welch Was a Redskin

February 13, 2010

While working on Gus Welch’s chapter for the upcoming “Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals,” I read a letter in his Carlisle Indian School file that he wrote to Superintendent John Francis in June 1917 about his experiences in Reserve Officers Training Camp at Fort Niagara, New York. Most of the letter dealt with the severe headaches Welch was suffering at the rifle range. After fracturing both his cheekbone and the base of his skull in a collision with Ray “Iron Eich” Eichenlaub in the 1914 Notre Dame game, Gus disobeyed doctor’s orders and checked himself out of the hospital prematurely. His physician described his injury as one “…which requires absolute rest to insure a future without invalidism, such as epilepsy, paralysis, deafness or loss of sight, any one of which might develop in after years from recklessness or negligence at this time.” Fortunately for Gus, none of these things happened, but not by much.

Gus also wrote about the standards he held himself to: I have done my best, keeping always in mind that I was a Carlisle man. I also had to remember that I was the only Redskin in camp, and of course my errors would naturally look larger than the other fellows.” It is significant that he referred to himself as a Redskin, something he was proud of being. Welch was no shrinking violet or “Uncle Tom.” When the Federal Government appropriated some of his land for a highway, he didn’t take it lying down. He fought them as hard as he could, using his legal skills learned at Dickinson School of Law and in his years of practice.

This is evidence that, less than 100 years ago, Redskins was not a derogative term. It seems not to have been derogative until some activists “discovered” alternative meanings in the 1960s.

More on Oscar Hunt

February 10, 2010

Yesterday, I received an email from Bill Welge with some news about Oscar Hunt. He wrote that he or his staff at the Oklahoma Historical Society found information about the events leading up to Oscar Hunt’s death. Apparently, he found some newspaper articles that cover the death of someone else and his death. He was charged with murdering someone and, according to the newspaper coverage, may have possibly committed the crime. It will be interesting to see if the cause of his death was as reported in the Carlisle Indian School newspaper or was suicide as W. G. Thompson stated that it was. Major Mercer and W. G. Thompson appear to have been seriously at odds with each other at the time of Hunt’s death as Mercer had eliminated Thompson’s position, along with a few others, at the end of the previous fiscal year. Thompson’s 1907 letter to Dr. Carlos Montezuma, another person who had been supportive of the school when Richard Henry Pratt was in charge but became a critic during Mercer’s tenure, was quite critical of Mercer’s management of the school. So, Thompson’s charges cannot be accepted without confirming their accuracy. I am waiting with baited breath to see the newspaper articles Bill Welge found. After I receive them, I will share the information I find with the McDonald County Historical Society. Tiff City, Missouri, the location of Oscar Hunt’s reported death and one of the locations related with Mathias Splitlog, is in McDonald County. Unfortunately, their current curator wasn’t able to locate information on Oscar Hunt. His predecessor, Mrs. Pauline Carnell, had researched Splitlog but she died in 2007. I will also share the information here but don’t expect to see it much less than two weeks from now because of my personal schedule.

Oscar Hunt’s Mysterious Demise

February 4, 2010

While reading a letter from W. G. Thompson, who had been removed from his administrative position at Carlisle Indian School by Major Mercer, to Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Thompson claimed that former Carlisle football player Oscar Hunt had committed suicide in jail while awaiting trial for murder. An April 1907 issue of The Arrow reported that Hunt had died on March 22, 1907 in Tiff City, Missouri: “He was taken with a congestive chill and after four days of delirium, died….” Unraveling this controversy has been difficult but has uncovered some interesting information.

The always helpful Bill Welge of the Oklahoma Historical Society has read numerous old newspapers in an attempt to determine what actually happened to Mr. Hunt. He informed me that Oscar’s grandfather, Mathias Splitlog, was a very wealthy man. That explained why some newspaper articles during Hunt’s football career described him as a millionaire. Splitlog was more interesting for what he accomplished than for becoming wealthy.

Accounts of Splitlog’s origin vary. Some have him being born in Canada, others in New York. Some say he was Cayuga, others claim he was Wyandot. Somehow he later became a Seneca chief. Still others claim that he was stolen by Indians as a baby. According to one account, his mother named him Splitlog because his mother saw a split log nearby shortly after giving birth to him. How he acquired his Christian name is not known.

Although illiterate, Splitlog was extremely intelligent and was a visionary and a highly skilled mechanic. A story I find interesting is how, after looking at a steamboat, he constructed one of his own and operated it on the Great Lakes. Apparently, he was the only one able to figure out how to run its controls. That boat is depicted in a stained glass window in Kansas City City Hall:

More on Mathias Splitlog later.

A Fire at Wardecker’s

February 1, 2010

On Friday at noon, I checked the Carlisle Sentinel on-line to see what, if anything, was in the news. An article saying that North Hanover Street, one of the two main drags through town, was closed. On reading the article, which was time-stamped 11:30 a.m., I learned that a fire in the building that houses Wardecker’s Mens Wear, was the cause of the street closing. I wasn’t too worried about my friend Freddy Wardecker, the proprietor of the business because he would surely have been able to get out of the building quickly. However, I was worried that his collection of Carlisle artifacts might have burned.

Wardecker’s Mens Wear, formerly Blumenthals, was in operation when the Indian School was located nearby at Carlisle Barracks. Mose Blumenthal worked as a tailor at the school and operated his store downtown. As a result of his close association with the staff and students, he established a business relationship with the school’s athletic department. Pop Warner or the Superintendent would send chits to Blumenthals that authorized the boys listed on the chits to be given clothing in the amount stated on the chit. The boys would come in to the store, select the clothing items they wanted, and socialize. Blumenthal had a page or pages in a ledger for each of the boys on which he would record the clothing they had received and the amounts he received in payment. If the clothing cost more than the amount on the chit, the boy had to come up with the difference.

In later years when these men returned to Carlisle, these men dropped in at Wardecker’s to visit and sometimes signed their photographs. The store has Carlisle Indian School memorabilia as well as irreplaceable original documents. It would have been a catastrophe had these items burned. Fortunately, they didn’t.

A visit to Wardecker’s is necessary for anyone interested in Carlisle Indian School and especially so for researchers. It’s good that it is still possible.