Dennison Wheelock Sent His Son to Carlisle

While working on Wisconsin’s Carlisle Indian School Immortals, the idea came to me that some tidbits of information may be in Dennison and James Wheelocks’ files at the National Archives that may also pertain to their younger brothers, Joel and Hugh. The copies of their files arrived this afternoon. Dennison’s file opened to an August 1914 letter from him to Oscar Lipps, Acting Superintendent of Carlisle Indian School. Dennison graduated from Carlisle and was later bandmaster at Haskell Institute and Carlisle. After touring with his own band, he returned to West DePere, Wisconsin where he practiced law and participating as an officer of the Society of American Indians. His letter began:

“My sister, Martha Wheelock, aged twenty years, whose term expired at Flandreau, South Dakota last June, and is now with me in West DePere, desires to be admitted to the Carlisle Indian School as a pupil. I am very anxious that she shall go if possible. She is in eighth grade. My son, Edmund, who was born at the Carlisle Indian School, in1896, is also very anxious to have the benefit of a diploma from Carlisle on account of the prestige it carries with it throughout the West….”

Both were admitted and were attending Carlisle within a month. Both were active in school life and joined literary societies shortly after enrolling, Martha in the Susans and Edmund in the Standards.

Edmund had been attending public school in Wisconsin and doing well but his father was concerned about the environment. “Unfortunately, however, DePere is a city of less than five thousand inhabitants, yet has in the neighborhood of twenty-two, or twenty-four saloons, and on account of what is falsely termed liberal sentiment, the saloon keepers do not hold strictly to the law of the land, and as a result we see young boys very frequently under the influence of liquor.”

Dennison Wheelock was pragmatic about where Indian children should be educated. He preferred that they be enrolled in the public schools unless there was good reason to send them elsewhere. His experience at Carlisle evidently convinced him that it was a better environment for his son than his home town.

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