Posts Tagged ‘Alice Pendleton’

More about Carlisle Indian School founding

January 6, 2023

While looking for a little more about the life of David Pendleton Oakereater, I came across an 1879 newspaper article that brought a little more light to the founding of Carlisle Indian School, although Oakereater was never enrolled there.

Mary Alicia Key Pendleton, wife of Senator George Hunt Pendleton of Cincinnati, Ohio and daughter of Francis Scott Key, spent much of the 1876-77 winter in St. Augustine, Florida. While there, she organized an archery club and applied to Richard Henry Pratt to detail two Indian prisoners at nearby Fort Marion to teach a class of ladies how to shoot bows and arrows. Pratt assigned the task to Making Medicine, Cheyenne aka Oakereater, and Playing Boy, Kiowa aka Etahdleuh Doanmore. So, after only a year and a half of confinement, the prisoners no longer scared the townspeople, at least some of them. One supposes that Mrs. Pendleton figured that if her father could survive the shelling of Fort McHenry, she could manage contact with a few Indians. The young men worked with the club throughout the winter. During this time, Mrs. Pendleton became much interested in the two young men and gave them presents. When their incarceration was over, she paid their expenses to travel to Syracuse to become educated by an Episcopal minister.

She became interested in the education of Indian children in general and used her influence, particularly with her husband, it seems. Sen. Pendleton was credited by using his position on the Indian Committee to move Congress to take action that resulted in the transfer of Carlisle Barracks to the Interior Department, which controlled the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

At this point in the article, The Wichita Weekly Beacon reporter inserted his or her opinion: “This is the entering wedge, and other useless barracks and forts will, no doubt, be poetical justice, though long deferred.” Further research will be required to determine how many army bases would house government Indian schools.

Sen. Pendleton is perhaps best remembered by the 1883 act bearing his name that required civil service exams for government positions. This bill was passed in reaction to James A. Garfield’s assassination by a disappointed office-seeker. With close ties to the Copperhead political faction, he ran on the Democratic ticket as George McClellan’s vice-presidential candidate against Lincoln’s reelection in 1864.