Posts Tagged ‘Mathias Splitlog’

Cause of Oscar Hunt’s Death

March 16, 2010

I spent some time researching the cause of Oscar Hunt’s death. First, I thought if I could locate his death certificate, I would find out what caused his death. I quickly learned that death certificates were not issued in Oklahoma till later that year and were not required then. It was some time that death certificates were routinely issued in Oklahoma.

Next, I thought if I could locate the court records, they might contain something about his death. Because newspaper articles stated that his case was in Federal Court at Afton, Oklahoma, I contacted the Northern District Court in Tulsa. Their clerk informed me that the court did not exist until 1922 and referred me to the Eastern District Court in Muskogee. Their records don’t start until later in 1907 and a quick check of their card file found nothing. The clerk suggested that I contact the county court. Since Afton is split between two counties, Jay and Ottawa, it was necessary to contact both of them. Unfortunately, they had no records prior to statehood. A clerk did recommend that I contact the Muskogee Court House because that court was older than many others. Muskogee had nothing prior to statehood, either.

No one seems to know if records for trials that took place in Indian Territory still exist and, if they do, where they are preserved. My next stop is at the National Archives in Fort Worth. I fear that finding Hunt’s legal records will be like looking for a needle in a haystack.

The End of Oscar Hunt

March 6, 2010

Steve Hawkins and a volunteer researcher at Oklahoma Historical Society located some 1907 newspaper articles related to Oscar Hunt’s untimely demise and sent copies of them to me. What a treasure trove of information that package included! They found some pieces from the Miami, Oklahoma Record-Herald and the Afton Climax from March and April of 1907. These short news reports help shed light on what happened.

The first one, dated March 1, 1907, in its entirety said, “Oscar Hunt is under arrest for the killing of Joe Wolfenberger in the Seneca nation last Saturday night.” Now we know that Hunt had indeed been arrested for murder as well as when and where it took place.

Two weeks later, the Afton Climax reported on Oscar’s preliminary hearing after which he was released on $1,000 bond, which he furnished. None of the witnesses, who had apparently been with Hunt and Wolfenberger on a drinking binge, could remember none of the details of the drunken fight on the way home from Tiff City that left Wolfenberger dead.

That day’s Record-Herald provided more detail. The farmers were returning to the Seneca Nation from Tiff City, Missouri “…in inebriated condition when they and “stopped in a hollow to camp and complete their carousal.” Oscar Hunt was bound over to the next federal grand jury and “…in the meantime Hunt will have time to look over his situation in the innermost depths of the Vinita jail.”

Two weeks after that, the Afton Climax blared, “Oscar Hunt Gone Insane.” Perhaps he had probed his innermost depths of his being, reflected upon what he may have done and couldn’t handle having killed someone while drunk. So distraught was he that “It is reported that it takes several men to hold him and it is probable that he will be taken to some asylum soon, should his condition not improve.” He was released on bail to go to his home near Cayuga.

The final episode came two weeks later when the Record-Herald reported that Oscar Hunt had died. More research will be needed to find out the cause of death.

1906 Carlisle Indians. Oscar Hunt second row, far left.

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.