By Rev. J. J. Methvin.
The writer of "The Bit of History" concerning the life of Ah-pe-a-ton, late chief of the Kiowa Indian tribe. Reverend J. J. Methvin of Anadarko, Oklahoma, is one of the oldest, if not the oldest living missionary to the Indians. He served as a Methodist Minister in the Indian Mission Conference, but many years ago he was sent as a missionary to the so called "wild tribes." He founded the Methodist Indian Boarding School at old Anadarko, and served for many years as Superintendent. He has always been the friend of the Indians and has ever had their welfare at heart and but few men have contributed more to their education and civilization. His work has been largely among the Kiowas and Comanches, and he is loved and respected by all of the members of those tribes. He has written some interesting books including, "Andele" or the "Mexican Kiowa Captive."
An interesting chapter in the history of the Kiowa tribe clusters around the life of Ahpeahtone, the late Kiowa chief, who died August 8, 1931. He was born back in 1856 in the days of the roaming warlike life of the tribe over the western plains. After the capture of "Andele," Andrez Martinez, he and "Andele" grew up together in the same environments, and were constant and lasting friends.
And such was his confidence in Martinez that he called for him during the past few months to hold prayer services at his home, he being unable to get out to church.
Ahpeahtone belong to the royal stock among the Kiowas, and the Sioux tribe; for his grandmother was a prominent Sioux; and his father was a brother of Lonewolf, the noted warlike Kiowa chief, who in the middle of the last century led his warriors on many raids into Texas and Mexico and out against other tribes in the west.
Connected as he was to these prominent characters, there seemed to be coursing through Ahpeahtones nature a laudable pride and dignity that marked him in his bearing and apparent exclusiveness. Such was his influence among his tribe, that it could not be broken by any opposition brought against him, and both Indians and white people had confidence in his ability and integrity, and together with Quannah Parker he was always called upon to represent affairs at Washington. Some years ago he was chosen as Chief of the Kiowas, but before that he had performed acts that brought him into prominence, and placed him in the limelight.
It was in the spring of 1890 that the "Messiah Craze" arose, and grew to intense excitement among the various tribes.
Sitting Bull, a Piute Indian, was the self appointed Messiah and was prophesying the destruction of the white man, and a return of the old times and the buffalo, and the destruction even of all the Indians who refused to keep up the dance required in this great movement. A lieutenant of the prophet, an Arapaho, had come among the Kiowas, out west on Elk Creek, and was teaching this new way, and gathering ponies for his reward, and the excitement continued to grow. The Kiowas determined to send some one to investigate, and to know fully from Sitting Bull, the prophet himself, and Ahpeahtone was chosen for this task.
He visited first the Pine Ridge agency where he was given a cordial welcome by his Sioux kinfolks. They urged him to tarry with them, and join them in the preparation for the fulfillment of the prophecy of the new prophet, or messiah. But he would not tarry, and pushed his way on to Fort Washakie, where he met with the northern Arapahoes, and where he thought he would find the Messiah. But he was disappointed, for they directed him on to the Piutes in Nevada. Reaching Pyramid lake, the Piutes furnished him with a conveyance and a guide, and after a long and rough journey, he found the prophet in the upper end of Mason valley.
After some delay he was admitted to the presence of the prophet and soon satisfied himself that he was a fraud, a very common ignorant Indian. Disappointed and disgusted he turned his face toward home again. On his way home, he stopped at the Bannock agency, near Ft. Hall, and wrote to his sister, Towhattema, Mrs. Laura Pedrick, what he had discovered. She read the letter to the tribe, but they were not fully satisfied, and when Ahpeahtone reached home a great council was called to meet at Anadarko. All the tribes came, it was an exciting scene. The Araphoe Sitting Bull who had been out on Elk Creek teaching the Indians the new way, was sent for, and he was present, and with him a small band of Arapahoes. After the meeting was called to order, and the usual hand shaking had passed, the Arapahoe had made his talk, Ahpeahtone
arose, and in a deliberate telling speech told of his anxiety to know the truth, and how he had traveled at much time and expense, far to the northwest to see for himself the "Messiah" and to make a true report to his people.
He found him nothing but a fraud, just an ignorant Indian who was unworthy of any notice. Then he charged the Arapahoe, who had been at work among the Kiowas, with lying and fraudulent conduct. The Arapahoe acknowledged his fraud, offered to give back the ponies he had received, arose, drew his blanket about him, and left the council.
The so-called Messiah craze was exploded, and the excitement soon passed away.
Ahpeahtone was reserved, and made but little noise in the world, but he was always alive and active in the interests of his people. His sister, Mrs. Pedrick, said of him, "You cannot make men great by vote, it must be in them, and my brother had it in him. Many Indians have been by vote, forced into the limelight, in whom there was no merit, but my brother in his quiet life has been a real hero and of service to the people. Who now will be able to fill his place?"
The whole tribe realize that they have lost a real leader who had unselfishly served them.
The writer has known Chief Ahpeahtone for 35 years and fully concurs in the high praise passed upon him by The Reverend J. J. Methvin. The old Chief did not try to master the English language but conversed with his white friends and neighbors through interpreters—usually members of his family. I wish to add to what Reverend Methvin has said by stating that Ahpeahtone was a good worker and a good farmer and set an example to younger members of the tribe. The picture of Ahpeahtone was furnished by his sister, Mrs. Laura Pedrick of Oklahoma City. It was evidently taken several years ago. He always dressed as an American citizen except on Indian ceremonial occasions.