By Dan W. Peery
the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes
In a newspaper dated June 30, 1932, there appeared this item:
"Effective August 15, 1932, the Seger Indian school at Colony will be permanently closed, according to the El Reno Tribune, which says that most of the pupils will be transferred to the Indian school at Concho. The Seger school is one of eight Indian schools being permanently closed, but is the only one in Oklahoma. Indian pupils from eastern Oklahoma will be transferred to other Indian schools and public schools."
1This item occasioned no comment and was perhaps unnoticed by most of the readers, but to the mind of the writer it brought a flood of memories. No doubt, the efficient Department of the Interior will soon wreck these buildings and sell the brick and destroy the last vestage of this old landmark so that in a few years there will be nothing to designate
1There are four sections in the tract of land set apart for the Indian school at Colony, Oklahoma. More than 1200 acres are in cultivation and approximately 200 acres are in alfalfa. Upon this reservation there are in all some thirty-five structures and of this number there are fourteen or fifteen well constructed buildings, several of the larger ones are built of brick. These buildings are strictly modern, having a complete water system, sewage and electric lights. There are dormitories for both boys and girls; school houses and office buildings for the employees, and an equipped hospital that would be a credit to most county seat towns. There are large modern barns for horses, cows and hogs. Before the order came to dismantle this institution there were perhaps 200 head of fine cattle, many good horses and more than 200 head of hogs. It was a going concern and before the period of depression it was at one time nearly a self supporting educational and industrial school. There were 160 students in the school last year, including quite a number from the Pottawatomie and Shawnee tribes. It is not my place to criticize, but certainly this splendid educational and industrial plant should not be allowed to deteriorate but should serve some useful purpose. If the United States does not need it, then the State might locate an eleemosynary (old folks or childrens home) where everything is provided.
the place where once was located the "Model Industrial Indian School in the United States." There is no sentiment in the business of "Uncle Sam" when some statistician figures that it would be economy to close a school and consolidate with some other institution. No thought is given to its past service and none of the politicians in charge care as to the historical or sentimental side. However, every old timer who lived in western Oklahoma before railroads and automobiles invaded the country, will breathe a sigh of regret at the passing of the Seger Indian Training School.
It was on the Old Trail—the highway where travelers and freighters going and coming from El Reno and other railroad points to the new counties established after the opening of the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservation, always made camp and rested their horses. To the weary traveler, be he cowboy, homesteader, freighter, Judge of the United States Court or just a deputy United States marshal, the beautiful shady grove, the clear fresh water of Pond Creek, (now known as Cobb Creek) and the cold springs, made this stopping place a haven of rest. Along this creek there were many ideal camping places, — good grass for horses and plenty of wood and water.
After the opening of the Cheyenne and Arapaho country on April 19, 1892, — six counties were organized in western Oklahoma; county seats were designated and courts were established. The old Territorial Court had both United States and Territorial jurisdiction. All of the new counties were in one district. Hon. John H. Burford was the presiding judge for some years. A week was assigned to each county twice a year for the session of court. The first day or two was for United States business after which Territorial cases were tried. The court party was made up of the judge, clerk, stenographer, chief deputy United States marshal who kept the payroll and was responsible for the payment of members of the jury, witnesses and all other expenses connected with holding court. There were often other deputy marshals who served summons to jurors and subpoenas to witnesses and made arrests upon warrants issued by the court. These were the officers of the court.
Along with the court party were always a number of lawyers; some had cases and some hoped to get fees as
assistants to local attorneys who were practicing law at the newly established county seat.2 Many of the best lawyers of the Territory usually accompanied the court party. Some traveled with their own conveyances and either stopped at hotels or had their own camping outfits. There were a number of lawyers of distinction who practiced in these early courts; some had civil cases, representing clients where often large sums of money were involved but most of these itinerant lawyers were attorneys for the defense in criminal cases. It would be interesting to write of some of those early lawyers and of some of the cases tried before the court. This is a part of the real history of western Oklahoma. However, this is not the theme of this story. I propose to write of John H. Seger and his work among the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians.
It was often on these trips to western county seats that the court party and some of the lawyers were guests of Captain3 Seger at the Seger Indian Training School, which was situated in the heart of a wonderful grove of native timber4 on the nearly 3000 acres of the school reservation. In going from one county seat to another, some of the party would make it a point to spend the week-end at this enchanting grove as the welcome guests of the superintendent—the Presiding genius of the Seger Indian Training School.
There was a large school dormitory and usually a number of rooms that were unoccupied, clean, and neatly furnished, that were used by the guests. There were a number of teachers and civil service clerks who lived in this building and who were served their meals at the common table by young Indians who were students of the school. The guests, usually the court party and sometimes a lawyer or two, were always welcome at the table. They contributed to the
2Among the well known lawyers who once "rode the circuit" of those western courts would appear the names of Temple Houston, Col. R. B. Forrest, Charles H. Carswell, the Blake Brothers, C. O. and E. E., Roy Hoffman, Henry Warren, Col. William Grigsby, Will Maurer, John Stone, United States Attorney; Bill Criley, John and Al Jennings, and Judge Frank E. Gillett.
3John H. Seger was nearly always spoken of as "Captain Seger." The regular army officers never liked to hear a civilian called by a military title. I remember upon one occasion Captain Woodson almost rebuked the writer for speaking of Mr. Seger as Captain Seger. He said, "Captain Seger! Captain Seger! When did John Seger become a captain?" However, the civilian Indian agents were always called "major."
"mess" their prorata share of the cost of the meal. The writer can bear witness that it was a restful vacation after traveling horse-back or in a hack or buggy, or perhaps, in a "chuck" wagon for a week or two over the rough trails from one county seat to the next to stop and spend two or three days in this oasis and in the company of congenial friends, and to be entertained by an host who knew more Indian history, stories, traditions, rites, ceremonies and myths, than any other man in the world.
When school was in session all of the teachers and other employees and the Indian students and often the Indian parents of these students, gathered in the chapel where a passage of scripture was read, a prayer offered and sometimes a song sung. Mr. Seger conducted these morning services to start the day off right, in a dignified and fatherly manner. It was in these assemblies that the work of the school and business of all kinds was discussed by the superintendent, the teachers and the students. Of course, all visitors were expected to be up and to attend these chapel exercises. Everyone was called upon for a speech. It made no difference to the Indian students whether the visitor was the judge of the United States Court, a lawyer or a deputy marshal, he was expected to make a speech. The young Indians thought you were slighting them if you did not make a talk to them.
Here was the ideal educational and industrial school where children of the forest and the plains, who were strangers to civilized life, whose parents knew nothing but the chase and the warpath, and who had no conception of farming and industry, were taught to be useful, self supporting members of society. They soon came to see the advantage of the white man's mode and manner of living as compared to the crude life to which they were accustomed. These young Indians were not only taught to read and write but also the fundamental Christian ethics; the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule. But "book learning" was only a part of the education of the Indian. At this school these young Indians were taught to work. They were taught to plant and cultivate corn, as well as other field crops, and to plant and cultivate gardens where every kind of vegetable was grown. There were hogs, cattle and fine horses on this reservation.
The work was done by the students who were given a share in all crops grown. The farming was planned and all work was done under the supervision of John H. Seger. This work was done systematically and every boy had his task assigned to him for the week. I remember on one occasion some of the visitors were reading a paper left on the table written by the superintendent assigning the boy students each by name, their work for the coming week. Some three or four of the older boys were assigned the job of taking care of and milking the cows, others were assigned to feed and look after the hogs across the creek, some had the job of caring for the horse barns, while some of the younger boys were to hoe the weeds out of the garden. In fact, everyone had a task to perform. Some of the visitors noticed while reading this "official order" that there were many misspelled words and lightly remarked about it, when one of the civil service clerks replied, "Well! Mr. Seger is not a good speller but if you don't think he is running this whole business just stay around a few days."
The Indian girls also had their work assigned to them by the matron. Some did the cooking, some waited upon the table and washed the dishes, while others swept the rooms and made the beds. It was their duty to keep everything neat and clean. This work fitted the girls to keep houses of their own when they quit school and was supervised by the matron. They were also taught to cook, make butter and cheese, and to sew and make their own clothing.
In fact they were given a full course in domestic science. The whole idea of this school was to make self supporting, useful citizens out of these children whose home life had been that of the tepee of the untutored Plains Indians.
Mr. Seger was proud of this school and the work it was doing for the Indians. He had a right to be proud of it for it was his own little kingdom. He selected this location for the school. It was he who took there a large colony of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians from the Darlington Agency and located them upon lands around the Seger Indian Training School, including some of the rich Washita valley a few miles west. He caused them to abandon their wild, lazy predatory life and to become farmers and stock raisers, and not dependent entirely upon government annuities.
John H. Seger was skilled in many crafts and trades. He knew how to mould brick4 and to build a brick kiln and burn the brick and to build them into a wall. He was a stone mason and plasterer and could also do blacksmith and carpenter work.
The work of construction of all of the buildings at the school plant had been done under the planning and supervision of Mr. Seger. He was the foreman but the Indians did the greater part of the manual labor with the assistance of two or three white men. In later years, however, there was a hospital and perhaps another building or two constructed by contract under the supervision of the Department of the Interior.
No other white man ever lived who had the confidence, as well as the good will of the Indians of the Plains more than John H. Seger, and no man wielded a greater influence for good over them. He was loved by most all of the students whom he had taught at the Arapaho Indian Agency school at Darlington before he established the Seger Colony Schools. He had the confidence and respect of the Arapaho Indians and the more progressive members of the Cheyenne tribe. He early learned the tongue spoken by the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, and was also a master of the Indian sign language. By this means he was able to converse with all the Plains tribes. He knew the Indian's viewpoint concerning every problem and every difficulty and could lend a sympathetic ear. He did not assume an arrogant superiority in the councils of his Indian friends, but was tolerant with their views, however, erroneous they might seem. He gradually lead them to comprehend the advantages of civilization and that the white man's road was better for them and for their children than savage life. He taught them that the Golden Rule and not the spirit of revenge was the correct principle to apply in their relations with other people; that it was more honorable to make a friend than to take a scalp. He was not an ordained minister of the Gospel and did not come among the Indians to preach but he read the scriptures and interpreted the teaching of the Man of Nazareth. Francis
4The Oklahoma Historical Society has in its museum the old wooden brick mounds used by Mr. Seger in making the brick that was used in the construction of the buildings at this school.
E. Leupp, who was Commissioner of Indian Affairs, at the Mohonk Conference in 1904, said, "John Seger was not only the best educator but the best missionary among the Indians."
I will not call Mr. Seger a second William Penn, for he did more for the Indian than ever Penn did for them, however commendable the conduct of this Quaker Missionary was in his dealings with the Indians. Penn had but one object, that was to acquire through treaty with the Indians, title to a large tract of country for the purpose of colonizing the English.
John H. Seger's sole mission was to help the Indians. He recognized that even these wild uncivilized people of the Plains were human beings; that they had crudely the same hopes and aspirations as the white man. That they recognized a friend wherever they found him. That they appreciated fair treatment and were willing to reciprocate. He also knew that wild Indians would resent an injury done to them and that revenge for wrongs, or fancied wrongs, was their highest virtue. They believed in the code of the Old Testament, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Thoroughly imbued with this doctrine, they were cruel and blood thirsty, ignorant and uncivilized. It was Seger's mission to remove this veil of darkness from their eyes so that they might see the sunlight of Christian civilization. It was also his mission to see that the white man should not do the Indian wrong. That if crimes were committed against the Indian by renegade white men that they should be brought to justice. He wanted the Indians to know that there was not one law for the white man and another for the Indian.
There observations are in the nature of an introduction. It is my purpose to give something of the work of John H. Seger among the Indians and this will be told by government officials and others who spoke authoratively. I have also made a collection of Indian stories, legends and myths of the Plains Indians written by Mr. Seger as he learned them from the Indians themselves.
was born in Geauga County, Ohio, February 23, 1846, and died February 6, 1928, at Seger Colony, Washita County, Oklahoma. He was buried at Fairview cemetery at Colony. He was married to Mary Esther Nichlas of Manlius, Illinois.
The marriage occured at Atchison, Kansas, October 6, 1875. They came at once to Darlington, Indian Territory, where Mr. Seger was employed under United States Indian Agent, John D. Miles, as superintendent of the Arapaho Indian Schools. To this union several children were born, seven of whom are now living. They are: Neatha Seger of Geary, Oklahoma; Jassa Seger of Colony, Oklahoma; John Seger of Morehaven, Florida; Harry Seger of Liberty, Illinois; James O. Seger of Seminole, Oklahoma; Lena Cronk and Bessie Seger of Colony, Oklahoma.
Mrs. Seger survived her husband a few weeks, passing away at her home in Colony on April 1, 1928.
Mr. Seger's maternal ancestors date back to early Colonial history. His great grandfather English, was a captain in the Revolutionary war, while the Smiths and Knoxes, of whom he was a direct descendant, were Revolutionary soldiers. His ancestors were pioneers, always moving on West as the country became more thickly settled. Orian Knox, Mr. Seger's mother's father, came from Massachusetts to Ohio, and settled in the wilderness and built his home in the forest. He not only was an energetic farmer but a pioneer school teacher. He was not only a farmer and teacher but he was as versatile in every art and craft as was his grandson, John H. Seger.
The Seger branch of the family were of Dutch extraction, coming from New York to Ohio. When his father and mother were married they moved to the forest five miles from neighbors and built a house of logs where they made their home. Here John H. Seger was born. A school house was built near the home and he began his education at a very early age. When he was about six years old his father sold his Ohio farm and emigrated west, locating in Bureau county, Illinois, where he purchased a tavern in the village of Dover.
Mr. Seger says in his notes, "This tavern was on the main traveled road to Peoria, the nearest market. The farmers sometimes hauled their produce sixty or eighty miles, and my father's hotel in Dover was a stopping place on the way to market and on winter nights the bar-room was filled with farmers, many of whom had settled when the Indians were plenty and they had many strange stories to tell of
personal adventures in the Black Hawk War. On such occasions I would crawl under the office table where I would be out of sight and listen to the stories sometimes until near midnight."
In about two years Mr. Seger's father traded his hotel for a farm. The farm was on Green river and there were numerous lakes and swamps along its banks. It was a paradise for wild geese and ducks and all kinds of water fowl. There were muskrat, mink and otter along the river and in the swamps. In the big timber could be found deer, coon, wolves and other wild animals. Trapping and hunting was the avocation of every settler and the proceeds derived from the sale of furs and game was the principle revenue until the settlers' farms were put into cultivation. Could one imagine a more ideal place to rear a boy like John H. Seger. It was the same sort of environment in which Abe Lincoln was reared. Mr. Seger says that it was the favorite hunting ground of the Indians until the Black Hawk War, when the Sac and Fox Indians were moved across the Mississippi.
To quote Mr. Seger in his own biographical notes: "The long winter evenings were generally spent around the old fireplace. On such occasion my father would relate stories of the Revolutionary War as told to him by his grandfather. Sometimes my mother would relate some adventure or hunting story of which her father or grandfather was the actor. Occasionally a neighbor would drop in and spend the evening. They generally being hunters and trappers the conversation would naturally run upon these subjects. The best way to set a trap for mink or otter, or to spear a muskrat, was often discussed."
Mr. Seger in these notes devotes some pages to his early hunting and trapping experiences with his older brothers. He tells of wild animals, his dogs and of those things that would interest a boy of his age.
Soon after his father located on Green river a schoolhouse was built near his father's house and he attended school through the winter months. He acquired a primary education while his father lived in Dover, and was ahead of the other country boys of his age who attended the school. Mr. Seger in his unpublished biographical notes tells many things and incidents of his boyhood and the pioneer days in
Illinois. But his was the common experience of the pioneer life at that time.
When John Seger was about 11 or 12 years old his father sold part of his farm on Green river and moved back to the town of Dover, where he had kept a tavern before going to the farm. His reason for moving back to town was to give his children better educational opportunities than could be had in a country school.
It was here that Mr. Seger first got a taste for reading. A Mr. Taylor, who followed the business of establishing libraries, was away from home a great deal of his time and he engaged the boy, John H. Seger, to stay with his family at night for company and "to go after the doctor if anyone took sick during the night." While staying at Mr. Taylor's home he had access to his library. He read the life of Washington, as well as of other Revolutionary heroes. It was then that he became interested in Ancient history, perhaps he read Plutarch lives, as he read of the great men who were connected with the history of ancient Greece and of Athens, its capital. He read the history of the rise and fall of Rome. He also read the early history of England and of her ancient kings and rulers. He says, "I perused these books with the same interest that I had listened to those stories of adventure. I read the books to remember them. I would when reading a book gather a crowd of boys my own age and tell them the stories from the books that I had read. After two years of this kind of reading, my world had widened out far beyond rush bordered swamps of Green river, and had not only crossed the ocean but had sailed with Columbus on his voyage of discovery and had been with Cortez in his conquest of Mexico. I had rolled aside Centuries, had entered Troy with the wooden horse and had seen the City of Seven Hills, where it was first outlined with a furrow, which was plowed with a bull and heifer yoked together. The question has often occurred to my mind whether my acquaintance of these people of those barbarous days did not make it easier for me to understand the Indian when my path crossed his."
The war came on, the Southern States were seceding from the Union upon the election of Lincoln. The Seger family was against slavery and were for the Union. They were followers of Abraham Lincoln. At the first call of
troops John H. Seger's two older brothers enlisted but John was too young and besides he was needed at home.
When the call was made for more troops in 1863, the young men were mostly in the army and at the front, but those who were not were slow to enlist. They had seen their brothers and their friends enlist and march to the front two years before and many of them had fallen in battle while the stories of those who returned did not encourage them to fill up the ranks to take the places of those who had fallen. Mr. Seger says in his notes, "A meeting was called at the Methodist church in Dover. Speeches were made, songs were sung but it seemed that no one would enlist. When it seemed that the meeting would be fruitless my father, a man then of forty-nine years of age, said, 'If you young men will not enlist the old men will have to.' He then walked up and put his name down." Two or three of the older men enlisted, then the young men soon began to enlist until there was a full company of 100 to go to the front. John H. Seger did not enlist at this time but stayed at home to do the farming and take care of the family. After only a few months the elder Mr. Seger was discharged from the Army on account of disabilities. After his father's return from the Army, John attended school that winter for a period of three months at Dover Academy.
John H. Seger enlisted in the Union army in 1864, and served under General Sherman until the close of the war. He was with Sherman in his march to the sea. When the war was over he returned home. He was a fully developed man; vigorous and robust—a perfect specimen of young manhood. He had indomitable energy and a pleasing personality. He had no false pride and was not afraid of work. The close of the war was the beginning of an era of prosperity. There were many improvements to be made; houses and barns to be built. There was work for everyone who wanted to work. Mr. Seger was a mechanic and a craftsman and could turn his hand to any work required. He afterwards went into the lumber regions of Wisconsin and was engaged in logging and saw mill work. It was while there that he was employed as a mason in the Indian service and was assigned to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency. He arrived at Darlington, Indian Territory, (one and one-half
miles northeast of Ft. Reno) on Christmas Eve 1872.
Mr. Seger says, "At the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency after the holidays were over, work began in earnest in tearing down the old buildings and rebuilding them more comfortable than before. The Indians were on a buffalo hunt and only a few were left at the Agency. Hands were sent out to cut logs to be sawed at the mill.5 I, being employed to do mason work, found on account of the cold weather, that it was impossible to do anything in that line, reported to Agent John D. Miles to find what would be assigned to me. He asked me to report to the farmer who was in charge of the working force. The farmer asked me if I knew how to chop down trees and saw logs. I told him that I had been employed in the Wisconsin pinery one winter and had learned to do that kind of work. He then asked me if I had any objections to going eight miles down the North Fork and camping there while cutting logs. I had not, so I packed up my blanket and bedding and went into camp, where with one other employee, remained five weeks, living in a tent, and cutting logs. It was cold for this country and the snow was on the ground. When the weather became warmer and I was instructed to report back to the agency and begin my mason work laying the foundation for the agency office."
This was the beginning of nearly sixty years work among the Indians. His earnestness, skill and industry in doing well every task assigned to him impressed his worth upon Agent Miles, and every other representative of the government. While working at the agency he learned their language and was soon on friendly terms with the Indians. As to his work at the agency and his appointment as superintendent of the Arapaho School, I will give you an extract from the annual report of the United States Indian Agent, Chas. T. Ashley, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, dated August 24,1891. Included in Major Ashley's report is a brief history of the Darlington Indian Schools written by the then superintendent, Isaac W. Dwire.
The following is taken from this report:
5This was the same saw mill that Captain Edwin Williams brought to the Agency nearly two years before Mr. Seger arrived. See Herbert E. Collins' article, "Edwin Williams, Engineer" in this number of the "Chronicles of Oklahoma."
Arapahoe Boarding School,
Sir: In compliance with instructions I herewith submit my first annual report of the Arapahoe Boarding School. I have delayed my report in order to obtain the required historical information, and am now compelled to rely upon the statements of agency employes, as there are no early records to be found.
The school opened September, 1872, with 12 scholars, in the main part of the present school building, which was intended to accommodate 35 pupils. Joshua Trueblood was the first superintendent, and the average attendance the first year was about 12. The roll ran up to 35, children coming for clothing, but leaving after a week's attendance to go with their parents on the buffalo hunt. Mr. Trueblood becoming discouraged, resigned after a few months service and was succeeded by Walter Moorland, and he by Henry King, each serving a short term. In 1874 it was difficult to secure a superintendent on account of the warlike demonstrations of the Indians, when Mrs. Miles, wife of the agent, observing J. H. Seger's (plasterer) pleasant relations with the Indians, also the excellent influence he exerted over them, said to her husband, "why not appoint Mr. Seger superintendent?" Mr. Seger was at once appointed, and though not a teacher by profession, he knew good teaching, and very soon had competent teachers and employes in all departments.
Up to this time no industrial work had been performed by the boys. The Indians considered it a disgrace for a boy to chop wood, work in garden or field. The employes of the school did all the work properly belonging to the boys, even to carrying in the wood and keeping up the fires. Mr. Seger inaugurated a system of industrial teaching and employment for both boys and girls. He took the
school under contract the second year and adopted the plan of sharing the proceeds of school industries with the boys who did the work. There were 3 milch cows bought and the calves given to the 3 boys who milked the cows. The second year 600 bushels of corn and $150 worth of garden vegetables were sold and the money used in the purchase of 35 head of cattle. Another year corn to the extent of $1,100 was exchanged for 100 head of young cattle. The girls were also remunerated for their work, a few of them buying cows and turning them into the school herd. Mr. Seger remained in charge of the school 5 years, enlarging the building to its present size and crowding it to its utmost capacity. Good progress was made in school-room work and in all domestic industries; the advancement of the school, morally and materially, showing the great possibilities for Indian boys and girls under proper encouragement. Pupils of the Arapaho school in the fall of 1878 received premiums from the Wichita fair for nicest work done on sewing machine and best-made shirts and children's dresses; also on preserves, jellies, and bread. When Mr. Seger left the school in 1879 the pupils were personal owners of 400 head of cattle.
Mr. Seger's successor held his position but a few months, three changes in the management of the school taking place in one year, and frequent changes occurring thereafter, it being the exception rather than the rule to continue the superintendent a second year. The incompetent superintendent remained long enough to do much harm and the competent man not long enough to do much good. So the school suffered, losing its former excellent standing with the Indian Office, until pronounced by Supt. Dorchester a school of very low rank."
As to the actual management and workings of the Indian Industrial Training School as inaugurated by John H. Seger, no better, and certainly no more authentic history
could be given than a government report printed in Washington in 1877—this report is in the archives of the Oklahoma Historical Society. This report is entitled; "Report upon the conditions and management of certain Indian agencies in the Indian Territory, now under the supervision of the Orthodox Friends by S. A. Galpin, chief clerk, Office of Indian Affairs, 1877." as follows:
I reached the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Agency, forty miles northeast of the Wichita Agency, upon the evening of Thursday, December 14, [1876.] The agency is located on the north bank of the North Fork of the Canadian, which has here a wide and fertile bottom. About one and one-half or two miles west of the agency, and upon the opposite side of the North Fork, is the military post of Fort Reno, which was established subsequent to the troubles in 1874 and is still incomplete. Colonel Mizner has been in command for about a year, and I am greatly indebted to him for his courtesy and assistance. The relations subsisting between him and Agent Miles are of the very best, and any calls of the agent for aid have been promptly and heartily met.
Good water is furnished by wells, but the timber in the near vicinity has been mostly used for firewood and building purposes. The most serious defect in the location of the agency is its exposure to the sweeping prairie winds, and the sand which these winds constantly raise from the river-bank upon the one hand and the well-worn roads upon the other. These latter have been worn, or more correctly blown, away in some places two or three feet. This disadvantage was not foreseen by Agent Darlington when he located the agency. In all other respects his judgment is to be commended.
The agency buildings are well arranged upon two streets or roads, one running east and west parallel to the river, the other crossing it. They are
all, though plainly and cheaply constructed, in good condition. The commissary buildings are two in number, each one hundred feet by thirty, and parallel to each other. The mill is at the west end of the other buildings, and at the time of my visit was run by a detail of soldiers from Fort Reno, who are getting out lumber for the completion of that post. The boilers were somewhat leaky and the engine small and nearly worn out. The saw itself was not in perfect running condition, and were there any pressing demand for the use of a mill extensive repairs or perhaps an entirely new outfit would be required.
The affairs of this agency have run on so smoothly for the past two years that the main object of interest was the school, which is run under a contract with Mr. John H. Seger, this being the second year of his management. It is the largest, and in many respects the best, Indian school I have found. The building was extensively remodeled during the past summer and now accommodates one hundred and fifteen scholars. It is in excellent condition, has a large school room, the furniture of which is as yet without a scratch made wantonly, and, except a dining-room of insufficient size, is well arranged for its uses.
By judicious management upon the part of the agent and Mr. Seger the interest of the Indians in the school has been awakened, and the Cheyennes, who at first despised its advantages and left it wholly to the Arapahoes, whom they regard somewhat contemptuously, are now among its warmest supporters. When the Cheyennes first brought their children they insisted that they should have separate eating and, sleeping accommodations from those of the Arapahoes. This demand was properly refused, and now they eat and sleep together in peace.
Mr. Seger is, undoubtedly, the right man in the right place. In scholarship the school ranks with those at other agencies, while in industrial training it is far superior. I spent one forenoon in the school-
room and can commend the instruction as thorough and fully competent. I listened to recitations in arithmetic, mental and advanced, in reading and spelling. The copy-books, as at the other Indian schools, are superior as a whole to those of white children of a similar grade.
The attendance in the fall of 1874 began with thirty-five, and increased in a few weeks to over fifty. Mr. Seger first began by getting the boys to chop and haul wood during the winter. In March, 1875, he began, amid many predictions of failure, his experiment of farming, and planted forty acres in corn and ten acres in melons and garden-vegetables. These fields were cared for by eleven boys, who, disregarding the taunts of the young braves and the gibes of the squaws, volunteered for the work, receiving the whole crop in payment for their services. They secured six hundred bushels of corn, twenty bushels of potatoes, one hundred wagon-loads of pumpkins, and forty loads of watermelons; the surplus of the latter being sold at Fort Reno. The corn brought one dollar per bushel, and, under Mr. Seger's direction, one-half of the proceeds was invested by the boys in clothing, the remainder in cattle. Each boy received as his share one cow, while two other animals, making thirteen in all, were held in common.
The success of this season's work by the Arapahoe boys brought to him the support of the Cheyennes. Big Horse, Bull Bear, and other leading Cheyenne chiefs, not to have any Arapahoe better supplied than their boys, when placing them in the school turned over handsome robes for the purchase of cattle for their children. The school had last spring fifty scholars, and after the completion of the building last fall was immediately filled to its maximum capacity. One Indian, too late to secure admission for his child, tried to buy him a place by an offer of robes, another, by an offer of a pony. With proper accommodations the school could easily number five hundred instead of one hundred.
For the present year the plan of operation is somewhat changed. All of the scholars participate in greater or less degree in the profits. The bulk of the work, both in the field and in the buildings, is, of course, done by the larger boys and girls, who serve by regular details. But such odd jobs as are within the ability of the smaller children are given to them, and they often prove of material assistance, as, for instance, last season, when it was their daily task to protect the garden-patches from the ravages of the grasshoppers and other insects which infested them—which duty they performed, I understand, with singular zeal and thoroughness.
The breadth of land put under cultivation last season was doubled. The crop of corn amounted to nearly three thousand bushels. One half of this goes to the children, their shares varying in proportion to the service rendered. The balance is turned over to the agent as compensation for the use of the teams and agency-farm. The sales of garden-sauce amounted to $66, and of water-melons, which the boys daily peddled at the post, to $50, besides which he made four free weekly distributions of one thousand melons each to the parents and relatives of the children. In addition, during the vacation Mr. Seger put up, by the help of his boys, fifty tons of hay for agency purposes, cut four miles from the agency, at a cost to the Government of simply his salary of less than $100, as superintendent.
One boy does the butchering for the school, a beef being slaughtered daily. Besides this the boys look after all the agency-teams and the stables, which are models of neatness, and do miscellaneous work about the agency. Agent Miles informed me that they performed servies for which he was formerly forced to hire four laborers. Mr. Seger is an enthusiast upon early rising no less than upon other matters. He calls his work-boys at 5:30 A. M., and I must confess to a deal of sympathy with one of them, Dan Tucker by name, who, having gone to bed with his husking-peg still on his hand, gave as his reason that
"it would be only a little while before he would have to get up, and he would then be all ready." It must not be understood that the literary education of these boys is neglected. They work by monthly details, and generally one-half of the day, the balance being spent in the school-room. Besides this, he gives them instruction for about an hour in the evening, paying especial attention to matters of practical importance, such as counting money, &c., &c.
Nor are the girls idle. By similar details they set the tables, serve the food, bake bread, wash, (with the assistance of the boys,) and each night repair, after the children have retired, the damage which their clothes have suffered in the rough work or play of the day. I took tea one evening at the school, and ate of bread made by two Indian girls, perhaps fourteen or sixteen years old, thus detailed. This bread was well-kneaded and perfectly sweet, and many cooks of greater pretensions cannot equal it, as my experience in the Territory has abundantly proved.
I looked carefully for any indication that the rigid discipline here outlined affected the spirits or happiness of the children, but I saw nothing of the kind. There has been no attempt to run away from the school for months. The separate play-rooms for the boys and also for the girls were in proper season crowded with the children, who were as enthusiastic in their play as in their work. Some of the boys were whipping tops of their own rude construction, while a mixed circle of boys and girls enjoyed the newly-imported game of blindman's buff with all the more zest because Mr. Seger and the lady principal of the school were guiding their sport and joining heartily in it.
It may not be amiss to show the saving which Mr. Seger's labors in this school have made in the management of this agency. His contract for the care and training of these one hundred and fifteen children—under which he expects to, and I hope will, be able to retain for himself, as compensation for his
It should be further understood that the salaries of the matron, teachers, and other employes, of whom at least ten or twelve are needed, are paid by Mr. Seger from the $5,000 above given as received under his contract. But these considerations of economy, valuable and important though they are, are the merest trifles compared with the influence upon the children, and through them upon the adult Indians. No ball and chain, or cordon of troops, and these are not to be despised as measures of control, will hold these Indians as firmly to their loyalty as this school. If the necessary appropriations could be had and the Segers raised up for the work, every child of suitable age at this agency could be subjected to like influences and the advance of civilization correspondingly hastened.
The work of these boys has undoubtedly had much to do with the increasing desire of the Indians to labor for themselves. Last year, some of them failing to obtain the use of plows or hoes, used axes, sticks of wood, and even their hands, in preparing ground and planting and cultivating their garden-spots. I commend especially to your favorable consideration the plan proposed by Agent Miles of employing his Indians in the transportation from Wichita, Kansas, the terminus of the Atchison,
Topeka & Santa Fe railroad, of all the supplies intended for this agency. Agent Miles proposes to pay the Indians for their labor in the wagons and harness used in the work, with which they are to be furnished in advance, upon their agreement to perform the labor. If legislation is necessary to enable the Department to utilize this labor, which is simply waiting for employment suited to its capacity, I trust it will be obtained. The simple truth regarding these Indians is, that they are compelled to remain idle quite as much for want of something to do as for lack of disposition; indeed, I think more."