By DAN W. PEERY
While we are recording the achievements of Capt. John H. Seger in the advancement of civilization among the Indian tribes of the western plains and are handing down to future generations (while facts can be verified) the true story of his great unselfish work in the advancement of the Indian along the white man's road; we should not forget that there was a pioneer woman who shared with him the hardships, privations and dangers of this frontier life. No true story can be told of the work of Mr. Seger among the Indians that does not pay a tribute of praise to his wife, Mrs. John H. Seger. She was, indeed, "a pioneer woman." I do not mean to say by this that she was the first or only woman who sacrificed the comforts of civilized life in order that she might be of service to humanity. Hundreds of women have made this great sacrifice to advance the cause of religion and have acted under the spiritual fervor of the ancient martyrs. I doubt if Mrs. Seger had any of these ideas in her mind. She came out to the Indian Territory as the wife of John H. Seger and became interested in his work. With a bond of sympathy for humanity, even as exemplified by the untutored Indian, proved herself to be a real helpmate in the work of educating and civilizing these people.
As stated in the first instalment of this review, Mary Esther Nichlas was married to John H. Seger in 1875, and came with him to the frontier Indian agency where her husband had only recently been employed as superintendent of the Arapaho school. She spent her life among the Indian tribes. Many stories are told of her long journeys across the lonesome prairies in buckboard or hack. Sometimes she drove to the western part of the reservation where her husband was at work establishing a mail route or looking after the sub-agencies. On these long trips often her only companions were her small children and, perhaps, an Indian school boy, who drove the horses. She had no fear of the Indians; they were her friends and were her husband's friends as long as he lived.
There were a number of Indian uprisings very shortly after she arrived at the Darlington agency. Several hundred Northern Cheyennes had been brought there after the Little Big Horn fight in 1876. These Indians led by Dull Knife left the Agency and committed many depredations upon the white settlers and returned to their old home in the western Dakotas in 1877. In fact the entire Cheyenne tribe was in a belligerent mood most of the time.
In 1910, Fred Bard, staff correspondent for the Kansas City Star in Oklahoma, wrote a story of old Chief Wolf Robe. This old Cheyenne chief was a man of great dignity, and was, from an ethnological viewpoint almost a perfect type of the North American Indian. He lived to be a very old man and more than one artist used him as a model for the Indian profile. In his youth he had been a great warrior but as he grew older and associated with the white people, he saw the advantage of civilization and the utter futility of war against the white race. He became a great friend of Mr. and Mrs. Seger. In 1880, there came near being a massacre of all of the white residents of Darlington over the arrest of Mad Wolf, a Cheyenne warrior.
MRS. SEGER'S STORY AS TOLD TO MR. BARD
"In the summer of 1880, an attempt was made at Darlington to arrest Mad Wolf, a Cheyenne warrior, for compelling John D. Miles, the Indian agent, at the muzzles of the guns of Mad Wolf and his followers, to issue beef from the Government pens, contrary to instructions to the agent from the Indian Department at Washington. The incident came near causing the massacre of all the white residents at Darlington, together with fifty United States soldiers that came from Fort Reno, several miles away, to quell the disturbance.
"On the day of the trouble Gohi, a Cheyenne woman, came early, as was her custom, to help me wash. Work begun, we were busy, when suddenly I noticed a great stir and much excitement among the Indians who were camped close around the Agency.
" 'What does it mean, Gohi?' I asked. But Gohi was silent and made no answer.
"As the Indians were hurrying to and fro past the house in a very unusual manner, I realized that something extraordinary was occurring, though I had no idea at the time what it was. Shortly after dinner, looking out on the flat north of the Indian School, I saw a large body of warriors, mounted on fat, sleek, ponies, painted and adorned in the gayest style, their riders wearing war bonnets and all the gay trimmings of those days. The Indians sat gazing at an approaching troop of fifty cavalrymen, commanded by Major Randall.
OLD INDIAN TO THE RESCUE
"Taking my children, Neatha, Jesse and Bessie, I quickly ascended the stairs, to where I could get the most favorable view. Hearing a sound behind me, I turned and saw Wolf Robe, his wife, his daughter and old Gohi. Though I was greatly surprised, all of us sat down where we could watch the movements on the flats.
"The Indian ponies were prancing and the warriors on them were seemingly as gay as their ponies. We could see that Major Randall was talking to the Indians.
"I asked Wolf Robe what it meant. He made no reply, but sat gazing at the scene before us. Several times I asked the question. Wolf Robe never turned his head.
"In a few minutes we saw Major Randall turning his troops to the south. They started at a fast gallop around the beef pasture and the agency farm, making quick time towards the agent's office.
"Mad Wolf, stripped naked, save for his geestring, led his warriors in the wake of the galloping cavalrymen past our house toward the agency building. A number of Indians on foot preceded the mounted warriors.
"A number of white men who had been eating dinner at my house went out and followed the Indians, and were passing a trader's store when somebody opened a door and reached out and grabbed one of the men. Guns and ammunition were quickly
brought out, and every man armed himself for the expected battle. Save for Wolf Robe, his family and Gohi, I was alone with my children.
"The spectacular scene lasted only a short time until the crisis passed, and the impending massacre was averted through the coolness of Major Randall in dealing with the Indians. He received much valuable assistance from a number of old Indians who lately had sent some of their children to Carlisle—the first Indian Children to go from Oklahoma to that school—and feared the fate of their children if the white people at the agency should be killed. They formed an effective peace party."
Mrs. Seger says she learned afterwards that it was intended by Mad Wolf and his followers to start the killing by shooting the Indian agent when they reached the agency. At the last moment they were prevailed upon by the Indians opposed to the massacre. Wolf Robe knew all that was going on, and in the absence of Mr. Seger had come to her home to protect her and the children. It was his purpose she thinks, the moment the massacre started to slip with her and the children into a nearby cornfield and secret place until they could be rescued and carried to safety.
As has been stated in a previous instalment, Mr. Seger received his appointment and took full charge of the Arapaho school in 1874. He assumed the management of this first Indian school at Darlington, which was referred to as "The Manual Labor and Mission School," under a contract on the basis of six dollars and fifty cents per month for each scholar, the government furnishing such rations and annuity goods as are furnished the Cheyennes and Arapahoes at the agency.1 This contract proved to be remunerative to Mr. Seger, yet it was at a small expense to the government as the proceeds from the school farm paid a large part of the cost of operating the school. The original contract expired in 1879, but it did not altogether end Mr. Seger's connection with the Arapaho school, as we find him in charge in the fall of 1880—but not under the provisions of his first contract.
SEGER AS A BUSINESS MAN
When Mr. Seger quit the school work in 1879, he at once
entered active business with headquarters at the Agency. He was familiar with the entire reservation. In fact, his work with the Indians had given him a knowledge of western Oklahoma possessed by but few men.
H. A. Todd2 was the manager of a stage line between Caldwell, Kansas, and Fort Sill, Indian Territory, which passed through the Agency at Darlington, and his advertisement for passengers appeared in the earliest number of the Cheyenne Transporter,3 August, 1880. We also find in this issue, the advertisement of John H. Seger, in the same business, but taking a western route from Darlington and Fort Reno to Fort Eliott, Texas. John Seger's advertisement in the August, 1880 issue reads:
JOHN H. SEGER
Is Now Running Buckboards and Hacks Between
Darlington, I. T.
Fort Eliott, Texas
2H. A. Todd was a well known citizen of Kansas and of Western Oklahoma. He had had lines of transportation over nearly all routes in the Southwest before Oklahoma opened to settlement. He was in the freight business but often ran stage coaches and buckboards in the transportation of passengers before the railroads invaded the country. When the Cheyenne and Arapaho country opened to settlement, he and his sons filed on land near the town of Calumet. He was elected to the Third Territorial legislature from Canadian county.
3The Oklahoma Historical Society has in its newspaper files three volumes of the Cheyenne Transporter, the newspaper published at the Darlington Agency from 1880 to 1886. In the first volume is written the following:
"Presented to the Oklahoma Historical Society with compliments of George West Maffet, Lawrence, Kansas, March 1, 1914, Cheyenne Transporter, Volumes two and three complete—from August 25, 1880 to August 10, 1882, inclusive. W. A. Eaton was editor and proprietor previous to April 12, 1882, following which came George W. Maffet, editor and proprietor. Lafe Merritt local editor."
There is also a photograph of "George West Maffet, your editor and historian."
In the second volume the same is written with this note:
"Cheyenne Transporter Vol. 4 & 5 complete August 25, 1882 to September 15, 1884 inclusive, with George West Maffet, editor and proprietor. Lafe Merritt, local editor."
The third volume contains the same inscription written on the front page.
"Cheyenne Transporter, vol. 6 & 7, Sept. 30, 1884 to August 12, 1886."
It also notes two missing numbers from volume 6, and six missing numbers from volume 7.
I think that the records will show that the Cheyenne Transporter was the first paper printed in the western half of Oklahoma. These three volumes of old newspapers are a veritable cache of history of the Southwest. They contain the daily comings and goings of the men who figured in the history and the romance of the frontier but not written as "wild west copy." They tell of the every day life of army officers, government employes, cattlemen and missionaries, as well as that of the Indian chiefs, whether they came in peace or came in war. They tell of the freighters who are the transporters of everything to supply the agency and the post. They often speak of distinguished guests from the states, statesmen, ministers of the gospel and writers, whose names are yet known to the literati of the world. Sometimes they tell of renegades, horse thieves and outlaws. There are many articles concerning Capt. David L. Payne, the Boomer, that are caustic and cynical. This paper also had its society columns and when it came to writing up a society event, none of the society editors in this state have anything on Lafe Merrit, the local editor of the Cheyenne Transporter. The big social event came when the officers and their ladies at Fort Reno invited the government employes at the Agency, only three miles away, to attend a reception at the Fort. Then, of course, this called for the Agency to entertain the Post.
Lafe Merrit was a good newspaper man, versatile, handsome and congenial. When Oklahoma was opened to settlement, April 22d, 1889, Lafe Merrit stepped across the line to Reno City, less than three miles from Darlington, but soon located at the new town of El Reno. He at once launched into the newspaper business. He started the El Reno Globe, with Ernest Parks as a partner in the enterprise. They afterward sold this paper to Peery and Clute.
"This route connects at Darlington with stages going south to the Wichita Agency, Fort Sill, Elm Springs, Carriage Point, Galveston, Texas. East with Vinita, I. T., and the M. K. & T. to St. Louis. North with Caldwell, Hunnewell, Wellington, Winfield and Wichita, Kansas.
"Connects at Fort Eliott with stages going south to Fort Bascom and Fort Griffin, Texas, Las Vegas, and all towns southwest. West to Fort Dodge, Kansas, and all points north and northwest.
"Leave Darlington going west, Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
"Leave Fort Eliott going east Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
In the same issue appeared this local:
"John H. Seger took a run over the mail route between Darlington and Fort Eliott last week."
This was the first regular issue of the Transporter as a public newspaper, although it had been published at the school by the mission people and a few issues had been printed the year before. We do not know just when this route was established but it was evidently soon after his contract expired
at the school. Mr. Seger had the Star Route, or rather subcontract, to carry the mail from Darlington and Fort Reno to Fort Eliott.
In order to get this story straight so that students of history may know of the obstacles to be overcome in carrying mail through a hostile Indian country and know the influence this man, Seger, had with the Indians, I shall re-publish an excerpt from a speech made by Mr. Seger at the Lake Mohonk Conference4 in 1902.
"* * * I will tell a story to illustrate the other class of people who think they know all about Indians.
"Once after the Cheyennes had been on the warpath and had had quite a fight with the whites, they were under the guard of the military, — a kind of prisoners of war. They were not allowed to go west of the Canadian river when hunting. About that time I took the contract to carry the mail one hundred and sixty miles west from Reno, and the reason I took it was because they said no one but Indians could carry it because it had to go in thirty-six hours, traveling night and day, and there being no path, they said white men could not do it. And they further said that no one could get the Indians to do it but Johnny Smoker, so the contractor asked me to have the Indians carry it, as I was the only one who could do so. I went to Little Robe, the ruling chief of the Cheyennes, and made an arrangement with him to carry it, and I said I would locate him on the Washita river. It was necessary for me to go over the route and stake it out and explain to him how to carry it. Just before we started on our trip Little Robe said: 'We are going to be alone for several
4The first Lake Mohonk Conference was held in 1883. Mr. Albert K. Smiley, at that time and until his death December 2, 1913, a member of the United States Board of Indian Commissioners, invited a number of those interested in Indian affairs to a meeting at Mohonk Lake in the State of New York, in order to confer regarding measures affecting the interests of the Indians. This was the first of a series of October meetings which have been held annually during the succeeding years. John H. Seger was often invited to attend this important gathering of the friends of the Indians, as he was always recognized as an authority upon the subject of the conference. In later years the scope of this conference has been enlarged so as to include the peoples of the dependent tribes and nations throughout the world.
days, and we shall probably see no other human beings. The Cheyennes have been fighting with the white people, and the white people have killed a good many Cheyennes, and the Cheyennes have killed a good many white people. You don't know me very well, and I don't know you very well. I propose that we don't take a gun. We will need a knife, but I propose that we take only a butcher knife.' (He did not believe in concealed weapons.) I told him I would agree to that. Then I said: 'I, too, have a proposition. I understand driving a team, and I propose to drive the team and hitch and unhitch, because you do not understand that and as you are better acquainted with camp life, you must make the camp fire, cook and sometimes make our beds. You have nothing but dry buffalo meat, and I have provisions enough for both. You take charge of it and we will fare the same. You make the bed, and we will sleep under the same blanket and drink from the same cup.' He agreed. We crossed one hundred and sixty miles of country without seeing anyone else on the trip. When we got to Fort Eliott I showed him how to deliver the mail, how to get it, etc.; and while I was doing it a number of Texas men in the store looked on, and one of them came to me and said, 'You have got a redskin with you.' 'I have Little Robe with me,' I replied. 'I suppose he is up here to steal horses, ain't he?' 'No, sir, he isn't here to steal horses. I have a contract to carry the mail, and he is going to work for me.' 'Work for you?' 'See here, stranger, an Indian won't work.' 'Won't work,' I said. 'I have paid them for cutting one thousand one hundred cords of wood and for cutting four hundred tons of hay.' 'Well,' said he, 'I have been on the frontier all my life. I have fought Indians ever since I was grown up, and I know they won't work.'"
Not only was Mr. Seger proprietor of the stage and mail route to Fort Eliott but he also ran a livery stable in Darlington. At one of the stations on the mail route, fifty miles west of Darlington, he started a horse ranch. The location of this
ranch was at the beautiful walnut grove where only a few years afterward the Seger Colony headquarters and the Seger Indian Training school were established. This location was on the mail route and an ideal place for headquarters for his business.
For the next five or six years, we read many items in the Transporter in which the Seger name appeared. He was a good advertiser and correspondent for the paper. He always had news items for the local editor in a settlement where there were few white persons and news was scarce. I shall copy a few of the many local items in order to show how the subject of this sketch spent his time when not engaged in public service.
An item in the Transporter under date of September 10, 1880, is as follows:
"Mr. J. H. Seger made a trip over the Darlington-Fort Eliott mail route the latter part of last month, his business was to set things right and pay off his employes on the line. He found everything running as well as could be expected. Buckboards run regularly three times a week each way, and passengers can get very comfortable, quick and cheap conveyance."
Another item in the same issue reads:
"J. H. Seger has a whole corral full of hay ricks. This is not the most approved way of using such enclosures but we presume he knows what he is about." In the same issue another item reads:
"J. H. Seger, not content with the Darlington-Ft. Eliott mail line, and several minor contracts of different kinds, has taken the mail route (180 miles long) from Ft. Eliott to Wichita Falls, Texas. This he intends to stock up and put in good condition immediately."
It is the opinion of the writer that Mr. Seger never actually took charge of this route for no further mention is made of it.
A subsequent issue of the Transporter, March 1881, contains this item:
"Mrs. John H. Seger, who has been stopping at
the Washita mail station for several months, arrived at the Agency Wednesday morning."
The many local items concerning the activities of Mr. Seger appearing in the Transporter for the next few years gives us an idea of the work in which he was engaged during this period. The newspaper tells of Mr. Seger burning a brick kiln in the fall of 1881. He was more than pleased when he opened it and found that he had splendid brick: This was the first brick kiln burned in western Oklahoma as far as the records go.
A story under the caption, "Fine Horses," says that Mr. Seger has just received four fine graded stallions purchased in Allen County, Kansas, and then proceeds to give their pedigrees, all of them being draft horses. The local also states that two of these fine animals Mr. Seger will send out to his horse ranch in the Panhandle and the other two he will keep at his livery stable at Darlington.
There also appeared in the Transporter, two or three weeks later the following local:
"J. H. Seger came in last week from a trip East and says he sold his ponies at good prices and did remarkably well by the project of shipping them to the Eastern market. While in the East he purchased a fine stallion which he brought down with him for breeding purposes. He purchased the animal at Walnut, Illinois, paying the neat sum of $500. The horse is of Morgan and French-Canadian stock, and is without question the finest horse ever brought to the Territory. The horse can be seen at any time at Mr. Seger's livery where it is now on exhibition."
There can be no question that Mr. Seger's importation of heavy draft horses, as well as those of other stockmen, bred with the Mexican-Indian ponies increased the size and value of all horses on the range in western Oklahoma and the Panhandle of Texas. While on the subject of horses, I shall re-publish a local which appeared in the Transporter. It reads:
"A running race between George Bent's horse, Dick, (purchased from Mumford Johnson) and W. G. Williams' ["Caddo Bill"] little sorrel stallion, has been arranged to take place Christmas day at the
Fort Reno race grounds. The race is to be for $500 each side, and a forfeit of $250 each, has been put up. It is to be a straight dash of 440 yards."
No mention is made as to the result of the race in subsequent issues. The writer knew the owners of both of these horses and would wager that Williams' Half-Moon horse won. A local published in the Transporter, August 1883, is as follows:
"Seger sold his livery barn and residence to Chas. E. Campbell and C. M. Keller. Seger retains his stock and will go out to the range."
The cattlemen in 1882, had leased nearly all of the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation and the year afterward they decided to fence their pastures, believing as they did, that they had a ten years lease and that they could handle their cattle with less expense and more security. There were hundreds of miles of fence to be built and some of the Indians objected to having the country under fence. Some of the cattlemen had difficulty in getting posts made and the wire fence constructed. One large company came to Mr. Seger at his horse ranch and contracted with him to build its pasture fences in the south part adjoining the Kiowa-Comanche reservation. There were many items published in the Transporter concerning the building of these fences. One in the January 1884 issue reads:
"John H. Seger was in from Washita for a couple of days last week and reported the fencing of ranges on the leased lands progressing as well as could be expected, considering the cold weather and the ground being frozen prevented them digging post holes for a time. Mr. Seger is manager of the fencing outfit for the Washita Cattle Company. He is using Indian labor. Among the Indians employed are: Scabby, a former Agency employe; Leonard Tyler and Thomas Bear Robe, returned Carlisle boys. These Indian helpers have been with Mr. Seger about two months and he says that they like their work and seem willing to remain with him."
From other news items we learn that Mr. Seger built over four hundred miles of fence for the cattlemen in the Cheyenne and Arapaho country. From these locals published
in the Transporter, it seems that he was quite active in private business for several years after his original school contract expired. Perhaps, he had undertaken too many business enterprises.
SEGER'S INDIAN STORIES
Mr. Seger was a regular contributor to the columns of the Transporter. He wrote stories concerning the thoughts, life and habits of the Plains Indians which contained valuable data for the student of anthropology. Some of these stories were never printed except in the Transporter and there is only one copy in existence. We feel that we are justified in reproducing some of these articles in the Chronicles.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF POWDER FACE,