THE DIARY OF ASSISTANT SURGEON LEONARD McPHAIL ON HIS JOURNEY TO THE SOUTHWEST IN 1835
"The iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy and deals with the memory of man without distinction to merit of perpetuity." So wrote Sir Thomas Browne nearly three hundred years ago. As we look at this faded manuscript penned in 1835 before the covered wagon came into its own, when California and Texas were still foreign lands and the great Southwest an almost unknown country, we may well wonder if he who wrote so laboriously at the end of each day, perhaps by the uncertain light of the camp fire, ever speculated as to his rescue from that oblivion.1
Who was Leonard McPhail? Diligent search through historical records of the Army and biographical works show that he entered the Service November 30, 1834, from Maryland and that he was sent by sea to New Orleans where he was placed on duty at Fort Jackson which had been established but a short time. Almost immediately he was assigned to the Regiment of Dragoons newly created for service in the Indian country. Evidently he went at once to Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, to receive his baptism into Army life in the field. It was on the expedition which ended in the signing of the memorable treaty with the Comanche Indians, that the Diary was written.
No record can be found of any of his movements from that period until August 1845, when war with Mexico appeared certain. At this time we find that Assistant Surgeon McPhail was the medical officer in charge of the 2d Dragoons and that later he became attached to the 7th Infantry encamped near what is now Fort Brown, opposite the city of Matamoras, Mexico. It is possible that early in the month of May 1846 he was actively engaged in the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma. In the latter part of 1846 there is found a reference that at Matamoras, Mexico, Dr. McPhail was on duty as one of the Assistant Surgeons at the general hospital there. This hospital was one of the establishments of General Taylor's Army, the headquarters being at Monterey.
During the active operations in Mexico, both under General Scott and General Taylor, we find many numerous references to the bravery and efficient services of the medical officers with the
1The original manuscript is a document of 23 pages 6 by 10 inches, briefed on the back by some War Department clerk as "Dr. McPhail's Journal with Dragoons in 1835." It came into the possession of the Army Medical Library in Washington some years ago. It is doubtful if it has ever been read in its entirety.
troops, but no further mention is found of Dr. McPhail. It is unlikely that he was at any other time in the field during the Mexican War.
Dr. McPhail was promoted at the close of the Mexican War in 1848 to the grade of Surgeon. In an old file two letters have been discovered written by him during the war. One is dated April 2, 1848, from the General Hospital, Army of Occupation, Matamoras, and refers to the shipment of the remains of a brother officer who died in Matamoras. The other is dated September 9, 1848, and contains a reference to the writer's younger brother then in Louisiana. This officer had been brevetted major for gallantry at Cherubusco. Dr. McPhail and his brother resigned the same day, April 30, 1849, but whether to settle in the great Southwest or to join the rush to California in search of gold and adventure, does not appear. The elder brother took no part in the Civil War, although the younger did. Dr. McPhail, as far as is known, published nothing for posterity. He died in 1867.
Let us pause after picturing the young Assistant Surgeon dressed in his army blue at that far off station west of the Mississippi. What of Fort Gibson? This Army post was one of the earliest garrisons ever to be established in the Southwest, antedating Fort Leavenworth by several years. The Army Register of 1821 mentions that the 7th U. S. Infantry was stationed in the Indian country in localities scattered along the Red and Arkansas Rivers in the present State of Oklahoma. A trading post had been established at Fort Smith in 1817 and it was to protect the southwestern trade route into what is now the State of Texas that troops were sent into this area of our Southwest. Gradually as trails became well established a "military road" was constructed through the territory between the Neosho and Canadian Rivers. Fort Gibson is first mentioned in the Army records as "Cantonment Gibson," and it probably came into official existence in 1824, as that is the year in which it first appears in print in the official Army Register. From Fort Gibson to Camp Holmes on the Canadian River by the military road was perhaps 140 miles, a three-hours' journey at the present time. It took the expedition more than three weeks in 1835 to get there and they lost a number of animals and one soldier on the way.
Even thirty years later Fort Gibson was a wretched collection of log and frame huts, and from its malarious reputation it had become known as the "charnel house of the frontier." It was at the edge of a prairie, in a land unknown to civilization. A wild prairie grass, rank and heavy, stretched away to the distant horizon. Here was a wilderness filled with game, turkey, deer and buffalo, but beginning to be penetrated by adventurers and land speculators. There were plenty of Indians there, but the bitter and prolonged
Indian wars, which followed the gradual encroachment of the white man, were yet to come. The thin fringe of Army posts, which would be built later after the Civil War throughout Kansas and Texas, was then undreamed of. Into,, such a picture then, steps our chronicler who has just received his commission as an army officer from President Andrew Jackson.
The West is before him, the setting sun his guide, the Indian the subject of his eager inquiry. So let us follow the trail with him and live his days over again before the ink which records his travels shall fade before our eyes.
It was on a fine June day in 1835 that Dr. McPhail, under orders from General Arbuckle, left the shelter of Fort Gibson behind him, and it was in company with Lieutenant Seaton that he rode out across the prairie. Just at sunrise they forded the Arkansas River at its junction with the Neosho, and there they found a small command of Infantry and Dragoons with two four-mule wagons. The command proceeded southwest for fifteen miles and camped for the night. The Journal entries are as follows:
Wednesday June 17. Alas! a mule wagon tongue is found broken in the morning and a new one must be fashioned for no wagon can be pulled lacking a tongue. However at seven o'clock we are again on our way. Two hours later a soldier is taken sick and a plague of flies descends upon us, tormenting horses and men. The heat is terrific and not a breath of air stirs. One of the oxen rolls over and dies perhaps from the terrible heat and the flies. By nightfall the expedition had marched but thirteen miles.
Thursday, 18th. The waggons and men on foot left our bivouac at three in the morning, the dragoons following at sunrise. The flies have gone and the weather is cool and fair. We reached the Canadian River in the afternoon and camp was made after a march of 14 miles.
The next day at dawn the river was crossed without accident and a halt made on the right bank near the home of a settler, Chilly McIntosh. There we found some U. S. cattle in a wild state. One was captured for draught purposes and another killed for meat. The following day was rainy and the command bivouaced at four in the afternoon.
Saturday and Sunday. On account of the rain we are compelled to bivouac in the early afternoon. Two Creek Indians visited us, on the way to Fort Gibson and we sent letters by them. A soldier is taken sick and a horse bitten by a snake. The animal is quite useless as a result. The next day the country became much more hilly and rough and a wagon was overturned but no loss resulted. We shot a deer that afternoon and camped having made 18 miles.
Wednesday, 24th. The heavy rains continue and the journey today has been a difficult and painful one. We could march only 7 miles.
Thursday 25. It was necessary to bridge several ravines so we did not start till ten o'clock. A tedious journey, crossing creeks whose banks were so steep they must be dug to allow the waggons to pass. The rain comes down in torrents and officers and men were soaked to the skin. We made but six miles and camped near Little River.
Friday 26 and Saturday 27. Torrents of rain and it is impossible to proceed. On Saturday the streams are so high it is still impossible to march. As the sun comes out in mid morning all hands are engaged in washing clothes and cleaning accouterments.
Sunday 28th. We are engaged in cutting a road to the river. "Wash" my servant crossed over in a bark canoe to a village of the Delawares' in search of fresh meat but he returned reporting the water was too high and the banks too steep. At noon we succeeded in sending an Indian over to the other side who reached Major Mason's camp. His small command of 14 men and 28 pack animals was on the way to Fort Gibson for provisions.
Monday 29th. Still raining at intervals. The river is quite impassable. We are encamped on a ridge (spared by the rising waters) not more than two yards by fifty, the companions of scorpions, lizards, centipedes and Tarantulas that the water has driven to the only spot of terra firma for miles around. Capt. Trenor taken sick.
Tuesday 30th. Fair. River still impassable. Three privates are on "sick report" with intermittent fever.
Wednesday July 1. The weather is fair but two more soldiers are on "sick report." The men have killed a rattle snake and the Lieutenant and others partook of a meal en fricassie. A deer is also killed and a bee hive captured so we've been quite in clover in the way of munitions de bouche. Private Smith was lost at noon but was found at nightfall. The men talk of "belling the stray."
Thursday 2d. The night was chilly. The men have felled a tree and are making a pirogue.
Friday 3d. Rain is falling. Lieut. Seaton and a private taken sick. An Osage runner brings a letter to us from Major Mason directing the Lieutenant to push on to his camp as soon as possible with all his force leaving only enough men to care for the waggons and draught animals. A meditated attack by the Cumanches is assigned as a reason for this order.
Saturday 4th Independence Day. The pirogue is finished and launched and we have named it "Independence."
Sunday 5th. The day is fair. Three cheers! The detachment of Dragoons have made a successful attempt to cross the river. At 5, it is done. The canoe turned over once and some salt and a gun lost. The two dragoons reach shore safely, to our relief.
Monday 6th. This morning broke camp "LOO-KOUT," socalled by a native of the Netherlands who painted a sign for us in the Dutch way of spelling. Again crossed the river successfully with the canoes. Bivouaced near the Delaware village and were visited by some of the tribe.
Tuesday 7th. At sunrise we passed the Indian village. The hills are rough and rocky. Plenty of excellent water. On starting the march this morning my stirrup caught in a cut down bush which trailing behind alarmed my horse who ran off with me at full speed through the woods. I maintained my seat though in imminent danger and finally brought my mount up standing. In the afternoon after bridging a ravine we entered the prairie again. We met an Indian with wife and child, goat and dogs. They had returned from a buffalo hunt having killed four.
Wednesday 8th. This morning at daybreak we saw buffaloes for the first time. I chased a bear which turned out to be a wolf! Passed through a brush wood of burnt oak and came out looking like so many "pot wrestlers." Today we marched 12 miles.
Thursday 9th. On the way by sun up and shortly after we saw buffalo in herds. We gave chase and our Lieutenant and Peck got a shot but did not bring the game down. In the afternoon Peck went out after fresh meat and returned with the best of a buffalo cow he had killed. The meat tastes good as our appetite for fresh things is keen. It was my first time to dine on buffalo. Taken ill in the afternoon. Sick! Sick! Made 10 miles. Course is now west.
Friday 10th. The Lieutenant was thrown from his horse but is only slightly injured. Lost one of my horses last night. So much for my humanity in loaning him to a sick soldier. I am too sick to ride and have taken to the wagon. Too unwell to write. We made only 6 miles.
Saturday 11th. Water is very scarce the last two days. The animals have suffered for the want of it. Arrive in the afternoon at Camp Holmes, Major Mason's encampment. I am very ill: blooded freely.
Saturday 26th. Have been sick for several days past which accounts for the blank in the Journal. We are surrounded by Indians, Osages, Pawnees, Kioways and different tribes of Cumanches. Some time ago the Chief of the Cumanches "Ta-ba-que-na" made great exertions to induce the other bands to join him and wipe out Major Mason's men. Since the arrival of our detachment he has become more pacific in his notions and yesterday on the arrival of Captain Lee's command (from the 7th Infantry) and on hearing the big gun fired he became very suspicious and removed his camp some distance away. He is said to be a bad Indian. He is a rather fat, dark looking fellow and bears the marks of "many a wound in battle won." We have been visited by the Cumanche chief who is dressed off in a Dragoon's jacket and a pair of old pattern Infantry epaulettes (God only knows where he got them). The Chief is a good looking fellow and much lighter in color than old "Tab"; and besides he has a right pretty daughter, that is, pretty for an Indian belle. She wears a red blanket surmounted over the shoulders by a deer skin capotte fringed with elks' teeth. She wears mocassins and leather gaithers fringed a la sauvage with a gingling trail from each leg (said to wipe out her footsteps). She has bracelets and her dark hair is parted in the middle seam of the head, the seam being painted vermilion, as well as her eyelids and lips. She is young and quite the rage with...
Monday 27. Some light has been thrown on the indisposition lately manifested by the Indians not to remain. One of the Osages stole a horse a few days ago from a Cumanche. A deputation was sent with the owner to Claremor's farm with orders from Major Mason for the restoration of the horse. One of the return party informed the Major that Claremor would not come to council till the corn was ripe as he knew the white ki-heka would not be there before: The Cumanches were told moreover not to wait but to go on a hunt, as the Great White Chief would not come after him and that Major Mason and his officers were no Chiefs but as the dead grass of the prairie—good for nothing. The Cumanches believed they were only fitted to eat up the flour and meat and send back for more and to prepare the way for the White Chief and himself who would come at the proper time after corn gathering. The Osage Chief "Black Dog" expresses great indignation at Claremor's talk and hopes the general may come so as to make him out a "crooked talker."
Tuesday 23. We do not see as many Indians as usual. Suppose the Cumanches to be moving off—indisposed to be near us, being suspicious of our true character. The herds of Buffalos that were so abundant a few weeks since, and had disappeared, are supposed to be on the return as a Dragoon sentinel reports a herd of them two miles off.
Wednesday 29. The Major (Mason) has had a talk today with Tabaquena who consents to remain till Aug. 20th but cannot insure the stay of others of his tribe, nor that of the other chiefs, as they have some doubts of a council being held "before the fall of the leaf" being infested with this idea from some quarter unexpressed. Saw this afternoon a Cumanche in mourning for his child lately dead. He was painted black in stripes, and the ornaments lately belonging to his infant he wore suspended from his neck: a little buckskin doll, with the head of it covered with a lock of his infant's hair. He looked sad and often upon this feeble image of his lost one showing that affection was with the living for the departed dead.
Thursday 30th. Shortly after our arrival at Camp Holmes a Cumanche ran off with the wife of another. Being caught a few days after, the usual punishment in such cases was inflicted—the gashing of the face and body of the infidel couple and rubbing in charcoal so as to leave permanently the stain of disgrace.
Friday 31st. I have observed today that many of the Cumanches as well as several of the Pawnees and especially the women are tatooed on the neck, face and arms, some quite tastefully.
Saturday, August 1st 1835. Captain Perkins was despatched in search of the Kioways to invite them to council. Camp alarmed this evening between the hours of 7 and 8 o'clock by the report of a firearm followed by the cries of a person as if wounded.
Forces turned out under arms and a corps de garde despatched under Lieutenant Harris to the Spring. Returned with the sentry placed there wounded. An Indian supposed to be an Osage, persisting in washing his feet in the spring was attempted to be removed by Private Sharp (Co. F. 7th Inf'y) who not wishing to use violence pushed him off with the butt of his gun (as ordered in such cases) which extremity was seized by the Indian, cocked and discharged, whilst the left hand of the soldier was immediately applied over the muzzle, the hand receiving the whole charge, (ball and three buckshot) entering at the palm and passing obliquely toward the wrist, shattering the metacarpal bones and tearing the integuments so as to render amputation necessary. This I performed at once at the wrist joint.
A corps de garde sent under Lieut. Harris to the Osage camp to demand the offending party—returned not being able to find him. The Major has demanded him of Black Dog.
Saturday 2d. A council with the "big men" of the Osages held this morning concerning the affair of last night. Was not able to arrive at any clue by which the affair could be ascertained. The Detachment and waggons sent some days since to Little River for the articles left there by Capt. Lee's command arrived this morning with the exception of one man lost from the waggon party. The two men despatched in search of him reported that they had tracked him 4 miles from camp on the way back and then again toward the camp. Sent immediately back with strict orders for a more diligent search. This afternoon some Cumanches on their return from a visit to the Osages drew up in front of our camp and gave us the compliment of a song accompanied by music from their rude kettle drums. They were dressed off in all their glory with feathers and painted skins, eye lids vermilion and cheeks striped a leur mode.
Monday Aug. 3rd. A foot race yesterday afternoon by some Osages for a prize of two papers of paint offered by an officer of the camp. Poor running. A wrestling match today between some soldiers and Osages—the soldiers threw the Indians three times to one (Fair play and no
tripping). A few days since Lieut. H. ...beat the fastest Osage runner with ease in a race of 200 yards. It is evident that the whites, men without training, are far superior to the savages in athletic sports.
Tuesday 4th. The command sent back yesterday in further search of the man lost from Capt. Lee's command returned this afternoon without any further intelligence of him. John, an Osage who speaks English, stated tonight that he had understood from the Cumanches that a white man had been to their camp several times within the last two days, made signs he was hungry, got to eat, and said he was afraid to come to our camp for fear of being flogged.
On this information John was sent with the Pawnee woman, (Interpretess) to tell the Cumanches to secure the person and bring him to our camp, offering a reward in case he was brought in. The man now turns out to be one of those on "sick report" who had been put on low diet.
Wednesday 5th. The remaining Cumanches removed yesterday afternoon from the west to the east of us. They passed along by us with their tent poles trailing on each side of their horses and the tent skins packed on their backs. Several persons in camp and some Indians report to have heard this morning a sound like the firing of a piece of cannon. We are in suspense to know what it was. A race course laid out today. Il faut a'amuser quand on est jeune.
Thursday 6th. The weather which has been fair for some time past is on the change. It showered yesterday and today is cool with a Scotch mist. The Major, Lieut. Harris, "Very Good" a Kanzas Indian and some others of the Osages had a Buffalo Chase yesterday afternoon. The Major and Lieut. were in at the death, the animal being dispatched with arrows some of which passed through and through it.
Friday 7th. The Osages who have remained here so long and so patiently for the treaty making party are today preparing to leave for their homes. Capt. Perkins and command returned not being able to find the Kioways. Crossed the main Canadian this afternoon. Rains. Had a fine view of the surrounding country from a hill on the right border of the river 100 feet above the level of the prairie.
Sunday Aug. 9th. A Kioway and his wife appeared in Camp today. They are the finest looking savage folks I have seen.
Monday 10th. The horses for the last few days have been so pestered by flies as to render it necessary to graze them at night and in the morning and keep them in Camp during the day with smoky fires to drive off the plague.
Tuesday 11th. We have been feasting these last few days on wild turkies (sic) which from the numbers daily brought in are abundant in the neighborhood. Urticaria or nettle rash is common amongst officers and men. Can it be owing to the prairie fed meat as the oxen and Buffalo are very fond of the white flowering nettle that abounds in these parts? A herd of Buffalo and Indians in chase after them reported within 1 ½ miles of camp. Weather cool and rainy.
Wednesday 12th. There has been an increase in the number of sick reported, cases of intermittent fever principally attributed to the change in weather from warm and dry to cool and rainy. The winds prevailing blow over a large bottom and marsh a little ways from camp wafting the "mal-aria" over us.
Thursday 13th. A great wailing was heard last night. On inquiry understood it proceeded from the lodges of some Wich-e-taws encamped close by. They had just received information of the complete rout of
one of their war parties and the death of many of their relatives in a fight with the whites of a Mexican settlement. Nothing in the way of mourning can exceed the demonstration of feeling made by the Indians on receiving intelligence of the death of a friend or relative. Has he fallen with honor in battle his exploits are sung with the lament for his death and the scalps of his slaughtered foes are exposed with the last memorials of his fame. The songs of the Indians on these mournful occasions are extemporaneous and sung with streaming eyes, indeed their emotion is strong and heartfelt.
Friday 14th. The detachment sent in a few days since, to Fort Gibson returned last night bringing news, newspapers and letters and some "kicshaws" for the officers. The detachment reports Genl. Arbuckle and Governor Stokes commissioners with a Detachment 7th Infantry to be on their way here. Dense fog this morning.
Saturday 16th. (An error. It was Aug. 15. Dr. McPhail continued the error in dates to the end of the diary. Ed.) The Osage sent yesterday for a further supply of medicines has returned today being turned back by Surgeon De Camp who is on his way with the commissioners and forces, who says he has a sufficient supply of the articles sent for.
Monday 17th. An Osage entered Camp today bringing with him a musket that he had found near the body of a dead man. The musket proved to be one borne by the soldier who was lost from Capt. Lee's command somewhere about the 2d current. A detachment sent to bury the body. Returned and reported that the body was in a great state of decay apparently dead two weeks. Brought in a canteen confirming that the person was the one lost. The body was found about 3 miles from camp.
Tuesday 18th. Six sick men arrived in camp today preceeding the command expected here tomorrow. Report Genl. Arbuckle, Gov. Stokes and command of Major Birch resting six miles hense. Several Creeks with Genl. Chilly McIntosh arrived yesterday and are encamped near by. Cold at night.
Monday 19. Genl. Arbuckle and Gov. Stokes commissioners arrived this day. Salute fired. A preliminary council held with the few remaining Indians here. Genl. Arbuckle and Gov. Stokes presiding. Captains Pennywait and Thompson with several other citizens arrived this afternoon to see the "far west" and be present at the council. Deputations are here from a few of the friendly tribes near the U. States border and some were women and children of the Cumanches and Pawnees. Owing to the tardiness of the commissioners, the Cumanches, Kioways and Pawnees that were within hail a month ago had to leave to prevent starvation. A few of the Cumanches and Pawnees remain but all the Kioways have long since gone. The promises held out to the Indians should never be broken. They were to be met when the grass was in blade and not in the leaf.
Thursday Aug. 20th. First sitting of the Council today. Gov. Stokes opened it in a short and pertinent speech and was followed by Genl. Arbuckle. Indians present Cumanches, Wichetaws, Osages, Creeks, Choctaws, Senekas and Quapaws. The project of the treaty was read and interpreted to the various tribes represented.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday 21st, 22d, 23d. Weather rainy. Have been so busy with the sick as to have no time to note the occurrences of these days.
Monday Aug. 24th. The Council met today. Treaty agreed upon and partly signed. Council broken up by a heavy rain which commenced with a thunder storm and continued all the afternoon.
Tuesday Aug. 25th. The Council met today; signing of the treaty concluded. (This is an error as the commissioners concluded the treaty on August 24 according to official records.—Ed.). Speeches from several chiefs and deputies. Emblems of peace exchanged by the calumet smoked in Council. Council adjourned sine die. Rained heavily tonight.
Wednesday 26th. Commissioners distributing presents today to the Cumanches, Witchetaws and Osages.
Thursday 27th. Rained heavily. Orders received to prepare to move homeward. Bid goodbye to the Indian Chiefs. Tabaquena and Black Dog were lavish in their expressions of gratitude for the medical services I had rendered them and gave me the "big shake" on parting. The Infantry broke up camp and moved in the afternoon.
(From this point the Diary is quoted in substance only.—Ed.)
The homeward march to Fort Gibson is made over a new trail blazed by the pathfinders who forsake the military road. There are many adventures and perils in crossing flooded rivers and quicksands but no lives are lost. The Indian interpreter has the best of it as his Indian wife swims his horse over a river and she then rafts his baggage and himself! The command arrives at Fort Gibson on September 5th only to find the hospital there unfinished and unfurnished. The sick must be laid on the puncheon floors and Dr. McPhail roundly curses the "chokedamp" policy of the Government that has made Fort Gibson the "charnel house of the Army." He determines that the death scenes of 1833 and 1834 should not again be visited upon the ill treated and worse provided for Dragoons and his closing words are "I therefore required everything necessary for their comfort and close my journal with the consciousness of having done my duty faithfully."
Following the last entry in the diary are a few notes in McPhail's handwriting covering some four pages. In these notes he comments that his observations were confined largely to trails through which they passed, but a great variety of plants was noticed. They used the Chironia Augularis, well known in early American medicine, for intermittent fever, and experienced good effects when using a decoction of the whole plant which they found growing everywhere. They also found that slippery elm was useful in diseases common to the prairies. Buffalo abounded and formed the principal source of food for the Indians, although the meat was inferior to beef and it caused nettle rash among the soldiers. The Indians jerked it for winter use and ate it pounded up with maize. It was often eaten just as cut from the freshly killed animal. The Indians esteemed the kidneys and liver, especially when sopped in fresh blood. Deer were fairly plenty and the does were easily killed by Indians who blackened their faces and bodies. Some fish were found. Traces of coal were frequently seen.
The Cumanches, Dr. McPhail says, were for the most part effeminate in their appearance and the males and females were hardly to be told apart in many tribes. They lived in conical tents of skins and were a wandering predatory race. In the treatment of diseases they made use of cupping, using a flint to scarify the skin and placing a buffalo horn over it meanwhile applying suction to the horn with the mouth. They were vastly astonished when cupped in the manner of civilized man! They often burned the skin over the neck, spine and other parts of the body with live coals to drive away pain.
Dysentery and malarial fever were the commonest and most fatal diseases seen. Opium and Ipecac were the medicines used by Dr. McPhail for the most part, since quinine or even cinchoma bark were not avail-
able until many years later. "Prairie fever" our diarist describes so well that any practitioner would now recognize in the symptoms the well known dengue of mosquito origin. Dr. McPhail mentions the folly of drastic medication in the cases of dysentery which were numerous and which he says best responded to mucilagenous drinks given after castor oil. He avers that the fearful mortality among the Dragoons in 1833 and 1834 may be mainly attributed to the tea-spoon doses of calomel commonly given. Such frightful doses, as he relates, were followed by gangrene of the jaws and face, or salivation as it is now called. Those who lived were frequently disfigured for life, becoming "Living monuments of mercurial error."
Thus ends Dr. McPhail's journey of some seventy days in the Indian Country one hundred and five years ago. He was but one of many like him to whom such duty was, more or less routine, and there were many others who were on similar missions. Much of our Great West was discovered in this manner and yet of the thousands of arduous and painful expeditions great and small, how few intimate accounts of their daily existence remain! McPhail took the trouble to record the small happenings of his journey and he gives us in his own way a picture of this virgin territory, the home of the buffalo and the Comanche.
Of the characters in his journal, Colonel Mathew Arbuckle was a contemporary of the celebrated Generals Jacob Brown and Winfield Scott and entered the Army as a lieutenant in 1799. He became Brevet-Brigadier General and died in service, well along in years, in 1851. Captain David Perkins was of the 1st Dragoons. He resigned in 1839 and died in 1848. Lieutenant Arnold Harris resigned in 1837 and he died just after the close of the Civil War. Lieutenant Augustine Seaton, McPhail's intimate companion, died at Fort Gibson two months after the return of the expedition. Major Birch rose from the ranks and had served in the War of 1812, and he was dead at Fort Gibson in a little more than a year after the signing of the treaty. Major De Camp, the much older and the senior medical officer with the 7th Infantry, outlived McPhail by several years.
Major Richard B. Mason of Virginia was an officer of the 1st Dragoons and became Lieutenant Colonel the following year and Brigadier General in 1848 dying two years later. Captain Eustace Trenor of New York was Captain in the 1st Dragoons and died the year the Mexican War opened. Captains Thompson and Pennywait cannot be identified.
Chilly McIntosh was the son of William McIntosh, a Creek Indian chief, who was Brigadier General in the United States Army in Jackson's campaign against the Seminoles in Florida. He died in 1825. William McIntosh was descended from a British army captain, at one time agent to the Creek Indians, arid an Indian woman. General McIntosh was a firm friend of the white man and a mediator in the Indian troubles in Alabama and Georgia but he
was expelled from the Cherokee Council, and during the enforcement of a treaty in 1825 his house was burned and he himself was killed. His son, Chilly McIntosh, was thus a quarter breed Indian. At this time he was a member of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe and although a chief and one of the four or five Indian signers who could read and write, he had no Indian name. Why Dr. McPhail refers to him in one place as "Genl. McIntosh" is not known unless he was so called in deference to his celebrated father.
Montfort Stokes was U. S. Senator and Governor of North Carolina and he was appointed by President Andrew Jackson one of the three commissioners to report on conditions in the present State of Oklahoma, becoming later an agent for the Cherokees, Senecas and Shawnees. He had the reputation of being an unselfish, tireless worker and he possessed a great influence upon the preservation of peace in what was then probably the most disturbed and turbulent area of the United States. Due to the uncertainties of politics Governor Stokes failed of reappointment in 1841 and he died shortly afterward at Fort Gibson where he was buried with military honors.
Tabaquena mentioned as the Chief of the Cumanches was apparently not the principal Chief of the Cumanches but third in rank. Black Dog was the Osage Chief second in rank, and he was unfriendly to the white man. Claremore was an Indian of importance but he did not sign the treaty, for reasons alluded to in the diary.
Among those who witnessed the ceremony, besides Majors Mason and Birch, Captain Lee and Surgeons De Camp and McPhail, were several others. One of them, Augustine A. Chouteau, was a member of the celebrated family of that name. He was undoubtedly a son of Auguste Pierre Chouteau and grandson of the noted Jean Choteau of St. Louis and New Orleans. The elder Chouteaus had been fur traders, explorers and Indian agents, and Auguste Chouteau had settled on the Neosho in the country near the present town of Salina about 1820.
In this theatre, which was soon to be thronged with Indian agents, soldiers, traders, missionaries and speculators, the Chouteaus maintained the lives of frontier barons. They were an Indian family of great influence, settling disputes and lavishing unending hospitality. In 1835 the family lived at Camp Holmes on the Canadian River not far from what is now Holdenville, Oklahoma, and perhaps 150 miles to the southwest of their old home. It is likely that this region was chosen for the Council because of the friendly atmosphere prevailing there.
In a rare volume, The Treaties between the United States of America and the Several Indian Tribes from 1778 to 1837, issued by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the latter year, is the
complete text of the treaty with the Comanches, Witchetaws, Cherokees, Muscogees, Chocktaws, Osages, Senecas and Quapaws. There are many names which fascinate with their accurate descriptive powers, and in this respect they show that the literary invention of today does not excel that of yesterday. Here we see the marks of Big Eagle, Brass Man, Broken Arm, He-Who-Sucks-Quick, Boy-Who-Was-Soon-A-Man, Stinking-Tobacco-Bog, Riding-Chief, First-Man-In-Four-Battles, Man-Who-Sees-Things-Done-In-The-Wrong-Way, Ambitious-Adulterer, Crazy-Warrior, Whoop-Four-Times, Hard-To-Look-At-The-Sun-Rising, Plate-Licker, John Sky, Peter Pork, The Maggot, The Spider, The Tortoise, The Doctor of The Nose, Raw-Meat, Brave-Spirit, and a hundred others, and yet no two are alike.
In the examination of the records of the Army officers one is impressed with the large number of resignations from the Service. This was no doubt due to the fearful living conditions and hardships which were theirs, and such a life, combined with their low pay and doubtful future, caused officers who had had the advantage of a West Point education to seek their fortunes outside the Service. Most of those who did not resign seem to have died early.
From 1778 to 1837, according to official documents published in the latter year, the United States concluded 324 treaties with the Indians, 38 of them with the Potawatomies. The treaty with the Comanches was the first ever entered into with that nation but it included as well a treaty with the Choctaws, Witchetows, Muscogees, Osages, Senecas, and Quapaws: No less than 191 Indians set their mark to the document, the greatest number of signers in our Indian History up to that time, and probably the greatest number ever recorded. The treaty concluded at Camp Holmes on Aug. 24, 1835 as related by McPhail, guaranteed perpetual peace and friendship between the citizens of the United States and the Indian nations and tribes named. It was an honestly drawn and a fair and generous agreement, providing penalties and indemnities for infractions, but like the others it was not kept inviolate. It was probably not long before War Eagle, Sleeping Wolf, Black Dog, Man-Who-Marries-His-Wife-Twice, and Fox-Without-A-Heart were again on the warpath, in their never ending struggle against the westward march of the settlers, which, except for the brief respite during the Civil War, was not to slacken for more than a generation. After 1880 it was hardly necessary to make any more promises to the Noble Red Man. Nevertheless, the grandchildren of the Indians who remained have richly profited in the end and the black gold that became theirs has perhaps enabled the descendants of Man-Who-Puts-His-Foot-On-The-Scalp, who now ride in a limousine, to gaze in amused tolerance at the family descended from the early pale face settlers who are trying, desperately, to wring a living from the soil.
When I visited Chief Kias of the Cheyennes late in the summer of 1938, he told me: "He-e-wo-ne1, I am getting old and I should like to tell the story of my life to someone so that it might be preserved for my grandchildren. You are a writer. Could you write it down for me?"
So Chief Kias spent two entire afternoons telling me the story of his life. Graceful gestures accompanied his eloquent Cheyenne.
Less than a year later he passed away.
His biography is a history in itself, since his life spanned two eras, that of the wild Indian and that of the civilized Indian. It is a moving narrative of the conquest and subsequent civilization of the Indian, told first-hand by one of the actors in the great drama.
Chief Kias' wide reputation for truthfulness adds to the importance of the story, which sheds new light on several historical events.
Through his honesty, dependability, kindliness, willingness and excellent judgment Kias rose to even greater heights as a peacetime chief than his father as a war-time chief. Probably no Indian has ever won greater respect from whites and Indians alike.
Here is his story, with portions omitted because of lack of space:
I was born the year known to the Cheyennes as that in which the Osages killed six Cheyennes in a battle, a short distance east of Fort Supply, Oklahoma.2 The year is estimated as 1867.
My father was Wolf-Goes-Through-the-Crowd (often incorrectly called Wolf-in-the-Middle), a chief.
My mother was White Horse, a Pawnee, captured by the Cheyennes when she was one and one-half years old.
When a Cheyenne war party came upon the Pawnee camp, only the women were there, the men having gone off to hunt. White Horse was under a tree with her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother was rocking her to sleep. Her mother was scraping a buffalo hide. The Chey-
1My Cheyenne name at that time, given me by Packer, one of the heroes of the Battle of the Washita, was He-e-wo-ne (She-Wolf). Subsequently, however, at a Cheyenne gathering, Kias himself gave me a different name—Ho-ho-na-ma-ets (Big Stone). According to Indian custom, I should have given Kias a present, like, for example, a horse. I still owe the horse.
2This battle is remembered so well because the Cheyennes and the Osages were ordinarily at peace. It came about at the insistence of Spotted Bird, a member of the Clown band of the Cheyennes, who wanted to kill an Osage so he could tie his Clown arrow sword in red. (When the owner of a Clown arrow sword killed an enemy he could tie a red ribbon around the sword.) The Cheyennes killed the Osage, but a battle with other Osages ensued Spotted Bird was one of the Cheyennes who was killed, and his Clown arrow sword had to be thrown away.
ennes shot and killed the grandmother, but the mother escaped. The warriors wanted to kill the child, too, but one young man named Giista said:
"Do not kill the little girl. I shall take her to be my sister. I have no sister."
Later there was a big battle between the Cheyennes and Pawnees.
While the Cheyennes returned, the little girl was the center of attention. She would point to the buffaloes and say something that the Cheyennes couldn't understand.
"She must be talking Pawnee," they laughed.
After they reached the camp Giista gave his little "sister" a horse, one of several that he had captured in a raid against some Mexicans. Since the horse was white, Giista named the girl White Horse Woman, or Woman Who Owns a White Horse.
When White Horse was a growing girl she was told that she was not a Cheyenne, but a captive. She said that she did not care, that she belonged to the Cheyenne tribe.
At the age of 17, White Horse, a beautiful young woman, was much in demand among the young men of the camp. The parents of Chief Bumping Wolf3 succeeded in buying her, according to tribal marriage customs, for their son.
Chief Bumping Wolf was one of the first Cheyennes to go to Washington. He brought back a United States flag to the Cheyennes and explained to them, "This is to protect us from our white enemies. I am told white people have great respect for this flag. I was told to put this flag up before the tepee and if white enemies come we will be safe."
Later4 when the camp was attacked, the Indians found that the flag did not stop the white people. White men on horses surrounded the Indians and shot them one by one. Bumping Wolf was one of the first ones killed. The flag was riddled.
White Horse was hit on the calf of a leg. She rushed toward the flag at first, but fled when the soldiers began firing. She fell down when the bullet struck her leg, but got up and made her way toward Sand creek.
As White Horse ran along Sand creek she passed many dead people, from babies on up. The creek was dry. White Horse even passed a woman bearing a child. Another woman picked up the baby and the mother started running, too. White Horse came across some Cheyennes digging trenches behind sagebrush. One was George Bent and another Wolf Man. She went into the trench and was saved that way. Finally she reached another camp.
This may be too much for public printing, but I want you to know the story as it was told to me by my mother, White Horse. The next day some Cheyennes from this other camp went back to see if anyone was still alive at the place they had left. They found their tepees destroyed and soldiers cutting up the dead people, women and men. All the men's privates were cut off, and the women's privates likewise. Even the women's breasts were cut off. Some white soldiers had long sticks, with men's privates tied at the end of the sticks. The women's privates they had around their hats for hat bands.
Later White Horse married Wolf-Goes-Through-the-Crowd, my father. She had five children. I was the oldest and Buffalo Woman (now Mrs. John Fletcher) the youngest.
I also had an older half-brother, Cloud Chief, to whom I was very attached. When I was seven years old, Cloud Chief would already take me along everywhere he went. Sometimes I would be the smallest boy to go.
One day I went along with Cloud Chief and some other boys to chase some buffaloes. A buffalo nearly ran over me, but Cloud Chief pushed me into some shrubbery in an effort to save me, and another boy shot the buffalo.
Later some of the boys butchered the buffalo, while others watched. A boy butchering the buffalo asked, "Boys, have you ever seen a buffalo butchered before?"
I said "no," so the boy dipped his hands in the buffalo's blood and painted my face with it. That was the customary initiation for a boy seeing a buffalo butchered the first time.
Then the boy gave us each a piece of the buffalo, such as the liver, or a kidney, and we all ate it—raw, as the Indians did then—and went home happy.
That evening I saw the first white man I had ever seen, except at a distance. I was frightened and hid under my mother's blanket. I was frightened because the white man had so much hair on his face. He was a trader. Because he spoke some Cheyenne, the Indians did not harm him or his companions.
However, the Indians would kill all white surveyors they found. The faster they killed them, the more came. As a result, the whites kept driving the Cheyenne band west, up the Canadian River.
Those were sleepless nights. The Cheyennes would leave their horses standing, packed, ready to make a quick getaway at any time. Often we would travel without sleeping. Since I was too young to fight, I would travel with the women.
When we reached the rough country out west, the whites turned back, for there was only soap weed and sagebrush there, and the white man's horses were unable, like the Indian's, to live on weeds. Besides, it was getting colder, and there was no timber for fuel. The Cheyenne women would gather buffalo chips, and bring them to camp on their backs, to use for fuel. The stick of soap weed plants, which burned well, was considered an article of luxury. There was no water in that country, but the Indians would find water in crab holes at the bottom of dry streams or ponds. The women knew where to dig for wells in low places. They would do this work; it was the duty of the men to defend the women and children. When the Indians ran out of meat, they butchered some of their horses.
When our band of "fighting Cheyennes" was in Colorado, some Cheyennes who had remained behind at Fort Reno, where they were receiving rations, came up to meet us there. The Government had sent them to try to induce us to return. They brought along a white flag, which they said was a peace flag. They also brought food, which was divided among the hungry Indians.
The chiefs and sub-chiefs of the "fighting" band decided to return, and the order went out to "be prepared to move." The Indians were dubious that the whites would be honest with them, since in the past they had frequently been duped by the whites, but for the sake of the women and children, who were suffering from hardships, they decided to return.
We returned by way of the Rio Grande, which the Cheyennes called Bitter Water Creek. When we came to a stream we called Big Creek, north of the present town of Hammon, Oklahoma (the stream flows into the Washita), the Indians stopped to talk things over. It was agreed to leave the best horses there, for fear the whites would get them, and take only the old plugs. Unmarried young men remained behind to care for the horses. Incidentally, Charley White Skunk lives at that site now. Tall Sun (father of Dan Tallsun) remained behind to care for the good horses of our family.
With the poor horses, we took the trail (there was only one trail) and when we were ready to camp the next night, we saw wagons coming to meet us. We were at a lake northwest of Darlington, along the Cana, than River. We found the wagons were from the agency at Darlington, and that they contained rations. That was the first time I had eaten hard tack and salted meat (raw bacon). I liked it. It was also the first time I had drunk coffee. The Indians had to roast and grind the coffee before using it.
It was the second time I had seen white men. All the children hung to their mothers' dresses and were afraid. But the crier called out, "Don't be afraid. They have selected a place for us to camp."
When we were ready to camp, the cavalry surrounded us. When the Indians turned their horses loose for the night, the whites herded them away. The Indians put up their white flag when they started camp.
That evening after the tents were up we saw the whites driving cattle near the camp. The whites shot some of the cattle and told the Indians to butcher them. But few of the Indians did. We had never eaten beef before. The meat, when cooked, smelled strong, and made the Indians sick. It tasted funny, had a strong taste. So the cows that the whites killed were left there.
The Indians didn't trust the soldiers, so the men all hid their best guns after dark. Many of the good guns were placed in plum bushes near the tepees.
The next morning the men of the camp were ordered to go to a certain place, in the open, and the women to another place. Soldiers stood around them. The soldiers searched the men, who had to remove their blankets during this process. Knives and other things were taken front beneath the blankets. Then the women were searched for weapons in the same way. Negro and white soldiers searched the tents, and took all the weapons they could find.
The soldiers took my arrows, and I cried. "Mother, they are taking my arrows," I complained, but she could not help me. I was eight years old then.
The soldiers counted all the weapons they got, and that evening hauled them away in wagons. In the morning they would return them for the day.
Then the soldiers again lined up the Indians, the infantry driving them like cattle. Then the cavalry looked them over and the commander asked for certain chiefs whom he pointed out. Bayoneted men took the selected chiefs to log cabins. I would go out with the other boys and see a Negro chaining these men together.
Every morning the groups would meet on a hill and this process would be repeated. One chief, Black Horse, told his companions one day that when it came time for him to be chained again he would escape. So, after a Negro put the chains on his leg he complained that they were too tight, that they hurt him. When the Negro released the chains to loosen
them, Black Horse let out a loud war whoop, scaring the Negro. All the Indians scattered, and the guards, also frightened, did nothing at first. I was making mud horses with some other boys, when I heard shooting. One woman was wounded, and a boy and an old man were killed.
Meanwhile, the Indians were crawling in the brush hunting for the guns and other weapons they had hidden. Most of the other Indians were already gone, having scattered. I was told to hurry and follow the trail. When the Cheyennes were crossing the Canadian, my mother ran back to look for me, heedless of the danger, and took hold of my hand and continued the flight.
After all had crossed the river, we went on a high sand hill on the west side, and from there we could see that the soldiers were eating.
A crier announced: "Everybody come this way. We want to make a trench here. Come and help make a trench." My father was among those helping make the trench.
The commander of the soldiers motioned for the Indians to return. When they refused, the whites shot. So the Indians piled into the trenches and kept firing. Two young Indians wouldn't go in the trenches and they were killed. We heard loud roars, which I later learned were from cannons.
Above the spot where I lay was a cottonwood tree, and I saw a shell hit this tree, scraping off some of the bark.
It rained and the noise gradually stopped. The soldiers left. Soon it was pitch dark.
All the Indians started walking toward the northwest. We walked all night. My mother came across a woman with three children, and saw that she had a terrible struggle fording the river, so my mother took one of the children with her, helping it across the river.
We continued until we came to the camp of Iron Shirt, north of the present town of Watonga. They killed a colt, and it was the first meal we had had in two days.
That day we remained. I was the only boy in the group. Another boy, Robert Burns, whose son, Ed Burns, later married my daughter, had somehow been left behind, but was found and soon joined us.
The next morning someone announced that the superintendent told him it would be all right for us to return; that we would receive rations. So we returned to Darlington.
When we reached Concho, which at that time was thick woods, we remained until after dark, for fear someone might fire on us If we were seen in the open. We found the tepees all lighted when we arrived. The Indians at Darlington were glad when they found that we were back, and criers issued calls for relatives. Cloud Chief's mother (my father had two wives) had the crier call for my party, and when I found her I saw that I had twin half-brothers.
The next morning those who had returned received more rations and clothes and blankets. We remained. It was all right then. The whites no longer took the roll. Those who had been taken prisoners were gone; wee didn't know where. But Black Horse was free.
When the Indians were enrolled at Darlington the old men and the married men were enrolled first, then the boys and unmarried men, then the married women. The girls feared that they would be sent to school like the boys. So before they were to be enrolled they sent for the boys
who were watching the horses near Hammon to come and marry them. All the marriageable girls got married except one. That one was Path, a daughter of Chief Heap-of-Birds. She was one of the "tribal queens." She said she was no coward and was able to go through the same thing her brothers did.
The Indians were given cattle to butcher, and this time we learned to eat the meat. The Indians who had been there all along were well off, but the fighting Cheyennes had lost everything and were poor. Still, they didn't want to leave to hunt buffalo because they were afraid something might happen and they didn't want to leave their families. When the leaves began to turn brown, however, the superintendent told them it would be all right to go hunting. So we left, and had plenty to eat.
When the leaves began to turn green all returned to Darlington. When we arrived we found some of the children were attending school. Some of my playmates came to meet me. One of them was Big Horse. They said they were going to school. I wished that I could go to school.
The next morning I went along to school with the other boys. However, John H. Seger5, who was in charge of the school, knew that I was a new boy. Seger asked me who I was. He said he couldn't accept me until he saw my parents.
The Cheyennes at that time usually refused to give up the children whom they loved most to let them go to school. Many of the children permitted to attend school were orphans or homeless children. So my father, who loved me dearly, refused to let me go to school.
I was nearly nine years old then.
The superintendent gave each of the Indians a tract of land and seeds and told them to make gardens.
Among those given a garden tract was my grandmother, who was a widow. When she planted corn and watermelons she would put a handful of seeds in each hole. She would first soak the seeds in a bowl of water sweetened with sugar.
"The fruit will be sweeter then," she explained.
The corn and melons came up thick, but the corn did not make. The melons did, and they were sweet.
When the leaves turned brown again, the Indians returned to western Oklahoma to hunt.
When the leaves came out again I returned to Darlington with my party. More were going to school then. I wanted to go too, but my brother, Cloud Chief, objected. When they wouldn't let me go to school I became so angry that I ran away. I went swimming with some boys. I don't know how long I stayed in the water, but during this time Cloud Chief was hunting for me. Towards evening he found me.
"Brother, please come back home now," Cloud Chief told me. Cloud Chief had a fine horse, which had a black tail. He called it "Split Ear." He said he would give me Split Ear if I would return home. So I returned.
The widow of Chief Heap-of-Birds said she would send her boy to school in my place. As a result, Alfrich Heap-of-Birds went to school at Carlisle. (The two families were related, thus filling the family quota.)
When I was 18 years old the Government gave the Indians their first wagons. I was among the first to receive a wagon. With these wagons
5Read "Early Days Among the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians," by John H. Seger, edited by Stanley Vestal.
the Indians were to haul freight to Arkansas City, Kansas. Each of them was to haul a certain amount of freight—About six or seven loads—and then the wagon would be his.
There were about one hundred wagons, in which Cheyennes and Arapahoes hauled freight from western Oklahoma to Arkansas City. Most of us were single boys, and we would lie under the moon at night and sing love songs. We had a good time. On the seventh load, I earned my wagon.
Now that we had an easy mode of travel, we were very active in carrying on feasts and ceremonies, such as willow dances.
I was old enough to join a soldier society, and upon my father's advice to join young, so I might become promoted steadily, I did so. I chose the Bow String Soldiers. Later I was promoted at different times until I reached the top.
When I was nineteen years old trouble brewed again. The Government wanted to rent land from the Indians to graze cattle. The Government signed a contract for five years with the Indians, with the provision that if the cowboys bothered the Indians the contract would be terminated. Two years later some of the cowboys killed a Cheyenne boy, and later they killed a Cheyenne man. But Mr. Dyre (then with the agency) made reports about an impending uprising, and the government sent soldiers again. The Cheyennes said, "I guess we will have another fight with the soldiers."
While the white soldiers were there they made soldiers of the Cheyenne and Arapaho boys, enrolling 120 of these as scouts. The commander told the Cheyennes that this was being done so they could protect their land.
I didn't join the scouts because my father told me the boys who joined would look silly; would get their hair cut and would adopt white man's ways.
Among my relatives those who became scouts were Cloud Chief, Tall Sun, Alfrich Heap-of-Birds, Homer Heap-of-Birds and Howling Water.
The agency superintendent, whom the Cheyennes called Short Pompadour, from the way he combed his hair, or Big Head, called the chiefs together. My father was among those assembled. The superintendent told the chiefs that the government was buying land from Indians, and advised the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to pick their best land allotments to keep. He instructed them to select lands along one of three rivers, the Washita, the Canadian or the North Canadian.
On my father's suggestion, Seger took a group of boys to western Oklahoma to select allotments for those who had chosen the Washita. I was in the group, as were Big Medicine, Bad Teeth and Standing Bull. When we reached Colony we saw cowboy cabins there. The next morning we reached the Washita. At a place east of the present town of Arapaho we came to a Kiowa sun dance. Seger told us to let the Arapahoes select allotments below the sun dance place, and the Cheyennes would select sites north of it.
The leaves were just coming out when the delegates of families went to select their allotments. I remained with the surveyors all summer, to assist them, while other Indians came and went, mostly to pick their allotments.
When the leaves began to turn yellow I returned to Darlington. At Darlington the crier announced that all those moving to the Washita would leave soon. There, he said, they would always make their home.
So the Washita Cheyennes left for their new home, traveling in groups, with friends and relatives grouped together.
We stayed all night at Colony, where Seger unloaded food for us. He gave us rations, and cattle to butcher. When we reached the Washita, all the leaves already were yellow. The first stop was at Oliver Barber's place. We had a fine time, with lots of fat wild turkey to shoot.
When the leaves began to come out again all the Indians went to their allotments to prepare the ground for planting for the first time.
My two mothers and my father watched me dig post holes. I had posts, but no wire, so I left my job and went deer hunting on Bear Creek. There I chanced to run across rolls of wire, apparently left by cowboys. I told Mr. Seger about it. He told me to use what I wanted of it, then he gave the rest to other Indians. All the Indians wanted it.
Seger always called me Kias, which became my nickname. It comes from Ka-es, meaning Short Nose, the name of a Comanche chief who was my father's friend.
My real name is Bear Shakes Plants. I was given this name by Iron Crow, my father's father, who gave all his grandchildren "bear names," like Bear Louse, Bear Shield, Black Bear, etc.
Iron Crow had been taught songs by the bears. In winter he would have brush in his tepee and would sing bear songs. Then he would imitate the bear in shaking a plant, and growl like a bear. He would shake the plant with his left hand, since bears are "left-handed." I know these songs. I shall sing one.
But back to the Washita. The following spring Seger sent some men to the Cheyennes to teach us how to farm. I was twenty years old then, and it was my first year of farming. Oxen were used in tilling the soil.
The Cheyennes would put on their best clothes to plow. I remember seeing Yellow Bull plow while wearing his best beaded clothes and his best war bonnet. He wore fancy beaded leggings, and his best red and black blanket. He thought it was a special occasion and he should dress up for it. He looked beautiful when he went into the field, but you should have seen his clothes when he returned. They were a sight, all buried in dust!
Seger took some pigs to the Indians, giving each one a male and a female pig. Seger and I had become good friends, and I was always the first to get everything. I tried to follow Seger's instructions (and I wore work clothes to do my farming.)
After four years the superintendent whom we called "Big Head" came to look over the Indians. He saw that we had many hogs and cows, and told us that he was glad we were making progress that way. He told us not to waste our lands, but to keep them a lifetime.
"Don't sell all your allotments," he warned. "If you want to sell, the government will pay your own price."
Before long all the Indians received word to camp at Darlington, and that is when the trouble started. At a big meeting under cottonwood trees near Darlington, sale of the lands was discussed.
Most of the Arapahoes were willing to sell, but the Cheyennes, having been told of their rights by the superintendent, hesitated. Everybody seemed to be talking at once, and it sounded like a swarm of bees. Some wanted to sell, others didn't. Finally the Indians agreed to sell for $1.25 an acre.
George Bent, who spoke good English, was asked to select seven men, whom the whites called "the seven chiefs." Later the Government men went to Wichita, and sent for the "seven chiefs."
In Wichita, George Bent, and my friend Tyler (Moe-ha-es, or Little Magpie) were the Cheyenne interpreters and Jesse Bent, a nephew of George, was the Arapaho Interpreter. Tyler told me about it afterwards.
The Government men showed the "seven chiefs" some papers which already were drawn up. But first the Indians ought to have a treat, the Government men suggested. So they brought out some whiskey.
Cloud Chief (not my brother) was the only one of the "seven chiefs" who remained sober. He refused to take a drink. George Bent and Tyler "passed out," leaving the Cheyennes without an interpreter. Cloud Chief asked Jesse Bent, who spoke some Cheyenne, whether the papers said "$1.25." Jesse Bent said, "yes." Cloud Chief asked him whether he was sure. Jesse Bent looked again and said, "yes."
Later it developed that Cloud Chief and the others had signed for 33½ cents an acre. When Cloud Chief told Jesse about it, Jesse replied, "I was too drunk. I just saw black marks, but I thought it was $1.25." The Government men had said that it was $1.25, "the very price you are asking."
That summer the men who had bought the land brought the money for it, carrying the money in bags. They paid the "seven chiefs" first, then the others. All were wealthy then.
I was twenty-four years old at that time. Seger promised me a house whenever I would marry. This two-room house still stands, on my present homesite.
In those days I practically lived on horseback. I herded horses and cattle on the site where the city of Clinton now stands. At that time there were no houses there—only wild prairies, the Washita River, and tepees here and there, which with their fires at night were a beautiful sight. There were wild turkey, quail and coyotes.
My friend Tyler asked me, "Don't you think you had better get married before you have to be married the white man's way?"
I agreed, so Tyler talked to my father, and they picked out a girl for me. It was Sage Woman. My parents went and bought the girl for me with gifts, according to the Cheyenne custom.
Sage Woman and I lived at my present place. The new house which Seger gave me was the first, except for log cabins, in Custer County. I also still have an old plow that was given me at that time.
We had a son, whom we named Roe, after a missionary. Later Roe died. When Roe was nine years old, our daughter, Birdie, was born. She and her husband, Ed Burns, now live with me.
In 1935 I was made a chief of the Cheyenne tribe. Earlier I had been elected a sub-chief. Forty-four years ago I was also elected an Arapaho chief, a post that I still hold.
My father had been a man, in the sense that Cheyennes use that word—he was a man who believed in honesty, right and good deeds. He brought up Cloud Chief and me in the way that he was brought up. He often talked to us, telling us how to live, and told us to remember his words when he was gone. "These words I tell you now will not come to you today or tomorrow, but some day you will remember what I tell you now," he would say.
And, sure enough, what he told me still comes to me now in my old age. My father gave me good advice. I often wonder if my father ever heard of the Bible. Many of his words sound like the words of the Bible. "Be friendly, love everybody, love young and old, treat your enemies well, do not treat those badly who treat you badly," he used to tell me.
I am now living a restful life. I have joined the church. I no longer have the worries that I used to have. I am getting old, and I have been through a whole lot. I have tried to lead a good, straight life, and have tried to be honest.
The attention of the readers of The Chronicles of Oklahoma is called to an excellent article entitled "Illinois and Her Indians" which appeared in Papers in Illinois History and Transactions for the year 1939. Dr. Grant Foreman, the eminent authority on Indian history delivered this address at the Illinois Day Meeting of the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield, December 4, 1939.