TRUMAN A. WARREN.
I will begin the history of White Earth with a letter from Major J.D. Bassett, who was Indian agent for the Mississippi Band of Chippewas at the time of their removal to White Earth in 1868:
J.W. Wakefield, now of Aitkin, Minn., who did the first plowing in Becker County, says:
The William Thompson referred to took a claim the next year two or three miles south of where Frazee now stands and lived there for several years. The place is now owned and occupied by Thomas Keyes. His wife referred to afterwards became the wife of C. H. Whipple and lived in Detroit for several years and died there on the 13th day of March, 1888.
Mr. Lee is that father of Hon. Wm. E. Lee, of Long Prairie. Mr. Samuel Lee died at Long Prairie October 22nd, 1906.
Nathan Butler, an old U.S. government surveyor, who was with the first party of Indians when they went through to White Earth in the month of June 1868, says:
In a letter to W.W. McLeod, Mr. Butler says:
Mr. Butler is now living at Minneapolis, but was back here in July 1906, at the age of 74 years, making a survey of some land in the woods a few miles south of Frazee, about as nimble as ever.
MRS. JULIA A. SPEARS.
REV. JOHN JOHNSON.
MRS. JOHN JOHNSON.
by MRS. JULIA A. SPEARS
In 1867 my home was at the old Chippewa Agency near Crow Wing, Minnesota. A widow, with three children, I was employed as government day teacher, and remember very well the events which occurred at that time. J. B. Bassett was Indian agent, and the same year went to Washington with the head chief Hole-in-the-day, and other chiefs of the Mississippi band of Chippewas, to make a treaty with the government in the exchange of their old reservation for a new one which was to be selected for them in northern Minnesota. It was a year after the treaty, before all the Indians could be persuaded to leave their old home, and when at last they were willing and ready to move, Hole-in-the-day became dissatisfied and unruly. He demanded much for himself as head chief which was refused by the government. He then began to oppose the removal and made much trouble by trying to prevent the other chiefs and braves from starting, telling them to wait until next spring as he would not be ready until then; that he was going to Washington again to demand of the government that improvements be made at the new reservation before removal, including a saw-mill, houses for the Indians, and a large house for himself like the one that was destroyed by fire during the Indian raid in 1862. He told them that when all these improvements were made he would be ready to go, and they and the Agency would all move together. He urged them to wait, but they would not listen to him and were determined to go. The agent had received orders from the department to have the Indians removed to their new home early that spring, and they were all ready to start. Hole-in-the-day was very angry when he found that he could not prevent them from moving, and threatened to kill the first to go. Some of his braves supported him in his stand. Finally, after much trouble, they were ready to start on the 4th day of June, 1868.
T. A. Warren was appointed by the government to superintend the transfer of the Indians to their new reservation at White Earth. He collected together men, women and children, about two hundred in all, at the old agency. I saw them when they started, with a long train of ox teams, Mr. Warren in a light buggy with his wife and child. My friend, Reverend Fred Smith, now rector of Saint Columbia church at White Earth, accompanied them. He was then a very young man. He has given me some information of the first two years of the settlement at White Earth, including the following narrative of the removal written by himself:
Mr Paul Beaulieu, at the request of the Indians, was their first farmer. He came from Crow Wing with his family and four white men and they arrived a short time in advance of the Indians and settled at a place four miles from White Earth Lake, now known as the "Old Trading Post," This was their first village here.
James Warren, government sawyer and carpenter, and George Van Valkenberg, government blacksmith, came with Paul Beaulieu on one of his trips.
Samuel Lee and a party of men left Crow Wing about the middle of May with the machinery for a sawmill which he afterwards built at White Earth Lake and he had hard time getting through with the mill. The government farm was located, farmhouse and stables built, as also a dwelling house for T. A. Warren and several small houses for the Indians - all log buildings. There were no gardens the first year, as they arrived too late in the season, but there was plenty of wild rice in the lakes, and ducks, geese and prairie chickens were also plentiful. The lakes were filled with many varieties of fish, including catfish, pickerel, muskallonge, black and rock bass, suckers, red-horse and wall-eyed pike. Sturgeon were also caught in White Earth Lake. The first two years deer were quite plentiful, and also elk, moose, bear, muskrats and rabbits. Nay-bon-ash-kung, one of the chiefs, who died in 1873, killed the first elk. The Indians did not hunt much the first year, those who were able to work being hired by the government to help build their own houses. In the fall of the same year (1868) Rev. Mr. John Johnson (En-meg-ah-bowh) sent word he was coming to White Earth with his family, bringing with him a few Indians from Mille Lacs. He requested a party of Indians to meet him at Otter Tail Lake as it was not safe for a small party to travel alone through the wilderness, the Sioux being feared at that time. That winter a little log church was built. Rev. Johnson was sent by Bishop Whipple to convert and civilize the Indians, in which work he was very successful. He was an eloquent preacher and very popular with the Indians. In September, 1868, Julius Brown, (Mamuckkawange) the first male child, was born. Jane Parker, daughter of Bahbewob (Peter Parker), was the first girl born.
The first death occurred September 1, 1868, Gin-gion-cumig-oke, mother-in-law of T. A. Warren. Ah-zhe-day-gi-shig and wife were the first couple married, on January 12, 1869, in Saint Columbo church, where they were also baptized.
In the fall of 1868, the Indians were paid their first annuity money, ten dollars per head, at White Earth.
R. P. Fairbanks, who was a big boy at this time, says he remembers well that Joseph Wakefield came here before the Indians arrived and built a small store at the old trading post. The name of the members of the firm were Joseph Wakefield and Fred Peake. His father, Robert Fairbanks ran the store for them. This was the first store at White Earth in recent years.
The 14th day of June of each year has always been observed by the people and Indians as the anniversary of the day when the first Indians arrived at White Earth. They named their new home Gah-wah-bah-bi-gon-i-kah, or White Earth, from the white clay found under the black soil.
On April 1, 1869, Mr. Bassett resigned his office as Indian Agent, and an army officer was then appointed by the government to fill the vacancy, during whose term two annuity payments were made to the Indians.
During 1869 most of the Indians that had remained at the old agency at Crow Wing and Gull Lake moved to White Earth, as did also a number of mixed-blood families from Crow Wing and Leech Lake. In that year a Roman Catholic priest, Father Tomazine, arrived and his first church was a small building built of logs and located about three miles south of the agency.
On the morning of Sept. 9, 1870, I started with my three children from Little Falls, Minnesota, in company with my sister, Mrs. James Warren, and family of seven children, on our journey to White Earth. Mr. La Chance and Mr. Mouchamp were hired with their two two-horse teams and one ox team. We went to Crow Wing and took the Leech Lake road as far as Twenty-four-mile Creek, so named from being 24 miles from Leech Lake, where a road had just been completed by the government across the country to White Earth. Here we met an Indian with an ox team who had been sent by my brother, Truman, to guide us to White Earth. Mr. LaChance went back to Little Falls, while Mr. Mouchamp continued with us. We traveled very slowly as the teams were heavily loaded. It was a desolate country, but we saw large numbers of ducks, geese, prairie chickens and partridges. My sister and I walked nearly the entire distance. When we reached Pine Point we met Rev. Johnson with his family, on their way to visit Bishop Whipple, and taking his two daughters to Saint Mary's Hall, Faribault, where they were to attend school. We camped together that night and had a pleasant visit with them. Mr. Johnson informed us that the roads were in a very bad condition and that we were yet one and a half day's journey from White Earth, which proved true. Ten days after leaving Little Falls we arrived at our new home, where we were warmly welcomed by relatives and friends. We were much pleased with the country, the fruitful gardens and the tall oak trees which were so green and beautiful, there having been no frost. I was much surprised to see the great improvement in my Indian friends whom I had known at the "Old Agency" and who had come with the first removal. When they left there they were heathens and wore blankets, long hair, feathers, and painted their faces, and now when they came to shake hands and welcome me they were dressed like white men, with short hair and unpainted faces. This was the result of the good work of their missionary, who had converted most of these Indians. They were now trying to live Christian lives and had taken their lands near each other. The government had houses built for them and they all appeared contented and happy. I never heard any of them express regret at having come to White Earth, their only complaint being the lack of schools for their children. Mr. John Cook had been appointed by the government to be their farmer and overseer, having arrived with his family from Leech Lake early in the spring of 1870, where he had filled a similar position for a number of years. I was very glad to renew their acquaintance, as I had known them at Leech Lake where we first met. Mrs. Cook was the first white woman who came to White Earth. They had three beautiful children, two boys and one girl. They were good Christian people, Mr. Cook being an honest, upright man, and the Indians had great respect for him. For his home he had selected another place near a lake two miles from the village, where a new farm-house and other government buildings were being erected. When completed in the fall he moved there with his family, and kindly offered me the house he had vacated for a day school and residence, which I gladly accepted. There were about forty children in attendance and I taught all winter, it being the first school on the reservation.
In the fall of 1870 there was a new blacksmith appointed, a Mr. Cochran who had been there only a few weeks. Early one morning he went out in a boat to shoot ducks, and in reaching over the side of the boat to pick up a duck, which he had killed, the boat upset and before assistance could reach him he was drowned. His body was not recovered until the following spring. He was the first white man buried at White Earth.
The removals, including ourselves, were: Alfred Warren and family, Madeline Warren, Tyler Warren and Mrs. Delia Winters. These were all the children of W.W. Warren the historian. They have since all passed away except Madeline, who is now Mrs. George Uran. There were also Mr. Tim. Moore and wife and mother-in-law, Mrs. Fountain, Mr. Frank M. Campbell, wife and four children, Mr. Robert Fairbanks, wife, four sons and one daughter, and Mr. Frank Roy, wife and family, all from Crow Wing. Besides these there were two traders, George Fairbanks and Wm. McArthur, the last named coming several years later. I remember the Indians secured quantities of furs in the fall and early spring, such as bear, timber wolves, coyotes, red fox, mink, lynx, wild-cat, coon, muskrat, skunk, weasel, marten, fisher, otter and badger. The four last mentioned animals are now very rare.
In 1870 Mr. Bardwell was appointed Indian agent, with head-quarters at Leech Lake, and held the office for one year, another annuity being paid during his term. In that year Bishop Whipple came to visit the Indians. He held services and confirmed a large number of Indians in the little log church, on this his first visit to White Earth. All the Indians loved and respected their good Bishop and he was their best friend. With his influence with the Department at Washington he did much to help them when in trouble and want during the grasshopper plague.
In the spring of 1871 E.P. Smith was appointed Indian agent with headquarters at White Earth, bringing his own employees, most of them coming from Ripon, Wisconsin. This being the first agency at White Earth, their names are here given: Mr. Chittenden, unmarried, head clerk and overseer; Mrs. Minnie Cook, niece of E.P. Smith, assistant clerk; Mr. M.V. Nichols, farmer; Mr. Bardwell, blacksmith; Mr. A.K. Murray, engineer in charge of the government sawmill at White Earth Lake; Mr. J.E. Haven, carpenter; Dr. Bodle, physician. All had families. Dr. Bodle and Mr. Haven were employed for a number of years at White Earth. Several government houses for employees were built, including the Indian boarding school, the only school building ready for use that fall. The first superintendent and teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Armour, from Iowa. There was room for only fifty pupils, and twenty-five boys and as many girls were taken, none under fifteen years of age. The pupils were taught to do all the work in the boarding school.
Eastern churchmen assisted the Episcopal mission and a new church and parsonage were built. The new church was consecrated by Bishop Whipple in August, 1872, when he visited White Earth accompanied by quite a party of the clergy and laity.
In the spring of 1871, John Cook and family moved from White Earth to their new home and farm near Audubon, where all the members of this unfortunate family were cruelly murdered a year afterwards by three Chippewa Indians, Bobolink and Boanece being the principal actors in the tragedy. They were both arrested soon after the crime and taken to prison, but Boanece was released for want of evidence. He was quite ill when he returned home, but recovered partially and was able to walk about, always with a loaded gun as if he expected to be retaken. In February, 1873, Mr. James Whitehead came to White Earth to arrest him again. The Indians became very much excited and quickly held a council and all agreed to stop the arrest. They were determined not to allow Mr. Whitehead to take Boanece from the reservation, although knowing him to be guilty. The fear of an Indian outbreak was their reason for resisting the arrest. The Leech Lake Pillagers had several times sent word to the White Earth Indians that if they permitted him to be taken off the reservation to prison again, where he would be hung by the whites, there would be trouble and they would commence killing the white people. Boanece and his wife were related to some of the worst Indians at Bear Island, Leech Lake. This was the last attempt made to arrest him, and he died soon after at his home on Rice River. The west half of White Earth Reservation was surveyed by George P. Stuntz and Shaw of Duluth and St. Paul, in the summer of 1871. During the year 1873 all the government buildings were completed, including cooking, sewing, knitting, carpet-weaving, etc. Miss Hattie Cook, niece of E.P. Smith, the agent, was the matron in charge.
In the spring of 1873 a young Indian woman was murdered in a sugar camp. She was one of two sisters who had been left to watch the camp during the night. An Indian assaulted them and killed the elder one with a hatchet after she had tried to defend herself. The younger sister escaped and reported the tragedy. The murderer attempted to run away, but was caught and taken to Fort Ripley, where he was held a prisoner for some months in the guard house, the only punishment he received for the crime. He is still living.
One night during the same year an Indian was shot while returning home from the village and his body found by the roadside the next morning. He was supposed to have been murdered by a Leech Lake Indian to avenge the killing of a relative.
In 1873, Rev. J.A. Gilfillan, a young Episcopal clergyman, came to White Earth to assist Rev. Mr. Johnson in mission work. He very soon learned to speak the Ojibwa language, and with his kindly ways, won the love and respect of the Indians, who found in him a sincere friend. He instructed a class of young Indian men and prepared them to become clergymen and deacons for the different churches and missions, which through his influence were erected for the Chippewa Indians of Minnesota. In this work he was very successful. Most of his pupils are still living, having charge of the churches and missions, and are preaching the gospel to their own people.
E.P. Smith completed his term as agent in 1872. During the short time he was Indian agent he made a great many improvements at White Earth. He was a Christian man and one of the best agents ever on the reservation. Mr. Douglas, from Minneapolis, succeeded him, and remained in office one year.
During 1873 some of the prominent mixed-blood families and traders from Crow Wing, Minnesota, moved to White Earth. They included Mr. Clement Beaulieu, wife, four sons and one daughter; Albert Fairbanks and family; William Fairbanks and family; George Donald and family. A son of Mr. Scandrett, and grandson of Bishop Whipple, was the first white child born at White Earth, in the fall of 1874.