Transcribed from History of Labette County, Kansas and its Representative Citizens, ed. & comp. by Hon. Nelson Case. Pub. by Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. 1901

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By "An act to organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas," approved May 30, 1854, Congress organized the territory now forming the State of Kansas into a Territory, and provided for it a government consisting of executive, legislative and judicial departments. By Sec. 27, writs of error were to be allowed from the Supreme Court of the Territory to the Supreme Court of the United States "in all cases involving title to slaves," without regard to the amount in controversy; and provision was made for enforcing the Fugitive Slave act of 1850.

In July, 1855, the first territorial legislature met, and enacted what were popularly known as the "Bogus Laws." They were almost a transcript of the laws of Missouri. Some recognition seems to have been given them in one or two of the succeeding sessions of the legislature, by way of amendment, and yet when the people had obtained control of matters and had taken them from the hands of the "border ruffians," no one ever paid any attention to the provisions of these statutes, when they conflicted with their convictions of right; and, on February 11, 1859, the whole body of the enactmnts[sic] of 1855 were repealed by a single sentence. The most objectionable feature of these old laws was the one relating to slavery.

By chapter 151 of this enactment, slavery was recognized as an existing institution, and severe penalties were enforced for any interference therewith. By this law it was made a felony to deny the right of property in slaves; or to print or circulate any book, pamphlet or paper denying such right. But this chapter was repealed on February 9, 1858.

The only other provision particularly affecting the people of this county was the creation of the county of Dorn, embracing what is now Neosho and Labette counties.

On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted into the Union under the Wyandotte Constitution. Under this constitution and the laws made by authority thereof most of us have lived since our residence in this county.


Whether or not the Osages were the autochthones of this county, I leave for the antiquarians to determine, but for the purpose of this work I shall not go back of their settlement here to inquire who, if anyone, preceded them to this country. The Government's intercourse with this tribe seems to have commenced in 1808, when on November 10, 1808, a treaty was concluded at Fort Clark, on the Missouri River, by the terms of which the United States received the tribe into its fellowship and under its protection, and the Osages ceded to the United States all their territory lying east of a line running south from Fort Clark to the Arkansas River. The next important treaty with this tribe was made June 2, 1825, at St. Louis. By the provisions of this treaty the Osages relinquished to the Government all their land lying south of the Kansas River and north and west of the Red River, east of a line drawn south from the sources of the Kansas through Rock Saline, excepting a strip 50 miles wide extending from a line 25 miles west of the Missouri State line to the west line of the ceded territory. The southern part of Allen, together with Neosho and Labette counties, formed the territory on the east line of this reservation, which extended west nearly across the State.

Soon after the conclusion of this treaty, the Osages moved to Kansas, and began settling along the Neosho and Verdigris rivers; these settlements commenced as early as 1827. Prior to this their home had been farther east, and this had formed their hunting-ground. Here they were when our people commenced settling this county, in 1865.


The northeast corner of this reservation was established by Major Angus Langham, in 1827, and the east and south lines as far west as the Arkansas River were surveyed and established by him that year. It was not until 1836 that the north line was definitely surveyed and established by John C. McCoy.


About 1826 the Presbyterians established a school on the left bank of the Marais des Cygnes, near the present site of Pappinsville, Bates county, Missouri, called Harmony Mission. A year later they established another school, at Saline, in the Cherokee Nation. These schools did not prosper, and after they were broken up the Presbyterians erected a large house on the east bank of Four-Mile Creek, in Neosho county, just above its junction with the Neosho. Father John Schoenmaker started the Catholic Mission in the spring of 1847.


Parties who have long been acquainted with the Osages tell me that to entitle a party to the position of civil chief, he had to have a mother of a chief bearing family. The Beaver family, if not the only, was the principal one from whom the women came whose children were entitled to obtain the position of civil chief. There was not only a principal civil chief, but also the chiefs who led the bands in war; to this latter class Chetopa belonged. It is said he could not become a civil chief, not having a mother who produced a candidate for that position; but he was the principal war chief, and when on the war-path out-ranked the civil chief. He was a great friend of Dr. Lisle. It was for him that the town of Chetopa was named. White Hair, who was the principal chief on the arrival of the first white settlers, was a man of great force and authority. He was born in Neosho county, about 1834, and died of consumption, at his camp on the Verdigris, December 24, 1869.


The position of the chief's town, as that of the towns of the others, varied from time to time. Their improvements were not such as to make it impossible to change location when circumstances seemed to demand it. On a map of the Osage country, made in 1836 by John C. McCoy, who surveyed and ran the north line of the reservation, "White Hair Town" was located on the west side of the Neosho River, about one-fourth of the way from the north to the south boundary of the reservation. A copy of this map, which was furnished to the St. Louis office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is now in our State Historical Society. Subsequently we find White Hair Town at a point farther down the river, but probably all the time it was somewhere in Neosho county. At the foot of the bluff north and east of Oswego, as well as at other points within a few miles of Oswego, are still to be found unmistakable evidences of the sites of their towns, which must have been inhabited for very many years. Dr. W. S. Newlon has made something of a study of the subject of their villages, implements, etc.


About 1837 there was a bloody encounter between a band of Cherokees under the command of Captain Rogers, who lived at the salt works on Grand River, and who was an uncle of Lewis Rogers, of Chetopa, and the Little Town band of Osages, in a grove a few miles south of Oswego. About 100 of the Osages, embracing nearly all of the band, were killed. White Hair, who was then a small boy, and who afterward became the principal chief, was away from the band at the time, and was thus spared. The Osages were all drunk, and were butchered - men, women and children alike. This butchery was in revenge for an expedition that they had made down in the Cherokee country a short time before. Dr. Lisle has told me he got this information direct from White Hair himself, and also the same from a man by the name of Etter, who was with Captain Rogers on the Cherokee side.

It is said that in 1862 or 1863 a band of Missouri rebels on their way to the western plains or mountains, were surprised by a band of Osages in what is now Osage township in this county; the rebels were surrounded by the Indians, and all but two were killed. In regard to this matter I have no information except that which I get from the old settlers, who in turn claim to have gotten it from the Indians, or someone with them.


Rev. Isaac McCoy in his history of Baptist Indian Missions, on page 358, says that the Osages lived on the Missouri in two settlements, and were known among Indians and those familiar with Indian affairs, as upper settlement or people, and lower settlement or people; and remarks that the whites, who were ignorant of their language, fancied that one was called "tall people" and the other "short people." He says that this was the origin of the designation Great and Little Osages. Those designated the "upper people," which the whites took to mean tall people, being the Great Osages, and those designated "lower people," supposed by the whites to mean short people, the Little Osages. He says: "In most of our treaties with the Osages they have been represented as composed of two distinct bands, called Great and Little Osages; no such distinction in reality exists, or ever did exist. The supposition originated in the ignorance and awkwardness of traders aiong them." This account was given in 1828, and seems to furnish a plausible theory of the origin of this designation; but we must remember that these terms were used in our first treaty with them, in 1808.


I have not sufficient acquaintance with Indian matters to be able to attempt anything like a description of the Osages, or to assign to them the character to which they are probably entitled, but the facts of their history, as we gather them from the reports of their doings, lead me to suppose that they were not of that savage and barbarous disposition which some have attributed to them, and which characterizes so many of the Indian tribes. I should rather say of them that they were expert cattle and horse thieves, and that among them a person's life was less in danger than his jewelry and clothing.


The mode of burial among the Osages was to place the corpse in a sitting posture on the ground, at most only in a slight excavation, and pile around it a heap of stones for its protection. When the early settlers came here many such graves were seen in which the skeleton was remaining intact, and in some instances the flesh scarcely yet having entirely disappeared. There were a number of these burial-places located in this county - one in Neosho township, on the county line, one or more where Oswego now is, and others farther west.


The treaty with this tribe in which our people are especially interested was concluded at Canville trading-post, nearly on the site, but a short distance east of the present station of Shaw, between Erie and Chanute, on the 29th of September, 1865. M. W. Reynolds was clerk of the commission which negotiated this treaty. When it reached the Senate its ratification with certain amendments was made on June 26, 1866. These amendments were accepted by the Indians on September 21, 1866, and the treaty as thus amended was proclaimed by the President and became operative January 21, 1867.

By the first article of this treaty a strip 30 miles in width on the east end of their lands was sold to the United States. This was afterwards known as the Osage Ceded Lands, and is principally embraced in the counties of Neosho and Labette.

By the second article of the treaty the Osages ceded to the United States in trust a strip 20 miles in width off the north side of the remainder of their lands. This was known as the Osage Trust Lands. The remaining portion of their lands was thereafter known as the Osage Diminished Reservation.

On May 27, 1868, another treaty was concluded with the Osages, on Drum Creek, which was commonly known as the Sturgis treaty, because of the controlling spirit of William Sturgis in securing its negotiation. By the terms of this treaty the entire tract included in said Diminished Reservation, estimated to contain 8,000,000 acres, was sold to the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston R. R. Co., but supposed to be largely for the benefit of Mr. Sturgis, who had secured the treaty, at the agreed price of $1,600,000, or about 20 cents an acre.

By the time this treaty reached the Senate, the settlers were aroused, and at once a determined fight was made against its ratification. Great credit is due to Congressman Clark for the active measures by him inaugurated in the House to bring to light the objectionable features of the treaty. Its ratification was never secured.

By an act approved July 15, 1870, the President was directed to remove the Osage Indians from the State of Kansas to the Indian Territory as soon as they would agree thereto.

About the middle of September following, a council with the Indians was held on Drum Creek, and arrangements agreed on for their final removal from the State. This removal took place within the following few months, since which time their home has been in the Territory just south of the State line.


John Mathews was a native, some say of Virginia and others of Kentucky, and, at a very early day - usually given at about 1840, but the exact date is not known - he came among the Osages as a trader, and became their blacksmith. His name does not appear among those on the Government roll of blacksmiths for the Osages in 1843, and if he had come among them at that time he had probably not secured Government employment. His name appears among the Government blacksmiths for the Senecas and Shawnees in 1839, so it seems certain that between that time and 1843he came among the Osages, He settled near the edge of the bluff in the east part of Oswego, where he maintained a trading-post and erected several buildings. These buildings stood partly on what is now block 61, and extended north across Fourth avenue and on to block 60. They were used by him as a residence, a place where travelers were entertained, for his store and warehouse, and for the care of his stock. The remains of the ruins of some of these buildings may still he seen in the street about 125 feet east of the northeast corner of the Park, on block 52. He got water from the spring at the intersection of Fourth avenue and Union street. Mathews was a very popular man among the Indians. He had for his wife a full-blooded Osage, and raised a large family of children. He had an extensive trade, and is said to have accumulated a large property, all of which was destroyed or captured at the time of his death. He had some fine stock, and kept a race-course just south of his: residence. At the outbreak of the war he joined his interests with the Southern Confederacy, became a colonel in the Rebel army, and generally has the reputation of being engaged in the sacking of Humboldt, in August, 1861; but Dr. Lisle, who knew him well, says he was not with the force at the time of the occurrence of that event, and did not arrive there until after the raid of the place, and was in no wise[sic] responsible for it. After this the United States forces became very much exasperated at the conduct of the Rebels; in the sacking of Humboldt, and determined to take speedy revenge. Mathews, being credited with having conducted the raid, was sought after, and those in pursuit determined upon his capture or death, and a party was organized to proceed south and take him.

Col. W. A. Johnson, of Garnett, and Dr. George Lisle, of Chetopa, have furnished me the information on which the following account is based.

One detachment came down the river from Humboldt, and another from Fort Lincoln in Bourbon county, the two detachments expecting to meet near the mouth of Lightning Creek. This force was composed of some enlisted men and many civilians who had not been mustered into the service, numbering perhaps two or three hundred, only a part of whom arrived at the place where Mathews was found. They were all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Blunt. Among the civilians who were in the company were Preston B. Plumb, of Emporia, and W. A. Johnson, of Garnett. They marched down on the east side of the Neosho River, crossed the river at Rocky Ford, and came up and surrounded the house owned by Wm. Blythe on the west side of the Neosho, and just above the State line, being in what is now Cherokee county. The house was then occupied by Lewis Rogers. It was now just daylight; Mathews had come from his home the day before, stopping at Dr. Lisle's in the evening to get something to eat, and then, on his way south, arrived at the home of Rogers after dark. The scouts had seen him go there, and the troops were reasonably certain that they had found the man for whom they were hunting. A demand was made that Mathews be delivered to them. The house was surrounded by corn and high weeds; Mathews came out of the back door, partially dressed, with a double-barreled shotgun in his hand; he was at once riddled with bullets; no one knew whose shot did the work. This was in the latter part of September, 1861; corn was then just getting ripe enough for use. That day a part of the troops returned to Chetopa settlement and arrested all the men whom they found living there at the time, and took them to Mathews' place, or Little Town, where that evening they were tried by court-martial. Among those arrested were James Bowles, George Ewers, Mr. White, Joel Combs, and Dr. George Lisle. It was ascertained that Combs was a government detective, and had been working up evidence to implicate some of the residents as sympathizers with the Rebel cause. Colonel Blunt presided at the trial, and Captain Brooks acted as clerk. After a full investigation, and all the testimony had been introduced, nothing was found implicating any of the parties arrested, and they were all discharged. They were allowed to remain under Government protection over night, and the next day they started for their homes under an escort to protect them outside of the limits, where they were likely to be molested by any of the troops. During the night one of the soldiers exchanged an old brokendown horse for Dr. Lisle's animal, which was in much better condition, and it took a peremptory order from Colonel Blunt to induce him to deliver to the Doctor his horse when he was ready to start home. Before this party was out of sight the Mathews premises were set on fire and all destroyed.

Mathews had his burying-ground on the high land at the intersection of Union street and First avenue. A number of graves are still visible. Until within a few years there stood at the head of one of these graves a common sandstone with the following inscription cut thereon: "A. E. Mathes. Departed this life April 10, A. D. 1857. Aged 11 years, 7 months, 27 days." It will be noticed that in the name, as cut on this stone, there is: no w. Several years ago the stone was broken down, and is now in the possession of the County Historical Society. Some of the writing is partially effaced.

The early white settlers continued to use this burying-ground for a year or two after the settlement commenced in 1865.

The following letter from the son of John Mathews is of interest, not only because of the information it contains, but also because coming from one of the first children born to a white parent on the present site of Oswego. I wrote to the uncle referred to in the letter, but could get no reply from him:

"PAWHUSKA, I. T., Sept. 30, 1891
"Nelson Case, Esq., Oswego, Kansas-

DEAR SIR: I will try and give you all the information I can in regard to the old place. It was called Little Town as far back as I can recollect. I was born in the year 1848. The stream west of town was named by the Osages; they called it En-gru-scah-op-pa, which means some kind of animal; then the French called it La Bette, which means the same thing. I do not know how large the farm was, but from the best information I can gather there were 100 acres on the place where the town now stands, and if my memory serves me right, there were 30 acres in the bottom.

"I do not know what white men settled near our place, but I can find out from my sister who lives 30 miles west from here. From the best information I can find out , the place was settled by a man by the name of Augustos Chautau, in the year 1843, who sold it to my father, who started a trading-post there in the year 1849.

"I have an uncle by the name of Allen Matthews, who lives in Neosho, Jasper county, Missouri, who can give you more information than I can if you will write to him.

"Hoping this will help you in your work,
I remain,



The early surveyors and Indian agents made a number of trips through this country, several of which we have official accounts of. In Mr. McCoy's history of Baptist Indian Missions, at page 355, he says: "On the 17th [of November, 1828] we reached the Osage Agency, gave notice of our arrival to the Osages, and desired them to meet us in council. On the 20th we pitched our tents near the village of the chief called White Hair." And further along he says that on November 26, 1828, their exploring party camped on the Arkansas at the mouth of the Verdigris River. Their journey in all probability took them through or near the present site of Oswego and Chetopa. After making some surveys in the Territory, the party returned, and on December 14th were again at White Hair's village. He again speaks of crossing the Neosho into the principal village of the Osages on June 30, on his way to Fort Gibson to establish certain boundaries between Indian tribes.