Transcribed by Sean Furniss
THE PEORIA VILLAGE.
The elevated ground or hill that is now a part of Paola rests on a granite formation form which issues a spring of excellent water. This spring attracted the Peoria tribe of Indians soon after their arrival in the territory, influencing them, no doubt, to set up their wigwams in its vicinity. The hill lay in a vast undulating plain through which many creeks and rivulets flowed to the Osage, now called the Marais des Cygnes River.
The Miamis, the Weas, the Piankeshaws and the Ottawas as also the Pottawatomies settled down within a radius of twenty or thirty miles around the Peoria Village. The head chief of the allied tribes resided here and, finally, the Osage River Indian Agency established its headquarters at this point. It was a marked spot from the beginning. The whole section now known as Miami County was an ideal Indian hunting ground. The forests along the creeks and rivers were well stocked with game; wild animals were in abundance and the yearly migration of the buffalo, deer and elk actually covered the whole face of nature. they came in droves to browse along the prairies, moving from North to South and again from South to North like the robins in our day.
This was the Indian's hunting season, the harvest time, so to speak, when he went forth to reap his reward with as much zest as our farmers now enter their harvest fields. Over and above all this, the Government Agencies were ever present to supply his modest needs and the Missionaries labored with zeal and much self-sacrifice to elevate him, to civilize him and make him self-sustaining if at all possible.
As the Pottawatomie band of Indians were encamped only eight or nine miles from the Peoria and Wea tribes, it is presumed, of course, that Father Hoecken visited them during 1838. As the record goes, however, we find that Father Aelen, S.J.,* was the first to preach the gospel to the Peorias and neighboring tribes in May, 1839; he continued to visit them from Sugar Creek until 1842. It is safe to surmise that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered up on a spot within the confines of present Paola, during that same May in 1839 and the place was near the spring around which the wigwams were set up. Father DeCoen, S.J., visited the Peorias and the Weas on April 18, 1845, and remained until the 23rd.
*--Father Aelen was born at Osterhaut in Holland, April 20, 1812. Entered the Society of Jesus at Florissant, Mo., Feb. 5, 1835. Was treasurer and prefect of studies at St. Louis University.
Arrived at the Jesuit Pottawatomie Mission of Sugar Creek (near the site of Centerville, Linn Co., Kansas), in April, 1839. Was for awhile Superior of this Mission in succession to Father C. Hoecken. Visited Independence, Westport, etc. The Diocesan archives in St. Louis have a letter from Father Aelen to Bishop Rosati, in which the Father petitions that the old log church of Kansas City (present day cathedral site) be given the name of St. Francis Regis. Father Aelen was recalled from Sugar Creek to St. Louis in October, 1842. He was subsequently pastor of St. Francis Xavier's Church in St. Louis, and Director of a Jesuit preparatory school--Purcell Mansion--in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1848 he retired from active work in America and is supposed to have died in his native land.
The Council of Chiefs decide that the time had come for their people to be baptized. Father DeCoen instructed them until October, 1846, and Father Hoecken baptized the whole tribe in January, 1847. "He remained ten days," says the Diary, "by which time he had baptized them all and blessed their marriages according to the rite of the Catholic Church."
Soon afterwards, namely, in March, 1847, Father Hoecken returned from Sugar Creek to prepare a class of 40 Peoria Indians for their First Holy Communion, which took place on Trinity Sunday of that year. This was probably his last visit to Miami County as preparations were being made for the exodus to the new location on the Kansas or Kaw River during that and the following year.
About this time Fathers Truyens and Van Mierlo came from Florissant to the Miami Village. "How many people now living in Miami County," says Major Ben J. Simpson, writing in a local paper, "know the fact that in the year 1846 the brave Catholic Fathers, who all through our history appear to be the pioneers in religious work among the Indians, established a Mission for the Miamis and the neighboring tribes of Peorias, Weas, Piankeshaws and Kaskaskias, and how Fathers Truyens and Van Mierlo with two lay brothers, labored for years to convert them to Christianity, but were finally recalled to St. Louis? And, then, how the devoted fathers at the Osage Mission on the Neosho river, eighty miles away, crossed the trackless and uninhabited prairie and visited the Miami Mission almost every month, and by this means preserved the Catholic faith among them; and then Fathers Schacht and Favre of Lawrence took charge of them until Father Wattron was located at Paola."
Around the Mission buildings and Agency-house at Miami Village on the east bank of the Marais des Cygnes river, ten miles southeast of Paola, in 1854, when the territory was organized, were grouped a dozen log hoses. The Osage River Agency proper was located on the hill immediately north and adjoining the town site of Paola and around it were grouped some big houses. An Indian Chapel existed at the Peoria Village (Paola) in 1846 and was dedicated to God under the patronage of St. Francis Xavier; its location is supposed to have been at or near the famous old spring in the northwest part of town.
Here resided the chief, Baptiste Peoria. He was born in 1800, near Kaskaskia, Ill. He did not receive a school education but by the natural force of his intellect acquired a number of Indian languages and also English and French. He was for many years interpreter and for some time chief of the confederated tribes in Miami County, Kansas. he came to Kansas in 1829 and settled near what is now Paola. When the tribes removed to the Indian Territory he went with them and died there in 1874. The tribe moved to the Oklahoma Indian Territory in the fall of 1868.
"The story of the life of Baptiste Peoria," says B. J. Sheridan, "is threaded with the history of Miami County. He was an Indian, a diamond in the rough. No man of an early day caught a higher inspiration of coming events than Peoria, who was generally called by his first name, pronounced 'Batees.' Although he couldn't write his name, yet he was well informed and possessed a broad education. It was in deference to him that the legislature of Kansas, when it changed the name of Lykins County, gave it the tribal name of Miami. Indeed, it was his suggestion and ever after his great heart beat in unison with the chorus, 'The Rose of Miami.'
"And how accurately he foresaw and foretold the succession in the rapid run of events connected with the early civilization of this favorite spot, that became the scene of drama, tragedy and comedy! Here began the pious work of the Fathers, and here followed, in bloody succession, the sorrow and deaths of internecine ware. Blood was as water and money as leaves, so lightly were human life and property regarded. After the war there was enacted the great drama of Kansas politics. Here Jim Lane, Ingalls, Wagstaff, and Simpson took the stage and briefly played their parts. With the comedies of county-seat struggles between Paola and Osawatomie, the rise and fall of parties, the clash of newspapers, and the wild speculations incident to the advent of the railway, came the ridiculous and the interesting entertainments of the day. And out of it all came finally, the better side of human life."
This result was, in a measure, due to the influence of the pioneer women of Kansas. The home, the school and the church were the means they employed to establish law and order in the new Territory. In those times nearly every district or county had noted women whose influence went far beyond the commonwealth, or whose ability helped to develop the great natural resources of the New Empire. Miami County can boast of many such women; one in particular deserves mention here; her name was Mary Ann Isaacs, the wife of the Chief of the Allied Tribes--Baptiste Peoria. She was an Indian woman of French extraction who came to Kansas in 1844 as the wife of Christian Dagnett. After the death of her first husband she married Baptiste Peoria and henceforth became a person of great importance in this community.
In other times she might be called the "Queen of the Tribes," but to the new people she had a more beautiful name, they called her "Mother Batees," and they spoke the words with an affection and respect that was sincere.
Mrs. Peoria was much attached to Paola and refused to leave it when the tribe was transferred to the Indian Territory. She took a personal interest in the famous County seat dispute and used her influence to bring the honor to Paola. It is owing to her, as much as any one else, that the County Seat is located at this point and not at Osawatomie.
Through her influence, Baptiste Peoria donated the lands on which the Catholic Church now stands and also helped to build the little structure which was afterwards known as the "Old Stone Church."
Many are still living who knew "Mother Batees" and the testimony of all is that she was a woman of unusual mental power--self poised, attractive and refined. She had a charm of manner and a personal magnetism that even the stranger soon experienced.
She was as good as she was kind, and as sincere in her friendship as she was rich in simple natural goodness.
It is to be regretted that the story of her life has not been written; it would make a tragic tale of unusual interest and, all the more, because it would be a stranger narrative than fiction could invent.
"Mother Batees" was here long before the white man came and she was still here when there was not a red Indian left in all the land. She beheld the Civilized Savagery of our territorial days and, finally, lived to see Kansas take its place amongst the great and rich states of the Union. In forty years (1844-1883) she witnessed one of the greatest transformations in all history and was, at the time of her death, the last living witness of the early Indian days in Miami County. She could still recall the exodus of her people from their ancient hunting grounds beyond the Mississippi to the prairies of the west and the sadness of it all was too great to be expressed in the language of the conqueror; in her own tongue, however, she could tell the tale but, alas! there was none to listen, no one to understand.
"Mother Batees" lived in a cottage on the northeast corner of Piankeshaw and East Streets at the time of her death which took place on March 4, 1883. Her funeral was held from Holy Trinity Church in a most solemn manner and her remains were interred beside those of her first husband, Christian Dagnett, in the Cashman Cemetery, some three and a half miles southeast of Louisburg.
The people of Paola mourned the death of this the last representative of her race in these parts, and it is safe to say that no other person was held in higher regard, by all who knew her, than this Indian woman who learned to love use before we understood or appreciated her true greatness. The picture we have of "Mother Batees" does not do her justice; the camera failed to catch the kindliness and beauty of her countenance according to those who knew her and lived as neighbors to her for many years. .
MIAMI COUNTY'S FIRST CATHOLIC INDIAN SETTLERS
This list was written by the Jesuit Missionaries in 1846
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