The History of Our Cradle Land
by Thomas H. Kinsella

Transcribed by Sean Furniss

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Of the Pottawatomie Mission at Sugar Creek.
[Part 2 of 2.]


1845. In the beginning of January, 1845, the Indians were working for Father Verreydt, splitting logs and hauling lumber to inclose a new cemetery. January 10, Rev. Father X. de Coen proceeded to the Ottawa Reservation, to establish a mission there and make arrangements for saying Mass and administering the Sacraments once a month. January 20, Fort Scott, Rev. F. Verreydt made and excursion to Fort Scott, to see about starting a new mission there and find a place where the surrounding Catholics could meet for divine worship. He took this occasion to talk with Colonel E. Choteau and the agent of the Osages about the proposed buildings at Osage. We owe it to kind Providence that the hunting this winter has been more successful than in any other year since the Indians came to this territory. Indeed, it is a mark of the special protection of God, without which the poor people must have suffered the greatest hardship, for no provisions are now scarce and very dear.

February. As a measure of relief, a grant of about 3,000 bushels of corn was freely offered by the American government to these Pottawatomies, to make up for the loss of their crops by the floods of the last year; and the same was divided among them in the beginning of this month. February 5. The Indians are busy preparing lumber for the new church. We presented them with a barrel of pork and 200 pounds of flour. February 7, Father de Coen went out to his mission at the Osage Indians to go and mark out the grounds and settle the plans for the school buildings. A joiner was hired by the Indian agent to oversee the work and finish the structure.

March 10, Father C. Hoecken visited the settlement called Deep Water, Missouri, to give the Germans living around the opportunity to receive the Sacraments. He made a collection for the poor. At the same time Father X. de Coen was away on his monthly excursion to the Ottawas, and this time he took in his rounds the tribes of the Chippewas and Peorias.

March 20, Father Verreydt departed for Westport and Independence, taking Brother Van Borght as companion on the journey. March 23. Some of the Pottawatomies have set out on a hunting expedition, in order to provide a supple of game for the national feast, which it is customary to have on Easter Sunday. We contributed flour and coffee for the festival. The agent, Colonel A. J. Vaughn, partook of the dinner.

The alms collected for the poor and the destitute widows and orphans amounted to $45, which was promptly distributed, partly among the Peorias and partly here, according to the wishes of the donors.

April. The agent, Colonel A. J. Vaughn has obtained from the government a stretch of arable land for our Indians--as much as 200 ox teams can work in a day, some 200 acres in extent--to encourage them to plow and till their fields. April 4. Father de Coen went on his usual mission to the Ottawas, to administer the Sacraments.

April 14, the chief of the Chippewas paid us a visit with his family. He asked to have a mission established among the Chippewas, near the stream called Osage River.

April 18, Father de Coen set out with two Indian interpreters to visit the Peorias and Weas, with the purpose of establishing missionary stations among those tribes if he found them well disposed. He visited the Catholics on his way and gave them the Sacraments.


The chiefs of the above tribes met in council to hear the proposal of the Father. At the end of his speech they consulted together and agreed that he might baptize their children. They asked him to return within two weeks and explain the Catholic religion, assuring him that they were read to embrace the teaching and practice of the Catholic prayer, and that they would bring their children to that prayer.

Father de Coen returned home the 23rd of the month, 1845. In the month of May the same Father de Coen went to the Chippewa reservation, at the invitation of the chief of that tribe. These Chippewas held a council with the Ottawas, and came to the conclusion that they ought all to embrace the same religion since the Pottawatomies, Ottawas and Chippewas were brothers, and, consequently, ought to have the same sentiments and be of one mind.

May 6. Today two of the Peoria tribe came to the mission, being sent by the chief to make inquiries about the Catholic religion. We satisfied them and dismissed them the following day, loaded with presents of meal and lard. May 8, Rev. F. X. de Coen took a journey to the German settlement at Deepwater to say Mass and give the sacraments to the Catholics.


The books in the Pottawatomie dialect, which had been sent to Cincinnati and St. Louis to be printed, were brought to the mission, May 21, and were at once distributed among the Indians. The same day we received a trunk full of medicines, worth about fifty dollars, a present from the Indian superintendent.


May 23. Rev. Father Provincial J. O. Van de Velde arrived on his annual visitation, at the close of which he took with him Brother Van der Borght, promising to send another lay-brother in his place. The Superioress of the Sacred Heart religious also withdrew Mother C. Thiefry and Madam Xavier, and left on the Mission a Sister of the name of Mary.

May 25. Corpus Christi was celebrated by the usual solemn procession in honor of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, performed with great order and piety. Many of the Peoria village were in attendance.


June. Early in this month we received a letter from the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, informing us that the American government promised to appropriate $500 annually for the support of the Academy of the Ladies of the Sacred Heart. June 11, Rev. Father Verreydt proceeded to the Osage reservation to attend to the mission and make arrangements about the schools which the government intended to establish there.

July. In the first week of July, I accompanied the Indians on a hunting expedition. After twenty-two days I came home. July 12, Father Provincial kept his promise by sending us Brother Regan to be cook, and Carissime J. Diels, a novice, to teach the boys. July 13, Estanikwot, the Chippewa chief, came himself to ask for a catechist to instruct his people in religion.


Towards the end of July the Indians held a council, and unanimously agreed on a course of action in case any one would bring liquor into the village or sell it to others.

August 11. For some time all the Indians have been hard at work on the new church; all are busy--some digging the foundations, others getting rock and carrying materials.

In the latter part of August, Father C. Hoecken took his departure for St. Louis to solicit help for the widows and orphans. He returned with the alms on the 23rd of October.


In September and October almost all the Indians fell sick, and many deaths occurred. Among the children, especially, the mortality was great.

Mr. J. B. Sarpy contributed $120 to the building of the new church, instead of the shingles which he had promised to furnish. Meanwhile, Rev. Father Verreydt attended the missions at Westport and Independence, Mo., visiting the Catholic families.


December 17, Right Rev. Bishop Barron arrived at the Mission. He stayed a fortnight, and administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to eighty Indians during Christmas week. The festival of Christmas was observed with great devotion and rejoicing. Besides the beautiful ceremonies at Mass, a crib was made this year to give the Indians a lively representation of the birth of the Divine Infant in the stable at Bethlehem.


A. D. 1846. Some Peoria Indians were at the Mission to witness the festivities of Christmas. On their return, Father Christian Hoecken repaired with them to the Peoria reservation, twenty-five miles distant, to instruct and prepare them for baptism. He remained there ten days, by which time he had baptized them all and blessed their marriages according to the rite of the Holy Catholic Church. (January 6, 1847.)


January 11. The Sacred Heart ladies received $500 from the civil government. This is the allowance granted to their school, to be paid annually, dating from July 1, 1845.

February. Rev. Father Hoecken set out with an Indian guide, in the beginning of February, to seek along Kansas river the lands apportioned to the Sacs Indians, and to try what he could for the salvation of their souls.

March. Mr. M. Giraud gave forty bushels of corn, commonly called maize, for the indigent widows and orphans.

March 16, Rev. Father Verreydt made a journey to Deepwater, to visit the German families and give them the sacraments.

April. At the request of Bishop Barron, the same Father went to the town of Westport, in April, to hear the confession of the French Catholics residing there, that they might make their Easter Communion. About the same time Father F. de Coen made an excursion to the Peoria reservation. At the close of the month Father Verreydt again visited the Germans at Deepwater.


April 25. On St. Mark's day, according to the good old Catholic custom, the usual procession walked around the fields, chanting the Litany of the Saints, to implore God to bless the fruits of the soil and preserve the crops. This reminds us of the kindness of the government in distributing corn and potatoes to our Indians in time for sowing and planting.


May. In obedience to the wishes of the Superior of the Mission, Father C. Hoecken undertook a journey to the place called Council Bluffs, Iowa, to examine what prospect there was to do something for those Indians. While there, this Father baptized fifty infants and a squaw who was dying. He returned to the mission on June 15.


June 17. On the way he was joined by delegates from the American government, who were commissioned to purchase the lands of the Pottawatomies. These commissioners succeed in making terms for the purchase of the Pottawatomie reservation at Sugar Creek. In the month of June Father F. de Coen paid a visit to the Osage reservation to see if the school buildings in process of construction there were finished and ready for use.

The annual procession of the Blessed Sacrament took place on the Sunday within the octave of Corpus Christi. It was conducted will all possible splendor.

Thirty dollars received in alms has been bestowed on the widows and orphans. Mr. Hagebuck, a German Catholic from Deepwater, has donated some articles of linen to the church besides some clothes for the poor.


July. In the month of July the project of a mission was started among the soldiers of Fort Scott, many of whom had been brought up in the Catholic religion. For this purpose Father F. de Coen ventured to introduce himself at the Fort, on July 12. He preached and broke the Bread of Eternal Life to them; and he left them the following day rejoicing.


July 22. On the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, the Pottawatomies met again to devise more stringent measures against intoxicating liquors. For this purpose they invited the agent, Col. Vaughn, to attend, and , at his suggestion, it was determined that anyone thereafter caught bringing liquor into the mission should be locked up in the guard-house at Fort Scott.

August. Father C. J. Hoecken made an excursion to the reservation of the Sacs, Piankichas and Miamis, to try to convert those tribes. He found the Sacs absent on a hunting expedition, but met with a kind reception from the other Indians, who asked him to come back after a few weeks. He baptized their children, and promised to return.

August 17. Father F. X. de Coen went to the Osages to baptize their infants.


In the month of August another council was held at the Mission, and with unanimous consent three laws were passed to suppress drunkenness, libertinism and card-playing. These laws were committed to writing and promulgated. Soon after, the tribe came together and built a prison to punish the evildoers.

Before the end of August I returned to the camp of the Piankichas, celebrated Mass there and baptized their infants. All these Indians expressed a desire to become Catholics. Some time later I made a tour of the principal cities of the United States, to obtain assistance from the charitable and to awaken interest in the condition of these Indian tribes, and I took along the manuscript for two books to be printed in the Indian dialects.

1846--September. On my journey through the United States, I (Father Hoecken) gave to press two books, one in the Pottawatomie dialect and the other in the vernacular of the Peorias, Piankichas and other tribes. In October, Rev. Francis Xavier de Coen was recalled and left the Mission to go to St. Louis. About the same time Rev. John Schoenmakers was sent out here to visit the Sugar Creek Mission and the new mission among the Osage Indians.


Pasidji, the chief of the Kickapoos, came to the Mission in November, earnestly asking to be baptized. The Fathers of the Mission were all absent; but Rev. J. Benoit happened to be here and he received the chief into the Church on November 13, giving him the name of Joseph. The new convert was 60 years of age. His fervent piety was a source of edification to all, but especially to those who had known him before.

In December, Father Verreydt proceeded to Independence, Mo., to meet Father Peter J. de Smet, who was expected to land there on his return from the Rocky Mountains.

1847--January. Rev. Verreydt attended the Peoria mission, baptizing an adult and many infants. Early in February, Rev. C. Hoecken returned from his tour through the States, bringing to the Mission the alms which he had collected from the cities for the Pottawatomies and other Indian tribes in the then Missouri Territory.


March 1. Father Hoecken went out on the mission to the Peoria village to instruct the tribe for First Communion, taking a band of the Piankicha nation, who, with their chief, Wakochinga, had come to see him. These also he instructed in the faith, regenerated them all in the waters of Baptism, and blessed their unions with the sacred bond of matrimony.


March 15. A letter was received from the Superintendent of Indian Affairs at St. Louis, in reference to establishing a mission among the adjoining tribe of the Miamis. On Shrove Tuesday, we have our Indians a national holiday, to cheer their spirits and encourage them to begin the fast of Lent, on Ash Wednesday.

April. The feast of Easter Sunday was observed with great devotion and solemnity. the Pottawatomies held their national festivities, to which they invited many from neighboring tribes, who had come for religious services. In the latter part of April, Rev. C. J. Hoecken made an excursion to the Piankicha reservation and remained ten days, instructing them in the commandments of God. When they were sufficiently instructed, he baptized about sixty of them.


After their conversion, the Piankichas began to till the soil; and the Father excited with their diligence by distributing seed to sow in their fields. In the month of May, we hired a carpenter to repair for the Peorias their mill, which had long lain broken.


May. Rev. Fr. Verreydt went to Deepwater to preach to the Germans, and afford the settlers an opportunity to gain the indulgence and privileges of the Jubilee. We dedicated the month of May to the ever Blessed Virgin Mary, singing or reciting every day the Litany of Loretto.

May 18. A novena was begun in honor of St. Francis Hieronymo for the welfare of the Mission, and every morning Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was given during the novena. Toward the close of the month Rev. Fr. Hoecken visited the Peoria village, to prepare them to make the Jubilee.


After suitable instructions, about forty of them approached to receive the Holy Eucharist for the first time, on Trinity Sunday.

June. A solemn novena was proclaimed to be made for the general welfare of the Mission, in honor of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, accompanied with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every day of the octave.


June 6. A great concourse of Indians from the neighboring reservations of the Peorias, Miamis, Piankichas, etc., collected at the Mission to take part in the public procession of Corpus Christi. They behaved with edifying devotion, and the day was orderly throughout.


June 15. On the vigil of St. John Francis Regis, a public fast was announced in our church to obtain relief in the distressful condition of the Mission. To this end special prayers were offered up, and good works recommended to be performed on that day, and the people were urged to go to confession and communion.

July 1. Very Rev. James Oliver Van de Velde, our Provincial, arrived at the Mission and stayed with us for several days.


The Indians living at Pottawatomie Creek came to hold a council with our Indians at Sugar Creek in the latter end of July. They decreed unanimously, that: Whoever thereafter should bring into these lands intoxicating liquor, should forfeit for his first offense half his annual pay from the government, and for the second offense should forfeit all his money. Likewise that whoever would kill another, should forfeit his own life.


August. Rev. Father Verreydt departed for St. Louis in the interest of the Mission, to obtain supplies and beg aid for the Indians. We welcomed him home again on September 4, and greeted rev. Charles Truyens, who came with him, being sent by the Father Provincial to assist us in our missions. On the feast of the Pure Heart of the B. V. Mary, the Indians joined devoutly in the customary procession, which was marshaled and managed with much pomp and dignity in honor of the Mother of God.

September 17. The mission to the Peorias was attended to by Father Truyens. After saying mass, and administering sacraments to the faithful, he came home on September 20.


An official letter received at this date. It makes a precise statement on the part of the civil government, that, in the payment for the Pottawatomie purchase, "no compensation can be allowed for the Catholic church and the priests' residence and improvements." The reason assigned is, "that no mention was made of them in the Secretary's report, when the land was sold by the Indians." It concludes with the recommendation that we compound for our loss with the Indians. The Indians--to their credit--made no trouble about it.

In September, Father C. Hoecken made his annual retreat at the Osage reservation. He returned to the Mission on October 2.

Father Verreydt furnished the Peorias, who were quite destitute with articles of clothing which he had bought at St. Louis. He also gave them corn for planting in Autumn. This month, our Indians received payment from the civil government; and the offered a certain sum out of their portions for a new church to be built in the territory to which they are going to move near Kansas river.

In the beginning of October, the time of their annual payment, the Indians contributed to the erection of a church and a house for the priests, by the river called Kansas, seventeen hundred dollars.

Rev. C. Truyens set out for the Peoria mission, and then passed on to the Piankicha reservation. Father Verreydt, the Superior of the mission, has decided that henceforth these tribes, the Peorias and Piankichas, shall be visited every month on the first Sunday.


1847--November 1. Rev. Father Verreydt took a party of Indians to explore the country along the Kansas river, where the government had assigned a new reservation for the Pottawatomies, and to select a suitable and central locality for the new mission.

Beginning in October, Father C. Truyens directed a spiritual retreat for the Religious of the Sacred Heart at Sugar Creek. Rev. Father Bax, from the town called Neosho, paid us a visit the first week of November. He took away with him articles donated to his mission by Father Provincial and Mother Galitzin, besides presents of altar linen from the Ladies of the Sacred Heart.

N.B.--Father Hoecken's diary here comes to a sudden close, and there is a gap in the annals of the Mission up to September, 1848, when Father Maurice Gailland, S.J., continues the narrative in the new reservation at St. Mary's, Pottawatomie County, Kansas. A study of the baptismal record seems to reveal that the Indians began to move into their new lands--"50 miles square on the Kaw river immediately west of the present city Topeka"--in the fall of 1847. Father Hoecken is registered for baptisms performed in that locality in December, 1847, and thereafter. The other Fathers, with the Religious of the Sacred Heart, remained at Sugar Creek until September, 1848. The decrease in the number of baptisms shows how the Indians scattered in 1848. The baptisms for '46, '47, '48 were 178, 142 and 48 respectively. The baptisms for 10 years (1838-1848) were 1,430 out which 550 were adults.


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