Friday, December 12, 2014

Dr. Kate: Angel on Snowshoes

The Hollywood screenwriter, Adele Commandini saw an episode of TV's "This Is Your Life" which moved her to research and write a full-length biography. Dr. Kate: Angel on Snowshoes was a nationwide bestseller in 1956.
In 2009 the Wisconsin Historical Society Press released another book by the same title for a juvenile audience. I recommend the current and much abbreviated Dr. Kate: Angel on Snowshoes especially to schoolchildren, but also to any interested adults. I have thought very highly of Dr. Kate since I visited the Dr. Kate Pelham Newcomb Museum in Woodruff a few years ago. And it seems the author, Rebecca Hogue Wojahn, understands what was so special about Dr. Kate: she simply wanted to help people.

There are, of course, other remarkable things about Dr. Kate. Wojahn manages not only to include them but she also puts them in context for today's young readers.

It was about 1890. Kate was just four years old and her mother died in childbirth. That and similar tragedies led to an interest in a career in medicine (and the specialty of obstetrics), which, of course, was discouraged back then because women weren't supposed to become doctors.  Kate Pelham was well into her 20's by the time her father realized that a medical career would make his daughter happy. From that point on he supported her in that goal. When Kate had two marriage proposals to choose from, her father also told her to pick the one that would make her happy, even if he was a mechanic instead of a doctor.

The man that Kate married, Bill Newcomb, was supportive of Kate's career. However, it wasn't long before Bill started coughing. Bill had previously worked at a defense plant where he breathed metal particles that remained in his lungs. Living in Detroit was making Bill's condition worse. He moved to Wisconsin's northwoods and Kate soon followed.  Just making a go of it away from civilization was tough and when Kate was about to give birth the child didn't make it. She knew it was the doctor's fault - he had given her a strong sedative. This sad event appears to have been such a turn-off that Kate had no intention of resuming her medical career.

In 1928, Kate gave birth to Tommy. When Tommy's fingers were "crushed" by a car door a few years later, Kate's expertise in first aid was discovered by the local physician. He angrily told Kate that her talent was being wasted and at a later date he called and told her that a woman near her house would die if Kate didn't go to her. So Kate Newcomb was pushed back into her old career.

From that point on, as the back cover of Dr. Kate states, she went to her patients "by car, by snowmobile, by canoe and on snowshoes. [And she] never sent a bill," often accepting things like canned vegetables or firewood as payment. I imagine that is enough material for a book right there. But the story isn't over. Kate's love for the people of the northwoods was reciprocated by the community. When Dr. Kate made it known that the area needed a hospital, the people went to work raising money for it - and that fundraising effort might just be the best part of the whole book.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Algonkian Church History: Top Seven Posts of 2014

[caption id="attachment_9175" align="aligncenter" width="300"]From the back cover of Proud and Determined. From the back cover of Proud and Determined.[/caption]

My most popular blogposts this year may have been created prior to this year and prior to the creation of

Based on the number of hits received thus far this year, seven posts stood out as fan favorites:

1. Bury My Heart at the Monastery

2. A Map of the Stockbridge Mohicans' "Trail of Tears"

3. The Many Trails Symbol and a pdf about the Folk Art of Wisconsin Indians

4. What Was the American Indian Population in 1492?

5. Little Turtle, William Wells, and "Mad" Anthony Wayne

6. Still There! The Lenape and Nanticoke Indians of New Jersey

7. Joseph Smith and the Legend of the Golden Bible


Friday, December 5, 2014

Who Was Jean Baptiste Richardville?

Miami Indian Cheif Richardville, Fort Wayne, indiana

Jean Baptiste Richardville's father was a French trader. His mother, Tacumwah, aka Mary Louise, was a Miami Indian. Tacumwah's brother Pacanne was a chief and they may have also been related to Little Turtle. Born in present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1761, Richardville benefitted from a Catholic education and knowledge of trade thanks to his father and also benefitted from his mother's high status in her tribe as well as her control of trade at the portage that connected the Maumee and Wabash rivers.

Anyway, Jean Baptiste Richardville started life out as more of a Euro-American and as he got older and became chief of his mother's people, he was more of an Indian, known by the Miami name of Pechewa, the Wild Cat.

It wasn't until 1816 that Richardville succeeded his uncle as tribal chief. Historian Donald Gaff (150) describes what his life was like until then.
While many faced a harsh existence, Richardville wore fine European clothing and dined with what would have been the high society of the frontier. One contemporary described days filled with drinking, card playing, and concerts. If that were not European enough, Richardville joined a newly formed society named "Most Light Honorable Society of Monks," known later as "Friars of St. Andrew." He also threw parties at his house , including one for Mardi Gras. All of these activities enhanced his business dealings with Europeans and Americans.

And he was the wealthiest Indian in America. Inside his house there was French wallpaper, silk curtains, chandeliers and imported carpets. Outside there was a wharf on the St. Mary's River, as well as a barn and a racetrack (Gaff, 151).

Despite all of his wealth, the younger Richardville was still a Miami and he represented the tribe at treaties. In fact, that is where his great wealth came from. Did Richardville skim more of the wealth from his negotiations off the top than the Miami intended? Indian agent John Tipton observed that "the utmost confidence is reposed in him [by the tribe]." Instead of resenting their half-white brother for his success,  the Miami respected his oratorical skill and his ability to maneuver in negotiations with the United States (Gaff, 151).

When he died in 1841, Richardville was the richest man in Indiana. His negotiations allowed Miami descendants to remain in Indiana on privately owned land for many years after treaties had officially removed the tribe.



Gaff, Donald H.  "Three Men from Three Rivers: Navigating between Native and American Identity in the Old Northwest Territory." Printed in The Boundaries between Us, Daniel P. Barr, editor. Kent State University Press, 2006: Kent, Ohio.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Migrations of Native Christian Communities Recorded by W. DeLoss Love

[caption id="attachment_9101" align="aligncenter" width="300"]The red dot is the location of the Brothertown Reservation in the 1830's. The red dot is the location of the Brothertown Reservation in the 1830's.[/caption]

W. DeLoss Love's 1899 book, Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England, is, of course more than just a biography. It is still one of the best places to go for the history of the Brothertown Indians. Plus, chapter XIII is called "Indian Friends at Stockbridge." It bears repeating here that the Brothertown Indians had started their settlement in New York State prior to the Revolutionary War, but, finding that location to be unsafe, they retreated to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts for six years. According to Love (page 243), it was the friendships formed during those years that resulted in the Stockbridge Mohicans becoming neighbors with the Brothertown and  Oneida Indians in New York State starting in the 1780's. (As you may know, the move for the Stockbridges was necessary, because they had lost their land - much of it in fraudulent ways.)

Love correctly notes that some of the Stockbridge Mohicans moved to Indiana in 1818.
At this time they began to sell their lands, and this continued until they were all established again beside their friends, the Brothertown Indians, on the east side of Winnebago Lake, in Wisconsin (page 245).

Chapter XXVII, The Last Remove, discusses that in much more detail. On pages 316-317 Love describes the New York Indians' attempted move to Indiana's White River.
It had been determined at Brothertown in 1812 to begin a settlement at White River. [War] deterred them, and many of their number enlisted in the United States service. Some never returned. Finally, when peace had been restored, the town voted, January 13, 1817, to choose five men to go there "in pursuit of a tract of land heretofore sought for by their delegates sent there in the year 1809, and to get a title to it." The Stockbridge tribe also were preparing to remove. Two families went in 1817 and more the next season. On the twenty-fourth of July, 1818, Rev. John Sergeant assembled the tribe in anticipation of this pilgrimage. the old church then dismissed and formed into a new body eleven of their number, for whom he transcribed the Confession of Faith and Covenant in English, adding in their own language a Covenant especially adapted to their circumstances. On the fifteenth of August following, some having gone and more being then ready to depart, another meeting was held, at which the chief, Hendrick Aupaumut, in a "large speech" presented to them from the old church a copy of Scott's Bible "to read on Lord's Days and at other religious meetings." So they said farewell and were gone to return no more.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Love's Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England

occomThe back cover of my copy of Samson Occom and the Christian Indians of New England is, of course, a pretty good introduction or teaser to what is on the inside. In bold letters it says "W. DeLoss Love's biography of Samson Occom is a work of its time."

It was reprinted in 2000 with an introduction by historian Margaret Connell Szasz. In the 100+ years between it's original publication and the reprint, nobody managed to write a better biography of Occom. Szasz's introduction, however, was needed because it brings needed perspective to today's readers - and she correctly pointed out the book's shortcomings vis-à-vis the reality that it was written by a white man in the 1890's.

In regards to Occom himself, Szasz notes that he was part of a tradition of Native Americans who converted to Christianity and then visited Britain. The first Indian to do so being Pocahontas in 1616. But Occom took it another step farther. Not only was he a Christian, but he was an educated and ordained Presbyterian minister. He raised over 12,000 pounds in a speaking tour. Only to see it go towards establishing a white institution (Dartmouth College) instead of the Indian school he intended the money to go to.

Use this link to read other posts about Samson Occom.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Dorothy Ripley's Mission to the New York Indians (part 2)

[caption id="attachment_9025" align="alignright" width="231"]Independent missionary Dorothy Ripley self-published her journal as "The Bank of Faith and Works United." Independent missionary Dorothy Ripley self-published her journal as "The Bank of Faith and Works United."[/caption]

As we saw in part 1, Englishwoman Dorothy Ripley's 1805 mission to the New York Indians included preaching to the Stockbridge Mohicans and the Oneidas.

After being put up in the home of a white Quaker, Ms. Ripley went on to minister to the Brothertown Indians. She found these Christian Indians - like Christian whites of that time - to be divided on the question of who can be saved.
I went to Brothertown to collect the Indians there together, in the school-house.... Those Indians were Baptists, divided into two classes, one part believed in election, and the other in free salvation. Where I was, they had refused their minister, because they said "They would not worship such a cruel God as he served, as He only took care of a part of his creatures," and drew this comparison, by asking a question concerning their women: "Would not she be a cruel mother, who having two children, took one and nursed it; and left the other to perish? So we will worship a God who takes care of all His children;" which I think was an excellent conclusion and a sound argument was advanced to show how far an Indian is capable of believing in the Living and True God.

A couple days later Dorothy Ripley was back in New Stockbridge, New York.
A meeting was held again in Stockbridge, for the instruction of the poor Natives, who are dear to me. There are some of the [Delaware] Jersey Indians among this tribe, and the whole number here, are rising three hundred... This day two of the missionaries, and a young clergyman were present, while my soul was earnestly engaged for the good of the Indians; but I verily believe by their proceedings it was their opinion that a woman ought not to preach: for one of them said afterwards, had I "come to teach them to knit and sew it would be very well."

At the moment of her departure, the women of the tribe presented Dorothy Ripley with an address, which had actually been written by Captain Hendrick, the Mohican chief that was serving as her interpreter:
Dear Sister,
We the poor women of the Muhheconnuk nation, wish to speak [a] few words to you to inform you that while our forefathers were sitting by the side of their ancient fireplace, about eighty years ago, our father, Rev. Mr. Sergeant's father, came amongst them with the message of the Great and Good Spirit, which he then began to deliver to them. He was the first minister of the gospel that ever preached to our fathers, and the Great and Good Spirit blessed his labors, by which means many of our poor natives were turned from darkness to light....

You can continue reading this on page 111 of The Bank of Faith and Works United.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dorothy Ripley's Mission to the New York Indians in 1805 (part 1)

[caption id="attachment_9014" align="aligncenter" width="672"]Known as "New Stockbridge" in 1805, the present-day village of Stockbridge, New York has retained it's rural character for more than 200 years. Known as "New Stockbridge" in 1805, the present-day village of Stockbridge, New York has retained it's rural character for more than 200 years.[/caption]


Born in 1767 in the quaint seaside town of Whitby, in Yorkshire, England, Dorothy Ripley felt called to the ministry as a teenager (or perhaps sooner). Since she did not work under the auspices of an organized church or mission society, her remarkable career is not particularly well-documented. We know that she made at least ten and possibly as many as nineteen mission trips across the Atlantic. Perhaps her specialty was slaves and free blacks in the south. But she ministered to other Americans, including  prisoners, and, the New York Indians.

Ripley's journal, published by her as The Bank of Faith and Works United is worth reading for anybody trying to understand what it meant to be a Christian Indian in 1805. Here she tells of her meeting with the Stockbridge Mohicans.
I went to their church, which is distinguished by a steeple, that you can see some distance off. It is a neat, clean wood building, with glass windows and a handsome entrance, having a gallery some distance off. It is a neat, clean, wood building, with glass windows and a handsome entrance, having a gallery all round excepting where the minister sits. The minister took his seat in the pulpit, desiring me to sit in a pew underneath, where three of his daughters sat alongside of me, dressed as fashionable as any women in middle rank, although there were but few to see them, except the Indians who all came with a blanket round them, unless it were the young men and women who were foolishly hung with feathers, and head tires of bright tin mettle. The Indians fantastically dressed, sung a psalm feelingly which moved my passion of love, so that I wept all the time tears of joy. After this [Rev. John Sergeant] prayed in Indian and then in English, and gave out a second psalm, which was sung as the other admirably. The minister then read part of the fourteenth chapter of Mark, which Captain Hendrick, a Chief, also read in Indian; and I was at liberty to preach to them as long as I thought proper, or in other words, while my master furnished me with matter for the occasion, having desired Him to be both Mouth and Wisdom to me..... (100-101)

Ripley may have spent more time writing about her preaching and how she felt about it than about the Indians she was preaching to. After she was done preaching
Many of the Indians gladly took my by the hand, which affectionately I saluted after the same manner, knowing One God was our Father, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of all (102).

Later that week, Dorothy Ripley was with the Oneidas. She confirmed something that male missionaries had previously noted. Only one of the Oneida men, an old chief named Skanando, was an active Christian. The way Ripley says this sounds judgmental to my modern ears:

The women are much better than the men and have a greater knowledge of God before their eyes, which preserves them from intoxication, and other evils, that the men are liable to be overtaken with, when they are deprived of their reason by strong drink.

Stay tuned. Later that week we'll see what happens when Dorothy Ripley visits the Brothertown Indians.