Sunday, January 29, 2012

003: Indian Graves

One thing I find Douglas County lacking in, and it's something that each county surrounding Douglas has, is something that connects the county with the people who were here before the area was opened to settlement in 1854. Prior to 1854, Douglas County was part of the Shawnee Indian Reservation but most of the reservation that was in Douglas County was in present-day Eudora Township. Douglas County does have places and location named for Natives. But the only ones that come to mind are the Wakarusa River (reportedly a Native phrase for "hip deep"), Eudora (named after an Indian chief's daughter) and Blue Jacket's Crossing was a river crossing along the Wakarusa run by a Shawnee Indian. But aside from those, Native American names are practically non-existant in Douglas County.

One thing I wish Douglas County had more of were Indian burial places. Franklin County has the Ottawa Indian Cemetery northeast of Ottawa on the land that used to be the Ottawa Indian Mission. Franklin County also has the Chippewa Cemetery west of Ottawa plus the supposed burial of Chief Appanoose. The only Indian cemetery in Douglas County, that is known of anyway, is the Haskell Cemetery on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University. Located near the intersection of Kiowa Avenue and East Perimeter Road, the graves are lined up in four rows and are a reminder of what the students who went to Haskell when the school first opened in 1884.

Haskell Cemetery.
The first burial was for Harry White Wolf, a six month old Cheyenne baby who died the first year the school opened. The last burial was in 1943, a Cecelia Mae Fiddler, a Chippewa from North Dakota was buried in the Haskell Cemetery. It is unknown why she chose to be buried in the school cemetery. The cemetery is currently maintained by Haskell University and owned by the U.S. Government under the administration of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Another possible Indian burial is in the area of Stull. A newspaper item from 1881 recorded that Isaac Stull uncovered the skeleton of an Indian, some pottery, teeth and other things. The items were found on the edge of an open spot popularly referred to as "Indian fields" by settlers. Two other remains were found while digging postholes on the Shaw place.

During construction of the Kansas Turnpike, the graves of two Indian children were disturbed. The children's coffins were made by Michael Anderson when their parents stopped by the farm in 1900 seeking a burial place. When the graves were unearthed, the coffins were broken and only bones remained. They were reburied near where they were found and their exact location, still near I-70, is unknown. It is estimated the bodies were a twenty year old male and twenty-one year old female, their names and dates of birth and death unknown.

In the Coon Point area in Kanwaka Township, there is a large mound covered over with native rocks. Apparently a larger rock marked the site but that rock is now gone. It is believed that this mound is the grave of an Indian and archaeologists from the University of Kansas believed it was the grave of an Indian chief since the mound was larger. The mound was never excavated so no one knows for sure if this is an actual grave.