Addison Erwin Sheldon.

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two hundred miles west in the
Platte valley. The new Fort Kear-
ney soon came to be the old Fort
Kearney in the minds of travelers
across the plains. It was the one
fort between the Missouri River
and the mountains in the early
years. It was the placs where
other roads united with the Oregon
Trail. The wide Platte valley


(Drawing by Miss Martha

about the fort was the
camping ground of
thousands of wagons
every summer. Some
days over five hundred
ox teams passed the
fort. The overland
stage and pony express
stations were here.

When the Indian war
of 1864 broke out Fort
Kearney became the central point for the army. The First
Nebraska cavalry was placed there. The wagon trains
going west were not allowed to proceed until there were





fifty wagons or more. Then they went on together through
the wild country beyond.

Just west of the fort there grew up a village called Doby-
town. It was a wild, rough place where all kinds of bad

characters lived. When
General Sherman rode
through Dobytown dur-
ing the Sioux war he
was hissed by some of
these people who fa-
vored the South. The
old general remembered
the insult and soon after
order came from

IN 1907. (From photograph by A. E.


Washington to abandon
the fort. On May 17,
1871, the last soldiers
departed and with
them went the last support of Dobytown.

Fort Kearney is fallen into ruins. Mounds of earth now
mark the place where its buildings stood. Low ridges and
trenches almost filled are all that now remain of its outer
works. The deep furrows of the old trails are blotted out
by the plow and harrow. About the old parade ground giant
cottonwood trees planted in 1848 stand like soldiers on guard.
At one corner of the parade ground a fallen cottonwood
marks the site of the First Nebraska headquarters. Five
miles away the city of Kearney, full of life and bustle, looks
across the Platte River at its namesake the deserted fort.
So long as the story of early Nebraska and the memory of
the Oregon Trail endure, the name of Fort Kearney will be


1. Locate the first and the second Fort Kearney on the map.

2. Why was the village near Fort Kearney called Dobytown?

3. Why is Fort Kearney on the south side of the Platte and the present

city of Kearney on the north side?

4. What should be done with the site of Fort Kearney?


FORT LARAMIE, Nebraska Territory, was the most
noted name on the map of the West from 1854 to 1863.
Although now the old fort is in Wyoming forty miles be-
yond the Nebraska state
line, the memories of its
early days belong to
Nebraska history.

The early fur traders
founded Fort Laramie.
One of them, indeed,
died to give his name
to the Laramie River


from which the fort was '
named. As far back as
1834 the first fur trader's post, called Fort William, was
built in the forks of the Laramie and North Platte rivers.
By the year 1846 the name Fort Laramie was in common
use. It was a new fort with walls twenty feet high built of
sunbaked clay bricks. It stood on a little hill near the
Laramie River about a mile above where that river joined
the Platte. Here the hunters and trappers for the American
Fur Company brought their furs and here Indians came to
trade. About 1849 the United States bought the fort from
the fur company and it soon became the chief post in the
Indian country. All the travelers on the Oregon Trail
longed for sight of Fort Laramie. It was 667 miles from the
Missouri River. Here the plains and the mountains met.
Here the wagon trains rested and refitted before starting
on their journey through the mountains. Near here the
great councils were held with the Indians, and the historic
treaties of 1851 and 1868 were made. Great buildings were



built here by the government to shelter soldiers and supplies.
From this fort the regiments marched to the Indian wars
and here were brought many of the dead from those cam-
paigns. It was the great station on the world's great

In 1891 Fort Laramie was abandoned. To-day its ruins
cover forty acres of land. A few of the old buildings are
used by five or six families who still live at the old place.
The old guard house or military jail where prisoners were
kept is used as a horse stable. Roofless buildings and crum-
bling walls are everywhere. Deep gullies over the hills
mark the route of the Oregon Trail. A tiny white school-
house stands near the corner of the old parade ground, now
grown over with grass, and a dozen school-children now
laugh and play where once the soldiers marched at command.
The dead are gone from the graves on the hillside to rest in
the cemetery at Fort McPherson. The old life of the
Oregon Trail and the Indian wars is gone never to return,
but the name of Fort Laramie will always remain in the
history of early Nebraska.


1. What was there in the location of Fort Laramie which made it become the

chief army post in the Indian country?

2. Why did the travelers on the Oregon Trail rest and refit at Fort Laramie?

3. Why are the soldiers no longer kept in forts like Kearney and Lararnie?


WHEN the first white men came up the Missouri River
they found a little tribe of Indians living in that
beautiful part of Nebraska by the mouth of the Niobrara
which is now Knox and Boyd counties. They found clear
flowing streams, wooded hills, grassy valleys and back of
them the buffalo prairies. There were less than a thousand

"Early Western Travels." Arthur H. Clark Co., Cleveland, Ohio.)

people in the little tribe. They were tall and fine looking
and from the first were friendly to the white men and were
never at war with them. Their land lay between the Sioux
country on the west and the Pawnee and Omaha country on
the south and east. The language they spoke was related
to the Sioux language but more like that of the Omahas.
They were often at war with the Sioux, but generally at peace
with the Omahas, so much so that a great many of their



young men and women were intermarried with the Omahas.
Although such a little tribe, they had their own name, Punka
or Ponca; their own traditions; and they had lived so long
in that part of Nebraska where the first white men found
them that they had no other home, only stories of a far-off
time when their fathers had come up the Missouri and
settled at the mouth of the Niobrara.

After a time white settlers began to come into the Ponca
country, to take land and kill off the game. In 1858 the
United States made a treaty with the Poncas by the terms of
which the Poncas gave up all their land except that part be-
tween the Niobrara River and Ponca Creek. The richest of
their land below the mouth of the Niobrara was opened to
the white settlers. The part which the Poncas were to keep
was on the border of the Sioux, their old enemies ' country,
but the United States promised in the treaty to protect the
Poncas, to pay them money every year, to build them
houses and give them schools for their children.

Two years after this treaty the Sioux made a raid on the
Poncas and stole more than half of their horses. The
Ponca hunting ground, where they used to kill buffalo, was
covered with Sioux hunting parties and the Poncas could
not get their winter supply of meat. A drouth came on the
land and their patches of corn were a failure. Even the wild
plums dried on the trees and the Poncas hunted over the
plains for wild turnips and ate cornstalks to keep from

Then a party of Poncas went to visit their friends, the
Omahas. There were four men, six women, three boys and
two girls. Some drunken white soldiers killed three women
and one girl, burned their tents and drove away their six
ponies. Still the Poncas remained at peace with the white

In 1868 the United States made a great treaty with the
Sioux Indians at Fort Laramie. In that treaty by some
mistake all of the Ponca land was given to the Sioux, the


bitter and lifelong enemies of the Poncas. This was done
without the consent or knowledge of the Poncas. It took
away from them their homes, their gardens and the graves
of their fathers, which they had defended against the Sioux
for hundreds of years, and made a present of them to their
deadly foes, the Sioux. Nothing so cruel or unjust was
ever done by the United States to another tribe of Indians.
And this was done to a tribe which was always the friend of
the white men. General Sherman, one of the commissioners
who made the treaty at Fort Laramie, said he did not know
that this had been done until long afterward. The Poncas
did not know that it had been done until the Sioux warriors
raided them and tauntingly shouted, "This land belongs to
us. Get off." The Poncas had no place to go and remained
upon their old reserve even though in daily danger from the

During the two years, 1869 and 1870, they built sixty log
cabins and put out crops. Then the Missouri River rose and
washed away their village site. They had to tear down
their cabins and carry them back half a mile to make a new
village. The next year after this the tribe put three hundred
acres into crops. The grasshoppers came that year and the
next and ate the crops.

The year 1876 was a year of great excitement on the
Nebraska border. Gold had been found in the Black Hills
and the white men wanted to go there after it. The Sioux
were fighting to keep the white men out.

The order was given to remove the Ponca Indians "with
their consent" from their old home to the Indian Territory.
An agent came to the Poncas and told them that they must
send their chiefs with him to the new place to pick out a
home. Standing Bear and nine other chiefs went. They
did not like the land and would not select a place. They
said to him: "The water is bad. We cannot live here."
The agent told them that they must pick out a place for the
tribe or he would not take them home. They refused. He



left them there a thousand miles from their Nebraska home
in the winter with no money. Standing Bear told this
story :

"We started for home on foot. At night we slept in
haystacks. We hardly lived until morning, it was so cold.
We had nothing but our blankets. We took the ears of
corn that had dried in the fields. We ate it raw. The soles
of our moccasins were out. We were barefoot in the snow.
We were nearly dead when we reached the Otoe reservation
in Nebraska. It had been fifty days. We stayed there ten
days to get strong and the Otoes gave each of us a pony.
The agent for the Otoes said he had a telegram that the
chiefs had run away, not to give us food or shelter or any

The Otoe agent afterward said when the Ponca chiefs
came into his office that they left the prints of their feet in
blood upon the floor.

When the chiefs reached their own homes at the
mouth of the Niobrara they found there the agent who
had left them in the Indian Territory. He had sol-
diers with him and was
making the Ponca peo-
ple pack up their goods
in order to start for the
new country. The sol-
diers put the women and
children into wagons
with what few things
they could carry and
started the teams for
Indian Territory. This
was on May 21, 1877.
The Poncas were sad and

(From photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)

It was very rainy that spring.

heart-broken at leaving their old Nebraska homes,
of them were sick. Prairie Flower, a daughter of Standing
Bear and wife of Shines White, died of consumption at Mil-


ford, Nebraska, and was buried there. The womeji of the
village dressed the body for the grave and brought flowers.
The Indians were deeply affected by this kindness. Many
children died as the tribe moved south across Nebraska and
Kansas. A tornado upset their wagons. Part of the time
they were out of food. One Indian became insane and
tried to kill White Eagle, a chief, for letting so much trouble
come upon his people.

At the end of a three months' journey the tribe reached
the Indian Territory. They had left dry log cabin homes,
their own plowed fields and beautiful clear flowing streams
and springs. In the new land they were set down on un-
broken prairies with nothing but their wagons and tents.
The water was very bad. All their cattle and many of their
horses died. The people were homesick and their hearts
were breaking. They talked all the time of their beautiful
home in Nebraska. The first winter one hundred and fifty-
eight out of seven hundred and sixty-eight died.

Standing Bear 's son was among those who died. Before
his death he begged his father to take his body to Nebraska
and bury it there. In midwinter Standing Bear and thirty
of his band broke away from the Indian Territory and set
out for Nebraska carrying the body of the dead young man.
They had a long, hard journey of three months and reached
the reservation of their friends, the Omahas, in the early
spring. The Omahas gave them some land to put into
crops. While they were plowing it the United States
soldiers came and put them under arrest. They had orders
to carry them back to the Indian Territory.

The story of their arrest Was printed in the newspapers
and friends in Omaha came to their aid. Dr. George L.
Miller, editor of the Herald took up their cause. Two lead-
ing lawyers, John L. Webster and Andrew J. Poppleton,
defended them without pay. There was a trial in the
United States court at Omaha. Standing Bear made a
speech to the court through an interpreter, which touched


all hearts. Judge Dundy decided that Standing Bear and
his band should be set free. There was great rejoicing in the
hearts of the Indians and their friends.

After they were set free by Judge Dundy, Standing Bear
and his party settled on an island in the Niobrara River which
was part of their old reservation and had been overlooked
when the United States gave their old country to the Sioux.
Here they were joined by others from the Indian Territory
until they numbered a hundred and thirty. White friends
furnished them tools and they began to farm again. Stand-
ing Bear was called to go east and tell the Indians ' story to
great audiences. In 1890 peace was made between the Sioux
and the Ponca tribes and the Sioux gave back to the Poncas
part of their old lands on the Niobrara. About one third
the tribe came back, the remainder staying in the Indian
Territory. Standing Bear lived to an old age and died at
his home on the Niobrara on September 3, 1908.


1 . What right had the United States to give the Ponca land to the Sioux?

2. Would you be willing to have the Poncas taken from their old homes in

this way in order to get a home for yourself?

3. Which would be better to submit like the Poncas or to fight like the


4. Tell what you think of Standing Bear from this story.

5. Ought an Indian to have the same rights in this country as a white man?


6. What should the people of Nebraska do for the Indian tribes whose old

homes were in our state?


(Instha Theamba)

BRIGHT EYES was an Omaha Indian girl, who became
widely known through her efforts to help her people.
She was born at Bellevue in 1854, the daughter of Joseph
and Mary LaFlesche, and united in her person the blood of
the Indian, the French and the American settlers of Ne-
braska. Her father was a chief of
the Omaha tribe, the son of a French-
man and a Ponca Indian woman.
Her mother was daughter of Nicomi,
an Indian woman of the loway
tribe, and Dr. John Gale, a surgeon
of the United States army.

When Bright Eyes was born she
was named Yosette or Susette by
her parents. It was not until years
later she received her second name.
Her father's Indian name was
Esta-maza or "Iron Eyes." Some
one who knew this looked at the daughter and said, "Her
name should be Bright Eyes, or in Omaha language, Instha
Theamba." So she came to be known by the name "Bright
Eyes" and to sign it to her writings.

Bright Eyes grew up on the Omaha Indian reservation
with the other Indian children. She spoke nothing but the
Omaha language until she was eight years old. Then she
went to the mission school on the reservation. She learned
English faster than any other child in the school and was
soon able to read and write. Every one loved her because she
was so bright and cheerful and winning in her ways. When






she was fifteen she was asked what she most wished for a
Christmas present and replied, a good education. This was
told to the president of a woman's seminary at Elizabeth,
New Jersey. Very soon Bright Eyes was invited to attend
school there, and became at once one of the best students,
beloved by her teachers and by the young white women who
were her schoolmates. At the end of four years she graduat-
ed and came back to the Omaha reservation.

The Omaha Indians were very poor. Grasshoppers came
and ate their crops. Part of the tribe lived in the old Indian
way and kept up the old Indian customs. There were no
pleasant rooms and beautiful books and pictures and educat-
ed girl companions as there were at the school at Elizabeth,
New Jersey. The wild game was fast going. The Indians
had not yet learned how to farm as the white men did.
Idleness and its bad results were seen in the tribe. There
was little to make life happy for a bright girl fresh from
study in an eastern school.

One day Bright Eyes found out that there was a law
which said that any Indian qualified to teach school should
have the preference in schools on the reservation. She at
once set out to get leave to teach school near her home.
After great obstacles had been overcome, she began teaching
in a little cabin at twenty dollars a month. This gave her
a chance to help the people of her tribe in many ways toward
a better way of living. She was very busy in this work when
Standing Bear and the Ponca Indians who had escaped from
Oklahoma came to the Omaha tribe for help in 1879.

Bright Eyes at once became the champion of the poor
Poncas. She wrote to the newspapers the story of their
wrongs. She visited Omaha in their behalf. While thus
engaged she became acquainted with Mr. T. H. Tibbies, an
editorial writer on the Omaha Herald, and later, in 1882,
became his wife. The next year she was asked by people
interested in the Indians to go east and tell the story of
Nebraska Indians and their needs. For the next five years,


accompanied by her husband and Chief Standing Bear, she
spoke to great audiences in the eastern states and in Europe.
Everywhere the people were charmed with her presence and
interested in her story. The poet Longfellow asked to meet
her and when he saw her said, "This is Minnehaha." Lead-
ing men took up the cause of the Indian and their rights were
better protected.

At the end of her years of lecturing Bright Eyes returned
to Nebraska. Her summers usually were spent on the
Omaha reservation among her own people. During the
remainder of the year she lived in Omaha or Lincoln, where
Mr. Tibbies was engaged in editorial work. She wrote much
herself and had the most constant interest in the progress of
the Omahas and other tribes of Indians. During the last
Sioux war in 1890 she was at Pine Ridge. She died May 26,
1903, at her own home on the Omaha reservation in sight of
the beautiful Logan River and the hills where her people had
hunted in the early days, leaving the memory of a good and
true life spent in making all life which she touched brighter
and better.


1. What inspiration is there in this story for any Nebraska girl?

2. What do you admire most in Bright Eyes' character? Why?

3. Did she belong more to the Indian or to the white race?


WHEN the first settlers came to Nebraska they settled
along the streams where there was timber and water.
They farmed very small fields and fenced them, turning
their horses, cattle and other stock loose to go where they
pleased and find food, water and shelter. It was a very easy
way to raise stock and the longer one raised it in that way the
more he thought it was the only way.

All about the early settlers ' cabins were miles upon miles
of grass-land free for everybody. Cattle, sheep and horses
would find the best places to feed and stay there as long as
they liked. When they were thirsty they would go to the
running water to drink. Often they would lie down in the
shade of trees and rest during the heat of the day. All the
owner had to do was to ride around them once in a while to
see that all were there. Hogs also ran loose and lived chiefly
on acorns. Where there were no acorns they ate rushes
which grew thickly in the valleys and their ready noses found
roots to dig everywhere.

A good many of the early settlers liked to hunt. There
was plenty of game. After a settler had his crop in he could
go hunting and after he had it gathered he could go hunting
again. His stock would take care of itself while he was gone.

After a while all the land with wood and water in each
neighborhood was taken. Settlers kept on coming. Some
of them went on farther west to get land with wood and wa-
ter. Some of them took the rich grass land which the first
settlers had passed by. They had no timber to fence with
and they did not wish to fence. They broke out larger
fields and began to farm on a larger scale. When the stock
running loose got into their crops there was trouble. The
settlers on the prairie said that every man should take care




of his own stock and keep them out of the crops. The set-
tlers along the streams said that every man should fence his
crop and all should let their stock run. So they disputed and
sometimes fought.

More settlers came in and the settlements spread rapidly
west from the Missouri River and away from the timber along

HERD LAW ACT OF 1870. (Photo from original in Statehouse.)

the streams. There were some settlements where everyone
wanted the stock kept up and some where all wanted the
crops fenced. Laws began to be passed that sheep and hogs
should not run at large. A little later laws were passed that
horses and cattle should not run at large in the night. Then
laws were passed making owners of stock liable for damages
done by it in certain counties only. The people divided into
two parties, those who wished to raise crops and those who


wished to raise stock. The dispute grew warm in all the

Finally in the year 1870 so many thousand settlers were
coming that the legislature met in special session at the call
of Governor Butler and passed the first general herd law.
Under it everyone had to keep his stock from the crops of
other people or pay damages and anyone finding stock in his
crop might take it up and hold it until the damages were
paid. This was called the " herd law," because the best way
found to keep stock from the crops was to herd it. Some
parts of the state were excepted from this law. The next
year the law was changed so that all the state came under the
herd law unless the people of a county voted to have a fence
law in that county.

This has been the law of Nebraska since 1871. It has
made it possible for poor people who could not fence to raise
crops and make homes on the prairie. With this law the
settler could plant a crop anywhere and harvest all he could
raise. Without it he could harvest only what he could pro-
tect from roaming stock. No law has helped more than this
one in the settlement of our state and although the need of
it is no longer felt, the good that it has done abides with us,
giving each man the right to reap where he sows.


1 . What differences between farming in the early days and now?

2. Who has better right to use of the land, the stockman or the farmer?


3. How has the herd law helped Nebraska?

4. Do we need it now? Why?


(Cahae Numba)

TWO CROWS was for many years a leading chief of the
Omaha tribe. He was tall, strong and very active even

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Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 12 of 20)