Addison Erwin Sheldon.

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he brought here, has always been a favorite in the Indian

There is a story of romance and sorrow connected with
Lisa's family. When he first came to Nebraska he had a
white wife in St. Louis. After a while he married an Omaha
Indian girl, telling her people he had another wife down the
river. Among the Indians it was common for a man to have
more than one wife and the early Indian traders very often
married a wife in each tribe where they traded in order to
make friends and help their business. While Lisa was gone
to St. Louis a daughter was born to him in Nebraska. The
Indian mother was very proud of her little girl, and when the


time came for Lisa to return she took her baby every day
down to the river and watched all day long for her husband ^s
boat in order to be the first to meet him and show him their

child. When he came the baby was
named Rosalie. The next year a
son was born to Lisa and his Indian
wife. He was named Raymond.

When Rosalie was two years old
her father wished to take her with
him to St. Louis to be brought up
and to go to school among the white
people. The mother was very un-
willing to let her go and was wild
w fth grief when the boat with the
little girl and her father passed out

graph collection of A. E. o f sight down the river. This was
in the summer of 1817. That fall

Lisa's first wife died, and on August 5, 1818, he was married
in St. Louis to Mary Hempstead Keeney. She was a charm-
ing woman, very much loved by all who knew her. At this
time the United States was about to send an exploring party
with soldiers up the Missouri on the first steamboats ever
used on that river. The soldiers were to winter in Nebraska.
When Lisa knew this he planned to have his white wife go
up the river and spend the winter at Fort Lisa, helping to
entertain the officers and making friends to secure trade, for
Lisa was always thinking of more trade. She did so and was
the first white woman to come into Nebraska, with the
possible exception of Madam Lajoie in 1770.

Lisa sent word to Fort Lisa to have his Indian wife given
presents and told to keep away from the fort while his white
wife was there. Mitain, as the Indian wife was called, did so
for a time, but at last came in with her little boy Raymond.
During Lisa's long stay in St. Louis the Indian mother
was working one day, with other squaws, in a garden near
the fort. The Sioux came suddenly upon them. The other



women ran at once. Little Raymond was strapped to his
cradle board resting against a tree. His mother rushed
through the Sioux, seized her baby and ran for the fort. The
Sioux were close upon her when near the fort, so she threw
baby, board and all, over the wall, receiving a wound and
risking her own life to save her child. When Lisa heard her
story he praised the mother, petted the boy and gave them
both presents, telling the mother to go back to her people.

The next year, 1820, Lisa prepared to go down the river
to St. Louis. He sent for Mitain and told her that Raymond,
who was then four years old, must go with him to be educated.
The mother quickly seized her boy, ran to the river, sprang
in a boat and rowed to the other side. She stayed out in the
woods that night. In the morning she came back and gave
the child to his father, saying that she knew it was better for
him to learn the white man 's way. She begged Lisa to take
her with him. She would live in any little corner that he
would provide for her and make no trouble if only she might
see her children now and then. Lisa would not agree to this,
but offered her many presents if she would return to her tribe.
The poor Indian mother broke into
tears, saying that their marriage
was for life, that she could not marry
now among her own people and that
Lisa was about to ruin her life and
break her heart by taking both her
children from her. Her tears and
appeals did not move Lisa. He did
not seem to know that an Indian
mother loves her children even as
does a white mother and that no
presents can pay her for the loss of
them. He prepared to take Ray-
mond, when the United States officers interfered and made
him give the child to its mother.

Lisa went on his way down the river with his white wife.


photograph collection of

A. E. Sheldon.)


He never saw Nebraska again, for he died, August 12, 1820,
at St. Louis. He is buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery there,
and by his side lies his wife who lived nearly fifty years after
his death. She was a friend of the fur traders and of the
Indians all her life and was called by everyone " Aunt Man-
uel." It is the name cut on her tombstone.

In his will Lisa left money for the education of his two
Indian children and two thousand dollars for- each of them
when they should be of age. Raymond died while yet a
young man. Rosalie grew to womanhood, and was well
educated, married and lived happily with Mr. Madison Ely,
a white man. She died at Trenton, Illinois, December 21,
1904, leaving several children who are still living.

The mother of Rosalie and Raymond was seen at Bellevue
by Prince Maximilian in 1833. She wore a deep scar where
the Sioux struck her when she saved the life of her boy. Her
story was told to all the travelers who came up the river.
When she died and where she is buried no one knows. Some-
where an unmarked mound of Nebraska soil holds the dust
of the Nebraska Indian woman who proved her mother love
by sacrifice and sorrow.


1. What products were shipped from Nebraska in Manuel Lisa's time?

2. What good things did Manuel Lisa do?

3. What things did he do that you do not like?

4. What kind of a man did the early fur trader need to be?

5. What do you think of the first known white woman in Nebraska as judged

by her picture?

6. What do you imagine Rosalie and Raymond did for a good time in those

early Nebraska days?


IN the last week of March of the year 1813 seven men
might have been seen leading an old horse down the val-
ley of the North Platte. They were white men who had
come all the way from the mouth of the Columbia River in
Oregon and had walked all the way from the Snake River in
Idaho where the Crow Indians had robbed them of their
horses. Their one poor old horse they had got from the
Snake Indians, trading them a pistol, a knife and an ax for

The names of these men were Robert Stuart, Ramsay
Crooks, Robert McLellan, Ben Jones, Andri Vallee, Francis
LeClerc and Joseph Miller. Two years before, on March
12, 1811, they had left St. Louis with a party under Wilson
Price Hunt intending to cross the mountains and build a fort
for the American Fur Company in Oregon. On their way
up the Missouri River the Hunt party had the most remark-
able keel boat race in history. This was with Manuel Lisa,
who left St. Louis nineteen days later and wished to overtake
them. The race was a thousand miles long and lasted sixty
days. It was won by Lisa who overtook Hunt before he
arrived at Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Here Hunt left his
boats, traded for horses with the Arikara Indians and set out
to find a shorter way to Oregon than the one taken by Lewis
and Clark. Their new route took them over very rough
country in the Black Hills and Big Horn mountains. After
great losses and hardships they reached the mouth of the
Columbia River, where they built a fort which they named
Astoria, after John Jacob Astor, of New York, the president
of the fur company.

From Astoria, on the 29th of June, 1812, the little party of
seven men set out to return to the United States in order to



carry word to Mr. Astor in New York. All the summer and
fall they had marched across the deserts and mountains. To
avoid the fierce Blackfoot Indians they kept to the south of
the route by which they went out. By so doing they met a
party of Crows who stole all of their horses. The seven men
were thus left afoot in a wild country without roads and more
than a thousand miles from any white settlement. They
burned their baggage to keep the Indians from getting any of
it, and with their rifles and such things as they could carry on
their backs began their long tramp toward the Missouri
River. One of their number became sick and they were
obliged to carry him for several days and then to camp and
give him "Indian sweat" until he got well.

Soon after they began to climb the Rocky Mountains and
game became so scarce that they nearly starved. They
fished in a mountain stream but caught no fish. For three
days they went hungry. One of them, crazed for want of
food, said that they must draw lots and one of them be killed
to feed the rest. The others took away his gun, and the next
day they killed an old buffalo, which saved their lives. A
few days later they found a camp of Snake Indians and
traded with them for an old horse. With this old horse to
carry their things they kept on through the mountains
until they found a way to the eastern slope, not far from
where the South Pass was later found. They were the first
white men to cross the mountains at this point and find their
way to the valley eastward which afterward became the
route for the Oregon and California trail. On October 26th
they reached the upper waters of the Platte River. They did
not know what stream it was or where it would lead them,
but they followed it until the 2nd of November, when they
made a winter camp where there was timber and game, and
not far from where Casper, Wyoming, is now. . In three days
they killed forty-seven buffalo. They built a log cabin, used
the buffalo skins to cover it, dried the buffalo meat and had
made themselves comfortable for the winter when a band of



twenty-three Arapahoes on the warpath against the Crows
came to their cabin nearly starved. The Astorians fed them
all night with dried buffalo meat. The next day as soon as
the Arapahoes had left in pursuit of the Crows the Astorians
packed their faithful old horse with what he could carry and
hurried away from their snug cabin in the mountains, leav-
ing all the rest to the Indians.

It was the 13th of December when the Astorians left their
winter quarters. The snow was two feet deep in the moun-
tains. Their feet became sore from breaking through the
hard crust. Their old horse had nothing to eat but willow
twigs and cottonwood bark, but they struggled on for four-
teen days in which time they made about 330 miles. The
country began to change. The mountains gave place to hills
and the hills to plains. There was no wood and the snow lay
deep on the ground. They feared they would freeze to death
so they went back three days'
march (about seventy-seven
miles) and on December 30th
made camp again where there was
wood and buffalo. This camp
was in Nebraska not far from
where Bridgeport is now. Here
they stayed until March and
made two large canoes to travel
with on the river, but the North
Platte (for it was that stream) was
so shallow that they were obliged
to leave their canoes after all their
hard work in making them and
start again on foot accompanied
by their faithful old horse.

So it was that on March 20,
1813, they left their last camp
and journeyed down the North Platte valley. They saw a
herd of sixty-five wild horses and longed to be mounted on

photograph by A. E. Sheldon.)


them as they galloped away. Day after day they marched
along leading their old horse with his burden. On either
side of the wide North Platte valley the great prairie stretched
away covered with buffalo, but no human being was in
sight. They passed great swamps where they saw thousands
of wild swan, geese and ducks. They were probably in what
is now Garden County. There were no trees and they made
their only fires with dry refuse on the prairies. In the early
days of April they reached a great island, about seventy
miles long, in the Platte River. When they saw this island,
now called Grand Island, they were for the first time sure
that they were in the Platte River valley, for hunters had
already brought word of this island in the Platte. Three
days later they met an Otoe Indian who took them to his
village. Here they met two white traders from St. Louis to
whom they traded their old horse for a canoe, and on the 18th
of April they floated into the Missouri River and down to St.

To these seven men and their old horse belongs the honor
of first exploring the North Platte valley and first finding a
central route through the Rocky Mountains. They were
real path-finders of the great West.


1 . How did the Astorian party find its way across the deserts and mountains

with no road and no guide?

2. Where did the wild horses come from which they saw in the North Platte


3. What part of Nebraska did this party explore?


IN 1819, the United States government sent an expedition
under Major Stephen H. Long to explore the Platte River
and the mountain region beyond. This expedition is famous
because it brought the first steamboat to the Nebraska shores
and placed the great American Desert on the map. The
steamboat was named the Western Engineer, and left
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 5, 1819, for the long journey
down the Ohio, then up the Mississippi to St. Louis, and
thence up the Missouri River to the old Council Bluff of Lewis
and Clark. The Western Engineer was well calculated to
strike terror into the hearts of the western Indians who had
never seen a steamboat. The bow of the boat rose in the
form of a huge, black, scaly serpent with open mouth, from
which poured smoke and steam when the boat was under
way. The Indians who saw this boat said, ' ' White man, bad
man, keep Great Spirit chained, build fire under him to make
him paddle the boat."

This serpent steamboat arrived at Fort Lisa, ten miles
above the present site of Omaha, on September 17th. The
party under Major Long at once began to prepare cabins for
winter quarters. The spot they chose, with plenty of wood
and stone near at hand for building and for fuel, may still be
found between the high bluff and the Missouri River.

There were twenty people in Major Long's party, some
of them engineers, some scientists in botany, geology and
zoology, and one artist. The fall and winter were spent in
study of the animals, plants and rocks, in holding councils
with the Indians, learning their language and customs, and
in keeping record of the weather.

There were many meetings with the Indians, and many
very interesting speeches made. On October 4th one hun-




dred Otoes, seventy Missourias and sixty loways gave a
dance. On October 9th seventy Pawnees did the same. On
October 14th four hundred Omahas assembled and a great
speech was made by their chief, Big Elk, who said, among
other things :

"Here I am, my Father; all these young people you see
around here are yours; although they are poor and little, yet
they are your children. All my nation loves the whites and
always have loved them. Some think, my Father, that you

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

have brought all these soldiers here to take our land from us
but I do not believe it. For although I am a poor simple
Indian, I know that this land will not suit your farmers. If
I even thought your hearts bad enough to take this land, I
would not fear it, as I know there is not wood enough on it
for the use of the whites."

White Cow, another Omaha chief, said: "Look at me,
my Father, look at my hands. I am a wild man born on the
prairie. Look at me and see if there is any blood of your
people upon me. Some whose hands are red with blood, try
to wash it off, but it still remains."

In the council with the Pawnees, speeches were made by


Long Hair, Knife Chief, Fool-Robes-Son, Petalesharu. This
last one was father of the famous chief of the same name.
He spoke thus: " Father, I am not afraid of these people,
these Pawnees you see here. I have seen people travel in
blood, I have traveled in blood myself, but it was the blood
of redskins, no others. Father I have no longer a desire for
war, I desire to eat in peace. I am glad to see you write
down all that has been said. When a man dies his actions
are forgotten; but when they are written down it is not so.
When I have seen a person poor and I had a horse to spare,
or a blanket, I have given it to them. From this time I
undergo a change. I am now an American and you shall
hear that this is true."

On June 6, 1820, Major Long with twenty-one men
mounted on horses left the winter quarters on the banks of
the Missouri for the head of the Platte River. They followed
the Indian trail across the prairie to Papillion Creek, where
they made their first camp. Keeping on the north side of
the Platte, the party crossed the Elkhorn River, Shell Creek,
and Beaver Creek, arriving on June llth at the Pawnee
villages on the Loup.

The villages stretched along the Loup for a distance of
ten miles and held about six thousand Pawnees. Eight
thousand Indian ponies fed on the grass of the Loup valley
about the villages. The Pawnees tried to persuade Major
Long to go no farther, telling him that the fierce tribes of the
upper Platte would eat up his little band. Major Long se-
cured as guides two French trappers who were living with
the Pawnees, and pushed on.

June 21st the Long expedition arrived at the junction of
the North Platte and South Platte. Crossing both streams
the party continued for several days up the south bank of the
South Platte, making its last stop in what is now Nebraska
on the 26th of June near the corner of Deuel and Keith
counties. The expedition marched to where the South
Platte issues from its canyon in the Rocky Mountains, then



turned south and returned to the Mississippi River by way
of the Arkansas.

There were two principal results from Major Long's
expedition. The first was a very accurate description of
Indian customs and Indian life as they existed among the

(Drawing by Miss Martha Turner.)

Omahas, Otoes, and Pawnees a hundred years ago. This
series of stories of Indian life covers several hundred pages of
his report. They were obtained through Indian traders and
interpreters who had spent their lives with these tribes, and
are to-day one of the best sources of information upon them.
The other result of Major Long's expedition was that all
the country west of the Missouri River got a bad name, which
stuck to it for fifty years. Upon the map prepared for Ma-
jor Long appears the words "Great Desert" stretching from
the Platte valley to the Red River in Texas. In his report


upon the country, Major Long said: "It is almost wholly
unfit for cultivation and of course uninhabitable for people
depending upon agriculture for their subsistence."


1. Was Big Elk's reasoning correct in regard to the white men and the Indian


2. What dp you think of Petalesharu's character from his speech?

3. What did Major Long's expedition do for Nebraska?


ON the site of the Council Bluff where Lewis and Clark
first held council with the Indians, once stood Old Fort
Atkinson, built in the year 1819, the first United States fort
in Nebraska. The Rifle regiment and the Sixth Infantry
were here. It was a large, strong fort with fifteen cannon
and several hundred soldiers. Besides the soldiers there
were teamsters, laborers, traders, hunters, trappers and

PLAN OF FORT ATKINSON, NEBRASKA, 1819-1827. (Drawing by Miss
Martha Turner.)

Indians, making a town of nearly a thousand people. They
had a brick yard and a lime kiln. Rock was quarried from
the ledges along the river. A saw mill and a grist mill were
kept busy. Hundreds of acres of rich Nebraska land were
farmed and thousands of bushels of grain raised. Roads
ran in all directions from this fort on the Council Bluff.
Indians came to it from all parts of the West for it was the
most western army post in the United States. From far-off



Santa Fe Mexicans came here to meet the Pawnee Indians
and make peace with them. White women were here.
There were marriages and births. Children played about
the bluff and probably the first school in Nebraska was
taught here. Fort Atkinson was the largest town of early
Nebraska and the only town in Nebraska at that time.

To this fort in the summer of 1823 came the news that a
party of American trappers had been fired upon by the
Arikara Indians and about twenty of them killed. The
Arikaras were related to the Pawnees. They lived on the
Missouri river, in what is now South Dakota, five hundred
miles above Fort Atkinson. They were different from the
wild Indians on the plains for they lived in villages sur-
rounded with walls of dirt and fenced with timbers set on
end in the ground. An Arikara had stolen horses from the
trappers. He was horsewhipped by them. This led to the
attack on the trappers.

There were very busy times in the old fort on the Council
Bluff when the news came. The bugles rang out calling the
soldiers to their colors. Cannon and powder and shot were
loaded into keel boats. The hunters and trappers at the fort
seized their rifles. General Leavenworth started with over
two hundred soldiers. He was joined by four hundred
Sioux warriors, who were enemies of the Arikaras, and by
several parties of hunters and rivermen. It was a month's
march along the shores of the Missouri to reach the Arikara
villages. The keel boats with the cannon, powder and food
were pulled up the river with ropes. Never before had such
an army been seen on the North Nebraska prairies. On
August 8th they arrived at the Arikara villages. The can-
non were placed on a hill and their heavy balls fired into the
village while the Sioux under their chief White Bear fought
with the Arikara warriors outside the walls. Gray Eyes,
chief of the Arikaras, and about forty of his people were
killed. The tribe sued for peace and a treaty was made
while the white soldiers and the Sioux feasted on roasting


ears from the Arikara cornfields. No white soldiers were
killed and the army returned to Fort Atkinson. This is
called the Arikara war of 1823 and is the first war on the
Nebraska frontier.

There was quiet for a long time at Fort Atkinson. We
know that in the summer the fur traders came up the river
and keel boats from St. Louis brought stores and news from
the world below. In the winter sleds traveled across the
snow to other posts. Hunting parties from the fort went out
to kill game for the soldiers. So many elk and deer were
killed in this way that the Omaha tribe could find no food
on their old hunting grounds. Big Elk, chief of the tribe,
came to the fort for help, saying that his people were starving
while the soldiers killed and drove away the game.

In 1827 Fort Atkinson was abandoned by the United
States. All the soldiers were sent down the Missouri River.
They drove away a great herd of cattle which supplied them
with beef. They left the plowed fields to grow up with
grass and weeds. All that was of use and could be carried
was taken away. The buildings were left. The traders and
hunters went to Bellevue and other posts down the river.
It was said that the Indians burned the buildings after the
soldiers were gone.

Six years later Maximilian, the great German traveler,
found the fort in ruins. The great stone chimneys were
standing and a brick storehouse was still under roof. Rat-
tlesnakes made the place their home.

When the early settlers came to this part of Nebraska in
1854 and 1855, they were glad to find that the United States
had provided them with such a supply of brick and stone
ready to use for their chimneys and cellars. They tore down
the ruins and carried them away to their farms.

To-day the little village of Fort Calhoun, sixteen miles
north of Omaha, adjoins the site of Old Fort Atkinson. On
the summit of the Council Bluff may still be traced the
parade ground, the place where the flagstaff stood, the rows



of cellars where once were the officers' quarters and the bar-
racks where the soldiers lived. The ashes and broken brick

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Online LibraryAddison Erwin SheldonHistory and stories of Nebraska → online text (page 4 of 20)