NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center




     Years before Father Gaylord came to the territory of Nebraska, Congregationalism had a Congregational teacher among the Pawnee Indians, Mrs. E. G. Platt, now of Oberlin, Ohio.
     Though hardly recovered from a severe illness during which for days she was supposed to be lying on the borderland between this and the life beyond, she has kindly consented to give a brief account of her experiences among the Pawnees. It is fortunate that we can have these reminiscences from the pen of Mrs. Platt herself. The opportunity to hear from any of the first pioneers will soon be gone. But few of them remain.
     Mrs. Platt writes:

"OBERLIN, OHIO, November 29, 1904.

     "In 1843 I went with my husband, L. W. Platt, to the Pawnee villages situated in the Indian territory, in that part of the land now known as Nebraska. We went in response to a request made by the missionaries of the A. B. C. F. M. who were stationed there. In a treaty which these Indians made with our government they were promised teachers, and the missionaries, wishing to secure those who would cooperate with them in their work, had invited us to join them. We were successful in learning to converse with the Pawnees, won their confidence, and in 1846, when they started on their summer hunt, they left twenty of their children with us to teach.
     "But the Sioux came down upon us that season, often making war-like demonstrations, thus hindering the work


of the men in the field, and at last firing upon some of the company, and so it was deemed unsafe to remain, and all, both missionaries and government, employees, left the station, going to Bellevue, the seat of Council Bluffs agency for the Otoes, Omahas, and Pawnees.
     "The missionaries were requested by their board to leave the field, but we remained with our school.
     "There was no agent there at that time, as our good temperance agent had been dismissed through the influence of the fur traders, as he had given orders to his employees to destroy all liquors they found designed for sale to the Indians.
     "Finding an old log building infested with fleas and rats, we made it our school home and reported to the superintendent of western Indians who was in St. Louis, the building being a government storehouse. There, under many difficulties, I taught the children, having great pleasure in my work, as they learned their English lessons well, delighting to perform any work given them to do, and when given a play time, asking for Bible stories instead.
     "When the new agent arrived, he proved to be a man with whom whisky lovers and dealers readily affiliated, permitting the Indians near the agency to ride through its streets with bottles of the vile stuff in their hands, giving their drunken yell, thus so alarming us at the school it seemed wise to draw curtains, lock the door, and go to the second floor where we would not be seen.
     "The winter was very cold which we spent in that storeroom, and we hailed the warmth of spring joyfully. But our joy was of short duration, as the new agent decided on appointing a teacher more in harmony with him, and in May, 1847, I delivered my charge with aching heart to those who, I knew, would not do duty by them; and crossing the Missouri river Mr. Platt and I went down and


made our home four miles above old Ft. Kearney, now Nebraska City, still keeping a friendly communication with the Pawnees by visiting them, receiving them as guests, and keeping one or more of them in our family.
     "In 1857 the Pawnees made a new treaty with our government, as they had wandered hither and thither during the years of our separation.
     "Again they were pledged teachers, and after waiting four years to learn of the establishment of a school, and finding none had been given them, in 1861 we returned, I being appointed as teacher and Mr. Platt as trader, a position which, through treachery, he never filled on the reservation, and it was months before I was permitted to have a room in which I could open a school:
     "This as not accomplished till a company of the employees to whom the agent had failed to fulfil (sic) his pledges united and so proved their case at Washington that he was removed, and one sent who permitted the gatherinig (sic) of the school. This was not difficult to do as we spoke Pawnee and many of our old friends were left.
     "My work was pleasant and all went prosperously till a young Methodist minister was sent to assist in the school. The Methodists of Nebraska, learning there was an appropriation for schools for the Pawnees, wished to obtain it to establish a mission among them, and as there was one of their society at the head of the Indian Department at that time they felt quite sure of obtaining it.
     "Good Congregationalist as I tried to be, I made an effort to harmonize with my associate teacher, but in 1864 it seemed wise for us to separate, lest those who had come to that savage people in the name of the Prince of Peace should dishonor their Leader; and I left my beloved school, going to work in the Christian Commission till the close of the war, and then acting as matron for the Iowa Soldiers'


Orphan Home till in 1866 I was called back to take charge of my Pawnee school. There being an Episcopalian in charge of the agency at that time, Bishop Clarkson of blessed memory asked the rector of the Columbus church, Rev. Mr. Goodale, to look after the lambs in the Pawnee school. As he was the son of a Congregational minister, we wrought together most pleasantly. During his stay with us, coming each month to hold service in the school building, there was a large class desiring baptism, and by his request properly to instruct them as to the meaning and design of the solemn sacrament, I used a catechism prepared by his society for instructing the young, and found it very helpful.
     "The Sabbath morning when the ceremony was to occur, as I passed through one of the halls, a small girl who had been present during the training of the class, but had not been reckoned as one, met me and in beseeching tones said, 'Mrs. Platt, I want to be baptized.' 'O Maria,' I said, 'I am afraid you do not understand.' With pathetic tone and look she answered, 'Yes, I do.'
     "Consulting with Mr. Goodale, we decided if a lamb stood bleating at the gate, we would not forbid her entering the fold, and she was baptized with the twenty-seven.
     "While absent on my vacation that summer she died, and my assistant teacher told me that the morning of her death she said to Maria, 'Do you know we think God will call you to Himself today?' Her answer was 'I am ready.'
     "Our good helper continued with us till Grant's Quaker policy was inaugurated, when his church thought it honorable to withdraw, and he left the field for others to occupy.
     "The Rev. Mr. Elliott, who was a home missionary stationed at Columbus twenty miles distant, soon visited me, he being a Congregationalist, and I a charter member of the church in his care. With his wife he often came to hold service and give aid and courage to those of us con-


nected with the school. While he was thus assisting us one of our caretakers asked for baptism, and two of our Indian boys wished to unite with her. They were brothers, and the elder was one who was obliged to assist the men on the reservation farm. The younger was a gentle, loving brother. They hesitated about presenting themselves, as the elder brother feared he should dishonor the Savior by getting angry when the farm men swore at and kicked him, but as the younger refused to go without him they at last pledged themselves to the service of our Lord in the coveted rite. The younger, our gentle Richard, was soon after called to leave us for his Heavenly Home.
     "Our Quaker agent was catholic in his views, and the years we wrought together were those of Christian friendship. But at last there came an editor from the East to view our work, and on his return he commenced his report by writing, 'It is just two years since an effort was commenced to christianize and civilize the Pawnees,' and closed by adding, 'It is very incongruous that a school under the rule of the Friends should be in charge of an orthodox Congregationalist.'
     "It was not long before I was requested to leave my children, and with a heart full of sorrow I went.
     "Between these lines he veiled volumes of broken governmental treaties, of robbery and deceit and treachery and uncleanness practiced by those sent to the Pawnees to teach them the arts of civilization which proved to be to them a curse, and which, if uncovered, would lead us to feel it were better that they had been left in their wildness and ignorance.
     "Yours in Christian bonds,


     Mrs. Platt's severe arraignment of government officials only shows that in too many cases the government has been

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller