Great Osage Village of Kansas – White Hair

The one village of the Great Osages on the Neosho mentioned by Colonel Sibley was that of White Hair. It was established about the year 1815, as noted before. In 1796 when the Arkansas band was induced to settle on the Lower Verdigris by Chouteau a trail from these Lower Towns to the old home on the Little Osages, in Vernon County, Missouri, where Pike had found the Osage Nation, was marked, and thenceforth used by traders and Indians alike. This trail followed up the Marmaton, in what is now Bourbon County, Kansas. It crossed over to the waters of the Neosho near the southeast corner of the present Allen County, bearing all the time to the southwest. The Neosho River was reached and crossed just above the present town of Shaw, in Neosho County, Kansas. In migrating to the Neosho River, White Hair and his band followed this old trail. The Great Osage town was fixed at the crossing of the Neosho, and on the west side of the river. When the Government survey of Kansas was made the site of White Hair’s village fell within the bounds of section sixteen (16), township twenty-eight (28) range nineteen (19). 1

The missionaries came down from their establishments in the old Osage country to proclaim the Gospel to Osages on the Neosho. The Presbyterians set up a mission there as early as 1824, with Rev. Benson Pixley in charge. What this effort accomplished is not fully known. In March, 1830, Rev. Nathaniel B. Dodge, was sent from Independence, Mo., where he had gone after strenuous labors at Harmony Mission, to take up the work with the Osages, on the Neosho. There he established what was known as the “Boudinot” Mission. It was on the east bank of the river opposite the town of White Hair. He remained at that charge until 1835, when he returned to the Little Osage River, in Vernon County, Mo., settling near Balltown, where he died in 1848. His departure from the Neosho was the end of the Presbyterian Mission there.

The Baptists made no efforts to establish a mission among the Osages on the Neosho. McCoy says the Osages were much to be pitied at that time, but does not explain why the Baptists were unable to help them.

The Roman Catholic Mission was founded at the point where the town of Osage Mission was afterwards located. The town was the result of the mission. In 1822 the Bishop of New Orleans appointed Rev. Father Charles de La Croix missionary to the Osages on the Neosho. He reached the field of his labors in May of that year. On the 5th of that month he baptized Antone Chouteau, who was born in 1817, and whose baptism is the first recorded in Kansas. This missionary succumbed to the hardships of pioneer life, dying at St. Louis. He was succeeded by Rev. Charles Van Quickenborn, who appeared on the Neosho in 1827. In 1828 he performed the ceremony of marriage between Francis D. Agbeau, a half-breed, and an Osage woman named Mary. There is no record of an earlier marriage ceremony in Kansas. The progress of the mission was slow. Rev: Father John Schoenmakers, S. J., arrived at the mission April 28, 1847, accompanied by Fathers Bax and Colleton. They were accorded possession of two buildings then being erected by the Indian Department. In these buildings were started two schools—one for girls and one for boys. In October a number of Sisters of Loretto arrived from Kentucky. Father Paul Ponziglioni came to the mission in 1851. The work went forward with energy from that time. Additions were made to the buildings, and attendance increased. The Civil War scattered the Osages, but Father Ponziglioni followed from village to village to minister to them.

The Osages disposed of their vast domain in Kansas in 1825. In June of that year they made a treaty with the United States by which they ceded all the land of the State of Kansas south of the land ceded by the Kansas. The Osages and Kansas were, in fact, in St. Louis together to conclude these treaties. That with the Osages was made on the second of June, and that with the Kansas the following day. The south limit of the Kansas cession had been already noted. The Osage cession extended from that line south into Oklahoma and west as far as the Kansas had claimed. It was an imperial domain, and the Osages had no good title to any great portion of it. The Government could take title from the Osages; none could ever dispute this title with the United States. That is why it was accepted from the Osages.

In this same treaty a new reservation was cut from the ceded lands for the Osages. Its bounds were to be arrived at in much the same manner as in the new reservation for the Kansas. This new Osage reservation was thus defined:

Beginning at a point due east of White Hair’s village and 25 miles West of the western boundary line of the State of Missouri, fronting on a North and South Line so as to leave 10 miles North and 40 miles South of the point of said beginning, and extending West with a width of 50 miles to the western boundary of the lands hereby ceded and relinquished.

All this reservation was disposed of under the terms of a treaty made with the Osages at the Canville Trading Post, near Shaw, in Neosho County, September 29, 1865. By this treaty the Ceded Lands were cut from the east end of the reservation to be sold to create a fund for the benefit of the Osages. This tract was twenty-eight miles in width—east and west—by fifty miles north and south. Another cession made by the treaty was a tract twenty miles wide off the north side of the reservation as it remained after taking off the Ceded Lands. This tract was to he held in trust for the tribe and sold for its benefit at a stipulated sum. It was provided also that if the Osages should determine to move to the Indian Territory to lands secured for them there, the diminished reservation in Kansas might be sold by the Government for their benefit. They did so determine, and by an act of Congress of July 15, 1870, the remainder of the Osage lands in Kansas passed to the Government to be disposed of for their use. The Osages left Kansas in 1870. They settled on land bought from the Cherokee, east and north of the Arkansas River, where they yet live.Citations:

  1. The site of White Hair’s village has long been a matter of both doubt and controversy. In later years it has been supposed to have been near Oswego, Labette County. The correct location was determined by this author from measurements made on an old manuscript map (and other maps) in the Library of the Kansas State Historical Society, and the consultation of various authorities and treaties.

    The White Hair who founded this first town of the Great Osages on the Neosho was a descendant of Old White Hair, the great chief of the Big Osages, about the time of Pike’s visit. This first White Hair died in what is now Vernon County, Mo. It seems that all the chiefs named White Hair had the Osage name Pahusca, pronounced Pawhoos-ka. They had a council name —Papuisea. Also a war name, Cahagatongo.

    The Neosho River was named by the Osages. The name is composed of two words—ne, water; and osho, bowl or basin. It was so named from the fact that it has innumerable deep places—bowls or basins of water. It means a river having many deep places.[]

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