Bluejacket Reunion with a Tomahawk

I want to thank Carlyle Henshaw for this wonderful article.  When I asked him for permission to publish, here’s what Carlyle had to say.

“I really had fun researching that article.  The three Bluejacket brothers that establish Bluejacket Crossing were George, Henry and Charles.  Henry was my great great grandfather.  The three brothers were grandsons of Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket, 1737-1808.  He was the last principal war chief of the Shawnee Tribe of Indians.  We have 15 members in our PekowiBlueJacket Project.  All trace to Blue Jacket genealogically.  We all descend from the three brothers via DNA.  Nine of us have Family Finder.  Four males have fathers who are named Bluejacket and all match each other.  One is haplogroup Q and three are Q1a3a1.  All in all, everyone matches up in the Blue Jacket line, genetically and genealogically.  We have sixth, seventh and eighth generations from Blue Jacket represented.”

A REUNION with a TOMAHAWK

by Carlyle Hinshaw

Twin Bridges State Park — On July 1, 2001, the Shawnee Indian Blue Jacket family held its biennial reunion at this lovely place eight miles southeast of Miami, Oklahoma. The picnic was comprised of 60 relatives and other Shawnee friends and two fine Ottawa County Coon Hounds who know a Shawnee repast when they see, er, smell one! Blue Jackets from the Cherokee Nation (Cherokee Adopted Shawnee), Eastern Shawnee Tribe and Shawnee Tribe gathered to celebrate their long, illustrious history. Several excellent stories arose and are being told as time allows for the telling.

Robert Harry Withrow, Jr., of Kanab, Utah, brought a Pipe Tomahawk used by and handed down through, his family from Shawnee days in northeastern Kansas Territory during the middle 1800’s. Robert also brought along the story of the Pipe Tomahawk.

On November 30, 1831, a group of 334 Shawnees, including families of Chief John Perry, Henry and James (Jim) Blue Jacket, Peter Cornstalk and John Woolf arrived at the Shawnee Agency in Kansas after a three month “Trail of Tears” from Allen County, Ohio. Most of the adults rode horseback and the children in baggage wagons. These Wapaghkonetta and Hog Creek Shawnees had ceded (August 8, 1831) their homelands to the U. S. Government for 100,000 acres within or contiguous to, the existing Shawnee Reserve south of the Kansas (Kaw) River. The following year, 24 Shawnees of the River Huron in Michigan Territory made their trek to the new Shawnee country. In 1833, 14 more followed suit and in 1839, the total of River Huron Shawnees in the Shawnee Reserve was 38. (Louise Barry, THE BEGINNING OF THE WEST, p. 223-24, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, 1972).

The new Shawnee lands were however, smack dab in the middle of the great western migration. Starting with a fur party path in 1827 (Sublette’s Trace), several trails headed up in the Independence, Missouri – confluence of the Kaw and Missouri rivers area and the main trace of the Oregon California Road crossed Shawnee lands south of the Kaw. Westward Ho traffic steadily increased and reached a crescendo after the discovery of gold in California in 1849. Settlement along the various trails began and Indian lands became more and more desirable to emigrants wanting to establish roots.

Treaty of 1854

Successful in their continual efforts to displace Indians, the U. S. Government had Shawnee leaders travel to Washington DC and sign a treaty on May 10, 1854, ceding 1, 600,000 acres of their land for 200,000 within the same area. Now that was a hell of a deal for the governmental’s! Shawnee signers of the document included: Joseph Parks, Black Hoof (was he still around?), George McDougal, Silverheels, Paschal Fish, Long Tail, George Blue Jacket, Graham Rogers,  Wa-wah-che-pa-e-kar (or, Black Bob), Tooly and Henry Blue Jacket. Witness’s to the signatures included Agent Benjamin F. Robinson and Interpreter Charles Blue Jacket. Each Shawnee was awarded, in severalty, 200 acres and that included Absentee Shawnees and Adopted Shawnees.

BLuejacket crossing

Hughmongous tracts of lands immediately became available for settlement and many new areas were incorporated, including Lawrence in 1854 and Eudora in 1857. German settlers purchased land for the latter town from Paschal Fish, who, along with John Blue Jacket, had been assistant gun and blacksmiths for the Leavenworth Agency in 1837. Quick to take advantage of this new situation, the Blue Jacket brothers, Henry, George and Charles, went into the hotel and ferry business. George and storekeeper William “Dutch Bill or Billy” Greiffenstein incorporated the town of Sebastian, six miles SE of Lawrence in the SE1/4 of the SW1/4 of Section 12 – Township 13 South – Range 20 East. The town did not survive and is not shown on modern maps. Henry died at Blue Jacket’s Crossing of the Wakarusa River on May 3, 1855, leaving his wife, Eliza, with six children and expecting a seventh. The latter was born in early 1856.

On the afternoon of May 19, 1855, the first steamboat to ply the Kansas River, the EMMA HARMON, left Kansas City en-route to Topeka and other way landings. Stopping to re-supply wood around noon the next day, they slipped into the stream again and almost immediately were hailed by an Indian wanting a tow up river for his flatboat. They stopped, made the small boat fast and proceeded west up river. The flatboat had just been made by Tooly, a Shawnee who had operated a ferry where the Delaware River, coming from the north, joined the Kaw between Lawrence and Topeka. Upon reaching the confluence of the Kaw and Wakarusa, they cast the Indian loose in his craft. Amidst cheering and waving from the passengers, the red man poled his way up the smaller stream. That Indian boat captain had to be one of two cousins, both strapping 21 year olds, Stephen S. Blue Jacket, eldest son of Henry, or William George Blue Jacket, eldest son of George! Thus began operations of Blue Jacket’s Ferry. (Kansas Historical Quarterly, V. 6, p. 17-19)

bluejacket ferry

Civil War

The Free State – Slave State concept became an overriding one at this time, as anti-slavery Kansas Jayhawkers actively worked with the underground railroad bringing freedom to many and pro-slavery Missouri Bushwhackers fought to bring the freedmen back into slavery. With Lawrence as the “free state” capitol, local traffic added to the depth of Oregon California Road ruts. Kansas in fact became a free State in 1861 as the Civil War broke out.

On the night of August 21, 1863, Confederate Captain William Clarke Quantrill led 400 raiders from successes at Independence, Missouri against Union troops, toward Lawrence to punish the anti-slavery zealots of many years standing. The inhabitants of Blue Jacket’s Crossing got wind of Quantrill’s sweep across northeastern Kansas and took precautions. Eliza Silverheels, wife of David Likens Blue Jacket, had a one year old boy at the time but took it upon herself to round up the children and some older protectors, loaded them with provisions and the very youngest and sent them into the hills south of the Wakarusa.

Defending Hearth and Home

Eliza was determined to guard her home, stayed there and lay in wait for the band of guerillas prancing toward Lawrence. This great-great grandmother of Robert Harry Withrow, Jr., was armed with a Pipe Tomahawk, most assuredly obtained from her father-in-law, the Rev. Charles Blue Jacket, by now an ordained Methodist Minister.

As the raiders crossed the Wakarusa at this Shawnee enclave, one, bent on looting Eliza’s home and perhaps intent on doing bodily harm to any inhabitants, tried to enter by a window. A young, enraged Shawnee Indian woman brandishing a wicked looking Tomahawk confronted him! With great effort, Eliza gave a mighty swing of her weapon, so mighty in fact, that when the axe met the raider, her arm broke. The haft of the Tomahawk broke at the same time. The Quantrillian was not so fortunate, as the blow to his head did him in for good!

The Confederates hit Lawrence at 5 AM, killing upwards of 200 men, looting, raping and setting fire to the entire town in an atrocity of the worst kind. Quantrill later was abandoned by most of his men and killed by Union troops in Kentucky. Lawrence began recovery immediately, regardless of the heartbreak foisted upon them by those monsters.

Pipe Tomahawks

The successful defender passed the family Pipe Tomahawk on to daughter Cindarella Blue Jacket who passed it to her daughter Cindarella Florence (Mills) Brown. Mrs. Brown’s daughter, Betty June, married Robert Harry Withrow and they parented Robert, Jr., who is the current keeper of the family heirloom. The Withrow family and 90 year old grand mom, Cindarella Florence, all attended the picnic and all contributed to this story.

European and Americans developed pipe Tomahawks for the Indian trade. Made with a smoking handle and a tobacco bowl insert at the head, they served, among other things, as “badges of prestige” given to Indian leaders at treaty signings and other occasions. Giver and receiver ornately decorated most. Modern artisans reproduce them and can be acquired at less than $50.00 to $500.00. Documented historical antiquities sell for upwards of $35,000!

Robert Withrow pipe tomahawk

Robert Withrow’s Pipe Tomahawk does not have the original smoking haft, thanks to Eliza’s mighty blow, however, its origin is documented by makers marks.

The maker was a Vickers metal smith in London, England in 1833. The head was cast in the Naylor, Vickers and Company’s Sheffield foundry.

Pipe tomahawk

Both sides of the head have the “Bleeding Heart” symbol, which is a common decoration on the antique ones.

Pipe tomahawk bleeding heart

The Masonic emblem was probably etched by gun and black smithy, John Blue Jacket, brother of the Rev. Charles Blue Jacket, who, along with many other Shawnees, was active in that organization.

Pipe tomahawk man in moom

The other side is scribed with a man in the moon, which is a bit unusual. The French Moon or crescent moon was, however, a common inscription, sometimes included when the head was cast.

Robert Withrow, Jr. is a teacher of survival skills across the country, both to private and military groups. It is fitting that he continues to preserve Shawnee history and heritages.

Withrow family

Top L-R: Robert Withrow, Robert Withrow, Jr ., Robert John Brown
Bottom, L-R: Betty Withrow, Cindarella Brown, Saundra Davis.

The elder Withrows live in Chetopa KS, Robert and Saundra in Centralia IL and Cindarella in Centralia.

Cindarella had the good fortune to remember her grandparents. She was born in 1911 and David Likens Blue Jacket passed away on April 4, 1919 and Eliza (Silverheels) Blue Jacket on June 12, 1929. Great historical events were told directly to their daughter Cindarella (Blue Jacket) Mills and to their grand daughter Cindarella Mills. Now, at 90 years of age, the latter is still able to give us insight to our Shawnee heritage. Thank you Cindarella Florence (Mills) Brown.

Gaylord Carlyle Hinshaw
1713 Baron Dr
Norman OK 73071
405-364-4584
bjexploration@swbell.net

5 thoughts on “Bluejacket Reunion with a Tomahawk

  1. Hughmongous was a word I used as a “child of the south”, and even use today. When I read your lovely article, I wondered if hughmongous was a real word, or a colloguialism. It appears to be a colloguialism, but to me it a REAL word. Thank you for putting me in touch with my roots.

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