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Philibert, Joseph - Philibert and the Delaware Indians by Senator Emory Malton (version 1)

Philibert, Joseph - Philibert and the Delaware Indians by Senator Emory Melton (version 1)

(NOTE: I have found two versions of this article. I am not sure which one was the original and which was edited. I am including both for completeness)

Philibert and the Delaware Indians

Delaware Town and the Swan Trading Post

1822 - 1831

by Senator Emory Melton

Driving west on Highway 14 in 1977 some four and one-half miles west of Nixa at the new bridge across James River, it would never occur to the traveler that this was near the center of a thriving Delaware Indian village a century and a half ago in 1827.

It is perhaps more plausible, but equally as unlikely, that modern day visitors traversing highways 160 and 86 at the junction in the east edge of Forsyth would imagine a trading post at the nearby mouth of Swan Creek on the White River at the same time Delaware Town on the James Fork was in its hey day. It was here that the Weas, Piankenshaws and Peoria Indian Tribes from the area traded the products of the chase and forest for "store-bought" goods.

The Delaware Indians (along with some Lenapes--a related tribe) had wandered for years through the eastern central part of the United States after having been driven out of the Delaware Valley by attacks from stronger tribes such as the Iroquois, and later by the inroads of civilization.

This particular group of Delawares, together with a number of Shawnees, had spent the winter of 1821-22 on the Embarrass River a few miles below Vincennes in Indiana.

By July of 1822, the Delawares and some Shawnees were encamped on the Current River in central southern Missouri. In the summer they were at the trading post site on the James Fork.

Any attempt by historians to delve into the arrival of the pioneers in the White River Valley in southwest Missouri inevitably brings up the name of Joseph Philibert.

Living at Kaskaskia, Illinois, a small hamlet located a few miles down the Mississippi River from St. Genevieve, Philibert had grown up among the Indian tribes of that area. Born at St. Louis in 1802, the lad left home at an early age.

Sometime in either 1819 or 1820, Philibert who was of French descent, met an Indian trader named William Gilliss at St. Genevieve.

It was his acquaintance with Gilliss that was to bring him to southwest Missouri and which gives us a written record of Philibert’s sworn testimony about his life for a nine year period from 1822 to 1831 in this area.

 Philibert, who was living on the James River at its junction with the White in Stone County at the time his deposition was given, was one of the main characters in the trial. He was 68 years old when he rode horseback some 20 miles to Galena on Tuesday, June 7, 1870, to give his testimony before a judge of the county court.

One of the attorneys, during the deposition, asked Philibert about the state of his health and the old trader suggested he had been afflicted with "liver complaint" for about 20 years. He also told the attorney he was afflicted with "neuralgia in the head" from which he had suffered since the latter part of February, 1865. It was so severe that he had "nearly or quite" lost the sight of his right eye.

Philibert recounted the early years at Kaskaskia, St. Louis and St. Genevieve before he left that area to settle permanently in southwest Missouri. Many members of the Weas, Peoria and Piankeshaw tribes came from the Kaskaskia area to the mouth of Swan on White River about 1826.

Arriving for the first time in the valley of the James between the first and the fifteenth of September, 1822, Philibert found his friend Gilliss operating a trading post on the "James Fork" about 14 miles south of what is now Springfield. The town of Springfield did not come into being until some nine years later in 1831. During the deposition, Philibert located the site of the trading post as being in "what is now Christian County."

For a few weeks after his arrival he worked as a gunsmith, but soon abandoned this work to be employed by Gilliss "as a clerk and thereafter mostly I was engaged to sell goods as a clerk at ‘Delaware Trading House’ on the James Fork of White River." Actually, Gilliss was in the employ of Menard and Valle, which was a firm dealing extensively with the government in supplying the Indian tribes with rations and also purchasing furs and pelts. The headquarters of Menard and Valle was apparently in the St. Louis and St. Genevieve area. Peter Menard, whose deposition was read at the trial, was in 1870 a resident of Tazewell County, Illinois. He was 72 years of age at the time and was the son of the Menard in the firm employing Gilliss. The elder Menard was an Indian agent for the government. Apparently the conflict of interest laws were not as strict in those early days or else enforcement was lax.

The new home of Philibert was known variously as "The Trading House". "The Delaware Trading Post", "The James Fork Trading Post", and "Delaware Town." Actually "Delaware Town" consisted of the location of the Delaware tribe both upstream and downstream from the nearby trading post.

Philibert described his duties as a clerk as having "laid in the goods and sold the goods of furs and peltry."

In an interview several years ago with Marvin Tong, now curator of the museum at the School of the Ozarks, Billings Banker Jack Howard recalled how he had grown up on the farm which was a part of the Delaware settlement. The land was patented by Mr. Howard’s grandfather shortly after the Delawares removed in the late fall of 1830. At the time there were still a few Delawares in the vicinity who had remained behind when the tribe was moved by Gilliss and his teamsters to the Turkey Creek and Kaw River areas near what was later to become Kansas City.

Mr. Howard was able to give a vivid description of the Delawares in their last Missouri Village from stories told him by his grandfather and other early day settlers long since dead. Mr. Howard said from what information he was able to obtain, the Delawares were described as a very small, dark type of Indian with small heads, very black hair, and despite the small stature, were considered to be physically strong. According to information furnished Mr. Howard, the Delawares in their camp near Springfield lived for the most part in log cabins constructed similar to the ones occupied by white men. Most of the cabins had puncheon floors and fireplaces, but a few were built directly on the ground with dirt floors and a hole in the center of the roof to allow smoke to escape from the fire burning in the center of the floor. Still others, Mr. Howard said, preferred a small, rounded hut manufactured from tree limbs, brush, cedar boughs and covered with grass and hides from animals. Mr. Howard also said the Delawares often wore clothing cast off by white men, and seemed to prefer European type vests and coats. Some wore breech cloths, and still others dressed in trousers. The Delawares decorated their clothing with bead work, small metal bells, bits of glass, and other trinkets obtained from white traders. Some of the Lenapes, Mr. Howard told Tong, had strings of beads which appeared to be bone or shell, but the majority of the men and women wore colorful glass beads. The Delawares in their village on James River used metal tools, such as hoes, axes, guns and cast iron kettles, in which they cooked their corn, beans and meat into a type of thick stew.

Capt. Ketchum’s Delaware Village was located below the trading post on the James. John Sarcoxie, for whom the Jasper County town was later named, was a Delaware living near Delaware Town.

Col. Menard of Menard and Valle came infrequently to the trading posts at the James Fork location and the mouth of Swan. His son, Peter Menard, who was 4 years older than Philibert, visited the trading posts at least twice a year, usually in the spring and the fall. The son and Philibert were boyhood friends in Kaskaskie.

During his employment from 1822 to 1830, Philibert was frequently required to be away from the trading post. "Sometimes I was absent for two or three days. Sometimes two or three weeks, a month, and once upwards of two months. Ste. Genevieve was one place to go to. We called it 250 miles." He noted that he was required to go to Ste. Genevieve at least once a year, sometimes twice, and one year he went three times.

All his trips away from the trading post were made by land except in 1827 he made one trip down the James to the White and then downstream to the mouth of Swan in company with fellow clerk, William Myres. Another trip over the same route was made with his employer, Gilliss. The longest trip was made from the mouth of Swan down the White and Mississippi to New Orleans.

Apparently the dealings between the operation conducted by Gilliss and the U.S. Government were carried out at Ste. Genevieve. Philibert noted that in the fall of 1824 he traveled to Ste. Genevieve on a two-fold mission. One objective was to obtain gun powder and the other was to obtain a license for his employer "to trade."

The route between Delaware Town on the James Fork and Ste. Genevieve was described by Philibert as being "the same old route we always traveled--what we called the Old Piney Road-- which route came and led from Ste. Genevieve by Massey’s Iron Works across Little Piney and Big Piney passing to the headwaters of the James by the house of Mr. Thomas Patterson, and then four miles south of Springfield and so through to Delaware Town, being James Fork Trading Post."

Philibert also recalled visiting the Pincinneceau Trading House on the Osage some three or four times. It was owned by the American Fur Company and operated by Pincinneauceau some 90 to 100 miles north and east of Delaware Town--a two day ride by horseback. The first visit was by accident when Philibert became lost while traveling. In 1823, Philibert visited the Black Swamp which apparently was located on the Black river, probably in or near Wayne County. At other times he made trips to Sugar Creek some seventy miles southwest of Delaware Town, and he also went into Arkansas where he purchased furs and collected "peltry."

About July 20, 1830, Philibert, in company with William Myres, was sent to Grand River near the Missouri and Oklahoma line to visit a Piankeshaw chief and collect $1,000 which the tribe owed Gilliss. From there the two went to the Kaw River in Jackson County, then to St. Louis and finally to Ste. Genevieve.

Philibert learned to speak the Delaware language and also had a limited ability to converse with the Piankeshaws. At least he was fluent enough to trade with them since he would infrequently spend two or three days at a time at the Swan Trading Post. The Piankeshaws, Weas and Peorias lived in that area from 1827 to the fall of 1829.

The exact location of the James Fork trading house and the two-room log home of William Gilliss where Philibert lived are lost in the dust of antiquity although we know that Delaware Town and the trading post were located on the east side of the James River almost due west of the present day town of Nixa.

The main portion of the settlement was about 500 yards southwest of the Missouri Highway 14 bridge which spans the James. However, there were Delaware villages upstream as far as the mouth of Wilson Creek, some two miles northwest of the trading post. Other villages were located downstream a mile or more.

Philibert described the Gilliss residence by saying, "It was a one story hewed log house known as a double house with an entry in between. The south room was the kitchen, the north room was the Gilliss’ room. A door from each room opened into the open entry and one door on the west side of the kitchen opening to the outside. One window in the east side of Gilliss’ room and a chimney at each end of the house.

The deposition of Philibert contains a drawing he made from memory of the log house he occupied with Gilliss.

Other witnesses described the size as each of the two rooms being about sixteen feet square. There is considerable dispute about the south room being a kitchen and being occupied by the black slave woman "Rhoda Jones", who also testified at the trial. Philibert remembered that Rhoda and another black slave woman, "Olive," and their children, along with the husband of one, lived in the south room and cooked meals there.

Much of the testimony in the lawsuit involving the last will and testament of Gillis dealt with marriage customs among the Indians a Delaware Town and Swan Trading Post during the period. Philibert’s comments were as follows:

"Q. Were you acquainted with the Piankeshaw Indian customs and usages in reference to contracting marriage? If yea, state fully such customs and manners of consummating marriage.

"A. If their customs were like the Delawares I was and my understanding is that they were the same. There were two sorts of people--one rich and the other poor, the rich were called "big folks". If you wanted one of their daughters -- a virgin -- you had to make a friend -- generally a woman -- for your friend. Tell her you wanted such a one’s daughter. Then your friend would tell you it would take such and such articles and goods naming the articles it would take that she

believed that you could get her for these articles. Then you made up the bundle of goods and gave it to your friend. The friend would tell you that tomorrow or day after tomorrow she would go and if she returned with the bundle of goods you could not get her without adding such and such articles. After adding the required articles and the bundle was taken back if they were accepted your friend returned and tells you, you can get her and she will be here such and such a night. She never comes alone, but when she comes about dusk accompanied by her mother or aunt or elder sister if she has one. Then the one that brings her soon after leaves and goes home and then you invite the bride to come and share the blanket -- this consummates marriage. Some require more than others and sometimes a horse or a gun or saddle are given.

"Q. To which member of the family of the girl is the application made and the goods offered?

"A. To the mother. If she has no mother, then to the aunt called Little women.

"Q. What, if anything, did the father of the Indian girl have to do with the application for and the marriage of the daughter?

"A. I don’t know that he has anything to do with the application but I am told that when the father and mother are alone together that they talk the matter over between themselves, but says nothing to the friend that offers the goods. The goods are offered to the mother or just put down.

"Q. State whether the father is approached on the subject by the friend of the applicant.

"A. No, he is never approached that I have ever heard."

Peter Menard, a young man in his mid-twenties when he visited the James Fork Trading Post and the general White River area for the purpose of receiving furs from traders and shipping them, also testified on marriage customs in the area. Menard, who first knew Gilliss in Kaskaskie in the fall of 1820, engaged in supplying the Indians with rations from the government. His father was an Indian agent.

Menard testified concerning the customs:

"Q. Were you acquainted with the manners and customs of marriage among these Indians -- If so state what they were.

"A. I know all about their customs -- are very different from ours. They did not go to see a girl and hug and kiss when a man wanted a wife among the Indians and she was a virgin -- the matter was generally understood the mother had generally control of the girl. Sometimes a guardian. Well, the man, the applicant to obtain her hand would make a present to the mother or guardian -- it was done in this wise. The young man sent one, two or more horses or other goods and left them in front of the wigwam. If those horses were taken and hobbled or goods received, it was a contract. It was understood it was a marriage. Then the girl was either by her mother or guardian taken to the young man’s wigwam by night. The day before the girl was taken her father and mother would make a feast. The young man would go and eat with them but would not say a word.

"Q. What were their customs in regard to divorce?

"A. Separations seldom took place -- it was mostly on account of infidelity. There was no formality about it -- they just separated and divided the blankets.

A letter now in the Missouri Historical Society Graham papers collection in St. Louis indicates that Gilliss was an active trader. In December of 1826, a fellow trader, William Marshall, wrote James Campbell of Indian Affairs:

"I understand William Gillis has sent his pack horses loaded with goods to the woods to trade with Indians which I consider a grand imposition on me for a man without license to go and trade in that manner contrary to law to deprive me of my just credits for which reason I request you to have him stopped as quick as possible. You may be well assured he has no license to trade in that quarter. I am in hopes, sir, you will not fail to have him detected in his pursuit."

Joseph Philibert returned to Stone County in early February of 1833 and on February 26, 1833, married Peninah Yoachum, the 16-year-old daughter of the legendary "Silver Dollar" Yoachum, and apparently set up housekeeping on the Southeast Quarter of the Southeast Quarter of Section 12, Township 22, Range 24, a site now covered by the waters of Table Rock Lake. He was issued Homestead Certificate No. 9771 for the 31.40 acres on January 1, 1847. The fractional quarter-quarter section was located at the junction of the James and White Rivers, a spot now generally marked by an island in Table Rock Lake across from the Joe Bald recreational or park area west of Kimberling City. What was once a hill at the confluence of the two mighty rivers is now an island. Philibert was issued Homestead Certificate No. 11389 for 67.50 acres in the North west Fractional Quarter of Section 18, a tract which cornered with the first tract. Later, he received Homestead Certificate No. 12431 for 58.15 acres in the southwest corner of Section 7 which filled in on the north and east sides of the first two tracts.

The center of the property would be three miles due west of the south end of the Kimberling City bridge, and this is approximately where the James emptied into the White River.

There is no evidence that Philibert ever carried on an Indian trading post at this site, however he may have operated a similar trading post for the white people of the area after 1833 who were now beginning to populate the White River Valley.

Despite the fact that Philibert testified his health was bad and had been bad for many years at the time of the taking of his deposition in 1870, he lived to the ripe old age of 82, dying at his home at the junction of the James and the White in 1884.

In an aside in the testimony one of the attorneys, referring to the civil war which had ended some five years earlier, asked how it had affected him.

In testifying that he was "very much disturbed by the late rebellion while living at the mouth of James Fork of White River," Philibert said: "I was disturbed some of course by Secesh and Union men both. The Rebels came to kill me and the Union men took my corn, flour, bacon, hay and everything." The Secesh took upwards of $900 in gold."


Date28 Aug 2013
Linked toPHILIBERT JOSEPH, II

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