The Oregon Trail through Pottawatomie County -- part five
(page 19 continued)


  Among the first of the early pioneers and settlers that came from Sugarcreek, in what is now Allen and Linn county, Kansas, was Mrs. James S. Merritt.  She has been a resident of Wamego, Kan., for many years.  She becamethe wife of Hon. James S. Merritt, now deceased.  He was a lawyer and atone time a member of the Kansas legislature from this county.  Mrs. Merritt's father, Joseph Bertram, was a government interpreter for the Pottawatomies.  The part of the tribe that lived in Linn and Allen counties,Kansas, was that which had moved from Sugar creek to this county in 1848.Mrs. Merritt was about four years of age at that time.  The Pottawatomiescame from Linn county to the Oregon Trail.  They were on the south side ofthe Kansas river and came along the trail west to the crossing called "UnionTown," which was on the present site of Topeka.  The trail crossed the Kansasriver to the north side at this point.  The river was sometimes crossed byferry, but most of the time it was forded.  After crossing the Kansas river atUnion Town, they followed the Oregon Trail to their destination, St. Mary'smission, which had been organized this same year.

  Mrs. Merritt remembers well the old trail.  She traveled over it from St.Marys to the old Louis Vieux farm, when a young woman.  She remembersthe huge covered wagons and the many spans of oxen that drew them westward.  She also remembers Chief Nah-nim-nuk-skuk, who is now said to be118 years old.  He lived just across the Vermillion on the farm formerlyowned by Ben Huey.  He was one of the spokesmen for his people in theirnegotiations for their rights with the representatives of the government, andwas noted as an Indian orator.  His interpreter was Joseph Bourassa.

  Mrs. Merritt remembers well the battle between the Pawnees and the Pottawatomies, fought some place in what is now Pottawatomie county.  Theexact location of the battlefield she does not know because she was so smallwhen it occurred.  The Pottawatomies whipped the Pawnees in this battle.Mrs. Merritt was at that time a small child.  She and the other children of themission were very much afraid to go out of doors at night after this battle. Mrs. Merritt is now past three score years and ten, yet she is healthy,hearty and alert, her mental faculties retaining all their keenness.  She is afine, rugged character, typical of the pioneer women who have contributed somuch towards making Kansas a great state.


  Closely connected with the Oregon Trail in this county is the life of LouisVieux, Sr., who was born on the 30th day of November, 1809.  Where he wasborn no one seems to know, but probably he was born on the shores of LakeMichigan, where the present city of Chicago now stands, as the Pottawatomieswere living there in 1809.  Later he moved with a portion of the tribe toCouncil Bluffs, Iowa, and in 1846 went with that same portion of the tribeto Indianola.

page 20Kansas State Historical Society.

  Indianola was located where North Topeka stands to-day.  There were nobuildings in either North or South Topeka at that time, and the Pottawatomieslived in the timber, after the manner of Indians.

  In 1847 or 1848 Louis Vieux moved from Indianola to his allotment of land

Chief of the Pottawatomies.  A good citizen.
The only photograph of him in existence.
Taken in Washington, D. C.
in section 24, township 9, range 10 east, in what is now Pottawatomie county, Kansas.  This allotment was about fifteen miles north and west of St. Mary's Mission.  He raised a family of five daughters and two sons, only two of whom are now living.  Mrs. Rachel Thurber, living in Shawnee county, near Rossville, and Mrs. Sophia Johnson, living in Oklahoma, are his daughters.

  The Vieux allotment was located on the Oregon Trail just east of where it

page 21The Oregon Trail.

crossed the Vermillion river.  Immigrants forded the river at this point formany years.  After Mr. Vieux had constructed his log cabin on his allotment,near the ford, he built a toll bridge end operated it for many years.  This tollbridge was located at approximately the same place where the wagon bridge,sometimes known as the St. John bridge, now spans the river.  Louis Vieuxsometimes made as much as $300 a day revenue from his toll bridge.  Hecharged only $1 for each outfit that crossed.

  Mr. Vieux also furnished hay and grain to travelers.  The old Fort to Forttrail, established in 1852, also traversed the Oregon Trail past the Vieux farm.So, for many years, when stages were running between Fort Riley and FortLeavenworth, there was a stage stable located on the Vieux farm, where thehorses were changed.

  Louis Vieux, Sr., as the name indicates, was of French descent.  He was abig man among the Pottawatomie Indians; business agent for the tribe, interpreter, and named a chief.  He made many trips to Washington on behalfof the Pottawatomies, and on one of these trips he had his picture taken inWashington.  This is the only picture of Louis Vieux, Sr., extant.

  He became very wealthy and owned much property when he died on May6, 1872.  The town of Belvue, and the town of Louisville, which was formerlythe county seat of this county, were both named for Louis Vieux.  Mr. Vieux at one time owned and bequeathed in his will to his wife and children, nearlythe whole town site of Louisville.  He was buried in what is known as theVieux cemetery, sometimes called the Indian cemetery.  It is located on aknell about 100 yards north of where the old cabin stood and about the samedistance north of the present home of August Uhlrig.  It is in the northeastquarter of section 24, township 9, range 10 east (?), in Louisville township,in Pottawatomie county.  This cemetery dates back into the fifties.  Apparently all of those buried there were of the Catholic faith.  The graves wereat one time all marked with headstones, some of which had been manufacturedby "Quinton & Geraughty," of Leavenworth, Kan.  Some of the headstoneswere the original limestone.  On one stone I found the inscription, "TusandTrumble, died March 9, 1867, age 97 years." The largest and most imposingmonument in this cemetery is that of Louis Vieux, Sr.  The inscription on thewest side of his monument is given below.
To the Memory ofLOUIS VIEUXDiedMay 3, 1872Aged62 yrs., 5 mos., 3 das.His worthy deeds within our heartsshall live beyond the tomb.Requiescat in pace -- Amen.
  On the east side of his monument is the following:
For many years one of the leaders of the Pottawatomies,influential in their councils.

  Just and kind with them in his dealings, he won their confidence, whichhe never betrayed; and their affection, which lie never despised.  A man ofstrict integrity, he never forgot his word; of great benevolence, he neverturned the hungry away; public spirited, he gave largely to promote improvement.  He died loved and mourned by a wide circle of friends.

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  Immediately south of his monument is another stone the inscription ofwhich reads:
CHARLOTTE, wife of Louis Vieux,died April 13, 1857,age 37 years.
  This was his first wife and the mother of his children.  Immediately northof his monument is the stone of his second wife.  Its inscription reads:
MARYwife of Louis Vieux,died April 11, 1869,age 37 years.
  Later in life he married again, and his wife's name was Mary L. Vieux.  She was buried in the Catholic cemetery a mile north of Wamego.  The names of his children are as follows: Louis Vieux, Jr.; Jacob Vieux;Sophia Vieux Johnson; Arcange Vieux; Madeline Vieux; Ellen Vieux; andRachel Vieux Thurber.

  The Indian cemetery where the ashes of Louis Vieux repose has beenneglected for many years.  It is unfenced.  Stock has been permitted to runthrough it with the result that many of the grave markers are thrown downand broken.  Some have been carried away.  The markers should be replaced as nearly as possible, and the cemetery fenced.  Though this groundhas passed into the hands of strangers I am sure that the present owner wouldagree to let this work be done.  Why should not Pottawatomie county seethat this historic spot be preserved?


  Rachel Vieux Thurber was born December 28, 1844, at Council Bluffs, Iowa.  She was eighty-three years of age in December, 1927.  She lived for many yearson her father's farm.  She remembers the long caravans of covered wagonspulled by oxen.  Sometimes there were as many as six pairs of oxen to thewagon.  Some of the wagons had painted across them "Pike's Peak or Bust."

  Her earliest recollection of St. Marys was a small church and a small schoolhouse.  These were the only buildings belonging to the mission, except alittle stone house.  This still stands to-day, a short distance north of thebridge at the east end of St. Marys, on U. S. highway No. 40.  Mrs. Thurberstated that the government, through its agent, paid the Indians their annuitiesfrom this building.  She had often seen her father, standing in front of thisbuilding, calling the Indians by name to come forward and get their pay.This would seem to indicate that at one time there was an Indian agency atSt. Marys.

  It is possible that at some time Louis Vieux was deputed to take to St.Marys and distribute the money for the Pottawatomies.

  She also remembers the stage coaches that traveled between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley and changed horses at their farm.  She witnessed thedecline of the Oregon Trail which commenced with the building of the rail-

8   In volume XVI, "Kansas Historical Collections," is made this statement: "The Cross Creek agency was located in the fall of 1847, one mile up Cross creek (Indian name Metsapa) from the present Rossville.  Annuities were paid to the Pottawatomies at Uniontown from 1847-1859.  Paid at Cross Creek from 1869-1870."

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  Mrs. Thurber stated that there never was any trouble along the OregonTrail in this part of the county, nor in the big camp near the Vieux place,Yet she remembers the story of a battle between the Pawnees and the Pottawatomies, in which the Pottawatomies were victorious.  She does not rememberthe exact time and place of this battle, but she is positive that it happened inwhat is now Pottawatomie county.

Youngest daughter of Louis Vieux.
  Referring to the battle between the Pottawatomies and the Pawnees,9 which has been mentioned by Mrs. Merritt and Mrs. Thurber, the only reference I have found to it is in a book written by John Stowell, of Seneca, Kan.At page 206 he says:

  "From the time of the arrival of the Pottawatomies at their new home inKansas, they lived at peace with the government and had no trouble withthe neighboring tribes except in 1850, when, on account of the depredationscommitted by the Pawnees, the Pottawatomies declared war against them.The first engagement between the warriors of the two tribes was on the eastside of the Blue river, near Rocky ford (four miles north of Manhattan) on
9  In regard to the battle between the Pottawatomies and the Pawnees, William E.Connelley, in his "History of Kansas, writes as given below:

  "While the Pawnees had agreed to retire beyond the Platte as early as 1834, they seemto have been possessed of a determination to hold the valley of the Kansas river.  No soonerhad the Pottawatomies settled themselves about the mission at St. Marys than the Pawneesbegan attacks upon them, intending to expel them, or at least hoping to make the new homeso uncomfortable the Pottawatomies would abandon it.  But the old Algonquian stock wascourageous.  The Pottawatomies accepted the challenge.  They declared war on thePawnees, and dug up the tomahawk.The Pawnee force was camped along the Big Blue, down which stream they always came to make war on the enemies in the valley of theKansas.  The Pottawatomies attacked at the Rocky ford, in what is now Pottawatomie county.  A fierce skirmish ensued in which the superior firearms of the Pottawatomies gave them the advantage.  While the Pawnees were not defeated, they did retreat from the field, passing westward to Chapman's creek, where they made a stand.  There they had a better country for the free movements of their horses, in their peculiar tactics.  The Pottawatomiespursued, and when they came up with their foes a considerable battle ensued.  The Pawnees had only horsemen, and at the Rocky ford only mounted Pottawatomies had engaged them.The Pottawatomies had determined to settle once for all whether they could live on the Kansas, and had mustered their full strength, many on foot.  These latter were stationed in some short bushy ravines under a high steep bank.  The Pottawatomie horsemen so maneuvered that the Pawnees were drawn down the prairie along these gullies, when the Pottawatomie footmen lying in ambush there opened fire.  The Pawnees were taken by complete surprise.  Several of their foremost warriors were slain, but they did not give up the battle, which was fiercely contested with the mounted Pottawatomies, who were now much encouraged.  They charged the Pawnees repeatedly, finally putting them to flight.  The Pawnees disappeared northward over the prairies, and never more made a foray below the Big Blue.The Pottawatomies were never more molested by them.  They lost some forty warriors in this effort to drive out the Pottawatomies.  For many years a Pottawatomie chieftain who had distinguished himself in this campaign would decorate himself in true warrior style on the anniversary of the battle and ride to the western and northern boundary lines of the reserve to celebrate the victory and satisfy himself that their frontiers were clear."

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the territory now included in Pottawatomie county, Kansas.  In this engagement the Pottawatomies were victorious, and compelled the Pawnees to retreat west to Chapman creek. There the Pawnees rallied and there was foughta fierce and bloody battle.  Some of the Pottawatomie braves displayed greatvalor and won for themselves great fame as warriors among the members oftheir tribe.  One of the braves, Now-quah-ge-gluck particularly distinguishedhimself by daring feats of bravery and the number of scalps of the enemy hetook in battle.  The Pottawatomies came off victorious and forever afterlived in peace."

  In an article written by William E. Connelley, for volume XIV, "KansasHistorical Collections," is a statement of Chief Kack-kack in which he said"that he had scalped many Indians, but never scalped a white man." Heplanned the ambush by which the Pottawatomies defeated the Pawnees, soonafter the founding of the Catholic mission at St. Marys.  He killed some ofthe Pawnees.  All the scalps he had taken in his fighting were retained byhim as long as he lived.

  The above, no doubt, refers to the battle mentioned by both Mrs. Thurberand Mrs. Merritt.


  Nah-nim-nuk-skuk, who is a Pottawatomie Indian, is said to be one hundred and eighteen years old.  He was born in 1809 in an Indian village situated where Chicago now stands.  He now lives on the reservation in Jackson county, about five miles northwest of Delia, on Soldier creek. 

He was a child of about twelve years when his tribe moved from the lakeshore to their new home near Council Bluffs, Iowa.  He would like to goback to the scene of his birth before the Great Father calls him home to thehappy hunting ground, and he sincerely believes that he could still find thesite of his birthplace.  He can still vision the tepee on the shores of thegreat lake where he was born; he can see the clearing, the tall trees, the rippling stream that poured into the lake.  And he believes that it must stillexist as he remembers it.

  He came from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to the reservation in what is nowPottawatomie county, Kansas, in 1847 or 1848.  He lived just east of the Vermillion, a short distance north of where the U. S. highway No. 40 now crossesthe Vermillion river in this county.

  It is a coincidence that the land upon which he lived is the same tract uponwhich the Kansas Indian village was discovered by John C. Fremont, in 1842.

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  The description of his land follows: The south half of the northwest quarterof section 32, township 9, range 11, east of the sixth principal meridian, Pottawatomie county, Kansas. 

  He lived there for many years and is known to some of the older residents.  Mrs. James S. Merritt spoke of him as an orator and an influential man inhis tribe.  It is said that he has been married six times.  All of his first fivewives died of old age.  So many of his children have died of old age that heis not sure how many alive to-day.  His present wife is eighty years of age.

  He is very active yet, and chops wood every morning for two hours and

Said to be 118 years old.
also does chores about his farm.  Recently he has planned a trip to Oklahomato visit relatives.  He will make the trip alone, although he does not speakany but his native tongue.  Great preparations were made by his friends forthis trip.  For two days and nights they gathered at his home on Soldiercreek.  There they feasted and beat a drum constantly.  It was explainedthat they thought the old man might not come back and so, if he did not return, he would he on his way to the happy hunting ground.  He has lived onthe Pottawatomie reservation in Jackson county for more than twenty years.Over half of his life has been spent on reservations.  His first fifty years ofexistence were spent in the wild free life of the Indian untouched by civilization.  His parents have been dead for nearly a century, but he recalls hismother clearly.

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