White Deer Land Museum

German Family Reunion/Cheyenne Peace Ceremonial

On September 9, 1990, an unusual event occurred at a site six miles west and two miles north of Russell Springs in Logan County , Kansas . This was a reunion of descendants of John and Liddia German and descendants of Medicine Water and Calf Woman whose destinies met at this site on September 11, 1874. On that date five members of the German family were massacred by a band of 15 Cheyenne braves and two squaws.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

Almost ten years before the massacre of the German family, 112 Cheyenne families were massacred by Colorado Militia led by Colonel John M. Chivington. This massacre occurred at Sand Creek in Kiowa County , Colorado , on November 29, 1864.

Black Kettle and his Cheyennes were attempting to live and camp according to instructions of the commander of Fort Lyon and believed themselves to be under the guardianship of the U.S. government. An American flag was flying over the Cheyenne camp, and Black Kettle ran up a white flag when the early dawn attack began.

Buffalo Calf Woman, who was 23 years old at the time of the Sand Creek Massacre, saw her entire family cut to pieces with long, slender knives. Some were scalped while still alive, and children were shot at close range. Many of the victims were women, children and elderly people who tried to hide in the sand.

Four years later, on November 27, 1868, Buffalo Calf Woman experienced another merciless slaughter of her people. Again at early dawn, the Seventh Cavalry led by General George Armstrong Custer charged Black Kettle’s peaceful village on the Washita River in Indian Territory . Killed in the ” Battle of the Washita” was Major Joel H. Elliott for whom Fort Elliott was named on February 21, 1876.

The area claimed by the Cheyennes for hunting and foraging included present Kansas , Colorado , Nebraska , Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Near the Bunch of Trees River (Smoky Hill River) in Kansas , the Cheyenne people followed their leader, Medicine Water, husband of Calf Woman.

In 1874, Medicine Water was made head of the Cheyenne Bow String Warrior Society. He was well known to the U.S. Cavalry and buffalo hide hunters for he constantly engaged them in battle in his efforts to preserve the traditions and lifestyles of his people and to resist any intrusion into his homeland. At his side rode his wife, Calf Woman, a Cheyenne Warrior-woman in her own right.

On June 27, 1874, after Medicine Water smoked the war pipe with Quanah Parker’s Comanches and with the Kiowas, he led the Cheyenne revenge at the Old Adobe Walls trading post.

At the time of the Sand Creek Massacre, John German of Fannin County , Georgia , was serving as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. When he returned to his home in 1865, he found it in shambles. Only his wife, children and some livestock had escaped a guerilla raid. After a friend wrote of opportunities in Colorado , German decided to take his family west. About five years were spent in preparation before the family left Georgia on April 10, 1870.

Travel in the homemade covered wagon was slow for they often stopped to work to earn money before they could continue their journey. At one time they took a homestead in Missouri , but the climate was not favorable for German and Catherine, one of the daughters. German traded the homestead for another yoke of oxen and a covered wagon and the family again headed west.

When they reached Kansas , German intended to travel northwest until they reached the Union Pacific Railroad. At Ellis , Kansas , he was told that the station agents would not sell even a cup of water. He then decided to follow the Butterfield Trail, the old stagecoach route that lay alongside the Smoky Hill River . When he asked about the dangers of the route, he was told that there was little danger as there had been no deeds of violence for several years. The few Indians they had met had seemed friendly and they were unaware of the warfare between the Cheyennes and the whites.

On September 10, 1874, the German family met two men who said that they were only a day’s journey from Fort Wallace , Kansas . Happy at the thought that they would soon be with white people again, they camped together for the last time.

Early the next morning, as German and his family were leaving the campsite, they were attacked by 15 Cheyenne braves and two squaws. The Cheyennes were led by Medicine Water and Calf Woman who killed John German with her hatchet. The mother, Liddia (Cox) German, Rebecca Jane (20), Stephen (19) and Joanna (15) were killed and the five victims were scalped. The survivors were Catherine (17), Sophia (12), Julia (7) and Adelaide (5).

(The story of the German family is told in Girl Captives of the Cheyennes, written in 1927 by Grace E. Meredith, a niece of Catherine.)

About three weeks after the massacre, the five scalped bodies were found and buried by a detachment of soldiers from Fort Wallace . Near the burned wagon the soldiers found the unscorched German family Bible containing the names and ages of the nine members of John German’s family. Since only five bodies were at the site, the soldiers concluded that the remaining four girls were captives, and an intensive search for the Indians was begun.

The Indians, who knew that they were being persued, headed south into Indian Territory . They traveled only by night, spoke in whispers at all times and took little time to eat during the daylight hours. Thinking that they could more easily escape the soldiers, they broke into small bands.

After about two weeks, Julia and Adelaide , who were with Grey Beard’s band, were abandoned on the prairie and left to fare for themselves. They wandered until they found a wagon trail which they followed to a creek where soldiers had camped. They found some old hard-tack, corn and meat scraps. With these leavings, wild grapes, hackberries and young blades of grass, Julia and Adelaide kept alive.

Meanwhile, the Indians with Catherine and Sophia arrived at the main camp of Stone Calf, a Cheyenne chief who opposed Indian raids on white people. This camp was composed of about 300 lodges on the Staked Plains, probably somewhere in northeastern New Mexico. Catherine and Sophia were separated and forced to do the work of Indian women. They gathered firewood, sewed shirts and dresses with bone needles and thread of buffalo sinew, and cooked food.

Word reached Stone Calf that the U.S. Military was demanding the return of the four girls. At once he gave orders to find the two younger girls left on the prairie. On November 7, 1874, a party of about 200 Cheyennes located Julia and Adelaide in the makeshift camp by the creek. (This was on the T.D. Hobart ranch on the Washita in Hemphill County.)

Julia and Adelaide were taken to Grey Beard’s camp on McClellan Creek, the site which has been located and researched by Gray County Commissioner Gerald Wright and Stan and Margie Anthony of Groom.

Early the next morning, November 8, 1874, Grey Beard’s camp was charged in a surprise attack by Lt. Frank D. Baldwin. Catherine and Sophia, who were at the camp, were hastily sent off with an advance guard while Julia and Adelaide were left behind. Half-starved and dressed in rags, they were under some buffalo robes when the soldiers found them. They were taken to Camp Supply and then to Fort – Leavenworth, Kansas.

Catherine and Sophia were released from the Indians at the Cheyenne Agency, Indian Territory, on March 2, 1875. They were united with Julia and Adelaide and placed under the guardianship of Colonel (later General) Nelson A. Miles. When Miles received another assignment, the girls lived for a time with the Patrick Corney family in Seneca County, Kansas.

The U.S. government appropriated money for the education and maintenance of the girls. Their grandfathers, Thomas German and William Cox, wanted them to return to Georgia, but Catherine decided that their opportunities for the future would be greater if they remained in Kansas. The girls were asked to identify the Indians who had mistreated them. On April 25, 1875, Medicine Water, Calf Woman and 31 others were transported as prisoners of war, without benefit of trial or legal defense. During the six weeks travel to Fort Marion, Florida, Medicine Water and Calf Woman were in chains and shackles. They were returned to Fort Leavenworth in 1878. Calf Woman died in 1882, and Medicine Water, who became a freighter for the government, died in 1925 at the age of 90.

Catherine married Amos Swerdfeger and lived in California where she died in 1932. Sophia married Albert Feldman and spent most of her remaining life on a farm south of Humboldt, Nebraska, where she died about 1949. Julia married first Howard Reese, and then Albert Brooks. She lived in California where she died in 1959 at the age of 92 years.

Adelaide married Frank Andrews, a farmer near Bern, Kansas. She became the mother of 11 children. Her daughter, Ruth Bieri (age 89) and her son, Clarence Andrews (age 85) attended the reunion on September 9, 1990.

In 1925, T.D. Hobart, who was very interested in historical research, corresponded with Julia and Adelaide. They wrote that they could remember very little of their experience except their hunger and the cold, the wolves (coyotes) and the great kindness of the soldiers who rescued them. Julia remembered that Adelaide had once eaten a whole cracker which she was supposed to have divided with Julia.

While on their way to visit Catherine in 1928, Sophia and Adelaide stopped at Pampa to see T.D. Hobart. A number of area historians and judges accompanied Hobart and the sisters to the site which was believed to be the location of the Indian camp where Adelaide had been rescued.

On November 12, 1936, as part of the Texas Centennial, historical markers were placed at this site and at the city park in Lefors.

As part of the Gray County 50th Anniversary celebration in 1952, Julia, the only sister still living, visited Pampa and was taken to the supposed site of her rescue.

This past April (1990), the White Deer Land Museum in Pampa received a request from Arlene Feldman Jauken (JAW-kin), great granddaughter of Sophia German Feldman. Arlene was seeking any additional information,about the rescue of Julia and Adelaide. She mentioned that she had contacted John L. Sipes, Jr., a great great grandson of Medicine Water and Calf Woman and that they were planning to have a reunion of descendants of survivors of the two massacres.

For the reunion on September 9, 1990, approximately 850 people traveled to the site of the German family massacre. They came from as far west as Mexico, California and Oregon to Wisconsin with eleven states in between. Included in that attendance were 105 German family descendants and 35 Native American descendants.

Upon arriving at the area, people parked their vehicles and some were shuttle bused, in rustic style, to the reunion site. The most rustic shuttle bus was a 14-foot stock trailer and pick-up. Although the temperature was over 100 degrees, many chose to walk the distance of one-eigth of a mile.

Preceding the reunion ceremonial, a traditional Cheyenne ceremony was observed by Cheyenne people only. However, visitors were permitted to watch from a distance of 75 feet.

Captain Michael L. Baughn, president of the Butterfield Trail Association, was Master of Ceremonies for the reunion ceremonial. After the presentation of colors by the 7th Cavalry Fort Wallace Drill Team, the audience sang the national anthem and the invocation was given by the Reverend Paul McNall.

Captain Baughn introduced descendants of the German and Cheyenne families, descendants of the Cheyenne War Party and descendants of General Nelson A. Miles. He also presented Colonel LaGrange of Fort Riley and Mark Magee who represented the Commander of Fort Leavenworth. Representatives of various historical organizations were also introduced.

Opening remarks were made by Leslie Linville, author and historian of Colby, Kansas. He and his wife Bertha have done a great amount of research on the German family site.

Arlene Jauken, the first keynote speaker, lived near her great grandmother Sophia and knew her well. The farm which Sophia and her husband bought in the 1880s now belongs to Arlene and her brothers. Arlene related stories she heard from her great grandmother and information derived from her extensive research. She concluded by saying, “The last time our families met, 116 years ago, John’s great great grandmother killed my great great grandfather. John and I have promised to do better.”

John L. Sipes, Jr., the second keynote speaker, is employed with the Oklahoma Historical Society, Archives and Manuscript Division. He works with a group who promote unbiased accounts of historical events involving the Cheyenne people.

(It is interesting that John is half German – his mother is of German nationality.)

After John told the audience that he had a feeling of coming home when he came to Smoky Hill River, he related that, as a child, he listened to many gruesome stories of how his great great grandmother watched Chivington’s men butcher her family.

His research on the slaughter of the Cheyenne people was depressing to him, but it was also depressing to study the massacre of the German family. He expressed the hope that the reunion would result in better understanding and the belief that barriers can be removed.

It is the hope of the commission who planned the reunion that historians of the High Plains will endeavor to portray our history in an unbaised and fair manner to both the Indian and non-Indian players. Those who attended the reunion found the occasion to be a moving experience where the past and the present came together in a way no history book could ever convey.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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