History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Early Missions in Kansas

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Soon after the first settlements in North America were made, missionaries began to visit the Native Americans for the purpose of instructing them in the Christian religion and to persuade them to adopt the customs of civilization. The Catholic Church was especially active in this work. Early in the 17th century Jesuit missionaries crossed the ocean and began the establishment of missions. While the Jesuit father was something of a fanatic in his religious views, he was generally a man of courage, filled with a sincere devotion to his calling, and loyal to his king. As the white settlements grew in number and strength, the Protestant denominations also became interested in the welfare of the Indians and sent missionaries among them. 


Noble L. Prentis, in his 1899 book, A History of Kansas, said: "The missionaries were heroic pioneers of Kansas. They invented phonetic alphabets; the created written languages, wrote dictionaries and song books, and gave to the Indian the Bible and the Christian religion.




Ottawa Baptist Mission.

Ottawa Baptist Mission.


They went into the rude lodges and wigwams and cared for the sick and dying. They suffered from poverty and often from savage cruelty; they sacrificed home and friends, and many died alone on the prairie that the Indians might know the better way and the higher life."


The first missionary to the Indians in Kansas, of which there is anything like an authentic record, was Father Juan de Padilla, who accompanied Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to Quivira in 1540-41. A year later he returned to that province as a missionary and died among the Indians. But it was not until in the early part of the 19th century that any organized movement to establish missions among the western tribes was undertaken. In 1820 Bishop Dubourg, of Louisiana sent Father Charles de la Croix as a missionary to the Osage Indians in Missouri, which formed the northern part of the diocese. It is probable that the first baptism of Kansas Indians was at the Harmony Mission, just across the state line from the present city of Fort Scott, where Father La Croix baptized a number of natives in the fall of 1820. Two years later he visited the Osage in the Neosho Valley, where he baptized two children -- James and Francis Chouteau. The Harmony Mission was founded by the Presbyterians, who were among the first of the Protestant denominations to establish missions among the Indians. In June, 1824, Father La Croix was succeeded by Father Van Quickenborn, who visited the Neosho Valley in 1827, a year before his death.


Hopefield Mission was established among the Osage in 1823 by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian church. It was at first located on the Neosho River in Indian Territory, but was twice moved northward, being located the second time near White Hair's village in Labette County, Kansas. It was discontinued in 1837. Two other Presbyterian missions were located among the Osagein 1824. One of these was the Boudinot Mission, which was situated on the Neosho River near the mouth of Four-mile Creek, and the other was on the west side of the Neosho River, with the Reverend Benton Pixley in charge. Both these missions were abandoned in 1837.


In 1829 the Methodist Church took the necessary steps to found a mission among the Shawnee Indians, and Reverend Thomas Johnson was selected by the Missouri Conference to take charge. The mission was located in what is now Johnson County, Kansas, about three miles from Westport, Missouri, and a mile from the state line. A year or two later William Johnson, a brother of Thomas, was appointed missionary to the Kanza  Indians and went to their villages about ten miles west of Topeka, where he remained until the fall of 1832, when he went to the Delaware Mission.


In 1835, when the government established farms for the Kanza Indians, he returned to his mission work with that tribe. He died in 1842 and was succeeded by Reverend J.T. Peery in 1844.




In 1839 a manual labor school was started in connection with the Shawnee Mission. It was located a short distance southwest of the original mission and was attended by children of other tribes.


The first year the enrollment was 72, including 27 Shawnee, 16 Delaware, 8 Peoria, 7 Potawatomie, 6 Kanza, 3 Kickapoo, and 1 each of the Munsee, Osage and Gros Ventre. The attendance in 1851 reached over 100 and included several WyandotOmaha and Ottawa students. The building also served for a brief time as a temporary capitol of the Kansas "Bogus Legislature." It continues to stand as a Kansas State Historical Site which features three historic buildings, period rooms and exhibits.


The Methodist Mission among the Delaware was located in the western part of Wyandotte County, not far from the now extinct village of Maywood. It was founded in 1832 by William Johnson and Thomas B. Markham and continued in successful operation for several years. Another Methodist mission was that among the Kickapoo, established by Reverend Jerome C. Berryman in the fall of 1833 in the northeast part of Leavenworth County. The next year the Catholics started a manual labor school there, but the Kickapoo did not take kindly to the idea of working, and the school was practically abandoned, one of the buildings subsequently being used as a publication office of the Pioneer, of Kickapoo City.



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Shawnee Indian Mission, Fairway, Kansas

The 1829 Shawnee Indian Mission continues to stand in Fairway, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City.

This image available for photo prints & commercial downloads HERE!


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