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The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke Volume 4

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John Gregory Bourke kept a monumental set of diaries beginning as a young cavalry lieutenant in Arizona in 1872, and ending the evening before his death in 1896. As aide-de-camp to Brigadier General George Crook, he had an insider's view of the early Apache campaigns, the Great Sioux War, the Cheyenne Outbreak, and the Geronimo War. Bourke's writings reveal much about military life on the western frontier, but he also was a noted ethnologist, writing extensive descriptions of American Indian civilization and illustrating his diaries with sketches and photographs. Previously, researchers could consult only a small part of Bourke's diary material in various publications, or else take a research trip to the archive and microfilm housed at West Point. Now, for the first time, the 124 manuscript volumes of the Bourke diaries are being compiled, edited, and annotated by Charles M. Robinson III to be easily accessible to the modern researcher. Volume 4 chronicles the political and managerial affairs in Crook's Department of the Platte. A large portion centers on the continuing controversy concerning the forced relocation of the Ponca Indians from their ancient homeland along the Dakota-Nebraska line to a new reservation in the Indian Territory. An equally large portion concerns Bourke's ethnological work under official sanction from the army and the Bureau of Ethnology, work which would make a profound change in his life and his place in history. Aside from a summary of the entire Ponca affair in approximately two pages, virtually none of this material appears in Bourke's classic On the Border with Crook. Bourke's staff duties bring him into contact with many prominent individuals. He is particularly unimpressed with the commander of the army, General W.T. Sherman, who, he wrote, "is largely made up of the demagogue and will not survive in history." He also is harsh on President Rutherford B. Hayes, now finishing out his term. This volume contains detailed descriptions of several tours, including those to Yellowstone National Park and the Santa Fe regions. Bourke reveals the profound changes that have overtaken the Indians in only a few years of settlement on reservations. At the new Spotted Tail, or Rosebud, Agency, he found a conference in progress, where the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad was attempting to buy right of way across the reservation. The leaders Spotted Tail and Red Cloud had wasted little time in determining what was valuable to the whites--they astutely bargained for a high price. Extensively annotated and with a biographical appendix on Indians, civilians, and military personnel named in the diaries, this book will appeal to western and military historians, students of American Indian life and culture, and to anyone interested in the development of the American West.

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1: The Ute Country and the Mining Districts


Chapter 1

The Ute Country and the Mining Districts


uly 3rd 1880. An unusually pleasant and congenial party of ladies and gentlemen, left Omaha and Fort Omaha1 this morning for a ride over the line of the Omaha & Northern Nebraska R.R., to its terminus at Oakland Neb., and back. It consisted of Mrs. J. A.

Horbach and her daughter, Miss Mary2 and son Paul, Mrs Watson and son, Burt; Miss Jeannette C. Jewett—all of Omaha, and Mrs. W.

B. Royall, Miss Agnes Royall and Dr. [Richards] Barnett, Lieut. M.

C. Foote and the writer—all of Fort Omaha.

The ladies were all lovely and refined and extremely gentle and companionable—the gentlemen, well acquainted with each other and with the ladies whom they had in charge. No finer day for our purpose could have been selected; a brief rain the preceding evening had laid the dust and tempered the heat, so as to enable us to enjoy the fine scenery along the line of the road and to indulge in pleasant converse. Last year, I described this part of Nebraska at some length (in my note-book for August) and will only say now


2: Into the Uintahs


Chapter 2

Into the Uintahs


uly 26th. Major C.S. Roberts 17th Infantry, reported to Genl.

Crook for duty on his Staff as Aide de Camp.

Applied to War Dep’t. for revocation of my detail to the Mily.


July 28th. General Crook, Major Roberts, A.D.C., Miss Gertrude

Belcher (a bright, pleasant young lady daughter of Major [John

Hill] Belcher, U.S.A.) and the writer, left Omaha for the West. In the car with us were Mr. Burt Watson and Miss Yates, accompanying

Miss Belcher as far as the incoming train from the West at Valley.

Shortly after leaving the dépôt, General Crook received a telegram from Lieut-General Sheridan informing him that the Hd.Qrs. Dep’t

Platte were to be removed back to the city of Omaha. This is simply a common sense move, based upon wise business consideration. The transfer to Fort Omaha in the first place was a piece of clap-trap and demagoguery to which, unfortunately, the General of the Army,

Sherman, lent too ready an acquiescence. It was, besides being an unnecessary hardship and inconvenience to the officers immediately concerned and their families, a serious hindrance to public business in separating headquarters supply departments from the mercantile branches of the community, and an extravagant increase


3: Carl Schurz and Yellowstone National Park


Chapter 3

Carl Schurz and

Yellowstone National Park

Carl Schurz’s tour included Yellowstone National Park. Besides Crook and Bourke, the party included Webb C. Hayes, son of President Rutherford B. Hayes, whom Crook had first met as a child when the elder Hayes served under him in the Civil War. As he grew up, Webb became a surrogate son to the childless Crooks.

The general was a frequent visitor at the Hayes home in Fremont,

Ohio, followed Webb’s progress through school, and took him on hunting trips. When Crook died, Webb stood with Mary Crook during the funeral.1

Bourke was impressed with the president’s son, commenting that Webb possessed “all the attributes of good companionship, with all the best qualities of manhood. He is very bright, gentle, good-humored, able to stand much fatigue and is a pretty good hunter.”2

Years later, in On the Border With Crook, he remarked with some humor on the relationship between the general and the president’s son.

1.  The relationship between Crook and Webb Hayes is discussed in Robinson, General


4: Wilderness Trails


Chapter 4

Wilderness Trails


ugust 16th 1880. Monday. Awakened at 3.30 a.m. to discover heavy frost on the ground. Breakfasted at 4 o’clock, the piêce de rësistance being steak, and liver from an antelope shot the day before yesterday by “Old Faithful”. Alunged [sic] at once into the

“forest primeval” and began to re-ascend the Continental Divide. The trail was much better than that of yesterday altho’ it wound through miles of storm-wrecked timber which gave some trouble to our animals. The breeze playing with the branches above us was heavy with the fragrance of balsam; the rays of the sun scarcely touched the ground such was the thickness of the interlacing foliage.

A ride of eight or ten miles took us across the crest of the Rocky mountains and out of the worst of the forest. Sloping down before us in a gentle grade was a beautiful grassy terrace spangled with wild flowers and enclosed by a matted forest of pine & fir, and there, grandest scene of my life, there lay at our feet, the unruffled bosom of Yellowstone Lake, miles in length and breadth, guarded by giant mountains upon whose wrinkled brows rested the snows of Eternity.


5: A Trip East


Chapter 5

A Trip East


ept. 5th 1880. Left Omaha, viâ “Burlington” road1 for Chicago and the East. At dépôt, met my friend, Mr. William Carter, son of Judge Carter of Fort Bridger, Wyo., and also met exSenator [John Milton] Thayer of Nebraska. In Chicago dined at the

Palmer House and then took the Balt[imore]. and Ohio Express for


Sept. 6th 1880. Major [Azor H.] Nickerson met me in the R.R. dépôt, upon my arrival. (9.20 P.M.) and took me to his neat little home on Rhode-Island Avenue (near 18th [Street]). During my stay at the

Capital, Nickerson exerted himself in every way possible to make my visit pleasurable. I did not visit many public buildings, my time being too brief, but I saw many delightful people, some of whom I had previously known personally and others through communications. Nickerson’s office was in the War Department, (in the old Navy building.) There I met numbers of officers—Generals [Samuel?]

Breck, [Emory] Upton, [William B.] Hazen, [Richard Coulter] Drum,


6: More Memories of Arizona


Chapter 6

More Memories of Arizona


e have all day been in the drainage of the Niobrara, to which Plum creek is tributary. A few miles beyond this is Evergreen creek, a pretty stream full of beaver. These streams head in the country near the sources of the Loup and Colemans through which I passed in July 1879, in company with Genl.

Crook and others.1

Stanton has been recalling reminiscences of a trip we made together through Arizona, in 1872. Genl. Crook was then organizing an armed force of the Hualpai Indians to go out after the Apache-Mojaves and had started out from Prescott for the reservation of the former tribe at Beale’s Springs, leaving me to follow after with Col. Stanton.2 When we reached Camp Hualpai,3 or rather shortly after we had left there, we were assailed by a violent storm of wind and snow in the Juniper

1.  See Robinson, Diaries, 3, Chapter 12.

2.  This does not appear in Bourke’s previous notebooks, the earliest known at this time beginning on November 20, 1872. By that time, Crook had already enlisted the Hualpais.


7. Fort Niobrara and the New Agencies


Chapter 7

Fort Niobrara and the New Agencies

Bourke returns to the present.

Lieut. Davis took me over to the new post which is rapidly approaching completion. The site is a most agreeable and healthy one, being a flat table-land well drained, ending in a bold bluff at the river, into which a dozen first class springs gush from the banks above. The quarters are of adobe, with brick corners to resist the encroachment of the sand-laden winds. The roofs are of shingles made at the post saw-mill. Each house is well provided with bath-rooms, dressing rooms & closets.

The parade is a broad level piece of prairie, thickly covered with natural sod.

For the water-supply, there is a windmill and a tank, holding 40.000

Gallons. In one of the little ravines alongside the post, is a very pretty waterfall and much beautiful scenery which Col. Upham intends preserving by enclosing the whole ravine as a park.

Dined with Lt. Davis and his agreeable and handsome young wife.

In the evening, read in the Révue de Deux Mondes an able exami-






n Volume 3 of this series, Bourke discussed the legal case in

1879, by which the Ponca chief Standing Bear won the right to return to the ancient homeland and live unmolested, a right that the presiding judge, Elmer Dundy, believed should be accorded to any law-abiding resident of the United States, Indian or non-Indian.1

Although Dundy’s ruling settled the immediate status of Standing

Bear, public outcry against the government’s forced relocation policy continued over the next eighteen months. That, together with internal dissension within the tribe, prompted President Hayes to appoint a commission to hold hearings among the Poncas, both in the Indian

Territory and in Dakota. The president, who was interested in full justice to all the Poncas, would use the findings to recommend a proper course of action to Congress.2

The commission consisted of Brig. Gen. George Crook, Brig. Gen.

Nelson Miles, William Stickney, secretary of the Board of Indian

1.  The ruling actually declared that an Indian was a responsible individual with legal standing in court, and therefore had the right to bring suit. By establishing that, however,


8: A Summons to Washington


Chapter 8

A Summons to Washington


unday, December 12th 1880.

In obedience to the telegraphic instructions from Washington, as follows:

Washington, D.C., 12-10-80.

The President desiring to see you in regard to the Ponca Indians, the Secy. of War directs you to report to this city when convenient for you to do so.

(Sign.) R. C. Drum

Adjutant General.

General Crook, accompanied by his Aides, Captain Roberts and

Lieut. Bourke, left Omaha, Neb., for Washington, D.C. At Council

Bluffs, Iowa, we met Mr. S. S. Stevens, General Passenger Agent of the Chicago, Rock-Island and Pacific Rail Road, and Mr. Morris of the Wabash Line and Mr. Ezra Willard.

On our train, were Dr. George L. Miller, Editor of the Omaha Herald, ex-Senator P. W. Hitchcock, Mr. N. Shelton, Cashier of the U.P.R.R.,

Mr. Frank Murphy of the State Bank—all of Omaha and all en route to New York to consult with the Union Pacific officials about the erection of grain elevators at Omaha. We also met Mr. Dows, a very bright, companionable old gentleman from the Pacific Coast; and


9: The Ponca Commission


The Ponca Commission


Antoine Leroy and Joseph Esau, half-breed interpreters.

Secretary Schurz. When I talked with them day before yesterday about the sum of money, provided in the Bill laid before Congress two years ago, I made a mistake. I thought then that the valuation of the lands they now occupy, in money, had been much higher than it is, and that it would cost more to buy them.

I thought then that it would take about $80.000 to buy them, but

I find it will not take quite $50.000; about $40.000 and some hundreds.

Bourke’s insertion (I have concluded it would not be necessary to copy down in extenso Secretary Schurz’s remarks to the chiefs for the reason that their purport will appear again in the transactions of the Commission itself and that “boiled down,[”] they amount to about this. The Poncas who had been transferred to the Indian Ty. and who had not joined Standing Bear’s party in their flight back to

Dakota, sent a letter to Secretary Schurz asking permission to come to Washington and arrange about selling their old Reservation. A copy of this letter will be found further on page [190–92]. Having reached Washington, they agreed with the Honorable Secretary to take for their old lands, a new reservation in the Indian Territory, about 105.000 A[cres]., and to have laid before Congress a Bill, making an appropriation of $1450.000 for their use and benefit.


10: The Indian Territory


Chapter 10

The Indian Territory


hristmas 1880. I have been much disappointed in not being able to pay a brief visit to mother and sister, a pleasure which our present official trip to the Indian Territory will cause me to defer until the middle of next month. Left Washington at 8 a.m., the snow-fringed branches of the trees looking like exquisite patterns of thread lace, as we drove through the streets to the Dépôt.

At Altoona, Pennia, broke part of the running gear of our Pullman and had to change to a chair car to Pittsburgh. The yard-master, an underling of overbearing demeanor, made himself very offensive to the occupants of our car. Major Roberts “tackled” him and the situation became ludicrous, but the “bully” had to “take water”.

December 26th. Snowing heavily in Indiana and Illinois; left Chicago in the fine hotel car of the Chicago and North-Western Railway, reached Omaha, Neb., on morning of

December 27th, (a very cold day,) and at once drove out to Hd.Qrs.

In the mail accumulated during my absence, I found a letter from


11: Agency Operations


Chapter 11

Agency Operations


anuary 6th 1881. 9 a.m. The Commission met. Present all the members. The proceedings of yesterday were read and approved. Agent Whiting was sent for, and questioned by the

Commission. He spoke in the highest terms of the general honesty of the Poncas; said he never had found any fault with any of them on that respect, except with one half-blood and two half-witted persons. Poncas generally well-behaved and orderly, there is a police-force organized of fourteen men. The Reservation is divided into eleven districts, each one inspected daily by the police-officer in charge. The salaries given are;—one Captain @ $8 per menseum

[sic], 3 Sergeants @ $5 each per mo., and ten privates @ $5 each per mo. This force is for the Poncas. Among the Nez-Percés, at

Oakland, there is a similar organization of native policemen, six in number @ $5 per mo. Three policemen have been discharged for drunkenness; White Eagle was one of those dismissed for drinking and gambling, against which stringent regulations have been passed. The Regulations in vogue are the Regulations of the Indian


12: The Poncas Before Removal


Chapter 12

The Poncas Before Removal


anuary 8th 1881. Reached Fort Omaha, Nebr., Mr. Stickney going to Genl. Crook’s Qrs., Mr. Allen to Major Roberts’ and

Captain Huggins to mine; the other members are to meet us at Council Bluffs. This night was fearfully cold—on our way to the

Fort, the thermometer indicated -25°Fahr., but fortunately there was no wind. In the papers to-day appeared a telegram to Presdt.

Hayes, purporting to have come from the Ponca Commission, announcing that at the convention held in Indian Territory, the Poncas had “enthusiastically and unanimously approved agreement made with the delegation lately in Washington”. This telegram it appears emanated from Mr. Stickney who endeavored to palliate his lack of discretion by saying that he had sent it to the President as a “personal” message.

At 9 P.M., this day the thermometer indicated -28°Fahr.

January 9th 1881 Remained at HdQrs. during morning, attending to official business &c. Day very cold. Left in the afternoon for Council


13. The Dakota Poncas Speak


The Dakota Poncas Speak


General Crook. Mr. Dorsey, explain to them that we come here by order of the President, to find out their situation. We have just been down to Indian Territory and seen that part of the Band and now we have come here to see them & learn from themselves their condition and to satisfy ourselves as far we can what is for their best interests; and we want them to answer all questions as put to them unreservedly and they can rest assured that we are their friends and that they can speak freely.

(Revd. Mr. Dorsey read & translated to them the President’s letter of instructions to the Commission, which can be seen on [167–68].

State to them that we have heard the story of their removal so often that we don’t care to hear it again but want them to give us the story from the time they left Indian Territory up to the present time. We want their story in as few words as possible, so as to save time.

Standing Bear (dressed in civilian garb.)

I do not think that we have made this day but I think that God has caused it, and my heart is glad to see you all here. Why should I tell you a different word? I have told to God my troubles and why should I deceive Him? I have told my troubles to Him.


14: The Commission Concludes


Chapter 14

The Commission Concludes


heir interviews with the Dakota Poncas completed, the commissioners returned to Washington to prepare their report.

Before departing, Riggs, Miles, and Bourke paid a brief visit to the Santee Agency, but their inspection was hindered by a blizzard that kept them confined to the main agency buildings. The storm also disrupted the trains, and during a layover at Marion

Junction, Dakota Territory, Bourke had what appears to be his first encounter with the Mennonites who then were immigrating in large numbers into the American Midwest.

A pacifist Anabaptist sect, the Mennonites were founded by

Menno Simons (1496–1561), a former Roman Catholic priest from the Netherlands, as part of the Radical Reformation movement. By the nineteenth century, though, the vast majority had relocated in

Russia, from which they immigrated to North America. Bourke, who tacitly admitted his knowledge was limited, tended to lump all Anabaptists together, attributing to them a common history of violence, communalism, and sexual license practiced by some splinter groups. The most notorious of these was headed by John of Leyden (1509?–1536), born in the Netherlands as Jan Beukelzoon. An Anabaptist leader who seized power in the German city






pon returning to Washington to finalize the work with the

Ponca Commission, Bourke met with Maj. John Wesley

Powell, director of the two-year-old American Bureau of

Ethnology. Powell had learned of Bourke’s work from E. S. Holden of the Naval Observatory, who had been a year behind Bourke at West

Point, and from Rev. Dorsey, who, aside from his ministry with the

Episcopal Church, and his work with the Ponca Commission, also was an ethnologist on the bureau’s staff. Both Holden and Dorsey believed the bureau could benefit from Bourke’s experiences. From this meeting came formal sanction for his ethnological interests, and thus he embarked on the work that would secure his own place in history. Indeed, with and without Crook, and with and without official support, the remaining fifteen years of his life would be devoted to this work.1

Although Bourke undoubtedly could have worked solely under the aegis of the Bureau of Ethnology, at this point in his life, he preferred to continue within the framework of his military duties. His position as Crook’s aide gave him substantial flexibility, and most likely he preferred this to the potential control of Powell. He also


15. A New Assignment


Chapter 15

A New Assignment


anuary 27th. After breakfast at the Riggs’, visited Major Powell—at the National Gallery, the new building of the Smithsonian Institute.

This is a magnificent structure, of the finest I have ever seen. Being a little bit too early, I whiled away the moments, preceding Major

Powell’s arrival, in making a hurried examination of a number of the apartments and cases. I succeeded in walking through those devoted to the “seal family”, the “rattlesnakes” and “skunks” and was delighted beyond description, by the order and system of arrangement.

Major Powell coming in received me very warmly and presented me to his assistants, Captain Garrick Mallery of the Army1 and another

1. Garrick Mallery (d. 1895) was a captain of the First Infantry, who first entered the army as a captain of Volunteers during the Civil War. He finished the war with brevets to colonel of Volunteers and lieutenant colonel of the Regular Army. Like Bourke, Mallery became interested in American Indian culture during service in the West. He pioneered research into Indian winter counts with The Dakota and Corbusier Winter Counts. He was placed on detached duty to work on the monumental Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, but soon abandoned it for his own field work in American Indian pictography and sign language; the Handbook was completed by Frederick Webb Hodge. Mallery’s twovolume Picture Writing of the American Indians, published in the Tenth Annual Report of the American Bureau of Ethnology in 1893, remains in print, as does his Sign Language


16. Bannock and Shoshone Customs


314 The

Bureau of Ethnology

Brigadier General.

March 22 1881. Left Omaha, Neb., in obedience to the above telegram from Lieut. General P. H. Sheridan....The road between the Fort and city was in an extremely muddy condition from rapidly melting snow. The present winter has been phenomenal in severity, lasting, almost continuously, from October 10th, until the present date and during nearly all that time only one night when snow melted. There has been more than twice as much snow this winter as during the whole six years just past. Not only does it cover the fields to a depth varying from 12 to 20 inches, but it fills the roads in drifts varying from 5 to 20 ft. in height and has blocked all lines of rail in the West and North-East. In three different ways will this Arctic severity of the present winter damage our R.R. interest:

1st. In actual injury to tracks, bridges and culverts, either as snow direct or as water from the freshets and floods occasioned by thaws;

2nd In the stoppage of winter freights; and 3rd In the Impoverishment of the farmers, miners and stockmen, who have been retarded so much in their labor or deprived of such a percentage of their accumulations. When the next “round-up” of cattle is made, I am sure that many ranges in Nebraska, Dakota, Wyoming and Colorado will show losses of not less than 60 @ 70 per cent; farmers will not be able to commence planting much earlier than April 15th and miners have been impeded in the work of development of their “prospects” by the failure to obtain necessary machinery as well as by the flooding of their shafts and drifts.1


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