Margaret Margraves letter, circa 1880, on the Ioways and lifestyle
I transcribed the following letter found in the Kansas State Historical
Society collections (#42655). It was in handwriting, on the letterhead
of "William A. Margraves - Stock Grower and Dealer in Cattle, Horses,
and Mules. - Reserve, Kans." It is entitled "Reminiscenses of a pupil
at the Iowa, Sac & Fox Ind[ian] Miss[ion]." I have edited it only
slightly for readability, with some clarifications added [in brackets].
There was no date on it but Sandy Reed was still alive in 1865. The
events the author, Mrs. Margraves, describes occurred about 1840-1860.
The letter may have been written in the 1880s.
At the time Father Irvin and wife came to the Territory of Kansas, the
Indians were very wild and totally uncivilized, and these brave young
missionaries were in danger of their lives. At the time they were
building the Mission they lived in a little log house across the branch.
I remember Mother Irvin telling how one day she lay down to rest; when
she awakened there stood three big Indians at the foot of her bed
looking at her. They said "How," shook hands with her, and went away.
They never at any time were molested by the Indians, though had the
Indians [been] so minded they could easily have killed them as they
were far from any white people. God was their protection through all.
They had to go to St. Joe for their mail. They got it once a month or
not so often when the weather was bad. All the lumber used in the
Mission building had to be hauled from St. Joe, and mail, provisions,
in fact everything had to be [brought] first by boat from St. Louis to
St. Joe, then freighted to Highland.
At the school were children from many different tribes. Ioways - Sac &
Foxes - Sioux - Omahas - Winnebagoes - Pawnees - Otoes - were some of
them. The Indians brought their children to the Mission and left them
in Father and Mother Irvin's care serving to trust them implicitly.
The teachers were many and constantly changing. Jos[eph] Williams
taught for a while. Miss Maggie Potter or afterwards Mrs, Wm [William]
Bayless who came from Ohio. A Miss Turner from New Haven came. Miss
Fuller from Penn[sylvania]. Miss Lizzie Diamond and many others. The
Rev. Robertson and family took charge of the Mission when Father Irvin
moved to Highland..
The Indian children were trained rapidly, being especially gifted in
writing, drawing, singing, which seemed to be natural to them. They
were taught all the common branches, also housekeeping for the girls
and farming for the boys.
The girls were taught homemaking and housekeeping under the personal
supervision of Mother Irvin herself, especially butter-making at which
she was expert, canning, preserving of fruits etc.
Mrs. Rachel McCreary- "Aunt Rachel" as we were taught to call her- was
seamstress and taught the girls to sew, mend, and knit. They knit all
of their own stockings and made their dresses by hand. Aunt Rachel was
a sister of Mother Irvin's; her son Mr. Jefferson McCreary still lives
and is a resident of Highland vicinity.
The cooking was taught by Mrs. Jos[eph] Williams, "Aunt Letty," another
sister of Mother Irvin's. The laundry work was done by the older girls,
Mary Childs, Eliza Nohart [No Heart], Rachel McCreary, who also
assisted with the cooking. Rachel is still living; she lives in the
The boys were taught farming, gardening, care of stock etc. under the
supervision of an industrial teacher. They had to cut wood and carry it
to the house for the three great fireplaces.
There was plenty of fruit of all kinds on the place.
The children's spiritual welfare was especially cared for, religious
services were held twice on Sabbath besides Sabbath school, and morning
and evening, family worship, all conducted by Father Irvin. The Indians
used to come to these services from their camps.
Father Irvin learned to talk the Ioway language. He preached, prayed,
and sang in that language. He translated hymns into Ioway. He went out
among the Indians in their homes and camps and taught them. He was
assisted by Rev. Wm [William] Hamilton in this work. Rev. Father
Hamilton afterwards went to the Omahas as their missionary and died
There were a number of converts in the school from time to time. One in
particular, "Sandy Reed," an Ioway boy, had quit school and gone away
for several years. He was slowly dying with consumption. He sent for
Father Irvin, saying he wished to talk with him. Father went to him and
Sandy told him that he had given his heart to God through his
teachings, and that he was ready to die. He died that night a
Another boy "Thorpe" by name, died while on his knees at prayer. These
are only a couple of incidences. Father and Mother taught how to live
as well as how to die. They were noble true Christians and did a great
deal of good, and though they have fallen asleep [died], their work
goes on and will go on till Eternity. "Their works do follow them."
Margaret Rubati [?] Margraves
(Mrs. Wm. A. Margraves)
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