John H. Seger. For a white man to have lived in the Indian country of Oklahoma for forty-two years is a fact of importance considered from the individual standpoint. But when those years have been spent in such service as John H. Seger has rendered, as an exemplar, teacher and leader among a half civilized people, the individual importance is extended into a large fact of history. Without doubt one of the most interesting men in the State of Oklahoma is Mr. Seger who lives at Colony in Washita County. Mr. Seger came to Oklahoma in the year 1872, arriving at the Darlington Agency, then called the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indian Agency, about sundown on December 24th. His career furnishes material for an important chapter in the development of one of the Indian tribes of the state, and the account which follows of Mr. Seger’s life and experiences cannot but prove interesting and instructive to every reader of these pages.
Andrew Seger, his father, was born August 3, 1812, in Onondaga County, New York, grew up there, and at the age of twenty went to Geauga County, Ohio. In 1833 Andrew Seger married Louisa Knox, who was born June 4, 1817. After their marriage they loaded their possessions on a two-wheeled cart, drawn by one horse, and moved out into the wilderness five miles from any other habitation. There Andrew Seger built a one-room log house, in which they lived until the country settled up around them. After rearing a family of seven children, four boys and three girls (having lost one boy, Frank Seger), Andrew Seger sold his farm in Ohio and went west to Illinois, settling at Dover in Bureau County.
It was chiefly in that rich and fertile agricultural section of North Central Illinois that John H. Seger grew up and attended school. He was living there when the Civil war broke out. After two of his older brothers had enlisted, a war meeting was held in the Methodist Church at Dover for the purpose of raising a company of soldiers to go to the front. After several speeches had been made urging young men to enlist, but without getting response from a single person, Andrew Seger rose and said if the young men would not enlist the old men would have to. He went forward and signed the enlistment roll, after which Jones Gearing, a man not quite so old as Seger, said: “If Seger can go I can,” and he put his name on the roll. After that the young men in the audience got up almost in a body and crowded forward and put their names down until the company of 100 was made up. The Methodist preacher also enlisted and was made captain. Andrew Seger served until after the battles of Corinth and Fort Donelson, when his health became so poor that he was given an honorable discharge. He was then forty-eight years of age.
In 1864, when Lincoln called for 300,000 more soldiers, John Seger, who was then attending the Dover Academy, enlisted and joined Sherman’s army on the Atlantic campaign. He marched with Sherman through Georgia, thence through the Carolinas and Virginia, and at the time of his muster out had participated in thirteen battles and skirmishes and had carried his knapsack and gun over 1,500 miles.
It was in 1867 that John H. Seger went to Kansas and settled on the Kickapoo Reservation on the part that had been sold and opened to settlement. He became acquainted with John D. Miles, who was then agent of the Kickapoos, but after the death of Brinton Darlington, the agent of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, Miles was transferred to the Darlington Agency among the latter Indians. The Government had adopted what they called the peace policy, and was trying to get the Plains or Buffalo-hunting Indians to settle down and lead more civilized lives. To do this they were establishing agencies whose white employes afford a practical example of how the Government wanted the Indians to live. When the agency for the Cheyennes and Arapahoes was first started, it was about 200 miles to a railroad and building material was hard to get. For that reason the first houses were very rudely constructed, some of them being what was called picket-houses with dirt roofs.
When John D. Miles took charge as agent of the Cheyenne-Arapahoes, there was a saw mill to saw cotton wood lumber, the only kind of timber near the agency fit for milling. This lumber warped very badly, and the planks used for siding would warp and curl up leaving largo cracks. Miles saw it was necessary to construct better buildings than could be built with this cotton wood lumber, else it would be impossible to get employes who would bring their families from the East to live there. The appropriation was small, building material was far away and hard to get, and it was a question how the agency could be provided with necessary buildings. Agent Miles was discussing the matter with Joshua Trueblood, who was in charge of the Indian School, and said: “If we had some employe who could plaster a house and lay a stone foundation and build a chimney, we might build a respectable and comfortable house. What we need is a Jack of all Trades,” was his conclusion. Mr. Trueblood said: “There is a man up on the Kickapoo Reservation who is a Jack of all Trades, his name is Seger. If you could get him he could do any kind of work you would need to have done.”
Acting on this information Agent Miles soon afterward went to the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas and arranged with Mr. Seger to join the Cheyenne-Arapahoe Agency as an employe. One influence that caused Seger to accept the position was his desire to see the wild Indians and learn something about them. On removing to the Darlington Agency, he found that the nearest railroad was at Wichita, 160 miles from the agency. This distance had to be covered with teams, requiring several days, with camping along the road. Caldwell, sixty miles from Wichita, was the first place where there was any habitation on the route, and there was a ranch at Pond Creek, twenty-five miles from Caldwell. Three teams came up to Wichita from the agency to get building materials and supplies to enable the agency to have a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve and Seger went back with these teams. When the teams reached the agency it was too late for the Christmas tree, and that celebration was accordingly put off to the following night. There were fifteen Indian children at the school. Big Caw, Lodgepole and his two wives were the only grown Indians at the agency, the rest having all gone to the western plains hunting buffalo. When the Christmas tree was arranged the employes and all the Indians at the agency were assembled in the room of the school building. The agent, J. D. Miles, was to act as Santa Claus, and when he came in the room dressed up to represent that character, the Indian children and Lodgepole’a two wives became scared and broke for the door and went out on the run. Big Caw and Lodgepole went out after them, but it was some time before they could be influenced to return to the house. This was the first Christmas tree the Indians had seen.
During the winter the employes were busy tearing down the cotton-wood buildings and constructing new ones, culling the best lumber from the old material and discarding the warped and worthless stock. About the first of March, towards evening, there arrived a large band of Arapahoes at the agency, returning from the buffalo hunt. Many of their ponies were loaded with buffalo hides, lodges, and all the food, clothes and camping equipage were packed on these animals, while the teepee poles dragged behind. Necessarily in a company of 500 or 600 people some were sick and some old and decrepit. It was very interesting, says Mr. Seger, to see how they managed to carry all the property and equipage they possessed on the ponies, besides men, women, children, sick or well. As these were the only real wild Indians Mr. Seger had ever seen he was very much interested. The other employes had been there at the agency before the departure for the winter hunt and were not so interested as the newcomer. Tom George, the agency carpenter, said: “These Indians are going to put up their camp near here and they will carry off all this good building material we have sorted out, and will use it for fuel. I can’t bear to see them do this so let us put our tools in the shop, lock them up and go home.” This was done, and while the other employes went home, Seger remained an interested spectator. The Indians unpacked their ponies and put up their teepees. After the teepees were set up, a band of squaws, each one carrying an ax or hatchet, with a rawhide rope wrapped in their hand, came to the place where the building material was piled up. There were two piles, one of good material, and the other of the bad. The squaws looked at the two piles, then went over to the good lumber, laid their ropes on the ground, and began splitting the hoards to lay upon the ropes in order to make a pack for carrying the fuel to camp. When Seger saw this he was unable to remain a disinterested spectator while the good lumber was being carried away for fuel, since the damaged lumber would do as well, though being harder to cut up into fuel. Seger could not talk the Indian language, neither could the squaws understand English, so he jumped among them and screamed and threw up his hands. the squaws turned and faced him as much as to say, “What do you mean.” Seger then pointed toward the good lumber and scowled, shaking his head and then pointed toward the poor lumber and nodded his head. The squaws understood this, and moved their ropes over near the poor lumber, and were soon cutting and piling that up on their ropes. As they did this they looked toward Seger to see if he approved what they were doing. He gave a nod of approval. Some would get a very tough board to split, and seeing this Seger would take the ax and split the board for the squaw. As it was quite cold the squaws were eager to get as much wood for the night as they could, and some got so large a bundle they could not get it on their backs. When Seger saw this he would help lift the load to the carrying position. He did this in several cases, and when the squaws were all loaded and started for camp they talked very earnestly and occasionally looked back at the white man, who could see they were talking about him.
The next morning the employes were back at work and the agency was alive with Indians, the squaws carrying water, getting Wood, and taking care of the green buffalo hides. They had brought many hides with them to tan. Some of the young men were taking care of their ponies, but most of them were walking about the agency observing the white men’s ways of living. When an Indian would come past the group of white men, as soon as he saw Seger he would go smilingly to the latter, grasp his hand and shake it heartily, though giving no sign of recognition to the other employes. Tom George said: “Why is this, every Indian that passes shakes hands with you though they have never seen you before?” Finally Jack Fitzpatrick, a half-blood Arapahoe, came along. He could talk English and as soon as he saw Seger he began to grin, went and grasped his hand and shaking it heartily said: “I know now who those squaws were talking about last night. They went from camp to camp talking about him and kept it up until almost morning. They thought there was a big Washington chief at agency, because when they went to get some good wood he would not let them have it, but made them take the poorest wood. They thought he must be a big chief because he talked so loud. But they thought he must have a kind heart because he helped them split the hard boards and helped them get the heavy loads on their backs. They described him as ‘a small man with a big red nose,’ and as soon as I saw this man I knew who he was.” This was Seger’s first experience with the wild Indians.
During the long and winter nights Seger frequently spent the early part of the evening at the Indian school, remaining with Mr. Trueblood until bedtime. Trueblood would shut the fifteen Indian children up in the playroom and stay with them until bedtime. The children could not speak English, and Mr. Trueblood would let them amuse themselves in any way they wished. Seger was present on one occasion when the Indian boys had found an old tin wash boiler, had it in one corner of the room, and were sitting around it drumming on it with small sticks of wood and singing Indian as loud as they could yell. They made such a racket that Seger and Trueblood could not hear each other speak. Observing this caused Mr. Seger to wonder why Trueblood did not teach them some kind of a game or something to amuse them in which the teacher could join in and thus divert the young Indians from their tribal ways and customs. Just at that moment one of the Indian boys turned his head and looked toward Seger. The latter made up a face at him. The boy stopped drumming and pulled the boy next to him around and pointed. Then Seger made up another face, causing this boy to laugh and to attract the attention of the boy next in line. Soon they had all stopped drumming and were very interestedly watching Seger make up faces at them. When the drumming and singing Indian had stopped, all attention being focused on Seger, he stepped to the middle of the floor and began singing an old school song which he had learned when a boy at school. The principal theme of the song was “Johnney Smaker, Johnney Smaker, Ich can spiel her, ich can spiel my cliney Drumbel.” Then he imitated the beating of a drum. The Indians had seen a brass band with the military and they knew what the imitation of the drum meant. There was a verse for every instrument in a band, winding up with an imitation of playing on this instrument. By the time the song was about ended the boys became so interested they got up and formed a ring around Seger, and kept him singing “Johnney Smaker” until bedtime, and finally the boys themselves were trying to catch the words and would imitate the playing of the instrument they were speaking about. Then next morning the boys were playing in front of the schoolhouse. They saw Seger working not far away, and started for him on a run, shouting “Johnney Smaker.” They soon formed a ring around him and sang the song until the school bell called them into the house. After this, whenever they saw Seger, they would shout “Johnney Smaker” In time the children learned the homely words of the song, and went to the camp and had soon taught the camp children the same verses and imitative gestures. The parents became interested, and when any of them met Seger they would shake his hand and repeat “Johnney Smaker, Johnney Smaker.” Finally the agency people began calling Mr. Seger “ Johnney Smaker,” until he was hardly addressed by any other name, and it was his familiar appellation for fifteen years.
In 1874 the Cheyennes went on the war path for about nine months. The Arapahoes refused to join them, the old chiefs deciding at a council that they had too many old men and women and children compared to the number of warriors. However, the young men wanted to go out. Finally a Cheyenne war party came within four miles of the agency with a view to getting the young Arapahoe warriors to join them, planning to make an attack on the agency people. The old chiefs kept the young men under control with the exception of two, who thought if they could kill a white man right in the agency early in the evening, it would create such excitement that enough young men would rush out to the Cheyenne war party to make them strong enough to carry out the plan. These two young Arapahoes got on one horse, putting blankets over their heads, and rode to the school building. They went around again and again looking into each window as they passed, evidently searching for the man in charge of the school. Not seeing him they rode to the next house, whore Doctor Holloway, the agency doctor, was dressing a broken limb for a man who had met with an accident. The doctor’s son, Frank Holloway, was helping him, and just as the two Indians rode up Frank Holloway stepped to the window. The red men at once fired and gave young Frank a death wound. This created great excitement.
Soon after this the superintendent in charge of the Indian school resigned, returning to Indiana, and Mr. Seger was detailed by Agent Miles to take charge of the school. When he did so he found fifteen scholars, mostly boys, all of whom wore long hair, spoke no English, and would do no work, not even to the extent of carrying wood or putting fuel into the stove. When school was in session the schoolroom door was locked to keep the children in the room, and at night they were locked in their sleeping room. After being in charge a short time, Seger went to Agent Miles one evening and asked to be relieved. In response to a request for a reason, he said: &ldquot;I can’t see that I am doing any good. We are supposed to teach these Indians to take up the ways and customs of white people. Yet the Indian boys wear long hair, will not work, nor talk English. I can’t see what good we are doing in keeping them in school.” The agent replied that there would be no use in having an agency were it not for the school. The military could take charge of the Indians so far as any other purposes were to be conserved. Seger then replied: “If I could manage the school as I wished to, I could accomplish something.” “What would you do different than you are doing?” asked the agent. “I would have these large boys cut wood,” replied Seger. To that Miles objected that they could not be brought to perform labor which they had always been taught was disgraceful for a man to do, since the squaws always cut the wood. Seger said, “If I told them to cut wood and they did not do it I would thrash them.” On the agent retorting that if he did so the Indians would kill him, Seger said, “someone would have to bury me.” After considerable more discussion the agent finally told Seger to do as he thought best. Having thus been left free to carry out the work in his own initiative, Mr. Seger went energetically at his plan, and by spring had the Indian boys not only cutting wood but hauling it to the school. Prior to this the Indian boys would do no work at farming, but Seger had them tend fifty acres of corn the first year. This crop was sold, and the money invested in thirty-five head of heifers, which were branded for the boys who raised the corn. The boys also allowed Seger to cut their long hair, and the educational plan bore other fruits. They were taught to take care of their cattle. The second year the schoolboys raised 100 acres of corn, turning over one-half the crop to the Government for the use of the teams and tools, and selling the other half for enough to buy 100 head of two-year old heifers, which Seger branded for the boys who raised the corn.
The school increased in attendance the first year under Seger’s management from fifteen to thirty-five, and after an addition was built to the schoolhouse the attendance was over 100. The third year still another addition was built.
Following the great Ouster fight in the North, the Northern Cheyennes came to the Cheyenne-Arapahoe Agency, and a temporary school was built for their children. Mr. Seger had the contract for running this school as well as the other school at the agency.
About this time a contract was let for running a mail line from Vinita, Indian Territory, to Las Vegas, New Mexico. This line would pass through the wildest part of the unsettled portions of the United States. The object was to establish a traveled road as an entering wedge of civilization, keeping it in the hands of the Government. The wildest portion of the territory through which the proposed route would pass was that between Fort Reno and Fort Elliott. The road would cross the South Canadian River and Washita River, and many creeks and canyons with high banks. The route was divided into sections, and let to different contractors. The original contractors had trouble in getting anyone to carry the mail from Fort Reno to Fort Elliott. Finally they let the contract to a man, but he did not get a mail through on time once in four months. This contractor soon failed and the general manager came to the Cheyenne and Arapahoe agency to find someone who would take the contract. He was told that no one but an Indian could carry the mail through on schedule time, as it had to go through in thirty-six hours. The manager was also informed that Mr. Seger was the only one who could influence the Indians to carry the mail. E. W. Parker, the manager, then came to Seger to help him out of the difficulty. Mr. Seger replied that if the agent Miles wanted the Indians to carry the mail and would let him pick out the Indians for the purpose he could promise that the mail would go through on schedule time. When presented to the agent, the latter took a favorable view, since it would be a good thing for the Indians, giving them something to do. Being now forbidden to go on the plains to hunt buffalo, the Indians needed something in the way of active occupation. Mr. Seger was then asked as to what Indians he would select, and his reply was that he would take Little Robe’s Band. The agent was naturally surprised at this, since Little Robe’s Band had recently been on the war path, and were at that time practically under guard, being forbidden to cross the Canadian River. Agent Miles finally told Seger if he would see that Little Robe’s Band did not go into Texas nor pass off the reservation, he would allow them to carry the mail.
Then followed an interview between Seger and Little Robe. The former told the Indian that Washington had some letters they wished to have carried from Fort Reno to Fort Elliott. The letters had to be carried across from Fort Reno to Fort Elliott three times every week, and had to be carried night and day until they got through. They would have to go through in thirty-six hours from the time they started. Little Robe was told that if his young men would carry these letters they could place a camp every twenty-five miles from Reno to the Texas line. Little Robe said he would do anything Seger would ask him to do if his band could go across the Canadian River and camp along the Washita. Thus it was arranged and Little Robe and Seger went ahead and marked out the route, designating the camping places. When ready to start Little Robe addressed Seger: “Before we start I would like to make a proposition to you, which is this. You know we will be several days alone together. We will travel where there is no roads, not even a wagon track except the one which we will make. Now, you know the Cheyennes have lately been on the war path, and have killed a good many white men, and it may be they killed your brother. I know the white men killed my son. Now, I don’t think either of us should take a gun with us on this trip, as one of us might be tempted to take the other’s life through revenge.” Seger’s reply was: “I will agree to your proposition. Now, I have one to make to you. You have lived in camp more than I have and have cooked over a fire outdoors, but you never drove a team nor harnessed or fed them, so I propose that you get the wood, build the fire, do the cooking, make down the bed, and I will drive and feed and take care of the team.” To this proposition Little Robe readily assented. On this trip Little Robe and Seger made the first track with a wagon over a route that afterwards became famous as the Fort Reno and Fort Elliott Trail. After conducting this mail route for 2½ years, it was discontinued.
About that time a plan was arranged whereby the cattle companies could lease all the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Reservation west of the South Canadian River. As rent the Indians were to get $100,000 per year. In the meantime, as a substitute for the buffalo hunting which had been forbidden them, the Indians were hauling all the Government freight from Caldwell, Kansas, getting $1 per hundred for the work. But when this lease was made, and the payments came in regularly to the Indians, they soon gave up freighting, and being unaccustomed to so much money at first did not know what to do with it. However, they soon resorted to gambling, and the best gamblers having accumulated nearly all the money in circulation, formed a large camp near the agency, where the Indians spent their time gambling and dancing. The lease to the cattlemen was canceled after two years and the cash payments stopped. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe agency was then turned over to a military agent, Capt. Jesse M. Lee, who had previously had much success as an agent among the Sioux Indians. It was expected he would get the Indians working again, but as soon as he talked about farming and hauling freight the camp of gamblers invariably replied, “We had rather sell our grass; the cattlemen want it.” Then, too, those not in the camp of gamblers, argued that if they went to raising corn the gamblers’ camp would visit them as soon as the corn was ready to eat and would eat up the entire crop in a few days. The same would be true of the money they earned by hauling freight, since the food which this money would buy would hardly last one day after the gambling Indians learned of its arrival. The captain, who was much perplexed and put out by these arguments, was talking to several men one day in a trader’s store and said: “If I could move that large camp of gamblers fifty miles from the agency and keep them there, I could then get the rest of the Indians to work and make homes.” In reply to his query as to whether any men could be found who could accomplish such a removal, Johnny Murphy, who had been connected with the agency ever since it was located, answered: “If any one could do it, it would be Seger.” In explanation of this Murphy told Captain Lee how Seger had taken Indians who had not been long off the war path and induced some of them to carry mail, others to cut cord wood, others to make brick, and do a number of other things that no one else had got them to do. “ Seger will be passing through the agency in a few days on his way to Kansas with his family,” concluded Murphy.
In the meantime, during the existence of the lease to the cattle company, Seger had been living on the leased land, had built 300 miles of wire fence, by contract had fenced the leased land into four pastures, had constructed ranch buildings, and was operating a horse ranch. He as well as other stock men had to leave at the termination of the lease, and on reaching Darlington was informed by Murphy that Captain Lee desired to sec him at the office. The captain, after explaining the situation to Seger with regard to the camp of gamblers, asked, “Do you think that camp could be moved fifty miles from the agency and kept there?” To this Seger replied, “I could move them fifty miles from the agency and keep them there but I’m not going to.” He then explained his unwillingness for any such undertaking by saying, “I have spent the best part of my life working for these Indians and I cannot see as it has done them much good.” The captain said, “Can’t you give two or three more years to help them in a critical time ? When they need your help?” The answer which Seger made to this furnishes the keynote to his career in Oklahoma: “These Indians cannot he helped permanently in two or three years. If I should go into the Indian service again it would not be for the salary. I would get into it for a life work, so that when I get old I could look back on my past and see I had not lived in vain.” After some further discussion Mr. Seger told Captain Lee: “Get the necessary authority and I will take my family to Kansas and locate them where my children can go to school, then I will come back and move that camp of Indians west to the Washita and have my headquarters on Pond Creek at the ranch that I have left.” On parting the captain said, “ Come back as soon as you can, I am sure I can get the necessary authority.”
Having located his family at Caldwell, Kansas, Mr. Seger returned to Darlington and worked around the agency until word could come from Washington to move the Indians. At the same time an appropriation of money was made to build a pasture for the beef cattle, as beef had to be furnished to the Indians. Other money was appropriated to have some sod broken up to enable the Indians to plant corn and make garden. The position of Indian Farmer was also provided for and Captain Lee had kept the place vacant in order to appoint Mr. Seger as soon as authority was granted for the removal of the Indians. The stage that brought this authority also brought an employe to fill the vacancy of Indian Farmer. He was a political appointee, unacquainted with Indian work, and could make no headway in getting the Indians to accompany him.
When Mr. Seger first proposed to the Indians that they should move to the Washita, they replied: &rldquo; No, we would not go to the Washita to live, because we would have to cross the South Canadian River to get rations, and sometimes the river was up too high to cross for a month, and we might starve to death.” Mr. Seger’s answer to this was: “If you will move to the Washita I will go with you and live with you as long as you need a white man to be with you, and if I don’t starve to death you will not.” “If you will do that we will go with you,” said the Indians. Mr. Seger then took down the names of all who would promise to go with him to the Washita.
Owing to the incompetency of the political appointee the entire project seemed likely to fall through. Captain Lee then told Mr. Seger, after explaining how the only salaried position was filled, “it is time these Indians were moved as it is now the last of February and it will soon be time to plant gardens. If I had a little time to explain the situation to the Indian office I believe there could be some way provided to give you a salary, but it would take some time to bring it about, and the Indians should be moved right away. Can you suggest any plan whereby the Indians could be removed at once?” Seger’s reply was: “You have funds appropriated to build a beef pasture and to hire prairie sod broke for the Indian’s fields. Now, you have four yoke of oxen with yokes and chains that belong to the Government, and as the logs are hauled to the saw mill, you have no use for the oxen, so if you will turn them over to me I will move the Indians to the Washita, build the pasture fence, break the sod ground, and will not use no help but Indians, and will pay them wages and will do the work for the money appropriated, and will pay my salary out of it, and by the time that is done you may be able to get the Government to provide a position with a salary for me.” To this the captain gave his hearty assent.
The next day Seger started with the band of Indians. They were given five weeks’ rations. As they loaded up the rations and started about all the white people in the agency were standing on the bank of the north fork of the Canadian to see the Indians start. The general opinion was that these Indians were going out on a picnic trip, and that as soon as the rations were consumed the band would bo back in the agency, and that would be the end of Seger’s Colony.
When the teams had crossed the river they stopped, and all the men gathered about a wagon. On seeing this Seger quickly rode across the river, and coming up asked the Indians what they were doing. “Charsole” said: “You know you read to us one Sunday out of the Bible about the river of Jordan, and you told us that when we crossed the river Jordan we would be in another world, and as we were going to the Washita to learn to live like white men it would be like crossing the river Jordan, so we agreed that we would call the North Fork the River Jordan, and when we crossed it we would take off our blankets and leggings and dress in white men’s clothes, because if we are going to be like white men we must wear clothes like they do. The last time the government issued clothes, each of us saved a suit, and as we have now crossed the river Jordan we have traded off our Indian and have put on white men’s garments. When we were on the other side the River Jordan the women cut wood and carried the water, but now that we have crossed the river Jordan, the men must cut the wood. So tell us where we will camp at noon, and some young men will go ahead and have the wood ready to get dinner with.”
The band reached the Canadian River the first day and as Mr. Seger was seated by the camp fire with some Indians a call was heard from back in the canyon. A messenger soon reported the arrival of Bare Robe, whose wagon had been stuck in the mud, but who would soon reach camp. Bare Robe soon came in, put up his teepee, and then called Seger to take supper with him. When Mr. Seger entered the teepee Bare Robe said: “I wanted to tell you why I did not start with the rest this morning. My wife has been sick for some time, and this morning she was worse than she had been. I did not want to leave her and I was afraid if I started with her she might die on the road. She is the only wife I have and I have had her for a long time, and she is the only mother my son has, so we both did not want to leave her behind. We were talking over the matter and my wife heard us and she said, ’put me in the wagon and go ahead. If I die, bury me and go on.’ Now, we knew she wanted us to do this, so we came, but were late starting.”
The next night the party came to the head of a canyon. The following morning, when the teams were being hitched up Bare Robe came to Seger and told him his wife was dying. Seger at once went to her and found her breathing her last. After she was dead Mr. Seger said, “We will unhitch the teams and stay here today and bury your wife.” Bare Robe replied, “No, do not do that. My wife knew she was going to die and she said that I and my son should bury her right here, then go on, so we will do so and will catch up with you before night.” In speaking of this camping place afterwards it was referred to as the canyon where the woman died, but later that was changed to “Dead Woman’s Canyon” and is known by that name to the present day.
On organizing this band of emigrants Mr. Seger had each one take a pledge that he would stop gambling and would go to farming. Though the first party that moved to the Washita was only 160, it was not long before they were 500, and the settlement became known as Seger’s Colony. These Indians raised the first wheat ever grown in Washita County.
In 1892 authority was granted for building a brick schoolhouse. Mr. Seger was appointed as bonded superintendent, and the school was given the name Seger’s School. It was an industrial boarding school, and has since been enlarged from time to time. Finally the Seger Colony was cut off from the Darlington Agency, and was called Seger Agency, Mr. Seger being the agent in charge as well as the superintendent of the school.
After two years he voluntarily resigned as agent and took the position of Indian Farmer. This was his work up to March 1, 1915, when he resigned and finally retired from the Indian service.
Mr. Seger might easily write a volume concerning his life among the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest living authorities on the history, customs and character of these tribes. A few years ago he had printed the “Tradition of the Cheyenne Indians” and it is believed that he is the only white man who was ever entrusted with this tradition. The tradition is the history of the Cheyenne Indians as it has been told by word of mouth and handed down from one generation to another. On being entrusted with this sacred history Mr. Seger gave a promise that he would see that it was preserved in the unperishing form of printing, and the pamphlet containing the printed tradition is now one of the important documents in Oklahoma history. Some years ago Mr. Seger also contributed an article to the National Education Association, on the “Progress the Indian is making towards Citizenship and Self-Support,” and this article was printed in the volume of proceedings of the association.
Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Seger lived for seven years with his family about fifty miles from any white settlement, fifty miles from postoffice or store, and had his children growing up about him without school advantages, it should be noted that out of his seven children who are now living, four have taught school, while Neatha Seger, the oldest son, has published a newspaper and is now editing the Gary Times.