Iowa History Project


The Quakers of Iowa




Louis Thomas Jones


Part IV


Benevolent and Educational Enterprises





The Iowa Quakers and the American Indians


            From the year 1672, when George Fox, the founder of Quakerism, began his wanderings among the Indians along the Atlantic seaboard,(285) until the present time, the Quakers have been consistent and abiding friends of the American Indians. Strange as it may seem, something in the untamed nature of the red man has always attracted the Quaker to him; and in turn, something in the attitude of the peaceful Quaker has ever made the Indian his trusting friend.(286)


Early Contact With the Indians


            Aside from their early contact with the roving bands of Indians in the West, the first direct interest of the Iowa Friends in “Our Red Brothers”(287) appeared in 1851 when Thomas Stanley of Salem informed his brethren at the Monthly Meeting in November that he felt led “to go among the Kansas Indians for the purpose of instructing them in the art of Agriculture and civilization”. Two Friends, John Hockett and Enoch Beard, volunteered to accompany Stanley on his proposed visit, as was the custom; and the Monthly Meeting drew up a message which reads in part as follows: To our brothers, the Kansas Indians, and all whom it may concern,

            Brothers, Our dear brother Thomas H. Stanley, believing it required of him by the Great Spirit to pay you a visit, in order to confer with you on a concern, which has for a long time rested with weight upon his mind; of endeavoring, with your consent, at some future time, to give you some instruction in the arts of agriculture, and civilization, and in the doctrines of Christianity, as way may open, and as he may be enabled to do, and as may appear right in further feeling after the mind of the Great Spirit… is fully united with by his friends and brethren… and he [is] left at liberty and encouraged to attend thereto.(288)

            On the evening of March 27, 1852, Thomas Stanley and his companion Enoch Beard arrived at the chief village of the of the Kansas Indians—Council Grove, on the Neosho River;(289) and on the following day they met the objects of their mission in an impressive council. In typical Indian fashion, silence reigned for a time; after which the message from the Salem Monthly Meeting was read aloud and translated into the Indian language by an interpreter. Breaking the stillness which had followed this friendly salutation, Stanley then proceeded to explain in detail the purpose of his coming; in reply to which there came from the Indians many speeches and expressions of good will and welcome.

            Owing to the fact that the Methodists had already established a mission station among these people it did not seem best for Stanley at this time to remain; but by the spring of 1857 the way was clear, and so, with his brother James, he returned to undertake a permanent work among this tribe.(290)


President Grant’s Peace Policy


            The larger work of the Iowa Friends for the Indians of the West came some ten years after the Stanleys had begun their labors in Kansas, and at a time most opportune for the red men. The Indians had gradually been driven beyond the Mississippi and on to the westward.(291) Then came the movement to the Oregon country, the mad rush of the “forty-niners” to the gold fields of California, and the building of the first trans-continental railway. The Indian saw the Buffalo and other game everywhere recklessly slain or driven from the prairies; and everywhere encroachments were being made on his hunting grounds. At last, thousands of the tribesmen of the plains arose in a desperate and final attempt to stay the advance of the white men. The war-whoop resounded along the entire frontier. At once, from various parts of the nation there came a demand for the complete extermination of the Indian race by the military arm of the government. It was at this juncture that the Friends, with their program of peace, stepped in.

            On September 3, 1867, the subject of the “present condition of the Indians” was introduced for discussion into the “Representative Meeting” of the Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends. After some consideration it was referred to a committee composed of David Morgan, James Owen, Lindley M. Hoag, David Hunt, Enoch Hoag, and Brinton Darlington, with instructions to report “the result of their deliberations to a future sitting”. Two days later they produced the following statement:

            After a full interchange of views, we are united in recommending to the Representative Meeting, the appointment of a committee to labor for the promotion of peace between the Indians and whites, as well as the general protection of the aborigines in all their rights, & to encourage their advancement in civilization & Christianity, be memorializing the proper authorities, or otherwise to labor as way may open for the prosecution of the concern. And we would suggest the invitation of all the Representative Meetings of Friends in the United States, with which we correspond, to cooperate with us if way should open with them.(292)

            Having already joined forces with other Yearly Meetings in the work for the freedmen, the Iowa Yearly Meeting in adopting this report was but suggesting that the same plan of action be extended to the work among the Indians. The clerk of the Representative Meeting forwarded copies of the above report to each of the other Yearly Meeting as suggested; and the New England, New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Ohio, Indiana, and Western Yearly Meetings all readily united in the enterprise. A body composed of two representatives from each Yearly Meeting, and known as “The Associated Executive Committee of Friends on Indian Affairs”, was organized and became one of the most effective instruments for accomplishing a given purpose that the Friends have even produced.

            The bill then pending before Congress “to restore the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the Department of War”(293) was most vigorously attacked by this compact Quaker organization. The Senate and the House of Representatives were petitioned ad memorialized; and the “Associated Com’t proceeded in a body to Washington & obtained a hearing before the committees of the two Houses of Congress”. The President-elect, Ulysses S. Grant, was called upon in person by a deputation of the committee and interviewed on the subject. The great warrior received his Quaker guests with marked respect and cordiality. He listened attentively to all they had to say, as they pleaded that he might use his influence for the appointment of religious men, who in turn would secure religious employees, so far as practicable, for the Indian agencies; and then in his characteristic manner he replied:

            Gentlemen, your advice is good. I accept it. Now give me the names of some Friends for Indian agents and I will appoint them. If you can make Quakers out of Indians it will take the fight out of them. Let us have peace.(294)

            Of all the departments of the government service the one most honeycombed with corruption for years had been the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Grant eagerly seized upon the plan suggested by the Quakers, and upon his inauguration he turned over to the Society of Hicksite Friends the care of the Northern Superintendency, including some 6480 Indians, and to the Society of Orthodox Friends the Central Superintendency with twenty different tribes numbering 16,379 Indians.(295) Thus originated Grant’s “Peace Policy”, of which he remarked in his first annual message to Congress on December 6, 1869: “The results have proven most satisfactory.”(296)


The Central Superintendency


            While the Hicksite Friends in Iowa took little or no part in the work assigned by Grant to their branch of the Society, the Orthodox Friends in this State bore a share in the new enterprise out of all proportion to their numbers.

            The associated Executive Committee of the Orthodox Friends, to whom the President turned over the care of the Central Superintendency, at once cast about for the proper persons to take charge of the work. Enoch Hoag, who had been a leader in the movement from the start, a member of the Bloomington Monthly Meeting near Muscatine, and a man of remarkable ability, was chosen as Superintendent, with headquarters at Lawrence, Kansas, and with ten Indian agents under his supervision. Of the agency appointments, the Iowa Friends were given the most difficult fields. Laurie Tatum of Springdale was sent to the blanket Kiowas and Comanches, about 4500 strong, located near Fort Sill; Brinton Darlington of Muscatine was dispatched to the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, numbering about 3400, along the Canadian River near Camp Supply; and Isaac T. Gibson of Salem was given charge of the four thousand troublesome Osages.

            Of his own call to this work Laurie Tatum says:

            I was living on a farm in Iowa, and knew nothing about being nominated for an Indian agent until I saw my name in a newspaper with others who had been appointed Indian agents, and confirmed by the Senate….

            After my appointment I soon received official notice of it, with instructions to meet Colonel W. B. Hazen at Junction City, Kansas, May 20th, 1869, and he would convey me to my agency. I knew little of the duties and responsibilities devolving upon an Indian agent. But after considering the subject as best I could in the fear of God, and wishing to be obedient to Him, it seemed right to accept the appointment.(297)

            Brinton Darlington, however, was not so taken by surprise. Intimately associated with Enoch Hoag as a friend and neighbor, he had served side by side with him on numerous committees in furthering the new plan. The following statement appears in a brief sketch of Darlington’s life, published in 1872:

            For several years our friend felt impressed with the prospect that some service would be required of him as a Christian missionary, among some of the Indian tribes. The duty grew into the cherished desire of his heart. And when at length the door into that field of labor was set open by our Government to the Society of Friends, he was ready to offer himself to enter in, though it should be to lay down his life there.(298)

            Under interesting circumstances Isaac T. Gibson, the third of the agents from Iowa, began his long connection with the Osages on September 27, 1869. Superintendent Hoag had been directed by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to got to the Osage Agency and straighten out, if possible, certain difficulties arising out of a treaty made with the tribe a year before. With him he took Jonathan Richards as special clerk, Major G. C. Snow, the former agent, and Isaac T. Gibson, the new agent. In opening his address on this occasion, for which “nearly the whole nation assembled”, Hoag said:

            My brothers! I am happy to meet you. I have long desired this opportunity to talk with you, but my duty to other tribes has prevented my being with you till this day. I call you brothers because we have all one common father. The Great Creator of all made the white man, the red man and the black man equal. He gave to the white man no more natural rights than He gave to the red man; and I claim from you no rights and privileges but such as I extend to you, and you should claim form me no more than you extend to me. I have long wanted to have a plain talk with you, and am glad to see so many here to-day.(299)

            After Superintendent Hoag closed his speech Isaac T. Gibson made it plain to the Indians that he was their friend, saying: “I left the plow in the field to come and stay with you.”

            On account of the heavy responsibilities and the difficulty of securing the proper employees from among the Friends the Associated Executive Committee undertook to stimulate the interest of the Society by turning over to the several Yearly Meetings the care of specific agencies. In 1873 the subject was presented to the Iowa Yearly Meeting, which at once endorsed the plan, took over the Osage Agency, appropriated $800 to carry on the work, appealed through the Indian Committee to the membership of the Yearly Meeting, and before the close of the year received contributions to the amount of $1251.15.(300)


The Osage Agency


            In his last report on the Osages before the Friends took charge in 1869, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs said:

            Osages number about 4,000 and were, before the late rebellion, making fair progress in civilization, being the possessors of a large number of cattle, horses, and hogs, and cultivating fields of corn, and having an interest in education, manifested in sending their children to the excellent manual labor school established in the nation under the Catholics. But between the contending armies they were despoiled of their property, which greatly demoralized them, and they are now in a deplorable condition.(301)

            Restless, dissatisfied, and pugnacious as they were on account of being shifted about from place to place by the government and on account of the encroachments of the white upon their lands, the Osages were extremely difficult to handle; but Isaac T. Gibson took hold of his task in a manner that won the confidence of the Indians, and as soon as a permanent reservation was located(302) he at once set to work marking off fields, building houses and schools, and laying the basis for a successful agency. Writing to the Indian committee of the Iowa Yearly Meeting in 1874, he declared:

            The Osages have in cultivation about 3000 acres of land on the Reservation where they have been two years; during the past year over 100,000 rails have been split by those not used to labor, and they have been assisted in building about fifty houses, and if no preventing Providence, there will certainly be a much greater advancement the coming year than ever before. We have had about one hundred white employees to aid and instruct the Indians and do the Agency work. Among the industries are four black smith shops in different parts of the Reservation, a saw and grist mill, shoe and harness shop, wagon shop, carpenter and cabinet shop at the Agency. With these vast interest to promote and protect, surrounded by 3000 Indians, who are a terror to the Kansas border, no force is used to preserve order nor weapons carried by any employees for defense.

            This was in accordance with Quaker principles, and, as Gibson said, “it would be difficult to find a more striking demonstration of the power of the principle of peace.”

            In this same report Isaac T. Gibson makes mention of the “Osage Agency Manual Labor Boarding School” with an enrollment of over eighty pupils, under the care of Benjamin and Elizabeth Miles from Iowa, and describes its workings as follows:

            The children rise at six o’clock a. m., make their beds and prepare to breakfast at seven. By detail the boys arrange, wait upon, and clear their table, have the care of the school room and boys’ sitting room, and assist in the care of their lodging room. By detail, the girls attend to their dining room duties, washing dishes, sweeping halls, girls’ sitting room and lodging room. At 9 o’clock collection in school room, singing a hymn by the school, repeating in concert the Lord’s prayer or some text of scripture. Bible reading by teacher, a short session of devotion, then the ordinary school exercises, reading from charts, blackboard exercises, recitations, writing, object lessons, oral instruction of various kinds, and gymnastic exercises. Dinner at noon… Collection again at 1 p.m. Exercises as in the forenoon, except the Bible reading. Supper at 5, children assisting in doing the evening work. At 7:30 again collected, singing, general advice, reading from the scriptures, and season of devotion.

            By such a process, in 1875 Benjamin Miles was able to report that “24 Indian children are now able to express themselves in English, and as many more can understand what we say to them and are beginning to talk.”(303)

            Year after year numerous members of the Society of Friends in Iowa have served at the Osage Agency and in other parts of the Indian country with results that have indeed been gratifying. After nine years of most successful labor in this great cause, owing to the unremitting opposition of those who disliked the Quakers’ peaceful policy, together with the personal hostility and interruptions on the part of the Commissioners of Indian Affairs under President Hayes, the Friends, through their Associated Executive Committee, felt it incumbent upon them in 1878 to withdraw from the responsibility for the superintendencies which they had assumed a although they continued to maintain their organization to assist the government in the selection of agents.(304) The last of these men to give up the work was Laban J. Miles of Iowa, who resigned as agent of the Osages in 1885. Since that time the work of the American Friends, and of the Iowa Yearly Meeting in particular, has been centered about the various schools and private mission stations on the Indian reservations.




285- Fox’s Journal (Philadelphia), p. 449.


286- For an account of the early contact of the Friends with the Indians see Sharpless’s A History of Quaker Government in Pennsylvania, Vol. I, Ch. VI; also Rufus M. Jones’s The Quakers in the American Colonies, index.


287- Laurie Tatum’s book, Our Red Brothers, gives many sketches of his own work and that of other Friends among the Indians.


288- Minutes of Salem Monthly Meeting of Friends, 11 mo., 12th, 1851, p. 56; 12 mo., 17th, 1851, pp. 61, 62; 2 mo., 18th, 1852, pp. 72, 73; 3 mo., 17th, 1852, pp. 77, 78.


289- In 1846 the Kansa or Kansas Indians were assigned the reservation at Council Grove, where they remained until they were removed to Indian Territory in 1873. See Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30, Part 1, p. 654. See also Minutes of Salem Monthly Meeting of Friends, 4 mo., 14th, 1852, pp. 81, 82.


290- Minutes of Salem Monthly Meeting of Friends, 12 mo., 15, 1857, pp. 131, 132.


291- For one view of the dealings of the United Stats Government with the American Indians see Helen H. Jackson’s A Century of Dishonor (Boston, 1903).


292- Copy of the Minutes of the Representative Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting made by Laurie Tatum, the clerk, for Enoch Hoag. Enoch Hoag collected a large quantity of materials, intending to write a history of the work of the Friends among the Indians under President Grant, but he died before getting the work under way. The writer is indebted to his son, Edward F. Hoag, for free access to these materials upon which he has largely drawn for the contents of this chapter.


293- Congressional Globe, 3rd Session, 40th Congress, pp. 17-21, 39-43. See also a copy of the Minutes of the Representative Meeting of Iowa Yearly Meeting, made by Laurie Tatum.


294- See “Introductory” to Laurie Tatum’s Our Red Brothers, pp. xvii, xviii. See also The Friend, Vol. XLII, 1868-1869, pp. 255, 256.


295- House Executive Documents, 2d Session, 41st Congress, No. 1, Part 3, pp. 471-478.


296- Richardson’s Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. VII, pp. 38, 39.


297- Tatum’s Our Red Brothers, pp. 24-26.


298- Memorial Concerning Deceased Friends, Members of Iowa Yearly Meeting (Philadelphia, 1872), p. 22. Brinton Darlington died in the Indian country on the first day of May, 1872.


299- The Friend, Vol. XLIII, 1869-1870, pp. 69, 70, 76, 77. See also House Executive Documents, 2nd Session, 41st Congress, No. 1, Part 3, pp. 829, 830.


300- Minutes of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends, 1873, pp. 5, 6; 1874, p. 15.


301- House Executive Documents, 2d Session, 41st Congress, No. 1, Part 3, p. 476.


302- The new Osage Reservation was “bounded on the north by the south line of Kansas, east by the ninety-sixth degree of west longitude, and south and west by the Arkansas River, and contained approximately 1, 760,000 acres.”—Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1872, p. 40.


303- Minutes of Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends, 1874, pp. 15, 16; 1875, p. 18.


304- Minutes of Associated Committee of Friends on Indian Affairs, 1878, pp. 23, 24, 331, 32.



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