Pawnee

Pawnee


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In the 18th century the Pawnee mainly lived along the Republican, Loup and Platte rivers in Nebraska. They were mainly farmers and raised crops of corn, beans, pumpkins and melons. The Pawnees had a special way of preparing the scalp lock by dressing it with buffalo fat until it stood erect and curved backward like a horn. The name Pawnee comes from the word pariki (horn).

The Pawnees were skilled at stealing horses from other Native American tribes. They used these horses on the south-west plains hunting buffalo. This brought them into conflict with other tribes in the area such as the Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, Crow, Sioux, Shoshoni, and the Ute.

It is estimated that at the beginning of the 19th century there were over 10,000 members of the Pawnee tribe. The arrival of European settlers created serious problems for the Pawnee. In 1831 a smallpox epidemic killed nearly half the tribe. They also suffered badly from a cholera outbreak in 1849.

The Pawnee never went on the warpath against the settlers and were willing to form alliances with the U. S. army. In 1864 Major General Samuel R. Curtis arranged for Frank North to organize a company of Pawnee scouts to help the army during the Indian Wars.

In 1865 North's scouts accompanied Brigadier General Patrick Connor on the North Plains expedition from Julesburg to the Tongue River. On 23rd August the Pawnees fought against a Sioux and Cheyenne war party and killed 34 warriors. Later that month the scouts directed Connor and his men to an Arapatho village and was able to capture 750 horses and mules.

In March 1867 General Christopher Auger commissioned Frank North to enlist 200 Pawnee scouts. Major North was given the task of using these men to protect workers building the Union Pacific Railroad. They did this successfully and were able to defeat a Cheyenne war party that had derailed a train at Plum Creek.

Pawnee chiefs signed a series of treaties but their loyalty was not rewarded and they were eventually forced to surrender their homeland for a reservation along the Loup River. In 1876 they sold this land and moved to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

By 1900 the Pawnee population had fallen to around 600 people. This has now increased to about 2,500.


Pawnee - History

Located in north-central Oklahoma, Pawnee County is bordered on the north and east by Osage County and the Arkansas River, on the south by Creek and Payne counties, and on the west by Noble and Payne counties. Organized as Q County following the Cherokee Outlet land opening on September 16, 1893, it was renamed Pawnee County in 1894 for the Pawnee tribe. The western one-third of the county lies in the Red Bed Plains physiographic region, and the Sandstone Hills region comprises the remaining two-thirds. With 594.87 square miles of land and water, the county is drained by the Cimarron and Arkansas rivers as well as tributaries such as Black Bear Creek. In 2010 the incorporated towns included Blackburn, Cleveland, Hallett, Jennings, Maramec, Pawnee (county seat), Ralston, Shady Grove, Skedee, Terlton, and Westport.

Pawnee County lies within a region that has been little studied by archaeologists. In 1975 an Oklahoma Archeological Survey member identified fifteen sites in the Greasy Creek watershed, lying in eastern Noble and western Pawnee counties. Six sites were tested, with the conclusion that the area had been occupied during the Archaic, Woodland, and Plains Village cultural phases. In the 1977 published report regarding this survey, it was noted that the lack of evidence for the Paleo-Indian period may be attributed to the fact that flooding could have destroyed artifacts or that settlement patterns did not include sites along the waterways that had been studied. As of 1979, the county had 175 known archaeological sites, of which ten had been tested and one had been excavated.

In 1803 the present area of Oklahoma was included in the Louisiana Purchase. In the early 1800s James B. Wilkinson, Thomas James, Washington Irving, and Nathan Boone traveled through present Pawnee County on exploring and trading missions. During their excursions they saw Osage hunting buffalo in the area. In 1825 the Osage ceded to the United States an area that included parts of Missouri, the Territory of Arkansas, and the future state of Oklahoma. Through a treaty in 1828 and the New Echota Treaty of 1835 the Cherokee received land in eastern Oklahoma as well as a strip of land known as the Cherokee Outlet.

Following the Civil War, under the terms of the Reconstruction Treaties of 1866, the Cherokee agreed to allow other American Indians to be settled in the eastern portion of the Outlet. Consequently, between 1873 and 1875 the Pawnee were relocated from Nebraska to a reservation there. The Pawnee Agency was established near the present town of Pawnee in the summer 1875. After the Civil War ended, cattle outfits such as the Berry brothers, Bennett and Dunham, and the McClelland Cattle Company leased land from the Cherokee in the Outlet in the vicinity of the future Pawnee County.

According to the Pawnee Agreement dated October 31, 1891, the Pawnee agreed to take allotments in severalty. After they received them, the area was opened to non-Indian settlers on September 16, 1893, during the Cherokee Outlet Opening. Prior to the land opening the county was organized as Q County and Townsite Number Thirteen (later the town of Pawnee) was designated as the county seat. Following the opening the communities of Blackburn, Cleveland, Jennings, Maramec, and Terlton soon developed.

When it came time to name the county, the names Queen (for Q County), Platte, and Pawnee were suggested. On November 6, 1894, an election was held to choose county officials. The name Platte was listed on the Democratic ballot, and Pawnee on the Republican. Because the Republicans won, Pawnee was chosen for the county name. A courthouse was dedicated on September 9, 1895. This building was razed in 1931, and a three-story edifice was erected in 1932. Architects for the new structure were Smith and Senter of Tulsa. The Manhattan Construction Company of Tulsa built the courthouse, which cost approximately $125,000. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 84003406).

Pawnee County's economy has been primarily based on agriculture. The principal crops have included cotton, corn, wheat, oats, and sorghum. At 1907 statehood 48,143 acres were planted in corn, 16,234 in cotton, 3,903 in oats, 3,265 in sorghum, and 2,631 in wheat. Livestock numbered 17,375 head of swine, 11,951 of cattle, 6,750 milk cows, 6,083 horses, and 747 sheep and goats. In the mid-1920s cotton gins operating at Pawnee, Skedee, Maramec, Terlton, Ralston, Cleveland, Blackburn, Jennings, and Keystone ginned between ten thousand and twelve thousand bales. In 1930 the county had 2,289 farms, with 59.9 percent operated by tenant farmers. The average size farm was 154.3 acres. By 1950 the number of farms had dwindled to 1,426. In 1963 farmers planted 16,300 acres in wheat. That year livestock numbered 44,000 cattle, 42,000 chickens, 9,700 swine, 2,400 sheep, and 1,600 milk cows. At the turn of the twenty-first century the census recorded 671 farms, comprising 263,369 acres and an average farm size of approximately 393 acres.

The petroleum industry has also boosted the economy. With Pawnee County surrounded by prominent oil fields such as the Cushing-Drumright, the Osage, and the Glenn Pool, speculators drilled many wells in the eastern third of the county. The Cleveland pool opened in 1904 after a discovery well, known as Uncle Bill Lowery Number One, was completed on the William Lowery farm located south of Cleveland. Other oil and gas wells soon developed near Hallett, Jennings, Maramec, Pawnee, Quay, Ralston, and Terlton. In December 1915 Frank Buttram completed a discovery well in the Watchorn (Morrison) Field in northwestern Pawnee County. In 1925 oil production peaked at 2.2 million barrels annually. In 1980 the county produced more than one million barrels of crude and 620 million cubic feet of natural gas.

Manufacturing has played a minor role in the economy. In 1959 Pawnee County had nine industrial plants. At the turn of the twenty-first century twenty manufacturers operated, including the Columbia Windows factory in Cleveland. Availability of sandstone, limestone, clay, and sand provided construction materials for early-day buildings and roads. At various times more than thirty-five quarries operated. In the 1930s Cleveland had a brick plant, and Ralston had a broom factory and a sand company. In the 1990s two quarries existed, the Quapaw Quarry near Skedee and Stewart Stone, east of Pawnee.

The earliest education in present Pawnee County was provided at the Pawnee Agency near the present town of Pawnee. Two day schools functioned by February 1876, and the Pawnee Boarding School opened on November 11, 1878. At the day schools students received lessons in English and basic education, and the boarding school offered them advanced classes and a half-day of industrial education. After the Cherokee Outlet Opening in September 1893, whites educated their children through subscription schools until public schools could be established. Between 1935 and 1938 the Pawnee Junior College provided higher education. The Tri-County Vocational Center opened on November 15, 1993, in Cleveland to train disabled residents, mainly from Pawnee, Creek, and Osage counties.

Prior to the development of railroads and highways, rivers and trails served as transportation routes. Between 1900 and 1902 the Eastern Oklahoma Railway (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) built a line that entered the southwest corner of Pawnee County, passing through Rambo and Pawnee to Esau Junction. This railroad also connected Ralston, Skedee, Maramec, and Quay in a north-south direction through the county. In 1902 the Arkansas Valley and Western Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) crossed the county from east to west. Two years later the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma Railway (or Katy) passed through the county from the south to the northeast, connecting Cleveland, Hallett, and Jennings to outside markets. Modern motorists use U.S. Highways 412 (Cimarron Turnpike) and 64, as well as State Highways 15, 18, 48, and 99.

At 1907 statehood Pawnee County's population stood at 17,112. The numbers increased to 17,332 in 1910, 19,126 in 1920, and peaked at 19,882 in 1930. After the Great Depression the population declined to 17,395 in 1940, reaching a low of 10,884 in 1960. Censuses for 1980 and 1990 reported 15,310 and 15,575, respectively. In 2000 the county had 16,612 residents. In 2010 Pawnee County's 15, 557 inhabitants were 80.6 percent white, 12.1 percent American Indian, 0.7 percent African American, and 0.3 percent Asian. Hispanic ethnicity was identified as 2.0 percent.

At the turn of the twenty-first century two newspapers, the Cleveland American and Pawnee Chief, served Pawnee County. Hospitals and public libraries were located in Pawnee and Cleveland. Viable unincorporated communities included Oak Grove, Timberlane, Wes, and Lone Chimney. Keystone Lake, Feyodi Creek State Park, and Lone Chimney Lake provided outdoor recreational facilities. Attractions included the Blue Hawk Peak Ranch (known as the Pawnee Bill Ranch, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, NR 75001571) and the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit. Prominent individuals who have hailed from Pawnee County include Chester Gould (creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip), Moses J. "Chief" YellowHorse (baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1921–22), U.S. Rep. Bird S. McGuire, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Comdr. Ernest Edwin Evans and Maj. Kenneth D. Bailey. Annual events include a powwow, a rodeo, Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show and Festival, and the Oklahoma Steam and Gas Engine Show held in Pawnee.

Bibliography

Kenny A. Franks, The Rush Begins: A History of the Red Fork, Cleveland, and Glenn Pool Oil Fields (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1984).

Kenny A. Franks and Paul F. Lambert, Pawnee Pride: A History of Pawnee County (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1994).

"Pawnee County," Vertical File, Oklahoma Room, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City.

"Pawnee County," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed. Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003).

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Citation

The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, &ldquoPawnee County,&rdquo The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=PA025.

© Oklahoma Historical Society.


The Pawnee Agency and Pawnee Boarding School were established after the Pawnee tribe came to this area in 1875. The Pawnee Agency was designated as a post office on May 4, 1876. The area was opened to non-Indian settlers on September 16, 1893, during the Cherokee Outlet Opening. Townsite Number Thirteen (later Pawnee) had been designated as the temporary county seat. The post office was redesignated from Pawnee Agency to Pawnee on October 26, 1893. The town incorporated on April 16, 1894. On September 9, 1895, the townspeople dedicated a stone county courthouse. [8]

The Eastern Oklahoma Railway, which later became part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, built a line through Pawnee between 1900 and 1902. In 1902, the Arkansas Valley and Western Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) also built a line through the city. The railroads enabled Pawnee to develop as an agricultural trade center. The population was 1,943 at statehood in 1907. [8]

Pawnee continued to develop during the Great Depression, largely because of Federal works projects. A hospital to care for the Ponca, Pawnee, Kaw, Otoe, and Tonkawa people opened January 15, 1931. A new school building at the Osage Agency opened in 1932. The federal government built a reservoir named Pawnee Lake in 1932. A new county courthouse was also built in 1932. [8]

Historical population
Census Pop.
19001,464
19102,161 47.6%
19202,418 11.9%
19302,562 6.0%
19402,742 7.0%
19502,861 4.3%
19602,303 −19.5%
19702,443 6.1%
19801,688 −30.9%
19902,197 30.2%
20002,230 1.5%
20102,196 −1.5%
2019 (est.)2,106 [2] −4.1%
U.S. Decennial Census [11]

As of the census [3] of 2000, there were 2,230 people, 878 households, and 581 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,015.4 people per square mile (391.4/km 2 ). There were 1,054 housing units at an average density of 479.9 per square mile (185.0/km 2 ). The racial makeup of the city was 63.18% White, 3.59% African American, 27.89% Native American, 0.18% from other races, and 5.16% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.03% of the population.

There were 878 households, out of which 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7% were married couples living together, 17.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.8% were non-families. 32.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.4% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,962, and the median income for a family was $32,850. Males had a median income of $28,182 versus $20,139 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,970. About 16.8% of families and 20.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.9% of those under age 18 and 23.4% of those age 65 or over.

Pawnee has an aldermanic form of government. [8]

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck near Pawnee on September 3, 2016, [12] causing cracks and minor damage to buildings. It was the strongest recorded earthquake in state history, exceeding the 5.7 magnitude 2011 earthquake near Prague, Oklahoma. [13]


Pawnee

Pawnee Township saw some of Sangamon County’s earliest European settlers, with Justus Henkle apparently being the first in 1818. He was followed by a number of other settlers from St. Clair County. The new families encountered the indigenous Kickapoo and Pottawatomie, but no clashes occurred between them.

The village originally was known as Horse Creek, “so named from the fact that the dead body of a man was found on its banks at a very early day in the winter, and the next spring the horse carcass was found upon its banks which the dead man had ridden,” reports A Pictorial Album of Pawnee, Illinois 1854-2004 by Joyce Reynolds, which is in the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library. (The album, which includes the first photo ever of Pawnee, a stereoscopic view that apparently dates from the 1850s, is an exceptionally good photographic history of the community.)

In 1854, however, residents sought to have a post office located there, and postal authorities objected to Horse Creek as a name. Springfield post office employee Charles Keyes suggested the name of “Pawnee.” “It was a popular notion in those times to name things after Indian Nations,” according to the Pictorial Album. “Even though there had never been a Pawnee Indian in Illinois, the Horse Creek community adopted the new name.”

Pawnee’s economy centered on coal mining for virtually all of the 20th century, starting with the Horse Creek Coal Mine, followed by the Victor Coal Co., and finally the Peabody Coal Co. Most Pawnee miners worked first at the Peabody No. 5 mine, then Peabody No. 8 near Tovey. Finally, Peabody No. 10 east of town, which loaded its first rail car in June 1951, was for a while the world’s largest mine. Pawnee’s coal industry ended with the closure of Peabody No. 10 in 1995.

Pawnee’s miners were a melting pot of ethnic groups, often immigrants. In Pawnee, many of them lived in houses owned by Peabody on the west end of town, a neighborhood known as “The Patch.”

Mine automation starting in the 1920s led to the layoffs of half of Peabody’s miners, and a strike against Peabody in 1932 divided miners themselves, leading to violent conflicts between the longstanding coalfield union, the United Mine Workers of America, and its upstart rival, the Progressive Miners of America.

A brief, well-written history of Pawnee, including the area’s mining industry, is available on the village web site.

More: While many 19th-century communities rose or fell depending on the routes railroad organizers selected for their lines, Pawnee residents took the initiative themselves and built the Pawnee Railroad in 1888. The line first went west to connect to the Illinois Central Railroad and later was extended eastward to reach what is today’s Norfolk Southern Railway. The Pawnee Railroad is considered to be the origin of today’s Illinois and Midland Railroad.

*Dr. Addie Helen Babb (1866-1952), who practiced medicine at the turn of the century in her family home on Galloway road near Pawnee and in Springfield, was known as “Pawnee’s own lady doctor,” according to the Pictorial Album.

*The east side of the Pawnee square burnt down in 1894. And a sleet storm in 1924 put the local telephone company out of business for two years. The Pictorial Album shows the effects of both.

*Joyce Reynolds’ A Pictorial Album of Pawnee, Illinois 1854-2004, at Lincoln Library’s Sangamon Valley Collection provides an unusually good photographic look at Pawnee history. Included is a stereoscopic photo of Pawnee, the first photo ever taken of the village, that apparently dates from the 1850s.

Today: Pawnee, population 2,739 in 2010, is 17 miles south of Springfield, east of Interstate 55 on Illinois 104.

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.Learn how to support the Society.


Pawnee - History

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VIDEO: The Pawnee Indian Parade and Powwow. Circa 1960s
WIDTH="300" Align="CENTER"
VIDEO: We got this wonderful video and the Parade Video from John Berry. The Pawnee Creamery Delivery 1943

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    • Pawnee Schools Year Books 1921-
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    Pawnee - History

    Yvonne Dalluge
    Kathleen Jacobitz
    Marcia Borcher
    Sandi Corbitt-Sears
    Dick Taylor

    Read existing accounts of early-day frontier experiences, learn about the pioneers who've given us a favorable cultural legacy, and see how our communities preserve and promote history of former times.


    FIRST MERIDIAN GUIDE EAST An unmistakably concise and candid view from somewhere up in Pawnee County shows this veteran surveyor's wide stance which spans from Pawnee County all the way over to Gage County. The partially obscured gentleman assisting makes it appear perhaps a bit too easy as he simultaneously occupies interstate trafficways in two separate Great Plains states. From a clear unfettered vantage point in Gage County, NE, the careful scrutiny of an observant fellow on the far right can discern a perceptible scattering of people hanging out down in the neighboring state of Kansas.

    London favored getting rid,
    So their bridge went up for bid.
    That Thames overpass now stands
    Spanning Arizona sands.


    Legends of America

    The Pawnee, who are sometimes called Paneassa, historically lived along the Platte River in what is now Nebraska. The name is probably derived from the word “parika,” meaning “horn,” a term used to designate the peculiar manner of dressing the scalp-lock, by which the hair was stiffened with paint and fat, and made to stand erect and curved like a horn. The Pawnee called themselves Chahiksichahiks, meaning “men of men.”

    Descended from Caddoan linguistic stock, the Pawnee were unlike most of the Plains Indians as their villages tended to be permanent. Originally, they were an agricultural people, growing maize, beans, pumpkins, and squash. With the coming of the horse, they did begin to hunt buffalo, but it always remained secondary to agriculture.

    Pawnee Warriors by John Carbutt, 1866

    The Pawnee Confederacy was divided into the following four bands:

    • Chaui – Grand
    • Kitkehaki – Republican Pawnee
    • Pitahauerat – Tapage Pawnee
    • Skidi – Loup or Wolf Pawnee

    The Chaui are generally recognized as being the leading band although each band was autonomous, seeing to its own until outside pressures from the Europeans and neighboring tribes saw the Pawnee drawing closer together.

    Living in large oval lodges formed of posts, willow branches, grass, and earth, as many as 30-50 people would live in the same lodge. Each village would consist of about 10-15 lodges.

    Twice a year the tribe went on a buffalo hunt and on their return the inhabitants of the lodges would often move into another lodge, although they generally remained within the village. The Pawnee were a matriarchal people with descent recognized through the mother. When a young couple married, they would traditionally move into the bride’s parents’ lodge. Women were active in political life although men would take decision-making responsibilities.

    The Pawnee were spiritual people, placing great significance on Sacred Bundles, which formed the basis of many religious ceremonies maintaining the balance of nature and the relationship with the gods and spirits. The Pawnee were not, however, followers of the Sun Dance although they did fall victim to the Ghost Dance phenomenon of the 1890s. They equated the stars with the gods and planted their crops according to the position of the stars. Like many tribal units, they sacrificed maize and other crops.

    Pawnee Camp in Nebraska by John Carbutt, 1866.

    There are also references of human sacrifice right up until the mid-18th century, where a book refers to a Lakota captive who was tied to a tree and shot with arrows. She was thought to be the last human sacrifice performed by the Pawnee.

    The first European to see a Pawnee was Francisco Vásquez de Coronado while visiting the neighboring Wichita Indians in 1541. There, he encountered a Pawnee chief from Harahey, a place located north of Kansas or Nebraska. Little more is known about the Pawnees until the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when successive expeditions of Spanish, French and English settlers attempted to enlarge their territory. It was at this time that Pawnee hunters first saw horses, racing back to camp, eager to describe the tall, bizarre “man-beasts” they had seen—creatures with four legs, long tails, hairy faces, and clothing that gleamed like the sun on the water.

    While expanding their territories, the first Europeans traded with the Pawnees in present-day Kansas and Nebraska and the various Pawnee bands established loyalties to the different colonial powers according to each band’s best interest.

    By the early 19th century, the Pawnee were thought to have numbered between 10,000 and 12,000. In 1818 the Pawnee agreed to the first in a long series of treaties that would eventually culminate in land cessions and placement of the Pawnee on Nebraska reservations in 1857 and in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in 1875. In spite of governmental control on the reservations, the Pawnee tried to maintain their tribal structure and traditions.

    Many Pawnee men joined the US cavalry as scouts rather than face life on the reservations and the inevitable loss of their freedom and culture. By the year 1900, Christianity had replaced the Pawnee’s older religion and smallpox, cholera, warfare, and devastating reservation conditions had reduced their number to only about 600.

    The Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 established the Pawnee Business Council, the Nasharo (Chiefs) Council, and a tribal constitution, bylaws, and charter. An out of court settlement in 1964 awarded the Pawnee Nation $7,316,096.55 for undervalued ceded land from the previous century.

    Today, the Pawnee still celebrate their culture and meet twice a year for the inter-tribal gathering with their kinsmen, the Wichita Indians. A four day Pawnee Indian Veterans Homecoming & Powwow is held in Pawnee, Oklahoma each July. Many Pawnee return to their traditional lands to visit relatives, display at craft shows, and take part in powwows. As of 2002, there are approximately 2,500 Pawnee, most of them located in Pawnee County, Oklahoma.

    Pawnee Tribe
    881 Little Dee Drive
    P.O. Box 470
    Pawnee, OK 74058
    918-762-3621

    Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated December 2019.


    A brief history of the Pawnee Buttes

    For most people, the word Colorado conjures up images of towering peaks, mountain vistas, hills covered by golden aspen and magnificent blue spruce, with meandering streams full of native trout. Big game animals such as deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats are available for photographers and hunters.

    World-class ski areas beckon during the wintertime. These sites have attracted a population of millions and tourists by the hundreds of thousands. Hordes of people must be tolerated if one is to participate in the activities these physical features make possible.

    But, way out on the steppes of eastern Colorado, near the tiny towns of Grover, New Raymer, and Stoneham, there is “another Colorado.” There are incredible vistas out here, too, and an array of wildlife that is almost beyond belief. A person can go through an entire day of hiking, climbing, birdwatching, and exploring and not see more than a dozen other people. Out near where a small, unobtrusive white post marks the intersection of the borders of Colorado, Wyoming, and Nebraska, there is a place James Michener called “Rattlesnake Buttes” in his landmark novel, “Centennial.” About 70 to 90 million years ago, during the Mesozoic Era, a vast, shallow Inland Sea covered what is today eastern Colorado. In stark contrast to today, the climate was tropical and the vegetation was lush. Huge amounts of sand and gravel were deposited into and around this great body of water, which later became sandstone and siltstone.

    About 5 million years ago, the entire area was uplifted thousands of feet. The relentless agents of erosion, particularly wind and water, began their transformation. Most of the material has been removed. A few land forms were preserved because they were topped by caprocks of harder sandstone and conglomerates. Two of these eventually became known as Pawnee Buttes.

    During Historic times, the Pawnee Buttes region was the home of huge herds of grazing animals ” including bison, which depended on the native grasses and were hunted by tribes of nomadic Native Americans including the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Pawnees, and sometimes Apaches, Comanches, and Shoshones.

    About 1850, fur trapper and trader Elbridge Gerry became the first permanent white settler in the area when he built a dwelling on Crow Creek, near what is now Briggsdale. He trapped beaver and other native fur-bearers, hunted buffalo, and managed to survive a primitive existence. In 1861, John Wesley Iliff started the first cattle camp in the area. He purchased $40,000 worth of cattle from Charles Goodnight of Texas and drove them into Colorado over what eventually became known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. By 1877, Iliff was the biggest cattleman in Colorado. Other enterprising persons, including Jared Brush, also took advantage of the free or inexpensive native grasses to establish their cattle empires.

    In 1862, Congress passed the Homestead Act. The Act gave 160 acres (later changed to 320 acres) of free land to any person who could “prove up.” Hundreds of people flocked into eastern Colorado. The terms of this Act included building a dwelling, cultivating at least part of the claim, and actually living on the land for a minimum of five years. The first person to file for title to his claim in the area was Soren Nelson (nicknamed “Pawnee Buttes” Nelson) in 1894.

    Between 1866-1897, hundreds of thousands of Texas longhorns were driven along the historic Texas-Montana Trail that passed the proximity of Pawnee Buttes on the way to Pine Bluffs, Wyo., and Miles City, Mont. The invention of barbed wire and the increased numbers of homesteaders in the area brought an end to this practice during the late 1890s.

    The railroad was gradually extended into Pawnee Buttes country during the later years of the 19th century. The Union Pacific built across southwestern Nebraska in 1866 and, in 1887, a branch line of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy was extended to Cheyenne, Wyo. The buffalo population was decimated.

    The terrible winter of 1886-1887 resulted in the deaths of an estimated 10,000 cattle and the economic ruin of many ranchers. lt was followed by a drought from 1888-1905. Many homesteaders gave up and went elsewhere looking for a more hospitable environment. The years 1905-1918 were generally good, with above average rains and few extreme storms. Homesteaders flocked into the area. The towns of Grover, Keota, and Briggsdale boomed. In 1918 Keota reached its peak of 140 residents, with a hotel, stores, churches, and other establishments.

    In 1918, at the end of World War I, many residents fell victim to the flu epidemic that ravaged much of the world. The decade of the 󈧘s brought drought and grasshoppers as frequent visitors. Then 1929 brought the Great Depression, a time of claim jumping, cattle rustling and even murder. By the mid-󈧢s the population of northeastern Weld County had dwindled from 600 families to 64.

    The area was desperately in need of help. That help came at least partially from the Federal Government. In 1933-1934, the Work Project Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA) moved to render assistance. The Soil Conservation Service purchased marginal farmlands and began a program to reclaim the decimated lands.

    In 1954, the National Forest Service took control. Fences were torn down, windmills were erected, catch basins were dug, and much of the land was replanted in native grasses. In 1960, Pawnee National Grassland was established as a multiple use area. It included 21 producing oil and natural gas wells, grazing, and recreation. Twelve Minuteman missile silos were established on the Grasslands.

    Today, it is one of 20 National Grasslands administered by the Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It includes 193,000 acres of public land in two units. Ranchers lease back all but 413 of these acres. The Forest Service is dedicated to multiple-use management of renewable resources such as water, forage, wildlife, and recreation. The Forest Service determines, with public involvement, the best combination of uses to insure the productivity of the land and the quality of the environment for present and future generations.

    Today, Pawnee National Grasslands is a major tourist attraction. It is an excellent example of a short grass prairie. The area receives an annual average of 12 to 15 inches of moisture, but amounts vary greatly from year to year. The semi-arid environment makes it difficult to believe that immediately underneath is the Ogallala Aquifer, North America’s largest aquifer. Pawnee National Grasslands is rich in native wildlife, including pronghorns, mule deer, coyotes, badgers, mice, rats, rabbits, horned lizards, and snakes (including the prairie rattler.)

    Since 1962, there have been 296 bird species documented, including the prairie falcon, red tail hawk, golden eagle, mountain plover, burrowing owl, loggerhead shrike, and lark bunting (Colorado’s state bird). Several dirt roads wind their way to the Pawnee Buttes trailhead parking lot. There is an overlook of the Buttes off to the north of the parking lot, from which one can get a great panoramic view of the Buttes. The trail to the buttes is about a mile and a quarter and is in excellent shape. Horses are allowed on the trail ” vehicles are not.

    The western butte stretches to an elevation of 5,375 and rises 300 feet from its base. There are incredible vistas and many opportunities to hike and explore. This is one of the main places in northeastern Colorado where you can hike, take photographs, or just sit and listen to the silence and imagine what it was like before the intrusion of Europeans. It is well worth your time to check it out.

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    Pawnee, 1901

    Insurance map sheet showing an area of Pawnee in Pawnee County, Oklahoma Territory, including geographic features, buildings, and details related to risk assessment for fire insurance.

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    This map is part of the collection entitled: Clarkson Fire Insurance Maps and was provided by the Oklahoma Historical Society to The Gateway to Oklahoma History, a digital repository hosted by the UNT Libraries. It has been viewed 11 times. More information about this map can be viewed below.

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    Oklahoma Historical Society

    In 1893, members of the Oklahoma Territory Press Association formed the Oklahoma Historical Society to keep a detailed record of Oklahoma history and preserve it for future generations. The Oklahoma History Center opened in 2005, and operates in Oklahoma City.


    Pawnee: Rich history leads to strong future

    Illinois Postcard: There are two types of people in Pawnee: old-timers and newcomers. Bill Stevens is a newcomer. He is joking, but there is some truth to Pawnee having a mix of longtime residents and relative newcomers. The town enjoyed a growth spurt starting in the 1970s. A lot of people moved to Pawnee in those days, but many of them worked in Springfield. That is still the case.

    There are two types of people in Pawnee: old-timers and newcomers.

    Bill Stevens is a newcomer.

    “I’ve just been here 50 years,” he says. “That’s not long enough. I’m still a rookie.”

    He is joking, but there is some truth to Pawnee having a mix of longtime residents and relative newcomers.

    The town enjoyed a growth spurt starting in the 1970s. A lot of people moved to Pawnee in those days, but many of them worked in Springfield. That is still the case.

    The impact of that is obvious on the downtown square. Many of the square’s businesses have closed over the years, leaving only a few. One of the biggest recent losses was Nelson Drug Store.

    There had been a drug store in Pawnee about as long as the town existed. The first one was officially known as “Red Front,” but it was also called “The Rattlesnake Den” because a nest of rattlers had been discovered in the wall.

    “It’s quiet,” longtime resident Renee Oliver says of Pawnee. “We’ve always had a good school system. The people who live here are good about supporting the schools. I like that you can call the city government and someone will help.”

    Not everyone in town knows everyone else as well as they once did. People who live in Pawnee but spend their days in Springfield aren’t as much a part of the fabric of the town as when everyone lived and worked there.

    Enrollment in the Pawnee school system has remained steady over the past few decades — usually about 950 students.

    “What happened was that, starting in the 1970s, the enrollment grew and grew,” says Don Smarjesse, a longtime teacher in Pawnee and now a school board member. “We’ve always had low taxes here, and that attracted people.”

    There was a brief flirtation with school consolidation in 2006, when it appeared the Pawnee and Divernon schools would merge. When that did not happen, Divernon merged with Auburn instead. The Pawnee school district remains on its own.

    “One thing we’ve always had is our schools,” Smarjesse says. “If you go inside our schools, you would be amazed at the facilities. Industrial arts is top-notch. There’s a media center, computer lab.”

    This is despite the loss of the world’s largest coal mine, Peabody #10, which was just east of Pawnee. Farms, the railroad and coal mines like Peabody’s built Pawnee.

    James Henkle relocated from Virginia in 1818 to become Pawnee’s first white settler. Others followed Henkle until there were enough to create the Horse Creek settlement.

    A store and post office were soon established. Then came a blacksmith shop. One of the Henkles started a school in 1824.

    Though Pawnee marks its history beginning in 1854, the year of the first recorded history for the town, the village was officially incorporated on Dec. 14, 1891. Dr. D.A. Drennan was village president.

    In the early 1900s, the Peabody Coal Co. opened mines in central Illinois, including Peabody #5 in Pawnee. Peabody purchased the Pawnee mine from the Victor Fuel Co. Miners, many of them representing European ethnic groups, settled in The Patch on the west end of Pawnee, between Washington Street and Route 104 (Carroll Street).

    Peabody #5 was dismantled in 1925, but other mines followed. In 1965, Peabody #10, just east of Pawnee, broke a world record by producing five-and-a-half million tons during the year. That mine closed about 15 years ago.

    In the late 1880s, the Pawnee Railroad was created. The track ran west from Pawnee to hook up with the Chicago-to-St. Louis line. Its first official run was to Glenarm on Aug. 8, 1889. Two years later, a second line was built to connect Pawnee and Auburn.

    The Illinois Midland Coal Co. eventually took over the Pawnee Railroad and sold it for almost $50,000. It became the Chicago & Illinois Midland Railroad in 1906.

    The town’s history has been the subject of two recent books that came out around the time of the town’s sesquicentennial celebration in 2004. William “Skip” Minder wrote “A General History of Pawnee, Illinois.” It’s more than 450 pages long. Joyce Reynolds wrote “A Pictorial Album of Pawnee, Illinois: 1854-2004.”

    “We had been researching the history, me and my husband, for 25 years,” Reynolds says. For much of their research, the Reynoldses turned to the longtime residents.

    Reynolds is also an artist who has painted scenes from Pawnee’s history. One of her paintings, the old Crow’s Mill covered bridge, is on display at the Chatham Public Library this month.
    Bill Springer is, like Bill Stevens, one of Pawnee’s “newcomers.” Springer is 74 and has lived in
    Pawnee most of his life.

    “The old saying,” Springer says, “is if you drink out of Horse Creek, you never leave.”

    In 1929, Springer’s father, Herman, was appointed treasurer of the Pawnee school district. When Herman died in 1968, Bill took over as treasurer, a post he still holds. That makes 80 years with a Springer as treasurer for the schools.

    Bill Springer was fortunate. He was able to make a living by working in Pawnee. He joined his father’s insurance office downtown on the square in the mid-1960s and eventually ran the office. But it, too, has closed. The coal mine, the farmers and the railroad built Pawnee, but the automobile and highway have taken their toll on it.

    “We’re too close to Springfield,” Springer says. “Everybody has a couple of cars to get around in. An old friend of mine told me this years ago, and the older I get, the more I think about it: Nothing stays the same.”

    Trust is the key to life in Pawnee

    PAWNEE — Alit Kasa is a trusting fellow.

    Kasa is the owner of the Pawnee Family Restaurant. He gets there about 6 o’clock in the morning, but that might as well have been noon for Nathaniel “Muck” Sisk, Paul Mottar and their friends. They preferred a slightly earlier hour — say, 4 a.m.

    They asked Kasa if he could open the restaurant earlier for their group and some of the local farmers who wanted to meet for coffee before sunup. But there was no way Kasa was getting out of bed at 3:30 a.m. He found the solution.

    About five years ago, he flipped Mottar the key to the restaurant and said, “Knock yourself out, boys.”

    “They just threw me the key and said, ‘You take over,’” Paul says.

    Sisk and Mottar get there before 4, open the door themselves and put on the coffee.

    “I guess we all used to work and got up early every morning,” says Sisk. “We never got out of the habit of it. I worked at the (coal) mine a long time ago.

    “Paul’s got the key, and he opens up. There’s three of us who get there early. Paul gets there at 3:30. I get there about 10 to 4.”

    The cook doesn’t even arrive for at least another hour.

    Kasa is from Moldavia and still has the accent to prove it. When he begins speaking, people can tell pretty quickly that he is not a native of Pawnee. He was working at a truck stop in Springfield when he heard about the restaurant in Pawnee being for sale. He bought it seven years ago.

    “People are friendly here,” he says by way of explaining why he trusts his customers with the key to his business.

    “They want to come here early, and I can’t get up that early,” he says. “It’s not that I’m lazy, but sometimes I don’t go to bed until 3. Those guys, they can come in, drink coffee and go home and go back to bed. I can’t go back to bed, so I just gave them a key and it’s all right.”

    Kasa says the folks in Pawnee have made him feel welcome. It’s a two-way street. For their part, Pawnee residents appreciate having a morning gathering place, and Kasa provides that. In turn, Kasa has kids in college. Tuition is high, and he appreciates the support the local people have given him.

    Trusting someone with the key to the restaurant is the least he can do to thank them, Kasa says.

    “And it’s better than me having to get up,” he adds.

    Dave Bakke can be reached at 788-1541

    Population change in the 1990s: +254 (+10.6%).

    Population change since 2000: declined 3.9 percent

    2008 cost-of-living index in Pawnee: 74.8 (low -- U.S. average is 100)

    Estimated median household income in 2007: $56,548 (it was $50,787 in 2000)

    Ancestries: German (31.8%), Irish (14.0%), English (12.8%), U.S. (6.9%), Italian (5.3%), Dutch (3.7%).

    LOOK BACK AT OTHER "ILLINOIS POSTCARD" TOWNS:

    Greenview (July 2009)
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    Edinburg (September 2009) Elkhart (October 2009)


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