Manual Labor School, Shawnee Nation [Johnson County, Kansas]: c. 1844-1850. nk on wove paper: 9 ¾ x 7-3/16 in.; strong creases where folded, two small closed tears starting with scattered pinholes to creases. Very Good. Item #CAT0126
The document lists the names and ages of four Creek boys and where letters to their parents are to be sent within the Indian Territory: two to Creek Agency and two to Little River Mission. Verso is written “Post Office for Indian Boys”; it is signed by or possibly addressed to Reverend E[dward] T. Peery, superintendent of the Methodist Shawnee Manual Labor School from late 1844 to around 1850. The boys were presumably students at the school, which taught religion, basic academic subjects, and manual labor (farming, “mechanics,” sewing, etc.) to Native American children from 1839-1862.
The school was founded by Reverend Thomas Johnson, who supported slavery and used slaves at the school. The school briefly served as the second capital of Kansas Territory when the pro-slavery “Bogus Laws” were enacted in 1855. Superin-tendent reports claimed that the children were enrolled willingly by nearby tribes and that each day the student’s time was divided equally between instruction and work. Recent scholarship has focused on the darker realities at the school, which was supported by the US government as part of efforts to “civilize” tribes relocating after the Indian Removal Act (1830).
One boy’s father is listed as Robert Buckham at Little River in Creek Nation. Buckham’s letters from Indian Territory (1841-1844) are held by Cornell University library in their Native American Collection; the finding aid states that he and his wife were unable to have children and planned to adopt “orphans.”
See also Martha B. Caldwell, “Annals of Shawnee Methodist Mission and Indian Manual Labor School,” Kansas Historical Society, 1939.