Rice County

Story of
Early Rice County

Published, December, 1928


Indians-Our Earliest Settlers

The Indian life of Rice county forms one of the most fascinating and extensive chapters in its history. This is the more remarkable when one stops to realize that little was known about it until last year, 1927.

The first Settlers to enter the vicinity found the plains inhabited by red men. But those encountered were scarcely more at home than the pioneer. The real native of the plains-the one who had dwelt here for countless centuries-had fled before oncoming civilization. His home and confederacy had been destroyed and the remnant of his tribe obliged to take up its abode elsewhere. In his stead were renegade bands, Sioux, Kaws, Cheyennes, Osages and others, nomads of the prairie who came here to hunt the buffalo or to prey upon caravans plying the Santa Fe trail.

It is scarcely possible at this late day to reconstruct in detail the history of Rice county's earliest settlers, the Caddoan Indians. Coronado and his followers have left us with a bit of first hand information, but Coronado was a disappointed man and could not be expected to have taken much interest in the lives and habits of the uninspiring people with whom he came in contact.

It remains for us to gather most of our knowledge of them from the things they left behind-the articles of every day use which were lost or buried and are now to be picked up or dug up on the site of every village they occupied. And one may, if he is inclined to accept the apparent for fact, gain in careful study of these artifacts considerable information of their original owners.

Let us take, for instance, the question of their work. All Indians, in spite of their traditional laziness, were obliged to pursue some line of endeavor. Tribes became known for the production of certain things, depending then as now upon the advantages of climate, soil fertility and heredity.

In ancient Rice county the fertile Cow creek valley provided splendid grazing grounds for the buffalo. The main herd came here early and remained late, feasting upon the abundant grasses and reveling in the summer sunshine. Naturally the Indians of Quivira were primarily buffalo hunters.

It is not necessary to presume in this respect. The soil underlying every Rice county Indian village site contains the bones of buffaloes in vast quantities. In the basement of an abandoned farm dwelling on the Malone-Rose farm four miles west of Lyons, one has an opportunity to examine the subsoil in cross-sectional view. Bones protrude from the earthen walls on all sides, from a few inches below the surface to a depth of several feet. On many acres of that quarter section the same is true. Every post hole that is dug, every excavation made, reveals buffalo bones in abundance. It indicates not only that the buffalo was plentiful, but that the village occupied the spot for many years-perhaps centuries.

As to a secondary occupation there is ample evidence that it was agriculture. One of the first artifacts to be loaned toward a county Indian museum was a huge stone mortar for grinding grain. Another of equal size was plowed up a short time later, and an examination of stones on the Malone site revealed fragments of three or four more. At the same place were found a score or more of complete pestles or upper mill stones, averaging eight or ten inches in length, four or five inches in width and two inches in thickness, being made for the most part of granite. Dozens of others or fragments of the same have since been picked up on all the other Rice county village sites. Hoes, too, have been found, although in no such quantities as the mortars and pestles.

To further prove the presence of grain are the statements of two men who found, in one instance, parched corn several feet below the ground, and in the other, partially burned cobs at a depth of seven feet.

Flint flesh scrapers are the most numerous of the artifacts found on local village sites. They vary in color, size and quality but are uniform in general appearance and are gathered up by the hundreds. It is quite evident, therefore, that the buffalo was important not only as a source of food, but for his hide. Yet it is not probable that all the hides were for local use. One cannot view the quantity of skin scrapers and believe the hides they must have been used upon were solely for those preparing them. The Rice county Indians were barterers.

Further evidence of bartering is provided by the presence of catlinite, or pipestone, and a red rock which resembles it greatly in color but differs in texture. The catlinite is from Minnesota but the origin of the substitute has not been definitely determined. These materials were used in the manufacture of pipes, but pipes in Quivira were not made of them exclusively. There is a telltale fragment of green soapstone in the Rice county collection-a portion of a curved bowl, No complete specimen has yet been found but the fragment proves the point. There is no doubt that these pipe materials were considered valuable, for many broken pipes are found to have been converted into ornaments, indicating that the stone had been procured under difficulties or at quite a price.

Then there are the granite mauls-large ones for driving stakes and for cracking buffalo bones, and small ones for crushing the skulls of the enemy-flint knives in large numbers, flint drills for boring the stems and bowls of pipes, and flint awls for working in leather.

Indians, traditionally, were people of painted faces. The charge is particularly true of the Quivirans or Wichitas who are frequently referred to as the "Painted Pawnees." Thev were the tattooed natives and their name, in the Indian sign language, was spoken by a stroke of the palm across the face to indicate a painted people. Therefore we could expect to find remnants of the pigment they used. And again we are not disappointed. Every village site yields its large quantity of red and yellow paintstone, and one collector has been so fortunate as to find a pot in which it was mixed, and with some of the paint still clinging to the bowl.

The Quivirans were pottery makers. Where they obtained knowledge of the art is of course a matter of debate, but not unlikely it came from the Pueblo country to the southwest. This presumption is based upon the finding here of several fragments or sherds of typical Pueblo ware. That typical of the Wichitas and the related Pawnees is a drab, unpainted, sand or shell tempered sort, while the sherds referred to are of bright, contrasting colors. This forms the basis for an interesting argument. Does the presence of Pueblo pottery in central United States indicate regular commerce between the Wichitas and the Pueblos, who lived hundreds of miles away? The Bureau of American Ethnology (Smithsonian Institution) is not certain. Perhaps it may mean that some of the Wichita squaws were obtained among the Pueblos, for the women made the pottery. It seems hardly possible that the rather fragile ware could have been transported so far when the only beasts of burden were dogs.

Since the home life of all peoples is interesting, this chapter should not near completion without containing something of that phase of our Indian history. It must be admitted, however, that little has been or is likely to be brought to light on the subject. Coronado and his followers described the inhabitants of Quivira as a "very brutish people without any decency in their houses nor in anything." The houses, he said, were of straw, and the people were without cotton and fowls but did have corn, beans and melons. They made "no bread which is cooked, except under the ashes." Scrutiny of the lodge sites in Rice county vindicates Coronado for charging that the people were dirty.

These sites, which are circular and average 25 or 30 feet in diameter, were undoubtedly those of the straw huts described by the Spaniards and even now in use among the few remaining Wichitas on the reservation at Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Digging into the floor of one of these lodges, ancient as it may be, one still finds evidence of disorder and filth. The accumulation of bones, shells, stones and broken pottery and the presence of a fair number of perfect and undamaged artifacts, is enough to convince one that the homes of the Quivirans were none too clean. Arrowheads, bone needles, flint awls and larger implements were lost in the trash on the lodge floor, the litter piling up and packing down until now, centuries later, a lodge site is distinguishable because it is several inches higher than the surrounding ground. It has been estimated that 10 to 15 persons, no less, lived in each of these huts.

As to the spiritual beliefs and practices of the Quivirans, little is known except that which has been handed down through the generations and which, no doubt, has been much modified to conform to modern laws. There is no positive proof that they were sun-worshippers, altho that is probable, for the Pawnees, their cousins, worshipped not only the sun but certain of the planets, the rain and other natural things. They probably did not make human sacrifices, yet there is an indication that they did.

On one of the Rice county village sites is a large ditched circle measuring approximately 100 feet across. In the center, where the ground is somewhat higher, an excavation was recently made. Two feet under the surface the shovel struck a layer of fine, dry ash. Immediately below this was another, the ashes of a slightly different color and texture, and still lower a third stratum of another hue. A few chips of flint and fragments of bone were encountered but not the quantity or variety of debris to be found in excavating a lodge site. After the dirt had been spread upon the ground there were discovered several small, white objects that could be classified only as teeth, and human teeth at that.

The circle was believed to be that of a communal building or lodge wherein were held the aboriginal rites and ceremonials and to which the leaders of the community retired for long and serious discussion of all weighty problems. But why the human teeth? Could they be an indication of human sacrifice?

It is one of the problems yet to be solved. Further archaeological work may bring the solution of this and countless other vague possibilities of the habits of Quivirans.

That there is considerable difference of opinion as to the identity of the natives who inhabited this country may be seen in reviewing the writings of those archaeologists who have studied the question. It might be interesting, first of all, to learn the opinion of the Bureau of American Ethnology which refers to the inhabitants of Quivira in the following manner:

"Wichita: A confederacy of Caddoan stock, closely related linguistically to the Pawnees, and formerly ranging from the middle of the Arkansas river, Kansas, southward to the Brazos river, Texas, of which general region they appear to be the aborigines, antedating the Comanche, Kiowa, Mescaleros and Siouan tribes. They are known to the Siouan tribes as 'Black Pawnee' to the Kiowa and Comanche by names meaning 'Tattooed Faces.' They are also identifiable with the people of Quivira met by Coronado in 1541.

There is some doubt as to their exact location at the time, probably about the great bend of the Arkansas and northeastward, in central Kansas, but the identity of the tribe seems established. Besides corn they had pumpkins and tobacco. Their corn was ground upon stone metates or in wooden mortars. Their women made pottery to a limited degree. They buried their dead in the ground, erecting a small framework over the mound. Were extremely given to ceremonial dances, particularly the picturesque Horn Dance.

The reader will have noticed how the foregoing report corresponds to the characteristics and habits of the Rice county Indians as observed in the study of their artifacts. However, Joseph B. Thoburn, curator of the Oklahoma state historical society, who is regarded as an authority on Caddoan culture, does not believe that the Rice county Indians, or the Indians of Quivira, were the Wichitas, but rather the Pawnees. His opinion was formed before he visited the local field and was not altered by his examination of it in September, 1927.

Upon returning to Oklahoma City, Mr. Thoburn prepared a report for his society, copies of which were mailed to the chairman of the anthropological section of the National Research council at Washington, and other interested archaeologists in various parts of the United States. The report, in part, is as follows:

In the immediate vicinity of Lyons, and surrounding it in all directions, westward, northwestward, northward, northeastwrard and eastward, scattered over a number of townships on or near the headwaters of Cow creek and the Little Arkansas river, are the sites of a succession of Caddoan villages, locally reputed to have been built and occupied by Wichita people, though I personally incline to the belief that they were of Pawnee origin. Most of the domiciles in these villages seem to have been of the light, timber-framed, dome-shaped, grass-thatched type, though occasionally one of the heavy timber-framed, dome-shaped, earth-covered type is represented by a low, circular tumulus. There is abundant evidence that the closely related Wichita (Paniouassa) and Pawnee (Panimaha) of that period both used both types of these lodges, though in more recent times the former discarded the use of the earth-covered domicile, while the latter discontinued the construction and use of the grass-thatched habitation. The determination of tribal identity in this particular instance must therefore be based upon some other evidence, since both peoples were originally of the same stock.

Many of the artifacts are to be readily and positively identified as of Caddoan origin, though there are a few that may be recognized as representative of other cultures. The double-bitted stone hoe, likewise typical and distinctive of Caddoan handiwork, does not materially differ in form from those in use among the Caddoan peoples of eastern Oklahoma, several centuries earlier. The tobacco pipe, on the other hand, seems to have undergone a great modification in both fabrication and form, having been carved from stone instead of molded from clay and burned and that, too, on a model radically different from the original pattern. Oddly enough these new type pipes seem to be very like those shaped and used by the Tawahash or Taovayas (Wichita) people at Spanish Fort, so called, on the upper Red river, during the first half of the 18th century, whereas the pipes in use among the Caddo-an engages at the Ferdinandina trading post, on the west bank of the Arkansas river in Kay county, Oklahoma, at the same period, were of the original early Caddoan model, made of clay and burned.

Mr. Thoburn also mentioned in this report having observed, in Rice county artifacts, certain evidences of Athapascan or Apache culture, which he regarded as unmistakable. He considered this an indication of a pre-Caddoan era of occupancy. He likewise saw what he felt were Siouan or Kaw characteristics and held them to be proof of a post-Caddoan period. He mentioned them but briefly, but, if correct, they form an important link in the history of our primitive peoples.

That the aborigines of Rice county were the Wichitas has been the belief of local persons largely because of the Rureau of Ethnology's reference to the Wichitas as the inhabitants of Quivira. The Thoburn report might be interpreted by the average reader to mean that since its author regarded our Indians as the Pawnees, he therefore did not accept the Rice county Quiviran claim. Such, however, it plainly not the case, for Mr. Thoburn ends his report with the following comment: Personally I am inclined to believe that the land of Quivira which was visited by Coronado and his Spanish troopers 386 years ago, is at last on the eve of indentification.

There is another view, and an important one, concerning the identity of our natives of centuries ago It is that of the Kansas state archaeologists, Mark E. Zimmerman and Edward E. Park, both of White Cloud, who preceded Mr. Thoburn into the field by a few weeks, at the instance of the Kansas State Historical society and the Lyons Commercial club. It is contained in the report of those gentlemen to their organization-a paper of considerable length which was read at the 1927 meeting of the society, at Topeka. It follows, in part:

The culture in Rice county is distinctly straw-house, Gaddoan-Skidi-Pawnee. There was but one house site that in any way might have been mistaken for a semi-ground-house, and that one (on the Malone-Rose farm) may have been built by a Pawnee of another age and stock.

The Rice county culture in one that Prof. Jacob V. Rrower called Quiviran. The same type of triangular arrowheads are found on all the village sites in Rice county and McPherson county, and are identical to those pictured in 'Leading facts in New Mexican History' as Quiviran. This type of flesh piercer was distinctly Skidi and was always used wherever the four-bladed flint knives were used. Both of these types were symbolic and ceremonial and originally used by the Allegwi or Tallegwi of the stone cist region of Ohio. According to the American Ethnology Bulletin 30, the Quivira province was populated by Caddoan tribes and the Skidi-Pawnee, which we found to be true in Rice county remains.

According to Galletin, the Caddo and Pawnees were distinct stocks, and the Caddoan stock did not use the symbolic triangular arrowheads. They were used by the Skidi or Freckled Pawnees of Quivira.

We have found that there were two bands of Pawnees who practiced the cults originally practiced by the Tallegwi in Ohio. Those tribes of the Caddoan confederacy of ground-house people were the Pawnee Picts or Skidi of Quivira, and the White Pawnees of Haxa or Harahey. The Skidi went up the Red river of Texas, crossed over to the Arkansas and were on the White river and in Quivira in 1541. The Escansaques drove them out in 1601 and burned their straw houses. The Caddo stock of Quivira organized the Wichita confederacy and moved back south and the Skidi moved northeast from Quivira, finally reaching the Loup river in Nebraska.

All of the lodge sites in Rice county indicate that they were burned and the food and artifacts left in caches and on the lodge floors. They all seem to be of the same general type and of the same age.

Messrs. Zimmerman and Park, before leaving the field, estimated the original population of Rice county Quivira at 30,000. This was on the basis of 3,000 dwellings with an average occupancy of 10.

There is still, of course, much to be learned about these primitive people. The extensiveness of the field has amazed those archaeologists who have viewed it and in time it is likely that many perplexing angles may be clarified. But until that time we must accept such theory as we will. 


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