Archive for Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blue Jacket name has interesting history

September 18, 2008

Being from the east and an amateur history buff, the name of rural Eudora Winery Blue-jacket Crossing brought back recollections of a book titled "Blue Jacket War Chief of the Shawnees" by Allan Eckert.

Years ago I had heard the story of a white boy, Mamaduke Van Swearingen, captured June 5, 1771, at age 17 by the Shawnee and adopted into the tribe. This story became a part of frontier history and was believed for at least 100 years to be true.

Increasing population was steadily absorbing coastal lands and families were forced to move westward. The Swearingen family pushed north and west into what is now West Virginia and built a cabin near present day Richwood, West Virginia.

Duke, unlike his numerous siblings, reveled in trying to emulate the Indian way of life. When Duke was 12 he was befriended by an old trader and trapper who built a small one-room cabin on the creek upstream from the Swearingen cabins. Jacob, called Chaqui by the Indians, taught the 12-year-old not only how to survive in the wilds,

The legend is told that on a bright June day in 1771, Duke's brothers were after him. His brother Charley ran to warn him they were coming to beat him up and "take the Indian" out of him. Duke was dressed for hunting in high moccasins made of buffalo hide to protect him from timber rattlers and copper heads.

Duke and Charley escaped out a window and ran for the woods wellknown to Duke where they could easily escape his brothers. Later as he ran, Duke made a difficult shot with his bow and impaled a leaping rabbit. Charley began to skin the animal and looked up to find they were surrounded by 11 Shawnee warriors. Duke did not panic. He noticed the Indians were not painted for war and quietly said "manese," which he had learned from the old trapper meant "knife." Slowly he withdrew his knife from his waist band and dropped it on the ground beside his bow. According to Allan Eckert, they were Kispokothas - warrior Shawnees who had noticed Duke's excellent shot and were impressed by the Indian clad white boy.

They talked for some time because Duke's knowledge of the language was limited. Eventually, they decided to let Charley go and Duke eagerly accompanied the warriors. Duke told Charley to go home and "tell Maw and Paw not to follow or they might kill me. They want to adopt me into the tribe and have given me a name - Weh-ya-pih-ehr-sehnwah - Blue Jacket."

Apparently this capture has not been verified. However, there was a great Shawnee chief and he was called Blue Jacket. In recent years, the two families, Van Swearingen and Blue Jacket, via DNA tests have proven that Blue Jacket was a full-blooded Indian, not a white man. But, the interesting story does not stop here.

En route through Kansas territory in 1854, William H. Hutter mentioned in letters that his party stopped at the Wakarusa River ferry crossing and boarding house operated by a family named Blue Jacket. The Rev. Charles Blue Jacket, well known and respected throughout the area, and his brother, George Blue Jacket, owned two houses. Hutter wrote they were satisfied with the accommodations and stayed over night.

Were there at one time two Blue Jacket crossings? Hutter wrote they continued on their journey and stopped at "the New England two of Lawrence" and slept at a hotel and ferry crossing for emigrants on the California-Oregon road. This hotel, he reported, was owned by the Blue Jacket family.

He also reported that before Quantril's raid on Lawrence, one raider entered the hotel. Bad decision! A daughter-in-law, Silverheels Blue Jacket, hit him over the head with a tomahawk and "ended his life forever." Forget about lip-sticked barracuda hockey moms from Alaska! Don't mess with Kansas women!

A few years ago we accompanied a group to view Blue Jacket crossing. The high vertical banks on both sides of the Wakarusa River gave way to a gentler slope and a rocky ford or crossing. Blue Jacket Crossing Vineyard and Winery is well named.

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