Native Americans in Franklin County area–Refugees

from Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) during the Civil War

On October 13, 2012, the Franklin County Historical Society produced an event called “Native Neighbors from Franklin County’s Past: A Native American Experience.”
We designed this event to help celebrate the FCHS’ 75th anniversary by examining a little known topic in local history in an entertaining and thoughtful manner. We were aided in accomplishing this by an interpretive grant from Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area.

The goals of the event were to (1) educate today’s Kansans on what the “Permanent Indian Frontier” was, (2) what groups were involved, (3) what occurred that caused them to leave Kansas, and (4) what has become of them today. We also hope to (5) establish contact with the groups who were settled in Franklin County in order to exchange information, stories and pictures with them.

Visitors to Native Neighbors learned which native people were brought here in the 1830s and under what circumstances they were obliged to move again, mostly to Oklahoma. Adding to the diversity of this area filled with Indian Reserves, the Civil War brought pro-Union refugees from Indian Territory, where Confederate Indians had driven them from their homes and farms. These refugees to northeast Kansas included Cherokee, Creek, Euchee, Kickapoo, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Caddo, Wichita, Tonkawa, Quapaw and Seneca/Shawnee.

In 1862, the Union army created the Indian Brigade to fight to regain Oklahoma territory overrun by Confederate Indians. Many of the tribes temporarily living in Kansas were recruited into the brigade to fight–they were eager to help regain their homes. The First Regiment was composed of Creeks and Seminoles as well as their African slaves, who frequently served as interpreters between the natives and their white officers. The Second Regiment was composed of Delaware, Kickapoo, Quapaw, Seneca, Osage, Shawnee and Cherokee. The Third Regiment was made up of Cherokee “Pin Indians”–the nickname for Union supporters–and disaffected members of the Confederate 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles.

The rosters of the three regiments of the Indian Brigade and a roster of the 16th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry were available at the event. The Franklin County Historical Society is continuing to research the refugees who were staying on Franklin County reserves when they were enlisted.

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