Javens, Mrs. John

Her 1913 reminiscences of life in early Franklin County

from the Spring, 1994 Head Light, the newsletter of the Franklin County Historical Society

Mrs. Javens’ Memories

On New Years Day, 1913, the Ottawa Herald bristled with stories by and about county pioneers. One of the most lively is an interview with Mrs. John Javens, a candidate for oldest settler, then living at 423 Walnut.

First White Settlers

“Who was here when I came to Kansas?” the woman of 82 years and plenty of reminiscences repeated the other day when a reporter for the Herald questioned her. “Why, bless you, there was no one here but some Indians. Others began coming in later in the same year we came but none had come before. It was a wilderness.”

Then the oldest settler told some of the events of that memorable year when the first Immigrant Aid Society sent a party to Lawrence and other pioneers began to claim the soil of Kansas.

In the fall of 1853 Charles Clark and his father Jacob Clark had come out from Westport and taken up Indian claims just north of where Centropolis is now. [If this is true, they were operating illegally.  No one was permitted to settle prior to May 30, 1854.] They returned home the same fall without building cabins. In October of the next year the Clark wagons moved Mr. and Mrs. John Javens also from Westport to the same neighborhood, only a little south of the Clark claims.

At Whisky Creek

“It was just about the middle of October” said Mrs. Javens, “when we started from Westport over the Santa Fe Trail. There were no incidents to speak of on the way. At that time during good weather you could scarcely look at the trail without seeing a wagon train or a few straggling wagons. The prairie schooners traveled slowly and there was almost always a white top of a wagon in sight in one direction or another.

“Our wagons and teams brought us in a couple of days to Eight-Mile Creek just at the mouth of what we called Whiskey Creek but which is now Coal Creek. Just south on the mouth of this little branch Mr. Javens built our first cabin, finishing it about the first of November. We slept in the wagons until it was done.

The First Claims

“Where Charles Clark had staked his claim was about two and one-half miles south of the Santa Fe trail or about way between the trail and what is now Centropolis. His father had claimed two miles farther south, or just half a mile north of what afterward became Centropolis. When we came we passed these claims, went south and located where the two creeks joined and this is just about half a mile east of Centropolis.”

In connection with these facts it should be said that Charles Clark is still living, though somewhat feeble, north of the county line in Douglas County and William Clark, a younger brother and well up in years and experience, is living on his father’s claim, a well known resident of Franklin County. Charles Clark is just at present visiting a sister in Shawnee County.

Early Hardships

“Yes, it was a trying time for a woman,” said the pioneer housewife of Franklin County, “but I got along pretty well except for some occasional trouble with the Indian Squaws when we first came.” And Mrs. Javens beamed with enjoyment as she related some of her exciting moments that proved in their telling that this pioneer woman had something of the spirit of self reliance that helped tide the pioneer woman through their troubles. Her eyes are still bright and her memory of other years serves to keep her still young in spirit if not in years.

“Mr. Javens was an Indian trader, you know”, she explained,” and soon built a store about 100 yards from our first cabin.” We had one child when we came to Kansas and it was my only companion when my husband was away, except for a black bull dog which I called “Bull” and which was a terror to the Indians that lived near us. He wouldn’t let an Indian come into the house and I thought a lot of him, I tell you. The Indians, some of the worthless ones, wanted to buy him so they could kill him. Everything in our house was a curiosity to them and they wanted to get their hands on the trinkets and clothing. Several times they tried to scare me away from the cabin so they could get in. But I wouldn’t part with the dog and he kept the place well regulated.

‘Bull’ and the Indians

“One day two squaws came to the door. I knew they were outside because ‘Bull’ sniffed the air as he always did when Indians were around. But Mr. Javens was in the house and I wasn’t afraid. They stood in the door and kept saying ‘Hi, Hi, Squaw’ to me. I was washing dishes and didn’t answer them.

“Why don’t you answer them?” my husband asked me. “They want to know how you are.”

“I told him that they could wait until I got through washing dishes. They still stood there grinning and say ‘Hi, Hi, Squaw until I got tired of it and a little angry, too, I guess. When I could stand their insolence no longer I threw a dishpan of water at them and called to the dog: ‘Take ‘em Bull.’ He took them and my husband had to run down to the corral and call him back. Of course, when my husband explained that the women only wanted to be neighborly and that my action might make us trouble among them. I went out where they were still standing and asked them the best way I could what they wanted. But all the two frightened Indians would say was “Hi, Hi, Squaw.” And the pioneer housewife chuckled again as she recalled the incident.

Wouldn’t “Swap Shunio”

She told of another time when a squaw visited her while Mr. Javens was cutting wood on the creek a few rods away from the cabin. He talked the Indian language but she had not yet learned it and when the Indian woman repeatedly and somewhat impatiently asked her to “swap shunio” she was nonplussed. Finally the squaw pointed to Mr. Javens and said in her own language: “Sha-moo-ka-man! Him swap shunio.” Mrs. Javens called her husband.

“Why, she has just got her pay from the government and wants you to change the money,” Mr. Javens explained to his wife when the squaw made known her wants. She wants you to ‘swap shunio’—change money.” That encounter ended badly for the Indian visitor, for Mrs. Javens admitted she was young and had the aggressive spirit which must have strained relations with the surrounding tribes.

Built Perry Fuller Home

Later in 1854 the Clarks and Irving Hughes, father-in-law of Jacob Clark, came. Perry Fuller also came then–the Fuller cabin was the  second cabin built. John Javens built one soon after building his own and then he built the third cabin in that neighborhood, the home of Frank Barnes who had come at the same time that the Javens family came. The Fuller home was three miles north, nearer the trail, and Mr. Fuller was at that time Indian agent for that section of the state. Mr. Fuller and Mr. Javens, agent and trader, did most of the dealing with the Indians for the entire settlement.

The Indians around us were of a pretty good sort unless they got mixed up with the white man’s fire water,” said Mrs. Javens. “Their word for fire was ‘skoo-t’ and the word for water was ‘appo’. And when there was too much skoo-ti appo’ in the community there were often some bad Indians.”

The second home of the Javens family was built just across the present Minneola road opposite the first cabin, just west of the bridge over Eight Mile. The remnants of this cabin are now enclosed inside an old and crestfallen house. The logs had been weather-boarded over many years ago.

This second and larger cabin was built in 1855, and it was a few years afterward—Mrs. Javens believes about three or four years—that they built the third house, a frame house of four rooms, just south of Centropolis, back from the road at a place it makes a turn coming into Centropolis from the south. This house is still standing.

To Coast by Ox Wagon

In May of 1864, while the war was going on, they took their wagon, two yoke of oxen drawing it, a team of horses hitched to a splendid carriage for which Mr. Javens had paid $300 in Westport and started to California over the Oregon Trail. There were many incidents on that long and tiresome trip but the one which Mrs. Javens recalls better than the rest was the occasion of losing their team of horses. Men who called themselves soldiers compelled the party to give up their horses at a place called Deep Creek in Utah near Salt Lake. The men were probably not soldiers but it was war time and there was nothing to do but submit to the theft. Mr. Javens sold his carriage for a price just large enough to allow him to purchase another team with which to do his work when he got to California.

Back to Kansas

The family was in California seven years and returned by train, first to Doniphan County opposite St. Joseph and after two years they drove to Pomona through Centropolis, and stopped to visit old friends at their first Kansas home.






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