THE "OSAGE WAR.
In the winter of 1836-37, numerous bands of the Osage Indians were located in certain portions of Greene county, and their presence was distasteful to the settlers. Col. Chas. S. Yancey, then in command of a regiment of Greene county militia, was ordered by Gov. Boggs to compel the Indians to retire across the State line and ever after to remain on their own territory. This was done, says Col. Gilmore, in order to protect the settlers and prevent a collision among them and the Indians.
Lt. Col. Chesley Cannefax and Capt. Henry Fulbright accompanied Col. Yancey on his mission to notify the Indians to leave the country. The colonel had wisely concluded to postpone calling out the troops until it should be determined that they were necessary, and had decided to go in person among the Osages and inform them that their room was preferable to their company. The three officers set out for the Indian camps to the south and southwest, one clear cold morning, accompanied by a negro boy named Charley, who had been raised among the Delawares, and was well versed in the Indian dialects, and who was taken along on this occasion to act as interpreter.
The party stopped the first night out with Wm. Brooks, near where Linden now stands. Brooks went with them next day, and they camped the second day out on Bryant's fork of the North fork of White river. That night snow fell to the depth of about eighteen inches. In the morning Brooks abandoned the party, much to their discontent, as he was a great hunter, and familiar with the country through which Yancey was going in search of Indians. Indeed, the rest hesitated about going on or returning, but concluded to push on.
Near the mouth of Flat Creek, in what is now Stone county, Col. Yancey came upon the first party of Indians, of whom there was a considerable number, all mounted on ponies and engaged in a bear hunt. Col. Yancey was dressed in full regimentals, with cocked hat, sword, sash, epaulets and plumes, and presented quite an imposing appearance, which he had calculated would quite favorably impress, if indeed it did not overcome the display-loving savages. The Indians halted, huddled together, gazed at the party a few moments in utter silence, then, raising a shrill and peculiar yell, galloped rapidly away past the officers, without speaking or giving any heed to Charley, who called after them in their own language. The Indian yell was answered, and caught up and repeated, from all quarters of the compass but the north, a circumstance that occasioned Col. Yancey's party no little uneasiness.
The party rode on after the Indians, although they hardly knew how to interpret their strange conduct. Speaking of the affair afterwards, Col. Cannefax said: " I did not like the signs, and, as I rode up alongside Col. Yancey, I looked to see if there was any change in his face, and I thought there was; but, if we were both scared, neither of us spoke our thoughts.
At length, after certain surprises and much perturbation of feeling, the officers reached the camp of the Indians, where by this time the whole of them had collected, and had made a startling savage toilet of beads, feathers, deer-hoofs and other Indian finery, presumably to be able to meet Col. Yancey in an appropriate manner with all of his pomp and circumstance. From his dress the Indians had concluded that the Colonel must be a of great consequence, perhaps the "Great Chief himself from Washington.
The visitors were cordially received and conducted immediately to the tent of the chief, who was named Naw-paw-i-ter, to whom, through Charley, the interpreter, they delivered their message. Naw-paw-i-ter expressed regret on account of the condition of some of his people, that he must move at once in such inclement weather, but added that he was willing to do so if the whites desired him. There were in the camp about 100 Indian men, and as many squaws and papooses. In consideration of the women and children, the whites were asked to allow a few days' delay until the weather moderated. Col. Yancey very readily and very generously consented to this, giving a written permission to the Indians to remain where they were for a few days or until the extreme cold snap had passed. After being hospitably, if not bountifully entertained at the Indian camp of Naw-paw-i-ter, Col. Yancey and his party started the next morning to complete their mission.
Some days were spent in search of other bands, when, coming around to the sawmill about 35 miles southwest of Springfield, in Barry county, they were startled to find all of the scattering hunting parties of Indians in the southwest part of the State collected together and seemingly engaged in preparation for some important enterprise. One Indian rode about brandishing his tomahawk and bow and arrows, and now and then making indecent gestures toward the white. As the assemblage had the appearance of a war council, Cot. Yancey and his aids held a council to determine what they should do. The Colonel and Maj. Fulbright wished to be gentle with the Indians, to visit them as they had visited Naw-paw-i-ter, and induce them by fair speeches to return to their reservation. Col. Cannefax, however, thought the occasion demanded the use of something more than mere words. He wished to return home and rouse the militia and then visit the Indians, prepared to enforce any demands that might be made upon them. His counsel was at last adopted and the party rode rapidly back to Springfield.
Arriving at home, the entire neighborhood about the county seat was thoroughly aroused. Rifles were speedily put in order, bullets were run, provisions prepared, and everything done to put the county in fighting trim. Everybody lent a helping hand, and in thirty-six hours more than a hundred men, well mounted and armed, were at Ozark, on the Finley, in Christian county, confronting the Indians. The latter were much more numerous than the whites, but were armed, for the most part, with but bows and arrows.
As Col. Yancey's force moved forward the Indians began to retreat toward their reservation. The Colonel pushed rapidly after them, proceeding cautiously, however, and on the second evening overtook them on the west side of the James river, not far from the mouth of Finley creek. The militia were at once drawn up in line close to the Indians, and a demand was made of the chief, that his men should deliver up their arms, as security against hostilities. This he refused, for some time, to submit to, but, finding that he must consent or fight, he finally yielded, and set the example by coming forward and laying his bow and arrows on the ground. His example was followed by most of the warriors, but some of the younger ones refused, and were compelled, with difficulty, to give up their arms.
Some of the white men behaved very rudely toward some of the squaws. To Yancey's honor, be it said that he showed such severity towards the offenders that this did not occur the second time.
The Indians at last reluctantly agreed that their guns might be rendered temporarily unserviceable, and after this had been done by the removal of the flints from the locks, and ramming a naked bullet tight into the barrel of each, they were returned to their owners, and the Indians were then compelled to resume their march towards the setting sun, as they had, no doubt, often been required to do before. The next day or two were bitter cold, and the women and children suffered much, especially while crossing Oliver's prairie.
In two or three days more the State line was reached, and after admonishing the redskins not to return again, the militia started homeward. The same day they were overtaken by an Osage chief, accompanied by a white man named Matthews, who begged them to return to attend a council of their chiefs, which had been called, they said, to consult with the white men. This Colonel Yancey refused to do, saying that he bad no power to treat with them.
When the militia returned to Springfield they found that there was most intense excitement in the little town and throughout the county, caused by rumors that a general Indian war had commenced, and that the community was liable to an attack at any moment. The women and children of Springfield -- and a few men, too, -- were greatly terrified, and Maj. Berry, who was then the most prominent merchant in this place, came very near packing off his whole stock of goods to some other place for safe keeping. No hostilities followed, however, and Southwest Missouri had no trouble with Indians ever after of any serious consequence and results. Thus ended the "Osage War in Greene county.
(History of Greene County, Westerm Historical Company, 1883)