Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas at Shawano County, 1858

When they came to what is now Wisconsin, the Stockbridge Mohicans were an agricultural people, but after they lost their land on the east shore of Lake Winnebago, the next move was to a part of Shawano County, where most of the land was too swampy and rocky to farm. The treaty of 1856 that created the Shawano County reservation was welcomed by the Citizen Party, but many in the Indian Party protested it by refusing to move.

Jeremiah Slingerland, whose life story will be spelled out in future posts, was one Indian Party member who didn't participate in the protest. Slingerland and his wife, Sarah, were the tribe's schoolteachers, and Jeremiah had a number of irons in the fire, he farmed, preached, and was active in tribal politics. (I don't refer to him as "Reverend Slingerland," since he was not ordained until many years after he graduated from an eastern seminary.)

On December 25th, 1858, Jeremiah Slingerland wrote a letter to his Aunt, Electa (Quinney) Candy (she is another person who will be featured in future posts). The letter is largely about politics: members of the Indian Party were trying to purchase land from their "Uncles," the Oneidas. He tells also of tough times, saying that Benjamin Doxtator is "about blind from drunkenness." A truer indicator of poverty, however, is his description of the school. Slingerland tells his aunt that "My school is in progress tho, not so many attend as in the fall because many can't get shoes - the agent will send up a box of them tho, to furnish the school children."

The Slingerlands adopted a number of children who didn't make it into adulthood. At the age of seven, they also adopted "Teaspoon" Davids, aside from him none of their children reproduced. The Christmas Day letter seems to be the only evidence of a "Franky" Slingerland, here's what it says:

"Today is Christmas and our little Franky is five years old - A Merry Christmas to you."


"Franky wants me to say to Aunt this is his birth day and is five years old."

The letter is contained in the John C. Adams Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison.

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