Hidden History: Sac and Fox orphan ensures record of tribes’ life in Osage County

Julia Goodell, right, and her adopted daughter Fannie Baker both made their marks on the Sac and Fox tribes’ history in Osage County.

By Wendi Bevitt

Prior to their removal to Kansas around 1845, the Sac (or Sauk) and Fox tribes were located in Iowa. Most often they are mentioned together, but had originally been two distinct groups.

During the 1700s, French attacks on the Foxes (the Fox Wars of 1712 to 1733) in the Great Lakes Region caused the two tribes to join forces and form a close alliance that helped to affect unification.

The Sac and Fox reservation in Kansas was 435,200 acres located at the headwaters of the Osage River, the first agency being in Franklin County. In 1859, the agency was moved into Osage County, at Quenemo, with Perry Fuller (former employer of Frank James) as agent. The agency also employed an interpreter, John Goodell, to assist in government negotiations with the tribe.

John Goodell was of European descent and raised in New York. He became familiar with the language and customs of the Indians, and served as an interpreter for the government in both Iowa and Kansas.

In 1840, Goodell married Julia Mitchell. Julia was a member of the Sac and Fox tribes and was a survivor of the Black Hawk War. This war was an attempt by Sauk leader Black Hawk to lead the Sauk and associated tribes to resettle lands in Illinois that had been ceded by the tribes in an 1804 treaty. Finding a place to call home that was both acceptable to the tribe and the government was something that would plague the tribe continuously, and translating during these negotiations was the main responsibility for John Goodell.

John and Julia Goodell’s home at the Quenemo agency was an asylum for orphans, the sick, and needy. They adopted twins Fannie and Isaac Baker, children of Indian trader Isaac Baker and his Fox wife, who died after their birth. Mr. Baker pursued the fur trade, and eventually became a prominent banker in St. Louis, Mo.

In 1859, the Sac and Fox tribe paid for Fannie and a handful of other young people, including the daughter of the Indian agent, to attend Baker University. Baker University was the first college in Kansas territory having opened in 1858. Perry Fuller, the Sac and Fox Agency representative, was also living in Baldwin City at the time.

Fannie married Civil War veteran Alfred Capper in 1868, and the couple had five children, most of whom died young. In 1869, she and her family followed the tribes when they were removed to Oklahoma. Eventually she and Alfred divorced and he returned to Lyndon, where he established the successful Farmer’s Store. Fannie and Alfred’s son John returned to Kansas to help his father, and their daughter Pauline stayed in Oklahoma with her mother.

Fannie remarried to John Whistler. John’s father had been an Indian trader and had lived among the tribe for quite a while. John was a wealthy stockman of the Sac and Fox tribe, and at one time before his death in 1890 he had a net worth of over $200,000.

As with most Indian children, Fannie’s daughter Pauline was sent away to Indian boarding school. These schools sought to “Americanize” the children and assimilate them into white culture more easily. Many times the conditions at these schools led to sickness amongst the students, and Pauline, like others, succumbed to an unknown illness she picked up while away at school and died as a young woman.

Fannie was very proud of her Sac and Fox heritage, which was typical of members of the Sac and Fox tribes. Governmental agents in their attempts to Americanize the Native Americans often complained that these particular tribes did not easily let go of their traditional ways.

Fannie worked with Lyndon historian Charles R. Green to document her tribe’s history in his books. She also corresponded with Ida Ferris, of Osage City, who also made an attempt to document the tribe’s time in Osage County. Fannie died in Oklahoma and is buried among her people.

Inset photos thanks to Franklin County Historical Society.


wendibevitt2016bWendi Bevitt is owner of Buried Past Consulting LLC. She has lived in Osage County for 18 years and her research interests include Osage County Civil War veterans and Osage County history.


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