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City of Shawnee Kansas


PHONE:  913/631-2500    FAX:  913/631-7351

E-Mail: cityofshawnee@cityofshawnee.org


REV. CHARLES Blue Jacket

This essay is about a man who spent his life helping others. With other Shawnee Tribe leaders, he helped bring a grand people from the near dregs of despair to something closer to the Promised Land, a feat few humans have experienced. More unusual, he was the grandson of perhaps, an even greater leader.

Blue Jacket Genealogy

First Generation

Waweyapiersenwa – the last principal War Chief of the Shawnee Tribe. The Whirlpool, he was one of the greatest native American leaders, perhaps more so than Tecumseh, a pupil of his. He originally bore the Shawnee Indian name Sepettekenathe, Big Rabbit. Before 1778, he had chosen to use Waweyapiersenwa, which was recorded by Jasper Yates and Col. John Montgomery (Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 5, pp. 484-485.) as one of the tribal representatives present at the signing of the Treaty of Fort Pitt in that year. The same name is affixed to the Treaty of Green Ville in 1795. A third name, Sasesequa was passed by James Galloway in his letter to Benjamin Drake in 1839 (Draper Manuscripts, BJ245-259.). Most common however, was Blue Jacket, used by Indian and white alike, which is how Minister David Jones described him in a visit to Shawnee villages along the Scioto River in 1772 – 1773.

Blue Jacket led a consortium of Great Lakes Algonquin Indian tribes against the U. S. Army in an effort to rid Ohio country of white emigrants in 1791. A force of 1,300 Americans was ambushed by Blue Jackets warriors on November 4th of that year, on the banks of the Wabash River, killing 600 and wounding 300, the worst defeat the U. S. Army ever suffered at the hands of native Americans. In 1794, he again tried to push the Americans from the same area and was defeated by General Anthony Wayne, ending organized Indian conflict east of the Mississippi River.

Third Generation

Charles Blue Jacket was born in 1817 in southeastern Michigan Territory, nine years after his grandfather, Blue Jacket, passed away there. His father was (Second Generation) George Blue Jacket and his mother is unknown but very likely a Shawnee lady. Blue Jacket’s wife that bore George was the half-Shawnee, half-French daughter of Jaques Dupéron Baby of that French Canadian trading family. At Charles’ birth, his family was farming on the south bank of the Huron River, several miles up stream of its confluence with the Detroit River. His father, uncle James and aunt Sarah had been schooled in Detroit among the French Canadians of their mothers’ family. That undoubtedly was the forerunner of Charles’ religious life, even though he became a protestant rather than a catholic, as practiced by his French family background. Shortly after Charles was born, the family moved to the Piqua, Ohio area, where a goodly number of the Shawnee Tribe was located.

Being the last of seven brothers and sisters, Charles was regaled with his grandfathers’ exploits and a brother, George, was the first Shawnee to write a historical manuscript about the Shawnee Tribe. Charles began his education at the Quaker Mission School serving the Piqua Agency Indians. Education was interrupted when Indian removal brought him to the Shawnee Kansas Reserve in 1833. He continued schooling, farmed and began to help missionaries bring the word of God to Shawnees in their own language. Charles was a pre-eminent student of Shawnee culture, studying and passing to others, the intricate customs of times past. In 1859, Charles became an ordained Methodist minister and later, joined the Masonic Lodge.

His command of English and Shawnee was such that he became a valued Interpreter for the U. S, Government. In 1854, the government negotiated a treaty with the Shawnees, dissolving the 1,600,00 acre Shawnee Kansas Reserve to 200,000 acres of land owned by individual Shawnees. Charles accompanied the tribal leaders to Washington D.C. , serving as the government Interpreter for that mission. His brothers, Henry and George Blue Jacket, were, among others, signers of the treaty. That event was the key that ultimately caused the Shawnee Tribe to again have to leave their land to whites and remove to more hospitable territory.

As his penchant for successful farming and business ventures began to flourish, so did his leadership in the Shawnee Tribe. His home place was in Shawnee, Kansas Territory. The Shawnee Methodist Mission, now surrounded by Kansas City, Kansas, was the focal point of Shawnee life on the south bank of the Kaw River. The nearby towns of Olathe, Shawnee and DeSoto were centers of Shawnee activity. At the western extent of Shawnee occupancy, in 1855, Charles and brothers George and Henry, opened a hotel and ferry on the Wakarusa River called Blue Jacket’s Crossing, six miles east of Lawrence, serving the burgeoning traffic of emigrants on the California Oregon Road.

As the Civil War broke out and Kansas became a state in 1861, the Rev. Charles began a four year term as the Chief of the Shawnee Tribe. This period of turmoil greatly affected the Shawnees and his leadership lent a steadying hand. Two of his boys enlisted in the Union Army and were examples of the usage of the term "Loyal Shawnees" for the Shawnee Tribe. This usage was common practice until abandonment in 2001. A daughter-in-law, Eliza (Silverheels) Blue Jacket, was guarding her home at Blue Jacket’s Crossing on August 21, 1863 as William Quantrill’s confederate raiders crossed the Wakarusa on their way to sack Lawrence. A raider entered her home through a window and Eliza confronted him with a pipe tomahawk giver her and her husband David Likens Blue Jacket by the Rev. Charles. With a mighty blow that broke both the shaft of the tomahawk and her own arm at the same time, rented the raider’s head and ended his life forever.

With the war over, intense pressure by whites to acquire land caused the Shawnees to seek relief and in 1867, Jonathan Gore, a son-in-law of the Rev, Charles and attorney for the Shawnee Tribe, accompanied a group on a trip through Indian Territory seeking a new home for the tribe. Finally, the Shawnees acquired land in the Cherokee Nation and with a treaty in 1869, merged into the Cherokee. As the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad built into Indian Territory in 1871, the Shawnees acquired land along the new tracks and 15 miles south of the Kansas line, a cattle loading spur called Blue Jacket Station, was named after the Rev. Charles, who had settled nearby.

The tent town that sprang up at the spur began to grow and settled into a small but bustling community. The Blue Jacket post office was opened March 3, 1882, with Charles Blue Jacket as postmaster. The Cherokee Nation Senate approved the incorporation of the town of Blue Jacket on November 4, 1894. In the fall of 1897, the Rev. Charles made a pilgrimage to his old Kansas home to locate the grave of The Prophet, younger bother of Tecumseh. Becoming ill, he returned to Indian Territory and died there on October 29, 1897. He was buried in Blue Jacket Cemetery on land he had donated to the town of Blue Jacket. The following year, the Methodist Church of Blue Jacket commenced construction on it’s new church on land donated to the congregation by the Rev. Charles.

It is unique in history that a grandfather and grandson had so much effect on so many people in the course of their lives. Blue Jacket was a fierce adversary of Americans trying to wrest ancestral lands west of the Allegheny Mountains from his Algonquian peoples. Yet, he quickly saw the futility of continued strife after his forces lost the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. His progeny immediately became successful farmers, educated their children and grandson Charles Blue Jacket contributed his life to the Shawnee Tribe.

G. Carlyle Hinshaw
Norman Oklahoma
March 14, 2002 Back to top




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