By Diane Euston
The oldest historic structures in the Kansas City area aren’t nearly as old as settlement itself. Truth be told, this area hasn’t been the best as it pertains to historic preservation. This, coupled with the devastation that occurred in the 1850s and 60s during the Border Wars and Civil War, sealed the fate of so many significant places that were constructed carefully- first using hand-hewn logs and later brick.
Homes prior to the 1860s existing in Johnson County are unlikely due to the history of the Native American tribes that settled into this area. Kansas was the ancestral home of the Kansa and Osage tribes, and in 1830, the government removed the Shawnee from lands in Ohio and Missouri and resettled them into current-day Johnson County.
White settlement just to the west of the state line in Kansas didn’t occur (legally) until after Native American tribes ceded their lands. The Quaker, Baptist and Methodist missions were established with the blessing of these tribes. Today, only three buildings of the Shawnee Methodist Mission stand and are maintained as a national historic landmark. All others have been erased permanently.
Surely Kansas has embraced its early Native American history with the naming of Olathe, Shawnee Mission, Lenexa, Black Bob, Bluejacket and Tomahawk Creek.
The story of one of the chiefs of the Shawnee named Graham Rogers opens our eyes to the early pioneers- Native American pioneers- who entrusted the government and was removed to Kansas Territory with his tribe. And surprisingly, Graham Rogers left more behind than a few records as he tried to negotiate with the government. He left behind a structure after his tribe relocated to Oklahoma.
This structure was hidden for just shy of 150 years.
The Rogerstown Shawnees of Missouri
The Shawnee, an Eastern Woodlands tribe, originally lived in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and South Carolina. In 1793, some of the Shawnee tribe received a Spanish land grant to settle near Cape Girardeau. The rest of the Shawnee tribes were able to secure reservation land in Ohio in 1817.
Between 1793 and 1825, there were at least eight Shawnee settlements in Missouri. One of them was called Rogerstown. Originally located in current-day Bridgeton outside of St. Louis, Rogerstown was later relocated west to the Meramec River in 1807.
The Rogerstown settlement was especially unique due to its leader- a white man with the last name Rogers. The story, although told in many different versions, remains consistent in some details. A young boy was kidnapped from his home by Chief Blackfish around 1778; allegedly, Blackfish’s son had not survived and he was looking for a replacement son to raise.
Baptist missionary John Mason Peck reported that “Rogers was a white man taken prisoner by the Shawnee at boyhood, that in gaining a high status among them he and his followers had plundered riverboats on the Ohio, and that to escape vengeful whites he had relocated west of the Mississippi prior to 1794.”
This man, either named Jimmy or Henry Rogers, then asked Chief Blackfish’s biological daughter to marry him. They went on to have several children, one being a son named Lewis. Lewis Rogers became the Chief of the tribe, rising to the ranks without the traditional passing of chiefdom from father to son.
Another legend passed throughout generations in both the Rogers family and the history of the Shawnee states that Rogers was sought out by a brother and convinced to go back home to see his mother in Virginia. Rogers visited his mother for a few months; she tried to convince him to stay and abandon his wife and children back in Rogerstown. He refused and left his family never to be seen again.
Unlike many of the tribes at the time, the Shawnees were quite domesticated. At Rogerstown, they had interracial schools, well-constructed log homes, domesticated livestock and traded with whites and the nearby Delawares. They would hunt in the winter and work on their farms in the summer.
Lewis Rogers and his wife had son Graham Rogers (Shawnee name Wah-wa-si-mo) around 1818 while living in Rogerstown. Although they were a peaceful tribe, the Shawnees were yet again asked to remove to lands to the west- Kansas Territory.
Shawnee Tribes Reunite in Kansas Territory
Between 1825 and 1833, four bands of Shawnees from Ohio and Missouri were given 1.6 million acres of land sprawling from the eastern border all the way to lands outside of Topeka, Ks. In 1828, 100 people, including Graham Rogers, removed to Kansas from the Rogerstown settlement. They were known as the Fish Band of the Shawnees. With the help of 19-year-old Frederick Chouteau (brother of Francois Chouteau, first settler of the future site of Kansas City), the Rogerstown Shawnees settled first in the Turner area.
Other bands of the Shawnees arrived from Ohio, including Tecumseh’s younger brother, the Prophet. Son of Chief Bluejacket, George arrived in 1833 with future chief, Charles Bluejacket (1817-1897).
Following the Shawnees to Kansas Territory were missionaries from the Friends (Quakers), Baptist and Methodist churches. Before even arriving in Kansas Territory, Rev. Thomas Johnson (1802-1865), founder of the Shawnee Methodist Mission, had met with the Rogerstown Shawnees. Lewis Rogers was “a good friend of Thomas Johnson’s.”
In 1830, Thomas Johnson set up his first Methodist mission in Turner and built a double log cabin for the education of Native Americans. There, Graham Rogers received education in ”literature and the arts of mechanism.” Graham used this knowledge to help arriving Shawnee build log cabins.
By 1832, Isaac McCoy, father of founder of Kansas City and Westport John C. McCoy, established a Baptist mission and the first Baptist church in Kansas. The Shawnees also invited the Quakers to establish a mission, and in 1836, they built a two-story frame structure at current-day 61st and Hemlock.
The various bands of the Shawnees, numbering 2,183, were relocated to Kansas by 1834. To capitalize on the population surge, Rev. Thomas Johnson relocated his Methodist mission to its current-day location in Fairway, Ks. The location was just three miles from Westport, Mo. on the Santa Fe Trail. Rev. Johnson bought lumber from Cincinnati and later built a kiln on the property to fire his own brick.
The west building, completed in 1839, was used as a teacher’s quarters and classrooms. By 1840-1841, the east building was completed and used for classrooms, housed a chapel, and had a dorm for boys on the upper floor. Sixteen additional buildings were erected throughout the grounds.
Records indicate that Graham Rogers “participated in the construction of these improvements.”
Building His Home and Family Amidst Tribal Change
Graham Rogers used his knowledge of construction to build his own impressive home around 1840. He selected a site for his own double-log cabin and farm near today’s Antioch Park and Milburn Country Club. This two-story structure consisted of two log buildings with a roofed “dog trot” between them. Measuring approximately 42 feet in length with stone chimneys at each end, this home would have been an impressive structure compared to the primitive one-room log cabins of many residents at the time.
In 1842, 887 Shawnee were counted in the census. Graham Rogers is listed as the head of a family of five members, but it is not clear who lived with him.
On a nearby farm at current-day Antioch Park lived Kah che qua (1799-1873), the daughter of a Shawnee Chief and the widow of a man with the last name Carpenter. Between 1826 and 1834, Kah che qua (translated to mean “the female eagle”), known as Kotsey, had five children.
In 1830, Kah che qua was sketched by George Catlin (1796-1872). Catlin traveled through the west five times in the 1830s, writing about and painting Native Americans. He sketched five Shawnees. In addition to Kotsey, he sketched the Prophet, Tecumsah’s brother and Kotsey’s father in 1830 at Fort Leavenworth. He wrote that she “was an agreeable girl, of 15 years of age, and much thought of by the tribe.”
Although her age would’ve been closer to 30, it is accepted scholarship that this painting by Catlin is of Kah che qua. Kah che qua’s daughter, Anna Carpenter was born in 1830 and was educated at the Quaker Mission in Kansas.
In January 1850, Anna married Graham Rogers at the Shawnee Methodist Mission and she moved into Graham’s well-established home near the Fort Leavenworth military road (now Antioch).
Shortly after this union, there was a dispute within the Shawnee tribe between the Elders and the progressives. George Bluejacket wished for the traditional passing of chief by birth; however, his son, Charles and Graham Rogers believed that there should be a vote to determine who was chief. Graham Rogers said in an interview with 19th century historian Lyman Draper, “The Shawnees changed their system of government- used to have [Shawnee divisions]- now select the best men without regard to tribes.”
The progressives won, and in 1851, Joseph Parks was elected chief and Graham Rogers second chief.
History tells us that the treaties with the government and Native American tribes were always short-lived and replaced with arrangements that gradually took land originally promised to them away acre-by-acre. In 1854, a treaty with the Shawnee and the government did just this. Led by Rev. Thomas Johnson and including Shawnee leaders Chief Joseph Parks, Second Chief Graham Rogers, George Bluejacket, Henry Bluejacket and Black Bob, went to Washington, D.C. to negotiate land they already had been promised.
With the stroke of a pen, 1.6 million acres of Shawnee lands were whittled down to 200,000 acres in Johnson County, parts of Douglas County and southern Wyandotte County.
The following year, the government formally carved out 200 acres of land for each Shawnee man, woman and child. Graham and his wife, Anna had welcomed a daughter named Cenith in 1856, so his allotments included a total of 600 acres and included his impressive two-story log cabin.
By 1858, Graham Rogers bought up land around his 600 acres and had acquired about 1,000 acres that extended from 63rd St. to 71st St. and from 1-35 to Metcalf Ave.
Pioneer anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan visited the Shawnees in Kansas in June 1859 and stayed at the Friends Mission. While on his visit, he went to see Anna Rogers, Graham Rogers’ wife. By this time, Graham had been named Head Chief after the death of Joseph Parks.
His visit was recorded in his diary, where he wrote, “[Anna Rogers] is a half-breed, was educated at the Quaker Mission School, and is in every respect a bright, intelligent and even beautiful woman. . . Their house is a fine one, and well-furnished and as neat as a pin.”
Before he left, he spent the time sketching their home in the pages of his diary.
Slavery, War and the Move to Oklahoma
Historian and author Stephen Warren claims, “Graham Rogers owned slaves, developed fruit orchards, and sold livestock to western migrants as they promoted the Christian gospel.” Although unable to locate records to confirm or deny this, slaves were known to be owned by some of the Shawnee. Rev. Thomas Johnson brought slaves to Johnson County to his mission until it was outlawed in the territory. In 1861, Graham did sign a letter with four other Shawnee leaders to warn the Creek Indians in Oklahoma to “put your confidence only in the Union and you will be safe.”
While Head Chief, the Friends Mission noted a great moral struggle Graham Rogers had. There was a murder within the Shawnee, and due to the customs and treaties with the government, it was up to the Shawnees to try the case. He was personally responsible with imposing the death penalty as required by tribal law. But, “rather than hand down a death sentence, [Rogers] resigned in order not to violate his convictions about the sacredness of life.”
Little is known about Graham Rogers and his stance during the Civil War, but records do indicate that he later sued the government “seeking recovery for depredation and property lost during the Civil War, which claim amounts to $2660.” Superintendent of the Quaker mission, Charles Bluejacket, was threatened by Missouri border ruffians because “it was known to be a station on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves.” Bluejacket’s farm bordered the Rogers farm on the north end.
Graham, his wife Anna, daughter Cenith (b. 1856), daughter Rachel (b. 1858) and son, Simpson (b. 1864) began to anticipate the best move for their family was to move to Oklahoma. In 1865, his farm was valued at $14,000. He was raising Indian corn, oats, tobacco, potatoes, barley and hay.
After the 1854 agreement with the government, whites were quickly moving into Kansas Territory and buying up land once in control of the Shawnee. Even the most well-established farmers of the Shawnee tribe were considering a move to the Cherokee reservation.
Elected once again as Head Chief in 1866, Graham Rogers began to prepare his family for the move to the Oklahoma reservation. In July 1868, he sold his impressive two-story log cabin and 520 acres of land to Henry Coppock for $18,200. Over the next few years, he sold off the remaining acreage to him.
Around 1871, Anna Rogers died (likely in Oklahoma) and in February 1872, Graham Rogers met the same fate; their location of burial is unknown. His oldest daughter, Cenith died before having any children, and son Simpson passed away in 1898 from tuberculosis. Graham’s only surviving daughter, Rachel, lived a quiet life in Mayes Co., Okla. and worked as a school teacher. She died, single, in 1934.
Rediscovering the Past Behind Plaster Walls
In 1987, Ike and Nancy LaJoie were set on finding a home similar to ones seen in Ike’s childhood in northeast Kansas. Their realtor’s eyes widened when she mentioned she did know of a farmhouse nestled in a modern subdivision just west of Milburn Country Club at 6741 Mackey.
Ike and Nancy were sold; the two story white frame home needed some work, but they were ready to take on the project. “It was a huge house and felt mystical to us- even though our parents thought we were a bit crazy when we bought it,” Ike recalled.
A bit curious about the origins of his home, Ike began looking around here and there for records mentioning it. He stumbled upon an 1874 atlas that included a drawing of Henry Coppock’s “Oak Park Farm” and told his wife that he thought it looked like their place.
In 1988, a man was spotted walking around their property- he seemed to be eyeing the construction of the house. Curious and possibly a bit concerned, Ike and Nancy approached him.
It was Jerry Winkleman, a local real estate broker and amateur historian who had written about the unknown Shawnee Chief, Graham Rogers. He was convinced that underneath the white farmhouse was a much-older structure. Ike admitted that there were some large logs making up the ceiling of the basement that were exposed.
Was the Graham Rogers home, built around 1840, still standing underneath this farmhouse?
Intrigued, the LaJoie’s gave Jerry permission to bring in Mike Duncan, a historian at Mahaffie House, to see if there was indeed a full, two-story log structure built by Graham Rogers.
In a second story bedroom interior wall, they peeled away wallpaper, took the plaster off the walls and exposed underlying plaster containing horse hairs as a bonding agent.
There, right in front of their eyes, were original hand-hewn logs complete with the bark still in-tact on some of the timbers.
Right in the middle of Overland Park is a house which contains literally layers of history. Just weeks ago, I stood in front of this exposed wall of hand-hewn logs in awe that after all these years, a structure built by a Shawnee Indian Chief 20 years prior to Kansas statehood still stands.
This type of discovery is what gives me the chills; even for as much as I know about the history of our area, I’m still surprised when I run across these diamonds in the rough- these pieces of our history which have somehow survived after so many years. I’m even luckier to be able to physically touch them, tour them, learn about them and add to their lasting legacy by writing about them.
This 181 year-old home was modified after Graham Rogers left Kansas. It remained hidden among a more modern structure built and added onto by two important figures of Johnson County history- Henry Coppock and George Milburn.
This home- unlike Graham Rogers’ final resting place- stands as a testament- a landmark- to the tenacity of the Shawnee tribe and their short yet everlasting legacy in Kansas.
In the next issue, Diane will explore the history of Henry Coppock and George Milburn who both called Graham Rogers’ log cabin their home.
* Please keep in mind that this home is a private residence!
Diane writes a blog about the history of the area. To read more of the stories, go to http://www.newsantafetrailer.blogspot.com.