Albert Watkins died at his home in Lincoln,
November 19, 1923. Mr. Watkins was born at Worcester, England,
November 16, 1848, He came with his parents to America when he was
a year old and settled in Wisconsin. He graduated from the
University of Wisconsin in 1871 and next year received the degree
of Bachelor of Laws. He was county superintendent of Iowa county,
Wisconsin between the fall of 1874 and 1877 and newspaper editor
at Mineral Point in that county. In 1877 Mr. Watkins came to Sioux
City and did editorial work on the Sioux City Tribune. In 1882 he
moved to Lincoln and became a partner of General Victor Vifquain
in the publishing of the Lincoln Daily Democrat.
Mr. Watkins was a very ardent tariff reform, gold standard democrat and allied himself with the J. Sterling Morton wing of Nebraska democracy. The election of Grover Cleveland as President of the United States in 1884 put Mr. Watkins in line for official reward and he was made postmaster at Lincoln in 1885, holding the office something over four years. Later when Cleveland was again elected President in 1892 and Mr. Morton became Secretary of Agriculture Mr. Watkins was again rewarded by receiverships of national banks of Nebraska', especially the one at Ponca.
When the free silver fight for control of the democratic party in Nebraska and in the nation under the leadership of William J. Bryan, began about 1893, Mr. Watkins became one of the most active champions of the Grover Cleveland-J. Sterling Morton gold standard democracy. The final triumph of Mr. Bryan and his friends in 1896 left the
gold standard democrats in Nebraska few in numbers and quite
stranded politically and as the effort to maintain a separate
organization proved a failure, most of them, including Mr.
Watkins, came back into the reorganized democratic party under the
Bryan leadership with just a little more touch of independence in
their party affiliation than they had ever enjoyed before.
About the year 1898, during the Omaha Exposition, a history of Nebraska was projected chiefly by Iowa people, including Mr. Clarence S. Paine. J. Sterling Morton was chosen by this group as the strongest man for literary head of this publication. It was not at all to Mr. Morton's liking to do the detailed work required for a real history of Nebraska. He therefore persuaded Mr. Watkins, his close friend for many years, to become associated with him in the editorship of the projected history of Nebraska. The final result was that Mr. Watkins did by far the larger part of the editorial work upon the Morton History and outside of special articles by well known Nebraskans, most of the narrative writing in that work. Preparation and publication of thethree volumes of this history finally printed stretched over the period from 1898 until 1911.
Since 1911 Mr. Watkins has held the position of Historian of the State Historical Society and as such historian much of the editorial work on volumes 16 to 20 of the Historical Society Reports was his.
Mr. Watkins was of an independent and original type of mind. His mind was critical rather than constructive. His criticism was keen and caustic. In fact, his bias toward the critical point of view was one of the great limitations of Mr. Watkins' achievement in his life. Mr. Watkins' delight was in finding out-of-the-way phrases and words in which to convey his meaning. This was a further limitation for popular writing. Both as a critic and a writer, Mr. Watkins was, to use one of his own pet phrases "meticulous" in the extreme. Probably his chief literary joy was a never-ending search for little defects in any document.
Mr. Watkins was a student of the best English literature all his life. Here, again, he sought out the writers of the inner group, who appealed to the specialist in literature rather than the general public. His work as a whole is a distinct contribution to Nebraska letters. Much of it is scattered in various publications, but forms an interesting commentary on Nebraska life in its formative period.
For several years Mr. Watkins has been failing in physical strength, greatly curtailing his achievement in the later period of his life. He was, to summarize,--a singular character, original, pessimistic, argumentative,--a natural dissenter from the established custom or faith. These qualities made Mr. Watkins greatly appreciated by those qualified to enjoy his incisive discussion. On the whole they made his life less happy than it might have been. He always felt that his services, to the democratic party for example, were never appreciated or rated at their true value and that the rewards he received in his political life were far less than his desert. So,--a peculiar spirit has departed from Nebraska life, leaving a contribution to its historical literature which future generations must pass upon in order to evaluate.
THE GROUND BEAN
By Dr. Melvin R. Gilmore
There is a native wild bean which grows
throughout a very extensive area of North America, and which was
an item of great importance in the food supply of all the tribes
in its range. But white people have never investigated its
usefulness nor its possibilities of improvement under cultivation
and selective breeding. The scientific name of this bean is
Falcata comosa; its common name is ground bean, from its habit of
producing one form of its fruits in the ground in a manner similar
to the peanut. It forms two kinds of branches, bearing two forms
of flowers, producing two forms of fruit. Leafy branches climb up
over shrubs, or in the absence of any support, form a tangled mass
of vines. Upon these upper leafy branches are borne showy,
purplish flowers exactly resembling garden bean blossoms in
miniature. From these petaliferous flowers are produced small bean
pods about a half inch to an inch in length. These pods contain
each from three to four or five small hard mottled beans about an
eighth of an inch long.
From the base of the main stem of the plant the
branches of the second form grow out in all directions,
creeping prostrate on the ground under the shade of the
over-growth, and forming a perfect network of colorless, leafless
branches. The tiny, inconspicuous blossoms borne on these
prostrate branches are self-pollinated and push into the leaf mold
and soft soil, and there each produces a single large bead closely
invested in a filmy pod or husk. These beans, which are formed in
the earth, are about the size of lima beans, or even larger. It is
the large beans, borne in the ground upon these basal branches
creeping on all the surface of the ground under the leafy
branches, which are so good for food and so greatly desired. When
cooked they are of excellent flavor. These very desirable beans
would be very difficult to obtain but for the help of a certain
species of small mammal (Microtus pennsylvanicus), commonly called
meadow mouse or bean mouse. The bean mice gather great stores of
food for winter, certain roots and seeds, and most especially the
ground beans. It is for this reason that the animal is called the
bean mouse. They hollow out storage places in the ground where
they put away their winter supplies.
These stores of ground beans were eagerly sought by Indians of all tribes throughout the range of the plant. And they were grateful to the bean mouse for its work in harvesting and storing the ground beans. They said that they must not take away all the beans from the stores of the bean mice, for it would be wicked to loot their stores and leave them destitute. They believed that if one were so-hard hearted and unjust, that such action would surely bring its proper punishment. They said that when they went to look for the stores of beans laid up by the bean mice they must first prepare themselves in heart and mind. One who went out to look for bean stores must go in all humility and charity, not only toward all humankind, but with a feeling of acknowledgment of the rights of all living things, plants as well as animals and human beings, and with a becoming sense of the inter-dependence of all living things. One must have a consciousness of one's debts to all Nature, and to all the Mysterious Powers. One going on this quest must, as they said, "have no evil thoughts, must think good thoughts, and have a good heart, one must put away any grudge or hard feelings." And especially one should think of our debt to the bean mouse for the favor to be asked. And they thus approached the stores of the bean mouse not as strong robbers of the weak and helpless, but humbly
asking from the bean mouse a portion from its store for their
Among all the tribes I found a strong popular feeling of affection and respect for the bean mouse. The Omahas have a saying, "The bean mice are very industrious people, they even help human beings."
All the people of the Dakota (alias Sioux) nation who have talked with me about the bean mouse have always said that they never took away any beans from them without making some payment in kind. They said it would be wicked and unjust to steal the beans from the mouse people without making any return. They therefore put back some corn, some suet, or some other food in exchange for the beans they took. They said that thus both they and the bean mouse people had a variety in their food supply.
The bean mouse and its works are regarded with respect, admiration, and reverence by the people of the various Indian tribes who benefit by its labor. In the fall, after the bean mice have harvested their beans and laid them up in their storehouses for the winter, the people often go out alone and sit upon the lap of Mother Earth near some such storehouse in some quiet place under the open sky, reverently and thankfully meditating upon the mysteries of Nature and on the bounties of Providence in Nature.
An old man of the Teton-Dakota who still lives (1923) upon the Standing Rock Reservaton on the upper Missouri River, went out to the vicinity of a bean mouse's storehouse to meditate and pray. Thinking himself alone in the presence of the powers of nature, this devout old man gave expression to his religious feeling in a prayer which was overheard and recorded by another man who was within hearing but unobserved by the old man who was praying. The words of his prayer, when translated into English, would be as follows:
"Thou who art holy, pity me and help me I pray. Thou art small, but thou art sufficiently large for thy place in the world. And thou art sufficiently strong also for thy work, for Holy Wakantanka constantly strengthens thee. Thou art wise, for the wisdom of holiness is with thee constantly. May I be wise in my heart continually, for if an attitude of holy wisdom leads me on, then this shadow troubled life shall come into constant light."
STORY OF INDIAN FIGHTING IN 1864
By Mark M. Coad, Fremont, Nebr.
On or about the 15th of January, 1864, Coad
Bros. owned the ranch known as the Wisconsin ranch in eastern
Colorado. At this time the Indians were very hostile, it being
after the battle of Sandcreek, in Southern Colorado, where they
were severely punished by the Colorado troops.
On the morning of the 15th of January, Lieut. Kennedy with twenty-five men and some emigrants, passed the American ranch which was twelve miles from the Wisconsin ranch and owned by John Morris. The Indians, about sixty in number, attacked the American ranch shortly after Lieut. Kennedy and his men passed out of sight. The ranch was defended by John Morris and six men, having seventeen muzzle loading guns and two kegs of ammunition. The fight lasted one hour, the Indians killed the seven men and captured Mrs. Morris and her two children. By this time the troops had reached the Wisconsin ranch. We could see the smoke at the American ranch and knew it was on fire but did not know the Indians were there. The soldiers were going five miles east of the Wisconsin ranch to Valley station, where they had a large amount of Government supplies, intending to move them to the Wisconsin ranch and take the use of the hay and stables there. Lieut. Kennedy and his men passed on, promising to return the next day. When they had gotten about one-half mile away the Indians made a charge from the hills on the Wisconsin
ranch about sixty in number. One-half of these chased the
soldiers to Valley station and the balance remained to fight at
the Wisconsin ranch. This fight commenced at nine o'clock in the
morning and it was a battle royal from that hour until
Ben Danielson, his wife and two children, an old man, a young boy and myself were the only occupants of the ranch. The old man and young boy were only capable of loading the guns, so the fighting was left to two men. We stood the Indians off for about two hours, outside under shelter of the corrals, houses, and wagons. At this time the Indians were reinforced by the party that had captured the American ranch and also those who had chased the soldiers to Valley station, making about one hundred and twenty warriors. A council was held about a half mile from the ranch, after which a charge was made from the east and from the west. The Indians had liquor which they had taken from the American ranch and, consequently, were very reckless and the fight became fierce and determined. They would come boldly up on foot, although we had killed and wounded several of them. We were forced into the storehouse, which was fireproof and about fifty feet from the other buildings. They then set fire to about two hundred tons of hay, double stables, two hundred and fifty feet long, corrals filled with lumber, and the dwelling house. They made several attempts to force the door and windows of the store house but as often as they came up we poured volleys of shot and bullets into them, killing and wounding quite a number.
We had a large amount of merchandise in the store which we piled against the doors and windows, thus keeping the Indians from breaking in, while we shot through the port holes and openings in the barricades. When they became tired they would retreat to the hills where they had their main command and another squad would take their place. At about one o'clock in the afternoon Lieut. Kennedy and eighteen of his men charged back from Valley station and got within three hundred yards of the ranch, while the stables, corrals and dwelling house were in flames and the smoke blowing across the store house, but were driven back by the Indians.
After driving the soldiers back the Indians returned with a determination to capture us. They charged the doors and windows with clubs and axes and tried to force them in but we kept. up a steady fire on them from the inside which soon slackened their courage. Towards sundown they concluded if was useless to try to force the ranch, so tried another plan. They left fifteen Indians behind a string of wagons that ran in a half moon circle around the store and which we used as a
breastworks in the fore part of the fight. They sent another
party with dry wood and hay which they threw against the door, the
casing of the door being made of dry lumber and running to the
roof. Three Indians were in the act of igniting the hay when I had
Ben. Danielson remove the merchandise which was piled against the
door and stand at one side with an ax in case the Indians would
try to rush in as soon as door was opened. I took a Hawkins rifle,
loaded and cocked, two pistols at my waist, jumped out the door,
shot the Indian with a rifle, threw the gun back into the store,
jerked the pistols from my belt and went after them, shooting as
fast as possible. We four were all mixed up together. I shot two
down and wounded the other one. Then, squatting down close to the
ground, jumped back into the store. As I went in the door the
fifteen Indians fired at me, but the shot passed over my head.
Thus the Indians were defeated and foiled in their strategy.
It was now near sundown. They gathered a bunch of our cattle, drove them across the river, shot them down and camped for the night about a mile from the ranch up the valley. I waited until dark, then, taking a gun and pistol, crawled down the bank of the river to Valley station. By following the bend of the river it made it ten miles although it was only five miles in a straight line. When I reached Valley station, I called out to the sentry and he answered, asking who I was and what I wanted. I told him "M. M. Coad from the Wisconsin ranch," but he said, "No, you are telling a story, Coad and all the occupants at the Wisconsin ranch have been killed today by the Indians." I convinced him such was not the case and he let me in. The soldiers all came in to see me and were as much surprised, as if I had been a ghost.
I then made arrangements with Lieut. Kennedy to send squad of soldiers up to take the family away and leave a squad to guard the merchandise in the store which amounted to about twenty thousand dollars. While the soldiers were getting the teams ready, I collapsed and fainted and knew nothing until the following day. During the fight I had shot one hundred and fifty shots out of muzzle loading guns; we had seven and the Indians had about the same kind of guns and quite a number of them. There was no breech loading guns in the country at that time except what the soldiers had. Lieut. Kennedy sent a sergeant and ten men to take Mrs. Danielson and two children to the soldiers' camp and a squad of men were to guard the ranch until the merchandise was taken away. The sergeant misunderstood the orders which he received and he moved the family and the other three men from the ranch
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