EARLY MAPS OF THE NEBRASKA COUNTRY
By PROF. C. E. PERSINGER, DEPARTMENT OF AMERICAN HISTORY, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA
Attempts to portray the actual geography of the region now included in our state of Nebraska began with the exploration of the Mississippi by the Frenchmen Joliet and Marquette in 1673. The maps of Marquette (1673-1674), Joliet (1674), and Thevenot (1681) are all based upon the information gleaned by these explorers on their journey down the Mississippi. All three show nothing more of the Nebraska country than a short stretch of the lower Missouri river running into the Mississippi from the. northwest, and beyond the end of this the names of Indian villages, some of which names are those of Indians we now know to have inhabited the Nebraska country at that time.
Following La Salle's further exploration of the Mississippi in 1681-1682, a series of maps by the French geographer Franquelin (at that time in Canada) shows the full Missouri river system, with its main course about where the Platte is shown on our present-day maps.
About 1720 quite a group of maps covering the Nebraska country appeared, put out by French, English, and Dutch, but all containing practically the same sketching of western geography. Of these, those most nearly approximating the modern geography were one by the French Delisle (shown on another page of this paper), and one accompanying a publication put out at London in 1720 by Dr. James Smith.
From about 1740 maps of the Nebraska country by map-makers of all nationalities become increasingly numerous, but without altering the details of the geography of this region until about 1760. Then the Platte (still known most often as the Pani) begins gradually to assume its true relationship to the upper Missouri system. A map in Bowen and Gibson's "North America" in 1763, Jonathan Carver's map of North America in
1778, and afterwards something like a dozen English maps in addition to many by other nationalities, attempt portrayal of the Platte river region. No marked increase in accuracy of detail becomes visible, however, until American purchase of the Louisiana region in 1803 leads to the beginning of official explorations, which rapidly bring the larger features of Nebraska geography down to approximately our knowledge of the present day.
THE NEBRASKA ABORIGINES AS THEY
APPEARED IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
The sources of information for this period are not very numerous, nor do they furnish us with as satisfactory evidence as we would wish. Consequently we can only draw partial conclusions as to the conditions surrounding the aborigines of that time..
For the sake of convenience in discussing this subject, we have divided the one hundred years into periods of quarter centuries.
FIRST PERIOD, 1700 TO 1725
Previous to this century, Coronado's expedition undoubtedly met some of the ancestors of the Pawnees, also the later Spanish expeditions to the land of Quivira came in contact with them, and as early as the middle of the 17th century French traders had penetrated the wilderness as far as the "Forked river," which had a branch from the south towards Mexico.1
Later on traders from the posts on the Great Lakes and the Mississippi came to the Missouri river and this region, so that maps printed in 1701 and 1703 show the "track of the traders" from the Mississippi a little below the mouth of the Wisconsin river to the village of the Mahas situated near the mouth of the Big Sioux river on the east side of the Missouri, while the Panismaha are on the west side.2
Right here we are confronted with the very difficult question, when did the different Indian tribes locate themselves in what is now Nebraska? No doubt later investigations will enable us to solve the difficulty and answer the question satisfactorily.3
Dr. Geo. B. Grinnell says that "When the Pawnees came into the northern country, they found it occupied by the Poncas, the Omahas, and the Otoes. According to their custom they attacked
1 South Dakota Historical Collections, vol. I, p. 173.
2 South Dakota Historical Collections, vol. I, p. 49; Iowa Indiana, Miner, p. 23.
3 There is a dispute about the date 1703 of De L'Isle's map.
these and, after a resistance more or less prolonged, conquered them .4
Father Marquette's map of 1673 does not show the Platte river, nor does it show the course of the Missouri river beyond the Osage nation in Missouri, yet it places the following tribes northwest between the 40th and 41st parallel of latitude: The Otontanta; northwest of these the Pana; southwest of them the Maha; and northwest of the latter the Pahoutet. 5
In 1689 La Hontan says he met the Otantas on the Mississippi at the north of the Des Moines river, and that the Panimaha, Paneasse and Panetonka dwelt on the upper part of this river.6 Yet in this same year we find Henry de Tonti writes: "The villages of the Missounta, Otenta and Osage are near one another and are situated on the prairies 150 leagues from the mouth of the Missouri." 7
"In 1700," says Dr. Coues, "the Otoes occupied the same village as the Missouris on Bowling Green prairie below the Grand river in Missouri." 8
"On November 16, 1700, Le Soeur, who built a fort on the present site of Mankato, Minnesota, reported that the lowas and the Otoes were going to establish themselves toward the Missouri river near the Mahas, who dwell in that region." 9
In 1701 Governor D'Iberville of Louisiana reports that Le Soeur "has spoken to me of another nation which he calls the Mahas, composed of 1,200 families. The lowas and Otoes, their neighbors, are about 300 families. They occupy the lands between the Mississippi and the Missouri, about 100 leagues from the Illinois. These savages do not know the use of firearms."10
Again in 1719 Dutisne, who visited the Padoucas, reported that he traveled from the Osage village (in Missouri) forty leagues southwest to the Pawnees.11
In June, 1720, Pedro Villazur led a military expedition of
4 Pawnee Stories, pp. 304, 305,
5 Shea's Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi. Map.
6 Voyages of La Hontan, vol. I, p. 199. Thwaites.
7 Louisiana Historical Collections, vol. I, p. 71, by French, quoted in Kansas Historical Collections, vol. IX, p. 245.
8 Lewis and Clark 23, apud Kansas Historical collections, vol. IX, p. 250.
9 Louisiana Historical Collections, vol. III, p. 19; Iowa Indians, xxii, xxiv.
10 Iowa Indiana, by Miner, p. 20.
11 Kansas Historical Collections, vol. IX, p. 253.
forty soldiers from Santa Fe to check the encroachments of the French traders on Spanish territory. He is said to have reached the "river of Jesus and Mary" (Rio de Jesus Maria), or the Platte river, where his company was massacred, with the exception of five or six soldiers who escaped, on August 16, 1720. Bandelier seems to think this massacre was perpetrated by the Otoes and the Panimahas near the mouth of the Platte river in Cass county, Nebraska, while Prof. J. B. Dunbar says that it was the Pawnees, aided by about twenty French traders with guns, that massacred them at the junction of the North and South Platte rivers in Lincoln county, Nebraska. Among those who perished was the Chaplain Father Juan Minguez, a Franciscan, and John Larcheveque, the author of the plot and murder of La Salle thirty-three years before on the Trinity river in Texas.12
October 10, 1721, the Jesuit, Father Charlevoix, wrote in his "History": "All the people I have mentioned (that is, the Kansas, Otoes, Iowas and Pawnees) inhabit the west side of the Missouri, except the Iowas, which are on the east side, neighbors of the Sioux and their allies.13
About 1723 Fort Orleans was built on an island in the Missouri river near Malta Bend in Missouri.14
In 1724 De Bourgmont, the commander of this fort, set out for Kansas on a treaty making expedition. He sent private Quesnel, a French soldier, with five Missouri Indians up the Missouri river from the present site of Doniphan, Kansas, to the chief of the Otoes, in order to have him present at the council to be held with the Padoucas. The chiefs attended.15 Major Long, U. S. A., tells us that "the Otoes came west in 1724 to the Missouri river near the mouth of the Great Nemaha river."16
In 1725 the Jesuit, Father Beaubois of Kaskaskia, Illinois, took a number of Indian chiefs with him to France. Among them an Otoptata (Otoe) chief, who was presented to the French, king and received many gifts."
12 Kansas Historical Collections, vol. XI, pp. 397-423.
13 History of Nebraska, Andreas, 1882, p. 44.
14 Kansas Historical Collections, vol. X, p. 337.
15 Kansas Historical collections, vol. X, P. 337; Margry, vol. VI, pp. 383-452; Kansas Historical Collections, vol. IX, pp. 255-256.
16 Johnson's History of Nebraska, p. 56.
17 U. S. Catholic Historical Magazine, vol. III, p. 160.
In 1778 Father Escalante, the Franciscan priest who explored Utah, gives the results of his investigations about Quivira, as follows: "The Gran Quivira, according to what I have been able to make out, putting together all the accounts I have read and heard, is nothing more than the towns of the Panana (Pawnees) Indians. The nearest towns to be found at the end of more than three hundred leagues to the northwest of Santa Fe are those mentioned by the name of Panana, of which there was no knowledge in this kingdom until the nineteenth year of the present century (1719) , when it was brought by a Frenchman who came from that direction into New Mexico. About the middle of the last century some families of Christian Indians of the town and nation of the Taos revolted and retired to the plains of Cibola, fortifying themselves at a place which on this account was called El Cuartelejo, where they remained until Juan De Archuleta marched thither by order of the governor with twenty soldiers and some Indian auxiliaries and obliged them to return to their pueblo. He found in their possession kettles and other articles of copper and tin, and asking them whence these had been obtained they said from the Quivira towns to which they had made a journey from Cuartelejo. * * * It is evident at this day that there are no other towns in that direction and the French already trafficked with them at this time. " 18
This town of Cuartelejo is said to have been located in Scott county, Kansas, about one hundred and ninety miles directly south of the town of North Platte, Nebraska. It seems that in 1706 the Spanish Captain Uribarri took possession of Cuartelejo as a post, naming the province San Luis, and the Indian rancheria as Santo Domingo.19
Villezur's expedition in 1720 is said to have halted at Cuartelejo for a short time.
To sum up for the first quarter century, we find that if the Otoes, Omahas and Pawnees had not already taken possession of what is now Nebraska, they were at least in the close vicinity of it. We also learn that they carried on trade with the Spanish and the French, and that the Pawnees were hostile to the Spanish; that the Iowas, Otoes. and Omahas were unacquainted with the
18 U. S. Catholic Historical Magazine, vol. III, p. 86.
19 Kansas Historical collections, vol. XI, p. 400, n. 9.
use of firearms and that conflicts had taken place between the Otoes, Omahas and Pawnees.
SECOND PERIOD, 1725 TO 1750
In 1726 the French garrison of Fort Orleans on the lower Missouri river was massacred. Whether any of the Nebraska Indians took part in it we do not know.
In the spring of 1728 a party of one hundred and fifty Sioux Indians left the vicinity of Fort Beauharnois, near Lake Pepin, Minnesota, and joined a. party of Prairie Sioux in a war against the Mahas. These Sioux returned to the fort in July, 1728. According to the tribal tradition of the Omahas while they were living on the Big Sioux river, a disastrous battle took place (tradition does not say with whom) and as a result this village seems to have been abandoned after the dead had been gathered and buried in a great mound, around which a stone wall was built.20 It is possible that the battle referred to was with the above mentioned Sioux Indians. The tribal tradition of the Omahas also relates that while they were living on the Big Sioux and after the disastrous battle, the Arikara Indians occupied what is now the present site of the Omahas' territory in Nebraska, and that after many conflicts the Omahas drove the Arikaras northwards.21 In April, 1734, Governor Bienville reported that a Frenchman, who for some years had lived among the Panimaha, had visited with these savages, the Ricaras, who inhabit about the headwaters of the Missouri; they had not before seen any Frenchmen.22
In 1739 the Mallet brothers, with six companions, left Illinois on an expedition to discover a good route to New Mexico. They tell us the Otoes are three hundred miles from the Kansas, and it is one hundred and eighty miles from the Otoes to the Panimahas who live on a river of the same name. They also tell us that the Rickaras dwell more than three hundred and seventy-five miles up the Missouri river from the Panis. On May 29, 1739 they left the village of the Panimahas and on June 2, 1739, they reached a river which they called the Platte. Following up the right bank
20 Acta et Dicta, vol. II, p. 102; 27th Annual Report Bureau of American Ethnology, p. 73.
21 27th Annual Report Bureau of American Ethnology, p. 75.
22 Margry Papers, vol. VI.
of this river for seventy miles they came to a fork formed by the river of the Padoucas which flowed into the Platte. Three days later they crossed and proceeded towards New Mexico, arriving in Santa Fe on July 16, 1739, having marched two hundred and sixty-five leagues in forty-nine days. Three of this party passed again through Nebraska on the return journey. 23
In 1743 the La Verendrye brothers, returning from an exploring trip to the Rocky mountains, buried a zinc plate near the site of Fort Pierre, South Dakota. This plate was discovered last March.24 The journal of these explorers records in December, 1738, "That a day's journey from the last of their (the Mandans) forts were the Pananas, who had several forts; then the Pananis; that these two nations who held much of the country and were now at war for four years had always from all time been closely united and in alliance together. * * * The Pananas and Pananis make their forts like them; in summer they grow wheat and tobacco on the lower part of the river."
On August 8, 1744, the French governor of Louisiana, De Vaudreuil, granted to a man named Deruisseau for a term of five years the "exclusive right of trading in all the country watered by the Missouri and the streams falling into this river." 25
In 1750 the Jesuit, Father Vivier, wrote: "Among the tribes in Missouri there are some who seem most favorably disposed for the reception of the gospel, for example the Panimahas." He then relates the story of a trader among these Indians receiving a letter from a priest in Illinois telling the trader to baptize the children who are about to die. The chief asked him what news? The trader told him. that the priest had written to him to baptize the children who are dying, that they may go to the Great Spirit. The chief was astonished. However, he assembled his tribe and informed them of the black chief's desire. He also relates that when this man was elected chief by his tribe, he refused except on the condition that he would be chief in reality and be obeyed. He also gave orders that during the hunt the first share must be set aside for the widows and orphans of the tribe. They hunt
23 Margry Papers, voL Vl; Morton History of Nebraska, vol. I, p. 48, note; History of Omaha, Savage & Bell, pp. 10-14.
24 Mississippi Valley Historical Collections, vol. 1, p. 49; Omaha World Herald, April 6, 1913.
25 History of Louisiana, Martin.