1858: Benjamin F. Robinson To James W. Denver

James W. Denver

This letter was written by Benjamin F. Robinson who served as Agent to the Delaware Indians in Kansas Territory from 1855 to 1859—perhaps the most turbulent period in Kansas history. Robinson did his best to keep squatters off the Delaware Reserve and to enforce the provision that Indians not sell land their land to settlers flowing into the territory after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act (Indians could only sell their land back to the Government).

Robinson wrote the letter to James William (“Jim”) Denver (1817-1892) who resumed his post as President Buchanan’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs in November 1858 after serving briefly as a territorial Governor of Kansas. He remained the commissioner until March 31, 1859.

The Delaware Delegation did go to Washington D. C. There is a notice in the Eastern papers on 23 March 1859 stating they were just about to return to Kansas Territory.


Private & Confidential

Kansas Territory
December 29, 1858

Dear Sir,

The Delegation of Delawares desiring to visit Washington would have started some time since but for the sickness of James [Sajendim?], one of their number. He is still sick. They will most probably leave without him in a few days—say in six or eight days.

Of course they will have a good deal to talk about but in fact their main business will be to make some alteration in reference to the disposition of their “trust money.” The men composing the delegation are the most sprightly of the tribe. Some of them have very correct notions as to the policy best calculated to improve the condition of their people. I would respectfully say just that they be made fully acquainted with the views of the Department in regard to a reduction of their reservation. Some of them are in favor of dividing out the upper portion of their reserve, retaining about ten miles square in common & adjoining the Missouri River. But you will find them quite cautious on this subject. For my part, I am fully satisfied a radical change of the present states of things is necessary.

In regard to schools, the Delegation have liberal views. They are beginning to look to the education of their children as all important. Here I will take the liberty of giving my views in reference to their present Superintendent William Peat. I understand he has been for some time trying to impose himself on the Delegation to accompany them to Washington, they paying his expenses. This I shall positively forbid. His object for accompanying them is to control their movements &, if possible, induce them to place the whole school period in the hands of Boston Missionaries. I do not know that he will accompany them but if he should, he will deserve particular attention. He is a Black Republican. Yes, an out and out abolitionist & I do not think in justice to Missouri, such men should be encouraged, being so near her boarders. This man in my opinion is also a secret agent for some speculating company at Quindaro. You will find two or three of the delegates under his influence—[Charles] Journeycake, [Charles] Ketchum, & perhaps Sajendim [?].

In conclusion, I will call your attention to my own affairs. My commission will expire in March. It would suit me very well to be recommissioned. I am poor & having been out of the business of my profession for some time, I am somewhat at a loss. I would not, however, invoke sympathy at the expense of the public service. I have some suspended accounts which I would be glad to have corrected. I have the [   ] vouchers to effect this in my possession & if after I shall have removed the intruders off the Delaware Reserve I can obtain a furlough, I would like to visit Washington. Please let me hear from you about the first of next month, I expect to serve the personal notices on the squatters when, if they do not remove immediately, I shall call upon the military. I have given public notice. This you may have seen in the Kansas Herald.

Yours &c., — B. F. Robinson

Gov. J. W. Denver, Commissioner

P. S. One other reason for visiting Washington, I have a just claim against the Delaware “Trust Fund.” My account has been for some time undergoing administration. I have no doubt but that you will do me justice but it seems to me if I could be present, I could show conclusively my account is just & ought to be allowed. I have a letter from Col. [George W.] Manypenny in which he acknowledges my duties as extra &c. & in which he speaks of extra compensation. — B. F. R.

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