Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Legend of Pawnee Rock


Pawnee Rock is located in Barton County, Kansas and reportedly received its name (according to Stories of the Old Santa Fe Trail by Henry Inman, 1881) when a troup of hunters bound for the west in 1833, which included a young Kit Carson, camped at the landmark and engaged the Pawnee near that location. As travel increased along the route to Santa Fe, this story began circulating in newspapers across the country.

*Disclaimer* The legend presented here is transcribed in its entirety without edits to remove the prejudices of the day. The views included do not reflect our own.


The Legend of Pawnee Rock

The Times-Picayune, November 15, 1840, New Orleans, LA.


A portion of Pawnee Rock, photo taken in 2017

“The rock is cleft as if by the lightning, and one portion of it stands inaccessible except by a dangerous jump by the other part. Thus discovered, this solitary heap of stone bears some resemblance to the huge head of a buried monster, with its jaws open, gasping for air and liberty.

From the legend as told, and even to this day believed by the Pawnees, it is evident there had been in practice among the Great Medicines a system of imposition very similar to the exploded religious charlatanry of ancient times in other countries. This petrified Gorgon was represented by the priests as the bad spirit who caused earth-tremblings, storms and inundations of the land. He was at certain times of the year to be conciliated with presents, and in hunting seasons especially plentiful stores of the finest buffalo meat were always placed in the jaws of Pawnee Rock before the hunters dare venture upon regaling themselves. When war was to be made, or sickness spread among the tribes, or any calamity or danger threatened the people, the first thing thought of was a pilgrimage to the rock, where prayers and presents were duly offered up, and the pleasure of Manito was made known with mysterious solemnity by the priests. Malefactors were sometimes dropped into the bad monster’s jaws, tied hand and foot and left through the night to his fate. Then the next day the whole tribe would return and find the clean picked bones of the criminal scattered about the rock. Of course he had been eaten by the earth fiend, and none but the cunning priests themselves ever suspected the wolves of the unhappy man’s death.

They also tell how this monster of stone was once free and used to travel about the land drinking the rivers dry, tearing up the trees, upon which he existed, and tumbling in the night great stones down the mountain side. It was him, they say, who caused the prairies, by eating away the trees and even tearing up their roots so they never sprouted again. At length Manito enchained him here in the earth lest he should destroy the red men, and now he is quite harmless, save that now and then he groans and spits forth storms and shakes the earth with struggles to be free.

A terrible punishment, it is said, is sure to fall upon any who are rash enough to interfere with the fate of a condemned criminal, and one little story is told, of deep and pathetic interest – doubtless, too, the relation of an actual occurrence – which we shall here set down, if possible in the same simple manner in which we heard it.

A white boy, the son of a Canadian trapper who was drowned in one of the forks of the Platte, had fallen among a tribe of Pawnees, and lived with them until manhood found him one of the bravest and most expert of the young warriors of the nation. He loved the daughter of the chief in whose wigwam he had been nurtured, and the devoted Indian girl gave up her whole heart and being to the young American. Though Indian in all his habits and tastes, he yet possessed instinctively the superior intelligence of his own nation, and though yielding obedience to the superstitious observances of the tribe, his lip curled in derision whenever called upon to practice them. The priests read these thoughts in the young Canadian’s mind, and his destruction was soon resolved upon. Being in high favor with the whole tribe, they could not proceed directly against him, but through the girl he loved, the old chief’s daughter, they determined to inflict their first stroke of revenge.

An alarming visitation of the small pox soon afforded the vengeful Great Medicines an opportunity to carry out their designs. They addressed the Great Spirit with mystic rites and incantations, and then pronounce to the tribe the will of Manito that the old chief’s daughter should be sacrificed to the stone fiend of the prairie. Disputing one of these decrees was a thing never dreamed among the Pawnees, and the young Canadian knew that to offer even the slightest opposition would be to turn the whole nation against him, even to the very father of his betrothed, and inevitably stamp his own destruction. The priests expected him to oppose the decree, which was the end they aimed at, as then they would have pronounced the same doom upon himself, and nothing could have saved him or the poor Indian girl. So only despair or the alternative of some desperate strategies was left for the young white lover.

The day of doom arrived, and a mourning train of warriors and women left the village and set forward to the distant rock. The song of sacrifice was chanted at nightfall, and the young betrothed of the white man was consigned to the rocky jaws of her lonely desert bridegroom, while the poor Indians turned back to their homes again, believing the angry spirit was appeased and they would now be released from the terrible disease under which they were groaning.

That night the young white man disappeared from the village and was never heard of more. The Indian legend ends here, and nothing further is told of the forest girl and her lover. But as the traders elaborate the story, it would seem that the lover sought Pawnee Rock in the night, released his betrothed, and, not daring to be seen again among the Pawnees, they wandered about the wilderness, seeking to reach the white settlements of Missouri. Not many years since a rude cross was discovered upon the bank of a small creek which the Santa Fe traders cross in their progress, and upon digging beneath it, the bones of a female were found, together with beads and ornaments such are usually worn by a Pawnee girl. This incident has been attached as a sequel to the Legend of the Rock, and the place is now pointed out as the poor girl’s lonely grave. But the most ingenious story teller among the old travelers has never yet attempted to finish the narrative with the fate of the young white warrior.”


Monday, May 25, 2020

The Stone Cutters (Part 2): John DeLeeuwe, artist

Despite the financial ruin that the 1890s brought for George Evans, the flourish with which he handled his finances also brought about his desire to spend monies on embellishment in his architectural creations. Evans first partnered with French born stone carver John DeLeeuwe while constructing the Fort Worth post office in 1893. DeLeeuwe had had a varied artistic background. While he learned his stone carving trade at his father’s art school in Brussels, Belgium, he also performed as an opera singer prior to his arrival in America. DeLeeuwe’s first work for Evans at the post office at Fort Worth was primarily limited to gingerbread features. He became one of Evans’ “go to” men for services, and during their working relationship DeLeeuwe created a lifelike bust of Evans which Evans displayed in his office. DeLeeuwe’s next project with Evans gave him an opportunity to further showcase his clever and artistic talents on the Shawnee County (KS) courthouse in 1896. 

Shawnee County Courthouse

DeLeeuwe was an advocate for making public buildings not only functional, but beautiful: “There is no reason in the world why we don’t have more decorations on the public buildings.” In preparation for the courthouse work, DeLeeuwe built plaster of paris models in a small artist shed outside of his residence. DeLeeuwe was assisted by craftsman George Ward and their creations for the courthouse included dragons, lions, and floral designs. The main courthouse building was constructed of stone from Colorado quarries, but the trim was done in Bedford, Indiana stone. 

One of DeLeeuwe's dragons from the courthouse

With the collapse of Evans’ empire, DeLeeuwe moved west. In the late 1890s, he was chosen as one of the artists for the new Thomas Melton Stanford library construction at Stanford University. DeLeeuwe’s part was to create a sandstone likeness of Benjamin Franklin for display on the front of the building. Sadly, the library was considerably damaged in the 1906 California earthquake and replaced with the current building. DeLeeuwe’s last documented employment was at a monument company in San Luis Obispo, but he had started to drink heavily and deplete his personal funds. He left town abruptly after forging checks under his employer’s name. 

San Francisco Chronicle July 1899

Evans’ Shawnee County Courthouse was razed in 1965, but examples of DeLeeuwe’s work can still be seen in a pocket park called the Chandler Library Pavillion adjacent to the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library. The park was created in 2004 by local architect Raymond Sherwood “Bud” Smith II. 

Gateway of the Chandler Pavilion featuring DeLeeuwe's work


San Francisco Chronicle
1899    “Statue of Benjamin Franklin For the Stanford Library.” San Francisco Chronicle (newspaper), San Francisco, CA. July 14, 1899. Page 3.

San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram
1909    “Sculptor’s Clever Work. Mr. DeLeeuw is Completing a Massive Figure of Art for Mr. Troy’s Office.” San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram (newspaper), San Luis Obispo, CA. February 24, 1909.

Topeka Mail
1894    “The New Court House.” Topeka Mail (newspaper), Topeka, KS. May 18, 1894. Page 3.

Topeka State Journal
1894a  “De Leeuw Will Do It.”  Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. June 23, 1894. Page 8.  
1894b  “Snap Shots at Home News.” Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. July 18, 1894. Page 5.  
1894c  Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. July 23, 1894. Page 5.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Stone Cutters (Part 1): George H. Evans

The work on the Kansas Statehouse influenced some of the men hired on as laborers to pursue, at least temporarily, a career in stonework, leading to a profitable career in either the stone industry or as a jumping off point for other successes. Within the past couple of years, three of these individuals have wandered into the cultural resource investigations performed by our company. I am going to do my best to narrate the stories of these amazing men, and hopefully someone can latch on to them and give them more attention <3 . ~wmb

Photo from Illustrated Weekly 1895

Work on the Kansas Statehouse began in the fall of 1866, a contract originally granted to John G. Otis. One of the laborers on the east wing whose work at the capital would lead him to another capital project is George H. Evans. Evans was born in 1849 in Indiana, where he would serve at a young age in the Civil War. He joined the Kansas Statehouse crew first as a teamster and later as a common laborer. His experience on the east wing of the capital compelled him to learn the stone mason’s trade, where he would continue for 5 years as an apprentice and then journeyman before he struck out on his own.

His first individual projects began with limited funds and included owning tenement properties in the capital city of Topeka. Evans filled a niche with his stonework by replacing local bridges that were falling apart, constructing at least 21 bridges in Topeka and the surrounding area by 1884. Evans’ first major solo project was the $30,000 contract on the Old Soldier’s Home in Leavenworth, Kansas in 1885. In the 1890s, more big projects rolled in after he partnered with Joe Cox of Lawrence. The team would use Evans’ ties gained from his work in the capital city to win government funded projects. Evans and Cox would secure the contracts for the addition at the Osawatomie Insane Asylum; buildings at the Indian schools at both Haskell in Lawrence and Osage Mission and others listed at the end of this article.

Because of his previous relationships with others in the stone business, Evans had the inside track on both supplies and equipment that gave him the upper hand in the bidding process. His most important work came with what was ultimately a $1 million contract for the central portion of the Kansas Statehouse in the late 1880s. Evans and Cox were preferred for this project, not just because of the influence of Evans’ political connections, but in part by Evans’ electric derrick which Evans thought gave them a $25,000 advantage. The derrick was an amazing time and laborsaving device that would lift the large stones quickly and easily and place them accurately. The statehouse construction brought the firm significant profits and propelled them further to financial success.

Multiple high cost projects in the 1890s brought the firm increased recognition, however, bad business decisions, loose financial spending and a deterioration of the partnership in this time led to Evans’ downfall. The contracts for the buildings at the new Fort Bliss outside of El Paso, Texas and the Shawnee County, Kansas courthouse were significantly underbid, causing a financial burden on the partnership. Evans became convinced that Joe Cox came under the influence of another Kansas contractor, John Jack, which led to a $50,000 mistake on the Fort Bliss project, even though Evans himself was splashing around money on things like a $2000 banquet for the fort officers. The situation had shifted so significantly that Evans, who had originally prided himself on his fairness to his workers, appreciation for organized labor, and paying of union wages, had in the end had lost the respect of his foremen and ended up paying the price. Financial trouble escalated to the point that the Shawnee County Courthouse had to be completed by another contractor and Evans began losing his tenement properties for his inability to pay the mortgages. 

Shawnee County Courthouse

At the end, Evans was left utterly destitute. The respect he had gained among his peers in the capital city prompted those in the legislature to vote in 1903 to give Evans funds to pay off his depts, keeping him from total financial ruin. With the leftover money from the legislative gift, he bought a modest home in the Oakland neighborhood of Topeka. Still struggling financially, he moved in with his daughter and benefitted by a $.50 per day allowance offered him by the Rev. Charles M. Sheldon (author of the popular novel, In His Steps). Evans died in 1905, a shadow of the architectural giant he had been. He is buried in historic Topeka Cemetery. 

Cooper Memorial College Building, Sterling, KS
Water Works Pump House, Kansas Arts & Industries 1891
Atchison post office during construction. 1893

Evans construction projects (year in parentheses indicates date contract granted or by year mentioned):

4 dwellings and one tenement house in Topeka (1882)

Moon bridge over Mission Creek (T12, R14, Sec.9-razed) (1884)

21 bridges in Shawnee County area (1885)

Cooper Memorial College, Sterling (1887)

Topeka 6th Street Viaduct (1888)

State Industrial/Reformatory School, Hutchinson (1889)

Kansas Statehouse (1890s)

Topeka Water Works Pump House (1891)

Osawatomie Insane Asylum Addition Building (1891)

Indian School Buildings at Osage Mission and Lawrence (1891)

Atchison Post Office (1892/3)

Approaches to El Paso “public building” (1892)

Paving Harrison St., Topeka (1893)

Fort Worth Post Office (1893)

Episcopal Cathedral, Dallas (1893)

Fort Bliss (barracks, officers’ quarters, fort) El Paso (1893)

Shawnee County Courthouse (1894)


 Atchison Daily Globe
1905       Atchison Daily Globe (newspaper), Atchison, KS. August 10, 1905. Page 2.

Daily Commonwealth
1884      “The Improvements at Tenth Avenue Bridge – How the Work Has Been Done – A Better Class of Bridges in Shawnee County.” Daily Commonwealth (newspaper), Topeka, KS. May 27, 1884. Page 4.

1885     “Good for Topeka.” Daily Commonwealth (newspaper), Topeka, KS. April 29, 1885.       Page 5.

Illustrated Weekly
1895     “A Self Made Man,” Illustrated Weekly (newspaper), Topeka, KS. June 15, 1895. Page 3.

Kansas Arts and Industries
1891     “The Topeka Water Company,” Kansas Arts and Industries (newspaper), Topeka, KS. November 1, 1891. Page 6.

Lawrence Daily Journal
1895     Lawrence Daily Journal (newspaper), Lawrence, KS. February 2, 1895. Page 4.

Topeka Mail
1894    “The New Court House.” Topeka Mail (newspaper), Topeka, KS. May 18, 1894. Page 3.

Topeka State Journal
1905    “George Evans Dead,” Topeka State Journal (newspaper) Topeka, KS. August 9, 1905.     Page 6.