Project Canterbury

The Life and Labors of Bishop Hare
Apostle to the Sioux

By M.A. DeWolfe Howe

New York: Sturgis and Walton, 1911.

Chapter III. A Pioneer in Niobrara, 1873-1878

THE conditions of life about to confront the young bishop presented the sharpest contrast with those under which his life so far had been spent. He had lived only in the two leading cities of the country and their immediate surroundings. His personal background had been enriched by a multitude of kinsmen and friends holding definite places in a long-established social order. All the comfortable amenities of life in the Middle States in the decade beginning with the Civil War had been his by every right of inheritance and possession. Over against all this was to be set a frontier existence of the roughest sort. The permanent settlement of Dakota Territory had begun but little before 1860. The territorial government was first organized in 1861, but even in 1873 the population of whites was scanty and scattered. Railroad building had begun only in 1872, and in 1873 had been carried up the Missouri River only so far as Yankton. The buffalo were virtually gone--Bishop Hare confessed after four or five years in the country that he never saw one--but every other token of primitive conditions remained. The Indian population greatly outnumbered the white, and most of the Indians were unreclaimed from barbarism. The work of the pioneers of civilization was waiting, almost in its entirety, to be done.

In the field of Indian missions the Roman Catholics had already done something; the Congregationalists and Presbyterians, especially through the labors of Riggs and Williamson and the attendant translation of the Bible and hymns into the Dakota tongue, had more specifically cleared the way. The Protestant Episcopal Church was represented in the thriving work of the Santee mission under the Rev. S. D. Hinman, and in several remote posts. Under the policy of the Grant administration the Indian agents were appointed on the recommendation of the religious bodies working at the several agencies. The activities and influence of Mr. William Welsh were such that the Sioux agencies were filled by men designated by representatives of the Episcopal Church. The field was rough, but it was full of opportunity and promise.

Studying the field from the East soon after his consecration, Bishop Hare wrote to a clergyman preparing to join his staff of workers: "I catch just enough glimpses, not to condemn or justify any one, but to make me unhappy and fearful that the 'Lover of concord' will not make His face to shine upon us." Nothing daunted he made ready for his great undertaking, begged the prayers of his friends--"that I may carry with me the spiritual strength of many men, not of one man merely"--and turned his face westward early in April of 1873.

His first visitation on leaving the East was to the Oneida mission at Green Bay, Wisconsin. This was one of the missions outside his immediate jurisdiction which were committed at first "to his care. It was also that to which allusion has already been made as the western home of Indians formerly under the care of Bishop Hobart. "Many whom Bishop Hobart confirmed in New York state, fifty years before," said Bishop Hare touching, in the "Reminiscences" already quoted, upon this first visitation, "brought their grandchildren to be confirmed by his grandson."

In a letter printed in the May, 1873, issue of The Church and the Indians, a little journal published by the Indian Commission of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Bishop Hare describes his impressions of this first experience as a Bishop to the Indians. The forlornness of their condition does not blind him to the progress they have made or to the ground for hope for their future. At the end of the letter he writes:

"Easter night.--This day of days is over. A happier Easter I never spent; from all directions the Indians wended their way this morning to their unpretending sanctuary. The building (paved floor, galleries, vestibule and many of the windows) was crowded with people and a more reverent and attentive congregation, a congregation in which there were more men, I have rarely seen. I preached to them by the aid of an interpreter from the text, 'I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forever-more, and have the keys of death and hell.' Twenty candidates for confirmation then approached the chancel rail and after being addressed, were confirmed. The Holy Communion was then administered, the whole congregation remaining, and at least one hundred and twenty of them partaking in the celebration. I could have wept like a little child. And when, having taken my seat in a chair before the chancel rail, the whole congregation, men and women and children, filed by me and took me by the hand, one old woman slipping a dollar bill in my hand as she pressed it, one man saying, 'You have made us happy,' and another whispering in my ear, 'Pray for the Oneidas,' I forgot that I was far away from home. My happiness was without alloy, and my cup was running over with it."

In a briefer letter following these words from Bishop Hare the resident missionary declares: "The Indians say they understood nearly all he said before the translator interpreted it. His eye and voice and manner talked to them." This first of all records of the impression he made upon his Indians confirms the belief that there was in his manner of speech and of thought a certain native quality which gave the Indians a feeling of kinship with him, and to others a vivid sense that he was representing truly the people whose champion he became.

The "Reminiscences" deal so fully with the beginnings of his work that several pages by Bishop Hare himself will best continue the narrative:

"I was desirous of studying the condition of the semi-civilized Indians before going to the wilder tribes of the Northwest, and therefore first made a visit to the Indian Territory of the Southwest. While I was en route, the whole country was plunged into a frenzy of excitement, and of denunciation of the whole Indian race, by the Modoc massacre, and the mouths of many sober men were filled with calls for revenge, such as at other times they were wont to denounce as the characteristic of the vindictive Sioux. The general of the army telegraphed a subordinate that he would be 'fully justified in the utter extermination' of the Modocs. Friends wrote me that a blow had been struck at all efforts for the Indians which was simply fatal, conclusive; and that it would be folly in me to persist. I pressed on, nevertheless, only lamenting that the treachery of a handful of Indians was allowed by an intelligent people to govern opinion, while the good behavior of tens of thousands of Indians was utterly forgotten.

"From the Indian Territory I made my way to Dakota, like Abraham, who went out not knowing whither he went. I reached Yankton City, April 29, 1873. A military officer, to whom I was there introduced as being the Missionary Bishop to the Indians, somewhat bluntly replied: 'Indeed! I don't envy you your task.' I recalled the words, 'Let not him who putteth on his armor boast himself as he that putteth it off,' and simply replied, 'A minister, like a military officer, obeys orders.' Whatever was uncertain, I was at least sure of my commission.

"My arrival in Yankton occurred just after one of the most memorable storms that Dakota has ever known, and the effects of it were plainly to be seen in the carcasses of cattle which had perished in it, and in huge banks of snow which lay still unmelted. The storm had overt.akjyi

Custer's celebrated cavalry, while they were encamped about a mile or two outside of Yank-ton, and brave men, who never quailed before the foe, had fled in complete rout before the tempest, and taken refuge in any house where they could find a shelter, leaving all their camp equipment and horses to their fate.

"From Yankton I passed up the Missouri River along which the main body of the missionary enterprise of our Church among the Indians was then located. I found that missionary work had been established on the Santee, Yankton and Ponca Reserves, and three brave young deacons, fresh from the Berkeley Divinity School, had, the previous fall, pressed up the river and begun the task of opening the way for missionary effort among the Indians of the Lower Brulé, the Crow Creek and Cheyenne River Reserves.

"Altogether, there were, besides three natives, five white clergymen and five ministering women. I could not then, I cannot now, admire enough the courage with which these Soldiers of Christ had entered upon the work and the fortitude with which they persevered in it. Their entrance upon it was largely, of necessity, a leap in the dark, and their continuance in it a groping where there was no light and no trodden way. They had made the wild man their companion, an unknown heathenism their field of labor, and the wilderness their home. Nor could I but wonder at the grand faith, the dauntless conviction of duty and the tremendous moral energy of the one man--William Welsh--who had both excited and backed their efforts by his zeal, his counsel and his wealth. . . .

"But what about the Indians? I had read much of what had been written, by delighted visitors, of the heartiness and reverence with which the services of the Church were rendered by these humble people. And all that was ever written I found more than realized when it was my privilege to kneel with them in their little sanctuaries. I could understand how the brave, self-denying missionaries to whom I had come could feel, regarding their converts, as the Apostle exclaims: 'What thanks can we render to God for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God?' I found that a great deal of true and effective work had been done--work which has affected the whole after-history of the Mission.

"It was not long before I saw both sides of Indian life. The better side: said a shrewd Christian chief, as I was about to leave the rude chapel erected among his people: 'Stop, friend, I have a few words to say. I am glad to hear you are going to visit the wild, upper tribes.

Companies of them often come down to visit my band, and I always take them to see this chapel. I think a good deal depends upon the impression my chapel makes on them. I think if it was put in better order it would make a better impression than it does. The rain and snow come through that roof. This floor is not even. Now, you are called an Apostle. That is a good name. I believe it means "one sent." But there are many people to whom you are sent to whom you cannot go, for they are wild people. But these visitors of mine go everywhere and tell everywhere what they have seen.' The wilder side, too, I saw, for among the Lower Brulés, a fellow rode up by the side of our party, with an airy, reckless, dare-devil manner, and remarked, as he flourished his weapon: 'I want my boy to go to school, but I am an old man. I am wounded all over. I like to fight. I love war. I went off the other day among some strange Indians. They said: "Go away, or we'll kill you." "Kill away," said I; "that's what I like."' He was a type of hundreds and thousands. But is it an unheard-of thing for white men to hate the restraints of religion and morality for themselves, and yet wish them for their children?

"The scenes grew wilder as I pushed farther on. A service held at the Cheyenne River Agency, in the open air, left a deep impression on my mind. It was a strange scene. In front of us, forty or fifty feet distant, rolled the Missouri River. Nearer at hand, grouped in a semicircle, fringed with a few curious soldiers and employés of the Agency, sat the Indians; many bedecked with paint and feathers and carrying guns and tomahawks; some in a soberer guise, betokening that they were inclining to the white man's ways; while all gazed, apparently half amused, half awe-struck, at the vested missionary of the station as he sang the hymns and offered the prayers of the Church, and then at the Indian deacon and at me, as we spoke the words of Life.

"After a study of the field, and much conversation with the clergy, I reached some conclusions, and began to lay out settled plans of work.

"1st. Mapping out the Field.--I soon saw that my work was not to be that of a settled pastor in daily contact with his flock; but that of a general superintendent, whose duty it would be to reach the people through their pastors; not so much to do local work as to make local work possible and easy for others.

"The whole field was therefore mapped out into divisions, these divisions being ordinarily the territory connected with a United States Indian Agency. The special care of each of them was entrusted to one experienced presbyter, and around him were grouped the Indian ministers and catechists and others who were engaged in evangelistic work within his division.

"Their pay, I arranged, should pass to them not directly from me, or from the Board, but through the hands of the presbyters immediately over them, that the responsibility of the assistants to their respective chiefs might be duly felt. These assistants were to reside near their several chapels and conduct the services there, and monthly the chief missionary was to make his visitation, for the purpose of ministering the Word and Sacraments and inspecting the condition of his field. The whole field was soon, in this way, put in manageable shape.

"2d. Boarding Schools.--My visit to the Indian Territory and my study of the Indian problem in my own field, convinced me quite early that the Boarding School ought to be one of the most prominent features of our Missionary work.

"I thought that children gathered in such schools would soon become, in their neat and orderly appearance, their increasing intelligence, and their personal testimony to the loving and disinterested lives of the missionaries with whom they dwelt, living epistles, known and read of their wilder brethren. They would form the nuclei of congregations at the chapels connected with the schools, and learn to carry on with spirit the responses and music of the services.

"I also proposed to establish a central Boarding School of higher grade, at the place of the Bishop's residence, to be conducted under his immediate supervision, to which the other schools should be tributary by furnishing their most promising boys for education as Teachers, Catechists and Missionaries.

"This plan was carried out, and thus grew up the St. Paul's, St. Mary's, St. John's and Hope Indian Boarding Schools, which, under their respective heads, have won a deservedly high reputation. St. Paul's Boarding School was the first venture in this line among the Indians, in Dakota.

"The last feature of the plan was modified later, when the establishment at the East of schools for the Indians, like Hampton Institute, offered peculiar advantages in the way of higher education. It then seemed to be wiser to send out of the Indian country to these schools the pupils who had proved themselves of most promise and most likely to develop into teachers and ministers.

"3d. Limitations.--I next realized that, as no man can do everything, I must eliminate from my plan of work those things which it was not absolutely necessary for me to do, and devote my attention to those things which no one else could or would do, and to the things most essential in one holding the position and placed in the conditions in which I found myself.

"There stretched before me vast tracts of wild country inhabited by roaming tribes. It was to be my duty to explore them and make a way for the entrance of the Church. There were in the whole district but five churches and but two dwellings for the missionaries, and not a single Boarding School. The Missionary Board employed no business agent in the field, and I saw that I must be a builder of parsonages, schools, and churches. There were but seven clergymen in the mission; I saw that I must seek out, or raise up, more. Obstacles of varied and peculiar nature met the workers at every turn. I saw that I must be their friend, counselor and comforter--a real pastor of pastors--if I could be. Large funds would be needed. I was made to feel that it was left largely to me to raise them. 'The Mission had two ends,' I was told; 'one in the East, where the money was, and the other in the Indian Territory, where the work was.' I was expected to look after both ends.

"I gave up, therefore, all thought of ever learning the several native languages with which I was confronted, except so far as was necessary in order to read the vernacular service. It is my associates, and not I, who have mastered the native languages and proclaimed to the Indians, in their own tongue, the wonderful works of God. "Now a few words as to my general views on the Indian question. I soon came to look upon everything as provisional--to quote from one of my annual reports--which, if permanently main-tained, would tend to make Indian life something separate from the common life of our country: a solid foreign mass indigestible by our common civilization. I saw that just because it has been an indigestible mass has our civilization been all these years constantly trying to vomit it, and so get rid of a cause of discomfort. Ordinary laws must have their way. All reservations, whether the reserving of land from the ordinary laws of settlement, or the reserving of the Indian nationality from absorption into ours, or the reserving of old tribal superstitions and notions and habits from the natural process of decadence, or the reserving of the Indian language from extinction, are only necessary evils or but temporary expedients. Safety for 250,000 Indians divided up into over a hundred tribes speaking as many different languages, scattered on about seventy different reservations among 50,000,000 English-speaking people can be found, only if the smaller people flow in with the current of the life and ways of the larger. The Indians are not an insulated people, like some of the islanders of the South Sea. Our work is not that of building up a National Indian Church with a national liturgy in the Indian tongue. It is rather that of resolving the Indian structure and preparing its parts for being taken up into the great whole in Church and State.

"From the first, therefore, I struggled against the notion that we were missionaries to Indians alone and not missionaries to all men; I pressed the study of the English language and its conversational use in our schools, and, however imperfect my efforts, the aim of them has been to break down 'the middle wall of partition' between whites and Indians, and to seek not the welfare of one class or race, but the common good.

"The character of the work to be done appears from the fact that the Indians with whom the Mission has had to deal were some of the most reckless and the wildest of our North American tribes, and scattered over a district some parts of which were twelve days' travel distant from others. So desolate was the country that on one of my trips I remember not seeing a human face or a human habitation, not even an Indian lodge, for eight days. Emissaries of evil had reached the Indians long before the missionaries of tht Cross appeared. 'All the white men that came before you,' replied a chief, 'said that they had come to do us good, but they stole our goods and corrupted our women; and how are we to know that you are different?'"

"This," said Bishop Hare in another account of the incident, "was carrying the war into Africa with a vengeance; but I replied, 'Well, you must watch and see how we live.'"

The life which he proceeded to live was a thing which the Indians could see with their own eyes. We can see it chiefly through the pictures which Bishop Hare himself made of it from time to time. By uniting separated passages from reports and letters the principal aspects of his life can be presented in order.

The outward form of his many activities on behalf of the Indians was of course the expression of an inner spirit. Of that spirit the draft of a prayer found among his early papers gives some intimation:

"O Most Gracious Master, The Bishop and Shepherd of all souls, Who has deigned to call me, unworthy, to an office in character like Thine own, however beneath it in degree: vouchsafe to me also the gifts of the Spirit Who was in Thee, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.

"Let me not judge after the sight of mine eyes, nor reprove after the hearing of mine ears. May I do nothing by partiality. May I weep with all. May I rejoice with all. Teach me to bind up the broken-hearted, to preach good tidings unto the meek, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God. Enable me to be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose themselves."

Of more uncertain date is the following "Prayer for Indian Missions":

"O Most Merciful God, Who hast promised that all those who dwell in the wilderness shall kneel before Thy Son, remember, we pray Thee, the Indian Tribes of our land and all those who have gone to them in Thy Name.

"Guide and govern all those who are put in civil or military authority over them, that the people may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

"Set up and strengthen Thy Church among them, that they may all come to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.

"Endue its Ministers with Heavenly love and wisdom, and make them ensamples to the flock.

"Sanctify the people. Preserve their Marriages in peace and concord; nourish their infants; lead forward their youth; sustain their aged; comfort the weak-hearted; gather together the scattered; settle the roving; and knit them all together, working with their hands the thing that is good, in Thy Holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

For the spirit which controlled his practical dealings at the very beginning of his enterprise, the concluding paragraphs of his first Annual Report as Missionary Bishop will speak with clarity and vigor:

"On many subjects connected with the Indian, I ought not to be in haste to form an opinion; but this I may now say, that I have seen nothing to lead me to think that there is anything in the Indian problem to drive us either to quackery or despair. It will find its solution, under the favor of God, in the faithful execution of the powers committed by God to the Civil Government, and a common-sense administration of the gracious gifts deposited with His Church.

"If any one wonders that the large sums of money, spent by the Government, have accomplished so little for the Indians, let him remember that for years these moneys were not used to elevate the Indians, but were devoured by those who should have been their guardians.

"If he wonders that the Indians have learned so little of useful trades from the mechanics whom the Government has employed to live among them and teach them, let him consider that these mechanics have often been shrewd enough to see, and unprincipled enough to act upon, the fact that the less they taught the Indians the longer they would be dependent, and the longer their appointed teachers would retain their places.

"If he wonders that the mere presence of civilization has not, long ere this, ameliorated the condition of the red man, let him remember that the van of civilization is its vilest offscourings; that its first representatives generally despise the Indians, and condescend to them in nothing but the gratification of inordinate appetites and desires; and that when civilization of a better type appears, it is too often so bent on its own progress, and so far from helpful or kindly, that its advance, like that of a railroad train at full speed, dashes in pieces those unlucky wanderers who happen to stand in its way, and leaves the others with only a more discouraging sense of the length of the road, and of the slowness with which they overcome it. In a town of Michigan, ten years ago, I saw half-wild, half-drunken Indians employed by white men to perform diabolical antics to attract men to liquor saloons. In Minnesota, ten years ago, I read in the daily papers the offer of the State of $250 for the scalp of any Indian, delivered at a designated office. In Dakota, to-day, I find, not to speak of other iniquities, the Indian woman, despised squaw though she is, made the victim of the brothel.

"This state of things now stares good men in the face. It is high time, surely, for effort of another kind. The Government and the Church call upon them to stand up as champions of what is right. If ever the warning of the wise man be in season, it is now. 'If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to His works?'

"Discussions of the probable future of the Indians are beside the question, and dangerous because they drown the call of present duty. Suppose these people to be designed by Provi-dence to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. Our duty is to fit them for that lot. Suppose that they are to be merged in our more numerous race. Our duty is to fit them for that absorption by intermarriage, and so arrest the present vicious intermingling. Suppose that they are to die out. Our duty is to prepare them for their departure. Our duty is the plainer, because the treatment which will fit these people for any one of these lots will fit them for either of the others.

"But I have heard it said that practical men have come to the conclusion that Indians should be EXTERMINATED. What if someone should make this reply? If they are to be exterminated, now is the golden opportunity. Nature has laid the Santee Indians low with smallpox. Let the advocates of extermination come to her help. Their task is easy. Whole tribes of Indians have perished from smallpox in the past. Parched with fever, its victims have crawled to the river brink to slack their thirst, and, too weak to make their way back again, have died there, until the river's bank has been lined, for miles, with row upon row of ghastly corpses. With a little timely help given to nature's work among the Santees, such a scene may be beheld again. There are thirty or forty Santee scouts just on their way back towards their homes, from service with a military expedition sent out to protect a railroad survey from molestation from their savage brethren. Brave, gallant fellows they are, some of them communicants of our Church, who have won the commendation of their officers. A telegram has been sent that they ought not to return. Let some advocate of extermination telegraph them just the contrary. They are panting to see their wives and children, and will be glad of an excuse. Indians have children, black-eyed and merry as larks. Let the gentle members of the Sisterhood of Extermination wrap them up and sing them to sleep in infected blankets stripped from their dying mothers. Let them gather together the cast-off clothing and bedding of the sick, and send it off among the upper tribes. The winter is coming on. Many are shivering for want of clothing. The advocates of extermination may easily scatter these infected garments and the fatal plague with them wherever they will. Here, then, is work for the advocates of extermination. I call for volunteers.

"Manifestly, the cry for extermination is but a grim joke--perforce, perhaps, resorted to by intensely practical men to startle our too great enthusiasm into common-sense. Rightly conducted and presented, Missions to the Indians will commend themselves to all. Real advocates of extermination, there are none."

These are the words of a man passionately in earnest. The intensity of feeling in them was matched by the intense activity which he brought to his work at the first and maintained to the end. The Indians in general came to know him primarily as a traveler, moving from camp to camp, from agency to agency, with a celerity which won him the name of Zitkana duzahan, or swift bird. We may well turn, then, to a few passages ill-lustrating the method and scope of his movements about the jurisdiction. One of the earliest of his letters is as follows:

[To Mrs. M. A. DeW. Howe.]

"July 30, 1873.

"My Dear Mrs. Howe:

"I write from the most distant mission of this jurisdiction, on the border land occupied by Indians who are ready to live in peace and begin to learn the white man's ways and by bands of the wilder sort who are here for a few days and then off upon the war path. From Yankton City, the railroad terminus, it is a sixty miles' drive to Yankton Agency where I intend to live, and where I am beginning to build the School, on behalf of which you may have seen my newspaper appeal. Thence a twelve hours' drive brings you to a solitary ranch kept by a French half-breed, peopled with vermin of several names, with accommodations (so-called) for traveling folk. These ranches are log huts, the chinks filled up with mud, roofed also with the same material. Everything about them is disgusting. The food is loathsome. The men who keep them are, many of them, fugitives from justice and their ranches are the haunts of horse thieves and murderers. I have driven up to one of them to find four men, each of whom was a notorious desperado and murderer, drinking and just enough under the influence of liquor to be over-polite and too much bent on having me drink with them. I try to put on an air of utter unconcern, chat about the weather, etc., manage to have some candy with me for the little ones, try to eat what they set before me with relish, compliment the wife, if I can, upon one article at least of the fare, select the cleanest part of the floor, or of the ground outside, spread a comfortable which I carry with me for my bed and lie down to sleep. And though I am sure I do not deserve it, I have the promised blessing, 'When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid.' I should enjoy the rest of it, 'yea, thou shalt lie down and thy sleep shall be sweet,' except that vermin abound and I haven't enough flesh on my bones to make a floor a comfortable resting place. "Another day's drive of fifteen hours brings me to the Crow Creek Agency, where we have a mission and where the comforts of life, or what seem so compared with the ranches, abound. The fourth day's drive brings me to another ranch, with its delights, and the fifth day brings me to Fort Sully, where there is refined society, and to this Agency (ten miles above the fort), where there are a garrison, the Agency people, and our mission.

"It is at one of these Indian agencies, the Yankton Agency, that I expect to reside. The United States Indian Agent is a clergyman of our Church, for a time disabled, who has taken his present position in the hope of restoring his health, the Rev. J. E. Gasmann. He is a very excellent man. His wife is a sister of Bishop Clarkson. They both have done everything they could to make me comfortable. Indeed I do not know what I should have done without them.

"At each Agency there is besides the agent, a head farmer, head blacksmith, head miller, etc., so that there is a little gathering of white people besides the Mission family. This family at the Yankton Agency consists of the Rev. Mr. Cook, a faithful man; the Indian Deacon, Luke Walker; and two ladies, Miss Leigh, for many years a true helper in this field, a lady of forty-five or fifty, and Miss Baker, a quite young person whose family live in Davenport, Iowa. This Mission is among a tribe who have been for ten or twelve years advancing gradually in civilization; there are no hostiles among them; you may drive all over their reservation by day or by night unmolested, and sleep with your windows open on the first floor. The reservation stretches along1 the Missouri River which is bounded by beautiful bluffs on the opposite side; a fair share of the conveniences of life can be enjoyed there; and, except that all I love are far away, there is no reason why I should not be happy there. In-deed, I believe I am happier than most as things now are. I have made already many friends at the various military posts along the river, am received with a cordiality, which is an inexpressible balm, and have had the joy of seeing a deep religious interest spring up among officers and others who had been, to say the least, indifferent to religion.

"Still, you guess rightly that my thoughts often run off to that little one who was sleeping so sweetly when you wrote, and to others, yourself among them, whom God has given me to love and who are only less dear than he. I am rejoicing in the expectation of coming East early in September, and trust that you may still be at Bristol when I arrive. . . .

"Always very affectionately, dear Mrs. Howe,


"W. H. H."

In the early days of his work, before the railroads had stretched far into the country, the Missouri River was an important highway. A picture of travel on one of its steamboats is found in an early letter "To the Indian Aid Associations and to my many dear friends among the children of the Church":

"On board the steamer Far West,
"MISSOURI RIVER, September 27, 1875.

"My Dear Friends:

"Having visited our lower Missions, I am now on my way farther up the Missouri River to the Missions among the Yanktonnais Sioux Indians, and to those among the Sans Arc, Blackfeet, Minneconjou, and other bands of Sioux. Far up the River as you think of the Yankton Mission as being, and shallow as the River is here (the Mate, even while I write, stands upon the side of the boat, and, as he plunges his measuring pole into the water, in a drawling tone calls out its depth, 'Five feet scant!' 'Four feet!' 'Three and half feet'), boats capable of carrying three and four hundred tons of freight navigate its waters for about seventeen hundred miles above our Missions. The steamer Far West, on which I am traveling, is, like the rest of these up-river boats, about twice the length of the little stern-wheel steamers which ply on the Schuylkill and Connecticut Rivers.

"Fortunately the berths on this boat are cleaner than those one sometimes hits upon, which is a great comfort. It is not over-crowded either, the only passengers besides myself being Mr. Hall and Mr. Ashley, of the Mission, and an officer and post-surgeon stationed at one of the river posts. The Captain, Clerk and Engineer are a pleasant, hearty set of fellows. We are on the best of terms, and out of this state of things issued two very interesting services yes-ierday, Sunday. The boat hands, however, are the lowest of the low. They are taken from the loafers who frequent the river towns, who are called out here 'roustabouts,' I suppose because they have no settled homes, but roost about, now here, now there. They are men who, having ended a trip and got their pay, go off on a wild carouse till their money is all spent, when they re-ship, their eyes bunged up, their bodies stiff and black with bruises, their faces cut and battered, and their minds so stupid from the effect of their excesses, that they know only enough to stumble down to the levee and aboard a boat and to answer automatically with their tongues 'Aye, aye, Sir,' to the orders of the Mate, while they have such imperfect control of their arms and legs that they can at first hardly do more than fumble pointlessly at, or spread themselves over, the gang-plank and other articles that he bids them lift. They have been two or three days aboard now, however, and are a little straightened out, and I managed to induce even a number of them to attend the service. I was down among them on the lower deck a number of times on Saturday, wishing to win their good opinion in the hope of gaining some of them. They looked at me askance at first, as if they felt that a parson and they had nothing in common. They laughed and half excused themselves on Sunday, as if they hardly took in what I meant, when I told them that I was going to have service and wished that they would come. They took the invitation a little more seriously when I added that the Captain said they might come if they chose. Then several of them went off and shouted down the hold to their companions in a half-serious, half-comic tone, 'Say, Bill, Joe, come along. We're going to Church!' and presently a dozen or twenty of them appeared in the saloon and became very attentive listeners.

"There was not a pleasanter service held anywhere throughout the Church than ours, I feel sure, far off as we are in a desolate country and destitute of everything which was like a Church building. After all, how little in the way of material things is absolutely essential to religious service and religious enjoyment!

"'The man whose heart-joys most abound
Is richest of the rich.'

"But a word more about these miserable men. It is from them and such as they that the Indians get their first notions of what we white men are. The laboring man they first see is not the honest farmer who each year finds the reward of his labor in the increase of his stock and the improvement of his farm buildings, but the half drunk 'roustabout' who, notwithstanding his hard work, never betters his condition. Shall we wonder if the Indians are slow to adopt the white man's ways? Shall we be impatient if the new missionary has to spend a year or so in earning for himself a character? And when the world is thus pouring the dregs of civilization into the Indians' cup already full of barbarism, shall Christian liberality not send them men of love who will offer them in farms and schools and churches the cup of Salvation?" . . .

The steamers were not always so good as the Far West, an historic craft of which one may learn more in Mr. J. M. Hanson's Conquest of the Missouri. From another steamer, Bishop Hare once wrote to his sister: "It is not very comfortable. They had nothing to offer me but a berth in the clerk's office and the soiled sheets of its previous occupant!" His son recalls the discomforts of other trips--the tedious waiting for irregular boats, the laborious gaining of forty miles a day against the current, the sharing of staterooms with utter and none too cleanly strangers. In after years Bishop Hare quoted with relish a Maori saying apropos of crude conditions and the different ways in which noble-minded and vulgar missionaries took them: "Gentlemen-gentlemen don't mind; pig-gentlemen mighty particular." There were frequent occasions on river and in camp, in these early days, to show himself one of the "gentlemen-gentlemen."

The early conditions of travel on land were vividly set forth at the twenty-fifth anniversary of Bishop Hare's Episcopate by one who frequently traveled with him, the Rev. Joseph W. Cook. Let him tell the story:

"The Bishop having visited all of the seven or eight stations where regular and organized work had been maintained for a longer or shorter time, and which could be reached one from the other in a very few hours; and having studied their condition, work and needs, now prepared for his primary visitation up the river to the newly established Missions and the wild people among whom they were placed. The distance from Yankton Agency to the nearest was one hundred, and to the farthest three hundred or more miles. The road lay back from the river and through a desolate country without inhabitants, save at long stages where a couple of desperate-looking men, or a white man with an Indian family kept the 'stage-ranche' at the crossing of a creek where there might be running water, or quite as often only a water-hole in the bed of what was sometimes a torrent, and again for many months without water save as described. The 'ranche,' a low log hut, sometimes two placed near together, the one for the accommodation of travelers, the other for the occupants, and where the wretched food was prepared. The latter usually consisted of poor bacon swimming in grease, and soda or saleratus biscuit, often as yellow as gold and smelling like soft soap from the excess of alkali. Sometimes fortunately it was varied by potatoes, often wretchedly cooked, and--luxury of luxuries--stewed dried apples, and coffee prepared by adding a little fresh coffee to the grounds of any number of previous brewings, and in a pot which never knew a cleansing. If pretense of a table cloth there were, it consisted of a piece of worn oil-cloth mopped with the dish-clout after the meal. The table was used as a lounging place or card-table by the occupants of the 'ranche' between times. The roofs were of earth supported on poles whole or split, with some hay under the earth. By mice, or by natural gravitation, or by force of the wind, the earth often came peppering down, and when it rained heavily drops or streamlets of mud were hard to escape. The floors were usually the virgin earth, and became saturated with filth, and the abode of innumerable fleas which made life wretched by day, or until the weary traveler sought relief in bed. Ah, those beds! the acme of luxury! so sleep-inviting to tired, tormented flesh! A dirty tick stuffed with coarse slough hay, unevenly disposed, no sheets, blankets or quilts, in constant use, seldom or never aired or washed, calico or muslin pillowcases, sometimes very dirty. Not to show himself entirely devoid of kindness to the lower animals, the tired traveler usually took to bed with him a few of the aforementioned fleas. But he soon found there were other orders of creation which demanded his attention, or thirsted for his blood, and like Solomon's 'daughter of the horseleech,' metaphorically cried, 'Give, give.' And so between the two he dozed, and tossed, and woke till the morning released him, and he arose more wretched and tired than he had lain down. He tastes the uniform meal and starts again on his weary way.

"The Bishop's vehicle was not a chariot, nor yet a covered carriage, with the arms of his see emblazoned on its panels, and with soft, luxurious cushions, and scientifically constructed springs tenderly guarding the body from jars and jolts; but the ordinary light-wagon of the west, with no cover, and with common cushions. In such how often and long has he fared along under the canopy of heaven, with the blazing sun streaming down its resistless heat; not even 'a great rock in a weary land,' nor even a spreading tree, nor even a juniper bush to change the monotony of the scene or offer a temporary rest; rarely even a gopher, or a little prairie bird suddenly appearing out of somewhere and as suddenly disappearing into nowhere, to attract his attention and change the current of his thoughts. Only the magnificent distances stretching out on every side which seemed like Tennyson's Brook to 'go on forever.' And then imagine what it was when this monotony was varied by the frequent occurrence in this part of the country of wind and dust storms which often last for days; sudden downpours of rain, often accompanied by hail frightful to man and beast; dry water-courses suddenly turned into torrents impassable, which may not subside for many hours, and no refuge of any sort within a day's travel, or more. The Bishop has experienced what many of us may not have known, a 'dry camp' and a 'wet camp'; the former trying to man and the worn-out horses because not a drop of water can be found to slack their thirst or refresh the travel-stained hands and face; and the latter because there has been too much, and the forlorn traveler and all his 'traps' are soaked and draggled, and the ground and herbage where he is compelled to camp is wet as wet can be. Fortunate is he who under the circumstances finds his matches dry, and succeeds in lighting the wet twigs and branches he may be able to find for his camp-fire to dry his garments and warm his food. Or when impelled to travel through such a country in the more inhospitable and dangerous season of winter with its frequent very low temperature, snow storms and frightful 'blizzards,' streams filled with ice to ford, or to venture on uncertain ice, or pierced and pinched with the stinging winds which never lull, from which there is no shelter, and against which fur coats and robes are not always a protection. Such items as these are necessary to fill out the picture of the bodily discomforts and perils, nay, sufferings, to 'fill up that which is behind,' in carrying the gospel of the peace of God to the heathen Dakotas."

To these words of another might be added many descriptive bits from Bishop Hare's letters and reports. In this place a single passage from a letter to his sister will throw its light upon both the difficulties and the humors of travel in these earliest days:

[To Miss Mary H. Hare.]

"YANKTON CITY, February 22, 1874.

"My Dear Sister:

"My dating from this place needs explanation. You may remember that I mentioned in my annual report the enterprise of some Santee Indians who had given up all their tribal privileges and gone off to Flandreau and there entered claims and formed a community as ordinary citizens of the United States. They are about one hundred and five miles northeast of this town. They have sent me many messages asking me to come and see them and I have wished ever since I came out here to grant their request.

"Thursday last, I started from the Agency to put my long-deferred hope into execution. A prosperous day's drive brought me a little over sixty miles to this town Thursday evening. Friday early I started for Flandreau, being somewhat alarmed on starting at hearing that there was a good deal of snow a little farther north. We have had so little snow, however, and the country has been so bare for weeks and weeks that I hardly credited the stories which I heard. We had not gone a dozen miles north, however, when we came upon the snow, which increased in depth every mile we drove north until it became so heavy that it was almost impassable. No one knows the oppressive sense of helplessness that comes over a traveler on these vast plains when he finds his horses' strength giving out, and the natural warmth of his body departing, and remembers that timber and therefore fuel there is none within ten or twenty miles. To add to my alarm the wind began to rise towards twilight, and the mercury to fall, and when I saw a house in the distance and drove up to it about half-past eight o'clock I could hardly have been more relieved had I pulled up at 1345 Pine. The wind blew a gale and was so keen that it seemed that it was hopeless to face it and live. To my dismay I found that a donation party had assembled during the day at the house where I was to find entertainment, which was that of a Baptist minister. The building was literally jammed. They were the best-natured people in the world, but Oh, how I longed for rest and quiet! The party was kept up till about half past ten when the company began to disperse. Hardly a half hour had elapsed, however, before many of them came back again, reporting that it was impossible to face the storm and asking accommodation for the night. Twenty-seven people slept there, a few in beds, more in chairs, and still more on the floor. Fortunately I was treated as a favored guest and had a bed assigned to me and my Indian deacon who was with me. The wind seemed to drive right through the thin boards and I believe my ears would have frosted while I slept had I not taken the precaution to go to bed with my fur cap drawn down over my ears and most of my face.

"I determined that it would be foolhardy to attempt to push on farther and therefore retraced my steps with the morning light and reached Yankton without mishap about nine o'clock last night. A storm of snow which came on during the night and has prevailed all day admonishes me that I did not return too soon."

Thus moving about "in journeyings often," it was primarily as the minister of the Gospel that he came and went. To the impulses of every messenger who believes with all his heart in the message he is bearing, Bishop Hare in his travels added, specifically, the duties of a pioneer in Indian Education, and of an official or semiofficial representative of the "Great Father" at Washington and of the whole encroaching manner of life known as "the white man's way." In each of these three capacities he needed all the confidence his course soon won him with the unfortunate people to whom he ministered. In each capacity he gives an adequate account of himself.

Project Canterbury