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Examiner
  • Ted Stillwell: Story of old Big Knife

  • This is a true story of an old Indian named Big Knife. It took place in the early days of Douglas County, Kan., when there weren’t but a handful of white families in the area. Most of the Indians in the area were good people, but Big Knife was not one of those.

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  • This is a true story of an old Indian named Big Knife. It took place in the early days of Douglas County, Kan., when there weren’t but a handful of white families in the area. Most of the Indians in the area were good people, but Big Knife was not one of those.
    Near the town of Eudora was a Shawnee Methodist Mission operated by Dr. Adam Still and his family. One fine fishing day, Dr. Still decided to take the boys and go drown a few worms down on the Kaw River – or possibly it was the Wakarusa River, we’re not sure. Mother Still and the girls were at home alone that day.
    For some reason Mother Still got a strange and uneasy feeling of fear, feeling that something wasn’t right, she sensed danger. She called the little girls inside the cabin and bolted the door; they huddled in a circle and prayed about the matter.
    After the prayers, Mother Still got up and looked out the window and saw someone coming toward the cabin, the most dangerous and savage Indian in all of the Shawnee tribe. It was old Big Knife looking very angry with his face painted with war paint and a long dark knife in his hand.
    Mother and the girls immediately moved a heavy table over in front of the door and Mary, the oldest girl, grabbed the old gun, barrel down, and took her place near the window.
    It was to this window that the angry Big Knife came yelling that he was angry and would kill them so the doctor would leave.
    Of course, Mary did not open the window, so old Big Knife forced it open and stuck his war painted face and hands inside the room.
    Wham! Mary brought the gun barrel down hard across his hands and Big Knife fell backward. He then rushed the door hard and forced it open just enough to get his head, the arm and hand holding the knife and one knee inside. Mary was quick and again brought the gun barrel down hard on his hand, knocking his knife to the floor, one of the little girls grabbed it off the floor and out of his reach.
    Angry that the women were putting up such a good fight against him, he went to the barn and found a large split rail log, such as was used to build fences. It made a good battering ram and Mother Still knew their cabin would never hold against it. As Old Big Knife headed for the door, the smaller girls scurried up the ladder into the sleeping loft and crawled under the straw they used for bedding, frightened as to what might become of them.
    Page 2 of 2 - Below, mother and Mary waited with the Indian’s big knife they had confiscated, and the gun barrel. But, nothing happened.
    Mary moved toward the window to look out, and there, not 20 feet away, she saw a man in buckskin on horseback charging down on old Big Knife. The man leaped from his horse and grabbed a big stick and was on top of Big Knife before he could react and gave him a right good thrashing. The last they saw of the old Indian was when he made a mad dash back toward the Shawnee village.
    The man in buckskin was invited to stay for supper and by the time the boys got home from their fishing trip all was back to normal at the mission. The little girls had quite a story to tell the doctor and could not say enough good things about the stranger who answered their prayers and saved their life that day.
    Reference: “Frontier of Freedom,” a school project of the Lawrence, Kan., Public Schools.
    A free Party in the Park will be held Saturday at Swope Park from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Battle of Westport Museum will be open to view exhibits along with two short films. Tours of the “Battle at the Big Blue” will be conducted at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. with Civil War re-enactors, storytellers and cannon fire.
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