George Sibley was the factor in charge of Fort Osage and claimed that all of Eastern Jackson County was owned by the Kaw Indians at the time the fort was constructed in 1808.

George Sibley was the factor in charge of Fort Osage and claimed that all of Eastern Jackson County was owned by the Kaw Indians at the time the fort was constructed in 1808. That claim was disputed however, by Pierre Chouteau, who considered all of Jackson County belonging to the Osage. But then, you have to take into consideration that these two early day Missourians were always at odds with each other. For one thing, they were big time rivals, because Sibley was in the fur business for the government at Fort Osage, while Chouteau was in the same business for himself along the Osage River.

From recorded history, we know for a fact that the Kaw lived up the Kansas River during the summer months and wintered around the Big Spring in Eastern Jackson County, which is today the Independence Square. In fact, there are many stories written about the Kaw around the square, even after this tiny outpost of Independence began growing up on the edge of western civilization. Kachinga, the Kaw Indian chief, even died one winter and is buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery on Noland Road.

John D. Hunter was a white man and wrote that he lived for a long time as a member of the Kaw tribe and described them as the best Indians on the continent; they were truthful, upright and loyal. When Hunter was a small child he was kidnapped by a band of Kickapoo and raised by them until he was maybe 16 or 17 years old, when he was traded to the Kaw tribe. Hunter said he never knew exactly how old he was, because he never knew when he was born, or what he was named at birth. He was given the name “Hunter” by the Kickapoo on account of his ability in taking game. He finally left the Indians and returned to civilization and wrote a book entitled “Memoirs of a Captive among the Indians,” which was published in London back in 1824. Hunter pays high tribute to his Kaw Indian mother, who received him into her lodge and cherished him in place of a son whom she had lost. While he had high praise for the Kaw, he held quite a different opinion of the thieving, deceitful Kickapoos.  In his book, John Hunter mentioned that he was grief stricken when his Kaw mother accidentally drowned, but never referred to her by name. She was mentioned only as the squaw of Kee-nees-tah, however he mentions her daughter as his sister, Wees-kah. Hunter also mentioned another Kaw Indian that he loved and admired, Tshut-Che-Nan, the great orator.

Benjamin Lewis was an early-day resident of Eastern Jackson County and described the Kaw Indians living here at the time as “blanket Indians” who loved kitty cats. He told a story of a party of Kaws who came one winter to Independence on miserable little ponies, traveling single file. One of the braves spied a dead cat lying at the side of the street, stopped his pony and brought the thing to the test of his nose. He pronounced it “very good” and continued on his journey with the carcass under his blanket.

In another account related by the late Stephen Reagan of near Westport, a Kaw Indian frequently came to his house to visit and one day asked for the family cat, which Mrs. Reagan gave him, supposing that maybe his wigwam was infested with mice.

He started for home at once. Passing the wood pile he stopped and took up the ax and cut off the cat’s head. It was easier thus to carry the squirming critter, which was served up as the Indian’s dinner.

Reference: The Centennial History of Independence, Missouri by W.L. Webb, which is available along with other local and state histories at the Blue and Grey Book Shoppe, located in The Old Blake Museum at 106 East Walnut, 2-blocks south of the Independence Square.

In cooperation with The Examiner, Ted W. Stillwell is available to speak before any club, church, civic, senior, or school groups. These informative and entertaining programs have been well received over the past number of years across Jackson, Cass, and Clay Counties. 

To reach Ted W. Stillwell send e-mail to or call him at 816-252-9909.