the Kaw Mission did not begin to operate as a school for
Kaw boys until May, 1851, its construction began in
September 1850. The foreman of the Kaw Mission
construction crew was Allen T. Ward, an employee of the
Shawnee Mission, located in modern Johnson County near
the Missouri border. Ward was both a well-traveled and
well-educated man. He had arrived at the Shawnee Mission
in 1843, where he spent the next few years teaching
Indian students and assisting the school superintendent,
Thomas Johnson. While at the Shawnee Mission Ward
married an Peoria Indian woman named Wahponkequa.
|Allen Ward’s letters
sent from the Shawnee Mission to his relatives in the
East contain our best documentation of the construction
of the Kaw Mission. The following is an excerpt of a
letter Ward wrote to his Sister, Elizabeth, on September
"...just at this time I am
employing men (mechanics & laborers) to go out West
125 miles to council grove to build a School house &
Missionary Station for the Kansas tribe of Indians; as
all the tools & provisions have to be taken from
here it is no small business to make the outfit–
Tomorrow is the day appointed to start with 25 men &
a number of wagons loaded with lumber &c–"
building is to be stone sufficiently large to
accommodate 50 students as regular boarders, besides
teachers, missionaries, farmers &c &c– I will
be gone probably between two & three months– As I
shall have some spare time I will try & write to you
from the grove if I can find a conveyance to the State
I feel some reluctance to quit my comfortable
quarters here & undertake such a job where I will be
exposed to many hardships & privations, but I see no
way to excuse myself from going. Mr. Johnson our Supt
had intended to go himself & leave me to manage the
business here, but his health not being very good of
late he is afraid to undertake it–"
By December 21 Ward had returned to
the Shawnee Mission where on that date he wrote a letter
to his family. In this letter he described the
construction of the Kaw Mission.
"I started on the 4th
of September with a force of about 25 hands expecting to
get through the job in two months, but owing to sickness
we were nearly three months in getting done the mason
work; I then left the carpenters to finish their work;
let out contracts for fencing and breaking two hundred
acres of prairie and making some other improvements and
with the rest of the workmen started for home..."
accomplished the work I had to do, build a large
substantial stone house, with eight rooms and two halls
or passages, besides two log houses and dug a well. This
improvement is on the Ne-o-sho at Council Grove on a
tract of land lately ceded to the Kaw Indians 125
miles west of this place..."
On February 23, 1851, Ward wrote
". . . They [the carpenters] have just got back
& report the house ready to be occupied."