Thursday, June 12, 2014

Letters from Wounded Knee

Recently, I have come across a few unique Native American artifacts within our collection. An Indian war club, purportedly picked up following the Battle of Little Big Horn, was found among some of our historic weaponry. These will be on display in our new exhibit “Letters Home” which is opening the last week of June. Along with artifacts brought home by soldiers, the exhibit will feature letters written by soldiers from 1890 to the present. The oldest of these letters were written by Ed Huston, to his future wife, Ariel Estes. 
Ed Huston joined the army in the turbulent years of the “Indian Wars” in the late 1800s. While he was stationed at Fort Riley, Ed was introduced to Zada Ariel Estes, who was ten years younger than he and lived on a farm outside Junction City with her family. As blacksmith for the Seventh Cavalry, Ed was sent to the South Dakota Pine Ridge Indian Agency in 1890—only a few months prior to the massacre at Wounded Knee. Throughout his assignment, Ed and Ariel kept up an active correspondence. Within these letters, both Ed and Ariel revealed their deepest fears and most earnest hopes of the future.
            On December 24 1890, less than a week before the massacre at Wounded Knee, Ed wrote to Ariel. He describes to her his first impressions of the Sioux living on the reservation, and assures her that they are safe, despite newspapers reporting the opposite. Ed’s writing is typical of the time period, with many spelling errors and a lack of punctuation. These have been left in the transcriptions so that Ed’s voice can be heard as he meant it to be.

“Pine Ridge Agency
South D. T. December 24, 1890
 Dear Ariel,
I received your cind and welcom letter and was very glad to hear from yous and I’m glad to here that yous are all well and to let yous now that I am well dear we had orders to leave here but we did not break camp and don’t think we will soon I think if we do we will come to Fort Riley but I don’t think that we will move for a month yet but I wish that we would come home soon dear thare is no more danger here in Fort Riley the paper say more then what is true we get a paper here every day and read the news and then we laugh at what they say the half of it is not true but they must put something in the paper with the people will not bui them. Dear you can write to Pine Ridge agency now there is no danger for move now I said in my other letter that we would not move if you received them dear your father will be very near in North Carolina by the time that you get this letter and I am very sorry that you must spend Christmas alone but I would be there if I could get there but they won’t leave me leave here and if they would I could not get there now dear Ariel  I would like to be there to see and hear you laugh it would make me feel better and tell your mother not to be on easy there is no one up here to hurt me there’s lots of Indians here but they are not on the warpath it is comic to see them have a dance they  dress  thare selves up in feathers like you see them in geography and they dance around a ring and have a large drum in the middle of the rain and after they get through dancing they will give one another present such as rings and bracelets and other two numerous to mention my  dearest I did not get offended at all about the album you can except half of it and half the pictures you can put them in the way you like them dearest I wish that I knew part of that you have to tell me I think it would do me good when you would not have so much to say when I come home and then you will not forget part of it dear I hope that you will enjoy yourself on Christmas and I wish you a happy new year.”
            Ed returned home in the spring of 1891 and he and Ariel were married in 1892. They raised six children in Ogden. To see more of Ed and Ariel’s letters during this turbulent time, come visit the Geary County Historical Society this summer and ask about the “Letters Home” exhibit. We are still looking for more recent letters, emails and postcards sent from soldiers between Vietnam and the present. If you have any to loan please contact the museum! 

Photograph circa 1902: Ariel Estes Huston, Ariel Gertrude Huston, Cecil Huston on his father's knee, Ed Huston, Edward Huston, John Huston and Margaret Huston.