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Reminiscences of T.J. Sutherland

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In the early summer of 1802, at the Iowa & Sac Mission, here walked into one of the Halls of the Mission House a tall, stout and bold looking man, [roughly] dressed and carrying on his back wrapped in a blanket, a nice little girl, seven or eight years old.  My name, said he, is “Thomas Jefferson Sutherland: I am known as General Sutherland and well connected somewhat with the burning of the “Caroline” on the Canada border in 1837.  I was a prisoner under the British authorities there for more than three months; they intended to hang me, and erected the gallows in sight of my prison window.  But, upon my trial by court-martial I was allowed to defend my own cause, and they detected in me a “Military Man” and for this or some other reason they let me go.”This is in fact all we ever knew, true or false, who the man was.


In regard to the little girl he carried with him: “this”, said he, “is not my child, she is adopted; nor do I know who she is, only this,”said he: “I am an acute Phrenologist; and, in cholera times I was travelling on the Mississippi, in a Steam Boat, and happened to see a widow, travelling with three little girls.  My skill in Phrenology , enabled me to see that the mother had but little love or affection for her children and that this was a very intellectual child, and would make a good teacher.  I asked her if she would give this little girl to me, she at once said: ‘yes, you may have her’ I took her, adopted her, and her name is, Viola Sutherland.”  The object


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of his [visit] to the mission was, he said, to make arrangements to leave the little girl a few weeks at the Mission, till he, with two other men, who were in company with him, and who serve in camp near, could explore this portion of the Indian Country.  He went on to argue that the Government had no right to keep these good lands, west of the Indian reservation, exclusively for the Indians; that Military restrictions should be removed, that they were settling the Pacific coast with impurity, and that he was going to test it, here, or out some distance from the Missouri River if the country pleased him &c,&c.


He left the little girl, and after about three weeks absence returned, greatly delighted with this trip, and confident that west beautiful and productive countries.   His resolution was formed to organize a small colony, of young men, and go out at once and possess some part of this inviting field.  He still wanted to leave his little girl at the Mission, until he could return with his colony, this was agreed to, and the Gen. left for Mo.


In about three months two covered wagons were driven up to the Mission.  We were soon informed that it was now General Sutherlands outfit for a new settlement west of the Indian reserves; but that the General, himself was in one of the wagons, very sick, he was brought into the Mission house, and well cared for; but his mind was gone, and he never rallied.  A few days of unconscious existence, ended his career.  He was evidently a man of intellect and wise, and may have had considerable scholarly attainments.  In his trunk was found a large quantity of


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manuscript, made up of biography, history and poetry, much of it seemingly prepared for the press; but nothing was found to throw any light on his ancestry or personal history.  The young men, with him were led to conclude that his home or his correspondence was somewhere in eastern Ohio.  They said he wrote for some paper called the “Nonpaneil”, in that region.  With himself, ended all his plans for colonizing the west.  The young men returned to Missouri.  The little girl grew to womanhood, was married and so far as is known has a good record.  This is all that was known at the Mission of “General Sutherland”.  No doubt he has friends somewhere who would be interested in knowing something of his last days.


P.S.  This little snitch of Kansas history has never before been written and if published, might reach the eyes of some one who would be interested in it.  It was the privilege of the undersigned to be in charge of the Iowa & Sac. Mission where this recurred and can vouch for the correctness of it.


Highland Kansas July 1882.


Mr Custer,

This was handed to me by [XXXX] [Irvin] of Highland Donivan Co, the first white man in Kansas in 1837, use it if it is of interest.

Geo [Lisher] 

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