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John H. SegerJohn H. Seger was born in Geauga County, Ohio, February 23, 1846, and died February 6, 1928, at Seger Colony, Washita County, Oklahoma. He was buried at Fairview cemetery at Colony. He was married to Mary Esther Nichlas of Manlius, Illinois.

The marriage occurred at Atchison, Kansas, October 6, 1875. They came at once to Darlington, Indian Territory, where Mr. Seger was employed under United States Indian Agent, John D. Miles, as superintendent of the Arapaho Indian Schools. To this union several children were born, seven of whom are now living. They are: Neatha Seger of Geary, Oklahoma; Jassa Seger of Colony, Oklahoma; John Seger of Morehaven, Florida; Harry Seger of Liberty, Illinois; James O. Seger of Seminole, Oklahoma; Lena Cronk and Bessie Seger of Colony, Oklahoma.

Mrs. Seger survived her husband a few weeks, passing away at her home in Colony on April 1, 1928.

Mr. Seger's maternal ancestors date back to early Colonial history. His great grandfather English, was a captain in the Revolutionary war, while the Smiths and Knoxes, of whom he was a direct descendant, were Revolutionary soldiers. His ancestors were pioneers, always moving on West as the country became more thickly settled. Orian Knox, Mr. Seger's mother's father, came from Massachusetts to Ohio, and settled in the wilderness and built his home in the forest. He not only was an energetic farmer but a pioneer school teacher. He was not only a farmer and teacher but he was as versatile in every art and craft as was his grandson, John H. Seger.

The Seger branch of the family were of Dutch extraction, coming from New York to Ohio. When his father and mother were married they moved to the forest five miles from neighbors and built a house of logs where they made their home. Here John H. Seger was born. A school house was built near the home and he began his education at a very early age. When he was about six years old his father sold his Ohio farm and emigrated west, locating in Bureau county, Illinois, where he purchased a tavern in the village of Dover.

Mr. Seger says in his notes, "This tavern was on the main traveled road to Peoria, the nearest market. The farmers sometimes hauled their produce sixty or eighty miles, and my father's hotel in Dover was a stopping place on the way to market and on winter nights the bar-room was filled with farmers, many of whom had settled when the Indians were plenty and they had many strange stories to tell of personal adventures in the Black Hawk War. On such occasions I would crawl under the office table where I would be out of sight and listen to the stories sometimes until near midnight."

In about two years Mr. Seger's father traded his hotel for a farm. The farm was on Green river and there were numerous lakes and swamps along its banks. It was a paradise for wild geese and ducks and all kinds of water fowl. There were muskrat, mink and otter along the river and in the swamps. In the big timber could be found deer, coon, wolves and other wild animals. Trapping and hunting was the avocation of every settler and the proceeds derived from the sale of furs and game was the principle revenue until the settlers' farms were put into cultivation. Could one imagine a more ideal place to rear a boy like John H. Seger. It was the same sort of environment in which Abe Lincoln was reared. Mr. Seger says that it was the favorite hunting ground of the Indians until the Black Hawk War, when the Sac and Fox Indians were moved across the Mississippi.

To quote Mr. Seger in his own biographical notes: "The long winter evenings were generally spent around the old fireplace. On such occasion my father would relate stories of the Revolutionary War as told to him by his grandfather. Sometimes my mother would relate some adventure or hunting story of which her father or grandfather was the actor. Occasionally a neighbor would drop in and spend the evening. They generally being hunters and trappers the conversation would naturally run upon these subjects. The best way to set a trap for mink or otter, or to spear a muskrat, was often discussed."

Mr. Seger in these notes devotes some pages to his early hunting and trapping experiences with his older brothers. He tells of wild animals, his dogs and of those things that would interest a boy of his age.

Soon after his father located on Green river a schoolhouse was built near his father's house and he attended school through the winter months. He acquired a primary education while his father lived in Dover, and was ahead of the other country boys of his age who attended the school. Mr. Seger in his unpublished biographical notes tells many things and incidents of his boyhood and the pioneer days in Illinois. But his was the common experience of the pioneer life at that time.

When John Seger was about 11 or 12 years old his father sold part of his farm on Green river and moved back to the town of Dover, where he had kept a tavern before going to the farm. His reason for moving back to town was to give his children better educational opportunities than could be had in a country school.

It was here that Mr. Seger first got a taste for reading. A Mr. Taylor, who followed the business of establishing libraries, was away from home a great deal of his time and he engaged the boy, John H. Seger, to stay with his family at night for company and "to go after the doctor if anyone took sick during the night." While staying at Mr. Taylor's home he had access to his library. He read the life of Washington, as well as of other Revolutionary heroes. It was then that he became interested in Ancient history, perhaps he read Plutarch lives, as he read of the great men who were connected with the history of ancient Greece and of Athens, its capital. He read the history of the rise and fall of Rome. He also read the early history of England and of her ancient kings and rulers. He says, "I perused these books with the same interest that I had listened to those stories of adventure. I read the books to remember them. I would when reading a book gather a crowd of boys my own age and tell them the stories from the books that I had read. After two years of this kind of reading, my world had widened out far beyond rush bordered swamps of Green river, and had not only crossed the ocean but had sailed with Columbus on his voyage of discovery and had been with Cortez in his conquest of Mexico. I had rolled aside Centuries, had entered Troy with the wooden horse and had seen the City of Seven Hills, where it was first outlined with a furrow, which was plowed with a bull and heifer yoked together. The question has often occurred to my mind whether my acquaintance of these people of those barbarous days did not make it easier for me to understand the Indian when my path crossed his."

The war came on, the Southern States were seceding from the Union upon the election of Lincoln. The Seger family was against slavery and were for the Union. They were followers of Abraham Lincoln. At the first call of troops John H. Seger's two older brothers enlisted but John was too young and besides he was needed at home.

When the call was made for more troops in 1863, the young men were mostly in the army and at the front, but those who were not were slow to enlist. They had seen their brothers and their friends enlist and march to the front two years before and many of them had fallen in battle while the stories of those who returned did not encourage them to fill up the ranks to take the places of those who had fallen. Mr. Seger says in his notes, "A meeting was called at the Methodist church in Dover. Speeches were made, songs were sung but it seemed that no one would enlist. When it seemed that the meeting would be fruitless my father, a man then of forty-nine years of age, said, 'If you young men will not enlist the old men will have to.' He then walked up and put his name down." Two or three of the older men enlisted, then the young men soon began to enlist until there was a full company of 100 to go to the front. John H. Seger did not enlist at this time but stayed at home to do the farming and take care of the family. After only a few months the elder Mr. Seger was discharged from the Army on account of disabilities. After his father's return from the Army, John attended school that winter for a period of three months at Dover Academy.

John H. Seger enlisted in the Union army in 1864, and served under General Sherman until the close of the war. He was with Sherman in his march to the sea. When the war was over he returned home. He was a fully developed man; vigorous and robust-a perfect specimen of young manhood. He had indomitable energy and a pleasing personality. He had no false pride and was not afraid of work. The close of the war was the beginning of an era of prosperity. There were many improvements to be made; houses and barns to be built. There was work for everyone who wanted to work. Mr. Seger was a mechanic and a craftsman and could turn his hand to any work required. He afterwards went into the lumber regions of Wisconsin and was engaged in logging and saw mill work. It was while there that he was employed as a mason in the Indian service and was assigned to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency. He arrived at Darlington, Indian Territory, (one and one-half miles northeast of Ft. Reno) on Christmas Eve 1872.

Mr. Seger says, "At the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency after the holidays were over, work began in earnest in tearing down the old buildings and rebuilding them more comfortable than before. The Indians were on a buffalo hunt and only a few were left at the Agency. Hands were sent out to cut logs to be sawed at the mill.5 I, being employed to do mason work, found on account of the cold weather, that it was impossible to do anything in that line, reported to Agent John D. Miles to find what would be assigned to me. He asked me to report to the farmer who was in charge of the working force. The farmer asked me if I knew how to chop down trees and saw logs. I told him that I had been employed in the Wisconsin pinery one winter and had learned to do that kind of work. He then asked me if I had any objections to going eight miles down the North Fork and camping there while cutting logs. I had not, so I packed up my blanket and bedding and went into camp, where with one other employee, remained five weeks, living in a tent, and cutting logs. It was cold for this country and the snow was on the ground. When the weather became warmer and I was instructed to report back to the agency and begin my mason work laying the foundation for the agency office."

This was the beginning of nearly sixty years work among the Indians. His earnestness, skill and industry in doing well every task assigned to him impressed his worth upon Agent Miles, and every other representative of the government. While working at the agency he learned their language and was soon on friendly terms with the Indians.

Learn more about his work at the agency and his appointment in 1874 as superintendent of the Arapaho Boarding School.

Source: Perry, Dan W.. "The Indians' Friend John H. Seger." Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 10, No. 3 September 1932. August 16, 2003 <http://digital.library.okstate.edu/chronicles/>.


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