Report of Lewis B. Gunckel

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Washington, D. C., March 14. 1872.

I have the honor to state that, in obedience to your instructions, I have investigated, as best I could, the charges made by the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole Indians, against John W. Wright, late United States special agent, as to the collection and payment of the bounty and back pay due the late soldiers of the First, Second, and Third Regiments Indian Home Guards, and now beg leave to submit the following report; and first, as to the investigation itself.

On the 21st October, 1871, shortly after my appointment, I notified John W. Wright, in writing, of the fact of my appointment-informed him of the several matters of investigation, and added these words: “Desiring to give you the fullest opportunity to defend against these charges, the undersigned will be glad to examine any vouchers or other papers you may produce tending to prove payment of said claims, and to hear any other testimony you may choose to offer, or any argument you or your counsel may wish to make upon the several subjects of the inquiry. He also notifies you that on Monday, November 6, 1871, at 10 o’clock a.m., at the office of the United States Indian agent at Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, he will hear testimony to be offered on the part of the Indians, and that you have the right to appear and cross-examine, and then and there to present any rebutting or other testimony you deem necessary.” Under this notice I commenced taking testimony at Tahlequah at the time named, and, fortunately, when the Cherokee National Council was in session, and many of the leading and best men from every part of the nation at the capital, affording unusual facilities for our work. After examining several hundred witnesses, (only a portion of whose testimony I deemed it necessary to reduce to writing,) we went to Fort Gibson, and afterward to the Creek agency in the Creek Nation, examining numerous witnesses at each place. Up to this time John Brown Wright had assumed to represent his father, and had in some cases examined witnesses; but on the evening of the 11th of November; Irvin B. Wright, esq., of Cincinnati, another son and an attorney at law, appeared claiming that the appearance of his brother was wholly unauthorized. For his accommodation I directed that all the witnesses within reach be recalled for cross-examination; which was done. On November 14, Mr. Irvin B. Wright asked that the examination be postponed for six weeks, to enable him to procure papers, procure witnesses, &c., which I granted, adjourning the same until January 5, 1872. Some five weeks after he asked another postponement until January 15, which I again granted. Notwithstanding the fact that I granted him every continuance and every favor which he ever asked of me in the case, he wrote me from Washington on January 12, formally withdrawing from, and refusing longer to recognize, the investigation, and asking that his letter giving his reasons therefore be made a part of the record in the case, which is accordingly done. See Exhibits A, C, D, and E, hereto attached, for letter of instructions, notices to Wright, letter of withdrawal, &c.

Since that time the investigation has been, of necessity, ex parte. I have much regretted this, because I wanted, before coming to any conclusion, to hear from both sides, and have possession of all the facts. I have endeavored, however, to bear constantly in mind the fact that the testimony has been one-sided only, and, therefore, to give Wright not only the benefit of all reasonable doubts, but also of all such reasonable explanations and defenses as have from time to time suggested themselves. Subsequent to this withdrawal further testimony was taken at Tahlequah and Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, and at Saint Louis, New York City, and Washington. While in the Indian Territory I found great difficulty in securing the attendance of the former clerks and agents of Wright. In some cases they absolutely refused, and as I had no power to compel their attendance, I am deprived of such further light as their testimony might have thrown upon Wright’s transactions. The depositions taken are herewith forwarded, marked as Exhibits F, G, H, and I to this report. I also examined a very large number of documents, letters, and papers bearing on the case, in the Interior and other Departments at Washington and in the office of the assistant treasurer in New York City, and as some of these are essential to a proper understanding of the case, I have attached copies hereto. I call special attention to the communication of Secretary Cox to the Attorney General dated September 3, 1870, marked as Exhibit J, and of Commissioner Parker to the Secretary of the Interior, dated May 24, 1870, marked as Exhibit K, as giving a fall and detailed history of Wright’s transactions with the Departments. I also ask special attention to the correspondence marked as Exhibit L. between John W. Wright and Alexander Clapperton, a United States pension agent at Fort Gibson, Cherokee Nation, appointed by Wright’s procurement, and employed and used by Wright to do the work hereinafter detailed. I also attach the rolls of the three Indian regiments, showing when each bounty was issued, when paid to Wright, &c. The papers not specially marked with letters are numbered in red ink from 1 to – inclusive. Before attempting to answer your special inquiries I feel called upon to state some facts as to the manner in which applications for bounty were made and executed by John W. Wright and his agents. Most of the witnesses, both Cherokee and Creek, swear that they never made, signed, or swore to any application for bounty. Some lived at remote places and sent their discharges by their wives or others, and declare they never saw Wright or any of his officers or clerks until they got their money. Others were sick at the time, and gave their discharges to their captains or members of the delegation, and are positive that they never did anything else until they signed receipts for their money. Others still, when shown the original applications, with their names and marks thereon, solemnly affirm that they never signed the name or made the mark, and never before saw the paper.

Although these statements are made by many of the best and most reliable men in the two nations, I have been slow to believe them and ready to accept the explanation of the defense: that the Indians had first executed these applications; that some months after, when it was found necessary, their discharges were called for and sent in by their wives, captains, or members of the delegation, and in the course of six years they have naturally enough forgotten the mere signing of a paper, but remembered the giving up of a document they prized so highly as their Army discharge.

But other facts tend to greatly weaken this explanation. The signatures to the original applications for bounty are, in the cases I was permitted by the Second Auditor to examine, remarkably similar, and on their face excite suspicion as to their genuineness. In Wright’s office, at the time of its seizure by order of the Secretary of the Interior, were found a hundred or more applications, with the name of one witness already written, although not yet signed by the party himself, and copies of letters written to Wright by his clerks, in one of which occur these words: “If some of the papers you call for are on file, and if I make out new papers, what will be the consequence if they do not agree? The people here do not know anything about dates. I have to fix the date myself in most cases.” Daniel R. Hicks, formerly one of the Cherokee district judges, says in his deposition: ” While I was in his (Wright’s) employ I frequently made out applications on printed blanks for both bounty and pensions by his direction, and either in his presence or his son’s, John Brown Wright. These were often made without the applicant being present at all. He would simply send his name and company and regiment, and we would make out his papers and sign the mark; that is, either myself or John Brown Wright would make the Indian’s mark and others would sign as witnesses. After that Albert Barnes, the clerk of the court of the Illinois district, would come to Wright’s office and sign both the name of the judge and his own, and this when the judge was not present and in the presence of John W. Wright, and at other times in the presence of his son, John Brown Wright; and Robert Craw- ford, another district judge, testifies: “From 1864 to 1868 I was judge of the district court. Mr. Wright employed me to sign certificates and warrants, and I had several hundred signed for him; in a few cases I administered the oath myself, but mostly it was done by Wright’s clerks; that is, they said they administered the oath and had my name signed afterward, and as I could not write my own name in English, I had a clerk to sign my name for me. It was Albert Barnes, Amos Thornton, and Moses Price, at different times. These clerks often signed my name when I was not present; so it often happened that men were sworn in my absence in my name by Wright’s clerks, and my name signed by my clerk also in my absence. Judge Wright told me the Government appointed me to do these things, and that it was the right way to do them as I have above described.” And Albert Barnes, referred to above, says: “Soon after John W. Wright came to Fort Gibson he paid Judge Crawford $5,100 for services to be rendered by him and myself on applications for bounty. Judge Crawford and myself done all the business of this kind that Wright had to do for about one year. I think we must have signed as many as one thousand in all. I did not myself swear any of these parties to these applications nor see them signed myself. I do not know whether Crawford swore the parties or saw them sign the papers or not. Crawford for a part of the time lived in town, but for the rest of this year he lived sonic twenty miles from Fort Gibson, and occasionally came to Fort Gibson. They occasionally brought me lots of applications, and told me Crawford had sworn them, and, relying upon their word, I signed his name.” And Frederick A. Kerr, who was for some time a clerk in Wright’s office at Fort Gibson, says: “Our course in the business of the office was about this: if the Indian came himself we made out his papers regularly, and Wright himself would swear the party and afterward Crawford’s name as judge was put to it by one of the clerks. I also supposed Wright had the right to swear these parties, because he said he had. He swore them all when I was in his employ. When John W. Wright was not there, I think his son, John Brown Wright, did the same. After this the seal of the Cherokee Nation, or pretended seal, was affixed to the paper. Wright said he had the seal made and presented it to the nation. This seal was kept in the office and used by the clerks on all papers that were sent to Washington. I frequently made out applications for Indians when they were not present, and then laid aside; what was done afterward with them I don’t know. Reese and 1 occupied one table, and sometimes Ross and I one table. When papers required two witnesses we were in the habit, for convenience and to save time, to sign each other’s names; that is, I would write Reese’s name and my own, or he would write his name and mine, and the same with Ross and myself. This was done with the knowledge and sanction of said Wright. I did not dream of fraud in any of these matters; first, because he was a Government officer and occupied a judicial position; and second, because the chief of the nation, John Ross, had told me that he was also authorized by the Cherokee Nation to collect the bounties for the soldiers.” And Dc Witt Lipe swears: “I was clerk of the district court for a few months in 1868; Amos Thornton was judge of said court; I signed papers for Wright as clerk of the court; I also signed the name of the judge. They would fix up the papers in their office and would bring them over from time to time to my store, and I would sign the name of both judge and myself. The judge had authorized me to sign his name.”

These scraps of testimony (reference being made to the depositions themselves for the full testimony) will prepare you for the following extract from a letter written by Alexander Clapperton to John W. Wright, dated Fort Gibson, March 23, 1870: “Jack Smith has done the same thing that the father of Long Sam did-swore falsely. I find in a great many cases of first bounty a great deal of tall swearing has been done, as in case of Alik I 1st, and in the two cases above mentioned and many more.”

I will now attempt to answer your special inquiries. And first, whether payment was actually made by John W. Wright to the Indians of the moneys by him received for bounty and back pay due the late soldiers of the First, Second, and Third Regiments of the Indian Home Guards. The Paymaster General reports that the total amount received by Wright for said purposes up to June 4, 1870, was $420,254.42. By the terms of his appointment and the conditions of his bond, all vouchers for payment of these moneys were to be deposited in the Indian-Office. (See letter, appointment, and copy of bond, marked as exhibits.) The vouchers so filed amount to $136,737.04, leaving the sum of $283,517.38 unaccounted for. Immediately after my appointment I notified Mr. Wright to produce any further vouchers or evidences of payment for my examination. On December 12, 1871, I again notified him, in writing, of my readiness to examine any vouchers or hear any testimony touching the payment of said moneys, and in his answer that his papers were in the hands of his son and counsel, Irwin B. Wright, in Cincinnati, I notified him of my willingness to go there for that purpose. He did not grant my request, and although, by the rules of evidence as well as the terms of his bond, the onus of proving payment is upon him, he now wholly refuses to produce any of his papers for my inspection. I am compelled, therefore, to rely solely upon the vouchers already filed and the testimony of the Indians herewith forwarded.

As to the vouchers, they are irregular and defective, and in the language of Secretary Cox, (see his letter to the Attorney Genera], dated September 3, 1870 “few, if any of them, arc in accordance with the instructions given to Mr. Wright, and the conditions of his bond, or in accordance with general usage or commercial law.” The carefully prepared report of Commissioner Parker. dated May 21, 1870, renders it unnecessary for life to speak in detail of these vouchers. I will only add that it is remarkable that although sixteen hundred and six in number, not one of them is dated, and not one of them gives the place where it was executed.

As to the testimony, it was impracticable, if not impossible, by reason of death and removal, to call each of the two thousand or more soldiers who served in the three Indian regiments. Several hundred were examined orally, but as much of the testimony was merely cumulative, it was not reduced to writing. And it is due to Wright to say, that many of the Indians who came, and who were among the loudest in their complaints, were found, on examining the rolls, to have been reported, ( whether truly or not,) as deserters, and so not entitled to or paid any bounty, and that, out of all the witnesses examined, whether reduced to writing or not, not more than half a dozen denied payment, at some time or in some way, of the first bounty. Considering these facts and all the other evidence before me, and laying aside for the present all questions as to the time and manner of payment, I am disposed to believe that the first bounty was nearly, if not quite all paid by Wright to the Indians.

But as to the second bounty, I am forced to a very different conclusion. I found complaints as to its non-payment very generally, both among the Creeks and Cherokees. This was especially the case where death has intervened and the money is now due to the widow or children, or, under the treaty of July 19, 1866, to the nation. In many eases, where the records show the check of Paymaster Holmes, United States Army, on the Assistant Treasurer of the United States, in payment of the second bounty, was given Wright in October; 1868, the witnesses swear that they called at Wright’s office in Fort Gibson, at different times, in 1869, 1870, and even 1871, for this same money, and were each time denied payment and told the money bad not yet been paid by the Government. They positively assert that they have not yet been paid, in whole or part. From all I could learn, these witnesses are as reliable and as worthy of belief as any equal number of witnesses called in an ordinary trial in any of the States. Making due allowance for the infirmity of memory and the interested motives which usually induced a denial of payment, I am still compelled to believe that the statement, so generally and positively made, is true, and that much .of the money due in second bounty and back pay remains unpaid. Wright himself admitted, in a recent conversation with Daniel W. Bell, a leading merchant in Saint Louis, that he still held such checks, amounting to nine thousand dollars. (See depositions taken at Saint Louis.) The amount must either be very much larger, or many of the checks have been improperly and fraudulently indorsed and collected.

Time And Manner Of Payment.
The first bounty, amounting to $164,000, was paid to Wright himself. The cheeks were mostly issued on 31st July. 1866, and all of them during the summer and fall of 1866, and Wright obtained the money shortly thereafter. But when did he pay the Indians?? He filed no vouchers in the Indian-Office until August 11, 1869, and they- are all without date. The Indians say be made payments to some in 1866, but many were not paid until the fall of 1867, and others still not until 1868, 1869, and even 1870. John B. Jones, the United States Indian agent for the Cherokees, a most worthy and reliable man, who had the best opportunity of knowing the facts, says that the only considerable payment of which he had knowledge was some $30,000 in the fall of 1867, and that after that time the payments were in “small driblets,” and complaints became general because “the Indians were very poor and needy,” and “from the effects of the war really in a state of destitution.” The Checks for the second bounty were nearly all issued on 30th of October 1868, but the testimony shows that but few were delivered or paid by Wright to the Indians until 1869, 1870, and 1871.

Were these payments purposely delayed to compel the Indians to accept goods instead of money? The testimony of the Indians would indicate this. Three fourths of all the Indians examined by me complained that they were compelled to accept payment, in whole or in part, in goods, at prices greater than those customary in Fort Gibson, at that time. Needing money to stock their little farms or to support their large families, they often went on foot to Fort Gibson, from places fifty, sixty, eighty, or even one hundred miles distant; and although the money had long before been paid Wright, they were told by his agents that it had not yet come, but that they could give an order for goods. Many yielded and took what they could get. Others refused, and went back and in. a few months returned to bear again that their money had not come, and to take the goods they had before refused. A few held out and returned the third and fourth time, but they, too, were finally wearied out and forced by their necessities to accept the only terms possible. What aggravated these wrongs were the statements made by Wright’s agents charging the delay upon the Government itself. And the Creek negroes say that Wright told them they would get no second bounty, as that would go to their former masters, and that for this reason they have never even gone for the money due them on second bounty.

These goods were first furnished through Ross, Bro. & Co., and Ross, Gunther & Co., but from and after the early part of 1867 it was done exclusively through one Florian H. Nash, an adopted Cherokee in Fort Gibson, The testimony shows that when first selected by Wright, Nash was hopelessly insolvent; that Wright paid $39,000 to secure his release, and gave an open guarantee to H. B. Claifin & Co., of New York, for all the goods he might purchase, under which Nash bought goods in 1867, of Claffin & Co., to the amount of $22,000, which was afterwards, partly, if not wholly, paid by Wright. The reason stated by Wright to Edward W. Bancroft, of the said firm, for giving this large pecuniary aid to Nash was, that he (Wright,) had control of the monetary affairs of the Cherokee Indians, and that Nash’s store “would facilitate the transaction of his business with the Indians.” Payments for subsequent purchases in Saint Louis were either made by or through Wright, or in bounty checks, payable to the Indians. Several of the clerks, formerly employed in Nash’s store, were examined and say, that while they do not really know, they have always believed Wright interested as partner or otherwise. But if there remained any doubt on this point, it would be removed by the reading of Wright’s letters to Alex. Clapperton, in which frequent references are made to Nash, and his business, and the money account between them. He sends lists of soldiers for Nash to pay, with the caution “to show to no one else,” and tells him in one case “to pay leisurely,” and in another “to pay as fast as it is economical to do so.” And Clapperton, in reply to one of these letters, says, “Your (Wright’s) will ought to be law to him,” (Nash.) It is, however, due to these parties to say that the charge made that they had paid in whisky was not sustained. So far as the proof shows, no intoxicating liquors were ever sold at Nash’s store.

Checks And Powers Of Attorney.
Secondly. You ask me whether the powers of attorney given to Wright were valid and the endorsements to the checks genuine. A number of the witnesses examined admit they executed and delivered to Wright powers of attorney to collect their second bounty. A greater number claim that they signed papers, (possibly powers of attorney,) which they were unable to read, and which were not read or explained to them, but which they were told the Government required before payment of the money; that they did not know that checks, worth their face in money, had been issued to their order, and if they had, they never would have authorized Wright, in whom they had lost confidence to assign and collect such check. But a greater number still deny in toto the making, signing, or giving of any power of attorney or of any paper whatever. They are most positive in these assertions, and the closest examination did not elicit anything to the contrary, but generally brought out other facts and circumstances tending to confirm their first statement. In some cases the witnesses swear that the party who, it is claimed, gave the power, had died some months before the date of its pretended execution, and before the check was issued by the paymaster. In a few cases the original power of attorney attached to the check, and upon the authority of which Wright had indorsed and collected the checks, was shown the witness, and he swears most positively that he is the payee of the check, but that he did not sign or give the power of attorney, nor authorize it, done, and that he never before saw or heard of the check or power of attorney.

After taking this testimony, (for particulars of which I refer to the depositions themselves,) and in the hope of getting further light upon the questions raised, I carefully examined the original powers of attorney and checks, on file in the vaults of the assistant treasurer of the United States in New York city.

First, I was struck with the fact that very nearly all the Cherokees signed these powers of attorney by a mark or cross, and not by writing their names in either English or Cherokee-as I remembered, sonic of these very Indians had done in signing the depositions taken before me. This led to a more special examination, by which I ascertained that out of seven hundred and twenty-three powers of attorney signed by members of the second and third Indian Regiments, (made up almost entirely of Cherokees,) sixty signed their names, and six hundred and sixty-three by mark or cross-being only about one out of twelve that wrote his own name. And yet by an examination of the depositions of Cherokees by me taken, I find that out of seventy witnesses forty-seven, about two thirds of the whole, wrote their own names in English or Cherokee, while only twenty-three signed by a cross or mark. Interested to know how the matter really stood, I sought information from the Census Office, but the returns gave no light on the question. I then called and took the depositions of two prominent members of the Cherokee National Delegation, Colonel C. N. Vann and Colonel W. P. Adair, who agree in saying that the Cherokees can, generally, read and write in English or Cherokee, and that in their opinion fully three-fourths of the adults can and do write their own names in either English or Cherokee. In the face of these facts must we not regard with some suspicion the signatures to these powers of attorney, eleven out of every twelve of which are signed by a mark or cross Especially when we acid to it the fact that these powers (unlike all the others we examined) fail to give the number and a description of the check, which, under its authority, is to be indorsed and collected.

Second. The powers of attorney are made out on printed forms, the witnesses are generally the clerks and agents of either Wright or Nash, and the certificate signed by one of the usual clerks of the court, employed by Wright. But I noticed that in many cases, the powers were filled in and signed with the Indian’s name and mark, by a different hand and with ink of a different-color from those of either the witnesses or clerk. And by a further inspection and comparison of this writing with that of N. Hayden, a former clerk of Wright’s, in Washington, (and who had never been in the Indian Territory,) I was led to think they were written by said Hayden, and from the fact that witnesses had sworn they had signed papers in blank in Wright’s office, and, by his direction, I was inclined to suspect that some of these powers had been signed in blank in the Indian country sent to Washington and there filled up and signed with the Indian’s name and mark to suit the particular check which was desired to indorse and collect. But not willing to trust my own judgment in so grave a matter, I asked the assistant treasurer to give me a couple of experts to further test the question. This he kindly did in the persons of George Proudfoot and Eli H. Evans, two competent and experienced clerks in his office. They confirmed fully and precisely my suspicions. They examined a package of some three hundred and selected seventy, which they believed to have been filled in and signed by said Hayden, although the signatures of the witnesses and clerk were those of well known persons in Fort Gibson and each paper had affixed to it the pretended seal of the Cherokee Nation. Determined to test it still further, we withdrew some of these powers and checks, took them to Washington and sent for and examined, under oath, the said N. Hayden himself. He recognized the writing, admitted that he had filled in the blanks, which had been previously signed in the Cherokee Nation by witnesses and clerks, and himself signed the name of the Indian and made the cross thereto, the Indian in no case being present, and that he did all this by the direction and at the dictation of John W. Wright, whose clerk he then was and who claimed he had authority to have them so signed. Hayden says he knew nothing of Wright’s affairs or the bounty business; was simply a clerk accustomed to do what his employer directed. (See his deposition, as also that of Evans and Proudfoot.)

Third. Many of the checks were paid without any power of attorney and on what appeared to be the indorsement of the party himself, made almost invariably by a cross. In a few cases Wright told the Indian’s name, and then signed his own as witness to the Indian’s mark, and then again as endorser. In many other cases the name of Indian and witness is in the well-known handwriting of one of Wright’s clerks or agents in the Indian country. In some others, however. the Indian’s name was evidently written by the N. Hayden above mentioned, and the witnesses name seemed to have been written by the same hand. This led to the examination of Hayden, who, under oath, frankly admitted the fact. On five checks he had written the name of the Indian, added the mark and then signed “Attest: John C. Smith.” In five others he had written the name of the Indian, made the cross and added “Attest: J. P. Dunn.” He admits that the Indian was not present when either was signed; that no such person as John C. Smith or J. P. Dunn was present; that they are fictitious names, and that it was all done by him, at the request and under the direction of John W. Wright. The five checks first above-named were indorsed by John W. Wright. In another case the name of the Indian, “David Tucker,” is written without a mark or witness, as if his real signature, and Hayden admits it was also written by him, under the dictation of John W. Wright and in the absence of the Indian. He says that Wright said the checks were his and that he had the right to have them signed. It must be remembered that these are only a few special cases, in which the original checks were withdrawn from the treasury in New York and brought to Washington, to further test the question raised, as to the genuineness of the signatures. It is to be feared that there are many more of a similar character. (See deposition of Hayden, with copies of said checks and powers thereto attached.)

Fourth. We found other checks paid on the signature of Indians known to have been dead at and for months before the time when their pretended endorsements were made. In some cases the Indian was dead at the time the check was issued to his Order. In such cases, under the law and the regulations of the Treasury Department, the check could not be collected by even the administrator of the deceased soldier, but must be returned to the Government for cancellation, and a resettlement made by the accounting officer to the heir entitled. That Wright knew the men to be dead, and the regulations to be as above specified, is shown by his correspondence. In a letter to Alexander Clapperton, under date of August 27, 1869, he says: “I got some receipts of widows for dead soldiers of Ross. If I file them to get new drafts they will be sent to claimants, and I will lose them. I wish you would send me blank receipts in the name of the soldier. I think my original power is sufficient to indorse them, and I will do so but say nothing, and as soon as you send them I will get the money. They are as follows:

Jackson Martin, M 3
Ou-lay-wat-tee. B 2
Little Hawk, G 3
Duck Draper, K 3
James Tobacco, I 2
Arch Spears, B 2
Ben Blackfoot, M 3
Young Squirrel. G 3
Samuel Squirrel, I 2
John Claud, C 3
Runabout Puff, B 3
Jessey, M 3
Jack Wyatt, D 2
Grass, B 3
John Deerhead, G 3
Hatchet Fisher, M 3
Bark Prince, C 2.

I hold the receipts of the widow in each case, but I fear it will not pass, and if I file them in Second Auditor’s I may lose them; so forward me seventeen receipts with no name in them but yours as witness.” We found the checks of these seventeen dead soldiers, each sighed with the Indian’s name and mark, and attested by one or two witnesses, except that of Jack Watt, which purports to have been written by Jack Watt himself. It is not a little singular that when Jack Watt made his application for bounty he signed by a cross-so death improved his handwriting, if nothing else! Included in the above list, given by Wright, are the ten checks which Hayden admitted he had indorsed in the Indian’s name, and to which he affixed the names of the fictitious persons, John C. Smith and J. P. Dunn, the Indians in each case being dead at the time such indorsement was made. As throwing further light upon this mode of doing business I quote from another letter, written by Wright to his friend Clapperton. September 13, 1869; he says: “The voucher No. 63 for John L. Shannon will not do, as Barnes signed it as attorney. Let him sign it as John L. Shannon and no more, and return it to me and it will be right.” Again, on September 13, 1869, he writes: ” I have received the applications of the mother of Reed Vaun, Company G, Second Regiment, and of Washington Clay of Company F, Third Regiment. These are A A. Have Mr. Nash pay them and take receipts in soldier’s name,” although known to be dead. In answer to your third interrogatory, I find that the seal used in authenticating the applications for bounty, powers of attorney, and other papers filed by John W. ‘Wright, in the several Departments at Washington, was not then and never has been the seal of the Cherokee Nation, and was never authorized by law, nor at any time or in any way recognized by the authorities of the nation. (See testimony of Lewis Downing, principal chief of the nation; Dr. W. L. G, Miller, his private secretary; and John S. Vaun, chief justice of the supreme court.) The Cherokee Nation had no seal until the spring of 1870, when one was procured by the principal chief, under authority of an act of the national council approved December 11, 1869. This act fixed the size and device of the seal, and declared that it should only be used by the “principal chief and such other officers as may be designated by law.” (See authenticated copy of the act, with impress of the seal attached to deposition of Dr. L. G. Miller.) The other seal, which is totally unlike the true one, was invented by John W. Wright himself, made by his order and at his expense, brought by him into the nation, kept at his office in Fort Gibson, and used at pleasure by him and his clerks in stamping all bounty and pension-papers sent to Washington during the years 1866, ’67, ’68, and ’69. (See testimony of Moses Price, S. S. Stephens, and Frederick A. Kerr, and impress of this fictitious seal on Exhibit A attached to deposition of Dr. Miller.)

But it is urged on the part of the defense that Robert Crawford, a judge of one of the district courts, adopted it as the seal of his court and authorized its use by Albert Barnes, his clerk, who has continued to use it ever since. Admitting this to be true, it does not excuse, much less justify, Wright, for he knew, as stated by Chief Justice Vaun, of the supreme court, that “the supreme court has no seal, neither has the circuit or district courts of the nation any seal authorized by law or the custom and usage of the courts, nor have they ever had, so far as I know. If any of said courts have assumed to use a seal they have done so without warrant of law.” Judge Crawford was the simple-minded Cherokee who “contracted to swear Wright’s witnesses by wholesale; ” and as he could not write, allowed Wright’s clerks to swear them in his absence, and sign his name to the certificate; and his court has about the same rank as that of a justice of the peace in the States, the law limiting its jurisdiction to ” civil matters when the sum at issue does not exceed on But, if this was the seal of Judge Craw-ford’s court, why does not this appear on its face? Why purport to be the official seal of the Cherokee Nation? and how happened it to be used upon papers executed in other districts and before other judges?? And why, for these years, in Wright’s custody, and used at pleasure by him and his clerks?

But Wright who invented a seal for the Creeks bearing the words, “seal of the Creek Nation, Muskogee.” It was made for and brought by him to Fort Gibson, and kept in his office, and used solely by him and his clerks, without law and without authority. The Creek Nation at that time had no seal and no organized court, and has never had a seal, and the one so made and kept by Wright was not only never authorized or recognized by the nation, but, it is said, was never even within the territorial limits of the nation. (See testimony of S. W. Perryman, a member of the Creek delegation; and of Samuel Checote, principal chief of the Creek Nation, with an impress of the said seal attached to each of their depositions. See, also, letter of John W. Wright to Alexander Clapperton, dated June -, 1869, in which Wright says: “You can deliver the Creek seal to any Creek judge, and take his receipt. I will collect the price of it from the nation.”) At the time of the seizure of the effects of Alexander Clapperton the seal was found in his office, no delivery to a Creek judge having ever been affected.

Deposits And Disbursements.

In answer to your fourth and fifth interrogatories, I find that John W. Wright did not comply with either the act of August 6, 1846, or that of June 14,1866. He deposited the money in the banking-house of Jay Cooke & Co. in Washington in his individual name, and drew it out from time to time, as his pleasure or interests prompted. Indeed, he does not pretend to have complied with said acts in either his deposits or disbursements, denying that he was a Government agent, and holding that he is responsible for the money by him collected on bounties and back-pay to no one but his own clients-the Indians.

OPOTH-E-LA-HO-LA Claims
The only case presented (and probably the only one remaining unsettled) under the twenty-eighth article of the treaty of July 19, 1866, to indemnify the heirs of Opothe-la-ho-la, was that of Tom Gal Catcher, administrator of Watt Stop, deceased, and the only dispute in regard to that was whether Gal Catcher had really given a certain power of attorney held by Wright for the indorsement and collection by Wright of a certain draft for $984.71, drawn in favor of ‘Watt Stop under said treaty. The signature of Tom Gal Catcher looks very much like those admitted to be genuine, and, independent of any other evidence, I should be disposed so to find; but Gal Catcher swears most positively that he did not sign the power of attorney, and that, although often requested so to do, he has always refused to give Wright, in whom he had no confidence, any such authority. The testimony of several witnesses called supports Gal Catcher. The paper has no witnesses to the signature, and is dated March 6, 1869. By reference to the correspondence, frequently before referred to, I find that Wright, on the 30th of August, 1869, more than four months after the pretended execution of said power, writes Clapperton to get Gal Catcher’s power of attorney for this very same claim. In a second letter, written on the same day, he says: “Get Gal Catcher to sign the P. A., or, if he refuses, return it to me; but go at him easy and get it if possible.” On September 25 Clapperton reports that “Tom Gal Catcher refused to sign his paper.” Wright then tried to get Gal Catcher’s signature through Nash and De Witt Lipe, but it all failed, as reported by Clapperton in his letter to Wright, dated November 18, in which he says: “Tom Gal Catcher will not sign the one (power of attorney) that you sent to F. H. Nash for signature, or, rather, De Witt Lipe will not let him. I could have got him to sign the paper if it had not been for him.”

Why all this effort, if Gal Catcher had really signed the power of attorney in dispute on March 6, 1869, four months before the first and eight months before the last letter was written? Considering the very loose manner in which papers were executed in Wright’s office and how certificates from clerks of courts were obtained, and all the special facts of this case before me, I am compelled to believe that Gal Catcher did not sign the power of attorney on which Wright claims to collect the money due the heirs: of Watt Stop.

Cherokee National Claim.
Your inquiry as to the claim of the Cherokee Nation, under treaty of July 19, 1866, for moneys due deceased soldiers leaving no heirs, has been answered as well as I can answer it under other heads. I am well satisfied that there is a large amount of money still in Wright’s hands which, under this article of the treaty, ought to go to the Cherokee Nation. But it would take years of time to enable any one to obtain sufficient data with which to state an accurate account between Wright and the Indians. Why should not the burden of this proof be put upon Wright himself? He got the money; let him show when, to whom, and how it was paid.

The Seminoles.
Inclement weather and bad roads (almost impassable on the occasion of our visit) prevented me from visiting the Seminole Nation. It was, however, hardly necessary, as they composed but a small fraction of the three Indian regiments, and their case bad already been very fully presented in complaints of their principal and second chiefs, reports of the Seminole Indian agent, and affidavits of the Indians themselves. (See Exhibits M N, hereto attached, which fully corroborate the statements made by- the Creeks and Cherokees.)

In Conclusion
I hope I shall be pardoned for venturing to say, first, that it seems incredible that frauds such as those hereinbefore detailed should have so long escaped exposure, without culpable negligence or willful wrong on the part of sonic of the officers of the Government. After three years business with the Departments, during which time he had violated every letter of his instructions and every obligation of his bond, we find hint writing exultingly from Washington to his “Dear Sandy,” (Alexander Clapperton, pension agent, &c.,) “All things are lovely here.” “I am all right with the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior.” “There is to be great changes in your country soon, and we will profit by them.” “All is right here; there will be a new government made this winter, and there will be splendid chances.” &c.

Second. Without presuming to pass on the question whether John W. Wright was or not, in law, an officer of the Government, I am satisfied, as a matter of fact, that he so represented himself to the Indians, and was so received, dealt with, and trusted by us. He came to the Indian country in a Government ambulance, said he was sent by the President of the ‘United States, exhibited his letter of appointment as a “special agent” of the Government, claimed the exclusive right to collect bounties for the Indians, and really enjoyed a monopoly of the business, the Indians generally regarding him as a “paymaster of the United States.” Ought not, then, the Government (if Wright be not compelled to do so) to make good to these, the “wards of the nation,” the losses they have so long and patiently suffered at the hands of this agent.

Third. The facts developed in this case seem to show the necessity of some reform in the manner of granting and paying bounties and pensions to the Indians, with a view to further safeguards against frauds.

In closing I desire to express my great obligations to Mr. Joseph A. Williamson, my most faithful assistant, without whose assistance I could hardly have gone through the case without devoting to it twice the time and labor already given.

Respectfully submitted.
LEWIS B, GUNCKEL.

 



MLA Source Citation:

42nd Congress. Alleged Frauds Against Certain Indian Soldiers. House of Representatives Report, 2nd Session, No. 96. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 2 September 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/report-of-lewis-b-gunckel.htm - Last updated on Feb 8th, 2013


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