Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce Chief John, White Wolf, Smith

In our Dassel History Center archives, we have a picture of Magnus Johnson with an unidentified elderly Native American man. It seemed odd that such a striking man had no name. I did a reverse image search and came up with pages of information on this ancient gentleman.

Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce known to the white population as Chief John White Wolf Smith was a Chippewa Tribe member may have been born in 1784, and who died in 1922 at the age of 138.

Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce had a few differing accounts of his early years.  He states that he was between the ages of 7 and 10 the year “the stars fell from the sky” It has been surmised that this was 1833, widely believed to be only the Leonid Constellation Shower that lit up the sky from the east coast to the west coast.  However, the massive Meteor Storm of 1833 was caused by the orbit of the Temple Tuttle Comet passing near Earth.  This is an occurrence that happens about every 33 years.  This comet puts on quite the show. The normal yearly November Leonid Meteor Shower is caused by the Earth passing through the debris caused by the comet.  The Temple Tuttle Comet Storm would have happened back in 1799 which would be in line with him being born around 1784.  He may have been 15 at the time. 

Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce remembered the battles the Chippewa had with the Sioux prior to the turn of the 19th century.  The Sioux and Chippewa have an oral tradition of territorial battles.

Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce remembered the events of the War of 1812.  He told people that he participated in the war.  That would put him in his late 20s.

He claimed to have met the Schoolcraft and Cass exploration party which passed through the Cass Lake area in 1822.

No matter his birth date, Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce lived a full and eventful life.

Born in Cass Lake, Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce grew up in a time that was still amenable to the life of a native man living in a natural area of the country.  As a young man and older he hunted and fished the woods and lakes of the area. 

He became a celebrity; his photo used by local photographers as a stylized image of Native American life.  These photos were made into postcards and cabinet cards. Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce traveled for free by rail through the Cass Lake area selling these cards to travelers.

Two years before his death he appeared in a film called “Recollections of Ga-be-nah-Gewn-Wonce,” which toured the country.  He made many trips by rail and foot to Duluth. Everywhere he traveled he was welcomed as an elder and a storyteller. Four years prior to his death he visited a “Big City”, the twin cities for the first time.  Later that year he visited the Chicago Automobile show.

After he returned home to Cass Lake, he spent time greeting visitors to town as well as selling more cards. Six months prior to his death he moved in with his adopted son Tom Smith. He still engaged visitors but did not often leave the home.

Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce was married eight times, although he had no natural children. He did adopt Tom Smith.

He was active up to a week prior to his death from Pneumonia at his son’s home.

Ga-Be-Nah-Gewn-Wonce is buried at the Cass Lake Cemetery.

We thank you. We honor you.


For all of those who  serve, before, now, and in the future,  Thank you!

Hush, You Puppy!

420px-Cattle-TrailsChuck wagon food came in many guises, some good, some really really good, and some just horrid.

Far be it for the cowboy to complain about the food that got put on his tin platter.  No grumpy cookie wanted to hear complaints after he has just spent a long day on the trail, driving, setting up camp, tending wounds, herding cowpokes and cooking vittles.

A smart cow wrangler ate what he got, smiled, and asked for more!!

(and in appreciation of Cassandra Swanson…Rattlesnake Roast should be on this list!)

Chuck wagon monikers


Summer dreaming and thinking ahead

samsung 305 samsung 352 samsung 124 samsung 299 samsung 305 samsung 306 samsung 316 samsung 319 samsung 320 samsung 337 samsung 341samsung 299samsung 320samsung 359We had a great summer, here are some highlights of the Albert Lea Rendezvous.







I complained bitterly of the cold that first week in October.  Oh if only it were so warm now!

Our fun was outstanding

Our friends Supreme

Our food


oh so wonderful




Looking Forward to next years



Events are us!

Josefa (Chipita) Rodriquez… Today in History

images“No soy culpable”     I am not guilty”    These were the only words spoken by Josefa Rodriquez during her 1863 trial for the murder of John Savage

Josefa , an orphan from an early age, ran an inn in her tumble-down home in San Patricio County, Texas.

John Savage, a trader who had stayed overnight in her establishment, was found bludgeoned by an ax at the side of a river near her home.

Josefa and her son are arrested for his murder and held for a trial overseen by Judge Benjamin Neal. Judge Neal had a diversified history as a newspaper editor, teacher, politician and boarder raider.

The head of the grand jury was the sheriff who arrested her. Jury members included men who were facing trial for their own crimes.

Josefa  did not testify at her trial, only stating she was not guilty.  It was thought that she may have been protecting her son, who possibly did the deed. Evidence was weak, and circumstantial.  Another theory was floated about that perhaps she was gathering information on reasons to enter the civil war for Texan legislatures, and her death was a political measure.

The jury found her guilty and suggested clemency.  She was 63 years old.  Judge Neal sentenced her to hang from a tree on November 13, 1863.  Some say she is the first woman executed in Texas.  She was pardoned inn 1985 by  Texas Governor White.

It is also said, that Josefa wanders the river bottoms of  Texas when a woman is sentenced to die…  Josefa  mourning her false conviction and death.chipita

The Salt Creek Crossing Raid


warrenwagonContractor Henry Warren was hired to haul supplies to the forts in West Texas. On May 18, 1871 Warren’s wagon train, heavily laden with corn, was traveling the Jackson Belknap Road towards Salt Creek Crossing. Along the trail they briefly encountered the famous General William Tecumseh Sherman. Within an hour of this brief encounter a large group of riders was spotted in the distance ahead, appearing to be Kiowa warriors. Warren quickly placed the wagons in a circle, mules in the center.
The Warriors efficiently attacked the circled wagons, killing then mutilating seven of the wagoners. The leaders of the Kiowa warriors were Satana, Satank, and Eagle Heart. They had watched the Sherman party pass by from their hidden post, but had not attacked. The previous evening a Shaman predicted that the relatively small party would be shortly followed by a larger party with more reward.
The raiders lost 3 men but in the end of the raid captured 41 mules’ carrying many supplies as the Shaman had prophesied.
Only five men escaped, including one Thomas Brazeale who managed to reach Fort Richardson, 20 long walking miles away where he told the story of the brutal attack to Colonel Ronald Mackenzie. Sherman was informed and the two army officers took a party out to search for the raiders. The 3 chiefs were captured and sent by train to Fort Richardson. Satank was killed on the train while trying to escape, and the other two were tried and convicted of murder in Jack County, Texas on July 6 in the first Native American trial in history,

Holy Cow! Happy Birthday Calamity Jane!!!

martha canary ( From )

Martha Jane Canary (May 1, 1852 – August 1, 1903 age 51), better known as Calamity Jane, was an American frontierswoman, and professional scout known for her claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok, but also for having gained fame fighting Indians. She is said to have also exhibited kindness and compassion, especially to the sick and needy. This contrast helped to make her a famous frontier figure.


May Day!!!

May Day!!!!  Gotta love Spring!!!National-Park-Seminary-May-Day-1907

The Trickster

In honor of April Fool’s Day, here is a look at the original Old West Trickster, Coyote!



Airbrush Paintings – Coyote – The Trickster by J W Baker

God Love The Irish!!!

shamrockBeginning in the 1840s  many Irish left their home land to escape the suffering of the potato blight and the inequity of the English upper class who ruled in Ireland.  They came into the eastern ports, Boston down to Savannah.  These areas were populated by many direct descendents’ of the early settlers who considered themselves “native” to the united States.

The Irish immigrants were received with hostility and fear.  They often had few skills but cleaning cooking and farm labor, and did not meet up with the standards of those already long settled.   They were mostly Catholic, a religion not understood by the more Protestant population of the time,

The Irish immigrant population; a hearty, free thinking and independent bunch, developed a reputation of lusty living, brawling, and drinking. The reputation was partly based in truth.  The Irish were determined to be free, and to succeed.  They pushed back when ostracized, and through hard work and perseverance the Irish created a new world for themselves.Life In New York

Along with their freethinker, total living reputation, the Irish brought with them magical tales of tiny people, beautiful goddesses, fairies and of course the Catholic saints.

Today we celebrate St Patrick’s Day, and if we are not even a little bit Irish, we pretend, so that we too can be involved in the historical tradition of honoring the sacred saint of Ireland, and enjoying a wee bit of the dram.

Happy St Patty’s Day ya all!leprachan


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Tilly Evan Jones

“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable and beautiful and afraid of nothing as though I had wings.” ~Mary Oliver

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Lost Creek

Old West Lore, Old West Leather, Chuckwagons, and More