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Tour Through Time

Tour Through Time: Carlisle Indian School history includes two Sheldon Jacksons

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This studio photo shows, from left to right, Pueblo Indians Sheldon Jackson, Harvey Townsend and John Shields shortly after their arrival at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School on July 31, 1880.

There were two men named Sheldon Jackson who played very different roles in the history of the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Sheldon Jackson the Student was 20 years old when he arrived on the campus on July 31, 1880. A Pueblo Indian, he left the school on Sept. 18, 1883.

Beyond those scant details on a student information card, there is not much more on this particular Sheldon Jackson archived in the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, which is maintained by Dickinson College.

The homepage of the resource center website includes a search engine to look up names. A quick check uncovered a rich vein of primary source material on Sheldon Jackson the Indian Agent and Student Recruiter.

For example, in an April 12, 1880 letter, school superintendent Richard Henry Pratt approved a suggestion made by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to have Sheldon Jackson recruit and send students from Colorado and New Mexico to the boarding school in Carlisle.

At the time, Pratt considered Jackson an asset because the Presbyterian missionary had recently visited Carlisle and was familiar with the type of students Pratt was looking to recruit.

Six months later, on Oct. 20, 1880, Jackson wrote the commissioner saying he was glad that Carlisle had accepted 10 more Pueblos, one Pima and an Apache student from the Mescalero Agency.

Because a plan fell through to recruit 50 Ute children, Jackson wanted permission to transport to Pennsylvania six Pima children, five Moqui children and another Apache student from the agency.

Two months later, on Christmas Eve, Jackson wrote that he was having trouble recruiting students not only for Carlisle, but also for the Hampton Normal and Agriculture School in Virginia.

A deeper dive into this Sheldon Jackson turned up a lengthy biography posted on Alaskan genealogy website, www.alaskaweb.org. A New York state native, Jackson the Missionary had established himself on the Western frontier.

“In the course of his career, Jackson would travel almost a million miles in Minnesota, the Rocky Mountain states, and Alaska,” the biography reads. “He went on foot and horseback, by railroad and stagecoach, by sailboat and canoe, and even by ox cart and reindeer sled. He survived severe snowstorms, shipwrecks and Indian uprisings. Three times newspapers reported his death prematurely and once they printed his obituary.”

In 1877, Jackson became the first Presbyterian missionary to work in Alaska. Not only did Jackson lobby to have that territory admitted as a state to the union, but he also organized the first school system for Alaska and helped to establish its territorial government and mail routes.

But how were the two men named Sheldon Jackson connected?

Indian School biographer Barbara Landis told The Sentinel that there were Pueblo children enrolled at Carlisle who were named after Presbyterian missionaries.

Tour through Time runs Saturday in The Sentinel print edition. Reporter Joseph Cress will work with the Cumberland County Historical Society each week to look at the county through the years. Send any questions, features ideas or tips to jcress@cumberlink.com.

Email Joseph Cress at jcress@cumberlink.com.

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