The Forest Grove Indian Training School was the second off-reservation boarding school for Native Americans in the United States. Between 1880-1885, over 275 Native students attended, representing 34 tribes.
The school's administrators recruited students from tribes around the Pacific Northwest, first targeting Natives who had already attended missionary schools, and then taking progressively younger and less assimilated children. The first group of students to arrive built their own dormitories and classrooms from scratch. As more students arrived, the administrators forced them to abandon their languages, dress and many other aspects of their native cultures in favor of adopting white American norms.
The students' days started at 5 a.m. with a military-style roll call, followed by meals and a mix of basic schooling and vocational training. Packed into crowded dormitories, some students died of tuberculosis and other communicable diseases. The boarding school system had devastating effects on many tribes in the Pacific Northwest. Despite this, individual students experienced the school in a variety of ways, shaped by the diversity of their backgrounds and fortunes in life. Some hated the school and ran away; some stayed only long enough to graduate before return to their families; others sought out further education and used what they learned to fight on behalf of their tribes. This site attempts to honor the diversity of those experiences, while acknowledging the terrible effects that the boarding school system had in general.
The Spreadsheet of all Students who attended the school, based on the handwritten class roster from 1880-1886, includes many details about each individual student. It is intended to provide a more comprehensive picture of how the Forest Grove Indian School affected its students' lives. Additions, corrections and comments to this spreadsheet are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Students' Lives - a few brief biographies
For more biographies and for source citations, see the Spreadsheet of all Students.
Katie Loulin Brewer was born around 1865. According to family oral history, she was the daughter of a Russian man and an Alaskan woman. Her tribe is not identified on the school roster, but based on her origin in Sitka, she was most likely Tlingit. She was orphaned as a child and sent to the Forest Grove Indian School at about the age of 15. In 1883, she married a Puyallup man, David Brewer, whom she had met at the Forest Grove Indian School. They eventually had seven children together. Katie worked at the Forest Grove Indian School and Chemawa School in several different jobs including cook, matron and laundress. David was employed as the "disciplinarian" at Chemawa School until his death in 1908. Katie eventually spent over 50 years at the school, and qualified for a pension despite bureaucratic difficulties based on her status as a Native woman.
Nugen Kautz was first son of August Valentine Kautz, a Civil War general who also served in the Rogue River War. His mother was a Nisqually woman named Tenas Puss (Little Kitten), who was called Etta or Kitty in English. His parents married in the 1850s, and Nugen was born on March 17, 1857. His father named him after a friend from the military, John Nugen, but also nicknamed him "Lugie." Before coming to Forest Grove, Nugen lived at the Puyallup Agency and with Wesley and Catherine Gosnell of Lewis County, Washington. When he entered the Forest Grove Indian School with his brother, Augustus, he was about 23 years old. Neither he nor his brother are listed in the 1880 Census as living in the Indian School dormitory, perhaps suggesting that they had alternate lodgings. While still enrolled in the Indian School, he was also admitted to Tualatin Academy, which was a college preparatory high school that was attached to Pacific University. He attended the Academy in 1883. By the late 1890s he was an industrial teacher and gardener at the Warm Springs Agency School. He died in Alameda County on April 6, 1938.
Obed Littlewilliams (also recorded as Obid Williams) was one of eight students from the Spokane region to arrive at the Forest Grove Indian School in November, 1880. He was probably one of seven boys wearing the school's military uniform who were featured in a portrait by Davidson titled "Group of Spokane Boys." Obed was noted by teacher Mary F. Lyman as being the "black sheep" of the school. According to one of her letters, in 1882, he stole over a hundred dollars from a local store in Forest Grove. He convinced another boy, Charles Abraham, to leave Forest Grove with him. They ran away from school and walked all the way to Beaverton before getting caught by other students (including Charles Varner) on a freight train. They were brought back to Forest Grove; it is unknown whether he was arrested. U.S. Census records from 1910-1930 show that he later moved to the Spokane Reservation and became a farmer. At age 22, he married a woman from the Kalispel tribe named Christine. She apparently died young, and he later married another woman, also native, named Agnes.
Emma Winnum entered the Forest Grove Indian School in 1881. According to an account published by the Forest Grove Indian School Superintendent Wilkinson, Emma was "the only daughter of Chief Winum, an Umatilla Oregon Indian." He wrote that "she was about fifteen when her father gave her to me to take ot the Indian School at Forest Grove. [...] Of steady Christian purpose, he ardently desired for his only daughter that she might have the benefit of an education, and he willingly gave her up to our care for that purpose." He continued his account with a story of how Emma helped to lead a group of ten Umatilla children from their lands to Forest Grove, encountering difficulties along the way. Wilkinson described her as a convinced Christian who witnessed her faith to her tribe, and who was neat, orderly, cheerful and a good student. Emma died of an illness at the school in December, 1883.
Peter Stanup was a Puyallup man who was born around 1858. His father, also named Peter Stanup, was a prominent man in his tribe. The younger Peter attended a local missionary school and worked as a typesetter for newspapers while a young man. According to the Census of 1880, Peter was 21 when he entered the Forest Grove Indian Training School, making him one of the oldest students present at the time. He was married to a fellow Puyallup student named Annie (or Anna) Kahim, who was brorn in 1862. The two had a daughter named Lottie. The census-taker treated Peter Stanup as the head-of-household for the dormitory of Native children at the school. Peter had studied theology and had been licensed by the Presbyterian Church to preach the gospel by the summer of 1883. After graduating from the school in Forest Grove, Peter and his family moved back the the Puyallup Reservation where Peter become a missionary assistant of the Presbyterian Church of Puget Sound.
William Henry Lewis was a native Alaskan from Fort Wrangell who was born around 1864. According to family records stored on Ancestry.com, he was the son of a white man named Joseph Henry Lewis and a native woman from Haines (probably Tlingit) named Martha Tutasley. He went to the Forest Grove Indian School in 1881, where he was in the school's band. Three years later, in 1884, he enrolled as a student at Tualatin Academy, which was a college preparatory high school attached to Pacific University. He was probably the first Alaskan Native ever to enroll there. After graduating from the Indian School in 1885, William married a fellow student, Jennie May Fletcher. They moved first to her home at Bainbridge Island, and then later to Wrangell. They had numerous children. Along with fellow student James Hadley, William was one of ten native "leading men of Wrangell" who wrote a letter to the governor of Alaska in 1899 asking him to defend their fishing grounds from white encroachment. U.S. Census records from the 1900s indicate that he made a living as a fisherman. William died in 1928 at the age of about 64.
Samuel R. McCaw of the Yakima and Puyallup tribes was born between 1868-1870, to a Scottish-American father with the same name and a mother called Mary, who was most likely Yakima. He was in the first cohort of students to attend the Forest Grove Indian Training School. When he arrived there at age 10, his name was recorded as Samuel Spott, after his stepfather, "General" Spot of the Puyallup (c.f. Chalcraft, Assimilation's Agent, 2004). A history written in 1919 provides these details: "Mr. McCaw was brought up among wild Indians on the Ahtanum [a river on Yakima lands], but when a boy of ten attracted the favorable attention of some one who knew of the Government Indian School at Forest Grove. Oregon [possibly Elisha or Lucy Tanner, Congregationalist settlers who had come to Ahtanum from Forest Grove]. There he secured an elementary education. Then the ambitious young boy went east where he completed an academic and then a college course at Whittier College, Indiana [note: another source says he went to Earlham College; both were Quaker schools]. Following that he was in a banking house in Chicago for five years, after which he returned to his old home and was for twenty-three years the cashier of the Yakima National Bank at Yakima. In 1917 he entered upon the enterprise of banking at Wapato. The results thus far have been such as to amply justify the venture.
Albert John (also known as Albert Minthorn) of Umatilla arrived at the Forest Grove Indian School in 1881 and graduated in 1886. In 1886, he wrote a letter to the shoemaking instructor, Samuel A. T. Walker, "describing the death of the schoolmaster, illness among the students, and personal difficulties with his studies." (This letter is now held at the Oregon Historical Society.) After leaving the school, he found employment as a teacher at the Umatilla Agency's Indian boarding school. In 1912, the Forest Grove News-Times ran an article noting that Albert had returned to visit the former site of the school: "Albert John, a Umatilla Indian, better known by his adopted name of Albert Minthorn, visited S.A. [Samuel A.T.] Walker in this city, Saturday. Mr. Minthorn is a wealthy farmer ... When [the] Indian School was located here, he was a student in the school, and went from here to Salem when the institution was moved ... where he completed the course and then returned to his allotment of land on the reservation."
For more biographies and for source citations, see the Spreadsheet of all Students.