Washita County, Oklahoma
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,
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
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
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
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
Learn more about his work at the agency and his appointment in 1874
as superintendent of the Arapaho
Source: Perry, Dan W.. "The Indians' Friend John H. Seger."
Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 10, No. 3 September 1932. August 16,