McKenna Process Company
Plant formerly located in Joliet, Illinois - ca. 1920.
Autobiographical Data
Sitting Bull
by George Langford, Sr.

Sitting Bull was a famous warrier and chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux.  I remember, when a small boy, my father telling me that he and Sitting Bull were the same age; both born in 1834 [Sitting Bull was actually born in 1831, but John Wesley Powell, explorer & geologist in 1869 - 1871 of the nearby Grand Canyon of Colorado, was born in 1834.  George, Sr. here ses the term, "Indians," in referring to native Americans; "American Indians," and "Native Americans," have since come into use to replace Columbus's mis-identification of the first people he saw in America - George, III].
In the early Spring of 1887, my Uncle, Victor Robertson, went somewhere in South Dakota on a business trip, and he took me along with him.  I was only 11 years old then, and I cannot recall just where we went, but it was near an Indian camp, where Sitting Bull happened to be.  Sitting Bull, or those around him, had photographs of him for sale, also various Indian-made objects of deerskin, ornamented with porcupine quills.  The famous chieftain was gaudily clad in frilled and beaded deerskin, and his head bore a huge crown of feathers.  His face reminded me of an old woman's, being entirely devoid of handle-bar mustache or chin-whiskers.  Such was the man who had, eleven years before, commanded the 2,500 or more Indians in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in Montana, surrounding the U.S. Cavalry General, George C. Custer with his 264 men, and killing every one of them.  My uncle Victor had told me about this; and my mother had painted vivid pictures of destitute and wounded refugees streaming into Saint Paul, Minnesota during the Indian uprising at Spirit Lake, not far distant.  And so, when I entered Sitting Bull's presence, I was considerably scared.  I don't remember that he even looked at me.  No doubt small boys were beneath his dignity and to be regarded only as pests.
The chieftain's photograph did not interest me, and I am sorry now that I did not get one.  However, a stone-headed club or mallet caught my eye, and my uncle Victor bought me that.  I still have it today [Alas, not any more - George, III].  The impression left upon my mind by that visit was that Sitting Bull ruled over all Indians and would run off his reservation and start another war if he saw his chance.  "Running off the reservation" was a term I heard several times, and it made a deep impression on my mind.  Indians were given homes on allotted lands where the U.S. Army could keep an eye on them.  If the Indians left their homes in any considerable numbers, they were probably on the warpath, and massacres of white people were to be expected.
A year later, my mother took my brother Will and myself to Rock Springs, Wyoming, for a visit with "Uncle Henry"  and his family.  "Uncle Henry," then Major Freeman, later retired as Brigadier General Henry B. Freeman, was in command of the U.S. Army post.  There had been trouble in the coal mine at Rock Springs between white miners and Chinese laborers.  The troops were there to preserve order.  I had lived in Denver, Colorado, until 1886, but this was my first visit to the Wild West as I then understood it, with its cowboys, sage-hens, coyotes, and herds of pronghorn antelope.  I happened to mention to Uncle Henry that I had met, or rather seen, Sitting Bull, the Sioux chieftain, a year or two before.  I then learned quite a bit more on that subject.
I knew that Uncle Henry had fought in the Civil War, but I knew little of his part in the western Indian wars.  He knew a lot about Sitting Bull and had been near the Battle of Little Bighorn in June, 1876.  He was a part of the U.S. Army contingent that attempted to relieve General Custer but got there too late.  They found Custer and his 264 men scalped, mutilated, and shot full of arrows.  He had been in other campaigns which were not pleasant,  "Sitting Bull was always and still is the White Man's bitter enemy," he said.  "Perhaps he will make more trouble."
An outing was arranged for us at Rock Springs.  We were to go out into the wilds for a week.  Our camp was to be on a mountain stream 30 miles or so distant.  This was in August, and water was scarce.  It was the main consideration in our selection of a camping site.
There were five of us; a grizzled army cook; a sergeant, Uncle Henry's sun Luther, my brother Will and myself.  We two last named were mere kids.  Luther was a young man, familiar with the West and a good shot.  We had rifles, shotguns, and plenty of ammunition.  Will and I were provided with 20-bore shotguns.  The 12-bore were too much for us.  Even the 20-bore nearly knocked my arm off whever I fired it.  An Army wagon, drawn by two mules, carried our supplies.  Luther and the sergeant rode horses, the Army cook drove the wagon, and Will and I rode in that.  We started at dawn, with the understanding that we could not reach our selected campsite before 6PM.  I discovered later that there was no drinking water to be had between Rock Springs and our destination.  The weather was extremely hot, and water was important.
We saw prairie dogs galore, sage hens, jackrabbits, and occasionally a coyote.  When we passed exposed rock layers, I got out of the wagon and walked along looking for rattlesnakes.  I found none.  We stopped at noon to have lunch.  The sun was blazing hot, and there was no shade.  We drank frequently as we resumed our journey.  Our water was all used up by the middle of the afternoon, and we were all eager to get where we expected to have plenty of it.  Then, having as yet seen no human being on our trip, we saw a man riding toward us.  He turned out to be a rancher, cowboy, or something like that, as he came up to us.
"Were we headed to the creek ?" There were a lot of Indians there, running off the reservation on a hunting and fishing trip.  No danger probably, but our visitor was taking no chances.  He was on his way to Rock Springs; and away he went.
Our three men discussed the matter briefly and decided to go on.  However, they first looked to the rifles and shotguns and saw to it that they were loaded.  Will and I changed our 20-bore loads to shells with big shot; then we went on.
"Indians running off the reservation;" I had heard that only a short time before; and just when I least expected anything suggesting Indians, here they were, right under our noses.  I thought of Sitting Bull and wondered if he was mixed up in it.  I must have been scared stiff; don't remember exactly if I showed what I felt, but whatever it was, the others did not notice it, or at least they made no comment.  The older men laughed and joked among themselves, and we small fry took our cue from that.  But as we kept on, all soon relapsed into silence, and the tension increased as we caught sight of and drew nearer to our destination.  Trees and verdure marked a stream, and we caught the gleam of naked bodies of men and horses among the trees.  "Couple of hundred or more," so our grizzled cook appraised them.  "If we don't watch out, they'll steal everything we've got."
Some of the Indians came toward us.  None walked; all rode small, light brown horses.  None of them were armed.  They raised their hands above their heads, and Luther and the sergeant waved back at them.  The cook turned to Will and myself, "Jump out if you want," he directed.  "Those fellows are all right, but don't get too fresh."
So we got out of the wagon, and at once drew attention to ourselves.  The Indians pointed to our legs and jabbered.  "Kids in short pants," was what they were probably saying to one another.  However, we did not get fresh.  We were too awed and still somewhat apprehensive.
Well, we were not massacred or anything like that.  We had run into a party of Utes, 200 or more of them, including some women and children.  They had been hunting deer and were trying to shoot fish with bows and arrows.  They left the next morning and left us our fill of cool water and good fishing for delicious salmon trout.  And having satisfied myself that these Ute Indians had nothing to do with Sitting Bull and probably would not know him if they saw him, I can now pass over the remaining portion of our camping trip and visit to Rock Springs, Wyoming, and get back to St. Paul, Minnesota, where we came from.
Fort Snelling was about 6 miles from St. Paul, although the latter has by this time come to occupy about all of the space between the two places.  The U.S. Government was trying to make soldiers out of the Indians, and I went out to the fort occasionally to watch them at drill.  I believe that the experiment was soon given up, but some at least were retained to serve as military police. 
In 1890 Sitting Bull again made the headlines.  He posed as a Messiah destined to free the Indians from White Man's domination.  There were "ghost dances" or warming-up exercises for the purpose of getting the young men into a warlike state of mind.  Indian police were sent to the Standing Rock Agency to arrest Sitting Bull.  There was a fight, sometimes called the Battle of Wounded Knee, and Sitting Bull was killed.  Some of the Indian police were killed too.  I went up to Fort Snelling and saw them brought back and buried with military honors.  That was the end of serious Indian uprisings in this country.