History Re-stitched: Shawsheen & Josephine Meeker

Famous Faces in Northern Colorado History

Written by JoAnna Luth Stull, Museum Registrar

Named and known by her descendants as She-towitch, she was best known as Shawsheen with her name written in historic newspaper accounts as Shasheen, Shashien, and Shosheen and pronounced and spelled as Tsashin by her Ute family.

Courtesy of City of Greeley Museums, Hazel E. Johnson Collection, 1991.42.0762C with acknowledgement to Colorado Historical Society, Jackson photograph #1772.

After her rescue in May 1863, from the Arapaho who were sworn enemies of the Utes’, Shawsheen would be given the name “Susan” reportedly by the wife of the soldier who rescued her and from this she became “Ute Susan”.

Shawsheen’s father Guero, had sought to strengthen ties between his Uncompahgre Utes and the White River Utes through his daughter’s marriage to Canella, also known as Johnson 2; he was a medicine man. With this marriage Shawsheen then became known as Susan Johnson. Finally, in an 1880 newspaper article, William Byers praised Shawsheen for saving the Meeker women and Mrs. Price and titled her “God Bless Susan.”[i]  By whatever name Shawsheen was known by, her courageous acts through her life entitle her to also be known as heroine and humanitarian.

Just as varied as the many versions of her name are the numerous accounts of Shawsheen’s escape from certain death. The best distilled version of Shawsheen’s story was located in a December 1933 article included in the Greeley Daily Tribune. Research by A. B. Copeland and G. H. Bradfield of the Meeker Memorial Museum. Copeland and Bradfield had been working to verify the accuracy of the “Ute Susan” story in order to place a marker in her memory in conjunction with the Colorado Historical Society and the Centennial State Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Plans were to place the Shawsheen marker next to where the historic tree once stood in Island Grove Park. This cottonwood tree was known variously as the Ute Susan Tree, Shawsheen’s Tree, Indian Tree, Susan’s Tree, and finally, the “Oldest Inhabitant of Greeley-Ute Susan Tree”.

According to a 1916 article in the Fort Collins Express, Shashien was captured by Arapahoe Indians under the leadership of Chief Left Hand when she was 18 years old. The story, as related in 1910 by Mr. John Hollowell (1834-1913) of Loveland was that in June of 1863, some Indians came to his cabin at the mouth of the Big Thompson canyon. The reason for their visit was to trade a “captive maid for a looking glass and a hat,” but Hollowell declined the “swap” and after a few days they left the area.

Courtesy of City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection, 1972.01.0716

A few days later, a Company of soldiers camped at Laporte were ordered to go to the southeast where they had heard there was trouble between the settlers and Indians. As they approached a hill, likely Inspiration Point in Greeley, they saw an Indian camp on the opposite side of the river where a “young squaw was tied to a tree” with fagots piled around and under her feet. A report from the soldier who led this Company said after her rescue, she was taken to Laporte “where she was cared for by the Bill Carroll family” and sometime later returned to her Ute tribe.

There are, as stated, many versions of this story, but two things are certain, the “young squaw tied to a tree” was Shawsheen and the tree once stood at Greeley’s Island Grove Park until it was blown down in a windstorm between 1912 and 1913.

The author of the newspaper article stated that “because of that incident alone” Shawsheen would “be famous”. As we know, Shawsheen’s story continues and comes back full circle with her help in protecting other captive women after the Meeker Massacre on Sept. 29, 1879, but that is a story for next time.

[i] Taken from her family from near the Big Thompson River at age 16 [not 18], Susan was the name given to her by Mrs. Collier, wife of the Sergeant Collier of Captain Hardy’s Company M who was in charge of the detachment that reportedly saved Shawsheen from Arapaho captivity in May 1863. Mrs. Collier gave Shawsheen the name of Susan and she learned to speak the English language in the two months she was in the Collier home. (Colorado Transcript “Squaw Susan’s Send-Off”. 17 Dec. 1879).  William Byers, in an 1880 newspaper article praised her for saving the Meeker women and Mrs. Price and called her “God Bless Susan.”

Courtesy of City of Greeley Museums, Permanent Collection, 1983.48.0013.3

Centennial Celebration Scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend

Centennial Celebration Scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend

FOR RELEASE: Centennial Village Museum officially opens to the public this weekend. Step back in time to the late 1800’s with a visit during the museum’s Centennial Celebration event, scheduled for Saturday, May 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, May 28, from noon until 4 p.m.

Located just south of Island Grove Regional Park in Greeley, Centennial Village is northern Colorado’s 8-acre outdoor living history experience.

The event includes buffalo soldier demonstrations on Saturday, as well as blacksmithing, quilt making, and chuckwagon cooking both days. Visitors can tour the newly renovated Farr Garage and the Fur Trapper’s Trading Post, in addition to touring the museum’s other historical homes and buildings.

Centennial Village preserves life in the Colorado high plains region from the last 150 years. The museum is open seasonally, from May until September, with several special events planned throughout the year.

Admission to the Centennial Celebration event is $8 per adult, $6 per senior, and $5 per child ages 3 and up. The museum has a special family rate of $18 for a group of five.

For more information about Centennial Village and the City of Greeley Museums, visit GreeleyMuseums.com or call 970-350-9220.


For more information, contact:
Scott Chartier, Historic Sites Curator


History of Centennial Village’s Farr Garage

Curious about the history of the Farr Garage at Centennial Village? It was originally a blacksmith shop!

In 1982, Centennial Village staff were able to construct the replica blacksmith shop through the great generosity of Mr. and Mrs. W.D. Farr. Its design and equipment were based on W.D.’s memories of the blacksmith shop that his grandfather, William H. Farr, established when he came to Greeley in 1877. William was a blacksmith by trade, and opened the Farr and Smith Blacksmith shop, a prominent business in early Greeley. He also homesteaded at the end of the Greeley-Loveland irrigation ditch and farmed over 160 acres.

Image taken in 2004 by museum volunteer photographer Don Wiegel with an image of the building prior to its move to Centennial Village.

W.D. Farr became involved as the director of several local irrigation ditch companies and served as an appointee to the US Water Pollution Control Advisory Board.

These days blacksmithing at Centennial Village is demonstrated near the center area of the museum, but you can still see a forge and a lot of well-worn tools in the Farr Garage. The plan is to restore the old gas pump and blacksmith area inside the garage. Moreover, the building will be used as a real-working shop where museum vehicles and machines can be fixed.

The Farr Blacksmith Shop, now called the Farr Garage, is a tribute to the generosity of the Farr family, and a reminder that the present builds on the hard work of the past.

Free Museum Admission Celebrates Local Author, Book Release

Free Museum Admission Celebrates Local Author, Book Release

FOR RELEASE: Saturday, May 20, will be a busy day for Greeley resident Jaydine Rendall. That’s the day she releases her first book as a published author, “High Plains Heroes: Josiah.”

The historical fiction book, which retails for $7.50, is written for third through fifth graders and tells the story of Josiah Sullivan, a thirteen-year old living in the Colorado high plains region in 1862. Josiah’s path crosses with a young Arapaho boy, Lost Stick. As their cultures collide, Josiah must decide whether Lost Stick is a friend or enemy. This young reader novel is a thoroughly researched and a historically-accurate depiction of the early days of Weld County.

The Greeley History Museum and High Plains Library District are co-hosting Rendall’s book release party. The community is invited to visit the Greeley History Museum, 714 8th St., on Saturday, May 20 from 12:30 to 4 p.m.

In celebration of Greeley’s newest author, admission to the museum will be free – compliments of the High Plains Library District and the Museum. Rendall will be onsite for a special presentation beginning at 1:30 pm followed by a book signing. Copies of “High Plains Heroes: Josiah” will be available for purchase at the museum during the event.

Rendall wrote “High Plains Heroes: Josiah” as the High Plains Library District’s first Writer in Residence. During her six-month residency, Rendall found a publisher and completed the first two of her three book series. Rendall’s second book, “High Plains Heroes: Laughing Wolf” will be released this fall. She’s also a teacher at Frontier Academy.

Rendall moved to Greeley in 1999 with her husband and two sons. She worked for the City of Greeley for several years before moving to a teaching position at Franklin Middle School. Rendall currently teaches Literature and Composition at Frontier Academy Secondary School. She has a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Studies from the University of Northern Colorado. Rendall keeps a blogs and information about her writing projects on her website, jaydinerendall.com.

For more details about the event, call 970-350-9220 or visit GreeleyMuseums.com.


For more information, contact:
Sarah Lester, Museum Educator

Jaydine Rendall, Writer in Residence, High Plains Library District

History Re-stitched: Examining Josephine Meeker’s Jacket & Skirt

Written by JoAnna Luth Stull, Museum Registrar

The 138 year old historic jacket and skirt made and worn by Josephine Meeker was examined closely by members of Greeley’s Centennial State Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR). Their quest is to re-stitch, in miniature, the skirt and bodice made and worn by Josephine Meeker in 1879.

Image courtesy of Greeley Museums Curator of Collections Sarah Saxe. “Centennial State Chapter Members Examine Josephine Meeker’s Bodice from City of Greeley Museums Permanent Collection, 0426.0001A.

The one-of-a-kind replica garment will be included in a wardrobe of clothing for an American Girl doll named “Miss Ann” in honor of the President General of National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution, Ann Turner Dillon. The completed wardrobe will be presented at the 2019 National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution National Congress in Washington, D.C.

Donning protective gloves, members of the NSDAR Centennial State Chapter who had weeks before completed a Museums’ Collections Viewing Request, met Greeley Museums Collections Curator Sarah Saxe in the secure and climate-controlled textile storage area at the Greeley History Museum. Seen here are Chapter Librarian JoAnna Luth Stull, Chapter Treasurer Teresa Hamilton, and Chapter Regent Willma Heckman (l-r) who examined the fabric, pattern, stitching, trim, and workmanship of the historic garment and in so doing, found a number of surprising revelations.

There were details like darts in the jacket bodice for a nice fit and a patch of blanket sewn in to complete the jacket length. Muslin backing supports the hand-stitched buttonholes. There are larger round metal buttons with a center design of an 8 petal flower surrounded by a ring of 16 dots and a repeating angled wheat sheaf alternated by a dot closer to the button edge.

A tiny white pearl button was carefully sewn on at the bodice top. A glimpse of the gathered red flannel ruffle sewn at the neckline as decorative trim may also be seen in this view.





The use of woven stripe inherent in the blanket design (lower green stripe) was supplemented by green ribbon trim (upper green stripe) on the right sleeve. The same process was used with red flannel strips to copy the red stripes in the blanket weave in both the jacket and skirt. The left sleeve utilizes green ribbon trim for both stripes near the wrist with the addition of a red flannel fabric stripe to simulate the red woven stripes found in the trade blanket fabric.

The right sleeve is pictured. Dress images courtesy of Greeley Museums Registrar JoAnna Luth Stull. “Josephine Meeker’s Bodice” from City of Greeley Museums Permanent Collection, 0426.0001A.







The skirt panels cut from the wool trade blanket for front, back and two side sections match nicely, except in one section shown. The skirt waistband (not pictured) is fashioned from muslin fabric and the skirt was secured with tie strips reinforced at the skirt back opening.Image courtesy of Greeley Museums Curator of Collections Sarah Saxe. “Josephine Meeker’s Skirt from City of Greeley Museums Permanent Collection, 0426.0001B.

Several decisions must be made in considering how to re-stitch the replica bodice and skirt originally made by Josephine Meeker. Of primary concern is the fabric as authentic Indian trade blankets made of wool are in very short supply! Locating wool of the proper weave and color is another almost impossible task, and in the process of considering locating a weaver who would spin, dye, and weave the amount of cloth needed, the members asked themselves, “How authentic do we want this garment to be versus the very practical question of future care and preservation?”

Two items of note that will also need to be reproduced to accessorize Josephine Meeker’s garment are not in the Museums’ collection for viewing; her footwear and her hat and there are stories about both items. Josephine may have worn moccasins she crafted herself, or that were given to her by her Ute friends. The hat worn by Josephine in the photograph taken by William H. Jackson of Denver may or may not have been the actual hat she wore during her captivity. An 1896 article in the Greeley Tribune taken from a story in the Denver Post relates that the State Historical Society received “an interesting addition to their collection of relics of historical importance” from Judge Charles Denison Hayt of the “supreme court [sic]” who gave the “hat worn by Josie Meeker during her captivity among the Indians.”

Whatever hat Josephine wore and whatever became of her moccasins, one thing is known for sure, Josephine made it out of Ute captivity due to the help of “Ute Susan” or Shawsheen, whose own story comes full-circle back to Greeley—twice!


Project Background: The Colorado State Chapter NSDAR Juniors’ special project will be to complete a wardrobe for an American Girl doll named “Miss Ann” inspired by Ann Turner Dillon, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution President General and a Colorado native. Each of the 44 NSDAR Chapters in Colorado had the opportunity to submit an interesting and important woman in Colorado history to the Colorado State Chapter NSDAR Junior members for approval.

Greeley’s Centennial State Chapter was honored to be chosen to create two dresses, each with accessories that represent Josephine Meeker and Shawsheen which will be included in the Miss Ann wardrobe as modeled by an American Girl doll. Each dress and its accessories will be accompanied by a photograph of the historic person, a short biography for publication in a NSDAR catalog, and a photograph of the Miss Ann American Girl doll wearing the ensemble created for her persona.

To learn more about the Centennial State Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit facebook.com/centennialstatechapter.