Greeley’s founder Nathan Meeker wrote in the 1870, edition of the Greeley Tribune, “Now while we are daily exploring the prairies, mountains, and streams, and even bringing up buried treasures of the ages from the grounds beneath us, we hope that our people will bear in mind the fact that we are organizing a museum for the benefit of the whole colony and whenever anything appropriate may be found, let it be placed among our ‘common treasures’ and we will soon have a collection that will be both instructive and entertaining.”
Meeker could not have envisioned that one day, members of Greeley’s Centennial State Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR), organized in Greeley in 1904, would submit his daughter Josephine’s name as one of two women who contributed significantly to Colorado’s history. Shawsheen, also known as Ute Susan was another excellent choice of important women in Colorado history to vote for, and as fate would surprisingly have it, an equal number of votes were cast for Josephine Meeker and Shawsheen by members of the Centennial State Chapter NSDAR.
Due to the Centennial State Chapter tie vote, both names were submitted and approved by the Colorado State Chapter NSDAR Juniors who decided that both women had played key roles not only in Colorado‘s history in the September 1879 Meeker Massacre, but the nation’s history as well by testifying afterward at the congressional hearings held in Washington, D. C.
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.
Josephine Meeker‘s woolen dress that she made from a Native American trade blanket while she was held hostage by the White River Utes in 1879, is shown at left. While held captive by a young Ute named Pahsone, Josephine sewed not only her own garment, but made many other articles of clothing for the White River Ute children.
A future post will be dedicated to Shawsheen and her story, and the dress to be re-stitched by the Centennial State Chapter to represent one worn by Shawsheen for the Miss Ann doll wardrobe.
Josephine’s mother Arvilla, was held captive by Canalla, known to the whites as Johnson” or “Johnson 2” and his wife She-towitch, better known as Shawsheen. Arvilla Meeker, now a 64 year old widow due to the death of her husband Nathan Meeker, killed by the White River Utes in what has become known as the Meeker Massacre with 10 other men, many from Greeley, in September 1879 at the White River Ute Agency located in the remote northwestern area of Colorado.
Josephine would have also offered support to her young grieving friend, Flora Ellen Price, also now a widow with two small children, May and baby Johnnie. Flora’s husband, Shadrack Price, was, according to the caption to the photograph at left, “…scalped by the Indians in the Meeker Massacre.” Josephine’s hope was that the Utes would release them so they could all return home to Greeley. Presumably, this hope was tempered by at least some doubt and fear even though Josephine was friends with many of the Utes, especially Shawsheen, sister to Ute Chief Ouray.
The common ground of history, preservation, education, and interpretation are missions of both the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the City of Greeley Museums as shown in the 1911 photograph of Centennial State Chapter members dedicating a monument they erected to preserve the site where Col. Ceran St. Vrain built a fort in 1837, and preserve the site where people of note visited such as the frontiersman Kit Carson and General Fremont, who stopped there on his exploring expedition in July 1843. Likewise, the City of Greeley Museums has preserved the bodice and skirt made and worn by Josephine Meeker. As Registrar for the City of Greeley Museums and a member of the Centennial State Chapter NSDAR, it was with a sense of destiny that these two wonderful organizations that I am honored to be a part of work together to preserve the past through the stories of Josephine Meeker and Shawsheen and their clothing to be re-stitched in time.
To learn more about the Centennial State Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, visit facebook.com/centennialstatechapter.