November is Native American Heritage Month, and we continue our look at the Wyandot, who were so influential in the early days of Wyandotte County. The Wyandot were a matriarchal society and provided women prominent roles in the religious and political affairs of the tribe. Today we highlight three notable Wyandot women.
Nancy Quindaro Brown Guthrie
Nancy Quindaro Brown Guthrie was the daughter of Adam Brown, son of Wyandot Chief Adam Brown. Her name, Quindaro, in traditional Wyandot language, refers to the leadership role of a first-born daughter. Meaning “a bundle of sticks,” Quindaro is often interpreted as “in union there is strength.” Nancy Quindaro was of the Big Turtle Clan of the Wyandot and the Turtle Clan of the Shawnee.
When the tribe was still living in Ohio, Nancy met Abelard Guthrie, a land agent, and he courted her despite strong disapproval from her father. Brown disliked Guthrie, and their feud was so deep that Guthrie attempted to have Brown arrested when Brown shot at him. After the tribe moved to Kansas, Guthrie followed, married Nancy, and eventually aided the establishment of the town of Quindaro. The town that bore Nancy’s name was the first free port on the Missouri River, an Underground Railroad site, and a temperance town. At the time of her marriage in 1844, she was said to be the most beautiful girl in the Wyandot Nation. William Walker, Jr., recorded in his journal that “she was tall and of faultless form, a faithful wife, a devoted Christian mother.” Abelard and Nancy had four children: James, Abalura, Norsona, and Jacob.
After the Treaty of 1867, and despite her protestations, Nancy was declared a Citizen, or Absentee Wyandot. The Wyandot Tribal Rolls show that Nancy wished to retain her tribal status as well as the tribal status of her children. She tried unsuccessfully to regain her tribal status and move to Canada to live among her relatives there. She died at her home on Russell’s Creek in the Cherokee Country on April 13, 1886, and is buried in the cemetery at Chetopa, Kansas.
Margaret Clark Northrup
Margaret Clark Northrup was born on the Wyandot Indian Reserve near Lower Sandusky, Ohio, in 1828. The daughter of Thomas Clark, one of the Chiefs of the Canada branch of the Wyandot Nation, she moved with her tribe to Kansas territory in 1843 when they ceded their lands to the United States government. It was in Kansas that Margaret met Hiram Northrup, a wealthy merchant from New York. They were married at the Methodist Mission in Wyandotte by Reverend Wheeler when she was just 17, and it is said to have been the first recorded marriage in Wyandotte County.
When Margaret first met her future husband, she spoke very little English, and they required a translator during their courtship. Hiram Northrup became an adopted member of the Wyandots. He had come to Kansas from Ohio and had been living on the Missouri side, engaged in banking and merchandising with Joseph S. Chick. After their marriage, he erected a log cabin near the present intersection of Eighth Street and Minnesota Avenue. It was there the young couple went to housekeeping, and it was there they lived during the remainder of their lives, although they soon replaced the old log structure with a more substantial residence. Margaret was a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church for nearly 45 years, and their family grew to include four sons. She was known for her grace, refinement, and taste and was well-loved in the community.
Mr. Northrup was a friend and counselor of the Wyandots and made frequent trips to Washington in their interests. Northrup became a trusted member of the Nation, acting as their financial agent for many years. He was a banker in Kansas City, Kansas, up to the time of his death in the spring of 1893. Margaret Northrup died at their home in Wyandott City in 1887 and was buried in the Wyandot National Burying Ground.
Eliza Burton “Lyda” Conley is best known as the woman who saved the Wyandot National Burying Ground. One of the few female graduates of the Kansas City School of Law and the first woman admitted to the Kansas bar, she was also the first Native American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. In 1906, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Interior to sell the Wyandot National Burying Ground. To protect their ancestors’ gravesite from development, Lyda and her sister, Lena, moved into a lean-to on the cemetery grounds (often referred to as “Fort Conley”) and filed a petition to stop the sale. It went before the Supreme Court, where Lyda argued the case in 1910. Though the case was dismissed, she inspired Kansas Sen. Charles Curtis to introduce a bill making the land a national park. The bill passed in 1916, and the cemetery was preserved. In December 2016, the cemetery was named a National Historic Landmark.
Lyda Conley died in 1946, at the age of 72, after being attacked on her way home from the library. Her funeral service was attended by 500 friends, so many that they temporarily blocked traffic in downtown Kansas City. She was buried next to her parents in the cemetery she dedicated her life to protecting.
For more information about the Wyandot and other Kansas Native American tribes, the library has the following resources:
Wyandot Folk-Lore by William Elsey Connelley (available through Hoopla)