Mrs. Louise M. Wynkoop
Mrs. Louise M. Wynkoop, A Biographical Sketch
Although there exists, in the contemporary newspaper accounts contained in the scrapbook which this manuscript accompanies, and elsewhere--in the archives in Washington, D. C., Historical societies' collections, and family correspondence a most comprehensive record of the prominent life of Col. Edward Wanser Wynkoop, scant mention is made of his wife, who equally shared many of her husband's fortunes and as well, if not as adventurous, had an interesting career solely her own.
Accordingly, believing a portrayal of some of the more unusual experiences of one who also possessed superiorly humane characteristics is noteworthy and analogous, this biographical narrative is inscribed to the memory of
who was born Louise Matilda Brown in London, England, September 17, 1836, of English parents of Scotch, Irish, Welsh and Polish kinship. An uncle, Sir Edwin O'Brien Pryce (note English, Irish and Welsh nomenclature), a captain in the British army, was knighted for valor at the battle of Waterloo. Her father was what was known as a "gentleman," a position which excluded him from engaging in trade as a man of wealth. He devoted his life to the hobby of fabricating exquisite cabinet work of the choicest woods, ivory, enamels and metals, giving to his friends the products of his artifice. Following his death her mother married _____ Wakeley, an English gentleman of wealth with photography as a hobby.
The family was in Paris during one of the insurrections and she, her parents, a sister, Flora, and brother, Harman, were virtual prisoners, confined to their apartment for weeks. They could see from their windows the glow from bivouac fires and the soldiery moving about in the barricaded street. An artist occupied an adjoining apartment and had taught a pet nightingale to carry the air of the "Marseillais." One day he and the bird were placed under arrest, summarily convicted and, first the bird, in the sight of its owner, and then the artist were most punctiliously guillotined! Previous to this period the family had been to New York, where Louise and her sister attended a boarding school. They later returned to England, then again to New York, the three trips across the Atlantic being made in sailing vessels.
Early in 1859, becoming interested in the reports published in New York newspapers about the new Golconda on the eastern slope of the Rocky mountains, again the family set out and from St. Louis to Denver drove across the plains to the center of the gold rush, meeting all kinds of people and every manner of conveyance, from the ox-team and "prairie schooner" to persons afoot, one of the latter pushing a crude, home-made wheelbarrow, which contained among a meager supply of necessities a guitar, with which the owner regaled the family one night on the plains of western Kansas.
Upon reaching Denver, then a raw collection of tents, shacks, log cabins and some business places embellished with "false fronts," Wakeley engaged in photography commercially, and a number of the scenes in and about Denver of the early days are the products of his camera.
In the course of time the young ladies, the Misses Flora and Louise (Brown) Wakeley, possessing histrionic talent, were persuaded to join Thorne's Star Co., a professional theatrical organization then playing Denver and surrounding mining camps. Old play bills of this aggregation are still in existence and on exhibition in the state Museum in Denver. While with the Thornes' Miss Louise took the part of Nanette in "Cross of Gold" and the part of Mrs. Gregory in the "Two Gregories, or Luck in a Name" at Apollo hall, Denver, October 3, 1859. Between the acts of these plays Miss Flora, an exceptionally beautiful girl still in her teens, sang the ballad "Maggie at My Side" and other popular songs of the period. On October 6 Louise and Flora acted the parts of Lady Anne and the Duchess of York, respectively, in "Richard III."
Following this Mr. and Mrs. Jack Langrishe, professional actors, opened in stock at Apollo hall, and generously contributed the theater and their personal services free on a number of occasions to the Denver Amateur Dramatic association, of which E. W. Wynkoop was president and a leading actor, and organized for the purpose of raising funds for the relief of the poor who had flocked to Denver expecting to "pick up gold in the streets" only to be disillusioned and find little or no work at all in the new community. It was while taking part in some of the plays for charity that Miss Louise M. Brown met Edward W. Wynkoop, which resulted in their marriage in January, 1861. Soon thereafter Miss Flora returned with her parents to New York, where she died a few years later.
A son, Edward Estil, was born to the couple in Denver October 6, 1862, being among the very first children to see the light there. A few months after this event Mrs. Wynkoop, alone with her infant son, left Denver, over then wild country and rugged roads by stage coach to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to join her husband, who, as major of Troop A, First Regiment of Colorado Cavalry, had taken part in the battles of Apache canyon, Glorieta and Val Verde, resulting in the defeat and retreat of Brigadier General Henry H. Sibley's regiments of Texans, who had intended to cut a way through Kansas and Missouri and finally swarm down with greatly augmented forces of southern sympathizers enlisted enroute, upon General Grant, whose blockading of Richmond had just been instituted; indicating that if carried out the Confederacy might have been the victors in the war between the north and south.
It was while staying at La Fonda (The Hotel) of the '60s, in Santa Fe that the Wynkoops had an amusing (though somewhat repulsive) experience. Some friends had presented to them a large chocolate layer cake and this was on a table in their room. Mrs. Wynkoop sat reading while she awaited the return of her husband, who had stepped out a moment to greet a friend. Feeling something run across her feet, she looked down and saw, not one, but a swarm of rats scampering about the floor, evidently attracted by the cake. She lost no time in clambering to a standing position on the chair seat. It was while thus posed with skirts held tightly around her that the door opened and Major Wynkoop stepped into the room. Almost before he pulled the door open every last rat had disappeared. Naturally he was amazed to find his wife thus engaged, not having seen the rats, and asked the reason for it. He was told about the raid of rats, but made light of it. "Well, just sit quietly for a moment and we'll see what happens," said she. No sooner were they settled than again the rats made their appearance, first one, then two, three, four, and rapidly a great horde of them as before. In an instant, without ceremony, BOTH were standing up on their chairs, until the major thought of it and drawing his revolver began shooting. This drove away
the rats and attracted the hotel-keeper, resulting in removal to other rooms of the rambling adobe structure.
While in Santa Fe they visited and were guests for a few days at the home in Taos of Brigadier General Christopher (Kit) Carson, with whom Major Wynkoop had been a tent mate on several occasions during the campaign in New Mexico, where they were hospitably entertained by Kit's wife, who had been Senorita Josefa Jaramillo, a sister-in-law of Governor Henry Bent, killed in a massacre by Indians in Taos.
Following their return to Colorado, Mrs. Wynkoop resided in Denver while the major was engaged in military duties connected with more or less Indian trouble in various parts of the Rocky mountain region and the plains. Often, however, she dwelt with him at some of the army posts to which he was assigned. In the fall of 1863 she left Denver with her son to join her husband, now brevet-colonel and Chief of Cavalry of the Upper Arkansas (river) district, with headquarters at Fort Riley, Kansas. There happened several interesting incidents. Their second child was born in February, 1864, a daughter, christened Emily (a family name) and as a middle name--Reveille, owing to the fact that just as she awoke to the world the bugler of the garrison was sounding the melodious notes that would arouse the sleeping soldiers--reveille. Another, and unusual incident happened at the colonel's quarters, which was somewhat isolated from the fort proper. Sometimes when bound to army headquarters he would take the children to play with some of the other officers' youngsters, leaving Mrs. Wynkoop entirely alone. This was such an occasion. However, she was noted for bravery and coolness and habituated, like many pioneer women of the west, to dangerous situations. Wandering Indians frequented the post and vicinity. One day Mrs. Wynkoop was seated at a window sewing. From the corner of an eye she was suddenly made aware that the painted face of an Indian was plastered against the pane, glaring at her. Evidently he had endeavored to startle her, a shrewd delight of many redskins, but unaffected she continued to keep her eyes on her sewing, pretending she had not seen him. Whereupon he uttered a loud "Ugh!" Then she glanced up and with a calm gesture of the hand indicated that he should come to the door. There he signified that he desired food and would give her a small pair of beautifully beaded, snow white, buckskin moccasins in return. Accepting the present she had him sit at a table, and retired to a back room to prepare something to serve him. First she tried on one of the moccasins, which fit perfectly. Hearing him move she slipped the other under a bedspread.
When the Indian had finished eating he arose and gruffly repeated "moccasin, moccasin!" The moccasin on her foot happened to be completely concealed by her long skirt. She understood that he was demanding their return, but shook her head negatively. He had given them to her and she was determined to keep them. She had never before seen such a beautiful piece of Indian handicraft. Possibly concluding any other course would be fruitless he rummaged about until he finally found the moccasin under the counterpane. In the meantime Mrs. Wynkoop bravely held her ground near where hung in easy reach an army Colts revolver in its holster. Whether or not the Indian was influenced by this, after repeating "moccasin, moccasin," and unaware of how readily close the missing one was concealed, he at last departed. For many years thereafter that solitary moccasin was a valued souvenir, but finally disappeared in some mysterious manner, like other exceptional presents that had been given to the colonel and wife, only, in future years to be either presented to friends or actually purloined by others.
Life at Fort Riley was far from monotonous. With emigrants bound farther west and ox-drawn "prairie schooners" and stage coaches passing through; delegations of Indian chiefs coming for conference, mainly for supplies; whole tribes sometimes encamping nearby; merry parties and dances at the post, and unexpected events happening continually--those by duty confined to the "wilderness" were solaced, even though denied some of the comforts and gaities of civilization.
On one occasion a young French lady who spoke her native tongue only was visiting a friend at the post. Some of the younger officers took it upon themselves to teach her their language, with the result that at a large gathering of officers and wives, believing she was speaking refined English, she shocked the ladies and astounded and amused the men by rattling off a string of meaningless "cuss words."
An entertaining feature was when the horses of his troop, which a sergeant had trained to perform, riderless, the maneuvers of guard-mount, went through the evolutions of the drill, gracefully and as precisely as they would with the cavalrymen on their backs.
Kit Carson arrived at Fort Riley from Taos in December, 1866, on his way to St. Louis, Missouri, to settle some matter regarding family property, and for several days was the guest of Colonel and Mrs. Wynkoop. The latter were about to depart for Washington, D. C., the colonel in relation to resigning from the army and to seek appointment as Indian agent. So they decided to travel in company with General Carson as far as his destination. Much like the Indians among whom he had spent so much time, Carson was averse to having his photograph taken. But in St. Louis the colonel and wife finally persuaded him to accede, when it was agreed that but two pictures should be made, one for each, and the negative be destroyed. Carson also reluctantly assented to pose in his uniform as a brigadier general, which he had brought with him. After his friends and their children had continued their journey, being lodged at the old Planters hotel, he unfortunately was caught in the burning of that hostelry, losing all his belongings, including his copy of the photograph, the only one he ever posed for, and barely escaping death with nothing on but his night clothes. The remaining photograph is still in possession of a member of the Wynkoop family at this writing. Any others which are purported to be the original, as has been erroneously asserted, are copies from this one or from imaginative concepts of Carson's actual personality by portrait painters.
At Washington, in conference with President Johnson, Lincoln's successor, at the urgence of U. S. Senator Doolittle, who was deeply interested in the proper welfare of the Indians, the president first offered Colonel Wynkoop a commission in the regular army which he declined on the ground that he preferred a civil to a military life in times of peace, then appointed him to the office he sought. Subsequently the family returned west, to Fort Larned, Kansas, which became headquarters for the agency. It was here, while the Wynkoops and two officers from the post and their wives were seated on the porch of the colonel's quarters of a summer evening, that a huge, mad wolf, frothing at the mouth, leaped over the railing, tumbling the group about but causing no injury beyond bruises sustained in falling, ran across the parade ground into the barracks hospital tent, bit a patient, who later died of rabies, and was shot by a sentry on the border of the reservation as the brute ran toward him. At this time Henry M. Stanley, afterward African explorer and knighted by Queen Victoria of England, was there as correspondent covering army and Indian affairs for the New York Times. He wrote a most lurid story of the event,
somewhat exaggerated, to which the newspaper added a fanciful woodcut of the scene on the porch, with the colonel pictured as wearing a trapper's fur cap. [See: Mad Wolf At Fort Larned, Fearful Scenes and Tragic Results.]
Like her husband, Mrs. Wynkoop, at Forts Riley and Larned, Denver, Washington and elsewhere came to know intimately many of the celebrated officers of the civil war, especially those engaged in Indian campaigns, among the most prominent being Generals Winfield Scott Hancock, John A. Logan, William Tecumseh Sherman, Phil H. Sheridan, George A. Custer and Alex McD. McCook; U. S. Senators Doolittle, Henry M. Teller, who was also secretary of the interior, Edmund G. Ross, whose vote in congress saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment and in 1885 was governor of New Mexico, and ... ... Foster, acting vice president during Johnson's administration; famous Peter Cooper; many early westerners, such as Col. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), "Texas Jack," who was a Spanish count named J. B. Omahundra, Jim Bridger and Jim Beary; David H. Moffat, of Moffat tunnel and railroad fame; many Indian chiefs, notably Black Kettle, Tall Bear and One Eye of the Cheyenne tribe, besides chiefs of the Arapahoe, Kiowa, Comanche, and Mescalero Apache tribes under Wynkoop's superintendence, not to mention innumerable other fine lesser lights.
Finally becoming discouraged and thoroughly disgusted with the army's interference in Indian affairs outside its jurisdiction, which conflicted with the successful method he had built up for handling the Indians, not only the tribes directly subject to his superintendence, but of the Uncompaghre Utes and certain Sioux tribes, Colonel Wynkoop resigned as Indian agent in 1868, and accompanied by his wife and children settled in Pennsylvania, his native state, where were born four sons and two daughters, with the first two born in the west making a total of eight children.
Then again, in March, 1883, Mrs. Wynkoop moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, headquarters of the colonel, who had preceded them, as special United States timber agent for New Mexico, Arizona and a part of Colorado, a position equivalent to the present-day U. S. regional forester and antedating the establishment of the National forests and service. In the ancient "City Different" the family lived until 1891, when, following the death of Colonel Wynkoop September 11th, they moved to Denver. While her husband was warden of the New Mexico penitentiary, 1890-1, Mrs. Wynkoop assisted him as matron for the women inmates of the institution, and by her humane consideration gained their cheerful obedience and was greatly beloved by them.
From Denver in 1905 she joined two daughters and their families who had gone to San Francisco, where in April, 1906, her final earthly adventure came during the disastrous earthquake and fire, in which fortunately she and the others suffered no loss or harm.
Although of gentle birth, never accustomed as a youth to anything but the comforts of wealth and city life, Mrs. Wynkoop never complained of the wild, rough, early-western experiences she was often exposed to or the trials and vicissitudes the passing years brought. Indeed, in all respects, she was highly esteemed for her remarkably fine character by a host of friends,-every friend;-and the manner toward her of everyone she met, including entire strangers of all classes, under all kinds of circumstances, at least seeming to indicate that they were influenced in their kindly and generous behavior toward her by the very purity of her soul. By all who knew her well she was appreciated as a lady unselfish to a fault, truly tolerant, refined, sacrificing, sympathetic. She never uttered an unkind word, a slanderous remark, and tabooed
malignant gossip. She once remarked that she felt so strongly for all humanity that she suffered for them. Christian! in the real meaning of that much-abused application.
At last, peacefully, at the advanced age of eighty-seven years, still sweetly as she had lived, retaining to the end her benevolent mind, all her fine inherent qualities, on November 3, 1923, Mrs. Louise Matilda Wynkoop closed a colorful career at the home of a daughter in San Francisco, deeply grieved by the remaining devoted members of her family, who were consoled in their loss by gratitude that for so many years they had possessed such a mother.
Written in 1938 by Frank (Francis) Murray Wynkoop, a son, with apologies for any possible discrepancies - of no particular importance, inasmuch as all that is of real consequence is authentic - which he may have been led into making through reference to, perhaps, insufficiently verifiable sources.
Wynkoop, Frank M., "Commemoration: Mrs. Louise M. Wynkoop; A Biographical Sketch," Angélico Chávez Historical Library, Santa Fe, NM, Edward W. Wynkoop Collection, 1859-1987, (AC 247), Folder 2, 1938, [6 pages].
The following lines appeared in a separate note attached to the middle of page five of Frank Wynkoop's recollections of his mother. While I'm not sure whether they were written by Frank or not, it's apparent that he did type them up and attach them to the manuscript; (thus causing me some problems in preparing an accurate transcript for your reading pleasure.) They're reproduced here for the sake of completeness:
"How shall I here her placid picture paint
Next, I want to express my sincere thanks to Louis Kraft, [email protected], for sending me a copy of this paper.
Louis is the author of nine(!) terrific articles on Ned Wynkoop's life, two lectures, plus a one-man play and a novel in which Ned figures, (see the Wynkoop Bibliography page.)
Louis is currently at work on the first of several projected books about Edward Wanshaer Wynkoop and is looking for original letters and photographs written by and/or to Ned Wynkoop to help him flesh out Ned's life. If you would like to contribute to this valuable family project, you can contact him at the above e-mail address.
Louis, as usual, I really appreciate your help.
I would also like to express my deepest thanks to Tomas Jaehn, [email protected], of the Angélico Chávez Historical Library in Santa Fe for sending me a new copy of the 5th page of this manuscript, this time with the obscured part of the text revealed. This has enabled me to finally post a complete copy of Frank's recollections for the very first time. Thanks, Tomas. You're a real life saver!
All my best,
Created June 27, 1999; Revised April 25, 2006
Comments to [email protected]
Copyright © 1999, 2001-2006 by Christopher H. Wynkoop, All Rights Reserved
This site may be freely linked to but not duplicated in any fashion without my written consent.