Records and correspondence regarding the Delaware Nation
This collection is compiled into 23 volumes of correspondence, documents, and other records primarily about the Delaware Nation; other Native American groups are included as they relate to the Delaware. The correspondence includes letters on file in the Office of Indian Affairs, reports of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and letters answered by the commissioner. Documents include federal legislation and legal documents filed in the United States Court of Claims.
- Creation: 1801 - 1905
Conditions Governing Access
No acccess restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.
History of the Delaware Nation and Richard Calmit Adams (1864-1921)
According to the official website of the Delaware Nation, they historically inhabited the Eastern Seaboard of North America around the areas of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware; they were originally known as the Lenni-Lenape people, or the ‘Grandfathers.’ The Delaware Nation was the first Indigenous Nation to treat with the United States of America with a statute drafted on September 17, 1778. Over the years they were pushed westward by colonists toward Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri. The Delaware people today are scattered in small enclaves throughout North America, with the largest groups residing in Oklahoma and Ontario. One group that resided in southwestern Missouri were moved in 1829 to a more ‘permanent’ reservation in Kansas Territory around what would become Wyandotte and Leavenworth Counties. In the 1860s the US government once again attempted to coerce the Delaware members residing in Kansas to move to a different reservation in Oklahoma, but many resisted. However, they were given an ultimatum: move to Oklahoma or no longer be recognized as Delaware. In order to preserve the tribe’s status, the bulk of the Delaware moved to Oklahoma, though some still remained in Kansas.
Richard Calmit [Calmet] Adams, also known as Wee-che-ca-pi-che or Thunder Clouds, was born on August 23, 1864 in White Church Village, Wyandotte County, Kansas, to Reverend William Adams and Katherine “Kate” Adams (nee Woodfield). Richard’s father, Reverend William Adams (1833-1902) or Wah-le-hop-seel (Shooting Star), was a member of the Delaware Nation, and he served as a Baptist minister and clerk to the tribal council. William Adams’ father, Mat-tee-tut-tease, was fully Indigenous and his mother, Nancy, was the daughter of an Indiana trader and a Delaware woman, Mekinges. Richard believed that his great-grandmother Mekinges was the granddaughter of the famous Delaware leader Captain White Eyes, leading him to ultimately apply for and be granted membership with the Sons of the American Revolution in 1902, due to White Eyes’ involvement in the Revolutionary War.
Sometime in the 1860s, the family moved to Oklahoma. Richard’s mother Kate passed away in 1870, when he was six years old and his brother Horace (1866-1949) was four. Their father remarried to Louisa Zulkey in 1873, and they had 10 more children, making Richard the oldest of 12. The family settled near Washington County in Oklahoma. At 16 Richard quit his part-time attendance in the country school to help provide income to his family. He never received any further formal education, instead acquiring several books over his teenage years, taking a particular interest in law books. In 1881 Richard set out on his own and worked odd jobs for a few years before returning home in 1885 and buying a land claim nearby. His brother joined him in a successful logging business from which they enjoyed profits until floods in 1888 ruined the majority of their production of logs. To work off the accompanying debt, Richard began working for Citizens Bank of Van Buren, Arkansas.
Richard married Caroline “Carrie” Few Meigs (born 1871) on April 23, 1891. She was the daughter of Henry Clay Meigs (grandson of Chief John Ross), also known as Ga'da'qua'la, and Josephine Lavinia Meigs (nee Bigelow), both members of the Cherokee Nation. Richard and Carrie lived on his farm near the Verdigris River in northeastern Oklahoma until 1894, when he gave up farming and returned to the timber industry, moving his family between several shipping ports around the territory and in Texas. During their time living on the farm, Carrie gave birth to their sons Leo Dexter Adams (1892-1942) and William Henry Adams (1893-1945). They later had five more children: James Howard Adams (1896-1959), Frederic “Fred” Meigs Adams (1900-1980), Ruth Gallagher (1904-1965), Josephine B. Davis (about 1907-after 1952), and Carrie M. LaFrance (1909-2004). During this time on the farm in the early 1890s, Adams was shot in a robbery (conflicting accounts claim either as a customer during a bank robbery or in a robbery of the shop he ran with his brother). The bullet was lodged near his lung and was never removed, later leading to hemorrhaging in his lung and ultimately his death.
By 1895 Adams had managed to pay off his debts, so the family acquired property and he quit the timber business. Around this time he began providing historical and cultural information on the Delaware Nation to the United States Government, at first for census records and later as a cultural ambassador for his people. The family eventually moved to Washington, D.C. to facilitate his work for the Nation. In 1905 he published Legends of the Delaware Indians and Picture Writing, which was reprinted in 1997 with an introduction by Deborah Nichols (a member of the Delaware Nation), including a biography of Richard Adams and his family. He continued his work advocating for the Delaware Nation until his death in 1921.
[Information retrieved from census records, https://www.delawarenation-nsn.gov, findagrave.com, http://lenapedelawarehistory.net/mirror, and
23 Volumes : Typescript copy from the original? ; Volumes measure 24 cm tall.
Language of Materials
RH MS C36
The collection was acquired in 1967, but unfortunately the original sequence of the compilation has been obscured by the poor condition of the set. Consequently, the volumes have been rearranged in chronological order with correspondence volumes followed by the documents. The majority of volumes are indexed and are noted in the inventory.
- Guide to the Richard Calmit Adams Collection
- Records and Correspondence regarding the Delaware Nation
- Finding aid prepared by pg, August 1975. Finding aid encoded by amh, 2004. Finding aid revised by kls and mwh, 2023.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.
- Finding aid permalink
- Preferred citation
Richard Calmit Adams collection on the Delaware Nation, Kansas Collection, RH MS C36, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas