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For those who are familiar with Western history, the story of the German Family Massacre of 1874 is a singular tale of violence, tragedy and survival. There are few stories more gripping than what happened just a few miles west of the Wallace County line, when a band of marauding Southern Cheyenne attacked the family from Georgia, killing the mother, father, son and two daughters and carrying off Catherine, Sophia, Addie, and Julia, the youngest of which were 7 and 5. For months during the fall and winter of 1874-75, the girls were captives of the Cheyenne; the youngest two were even abandoned on the prairie for a period of 3 weeks, scrounging for berries, scraps of meat and corn. All four girls were rescued and lived to tell their tale. The only items kept from their ordeal were Sophia’s moccasins.
Two interesting books have been printed telling this tale, both written by descendants of the German girls. Arlene Jauken. great-granddaughter of Sophia German, is the author of “The Moccasin Speaks,” which details the story of the Germans before, during and after that fateful day on the Kansas plains. She also does a thorough job of fairly telling the story of the Southern Cheyenne band that attacked the family.
On Thursday, May 9, Arlene and Jack Jauken journeyed from their home in Peru, Nebraska to deliver a gift to the Fort Wallace Museum – Dozens of files of research on the German Family and the Southern Cheyenne, as well as several pieces of family memorabilia – including original family photos and the moccasin that her Grandmother Sophia kept from her time as an Indian captive.
This amazing gift was gratefully accepted; a new exhibit is being planned to tell the story of the German family, accompanied by the little moccasin. The files of research are planned to be stored in a new research library area being planned for a museum addition.
The book, “The Moccasin Speaks” will soon be re-printed in soft-cover by the Fort Wallace Memorial Association. Mrs. Jauken is currently writing an addendum that shares more information that she has found regarding the Germans in the years following the massacre.
The following day, Arlene and Jack made a pilgrimage to the German Family Massacre site, accompanied by Jayne and Cecil Pearce. There the great-granddaughter of Sophia German pointed out the last campsite of the family, the ridge where they were attacked and the shallow graves where the murdered were buried.
Plan a visit to your Fort Wallace Museum this summer to learn more about this and other stories from Western Kansas history!
Fort Wallace Memorial Association president Jayne Humphrey Pearce
accepts the incredible historical gifts from Arlene and Jack Jauken.
Highway 40, Box 53
Wallace, KS 67761
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