Ignatius Caleb (1836 – 1921)

Posted By BrokenClaw on January 19, 2007

Caleb Ancestry

The Caleb family are all descendants of a Christian Munsee Indian from the Ohio Territory named Caleb,1 who was baptized on 10 November 1790 by Rev. David Zeisberger at the Moravian mission of Petquotting in the valley of the Muskingum (now Tuscarawas) River. The Fliegel Index contains several references to Caleb, mostly reporting his travels between the missions, although it also makes note of his objection to his mother remarrying and to some of his “sinful” practices. By the early part of the 1800s, the Munsee began to use surnames, and like many others, Caleb’s children took their father’s name as their surname.

Ignatius Caleb was a grandson of Caleb. He was born in Ontario, French Canada, on 16 Dec 1836, at the mission village known as Schönfeld [Fairfield] or simply Moraviantown along the Thames River.

It was during this time that some members of the Christian Munsee were considering a move to the American West. Over the next few years his family, along with other Caleb cousins and other Christian Munsee, settled in Wyandotte County, Kansas Territory, and then among the Delaware Indians in Leavenworth County.2

Settling in Franklin County

When the Delaware left for Indian Territory, and then the Munsee land was purchased out from under them,3 the Kansas Munsee negotiated a new treaty to join with another small band, the Swan Creek and Black River Chippewa in Franklin County. The treaty was drafted in 1859. Ignatius Caleb was only 22 years old, but the honor and responsibility fell to him to sign the Treaty with the Chippewa.4 The document shows his X-mark, indicating that Ignatius could not write his own name.

However, the treaty did not end the struggle for the Chippewa-Munsee to retain control of their land. The main voice for the Munsee was Henry Donohoe, an Irish-born immigrant who had married into the tribe. Donohoe had also signed the 1859 Treaty for the Munsee.

In 1861, the American Civil War came to Kansas, and many Delaware Indians of Kansas volunteered for the Union Army, including Ignatius Caleb. His service took him to action at the Battle of Honey Springs, the last and most significant battle in the Indian Territory.

In November 1863, Ignatius Caleb and Donohoe, along with two members of the Chippewa, formed a Tribal Council to represent the interests of their people.5

By now Ignatius was married to Grace Ann Dick. Gracy was a Brothertown Indian who had moved to Kansas with her family from Wisconsin. Her ancestry was Narragansett and Montauk, two of several New England Algonquian tribes that had migrated to Oneida County, New York, in the late 1700s and became known collectively as the Brothertown Indians. Like the Munsee, the Brothertown were Christian Indians who tried to live a separate peace apart from the world of the white Europeans. Following a series of forced migrations, the Brothertown eventually settled in Wisconsin, where many remain today. Ignatius and Gracy had three children, of which two reached adulthood, Rufus and Josephine, both of whom have many descendants to this day.

A Questionable Future

Throughout the decade, the fortunes of the Munsee continued to decline. Ignatius felt that the survival of his tribe did not lie with the equally small band of Chippewa. Ignatius was convinced that they needed to live among a larger community of native Americans, wherever that may be. In 1868 he traveled to Indian Territory, along with Moses Kilbuck, to negotiate an agreement with the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee leadership agreed to accept the small band of Munsee into their tribe and drew up a formal treaty.6 However, the treaty was never ratified by the U.S. Senate, and nothing came of it.

In 1870 Dr. William Nicholson made a tour of the Indian agencies in Kansas and Indian Territory in order to assess the medical and social conditions. He visited the Chippewa-Munsee in October of that year. In his journal he reported a conversation with Ignatius Caleb:7

…the Muncy chief thinks they would like to go amongst Cherokees — they like to live here and want to be in peace with white people & to follow the Christian ways — but their cattle sometimes go off the reservation & white people shoot them and they have no redress in the law — the white people cut their timber & they have no redress in law — He feels thankful to the Lord for the little payment they are to receive & for all their other blessings — but says they are constantly diminishing in numbers & they would rather be associated with some larger & stronger tribe.

Gracy Caleb died in 1878, leaving Ignatius with two small children. Over time, Ignatius remarried, first to Mary Ann Levey, and then to the former Mrs. Ellen McCoonse.8

In 1882, Ignatius made one more effort to join the Cherokee. This time he took Joseph McCoonse, representing the Chippewa, to talk with Cherokee Chief Dennis Wolfe Bushyhead. Chief Bushyhead received them and recommended acceptance, but once again, nothing came of it.9

A Quiet Life

Ignatius married Alice Walker in 1896. Alice was a white woman who had moved west with her family from Illinois. Alice had a daughter, Ama Youngblood, who also married into the Munsee tribe. Ignatius and Alice had a daughter, Jesse Sabilla Caleb, who died in infancy. As the century came to a close, the Chippewa-Munsee finally acquiesced and accepted the dissolution of the tribe in favor of citizenship in 1900. Shortly thereafter, Ignatius and Alice had a daughter, Susie Ethel Caleb.

Ignatius lived the rest of his days in Franklin County, Kansas, surrounded by his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, many of whom attended school at Haskell Institute in Lawrence. He died in 1921 and was buried in the Munsee Tribal Cemetery. Eventually Alice moved in with her daughter, Susie, who had married Dewey Dailey of the Otoe-Missouria tribe of Oklahoma. Dewey and Susie have many descendants across the US, including this writer. Alice died in 1930 and was buried in the Dailey plot at the Otoe-Missouria Tribal Cemetery.


For the complete citations please see the References page.

  1. Moravian Mission Among the Indians of North America: Caleb.
  2. Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians: a History, pp. 435–36.
  3. Gates, Paul Wallace. A Fragment of Kansas Land History.
  4. Treaty with the Chippewa and Munsee, 1859.
  5. Herring, Joseph B. The Chippewa and Munsee Indians.
  6. Cherokee Papers. An Act Approving of the Agreement made with the Munsee.
  7. Nicholson, Dr. William. A Tour of Indian Agencies.
  8. Franklin County Marriages.
  9. Dennis Wolfe Bushyhead Collection.

Ignatius Caleb’s extended family genealogy may be found in the Chippewa-Munsee Genealogy database.


One Response to “Ignatius Caleb (1836 – 1921)”


    Ignatius is my grandfather. My maiden name is Caleb. My dad is Gerye Caleb, he is the son of Fred Caleb. I would very much like to visit the Munsee Tribal Cemetery but I have no idea where it is. I live in Topeka, Kansas, so it wouldn’t be too far from me. If you know the location, please let me know.

    I appreciate this website, thank you!

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