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Paxson, Joseph

Dr. Joseph A. Paxson (1842-88), physician to the Winnebago from 1869 to 1870, left an interesting picture of the Winnebago in Nebraska during this brief period. Paxson, a native of Pennsylvania and of Quaker ancestry, taught school and studied medicine at the Universty of Pennsylvania. Receiving his medical degree in 1869, he was available for appointment to the post of physician on the Winnebago Reservation, where he kept a diary. The assignment was in the area which had been allocated to the Society of Friends in President U.S. Grant's short-lived Indian policy. Nebraska History (July-September and October- December 1946 issues) included selections from Paxson's diary, including his observations on reservation life in northeast Nebraska.

New Year's Day in 1870 rated a lengthier entry than usual in his diary: "This day has been set apart as the most appropriate of all to distribute the clothing sent by the Friends of New York, to the little children attending the Winnebago Indian Schools. A number of the smallest & most destitute of the children were selected by the teachers to come to the office this morning and be fitted out in a comfortable suit as a New Year's gift. At a very early hour numbers of them had collected around the door, accompanied by their mothers, older sisters & brothers, and a few of the men." Each boy received an outfit of clothes, but the girls had to wait for theirs because the garments had not yet been cut and sewed.

Dr. Paxson's January 3 entry indicated that the new clothes for the New Year were much appreciated by the Winnebago recipients: "Saw quite a number of the little Indian boys with their new clothes on. They looked quite well and the most of them were without the much loved blanket. The ladies of the Agency spent the day in cutting the clothes for the girls."

(December 1996)



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