Biographical Article

~~~~~    
"MAJOR"  ISRAEL  McCREIGHT   ~~~~~
"CHIEF TCHANTA TANKA"

April 22, 1865 – October 13, 1958

This biographical article appears here as a public service with the permission of the author and webmaster who retains exclusive and full ownership rights.  It is also fully protected by this website's copyright and may NOT be copied, printed, referenced to or transmitted in part or whole without written permission.   Published 1 June 2011

by:  Ken Williams, Author and Webmaster

Major Israel McCreight was a noted DuBois banker, author, conservationist, adopted member and an honorary chief 
of the Sioux Indian Tribe.  He was cited by the Courier Express as a "pioneer and first citizen" of DuBois.

McCreight was born near Soldier in Jefferson County (Winslow Township) on April 22, 1865, a tumultuous time in our country’s history. He was born Israel McCreight, named after his mother's noted soldier brother Israel Uncapher, a Major in the Union Army who had fought in the Mexican and Civil Wars.

Someone thought to call the child "Major" as well and like it or not, that childhood nickname followed him throughout his entire life although family members often called him simply by the shortened Maj or Maje.
(pronounced Mage as in the word age)

The month of April 1865 had marked the end of the American Civil war.  Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9 and less than a week later, on Good Friday April 14, President Abraham Lincoln was struck down by an assassin's bullet at Ford's Theater and died the next morning.
 

In the days just prior to McCreight's birth 10,000 people would watch Lincoln’s funeral procession in Washington and then the April 21st loading of his casket onto a train draped in black that would take his body cross country for burial in Springfield, Illinois. Thousands would line the railroad tracks as the train slowly passed by. With stops in almost a dozen major northern cities thousands more would watch a local funeral procession.  The trip would take nearly two weeks with burial not until May 4th.

McCreight was just three days old when President Lincoln's funeral procession passed through New York.  That event was watched from his uncle's mansion by a rather sickly six year-old child who was then asthmatic, weak and near-sighted. That once frail youngster, however, would grow hardy and strong and become one of our greatest presidents.  Theodore Roosevelt would bring excitement and power to the Presidency and world-wide respect for himself and for the United States.   ( VIEW )

Years later President Roosevelt would rely on Major McCreight of DuBois to help author the President's national Conservation Policy. 

That same year of 1865 would see newspaper editor Horace Greeley of the N.Y. Tribune write the famous line, "Go West young man … and grow up with the country." Those words would turn out to be prophetic for the newborn McCreight.

Little did anyone know at the time just how great a part the West would play in McCreight's life.

Once known as "The Wilderness at Sandy," the wooded hills and the beaver-made meadow of today's DuBois was, in fact, still pretty much a wilderness in 1865.  John Rumbarger had come to the area the same year that McCreight was born. McCreight would be in grade school before the tiny village of Rumbarger would get its post office in 1874 and just before the 1873 construction of John DuBois' "Big Mill" on the East side of town that was then known as "Swamp Siding."  

However, as McCreight grew so did DuBois grow from its start as a lumbering town to eventually emerge and become a city in its own right and home to McCreight.  In those later years McCreight would be a major player in the growth of DuBois.

In his history of DuBois McCreight woud write, "DuBois was conceived in a big idea, by a man (John DuBois) able to carry out a big idea.... While John DuBois put the town on the map, Johnny J Jones, Tom Mix and John G McCrory are (the) names that helped to keep it there.... It is sad ... that Johnny Jones, who did so much to advertise DuBois, lies buried in an unmarked grave in the City of Orlando; it is one more evidence of the truth that public memory is short, fickle and unappreciative toward those to who they owe the most."

Now, nearly 150 years after McCreight's birth that observation could just as well be applied to Major's own contributions to the growth of DuBois and the creation of Cooks Forest State Park.

The country welcomed peace following the Civil War, but would remained divided for years to come, both sides having suffered the ravages of a war not soon to be forgotten. McCreight would be four years old before the Transcontinental Railroad joined the two ends of the nation by rail, but the land between the Mississippi River and California was still very much "the wild west."

Billy the Kid would kill the first of many men while McCreight, often barefoot, was still walking to his country school. During McCreight's pre-teen years Wild Bill Hickok would be shot holding the famous "aces and eights" poker hand and Alexander Graham Bell would just be inventing the telephone. McCreight was 14 when Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.

Those were the dramatic events of that era for the little baby who was one of six surviving children (six others died at a young age) born to Eliza (Catherine) Ludwig Uncapher and "Honest" John Winslow McCreight who, in addition to his logging and farming, served as a the local Justice of the Peace.

John W. McCreight’s parents ( Andrew McCreight and Ann Sharp ) had been among "the earliest settlers in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania. They were married in 1810 and had thirteen children.  Ann's father and hence Major McCreight's great grandfather Captain Andrew Sharp served with George Washington in the Revolutionary War.  In 1794 Capt. Sharp had been shot and killed from ambush by an Indian while transporting his family via house-boat from Shelocta to Pittsburgh with plans to move to Kentucky.

Ironically Major McCreight would later be a significant supporter of Native Americans.

Andrew and Ann Sharp McCreight's six sons, including Major's father John, took sections of land adjoining the family farm. The McCreight's called the settlement, Paradise," and that was where Major McCreight grew up. That area outside Reynoldsville still retains that name today.

Major's mother Eliza’s ancestors came to America from Germany and she was described as small "quick and fiery while John (an Irishman) was serenely calm … stocky and broad shouldered."  .

The children had a two-mile trek to a little country school house through the "forest," rain, shine or winter snow.
  Major McCreight grew up on the family farm helping with the daily farm-related chores and other activities which included hunting with an old Kentucky rifle given him by the family's doctor, driving the family’s big red oxen, logging of the Pine forests and squaring timber to be floated to market.

The logs and timbers were hauled to Sandy Creek, floated to Red Bank Creek, then downstream to the Allegheny River and down to Pittsburgh.

McCreight was eleven years old when General George Custer rode into inglorious history at the Battle of the Little Big Horn (1876) in Eastern Montana.  Major McCreight and Sioux Indian Chief Flying Hawk would many years later gather at the historic Wigwam in DuBois to write the Chief's first hand account of that famous battle.

McCreight's youth was not a sedimentary life for the lazy.
  The family had little spare money and worked hard for what they had. McCreight wrote, "The boy of today has no conception of what it took to earn a living those days." 

Later in life he would write, I was, "Born of life and hope; nurtured by a wonderful mother; schooled in the distracted world of hard knocks to youth and early manhood; learning Life from the big wide bare plains of the northwest, where friends and neighbors lived from time immemorial in a world of Nature!"

Finishing public school, McCreight enrolled in Eastman College, a noted Business School located in Poughkeepsie, New York, which at one time was one of the largest and most acclaimed commercial schools in the country.
 

The school's cost of $110 required a significant family sacrifice to make the 17 year old's enrollment " ... at all possible.  (The sale of a) young horse and a couple of steers together with the savings of the other members of the family finally produced the sum" needed for Major McCreight to attend college.

Eastman College students were taught business by actually performing practical, real-world tasks that would be required of them in their chosen careers. An excellent student, McCreight is said to have completed his education in merchandising and banking in the record time of just four months.

In August of 1882 he reportedly became one of the youngest persons ever graduated. In his words, he was serious in his "study for getting through that noted training place.... (and to that intelligent young man), the course seemed easily met." 

It was the same year that John L. Sullivan became the Heavyweight Champion of the World.  The first World Series took place that year, Thomas Edison created the first string of electric Christmas lights and out West Jesse James was shot and killed.  It was a fascinating time in our history.

Returning home by train after a side trip to see Niagara Falls (" a great sight ") he passed through Driftwood where, unknown to him at the time, two year old Tom Mix would have been at play at his family’s homestead nearby.
  Mix would later go on to world-wide fame and put DuBois on the map as an early western film star.

McCreight went to work on the family farm where reportedly his immediate chores included shoveling manure.  But the very next summer ( 1883 ) while Black Bart was robbing stage coaches in the American West, and energetic Major McCreight went to Reynoldsville in search of employment to put his training to use.  McCreight once said of Reynoldsville, "this is my old home town and no part of Pennsylvania has more or better history than originates here."

That same year Buffalo Bill Cody, who would later become McCreight's close friend, started his famous Wild West Show. He would tour the country and the world. Years later, his travels would bring him to DuBois as a guest at McCreight's famous summer home, the "Wigwam."

McCreight wrote, I had "greased my boots, donned my blue serge suit over my one white shirt and paper collar, tucked my gold-sealed college diploma under my arm and walked to town; … to try to get a job to earn some money to go west."

"Tied to the hitching rack in front of the Fuller store were saddle horses and farm teams while under the porch covering the wooden sidewalk, sat the proprietor on an empty dry-goods box industriously chewing tobacco and answering a farmer's question about the coming elections, between spits.

"As the farmer turned away, I advanced hesitatingly and addressed the proprietor to know if I might get a position in his store. "How old are you and what do you know about storekeeping?" was the reply following a squirt of tobacco juice which landed squarely on a horse's hoof clear of the walk."

"I'm past seventeen, and I have a diploma; here it is, sir"; and the merchant unfolded it to gaze upon the mysterious document, the like of which he had never seen before. Then he continued; "are you John's son?"---and being informed that I was, the job was settled and (I was) to begin next day with $20 a month salary."

Employed as a clerk, he also helped out in the "private bank" of Seeley-Alexander that was located in the same building as the G.W. Fuller store. He eventually was hired to do the banking work at the same wage he had earned as a store clerk.   In 1884 he was hired as cashier of the First National Bank of DuBois and often also slept in a back room as night watchman.

In those years DuBois was a town on the move. (see McCreight's History of DuBois)   "(It) was a hive of industry; mills, lumberyard, foundry, pattern shop, tannery, big and little stores, railroad sidings, farms and mines boomed with bustling activity.... There were no unemployed, .... DuBois prospered!
Filled with plain, hard-working, neighborly, self-reliant men and women DuBois went forward in a steady and substantial way to  her destiny as the commercial center of a constantly widening area."

But in the Spring of 1885, just two years out of Eastman College and already employed in the banking business albeit as just a cashier,
McCreight wrote that, " … a fever came on (me) to see the West."  Things had become too routine for McCreight and he was soon "enroute to the rails-end in buffalo and indian country."

It was the year Mark Twain published Huckleberry Finn, that both Lawrence of Arabia and old-blood-and-guts General George Patton were born, and that the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York Harbor.

Armed with little more than a positive letter of recommendation, he took a series of trains west, eventually coming to Devils Lake in the Northern Dakota Territory, an area McCreight would later describe as one of America’s "last frontiers."

He wrote, "These were days when the old west was really wild and wooly."
 

His time there would influence McCreight for the rest of his life, fostering his love of nature and respect for Native Americans. McCreight noted, "...the extermination of the (buffalo) herds for their hides and the consequent sacrifice of (the American Indian,) the original proprietors of the vast interior of the continent, is a stained page" of America's history.

Of his arrival at Devil's Lake McCreight wrote, as I "stepped down from the platform of the local train at the end of the track on the frontier of north-central Dakota Territory the first persons to meet and greet (me) was a small band of Sioux Indians who had come, in their gala dress, to witness the coming of the wonderful fire-wagon; they were a fine healthy lot; and as the travel- worn youth with his carpet-bag and lunch basket looked about for someone from whom he might ask directions, the chief stepped up and with extended hand" welcomed the young traveler.

Later McCreight wrote, "Indians had killed (my) own great-grandfather ( Captain Andrew Sharp in 1794 )and carried on a war of extermination against (my) forbears in Pennsylvania in the old days. That kindly greeting by the old Sioux Chief quickly dispelled much of the prejudice that had filled his heart through childhood, and soon the youth (McCreight) began to think that Indians were not such terrible folks as Eastern people believed they were."

"Half in fright and with a puzzled hand-shake, the boy made his way toward what seemed to be the white man's town, he passed by a large pile of bones, and wondered what it meant."

"It was not many days until he was informed, for soon he found himself in full charge of the business of buying and shipping buffalo bones including the very pile which had so aroused his curiosity on arrival in the far west;—for this was Indian and buffalo country then,—but it proved to be the end for both shortly thereafter. It was the last year for the buffalo; and it was the last year of the happy, healthy, life for the Indians ... "

The lives of the Indians became "pathetic," simply trying to keep their families "from starvation. But the white folks were busy with making money in this new country of new and varied opportunity; they were not interested in Indians—that was a matter for the Government, they said, and ignored the helpless suffering natives when they saw them; there were no welfare societies then, and the Government was far away. Like the buffalo, the native tribes were thus set on the way to extermination."  And, "Upon the heels of the vanishing buffalo came the homesteader" and the Indians fate was sealed.

McCreight noted the whole process was " a heartless exploitation of innocent and helpless people."  Our treatment of "The Indian race is the one (thing) which the people of the United States (should) most dread at the judgment bar of Almighty God.  Our present generation unfortunately have only the faintest conception of the nation's (terrible) history in this respect."

The tons and tons of buffalo bones gathered off the prairies, which McCreight described as a wilderness of whitened skeletons, were shipped East to fertilizer factories.  After the Civil War "thousands of trappers, traders and professional hunters; the gold seekers and adventurers and the rum peddlers ... overflowed the Indian country, and as conquering hosts, swooped down on the helpless buffalo herds and annihilated them."  Taking just the hides, the skinners left behind millions of tons of meat to simply rot on the ground.

"The buffalo furnished a living for the Indians of the plains. The Indians only killed the buffalo for use of food and raiment. His tents. his beds, his moccasins, his lariats, his thread and many other useful articles, not forgetting his food. The only good that came from destroying the buffalo was to rid the country of the Indians."

From 1872 to 1874 records showed that the Sante Fe railroad alone had shipped back over 10 million pounds of buffalo bones along with thousands and thousands of hides.

McCreight was initially hired by Sam Dodd, a stockman and contractor, the owner of a meat and livestock marketing business under contract to  the U.S. Army post at nearby Fort Totten.  He was to initiate their bookkeeping system of accounting and to oversee the company’s finances, eventually becoming paymaster and purchasing agent.

It was during this time that he began to deal with the Indians who came to trade buffalo bones and hides. The "bone business" had become a multi-million dollar business during its brief existence and while in the Dakotas McCreight was in charge of a large share of that business, branching out from around Devils Lake, purchasing and shipping the items back East, primarily to St Louis and other markets.

McCreight recalled being "Caught out on the wild prairie 30 miles from home (in the) the worst Dakota blizzard ever known, saved by unguided ponies, dragged to home and safety for five hours... 24 people died, and uncounted livestock perished. Just one of many narrow escapes from death such as the ice-quake opening a gap 20 ft. wide a second (after my passing, as I drove the pony from a day at the fort [Totten], alone at 32 below zero."

For more detail regarding McCreight’s two year adventure out West the reader is referred to several of his writings, in particular "Buffalo Bone Days" and "Go West Young Man." Both are noted in the bibliography and along with McCreight's History of DuBois make superb reading.

Known for his honest dealings, McCreight become friends with many of the American Indians, a relationship that lasted even after his return to Pennsylvania and did much to shape his adult life.

After nearly two years in the wild west he returned to the DuBois area in 1886 citing an "urge to see the girl I left behind me...."
  

McCreight was just 21 years old.  The tales of Sherlock Holmes were the talk of Queen Victoria's England, Grover Cleveland was our American President, and Apache Chief Geronimo surrendered ending last major US-Indian war.


Coming back to the area on what was planned as a short vacation McCreight was... "
approached by the former Reynoldsville banker, F. K. Arnold, (then) president of the First National Bank of DuBois City, to buy part of his stock and take (a) position as Assistant Casher and Director .... and by the winter of '86 DuBois had its youngest bank officer and director ..." 

Thus began some four decades of noteworthy business affairs and banking for McCreight before retiring from the bank at age 60 in 1925.  Even then he continued his involvement in community affairs. His successes in both areas made McCreight an important figure in the history of DuBois.

Patriarch lumbering magnate John DuBois had died while McCreight was out West and his nephew and heir John E DuBois ran the family business as the newly returned McCreight established himself at the bank.  DuBois was still a town on the move.

On July 20, 1887 the young entrepreneur married blue-eyed Alice Humphrey and put down roots that would fasten him to DuBois for the next 71 years. Later he would call Alice his "housekeeper and boss." In 1950 he wrote, "
I picked her when she was ten. I delivered a half bushel basket (of apples) ... to the Humphrey home in Prescottville; she came to ... take in the load.... That was the moment (her fate was sealed) ... and I must declare "that she is the best wife--the best mother and the best woman that ever filled the job of living with a man."

In 1957 the Courier Express wrote of the McCreights, "considered by many the First Citizens of DuBois, ...They started their life together early in the morning for the wedding ceremony was performed at seven o'clock in the morning in the bride's home on Jackson St., Reynoldsville. It was a fancy wedding. The bride was attired in all white fluffy stuff. The groom, too, was decked out in a super manner---something that DuBois and Reynoldsville had never seen before. He wore the finest wedding suit ever made by the Guthmillers, of DuBois ... famous tailors in this area. (The suit cost $27, was silk-lined and black, with grey trousers and a tall grey plug hat."

Together the couple would parent seven children: Donald, Mary Catherine, twins Jack and Jim, Martha Louise, Major Israel Jr, and Rembrant, the youngest who was adopted into the Sioux tribe in a ceremony at the Wigwam.

The youngest son Rembrandt died prematurely on December 4, 1937 of what the family called "the worst form of a terrible malady."
McCreight wrote, it was a "terrible suffering of the family and particularly myself and Alice ...." to watch their son battle a lengthy illness  with no available cure.   When Rem died a full-blooded Sioux flew to DuBois from a Wyoming reservation to attend the funeral as a representative of the tribe.  It was a personal tribute that reflected the high esteem that the Sioux had for McCreight and his family. Rembrandt was only 28 years old.

Deeply affected by that tragedy, Major would write, Rem was "one of the finest and most popular young men of his time."

Read "A Boy Scout Goes West," an account of eleven year-old Rem's trip West

The couple’s first child (Donald) had been born in May following the marriage of Major and Alice. The very next month on June 18 the "Great DuBois Fire of 1888" destroyed most of the city’s entire business district including the two week old Deposit Bank which McCreight had just started on June 4 in the lobby of the old Commercial Hotel. 

In that one disastrous day the future suddenly looked very bleak indeed for both DuBois and McCreight. 

When the fire alarm was called out smoke was already rising from the Baker House. "It was a hot day and wind was blowing;. there was no effective means of fighting it, and soon adjoining structures were ablaze. The heat was oppressive and the winds scattered the roaring fire in every direction; it leaped across the streets and railroad track and soon both sides of Long Avenue toward the hill section, was a sweeping flame. A brisk and increasing wind sent it faster and faster up the hill, while ... it spread west crossing Main street (then swept) north and south .... soon there were more men fighting exhausting than were contending with the fire."

By evening McCreight's new bank was "like the town, a mere pile of ashes."

See McCreight’s "Memory Sketches" (A History of DuBois 1874-1938) cited below in the bibliography for a fascinating and first-hand account of the Great Fire, the history of DuBois following the fire, and more about McCreight himself. 

Undaunted, McCreight recovered his safe from the ashes of the hotel basement where it had fallen when the floor burned away and he was soon set up again for business in the old DuBois opera house that was one of the few available buildings left standing after the devastating fire.
A used carpenter's work bench became a counter and an old table was found for bookkeeping and correspondence. It was all the office furniture to be had.

Both McCreight's and another DuBois bank shared that location for some six months "as the people gradually dug out their property lines and rebuilt. We built a new building ..., there to win new business rapidly. That bank was to eventually be" increased in size three times (to become) ... the biggest bank and offices in all the region."

Shortly after the new bank building opened in 1892, McCreight, armed only with his fists, single-handedly thwarted an armed robbery. Hearing the robbery in progress, McCreight rose
" ... and stepped into the lobby; ... (the bandit) reached for his hip pocket to pull his gun, but before he could draw, (I) was on him in a rage; caught his arm and grabbed him by the throat; instantly (we) were on the floor in a desperate struggle; .....  (we) rolled on the dusty floor in a death-grip (to) come near to the front door, and the bandit made a terrific effort to gain his feet as if to get out; (we) arose from the floor and (I) succeeded in getting (my) right arm free ...; with a hard smash on the jaw from the (my) right, the bandit fell backward down three steps to the walk, where he managed to again get to his feet just in time to meet the second smashing knockout blow ...; this time he tumbled into the ditch off the wood sidewalk; ... (I) saw him get up again and stagger across the street and disappear around the Commercial hotel corner; and then, covered with dirt and blood, and exhausted from the fight (I) staggered back to the wash-room and cleaned up...  It was in the days before electric alarms and police were nowhere to be reached.

Literally rising from the ashes, the years following the great fire were a period of positive and progressive rebirth for DuBois and for McCreight’s growing banking business.  As a successful banker he would say of the banker of his day, "it was his duty to accommodate anyone in need of his advice or financial aid. That was how the little towns were built into big ones - the accommodating banker. It was how and why little banks grew into big ones, it was what built the United States into a great nation."

He often told the story that, "... some years ago, a smallish, middle-aged man stuck his arm into the (tellers) ... window and said: "I want to shake hands with you. I owe you all I have and I can write my check for a million!" A handshake followed and (McCreight) expressed surprise, asked who he was and why he came with such a remark. He said: "I came out of my way just to shake your hand and tell you that you loaned me the first hundred dollars I ever had--and on my own name. It was not the hundred dollars--for I repaid it, but because you had confidence in me. It gave me confidence in myself and I went out and made good. I now have one hundred and one stores, thanks to you."

McCreight wrote, "Opening the new century was the spread of Big Business and (it) soon affected our growing town (of DuBois)." "Coal was king" and McCreight was sought out by coal, lumbering, and railroad heads in acquiring thousands of acres of land in the region "from Tyler to Sagamore"
 and beyond that; (developments) were based "all on (McCreight's) plans .... and he was "mostly responsible for the building of the Buffalo & Susquehanna Railroad --spending many millions for that company, all without a contract or any writing or limit of control.

It was his (McCreight's) work that brought the Erie Railroad to the coal region."
 Major McCreight was obviously a highly trusted and competent "mover and shaker" of his day. 

"This was (McCreight) doing big things in a big way but (it) seemed at the time to be merely in the day's work."

In 1906 he worked on drafting the nation’s conservation policy for President Theodore Roosevelt and helped organize Pennsylvania’s State Conservation Society. McCreight was the moving force and the key sponsor of action to maintain and save Cooks Forest, helping insure its preservation and emergence at a lovely Pennsylvania State Park enjoyed by thousands over the years.
  McCreight would write, Cook Forest would be "for the use of all the people for all time."

"The work on its acquisition was started in 1910, ran through the next 17 years, (and) cost McCreight a personal fortune of $10,000 .... In this effort he had to lead the drive to raise $200,000 from the public, as well as to secure the passage of the necessary legislation in Harrisburg. The Park will stand forever as a monument to his memory."
  (Courier Express)

"Buffalo Bill was a regular DuBois visitor, and with his great Wild West Show staging three hundred horses and three hundred and fifty actors, including one hundred and fifty Indians (mainly Sioux), he drew crowds of ten and twelve thousand patrons each performance."

In 1908 McCreight’s old acquaintance Buffalo Bill Cody had come to DuBois on one of those visits with his "biggest and best" Wild West Show which included in its Indian cast Chief Iron Tail who had reportedly been one of the models for America’s Buffalo Head Nickel.

At the Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890 Iron Tail was twice seriously wounded, and eight members of his family were killed, including his mother, father, two brothers, sister, wife and infant son. Buffalo Bill Cody was said to have often referred to Chief Iron Tail as, " … the finest man I ever knew, bar none."

Reported by McCreight, Buffalo Bill "Cody stood about six feet tall. His was a kindly countenance, and he always had a kindly word for everyone (and) ... when mounted erectly on his big white horse with flowing mane and tail, (he) made a thrilling picture that was famous all over the world.

He had taken his Wild West to Europe and exhibited in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome and Venice. In London, Queen Victoria asked for a special performance for herself and guests. The Sioux Chief, Red Shirt, put on a spirited war dance, the Queen applauded, and presented Red Shirt with a royal tribute.
"

Buffalo Bill and Iron Tail organized a large ceremony in DuBois with only four whites permitted in attendance – Buffalo Bill, Major McCreight, McCreight’s wife Alice and Bill Hines, a local newspaperman from the DuBois Journal.

With great pomp and pageantry, with speeches, dancing and native American ceremony conducted by the Indians, Major McCreight was made an honorary Sioux Indian Chief by Chief Iron Tail.
 

The noted DuBois banker, businessman, writer, and conservationist became Chief Tchanta Tanka, an honor very few white men would ever receive.  McCreight recalled it as "a rare and even brilliant occasion."

His Indian name Tchamta Tanka reportedly translates as "Great Heart."
 

It was a well chosen and appropriate name for Major McCreight who later wrote, I "always contributed to making (the Indians') lives a little more cheerful, when and wherever possible — and that has continued to the present day. There is no honor among many (I have) received, so highly valued as that solemn ceremony performed by famous chiefs many years ago in the presence of Col. W. F. ( Buffalo Bill) Cody, making (me) a "blood brother" and Chief of the Sioux."

"World War I (would adversely affect) the former success of the Wild West Show and before his death in 1917, (Buffalo Bill's) fortune had been wiped out and he died a poor man.  In the days of is scouting, Cody had fought the Sioux and killed some of them,, but in the after years he became one of their best friends. His war days name to the Indians was "Long Hair" and Pa-Has-ka."  After the DuBois ceremony he sponsored making McCreight a chief, he always addressed him as Tchanta Tanka.

In 1929, Chief Flying Hawk, a warrior chief and successor to Sitting Bull, named McCreight as his successor for his services on behalf of the American Indian.
  Flying Hawk had been in nearly all of the battles with United States troops during the Great Sioux War of 1876-1877.

He had fought along with his cousin Crazy Horse and his brothers Kicking Bear and Black Fox II in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, and was present at the death of Crazy Horse in 1877 and following the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.

A Lakota Sioux chief, historian and philosopher, Flying Hawk is notable in American history for his classic accounts of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse and commentaries on Native American philosophy."  He and McCreight co-authored a number of articles and books and he was a frequent visitor to McCreight's Wigwam in DuBois.  He died in 1931.   

READ "ST. CATHERINE'S INDIAN" ( SELECT )

One of many fascinating tales included in McCreight's writings is the story of Chief Rain-in-the-Face.  The chief had been arrested by Gen George Armstrong Custer's younger brother Tom Custer.  The chief was charged with murder, imprisoned, manacled, and thrown in an unheated guard house where he" suffered terribly" at the hands of his captors.

Escaping to Sitting Bull's camp, "... he made his boast that he would cut out Tom Custer's heart and eat it, - a threat that he himself said he made good at the Custer fight two years later. In telling about it he said: 

"I had sung the war song. I had smelt powder smoke. ..... I was like one ( crazy) that had no mind. I rushed in and took their flag; my pony fell dead as I took it. ... I jumped up and brained the ...flag man with my war club, and ran back to our line with the flag. The long sword's blood and brains (had) splashed in my face. I felt hot and blood ran in my mouth. I could taste it. I was mad. I got a fresh pony and rushed back, shooting, cutting and slashing. This pony was shot, and I got another. This time I saw Little Hair (Tom Custer) - I remembered my vow. I was crazy; I feared nothing. I knew nothing would hurt me, for I had my white weasel tail on. I don't know how many I killed trying to get at him. He knew me. I laughed at him and yelled at him. I saw his mouth move, but I there was so much noise I couldn't hear his voice. He was afraid. When I got near enough I shot him with my revolver. My gun was gone, I didn't know where. I leaped from my pony and cut out his heart and bit a piece out of it and spit it in his face. I got back on my pony and rode off shaking it. I was satisfied and sick of fighting; I did not scalp him."

Tom Custer (Little Hair) was a two-time Medal of Honor winner in the Civil War, the first soldier ever so honored.  His remains at the little Big Horn battlefield were identifiable only by a recognizable tattoo of his initials on one arm. He was only 31 years old. In his DuBois Wigwam collection McCreight had the War Bonnet and War Shirt of the famous Sioux warrior , Rain-in-the-Face, who claimed to have struck Little Hair down at the Little Big Horn.  It was but one of many treasured relics in the famous McCreight collection.

"Rain was shot through the thigh in the Custer fight. With a razor ... from one of the dead soldiers, he cut deeply into the front of his leg for the bullet ... (and also cut deeply into his other leg)  he eventually got the bullet, but was forced to walk with crutches all the rest of his life because of his (wound and) self-surgery.  (He) ... was acknowledged to have ... courage unmatched by any other Indian."

Iron Tail was an Ogala Sioux who had also fought with the famous Chief Sitting Bull at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn.
  He performed with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and also became a close friend of Major McCreight. "He was one of the models for the Indian Head nickel."

McCreight wrote, "Iron Tail was not a war chief and had no remarkable record as a fighter; he was not a "medicine" man or conjurer, but a wise counselor and diplomat---always dignified, quiet and never given to boasting and seldom made a speech; cared nothing for gaudy regalia; very like the famed War Chief Crazy Horse in this respect and he always had a smile, was fond of children, horses and his friends."

Of Crazy Horse McCreight had written, "We murdered him, then erected a monument to him! If we erected a monument to every great Indian we murdered, there would be many of them, not just one."  "Among the great war chiefs, statesmen and orators of the Red Race, it would have been more appropriate if his statue had been erected in the Hall of Fame."

"In 1915, Iron Tail was with Colonel Cody's Wild West (Show) ... in Philadelphia, when he took sick with pneumonia. I (McCreight) sent a wire to Cody to send or bring the chief to The Wigwam for recovery as soon as he was able to travel. The sick chief had asked to be sent home to the hills of South Dakota.  He was placed on a sleeper and was found dead in his berth at Fort Wayne next morning. His sudden death was a great shock ....

In the late 1900's McCreight had observed, "There were a good many burglaries and bank robberies, and, it being the time when night-burglars could blow safes with nitro-glycerin in an hour's time, these raids were becoming more and more frequent and (I) often went scouting to and around the outside of the bank, at 2 o'clock A. M., armed with (my) .32 Winchester."

"Along with the majority of American businessmen, McCreight faced fiscal bankruptcy when the Panic of 1930 paralyzed the country. He recalled, "Through the 1930's and 1940's it was a continuous struggle to live."
  With the help of his holdings in the DuBois Brewery, timber and property sales, and his life-long business acumen, however, McCreight survived being nearly wiped-out and eventually became debt free and wrote, "along about 1940 I was slowly retiring" at age 75.

McCreight served on the local WW I Draft Board and served on the DuBois School Board for 20 years, twelve as President of the Board of Education.
 In 1902 he was President of the street railways ( DuBois Electric and Traction Company ) and in 1903 a Director.  The DuBois Electric Light Company was later sold to become the Pennsylvania Electric Company. He was, of course, President of the local DuBois bank and was owner operator of the Hotel DuBois. His efforts as Secretary of the DuBois Board of Trade in 1896 helped secure the B. R. & P Railroad "Car shops," a major employer and economic coup for DuBois. 

As a member of the DuBois Board of Trade he was instrumental in having the DuBois Brewery locate in DuBois.  He wrote, " ...
a letter was received from Hahne advising (DuBois) that they had decided to locate elsewhere, and called their negotiations off. A pressing request by (McCreight) to Hahne for the party to come and have another look, brought them to DuBois again; this time they were convinced that DuBois was likely to grow, and its geographical position as central in a large area would be basis for developing a large trade; they decided to reverse their recall order and go ahead at DuBois."
 
McCreight was given the honor of spading the first shovel of dirt for the laying of the DuBois Brewery's foundation and became Secretary, Treasurer and a Director, joining with founder and President Frank Hahne, Sr.
  

He helped secure the DuBois Municipal Water Works, promoted the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Route 219, helped organize and was the first president of the DuBois Kiwanis Club and was one of the founders of the DuBois Country Club. 

He belonged to, served as President and was an active member in the DuBois Board of Trade and in the "Acorn Club," an association of business men who discussed and furthered the needs of the DuBois area. He is credited with founding the very first high school Forestry Club in the state of Pennsylvania right in DuBois.

McCreight once noted, I was all at practically the same time the "Deposit National Bank-Cashier & Director; DuBois Brewing, Secretary and Director; DuBois Electric, Secretary and Director;  DuBois Traction, Secretary and Director; Mutual Building and Loan Assistant Treasurer and Director; . Citizens Building and Loan Association - Treasurer; Mutual Home & Savings Association.- Treasurer; DuBois Boro (practical Treasurer); Garfield Lodge-Worshipful Master; Acorn Club - President; School Board-President; Coal Properties (3) - Representative Agent; Board of Trade - Treasurer and
Director; and Keystone Building and Loan Association - Local Treasurer;" and belonged to the Pennsylvania Bankers Association and the American Bankers Association, as well as serving in number of local positions and local activities.

Apart from the DuBois School Board McCreight did not seek office in political public elections although he worked actively for the candidates of his choice.  Once when McCreight was "in the board room at the bank ….in conference with some Republican politicians, who were trying to persuade him to run for a political office (his mother) … came into the bank, and went back to see her son. (He) introduced her and explained the situation. He said, "Mother, what do you think?" She answered briefly, "The McCreights have always been honest, but they have never been politicians!" Eliza left, and … Major, (certainly wearng a big grin) said, "Gentlemen, my mother has given my answer."

McCreight had
even been invited "to a reception at the White House given by President McKinley to the visiting members of the Mystic Shrine in May 1900, which gave (me) the pleasure of shaking hands with the chief executive, whom ( I ) had so much admired and worked so hard to help elect."

McCreight's History of DuBois" reads like a "who's who and here's how' narrative of his and others' activities in business, manufacturing, transportation, lumbering, railroads, coal, and conservation, all of which contributed to the growth and development of DuBois and the surrounding area.

Years later a family member would recall Major McCreight as "… an individualist and an honest man. No one understood him fully— (not) even his own family."  In 1942 he would simply describe himself as "Tchanta Tanka,--- last living chief of the Sioux,--- all that is left as a eminder of the strenuous times lived on the last frontier."

McCreight had eventually retired to his summer home named "The Wigwam" which was located on a picturesque hill above Route 119 south of DuBois, enjoying his retirement, feeding birds and chipmunks from his kitchen window, traveling with his beloved wife Alice, and reflecting on a philosophy of life.
(The Wigwam is featured in a PSU TV short available online)

A 1955 Courier Express article noted, "As Mr.McCreight sits quietly these summer days on his hill-top, smoking his pipe and gazing over the city for which he has done so much, visions must pass before his eyes of years gone by; of the stirring events in an active life; of his growing family in their younger days; of the great men of his time who have driven ... to his mountain home; of the battles he has fought and won ..... As the shadows grow longer he may, too, have visions of the future; of a thriving (DuBois) which will grow because he helped lay the foundations well ... because of the type of philosophy and labor which he represents. This newspaper wishes (him well) in his retirement ...."  (Courier Express)

A life-long friend and defender of the Indian, on the grounds of the Wigwam was an old-time council house of the Mohawk tribe of the Six Nations, the Iroquois Confederacy that ruled the Eastern forests for hundreds of years before the coming of the white man. McCreight was an adopted member of the Mohawk tribe. The Wigwam itself was a virtual museum of Indian artifacts gathered and presented to McCreight over the years.

McCreight was a member of the DuBois Presbyterian church but in 1946 wrote , "To be a modern Christian, is to acknowledge the existence of a super-man, the representative of a supreme being, or a human delegate born on earth of a woman who conceived not by man, but a spirit. With profound respect and enthusiastic approval of the teachings of Christ ... it is impossible to believe in the fantastic tales of him, written a century or more, after his crucifixion by a Jewish rabble ... written by humans long after his death ...
  the Bible a delightful historic book to read!

Yet, to accept it literally as Truth, is not possible in this enlightened age! That would be contrary to all the laws of nature and wholly without the bounds of scientific knowledge!"... yet, it must be conceded His is the best system for guidance of human conduct, but, we must not overlook Confucianism or the influence of Mahomet .... Whether Islam or Christianity is responsible for most bloodshed, misery and torture, is a moot question, for arising from each, the peoples of the world suffered in grief, agony, despair and death, more than from all other wars known to history! And all this, contrary to the teaching of both Jesus and Mahomet! Or of that taught by Confucius, or Buddha.
 

That there is another world--other than the one in which we live--is not proven--never can be! We can only wonder--we can hope!

I believe there is no other heaven than the owned home--with a big and happy family in it. No man or woman need look for a better one! No Pope, priest nor preacher ever did or ever can supply one as good. And that is the kind I have--have always had. Christ never urged another kind!
     For churches I have no quarrel; their pastors are all alike to me …. they aim for the same star--and hope to reach the same refuge. They have always had my good will--and what support I could afford always without taking sides or affecting any choice of creed.  They all promise a better life in a better world--but none of their promises have ever made good. They must prove it before I believe. And they would if they could; like me, they can only hope.

I believe in the majestic, all-powerful and unalterable law of Nature and the unknown and unknowable Universe--all of which is controlled in its behavior, by the sun. This part of my religion, came from my association with the Red Race. The never-ending, never changing source of all life on earth is, to them, the only thing worthy of worship--and maybe they are right! Who knows?"

"If George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, (and) Abraham Lincoln ... were agnostics, then you can class me as one!"

Of our treatment of Native Americans, McCreight had written, we treated them "not as Christians would, but by brutal and unprecedented savagery … (and) carried on a relentless campaign of extermination of them and all their rights and properties (to a virtual) … extermination of the race, except a tiny remnant still held imprisoned in our reservations; … (I support those) … men who fought bravely to defend against the unrighteous invasion of their homelands and the lives of their families … I saw at first hand … the period of their greatest suffering."

Eighteen United States Presidents had been sworn into office during his lifetime, two world wars had come and gone, and mankind which once fought with muskets and war clubs had turned to atomic bombs to resolve its conflicts.  We were on the verge of putting man into space.  It had been a long and tumultuous epoch for the world and a truly remarkable life's journey for the amazing DuBois banker and Indian Chief who in 1865 had first opened his eyes in the tiny pioneer settlement of Paradise.

Major Israel McCreight, Chief Tchanta Tanka, passed away quietly in his sleep on October 13, 1958 and was buried in Morningside Cemetery.

  He was 93.
 

~~~~~~

"It is but seldom in the history and life of a community that such a man as Mr. McCreight has lived, a man possessing the forcefulness, the initiative and the drive such as energized his character. He ... was a man who was a leader, and was not content unless he was endeavoring to lead the way along paths which he believed to be in the right direction."  (Courier Express)

In 1957 McCreight wrote, I "have been getting old for several years, a day at a time." At the time he was 92 years old and would soon become ill. That same year Ray Fadden, self proclaimed Mohawk chief Aren Akweks and frequent Wigwam visitor, wrote a letter to McCreight which could almost serve as Chief Tchanta Tanka's eulogy:

".... you will be remembered by the truths you have written in your many books and articles about the Indians … though your body may pass on your thoughts will continue to live, will speak for us. During your life on this Earth, you have done many many good things …. our hearts are with you. You are an Indian born again in a white body, sent here by our creator to tell the world today the true story of our people. When you leave Mother Earth … (the) Ancient Ones will welcome you with outstretched arms. The prairies and forests will look golden and green to you and your moccasins will walk on smooth grasses. The sky will be blue and … from the bark lodges you will see smoke rising into the sky. Your ears will hear the good music of singing … (and) the tom toms … (Those you see) will be smiling at you as you walk to greet them. Remember this, Brother, this is how it will be for you
."

However, McCreight's bold legacy is not only in his numerous writings and his support of Native Americans, but also in the business and industry he supported that helped the city of DuBois grow and in his foresight that preserved for all peoples and all time the wooded grandeur that is Cooks Forest.

By 2011 his beloved and famous Wigwam, the once warm and lovely showplace for McCreight’s memorabilia and famous Indian relics and an always open meeting place for family, business acquaintances and friends, both white and Indian, suffers from total disrepair and appears near collapse.

Its glory days long past, this truly historic structure unfortunately may be beyond saving. The interior of his happy "owned home with a big and happy family in it" has been long since desecrated and stripped of McCreight’s Indian artifacts and the floor is now rotted due to an equally rotted and badly leaking roof. The exterior suffers from severe neglect and the ravages of time and weather.

Few today even know of its existence or location and, like McCreight who served the DuBois community for decades, the Wigwam could easily become just a distant memory to be forgotten were it not perhaps for those who sometimes emerge to keep the history of DuBois and the surrounding area alive.

We can only hope …..

6-1-2011
~~~~~~


                
  MORE TO COME:   A SLIDE SHOW FOLLOWS THE BIBLIOGRAPHY
               


THIS BIOGRAPHICAL ARTICLE IS BASED ALMOST ENTIRELY ON THE PUBLICATIONS NOTED BELOW AND OTHER INTERNET SOURCES WHICH WERE LIBERALLY QUOTED 
IT IS FULLY PROTECTED BY THE WEBSITE'S COPYRIGHT AND MAY NOT BE COPIED, PRINTED, REFERENCED OR TRANSMITTED 
WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION   Published June 2011

.
PARTIAL BIBLIOGRAPHY
Some sources may require Adobe Reader to open.    These publications are available online at a number of sites
If you are unable to access one of them, contact the webmaster


Many Coup
Chief Flying Hawks Tales
Custers Last Stand
Sacajawea - Americas Greatest Heroine
Buffalo Bone Days
Puffs From The Peace Pipe
Buffalo Bill As I Knew Him
A Boy Scout Goes West-Rembrandt McCreight
The Killing of Pat McWeeney
Major McCreight Autobiography
The Clan
Go West Young Man
Family of Noted Pioneers
Eliza's Diary
Forgotten History
Sixteen Year Battle To Save Cooks Forest 
Memory Sketches of DuBois 
Online Books


                           LEFT: Major McCreight       RIGHT: Buffalo Bill and Chief Iron Tail visit McCreight in DuBois ca 1908

 

VIEW SLIDE SHOW:  ( SELECT

BEFORE OR AFTER VIEWING THE SLIDE SHOW BE SURE YOU'VE READ
"ST. CATHERINE'S INDIAN"   ( SELECT )

Iron Tail's Likeness on the Nickel


This Website Is In Memory of Our DuBois Heritage and In Honor of Those Who Have Worked To Preserve It
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Many Coups (http://manycoups.net/index.html)
Chief Flying Hawks Tales  (http://manycoups.net/ChiefFlyingHawksTales_page1.html)
Custers Laast Stand (http://manycoups.net/ChiefFlyingHawksTales_page8.html)
Sacajawea - Americas Greatest Heroine  (http://manycoups.net/Sacajawea_page1.html)
Buffalo Bone Days  (http://manycoups.net/BuffaloBoneDays.html)
Puffs From The Peace Pipe (http://manycoups.net/PUFFS%20FROM%20THE%20PEACE%20PIPE_page1.htm)

A Boy Scout Goes West-Rembrandt McCreight (http://manycoups.net/BoyScoutGoesWest_page1.html)
The Killing of Pat McWeeney (http://manycoups.net/KillingofPatMcWeeney_page1.html)
Major McCreight Autobiography  (http://manycoups.net/Autobiography_MIMc_page1.html)
The Clan (http://manycoups.net/TheClan_page1.html)
Go West Young Man (http://manycoups.net/GoWestYoungMan_page1.html)
Family of Noted Pioneers (http://manycoups.net/BiographySketchPioneers.html
Eliza's Diary (http://manycoups.net/ElizasDiary_page1.html)
Forgotten History (http://manycoups.net/BuffaloBillAsIKnewHim_page2.html)
Sixteen Year Battle To Save Cooks Forest (collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/digitalbks2&CISOPTR=9473&REC=11)
Memory Sketches of DuBois
http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/digitalbks2&CISOPTR=18645&REC=9
Buffalo Bill As I
Knew Him (
manycoups.net/BuffaloBillAsIKnewHim_page1.html
))