Student Biographies

310 students enrolled in the Forest Grove Indian School before it moved to Salem. Below are some details about the lives of just a few of those students. For more biographies and for source citations, see the Spreadsheet of all Students .

First cohort of Spokane students; Obed is thought to be standing in the center

Obed Littlewilliams (also recorded as Obid Williams) was one of eight students from the Spokane band of Chief Lot to arrive at the Forest Grove Indian School in November, 1880. He was probably one of seven boys wearing the school's military uniform who were featured in a group portrait titled "Group of Spokane Boys." Obed was described by teacher Mary F. Lyman as being the "black sheep" of the school. According to one of her letters, in 1882, he stole over a hundred dollars from a local store in Forest Grove. He convinced another student, Charles Abraham, to leave Forest Grove with him. They ran away from school and made it all the way to Beaverton before getting caught by other students: they were trying to board a train so that they could get back home. Charles was brought back to the Forest Grove Indian School. Obed, then aged 14, was sentenced to a year in the Oregon State Penitentiary. Census records show that he later moved to the Spokane Reservation and became a farmer. 


Three children of the Brewers

Katie Loulin Brewer was born around 1865. According to family oral history, she was the daughter of a Russian man and an Alaskan woman. Her tribe is not identified on the school roster, but based on her origin in Sitka, she was most likely Tlingit. She was orphaned as a child and sent to the Forest Grove Indian School at about the age of 15. In 1883, she married a Puyallup man, David Brewer, whom she had met at the Forest Grove Indian School. They eventually had seven children together. Katie worked at the Forest Grove Indian School and Chemawa School in several different jobs including cook, matron and laundress. David was employed as the "disciplinarian" at Chemawa School until his death in 1908. Katie eventually spent over 50 years at the school, and qualified for a pension despite bureaucratic difficulties based on her status as a Native woman.


Alex Duncan, Clatsop

Alexander Duncan of the Clatsop entered the Forest Grove Indian School in 1884. He arrived with his brother and sister, Carrie and Clarence. They had been living with their parents, Joseph and Jennie Duncan, in Clatsop County before they enrolled. At the time Alexander enrolled, he was around 14 years old. He followed the school to Salem when it moved there and was employed as an issue clerk. In the late 1880s, he had his portrait taken in Salem: in the photograph he is wearing his school uniform and leaning on a book, perhaps as a symbol of his education. After leaving school, he went to live in Seaside, Oregon where he worked as a laborer. Census records show that in 1900 he was a "house laborer," and later was a road worker. Alexander died in 1952.


Puyallup boys; Samuel McCaw & Nugen Kautz are likely among those pictured

Nugen Kautz was the first son of August Valentine Kautz, a white Civil War general who also served in the Rogue River War. His mother was a Nisqually woman called Tenas Puss (Little Kitten). His parents married in the 1850s, and Nugen was born on March 17, 1857. Another son named Augustus was born soon afterwards. When the two boys were just two and four years old, General Kautz abandoned their mother and took them away from her. He sent them to live with a white foster family. The Kautz brothers attended an academy in Olympia. When they entered the Forest Grove Indian School in 1880, they were in their early 20s and had already received an elementary education. Nugen was admitted  to Tualatin Academy, which was a college preparatory high school that was attached to Pacific University, in 1883.  By the late 1890s he was a vocational teacher and gardener at the Warm Springs Agency School. He died in Alameda County on April 6, 1938.


Emma is one of the two older Umatilla girls here

Emma Winum entered the Forest Grove Indian School in 1881. According to an account written down by the first Forest Grove Indian School Superintendent, M.C. Wilkinson, Emma was "the only daughter of Chief Winum, an Umatilla Oregon Indian." He wrote that "she was about fifteen when her father gave her to me to take ot the Indian School at Forest Grove. [...] Of steady Christian purpose, he ardently desired for his only daughter that she might have the benefit of an education, and he willingly gave her up to our care for that purpose." He continued his account with a story of how Emma helped to lead a group of ten Umatilla children from their lands to Forest Grove, encountering difficulties along the way. Wilkinson described her as a convinced Christian who witnessed her faith to her tribe, and who was neat, orderly, cheerful and a good student. Emma died of an illness at the school in December, 1883.


News clipping on Albert's visit

Albert John (also known as Albert Minthorn ) of Umatilla arrived at the Forest Grove Indian School in 1881 and graduated in 1886. In 1886, he wrote a letter to the shoemaking instructor, Samuel A. T. Walker, "describing the death of the schoolmaster, illness among the students, and personal difficulties with his studies." (This letter is now held at the Oregon Historical Society.) After leaving the school, he found employment as a teacher at the Umatilla Agency's Indian boarding school. In 1912, the Forest Grove News-Times ran an article noting that Albert had returned to visit the former site of the school: "Albert John, a Umatilla Indian, better known by his adopted name of Albert Minthorn, visited S.A. [Samuel A.T.] Walker in this city, Saturday. Mr. Minthorn is a wealthy farmer ... When [the] Indian School was located here, he was a student in the school, and went from here to Salem when the institution was moved ... where he completed the course and then returned to his allotment of land on the reservation."