Indian Leaves Behind Scalp of Man Who Gives It Away as Gift-Ends Up on Display

Hold on to that Scalp or it may end up in the Library

Hold on to that Scalp or it may end up in the Library

On This Date in History:  Ever since man started making things, there has been a need for people who can fix whatever man made after it has broken.  That was certainly the case with telegraph lines.   They stretched out west in hostile territory which could wreak havoc on equipment, whether it be from weather, vagrants, Indians or even animals.  The Union Pacific Railroad had those types of problems and often sent men like William Thompson out into the open range to investigate any problems.  On one such occasion, Thompson was out in the Great Plains when some Cheyenne Indians came upon him and attacked.   Well, it wasn’t as if they were just minding their own business when they ran into Thompson.  Seems that a Cheyenne raiding party put some sticks across the rails to try and derail a train.  Instead, they forced a handcar off the tracks and the entire crew of repairmen were killed, except for Thompson.     In a vicious attack, they shot him and took his scalp, though Thompson later said “it just felt as if the whole head was taken right off.”  In other words, it hurt. 

Pretty Big Dome

Pretty Big Dome

I suppose that the attackers were in an excited state when they rode away because the precious scalp of Thompson was accidentally dropped by one of the Indians as he mounted his horse.    Though he had a gunshot wound, an entire head that was a wound and probably very stunned and dazed, Thompson was still sharp enough to go and pick up his missing top and carry it with him 15 miles to a railroad station.    Once there, the fine folks took him to Omaha on this date in 1867 where Dr. Richard Moore was greeted by William Thompson carrying his scalp in a bucket of water.  Dr. Moore almost lost his lunch at the sight but he quickly recovered to find all of his medical talent.

A Rat?

A Rat?

Dr. Moore recalled that the empty space of Thompson’s head measured 9 inches by 7 inches.  That’s 63 square inches.  Sounds awfully big but I suppose that the repairman may have had a big melon and maybe that’s they the Indians were so eager to get that scalp.  Anyway, Dr. Moore said the cut in the scalp began abot an inch above the left eye and went backward.  But, alas, this all was for naught because Dr. Moore really didn’t do much.  He told Thompson that the scalp couldnt just be sewn back in place but that the wound would heal over time.  I guess this all convinced Thompson that it was time to go home and before he left for a journey all the way back to England, he presented Dr. Moore with a tanned and preserved scalp as a momento.  Yup…Thompson had obviously decided to save his hair for posterity, which means he did with his own hair exactly what the Indians would have done with it.  Dr. Moore had another use.  He deemd it worthy as a gift to the Omaha Public Library Museum, where they wayward hair went on display.  Famous explorer Henry M. Stanley once saw the scalp and said it was about 9 inches long and 4 inches wide, which means either Dr. Moore’s initial measurements were wrong or the scalp had shrunk as it dried out.   More interestingly though was  Stanley’s description thta it “somewhat resembled a drowned rat as it floated curled up on the water.”  Put the Omaha Library on your list of places to visit next time you’re in Nebraska.

Sat Evening

Sat Evening

Weather Bottom Line:  A ridge builds in to the southeast for the weekend.  We will get a southerly flow and humidity along with the temperatures will rise.  I saw someone on TV claim that we would “feel like” 100 this weekend.  Maybe a stretch.  Highs will be in the low 90’s.  Heat indecies in mid 90’s…in other words, nothing to get alarmed about or to freak out on TV about…it’s August and this will be the first summer-like weather we’ve seen for sometime so I guess for some that makes it “breaking news.”   Anyway, rain chances come back for  the first part of the week with the introduction of a few upper disturbances moving about the ridge and coming in from the Southwest.  A weak front appears from the northwest on Wednesday, but in general the long wave pattern will persist so I doubt that we’ll have another record cold month in August.


5 Responses

  1. Poor guy! I would think that would have hurt a whole lot! To think that this guy was shot and partailly skinned and still showed up 15 miles away carrying his own scalp. He was a pretty tough old bird, that’s for sure.

  2. The Astros pitching staff could use him.

  3. I heard a reference to scalps the other night on a television show and felt the reference was all wrong. The referred to a scalp taken by Indians (such as this poor fellow) as Totem. Now that is incorrect but I can’t find the correct term. I keep thinking of it as “coupe” such as “counting coupe” but am sure i am spelling it incorrectly. If you knows what I am talking about, please let me know:

  4. I find this story incredible! While researching my family genealogy, I found one of my relatives was scalped in much the same way! His name was Captain Jacob Dievendorf, of the Tryon (Herkimer ) County militia. During the French and Indian War in New York’s Mohawk Valley, my ancestor was injured and left for dead, and was scalped by a Mohawk Indian. He survived, and after the war, was often observed wearing a tin pot on his head to cover the damage. He went on to become am attorney in the Mohawk Valley of New York!

  5. That got to be painful. It was the only way to survive and that takes a lot of courage for a person to endured that type of pain

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