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Thomas Sears Huffaker

Thomas Sears HuffakerThomas Sears Huffaker was born March 30, 1825, in Clay County, Missouri. Huffaker had deep roots in the Methodist Episcopal Church South. His father, George Smith Huffaker, was an ordained minister of the church and established ministries in several Missouri towns, including Haynesville, Lawson, and Liberty.

Thomas Huffaker was employed by the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1849 as a teacher of American Indian students, primarily of Delaware and Shawnee tribes. He was teaching at the Shawnee Mission when he and partner H. W. Webster contracted with the church for the management of the Kaw Mission school and farm. Huffaker was to be in charge of the school; Webster would supervise the farm. In May 1851 they traveled from the Shawnee Mission to Council Grove via the Santa Fe Trail. Mrs. Joshua Baker, a housekeeper at the Mission, and her 15-year-old daughter, Eliza Ann, were already living at the Mission when Huffaker and Webster arrived. The school opened in May 1851, after the Kaw families returned from the bison hunts. Approximately 30 Kaw boys aged 6 to 17 years lived in the mission and were educated on academic subjects, farming, and Christianity.

Huffaker began courting Eliza and on May 5, 1852, 12 months after the mission school opened, they were married in the mission. The wedding was said to be the first of Euro-Americans in Council Grove. Reverend Nicholson, a missionary traveling through Council Grove on the Santa Fe Trail, conducted the ceremony.

Eliza helped with the instruction of the Kaw students and the white pupils as the two separate schools co-existed in the Kaw Mission from 1851-54. In 1854 the U.S. government, acting on the advice of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, closed the school for the Kaws.

The Huffakers continued to reside in the mission until 1862 when they moved into a new house one-quarter mile northeast. On May 14, 1872, tragedy struck when their daughter Susie drowned in the Neosho River within 100 yards of where she had been born.

In 1907 Thomas and Eliza Huffaker moved back into the Kaw Mission. There the elderly couple resided with the new owners of the historic building, daughter Anna Huffaker Carpenter and her husband Homer. Thomas died July 10, 1910. Eliza died July 5, 1920, in the same room in which she and Thomas had been married 68 years before.

Entry: Huffaker, Thomas Sears

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: January 2012

Date Modified: May 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.