The Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s Cultural Heritage Center provides resources to keep the Tribe’s history safe and accessible for generations to come. One key way the Nation does this is through the CHC’s archives and video interviews.
To highlight some of the archive’s holdings, the Hownikan is featuring photographs and family history of every founding Citizen Potawatomi family. If interested in assisting preservation efforts by providing copies of Citizen Potawatomi family photographs, documents and more, and to schedule family interviews, please contact the CHC at 405-878-5830.
The Rhodd family can be traced to Potawatomi ancestral lands in Michigan, Illinois and to the Potawatomi reserve in Iowa. Members of the Rhodd family would later make significant contributions to the establishment of the Sacred Heart Mission in Konawa, Oklahoma Territory.
Charles H. Rodd grew up in Saginaw, Michigan. He was listed on a roster of land buyers in Saginaw County, Michigan, in 1835. He was a merchant and trader and often served as an interpreter for the Ojibwe when they negotiated terms following the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830.
Charles eventually settled in Iowa around 1840 and married a Potawatomi woman, Was-to-win. She was born in Illinois and was forced to remove from her homelands when she was a child. The couple had David in 1841 and Alexander in 1843 near Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Charles and Was-to-win would again face removal. The Potawatomi were squeezed out of their Iowa reserve by the 1846 Council Bluffs Treaty. Squatters and railroad companies eyed Potawatomi lands and the U.S. government agreed to their demands. The Potawatomi received a reserve of 567,000 acres in Kansas. After the family arrived in Kansas, Mary was born in 1848, Charles Richard in 1854 and Elizabeth in 1858.
Charles and Was-to-win’s son, David, married Julia in 1863. Together, they had Rolla in 1865, Henry (Harry) in 1865, Edward in 1872, Israel in 1877 and Charles in 1883. David and Julia both walked on sometime between 1883 and 1887. Some of their children were listed on the 1887 Potawatomi Allotment Roll as orphans.
Charles and Was-to-win’s son, Alexander, married Mary Vieux. Their children were Ellen (Jesseppe), Tom and Mary Ann. Alexander’s second marriage was to Zoa (Bruno) Bourbonnais. They had Peter Albert, Inez (Little), Elizabeth (Lizzie) (LeClair), John Baptiste and Enos.
According to the book Indian Tribes of Oklahoma by Muriel H. Wright, the Potawatomi business committee that signed the agreement with the U.S. government on June 25, 1890, included Alexander Rhodd, John Pambogo, David Hardin, Stephen Negahnquet, John Anderson, Joseph Moose and Alexander Peltier. The 1890 agreements established allotments for each Potawatomi and payment for the surplus lands.
Charles and Was-to-win’s eldest daughter, Mary Rhodd, married John Baptiste Bruno on June 20, 1864. They were the parents of Samuel William, John Anthony, Moses, Julia, Joseph Oliver, Josephine, Belle Binia and David. The family also included Mary’s adopted younger sister, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Rhodd, who became the ward of her older sister after their parents died.
The youngest son, Charles Richard Rhodd, married Helen Acton. She was the daughter of Angeline Azh-nick Bellaire and James Acton. Together, Charles and Helen had Viola (Alice) in 1873, Ida in 1875, Noah J. in 1877, David C. in 1883, Unice May Margaret in 1889, Thomas M. in 1891 and Charles Daniel in 1894. Custody of Charles Richard was granted to his older brother, Alexander, after the death of their parents. Charles kept the books for the Tribe for many years and had vast knowledge of the use of traditional medicines to treat various diseases. Many Indigenous families would ask Charles to treat their ailments rather than a non-Native doctor.
The youngest sibling, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Rhodd, married Thomas (Bud) Hardin, son of Margaret Lafromboise and John Hardin. They had no children.
The Rhodd family and its descendants would go on to marry into families such as the Vieux, LeClair, Bruno, Hardin and Acton, just to name a few.
Arrival in Oklahoma Territory
When Rhodd family members arrived at their allotment in Konawa, Oklahoma Territory, they greatly contributed to the establishment of Sacred Heart Mission and what would later become Pottawatomie County in Oklahoma.
Mary Rhodd Bruno and her husband, John Baptiste Bruno, are believed to have been among the earliest Potawatomi to arrive in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma Territory, around 1868.
Mary Rhodd was born in Kansas in 1848. John Baptiste was born Dec. 25, 1840, in Iowa Territory. They married in Kansas after the end of the Civil War.
John Baptiste was a mule skinner for the U.S. Army during the Civil War, hauling supplies to forts and settlements in Kansas and Colorado. During one trip around 1863, he was confronted by Pawnee warriors, who demanded he hand over several of his Potawatomi passengers. Bruno refused and fought the Pawnee himself. The group was left alone by the Pawnee after his victory.
When the family arrived in Pottawatomie County in Indian Territory, John helped build the Sacred Heart Mission. After a 1901 fire destroyed many of the mission’s buildings, John again helped rebuild many of the new structures.
John and Mary were the parents of daughters Julia, Josephine and Belle. Their sons were Samuel (Tick-wa-ko), John Anthony (Sha-won-a-she), Mose (Per-she-at-won) and Joseph Oliver.
Both John and Mary are buried in the Sacred Heart Cemetery.
A legacy in Pottawatomie County
In the early 1900s, there was not much time for leisure. Entire families worked long hours planting corn, picking cotton and raising livestock. The courage and persistence of the families who left Kansas for the unknown in then-Indian Territory are what made life possible in places like Konawa. Today, it is almost impossible to imagine being forced out of your home multiple times. However, Potawatomi families like the Rhodds persevered and left a rich legacy for their descendants.
If interested in assisting preservation efforts by providing copies of Citizen Potawatomi family photographs, documents and more, and to schedule family interviews, please contact the CHC at 405-878-5830. Schedule interviews online at portal.potawatomi.org. Learn more about the Family Reunion Festival at cpn.news/festival, and find research resources online at potawatomiheritage.com.