Recently I wrote about Francis Scott Key and the events of September 13, 1814 when Fort McHenry was fired upon. After an all-night battle our proud flag was still flying despite the attack upon the fort by British Troops. Strange at it may seem, even though Francis Scott Key wrote the song which would become our National Anthem, I have found yet more about Mr. Key and his family.
It seems that the first of September is Saint Oakerhaters feast day on the Episcopal Religious Calendar. What does that have to do with St. Augustine, and Francis Scott Key you ask? Let me explain. Saint Oakerhater, was simply known as Oakerhater, a Cheyenne Indian prisoner who was imprisoned at Fort Marion (today’s Castillo de San Marcos) from 1875 – 1878. The Cheyenne called Oakhater “Making Medicine”. He was a natural leader. As such, he was strategically kept prisoner at the Fort and quickly promoted to Sergeant of the guard, over the other Indians there.
Oakerhater was evidently a man of many talents and quickly began to produce some of the infamous “Ledger Art” while at Fort Marion. He also became very close to the family of Senator George Pendleton, who was the Vice Presidential Candidate along with General McClellan, who ran against President Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 Presidential election. Senator George Pendleton’s wife was none other than Alice Key Pendleton, the daughter of Francis Scott Key. Are you starting to connect the dots?
The Pendleton family wintered in St. Augustine and Alice Key Pendleton took great interest in the education of the Indians at Fort Marion. While Oakerhater was help prisoner he was introduced to Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple of Minnesota. Oakerhater would convert to Christianity and would be sponsored by the Pendleton’s in 1878 to continue his education and conversion to Christianity in upstate New York. As time passed Oakerhater took the legal name of David Pendleton Oakerhater and became a deacon in the Episcopal Church. Oakerhater would then travel to Oklahoma and serve as a missionary to the Southern Cheyenne for the rest of his life. He was recognized and was canonized to Sainthood in the Episcopal Church in 1986.
Every time I learn something about St. Augustine, I am astonished how it’s parts are often glossed over or not mentioned at all in historical accounts, yet is an important part of the fabric of what makes America, the country it is today.
Until next time – Jim
Research for this article came from the published work of James Purdy who is retiring as the 7th Judicial Circuit Public Defender.
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