Munsee tribe pays tribute to Beggs' family legacy

Greg Mast
The Ottawa Herald

Education was so important to the Kilbuck family that they moved from Kansas to Oregon nearly a century ago.

Joseph Henry Kilbuck, a Munsee Indian descendant, grew up on the Chippewa and Munsee Reservation near the Marais des Cygnes River and wanted a different life for his daughter, Katherine Henry Kilbuck Beggs, who was born Nov. 25, 1916.

Katherine Henry Kilbuck Beggs is shown in a recent photo with her daughter Mary Beggs.

Kilbuck’s wife and Beggs’ mother, Novello Ziese, died when she was seven. Soon after the family traded a farm on the old Chippewa and Munsee Reservation in Kansas for a farm near the Hood River in Oregon.

Beggs said her parents moved to Oregon to improve her education choices. She said her parents put an emphasis on education.

Early in her life, Beggs attended the small Moravian church in the Chippewa Hills before her family moved to Oregon. Her father remarried to Emma Naomi Blacksten.

Katherine Henry Kilbuck Beggs was a member of the WAVES in World War II.

Connie Hildebrandt, a Munsee and Chippewa descendant and also an Ottawa native, said Beggs said her childhood on the reservation was somewhat different.

“She did let us know that when she was little, she wasn't around any other families; therefore, she didn't play with other kids,” Hildebrandt said. “She remembers picking vegetables and fruit as a child and going to the small one room Moravian Church. She remembers living along the Marais des Cygnes River and her family had property on both sides of the river. She remembers the town of Richter and the train depot there.”

Hildebrandt said Beggs’ ancestors are revered in Munsee Delaware  and U.S. history and The Munsee Tribe in Kansas is proud of her ties to their community and history.

Beggs made education her life work. She graduated high school in 1934 and received her Bachelor's and Master's degrees from the University of Nebraska in the late 1930s. She went back to Oregon and taught in Olympia, Washington, for a couple of years before joining the WAVES Military Group as a commissioned officer in the early 1940s.

She married Lloyd Beggs in 1944. He was also a WW II veteran. He attended the University of Oregon and was a journalism major. He was the Editor in Chief for the Auburn Journal.

She taught at Placer High School from 1952 to 1972. A former student said Beggs was an influential teacher to her students.

James Mason Jordan, a former student of Mrs. Beggs, said she shaped him as a student to be an English teacher.

The Kilbuck family were leaders of the tribe. John Kilbuck Jr., was a leader of The Delaware Tribe until the factions in The Delaware Tribe pushed him out during the American Revolutionary War and he became a Moravian convert.

His great-grandson, William Henry Kilbuck, was born to Joseph Henry Kilbuck in Wisconsin as the Christian Munsee people migrated from Moraviantown, Upper Canada, to lands west of the Mississippi River as promised in an 1823 Presidential Executive Order.

Her father, Joseph Henry Kilbuck, was born Aug. 23, 1889, in Bethel, Alaska Territory. His father, John Henry Kilbuck, married Edith M. Romig, the daughter of Rev. Joseph Romig, a Moravian Missionary, who came to the Chippewa and Munsee Reservation in 1863. 

John Henry Kilbuck and Edith Romig ministered to the Inupiat people at Bethel, Alaska Territory, where a Moravian Mission was established. They translated the Bible into the Inupiat language.

Beggs’ father then settled along the Marais des Cygnes river in the Chippewa Hills.