Stridiron’s Story Gets Stranger

Six years after St. Clair Stridiron’s tale of life as an Indian captive was published by the Rocky Mountain News, another version appeared in the January 13, 1901 Denver Times (see previous post for the first story). This time he called himself Stephen Stridiron and regaled guests at Denver’s St. Elmo Hotel with tales of a boyhood spent in Chipeta’s tipi.
          Stridiron claimed he was taken captive by the Utes at age four and raised by Ouray and Chipeta along with their own son–a boy called Julian. Chipeta kept his skin painted with dark stain so no one would know she was raising a white child. At the age of fifteen, Stridiron and Julian joined Ute warriors in battles with the Arapahoe and Cheyenne. At age seventeen, he was loaned to the Army as a scout for General Crook. It was the general, he said, who washed the dye from his skin and for the first time Stridiron knew he was not a Ute.
          When stolen by the Utes in about 1860, Stridiron said, he wore a locket that held a daguerrotype of himself as a baby. Chipeta made a necklace of beads and trinkets, including the locket, and insisted that he must always wear it. The locket later allowed his birth mother to identify him.
          Stridiron told an interesting tale but one that is hard to believe. It is well documented that Ouray had one son, variously called Cotoan, Pahlone, Paron, and Queashegut. The boy was about six years old when stolen by Plains Indians in 1863. He never returned to his Ute family. It is also hard to believe a young man would not notice he was the only one with painted skin and that his skin was white.

Ute Scout for CrookBetween 1872 and 1882, General George Crook served two terms in command of the Army in Arizona Territory. He did use some Ute scouts, including the unidentified young man pictured here. Photo courtesy The Gallery of the Open Frontier, University of Nebraska Press
          Chipeta was certainly alive in 1901 but Stridiron gives no hint of interest in reunion with this woman who he considered to be his mother for some sixteen years.
           The 1900 census records one Sinclare Stridiron, born in Kentucky in 1857. He was living in Summit County, Colorado with his wife Annie. A search of the U.S. census 1850-1920 on Ancestry.com found no other record of a person named St. Clair, Sinclare, or Stephen Stridiron.
          Whatever his true background, the man knew how to spin a rousing good yarn.

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Published in: on December 14, 2009 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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