The DuBois Area Historical Society has recently published a biography of Major Israel McCreight, entitled Major, The Life of Major Israel McCreight: Banker, Conservationist and Indian Chief, by Tom Schott, a local author and a DAHS member. It is a fascinating book that recounts the full and well lived life of progressive man of his times.
Israel McCreight was born in Jefferson County, in 1865, and furthered his education in New York State. He, like many young and eager men of his generation, saw his future in the open country of the American West.
In 1885, young McCreight made it to Devil’s Lake in the Dakota Territory and settled in at a job selling cattle to the First Nation peoples as well as U.S. Army garrisons.
He related well to the Obijwe group and thought highly of them. He learned to dispel the nonsensical prejudices that so many white Euro-Americans had drilled into them, in regard to Native Americans. He earned the nickname, Indian Man.
McCreight witnessed the shameful and horrific demise of native culture and the natives, themselves, in the Dakota Territory.
Lies, greed, broken treaties, poverty, starvation and slaughter were heaped as abuse after abuse upon the peoples dismissed as Indians and savages by far too many Americans.
After working, for a time, for the Great Northern Railway, McCreight came home to Pennsylvania to live in DuBois. His good character and innate business acumen allowed him to quick rise as an assistant director of the DuBois National Bank.
He became known as “a one-man Chamber of Commerce” due to his diligence at promoting local DuBois business and serving on numerous commercial and civic boards.
McCreight helped to form a bucket brigade to fight the disastrous DuBois fire of 1888. He worked tirelessly to promote the city’s recovery by spearheading public, transportation, lighting and water development.
McCreight was also a conservationist in the early the 20th century tradition of Theodore Roosevelt and Gifford Pinchot. The Wigwam was built atop Prospect Knob in Sandy Township and was a reflection of McCreight’s busy life.
Prominent Native American guests always felt welcome there. William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, of the “Wild West Show” entertainment fame, and McCreight’s friend, visited in 1908.
McCreight lived on until 1958, passing away at the age of 93. He is interred alongside his wife, Alice, in DuBois’ Morningside Cemetery. The Wigwam fell into disrepair and was demolished in 2013.