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Billy Garnett

1855 - 1930

Father: Maj. Richard Brooke Garnett

Mother: Looks-at-Him (Mollie Campbell)

Wives: Zuzella Janis. Emma, Filla Janis

Sons: Charles W. Garnett, Richard Garnett, William Garnett Jr.

Daughters: Susan Garnett, Dolly Garnett


William Garnett, also known as Billy Hunter, was the half-blood son and only child of Major Richard Brooke Garnett, Commandant of Fort Laramie. During the Civil War, Major Garnett moved up the confederate ranks to Brigadier General and was killed in Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. William's mother was an Oglala Sioux woman of the Melt or Spleen band named Looks-at-Him or Mollie Campbell. William was born on the bottom below where the Sabine Creek disembogues into the Big Laramie River in April, 1855.

William Garnett was a scout, guide, interpreter, and spy for the U.S. Army from October 1876 until September 1877. He was honorably discharged in 1877, but his 1920 claim for a pension was rejected because the records of the War Department indicated that he had not been enlisted in the United States military service but had been a civilian employed as a scout. He died September 12, 1930.

Photo by Charles Milton Bell

Ricker wrote the following sketch of Garnett near the end of January 1907:

William Garnet lives on Cane Creek north of the White River on a ranch of his own, 8 or 10 miles south of the extension of the Milwaukee R.R. He was the son of General Garnet who was killed in the battle of Gettysburg. His father was an officer in the old army and was stationed at Fort Laramie. He had this son by a Sioux Indian woman who afterwards married a man by the name of Hunter [John Hunter]; and hence the subject of this sketch is sometimes called Garnet and sometimes Hunter, but his true name is Garnett and this is officially recognized.

Garnett is one of the best interpreters on the Reservation. He is a stirring, intelligent, able man; and while he did not have the advantages of schooling, he has absorbed much practical knowledge, and is held in high estimation for his honor, integrity and veracity. Bat says he was in the fight under Mackenzie on one of the forks of Powder River, in the mountains; the command marched from Crazy Woman [Creek] across the divide to the fork where the Cheyenne village was, and striking the village at the lower end and charged up the stream. Garnett was in this fight.

Agent Brennan poses in front of a tent with his son, Billy (William) Garnett, an interpreter, (son of General Richard B. Garnett of old Fort Laramie and a Native American Sioux mother), his wife, daughter and three sons, and a land allotment crew holding a transit, rod and stakes, Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota. Date 1891

Title typed on label on back of print with: "Reservation man with celluloid collar is Agent Brennan, his son Paul in doorway of tent. Indian family to right shows Billie Garnett, his wife, three sons and daughter. Garnett, son of Gen. Richard B. Garnett of old Fort Laramie, and a Sioux Indian mother. William Garnett was interpreter at the treaty of 1868- He died Sept. 12 - 1930. He was a fine man, respected by the Indians and officers of the army." Stamps on back of print: "Fred B. Hackett" and "Reprint from original."

Photo and comments from Denver Public Library. Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

Billie Garnett certainly appears to be older than 36 years of age in the above photo, and I find it hard to believe that he would have been involved in interpreting for the 1868 treaty at the age of 13. Is it possible that he was born earlier than 1855? harpskiddie

We might also mention that before she was married to Lieut. Garnett, William Garnett's mother Looks At Him (Akitapi Win) was the wife of fur trader John Baptiste Boyer. Through a different wife, Boyer was the father of scout Mitch Boyer, killed at the Little Bighorn. William and Mitch were step-brothers, though Mitch was considerably older.

After Lieut. Garnett left Fort Laramie, Boyer took Looks At Him back. Garnett later told Walter Camp: "Then Boyer brought my mother back again and I lived with them and did not know until later years that Garnett was my father. Sally Boyer was my half sister through mother and married Philip White. Mich was one of four, including Antoine, by the Yankton Woman or, perhaps, Old Man Boyer had two wives -- I am not certain which was the case."

This suggests that young Garnett was living with the Boyer family at Bissonette's trading post on Deer Creek as a small child. After Old Man Boyer was killed by Indians, Looks at Him married John Hunter and young Garnett became known as Billy Hunter.

In his long interview with Judge Ricker, Garnett mentions going to school for a few days at Fort Laramie in 1866, but then running off to Scottsbluff to rejoin his mother. As I recall, he went north briefly with some Oglala relatives in 1868 (he was not an interpreter at the treaty of 1868), then returned to the Fort Laramie region. In 1872, he was working for Jules Ecoffey (the Indian trader at Red Cloud Agency), John Richard and Adolph Cooney, at which time he witnessed the killing of Yellow Bear and John Richard. Shortly after the Red Cloud Agency was removed to Nebraska in 1873, he was hired as an interpreter. He appears in Thomas Wilhelm's tintype taken at the Red Cloud Agency in 1874. Garnett was then hired by the Army in 1876 as a scout and interpreter, as noted above. Ephriam Dickson

Some details about Billy Garnett´s family from Mike Stevens´genealogy pages:

Looking Woman, the wife of Gen. Garnett and mother of Billy was born at Fort Laramie Region, USA, circa 1840 and died December 12, 1928.

Billy Garnett married:
ca. 1875 Zuzella Janis (b. 1850) (divorced before 1880) (son: Charles W. Garnett, 1876-1954)
ca. 1879 Emma ? (b. 1858) (divorced before 1884) (daughter: Susan Garnett, 1879-1937)
ca. 1884 Filla Janis (1856-1946) (children: Richard Garnett 1885-1920, William Garnett Jr. 1887-1907, Dolly Garnett 1890-1912) Dietmar Schulte-Möhring

Given that this information is correct, and I have no reason to suspect that it is not, does that mean that the photo purportedly showing Garnett and his family [above] must be later than 1891? The three sons shown would have been only 15, 6 and 4 years of age in 1891. Obviously they are older, or misidentified. Or something. harpskiddie

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