by Jon D. May, Research Division
While exploring the OHS Research Catalog online I discovered an old black and white photograph in the Frederick S. Barde Collection (82.89) captioned, “Indians – Osage – Cyprian Tayrien.” Cyprian, or “Cyp” as he was more commonly known, was my great-great-grandmother’s first cousin. Although you probably never heard of Cyp, he was well-known in the Bartlesville and Pawhuska, Oklahoma, areas prior to his death in 1922.
Born in Clay County, Missouri, in 1836, Cyp was the son of a French father and a French-Osage mother. Educated at the Osage Mission in St. Paul, Kansas, Cyp spoke English, Osage, and French, and served as a scout and interpreter in the Missouri Home Guard during the Civil War.He worked as a clerk, operated a trading post, farmed, and was one of the first mixed-bloods to serve on the Osage tribal Council. Cyp had three wives (he was twice widowed) and twelve children. After the Osage relocated from Kansas to what is now Osage County in 1871-72, Cyp settled along Sand Creek just southwest of present Bartlesville. It was in that vicinity where he and ten of his children received their Osage land allotments in 1906. Many of their descendants reside in that region today.
What makes Cyp’s life story so interesting are the “unusual and occult powers” he was known to have possessed. With a few softly spoken words and a wave of his hand Cyp—dubbed“Saint Patrick of the Osages”—could drive snakes from under buildings or from shocks of grain. He knew by intuition where strayed livestock could be found. Cyp healed snake bites and other ailments by simply passing his hand over the afflicted individual. A man claimed he conferred with Cyp about a woman who was ill and lived some miles distant. Cyp asked a few questions and sent the gentleman on his way, telling him “everything will be alright.”When the man returned to the lady’s residence, he saw her condition had improved.
How Cyp healed the sick and from where he received his foreknowledge is anyone’s guess (if you believe in such things). According to one of his grandchildren, Cyp acquired his powers from an old Osage medicine man. Cyp, however, said his skills were innate and quite common. In fact, he believed a person with similar abilities could be found in almost every family.
Cyprian Tayrien died October 18, 1922, and was interred in Bartlesville’s White Rose Mausoleum.
Image: #16581 from the Frederick S. Barde Collection