Indian ‘peace chief’ had Mennonite ties
Lawrence H. Hart, 89 who died last month, was a descendant of a line of peace chiefs who attempted to reconcile Indian and Mennonite peace traditions.
Lawrence met Betty Bartel, a member of the Bruderthal Mennonite community northeast of Hillsboro, while both were students at Bethel College. They married in her home church in 1957.
During their courting, Lawrence called Betty at her home, but she didn’t want to talk on a party line, so she went to Hillsboro, where she could talk on a private line.
A year after their marriage, Lawrence’s grandfather passed the peace chief mantel to him. Lawrence was a fighter pilot in the military at the time and had to quit.
Lawrence eventually became a Mennonite minister in Oklahoma.
After a summer with Betty’s parents, the couple’s second child, Nathan, was born in Marion shortly before they left for seminary training.
Lawrence’s connection with Mennonites began when he was growing up on a 160-acre allotment assigned to his grandparents before the Oklahoma land rush of 1892. His parents and grandparents worked the land.
Lawrence lived with his grandparents for his first five years, learning traditional Cherokee ways.
Mennonites from Kansas had established several missions in the area, and Lawrence’s father was a lay minister in a mission church for 40 years.
Lawrence and Betty also directed the Cheyenne Cultural Center near Clinton, Oklahoma.
The couple had three children. Betty preceded him in death.