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Geronimo's Remains in the Thousand Islands?

  Are the remains of Geronimo in the Thousand Islands? The legendary Apache Chief died of pneumonia 17 February 1909, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma and his remains lay undisturbed until a grave robbery in 1918.

It is alleged that the robbers were members of the secret Yale University Fraternity the “Order of Skull and Bones.” The membership of the Order at the time of the robbery included Prescott Bush the father and grandfather of two Presidents of the United States. All three Bushes are Yale Alumni and members of the Order, along with a "who’s who" of prominent Americans.

On February 19, 2009 the New York Times reported that Geronimo’s descendents have sued Yale University, the US Government, and the Order of Skull and Bones for the return of Geronimo’s remains under the Native American Graves Protection Act a 1990, a Federal Law that requires the return of funerary items to descendents.

The suit was filed on 17 February 2009, the 100th anniversary of Geronimo’s death by Harlyn Geronimo and 19 other lineal descendents. The suit requires Yale and the Order return the remains from the Yale Campus or “wherever else they may be found.”

The Order of Skull and Bones maintains a retreat on Deer Island just a couple of miles downriver from Alexandria Bay, NY. The Order has conducted secret rituals on Deer Island for decades and it is alleged that one of those rituals includes the kissing of a skull, perhaps Geronimo’s skull!

Deer Island was once the summer residence of Yale Alumnus and Skull and Bones member George Douglas Miller, an Albany, NY millionaire. George’s father, Samuel Miller, purchased Deer Island in 1856 before the great boom of the Golden Age for $175.00, at his son’s urging. George Douglas Miller was born in 1847 in Rochester, NY and married Anna Douw, a member of an old prominent Dutch Family in Albany.

The Order of Skill and Bones members include several Presidents and Presidential family members. A Watertown Daily Times article of 13 July 1910 describes the visit of Robert A. Taft’s visit to the Deer Island. Robert was the son of President William Howard Taft and would go on to be very prominent in Ohio and national politics. “Each summer members of the society including many graduates of the university meet on the river for the purpose of renewing acquaintances and talking over old times.” The article continues “An old fire place built in the open on the Island is their meeting place and here they hold their secret sessions while at the river.” As a US Senator Taft was instrumental in the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, and he was known in the Senate as “Mr. Republican.”


Deer Island was divided in two sections the south half owned by the Skull and Bones and the north half by Mr. Miller. A number of impressive stone buildings were constructed on the Island by Miller most of which have been destroyed by fire over the years. In 1932, Miller gave the rest of the island and buildings to the Russell Trust Association, the business arm of Skull and Bones. The Russell Trust is so secret that its affairs are protected by a special act of the Connecticut Legislature.


On the fraternities’ half of the island three buildings had been constructed; a men’s club house, a house of wives and family called the “Ledges”, and a great baronial hall, where secret rituals where presumably conducted. The only building remaining is called the “Outlook” distinctive for its porch, which overhangs the river and a stone library.


In 1926 a fire destroyed Mr. Miller’s primary residence on the north end of the Island. The home was known as “The Yale House” and was noted for its extensive collections of antiques, curios, and rare books. The library was valued at $40,000, and Mr. Miller’s collection of Chinese and Japanese relics valued at $75,000, plus furniture at $25,000. The fire started in the chimney, E. J. Noble sent his fire squad and Alexandria Bay Fire Department sent a pumper, but to no avail. Again on 4 September 1949, a 15 room mansion burned.

The suit by Geronimo’s Family also requires the defendants if unable to find the remains to give an explanation as to what happened to them. Could it be that they were destroyed in one of the fires on the Island? Or are they still there on mysterious Deer Island? The mystery of Geronimo’s bones may soon be solved.

By Rexford M. Ennis, Grindstone Island

© Copyright Rexford M. Ennis 2009, All Rights Reserved


This is the second article submitted by Rex Ennis from Grindstone Island.  Rex provided Clayton's Historic Island Hotels, December 2008 for TI Life. His bio is recorded in Contributors in December. Rex is a longtime volunteer at the Thousand Islands Museum, Clayton, NY.

[Editor's note:  This is an ongoing story, so we suggest you Google "Geronimo" in Google News and continue to check for more details.]

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Betsy Wolverton
Comment by: Betsy Wolverton ( )
Left at: 6:22 PM Sunday, March 21, 2010
This is really interesting and well-written. I have just started to get this e-pub magazine and have read all of your articles. Good job!

See you on the island. We hope to get there by mid-May. Best to Janice.