Reverend Friel

J.B. Frey, Missionary to the Hopi people

Reverend Friel is represented in The Vanishing American as pretty much a "second banana" conspirator to Morgan and Blucher.  Still he is appropriately grouped with the other "black hats" because he is depicted as a nasty sort working his nastiness almost exclusively on the Hopi people.


The Vanishing American:

"I'm Mr. Friel," he said, touching his sombrero. "Can I do anything for you?"

"No, thank you," replied Marian.

His face had the brown of the open, but it was not one that inspired Marian to interest or liking. Quick was she to see the gleam of curiosity in his eyes, and then, as he took a good look at her, the leap of admiration.

“Have you permission to go on the reservation?" he inquired.

"No. Is it—compulsory?"

"I—well—no, hardly that. But it is always best for visitors to see Mr. Blucher."

"Who is he?"

"The agent in charge of the reservation."

"Very well. Where can I find him?"

"Unfortunately, Mr. Blucher is away attending an investigation. But I can take it upon myself to—to make everything all right. Wouldn't you like to see the school?"

"It would be interesting to see the Indian children. I may return here and find some kind of work with them. But I've no time now."

"I can get you a position here," he said, eagerly. He was too eager.

"What authority have you?" asked Marian, bluntly. She omitted thanking him.

"Well, no outright authority to hire government employees," he returned. "But I hire people to work for me occasionally. And I'm hand in glove with Morgan. He's the power here…. Let me drive you to Kaidab… a handsome girl like you oughtn't be riding alone with one of these Indians. They're all alike, these Indian louts. You're not safe with any one of them."

"If that's true, Mr. Friel, it doesn't speak well for your missionary work. I'll take a chance on this Indian. Good day." (Chapter III)


Since Reverend Friel's role is to control the Hopi's in the area of Mesa (Tuba City), who had this role in real life? Was that person a problem as well?  It turns out that several traditional Navajo men banded together to complain to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and there was an investigation:


Complaints Against Missionary Frey:

Your instructions directed that investigation be made of certain complaints against Rev. J. B. Frey, Mennonite Missionary, filed with your Office by certain Hopi Indians… a council was held by Inspector Sweet with the Hopi Indians at Moencopi Village on July 23, 1920… a later council was held in the Tuba School assembly room by Inspectors Linnen and Sweet on November 25, 1920…nearly an eight hours continuous session… the following is a statement of complaints:

  1. Trying to get their land;
  2. …trying to persuade their wives to leave them, because the wives had been baptized, but the husbands were not Christian;
  3. …they said that he lied when he said that their Indian dances were immoral, and they alleged that their dances were clean and innocent;
  4. …orphan child taken by Mr. Frey;
  5. …Mr. Frey preaching on their streets.

So extreme has this opposition of the pagan Indians against the Missionaries been allowed to go, that one of these Hopis undertook to lasso Rev. Mr. Frey, while others held him.

E.B. Linnen, Chief Inspector, E.M. Sweet, Jr, Inspector


We need to be fair in presenting the investigator's findings.  He discounted the complaints as coming from traditional Hopi, not from "Christian" Hopi. This made all the difference to the Bureau who saw part of their role as "Chrisitanizing" the heathens. In The Vanishing American, it is not surprising that Zane Grey supported the traditional American Indians.

That said, Reverend Frey was kicked out as a missionary in 1928 when his Mennonite brethren found him guilty of teaching false doctrine to the Hopi. For more information on Reverend Frey and his investigations, we have prepared an interesting file for your review.