Ramsdell, the cowboy missionary

One of the true friends of the American Indians was a missionary named Ramsdell.  Though his role was not a large one, Grey likely included him to show that not all missionaries were bad... just many of them.  You can't help but like the man when you read the following description from the novel:

The Vanishing American:

"Take, for instance, the case of young Ramsdell, the cowboy missionary. Ramsdell's way of work ruffled Morgan. This cowboy preacher first got the Indians to like and trust him. Morgan and his ally feared Ramsdell was getting influence. He worked with the Indians digging ditches, plowing, planting, and building. Ramsdell was a good mechanic and he tried to teach things to the Indians. Then he did not thrust his religion down their throats. Hell's fire and all such things had no place in his talks. More significant, perhaps, to the Indians, was the fact that Ramsdell never had anything to do with Indian women. He was a rough diamond, a hard-riding parson. (Chapter IV)

Shine Smith (circled) John Wetherill standing

At first glance, it seemed difficult to document the inspiration for the cowboy missionary Ramsdell.  Then the documentation began to flow.  We now know that Reverend Hugh "Shine" Smith was a regular guest at the Wetherill Trading Post.  He was a friend to the American Indians on the reservations in much the same manner as Ramsell. Not only did he visit the Wetherills, but he also worked at times in the Wetherill Trading Post. 

It's likely that Shine met Zane Grey through the Wetherills.  Consider this quote from an article in True West Magazine (March 31, 2018) by Marshall Trimble entitled "Shine Smith":

True West Magazine:

"During ceremonies he [Shine] mixed Native and Anglo customs.  He incurred the wrath of the other missionaries when he gathered Hopi children from the boarding schools and took to Kachina ceremonies so they learn their native religion.  They accused him of causing native children to backslide in their becoming good Christians.

Shine became a friend of Zane Grey. At the time, Hollywood was making a film based on Grey’s bestseller, the “Vanished American,” a film sympathetic to Indians. In his book and in the movie the Native Americans were the good guys and the missionaries were bad guys.  For helping Grey, Shine was kicked out of the church."

One last thing.  The True West article says Shine was known as the "cowboy missionary", just like Ramsdell in The Vanishing American!

Shine Smith entry into Wetherill Trading Post log