There have been many articles written about Apache leader Geronimo and the possibility of his remains being interned at Yale’s Skull & Bones Secret Society Hall in New Haven, CT.
The latest article includes letters found in the Yale archives and addressed to John Eliot Woolley (Skull & Bones 1918). (See Joshua Eaton’s “Did a Yale secret society steal a famous Apache leader’s skull? New documents raise questions.” on ctinsider.com).
Knight Woolley (Skull & Bones 1917) was John Eliot Woolley’s elder brother. He was in the same Bones Club as Prescott Sheldon Bush (Skull & Bones 1917) and E. Roland Harriman (Skull & Bones 1917). All three had Bones family associations. Prescott Bush was the father and grandfather of numerous Bonesmen (including two US Presidents) and E. Roland Harriman was the younger brother of W. Averell Harriman (Skull & Bones 1913).
In 1975, Knight Woolley published a privately printed memoir, “In Retrospect – A very personal memoir.” The memoir includes Woolley’s final days at Yale and a reference to asking former U.S. President William Howard Taft (Skull & Bones 1878) for a letter of recommendation. Knight Woolley also writes about his military service and New York investment banking exploits. Woolley, Bush, and Harriman had a long association together at Brown Brothers Harriman in New York.
William Howard Taft was the son of Skull & Bones founder Alphonso Taft (1833) and enjoyed a long and illustrious relationship with Skull & Bones. Taft signed Bones letters, “Yours in the Bones” (Goel collection) and referred to the society’s hall as “Temple” in a 1913 letter found in a copy of Knight Woolley’s memoir. Eaton references the use of the word “Tomb” in his article, though the Bonesmen code word “T-” may likely be a reference to the Skull & Bones “Temple.”
In the memoir, Knight Woolley writes about his training at The School of Fire at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in 1917. He states, “At times, our rides took us near the Apache Reservation and its enormous graveyard, including the covered tomb of Geronimo, the last of the great Indian leaders.” (page 9)
Knight Woolley then states, “Footnote: This grave was to be well remembered by a group of my Yale classmates who were at the School in the late winter of 1918.” (page 9)
As John Eliot’s brother, Knight Woolley’s 1975 memoir makes a tantalizing reference. This is a decade before Ned Anderson Sr., chair of the San Carlos Apache Tribe in Arizona, received information about the Bones-Geronimo connection (See 1. Paul Brinkley-Rogers, “Skull For Scandal,” Washington Post, October 1, 1988. 2. James C. McKinley, Jr., “Geronimo’s Heirs Sue Secret Yale Society Over His Skull,” New York Times, February 19, 2009.)
I have not previously seen Knight Woolley’s scarcely-printed memoir quoted in articles or works related to Apache leader Geronimo. Woolley’s work is not listed among Alexandra Robbins’ Secrets of the Tomb (2002) extensive references.
The Yale Library does not appear to have a copy of the Woolley memoir. Yale’s Lux Collections Discovery Page does not include a relevant search result for Knight Woolley. WorldCat lists a copy at Texas A&M University, on the same campus as the George H.W. Bush (Skull & Bones 1948) Presidential Library. A second copy is listed at IHEID; Geneva Graduate Institute, Switzerland.
The Ravi D. Goel collection on Yale includes a scrapbook of 100+ letters among members of the Skull & Bones Delegation of 1874. An 1898 letter written by then US Appeals Court judge & future 27th President of the United States William Howard Taft (Bones 1878) is signed “Yours in the Bones”. A 1966 Skull & Bones Black Book photo album includes former US Secretary of State John Kerry, Fedex founder Fred Smith, Vietnam War hero Richard Warren Pershing, and many prominent Yale graduates.
Ravi D. Goel collects historical documents as a hobby. He has donated manuscripts and collections to Amherst College, Dickinson College, Forest History Society, Harvard Law School, Minnesota Historical Society, Princeton University, and Yale University. Collection highlights are described here.