Part 4 out of 7
half-brother of Mr. Kinzie. Mrs. Helm accompanied her parents to St.
Joseph, where they resided in the family of Alexander Robinson,
receiving from them all possible kindness and hospitality for several
After their arrival in Detroit, Mrs. Helm was joined by her husband,
when they were both arrested by order of the British commander, and sent
on horseback, in the dead of winter, through Canada to Fort George, on
the Niagara frontier. When they arrived at that post, there had been no
official appointed to receive them, and, notwithstanding their long and
fatiguing journey in weather the most cold and inclement, Mrs. Helm, a
delicate woman of seventeen years, was permitted to sit waiting in her
saddle, outside the gate, for more than an hour, before the refreshment
of fire or food, or even the shelter of a roof, was offered them. When
Colonel Sheaffe, who had been absent at the time, was informed of this
brutal inhospitality, he expressed the greatest indignation. He waited
on Mrs. Helm immediately, apologized in the most courteous manner, and
treated both her and Lieutenant Helm with the most considerate kindness,
until, by an exchange of prisoners, they were liberated, and found means
to reach their friends in Steuben County, N.Y.
Captain Heald had been taken prisoner by an Indian from the Kankakee,
who had a strong personal regard for him, and who, when he saw the
wounded and enfeebled state of Mrs. Heald, released her husband that he
might accompany his wife to St. Joseph. To the latter place they were
accordingly carried, as has been related, by Chandonnai and his party.
In the mean time, the Indian who had so nobly released his prisoner
returned to his village on the Kankakee, where he had the mortification
of finding that his conduct had excited great dissatisfaction among his
band. So great was the displeasure manifested, that he resolved to make
a journey to St. Joseph and reclaim his prisoner.
News of his intention being brought to To-pee-nee-bee and Kee-po-tah,
under whose care the prisoners were, they held a private council with
Chandonnai, Mr. Kinzie, and the principal men of the village, the result
of which was a determination to send Captain and Mrs. Heald to the
island of Mackinac, and deliver them up to the British.
They were accordingly put in a bark canoe, and paddled by Robinson and
his wife a distance of three hundred miles along the coast of Michigan,
and surrendered as prisoners of war to the commanding officer at
As an instance of the procrastinating spirit of Captain Heald, it may be
mentioned that, even after he had received certain intelligence that his
Indian captor was on his way from the Kankakee to St. Joseph to retake
him, he would still have delayed another day at that place, to make
preparation for a more comfortable journey to Mackinac.
The soldiers, with their wives and surviving children, were dispersed
among the different villages of the Pottowattamies upon the Illinois,
Wabash, Rock River, and at Milwaukie, until the following spring, when
they were, for the most part, carried to Detroit and ransomed.
Mrs. Burns, with her infant, became the prisoner of a chief, who carried
her to his village and treated her with great kindness. His wife, from
jealousy of the favor shown to "the white woman" and her child, always
treated them with great hostility. On one occasion she struck the infant
with a tomahawk, and narrowly missed her aim of putting an end to it
altogether. They were not left long in the power of the old hag
after this demonstration, but on the first opportunity were carried to a
place of safety.
The family of Mr. Lee had resided in a house on the Lake shore, not far
from the fort. Mr. Lee was the owner of Lee's Place, which he cultivated
as a farm. It was his son who ran down with the discharged soldier to
give the alarm of "Indians," at the fort, on the afternoon of the 7th of
April. The father, the son, and all the other members of the family had
fallen victims on the 15th of August, except Mrs. Lee and her young
infant. These were claimed by Black Partridge, and carried to his
village on the Au Sable. He had been particularly attached to a little
girl of Mrs. Lee's, about twelve years of age. This child had been
placed on horseback for the march; and, as she was unaccustomed to the
exercise, she was tied fast to the saddle, lest by any accident she
should slip off or be thrown.
She was within reach of the balls at the commencement of the engagement,
and was severely wounded. The horse set off on a full gallop, which
partly threw her, but she was held fast by the bands which confined her,
and hung dangling as the animal ran violently about. In this state she
was met by Black Partridge, who caught the horse and disengaged her from
the saddle. Finding her so much wounded that she could not recover, and
that she was suffering great agony, he put the finishing stroke to her
at once with his tomahawk. He afterwards said that this was the hardest
thing he ever tried to do, but he did it because he could not bear to
see her suffer.
He took the mother and her infant to his village, where he became warmly
attached to the former--so much so, that he wished to marry her; but, as
she very naturally objected, he treated her with the greatest respect
and consideration. He was in no hurry to release her, for he was in
hopes of prevailing on her to become his wife. In the course of the
winter her child fell ill. Finding that none of the remedies within
their reach were effectual, Black Partridge proposed to take the little
one to Chicago, where there was now a French trader living in the
mansion of Mr. Kinzie, and procure some medical aid from him. Wrapping
up his charge with the greatest care, he set out on his journey.
When he arrived at the residence of M. Du Pin, he entered the room where
he was, and carefully placed his burden on the floor.
"What have you there?" asked M. Du Pin.
"A young raccoon, which I have brought you as a present," was the reply;
and, opening the pack, he showed the little sick infant.
When the trader had prescribed for its complaint, and Black Partridge
was about to return to his home, he told his friend of the proposal he
had made to Mrs. Lee to become his wife, and the manner in which it had
M. Du Pin, entertaining some fears that the chief's honorable resolution
to leave it to the lady herself whether to accept his addresses or not,
might not hold out, entered at once into a negotiation for her ransom,
and so effectually wrought upon the good feelings of Black Partridge
that he consented to bring his fair prisoner at once to Chicago, that
she might be restored to her friends.
Whether the kind trader had at the outset any other feeling in the
matter than sympathy and brotherly kindness, we cannot say; we only know
that in process of time Mrs. Lee became Madame Du Pin, and that the
worthy couple lived together in great happiness for many years after.
The fate of Nau-non-gee, one of the chiefs of the Calumet village, and
who is mentioned in the early part of the narrative, deserves to be
Daring the battle of the 15th of August, the chief object of his attack
was one Sergeant Hays, a man from whom he had received many acts of
After Hays had received a ball through the body, this Indian ran up to
him to tomahawk him, when the sergeant, collecting his remaining
strength, pierced him through the body with his bayonet. They fell
together. Other Indians running up soon dispatched Hays, and it was not
until then that his bayonet was extracted from the body of his
The wounded chief was carried after the battle to his village on the
Calumet, where he survived for several days. Finding his end
approaching, he called together his young men, and enjoined them, in the
most solemn manner, to regard the safety of their prisoners after his
death, and to take the lives of none of them from respect to his memory,
as he deserved his fate from the hands of those whose kindness he had so
CAPTIVITY OF J. KINZIE, SEN.--AN AMUSING MISTAKE.
It had been a stipulation of General Hull at the surrender of Detroit,
which took place the day after the massacre at Chicago, that the
inhabitants should be permitted to remain undisturbed in their homes.
Accordingly, the family of Mr. Kinzie took up their quarters with their
friends in the old mansion, which many will still recollect as standing
on the northwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Wayne Street.
The feelings of indignation and sympathy were constantly aroused in the
hearts of the citizens during the winter that ensued. They were almost
daily called upon to witness the cruelties practised upon the American
prisoners brought in by their Indian captors. Those who could scarcely
drag their wounded, bleeding feet over the frozen ground, were compelled
to dance for the amusement of the savages; and these exhibitions
sometimes took place before the Government House, the residence of
Colonel McKee. Some of the British officers looked on from their windows
at these heart-rending performances; for the honor of humanity, we will
hope such instances were rare.
Everything that could be made available among the effects of the
citizens was offered, to ransom their countrymen from the hands of these
inhuman beings. The prisoners brought in from the River Raisin--those
unfortunate men who were permitted, after their surrender to General
Proctor, to be tortured and murdered by inches by his savage
allies--excited the sympathies and called for the action of the whole
community. Private houses were turned into hospitals, and every one was
forward to get possession of as many as possible of the survivors. To
effect this, even the articles of their apparel were bartered by the
ladies of Detroit, as they watched from their doors or windows the
miserable victims carried about for sale.
In the dwelling of Mr. Kinzie one large room was devoted to the
reception of the sufferers. Few of them survived. Among those spoken of
as objects of the deepest interest were two young gentlemen of Kentucky,
brothers, both severely wounded, and their wounds aggravated to a mortal
degree by subsequent ill usage and hardships. Their solicitude for each
other, and their exhibition in various ways of the most tender fraternal
affection, created an impression never to be forgotten.
The last bargain made was by black Jim, and one of the children, who had
permission to redeem a negro servant of the gallant Colonel Allen, with
an old white horse, the only available article that remained among their
A brother of Colonel Allen afterwards came to Detroit, and the negro
preferred returning to servitude rather than remaining a stranger in a
Mr. Kinzie, as has been related, joined his family at Detroit in the
month of January. A short time after, suspicions arose in the mind of
General Proctor that he was in correspondence with General Harrison, who
was now at Fort Meigs, and who was believed to be meditating an advance
upon Detroit. Lieutenant Watson, of the British army, waited upon Mr.
Kinzie one day with an invitation to the quarters of General Proctor on
the opposite side of the river, saying he wished to speak with him, on
business. Quite unsuspicious, he complied with the invitation, when to
his surprise he was ordered into confinement, and strictly guarded in
the house of his former partner, Mr. Patterson, of Sandwich. Finding
that he did not return to his home, Mrs. Kinzie informed some of the
Indian chiefs, his particular friends, who immediately repaired to the
head-quarters of the commanding officer, demanded "their friend's"
release, and brought him back to his home. After waiting a time until a
favorable opportunity presented itself, the General sent a detachment of
dragoons to arrest Mr. Kinzie. They had succeeded in carrying him away,
and crossing the river with him. Just at this moment a party of friendly
Indians made their appearance.
"Where is the Shaw-nee-aw-kee?" was the first question.
"There," replied his wife, pointing across the river, "in the hands of
the red-coats, who are taking him away again."
The Indians ran to the river, seized some canoes that they found there,
and, crossing over to Sandwich, compelled General Proctor a second time
to forego his intentions.
A third time this officer made the attempt, and succeeded in arresting
Mr. Kinzie and conveying him heavily ironed to Fort Malden, in Canada,
at the mouth of the Detroit River. Here he was at first treated with
great severity, but after a time the rigor of his confinement was
somewhat relaxed, and he was permitted to walk on the bank of the river
for air and exercise.
On the 10th of September, as he was taking his promenade under the close
supervision of a guard of soldiers, the whole party were startled by the
sound of guns upon Lake Erie, at no great distance below. What could it
mean? It must be Commodore Barclay firing into some of the Yankees. The
firing continued. The time allotted the prisoner for his daily walk
expired, but neither he nor his guard observed the lapse of time, so
anxiously were they listening to what they now felt sure was an
engagement between ships of war. At length Mr. Kinzie was reminded that
the hour for his return to confinement had arrived. He petitioned for
"Let me stay," said he, "till we can learn how the battle has gone."
Very soon a sloop appeared under press of sail, rounding the point, and
presently two gun-boats in chase of her.
"She is running--she bears the British colors," cried he--"yes, yes,
they are lowering--she is striking her flag! Now," turning to the
soldiers, "I will go back to prison contented--I know how the battle has
The sloop was the Little Belt, the last of the squadron captured by the
gallant Perry on that memorable occasion which he announced in the
"We have met the enemy, and they are ours!"
Matters were growing critical, and it was necessary to transfer all
prisoners to a place of greater security than the frontier was now
likely to be. It was resolved therefore to send Mr. Kinzie to the
mother-country. Nothing has ever appeared which would explain the course
of General Proctor in regard to this gentleman. He had been taken from
the bosom of his family, where he was living quietly under the parole
which he had received, and protected by the stipulations of the
surrender. He was kept for months in confinement. Now he was placed on
horseback under a strong guard, who announced that they had orders to
shoot him through the head if he offered to speak to a person upon the
road. He was tied upon the saddle to prevent his escape, and thus they
set out for Quebec. A little incident occurred, which will help to
illustrate the course invariably pursued towards our citizens, at this
period, by the British army on the Northwestern frontier.
The saddle on which Mr. Kinzie rode had not been properly fastened, and,
owing to the rough motion of the animal on which it was, it turned, so
as to bring the rider into a most awkward and painful position. His
limbs being fastened, he could not disengage himself, and in this manner
he was compelled by those who had charge of him to ride until he was
nearly exhausted, before they had the humanity to release him.
Arrived at Quebec, he was put on board a small vessel to be sent to
England. The vessel when a few days out at sea was chased by an American
frigate and driven into Halifax. A second time she set sail, when she
sprung a leak and was compelled to put back.
The attempt to send him across the ocean was now abandoned, and he was
returned to Quebec. Another step, equally inexplicable with his arrest,
was soon after taken. This was, his release and that of Mr. Macomb, of
Detroit, who was also in confinement in Quebec, and the permission given
them to return to their friends and families, although the war was not
yet ended. It may possibly be imagined that in the treatment these
gentlemen received, the British commander-in-chief sheltered himself
under the plea of their being "native-born British subjects," and
perhaps when it was ascertained that Mr. Kinzie was indeed a citizen of
the United States it was thought safest to release him.
In the mean time, General Harrison at the head of his troops had reached
Detroit. He landed on the 29th of September. All the citizens went forth
to meet him--Mrs. Kinzie, leading her children by the hand, was of the
number. The General accompanied her to her home, and took up his abode
there. On his arrival he was introduced to Kee-po-tah, who happened to
be on a visit to the family at that time. The General had seen the chief
the preceding year, at the Council at Vincennes, and the meeting was one
of great cordiality and interest.
* * * * *
In 1816, Mr. Kinzie and his family again returned to Chicago. The fort
was rebuilt on a somewhat larger scale than the former one. It was not
until the return of the troops that the bones of the unfortunate
Americans who had been massacred four years before, were collected and
An Indian Agency, under the charge of Charles Jewett, Esq., of Kentucky,
was established. He was succeeded in 1820 by Dr. Alexander Wolcott, of
Connecticut, who occupied that position until his death in 1830.
The troops were removed from the garrison in 1823, but restored in 1828,
after the Winnebago war. This was a disturbance between the Winnebagoes
and white settlers on and near the Mississippi. After some murders had
been committed, the young chief, Red Bird, was taken and imprisoned at
Prairie du Chien to await his trial, where he committed suicide in
consequence of chagrin and the irksomeness of confinement. It was feared
that the Pottowattamies would make common cause with the Winnebagoes,
and commence a general system of havoc and bloodshed on the frontier.
They were deterred from such a step, probably, by the exertions of Billy
Caldwell, Robinson, and Shaw-bee-nay, who made an expedition among the
Rock River bands, to argue and persuade them into remaining tranquil.
The few citizens of Chicago in those days, lived for the most part a
very quiet, unvaried life. The great abundance of game, and the immense
fertility of the lands they cultivated, furnished them with a
superabundance of all the luxuries of garden, corn-field, and dairy The
question was once asked by a friend in the "East countrie,"
"How do you dispose of all the good things you raise? You have no
market?" "No." "And you cannot consume them all yourselves?" "No." "What
then do you do with them?"
"Why, we manage, when a vessel arrives, to persuade the captain to
accept a few kegs of butter, and stores of corn and vegetables, as a
present, and that helps us to get rid of some of our overplus."
The mails arrived, as may be supposed, at very rare intervals. They were
brought occasionally from Fort Clark (Peoria), but more frequently from
Fort Wayne, or across the peninsula of Michigan, which was still a
wilderness peopled with savages. The hardy adventurer who acted as
express was, not unfrequently, obliged to imitate the birds of heaven
and "lodge among the branches," in order to insure the safety of himself
and his charge.
Visitors were very rare, unless it was a friend who came to sojourn for
several months and share a life in the wilderness. A traveller, however,
occasionally found his way to the spot, in passing to or from "parts
unknown," and such a one was sure of a hospitable and hearty welcome.
A gentleman journeying from the southern settlements once arrived late
in the evening at Wolf Point, where was then the small
trading-establishment of George Hunt and a Mr. Wallace. He stopped and
inquired if he could have accommodation for the night for himself and
his horse. The answer was, that they were ill provided to entertain a
stranger--the house was small, and they were keeping "bachelor's hall."
"Is there no place," inquired the traveller, "where I can obtain a
"Oh, yes--you will find a very comfortable house, Mr. Kinzie's, about
half a mile below, near the mouth of the river."
The stranger turned his horse's head and took the road indicated.
Arrived at the spot, his first inquiry was,--
"Is this the residence of Mr. Kinzie?"
"I should be glad to get accommodation for myself and horse."
"Certainly, sir--walk in."
The horse was taken to the stable, while the gentleman was ushered into
a parlor where were two ladies. The usual preliminary questions and
answers were gone through, for in a new country people soon become
acquainted, and the gentleman ere long found himself seated at a
comfortable hot supper--we will venture to say a fine supper, since the
table in this domestic establishment has always been somewhat famous.
Apparently, the gentleman enjoyed it, for he made himself quite at home.
He even called for a boot-jack after tea, and drew off his boots. The
ladies were a little surprised, but they had lived a good while out of
the world, and they did not know what changes in etiquette might have
taken place during their retirement.
Before taking his leave for the night, the traveller signified what it
would please him to have for breakfast, which was duly prepared. The
next day proved stormy. The gentleman was satisfied with his quarters,
and, having taken care to ascertain that there was no neglect or
deficiency of accommodation so far as his horse was concerned, he got
through the day very comfortably.
Now and then, when he was tired of reading, he would converse with the
family, and seemed, upon the whole, by no means disposed to hold himself
aloof, but to indulge in a little becoming sociability, seeing they were
all there away in the woods.
The second day the weather brightened. The traveller signified his
intention to depart. He ordered his horse to the door--then he called
for his bill.
"My house is not a tavern, sir," was the astounding reply.
"Not a tavern! Good heavens! have I been making myself at home in this
manner in a private family?"
He was profuse in his apologies, which, however, were quite unnecessary,
for the family had perceived from the first the mistake he had fallen
into, and they had amused themselves during his whole visit in
anticipating the consternation of their guest when he should be
* * * * *
It was in the year 1816 (the year of the rebuilding of the fort, after
its destruction by the Indians) that the tract of land on which Chicago
stands, together with the surrounding country, was ceded to the United
States by the Pottowattamies. They remained the peaceful occupants of
it, however, for twenty years longer. It was not until 1836 that they
were removed by Government to lands appropriated for their use on the
In the year 1830 the town of Chicago was laid out into lots by
Commissioners appointed by the State. At this time the prices of these
lots ranged from ten to sixty dollars.
* * * * *
Mr. Kinzie, who, from the geographical position of this place, and the
vast fertility of the surrounding country, had always foretold its
eventual prosperity and importance, was not permitted to witness the
realization of his predictions. He closed his useful and energetic life
on the 6th of January, 1828, having just completed his sixty-fifth year.
Chicago was not, at the period of my first visit, the cheerful, happy
place it had once been. The death of Dr. Wolcott, of Lieutenant Furman,
and of a promising young son of Mr. Beaubien, all within a few weeks of
each other, had thrown a gloom over the different branches of the social
The weather, too, was inclement and stormy beyond anything that had been
known before. Only twice, during a period of two months, did the sun
shine out through the entire day. So late as the second week in April,
when my husband had left to return to Fort Winnebago, the storms were so
severe that he and his men were obliged to lie by two or three days in
an Indian lodge.
Robert Kinzie, Medard Beaubien, and Billy Caldwell had gone at the same
time to the Calumet to hunt, and, as they did not make their appearance
for many days, we were persuaded they had perished with cold. They
returned at length, however, to our infinite joy, having only escaped
freezing by the forethought of Robert and Caldwell in carrying each two
blankets instead of one.
Our only recreation was an occasional ride on horseback, when the
weather would permit, through the woods on the north side of the river,
or across the prairie, along the lake shore on the south.
When we went in the former direction, a little bridle-path took us along
what is now Rush Street. The thick boughs of the trees arched over our
heads, and we were often compelled, as we rode, to break away the
projecting branches of the shrubs which impeded our path. The little
prairie west of Wright's Woods was the usual termination of our ride in
When we chose the path across the prairie towards the south, we
generally passed a new-comer, Dr. Harmon, superintending the
construction of a _sod fence_, at a spot he had chosen, near the shore
of the lake. In this inclosure he occupied himself, as the season
advanced, in planting fruit-stones of all descriptions, to make ready a
garden and orchard for future enjoyment.
We usually stopped to have a little chat. The two favorite themes of the
Doctor were horticulture, and the certain future importance of Chicago.
That it was destined to be a great city, was his unalterable conviction;
and in deed, by this time, all forest and prairie as it was, we half
began to believe it ourselves.
On the pleasant afternoons which we occasionally enjoyed as the season
advanced, we found no small amusement in practising pistol-firing. The
place appropriated to this sport was outside the pickets, the mark being
placed on a panel in one of the bastions. The gentlemen must not be
offended if I record that, in process of time, the ladies acquired a
degree of skill that enabled them, as a general thing, to come off
triumphant. One of the ladies, Mrs. Hunter, was a great shot, having
brought down her grouse on the wing, to the no small delight of one of
the officers, Captain Martin Scott, of raccoon celebrity.
Now and then there was a little excitement within the fort, aroused by
the discovery that _a settler_ had been engaged in selling milk-punch,
instead of milk, to the soldiers, thereby interfering in no small degree
with the regularity and perfect discipline of the service. The first
step was to "drum out" the offender with all the honors of war--that is,
with a party-colored dress, and the Rogue's March played behind him. The
next, to place all the victims of this piece of deception in the
guard-house, where the commanding officer's lady supplied them
bountifully with coffee and hot cakes, by way of opening their eyes to
the enormity of their offence. It is not to be wondered at that the
officers sometimes complained of its being more of a strife with the
soldiers who should get into the guard-house, than who should keep out
of it. The poor fellows knew when they were well off.
Once, upon a Sunday, we were rowed up to Wolf Point to attend a
religious service, conducted by Father See, as he was called.
We saw a tall, slender man, dressed in a green frock-coat, from the
sleeves of which dangled a pair of hands giving abundant evidence,
together with the rest of his dress, that he placed small faith in the
axiom--"cleanliness is a part of holiness."
He stepped briskly upon a little platform behind a table, and commenced
his discourse. His subject was, "The fear of God."
"There was a kind of fear," he told us, "that was very nearly
a_lee_-a-nated to love: so nearly, that it was not worth while splitting
hairs for the difference." He then went on to describe this kind of
fear. He grew more and more involved as he proceeded with his
description until at length, quite bewildered, he paused, and exclaimed,
"Come, let's stop a little while, and clear away the brush." He
unravelled, as well as he was able, the tangled thread of his ideas,
and went on with his subject. But soon, again losing his way, he came to
a second halt. "Now," said he, wiping the perspiration from his forehead
with a red cotton handkerchief many degrees from clean, "now, suppose we
drive back a little piece." Thus he recapitulated what he wished to
impress upon us, of the necessity of cherishing a fear that maketh wise
unto salvation, "which fear," said he, "may we all enjoy, that together
we may soar away, on the rolling clouds of aether, to a boundless and
happy eternity, which is the wish of your humble servant." And,
flourishing abroad his hands, with the best of dancing-school bows, he
took his seat.
It will be readily imagined that we felt our own religious exercises at
home to be more edifying than such as this, and that we confined
ourselves to them for the future.
The return of our brother, Robert Kinzie, from Palestine (not the Holy
Land, but the seat of the Land Office), with the certificate of the
title of the family to that portion of Chicago since known as "Kinzie's
Addition," was looked upon as establishing a home for us at some future
day, if the glorious dreams of good Dr. Harmon, and a few others, should
come to be realized. One little incident will show how moderate were the
anticipations of most persons at that period.
The certificate, which was issued in Robert's name (he representing the
family in making the application), described only a fractional
quarter-section of one hundred and two acres, instead of one hundred and
sixty acres, the river and Lake Michigan cutting off fifty-eight acres
on the southern and eastern lines of the quarter. The applicants had
liberty to select their complement of fifty-eight acres out of any
unappropriated land that suited them.
"Now, my son," said his mother to Robert, "lay your claim on the
corn-field at Wolf Point. It is fine land, and will always be valuable
for cultivation; besides, as it faces down the main river, the situation
will always be a convenient one."
The answer was a hearty laugh. "Hear mother!" said Robert. "We have just
got a hundred and two acres--more than we shall ever want, or know what
to do with, and now she would have me go and claim fifty-eight acres
"Take my advice, my boy," repeated his mother, "or you may live one day
to regret it."
"Well, I cannot see how I can ever regret not getting more than we can
possibly make use of." And so the matter ended. The fifty-eight acres
were never claimed, and there was, I think, a very general impression
that asking for our just rights in the case would have a very grasping,
covetous look. How much wiser five-and-twenty years have made us!
* * * * *
During my sojourn of two months at Chicago, our mother often entertained
me with stories of her early life and adventures. The following is her
history of her captivity among the Senecas, which I have put in the form
of a tale, although without the slightest variation from the facts as I
received them from her lips, and those of her sister, Mrs. William
Forsyth, of Sandwich (C.W.), the little Maggie of the story.
It is well known that previous to the war of the Revolution the whole of
the western portion of Pennsylvania was inhabited by different Indian
tribes. Of these, the Delawares were the friends of the whites, and,
after the commencement of the great struggle, took part with the United
States. The Iroquois, on the contrary, were the friends and allies of
Very few white settlers had ventured beyond the Susquehanna. The
numerous roving bands of Shawanoes, Nanticokes, etc., although at times
professing friendship with the Americans and acting in concert with the
Delawares or Lenape as allies, at others suffered themselves to be
seduced by their neighbors, the Iroquois, to show a most sanguinary
spirit of hostility.
For this reason, the life of the inhabitants of the frontier was one of
constant peril and alarm. Many a scene of dismal barbarity was enacted,
as the history of the times testifies, and even those who felt
themselves in some measure protected by their immediate neighbors, the
Delawares, never lost sight of the caution required by their exposed
The vicinity of the military garrison at Pittsburg--or Fort Pitt, as it
was then called--gave additional security to those who had pushed
farther west, among the fertile valleys of the Alleghany and
Monongahela. Among these were the family of Mr. Lytle, who, some years
previous to the opening of our story, had removed from Baltimore to
Path Valley, near Carlisle, and subsequently settled himself on the
banks of Plum River, a tributary of the Alleghany. Here, with his wife
and five children, he had continued to live in comfort and security,
undisturbed by any hostile visit, and only annoyed by occasional false
alarms from his more timorous neighbors, who, having had more experience
in frontier life, were prone to anticipate evil, as well as to magnify
every appearance of danger.
* * * * *
On a bright afternoon in the autumn of 1779, two children of Mr. Lytle,
a girl of nine, and her brother, two years younger, were playing in a
little dingle or hollow in the rear of their father's house. Some large
trees, which had been recently felled, were lying here and there, still
untrimmed of their branches, and many logs, prepared for fuel, were
scattered around. Upon one of these the children, wearied with their
sports, seated themselves, and to beguile the time they fell into
conversation upon a subject that greatly perplexed them.
While playing in the same place a few hours previous, they had imagined
they saw an Indian lurking behind one of the fallen trees. The Indians
of the neighborhood were in the habit of making occasional visits to the
family, and they had become familiar and even affectionate with many of
them, but this seemed a stranger, and after the first hasty glance they
fled in alarm to the house.
Their mother chid them for the report they brought, which she endeavored
to convince them was without foundation. "You know," said she, "you are
always alarming us unnecessarily: the neighbors' children have
frightened you to death. Go back to your play, and learn to be more
So the children returned to their sports, hardly persuaded by their
mother's arguments. While they were thus seated upon the trunk of the
tree, their discourse was interrupted by the note, apparently, of a
quail not far off.
"Listen," said the boy, as a second note answered the first; "do you
"Yes," was the reply, and, after a few moments' silence, "do you not
hear a rustling among the branches of the tree yonder?"
"Perhaps it is a squirrel--but look! what is that? Surely I saw
something red among the branches. It looked like a fawn popping up its
At this moment, the children, who had been gazing so intently in the
direction of the fallen tree that all other objects were forgotten, felt
themselves seized from behind and pinioned in an iron grasp. What were
their horror and dismay to find themselves in the arms of savages, whose
terrific countenances and gestures plainly showed them to be enemies!
They made signs to the children to be silent, on pain of death, and
hurried them off, half dead with terror, in a direction leading from
their father's habitation. After travelling some distance in profound
silence, the severity of their captors somewhat relaxed, and as night
approached the party halted, after adopting the usual precautions to
secure themselves against a surprise.
In an agony of uncertainty and terror, torn from their beloved home and
parents, and anticipating all the horrors with which the rumors of the
times had invested a captivity among the Indians--perhaps even a
torturing death--the poor children could no longer restrain their grief,
but gave vent to sobs and lamentations.
Their distress appeared to excite the compassion of one of the party, a
man of mild aspect, who approached and endeavored to soothe them. He
spread them a couch of the long grass which grew near the
encamping-place, offered them a portion of his own stock of dried meat
and parched corn, and gave them to understand by signs that no farther
evil was intended them.
These kindly demonstrations were interrupted by the arrival of another
party of the enemy, bringing with them the mother of the little
prisoners, with her youngest child, an infant of three months old.
It had so happened that the father of the family, with his serving-men,
had gone early in the day to a _raising_ at a few miles' distance, and
the house had thus been left without a defender. The long period of
tranquillity which they had enjoyed, free from all molestation or alarm
from the savages, had thrown the settlers quite off their guard, and
they had recently laid aside some of the caution they had formerly
These Indians, by lying in wait, had found the favorable moment for
seizing the defenceless family and making them prisoners. Judging from
their paint, and other marks by which the early settlers learned to
distinguish the various tribes, Mrs. Lytle conjectured that those into
whose hands she and her children had fallen were Senecas. Nor was she
mistaken. It was a party of that tribe who had descended from their
village with the intention of falling upon some isolated band of their
enemies, the Delawares, but failing in this, had made themselves amends
by capturing a few white settlers.
It is to be attributed to the generally mild disposition of this tribe,
together with the magnanimous character of the chief who accompanied the
party, that their prisoners in the present instance escaped the fate of
most of the Americans who were so unhappy as to fall into the hands of
The children learned from their mother that she was profoundly ignorant
of the fate of their remaining brother and sister, a boy of six and a
little girl of four years of age, but she was in hopes they had made
good their escape with the servant-girl, who had likewise disappeared
from the commencement.
After remaining a few hours to recruit the exhausted frames of the
prisoners, the savages again started on their march, one of the older
Indians offering to relieve the mother from the burden of her infant,
which she had hitherto carried in her arms. Pleased with the unexpected
kindness, she resigned to him her tender charge.
Thus they pursued their way, the savage who carried the infant lingering
somewhat behind the rest of the party, until, finding a spot convenient
for his purpose, he grasped his innocent victim by the feet, and, with
one whirl, to add strength to the blow, dashed out its brains against a
tree. Leaving the body upon the spot, he rejoined the party.
The mother, unsuspicious of what had passed, regarded him earnestly as
he reappeared without the child--then gazed wildly around on the rest of
the group. Her beloved little one was not there. Its absence spoke its
fate; but, suppressing the shriek of agony, for she knew that the lives
of the remaining ones depended upon her firmness in that trying hour,
she drew them yet closer to her and pursued her melancholy way without a
word spoken or a question asked.
From the depths of her heart she cried unto Him who is able to save, and
He comforted her with hopes of deliverance for the surviving ones, for
she saw that if blood had been their sole object the scalps of herself
and her children would have been taken upon the spot where they were
She read too in the eyes of one who was evidently the commander of the
party an expression more merciful than she had even dared to hope.
Particularly had she observed his soothing manner and manifest
partiality towards her eldest child, the little girl of whom we have
spoken, and she built many a bright hope of escape or ransom upon these
After a toilsome and painful march of many days, the party reached the
Seneca village, upon the head-waters of the Alleghany, near what is now
called Olean Point. On their arrival the chief, their conductor, who was
distinguished by the name of the _Big White Man_ led his prisoners
to the principal lodge. This was occupied by his mother, the widow of
the head-chief of that band, and who was called by them the _Old Queen_.
On entering her presence, her son presented her the little girl,
"My mother, I bring you a child to supply the place of my brother, who
was killed by the Lenape six moons ago. She shall dwell in my lodge, and
be to me a sister. Take the white woman and her children and treat them
kindly--our father will give us many horses and guns to buy them back
He referred to the British Indian Agent of his tribe, Colonel Johnson,
an excellent and benevolent gentleman, who resided at Port Niagara, on
the British side of the river of that name.
The old queen fulfilled the injunctions of her son. She received the
prisoners, and every comfort was provided them that her simple and
primitive mode of life rendered possible.
* * * * *
We must now return to the place and period at which our story commences.
Late in the evening of that day the father returned to his dwelling. All
within and around was silent and desolate. No trace of a living creature
was to be found throughout the house or grounds. His nearest neighbors
lived at a considerable distance, but to them he hastened, frantically
demanding tidings of his family.
As he aroused them from their slumbers, one and another joined him in
the search, and at length, at the house of one of them, was found the
servant-maid who had effected her escape. Her first place of refuge, she
said, had been a large brewing-tub in an outer kitchen, under which she
had, at the first alarm, secreted herself until the departure of the
Indians, who were evidently in haste, gave her an opportunity of fleeing
to a place of safety. She could give no tidings of her mistress and the
children, except that they had not been murdered in her sight or
At length, having scoured the neighborhood without success, Mr. Lytle
remembered an old settler who lived alone, far up the valley. Thither he
and his friends immediately repaired, and from him they learned that,
being at work in his field just before sunset, he had seen a party of
strange Indians passing at a short distance from his cabin. As they
wound along the brow of the hill, he could perceive that they had
prisoners with them--a woman and a child. The woman he knew to be a
white, as she carried her infant in her arms, instead of upon her back,
after the manner of the savages.
Day had now begun to break, for the night had been passed in fruitless
searches, and the agonized father, after a consultation with his kind
friends and neighbors, accepted their offer to accompany him to Fort
Pitt to ask advice and assistance of the commandant and Indian Agent at
Proceeding down the valley, as they approached a hut which the night
before they had found apparently deserted, they were startled by
observing two children standing upon the high bank in front of it. The
delighted father recognized two of his missing flock, but no tidings
could they give him of their mother and the other lost ones. Their story
was simple and touching.
They were playing in the garden, when they were alarmed by seeing the
Indians enter the yard near the house. Unperceived by them, the brother,
who was but six years of age, helped his little sister over the fence
into a field overrun with bushes of the blackberry and wild raspberry.
They concealed themselves among these for awhile, and then, finding all
quiet, they attempted to force their way to the side of the field
farthest from the house. Unfortunately, the little girl in her play in
the garden had pulled off her shoes and stockings, and the briers
tearing and wounding her tender feet, she with difficulty could refrain
from crying out. Her brother took off his stockings and put them on her
feet. He attempted, too, to protect them with his shoes, but they were
too large, and kept slipping off, so that she could not wear them. For a
time, they persevered in making what they considered their escape from
certain death, for, as I have said, the children had been taught, by the
tales they had heard, to regard all strange Indians as ministers of
torture, and of horrors worse than death. Exhausted with pain and
fatigue, the poor little girl at length declared she could go no
"Then, Maggie," said her brother, "I must kill you, for I cannot let
you be killed by the Indians."
"Oh, no, Thomas!" pleaded she, "do not, pray do not kill me! I do not
think the Indians will find us."
"Oh, yes, they will, Maggie, and I could kill you so much easier than
For a long time he endeavored to persuade her, and even looked about for
a stick sufficiently large for his purpose; but despair gave the little
creature strength, and she promised her brother that she would neither
complain nor falter, if he would assist her in making her way out of the
The idea of the little boy that he could save his sister from savage
barbarity by taking her life himself, shows what tales of horror the
children of the early settlers were familiar with.
After a few more efforts, they made their way out of the field, into an
uninclosed pasture-ground, where, to their great delight, they saw some
cows feeding. They recognized them as belonging to Granny Myers, an old
woman who lived at some little distance, but in what direction from the
place they then were, they were utterly ignorant.
With a sagacity beyond his years, the boy said,--
"Let us hide ourselves till sunset, when the cows will go home, and we
will follow them."
They did so, but, to their dismay, when they reached Granny Myers's they
found the house deserted. The old woman had been called by some business
down the valley, and did not return that night.
Tired and hungry, they could go no farther, but, after an almost
fruitless endeavor to get some milk from the cows, they laid themselves
down to sleep under an old bedstead that stood behind the house. Their
father and his party had caused them additional terror in the night. The
shouts and calls which had been designed to arouse the inmates of the
house, they had mistaken for the whoop of the Indians, and, not being
able to distinguish friends from foes, they had crept close to one
another, as far out of sight as possible. When found the following
morning, they were debating what course to take next, for safety.
The commandant at Fort Pitt entered warmly into the affairs of Mr.
Lytle, and readily furnished him with a detachment of soldiers, to aid
him and his friends in the pursuit of the marauders. Some circumstances
having occurred to throw suspicion upon the Senecas, the party soon
directed their search among the villages of that tribe.
Their inquiries were prosecuted in various directions, and always with
great caution, for all the tribes of the Iroquois, or, as they pompously
called themselves, the Five Nations, being allies of Great Britain, were
inveterate in their hostility to the Americans. Thus, some time elapsed
before the father with his attendants reached the village of the _Big
A treaty was immediately entered into for the ransom of the captives,
which was easily accomplished in regard to Mrs. Lytle and the younger
child. But no offers, no entreaties, no promises, could procure the
release of the little Eleanor, the adopted child of the tribe. "No," the
chief said, "she was his sister; he had taken her to supply the place of
his brother who was killed by the enemy--she was dear to him, and he
would not part with her."
Finding every effort unavailing to shake this resolution, the father was
compelled to take his sorrowful departure with such of his beloved ones
as he had had the good fortune to recover.
We will not attempt to depict the grief of parents compelled thus to
give up a darling child, and to leave her in the hands of savages, whom
until now they had too much reason to regard as merciless. But there was
no alternative. Commending her to the care of their heavenly Father, and
cheered by the manifest tenderness with which she had thus far been
treated, they set out on their melancholy journey homeward, trusting
that some future effort would be more effectual for the recovery of
their little girl.
Having placed his family in safety at Pittsburg, Mr. Lytle, still
assisted by the commandant and the Indian Agent, undertook an expedition
to the frontier to the residence of the British Agent, Colonel Johnson.
His representation of the case warmly interested the feelings of that
benevolent officer, who promised him to spare no exertions in his
behalf. This promise he religiously performed. He went in person to the
village of the Big White Man, as soon as the opening of the spring
permitted, and offered him many splendid presents of guns and horses,
but the chief was inexorable.
Time rolled on, and every year the hope of recovering the little captive
became more faint. She, in the mean time, continued to wind herself more
and more closely around the heart of her Indian brother. Nothing could
exceed the consideration and affection with which she was treated, not
only by himself, but by his mother, the _Old Queen_. All their stock of
brooches and wampum was employed in the decoration of her person. The
principal seat and the most delicate viands were invariably reserved for
her, and no efforts were spared to promote her happiness, and to render
her forgetful of her former home and kindred.
Thus, though she had beheld, with a feeling almost amounting to despair,
the departure of her parents and dear little brother, and had for a long
time resisted every attempt at consolation, preferring even death to a
life of separation from all she loved, yet time, as it ever does,
brought its soothing balm, and she at length grew contented and happy.
From her activity and the energy of her character, qualities for which
she was remarkable to the latest period of her life, the name was given
her of _The Ship under full sail_.
* * * * *
The only drawback to the happiness of the little prisoner, aside from
her longings after her own dear home, was the enmity she encountered
from the wife of the Big White Man. This woman, from the day of her
arrival at the village, and adoption into the family as a sister, had
conceived for her the greatest animosity, which, at first, she had the
prudence to conceal from the observation of her husband.
It was perhaps natural that a wife should give way to some feelings of
jealousy at seeing her own place in the heart of her husband usurped by
the child of their enemy, the American. But these feelings were
aggravated by a bad and vindictive temper, and by the indifference with
which her husband listened to her complaints and murmurings.
As she had no children of her own to engage her attention, her mind was
the more engrossed and inflamed with her fancied wrongs, and with
devising means for their redress. An opportunity of attempting the
latter was not long wanting.
During the absence of the Big White Man upon some war-party or
hunting-excursion, his little sister was taken ill with fever and ague.
She was nursed with the utmost tenderness by the Old Queen; and the wife
of the chief, to lull suspicion, and thereby accomplish her purpose,
was likewise unwearied in her assiduities to the little favorite.
One afternoon, during the temporary absence of the Old Queen, her
daughter-in-law entered the lodge with a bowl of something she had
prepared, and, stooping down to the mat on which the child lay, said, in
an affectionate accent,--
"Drink, my sister, I have brought you that which will drive this fever
far from you."
On raising her head to reply, the little girl perceived a pair of eyes
peeping through a crevice in the lodge, and fixed upon her with a very
peculiar and significant expression. With the quick perception acquired
partly from nature and partly from her intercourse with this people, she
"Set it down, my sister. When this fit of the fever has passed, I will
drink your medicine."
The squaw, too cautious to use importunity, busied herself about in the
lodge for a short time, then withdrew to another, near at hand.
Meantime, the bright eyes continued peering through the opening, until
they had watched their object fairly out of sight; then a low voice, the
voice of a young friend and playfellow, spoke:
"Do not drink that which your brother's wife has brought you. She hates
you, and is only waiting an opportunity to rid herself of you. I have
watched her all the morning, and have seen her gathering the most deadly
roots and herbs. I knew for whom they were intended, and came hither to
"Take the bowl," said the little invalid, "and carry it to my mother's
This was accordingly done. The contents of the bowl were found to
consist principally of a decoction of the root of the May-apple, the
most deadly poison known among the Indians.
It is not in the power of language to describe the indignation that
pervaded the little community when this discovery was made known. The
squaws ran to and fro, as is their custom when excited, each vying with
the other in heaping invectives upon the culprit. No further punishment
was, however, for the present inflicted upon her, but, the first burst
of rage over, she was treated with silent abhorrence.
The little patient was removed to the lodge of the Old Queen, and
strictly guarded, while her enemy was left to wander in silence and
solitude about the fields and woods, until the return of her husband
should determine her punishment.
In a few days, the excursion being over, the Big White Man and his party
returned to the village. Contrary to the usual custom of savages, he did
not, in his first transport at learning the attempt on the life of his
little sister, take summary vengeance on the offender. He contented
himself with banishing her from his lodge, never to return, and
condemning her to hoe corn in a distant part of the large field or
inclosure which served the whole community for a garden.
Although she would still show her vindictive disposition whenever, by
chance, the little girl with her companions wandered into that vicinity,
by striking at her with her hoe, or by some other spiteful
manifestation, yet she was either too well watched, or stood too much in
awe of her former husband, to repeat the attempt upon his sister's life.
* * * * *
Four years had now elapsed since the capture of little Nelly. Her heart
was by nature warm and affectionate, so that the unbounded tenderness of
those she dwelt among had called forth a corresponding feeling in her
heart. She regarded the chief and his mother with love and reverence,
and had so completely learned their language and customs as almost to
have forgotten her own.
So identified had she become with the tribe, that the remembrance of her
home and family had nearly faded from her memory; all but her
mother--her mother, whom she had loved with a strength of affection
natural to her warm and ardent character, and to whom her heart still
clung with a fondness that no time or change could destroy.
The peace of 1783 between Great Britain and the United States now took
place. A general pacification of the Indian tribes was the consequence,
and fresh hopes were renewed in the bosoms of Mr. and Mrs. Lytle.
They removed with their family to Fort Niagara, near which, on the
American side, was the Great _Council-Fire_ of the Senecas. Colonel
Johnson readily undertook a fresh negotiation with the chief, but, in
order to make sure every chance of success, he again proceeded in person
to the village of the Big White Man.
His visit was most opportune. It was the "Feast of the Green Corn," when
he arrived among them. This observance, which corresponds so strikingly
with the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles that, together with other customs,
it has led many to believe the Indian nations the descendants of the
lost ten tribes of Israel, made it a season of general joy and
festivity. All other occupations were suspended to give place to social
enjoyment in the open air or in arbors formed of the green branches of
the trees. Every one appeared in his gala-dress. That of the little
adopted child consisted of a petticoat of blue broadcloth, bordered with
gay-colored ribbons; a sack or upper garment of black silk, ornamented
with three rows of silver brooches, the centre ones from the throat to
the hem being of large size, and those from the shoulders down being no
larger than a shilling-piece, and set as closely as possible. Around
her neck were innumerable strings of white and purple wampum--an Indian
ornament manufactured from the inner surface of the muscle-shell. Her
hair was clubbed behind and loaded with beads of various colors.
Leggings of scarlet cloth, and moccasins of deer-skin embroidered with
porcupine-quills, completed her costume.
Colonel Johnson was received with all the consideration due to his
position, and to the long friendship that had subsisted between him and
Observing that the hilarity of the festival had warmed and opened all
hearts, he took occasion in an interview with the chief to expatiate
upon the parental affection which had led the father and mother of his
little sister to give up their friends and home, and come hundreds of
miles away, in the single hope of sometimes looking upon and embracing
her. The heart of the chief softened as he listened to this
representation, and he was induced to promise that at the Grand Council
soon to be held at Fort Niagara, on the British side of the river, he
would attend, bringing his little sister with him.
He exacted a promise, however, from Colonel Johnson, that not only no
effort should be made to reclaim the child, but that even no proposition
to part with her should be offered him.
The time at length arrived when, her heart bounding with joy, little
Nelly was placed on horseback to accompany her Indian brother to the
Great Council of the Senecas. She had promised him that she would never
leave him without his permission, and he relied confidently on her word
As the chiefs and warriors arrived in successive bands to meet their
Father, the agent, at the council-fire, how did the anxious hearts of
the parents beat with alternate hope and fear! The officers of the fort
had kindly given them quarters for the time being, and the ladies, whose
sympathies were strongly excited, had accompanied the mother to the
place of council, and joined in her longing watch for the first
appearance of the band from the Alleghany River.
At length they were discerned, emerging from the forest on the opposite
or American side. Boats were sent across by the commanding officer, to
bring the chief and his party. The father and mother, attended by all
the officers and ladies, stood upon the grassy bank awaiting their
approach. They had seen at a glance that the _little captive_ was with
When about to enter the boat, the chief said to some of his young men,
"Stand here with the horses, and wait until I return."
He was told that the horses should be ferried across and taken care of.
"No," said he; "let them wait."
He held his darling by the hand until the river was passed--until the
boat touched the bank--until the child sprang forward into the arms of
the mother from whom she had been so long separated.
When the chief witnessed that outburst of affection, he could withstand
"She shall go," said he. "The mother must have her child again. I will
go back alone."
With one silent gesture of farewell he turned and stepped on board the
boat. No arguments or entreaties could induce him to remain at the
council, but, having gained the other side of the Niagara, he mounted
his horse, and with his young men was soon lost in the depths of the
After a sojourn of a few weeks at Niagara, Mr. Lytle, dreading lest the
resolution of the Big White Man should give way, and measures be taken
to deprive him once more of his child, came to the determination of
again changing his place of abode. He therefore took the first
opportunity of crossing Lake Erie with his family, and settled himself
in the neighborhood of Detroit, where he continued afterwards to reside.
_Little Nelly_ saw her friend the chief no more, but she never forgot
him. To the day of her death she remembered with tenderness and
gratitude her brother the Big White Man, and her friends and playfellows
among the Senecas.
At the age of fourteen the heroine of the foregoing story married
Colonel McKillip, a British officer. This gentleman was killed near Fort
Defiance, as it was afterwards called, at the Miami Rapids, in 1794. A
detachment of British troops had been sent down from Detroit to take
possession of this post. General Wayne was then on a campaign against
the Indians, and the British Government thought proper to make a few
demonstrations in behalf of their allies. Having gone out with a party
to reconnoitre, Colonel McKillip was returning to his post after dark,
when he was fired upon and killed by one of his own sentinels. Mrs. Helm
was the daughter of this marriage.
During the widowhood of Mrs. McKillip, she resided with her parents, at
Grosse Pointe, eight miles above Detroit, and it was during this period
that an event occurred which, from the melancholy and mysterious
circumstances attending it, was always dwelt upon by her with peculiar
Her second brother, Thomas Lytle, was, from his amiable and affectionate
character, the most dearly beloved by her of all the numerous family
circle. He was paying his addresses to a young lady who resided at the
river Trench, as it was then called, now the river Thames, a stream
emptying into Lake St. Clair about twenty miles above Detroit. In
visiting this young lady, it was his custom to cross the Detroit River
by the ferry with his horse, and then proceed by land to the river
Trench, which was, at some seasons of the year, a fordable stream.
On a fine forenoon, late in the spring, he had taken leave of his mother
and sister for one of these periodical visits, which were usually of two
or three days' duration.
After dinner, as his sister was sitting at work by an open window which
looked upon a little side inclosure filled with fruit-trees, she was
startled by observing some object opposite the window, between her and
the light. She raised her eyes and saw her brother Thomas. He was
without his horse, and carried his saddle upon his shoulders.
Surprised that she had not heard the gate opening for his entrance, and
also at his singular appearance, laden in that manner, she addressed
him, and inquired what had happened, and why he had returned so soon. He
made her no reply, but looked earnestly in her face, as he moved slowly
along the paved walk that led to the stables.
She waited a few moments, expecting he would reappear to give an account
of himself and his adventures, but at length, growing impatient at his
delay, she put down her work and went towards the rear of the house to
The first person she met was her mother. "Have you seen Thomas?" she
"Thomas! He has gone to the river Trench."
"No, he has returned--I saw him pass the window not fifteen minutes
"Then he will be in presently."
His sister, however, could not wait. She proceeded to the stables, she
searched in all directions. No Thomas--no horse--no saddle. She made
inquiry of the domestics. No one had seen him. She then returned and
told her mother what had happened.
"You must have fallen asleep and dreamed it," said her mother.
"No, indeed! I was wide awake--I spoke to him, and he gave me no answer,
but such a look!"
All the afternoon she felt an uneasiness she could not reason herself
The next morning came a messenger from the river Trench with dismal
The bodies of the young man and his horse had been found drowned a short
distance below the ford of the river.
It appeared that, on arriving at the bank of the river, he found it
swollen beyond its usual depth by the recent rains. It being necessary
to swim the stream with his horse, he had taken off his clothes and made
them into a packet which he fastened upon his shoulders. It was supposed
that the strength of the rapid torrent displaced the bundle, which thus
served to draw his head under water and keep it there, without the power
of raising it. All this was gathered from the position and appearance of
the bodies when found.
From the time at which he had been seen passing a house which stood near
the stream, on his way to the ford, it was evident that he must have
met his fate at the very moment his sister saw, or thought she saw him,
passing before her.
I could not but suggest the inquiry, when these sad particulars were
narrated to me,--
"Mother, is it not possible this might have been a dream?"
"A dream? No, indeed, my child. I was perfectly wide awake--as much so
as I am at this moment. I am not superstitious. I have never believed in
ghosts or witches, but nothing can ever persuade me that this was not a
warning sent from God, to prepare me for my brother's death."
And those who knew her rational good sense--her freedom from fancies or
fears, and the calm self-possession that never deserted her under the
most trying circumstances--would almost be won to view the matter in the
light she did.
* * * * *
The order for the evacuation of Port Dearborn, and the removal of the
troops to Fort Howard (Green Bay), had now been received. The family
circle was to be broken up. Our mother, our sister Mrs. Helm, and her
little son, were to return with us to Fort Winnebago; the other members
of the family, except Robert, were to move with the command to Green
The schooner Napoleon was to be sent from Detroit to convey the troops
with their goods and chattels to their destined post. Our immediate
party was to make the journey by land--we were to choose, however, a
shorter and pleasanter route than the one we had taken in coming hither.
My husband, with his Frenchmen, Petaille Grignon and Simon Lecuyer, had
arrived, and all hands were now busily occupied with the necessary
preparations for breaking up and removal.
I should be doing injustice to the hospitable settlers of Hickory Creek
were I to pass by without notice an entertainment with which they
honored our Chicago beaux about this time. The merry-making was to be a
ball, and the five single gentlemen of Chicago were invited. Mr. Dole,
who was a new-comer, declined; Lieutenant Foster was on duty, but he did
what was still better than accepting the invitation, he loaned his
beautiful horse to Medard Beaubien, who with Robert Kinzie and Gholson
Kercheval promised himself much fun in eclipsing the beaux and creating
a sensation among the belles of Hickory Creek.
Chicago was then, as now, looked upon as the City _par excellence_. Its
few inhabitants were supposed to have seen something of the world, and
it is to be inferred that the arrival of the smart and dashing young men
was an event looked forward to with more satisfaction by the fair of the
little settlement than by the swains whose rivals they might become.
The day arrived, and the gentlemen set off in high spirits. They took
care to be in good season, for the dancing was to commence at two
o'clock in the afternoon. They were well mounted, each priding himself
upon the animal he rode, and they wore their best suits, as became city
gallants who were bent on cutting out their less fashionable neighbors
and breaking the hearts of the admiring country damsels.
When they arrived at the place appointed, they were received with great
politeness--their steeds were taken care of, and a dinner was provided
them, after which they were ushered into the dancing-hall.
All the beauty of the neighboring precincts was assembled. The ladies
were for the most part white, or what passed for such, with an
occasional dash of copper color. There was no lack of bombazet gowns and
large white pocket-handkerchiefs, perfumed with oil of cinnamon; and as
they took their places in long rows on the puncheon floor, they were a
merry and a happy company.
But the city gentlemen grew more and more gallant--the girls more and
more delighted with their attentions--the country swains, alas! more and
more scowling and jealous. In vain they pigeon-winged and
double-shuffled--in vain they nearly dislocated hips and shoulders at
"hoe corn and dig potatoes"--they had the mortification to perceive that
the smart young sprigs from Chicago had their "pick and choose" among
their very sweethearts, and that they themselves were fairly danced off
The revelry lasted until daylight, and it was now time to think of
returning. There was no one ready with obliging politeness to bring them
their horses from the stable.
"Poor fellows!" said one of the party, with a compassionate sort of
laugh, "they could not stand it. They have gone home to bed!"
"Serves them right," said another; "they'd better not ask us down among
their girls again!"
They groped their way to the stable and went in. There were some animals
standing at the manger, but evidently not their horses. What could they
be? Had the rogues been trying to cheat them, by putting these strange
nondescripts into their place?
They led them forth into the gray of the morning, and then--such a trio
as met their gaze!
There were the original bodies, it is true, but where were their manes
and tails? A scrubby, pickety ridge along the neck, and a bare stump
projecting behind, were all that remained of the flowing honors with
which they had come gallivanting down to "bear away the bell" at
Hickory Creek, or, in the emphatic language of the country, "to take the
rag off the bush."
Gholson sat down on a log and cried outright. Medard took the matter
more philosophically--the horse was none of his--it was Lieutenant
Robert characteristically looked around to see whom he could knock down
on the occasion; but there was no one visible on whom to wreak their
The bumpkins had stolen away, and, in some safe, quiet nook, were snugly
enjoying their triumph, and doubtless the deceitful fair ones were by
this time at their sides, sharing their mirth and exultation.
The unlucky gallants mounted their steeds, and set their faces homeward.
Never was there a more crestfallen and sorry-looking cavalcade. The poor
horses seemed to realize that they had met the same treatment as the
messengers of King David at the hands of the evil-disposed Hanun. They
hung their heads, and evidently wished that they could have "tarried at
Jericho" for a season. Unfortunately, there was in those days no back
way by which they could steal in, unobserved. Across the prairie, in
view of the whole community, must their approach be made; and to add to
their confusion, in the rarity of stirring events, it was the custom of
the whole settlement to turn out and welcome the arrival of any
As hasty a retreat as possible was beaten, amid the shouts, the jeers,
and the condolences of their acquaintances; and it is on record that
these three young gentlemen were in no hurry to accept, at any future
time, an invitation to partake of the festivities of Hickory Creek.
* * * * *
In due time the Napoleon made her appearance. (Alas that this great
name should be used in the feminine gender!) As there was at this period
no harbor, vessels anchored outside the bar, or tongue of land which
formed the left bank of the river, and the lading and unlading were
carried on by boats, pulling in and out, through the mouth of the river,
some distance below.
Of course it always was a matter of great importance to get a vessel
loaded as quickly as possible, that she might be ready to take advantage
of the first fair wind, and be off from such an exposed and hazardous
For this reason we had lived _packed up_ for many days, intending only
to see our friends safe on board, and then commence our own journey back
to Fort Winnebago.
Our heavy articles of furniture, trunks, etc. had been sent on board the
Napoleon, to be brought round to us by way of Fox River. We had retained
only such few necessaries as could be conveniently carried on a
pack-horse, and in a light dearborn wagon lately brought by Mr.
Kercheval from Detroit (the first luxury of the kind ever seen on the
prairies), and which my husband had purchased as an agreeable mode of
conveyance for his mother and little nephew.
It was a matter requiring no small amount of time and labor to
transport, in the slow method described, the effects of so many families
of officers and soldiers, with the various etceteras incident to a total
change and removal. It was all, however, happily
accomplished--everything, even to the last article, sent on
board--nothing remaining on shore but the passengers, whose turn it
would be next.
It was a moment of great relief; for Captain Hinckley had been in a
fever and a fuss many hours, predicting a change of weather, and
murmuring at what he thought the unnecessary amount of boat-loads to be
taken on board.
Those who had leisure to be looking out towards the schooner, which had
continued anchored about half a mile out in the lake, had, at this
crisis, the satisfaction to see her hoist sail and leave her station for
the open lake; those who were a little later could just discern her
bearing away to a distance, as if she had got all on board that she had
any idea of taking. Here we were, and here we might remain a week or
more, if it so pleased Captain Hinckley and the schooner Napoleon, and
the good east wind which was blowing with all its might.
There was plenty of provisions to be obtained, so the fear of starvation
was not the trouble; but how were the cooking and the table to be
provided for? Various expedients were resorted to. Mrs. Engle, in her
quarters above-stairs, ate her breakfast off a shingle with her
husband's jack-knife, and when she had finished, sent them down to
Lieutenant Foster for his accommodation.
We were at the old mansion on the north side, and the news soon flew up
the river that the Napoleon had gone off with "the plunder" and left the
people behind. It was not long before we were supplied by Mrs. Portier
(our kind Victoire) with dishes, knives, forks, and all the other
conveniences which our mess-basket failed to supply.
This state of things lasted a couple of days, and then, early one fine
morning, the gratifying intelligence spread like wild-fire that the
Napoleon was at anchor out beyond the bar.
There was no unnecessary delay this time, and at an early hour in the
afternoon we had taken leave of our dear friends, and they were sailing
away from Chicago.
RETURN TO FORT WINNEBAGO.
A great part of the command, with the cattle belonging to the officers
and soldiers, had, a day or two previous to the time of our departure,
set out on their march by land to Green Bay, _via_ Fort Winnebago.
Lieutenant Foster, under whose charge they were, had lingered behind
that he might have the pleasure of joining our party, and we, in turn,
had delayed in order to see the other members of our family safely on
board the Napoleon. But now, all things being ready, we set our faces
once more homeward.
We took with us a little _bound-girl,_ Josette, a bright, pretty child
of ten years of age, a daughter of Ouilmette, a Frenchman who had lived
here at the time of the Massacre, and of a Pottowattamie mother. She had
been at the St. Joseph's mission-school, under Mr. McCoy, and she was
now full of delight at the prospect of a journey all the way to the
Portage with Monsieur and Madame John.
We had also a negro boy, Harry, brought a year before from Kentucky, by
Mr. Kercheval. In the transfer at that time from a slave State to a free
one, Harry's position became somewhat changed--he could be no more than
an indentured servant. He was about to become a member of Dr. Wolcott's
household, and it was necessary for him to choose a guardian. All this
was explained to him on his being brought into the parlor, where the
family were assembled. My husband was then a young man, on a visit to
his home. "Now, Harry," it was said to him, "you must choose your
guardian;" and the natural expectation was that Harry would select the
person of his acquaintance of the greatest age and dignity. But, rolling
round his great eyes, and hanging his head on one side, he said,--
"I'll have Master John for my guardian."
From that day forward Harry felt as if he belonged, in a measure, to
Master John, and at the breaking-up of the family in Chicago he was,
naturally, transferred to our establishment.
There were three ladies of our travelling party--our mother, our sister
Mrs. Helm, and myself. To guard against the burning effect of the sun
and the prairie winds upon our faces, I had, during some of the last
days of my visit, prepared for each of us a mask of brown linen, with
the eyes, nose, and mouth fitted to our features; and, to enhance their
hideousness, I had worked eyebrows, eyelashes, and a circle around the
opening for the mouth, in black silk. Gathered in plaits under the chin,
and with strings to confine them above and below, they furnished a
complete protection against the sun and wind, though nothing can be
imagined more frightful than the appearance we presented when fully
equipped. It was who should be called the ugliest.
We left amid the good wishes and laughter of our few remaining
acquaintances. Our wagon had been provided with a pair of excellent
travelling horses, and, sister Margaret and myself being accommodated
with the best pacers the country could afford, we set off in high
spirits towards the Aux Plaines--our old friend, Billy Caldwell (the
Sau-ga-nash), with our brother Robert, and Gholson Kercheval,
accompanying us to that point of our journey.
There was no one at Barney Lawton's when we reached there, save a
Frenchman and a small number of Indians. My sister and I dismounted, and
entered the dwelling, the door of which stood open. Two Indians were
seated on the floor, smoking. They raised their eyes as we appeared, and
never shall I forget the expression of wonder and horror depicted on the
countenances of both. Their lips relaxed until the pipe of one fell upon
the floor. Their eyes seemed starting from their heads, and raising
their outspread hands, as if to wave us from them, they slowly
ejaculated, "_Manitou!"_ (a spirit.)
As we raised our masks, and, smiling, came forward to shake hands with
them, they sprang to their feet and fairly uttered a cry of delight at
the sight of our familiar faces.
"Bon-jour, bon-jour, Maman!" was their salutation, and they instantly
plunged out of doors to relate to their companions what had happened.
Our afternoon's ride was over a prairie stretching away to the northeast
No living creature was to be seen upon its broad expanse, but flying and
circling over our heads were innumerable flocks of curlews,
"Screaming their wild notes to the listening waste."
Their peculiar, shrill cry of "crack, crack, crack--rackety, rackety,
rackety," repeated from the throats of dozens, as they sometimes stooped
quite close to our ears, became at length almost unbearable. It seemed
as if they had lost their senses in the excitement of so unusual and
splendid a cortege in their hitherto desolate domain.
The accelerated pace of our horses, as we approached a beautiful,
wooded knoll, warned us that this was to be our place of repose for the
night. These animals seem to know by instinct a favorable
encamping-ground, and this was one of the most lovely imaginable.
The trees, which near the lake had, owing to the coldness and tardiness
of the season, presented the pale-yellow appearance of unfledged
goslings, were here bursting into full leaf. The ground around was
carpeted with flowers--we could not bear to have them crushed by the
felling of a tree and the pitching of our tent among them. The birds
sent forth their sweetest notes in the warm, lingering sunlight, and the
opening buds of the young hickory and sassafras filled the air with
Nothing could be more perfect than our enjoyment of this sylvan and
beautiful retreat after our ride in the glowing sun. The children
were in ecstasies. They delighted to find ways of making themselves
useful--to pile up the saddles--to break boughs for the fire--to fill
the little kettles with water for Petaille and Lecuyer, the Frenchmen,
who were preparing our supper.
Their amusement at the awkward movements of the horses after they were
spancelled knew no bounds. To our little nephew Edwin everything was
new, and Josette, who had already made more than one horseback journey
to St. Joseph, manifested all the pride of an old traveller in
explaining to him whatever was novel or unaccountable.
They were not the last to spring up at the call "how! how!" on the
The fire was replenished, the preparations for breakfast commenced, and
the Frenchmen dispatched to bring up the horses in readiness for an
Harry and Josette played their parts, under our direction, in preparing
the simple meal, and we soon seated ourselves, each with cup and knife,
around the _table-mat._ The meal was over, but no men, no horses
appeared. When another half-hour had passed, my husband took Harry and
commenced exploring in search of the missing ones.
The day wore on, and first one and then another would make his
appearance to report progress. Petaille and Lecuyer at length brought
two of the horses, but the others could nowhere be found. In time, Mr.
Kinzie and Harry returned, wet to their knees by the dew upon the long
prairie-grass, but with no tidings. Again the men were dispatched after
having broken their fast, but returned unsuccessful as before.
The morning had been passed by our party at the encampment in
speculating upon the missing animals. Could they have been stolen by the
Indians? Hardly: these people seldom committed robberies in time of
peace--never upon our family, whom they regarded as their best friends.
The horses would doubtless be found. They had probably been carelessly
fastened the preceding evening, and had therefore been able to stray
farther than was their wont.
A council was held, at which it was decided to send Grignon back to
Chicago to get some fresh horses from Gholson Kercheval, and return as
speedily as possible. If on his return our encampment were deserted, he
might conclude we had found the horses and proceeded to Fox River, where
he would doubtless overtake us.
He had not been gone more than an hour before, slowly hopping out of a
point of woods to the north of us (a spot which each of the seekers
averred he had explored over and over again), and making directly for
the place where we were, appeared the vexatious animals. They came up
as demurely as if nothing had happened, and seemed rather surprised to
be received with a hearty scolding, instead of being patted and caressed
It was the work of a very short half-hour to strike and pack the tent,
stow away the mats and kettles, saddle the horses, and mount for our
"Whoever pleases may take my place in the carriage," said our mother. "I
have travelled so many years on horseback, that I find any other mode of
conveyance too fatiguing."
So, spite of her sixty years, she mounted sister Margaret's pacer with
the activity of a girl of sixteen.
Lieutenant Foster had left us early in the morning, feeling it necessary
to rejoin his command, and now, having seen us ready to set off, with a
serene sky above us, and all things "right and tight" for the journey,
our friend the Sau-ga-nash took leave of us, and retraced his steps
We pursued our way through a lovely country of alternate glade and
forest, until we reached the Fox River. The current ran clear and
rippling along, and, as we descended the steep bank to the water, the
question, so natural to a traveller in an unknown region, presented
itself, "Is it fordable?"
Petaille, to whom the ground was familiar, had not yet made his
appearance Lecuyer was quite ignorant upon the subject. The troops had
evidently preceded us by this very trail. True, but they were on
horseback--the difficulty was, could we get the carriage through? It
must be remembered that the doubt was not about the depth of the water,
but about the hardness of the bottom of the stream.
It was agreed that two or three of the equestrians should make the
trial first. My mother, Lecuyer, and myself advanced cautiously across
to the opposite bank, each choosing a different point for leaving the
water, in order to find the firmest spot. The bottom was hard and firm
until we came near the shore; then it yielded a little. With one step,
however, we were each on dry ground.
"Est-il beau?" called my husband, who was driving.
"Yes, John, come just here, it is perfectly good."
"No, no--go a little farther down. See the white gravel just there--it
will be firmer still, there."
Such were the contradictory directions given. He chose the latter, and
when it wanted but one step more to the bank, down sunk both horses,
until little more than their backs were visible.
The white gravel proved to be a bed of treacherous yellow clay, which,
gleaming through the water, had caused so unfortunate a deception.
With frantic struggles, for they were nearly suffocated with mud and
water, the horses made desperate efforts to free themselves from the
harness. My husband sprang out upon the pole. "Some one give me a
knife," he cried. I was back in the water in a moment, and, approaching
as near as I dared, handed him mine from the scabbard around my neck.
"Whatever you do, do not cut the traces," cried his mother.
He severed some of the side-straps, when, just as he had reached the
extremity of the pole, and was stretching forward to separate the
head-couplings, one of the horses gave a furious plunge, which caused
his fellow to rear, and throw himself nearly backwards. My husband was
between them. For a moment we thought he was gone--trampled down by the
excited animals; but he presently showed himself, nearly obscured by the
mud and water. With the agility of a cat, Harry, who was near him, now
sprang forward on the pole, and in an instant, with his sharp jack-knife
which he had ready, divided the straps that confined their heads.
The horses were at this moment lying floating on the water--one
apparently dead, the other as if gasping out his last breath. But hardly
did they become sensible of the release of their heads from bondage,
than they made, simultaneously, another furious effort to free
themselves from the pole, to which they were still attached by the
Failing in this, they tried another expedient, and, by a few judicious
twists and turns, succeeded in wrenching the pole asunder, and finally
carried it off in triumph across the river again, and up the bank, where
they stood waiting to decide what were the next steps to be taken.
Here was a predicament! A few hours before, we had thought ourselves
uncomfortable enough, because some of our horses were missing. Now, a
greater evil had befallen us. The wagon was in the river, the harness
cut to pieces, and, what was worse, carried off in the most independent
manner, by Tom and his companion; the pole was twisted to fragments, and
there was not so much as a stick on our side of the river with which to
At this moment, a whoop from the opposite bank, echoed by two or three
hearty ones from our party, announced the reappearance of Petaille
Grignon. He dismounted and took charge of the horses, who were resting
themselves after their fatigues under a shady tree, and by this time
Lecuyer had crossed the river, and now joined him in bringing back the
In the mean time we had been doing our best to minister to our sister
Margaret. She, with her little son Edwin, had been in the wagon at the
time of the accident, and it had been a work of some difficulty to get
them out and bring them on horseback to shore. The effect of the
agitation and excitement was to throw her into a fit of the ague, and
she now lay blue and trembling among the long grass of the little
prairie which extended along the bank. The tent, which had been packed
in the rear of the wagon, was too much saturated with mud and water to
admit of its being used as a shelter; it could only be stretched in the
sun to dry. We opened an umbrella over our poor sister's head, and now
began a discussion of ways and means to repair damages. The first thing
was to cut a new pole for the wagon, and for this, the master and men
must recross the river and choose an _iron-tree_ out of the forest.
Then, for the harness. With provident care, a little box had been placed
under the seat of the wagon, containing an awl, waxed ends, and various
other little conveniences exactly suited to an emergency like the
It was question and answer, like Cock Robin:
"Who can mend the harness?"
"I can, for I learned when I was a young girl to make shoes as _an
accomplishment_, and I can surely now, as a matter of usefulness and
duty, put all those wet, dirty pieces of leather together."
So we all seated ourselves on the grass, under the shade of the only two
umbrellas we could muster.
I stitched away diligently, blistering my hands, I must own, in no small
A suitable young tree had been brought, and the hatchets, without which
one never travels in the woods, were busy fashioning it into shape, when
a peculiar hissing noise was heard, and instantly the cry,--
"_Un serpent sonnette_! A rattlesnake!"
All sprang to their feet, even the poor, shaking invalid, just in time
to see the reptile glide past within three inches of my mother's feet,
while the men assailed the spot it had left with whips, missiles, and
whatever would help along the commotion.
This little incident proved an excellent remedy for the ague. One
excitement drives away another, and by means of this (upon the
homoeopathic principle) sister Margaret was so much improved that by the
time all the mischiefs were repaired, she was ready to take her place in
the cavalcade, as bright and cheerful as the rest of us.
So great had been the delay occasioned by all these untoward
circumstances, that our afternoon's ride was but a short one, bringing
us no farther than the shores of a beautiful sheet of water, now known
as Crystal Lake. Its clear surface was covered with loons, and _Poules
d'Eau_, a species of rail; with which, at certain seasons, this region
The Indians have the genius of Aesop for depicting animal life and
character, and there is among them a fable or legend illustrative of
every peculiarity in the personal appearance, habits, or dispositions of
each variety of the animal creation.
The back of the little rail is very concave, or hollow. The Indians tell
us that it became so in the following manner:--
STORY OF THE LITTLE RAIL, OR _Poule d'Eau_
There is supposed, by most of the Northwestern tribes, to exist an
invisible being, corresponding to the "Genie" of Oriental story. Without
being exactly the father of evil, _Nan-nee-bo-zho_ is a spirit whose
office it is to punish what is amiss. He is represented, too, as
constantly occupied in entrapping and making examples of all the
animals that come in his way.
One pleasant evening, as he walked along the banks of a lake, he saw a
flock of ducks, sailing and enjoying themselves on the blue waters. He
called to them:
"Ho! come with me into my lodge, and I will teach you to dance!" Some of
the ducks said among themselves, "It is Nan-nee-bo-zho; let us not go."
Others were of a contrary opinion, and, his words being fair, and his
voice insinuating, a few turned their faces towards the land--all the
rest soon followed, and, with many pleasant quackings, trooped after
him, and entered his lodge.
When there, he first took an Indian sack, with a wide mouth, which he
tied by the strings around his neck, so that it would hang over his
shoulders, leaving the mouth unclosed. Then, placing himself in the
centre of the lodge, he ranged the ducks in a circle around him.
"Now," said he, "you must all shut your eyes _tight_; whoever opens his
eyes at all, something dreadful will happen to him. I will take my
Indian flute and play upon it, and you will, at the word I shall give,
open your eyes, and commence dancing, as you see me do."
The ducks obeyed, shutting their eyes _tight_, and keeping time to the
music by stepping from one foot to the other, all impatient for the
dancing to begin.
Presently a sound was heard like a smothered "quack," but the ducks did
not dare to open their eyes.
Again, and again, the sound of the flute would be interrupted, and a
gurgling cry of "qu-a-a-ck" be heard. There was one little duck, much
smaller than the rest, who, at this juncture, could not resist the
temptation to open one eye, cautiously. She saw Nan-nee-bo-zho, as he
played his flute, holding it with one hand, stoop a little at intervals
and seize the duck nearest him, which he throttled and stuffed into the
bag on his shoulders. So, edging a little out of the circle, and getting
nearer the door, which had been left partly open, to admit the light,
she cried out,--
"Open your eyes--Nan-nee-bo-zho is choking you all and putting you into
With that she flew, but Nan-nee-bo-zho pounced upon her. His hand
grasped her back, yet, with desperate force, she released herself and
gained the open air. Her companions flew, quacking and screaming, after
her. Some escaped, and some fell victims to the sprite.
The little duck had saved her life, but she had lost her beauty. She
ever after retained the attitude she had been forced into in her moment
of danger--her back pressed down in the centre, and her head and neck
unnaturally stretched forward into the air.
RETURN JOURNEY, CONTINUED.
The third day of our journey rose brilliantly clear, like the two
preceding ones, and we shaped our course more to the north than we had
hitherto done, in the direction of _Big-foot_ Lake, now known by the
somewhat hackneyed appellation, Lake of Geneva.
Our journey this day was without mishaps or disasters of any kind. The
air was balmy, the foliage of the forests fresh and fragrant, the little
brooks clear and sparkling--everything in nature spoke the praises of
the beneficent Creator.
It is in scenes like this, far removed from the bustle, the strife, and
the sin of civilized life, that we most fully realize the presence of
the great Author of the Universe. Here can the mind most fully adore his
majesty and goodness, for here only is the command obeyed, "Let all the
earth keep silence before Him!"
It cannot escape observation that the deepest and most solemn devotion
is in the hearts of those who, shut out from the worship of God in
temples made with hands, are led to commune with him amid the boundless
magnificence that his own power has framed.
This day was not wholly without incident. As we stopped for our
noon-tide refreshment, and dismounting threw ourselves on the fresh
herbage just at the verge of a pleasant thicket, we were startled by a
tender _bleating_ near us, and presently, breaking its way through the
low branches, there came upon us a sweet little dappled fawn, evidently
in search of its mother. It did not seem in the least frightened at the
sight of us. As poor Selkirk might have been parodied,--
It was so unacquainted with man,
Its tameness was charming to us.
But the vociferous delight of the children soon drove it bounding again
into the woods, and all hopes of catching it for a pet were at once at
We had travelled well this day, and were beginning to feel somewhat
fatigued, when, just before sunset, we came upon a ridge, overlooking
one of the loveliest little dells imaginable. It was an oak opening, and
browsing under the shade of the tall trees which were scattered around
were the cattle and horses of the soldiers, who had got thus far on
their journey. Two or three white tents were pitched in the bottom of
the valley, beside a clear stream. The camp-fires were already lighted,
and the men, singly or in groups, were busied in their various
preparations for their own comfort, or that of their animals.
Lieutenant Foster came forward with great delight to welcome our
arrival, and accepted without hesitation an invitation to join our mess
again, as long as we should be together.
We soon found a pleasant encamping-ground, far enough removed from the
other party to secure us against all inconvenience, and our supper
having received the addition of a kettle of fine fresh milk, kindly
brought us by Mrs. Gardiner, the hospital matron, who with her little
covered cart formed no unimportant feature in the military group, we
partook of our evening meal with much hilarity and enjoyment.
If people are ever companionable, it is when thrown together under
circumstances like the present. There has always been sufficient
incident through the day to furnish themes for discourse, and subjects
of merriment, as long as the company feel disposed for conversation,
which is, truth to tell, not an unconscionable length of time after
their supper is over.
The poor Lieutenant looked grave enough when we set out in advance of
him the next morning. None of his party were acquainted with the road;
but, after giving him directions both general and particular, Mr. Kinzie
promised to _blaze_ a tree, or _set up a chip_ for a guide, at every
place which appeared more than usually doubtful.
We now found ourselves in a much more diversified country than any we
had hitherto travelled. Gently swelling hills, lovely valleys, and
bright sparkling streams were the features of the landscape. But there
was little animate life. Now and then a shout from the leader of the
party (for, according to custom, we travelled Indian file) would call
our attention to a herd of deer "loping," as the Westerners say,
through the forest; or an additional spur would be given to the horses
on the appearance of some small dark object, far distant on the trail
before us. But the game invariably contrived to disappear before we
could reach it, and it was out of the question to leave the beaten track
for a regular hunt.
Soon after mid-day, we descended a long, sloping knoll, and by a sudden
turn came full in view of the beautiful sheet of water denominated
Gros-pied by the French, _Maunk-suck_ by the natives, and by ourselves
Big-foot, from the chief whose village overlooked its waters. Bold,
swelling hills jutted forward into the clear blue expanse, or retreated
slightly to afford a green, level nook, as a resting-place for the
dwelling of man. On the nearer shore stretched a bright, gravelly beach,
across which coursed here and there a pure, sparkling rivulet to join
the larger sheet of water.
On a rising ground at the foot of one of the bold bluffs in the middle
distance, a collection of neat wigwams formed, with their surrounding
gardens, no unpleasant feature in the picture.
A shout of delight burst involuntarily from the whole party, as this
charming landscape met our view. "It was like the Hudson, only less
bold--no, it was like the lake of the Forest Cantons, in the picture of
the Chapel of William Tell! What could be imagined more enchanting? Oh I
if our friends at the East could but enjoy it with us!"
We paused long to admire, and then spurred on, skirting the head of the
lake, and were soon ascending the broad platform on which stood the
village of Maunk-suck, or Big-foot.
The inhabitants, who had witnessed our approach from a distance, were
all assembled in front of their wigwams to greet us, if friends--if
otherwise, whatever the occasion should demand. It was the first time
such a spectacle had ever presented itself to their wondering eyes.
Their salutations were not less cordial than we expected.
"Shaw-nee-aw-kee" and his mother, who was known throughout the tribe by
the touching appellation "Our friend's wife," were welcomed most kindly,
and an animated conversation commenced, which I could understand only so
far as it was conveyed by gestures; so I amused myself by taking a
minute survey of all that met my view.
The chief was a large, raw-boned, ugly Indian, with a countenance
bloated by intemperance, and with a sinister, unpleasant expression. He
had a gay-colored handkerchief upon his head, and was otherwise attired
in his best, in compliment to the strangers.
It was to this chief that Chambly, or, as he is now called,
Shaw-bee-nay, Billy Caldwell, and Robinson were dispatched, by Dr.
Wolcott, their Agent, during the Winnebago war, in 1821, to use their
earnest endeavors to prevent this chief and his band from joining the
hostile Indians. With some difficulty they succeeded, and were thus the
means, doubtless, of saving the lives of all the settlers who lived
exposed upon the frontier.
Among the various groups of his people, there was none attracted my
attention so forcibly as a young man of handsome face, and a figure that
was striking even where all were fine and symmetrical. He too had a gay
handkerchief on his head, a shirt of the brightest lemon-colored calico,
an abundance of silver ornaments, and, what gave his dress a most
fanciful appearance, one legging of blue and the other of bright
scarlet. I was not ignorant that this peculiar feature in his toilet
indicated a heart suffering from the tender passion. The flute, which