Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
This file was produced from images generously made available by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions.
TWO MONTHS IN THE CAMP OF BIG BEAR.
The Life and Adventures
Theresa Gowanlock and Theresa Delaney.
WE LEAVE ONTARIO
INCIDENTS AT BATTLEFORD
ON TO OUR HOME
WOOD AND PLAIN INDIANS
WITH THE INDIANS
PROTECTED BY HALF-BREEDS
THEY TAKE FORT PITT
COOKING FOR A LARGE FAMILY
INCIDENTS BY THE WAY
HOPE ALMOST DEFERRED
OUT OF BIG BEAR’S CAMP
WE LEAVE FOR HOME
TO ONE OF THE ABSENT
J. A. GOWANLOCK.
W. C. GILCHRIST.
MY YOUTH AND EARLY LIFE.
MY MARRIAGE LIFE.
THE NORTH-WEST TROUBLES.
THE SASKATCHEWAN STREAM.
THE SCENE OF THE MASSACRE.
SQUAW CARRYING WOOD.
MR GOWANLOCK’S HOUSE, STORE AND MILL. MR. GOWANLOCK.
THE WAR DANCE.
FROG LAKE SETTLEMENT.
It is not the desire of the author of this work to publish the incidents which drenched a peaceful and prosperous settlement in blood, and subjected the survivors to untold suffering and privations at the hands of savages, in order to gratify a morbid craving for notoriety. During all my perils and wanderings amid the snow and ice of that trackless prairie, the hope that nerved me to struggle on, was, that if rescued, I might within the sacred precincts of the paternal hearth, seek seclusion, where loving hands would help me to bear the burden of my sorrow, and try to make me forget at times, if they could not completely efface from my memory, the frightful scenes enacted around that prairie hamlet, which bereft me of my loved one, leaving my heart and fireside desolate for ever. Prostrated by fatigue and exposure, distracted by the constant dread of outrage and death, I had well-nigh abandoned all hope of ever escaping from the Indians with my life, but, as the darkness of the night is just before the dawn, so my fears which had increased until I was in despair, God in his inscrutible way speedily calmed, for while I was brooding over and preparing for my impending fate, a sudden commotion attracted my attention and in less time than it takes to write it, I was free. From that moment I received every kindness and attention, and as I approached the confines of civilization, I became aware of how diligently I had been sought after, and that for weeks I had been the object of the tenderest solicitude, not only of my friends and relations, but of the whole continent.
There have appeared so many conflicting statements in the public press regarding my capture and treatment while with the Indians, that it is my bounden duty to give to the public a truthful and accurate description of my capture, detention and misfortunes while captive in the camp of Big Bear. The task may be an irksome one and I might with justice shrink from anything which would recall the past. Still it is a debt of gratitude I owe to the people of this broad dominion. To the brave men who sacrificed their business and comfort and endured the hardships incident to a soldier’s life, in order to vindicate the law. And to the noble men and women who planned for the comfort and supplied the wants of the gallant band who had so nobly responded to the call of duty and cry for help. And I gladly embrace this opportunity of showing to the public and especially the ladies, my appreciation of their kindness and sympathy in my bereavement, and their noble and disinterested efforts for my release. In undertaking a task which has no pleasures for me, and has been accomplished under the most trying difficulties and with the greatest physical suffering, I have embodied in the narrative a few of the manners and customs of Indians, the leading features of the country, only sufficient to render it clear and intelligible. I make no apology for issuing this volume to the public as their unabated interest make it manifest that they desire it, and I am only repaying a debt of gratitude by giving a truthful narrative to correct false impressions, for their kindness and sympathy to me.
I trust the public will receive the work in the spirit in which it is given and any literary defects which it may have, and I am sure there are many, may be overlooked, as I am only endeavoring to rectify error, instead of aspiring to literary excellence. I express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the half-breeds who befriended me during my captivity, and to the friends and public generally who sheltered and assisted me in many ways and by many acts of kindness and sympathy, and whose attention was unremitting until I had reached my destination.
And now I must bid the public a grateful farewell and seek my wished for seclusion from which I would never have emerged but to perform a public duty.
WE LEAVE ONTARIO.
We left my father’s house at Tintern on the 7th of October, 1884, having been married on the 1st, for Parkdale, where we spent a few days with my husband’s friends. We started for our home on the 10th by the Canadian Pacific Railway to Owen Sound, thence by boat to Port Arthur, and then on to Winnipeg by rail, where we stopped one night, going on the next day to Regina. We only stopped in that place one day, taking rail again to Swift Current, arriving there the same day. This ended our travel by the locomotion of steam.
After taking in a supply of provisions we made a start for Battleford, distant 195 miles, by buckboard over the prairie, which stretches out about 130 miles in length, and for the remaining 55 miles there are clumps of trees or bluffs as they are called, scattered here and there. Our journey over this part was very pleasant, the weather was fine and the mode of travelling, which was new to me, delightful. Our company, consisted in addition to ourselves, of only one person, Mr. Levalley, a gentleman from Ottawa. We passed four nights under canvas. The journey was not a lonely one, the ships of the prairie were continually on the go, we passed several companies of freighters with harnessed oxen, half-breeds and Indians. It was also full of incident and adventure; on one occasion, when cooking our tea, we set fire to the prairie, although we worked hard to put it out, it in a very few minutes spread in a most alarming manner, and entirely beyond our control, and we let it go looking on enjoying the scene. Upon nearing Battleford a number of half-famished squaws came to us begging for something to eat, but we were not in a position, unfortunately, to supply their wants, on account of our larder having run dry. We entered Battleford on the 19th of October.
The town of Battleford is situated on the Battle river. The old on one side, the new on the other, in the direction of the fort. When the Indians plundered that place it was the town on the south bank. The houses on the opposite bank were protected by the guns at the fort. My husband had a store on the north bank in the direction of the fort.
The town is very scattered, covering a large area of ground, it is verily a place of distances and quite in keeping with the north-west generally. There are a few fine houses in the place, notably, the industrial home for Indian children and the residence of Judge Rolleau.
INCIDENTS AT BATTLEFORD
I remained at Battleford six weeks, while my husband went to Frog Creek, (where he had thirteen men working on the house and mills,) and while there I became initiated into the manners and customs of the inhabitants. A few incidents which happened during my stay might be interesting to the reader, therefore, I will jot them down as they come to mind.
After our arrival the Indians and squaws came to see me and would go and tell some of the others to come and see the monias, (squaw) and when they saw my husband they asked him why he did not live with her, and if she was well; and one day I walked with him over to where he was keeping store before he went west and the Indians came in and shook hands, and laughed, and the squaws thought my costume was rather odd and not in keeping with that of the fashionable north-western belle. The squaws cut off about three yards of print and make the skirt; while others take flour sacks and cut holes through for the waist and have leggings and moccasins; they would disdain to wear such an article as hose.
They are quite adepts in the art of tanning. I saw them tanning leather; they took the skin and put something on it, I do not know what it was, and put it in the sun for a few days, then with a small sharp iron fastened on a long handle, they scraped the skin with this until very smooth, and greased it over and put it in the sun again for some time, afterwards two squaws pulled it until nice and soft, and then it was ready for use.
One afternoon I was out shopping and on my way home I saw some little Indian children coasting down hill on an earthen plate, but before getting to the end of the hill, to their evident surprise the plate broke and they commenced crying because it was broken and went back and got another one, and so on until they thought they would try tin plates, and the little friend that was with me, Effie Laurie, took the tin plate from them and sat down on it herself and went down the hill, and they looked so astonished to think that a white woman would do such a thing.
Another time on going out while two men were crossing the bridge over Battle river; a horse broke through and was killed and the squaws gathered around it taking the skin off, while others carried some of the carcass away, and I asked what they were going to do with it, and my husband said “they will take it home and have a big feast and if the meat has been poisoned they will boil it for a long time, changing the water, and in this way anything that was poisonous would not affect them.”
The way the Indians get their wood, they send their squaws to the bush to cut the wood and they take a rope and tie around as much as they can carry, and hang it on their backs. Those who have dogs to carry the wood for them tie two long sticks together, fastening them on the dog’s back, then tying a large bundle of wood on the back part of the cross sticks by that means the squaw is relieved from the task. The squaws perform all manual labor, while the big, lazy, good-for-nothing Indian lolls about in idleness.
ON TO OUR HOME.
At the end of six weeks my husband returned from the west, and with many pleasant recollections of Battleford, we left for our own home, which I had pictured in my mind with joyous anticipation, as the place of our continued happiness: a beautiful oasis, in that land of prairie and sparse settlement, and with a buoyancy of spirit which true happiness alone can bring, I looked forward with anticipated pleasure, which made that little log house appear to me, a palace, and we its king and queen.
On this last part of our journey we were favored with the company of Mr. Ballentyne of Battleford who went with us, and after the first day’s travelling, we stopped all night at a half-breed’s house, where they had a large fire-place made of mud, which was just like a solid piece of stone; they had a bright fire, and everything appeared nice and tidy within; a woman was making bannock, and when she had the dough prepared, she took a frying pan and put the cake in and stood it up before the fire. This is the way they do all their baking, and then she fried some nice white fish and hung a little kettle on a long iron hook over the fire, put in potatoes, and boiled the tea-kettle, making the tea in it too. She then spread a white cloth over the table and we all enjoyed our supper together after the long ride. The squaw gave us a nice clean bed to sleep in, making theirs on the floor and in the morning I saw four little children crawling out from under the bed where we slept, and my husband looked up at me and laughed, and said, “that is where children sleep up in _this country_.” Their ways appeared very strange to me, and in the morning before going away, they gave us a warm breakfast.
We travelled all the next day and camped that night. We had a small tin stove which is part of a camping outfit, and which smoked very much while cooking. We had great trouble to know how we would obtain a light, but we had a candle and we lighted that, and then we had nothing to hold it in, but as necessity is the mother of invention, we found a way out of the difficulty; we took a pocket knife that had two blades, and stuck one blade in the tent pole and opened the other half way, fastening the candle into the blade, which answered the purpose and enabled us to see while we ate our supper. We then turned down our beds, and in a few minutes were fast asleep. When morning came we had breakfast, and travelled on again. Mr. Ballentyne shot some prairie chickens and we had them for our dinner, which was a great treat to me. We arrived at Fort Pitt on the tenth, bidding Mr. Ballentyne good-bye, stopped at Mr. McLean’s all night, where we enjoyed a very pleasant evening.
The next morning we left for Onion Lake, where we were welcomed by Mr. Mann and family, and after a night’s rest proceeded on our journey to Frog Lake, reaching there on the 12th. We went to Mr. and Mrs. Delaney’s, who kindly allowed me to stop there until my husband fixed up some articles of furniture at our own house two miles further on and south-west of the Lake.
After arriving at Mrs. Delaney’s, my husband left me and went down to the house to work, on Saturday evening he came back. On Sunday morning Mr. Quinn came over and asked us to go for a drive, we accepted the invitation. It was a bright frosty morning; he took us to our little home that I had not yet seen. On hearing the men singing who were employed at the mill, we drove down to their cooking tent, where we found Mr. Gilchrist cooking breakfast for fourteen men. They had a large cooking stove inside, with a long board table; the table was covered with tin plates and cups. They had rabbit soup, and bread and coffee for breakfast; after getting ourselves warm we drove back to Mr. Delaney’s. On the following Thursday my husband drove up and took me to our home, where all was in beautiful order, and Mr. Gilchrist waiting for our arrival.
Now we are at home and I am thankful. There they nestle in a pretty valley, the simple house, the store, and beside the brook, the mill. The music of the workman’s hammer alone breaks the stillness that pervades the scene, and the hills send back the echo without a discordant note. The hills were covered with trees, principally poplar and spruce, interspersed with berry-bearing shrubs. A most beautiful and enchanting location.
That little settlement of our own was situated upon Frog Creek, about three miles west of the lake of the same name, and distant from the Frog Lake Settlement, our nearest white neighbours, about two miles. But we had neighbours close by, who came in to see us the next day, shaking hands and chatting to us in Cree, of which language we knew but little. The Indians appeared to be very kind and supplied us with white fish twice a week which they procured from the river for which in return we gave sugar, tea, prints, &c., from the store. Christmas and New Year’s were celebrated in about the same manner that they are amongst us civilized people. Both Indians and squaws put on their good clothes, which at the best of times is very scant, and do their calling. They salute the inmates of each house they enter with a congratulatory shake, expecting to be kissed in return. Just think of having to kiss a whole tribe of Indians in one day, that part we would rather do by proxy. We would not countenance it in any way. On Christmas day we went out for a walk along Frog Creek; on our way we came to where two little Indian children were catching rabbits with a snare, they stepped to one side and let us pass, and were delighted to have us watching them while catching their game; and further on some of the squaws had holes cut in the ice, and having a sharp hook were catching fish. In this way they get fish all winter, and to look at these “shrimpy-looking” women trotting along with their brown babies slung in a sort of loose pocket dangling away behind their backs, it was comical in the extreme, they would stop and look and laugh at us, our appearance being so very different to their own dark skin and sharp eyes. They wear their hair hanging, strung with brass beads, and have small pieces of rabbit fur tied in; and the men wear theirs cut very short in front, hanging over their brows, and ornaments of every description. These people don’t set at table on chairs, rich or poor; they squat down on their feet in a fashion that would soon tire us exceedingly. Then at night they wrap themselves up in a blanket, lie down and sleep as soundly as we would in our warm feather bed and blankets.
My husband and the men worked hard during the next two months on the mill in order to get it finished before the spring set in. As far as the weather was concerned it was very favourable for working. The men lost no time from the cold. During that period the thermometer ranged from zero to 60? below but the air was so clear and bracing that the cold was never felt. I have experienced more severe weather in Ontario than I ever did in this part. I have heard of north-west blizzards, but they are confined to the prairie and did not reach us. It is the most beautiful country I ever saw with its towering hills, majestic rivers, beautiful flowers and rolling land. I had made up my mind to see nothing but frost, ice and snow, but was agreeably disappointed.
Nothing of an eventful nature transpired, during those two months, the mill was about completed and Williscraft and the other men were discharged with the exception of Mr. Gilchrist, who assisted my husband. The machinery was all in position and everything done but finishing up, when on the 17th of March, two men, strangers, made their appearance at the mill and asked for employment. They said they were weary and worn and had left Duck Lake in order to avoid the trouble that was brewing there. One was Gregory Donaire and the other Peter Blondin, my husband took pity on them and gave them employment. They worked for us until the massacre. They were continually going too and fro among the Indians, and I cannot but believe, that they were cognizant of everything that was going on, if not responsible in a great degree for the murders which were afterwards committed.
WOOD AND PLAIN INDIANS.
The Indians are in their habits very unclean and filthy. They will not in the least impress anyone to such an extent that they would be willing to forego the restrictions of civilized life, and enter upon the free life of the red man.
The Indians living on the reserve in the neighbourhood of Frog Creek are known as the Wood Crees, they were all peaceable and industrious, and were becoming proficient in the art of husbandry. They lived in the log cabins in the winter, but in the summer they took to their tents. They numbered about 200 persons. They appeared satisfied with their position which was much better than what falls to the lot of other Indians. They did not take part in the massacre, nor where they responsible for it in any way.
The Plain Crees are composed of the worst characters from all the tribes of that name. They were dissatisfied, revengeful, and cruel, they could not be persuaded to select their reserve until lately, and then they would not settle upon it. Their tastes lay in a direction the opposite to domestic; they were idle and worthless, and were the Indians who killed our dear ones on that ever to be remembered 2nd of April. Those same Indians were constantly fed by Mr. Delaney and my husband. The following correspondence will show how he treated those ungrateful characters:–Big Bear’s Indians were sent up to Frog Lake, it is said, by Governor Dewdney who told them, if they would go there, they would never be hungry, but last winter their rations were stopped, and they had to work to get provisions, or starve. They would go around to the settlers houses and ask for something to eat, and Mr. Delaney would give those Indians rations, paying for them out of his own salary. Gov. Dewdney wrote a letter stating that he must stop it at once; but he did not listen to him and kept on giving to them until the outbreak. And the very men he befriended were the ones who hurled him into sudden death.
Big Bear was only nominally the chief of this tribe, the ruling power being in the hands of Wandering Spirit, a bad and vicious man, who exercised it with all the craft and cunning of an accomplished freebooter.
Now come the dreadful scenes of blood and cruel death. The happy life is changed to one of suffering and sorrow. The few months of happiness I enjoyed with the one I loved above all others was abruptly closed– taken from me–for ever–it was cruel, it was dreadful. When I look back to it all, I often wonder, is it all a dream, and has it really taken place. Yes, the dream is too true; it is a terrible reality, and as such will never leave my heart, or be effaced from off my mind.
The first news we heard of the Duck Lake affair was on the 30th of March. Mr. Quinn, the Indian Agent at Frog Lake, wrote a letter to us and sent it down to our house about twelve o’clock at night with John Pritchard, telling my husband and I to go up to Mr. Delaney’s on Tuesday morning, and with his wife go on to Fort Pitt, and if they saw any excitement they would follow. We did not expect anything to occur. When we got up to Mr. Delaney’s we found the police had left for Fort Pitt. Big Bear’s Indians were in the house talking to Mr. Quinn about the trouble at Duck Lake, and saying that Poundmaker the chief at Battleford wanted Big Bear to join him but he would not, as he intended remaining where he was and live peaceably. They considered Big Bear to be a better man than he was given credit for.
On the 1st of April they were in, making April fools of the white people and shaking hands, and they thought I was frightened and told me not to be afraid, because they would not hurt us. My husband left me at Mr. Delaney’s and went back to his work at the mill, returning in the evening with Mr. Gilchrist. We all sat talking for some time along with Mr. Dill, who had a store at Frog Lake and Mr. Cameron, clerk for the Hudson Bay Company. We all felt perfectly safe where we were, saying that as we were so far away from the trouble at Duck Lake, the Government would likely come to some terms with them and the affair be settled at once. The young Chief and another Indian by the name of Isador said if anything was wrong among Big Bear’s band they would come and tell us; and that night Big Bear’s braves heard about it and watched them all night to keep them from telling us. We all went to bed not feeling in any way alarmed. About five o’clock in the morning a rap came to the door and Mr. Delaney went down stairs and opened it, and John Pritchard and one of Big Bear’s sons by the name of Ibesies were there.
Pritchard said “There trouble.”
Mr. Delaney said “Where?”
Pritchard “_Here_! Our horses are all gone, the Indians deceived us, and said that some half-breeds from Edmonton had come in the night and had taken them to Duck Lake, but Big Bear’s band has taken them and hid them, I am afraid it is all up.”
My husband and I got up, and Mrs. Delaney came down stairs with a frightened look. In a few minutes Big Bear’s Indians were all in the house, and had taken all the arms from the men saying they were going to protect us from the half-breeds, and then we felt we were being deceived. They took all the men over to Mr. Quinn’s, and my husband and I were sitting on the lounge, and an Indian came in and took him by the arm saying He wanted him to go too; and he said to Mrs. Delaney and I “do not to be afraid, while I go with this Indian.” We stopped in the house, and while they were gone some of the Indians came in and went through the cupboard to find something to eat. They opened the trap door to go down cellar, but it was very dark, and they were afraid to venture down. Then the men came back and Mrs. Delaney got breakfast. We all sat down, but I could not eat, and an Indian asked Mr. Gowanlock to tell me not to be afraid, they would not hurt us, and I should eat plenty. After breakfast they took us out of the house and escorted us over to the church; my husband taking my arm, Mr. and Mrs. Delaney were walking beside us. When we got to the church the priests were holding mass; it was Holy Thursday, and as we entered the door, Wandering Spirit sat on his knees with his gun; he was painted, and had on such a wicked look. The priests did not finish the service on account of the menacing manner of the Indians; they were both around and inside the church. We were all very much frightened by their behaviour. They then told us to go out of the church, and took us back to Mr. Delaney’s, all the Indians going in too. We stopped there for awhile and an Indian came and told us to come out again, and my husband came to me and said “you had better put your shawl around you, for its very cold, perhaps we will not be gone long.” We all went out with the Indians. They were going through all the stores. Everything was given to them, and they got everything they could wish for and took us up the hill towards their camp. We had only gone but a short distance from the house when we heard the reports of guns, but thought they were firing in the air to frighten us; but they had shot Quinn, Dill and Gilchrist, whom I did not see fall. Mr. and Mrs. Delaney were a short distance ahead of my husband, I having my husband’s arm. Mr. Williscraft, an old grey-headed man about seventy-five years of age came running by us, and an Indian shot at him and knocked his hat off, and he turned around and said, _”Oh! don’t shoot! don’t shoot!”_ But they fired again, and he ran screaming and fell in some bushes. On seeing this I began crying, and my husband tried to comfort me, saying, “my _dear_ wife be _brave_ to the end,” and immediately an Indian behind us fired, and my husband fell beside me his arm pulling from mine. I tried to assist him from falling. He put out his arms for me and fell, and I fell down beside him and buried my face on his, while his life was ebbing away so quickly, and was prepared for the next shot myself, thinking I was going with him too. But death just then was not ordained for me. I had yet to live. An Indian came and took me away from my dying husband side, and I refused to leave. Oh! to think of leaving my _dear_ husband lying there for those cruel Indians to dance around. I begged of the Indian to let me stay with him, but he took my arm and pulled me away. Just before this, I saw Mr. Delaney and a priest fall, and Mrs. Delaney was taken away in the same manner that I was. I still looking back to where my poor husband was lying dead; the Indian motioned to where he was going to take me, and on we went. I thought my heart would break; I would rather have died with my husband and been at rest.
“A rest that is sure for us all,
But sweeter to some.”
WITH THE INDIANS.
Hardly knowing how I went or what I did, I trudged along in a half conscious condition. Led a captive into the camp of Big Bear by one of his vile band. Taken through brush and briar, a large pond came to view, we did not pass it by, he made me go through the water on that cold 2nd of April nearly to my waist. I got so very weak that I could not walk and the Indian pulled me along, in this way he managed to get me to his tepee. On seeing Mrs. Delaney taken away so far from me, I asked the Indian to take me to her; and he said _”No, No,”_ and opening the tent shoved me in. A friendly squaw put down a rabbit robe for me to sit on; I was shivering with the cold; this squaw took my shoes and stockings off and partly dried them for me. Their tepees consisted of long poles covered with smoke-stained canvas with two openings, one at the top for a smoke hole and the other at the bottom for a door through which I had to crawl in order to enter. In the centre they have their fire; this squaw took a long stick and took out a large piece of beef from the kettle and offered it to me, which I refused, as I could not eat anything after what I had gone through.
Just then Big Bear’s braves came into the tent; there were nearly thirty of them, covered with war paint, some having on my husband’s clothes, and all giving vent to those terrible yells, and holding most murderous looking instruments. They were long wooden clubs. At one end were set three sharp shining knife blades. They all looked at me as I eyed those weapons (and they well matched the expression of their cruel mouths and develish eyes) thinking my troubles would soon be over I calmly awaited the result. But they sat down around me with a bottle full of something that looked like water, passing it from one Indian to the other, so I put on a brave look as if I was not afraid of them. After this they all went out and the most bloodcurdling yells that ever pierced my ears was their war-whoop, mingled with dancing and yelling and cutting most foolish antics.
I saw a little baby that I thought must be dead, lying in one part of the tent, they had it done up in a moss bag. I will try and give an idea of what it was like: they take a piece of cloth having it large at the top, and cut it around where the feet should be, and on both sides, of this little bag they have loops of very fine leather, then they have a small thin cushion laid on this, the length of the child, and three or four pieces of different colored flannels, then they dress the baby in a thin print gown and put it in this bag, and its little legs are put down just as straight as a needle, covered over with moss, which they first heat very hot; then the arms are put down in the same way and the flannels are wrapped around very tight and then they lace the bag up, and all that can be seen is the little brown face peeping out.
Just then Pritchard’s little girl came in where I was; she could talk a few words of English. I asked her where her pa was, and she said that he was putting up a tent not far away, and then I had some hope of getting from the Indians.
After I had been there for four hours, Louis Goulet and Andre Nault came in, and Goulet said to me “Mrs. Gowanlock if you will give yourself over to the half-breeds, they will not hurt you; Peter Blondin has gone down to where the mill is, and when he comes back he will give his horse for you.” I asked them to interpret it to the Indians in order to let me go to Pritchard’s tent for awhile, and the Indians said that she could go with this squaw. I went and was overjoyed to see Mrs. Delaney there also. After getting in there I was unconscious for a long time, and upon coming to my senses, I found Mrs. Pritchard bathing my face with cold water. When Blondin came back he gave his horse and thirty dollars for Mrs. Delaney and me. He put up a tent and asked me to go with him, but I refused; and he became angry and did everything he could to injure me. That man treated me most shamefully; if it had not been for Pritchard I do not know what would have become of me. Pritchard was kinder than any of the others.
After I had been a prisoner three days, Blondin came and asked me if I could ride horse back, and I said “yes,” and he said if I would go with him, he would go and take two of the best horses that Big Bear had and desert that night. I told him I would _never_ leave Pritchard’s tent until we all left, saying “I would go and drown myself in the river before I would go with him.”
Late that same night a French Canadian by the name of Pierre came into the tent, and hid himself behind us, he said the Indians wanted to shoot him, and some one told him to go and hide himself, ultimately one of the half-breeds gave a horse to save his life. Mrs. Pritchard told him not to stay in there. She did not want to see any more men killed, and one of the half-breeds took him away and he was placed under the protection of the Wood Crees. This man had been working with Goulet and Nault all winter getting out logs about thirty miles from Frog Lake.
PROTECTED BY HALF-BREEDS.
On the 3rd of April Big Bear came into our tent and sitting down beside us told us he was very sorry for what had happened, and cried over it, saying he knew he had so many bad men but had no control over them. He came very often to our tent telling us to “eat and sleep plenty, they would not treat us like the white man. The white man when he make prisoner of Indian, he starve him and cut his hair off.” He told us he would protect us if the police came. The same day Big Bear’s braves paid our tent another visit, they came in and around us with their guns, knives and tomahawks, looking at us so wickedly.
Pritchard said, “For God sake let these poor women live, they can do no harm to you: let them go home to their friends.”
The leaders held a brief consultation.
An Indian stood up and pointing to the heavens said, “We promise by God that we will not hurt these white women; we will let them live.”
They then left the tent.
Every time I saw one of Big Bear’s Indians coming in, I expected it was to kill us, or take us away from the tent, which would have been _far worse_ than death to _me_.
But they did not keep their word.
On the third night (Saturday, the 4th April,) after our captivity, two Indians came in while all the men and Mrs. Delaney were asleep, I heard them, and thought it was Pritchard fixing the harness, he usually sat up to protect us.
A match was lighted and I saw two of the most hedious looking Indians looking over and saying where is the _Monias_ squaw, meaning the white women. I got so frightened I could not move, but Mrs. Delaney put out her foot and awakened Mrs. Pritchard, and she wakened her husband, and he started up and asked what they wanted, and they said they wanted to take the white women to their tent, and I told Pritchard they could kill me before I would go, and I prayed to God to help me. Pritchard and Adolphus Nolin gave their blankets and dishes and Mrs. Pritchard, took the best blanket off her bed to give to them and they went off, and in the morning the Wood Crees came in and asked if those Indians took much from us, and Pritchard told them “No”; the Indians wanted to make them give them back. After that Pritchard and other half-breeds protected us from night to night for we were not safe a single minute.
During the two days which had passed, the bodies of the men that were murdered had not been buried. They were lying on the road exposed to the view of everyone. The half-breeds carried them off the road to the side, but the Indians coming along dragged them out again. It was dreadful to see the bodies of our _poor dear_ husbands dragged back and forth by those demoniac savages.
On Saturday the day before Easter, we induced some half-breeds to take our husbands’ bodies and bury them. They placed them, with those of the priests, under the church. The Indians would not allow the other bodies to be moved. And dreadful to relate those inhuman wretches set fire to the church, and with yelling and dancing witnessed it burn to the ground. The bodies, I afterwards heard, were charred beyond recognition.
Upon seeing what was done the tears ran profusely down our cheeks and I thought my very heart would break. All the comfort we received from that unfeeling band was, “that’s right, cry plenty, we have killed your husbands and we will soon have you.”
On Easter Sunday night there was a heavy thunder storm and before morning it turned cold and snowed; the tent pole broke, coming down within an inch of my head, the snow blowing in and our bedding all covered with it and nothing to keep us warm. I got up in the morning and found my shoes all wet and frozen, and the Indians came in and told us what they saw in the heavens. They saw a church and a man on a large black horse with his arm out and he looked so angry, and they said God must be angry with them for doing such a thing; the half- breeds are as superstitious as the Indians.
THEY TAKE FORT PITT.
The morning of the 6th of April was a memorable one. Something unusual was going to take place from the excited state of the camp. Everyone was on the go. I was in a short time made acquainted with the reason. It was more blood, more butchery, and more treachery. And oh! such a sight presented itself to my eyes. The Indians were all attired in full war habiliments. They had removed their clothes. A girdle around their waists, was all–and their paint–every shade and color. Heads with feathers, and those, who had killed a white, with quills. A quill for every man scalped. Eyes painted like stars, in red, yellow and green; faces, arms, legs and bodies elaborately decorated, and frescoed in all their savage beauty, with bars, spots, rings and dots. Brandishing tomahawks, bludgeons and guns; flinging and firing them in every direction, accompanied with yells and whoops; a most hideous and terrible sight. They embraced their wives and children, and the command was given to start for Fort Pitt. In order to swell their numbers they compelled the half-breeds and some of their squaws to accompany them. The squaws ride horses like the men.
On Sunday the 12th of April they returned from the Fort flush with victory. They had captured that place, killed policeman Cowan, taken the whites prisoners, and allowed the police to escape down the river, all without loosing an Indian or half-breed. The prisoners were brought in while we were at dinner. Mr. and Mrs. Quinney came to our tent. Mrs. Quinney said she was cold and wet. She sat, down and put her arms around me and cried. I gave her a cup of hot tea and something to eat. Shortly after the McLean’s and Mann’s came in. It was a great relief to see white people again.
It was not long before they moved camp about two miles from Frog Lake. Mrs. Delaney and I, walking with Mrs. Pritchard and family, through mud and water: my shoes were very thin, and my feet very wet and sore from walking. The Indians were riding beside us with our horses and buckboards, laughing and jeering at us with umbrellas over their heads and buffalo overcoats on. We would laugh and make them believe we were enjoying it, and my heart ready to break with grief all the time. When we camped, it was in a circle. A space in the centre being kept for dancing.
I asked Blondin if he had any of our stockings or underclothing in his sacks. He told me _no_ and shortly afterwards took out a pair of my husband’s long stockings and put them on before me, he would change them three and four times a week. He had nearly all my poor husband’s clothes. Two men came in one time while Blondin was asleep and took one of my husband’s coats out of his sack and went out; Blondin upon missing it got very angry and swore before me, saying that some person had come in and taken one of his coats, and all the time I knew whose coat it was they were quarrelling over. I wished then I could close my eyes and go home to God. I went outside the tent and saw this other half-breed named Gregory Donaire with my husband’s coat on and pants, and just as I looked up I thought it must be my own husband, and to see the fellow laugh in my face, he evidently had an idea about what I was thinking. Blondin wore my husband’s overcoat, and all I had was my little shawl and nothing to wear on my head, and the rain pouring down in torrents on me; this fellow would walk beside the waggon and laugh, and when it quit raining asked me if I wanted _his_ overcoat; I told him _no_, I did not mind being wet as much as he did. That night Mrs. Delaney and I lay down in one corner of the tent until morning came and then we had all the baking to do. We dug a hole in the ground and started a fire, taking flour, we stirred in water, kneading it hard. We then with our hands flattened it out and placed it in a frying pan, baking it before the fire, and by the time it was baked it was as black as the pan itself. We dined on bannock and bacon for two months, and were very thankful to get it.
COOKING FOR A LARGE FAMILY.
My experience of camp life was of such a character, that I would rather be a maid-of-all-work in any position than slush in an Indian tepee, reeking as it is, with filth and poisonous odors. There is no such a thing as an health officer among that band of braves. They have a half spiritualized personage whom they desiginate the Medicine Man; but he is nothing more or less than a quack of the worst kind. As in every other part of their life, so in the domestic they were unclean.
One evening, just as we had everything ready for our meal, in rushed the Big Bear’s, gobbling up everything. After they had gone, I set to work to wash the dishes. Mrs. Pritchard thereat became quite angry, and would not allow me, saying that we would be glad to do more than that for the Indians yet. I went without my supper that night; I would rather starve than eat after that dirty horde.
One day, Pritchard brought in a rabbit for dinner. I thought we were going to have a treat as well as a good meal; we were engaged at other work that day, and Mrs. Pritchard did the cooking herself, but I had occasion to go in the direction of the fire, and there was the rabbit in the pot boiling, it was all there, head, eyes, feet, and everything together. My good dinner vanished there and then. I told Mrs. Delaney there was no rabbit for me. I only ate to keep myself alive and well, for if I showed signs of sickness I would have been put with the Indians, and they would have put an end to me in a short time.
We had fifteen in our tent to bake for, besides the Indians, that came in to gorge, about thirty at a time. We cut wood and carried water and did Mrs. Pritchard sewing for her nine children; making their clothing that came from our own house. She took some muslin that Mrs. Delaney had bought before the trouble, and cut it up into aprons for her little baby, and gave me to make, and then she went to the trunk that had all my lace trimming that I had made through the winter, and brought some for me to sew on the aprons. I made them up as neatly as I possibly could, and when finished, she thanked me for it. The little children played with keepsakes that my _mother_ had given to me when a little girl, and I had to look and see them broken in pieces without a murmur, also see my friends photographs thrown around and destroyed. I gathered up a few that were scattered around in the dirt and saved them when no one was looking.
If Big Bear’s braves would say move camp immediately, and if we should be eating and our tent not taken down just then, they would shout in the air and come and tear it down. In travelling, the Indians ride, and their squaws walk and do all the work, and they pack their dogs and have “travores” on their horses, upon which they tied their little children, and then all would move off together; dogs howling, and babies crying, and Indians beating their wives, and carts tumbling over the banks of the trail, and children falling, and horses and oxen getting mired down in the mud, and squaws cutting sacks of flour open to get a piece of cotton for string, and leaving the flour and throwing away the provisions, while others would come along and gather it up. We rode on a lumber waggon, with an ox team, and some of the squaws thought we did not work enough. Not work enough, after walking or working all day, after dark we were required to bake bannock and do anything else they had a mind to give us. They wanted to work us to death.
INCIDENTS BY THE WAY.
The Indians are not only vicious, treacherous and superstitious, but they are childlike and simple, as the following incident will show:– After the Indians came back from Fort Pitt, one of them found a glass eye; that eye was the favorite optic of Stanley Simpson, who was taken a prisoner there by Big Bear. He brought it with him for one of his brother Indians who was blind in one eye, imagining with untutored wisdom that if it gave light to a white man, it should also to a red, and they worked at it for a time, but they could not get the focus, finally they threw it away, saying it was no good, he could not see.
While we were in camp, Mr. Quinn’s little two year old girl would come in and put her little arms around our necks and kiss us. The dear little thing had no one to care for her, she would stay with us until her mother would come and take her away. The squaws also carried her around on their backs with nothing but a thin print dress on and in her bare feet. How I did feel for her, she was such a bright little girl, her father when alive took care of her. It was very hard to see her going around like any of the Indian children.
One day while travelling we came to a large creek and had to get off the waggon and pull our shoes and stockings off in-order that they would be dry to put on after we got across; the water was up to our waists and we waded through. Miss McLean took her little three year old sister on her back and carried her over. After crossing we had to walk a long distance on the burnt prairie to get to the waggon, then we sat down and put our shoes on. Some of the Indians coming along said, “oh! see the monais squaw.” We would laugh, tell them it was nice; that we enjoyed it. If they thought we did not, we were in danger of being taken away by them and made to work for them like their squaws.
One of Big Bear’s son’s wives died, and they dug a hole in the ground and wrapped blankets around her, and laid her in it, and put sacks of bacon and flour on top so that she could not get out, they covered her over with earth; and watched the place for some time for fear she would come to life again.
Their dances occur every day, they go and pick out the largest tents and go and take them from the Wood Crees, and leave them all day without any covering, with the white people who were prisoners, with them. They thought the white people took it as an honor to them, and every time in moving, Big Bear’s band would tell us just where to put our tents, and if one camped outside this circle, they would go and cut their tent in pieces. In some of their dances, Little Poplar was arrayed in some of Miss McLean’s ribbons, ties and shawls, another with my hat on, and another with Mrs. Delaney’s, and the squaws with our dresses, and they had a large dish of meat in the centre and danced awhile, and sat down and ate and danced again, keeping this up all day long. And if anyone lagged in the dance, it was a bad day for him. Little Poplar had a whip, and he would ply it thick on the back of the sluggish dancer.
One day just as we were eating dinner, an Indian came and invited us out to a dog feast; the men went, but we preferred bannock and bacon, to dog. They sent each of us _three yards_ of print to make us a dress; a squaw takes no more than that. And then a friendly Indian made me a present of a pair of green glasses.
A most dreadful affair occurred one day, they killed one of their squaws, an old grey beaded woman that was insane. The Indians and half-breeds were afraid of her, and she told them if they did not kill her before the sun went down, she would eat the whole camp up. They got some of the half-breeds to tie her; and they carried her out on a hill, and one old half-breed struck her on the head, and the Indians shot her in the head three times, cut it off and set fire to it; they were very much afraid she would come back and do some harm to them.
One evening after making our bed for the night, four squaws came into our tent and sat down for two hours, crying and singing and clapping their hands, and after going out, some of the Indians took and tied them until morning; it was a most strange procedure. I could go on enumerating incident after incident, but I have, I think, given sufficient to give the reader an insight into their character.
While we were on the way too Fort Pitt, a letter was received from the Rev. John McDougall, of Calgary, stating that troops were coming through from Edmonton, and that they would make short work of Big Bear’s band for the murders they had committed at Frog Lake. They were terribly frightened at that news, and took turns and watched on the hills night and day. Others spent their time in dancing–it was dancing all the time–all day and all night.
I will explain their mode of dancing as well as I can:–They all get in a circle, while two sit down outside and play the tom-tom, a most unmelodious instrument, something like a tambourine, only not half so _sweet_; it is made in this way:–they take a hoop or the lid of a butter firkin, and cover one side with a very thin skin, while the other has strings fastened across from side to side, and upon this they pound with sticks with all their might, making a most unearthly racket. The whole being a fit emblem of what is going on in the other world of unclean spirits. Those forming the circle, kept going around shouting and kicking, with all the actions and paraphernalia of a clown in a pantomine, only not so dumb.
We passed a short distance from where Mrs. Delaney lived, and all we could see standing, was the bell of the Catholic Mission, and when we came to Onion Lake, they had burnt some of the buildings there, and as we passed they set fire to the rest. They burnt all the flour and potatoes, some three hundred sacks, and when we reached Fort Pitt our provisions were getting scarce, and the half-breeds went to the Fort to get some flour, but the Indians had previously poured coal and machine oil on what was left, and they only got a few sacks and not very clean at that. Still we felt very thankful to have it as it was.
While in this neighbourhood, Blondin and Henry Quinn went down to the river to make their escape, and Blondin well knew that the Indians had said if one prisoner ran away they would kill all the rest. The half- breeds hearing what they had done, went after them and brought them back, and that night Big Bear’s braves came into our tent where Quinn and Blondin were, and wanted to go to work and cut Quinn in pieces. Blondin was like one of themselves. Pritchard sat on his knees in front of Quinn and kept them from doing it. They were in our tent nearly the whole night with their guns, large sharp knives and war clubs. After Pritchard had talked some hours to them they went out only partly pacified. Some of them said, “he has ran away once, let us kill him and have no more trouble with him; if he runs away he will be going away and telling the police to come.”
When near the Fort they had their “Thirst Dance.” An Indian went to the bush and broke off a green bough, and carried it to the place arranged for the dance, and all the other Indians shot at it. Then the Indians got their squaws with them on horse-back; some thought it would not be polite if they did not invite the white women to help them also, and Mrs. Pritchard and another squaw came in and put Mrs. Delaney in one corner and covered her over, and me in another with a feather bed over me, so as not to find us. Then some said, “Oh, let the white women stay where they are,” and they took their squaws and went to the woods. I should say about fifty rode to the woods for one stick at a time, fastening a chain around it, dragged it along to this place singing and yelling as they went. After they had enough sticks, they arranged a tent in the centre of the circle. They stood a long pole up, and on this pole they tied everything they wished to give to the _sun_, and this is never taken down, and then they erected smaller poles about five feet high, all around in a large circle, and from the top of these they fastened sticks to the long pole in the centre, and covered it all with green boughs, they then partitioned the tent into small stalls, and tied print and anything bright all around inside on these poles; after they had this arranged they began dancing. It continues three days and three nights, neither eating or drinking during the entertainment. They danced all that night and the squaws had each a small whistle made of bone which they blow all the time in addition to the musical “tom-toms.” Mrs. Delaney and I lay awake all night, and I said to her, “I hope the police will come in while they are having this dance.” Mrs. Pritchard asked us next morning if we would go and see them at it, and remarked “they will not like it if you white women do not go and see them.” We went with her, and when we got inside they laughed and were delighted at seeing us come. There they were, some of the squaws with my clothes on, and one Indian with my husband’s on, and my table linen hanging on the poles. The squaws stood in those little stalls and danced. They had their faces painted, and fingers and ears filled with brass rings and thimbles. Some of the Indians were dressed in the police uniforms and had veils over their faces; and just as we got nicely there, two Indians came riding around and saying the police were all on this side of the river with their tents pitched. There must be hundreds of them, some said, and the others said no, because they have their wives and children with them; and then came the scattering, they ran in all directions like scared rabbits and tore their tents down, the Indians riding around on horse-back singing and yelling, and saying “let us go and meet them” that was to fight, and others said “_no_, let us move,” and we all left and moved through the woods.
But it proved to be more than a mere scare. _Our_ friends were drawing near–too near to be comfortable for the _noble_ “red man,” the murderers of defenceless settlers, the despoilers of happy homes, the polluters of poor women and children. They did all that, and yet they are called the noble “red man.” It might sound musical in the ears of the poet to write of the virtues of that race, but I consider it a perversion of the real facts. During the time I was with them I could not see anything noble in them, unless it was that they were _noble_ murderers, _noble_ cowards, _noble_ thieves. The facts, I think, also go to show that the Indians are not treated properly. There is no distinction made between the good (there are good Indians) and bad. The character of the Indian is not studied sufficiently, or only so far as self-interest and selfish motives are concerned. But the majority of the present race can be designated anything but the noble “red man.”
They would in many instances, be better without the missionary. If all denominations would only amalgamate their forces and agree upon an unsectarian basis for missionary effort, the Indians would become evangalized more quickly then they are at present. It would be better for the Indians, and more honorable for the Christian Church. Give the Indians the Gospel in its simplicity without the ritual of the denominations.
Was it the distant roar of heaven’s artillery that caught my ear. I listened and heard it again. The Indians heard it and were frightened.
A half-breed in a stage whisper cried, “a cannon! a cannon!”
An Indian answered, “a cannon is no good to fight.”
I looked at them and it showed them to be a startled and fear-stricken company, notwithstanding that they held the cannon with such disdain as to say “cannon no good to fight.” That night was full of excitement for the Indians; they felt that the enemy was drawing near, too close in fact to be safe. The prisoners were excited with the thought, that perhaps there was liberty behind that cannon for them, and taking it all round, there was little sleep within the tepees.
The next morning I awoke early with hopefulness rising within my breast at the thought of again obtaining my liberty. The first sound I heard was the firing of cannon near at hand; it sounded beautiful; it was sweet music to my ears. Anticipating the prospect of seeing friends once more, I listened and breathed in the echo after every bomb.
The fighting commenced at seven o’clock by Gen. Strange’s troops forcing the Indians to make a stand. It was continued until ten with indifferent success. The troops surely could not have known the demoralized condition of the Indians, else they would have compelled them to surrender. The fighting was very near, for the bullets were whizzing around all the time. We thought surely that liberty was not far away. The Indians were continually riding back and fro inspiring their followers in the rear with hope, and we poor prisoners with despair. At last they came back and said that they had killed twenty policemen and not an Indian hurt. But there were two Indians killed, one of whom was the Worm, he who killed my poor husband, and several wounded. We were kept running and walking about all that morning with their squaws, keeping out of the way of their enemies, and our friends. We were taken through mud and water until my feet got so very sore that I could hardly walk at all.
The Indians ordered us to dig pits for our protection. Pritchard and Blondin dug a large one about five feet deep for us, and they piled flour sacks around it as a further protection but they dug it too deep and there was two or three inches of water at the bottom. They then threw down some brush and we got into it, twenty persons in all, with one blanket for Mrs. Delaney and me. McLean’s family had another pit, and his daughters cut down trees to place around it. Mr. Mann and family dug a hole in the side of the hill and crawled into it. If I had my way I would have kept out of the pit altogether and watched my chance to escape.
We fully expected the troops to follow but they did not; and early in the morning we were up and off again. Some of the Indians went back to see how about the troops, and came back with the report that the “police” (they call all soldiers police) had vanished, they were afraid. When I heard it, I fairly sank, and the slight spark of hope I had, had almost gone out. Just to think that succor was so near, yet alas! so far. But for Mrs. Delaney I would have given way and allowed myself to perish.
Just here a word about Indian boys would not be amiss. An Indian boy is a live, wild, and untamed being. He is full of mischief and cruelty to those he hates, and passably kind to those he likes. I never saw in their character anything that could be called love. They have no idea of such a tender tie. Thus by nature he is cruel without having a sense of humor, much less gayety, and in all my experience I never saw or heard one give a hearty laugh, except on the occasion of a mishap or accident to any one, and then the little fragment of humor is aroused.
He is skillful in drawing his bow and sling, and has a keenness of sight and hearing. He takes to the life of a hunter as a duck takes to water, and his delight is in shooting fowl and animals. He does it all with an ease and grace that is most astonishing. In everything of that nature he is very skillful. Pony riding is his great delight, when the ponies were not otherwise engaged, but during my stay with them, there was too much excitement and change all around for the boys to exercise that animal.
While we were driving along after breaking up camp the little fellows would run along and pick flowers for us, one vieing with the other as to who would get the most and the prettiest. They were gifted with a most remarkable memory and a slight was not very soon forgotten, while a kindness held the same place in their memory.
The general behaviour of Indian boys was nevertheless most intolerable to us white people. In the tepee there was no light and very often no fuel, and owing to the forced marches there was not much time for cutting wood, also it was hard to light as it was so green and sappy. The boys would then wrap themselves up in a blanket, but not to sleep, only to yell and sing as if to keep in the heat. They would keep this up until they finally dozed off; very often that would be in the early hours of the morning.
Like father, like son; the virtues of young Indians were extremely few. They reach their tether when they fail to benefit self. Their morality was in a very low state. I do not remember that I saw much of it, if I did it was hardly noticible.
Where the charm of a savage life comes in I do not know, I failed to observe it during my experience in the camp of the Crees. The charm is a delusion, except perhaps when viewed from the deck of a steamer as it glided along the large rivers and lakes of the Indian country, or perhaps within the pages of a blood and thunder novel.
HOPE ALMOST DEFERRED.
Almost a week afterwards, on a Saturday night, the fighting Indians gathered around a tepee near ours and began that never ending dancing and singing. It was a most unusual thing for them to dance so close to our tent. They had never done so before. It betokened no good on their part and looked extremely suspicious. It seemed to me that they were there to fulfil the threat they made some time previous, that they would put an end to us soon. The hour was late and that made it all the more certain that our doom had come. I became very nervous and frightened at what was going on. When all at once there was a scattering, and running, and yelling at the top of their voices, looking for squaws and children, and tearing down tents, while we two sat in ours in the depths of despair, waiting for further developments. I clung to Mrs. Delaney like my own mother, not knowing what to do. The cause of the stampede we were told was that they had heard the report of a gun. That report was fortunate for us, as it was the intention of the Indians to wrench us from our half-breed protectors and kill us.
The tents were all down and in a very few minutes we were on the move again. It was Sunday morning at an early hour, raining heavily, and cold. We were compelled to travel all that day until eleven o’clock at night. The halt was only given then, because the brutes were tired themselves. Tents were pitched and comparative quietness reigned. Our bedding consisted of one blanket which was soaked with water. Andre Nault took pity on us and gave us his, and tried in every way to make us comfortable. I had a great aversion to that fellow, I was afraid to look at him I was so weak and tired that I could not sleep but for only a few minutes. I had given up and despair had entered my mind. I told Mrs. Delaney I wished I could never see morning, as I had nothing to look forward to but certain death. In that frame of mind I passed the night.
OUT OF BIG BEAR’S CAMP.
Monday morning, May 31st, was ushered in dark and gloomy, foggy and raining, but it proved to be the happiest day we had spent since the 31st of March. As the night was passing, I felt its oppressiveness, I shuddered with the thought of what another day might bring forth; but deliverance it seems was not far away; it was even now at hand. When the light of day had swallowed up the blackness of darkness, the first words that greeted my ears was Pritchard saying “I am going to watch my chance and get out of the camp of Big Bear.” Oh! what we suffered, Oh! what we endured, during those two long months, as captives among a horde of semi-barbarians. And to think that we would elude them, just when I was giving up in despair. It is said that the darkest hour is that which preceedes dawn; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. So with me, in my utter prostration, in the act of giving way, God heard my prayer, and opened a way of deliverance, and we made the best of the opportunity.
“No foe, no dangerous path we lead, Brook no delay, but onward speed.”
Some of the Indians it seems had come across General Strange’s scouts the night before, and in consequence, all kinds of rumors were afloat among the band. They were all very much frightened, for it looked as if they were about to be surrounded. So a move, and a quick one, was made by them, at an early hour, leaving the half-breeds to follow on. This was now the golden opportunity, and Pritchard grasped it, and with him, five other half-breed families fled in an opposite direction, thereby severing our connection with the band nominally led by Big Bear.
We cut through the woods, making a road, dividing the thick brush, driving across creeks and over logs. On we sped. At one time hanging on by a corner of the bedding in order to keep from falling off the waggon. Another time I fell off the waggon while fording a stream; my back got so sore that I could not walk much. On we went roaming through the forest, not knowing where we were going, until the night of June 3rd the cry was made by Mrs. Pritchard with unfeigned disgust, “that the police were coming.” Mrs. Delaney was making bannock for the next morning’s meal, while I with cotton and crochet needle was making trimming for the dresses of Mrs. Pritchards nine half-breed babies.
I threw the trimming work to the other end of the tent, and Mrs. Delaney called upon Mrs. Pritchard to finish making the bannocks herself, and we both rushed out just as the scouts galloped in.
Rescued! at last, and from a life worse than death. I was so overjoyed that I sat down and cried. The rescuing party were members of General Strange’s scouts, led by two friends of my late husband, William McKay, and Peter Ballentyne of Battleford. We were so glad to see them. They had provisions with them, and they asked us if we wanted anything to eat. We told them we had bannock and bacon, but partook of their canned beef and hard tack. It was clean and good; and was the first meal we enjoyed for two months.
I could not realize that I was safe until I reached Fort Pitt. The soldiers came out to welcome us back to life. The stories they heard about us were so terrible, that they could scarcely believe we were the same.
The steamer was in waiting to take us to Battleford. Rev. Mr. Gordon took my arm and led me on board. The same gentleman gave us hats, we had no covering for our heads for the entire two months we were captives We were very scant for clothing. Mrs. Delaney had a ragged print dress, while I managed to save one an Indian boy brought me while in camp. Upon reaching Battleford we were taken to the residence of Mr. Laurie.
Coming down on the steamer, on nearing a little island, we saw a number of squaws fishing and waving white flags. All along wherever we passed the Indians, they were carrying white flags as a token that they had washed off their war paint and desired rest.
WE LEAVE FOR HOME.
We leave Battleford for Swift Current, and our journey takes us across the prairie; that same stretch that I travelled a few months before, but under different circumstances and associations. Then I went up as a happy bride, Now I go down _alone_ and bowed with grief. Everything around is full of life, the prairie is a sea of green interspersed with beautiful flowers and plants. It is a pretty scene to feast upon, yet my soul cannot drink it in. I am on the way to friends, a feeling of desolation takes hold of me; but I must control myself, and by God’s help I will, for his goodness is forever sure.
Rev. John McDougall, Dr. Hooper, Captain Dillon, Capt. Nash and Messrs. Fox and Bayley, of Toronto, and Mrs. Laurie accompanied us on the journey, and did everything they could to make us comfortable. The trip over the prairie was a pleasant one. When we got to the South Saskatchewan, a thunder storm came on which roughened the water so, we could not cross for about an hour. After it quieted down a scow came and carried us over. Friends there took care of us for the night, and on the 1st of July we boarded a train for Moose Jaw. Capt. Dillon on going to the post office met several young ladies in a carriage who asked where we were as they wished to take us to their homes for tea, he informed them that the train had only a few minutes to stop and that it would be impossible. Those same young ladies were back to the train before it started with a bottle of milk and a box full of eatables. At eleven o’clock p.m., we arrived at Regina, and remained with Mr. and Mrs. Fowler, going next morning to a hotel. We were there four days. At Moose Jaw we received the following kind letter from Mrs. C. F. Bennett, of Winnipeg:–
NEW DOUGLASS HOUSE, WINNIPEG, JUNE 8TH, 1885.
Mrs. Delaney and Mrs. Gowanlock:
DEAR MADAMS,–Although an entire stranger to both of you, I cannot resist the impulse to write you a few lines to say how thankful and delightful I am to hear of your rescue.
Before I was dressed this morning; my husband came up to tell me that you were both safe. And I cannot express to you, neither can you comprehend the joy that intelligence brought to everyone. The terrible stories of your being tortured and finally murdered, outraged the feelings of the whole civilized world, and while men swore to avenge your wrongs, women mourned you, as sisters.
I am very thankful to see by the papers that you were not so inhumanly treated as reported, although your experience has been a terrible one–and one which you can never forget.
I presume that as soon as you are a little rested, you will go east to your friends; should you do so, I will be most happy to entertain you while you are in Winnipeg.
After your captivity, you must be destitute of everything, and if you will come down here, we will be delighted to supply you with what you require. I do not know if you have personal friends here, or not, but your sufferings have given you a sister’s place in every heart, and _every one_ in Winnipeg would be deeply disappointed if you did not give them an opportunity of expressing their deep sympathy and regards.
Mr. Bennett unites with me in best wishes, and in hopes that you will accept our hospitality on your way east.
I am in deepest sympathy,
MRS. C. F. BENNETT.
I shall never forget the words of sympathy that are expressed in this epistle, or the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. McCaul and the people of Winnipeg generally. On our way from Winnipeg to Parkdale we received every attention and assistance, which I can assure the reader went a long way in making sorrow lighter and more able to bear. I thank God for the sympathy that was extended to me by his people. Mr. J. K. Macdonald of Toronto, was most assiduous in his attention to us from Winnipeg until we left the train at Parkdale on the 12th of July. I must not forget the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong also of Toronto, or the other ladies and gentlemen who were our fellow passengers on the journey.
Home–torn from mine–back to the parental. I will now look back over the scene, taking a panoramic view of the whole, as it occurred from the day I left my father’s house full of happiness and joy, until I entered it full of sorrow and suffering.
It is well for mankind that they are forbidden the knowledge of what will be their destiny. It was well-conceived by a loving father that it was for our interest to be kept in ignorance of what was in store, for we, his creatures. And thus it was that I entered upon the duties of the household, with a lightness of heart equal to that of any matron. In the humble home (I commence from there) in that beautiful north-west land of quietness and peace, there was not a ruffle heard, or a rumor sounded, of what was in store for that industrious little community. We were living in the bonds of fellowship with all mankind, and we had no fear. But in all that stillness there was an undercurrent at work that would soon make itself felt. Dissatisfaction on account of grievances, real or fancied, was blowing. It had broken out in one place, why should it not in another. This disaffected spirit was prevalent in all parts of that country. Who was to blame? who was the cause? direct or indirect, it is not my intention or desire to say; suffice it is to note, that there was discontent; and therefore there must have, been grievances, and an attempt should have been made or an understanding arrived at, whereby this state of discontent should have been replaced by that of content, without disturbance. Where there is discontent there must be badness and suffering, with evils and excesses lying in its wake.
To have removed those grievances was the imperative duty of the dispensers of law and order and thus avoid those excesses, but it was not done in time and the inevitable did come swift and sure; the innocent were made to feel its fury. For that little hamlet by the creek was entered, and its domestic quietness destroyed and future prospects blighted. There was a degree of uneasiness felt after we were informed of the horror of Duck Lake. Two half-breeds, Blondin and Donaire, who were employed by my husband, were observed in frequent and earnest conversation with the Indians. Those two had but arrived from the scene at Duck Lake. For what were they there? Was it to incite the Indians? Their actions were, to say the least, suspicious.
I will not dwell on the terrible slaughter which followed, it is too painful a subject, simply stating that I had not believed that anything so awful would have been perpetrated by either half-breeds or Indians, until we were taken out of Mrs. Delaney’s the second time, and then I felt that there would be trouble, but not in such a manner as that. When I was dragged from the death-bed of my husband, who had the ground for a couch and the canopy of heaven for a coverlet, I was in a bewildered condition. Half-unconsciously I allowed the Indian to drag me on to his tepee, and once in, the circumstances which led to my position, flitted through my brain in quick succession. I then realized that it was most critical; in a few hours I would be forced to undergo ill-treatment that would very soon kill me. With those thoughts within my mind, the tepee opened and a little girl entered, an angel sent by God to be my deliverer. Although not aware, she was his instrument in taking me out of danger and placing me in a purer atmosphere. That child was Pritchard’s little girl and I asked her to send her father. He came and by his influence I was transferred to his care for a while. And when I entered his tent and there saw Mrs. Delaney, I was overjoyed for a minute, and then all was a blank; the excitement proved too much for me and I swooned away. When I returned to consciousness they were all doing their best for me.
In a short time Blondin came in, (at the commencement of the massacre he left for our house) he brought with him our waggon, and oxen, and all the furniture and provisions he could take. Immediately thereafter the Indians appeared and it was then that he offered them $30 and a horse for our release. The offer was accepted and I was transferred to Blondin. The wretch was there with evil intent in his heart. I fully believe that he felt exultant over the doings of the day. Why did he go down to our house when that dreadful affair was going on? Why did he help himself to our goods? _Only_ for a bad purpose. Oh! God I saw it all. He had everything arranged for me to live with him. All my husband’s things; all my things; and a tent. But I refused to accept him or his conditions. I resented the infamous proposals as strongly as I was able, and appealed to John Pritchard for protection and he generously granted my request. I will never forget his kindness to me as long as I live: “Yes, Mrs. Gowanlock, you can share my tent, with myself and family, and I will protect you.”
That dated the commencement of the shameful treatment I received at the hands of Blondin, and whenever Pritchard was absent, it was meted out to me to the full. Blondin purchased my liberty, that would have been a good action if prompted by honorable motives, but in the absence of that it has no weight with me. He was amply repaid, he got our oxen, our waggon, our provisions, our clothes, we had money there, perhaps he got that. I have wondered since was it not my money with which he purchased me. By the help of God I was saved from him; and a life worse than death. If the worst had come I would have drowned or killed myself; but it did not. “God moves in a mysterious way.”
During the next two months I was called upon to witness heart-rending scenes; first the brutal treatment of the dead bodies of our husbands’, as well as cruelty to ourselves; for even under Pritchard’s care we were not safe and did not know what minute would be our last. Not content with murdering them in cold blood, they must needs perform diabolical deeds which causes me to shudder when I think of it. They danced around them with demoniac glee, kicking and pulling them in every direction, and we were the unwilling witnesses of such behaviour. And when we had them buried under the church they burned it down, with dancing and yelling, accompanied with hysterical laughter. The sight was sickening to me and I was glad they moved in the direction of Fort Pitt, leaving that place with all its associations of suffering and death. But when I heard that they intended to take the Fort, and destroy more life, I felt that I would rather remain where we were than witness any more scenes of so sad a nature. I have no happy tale to tell for this period was filled with woe and pain.
I will not enumerate further the trials I had to undergo day after day, but will pass rapidly on until the gladsome note was sounded by our hostess Mrs. Pritchard the “police are here.” God delivered us again.
It is unnecessary to itemize in detail what passed from that time until I reached Ontario. I have told my tale, simple and truthful, and what remains for me now is my old home, my old associations, and my old life–the lines are hard to bear–“Thy will not mine be done.”
Once I thought my cross to heavy,
And my heart was sore afraid,
Summoned forth to stand a witness
For the cause of truth betrayed.
“Send, O Lord,” I prayed, “some Simon, As of old was sent to Thee.”
“Be a Simon,” said the Master,
“For this cross belongs to me.”
Still is crucified my Saviour,
I myself must a Simon be;
Take my cross and walk humbly
Up the slopes of Calvary.
TO ONE OF THE ABSENT.
You bade me good-bye with a smile, love, And away to the west wild and drear;
At the sound of war’s bugle shrill calling You went without shadow of fear.
But when I complained of your going, To face dangers untold in the west;
You chided me gently by singing:
“Encourage me dear ’twill be best.”
“I know you will miss me each hour
And grieve when I’m far, far away: But its duty’s demand and I’m ready:
Could I show the white feather to-day? Oh! Now, you’re my own bright eyed blessing And show the true spirit within:
Those eyes now so fearlessly flashing Shall guide me through war’s crash and din.”
With your men you went cheerful and willing, To defend and take peace to the poor
Helpless children and sad prisoned women Who had homes on Saskatchewan’s shore, And now I’m so proud of you darling
I can worship a hero so brave,
While I pray for your safe home returning; When the peace flag shall quietly wave.
O’er the land where poor Scott’s heartless murderer, Has added much more to his sin;
By the cold-blooded uncalled for slaughter, Of Gowanlock, Delaney and Quinn,
Who like many others now sleeping, Shroudless near the sky of the west,
May be called the sad victims and martyrs Of Riel who’s name we detest.
Many hearts are now mourning their lov’d ones Who died at their post, true and brave, In defiance of one heartless rebel,
Who’s life not e’en “millions” should save. So keep your arms strong for the fray dear, I’ll not wish you back ‘ere the fight Shall decide for you, country and comrades, In favor of honour and right.
Let justice be done now unfailing
Nought but _death_ can atone for his sin; Let the fate be has meted to others;
By our dauntless be meted to him, Don’t return until quiet contentment;
Fills the homes now deserted out west, And the true ring of peace finds an echo, In each sturdy settler’s breast.
And when you are homeward returning, With heart that has never known fear; Remember the love light is burning,
Unceasingly, constantly, here
And “Bright Eyes” will give you a welcome Which even a soldier may prize
While the lips will be smiling with pleasure, That have prayed in your absence with sighs.
And the whole world shall ring with the praises Of Canada’s noblest and best;
Who shoulder to shoulder defended, And saved the unhappy North-West
While in coming years ’round the hearthstone Will be told how the dark coats and red, Put to rout Riel, rebels and half-breeds And aveng’d both the living and dead.
20 Alexander St., Toronto.
They died a brutal death on the 2nd of April, disarmed first, and then shot down. The perpetrators of that outrage were actuated by fiendish instincts, nevertheless they had an intuition of what was meant by civilization. How they could have so forgotten the training they had received religiously and socially to have allowed the lower instincts of the savage to gain the ascendancy and fell in cold blood–not extortioners or land-grabbers–but their spiritual advisers; their superintendent; their farm instructor, and those who had left comfortable homes in the east in order to carry civilization into the remote places of the west. The work that they were performing was calculated to elevate the Indian and make him a better man; taking him from his miserable mode of living and leading him into a more happy and prosperous life for this and the next. It is unaccountable, and there is yet a something that will come to the surface that was the real cause for this dreadful act. At this point a brief sketch of the lives of some of those killed would not be out of place.
They numbered nine, the entire male population of that growing little village. There were T. Quinn, J. Delanay, J. A. Gowanlock, T. Dill, W. C. Gilchrist, J. Williscraft, C. Gouin and Father Fafard and a priest from Onion Lake. Mr. Quinn was the Indian agent for that district well fitted in every particular for the position he held. Mr. Dill kept a general store and at one time lived at Bracebridge, was a brother of the member of Muskoka in the local house. Mr. Williscraft came from Owen Sound where his friends reside. C. Gouin was a native of the north-west.
John Alexander Gowanlock, one of the Frog Lake martyrs, was born in the City of Stratford, Province of Ontario, on the 17th of April, 1861. He was the youngest son of Mr. Jas. Gowanlock, of East Otto, Cattaraguas County, New York State. He has three brothers living, and one sister, A. G. and J. Gowanlock of Parkdale, Ontario, R. K. Gowanlock, of Oscoda, Michigan, and Mrs. Daisy Huntsman, of Tintern, Co. Lincoln. From a boy he was a general favorite, quiet and unassuming, yet withal, firm and decided in his opinions. After leaving Stratford he resided for some time in Barrie, and then went to the Village of Parkdale, where he resided until he left for the north- west.
Being in ill-health (at the age of 19), his physician and aunt, Dr. J. K. Trout, of Toronto, advised a change of climate, and acting upon that advice left for that great country. After a short residence every symptom of disease had vanished, and upon his return some eighteen months after, he felt and was a new man in every particular. In three months time he returned to the land of his adoption. By honesty and energy he succeeded well. He took hold of every kind of work that he thought would pay. He became farmer, mill-builder, speculator, surveyor, store-keeper and mill-owner in succession, buying and selling, and at the same time pushing further west. His greatest success was in Battleford, the Indians of that district would flock to his store, because they knew they could get a good article at a reasonable price. Last year the Government wanted mills for the reserves in the region of Frog Lake, and after negotiating with them for some time he finally decided, in conjunction with Mr. Laurie, to accept the offer made, the Government giving them the sum of $2,800 as an inducement.
In the month of October of last year, he began operations, which, if those poor, deluded savages, who did not know when they were well off, had allowed him to finish, would long ere this been a hive of industry and a blessing to those Indians. He visited Ontario the same year, buying all the machinery necessary for the mills and superintending its shipment. He also took unto himself a wife from among the fair daughters of Ontario, and never a happier couple went forth to brave the cares of life. Both young and fell of energy.
But they were not allowed to enjoy their domestic bliss long. The sad event which terminated with him being murdered, along with eight others, being still fresh in the memory of all; it was a sudden call, but he was prepared for it. An oath was never uttered by him, nor did he know the taste of liquor, a temperance man in the full meaning of the term. He also took a hearty interest in church matters having been one of the managers of the Battleford Presbyterian Church. Wherever he went he did good, in a gentle and kind way; and he will be remembered by both Indian, half-breed and settler, as one who never took advantage of them in any way, and the very soul of honor.
Not himself, but the truth that in life he had spoken, Not himself, but the seed that in life he had sown, Shall past to the ages–all about him forgotten, Save the truth be had spoken, the things he had done.
One of the victims of the Frog Lake massacre was William Campbell Gilchrist, a native of the village of Woodville, Ontario, and eldest son of Mr. J. C. Gilchrist, Postmaster of that place. He was an energetic young man, of good address, and if spared would have made his mark in the land of promise. Prior to going there, he held situations in various parts of this province, and they were all of such a nature, as to make him proficient in the calling of his adoption, he had splendid business ability and with a good education, made progress that was quite remarkable for one of his years, at the time of his murder he was only in his twenty-fourth year.
He was clerk for Mr. E. McTavish of Lindsay, for some time; he then returned to his home to take a situation which had been offered him by Mr. L. H. Staples, as assistant in his general store; he afterwards went to the village of Brechin as Clerk and Telegraph Operator, for Messrs. Gregg & Todd. While there he formed the acquaintance of Mr. A. G. Cavana, a Surveyor, and it was through his representations that he directed his steps to the great unknown land. Shortly after his acquaintance with Mr. Cavana, that gentleman received a government appointment as surveyor in the territories, taking Mr. Gilchrist with him in the capacity of book keeper and assistant surveyor; they left in the spring of 1882. He was well fitted for the position, for besides being an excellent penman, was an expert at figures; when the winter set in, he remained there, taking a situation in a store in Winnipeg, and when the summer opened out he again went with Mr. Cavana on the survey, (1883) on his way home in the autumn he fell in with Mr. J. A. Gowanlock, who induced him to remain with him as clerk, with whom he never left until that sad morning on the 2nd of April, when he was shot down in his strength and manhood. He was a member of the Presbyterian church having confessed at the early age of 14 years. It was his intention to enter the Manitoba College as a theological student.
Several friends have asked me to write a sketch of my life and more especially of my adventures in the North-West. At first I hesitated before promising to comply with the request. There is a certain class of orators who, invariable, commence their public address by stating that they are “unaccustomed to public speaking.” It may be true in many cases, but most certainly no public speaker was ever less accustomed to address an audience, than I am to write a book. Outside my limited correspondence, I never undertook to compose a page, much less a book. But, if any excuse were necessary, I feel that the kindness of the people I have met, the friendliness of all with whom I have come in contact, during the last eventful half-year, would render such excuse uncalled for. I look upon the writing of these pages as a duty imposed upon me by gratitude. When memory recalls the sad scenes through which I have passed, the feeling may be painful, but there is a pleasure in knowing that sympathy has poured a balm upon the deep wounds, and that kindness and friendship have sweetened many a bitter drop in the cup of my sorrow and trouble.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,” sang England’s great Bard, but we never know when it is about to turn, or if that turn will be the ebb or the flow of happiness. “The veil of the Future is woven by the hand of Mercy.” Could I have but caught a glimpse through its folds, some three years ago, I might not have the story to tell that you, kind reader, will find in this short work. I might not be, to- day, mourning the loss of a dear husband.
But who can judge of the ways of Divine Providence? For His own wise ends has the Almighty permitted such things to take place: and submissive to His will, I feel that instead of repining, I should return Him thanks for my Own life and preservation; and, under God, I must thank my friends one and all!
If this little sketch should prove instructive or even interesting to anyone I will feel doubly repaid. The scenes I have to describe, the story I have to tell, would require the pen of a Fenimore Cooper to do them justice. Feeling myself unable to relate all I experienced and suffered, in an adequate manner, I will merely offer the public, a simple, truthful, unvarnished tale and for every fact thereof, I give my word that it is no fiction, but real truth.
With this short preface I will now crave the indulgence of my readers, while they peruse the following pages.
MY YOUTH AND EARLY LIFE.
AS the principal object of this work, is to give an account of my experiences in the North-West, and my many adventures during the last few months, I would deem it out of place to detain my readers with any lengthy description of my birth-place or any details of my younger days. I have noticed many false reports that have been circulated through the press, upon the different situations and conditions in the North-West–whether as to the whites, the half-breeds, or the Indians. In the second chapter I will give a truthful version of what I saw, heard and know. Still I cannot well enter upon this work, with justice to myself or to my late husband, without informing my readers whence we came and how our lots happened to be cast together amidst the scenes of our new home, and upon the theatre of the fearful tragedy in which we played such important parts.
My grandfather, Henry Marshall Fulford, while yet a young man, about the year 1812, came from Woburn Massachusetts, and established his home on the Aylmer road, near Bytown, the Ottawa of to-day, where he carried on an extensive lumbering and farming business. My father was born there, and it was also the place of my own birth. Our home was situated about two miles and a half from Aylmer, and about five miles from the present capital of the Dominion.
In those days Ottawa was called Bytown. No one then dreamed that it was destined to become the capital and the seat of the future Federal government of the country. The town, for it was then a town, was small and far from attractive, and the surrounding country was not very much inhabited. The lumbering operations constituted the staple commerce, and the shanties were the winter homes of the greater number of the people.
Nearly all my life, except the last three years, was spent at home. I never travelled much, and in fact, never expected to become a traveller, and above all, an unwilling heroine in the North-West troubles. I had several sisters and brothers. I was the eldest of the family, and as such, for many years had to devote my time to household cares. My school-days seem now the pleasantest period of my early life. Since then I have known many ups and downs; but never felt the same peace of mind and gayness of spirit that I have felt in days now gone. I might say that I have lived three distinct lives. From my birth until the day of my marriage, which took place on the 27th of July, 1882, I led a uniform life. Few, if any changes, marked each passing year. The seasons came and went, and the winter’s snow fell and the summer’s sun ripened the golden harvests, and days flowed into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and year succeeded year as I felt myself growing into womanhood. The changes in my life were few and my troubles so small, that memory had scarcely ever to recall a dark or dreary scene and hope always beckoned me on to the future.
The only events that seemed to stand out, landmarks in the past, were two deaths in the family–the first my eldest brother and the second my dearly beloved and much lamented father.
Had it not been for these two events I might drop a veil over all the past and consider merely that I had lived through such a number of years:-these years, like the great desert of the east, would stretch back, an unbroken tract, with no object to break the monotony of the scene. But, as the kirches tombs or monuments of Arabia, rise up in solemn grandeur from out the loneliness of the plain, casting their shadows of the sandy waste, so these two monuments or tombs appear upon the level scene of my uneventful past. Could I, then, have caught one glimpse adown the valley of the “Yet to be,” what a different picture would have presented itself to my vision! A confusion of adventures, a panorama never ending, ever shifting, of an eventful life.
My second life might be called a period from my wedding day until the arid of April, 1885. And the third, the last and most eventful life, is that of three months–April, May and June, 1885. To the second important period in my career I will consecrate the next chapter and to the third and final part of my life will be devoted the last chapter.
My husband was born in Napean, in the Province of Ontario, about the end of 1846. Physically speaking, he was a, man of very fine appearance. Over six feet in height and weighing about two hundred and ten pounds. His youth was spent in his native place, where he went to school and where he commenced his life of labor and exertion. I don’t know, exactly, when it was that I first met him; but I must have been quite young, for I remember him these many years. He was, during the last ten years that he lived in the Ottawa valley, foreman for different lumber firms. Naturally gifted to command, he knew the great duty of obedience, and this knowledge raised him in the estimation of all those whose business he undertook to direct. And owing to that good opinion, he received a general recommendation to the government, and in the year 1879, he was appointed Indian instructor for the north-west. Like my own life, his was uneventful. Outside the circle of his friends–and that circle was large–he was unknown to the public. Nor was he one of those who ever sought notoriety. His disposition was the very opposite of a boastful one.
Often I heard tell of the north-west. But I never took any particular interest in the country previous to his appointment and departure for his new sphere. I knew by the map, that such a region existed–just as I knew that there was a Brazil in South America, or a vast desert in the centre of Africa. Our statesmen were then forming plans to build the great Pacific Road, that band of iron which was soon destined to unite ocean to ocean. However, I never dreamed that I would one day visit those vast regions, the former home of the buffalo, the haunt of the prairie-chicken and the prairie-wolf. It never dawned upon me, that as I watched the puffing of the engine that rushed along the opposite side of the Ottawa from my home, that, one day, I would go from end to end of that line,–pass over those vast plains and behold the sun set, amidst the low poplars of the rolling prairies,–listen to the snort of the same engine as it died away, in echo, amongst the gorges of the Rockies. My husband had been three years, previous to our marriage, in the north west. His first winter was spent at “Onion Lake,” there being no buildings at “Frog Lake.” In fact, when he arrived there, “Frog Lake” district was a wilderness. During those three years I began to take some interest in that “land of the setting sun,”–but, as yet, I scarcely imagined that I would ever see the places he described. In 1882, my husband returned to Ottawa and his principal object in coming, was to take me, as his wife, away with him to his new home.
We were married in Aylmer on the 27th July, 1882. Our intention was to start for the wilds on the first day of August. In the next chapter I will take up that second period of my life and strive to describe our trip and what we saw, learned and experienced during the following three years.
My readers will have to excuse what may seem egotism on my part, in speaking so much about myself and my husband. But as the subject demands that I should detail, all that can be of any public interest, in my short life, it would be difficult to write my story and not appear, at times, somewhat egotistical.
This first chapter must necessarily be short, when one has nothing to write about it is hard to fill up pages, and my life, and that of my husband, so far as I know, were most uneventful up to the day of our union, when
“We joined the hands of each other.
To move through the stillness and noise _Dividing_ the _cares_ of existence,
But _doubling_ its _hopes_ and its _joys_.”
My younger days seem to have passed away like a quiet dream, leaving but a faint memory behind; but my last period of life resembles more some frightful night-mare and I often wonder can it be true that I have passed through such scenes or is the whole affair a fevered vision of the night!
Now that I am safely home again with my good dear mother beside me, my fond brothers and sisters around me, it would appear as if I had never got married, never left them, never saw the north-west, never suffered the exposure, loss, sorrow, turmoil, dangers and terrors of the late rebellion. But fancy cannot destroy the truth–the real exists in spite of the ideal, and, as I enter upon my description, faint and imperfect as it may be, I feel my hand shake with nervous excitement, my pulse throb faster, my heart beat heavier, as scene after scene of the great drama passes before me, clear and perfect as when first enacted. Had I only the language at my command, as I have the pictures