I got tickled the other day reading a book about pioneer women in South Dakota. Have you ever seen those videos of young tourists doing amazingly stupid things like taking selfies too close to the roaring waves or attempting to feed a buffalo at Yellowstone? Sometimes things go very wrong.
For a pioneer girl, Sadie wasn’t much smarter than some of our modern kiddoes. Back around 1880, she went for a walk on a hot summer day on her farm to pass some time and admire God’s handiwork. Not long into her stroll, she noticed a nice, plump cluster of grapes hanging over the stream. Simply too tempted to be smart, Sadie started making her way across the swift-moving water by stepping–sometimes streeeetching–from one large rock to the next.
Well, she got a little too intent on watching the current and had a spell of vertigo. Yep, fell headfirst into the water. Years later, she said she could still remember what the bottom of that stream looked like. However, before she even had a chance to panic, she found herself rising to the surface and then being pulled by the collar to the shore.
A tall, erect, young Indian boy wrangled her out of the water, snatched her to her feet, then grabbed her shoulders and proceeded to shake her violently. Before she could react to this new danger, the brave disappeared, slipping away into the shadowy forest.
She said for the rest of her life she often wondered what the purpose was of the shaking.
This comment has me thinking maybe Sadie was a bit of a dull bulb. Which could explain how she nearly drowned in the first place.
Well, here’s my best guess, hon, on what the brave who saved your life may have been thinking as he was rattling your brains: “Dumb, dumb, dumb girl. You could have drowned. For what? A handful of grapes? What were you thinking? Go back to your farm and plant something.”
I learned something today in my research into those feisty pioneer women that I just had to share. I knew that the Daniel Day-Lewis movie Last of the Mohicans was based on James Fenimore Cooper’s novel of the same name. What I didn’t know was that the story of white girls kidnapped by Indians was based on the actual event experienced by Jemima Boone, who was rescued by her legendary father, Daniel.
The following short article is from a longer History.com article entitled 7 of the Gutsiest Women on the American Frontier. I’ve blogged about nearly all the women on the list but somehow missed Jemima. You should read the whole thing, it’s quite entertaining, but here’s my favorite part:
Rebecca Boone wasn’t the only formidable female in Daniel Boone’s family. His daughter Jemima earned her own spot in the history books on July 14, 1776. That’s when a Cherokee-Shawnee raiding group abducted Jemima, aged 14, along with two other girls while they floated in a canoe near their Kentucky settlement. Demonstrating their own knowledge of frontier ways, the quick-witted teens left trail markers as their captors took them away—bending branches, breaking off twigs and leaving behind leaves and berries.
Their rescue team, led by Daniel Boone himself, took just two days to follow the trail and retrieve the girls. The rescuers included Flanders Callaway, Samuel Henderson and Captain John Holder, each of whom later married one of the kidnapped girls. This event became such an integral part of frontier lore, author James Fenimore Cooper included it in his classic novel The Last of the Mohicans.
Ah, those ladies in defiance. How their legends live on.
Henry Long Feather leaned against a tree and studied the white woman. She taught the children from the Bar FB three days a week and often brought them out of the little shack Fairbanks had built for a school. This was a rare thing for a white teacher to do, but she—Laurie Wilcox—was different from most whites Long Feather knew.
She was older, like him. Perhaps fifty summers or so, but youth still lived in her smooth skin and ready smile. Everything about her was light and delicate and fascinating to him. From her long, golden braid that gleamed even when there was no sun, to her slight nose, to her haunting eyes—the icy blue of a stream in winter. But they warmed him, like now.
She raised her gaze over the heads of her students and beamed at him. “Mr. Long Feather. Come to join us for a lesson?”
A dozen little cowboy hats and twin braids all swung round to him, showing young faces bright with curiosity. Shoving his hands into his pants pockets, he pushed off the tree and strode over to them more than happy to forget the event with the bull. “Not today, Mrs. Wilcox. I have come for Joseph.” He tapped the top of a brown hat and the freckled-face boy of eight beneath it grimaced up at him. “Yes, you. Your father has need of you in the blacksmith barn. He asked me to send you over.”
“Aw,” the boy moaned, kicking at a dirt clod.
“That’s perfect timing. We just finished our lesson.” Mrs. Wilcox snapped her Bible shut. “You go on, Joseph. Don’t keep your father waiting. The rest of you,” she surveyed the ring of a dozen or so students, “Spelling test tomorrow. Make sure you study.”
The children gave her their own collective groan and drifted away, a few darting for trouble at various places on the ranch. When they were gone, their teacher rocked on her heels and smiled up at Long Feather, an awkward kind of sign that he couldn’t read. But there was much he did not understand about Mrs. Wilcox.
“What kept you busy today, Mr. Long Feather?”
He shrugged, not quite prepared to share all the details of his day. “The boys brought in a couple of Indian ponies Fairbanks wants me to train to the saddle. They are willing. It will not be much work.” Unlike this new task of training Joel Chapman. “And you, Mrs. Wilcox? What does a teacher do with herself when the students have gone?”
“Please, call me Miss Laurie. Everyone does.” He nodded, acquiescing to her request and she continued. “I have my own homework—some papers to grade.” She bit her bottom lip and tilted her head in a way that made him want to brush his hand down her cheek. “Could I see them? The Indian ponies.”
“Surely.” The answer slipped out before he’d had a chance to think about it. A missionary, Miss Laurie was liked on the ranch, but the hands kept their distance, as if her religion might be catching. Long Feather harbored no such fear. Instead, he wondered what they would say about her strolling with an Indian if she wasn’t preaching at him.
She scrunched her forehead at him. “You don’t want to show me?”
Her perceptiveness caught him off guard. “No, it is not that. You are a white woman.”
“Yes, I was born with the affliction.”
Her joke took a moment to light on his brain, but when it did, he offered her a reserved chuckle. “You don’t understand—”
“I understand perfectly, Mr. Long Feather. And as a child of God, I love all people. I can’t help what others think about that. I don’t let their prejudices dictate with whom I stroll.”
He pushed a hand over his mouth, sighed, and gestured back toward the way he’d come. “After you.”
Hmmm. What trouble awaits this relationship? I hope you’ll read and find out. Get your copy today!
22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 1 Corinthians 9:22
Too often, the history of missionaries in America has been one of overriding a group’s identity to Christianize them. Capt. Richard Pratt said, referring to Native Americans in 1892, “Kill the Indian in him, save the man.” But I discovered a missionary who did it right and the Cheyenne loved her.
Marie Gerber Petter came to America from the Swiss Jura Mountains with her husband Rodolphe in 1890. The couple arrived with the express purpose of taking the Gospel to Native Americans. But first, they had to learn English and raise funds for their goal, which they did by visiting Mennonite churches in the mid-West.
In 1893, the couple moved to Cantonment, OK to live among the Cheyenne. Rodolphe and Marie were fluent in French, German, English, and Rodolphe could read Latin and Greek. Together, he and Marie began to learn Cheyenne. Their perseverance and passion for the language impressed the Cheyenne greatly. The Petter’s shared the Gospel but did not denigrate the Cheyenne religion in the process.
Instead, they tried to copy Paul’s example and be all things to all people.
When Marie realized the Cheyenne women had some amazing needlecraft and beadwork skills, she immediately set about creating sewing circles. A beautiful, nonconfrontational way to find common ground with the women in the tribe. They sewed together and spoke Cheyenne, the roles of teacher and student going back and forth. And Marie was an eager student. She was on fire to learn the language because she desperately wanted the Cheyenne to meet her Savior.
The Petters not only brought the Cheyenne the Gospel, but they also did the tribe a huge service by turning an oral language into written form. The couple produced a Cheyenne dictionary, a Cheyenne grammar book, two Cheyenne hymn books, a translation of John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress, the complete New Testament and a beginner’s guide for learning Cheyenne.
I found the following quote in the Chicago Community Mennonite archives that I thought summed up what this amazing couple accomplished for the Lord: “Lawrence Hart, Mennonite pastor and Cheyenne Chief has credited Petter with the preservation of the Cheyenne people. When everything else was taken away (buffalo, deer, fishing streams, native arts and horses) [the] Petter[s] helped sustain a Cheyenne identity by preserving the language. The Petters, wrote Chief Hart, are now viewed as Saints among the Cheyenne.”
Now, that’s how you spread the Gospel.
Marie and her husband served among the tribe for over twenty years, always respecting the culture and fighting assimilation, yet modeling the love of Jesus Christ in a way that is still winning Cheyenne souls to this day.
from my post over at https://cowboykisses.blogspot.com
Sometimes when I do research, I discover fascinating individuals who led gloriously exciting lives and then retired in peace, children and grandchildren sitting at their feet. The happily ever after. The ending we’d all like. Truth is, though, sometimes a hero has her moment early on and from there it’s not a very pretty spiral downward.
This is my impression of the life of Apache warrior woman Dahteste (pronounced ta-DOT-say).
Born around 1860 she chose her path as a warrior. The Apache let you do that. A fairly open-minded society, you could be a warrior, a homemaker, a medicine man, whatever, as long as you worked at it and could deliver. Dahteste was known for her beauty, but she was also clearly respected for her fighting, riding, hunting, and shooting skills. She was fast and she was mean. No man challenged her light-heartedly. And she proved her worth repeatedly on raids with the Apache. In fact, she rode with Cochise (you might remember him. He led an uprising against the U.S. government that started in 1861 and didn’t end until ’72). Remarkably, Dahteste was barely a teenager! Her fighting didn’t end, however, with Cochise’s acceptance of a peace treaty. She continued it by riding with Geronimo. Who knows how many “white-eyes” lost their lives to her rifle?
Geronimo surrendered in 1886. Dahteste over the years had picked up quite a bit of English, had even served as a cavalry scout for a time, so she negotiated the great chief’s surrender. Her reward? She was arrested and shipped to a prison in Florida where she stayed for eight years. Then she was moved to the military prison at Fort Sill, OK where she was a guest for nineteen years. During her time as a resident of the US Army’s military prison system, she survived pneumonia and tuberculosis. I suspect she survived much more than that.
During this time she divorced her husband Ahnandia (one of Geronimo’s original warriors) and within a few years married fellow inmate and former Army scout Coonie. The couple was released in 1919 and moved to the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.
Dahteste, reports say, never spoke English again and wore only beautiful beaded native clothing. She left her long black hair down and unbraided, but always brushed. She was a proud Apache woman who walked with her chin up.
Though she did, indeed, retire with children and grandchildren around her feet, none of them were hers by blood, and she was not generally known to smile much. I hope she spent her final years enjoying peace and happiness, but I don’t get that sense. I think Dahteste was a survivor and she did so with more grim determination than optimism.
By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton
I tend to stay away from stories of women that don’t have happy endings. But is it a disservice to ignore the gals who slogged on through life’s hardships, bent but not broken, till God called them home? Honestly, yes. So allow me to introduce you to Cynthia Ann Parker.
At the age nine or ten, Cynthia moved from Illinois with her family to Central Texas. A year or so later, in 1836, she and four others, including her brother John, were kidnapped by Comanches. In the next few years, her fellow captives returned to the White Man’s World, but Cynthia didn’t. Though she had an opportunity to leave with John sometime in the 1840’s, she refused. Cynthia Parker had gone Native and was committed to her Comanche family.
In 1846 federal troops were surprised to discover a blue-eyed white woman living with Comanches along the Canadian River. Naturally, being magnanimous public servants, they sought to “bargain” for Cynthia’s release. The tribal elders refused. Cynthia was again spotted by government officials in the late 1840’s. By this time, though, she had married Chief Peta Nocona and given him three children. She had no intention of going anywhere. Agreeing, Nocona warned the government they wouldn’t take his family without a fight. The government backed off.
Cynthia lived in peace with her family for years after that, but the battles between Comanches and Whites escalated. In 1860, Texas Rangers attacked a hunting party at Mule Creek. Imagine the Rangers surprise when they discovered that pale skin and piercing blue eyes. Taken back to the white man’s world, Cynthia was later recognized by her uncle, Col. Isaac Parker. He relocated her and her baby daughter to Birdville, with a promise that if her sons Quanah and Pecos were found, they would be brought to her.
Cynthia made more than one attempt to “escape” from civilized society, but failed. Eventually, she settled at her sister’s farm, in the vicinity of Palestine, TX. Her daughter Topsana (Prairie Flower) died during this new captivity in 1863 or ‘64. Miserable with this new life and uncomfortable with the national attention, Cynthia faded away and died in 1871. She was only 45 or so. In those last years, she never saw her boys.
Cynthia’s legacy, of course, is her oldest son. Quanah raged against the machine, becoming a great warrior and leader. But we all know how the Indian Wars ended. With the handwriting on the wall, he surrendered in 1875 and helped settle his people on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation, where the US Government appointed him chief. He embraced certain aspects of white culture, learned English, made smart investments, and hunted with President Roosevelt.
Cynthia had given her son the tools for surviving in a white world and Quanah never forget his mother. In 1910, he had her body moved from TX to Oklahoma. A year later, he joined her in the Post Oak Mission Cemetery.
by Heather Frey Blanton
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Not every woman who helped settle America did so with eager determination. Some did what they had to do and didn’t really think about it. Others, deeply regretted ever leaving home and most likely spent their last breaths cursing the fateful decisions. None of this makes these women any less brave.
Narcissa Whitman, the first white woman to travel west of the Rockies, is sadly, one of the darker stories of settling the country. She started out with good intentions, focused too much on the bad when things didn’t go her way, and ended up dying an ugly death.
Early in 1836, she and her new husband Marcus Whitman left New York to open a mission in Washington state. You’ve got to put the danger and difficulty of this trip into perspective. This was before the 1849 Gold Rush that caused the West to explode with settlers. The land left of the Rockies was populated by Indians and mountain men. Period. Roads were mere trails. There was no rail road, no stagecoach lines, no towns, unless you counted military forts. But Narcissa fell in love with Jesus at the age of 11 and knew he had a plan for her.
She was convinced the Indians needed to know about Jesus and answered God’s call to carry his word into the darkness. With few possessions and an energetic, often insensitive, faith, they arrived at their destination in late September.
For Narcissa, this was really when the hard work began. Her husband, a doctor, had many opportunities to get out and about for medical calls, but she stayed mostly at the mission. The Cayuse Indians were not very receptive to the Whitman’s teachings or way of life. Constant misunderstandings occurred because of issues with cleanliness, privacy, and ownership of property.
Eventually the couple, disillusioned with the Indians, turned more towards the trappers and immigrants passing through. Still, due to language and faith barriers, Narcissa was lonely. Things only went from bad to worse for her when her daughter, two-year-old Clarissa, drowned in the Walla-Walla River.
Tensions between the Whitmans and the Cayuse continued to rise as thousands of settlers poured into Washington and the mission-turned-trading-post played host to them. Over a decade, the Cayuse saw their land and way of life disappearing because of this onslaught of settlers. Marcus had several physical altercations with warriors in the tribe who insisted the Whitman’s close the post and leave.
In the fall of 1847, a wagon train arrived with over five thousand immigrants. Along with their hopes and dreams of a brighter future, these settlers also brought with them measles. Few of the Cayuse had any resistance to the disease and dropped like flies. Rumors circulated that Dr. Whitman was causing the deaths. The Indians attacked. Along with her husband and fourteen other people, Narcissa died in the mud just outside her door.
An inglorious end to a noble, though misguided, effort. Still, Narcissa had tried. She dealt with things the best way her whiney nature would allow. I respect her efforts, but I’m glad I’m not her descendant.