"WENT TO KANSAS" by Miriam D. Colt



Hark! the token of the red man’s approach
Breaks on my ear, my heart with trembling beats!
A herald comes with lightning-speed all on
A courser white--and says, "Wau-shau--she's come!
Their anger burns that white men should intrude."
Away! while 'Spirit Great’ him in sleep doth bind.
"What shall we do?" I’ll fly for help to come,
To save all those for whom I live and love,
Though dangers my pathway be girt around.
O God! from us this awful doom avert!"

       SUNDAY, AUGUST 3D.—Yesterday morning, I rose feeling another premonic pressure upon me; my heart was trembling with fear again. Mr. Blackburn returned from Godfrey's, said our oxen had been there, and a man was sent to "take them up," but they run faster than he could, so he gave up, leaving them running away as fast as they could, cast toward the Catholic Mission. Mr. B. not being used to traveling on the prairie, my husband agreed with him to find some one that was, and send right on after the oxen. Mr. B. and father Broadbent then left for the Settlement, leaving us again alone.

       I went about my daily work, caring for the sick and weak; went to the spring for water; while gone, thought I heard dogs bark over across the river, told my husband what I heard, saying, "I am sure the Indians have returned from their hunt. All of this yelping, growling and barking, as though the dog kennels were all upturned, can't come from wolves in the day-time; it must proceed from the scores of long, lank, peaked-nosed, gray, and half starved Indian dogs!" He said it could not be, they were not expected until nearly the first of September, and tried to quiet my fears by saying that we would be away before they came.

       I kept about my work, trembling all the time at heart, but said nothing, felt sure they had come, heard the dogs bark at times through the day, would not let my last turn of water be until sundown, but tremblingly went in the middle of the afternoon; then expecting to see swarthy figures spring, tiger-like, upon me from every thicket of oak bushes that grew along by my path; went out to milk at an early hour, when what should I see but an Indian bounding over the prairie on a white pony up to the house, almost with lightning speed. I went in and asked father and husband to come out on to the piazza if they could, and tell the Indian the reason of our being there. We recognized the Indian to be one of those who had been to our cabin at the Settlement. They tried to make him understand that we were sick, and had come to get good cold water from "Indian spring." He went through with the same round of gestures many times, said. Wau-shau-shas" (their name for Indians) "come!" pointing to the white top of our wigwam made signs that they would see it and come. He would put his hand against the house making signs that it was "Wau-shau-sha's;" then strike his hand and blow through it, making signs again that they would be angry, cut us all to pieces, and scatter us over the prairies. He delivered his ill omen, mounted his pony, and went dashing away as fast as he came, toward the dilapidated city of wigwams. For a moment we were all silent!--all thinking the same,--that we had had a timely warning, that this Indian was friendly to us, and had warned us of danger. Who should break the silence! who should propose what was to be done at this critical hour, when not one but myself could walk one-half mile! I knew I must be the one to act--the one to lead the way. I asked my husband what we should do--answering it in the same breath, that I knew what was to be done!--I must go to the Settlement and get men and teams, to come and take us away. He said nothing--I knew by his silence that he felt we were in danger and approved of my plan, but felt that it was dangerous for me to go alone, yet knew there was no other way. I equipped myself with my husband's long hickory cane, not for defense, but to assist me in my flight. I took leave of them all with as much calmness as I could summon, embracing my husband and darling children, perhaps for the last time--then pressing my Willie, my baby boy, once again to my heaving bosom, started off when the sun was only one-half hour above the horizon. I walked, run, or flew, not knowing which, feeling that speed was necessary, there being no twilight in this country, for when the sun goes down, darkness begins; and if I did not get in sight of the Settlement before it was dark, I might get lost on the broad prairie. Kept looking in every direction for the red men, expecting every moment they might appear in the way before me; but not all the four thousand would have hindered me from making an effort to save my family from the awful doom that loomed up before me; that of being massacred by the Indians.

       I had often read of people's fleeing from the Indians, but now it was coming to me in all its frightful reality. I remembered in that anxious hour that I had heard it remarked that the Osages were very superstitious; they had been taught that they would displease tile "Great Spirit" by being out nights. So I thought, "if they should not come upon them to-night, and I can get them away before they are out in the morning, I shall save them."

       By sundown I had reached the cornfield, two miles; I hurried on to reach the top of the next prairie swell, where I should be in sight of Mr. Adams'; that being gained, and I not taken by the Indians, I kept my eye on the house and reached it just as it was getting so dark that a few minutes later no object could have been seen. I entered almost breathless, quickly told Mr. Adams our danger and what I wanted. He, though weak with chills and fever, started immediately for the Broadbents, one mile, took the younger; then on two miles further to the Stewarts, aroused them and with lanterns in hand looked up the oxen on the prairie, put two pair before an open wagon, and at eleven at night he came with a team, the younger Broadbent and Stewart to accompany me back.

       Meanwhile Mrs. Adams had striven to keep me quiet and hopeful,--but the minutes lengthened into months, the hours into years, and it seemed an age of fear and trembling before we could get started.

       It began to thunder and lighten. We knew a storm was approaching;--but not all the artillery of the heavens at once discharged, burning the earth and air with lightning's fiery chains, could induce me to wait another moment. Mrs. A. gave me a thick woolen quilt to put around me, and we started, not either of the men having been to the Indian house. The thunder roared, and our way was lit by the flashing lightning;--but fortunately the shower went round to the south, so we did not get very wet, the quilt gave good protection to me. After we had passed our cornfield, the men knew not which way to go, and I feeling so confused, anxious, and bewildered, could not tell them. They changed the oxen, putting the ones ahead that the elder Stewart had driven up there when he went with his wife, and sat quietly in the wagon and let them follow the instinct they have, of going where they have been once.

       The clouds cleared away, leaving the moon well up in the clear sky to light us on. The men then wanted I should look out and see if the oxen were really following their instinct, or taking us off another way on to the broad ocean of prairie. I could not recognize one of the scattering trees that we neared, but told them we should find such trees as we neared the looked-for house.

       Pretty soon the men said they saw a light--then a house! My trembling heart leaped for joy--I knew they were safe--and if ever I returned grateful thanks to heaven, it was at that hour. I met my family with embraces and rejoicings--it seemed as though years had separated us. Found they had been breathlessly anxious about me as I had been about them, for fear that I would be seized before I could reach the Settlement.

       Sister L. was the only one able to sit up and keep a fire; she said my husband had sent her times without number out on to the piazza to listen for a sound like oxen and wagon approaching.

       I gave the men each a blanket, and they were soon in quiet resting slumber. I laid me down, but no sleep or heaviness could close my eye-lids. I had been under too much mental suffering in the few past hours, to be easily quieted to sleep. I had experienced, as it were, an "ocean in a tear, a whirlwind in a sigh, an eternity in a moment;"--and the work of rescue was yet to be done.

       As soon as a tinge of the approach of this holy Sabbath morn painted the eastern sky, I was up,--out to arouse my cow from her soft grassy bed, where she lay as quietly as though all nature was made for her, and compressed into the circle marked by her bites around the oak bush to which she was tied. She got leisurely up, stretching, breathing, and chewing her cud, all unaware of the feverish hurry of the one wanting to drain her large milk-bag of its creamy contents, to make our already smoking pudding relish for breakfast.

       When our morning's repast was over, I began to assist the men in arranging the two wagons so that the sick ones could ride lying down on their beds. At a very early hour this morn, we gladly bade adieu to the old Indian house, with all its wild, sepulchral, fear-of-massacre associations, and before the Indian's whoop, their savage music made by drumming on wolf-skin strained over hoops, or a bark from their lean dogs had stirred the air, regretting nothing that we left save the fountain of pure cold water. When at the cornfield, found we had sweet corn large enough to boil, and summer squashes in abundance; gave the men permission to pick all they wished for, and laid in a good store for ourselves, for we all felt the need of something fresh to eat.

       On our arrival at our former cabin (the centre Octagon) found that our neighbors had taken our chamber floor to make improvements in their own homes, and that the cattle had entered our cabin (there being no door) and had stabled here just as they pleased. The men went to work in good earnest with shovel and hoe; and when the, had cleared out the filth to the revealing of the stone-paved floor, I began to use the broom. All this time leaving the sick to keep their places in the wagons.

       Our kind neighbors went back two miles, after a load of "Punchuns" that father had drawn from the ruins of the Indian city to make him a shelter to rest under and take his dinner when he was planting corn and making fence. They laid a floor part way over in our loft, of the "Punchuns," on which they placed my bed and some of our trunks.

       Mother's bed is placed in its old corner, and sister L.'s two boards laid on trunks in their former place. Then the men went one mile over the river to a good spring, and brought two pails of water for us to drink.

       So here we are again, in the "old mud house," as the children call it, as comfortable as our kind neighbors, under surrounding circumstances, can make us; thankful, and even rejoicing with tears that we have escaped from the Indians and all the horrors that gather around their savage massacres! And again, let me fall down before the Divine Upholder, and praise and thank Him that I have been helped to remove the sick and pale ones from the place where so many wild visions of death and struggle floated in panoramic views before me! We can bear our trials better, here with the remnant of our company where all sympathize together, and are willing and anxious to do for each other's comfort and happiness.

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