Early Life Among the Indians
I was born in the State of Alabama in the year 1820, and at the age of ten years, having had less than three weeks of schooling, I was decoyed away from home by a man named Thomas, who was engaged in horse racing, traveling all over the southern states. In the summer of 1833 we went to New Orleans, Louisiana where I was injured by a fall from a horse, and just after this and before I had recovered from that injury, I was taken sick with a fever, which lasted for a number of weeks. Mr. Thomas and his party left me there with directions to follow as soon as I was able. They went on to Holly Springs, Mississippi. I started in about four weeks and reached Holly Springs, but had left my bed too soon and there had a relapse, and from that time until spring was not able to do any work. I was then moved to Decatur, Alabama, and a short time afterwards to Athens, where I met Mr. Thomas, who said: "Perhaps you had better go home, for probably you will never be able to ride a horse again." He also stated that he had written to my oldest brother about a month before and told him that my health was bad and that I would have to lay by and have good care for some time to come, but said he had received no reply to his letter and would not be surprised to seem my brother at any time, and hoped he would come, for he did not like to see me start alone to make the journey in the condition I was. "Besides," he says, "you have been with me three years and over, and your salary for this time is all due, which I will pay you at any time," bit said he did not think it would be safe for me to carry it, and would pay me enough for current expenses and put the remainder in the bank subject to my order if my brother did not come to meet me. I told him I told him I would like to go to Huntsville, as I had a friend there whom I would like to see. He paid my stage fare to Huntsville and returned and told me to come back to Athens, as he would be there two or three weeks. After the visit I came back to Athens. I owned a horse at this time, which was in the possession of Mr. Thomas. He asked me one day shortly after my return from Huntsville: "How much do you suppose I owe you?" I told him what the agreement was - to pay me $50 per month and extras that were allowed to riders in the races they won, besides there was the difference between the value of the horse I had brought with me and the one I now had. "That is correct," says he. "I owe you now just $2,600. I have deposited it in the bank." He handed me the certificate of deposit for it, then took me to the bank and told the cashier I was the party to whom the money is to be paid. He next took me to a clothing store and made me a present of two suits of clothes, and also of a watch to remember him by, and remarked: "I am very sorry you can ride no more, for you are the most successful rider that ever lived, and if you are ever able to ride again come to me and you shall have a place as long as I have the place to give anybody." We returned to the hotel where we were stopping when he told me he had arranged with the landlord to pay my bill until I was ready to go home, and the he had reserved money enough from my salary to pay my fare. During all the time I had been with Mr. Thomas I was known by an assumed name, so that my mother would not find out where I was. Mr. Thomas and I walked out upon the porch of the hotel just as the stagecoach was driving in from Huntsville. Three passengers alighted, one of whom was my oldest brother. He did not recognize me, on account of being so reduced by bad health, but he recognized Mr. Thomas immediately, and soon was aware that I was in his presence. The excitement incident to this meeting with my brother, and the good treatment I had received from Mr. Thomas, quite unbalanced me and caused me a backset that confined me to my bed for three or four days, and during that confinement physicians told me I had better leave that climate and go either west or north. It was decided to do this as soon as I was able to travel, and we set out for the west instead of going home. I rode a horse and my brother walked as far as Florence, Alabama, where we took a steamboat down the Tennessee River for Paducah, Kentucky. There we were obliged to halt for a few days for me to recuperate and receive medial treatment. When we left here it was by steamboat for St. Louis, Missouri. We spent the winter of 1834 and most of the year 1835 in that city. My health improved by little. During the season of 1835 we learned that a boat was going up river to Prairie du Chien, and thinking it might benefit my health, my brother and I took passage and witnessed the peace treaty which was consummated that year by General Cass with the different tribes of Indians. We returned on the boat to St. Louis and the same fall went to Hannibal, Missouri, where we stayed until 1837. During the time I made the acquaintance of Major Walker, who was one of the parties on the part of the government to make a treaty at St. Peter, Minnesota. I took this trip up the river, but remained on the boat, no being able to go through with Mr. Walker and returned to Hannibal. At times I felt better, and always best during the trips up river. I had a constant cough both day and night, and this, with the chills and fever, prevented me from gaining strength. Doctors pronounced me in the last stages of consumption. Fortunately for me I visited Dr. Peek, then residing in Hannibal, an old physician who had about retired from practice. He made and examination of my case and told me he though my lungs were all right and believed a change in climate would benefit me, and if that would not, medicine would do me no good. Upon his recommendation I went up the Mississippi again to the St. Croix pineries, taking a man with me to help get back into the woods to rough it and to live or die there. When I parted with my friends at Hannibal none expected to see me again alive. At Prairie du Chien I engaged a half-breed by the name of Ben Young, who had been raised with Chippewas and spoke English tolerably well. I landed at Lake St. Croix, where the city of Hudson now stands, on the second day of July 1840. The place was then called Page's Landing. Mr. Page was on board the boat I came up on, having been below to purchase supplies for his camp. He assisted me in getting ashore and also having my cabin built in the woods, back of the present city of Hudson. I remained in that camp until about the middle of January 1841, and lived on wild meat, with no tea or coffee, and but little bread, seeing nobody except my man and one hunter whose name was Peter Bushu, a Canadian half-breed. By the first of January I was able to run through the woods every day to hunt, and my health was gaining rapidly. I gave up my shanty about the middle of January and spent the remainder of the winter in the camp of Mr. Page. My man was teaching me the Chippewa language, and by spring I was able to converse quite freely. During the time I kept up constant communication with my brother, and when navigation opened I mad a flying trip to Missouri, my brother having written me that he was going to California. I returned immediately to the Northwest, which has been my home since that time.
Contributed and used with permission on this site by Timm Severud. The Lac Courte Oreilles Historical Preservation Office created this reproduction.Timm Severud manually typed it in and some minor changes to text have been made from the original, to correct spelling mistakes, and slight grammar mistakes. There is no copyright on this book or this reproduction. Feel free to use and share with others. Enjoy what I consider the best historical biography I have ever read. T.L.S.
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