To Oregon, By Blood


Emerline E. Whitman


� Introduction copyright 2017 by Leslie Soule


Photo of Emerline Whitman.


After seeing the email from Richard Loller of The Preservation Foundation, about the site wanting more entries, I considered whether or not I had anything to contribute – anything I could dust off and polish, and send on in. I met up with my father, and in the process of speaking with him, I remembered that I did have a record of an important family event – a document called Massacred By The Indians, by an individual named Emeline Trimble, whom I’d always been told was an ancestor – but I didn’t know how exactly she was related to me. So I took to the internet, to see what I could find. As it turns out, the internet had indeed heard the name Emeline Trimble (Fuller, after marriage, and later, Whitman). According to the internet, she originally wrote this document as a series of articles in the Pardeeville Times. However, my document states that it was originally written for the readers of the Columbus Republican.

I wondered how we were related, and what branch of the family tree she belonged to, or, whether we were really, in fact, related. A quick search revealed the connections. As it turns out, Emeline Trimble/Fuller/Whitman is the daughter of the sister (Abagel Payne) of my great-great-great grandfather (Aaron Payne). So it turns out, we are related, and she is a distant blood relative of mine, us belonging to diverging branches of a family tree that goes back to Christopher Payne and Elizabeth Dawson. As for me, the line goes as follows: Christopher and Elizabeth Payne gave birth to Aaron Payne, who was the father of George B. Payne, who was the father of Alma Lucinda Payne, who was the mother of Mary Margaret Hughes, my grandmother, who gave birth to my father, David Soule. And then there’s me – Leslie D. Soule. So for much of that line, the Payne name carried, and Emeline Trimble herself was Payne, though she took the last name of her father, Hiram Trimble.

According to the novel, Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives, published by Penguin Books, “[…] Emeline Fuller, a survivor of the Utter-Myers disaster on the Oregon Trail in which two-thirds of the party died. Denied adequate protection by the army, the wagon train of forty-five people was vulnerable to a series of Indian raids between September 7 and October 18, 1860, in the Snake River country of Idaho and Oregon.” Although here, it is referred to as the “Utter-Myers disaster”, elsewhere, it is typically referred to as the Utter-Van Ornum wagon train.

Another note: I’ve heard the title “Left by the Indians” as referring to Emeline Trimble’s story, but there is no evidence to suggest where this title came from. In my copy, it is “Massacred By The Indians”. At any rate, let us begin.

Massacred By The Indians

The Terrible Experience of a Columbia County Girl

To the Editor of the Columbus Republican: 

As I have frequently been importuned by my many friends and acquaintances in Columbia County for my history, I will briefly give you an account in my poor way, of the journey across the plains in the year 1860, hoping that you will be kind enough to publish the same.

Among the first settlers of Columbia County were my grand-father and grandmother Payne, who settled in the town of Marcellon with their family, of whom my mother was the youngest child. Their sons, Aaron and George Payne, still live in the town of Scott, Columbia County. My mother married my father, whose name was Trimble, and lived in the town of Marcellon for a number of years, when he died, leaving three children, of whom I was the oldest. Next was a brother, Christopher, and then a sister, Libbie.

My mother lived a widow for a few years and then married Elijah Utter, of Walworth County, a blacksmith by occupation, and a large-hearted, honest man, who proved a good husband to mother, and good father to us children. He had three sons and three daughters, making in all eleven in the family. The next year, a baby daughter was born to them, making twelve in the family.

My father and mother often talked of going to the far west to make themselves a home, and settle their numerous family in homes adjoining their own in that broad country, where settlers were so much needed to till the lands, and improve the country, and after much deliberation and very much advice from friends and neighbors, they decided to go, and commenced preparations forthwith, selling their home and converting other property into money, buying oxen and wagons, and preparing for the long, long journey, for we had decided that we would go to Oregon, which was full six months journey in our way of travel. I could but contrast the old ways of travel with the new, as I made the journey a short time ago in six days, comfortably seated in a palace car.

The first day of May, 1860, dawned upon us clear and bright, and with all prepared for starting, we yoked our oxen to our wagons, gathered our cows and young stock together, taking sixteen head and four yoke of oxen, our family dog, clothing, provisions, household utensils, etc. Although tears were in our eyes at the thought of parting with our friends and relatives, still we were hopeful, for we dearly loved each other, stepfather, stepbrothers and sisters all being united and happy, and the thought that in that far land to which we were to go, we should be so fortunate as to live an unbroken family in nice homes, near father and mother, if the Lord so willed it, with not a face missing in our family circle, gave strength to pass through the sorrowful parting. But I shall never forget the tearful faces of my dear old grandparents as they stood at the end of the lane, leading to the road, and with tears streaming down their wrinkled faces bid a last adieu to their youngest child and her family.

I was then a girl of 13 years, and with a heart untouched by cares, but bitterly did I cry over leaving home, and lonely, most lonely were the first few nights of camping, and feeling that we were going farther and farther from home each day.

We fell in with three other teams about noon of the first day, that like ourselves, started for Oregon and California. As these families were with us during our entire journey, I will give their names: John Myers, who left his wife and children and went to find a home for them, Michael Myers, a brother; and Edward Prine. With this addition to our company, we felt a little stronger and better satisfied. We soon became accustomed to camp life, and after a little time, really enjoyed it.

Everything had been planned before starting on our journey, and we had prepared all things for convenience on the road. We took seven milk cows, and had kegs made before starting, and we milked our cows and strained the milk into our kegs, put them into our wagons, and every night the milk was churned by the motion of the wagons into nice butter, which we salted and worked into balls for use.

We stopped and rested our teams occasionally, and did our washing, and such work as it was possible to do up ahead under the circumstances.

We kept falling in with emigrant teams, and by the time we reached Ft. Laramie, we had quite a train.

There are many incidents of our journey which I should like to narrate if time and space would allow. One young man by the name of John Green, who overtook us at Ft. Laramie, while handling his revolver, had the misfortune to get his hand shot, and so badly hurt that he had to go to Ft. Kearney and have it amputated.

We were much amused by the intelligence and acuteness of the little prairie dogs. Some nights we scarcely slept at all for the barking and yelping of the noisy things, which were alarmed at having strange neighbors and wished to alarm their friends. They had little owls and a kind of dormant rattlesnake in the boroughs with them, all on friendly terms, it seemed. We stopped at Ft. Laramie a few days to rest and shoe our teams, also to wait for teams which we heard were behind us, and like ourselves, bound for Oregon. We fell in with a large California train, and traveled with them until the California trail separated from the Oregon, and then we were left more lonely than before. We had felt the security of traveling with such a large number. While with the California train, when we camped at night we would prepare the ground by cutting down the brush, leveling and sprinkling the ground, and have a good old-fashioned dance.

It was not much work to make our toilets, for the most of us wore for convenience the costume called bloomers, and did not have many changes. We would also sing songs, tell stories, and amuse ourselves with all the sports of our school days, feeling perfectly safe and secure, for in union was our strength, but how all changed when we parted with our friends of the California train, and traveled westward, knowing that we were every day nearing the dangerous part of our journey. But still we kept on over hills, through forests, across mountains and rivers, until we came to Ft. Hall, where soldiers were stationed. As we deemed it unsafe to go farther alone, we called for troops to go with us. There had one company already gone with a train that was but a few days ahead of us, and we had to wait for the soldiers to make preparation. While waiting, Col. Howe, in command of Ft. Hall, sent in a request to have the women and girls of the train come into their tents and have a dance, which we refused to do, which very much displeased the Col., and at first he refused to send one of his men with us, but upon considering the matter over he dared not refuse, so sent out a small force, with instructions not to go more than half as far with us as those he sent with the train ahead. The soldiers, when they turned back, told us that we were just in the edge of danger, and so we found it, for in a few days, we saw that the Indians meant mischief, as they did not come to our wagons, but would occasionally come in sight at a distance, seemed to be watching us, and acted as though they were not friendly to us.

One of the soldiers deserted and went with us. He was a bugler, and took his bugle with him, but we did not enjoy music as well as when we felt safer.

After we had traveled for about one week, perhaps longer, I write this from memory, having kept no diary, and all know that twenty-five years will dim the memory of the past in one’s mind. We camped late, one night. We had not been in camp long when three Indians and two squaws came into camp, and all agreed that the leader among them must be a white man, as his dress and appearance was different from the rest. He had a beard, and you would plainly see that he was painted. He wore an old white wool hat with the top of the crown gone. We could tell him as far as we could see him – he was so different from the rest. They stayed around our wagons until late, when our men told them that they must go to their homes, as we wished to go to bed. They waited to be told a number of times, and finally went away.

We started early next morning, but did not go far before we camped, to find good feed and water, as we had made a dry camp the night before. The men decided to stop part of the day and water and feed the teams and stock, and let the women wash. In a short time, the same Indians came to us, talked a little, and told us they were going off into the mountains to hunt. They said goodbye, and left us.

We were suspicious of them, and the men consulted together, and thought the safest way would be to kill them, but hardly dared to do so, for fear of its being found out by the Indians. Still we all thought them spies, and I often wish that we had done as our better judgment told us to, and killed them and secreted the bodies, but it seemed it was not to be so. All went well for a week. We saw no Indians to alarm us, and we had almost regained our cheerfulness and were very hopeful that our fears were unfounded, when on reaching Salmon Falls, on Snake River, who should we meet but our supposed white man and the two Indians who were with him before, and a number of other Indians with them. They came to our wagons and pretended to be glad to see us. We bought some dried salmon of them, and hurried away, thankful to be rid of them, but it worried us, as we were followed. We went on for another week with all quiet, and we were another hundred miles nearer our destination, when we reached a small river – I think it was called Brune. There we found a good place for our stock to graze. We always sent a man out with the cattle and horses, for fear they would be stolen, and when our cattle were brought into camp at night there were one or two yokes of oxen missing. The men searched for them, and found their tracks where they had been driven up a canyon by Indians.

We kept a good watch that night and were not molested. In the morning, Mr. Vanornam, the man who lost the oxen, threw away everything that he could spare, and someone let him have a yoke of oxen to hitch to his wagon, and we all started along, feeling glad to leave what seemed to us to be a dangerous place. We traveled only a short distance before we came to a grave where a man ahead of us had been buried, and the Indians had dug him up, taken his clothing, and then partly buried him, leaving one foot and hand out of the grave. You cannot imagine what a terror struck to our hearts as we gazed on the awful sight and reflected that we too might share the same fate, for on, looking about us, we saw a board on which was written an account of his being killed by the Indians, and warning anyone who came that way to be very cautious. But the warning came too late to do good, for we had not gone more than a mile before we were attacked by them. This was the 9th day of September, 1860. As we came up a hill and turned towards Snake River again, we came in full sight of the Indians, who were singing their war songs, and their shrill war whoop I can never forget. It was too terrible to even attempt to describe, but suffice to say that although so many years have elapsed since that awful, awful scene, I can never hear a shrill yell without thinking with much the feelings that I experienced as that terrible noise reached our ears.

We saw at a glance what we must do, and corralled our wagons as quickly as possible. There were only nine wagons in the train, but we had sixteen men and boys capable of bearing arms, and were well armed. There were also five women, and twenty-one children between the ages of one and fourteen years.

Perhaps it might be of interest to tell you of the families of the train. Elijah Utter and wife, with their ten children, Mr. and Mrs. Myers, with five children, Mr. and Mrs. Chase, with three children, Mr. and Mrs. Vanornam, and five children.

After a short time, the chief rode up and down the road, waving a white cloth, and motioning for us to go on at noon. Two or three of the Indians came up close to us and motioned that they wished to talk with us. Some of our men went out and met them, and they said they would not hurt us, but that they were only hungry, and that we were to go on after noon, but I can tell you that dinner time did not find us with our accustomed appetites that day.

Shortly after noon we started, but did not go by the road as they expected us to do, but kept up the hill from them, and the last wagon had hardly started before they commenced their terrible war songs and dancing again, and coming toward us all the time. We corralled our wagons as soon as possible, but before we could get the last one in place, the man who was driving was shot dead. His name was Lewis Larson, from Iowa. Shortly after two more were killed, Mr. Utley and Mr. Kithual. We fought them all that afternoon all of that long, awful night, picking them off as often as we could get a chance. We had no chance to get away under cover of night, as they were watchful, and if they head the least noise would commence whooping and shooting at us. We talked it over, and made up our minds that we were all to die, but thought we would try leaving all the wagons but one for each family, and take some provisions, leave all our stock and other property, and see if they would not let us go our way. There were with us three discharged soldiers from Fort Hall, and the deserter before mentioned. They were mounted on horse and were to go ahead with arms and clear the way for us to follow with our wagons. But instead of doing so, the discharged soldiers put spurs to the horses, which belonged to Mr. Vanornam, and galloped off for dear life, and left us to our fate. The deserter stayed as long as he could and stand any chance to save himself, and then taking with him the Reath brothers, Joseph and Jacob, they left, taking one horse with them, which belonged to the deserter. In the horrible tumult of the fight we did not see them go, and did not know but they were killed.

The Indians now seemed to redouble their frenzy, and showered upon us a continual fire, until it seemed impossible for one to escape. The first one who fell there was John Myers, who it will be remembered left his family at home, either at Hebron, Ill., or Geneva, Wisconsin.

As Joseph Myers was helping my oldest step-sister, Mary E. Utter, from the wagon, a ball passed through his side and entered her breast. Mary only lived a few minutes. The next one to go was my stepfather, who had his baby one year old that day, in his arms. As I stepped up and took her from him, so he could better use his gun, as I did so, I kissed him and turned to mother, who was bending over my dying step-sister, Mary, when father was shot in the breast and fell. He got up, but had hardly got up when he fell close to his daughter, Mary, and soon died. We gave up then. It seemed as though our whole dependence had been taken from us, and leaving our wagons, we started, every person for themselves. I turned to my poor mother who was standing by the dead bodies of husband and children, and begged her to go with us, but she said no, there was no use in trying that; we were all to be killed, and that she could not leave father, and when I found that I could not persuade her to go, I took one last lingering look at her dear face, and taking my poor baby sister in my arms, and telling four of the little brothers and sisters to follow me, I started, I knew not whither, but with the one hope of getting away from the wretches who seemed to thirst for the blood of every one of us. I turned and motioned to my mother, who still stood by the wagon where I left her, with two of my step-sisters and little step-brother. She shook her head, but the oldest step-sister started to come to me, and they shot her down. I turned and ran a little way and looked back, and they al had been shot down, and were lying with the rest of the dead. I felt then that all that I held dear on earth was dependent upon my feeble care, and child as I was, I nerved myself for what that terrible struggle for life which I could see was before me.

Will the reader of this narrative please to pause a moment and reflect upon my situation. A child of barely thirteen years, and slender in build and constitution, taking a nursing babe of one year and four other children, all younger than herself, and fleeing for life, without provisions and barely clothing enough to cover us, into the pathless wilderness, or what is worse yet, across the barren plains of the west. It was now the 10th of September, and getting dark, the second day after the attack. Others also fled, and we got together as much as possible and made for the river, for we were very thirsty, and we had had but little water through the fight, for we did not fill our kegs as usual that morning, as we knew we should travel along the river. After we got a drink of water, we rested a little while, if it could be called resting, with the awful fear in our minds that we should be followed and killed. We decided upon the course that we would keep away from the road and travel in single file, and as near as possible cover our tracks by having a man step in each track.

We traveled by night and hid in the willows which grew along the river by day. We traveled only a short distance that night, and we could see the fire from our burning wagons and such goods as they could not well carry away, and before morning we hid in the willows on the river bank, and lay there all day. We saw some of the Indians going past us driving off some of our cattle, for it seemed that they divided up into small bands and dividing their spoil, each one went his way. While they were passing, I held my hand over the mouth of my baby sister, who, frightened perhaps by the scared faces around her, commenced crying. Poor little sister, how my heart did ache for her. Words cannot describe my agony as I looked on the faces of my little brothers and sisters, poor orphans now, and heard them cry piteously for father and mother, and if possible worse yet, cry for bread when I had none to give them. God grant that none of the readers of this true story may ever realize from experience the awful bitterness of the cup which I was forced to drink to the very dregs.

Just about dark of that day, three or four Indians went past us, shooting off their guns and whooping and yelling. We lay there very quiet until after dark, then got up and traveled as fast as possible. When tired out, we would lie down and sleep a short time, then get up and travel along.

The Indians followed us four days, coming onto us about the same hour each night. We supposed they tracked us all day. The fourth night, they did not come until later. We had camped under a hill on the creek, and above us were rocks, and they went up above us and rolled rocks down, trying to roll them onto us. They came close, but we were so far under that they did not strike us. We started as soon as it was dark enough for us to travel with safety, and kept on all night, feeling sure that we would be safer elsewhere. One night, brother Christopher was missing when we camped. You will remember that we traveled by moonlight and starlight, and we could not guess what had become of him, and one of the men went back and found that he had taken the road and gone on, instead of turning out where we did to camp. He found his tracks, but we did not see him until the next day, when we met him coming back to us.

You will perhaps wonder what we could get to eat. Well, we got so hungry during the third night’s travel that we killed our faithful family dog, that had shared our hardships through all that long journey. We also killed Mr. Vanornam’s, roasted and ate some of the meat, and carried the rest along for future use.

We kept on our journey through the wilderness until we came to the Oyhee River, near where old Fort Boise used to stand, and all being tired out with travel and weak with hunger, we camped there.

We had found a cow the day before, which had strayed away from the train ahead of us, and was trying to get back home. She was very poor, but we shot her, the first shot which had been fired since we left the wagons. We roasted her and carried the meat over to the Oyhee.

We had traveled more than 100 miles, although it would not have been much over 80 by the road, since leaving the wagons, but so far all were alive, although our sufferings were terrible, both from hunger and exposure. It was getting cold weather, and we were without extra clothing during nights, and commenced to suffer from the cold. Our shoes were worn off, and we were barefoot, or nearly so, and at nights, we would bury our poor bruised feet in the sand to keep them warm. We set to work and built us camps our of the boughs and brush when we could find any along the river, for we could see little probability of getting away from there, and tried to make things as comfortable as possible.

Mr. Myers had escaped so far with his whole family, and had it not been for him I think we should have traveled along a little way each day toward the Fort, which was to us the haven of safety, but he begged us so piteously for us not to leave him, as he was not able to travel, that we could not go without him.

When we had been in camp some time, my brother Christopher was down by the river fishing one day, when an Indian came to him and seemed much surprised at seeing him, and wanted him to go home to his camp with him, but Christy told him that he had a camp of his own and must go to that. He went away, and Christy came home and told us. In about an hour, the same Indian came back and four more with him, and brought us one fish, but when they saw how many there were of us, they went back and brought some more fish for us, and urged us to go to their camp with them, but we would not go. We had a great horror of being taken captive by them. We traded some of our clothes with them for fish, and they wanted Christy to go home with them, and he told us that he would go with them, as he was afraid that if none of us went, they would not like it, and might do us harm. He was a brave little fellow, and although only eleven years of age, had before started with a man by the name of Goodsel to see if they could not reach the fort and bring us help, and after getting quite a long way from us, they met the deserted soldier and the Reath boys, who got away, it will be remembered, at the time of the massacre, taking one horse among them, and in trying to reach the fort they had taken the wrong road, and brother and Mr. Goodsel met them coming back to take the right trail. When they heard that we were starving, they killed their horse and roasted it, and started my brother back to us with all he could carry, and he, poor boy, knowing how great was our need, loaded himself so heavy that he had to throw pieces away as it became so heavy that he could not carry it. The man Goodsel went on with them, traveling with all speed to reach the fort and send help to us.

But to return to my subject, Christy said that if the Indians did not let him come back, that he could run away the next summer and get in with some emigrant train and reach us if we ever got through, which looked very doubtful. The Indians took a dislike to the children of Mr. Vanornam, as they were so hungry that they snatched the fish from them and ate it greedily.

They went back to camp taking Christy with them, and said they would be back in three days and bring him with them. After they went away, we talked it over, and thought that when they came back, they would surely kill us, and Mr. Vanornam and wife, with two sons and three daughters, Mr. Gleason, and Charles and Henry Utter, my step-brothers, started along to try and reach Fort Walla Walla.

At the end of three days, the Indians came back as they had agreed to, and brought Christy with them, and they brought fish again. Mr. Chase ate so much of it that he was taken with the hiccough and died. We buried him, but the Indians dug him up, took his clothes, and buried him again. My poor sister Libbie, nine years old, used to help me gather buffalo chips for fuel, and rosebuds, pusley, and other things to eat. She and I went to gather fuel as usual one morning, and she was tugging along with all she could carry and fell behind. I carried mine into camp and went back to meet her. I called her by name and she made no answer. Soon I found her, and I said, “Libbie, why did you not answer?” She said, “I could not talk, I felt too bad,” and before night, she was dead. Soon the Indians came again, bringing Christy with them. I did not see him this time, as I was away after fuel. Mr. Myers asked him where they camped. Christy asked why he wished to know, and he said, “because when the soldiers come, we want to go and get you.” The Indians, as soon as they heard the word “soldiers” spoken, said it over to each other and talked among themselves and went away taking Christy with them again. I came back with my fuel, and when on my way, quite a ways from camp, I heard a frightful noise. It seemed to me more like dogs fighting than anything else I ever heard. I was scared, and made haste into camp, and they told me Christy had been there and gone back again. We waited with as much anxiety as we could feel about anything until the three days were passed, and the Indians did not come back, and we felt afraid of them, and we began to talk about trying to start along, but I could not go without finding something of the fate of Christy. We waited a few days and then I went over to Sanek River, about two miles, and I could see their camps, but could not see any living thing around them. I called “Christy”, loud and long, but the echo of my own voice was all the answer I could hear.

I went back to the camp, feeling certain something had happened to the boy. The next day, Mr. Myers took the trail which went from our camp to theirs, and had not gone far when he found where the wolves had dragged something along, and soon he found some of his hair, and then he knew that my brother had been killed by the Indians, and his body torn to pieces by the wolves. He came back to camp and told us, and words cannot describe my feelings as I heard of his horrible fate. I knew then that the noise which I heard that day was my poor brave Christy, whom I loved so well. I thought I had passed through all the suffering which I could endure, and God knows how I longed to lie down and die and be at rest, but it was not to be so, nor had I drained the cup to the dregs yet. Starvation was making sad inroads on our little band, and none but those who have endured the awful pangs of starvation, have even a faint idea of such horrible sufferings and death. We became almost frantic. Food we must have, but how should we get it?

Then an idea took possession of our minds which we could not even mention to each other, so horrid, so revolting to even think of, but the awful madness of hunger was upon us, and we cooked and ate the bodies of each of the poor children, first sister Libbie, then Mr. Chase’s little boys, and then my darling baby sister, whom I had carried in my arms through all that long dreary journey and slept with hugged to my heart, as though if possible, I would shield her from all danger. She, too, had to leave me. In vain had I saved the choicest morsel of everything for her, chewed fish and fed it to her, boiled pusley which we found on Snake River, and fed her the water, and everything which I could plan had been fed to keep her alive.

Mrs. Myers and Mrs. Chase each had babies about her age, but neither could spare a share of nature’s food for our poor little motherless one, for fear of robbing her own. For over forty days I had carried her, but had to give her up at last, and I was left alone. All who had depended upon me had been taken away except the two stepbrothers, who had gone on, and from whom we had heard nothing. We also dug up the body of Mr. Chase, intending to eat that, but thank God, relief came. The first one to reach Fort Walla Walla was one of the discharged soldiers, who it will be remembered, ran way with Mr. Vanornam’s horses from the wagons at the time of the massacre. They told so many lies, on getting to the fort, that they did not believe that there was any train in trouble. He got in a number of days before the Reath brothers, Mr. Goodsel and the deserted soldier reached it. When they reached the fort, which was between eighty and a hundred miles from us, one of the Reath boys came bck with two companions of soldiers, one of dragoons and one of infantry. They started back immediately, and traveled along without resting day or night.

Upon nearing us they found a sad sight. The company who had gone on ahead when the Indians took brother Christy away, which you will remember consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Vanornam, three daughters and two sons, Samuel Gleason, and Charles and Henry Utter, the Indians had followed, and killed Mr. and Mrs. Vanornam, their son Mark, Samuel Gleason, and the last of our family except myself, Charles and Henry Utter. Their bodies lay unburied, showing marks of torture too devilish for any human beings to inflict except Indians. Let those who have never suffered as I have, pity the noble red man of the forest. My pity all goes out for their poor, unfortunate victims, and I can never look upon one of our poor, degraded, harmless Winnebagoes, without such feeling as I do not like to entertain towards any of God’s created beings, and I almost doubt if they are a part of our great Maker’s work.

Mrs. Vanornam had evidently been tortured too terribly to mention. Her ankles were tied with strong ropes when found, and she had been scalped. Three of the Vanornam girls and one by had been carried away by the Indians. The next year we heard, by some emigrant train, something of them. The oldest girl, 13 years old, was killed the next year. In attempting to get away she killed two squaws, and the Indians then killed her. The boy was brought by an emigrant train, and reached his uncle in Oregon. The Indians were seen leading the two little girls around with collars around their necks, and chains fastened to them to lead them by. A thousand pities that they had not all been killed with their parents. I have that one consolation, that in all my troubles, none of my folks were taken captive by them.

The dragoons commenced to bury the dead, who it was very evident had been dead but a short time, but the Reath boy begged of them not to stop there for the night, as it was getting late in the afternoon, but to push on, for he told them there were certain more somewhere, and it was possible they might find them alive. So the infantry traveled all night without resting. I may say here that there is no doubt but we owed our lives to that night’s work, those brave, tender-hearted men, for we were sure that the Indians were on their way to kill us when scared away by the reproach of soldiers.

About 10 o’clock in the morning, we saw signal fires off a few miles from our camp, and we knew that either they were coming to kill us, or help was close at hand, and strange as it may seem to my readers, my heart was so benumbed by my terrible sufferings that I hardly cared which it was. I was alone in the world, and had suffered enough within the last few months to change me from a light-hearted child to a broken-hearted woman, and my wish was that I might lie down and die, and join my kindred in a world free from cares and troubles like those I had passed through. I was out after fuel as usual, when I saw the soldiers coming, but was too weak to feel much joy at seeing them. They rode up to me, and a few dismounted, and coming to me, asked if I did not want something to eat. I answered that I did not care. I shall never forget the pitying look bent on me by those strong men. Tears stood in every eye as one of the officers gave me part of a biscuit. I ate that, but did not care for more, but in a few days I was hungry enough to eat anything. I could not have lived many days longer if help had not reached us.

The soldiers commenced at once, making preparations for return to the fort. They took us about three miles from our camp the next day after their arrival, and went into camp there, and waited for us to get ready. They told us to make us some clothing before starting. We made some skirts out blankets which they gave us, and we wore some of their underclothes, and their short blue coats, which were comfortable, for it was getting to be cold days and nights, as it was now the 25th or 26th of October. I cannot speak half well enough of the soldiers to express their kind and gentlemanly treatment of us, and I shall carry through life the recollection not only of the kindness but even of the features of those large-hearted soldiers and I almost think I should recognize any of them, should I ever see them. They made saddlebags, hung them across their saddles, and put a child in each one; made a litter for those who were too feeble to ride on horseback, or rather on mules, for they were mounted on mules. Mrs. Chase and myself changed, and each rode a part of the time on a litter. She got thrown off and hurt, and then I gave up my place on the litter to her. After traveling a few days, the government wagons sent to our relief from Walla Walla met us. Then we had clothes to keep us warm, and an easy wagon to ride in.

There was one family which I cannot forbear to make special mention of, and that is the family of Mr. Myers. The reader will recollect that I spoke of them in the beginning of this narrative. There were seven in the family, father, mother, and five children, as strange as it may seem, every one of them were spared, and reached the fort in safety. Mr. Myers, in answer to the question asked him how they all happened to get through, when all other families were entirely annihilated, answered, “It was prayer saved my family,” but I can say that my idea is that extreme selfishness had more to do with their being saved than prayer. The hardship of gathering fuel and subsistence were not shared by Mr. Myers’ family. He said they were not able. Even the task of washing for their baby was allotted to me, and often when we would go out after pusley, rosebud and other such vegetation as we could find, which we could eat, and leave Mr. Myers praying, I suppose in a selfish way, for his own family, in camp, instead of helping in our hardships. On our return, the other children would cry and beg for something to eat, and say the Myers family had been eating fish, or whatever we had stored away for rations, for we had to allow one just so much at a meal. Perhaps the good Lord, who is the searcher of all hearts, heeded his selfish prayers, but I would quicker believe that shirking duty and stealing from others was what saved the Myer family.

Now, patient reader, my story draws to a close, and I think every one of you will rejoice with me that the modes of travel of the olden days have given place to the strong iron horse and the comfortable palace car of today.

Mrs. Emeline E. Whitman

Contact Leslie
 (Unless you type the author's name
in the
subject line of the message
we won't know where to send it.

Leslie's story list and biography

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher