Indians, Ray settlers co-existed, lived peacefully

By Linda Emley

When we were in grade school, we celebrated Thanksgiving by tracing our hands and making a turkey picture. We also made Pilgrim hats and some of us even got to wear Indian head bands with feathers. The stories we heard were a mixture of myth and history.
The Pilgrims did not have the first Thanksgiving because the settlers of Jamestown, Virginia celebrated a form of this holiday as early as 1610. The Pilgrim story we heard told about 13 Pilgrims and 90 indians who shared a three-day feast where they ate cod fish, eels, bass, clams, lobster, mussels, duck, geese, swan, turkey, venison, berries, fruit, peas, pumpkin, beetroot, onion, corn, squash and bread.
It was a celebration of giving thanks to God. Today we share some of the same things as the Pilgrims, but I wonder what they would think of the Macy’s day parade, football and “black Friday” ?
There are two written accounts of the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving in 1621 that give us some of the facts. Edward Winslow told the following in a letter dated Dec. 12, 1621. “Our corn did prove well, and God be praised, we had a good increase of Indian corn, and our barley indifferent good. Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor. “
The only other know account was written 20 years after the feast in 1621 by William Bradford in his History Of Plymouth Plantation. “All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first. And besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc.”
I thought this might be a good time to honor the American Indians that helped make Thanksgiving one of our favorite holidays.
Missouri is named after the Missouri Indians that lived in earth- covered homes along the Missouri River. A few years before Lewis and Clark came up the Missouri River in 1804, the Sauk and Fox Indians came down from the northeast and conquered the Missouri Indians. A few survived and settled south of the Platte River in modern-day Nebraska. Lewis and Clark had a “pow wow” with them in July 1804, which set the trend for future meetings with Indian tribes on their journey west.
I am one of those people that is always looking down at the ground to see what kind of rocks I can find. This “talent’ came in handy when we went arrowhead hunting as a child. We don’t get to go arrowhead hunting much any more, but I always dream of what might have washed out of the ground whenever we have a good hard rain.
I have some arrowheads, a few pieces of pottery and I even have a Indian game ball that we found back in the 1960s at a secret location in Ray County. I treasure these artifacts because they are a piece of our local history. The Ray Country Museum has a wonderful collection of local Indian artifacts that were collected from Ray County. These artifacts were collected by several people that know a lot more about the Indians of Ray County than I do, but I would like to share a few stories.
The 1881 Ray County History Book has four pages that tell stories about the early days of Ray and the local Indians. “The Indians were friendly, and seemed influenced more by a desire to pilfer, than by motives of hostility.”
This sounds really nice but there are a few tales of conflict and people being killed. One of the stories took place eight miles north of Richmond, close to our farm.
“Stephen Fields, who will be remembered as one of the original settlers in the Buffalo neighborhood, about 1820, moved to the bluffs, on Crooked river, near where the present poor farm is situated. The Indians commenced killing his hogs. At this Fields was greatly enraged, and, taking his gun, one morning, went into the woods, and came upon three Indians, also with guns. Fields told the Indians they had been killing his hogs, and to faickachec (get away). The savages bitterly denied the accusation, but Fields insisted that he was not mistaken; he knew they had been killing his hogs. Unable to pacify the old man, the three Indians seized him, stripped off his shirt, and, with the ramrod of his own gun, flogged him unmercifully, lacerating his back in a horrible manner, they told him to puckachee. That he did, is not a rash presumption. This outrageous affair caused great excitement. Mr. Fields was an old man, sixty years of age, and greatly esteemed by his neighbors. The people were aroused. A company was raised to follow and punish the savages. The latter, anticipating retaliation, decamped long before sunrise the following morning. When their pursuers, about sunrise, reached the camp the Indians had deserted, their tires were still burning. Hair, bones, feet and flesh of the hogs they had killed were scattered around. The indignant whites pursued the Indians as far as Grand river, which the latter swam, thus baffling their pursuers.
“Returning to their homes, the whites found, at many places in the woods, venison hams hanging in the trees. They had been hung up by the Indians to dry. A venerable gentleman, who was living near the scene of the occurrence just related, at the date thereof, who was one of the party of original settlers, and has always lived in the county, assures the writer that he remembers of no other deeds of violence committed by the Sacs and Iowas.”
Another story goes like this: “Indians were exceedingly fond of honey, and yet remarkably afraid of bees. Holland Vanderpool and Daniel Riggs were one day cutting a bee tree in the forest. Two Indians came up, but being afraid, not of the men, but of bees, stood at some distance looking on. The tree was soon felled to the ground, and the large, rich, delicious comb taken from its hollow. While the process of ‘robbing’ was going on, the Indians stood making signs, thrusting out their hands in a grasping manner and returning them to their mouths, which stood ajar, to indicate that they wanted some honey. Mr. Vanderpool took a large piece to each of them. They expressed their gratitude by tenderly stroking him on the breast, and by the exclamation, ‘good muck-a-man.’ It will be seen, then, that the early settlers of Ray county suffered little on account of the Indians.”

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