A Journal Account by Rev. James Wheeler
Monday Morning, July 10, 1843
“The teams are collecting together to assist the Indians in removing to Cincinnati, where they intend to take steamboats and go the remainder of the way by water. How pleasant it would be if the business of today could pass off like the scenes of yesterday, but there is a great difference. The solemnity that is felt on the subject of removal is quite general. Among un-converted people the course so often taken to drown trouble and drive away care is to indulge in drinking intoxicating liquors. To this the un-converted Indians are more strongly tempted by having liquor brought immediately to them, and even pushed upon them. Both black and white persons are lurking around every nook and corner, in order, at their last chance, to make the Indians drunk, so that they may be able to cheat them yet a little more before they leave. Why, my dear Brother Elliott, loafers have been hanging around the reservation for years, who have shamelessly trampled on the laws that forbid their selling liquor to the Indians. In leaving them, for the present, I cannot forbear expressing my strong desire that they may yet see the error of their ways, and so far reform as to possess at least some faint resemblance of the traits of character that are seen in those whom they have injured.”
Tuesday, July 11
This is the day to which, for some time, we have been looking forward as the time for starting, and the loaded trains begin to move onward. Some of the Indians, however, are sick, and are unable to start; and they are under the necessity of being left for the present, together with a few to take care of them; for whom arrangements will be made by the chiefs that they may come on afterward. Many are leaving with a solemnity of counte-nance apparently as great as if they were attending the funeral of some departed friend. The design is that they shall pass on about twelve miles, and encamp for the night; for as some will be late in starting, and others may not get started at all, today, they will thereby have an opportunity of overtaking them in the morning.
Wednesday, July 12
Now comes my turn for leaving too. I have, for sometimes past, had my mind made up, if life and health were spared, to follow the advice given me by Bishop Roberts the last time that I ever saw him, which was, that I should accompany this people to their home in the West. He said, he would not insist on my taking my family with me at first; but would be well pleased if, after seeing the country, and becoming somewhat acquainted with the brethren there, it would be agreeable all around, that I should finally remove to that part of the work. The first part of the advice I have determined to comply with; but whether it will be best to adopt the second is a matter for future consideration. My intention is to remain until the session of the Missouri conference, within the bounds of which are the Indian missions, when a missionary will be appointed and I privileged to return; which privilege, if life is spared, I shall enjoy sometime in October next. The thought that I may never live to return will sometimes steal across my mind, and I am too prone to say: ‘Happy home, indeed I love thee, Care I, can I say farewell?’
These feelings, however, I endeavor to suppress. My time for starting has come and having anew placed ourselves under the protecting care of Him whom we profess to serve, we say farewell.
On arriving at the encampment of the Indians, I found them still there, waiting for the remainder to come up. On inquiring of them how they got along, they said very well during the day, but that the whiskey peddlers had overtaken them at night with their wagons, jugs, and pocket bottles, and made many of their people drunk. Not satisfied with this they had stolen provisions from them, had taken wagon harness, and even linchpins out of their wagons. How shall I express my feelings at such conduct as this? I must leave it to you, Brother Elliott, for I really confess that I am at a loss for words. The other teams having come up we proceeded for a few miles and encamped on the banks of the Scioto, on the road leading through Belefontaine and Springfield to Cincinnati. Here the Indians concluded that as they appear to be without law to protect them, (or if they have any, it is of no use,) they would be law unto themselves. They therefore set a guard all around the encampment to keep watch through the night, while the rest of us, after having taken supper and paid our devotions to our kind Preserver, gave ourselves to sleep.
Thursday, July 13
We arose refreshed with sleep, and the night having passed so quietly away, we began to think ourselves out of the reach of disturbers; but the guard soon told us a different tale. Early in the evening they discovered a fellow with a jug of whiskey in the camp and very unceremoniously seized upon it and poured its contents on the ground. The fellow begged and wished them not to waste it, telling them a very piteous story, but all to no purpose, the whiskey had to go. In the night, however, they discovered that they were not yet free from difficulty; and seeing a group around a certain wagon, they went to the place and found this same fellow, with all his pretended innocence, distributing to them from a barrel. With more indignation than ceremony, they tumbled this barrel from the wagon, emptied it of its contents, and rolled it into the river. Another of these retailers by this time began to discover that his craft might be in danger, and forthwith took leave as fast as his horse could carry him, the Indians being in full pursuit. The one with the wagon, we learned, had said, that he would follow us to Cincinnati, and administer to the wants of the Indians every night. The operations of last evening, however, caused him to change his notion, and he left us without stopping to inquire whether or not we needed any more of his assistance. Over some of the roughest road, through the Scioto woods, that man ever need see, we made this day twenty-six miles, and camped within four miles of West Liberty.
Friday, July 14
Last evening, after the company had got pretty well encamped, I mounted my pony and rode on, expecting to overtake a company of teamsters that were on before with part of the goods, and ascertain their success. I arrived at West Liberty between sunset and dark. The word was soon out that the Indian preacher had come; and I received from Brother Brewster, with whom I stayed, an invitation to preach. Although tired, I con-sented and had for so short a notice, a larger congregation than I could possibly have gotten under any other circumstance. The congregation, however, was not larger than it was attentive, and my greatest desire was that they might not hear in vain. I went very early on to Urbana; took breakfast with Brother Lorrame; met with the teams; inquired after their welfare; and waited for the main body to come up. I was told that they passed the night very quietly. But in Urbana the whiskey sellers were ready for us. Before we got out of town we discovered signs of liquor among the Indians. We stopped a mile from town and fed; and here ,for the first time in my life, I saw two men strike each other in anger. I inquired where they got their whiskey? They hesitated to tell, but when I insisted upon it, they said they got it in a tavern back in town. I wish I knew that tavern keeper’s name; I would send it to you, Brother Elliott, and get you to print it in the Advocate, (unless you thought it would disgrace the paper to have such a name in it) that the traveling public might know who the man was that was mean enough to sell whiskey to the Indians. This spree lasted through the day and night. We found a beautiful place to encamp but were under the necessity of setting a guard. In the night some Indian boys came to see me, and said that they had found a white man taking off one of their horses, that they ran after him, and it being in a field he left it and ran; but in the morning it was found that there was a horse missing. The thief probably waited around until he found an opportunity of getting one away without being detected; and having no fear of God before his eyes, invaded, perhaps without remorse of conscience, the rights of his fellow men.
Saturday, July 15
On this morning considerable solicitude was felt among the Christian part of the Indians in reference to the selection of a suitable spot for encampment, where we might spend the Sabbath. In passing through Springfield I received a handsome present of Bibles to distribute among the Indians after we arrive at our destined homes. These kind brethren and friends will please accept my thanks in behalf of the Indians for the kindness manifested towards them. In company with others, I passed on for the purpose of making a suitable selection for an encampment for the Sabbath. We found a beautiful grove just before we reached the town of Xenia. Here we thought we could pitch our tents and rest until Monday. The wagons began to drive in and select their ground. I went on to town and made an arrangement with Brother White, who had before formed an acquaintance with several of them, to preach to them, and I was to preach to his congregation in town. Some I found were not in favor of lying by while on so great an expense to the nation but this consideration would have made no difference had it not been for the more weighty reason of inducing a change in the arrangement. I noticed, early on Sunday morning that some of the whiskey drinking Indians showed signs of intoxication. I knew not what to do, unless it was to try to find out where they were getting the liquor, and then go and beseech the seller to refrain. I started out to do so, and just as I was starting, the wagcns began to drive up, and the chiefs said they thought to lie by where liquor was so freely handed out to their people, would be productive of more sin than to drive on. Brother Armstrong and family, and myself, remained. I preached twice on the Sabbath in the Methodist church to large and interesting congregations.
Monday, early in the morning, we started and came up with the main body sixteen miles from Xenia, just as they were leaving their encampment. The wagons all passed on except two. In one of these was an old Indian woman apparently at the point of death. The other was detained by the sickness of an Indian man, who had just been taken. I sent and got a physician to come and see them. He gave medicine to the man that seemed to benefit him; but the great age of the woman, and her low condition, he said, would render everything that he could do to her to no avail. In ever place through which we have passed since leaving Sandusky, there has been manifested a great anxiety to see the Indians; and although people meant no harm, yet their curiosity was of the kind that promoted them to crowd around the wagons in such a way as to cause the Indians to think that the whites were very poor hands to teach good manners.
Tuesday, July 18
We are now within a short distance of the ‘Queen City,’ to which place a delegation had been sent some days earlier for the purpose of procuring the aid of steamboats to take the whole company and freight to the place of destination. Competition among the boats is running very high; a disposition to under-bid has been so visible that the delegation has been waiting for the best chance until the company arrives, and no arrangements are made. The chiefs now take the business into their own hands, and after an examination of the boats, strike a bargain with the Nodaway and Republic, to take them to the mouth of the Kansas River at the west line of the state of Missouri, and bear all their expenses for four-thousand, five-hundred dollars.
Wednesday, July 19
The teams drive through the city to the river for the purpose of unloading on the boats, but find it almost impossible to do anything there by reason of the curious, inquiring, and pressing crowd. The captains are laboring under great disadvantage in loading; and are under the necessity of placing guards to keep the people from thronging the boats; or in a short time there would have been no room for an Indian on board. The sick ones have arrived, and the old lady of whom I spoke has been placed on board, just in time to die. The young man is getting better but some others have been taken sick. Having selected my room on board the Nodaway, and seen the boxes containing the mission goods safely stowed away, I take occasion to notice the busy, bustling crowd. A span of horses have taken fright; and, in their sudden start, thrown their driver off his balance, and in falling from the wagon it has passed over him, and he is taken up with broken limbs. A man has just been found that had lately fallen from the hurricane deck of a boat lying near by us, and had been drowned. He is still in the water, hanging by the arm, awaiting the coroner s arrival to hold an inquest over him, and give him an interment. The cry of fire, from a vessel in the crowd, spreads consternation for a moment among the boats; but it is soon extinguished, and all is calm. A sick child, belonging to the widow, Half-John dies, and its corpse, with that of old Mrs. Bullhead’s in coffins, are placed in the hands of the proper persons for interment. Another team has taken fright, and in their furious and un-curbed course look frightful. Surely, we are in the midst of ‘danger, toil and death;’ and if scenes like the present are constantly transpiring, it would be but small delight for me to dwell in the city. I notice a disposition here among the whiskey sellers similar to that seen elsewhere; I believe they are all mean alike. It reminds me of an observation that I once heard in the neighborhood of the ‘Book Room,’ that ‘whiskey sellers are, most of them, so much like the devil, the more mischief they could do, the better they were pleased.’ They are getting the Indians to drink, and some of them are already intoxicated. I am anxious to be off for fear of accidents among them. We have nearly finished unloading; and the captains have cleared to boats of the whites that had crowded on, and hauled in the plank to cut off all communication. Early in the morning, before the crowd assembles, we plan to finish loading, and be off as soon as possible. Another donation in Bibles has been received from the friends in this place, which will be disposed of according to the design of the donors.”
“Mathew Walker selected a reliable band of young men, who, with himself, started for the West by land, having all the horses in their charge.”
Thursday, July 20
Last evening at the hour of twilight, our attention was arrested by the cry of a man overboard.’ His cry was heard as he fell from the stern of the Republic; the yawl from the Nodaway was dispatched as soon as possible, and sent to his rescue, but before it reached him, he sank and was seen no more. It proved to be a Wyandot, by the name of James B. F. Driver, known at the mission, in the days of his boyhood, as James B. Finley. Poor fellow! He is gone! He had been intoxicated during the afternoon, and either from inattention or inability to help himself, had fallen from the boat.
Solemn will be the meeting when he and the one who sold him the liquor shall be called together at the judgement of the great day. Everything being in readiness, and the captains having run their boats toward the upper parts of the city, that we may have a full view of it as we pass, we take our leave for the far West. James Wheeler. On board, July 24, 1843. P.S. Should nothing prevent, you may expect to hear from us again. J.W.”