The Life History and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, 1847
I now began to feel the responsibilities resting upon me. The thought of assuming the station of a teacher of the Indians, with so few capabilities, was enough to discourage more gifted men than myself. Frequently did I enter the woods and pour out my soul to God, in agony and tears. I trembled at what was before me; and said, “who is able for these things ?” But a stil small voice would answer, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Soothing words indeed, especially to an unlearned and feeble Red man—a mere worm of the dust.
Having provided every thing necessary for our journey, and a residence of eight months at the Ka-wa-wenon Mission, we started in company with Rev. Mr. Chandler, uncle John Taunchey, and the traders who intended to winter on the shores of Lake Superior and do business with the Ojeb was. We were more than three weeks on our journey—three hundred and fifty miles. At one place we were weather-bound for one week. Our French companions were the most wicked of men. They would gnash their teeth at each other, curse, swear, and fight among themselves. The boat, oars, the winds, water, the teachers, etc., did not escape their execrations. I thought now that I understood what hell was in a very clear manner. My very hairs seemed to “stand erect like quills upon a fretful porcupine, when they gave vent to their malevolence and passions. They would fight like beasts over their cooking utensils, and even while their food was in their mouths. I will just say here that I have often seen them eat boiled corn with tallow for butter.
On our road, we saw the celebrated Pictured Rocks, Sand Banks, and Grand Island. On a point of the latter place we encamped. Every Sabbath I devoted about an hour in sighing and crying after home. What good can I do, when I reach the place of labor? was a question that often occurred to my mind. Still we were going farther and farther from home. We were obliged, too, to do our own cooking, washing, and mending.
At last, in September, we arrived at the Aunce Bay. Here, our house was no better than a wigwam; and yet we had to occupy it as a dwelling, a school house, a meeting house, and a council room.
We commenced laboring among our poor people, and those that had been christianized were exceedingly glad to see us. Brothers Sunday and Frazer had already been among them more than a year. We began to build quite late in the fall, and although we removed a house from the other side of the bay, yet we experienced much inconvenience. We visited the Indians daily, for the purpose of conversing and praying with them. There were about thirty, who had, for more than a year, professed to experience a change of heart. As my uncle was experienced in conversing with the unconverted, I endeavored to pursue his course in this respect. Each day we took a different direction in visiting the unconverted. We would sing, read the scriptures, and then pray with them. Sometimes they would be impudent, and even abusive, but this did not discourage us, or deter us from our duty. By persevering, we soon discovered that the Lord was about to bless our efforts. While my uncle was visiting some four or five wigwams, I was visiting as many others; their wigwams being near us. Our influence, with God’s blessing, was now felt among them. Singing and praying were their constant employment; and some of them seemed to know nothing else but the enjoyment of the truth of the gospel, and that God can and does “forgive sin.” They became the happiest of beings; their very souls were like an escaped bird, whose glad wings had saved it from danger and death. Brother Chandler preached twice every Sabbath, and taught school every other week. One Sabbath, in January, 1835, Brother Chandler preached from these words, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.” He spoke with unusual liberty; I caught some of the same fire with which the sermon was delivered; and interpreted it with much ardor. O what a melting season it was! The anxious and expressive looks of the Indians; the tears streaming down their cheeks, all tended to add to the occasion. My readers, here was comfort; here was one bright spot, at least, in my checkered life, that I never can forget. My poor brethren appeared to swallow every word of the sermon as I interpreted it. One John Southwind, who had been notoriously cruel and revengeful, was among the humblest and the happiest. He had been a great Conjurer.
On Sabbath evenings, every converted Indian would try to induce his relatives to embrace religion, and pray in the wigwams of their unconverted relatives. These happy scenes often made me forget home.
Many of the unconverted, were very revengeful; but we let them expend their vengeance on the air. One of them, Kah-be-wah-be-ko-kay, i.e. Spear Maker, threatened to tomahawk us, if we should come to his wigwam “with the white man’s religion;” “for,” said he, “already some of my family are very sick and crazy.” Notwithstanding this threat, we commenced our vists, and with no other weapon than a little calico bag containing our Testament and Hymn Book. Whenever he saw us near his wigwam (we were obliged to pass near his in visiting other wigwams,) he would run out, and grumble and growl like a bear escaping from its den for life. In this way we continued our visits, and had opportunities to converse with the family, which resulted in the conversion of all his children. In the month of February, he himself came to us, and plead earnestly for our forgiveness. He had out to hunt the martin, with his youngest daughter, who was about ten years old. While her father was preparing a martin trap, or dead-fall, as it is sometimes called, the daughter slipped behind a tree, knelt in the snow, and prayed for her father. The Lord heard her prayer. The old man “felt sick in his heart,” and every thing he looked at appeared to frown upon him, and to bid him “go to the missionaries, and they will tell you how you can be cured.” He returned home three days earlier than he had intended. Just after day-dawn, we heard a number of Indians praying. John Southwind came in and said to us, “Ke-ge-kewa-ye-wah, Kak-be-wah-be-koo-bay ke-che-ah-koo-sey,” i.e. your friend Spear Maker is very sick; he wishes you to call at his wigwam and pray with him. This was good news indeed! We went at once, and prayed with him. He could not speak; but sat sobbing and sighing over the fire. We conversed with him, and then left him; but before breakfast he entered our house with his large medicine sack containing little gods of almost every description. He stood before us, and said, “Ah bay, ah was ah yah mook,”—here, take this. He cast the bag, or sack, down upon the floor, and wept and sobbed bitterly, saying, “I have done all I could against you, but you have been my friends. I want you to pray for me, and to burn these gods, or throw them where I can never see them.” Shortly after this interview, he obtained religion, and became truly happy in the Lord.
There were many equally interesting conversions about this time. I must here mention what was often very amusing to the missionaries, and would often create a smile, if nothing more. When some of the Indians were under conviction, they would take some of their own medicines (herbs) to cure their “sickness,” —for so they termed conviction. An old medicine man once sent a message to us, stating that his daughter was dying; and that it was caused by our singing and praying before her so much; he also added, that in the event of her death, he would have his revenge by killing us, and insisted upon it that we must come immediately, and endeavor to relieve her. We went, and after having prayed with her for some time, she revived, and expressed her confidence that the Holy Spirit had operated upon her heart. The old man soon became convinced that his daughter was not dying, except unto sin; he, therefore, at once, became reconciled and delighted too.
We now commenced traveling on snow shoes within fifteen or twenty miles around, where the Indians were hunting; praying, and preaching to them. The Lord owned and blessed our labors wherever we went. We held prayer meetings in the woods. All this time the Mah-je Mon-e-doo (Bad Spirit) was not asleep. In the spring the heathen party started in a body to visit their old friend Spear Maker, for the purpose of uniting with him in dancing, and in their medicine worship; bat the old man had too much religion in him to gratify them. As soon as they discovered that they could not prevail upon the old man, they sent word to all, that they could excel us in worshiping the Great Spirit; and that they intended to hold their regular spring Grand Medicine Worship. Every night we held meetings. They commenced with their paw-wahs (singing,) and beating of the drums on the other side of the bay, and continued it for a whole week. We kept up our usual meetings; and at the end of the week, their drumming, singing, and dancing ceased. We continued our meetings for two months. The Chief of this place, was yet unconverted.
During this spring, Brother Clark, our Superintendent, arrived from Sault St. Marie, with Brother William Herkimer and family, and my cousin Johnson. These were to take our places in the mission. We had now an excellent quarterly meeting. Brother Clark preached a sensible and warm sermon; my cousin interpreted it. It was a blessed time; over twenty were baptized before the services began. There was a circumstance which rendered the occasion peculiarly interesting; an old Indian woman of about eighty years, came crawling to the meeting, for she was unable to walk; her name was Anna. The year before, she had travelled three hundred and fifty miles in a canoe, to be baptized by Brother Clark. She now lived about two miles from our mission, and on the Sabbath, was brought to meeting in a canoe. But on this Sabbath, the wind was so high that no canoe could be launched. In the morning, after the others had left, she started for meeting, and crawled over logs, through creeks, and other difficult places near the edges of rocks. Old Anna made her appearance in the house, to the astonishment as well as to the delight of all. She seated herself in front of the preacher, and listened attentively to the words of eternal life. She united with others in praising God for his mercy and goodness, especially to herself. She then partook of the body and blood of her Saviour. She spoke of the day in which she was in darkness; but now she knew, by experience, that the Lord had forgiven her sins. She cared not for the water, mud or precipices, if she could only crawl or creep to meeting, for she felt well rewarded, because the Lord blessed her. She did not like some, fear to soil her clothes; neither was she a fair day visitor of meeting. Before her conversion, she was a celebrated conjurer, and a dread to the nation; every one was afraid to incur her displeasure. The last time I saw her, was in 1842, and she was still confiding in the Lord.
We were now to accompany Brother Clark to St. Marie. We started on Tuesday afternoon at about three o’clock, in our large bark canoe, which was about thirty-six feet long, five feet wide in the centre, and three feet high. We paddled about nine miles. On the next morning, we hoisted our sail before a fresh breeze and sailed at the rate of nine knots an hour. We reached the point on the Sand Banks in the evening, having previously tarried three hours with the Indians at Grand Island. The next day we sailed about six miles from the shore; it was quite boisterous; and when in the trough of the wave it was impossible for us to see the land. We now came within a few miles of White-fish Point. On the following day we hoisted our sail again, and had a favorable wind; we went down the Falls of St. Marie in handsome style, about twelve o’clock, Waub-ke-newh (White Eagle) walked about Sault St. Marie, attending to the interests of the missions. He was the theme of conversation in every circle, for none had ever travelled the distance in so short a time. The traders were much surprised. The Indians could hardly think it possible for any person to travel the distance in so short a time.
Note.—On our way to St. Marie, we saw that one of the Points of Grand Island had sunk. It was formed of quicksand. It was told to the trader, Charles Holiday, by the Indians, that the Great Spirit had removed from under that point to some other point, because the Methodist missionaries had encamped there the previous fall, and had, by their prayers, driven the Spirit from under the point. They did not wish the missionaries to encamp any where on their Island again, fearing that the Island would sink.
- This was the name given by my poor brethren to Brother Clark, and a more appropriate one could not have been given. The King of Birds. They knew that he had come to be instrumental in saving their never dying souls. ↵