The Life History and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, 1847

Chapter XII

We spent part of the summer at La Pointe, waiting for our superintendent, Rev. John Clark, who intended to go by the way of Ottawa Lake down the Mississippi. He arrived the latter part of June, with his companions. We went in two canoes up Bad River, and thence over the Portages, already named. We divided our provisions, bedding, etc., etc., so that each should carry an equal weight. In ascending Bad River we were nearly half of the time in the water, dragging the canoe up the stream. One day brother Clark stepped on a rock above the water, in the centre of the river, for the purpose of holding the canoe, while those that were exceedingly tired, might rest. As soon as he had put his foot on the rock, the canoe wheeled around with the current, which drew him into it, and carried him down the river. We were alarmed for some time, and it was with the greatest efforts that we could save him. At times, we could only see his white hat above the water. At first, we could not render him the least assistance. The stream conveyed him near the shore, where he seized the limb of a tree, which enabled him to reach land. We hurried to the spot where he landed, jumped out of the canoe, and ran after him, but before we could see him, we heard him cry out “whoop,” and in a few moments saw him coming through the leaves, soaking wet. We were all thankful indeed to see him alive, and so cheerful too. On that day we would not permit him to carry but two loads or packs, the others carried three. Our wish was that he should not at any time carry any thing; but he insisted upon helping us, and to this we had to submit. This was one of those kind traits which endeared him so much to all his fellow laborers. He has also shared the last morsel of bread with us. Often has he carried the canoe on his back; and when we were discouraged and faint, he would encourage us by his cheerful countenance, and words of consolation. Our sinking hearts have often been made to beat with emotions of joy; for during these journeys we had ample reasons and time for desponding. But according to our trials, did we enjoy the smiles of heaven.

We were three days going over the Nine Mile Portage, where we spent the Sabbath. We had three loads each; and the two canoes were also to be carried, each one taking his turn every half mile. We were now completely jaded out; our bones ached. This was the hardest journey that I ever made, with the exception of the one which will hereafter be related.

After severe toil and privations, we arrived at Ottawa Lake, where Brother Clark met the chief and some of his warriors in council. He explained the object of our visit, viz. to live among them and teach them; to which the chief assented.

Brother Clark now left Johnson, Marksman, and myself here, to do all the good we could. On departing, we accompanied him down the river for two days; and on the first of August we bade each other farewell.

That day, Peter and John were inconsolable because Brother Clark and the rest had left us for a whole year. I felt so “choked up” and deserted, that I talked but little during the day. After praying, as Brother Clark was parting with us, and our heads were resting on the canoe, he said, “Brethren, take courage; do all the good you can. Pray much; trust in God; tell the Indians how the Saviour died; we will pray for you; good bye; and may the Lord bless you and your labors.”

We returned to Ottawa Lake, and built a house, where we resided during the year. Quite late in the fall, Johnson and Marksman left me, and went to La Pointe, where they remained all the winter. It is true, there were but few Indians here, but yet, too many for one teacher. They wished me to go with them, but I preferred, from a sense of duty, to spend the winter and spring in teaching, singing, and praying among the people here. In the spring an interesting conversion took place; the convert committed the fourteenth chapter of St. John before he had learned the alphabet. This young man had been remarkably kind, and humane, before bis conversion; he was more like a Christain than any unconverted man I ever saw. I never heard any thing proceed from his mouth that was censurable. One Sabbath morning, while we were in the woods, I was reading to him, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him, might not perish, but have everlasting life.” This was like an arrow in his heart; he prayed, and wrestled with God, until the Lord spoke peace to his soul.

In the summer, when Johnson and Marksman arrived, John and I went down to Prairie Du Chien, on the Mississippi. On our way, we had to pass through the land of the Sioux, the enemies of the Ojebwas, and we knew not what would be our fate. However, we pursued our course and ventured at their village. As soon as we approached, they raised the war-whoop and fired some guns over our heads, and the bullets either splashed in front of our canoe, or whizzed about our heads. Still, we kept on our course, and as we stepped from our canoe, they seized us, and kept us prisoners for nearly three days. When we told them (through an interpreter) that we were missionaries, they released us, and treated us kindly. On the third day we were on the water again, on our way to Prairie Du Chien, which place we reached, and there saw Brother Brunson, the Superintendent for that year. We accompanied him to St. Peters, near the Falls of St. Anthony; and the same summer, through the kindness of Brother Clark, we were sent to school near Jacksonville, Illinois. To Brother Clark, under God, I owe all the education (little as it is) which I now possess. Before this, I could neither speak nor read five words correctly. Brothers Johnson, Marksman, and myself, were placed under the care of the Rev. Jno. Mitchell, now an assistant at the Book Concern, in Cincinnati. For two years we attended school at the Ebenezer Seminary, about two miles north of Jacksonville. At this institution, I passed some of the happiest seasons of my life. Many who were with me at this school, are now ministers of the Gospel, both among the whites and the Indians. The groves seemed vocal with the praises of God. The camp meeting, and the quarterly meetings, which I then attended, are still fresh in my memory. The remembrance of the many delightful acquaintances formed, the appointments filled, the interesting meetings I attended in different parts, about Jacksonville, at Lynville, Manchester, Rushville, and Versailes, will always hold a seat in my heart. It was here that I learned to read the word of God, and often, for hours together, upon my knees, in the groves, have I been thus engaged. O the sweet communion I then had with God!

Among the many letters which I have since received from my school mates, I will trouble the reader only with the following:—

Mt. STERLING, Brown Co., III.
February 8th, 1845.


With pleasure I improve this privilege of answering your kind epistle, and taking a “paper talk” with you. By the blessings of the good Lord, we are well. But I hear you say “What does he mean by we?” —Only myself, my wife, ard boy! Now if you will pardon me this time for marrying young, I will promise never to do so again. But I think you will not be severe in your censure, inasmuch as I have a worthy precedent in you. Brother Troy travelled three years, and married Brother Stratten’s daughter, of Pike county; and I, who commenced three years after him, preached two years, and married another; so we, who had long been brothers, became brothers-in-law. Brother Wm. Piper was married since conference, to squire Baynes’ daughter, near Columbus Harden Wallace married Miss Bronson, of Athens, one year since. Brother S. Spates is on a visit to his friends, and has the ague; neither he nor Reason is married, but have “good desires.” I visited Brother George, two weeks since.

We have glorious times in religion. O it would have done you good to have heard Dr. Akers tell his experience, in our last quarterly meeting. In speaking of his sanctification he said, with a peculiar emphasis, while his lips trembled and tears filled his eyes, “It was the revelation of the Son of God in me.” But time would fail to tell of these “Ebenezer” boys, who through faith, preach “big sermons,” exhort thousands, “ who are valiant in fight,” who slaughter many a sinner, and wear the marks of many a well fought field, although death has done his work among us! Our faithful teacher, and a beloved schoolmate, Brothers Troy and Piper, are no more; they fell victims to fever just after conference; but they fell like martyrs; they died at their post. Brother Troy and I, attended Brother Piper’s funeral (the sermon was preached by Brother Berryman) at Barry. It was a solemn time. While I stood by his coffin, I thought of you all, and of Brother Huddlestun, who had gone before him. The day before I left, Father Stratten, Brother Troy, and I, walked out on the Mississippi bluffs, while the bright surface of the river reflected upon us the last rays of the setting sun. We talked of the happy days of other years, spent with kindred spirits now scattered over the world. His breast seemed warmed at the recollection. The flame of his zeal mounted high, and pointing to the bright waters that rolled in the distance, he said, “I feel like preaching till the last sinner on the last tributary of that stream is converted to God.” Alas! he had even then preached his last sermon. Peace to their memory. “They taught 18 how to live, and, O how high the price of knowledge, taught us how to die.” Sister Piper, and her two children, live at her own hom in Barry; Sister Troy, with one child, lives with her father. You have, perhaps, read the obituaries of Brothers Benson, Otwell, Corey, Edmunson, and Hale—gone home. Brother N. W. Allen, married down south, and John Mathers to Miss Julia Tucker. Brother Heddenburg is in Springfield. I believe M. has concluded not to marry, but to keep house for her father. Moses C. lives and prospers in Petersburgh Circuit.

March 13th. I commence again, not having time to finish when I commenced. I record with sorrow the death of our child, aged eight months. The affliction of one short week, carried him beyond the sorrows incident to mortality, to rest with God. O it was a trial to see him sink in death, and bear him to the grave. But now, thank God,

“The storm that wrecks the winter sky,
No more disturbs his sweet repose,
Than summer evening’s latest sigh,
That shuts the rose.”

The Lord has given us some tokens for good; we have some glorious prayer and class meetings. Thirteen joined on my last round. I expect Brother Wallace with me at a protracted meeting next week; can you not come too?

Well, Brother George, how do you get along in religion? This is the subject all important. Time, in its rapid roll, still bears us on. The sun stood still in Gibeon, but time did not stand still. The sun went back ten degrees on the dial of Ahaz, but time rolled on with unremitting speed. Mutation is written all around us. The little flower, so bright, is nipped by the untimely frost of winter. The rainbow is beautiful, but it passes away with the weeping cloud. And 0 how soon the fleeting years of time will be lost amid the mighty cycles of eternity. And yet, my brother, we know that on this inch of time hang everlasting things. Lord, help us to stamp every moment with improvement. Now, if God has entrusted to us the care of souls immortal, how should we pray and labor, lest we should lose a prize so dear!

Brother George, I shall never forget our band society, and “young men’s” prayer meeting; these were precious seasons Though I view my brethren falling round me, the hope of immortality makes “the valley of the shadow” flame with the glory of God. Thank God for religion that can conquer death, and view the grave as but a subterranean passage to the skies. Go on—I expect to hail you in a better clime. Brother, I think I have experienced that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin. O glorious truth! Have you not found it too? It is by simple Faith.

“Faith has an eye no tears can dim;
A heart no griefs can stir;
She bears the cross, and looks to Him
Who bore the cross for her.”

Go on, brother; the land of rest lies just across the rolling tide of Jordan. Methinks I see a Troy, a Huddlestun, and Piper, put forth their hands from the banks of glory, to beckon us onward. They look out for us; 0 let us not disappoint them! You know the north and south talk of division; thank God they can’t divide me, nor break those ties that bind me to good brethren every where, from whom “joy, nor grief, nor time, nor place, nor life, nor death, can part.”

I must close my scattering letter, though not half done. Brother come down, and I’ll try and tell you the rest. go over to Ebenezer and have a meeting. Pitner is there now. He says that the Lord has the best market in the universe; Christian duties are always good sale there, and then we are sure to get a “back load” of grace. He says, “the Lord has a great big two-story ware-house: the promise of the life that now is, that’s the lower story; and of that which is to come, this is the upper story. There,” says he, “brethren, I’ll not tell you any more, you’ll have to die to know the rest.”

My very best respects to your lady, and the little Copways.

Yours, fraternally,

N. B. Dr. Vandevanter, Brother Bond, and many others, still speak of your preaching at Versailes. We have some good times there now. Brothers Billy and Cabble Patterson are married; yes, and Aquilla too. He preaches, and teaches school. Brother Saxon still goes it with a rush. The “first year” class of boys in this conference, are now first rate; some of them could almost si ride a mountain. O sir, it would do you good to see Brother Billy Piper throw his searing thunderbolts and rive the forest oak, or bury them in the smoking earth. See him rise in the fulness of his strength, and exclaim, Man fell; Heaven was robed in silence, Earth in sorrow, and Hell alone was glad.”

W. J. R.

I attended several of the Conferences; the last of which was in Bloomfield, in 1839, where I parted with some of my dearest friends and companions, for nine months. Still it was pleasant to reflect that the Conference had appointed Brothers Spates, Huddleston, Johnson, and Peter Marksman, to labor at the head of the Mississippi. Brother Kavanaugh was appointed Superintendent of the Missions for that year. I was allowed to visit home in the fall, to see my friends. I travelled to Chicago free of expense; I drove a pair of fine grey horses for an individual who was on his road to that place. We slept in our wagons every night. At Chicago[1] I embarked in a schooner for Buffalo; but getting tired of this, left it at Detroit, and took steamboat for Buffalo, where I arrived just about day light. I had lost my cap, the wind blew it into the lake, with my pocket book, containing $27 in bills, and $2.50 in silver, with a silk handkerchief, in which my all was wrapped. Here I was, moneyless, friendless, and hatless, and in a strange land! I had, however, a little change left. I had made up my mind to visit the East before my return to Canada. But this must now be abandoned. I walked about Buffalo quite disheartened. At last I saw on a sign “Temperance Hotel.” I concluded to put up at this house, and to my surprise and joy, the landlord was a warm hearted Methodist—James Madison. At night, I accompanied him to the prayer meeting, where he told a Brother Copeland my circumstances. They made up the whole amount of my loss, and gave me a dollar over. I could now visit the East as I had purposed before my loss. The next day I started for Rochester, where I spent the Sabbath. I was very anxious to see the great cities of which I had read so much at school. I resolved to go through thick and thin for the sake of seeing New York. At Rochester I stopped with Brother Colby; Miss Colby perceive ing that I was not warmly clad, gave me a cloak which she obtained from Brother S. Richardson. Should either, or both, of these dear friends see these remarks concerning their kindness, I hope they will excuse me for thus mentioning their names. I must thank them again for their goodness; I often remember them in my closet and by the wayside. May God reward them and all other friends.

On Monday I left for Albany. When I reached Syracuse, I took the long-looked for rail road. We were soon on our way, moving along like a streak of lightning. In the morning I arrived in Albany in time for the morning boat for New York. I walked around this Dutch city; and as every thing appeared to be somewhat new, I was interested, especially with the vessels, &c. As I wished to be economical, I left without any breakfast. I was charmed with the steamboat. We passed down the Hudson; the towns, villages, and the splendid scenery enchanted me. I had seen but very few such magnificent scenes before.

About noon, a plain looking man approached me; I discovered at once that he was of that class of men called Quakers. He spoke of what they were doing for the Indians in New York. I was very much interested with his conversation. I felt glad and proud to have the honor and pleasure of seeing and conversing with one of Penn’s descendants—the friend of the poor Indians. While conversing with him, the bell was rung for dinner; he wished me to go down and eat; I told him I was obliged to be saving, as I had but little money and was not accustomed to travelling. Upon saying this, he pulled out a dinner ticket from his pocket and said, “Friend, thou must take this and come down to dinner.” I had an exalted opinion of the Quakers before, but this kind act increased my feelings, and confirmed all that I had ever heard of their generosity to my poor people. “God bless the Quakers,” said I, silently, as I descended to dinner. After dinner we finished our conversation. He said he was on his way to Philadelphia. God bless him, wherever he is. He has my kindest wishes.

In the evening I arrived at New York, and went immediately to see Brother Mason, who directed me to go to Sister Luckey’s in Broome street, where I tarried during my stay.

On the 25th of October, came that great jubilee of Methodism. In the morning I went with Dr. Bangs to meeting. He preached the centenary sermon, which was afterwards printed. In the evening I attended the Allen street Station. Oh what a happy meeting this was. Here I saw some of the greatest among them weep for joy. “Amen, halleluiah, glory to God,” and similar ejaculations, rang through, and filled the house. In this vast assembly was a solitary Indian-George Copway! Never can I forget that evening! Whatever may be my future lot in this life, I will always thank God for the privilege of attending these services. May the Lord pour out his Spirit on all his churches.

The next day I visited Newark, N.J., to see brother Abraham Hedenburg, with whom I had become acquainted in Illinois, at the house of his brother James. Here I met with a great deal of kindness. Brother Bartine, of the Franklin Station, requested me to preach for him in the morning; and Brother Ayers, of the Northern Station, invited me to preach for him in the evening. Brother Ayers gave me about $8.00 worth of books, which I had the pleasure of perusing during the winter. This was a favor-a distinguished favor indeed. I have seen that dear brother but once since. May the Lord be gracious to him.

My visit to Brother Hedenburg was delightful. I met many friends here, to whom I can never be thankful enough. May God visit them in great mercy. I saw them again last summer, and partook of their kind hospitalities. I feel more and more indebted to them; especially to Brother Hedenburg.

My next journey was to Boston. Dr. Bangs gave me a letter of introduction to a brother in that city. 1 remained about two weeks, looking at the Yankees and their city. Boston is much overrated; there are a few very few pretty spots; the rest is crooked and narrow. It is far behind New York, Philadelphia, and perhaps Baltimore, and New Orleans. I met with a few choice spirits-Brothers King, Rand, Wise, and Smith; and on the Sabbath, I addressed the Sabbath School in Russel street. In the evening we had a delightful meeting. I remained with Brother H. Merrell’s family during my sojourn, and I shall always recollect them with feelings of sincere gratitude. I visited several noted places while in that vicinage,—the Monument on Bunker’s (or rather Breed’s) Hill, etc.; I went also on the top of the State House when the sky was clear. It was from this point that I saw the works of the white man. The steeples, vessels arriving, and others spreading their sails for distant lands. The wharves were filled with merchandise. A few steamboats were running here and there, breathing out fire and smoke. On my left, I noticed several towns. The steam cars from Worcester rolled on from the west; others were starting for Providence, and whizzed along the flats like a troop of runaway horses. Here were factories in different directions. As I saw the prosperity of the white man, I said, while tears filled my eyes, “Happy art thou, O Israel, who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord!” When I thought of the noble race of red men who once lived and roamed in all the land, and upon the waters as far as my eye could reach, the following thoughts arose in my mind, which I have since penned.

Once more I see my fathers’ land
Upon the beach, where oceans roar;
Where whiten’d bones bestrew the sand,
Of some brave warrior of yore.
The groves, where once my fathers roam’d
The rivers, where the beaver dwelt-
The lakes, where angry waters foam’d-
Their charms, with my fathers, have fled.

0! tell me, ye “pale faces,” tell,
Where have my proud ancestors gone?
Whose smoke curled up from every dale,
To what land have their free spirits flown?
Whose wigwam stood where cities rise ;
On whose war-paths the steam-horse flies;
And ships, like mon-e-doos in disguise,
Approach the shore in endless files.

I now visited the Missionary Rooms of the American Board, whose invaluable labors are felt throughout the globe. I saw some articles, wrought by our people in the west, such as bead work, porcupine quills, moccasons, war clubs, etc. I thought, that if Brother Green had seen as much of war clubs as I had, (for I have seen them stained with blood and notched according to the number of individuals they had slain,) he would conceal them from every eye.

  1. Chicago signifies the place of skunks.


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