Drawing by Rita Fava Fegiz
Dear Blog Readers– We are now in the Dog Days of Summer and I am sitting in Rome a sweaty, soggy mess. Not good for writing interesting blog posts. So I’ve decided to post a short story I wrote for young adults years ago and then never had time to hunt for a publisher. It is my fictionalized version, based on as many facts as I could gather, of the family tale of my five times great grandmother Elizabeth Spicer. I know there are plenty of other people out there related to Elizabeth Spicer — Waltons, Bowens, Steeles, Stenoiens etc. and I am eager to hear from anyone who might have more details of her story. And if there are any publishers out there needing a story for young adults– here’s mine. If this story is ever published, I would love to have artist Rita Fava Fegiz, who did the above drawing for me, illustrate the whole book, but for the time being I have put in some photos gathered off the internet.
Nico sat in the back seat of the car staring out at the snarled Roman traffic. He didn’t like going to his monthly visits to the orthodontist, but he thought it was all right to be stuck in traffic. He liked being able to talk with his Mom without any distractions from his younger sisters.
“Mom, you know Daddy said that my Great Grandfather was an officer that fought in World War I.”
“Really, Nico,” his Mom answered, swerving around a vespa and whizzing through a yellow light, “Strange, your father has never mentioned anything about that to me. I’ll have to ask him. But I can tell you about an interesting American ancestor that you have.”
“Ok, tell me.”
“Your great-great-great-great-great…well at least five or six or seven times great grandmother was a pioneer girl that got captured by Indians in Western Pennsylvania and held captive for a year and a half before being traded back in a prisoner exchange.”
“Maaaaa, you are making it up,” Nico said moving into the middle of the back seat and pushing his head up between the two front seats.
The car was stuck again in stop and go traffic. A big orange bus was beside them and a taxi in front. Nico’s Mom turned her head to look him in the eye.
“I’m not kidding sweetie, I will have to go back and look at the story my grandmother wrote about it, but I vaguely remember that she was caught along with her younger brother who ended up staying with the Indians and later becoming a chief.”
“No way, I am related to an Indian Chief, that is soooo cool, I can’t wait to tell my friends,” Nico said bouncing up and down on the back seat.
“Nico, I am not exactly sure of the details, but if you’re interested I will try and find out more,” said his mother.
That evening Nico’s mother pulled out a big brown envelope. In it was a family tree that his mother spread out across the dining room table. It looked a bit like a squared off spider’s web. Moving her finger up and across the lines Nico’s Mom showed him how he could get from his name all the way back to Elizabeth Spicer.
Several months later Nico was sitting on his bed one afternoon when his Mom came in and handed him a pile of papers. He began to read.
CHAPTER ONE – A CLOUD IS BORN
A young Indian woman lay in her wigwam at the edge of a piney forest. She could hear the sounds of the Muskingum River flowing past. Outside she heard birds chirping. Through the small hole in the roof she could see the sky was blue, it was a sunny, clear day. Running River was exhausted but she couldn’t sleep. Just a few hours earlier she had given birth to a baby girl. She spoke to her mother, Raincloud, who was sitting nearby, holding the tiny infant. “She is beautiful isn’t she?” “Yes she is,” responded Raincloud.
“Just wait until Singing Arrow gets back from the hunt and sees he has a beautiful baby daughter. Do you think he will be disappointed that it is not a son?” Running River asked pushing herself up onto her elbows.”
The baby began to cry and Raincloud passed her to Running River, “there will be plenty of time to make a son,” she chuckled.
“Mother, what do you think we should call her?”
“I am not sure, but today when I went to get some water from the river I saw an enormous white cloud floating through the bright blue sky. It seemed so content and peaceful. A bright cloud on a clear day—a Fair Cloud. I think we should name her Faircloud.”
Running River caressed her tiny baby’s cheek, “I like that name and I wish my daughter will have a life like that…. Like a cloud floating peacefully in a blue sky,” Running River laughed, “not like me always running and laughing, never calm and peaceful.”
Raincloud sighed, “floating peacefully in the sky would be nice, but this baby has been born in difficult times. The white man continues to push us off our lands, to invade our hunting grounds, to kill peaceful Indians. I hope it gets better, but I am not sure.”
“Mother, that’s why your name is Raincloud. You are always dark and gloomy.”
CHAPTER TWO – A WARNING
Frontier girl with father. Credit: b-womenamerciashistory19.blogspot.it
“The Indians are on the warpath,” Mr. Daugherty said, looking nervously off over the treetops as though he expected a flurry of arrows to come raining down on him at any second. “There’s been some trouble over at Wheeling—Captain Cresap and a group of young men shot a bunch of peaceful Indians…Fools… I am taking my family over to Garard’s Fort—don’t want to risk it. I suggest you do the same.”
Elizabeth’s Pa didn’t know she was up in the apple tree listening to the conversation. William Spicer looked out at the setting sun, “We’ve got some things to finish around here—maybe tomorrow or the next day we’ll go.”
“Ok, well just letting you know,” said Daugherty, “I better get back to my place before the sun goes down.” He patted Spicer on the shoulder and turned towards the woods.
William Spicer began making his way back towards the cabin. Elizabeth tossed her apple core, jumped down from the tree and ran to catch her father.
“Pa,” she said pulling at his shirtsleeve. “Are the Indians really on the warpath?”
“You little squirrel—were you up in the apple tree listening to grown-up conversation?” her father answered, stopping and taking her by the shoulders, “You know a young lady should mind her own business. A 12-year-old girl should be helping her mother, not up in a tree eavesdropping.”
“I know, I know, Pa, but is it true?”
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about Lizzy, but don’t mention anything to Ma—she’s got enough on her mind.”
Elizabeth Spicer was a pioneer girl.
She lived with her family in a log cabin in a green valley in Western Pennsylvania. It was beautiful countryside with rolling hills, forests, and creeks. The Spicer family was not alone. There were other pioneer families that had settled in the area and there were the Indians. Not far from the Spicer’s cabin was Garard’s Fort—a stronghold for the settlers to live in while they were clearing their land or to escape to if the Indians attacked.
Elizabeth Spicer and her family worked hard. Her father and brothers cleared the land of trees and rocks and planted corn. They chopped wood and hunted. Elizabeth helped her mother. They made bread and grew vegetables. Elizabeth also helped care for her younger brothers and sisters. She helped her mother wash the clothes and hang them to dry. The job Elizabeth liked the least was ironing. Her mother would give her a big basket of clothes. She had to take hot coals from the fire and fill the heavy metal iron.
She would tackle the big basket, smoothing out the clothes as best she could before the coals cooled. When the weather was warm, Elizabeth always asked her mother if she could iron outside, that way she could listen to the birds sing, and gaze across the mountains as she worked. On sunny days she loved to watch the big fluffy clouds float past. She wished she could fly like a bird and touch the clouds, just once.
But it was her free time, when the work was done, that Elizabeth loved most. She would run down the hill to the apple tree, climb up quickly and eat an apple perched on a branch.
Her playmates were her brothers; 16-year-old Job and 10-year-old Billy, and she learned to do what they did. She would run full-speed through the woods to the creek, climb out on a branch above the water and jump in.
Elizabeth loved to run. When she ran down the trails she felt long and light as though her feet were barely touching the ground. When no one was watching she would hike up her skirts and fly down the trail. She wished she could wear pants like her brothers, then she would show them who was faster.
Sometimes her brothers would go out hunting squirrels and she would tag along and badger them until they let her have a turn with the gun.
Elizabeth’s mother tried to teach her how to sew and make quilts. Elizabeth tried, but she got bored. Even in the long, cold winter months she preferred running through the snow and having snowball fights with her brothers to needlework in the cabin.
One cold winter’s day her father watched her through the window as she raced through the snow with her brothers.
“She’s a wild one all right,” he sighed. “When is she going to settle down and give you the help you really need,” he said turning to his wife Lydia, who was sewing by the fire.
“Don’t worry,” Lydia replied, “She does her work and a little wildness won’t hurt in the long run. I’d rather have a fearless daughter than a timid, mousy one. Life’s too tough around here.”
Elizabeth’s mother was courageous herself. She had traveled with her children and husband on horseback to Greene County, their few belongings stuffed into saddlebags. She had worked side by side with her husband to build the log cabin. Unlike many of the local settlers, she had insisted on getting to know the local Indian women, trading her fresh bread for their handicrafts.
CHAPTER THREE – A DAY TO REMEMBER
The next morning the Spicer’s were up at dawn. Elizabeth helped her mother wash the clothes in the creek and hang them out to dry. Her mother then gave her a big basket of clothes to iron. It was a warm spring morning and she was eager to finish so she could join her brothers for a swim in the creek.
As Elizabeth slogged her way through the pile, she heard her baby sister Anna crying inside the cabin. The cabin door opened and her mother came out carrying the baby.
“Do you want me to hold her Ma?” Elizabeth asked.
“No, she’s hungry, I have to feed her.” Lydia Spicer sat down on a large log near the door and began to feed the baby. Elizabeth looked at her mother. Her hair was tied back in a bun and long wisps hung down. Her face had some dark smudges—she had been working at the fire. She looked tired.
“Ma, I was just thinking, if God is up in heaven and is always watching over us, maybe the sun is one eye that watches us in the day, and the moon is the other eye that watches us at night.”
“Well, Lizzy, I’d sure like to think that God is watching over us day and night making sure no harm will come.”
“You know Ma, the other day Job told me that God is all-knowing, that he knows everything, like how many leaves there are on a tree, or how many hairs there are on your head, or whether you’ve told a lie, or if it is going to rain tomorrow. Do you think that’s true?”
Lydia Spicer shifted the baby from one side to the other. “Yes, I suppose that is true. It’s funny…the other day Mrs. Daugherty was telling me that the Indians believe that God is a Great Spirit in the sky but that there is also a female God on earth, the Earth Mother. It is the Earth Mother who makes sure the crops grow and there are plenty of animals to hunt so there will be enough to eat. Seems like a good idea to me. I wouldn’t mind handing over a little responsibility for getting food on the table all the time!” Lydia laughed and gently stroked the baby’s head.
Elizabeth was silent. She was trying to imagine what an Indian Earth Mother would look like. She thought that maybe an Earth mother would look kind like her mother, but a little less thin, and a little less tired. She imagined a big, strong woman gently rocking the earth in her arms. Her mother interrupted her thoughts.
“Well, Anna’s asleep, I better get back to work…look at that big cloud rolling in, if it rains our clothes are never going to dry. Don’t daydream too much or you will never get through that pile.” Lydia cradled the baby in one arm and with the other pushed herself up from the log. Wearily, she went back into the cabin.
Behind the house Elizabeth’s father was chopping wood. She heard the steady thud of his axe. Job was working in the cornfield.
As she glanced up from her ironing, Elizabeth noticed a group of Indians coming out of the woods on Keener’s Knob and running towards their cornfields. Their faces were painted red and black and they were holding tomahawks.
“Pa,” she called, “Indians are coming,” Her father put down his axe and came around the house.
Just then the group of Indians reached Job in the field and with a swing of a tomahawk knocked him to the ground. William Spicer turned to Elizabeth.
“Run get help,” he said calmly, and stepped into the house.
Still gripping the heavy iron, Elizabeth flew down the path heading for the woods on the other side of the valley. She saw little Billy playing at the lower end of the field. She realized she was still holding the iron and tossed it into the bushes. With her free hand she grabbed Billy’s shirt yelling, “Indians are attacking, RUN!”
The two ran as fast as they could. They entered the forest and headed up the steep trail. They were breathing hard. The flew along the path, jumping over roots and winding past pine trees. Suddenly they heard footsteps approaching behind them.
“C’mon on Billy,” Elizabeth urged, “they’re after us.”
Faster and faster they ran, but the footsteps got closer. Elizabeth could hear them getting closer. Then she felt a strong jerk on her braid that tugged her backwards. She fell to the ground. A tall Indian warrior stood above her holding his tomahawk high.
“NOOO,” she yelled, jumping to her feet. He looked her in the eye and she stared back silently. Slowly, he lowered the tomahawk.
Two other Indians were holding Billy’s shirt as he squirmed and struggled to escape.
“Stop it Billy, or they’ll kill you,” Elizabeth ordered.
The Indians spoke among themselves and then pushed Elizabeth and Billy onto the trail in front of them heading back towards the house.
When they came out into the clearing the Indians stopped and called out to the other warriors. Several Indian warriors emerged from the house. They were carrying some of the family’s belongings. Elizabeth couldn’t see any of her family. Job was still lying in the field where he had been struck down.
They didn’t go back to the house, but headed up the trail towards Keener’s Knob. Elizabeth tried not to cry. Billy choked backed tears and a sob. An Indian gestured to him to be quiet and raised his tomahawk. Elizabeth reached for Billy’s hand and squeezed it tight.
CHAPTER FOUR—A JOURNEY FAR FROM HOME
They walked until it got dark and kept on walking. Billy began to stumble and an Indian picked him up and carried him on his back. Elizabeth walked on. Her feet ached and she was tired all over. After many hours, the large warrior scooped her up and carried her on his back. They went on and on. Elizabeth did not know it, but they were heading to Ohio.
Finally they stopped. The warriors put Elizabeth and Billy down. They sat with their backs against a tree holding hands and watching their Indian captors. The Indians gave them some of the food they had taken from the cabin. In the dark, tears rolled down Elizabeth’s cheeks as she ate her mother’s bread. She knew her mother was dead.
Suddenly they heard the sounds of horses and men yelling to one another. “They must have gone this way,” a voice shouted. The warriors grabbed Elizabeth and Billy and shoved them into a gully on the side of the trail. The Indians flattened themselves on the ground and were silent. One of them pushed Elizabeth against the ground. She wanted to yell out for help, but knew better. The horses galloped past.
Throughout the night they heard horses and men’s voices. The next day they lay quietly in the hollow. Elizabeth watched a line of ants busily marching along near her. She took a small stick and blocked their path. The ants seemed momentarily confused. Some went around the stick; another struggled to get over the stick and then rejoined the others. “Are they going home?” she wondered. The thought made her want to cry, but she held back. She then pretended the ants were the Indian warriors and squashed eight of them. That made her feel a little better. When night came again they went on, walking for hours and hours.
Finally on the dawn of the second day they came to an Indian camp along a river. Small wigwams dotted the camp. Indian women were cooking at fires and children ran in and out between the wigwams playing. The warriors took Elizabeth and Billy up to a woman sitting by a fire. She had two long braids that were black with streaks of gray hair. Next to her was a beautiful young woman holding a tiny baby. They said a few words to the older woman and gave her a bag taken from the Spicer’s house.
The Indian warrior who had carried Billy knelt down by the young Indian woman and stared at the baby. The young Indian woman spoke rapidly, smiled and laughed. The warrior gently touched the baby’s head.
Elizabeth did not know it, but she had arrived at the Wakatomika, the Shawnee village on the Muskingum River.
CHAPTER FIVE – LIFE AT WAKATOMIKA
Note: This is actually a picture of a Navajo women, but she looks the way I imagine Raincloud, serious and wise. Credit: Silverheelstradingpost.com
The two women took care of Elizabeth and Billy. They brought them water, and got them Indian clothing. The tunic felt a little strange, but Elizabeth liked the leggings and the soft deerskin moccasins felt good on her swollen, blistered feet. When they were dressed they were each given a drink that seemed like tea. Later Elizabeth learned their names. The older woman was Raincloud. She was tall and strong and rarely smiled. The young woman holding the baby was her daughter Running River. Running River also had long black braids, but unlike her mother, her eyes sparkled with happiness and she laughed often. Her baby’s name was Faircloud.
Elizabeth and Billy understood they were to live with the Indians. Slowly they began to learn the language. They slept in Raincloud’s wigwam. Running River had a small wigwam next to it. She stayed there with her baby. The warrior who had carried Billy most of the way on his back was Running River’s husband. His name was Singing Arrow. He was tall, handsome and brave. Everyone admired him and Running River adored him. He was sweet and gentle with his baby Faircloud. Elizabeth hated him. She could not forget what Singing Arrow and the other warriors had done to her family.
Throughout the summer, Raincloud and Running River took Elizabeth into the woods and taught her to collect plants and roots to be used for food and medicine. Running River always carried Faircloud strapped onto a board. Faircloud rarely cried, she seemed content watching the world from her perch on her mother’s back. At first Elizabeth walked sullenly along behind and sat on the ground doing nothing while the two women hunted for nuts, mushrooms, herbs, plants and berries. Raincloud patiently brought plants and mushrooms to Elizabeth. She would sit by her and explain what they were in the Shawnee language. Elizabeth understood very little but Raincloud spoke slowly pointing at plants and repeating things many times. She would offer Elizabeth pieces of edible mushrooms or berries and gesture at others. Elizabeth was amazed at Raincloud’s knowledge of everything that grew in the woods. She began to listen and learn. After a few weeks she began to gather some of the plants she recognized.
When winter came it was very cold at night. Singing Arrow was often away hunting for food. The others moved into a larger lodge with a group of Indian families. Running River and the baby slept together with Raincloud, Elizabeth and Billy. The women put the children between them and furs on top to keep them warm. In the evenings, the Indians would sit around the fire telling stories while passing around a pipe. Even though she was only 12-years-old Elizabeth began to smoke an Indian pipe.
One winter evening Running River began telling a story about the white people. She imitated some white men she had seen by jumping and stomping around speaking loudly. Billy laughed and laughed with the others. Elizabeth didn’t like it. Then Running River slipped away from the fire. She reappeared giggling wearing one of Elizabeth’s mother’s old dresses. The warriors had taken it on the day Elizabeth was captured. She started to imitate a settler woman her hands on her hips, speaking loudly. Elizabeth exploded in anger. She jumped on Running River and tore at the clothing. Everyone stopped laughing. Running River took off the clothes and gave them to Elizabeth. She apologized for being disrespectful. Elizabeth grabbed the bunch of clothing and stormed out of the lodge. It was icy cold. She held her mother’s clothes tightly as she walked across the camp, tears streaming down her cheeks. She wondered where her mother was and if she could see her. It was too cold to stay outside. After a bit, she returned to the lodge to find the others snuggled up sleeping.
Raincloud was waiting for her by the fire. Elizabeth sat down. Raincloud handed her a hot tea. “I am sorry,” she said, “Running River is young and sometimes very foolish.” The tears started to flow again. Elizabeth couldn’t stop. Raincloud moved closer to her and put an arm around Elizabeth’s heaving shoulders. “I know that sometimes it is hard to accept what has happened to you Elizabeth, I too have known terrible sadness and anger, but I have also known great love. Sometimes you must let go.”
That night Billy woke up with a terrible fever. His skin was burning hot and he tossed and turned in his sleep. Raincloud and Running River got water and wiped down his skin. At dawn they explained to Elizabeth that they needed to go get medicine. They left Faircloud and Billy with Elizabeth and slipped into the forest. Billy tossed and turned and mumbled strange words. He had a deep cough. Elizabeth held his head in her lap and tried to talk to him as she waited. She ran her fingers through his dirty blond hair and thought that it was the only part of him that didn’t seem Indian.
At some point in the morning another Indian woman brought some food for Elizabeth and took Faircloud. Late that afternoon Raincloud and Running River came back. They had a small bag with herbs inside. “Where have you been?” Elizabeth asked. “I am so worried for Billy.”
“We had to go to another village, Billy needs this medicine. We have none here.” Running River replied, “we went as fast as we could, we ran most of the way.” Raincloud began to heat water and mix a yellow powder. When it was done, Elizabeth helped her hold Billy while she spooned it down his throat. Running River lay down by the fire and fell asleep.
For three days Raincloud stayed by Billy. Day and night she wiped him down with water and prepared the yellow mush. During the second night Elizabeth woke up to see Raincloud holding Billy and gently stroking his hair. “Is he going to get well now?” she asked Raincloud, “His cough seems better; he doesn’t look so feverish.”
“I think he will get better now,” Raincloud replied, “ I am relieved.”
“I don’t understand,” said Elizabeth, “the warriors killed my family and yet you save my brother.”
“There are things that only the Great Spirit can understand Elizabeth. My husband was a great man, a hunter, a warrior, and a leader. Last spring he went with my son and a group including Chief Logan’s family to Baker’s Bottom—the white man’s trading post. They wanted to trade some furs. We needed food; it had been a long winter. Instead of food the white men gave them the evil drink. Then they killed them all – the warriors, the women, the babies, my husband, my son,” Raincloud paused and took a stick and pushed at some smoldering logs in the fire.
Slowly she began to speak again, “I don’t know why—my husband would never have harmed the white people. He was so too wise. After that Chief Logan was desperate, he wanted revenge and he sent our warriors on the warpath. To allow his family members to reach the afterworld he had to avenge the deaths. Thirteen Indians were killed at Baker’s Bottom, Chief Logan called for 13 white people to be killed in revenge.”
“What do you mean?” Elizabeth interrupted, “ My family was massacred so that the Indians who were killed could get to the afterworld? That’s stupid.”
“Yes,” answered Raincloud, “that may seem stupid to you, but to me it seems stupid to kill 13 innocent and peaceful Indians who went to trade furs for food.”
“My mother always said, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’,” Elizabeth retorted.
Raincloud sat silently staring at the fire. Eventually she spoke, “I think I would have liked your mother Elizabeth. You know I feel her presence, I see her strength in you. I feel she is watching over us.”
She paused, “I believe the Great Spirit has sent you and Billy to me to fill the emptiness left by the loss of my husband and son. Perhaps in some way we can fill the emptiness left by the loss of your family. I love Billy as a son and I think he returns my love. I love you too, but you resist.”
Elizabeth did not know what to say.
Native American Women. Credit: Ushistoryimages.com
CHAPTER SIX –SHAWNEE SPRING
Billy got better and the winter passed. One spring morning Raincloud presented Elizabeth with a beautiful ornament for her hair. It was made of beads and feathers. “May I braid it into your hair for you?” she asked. Elizabeth was reluctant, but agreed.
Raincloud began dividing Elizabeth’s hair, “You have hair the color of chestnuts…and these funny curls, it is as though your hair refuses to be straight like ours.”
Elizabeth began to feel less sad. As the days got warmer, she began spending more time with Running River. The two girls often went canoeing on the river together. Running River sat in the back of the canoe and could paddle nearly silently while moving the canoe swiftly through the water. At first Elizabeth made awful splashing noises that would send Running River into peals of laughter. But finally Elizabeth learned. The two would canoe for miles upstream and then float gently back down to the camp.
When little Faircloud learned how to walk, she would stay with Raincloud in the camp. Running River and Elizabeth would head to the woods to gather food. One day they spent the entire morning in the woods gathering mushrooms, roots, nuts and berries. At noon the two young women sat in a clearing and ate some cornmeal bread that they had brought with them.
“We have been lucky today,” said Running River, “look at all we have gathered.”
“Running River, do you believe there is an Earth Mother who provides for us?” Elizabeth asked.
“Of course I do—we have to be careful not to take more than we need or she will get mad and punish us.”
“And how will she punish us?” Elizabeth asked, munching on her cornmeal bread.
“Oh, lots of ways, she can stop the rain from coming, or she can make the winter very cold. She can let bugs eat our corn and birds eat all the berries. But generally, she is like a real mother, understanding, she doesn’t punish too much. Ha! Just look at me with my little Faircloud—that mischief—and I never punish her.” Running River burst out laughing and jumped up, “let’s go Elizabeth,” the Earth Mother is being generous with us today so we must gather all she has to give us.”
Native American Woman Kiowa Annie – Credit: ushistoryimages.com
As it got dark Running River said, “let’s race back.” The two took off running as fast as they could and arrived heaving for breath back at the camp. Elizabeth got back first to the camp. “Slowpoke,” she told Running River, laughing. Raincloud was sitting by a fire outside and Faircloud was playing in the dirt nearby.
“You squashed all your berries running like that,” scolded Raincloud.
“They still taste the same,” retorted Running River, scooping up Faircloud.
“Singing Arrow is back,” smiled Raincloud. “He is over there. He has made a new bow and arrow for Billy. He’s teaching him how to use it.”
On the other side of the clearing, Singing Arrow was on his knees, one arm wrapped around Billy and the other on the stiff bow as the two pulled it back together. Running River called out to Singing Arrow and he stood up and came towards them. Billy ran “Lizzy, Lizzy, look what Singing Arrow made for me!!”
CHAPTER SEVEN — A CHANGE IN SEASON
Billy spent his days playing with the Indian boys learning all their games—running, jumping, wrestling. One day Elizabeth watched her brother compete in an Indian game where the boys had to run a gauntlet of their friends holding out burning wooden sticks. Billy was the fastest, he won.
Raincloud was standing by Elizabeth. She said, “You know why you and Billy were saved and brought to our village,” Elizabeth turned and looked at Raincloud, “because you ran so fast and were so courageous. The warriors admired that. They said you had the courage of an Indian Brave, and the speed of a deer. They called you “White Deer”. That is a good name for you. Shall we call you that now? Elizabeth thought to herself, “I used to be “little squirrel” to my Pa, now Raincloud wants to call me “White Deer.” I used to wear dresses and shoes, now I wear tunics, leggings and moccasins. Who am I? What am I?” Then she smiled at Raincloud and answered, “I like the name White Deer, I think it fits me too. I will keep it in my heart forever. But I am Elizabeth.”
At the end of the summer Elizabeth helped Raincloud and Running River to harvest the corn. As they pulled the ears off the stalks, Running River told Elizabeth about the Green Corn Dance. All the Indians from the neighboring villages would come and they would feast for four days and in the evening there would be dancing and story-telling. They would roast a deer and eat sweet corn.
It was a beautiful fall afternoon; the leaves were red, orange and yellow. Running River and Elizabeth decided to go out in the canoe. Running River did not seem her usual good-humored self. After a while, Running River rested her paddle across the canoe and the two floated down river silently.
“You know Elizabeth, the Green Corn Dance will not be the same this time. Singing Arrow says the white man is preparing a huge force of men to drive us away and take our lands. We must defend ourselves. The warriors gathering for the dance must prepare for battle.”
Elizabeth looked at a bug on the water.
“Running River, I just can’t believe it. The settlers don’t want to gather armies to drive away the Indians, they just want a little land to live on.”
“Singing Arrow has seen them himself. They are gathering in camps near the trading post. They have begun to dress like Indians and use Indian weapons, tomahawks, scalping knives. I guess they think they must learn the Indian ways of war to win a battle against the Indians. Our warriors have been watching them and will let us know. But I think we will have to flee if they attack.”
Elizabeth was silent. After a while she spoke up. “There must be enough land for all us here.”
After her conversation with Running River, Elizabeth began to see signs of impending battle everywhere. The warriors spent long hours preparing arrows and fixing their tomahawks. There were also visitors. Two warriors, Pukeshinwa and Blue Jacket came frequently to meet with Chief Logan, Singing Arrow and the other warriors.
Pukeshinwa. Credit: www.fold3.com
In the evening they sat together heatedly discussing strategy. Meanwhile the women built the lodges that they needed to move into during the cold winter months.
Occasionally Chief Logan called for Raincloud to join them. One evening they were sitting around the fire when Singing Arrow came to get her saying the Chief needed her. Billy and Faircloud were asleep. Running River and Elizabeth remained alone.
“Why does the chief always call for Raincloud?” asked Elizabeth.
“Because she’s the woman war chief, or peace chief you could say,” answered Running River, “She is the woman that has to supervise all the other women in their work during peacetime. During wartime she advises the chief and the warriors on what is best for the women and children.” Running River paused, staring at the fire, “You know my mother is very wise. Singing Arrow has told me that when she speaks all the warriors fall silent, even Blue Jacket. Despite all his fame as a brave, fearless warrior, he sits quietly and listens when she speaks.” Running River sighed, “I could never be wise like her, I like to laugh too much.”
The winter came suddenly. It was very cold and there was snow on the ground. The atmosphere at Wakatomika was tense. Singing Arrow and the other warriors would bring news of the white men’s preparations for a battle. Elizabeth found it hard to believe. The Chief ordered everyone to be prepared to leave at short notice.
One night while they were sleeping, Singing Arrow burst into the lodge. “ The white men are moving, get your things, we have to go.”
Hardly making a noise, everyone got up and quickly gathered a few belongings. Raincloud gave a bag of food to Elizabeth to carry. Billy carried blankets. Running River wrapped up Faircloud in blankets. They left the lodge. Outside all the Indians from the village had gathered. Chief Logan spoke to them.
“Walk quickly and quietly behind me into the woods. Do not be afraid, the Great Spirit will watch over us and our warriors will defend us.”
He turned and walked silently into the forest. The entire village—hundreds of them—followed him single file. They walked for hours, some people moving ahead, others more slowly. Elizabeth followed behind Raincloud and Billy. At one point she turned around and Running River and Faircloud were no longer behind her. She slipped back and others filed past her.
“Have you see Running River?” she asked.
“She is back there,” someone responded, gesturing towards the end of the line.
Finally the entire group had passed. Elizabeth did not see Running River. She began to run. After a short distance she found Running River sitting on the ground holding Faircloud in her arms.
“What are you doing?” Elizabeth said, “You are crazy! You could die of cold here, why are you sitting on the ground?”
“I’m tired,” said Running River, “I am just taking a little rest.”
“Well you can’t rest,” Elizabeth insisted, “You will freeze. Here, give me Faircloud, I will carry her on my back. Come on, take my hand. Stand up. Hurry, we can’t lose the others.”
Elizabeth kneeled on the ground and Running River shoved Faircloud onto her back. Elizabeth stood up and with one hand she reached to pull up Running River. The two began to walk.
“Elizabeth, I think I have another child in my belly,” said Running River. “I should have guessed,” said Elizabeth, “C’mon let’s go, if we catch up to Billy, I will have him carry your bag.”
At dawn the group reached a high rocky outcropping along a ridge that ran above the valley. From there the group had a splendid view of the entire valley below. They could see the small dots of their lodges and wigwams.
“We will rest here. We can go no further,” said Chief Logan, “Go back to the edge of the woods and light some fires.”
Raincloud, Running River, Elizabeth and Billy gathered around a small fire. Raincloud held a sleepy Faircloud in her arms. Running River leaned against Elizabeth. Few people spoke. All the warriors had gone back to defend the village. Many of the boys were being used as runners, ferrying news back and forth to the Chief. Chief Logan stood on the out-cropping throughout the morning.
At mid-day Chief Logan called for Raincloud. She walked out onto the rocks and stood and stared as the Chief pointed down at the valley below. When she returned her face was grim. A teenage boy arrived up from below and spoke with Chief Logan.
After a few minutes, Raincloud spoke up, “The white man’s army has arrived. They are burning our village and all of our cornfields. Logan is sending for help from Chief Cornstalk. When help arrives our warriors will attack, right now they are watching, they are too outnumbered to try to defend our village.”
Running River did not move. Billy grabbed her hand, “Don’t worry Singing Arrow will send his arrows through their hearts and take their scalps when he is done.”
“Billy” Elizabeth gasped, kicking at him with her foot.
Running River burst out laughing. “I wish it were so easy Billy! Now go do some practice with your bow and arrow, you never know, it may come in handy shortly.”
“Elizabeth,” said Running River, as Billy walked off to find some friends, “tell me a funny story that will make me laugh and make me forget what is happening.”
Elizabeth thought for a minute, “Ok, I will tell you a story that my mother used to tell me. It is about a little girl who has a red cape and hood and goes into the forest to take some food to her grandmother’s house that is in another part of the forest.”
Running River interrupted, “why was her grandmother’s house in another part of the forest?”
“Oh, Running River,” said Elizabeth “because it just was. That’s what white people do they often live in houses spread out, not all together, now can I continue?”
Running River nodded.
“Ok this little girl goes into the woods with her red riding hood and a basket of food for her grandmother. Her mother told her to stay on the path and to be careful because there is a big bad wolf in the woods, but she goes off the path because she wants to pick some flowers…”
“Why not nuts and berries?” Raincloud interrupted this time.
“Oh, listen you two, it is just a story,” Elizabeth laughed, then continued.
Elizabeth proceeded to tell all the Fairy Tales she knew. The afternoon wore on.
Suddenly gunshots echoed across the valley below. Chief Logan called for Raincloud again. When she came back, she did not say a word. “Are they fighting,” said Running River. “Yes,” responded Raincloud.
Running River closed her eyes and then Raincloud began to talk. Chief Cornstalk’s warriors have arrived. The battle has begun. Many of the white men are on horses. It must be terrible. There is a lot of smoke.
At dusk the gunshots stopped, the valley below looked empty. It was very cold on the ridge and the Indians built up the fires to keep warm. During the night Singing Arrow and other warriors arrived. They were exhausted, their tunics and leggings covered with dirt and blood. They sat at a fire with Chief Logan and talked for a long time.
Finally Singing Arrow joined them. He held Faircloud and Running River and then before falling asleep by the fire he said, “We lost many warriors today, Chief Puckeshinwa is dead, but the white men lost more. Chief Cornstalk’s men saved us, Blue Jacket’s courage and genius inspired us all, we could not have fought without them,” Singing Arrow closed his eyes then muttered softly, “Chief Logan says we will return to our village tomorrow and re-build it. We have nowhere else to go. He says he will make peace.”
The next morning Chief Logan led the weary, beaten group back down the ridge and into the valley below. They returned to find their village in ashes, the warriors had removed all the dead.
Chief Logan – Credit: www.lordnelsons.com
CHAPTER EIGHT — PEACE
“Chief Logan wants to see you.” Raincloud said. It was early morning and Elizabeth was washing herself in the river.
Elizabeth had seen the Chief many times. He was tall and fierce in appearance. His Indian name was Tachnechdorus, Branching Oak of the Forest, but he had taken the name Logan from his first white friend, James Logan. She had heard of Chief Logan even before she was captured. He was known as the “good” Indian chief, the one who never wanted to fight the settlers. Chief Logan’s entire family had been killed at Baker’s Bottom trading post with Raincloud’s husband and son. The Chief had dark sad eyes and rarely smiled.
Elizabeth entered Chief Logan’s wigwam. She gasped. Sitting near the fire was a white man. It was the first white man she had seen in over a year.
“I’m Colonel Wilson,” he said staring at her.
“I’m Elizabeth Spicer, it is nice to meet you.” The English language greeting sounded awkward to her ears.
She was amazed by how Colonel Wilson was dressed. On his head he had a worn leather broad-rimmed hat, below it he was wearing a fringed shirt, leggings and moccasins and a big leather belt. Beside him on the ground was a beaded Indian bag. He had both a gun and a tomahawk.
He seemed equally interested in how she was dressed, stealing glances at her hair ornament and leggings.
Chief Logan spoke to her slowly. “Elizabeth, Colonel Wilson is here to negotiate a prisoner exchange. His men are holding two of our warriors; we want them back. He wants some of our captives in return.”
Elizabeth froze. Chief Logan continued. “I need your help with the language—I basically understand what he is telling me, but there are some things you need to explain to him. And, of course, you must understand your place in all this.”
“Is this true?” Elizabeth stammered, speaking to him in Shawnee.
“Yes, it is—we are tired of fighting, we want peace, we want to live together with the white men. We have fought enough now, it is time to talk.”
Elizabeth turned to look at Colonel Wilson. He seemed to be staring at her legs that she had crossed under her. His hair was long and scraggly; he did not seem like a Colonel to her.
“Would you please stop looking at my legs,” she said tersely, “haven’t you ever seen a girl in leggings before?”
“Well um, ah No,” he muttered, reaching nervously for his gun and fiddling with the handle.
Chief Logan looked at Elizabeth sternly, “please tell him what I said.”
Elizabeth spoke slowly and carefully selecting her words in English, “Chief Logan says you have come to negotiate a prisoner exchange. Is this true or is it some sort of trick?”
Colonel Wilson glanced up from his gun. He looked at her intensely and she noticed his green eyes. “Of course it is true. Whose side are you on anyway?” he asked.
She went on, “the Indians want peace, they want to live side by side with the white man now. But they need to be able to trust us. It is hard to trust people who burn their village, destroy their crops, give them the evil drink and kill their wives and children.”
Colonel Wilson turned and looked at Chief Logan, “tell him I agree with him, I want peace, I think we can live side by side, I am an honest man and he can trust me. But you can also tell him that I am not in charge, peace is what we all want, but it is not my mission. I am here to negotiate a prisoner exchange.”
“You have to talk peace as well,” Elizabeth snapped, “What is the use of a prisoner exchange if the fighting continues and more prisoners are taken on both sides.”
Chief Logan put a hand on her shoulder, and said in Shawnee “Elizabeth, please translate and let me negotiate.”
The conversation went on. Elizabeth stuck to translating but her mind was spinning, she could hardly think straight. Was she going to be exchanged? Finally the two men stood up and bent to pass through the door of the wigwam. Outside they shook hands in front of Colonel Wilson’s horse. Elizabeth stood by the door of the wigwam. Colonel Wilson jumped on his horse and then glanced around. He noticed her standing silently.
With a warm smile on his face he reached up, touched his hat and said, “it was nice to meet you Elizabeth Spicer. Thanks for your translating help. I am sure I will be seeing you again.” Then to Chief Logan he said, “Thank you Chief, I appreciate your efforts, I will be back.” He turned his horse and headed into the woods.
Chief Logan looked at Elizabeth, “Elizabeth, I have never spoken to you, but I have seen you from afar. You are a strong and brave girl. You know what all this means. You are free to choose what you want to do. But if you go back you must convince the white man to stop this useless killing.” He turned abruptly and entered his wigwam.
Elizabeth wandered down to the river. She could see their burnt out lodge and cornfields on the other side. She found Raincloud gathering materials for a new lodge in the woods near the river. “Raincloud, do you know why that white man was here?
“I can guess,” she said, moving slowly.
“There is going to be a prisoner exchange. The Chief said I will be free to go. What should I do?”
Raincloud stopped what she was doing and leaned against a tree. “You know in your heart what you want to do.”
Elizabeth nodded. Raincloud put a hand on her shoulder.
“Elizabeth, you have showed us that white people can learn the secrets of the woods, can learn the importance of silence, can run fast and paddle a canoe silently, and can face pain with courage.”
Elizabeth nodded again, a knot welling up in her throat.
“If you go back you must remember what I once told you. You must let go of the past. Do not go back because you want to hold on to the past. Go back because you believe you will be happy in the future. Go and share your knowledge of our people. The men may not listen to you, but the women will—tell them we want peace. And remember you will always have a place with us.”
Elizabeth went searching for Billy. She finally found him playing tag with a group of friends.
“Billy, Billy, I have to talk to you,” she called out.
“We’ll talk later, Elizabeth, I’m playing,” he responded in the Shawnee language.”
“No, Billy, NOW, it’s important.”
“Well what is it?” he asked leaving the group.
“Can’t you speak to me in English anymore?” Elizabeth asked as they distanced themselves from the group and headed towards the creek.
“No, Shawnee just comes to me first now. It’s easier. But you know I understand you.”
Elizabeth grabbed his hands “There is going to be a prisoner exchange. We can go back home!”
“I am not a prisoner and THIS is my home,” he answered, tearing at a piece of bark on a tree, “I want to stay here.”
“Billy, I mean we can go back to our family, our people…” tears were welling up in Elizabeth’s eyes.
“Elizabeth, this is my family—Raincloud, Running River, Singing Arrow, Faircloud, all my friends—we cannot go. We belong here.”
Elizabeth grabbed Billy, tears running down her cheeks. “I have to go Billy, I don’t know why, but I have to go—for Ma, for Pa, I have to go back.”
Billy started crying too.
CHAPTER NINE – RETURN
The day she was to return, Elizabeth woke up before dawn and had a hot tea with Raincloud and Running River. When the sun came up the three left the smoky lodge to emerge into the bright sunlight. The snow on the ground reflected the rays of sun forcing them to squint up their eyes.
Raincloud put her arm around Elizabeth, “I will not be sad because I know I will see you again and I know you will be happy.” She handed Elizabeth her pipe and some tobacco. “Please take my pipe and use it often…when you use it, think of us.”
Running River grabbed her hands, “You must promise to return soon. You are my canoeing partner—I cannot canoe with Billy, he’s too agitated, he will tip the canoe over.”
Singing Arrow appeared—“Elizabeth, it is time to go. The horses are ready, we have a long journey ahead.”
Billy emerged from the lodge; his blond hair was tousled as if he had just woken up. He wrapped his arms around Elizabeth’s waist.
Just then, Chief Logan came out of his lodge and walked swiftly towards them. Chief Logan looked at her sternly, “Elizabeth, goodbye and may you spread the word of peace where you go.”
Billy piped up, “Peace? Who needs peace, when you come back I will be a great warrior like Singing Arrow, ready for war.”
Singing Arrow placed a hand on Billy’s head, “listen corncob, I’ve taught your sister the sign of friendship, she will always be safe in Indian territory.”
Elizabeth, Singing Arrow and another warrior got on their horses and headed down the trail into the woods. By early afternoon they were at the meeting point. Colonel Wilson was there waiting with two Indian warriors. Singing Arrow greeted his fellow warriors.
Colonel Wilson put out a hand to Elizabeth, “Hello Elizabeth, I knew I would be seeing you again.” He had that same smile on his face that she had seen at Wakatomika.
“Good afternoon, Colonel Wilson,” she responded.
“Elizabeth, I was lucky enough to get Mrs. Clawson from the Muddy Creek settlement to give me some clothes. I have a dress here that you can put on. Obviously it will be more difficult to ride, but you can ride side-saddle behind me, and we will lead the other horse.”
“No thanks Colonel Wilson, I will keep the leggings for now, and I prefer to ride alone,” Elizabeth answered.
The colonel burst into laughter, “Of course, I forgot who I was dealing with. Here take the reins,” and he passed her the reins of a large brown mare.
Elizabeth looked at the Indian warrior who had taken part in her capture and now was returning her, “Singing Arrow, I have to go….”
Singing Arrow turned and took her hand, “Elizabeth, we have been through a lot together and we have not always been friends, but I respect you. You are as strong and as brave as a warrior, you are Elizabeth the Brave”
CHAPTER TEN – GRANDMA ELIZABETH
On Christmas Day 1774, Elizabeth Spicer returned to the Muddy Creek settlement in Pennsylvania.
She grew up got married and had eight children. Throughout her life she was admired for her courage. She kept her promise to Raincloud and shared her knowledge of the Indians with anyone who would listen. People came from all over for the medicinal cures that she had learned from the Indians.
Over the course of her life she went back to visit the Indians many times. She saw Billy who grew up, married Faircloud and had many children. His first daughter was named after Elizabeth, the second after his wife Faircloud and his first son was named Smallcloud. Smallcloud Spicer grew up to become an important Indian Chief.
Elizabeth’s grandchildren never tired of hearing her tales of living with the Indians. She would sit in her rocking chair, have one granddaughter get her tobacco and another spoon a coal out of the fire to light her pipe. Then she would puff away as the children sat at her feet their mouths open in amazement at her stories of Raincloud, Running River, Singing Arrow and her adventures with the Indians.
Nico put down the stack of papers, lay back on his pillow and shut his eyes. After awhile his Mom came in. “Well, did you like it?”
“Yeah, but I thought you said Billy became a chief, why didn’t you write about that?”
His mother laughed, “you mean the story of Elizabeth wasn’t enough?”
“Mommmm…. If I am related to an Indian chief, I want to know all about him.”
His mother sat down on the chair at Nico’s desk. “Well then it is up to you. When you are older, you can figure out the story of Billy Spicer. “
“How would I do that?”
“You read a lot of books, you go to libraries and search for information, you search for information on the Internet. You talk to people who know things. You write e-mails asking people for more information. It is fun.”
“Doesn’t sound like fun to me.”
“Well…let me give you a hint. When I was searching for information on Elizabeth Spicer, I came across a document that said that Billy’s son was named Small Cloud Spicer and when he grew up he was a Seneca Indian chief. So, there might even two chiefs to learn about.”
Nico jumped up on his bed and pulled at a pretend bow and arrow, “Chief Nico, the brave warrior, sends an arrow into the heart of a ferocious bear. TWWWAAAAANG.” Nico leapt from his bed to the rug on the floor, “But the massive bear is not dead yet. Chief Nico leaps on top of the bear and with his knife finishes the job. The bear claws at the face of Chief Nico, but the fearless warrior doesn’t even notice. From that day forward they called him Chief Bear Claw.”
Nico’s Mom picked up the pile of papers on Nico’s bed. “I guess I will save this story for your sisters.”
Trisha is a TV journalist working for AP TV News in Rome. She is married to an Italian and is a Mamma of three.