ADDENDUM 1 -------CHAPTER 4,6a
John R. Hedley  (1867 - ?)  and   Laura Eleanor Fitch (1871-1955)


Lydia Day's Experiences in Sioux Territory" 1875-6

Preamble: One cannot read Lydia Fitch's personal account of her experiences among the Assinaboine Indians without feeling, along with her, the fear, dread, sympathy, gratitude, respect, tenderness and joy she felt, and to understand, a little better, the lives of the Indians who populated, in fear, the "Unorganized Territory" in the 1870s.
"The Sioux, a powerful and hostile nation, 25,000 strong, with no friendly feeling toward the whites, had recently entered a new agreement with the US Government to keep the peace in consideration of the regular issuing of rations to them." It was during the administration of Ulysses Grant, the 18th US President, that the government, in 1871 or 72, changed its policy toward the Indians, "holding out the inducement of civilizing and Christianizing them through the agency of different churches in lieu of their continuance under military rule." The Assinaboines, at that time, were the only Sioux tribe to accept this change, and "lead a civilized life, learn the art of husbandry and try the effect of education."
It was into these circumstances that Lydia Day, her husband, their young daughter Lydia and their young son accepted the invitation to become "missionaries," for one year, "providing the rudiments of an education" as well as teaching the Indians "how to till the soil and so become, in part, self-supporting."  The young family started out in June of 1875 from their home in Sheridan, Montana on a four-day journey northward by horse-drawn wagon to Fort Benton, where they began a three-day steamboat trip eastward down the Missouri River to Fort Peck Mission School. Because the nearest soil appropriate for a farm site was fifty miles further down the river, at "Wolf Point," buildings had not been completed, and Lydia was obliged to begin the first month of the school year in Fort Peck. After the move to Wolf Point some 75 students were enrolled.


    It was the writer’s privilege to teach the first school ever taught at this agency. In the month of May, 1875 word reached us that the services of my husband and myself were needed at this post, followed by a request that we accept the position offered us, viz: that in teaching the Indians how to till the soil and so become, in part, self-supporting, also teach them the rudiments of an education.

    So it came about that we decided to leave our home here temporarily and become missionaries; an experience we have never regretted, as it opened a new phase of life to us, for the Indian character can be studied best amid its own surroundings.

    Early in June we started by private conveyance to Fort Benton, the head of navigation on the Missouri river, some 200 miles north of here, to take steamer down the river to our destination, 500 miles by river below that point. At that time no railroads had entered our territory to make travel easy and pleasant, but any one wishing to make a journey had their choice between the stage’coach or the slower but easier way of private conveyance. My only experience in traveling by roach was when I came from Corinne to Sheridan five years before, not long enough to forget the weariness of the trip, or the hardships nor are they yet forgotten after this lapse of years. Since that time I have never ceased to wonder why this mode of travel has not been substituted, in case of criminals, for Imprisonment for life or hanging, if torture be the object in view.

    It took four days to make the journey to Fort Benton; ample time to take In all the sights by the way, which were varied, ranging from beautiful to grand. As we came near the present site of Boulder City, the earth was gaily decked with our beautiful Donglasia   Montana, till it seemed an enchanted lawn and we longed to pitch our tent and stay where there was so much to charm and delight us. The upheaval of gigantic boulders standing thickly around, spoke to us of the power and majesty of God, no less than the tiny flowers at our feet did of His love and goodness in blending the two for our admiration and contemplation. We knew not then of the fame that awaited his: flower, this humble member of the primrose family (Helena’s proud emblem), nor that it is even now not known to exist save in Montana and Wyoming.

    But these pleasures were left behind, for we must press on to Helena, where a few hours were pleasantly spent with friends and in viewing the city, then on, as we were in haste to reach Fort Benton In time to take the first steamer down.  

    As we came to Prickly Pear Canyon. 10 miles from Hçlena, the sublimity and grandeur of the scene overawed us. The towering rocks on one side of the road, the steep declivity on the other, at the foot of which ran, or rather rushed, a mountain stream, sparking and foaming in its rapid descent; almost held us breathless in wonder and amazement, for where is the person that can view the wonders of nature and not be stirred to the very depths of their soul and acknowledge in their heart of hearts the power and majesty of God?

    From this point on, as we passed over alkali plains, interspersed with occasional oases, I can only think of the country as the “abomination of desolation,” though meaning no disrespect to that section of our state, or to the inhabitants settled therein. I could only think of Sodom and Gomorrah, and was glad to shake the dust from my feet in passing on. It is tiresome even now to think of this long, weary stretch of country over which the “ships of the desert” transported freight from Fort Benton to the inland towns. No wonder that cambric needles sold for “two bits” a paper, and coffee and sugar for 50 cents a pound. Doubtless all is changed now, as the civilizing influence of the pioneer causes the desert to blossom as the rose.

    We entered the town of Fort Benton in one of those severe winds called a “blizzard,” when men walk with undertain steps and loaded wagons move on as though propelled by some mysterious power not known to man; to find hotel accommodations all taken. But whoever knew western kindness or hospitality to fail? Surely not I! As there was a woman and children in the case, a gentleman was found at the only hotel who willingly gave up his room to us, for which act of courtesy the writer will ever hold him in grateful remembrance, though his name be forgotten, as is that of the hotel, which was but partly enclosed and where dust and shavings vied with each other In their rapid transit through the air.

    The “Big Muddy” was muddy at that time of the year, though it is usually a clear and sparkling stream, broad and majestic at that point, but it assumes a turbid aspect some miles below, which does not leave it till it empties into the Mississippi, which gives it the name of “Big Muddy”.

    Two steamers were lying there, the Carrol and Benton. We took passage on the latter. a new, staunch boat, commanded by Captain John McCarry. The ride down the river was a pleasurable one. New scenes delighted the eye, which the passengers were alert to espy, as point after point was cited In our downward passage on the turbulent stream. On one side of the stream the banks would present a sheer precipitous wall of sandstone, worn by the agencies of time, thus giving them that grand, unique appearance of having been chiseled for natural fortifications in time of need; and leaving the beholder to gaze on them as “monuments of the past”, which, read aright, tell us of the prehistoric ages and the grand upheavels of nature.

    To the student of geology, all these have a vital interest that unlocks the mystery of the past and throws the light of reality upon it- -a light once seen, dispels the gloom and gives added zest and interest to the science of the physical structure of our earth.

    For many miles the banks were precipitous on one side, while the other would be a low and rolling prairie covered with bunch grass; the one frequently alternating with the other in the river’s rapid descent through its ever changing channel. From this on, low wooded bottom land alternated with the rolling prairie.

    For three days we journeyed thus, the steamer tying up nights, as it was unsafe to run without the light of day to aid in avoiding the many snags In the river bed and the sand bars on which so many boats have been stranded.

    Fort Carrol, a small trading post on the south side of the river was halted at for a few minutes, and frequent wood yards were passed where the boat took in supplies and the workmen there got their’s from the boat.

    Our destination, Fort Peck, was reached very early on the morning of the fourth day. It is on the north side of the Missouri river, as is the whole Sioux reservation. The accompanying illustration portrays better than words, the scene and surroundings. Built in the form of a quadrangle at the foot of the hills In the background, at the distance of 100 yards from the river’s brink, It silently welcomed our entrance to its gates. No life was yet astir, but the steamer’s shrill whistle that sounded through the unbroken wilderness soon brought the officers in charge to greet us.

    The right hand side of the enclosure was used by government officials, while the left hand side, separated by a high stockade, was used by the post trader. The buildings were of log, low one-story huts, except the one seen In the lower right hand corner of the view, which was a double bastion, the lower story being used by the interpreter and his family, while the upper was a place for lookout, through the port holes seen, and for defense in case of an uprising of the Indians.

    The buildings next in order on this side of the square were used respectively as cook and dining rooms, ‘bed room and office of the doctor, ---Stone of Helena, a pleasant gentleman, since deceased, and a school room for the writer. The buildings forming the back of the quadrangle were used as sleeping apartments and offices for the agent and his son and clerk, and for the writer and family; while on the left hand were store houses for the supplies and rations, issued monthly to the Indians; the high stockade In front, with heavy, massive gates enclosing the hollow square, also running continuously around the trader’s post; the one protecting the other in case of attack, for It must be remembered that the sioux were a powerful and hostile nation, some 25,000 strong, with no friendly feeling toward the whites, and but recently entered upon their new agreement with the United states government to keep the peace in consideration of the regular issuing of rations to them.

   How well this agreement was kept by them, the experience of one short year tells us, as the Custer massacre was the culmination of feelings long pent up, but partially repressed till the time was ripe for it. But we anticipate events and will go back and take them in their regular order. It was in Grant’s administration (I think in ‘71 or ‘72) that the government changed its policy toward the Indians; holding out the inducement of civilizing and Christianizing them through the agency of the different churches in lieu of their continuance under military rule.

    With this object in view, different missions were established throughout the Indian country; the Fort Peck mission being under the auspices of the M. E. Church. Major W. W. Alderson, of Bozeman, being the agent appointed for the post, which he filled acceptably for several years, being highly esteemed by the Indians and called by them in their own vernacular, their “Little Father.” For many years the fort had been used as a trading post with the Indians, but was purchased by the government for mission purposes of its former owner, Major Peck, and continued to bear his name. It has since been destroyed by floods and entirely washed away.

    As is well known, the Sioux nation is composed of different bands or tribes of Indians; the only one at that time consenting to enter upon and lead a civilized life and learn the art of husbandry and try the effect of education was the Assinaboines. For this purpose a farm site was selected 50 miles by land farther down the river, the first available soil to be reached near the stream. It was also decided to establish the school in connection with the farm at this place, called Wolf Point, from a creek of that name emptying into the river. Another object in view was to separate the more peaceable Indians from those unfriendly to the whites and their methods. The necessary buildings for farm and school purposes were already in process of construction on our arrival at the mission, but not ready for occupancy, so It was decided that the school year, which commenced the first of July, should open at that place (Fort Peck) and continue for one month, at the expiration of which time, pupils and teacher would remove to Wolf Point. So, one July morning the writer’s duties commenced.

    The experience was a new and novel one and will ever stand out with prominence in her memory. Which had most to overcome of a feeling of fear--pupils or teacher-- it would be hard to tell. That the poor little dusky children thought me a veritable cannibal ready to eat them up, was too apparent, as their trembling forms and frightened looks betrayed. While, on my part, well I I was older than they and reasoned myself into the quieter waters of safety than they had learned to do, With the aid of the Interpreter for a few days to pacify their fears and to explain to them the process of acquiring an education and the benefits of it, we gained confidence in each other, and from that time on a bond of sympathy grew up between us; we no longer felt afraid, but sought to learn and understand the different natures and to try to help them to an understanding of a better life. Nor was this feeling lessened, but greatly strengthened and deepened as time wore on; for but a few short weeks had elapsed till I was indebted to one of my dusky pupils for the life of my son, who would have been drowned In the treacherous Missouri, but for her timely assistance. Her name, Howee (Voice Woman), will ever be held in loving remembrance by me.

    That such a noble act of daring should be recompensed goes without saying, so I appealed to the post trader, Jos Leighton, to know what would please her most To my astonishment he told me some German silver ear rings; that she had long coveted some he had but they were quite above her reach, costing 35 cents. That I was annoyed at his placing so low estimate on my child’s life was apparent, for he repeatedly assured me that it would give more joy and satisfaction to the dusky damsel than a grand piano would to a white one; so I reluctantly consented to purchase them for her; and if sparkling eyes and grateful looks are an index to the feelings within, she was fully recompensed for her noble deed.

    Not long after this, several hundred Sioux met at the fort in council to receive their annuities. It was the writer’s first glimpse of a warlike, band of the “noble red man.” To describe them in their hideousness, in their war paint and feathers, would be impossible. They recalled to mind the vivid descriptions of “Dante’s Inferno,” and I have ever since felt that the Italian poet had had some visions of the Sioux nation in council assembled at Fort Peek, to aid him in his conception of the inhabitants of the infernal regions. For a time we stood outside our door to view this strange sight, not realizing the danger surrounding us, till requested by the major’s son Matt to go inside and lock our door, as many of the Indians were carrying their guns at full cock and one of the chiefs, Black Catfish, by name, had become insolent and began giving orders about the distribution of goods. The major, realizing imminent danger, ordered the immediate return of all goods to the warehouse and simultaneously with the order the doors of the arsenal opened and two brass cannons appeared ready to be used In self-defense if need be. Up to this time the Indians had shown a hostile spirit, but the decisive action of the major evidently caused the insolent chief and his braves to realize that he was in command there and they beat a hasty retreat. After seeing the impartial distribution of the annuities as made by the major, they acknowledged the justice of it, and accepted of them without further complaint. For three days the work went on, till the goods were all distributed and the Sioux left for their summer haunts.

   Having removed to Wolf Point, the school grew in numbers and interest, till some 75 pupils were enrolled. It was a day school, as there were no buildings for the accommodation of a boarding school at that time. A noonday lunch was served to them each day and they soon learned to present themselves with clean hands and faces, also clean print dresses which were given them by the government, and which they would carefully remove on going home, to keep them clean for school use. The mothers were glad to learn how to make clothing like white children’s, for they, like other mothers, take pride in the comely appearance of their offspring. But the blanket is an article of Indian apparel clung to with the greatest tenacity and one of the hardest things for them to give up. A sense of shame comes over them if deprived of it, similar to the feeling a white child would have If deprived of all of Its clothing. So It takes time and tact to instruct them in the white man’s ways. Nor will they willingly part with their raven locks, which seemed a necessity for more reasons than one. Another peculiarity, even among the older ones, is their reluctance to speak the English language In the presence of other Indian, even if able to do so very well. But when one is thrown among a people speaking an unknown language, it is readily acquired and so in this case, but a few months passed before we were able to understand their wants and carry on a limited conversation with them. They make great use of sign language, which is more expressive than elegant or refined, but it is easily understood.

    It was a little difficult at first to learn their names, so long and different from ours, but “practice makes perfect” and we soon learned, not only to distinguish their faces, but to readily call them by name. The following are a few that rolled easily from our tongue when speaking to their respective owners. “Ta-mock'-peah-pa'-tah” (Fire Cloud Woman), ‘How-ee'-ta-pa-e-cha'-ke-wing” (The Four Rising Moon), “Wee'-che-chap'-ah’ (Little Girl), “lm'-pe-ah-oh'-ah-wing” (Many Biankets). While the boys’ names, no less expressive, were, for example: ‘Mos'-ah-ah'-pop” (Strike the Iron), “Ta-sah'-ke” (Walking Stick), “Wom-ah-di’-shone” (Eagle Feather), “Wo'-ton-ka” (Big Voice), “Bob'shone” (Undone), ‘Ok'-she-na-shu-she'-nah” (Little Boy), “Ma-toh'-wa-ke'tah” (Look at the Bear).

   It pleased the Indians’ fancy to give our own little girl one of their names, expressive of their fondness for her and of their adoption of her Into their band; so she was known to them as “Wah-tah'-pah-wee'-ah" (The tittle Girl of the Canoe Band). On one occasion when little Laura appeared among them in a new cambric dress, dotted with a tiny figure of many keys, their admiration knew no bounds and they rechristened her “Oh'-tah-mos'-ah-te'-ope-u'-spha” (Many Irons to 0 pen the Door)--their word for keys; so it may be seen their names had meanings, and were after all no more difficult to pronounce and remember than many scientific names. One day, during the first few weeks of school, a squaw stepped to the open window and In a low voice said “Wah'-to-pa'-tah-coo'-ah!” In an instant not a child was left in the room. She had quietly told them that a steam boat was approaching and they had followed their childish desire to go and see it, so there was no more school that day.

    On another day, later, a similar event transpired, although in this case not a word was spoken, simply a slight move ment of the hands, and the children with terror- stricken faces fled, leaving me alone with my two children. Going at once to the interpreter to ascertain the cause of this movement, I learned that she had told them in their sign language that the hostile Indians were approaching; and, strange though It may seem, they stood In as great fear of them as did we. The report proved to be a false one, but had been communicated to them by their method of telegraphic signs.

    The interpreter Joseph Lambert, was a fine, noble man, a half-breed; his father being a Frenchman and his mother an Assinabolne woman; the former had had his son educated In St.Louis, but he afterward returned to his mother’s people, married and settled among them.

    He was considered the best interpreter known along the Missouri river, not only for his linguistic ability, for he spoke French, Spanish and English, beside the different Indian dialects, but also his integrity of dealing between the Indians and whites; a position of great responsibility, but was acceptably filled by him.

   I could not understand why they (the Indians) should stand in such fear of other Indians (for his face betrayed the hidden emotions within), so I asked him to explain. He replied, “I know of what I am afraid, while you do not; I know how they torture people. I have been forced to see it, and God knows how I shrink from it.” Poor Joe! poor Joe! What he most dreaded came to pass in a few short years after this, himself and family being killed by the hostiles, when out riding in their cart a few miles from their home.

    The newspapers of the day gave no particulars, simply stated the fact of the cold-blooded murder. We can but hope the end comes quick and painless.

    Tell me not, “the Indian is a dog " and has no noble manly traits. I know better. There are so many brave, good men among them, as among their white brothers. Not all, nor nearly all, but some. Their head chief, “Red Stone,” was a man of keen intellect, dignified bearing and refined feeling, and was anxious that his people should become civilized and Christianized and used his influence with then to this effect, as did several subchiefs under him. Whenever trouble arose it was not the chiefs that caused it, but their so-called “young bloods”; the young men, or soldiers of the tribe, who would break loose from the restraint of their superior officers and assume charge of affairs themselves.

    The writer was present several times in their councils, or talks with the major when he would come down from Fort Peck to talk over matters with them. They were always glad to have him come, for they have great respect for their ‘Little Father”. After silently smoking the pipe of peace, in turn, while in a sitting posture on the floor, some one would quietly rise, and in a dignified manner address the agent, and proceed with elequence to make their wants and wishes known; all of which was duly interpreted to the major, when he by the same means would reply to them. It is true they often went back to the beginning of creation in the recital of their wrongs from the white man, but never forgot to bring things up to present date and make known their immediate wants. They had great respect for’ antiquity and dwelt much upon legends of the past.

    An old man named “Joe”, supposed to be about ninety years old, came one day to see me and on asking him how old he was, he answered reverently, “as old as Jesus Christ”. Not wanting to miss the rare opportunity of conversing with one so aged, I proceeded to question him; but to my disappointment found he was not familiar with the events of that period; doubtless (?) owing to the “infirmities of age”,  rather than to any mistake in the chronology of his birth.

    Their mode of burying the dead was a new and novel one to me; instead of placing the body in the bosom of Mother Earth, they wrap it closely in a blanket, secuely tied with buckshin thongs and place it on a scaffold supported by four poles 10 or 12 feet long. For weeks afterward the mourners may be heard wailing for their dead; while from faces, arms and limbs the blood may be seen to trickle from cuts inflicted for the purpose of showing respect and grief for their loved ones; for they do love them with the same tenderness of feeling that white people do their lost ones.

    One day an Indian came to our house for a talk, as they frequently did; and on noticing a war whistle suspended from his neck by a roll of buffalo skin about the size of one’s wrist, I offered to buy it of him. He commenced to unfasten the whistle, which was made of bone from the wing of a goose, but I insisted that 1 wanted the whole thing. necklace and all. But when he explained to me, with sad countenance, that the roll concealed all he had left of a loved daughter, her treasured locks of hair, I no longer wanted it, but felt a deep respect and tenderness for the man before me.

    In the early fall, a Mr. Mathews, an educated Digger Indian, came to labor with our Indians as missionary and teacher, and from this time on religious services were frequently held in the school room on the Sabbath; the interpreter explaining the truths of the gospel as expounded by him. Whenever practicable, the major would meet with us and preach a good sermon. The children entered heartily into the singing service, for we had taken pains to teach them many of the hymns in school. They could repeat readily the Lord’s prayer, the twenty-third psalm and many other passages of scripture. So the days wore on, tho' never wearying for want of incident or event, forthey were of daily occurrence, sometimes of too startling a nature for one’s peace of mind. The children came to school very regularly in the morning, for that meant a noonday lunch to them, but the afternoon session was sometimes forgotten. They learned surprisingly fast; two half-breed girls could not read at all when the school opened, but at the close of the year they had advanced to thesecond reader, while a class of ten were reading in the first reader, another of twenty or more in the primer, with a large class in chart drill. Oral lessons were given in the primary studies and fairly good progress was made by them. Less aptitude was shown in numbers than in any other study, but much in writing was exhibited, drawing being one of their untaught attainments.

    It is said, “an Indian never laughs.” This is not so. With the children and older people laughter is as common as with the whites, and rings out clear and hearty. And do they sing? Yes! All the intricacies of the opera seem at their command. One voice alone will swell as full a chorus, trill as many notes and ring in as many changes as that of one coyote. The children enter into their various games with thesame zest and earnestness that white children do.

    If a young man wants to marry and settle in life, the transaction is often purely a business one. He goes to the father of the girl he wishes to honor with the privilege of being his slave, and offers to give him a pony, or a gun or several blankets, anything wanted to the value of about $30 for his daughter. If the father sees fit to sell her, she becomes his wife, or, rather, property; which if he tires of her, has full liberty to “throw away”, although the laws of his tribe demand that he continue to support her, even though he buys another wife. I do not say that the maidens are never wooed and won by the braves, for I do not think so. The human heart is the same, whether in white or red man’s breast, and love is not a feeling unknown to them.

    Their old people are the most to be pited. There seems to be no cozy chimney corner for them where they can muse on events passed and live again In the memory of by-gone years, but all comforts are deprived them, but scanty food and clothing is given them.They are “thrown away”, left to die like a withered leaf that is brown and sear. I’m sure the good Lord pities them, and will welcome them to a better home, for they are His children no less than we.

    The “Bad Lands” in that section are rich in fossils, and the Indians learning our interest in them took delight in bringing them to us; for it must be remembered that it was not safe for us to venture far from home, so we could but encourage the Indians to bring us the coveted treasures, for we would give them bread, which was more appreciated by them than the beautiful mollusca they gave us. Some of the chambered nautili were of rare and exquisite beauty, with delicate tracings and irridescent surfaces reflecting the colors of the rainbow, and varying in size from six inches to one-half inch in diameter. Some were firmly imbedded in solid rock, while others lay in a decomposed matrix and were easily removed. Nor did their beauty rival that of the sections found of the “baculites ovatus”, or the straight chambered nautilus, which has been found varying in length from 12 to 32 feet, altho' we only procured fragments of this early inhabitant of the sea, varying in length from one to six inches, and in diameter from one-eighth of an inch to four inches. The presence, in close proximity, of different bivalves and univalves portrayed to us the life that long ages since had sported in the sea before overtaken by one of nature’s great convulsions that marked an epoch in the history of Our globe. Nor were the fossils all from the ocean; for those of the land were found there, too. The Indians would tell us of places where they were found, “like piles of hogs one upon the other”; so we may know that mammals roamed there at will; and, perchance, looked with friendly eye upon their undine neighbors. Of these we secured but one small section, one vertebra which was of the same irridescent hue in places, and was given to us as the greatest favor they could bestow.

    That the Indians are a superstitious people, all know, the same spirit of “fetich” prevailing among them, as among other more barbarous nations. In this case the object of their veneration and worship was the fossil vertebra given us; which their imagination had clothed with such healing properties, that it would almost bring a dead man to life, if but a few grains of it were taken in a little water. They gave it voluntarily, for we would not presume to buy so valued a treasure of them. They assured us it would protect us from sickness and death, and insisted upon our acceptance of it. Sometimes after this, when ill, they would come to us and want some of the “big medicine”; so our son would carefully file a few grains of the extinct mammal in a teaspoon, add a little water, and the compound would be taken with most gratifying results. We felt that the compound whose possible (?) formula was aq. would be no more harmful to the patient than many a one prescribed by a physician and filled by the druggist. Our great desire to secure more fossils from this region (for we never knew specimen hunter to be satisfied), led us one day to take the risk of a trip to find some. Accompanied by the interpreter and our own family, we ventured a few miles out; riding along a broken hilly prairie that would rise and fall like waves of. the sea, but were so intent on keeping a sharp lookout for any hostile that might suddenly appear, that we failed to find any or to enjoy the ride, which was the only one we had during the year. But a day or two afterward we learned that a small party of hostile Indians had passed that day within a mile or so of where we were. We didn’t want any more rides or fossils unless the Indians brought them.

    There was no monotony to our life there: It was constantly varied with school and home duties, and Indian scares, till we hardly knew how the time flew by; and it was with difficulty, when the spring months came, that we could realize that eight montfts had passed since we had seen a white woman; yet, such was the fact; as our only intercourse with the outside world, was brief visits with the passengers on the steamers. The agent’s clerk, Mr. Stanley, with his wife and child, who were stationed at Fort Peck, had gone East on one of the last steamers down the river; and our nearest neighbors were at Fort Bulorci, ninety miles, by land, below. We received mall frequently, by steamer in the summer, and overland, by courier, the rest of the time; so we had very pleasant visits with absent friends, and as often as possible from the major, whose duties kept him the most of the time at Fort Peck; also from George Cruikshank, an engineer from Helena, who came down and put up and ran a saw mill, at Wolf Point, aided by the Indians. He was a good Christian man, and truly a help to us.

    The Indians, both men and women, would occasionally drop in for a visit; and to learn the white woman’s ways. Although woman is accorded a low place in the economy of their domestic life, the writer was ever treated with deference and respect. The soft, velvety hands of their men, and the hard bony ones of their women told but too plainly where the burden of labor rested.

    Two men “Corporal John” and “Smoker”, came often; they bad been scouts for Gen. Hazea, and were true and trusty men--friends on whom we felt we could rely In time of trouble.

    “Corporal John” was amusing in the extreme. In the first place he looked like a monkey; and in the second, he acted like one; though underneath all this, there were traits that we valued in him. He had been petted and spoiled by the soldiers till he felt that he was a “privileged character”; as indeed he was.

    “Smoker” was of a quiet, dignified turn, tending to sterness. If you wanted an order obeyed any little trouble arising among the Indlans settled, “Smoker” was your man, for he was not one to be trifted with, Both have since died--the former in a fit, the latter from sickness.

    Chiefs “Red Stone” and “Long Fox”, with their wives’- for each had two--would sometimes come for a talk; they were comely women that commanded respcct and were glad to learn our ways of doing work. “Mary”, our household servant, was almost companionable. She was indispensable as cook for the school children, and learned readily all kinds of work, except ironing. If her hand became too warm from the iron, it was allowed to stand on the garment, while the hand was cooling, a proceeding that was ruinous to the garment, but one that she did not seem to overcome. “Blinkey” and “Button-Sticks” were, alas two “fallen” women. There may have been others, I know not, but these came sometimes to see me. I tried to tell them of a better life, but know not that it was heeded. A life along the Missouri river was not free from temptation to such as they; so, while feeling to censure and condemn their sinful conduct, let us throw a mantle of charity around their guilt and weakness.

    During the winter there was an eclipse of the sun and moon, which events were looked upon with superstitious awe by the Indians. They would wrap their heads in their blankets and lie on the ground in dread and fear.

    It was their custom to make “medicine” for things they wished most to come to pass, whether it was the arrival of a steamboat, therecovery of the sick or their triumph over enemies, it mattered not; the “medicine" must be compounded. Strange, unearthly noises, with incantations were used to induce the “spirits” to bring about the desired results.

    One evening we were invited to attend a “scalp dance”, in triumph over some foe killed. For a short time we went to see their strange proceedings. The night was dark with only an occasional torch light to pierce the gloom. As I remember the scene they were formed in a large circle, composed of some forty or fifty men, slowly moving around, while in the center was a woman with uplifted arms, in whose hands were elapsed a club, on the end of which was securely fastened the scalp of the fallen foe. This she held high above her head, singing those strange, weird notes, that once heard are never forgotten; and keeping time to her music with a stiff, rigid motion of the body, as she slowly moved around the circle; there is no grace or gliding movement to their dance, it is more like jumps and jerks, that weary and distract; and yet they will keep that same monotonous motion for hours.

    The “sun dance” is their great religious festival of the year, and was as solemnly observed by them as the feast days of the Jews were by them. It lasts for three days, and here it is that the physical endurance of their young men is put to the severe trial that shall decide their future greatness; for the Indian holds in highest veneration the man that unflinchingly suffers greatest bodily pain. Moral or mental greatness is as nothing compared to it. I feel I should fall adequately to describe the scene as a whole, so will revert only to that part in which their young men engaged in their self -inflicted torture. Bared to the waist, with thongs of buckskin passed through perforations in the body on either side of the breast, under the muscles, constantly swaying to and fro along the whole line of distance, some 40 or 50 feet, with only heels resting on the ground: thus they went back and forth, back and forth, one following the other on the same line, while deafening shouts and beat of drums helped to keep their fainting spirits up; for hour after hour must elapse before this ends, if they would not be forever disgraced in the eyes of their fellow-men, called “cowards”, “women”--a reproach they would sooner die than hear. So, all day long the scene went on, one after another dropping out of the contest as their powers of endurance failed. Some would last for six or eight hours and but few for ten; they, the victors, bore the pain and would be carried from the scene in an exhausted, fainting condition.

    It was about this time that much uneasiness was felt in regard to the report of hostile Indians prowling around. We were but a handful of white people, only six or, eight men, protected by no enclosure, and with no soldiers nearer than Fort Buford. We were at the mercy of Indians--friendly or hostile--there we were in the midst of them; in the heart of an Indian reservation. We were supplied with guns and ammunition, and felt that many, if not all of our people, could be relied upon should there be an attack upon us. Oh! reader, those were hours that drew us in our extremity near to God.

    We knew not what might happen and prepared for theworst. There were but a half dozen or so houses huddled near together and it was agreed upon should trouble arise, that we flee to the warehouse, as safer than the dwelling houses. The alarm to be given was the firing of a gun three times in quick succession. One night, when preparing to retire, we were startled by three clear and sharp reports of a gun. It was but the work of a few moments to prepare for flight. Our “valuables” were in a small compass, ready at hand; the children were awakened, and ‘we were about to start, when the ever faithful “Joe”--the interpreter--was at our door to explain that the firing was through the thoughtlessness of some young men--having forgotten that it was to be the signal of an assault. It was to ‘Joe” that all --both Indians and white --went for consultation; for he was the white man’s friend, no less than the Indian’s. As one of them, he understood their character, and influenced them for good. Through runners from the different camps, he was kept posted in regard to their movements, and could advise understandingly, so all appealed to him.

    The winter was wearing away, supplies were getting low and no prospect of more till spring opened up and boats could come up the river.

  Oh! Reader, did you never feel the pangs of hunger, or see its dreadful effect on others? If not, “go see what I have seen”, and "feel what I have felt,” if you would understand what I am about to tell you. Oh, God? Now it all passes before one like a grim phantom from which I would gladly flee.

    The winter had set in unusually early; the demand exceeded the supply. and so, with all the prudence and economy possible to use, the supplies were getting low, with no immediate prospect of relief. As long as game could be procured there was not much suffering for if an Indian can feast for one day, he can go without food for three, apparently with no ill effects. But the time came when it was difficult to get game. and the occasional issuing of fresh beef with scanty rations from the warehouse did not satisfy their needs. Wan countenances could be seen, with ever increasing feebleness of the aged and infirm; while the little children no longer romped as before, but looked with sad and hungry eyes upon us. It was as a pall settling down upon us. Yet all hardships must be borne bravely. We could but look the grim monster in the face and combat him with all the resources in our power; for it seemed to us they looked for succor. Coffee and tea grounds were not thrown away till steeped and resteeped and there was no more virtue in them. Soups were made, that a little substance might go a long way. There was no waste, everything was utilized; still more and more painful grew the sight. The gaunt forms, like shrouded ghosts would silently steal by - -no noise of foot tread - all was still, a stillness that oppresses; with ever brightening, piercing gaze, till It seemed “The very stars of heaven like the eyes of wolves glared at us.” Did our loved poet, Longfellow, ever pass through such an experience? If not, how could he so faithfully and vividly portray the sufferings of a famine?

    Our own food lost its relish, and could scarce be tasted, for the hungry eyes that would look in upon us through the window. We lowered the shade, still we saw them; a thick comfortable was placed before it to shut out the view; still we saw them; sleeping or working, there they stood before us, their very image burned into our soul, and almost powerless to succor.

    And yet they were withal so patient, so considerate; no fau1tfinding grumbling; they knew the “Little Father” was not to blame, and was doing all he could for them; and they were so thoughtful of each other’s welfare. We explained to them the need of the stronger, healthier ones denying themselves for the sake of the feebler ones; that their aged and sickly ones. the mothers with babies and the little children should share first, and they listened to US. Sometimes stalwart men would drop in, though not to ask for anything to eat; yet we would always give them something, if no more than half of a biscuit; but they would never eat it all; the larger part being carefully wrapped in their blanket, to take to some one at home; and this, too, when they would tell me they had not tasted food for days--their’ only sustenance being water, roots and herbs.

    It was during this trying time that the farm products or what was left of them, were of great service. The crop had consisted of wheat, oats, peas, beans, corn, potatoes rutabagas, turnips, pumpkins, squash, raddishes. etc. It was their first harvest, the result of their labors, which they had fondly watched over; being greatly surprised at the transformation of the shining seeds into edible vegetables they grew. Yet these were fast going and no more to replace them. Less and less grew the supplies, greater and greater the need of them; till lowest ebb was reached, having but a half sack of flour and other supplies at the mission, with which to feed 800 Indians, besides the several white people there. But few-.-and they, the old and sickly ones-- died of actual hunger, but all suffered.

    The Fort Peck Indians were not so peaceable as ours, and anxiety was felt for those in charge there. During one of the major’s visits to us at this time, he said: “I tell you it takes true courage to look several thousand starving Indians in the face, and think perhaps, they blame you for it.” Yet no violence was done.

    One day the smoke of a steamboat was seen far below; we felt that help was approaching, and bowed our heads with thankful hearts that it was so. On and on it came to the landing, with many dusky forms to view it. Hope ran high, too high to last. We soon learned that the boat carried no government supplies. Yet we bought some for our private use, which enabled us to continue to supply the pressing needs till the next steamer came, which brought relief to us all.

    The memory of all this is so indelibly stamped upn me I can never, never forget it. There are some experiences that take such hold upon us that life itself could sooner be eradicated than they. They are seldom spoken of or referred to. They are buried in our hearts and lives, and no one to roll the stone away.

    During all this time the school had continued, feeling that it were better so than to have it close. The writer’s duties were more In the line of superintending the preparation of food and clothing for the children; while Mr. Matthews had charge of the school. Be afterward married one of the half-breed girls and settled among them.

    The summer months were at hand; our former degree of cheerful life and activity was again asserting itself. The flora of the region interested us, and we would gladly have made full collections, but the ever present fear of maurading Indians kept us from venturing far from home. Yet we secured many species of flowers, some of them not seen by the writer elsewhere in Montana. Noticeably among them a member of the cactus family also night-shade and calchicum; the latter of rare beauty, a raceme of pure white flowers an inch in diameter, resembling our cultivated lily.

    As before said, the Indians kept themselves posted in regard to the movements of the hostiles; and when mail was received, the chiefs anxiously looked to us for news of the soldiers. On being told of Custer’s forward movement, “Red Stone” exclaimed with great earnestness and graceful sweep of the hand, “My friend, I’m sorry; Sitting Bull will wipe him out, as the dust.” His prophecy proved but too true; for, three days afterward, on June 25, 1876, the dread events of the Custer massacre, one of the most bloody and barbarous fights in the history of the United states, occurred. The bravery of the great general was admired by the Indians, and they deeply regretted his death; news of which reached us two days afterward by Indian scouts and was confirmed the following day by Col. Langford, a passenger on an upbound steamer. The scene of action was 75 miles southeast of us. But meager news was received, we knew not full particulars--only enough to realize our danger was imminent.

    Our year was drawing to a close. We were preparing to leave the mission and the friends we had made behind us, and were waiting a downward steamer on which to take passage for a visit to our former Ohio home.

    At the close of our year’s experience, does some good Christian reader ask: “Had you no revival at this M. E. mission school?” I answer, “No..” “Had you no conversions?” “None that 1 know of.” “Did you not break to them the bread of life?” “Yes, and other read, too.” In the writer’s humble opinion, religion, like many other things, fits best on a partly filled stomach. The Indian is no exception to the rule; “that the most direct way to a man’s heart, is through his stomach.” If I wished to be instrumental in the conversion of a soul, I would have them feel that I cared for them, for their bodily, as well as their spiritual welfare, It is through love that we can most influence people. Words without true and noble lives back of them fall powerless on the ear.

   'Tis true we each have an influence for good or evil, but that influence is in actions’rnore than words; though “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” We know not the subtle influence it may have, nor how far-reaching it may be. Our year of missionary labors was ended. What the results, only God knows. We “tried to do our duty ever,” “tried to do It just and true.” In the great hereafter we may know, but not now.

     For days we waited the arrival of the steamer, the Indians frequently dropping in for a last word of council and advice. The papooses had ceased to be afraid of us; for on our first arrival they would bestow a hasty glance upon, us,then, in terror, scream and cling to their mothers, but now, in turn, it was our own child, our little daughter; that had grown to be afraid of the whites, and would cling to us in fear as we saw ladies and children on the steamers running back and forth. Truly! It was time to go home.

    On one of these days a squaw, with a baby a few weeks old, came to see me. After she left I missed a silver teaspoon. Not wanting to lose it- - the set being a present from a deceased mother--I appeaicd to “Joe” to investigate the matter for me. It was the first time during our stay there that anything had been taken from us. He soon returned with the squaw who delivered the spoon, with the apology that “the papoose had taken it when she didn’t know it.” Feeling that she would like me to leave with a good Impression of her, I did not tell her that her story was not believed.

    I feel that my imperfect sketch of our year spent at this agency would be incomplete without brief mention of the ever present dog, which partook largely of the wolf nature, Although a lover of that noble animal, I never saw anything in one of the Assinaboine dogs tocall forth my love and admiration. Cats, they had none.

    At last the steamer came; goodbyes were spoken; hands were clasped, with quivering lips and moistened eyes, we parted from them; to go to our childhood home on the banks of dear old Erie.

L.  A. Fitch.

Genealogy of John Henry Hedley  son of Laura (Fitch) & John Rorison Hedley
Seven Generations

Gen.1  Thomas Hedley (1720-1785) and his wife Mary (1725-1805) of Dinley Hill, Birtley Parish, Northumberland, Eng. is the earliest Hedley ancestor  we can confidently claim at present.
G.2  Thomas Hedley (1750-1883) son of (above) Thomas and Mary was married 1773 to Martha Weatherley (1750-1827), daughter of Frances (Atkinson) and William Weatherley
G.3 John Hedley (1773-1855) son of (above) Martha (Weatherley) and Thomas Hedley, was married 1798 to Frances Lawes (1777-1866), daughter of Frances (James) & Nicholas Lawes, Ryton, Durham, Eng.
In 1893 John & Frances Hedley with their 6 children emigrated to the Ottawa Valley, Canada, settling on Lot 18, Con.4, March Twp., Carlton Co., where they cleared land, built roads, constructed a barn & two log houses (one still in use), developed the first inland grist & sawmill in March Twp., played an active role in development of March Twp.
G.4 John Hedley II (1804-1866) third child of (above) John Hedley and Frances Lawes (their eldest surviving son) age16 when family came to Canada; married Margaret Grierson (1807-1886) daughter of Ann Grinton & Lieutenant John Grierson of British Royal Navy, natives of Edinburgh, Scotland,who retired and emigrated to Torbolton Twp., Carlton Co., Ont. Canada in 1822.
John and Margaret (Grierson) Hedley and their family of 14 farmed in the Crown Point area. After John’s death at age 66 Margaret continued to farm Lot 17, Con. 4. The 1871 Census shows Margaret with her 5 youngest children (ages 21 to 32) plus the two children (ages 1 & 4) of her son  James William. Margaret traveled to Kansas to visit her son,  his third wife and children, including John R. & James U. While there Margaret fell ill and died; burial in Kansas.
G.5 James William Hedley (1837-1925) sixth son of (above) John Hedley II and Margaret Grierson of March Township, Carlton County m. Mary Rorison (1841-1869) (born in Fitzroy, Torbolton). Mary was the daughter of Hugh Ulmstead W. Rorison and Ann Grierson.
James William and Mary (Rorison) Hedley had two sons, John Rorison Hedley, born 1867 in Michigan, and James Ulmstead Hedley, born two months before his mother Mary’s death.
G.6 John Rorison Hedley (b.1867; d. after 1930) eldest son of (above) James William Hedley and Mary Rorison married Laura Eleanor Fitch (1871-1955) in Helena, Montana on Jan. 23, 1896. Laura was the daughter of Lydia Amelia (Day) and Henry M. Fitch, residents of Ohio. John & Laura lived in Butte, Montana, where they made at least 5 land claims 1904-7.
In the 1910 Census John (“no occupation”) and family, including Laura’s mother Lydia Finch and John’s uncle Anthony Humble Hedley (“oil wells manager”) were living in Los Angeles Township, California.
In the 1920 Census the family (minus Anthony) were listed as ranchers  in Long Beach Township. Their 3 children ages 14, 16 and 18 were attending school.
In 1924 Laura and John were again living in Butte. Six land claims were made by Laura, and John was working as a collector.
On the 1930 Census,  John 62, and Laura 58, were again living in Long Beach Township (retired?)
G.7 John Henry Hedley (b. in 1902 in Montana,  the eldest child of (above) Laura (Fitch) and John R. Hedley.)  The 1820 Census for Long Beach Township shows John Henry 18, Helen F. 16, b. in 1903  and Donald Henry 14, b. 1905 (died in 1989 in Washington State).

Connections between our two families
Thomas Hedley & Mary

Thomas Hedley & Mary
Thomas Hedley & Martha Weatherley   

Thomas Hedley & Martha Weatherley
John Hedley & Frances Lawes
John Hedley & Frances Lawes
John Hedley II & Margaret Grierson(brothers)  Nicholas Hedley & Jane McBride
James William Hedley & Mary Rorison   (first cousins)John Henry Hedley & Margaret F. Johnston
John Rorison Hedley & Laura Fitch
(second cousins)Albert Hedley & Harriet Chadbourn
John Henry Hedley & ?
(third cousins)Jack (E.J.) Hedley & Aileen Hedley

David and Jackie (2 of 4 children)

Hedley Genealogy Index Page
James William Hedley (1837 - 1925)
m1, Mary Ulmstead Rorison  / m2, Harriet A. Wood  / m3, Emma Hays
Photo Page
This page last revised June 15, 2015