Written by Father Sheldon’s daughter; Mrs. Frank Butler
Jan. 25, 1922
Isabella County Enterprise
Dear Mr. Gould:
The Enterprise informs us that the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society will meet in our city this week. I regret I cannot be among those privileged to be present, but am sending a reminiscence of the early days of the county when father was missionary to the Indians.
Should it prove of interest you may publish it.
The Rev. Robert P. Sheldon (Father Sheldon to the pioneers) came into Isabella county in the fall of 1860 as a missionary to the Indians, and who continued his good work later among all citizens until his death in 1882. (Father Sheldon’s memory is perpetuated in Methodist Church history by a memorial window in the M. E. Church. Ed.).
In those days when we first moved on the Indian Mission, mother was much afraid of the Indians although the tribe was peaceful. There was in particular on old chief, Naw-Ye-Sac, who was of commanding stature, haughty man and to her, of ferocious aspect, who filled her with many misgivings, as it was said he had been on the war path and taken scalps from the pale faces in his youth. To give more color to these gruesome tales, the tobacco pouch he carried was said to be made of the skin of a white baby.
He was much interested in the Indian school which father taught and often visited the schoolroom. On one occasion, after having observed the proceedings of the school for some time, he decided to make a call on the schoolmaster’s wife.
The missionary’s quarters were built on the side and back of the school building and a door in the rear of the schoolroom used by the family opened into a small room we used as a store room for provisions, and a closet in which to hang clothes.
It was nearing the noon hour and mother making preparations for dinner came hurriedly into the room for meat and was transfixed with horror to see the dreaded chief, with whom she had nearly collided, standing half concealed by the hanging garments.
All the stories of treachery and bloodshed by the Indians rushed to her mind, and with a blood-curdling scream she rushed wildly through the house to the outer door and into the yard where a backward look showed the chief in hot pursuit. Fear lent wings to her feet. Escape was her only thought, and she fled with piercing screams into the fields beyond.
The ear splitting cries penetrated the wall of the schoolroom and brought father and the pupils to the scene, where they joined in the mad chase, the young Indians uttering loud excited whoops.
The awful dim caused her to cast a fearful backward glance, which made her increase her speed for Naw-Ge-Sac and a horde of yelling demons were bearing down upon her. But, the chief in spite of age, outdistanced the other pursuers.
With streaming hair and gasping for breath, she stumbled on until overcome with fatigue and terror she fell nearly fainting, and the chief caught her in his brawny arms, patted her on the shoulder saying over and over, “no hurt white squaw” until the others came up when he carried her to the house carefully. He explained why he was in the storeroom. He was on his way to the living room but never having seen such clothes, he stopped to examine the beautifully ironed starched white petticoats, which hung there and partly concealed his body.
He came many times after, but mother never feared him again and formed a genuine liking for chief Naw-Ge-Sac.
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