Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Pioneer Thanksgiving

As I was looking for something to share about Thanksgiving, I came across this very moving story that gives wonderful insight into our ancestry.  I'm pretty sure the owner won't mind since I'm giving them full credit as well as sharing the link where I found this step back into history.  Enjoy.  I certainly did.

Taken from a story written by:
Joseph Wallace Thompson

As told to his daughter, Eleh T. Shumway Lazenby

My grandmother, Lucy Simmons Groves, who was one of the pioneers in Utah’s Southland, lived in a fort called Fort Harmony. It was late in the fall [about 1854], and people had gathered in their meager harvest, and it was very meager too. The men folks had a very busy season, with clearing the brush from a few acres of land, plowing, planting, digging a canal to irrigate their crops, and guarding the colony from the unfriendly Indians, and building a fort for protection, they were unable to raise much more than would be needed for man, and beast through the long winter months before another harvest.

Each family had a few sheep on which they depended for wool to make clothing. They carded, spun, and wove the wool into cloth. The people, true to the traditions which they had inherited from their pilgrim fathers, my grandparents (Elisha Hurd Groves and Lucy Simmons) were wondering just what they had to be thankful for. True, they had been delivered from those bloodthirsty wretches which had so cruelly murdered their beloved prophet and his equally loved brother, (Joseph and Hyrum Smith) and had mercilessly driven the people from their beautiful city of Nauvoo, and the comfortable homes they had only begun to enjoy. All this in the dead of a cold cruel winter, so cold the people crossed the great Mississippi River on the ice, a thing that seldom happened. Yes, they were out of the power of the mobs, but it had cost them those dear homes, and the long, long journey of a thousand miles or more through a wilderness infested by
wild beasts, and equally wild Indians. They had left behind almost everything that gave comfort and happiness, but they had a priceless heritage handed down to them from their Pilgrim parents. A strong will, and resolute determination that no trials could weaken or discourage, above all a faith in God that could not be shaken. So, they thought, even after all they had endured, and the present dark prospects, they had much to be thankful for.

Their little daughter, my mother [Lucy Maria Groves], who was born during the cold days when they were out on the prairie before coming to Utah, was then a little barefoot girl and was lonely and wished for a little chum to play with. As the day of Thanksgiving arrived, cold and stormy, they were huddled around the fireplace. Grandfather said, “Well, we have no apples to toast on the hearth. We have some corn, and I will parch some, and we have a nice fat deer hung up so we will roast some of it, and we will still have a Thanksgiving. We’ll not regret the past. It has given us a wonderful experience, so we will not long for nor wish for those things nowimpossible to obtain, but be thankful for what we have.”

The day was far along and night would soon be approaching, wrapping its dark shadowsover all the land. He said, “I will go out and take care of the stock, and then we will enjoy our Thanksgiving dinner.” As darkness came on, the snow began to fall. A real winter storm was on. The wind moaned and roared outside, and as if to accompany the elements from the hills nearby, and from every direction came the mournful howl of wolves. Grandfather remarked that he would surely feel sorry for any human being who happened to be out there tonight. As the night drew on, the storm increased in violence, until it seemed to shake even the adobe and stone walls of the fort. The man who had charge of the gate said, “For fear someone may be out tonight, I will not fasten the gate. I will leave it slightly ajar.”

The night grew wilder, and they all decided to go to bed. Grandfather was just starting to bank the fire, when there came a hard bang on the door like something heavy had fallen against it. He hurried over to open the door, and as he raised the latch, the door flew open and in fell an Indian. He was almost naked and so near frozen he could hardly speak. He held a bundle in his arms wrapped in a rabbit skin robe, which he had had to keep him warm in winter. As he fell on the floor, the bundle slid from his cold nerveless arms, and a faint cry came from the depths of the robe. It was the cry of a baby. Grandmother sprang up and hastily picked it up in her arms and unwrapped it, and lo, a tiny Indian baby, warm and cozy, came into view. “Father,” she said, “Thank God we are here to save these people.”

The baby was all right except for being hungry, but the man had nearly frozen to death. The sun had risen on another day before he recovered enough to tell his experience. He then told the story. His tribe [Shebitt],1 not a large one, had been out on their annual hunt to get a supply of venison for winter, and had killed plenty of deer, but a large band of bad Indians from another tribe had surprised them and killed them all including his wife. They took all their meat and ponies. They had struck him down and left him for dead. He had no idea how long he lay unconscious, but when he came to, all his friends and his wife were lying there cold and stiff. When he turned her over, the little one was lying there beneath the mother in a little depression in the ground, cold but still alive, and unhurt. The robbers had stripped all the good robes but had left this one, he thought because it wasn’t much good. He wrapped his baby in it, and came many days to the white man’s lodges to save his baby, and if the white man had not opened the door, he could not have done so. He was too sick, too cold, too hungry to go one step farther. He said, “If white squaw take baby, and raise up like white baby, she may have it for her own.”

He said, “Me now happy. Me want to die. You take care of baby. You good white mans. Me say goodbye.” And although he lingered a few days, he had fully decided not to live. Grandfather gave him good care, but he died and was laid to rest as if he were a white man.

Grandfather and Grandmother raised the baby, who grew to be a beautiful woman, bright, intelligent and a lovely girl. They loved the dusky little girl as if she were their own. They named her Evelyn. She was a real playmate to little barefooted Lucy, their own daughter. She grew to womanhood and married a good, honorable white man. My grandparents often said that of all the Thanksgiving days, the day on which little Evelyn came to them was the best of all.
----- Murland Packer

1 comment:

Lisabet Sarai said...

Great story, Ginger!

When we open our hearts, blessings pour in.