This story of an Indian captive has been handed down in my husband's family for years. It is about the miraculous escape from death at the hands of the Indians of the little girl who became my husband's great-grandmother.
The pioneer family lived in a sparsely settled country where roving bands of Indians often stole stock and food. Supplies were low, and the father knew he must leave his family and make the long trip to the nearest town for groceries.
Even though he pushed the team hard all day, it was a long day's journey. The heavily loaded wagon was even slower on the return trip. It was very late the second night when he returned.
To his horror, he saw that where his cabin had stood now lay only a pile of glowing embers. He ran here and there frantically calling for his wife and children. One by one, he discovered the bodies of his wife and boys, cruelly murdered with their scalp locks torn away. The Indians had found his home unguarded, had burned and murdered, and had driven his horses and cattle away.
A long, tedious search revealed no sign of his two little girls. So, as dawn broke, revealing the trail the Indians had taken, a broken-hearted father started out to try to find some trace of his two missing children. One of the little girls had fought and cried until she became such a nuisance that the Indians killed and scalped her before her sister's frightened gaze. They threw her body beside the trail where her father later found it.
The other little girl wisely went along, putting up no resistance and biding her time. They traveled all that day and part of the night and then stopped for a short rest. The next day they pushed on, and the Indians became wary about covering their trail. After the second day's travel, they were very tired and stopped to sleep. One Indian was set to watch, and the others soon were fast asleep.
The little girl watched closely, though she pretended to be asleep. When the guard's head fell forward on his chest, she slipped quietly out of camp. Every step she took, she expected to feel a cruel hand press her shoulder. But when she was safely out of camp, she ran wildly, frantically, paying no attention to direction. Her only thought was to put as many steps between herself and her captors as possible. Finally, exhausted, she fell to the ground, gasping for breath.
Just as we teach our children what to do in case of fire, those pioneer children had been taught to go eastward if they were lost. Westward was wilderness; but to go eastward meant that one would eventually find a settlement. As she collected her wits, this is what the little girl did. She traveled mostly at night. She found a few patches of wild berries; she drank from streams. Weary and footsore, she stumbled into a friendly settlement at last.
Her father had lost the trail and finally had turned sorrowfully back to bury the other members of his family. Means of communication were very slow in those days, and it was quite a long time before he was reunited with his little daughter.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then CAPPER’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from CAPPER’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.