“I am an old tree. I cannot move about”

The postmaster who received Colonel Ewing’s letter with information about FRANCES SLOCUM (see previous posts here, and here ) unfortunately did not act on it. Finally, after two years, the letter was published in a newspaper which found its way into the hands of a clergyman who was a native of Wilkes-Barre and knew the Slocums. A correspondence with Colonel Ewing led Frances’ brothers Joseph and Isaac, along with her sister Mary, to travel to Indiana where they hoped to meet with their long-lost sister. Mary said she would know her sister “although she may be painted and jewelled off, and dressed in her Indian blanket, for one of you boys hammered off her finger-nail one day when she was four years old, and the scar would be on her finger.”

In fact a meeting of the siblings took place and, with the benefit of an interpreter, information was exchanged and the identity of Frances was confirmed. Her husband, a chief named Deaf Man, had died as had two sons. She had two daughters and three grandchildren with whom she lived. One daughter was married to a man named Jean Baptiste Brouillette, of mixed Indian French ancestry, who was now the head of the household. Frances expressed her satisfaction with the arrangement. “I do no work; I sit in the house with these my two daughters, who do the work, and I sit with them.” Although she was prevailed upon to return to Pennsylvania to her white family, Frances, now Ma-con-a-quah (Young Bear), refused even to visit.

I cannot, I cannot; I am an old tree. I cannot move about; I was a sapling when they took me away. It is all gone past. I am afraid I should die and never come back. I am happy here. I shall die here and lie in that graveyard, and they will raise a pole at my grave, with the white flag on it, and the Great spirit will know where to find me. I should not be happy with my white relations. I am glad enough to see them, but I cannot go. I cannot go. I have done.

In 1839, Frances’ brother Joseph Slocum returned with two of his daughters (Hannah, the mother of Martha Bennett Phelps, who wrote the book Lost Sister of Wyoming, and Harriet) to visit his sister again. This passage from Hannah’s diary describes Frances and her surroundings in considerable detail.

She is of small stature, not very much bent, had her hair clubbed* and tied with a worsted ferret**; her hair is somewhat gray; her eyes a bright chestnut, clear and sprightly for one of her age; her face is very much wrinkled and weather-beaten. She has a scar on her left cheek received at an Indian dance; her skin is not as dark as you would expect from her age and constant exposure; her teeth are remarkably good. Her dress was a blue calico short-gown, a white Mackinaw blanket, somewhat soiled by constant wear, a fold of blue broadcloth, lapped around her, red cloth leggings, and buckskin moccasins. The interior of the lodge seemed well supplied with all the necessaries, if not with luxuries. They had six beds, principally composed of blankets and other goods folded together; one room contained the cooking utensils, the other the table and dishes; they spread a cloth on their table and gave us a very comfortable meal of fried venison, tea, and shortcake. Her elder daughter is large and fleshy . . . she is smart, active, intelligent, and very observing. She is 34 years of age. The younger is smaller, she is quiet and retiring and is twenty-four years of age. . . . They have a looking-glass and several splint bottom chairs, a great many trinkets hand about the house, beads and chains of silver and polished steel. some of their dresses are richly embroidered with silver brooches. . . . They have many silver earrings. My aunt had seven pairs in her ears; her daughters perhaps a dozen apiece. They had saddles and bridles of the most costly kind; six men saddles and one side saddle. They have between fifty and sixty horses, one hundred hogs, seventeen head of cattle, also geese and chickens. Their house is enclosed with a common worm fence, with some outhouses, principally of logs. A never- failing spring of water is near the door with a house over it. They have a section of land (which is 640 acres) given to her two daughters. The treaty was ratified by the government this spring.

*clubbed hair —a pony tail wrapped in fabric, turned under, and fastened.
** worsted ferret—wool tape

Next: a painter’s description.

Biography of Frances Slocum, the Lost sister of Wyoming: A complete Narrative of her Captivity and Wanderings Among the Indians, John Franklin Meginness (Williamsport, PA: Heller Bros. Printing House, 1891). Also Frances Slocum: The Lost Sister of WyomingCompiled and written by her grand niece Martha Bennett Phelps for her Children and Grandchildren (New York: Knickerbocker Press, 1906), available online HERE.

posted August 6th, 2015 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Indians, Slocum, Frances


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