The Diary of Lizzie Dopps





Chapter XIII


It was after our Gracie and Jennie were born we had another experience with Indians--rather amusing now as I look back on it, but at the time I was quite filled with alarm--not so much for myself, but I suppose it was the mother instinct to protect her young.

One day I was busily preparing for company.  Eli had gone out to get wood.  The children, Gracie about three, and Jennie a little over a year old, were watching my preparations.

I was putting some wood in the stove when I heard the door open back of me.  Thinking it was Eli returning, I paid no attention and went on replenishing the fire, but when I did not hear him speak I turned around, and behold, there stood two big Indians; one of them, the one in front, was immense.

Of course, I was terribly startled and--yes, I'll admit it, a little bit afraid, since Eli wasn't there.  My first thought was of my children, that if these Indians were hostile, their first act would be to get my children in order to have their own way in something, but I saw that I was between the children and the Indians,

I asked them what they wanted, but there was no answer, just an amused expression on their faces, perhaps because I was so small.  This angered me (it always riles me when one makes me conscious of my size) and perhaps gave me courage to act as I did on the spur of the moment.

I said, "I think you had better get out of here."

They didn't move, and in anger and desperation I walked up to the big fellow, grabbed him by the arm and shouted, "I tell you to get out of here!"  He turned and went out, the other Indian stood for a moment looking at me and then he also went out.

After they had gone and I had time to think, I was amazed at myself to think I'd had the nerve to do what I had done.  Perhaps I had made them angry.

I went to the door and they were still standing there in the yard,  I opened the door and said, "What is it that you want?"

They pointed to their feet and said, "Feet heap cold.  Want them get warm."

I replied, "Well, you can't warm them at the stove as well as you can at the fire-place.  As soon as my husband brings in some wood I'll build a fire in the fire-place and you can come in and warm your feet then for all I care.  He will be back any minute now."

I shut the door and quietly slipped on the latch and then began to sing at the top of my voice so they would not think I was afraid.  I doubt that there was very much music in my voice. I don't think I knew what I was singing.

I really meant what I had said about them coming in when my husband brought the wood, but unbeknown to me, when Eli came up with the wood and saw them standing there, and not knowing of my promise to them, he motioned for them to go on and said, "Go on, go on, we have nothing for you."  They moved on down the road and a few minutes afterwards hundreds of Indians passed by.  Another Indian episode was over.

I have not told of one Indian scare we had along toward the first of our prairie life.

Indians had not bothered us much although we knew they roamed these prairie plains.

The Indians were not always friendly in these parts, but I think it was not so much that they, the Indians, wanted to be hostile as it was on account of the treatment they sometimes received from some of the settlers.

There were times when some of these pioneer settlers, sometimes through fear from what they had heard of the Indians, and sometimes because of just plain cussedness and mean dispositions, they meted out horrible treatment to the Indians, and of course, it was only natural that the Indians would retaliate.

An Indian never forgets, and is of a revengeful disposition more or less, perhaps no more so than many, many white men.

But if an Indian is treated with common courtesy, he is your friend as a rule.

After all, they had some cause for resentment.  They had roamed these prairies generation after generation, and now the white man was invading their territory.  Is it any wonder that when the white man, the intruder, would treat them cruelly for no reason only to get rid of them, that the poor Indians would turn hostile?

There were times when we did hear of massacres some distance away from us.  Then one day not long after one of these rumors, a man brought word to us that the Indians were on the war-path and were headed our way.

Women and children were hurriedly gathered together and a sort of fortress made.  Some of the men remained to protect the women while some decided to ride out to meet the Indians as a sort of peace party and council with them.

If the Indians did not sneak up on them unawares and the men had a chance to reason with them, trouble might be averted.  Eli was one of these men.

Perhaps it was a risky thing to do, but there was a chance they could conciliate with them and better a few brave men run this risk than for the Indians to ride in and massacre the settlement.  Furthermore, none of our settlers around this locality had over mistreated an Indian.

Nevertheless, I was almost frantic with anxiety when I heard Eli had offered to go.  Those anxious moments or hours which seemed like a life time were terrible.

Then one of the lookouts who had stayed with the women and children came running in excitedly exclaiming, "They're coming.  They're sneaking in through that big cornfield yonder.  I saw it moving."

Oh, had our men gone out in vain, been massacred and the redskins creeping in on us?

Sure enough, the cornstalks seemed to be moving!  We anxiously awaited the enemy's approach.  But the Indians did not appear.

Finally the men who had ridden out, rode back and reported they had found no Indians and we came to the conclusion the movements in the cornfield was nothing more or less than the wind blowing through it.

Thus our Indian scare was over and we returned to our homes.


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  2006 Laurie Arnold.  All material presented herein was transcribed or otherwise provided by Laurie Arnold from the unpublished text of the diary, family photos and personal genealogy.  She and her family have graciously given permission for the diary to be posted to the Norton County Kansas GenWeb website, for the benefit of others who had pioneer families in Norton County, Kansas. This diary, photos and personal genealogy may not be reproduced, published or re-published for any reason, in any format, without prior written consent of the contributors or copyright holders.  web design 2006 Ardie Grimes