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Project Gutenberg's Captivity of the Oatman Girls, by Royal B. Stratton This .. Three new illustrations are also added, and the old ones newly drawn and engraved. and piety, as well as affording rare materials for analysis and reflection.
Table of contents
- Captivity of the Oatman Girls (Classics of the Old West)
- The Garland Library of Narratives of North American Indian Captivities at Cornell
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Besides, this journey now before them has been preceded by lesser ones, and these had been so frequent and of such trivial result as that vanity seemed written upon all the deep and checkered past, with its world of toil and journeyings. In a subdued whisper, but with speaking countenances and sparkling eyes, these parents are dwelling upon this many-colored by-gone. Oatman is a medium-sized man, about five feet in height, black hair, with a round face, and yet in the very prime of life. Forty-one winters had scarcely been able to plow the first furrow of age upon his manly cheek. From his boyhood he had been of a restless, roving dispo sition, fond of novelty, and anxious that nothing within all the circuit of habitable earth should be left out of the field of his ever curious and prying vision.
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These advantages he had improved with a promising vigilance until about nineteen years of age. He then became anxious to see, and try his fortune in, the then far away West. The thought of emigrating had not been long cogitated by his quick and ready mind, ere he came to a firm resolution to plant his feet upon one of the wild prairies of Illinois.
He was now of age, and his father and mother, Lyman and Lucy Oatman, had spent scarcely one year keeping hotel in Laharpe, Illinois, ere they were joined by their son Royse. Miss Sperry was an intelligent girl of about eighteen, and, by nature and educational advantages, abund antly qualified to make her husband happy and his home an attraction.
Captivity of the Oatman Girls (Classics of the Old West)
From childhood she had been the pride of fond and wealthy parents ; and it was their boast that she had never merited a rebuke for any wrong. The first two years of this happy couple was spent on a farm near Laharpe. During this time some little means had been accumulated by an honest industry and economy, and these means Mr. Oatman collected, and with them embarked in mercantile business in Laharpe.
Honesty, industry, and a number of years of thor ough business application, won for him the esteem of those around him, procured a comfortable home for his family, and placed him in possession of a handsome fortune, with every arrangement for its rapid increase. At that time the country was rap idly filling up; farmers were becoming rich, and substantial improvements were taking the place of temporary modes of living which had prevailed as yet.
Paper money became plenty, the products of the soil had found a ready and remunerative market, and many were induced to invest beyond their means in real estate improvements.
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The banks chartered about the years and , had issued bills beyond their charters, pre suming upon the continued rapid growth of the country to keep themselves above disaster. A severe reverse in the tendency of the markets spread rapidly over the entire West during the year Prices of produce fell to a low figure. An abundance had been raised, and the market was glutted. Debts of long standing became due, and the demand for their payment became more imperative, as the ina bility of creditors became more and more apparent and appalling.
Thus, dispossessed of goods and destitute of money, the trading portion of community were thrown into a panic, and business of all kinds came to a stand still. The producing classes were straitened; their grain would not meet current expenses, for it had no market value; and with many of them mortgages, bearing high interest, were preying like vultures upon their already declining realities. Specie was scarce.
Bills were returned to the banks, and while a great many of them were yet out the specie was exhausted, and a general crash came upon the banks, while the country was yet flooded with what was appropriately termed "the wild-cat money. He was disappointed but not disheartened. To him a reverse was the watchword for a renewal of energy. For two or three years he had been in cor respondence with relatives residing in Cumberland Valley, Pennsylvania, who had been constantly hold ing up that section of country as one of the most in viting and desirable for new settlers. In a few weeks he had disposed of the fragments of a suddenly shattered fortune to the greatest possi ble advantage to his creditors, and resolved upon an immediate removal to that valley.
In two months preparations were made, and in three months, with a family of five children, he arrived among his friends in Cumberland Valley, with a view of making that a permanent settlement. True to the domineering traits of his character, he was still resolute and undaunted. His wife was the same trusting, cheerful companion as when the nup tial vow was plighted, and the sun of prosperity shone full upon and crowned their mutual toils.
Retired, patient, and persevering, she was a faithful wife and a fond mother, in whom centered deservingly the love of a growing and interesting juvenile group. She had seen her husband when prospered, and flattered by those whose attachments had taken root in worldly considerations only ; she had stood by him also when the chilling gusts of temporary advers ity had blown the cold damps of cruel reserve and fiendish suspicion about his name and character ; and " "When envy's sneer would coldly blight his name, And busy tongues were sporting with his fame, She solved each doubt, and clear'd each mist away, And made him radiant in the face of day.
Oatman found it, to him, an unfit and unsuitable place, as also an unpromising region in which to rear a family.
The Garland Library of Narratives of North American Indian Captivities at Cornell
He sighed again for the w r ide, wild prairie lands of the West. He began to regret that a finan cial reversion should have been allowed so soon to drive him from a country where he had been accus tomed to behold the elements and foundation of a glorious and prosperous future ; and where those very religious and educational advantages to him the indispensable accompaniments of social progress were already beginning to shoot forth in all the vigor and promise of a healthful and undaunted growth.
He resolved to retrace his steps, and again to try his hands and skill upon some new and unbroken portion of the State where he had already made and lost. Early in these parents, with a family of five children, destitute but courageous, landed in Chicago. There, for one year, they supported with toil of head and hand the father was an experienced school teacher their growing family.
In the spring of there might have been seen standing, at about five miles from Fulton, Miles of unimproved land stretched away on either side, save a small spot, rudely fenced, near the cabin, as the commence ment of a home. At the door of this tent, in April of that year, and about sunset, a wagon drawn by oxen, and driven by the father of a family, a man about thirty-seven, and his son, a lad about ten years, halted.
That wagon contained a mother a woman of thirty-three years toil-worn but contented, with five of her children. The oldest son, Lorenzo, who had been plodding on at the father's side, dragged his weary liinbs up to the cabin door, and begged admittance for the night. Soon the family were trans ported from the movable to the staid habitation.
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Here they rested their stomachs upon " Johnny cake" and Irish potatoes, and their weary, complain ing bodies upon the soft side of a white oak board for the night. Twenty-four hours had not passed ere the father had staked out a " claim ;" a tent had been erected ; the cattle turned forth, were grazing upon the hitherto untrodden prairie land, and preparations made and measures put into vigorous operation for spring sow ing.
Here, with that same elasticity of mind and prudent energy that had inspired his earliest efforts for self-support, Mr. Oatman commenced to provide himself a home, and to surround his family with all the comforts and conveniences of a subsistence. Be fore his energetic and w r ell-directed endeavors, the desert soon began to blossom ; and beauty arid fruit- fulness gradually stole upon these hitherto wild and useless regions. He always managed to provide his family with a plain, frugal, and plenteous support.
Four years and over Mr. Oatman toiled early and late, clearing, subduing, and improving. And during this time they readily and cheerfully turned their hands to any laudable calling, manual or intellectual, that gave promise of a just remunera tion for their services. They contentedly adapted themselves to a manner and style that was intended to give a true index to their real means and resources. It was this principle of noble self-reliance, and un bending integrity, that won for them the warmest regards of the good, and crowned their checkered allotment with appreciative esteem wherever their stay had been sufficient to make them known.https://marpghaldystpe.tk
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While the family remained at this place, now called Henly, they toiled early and late, at home or abroad, as opportunity might offer. During much of this time, however, Mr. Oatman was laboring under and battling with a serious bodily infirmity and indisposition. Early in the second year of their stay at Henly, while lifting a stone, in digging a well for a neighbor, he injured himself, and from the effects of that injury he never fully recovered. At this time improvements around him had been conducted to a stage of advancement that demanded a strict and vigilant oversight and guidance.
Each damp or cold season of the year, after receiving this injury to his back and spine, would place him upon a rack of pain, and at times render life a torture. The winters, always severe in that section of the country, that had blasted and swept away frailer constitutions about him, had as yet left no discernible effects upon his vigorous physical sys tem. But now their return almost disabled him for work, and kindled anew the torturing local inflam mation that his injury had brought with it to his system.
He became convinced that if he would live to bless and educate his family, or would enjoy even tolerable health, he must immediately seek a climate free from the sudden and extreme changes so common to the region in which he had spent the last few years. In the summer of an effort was made to in duce a party to organize, for the purpose of emigra tion to that part of the New-Mexican Territory lying about the mouth of the Rio Colorado and Gila Rivers.
Considerable excitement extended over the northern and western portions of Illinois concerning it. There were a few men, men of travel and inform ation, who were well acquainted with the state of the country lying along the east side of the northern end of the Gulf of California, and they had received the most flattering inducements to form there a col ony of the Anglo-Saxon people.
The country was represented as of a mild, bland climate, where the extremes of a hot summer and severe winter were unknown. Oatman, after considerable deliberation upon the state of his health, the necessity for a change of climate, the re liability of the information that had come from this new quarter, and other circumstances having an inti mate connection with the welfare of those dependent upon him, sent in his name, as one who, with a fam ily, nine in all, was ready to join the colony ; and again he determined to attempt his fortune in a new land.
He felt cheered in the prospect of a location where he might again enjoy the possibility of a recovery of his health. And he hoped that the journey itself might aid the return of his wonted vigor and strength. After he had proposed a union with this projected colony, and his proposition had been favorably re ceived, he immediately sold out. The sum total of the sales of his earthly possessions amounted to fifteen hundred dollars.
With this he purchased an outfit, and was enabled to reserve to himself suffi cient, as he hoped, to meet all incidental expenses of the tedious trip. Every precaution had been taken to secure unanimity of feeling, purpose, and in tention among those who should propose to cast in their lot with the emigrating colony. All were bound for the same place ; all were inspired by the same object ; all should enter the band on an equality; and it was agreed that every measure of importance to the emigrant army, should be brought to the consideration and consultation of every mem ber of the train.
It was intended to form a new settlement, remote from the prejudices, pride, arrogance, and caste that obtain in the more opulent and less sympathizing portions of a stern civilization. Many of the number thought they saw in the locality selected many ad vantages that were peculiar to it alone. They looked upon it as the way by which emigration would principally reach this western gold-land, fur nishing for the colony a market for their produce ; that thus remote they could mold, fashion, and direct the education, habits, customs, and progress of the young and growing colony, after a model superior to that under which some of them had been discontent edly raised, and one that should receive tincture, form, and adaptation from the opening and multiply ing necessities of the experiment in progress.
The following are the names of those who were the most active in projecting the movement, and their names are herein given, because they may be again alluded to in the following pages ; besides, many of them are now living, and this may be the first notice they shall receive of the fate of the unfor tunate family, the captivity and sufferings of the only two surviving members of which are the themes of these pages. Mutual perils and mutual adventures have a power to cement worthy hearts that is not found in unmingled prosperity. And it has been the privilege of the author to know, from personal ac quaintance, in one instance, of a family to whom the " Oatman Family " were bound by the tie of mutu ality of suffering and geniality of spirit.
Ira Thompson and family. Lane and family. Mutere and family.