Diary of Susannah Woychik, 1868- 9 Meeting the Markhams
Niedaleko spade jadlko ad jabloni
Apple doesn’t drop far from apple tree
Moma took a big flour sack, cut it in two and colored it with coffee grounds, and now that is a curtain over our window. When we have company, she brings out her embroidered tablecloth, brought from home, and gets out our best cups and saucers, and it seems almost like a real house.
There is this wonderful house in Burnside, about a mile away, called Markham Castle, or officially, Roncival, and it has eight sides. We met the lady who lives there today because she has hired a couple of girls from Poppeleau to be housemaids there for her. When she was walking one day with Mrs. Markham, I saw Susan who is my age, and called out to her. Mrs. Markham (who said to call her Fanny) is 27, and has a son, George who is three. She told me that she often has dinner parties and she wondered if I would like to help out, first with preparing the food, and then with serving it. She said I could earn $1 for each day I helped. I said that I would have to ask Moma, but I was sure she would say yes. She said she was very impressed by how good my English is. I do try, but if I spend more time with her, it will get even better. When I asked Moma about it, she said she would like to meet Mrs. Markham first before she made up her mind.
We have had it hot and dry for two weeks now. I often find it hard to think of things to write in my diary. We do the same things every day. The garden is growing well. The lettuce will be ready to eat in a week or two. Pa and Uncle Simon are done with the plowing and seeding.
Moma said that I should write about other people who live in the area like the Indians. When Aunt Susannah reads this she might not be so frightened as Moma herself was about them before she came. And I remembered what Mr. Olsen told me about them at the 4th of July party.
Mr. Rudolf Olsen owns a farm which used was near where the Winnebago Indians lived. They lived in the woods and were usually afraid of people. They sold baskets and beads. Many times they begged for flour and other food. Lots of Indians settled around here becaue of the abundance of wildlife in the hillsides, and game birds in the marshes above the Trempealeau River, and loads of fish too. The white settlers and the Indians became friends.
In 1861 when the Civil War broke out, the South planned to weaken the North by urging the Indians to attack the settlers. They hired some Indians from Minnesota (the next state to the west) to fight the settlers, and some of the Winnebagos went with that bunch in 1862. The usual army troops that patrolled around the reservations were withdrawn to go and fight in the war. The Sioux broke out and plundered and massacred particularly near New Ulm in Minnesota. Many settlers left their homes at that time because they were frightened. But the Indians said they had suffered at the hands of the white administrators, and were taking advantage of the missing troops but they were finally overcome by the militia.
Mr. Olson said that our Indians didn’t really get involved in the uprising. And after this brief period of unrest, the Indians here became very friendly again with the whites.
It’s still very hot, but it rained this evening. I wanted to write a bit more about the Indians.
Joe Sluga has a homestead near Elk Creek where large numbers of Indians live. On his land there were big trees and bushes which acted as shade and hiding places for game, such as deer, elk and prairie chickens. These were a food source for the Indians, but they also planted corn, pumpkins and corn, and collected wild rice.
Mr. Sluga said that the Indians were very fond of pork and they would give a good deal of their belongings for a pork chop.
The Indians were compelled by law in 1837 to give up their lands. But they didn’t want to leave their hunting grounds and the places their ancestors were buried. When the possibility of an Indian uprising came to the attention of Mr. Markham, he got George Hale who worked for him to drive to Fountain City to get a powder keg and some lead shot for defensive purpose. The Indians never came, so it all just was a rumor.
I had my first opportunity to see the Markham house today. Mrs. Markham sent Susan around to ask and Moma and the boys went back to the house with me to make her acquaintance. Her husband George was there too. We chatted about our trip from Prussia. I had to translate all they said and what Moma said.
I asked, “Mr. Markham, I am writing in my diary about the Indians, because I have an aunt who is likely to come over and she is very frightened by them. Can you tell me anything to reassure her?”
Mr. Markham smiled and said, “Well maybe I have time for one story. Two men came to the door and said that one of them had been attacked by Indians. We didn’t really believe it but some of my friends were very anxious to attack the Indian camp without warning and exterminate them all. But wiser advice prevaile and it was decided to investigate the matter further.
“Little Beaver, the chief, met with the men’s accusation by asking to see the man who had been so savagely attacked. Further discussion found that the men had not even seen an Indian and the injured man’s cuts were obtained when he fell on a grain cradle, but he was doing all he could to stir up mischief.” With that, Mr. Markham smiled and got up and left the room.
“Fanny, I said, “tell us something about when your husband first came here. How old was he?”
“He was born in Yorkshire England, January 24th, 1837, and his father was a Captain in the British Navy. You will meet him if you come to serve at the party, but he is old and frail now. George’s childhood was spent on the island of Guernsey, with his parents and three brothers, John, Arthur and Albert. John and Albert are in the Navy too, and Arthur and George came here. They also brought their tutor, Charles Lyle, and you will meet him too and another Englishman who came at the same time, Walter Maule, who lives nearby.
“They came to America in August, 1856, probably taking the same sort of route as you did. They got to Treampealeau in October, built a rude log cabin on this very site. But that is enough story telling for one day. I must go and see to little George’s supper. Well, Mrs. Woychik, will you agree to Susannah coming to help with the party?”
“Yes,” said Moma, and smiled. She still had very little English but understood what was being asked of her.
So we took our leave for the time being, and it was arranged that I should be at the Markham house on next Saturday at 9 a.m. in order to help with the preparation for the party as well as serving at the party itself.
The party is over and I am absolutely worn out from the hard work, but very pleased to have my $1 to show for it. Moma said I could keep 50 cents for myself, so that I can buy some fabric to make myself a new dress one day soon.
We had a heavy rain storm today and it’s the coolest it’s been in a month. Only 58 degrees at 10 p.m.
I have another Indian story to relate. An incident in the Elk Creek and involved some Indians and two year old Anna, daughter of Frank Sluga, who I mentioned before.
On returning home from berry picking, The Indians picked up Anna, whom they found in the roadway some distance from her farm home. When her absence was noted, the father pursued the Indian on horseback and retrieved the child without incident. It was a common belief among many people that the Indinans held Anna for a whiskey ransome. However the Sugas confirmed that there was no bargaining of that nature. The Indians were just taking care of her.
Pa went shooting ducks with Michael Sabotta yesterday. The ones they got were about 2/3 of the amount of fat on them that a full grown one would have. Moma taught me how to pluck them and we’ll have a real treat for Sunday dinner today. Afterwards, all the boys are going fishing with Pa. He has made them each their own fishing pole out of willow branches and they will just go to the Trempealeau River, which isn’t half a mile away. I hope they catch something.
I should mentione something about our neighbours. The first ones are the Maules who live one mile east of Burnside. Walter Maule (he came at the time of Mr. Marhkam) made enough money so he now has a 120 acre farm. He is the son of a Reverend Henry Augustus Maule, a clergyman of the Church of England in a place called Waverley in England. He stayed with the Markhams for several years and then bought the famr adjacent to their holding. His brother George came a year or so ago and now farms on land next to him.
I have been to the Markhams several times now. Once it was for serving at a party, but often, Fanny asks me to come to look after baby George in the afternoons when she has other things on. She likes that I can speak English quite well, which Susan and Pauline can’t and anyway they are too busy with their cooking and housework.
Here is a story Fanny told me when she knew I was looking for something to say in my diary about the early days of settlement.
“In the early days great difficulty was often encountered in obtaining a physician. During the second winter that the Markhams were here, 1855 that would make it, Mr. Charles Lyne, who had been tutor to my husband and his brothers, was taken dangerously ill. (He stayed on even after he had finished tutoring them). Needing a doctor to see to him, my husband started on foot for Black River Falls, half way into the Jackson county first fording the Trempealeau River and other streams. He found Dr. Hutchinson of Black River Falls, who gave him some medicine and promised to follow later. George then ate some food and set out immediately reaching home without 24 hours of the time he started, having covered a distance of over 70 miles.”
“And did he get better from the medicine?”
“No, and in November he became so ill that George’s brother Arthur was who about 24 at the time, three years younger than George, rode horesebak to Fountain City on the river and took a boat from there to Winona, Minnesota, to get a doctorr. Dr. Staples got a steamboat at 2 a.m. and arrived at Fountain City 2 ½ hours later. After having breakfast, they hired a team and got here at 10 a.m. Three weeks later Mr. Lyle was so much worse, Arthur again rode horseback and as there was now ice across most the Mississippi he managed with much danger to walk across it, hopping from one ice island to another. But when he got there at 10 a.m. the doctor could not leave until 2 pm. He had some dinner and then got a rig to take them up the Minnesota side until they were opposite to Fountain City, and as the river was narrower there, it was frozen solid and they were able to walk all the way across it and they reached the house at 1.30 a.m. The doctor prescribed for M. Lyne and went back to Winona but returned again a couple of days later and opened the abcess and took out a quart of pus. Arthur accompanied the doctor back to Winona and got some supplies for Mr. Lyne.
“So you see we have a saying around here, you had better not get ill, as it might be quite a job getting help from a doctor if you need it."
She laughed and said they had learned to cope with most things by themselves without the help of a doctor.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Do you really do that?”
“Yes,” she said. “Charlie Hale’s son got in the way of the men making fence posts and an ax made a five inch wound in the fleshy part of his back. Miss Cole, who was my seamstress, was kind enough to sew it up. The cut didn’t seem to hurt the boy much.”