Saturday, August 29, 2009

Family History

 In the wee hours of morning, somewhere between midnight and three a.m. an idea for a poem woke me. Our son Caleb is marrying a beautiful girl in October. Verses about her beauty as a bride kept floating around my head, sonnets dancing a ballet. Graceful arias stirred me with thought, I rose from my nest to capture them. 

Verses so graceful that flitted and floated in my head were quite clumsy as I tried to fasten them to the page. Perhaps they were not meant to be tied down.
Now wide awake I remembered the meteor shower that was supposed to begin in the very early morning hours. I shook Scotty from sleep and he agreed that we should find a place to park in the hills and watch for the heavens to give us a demonstration of its awe-inspiring wonders! 

Winter coats on, top down on the car, faces fixed on the night sky we sat in the stillness and waited. Light would trail from the sky as we exclaimed, "Ohhhh! There was one! Oh, over there! Did you see that one?" When we thought we had seen the finale, lights bursts in the heavens. Quietness followed a spectacular show and we knew it was time to head to the Comfort Inn for a little nap before breakfast. 

Next stop, Meeker, CO. 

We entered Meeker just as it was trying to shake itself from slumber. Have a feeling that most of Meeker missed the meteor shower, or perhaps they saw it and were sleeping in. The hotel was open so we stopped in for a look see. Right away I saw what I wanted to see. My great-great grandmother and her two children's pictures were in the lobby of that hotel. Underneath the picture was the story about her in a framed article from the Greely Tribune that she had written herself. 

My g-g-grandmother was in the White River Massacre in the year 1879. Married at the age of 12 to a man, Mr. Frank Price who was 22, while on a wagon train. She and Mr. Price were living and working  at the indian mission when the massacre occurred. She was 16, and he 26. They had two children.

I have heard varying reasons for the massacre, but my grandmother's account said that the indians were stirred because the government was sending in so many soldiers to the fort. I also heard that my grandmother's husband, Mr. Price was plowing up their horse track so that they could farm the land. His plow is in the museum.

The indians kidnapped the women and children because they feared the women's God. It was noted in one of the newspapers of the museum that the indians knew that the women's God was looking after them. They were afraid that they would anger Him if they brought physical harm to them. Abuse was not mentioned in her article, but the family is aware that there were abuses that she refused to speak of. It would have brought too much shame on her family to mention the atrocities that she and her children endured. She was young, too young to be single or to remain single for her entire life, so she did not tell all.

My grandmother's children May (4) and Johnny (2) were also taken. Here is a quote from her story taken from the book, Meeker-The Story Of The Meeker Massacre And Thornbugh Battle September 29, 1879, by Fred H. Werner (pg. 99) Chapter: Mrs. Prices Story:

"When we arrived at the camp that night a squaw came and took my little boy from the horse and cried over him like a child. I dismounted and sat down in Pursune's camp. I wasn't at all hungry, and when they offered me coffee, cold meat and bread, I could not eat. After awhile Pursune's squaw got over her weeping, when they talked and laughed. All I could understand was when they repeated the soldiers' names  and counted the number of men they had killed at the agency. They said they had killed nine. At first they said they had killed ten but I told them different, as I thought that Frank (her husband) had escaped. They asked me how many, and seemed to accept my statement as correct. 

They spread out some blankets for me to lie on, but I could not sleep. The moon shone very bright and everything looked ghostly. In the morning I went to Pursune's tent and sat by the fire. I was cold for I had nothing to wear except a calico dress and shoes. I sat there weeping ... I could not help it ... with my little boy in my arms. The squaws came around and talked and looked at me and laughed and made fun of me. I didn't understand what they said, only occasionally a word. After a time some of the men came and talked to the squaws and looked at me and laughed ..."

Above is an a brief moment of her experience. At the time of her capture she believed her husband, Frank to still be alive. He was actually the first one to be killed.

I was so excited to see the photographs and her framed testimony on the wall of the old hotel, I quickly made it my mission to find the hotel curator. She was in the adjoining coffee shop. She was unaware and unimpressed with the historical account of my grandmother, which was kind of a disappointment. I was hoping that she would say they had met! I know! Not possible, but you know, something significant like that!

Big Elk, Deer, Bison, and Moose shared the lobby with my grandmother's memorabilia. Teddy Roosevelt had hunted the area sojourning here a few years after the massacre and had staying in that very hotel. The sleeping zoo was proof that there were some big animals in the area when my g-g-grandmother was living here

We left the hotel heading straight for the White River Museum looking for anything that might have anything to do with my g-g-grandmother. Scotty was very good at spying articles from different newspapers, photos, etc. that were about her and the other captives. 

It was almost noon by the time we scoured every point of interest we could find in Meeker, so we headed on for several hours of driving making our exit from the beautiful state of Colorado. 

This was very emotional for me. It was very strange. We had visited Meeker 16 years before. Suppose I was distracted by the kids, all five at the time, and don't remember feeling any despair. 

My grandma remembered her. She had heard the story many times through the years. 

My great-great-grandmother was named Saphronia Ellen. Most of the accounts recorded in several books that include her account refer to her as her Mrs. Price. 

Saphronia married again after the massacre. I don't know how she got to Oregon but I do know that she married a lumber jack that lived there. She was pregnant with their first child when a tree fell on him and he was killed. My great-great aunt Rose,  came into the world never knowing her real father. 

Eventually Saphronia married my great-great grandfather who had just came over from Germany. They had two children, the youngest being my great grandmother. 

There is a picture in the museum of Grandma Saphronia with all of her grown children and their children. My grandmother, Donnalee is a baby in the picture. When Scotty and I walked in the museum the curator asked if I was in that picture. Tell me folks, do I look THAT old? 

The White River, pictured above, winds its way through that territory continuously. My grandmother had a book with the story of my g-g-grandmother in it called The White River Massacre that she used to pull out and tell me about when I was little. Saphronia's picture in the book is beautiful. I would love to have known her! I would ask her a bazillion questions. 

Our day began so early, so I am going to pause here as we are leaving Meeker, with us leaving Meeker around lunchtime.

Tomorrow we will be leaving Colorado as we head into the beautiful state of Utah. Salt Lake City, ready or not, here we come! First we will stop at Park City, Utah where I discovered one of my very favorite places. I can hardly wait to tell you about it!

Sorry that I cannot get you to the Comfort Inn today. Soon! Very soon!

Praising the Lord for peace!!!


Pictures: 1st Row: Outdoor plaque at the Historic Meeker Hotel, established 1896. 

2nd Row: Inside lobby of hotel, pictures of my great-great-grandmother and her two children at the time of the White River Massacre. The framed article that she wrote and was published in the Greely Tribune hangs below the pictures. ~The Meeker Hotel from a distance~The White River.

3rd Row:Grouping of pictures of my great-great-grandmother, Saphronia Ellen Price, with her children and other captives at the White River Museum in Meeker, CO. ~Marker at the Massacre Site.


Laura said...

What an amazing heritage you have, Cheri! How exciting to get to see this little piece of your family tree. My heart went out to Mrs. Price as I read her story. So much loss at such a young age. Life was such a hardship back then (and no, girl, you look much to young to have grown children, let alone be in that picture!)

I am still enjoying listening to the sweet music Cheri sings, and am excited about my other gift! You are too sweet to gift me in such a way!

Sending hugs,laura

Corrie said...

You most certainly DO NOT look that old!! Facinating story!