To The Survivors, June 1897.


On September 29, 1847, Dr. Marcus Whitman, together with his wife and others, were foully murdered at Waiilatpu, Wash., by the Cayuse Indians. A history of the event is given in the June, 1899, number of this magazine, one of the survivors being the author. This massacre brought about the war of 1847-48 between the settlers and the Indians, the latter being defeated and those implicated in the murder hanged.

Miss Minnie M. Bode, the author of the below poem was born in Portland, Or., Aprl 9, 1874, her parents being pioneers of 1853. She received her education in the public schools of her native city, after which she made a tour of the United States and herself for literary work. Miss Bode is in Europe. She is at the present time fitting member of Eliza Warren-Spalding's Cabin, Native Daughters of Oregon.







To The Survivors, June 1897
by Miss Minnie M. Bode.


Out through the shades of a broad land, unknown,
Across a path bridged o'er with human souls,
A little band of immigrants had come
And built a home where the Wahlula rolls
Along in grandeur from the hills of snow,
Then takes a changing course, now north, now west,
And dashes through the endless woods below--
A fleeting spirit, filled with vague unrest.
Close by its banks the sly coyotes watched
The camp fires of the dreaded Redmen gleam,

'Round which were gathered in the dance of war,
Their strange fantastic shapes, until it seemed
The demons of another world had paused
A moment in their rapid downward flight,
Then whirled away in angry burst of flames,
To vanish with the shadows of the night.
And Indian ponies here by thousands grazed,
Upon the slopes were antelope and deer;
Along the borders of the sage-brush plain
Was heard the wild fowl's whistle, soft and clear.

Alone in this vast wilderness they toiled,
Brave men and women of a goodly mind.
And often, through their weary struggle there,
Their heavy hearts grew faint and sadly pined
In secret, for their homes left far away.
Yet, through the deepening shadows of the strife,
Each bravely bore the part assigned to him,
A burden cancelled only with his life.

The autumn time had come in Oregon,
And brought its change. In early afternoon
The slanting sun fell on Waiilatpu's walls,
And told of Winter days which came too soon.
A stillness seemed to settle on the land--
Faint rumors, borne upon the humid air,
Told of a discontent among the tribes;
And often through the shadows here and there
Unfriendly faces peered. Time slowly passed
Until a morning came. Each man had found
His share of homely work awaiting him,
And did not see the dark foe lurking round.
When suddenly the air seemed rent in twain,
The sound of war cry and the mighty yell
Of dancing savages re-echoed there,
Until it seemed the very gates of hell
Had opened and its dwellers fled to earth.
What pen can paint the scene which followed then--
The butchery by ignorant brute strength;
The life blood of fair women and brave men
That stained the dust. A mother's lonely flight
Through forests, with a babe but newly born;
The rest made prisoners, not knowing how
The end would come: and even these were torn
Apart; some taken in captivity
Far worse than death. New horrors followed fast;
Through saddened days and nights which knew no rest,
And none could know which one might be his last.

Up through the wilderness a boatman came-
Skeene Ogden, friend of every pioneer;
And met in council with the savage tribes,
Whose chief gave back the answer written here:
"Your words are weighty and your hair is grey,
The journey here was not a pleasant one--
I cannot, therefore, keep your families back;
I do for you what I had never done
For one of younger years. Go forth in peace."

Oh! wondrous change! All saw as in a dream,
From which they 'woke to find themselves
In open boats, adrift upon a stream,
With life and liberty their own again.
The days which followed brought them safely o'er
The river's depths. And from the shades of death,
Their journey ended on a friendly shore.
A stricken band of sad humanity--
Men craven grown through days and weeks of fear;
And little children, old before their time,
Bore on their faces, which should then be clear,
The loss of childhood's innocence. Fair wives
Had in an hour, to frenzied widows grown;
And drooping heads grew grey beneath the weight,
Of suffering, known to them and God alone.

Then separation came. New duties called
To them and changed their lives, which with the years,
Have drifted far apart. Many have gone
To rest. Time crossed their path with hopes and fears,
Until a century has half been told.
Today, the first in fifty years, they meet
Again. What words can picture all the thoughts
Which fiill the mind, when through their tears they greet,
Their brave companions of those sadder days.

No more the Indian camp fires gleam at night;
The war cry has grown still. Their restless souls
To happy hunting grounds have taken flight
Forevermore. Fair mansions stand
Where once their wigwams stood. And all the land
Is bright with beauty of the tree and vine,
'Neath which go truth and honor, hand in hand.
All this we owe to you, brave Pioneers-
But now a remnant of the old-time train,
Through shadows to a life beyond the end
Some will soon pass. All will not meet again.
Yet, in the unknown years which are to be,
The light that you through darkness safely bore
And gave to children of a newer age,
Will shine with steady glow forevermore.

--Minnie M. Bode.




Return to "Native Sons" Index
"A Place Called Oregon"
R. GESS SMITH