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William Walker to G.P. Disosway

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[Ind. Wyandott.]


[Walker, William]


Upper Sandusky, Jan. 19, 1833.


Dear Friend:-


Your last letter dated Nov. 12. came duly to hand.  The business part is answered in another communication which is enclosed.


I deeply regret that I have had no opportunity of answering your very friendly letter in a manner that would be satisfactory to myself; neither can I now, owing to a want of time and a retired place, where I can write undisturbed.


You, no doubt, can fancy me seated in my small dwelling, at the dining table, attempting to write, while my youngest (sweet little urchin!) is pulling my pocket handkerchief out of my pocket, and Henry Clay, my only son, is teasing me to pronounce a word he has found in his little spelling book.  This done, a loud rap is heard at my door and two or three of my Wyandott friends make their appearance and are on some business.  I drop my pen, dispatch the business and resume it.


The county we explore is truly a land of savages.  It is wild and romantic; it is a champaign, but beautifully undulated country.  You can travel in some parts for whole days and not find timber enough to afford a riding switch, especially after you get off the Missouri and her principal tributary streams.  The port is generally a dark loam, but not of a durable kind for agriculture.  As a country for agricultural pursuits, it is far inferior to what it has been represented to be.  It is deplorably defective in timber.  There are millions of acres on which you can not procure timber enough to make a chicken coop.  Those parts that are tim-


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bered are on some of the principal streams emptying into the great Missouri and are very broken, rough, and cut up with deep ravines and the timber, what there is of it is of an inferior quality, generally a small growth of white, black and bur oaks; hickory, ash, buck-eye, mulberry, linwood, coffee bean, a long scrubby kind of birch red and slippy elm and a few scattering walnut trees.  It is remarkable in all our travels west of the Mississippi River.  We never found even one solitary poplar, beech, pine, or sassafras tree, though we were informed that higher up the Missouri River, above Council Bluffs, pine trees abound to a great extent, especially the nearer you approach the Rocky Mountains.  The immense country embraces between the western line of the state of Missouri and the territory of Arkansas and the western base of the Rocky Mountains on the west and Texas and Santafee on the south is on habited by the Osage.  Sioux (pronounced Sooz) Pawnees, Comanches, Panchas, Arrapohoes, Assinaboins, Riccarees, Yanktons, Omahaws, Black-feet, Ottoes, Crow Indians, Sacs, Foxes and Iowas; all a [xxxx] fierce and war-like people.  West of the mountains reside the Flat-Head and many other tribes whose names I do not now recollect.


I will here relate an anecdote, if I may so call it.  Immediately after we landed in St. Louis on our way to the west.  I proceeded to Gen. Clarke’s superintendent of Indian affairs to present our letters of introduction from the secretary of war and I receive the same from him to the different Indian agents in the upper country while in his office and transaction business with him he informed me that their chiefs from the Flat-Head


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nation were in his house and were quite sick and that one (the fourth) had died a few days ago.  They were from the west of the Rocky Mountains.  Curiosity prompted me to stop into the adjoining room to see them--never having seen any, but often heard of them.  I was struck with their appearance.  They differ in appearance from any tribe of Indians I have ever seen: small in size, delicately formed, small limbs, and the most enact symmetry throughout except the head.  I had always supposed from their being called “Flat-Heads,” that the head was actually flat on top, but this is not the case.


From the point of the nose to the apex of the head, there is a perfect straight line, the protuberance of the forehead is flattened or leveled.  This is produced by a pressure upon the cranium while in infancy.  The distance they had traveled on foot was nearly three thousand miles, to see Gen. Clarke their great father as they called him, he being the first American officer they ever became acquainted with and having much confidence in him, they had come to consult him as they said, upon very important matters.  Gen. C. related to me the object of their mission, and my dear friend, it is impossible for me to describe to you my feelings while listening to his narrative.  I will here relate it as briefly as I well can.  It appeared that some white man had penetrated into their country and happened to be a spectator at one of their religious ceremonies, which they scrupulously perform at stated periods.  He informed them that their mode of worshipping the Supreme Being was radically wrong and instead of being acceptable and pleasing, it was displeasing to him.  He also informed them that the white people away toward the rising of the sun, had been put in possession of


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the true mode of worshipping the great Spirit.  They had a book containing directions how to conduct themselves in order to enjoy his favor and hold converse with him and with this guide, no one need go astray, but everyone that would follow the directions, laid down there, could enjoy in this life, his favor and after death would be received into the country where the great Spirit resides and live forever with him.


Upon receiving this information, they called a national council to take this subject into consideration.  Some said if this be true it were certainly high time, we were put in possession of this mode and if our mode of worshipping be wrong and displeasing to the great Spirit, it is time we had laid it aside.  We must know something more about this, it is a matter than can not be put off.  The sooner we know it, the better.  They accordingly deputed four of their chiefs to proceed to St. Louis to see the great Father. Gen. Clarke to inquire of him, having no doubt but he would tell them the whole truth about it.


They arrived at St. Louis and presented themselves to Gen. C.  The latter was somewhat puzzled being sensible of the responsibility that rested on him.  He however proceeded by informing them that what they had been told by the white man in their own country, was true.  Then went into a succinct history of man, from his creation down to the advent of the Saviour, explained to them all the moral precepts contained in the Bible, expounded to them the decalogue.  Informed them of the advent of the Saviour, his life, precepts, his death, resurrection, ascension and the relation he now stands to man as a mediator--that he will judge the world [xx].


Poor fellows, they were not all permitted to return


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home to their people with the intelligence.   Two died in St. Louis and the remaining two though somewhat indisposed, set out for their native land.  Whether they reached home or not, is not known.  The change of climate and diet operated very severely upon their health.  Their diet when at home, is chiefly vegetables and fish.


If they died on their way home, peace be to their manes!  They died inquirers after the truth.  I was informed that the Flat-Heads, as a nation, have the fewest vices of any tribe of Indians on the continent of America.


I had concluded I would lay this rough, uncouth scroll aside and revise it before I could send it, but if I lay it aside, you will never receive it; so I will send it to you just as it is, “with all its imperfections” hoping that you may be able to decipher it.  You are at liberty to make what use you please of it.


Yours in haste,


Wm. Walker.


G.P. Disosway, Esq.


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[I think a very valuable letter


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