Carlyle Channing Davis.

The true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose online

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uncovered gold along the banks of Chicago
Creek and it no longer remained a fit place
for the Indian; for the big game went out
with the coming in of the whites. Farther
back the original possessor must go and seek
sustenance at the head waters of the Arkansas.
There, too, the white man followed, again dis-
covering fabulous auriferous wealth in the
sands of California Gulch; and again the red
man must go. Ever backward must he move;
away from the great game preserves, away
from abundant water supply, away from the
gold and silver deposits.

Over the main range was he now forced,
where buffalo were not, and where it then was
believed nothing more could be found to excite

the white man's cupidity; but the red face was



scarcely located there when mineral springs
larger and more valuable than those at Mani-
tou were found, where coal veins greater than
the entire superficial area of Pennsylvania were
uncovered, where the great silver ledge at
Aspen was located.

It was not long before the Government was
importuned again to force the Indian back
upon a new frontier, and a wretched place was
found for him amidst the wastes of North-
western Utah. There the Uintah reservation
was established, and the trek across another
range of mountains directed from Washington.
But before the order for removal came the
greedy white man had forced himself upon the
Indian's new reservation and taken possession.

The chairman of the Senate Committee on
Indian Affairs, Mr. Dawes of Massachusetts,
from his seat in the Senate, about this time,
read to the astonished senators a "proclama-
tion," printed on cloth and tacked on the trees
all over the Grand River Reservation, announc-
ing that the Government, by proposing to give
the land to the Indians, had parted with its
title, and that, inasmuch as "the under-
signed," four audacious adventurers, of whom
one of the authors of this volume was one,
announced that the Indian title would not be



recognized, and that anybody wanting anything
on the reservation must see them! These four
men had located the town-site of Glenwood, the
valuable springs adjacent, and about everything
else in sight, assigned their " holdings " to an
incorporated company, and begun the sale of
lots and mines. All this before the Indians
had so much as been consulted as to whether
they would again consent to move on.

Since the death of Mrs. Jackson and her
interment upon the slopes of Cheyenne Moun-
tain, the people of Colorado Springs and Mani-
tou have taken a deep and absorbing interest
in commemorating her work, as well as per-
petuating the legendary Indian history of what
has come to be known as the " Pike's Peak Re-
gion." In 1912 an organization was formed
for the purpose of giving an annual celebra-
tion or carnival, distinctively Indian in all its
features. That the fullest recognition of this
might be given to the event it is called " Shan
Kive" (Indian for fete or carnival, and pro-
nounced " Shawn Keedie ").
K At the first Shan Kive, in the autumn of
1912, the Ute Pass was formally dedicated.
Various Indian dances were indulged in, as well
as Indian pony races in costume, and all of
the sports and games of the several tribes of



red men who originally owned and inhabited
that section, constituted interesting and pleas-
ing features of the occasion. Films were made
of all the principal events, and these have been
exhibited in all sections of the country.

Primarily intended to exploit the passing
race of red men, and to commemorate the
great work of "the first lady of Colorado
Springs," Helen Hunt Jackson, the event
sprang into instant favor. It now occurs an-
nually the first week in September, when Colo-
rado's wonderful flora is at its best, and when
the weather in the sun-kissed city is reliably
climatic perfection.

The annual celebration of Shan Kive doubt-
less will serve for many generations, if not
for all time, to keep fresh in the minds and
hearts of the people the almost sublime work
of Helen Hunt Jackson.




/ \HE disheartened little woman, Mrs. Jack-
son, in her modernized tepee at Colo-
^ rado Springs, had written " A Century
of Dishonor," and was at that time wonder-
ing why it had failed to stir a Christian na-
tion to action. She was brooding over what
seemed to be the failure of its mission. She
had repeatedly been to the capital of the na-
tion, and there had met with a reception none
too cordial. She was planning the story of
"Ramona," little realizing what a great work
she was undertaking. Physically she was
worn to a frazzle. Mentally she was well-nigh
distracted. She had but recently completed a
tour of Southern California, using carriage,
wagon and burros, enduring all manner of
hardships, since in all the vast empire trav-
ersed there were no suitable accommodations
for a lady of her age, habits of life and refine-


In this mission she had taken nothing for
granted. Wherever there were known to be
gathered half a dozen Indians, there she re-
paired, to look into their condition and to see
for herself what might be done for their im-
mediate needs. Thus in turn she was driven
to Saboba, Cahuilla, Warner's Ranch, San
Ysidro, Los Coyotes, San Ysabel, Mesa
Grande, Capitan Grande, Sequan, Conejos,
Pala, Rincon, Pauma, San Pasquale, La Jolla,
Pechanga, San Gorgonio, Camulos, Temecula,
Santa Barbara, San Diego, the Desert Reserva-
tion and other places.

It should be remembered that the Indian
had not in every instance accorded yielding
obedience to the white man's behest to " move
on." Occasionally he had demurred to the
unreasonable demands made upon him. Upon
a few occasions, indeed, he had gone upon the
warpath and taken a few scalps. But these
occasions were rare, and all told would scarce
fill a page of history. On the other hand, the
story of the wrongs inflicted upon his people
by the whites would crowd many volumes to
repletion. Sand Creek and like stories of the
butcheries of Indians constitute the bloodiest
pages of American border narrative. Unfor-
tunately for Mrs. Jackson, the Northern Utes



had, about this time, rebelled against the Gov-
ernment, murdered Agent Meeker and car-
ried his wife, daughter Josephine and a com-
panion, Mrs. Price, into the fastnesses of the
mountains, holding them as hostages.

This incident gave the red man's enemies
an unusual opportunity to demand the com-
plete wiping out of Chief Ouray's band, al-
though that brave and his immediate follow-
ers had always distinguished themselves as
the friends of the whites. It counted for little
that all three women are said to have become
the willing consorts of braves of the Ute
tribe; that Josephine Meeker had fairly to be
torn away from her dusky lover, Chief Per-
sune; that Mrs. Price reluctantly gave up
Chief Jack, and that Mrs. Meeker was not
willingly restored to her friends in Colorado.
Such reports were currently circulated and gen-
erally credited. Mrs. Jackson, alone of all the
people of Colorado, was left to defend the acts
of the Utes, to the story of the provocation
for which none but she willingly would

Numerous writers have undertaken to com-
pare the work of Mrs. Jackson with that of
Harriet Beecher Stowe, but with very indif-
ferent success. The works of the two gifted



authors possibly may be contrasted, but not
well compared. For " Uncle Tom's Cabin," as
all well informed persons must be aware, there
was a ready-made public sentiment. For
nearly a century human slavery had been a
living and a burning issue. The Anti-Slavery
Society had labored long and effectively in
preparing the public for such a novel as finally
came from the inspired pen of Mrs. Stowe.
There long had been a regularly established
and securely founded organization in every
Northern State, and in not a few there was
an " underground railway " prepared for the
fleeing bondmen.

Mrs. Stowe's biographer, her own son, says
of the immediate success of " Uncle Tom's
Cabin": "Neither she nor her husband had
the remotest idea of the unique power and
interest of the story that was being written.
Nor, indeed, did it dawn upon either of them
until after the publication of the first edition
in book form. Professor Stowe was a very
emotional man, and was accustomed to water
his wife's literary efforts liberally with his
tears; so the fact that he had wept over the
bits of brown paper, upon which the first chap-
ter was written, had for them no unusual por-
tent. As to pecuniary gain, he often ex-



pressed the hope that she would make enough
by the story to buy a new silk dress! "

Although the public mind and heart were
prepared for such a publication, it seems that
Mrs. Stowe felt impelled to write to Fred
Douglass, calling his attention to the fact that
it was appearing as a serial in the " National
Era." "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was written at
various places, at Brunswick, Maine, and at
Boston and Andover; and although announced
to run but three months, it was not completed
for thirteen months, appearing in book form
some weeks thereafter. Ten thousand copies
were sold within a few days, and over three
hundred thousand within a year, and eight
power presses running day and night were
barely able to keep pace with the demand for
it. It was read everywhere, apparently, and
by everybody; and the author soon began to
hear echoes of sympathy from all over the
land. The indignation, the pity, the distress,
that had long weighed upon her soul seemed
to pass off from her and into the readers of
the book.

So successful had the book been that Mrs.
Stowe at once set herself to the task of writ-
ing "The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin," fol-
lowed by "Dred," all upon the same theme,



and all of these several works were trans-
lated into nearly every tongue and were widely
read the world over. The fame of the author
became so great that she felt compelled, after
the publication of "The Key" and " Dred,"
to accept the invitation of friends of the cause
of emancipation in England to visit that coun-
try as their guest. This she did, extending
her visits to France, Germany and Switzer-
land, everywhere received as a world char-
acter to be honored and feted, not alone by
the poor and the lowly, but as well by royalty

But a far different sentiment awaited the
coming of "Ramona." It was unlocked for
and unwanted. It was most indifferently re-
ceived. Nowhere was there sympathy for
"H. H." or "her Indians." Mrs. Jackson's
nearest neighbors were yet not proselytes to
her mission. There was not a newspaper in
Colorado that dared to champion her cause;
not a man in public life who cared to assert
that reason and justice and logic were on her

Friendly as the writer for years had been
with Mrs. Jackson, a frequent and as he be-
lieves always a welcome visitor to her home,
he yet recalls, with the deepest regret and



remorse and mortification, the fact that he
never employed the instrumentalities at hand
to defend the woman and her work, save in a
literary way and for a literary reason. The
" Leadville Chronicle " and " Leadville Herald-
Democrat," which he owned and edited at the
time, could have been his powerful weapons
in her defense. His conversion came long
after her death, the result of a re-reading of
her many works upon the Indian question and
a deeper and more analytical study of her
noble purpose.

Coming late in life though it does, there
is now nourished a sincere hope that some
amends may be made for earlier mistakes and
fatal errors of immature judgment.

Before coming to California Mrs. Jackson
was aflame with sympathy for the Mission
Indians. January 17, 1880, she thus wrote
to one of her intimate friends : " I think I feel
as you must have felt in the old Abolition
days. I cannot think of anything else from
night to morning and from morning to night.
... I believe the time is drawing near for
a great change in our policy toward the In-
dian. In some respects, it seems to me, he is
really worse off than the slaves. They did
have, in the majority of cases, good houses,




and they were not much more arbitrarily con-
trolled than the Indian is by the agent on a
reservation. He can order a corporal's guard
to fire on an Indian at any time he sees fit.
He is ' duly empowered by the Government/ '

On September 4, 1884, Mrs. Jackson thus
wrote Sefior and Sefiora de Coronel : " I some-
times wonder that the Lord does not rain fire
and brimstone on this land, to punish us for
our cruelty to these unfortunate Indians."

Four days before her death Mrs. Jackson
wrote the following letter to the President of
the United States:

To Grover Cleveland,

President of the United States.
Dear Sir,

From my death-bed I send you a message
of heartfelt thanks for what you have already
done for the Indians. I ask you to read my
" Century of Dishonor." I am dying happier
for the belief that it is your hand that is
destined to strike the first steady blow toward
lifting this burden of infamy from our coun-
try, and righting the wrongs of the Indian

With respect and gratitude,

Helen Jackson.




THE last visit of the writer to Helen
Hunt Jackson's home in Colorado
Springs was in the summer of 1883.
It was in company with the late Ben Steele,
the gifted editor of the "Gazette" of that
city, also a warm personal friend of Mrs.
Jackson, yet one who, for obvious reasons,
withheld from her that public encouragement
so freely extended in his personal intercourse.
The initial edition of " A Century of Dishonor "
had been exhausted, and the details of the pub-
lication of another were quite generally dis-
cussed at this informal gathering.

In July, 1882, Mrs. Jackson had been com-
missioned by the Secretary of the Interior, to-
gether with Mr. Abbot Kinney, of Los
Angeles, to visit and report upon the condi-
tion of the Mission Indians of California.
This recognition by the Government had been



highly gratifying to her and she appeared to
be deeply appreciative of the assistance ren-
dered her by Mr. Kinney. In subsequent cor-
respondence with him he had invariably ad-
dressed her as " General," a circumstance
which appealed strongly to her sense of humor.
She once wrote that one of her first, if not her,
very first, resolutions in life was not to be " a
woman with a hobby," and here she was being
recognized everywhere as a woman with a
very pronounced hobby, the Indians, and ad-
dressed as " General " by a male companion
in official life.

The judgment of those present at this meet-
ing was consulted as to whether it were bet-
ter to print her report upon the Southern
California Indians under separate cover, or
as an appendix to another edition of " A Cen-
tury of Dishonor," at that time deemed im-
perative. Because of the relative brevity of
the joint report upon the condition and needs
of the Mission Indians, it was the consensus
of opinion of those present that it would be
more likely to secure a larger reading by go-
ing out as a part of a work that already had
passed to a second edition, and that course
was agreed upon. But at the same time she
announced that she intended writing a novel



in which she would present the wretched story
of the Mission Indians of California.

It may be here remarked that Mrs. Jack-
son was not so much displeased with the sale
of the original edition of " A Century of Dis-
honor " ; her disappointment related more to
the apparent apathy with which it had been
received by Senators, members of Congress
and bureau officers having charge of Indian
affairs. She had under consideration at the
time a number of projects calling for govern-
mental recognition and financial support, and
doubtless was unduly impatient with the slow
processes then in vogue. Her most ambitious
scheme was the establishment, at some point
in Southern California, of an industrial school
for Mission Indian women. For this she de-
sired the Government to donate a suitable
site and deed it to the Indians. For its en-
dowment she intended to devote all royalties
received from the sale of her several books, in-
cluding the one just begun, which developed
into the great American novel, " Ramona."
She looked to the Coronels to aid her in this
great undertaking. They were to take charge
of this institution.

Mrs. Jackson was at this time an exceed-
ingly busy woman. She was ever that, how-



ever, but her official and literary work was
crowding her, and she complained that not
as often as she desired, and as formerly had
been her habit, had she been able to visit her
favorite places in the mountains. Chief of these
was Cheyenne Mountain and the numerous
and beautiful waterfalls for which the locality
always has been noted. One of these, and
one of the most picturesque, has since been
christened " Ramona Falls," for the lovely
heroine of the romance. Her favorite, how-
ever, was Seven Falls, one of the most beau-
tiful and picturesque in America, the source of
which, at that time, was reached by a series
of rather steep wooden steps, just upon the
edge of the foaming cascade. It was here, at
the summit of the mountain crag, in a little
grove of spruce trees and near the edge of a
huge pile of volcanic rock, that Mrs. Jackson
selected a burial place for herself. Her de-
sires in this respect were strictly executed, and
for a number of years she rested there, in the
place she loved so much, under the shadows
of Pike's Peak and within sound of the splash-
ing waters of Seven Falls.

Later, and for a reason not anticipated at
the time of her interment, it became necessary
to disinter the remains and rebury them at



Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs. A
ranchman in Cheyenne Canon had taken ad-
vantage of his title to the land upon which the
grave was located to charge an admission fee
to see it, and also reaped a considerable reve-
nue from hiring to tourists a burro, once
owned and used by Mrs. Jackson upon which
to skirt the mountain side.

This commercializing of the grave became
so distasteful to the author's relatives and
friends, in the course of time, as to make it
imperative to remove the remains. They
were taken away as quietly and unceremoni-
ously as they had been laid there at her re-
quest, and even the local papers were not
advised of the incident for some time there-

During the last visit of the writer to the
home of Mrs. Jackson she related many inter-
esting incidents of her official journey through
the mountains of Southern California, its
pleasing as well as its sorrowful phases. She
spoke feelingly of the Coronels, and related in
what manner they had been most helpful to
her. It was at their suggestion and urgent
insistence that Mrs. Jackson had paid a visit
to Camulos ranch, and all that she said re-
garding that visit led her hearers to believe



that the scene of the novel she had in hand
was to be laid there.

Notwithstanding her excessive modesty in
referring to the work she had undertaken, it
was not difficult to realize that it was her
purpose to make it what since it has turned
out to be, "the great American novel." Very
naturally she preferred to talk about the work
already done rather than to speculate upon
future plans. The conversation was mainly
in regard to " A Century of Dishonor," and
the deep disappointment she felt that it had
not produced that effect upon the national con-
science which she had a right to expect.

It is doubtful if an author ever before had
taken such pains as had Mrs. Jackson to pre-
pare for the production of "Ramona." She
well knew, long in advance of its publication,
that she was not to have a friendly reception
for her work. She felt that public criticism
would be merciless, and fully realized the im-
portance of unquestioned correctness in every
position taken. Her first step had been to
thoroughly inform herself regarding the law,
the ground work of human rights. She had
read everything relating to the lives and char-
acters, the public and private utterances, of
such men as Garrison, Whittier, Lowell,



Phillips, Starr King, Lovejoy, Brown and all
the other national leaders of the anti-slavery
movement. She had read all the treaties with
all the American Indian tribes of record, from
that with the Delawares in 1620 down to the
day and hour when it became necessary to
close her narrative, analyzing the conditions
and traversing the history of each, never fail-
ing to disclose the almost uniform bad faith
of the Government in carrying out solemn
obligations entered into between a powerful
people upon the one side and weak, dependent
wards upon the other. She dug up and waded
through hundreds of musty public documents,
read thousands of pages of the " Congressional
Record," and finally entered upon her great
task with a full equipment of information per-
tinent to the subject, a large part of which
she found to her mortification was wholly un-
known to the executive officers of the Govern-
ment at the time.



From which Senora del Vallc was accustomed to watch for the
coming of her husband down the valley. It presents a view of
many miles.



MORE than a decade after this last con-
versation with Helen Hunt Jackson it
was the privilege of the writer to visit
Southern California. His thoughts naturally
were largely of his dead friend and her great
work in behalf of the Mission Indians. He
assumed that he would be accorded a cordial
welcome at the home of Dona Mariana de Coro-
nel, then a widow, and was not disappointed.
She was not alone cordial, but communicative
to a degree, and in that initial and in sub-
sequent interviews a fund of most interesting
and valuable information was disclosed. She
regretted that so many fictions had arisen con-
cerning " Ramona," and expressed a desire
that someone should undertake to tell the true

Some years ago one of the authors of this
book prepared a short story upon " Ramona,"



in which the inspiration and creation of the
romance were told, which was published in the
" Out West " magazine. In this article the
writer endeavored to give some of the real
facts surrounding the story, and asserted that
the characters of Alessandro and Ramona were
fictitious. This declaration was not calculated
to encourage the imposition on tourists by
curio sellers in palming off baskets as having
been made by the Ramona of Helen Hunt

The publication of this article was followed
by the receipt of an extraordinarily large num-
ber of letters from persons in various sections
of the country, as well as in Europe, whose
ideals had thus been hopelessly demolished.
All protested that they had bought their
Ramona-made baskets in good faith, treasured
them sacredly, and each pronounced it a burn-
ing shame that he or she should have been
imposed upon by conscienceless traffickers, or
that the writer should, at such a late day,
attempt to discourage the popular belief in the
existence of a real Ramona, and deny that she
was still in the business of basket making on
a large scale in some impossible cation down
by the sea.

The only comfort that could be extended



these unhappy correspondents was cheerfully
given. It was not much, but it at least pos-
sessed the quality of sincerity. It was de-
clared by the writer that to his mind nothing
could compensate for the exchange of the
idealized Ramona, one of the most charming
characters fiction has ever donated to the

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Online LibraryCarlyle Channing DavisThe true story of Ramona, its facts and fictions, inspiration and purpose → online text (page 5 of 14)