George Copway.

Life, letters and speeches of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh, or, G. Copway, chief Ojibway nation .. online

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less now are, celebrating the praises of God around the
throne of the blessed Redeemer. This was great con-
solation amidst my griefs ; and I felt now determined,
with God's assistance, to follow them, so far as they fol-
lowed Christ, and thus be prepared to unite with them
in the songs of the upper world, whenever God shall see
fit to call me hence.

Brother John Sunday, was at this time, stationed in
our village. The Lord soon visited this Mission with a
glorious revival ; many were converted, and others re-
claimed. The tracts that I had received at the Book
Rooms, and the books from the American Tract Society
(N. Y.,) I distributed among those that could read, and
they were duly appreciated. I believe that these were the
means which prepared their minds to relinquish the
world, and place their hope in God.

I will now speak of Christmas and New Year.
When Christmas arrived, we were invited to a centenary
tea party, in company with the Rev. W^illiam Case, the
well known friend of the Indians. The party met at
Alderville, eight miles from the Mission. This was a
season of much joy and happiness. The Chiefs referred
to the time when they were without the gospel. One
of them said, " Before I heard the gospel, when Christ-
mas came, I began to thank the Great Spirit for the day


on which I could get plenty of whiskey. Brothers, you
know how often I was dragged through the snow to my
wigwam, where my wife and children were cold and
hungry. Now, I drink tea instead of wJdskey^ and
have religion with it ; row my house is comfortable ;
and my children are pious and happy. I expect to pur-
sue a Christian course till I arrive in heaven. My fond
hope is to meet these good missionaries in the land of
bhss ; and not only these, but also the good John Wes-
ley, with whom I expect to shake hands there." John
Sunday's brother (Big Jacob,) said, " When the Me-
thodists were preaching to our people, I heard that the
chiefs and warriors were frequently in tears. I then
said, I would not shed tears were I to hear them.
Still, I wished to understand for myself I w^ent, with
a full determination not to behave myself like a woman^
I mean by crying. ■ I sat near the door. The preacher
was speaking about the Saviour's dying on the cross,
while the Indians all around were sobbing. I began to
feel serious, and then the tears fell involuntarily. Fre-
quently I wiped my eyes, but still the tears vjouldjlow. I
asked myself, am I crying too 9 Brethren, I was ashamed
to exhibit tears; but now [here he raised his hand
to heaven] it is not through cowardice that I cry, for I
never shed a tear on the battle field, nor even when my
children or my friends lay dead before me. No ! 1
never dropped a tear. I feel to-night very happy and
thankful to know that the Great Spirit did not, while I
was in darkness, say, ' I will never bless this Indian.*
I feel an ardent love for you all. I love Jesus, who
has done so much for sinful me." He then sat down ;


Brother John Sunday now arose, and interpreted what
his brother had just said ; and at the close of his remarks,
he turned to the whites, who had come here from Co-
bourg, and several other places, and said, " Brothers,
that was a great big mercy, for that great big man.'^

I might add other cases here, but it is scarcely neces-
sary. Suffice it to say that we enjoyed the services
throughout. As I looked around, I recognized some,
whom I knew, and had often seen before the gospel
reached us, and who had usually spent Christmas in the
gutter, — degraded, miserable, and starving. The lan-
guage of the Psalmist might well have been quoted by
each of these poor brethren : — " Thou hast raised me
up out of the filthiest sink (English translation, ^ the miry
clay,'') and hast planted my feet firmly on a rock."
Yes, the rock Christ Jesus.

New Year's day was observed in the same religious
manner. And I cannot but remark here, that it is to be
greatly regretted that so many Christians in the States
spend this day in gadding about from house to house,
and indulging in luxuries to excess. Nay, more ; I
have been informed that not a few professors entertain
their visitors with fire-water or deviPs spittle, on that
day. What a contradiction this would be in the esti-
mation of converted Indians, were they to witness these

During the winter, the General Council of the Nation
was held at the Credit River Mission. Chief Joseph
Sawyer was elected President of the Council. This
noble chief has filled the chair several times since, with
great credit. Several petitions, and other important



documents were drawn up and signed by the different
chiefs, to be presented to the Government of Canada.
The whole Council waited on the Governor General,
Lord Sydenham, in a body ; they presented their peti-
tions (see Note A, at the end of this chapter.) In
reply, we received but little satisfaction ; he closed his
note, by saying, " My children, for the present, I bid
you all farewell." His Lordship did not even deign
to affix his name to the note. Since then, nothing has
been heard of our papers, and therefore we must con-
clude that they have been laid under the table. But
what could be expected of a '-^ father ^"^ who could smile
in the presence of his '■^ children^'' and yet stab them in
the dark ? See note B, at the close of the chapter,
where the reader may find an extract from his letter to
Lord John Russell. To rebut his false representations,
I would appeal to the Report of the Commissioners on
Indian Affairs in Canada ; to the missionaries ; and to
the whole civilized and Christianized population of the
Chippewa nation. I can therefore say, without the fear
of respectable contradiction, that his assertions have no
foundation in truth. A few drunken Indians, it is true,
may be found in Canada ; and these alone, would be
willing to call him Father.

^t was at this General Council that I became ac-
quainted with Captain Howell's family, of Toronto, for-
merly of England, and after an intimate acquaintance of
some six months, I was united in marriag^e to hisdauc^h-
ter EHzabeth. My wife has been a help meet indeed ;
she has shared my woes, my trials, my privations ; and
has faithfully labored to instruct and assist the poor In-


dians, wht lever an opportunity occurred. I often feel
astonished when I reflect upon what she has endured,
considering that she does not possess much physical
strength. I can truly say that she has willingly partaken
of the same cup that I have, although that cup has often
contained gall. I trust, that I have not transgressed
the bounds of delicacy, in speaking of one who has
sacrificed so much in becoming the partner of an Indian
missionary. I will simply add, that Mr. and Mrs.
Howell, and their daughters Caroline and Elizabeth,
were then, and are now, members of the Methodist

In the spring which preceded my marriage, I was
appointed by my people at Rice Lake, to transact some
business for them at Toronto. I accordingly left Rice
Lake and reached Toronto in April. Just before leav-
ing for Rice Lake, I called to see my cousin, Thomas
Kezhig, who was confined to his house by consumption.
Wliile on my journey homewards, between Toronto
and Port Hope, as I was sleeping on one of the sofas
of the steamboat, I had the following singular dream in
relation to my cousin above mentioned : —

I found myself in a path on a wide plain, which led
towards the south, between two cottages. I was im-
pressed w4th a belief that it was my duty to proceed to
the end of the road, which, from appearances, great
multitudes had walked over. On nearing the cottages,
I discovered a small gate, attended by a keeper. At
first, he refused me an entrance, but after much persua-
sion, he permitted me to pass, extorting from me a pro-
mise, to return as soon as I should reach a certain spot,


from which I could see the end of the path. I passed
through the gate and traveled over a beautiful rolling
country, \vilh groves, flowers, and fruits, on my right
and on my left, which delighted my eyes ; while the
singing of birds delighted my ears. I walked through
several streams which ran smoothly over beds of beau-
tiful pebbles. From one of these streams I drank, and
felt much refreshed. In some places, I saw the impress
of men's feet on the pebbles, which proved that persons
had gone before me. Some time after this, I heard
sereral voices conversing about the country to which
they were traveling. I ascended a hill, from which I
beheld a scene which no language can describe. In
front was a large granite rock, in the form of a pyramid ;
it was exceedingly high ; had seats on each side from
the bottom to the top ; and on these, sat a great multi-
tude who had died in the Lord. Here and there was a
vacant seat. Some, however, w^ere standing, and all
had a pair of wings. Those that were sitting, had
wings, and seemed ready to fly ! On the very summit,
and above the rest, there was a spacious seat, or magni-
ficent throne. One sat on this throne who shone like
the sun ! Over his crowned head was a circle, resem-
bling a rainbow, on which was written, with letters of
gold, " This is the King Jesus." What a splendid
sight ! it daxzled my eyes. Above his head were clouds
of angels ; these were performing beautiful gyrations.
Sometimes they descended so low, that I plainly could
see the upper side of their wings, which reflected a
brilliant light from the throne. 1 did not hear them
speak, but there was a noise like a mighty rushing wind,


occasioned by their wings, which were constantly in mo-
tion. There were myriads upon myriads of these
winged angels ; the very heavens were covered with
them. I observed between me and this great rock, a
river, part of which was as black as jet, and the rest as
yellow as gold. It flowed gracefully along the edge of ^
the beautiful green, near the rock. I saw two men
plunge into its bosom, and swim. As soon as they
reached the spot where the water w^as black, their
clothes fell off of them, and were carried away by the
current ; w^hile they themselves reached the shore on
the opposite side. They now assumed forms too glo-
rious for tongue or pen to describe ; even imagination
must fail here. They now seemed to rise up out of the
river ; and as they stood upon its bed, with their long
white wings majestically expanded and dripping, they
clapped their hands and exclaimed, *' Glory lo God in
the highest ; glory and honor to Jesus." They now
stepped out of the stream, walked side by side, and
ascended to their seats midway up the rock! While
ihey were ascending, the entire multitude cheered and
welcomed them. "Glory to God," "Halleluiah,''
with many other exclamations, were echoed in loud
peals thoughout the whole region. My eyes wept big
burning tears, which overflowed my face. I tried to
join the happy throng in e'ydculixting halleluiah ; and
made several fruitless attempts to cross the river. I felt
as if I were fettered, and fastened to a stake. Presently,
I heard the sound of footsteps behind me ; I turned
around suddenly, and beheld my cousin Thomas Kezhig,
passing along. I addressed him, and said, " Where


are you going, cousin?" He replied, " I am going
where my mother and sister have gone ; but you must
return home soon, for you are needed there ; you will
one day follow us to the skies." I exerted myself to
approach him, but in vain. He turned about, ran down
%the hill to the water, plunged in, and swam like a duck.
His clothes now fell off of him, as did those of the two
individuals referred to above. I saw him rise ; he ex-
claimed, ^^ Glory to Jesus P^ Some one exclaimed
from the rock, ** Thomas Kezhig is come, Thomas Kez-
hig is come." Immediately, two flew from their seats,
and presented themselves before him, near the edge of
the water. They embraced each other, and clapped
their wings, as if filled with joy. O what a happy,
happy scene! The immense throng of angelic beings
witnessed this sight, and lowered their flight. Those
on the rock, now stood up at his approach, and flapped
their win^s. The two who had flown to him, led him
by the hand to a seat. Every eye was now upon him ;
and the whole heavens seemed to echo, " Welcome to
thy rest, thou child of affliction.^ ^ I recognized in these
t^vo, his mother and sister, who had died a few years
before, with a hope full of glory. I could have given
worlds for permission to cross the river. I wept sorely,
and felt it incumbent to return, according to my promise,
to the keeper of the gate. The keeper inquired, " well
did you see them ?" But my heart was too full to give
utterance to my thoughts. I now awoke, much agi-
tated, and still weeping. I looked at my watch, and
discovered that it was a quarter past one o'clock, P. M.
In the evening I met one of my step-brothers at Poj-t


Hope ; he had just arrived. The first words that he
uttered, were, '* Our cousin is no more." I inquired,
*' When did he die ?" He repUed, " To-day, about
one o'clock." " Then," said I, *^ he is happy in the
realms of bliss." The next day, as I stooped over his
cold remains, I could still see his glorified spirit as in
my dream, welcomed to the land of angels. ! " Let
me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end
be like his." I loved him tenderly, and had good
reason to believe that he also loved me. My readers
will, I trust, excuse me for having inflicted upon them
this dream. It is even now so vivid in my recollection,
and being somewhat curious and peculiar, that I have
ventured to give it. It is but a dream, and I wish it to
go for what it is worth, and no more.

I left Toronto for the west, on the third of June,
and arrived at Buffalo the same evening, just in time to
fulfil an engagement. I was to address the Sunday
School Missionary Society at the Methodist Episcopal
Church. I was obliged to leave Mrs. Copway at
Toronto, as she was not quite prepared to depart; but
the following day she met me in BufTalo. Here the
brethren prevailed on us to stay over the Sabbath.
Sabbath morning I preached at Black Rock, and in
Buffalo in the evening. What a curious, inquisitive,
and teasing people, some of the Yankees are! Yet,
they are very friendly withal, for every one seemed to
be striving to induce us to go to their homes to take
tea and to pass the night. I had been married but a
few (lays, and the follov 'ng were some of the ques-
tions put to me : — "How did you obtain your wife .^"


" Where were you married ?" ''Did her father con-
sent?" "How many of your people have married our
white women ?" These and similar inquiries were con-
stantly made, and were exceedingly annoying. But
notwithstanding all this, I could say "farewell dear
friends of BufTalo ; thank you for your kindness, your
good wishes, and your prayers. Farewell Sister Dob-
son, Brother M., and Brother VanderpooF' — a nohle
hearted an 1 whole-souled man.

On the 7th of June, we parted with my wife's sister,
Caroline, who had come with my wife from Toronto as
far as Buffalo. We were soon sailing on Lake Erie.
On the 8th we were in Cleveland. Here we were
obliged to stop, as the regular boat was engaged to con-
vey persons to the great Whig Convention at Fort
Meigs. But we passed a very agreeable time, however,
especially with Mr. and Mrs. Peet. On the 12th, an
opportunity offered by which we could go as far as
Amherstburg, on our way to Detroit. The steamboat
Milwaukie stopped at Cleveland on her route upward.«{
and on board of her we went. Soon we fell in with
Rev. John Clark, who was on his way from the General
Conference to Chicago, in company with Rev. Mr. Col-
clazier, of Detroit. It was my design to preach on
board, but was prevented on account of the rolling of
the boa^, which caused much sea-sickness, and our early
arrival at Amherstburg. Here we staid one week, and
passed many happy hours, especially with Sister Scott.
From Amherstburg we went to Detroit. On the l8th
we started from Detroit for ^ lackinaw, on board the
steamboat Robert Fulton, v ;iich place we reached on


the 20th; here we remained a few days with B, Chapman,
Esq. Here I heard of the death of one of our traders,
Lavaque, a pious man and a particular friend. I preached
his funeral sermon, and then his remains were con-
signed to the grave. Many wept on this occasion, for
he was much beloved. Mrs. Cop way was now suffer-
ing from chills and fever, which she first contracted at
Toronto. On the 23d, we took passage on board the
steamboat Fairport, and arrived at Green Bay early the
next morning. Mrs. Copway's indisposition induced
me to remain here until she should feel better. Brother
Chenoworth, the stationed preacher, was absent, and it
devolved on me to fill his pulpit on the Sabbath. We
had a most interesting season in waiting on the Lord.
Mrs. Copway's fevers continued three weeks, and when
it was thought that she had recovered, we took land
carriage to Prairie Du Chien. But before we had gone
many miles, she was again seized with chills and fever,
and we were obliged to tarry at the house of a Mr.
McCarty. His family were kind, and would not receive
any compensation for their trouble. I now proposed to
Mrs. C. to return to Green Bay, but she would not con-
sent, saying, that as we had started, it were better to
keep on. Every other day she had the fever.
how it distressed me to witness her affliction. We
passed through the villages of the Stockbrige and
Brother Town Indians. Their lands are good, and
it is to be hoped that they will continue to conduct them-
selves well.

On the 17th July, we arrived at Winnebago Lake,
where we took dinner with Brother White. After leav-



ing this place, we had to kindle up a fire in the groves
several times, in order to cook something for breakfast,
and for the rest of the day ; there being no settlers within
twenty miles. Some men seem to have come to these
*' diggings" only for the purpose of defrauding travellers
out of their goods and money. For every slim and
dirty meal, we had to pay fifty cents. There is a house
between Fort Winnebago and Prairie Du Chien which
I can never forget. We had to pay fifty cents for each
meal (?) ; twenty -five cents for lodging in beds swarming
with fleas and bugs. Sleep was out of the question ; so
I spent the hours of the night on the seat of what was
called a chair. August 23d, we arrived at Prairie Du
Chien, after much fatigue, having traveled ten days.
Brother Kavanaugh had just arrived from St. Peters,
and had us conveyed to Dubuque, in a canoe. Here
Mrs. Copway remained, till I returned from the Confer-
ence, which was held at Mount Morris. From Du-
buque we went to Prairie Du Chien, in a steamboat ; on
the 26th we were compelled to go in our canoe to St.
Peters, on account of the shallowness of the river. Our
company consisted of Brothers Spates, Huddleston,
Brown, Jones, Mrs. Copway, her sister, and myself.
We encamped, occasionally, on the banks of the Mis-
sissippi. We were more than two weeks traveling
three hundred miles, to St. Peters. We had a tent
which we pitched every night. On the 26th Septem-
ber, we had to mount the blufiTs of the Mississippi river;
here we found a number of Indian deities, made of stone.
Mrs. Copway and her sister tumbled them all down into
the river. Their worshippers must have been astoimd-
ed and mortified when they returned, and discovered


that their gods had vanished. On several occasions
we were dripping wet. On the 9th of October we ar-
rived at St. Peters ; we here had the happiness and pri-
vilege of associating with the Presbyterian missionaries
three weeks ; they were affectionate and truly kind to
us. These were Brothers Garvin, Pond, Denton, and
their wives. We had yet to journey nearly three hun-
dred miles. After some delay in getting ready, we
started in our canoe. On the 27th of October we went
about fifteen miles up the river ; on the 2Sth we could
proceed no farther on account of the ice. Now what
was to be done ? If the winter sets in, while we are on
our journey, we shall have to suffer much. We there-
fore concluded to go by land to Elk River mission. On
the 19th we hired a Frenchman to convey our things
in his cart. It being late when we started, we walked
but five miles the first day ; we really dreaded the jour-
ney. On the thirtieth, while we were crossing the Rice
River, the cart was upset ; our provisions and clothes
were filled with water : and manv of our thingjs were
floating down the river. I made a fire, and we passed
the rest of the day in drying our articles; fortunately,
not one of us was in the cart. Mrs. Copway exhibited
much patience and fortitude ; she reproved us for mur-
muring, on account of this and other mishaps ; and
laughed, while our pies and cakes were saihng down
the river. On the 31st we walked the whole day, and
reached Rum River, — called so, because a barrel of
rum had been concealed there. It would be too tedious
to narrate all the circumstances connected with the rest
of our journey.


On the 6th of November we arrived at the mission,
having traveled, in all, about two thousand and eighty
miles. The Indians had fled from this mission, on ac-
count of their enemies, the Sioux, whom they dreaded.
Here, then, we had no employment ; no one to instruct !
We now endured much suffering. I was taken sick
with the dysentery, and remained so four months, al-
though, occasionally, I could move about. Brother
Huddleston, also, became sick ; he was taken on the
25th of December, and died on the 30th, of dysentery.
This was truly a time of trial. We buried him near the
banks of the Mississippi, on New Year's day. He had
comeheretodogood;but O how inscrutable are the ways
of God ! The chief of the Ojebwas had now arrived ;
and addressed us in the following language : —

*^ Brothers, I am sorry to see you all in such afflicting
circumstances. I see that you loved him ; and from
what little I saw and knew of him, I believe he was a
good man. He came here to do us good — to teach our
children. You ask me where you shall bury your Bro-
ther. I will tell you. Bury him on that little hill
[pointing to it,] so that we may see his grave as we
pass up and down the river. I will tell my people to
keep the grave in good order, and to respect it. No
grass shall be allowed to grow too near it ; we will see
that it is weeded. Next summer, /will build a heap
of stones about it ; that all may see and know where
the good man lies — he, who came to bless us. Tell his
father that the Sioux, our enemies, will not molest his

This chief was not a pious man. Three of his war-


riors, now went to the hill, cleared away the snow, and
dug the grave according to our directions. We com-
mitted his lifeless body to the cold grave in a strange
land ! I never knew how much I loved him, until he
was gone. Filled with tears, sobs, and sighs, Brother
Spates performed the last sad office, over the remains
of our dearly beloved brother, while the rude blast was
blowing the snow in every direction. Just before he
died, he admonished and entreated us to meet him in
heaven, where he assured us he was going. " Blessed
are the dead, that die in the Lord."

The chief now invited us to go and reside with him
at Rabbit River; and, in February, we did so, after
having traveled three days. During these three days,
however, we had often to shovel away the snow, build
a fire, and spread the bedding without any tent over it.
We awoke one morning, and found the snow two inches
deep on the bed clothes. We built a large fire, by
which we warmed ourselves and boiled some coffee.
Our bread was frozen ; but we thawed it, and made
a meal. When this was over, ofT we started. By the
way, I ought to have mentioned that I had a poney for
Mrs. Cop way and her sister, on which they could ride.
Through the winter he lived on rushes, and browsed
like a deer. The poor fellow had to give out, about
two miles before we reached Rabbit River ; Mrs. Cop-
way, therefore, had to walk this distance on the ice,
which greatly fatigued her. On Saturday night quite
late, we arrived at the shanty of Chief Hole-in-the-sky.
In all our journeyings Mrs. C. was always ready and

willing to endure every hardship. She never murmured

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