A French Fur Trader at Work
Courtesy of the Oneida Nation
My friend McCauslin took me to a Frenchman's house--he was a baker by
trade, the only baker in town--to board with him until I got an opportunity to go home. Two days after I went to stay at the baker's, the Indian that claimed me, his squaw and the young squaw that followed us to the new town, came to see me and stayed three or four hours with me. He asked me to give him some tobacco. I told him I had no money. He thought I could get anything I wanted. I bought him a carrot of tobacco; it weighed about three pounds; he seemed very well pleased. He and his wife wanted me very much to go back home with them again. I told them I could not, that I was very anxious to go home to my wife and family.
Three or four days after that they revisited me, and still insisted on me to go home with them. I told them that I expected every day to get an opportunity to go home. I had some doubts about going back with them; I thought perhaps they might play some trick on me, and take me to some other town; and their water was so bad I could not drink it--nothing but a small pond to make use of for their drinking and cooking, about forty
or fifty yards long and about thirty yards wide. Their horses would not only drink from, but wallow in it; the little Indian boys every day would swim in it, and the Indians soak their deerskins in it. I could not bear to drink it. When they would bring in a kettle of water to drink, they would set it down on the floor. The dogs would generally took the first drink out of the kettle. I have often seen when the dogs would be drinking out of a kettle, an Indian would go up and kick him off, and take up the kettle and drink after the dog. They had nothing to eat the last week I was with them but Indian potatoes--some people call them hoppines--that grew in the woods, and they were very scarce.
Sometimes the Indian boys would catch land terrapins. They would draw their heads out and tie a string around their neck and hang them up a few minutes, and then put them in a kettle of water with some corn--when they had it--without taking the entrails out or shell off the terrapin, and eat the soup as well as the meat. We had all liked to have starved that week; we had no meat; I was glad to get away.
I staid three weeks with the French baker before I got an opportunity to start home. I had a plenty to eat while I remained with the baker--good light bread, bacon and sandy hill cranes, boiled in leyed corn, which made a very good soup. I paid him three dollars per week for my board.
There was a Mr. Pyatt a Frenchman, and his wife, whose residence was at St. Vincennes, with whom I had some acquaintance. They had moved up to that Kickapoo town in the fall of the year in order to trade with the Indians that winter. They were then ready to return home to Vincennes. Mr. Pyatt had purchased a drove of horses from the Indians. He had to go by land with his horses. Mrs. Pyatt hired a large perogue and four
Frenchmen to take her property home to Vincennes. I got a passage in her perogue. She was very friendly to me; she did not charge me anything for my passage.
We arrived in Vincennes in forty-eight hours after we left the Kickapoo trading town, which is said to be two hundred and ten miles. The river was very high, and the four hands rowed day and night. We never put to land but twice to get a little wood to cook something to eat.
I staid five days at Vincennes before I got an opportunity of company to go on my way home. It was too dangerous for one man to travel alone by land without a gun. There was a Mr. Duff, who lived in the Illinois country, came to Vincennes to move a Mrs. Moredock and family to the Illinois. I got a passage with him by water. The morning I started from Vincennes he was just ready to start before I knew I could get a passage
with him, and I had not time to write. I got a Mr. John Rice Jones, a friend of mine, to write to Col. Edgar, living in Kaskaskia, in the Illinois, who was a particular friend of mine, and sent it by the express, a Frenchman, that was going to start that day from Vincennes to Kaskaskia, which he could ride in four days, and request Col. Edgar to
write to my wife, who lived at Bellfontain, about forty miles from Kaskaskia, and inform her that I was at Post Vincennes, on my return home with a Mr. Duff by water, and inform her that I would be at Kaskaskia on a certain day; I think it was two weeks from the time I left Vincennes, and for her to send me a horse on that day to Kaskaskia.
Col. Edgar wrote to her immediately, as soon as he received Mr. Jones' letter. That was the first time she heard from me after I was taken prisoner. I had written to her while I was at the Kickapoo town. That letter never reached her. I had two brothers living at the Bellfontain; they met me on the day I proposed being at Kaskaskia and brought me a
horse. The next day I got home to the Bellfontain.
End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Narrative of the Captivity of William
Biggs among the Kickapoo Indians in Illinois in 1788, by William Biggs