LEGEND OF FLOWER POT MOUNTAIN 2 of 2
This and more info from the book ‘Medicine Lodge: The story of a Kansas frontier town’ by Nellie Snyder Yost Copyright 1970 Swallow Press Inc.
In part 1 of Lenora Day’s journal, we already have the makings of a blockbuster western movie. If you missed it, you must catch up at LEGEND OF FLOWER POT MOUNTAIN 1 of 2. As for the rest of you, well, you’re in for a treat! Let’s continue, shall we?
This morning, while one of the men went back up the river after the oxen, the rest of us searched for bodies. By sundown we had found all but one – a woman whose heart-broken husband refused to be comforted and wandered all night by the river, calling her name. To keep away wild animals we have kindled a bright fire beside the place where the bodies are laid, and the men take turns watching over our lonely morgue. When morning comes we will bury the bodies on a knoll beside our camp.
This morning we dug a grave, long enough to hold all the bodies, and lined it with fresh boughs and then with earth. After the burial we went on searching for the missing woman, but though we closely scanned the river banks for many miles, we found no trace of her, nor of any more of our effects.
Today we started looking for a suitable place for a permanent camp. All nature seemed glad, this lovely spring morning, and after breakfast three of the men, with rifles and ammunition we had recovered, started off toward the west. The rest of us overhauled and counted what remained of our earthly possessions. We found that we had a good supply of powder, lead, and flints, some writing material, clothing, a box of assorted field and garden seeds, part a set of carpenter tools, flour, salt, a supply of Lucifer matches, and many minor articles.
Night brings no tidings of our men but we do not worry, for they said they might be gone three days. Not a single Indian has visited us since we left their village, though we have seen them at a distance and know that they keep a constant watch on our movements.
Last night as we were about to retire we were startled by a strange cry, like that of a human in distress. We looked at each other in fear as it came again, “Help! Help! For God’s sake help. I am sinking in this horrible water.” The voice had hardly died away when the missing woman’s half-crazed husband leaped to his feet, shouting ” ‘Tis my own lost Nora. Living or dead, speak to me again, Nora.” But only the echo of his own pitiful voice answered. After awhile the rest of us retired, but morning found the lonely husband still sitting by the dying fire. We did not speak of the voice we had heard in the night.
About five o’clock this afternoon our men returned. Two of them carried the ham of a buffalo between them on a pole. Seven or eight miles to the west, they told us, they had c0me to as lovely a little valley as ever the eye behold. It had an abundance of timber and pure water and they had determined to locate there.
At daybreak we started for the beautiful valley. About noon we reached a winding stream and halted for dinner on its grassy banks. Truly enough, it was a lovely land. Hills small and great lay to the north and west, and in the distance we saw the Flower Pot Mountain, looming like an evil portent, reminding us that Paradise and its counterpart were uncomfortably close together.
Just at sunset we reached the spot selected for our homes in the wilderness. Here there is a rise of ground entirely surrounded by timber. The main creek, 4 to 6 feet in width, runs on the east of us, while a branch, furnished with several springs of clear, cold water, runs on the south. Game of all kinds abounds, from the stately buffalo down to the timid hare, and the woods are alive with wild turkeys.
For breakfast we had a dainty dish, water cress, gathered from a pond near one of the springs. While some of the men went back with the team to bring up the rest of our effects, the rest of us made a garden. On a suitable spot south of the trees that lined the creek bank we dug up a good sized patch and planted some of our seeds, wondering all the while if we should ever “gather where we had strewn.” This evening we sat for hours around the fire, discussing plans for the future. We decided to build cabins in the form of a village, and to name it “Day Vista,” for my husband and for the beautiful view.
Nothing worthy of note has happened since my last entry. The seeds we planted are up and I have never seen a finer prospect for a garden. The men have made a kind of plow from the fork of a tree and have commenced farming on a larger scale. The will plant turnips, as we have an abundance of the seed. We have built two cabins of cottonwood logs at Day Vista, each with a big fireplace built of stone from the nearby hills. We will build more house room as soon as we have time.
While we were sitting in front of our cabins this evening we were startled by the sudden appearance of the White Spirit of the Whirlwind. After shaking hands with us all, he said he was anxiously awaiting the coming of the full moon, as he had much to say to us. He told us that he was well pleased with our progress, and that the Indians seemed pleased, too, for they told him all that we did. Then he asked us if the last body had been found. He wanted to know because, two nights before, while the braves were holding their Spirit Dance (always held two days before the moon was made) they were terribly frightened by the appearance in their midst of a half-clad woman with long, shining auburn hair. They had prostrated themselves, face downward, and the woman, crying “Help! Help! For God’s sake help, I am sinking in this horrible water,” had disappeared in the darkness. He said he had told them they had seen the wandering spirit of one who had perished in the flood.
We talked it over and decided the poor woman had been cast ashore from the flood, a raving maniac. And all the while the poor woman’s husband sat motionless, but suddenly he sprang to his feet, shouted, “Nora, Nora, I am coming,” and fell to the ground. Blood was gushing from his mouth, nose, and ears, and though we raised him tenderly in our arms, his spirit had forever flown.
Then the White Spirit of the Whirlwind spoke again. “Brothers, some time I will tell you my story, but for now you have sorrow enough of your own. If I can I will visit you when the moon is full. In the meantime when I wish to talk to you I will raise my crimson light on the summit of the hill one mile west of this spot. When you see it, go to it quickly, for it will only appear when your lives are in jeopardy and I have news of great importance. Farewell.” And with a wave of his hand, he was gone.
What a glorious bright morning. Far different from our feelings as we prepared the body of our friend for burial. We buried him on a hillock south of Day Vista, and above him we raised a headboard, inscribed by my husband as follows: “In memory of Joel Raymond, Died May 28, 1849, aged 21 years, 6 months. Psalm LXXX.”
January 1, 1850.
My supply of writing material is nearly exhausted and henceforth I shall write only the most important events. The White Spirit of the Whirlwind has visited us at each full moon. We reaped an abundant harvest in proportion to the limited amount of seed, except for turnips, we had to plant. Of turnips we have a great supply, but most of our corn, wheat, potatoes, etc., are carefully put away for seed for next spring. The oxen are sleek and fat, although they have had nothing to eat but grass which still seems as nutritious as in midsummer. We have had no snow and little frost and the streams have not yet frozen over. We have built 3 more cabins, one for a storehouse, and have fenced our garden, as the buffalo come up from the valley in such vast herds that they almost overrun our village.
Four of our men became homesick in November and decided to try to escape to civilization. The started soon after dark, but were overtaken before daylight and taken to the Indian village, where the braves voted five times before agreeing to let them come home. The were told that a second attempt to escape would mean the death of the entire colony, for they believed that our men intended to bring help to free us all. Last night we gathered in our largest cabin to hold a meeting as it was New Year’s Eve. Today We enjoyed a New Year’s dinner which, but for the absence of bread and pastry, could not be excelled.
September 16, 1852.
With a heavy heart I resume my diary. For almost 3 months I have been ill, knowing little of what went on around me. And now I find that the death messenger has entered our fold and taken from us 5 men and a woman. We were all stricken about the same time with a fever and, but for the medicine given me by the White Spirit of the Whirlwind, I, too, would have died. The first thing I ate, on my recovery was part of a fine, large watermelon, of which we have many. We also have a good supply of almost every kind of vegetable.
Today my husband and I walked out north about 3 miles, and from a high hill looked out over the surrounding country. In all my life I have never looked upon a grander scene. But as we gazed across the land we heard again that terrible cry, “Help! Help! For God’s sake help, I am sinking in this horrible water.” We turned to look, and to my dying day I will not forget what we saw. Two hundred yards away, the poor woman sat on a huge rock, combing her hair with her long, bony fingers. She was wrapped in the skin of a buffalo and she looked more like a wild beast than a human being. My husband took my arm and we started toward her, but she sprang to her feet, sent forth her wild, despairing cry again, and vanished behind the rock. As night was coming on, we slowly retraced our path homeward. Supper was waiting, and bread, the first I had had in many months, was smoking on the table. Our people had made a grater from a tin pan and grated the corn meal from some of the crop of almost 200 bushels they had raised.
The night after our walk I dreamed that I was dead and in the land of perpetual sunshine, and there I talked with the departed members of our little colony. Strangest of all, I saw Nora Raymond. The wild maniac look was gone and her angelic face was wreathed in smiles as she came with open arms to meet me. Then she told me she had been in that bright land since the night of the flood, but that her poor body had ever since been wandering the earth – why, she did not know.
When I awoke that morning the sun was shining in my face and all the people of our village were gathered round my bed. For more than an hour my husband said, they had been trying to waken me. When they could not, they feared my spirit had flown. I was unable to rise and it was thought I had overdone and the fever had returned.
Come what might, my husband said then, he would visit the White Spirit of the Whirlwind and get help for me. With two of our men, all unarmed, he set out, carrying a flag made of a bleached fawn skin. Each man also carried a melon as large as he could handle. On his melon my husband had scratched, “Wife sick again. Give me more medicine.”
When they reached the village they were taken at once to the white lodge, where they laid their presents down. The old man told the Indians their white friends had come in peace, bearing gifts that were good to eat. Then he cut the melons and ate a piece to show his people it would not make them dead, after which they all ate greedily until not a mouthful was left. While they were eating, the medicine man went into his lodge and came back with a curiously fashioned purse, which he gave my husband as a present in return for the melons. Inside the purse were several packets of whitish powder, with directions written on each. By bedtime I was so much strengthened that I could walk without assistance.
Last night we sat in front of our cabins on Main Street, talking over the work of the day. the moon had risen but gave little light as a kind of fog overspread the valley. We were about to retire when we suddenly saw a red gleam on the hill to the west. We knew it at once for our friend’s signal and my husband and two others repaired at once to the hill. When they were near to the light it went out and they heard these words, “Brothers, I fear your time has come. the Indians have just returned from an unsuccessful attack on an emigrant train on the main trail beyond the Arkansas River. Two of their chiefs and many of their best warriors were killed and now they are holding a fearful mourning dance, wailing and slashing their own persons to appease the wrath of the Great Spirit.”
“They believe this has happened because they let you remain here, so now they have decided to burn you at the stake on the Mountain of Sacrifice. They have commanded me to have all in readiness by the time the moon is straight over the Mountain, which will be by the time I return. But be brave, for the One who has delivered you out of so many perils yet liveth. Now, farewell.”
When the men got back they found the rest of us with our hands already bound behind our backs. They, too, were seized and bound. The Indians had already set fire to one of the cabins, and were about to fire the rest – when there appeared on the roof of the burning building a terrible sight: a wasted female figure, her face haggard, her eyes burning like coals of a fire. Her long auburn hair, streaming in the night wind, almost touched the flames that climbed around her. She made frantic gestures with her hands and screamed her wild call for help. But while we stared in horror, she disappeared, still shrieking. And when we finally looked about us, we saw that the Indians were gone, too.
Then there came a voice from the darkness, saying, “For He hath looked down from the height of His sanctuary. To hear the groaning of the prisoner, to loose those that are appointed to death,” and the White Spirit of the Whirlwind, knife in hand, cut our bonds. The Indians, he told us, thought he was still on the Flower Mountain, but when he returned to them he would tell them all that had happened here. This, he said, would frighten them so much that they would obey when he told them not to harm us more, lest they incur the anger of the Great Spirit in still greater measure. He said we were to go ahead as if nothing had happened, and then he added, “How strange that the poor demented creature lives so long in these wilds, but is so seldom seen.”
Today I was out alone, gathering wild grapes and plums. Presently I entered a ravine where the shrubs and vines were so dense as to cut off nearly all sunlight. It was so shadowy that I almost turned back, but I am no coward, so determined to go ahead. So I pushed through the foliage, and came upon a sight I shall never forget. In a little natural clearing, in the shade of a mulberry tree, lay our poor maniac – and for companions she had a she bear and two cubs. The cubs seemed as affectionate toward her as toward their mother, and the poor creature fondled and played with them as though she really loved them. Yet we all know Nora Raymond was a timid, nervous woman, frightened of even her own shadow.
October 13, 1853.
This morning five Indians, including a head chief, came to our village. They brought us a present of 5 buffalo robes, the insides painted in the most beautiful colours. They also gave us a bow and arrows, the points all green, which we understood meant we would all be allowed to stay without further trouble, at least for the present. When they were ready to leave us we gave them all the vegetables they could carry, and they made signs asking us to visit them, something they had never done before.
May 3, 1854.
Last night we had one of the most terrific thunder storms I have ever witnessed. It seemed as if the elements were at war and the continuous glare of the lightning lit up the countryside like day. And while we stood in our open doorways, watching the awful scene, a still more terrible sight chilled our very blood. For up in the branches of a huge old cottonwood tree we saw our poor maniac. Standing erect on a limb that swayed beneath her, she seemed to look toward us, then threw up her arms and shrieked her familiar cry, “Help! Help! For God’s sake help. I am sinking in this horrible water.” Her last words were swallowed up by a blinding flash that shivered the tree, and when we could see again we ran to it, for at its splintered base lay the body of the poor crazed woman.
We tenderly carried her into one of the cabins, where we sadly closed her staring eyes. Then one of the women and I made ready to prepare her body for burial, but she suddenly sat straight up and looked about her, and even more startling – the light of reason had returned to her eyes. She recognized both of us, then quickly asked for her husband. And when we told her he was no more, she lay down again, folded her hands across her breast, closed her eyes and died. This morning we buried her beside her husband. On a simple headboard we carved these words: “Nora Raymond. Lost in the flood May 7, 1849. Died May 2, 1854. Gone home at last.”
July 30, 1854.
We are all alone, my husband and I, and only God in Heaven knows what the end will be. I would gladly pass over the soul-trying events of the last few days, but it is my duty, perhaps my last one, to finish the record.
On the night of the 26th all our little colony, except my husband and myself, started for the settlements. Knowing it would end in disaster, we refused to go. They took the oxen and wagon, and enough provisions for the journey. But, alas! They were scarcely started before the Indians were upon them. The White Spirit of the Whirlwind was with them and they instantly killed him. The rest were taken to the village, and last night we could plainly see the light of the funeral fires on top of the Flower Mountain.
So now it is only a question of hours before the same fate befalls us. There is nothing we can do.
I do not know if it is possible for the spirits of the departed to visit the earth again, but if it can be done I shall certainly return to harass these inhuman wretches. Yes! If it be God’s will, I shall return to this valley I have loved so dearly, this paradise that has come to mean so much to me. Now I must stop. My heart is too heavy and sad to go on.
A final sheet of paper recorded the names and birth places of the fourteen people left alive on that New Year’s Eve in 1849, when the little group celebrated together. From England, Ireland, Scotland, Brazil, Buenos Ayres, Kentucky, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New York, they had come to that legendary village on the Kansas plains.