The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

Those who take an interest in reading Indian tales will find this chapter devoted to a few stories of this kind. W. L. Sanders, son of Allin and Elizabeth (Tucker) Sanders, who were early residents on Lick Creek below the present site of Gainsvilles Mo., informed me one day in May, 1895, that some years before this that one day while he was breaking or turning land in the river bottom on the south side of White River on what is now the Abe Newton land two miles and a half below Paces Ferry in Marion County, Arkansas. The point of the plow struck a rock and he stopped and made an investigation and dug out two sand stones that were square in shape, one of which was larger than the other. A basin or bowl had been scalloped out of the center of each stone that would hold three gallons each. A complete Indian skeleton was unearthed that had lay under the two stones. The smaller stone had been placed on the Indians head with the larger one on the chest with both basins next to the skeleton. A scalping knife was clasp by the fingerbones of one hand. A tommyhawk and 20 arrowhead spikes were found near the man’s shoulder. Nearly ¼ of a mile from this grave another skeleton was plowed up where another stone had been placed in the grave without being dressed off. But a tommyhawk made of brown flint and a scalping knife of white flint were found with the skeleton and several arrowheads were taken out from where the bones lay. Some 20 paces from this last a cotton rock two feet in length and 10 inches broad with the letter was carved across one end of the stone. The stone was plowed up in 100 yards of where Dave Hall built his cabin in 1820.

As I end this brief sketch I am reminded of another one told me by Raleigh Austin, an early resident on Crooked Creek, who stated that one day in the early 50’s he was traveling over a trail on Bull Creek which flows into White River 16 miles above Forsyth, Mo. By following the course of the river, came to a large tree with the figure of an Indian armed with his bow and arrow carved in the bark of the tree. On the opposite side of the tree the figure of a bear had been cut in the bark. Mr. Austin said these figures were a curiosity and he dismounted and examined them a half an hour without being able to solve them. Remounting again he rode on a few miles and met a settler and made inquiry of the man if he knew why the figures were cut on the tree. The settler informed him that many years before, an Indian warrior killed a bear at this same tree with his bow and arrows and the Indian cut the image of himself and bear on the tree to mark the spot where the bear was slain and to commemorate the deed.

Zeke Eslick, who died near Arno, Mo., several years ago said that when Art Eslick, his father, settled in Douglas Co., Mo., in 1839 there were bands of Indians passing through that section. Mr. Eslick tells a short story of his father being out hunting one day near his house on Beaver Creek. "It was in the month of March, a forest fire had swept through there a week previous, the fire had passed through a big harle thicket and burned up the harle bushes, leaving the sharp stubs sticking out above the ground. As he walked along he heard the report of a rifle toward the burned over ground where the thicket had stood. A low hill lay between him and the ground mentioned as the country then was so sparsely settled father thought a "new comer" had settled there, and he went over to get acquainted with him and exchange hunting stories. On approaching the ground where the thicket had been destroyed he saw an Indian limping along like he was wounded in the foot. The man was carrying a rifle and father supposed he had accidently shot himself in the foot. Father hallooed to him to stop and he did. On getting up nearer the red man gave father a sign with his hand that he had snagged his foot and sit down and held up his foot for father to examine. The snag was a harle stub. The Indian had shot and wounded a deer and while the Indian was running over the burned over spot where the thicket stood he leaped on one of these stubs and it perforated his moccasin and entered deep into the bottom of his foot and broke off. Father tried to pull the snag out but failed. Then the Indian made an effort to withdraw it but he was not successful. Neither man could understand each other’s language but they made each other understand by motions and other signs. The snag stuck out a half an inch and it was causing the Indian much pain but he never evinced it by a groan or a frown. Father did all he could to pull it out of the man’s foot but his efforts were fruitless. At last the Indian give father a sign how to get it out and that was to place the priming pan of his rifle under and up against the end of the snag where it protruded from the foot and he made father understand that the frirsen could be made to act as pincers and while father pressed the frirsen hard against the snag which rested on the priming pan the Indian pulled back with his foot and the snag come out. The job of extracting the snag was rough and painful but not a murmur fell from the Indians lips. The length of the snag was 1 ¼ inches, which showed that it had run into the foot ¾ of an inch. The wound bled and the Indian squeezed all the blood out he could and bound up the wound and with more signs he give father to understand that he felt very grateful to him for his timely aid in the rude surgical operation, then he started on the trail of the wounded deer again and soon discovered it lying down and shot it the second time and killed it. This Indian belonged to a band that was passing through and several of them had scattered through the woods to shoot deer."

Mr. Beden Eslick, who was also an early settler on head of Beaver Creek in Douglas County and who come there 5 years earlier than Zeke Eslick, told me that one day soon after he come there a band of Cherokee Indians stopped a few days on Beaver Creek to hunt. The chief or head man of the party had a small son with him that he was teaching to be chief when lie become older. One day during their stop here the chief and his little boy and a few other Indians come to our house to buy spit which article was very scarce here then and high in price. The chief was an expert dancer but he refused to dance unless he was payed for it. After father sold him a small quantity of salt and the Indian had paid for it in furs’. father told him if he would dance awhile he would Rive him some salt extra. The Indian appeared to be pleased at the offer and fell to dancing at once and danced all over the yard before he let up. The father invited all the Indians into his cabin. After they all got in the house the chief told the boy to beat on the back of a chair with an arrow, and while the boy was beating in a rough like way on the chair his father danced on the floor which was made of very rough puncheons. "I was only a boy myself then" said Mr. Eslick, "and I remember how greatly I was amused at the Big Indian’s capers he out while the boy beat on the chair. The Indian could beat a white man dancing two to one. Though we could not understand their dialect, but we understood their signs. They were all very friendly and peaceably disposed. A few days after this the men of this band went out in the hills to kill big game and was gone several days. My two brothers, John and Sam, were older than I and they requested father by signs to allow the boys to accompany them on the hunt. The boys wanted to go and father gave them permission, They said when they come back home they enjoyed being out with the red men, but they said that the religious fervor of the chief was more interesting to them than seeing the Indians go on the chase. The boys said that every night while they were in camp with the Indians the chief arose about midnight and devoted an hour in prayer. "We did not know" said they, "who he prayed to but suppose it was to the Great Spirit. Anyway it was a mighty long prayer and was repeated about the same hour each night. When he brought his devotion to an end he would wake up his little boy from his slumbers and bid him to pray and while the little fellow was engaged in prayer the father would retire on his couch of skins again and was supposed to be in the dreamy land again. The boy did not quit off short but he stayed up about as long as his father did, but finally after the religious devotion was ended he too lay down again and was soon apparently asleep once more."

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