Wagon wheels in January snow
Rachel Kindred was a teenage mom with a toddler at her skirt as she put out the last campfires one night in 1844. She and her family were part of the Bush-Simons party headed across the Great Plains from St. Joseph Missouri to Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. As she poked the dying coals and the amber igloo of firelight surrounding her melted, she realized to her horror that the little boy had vanished, lost in the feral dark. She raised the camp and everyone searched but by sunrise it was silently understood that the child was gone-taken by the wild creatures that prowl at night. At daylight the wagons were loaded and by noon they were five miles along moving steadily away at the strong pace of an ox team. Days later, perhaps a hundred sad miles along the trail one of the teamsters spotted a lone rider approaching the wagons. He stopped in a dust cloud just beyond rifle distance and seemed to spin his horse and race away. Puzzled the whole party focused on the rider’s cloud and as the dust settled they recognized a small standing figure there on the prairie. Rachel reached him first. There was her son in a beautiful beaded fringed leather shirt, matching Russian beaded moccasins and braided hair greased with buffalo fat. He was still smiling from his great adventure with friends.
***
One day just before Christmas in 1923, as the story goes, a curator at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma rushed in late to an appointment he had made weeks before over the telephone. There sitting in a stiff back chair was a white haired gentleman, in a fine dark suit, gold chain on his waistcoat and polished old fashioned high top shoes. A string tied parcel sat on his lap. After introductions, the curator watched carefully as his ancient hands opened the package and pulled out a tiny beaded shirt and moccasins that he recognized immediately as pre Indian War Plains tribe artistry. The old gentleman was making a donation and with it a smile and a story about his great adventure when he was very young.

Told to me by Murray Morgan
Merry Christmas

Written by tacomahistory

This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it's surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It's also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

One comment

  1. Amazing.. What a wonderful story. Thank you so much for making me cry, and smile at the same time. Michael Sean Sullivan, please let me know if you teach a class again. You are a true Tacoma treasure!

    Like

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