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The Life of John W. Johnson
Chapter 11
Problems - 1855

Transcribed - June 1998 - by Ne-Do-Ba

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The next morning as my wife and I were going back to the camp, having been to the village, as we approached the platform, Mrs. Bowdoin, my sister, called to my wife, and, as she was talking with my brother Samuel, and asked her to come up where she was. My wife went up rather reluctantly, and my sister told her that she would be willing to call her sister, if she would entertain the same feelings toward her, and that she would like for her to come and see her. I here spoke and said it was too late to ask us to come and see them, for they might have done that in the first place if they wished for our company. I then commenced to talk with my brother, and told him that I did not think he had done just right in getting such a crowd up to our camps, and that the railroad company had complained that the people there troubled them exceedingly. He said that he was very sorry on his part that we had been troubled, but that he did not know that he was to blame.

My father came up again to see me, and as there was a crowd around the camp, he invited me to walk out towards the bridge, about a dozen rods distant. My father, with tears in his eyes, told me that he could not swear that I was his son, but that I appeared like one of his children, and that his lost boy had a scar upon his forehead, the same as the one upon mine. "I cannot tell you how much I have suffered," my father continued, "and the many sleepless nights that I have passed. I cannot tell you the sufferings of my wife, the many tears she shed, the many hours of wretchedness that she had, but I know that it wore upon her, and that she now sleeps in the grave. You look like my child, I would call you my son. I would not say if you are my child you must leave the Indians, you are old enough to choose for yourself, but only that I ask, that I may have the privilege of visiting you, and that you will sometimes come and see me, and look upon me as a father."

My father now ceased to speak, for he was too full for utterance; but as for myself, having been thrown out so early upon the world, and having passed through many scenes myself, my heart, had become somewhat hardened, but when he spoke of a mother, and that she had gone down to the grave, perhaps through the loss of her child, that this had in any measure shortened her days somewhat touched me, and I felt a working within me, a feeling that I had rarely, if ever, felt before; it was the drawing forth of the sympathies of the heart, and I could only exclaim, "I pity you from the bottom of my heart." But we could converse no more, as the crowd had begun to gather around us, so that our conversation could not be private, and as we did not wish to express our views before a crowd of people, we went back to the depot, and the cars coming along, my father bade me good-bye, and took the cars for Lewiston.

I turned from the cars, and went toward my camp with strange and singular feelings. Tossed as I had been here and there upon the waves of life, meeting only as I went around, the cold shoulder from all, the words of my father had touched me, for he sounded the depths of my heart, and there came up a yearning for a sympathizing friend in whom I might confide my troubles, but with strong feelings I crowded back these thoughts, and turned to the reality of life as it was around me.

I felt unwilling to leave the Indians, strange as it may appear to the reader, but I had lived with them so long that they seemed to be my people. I had hunted with them for the deer, I had chased with them on the hunting grounds, with them I had passed twenty years of life, and so strong had the attachment become that their people seemed my people, and I felt like one of their number. I could with them be free to rove the forest, or paddle upon the beautiful lakes, but with the whites I thought that I must content myself to live forever in a house that covered a small piece of ground, and there caged up, pass my days. I could not bear the thought, and I chose to follow my Indian life, and I turned and went into my camp.

The crowds around our camp still increased, and we could get no chance to cook or eat, and hardly to sleep. While here some of the young Indian men went to a tea-party down to a hall in the village, and at the close of the evening came without their caps, as they had been stolen from the hall with some other clothing. The next morning some other officers came from the village with a search warrant, and ransacked our camps, but not finding any of the missing articles, they went away. We did not like to have our camps searched, and the Indians got me to write a letter, which was published in the "Union and Journal", at this place, in regard to our difficulties, which we here annex;

From the Penobscot Indians.
March 29th, 1855.
To The Public:---It is settled about that boy which was lost some twenty years ago. We have seen Mr. Johnson this morning before his departure for Lewiston. He is satisfied that he is not his son, for the boy is only eighteen years old now, and according to his statement, his boy would be some twenty-two or twenty-five years old. We have traveled east and west, and we have never been so much imposed upon as in this place. We did not come in this place to have any trouble with any person, we came here as civil and respectable people, we came to make a few baskets, and sell them to those who wish to purchase the same.

Now for five days past we have not scarcely had a chance to eat, sleep, or do any kind of work. Last evening some of our boys went to the ball down in the hall, and this morning one of your officers came with a search warrant to search our camps for a coat stolen in the hall. We are perfectly willing to have our camps searched by an officer. One of our boys lost a cap, but if he was to search all our white friends' houses it would cost a large sum of money. Now you must not think the Indians are so bad as some folks represent them to be. If they do steal children, you must not blame them, for you that can read can soon find out who set the example first -- the Whites or the Indians. Almost every history contains accounts of the Whites taking Indians from their friends and carrying them to other countries, and if you set the example, you must expect for others to follow them.
Penobscot Indian

We stopped in Biddleford about two weeks, and then my wife and I went to Kennebunkport, where we practiced medicine, doing very well. In about a fortnight the remainder of our company came to our place, and camped near us. We gave an exhibition while here, and while in the hall the seats broke down, but little damage was done. After I left the hall I found out that I had left my watch behind, I therefore went back to get it, but the keeper of the hall refused to give it up unless I paid the damages caused by the seats breaking down. I told him that I was not responsible for the seats breaking down, and that it was his duty to have seen that they were secure, and after some more talking he concluded not to keep the watch, and therefore gave it up.

We went from here to Kennebunk depot where we remained a number a weeks making baskets, whilst my wife practiced medicine in the village. We moved next to Alfred, where we gave some exhibitions and did very well.

One night we gave an entertainment, when we had quite a house and took considerable change, and when walking back to our camp we were followed by two man, who kept for some time a short distance behind, if we walked fast they would, if we slackened, they would do the same; but as it was a bright moonlight night, and finding that we were well armed they came to a wise conclusion and took their leave, going into the woods.

A short time after we gave another exhibition in Springvale, and after returning to our camps I was awakened in the night by the low growling of my dog, and I raised myself up in time to see him bound out of a hole that had been cut in the tent. I jumped up hastily and seized an iron pestle that was near, and ran out and saw a person running away from the tent, whilst in another direction was another, with my dog close upon his heals. I threw my pestle at the first, which struck him, knocking him down, but he managed to escape to the woods that were near. I called back my dog, and getting my pestle, I went back to the camp. I had not much doubt but that these man were the same ones that followed us from Springvale but a short time before, but they must have been hard up to have attempted to rob such poor follows as we were at that time.

While stopping in Alfred we visited the jail, and saw while there a mulatto boy that formerly lived with Dr. Newell. We also visited the Shakers, where we were treated with great kindness and respect; they bought quite a number of baskets, and showed us over their extensive grounds, and made our visit a very pleasant and agreeable one which we did not readily forget. We gave another exhibition at Springvale, and one of our company was a very fast runner, and as it was late before he started for the place, he ran the distance, five miles, in twenty minutes, but it came near finishing the poor follow, for he was taken sick immediately after the performance, and was confined to the camp for some length of time. We next moved to Springvale, camping near the woolen mill on the bank of the river, where we made baskets, bows, and arrows, selling them to the people in the village. We had a violent storm while we were here, and our tent was blown down at the same time the Indian referred to above was sick, and we had to turn out in the rain and get the tent up, and then had to hold it to keep it from being blown down again the wind was so strong.

We moved from this place to Wells Depot, camping near by, where my wife practiced, and the rest of us made baskets; but not doing well, we moved to North Berwick, and camped in "Walnut Grove" near the Depot, making baskets, &c., where we remained two weeks. We next went to Lawrence, Mass., stopping near the foundry, and then to Nashua, N.H. We sent our baggage in the cars, and as it did not get there for a short time after we did, when it came we were entirely out of money. I went down to the depot and found that it had arrived. "Well, Mr. Indian," said the depot master, "is this your baggage?" pointing to our things. "Here's the bill; four dollars." "Yes, Mr. Pale Face," I replied, "they are our things, but I have no money." "Well, Mr. Red Skin," he replied, "we shall have to trust you." I took part of our things, and in a few days I went for the remainder and paid the bill on them. About this time there came along an Indian circus company, and I engaged to travel for two dollars and a half a day and expenses paid. The proprietor's name was Washburn, and I traveled with him some six weeks, and then I left and went back to Lawrence, where I found my wife sick. I engaged next to travel with Dr. Newell, my wife's oldest brother. I was to do his writing and compound medicine. Whilst at this place a frightful accident occurred a short distance from here by a train of cars being thrown off the track, and I went with the doctor to the place, where we did what we could to alleviate the distress of the wounded. It was a sad scene, the cars had been thrown off the track by running into an animal, and the wounded were scattered in various directions around the spot, some with broken limbs, others escaped by a miracle, whilst those around them were severely bruised.

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