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THE FACTS ABOUT THE LAST INDIAN RESIDENT OF WAYNE
Communicated by E. B. Evans, of JejBfersonville, HI.
The writer having been familiar for years with the
most important facts in the following narrative, has, of
late, interested himself in the story and obtained details
of interest of J. B. Brown, of Orchardville and Wm.
Brown, of Zenith, 111., sons of John Brown mentioned in
In the winter of 1835 some hunters in the vicinity of
Mill Shoals, White county, found in a cave or cavern an
Indian squaw in a starved and frozen condition. She had
hidden herself away for protection against the frost and
snow, but in vain. She was badly frozen. Her feet in
particular, and in her starved condition she presented a
pitiful sight to the hunters, who in their uncultured man-
ner were kind hearted and soon brought relief to the
The good people of the community came as the good
Samaritan. They fed and clothed her until spring, when
her feet having healed sufficiently for walking, she dis-
appeared from the Mill Shoals neighborhood. Wandering
up Skillet Fork river she was next seen in Wayne county
in the region of the juncture of Nicholas creek and Paddy
creek with Skillet Fork.
This Indian woman was wild and avoided meeting any
of the settlers, but was occasionally seen running away
to hide when any one approached too near her camp.
Often the camp fire was found, but the Indian would not
This Indian woman lived in the forest as best she
could, with only her hands to obtain her food. She made
frequent invasions of the settlers' truck gardens and
helped herself to any kind of food that suited her fancy.
This locality seemed to appeal to her more than any
other and not knowing the way to her tribe she lingered
here until winter was approaching. No one had ever
succeeded in getting speech with her, and fearing she
would starve and freeze during the winter, Philip Hen-
son, being of a romantic disposition, organized a search-
ing party to find her and prevail on her to adopt one of
their homes and be cared for in a civilized way.
The men searched the forest in vain for days and all
but Philip Henson gave up the search. He continued to
ride through the forest day after day with his gun and
finally came upon the woman secreted in a clump of
bushes. She started to run away, but was soon over-
taken by Mr. Henson on horseback who leveled his gun at
her and called ''halt!" The woman ceased running and
faced her pursuer with both arms extended upward ex-
pecting to be shot. Mr. Henson explained his motive to
her and insisted that she mount the horse behind him
and go to his home. This she did and always seemed
grateful for a home.
This forlorn woman told her benefactor in broken
English that she was a Cherokee Indian; that her name
was Lydia Gundy and that she, in company with a young-
er squaw had been enticed away from her people in the
south by a white man who had promised ''to wife her,"
but instead he had deserted her in the neighborhood of
Mill Shoals, disappearing with the younger squaw.
Lydia Gundy lived in the Henson family as one of the
household. She was kind hearted and industrious, always
ready to perform any duty assigned her.
After the Henson children had all married and had
homes of their own Philip Henson deserted his invalid
wife and emigrated to Missouri, leaving her and Lydia
Gundy alone in possession of the farm. Mrs Henson
was confined to her room all the time so all the labor fell
upon Lydia, which she did without a murmur. There
were but few men who could wield an ax or a hoe better
than she could.
John Brown who married Sis (Narcissa) Henson, was
a generous hearted man and responded to the call of duty
when there was wood to haul or other work which Lydia
could not do. This labor finally became burdensome to
John Brown, as he lived several miles from Mrs. Henson.
He then requested Mrs. Henson to move to his home
where he could better care for her ; but she declined the
generous offer unless he take Lydia Gundy also. This he
readily consented to do and the two women were moved to
John Brown's home and Sis (Narcissa) Brown cared for
her mother and Lydia being relieved of that duty assisted
in the fields with her hoe. She thought a crop could not
be planted without her aid. She did her work well and
the Brown boys knew they would have no easy task when
they were pitted against Lydia in any kind of outdoor
labor. Labor saving machinery was unheard of in those
days and it was a custom that the women assist in the
fields. The soil was productive and yielded an abund-
ance. The pioneers of Wayne county were like the
Acadian peasants whom Longfellow describes as
'*The richest were poor and the poorest lived in abund-
In personal appearance Lydia' Gundy was a typical
Cherokee Indian. She had the upper part of the lobe
of each ear cut off, but whether for ornament or as a
punishment could not be ascertained.
The habits and customs of a people can not be changed
in a generation. Lydia Gundy 's love for the forest clung
to her all her life. On days when there was no necessary
work and of Sundays she would appear restless and would
soon disappear and be gone most of the day and upon her
return would tell of her trip which often extended over
several miles. Lydia called all of the Henson relatives
**our folks'' and would visit them and was talkative, but
there was only one stranger who ever succeeded in gain-
ing her friendship, that was Uncle Billy Harrison, a
Baptist minister, who often preached at Mr. Brown's.
Lydia Gundy had seen the trees drop their leaves many
times before she came to Wayne county, yet during the
thirty-two years of her life here she always enjoyed good
health. But one day in the winter of 1867 she complained
of being sick and was given some of the home remedies
kept in the house. That night she left her own room
and came into the sitting room where Mr. Brown and
other members of the family were sleeping. She sat
down by the fire and seemed in great agony when Mr.
Brown asked, **What is the trouble, Lydia?" She ex-
claimed, '^0 John I die!" Before any one could reach
her, her spirit had flown to the Happy Hunting Ground of
The Henson cemetery in the north western part of
Wayne county, contains an unmarked mound and only a
few of the older people know that Lydia Gundy sleeps
beneath its sod.