Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Mad Stone

I'm going out of town for a week or so and I don't want to leave you without anything to read, so I'll just jot a few words down about the "mad stone." A few months ago, my cousin Jim Phillips (see blog post Sept 24, Oct 5, and Oct 9, and told me a story that his great grandmother Hattie Jane told him. She said that when our great great grandmother Ela-Teecha's first husband, Jason McClure, was dying of hydrophobia, his friend, our great great grandfather Smith Paul, tried to find a mad stone to save his life. Through the years Jim has collected a couple of mad stones, and he sent me a picture of them:

                                Mad Stones, courtesy of Jim Phillips

According to multiple articles I found on Google, the "mad stone" is actually a bezoar, a collection of undigestible material that can accumulate in the stomach of any animal. Authentic mad stones though come from the stomach of a deer, preferably a white deer, and they are purported to have the power to cure rabies, or hydrophobia, as it used to be called. They can also be used to cure poisonous snake bites.  

Hydrophobia is one of the most dreaded diseases ever to affect mankind. The infected person or animal develops fever, headaches, and then confusion, and hallucinations, hence the term "mad dog." Excessive saliva develops so the person or animal "froths at the mouth." The victim also develops severe, painful spasms of the jaw muscles which are precipitated by even the thought of drinking, causing the patient to fear water, hence the term "hydrophobia. Over a period of a week or so, general paralysis develops, accompanied by painful muscle spasms. It is a terrible way to die. 

Rabies is rare now but it is still a threat. Since pets are routinely vaccinated, the main source of infection is from wild animals, mainly skunks, racoons and bats. There's still no cure, but the incubation period is so long, usually over a month, that there is time for a person to be immunized by a series of shots if they are bitten by an infected animal.  

During the early 1900's before a vaccine was developed for rabies, people just had to take their chances. During those times there was no protection for pets, or for hunters, so infection was more common, and people were more aware of the symptoms, so an animal bite caused panic, especially if the animal was wild or unfamiliar. Hence the popularity of the "mad stone."

I couldn't determine from my cursory Google search if a belief in mad stones originated with Native Americans or in Europe. Both views are expressed, but apparently the mad stone was pretty commonly used well into the 20th century. The standard procedure was to apply the stone directly to the site of the bite after it was boiled in milk. It was left to fall off on its own, and then boiled again and reapplied until it no longer stuck. You could tell if the stone was working if it turned green.   

There were some who believed that mad stones worked because they had magical properties, so there was some mythology surrounding their use. They could not be sold, only handed down from generation to generation. The owner couldn't charge for their use, and he (or she) couldn't take the stone to the victim. The victim had to come to him.  

Being old and forgetful, when Jim mentioned the mad stone to me I had forgotten that my mother also told me a story about a mad stone. I was just reminded of the story last week as I listened to some old tapes of our conversations. It happened when she was a little girl. Her sister, my aunt Kaliteyo, who was sick in bed, looked out of her window one day and saw a stray kitten. She couldn't go outside, so she asked my grandmother if she would catch the kitten and let her play with it. Grandmother asked the doctor the next time he came around, and told her to go ahead and let Kaliteyo play with the kitten.  

Meanwhile someone in town came down with rabies, so all stray animals became suspect. Grandmother got rid of the kitten, and then started searching for a "mad stone." My mother said she heard her discussing it with my grandfather. She didn't know if they ever found a stone, but Aunt Kaliteyo didn't get hydrophobia.  

Kaliteyo and J Wenonah Paul

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

H. B. Cushman and George Catlin

I've been spending most of my time working on my book, which is more about family history than Chickasaw History, so I haven't had as much time to spend on this blog. Sorry.  

In a way though I enjoy the writing I do for the blog more than my book because I can pick out a subject and go into detail about it. With the book, I have to refrain from going into too much detail so as not to interrupt the flow of the story. Anyway for now I'd like to share something I read recently in a book, History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians by H. B. Cushman. 

Cushman's father and mother were missionaries to the Choctaws and the Chickasaws during the 1820's in Mississippi. He was born in the Choctaw homeland, and grew up among the Indians. Cushman's parents' missionary activities were ended by the Removal, but he maintained contact with some of the tribal members who managed to stay in Mississippi and when he grew to manhood he moved to Texas and lived across the border from the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations. 

Cushman's book is refreshing because unlike many writers of the time he really admired his Indian friends, even to the point of idealizing them, a fact that the editor of the book apologizes for. Frankly, I think that Cushman's praise for the Indians hardly makes up for the many other writers of that time as well as our own, who criticize and patronize them.  

Cushman ends his book with a quotation from George Catlin, who possessed a kindred spirit. I was not very impressed with Catlin as an artist when I first saw his work. Some of it seems almost amateurish. It was only later that I learned that Catlin was primarily interested, not in creating great art, but in documenting the culture, history and customs of the American Indian. He was actually an attorney by training who gave up a comfortable life to travel among the Indians, writing, sketching and painting.

                                    George Catlin, by Wlliam Fisk, 1849

Catlin endured great hardships in his quest to learn about the Indians. One example is a trip he made with General Henry Leavenworth in 1832 into the western plains of Indian Territory. The expedition was poorly planned, an arrogant and foolhardy attempt by Leavenworth to impress the Indians with the might of the U. S. Army. In the end the Indians were more impressed by the Army's incompetence. An Indian hunting party finally took pity on the soldiers and led them to a large settlement of Wichitas where the soldiers were given food and shelter until they could make their way back to Fort Gibson. 

Many in the party, including General Leavenworth, lost their lives during the expedition of 1832. The following is a quotation from Catlin's journal entered during the trip back to the fort:  

A... sighs and groaning are heard in all directions... From day to day we have dragged along, exposed to the hot and burning rays of the sun, without a cloud to relieve its intensity or a bush to shade us, or anything to cast a shadow except the bodies of our horses. The grass, for a great part of the way, was very much dried up, scarcely affording a bite for our horses: and sometimes for the distance of many miles, the only water we could find, was in stagnant pools, lying on the highest ground, in which the buffaloes have been lying and wallowing, like hogs in a mud-puddle. We frequently came to these dirty lavers, from which we drove the herds of buffaloes, and into which our poor and almost dying horses, irresistibly ran and plunged their noses, sucking up the dirty and poisonous draft, until, in some instances, they fell dead in their tracks - the men also sprang from their horses, and ladled up and drank to almost fatal excess, the disgusting and tepid draft, and with it filled their canteens, which were slung to their sides, and from which they were sucking the bilious contents during day.@ (Pioneer Days, by Grant Foreman, P 148) 

After their return to Ft Gibson, Catlin wrote: ASince the very day of our start into that country, the men have been continually falling sick, and on their return, of those who are alive there are not well ones enough to take care of the sick. Many are yet left out upon the prairies, and of those that have been brought in and quartered in the hospital, with the soldiers of the infantry regiment stationed here, four or five are buried daily@ (Pioneer Days, by Grant Foreman,  P 151).  

Catlin was not deterred by this horrendous experience. He continued travelling across the country eventually visiting over fifty different Indian tribes. Afterwards he lectured extensively about the American Indian throughout the United States and Europe, illustrating his talks with sketches and paintings. He also recorded his observations in a two volume work entitled Manners , Customs and Condition of the North American Indian, illustrated by 300 engravings. About 600 of Catlin's paintings and 700 of his sketches have been preserved in the Smithsonian Museum.  

Here is George Catlin's characterization of the American Indian as quoted by H. B. Cushman:

Have I any apology to make for loving the Indians?
The Indians have always loved me, and why should I not love the Indians?
I love the people who have always made me welcome to the best they had.
I love the people who are honest without law, who have no jails and no poor houses.
I love the people who keep the commandments without ever having read them or heard them preached from the pulpit.
I love a people who never swear; who never take the name of God in vain.
I love a people who love their neighbors as themselves.
I love a people who worship God without a Bible, for I believe that God loves them too.
I love a people whose religion is all the same, and who are free from religious rows.
I love a people who have never raised a hand against me or stolen my property, where there was no law to punish for either.
I love a people who never have fought a battle with white men except on their own ground.
I love and don't fear mankind where God has made and left them, for they are children.
I love people who live and keep what is their own without locks and keys.
I love all people who do the best they can, and, Oh! How I love a people who don't live for the love of money. 

History of the Choctaw, Chickasaw and Natchez Indians, by H. B. Cushman. P 476. 

In 1838, hearing of the poor health of the Seminole Chief Osceola, George Catlin rushed to Florida where the great man was near death and languishing in prison. Osceola arose from his bed, donned his ceremonial dress, and posed as Catlin painted this last portrait of him for posterity. See blog post of Oct 26, 2010, Removal: Seminoles,

                                      Osceola, by George Catlin, 1838

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

St. Elizabeth's Academy

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, after my mother Wenonah got permission to go to school at Bloomfield, my Aunt Kaliteyo begged to go away to school too. She didn't want to go to Bloomfield though, but rather to St. Elizabeth's.  

                                          Kaliteyo Paul Willingham

Mildred McClure, Wenonah and Kaliteyo's cousin, had been attending school at St. Elizabeth's, and she had been telling Kaliteyo how much she enjoyed it there. 

(Footnote: Mildred McClure's grandfather was Tecumseh McClure - see previous posts.) 

I'm sure that it was hard on Grandmother to let Kaliteyo go away to school. She had always been sickly, and she must have been afraid that she would come down with something at the school. Kaliteyo was determined though, and Grandmother finally gave in.  

St. Elizabeth's Academy was in Purcell, Oklahoma, about as far north of Pauls Valley as Bloomfield was to the south. Like Bloomfield, it was a school for Indian girls, and while it wasn't as old as Bloomfield, it also had a colorful history. It was founded by the Order of St. Francis, which sent three nuns to the Chickasaw Nation in 1888 to establish a school. The church and school buildings were built by Benedictine priests who lived nearby.  

                                           Sister Katherine Drexel

The project would have certainly failed had it not been for the efforts of Benedictine priest Vincent Jolly, who taught at the Sacred Heart Academy in Pottawatomie County. He had heard about the work of Sister Katherine Drexel, a nun from a wealthy Philadelphia family who was using her fortune to fund schools in Indian communities. Father Jolly convinced Sister Katherine of the need for schools for the Indians in Oklahoma, and for the next sixty years St. Elizabeth's was supported by Sister Katherine's generosity. 

Sister Katherine was an outspoken advocate for oppressed Native Americans and African Americans. She financed more than 60 missions and schools throughout the south and southwest, as well as Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Roman Catholic university in the United States. She also founded a religious order, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, composed mainly of Indian and Negro nuns. In 2000 she was canonized and became the second American born saint.  

St. Elizabeth's started as a coeducational school, but by the time Aunt Kaliteyo went there in 1926 it was for girls only. Kaliteyo loved the nuns, and she also must have been popular among the other girls. Kaliteyo's best friend at St. Elizabeth's was Tula Mae Graham, a Choctaw girl from Purcell. She said that she and Tula Mae entertained the other girls after lights out by imitating their teachers. 

Some of the nuns at St. Elizabeth's had been at the school since before statehood. One of the sisters told the girls about how she had stood on a hill near the convent and watched the big land run of 1889.  

Piano lessons were among the classes offered at St. Elizabeth's, and the girls were assigned time during each day for practice. I don't know if Kaliteyo got very good at playing the piano, but she certainly enjoyed herself. My mother said that the lady who played the piano for the high school glee club in Pauls Valley used to bounce up and down on the piano stool as she played. She  was a bit overweight, so the spectacle was funny to the girls. Kaliteyo liked to mimic her, and one day she was doing her imitation at St. Elizabeth's when one of the sisters came into the room. Kaliteyo said that the sister laughed with everyone else, but she made her stop.  

Kaliteyo's favorite story about St. Elizabeth's was about her friend Tula Mae trying to smuggle apples up to her room. There were some apple trees on the school grounds, and when the apples began to get ripe the girls were told not to pick them. Tula Mae and Kaliteyo wanted to take some of the apples up to their room, but they were always supervised when they were outside. Finally Tula Mae got an idea. The girls dressed very modestly in long dresses with bloomers under their skirts so Tula Mae stuffed some apples down into her bloomers during recess. Everything went well until she started back to class. As she joined the line of girls filing back to class, the draw string on one leg of her bloomers came loose and the apples began falling out. As she walked by, one of the nuns noticed the trail of apples behind her and got tickled. The nun was trying to be stern, but Kaliteyo said the girls could tell she was laughing by the way her belly shook.  

Kaliteyo got through the year at St. Elizabeth's without getting sick, which must have been a relief to Grandmother, and when the summer vacation was over she asked to go back for a second year. She always treasured her memories of St. Elizabeth's, and when her daughter Lahoma was about eight, she sent her to St. Elizabeth's day school. Lahoma enjoyed her time there too, and she had some of the same teachers as her mother.  

Footnote: See blog post of Oct. 5, 2011, The First Chickasaw Princess.

Lahoma enjoyed St Elizabeth=s like her mother had before her. My mother told me about visiting her once at an open house at the school. As Lahoma showed her around, excited to have a visitor, she told her about a nun whom she especially liked, and as they were walking across the school grounds, Lahoma suddenly exclaimed, AThere she is,@ and she rushed over to where the nun was standing, pulling my mother along behind her. As they came up to her, the nun turned around and Lahoma=s face fell. She turned to my mother and said, AThis is the wrong one.@ The nun just laughed.  

St. Elizabeth's struggled through the depression and through the war years, but in 1948, with dwindling funds and falling enrollment, its doors were closed for the last time.

                          St. Elizabeth's Academy, Purcell, Oklahoma