Life and Journals of Kah-ke-wa-quo-nā-by/Autobiography

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AS persons who are about to take a journey together naturally desire to know something of each other, I shall commence by giving the reader a short sketch of my life.

I was born at the heights of Burlington Bay, Canada West, on the first day of January, 1802. My father, Augustus Jones, was of Welsh extraction: his grandfather emigrated to America previous to the American Revolution, and settled on the Hudson River, State of New York. My father having finished his studies as a land surveyor in the city of New York, came with a recommendation from Mr. Colden, son of the Governor of that State, to General Simcoe, Governor of Upper Canada, and was immediately employed by him as the King's Deputy Provincial Surveyor, in laying out town plots, townships, and roads in different parts of the Province. This necessarily brought him in contact with the Indian tribes; he learned their language, and employed many of them in his service. He became much interested in the Indian character, so much so that he resolved on taking a wife from amongst them. Accordingly, he married my mother, Tuhbenahneequay, daughter of Wahbanosay, a chief of the Messissauga Tribe of the Ojebway nation. I had one brother older than myself, whose name was Tyenteneged, (given to him by the famous Captain Joseph Brant) but better known by the name of John Jones. I had also three younger brothers and five sisters. My father being fully engaged in his work, my elder brother and myself were left entirely to the care and management of our mother, who, preferring the customs and habits of her nation, taught us the superstitions of her fathers — how to gain the approbation of the Munedoos, (or gods,) and how to become successful hunters. I used to blacken my face with charcoal, and fast, in order to obtain the aid of personal gods or familiar spirits, and likewise attended their pagan feasts and dances. For more than fourteen years I lived and wandered about with the Indians in the woods, during which time I witnessed the miseries of savage life, and the woeful effects of the fire-water, (alcohol,) which had been introduced amongst us by the white people.

When I was young a grand feast was made for the purpose of giving me an Indian name, and of dedicating me to the guardian care of some particular god, according to the Indian fashion. I was then named Kahkewaquonaby, which literally means “sacred waving feathers,” and refers to feathers plucked from the eagle, the sacred bird. By this name I was dedicated to the thunder god; the eagle being considered by the Indians the representative of the god of thunder. At this feast I was presented with a war club and a bunch of eagle's feathers, which I was to keep as a memorial of my dedication, the club denoting the power, and the feathers the flight of the god of thunder. I long since lost both, and consequently became powerless and wingless!

My grand-father, Chief Wahbanosay, officiated at this feast, and gave me my name, which belongs to the Eagle Totem, clan or tribe, it being that to which my mother belonged. Although quite young I recollect accompanying a large hunting party to the Genesee River, State of New York. At this time there were no inhabitants where the beautiful city of Rochester now stands. Our party killed a number of bears, and I had the pleasure of attending a sacred bear-oil feast, at which each guest had to drink about a gill of what was not any more palatable than castor oil.

Sometime after this I was present at a dog-feast. The animal was killed, the hair singed off, and the carcass cooked, and dealt out to all the company; after that a portion was laid on the fire as a burnt offering. I recollect also being present on one occasion when a number of birch bark canoes were on their way to York, now Toronto, and a black dog was offered as a sacrifice to the god of waters, in order that there might be smooth water and fair winds. A stone was tied around the neck of the animal, and then he was thrown into the lake. Besides the above I have attended the following religious feasts, viz: Sturgeon, Salmon, Deer, Wild Goose, Offerings to the Dead, &c., &c.

At a very early age I was taught to handle the bow and arrow with which I used to kill small game. As I grew older I became very fond of the gun, and was considered a great hunter. I was also thought expert at using the canoe, and the spear, and frequently brought home a large supply of fish.

To illustrate the customs of the Indians I will here relate an incident in the history of my early life. When about the age of nine years my mother gave me away to an Indian Chief by the name of Captain Jim, who adopted me as his son. This Chief had lately lost a son bearing my Indian name, and taking a fancy to me, he applied to my mother to allow me to be placed in the room of his deceased boy. The application was successful, and I was accordingly received into the family, and treated as one of their children. Shortly after this adoption we left the Burlington Bay for the River Credit; during this journey we suffered much from hunger, and were obliged to cut down hickory trees we then peeled off the bark and cut out chips, which were boiled in order to extract the sweet juice; this we drank and derived much nourishment from it. At other times we were compelled to boil and eat a certain kind of moss called wauquog, taken from the pine trees. Such is the uncertain mode of Indian life.

During my stay with this Chief I well recollect losing my way near the banks of the River Credit, and after wandering about for a long time, was found by an Indian who was in search for me. Soon after this we encamped near the mouth of the Credit, when my new father and all the adult Indians had a long drunken frolic. During this time I suffered much from cold and hunger. On awaking one morning I attempted to rise and walk out of the wigwam, but was unable to stand upon my feet, the cords of my legs were drawn up, and I was obliged to creep on my hands and knees. I remained thus crippled for two or three months. A messenger was sent to inform my mother, then living at the head of the Lake, of my lameness, and she came after me early in the spring, accompanied by a female relative named Shegwahmaig. I was greatly rejoiced to see my dear mother, who, with the assistance of her friend, carried me on her back to Stoney Creek, a distance of more than thirty miles through the forest. On the way we were fortunate enough to kill a ground hog, called by the Indians Uhkuhkojeesh, on which we subsisted. This animal is about the size of a rabbit. As the warm weather advanced my lameness gradually left me till I was perfectly restored. Exposure to cold and hunger were no doubt the cause of this affliction, and I have every reason to believe that my subsequent illness and poor state of health have had their origin from the same causes. No wonder the Indians pine away and die; their life after all is a hard one.

At one time I accompanied an Indian by the name of Old Peter, in his hunting excursion. Whilst traversing the howling wilderness, all at once he said that he heard from a distance the shouts of Pahguk, a flying skeleton, a description of which will be found in my Indian history. I was greatly alarmed at the idea of being so near this powerful Munedoo, who is said to cause the stoutest heart to quail at his war-whoop.

In my youth I was frequently alarmed in common with my native brethren, at the supposition that the Nahdoway's, or Iroquois, were lurking about for the purpose of killing some of the Ojebways. A strict watch used to be kept up during the night at each wigwam, in order to prevent our being fallen upon by surprise. In my opinion these alarms were purely imaginary: for whenever the watch was abandoned, and their fears somewhat abated, the noise of footsteps, and the appearance of strange Indians immediately subsided.

In the war which took place in the year 1812, between Great Britain and the United States, my people and many other Indians came from the Western Lakes, joined the British, and rendered them great service, as has been repeatedly testified by men of understanding.

I was too young to take up the tomahawk against the enemy, and therefore was not engaged in the war. Well, however, do I recollect being told that the “Yankees” were coming into Canada to kill all the Indians, and wondering what kind of beings the Yankees could be, I fancied they were some invincible munedoos. My old grandmother, Puhgashkish, was supposed to have been killed at the time York, now Toronto, was taken by the Americans, for being a cripple she had to be left behind when the Indians fled into the backwoods, and nothing was ever afterwards heard of her. The day after the battle of Stoney Creek, my brother John and myself went and viewed the battle field, and were horrified at seeing the dead strewed over every part of the ground. Some of the bodies were greatly mangled with cannon balls; such are the horrors of war.

In the year 1816, my father sent me to an English School in the Township of Saltfleet. Our teacher was an Irishman of the name of George Hughes, and was an excellent master for young beginners. He took great pains to improve my English, which then was very imperfect: indeed, I could only understand a few simple words. He also taught the Church of England Catechism, and made us read in the New Testament, but the words I read had no effect upon my heart, because I did not understand the great plan of human salvation. I attended this school about nine months, during which time I was taught to read, write, and cypher.

Shortly after this we removed from the head of the Lake to the Grand River, and settled amongst the Mohawk Indians. These people were professedly members of the Church of England, and had an old Church, the oldest in the Province, in their village, where a number assembled every Sabbath to hear the prayers read by one of their Chiefs, named Henry Aaron Hill, who died of cholera in 1834. They were also visited occasionally by Ministers of the Church of England. I regret to state that the gospel preached among them seemed to have little or no effect upon their moral conduct. In this respect they were no better than their pagan brethren. Drunkenness, quarreling, fighting, were the prevailing vices of the Six Nations of Indians. They were also much given to fiddling and dancing. In all these things I believe the Mohawks excelled the other tribes. Being young and volatile, I was soon led to join with them, and became very fond of dancing after the manner of the white people. My father endeavoured to instill moral principles into tho minds of his children, and would not allow them to work or hunt on the Sabbath; but often have I on that sacred day stolen the gun out of the window, and gone out shooting without his knowledge.

In the year 1820, I was induced at the request of my father to receive the ordinance of Baptism, and accordingly went to the Mohawk Church, and was baptized by the Rev. Ralph Leeming, of Ancaster, a Clergyman of the Church of England. The Mohawk Catechist, Henry A. Hill, stood as my godfather.

The principal motives which induced me to acquiesce with this wish, were, that I might be entitled to all the privileges of the white inhabitants, and a conviction that it was a duty I owed to the Great Spirit, to take upon me the name of a Christian, as from reading a Sermon, I began to think that the Christian religion was true.

Previous to this, I had been halting between two opinions. Sometimes whilst reading the Word of God, or hearing it preached, I would be almost persuaded to become a Christian; but when I looked at the conduct of the whites who were called Christians, and saw them drunk, quarreling, and fighting, cheating the poor Indians, and acting as if there was no God, I was led to think there could be no truth in the white man's religion, and felt inclined to fall back again to my old superstitions. My being baptized had no effect upon my life. I continued the same wild Indian youth as before. I was only a Christian outwardly, and not in heart, not yet having received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Since my conversion to God, one thing has made my heart very glad, and which is, that amidst all the temptations and examples of drunkenness to which I was exposed, I never fell into that vice, although most of my young companions did. I always viewed drunkenness as beneath the character of an Indian. If at any time I was persuaded to take a little of the fire-water, I always felt sorry for it, afterwards, especially when I reflected how much evil it had done to my poor countrymen, many thousands of whom have had their days shortened by it, and been hurried to destruction. Oh the miseries of drunkenness! Would to God that the Indians had never tasted the fire-water!

In the summer of 1822 I hired myself out at brickmaking, and worked almost all the time in mud. My object in this was to obtain means to enable me to attend School the ensuing winter, as I was anxious to improve my little stock of knowledge, thinking that if I had a better education, I might get employment in an Indian trading establishment. When the winter came on I went to an English School at Fairchild's Creek, and hired my board at the house of Mr. E. Bunnell, a farmer, where I was very kindly treated by the family. Arithmetic and writing were my principal studies. In the Spring following I returned home to my father's, worked his farm on shares, and raised a considerable quantity of produce.

About this time Seth Crawford, a young man from the States, came amongst us for the express purpose of learning the Mohawk language, that he might be enabled to preach the Gospel to the Indians in their own tongue. He stated that he received an impression on his mind it was his duty to preach to the Indians. He hired his board at one of the Indian houses, and commenced his studies.

The piety of this young man, together with his compassion for the poor Indians, made a deep impression on my mind. I would here state that Mr. Crawford was very useful during the first conversions amongst the Indians at Davisville. From him I received much comfort and edification after my conversion. Early in the Spring of 1823, Mr. E. Stoney, a Local Preacher, sent an appointment for preaching at the house of Thomas Davis, a Mohawk Chief. I went to hear the new Preacher, but was disappointed, as he had lost his way and did not arrive until after I had left. He spoke to the few whom he saw, and left another appointment for that day fortnight, when I had the pleasure of hearing him give a good warm talk on these words — “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” There were a number of Indians present, many of whom could understand plain English preaching, and they listened with deep attention. Previous to this the Mohawk Chief, Thomas Davis, held morning prayers in his house, and was joined by several of his neighbours, to whom he read portions of the word of God, and the Church prayers in Mohawk. It is quite evident that the Spirit of the Lord had already began to move upon the hearts of this people.

On the 1st of June, 1823, my sister Mary and I started in company with Mrs. Thomas, (an Irish woman, formerly a member of the Wesleyan Society in her own country) to attend a Campmeeting to be held in the Township of Ancaster. I was prompted by curiosity to go and see how the Methodists worshipped the Great Spirit in the wilderness.

On arriving at the encampment, I was immediately struck with the solemnity of the people, several of whom were engaged in singing and prayer. Some strange feeling came over my mind, and I was led to believe that the Supreme Being was in the midst of his people who were now engaged in worshipping him. We pitched our tent upon the ground allotted to us; it was made of coarse linen cloth. The encampment contained about two acres enclosed by a brush fence. The tents were pitched within this circle; all the under-brush was taken away, whilst the larger trees were left standing, forming a most beautiful shade. There were three gates leading into the encampment. During each night the whole place was illuminated with fire-stands, which had a very imposing appearance amongst the trees and leaves. The people came from different parts of the country, some ten, some twenty, and some even fifty miles in their waggons, with their sons and daughters, for the purpose of presenting them to the Lord for conversion. I should judge there were about a thousand persons on the ground. The Rev. Wm. Case being the presiding Elder, had the general oversight of the encampment. There were a number of ministers present, who alternately delivered powerful discourses to the listening multitude, from what is called a Preacher's stand. At the sound of the horn we went and took our seats in front of the stand from which a sermon was delivered. After this there was a prayer meeting in which all who felt disposed took part in exhorting and praying for penitents! The next day, Saturday, 2nd of June, several Sermons were preached, and prayer meetings were held during the intervals. By this time I began to feel very sick in my heart, but did not make my feelings known. On Sabbath, there was a great concourse of people who came from the adjoining settlements, and many discourses were delivered, some of which deeply impressed my mind, as I could understand most of what was said. I thought the black-coats knew all that was in my heart, and that I was the person addressed. The burden of my soul began still to increase, and my heart said, "What must I do to be saved?” for I saw myself to be in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. The more I understood the plan of salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, the more I was convinced of the truth of the Christian religion and of my need of salvation. In spite of my old Indian heart, tears flowed down my cheeks at the remembrance of my sins. I saw many of the white people powerfully awakened, and heard them crying aloud for mercy, whilst others stood and gazed, and some even laughed and mocked. My brother John was at this time studying the art of surveying at Hamilton. He came to the Meeting on Sabbath, but appeared quite indifferent about religion, so much so that I reproved him for speaking lightly of these people, and told him that I believed they were sincere, and that they were the true worshippers of the Great Spirit. "Oh," said he, "I see you will yet become a Methodist." The Meeting continued all Monday; and several discourses were delivered from the stand. My convictions at this time were deep and powerful. During the preaching I wept much. This, however, I endeavoured to conceal by holding down my head behind the shoulders of the people. I felt anxious that no one might see me weeping like an old woman, as all my countrymen consider this to be beneath the dignity of an Indian Brave. In the afternoon of this day my sorrow and anguish of soul greatly increased, and I felt as if I should sink down to hell for my sins, which I now saw to be very great, and exceedingly offensive to the Great Spirit. I was fully convinced that if I did not find mercy from the Lord Jesus, of whom I heard much, I certainly should be lost for ever. I thought if I could only get the good people to pray for me, at their prayer meetings, I should soon find relief to my mind, but had not sufficient courage to make my desires known. Oh! what a mercy that Christ did not forsake me when my heart was so slow to acknowledge him as my Lord and Saviour. Towards evening I retired into the solitary wilderness to try to pray to the Great Spirit. I knelt down by the side of a fallen tree. The rattling of the leaves over my head with the wind, made me uneasy. I retired further back into the woods, and then wrestled with God in prayer, who helped me to resolve that I would go back to the camp and get the people of God to pray for me. I went, but when I arrived at the Meeting, my fearful heart again began to hesitate. I stood by the side of a tree considering what I must do, whether I should give up seeking the Lord altogether or not. It was now about dusk. Whilst I was thus hesitating as to what to do, a good old man named Reynolds, came to me and said, "Do you wish to obtain religion and serve the Lord?" I replied yes. He then said, "Do you desire the people of God to pray for you?" I told him I did, and that was what I had desired. He then led me into the prayer meeting. I fell upon my knees and began as well as I could to call upon the name of the Lord. The old man prayed for me, and exhorted me to believe on our Lord Jesus Christ, who, he said, had died for Indians as well as for white people. Several of the Preachers prayed for me. When I first began to pray my heart was soft and tender, and I shed many tears, but strange to say, sometime after my heart got as hard as a stone. I tried to look up, but the heavens seemed like brass. I then began to say to myself there is no mercy for poor Indian. I felt myself an outcast, a sinner bound for hell. About midnight, I got so fatigued and discouraged, that I retired from our prayer meeting and went to our tent, where I immediately fell asleep. I know not how long I had slept when I was awakened by the Rev. E. Stoney and G. Ferguson, who had missed me at the prayer meeting, and had come with a light to search for me. Mr. S. said to me, "Arise, Peter, and go with us to the prayer meeting, and get your soul converted. Your sister Mary has already obtained the Spirit of adoption, and you must also seek the same blessing."

When I heard that my sister was converted and had found peace, (not knowing before that she was even so much as seeking the Lord) I sprang up and went with the two good men, determining that if there was still mercy left for me, I would seek until I found it. On arriving at the prayer meeting, I found my sister apparently as happy as she could be; she came to me and began to weep over me and to exhort me to give my heart to God, telling me how she had found the Lord. These words came with power to my poor sinking heart, and I fell upon my knees and cried to God for mercy. My sister prayed for me as well as other good people, and especially Mr. Stoney, whose zeal for my salvation I shall never forget. At the dawn of day I was enabled to cast myself wholly upon the Lord, and to claim the atoning blood of Jesus, and he, as my all sufficient Saviour, who had borne all my sins in His own body on the cross. That very instant my burden was removed, joy unspeakable filled my heart, and I could say "Abba Father." The love of God being now shed abroad in my heart, I loved Him intensely, and praised Him in the midst of the people. Every thing now appeared in a new light, and all the works of God seemed to unite with me in uttering the praises of the Lord. The people, the trees of the woods, the gentle winds, the warbling notes of the birds, and the approaching sun, all declared the power and goodness of the Great Spirit. And what was I that I should not raise my voice in giving glory to God, who had done such great things for me!

My heart was now drawn out in love and compassion for all people, especially for my parents, brothers, sisters, and countrymen, for whose conversion I prayed, that they might also find this great salvation. I now believed with all my heart in God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and gladly renounced the world, the flesh, and the devil. I cannot describe my feelings at this time. I was a wonder to myself. Oh, the goodness of God in giving His only begotten Son to die for me, and thus to make me His child by the Spirit of adoption. May I never forget the great things He has done for me on the glorious morning of the 5th of June, 1823!

Before the meeting closed on this Tuesday, a fellowship meeting was held. The Rev. W. Case requested all those who had experienced the blessing of justification to stand up, and a goodly number rose, amongst whom were my sister Mary and myself. When Elder Case recognized me, he exclaimed, — "Glory to God, there stands a son of Augustus Jones, of the Grand River, amongst the converts; now is the door opened for the work of conversion amongst his nation!"

The meeting being closed, we returned home, and with tears told our parents what the Lord had done for us. Our simple story affected them much; they wept, and said they were glad that we had given our hearts to God, and exhorted us to persevere in the good way.

A few days after this the evil spirit tempted me to doubt the reality of the change wrought in my soul by the Holy Spirit, but this seemed only to urge me to seek the Lord with greater diligence. I searched the Scriptures, prayed much, and waited for a clearer manifestation of His work on my heart. One day I retired to a grove to pray, and whilst thus engaged all my doubts and fears were dispersed, and I was enabled to receive the witness of the Spirit bearing witness with my spirit that I was a child of God, that I had passed from death unto life, and that of a truth a good work was begun in my heart.

Shortly after this the Rev. A. Torry, a Methodist Missionary, came and preached at Thos. Davis', and gave notice that he would hereafter visit us once a month. The Lord soon began a gracious work in that neighbourhood, and the new converts were formed into a class under the care of Mr. S. Crawford, a most excellent pious man. We were also visited by the Rev. T. Whitehead, E. Stoney, and Abner Matthews, through whose instrumentality many of the Indians were brought to a saving knowledge of the truth. At one time whilst Mr. Matthews was preaching so mightily did the power of the Lord descend upon the little congregation that several began to weep and cry aloud for mercy, some in Mohawk, some in English, and others in Chippeway. The Great Spirit who understands all languages heard and answered the poor Indian's cry, and many were made to rejoice under a sense of the pardoning love of God. My heart was made very thankful to see some of my own relations turn to the Lord. The report of the work of God amongst the Indians was soon noised abroad, and brought many to come and see for themselves what great things the Lord had done for us. This increased our congregation so much that the little room began to be too small to accommodate all. The noble Chief Davis then offered the whole of his house for religious meetings and school, and retired with his family into a log cabin in the woods where he spent the autumn and winter. A Sabbath and Day school were established, taught by Mr. Crawford, and the children soon made good progress in their studies.

In the winter of 1824 I kept a small day school at my father's, and spent my business hours in reading the Bible and any good books I could obtain. On the Sabbath I went to worship at Davisville, and assisted in the Sabbath School. During this winter I began with much fear and trembling to speak in public by way of exhortation, and I was greatly encouraged to tell what the Lord had done for me, by seeing some fruit of my labours, the Good Spirit graciously owning the feeble efforts of his unworthy servant in the conversion of many of my brethren; this made me very happy. During this autumn and winter many of my own relations, who were wandering about the shores of Lake Ontario, hearing of my conversion were induced to come up and see me. Very soon after they arrived the Good Spirit laid hold of their hearts, and they were converted and made happy in the Lord.

In the Spring of 1824, the first Methodist Indian Church was built in Canada, at Davisville; it was a hewed log-house, erected principally by the Indian converts. Mr. S. Crawford and I superintended the building, and when it was finished we found it a very comfortable place for worship, and also for the day school, which was taught by Mr. Crawford and myself for a short time, and subsequently by my brother, John Jones. Here we held two services on the Lord's day, besides Sabbath school in the afternoon, and during the week met twice for religious worship. The Great Spirit condescended to own and bless the labours of his feeble servants, and of many an Indian it could be said, "This and that man was born there."

During this summer I entered into partnership with my brother-in-law, Mr. Amos Russell, at brickmaking, near the village of Brantford, about a mile from the Mission, and again worked a whole summer in mud, intending with the proceeds of this labour to purchase a yoke of oxen and go on a farm. I however soon found the Lord had other work for me to do, for I could think of nothing else but trying to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to my poor benighted brethren. I afterwards made a present of these oxen to my uncle, Chief Joseph Sawyer, who had lately embraced the Christian religion.

From this time I gave up all idea of entering into any worldly business. I felt that a necessity was laid upon me: Yea, woe would be unto me if I preached not the Gospel. Having now given myself fully to the work of the Lord, I cried mightily to God for help, feeling my utter insignificance for the great work; and, blessed be His holy name, He did not give me up to despair!

At the suggestion of Elder Case, I commenced from this time, April, 1825, to keep a Journal of my travels and labours, and the history of my life may now be considered that of an Indian Missionary.