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Mary (Henderson) Sagatoo (1837-1914)
Excerpts from her book recounting her "Thirty-three Years Among the Indians."

Note -- Mrs. Mary A. Sagatoo grew up in Newton, Mass, under the surname of Henderson, in a family of sufficient means to provide her with a good upbringing. The initial chapters of her book cover her early years, and are not a part of this transcriptoin, nor the the later chapters that deal with history associated with the North American Indians, instead what is documented, is the time period from her becoming acquainted with her first husband, Joseph Cabay, through the time of her life experience while living in Saganing, Arenac County, Michigan, at which time, it was a part of Bay County.

From the book, William B. Cairns Collection of American Women Writers – 1650-1920.

Wah Sash Kah Moqua,
Thirty-three Years Among the Indians

By Mary Sogotoo, Thomas A. Palmer, 1897


I have at last accepted the invitation of my friends to put upon paper some of the incidents of my life during the thirty-three years I have spent among the Chippewa Indians, who live on the Saginaw Bay. I can give you nothing more than plain, simple truth. I have often told my friends I did not know how to write a book; they say, “just write as you talk and your friends will be anxious to read it.” I know there are scenes in my life which, could they be accurately described, would not be without interest. Some of the incidents which I shall relate, will make happier the remembrances of them, while other will bring tears to my eyes. In saying this I do not mean to have the readers of this little volume understand that my life has been an extraordinary one, but it has been so entirely different from that of ordinary women, that it must be of interest to many.

With this sort preface I will proceed with my story.

M. A. S.




Joseph Cabay (1862)

During my membership in Bromfield Church, the young people started a paper which they called “The Bromfield Enterprise.” Three editors were appointed to take charge of the paper which was read the last Thursday of each month. All the church members who had any talent for writing were invited to contribute articles for the paper.

It was at one of these gatherings as one of the editors I became acquainted with my first husband. As I came forward to read my third of the paper, this person whom I had noticed sitting near the door came up and took a seat near the desk where I was standing. I saw he was a stranger and that he gave close attention to the reading. At intermission, Dr. A. L. Norris, who is now one of the leading physicians of Cambridge, a young gentleman I became acquainted with at Wilbraham Academy, said to me “There is a young Indian chief from Baldwin University, Berea, Ohio. I will introduce him if agreeable to you.” I replied, “It will give me pleasure to make his acquaintance.” After the introduction we were called to order.

At the close of the entertainment the young chief inquired my given name. I told him it was Mary. Said he, “That is a sweet name; it was the name of the Mother of the Saviour,” and taking a pencil wrote my name in his pocket diary. Then turning to me, he said “Friend Mary, when I return to school if I write you a letter will you answer it?” I replied, “Certainly, and if I can help you in any way please let me know and I will gladly aid you.” Said he, “Do you mean what you say?” I replied “Yes.” “Thank you,” said he, “you make me very happy to have your promise.” How little I, at that time, knew how that promise would be fulfilled. He bade me good-bye, saying he expected to leave Boston the next day.

The next Sabbath morn as I took my seat with my class in the Bromfield Church, I was much surprised to see Mr. Cabay, the young chief, sitting behind my desk with Mr. Jacob Sleeper, Superintendent of our Sabbath School. Mr. Cabay was invited to address the school, he also sang a verse in the Indian language. At the close of the school he shook hands with me saying, “I have not yet left your city.” He remained several months preaching in some of the churches and on Sabbath evening preached on Boston Common. The Unitarian clergymen took considerable interest in him, asking him to their homes and inviting him to their banquets. Dr. Ezra Gannett was a warm friend, as was Dr. Lothrop. At one of their dinners Mr. Cabay was asked to carve a duck, which was placed before him. He begged to be excused as he had not yet learned to carve like the white people. “Well,” said Dr. Gannett, “let us have a specimen of how Indians carve.” Mr. Cabay said, “I fear you will not be willing to each the duck if I carve it like my people do.” The ministers agreed to each the duck if he would dissect it in Indian style. The chief took the duck in his hands, first pulling out the wings, then the legs, after which he broke the body into small pieces, and passed a portion to each one from his fingers. The ministers ate the duck, saying they had never eaten one which gave them so much pleasure.

Mr. Cabay made arrangements to attend Harvard College. Rev. L. Farnham, secretary of the Theological Library, gave him permission to study any of the books and helped him in many ways. I became quite well acquainted with Joseph Cabay during the three years he spent in Boston, and when he asked me if I was willing to become his wife and assist him in his work among his own people, I told him if my parents were willing I would assit him mission work among the Indians in Michigan.

Some of my friends were displeased that I should think of going among a people of whom I knew nothing. My mother said, “If it is God's will you should go there, I will give you my blessing.” But my father said, “If Joseph will finish his studies and remain in Massachusetts, I will consent to the marriage, but I would rather you marry on of your own race.” I prayed earnestly to God to guide me aright in this to me important matter, and that if it was not right to link my life with Joseph's to show me plainly my duty. After praying over it, I thought as God had seemed to hedge up the way of my going to India, perhaps my work was among the Indians in Michigan. I told Joseph that when he was ready to return to his people I would accompany him. With what a happy smile he thanked me.

Man proposes, but 'tis God who disposes all things. “tis will we do not show what lies before us, how we would shrink from duty and say we could not endure such a life, we cannot walk such a thorny path. Joseph had complained of severe pain in his lungs, thought he had taken cold, and that when the weather became warmer he would feel better. But as time passed he grew worse. Dr. Gannett called in Dr. Bowditch, a renowned lung physician, who said consumption had taken a firm hold on him and that medicine would do him no good, and advised him to return to Michigan as quickly as possible, that the breezes from the lakes of his native State might add a few days to his life.

Joseph asked me if I would let him go alone. I told him no, that when in health I promised to become his wife, did he think me so heartless as to forsake him when he needed my care the most. My father asked me if I had taken leave of my senses to think of marrying a dying man. My mother said, “Mary, I hope you will do right. It will be hard for you to be left alone among a race of which you know nothing, for it is evident that Joseph cannot live but a short time, but don't shrink from duty. God bless you, my dear child.”

I became the wife of Joseph Cabay, March 6th, 1863. We were married by J. Singleton Copley Green, rector of Trinity Church, Newton. We were married in the Episcopal form, but my father refused to give me away. One of my friends acted in my father's place. About thirty of my friends witnessed the ceremony. Among the guests were Prof. C. L. Jacks, of Harvard College, (one of the little boys I took care of some years ago.) We remained in Boston until the 5th of June. Many of the kind friends visited us. One young lady brought Joseph breakfast ever Sabbath morning and kept him supplied with flowers. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Russell visited Joseph several times during each week, although Mr. Russell was himself ill with same dread disease, consumption. My husband always felt brighter after a visit from those dear friends. Mr. Russell passed from earth about three months after my husband. As I write, how vividly these sad days come back to me. Many of those who ministered to my dear one during his stay in Boston have gone to that home where sickness and death are unknown. May my dear Heavenly Father help me so to live that when the conflicts of life are over, I too may rest with all those loved ones on the other shore.




The morning of the day we left Boston, I went to the “Zion's Herald” Office to pay for my paper. The editor introduced a gentleman from Detroit, and learning we were going to Michigan, this person handed me a slip of paper, saying, “When you reach Detroit, instead of going to the Russell House, go to that address. I am acquainted with the lady. She is a friend of mine, a very nice lady. I will send her word that you are coming, so she will be ready to receive you.”

On reaching Niagara Falls, Joseph decided to remain a few days to get rested. We stopped at the Cataract Hotel, the proprietor seeing how ill my husband was treated us with great kindness and gave us a room on the first floor. We remained three days, but although it was the month of June, the air was chilly, even the bedding was damp from the heavy spray. I think my husband took more cold and grew worse day by day.

While passing through Canada, I saw a queer looking house and called Joseph's attention to it. It was made of logs; a bed was on one side of the room, a stove in the middle, and a cow was tied up on the other side, while children and chickens occupies the remainder of the room. I had never seen anything like it before. I said the people must have been burned out, and were staying there till they could rebuild. The conductor hearing what I said, asked me where I had been living. I replied, “In Boston.” “Well,” he said, “ that is a log house, and the farther you go West the more numerous you will find such dwellings.” I asked my husband if he live in such dwellings, (for he had never told me how his people lived.) He said, “Don't feel troubled, Mary, if I live you shall have a nice little house to live in.”

We reached Detroit in the evening, took a carriage to the address the gentleman gave me, and found the house belonged to the Rev. J. M. Arnold. I rang the bell. A gentleman opened the door. I inquired if Mrs. Arnold was at home. “Yes,” said he, “how have you been since I saw you?” I turned to my husband and said, “I think we have come to the wrong house.” “O, no,” said the gentleman, and lit the hall-lamp. I then saw it was the same gentlemen who had given me the address. “Why,” said I, “do you live here?” “Yes,” said he. “Well,” said I, “who is the lady you are acquainted with. Said he, “She is my wife, a very nice lady indeed, and will be pleased to entertain you.”

Supper was announced, but I was so home-sick (I had never been so far from home before.) I could not eat. Mr. Arnold seeing I was so downhearted, said “Sister Cabay, while you are eating please remember I pay for the food, and eat accordingly.” Tears started to my eyes and a choking sensation came into my throat. I asked Mrs. Arnold to excuse me, and I left the table. As I left the room, Mrs. A. said, “I am sorry you spoke so to Mrs. Cabay, she does not understand you were joking.” “O, well,” said he, “if she is so sensitive the rough school of the West is just the place to discipline her.” The last time I sat at his table, six months before his death, he asked, “if I remembered what he told me the first time I was there.” “Oh, yes,” said I. “Well,” said he, “I say the same thing now.” I replied, “I was glad that he instead of myself would pay for the food, so I could eat all I wanted.” “Ah,” said he, “she has become a graduate.” He and his dear wife were very kind to us. We spent a week in their hospitable home.

Some of the ministers called to see us, also the agent for the Indians, who gave us a letter of introduction to a gentleman of Bay City, name Boutelle. This gentleman and his wife treated me more like a daughter than a stranger. His son, Capt. R. Boutell, and family, have been the kindest friends I have had in Bay County. May heaven reward them, they have cheered and helped me in many dark hours.

While staying with those kind people my husband grew rapidly worse. One of the Indians from Saganing, Joseph's parents' home, happened to be in Bay City with his boat. Mr Boutelle engaged him to take us to the Indian village. A bed was put into the boat and some gentlemen carried Joseph down and put him on board and made him as comfortable as they could. We reached Saganing just before sun-set. I had never seen a full-blooded Indian, for my husband was part white, and was afraid of them. I had sent a letter to Joseph's father before we left Boston, but on reaching his home learned it had not been received. Consequently, his relatives knew nothing of our marriage and were much surprised to see us. Mr. Irons, the Indian preacher, who understood some English, told the family I was Joseph's wife. They all shook hands with me.

Shawwenanee, Joseph's aunt, kissed me. I took to her at once. She was always kind to me. My Husband slept but little that night. Shawwenanee sat by his bedside and gave him drink. She made me lie down, but I could not sleep. When the hour came for retiring, I wondered where the family would sleep. One of the Indian girls took some chairs and turned them upside down and covered them with a blanket. The younger children crawled under the blanket and slept on the floor. The next morning several of the natives came in and shook hand with us. Some of the women kissed me. Food was brought to me, but I could not eat, I was so anxious about my poor sick husband. About twelve o'clock, the chief blew a horn, and as many of the Indians as could, came into the room, while the others sat upon the grass outside. Joseph took my hand and said, “Mary, my dear wife, I want yo to make me a promise before I leave you. It is a hard one. Will you stay with my people, take my place among them, and try to do for them what I would have done if God had spared my life?” I cried out, “Oh Joseph, don't leave me, it is so lonesome here.” Said he, “Please make the promise and I shall die happier. Jesus will help you keep it.” Then seeing how earnestly he was waiting my reply and that his breath was growing shorter, I at last said, “Yes, I will do as you wish.” Said he, “Thank you; you are my darling.” His father and the interpreter came to the bedside, and the interpreter said, “The chief will now go through the ceremony of adopting you into the family.” Taking my hand and putting it over Joseph's, he then place his right hand over mine, saying, “God is about taking my son Joseph to Himself. The love I have had for him I now give to you. Your are hereafter a daughter to me in the same sense that he has been a son.” He then raised his eyes heavenward and asked God to bless his white daughter, and help her to love her Indian brothers and sisters and do them much good. He then gave me an Indian name, it was Wah Sash Kah Moqua, which means “There was darkness but your coming brings light.” My dear husband smiled and said, “Now I am satisfied,” kissed me, looked up and said, “Dear Saviour, receive my spirit,” and was gone from earth. As I looked upon his lifeless form, I felt that life was very dark. I was so lonely, so desolate, I was far from home, no white people within several miles of the place, nor did I understand one sentence of their language. I cannot tell any one my feelings. As I stood by his grave weeping, the interpreter's wife came to me and said, in broken English, “What for you stand her crying, your husband not here, he with God.”

For a long time after Joseph's death, I would go to his grave before retiring for the night, say my evening prayers, lay my head down where his head rested, and cry till I had no more tears to shed. At last the weather became to cold I was obliged to give up my nightly visits there.




Peter Sagatoo (1867)

During the time I remained a widow, a cousin of my husband, named Peter Sagatoo, supplied me with wood, and learning I was fond of cod-fish, each time he went to Bay City would invariably bring me a fish. I offered to pay him for the wood and fish, but he seemed hurt that I should offer him money. He said, “your were my cousin's wife and I like to be kind to you.”

I had been a widow nearly two years, when one morning Cabay, my first husband's father, with Peter's father, came to have a talk with me. Cabay said it was a custom in his tribe that when a husband died, after one year the nearest relative would select another companion for the widow, and the man selected would take a load of wood to the woman, and if she burned the wood it was a sign she was willing to share his fireside, but if she refused to burn the wood they would select another man for her, and if she burned the wood and then refused to marry the man she would be put to death. “Now,” said he, “you have burned the wood Peter brought to you, what you going to do? Take Peter?” I was both surprised and frightened, and told Cabay I did not wish to marry any one, that I wanted to do the work that Joseph asked of me, and when God called me from earth to go to my dear husband. “No,” said he, “you are too young to live alone, with no one to get you wood and venison.” I then asked if I would be put to death if I did not marry Peter. He said, “No, we are Christians now; we don't kill anyone, but we must punish you some way, for it is a disgrace to Peter; you take wood and fish.” I then told him I had offered to pay him for the wood and fish but he refused to take the money. I then learned that during the time the woman remained a widow she did not wash her face nor change her clothing. At the expiration of one year her wigwam, clothes, and cooking utensils were burned. A new house, new clothes, and new husband were given to her. I then asked why I had not been told of this custom before I burned the wood. He said, “Because we want you to take Peter, he good man and likes you.”

As soon as the men left my room, I packed my clothing into my trunk and started by boat for Bay City, reaching there about 3 P. M. I had been in my friend's house but a few minutes when her son Benjamin came into the room and said, “There is a gentleman in the parlor who wishes to see you.” This surprised me as I had so few acquaintances in that place. I went into the parlor an found Peter Sagatoo there. Said I, “How came you here, and what do you want of me?” Said he, “I heard you had gone to Bay City, and I started on horseback, getting here before the boat, and went into the store till you got off the boat, and I saw you go to Mr. Boutelle's house.” He talked to me a long time and seemed to sad I pitied him. We were married the next day, Sunday.

When my relatives heard of my second marriage they were so displeased they held no communication with me for several months. This troubled me so much I became very ill. The doctor said he was afraid I would not live, and advised sending for my father. My hour had not come, and after four months' illness I got well again. I then wrote to my mother to come to see me, and perhaps the family would not feel so bitter toward me when they knew how I happened to make a second marriage. My dear mother came and remained two months, and finding me so much better situate than she had expected, told my father, on her return to Boston, that it was best to overlook the past. The next year my parents sent an invitation to Peter to come on with me and visit Boston. We had a nice visit. Peter was treated kindly and enjoyed his visit very much.




The first Sabbath I attended religious service, the preacher said to me, “Sister, you do not now understand our language, but when I tell you my sermon is about Jesus, you will understand that.” He then read my church letter to the Indians, after which they all shook hands with me. I then told them I would like to start a Sabbath school. The preacher said, “I tell you same thing Jesus said to the bible Peter, “feed my lambs.'”

After the morning service I got the children together, and with the aid of the interpreter told the children about the great Father in heaven, that he made the world in six days and rested on the seventh day; that the first man he had he called Adam, then he made a woman and called her Eve; that God made Adam out of red earth – that was the meaning of the name Adam. The next Sabbath I asked the children if they remembered what I had told them the previous Sabbath. They said, “Ahnede” (yes) “Well,” said I, “how long did it take God to make the world?” The children answered, “Goodwasa Kezhequd” (six days). “Now, please tell me the name of the first man God made.” They said, “Adam.” I asked why God called him by that name. One of the boys said, “Because He made him out of an Indian” (red earth). “Now give me the name of the first woman?” The same boy answered “Mrs. Adam.” “Now, children, tell me why God rested the seventh day?” “O he daakush kiya kikma” (he was tired and lazy).

The school has been kept up all these years. Many of the children learned to love the Saviour and some had died rejoicing in the hope of a home in heaven. One dear little Indian girl, name Eliza, (Ahkebemosa) aged twelve years, was sick several months with consumption. I visited her almost daily during her illness. When she felt she was dying she sent for me to come and hold her hand. She said, “Wah Sash Kah Moqua, I love you. I want you to hold my hand til Jesus takes it, to help me over there,” pointing with the other hand heavenward.

Another of my scholars was taken sick. His name was Willi Michininah, aged ten years.

The day he died he said, “Teacher, I want to thank you for telling us Indian children about Jesus, and when I get to heaven I will tell him about you, and when you come to the door of heaven I will ask Jesus to give you a room next to mine (he meant a mansion) so we can be together all the time up there.” He then asked me to kiss him good-bye. Thus died dear little Willie.

Soon after the death of my husband, the Government Agent came to Saganing to pay the annuities to the Indians. Where there was a number in one family this would be quite a sum of money for them. I was appointed teacher of the day with a salary of $400 per annum. The first $100 given me for teaching I took to Saginaw, spent $90 of it in buying clothing and dishes for the Indians. The Indian preacher had three plates, three knives, three cups and saucers and three pewter spoons. The preacher and wife were to use one each of the above named articles, but the third one was for the white minister from Isabella, who came once in three months to preach to the Indians. I had forgotten to say that this preacher, Rev. E. Young, happened to come to Saganing the same day my husband died. It was he who preached the funeral sermon. I taught five years under the government, then the annuities ceased, but I kept the school one year and agreed to accept a reservation in Isabella paid for the land in Saganing, and consequently were compelled to pay taxes. This did not please the Indians, and, indeed, no impartial mind could blame them, for before the white man came the red man roved where he pleased, but now he was obliged to remain on the small parcel of ground he had been able to pay for.

A district school was started. I taught the first quarter to establish it allowing the Indians the money to help get clothing for their little ones. During all these years I helped those people in every way I could, and solicited help for them from my friends. Bishop Gilbert Haven sent three barrels of clothing which I distributed among them. There was not enough clothing to give every one a suit, and those who did not get any were angry with me. I took my own money, went to Bay City and got garments for all who needed them, it costing me a little over $60. But that was the last time I asked clothing for them, for I found out it would not do to give to one and no to the whole tribe; it cause so much jealousy. When they were sick I got them medicine, and when they died I gave the relatives grave clothes for their dead, but after a time it became an expense that I could not sustain.



I had been teaching several years, and now made up my mind to give up the school for a time and try to get money to build a framed church; we hand been worshipping in a log house, which was very cold and too small for the congregation. My husband called a council, and asked the Indians how much money they were willing to give to build a new church. They said they would give two hundred dollars. I told them the white people would ask me how much they were willing to do for themselves, and I would be glad to tell them the Indians would do so much toward a respectable place of worship.

I went to Boston, told my kind friend, Bishop Gilbert Haven, that I was there for the purpose of getting money to build a church for the Indians, and asked him to tell me how to go to work. “Yes,” said he, “I will help you.” he gave me thirty dollars and some letters, which, he said, would bring me more money. I collected four hundred and fifty dollars in Boston, the Misses Wigglesworth, of Park St., giving me three hundred of this amount. I then returned to Saganing and wrote an appeal for help in the Bay City Chronicle. Mr. James Shearer read the appeal and sent for me to come to see him. This kind gentleman told me he would give me one hundred dollars, and if I wished would plan the work and secure the workmen. I thanked him and told him the Indians promised to hew out the foundation, and after that I would be very grateful if he would secure the carpenters.

The Indians had sent to Canada for one of their friends who was a house-builder, to come to Saganing to raise the frame. I did not know of this till the man came to my house, and asked me how much I would pay him a day. I told him a gentleman in Bay City had promised to send some men to build the church. Seeing that trouble was ahead if I did not employ this Indian, I hired him, giving him three dollars a day, telling him I would only need his services in raising the frame. When this was done, the Indians said if he would stay and finish the building they would give him five dollars per day, and send five dollars to his wife as a present. I asked them where they would get the money to give this man. They replied, “You must get from white folks.” “Why,” said I, “are not you people going to keep your promise to give two hundred dollars?” They said, “No, white man got rich on their lands and must give money to make church.”

I dismissed the Canadian, went to Bay City to see Mr. Shearer, but he was not at home. I secured the services of a man, left my watch as security to Mr. Lord for a ticket, then started for New York, told Bishop Harris and Dr. Dashiel my errand. They promised to help, but said they had a system about giving money. They then asked if I knew of any responsible person near us. I spoke of Mr. Shearer. They said they were not acquainted with the gentleman, and asked if the presiding elder came to our place . I told them the elder had not been to Saganing for a long time. They said, “I think the missionary society will give you two hundred dollars as soon as we find a responsible person to take charge of it.” A friend of mine, living in Detroit, wrote me I could put him down for two hundred more, and through the kindness of Rev. W. X. Ninde, (now Bishop,) Pastor of Central Church, I received a little over seventy dollars. I returned to my home and set the men to work. The Indians asked me if I meant to pay them for getting out the foundation. I told them I could not give them any more money (I had paid them one dollar and twenty-five cents per day when they first commenced the work) as they did not give me even one dollar of the two hundred they had promised. They became very angry, and told the white men not work for me, that they would not get their pay.

One day, I started for Bay City to get some things the carpenters needed, and while waiting for the train I saw a gentleman get off the train from Bay City. I noticed some of the Indians go up and shake hands with the stranger. I wondered who he was. The morning was pleasant when I started, but during the day it stormed so hard that on reaching my home I froze my feet, for I had to walk two and one half miles in the storm. My feet were so painful that I did not go to church on the Sabbath. Toward evening, I saw the stranger I had seen at the station coming to our door. My husband opened the door and invited him in. He introduced himself as Rev. O. J. Perrin, and said that the conference had appointed him elder. I told him I was sorry I did not know that when I saw him get off the train, for I would have returned home. I then asked why he did not send us word he was coming. He replied he had sent word to Daniel Hall, who was a local preacher. I told him Daniel had said nothing to us about it. “Why,” said he, “Bro. Hall told me you went to Bay City to avoid meeting me. That you had been stealing the church money and did not wish to see me.” I cannot tell my readers what my feelings were when I heard this. Said I, “Did you believe such a story about me?” “Well,” said he, “I did not know what to think. I had sent word I was coming Saturday, and when I got here I found you were leaving town.” My husband got the pocket-book and handed the elder one hundred and fifteen dollars. I then told him I would give him a statement of all I had collected and the amount I had spent. He took the money and asked my husband to go with him to the church (for he had remained with me during the day my feet were so painful) and ask the Indians what proof they had that I had stolen the money. The Elder then showed them the money and told them I could punish them for accusing me of stealing. I then gave the elder the names of those who had promised me money, vis., the Missionary Society of New York, $200, my friend at Detroit, $200, Mr. Lord, of Osceda, $50 (I had borne my own expenses to secure these pledges) and asked him to write to these persons for the money.

The men who were working on the church hearing that the Elder was going to take charge of the church building, asked me for money to pay his men. “Why,” said I, “I gave you $150 two weeks ago, and you have not given me anything for the men's board.” “Well,” said he, “I will allow you $50, and when I come back will pay you the rest.” There were five men beside the foreman. They went to Bay City Saturday afternoon, but did not come back to Saganing again. We waited several days and could find nothing of their whereabouts, and the presiding Elder secured a man from West Bay City to finish the building.

Mr. James Shearer, President of the Bank who had given me the $100, loaned me $200 to complete the work. I started for Philadelphia to see Dr. Kynett, of the church extension, to see if they could help me. He said, “You see what you can do at Washington,” (for I had told him I was going there) “then come back here and we will see what we can do for you.” I went to Washington, asked the Secretary of the Interior if the Department would be willing to give me some help toward our church. He said, “The government did not give anything to build churches for the Indians.” He then asked how long since I was married. I began to count from the first time I had been married. “Good Heavens,” said he, “you did not marry two of them?” I asked, “Was there anything wrong in so doing?” “Well, I do not know as there was, if you took only one at a time.” “Well,” said I, “that is what I did do. I waited till one had been dead two years before I married the second one.” “Well,” said he, “if you had been my sister or daughter you would not have been allowed to do it.”

I went to Baltimore. Bishop Ames gave me five dollars and Rev. -- Way gave me another five. This was all I got at those two cities. I returned to Philadelphia, but Dr. Kynett was not in town. I returned home quite disappointed, for I had taken all the money from my husband's store to pay travelling expenses, thinking that at the dedication of the church I would get back the money I had spent travelling.

The church was dedicated free of debt, but except $35 the Elder allowed me to keep, I got nothing back of all I had expended. Could the Indians know the very hard things I had to bear on their account, they would feel more gratitude than they have manifested toward me. Still, I cannot help feeling sorry for them, when I think of the many wrongs they have been compelled to endure from the white people, and dislike to hear anything said against them.

We have never been able to re-open our little store. After the dedication of the church, my husband was taken ill with typhoid fever; he was sic four months. Those were sad days. We had no money, after paying the doctor who attended him, to buy food; we had nothing but corn meal and salt.

Mrs. Spear, of Pine River, hearing how destitute we were, gave me a sack of flour, some tea, sugar, and a piece of port. Heaven bless all those who were so kind to us in our hour of need. One of Mrs. Spear's daughters is the wife of Capt. Boutelle of Bay City. For thirty three years those dear people have been among the kindest friends I had in Michigan.

Daniel Hall, the Indian who accused me of stealing the church money, was the first person buried from our new church. The Indians are very proud of their house of worship and are regular in attendance, the men sitting on one side and the women on the other. There is one thing needs special mention. When the benediction is pronounce, instead of rushing out of the building, they take their seats a few seconds, then one after another they go out silently. To me it looks as if they had a reverance for God's house. They are good singers. Many of them sing by note and play the organ. Two families have organs and most of them have sewing machines. The young women cut and make their own dresses and strive to keep up to the fashions. Many of them are quite neat about their homes; they take pride in having their stores bright and their floors are clean and white. Some of the young men are quite particular about the color of their neckties and are very proud of their watch-chains.

I will relate how one young Indian secured a wife. He had been too her father's house several times, but the young girl cared nothing for him. At last he hit upon a plan that he thought would work well. The next time he went to her father's house, before entering <>i>he pinned a dollar on the outside of his trouser's pocket. When the girl saw the money, she thought he must be rich and consented to become his wife. Soon after the marriage she needed some money, and as her husband was not at home, she went to his pocket to get it, but feeling one, she concluded he had borrowed the money and used it as bait to catch her.

A field meeting was appointed at a little town called Kah Kahlin. At the close of the afternoon session, the Indian preacher announced that there were three couple to be married. While the second couple were being married, the third bride-elect ran off into the woods and could not be found. The young man after searching for her returned to the grove, the tears rolling down his cheeks. This was in the month of September. Both of these persons had been my scholars in the day and Sabbath school. “Quarterly Meeting” had been appointed in our town for the 1st of December. We learned that John and Lizzie (the names of the third couple before mentioned) had agreed to be married at this meeting. The presiding Elder told my husband to call these persons to the altar. When the minister asked John if he would take this woman for his wedded wife, he replied, “Yes, I will,” and grabbed Lizzie's hand. When she was asked if she would take John for her husband, she drew her shawl over her had and said, “He-he-he.” The preacher was convulsed with laughter. They were made one to the great delight of John.



A number of white people have moved into our town, many of them Catholics, whose children take part in our Christmas and “Children's Day” exercises. The parents have always treated me with respect. There are about the same number of Protestant whites of different denominations, who attend service when the white minister preaches in the church. We have had a number of white preachers occupy the pulpit in our church, some from Boston. Dr. Pardington, of Brooklyn, has preached for us a number of times in years gone by, also Rev. A. C. Shaw.

I was expecting two preachers from the Bay Cities to preach on the Sabbath. The came on Friday, a day sooner than I expected; we had plenty of brown sugar in the house, but very little white sugar, and a small piece of cake. We had sent to Bay City for groceries, and were waiting for the boat to get to Saganing. I told my husband to use the brown sugar for his tea, and leave the white for the minister's, and as there was so little cake, I told my little daughter, (a child I adopted when nine months old) aged three and one-half years, that if the cake were passed to her to say, “No, thank you,” and I would make her a nice little cake for herself. When I passed the tea to my husband, he took up the bowl with white sugar to sweeten his tea. Little Alice said, “Papa, Mamma told you to use the brown sugar and leave the white for the ministers.” One of the preachers passed the cake to her. She said, “No, thank you momma told me there was only enough for the ministers and she is going too make a cake for me to eat all alone.” The ministers appeared not to notice what the child said, but their wives afterwards told me their husbands pitied me.

Six years ago, I went to Boston to get money to paint and repair our church, which had become quite shabby. The good people then gave me $260, which I used in painting the building inside and out, had the old seats altered into pews, and two aisles, with fresh matting for them, a new carpet for the chancel, three plush chairs, six common chairs and two brick chimneys. Rev. -- Ryan gave us some glass for the transom. Capt. B. Boutelle gave $25 and Mrs. Boutelle gave us a handsome clock. I should have said I got $237 in Boston and Capt. Boutelle gave $25, making in all $262.

The Indians, with the aid of some of the white people of Saganing, re-plastered the church before I collected the money to paint it, so the church looks quite neat. Our presiding Elder is R. Weedhams, who resides at Bay City. Our white minister is Rev. Geo. Huckle, who preaches once in two weeks. Our Sabbath School meets after the morning service. We have four local preachers, six class leaders and two exhorters; two of our class leaders have died since last November.

There is a nice brick schoolhouse where both white and Indian children are taught the common English branches. There are three stores, two in the Indian village and one at the station. The land is excellent for farming; a little creek runs though the centre of our town into the Bay, about five minutes' walk from our house.

The Home of Mr. and Mrs. Sagatoo.

  • Link to full book: [Google Books]

    Additional Notes.

    According to 2003 information, Mary's home and the church she helped get erected are still standing, and Mary adopted a daughter, Alice, who married Frank Allen, and they had five children. [Genforum.Genealogy.com]

      1880 – Census, Bay County, Mich. (Saganing)

    • Sagatoo, Peter – b. 1840 Canada, laborer
    • Mary, wife, b. 1838 Mass.

      1900 – Census, Arenac County, Mich. (Standish)

    • Sagatoo, Peter – Chippewa,
    • Mary – wife, b. Jun. 1840 Mass., white woman, teacher
      --(Notes marriage est. 1875.)

      Genealogy Online Resources.

    • Sagatoo, Peter: Birth name was "Me-nis-no-won-quet", his parents were John and Nade-no-qua Saagato. John died Jun. 14, 1900, at Standish. [Genforum.Genealogy.com]
    • Cabay, Joseph: Married May 5, 1863, Mary A. Henderson, b. 1837, MA, d. Mar. 17, 1914, Standish, Mich., Joseph died 1865.[same as above]
  • Related Pages & Notes

    Mary (Henderson) Sagatoo

    Related Pages:
    Boutell, Benj. Capt.
    Shearer, James
    People Referenced
    Ames, Bishop
    Arnold, J.M. Rev.
    Boutelle, Benjamin
    Boutelle, R.
    Bowditch, Dr.
    Cabay, Joseph (1-husband)
    Cabay, Shawwenanee
    Dashiel, Dr.
    Franham, L. Rev.
    Gannett, Ezra Dr.
    Green, J.S.C.
    Hall, Daniel Rev.
    Harris, Bishop
    Haven, Gilbert Bishop
    Henderson, Mary (subject) -- aka: Was Sash Kah Moqua
    Huckle, Geo. Rev.
    Irons, Mr.
    Jacks, C.L. Prof.
    Kynett, Dr.
    Lord, Mr.
    Lothrop, Dr.
    Michininah, Willie
    Ninde, W.X. Rev.
    Norris, A.L. Dr.
    Pardinton, Dr.
    Perrin, O.J. Rev.
    Russell, Charles
    Ryan, Rev.
    Sagatoo, Alice (adopted dau)
    Sagatoo, John (f-inlaw)
    Sagatoo, Nade-no-qua (m-inlaw)
    Sagatoo, Peter (2-husband)
    Shaw, A.C. Rev.
    Shearer, James
    Sleeper, Jacob
    Spear, Mrs.
    Way, Rev.
    Weedhams, R.
    Wigglesworth, Mrs.
    Young, E. Rev.
    ?, Eliza(Ahkebemosa)
    ?, John
    ?, Lizzie
    Subjects Referenced
    Arenac Co., MI
    Baldwin University, OH
    Baltimore, MD
    Bay City, MI
    Bay City Chronicle
    Bay County, MI
    Berea, OH
    Boston, MA
    Boston Common, MA
    Bromfield Church, MA
    Brooklyn, NY
    Cambridge, MI
    Cataract Hotel, NY
    Chippewa Indians
    Detroit, MI
    Harvard College, MA
    Isabella Co., MI
    Kawkawlin, MI
    Missionary Soc., NY
    Newton, MA
    Osceda, MA
    Niagara Falls, NY
    Philadelphia, PA
    Pine River, MI
    Sabbath School, MI
    Saginaw, MI
    Saginaw Bay, MI
    Standish, MI
    Theological Library, MA
    Trinity Church, MA
    Unitarian, MA
    Washington, DC
    West Bay City, MI
    Wilbraham Academy
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.