More Tales from the Veranda: The New World

About 1750 the Mormons had settled at Nauvoo, Illinois on the south shore of Lake Michigan in their search for a home. They were close to farming communities which included many Adair Presbyterians. During one summer, before time to harvest, the Mormons put out the word that on a special day Joseph Smith would walk on water, and all True Believers in the neighboring communities were invited to bring their picnics and attend the ceremony which was scheduled for sunset. A place on the lakeshore was designated for the big occasion. Word was passed that there would be speeches and games, as well.

A few days before the picnic was scheduled, some young cousins from the Adair clan clandestinely hiked to the chosen location and hid themselves in the bushes to watch all night. Sure enough, a couple of nights before the scheduled picnic, men quietly came rowing across the lake in boats hauling tree trunks. There, by moonlight, they upended the trees and sank them in the mud a few inches below the surface of the water, two or three feet apart in a semi-circle from shore to shore. Then they rowed away. After some discussion the Presbyterian cousins swam out to the center of the semicircle, pulled out two of the logs and hauled them away.

The hot summer day arrived and many farmers and their families came by horse drawn wagons, and enjoyed the picnic, games, and getting together with neighbors. At sunset everyone gathered around Joseph Smith who, in long, flowing robes, barefoot, stood on the shore of the lake where the water lapped over his bare toes. He appealed to the onlookers to have faith. Their faith would carry his ability to walk on water, as Jesus had done. Then he took a step and stood with his feet immersed in the water. He spoke again, calling forth the glory of faith. He took another step, and another, and miraculously he was walking on water. Every few steps he stopped to speak of the glory of God. When he got to the center of the semi-circle, suddenly he lost his footing and fell into the lake. He floundered. After a few moments of thrashing in the deep water he found the next log and climbed up on it and stood in dripping robes. He shouted, “Oh, Ye of little faith! Those among you who cannot believe caused me to slip. But who among you is the stronger? It is those who believe. Those who believe in the miracle of the Lord have saved me. Lord bless you. We all have been saved by the true believers.”

Joseph Smith walked on and reached the shore, to be surrounded by his followers, and carried off into the night. They continued to believe, but soon moved on to Salt Lake City.

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Great-Grandmother Goldsmith
Great-Grandmother Goldsmith

In the middle of the 1780s the Indians were still trying to maintain their lifestyles, and raiding the settlers was common. They would ride up on horseback with their bows and arrows and grab food, and whatever else they could find. When the family was aware they were coming the children were told to run and hide in the cornfields. In this particular instance one of the warriors found a girl in the cornfield, grabbed her up on his horse, and rode her back to his village. A few months later the girl managed to escape and found her way back to the family farm. The horrendous problem was that she was pregnant. No longer being a virgin, and the baby having Indian blood would be a blight on both the girl and the baby. The family managed to hide the facts from the community, and to raise the baby as a member of the family.

My mother never told me this story as I was growing up, but she did tell my children. Subsequently I had the following telephone conversation with her in 1968.

Me:

… so we stayed and camped out in the forest for the rest of the week and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mother:

It must be that Indian blood in you.

Me:

What Indian blood?

Mother:

Didn’t I ever tell you?

Me:

Tell me what?

Mother:

Your great-grandmother was kidnapped by the Indians, and when she escaped and came home she was pregnant. Her child was your grandmother.

Me:

Mother, why didn’t you tell me this before?

Mother:

You were too young

Me:

Mother, I’m forty-five years old.

Mother:

Don’t tell me how old you are.

End of Conversation.

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