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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 14, 2001 - Issue 40


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A Family Story


 by Richard L. Slater

PrefaceRoses and Buds
This family story is for my children and grandchildren, whom I love very much. I sincerely wanted them to have a record of their old people so that they would know where they came from and who their old people were. Children, I ask that you remember and respect these facts of our lives.

Prior to writing this story of our family, I kept asking myself, "Where do I start? ". Should I begin with the stories Grandmother Leidy told my sister Barbara and I about her mother, Susan Valeria King or in fact go back to a time prior to Susanís birth. The latter path seemed to be the better of the two and indeed would have more initial significance as the story unfolds.

I would like to thank my Grandmother, Hannah S. Leidy, and my Mother, Marjorie S. Forest for the writings and oral history of our family, their help and guidance. Also, Jim Rementer for his help and counsel with the Lenape history and language. Most of all, our entire family must remember and be especially grateful for the hardships endured by Great-Great Grandmother Abbey King and Great-Grandmother Susan Valeria King.

Chapter One

Roses and BudsThe Saucon Valley
The valley was a green place. Even in the early 1800ís the trees' were tall and the streams' still flowed into the Delaware River and from there to the Bay. It had always been so, for as long as the People (Lenape) had lived in the valley.

The time of first contact with the Europeans was long past some three hundred years. During the time that followed, the question, "friendly people in tall ships, who are they?" was answered.

There were long wars fought over the land that had belonged to the Lenape. English, French and finally the Colonials, each wanted all the land they could see. Times of great sickness also came to the People and by the end of the mid-1800ís most of the Lenape were gone from the Saucon Valley. Some of the People had remained to become farmers and integrate into the growing population of settlers. However, old feelings toward the Native people continued to flare up from time to time and sometimes lead to bloodshed even though the frontier had long since moved west of the Alleghenies.

It was during such a time in the winter of 1852 - 1853 that a young Lenape girl made her way north up the Saucon Valley toward Hellertown, Pa. Something had happened where she lived, to make her leave her home and family. The facts of this event will never be known, Abbey kept them to herself and never spoke of it. Was it a reprisal against her family due to the prejudices of that hard time? Weíll never know.

Chapter Two

Roses and BudsA Beginning and an End
It was Luwàn (Winter), Enikwsi Kishux (Ground Squirrel Month), January in the English. Abbey followed the trail north toward Hellertown. The snow was deep and to make matters more difficult, She was expecting a child soon, her first.

She had left quickly, only time to take a few things. Dried roasted corn to eat on the trail, a change of clothes and the beaded len-hok-si-na (moccasins) she had made for the baby. The snow was coming hard now and she would have to hurry to make the town before dark. She would eventually stop at the farm of Thomas and Hannah Leidy. Tired, hungry and wet from the snow, Abbey approached the farmhouse.

Thomas and Hannah took the young Lenape girl in and for the next few weeks Hannah cared for her. Abbey had developed pneumonia and the illness would complicate her pregnancy.

While Abbey stayed with the Leidyís, she seldom spoke of her family except to tell them that she was indeed Lenape and was born in the Saucon Valley about 15 years ago. The babyís father was a Lenape man by the Christian name of Aaron King.

Susan Valeria King was born on February 14, 1853. Due to the complications from pneumonia, Abbey died soon after Susan was born. Hannah and Thomas would decide to keep Susan and raise her. This was to be the beginning of what may have been a most difficult time in her life.

For the next sixteen years Susan was raised more as a maid or servant. The Leidysí made sure that Susan knew who she was and where she came from. For reasons unknown she was never permitted to leave and may have made no attempt to contact her Lenape relatives. One can only guess at how difficult life must have been for this young Lenape girl.

Chapter Three

Roses and BudsSettling A Debt
Susan had noticed him working around the farm for several months. His name was Mathias Weiland and he had emigrated from Germany last year with his two brothers. He was working to earn enough money for moving to northwest Missouri.

Years later, the following events were told to Hannah, Susanís oldest daughter.

In order to settle a debt of $500.00 for the work Mr. Weiland had done, Thomas Leidy offered to give Susan to Mr. Weiland. There was no such thing as civil rights at this time. Slavery was not confined to the black population. Susan was sixteen years of age when this happened and the year was 1869.

The following year (1870) Weiland took Susan with him to live on a farm at Helena, Missouri. They were married on July 4, 1870 in the Catholic Church of Saint Joseph in Easton, Missouri.

They raised at least ten children:
1. William August 8/19/1871
2. John Ambrose 4/4/1 873
3. George 3/17/1875
4. Hannah Sophia 5/6/1877
5. James Henry 11/7/1878
6. Isabella Melinda 12/7/1 880
7. Joseph Austin 8/12/1883
8. Charles Jacob 10/16/1 886
9. Howard Ephriam 8/21/1888
10. Clarence Stanley 10/18/1894

Susan spent the remainder of her life in Missouri. Several years ago I spoke to Charles Weiland, one of her grandsonsí who was raised by Susan and still remembered her. He told me that she was proud of who she was and where she came from and of how she had survived the hard times in her life. He remembered her black piercing eyes (wëshkinko) that looked right through him whenever he lied to her. He recalled how she liked to sit on the front porch, smoke her old clay pipe and stare off toward the treesí at the edge of the field east of the farmhouse. He would ask her "Grandma are you waiting for someone?' and she would reply,
"May be."

Chapter Four

Roses and BudsRoses and Home
Susan and most of her children are buried in the cemetery at Helena, Mo. Mr. Weiland and the other children are laid to rest at Cosby, Mo., about five miles south of Helena, as the crow flies.

As far back as I can remember, Grandma Weilandís grave stone was always in need of attention, it was sinking and the rose bush that had been planted many years ago was always shriveled, brown and never bloomed.

The Spring of 1996, I had gone back to St. Joseph, Mo. to see my Mother and Sister. One morning we drove to the Helena cemetery and while there Sis and I cleaned up around Susanís grave and pruned the old rose bush. I even thought of pulling it out and replacing it with a new one because it hadnít bloomed.

As we cut back the old dead brown stems and twigs the thorns cut our hands but we finished and put the clippings in the trash can by the gate as we left.

I returned home a few days later unaware that something was about to happen and that I would not talk about it for a long time afterward.

Could it have been that last cup of coffee, a piece of pizza or what I just donít know. I will someday,
"May be." Something woke me! I sat upright in bed, Janet was still asleep. I looked towards the foot of our bed and there was Susan standing there smiling at me and holding 12 red roses in her arms. She seemed to be holding one of the roses toward me. I think I smiled back at her and then she was gone. I fell asleep after that. The next day I called my sister and ask her if she would go to the cemetery and look at the rose bush and please count the number of blooms. She returned my call the next day and said that she had counted twelve blooms.

I think Susan was letting me know that her journey was over and the onesí she had been waiting for, the People, her People, finally found her and had taken her home to their fire. But then again could this have really happened or was it a dream. I donít know, perhaps someday,
"May be"

Rose Garland

About our writer:

  • Richard L. Slater
  • Wife's name: Janet
  • Married 37 years
  • 4 Children & 3 Grandchildren
  • Age : 62
  • Grew up in Missouri
  • Graduated from Missouri Western State College
  • Lenape from Mothers side of family
  • Irish/Eng from Fathers family
  • Retired
  • Hobbies: Wood & Bone carving
  • I work with black walnut and deer antler
  • Things I like to do:
  • 1. Go to Oklahoma for Delaware Days and Delaware Independence Day when I can.
  • 2. Learning the Lenape Language and teaching it to my Grandchildren.

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