Lived Long in Fear of Savage Indians
Woman Almost Centenarian Visiting Here, Describes Massacre in Pioneer Days
From: The Chippewa Falls Independent - August 9, 1914
"Fear does not kill. If it did I would have been dead long ago." With half a chuckle and half a shutter Mrs. Orlea Vance-Wood, 95 years old, thus characterized her experiences in the Indian-infested country about the upper Hay River of sixty odd years ago.
Mrs. Vance-Wood, now a resident of Tomahawk, Wisconsin, is visiting her niece, Mrs. Peter Perrault, at 702 North Main Street. She is a remarkable woman. Though less than half a decade separates her from the century mark, her mind is good both as to recent events and affairs long ago and she is still an exceptional conversationalist.
Saw Indian Troubles
With a representative of The News, Mrs. Vance-Wood went over the trying times she suffered during the years, which followed her arrival in Dunn County with her husband and four children after a rough and hazardous trip from Montreal. There were many trials and hardships. Arriving with only the clothes they wore, their trunks having been stolen on the boat on which they came up the Great Lakes; locating in the heart of the wilderness twenty-five miles north of Menomonie and essaying the task of hewing a farm from the primeval forest, their lot was not an easy one. But the one big fact that stands out in greatest relief in her mind is the presence of the Indians and her constant dread of them.
"My husband, Peter Vance, brought us here in response to the call of his brother, Levi Vance, who had a trading post on the Hay River," She said. "We had been told that money grew on bushes in this country, but I want to tell you that we had no fun until after the Chippewa had left."
Witnessed Sioux Massacre
Although the Chippewa were supposed to be a friendly tribe and were so
in a measure when compared with their traditional enemies, the Sioux,
they were guilty of many murders. These were committed near enough to
the Vance home in the woods to fill her with alarm for her own safety
and that of her children, for the Indians were frequent visitors.
After the Chippewa
"This was the only fight I saw, but I heard of many others. There was no
telling when the Indians would appear and commit murder. Once a year
before the fight, I have described, a Chippewa squaw who did work for my
sister-in-law saw Sioux coming and hid in a feather bed. The Sioux went
through the house and tried to find her, but went away after failing to
do so. There were fifty of them and they were in search of Chippewas."
Burned Family in Home
"A family north of Prairie Farm was all sick with smallpox. The
Chippewas were afraid of taking the disease and burned the family in
"Fear wouldn't kill anybody or I would have been dead long ago. I was always afraid of the Indians. They would come and strip the table in our house while I was there alone. They would watch my husband go to his work and then they would come in and take all the food. They could ask me to cook them more. Once I remember cooking, I don't know how many, dripping pans of biscuits for a large party of them. Some of the biscuits were doughy, but they ate them anyway."
Born in Montreal
Going back to the beginning, Mrs. Vance-Wood's maiden name was Orlea Lamoreau, and she was born March 20, 1819, at Montreal. As already stated her husband was urged to go to the Hay River by his brother, who wanted company and help at his trading post. Just how long ago it was that they started for Wisconsin wild she does not recall, but it must have been considerably more than sixty years ago.
With her husband and four children they came by boat to Chicago, they voyage being such as to greatly affright her, the aged lady says. Before reaching Chicago, their trunk containing their belongs was stolen. Levi Vance met them there and they proceeded to Galena, Illinois, the old lead mining point, and after stopping there three days they came by boat from Prairie du Chien up the Mississippi and Chippewa, finishing their trip by wagon and passing trough Menomonie.
Three Houses Here
Mrs. Vance-Wood says that at the time there were but three houses here,
those occupied by the Wilson, Tainter and Bullard families. In that case
their arrival must date back much more than three score years reckoned
by the old lady.
"I gave Paul, my youngest child, the farm," said she. "It was all I had, but I am glad I gave it to him. He was a boy and he deserved it." She says that recently her son has refused $10,000 for the property, which consists of three forties.
While residing in Minneapolis, Mrs. Vance was married in this city too, after living in Minneapolis seven years, Peter Wood, who has subsequently died. She then moved to Tomahawk, and for twenty-five years she has lived there with another daughter, Mrs. Alice Hickey.
Is Wonderfully Preserved
Mrs. Vance-Wood is wonderfully preserved, physically as well as mentally. She delights to talk over the old days and her face lights up with animation and her eye sparkles with new life as she relates the stories connected with them. She has a good memory for faces and since coming here a week ago has inquired earnestly for a little girl who used to come to see her when she visited here years ago. She has been enjoying her visit greatly and has been interested in those who have called. Last Saturday she was visited by her son Paul and his wife, a daughter Mrs. Robert Hickey, and Swen Anderson of the town of Sheridan, who drove to the city by auto. On Sunday a daughter, Mrs. Alice Valin, came from Minneapolis to see her and Tuesday she greeted Mr. & Mrs. Will Borasau and Miss Belle Borasau of Vance.
Rallies from Sickness
As illustrating the wonderful vitality of Mrs. Vance-Wood a trip made by her while in her eighties to Canada, may be cited. Still more indicative of her strong hold on life was a severe sickness last winter from which she twice rallied, though her condition was so serious that her niece, Mrs. Perrault, was, was twice sent for.
Mrs. Vance-Wood enjoys life and the company of her friends. The shadow are falling very slowly and gently about her, and all her friends acknowledge that she has won the peace and comfort and sustain her in her declining years, which to her are as one long, delightful summer twilight.
Transcription by: Timm Severud, Winter Wisconsin
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