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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Sabbath at Appanoose's Village

Editor's Note:

One of the reasons that travelers in the wild such as Marsh kept detailed daily diaries was to help them recall the days of the week and the specific date. Isolated from newspapers, calendars, and a social structure that required specific markers for the passage of time, it was easy to simply lose track of them altogether, as the clerks mentioned here did.

The polite interest that the Fox showed in Marsh and Willliamson's devotions was typical of the way native peoples treated religious white people. The 1673 journal of Father Jacques Marquette, who was in the Upper Mississippi more than 150 years earlier, reveal that the Illinois Indians in the same part of Iowa were equally curious and polite (view Marquette's journal here).

July 13th 1834 [Sunday]

Was awaked early this morn. as usual by women at their accustomed labor, making mats, bags, etc. For they know not the command "remember the Sabbath day. Even the clerk himself said that in times past he had lost the day of the week & knew not when the Sabbath came.

As there was no interpreter and few Indians there we could hold no meeting, and I spent a part of the day alone, under the shade of a tree in meditation and prayer. There although alone I hope that I found sweet delight in prayer and humbling myself before God.

In the A.M. had a short exercise with our guide and the clerk of the establishment. In the P.M. Dr. W. read the 3rd chapter of John and commented on it. After this remarked myself upon the necessity of a new heart.

Sang some hymns and closed the exercise with prayer. The Indians looked on, some appeared to listen, others left the lodge and others still kept about their work. Some of the children unacquainted with the nature of these exercises tittered and laughed. Sometimes they would hover about when [we] engaged in our devotions, as we usually had morning and evening prayers, and would seem to listen with interest. I showed them a picture representing the last judgment which they gazed upon with deep interest, but I was unable to explain it to them.

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