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CHRISTINA POLK


Christina Polk
, daughter of Deliah (Tyler) Polk, wife of Isaac McCoy, and daughter of Capt. Chas. Polk of Shelby Co., Ky. was born in Shelby Co., Ky on the 18th day of November 1787, and married on the sixteenth year of her age. She was a member of the Baptist church, and in her, God gave her husband just such a helper as he needed to aid and comfort him in all his subsequent labor, provations and sufferings.

The Indian Advocate of July 1846 says of her, "No other woman we apprehend, could or would have so cheerfully met all the trials which befell her in those long years of suffering and toll, in her efforts to aid and sustain her husband in prosecuting his benevolent plans in behalf of the aborigines of America. But she seems to have drank and zealously into all his plans and labors, in behalf of the Indians, as he did himself"

Twelve years after their marriage, her husband in his autobiography wrote of her, "Of all the earthly blessings which God has bestowed upon me, she is most precious. Her uncommon fortitude and mild disposition have often cleared the clouds of despair which have hovered around, and caused me to forget my troubles." (Page 26)

Years afterwards, when Isaac McCoy located his Carey Mission among the Indians, near Niles, Michigan, he pitched his camp near a beautiful stream and lake, both now known as Christiana. John C. McCoy, his son and early pioneer of Kansas City, Mo., left written on the page of an old book, the following: "My father, Isaac McCoy, named a little stream in northern Indiana, in Elkhart County, hitherto unnamed for my mother, Christiana. He said the clear, placid cheerful brook made him think of his wife, of her buoyant, unruffled nature." He wrote further -- "Christiana Creek"

"This is the name of a bright sparkling stream that empties into the St. Joseph river a mile or two above the mouth of Elkhart river, on the north side and twelve or fifteen miles from and above South Bend, Indiana. Unlike the turgid, sluggish streams of Missouri and Kansas, its waters are clear and sparkling, leaping ad bubbling over its Sandy pebble bottom in a swift rapid current, and to me the name which this bright beautiful stream bears has a peculiar attraction, for it is the name of my sainted Mother, and it was to commemorate her bright, cheerful, hopeful, loving nature that honored it with the baptismal name of Christina, Sixty years have passed since it was named, and yet what a flood of memories crowd back upon me at its mention. I was then a stipling less than ten years old, and now have nearly numbered my three score years and ten. Oh, how vividly and mournfully pleasing are the recollections of that event. From my father, Isaac McCoy, it received its name under peculiar circumstances, and he knew and understood and only properly estimated her sterling worth, her devotion to him, her children and her God."

On the 14th day of August 1909, Orville T. Chamberlain, a prominent citizen and attorney for many years in Elkhart County, prior thereto, wrote me, - "Christiana Creek, which runs South from Christiana Lake in Ontera Township, Cass County, Michigan to Elkhart, Ind. About ten miles and empties into St. Joseph River at Elkhart, Ind. was named by Rev. Issac McCoy, in honor of his wife. This stream furnishes power for a gristmill at Adamsville, Cass. Co., Michigan, and about thirteen miles west of Adamsville, Michigan, at the place where Christiana Creek leaves the lake. The Carey Mission was abandoned when the United States Government removed the Potawattama Indians from the vicinity, to the Indian Territory. Jacob Ellis, who died at Elkhart some years ago, was one of the men who escorted the Indians to their new home. The removing party was under the charge of Alexis Coquillard of South Bend, Indiana, and was called "Cutte-aw" by the Indians.

Soon after the death of Isaac McCoy, there appeared in the Indian Advocate the following:

"The death of our late Corresponding Secretary, Elder I. McCoy, having left his venerable companion in her old age among us, a bereaved and afflicted monument of the sacrifices to missionary life common among missionaries, especially of those who have labored to the red man's welfare.

We concluded that the following narrative of the sufferings of Sister McCoy's mother and brother and sisters in childhood from the Indians might interest friends of the Indian Missions. In view of the sufferings of her family from Indian cruelty, and her own sacrifices for their good, we have a most sublime exhibition of the effects; of our holy religion, which can thus render a person unmindful of injury, and influences them to toil and suffer for the welfare of those from whose hands they receive nothing but evil. Such a spectacle is exhibit in the life of Sister McCoy. She is the seventh child of Mrs. Polk, the wife of Capt. Polk, who was the principal sufferer in the long and dreary captivity, which the following narrative reveals. She was the second child born after her release from captivity and was born four years after that gloomy event, yet Sister McCoy had devoted the best days of her life to the welfare of the Indians and still feels as anxious to do as she did in her younger years"

William Polk, who wrote this account of the captivity of his mother, shared it with her and was the little boy that the Indians dressed in Indian apparel and styled him "The son of the Chief."

Excerpt from this narrative:

Capt. Charles Polk, the father of Mrs. Christiana McCoy, with his family, consisting of his wife and four children, in the year 1781 settled at Linns Station about twelve miles from Louisville, Ky and having taken alarm at the depredations of the Indians in the neighborhood, took up their abode in one of the three forts in the vicinity, which were situated some fifteen miles apart for protection. While Captain Polk and his men were seeking to protect another fort, the Indians made their appearance before William Polk; the captive boy thus describes the one in which the mother and children had sought refuge, and the attack, long after he became a man.

"On a clear and bright morning, the moon shining in her meridian splendor, the 31st of August, 1782, about one hour before the break of day, the first alarm to the unfortunate inmates was the war-whoop of the Indians as they assailed the fort from different quarters and obtained immediate possession by climbing the walls and unroofing the cabins. Descending from the outside, one man defended his house until his wife and one child were killed, when seizing his other child, a boy about fours years old, he made his escape. The remaining inmates, about thirty in number were taken prisoners and the fort burned. It was known for many years afterwards as the "Burnt Station". On the evening of the day of our calamity, Co. Floyd was advised to consult what course would be proper to pursue, and the general opinion was in favor of an immediate pursuit. To this, Capt. Polk strongly objected, urging that a pursuit would tend to the massacre of all the prisoners, as the Indians would keep scouts in their rear, on their retreat, so that a surprise could not be calculated upon and that as it was it might be possible for him some time to recover his family. Known as he was for his determined bravery, perseverance and patience and from his amiable and conciliatory course, being universally beloved, a pursuit was not attempted.

The Indians after taking whatever of the property of the inhabitants they could travel (rest torn off) after sunrise they commenced their retreat with their prisoners, in all about thirty, including Mrs. Polk and her four children, the eldest a boy of seven years of age, the others daughters, the youngest two years old and herself in that situation that but faint of a forced march through the wilderness, which the reader will understand when informed that her second son was born at Detroit on the 27th of the ensuing October. On the first day of their captivity, circumstances occurred which though of minor importance, it is believed, from what was afterwards learned from the Indians, influenced their treatment to Mrs. Polk and her children, and probably was the means of preserving her life, which will be detailed in a manner that may appear tedious and unnecessary.

The apology is that it is given as an illustration of the Indian character to show that even among the untutored savages there are traits of benevolence and humanity that are worth to be preserved.

At the first assault of the fort, Mrs. Polk having her two youngest children in the same bed with her, immediately arose taking a child under each arm attempted to wake her two eldest children, but before she succeeded the Indians broke into the house, seized her two children, hurried her out and shortly after to their camp within about half a mile of the fort.

After daylight, in looking over the encampment, she discovered all prisoners taken except her own two children, from which she inferred that the had not been discovered in the darkness within the house and (rest of line torn off) to her affliction, that she had not succeeded in wakening them out of their sleep.

It will here be proper to mention that the Indian Chief had arrived in the vicinity of the fort, previous to the departure of Capt. Polk and his men from their hiding places and has witnessed his leaving for the purpose of joining Col. Floyd. One of the first inquiries in the morning after arriving at their encampment was for the Chief's squaw and papooses. When pointed out to them, they appeared much pleased that they had taken them prisoners - said the Chief would be much disappointed on his return to find his family all taken away from him.

I have heard Mrs. Polk say she could observe a marked difference in the treatment of her children and the others taken. On the second morning they painted her son in Indian style, decorated him in feathers and some Indian trinkets and called him "The Young Chief of the Long Knife", the name given the Kentuckians by the Indians of that day.

Shortly after sunrise they commenced their march, Mrs. Polk carrying her youngest child and Mrs. Ash (whose family had been taken the preceding year, as I have previously named) carrying hers, only a few months old. After traveling a short distance, the Indians took their children from them (for the purpose, as they supposed, of murdering them) and directed them to march, Mrs. Ash observing if they killed her child she would go no farther with them. They rapidly pursued their journey for about twelve miles, when they halted. In a short time the Indian, who had taken Mrs. Polk's child (rest of line torn off) time since their captivity, which much relieved her anxiety on their account. Mrs. Ash repeated that as they had murdered her child, she would go no further.

Having crossed no stream of water thus far, Mrs. Polk, form her anxiety, fatigue and thirst, was so exhausted that she could scarcely breathe. The Indians had brought with them many watermelons from the fort and while refreshing themselves with them, she held out her hand as a request for a part to relieve her thirst, which was answered by a general laugh and shout of approbation, and some ten or twelve of them handed her slices, which she divided among the prisoners around her, offering Mrs. Ash a part, saying it would relieve her thirst, which she refused by a shake of the head, without speaking. The Indians' countenances immediately changed to anger; they began a conversation among themselves, when one came forward, stripped her of her upper garments, and in a few minutes started the prisoners, making signs to Mrs. Ash to take her child, a boy two years old and march. After they had proceeded a short distance they distinctly heard the tomahawk strike her head, she uttered a scream simultaneous with their war-whoop and all was silent. They continued their march until near sunset, traveling this day about thirty miles before they encamped for the night. The Indian who claimed Mrs. Polk and her youngest child her prisoners, being of a surly temper, proposed killing her that night, saying she could not travel as far next day as they wished to go, to which proposal his brother, of a more humane disposition, objected and proposed to defer the (three word torn off) the next evening (line torn off) a reason why she should be saved, the circumstance of the watermelon, as related above.

The next morning the Indian who had first proposed saving her life in the council of the preceding evening, by signs informed her that in two days they would cross the big water and they called the Ohio River, where they had horses and should ride then. Thus encouraged and stimulated to go as far as she could, a mother's desire to know what would be the fate of her children, the second day passed off as the first, by rapid march and contrary to her expectation she made the journey as the day before. The same Indian who had interceded for her in council the previous evening again prevailed in suspending a decision until the next evening.

The third day passed off in the same manner until late in the afternoon, when within a few hundred yards of the Ohio River, her foot slipped in a small hole in the ground and being unable to extricate herself, she quietly sat down to await her fate, which she believed would be immediate death. Her ill disposed master, with a slight kick and surly voice, ordered her to march; she shook her head signifying she could not. He immediately drew his tomahawk from his scabbard and raised it over his heard for the purpose of dispatching his victim at a single blow, but his more humane brother, who was immediately behind him, caught it in his hand as he drew it back and commenced a conversation in an earnest tone of remonstrance with which Mrs. Polk though continued two or three minutes before he let go of the tomahawk which (rest of line torn off) had crossed the river in their advances and concealed a short distance up the Kentucky River, above its junction with the Ohio. He assisted her on board and observing her feet and legs much swelled, he took his knife and ripped open her moccasins, which they had given her to put on at the commencement of the journey and which, on account of the swelling, could not be gotten off in any other way. On taking them off, her toe nail came off with a large portion of the skin on the bottom of her feet, which appeared to excite the sympathy of the Indians in the canoe; he then directed her to bathe her feet by pouring water on them while crossing. Having crossed over, he assisted her up the bank and brought her child and blanket to her; hen went and brought some oil, or rather marrow procured from the bones of the buffaloes which a few Indians, who had been left to hunt and take care of the canoes had procured and directed her to rub her feet with the marrow. He then handed her a large, soft pair of moccasins to put on after which he said she could sleep and would be better in the morning. From her pain and sufferings, she had but little hopes of living to see the morning light; but to satisfy the kind Indian who appeared to take such an interest in preserving her life, she did as he directed and contrary to her expectations the remedies applied so far relieved her that for the first night during her captivity she slept soundly and was so far relieved that I have many years afterward often heard her declare that the whole scene of that afternoon and night still appeared to her a most extra ordinary and miraculous interposition of Divine goodness for her preservation. (Part of this line torn off) another council to decide on her fate, believing that she could not live to travel to their villages. At this council and elderly Indian who had not before interfered was the first to object, saying she had lived and traveled so far that he believed the Great Spirit would not permit them to kill her and if they attempted it he would be angry with them and they could not prosper; being joined by others, his advise prevailed and from this time they gave over all thought of killing her under any circumstances. This day being the fourth of their captivity, they traveled but a few miles, before they arrived at a camp, where a few old men had remained to hunt during their absence on their war excursion, where thy remained the balance of the day and here were the horses which has been named to Mrs. Polk as an ecouragement for her to pursue the journey. From this point, the next morning, being the fourth of Septemberm, the Indians separated into small bands for the convenience of hunting for their support on their journey, Mrs. Polk and her two youngest children being attached to one band and her two eldest belonging to another, they were separated, much to the grief of the afflicted mother.

The party with Mrs. Polk proceeded to their villages on the Auglaise River, where they arrived on the 10th of Spetember, where after remaining four days, they started for Detroit with their prisoners, retaining her youngest daughter, as they informed her, to raise as one of their own squaws, which much increased her grief. At the rapids of the Miami or Roche De Bout, as it was called, they rested one day. Here was a trader from Detroit who had been acquainted with Capt. Polk previous to the commence (rest of the line torn) the Indians related the result of their council in determining on Mrs. Polk's case, who informed her thereof and pointed out to her the Indian who eloquently pleaded in her behalf at the last council. While waiting here, the Indians came up with Mrs. Polk's son, having disposed of her daughter to the Shawnees at one of their villages in the vicinity of Piqua, on the Great Miami, she having been taken sick and as they said, they were afraid she would die on the journey and they would get nothing for her. From here they proceeded to Detroit where they arrived about the 25th of September and gave up suck prisoners as they brought with them to Co. De Peyster, the Commander of the British forces at that point, who treated them with the kindest of attention and humanity. A comfortable house was provided for Mrs. Polk and her two children, in common with a small and excellent family of prisoners, who had been taken by Co. Bird in his celebrated expedition against Riddles & Martin Station in Kentucky, in the year 1780, where she lived as comfortable as the nature of the case would permit; but the situation of her two children left with the Indians, her anxiety on their account and her sufferings and exposure on the journey had much impaired her health, so that fears were entertained for her life. For a short time after her arrival, on the 27th of October, as before stated, her second son was born, after which her attention to her infant so engrossed her mind, together with the assurance of Col. DePeyster, the commander and Col. McKee, the Superintendent of the Indian Department, that they would procure the release of her children from the Indians, she became more reconciled to her situation and her health improved. By industry and economy with the use of her needle, she was supplied with provisions by the British Government. She lived much more comfortable during the winter than could have been anticipated. Early in the spring messengers were dispatched to he Indian Country by Colonels De Peyster and McKey in search of her children and such others of the prisoners as the Indians had retained and on the 1st of July she had the pleasure of receiving her children under her own maternal care, where we will leave them in the full enjoyment of their happiness for the present and return to Capt.Polk.
No immediate pursuit of the Indians havging been attempted, fearing it would lead to a massacre of the prisoners, Capt. Polk, with a few friends about ten days afterwards, followed on the trails with a view of ascertaining, if practicable, the fate of the prisoners. He found the remains of three children and Mrs. Ash, who were the only prisoners murdered after they left the fort. From the decayed teeth, he was able satisfactorily to ascertain that it was not Mrs. Polk who had been murdered.

General Clark having determined on a campaign against the Shawnee villages on the Great Miami, Capt. Polk was among the first to approve of the measure and he commanded a company in that expedition.

The Indians having discovered the advance of Gen. Clark's army, a few miles from their villages, fled without making any resistance, so that but few were either killed or taken prisoners. (first word torn off) were sent in pursuit to destroy the different villages and their corn and vegetables being the onlymethod whereby they could be made to feel the distress of war. Capt. Polk took an active part in these excursions, in hopes of recovering some of his family, but was disappointed; a few prisoners were taken and their villages destroyed. In one of thses excursions Co. Mc Kee, the Superintendent of the Indian Department, narrowlyescaped being captured, as he afterwards informed Capt. Polk when at Detroit after his family.

On the return of Gen. Clark to his headquarters at Louisville, Kentucky, he was advised there were strong hopes during the winter of pearce being confirmed. He immediately dispatched a messenger with a flag., accompanied by one of his Indian prisoners, and a letter to Col. McKee, proposing an exchange of prisoners, first of all to release

MCCoy Genealgoy