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this is a book about the turn of the 20th century, an Irishman and a Native American girl.
word count: 2196|
By: Lisa Ann Noe
Everyone has stories in their family that have been passed down from generation to generation; A story of a war hero, a criminal, or the well-loved great grandfather with the quirky since of humor. The tale I share with you here is a tale of love, courage, faith, strength and prejudice. It is a story of a family overcoming, even rising above the circumstances of their oppression.
It began in a small Virginia town about four generations ago. When a young Irishman first met and fell in love with an Indian maiden.
Matthew McCormick, who was 19 years of age at the time, lived and worked on his family’s old Virginia farm. He was the youngest of seven children, and the last remaining child on the farm, therefore; he had a large amount of work to keep him busy. He had live stock to feed, gardens to till and harvest as well as odd jobs. The only spare time he had was on Sunday afternoon after church. He spent this time riding his horse through the mountains. On one such day, Mathew stopped along side a stream of water to rest, and he noticed that he was being watched by a young girl, who was hiding behind a tree. Matthew was intrigued and somewhat taken with the girl, who he thought, was quite striking in appearance. He found her mysterious, with long black hair, olive skin and big brown eyes. She reminded him of a forget-me-not flower, because he would never forget her. Matthew called to the girl, whose name was Sunshine, and he introduced himself. Sunshine however was fearful, and unsure of how to react to him. She was curious and clearly interested, but her fear of the white man was to strong and kept her from joining him by the stream.
Sunshine was an American Indian from the Cherokee tribe, who had located to Virginia with her parents and others from the tribe. In those days, it was not taken lightly for Indians to associate with whites. Indians were considered by many whites to be no more than savages, the prejudices they faced in that time were great. On the day of their first meeting, Sunshine never did meet Matthew by the stream. It would take Matthew many visits to win her trust. Yet each Sunday she would be waiting near the tree and she would listen to him talk from a distance.
Eventually the two did get together, they spent each Sunday walking through the mountains and talking. Matthew knew that he had fallen in love with Sunshine; but he also knew that this was a forbidden love, and if he would loose his family, his reputation, an he would be inviting hatred into his and Sunshine’s lives. Regardless of the concerns they were faced with, Matthew did profess his love and asked Sunshine to become his wife. Sunshine reluctantly agreed to marriage, she loved Matthew with all of her heart, but she did not want to become a burden for him. She felt responsible for his family abandoning him Matthew felt that Sunshine was worth any price and he would gladly sacrifice all to have her for his wife just as expected, Matthew’s family and his community abandoned them. Sunshine’s tribe and family took them in and welcomed the Couple to be joined in marriage in their community and invited them to seek refuge among the Indians.
Within a year of their marriage, the couple had their first child. For Matthew, this new way of life was strange; many things were different for him. Matthew had always lived with all of the luxuries of the time; one may take for granted. Such as, nearby well water, wood burning stoves for cooking and heating, and being able to purchase a large variety of supplies at the town market. Now, however he found no privacy from the other tribal families, he also did not have access to the modern equipment and carry it for cooking or bathing. The differences in the lifestyle and the culture were far more than he could deal with, he wanted more for his family. He wanted his children to have the opportunity to go to school; in his mind he deserved the same chances every one else had. Matthew felt that all men are equal and that his son deserved the same chances he had as a young boy. About two years after their marriage Matthew took his wife and their child out of the village. They rode in a horse and wagon for two days before reaching a town called Seymour Virginia. Once in Seymour the couple found it impossible to find lodging, when the people found out Sunshine was an Indian, they would not tolerate her being on the property. Matthew and Sunshine took their son and went up into the mountain outside of town and they built themselves a log house and planted a garden.
Matthew was able to do odd jobs in a nearby town, but it kept him gone from home a lot. Sunshine tended the garden and was able to make woven baskets and carved art works for Matthew to sale. The people of Seymour gave them both a hard time. For example, when sunshine gave birth to her next three children, there was no midwife nor doctor to assist her, she was on her own, she and Matthew. The hunters or perhaps vandals killed their live stock regularly and trampled their fields and crops, on occasion rocks would crash through the windows late at night. Matthew was also taken advantage of at work, In that, he would be given the hardest jobs and paid only a fraction of what the other employees received.
Probably the worst humiliation for Sunshine was the fact that storekeepers refused to allow her to enter their businesses. She was always forced to remain in the wagon while Matthew bought their supplies. It was on one of these shopping trips that this couple was tried.
It was a normal shopping trip in the beginning, Matthew pulled his wagon to the front of the general store and entered the business to retrieve his supplies. Sunshine remained with her three children and her infant daughter in the wagon. It was not two minutes since Matthew entered the store, when two men approached the wagon and began taunting Sunshine and one of theme grabbed at her. Sunshine pleaded with the men, so they would not harm the children, but one of the men tried to rip her infant from her arms; At that moment her oldest son came from the back of the covered wagon and retrieved the infant and placed it in the back with the rest of the children. This only made the men worst. They pulled Sunshine from the wagon by her hair and slammed her to the ground. They kicked her and spat on her, they were brutally attacking this young woman and no one stopped to help her. Unknown to the men, Sunshine’s oldest son had sneaked from behind the wagon to fetch his father from the store.
Matthew ran quickly from the store and immediately began fighting with the two me. They ganged up on Matthew, each taking time about holding him while the other beat him. They beat Matthew badly; he could hardly stand, yet they were clearly not going to stop until he was dead. Matthew drew a knife from his belt and stabbed one of the men. By that time the sheriff arrived on the scene and arrested Matthew for attempted murder, even though the incident was self-defense. The police would not listen and they Didn’t care, so they took Matthew to jail.
That night as Sunshine and her children were sleeping, someone set fire to their crops and their home. Sunshine awoke to a smoke filled house and immediately began running around to find her children. The three oldest children assembled themselves and escaped from the upstairs loft, by climbing from a window and down a nearby tree to safety. Sunshine had to get herself and her two-week-old daughter to the top floor of the loft; however, as she began to climb the stairs they collapsed, causing her to fall upon the infant, killing it.
Beams from the staircase and surrounding walls fell across her legs, trapping her and knocking her unconscious. When the children realized their mother was trapped under the burning rubble, the two older children climbed through a broken window and were able to free her from the burning cabin. She was seriously injured and her hair was melted from the fire and her legs had been crushed and deeply burned. Her oldest son too the wagon and went to Seymour to see his father at the jail to inform him of what had occurred. When Matthew heard of all that had happened he became enraged and threatened the sheriff, telling him he would create a war in Seymour in which he would bring every red man through out the mountain upon them
To do battle. If he didn’t let him go to his family. The Sheriff agreed to release Matthew if he promise to take his family far from Seymour and never return. Matthew agreed.When Matthew arrived at the cabin site he felt a lump in I his throat; the whole place had been destroyed. The body of his infant was wrapped tightly in a charred dirty cloth and his once beautiful wife was lying scorched and half dead. Matthew knew there was little he could do for her, the one idea he had was to return to her tribe, he thought they would surely help. Matthew buried his daughter under a cherry blossom tree in the woods and he took Sunshine and the remaining three children and headed towards the great mountains of Virginia in which the Cherokee tribe dwelt in that day. It took nearly two days to reach the Indian people and Sunshine’s condition was getting worse each moment.
The Cherokee were thrilled when they saw the wagon coming into the camp, the people rejoiced at seeing a distant brother and sister. Matthew jumped from the wagon quickly and asked for Hawk, who was a medicine man. “Hawk, Sunshine is dying you must help her,” Matthew pleaded
Hawk was also a blood relative of Sunshine.He took her to his tent and began chanting and gathering herbs; he sent the women of the tribe to clean and bathe Sunshine and he then shaved her head, to remove her melted hair, he also used oils, but poor Sunshine was badly injured. Her legs were both crushed and the burns were so extensive, they had become gangrene and her entire body was filled with the infection from her legs. Hawk told Matthew the only way to save her life would be to amputate both legs, which was done that evning by the medicine man.
It was months before she would begin to improve and never would she be able to get over the loss of her daughter, which had died in her arms. Matthew and his family remained at the Indian Mountain for the next three years, until Sunshine was ale to travel and re-learn to do things in a comfortable way.
Matthew decided the family needed a fresh new start, so they chose to leave the state of Virginia and venture into the eastern mountains of Kentucky. They found themselves a location called troublesome, which Matthew thought was ironic, since their life together had been so full of troubles. This was a town at that time that offered work in the coal mines for any man who would work, therefore he was able to find good steady work as a coal miner. He also noticed the people found nothing wrong with he and Sunshine, they barely even noticed or at least they never spoke of it.
Sunshine was well liked and accepted by the people. She and Matthew even adopted an orphan child, who was mentally retarded; Sunshine wanted to make sure the girl was well cared for and well loved. The couple always spoke of peace and forgiveness; and taught all of their children to rise above racism and to further their knowledge of other cultures. They always felt that hate was brought about by fear, therefore, she taught her family to seek knowledge from those things they didn’t know. It was her opinion that through understanding came acceptance and through fear came hate.
Throughout the lifetime of this couple they never gave up on humanity; for all the hideous abuses they were exposed to and the life altering conflicts they faced these people never, turned away the stranger in need nor did they hide themselves in shame. They were born two people in this world with an idea of acceptance and love. This is the legacy they left to there children, who left it to the next generation, who left it to the next, who will heir it to the future as their number begins to grow.
#1. A Legacy
ID #756649 entered on July 14, 2012 at 8:17am