Слике страница

various points on the Red River, and finally came to Spring Bayou and Old River, their last abodes.

We trace the course of their wanderings by huge earth mounds which they left here and their in their train. These mounds were of two sorts, domiciliary and mortuary. As the words imply, mounds of the former type were those upon which the Indians built their cabins so as to insure their safety froin the annual floods; and the mounds of the latter type were built for burial purposes. The mound near Old River, about a mile south of Marksville, is of the mortuary type, while the one a few yards away is of the domiciliary.

At certain intervals these Indians gathered the bones of their dead and placed them in one huge mound. The Indians held the remains of the dead in great reverence and accompanied these burials with pomp and ceremony. With the bones were placed certain relics, such as arrow heads, earthen pots, beads and the like.

There is one mound of this interesting chain which deserves particular attention. It is the one situated about a mile from the mouth of Bayou L'Eau Noire, in the woods, but now crossed by a levee. This mound, about square, faces the cardinal points of the compass, obviously showing that the savages must have had some knowledge of astronomy.

To-day this great tribe is completely extinct, and as far back as 1805 its last remnant was two or three women living among the French. The Indians living near Marksville are not Avoyelles stock, but are descendants of the Tunicas.

The name "Tunica” signifies "Men” or “People.” De Soto encountered them in Northeastern Louisiana at a salt lick on the Quachita. Marquette met them in 1676 on the Yazoo, where they had several small villages. In his famous voyage of 1682, La Salle did not visit them, because of their enmity with the Arkansas. Tonti only makes mention of them. During the hunting season Joutel encountered their camp in Northeastern Louisiana.

The first white men to meet them on the Yazoo were two missionary priests from Canada. These priests converted many of them, baptizing several dying children and the chief. One of these priests was Father Davion. He had great influence

among these Indians. On one occasion his great zeal prompted him to demolish the idols of one of the Tunica temples. The Indians sought his life, but the chief shielded him from harm.

Some time later they captured an English trader, who, upon escaping, assembled the Alabamas, Carolinas and Chickasaws to war against them. Feeling that they were not strong enough to resist the attack, in October of 1706, they migrated to the mouth. of the Red. Father Davion's mission was moved along with the tribe. This good old man was a power among the Indians in advancing the teachings of the Catholic Church. He was a pioneer, too, in the spreading of education. The Indians reposed in him complete confidence and looked upon him as their guardian.

In 1714 St. Denis passed through their village and persuaded the Tunica chief to accompany him on an expedition through Texas. During the Natchez war Penicaut and many refugees found an asylum in the Tunica village. It was at this time the Tunicas offered their services to Bienville, but he declined them because of the prevalent rumor that they had offered rewards to certain warriors for his scalp.

La Harpe met the Tunicas in 1719, and states that Father Davion had completely induced them to abandon their idolatry, In 1721, Father Charlevoix, the historian of New France, visited them. He stated that the chief prided himself on wearing French apparel. Father Charlevoix further states that the chief's cabin was exquisitely adorned and that his wealth was great.

When the Capuchin Fathers came over to Louisiana, Father Davion returned to France, where he died soon after. Passing through their village in 1727, the missionary, Poisson, told the Tunicas of Father Davion's death. They mourned his death, and the chief “seemed to wish for a missionary." But Poisson remarks that the chief bore no mark of being a Christian, except the name, a medal and a rosary.

In 1723 the Tunicas accompanied Bienville on his second expedition against the Natchez, and their chief was severely wounded. When the great Natchez war broke out in 1729 they again aided the French, and were of considerable assistance as scouts. Their chief took an active, prominent part in this campaign. But he crossed his Rubicon in so doing, for the Natchez

proved to be an inexorable foe. After their war with the French, the Natchez engaged the Tunicas in battle and almost annihilated them. Among the first to fall was the Tunica chief.

In March of the year 1764, in company with the Avoyelles, they pounced upon some English pirogues under the command of Morgan, and killed six Britishers, wounding several. The refusal of the English to surrender a slave who fled from them aroused them to this attack.

Some time between the Revolutionary War and the annexation of Louisiana to the United States, occurred their final migration to the great Marksville prairie. The cause of this movement is unknown. Here they obtained a grant of land, where a few families are still to be found, among them the old Valsine Chiki, considered to be the chief of the Tunica remnant.

The arts, crafts and daily life of the Tunica were very similar to those of the great Natchez. Their houses consisted of a framework of slender poles covered with palmetto leaves, corn husks and grass. Gravier tells us that their manner of dress resembled that of the Natchez. The women were deft at spinning a kind of cloth which they called mulberry cloth. In diet they were vegetarians, their chief foods being squash, wild fruits and roots.

Like all other tribes ,they had a temple dedicated to the Great Spirit. It stood upon a mound, where spirits were thought to dwell. The Tunicas were sun-worshippers, and among their household gods were symbols of the sun. Among their religious traditions is an account of a great flood, of which they were warned by the Great Spirit.

The Tunicas observed several annual feasts, their chief feast occurring at “roasting-ear time." In observing this feast, corn was roasted and placed in pots at the head of the graves in their cemetery. This act was repeated on four consecutive days, on the last of which the Indians fasted until noon, when they assembled at the home of the medicine man or priest. This medicine man, who was keeper of the cemetery, harangued the assembly with a speech, after which he sat them down to a feast. At the feast he regaled them with the deeds of heroism of their ancestors. The feast over, the Indians gathered in a ring to witness the war dance. Until a score or more of years ago the Tunicas continued to hold these war dances, which were attended by the citi. zens of Marksville and the surrounding country. But all these

things have become history. The Tunicas themselves are fast becoming extinct, and the tribe will soon be no more. The great tale of a passing race is written on the faces of the remaining half-breeds now living near Marksville.

With the passing of the Avoyelles a new race of men came to inhabit their land. This race came in due time to make the prairie blossom as the rose. It was a sturdy race which brought with it civilization. Following its advent great changes are taking place. The few Tuncas that remain are becoming civilized. The warwhoop is heard no more, for the hatchet has long been buried.

The aspect of this country has greatly changed. Men with coonskin caps and bearskin suits are seen chasing the deer where once the crafty red man followed the bison and bear. The wigwams are seen no more, and in their stead are the log cabins of the first settlers scattered here and there over the prairie, each with a few rows of corn surrounding it. These wide borders are fast becoming populous. A village springs up and the wilderness recedes.

It is the Caucasian who has come. He has brought civilization into the land of the Avoyelles.

This great move was begun in 1809 by a sturdy French pioneeer from Pointe Coupee. He was a trader and planter, and owned a considerable tract of land in the great prairie of Avoyelles, part of which bordered the Red.

This was Marc Elishe. In 1809 he set out in a covered wagon with a few slaves to settle this country. A certain scout by the name of Rabelais accompanied him on this journey.

In these days such a journey was a perilous adventure. So these staunch pioneers braved its dangers, and in so doing they made history.

After an uneventful journey the settlers reached the Tunica village of Coulee des Grues, where the chief met them with the pipe of peace. Marc Elishe, being eager to push forward, was not long in resuming his journey toward Red River.

In the colonization period, when the railroad was unknown, cities and towns were built on rivers or at crossroads. This facilitated trade and transportation. It was the intention of Marc Elishe to locate on the Red. Such a location would advance trade and render a steady market for his farm products. At this time the Red was plied by the flatboat and paddle-wheel scows. Under such favorable conditions he could also establish a trading post and slave market.

But, according to tradition, fate had somewhat to do in selecting the site for the town of Marksville.

It so happened when this little band of pioneers reached the site of our Courthouse Square, the mishap of a broken wagon wheel befell them. Being unable to repair the wheel, they were hindered from journeying further. Moreover, the friendly attitude of the Tunicas and the fertile prairie lands readily induced them to settle here. The wagon was converted into a store and trading post, about which was built the town.

After Marc Elishe blazed the trail, other settlers began to move in. It did not take long for this obscure trading post to grow into a village. This shambling settlement was not laid out according to plans or map. It just grew by itself, after its own way, like an ungoverned child. These first settlers did not even mark out thoroughfares. To them it was easier to follow the winding cowpaths. This accounts for the meandering course the Marksville pedestrian sometimes finds himself describing.

Although little is known of Marc Elishe, we know that he was the godfather of Albert Gallatin Morrow. It was to the latter he bequeathed a certain tract of land which comprised the site of the Courthouse Square and the estate of G. L. Mayer. This bequest was made with the express proviso that Mr. Morrow was not to sell or dispose of this property in any way except for the education of his children. Beyond this nothing else is known of Marc Elishe, and he flits into the past like a shadow. Even tradition is silent concerning his later life, and the date of his death and place of burial are matters of conjecture. Indeed, that entire period of our history, ranging from the coming of Marc Elishe against the end of the first half-century, is a total blank and may well be called our dark age.

Following the resignation of Judah P. Benjamin from the United States Senate, the old Pelican State seceded. The Spirit of '61 had thrilled the South.

Louisiana was a power in the Confederacy, and the town of Marksville did its part. Our men and boys responded to the

« ПретходнаНастави »