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A Curious Letter, Part Three

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Marker On Tombstone

Nearly ten years passed as Magdalena and Christian rebuilt their burned house and continued farming the land. Hunters in the hills of Catawissa had found the body of a child . It was Barbara.


In 1764, Christian was driving his mother in a cart today Harris' Ferry on the Susquehanna. The road was packed with men and women in carts, on horseback and other on foot. A great crowd had assembled at the ferry, causing a long delay in crossing the river. Everyone was talking about the same thing and asking similar questions, like "will we find her?" and "I wonder if she will be there?" On the banks of the river many knelt in prayer as they waited their turn to make their crossing. All were headed for Carlisle.

Captives being returned to Colonel Bouquet in Nov. 1764

It was said that several thousands visited Carlisle during those days where the great Colonel Bouquet was stationed with 400 women who had been released by the Indians. The French and Indian War was over. The French had been defeated and the terms of peace demanded the return of any captives. Advertisements were placed in newspapers through the country, urging relatives to visit Carlisle to identify wives, mothers or daughters.


Beyond the site where Harrisburg now stands, a long line of wagons and riders pushed down the Cumberland Valley towards the town in the hope of finding a lost loved one. The former captives were gathered in the town square. All were dressed in the garb of Native Americans. Old and young, many not speaking a word of English, stood, somewhat fearful, as the crowd gazed, eagerly scanning the faces. Many of the visitors left in tears, their journey a failure. Occasionally a joyful cry told that recognition had been made; again a sigh betokened error.


On 31 December 1764, Magdalena walked among the crowd. On her face was written fear; feat that her journey had been made in vain, yet still clinging to hope. "No, that is not Regina!" she often repeated. She glanced ahead along the line of captives. There were only a few more to be seen. Magdalena swallowed hard. A quick glance told her that her daughter was not there. She continued to peer into the remaining faces. No, her child was either still somewhere in the wilderness or had met the same fate as Barbara. Then the tears began to flow.

Colonel Henry Bouquet (1719-1765)

"Madam, may I be of assistance?" The speaker was Colonel Bouquet. He placed a hand kindly on the woman's arm.


"No, thank you, sir," she replied. "I lost two girls ten years ago and, although I know one died, I had hoped to find the other here. I have examined all the captives. I don't know any and none know me."


A crowd had gathered to listen. Some of the captives came closer. In the distance a band was playing and the sun was going down.


"But, Madam," said Colonel Bouquet, "is there nothing you can identify the girl by-no birthmarks, no peculiarity of person?"



"No," and in that word, the sorrow of the last ten years seemed to burst forth.


"Nothing you can remember her by or nothing you can make her remember?" he asked. "Remember, scarcely any of these captives now speak English-they have forgotten our language."


Magdalena did not answer for a moment. A vision of their home in the forest, of John and the children came to her. She saw the old fireplace and, perhaps something in the band's playing, brought to mind the hymns they used to sing.


"But, Sir-" and she paused. "I used to sing old German hymns to the children."


"Well, why not sing some of them?"


"I no long can sing, Sir."


"Why not try?"


The crowd became tired of all this and moved away. Someone screamed and a woman fainted a she recognized a sister. Magdalena coughed. Then in the Carlisle square broke out a feeble voice. Then it stopped.


"Oh! I can't sing, I can't."


"Go on, please try," said the Colonel.


Her hands clenched. Now, unmindful of those around her and not looking at the captives but at the setting sun, Magdalena sang: "Allein, und doch nicht ganz allein, bin ich." As she sang, a young woman among the captives grasped the arm of a friend and whispered in her ear. Then she moved closer to the singer. She looked eagerly into the woman's face, then she drew back. The Colonel saw her.


"Again, Madam, again," he said.


And again came the words, "Allein, und doch-"but she did not finish. The young woman rushed forward and grasped Magdalena, shouting in an Indian tongue that only the fellow captives understood.


"It's her mother," called out a woman who understood.


Magdalena had seen the young woman before, but had not recognized her. Now she held her daughter's face between her hands and pulled her close.


"Regina!"


An interpreter was summoned. It was Regina! She alone remembered "Allein, und doch-" and that meant Mother. In the Indian tongue Regina told her story. Yes, she remembered the massacre and the terrible days marching through the forests. A little captive child had been strapped to Barbara's back, but the burden was too great. Where the Indians left Barbara to die, she did not know. And now Regina's name was Sawquehanna, the white lily. Not a word of English or German did she remember. She had lived for years with an old woman named Shelackla. A son, Knoloska, was worthless warrior who repeatedly left the women so little Sawquehanna did all the work and hunted for their food. When released, she was with the Indians in what is now Ohio. Then, everything had changed and she did not understand it.


The trip home was a happy, yet sad one. Mother and brother could only motion to her and her Indian words were meaningless to them. Gradually the smiles returned and after weeks of weary travel, they reached their home. Regina stood atop the hill and gazed into the valley. "Washock, washock!" she cried, pointing to the great green tree. To her, that was home.


Of the later life of Regina, little is known. A German preacher assisted in teaching her English and German and returning her to the faith of her family. In Christ Lutheran cemetery at Stouchsburg, PA, Regina and Magdalena now sleep side by side, thus concluding the tale that had begun with a curious letter from Frederick Schoener.




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