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The Life of Jeremiah Johnston: Part IX

Missionary, traveler, and newspaper reporter Mr. Rodgers tried fishing in the early afternoon of July 19, 1898 from the shore of The Rainy River with poor results, first he heard thunder in the distance coupled with swaths of mosquitoes and he retreated to his residence. In the evening, a tremendous storm of wind and rain swept across the Rainy River and he later helped Jeremiah’s wife and children split wood. Mrs. Johnston told him about Kitty. It was a time when Jeremiah had left for a distant mission, a woman who had been baptized was persuaded by her husband to renounce Christianity and go through the medicine tent. Mrs. Johnston heard this and was very much disappointed as “Kitty” had seemed a good Christian girl, as she passed her tent, she heard a pitiful scream and “Ay-ah Ay-ah” and could not resist going in to see her. Kitty begged of Mrs. Johnston to hold her hand which she did, stroking it and singing several hymns in Ojibwa. They prayed together and Kitty prayed “Oh God come and take me.” Mrs. Johnston had to leave, but she promised to come again in the morning and Kitty said, “Kiss me before you go,” which she did. She judged that the girl did not expect to live until morning, that same evening she heard two shots, she expected they signified that Kitty was dead. When she got there, she found that though the body was not cold she was painted and fastened up in a blanket in a sitting posture for a heathen burial. Mrs. Johnston turned to Kitty’s father and asked, “What does this mean?” Kitty was one of the Christian Girls and she could not have her buried like a heathen, “Do as you like” the old man said, so Mrs. Johnston went home and got some clothes and asked some Indians to make a coffin and then went back and washed the Indian girl and laid her out. She sat watch by her the rest of the night with only the old Indian in the house, for none of the rest would come near. The next day she had them gather and sing a hymn and had a prayer in the house, at the grave she asked a Christian Indian to offer up a prayer.

Mr. Rodgers was a photographer, Mrs. Johnston wanted a picture of her and her son Samuel, he tried without the success he wanted, he tried one then another and yet another, he felt the last one was a failure as he did not hear the click of the shutter, they did not mind, in the end it pleased them. Later, Mr. Rodgers felt that as the air was clear and the beautiful fleecy clouds were rolling across the sky he should take the last two pictures he had available, so he took one of the Church with Mrs. Johnston standing near-by. Afterwards he went with Jeremiah to take a picture of the three graves of “grandfather’s” grandchildren, on the way they saw old “grandmother” who was very opposed to Christianity sitting outside her house, when they asked her if she would come and sit by the graves on a chair she refused, remarking in reply to their promise to send her a copy she said, “If I thought I could get something to eat out of that picture every time I looked at I might come.” He had Jeremiah sit on the chair instead, all the women disappeared into their houses.

Mr. Rodgers tried fishing again, the water looked most beautiful glistening in the rays of the afternoon sun. He caught one walleye and while he was there two Indians paddled upstream in their birch bark canoe and came to rest under the shelter of the point where he was standing, so close that he could touch the canoe. He greeted them “Bon Jour” and then the Indians talked, and he shook his head, he pointed to the rapid water and asked them if there were fish there. They said yes and after resting they shot out into the stream their canoe caught on the current and carried them rapidly downward, but they paddled hard and made the shelter of the other shore. He thought that spending time in such a resting spot was a picture of seasons of prayer on Sundays.


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