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(pioneer icon) 1924


EVERY work partaking of the nature of an autobiography, is supposed to demand an apology to the public. To refuse such a tribute, would be to recognize the justice of the charge, so often brought against our countrymen -- of a too great willingness to be made acquainted with the domestic history and private affairs of their neighbors.

It is, doubtless, to refute this calumny that we find travellers, for the most part, modestly offering some such form of explanation as this, to the reader: "That the matter laid before him was, in the first place, simply letters to friends, never designed to be submitted to other eyes, and only brought forward now at the solicitation of wiser judges than the author himself."

No such plea can, in the present instance, be offered. The record of events in which the writer had herself no share, was preserved in compliance with the suggestion of a revered relative, whose name often appears in the following pages. "My child," she would say, "write these things down, as I tell them to you. Hereafter our children, and even strangers will feel interested in hearing the story of our early lives and sufferings." And it is a matter of no small regret and self-reproach, that much, very much, thus narrated was, through negligence, or a spirit of procrastination, suffered to pass unrecorded.

With regard to the pictures of domestic life and experience (preserved, as will be seen in journals, letters, and otherwise), it is true their publication might have been deferred until the writer had passed away from the scene of action; and such, it was supposed, would have been their lot -- that they would only have been dragged for thereafter, to show to a succeeding generation, what "The Early Day," of our Western homes had been. It never entered the anticipations of the most sanguine that the march of improvement and prosperity would, in less than a quarter of a century, have so obliterated the traces of "the first beginning," that a vast and intelligent multitude would be crying out for information in regard to the early settlement of this portion of our country, which so few are left to furnish.

An opinion has been expressed, that a comparison of the present times with those that are past, would enable our young people, emigrating from their luxurious homes at "the East," to bear, in a spirit of patience and contentment, the slight privations and hardships they are at this day called to meet with. If in one instance, this should be the case, the writer may well feel hap py [sic] to have incurred even the charge of egotism, in giving thus much of her own history.

It may be objected that all that is strictly personal, might have been more modestly put forth under the name of a third person; or that the events themselves and the scenes might have been described, while those participating in them might have been kept more in the back-ground. In the first case, the narrative would have lost its air of truth and reality -- in the second, the experiment would merely have been tried of dressing up a theatre for representation, and omitting the actors.

Some who read the following sketches, may be inclined to believe that a residence among our native brethren and an attachment growing out of our peculiar relation to them, have exaggerated our sympathies, and our sense of the wrongs they have received at the hands of the whites. This is not the place to discuss that point. There is a tribunal at which man shall be judged, for that which he has meted out to his fellow-man.

May our countrymen take heed that their legislation shall never unfit them to appear "with joy, and not with grief" before that tribunal!

CHICAGO, July, 1855.

Mrs. John H. Kenzie, Wau-Bun, the "Early Day" in the Northwest. Chicago : D. B. Cooke & Co., 1857. p. v-vii.
From the Memorial Library Department of Special Collections, University of Wisconsin-Madison.