Stories with Granny: “The Indian Scare”

When I was last at my Granny’s house she showed me a booklet she had recently obtained about the history of Lannon, Wisconsin, the town where she grew up. As I looked though it, Granny guided me toward pictures of her and articles about her dad and she mentioned that she was surprised that there was nothing about the “Indian Scare” in it.  Well, that was a story I wanted to hear and after she told it to me I thought I might not be the only one who wanted to hear this almost forgotten piece of Lannon history.  So, she told it to me one more time as I typed it up to share.

When I was about eight years old I would sit on my Great Aunt Delia’s lap and beg her to tell me the story of the “Indian Scare”. It went like this:

My great grandfather Heman came to the Wisconsin territory in 1844 ( Wisconsin didn’t become a state until 1848).  He and his wife Sarah had four children John, Demerit (where did they get that one?) Amelia and Adelia. Delia was the youngest of the four and they all lived in a log cabin just East of what is now the village of Lannon.

One day Heman, Sarah and the boys went to Uncle Hiram’s, which was though the woods, to help them with their harvest. They left the two girls at home with a list of chores to be done before they were to join them at Uncle Hiram’s. This included sweeping the floor, setting the cheese and generally tidying up the cabin. Before they finished their jobs a man came riding along and stopped at the door and told them that they better run away someplace and hide because the Indians were coming. It seemed that a couple of men from Milwaukee had devised a scheme to get all the settlers to run away from their homes to avoid the (non-existent) Indians.

After the man rode on to “warn” other settlers, Delia was ready to go through the woods to Uncle Hiram’s in a hurry. Melia said no, they had to finished their jobs. Which they did. Delia was frightened all the time and knew the Indians were going to come and when they did they would eat all the cheese! Finally Melia said it was time to leave and they headed off through the woods. But Melia kept stopping every once in a while and breaking off grapevines. She threaded these grapevine pieces through the hem of her long skirt with the intention of making a hoop skirt for herself. Delia was very frightened and she knew there was an Indian hiding behind every tree in the woods. But eventually Melia finished her hoop skirt and they both got safely to Uncle Hiram’s.

Later on they found out that the whole Indian scare was a hoax perpetrated by some jokers in Milwaukee, though a lot of the settlers that were warned did pack up their belongs and headed further West to what is now Merton.

When I think about those men scaring the settlers for fun I’m incredulous that people could be so callus but I can’t help but get the giggles when I picture the two sisters headed though the woods, one jumping at every noise and the other improving the fashion of her dress as she walked along!

4 comments on “Stories with Granny: “The Indian Scare”

  1. Uncle Weasel says:

    I still chuckle when I think of the Indians coming to steal the cheese!

  2. Widdershins says:

    Good on you for recording this. Those oral history stories need to be around for the next generation, and the next, and the next. 🙂

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