FANNY WIGGINS KELLY
The story of Fanny Kelly’s capture and captivity sounds like a modern day fictional account, however the principal events in her narrative actually occurred.
With the assurance of army at Fort Laramie that they would not experience any trouble from Indians, Fanny, a bride of nine months at the age of 19 and her five year old adopted daughter Mary, along with a handful of other emigrants- set out in July of 1864. Eighty miles west of the Fort the party was surprised by a band of 250 Oglala Sioux. Fanny’s husband escaped the attract as he was off chopping wood. the other three men were killed on the spot and Fanny, little Mary were taken captive along with Sarah Larimer, and her eight year old son.
In her written account of her ordeal Fanny wrote, “Many people earnestly assured me that they would have killed their-selves rather than be taken captive to Lord knows what fate.” Her reply was, “But it is only those who have looked over the dark abyss of death, Who know how the soul shrinks from meeting the unknown future.” Experience had taught her that, While hope offers the faintest token or refuge, we pause upon the fearful brink of eternity, and look back for rescue.” (seems like Fanny had a ear for words).
Fanny Kelly had a unique blend of courage and shrewdness, to substain her. But it seemed she was headed for martyrdom rather than survival. The Sioux raided the wagons smashing all they did not want Sarah Larimer screamed and howled as the Indians smashed her daguerreotype equipment. she had planned to earn money in Idaho by taking pictures of the miners. She made such a fuss that one Indian became angered by her noise and pulled his knife and prepared to shut her up. Fanny rushed over and pleaded for Sarah’s life to be spared.
“Perhaps it was the selfish thought of future loneliness in captivity which induced me to intercede.” She conceded in her narrative. The Indian was so impressed with her act that he removed his headdress and presented it to her. Only later did she learn it was a symbol of his personal favor and granted her his personal protection. He was Ottowa, chief of the band. “Very old, over seventy, partialy blind, and very savage looking.” Fanny would become his property for her stay with the Oglala.
Setting of toward the Sioux camp at night, Mrs. Kelly shredded small pieces of paper as a trail and instructed little Mary to silently slip off the horse and follow the trail back to safety. Fanny said she would try to do the same and join her. this ended in tragedy for little Mary she was caught almost immediately and killed and scalped. Fanny was beaten and threatened with death if she ever made such attempt again.
Fanny headed the threat but was i trouble almost immediately, she lost the peace pipe the old chief had entrusted to her care. This was a travesty of decorum and Ottowa was incised and determined she was to die. She was to be tied to a unbroken horse and set loose and the warriors would then shoot arrows at her until the wrath was appeased. Once again Fanny’s resourcefulness prevailed. pulling her purse from under her skirt, she began passing out $120 worth of paper money with pictures on them. The Indians were intrigued and after examining the bills demanded she show how much each was worth by a show of fingers. The weapons were forgotten and no further mention of killing her again.
Fanny strove to be very careful after that, especially after Sarah Larimer and her son disappeared. though she did not know it they had managed to escape. (more…)