Ann Mousley Cannon



By Ann M. Cannon

I have told you of the first Christmas in Saint George when my Brother George was born in an improvised bedroom made of a wagon-box. Perhaps you would like to hear of another Christmas in what was then that faraway land.

The family still lived in Saint George and consisted of father, mother and her son George, and Amanda and her children Mina and Angus. Father was a very active figure in the little town. At one time he was County Prosecuting Attorney. At another time Mayor, and always he had a butcher shop, the only place in town where meat could be purchased. The butcher shop still stands, I think, on the east side of father's lot, near the line between his place and Uncle David's. A three room adobe house with cellar (a very important place in that hot country) had been built near the center of father's lot, facing south. (it still stands as a part of our Cousin Woodruff Cannon's residence.) From the front door a grape arbor had been planted running south to the gate.

The country was still wild and new, only the little town and a few acres around it having been cultivated. Father was often out of town. He was always in the thick of things. Once when he was away the supply of wood ran low. Mother was worried. There was the big wood pile, but the logs were too heavy for either of the two women, and the children were small. Suddenly she missed George, a child of about three years. She ran out into the yard, not at all reassured by the sound of a loud Indian chant or song, coming from the public square to the west. Turning her eyes in that direction she saw a tall Indian buck, singing at the top of his voice, and a small child holding his hand and leading him toward her. It was George. She ran to meet him, with her heart palpitating. As they approached, the Indian opened his hand and showed the child's tiny white hand in his big, red palm. The words "Twidge neepooch" (too little) were upon the Indians lips as he followed, or was pulled by the child toward the wood pile. The child showed him the axe and watched while he cut a big pile of wood.

Such Indians were much appreciated, but they were not the only kind that called. And when the others came they demanded what they wanted - the best of everything the home afforded - bread, sugar, etc. After having entertained one of the demanding groups, Mother missed the big butcher knife that was so essential a part of father's butcher business. She searched everywhere but could not find it.

The good Indian, whose services George had enlisted to keep track of mother and the little group came the day after the knife had disappeared. Mother told him about the loss. He asked many questions and then he held up three fingers saying "sleeps" thus indicating three days. At the end of that time he reappeared with the knife.

Sometimes the Indians brought pine nuts and offered them in exchange for things they wanted. "Biscuit" was one thing that they always asked for, but sugar was the thing most eagerly sought. Our pioneers' supply of sugar was always limited but the Indians desired it more than anything else. The squaw would hold the corner of her shawl for the sugar to be poured into it, then would tie it into a knot.

A squaw would come and help with the washing which was done out of doors. She would dip up water from the red stream and pour it into a barrel to settle. Washing machines were unknown. The tubs were placed on the ground and the woman bending over them rubbed the clothes clean on a washboard. Then the clothes were put into a large pot and boiled over a wood fire. The children loved to watch the flames curl up around the outside of the big, black kettle. It was altogether primitive.

This year as Yule-time approached father was away again. It is hardly probable that this was the occasion when he went with others to see what had happened to Dr. Whitmore and his companions and found them dead and buried there by Indian renegades. And yet it might easily have been that time.

The two mothers at home did their best to prepare for Christmas. There were cookies made in the form of animals; ginger-bread men, women and children; homemade molasses candy; and each child had a tin cup filled with pine nuts. There were balls for the boys made from rags wound tight and sewed as they were rolled to keep them hard; then, to hold them firm, stitched with any bright color available. Mina had a new calico dress with small brown and an orange colored dot in it. This new dress was made in a county so far away from stores. It, or rather the material for it, had been purchased from people en route to California at one dollar a yard.

All preparations in readiness, the two mothers decided they must have a Christmas tree for the three kiddies. Aunt Amanda stayed with the children and Mother sallied forth to the hills to find a tree, a hatchet in her hand. Her search led her to the "sugar loaf", a red sandstone pile of rocks in the northern foothills. She found a small, perfectly-shaped tree, suited to her purpose. At the first stroke of the hatchet a young Indian buck sprang up and confronted her. She had not seen him as the lay in the shadow of the rock nearby.

They faced each other; she apparently without fear, though her heart beat fast. After a long searching stare he held out his hand for the hatchet. Should she surrendered it, thus placing herself entirely at his mercy? Or should she refuse?

She decided to smother her fear. Still holding him in her gaze, she handed him the hatchet.

He looked searchingly at her as if to read her very soul, then cut the tree and carried it home for her.

Father returned. The children, not sated as the children of today, loved their humble toys. And that Christmas day all yielded thanks to the God who had gone before them into the wilderness. Once again peace dwelt in their little world, and good-will toward all men.

Ann Mousley Cannon (1869-1948) is the daughter of Angus M. Cannon & Sarah Marie Mousley Cannon. This handwritten document was found by Wayne C. Evans in the records of his late mother, Beatrice Cannon Evans. He typed up the story and provided it to the Washington County Historical Society for posting here.