Chapter V

By-Paths to Forgotten Folks "Stories of Real Life in Baptist Home Mission Fields", Author: Coy Hayne. Judson Press, Los Angeles, CA - September 1921.

Chapter V - Pages 52-58


JOSEPH G. BRENDEL, general missionary to California Indians, was making his first trip to the Cold Springs Indians. Deep into the wilderness he journeyed, finding trails almost too steep and rough for travel in a two-horse wagon as they were narrow and sidling and frequently so guttered by successive spring freshets as to resemble ditches rather than roads. Sometimes the wagon nearly tipped over; sometimes the drop was so sudden that Brendel and his interpreter were nearly thrown headlong upon the horses. The dip down the eastern slope of the divide that separates Sycamore Basin from the beautiful Burrough Valley defied description. It was a road to forgotten men - a Mono Indian trail. It led beyond the edge of civilization. When it reached the bottom of the slope it meandered across a grassy meadow to Sycamore Creek, where it ended abruptly. Across the creek there was no wagon-road, nothing but bridle-paths. On all sides rose the steep mountain walls that sent shadows across the basin in midafternoon. A silence, intensified by the soft murmur of the creek, fell about the gospel adventurers. Quietly and with a deftness born of many years spent in open places, the two began to make camp.

Word had been carried to the Indians living far back in the mountains that the missionary would meet them beneath the big sycamore near the creek, and before dark several families of them came down the trails.

In God's first temple! With the stars shining through the branches of the towering sycamore, a service was held that night. By the time the moon had risen above the protecting hills, the women and children had retired to their beds. About the missionary's camp-fire the men gathered and late into the night listened to the man for whose coming they had been waiting. In low voices they spoke in answer to Brendel's many questions. They told of their poor homes in the remote places, of summer wanderings to the sheep-shearing camps and to the harvest-fields, of the fall harvest of acorns, of fishing and hunting trips, of hunger and cold during many winters, of the ravages of disease, of drunken brawls, and of the schemes of the bootleggers.

The fire had burned low when the missionary finally was left to himself. He walked out from beneath the trees to a point where he could see the camp-fires gleaming in the semidarkness along the creek bank. A wonderful peace descended upon him after his long day's work. To this neglected people he had come as a stranger, but he felt at home among the, knowing that the Father of all races looked down in his protecting love. The eagerness with which his words had been received was a foretaste of many precious experiences he was to have as a bearer of the Glad News. And, out there beneath the stars, he began evolving the plan for the moral and social redemption of this destitute band.

The following day was Sunday and, shortly after sunrise, the mountainsides awoke to life as the Indians in greater numbers came down the trails to meet the man who had called them from their retreats in the canons east of the high mesa above the creek. They came singly, they came in twos and threes, they came in larger groups - some on foot and some on horseback. Many brought their camping outfits, others rolls of bedding. Men and children, women carrying their papooses - they came from all directions to gather under the great sycamore and hear the gospel story.

Representing different societies, yet in heartiest accord, Brendel and the women missionaries had planned the work in behalf of all neglected tribes within their vast territory. Early they had agreed upon a definite goal and sought the cooperation of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the local authorities in matters of law enforcement and education. This goal, briefly stated, included an allotment of land for every Mono family on which to build a home; a common school education for every Mono child; employment for every able-bodied Mono, man or woman, in the vineyards and orchards of the San Juan Valley; a chapel in every Mono settlement.

Brendel climbed the mountain trails east of Sycamore Creek and made his way to the remote canons and gulches in search of every inhabited Indian hut and shanty. He found poverty and wretchedness indescribable. He made a census of all Indian children of school age in addition to his other surveys. The thoroughness of his work and the spirit underlying his methods are clearly revealed in one of his first letters to Washington, D.C., setting forth his discoveries and recommendations. We cannot do better than quote this letter in full:

Toll House, Calif., Feb 3, 1914.

Honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs,

Washington, D. C.

Dear Sir:

I wish to lay before you the conditions and needs of the Cold Springs Indians. This band lives near Burrough Valley, in Fresno County, Calif. The band numbers one hundred and nineteen, there being eighty-one adults and thirty-eight children. Twenty-seven children are of school age, and four more will be of school age by the opening of another school year. Most of these Indians live back in the mountains and it is impossible to get to their places with a wagon. They are scattered over a large territory. Most of them have little allotments, but not more than half a dozen families raise anything on their land. Where they have ground that would produce anything, they have no water with which to irrigate their crops. Their living depends entirely upon the men finding work in the settlements.

Last May I opened up a mission among them. They are making rapid strides in civilization and good citizenship. They are constantly begging for a school for their children. Therefore, I make this appeal to you in their behalf for a government school.

Near the place where we hope to build our mission chapel is what is known as the Sycamore Ranger Station. This station is to be eliminated from the Forest Reserve. So in case the section should be abandoned, there is some Government land, not adjoining the station but in close proximity, that is level enough on which to make homes. Could not this Ranger Station and the other land be segregated and a small Indian reservation be established, giving each family say a five-acre allotment. Then the Indians could build their houses on their lots, the men would be closer to their work, and the families would be living where their children could go to school, and all have the privilege of the mission.

The Government has on this Ranger Station a good four-roomed house, a barn and wire fences. The house could be used as a home for the teacher, and the only extra cost would be for the erection of a small schoolhouse.

I pray you, give this your earliest attention as these people certainly deserve some help.



General Indian Missionary.

The Commissioner of Indian Affairs sent a special field-officer to make a report on the condition of landless Indians in Brendel's territory, and eventually the latter's dreams concerning his neglected brethren were fulfilled.

Months passed that were glorious in the fruition of prayerful and conscientious sowing of the word.

On a typical California day late in February, 1914, a happy crowd of eighteen of the adult Christian Indians of Cold Springs, together with Missionary and Mrs. Brendel, started on a memorable journey from the Sycamore Mission to Dunlap. They were taking this fifty-five-mile trip back into the mountains in order to tell their brothers of the Toi-Ki-Chi tribe what great things God had done and perhaps help some of them find the Jesus Road. Fourteen of the Indians at the Dunlap Mission, where Miss Pauline Whiting, serving under the Woman's Board, and Missionary Brendel had labored together, had expressed the desire for baptism, and to examine them as to their fitness to receive the ordinance the Christian Indians from Cold Springs had made the long journey. As the procession, composed of seven wagons carrying Indians and camp outfits and four people riding horseback, made its way over the rough trails, one might have heard gospel songs echoing among the mountain glades. Night came on and a stop was made in a grove near Bobtown. After supper and before the beds were unrolled for the night, the Indians gathered about Brendel for their Bible study and praise service - also to pray for God's guidance on this their first missionary undertaking.

Next day, as the party approached the Indian settlement, two miles above Dunlap, they beheld the camp which had been prepared for them on the hill hear a creek. On a post in the center hung a big hog. Nearby a long table had been built.

When the Toi-Ki-Chi Indians saw their guests approaching, they rushed forward to receive them. In spite of a cold, disagreeable wind, about one hundred Indians came together for the evening service at the call of "Ti-wa-ga" (the Christian captain).

The following Sunday about two hundred Indians and a hundred white people gathered for the baptism, a service which the Indians of that locality never before had witnessed. The procession was led by the Convention pastor and the missionary, followed by the Indian deacons from the Sycamore mission. Then came the candidates for baptism, and after them the Christian Indians and the heathen Indians. The white people followed in the rear. The line moved slowly down to the banks of Mill Creek. After the meaning of the ordinance had been explained, the fourteen Indians were buried in baptism with the Christ whom they wished to follow.

In the evening of the same day the hand of fellowship was extended to the Indians who had been baptized, and they became the first members of the Indian Baptist church of Dunlap.

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