Butte County

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ARENIA THANKFUL LEWIS CARSON

 

 

 ARENIA THANKFUL LEWIS CARSON.--Since the year 1854 the Lewis family have been residents of Butte County. The oldest daughter of the family, now Mrs. Arenia Thankful Lewis Carson, living on Butte Creek, six miles from Chico, while not a native daughter of California, has lived in Butte County since a child of less than a year old, and had the thrilling experience as a young girl of being captive among the Indians. She was born in Missouri, December 2, 1853. Her father, Samuel, a native of Missouri, married Mary Ann Kearney in that state, and when Arenia, their second child, was an infant of four months the parents undertook the long and hazardous journey across the plains by ox team, arriving at Oroville, Butte County, Cal., in the fall of 1854. Oroville at that time was but a small settlement, the residents for the most part being miners. Californians of the present day, surrounded with all the luxuries of civilization, can not realize the hardships to which the early pioneers of the state were subjected, or the many inconveniences as well as the dangers from the hostility of the Indians toward the whites. Samuel Lewis settled with his family in Berry Canyon, on Little Dry Creek, where they were living at the time of the capture of their three children by the Indians, nine years later. Arenia and her older brother Jimmie attended school about three miles from their home. On the day of their capture, their younger brother, a child of five, wished to accompany them, the parents permitting him to do so. As they were returning from school the little boy was thirsty and they left the road, going about one hundred yards to Little Dry Creek where they quenched their thirst. The older boy was still drinking at the creek when a rifle shot was heard and he fell forward into the water, shot through the back. Mill Creek Indians appeared from ambush and took the other children prisoners. As they left the scene of their capture, climbing the mountain-side, they looked down and could see their home. The children were barefooted and suffered much from the rough stones and brambles through which they were forced to travel the remainder of the day and far into the night, their captors forcing them onward by prodding them with their guns. They stopped for the remainder of the night in a canyon not far from the home of one of the settlers and left long before daybreak the next morning. Little Johnnie was so footsore and weary that he could not walk and began to cry. This angered the Indians and, after conversing in their own tongue, four of the Indians took the child back into the woods. He seemed to realize they were going to kill him and bade his sister good-bye. His body was afterwards found in a clump of bushes where he had been thrown and stoned to death. They told the little girl they were going to burn her alive when they reached their camp. They continued their journey across the hills and canyons, keeping near the foothills, crossing Butte Creek about five miles from Chico. The little girl saw a faint wagon track and heard a rooster crow and realized that they were not far from some one's house. She begged her captors to let her go but they refused. She displayed much wisdom in the way she sought to gain their favor. The day wore along until it was almost noon, and she was left behind with one Indian to guard her. The Indian was heavily laden with provisions and guns to the others, promising to travel better if allowed to rest for a time. Her entreaties prevailed and after he was out of sight and she thought the way was clear, she got up and ran toward Big Chico Creek. Hurrying along, she heard voices and knew the Indians were looking for her. She hid under the bank of the creek, concealed by bushes, until the Indias left the neighborhood, then crossed the creek and ran for some distance without seeing a habitation, finally reaching the home of Mrs. Thomasson, where she told her story and was cared for, and restored to her parents.

After this, two other children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Lewis: Martha, who is Mrs. McKernan; and Mary, who is Mrs. Charles Lutz; both reside near Chico. Mr. Lewis died at his home near Paradise, aged sixty-nine years. He was survived by his wife who lived to be seventy-four years old. Their daughter Arenia obtained her education in the public schools in Little Dry Creek district. She was married at the early age of fifteen to William Bidsworth, familiarly called "Pike," by whom she had one child, William Bidsworth, Jr. (See his sketch elsewhere in this work), who is the owner of one hundred twenty acres adjoining his mother's forty-acre home place on Chico Creek. Her first husband died, and she married Jerome Winders, by whom she had two children: George W., now employed by the Diamond Match Company and residing at Chico; and Emma Etta Winders, who has been married three times and who by her first husband had two children, Willis and Walter K. Burke. By her second husband, from who she was divorced, she had two children, Joda and James Peters. Her present husband, George Brown, is an employe of the Diamond Match Company. They have one child, David.

After the death of Mr. Winders his widow married a third time. Her last husband, George H. Carson, died in December, 1917. Mrs. Carson is in many respects a remarkable woman, and has given an interesting account of her captivity among the Indians, in those early pioneer days, in a booklet that she has published, entitled "Captured by the Mill Creek Indians."

 

 

 

Transcribed by Sande Beach.

Source: "History of Butte County, Cal.," by George C. Mansfield, Pages 445-449, Historic Record Co, Los Angeles, CA, 1918.


2007 Sande Beach.

 

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