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.
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.
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.
Golden Nugget Library's Butte County Biographies
Golden Nugget Library