|Nancy Bush Holloway circa 1858|
As recorded in "Book of Crossing the Plains, Days of '57' by William Audley Maxwell
Note: This is a true story of an Indian Massacre on the Humboldt River 30 miles East of Winnemucca,Nevada, August 14, 1857. Jeremiah Bush is my daughter-in-law's gg-grandfather. This is not a story Grandmother Asay told, but is a true Pioneer Story and seemed to fit best here.
THE HOLLOWAY MASSACRE.
It was decided that while in this region we would, whenever possible, make our camp some distance from the river, in order that the stock might be prevented from drinking the dangerous river water, also for the reason that the clumps of willows by the stream could be used as a cover by Indians bent on mischief: and they, we now believed, were watching for a favorable opportunity to surprise us.
It transpired that the Holloway party neglected this precaution, at least on one occasion, sometime after passing the head of the Humboldt River. Their train was next behind ours when, on the evening of August 13th, after rounding up their stock for the night, a short distance from the wagons, they stopped near the willows by the river and made what proved to be their last camp.
Behind them, but not within sight, were several emigrant camps at points varying from a few rods to half a mile apart.
The Holloway party retired as usual for the night; Mr. and Mrs. Holloway and their child, a girl of two years, in a small tent near the wagons; Jerry Bush, Mrs. Holloway's brother, and one of the hired men, Joe Blevens, in their blankets on the ground; while Bird Lawles, the other hired man, being ill with a fever, slept in a wagon.
There were others with this party that night; Mr. and Mrs. Callum, Mr. Hattlebaugh, and a man whose name is now unknown. These four had been traveling near the Holloway party, and joined it for camping on that occasion.
The following morning Mr. Holloway was the first to arise. While making the camp-fire, he called to the others to get up, saying cheerfully:
"Well, we've got through one more night without a call from the Redskins."
"Bang, bang," rang out a volley of rifle shots, fired from the willows along the river, less than a hundred yards away.
Mr. Holloway fell, fatally shot, and died without a word or a struggle. As other members of the emigrant party sprang to their feet and came within view of the assailants, the firing continued, killing Joe Blevens, Mrs. Callum, and the man whose name is not recalled; while Bird Lawles, being discovered on his sick bed in a wagon, was instantly put to death.
|Jerimiah "Jerry" Bush|
While thus fighting alone, for his life and that of his people, he received a gunshot in his side and fell. Knowing that he was unable to continue the fight, and, though doubting that he could rise, he endeavored to shield himself from the bullets and arrows of the Indian band. He succeeded in dragging himself to the river bank, when, seizing a willow branch, he lowered himself to the foot of the steep cliff, some ten feet, reaching the water's edge. He then attempted to swim to the opposite shore. The effort caused him to lose his gun, in deep water. Owing to weakness due to his wound, he was unable to cross the stream.
Jerry Bush's parting view of the camp had revealed the apparent destruction of his entire party, except himself. Observing the body of at least one woman, among the victims on the ground, he believed that his sister also had been slain.
But Mrs. Holloway and the little girl were still in the tent, for the time unhurt, and just awakened from their morning slumber. Having realized that the camp was being attacked, Mrs. Holloway emerged from the tent to find no living member of her party in sight, other than herself and her child. For a moment she was partially shielded by the wagons. The first object that drew her attention was her husband's form, lying still in death, near the fire he had just kindled. Next beyond was the dead body of Blevens, and a little farther away were the remains of the others who had been slain. Her brother she did not see, but supposed he had met the same fate as the others whom she saw on the ground. Jerry was an experienced hunter; she knew that he always owned a fine gun, and had full confidence that, if he were alive and not disabled, he would defend his people to the last.
"With hand upraised, in supplication, yielded to the impulse to flee" She saw some of the Indians coming from their ambush by the river. They approached for a time with caution, looking furtively about, as if to be sure there was no man left to defend the camp. As they drew nearer Mrs. Holloway realized that she and her child were facing an awful fate—death or captivity. On came the savages, now more boldly, and in greater numbers.
|Holloway Massacre on Humboldt River Sketch|
Though conscious, she remained motionless, in the hope that, by feigning death she might escape further wounds and torture. But the Indians came, and taking the arrows from her body, punctured her flesh with the jagged instruments, as a test whether physical sensation would disclose a sign of life remaining. She lay with eyes closed; not a muscle twitched nor a finger moved, while those demons proceeded, in no delicate manner, to cut the skin around the head at the edge of the hair, then tear the scalp from the skull, leaving the bare and bleeding head on the ground.
Horrible as all this was, it did not prove to be the last nor the most revolting exhibition of wanton lust for blood.
The little girl, who it is hoped had been rendered insensible at sight of the cruelties perpetrated upon her mother, was taken by the feet and her brains dashed out on the wheels of a wagon. To this last act in the fiendish drama there was probably no witness other than the actors in it; but the child's body, mangled too terribly for description, and the bloody marks on the wagon, gave evidence so convincing that there could not be a moment's doubt of what had occurred.
The marauders now began a general looting of the wagons. Some of their number were rounding up the stock, preparing to drive the cattle away, when the trains of emigrants next in the rear appeared, less than half a mile distant. This caused the Indian band to retreat. They crossed the river, and then placing themselves behind the willows, hurried away, making their escape into the mountain fastnesses. Owing to their precipitous departure, much of the plunder they were preparing to take was left behind them. Among the articles thus dropped by them was the scalp of Mrs. Holloway, and the rescuing party found and took possession of it.
Those emigrants who first came upon the scene found Mrs. Holloway apparently dead; but, on taking her up, they saw that she was alive. Though returning to semi-consciousness some time later, her condition was such that she was unable to tell the story then; but there were evidences showing plainer than words could have told of the awful events of that morning, which had converted the quiet camp of this happy, hopeful company into a scene of death and destruction.
Before noon a large number of people of the great emigrant procession had arrived. They united in giving to the dead the best interment that the circumstances permitted. Then the broken and scattered effects of the Holloway company were gathered up, and the now mournful trains took position in the line of pilgrimage and again moved forward towards the Pacific.
Mr. Fennell, aided by Captain Rountree's company and others, attempted to save such of the Holloway property as had not been carried off or destroyed. They were successful in recovering about one hundred of the one hundred and fifty head of stock which the Indians had endeavored to drive away. Two mules that were being led off by ropes broke away from the savage band and returned, but the emigrants did not recover any of the stolen horses.
Jerry Bush found his way back to the scene. His injury, though apparently of a dangerous character, did not delay the relief parties more than a day after the attack, and the wound healed within a few weeks. It was reported that Callum and Hattlebaugh had escaped, but their further whereabouts was not known.
Captain Rountree took charge of Mrs. Holloway and her brother and brought them, with such of their stock and other belongings as remained, to The Meadows, on the Feather River. After partially recuperating there, an uncle, Mr. Perry Durban, came to their aid, and they were taken to Suisun. After full recovery from his wound, Jerry Bush located in Ukiah, and resided there some years. He still survives, now a resident of Hulett, Wyoming, at the ripe age of eighty years.
The slaughter of the Holloway party occurred at a point on the Humboldt River some thirty miles east of where Winnemucca is located, a few miles west of Battle Mountain. This becomes apparent by careful estimates of distance traveled per day, rather than by landmarks noted at the time, there being no settlements there, nor elsewhere along the route, at that time.
Jerry Bush, 1914 It was perhaps a year later when I went to a camp-meeting one Sunday, at Mark West Creek, in Sonoma County, California. The people attending a service were in a small opening among trees. Standing back of those who were seated, I saw among them a woman whose profile seemed familiar, and later I recognized her as Mrs. Holloway.
My interest in her career, due to her extraordinary part in the Indian massacre on the plains, was heightened by the fact that I had known her previously, as the daughter of Mr. Bush, a prosperous farmer, and had been present when she married Mr. Holloway, in a little schoolhouse, near Rockport, Atchison County, Missouri. It seemed a natural impulse which prompted me to ask her for particulars of the tragedy, so disastrous to herself and her family; though later there were misgivings regarding the propriety of doing so.
Mrs. Holloway appeared at that time to be in good health, and was cheerful, possessing perfect control of her faculties. Her head was covered by a wig, made of her own hair, taken from the scalp that was recovered at the scene of the massacre.
All the heartrending experiences that she had endured were imprinted upon her mind in minutest detail, and she related them in the exact order of their occurrence. The recalling of the terrible ordeal, however, so wrought upon her emotions that she wept, to the limit of mild hysteria, which brought our conversation to a close, and soon thereafter she left the place.
I saw her no more; but learned sometime afterwards that her health failed, then of the giving away of her mental powers, and still later of her death, at Napa City; caused primarily by shock, and brooding over the misfortunes she had met on the bank of the Humboldt River.
Mrs. Nancy Holloway, 1857 It is difficult to believe that a woman, any woman—or any man—could, in a state of consciousness, endure such torture as was inflicted upon Mrs. Holloway, and refrain from disclosing to her tormentors that she was alive. But that she did so endure was her positive statement, and this was indisputably corroborated by evidences found by those who arrived at the scene less than an hour after the event.
Through the kindness of Mr. William Holloway, of Fairfax, Missouri, there is presented here a picture of Mrs. Nancy Holloway, wife of Smith Holloway. The photograph was taken in California, shortly after the attack described.