An American Story (Part 14)

Authors Note:  Vann did allow me to take a photo of the pages he gave me although we had to do so with the light of some trash we briefly lit on fire- I transcribed them here as the writing is somewhat difficult to read.  My notes are included below in italics.

first page tom sexton last entry

first page tom sexton last entry

Friday October 16, 1885

Current position off-shore Agate Bay – taking on water

Not a pleasant day.  I awoke in town, at the Acre, painfully hung over and unable to recall some of the details from the previous night.  Before I had even cleared the edge of the village I heard an animal howling and thought it might be Allie, although that would be a long way to hear him from.  I was not quite myself so I walked slowly for a bit, however the howling continued and I became convinced it was him which put a hurry in my steps.  Even at that it took me over an hour to reach my property and it was horror when I did.

(there seems to be a break in the writing here, possibly attributable to his next comment and also due to the lightly sketched pictures that appear underneath)

I find it hard to write about this however I think I must as it is the only record anyone will have other than whatever my tormentors come up with.  The horror on arrival began with a woman hung up by the neck in the maple tree, face contorted, clothing ripped and dirty and her entrails strewn out in a pile on the ground beneath her.   Allie looked as though he may have been nosing around that pile, however when I arrived he was sitting about thirty feet away and almost hoarse from howling.  It may have been that the swarm of insects drove him away.  I was ill immediately and then I hauled that poor boy away and tied him up by the door post.  I went inside to get some tools however found another, and if possible, more wretched scene.  Another woman, one I recognized, her name might be Jenny from the Acre, was trussed up to my chair.  She had been violated in ways that I really cannot bring myself to write, other than that she was burned and cut.  The smell inside was terrible, death and blood, and I became ill again and continued in that way for some minutes.   I closed my eyes but the scene would not leave me.  Even as I write this it is still there.  I am certain it always will be.

In that poor condition I continued, eventually I must have stood up because when I next was aware of myself I was outside, cursing and shouting.  It may have been fifteen minutes and I realized I had been pacing between the two bodies. Finally Allie stopped howling, which snapped me out of my despair, and I realized I needed to take action.  When I took off my jacket to begin, I knew that this crime was not only terrible but one that was intended to be traced back to me.  My cuffs were stiff and rough, covered in blood, as was a portion of my jacket front and collar.  It gave me a moment of pause, did I do this?, before I knew the truth.  Up to that moment, perhaps naively, I had not thought of what was obvious now – I had to leave Agate Bay forever and very quickly.

I cast off mid-afternoon and headed out onto the lake, regret still in my mind for leaving behind such a chapter in my life.  I am proud of what I did there.  The light was just starting to fade as it does this time of year and I hoped that the darkness would come before anyone set off after me. I need to have a good lead on any pursuit.  What will I do if I am caught?

(there seems to be another break in writing here and the page has some water damage on it.) 

I will protest my innocence until the last, however in present circumstances, and among the present company in this area, I fear that may to be no avail.

I am headed north.  I need to get away from Duluth, Agate Bay, Burlington, all of this burgeoning population, up toward the more empty parts of this great wilderness.  I made good progress for perhaps twenty minutes before I noticed that my vessel was riding lower than I expected her to.  At first I gave this no more than a passing thought as I had loaded some additional items before I left.  It was not long however before my curiosity got the better of me and I poked around below, only to discover that I was in fact taking on some water.  Improbable or impossible I thought, as this vessel has been tight and worthy so far, however it was a fact not to be driven away by these beliefs.  I bailed, keeping up pace and working on the problem, hoping for a quick repair.  It was however not to be, as several times I believed I had achieved success only to find more water leaking in soon after.  I was still just within sight of land, although thankfully far enough from my property to not be visible, and the darkness was coming now which I knew would cover me.

A night on the water does not appeal to me, however I seem to have no choice.  I am tired and distraught, full of anger, sorrow and pain and may not be in the best mind to solve my problem.    It is 2330 now by my watch and I believe I can keep bail all night and maintain through to morning when a better solution may present itself.

0015 – maintaining well, almost feel asleep while on a break from the work, however slipped and bumped my head which was good luck I suppose

0200 – all well although the leak does seem to be increasing.  I am bailing about five minutes out of every fifteen.

0410 – I bailed like the devil to catch myself a break – as dry as it can be down here for the moment.  My back rests against the two trunks that I filled with my collection.   That, my provisions and the personal items (journals, letters, the photograph I had taken in 1859, father’s razor and my camp kit and gun), are all that remain to me.  I started with less in Agate Bay.  As far as what I have brought from my collection,  I believe this list is complete:

– the three pointed iron poles (only the ones with the runes / other script on them – I had to leave the others).

– Wooden handled cutters

– Uniform jacket found with the skeleton in grave one (I remain certain it is British enlisted from the war)

– My rescued candlesticks (my only set now, so I guess I shall have to use them much as it dismays me).

– The zoetrope and the only remaining good strip (with the horses –  I broke it off its spindle trying to load it…however it still intrigues me).

– Argand lamp

– Tombstone shako cap (all three were in very poor condition, I took the best one).

– Fishing lures and birch box (which to date I still cannot determine origin – Indians ? or Frenchmen?)

– Wooden box carved with ‘Abigail 1792’

– fifteen silver coins

– Indian birch bark basket  (has scratch art on it…beautiful)

– a round earthen vessel (the larger one with what appears to be the inlaid colors)

These are all I could safely carry away with me.  I left the pit as it was as I had no time to cover or conceal it – I suppose it may provide someone a few odd moments trying to determine its nature.  The items from my known and unknown lists I did bury separately, with the lists themselves included as inventory.

The water rises again and I have written too long.  Thankfully morning comes soon.

The entry ends there and Vann would continue his story after I was done reading.  The condition of the pages left me skeptical in regard to how much longer he was going to be able to keep them safe in his bag, regardless of what protection he had around them.  In some ways I was tempted to ask him if I could take them with me, however I thought better of that in the end.   Later I did some research into just what some of these items were and what they looked like.  I have included some pictures here as a reference.  

tombstone shako cap courtesy history.army.mil

tombstone shako cap courtesy history.army.mil

Ojibwe scratchwork courtesy richard and dorothy nelson collection

Ojibwe scratchwork courtesy richard and dorothy nelson collection

british enlisted coat war 1812 courtesy cape ann museum rob bibelhauser

british enlisted coat war 1812 courtesy cape ann museum rob bibelhauser

argand lamp courtesy english-heritage.org

argand lamp courtesy english-heritage.org

…to be continued

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