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Last of the Great Scouts
Helen Cody Wetmore
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The Old Homestead In Iowa
A PLEASANT, roomy farm-house, set in the sunlight against a background of cool,
green wood and mottled meadow-- this is the picture that my earliest memories frame for
me. To this home my parents, Isaac and Mary Cody, had moved soon after their
The place was known as the Scott farm, and was situated in Scott County, Iowa, near the
historic little town of Le Clair, where, but a few years before, a village of the Fox Indians
had been located; where Black Hawk and his thousand warriors had assembled for their
last war-dance; where the marquee of General Scott was erected, and the treaty with the
Sacs and Foxes drawn up; and where, in obedience to the Sac chief's terms, Antoine Le
Clair, the famous half-breed Indian scholar and interpreter, had built his cabin, and given
to the place his name. Here, in this atmosphere of pioneer struggle and Indian warfare--in
the farm-house in the dancing sunshine, with the background of wood and meadow--my
brother, William Frederick Cody, was born, on the 26th day of February, 1846.
Of the good, old-fashioned sort was our family, numbering five daughters and two sons--
Martha, Samuel, Julia, William, Eliza, Helen, and May. Samuel, a lad of unusual beauty
of face and nature, was killed through an unhappy accident before he was yet fourteen.
He was riding "Betsy Baker," a mare well known among old settlers in Iowa as one of
speed and pedigree, yet displaying at times a most malevolent temper, accompanied by
Will, who, though only seven years of age, yet sat his pony with the ease and grace that
distinguished the veteran rider of the future. Presently Betsy Baker became fractious, and
sought to throw her rider. In vain did she rear and plunge; he kept his saddle. Then,
seemingly, she gave up the fight, and Samuel cried, in boyish exultation:
"Ah, Betsy Baker, you didn't quite come it that time!"
His last words! As if she knew her rider was a careless victor off his guard, the mare
reared suddenly and flung herself upon her back, crushing the daring boy beneath her.
Though to us younger children our brother Samuel was but a shadowy memory, in him
had centered our parents' fondest hopes and aims. These, naturally, were transferred to
the younger, now the only son, and the hope that mother, especially, held for him was
strangely stimulated by the remembrance of the mystic divination of a soothsayer in the
years agone. My mother was a woman of too much intelligence and force of character to
nourish an average superstition; but prophecies fulfilled will temper, though they may not
shake, the smiling unbelief of the most hard-headed skeptic. Mother's moderate
skepticism was not proof against the strange fulfillment of one prophecy, which fell out
in this wise: