[page 82]


The last visit of the writer to Helen Hunt Jackson's home in Colorado Springs was in the summer of 1883. It was in company with the late Ben Steele, the gifted editor of the Gazette of that city, also a warm personal friend of Mrs. Jackson, yet one who, for obvious reasons, withheld from her that public encouragement so freely extended in his personal intercourse. The initial edition of A Century of Dishonor had been exhausted, and the details of the publication of another were quite generally discussed at this informal gathering.

In July, 1882, Mrs. Jackson had been commissioned by the Secretary of the Interior, together with Mr. Abbot Kinney, of Los Angeles, to visit and report upon the condition of the Mission Indians of California. This recognition by the Government had been

[page 83]

highly gratifying to her and she appeared to be deeply appreciative of the assistance rendered her by Mr. Kinney. In subsequent correspondence with him he had invariably addressed her as ‘‘General,’’ a circumstance which appealed strongly to her sense of humor. She once wrote that one of her first, if not her, very first, resolutions in life was not to be ‘‘a woman with a hobby,’’ and here she was being recognized everywhere as a woman with a very pronounced hobby, the Indians, and addressed as ‘‘General’’ by a male companion in official life.

The judgment of those present at this meeting was consulted as to whether it were better to print her report upon the Southern California Indians under separate cover, or as an appendix to another edition of A Century of Dishonor, at that time deemed imperative. Because of the relative brevity of the joint report upon the condition and needs of the Mission Indians, it was the consensus of opinion of those present that it would be more likely to secure a larger reading by going out as a part of a work that already had passed to a second edition, and that course was agreed upon. But at the same time she announced that she intended writing a novel

[page 84]

in which she would present the wretched story of the Mission Indians of California.

It may be here remarked that Mrs. Jackson was not so much displeased with the sale of the original edition of A Century of Dishonor; her disappointment related more to the apparent apathy with which it had been received by Senators, members of Congress and bureau officers having charge of Indian affairs. She had under consideration at the time a number of projects calling for governmental recognition and financial support, and doubtless was unduly impatient with the slow processes then in vogue. Her most ambitious scheme was the establishment, at some point in Southern California, of an industrial school for Mission Indian women. For this she desired the Government to donate a suitable site and deed it to the Indians. For its endowment she intended to devote all royalties received from the sale of her several books, including the one just begun, which developed into the great American novel, Ramona. She looked to the Coronels to aid her in this great undertaking. They were to take charge of this institution.

Mrs. Jackson was at this time an exceedingly busy woman. She was ever that, however,

[page 85]

but her official and literary work was crowding her, and she complained that not as often as she desired, and as formerly had been her habit, had she been able to visit her favorite places in the mountains. Chief of these was Cheyenne Mountain and the numerous and beautiful waterfalls for which the locality always has been noted. One of these, and one of the most picturesque, has since been christened Ramona Falls, for the lovely heroine of the romance. Her favorite, however, was Seven Falls, one of the most beautiful and picturesque in America, the source of which, at that time, was reached by a series of rather steep wooden steps, just upon the edge of the foaming cascade. It was here, at the summit of the mountain crag, in a little grove of spruce trees and near the edge of a huge pile of volcanic rock, that Mrs. Jackson selected a burial place for herself. Her desires in this respect were strictly executed, and for a number of years she rested there, in the place she loved so much, under the shadows of Pike's Peak and within sound of the splashing waters of Seven Falls.

Later, and for a reason not anticipated at the time of her interment, it became necessary to disinter the remains and rebury them at

[page 86]

Evergreen Cemetery, Colorado Springs. A ranchman in Cheyenne Cañon had taken advantage of his title to the land upon which the grave was located to charge an admission fee to see it, and also reaped a considerable revenue from hiring to tourists a burro, once owned and used by Mrs. Jackson upon which to skirt the mountain side.

This commercializing of the grave became so distasteful to the author's relatives and friends, in the course of time, as to make it imperative to remove the remains. They were taken away as quietly and unceremoniously as they had been laid there at her request, and even the local papers were not advised of the incident for some time thereafter.

During the last visit of the writer to the home of Mrs. Jackson she related many interesting incidents of her official journey through the mountains of Southern California, its pleasing as well as its sorrowful phases. She spoke feelingly of the Coronels, and related in what manner they had been most helpful to her. It was at their suggestion and urgent insistence that Mrs. Jackson had paid a visit to Camulos ranch, and all that she said regarding that visit led her hearers to believe

[page 87]

that the scene of the novel she had in hand was to be laid there.

Notwithstanding her excessive modesty in referring to the work she had undertaken, it was not difficult to realize that it was her purpose to make it what since it has turned out to be, ‘‘the great American novel.’’ Very naturally she preferred to talk about the work already done rather than to speculate upon future plans. The conversation was mainly in regard to A Century of Dishonor, and the deep disappointment she felt that it had not produced that effect upon the national conscience which she had a right to expect.

It is doubtful if an author ever before had taken such pains as had Mrs. Jackson to prepare for the production of Ramona. She well knew, long in advance of its publication, that she was not to have a friendly reception for her work. She felt that public criticism would be merciless, and fully realized the importance of unquestioned correctness in every position taken. Her first step had been to thoroughly inform herself regarding the law, the ground work of human rights. She had read everything relating to the lives and characters, the public and private utterances, of such men as Garrison, Whittier, Lowell,

[page 88]

Phillips, Starr King, Lovejoy, Brown and all the other national leaders of the anti-slavery movement. She had read all the treaties with all the American Indian tribes of record, from that with the Delawares in 1620 down to the day and hour when it became necessary to close her narrative, analyzing the conditions and traversing the history of each, never failing to disclose the almost uniform bad faith of the Government in carrying out solemn obligations entered into between a powerful people upon the one side and weak, dependent wards upon the other. She dug up and waded through hundreds of musty public documents, read thousands of pages of the Congressional Record, and finally entered upon her great task with a full equipment of information pertinent to the subject, a large part of which she found to her mortification was wholly unknown to the executive officers of the Government at the time.





© Arizona Board of Regents