The Women Called Red
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Although it was nearing the end of September, the land area known as Ohio country was in the throes of an Indian summer. In fact, the entire summer of 1793 was marked by excessive drought and unbearable heat.
Nonetheless, a determined young woman began traipsing in the sweltering heat and humidity across a parched meadow. She was headed to the woods near her father’s log cabin. The scorching sunshine had managed to pierce through a thickening cloud cover and cause an entire field to be sprinkled with wilted white dots of tiny flowers. What an odd sight, she thought. It is like a mass grave of prairie clover.
After finally reaching the dense forest, it was surprising to find the trees draped in foreboding shadows. It was as if a storm might be brewing for the afternoon. The damp, heavy air among the boughs was stifling and smelled of mold on the moss-covered tree trunks. In spite of the woman’s desire for solitude, it was a struggle to catch her breath in the oppressive air.
Knowing the lay of the land since childhood, she confidently threaded a path along the rocky edge of a swiftly flowing creek and then stealthily trekked into the heart of the tallest timbers.
It was an unusually quiet, secluded spot, even eerie in the shade, but the troubled woman needed time alone to make an important decision. The ebb and flow of life had erupted into turmoil, and she was determined to stay in the forest until finding some resolution. Even after spreading out a woolen blanket on the rocky ground, it was impossible to get comfortable. When the rough bark of a cottonwood tree unexpectedly dug into her back, it was but a painful reminder of life’s frailties and disillusionments. Nonetheless, the woman doggedly began to review the mistakes in her life.
All at once, an owl hooted, which was an odd occurrence in the daytime. It was disquieting, and goosebumps sprinkled over her arms like a sudden spring shower. I should have paid more attention to Father’s warnings about dangers in the woods, the woman regretfully thought while beginning to reflect on how muddled life had become…
Since the age of nine, seventeen-year-old Hannah Anderson had lived with her family in a tiny wooded portion of land in eastern Ohio. The entire land region was massive and officially known as the Northwest Territory of Ohio. It was part of treaty land ceded to the United States after the Revolutionary War ended. The land was originally named ohi-yo by the Iroquois for the great Ohio River, and the name stuck.
A few years earlier when Hannah was fifteen, her mother and baby brother died, leaving the young girl devastated and lonely. Since that time, nothing felt right. Hannah was determined to honor her mother’s memory by steadfastly doing the same work she had done. For the next few years, the teenager cooked and cleaned for her widowed father at their isolated log cabin and also prepared the rustic log cabin church for Sunday gatherings.
Once a Methodist preacher in Philadelphia, Hannah’s father now felt called to be a missionary. At the time of his decision, there were very few missions because of the continuing violence on the frontier. For that reason, her father established an unaffiliated mission, which primarily served as an outpost for settlers heading west.
With its success, the mission had finally begun to receive more financial support. As a compromise to Hannah’s mother, the location was fairly close to the Pennsylvania border, which was usually safe from Native American troubles.
Working for her exacting father proved to be both exhausting and time-consuming, and his criticisms far outweighed any praise. Since the death of Hannah’s mother, the attention the young girl craved was nowhere to be found.
Hannah found herself spending way too much time alone, which gave her the opportunity to reflect on the isolation and loneliness of a pioneer settlement. More often than not, the confused teenager wondered what the future would hold. That was the day she concluded it was important to explore the possibilities for her own life, not relive her mother’s life by doing chores from sunrise to sunset.
But what opportunities are there for a young woman? Hannah honestly did not know the answer. Knowing that only she could make a positive change in her circumstances, the teenager began paying closer attention to the fluid political situation in Ohio. Although she lacked a formal education, Hannah had been homeschooled by a well-educated mother, whose motto was to always keep eyes and ears open about current events. The young woman was proud to be able to both read and write, which was far better than most in the late 1700s.
While quietly assisting her father after worship services, Hannah began to eavesdrop, especially when small groups of men discussed the threat of war. Though at first it was only a game to ease boredom, her secretive actions later became a source of valuable information. Hannah discovered that Native American tribes indigenous to the area were on the prowl, and many were not friendly to the westward spreading immigrants populating the new country.
In an attempt to uncover why the problem was worsening, Hannah overheard the men agree that Native Americans had been ignored in the Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the war between Great Britain and the United States. Many tribes were determined to regain control of what they considered to be their rightful homeland, which was given away in the treaty.