Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery's Frontier

By Lea Vandervelde | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
A New Baby in a New Land

THE SIGNIFICANT PERSONAL change for Harriet and Dred was that now they held a new baby in their arms. They had a new mistress, a new bride who surely gazed up at the impressive stone fort, as all newcomers did, a fort that would be her new home for the next two years.

The freedman Jim Thompson met the steamboat at the dock, sent by Agent Taliaferro with a message for the Methodist missionary.1 The freedman had done work at the agency during the Reverend Brunson’s absence.2 Jim Thompson may have been baby Eliza’s first visitor. Who could fail to be charmed by a tiny baby and her proud parents? Jim’s Dakota wife had also recently had another baby.3 Blessed by the dockside visit of the lucky freed man, the new parents carried baby Eliza onto snow-blanketed, solid ground to her new home in free territory.

The quiet of the first night back was disrupted when a large group of Canadian lumberjacks, who got drunk at the little steamer, fought “a royal battle … like so many wolves.”4 The Indians watching the drunken brawl were amused because a late night brawl was still a source of curiosity. But in the winter to come, drunken soldiers would become almost a regular evening occurrence.

Dr. Emerson and his lady moved into his old surgeon’s quarters, displacing Dr. Wright, who was now very reluctant to leave. For their part, the Scott family probably moved back into the basement of the hospital wing, where their newborn wouldn’t disturb the Emersons. The two new household members occasioned social introductions. Doctor Emerson proudly introduced his bride, whose maiden name, Sanford, was familiar to officers who had served in the West. Her brother was once the Mandan Indian agent, but, more important, was now known for his connection to the wealthy Chouteau trading firm that supplied so many of the fort’s material needs. The hospital quarters were the new bride’s first real home of her own. She must have settled in to build their nest with things they had brought with them, since they purchased relatively little from the sutler. Brother

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