"Caty Sage"

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Wytheville Dispatch

Wytheville, VA Friday, November 5, 1897



[By Ex-Judge D. W. Bolen, in Hillsville Advocate]

James Sage was a soldier in the War of the Revolution. He belonged to the brigade of Gen. Enech Peore, and did service under the eye of Washington at Monmouth, Brandywine, Valley Forge and Yorktown. In 1780 he married a lady in Fredericktown, Maryland, and after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis he and his young wife moved west and settled on Cripple Creek, in what is now Wythe county, Va., and remained there about ten years. He then moved to Elk Creek, in Grayson county, Va., and there spent the remainder of his life leaving to his progeny some of the fine lands of the section. Soon after he settled on Elk Creek his horses were stolen. He and a neighbor named Delp, and another named Cornett, followed in hot pursuit, and in two or three days recovered the horses, but the thief escaped. A man by the name of Talbert had been prowling about through the neighborhood and suspicion rested on him as the horse thief. On the 9th or 10th of April, 1792, which was soon after the stolen horses had been recovered, Talbert was again seen in the Elk Creek neighborhood close to the house of James Sage, but the people of the vicinity never saw him again. The 11th of April, 1693, was a bright and balmy day. Early that morning James Sage went to his "clearing" to prepare his ground for crop. The day opened so bright and clear that Mrs. Sage decided to go and do her week's washing. She left her four children in the cabin and started to a little stream near by to build a fire to heat water to wash with. As she was leaving the door she saw a number of butterflies wandering about among the shrubbery in the garden and she called her little five-year-old daughter Katy to come and look at the butterflies. The child came and went on into the garden to enjoy a better sight of the gauzy-winged creatures, while the mother went on to build the fire. After a while the mother returned to get the clothes she intended to wash, but Katy was missing. Mrs. Sage thought the child had wandered off after the butterflies, for the last words she had heard Katy utter was her childish language talking to the pretty butterflies. She went in search of Katy but could not find her. She called her husband and they looked for Katy all day long and all night long, but they did not find her.

The next morning the neighbors for miles and miles around began to gather in and for several long weeks they searched in every direction for Katy, but in vain. After all had been done to find the child that human ingenuity could devise the neighbors and friends gave up the search as fruitless and returned to their homes. But James Sage began the search anew. Starting at his cabin door, he examined every square foot of ground for miles and miles around, hoping to find some rag of clothing or some mark, however dim that might indicate to him the fate of his lost child. But he never found one trace. At last, in his despair, he heard of an old woman in North Carolina known by the name of "Granny Moses," who was said to possess the power to reveal mysteries and look into and foretell all human events. James Sage made a journey across the mountains into the "Old North State" to see "Granny Moses." He found her and in his own way laid before her the whole story of his lost child. The old women consulted her occult science, gathered up her faculties and told him, that his Katy was still alive and well, but she added, "Katy is where you will never see her or hear of her again in this world, but your wife (Mrs. Sage) will outlive you and in her very old age she will hear of Katy but will never see her. With broken spirit and sick at heart the man who had followed Washington through his greatest campaigns returned home and resumed work in the forest around his cabin. Other children with bright faces and joyous prattle came to join the three that remained at his hearthstone. Other events and other transactions came into the lives of the parents, and to all outward appearances, as the years glided along, the memory of little Katy Sage became more and more like a faded dream. But as long as the family remained together, when father and mother and children gathered around the embers that glowed between the jambs of the old fireplace on the long winter evening they talked of the missing one.

When thirty-one years had passed since Katy's disappearance James Sage was laid to sleep in a grave in the beautiful Elk Creek Valley, and the message of "Granny Moses" was the only tidings that ever reached his ears of his lost child.

Mrs. Sage outlived her husband many years. Her children, as time rolled on, became widely scattered. Some remained in Virginia and others settled in different States and Territories in the West. Her son Charles settled in Kansas, and in 1854 he met with an Indian agent there, who one day asked him if he had a sister or female relative among the Shawnee Indians. Charles answered No. But on reflection he told the agent the story of his sister who had been lost or stolen more than sixty years before. The agent said that there was a white women among the Shawnee Indians that bore a most striking resemblance to Charles. The woman was sent for and when Charles saw her his face became pale. It seemed to him that the very image of his mother as she appeared twenty years ago, when he left the old homestead, lived and glowed in the face and features of the strange woman. He believed her to be his long lost sister. She could not speak a word of English, but through an interpreter she told them that she had been stolen away from her home in Virginia by a white man when she was a small child, that he took her to the Cherokee Indians and she never saw him again, that she had lived among the Cherokees awhile, and then with the Creeks, and finally with the Shawnees, that she had been three times married to distinguished Indian Chiefs and had bore one son, that her husbands had all died and she was a widow now for the third time and her son had recently died, that her name was Katy, and that she had retained that name in all her wanderings and travels through different countries and among different Indian tribes. Charles got her to go home with him and he at once wrote to his brother Samuel, who lived in Missouri, to come and see if he could recognize her. Samuel was older and could remember Katy. Samuel came and saw the woman and heard her history and believed her to be his sister. The brothers then wrote to their mother, who was still living at the old place on Elk Creek, and told her about the woman they believed to be their sister, and asked the mother to tell them all she could remember about Katy. The mother was then near her ninetieth birthday, but on hearing the letter read her memory revived and she said almost instantly: "Write and tell the boys that my daughter Katy has a ginger-colored birth mark on her shoulder," and then she went on and described the mark, and the very spot described by the mother was found upon the shoulder of the woman in Charles Sage’s house.

Her identification was now complete and beyond question, and the brothers decided to take her home to their mother at once, and Katy was anxious to go. Arrangements for the journey were made but just as they were ready to start Katy was seized with pneumonia and died, disappearing from the world just as suddenly as when a child chasing butterflies on Elk Creek. She crossed the dark river that flows between the transitory life and the eternity of life, beyond, to join her father who sought her as long and faithfully, to meet face to face with Talbert the horse thief, who had no doubt stolen her from her childhood home; and "Granny Moses" who seemed to read her chapter in the book of fate so truly; soon to be joined by her mother in whose soul of deep, strong and deathless love, the memory of a lost child and the little birth mark by which she was at last identified lived so long. Lovingly the dust of Katy Sage was buried by her brothers Samuel and Charles under the skies of the western plains. A modest tombstone marks the spot. Now and then a flower is cast upon the grave by some relative or friend who visits her shrine. The great masses of human beings who still tread around the grave in the future will know nothing of the dust beneath, but under the eye of Him who feeds the ravens when they cry, and clothes the lilies with their hues, the dust of Katy Sage is safely kept and, in a court where errors never creep, her wrongs will be redressed.

One sister of Katy Sage, Mrs. Elizabeth Delp, who was born long after Katy was stolen, is alive. She lives on Elk Creek near her parental home. She is bent with age and leans heavily upon her staff, but the story of her lost sister as she heard it thousands of times from the lips of her mother will be the last thing she forgets in this life.

Caty Sage main page | song & audio| newspaper clippings

Deathly Lyrics:
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