25. Pandosy: How the Horseman of the Apocalypse Decided History on His Stomach

So, let’s play the history of the Pacific Northwest again.

When Pandosy rode into Waillatpu late in 1847, he had just crossed the plains from Saint Louis.

1847. Totally Modern. It was in this old Spanish slaving capital that Pandosy entered the Unknown.

It was a great adventure: leaving civilization on a river boat in Cincinnati (St. Louis was just a river station)…

St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cincinnati

Brand New when Pandosy was in town.

…as if they were going up the Amazon; saddling up in the old Spanish slaving capital, hooking up with their caravan in Independence, Missouri …

Independence, Missouri, back in the day

…and following the great migration of a caravan west on the Oregon Trail. He might have missed some things. Or maybe not. The Jesuit University, perhaps? It would be surprising if he hadn’t at least had a peek.

The artist apparently was fond of straight lines.

Here’s food for thought:

Against their wills, Thomas and Mary Brown, Moses and Nancy Queen, and Isaac and Susan Hawkins were taken from a White Marsh, Maryland, plantation in 1823, forced to leave their families and children 800 miles behind to help the Jesuits in their founding of the Missouri Mission.

Enslaved people were essential to what Jesuit institutions in St. Louis would become. The Jesuits moved another 16 to 18 enslaved people to St. Louis from Maryland in 1829, the same year the Society of Jesus took over St. Louis College, known today as St. Louis University.

Pandosy was right at home. His native Marseilles was built on the slave trade. His father was a shipping captain. Perhaps he knew what he was looking at, or perhaps he took heart from the reality of 1847: the influx of Irish and German immigrants to St. Louis in the 1840s meant that labour was so cheap that it made slaves expensive. Again, food for thought:

During this period the majority of Missouri’s slaves were agricultural workers who lived on farms located along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, and did not reside in cities. Life for urban slaves was unique. It is hard to pigeon-hole the African-American experience in St. Louis, where some persons of color were enslaved, others were free, and a select few were among the wealthiest citizens of the city….Floods of German and Irish immigrants were changing the character of St. Louis, and by 1850 they composed 43% of the population. This affected slavery in the city, for the price of a slave could also buy several years of work by a free common laborer, without the necessity of furnishing board, shelter, health care and clothing. The huge number of immigrants made slavery in the city unprofitable. It became a common practice for slave owners to “hire out” their slaves to other persons. As the number of immigrants increased and the number of slaves remained relatively constant, slavery become even more unprofitable, and slaves could and did hire themselves out to earn money for their owners. Sometimes they were able to keep some or all of these wages for themselves, and additionally work on Sundays and holidays to earn money. The high number of emancipations during the antebellum era suggests that many slaves were able to save part or all of their wages to purchase their own freedom. From lists compiled from the County Court records of freedom licenses, a cross-section of the professions of St. Louis’ African-American community can be assembled.

Perhaps there was a story here of human ascension on a ladder of freedom. I doubt it, though. The Oblates were founded to counter the liberties of the French Revolution. Perhaps it was simply adventure. Maybe the comparison with the Amazon, or with the Congo, is about right. Father Pandosy, what do you think?

Pandosy: I wish. We were promised the Wild West. There’s a long tradition of Catholics heading out into God’s Earth. Ireland. Iceland. Switzerland. Zwasiland. We were promised wild game. We just had to ride out and shoot dinner. What providence! God would provide.

Harold: Wild.

Pandosy: Unfortunately, we weren’t among the first 1,000 men through that country. There was no game left. Even the native people were starving. We rode out after game, all right, while the caravan plodded along, but there was nothing. It didn’t matter how far we rode. Nothing. At Fort Hall, the natives were begging. I just complained. What a rip-off.

Harold: More like the desert outside Eden, then.

Pandosy: I was angry. I had to eat porridge, you know. That’s not coq au vin.

Harold: Porridge is a wholesome food.

Pandosy: Breakfast: porridge. Lunch: porridge. Dinner: porridge. You want to try that?

Harold: Um, no.

Pandosy: Yeah, whatever.

The details are from Pandosy’s journals. The rest is to remind us that all of history is just a story, but it’s people are real.

For Pandosy, it was like riding as a medic into the apocalypse of a battle field, to catch any souls he could find, until there weren’t any left. It was Apocalypse, the end of the world and the beginning of God’s Kingdom. I have seen no record of what he thought of the many emissaries from Native tribes who came to the caravans begging for food, as was the Indigenous principle. Food came from the land. If someone had some of it, they shared. Ironically, this young man who was sick of porridge, food for animals back in Europe, landed in Waillatpu’u and Chamna, where the long, dark seeds of Great Basin Wild Rye were traditionally stewed up, husks and all, as porridge.

Not Porridge Yet, But Working On It

Pandosy doesn’t mention that, either, likely because he was fed up with porridge by that time.

Pandosy: I heard that. I’ll have you know, I wanted them to plant potatoes.

Harold: Potatoes? Why on earth?

Pandosy: You should always help the Earth spring to life. Besides, pigs eat potatoes, and pigs make bacon. With a little help.

Harold: Aren’t potatoes an Indigenous South American crop? Didn’t settlers at Fort Hall deride the natives there as “Diggers”, for digging for bulbs in the ground, which they then set their pigs on?

Pandosy: (Quickly changing the subject.) Do you know that Lieutenant Charles William Wilson of the British Boundary Commission described me as “a very pleasant, well-informed man” with “a fine voice” who did not “despise the cup that cheers.” I like that last bit. Very observant of him.

Harold: What does drinking have to do with this?

Pandosy: He meant I wasn’t a Methodist. Now, that was a sour bunch.

Harold: I still don’t think I quite understand about the pigs.

Pandosy: Oh, sorry. He also recorded that I carried “a blanket and a piece of bacon behind my saddle” and was “ready for travel anywhere.” He didn’t miss a trick.

Harold: You always had a piece of bacon behind your saddle in the hot plateau sun? Wasn’t it full of maggots?

Pandosy: Smoked. Secret recipe.

Harold: So, basically, not porridge.

Pandosy: Not a dollop. That’s pig food.

The details are from Pandosy’s journals and others. The rest is to remind us that all of history is just a story, often misleadingly told, but it’s people are real and have to live with it.

And what did Pandosy find in Waillatpu’u? Civilization?

A bit later than Pandosy, but the technology is right. Typically, the tule mats that make these wall were made by the Yakama and traded, perhaps for horses.

Yes. But he longed for this (Waillatpu Mission, sketch from 1846):

from Thomas Vaugan, ed., Paul Kane, The Columbia Wanderer: Sketches, Paintings, and Comment, 1846-1847, OHS Press, 1971, p. 16.

And, the fool, he didn’t eat this:

Porridge, Anyone?

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