Vignettes from the life of William Edwin Nay

These few sketches from the life of William Edwin Nay come from the personal history of Lucy N. James, a daughter of William and Mary Nay.  The first incident is a faith promoting story about William and his wife, Nancy, and their small children.

The mode of travel in those pioneer days was slow and rough.  One day the little family was traveling through rugged mountain country.  As the evening approached the family selected a nice place to camp where the horses could feed on good grass.  The next morning the horses were gone.  William left Nancy and the children to watch the wagon while he looked for the horses.  She was preparing breakfast when she heard the shrill cry of a panther a short distance away.  With great fear she got the children into the wagon and then tied the cover down over the front and sides as best she could.  Then she fastened it down on the inside.  Nancy fervently prayed for protection as the panther jumped on the wagon and then circled the wagon making screaming piercing cries!  Sometime later, the panther left the area.  God had heard her prayer and protected Nancy and the children.  Later that night, William returned with the horses and they were able to continue their journey.

William and his second wife, Mary, were living in Gunnison, Sanpete County at the time of the Black Hawk War.  William fought in the war and in one battle he wounded Chief Black Hawk.  After the war they became good friends, and Chief Black Hawk came often to visit William’s home.  Always Chief Black Hawk would say to him, “You wounded me.”  And William would answer, “Yes, you are right, but we were at war then.”

On another occasion, William was out in the woods one fall day, gathering wood for winter.  He put his hand on a fallen log to get across it and a rattlesnake bit his first finger.  At once, William raised his ax and cut off part of his finger.  He loved to relate this story to his children and grandchildren and show them the part of the finger that was still left on his hand.

Another time, William and Mary’s daughter, Laura, wanted an umbrella for the Fourth of July, but got no promise from her Father.  One day William and Mary went to the store and when they returned Laura was very disappointed when she couldn’t see an umbrella.  She and her sister Lucy dropped behind their parents feeling very sad when Laura spied the handle of an umbrella up under her Father’s coat.  Joy filled their hearts.  Laura’s was a nice black one and Lucy’s a small pink one with blue rings all over it.  Lucy kept hers until after she was married.

An interesting event took place one day while at the circus.  William took Mary and the children to Salina to see the circus.  Lucy could only remember the Snake Charmer and his very big snake.  The snake would wrap itself around her rather tightly.  The Snake Charmer had to pet it, rub it, and talk to it before it finally released its tight hold and let Lucy remove it from her body.

Another note from Lucy’s personal history reports that the family took a train ride from Salina to Gunnison.  This was a fun trip and their first train ride.  All went well with one exception:  Laura got “sea sick.”


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