A Dedication . . . (for the game of Tasholiiwe)
The program is dedicated to the memory of Sophia Elizabeth Neeley . . .
My ties to the American Indian seem tenuous at best. The Utes, the Paiutes, and the Goshutes are familiar from their arrow points, their discarded grinding stones, and the occasional piece of wampum or shell bead, etc. that I've found along the way through the years. I know of the Anasazi from their ruins, which are found all over southern Utah, and from my visits to Mesa Verde. I have gazed upon Fremont, Paiute, and Goshute petroglyphs and pictographs that dot the Utah landscape, and pondered their meaning. But, that is as much as I can, or should, claim for myself.
Yet, I do have Indian ancestry -- distant, cloudy -- but still there. My Great, Great, Great Grandmother, Sophia Elizabeth Parsons Ketchum Neeley, was 'part-breed Cherokee' -- from genealogy records and family tradition most probably 1/4 Cherokee. She was born in 1815 at Sempronious, Cayuga County, New York. I know nothing of her childhood, but she and her husband, John Joseph Ketchum, joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). When the Prophet Joseph Smith died, and the church leadership was in dispute and disarray, her husband joined a splinter group (the Strangites). Yet Sophia refused to follow him and instead, somehow, made her way westward, probably alone, with her four children all the way to Winter Quarters. In the meantime, my Great, Great, Great Grandfather, Lewis Neeley and his wife, Elizabeth Miller Neeley, were persecuted, driven, and harried from Nauvoo, with the greater part of the saints, crossed the frozen Mississippi River in 1846, and made their way also to Winter Quarters. There Elizabeth died a few days after giving childbirth, of 'summer complaint', with the baby dying soon after.
A few months later, Lewis and Sophia were married.
They pooled their resources and their children (4 of hers, 5 of his) and in the Spring of 1850 made their way across the plains by wagon train to Salt Lake City, arriving in the fall of 1850. There they lived with their families in their wagons and tent until an adobe house could be built. Lewis and Sophia had six more children of their own -- the last, James Parley Neeley, being my Great, Great Grandfather.
She must have been a strong woman, no stranger to toil, trouble, and hardship, but always hopeful for the future -- a kind of enigma, a cipher, a paradox, for she was a Pioneer and an Indian, all at the same time.