“History tends to repeat itself.” But some events in history were so evil, shameful, and tragic—that we should pray and work to see that they are never again repeated.
Within the worst of times, however, one can find a few good people who showed faith, hope, and love. Re-telling the stories of those people can offer us a vicarious experience of the past and perspectives needed in the present.
In the mid to late 19th-Century, tensions were building between civilizations, political factions, and people groups competing for land, resources, and power. Westward expansion was thrilling and offered opportunities—land to tame, farms to establish, towns to settle, gold and silver to mine, territory to claim for the United States, a state to organize and add to the Union. But all this encroached on the centuries-old way of life of the Plains Indians. As treaties were made and not honored, more and more military presence moved into the Territory, ambitious opportunists rose to power, fears, misunderstandings, and violence increased.
The story is told in John Buzzard’s historical novel, That Day by the Creek. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War and Frontier struggles, a young seminary graduate answers God’s call to come west and minister among the Cheyenne Indians. His name is Joshua Frasier. He is soon caught up in the action when he is recruited as a chaplain in the Colorado militia led by John Chivington. Through the fictional character of Joshua we meet the major historical figures of the era, including John Evans (first governor of Colorado) Silas Soule, Black Kettle, etc.
Joshua even marries into the Cheyenne tribe and comes to appreciate most of the Cheyennes as “friendly” Indians who just want peace, to be able to trust the White leaders who have made them promises, and to provide for their families by access to their ancient hunting grounds and rivers.
In telling this important story, John Buzzard’s writing style is straight-forward and unsentimental, and the well-paced action keeps you reading as conflicts build to that fateful day.
The true events on which this story is based are heart-wrenching, not an episode of American history to be proud of. John Buzzard deals with the historical people, issues, and events with a clear eye, the informed perspective of a researcher, and the heart of a person of faith who sees individuals as nuanced and flawed, but also sees that even when evil seems to get hold of groups of people and have its day … a faithful few are planting seeds of love, truth, and forgiveness that will survive and bear fruit.
That Day by the Creek brings history to life and reminds us not to allow fear, distrust, and anger to escalate to the place where we would ever again experience such a day as That Day by the Creek!