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The only thing white about him was his name. He was a Piute Indian, and Piutes are neither white nor pretty. There is only one being in human shape uglier than a Piute "buck" - and that is a Piute squaw. One I saw at the Sink of the Humboldt haunts me yet. Her hideous face, begrimed with dirt and smeared with yellow paint, bleared and leering eyes, and horrid long, flapping breasts - ugh! it was a sight to make one feel sick. A degraded woman is the saddest spectacle on earth. Shakespeare knew what he was doing when he made the witches in Macbeth of the feminine gender. But as you look at them you almost forget that these Piute hags are women - they seem a cross between brute and devil. The unity of the human race is a fact which I accept; but some of our brothers and sisters are far gone from original loveliness. If Eve could see these Piute women, she would not be in a hurry to claim them as her daughters; and Adam would feel like disowning some of his sons. As it appears to me, however, these repulsive savages furnish an argument in support of two fundamental facts of Christianity. One fact is, God did indeed make of one blood all the nations of the earth; the other is the fact of the fall and depravity of the human race. This unspeakable ugliness of these Indians is owing to their evil living. Dirty as they are, the little Indian children are not at all repulsive in expression. A boy of ten years, who stood half-naked, shivering in the wind, with his bow and arrows, had well-shaped features and a pleasant expression of countenance, with just a little of the look of animal cunning that belongs to all wild tribes. The ugliness grows on these Indians fearfully fast when it sets in. The brutalities of the lives they lead stamp themselves on their faces; and no other animal on earth equals in ugliness the animal called man, when he is nothing but an animal.
There was a mystery about Jack White's early life. He was born in the sagebrush desert beyond the Sierras, and, like all Indian babies, doubtless had a hard time at the outset. A Christian's pig or puppy is as well cared for as a Piute papoose. Jack was found in a deserted Indian camp in the mountains. He had been left to die, and was taken charge of by the kind hearted John M. White, who was then digging for gold in the Northern mines. He and his good Christian wife had mercy on the little Indian boy that looked up at them so pitifully with his wondering black eyes. At first he had the frightened and bewildered look of a captured wild creature, but he soon began to be more at ease. He acquired the English language slowly, and never did lose the peculiar accent of his tribe. The miners called him Jack White, not knowing any other name for him.
Moving to the beautiful San Ramon Valley, not far from the Bay of San Francisco, the Whites took Jack with them. They taught him the leading doctrines and facts of the Bible, and made him useful in domestic service. He grew and thrived. Broad-shouldered, muscular, and straight as an arrow, Jack was admired for his strength and agility by the white boys with whom he was brought into contact. Though not quarrelsome, he had a steady courage that, backed by his great strength, inspired respect and insured good treatment from them. Growing up amid these influences, his features were softened into a civilized expression, and his tawny face was not unpleasing. The heavy under-jaw and square forehead gave him an appearance of hardness which was greatly relieved by the honest look out of his eyes, and the smile which now and then would slowly creep over his face, like the movement of the shadow of a thin cloud on a calm day in summer. An Indian smiles deliberately, and in a dignified way - at least Jack did.
I first knew Jack at Santa Rosa, of which beautiful town his patron, Mr. White, was then the marshal. Jack came to my Sunday-school, and was taken into a class of about twenty boys taught by myself. They were the noisy element of the school, ranging from ten to fifteen years of age - too large to show the docility of the little lads, but not old enough to have attained the self-command and self-respect that come later in life. Though he was much older than any of them, and heavier than his teacher, this class suited Jack. The white boys all liked him, and he liked me. We had grand times with that class. The only way to keep them in order was to keep them very busy. The plan of having them answer in concert was adopted with decided results. It kept them awake and the whole school with them, for California boys have strong lungs. Twenty boys speaking all at once, with eager excitement and flashing eyes, waked the drowsiest drone in the room. A gentle hint was given now and then to take a little lower key. In these lessons, Jack's deep guttural tones came in with marked effect, and it was delightful to see how he enjoyed it all. And the singing made his swarthy features glow with pleasure, though he rarely joined in it, having some misgiving as to the melody of his voice.
The truths of the gospel took strong hold of Jack's mind, and his inquiries indicated a deep interest in the matter of religion. I was therefore not surprised when, during a protracted-meeting in the town, Jack became one of the converts; but there was surprise and delight among the brethren at the class-meeting when Jack rose in his place and told what great thing the Lord had done for him, dwelling with special emphasis on the words, "I am happy, because I know Jesus takes my sins away - I know he takes my sins away." His voice melted into softness, and a tear trickled down his cheek as he spoke; and when Dan Duncan, the leader, crossed over the room and grasped his hand in a burst of joy, there was a glad chorus of rejoicing Methodists over Jack White, the Piute convert.
Jack never missed a service at the church, and in the social-meetings he never failed to tell the story of his newborn joy and hope, and always with thrilling effect, as he repeated with trembling voice, "I am happy, because I know Jesus takes my sins away." Sin was a reality with Jack, and the pardon of sin the most wonderful of all facts. He never tired of telling it; it opened a new world to him, a world of light and joy. Jack White in the class-meeting or prayer-meeting, with beaming face, and moistened eyes, and softened voice, telling of the love of Jesus, seemed almost of a different race from the wretched Piutes of the Sierras and sagebrush.
Jack's baptism was a great event. It was by immersion, the first baptism of the kind I ever performed - and almost the last. Jack had been talked to on the subject by some zealous brethren of another "persuasion," who magnified that mode, and though he was willing to do as I advised in the matter, he was evidently a little inclined to the more spectacular way of receiving the ordinance. Mrs. White suggested that it might save future trouble, and "spike a gun." So Jack, with four others, was taken down to Santa Rosa Creek, that went rippling and sparkling along the southern edge of the town, and duly baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. A great crowd covered the bridge just below, and the banks of the stream; and when Wesley Mock, the Asaph of Santa Rosa Methodism, struck up
O happy day that fixed my choice
On thee, my Saviour and my God,
and the chorus -
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away,
was swelled by hundreds of voices, it was a glad moment for Jack White and all of us. Religiously it was a warm time; but the water was very cold, it being one of the chilliest days I ever felt in that genial climate.
"You were rather awkward, Brother Fitzgerald, in immersing those persons," said my stalwart friend, Elder John McCorkle, of the "Christian" or Campbellite Church, who had critically but not unkindly watched the proceedings from the bridge. "If you will send for me the next time, I will do it for you," he added, pleasantly.
I fear it was awkwardly done, for the water was very cold, and a shivering man cannot be very graceful in his movements. I would have done better in a baptistery, with warm water and a rubber suit. But of all the persons I have welcomed into the Church during my ministry, the reception of no one has given use more joy than that of Jack White, the Piute Indian.
Jack's heart yearned for his own people. He wanted to tell them of Jesus, who could take away their sins; and perhaps his Indian instinct made him long for the freedom of the hills.
"I am going to my people," he said to me; "I want to tell them of Jesus. You will pray for me?" he added, with a quiver in his voice and a heaving chest.
He went away, and I have never seen him since. Where he is now, I know not. I trust I may meet him on Mount Sion, with the harpers harping with their harps, and singing, as it were, a new song before the throne.
Postscript. - Since this Sketch was penciled, the Rev. C. Y. Rankin, in a note dated Santa Rosa, California, August 3, 1880, says: "Mrs. White asked me to send you word of the peaceful death of Jack White (Indian). He died trusting in Jesus."