Title: The Wild West Show

Periodical: Manchester Times

Date: February 18, 1888

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A "papoose," or Indian infant, was baptised on Wednesday in St. Clement's Church, Salford. This was a remarkable occurrence in many respects. It was one of the many curious spectacles which the presence of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show on the Manchester Racecourse has been responsible for. The ceremony was not unusual in form, but altogether quaint and novel in its attendant circumstances. The infant was baptised according to the rites of the Church of England, the first of its race so privileged with such a good start in civilisation, because it was the first of its race ever born in the British Isles. The mother, Goodrobe, presented this addition to the population of the Wild West camp on the 8th of February. Goodrobe is the wife of Little Chief, who is next in command to the great Red Shirt, a chief of the Sioux nation. Both father and mother belong to the Ogallala tribe. Children of that tribe and all others of the Indian race have hitherto received their names amid rejoicings distinguished by the luxury of a roast dog banquet and other native festivities; but the little papoose, of which so much was made on Wednesday, began life on a higher scale. The affair had got wind in the district around the Wild West camp, and there was quite a large congregation assembled in St. Clement's Church. A certain theatrical element was not absent in the whole proceedings; but it could not be otherwise when there were so many strange figures among the congregation. A group of squaws first made their appearance. Among them was Goodrobe with her child. The infant was not, like the others, tied on the back of its mother, but carefully carried in her arms, encased in something that looked like a very large slipper, [1] beaded and embroidered all over the surface. Red Shirt, in full feathered war paint, next arrived accompanied by about fifty more Indians, including Little Chief, the father of the child, distinguished also by a splendid display of plumage. They all wore their blankets and the choicest adornments in the wardrobe of the camp. A great deal of time had evidently been spent on the being Ash Wednesday, was a holiday in the Wild West. toilet; much more time than usual, for Wednesday, Their complexions were brightened up with nice fresh paint, and they all looked as if they appreciated the importance of the occasion. Buffalo Bill himself was there too, and Major Burke, Buck Taylor, Broncho Bill, and others. The child was christened Frances Victoria Alexandra, after Mrs. Cleveland, the wife of the President of the United States, the Queen, and the Princess of Wales. [2] But for short she will be known among her race by the name of "Over the Sea." By some such suggestive or poetical sobriquet are all good Indians known, such as Red Shirt, Eagle Heart, Little Bull, Blue Horse, and other inhabitants of the camp. Those individuals mentioned have each promised a present of a pony to the child, in accordance with the Indian custom—a custom which has some connection with the wonderful horsemanship of these natives. Little Chief had assumed an ash-white complexion for the occasion, and he looked very grave during the ceremony. He and his wife Goodrobe stood at the baptismal font beside the clergyman, the Rev. J. J. Scott; the godfather, Mr. A. M. H. Gardiner, of Salford; and the godmothers, Mrs. Whittaker and Mrs. Gardiner. Broncho Bill interpreted. There was much lively curiosity exhibited by the congregation, but none by the Indians. The effects either of well-drilled order or of stoical temperament were visible in their demeanor, for while the rest of the congregation were standing on the seats and straining their glances to the ceremony at the font near the door, the Indians sat cowering under their blankets with their faces to the altar, without once turning round to catch a glimpse of what to them must have been a strange ceremony. Most of them toyed with the prayer books, or puzzled themselves over the pages. They were called to action soon; when the hymn "Nearer, my God, to Thee," was given out. A Sioux translation had been carefully rehearsed, and led by Broncho Bill, they sang it in unison in a deep bass tone. A short sermon was preached on the text, "Our Father." Then came the offertory, to which the Indians liberally contributed. The benediction was pronounced, but the audience did not seem inclined to depart; they wanted to see the baby. This desire became evident to the Rev. Mr. Scott, and he announced "that if they would keep their seats the baby would be shown round." There was great satisfaction at this intimation, and a loud hum of expectancy filled the church. Mrs. Whittaker carried it round in its bead-embroidered case, and the female portion of the congregation were merry and delighted. Many of them wanted to kiss the child, and in trying to do so they seriously disturbed its repose. Finally, Major Burke, standing in the chancel, held it aloft to the view of the whole congregation, which then filed out of the church well satisfied. Among the presents the child has received is a handsome necklace made of coins of the realm and gilt and enameled, presented by Mr. Gardiner.

The boys of St. Joseph's Industrial School, Longsight (about 400 in number), by invitation of Colonel the Hon. W. F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), on Tuesday attended the Wild West Show, in Salford. The officers of the school and the boys were alike delighted at the feats and scenes displayed by the company, and while the Custer massacre was being enacted, so realistic was the scene, that the boys believed the "pale faces" to be really dead, and manifested signs of deep sympathy and anxiety to take part in the action. After the performance the boys went through several military manœuvres in the arena to the evident delight of the Indians, who enthusiastically applauded. The lads afterwards went through the camp. The Hon. Colonel Cody and his colleagues were sincerely thanked through the school drill instructor, and the boys gave three hearty cheers for their benefactors.

Note 1: Cradleboard. [back]

Note 2: The child's baptismal name was Frances Victoria Alexandra, named after Frances Folsom Cleveland (wife to President Cleveland), Queen Victoria, and the Princess of Wales (Princess Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia of Denmark, 1844-1925). [back]