Eight miles north of Decatur,
on the Omaha Indian Reservation, is a hill overlooking the
River. At its summit is a mound of dirt nearly 45 feet high marking
the burial place of the great Omaha Indian Chief Blackbird. The honored
Indian Chief was buried here sitting upright on his favorite horse. Back in 1804, Lewis and Clark visited this gravesite, leaving behind
decorations to commemorate him.
Blackbird Hill is said to be haunted and every year dozens of people
gather at the site, on October 17th. However, it is not
the ghost of Chief Blackbird who lingers here, but rather, that of a young
woman who was murdered upon this hill more than a century and a half ago.
The story begins with a young couple
back east who had fallen in love in the early 1840s. When the boy finished
his schooling, his plans were to travel abroad for a time and then return
to marry the young girl.
However, the boy never
returned from his trip abroad. The devastated young girl waited
for several years, but she finally gave him up for dead and married
another man. Soon, the newlyweds headed west, eventually
settling in northeast
atop Blackbird Hill.
On October 17, 1849, the young girl
was astounded when she saw her old fiancé walking up the winding path
Missouri River to her small cabin. He too was surprised, having no
idea that she lived there.
Overjoyed to see him, she confessed
that she had never stopped loving him and only married the other man
because she thought he was dead. He then began to convey the
tale of his previous years. When traveling abroad, he was
shipwrecked but managed to survive. However, it took him almost
five years to get back to America. When he arrived home he was
saddened to find that his mother had died and his fiancée had married
another man and moved west. Setting out to find her, he joined a
wagon train and headed for
searching everywhere along the way for his long lost love.
By the time he reached the west
coast he had failed to find her and heartbroken, he began the long
journey home traveling along the
River. Landing one day at the foot of Blackbird Hill, he saw the
winding path up the slope and decided to follow it. That’s when
fate intervened and brought the long lost pair back together.
The girl told him that when her husband returned home, she would tell
him that she wished to be released from her marriage vows so they
could leave together the next morning. Giving the couple time to
discuss the situation the young man hid in the nearby woods. When the woman’s husband returned home, she explained the situation
but he did not want her to leave and at first, begged her to stay. When she refused, he began to get angry and soon ended up attacking
her with his hunting knife. Screaming, she fell to the floor. The husband then dropped the knife and gathered up his bleeding wife.
With her in his arms he ran to the cliff at the top of the hill and
jumped with her into the river far below.
Giving chase, you young
man arrived at the hill just in time to see the man leap from the summit
and to hear the woman’s final scream of agony. Collapsing with
grief, the young man began to wander the hills aimlessly until he was
finally found ragged and half starved by a group of Omaha Indians. Delirious and unable to speak, the Indians carried the man back to their
village, where he stayed until he could recover enough to travel.
Today, the path from the
cabin to the cliff edge is barren. Even more than 150 years later,
no plant life will grow on the path that led to the woman’s death. And, according to the legend, each year on October 17th, the woman’s
chilling screams can be heard at the top of the hill. Over the
years, dozens of people have reportedly heard her cries of terror.
Indian Reservation is located in northeastern
just west of Highway 75. Blackbird Hill is eight miles north of Decatur
River. The hill itself is inside the Omaha reservation
and not open to the public, but you can climb a nearby scenic overlook to
view the river below.
of America, updated September, 2016.