Chief Matilija stopped to rest…

by Tyler Suchman on February 14, 2011

Lovely contribution from Linda Potter:

I have this book and really wanted to share this legend… Linda

This legend was found in the book
Legends and Lore of the Long Ago (Ventura County, California)
Contributed by Club Women of Ventura County
Directed by Mrs. D.W. Mott
Wetzel Publishing Co., Inc.
336 South Brodway, Los Angeles, Calif.
Copyright, 1929 By Mrs. D.W. Mott
Pgs. 125 – 131
A Legend of Matilija’s Poppy
Contributed for
Ventura Current Topics Club
By Charlotte R. Doty

(This story, this legend, is as old as time.
I have simply woven it into rhyme.)

In a peaceful fertile valley
Chief Matilija stopped to rest;
So pleased was he, he there built his lodge,
And he called it Ojai – “The Nest.”
Tribes and sub-tribes gathered
In the canyon which bears his name,
For there, they found in abundance
Fruit, fish, grains and game.
Sturdy and strong were the braves,
Clever and handsome the daughters.
And they dwelt in peace and contentment,
Blessed by the healing waters.
Fairest of all the women,
Best beloved of the tribe,
Was the Old chief’s only daughter,
Cocopah’s promised bride.
Sweet as the thrush, the Mavis,
Was the voice of this Indian girl,
As praised she sang to her god, the Sun,
When the mantle of day would unfurl.
She loved the hills where she wandered,
Carefree and unafraid,
For pure and white as the lily
Was the soul of this Indian Maid.
But Sorrow, alas! Descended
On this people, happy and free.
The soldiers of the Mission,
Our own Ventura-by-the- Sea,
Waged war on this defenseless tribe,
For some trivial, fancied wrong;
The caches were looted, the children killed.
For the weak must submit to the strong.
Hard and Fierce was the fighting
And at the close of day,
With a woman lashed to each soldier’s horse,
To the Mission they made their way.
Proud at the head of his soldiers
The Captain rode and smiled,
For firmly lashed to his saddle
Was the Old Chief’s only child.
Torn from her father and lover
Not to know what their fate might be.
Such things were done in the name of Christ,
The Man of Galilee.
In her prison, the cold gray Mission,
Her voice was never heard.
Gentle, patient, submissive
But silent, our captive bird.
One day a runner, a tribesman,
Got by the barricade;
And hope and song were born anew
In the heart of the Indian Maid.
So pleased with the change were the Padres,
They offered her to wed
Any soldier or Don in the Pueblo;
But she only shook her head.
Five years her lover had waited
In the canyon above the Nest,
But the message brought by the runner
Was safely locked in her breast.
Stormy the night, and dark,
The neophytes all abed,
The gate of the quadrangle stood ajar,
And away to her lover she sped.
On the morrow, the flight was discovered,
And the threats of the Padres were rife;
“Bring back to us our song bird-
Her lover pays with his life.”
Once more the Padres’ soldiers
The canyon, loot and raid;
And when the twilight shadows gather,
None are left save the Indian Maid.
All night she wept by her lover
And then at dawn of day
She wrapped his robes about him,
And silently bore him away.
Up the rocky, rugged hillside,
Till she reached the mountain’s crest;
But the faithful heart was broken…
She died upon his breast.
Spring came to the Valley of Ojai
With her magic wand, one morn.
Every bursting bud, every blade of grass,
Sang merrily “Winter has gone.”
Above Matilija’s Canyon
Where naught but gray sage grew before,
A carpet of pure white poppies
Covered the lovers o’er.
The Sun God had kissed each blossom,
And gold at each heart had laid,
But the pure white petals reflected
The soul of the Indian Maid.
Now no hand ever plucks these flowers
That bloom on the mountain’s crest
Lest the spirit of Matilija’s daughter
Leave barren the Ojai- The Nest.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Potter February 15, 2011 at 10:25 am

Thanks for including in the Post. I hope people enjoy it!


katherine ng April 22, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Is Doty the author or Potter? The poem is beautiful and tells the tale well.
i would like to use the poem one day at the San Francisco Botanical Garden when the Matilija Poppy is blooming.


linda potter April 26, 2014 at 10:19 am

Katherine ng: I have included above information about the author and the book I found the poem in. I did not write it! Glad you enjoyed.


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