PIONEERS OF THE OLD SOUTHWEST,
A CHRONICLE OF THE DARK AND BLOODY GROUND
Volume 18 In The Chronicles Of America Series
By Constance Lindsay Skinner
This narrative is founded largely on original sources—on the writings and journals of pioneers and contemporary observers, such as Doddridge and Adair, and on the public documents of the period as printed in the Colonial Records and in the American Archives. But the author is, nevertheless, greatly indebted to the researches of, other writers, whose works are cited in the Bibliographical Note. The author's thanks are due, also, to Dr. Archibald Henderson, of the University of North Carolina, for his kindness in reading the proofs of this book for comparison with his own extended collection of unpublished manuscripts relating to the period.
C. L. S.
I. THE TREAD OF PIONEERS II. FOLKWAYS III. THE TRADER IV. THE PASSING OF THE FRENCH PERIL V. BOONE, THE WANDERER VI. THE FIGHT FOR KENTUCKY VII. THE DARK AND BLOODY GROUND VIII. TENNESSEE IX. KING'S MOUNTAIN X. SEVIER, THE STATEMAKER XI. BOONE'S LAST DAYS
PIONEERS OF THE OLD SOUTHWEST
Chapter I. The Tread Of Pioneers
The Ulster Presbyterians, or "Scotch-Irish," to whom history has ascribed the dominant role among the pioneer folk of the Old Southwest, began their migrations to America in the latter years of the seventeenth century. It is not known with certainty precisely when or where the first immigrants of their race arrived in this country, but soon after 1680 they were to be found in several of the colonies. It was not long, indeed, before they were entering in numbers at the port of Philadelphia and were making Pennsylvania the chief center of their activities in the New World. By 1726 they had established settlements in several counties behind Philadelphia. Ten years later they had begun their great trek southward through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and on to the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina. There they met others of their own race—bold men like themselves, hungry after land—who were coming in through Charleston and pushing their way up the rivers from the seacoast to the "Back Country," in search of homes.
These Ulstermen did not come to the New World as novices in the shaping of society; they had already made history. Their ostensible object in America was to obtain land, but, like most external aims, it was secondary to a deeper purpose. What had sent the Ulstermen to America was a passion for a whole freedom. They were lusty men, shrewd and courageous, zealous to the death for an ideal and withal so practical to the moment in business that it soon came to be commonly reported of them that "they kept the Sabbath and everything else they could lay their hands on," though it is but fair to them to add that this phrase is current wherever Scots dwell. They had contested in Parliament and with arms for their own form of worship and for their civil rights. They were already frontiersmen, trained in the hardihood and craft of border warfare through years of guerrilla fighting with the Irish Celts. They had pitted and proved their strength against a wilderness; they had reclaimed the North of Ireland from desolation. For the time, many of them were educated men; under the regulations of the Presbyterian Church every child was taught to read at an early age, since no person could be admitted to the privileges of the Church who did not both understand and approve the Presbyterian constitution and discipline. They were brought up on the Bible and on the writings of their famous pastors, one of whom, as early as 1650, had given utterance to the democratic doctrine that "men are called to the magistracy by the suffrage of the people whom they govern, and for men to assume unto themselves power is mere tyranny and unjust usurpation." In subscribing to this doctrine and in resisting to the hilt all efforts of successive English kings to interfere in the election of their pastors, the Scots of Ulster had already declared for democracy.
It was shortly after James VI of Scotland became James I of England and while the English were founding Jamestown that the Scots had first occupied Ulster; but the true origin of the Ulster Plantation lies further back, in the reign of Henry VIII, in the days of the English Reformation. In Henry's Irish realm the Reformation, though proclaimed by royal authority, had never been accomplished; and Henry's more famous daughter, Elizabeth, had conceived the plan, later to be carried out by James, of planting colonies of Protestants in Ireland to promote loyalty in that rebellious land. Six counties, comprising half a million acres, formed the Ulster Plantation. The great majority of the colonists sent thither by James were Scotch Lowlanders, but among them were many English and a smaller number of Highlanders. These three peoples from the island of Britain brought forth, through intermarriage, the Ulster Scots.
The reign of Charles I had inaugurated for the Ulstermen an era of persecution. Charles practically suppressed the Presbyterian religion in Ireland. His son, Charles II, struck at Ireland in 1666 through its cattle trade, by prohibiting the exportation of beef to England and Scotland. The Navigation Acts, excluding Ireland from direct trade with the colonies, ruined Irish commerce, while Corporation Acts and Test Acts requiring conformity with the practices of the Church of England bore heavily on the Ulster Presbyterians.
It was largely by refugees from religious persecution that America in the beginning was colonized. But religious persecution was only one of the influences which shaped the course and formed the character of the Ulster Scots. In Ulster, whither they had originally been transplanted by James to found a loyal province in the midst of the King's enemies, they had done their work too well and had waxed too powerful for the comfort of later monarchs. The first attacks upon them struck at their religion; but the subsequent legislative acts which successively ruined the woolen trade, barred nonconformists from public office, stifled Irish commerce, pronounced non-Episcopal marriages irregular, and instituted heavy taxation and high rentals for the land their fathers had made productive—these were blows dealt chiefly for the political and commercial ends of favored classes in England.
These attacks, aimed through his religious conscience at the sources of his livelihood, made the Ulster Scot perforce what he was—a zealot as a citizen and a zealot as a merchant no less than as a Presbyterian. Thanks to his persecutors, he made a religion of everything he undertook and regarded his civil rights as divine rights. Thus out of persecution emerged a type of man who was high-principled and narrow, strong and violent, as tenacious of his own rights as he was blind often to the rights of others, acquisitive yet self-sacrificing, but most of all fearless, confident of his own power, determined to have and to hold.
Twenty thousand Ulstermen, it is estimated, left Ireland for America in the first three decades of the eighteenth century. More than six thousand of them are known to have entered Pennsylvania in 1729 alone, and twenty years later they numbered one-quarter of that colony's population. During the five years preceding the Revolutionary War more than thirty thousand Ulstermen crossed the ocean and arrived in America just in time and in just the right frame of mind to return King George's compliment in kind, by helping to deprive him of his American estates, a domain very much larger than the acres of Ulster. They fully justified the fears of the good bishop who wrote Lord Dartmouth, Secretary for the Colonies, that he trembled for the peace of the King's overseas realm, since these thousands of "phanatical and hungry Republicans" had sailed for America.
The Ulstermen who entered by Charleston were known to the inhabitants of the tidewater regions as the "Scotch-Irish." Those who came from the north, lured southward by the offer of cheap lands, were called the "Pennsylvania Irish." Both were, however, of the same race—a race twice expatriated, first from Scotland and then from Ireland, and stripped of all that it had won throughout more than a century of persecution. To these exiles the Back Country of North Carolina, with its cheap and even free tracts lying far from the seat of government, must have seemed not only the Land of Promise but the Land of Last Chance. Here they must strike their roots into the sod with such interlocking strength that no cataclysm of tyranny should ever dislodge them—or they must accept the fate dealt out to them by their former persecutors and become a tribe of nomads and serfs. But to these Ulster immigrants such a choice was no choice at all. They knew themselves strong men, who had made the most of opportunity despite almost superhuman obstacles. The drumming of their feet along the banks of the Shenandoah, or up the rivers from Charleston, and on through the broad sweep of the Yadkin Valley, was a conquering people's challenge to the Wilderness which lay sleeping like an unready sentinel at the gates of their Future.
It is maintained still by many, however often disputed, that the Ulstermen were the first to declare for American Independence, as in the Old Country they were the first to demand the separation of Church and State. A Declaration of Independence is said to have been drawn up and signed in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on May 20, 1775. * However that maybe, it is certain that these Mecklenburg Protestants had received special schooling in the doctrine of independence. They had in their midst for eight years (1758-66) the Reverend Alexander Craighead, a Presbyterian minister who, for his "republican doctrines" expressed in a pamphlet, had been disowned by the Pennsylvania Synod acting on the Governor's protest, and so persecuted in Virginia that he had at last fled to the North Carolina Back Country. There, during the remaining years of his life, as the sole preacher and teacher in the settlements between the Yadkin and the Catawba rivers he found willing soil in which to sow the seeds of Liberty.
* See Hoyt, "The Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence"; and "American Archives," Fourth Series. vol. II, p. 855.
There was another branch of the Scottish race which helped to people the Back Country. The Highlanders, whose loyalty to their oath made them fight on the King's side in the Revolutionary War, have been somewhat overlooked in history. Tradition, handed down among the transplanted clans—who, for the most part, spoke only Gaelic for a generation and wrote nothing—and latterly recorded by one or two of their descendants, supplies us with all we are now able to learn of the early coming of the Gaels to Carolina. It would seem that their first immigration to America in small bands took place after the suppression of the Jacobite rising in 1715—when Highlanders fled in numbers also to France—for by 1729 there was a settlement of them on the Cape Fear River. We know, too, that in 1748 it was charged against Gabriel Johnston, Governor of North Carolina from 1734 to 1752, that he had shown no joy over the King's "glorious victory of Culloden" and that "he had appointed one William McGregor, who had been in the Rebellion in the year 1715 a Justice of the Peace during the last Rebellion  and was not himself without suspicion of disaffection to His Majesty's Government." It is indeed possible that Gabriel Johnston, formerly a professor at St. Andrew's University, had himself not always been a stranger to the kilt. He induced large numbers of highlanders to come to America and probably influenced the second George to moderate his treatment of the vanquished Gaels in the Old Country and permit their emigration to the New World.
In contrast with the Ulstermen, whose secular ideals were dictated by the forms of their Church, these Scots adhered still to the tribal or clan system, although they, too, in the majority, were Presbyterians, with a minority of Roman Catholics and Episcopalians. In the Scotch Highlands they had occupied small holdings on the land under the sway of their chief, or Head of the Clan, to whom they were bound by blood and fealty but to whom they paid no rentals. The position of the Head of the Clan was hereditary, but no heir was bold enough to step forward into that position until he had performed some deed of worth. They were principally herders, their chief stock being the famous small black cattle of the Highlands. Their wars with each other were cattle raids. Only in war, however, did the Gael lay hands on his neighbor's goods. There were no highwaymen and housebreakers in the Highlands. No Highland mansion, cot, or barn was ever locked. Theft and the breaking of an oath, sins against man's honor, were held in such abhorrence that no one guilty of them could remain among his clansmen in the beloved glens. These Highlanders were a race of tall, robust men, who lived simply and frugally and slept on the heath among their flocks in all weathers, with no other covering from rain and snow than their plaidies. It is reported of the Laird of Keppoch, who was leading his clan to war in winter time, that his men were divided as to the propriety of following him further because he rolled a snowball to rest his head upon when he lay down. "Now we despair of victory," they said, "since our leader has become go effeminate he cannot sleep without a pillow!" *
* MacLean, "An Historical Account of the Settlement of Scotch Highlanders in America."
The "King's glorious victory of Culloden" was followed by a policy of extermination carried on by the orders and under the personal direction of the Duke of Cumberland. When King George at last restrained his son from his orgy of blood, he offered the Gaels their lives and exile to America on condition of their taking the full oath of allegiance. The majority accepted his terms, for not only were their lives forfeit but their crops and cattle had been destroyed and the holdings on which their ancestors had lived for many centuries taken from them. The descriptions of the scenes attending their leave-taking of the hills and glens they loved with such passionate fervor are among the most pathetic in history. Strong men who had met the ravage of a brutal sword without weakening abandoned themselves to the agony of sorrow. They kissed the walls of their houses. They flung themselves on the ground and embraced the sod upon which they had walked in freedom. They called their broken farewells to the peaks and lochs of the land they were never again to see; and, as they turned their backs and filed down through the passes, their pipers played the dirge for the dead.
Such was the character, such the deep feeling, of the race which entered North Carolina from the coast and pushed up into the wilderness about the headwaters of Cape Fear River. Tradition indicates that these hillsmen sought the interior because the grass and pea vine which overgrew the innercountry stretching towards the mountains provided excellent fodder for the cattle which some of the chiefs are said to have brought with them. These Gaelic herders, perhaps in negligible numbers, were in the Yadkin Valley before 1730, possibly even ten years earlier. In 1739 Neil MacNeill of Kintyre brought over a shipload of Gaels to rejoin his kinsman, Hector MacNeill, called Bluff Hector from his residence near the bluffs at Cross Creek, now Fayetteville. Some of these immigrants went on to the Yadkin, we are told, to unite with others of their clan who had been for some time in that district. The exact time of the first Highlander on the Yadkin cannot be ascertained, as there were no court records and the offices of the land companies were not then open for the sale of these remote regions. But by 1753 there were not less than four thousand Gaels in Cumberland County, where they occupied the chief magisterial posts; and they were already spreading over the lands now comprised within Moore, Anson, Richmond, Robeson, Bladen, and Sampson counties. In these counties Gaelic was as commonly heard as English.
In the years immediately preceding the Revolution and even in 1776 itself they came in increasing numbers. They knew nothing of the smoldering fire just about to break into flames in the country of their choice, but the Royal Governor, Josiah Martin, knew that Highland arms would soon be ceded by His Majesty. He knew something of Highland honor, too; for he would not let the Gaels proceed after their landing until they had bound themselves by oath to support the Government of King George. So it was that the unfortunate Highlanders found themselves, according too their strict code of honor, forced to wield arms against the very Americans who had received and befriended them—and for the crowned brother of a prince whose name is execrated to this day in Highland song and story!
They were led by Allan MacDonald of Kingsborough; and tradition gives us a stirring picture of Allan's wife—the famous Flora MacDonald, who in Scotland had protected the Young Pretender in his flight—making an impassioned address in Gaelic to the Highland soldiers and urging them on to die for honor's sake. When this Highland force was conquered by the Americans, the large majority willingly bound themselves not to fight further against the American cause and were set at liberty. Many of them felt that, by offering their lives to the swords of the Americans, they had canceled their obligation to King George and were now free to draw their swords again and, this time, in accordance with their sympathies; so they went over to the American side and fought gallantly for independence.
Although the brave glory of this pioneer age shines so brightly on the Lion Rampant of Caledonia, not to Scots alone does that whole glory belong. The second largest racial stream which flowed into the Back Country of Virginia and North Carolina was German. Most of these Germans went down from Pennsylvania and were generally called "Pennsylvania Dutch," an incorrect rendering of Pennsylvanische Deutsche. The upper Shenandoah Valley was settled almost entirely by Germans. They were members of the Lutheran, German Reformed, and Moravian churches. The cause which sent vast numbers of this sturdy people across the ocean, during the first years of the eighteenth century, was religious persecution. By statute and by word the Roman Catholic powers of Austria sought to wipe out the Salzburg Lutherans and the Moravian followers of John Huss. In that region of the Rhine country known in those days as the German Palatinate, now a part of Bavaria, Protestants were being massacred by the troops of Louis of France, then engaged in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13) and in the zealous effort to extirpate heretics from the soil of Europe. In 1708, by proclamation, Good Queen Anne offered protection to the persecuted Palatines and invited them to her dominions. Twelve thousand of them went to England, where they were warmly received by the English. But it was no slight task to settle twelve thousand immigrants of an alien speech in England and enable them to become independent and self-supporting. A better solution of their problem lay in the Western World: The Germans needed homes and the Queen's overseas dominions needed colonists. They were settled at first along the Hudson, and eventually many of them took up lands in the fertile valley of the Mohawk.
For fifty years or more German and Austrian Protestants poured into America. In Pennsylvania their influx averaged about fifteen hundred a year, and that colony became the distributing center for the German race in America. By 1727, Adam Muller and his little company had established the first white settlement in the Valley of Virginia. In 1732 Joist Heydt went south from York, Pennsylvania, and settled on the Opequan Creek at or near the site of the present city of Winchester.
The life of Count Zinzendorf, called "the Apostle," one of the leaders of the Moravian immigrants, glows like a star out of those dark and troublous times. Of high birth and gentle nurture, he forsook whatever of ease his station promised him and fitted himsclf for evangelical work. In 1741 he visited the Wyoming Valley to bring his religion to the Delawares and Shawanoes. He was not of those picturesque Captains of the Lord who bore their muskets on their shoulders when they went forth to preach. Armored only with the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, his feet "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace," he went out into the country of these bloodthirsty tribes and told them that he had come to them in their darkness to teach the love of the Christ which lighteth the world. The Indians received him suspiciously. One day while he sat in his tent writing, some Delawares drew near to slay him and were about to strike when they saw two deadly snakes crawl in from the opposite side of the tent, move directly towards the Apostle, and pass harmlessly over his body. Thereafter they regarded him as under spiritual protection. Indeed so widespread was his good fame among the tribes that for some years all Moravian settlements along the borders were unmolested. Painted savages passed through on their way to war with enemy bands or to raid the border, but for the sake of one consecrated spirit, whom they had seen death avoid, they spared the lives and goods of his fellow believers. When Zinzendorf departed a year later, his mantle fell on David Zeisberger, who lived the love he taught for over fifty years and converted many savages. Zeisberger was taken before the Governor and army heads at Philadelphia, who had only too good reason to be suspicious of priestly counsels in the tents of Shem: but he was able to impress white men no less than simple savages with the nobility of the doctrine he had learned from the Apostle.
In 1751 the Moravian Brotherhood purchased one hundred thousand acres in North Carolina from Lord Granville. Bishop Spangenburg was commissioned to survey this large acreage, which was situated in the present county of Forsyth east of the Yadkin, and which is historically listed as the Wachovia Tract. In 1753, twelve Brethren left the Moravian settlements of Bethlehem and Nazareth, in Pennsylvania, and journeyed southward to begin the founding of a colony on their new land. Brother Adam Grube, one of the twelve, kept a diary of the events of this expedition. *
* This diary is printed in full in "Travels in the American Colonies." edited by N. D. Mereness.
Honor to whom honor is due. We have paid it, in some measure, to the primitive Gaels of the Highlands for their warrior strength and their fealty, and to the enlightened Scots of Ulster for their enterprise and for their sacrifice unto blood that free conscience and just laws might promote the progress and safeguard the intercourse of their kind. Now let us take up for a moment Brother Grube's "Journal" even as we welcome, perhaps the more gratefully, the mild light of evening after the flooding sun, or as our hearts, when too strongly stirred by the deeds of men, turn for rest to the serene faith and the naive speech of little children.
The twelve, we learn, were under the leadership of one of their number, Brother Gottlob. Their earliest alarms on the march were not caused, as we might expect, by anticipations of the painted Cherokee, but by encounters with the strenuous "Irish." One of these came and laid himself to sleep beside the Brethren's camp fire on their first night out, after they had sung their evening hymn and eleven had stretched themselves on the earth for slumber, while Brother Gottlob, their leader, hanging his hammock between two trees, ascended—not only in spirit—a little higher than his charges, and "rested well in it." Though the alarming Irishman did not disturb them, the Brethren's doubts of that race continued, for Brother Grube wrote on the 14th of October: "About four in the morning we set up our tent, going four miles beyond Carl Isles [Carlisle, seventeen miles southwest of Harrisburg] so as not to be too near the Irish Presbyterians. After breakfast the Brethren shaved and then we rested under our tent.... People who were staying at the Tavern came to see what kind of folk we were.... Br Gottlob held the evening service and then we lay down around our cheerful fire, and Br Gottlob in his hammock." Two other jottings give us a racial kaleidoscope of the settlers and wayfarers of that time. On one day the Brethren bought "some hay from a Swiss," later "some kraut from a German which tasted very good to us"; and presently "an Englishman came by and drank a cup of tea with us and was very grateful for it." Frequently the little band paused while some of the Brethren went off to the farms along the route to help "cut hay." These kindly acts were usually repaid with gifts of food or produce.
One day while on the march they halted at a tavern and farm in Shenandoah Valley kept by a man whose name Brother Grube wrote down as "Severe." Since we know that Brother Grube's spelling of names other than German requires editing, we venture to hazard a guess that the name he attempted to set down as it sounded to him was Sevier. And we wonder if, in his brief sojourn, he saw a lad of eight years, slim, tall, and blond, with daring and mischievous blue eyes, and a certain, curve of the lips that threatened havoc in the hearts of both sexes when he should be a man and reach out with swift hands and reckless will for his desires. If he saw this lad, he beheld John Sevier, later to become one of the most picturesque and beloved heroes of the Old Southwest.
Hardships abounded on the Brethren's journey, but faith and the Christian's joy, which no man taketh from him, met and surmounted them. "Three and a half miles beyond, the road forked.... We took the right hand road but found no water for ten miles. It grew late and we had to drive five miles into the night to find a stoppingplace." Two of the Brethren went ahead "to seek out the road" through the darkened wilderness. There were rough hills in the way; and, the horses being exhausted, "Brethren had to help push." But, in due season, "Br Nathanael held evening prayer and then we slept in the care of Jesus," with Brother Gottlob as usual in his hammock. Three days later the record runs: "Toward evening we saw Jeams River, the road to it ran down so very steep a hill that we fastened a small tree to the back of our wagon, locked the wheels, and the Brethren held back by the tree with all their might." Even then the wagon went down so fast that most of the Brethren lost their footing and rolled and tumbled pell-mell. But Faith makes little of such mishaps: "No harm was done and we thanked the Lord that he had so graciously protected us, for it looked dangerous and we thought at times that it could not possibly be done without accident but we got down safely... we were all very tired and sleepy and let the angels be our guard during the night." Rains fell in torrents, making streams almost impassable and drenching the little band to the skin. The hammock was empty one night, for they had to spend the dark hours trench-digging about their tent to keep it from being washed away. Two days later (the 10th of November) the weather cleared and "we spent most of the day drying our blankets and mending and darning our stockings." They also bought supplies from settlers who, as Brother Grube observed without irony,
"are glad we have to remain here so long and that it means money for them. In the afternoon we held a little Lovefeast and rested our souls in the loving sacrifice of Jesus, wishing for beloved Brethren in Bethlehem and that they and we might live ever close to Him.... Nov. 16. We rose early to ford the river. The bank was so steep that we hung a tree behind the wagon, fastening it in such a way that we could quickly release it when the wagon reached the water. The current was very swift and the lead horses were carried down a bit with it. The water just missed running into the wagon but we came safely to the other bank, which however we could not climb but had to take half the things out of the wagon, tie ropes to the axle on which we could pull, help our horses which were quite stiff, and so we brought our ark again to dry land."
On the evening of the 17th of November the twelve arrived safely on their land on the "Etkin" (Yadkin), having been six weeks on the march. They found with joy that, as ever, the Lord had provided for them. This time the gift was a deserted cabin, "large enough that we could all lie down around the walls. We at once made preparation for a little Lovefeast and rejoiced heartily with one another."
In the deserted log cabin, which, to their faith, seemed as one of those mansions "not built with hands" and descended miraculously from the heavens, they held their Lovefeast, while wolves padded and howled about the walls; and in that Pentacostal hour the tongue of fire descended upon Brother Gottlob, so that he made a new song unto the Lord. Who shall venture to say it is not better worth preserving than many a classic?
We hold arrival Lovefeast here In Carolina land, A company of Brethren true, A little Pilgrim-Band, Called by the Lord to be of those Who through the whole world go, To bear Him witness everywhere And nought but Jesus know.
Then, we are told, the Brethren lay down to rest and "Br Gottlob hung his hammock above our heads"—as was most fitting on this of all nights; for is not the Poet's place always just a little nearer to the stars?
The pioneers did not always travel in groups. There were families who set off alone. One of these now claims our attention, for there was a lad in this family whose name and deeds were to sound like a ballad of romance from out the dusty pages of history. This family's name was Boone.
Neither Scots nor Germans can claim Daniel Boone; he was in blood a blend of English and Welsh; in character wholly English. His grandfather George Boone was born in 1666 in the hamlet of Stoak, near Exeter in Devonshire. George Boone was a weaver by trade and a Quaker by religion. In England in his time the Quakers were oppressed, and George Boone therefore sought information of William Penn, his co-religionist, regarding the colony which Penn had established in America. In 1712 he sent his three elder children, George, Sarah, and Squire, to spy out the land. Sarah and Squire remained in Pennsylvania, while their brother returned to England with glowing reports. On August 17, 1717, George Boone, his wife, and the rest of his children journeyed to Bristol and sailed for Philadelphia, arriving there on the 10th of October. The Boones went first to Abingdon, the Quaker farmers' community. Later they moved to the northwestern frontier hamlet of North Wales, a Welsh community which, a few years previously, had turned Quaker. Sarah Boone married a German named Jacob Stover, who had settled in Oley Township, Berks County. In 1718 George Boone took up four hundred acres in Oley, or, to be exact, in the subdivision later called Exeter, and there he lived in his log cabin until 1744, when he died at the age of seventy-eight. He left eight children, fifty-two grandchildren, and ten greatgrandchildren, seventy descendants in all—English, German, Welsh, and Scotch-Irish blended into one family of Americans. *
* R. G. Thwaites, "Daniel Boone", p. 5.
Among the Welsh Quakers was a family of Morgans. In 1720 Squire Boone married Sarah Morgan. Ten years later he obtained 250 acres in Oley on Owatin Creek, eight miles southeast of the present city of Reading; and here, in 1734, Daniel Boone was born, the fourth son and sixth child of Squire and Sarah Morgan Boone. Daniel Boone therefore was a son of the frontier. In his childhood he became familiar with hunters and with Indians, for even the red men came often in friendly fashion to his grandfather's house. Squire Boone enlarged his farm by thrift. He continued at his trade of weaving and kept five or six looms going, making homespun cloth for the market and his neighbors.
Daniel's father owned grazing grounds several miles north of the homestead and each season he sent his stock to the range. Sarah Boone and her little Daniel drove the cows. From early spring till late autumn, mother and son lived in a rustic cabin alone on the frontier. A rude dairy house stood over a cool spring, and here Sarah Boone made her butter and cheese. Daniel, aged ten at this time, watched the herds; at sunset he drove them to the cabin for milking, and locked them in the cowpens at night.
He was not allowed firearms at that age, so he shaped for himself a weapon that served him well. This was a slender smoothly shaved sapling with a small bunch of gnarled roots at one end. So expert was he in the launching of this primitive spear that he easily brought down birds and small game. When he reached his twelfth year, his father bought him a rifle; and he soon became a crack shot. A year later we find him setting off on the autumn hunt—after driving the cattle in for the winter-with all the keenness and courage of a man twice his thirteen years. His rifle enabled him to return with meat for the family and skins to be traded in Philadelphia. When he was fourteen his brother Sam married Sarah Day, an intelligent young Quakeress who took a special interest in her young brother-in-law and taught him "the rudiments of three R's."
The Boones were prosperous and happy in Oley and it may be wondered why they left their farms and their looms, both of which were profitable, and set their faces towards the Unknown. It is recorded that, though the Boones were Quakers, they were of a high mettle and were not infrequently dealt with by the Meeting. Two of Squire Boone's children married "worldlings"—non-Quakers—and were in consequence "disowned" by the Society. In defiance of his sect, which strove to make him sever all connection with his unruly offspring, Squire Boone refused to shut his doors on the son and the daughter who had scandalized local Quakerdom. The Society of Friends thereupon expelled him. This occurred apparently during the winter of 1748-49. In the spring of 1750 we see the whole Boone family (save two sons) with their wives and children, their household goods and their stock, on the great highway, bound for a land where the hot heart and the belligerent spirit shall not be held amiss.
Southward through the Shenandoah goes the Boone caravan. The women and children usually sit in the wagons. The men march ahead or alongside, keeping a keen eye open for Indian or other enemy in the wild, their rifles under arm or over the shoulder. Squire Boone, who has done with Quakerdom and is leading all that he holds dear out to larger horizons, is ahead of the line, as we picture him, ready to meet first whatever danger may assail his tribe. He is a strong wiry man of rather small stature, with ruddy complexion, red hair, and gray eyes. Somewhere in the line, together, we think, are the mother and son who have herded cattle and companioned each other through long months in the cabin on the frontier. We do not think of this woman as riding in the wagon, though she may have done so, but prefer to picture her, with her tall robust body, her black hair, and her black eyes—with the sudden Welsh snap in them—walking as sturdily as any of her sons.
If Daniel be beside her, what does she see when she looks at him? A lad well set up but not overtall for his sixteen years, perhaps—for "eye-witnesses" differ in their estimates of Daniel Boone's height—or possibly taller than he looks, because his figure has the forest hunter's natural slant forward and the droop of the neck of one who must watch his path sometimes in order to tread silently. It is Squire Boone's blood which shows in his ruddy face—which would be fair but for its tan—and in the English cut of feature, the straw-colored eyebrows, and the blue eyes. But his Welsh mother's legacy is seen in the black hair that hangs long and loose in the hunter's fashion to his shoulders. We can think of Daniel Boone only as exhilarated by this plunge into the Wild. He sees ahead—the days of his great explorations and warfare, the discovery of Kentucky? Not at all. This is a boy of sixteen in love with his rifle. He looks ahead to vistas of forest filled with deer and to skies clouded with flocks of wild turkeys. In that dream there is happiness enough for Daniel Boone. Indeed, for himself, even in later life, he asked little, if any, more. He trudges on blithely, whistling.
Chapter II. Folkways
These migrations into the inland valleys of the Old South mark the first great westward thrust of the American frontier. Thus the beginnings of the westward movement disclose to us a feature characteristic also of the later migrations which flung the frontier over the Appalachians, across the Mississippi, and finally to the shores of the Pacific. The pioneers, instead of moving westward by slow degrees, subduing the wilderness as they went, overleaped great spaces and planted themselves beyond, out of contact with the life they had left behind. Thus separated by hundreds of miles of intervening wilderness from the more civilized communities, the conquerors of the first American "West," prototypes of the conquerors of succeeding "Wests," inevitably struck out their own ways of life and developed their own customs. It would be difficult, indeed, to find anywhere a more remarkable contrast in contemporary folkways than that presented by the two great community groups of the South—the inland or piedmont settlements, called the Back Country, and the lowland towns and plantations along the seaboard.
The older society of the seaboard towns, as events were soon to prove, was not less independent in its ideals than the frontier society of the Back Country; but it was aristocratic in tone and feeling. Its leaders were the landed gentry—men of elegance, and not far behind their European contemporaries in the culture of the day. They were rich, without effort, both from their plantations, where black slaves and indentured servants labored, and from their coastwise and overseas trade. Their battles with forest and red man were long past. They had leisure for diversions such as the chase, the breeding and racing of thoroughbred horses, the dance, high play with dice and card, cockfighting, the gallantry of love, and the skill of the rapier. Law and politics drew their soberer minds.
Very different were the conditions which confronted the pioneers in the first American "West." There every jewel of promise was ringed round with hostility. The cheap land the pioneer had purchased at a nominal price, or the free land he had taken by "tomahawk claim"—that is by cutting his name into the bark of a deadened tree, usually beside a spring—supported a forest of tall trunks and interlacing leafage. The long grass and weeds which covered the ground in a wealth of natural pasturage harbored the poisonous copperhead and the rattlesnake and, being shaded by the overhead foliage, they held the heavy dews and bred swarms of mosquitoes, gnats, and big flies which tortured both men and cattle. To protect the cattle and horses from the attacks of these pests the settlers were obliged to build large "smudges"—fires of green timber—against the wind. The animals soon learned to back up into the dense smoke and to move from one grazing spot to another as the wind changed. But useful as were the green timber fires that rolled their smoke on the wind to save the stock, they were at the same time a menace to the pioneer, for they proclaimed to roving bands of Cherokees that a further encroachment on their territory had been made by their most hated enemies—the men who felled the hunter's forest. Many an outpost pioneer who had made the long hard journey by sea and land from the old world of persecution to this new country of freedom, dropped from the red man's shot ere he had hewn the threshold of his home, leaving his wife and children to the unrecorded mercy of his slayer.
Those more fortunate pioneers who settled in groups won the first heat in the battle with the wilderness through massed effort under wariness. They made their clearings in the forest, built their cabins and stockades, and planted their cornfields, while lookouts kept watch and rifles were stacked within easy reach. Every special task, such as a "raising," as cabin building was called, was undertaken by the community chiefly because the Indian danger necessitated swift building and made group action imperative. But the stanch heart is ever the glad heart. Nothing in this frontier history impresses us more than the joy of the pioneer at his labors. His determined optimism turned danger's dictation into an occasion for jollity. On the appointed day for the "raising," the neighbors would come, riding or afoot, to the newcomer's holding—the men with their rifles and axes, the women with their pots and kettles. Every child toddled along, too, helping to carry the wooden dishes and spoons. These free givers of labor had something of the Oriental's notion of the sacred ratification of friendship by a feast.
The usual dimensions of a cabin were sixteen by twenty feet. The timber for the building, having been already cut, lay at hand—logs of hickory, oak, young pine, walnut, or persimmon. To make the foundations, the men seized four of the thickest logs, laid them in place, and notched and grooved and hammered them into as close a clinch as if they had grown so. The wood must grip by its own substance alone to hold up the pioneer's dwelling, for there was not an iron nail to be had in the whole of the Back Country. Logs laid upon the foundation logs and notched into each other at the four corners formed the walls; and, when these stood at seven feet, the builders laid parallel timbers and puncheons to make both flooring and ceiling. The ridgepole of the roof was supported by two crotched trees and the roofing was made of logs and wooden slabs. The crevices of the walls were packed close with red clay and moss. Lastly, spaces for a door and windows were cut out. The door was made thick and heavy to withstand the Indian's rush. And the windowpanes? They were of paper treated with hog's fat or bear's grease.
When the sun stood overhead, the women would give the welcome call of "Dinner!" Their morning had not been less busy than the men's. They had baked corn cakes on hot stones, roasted bear or pork, or broiled venison steaks; and—above all and first of all—they had concocted the great "stew pie" without which a raising could hardly take place. This was a disputatious mixture of deer, hog, and bear—animals which, in life, would surely have companioned each other as ill! It was made in sufficient quantity to last over for supper when the day's labor was done. At supper the men took their ease on the ground, but with their rifles always in reach. If the cabin just raised by their efforts stood in the Yadkin, within sight of the great mountains the pioneers were one day to cross, perhaps a sudden bird note warning from the lookout, hidden in the brush, would bring the builders with a leap to their feet. It might be only a hunting band of friendly Catawbas that passed, or a lone Cherokee who knew that this was not his hour. If the latter, we can, in imagination, see him look once at the new house on his hunting pasture, slacken rein for a moment in front of the group of families, lift his hand in sign of peace, and silently go his way hillward. As he vanishes into the shadows, the crimson sun, sinking into the unknown wilderness beyond the mountains, pours its last glow on the roof of the cabin and on the group near its walls. With unfelt fingers, subtly, it puts the red touch of the West in the faces of the men—who have just declared, through the building of a cabin, that here is Journey's End and their abiding place.
There were community holidays among these pioneers as well as labor days, especially in the fruit season; and there were flower-picking excursions in the warm spring days. Early in April the service berry bush gleamed starrily along the watercourses, its hardy white blooms defying winter's lingering look. This bush—or tree, indeed, since it is not afraid to rear its slender trunk as high as cherry or crab apple—might well be considered emblematic of the frontier spirit in those regions where the white silence covers the earth for several months and shuts the lonely homesteader in upon himself. From the pioneer time of the Old Southwest to the last frontier of the Far North today, the service berry is cherished alike by white men and Indians; and the red men have woven about it some of their prettiest legends. When June had ripened the tree's blue-black berries, the Back Country folk went out in parties to gather them. Though the service berry was a food staple on the frontier and its gathering a matter of household economy, the folk made their berry-picking jaunt a gala occasion. The women and children with pots and baskets—the young girls vying with each other, under the eyes of the youths, as to who could strip boughs the fastest—plucked gayly while the men, rifles in hand, kept guard. For these happy summer days were also the red man's scalping days and, at any moment, the chatter of the picnickers might be interrupted by the chilling war whoop. When that sound was heard, the berry pickers raced for the fort. The wild fruits—strawberries, service berries, cherries, plums, crab apples—were, however, too necessary a part of the pioneer's meager diet to be left unplucked out of fear of an Indian attack. Another day would see the same group out again. The children would keep closer to their mothers, no doubt; and the laughter of the young girls would be more subdued, even if their coquetry lacked nothing of its former effectiveness. Early marriages were the rule in the Back Country and betrothals were frequently plighted at these berry pickings.
As we consider the descriptions of the frontiersman left for us by travelers of his own day, we are not more interested in his battles with wilderness and Indian than in the visible effects of both wilderness and Indian upon him. His countenance and bearing still show the European, but the European greatly altered by savage contact. The red peril, indeed, influenced every side of frontier life. The bands of women and children at the harvestings, the log rollings, and the house raisings, were not there merely to lighten the men's work by their laughter and love-making. It was not safe for them to remain in the cabins, for, to the Indian, the cabin thus boldly thrust upon his immemorial hunting grounds was only a secondary evil; the greater evil was the white man's family, bespeaking the increase of the dreaded palefaces. The Indian peril trained the pioneers to alertness, shaped them as warriors and hunters, suggested the fashion of their dress, knit their families into clans and the clans into a tribe wherein all were of one spirit in the protection of each and all and a unit of hate against their common enemy.
Too often the fields which the pioneer planted with corn were harvested by the Indian with fire. The hardest privations suffered by farmers and stock were due to the settlers having to flee to the forts, leaving to Indian devastation the crops on which their sustenance mainly, depended. Sometimes, fortunately, the warning came in time for the frontiersman to collect his goods and chattels in his wagon and to round up his live stock and drive them safely into the common fortified enclosure. At others, the tap of the "express"—as the herald of Indian danger was called—at night on the windowpane and the low word whispered hastily, ere the "express" ran on to the next abode, meant that the Indians had surprised the outlying cabins of the settlement.
The forts were built as centrally as possible in the scattered settlements. They consisted of cabins, blockhouses, and stockades. A range of cabins often formed one side of a fort. The walls on the outside were ten or twelve feet high with roofs sloping inward. The blockhouses built at the angles of the fort projected two feet or so beyond the outer walls of the cabins and stockades, and were fitted with portholes for the watchers and the marksmen. The entrance to the fort was a large folding gate of thick slabs. It was always on the side nearest the spring. The whole structure of the fort was bullet-proof and was erected without an iron nail or spike. In the border wars these forts withstood all attacks. The savages, having proved that they could not storm them, generally laid siege and waited for thirst to compel a sortie. But the crafty besieger was as often outwitted by the equally cunning defender. Some daring soul, with silent feet and perhaps with naked body painted in Indian fashion, would drop from the wall under cover of the night, pass among the foemen to the spring, and return to the fort with water.
Into the pioneer's phrase-making the Indian influence penetrated so that he named seasons for his foe. So thoroughly has the term "Indian Summer," now to us redolent of charm, become disassociated from its origins that it gives us a shock to be reminded that to these Back Country folk the balmy days following on the cold snap meant the season when the red men would come back for a last murderous raid on the settlements before winter should seal up the land. The "Powwowing Days" were the mellow days in the latter part of February, when the red men in council made their medicine and learned of their redder gods whether or no they should take the warpath when the sap pulsed the trees into leaf. Even the children at their play acknowledged the red-skinned schoolmaster, for their chief games were a training in his woodcraft and in the use of his weapons. Tomahawk-throwing was a favorite sport because of its gruesome practical purposes. The boys must learn to gauge the tomahawk's revolutions by the distance of the throw so as to bury the blade in its objective. Swift running and high jumping through the brush and fallen timber were sports that taught agility in escape. The boys learned to shoot accurately the long rifles of their time, with a log or a forked stick for a rest, and a moss pad under the barrel to keep it from jerking and spoiling the aim. They wrestled with each other, mastered the tricks of throwing an opponent, and learned the scalp hold instead of the toe hold. It was part of their education to imitate the noises of every bird and beast of the forest. So they learned to lure the turkey within range, or by the bleat of a fawn to bring her dam to the rifle. A well-simulated wolf's howl would call forth a response and so inform the lone hunter of the vicinity of the pack. This forest speech was not only the language of diplomacy in the hunting season; it was the borderer's secret code in war. Stray Indians put themselves in touch again with the band by turkey calls in the daytime and by owl or wolf notes at night. The frontiersmen used the same means to trick the Indian band into betraying the place of its ambuscade, or to lure the strays, unwitting, within reach of the knife.
In that age, before the forests had given place to farms and cities and when the sun had but slight acquaintance with the sod, the summers were cool and the winters long and cold in the Back Country. Sometimes in September severe frosts destroyed the corn. The first light powdering called "hunting snows" fell in October, and then the men of the Back Country set out on the chase. Their object was meat—buffalo, deer, elk, bear-for the winter larder, and skins to send out in the spring by pack-horses to the coast in trade for iron, steel, and salt. The rainfall in North Carolina was much heavier than in Virginia and, from autumn into early winter, the Yadkin forests were sheeted with rain; but wet weather, so far from deterring the hunter, aided him to the kill. In blowing rain, he knew he would find the deer herding in the sheltered places on the hillsides. In windless rain, he knew that his quarry ranged the open woods and the high places. The fair play of the pioneer held it a great disgrace to kill a deer in winter when the heavy frost had crusted the deep snow. On the crust men and wolves could travel with ease, but the deer's sharp hoofs pierced through and made him defenseless. Wolves and dogs destroyed great quantities of deer caught in this way; and men who shot deer under these conditions were considered no huntsmen. There was, indeed, a practical side to this chivalry of the chase, for meat and pelt were both poor at this season; but the true hunter also obeyed the finer tenet of his code, for he would go to the rescue of deer caught in the crusts—and he killed many a wolf sliding over the ice to an easy meal.
The community moral code of the frontier was brief and rigorous. What it lacked of the "whereas" and "inasmuch" of legal ink it made up in sound hickory. In fact, when we review the activities of this solid yet elastic wood in the moral, social, and economic phases of Back Country life, we are moved to wonder if the pioneers would have been the same race of men had they been nurtured beneath a less strenuous and adaptable vegetation! The hickory gave the frontiersman wood for all implements and furnishings where the demand was equally for lightness, strength, and elasticity. It provided his straight logs for building, his block mortars hollowed—by fire and stone—for corn-grinding, his solid plain furniture, his axles, rifle butts, ax handles, and so forth. It supplied his magic wand for the searching out of iniquity in the junior members of his household, and his most cogent argument, as a citizen, in convincing the slothful, the blasphemous, or the dishonest adult whose errors disturbed communal harmony. Its nuts fed his hogs. Before he raised stock, the unripe hickory nuts, crushed for their white liquid, supplied him with butter for his corn bread and helped out his store of bear's fat. Both the name and the knowledge of the uses of this tree came to the earliest pioneers through contact with the red man, whose hunting bow and fishing spear and the hobbles for his horses were fashioned of the "pohickory" tree. The Indian women first made pohickory butter, and the wise old men of the Cherokee towns, so we are told, first applied the pohickory rod to the vanity of youth!
A glance at the interior of a log cabin in the Back Country of Virginia or North Carolina would show, in primitive design, what is, perhaps, after all the perfect home—a place where the personal life and the work life are united and where nothing futile finds space. Every object in the cabin was practical and had been made by hand on the spot to answer a need. Besides the chairs hewn from hickory blocks, there were others made of slabs set on three legs. A large slab or two with four legs served as a movable table; the permanent table was built against the wall, its outer edge held up by two sticks. The low bed was built into the wall in the same way and softened for slumber by a mattress of pine needles, chaff, or dried moss. In the best light from the greased paper windowpanes stood the spinning wheel and loom, on which the housewife made cloth for the family's garments. Over the fireplace or beside the doorway, and suspended usually on stags' antlers, hung the firearms and the yellow powderhorns, the latter often carved in Indian fashion with scenes of the hunt or war. On a shelf or on pegs were the wooden spoons, plates, bowls, and noggins. Also near the fireplace, which was made of large flat stones with a mud-plastered log chimney, stood the grinding block for making hominy. If it were an evening in early spring, the men of the household would be tanning and dressing deerskins to be sent out with the trade caravan, while the women sewed, made moccasins or mended them, in the light of pine knots or candles of bear's grease. The larger children might be weaving cradles for the babies, Indian fashion, out of hickory twigs; and there would surely be a sound of whetting steel, for scalping knives and tomahawks must be kept keen-tempered now that the days have come when the red gods whisper their chant of war through the young leafage.
The Back Country folk, as they came from several countries, generally settled in national groups, each preserving its own speech and its own religion, each approaching frontier life through its own native temperament. And the frontier met each and all alike, with the same need and the same menace, and molded them after one general pattern. If the cabin stood in a typical Virginian settlement where the folk were of English stock, it may be that the dulcimer and some old love song of the homeland enlivened the work—or perhaps chairs were pushed back and young people danced the country dances of the homeland and the Virginia Reel, for these Virginian English were merry folk, and their religion did not frown upon the dance. In a cabin on the Shenandoah or the upper Yadkin the German tongue clicked away over the evening dish of kraut or sounded more sedately in a Lutheran hymn; while from some herder's but on the lower Yadkin the wild note of the bagpipes or of the ancient four-stringed harp mingled with the Gaelic speech.
Among the homes in the Shenandoah where old England's ways prevailed, none was gayer than the tavern kept by the man whom the good Moravian Brother called "Severe." There perhaps the feasting celebrated the nuptials of John Sevier, who was barely past his seventeenth birthday when he took to himself a wife. Or perhaps the dancing, in moccasined feet on the puncheon flooring, was a ceremonial to usher into Back Country life the new municipality John had just organized, for John at nineteen had taken his earliest step towards his larger career, which we shall follow later on, as the architect of the first little governments beyond the mountains.
In the Boone home on the Yadkin, we may guess that the talk was solely of the hunt, unless young Daniel had already become possessed of his first compass and was studying its ways. On such an evening, while the red afterglow lingered, he might be mending a passing trader's firearms by the fires of the primitive forge his father had set up near the trading path running from Hillsborough to the Catawba towns. It was said by the local nimrods that none could doctor a sick rifle better than young Daniel Boone, already the master huntsman of them all. And perhaps some trader's tale, told when the caravan halted for the night, kindled the youth's first desire to penetrate the mountain-guarded wilderness, for the tales of these Romanies of commerce were as the very badge of their free-masonry, and entry money at the doors of strangers.
Out on the border's edge, heedless of the shadow of the mountains looming between the newly built cabin and that western land where they and their kind were to write the fame of the Ulster Scot in a shining script that time cannot dull, there might sit a group of stern-faced men, all deep in discussion of some point of spiritual doctrine or of the temporal rights of men. Yet, in every cabin, whatever the national differences, the setting was the same The spirit of the frontier was modeling out of old clay a new Adam to answer the needs of a new earth.
It would be far less than just to leave the Back Country folk without further reference to the devoted labors of their clergy. In the earliest days the settlers were cut off from their church systems; the pious had to maintain their piety unaided, except in the rare cases where a pastor accompanied a group of settlers of his denomination into the wilds. One of the first ministers who fared into the Back Country to remind the Ulster Presbyterians of their spiritual duties was the Reverend Hugh McAden of Philadelphia. He made long itineraries under the greatest hardships, in constant danger from Indians and wild beasts, carrying the counsel of godliness to the far scattered flock. Among the Highland settlements the Reverend James Campbell for thirty years traveled about, preaching each Sunday at some gathering point a sermon in both English and Gaelic. A little later, in the Yadkin Valley, after Craighead's day there arose a small school of Presbyterian ministers whose zeal and fearlessness in the cause of religion and of just government had an influence on the frontiersmen that can hardly be overestimated.
But, in the beginning, the pioneer encountered the savagery of border life, grappled with it, and reacted to it without guidance from other mentor than his own instincts. His need was still the primal threefold need family, sustenance, and safe sleep when the day's work was done. We who look back with thoughtful eyes upon the frontiersman—all links of contact with his racial past severed, at grips with destruction in the contenting of his needs—see something more, something larger, than he saw in the log cabin raised by his hands, its structure held together solely by his close grooving and fitting of its own strength. Though the walls he built for himself have gone with his own dust back to the earth, the symbol he erected for us stands.
Chapter III. The Trader
The trader was the first pathfinder. His caravans began the change of purpose that was to come to the Indian warrior's route, turning it slowly into the beaten track of communication and commerce. The settlers, the rangers, the surveyors, went westward over the trails which he had blazed for them years before. Their enduring works are commemorated in the cities and farms which today lie along every ancient border line; but of their forerunner's hazardous Indian trade nothing remains. Let us therefore pay a moment's homage here to the trader, who first—to borrow a phrase from Indian speech—made white for peace the red trails of war.
He was the first cattleman of the Old Southwest. Fifty years before John Findlay, * one of this class of pioneers, led Daniel Boone through Cumberland Gap, the trader's bands of horses roamed the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains and his cattle grazed among the deer on the green banks of the old Cherokee (Tennessee) River. He was the pioneer settler beyond the high hills; for he built, in the center of the Indian towns, the first white man's cabin—with its larger annex, the trading house—and dwelt there during the greater part of the year. He was America's first magnate of international commerce. His furs—for which he paid in guns, knives, ammunition, vermilion paint, mirrors, and cloth—lined kings' mantles, and hatted the Lords of Trade as they strode to their council chamber in London to discuss his business and to pass those regulations which might have seriously hampered him but for his resourcefulness in circumventing them!
* The name is spelled in various ways: Findlay, Finlay, Findley.
He was the first frontier warrior, for he either fought off or fell before small parties of hostile Indians who, in the interest of the Spanish or French, raided his pack-horse caravans on the march. Often, too, side by side with the red brothers of his adoption, he fought in the intertribal wars. His was the first educative and civilizing influence in the Indian towns. He endeavored to cure the Indians of their favorite midsummer madness, war, by inducing them to raise stock and poultry and improve their corn, squash, and pea gardens. It is not necessary to impute to him philanthropic motives. He was a practical man and he saw that war hurt his trade: it endangered his summer caravans and hampered the autumn hunt for deerskins.
In the earliest days of the eighteenth century, when the colonists of Virginia and the Carolinas were only a handful, it was the trader who defeated each successive attempt of French and Spanish agents to weld the tribes into a confederacy for the annihilation of the English settlements. The English trader did his share to prevent what is now the United States from becoming a part of a Latin empire and to save it for a race having the Anglo-Saxon ideal and speaking the English tongue.
The colonial records of the period contain items which, taken singly, make small impression on the casual reader but which, listed together, throw a strong light on the past and bring that mercenary figure, the trader, into so bold a relief that the design verges on the heroic. If we wonder, for instance, why the Scotch Highlanders who settled in the wilds at the headwaters of the Cape Fear River, about 1729, and were later followed by Welsh and Huguenots, met with no opposition from the Indians, the mystery is solved when we discover, almost by accident, a few printed lines which record that, in 1700, the hostile natives on the Cape Fear were subdued to the English and brought into friendly alliance with them by Colonel William Bull, a trader. We read further and learn that the Spaniards in Florida had long endeavored to unite the tribes in Spanish and French territory against the English and that the influence of traders prevented the consummation. The Spaniards, in 1702, had prepared to invade English territory with nine hundred Indians. The plot was discovered by Creek Indians and disclosed to their friends, the traders, who immediately gathered together five hundred warriors, marched swiftly to meet the invaders, and utterly routed them. Again, when the Indians, incited by the Spanish at St. Augustine, rose against the English in 1715, and the Yamasi Massacre occurred in South Carolina, it was due to the traders that some of the settlements at least were not wholly unprepared to defend themselves.
The early English trader was generally an intelligent man; sometimes educated, nearly always fearless and resourceful. He knew the one sure basis on which men of alien blood and far separated stages of moral and intellectual development can meet in understanding—namely, the truth of the spoken word. He recognized honor as the bond of trade and the warp and woof of human intercourse. The uncorrupted savage also had his plain interpretation of the true word in the mouths of men, and a name for it. He called it the "Old Beloved Speech"; and he gave his confidence to the man who spoke this speech even in the close barter for furs.
We shall find it worth while to refer to the map of America as it was in the early days of the colonial fur trade, about the beginning of the eighteenth century. A narrow strip of loosely strung English settlements stretched from the north border of New England to the Florida line. North Florida was Spanish territory. On the far distant southwestern borders of the English colonies were the southern possessions of France. The French sphere of influence extended up the Mississippi, and thence by way of rivers and the Great Lakes to its base in Canada on the borders of New England and New York. In South Carolina dwelt the Yamasi tribe of about three thousand warriors, their chief towns only sixty or eighty miles distant from the Spanish town of St. Augustine. On the west, about the same distance northeast of New Orleans, in what is now Alabama and Georgia, lay the Creek nation. There French garrisons held Mobile and Fort Alabama. The Creeks at this time numbered over four thousand warriors. The lands of the Choctaws, a tribe of even larger fighting strength, began two hundred miles north of New Orleans and extended along the Mississippi. A hundred and sixty miles northeast of the Choctaw towns were the Chickasaws, the bravest and most successful warriors of all the tribes south of the Iroquois. The Cherokees, in part seated within the Carolinas, on the upper courses of the Savannah River, mustered over six thousand men at arms. East of them were the Catawba towns. North of them were the Shawanoes and Delawares, in easy communication with the tribes of Canada. Still farther north, along the Mohawk and other rivers joining with the Hudson and Lake Ontario stood the "long houses" of the fiercest and most warlike of all the savages, the Iroquois or Six Nations.
The Indians along the English borders outnumbered the colonists perhaps ten to one. If the Spanish and the French had succeeded in the conspiracy to unite on their side all the tribes, a red billow of tomahawk wielders would have engulfed and extinguished the English settlements. The French, it is true, made allies of the Shawanoes, the Delawares, the Choctaws, and a strong faction of the Creeks; and they finally won over the Cherokees after courting them for more than twenty years. But the Creeks in part, the powerful Chickasaws, and the Iroquois Confederacy, or Six Nations, remained loyal to the English. In both North and South it was the influence of the traders that kept these red tribes on the English side. The Iroquois were held loyal by Sir William Johnson and his deputy, George Croghan, the "King of Traders." The Chickasaws followed their "best-beloved" trader, James Adair; and among the Creeks another trader, Lachlan McGillivray, wielded a potent influence.
Lachlan McGillivray was a Highlander. He landed in Charleston in 1735 at the age of sixteen and presently joined a trader's caravan as packhorse boy. A few years later he married a woman of the Creeks. On many occasions he defeated French and Spanish plots with the Creeks for the extermination of the colonists in Georgia and South Carolina. His action in the final war with the French (1760), when the Indian terror was raging, is typical. News came that four thousand Creek warriors, reinforced by French Choctaws, were about to fall on the southern settlements. At the risk of their lives, McGillivray and another trader named Galphin hurried from Charleston to their trading house on the Georgia frontier. Thither they invited several hundred Creek warriors, feasted and housed them for several days, and finally won them from their purpose. McGillivray had a brilliant son, Alexander, who about this time became a chief in his mother's nation perhaps on this very occasion, as it was an Indian custom, in making a brotherhood pact, to send a son to dwell in the brother's house. We shall meet that son again as the Chief of the Creeks and the terrible scourge of Georgia and Tennessee in the dark days of the Revolutionary War.
The bold deeds of the early traders, if all were to be told, would require a book as long as the huge volume written by James Adair, the "English Chickasaw." Adair was an Englishman who entered the Indian trade in 1785 and launched upon the long and dangerous trail from Charleston to the upper towns of the Cherokees, situated in the present Monroe County, Tennessee. Thus he was one of the earliest pioneers of the Old Southwest; and he was Tennessee's first author. "I am well acquainted," he says, "with near two thousand miles of the American continent"—a statement which gives one some idea of an early trader's enterprise, hardihood, and peril. Adair's "two thousand miles" were twisting Indian trails and paths he slashed out for himself through uninhabited wilds, for when not engaged in trade, hunting, literature, or war, it pleased him to make solitary trips of exploration. These seem to have led him chiefly northward through the Appalachians, of which he must have been one of the first white explorers.
A many-sided man was James Adair—cultured, for his style suffers not by comparison with other writers of his day, no stranger to Latin and Greek, and not ignorant of Hebrew, which he studied to assist him in setting forth his ethnological theory that the American Indians were the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Before we dismiss his theory with a smile, let us remember that he had not at his disposal the data now available which reveal points of likeness in custom, language formation, and symbolism among almost all primitive peoples. The formidable title-page of his book in itself suggests an author keenly observant, accurate as to detail, and possessed of a versatile and substantial mind. Most of the pages were written in the towns of the Chickasaws, with whom he lived "as a friend and brother," but from whose "natural jealousy" and "prying disposition" he was obliged to conceal his papers. "Never," he assures us, "was a literary work begun and carried on with more disadvantages!"
Despite these disabilities the author wrote a book of absorbing interest. His intimate sympathetic pictures of Indian life as it was before the tribes had been conquered are richly valuable to the lover of native lore and to the student of the history of white settlement. The author believes, as he must, in the supremacy of his own race, but he nevertheless presents the Indians' side of the argument as no man could who had not made himself one of them. He thereby adds interest to those fierce struggles which took place along the border; for he shows us the red warrior not as a mere brute with a tomahawk but as a human creature with an ideal of his own, albeit an ideal that must give place to a better. Even in view of the red man's hideous methods of battle and inhuman treatment of captives, we cannot ponder unmoved Adair's description of his preparations for war—the fasting, the abstention from all family intercourse, and the purification rites and prayers for three days in the house set apart, while the women, who might not come close to their men in this fateful hour, stood throughout the night till dawn chanting before the door. Another poetic touch the author gives us, from the Cherokee—or Cheerake as he spells it—explaining that the root, chee-ra, means fire. A Cherokee never extinguished fire save on the occasion of a death, when he thrust a burning torch into the water and said, Neetah intahah—"the days appointed him were finished." The warrior slain in battle was held to have been balanced by death and it was said of him that "he was weighed on the path and made light." Adair writes that the Cherokees, until corrupted by French agents and by the later class of traders who poured rum among them like water, were honest, industrious, and friendly. They were ready to meet the white man with their customary phrase of good will "I shall firmly shake hands with your speech." He was intimately associated with this tribe from 1735 to 1744, when he diverted his activities to the Chickasaws.
It was from the Cherokees' chief town, Great Telliko, in the Appalachians, that Adair explored the mountains. He describes the pass through the chain which was used by the Indians and which, from his outline of it, was probably the Cumberland Gap. He relates many incidents of the struggle with the French—manifestations even in this remote wilderness of the vast conflict that was being waged for the New World by two imperial nations of the Old.
Adair undertook, at the solicitation of Governor Glen of South Carolina, the dangerous task of opening up trade with the Choctaws; a tribe mustering upwards of five thousand warriors who were wholly in the French interest. Their country lay in what is now the State of Mississippi along the great river, some seven hundred miles west and southwest of Charleston. After passing the friendly Creek towns the trail led on for 150 miles through what was practically the enemy's country. Adair, owing to what he likes to term his "usual good fortune," reached the Choctaw country safely and by his adroitness and substantial presents won the friendship of the influential chief, Red Shoe, whom he found in a receptive mood, owing to a French agent's breach of hospitality involving Red Shoe's favorite wife. Adair thus created a large proEnglish faction among the Choctaws, and his success seriously impaired French prestige with all the southwestern tribes. Several times French Choctaws bribed to murder him, waylaid Adair on the trail—twice when he was alone—only to be baffled by the imperturbable self-possession and alert wit which never failed him in emergencies.
Winning a Choctaw trade cost Adair, besides attacks on his life, 2200 pounds, for which he was never reimbursed, notwithstanding Governor Glen's agreement with him. And, on his return to Charleston, while the Governor was detaining him "on one pretext or another," he found that a new expedition, which the Governor was favoring for reasons of his own, had set out to capture his Chickasaw trade and gather in "the expected great crop of deerskins and beaver... before I could possibly return to the Chikkasah Country." Nothing daunted, however, the hardy trader set out alone.
"In the severity of winter, frost, snow, hail and heavy rains succeed each other in these climes, so that I partly rode and partly swam to the Chikkasah country; for not expecting to stay long below [in Charleston] I took no leathern canoe. Many of the broad, deep creeks... had now overflowed their banks, ran at a rapid rate and were unpassable to any but DESPERATE PEOPLE... the rivers and swamps were dreadful by rafts of timber driving down the former and the great fallen trees floating in the latter.... Being forced to wade deep through cane swamps or woody thickets, it proved very troublesome to keep my firearms dry on which, as a second means, my life depended."
Nevertheless Adair defeated the Governor's attempt to steal his trade, and later on published the whole story in the Charleston press and sent in a statement of his claims to the Assembly, with frank observations on His Excellency himself. We gather that his bold disregard of High Personages set all Charleston in an uproar!
Adair is tantalizingly modest about his own deeds. He devotes pages to prove that an Indian rite agrees with the Book of Leviticus but only a paragraph to an exploit of courage and endurance such as that ride and swim for the Indian trade. We have to read between the lines to find the man; but he well repays the search. Briefly, incidentally, he mentions that on one trip he was captured by the French, who were so,
"well acquainted with the great damages I had done to them and feared others I might occasion, as to confine me a close prisoner ... in the Alebahma garrison. They were fully resolved to have sent me down to Mobile or New Orleans as a capital criminal to be hanged... BUT I DOUBTED NOT OF BEING ABLE TO EXTRICATE MYSELF SOME WAY OR OTHER. They appointed double centries over me for some days before I was to be sent down in the French King's large boat. They were strongly charged against laying down their weapons or suffering any hostile thing to be in the place where I was kept, as they deemed me capable of any mischief.... About an hour before we were to set off by water I escaped from them by land.... I took through the middle of the low land covered with briers at full speed. I heard the French clattering on horseback along the path... and the howling savages pursuing..., but MY USUAL GOOD FORTUNE enabled me to leave them far enough behind...."
One feels that a few of the pages given up to Leviticus might well have been devoted to a detailed account of this escape from "double centries" and a fortified garrison, and the plunge through the tangled wilds, by a man without gun or knife or supplies, and who for days dared not show himself upon the trail.
There is too much of "my usual good fortune" in Adair's narrative; such luck as his argues for extraordinary resources in the man. Sometimes we discover only through one phrase on a page that he must himself have been the hero of an event he relates in the third person. This seems to be the case in the affair of Priber, which was the worst of those "damages" Adair did to the French. Priber was "a gentleman of curious and speculative temper" sent by the French in 1786 to Great Telliko to win the Cherokees to their interest. At this time Adair was trading with the Cherokees. He relates that Priber,
"more effectually to answer the design of his commission... ate, drank, slept, danced, dressed, and painted himself with the Indians, so that it was not easy to distinguish him from the natives,—he married also with them, and being endued with a strong understanding and retentive memory he soon learned their dialect, and by gradual advances impressed them with a very ill opinion of the English, representing them as fraudulent, avaritious and encroaching people; he at the same time inflated the artless savages with a prodigious high opinion of their own importance in the American scale of power.... Having thus infected them... he easily formed them into a nominal republican government—crowned their old Archimagus emperor after a pleasing new savage form, and invented a variety of high-sounding titles for all the members of his imperial majesty's red court."
Priber cemented the Cherokee empire "by slow but sure degrees to the very great danger of our southern colonies." His position was that of Secretary of State and as such, with a studiedly provocative arrogance, he carried on correspondence with the British authorities. The colonial Government seems, on this occasion, to have listened to the traders and to have realized that Priber was a danger, for soldiers were sent to take him prisoner. The Cherokees, however, had so firmly "shaked hands" with their Secretary's admired discourse that they threatened to take the warpath if their beloved man were annoyed, and the soldiers went home without him—to the great hurt of English prestige. The Cherokee empire had now endured for five years and was about to rise "into a far greater state of puissance by the acquisition of the Muskohge, Chocktaw and the Western Mississippi Indians," when fortunately for the history of British colonization in America, "an accident befell the Secretary."
It is in connection with this "accident" that the reader suspects the modest but resourceful Adair of conniving with Fate. Since the military had failed and the Government dared not again employ force, other means must be found; the trader provided them. The Secretary with his Cherokee bodyguard journeyed south on his mission to the Creeks. Secure, as he supposed, he lodged overnight in an Indian town. But there a company of English traders took him into custody, along with his bundle of manuscripts presumably intended for the French commandant at Fort Alabama, and handed him over to the Governor of Georgia, who imprisoned him and kept him out of mischief till he died.