THE BARK COVERED HOUSE,
or, BACK IN THE WOODS AGAIN; BEING A GRAPHIC AND THRILLING DESCRIPTION OF REAL PIONEER LIFE IN THE WILDERNESS OF MICHIGAN
BY WILLIAM NOWLIN, ESQ.
I little thought when I left my farm yards, horses and cattle in the care of other men, and began to write, that I should spend nearly all the winter of 1875 in writing; much less, that I should offer the product of such labor to the public, in the Centennial Year. But I have been urged to do so by many friends, both learned and unlearned, who have read the manuscript, or listened to parts of it. They think the work, although written by a farmer, should see the light and live for the information of others. One of these is Levi Bishop, of Detroit, who was long a personal friend of my father and his family, and has recently read the manuscript. He is now President of the "Wayne County Pioneer Society," and is widely known as a literary man, poet and author.
Sketch of the lives of John and Melinda Nowlin; of their journeying and settlement in Michigan.
Thrilling scenes and incidents of pioneer life, of hopes and fears, of ups and downs, of a life in the woods; continuing until the gloom and darkness of the forest were chased away, by the light of civilization, and the long battle for a home had been fought by the pioneer soldiers and they had gained a signal victory over nature herself.
Hope never forsook them in the darkest hours, but beckoned and cheered them on to the conquest of the wilderness. When that was consummated hope hovered and sat upon her pedestal of realization. For better days had come for the pioneers in the country they had found. Then was heard the joyful, enchanting "Harvest Home;" songs of "Peace and Plenty."
Crowned with honor, prosperity and happiness—for a time.
I have delineated the scenes of this narrative, from time to time, as they took place. I thought at the time when they occurred that some of them were against me.
I do not place this volume before its readers that I may gain any applause: I have sought to say no more of myself than was necessary.
This is a labor of love, written to perpetuate the memory of some most noble lives, among whom were my father and mother who sought a home in the forests of Michigan at an early day. Being then quite young, I kept no record of dates or occurrences, and this book is mostly sketched from memory.
It is a history of my parents' struggles and triumphs in the wilderness. It ought to encourage all who read it, since not many begin life in a new country with fewer advantages than they.
It is said that "Truth is stranger than fiction." In this I have detailed the walks of ordinary life in the woods. In these pictures there is truth. All and more than I have said have been realized. My observations have been drawn from my own knowledge, in the main, but I am indebted to my sisters for some incidents related. Together, with our brother, we often sat around the clay hearth and listened to father's stories, words of encouragement and counsel. Together we shared and endured the fears, trials and hardships of a pioneer life.
This work cannot fail to be of deep interest to all persons of similar experience; and to their descendants for ages to come who can never too fully appreciate the blessings earned for them by their parents and others amid hardships, privations and sufferings (in a new country) the half of which can never be told.
I—TALKING OF MICHIGAN II—DISAGREEABLE MUSIC III—HOW WE GOT OUR SWEET, AND THE HISTORY OF MY FIRST PIG IV—OUR SECOND HOUSE AND FIRST APPLE TREES V—THE JUG OF WHISKY AND TEMPERANCE MEETING VI—HOW WE FOUND OUR CATTLE VII—TROUBLE CAME ON THE WING VIII—HARD TIMES FOR US IN MICHIGAN IX—A SUMMER HUNT X—HOW WE GOT INTO TROUBLE ONE NIGHT AND I SCARED XI—THE INDIANS VISIT US—THEIR STRANGE AND PECULIAR WAYS XII—THE INSIDE OF OUR HOUSE—A PICTURE FROM MEMORY XIII—METHEGLIN; OR, THE DETECTED DRINK XIV—OUR ROAD—HOW I WAS WOUNDED XV—PROSPECT OF WAR XVI—FISHING AND BOAT RIDING, XVII—HOW I GOT IN TROUBLE RIDING IN A CANOE XVIII—OUR CLEARING AND THE FIRST RAILROAD CARS XIX—TREES XX—DRAWING CORD-WOOD—HOW THE RAILROAD WAS BUILT—THE STEAM WHISTLE XXI—HOW I HUNTED AND WE PAID THE MORTGAGE XXII—BEAR HUNT XXIII—GRANDFATHER'S POWDER HORN—WAR WITH PIRATES XXIV—LIGHT BEGINS TO DAWN XXV—MAKING A BARGAIN XXVI—HOW I COMMENCED FOR MYSELF—FATHER'S OLD FARM XXVII—THOUGHTS IN CONNECTION WITH FATHER AND EARLY PIONEER LIFE XXVIII—FATHER'S NEW HOUSE AND ITS SITUATION—HIS CHILDREN VISIT HIM XXIX—MY WATCH LOST AND VISIT TO CANADA XXX—MOTHER'S VISIT TO THE EAST XXXI—LEAVING NEW YORK CITY FOR HOME
"THE MICHIGAN" THE BARK-COVERKD HOUSE THE THOMPSON TAVERN HOUSE BUILT IN 1836 FIRST RAILWAY CARS HOUSE BUILT IN 1854
TALKING OF MICHIGAN.
My father was born in 1793, and my mother in 1802, in Putnam County, State of New York. Their names were John and Melinda Nowlin. Mother's maiden name was Light.
My father owned a small farm of twenty-five acres, in the town of Kent, Putnam County, New York, about sixty miles from New York City. We had plenty of fruit, apples, pears, quinces and so forth, also a never failing spring. He bought another place about half a mile from that. It was very stony, and father worked very hard. I remember well his building stone wall.
But hard work would not do it. He could not pay for the second place. It involved him so that we were in danger of losing the place where we lived.
He said, it was impossible for a poor man to get along and support his family; that he never could get any land for his children there, and he would sell what he had and go to a better country, where land was cheap and where he could get land for them.
He talked much of the territory of Michigan. He went to one of the neighbors and borrowed a geography. I recollect very well some things that it stated. It was Morse's geography, and it said that the territory of Michigan was a very fertile country, that it was nearly surrounded by great lakes, and that wild grapes and other wild fruit grew in abundance.
Father then talked continually of Michigan. Mother was very much opposed to leaving her home. I was the eldest of five children, about ten or eleven years of age, when the word Michigan grated upon my ear. I am not able to give dates in full, but all of the incidents I relate are facts. Some of them occurred over forty years ago, and are given mostly from memory, without the aid of a diary. Nevertheless, most of them are now more vivid and plain to my mind than some things which transpired within the past year. I was very much opposed to going to Michigan, and did all that a boy of my age could do to prevent it. The thought of Indians, bears and wolves terrified me, and the thought of leaving my schoolmates and native place was terrible. My parents sent me to school when in New York, but I have not been to school a day since. My mother's health was very poor. Her physician feared that consumption of the lungs was already seated. Many of her friends said she would not live to get to Michigan if she started. She thought she could not, and said, that if she did, herself and family would be killed by the Indians, perish in the wilderness, or starve to death. The thought too, of leaving her friends and the members of the church, to which she was very much attached, was terribly afflicting. She made one request of father, which was that when she died he would take her back to New York, and lay her in the grave yard by her ancestors.
Father had made up his mind to go to Michigan, and nothing could change him. He sold his place in 1832, hired a house for the summer, then went down to York, as we called it, to get his outfit. Among his purchases were a rifle for himself and a shot gun for me. He said when we went to Michigan it should be mine. I admired his rifle very much. It was the first one I had ever seen. After trying his rifle a few days, shooting at a mark, he bade us good-by, and started "to view" in Michigan.
I think he was gone six or eight weeks, when he returned and told us of his adventures and the country. He said he had a very hard time going up Lake Erie. A terrible storm caused the old boat, "Shelvin Thompson" to heave, and its timber to creak in almost every joint. He thought it must go down. He went to his friend, Mr. George Purdy, (who is now an old resident of the town of Dearborn) said to him: "You had better get up; we are going down! The Captain says 'every man on deck and look out for himself.'" Mr. Purdy was too sick to get up. The good old steamer weathered the storm and landed safely at Detroit.
Father said that Michigan was a beautiful country, that the soil was as rich as a barn-yard, as level as a house floor, and no stones in the way. (I here state, that he did not go any farther west than where he bought his land.) He also said he had bought eighty acres of land, in the town of Dearborn, two and a half miles from a little village, and twelve miles from the city of Detroit. Said he would buy eighty acres more, east of it, after he moved in the spring, which would make it square, a quarter section. He said it was as near Detroit as he could get government land, and he thought Detroit would always be the best market in the country.
Father had a mother, three sisters, one brother and an uncle living in Unadilla Country N.Y. He wished very much to see them, and, as they were about one hundred and fifty miles on his way to Michigan, he concluded to spend the winter with them. Before he was ready to start he wrote to his uncle, Griffin Smith, to meet him, on a certain day, at Catskill, on the Hudson river. I cannot give the exact date, but remember that it was in the fall of 1833.
The neighbor, of whom we borrowed the old geography, wished very much to go West with us, but could not raise the means. When we started we passed by his place; he was lying dead in his house. Thus were our hearts, already sad, made sadder.
We traveled twenty-five miles in a wagon, which brought us to Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson river, then took a night boat for Catskill where uncle was to meet us the next morning. Before we reached Catskill, the captain said that he would not stop there. Father said he must. The captain said he would not stop for a hundred dollars as his boat was behind time. But he and father had a little private conversation, and the result was he did stop. The captain told his men to be careful of the things, and we were helped off in the best style possible. I do not know what changed the captain's mind, perhaps he was a Mason. Uncle met us, and our things were soon on his wagon. Now, our journey lay over a rough, hilly country, and I remember it was very cold. I think we passed over some of the smaller Catskill Mountains. My delicate mother, wrapt as best she could be, with my little sister (not then a year old) in her arms, also the other children, rode. Father and I walked some of the way, as the snow was quite deep on the mountains. He carried his rifle, and I my shot-gun on our shoulders. Our journey was a tedious one, for we got along very slowly; but we finally arrived at Unadilla. There we had many friends and passed a pleasant winter. I liked the country better than the one we left, and we all tried to get father to buy there, and give up the idea of going to Michigan. But a few years satisfied us that he knew the best.
Early in the spring of 1834 we left our friends weeping, for, as they expressed it, they thought we were going "out of the world." Here I will give some lines composed and presented to father and mother by father's sister, N. Covey, which will give her idea of our undertaking better than any words I can frame:
"Dear Brother and Sister, we must bid you adieu, We hope that the Lord will deal kindly with you, Protect and defend you, wherever you go, If Christ is your friend, sure you need fear no foe.
"The distance doth seem great, to which you are bound, But soon we must travel on far distant ground, And if we prove faithful to God's grace and love, If we ne'er meet before, we shall all meet above."
About twenty years later this aunt, her husband and nine children (they left one son) sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and grand-children visited us. Uncle had sold his nice farm in Unadilla and come to settle his very intelligent family in Michigan. He settled as near us as he could get government land sufficient for so large a family. With most of this numerous family near him, he is at this day a sprightly old man, respected (so far as I know) by all who know him, from Unionville to Bay City.
Now as I have digressed, I must go back and continue the story of our journey from Unadilla to Michigan. As soon as navigation opened, in the spring, we started again with uncle's team and wagon. In this manner we traveled about fifty miles which brought us to Utica. There we embarked on a canal boat and moved slowly night and day, to invade the forests of Michigan. Sometimes when we came to a lock father got off and walked a mile or two. On one of these occasions I accompanied him, and when we came to a favorable place, father signaled to the steersman, and he turned the boat up. Father jumped on to the side of the boat. I attempted to follow him, did not jump far enough, missed my hold and went down, by the side of the boat, into the water. However, father caught my hand and lifted me out. They said that if he had not caught me, I must have been crushed to death, as the boat struck the side the same minute. That, certainly, would have been the end of my journey to Michigan. When it was pleasant we spent part of the time on deck. One day mother left my little brother, then four years old, in care of my oldest sister, Rachel. He concluded to have a rock in an easy chair, rocked over and took a cold bath in the canal. Mother and I were in the cabin. When we heard the cry "Overboard!" we rushed on deck, and the first thing we saw was a man swimming with something ahead of him. It proved to be my brother, held by one strong arm of an English gentleman. He did not strangle much; some said the Englishman might have waded out, in that case he would not have strangled any, as he had on a full-cloth overcoat, which held him up until the Englishman got to him. Be that as it may, the Englishman was our ideal hero for many years, for by his bravery and skill, unparalleled by anything we had seen, he had saved our brother from a watery grave.
That brother is now the John Smith Nowlin, of Dearborn.
Nothing more of importance occurred while we were on the canal. When we arrived at Buffalo the steamer, "Michigan," then new, just ready for her second trip, lay at her wharf ready to start the next morning. Thinking we would get a better night's rest, at a public house, than on the steamer father sought one, but made a poor choice.
Father had four or five hundred dollars, which were mostly silver, he thought this would be more secure and unsuspected in mother's willow basket, which would be thought to contain only wearing apparel for the child. We had just got nicely installed and father gone to make preparations for our embarkation on the "Michigan," when the lady of the house came by mother and, as if to move it a little, lifted her basket. Then she said, "You must have plenty of money, your basket is very heavy."
When father came, and mother told him the liberty the lady had taken, he did not like it much, and I am sure I felt anything but easy.
But father called for a sleeping room with three beds, and we were shown up three flights of stairs, into a dark, dismal room, with no window, and but one door. Mother saw us children in bed, put the basket of silver between my little brother and me, and then went down. The time seemed long, but finally father and mother came up. I felt much safer then. Late in the evening a man, with a candle in one hand, came into the room, looked at each bed sufficiently to see who was in it. When he came to father's bed, which proved to be the last, as he went round, father asked him what he wanted there. He said he was looking for an umbrella. Father said he would give him umbrella, caught him by the sleeve of his coat; but he proved to be stronger than his coat for he fled leaving one sleeve of a nice broadcloth coat in father's hand. Father then put his knife over the door-latch. I began to breathe more freely, but there was no sleep for father or mother, and but little for me, that night.
Everything had been quiet about two hours when we heard steps, as of two or three, coming very quietly, in their stocking feet. Father rose, armed himself with a heavy chair and waited to receive them.
Mother heard the door-latch, and fearing that father would kill, or be killed, spoke, as if not wishing them to hear, and said: "John have the pistols ready," (it will be remembered that we had pistols in place of revolvers in those days) "and the moment they open the door shoot them." This stratagem worked; they retired as still as possible.
In about two or three hours more, they came again, and although father told mother to keep still, she said again: "Be ready now and blow them down the moment they burst open the door."
Away they went again, but came once more just before daylight, stiller if possible than ever; father was at his station, chair in hand, but mother was determined all should live, if possible, so she said "They are coming again, shoot the first one that enters!" &c., &c.
They found that we were awake and, do doubt, thought that they would meet with a little warmer reception than they wished. Father really had no weapons with him except the chair and knife. I said, the room had no window, consequently, it was as dark at daylight as at midnight. The only way we could tell when it was daylight was by the noise on the street.
When father went down, in the morning, he inquired for the landlord and the man that came into his room; but the landlord and the man with one sleeve were not to be found. Father complained to the landlady, of being disturbed, and showed her the coatsleeve. She said it must have been an old man, who usually slept in that room, looking for a bed.
We went immediately to our boat. As father was poor and wished to economize, he took steerage passage, as we had warm clothes and plenty of bedding, he thought this the best that he could afford. Our headquarters were on the lower deck. In a short time steam was up, and we bade farewell to Buffalo, where we had spent a sleepless night, and with about six-hundred passengers started on our course.
The elements seemed to be against us. A fearful storm arose; the captain thought it would be dangerous to proceed, and so put in below a little island opposite Cleveland, and tied up to a pier which ran out from the island. Here we lay for three weary days and nights, the storm continually raging.
Finally, the captain thought he must start out. He kept the boat as near the shore as he could with safety, and we moved slowly until we were near the head of the lake. Then the storm raged and the wind blew with increased fury. It seemed as if the "Prince of the power of the air" had let loose the wind upon us. The very air seemed freighted with woe. The sky above and the waters below were greatly agitated. It was a dark afternoon, the clouds looked black and angry and flew across the horizon apparently in a strife to get away from the dreadful calamity that seemed to be coming upon Lake Erie.
We were violently tempest-tossed. Many of the passengers despaired of getting through. Their lamentations were piteous and all had gloomy forebodings of impending ruin. The dark, blue, cold waves, pressed hard by the wind, rolled and tumbled our vessel frightfully, seeming to make our fears their sport. What a dismal, heart-rending scene! After all our efforts in trying to reach Michigan, now I expected we must be lost. Oh how vain the expectation of reaching our new place, in the woods! I thought we should never see it. It looked to me as though Lake Erie would terminate our journey.
It seemed as if we were being weighed in a great balance and that wavering and swaying up and down; balanced about equally between hope and fear, life and death.
No one could tell which way it would turn with us. I made up my mind, and promised if ever I reached terra-firma never to set foot on that lake again; and I have kept my word inviolate. I was miserably sick, as were nearly all the passengers. I tried to keep on my feet, as much as I could; sometimes I would take hold of the railing and gaze upon the wild terrific scene, or lean against whatever I could find, that was stationary, near mother and the rest of the family. Mother was calm, but I knew she had little hope that we would ever reach land. She said, her children were all with her and we should not be parted in death; that we should go together, and escape the dangers and tribulations of the wilderness.
I watched the movements of the boat as much as I could. It seemed as if the steamer could not withstand the furious powers that were upon her. The front part of the boat would seem to settle down—down—lower and lower if possible than it had been before. It looked to me, often, as though we were going to plunge headforemost—alive, boat and all into the deep. After a while the boat would straighten herself again and hope revive for a moment; then I thought that our staunch boat was nobly contending with the adverse winds and waves, for the lives of her numerous passengers. The hope of her being able to outride the storm was all the hope I had of ever reaching shore.
I saw the Captain on deck looking wishfully toward the land, while the white-caps broke fearfully on our deck. The passengers were in a terrible state of consternation. Some said we gained a little headway; others said we did not. The most awful terror marked nearly every face. Some wept, some prayed, some swore and a few looked calm and resigned. I was trying to read my fate in other faces when an English lady, who came on the canal boat with us, and who had remained in the cabin up to this, time, rushed on deck, wringing her hands and crying at the top of her voice, "We shall be lost! we shall be lost! oh! oh! oh! I have crossed the Atlantic Ocean three times, and it never commenced with this! We shall be lost! oh! oh! oh!"
One horse that stood on the bow of the boat died from the effects of the storm. Our clothes and bedding were all drenched, and to make our condition still more perilous, the boat was discovered to be on fire. This was kept as quiet as possible. I did not know that it was burning, until after it was extinguished; but I saw father, with others, carrying buckets of water. He said the boat had been on fire and they had put it out. The staunch boat resisted the elements; ploughed her way through and landed us safely at Detroit.
Some years after our landing at Detroit, I saw the steamboat "Michigan" and thought of the perilous time we had on her coming up Lake Erie. She was then an old boat, and was laid up. I thought of the many thousand hardy pioneers she had brought across the turbulent lake and landed safely on the shore of the territory whose name she bore.
But where, oh where "are the six hundred!" that came on her with us? Most of them have bid adieu to earth, and all its storms. The rest of them are now old and no doubt scattered throughout the United States. But time or distance cannot erase from their memory or mine the storm we shared together on Lake Erie.
It was night, in the Spring of 1834, when we arrived at Detroit, and we made our way to the "United States Hotel" which stood near where the old post office was and where the "Mariner's Church" now stands, on Woodbridge street.
The next morning I was up early and went to view the city. I wished to know if it was really a city. If it looked like Utica or Buffalo.
I went up Jefferson Avenue; found some brick buildings, barber poles, wooden clocks, or large watches, big hats and boots, a brass ball, &c., &c.
I returned to the Hotel, satisfied that Detroit was actually a city, for the things I had seen were, in my mind, sufficient to make it one. After I assured myself that there was a city, so far from New York, I was quite contented and took my breakfast. Then, with our guns on our shoulders, father and I started to see our brand-new farm at Dearborn. First we went up Woodward Avenue to where the new City Hall now stands, it was then only a common, dotted by small wooden buildings.
Thence we took the Chicago road which brought us to Dearbornville. From there the timber had been cut for a road one mile south. On this road father did his first road work in Michigan and here afterwards I helped to move the logs out. The road-master, Mr. Smith, was not willing to allow full time, for my work; however I put in part time. Little did I think that here, one mile from Dearbornville, father would, afterwards, buy a farm, build a large brick house, and end his days, in peace and plenty.
From this point, one mile south of the little village, we were one mile from father's chosen eighty, but had to follow an Indian trail two miles, which led us to Mr. J. Pardee's. His place joined father's on the west. We crossed Pardee's place, eighty rods, which brought us to ours. I dug up some of the earth, found it black and rich, and sure enough no stones in the way. Late in the afternoon I started back to mother, to tell her that father had engaged a Mr. Thompson (who kept tavern in a log house, half a mile east of Dearbornville) and team, and would come after her in the morning. When I reached the Chicago road again, it seemed anything but inviting. I could just see a streak ahead four or five miles, with the trees standing thick and dark either side.
If ever a boy put in good time I did then. However, it was evening when I reached Detroit, and I had traveled more than twenty-six miles. Mother was very glad to see me, and listened with interest, to her boy's first story of Michigan. I told her that father was coming in the morning, as he had said; that Mr. Joseph Pardee said, we could stay with him while we were building. I told her I was glad we came, how nice the land was, what a fine country it would be in a few years, and, with other comforting words, said, if we lived, I would take her back in a few years, to visit her old home.
The next morning father and Mr. Thompson came, and we were soon all aboard the wagon. When we reached Mr. Pardee's his family seemed very much pleased to see us. He said: "Now we have 'Old Put' here, we'll have company."
Putnam county joined the county he came from, and he called father "Old Put" because he came from Putnam county.
Father immediately commenced cutting logs for a house. In one week he had them ready, and men came from Dearbornville to help him raise them. He then cut black ash trees, peeled off the bark to roof his house, and after having passed two weeks under Mr. Pardee's hospitable roof, we moved into a house of our own, had a farm of our own and owed no one.
Father brought his axe from York State; it weighed seven pounds; he gave me a smaller one. He laid the trees right and left until we could see the sun from ten o'clock in the morning till between one and two in the afternoon, when it mostly disappeared back of Mr. Pardee's woods.
Father found it was necessary for him to have a team, so he went to Detroit and bought a yoke of oxen; also, at the same time, a cow. He paid eighty dollars for the oxen and twenty-five for the cow. These cattle were driven in from Ohio. The cow proved to be a great help toward the support of the family for a number of years. The oxen were the first owned in the south part of the town of Dearborn. They helped to clear the logs from the piece father had cut over, and we planted late corn, potatoes and garden stuff. The corn grew very high but didn't ear well. The land was indeed very rich, but shaded too much.
The next thing, after planting some seeds, was clearing a road through a black ash swale and flat lands on our west section line, running north one mile, which let us out to the point mentioned, one mile south of Dearbornville. We blazed the section line trees over, cleared out the old logs and brush, then felled trees lengthwise towards each other, sometimes two together, to walk on over the water; we called it our log-way. We found the country was so very wet, at times, that it was impossible to go with oxen and sled, which were our only means of conveyance, summer or winter. When we could not go in this style we were obliged to carry all that it was necessary to have taken, on our shoulders, from Dearbornville.
We had many annoyances, and mosquitoes were not the least, but they did us some good. We had no fences to keep our cattle, and the mosquitoes drove the oxen and cow up to the smoke which we kept near the house in order to keep those little pests away. The cattle soon learned, as well as we, that smoke was a very powerful repellant of those little warriors. Many times, in walking those logs and going through the woods there would be a perfect cloud of mosquitoes around me. Sometimes I would run to get away from them, then stop and look behind me and there would be a great flock for two rods back (beside those that were around me) all coming toward me as fast as their wings could bring them, and seeming only satisfied when they got to me. But they were cannibals and wanted to eat me. All sang the same song in the same old tune. I was always glad when I got out of their company into our own little clearing.
But Mr. Pardee was a little more brave; he said it was foolish to notice such small things as mosquitoes. I have seen them light on his face and run in their bills, probe in until they reached the fountain of life, suck and gormandize until they got a full supply, then leisurely fly away with their veins and bodies full of the best and most benevolent blood, to live awhile, and die from the effects of indulging too freely and taking too much of the life of another. Thus at different times I saw him let them fill themselves and go away without his seeming to notice them; whether he always treated them thus well or not, I cannot say, but I do know they were the worst of pests. Myriads of them could be found any where in the woods, that would eagerly light on man or beast and fill themselves till four times their common size, if they could get a chance. The woods were literally alive with them. No one can tell the wearisome sleepless hours they caused us at night. I have lain listening and waiting for them to light on my face or hands, and then trying to slap them by guess in the dark, sometimes killing them, and sometimes they would fly away, to come again in a few minutes. I could hear them as they came singing back. Frequently when I awoke I found them as wakeful as ever; they had been feasting while I slept. I would find bunches and blotches on me, wherever they had had a chance to light, which caused a disagreeable, burning and smarting sensation.
Frequently some one of us would get up and make a smudge in the room to quiet them; we did it by making a little fire of small chips and dirt, or by burning some sugar on coals, but this would only keep them still for a short time. These vexatious, gory-minded, musical-winged, bold denizens of the shady forest, were more eager to hold their carniverous feasts at twilight or in the night than any other time. In cloudy weather they were very troublesome as all the first settlers know. We had them many years, until the country was cleared and the land ditched; then, with the forest, they nearly disappeared.
As I have said our oxen were the first in our part of the town. Mr. Pardee had no team. Father sold him half of our oxen. They used them alternately, each one two weeks, during the summer. For some reason, Mr. Pardee failed to pay the forty dollars and when winter came father had to take the oxen back and winter them. The winter was very open, and much pleasanter than any we had ever seen. The cattle lived on what we called "French-bogs" which grew all through the woods on the low land and were green all winter.
We found wild animals and game very numerous. Sometimes the deer came where father had cut down trees, and browsed the tops. Occasionally, in the morning, after a little snow, their tracks would be as thick as sheep-tracks in a yard, almost up to the house. The wolves also, were very common; we could often hear them at night, first at one point, then answers from another and another direction, until the woods rang with their unearthly yells.
One morning I saw a place by a log where a deer had lain, and noticed a large quantity of hair all around on the snow; then I found tracks where two wolves came from the west, jumped over the log, and caught the deer in his bed. He got away, but he must have had bare spots on his back.
One evening a Mr. Bruin called at our house and stood erect at our north window. The children thought him one of us, as father, mother and I were away, and they ran out to meet us, but discovered instead a large black bear. When they ran out, Mr. Bruin, a little less dignified, dropped on all fours, and walked leisurely off about ten rods; then raised again, jumped over a brush fence, and disappeared in the woods.
Next morning we looked for his tracks and, sure enough, there were the tracks of a large bear within four feet of the window. He had apparently stood and looked into the house.
The first Indian who troubled us was one by the name of John Williams. He was a large, powerful man, and certainly, very ugly. He used to pass our house and take our road to Dearbornville after fire-water, get a little drunk, and on his way back stop at John Blare's. Mr. Blare then lived at the end of our new road. Here the Indian would tell what great things he had done. One day when he stopped, Mrs. Blare and her brother-in-law, Asa, were there. He took a seat, took his knife from his belt, stuck it into the floor, then told Asa to pick it up and hand it to him; he repeated this action several times, and Asa obeyed him every time. He, seeing that the white man was afraid, said: "I have taken off the scalps of six damned Yankees with this knife and me take off one more."
When father heard this, with other things he had said, he thought he was the intended victim. We were all very much frightened. Whenever father was out mother was uneasy until his return, and he feared that the Indian, who always carried his rifle, might lay in ambush, and shoot him when he was at work.
One day he came along, as usual, from Dearbornville and passed our house. Father saw him, came in, took his rifle down from the hooks and told mother he believed he would shoot first. Mother would not hear a word to it and after living a year or two longer, in mortal fear of him, he died a natural death. We learned afterward that Joseph Pardee was the man he had intended to kill. He said, "Pardee had cut a bee-tree that belonged to Indian."
According to his previous calculation, on our arrival, father bought, in mother's name, eighty acres more, constituting the south-west quarter of section thirty-four, town two, south of range ten, east; bounded on the south by the south line of the town of Dearbon. A creek, we called the north branch of the River Ecorse, ran through it, going east. It was nearly parallel with, and forty-two rods from, the town line. When he entered it he took a duplicate; later his deed came, and it was signed by Andrew Jackson, a man whom father admired very much. Mother's deed came still later, signed by Martin Van Buren.
This land was very flat, and I thought, very beautiful. No waste land on it, all clay bottom, except about two acres, a sand ridge, resembling the side of a sugar loaf. This was near the centre of the place, and on it we finally built, as we found it very unpleasant living on clayey land in wet weather. This land was all heavy timbered—beech, hard maple, basswood, oak, hickory and some white-wood—on both sides of the creek; farther back, it was, mostly, ash and elm.
HOW WE GOT OUR SWEET, AND THE HISTORY OF MY FIRST PIG.
We made troughs, tapped hard maples on each side of the creek; took our oxen, sled and two barrels (as the trees were scattered) to draw the sap to the place we had prepared for boiling it.
Now I had an employment entirely new to me: boiling down sap and making sugar, in the woods of Michigan. This was quite a help to us in getting along. We made our own "sweet" and vinegar, also some sugar and molasses to sell. Some springs, we made three or four hundred pounds of sugar. Sugar was not all the good things we had, for there was one added to my father's family, a little sister, who was none the less lovely, in my eye, because she was of Michigan, a native "Wolverine."
Now father's family, all told, consisted of mother and six children. The children grew to be men and women, and are all alive to this day, January 26, 1875.
After we came to Michigan mother's health constantly improved. She soon began to like her new home and became more cheerful and happy. I told her we had, what would be, a beautiful place; far better than the rocks and hills we left, I often renewed my promise that if she and I lived and I grew to be a man, we would go back, visit her friends and see again the land of her nativity.
To cheer her still more we received a letter from Mr. G. Purdy of York State, telling us that he was coming to Michigan in the fall, with his wife (mother's beloved sister, Abbie,) and her youngest sister, Sarah, was coming with them.
Asa Blare, the young man who picked up the Indian's knife, bought forty acres of government land joining us on the east, built him a house, went to Ohio, married and brought his wife back with him.
Now we had neighbors on the east of us, and Mr. Henry Travis (a brother-in-law of Mr. Pardee) came, bought land joining Mr. Pardee on the west, built and settled with a large family. About the same time many families from the East came and settled along the creek, for miles west of us.
Now we were on the border of civilization. Our next clearing of any importance was the little ridge. Father commenced around the edge, cut the brush and threw them from the ridge all around it to form a brush fence; then all the trees that would fall into the line of the fence were next felled, also, all that would fall over it, then those which would reach the fence were felled toward it. Then we trimmed them, cut the logs and piled the brush on the fence. I felt very much interested in clearing this piece. When father took his ax and started for work I took mine and was immediately at his side or a little behind him. In this manner we returned and we soon had the two acres cut off and surrounded by an immense log, tree-top and brush fence; at least, I thought it was a great fence. Now came the logging and burning, father worked with his oxen and handspike, I with my handspike. Some of the large logs near the fence he swung round with the oxen and left them by it. Others we drew together and when we piled them up, father took his handspike and rolled the log, I held it with mine until he got a new hold. In that way I helped him roll hundreds and thousands of logs. We soon had them all in heaps but they were green and burned slowly, some of them would not burn at all then. We scratched round them and put some seeds in every spot. We could do but very little with a plow. Father made a drag out of the crotch of a tree and put iron teeth in it; this did us some service as the land was exceedingly rooty.
In raising our summer crops we had to do most of the work with a hoe. Sometimes where it was very rooty we planted corn with an ax. In order to do this we struck the blade into the ground and roots about two inches, then dropped the corn in and struck again two or three inches from the first place which closed it and the hill of corn was planted.
Now I must go back to the first season and tell how I got my first pig. It was the first of the hog species we owned in Michigan. Father went to the village and I with him. From there we went down to Mr. Thompson's (the man who moved us out from Detroit). He wished father to see his hogs. They went to the yard, and as was my habit, I followed along. Mr. Thompson called the hogs up. I thought he had some very fine ones. Among them was an old sow that had some beautiful pigs. She seemed to be very cross, raised her bristles and growled at us, as much as to say, "Let my pigs alone."
I suppose Mr. Thompson thought he would have some sport with me, and being generous, he said: "If the boy will catch one I will give it to him." I selected one and started; I paid no attention to the old sow, but kept my eye on the pig I wanted, and the way I went for it was a caution. I caught it and ran for the fence, with the old sow after me. I got over very quickly and was safe with my pig in my arms. I started home; it kicked and squealed and tried to get away, but I held it tightly, patted it and called it "piggy." I said to myself, '"Now I have a pig of my own, it will soon grow up to be a hog, and we'll have pork." When I got home I put it in a barrel, covered it up so it could not get out and then took my ax, cut poles, and made it a new pen and put it on one place in Adam's world where pig and pig-pen had never been before. Now, thought I, I've got an ax, a pig and a gun.
One morning, a day or two after this, I went out and the pig was gone. Thinking it might have gone home, I went to Mr. Thompson's and enquired if they had seen it. I looked in the yard but the pig was not there. I made up my mind that it was lost, and started home. I followed the old trail, and when within sixty rods of the place where I now live, I met my pig. I was very glad to see it, but it turned from me and ran right into the woods. Now followed a chase which was very exciting to me. The pig seemed running for its life, I for my property, which was going off, over logs and through the brush, as fast as its legs could carry it. It was a hard chase, but I caught the pig and took it back. I made the pen stronger, and put it in again, but it would not eat much and in a few days after died, and away went all my imaginary pork.
Mr. Pardee had bought a piece of land for a Mr. Clapp, of Peakskill, New York, and was agent for the same. He said the south end of this land was openings. It was about one mile from our place, and Mr. Pardee offered to join with father and put corn on it, accordingly, we went to see it. There was some brush, but it was mostly covered with what we called "buffalo grass," which grew spontaneously. Cattle loved it very much in the summer, but their grazing it seemed to destroy it. It soon died out and mostly disappeared, scrub-oak and other brush coming up in its place.
Mr. Pardee and father soon cleared five or six acres of this land, and with the brush they cut made a light brush fence around it, then tore up three or four acres and planted it with corn. The soil was light yellow sand. When the corn came up it was small and yellow. They put in about two acres of buckwheat. A young man by the name of William Beal worked for Pardee. He helped to tend the corn. One morning, as they were going up to hoe the corn, William Beal took his gun and started ahead; this he frequently did very early. He said, when about half way to the corn, he looked toward the creek and saw a black bear coming toward him. He stood in the path, leading to the corn-field, which they had under-brushed. The bear did not discover him until he was near enough, when he fired and shot him dead. This raised quite an excitement among us. I went to see the bear. It was the first wild one I saw in Michigan. They dressed it, and so far as I know, the neighbors each had a piece; at all events, we had some.
They hoed the corn once or twice, and then made up their minds it was no use, as it would not amount to much, the land being too poor. The whole crop of corn, gathered there, green at that, nubbins and all, was put into a half bushel handle basket, excepting what the squirrels took.
The buckwheat didn't amount to much, either. Wild turkeys trampled it down and ate the grain, in doing which, many of them lost their lives. I began to consider myself quite a marksman. I had already, with father's rifle, shot two deer, and had gotten some of the turkeys.
Father never cropped it any more on the openings, and his experience there made him much more pleased with his own farm. That land is near me, and I have seen a great many crops growing on it, both grain and other crops, but never one which I thought would pay the husbandman for his labor.
Father's partnership with Mr. Pardee was so unsuccessful on the openings, and in having to take the oxen back, and buy hay for them when that article was very high (their running out helped him some) that he concluded to go into partnership with Mr. Pardee, no more.
He sold half of his oxen to Asa Blare, who paid the money down, so their partnership opened in a little better shape. This partnership, father said, was necessary as our money had become very much reduced, and everything we bought, (such as flour and pork) was extremely dear; besides, we had no way to make a farthing except with our "maple-sweet" or the hide of a deer.
Father could not get work, for there were but few settlers, and none near him, who were able to hire. So he economized to save his money as much as possible, and worked at home. The clearing near the house grew larger and larger, and now we could see the beautiful sun earlier.
Father worked very hard, got three acres cleared and ready for wheat. Then he went away and bought about four bushels of white wheat for seed. This cost a snug sum in those days. About the last of August he sowed it and dragged it in with his drag. He sowed about a bushel and a peck to the acre. (I have for many years back, and to the present time, sowed two bushels to the acre).
His wheat came up and looked beautiful. The next spring and early summer it was very nice. One day a neighbor's unruly ox broke into it. I went through it to drive him out and it was knee high. Father said take the ox home. I did so. The neighbor was eating dinner. I told him his ox had been in our wheat and that father wished him to keep the ox away. He said we must make the fence better and he would not get in. This was the first unkind word I had received from a neighbor in Michigan. The wheat escaped the rust, headed and filled well and was an excellent crop. It helped us a great deal and was our manna in the wilderness.
Father and I continued our chopping until we connected the two clearings. Then we commenced to see the sun in the morning and we thought it shone brighter here than it did in York State. Some of the neighbors said that it really did, and that it might be on account of a reflection from the water of the great lakes. Perhaps it was because the deep gloom of the forest had shaded us so long and was now removed. Israel like, we looked back and longed for the good things we had left, viz:—apples, pears and the quince sauce. Even apples were luxuries we could not have and we greatly missed them. We cleared new ground, sowed turnip seed, dragged it in and raised some very large nice turnips. At this time there was not a wagon in the neighborhood, but Mr. Traverse, being a mechanic and ingenious, cut down a tree, sawed oft two short logs, used them for hubs and made the wheels for a cart. These he took to Dearbornville and had them ironed oft. He made the body himself and then had an ox-cart. This was the only wheeled vehicle in the place for some years. As Mr. Traverse was an obliging man the neighbors borrowed his cart. Sometimes it went to Dearbornville to bring in provision, or other things, and sometimes it went to mill. (There was a mill on the river Rouge, one mile north of Dearbornville.) With this cart and oxen the neighbors carried some of their first products, sugar, butter, eggs, &c., to Detroit. Some young sightseers, who had not seen Detroit since they moved into the woods and wished to see it, were on board. They had to start before midnight so it would be cool traveling for the oxen. This was the first cart and oxen ever seen in Detroit from our part of the town of Dearborn.
They reached home the following night, at about ten o'clock, and told me about the trip.
We wanted apples, so father took his oxen, went and borrowed the cart, loaded it with turnips, went down the river road half way to Detroit, traded them with a Frenchman for apples and brought home a load which were to us delicious fruit. In this way we got our apples for many years. These apples were small, not so large and nice as those we had been used to having; but they were Michigan apples and we appreciated them very much. They lasted us through the winter and did us much good.
OUR SECOND HOUSE AND FIRST APPLE TREES.
Father said he would get us some apple trees. He had heard there was a small nursery below Dearbornville. One morning he and I started for the village; from there, we went to Mr. McVay's, about two miles east, near the Rouge.
Of him father bought thirteen apple trees, did them up in two bundles, his large, mine small. We took them on our shoulders and started home, through the woods, thus saving two miles travel. On our way we explored woods we had never seen before.
We planted the apple trees on the west end of the little ridge. They are now old trees. I passed them the other day and thought of the time we set them. Now some of them look as if they were dying with old age. I counted and found that some of them were gone. I thought there was no one but me, who could tell how, or when, those trees were planted, as they are nearly forty years old.
East of those trees father built his second house in 1836. He made the body of this house of large whitewood logs, split oak shakes with which to cover it, and dug a well east of the house. Into this well he put the shell of a large buttonwood log; we called it a "gum." It was said that water would not taste of buttonwood; we had very good water there.
Father borrowed Mr. Traverse's cart, loaded up our things and we were glad to leave our Bark Covered house, clay door-yard and Mr. Pardee's woods, to which we had lived so near, that we could see the sun only for a short time in the afternoon.
In the house we were leaving we had some unwelcome visitors, an Indian, John Williams, and a snake. One day, towards evening, mother was getting supper, and as the floor boards were lain down loosely they would shake as she walked across the floor. Some member of the family heard a strange noise (something rattling) which seemed to come from a chest that stood in the back part of the room on legs about six inches high. Every time mother stepped on the board upon which he was coiled up, his snakeship felt insulted and he would rattle to let them know that he was there and felt indignant at being disturbed. Mother said they all tried to find out what it was; they finally looked under the chest and there, to their astonishment, they saw a large black rattlesnake all curled up watching their movements and ready, with his poisonous fangs, to strike any one that came within his reach. He was an interloper, a little too bold. He had, however, gotten in the wrong place and was killed in the room. He had, no doubt, crawled up through a hole in the floor at the end of a board.
The children were very much alarmed and mother was frightened. She said she thought it was a terrible place where poisonous reptiles would crawl into the house. Near the house sometime after, brother John S. and sister Sarah were out raking up some scattering hay. I suppose sister was out for the sake of being out, or for her own amusement. While she was raking she saw a large blue racer close by her with his head up nearly as high as her own, looking at her and not seeming inclined to leave her. I never heard of a blue racer hurting any one and this was the only one I ever knew to make the attempt. Sister was greatly scared and hallooed and screamed, as if struck with terror. Brother John S., then a little way off ran to her as quickly as possible; while he was running the snake circled around her but a few feet off and seemed determined to attack her. Though brother was the younger of the two his courage was good. With the handle of his pitchfork he struck the snake across the back, a little below the head, and wounded him. Then he succeeded in sticking the tine of the pitchfork through the snake's head; at that sister Sarah took courage and tried with her rake to help brother in the combat. As she held up the handle the snake wound himself around it so tightly that he did not loosen his coils until he was dead. That snake measured between six and seven feet in length.
We knew nothing of this species of reptile until we came to Michigan. I have killed a great many of them, but have found that if one gets a rod or two the start, it is impossible to catch him. I well recollect having run after them across our clearing (where we first settled). They would go like a streak of blue, ahead. I make this statement of the reptiles, so that the people of Wayne County, or Michigan, who have no knowledge of such things may know something about the vexatious and fearful annoyances we had to contend with after we settled in Michigan.
We were all pleased when we got into the new house. We had a sand door-yard, and lived near the centre of our place. East of this house, on the little ridge, we raised our first patch of-water-melons, in Michigan. Father said they raised good melons on Long Island, where it was sandy soil, and he thought he could raise good ones there. He tried, and it proved to be a success; the melons were excellent. When they were ripe father borrowed the cart, picked a load of melons and (just before sundown) started for Detroit. Mother and my little Michigan sister, Abbie, went with us. I think it was the first time mother saw Detroit after she left it, on the morning following her first arrival there. She wished to do some trading, of course. Father and I walked. We took a little hay to feed the oxen on the road. The next morning we reached Detroit. The little market then stood near where the "Biddle House" now stands, or between that and the river.
Father sold his melons to a Frenchman for one shilling apiece. The market men said this was the first full load of melons ever on Detroit market; at all events, I know it was the first load of melons ever drawn from the town of Dearborn.
Mother's youngest sister lived in the city, and was at the store of Mr. Cook, or "Cook & Burns," where we did some of our trading. Their store was on Jefferson avenue. Mr. Cook was an eccentric man, and had his own way of recommending his goods, and one which made much sport. Auntie called for some calico. Mr. Cook took a piece off the shelf, threw it on the counter, threw up both arms, put his hands higher than his head, then picked it up again shook it and said: "There, who ever saw the like of that in Michigan? Two shillings a yard! A yard wide, foot thick and the colors as firm as the Allegheny Mountains!"
But an old colored woman came in who rather beat the clerk. She inquired for cheap calico; the clerk threw down some and told her the price. She said, "Oh that is too much! I want some cheap." Then the clerk threw down some that looked old and faded. With a broad grin, showing her teeth and the white of her eyes not a little, she said: "Oh, ho! my goot Lo'd dat war made when Jope war paby!"
When father and mother had traded all they could afford, it was nearly night, and we all got into the cart and started for home. We got upon the Chicago road opposite where the Grand Trunk Junction now is, and stopped. Mother thought she could not go any farther, and the oxen were tired. Father went into a log house on the north side of the Chicago road and asked them if they could keep us all night. They said they would, and we turned in. They used us first-rate, and treated us with much respect. Next morning after breakfast we went home.
THE JUG OF WHISKY AND TEMPERANCE MEETING.
I have already said that, as money was getting short; father sold Asa Blare half of his oxen. They thought they could winter the oxen on marsh hay. They found some they thought very good on the creek bottom, about a mile and a quarter from where we lived. They said they would go right at work and cut it before some one else found it. As there was some water on the ground, and they would have to mow in the wet, they thought they would send and get a jug of whisky.
In the morning we had an early breakfast, and they ground up their scythes, then started, I with the jug, they with their scythes. We went together as far as our new road. Father told me after I got the whisky, to come back round the old trail to a certain place and call, when they heard me they would come and get the jug.
I went to Dearborn, got my jug filled, paid two shillings a gallon, or there-abouts, and started back. When I had gone as far as the turn of the road, where Dr. Snow now lives, out of sight, I thought to myself I'd take a drink. I had heard that whisky made one feel good and strong and as my jug was heavy, took what I called "a good horn;" I thought, however, it did not taste very pleasant. After that I went on as fast as I could, a little over a mile, till I got beyond where the road was cut out and into the trail, when I made up my mind I was stouter and my jug really seemed lighter. There I stopped again and took what I called "a good lifter." It burnt a little but I went on again till I came to the creek, then I called father who answered.
I felt so wonderfully good that I thought I'd take one more drink before he came in sight. So I took what I called "a good swig." When father came he said they had found plenty of good grass and he wished me to go and see it. I told him I didn't feel very well (I was afraid he would discover what I had been doing, I began to feel queer) but I followed along.
The grass was as high as my head in places and very heavy. It was what we call "blue-joint," mixed with a large coarse grass that grew three square at the butt. I got to the scythes where they had been mowing, told father I could mow that grass, took his scythe, cut a few clips and bent the blade very badly. (He often told afterwards, how much stronger I was than he, said he could mow the stoutest grass and not bend his scythe, but I had almost spoiled it.) I lay down the scythe, everything seemed to be bobbing up. I told father I was sick, he said I had better go home and I started gladly and as quickly as possible. The ground didn't seem to me to be entirely still, it wanted to raise up. I struck what I called a "bee-line" for home. When I got there I told mother I was sick, threw myself on her bed and kept as quiet as possible. When father came he inquired how I was; I heard what he said. Mother told him I was very sick but had got a little more quiet than I had been. He said they had better not disturb me so I occupied their bed all night, the first time I had ever had it all alone one night. The next morning I felt rather crest-fallen but congratulated myself in that they did not know what the trouble was, and they never knew (nor any of the rest of the family until I state it now). But I knew at the time what the trouble was, and the result was I had enough of whisky for many years, and took a decided stand for temperance.
Some years after that, there was a temperance meeting at a log school-house two miles and a half west of us. I was there and the house was full. After the opening speech, which pleased me very much, others were invited to speak. Thinking I must have a hand in I found myself on the floor. When I got there and commenced speaking, if it had been reasonable, I would have said I was somebody else, I would have been glad to have crawled out of some very small knot-hole, but I found it was I and that there was no escaping, so I proceeded.
Of course I did not relate my own experience, nor tell them that I had been sick. I gave them a little of the experience of others that I had heard. I had an old temperance song book from which I borrowed some extracts and appropriated them as my own. I swung my arms a little and with my finger pointed out the points. I stepped around a little and tried to stamp to make them believe that what I said was true. As I advanced and became more interested I spoke loud, to let them know it was I, and that I was in earnest. I admonished them all to let whisky alone. Told some of its pernicious effects; how much money it cost, how many lives it had taken, how many tears it had caused to flow and how many homes it had made desolate.
When I came away I was pleased with myself, and thought I had made quite a sensation. A few days afterward I met my friend, William Beal, and asked him how the neighbors liked the temperance meeting. Of course, I was anxious to know what they said about my speech. He told me the old lady said I was "fluent and tonguey," that I was like a sort of a lawyer, she named, who lived at Dearbornville. I knew this man well, and hadn't a very good opinion of him. But what she said was not so much of a breaker as what the old gentleman said, for I considered him in many respects a very intelligent man. He came here from Westchester County, near Peakskill. He owned the farm and lived on it (I have seen where he lived) which was given to John Spaulding for the capture of Major Andre. His occupation there was farming and droving. He drove cattle to New York city in an early day, when that great metropolis was but a small city. I have often heard him tell about stopping at Bullshead. He said that was the drovers' headquarters. I know he was worth ten thousand dollars there, at one time; how much more I cannot say, but somehow his thousands dwindled to hundreds and he came here to seek a second fortune.
Of course I thought a man of his experience was capable of forming a pretty correct opinion of me. He said, "Who is he? His father brought him here, and dropped him in the woods; he's been to mill once and to meeting twice. What does he know?"
When I heard this it amused me very much, although the decision seemed to be against me. I made no more inquiries about temperance meeting, in fact, I didn't care to hear any more about it.
Writing my first temperance effort has blown all the wind out of my sails, and if I were not relating actual occurrences I should certainly be run ashore. As it is, sleep may invigorate and bring back my memory. When relating facts it is not necessary to call on any muse, or fast, or roam into a shady bower, where so many have found their thoughts. When relating facts, fancy is hot required to soar untrodden heights where thought has seldom reached; but too freely come back all the weary days, the toils, fears and vexations of my early life in Michigan, if not frightened away by the memory of the decision of the old lady and gentleman, on my temperance speech.
Perhaps I should say, in honor of that old gentleman, Mr. Joseph Pardee, now deceased, that he was well advanced in years when he came to Michigan, in the fall of 1833, stuck his stakes and built the first log house on the Ecorse, west of the French settlement, at its mouth, on Detroit River. He was a man of a strong-mind and an iron will. He cleared up his land, made it a beautiful farm, rescued it from the wilderness, acquired, in fact, a good fortune. When he died, at the good old age of eighty-one years, he left his family in excellent circumstances. He died in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine.
HOW WE FOUND OUR CATTLE.
The old cow always wore the bell. Early in the spring, when there were no flies or mosquitoes to drive them up the cattle sometimes wandered off. At such times, when we went to our chopping or work, we watched them, to see which way they went, and listened to the bell after they were out of sight in order that we might know which way to go after them if they didn't return. Sometimes the bell went out of hearing but I was careful to remember which way I heard it last.
Before night I would start to look for them, going in the direction I last heard them. I would go half a mile or so into the woods, then stop and listen, to see if I could hear the faintest sound of the bell. If I could not hear it I went farther in the same direction then stopped and listened again. Then if I did not hear it I took another direction, went a piece and stopped again, and if I heard the least sound of it I knew it from all other bells because I had heard it so often before.
That bell is laid up with care. I am now over fifty years old, but if the least tinkling of that bell should reach my ear I should know the sound as well as I did when I was a boy listening for it in the woods of Michigan.
When I found the cattle I would pick up a stick and throw it at them, halloo very loudly and they would start straight for home. Sometimes, in cloudy weather, I was lost and it looked to me as though they were going the wrong way, but I followed them, through black-ash swales where the water was knee-deep, sometimes nearly barefooted.
I always carried a gun, sometimes father's rifle. The deer didn't seem to be afraid of the cattle; they would stand and look at them as they passed not seeming to notice me. I would walk carefully, get behind a tree, and take pains to get a fair shot at one. When I had killed it I bent bushes and broke them partly off, every few rods, until I knew I could find the place again, then father and I would go and get the deer.
Driving the cattle home in this way I traveled hundreds of miles. There was some danger then, in going barefooted as there were some massassauga all through the woods. As the country got cleared up they disappeared, and as there are neither rocks, ledges nor logs, under which they can hide, I have not seen one in many years.
One time the cattle strayed off and went so far I could not find them. I looked for them until nearly dark but had to return without them. I told father where I had been and that I could not hear the bell. The next morning father and I started to see if we could find them. We looked two or three days but could not find or hear anything of them. We began to think they were lost in the wilderness. However, we concluded to look one more day, so we started and went four or five miles southeast until we struck the Reed creek. (Always known as the Reed creek by us for the reason, a man by the name of Reed came with his family from the State of New York, built him a log house and lived there one summer. His family got sick, he became discouraged, and in the fall moved back to the State of New York. The place where he lived, the one summer, was about two miles south of our house and this creek is really the middle branch of the Ecorse).
There was no settlement between us and the Detroit River, a distance of six miles. We looked along the Reed creek to see if any cattle had crossed it.
While we were looking there we heard the report of a rifle close by us and hurried up. It was an Indian who had just shot a duck in the head. When we came to him father told him it was a lucky shot, a good shot to shoot it in the head. He said, "Me allers shoot head not hurt body." He took us to his wigwam, which was close by, showed us another duck with the neck nearly shot off. Whether he told the truth, or whether these two were lucky shots, I cannot tell, but one thing I do know, in regard to him, if he told us the truth he was an extraordinary man and marksman.
Around his wigwam hung from half a dozen to a dozen deer skins; they hung on poles. His family seemed to consist of his squaw and a young squaw almost grown up. Father told him we had lost our cattle, oxen and cow, and asked him if he had seen them. We had hard work to make him understand what we meant. Father said—cow—bell—strap round neck—he tried to show him, shook his hand as if jingling a bell. Then father said, oxen—spotted—white—black; he put his hand on his side and said: black—cow—bell—noise, and then said, as nearly as we could understand, "Me see them day before yesterday," and he pointed in the woods to tell us which way. Father took a silver half-dollar out of his pocket, showed it to the Indian, and told him he should have it if he would show us the cattle. He wiped out his rifle, loaded it and said, "Me show." He took his rifle and wiper and started with us; we went about half a mile and he showed us where he had seen them. We looked and found large ox's tracks and cow's tracks. I thought, from the size and shape of them, they were our cattle's tracks. The Indian started upon the tracks, father followed him, and I followed father. When we came to high ground, where I could hardly see a track; the Indian had no trouble in following them, and he went on a trot. I had hard work to keep up with him. I remember well how he looked, with his bowing legs, it seemed as if he were on springs. He moved like an antelope, with such ease and agility. He looked as if he hardly touched the ground.
The cattle, in feeding round, crossed their own tracks sometimes. The Indian always knew which were the last tracks. He followed all their crooks, we followed him by sight, which gave us a little the advantage, and helped us to keep in sight. He led us, crooking about in this way, for nearly two hours, when we came in hearing of the bell. I never had a harder time in the woods but once, and it was when I was older, stronger, and better able to stand a chase, that time I was following four bears, and an Indian tried to get them away. I was pleased when we got to the cattle. Father paid the Indian the half-dollar he had earned so well, and thanked him most heartily, whether he understood it or not. Father asked the Indian the way home, he said, "My house, my wigwam, which way my home?" The Indian pointed with his wiper, and showed us the way.
Father said afterward, it was strange that the Indian should know where he lived, as he had never seen him before. I never saw that Indian afterward.
The cattle were feeding on cow-slips and leeks, which grew in abundance, also on little French bogs that had just started up. We hallooed at them very sharply and they started homeward, we followed them, and that night found our cattle home again. Mother and all the children were happy to see them come, for they were our main dependence. They were called many dear names and told not to go off so far any more.
TROUBLE CAME ON THE WING.
Among the annoyances common to man and beast in Michigan, of which we knew nothing where we came from, were some enormous flies. There were two kinds that were terrible pests to the cattle. They actually ate the hide off, in spots. First we put turpentine, mixed with sufficient grease so as not to take the hair off, on those spots. But we found that fish oil was better, the flies would not bite where that was.
What we called the ox-flies were the most troublesome. In hot weather and in the sun, where the mosquitoes didn't trouble, they were most numerous. They would light on the oxen in swarms, on their brisket, and between their legs where they could not drive them off. I have frequently struck these flies with my hand and by killing them got my hand red with the blood of the ox.
The other species of flies, we called Pontiacers. This is a Michigan name, and originated I was told, from one being caught near Pontiac with a paper tied or attached to it having the word Pontiac written upon it.
These flies were not very numerous; sometimes there were three or four around at once. When they were coming we could hear and see them for some rods. Their fashion was to circle around the oxen before lighting on them. I frequently slapped them to kill them, sometimes I caught them, in that case they were apt to lose their heads, proboscis and all. These flies were very large, some were black and some of the largest were whitish on the front of the back. I have seen some of them nearly as large as young humming birds. The Germans tell me they have this kind of fly in Germany. But with the mosquitoes, these flies have nearly disappeared.
HARD TIMES FOR US IN MICHIGAN, 1836-7.
The oxen having worked hard and been used to good hay, which we bought for them, grew poor when they were fed on marsh hay. Then Mr. Blare wanted to sell his part to father; then the cattle would not have so much to do. Father was not able to buy them, as his money was nearly gone. He said he would mortgage his lot for one hundred dollars, buy them back, buy another cow and have a little money to use.
He said he could do his spring's work with the cattle, then turn them off, fatten them, and sell them in the fall for enough to pay the mortgage. Mother said all she could to prevent it, for she could not bear the idea of having her home mortgaged. It seemed actually awful to me, for I thought we should not be able to pay it, and in all probability we should lose the place. I said all I could, but to no avail. The whole family was alarmed; one of the small children asked mother what a mortgage was, she replied that it was something that would take our home away from us, if not paid.
Father went to Dearbornville and mortgaged his lot to Mrs. Phlihaven, a widow woman, for one hundred dollars, said to be at seven per cent., as that was lawful interest then. We supposed, at the time, he got a hundred dollars, but he got only eighty. Probably the reason he did not let us know the hard conditions of the mortgage, was because we opposed it so. Mrs. Phlihaven said as long as he would pay the twenty dollars shave money, and the seven dollars interest annually, she would let it run. And it did run until the shave money and interest more than ate up the principal.
Father bought the oxen back for the old price, forty dollars, and bought another cow, of Mr. McVay, for which he paid eighteen dollars, leaving him twenty-two dollars of the hired money.
It was now spring, the oxen became very poor, one of them was taken sick and got down. Father said he had the hollow horn and doctored him for that; but I think to day, if the oxen had had a little corn meal, and good hay through the winter, they would have been all right.
After the ox got down, and we could not get him up he still ate and seemed to have a good appetite. I went to Dearbornville, bought hay at the tavern and paid at the rate of a dollar a hundred. I tied it up in a rope, carried it home on my back and fed it to him. Then I went into the woods, with some of the other children, and gathered small brakes that lay flat on the ground. They grew on beech and maple land, and kept green all winter. The ox ate some of them, but he died; our new cow, also, died in less than two weeks after father bought her. Then we had one ox, our old cow, and two young cattle we had raised from her, that we kept through the spring. In the summer the other ox had the bloody murrain and he died.
Then we had no team, no money to get a team with, and our place was mortgaged. Now when father got anything for the family he had to bring it home himself. We got out of potatoes, these he bought at Dearbornville, paid a dollar a bushel for them, and brought them home on his back. He sent me to the village for meal. I called for it and the grocerman measured it to me in a quart measure which was little at the top, such as liquors are measured with. I carried the meal home. In this way we had to pack home everything we bought.
When potatoes got ripe we had plenty of the best. On father's first visit to Michigan he was told that the soil of Michigan would not produce good potatoes. We soon found that this was a mistake for we had raised some good ones before, but not enough to last through the summer.
We still had wheat but sometimes had to almost do without groceries. We always had something to eat but sometimes our living was very poor. Sometimes we had potatoes and milk and sometimes thickened milk. This was made by dampening flour, rolling it into fine lumps and putting them into boiling milk with a little salt, and stirring it until it boiled again. This was much more palatable than potatoes and milk.
One afternoon two neighbors' girls came to visit us. They stayed late. After they went away I asked mother why she didn't give them some tea; she said she had no tea to give them, and that if she had given them the best she had they would have gone away and told how poor we were.
Mother had been used to better days and to treating her guests well, and her early life in Michigan did not take all of her spirit away. She was a little proud as well as I, but I have learned that pride, hard times and poverty are very poor companions. It was no consolation to think that the neighbors, most of them, were as bad off as we were. This made the thing still worse.
A SUMMER HUNT.
Father and I went hunting one day. I took my shot-gun, loaded with half a charge of shot and three rifle bullets, which just chambered in the barrel, so I thought I was ready to shoot at anything. Father went ahead and I followed him; we walked very carefully in the woods looking for deer; went upon a sand ridge where father saw a deer and shot at it. I recollect well how it looked; it was a beautiful deer, almost as red as a cherry. After he shot, it stood still. I asked father, in a whisper, if I might not shoot. He said, "Keep still!" (I had very hard word to do so, and think if he had let me shot, I should have given it a very loud call, at least, I think I should have killed it.) Father loaded his rifle and shot again. The last time he shot, the deer ran away. We went to the place where it had stood. He had hit it for we found a little blood; but it got away.
It is said "the leopard cannot change his spots nor the Ethiopian his skin," but the deer, assisted by nature, can change both his color and his hide. In summer the deer is red, and the young deer are covered with beautiful spots which disappear by fall. The hair of the deer is short in summer and his hide is thick. At this time the hide is most valuable by the pound. His horns grow and form their prongs, when growing we call them in their velvet; feel of them and they are soft, through the summer and fall, and they keep growing until they form a perfect horn, hard as a bone. By the prongs we are able to tell the number of years old they are.
In the fall of the year when an old buck has his horns fully grown to see him running in his native forest is a beautiful sight. At that season his color has changed to a bluish grey. When the weather gets cold and it freezes hard his horns drop off, and he has to go bareheaded until spring. Then his hair is very long and grey. Deer are commonly poor in the spring, and at this season their hide is very thin and not worth much. So we see the deer is a very singular animal. As I have been going through the woods I have often picked up their horns and carried them home for curiosities. They were valuable for knife-handles.
When the old buck is started from his bed and is frightened how he clears the ground. You can mark him from twenty to thirty feet at every jump. (I have measured some of his jumps, by pacing, and found them to be very long, sometimes two rods.) How plump he is, how symmetrically his body is formed, and how beautiful the appearance of his towering, branching antlers! As he carries them on his lofty head they appear like a rocking chair. As he sails through the air, with his flag hoisted, he sometimes gives two or three of his whistling snorts and bids defiance to all pursuers in the flight. He is able to run away from any of his enemies, in a fair foot race, but not always able to escape from flying missiles of death.
Before the fawn is a year old, if frightened and startled from its bed, it runs very differently from the old deer. Its jump is long and high. It appears as though it were going to jump up among the small tree tops. The next jump is short and sometimes sidewise, then another long jump and so on. It acts as though it did not know its own springs, or were cutting up its antics, and yet it always manages to keep up with the rest of the deer.
Father had killed some deer. He shot one of the largest red bucks I had seen killed. After this we wanted meat. Father said we'll go hunting and see if we can get a deer. He said I might take his rifle and he would take my gun. (For some reason or other he had promoted me, may be he thought I was luckier than he.) We started out into the woods south of our house, I went ahead. There was snow on the ground, it was cold and the wind blew very hard. We crossed the windfall. This was a strip of land about eighty rods wide. It must have been a revolving whirlwind that past there, for it had taken down pretty much all the timber and laid it every way. Nothing was left standing except some large trees that had little tops, these were scattered here and there through the strip. It struck the southeast corner of what was afterward our place. Here we had about three acres of saplings, brush and old logs that were windfalls.
I think this streak of wind must have passed about ten years before we came to the country. It came from the openings in the town of Taylor, went a northeast course until it struck the Rouge (after that I have no knowledge of it.) In this windfall had grown up a second growth of timber, saplings and brush, so thick that it was hard work to get through or see a deer any distance. We got south of the windfall and scared up a drove of deer, some four or five.
The woods were cracking and snapping all around us; we thought it was dangerous and were afraid to be in the woods. Still we thought we would run the risk and follow the deer. They ran but a little ways, stopped and waited until we came in sight, then ran a little ways again. They seemed afraid to run ahead and huddled up together, the terrible noise in the timber seemed to frighten them. The last time I got sight of them they were in a small opening standing by some large old logs. I remember well to this day just how the place looked. I drew up the rifle and shot. Father was right behind me; I told him they didn't run. He took the rifle and handed me my gun, saying, "Shoot this." I shot again, this gun was heavily loaded and must have made a loud report, but could not have been heard at any great distance on account of the roaring wind in the tree-tops. The deer were still in sight, I took the rifle, loaded it, and shot again; then we loaded both guns but by this time the deer had disappeared. We went up to where they had stood and there lay a beautiful deer. Then we looked at the tracks where the others had run off, and found that one went alone and left a bloody trail, but we thought best to leave it and take home the one we had killed. When we got home we showed our folks what a fat heavy deer we had and they were very much pleased, as this was to be our meat in the wilderness.
A man by the name of Wilson was at our house and in the afternoon he volunteered to go with us after the other deer. We took our dog and started taking our back tracks to where we left; we followed the deer but a very little ways before we came across the other one we had hit; it had died, and we took it home, thinking we had been very fortunate. Here I learned that deer could be approached in a windy time better than in any other. I also learned that the Almighty, in His wisdom, provided for his creatures, and caused the elements, wind and snow, to work together for their good.
Now we were supplied with meat for a month, with good fat venison, not with quails, as God supplied his ancient people over three thousand years before, in the wilderness of Sinai, or at the Tabernacle, where six hundred thousand men wept for flesh, and there went forth a wind and brought quails from the Red Sea. No doubt they were fat and delicious, and the wind let them fall by the camp, and around about the camp, for some distance. They were easily caught by hungry men. Thus was the wind freighted with flesh to feed that peculiar people a whole month and more.
When the terrific wind, that helped us to capture the deer, raged through the tree-tops it sounded like distant thunder. It bent the tall trees, in unison, all one way, as if they agreed to bow together before the power that was upon them. When they straightened up they shook their tops as though angry at one another, broke off some of the limbs which they had borne for years, and sent them crashing to the ground.
Some of the trees were blown up by the roots, and if allowed to remain would in time form such little mounds as we children took to be Indian graves when we first came into the woods. Those little mounds are monuments, which mark the places where some of those ancient members of the forest stood centuries ago, and they will remain through future ages unless obliterated by the hand of man.
We thought that the wind blew harder here than in York State, where we came from. We supposed the reason was that the mountains and hills of New York broke the wind off, and this being a flat country with nothing to break the force of the wind, except the woods, we felt it more severely.
HOW WE GOT INTO TROUBLE ONE NIGHT, AND I SCARED.
One warm day in winter father and I went hunting. I had the rifle that day. We went south, crossed the windfall and Reed creek, and went into what we called the "big woods." We followed deer, but seemed to be very unlucky, for I couldn't shoot them. We travelled in the woods all day and hunted the best we could.
Just at sundown, deer that have been followed all day are apt to stop and browse a little. Then if the wind is favorable and blowing from them to you, it is possible to get a shot at them; but if the wind is blowing from you to them, you can't get within gunshot of them. They will scent you. They happened to be on the windward side, as we called it. I got a shot at one and killed it. It was late and, carelessly, I didn't load the rifle. It being near night, I thought I should not have a chance to shoot anything more.
It was my custom to load the rifle after shooting, and if I didn't have any use for it before, when I got near home, I shot at a mark on a tree or something. In that way I practiced shooting and let the folks know I was coming. In this way I also kept the rifle from rusting, as sometimes it was wet; when I got into the house I cleaned it off and wiped it out.
In a few minutes we had skinned the two fore quarters out. Then we wrapped the fore part of the hide around the hind quarters, and each took a half and started. It was now dark, and we did not like to undertake going home straight through the woods, so took our way to the Reed house, from which there was a dim path through to Pardee's, and we could find our way home.
We were tired and hungry, and our feet were wet from travelling through the soft snow. As Mr. Reed had moved away there was no one in the house, and we went in and kindled a fire in the fireplace. The way we did it, I took some "punk" wood out of my pocket, held flint stone over it, struck the flint with my knife, and the punk soon took fire. We put a few whitlings on it, then some sticks we had gathered in the way near by the house. We soon had a good fire and were warming and drying our feet.
This "punk" I got from soft maple trees. When I wanted some I went into the woods and looked for an oldish tree, looked up, and if I could see black knots on the body of the tree, toward the top, I knew there was "punk" wood in it and would cut it down, then cut half way through the log, above and below the black knot, and split it off. In the center of the log I was sure to find "punk" wood. Sometimes, in this way, I got enough to last a year or two from one tree. It was of a brown color and was found in layers, which were attached and adhered together. When I chopped a tree I took out all I could find, carried it home, laid it up in a place where it would get drier, and it was always ready for use.
We had to use the utmost precaution not to get out of this material. Sometimes I have known my little Michigan sister, Abbie, to go more than a quarter of a mile, to the Blare place, to borrow fire; on such occasions we had to wait for breakfast until she returned. I do not know that the fire was ever paid back, but I do know that we had callers frequently when the errand was to borrow fire.
When I went hunting I was careful to take a piece of this with me. I broke or tore it off (it was something like tearing old cloth). With this, a flint and a jackknife I could make a fire in case night overtook me in the woods and I could not get out. Fire was our greatest protection from wild animals and cold in the night. This was the way we kindled our fire in the Reed house, before "Lucifer matches" or "Telegraph matches" were heard of by us, although they were invented as early as 1833. After we got a little comfortable and rested, and the wood burned down to coals we cut some slices of venison, laid them on the coals and roasted them. Although we had no salt, the meat tasted very good.
Late in the evening we took our venison and started again. It was hard work to follow the path in the thick woods, and we had to feel the way with our feet mostly as it was quite dark. We had got about eighty rods from the house when, as unexpected as thunder in the winter, broke upon our startled ears the dismal yells and awful howls of wolves. No doubt they had smelled our venison and come down from the west, came down almost upon us and broke out with their hideous yells. The woods seemed to be alive with them. Father said: "Load the rifle quick!" I dropped my venison, and if ever I loaded a gun quick, in the dark, it was then. I threw in the powder, ran down a ball without a patch, and, strange to say, before I got the cap on the wolves were gone, or at least they were still, we didn't even hear them run or trot. What it was that frightened them we never knew; whether it was our stopping so boldly or the smell of the powder, or what, I cannot say; but we did refuse to let them have our venison. We got away with it as quickly as possible and carried it safety home.
Another wolf adventure worth relating: I had been deer hunting; I had been off beyond what we called the Indian hill and was returning home. I was southwest of this hill, and on the north side of a little ridge which ran to the hill, when two wolves came from the south. They ran over the little ridge, crossing right in front of me, to go into a big thicket north. I had my rifle on them. They did halt, but in shooting very quickly I did not get a very good sight, however, I knocked one down and thought I had killed him. (They were just about of a size, and when I shot, the other went back like a flash the way he came from.) I loaded the rifle, but before I had it loaded the one I had shot got up and looked at me. I saw what I had done. I had cut off his lower jaw, close up, and it hung down. Another shot finished him quickly. He measured six feet from the end of his nose to the point of his tail.
I have seen many wolves, I have seen them in shows, but never saw any that compared in size with these Michigan wolves. It takes a very large, long dog to measure five feet. There was a bounty on wolves. I went down through the woods to Squire Goodel's, who lived near the Detroit river, got him to make out my papers and got the bounty. These pests were more shy in the day-time. They were harder to get a shot at than the deer. There were many of them in the woods, and we heard them so often nights that we became familiar with them. When the "Michigan Central Railroad" was built, and the cars ran through Dearborn, there was something about the iron track, or the noise of the cars which drove them from the country.
THE INDIANS VISIT US—THEIR STRANGE AND PECULIAR WAYS.
Some three or four years after we came to the country there came a tribe, or part of a tribe, of Indians and camped a little over a mile southwest of our house, in the timber, near the head of the windfall next to the openings. They somewhat alarmed us, but father said, "Use them well, be kind to them and they will not harm us." I suppose they came to hunt. It was in the summer time and the first we knew of them, my little brother and two sisters had been on the openings picking huckleberries not thinking of Indians. When they started home and got into the edge of the woods they were in plain sight of Indians, and they said it appeared as if the woods were full of them. They stood for a minute and saw that the Indians were peeling bark and making wigwams: they had some trees already peeled.