THE FOREST KING;
THE WILD HUNTER OF THE ADACA.
A Tale of the Seventeen Century
NEW YORK: WHEAT & CORNETT, PRINTERS, NO. 8 SPRUCE ST. 1878.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1878, by HERVEY KEYES, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, D. C.
To Mayall the Valley of the Mohawk was a land where flowers bloomed, where one fair girl flitted about through green glades and virgin forests, and lifted his mind to the supernatural, and he seemed to listen to the voice of seraphs. Then sweet memory brought him again to the morning of life, and he stood by his mother's knee, and leaned upon the cradle where he was rocked to soothe his infant mind. Again he rose to manhood. The power of the music of the groves, and the sweet voice of Nelly Gordon, was the angel of the moment, that unlocked the harmony of the universe. Her eyes appeared as pure as the first rays of morning, as it danced on the heaven-kissed hills of Paradise. Her heart expanded with thankfulness, as she thought how rich she was in everything that made life desirable to Mayall, her lover. She longed to give out the stores of her own happiness, and Mayall seemed to think this lovely girl had a special claim on him for life, which he seemed proud to admit and willing to accept, as the richest gift that Heaven could bestow upon man was Nelly Gordon.
* * * * *
In writing this short history of Mayall and his family, the hunter and trapper of the Valley of the Adaca, I have gathered the main facts from the first settlers in my youthful days, who found him in this then wild but beautiful valley, a place of bloom and shade, dimpled on the face of creation with a smile that renders life pleasing in solitude. The song of birds, and the music of the rills that came rushing down the ravines, to water the flowers and swell the rapid current of the Adaca, under the arching of the woodland forest that hung out its green plumes to wave in every breath of summer, formed an earthly Paradise, in Mayall's estimation.
The bounty and grandeur of Eastern cities faded into insignificance, when compared with his surroundings; for here he reigned lord of the valley's long and wide domain, that abounded in deer, game and furred animals, whilst its streams swarmed with fish. He was truly one of Nature's noblemen—kind and affectionate to his beautiful and lovely wife and children, charitable and humane to all. He was ready at all times to hazard his own life to assist a friend. When attacked by his enemies, he seemed to anticipate all their designs at a glance, and destroyed them without remedy. After the storm of the Revolution had passed away, and the muttering of its thunder was no longer to be heard, adventurers from the East, who were searching for new homes in the productive valleys of Tryon County, found this Friend, as he styled himself, and settled on the same stream, charmed by the beautiful forests, the crystal streams, and the fertility of the soil.
The history of this remarkable hunter is wrapped in mystery. His daring adventures, his wonderful escapes from danger, his presence of mind in the most trying scenes of danger, all combine to render his life wonderful. With his chosen companion to rear a family amid the wild scenes of Nature, far from the civilized world, surrounded by the wild beasts of the forest, he worshiped at the shrine of Nature's God, and gloried in the wild scenes of beauty. The romantic courtship and marriage of Esock Mayall with the adopted daughter of a famous Indian chief, her grace of manners, her remarkable beauty, and courage in time of danger, her journey to her new forest home and return to the land of her birth, seem to be one of the great events of Providence, together with her journey to Niagara Falls with the Indian chief, her father, to witness the sacrifice of a young Indian maiden of high rank to the Great Spirit of the Falls.
In the romantic days of the frontier settlers of Tryon County, there lived in the valley of the Mohawk River a young man by the name of Mayall. He was by nature strong, courageous and active, always foremost in pursuit of the Indians that lurked about the advanced settlements of the whites. Mayall was young and handsome, and would have been considered a prize for a young lady of merit, who was not looking for a companion that possessed lands and money. He seemed to be a favorite among the young ladies of the Mohawk Valley who dressed in linsey-woolsey—I mean that class
"Who slept on down their early rising bought, And wore the garments their own hands had spun"—
but was looked upon with suspicion by some of the more aristocratic and wealthy, who possessed broad farms and extensive grants of land, and wished to trace the pedigree of their relatives to some old ancestral pile, surrounded with wide-spread manors.
Mayall was a hero by nature, and had all the quickness of perception to carry it out successfully; and yet he had cultivated the most refined manners of that wild, romantic age. He was fond of hunting, as the abundance of game and furred animals gave the hunter a rich reward. Mayall had reached his majority, and had become enamored of a beautiful young lady of a wealthy family, the only daughter and heir to a rich inheritance, by the name of Nelly G., who returned his advances in the same warmth of love and fidelity. As soon as the parents of the young lady became aware of Mayall's intentions and their daughter's attachment to young Mayall, they commenced a furious and determined opposition, and refused to allow Mayall to visit their daughter or even enter their house. Mayall took the matter calmly, and was no longer seen at the house of the farmer, but found many opportunities to meet the lady of his choice at evening parties and places of amusement. Their love was mutual, and every reasonable means was used to overcome the objections of the lady's parents—but all seemed in vain. They had promised the heart and hand of their daughter to the son of a wealthy farmer (a distant relative), who was void of merit, and one who was despised by the young lady, on account of his awkward manner of behavior, and his ignorance of what constituted a well-bred gentleman. Nelly G. informed her father and mother that she chose a companion and protector without money, in preference to money and lands without a companion and protector.
One sunny morning, in summer's golden days, when the Valley of the Mohawk appeared like an Eden outstretched in loveliness, and bowed in summer's rosy bloom, the father of Mayall's intended wife saw Mayall coming with hurried steps towards his house, dressed in a green hunting-frock and cap with a green plume shading his forehead, a double-barreled carbine in his hand, with a tomahawk and hunting-knife sheathed in his belt, which was the favorite dress of a hunter when rambling through the green, overgrown forests of the Valley of the Mohawk, to prevent being noticed by wild game or Indians.
Fearing he might have some message for his daughter, whom he did not intend he should see, he started hastily towards him, to intercept him and turn him back before he reached his house. He met Mayall some distance from his house, and forbid his nearer approach.
"I have a message for you and your daughter, which will freeze her young blood and wring her heart with pain, and make your eyes start like stars from their spheres, whilst each hair upon your head will stand erect like the quills of the affrighted porcupine."
The farmer's courage failed, and his knees began to tremble and smite each other like Belshazzar's; for he had heard of the undaunted courage and manly bearing of young Mayall in times of danger.
"Look yonder," said Mayall, as he pointed his carbine up the Valley of the Mohawk. "Do you see the smoke and flames that light up the concave of the skies? That is the funeral pile of your friend and neighbor. Around that fire stands the savage band that have come to plunder and burn your houses and barns, lay waste your fields, and murder and scalp your wife and daughter, Nelly G.; and now where can I find her?"
"She is at the house," said the farmer, "and her horse is in the stable."
"Then come with me," said Mayall; "there is not a moment to lose; flee for your life, and the life of your wife and daughter. I will guard and defend your property."
Mayall ran to the stable, and in a few moments appeared before the farmer's house with Nelly's horse, saddled and bridled, and called for Nelly, who quickly appeared at the door in a plain homespun dress.
"Mount this horse," said Mayall, "and flee for your life to the fort, a place of safety."
"Wait a moment," said Nelly, "until I change my dress."
"No," said Mayall, "your retreat may be intercepted; there is death in delay. The Indians are near, your father and mother will soon follow you to the fort. Tell the commander to fire the alarm-gun, for the valley is swarming with Indians."
Mayall kissed Nelly's hand and said, "My prayer is that Heaven may protect you. There is no time to lose in useless words."
Nelly leaped upon the saddle, and the spirited animal took the nearest road for the fort, and in a few moments was lost from sight by the thick grove through which she had to pass. Mayall's eyes followed her lovely form until it vanished in the sylvan shade, and then hastened to get her father and mother on the way to a place of safety.
Mayall, fearing that he might have been discovered by the Indians, made a hasty retreat to the nearest woods in the direction of the fort, until he disappeared among the shrubbery. Then, returning by a circuitous route, hid in a thicket from which he could have a view of the road leading to the farmer's house. He had scarcely reached his hiding-place before he heard the booming of the alarm-gun at the fort, which thrilled through his bosom with a joyful sound and gave a fresh impulse to all his energies, as it echoed from mountain-top to mountain and glen, on all the forest hills that bordered the then wild Valley of the Mohawk, and seemed to say, "Nolly is safe."
Mayall had but a few minutes to reflect on what had been accomplished, before he espied from his hiding-place five Indians coming up the road leading to the house. Mayall fired both barrels of his carbine, bringing down the two foremost Indians, and without loss of time had his gun in readiness for two more. Then, looking out from his hiding-place, he saw the three remaining Indians retreating in great haste, leaving young Mayall master of the farm and buildings. The inhabitants of the valley rushed for the fort at the sound of the alarm-gun; but several were overtaken by the Indians, and scalped and murdered in the most inhuman manner. But Mayall kept guard over the farm and buildings. The Indians made quick work in plundering and burning dwellings, and murdering all the helpless women and children that fell in their way, and then made a quick retreat towards Canada. After the Indians had left, and the terror-stricken inhabitants had returned to their farms and once-loved homes, only to find many of them a heap of ashes, the old farmer returned with his wife and daughter, and found Mayall walking about keeping guard over his farm and dwelling. He had buried the two Indians and was enjoying a season of rest. Mayall greeted them all with the warmest friendship, and felt happy when he saw them once more safe in their own house, which he had saved from the Indians' torch. But the ungrateful farmer and his wife treated Mayall with cold neglect, if not contempt. The old farmer had seen his intended son-in-law and spent a few days with him at the fort, and renewed his promise to give him his daughter in marriage without her consent, and in spite of her most earnest protest.
And now, reader, put yourself in her place, and meditate awhile, and see if you would have done as she did.
Nelly was a wild, lovely girl by nature, and had added to her store of knowledge many of the accomplishments of education. She had pledged her hand and heart to Mayall, and said she would go with him to some deep, unknown valley of the wilderness, before she would live with a man she hated and could not love, and informed Mayall that her father was determined to have the wedding take place the next Wednesday. She said she once knew a lady who was separated from her lover, and yielded to her parents' choice, who lived in perpetual torment, surrounded by a profusion of wealth. In a few years she pined away, and died broken-hearted, entered Charon's boat with her first love, and sailed over the River of Death together, to join their friends on the Elysian Fields of Paradise, and left her parents and the man of their choice digging in the mud and dust for gold. But that lady was not Nelly Gordon. She would sooner seek the wild wood's shade; for, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith." "I would yield all due respect to my parents, remain single, and cheer them in the winter of their declining years; make downy pillows for their aching heads, and ring their funeral knell; but, oh, misery! when they attempt to force me to take a partner for life, not worthy the name of a man, for his property, I shudder at the thought, and my better judgment compels me to rebel against parental authority. They have gone thus far without my consent—have even invited the guests; and I assure you the groom may come, but the bride will be absent."
Mayall's mind was made up at a glance, for he had long known Nelly's love and fidelity to him, which, he had returned with the kindest respect, and said to Nelly: "If you dare trust yourself in my care, meet me at the large gate that leads to the highway as soon as your father and mother retire to rest, with such articles of clothing as you may need on your journey, and we will fly to some green valley of the West. I will see that your horse is in readiness. I have a friend that will accompany us to Cherry Valley, and return with the horses before the morning star rises, which will prevent our place of retreat being discovered."
As soon as Nelly's father and mother were lost in dreamless slumbers, Nelly passed out of her chamber with noiseless steps, carrying her wearing apparel in a bundle, closely packed, and found Mayall and his friend in readiness, with three horses saddled and equipped for the journey. The company were quickly mounted on three spirited horses, and reached Cherry Valley at eleven o'clock P. M.—a place Nelly had never seen before. No cottage window showed the light of a taper; but the light of the full moon fell in tranquil loveliness upon the rounded hill-tops, and the glittering stars added their beauty to the heavens, while the green forest and flowering shrubbery clothed the earth with beauty, and the sweet-scented clover perfumed the surrounding air. The company dismounted under a broad, spreading forest tree at the south end of the village, near which ran a little rivulet, that meandered in graceful curves southward. Here Mayall and Nelly G. gave the hand of their friend a hearty shake, and an affectionate farewell, enjoining on him the strictest secrecy as he started on his return journey to the Valley of the Mohawk, which he reached just in time to return Nolly's horse to her father's stable and his own to the pasture, before the morning sun dashed her light on all the western hills, and painted the surrounding groves in all the glory of summer.
The father of Nelly awoke with the morning light, and called for his lovely daughter to rise and behold the beauties of the morning. No voice gave back the welcome response. He called again. The voice that used to cheer him with her morning song was far away with her lover. Her bedchamber was as silent as the house of death. He rushed wildly about his outbuildings, calling for his Nelly. No answer came, as usual, floating on the morning breeze, to greet his listening ear. He returned to the house. His wife had searched in vain for her daughter; but found her most valuable wearing apparel was missing, which told a sad tale, whilst no traces could be found of her place of retreat. Next the stable was examined, and Nelly's horse was found as he had left him the night previous. He rode to every place where he thought she would be likely to go, but no trace could be found. He inquired for Mayall, and was told that he was seen the evening before equipped for a hunting excursion. He returned home in grief and loneliness. His house no longer echoed to the musical voice of his lovely daughter. His wife, who had been the most anxious for her daughter to marry a farm instead of a man of worth, now began to murmur and find fault with her husband for his unkindness to Mayall, who had saved their lives and the life of their daughter, and protected their property. She could then see how nobly he had acted, and shielded them from the tomahawk and scalping-knife of the Indians; and now their only daughter had flown to his arms for protection, and to reward him for his noble deeds of humanity—flown from a man she was determined never to marry.
"Has she not frequently told you she had rather have a brave and noble youth without money, than to have a coward she hated with his land and money—that, should his money be lost by misfortune, she would only have the wreck of a man left? And now she is gone, perhaps we shall never see her face again; and, what is worse than all, we have been the cause of our own misfortunes by our own folly and blindness. Had we heeded her warnings we might have enjoyed a pleasant life, with our daughter to cheer us in our declining years; and the brave young man to defend us."
From cloudy turrets evening crept To watch the day's retreating light, Then o'er the heavenly pavement swept The trailing garments of the night, By God's own hand was quick unfurled; Then came the mighty roll-call of the skies, And Nelly, at her father's gate, Quickly answered, "Here am I!"
On the appointed day the man possessed of land and money came to receive his lovely bride—but, oh, what grief! the bird had flown to the wilderness—there to dwell in some green valley, there to build her nest and rear her young, far from the haunts of men, and cook the hunter's savory fare, and wear the beaver's richest furs, when sullen winter there may frown.
The day was turned into a day of sadness and mourning, and at evening the guests returned home gloomy and disappointed. A month of grief and loneliness passed away, and Nelly's father learned, from one of the early settlers of Cherry Valley, that, on the day following the evening that Nelly left her father's home, she was married at Cherry Valley, by a clergyman of that place, to a young man by the name of Mayall, and had not been seen or heard from since. A search was made to discover Mayall's place of residence; but it all proved useless, as no trace of his place of retreat could be found. The father and mother of Nelly G. lived and died without seeing again the face of their lovely daughter. Soon after Nelly G. changed her name to Nelly Mayall her father and mother met with many reverses of fortune, their property vanished away like dew before the morning sun. The Revolutionary war broke out, a party of Tories and Indians visited the Valley of the Mohawk for plunder, their buildings were burned, their property taken, and they fell a sacrifice to the tomahawk and scalping-knife. After the war had ended, and one adventurer after another came to the Valley of the Adaca to select homes, Nelly Mayall learned of the sad fate of her parents. She dressed her hat with the dark plumes of the birds of the forest, and for a time mourned their sad fate. Time passed on—the changing beauties of the forest scenery, the kind attention of her devoted husband and the prattling of her children, once more revived her drooping spirits, and she was again Nelly Mayall, with all her youthful charms.
"Fresh from the fountains of the wood A rivulet to the valley came, And glided on for many a rood, Flushed with the morning's ruddy flame; The air was fresh and soft and sweet, The slopes in spring's new verdure lay, And, wet with dewdrops, at my feet Bloomed the young violets of May. No sound of busy life was heard Amid those forests lone and still, Save the faint chirp of early bird, Or bleat of deer along the hill. I traced the rivulet's winding way, New scenes of beauty opened round. Where woody shades of brightest green And lovely blossoms tinged the ground. 'Ah, happy valley stream,' I said, 'Calm glides thy waters 'mid the flowers, Whose fragrance round my path is shed Through all the joyous summer hours.'"
After the storm of the Revolution had passed away, and the Angel of Peace once more brooded over the forest, there was a daring hunter with his family found living in the Valley of the Adaca, now called Otego Creek, by the name of Mayall, who had become perfectly familiar with every hill, mountain, valley and glen for many miles around his humble cottage. He led a wild and romantic life, living and lodging wherever night overtook him, when the distance was so great that he could not reach his home, where the smoke of his cottage fire curled in blue wreaths over the forest trees, whilst its walls furnished a safe abode for his wife and children from the wild beasts of the forest. His cabin was strongly built of logs, with small windows, which looked more like port-holes to a fort than windows. A deep hole was dug beneath his cottage floor, from which there was a secret passage leading under the foundation outside, that one might make his escape, if necessary. A bed of straw was thrown down into this hole, and here his children slept, descending by means of a trap-door, which was closed in time of danger, and made a safe retreat against the wild beasts of the forest in his absence. There was abundance of game scattered over the forest, and the multitude of furred animals that inhabited the valleys and congregated along the streams, living on the swarms of fish that then abounded in every mountain rill, made it an easy matter to support his table with fresh and dried venison, choice fowls and speckled trout, whilst the furred animals, that were abundant, would furnish him with clothing to protect him from the frosts of winter.
About the year 1774 this wild forester was found cultivating a small spot of ground near a little crystal rill that flowed from a deep gorge in the hill. Eastward of his cabin was a high bluff of rocks, crowned with lofty pines, that overlooked the valley, which stretched away towards the Susquehanna. From this rocky promontory the forest appeared unbroken, excepting the small spot cleared by his own hands, and seemed to lie beneath this rocky throne in tranquil loveliness. Here at his cottage, when at home, his wife cooked his frugal but delicious repast. The Oneida tribe of Indians made their main path to the Susquehanna Valley through the Valley of the Otego Creek, for the purpose of procuring their yearly supply of lead, which they used to carry away in abundance. The first settlers of this valley used to say that they would leave Laurens Village, and, after an absence of two or three hours, return loaded with their yearly supply; yet, with all the search that has been made by the white race, this mine remains a secret, known only to the red man to this day, and probably will remain so until the end of time, unless found by accident. This state of affairs moved on quietly until the breaking out of the Revolution. Great Britain, with her warlike bands, invaded the eastern and southern coast, whilst the Indian tribes westward, aided by the Canadians and Tories, swarmed through all the western forests.
Mayall began to shun them as much as convenient. They appeared very different from the Oneidas, and seemed now to be hunting for men and plunder, instead of wild game. They cleared away and made their war-paths more plain along the broad-armed Susquehanna and her tributaries. They came, painted and plumed for the fray, with their scalp-locks waving in the air; and the frightful war-whoop echoed through the valley and died away upon the mountain top, frightening the wild beasts to their lair, as they marched towards the nearest settlements, to kindle the terror-awakening fire, and massacre and plunder the inhabitants. The war-whoop awoke the child from the cradle—the infant was torn from its mother's arms, the aged fell by the tomahawk and scalping-knife, and the earth fattened with their blood. Such was the state of affairs when autumn arrived, and hung out her flag of many colors from the forest trees over hill and vale, as the sun, with fiery crest, gilded every forest tree with the glory of the season, whilst the bold hunter gathered in the ripening fruit to increase his scanty winter store. The furred animals had now put on their winter robes, which nature so wisely prepares for their comfort during the frosts of winter.
Mayall, who styled himself one of that religious sect called Friends, in order to soothe the fears of his enemies, always hailed them, wherever he met them, as friends.
Autumn, with him, was the season for rambling and hunting to lay in his winter store of furs and provisions, and he prepared for a hunting excursion up the Cherry Valley Creek. The next morning, when the first rays of light appeared in the east, he was seen to emerge from his cabin with a knapsack of provisions on his back, a bundle of traps thrown over his shoulder, powder-horn and bullet-pouch by his side, and his trusty gun in his hand. Thus equipped, he took an eastward course for the Cherry Valley Creek. At the head of that creek was the nearest settlement, where he sometimes went to dispose of his furs and purchase stores and ammunition, distant from his home about twenty-seven miles. As soon as he reached the mouth of the stream, which is a tributary of the Susquehanna, he began to reconnoitre the stream, and set his traps wherever signs appeared of beaver, animated with the prospect of a rich harvest of furs and venison. He had not proceeded far before he saw a fine buck, which had come to the creek to drink. He instantly raised his trusty gun to his face. A flash and report, and the noble animal fell dead upon the bank of the stream. The day had now far advanced, and he drew his knife from its sheath and dressed his venison with dispatch. He then hung up three of the quarters upon the trees, cutting off a limb to form a hook on which it would hang safely from the wolves that were nightly prowling along the stream. He then took the remaining quarter and wrapped it up in the skin of the buck, retired into a thick, dark swamp that lay near the stream, until he reached a large, spreading hemlock, that afforded a convenient resting-place at its root. Here, in this dense thicket, he built a small fire, examined his trusty gun, and laid down to rest. He afterward said he used every caution, for he had three enemies upon his track—the panther, the wolf and the red man. The night seemed to pass away quietly, excepting the howling of a wolf occasionally upon a distant hill, which gave him no uneasiness. Rosy morn soon appeared, and he could see the sun send his blush upon the highest hills, from his camping-ground in the swamp. He then prepared his breakfast, and feasted on the loin of the buck that he had killed the day previous. Emerging from the swamp, he intended to examine his traps, and then take the skin of the buck and the choicest part of the venison to his family. In this calculation he was sadly disappointed; for, as he proceeded along a path near the stream, suddenly three Indian warriors appeared in the path before him. He walked directly up to the party and said, "Good morning, brothers." They returned the compliment by saying, "Good morning, brother." One of the party said, "Let me see your gun." He handed it out. The Indian took from his pocket a knife and turned back the screws that held the lock, and then took the lock and put it in his pocket, handing the gun back to Mayall, informing him that he must go with them. Mayall bit his lips in silence, to think a hunter who had faced his enemies in every form could be so easily frustrated in his plans. They then informed him that they were on the war-path and he must consider himself their prisoner, to which he made no reply.
They immediately commenced their march in the following order: the stoutest Indian led the march, next came Mayall, the prisoner, followed by two Indian warriors. In this manner they marched down the creek, and then down the Susquehanna, to a place near where the Schenevus mingles with and loses its name in the waters of the Susquehanna. Here they encamped for the night, and after starting their camp-fire in a thicket of hemlocks, they all four eat their supper from the venison cooked by Mayall in the morning. Then, binding their prisoner's hands behind him, and tying his feet firmly together, they laid down to sleep, with an Indian on each side and the remaining one to keep guard. As soon as the blaze of the fire died away, Mayall tried to disengage his hands, which began to pain him cruelly, but all in vain. If he could once free himself, he could reach his home before the sun could rise again, and once more see his wife and children; but six miles of forest parted them at this time, on a straight line. Oh, the misery of being dragged from home! And who could foretell his fate? Was he to wear the bearskin moccasin, and be tied to the fatal stake and burned for Indians' sport, and his poor family left to starve and perish amid the frosts of a long, dreary winter? He dreamed of the red war-post, the terrific dance of the red man round his burning victim, and all the refined torture of the savage. Morning broke his dreams; the sun again kissed the mountain-top. Mayall was unbound—his mind became calm, his resolution was formed. It was the last night that he was to endure the horrors of being bound. Little did the Indians know the danger of driving to desperation so terrible a foe, who was perfectly acquainted with the forest many leagues around them. The Indian warriors soon resumed their march in the same order of the previous day, but with greater haste. They moved forward rapidly, as if they feared an enemy in the rear. Mayall scanned every movement with the eye of the vulture, for a chance to deal the deadly blow upon his captors. The day seemed to wear away without an opportunity for the deadly combat, until they halted at a ford above where the village of Unadilla now stands. Here they held a parley, as the stream was swollen and rapid. Mayall looked on in sullen silence, as he began to feel the demon rise. He said he soon felt the courage of a lion, and the strength of a Samson before he had trifled with Delilah.
They hesitated for a short time over the danger. The foremost warrior finally ventured into the stream with his rifle and it was with great difficulty he kept his footing. He struggled against the rushing waters, and finally reached the opposite bank; the second one now stepped into the stream and ordered Mayall to follow. Mayall made every appearance of preparing to follow, until the Indian reached the rapid current; then, turning suddenly upon the Indian on the shore, at one blow with the stock of his gun he laid him dead at his feet. As quick as thought, before his body had fairly reached the ground, Mayall seized his rifle and shot the Indian in the stream. Then tearing the Indian's belt from his body (for it was hurrying times), he jumped behind the trunk of the nearest tree that would shelter him, as a ball from the Indian's rifle on the opposite bank whistled by his head, which he had anticipated, and moved as quickly as possible, to avoid his deadly aim. They now stood on opposite banks, each behind the trunk of a tree, with an empty rifle in their hands. The rifles were quickly loaded and prepared for the deadly combat, and the life of one at least must be sacrificed. After Mayall's gun was in readiness he cautiously peered out; but seeing the Indian's rifle aimed directly at him he dodged suddenly back, just in time to save his life; for the very instant Mayall dodged back his head, a ball from the Indian's rifle grazed the bark of the tree, and whistled away among the forest trees. Mayall now thought of taking the advantage of the Indian by aiming his rifle directly at his hiding-place and firing at the first appearance of the Indian's head, but in this he was disappointed; for the Indian, seeing Mayall's rifle aimed at his head, drew it back so quickly that the ball cut a channel in the bark where the Indian's eye appeared. Mayall loaded again as hastily as possible, and stood for a moment, hesitating what course to pursue, satisfied that the Indian warrior was his equal in aim and courage. He cast his eye back into the forest, and readily saw the trees stood thick, and by drawing the Indian's fire he could make a quick and safe retreat. But that would not answer—he would be hunted down and surprised, and his life would never be safe. Mayall quickly resolved that the Indian or himself must fall on that ground, and the only means now left him was stratagem. He drew his ramrod from his rifle, and putting his hat on the end, pushed it out carefully, to prevent the Indian from discovering the deception. It had the desired effect; for scarcely had the hat shown its full size outside the trunk of the tree, before the Indian sent a ball from his rifle through the hat, which Mayall lowered quickly to the ground, and then listened with breathless anxiety the result. In this condition he waited a long time.
All was silent as the tomb, excepting now and then the scream of a fish-hawk or the singing of a hermit-thrush that had approached the bank of the river after the firing had ceased, and seemed singing the funeral dirge of the red warriors who had already fallen. All of a sudden the thrush flew past Mayall into the forest, and the practiced ear of Mayall heard a rippling in the stream, like running water dashing against some slight obstruction. Anticipating the approach of the Indian warrior, he stepped suddenly from behind the tree, whilst the Indian was struggling with the current, and sent a ball from his rifle through the warrior's heart. He then floated down the rapid current, and sunk in the deep water below the rift.
Mayall then took his gunlock from the pocket of the Indian on the shore, who had stayed behind to engineer and direct the crossing, placed it upon his own gun, dragged the Indian into the current of the river, and he, too, floated down, and sunk with the first two in the deep, dark waters of the Susquehanna. He then washed out all traces of the bloody strife, and bent his course homeward. He hurried on, avoiding the trodden path of the red man, until he reached the mouth of the Otego Creek, when night's sable curtain began to darken the landscape around him. He then ascended a high peak of the mountain, that not only overlooked the Valley of the Susquehanna, but also overlooked the lovely Valley of the Otego Creek. Here, after finding a suitable spot, and examining his rifle, and seeing that all was right, he laid down, weary and exhausted, to rest, without kindling a fire.
The experience of the last two days had taught him a lesson long to be remembered. As the night grew dark and chilly, he could see the fire from his own cottage window gleam warm and bright from his lofty mountain bed, distant twelve miles. The night seemed long and wild, and still wilder round his lonely bed. The war was now raging between the United States and Canada. The inhabitants of Cherry Valley had been massacred, and he had come near losing his own life and liberty, and time would only tell what would become of himself and family. The Oneidas knew his home and place of rest, but at present they were his friends; but how should he escape these western savage tribes, that delighted in kindling the terror-awakening fire, and causing the midnight to glitter with the blaze of some solitary dwelling, whilst they stood at the door with the scalping-knife and tomahawk, to deal the death-blow to the inmates, and triumph with savage glee over their untimely death? Such were the reflections of Mayall, solitary and alone in his mountain bed, when the wild beasts of the forest were in motion, and no human being within twelve miles of his mountain camp. At length the morning dawned; the sun arose in all his glory, throwing a rosy blush, as it touched one peak and then another along the Catskill mountains, which he could see clothed in all their autumnal glory above the intervening hills. Long lines of clouds lay along the highest peaks of these mountains, painted with all the hues of vermilion and gold, but soon faded to a leaden hue, as they began to veil the sun.
Mayall was now aware of the approaching storm, which he considered a stroke of good luck. He took the Indian's rifle, which he had brought thus far with him, and secreted it in a hollow log, lest it might be a tell-tale of what had happened. He then took a general survey with his practiced eye, to see if there was any smoke rising from the valleys. He could see none but his own in the distance. He then hurried down from the mountain, and took the nearest path to his home with rapid and hurried steps, in order to get as near home as possible, that the rain might wash out all traces behind, and took special care to avoid soft ground, as he well knew the shrewdness of the Indians on the track if they should miss their tribesmen. He reached home before the rain began to descend, and had hardly closed the door before the wind began to blow and the rain fell in torrents.
His family were surprised to see him return, after three days' absence, with nothing but his gun and ammunition, and appearing careworn, weary and hungry. He walked to the door and looked out, and said, "Nature weeps for me!"
Mayall was a bold, daring man, and none was found more brave; but when he looked upon his little prattling children and lovely wife, he thought of the three Indian warriors lying at the bottom of the dark, deep stream, and he wept, thinking they might have wives and fatherless children, who would look out evening and morning for their fathers and husbands, who would never return again to their homes.
His wife and children hailed him with joy, but nothing they could say seemed worth his notice; he seemed to be wrapped in deep meditation—not a smile was seen to light up his sunburnt countenance. No one could read the secret of his meditation.
Autumn quietly wore away, and Mayall confined his hunting excursions to his own quiet valley, where game appeared quite plenty, until the snows of winter began to whiten the hills. He then remained most of the time at home, excepting now and then, when the weather was favorable, he made an excursion up or down the valley in quest of deer, to supply his family with fresh venison. The deep snows had drifted over the war-path of the red man, and Mayall had enjoyed a quiet season, spending most of his time by a warm winter fire.
At length winter began to resign his sway, and took up his march for his northern icy throne. The rays of the sun began to dissolve the deep snow, the southern breeze began to whisper among the dumb branches of the forest trees, the warm rains pattered down, the little mountain streams were swollen, and noisily hurrying down to pour their tribute into the Otego, which overflowed its banks and inundated the lowlands along the streams, and Spring began to put on her glorious robes of beauty. The violet opened its young leaves with all its youthful blush, the honeysuckle displayed its glistening cups of gold, and the forest trees were again clothed with living green, while every tree that bore the fruits of Autumn was dressed with Nature's fairest wreaths, which art can scarcely imitate. The feathered choir had fluttered up the valley, borne on the southern breeze, to cheer the woodland with their song.
Such was the earthly Paradise of Mayall. Not all the halls of state, with their artificial splendor; not all the retinue of kings, with golden crowns, surrounded with warriors glittering with burnished gold and ornamented with diamonds—all these faded into insignificance, when compared with his green forest home.
"What city," said Mayall, "with all its towers and domes, can compare with these sylvan shades and waving arches, the music of these waterfalls, and that of the tall pine's quaking cone standing on its high and lofty throne? And what music can compare with the notes of these feathered songsters, that morning and evening hymn the praise of Nature's God, where He sits enthroned with all his glory?" Such were the reflections of Mayall, as he sat beneath a clustering vine that his lovely companion had trained, in his absence, to form an arch over his cottage door, and shelter him from the burning sun.
The flowers of May soon began to drop their leaves, the streams had become confined within their banks, the red men from the Western lakes and Canada were again upon the war-path, and it required all the skill of a forest life to elude their pursuit. Mayall knew every sound of the night; his eye and ear had long sought in the dark; not a beast that walked the forest by night, or prowled around his cabin or camp-fire, but he could name readily by the sound of his footsteps. Mayall had remained most of the summer at his forest home, cultivating a small field that surrounded it, and capturing such game as frequented his own valley, and the streams that meandered through it abounded with fish of the finest quality for his table.
Summer had quietly passed away, and the golden sun of September began to change the bright green of summer to all the varied hues of autumn. Mayall once more began to feel a desire to roam over the hills, which had long been his favorite employment; he finally resolved on visiting his more distant hunting-ground in quest of deer, which had become scarce near his home. He accordingly rose with the sun and prepared for a journey over the distant hills and valleys, which had only appeared to him in his dreams since his capture by the three Indian warriors. He took an eastern course, crossed the highlands between the Otego Creek and Susquehanna Valley, crossed the Indian war-path that passed up the Susquehanna, and thence up Cherry Valley Creek at right angles, and soon began to climb the steep ascent of the Crumhorn mountain, in the direction of a small lake situated on the top of the mountain. As he began to ascend the mountain the sun had passed the meridian, and poured its heated rays against the western slope of the mountain. Mayall, coming to a noisy little rill that spun its silver thread down the mountain side, to mingle with the water in the valley below, slaked his thirst at the stream, and, walking up to a little mound near the stream, scraped together some leaves that had fallen in wild profusion around, to carpet the mountain-side with all their varied hues, and seated himself for his noonday meal. After satisfying his hunger and again quenching his thirst at the stream, he sat down to rest; a stupor came over him, as the gentle breeze fanned the mountain-side and whispered among the lofty branches of the forest trees, like the AEolian harp of passing time.
Mayall soon became unconscious of the fearful dangers that were hovering around him; time, to him, passed unheeded; the sun was fast sinking towards the western hills, and the wild beasts of the forest were again in motion. Mayall slowly awoke to consciousness, and, to his surprise and horror, he heard the tread of a panther walking about him, and covering him with leaves. Being perfectly acquainted with the habits of this animal, he knew that to move a hand or foot would cause his instant death, as the old panther was then preparing a feast for her young ones, as he had seen them prepare a deer that she had found in the same manner, and then go and bring her young ones. He lay in fearful suspense until the panther had finished her covering of leaves. He heard her footsteps begin to recede, until the sound was lost in distance; then, creeping out from his covering of leaves, he discovered near him an old decayed log about the length of a man. This he moved to the spot where he had lain, and covered it with leaves, then, casting his eyes around, he saw a tree that he could easily climb, and, slinging his gun over his shoulder, fastened by a strap to his belt, he lost no time in ascending the tree to the height of twenty-five or thirty feet, where he found a convenient branch to rest upon, above the height of the panther's ground-leap. He waited quietly for the return of the panther and her family, not knowing how many guests would be invited to the feast.
Whilst sitting on this lofty perch, in painful suspense, he carefully examined his trusty gun and hunting knife, which he sheathed in his boot in readiness for the combat, should the panthers attempt to attack him by ascending the tree. After resting on one of the branches of his chosen tree for a short time he heard the rustling of the leaves in the distance, and could plainly see through the branches of the trees that the old panther was advancing towards his bed of leaves, accompanied by three large cubs. He now felt thankful there was but one old one in the company, and waited in silence to see the exploits of the old panther, which advanced steadily towards the bunch of leaves with cautious steps, as if she feared to wake her prey until she came within leaping distance; then, settling down on the ground, waited until her young ones came to her side; then springing forward with one tremendous bound, she struck upon the log covered with leaves. The rotten wood-bark and leaves flew fearfully around for a moment. The panther seeing her mistake, dropped her tail and ears like a shamed cur, and taking a careful survey with her eyes of the surrounding forest, stood at fault for a few moments. Then raising her head and ears, she seemed to resume all her native fierceness, and seemed maddened with rage at her disappointment, and, seeming to have caught the scout of the victim of her rage, she raised her eyes and fixed them on Mayall in the tree, and advanced directly towards him, her young panthers following, which were about the size of a large wild cat.
Mayall awaited her approach, with his gun in readiness, until the panther came in full view, and as she settled towards the ground to make a bound up the tree he sent the contents of his gun through her head. For a few moments there was a fearful struggle among the small brush and saplings, and then she dropped lifeless and exhausted upon the ground. Mayall lost no time in loading his gun, but the young panthers, seeing their protector and provider fall, were quickly out of reach of the fearless hunter. Mayall descended to the ground just as the sun was casting his last crimson blush on the Crumhorn hills, and kindled his camp-fire on the leaves that the panther had scraped together for his funeral pile. After he had kindled his fire and made preparations for the night he then laid down near his camp-fire, where he could get a fair view of his surroundings. The shades of evening soon gathered around him. The stars shot forth in beauty one by one, and the evening dew fell in silence. Thinking the young panthers might return for their dam, he had placed her in a sleeping position in a conspicuous place, to draw them to her side if they came within sight. Mayall waited in sleepless anxiety, thinking that when the embers of his fire died away the young panthers might approach. In the midst of his watchfulness the moon arose and showed her maiden face, and walked among the stars, reflecting her borrowed light among the branches of the forest trees.
Mayall was delighted with the grandeur of the scenery around him, which drew out his mind in pure devotion to Nature and Nature's God. The night seemed to pass like a pleasant dream, and the day-star began to twinkle in the east. Mayall kindled again his fire to prepare his morning repast, that he might retrace his steps to the Valley of the Otego, knowing that the hunter finds no deer in forests inhabited by panthers. The day-king soon arose and dispelled the darkness of night. Mayall went forward and circumnavigated the little lake in pursuit of the young panthers. Not finding their hiding place, he sat down on a log for a few moments to view that beautiful sheet of water, reflecting on its bosom the surrounding forest. Eolus was slumbering. Not a breath of air played over its surface, but lay like the mirror bright and fair. Mayall in his excitement viewed it as one of the lovely dimples on the face of creation, which held him for a time like a charm, until his thoughts roamed over the forest hills to his loved ones at home. He then arose and retraced his steps to the Valley of the Otego, considering the past day and night one of the most charming incidents of his past life.
The war of the Revolution had now ended, and new adventurers began to visit the Valley of the Otego. Charmed with the beauty of its forests and crystal streams, they would return and soon appear with their families.
And behold the green hills in distance laid, Where the wild hunter often strayed, Where through the forest swift as light The wild deer shunned the bullets' flight.
Summer had resigned her sway to Autumn in the green valleys of the Susquehanna and her tributaries, which spread out among the hills like the branches of some mighty forest tree, over whose curving and playful waters the green plumes of the forest trees had waved during the summer, now changed with the season; and Summer, the queen of flowers and ripening fruit, had wrapped herself in a mantle of green, and laid down to die as the sun gradually declined to southern skies and the Autumn Queen put on her gorgeous robes of many colors. The squirrel was seen to play on nimble feet through oak and chestnut groves gathering in his winter store. The deer, with her fawn, wandered through the grove unmolested, excepting at such times as Mayall needed venison for his own table.
One day, while seated beneath the vine-clad porch of his cabin, where the vines had been trained by his wife to tie in leafy coil over the door, he saw a woman in homespun dress advancing with hurried steps, weeping and mourning as she advanced towards him, and fell exhausted at his feet. Mayall raised her from the ground and inquired the cause of her grief. She soon recovered sufficiently to inform him that a party of nine Indian hunters had been prowling about her cabin for a couple of days, and that morning they had stolen her little daughter Nelly, but four years old, and bore her away in triumph without any regard to her screams or the lamentations of her mother for her only child.
Mayall listened with pity and grief to the poor woman's tale of woe, and impatiently said, "Why did not your husband follow the black thieves and bring back your child?"
"Oh dear," cried the poor woman, "what could he do with so many Indians?"
Mayall replied, "Follow them, and when a good opportunity offered, kill them, shoot the thieves and bring back your child. Better die like a man than live a coward here in this forest land, dreaming of robber band that bore away his only child to be a slave in some proud savage's smoky hut."
At this reply the woman became frantic with despair and cried out, "Oh, Mayall, for mercy save my child. You are the only man now living that can do it, and I will give you all I possess on earth and be your slave in the bargain."
Mayall was not deaf to sympathy. The fire of revenge began to kindle in his bosom; but how should he withstand the power and vengeance of nine brave men skilled in battle and the chase? He sat silent for a few moments. The flames of revenge began to burn in his iron will, which, when aroused, was terrible. He inquired the direction the Indians had gone with the child, and where their trail could be found, then told the woman to go home and take a good night's rest; he said the Indians had gone, and of course would not return unless they came to bring her Nelly back, and further she could do nothing to recover the child herself. He thought the child would be returned in the morning.
These words seemed to pacify her, and she returned home. As soon as his only neighbor, Miss Murphrey, was out of sight, Mayall examined his trusty gun and prepared cartridges equal to twice the number of Indians, placed his tomahawk and hunting-knife in his belt, then turned to his wife and said, "You must not look for me until I return. I will be back as soon as my mission is accomplished."
His mind then became calm and he sallied forth from his cottage as cheerful as a hunter in quest of game, and soon disappeared in the forest that surrounded his dwelling. The sun was descending towards the western hills in all her flaming glory as Mayall reached the summit of the dividing ridge between the Otego Creek and the Susquehanna Valley. Cautiously and slowly he descended the hill, keeping on the Indian trail.
As the shades of night hovered over the forest, Mayall left the trail and took his post on a small hill not far from the river, where he could hear the Indians preparing wood for their evening fire, and occasionally he could hear the child, Nelly Murphrey, crying for its mother. Mayall cautiously advanced through the thick forest, guided by the sound of the child's voice weeping and often calling for its mother, who lay wrapped in wakeful dreams several miles away. The voice of this weeping child nerved the old hunter's arm with the strength of a Samson, and filled his heart with a vengeance not his own. The hours seemed to linger into days as he lay crouched in the dark. At last the camp-fire of the Indians blazed up and illuminated the forest. Mayall lay secreted in a little thicket behind a knoll, where he could hear every word that was said, and he well understood the Indian dialect.
One Indian, who seemed to be their leader, said there would be no danger unless they got the old hunter on the trail, and to avoid him they must be up and away as soon as the day-star appeared.
The Indians partook of their evening meal and laid down to slumber and rest, not dreaming that the bold hunter, like the panther, was crouching near with sharpened tomahawk and knife, panting for an opportunity to avenge a woman's wrongs.
As the night wore away all became silent, excepting an occasional outbreak from little Nelly Murphrey, calling for her mother. The camp-fire no longer blazed, but the dying coals were yet red, and gave sufficient light to see the nine dark forms stretched on the forest floor. Mayall now began to move forward with cautious steps. He soon discovered by the flickering of the embers that the Indian on the watch had fallen asleep, with the stolen child nestling between him and the Indian warrior beside him.
Mayall took a cautious look. No Indian in his blanket stirred. All was silent, excepting the low murmuring of the Susquehanna rolling by. He noiselessly rested his gun behind a tree, and leaped like a tiger upon his prey, with his tomahawk in one hand, which he swung as fast as death could deal a blow, and his long knife gleaming by the light of the fire in the other. The last Indian in the circle, wakened by the screams of the child, leaped from his leafy bed and fled into the forest with the speed of a panther. Mayall, seeing his retreating form, sprang to the Indian's guns and fired three in quick succession after him, to speed his flight, and then, gathering up the remaining guns as quickly as possible, threw them upon the coals with the muzzles in the direction the Indian had gone, in order to keep up the firing until he could get out of hearing with the affrighted child before the Indian returned. He then took up Nelly, who was half dead with fright, and hurried off in the opposite direction as fast as possible. The sharp report of one gun after another broke the stillness of night until Mayall had got more than two miles from the bloody conflict with his prize, and had soothed the child's fears by softly whispering in her ear that he was carrying her home to her mamma.
Mayall now diverged from the trail and reached the place of his destination by a circuitous route, at times traveling in the channel of small brooks, in order to deceive the Indians, should they undertake to follow on the trail, to avenge the blood of his tribesmen. Mayall hurried on with his prize. The stars had faded from his view, and the morning sun had lighted up the concave of the skies, before he could reach the weeping mother with her little Nelly. Her mother had passed a sleepless night, and her wakeful eye had been turned in every direction to see if she could catch a glimpse or a sound from her little Nelly. None but a mother could realize her pain and anguish at the loss of her lovely child. As she stood looking she fancied she heard the faint sound of her prattling voice. A moment later she saw Mayall come in full view with little Nelly in his arms. The fond mother, now as frantic with joy as she had been the previous day with grief, rushed to meet Mayall. She met him some distance from her cabin, and little Nelly leaped with joy into her mother's arms as she fell at the feet of Mayall, to thank him for restoring to her loved embrace her only child. Mayall raised her to her feet and said, "I have done no more than my duty, and I have no time to waste. Swear to me before the God of Heaven that all that pertains to the loss and return of this child shall be kept a secret whilst I live."
After receiving her sacred promise not to reveal the secret, he disappeared again in the forest, and there was no human being left at liberty to tell the frightful story of the Indians' fate, excepting the Indian that made good his retreat.
The seasons rolled around, Autumn had again hung out her flag of many colors, and Nelly Murphrey, under the fond care of her mother, had grown to be a beautiful little girl, with her auburn hair drooping fondly in ringlets upon her shoulders, and appeared in all the beauty of innocence.
Whilst the mother was seated at her door, playing with little Nelly, she raised her eyes and saw a tall, stately Indian standing before her at a respectful distance. As soon as her eyes rested upon the Indian, she recognized him as being one of the band that stole her child. As Nelly saw him she screamed and flew back into the house. The sudden scream seemed to freeze her mother's blood, and she sat as immovable as a statue. The Indian stood perfectly quiet, without coming nearer. When she had recovered, he said he would not harm her nor her child; but she must tell him who brought back her child. She told him she found the child in the edge of the woods the next morning, and supposed that he had returned it. He then told her he had not, and she must find out who it was and let him know when he came around again. The mother watched the Indian until he disappeared in the forest, and then stealing away slyly in the opposite direction, and by taking a circuitous route, soon reached Mayall's cottage, and told Mayall that one of the same Indians that had stolen her Nelly had been at her house, trying to find out who brought her back. "I told him where I found her, and thought he had got tired of her and brought her back." Mayall then told her to go into his cottage and remain there with his wife and children until he returned. Taking good care to keep the doors securely bolted, and the axe in the house to use if they were molested, Mayall then took down his gun, prepared some cartridges, put on his belt, with his tomahawk and knife depending from it, and hanging by his side, and left the cottage.
Night came, but the hunter did not return. There was no moon, but the stars shone forth in tranquil loveliness as the night wore away. About midnight they heard a noise outside and near the cottage, and they crept cautiously to the window, which was nearly as high as one's head, but not of sufficient size to admit a common sized man, and looked cautiously out, and Mayall's cow was in his garden. Mrs. Mayall then told her that the Indian was near, and she must not show her head at the window, or she might be taken for her husband. The minutes now seemed to drag into hours, when that hungry cow was walking over the choice melons and devouring them, and in a few moments more she was eating and stamping down the corn which they had cultivated with care for their own domestic use. But time wore away, and all was still, excepting the cow in the garden. The sharp report of a gun was heard, and loud groans followed, which seemed to shake everything within like a clap of midnight thunder, and my brain seemed to reel, for deeds were going on I dare not look upon.
Soon after, some one, whom I took to be Mayall, for I could see by the light of the stars he had a gun in his hand, came and drove his cow out of the garden. Mrs. Mayall then told me her husband would be back in the course of an hour, and they would then be out of all danger; that her husband was then near the house. Our fears seemed to vanish, and we commenced talking and anticipating what had happened. Mrs. Mayall said the report was from her husband's gun; that she knew the sound from all other guns, and that, when in the hands of her husband, was sure death against prowlers of the night, whether they walked on two feet or four.
She then said she knew their game. The Indian had let the cow into the garden, expecting that her husband would come out, whilst he lay secreted to kill him. She said Mayall never slept in his house when he knew there were Indians watching for him, but always kept near enough to protect his house and family. Whilst we were anticipating what had been done in the dark, Mayall suddenly knocked three times on the door, then paused and struck one. Mrs. Mayall, without farther hesitation, sprang to the door and opened it. I said, "How dare you open that door?" She replied that his knock was different from all other men; she said she could tell by the day of the week, and no one knew the secret but herself.
Mayall entered the house without saying a word, bolted the door after him, laid down his gun, knife and tomahawk, and after telling me that I could go home in the morning if I chose, there would be no danger, he then laid down on his bed of straw, and was sound asleep in less than five minutes; and when I left his cottage in the morning he was still asleep. I took my little Nelly and returned to my cabin. Many strange thoughts passed through my troubled brain. Occasionally I seemed to hear the sharp report of a rifle; and then how came the blood on that tomahawk? The Indian never appeared again, nor could there be any trace of him found.
Roam on the high mountain's crest, fearless ranger, The Indian no more shall dye his coarse blanket In citizens' gore; he has left, aye, forever, the vales Where you met him, and fought for my Nelly, So gifted, so fair and so young.
The Oneida Indians came annually from the Valley of the Mohawk and the Oneida reservation to the Valley of the Susquehanna, by their path down the Valley of Adaca, to lay in their store of dried venison for the long and dreary winters of this latitude, accompanied by their wives and daughters, who prepared the meat taken in the hunt, dried and smoked it, and put it in deerskin sacks ready to be conveyed to their winter quarters. They always encamped at their place of rest at the outlet of the Adaca Creek into the Susquehanna River, where they had planted an orchard to supply them with apples during the fall hunt.
Mayall lived near their path where they usually stopped to make inquiries and gain such information as was necessary to guide them where deer were most numerous. They usually gave Mayall an invitation to join the fall hunt, which was his favorite amusement at that season of the year, being an expert in the game of hunting. The Indians gave Mayall his full share of the venison and furs taken. They ranged the hills and valleys in every direction from their camp at the place of rest, and returned at night with their venison and furs, which they handed over to their squaws to be dressed and dried, excepting such parts as would not bear transportation, which were taken to supply the daily food of the camp. A number of large gray wolves had been heard nightly from their camp howling on the mountain south of the Susquehanna, which caused the deer to leave the South Mountain and cross over to the hills on the north side.
On the morning following one of their howling frolics, one of the hunters shot and wounded a deer on the south side of the river. In their endeavors to capture it they drove it up the mountain side. There were a number of hunters joined in the chase, but as the hill grow steep and rocky they all fell back and returned to camp but Mayall and two Indians, who had now reached the high range of hills, where they made a temporary halt to view the ample plains and beauteous tracts below. On the one hand they surveyed the famous Susquehanna, rolling in silent dignity and marking its course with inconceivable grandeur, while in the distance the hills lifted their venerable brows.
Here they had paused a few moments to view the beauties of Nature as it came fresh from the hand of Omnipotence. The sunlight was streaming from the western skies, kissing each mountain top, clad with crimson and gold, like the morning light that dances on the heaven-kissed hills of Paradise. Mayall viewed the scene with unspeakable delight, as he thought how rich he was in everything that made life desirable to him. From this lofty eminence over the valley forest he could mark the smoke curling from his quiet home, where his lovely companion rested. Youth, beauty, wealth, love, all seemed to be his. All his past life seemed to pass in grand review. The sun sank in silence toward the horizon, and called to his mind that the chase was leading them too far from camp to return before dark.
Before they had time to decide which course to pursue they heard the deer returning with a gang of wolves close in pursuit, made ravenous by the scent of the warm blood gushing from the deer's sides at every bound, in consequence of his wonderful springs to escape the wolves, which were so near that one miss-jump would have been fatal, as a dozen wolves were ready to tear his flesh from his bones.
It now became hurrying times. Mayall looked round to find a safe retreat. The two Indians that had ascended the hill with him were wild with affright, and beat a hasty retreat. The deer became exhausted in its exertions to escape, and fell to the ground within two rods of the place where Mayall stood, and three of the wolves rushed upon him with open jaws, to devour him. Mayall was just the man for that place; for as quick as a flash of electricity all his presence of mind returned. The contents of his gun, with his deadly aim, brought down the first or foremost to the ground. He dropped his gun and met the second with his tomahawk, which he dispatched at a blow. The third had then reached him. He aimed a blow at his head, his weapon glanced, and the wolfs mouth came in contact with his body and fastened his teeth in his hunting-frock. At that instant Mayall gave him a thrust with his long hunting-knife, which he had drawn from his belt with his left hand. The knife entered between the wolf's ribs and split his heart, and the wolf fell back and expired with a mournful howl. Mayall was now clear from the wolves. The remainder of the drove was devouring the deer with such haste, he saw there would be no escape unless it was effected without delay. He instantly placed his tomahawk in his belt and sheathed his knife, then fastening his gun to his belt by means of a spring, commenced climbing the first favorable tree he reached.
He had barely time to climb ten feet from the ground before the wolves made a rush for the tree, and commenced jumping at him, mingled with a howl of rage and disappointment. Mayall continued to climb until he reached a safe and convenient place for loading his gun. He soon loaded and brought down the fourth wolf, and then gave a shout of triumph to inform the Indians that he had reached a place of safety. The Indians shouted back from the tree-tops far down the mountain, with joy that echoed through every glen and ascended above the mountain-top; for hearing the howling and growling of the wolves after Mayall's first fire, they supposed the wolves were devouring Mayall and would soon be upon their track, and had taken the precaution to reach a place of safety in time. Mayall now continued to load his gun and fire upon the wolves with success, until the thinned band made their retreat up the mountain. He then descended from his lofty perch, made his retreat in the same direction the Indians had, down the mountain.
Mayall soon reached the place where the Indians had fled for safety, and found them perched in a tree like two owls on their nightly roost. As soon as the Indians saw Mayall they quickly descended, and the three took up their line of march for their camp with the double-quick. The curtains of night were fondly drooping upon the hill-tops, and the stars were shooting forth in glory one by one from Heaven's blue concave as the three hunters reached the Indian encampment.
The Indians shouted with joy at their return, after hearing the firing of guns and the fierce howling of wolves. They had been much alarmed for their safety. The squaws and Indians flocked round Mayall to hear the Indians relate the story of their adventure and act over the frightful scene with gun, tomahawk and knife, to show the amount of skill used by Mayall in handling the deadly weapons of war. Their war-chief, being present, addressed his Indians in the following manner: "Your pale-faced chief, whom I shall this night adopt by the name of Wolf-hunter, must ever be revered by our tribesmen for his deeds of skill and daring. He has driven our enemies from our hunting-ground. Yon skulking thieves that destroyed our game, and tore the white squaw's papoose from her arms, and bore it over the high hills to where the Susquehanna winds her course among the alder groves, there the pale chief left them in their leafy bed of gore, and returned the white papoose to the embrace of her mother. The Indians who returned to avenge their fallen tribesmen have been slain by him, and their bones will ever rest on our hunting-ground, unmolested either by sire or son. He has met this day in deadly combat the gray wolves of the forest that destroyed our venison. They spared neither the deer nor its fawn; and to-night they sleep in death, high on the bleak mountain-side. The God of battle helps him in every strife, and no arm has yet been found able to cope with his. And we should be proud of such a friend to lead the hunt and move the whirlwind of the battle on."
Mayall related the story of his adventure with the wolves to Mr. Powel, one of the first settlers of the Adaca Valley, and at the same time informed him that Molly Brant, then an Indian maiden of beautiful form and suavity of manners, was with the Indians at their camp, and was after that the wife of Sir William Johnson. He said her manners were as gentle as the south wind that rocked the tree-tops in autumn.
The place of rest where the red man unstrung his bow and slept two hundred years ago, beneath the shades of an overgrown forest, where the grandsires of that much-abused race planted their orchard, which bore the gems of bright abundance in autumn's golden days to regale their taste and satisfy their appetites, whilst they rested from the chase, this Garden of Eden so much famed in Indian story, the red man's resting-place, where he gathered in his stock of furs for his winter clothing and dried his venison to sustain his own life and the life of his family during the cold stormy winters of this latitude, around whose fertile plain the towering hills stand as sentinels to guard the plain below from furious winds and drifting storms, was highly esteemed by the Indian tribes for the abundance of fish that inhabited the waters of the Susquehanna and its tributaries.
There has long been a story of revolutionary days connected with this renowned place. Sir William Johnson, a Major-General in the British army, came to Johnstown and took up his residence in that place. Whilst there he had some business to transact with the Indians, who frequently came to that place to trade. He there became acquainted with a young squaw, Holly Brant, the daughter of the famous war-chief of the Mohawk Indians, and was so much enamored with her virtue, wit and beauty, that he asked the chief's consent to give him the hand of his daughter in marriage. After some hesitation the chief consented, and his daughter, the Forest Queen, was sent for. She came dressed in simple Indian costume, ornamented with wampum, wearing fawn-skin moccasins embroidered with the quills of the porcupine; her long flowing dress was decked with roses. Sir William had been a guest at the Royal Court of England, where fair women flashed with diamonds and brave men whirled in the giddy dance, but none seemed to him to possess that beauty and grace which appeared in this young Forest Queen. In short, he admired her more than he did all the fair daughters of Eastern climes.
Sir William was so much enamored with her artless grace that they were soon united in marriage, and he took her to his mansion to grace its stately halls as she had the cabin of the Indian chief, her father, who was considered by the Indians equal in rank to Sir William Johnson.
Beauty's spell flowed from her eyes, A radiant splendor wreathed her hair, And fondly sweet perfection lingered there, From which all human virtues gently flow.
In due time the chief came to visit Sir William and his daughter, and was invited by them to tarry with them for a time. The invitation was accepted by the chief. After viewing the stately halls hung with maps, pictures and mirrors, he retired to rest. Not being accustomed to sleep on beds of down, fenced in with lofty ceiling, his sleep was disturbed with dreams. He dreamed of palaces beyond the sea, with high towering domes and gilded halls, and warriors with golden epaulettes and flashing sabres, and plumes that nodded as they marched to battle. All these grand views formed within his breast a desire for military glory.
Finally he awoke with the first rays of the morning, with a pleasing dream impressed upon his memory, and when he arose he related the dream to Sir William and his wife. He said he had dreamed that Sir William gave him his uniform, covered with gold lace of costly texture, with his sword, epaulettes, pistols, and hat covered with plumes. Sir William, not being unacquainted with the Indian custom, seemed at a loss what answer to give the chief. His wife, seeing his embarrassment, took him by the hand and led him to the hall and informed him that he had better fulfill the dream of her father by giving him his war equipage, which would give him an opportunity to dream in return.
"What can I dream," said the Major-General, "to compensate me for that splendid war equipage?"
His wife, with a sly look, replied, "Leave that to me; but give him the uniform and other equipage."
[Footnote 1: The author of the History of Schoharie County and Border Wars of New York, states that the lands dreamed for by Sir William Johnson, with the famous Indian chief Hendrix, of the Mohawk tribe, were situated in the Valley of the Mohawk, which statement is denied by the first settlers of the Indian's place of rest in the Valley of the Susquehanna, which lands were purchased of the heirs of Sir William Johnson, who used to relate the story of the dream as they learned it of their mother, whose maiden name was Molly Brant, and had been at the Indian place of rest with the Indians in their fall hunt when an Indian maiden.]
The Major-General then brought forward his beautiful uniform and equipments, that had been manufactured with care in England to adorn men of rank and high renown in the British service, and worn with honors. The Indian chief looked with pride upon the dazzling prize, so easily won from a British officer. He then took off his Indian dress and put on the General's uniform, which he said was a very good fit for a chief to wear in time of peace, but not well calculated for the battle fray. He wore his uniform through the day while a guest at the house of Sir William Johnson. When night came he took off his uniform and folded it carefully and packed it in a suitable form to transport it to his own village, situated many miles away in the forest. After the chief had retired to rest for the night Mrs. Johnson informed the General he must dream that the chief, her father, gave him one thousand acres of land situated on each side of the Susquehanna, at their place of rest, where they could remove after the war had ended and live in tranquil loveliness upon the banks of the gently flowing Susquehanna.
There on the runway long and low, Coursed the buck, the fawn and doe; The finny tribes in lengthened shoals Swarm through all the crystal stream; There in the summer sunshine blaze Will rise green rows of twinkling maze, Where the sweet waters of the mountain rill Will ever turn your grinding mill.
The glowing account of so lovely a valley, given by Sir William's wife, caused him to dream that the Indian chief gave him one thousand acres of land at the Indian's place of rest. The next morning when the Indian chief and Sir William met, he related his dream. The Indian chief sat in silent meditation for a few moments, and then replied that if he had actually dreamed the dream that he had related he must have the one thousand acres of land, but one thing was certain, he would never dream with him again whilst he had that young fox at his elbow.
The one thousand acres of land were deeded to Sir William, according to the tenor of his dream, and the land was sold to actual settlers by the heirs and descendants of Sir William Johnson, years after the storm of the Revolution had passed away, and the grant was confirmed in the settlement of peace with the government of Great Britain.
After the storm of the Revolution had subsided, the Indian's bow was unstrung, the tomahawk and scalping-knife were laid idly by, and the Angel of Peace had spread her guardian wing over the waters of the Susquehanna and her tributaries. The hardy sons of New England came flocking to this section of country, and many of them found a home for their families in the lovely Valley of the Otego. Here they purchased lauds and commenced cutting down and clearing away the forest along the valley, and erecting rude houses to shelter their wives and children, and mills to grind their grain.
In a few short years the smoke from their morning fires curled above the forest trees for more than twenty miles along the winding banks of the crystal waters of the Otego, and began to present a scene of activity. School-houses were erected by the industry of the settlers along the valley at the most convenient places, and these served a double purpose—for schools through the week and meeting on the Sabbath.
Orchards soon began to blossom in spring, and fields of grain to wave in summer, both yielding the gems of bright abundance in autumn. Then the reapers, robust and ruddy with health, thrust in the willing sickle, whilst the young maidens with glowing cheeks gathered up the gavels and bound them in sheaves and raked the new-mown hay. Health, beauty and prosperity spread their glory over the lovely scene. The axeman's blows, that lowered the forest and frightened away the game, were displeasing to Mayall, and all his thoughts were now turned on finding a new home. The thought of living in a country where the primeval forest was fast disappearing, the thick boughs that had sheltered him from the storms and the green plumes that had waved over his head in summer to protect him from the scorching rays of the sun in his daily rambles, for so many years, where the wild game had lived and fattened for his table—all seemed like departing friends.
Mayall could endure the scene no longer, and started in quest of a new home. He traversed the country to the north in every direction, with his gun in his hand and his hunting-knife and tomahawk in his belt.
Thus equipped he wandered over a vast section of country, winding around lakes and crossing streams, at times climbing the highest hills, there from some lofty tree-top taking a view of the surrounding country, to see if the smoke from the cottage of some adventurous settler or that of the Indian wigwam dimmed the air. He was seeking a lone retreat where human footsteps seldom fall. At length he learned from an Indian of the Oneida tribe that he would find that secluded and happy retreat he was searching for on the head-waters of East Canada Creek, where the sparkling waters swarmed with speckled trout, where the buck and the doe, with her fawn, coursed on their runway undisturbed, where beautiful little lakes nestled among the hills, and abounded with fish and water fowls, where the green forest in summer reflected its image upon the waters so smooth and fair, and stamped upon its bosom creation's image, the sun and clouds reflected in their waters by day and the moon and stars by night, with the beautiful arch of heaven's high concave.
Whilst conversing with the Indian, his daughter came from his cabin near by and informed her father that his morning meal was ready, and invited Mayall to come with her father to breakfast. Mayall was struck with the youthful simplicity and beauty of the Indian maiden. After they had enjoyed their delicious meal of venison together, and smoked the long pipe of peace, Mayall informed the Indian that he had a son equal in height, years, activity and beauty with the Indian chief's daughter, and if the chief had no objection he would take them both with him to the beautiful and romantic country he had so graphically described, after their marriage, and the Indian chief could come to visit her every fall and enjoy the Indian summer in hunting deer and procuring furs for winter.
The Indian replied that if his daughter was pleased with Wolf-hunter's son, and he was as good a hunter as his father, he would consent. The Indians had adopted Mayall into the tribe, by the name of Wolf-hunter, which made Mayall's son equal in rank with the daughter of the Indian chief.
Mayall now parted with the chief and his family in friendship, and left the proposed marriage to abide future events. Mayall directed his steps towards East Canada Creek, where he arrived in safety, and commenced his journey up the valley which had been scooped out by the stream since the morning of creation. He soon passed beyond the noisy bustle of civilization in the Valley of the Mohawk River, and launched into a solitude which appeared to him as a divine retreat, and was better fitted for a wild hunter than a civilized man.