WOMAN ON THE AMERICAN FRONTIER.
A Valuable and Authentic History
OF THE HEROISM, ADVENTURES, PRIVATIONS, CAPTIVITIES, TRIALS, AND NOBLE LIVES AND DEATHS OF THE "PIONEER MOTHERS OF THE REPUBLIC."
By WILLIAM W. FOWLER, M.A.
ILLUSTRATED WITH NUMEROUS ENGRAVINGS.
The history of our race is the record mainly of men's achievements, in war, in statecraft and diplomacy. If mention is made of woman it is of queens and intriguing beauties who ruled and schemed for power and riches, and often worked mischief and ruin by their wiles.
The story of woman's work in great migrations has been told only in lines and passages where it ought instead to fill volumes. Here and there incidents and anecdotes scattered through a thousand tomes give us glimpses of the wife, the mother, or the daughter as a heroine or as an angel of kindness and goodness, but most of her story is a blank which never will be filled up. And yet it is precisely in her position as a pioneer and colonizer that her influence is the most potent and her life story most interesting.
The glory of a nation consists in its migrations and the colonies it plants as well as in its wars of conquest. The warrior who wins a battle deserves a laurel no more rightfully than the pioneer who leads his race into the wilderness and builds there a new empire.
The movement which has carried our people from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and in the short space of two centuries and a half has founded the greatest republic which the world ever saw, has already taken its place in history as one of the grandest achievements of humanity since the world began. It is a moral as well as a physical triumph, and forms an epoch in the advance of civilization. In this grand achievement, in this triumph of physical and moral endurance, woman must be allowed her share of the honor.
It would be a truism, if we were to say that our Republic would not have been founded without her aid. We need not enlarge on the necessary position which she fills in human society every where. We are to speak of her now as a soldier and laborer, a heroine and comforter in a peculiar set of dangers and difficulties such as are met with in our American wilderness. The crossing of a stormy ocean, the reclamation of the soil from nature, the fighting with savage men are mere generalities wherein some vague idea may be gained of true pioneer life. But it is only by following woman in her wanderings and standing beside her in the forest or in the cabin and by marking in detail the thousand trials and perils which surround her in such a position that we can obtain the true picture of the heroine in so many unmentioned battles.
The recorded sum total of an observation like this would be a noble history of human effort. It would show us the latent causes from which have come extraordinary effects. It would teach us how much this republic owes to its pioneer mothers, and would fill us with gratitude and self-congratulation—gratitude for their inestimable services to our country and to mankind, self-congratulation in that we are the lawful inheritors of their work, and as Americans are partakers in their glory.
In the preparation of this work particular pains have been taken to avoid what was trite and hackneyed, and at the same time preserve historic truth and accuracy. Use has been made to a limited extent of the ancient border books, selecting the most note-worthy incidents which never grow old because they illustrate a heroism, that like "renown and grace cannot die." Thanks are due to Mrs. Ellet, from whose interesting book entitled "Women of the Revolution," a few passages have been culled. The stories of Mrs. Van Alstine, of Mrs. Slocum, Mrs. McCalla, and Dicey Langston, and of Deborah Samson, are condensed from her accounts of those heroines.
A large portion of the work is, however, composed of incidents which will be new to the reader. The eye-witnesses of scenes which have been lately enacted upon the border have furnished the writer with materials for many of the most thrilling stories of frontier life, and which it has been his aim to spread before the reader in this work.
A VIRGINIA MATRON ENCOURAGING THE PATRIOTISM OF HER SONS AT THE DEATH-BED OF THEIR FATHER,
LOST IN A SNOW STORM,
THE HUNTRESS OF THE LAKES SURPRISED BY INDIANS,
A HEROIC EXPLOIT IN SUPPLYING WITH POWDER A BLOCK-HOUSE BESIEGED BY INDIANS,
DARING EXPLOIT OF MISS VAN ALSTINE,
FOOD AND CLOTHING SUPPLIED TO THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY BY PATRIOTIC WOMEN,
PERILOUS CROSSING OF THE ALLEGHANY RIVER,
WAGON TRAIN ON THE PRAIRIE,
STRATAGEM OF MRS. DAVIESS IN CAPTURING A KENTUCKY ROBBER,
TWO KENTUCKY GIRLS CAPTURED BY INDIANS,
PARTED FOR EVER,
AN EQUESTRIAN FEAT,
TREED BY A BEAR,
RESCUING A HUSBAND FROM WOLVES,
DEFEAT OF GUERILLAS,
WOMAN AS A PIONEER, America's Unnamed Heroines. Maids and Matrons of the "Mayflower." Woman's Work in Early Days. Devotion and Self-sacrifice. Strange Story of Mrs. Hendee. Face to Face with the Indians. A Mother's Love Triumphant Woman among the Savages. The Massacre of Wyoming. Sufferings of a Forsaken Household. The Patriot Matron and her Children. The Acm of Heroism. Adventures of an English Traveler. Woman in the Rocky Mountains. A Story of a Lonely Life. Nocturnal Visitors and their Reception. Life in the Far West. Mrs. Manning's Home in Montana, Female Emigrants on the Plains. A True Heroine.
WOMAN'S WORK IN FLOODS AND STORMS, The Frontier two Centuries ago. The Pioneer Army. The Pilgrim "Mothers." Story of Margaret Winthrop. Danger in the Wilderness. A Reckless Husband and a Watchful Wife. Lost in a Snow-storm. The Beacon-fire at Midnight. Saved by a Woman. Mrs. Noble's Terrible Story. Alone with Famine and Death. A Legend of the Connecticut. What befel the Nash Family. Three Heroic Women. In Flood and Storm. A Tale of the Prairies. A Western Settler and her Fate. Battling with an Unseen Enemy. Emerging from the Valley of the Shadow. Heartbroken and Alone.
EARLY PIONEERS.—WOMAN'S ADVENTURES AND HEROISM, In the Maine Wilderness. Voyaging up the Kennebec. The Huntress of the Lakes. Extraordinary Story of Mrs. Trevor. Two Hundred Miles from Civilization. Sleeping in a Birch-bark Canoe. A Fight with Five Savages. A Victorious Heroine. The Trail of a Lost Husband. Only just in Time. A Narrow Escape, Voyaging in an Ice-boat. Snow-bound in a Cave. Fighting for Food. Grappling with a Forest Monster. Mrs. Storey, the Forester. Alida Johnson's Thrilling Narrative. Caught in a Death-trap. A Desperate Measure and its Result. The Connecticut Settlers. Their Courage and Heroism.
ON THE INDIAN TRAIL A Block-house Attacked. Wild Pictures of Indian Warfare. Exploits of Mrs. Howe. A Pioneer Woman's Record. Holding the Fort alone. Treacherous "Lo." Witnessing a Husband's Tortures. The Beautiful Victim. Forced to Carry a Mother's Scalp. The Fate of the Glendennings. A Feast and a Massacre. Led into Captivity. Elizabeth Lane's Adventures. In Ambush. Siege of Bryant's Station. Outwitting the Savages. Mrs. Porter's Combat with the Indians. Ghastly Trophies of her Prowess. "Long Knife Squaw." Smoking out Redskins. The Widows of Innis Station. A Daring Achievement. The Amazon of the Stockade.
CAPTIVE SCOUTS—HEROINES OF THE MOHAWK VALLEY, The Poetry of Border Life. Mrs. Mack in her Forest Fort. The Ambush in the Cornfield. The Night-watch at the Port-hole. A Shot in the Dark. The Hiding Place of her Little Ones. A Sad Discovery. An Avenger on the Track. Massy Herbeson's Strange Story. On the Trail. Miss Washburn and the Scouts. An Extraordinary Rencontre. A Wild Fight with the Savages. Mysterious Aid. Passing through an Indian Village. Hairbreadth Escapes. Courageous Conduct of Mrs. Van Alstine. Settlements on the Mohawk. Circumventing a Robber Band. How she Saved him. The Pioneer Woman at Home.
PATRIOT WOMEN OF THE REVOLUTION Times that Tried Men's Souls. The Women of Wyoming. Silas Deane's Sister. Mrs. Corbin, the Cannoneer. A Heroine on the Gun-deck. The Schoharie Girl. Women of the Mohawk Wars. Concerning a Curious Siege. The Patriot Daughter and the Bloody Scouts. What she Dared him to do. Brave Deeds of Mary Ledyard. Ministering Angels. Heroism of "Mother Bailey." Petticoats and Cartridges. A Thrilling Incident of Valley Forge. Ready-witted Ladies. Miss Geiger, the Courier. How Miss Darrah Saved the Army. Adventures of McCalla's Wife. Love and Constancy. A Clergyman's Story of his Mother.
GOING WEST.—PERILS BY THE WAY, After the Revolution. Starting for the Mississippi. Curious Methods of Migration. A Modern Exodus. Incidents on the Route. Wonderful Story of Mrs. Jameson. Forsaking all for Love. A Woman with One Idea. That Fatal Stream. Alone in the Wilderness. A Glimpse of the Enemy. Strength of a Mother's Love, Saved from a Rattlesnake. Individual Enterprise. Migrating in a Flat-boat. A Night of Peril on the Ohio River. Terrifying Sounds and Sights. A Fiery Scene of Savage Orgies. Coolness and Daring of a Mother. An Extraordinary Line of Mothers and Daughters. A Pioneer Pedigree and its Heroines.
HOME LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS, The Nomads of the West. Romance of a Pioneer's March. How the Cabin was Built. Where Mrs. Graves Concealed her Babes. Husband and Wife at Home. Rather Rough Furniture. Forest Fortresses. Fighting for her Children. Mrs. Fulsom and the Ambushed Savage. Domestic Life on the Border. From a Wedding to a Funeral. Among the Beasts and Savages. Little Ones in the Wilds. Woman takes Care of Herself. Ann Bush's Sorrows. The Bright Side of the Picture. Western Hospitality. A Traveler's Story. "Evangeline" on the Frontier. An Eden of the Wilderness and its Eve.
SOME REMARKABLE WOMEN, Diary of a Heroine. The Border Maid, Wife, Mother, and Widow. Strange Vicissitudes in the Life of Mrs. W. Adopted by an Indian Tribe. Shrewd Plan of Escape. The Hiding-place in the Glen. Surprised and Surrounded, but Safe. Successful Issue of her Enterprise. Mrs. Marliss and her Strategy. Combing the Wool over a Savage's Eyes. Marking the Trail. A Captive's Cunning Devices. A Pursuit and a Rescue. Extraordinary Presence of Mind. A Robber captured by a Woman. A Brave, Good Girl. Helping "the Lord's People." A Home of Love in the Wilderness. A Singular Courtship. The Benevolent Matron and her Errand. Story of the Pioneer Quakeress.
A ROMANCE OF THE BORDER, The Honeymoon in the Mountains. United in Life and in Death. A Devoted Lover. Capture of Two Young Ladies. Discovery and Rescue. The Captain and the Maid at the Mill. The Chase Family in Trouble. The Romance of a Young Girl's Life. Danger in the Wind. Hunter and Lover. Treacherous Savages. Old Chase Knocked Over. The Fight on the Plains. An Unexpected Meeting. Heroism of La Bonte. The Guard of Love. The Marriage of Mary. Miss Rouse and her Lover. A Bridal and a Massacre. Brought back to Life but not to Joy. A Fruitless Search for a Lost Bride. Mrs. Philbrick's Singular Experience.
PATHETIC SCENES OF PIONEER LIFE, Grief in the Pioneer's Home. Graves in the Wilderness. The Returned Captive and the Nursery Song. The Lost Child of Wyoming Little Frances and her Indian Captors. Parted For Ever. Discovery of the Lost One. An Affecting Interview. Striking Story of the Kansas War. The Prairie on Fire. Mother and Children Alone. Homeless and Helpless. Solitude, Famine, and Cold. Three Fearful Days. The Burning Cabin. A Gathering Storm. A Dream of Home and Happiness. Return of Father and Son. A Love Stronger than Death. The Last Embrace. A Desolate Household.
THE HEROINES OF THE SOUTH WEST, Texas and the South West. Across the "Staked Plain." Mrs. Drayton and Mrs. Benham. A Perilous Journey. Sunstrokes and Reptiles. Death From Thirst Mexican Bandits. A Night Gallop to the Rendezvous. Escape of our Heroines. A Ride for Life. Saving Husband and Children. Surrounded by Brigands on the Pecos. Heroism of Mrs. Benham. The Treacherous Envoy. The Gold Hunters of Arizona. Mrs. D. and her Dearly Bought Treasure. Battling for Life in the California Desert. The Last Survivor of a Perilous Journey. Mrs. L., the Widow of the Colorado. Among the Camanches. A Prodigious Equestrian Feat.
WOMAN'S EXPERIENCE ON THE NORTHERN BORDER, March of the "Grand Army" Peculiar Perils of the Northern Border. Mrs. Dalton's Record. A Dangerous Expedition. Her Husband's Fate. A Trance of Grief. Between Frost and Fire. A Choice of Deaths. Rescued from the Flames. One Sunny Hour. The Storm-Fiend. Terrific Spectacle. In the Whirlwind's Track. The Only Refuge. Locked in a Dungeon. A Fight for Deliverance. Arrival of Friends. Another Peril. Walled in by Flames. Passing Through a Fiery Lane. Closing Days of Mrs. Dalton. A Story of Minnesota. What the Hunters Saw. A Mother's Deathless Love.
ENCOUNTERS WITH WILD BEASTS—COURAGE AND DARING, Personal Combat with a Bear. The Huntress of the Northwest. An Intrepid Wife and her Assailant. Combat with an Enraged Moose. A Bloody Circus in the Snow. Trapping Wolves—a Georgia Girl's Pluck. A Kentucky Girl's Adventure. A Wild Pack in Pursuit. The Snapping of a Black Wolf's Jaws. Female Strategy and its Success. A Cabin Full of Wolves. Comical Denouement. A Young Lady Treed by a Bear. Some of Mrs. Dagget's Exploits. Up the Platte, and After the Grizzlies. Catching a Bear with a Lasso. What a Brave Woman Can Do. Facing Death in the Desert. A Woman's Home in Wyoming. A Night with a Mountain Lion.
ACROSS THE CONTINENT.—ON THE PLAINS, Voyaging in a Prairie Schooner. A Cavalry Officer's Story. The Homeless Wanderer of the Plains. Mrs. N. Battling alone with Death. A Fatherless and Childless Home. The Plagues of Egypt. Murrain, Grasshoppers, and Famine. Following a Forlorn Hope. A Bridal Tour and its Ending. On the Borders of the Great Desert. An Extraordinary Experience. Women Living in Caves. A Waterspout and its Consequences. Drowning in a Drought. Fleeing from Death. A Woman's Partnership in a Herd of Buffaloes. The Huntress of the Foot-hills. A Charge by Ten Thousand Bison. Hiding in a Sink-hole. A Terrible Danger and a Miraculous Escape. A Prairie Home and its Mistress.
WOMAN AS A MISSIONARY TO THE INDIANS, The Heroine and Martyr among the Heathen. Mrs. Eliot and her Tawny Protegs. Five Thousand Praying Indians. Mrs. Kirkland among the Oneidas. Prayer-meetings in Wigwams. The Psalm-singing Squaws. A Revolutionary Matron and her Story. A Pioneer Sunday-school and its Teacher. The Last of the Mohegans and their Benefactors. Heroism of the Moravian Sisters. The Guardians of the Pennsylvania Frontier. A Gathering Storm. Prayer-meetings and Massacres. Surrounded by Flame and Carnage. An Unexpected Assault. The Fate of the Defenders. A Fiery Martyrdom. Last Scene in a Noble Life. Closing Days of Gnadenhutten. Massacre of Indian Converts. The Death Hymn and Parting Prayer.
WOMAN AS A MISSIONARY TO THE INDIANS, (CONTINUED), Missionary Wives Crossing the Rocky Mountains. Buried Alive in the Snow. Shooting the Rapids in a Birch Canoe. Sucked Down by a Whirlpool. A Fearful Situation and its Issue. A Brace of Heroines and their Expedition. Women Doubling Cape Horn. A Parting Hymn and Long Farewell. A Missionary Wife's Experience in Oregon. All Alone with the Wolves. A Woman's Instinct in the Hour of Danger. Dr. White's Dilemma and its Solution. A Clean Pair of Heels and a Convenient Tree. A Perilous Voyage and its Consequences. A Heartrending Catastrophe. A Mother's Lost Treasure. A Savage Coterie and the White Stranger. Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spalding. A Murderous Suspicion. The Benefactress and the Martyr.
WOMAN IN THE ARMY, The Daughter of the Regiment. A Loving Wife and a True Patriot. Mrs. Warner in the Canadian Campaign. The Disguised Couriers. Deborah Samson in Buff and Blue. A Woman in Love with a Woman. A Wound in Front and what it Led to. Mrs. Coolidge's Campaign in New Mexico. Bearing Dispatches Across the Plains. A Fight with Guerillas. A Race for Life. Two against Five. Frontier Women in our Last Great War. Their Exploits and Devotion. Miss Wellman as Soldier and Nurse. The Secret Revealed. A Noble Life. A Devoted Wife. Life in a Confederate Fort. The Little Soldier and her Story. A Sister's Love. The Last Sacrifice.
ACROSS THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS, A Woman's Adventures on the Platte River. On a False Trail, and What it Led To. Over a Precipice, and Down a Thousand Feet. All Alone on the Face of the Mountain. Mrs. Hinman's Extraordinary Situation. Swinging Between Heaven and Earth. What a Loving Wife Will Do. Living or Dying Beside her Husband. A Night on the Edge of a Precipice. Out of the Jaws of Death. The Two Fugitive Women of the Chapparel. A Secret Too Dreadful to be Told. The Specters of the Mountain Camp. Maternal Sacrifice and Filial Love. The Cannibals of the Canon. The Insane Hunter and his Victims. A Woman's Only Alternative. Female Endurance vs. Male Courage. Mrs. Donner's Sublime Devotion. Dying at her Post of Duty.
THE COMFORTER AND THE GUARDIAN, The Ruined Home and its Heroine. The Angel of the Sierra Nevada. Mrs. Maurice and the Dying Miners. The Music of a Woman's Word. The Young Gold Hunter and his Nurse. Starving Camp in Idaho. The Song in the Ears of the Dying. The Seven Miners and their Golden Gift. A Graveyard of Pioneer Women. Mrs. R. and her Wounded Husband. The Guardian Mother of the Island. The Female Navigator and the Pirate. A Life-boat Manned by a Girl. A Night of Peril. A Den of Murderers and an Unsullied Maiden. The Freezing Soldiers of Montana. A Despairing Cry and its Echo. The Storm-Angel's Visit.
WOMAN AS AN EDUCATOR ON THE FRONTIER, A Mother of Soldiers and Statesmen. A Home-school on the Border. The Prairie Mother and her Four Children. A Garden for Human Plants and Flowers. The First Lesson of the Boy and Girl on the Frontier. The Wife's School in the Heart of the Rocky Mountains. A Leaf from the Life of Washington. The Hero-Mothers of the Republic. A Patriot Woman and a Martyr. A Mother's Influence on the Life of Andrew Jackson. Woman's Discernment of a Boy's Genius. West, the Painter, and Webster, the Statesman. The Place where our Great Men Learned A. B. C. Miss M. and her Labors in Illinois. A Martyrdom in the Cause of Education. Woman as an Educator of Human Society. Incident in the Life of a Millionaire. What a Mother's Portrait Did. A Woman's Visit to "Pandemonium Camp." An Angel of Civilization.
WOMAN AS A PIONEER
Every battle has its unnamed heroes. The common soldier enters the stormed fortress and, falling in the breach which his valor has made, sleeps in a nameless grave. The subaltern whose surname is scarcely heard beyond the roll-call on parade, bears the colors of his company where the fight is hottest. And the corporal who heads his file in the final charge, is forgotten in the "earthquake shout" of the victory which he has helped to win. The victory may be due as much, or more, to the patriot courage of him who is content to do his duty in the rank and file, as to the dashing colonel who heads the regiment, or even to the general who plans the campaign: and yet unobserved, unknown, and unrewarded the former passes into oblivion while the leader's name is on every tongue, and perhaps goes down in history as that of one who deserved well of his country.
Our comparison is a familiar one. There are other battles and armies besides those where thousands of disciplined men move over the ground to the sounds of the drum and fife. Life itself is a battle, and no grander army has ever been set in motion since the world began than that which for more than two centuries and a half has been moving across our continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, fighting its way through countless hardships and dangers, bearing the banner of civilization, and building a new republic in the wilderness.
In this army WOMAN HAS BEEN TOO OFTEN THE UNNAMED HEROINE.
Let us not forget her now. Her patience, her courage, her fortitude, her tact, her presence of mind in trying hours; these are the shining virtues which we have to record. Woman as a pioneer standing beside her rougher, stronger companion—man; first on the voyage across a stormy ocean, from England to America; then at Plymouth, and Jamestown, and all the settlements first planted by Europeans on our Coast; then through the trackless wilderness, onward across the continent, till every river has been forded, and every chain of mountains has been scaled, the Peaceful Ocean has been reached, and fifty thousand cities, towns, and hamlets all over the land have been formed from those aggregations of household life where woman's work has been wrought out to its fullness.
Among all the characteristics of woman there is none more marked than the self-devotion which she displays in what she believes is a righteous cause, or where for her loved ones she sacrifices herself. In India we see her wrapped in flames and burned to ashes with the corpse of her husband. Under the Moslem her highest condition is a life-long incarceration. She patiently places her shoulders under the burden which the aboriginal lord of the American forest lays upon them. Calmly and in silence she submits to the onerous duties imposed upon her by social and religious laws. Throughout the whole heathen world she remained, in the words of an elegant French writer, "anonymous, indifferent to herself, and leaving no trace of her passage upon earth."
The benign spirit of Christianity has lifted woman from the position she held under other religious systems and elevated her to a higher sphere. She is brought forward as a teacher; she displays a martyr's courage in the presence of pestilence, or ascends the deck of the mission-ship to take her part in "perils among the heathen." She endures the hardships and faces the dangers of colonial life with a new sense of her responsibility as a wife and mother. In all these capacities, whether teaching, ministering to the sick, or carrying the Gospel to the heathen, she shows the same self-devotion as in "the brave days of old;" it is this quality which peculiarly fits her to be the pioneer's companion in the new world, and by her works in that capacity she must be judged.
If all true greatness should be estimated by the good it performs, it is peculiarly desirable that woman's claims to distinction should thus be estimated and awarded. In America her presence has been acknowledged, and her aid faithfully rendered from the beginning. In the era of colonial life; in the cruel wars with the aborigines; in the struggle of the Revolution; in the western march of the army of exploration and settlement, a grateful people must now recognize her services.
There is a beautiful tradition, that the first foot which pressed the snow-clad rock of Plymouth was that of Mary Chilton, a fair young maiden, and that the last survivor of those heroic pioneers was Mary Allerton, who lived to see the planting of twelve out of the thirteen colonies, which formed the nucleus of these United States.
In the Mayflower, nineteen wives accompanied their husbands to a waste land and uninhabited, save by the wily and vengeful savage. On the unfloored hut, she who had been nurtured amid the rich carpets and curtains of the mother-land, rocked her new-born babe, and complained not. She, who in the home of her youth had arranged the gorgeous shades of embroidery, or, perchance, had compounded the rich venison pasty, as her share in the housekeeping, now pounded the coarse Indian corn for her children's bread, and bade them ask God's blessing, ere they took their scanty portion. When the snows sifted through the miserable roof-tree upon her little ones, she gathered them closer to her bosom; she taught them the Bible, and the catechism, and the holy hymn, though the war-whoop of the Indian rang through the wild. Amid the untold hardships of colonial life she infused new strength into her husband by her firmness, and solaced his weary hours by her love. She was to him,
"——an undergoing spirit, to bear up Against whate'er ensued."
The names of these nineteen pioneer-matrons should be engraved in letters of gold on the pillars of American history:
The Wives of the Pilgrims.
Mrs. Catharine Carver. Mrs. Dorothy Bradford. Mrs. Elizabeth Winslow. Mrs. Mary Brewster. Mrs. Mary Allerton. Mrs. Elizabeth Hopkins. Mrs. ——— Tilley. Mrs. ——— Tilley. Mrs. ——— Ticker. Mrs. ——— Ridgdale. Mrs. Rose Standish. Mrs. ——— Martin. Mrs. ——— Mullins. Mrs. Susanna White. Mrs. ——— Eaton. Mrs. ——— Chilton. Mrs. ——— Fuller. Mrs. Helen Billington. Mrs. Lucretia Brewster.
Nor should the names of the daughters of these heroic women be forgotten, who, with their mothers and fathers shared the perils of that winter's voyage, and bore, with their parents, the toils, and hardships, and changes of the infant colony.
The Daughters of the Pilgrim Mothers.
Elizabeth Carver. Remember Allerton. Mary Allerton. Sarah Allerton. Constance Hopkins. Mary Chilton. Priscilla Mullins.
The voyage of the Mayflower; the landing upon a desolate coast in the dead of winter; the building of those ten small houses, with oiled paper for windows; the suffering of that first winter and spring, in which woman bore her whole share; these were the first steps in the grand movement which has carried the Anglo-Saxon race across the American continent. The next steps were the penetration of the wilderness westward from the sea, by the emigrant pioneers and their wives. Fighting their way through dense forests, building cabins, block-houses, and churches in the clearings which they had made; warred against by cruel savages; woman was ever present to guard, to comfort, to work. The annals of colonial history teem with her deeds of love and heroism, and what are those recorded instances to those which had no chronicler? She loaded the flint-lock in the block-house while it was surrounded by yelling savages; she exposed herself to the scalping-knife to save her babe; in her forest-home she worked and watched, far from the loved ones in Old England; and by discharging a thousand duties in the household and the field, did her share in a silent way towards building up the young Republic of the West.
Sometimes she ranged herself in battle beside her husband or brother, and fought with the steadiness and bravery of a veteran. But her heroism never shone so brightly as in undergoing danger in defense of her children.
In the early days of the settlement of Royalton, Vermont, a sudden attack was made upon it by the Indians. Mrs. Hendee, the wife of one of the settlers, was working alone in the field, her husband being absent on military duty, when the Indians entered her house and capturing her children carried them across the White river, at that place a hundred yards wide and quite deep for fording, and placed them under keepers who had some other persons, thirty or forty in number, in charge.
Returning from the field Mrs. Hendee discovered the fate of her children. Her first outburst of grief was heart-rending to behold, but this was only transient; she ceased her lamentations, and like the lioness who has been robbed of her litter, she bounded on the trail of her plunderers. Resolutely dashing into the river, she stemmed the current, planting her feet firmly on the bottom and pushed across. With pallid face, flashing eyes, and lips compressed, maternal love dominating every fear, she strode into the Indian camp, regardless of the tomahawks menacingly flourished round her head, boldly demanded the release of her little ones, and persevered in her alternate upbraidings and supplications, till her request was granted. She then carried her children back through the river and landed them in safety on the other bank.
Not content with what she had done, like a patriot as she was, she immediately returned, begged for the release of the children of others, again was rewarded with success, and brought two or three more away; again returned, and again succeeded, till she had rescued the whole fifteen of her neighbors' children who had been thus snatched away from their distracted parents. On her last visit to the camp of the enemy, the Indians were so struck with her conduct that one of them declared that so brave a squaw deserved to be carried across the river, and offered to take her on his back and carry her over. She, in the same spirit, accepted the offer, mounted the back of the gallant savage, was carried to the opposite bank, where she collected her rescued troop of children, and hastened away to restore them to their overjoyed parents.
During the memorable Wyoming massacre, Mrs. Mary Gould, wife of James Gould, with the other women remaining in the village of Wyoming, sought safety in the fort. In the haste and confusion attending this act, she left her boy, about four years old, behind. Obeying the instincts of a mother, and turning a deaf ear to the admonitions of friends, she started off on a perilous search for the missing one. It was dark; she was alone; and the foe was lurking around; but the agonies of death could not exceed her agonies of suspense; so she hastened on. She traversed the fields which, but a few hours before,
"Were trampled by the hurrying crowd,"
"——fiery hearts and armed hands, Encountered in the battle cloud,"
and where unarmed hands were now resting on cold and motionless hearts. After a search of between one and two hours, she found her child on the bank of the river, sporting with a little band of playmates. Clasping her treasure in her arms, she hurried back and reached the fort in safety.
During the struggles of the Revolution, the privations sustained, and the efforts made, by women, were neither few nor of short duration. Many of them are delineated in the present volume. Yet innumerable instances of faithful toil, and patient endurance, must have been covered with oblivion. In how many a lone home, from which the father was long sundered by a soldier's destiny, did the mother labor to perform to their little ones both his duties and her own, having no witness of the extent of her heavy burdens and sleepless anxieties, save the Hearer of prayer.
A good and hoary-headed man, who had passed the limits of fourscore, once said to me, "My father was in the army during the whole eight years of the Revolutionary War, at first as a common soldier, afterwards as an officer. My mother had the sole charge of us four little ones. Our house was a poor one, and far from neighbors. I have a keen remembrance of the terrible cold of some of those winters. The snow lay so deep and long, that it was difficult to cut or draw fuel from the woods, or to get our corn to the mill, when we had any. My mother was the possessor of a coffee-mill. In that she ground wheat, and made coarse bread, which we ate, and were thankful. It was not always we could be allowed as much, even of this, as our keen appetites craved. Many is the time that we have gone to bed, with only a drink of water for our supper, in which a little molasses had been mingled. We patiently received it, for we knew our mother did as well for us as she could; and we hoped to have something better in the morning. She was never heard to repine; and young as we were, we tried to make her loving spirit and heavenly trust, our example.
"When my father was permitted to come home, his stay was short, and he had not much to leave us, for the pay of those who achieved our liberties was slight, and irregularly given. Yet when he went, my mother ever bade him farewell with a cheerful face, and told him not to be anxious about his children, for she would watch over them night and day, and God would take care of the families of those who went forth to defend the righteous cause of their country. Sometimes we wondered that she did not mention the cold weather, or our short meals, or her hard work, that we little ones might be clothed, and fed, and taught. But she would not weaken his hands, or sadden his heart, for she said a soldier's life was harder than all. We saw that she never complained, but always kept in her heart a sweet hope, like a well of water. Every night ere we slept, and every morning when we arose, we lifted our little hands for God's blessing on our absent father, and our endangered country.
"How deeply the prayers from such solitary homes and faithful hearts were mingled with the infant liberties of our dear native land, we may not know until we enter where we see no more 'through a glass darkly, but face to face.'
"Incidents repeatedly occurred during this contest of eight years, between the feeble colonies and the strong mother-land, of a courage that ancient Sparta would have applauded.
"In a thinly settled part of Virginia, the quiet of the Sabbath eve was once broken by the loud, hurried roll of the drum. Volunteers were invoked to go forth and prevent the British troops, under the pitiless Tarleton, from forcing their way through an important mountain pass. In an old fort resided a family, all of whose elder sons were absent with our army, which at the north opposed the foe. The father lay enfeebled and sick. By his bedside the mother called their three sons, of the ages of thirteen, fifteen, and seventeen.
"Go forth, children," said she, "to the defence of your native clime. Go, each and all of you; I spare not my youngest, my fair-haired boy, the light of my declining years.
"Go forth, my sons! Repel the foot of the invader, or see my face no more."
In order to get a proper estimate of the greatness of the part which woman has acted in the mighty onward-moving drama of civilization on this continent, we must remember too her peculiar physical constitution. Her highly strung nervous organization and her softness of fiber make labor more severe and suffering keener. It is an instinct with her to tremble at danger; her training from girlhood unfits her to cope with the difficulties of outdoor life. "Men," says the poet, "must work, and women must weep." But the pioneer women must both work and weep. The toils and hardships of frontier life write early wrinkles upon her brow and bow her delicate frame with care. We do not expect to subject our little ones to the toils or dangers that belong to adults. Labor is pain to the soft fibers and unknit limbs of childhood, and to the impressible minds of the young, danger conveys a thousand fears not felt by the firmer natures of older persons. Hence it is that all mankind admire youthful heroism. The story of Casabianca on the deck of the burning ship, or of the little wounded drummer, borne on the shoulders of a musketeer and still beating the rappel—while the bullets are flying around him—thrill the heart of man because these were great and heroic deeds performed by striplings. It is the bravery and firmness of the weak that challenges the highest admiration. This is woman's case: and when we see her matching her strength and courage against those of man in the same cause, with equal results, what can we do but applaud?
A European traveler lately visited the Territory of Montana—abandoning the beaten trail, in company only with an Indian guide, for he was a bold and fearless explorer. He struck across the mountains, traveling for two days without seeing the sign of a human being. Just at dusk, on the evening of the second day, he drew rein on the summit of one of those lofty hills which form the spurs of the Rocky Mountains. The solitude was awful. As far as the eye could see stretched an unbroken succession of mountain peaks, bare of forest—a wilderness of rocks with stunted trees at their base, and deep ravines where no streams were running. In all this desolate scene there was no sign of a living thing. While they were tethering their horses and preparing for the night, the sharp eyes of the Indian guide caught sight of a gleam of light at the bottom of a deep gorge beneath them.
Descending the declivity, they reached a cabin rudely built of dead wood, which seemed to have been brought down by the spring rains from the hill-sides to the west. Knocking at the door, it was opened by a woman, holding in her arms a child of six months. The woman appeared to be fifty years of age, but she was in reality only thirty. Casting a searching look upon the traveler and his companion, she asked them to enter.
The cabin was divided into two apartments, a kitchen, which also served for a store-room, dining-room, and sitting-room; the other was the chamber, or rather bunk-room, where the family slept. Five children came tumbling out from this latter apartment as the traveler entered, and greeted him with a stare of childlike curiosity. The woman asked them to be seated on blocks of wood, which served for chairs, and soon threw off her reserve and told them her story, while they awaited the return of her husband from the nearest village, some thirty miles distant, whither he had gone the day before to dispose of the gold-dust which he had "panned out" from a gulch near by. He was a miner. Four years before he had come with his family from the East, and pushing on in advance of the main movement of emigration in the territory, had discovered a rich gold placer in this lonely gorge. While he had been working in this placer, his wife had with her own hands turned up the soil in the valley below and raised all the corn and potatoes required for the support of the family; she had done the housework, and had made all the clothes for the family. Once when her husband was sick, she had ridden thirty miles for medicine. It was a dreary ride, she said, for the road, or rather trail, was very rough, and her husband was in a burning fever. She left him in charge of her oldest child, a girl of eleven years, but she was a bright, helpful little creature, able to wait upon the sick man and feed the other children during the two days' absence of her mother.
Next summer they were to build a house lower down the valley and would be joined by three other families of their kindred from the East. "Have you never been attacked by the Indians?" inquired the traveler.
"Only three times," she replied. "Once three prowling red-skins came to the door, in the night, and asked for food. My husband handed them a loaf of bread through the window, but they refused to go away and lurked in the bushes all night; they were stragglers from a war-party, and wanted more scalps. I saw them in the moonlight, armed with rifles and tomahawks, and frightfully painted. They kindled a fire a hundred yards below our cabin and stayed there all night, as if they were watching for us to come out, but early in the morning they disappeared, and we saw them no more.
"Another time, a large war-party of Indians encamped a mile below us, and a dozen of them came up and surrounded the house. Then we thought we were lost: they amused themselves aiming at marks in the logs, or at the chimney and windows; we could hear their bullets rattle against the rafters, and you can see the holes they made in the doors. One big brave took a large stone and was about to dash it against the door, when my husband pointed his rifle at him through the window, and he turned and ran away. We should have all been killed and scalped if a company of soldiers had not come up the valley that day with an exploring party and driven the red-skins away.
"One afternoon as my husband was at work in the diggings, two red-skins came up to him and wounded him with arrows, but he caught up his rifle and soon made an end of them.
"When we first came there was no end of bears and wolves, and we could hear them howling all night long. Winter nights the wolves would come and drum on the door with their paws and whine as if they wanted to eat up the children. Husband shot ten and I shot six, and after that we were troubled no more with them.
"We have no schools here, as you see," continued she; "but I have taught my three oldest children to read since we came here, and every Sunday we have family prayers. Husband reads a verse in the Bible, and then I and the children read a verse in turn, till we finish a whole chapter. Then I make the children, all but baby, repeat a verse over and over till they have it by heart; the Scripture promises do comfort us all, even the littlest one who can only lisp them.
"Sometimes on Sunday morning I take all the children to the top of that hill yonder and look at the sun as it comes up over the mountains, and I think of the old folks at home and all our friends in the East. The hardest thing to bear is the solitude. We are awful lonesome. Once, for eighteen months, I never saw the face of a white person except those of my husband and children. It makes me laugh and cry too when I see a strange face. But I am too busy to think much about it daytimes. I must wash, and boil, and bake, or look after the cows which wander off in search of pasture; or go into the valley and hoe the corn and potatoes, or cut the wood; for husband makes his ten or fifteen dollars a day panning out dust up the mountain, and I know that whenever I want him I have only to blow the horn and he will come down to me. So I tend to business here and let him get gold. In five or six years we shall have a nice house farther down and shall want for nothing. We shall have a saw-mill next spring started on the run below, and folks are going to join us from the States."
The woman who told this story of dangers and hardships amid the Rocky Mountains was of a slight, frail figure. She had evidently been once possessed of more than ordinary attractions; but the cares of maternity and the toils of frontier life had bowed her delicate frame and engraved premature wrinkles upon her face: she was old before her time, but her spirit was as dauntless and her will to do and dare for her loved ones was as firm as that of any of the heroines whom history has made so famous. She had been reared in luxury in one of the towns of central New York, and till she was eighteen years old had never known what toil and trouble were.
Her husband was a true type of the American explorer and possessed in his wife a fit companion; and when he determined to push his fortune among the Western wilds she accompanied him cheerfully; already they had accumulated five thousand dollars, which was safely deposited in the bank; they were rearing a band of sturdy little pioneers; they had planted an outpost in a region teeming with mineral wealth, and around them is now growing up a thriving village of which this heroic couple are soon to be the patriarchs. All honor to the names of Mr. and Mrs. James Manning, the pioneers of Montana.
The traveler and his guide, declining the hospitality which this brave matron tendered them, soon returned to their camp on the hill-top; but the Englishman made notes of the pioneer woman's story, and pondered over it, for he saw in it an epitome of frontier life.
If a tourist were to pass to-day beyond the Mississippi River, and journey over the wagon-roads which lead Westward towards the Rocky Mountains, he would see moving towards the setting sun innumerable caravans of emigrants' canvas-covered wagons, bound for the frontier. In each of these wagons is a man, one or two women with children, agricultural tools, and household gear. At night the horses or oxen are tethered or turned loose on the prairie; a fire is kindled with buffalo chips, or such fuel as can be had, and supper is prepared. A bed of prairie grass suffices for the man, while the women and children rest in the covered wagon. When the morning dawns they resume their Westward journey. Weeks, months, sometimes, roll by before the wagon reaches its destination; but it reaches it at last. Then begin the struggle, and pains, the labors, and dangers of border life, in all of which woman bears her part. While the primeval forest falls before the stroke of the man-pioneer, his companion does the duty of both man and woman at home. The hearthstone is laid, and the rude cabin rises. The virgin soil is vexed by the ploughshare driven by the man; the garden and house, the dairy and barns are tended by the woman, who clasps her babe while she milks, and fodders, and weeds. Danger comes when the man is away; the woman must meet it alone. Famine comes, and the woman must eke out the slender store, scrimping and pinching for the little ones; sickness comes, and the woman must nurse and watch alone, and without the sympathy of any of her sex. Fifty miles from a doctor or a friend, except her weary and perhaps morose husband, she must keep strong under labor, and be patient under suffering, till death. And thus the household, the hamlet, the village, the town, the city, the state, rise out of her "homely toils, and destiny obscure." Truly she is one of the founders of the Republic.
THE FRONTIER-LINE—WOMAN'S WORK IN FLOODS AND STORMS
The American Frontier has for more than two centuries been a vague and variable term. In 1620-21 it was a line of forest which bounded the infant colony at Plymouth, a few scattered settlements on the James River, in Virginia, and the stockade on Manhattan Island, where Holland had established a trading-post destined to become one day the great commercial city of the continent.
Seventy years later, in 1690, the frontier-line had become greatly extended. In New England it was the forest which still hemmed in the coast and river settlements: far to the north stretched the wilderness covering that tract of country which now comprises the states of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. In New York the frontier was just beyond the posts on the Hudson River; and in Virginia life outside of the oldest settlements was strictly "life on the border." The James, the Rappahannock, and the Potomac Rivers made the Virginia frontier a series of long lines approaching to a parallel. But the European settlements were still sparse, as compared with the area of uninhabited country. The villages, hamlets, and single homesteads were like little islands in a wild green waste: mere specks in a vast expanse of wilderness. Every line beyond musket shot was a frontier-line. Every settlement, small or large, was surrounded by a dark circle, outside of which lurked starvation, fear, and danger. The sea and the great rivers were perilous avenues of escape for those who dwelt thereby, but the interior settlements were almost completely isolated and girt around as if with a wall built by hostile forces to forbid access or egress.
The grand exodus of European emigrants from their native land to these shores, had vastly diminished by the year 1690, but the westward movement from the sea and the rivers in America still went forward with scarcely diminished impetus: and as the pioneers advanced and established their outposts farther and farther to the west, woman was, as she had been from the landing, their companion on the march, their ally in the presence of danger, and their efficient co-worker in establishing homes in the wilderness.
The heroic enterprises recorded in the history of man have generally been remarkable in proportion to their apparent original weakness. This is true in an eminent degree of the settlement of European colonies on the western continent. The sway which woman's influence exercised in these colonial enterprises is all the more wonderful when we contemplate them from this point of view. Three feeble bands of men and women;—the first at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609-1612; the second at Plymouth, in 1620; the third on the Island of Manhattan, in 1624;—these were the dim nuclei from which radiated those long lines of light which stretch to-day across a continent and strike the Pacific ocean. This is a simile borrowed from astronomy. To adopt the language of the naturalist, those three little colonies were the puny germs which bore within themselves a vital force vastly more potent and wonderful than that which dwells in the heart of the gourd seed, and the acorn whose nascent swelling energies will lift huge boulders and split the living rock asunder: vastly more potent because it was not the blind motions of nature merely, but a force at once physical, moral, and intellectual.
These feeble bands of men and women took foothold and held themselves firmly like a hard-pressed garrison waiting for re-enforcements. Re-enforcements came, and then they went out from their works, and setting their faces westward moved slowly forward. The vanguard were men with pikes and musketoons and axes; the rearguard were women who kept watch and ward over the household treasures. Sometimes in trying hours the rearguard ranged itself and fought in the front ranks, falling back to its old position when the crisis was past.
In order to appreciate the actual value of woman as a component part of that mighty impulse which set in motion, and still impels the pioneers of our country, we must remember that she is really the cohesive power which cements society together; that when the outward pressure is greatest, the cohesive power is strongest; that in times of sore trial woman's native traits of character are intensified; that she has greater tact, quicker perceptions, more enduring patience, and greater capacity for suffering than man; that motherly, and wifely, and sisterly love are strongest and brightest when trials, labors, and dangers impend over the loved ones.
We must bear in mind too, that woman and man were possessed of the same convictions and impulses in their heroic enterprise—the sense of duty, the spirit of liberty, the desire to worship God after their own ideas of truth, the desire to possess, though in a wilderness, homes where no one could intrude or call them vassals; and deep down below all this, the instincts, the gifts, and motive power of the most energetic race the world has ever seen—the Anglo-Saxon; thus we come to see how in each band of pioneers and in each household were centered that solid and constant moving force which made each man a hero and each woman a heroine in the struggle with hostile nature, with savage man more cruel than the storm or the wild beasts, with solitude which makes a desert in the soul; with famine, with pestilence, that "wasteth at noon-day,"—a struggle which has finally been victorious over all antagonisms, and has made us what we are in this centennial year of our existence as an independent republic.
Another powerful influence exercised by woman as a pioneer was the influence of religion. The whole nature certainly of the Puritan woman was transfused with a deep, glowing, unwavering religious faith. We picture those wives, mothers, and daughters of the New England pioneers as the saints described by the poet,
"Their eyes are homes of silent prayer."
How the prayers of these good and honorable women were answered events have proved.
Hardly had the Plymouth Colony landed before they were called upon to battle with their first foes—the cold, the wind, and the storms on the bleak New England coast. Famine came next, and finally pestilence. The blast from the sea shook their frail cabins; the frost sealed the earth, and the snow drifted on the pillow of the sick and dying. Five kernels of corn a day were doled out to such as were in health, by those appointed to this duty. Woman's heart was full then, but it kept strong though it swelled to bursting.
Within five months from the landing on the Rock, forty-six men, women, and children, or nearly one-half of the Mayflower's passengers had perished of disease and hardships, and the survivors saw the vessel that brought them sail away to the land of their birth. To the surviving women of that devoted Pilgrim band this departure of the Mayflower must have added a new pang to the grief that was already rending their hearts after the loss of so many dear ones during that fearful winter. As the vessel dropped down Plymouth harbor, they watched it with tearful eyes, and when they could see it no more, they turned calmly back to their heroic labors.
Mrs. Bradford, Rose Standish, and their companions were the original types of women on our American frontier. Nobly, too, were they seconded by the matrons and daughters in the other infant colonies. Who can read the letters of Margaret Winthrop, of the Massachusetts Colony, without recognizing the loving, devoted woman sharing with her noble husband the toils and privations of the wilderness, in order that God's promise might be justified and an empire built on this Western Continent.
In her we have a noble type of the Puritan woman of the seventeenth century, representing, as she did, a numerous class of her sex in the same condition. Reared in luxury, and surrounded by the allurements of the superior social circle in which she moved in her native England, she nevertheless preferred a life of self-denial with her husband on the bleak shores where the Puritans were struggling for existence. She had fully prepared her mind for the heroic undertaking. She did not overlook the trials, discouragements, and difficulties of the course she was about to take. For years she had been habituated to look forward to it as one of the eventualities of her life. She was now beyond the age of romance, and cherished no golden dreams of earthly happiness to be realized in that far-off western clime.
Two traits are most prominent in her letters: her religious faith, and her love for and trust in her husband. She placed a high estimate on the wisdom, the energy, and the talents of her husband, and felt that he could best serve God and man by helping to lay broad and deep the foundations of a new State, and to secure the present and future prosperity, both temporal and spiritual, of the colony. With admiration and esteem she blended the ardent but balanced fondness of the loving wife and the sedate matron. In no less degree do her letters show the power and attractiveness of genuine religion. The sanctity of conjugal affection tallies with and is hallowed by the Spirit of Grace. The sense of duty is harmoniously mingled with the impulses of the heart. That religion was the dominant principle of thought and action with Margaret Winthrop, no one can doubt who reflects how severely it was tested in the trying enterprise of her life. A sincere, deep, and healthful piety formed in her a spring of energy to great and noble actions.
There are glimpses in the correspondence between her and her husband of a kind of prophetic vision, that the planting of that colony was the laying of one of the foundation-stones of a great empire. May we not suppose that by the contemplation of such a vision she was buoyed up and soothed amid the many trials and privations, perils and uncertainties that surrounded her in that rugged colonial life.
The influence of Puritanism to inspire with unconquerable principle, to infuse public spirit, to purify the character from frivolity and feebleness, to lift the soul to an all-enduring heroism and to exalt it to a lofty standard of Christian excellence, is grandly illustrated by the life of Margaret Winthrop, one of the pioneer-matrons of the Massachusetts colony.
The narrations which we set forth in this book must of course be largely concerning families and individuals. The outposts of the advancing army of settlement were most exposed to the dangers and hardships of frontier life. Every town or village, as soon as it was settled, became a garrison against attack and a mutual Benefit-Aid-Society, leagued together against every enemy that threatened the infant settlement; it was also a place of refuge for the bolder pioneers who had pushed farther out into the forest.
But as time rolled on many of these more adventurous settlers found themselves isolated from the villages and stockades. Every hostile influence they had to meet alone and unaided. Cold and storm, fire and flood, hunger and sickness, savage man and savage beast, these were the foes with which they had to contend. The battle was going on all the time while the pioneer and his wife were subjugating the forest, breaking the soil, and gaining shelter and food for themselves and their children.
It is easy to see what were the added pains, privations, and hardships of such a situation to the mind and heart of woman, craving, as she does, companionship and sympathy from her own sex. It is a consoling reflection to us who are reaping the fruits of her self-sacrifice that the very multiplicity of her toils and cares gave her less time for brooding over her hard and lonely lot, and that she found in her religious faith and hope a constant fountain of comfort and joy.
One of the greatest hardships endured by the first settlers in New England was the rigorous and changeable climate, which bore most severely, of course, on the weaker sex. This makes the fortitude of Mrs. Shute all the more admirable. Her story is only one of innumerable instances in early colonial life where wives were the preservers of their husbands.
In the spring of 1676, James Shute, with his wife and two small children, set out from Dorchester for the purpose of settling themselves on a tract of land in the southern part of what is now New Hampshire, but which then was an unbroken forest. The tract where they purposed making their home was a meadow on a small affluent of the Connecticut.
Taking their household goods and farming tools in an ox-cart drawn by four oxen and driving two cows before them, they reached their destination after a toilsome journey of ten days. The summer was spent in building their cabin, and outhouses, planting and tending the crop of Indian corn which was to be their winter's food, and in cutting the coarse meadow-grass for hay.
Late in October they found themselves destitute of many articles which even in those days of primitive housewifery and husbandry, were considered of prime necessity. Accordingly, the husband started on foot for a small trading-post on the Connecticut River, about ten miles distant, at which point he expected to find some trading shallop or skiff to take him to Springfield, thirty-eight miles further south. The weather was fine and at nightfall Shute had reached the river, and before sunrise the next morning was floating down the stream on an Indian trader's skiff.
Within two days he made his purchases, and hiring a skiff rowed slowly up the river against the sluggish current on his return. In twelve hours he reached the trading-post. It was now late in the evening. The sky had been lowering all day, and by dusk it began to snow. Disregarding the admonitions of the traders, he left his goods under their care and struck out boldly through the forest over the trail by which he came, trusting to be able to find his way, as the moon had risen, and the clouds seemed to be breaking. The trail lay along the stream on which his farm was situated, and four hours at an easy gait would, he thought, bring him home.
The snow when he started from the river was already nearly a foot deep, and before he had proceeded a mile on his way the storm redoubled in violence, and the snow fell faster and faster. At midnight he had only made five miles, and the snow was two feet deep. After trying in vain to kindle a fire by the aid of flint and steel, he prayed fervently to God, and resuming his journey struggled slowly on through the storm. It had been agreed between his wife and himself that on the evening of this day on which he told her he should return, he would kindle a fire on a knoll about two miles from his cabin as a beacon to assure his wife of his safety and announce his approach.
Suddenly he saw a glare in the sky.
During his absence his wife had tended the cattle, milked the cows, cut the firewood, and fed the children. When night came she barricaded the door, and saying a prayer, folded her little ones in her arms and lay down to rest. Three suns had risen and set since she saw her husband with gun on his shoulder disappear through the clearing into the dense undergrowth which fringed the bank of the stream, and when the appointed evening came, she seated herself at the narrow window, or, more properly, opening in the logs of which the cabin was built, and watched for the beacon which her husband was to kindle. She looked through the falling snow but could see no light. Little drifts sifted through the chinks in the roof upon the bed where her children lay asleep; the night grew darker, and now and then the howling of the wolves could be heard from the woods to the north.
Seven o'clock struck—eight—nine—by the old Dutch clock which ticked in the corner. Then her woman's instinct told her that her husband must have started and been overtaken by the storm. If she could reach the knoll and kindle the fire it would light him on his way. She quickly collected a small bundle of dry wood in her apron and taking flint, steel, and tinder, started for the knoll. In an hour, after a toilsome march, floundering through the snow, she reached the spot. A large pile of dry wood had already been collected by her husband and was ready for lighting, and in a few moments the heroic woman was warming her shivering limbs before a fire which blazed far up through the crackling branches and lighted the forest around it.
For more than two hours the devoted woman watched beside the fire, straining her eyes into the gloom and catching every sound. Wading through the snow she brought branches and logs to replenish the flames. At last her patience was rewarded: she heard a cry, to which she responded. It was the voice of her husband which she heard, shouting. In a few moments he came up staggering through the drifts, and fell exhausted before the fire. The snow soon ceased to fall, and after resting till morning, the rescued pioneer and his brave wife returned in safety to their cabin.
Mrs. Frank Noble, in 1664, proved herself worthy of her surname. She and her husband, with four small children, had established themselves in a log-cabin eight miles from a settlement in New Hampshire, and now known as the town of Dover.
Their crops having turned out poorly that autumn, they were constrained to put themselves on short allowance, owing to the depth of the snow and the distance from the settlement. As long as Mr. Noble was well, he was able to procure game and kept their larder tolerably well stocked. But in mid-winter, being naturally of a delicate habit of body, he sickened, and in two weeks, in spite of the nursing and tireless care of his devoted wife, he died. The snow was six feet deep, and only a peck of musty corn and a bushel of potatoes were left as their winter supply. The fuel also was short, and most of the time Mrs. Noble could only keep herself and her children warm by huddling in the bedclothes on bundles of straw, in the loft which served them for a sleeping room. Below lay the corpse of Mr. Noble, frozen stiff. Famine and death stared them in the face. Two weeks passed and the supply of provisions was half gone. The heroic woman had tried to eke out her slender store, but the cries of her children were so piteous with hunger that while she denied herself, she gave her own portion to her babes, lulled them to sleep, and then sent up her petitions to Him who keeps the widow and the fatherless. She prayed, we may suppose, from her heart, for deliverance from her sore straits for food, for warmth, for the spring to come and the snow to melt, so that she might lay away the remains of her husband beneath the sod of the little clearing.
Every morning when she awoke, she looked out from the window of the loft. Nothing was to be seen but the white surface of the snow stretching away into the forest. One day the sun shone down warmly on the snow and melted its surface, and the next morning there was a crust which would bear her weight. She stepped out upon it and looked around her. She would then have walked eight miles to the settlement but she was worn out with anxiety and watching, and was weak from want of food. As she gazed wistfully toward the east, her ears caught the sound of a crashing among the boughs of the forest. She looked toward the spot from which it came and saw a dark object floundering in the snow. Looking more closely she saw it was a moose, with its horns entangled in the branches of a hemlock and buried to its flanks in the snow.
Hastening back to the cabin she seized her husband's gun, and loading it with buckshot, hurried out and killed the monstrous brute. Skilled in woodcraft, like most pioneer women, she skinned the animal and cutting it up bore the pieces to the cabin. Her first thought then was of her children, and after she had given them a hearty meal of the tender moose-flesh she partook of it herself, and then, refreshed and strengthened, she took the axe and cut a fresh supply of fuel. During the day a party came out from the settlement and supplied the wants of the stricken household. The body of the dead husband was borne to the settlement and laid in the graveyard beneath the snow.
Nothing daunted by this terrible experience, this heroic woman kept her frontier cabin and, with friendly aid from the settlers, continued to till her farm. In ten years, when her oldest boy had become a man, he and his brothers tilled two hundred acres of meadow land, most of it redeemed from the wilderness by the skill, strength, and industry of their noble mother.
The spring season must have been to the early settlers, particularly to the women, even more trying than the winter. In the latter season, except after extraordinary falls of snow, transit from place to place was made by means of sledges over the snow or on ox-carts over the frozen ground. Traveling could also be done across or up and down rivers on the ice, and as bridges were rare in those days the crossing of rivers on the ice was much to be preferred to fording them in other seasons of the year. Fuel too was more easily obtained in the winter than in the spring, and as roads were generally little more than passage-ways or cow-paths through the meadows or the woods, the depth of the mud was often such as to form a barrier to the locomotion of the heavy vehicles of the period or even to prevent travel on horseback or on foot.
Other dangers and hardships in the spring of the year were the freshets and floods to which the river dwellers were exposed. Woman, be it remembered, is naturally as alien to water as a mountain-fowl, which flies over a stream for fear of wetting its feet. We can imagine the discomfort to which a family of women and children were exposed who lived, for example, on the banks of the Connecticut in the olden time. In some seasons families were, as they now are, driven to the upper stories of their houses by the overflow of the river. But it should be remembered that the houses of those days were not the firm, well-built structures of modern times. Sometimes the settler found himself and family floating slowly down stream, cabin and all, borne along by the freshet caused by a sudden thaw: as long as his cabin held together, the family had always hopes of grounding as the flood subsided and saving their lives though with much loss of property, besides the discomfort if not positive danger to which they had been exposed.
But sometimes the flood was so sudden and violent that the cabin would be submerged or break to pieces, and float away, drowning some or all of the family. It might be supposed that the married portion of the pioneers would select other sites than on the borders of a large river subject every year to overflow, but the richness of the alluvial soil on the banks of the Connecticut was so tempting that other considerations were overlooked, and to no part of New England was the tide of emigration turned so strongly as to the Connecticut Valley.
In the year 1643, an adventurous family of eight persons embarked on a shallop from Hartford (to which place they had come shortly before from Watertown, Mass), and sailing or rowing up the river made a landing on a beautiful meadow near the modern town of Hatfield.
The family consisted of Peter Nash and Hannah his wife, David, their son, a youth of seventeen, Deborah and Mehitabel, their two daughters, aged respectively nineteen and fourteen, Mrs. Elizabeth Nash, the mother of Peter, aged sixty-four, and Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Nash. They found the land all ready for ploughing, and after building a spacious cabin and barns, they had nothing to do but to plant and harvest their crops and stock their farm with cattle which they brought from Springfield, driving them up along the river. For four years everything went on prosperously. They harvested large crops, added to their barns, and had a great increase in stock. Although the wolves and wild cats had made an occasional foray in their stock and poultry yard and the spring freshets had made inroads into their finest meadow, their general course had been only one of prosperity.
Their house and barns were built upon a tongue of land where the river made a bend, and were on higher ground than the surrounding meadow, which every spring was submerged by the freshets. Year after year the force of the waters had washed an angle into this tongue of land and threatened some time to break through and leave the houses and barns of the pioneers upon an island. But the inroads of the waters were gradual, and the Nashes flattered themselves that it would be at least two generations before the river would break through.
Mrs. Peter Nash and her daughter were women of almost masculine courage and firmness. They all handled axe and gun as skillfully as the men of the household; they could row a boat, ride horseback, swim, and drag a seine for shad; and Mehitabel, the younger daughter, though only fourteen years old, was already a woman of more than ordinary size and strength. These three women accompanied the men on their hunting and fishing excursions and assisted them in hoeing corn, in felling trees, and dragging home fuel and timber.
The winter of 1647-8 was memorable for the amount of snow that fell, and the spring for its lateness. The sun made some impression on the snow in March, but it was not till early in April that a decided change came in the temperature. One morning the wind shifted to the southwest, the sun was as hot as in June; before night it came on to rain, and, before the following night, nearly the whole vast body of snow had been dissolved into water which had swelled all the streams to an unprecedented height. The streams poured down into the great river, which rose with fearful rapidity, converting all the alluvial meadows into a vast lake.
All this took place so suddenly that the Nash family had scarcely a warning till they found themselves in the midst of perils. When the rain ceased, on the evening of the second day, the water had flooded the surrounding meadows and risen high up into the first story of the house. The force of the current had already torn a channel across the tongue of land on which the house stood and had washed away the barns and live-stock. One of their two boats had been floated off but had struck broadside against a clump of bushes and was kept in its place by the force of the current. The other boat had been fastened by a short rope to a stout sapling, but this latter boat was ten feet under water, held down by the rope.
The water had now risen to the upper story, and the family were driven to the roof. If the house would stand they might yet be saved. It was firmly built but it shook with the force and weight of the waters. If either of the boats could be secured they might reach dry land by rowing out of the current and over the meadows where the water was stiller. The oars of the submerged boat had been floated away, but in the other boat they could be seen from the roof of the house lying safely on the bottom.
It was decided that Jacob Nash should swim out and row the boat up to the house. He was a strong swimmer, and though the water was icy cold it was thought the swift current would soon enable him to reach the skiff which lay only a few rods below the house. Accordingly, he struck boldly out, and in a moment had reached the boat, when he suddenly threw up his hands and sank, the current whirling him out of sight in an instant, amid the shrieks of his young wife, who was then a nursing mother and holding her babe in her arms as her husband went down. Mrs. Nash, the elder, gazed for a moment speechless at the spot where her son had sunk, and then fell upon her knees, the whole family following her example, and prayed fervently to Almighty God for deliverance from their awful danger. Then rising from her kneeling posture, she bade her other son make one more trial to reach the boat.
Peter Nash and his son Daniel then plunged into the water, reached the boat, and took the oars, but the force of the current was such that they could make, by rowing, but little headway against it. The two daughters then leaped into the flood, and in a few strokes reached and entered the boat. By their united force it was brought up and safely moored to the chimney of the cabin. In two trips the family were conveyed to the hillside. Then the brave girls returned and brought away a boat-load of household gear. Not content with that they rowed to the submerged boat, and diving down, cut the rope, baled out the water, and in company with their mother, father, and brother, brought away all the moveables in the upper stories of the house. Their courage appeared to have been rewarded in another way, since the house stood through the flood, and in ten days they were assisting to tear down the house and build another on a hill where the floods never came.
As soldiers fall in battle, so in the struggles and hardships of border life, the delicate frame of woman often succumbs, leaving the partner of her toils to mourn her loss and meet the onset of life alone. Such a loss necessarily implies more than when it occurs in the comfortable homes of refined life, since it removes at once a loving wife, a companion in solitude, and an efficient co-worker in the severe tasks incident to life in frontier settlements. Sometimes the husband's career is broken off when he loses his wife under such circumstances, and he gives up both hope and effort.
About sixty years since, and while the rich prairies of Indiana began to be viewed as the promised land of the adventurous pioneer, among the emigrants who were attracted thither by the golden dreams of happiness and fortune, was a Mr. H., a young man from an eastern city, who came accompanied by his newly married wife, a dark-eyed girl of nineteen. Leaving his bride at one of the westernmost frontier-settlements, he pushed on in search of a favorable location for their new home. Near the present town of LaFayette he found a tract which pleased his eye and promised abundant harvests, and after his wife had been brought to view it and expressed her satisfaction and delight at the happy choice he had made, the site was selected and the house was built.
They moved into their prairie-home in the first flush of summer. Their cabin was built upon a knoll and faced the south. Sitting at the door at eventide they contemplated a prospect of unrivaled beauty. The sun-bright soil remained still in its primeval greatness and magnificence, unchecked by human hands, covered with flowers, protected and watched by the eye of the sun. The days were glorious; the sky of the brightest blue, the sun of the purest gold, and the air full of vitality, but calm; and there, in that brilliant light, stretched itself far, far out into the infinite, as far as the eye could discern, an ocean-like extent, the waves of which were sunflowers, asters, and gentians, nodding and beckoning in the wind, as if inviting millions of beings to the festival set out on the rich table of the earth. Mrs. H. was an impressible woman with poetic tastes, and a strong admiration for the beautiful in nature; and as she gazed upon the glorious expanse her whole face lighted up and glowed with pleasure. Here she thought was the paradise of which she had long dreamed.
As the summer advanced a plenteous harvest promised to reward the labors of her husband. Nature was bounteous and smiling in all her aspects, and the young wife toiled faithfully and patiently to make her rough house a pleasant home for her husband. She had been reared like him amid the luxuries of an eastern city, and her hands had never been trained to work. But the influences of nature around her, and the almost idolatrous love which she cherished for her husband, cheered and sweetened the homely toils of her prairie life.
Eight months sped happily and prosperously away; the winter had been mild, and open, and spring had come with its temperate breezes, telling of another summer of brightness and beauty.
Soon after the middle of April in that year, commenced an extraordinary series of storms. They occurred daily, and sometimes twice a day, accompanied by the most vivid lightning, and awful peals of thunder; the rain poured down in a deluge until it seemed as if another flood was coming to purify the earth. For more than sixty days those terrible scenes recurred, and blighted the whole face of the country for miles around the lonely cabin. The prairies, saturated with moisture, refused any longer to drink up the showers. Every hollow and even the slightest depression became a stagnant pool, and when the rains ceased and the sun came out with the heat of the summer solstice, it engendered pestilence, which rose from the green plain that smiled beneath him, and stalked resistless among the dwellers throughout that vast expanse.
Of all the widely isolated and remote cabins which sent their smoke curling into the dank morning air of the region thereabouts, there was not one in which disease was not already raging with fearful malignity. Doctors or hired nurses there were none; each stricken household was forced to battle single-handed with the destroyer who dealt his blows stealthily, suddenly, and alas! too often, effectually. The news of the dreadful visitation soon reached the family of Mr. H.—and for a period they were in a fearful suspense. They were surrounded by the same malarial influences that had made such havoc among their neighbors, and why should they escape? They were living directly over a noisome cess-pool; their cellar was filled with water which could not be drained away, nor would the saturated earth drink it up. Centuries of vegetable accumulations forming the rich mould in which the cellar was dug, gave out their emanations to the water, and the fiery rays of the sun made the mixture a decoction whose steams were laden with death.
There was no escape unless they abandoned their house, and this they were reluctant to do, hoping that the disease would pass by them. But this was a vain hope; in a few days Mr. H. was prostrated by the fever. Mrs. H. had preserved her courage and energy till now, but her impressible nature began to yield before the onset of this new danger. Her life had been sunny and care-free from a child; her new home had till recently been the realization of her dreams of happiness; but the loss of her husband would destroy at once every fair prospect for the future. All that a loving wife could do as a nurse or watcher or doctress, was done by her, but long before her husband had turned the sharp corner between death and life, Mrs. H. was attacked and both lay helpless, dependent upon the care of their only hired man. Neighbors whose hearts had been made tender and sympathetic by their own bereavements, came from their far-off cabins and for several weeks watched beside their bedside. The attack of the wife commenced with a fever which continued till after the birth of her child. For three days longer she lingered in pain, sinking slowly till the last great change came, and Mr. H., now convalescent, saw her eyes closed for ever.
The first time he left the house was to follow the remains of his wife and child to their last resting place, beneath an arbor of boughs which her own hands had tended. We cannot describe the grief of that bereaved husband. His very appearance was that of one who had emerged from the tomb. Sickness had blanched his dark face to a ghastly hue, and drawn great furrows in his cheeks, which were immovable, and as if chiseled in granite. During his sickness he had seen little of her before she was stricken down, for his mind was clouded. When the light of reason dawned he was faintly conscious that she lay near him suffering, first from the fever, and then from woman's greatest pain and trial, but that he was unable to soothe and comfort her; and finally that her last hours were hours of intense agony, which he could not alleviate. He was as one in a trance; a confused consciousness of his terrible loss slowly took possession of him. When at length his weakened intellect comprehended the truth with all its sad surrounding, a great cloud of desolation settled down over his whole life.
That cloud, sad to say, never lifted. As he stood by the open grave, he lifted the lid, gazed long and intently on that sweet pale face, bent and kissed the marble brow, and as the mother and child were lowered into the grave, he turned away a broken-hearted man.
EARLY PIONEERS—WOMAN'S ADVENTURES AND HEROISM.
For nearly one hundred years after the settlement of Plymouth, the whole of the territory now known as the State of Maine was, with the exception of a few settlements on the coast and rivers, a howling wilderness. From the sea to Canada extended a vast forest, intersected with rapid streams and dotted with numerous lakes. While the larger number of settlers were disinclined to attempt to penetrate this trackless waste, some few hardy pioneers dared to advance far into the unknown land, tempted by the abundance of fish in the streams and lakes or by the variety of game which was to be found in the forests. It was the land for hunters rather than for tillers of the soil, and most of its early explorers were men who were skillful marksmen, and versed in forest lore. But occasionally women joined these predatory expeditions against the denizens of the woods and waters.
In the history of American settlements too little credit has been given to the hunter. He is often the first to penetrate the wilderness; he notes the general features of the country as he passes on his swift course; he ascertains the fertility of the soil and the capabilities of different regions; he reconnoiters the Indian tribes, and learns their habits and how they are affected towards the white man. When he returns to the settlements he makes his report concerning the region which he has explored, and by means of the knowledge thus obtained the permanent settlers were and are enabled to push forward and establish themselves in the wilderness. In the glory and usefulness of these discoveries woman not unfrequently shared. Some of the most interesting narratives are those in which she was the companion and coadjutor of the hunter in his explorations of the trackless mazes of our American forests.
In the year 1672 a small party of hunters arrived at the mouth of the Kennebec in two canoes. The larger one of the canoes was paddled up stream by three men, the other was propelled swiftly forward by a man and a woman. Both were dressed in hunters' costume; the woman in a close-fitting tunic of deerskin reaching to the knees, with leggins to match, and the man in hunting-shirt and trowsers of the same material. Edward Pentry, for this was the name of the man, was a stalwart Cornishman who had spent ten years in hunting and exploring the American wilderness. Mrs. Pentry, his wife, was of French extraction, and had passed most of her life in the settlements in Canada, where she had met her adventurous husband on one of his hunting expeditions. She was of manly stature and strength, and like her husband, was a splendid shot and skillful fisher. Both were passionately fond of forest life, and perfectly fearless of its dangers, whether from savage man or beast.
It was their purpose to explore thoroughly the region watered by the upper Kennebec, and to establish a trading-post which would serve as the headquarters of fur-traders, and ultimately open the country for settlement. Their outfit was extremely simple: guns, traps, axes, fishing-gear, powder, and bullets, &c., with an assorted cargo of such trinkets and other articles as the Indians desired in return for peltry.
In three weeks they reached the head-waters of the Kennebec, at Moosehead Lake. There they built a large cabin, divided into two compartments, one of which was occupied by three of the men, the other by Mr. and Mrs. Pentry. All of the party were versed in the Indian dialect of the region, and as Mrs. Pentry could speak French, no trouble was anticipated from the Indians, who in that part of the country were generally friendly to the French.
The labors of the men in felling trees and shaping logs for the cabin, as well as in framing the structure, were shared in by Mrs. Pentry, who in addition did all the necessary cooking and other culinary offices. They decided to explore the surrounding country for the purpose of discovering the lay of the land and the haunts of game. No signs of any Indians had yet been seen, and it was thought best that the four men should start, each in a different direction, and having explored the neighboring region return to the cabin at night, Mrs. Pentry meanwhile being left alone—a situation which she did not in the least dread. Accordingly, early in the morning, after eating a hunter's breakfast of salt pork, fried fish, and parched corn, the quartette selected their several routes, and started, taking good care to mark their trail as they went, that they could the more readily find the way back.
It was agreed that they should return by sunset, which would give them twelve good hours for exploration, as it was the month of July, and the days were long. After their departure Mrs. P. put things to rights about the house, and barring the door against intruders, whether biped or quadruped, took her gun and fishing-tackle and went out for a little sport in the woods.
The cabin stood on the border of Moosehead Lake. Unloosing the canoes, she embarked in one, and towing the other behind her, rowed across a part of the lake which jutted in shore to the southwest; she soon reached a dense piece of woods which skirted the lake, and there mooring her canoe, watched for the deer which came down to that place to drink. A fat buck before long made his appearance, and as he bent down his head to quaff the water, a brace of buck-shot planted behind his left foreleg laid him low, and his carcase was speedily deposited in the canoe.
The sun was now well up, and as Mrs. P. had provided for the wants of the party by her lucky shot, and no more deer made their appearance, she lay down in the bottom of the boat, and soon fell fast asleep. Hunters and soldiers should be light sleepers, as was Mrs. Pentry upon this occasion.
How long she slept she never exactly knew, but she was awakened by a splash; lifting her head above the edge of the boat, she saw nothing but a muddy spot on the water some thirty feet away, near the shore. This was a suspicious sign. Looking more closely, she saw a slight motion beneath the lily-pads, which covered closely, like a broad green carpet, the surface of the lake. Her hand was on her gun, and as she leveled the barrel towards the turbid spot, she saw a head suddenly lifted, and at the same moment a huge Indian sprang from the water and struggled up through the dense undergrowth that lined the edge of the lake.
It was a sudden impulse rather than a thought, which made Mrs. P. level the gun at his broad back and pull the trigger. The Indian leaped into the air, and fell back in the water dead, with half a dozen buck-shot through his heart. At the same moment she felt a strong grasp on her shoulder, and heard a deep guttural "ugh!" Turning her head she saw the malignant face of another Indian standing waist-deep in the water, with one hand on the boat which he was dragging towards the shore.
A swift side-blow from the gun-barrel, and he tumbled into the water; before he could recover, the brave woman had snatched the paddle, and sent the canoe spinning out into the lake. Then dropping the paddle and seizing her gun she dashed in a heavy charge of powder, dropped a dozen buck-shot down the muzzle, rammed in some dry grass, primed the pan, and leveled it again at the savage, who having recovered from the blow, was floundering towards the shore, turning and shaking his tomahawk at her, meanwhile, with a ferocious grin. Again the report of her gun awakened the forest echoes, and before the echoes had died away, the savage's corpse was floating on the water.
She dared not immediately approach the shore, fearing that other savages might be lying in ambush; but after closely scrutinizing the bushes, she saw no signs of others, besides the two whom she had shot. She then cut long strips of raw hide from the dead buck, and towing the bodies of the Indians far out into the lake sunk them with the stones that served to anchor the canoes. Returning to the shore, she took their guns which lay upon the shelving bank, and rapidly paddled the canoe homeward.
It was now high noon. She reached the cabin, entered, and sat down to rest. She supposed that the savages she had just, killed were stragglers from a war-party who had lagged behind their comrades, and attracted by the sound made by her gun when she shot the buck, had come to see what it was. The thought that a larger body might be in the vicinity, and that they would capture and perhaps kill her beloved husband and his companions, was a torture to her. She sat a few moments to collect her thoughts and resolve what course to pursue.
Her resolution was soon taken. She could not sit longer there, while her husband and friends were exposed to danger or death. Again she entered the canoe and paddled across the arm of the lake to the spot where the waters were still stained with the blood of the Indians. Hastily effacing this bloody trace, she moored the canoes and followed the trail of the savages for four miles to the northwest. There she found in a ravine the embers of a fire, where, from appearances as many as twenty redskins had spent the preceding night. Their trail led to the northwest, and by certain signs known to hunters, she inferred that they had started at day-break and were now far on their way northward.
When her four male associates selected their respective routes in the morning, her husband had, she now remembered, selected one which led directly in the trail of the Indian war-party, and by good calculation he would have been about six miles in their rear. Not being joined by the two savages whose bodies lay at the bottom of the lake, what was more likely than that they would send back a detachment to look after the safety of their missing comrades?
The first thing to be done was to strike her husband's trail and then follow it till she overtook him or met him returning. Swiftly, and yet cautiously, she struck out into the forest in a direction at right angles with the Indian camp. Being clad in trowsers of deer skin and a short tunic and moccasins of the same material, she made her way through the woods as easily as a man, and fortunately in a few moments discovered a trail which she concluded was that of her husband. Her opinion was soon verified by finding a piece of leather which she recognized as part of his accoutrements. For two hours she strode swiftly on through the forest, treading literally in her husband's tracks.
The sun was now three hours above the western horizon; so taking her seat upon a fallen tree, she waited, expecting to see him soon returning on his trail, when she heard faintly in the distance the report of a gun; a moment after, another and still another report followed in quick succession. Guided by the sound she hurried through the tangled thicket from which she soon emerged into a grove of tall pine trees, and in the distance saw two Indians with their backs turned toward her and shielding themselves from some one in front by standing behind large trees. Without being seen by them she stole up and sheltered herself in a similar manner, while her eye ranged the forest in search of her husband who she feared was under the fire of the red-skins.
At length she descried the object of their hostility behind the trunk of a fallen tree. It was clearly a white man who crouched there, and he seemed to be wounded. She immediately took aim at the nearest Indian and sent two bullets through his lungs. The other Indian at the same instant had fired at the white man and then sprang forward to finish him with his tomahawk. Mrs. Pentry flew to the rescue and just as the savage lifted his arm to brain his foe, she drove her hunting knife to the haft into his spine.
Her husband lay prostrate before her and senseless with loss of blood from a bullet-wound in the right shoulder. Staunching the flow of blood with styptics which she gathered among the forest shrubs, she brought water and the wounded man soon revived. After a slow and weary march she brought him back to the cabin, carrying him part of the way upon her shoulders. Under her careful nursing he at length recovered his strength though he always carried the bullet in his shoulder. It appears he had met three Indians who told him they were in search of their two missing companions. One of them afterwards treacherously shot him from behind through the shoulder, and in return Pentry sent a ball through his heart. Then becoming weak from loss of blood he could only point his gun-barrel at the remaining Indians, and this was his situation when his wife came up and saved his life.
After receiving such an admonition it is natural to suppose the whole party were content to remain near their forest home for a season, extending their rambles only far enough to enable them to procure game and fish for their table; and this was not far, for the lake was alive with fish; and wild turkeys, deer, and other game could be shot sometimes even from the cabin door.
The party were also deterred by this experience from attempting to drive any trade with the Indians until the following spring, when they expected to be joined by a large party of hunters.
The summer soon passed away, and the cold nights of September and October admonished our hardy pioneers that they must prepare for a rigorous winter. Mrs. Pentry made winter clothing for the men and for herself out of the skins of animals which they had shot, and snow-shoes from the sinews of deer stretched on a frame composed of strips of hard wood. She also felled trees for fuel and lined the walls of the cabin with deer and bear skins; she was the most skilful mechanic of the party, and having fitted runners of hickory to one of the boats she rigged a sail of soft skins sewed together, and once in November, after the river was frozen, and when the wind blew strongly from the northwest, the whole party undertook to reach the mouth of the river by sailing down in their boat upon the ice. A boat of this kind, when the ice is smooth and the wind strong, will make fifteen miles an hour.