The Bark Covered House
Part 1 out of 4
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THE BARK COVERED HOUSE,
or, BACK IN THE WOODS AGAIN;
BEING A GRAPHIC AND THRILLING DESCRIPTION OF REAL PIONEER LIFE IN THE
WILDERNESS OF MICHIGAN
BY WILLIAM NOWLIN, ESQ.
I little thought when I left my farm yards, horses and cattle in the care
of other men, and began to write, that I should spend nearly all the
winter of 1875 in writing; much less, that I should offer the product of
such labor to the public, in the Centennial Year. But I have been urged
to do so by many friends, both learned and unlearned, who have read the
manuscript, or listened to parts of it. They think the work, although
written by a farmer, should see the light and live for the information of
others. One of these is Levi Bishop, of Detroit, who was long a personal
friend of my father and his family, and has recently read the manuscript.
He is now President of the "Wayne County Pioneer Society," and is widely
known as a literary man, poet and author.
Sketch of the lives of John and Melinda Nowlin; of their journeying and
settlement in Michigan.
Thrilling scenes and incidents of pioneer life, of hopes and fears, of
ups and downs, of a life in the woods; continuing until the gloom and
darkness of the forest were chased away, by the light of civilization,
and the long battle for a home had been fought by the pioneer soldiers
and they had gained a signal victory over nature herself.
Hope never forsook them in the darkest hours, but beckoned and cheered
them on to the conquest of the wilderness. When that was consummated hope
hovered and sat upon her pedestal of realization. For better days had
come for the pioneers in the country they had found. Then was heard the
joyful, enchanting "Harvest Home;" songs of "Peace and Plenty."
Crowned with honor, prosperity and happiness--for a time.
I have delineated the scenes of this narrative, from time to time, as
they took place. I thought at the time when they occurred that some of
them were against me.
I do not place this volume before its readers that I may gain any
applause: I have sought to say no more of myself than was necessary.
This is a labor of love, written to perpetuate the memory of some most
noble lives, among whom were my father and mother who sought a home in
the forests of Michigan at an early day. Being then quite young, I kept
no record of dates or occurrences, and this book is mostly sketched
It is a history of my parents' struggles and triumphs in the wilderness.
It ought to encourage all who read it, since not many begin life in a new
country with fewer advantages than they.
It is said that "Truth is stranger than fiction." In this I have detailed
the walks of ordinary life in the woods. In these pictures there is
truth. All and more than I have said have been realized. My observations
have been drawn from my own knowledge, in the main, but I am indebted to
my sisters for some incidents related. Together, with our brother, we
often sat around the clay hearth and listened to father's stories, words
of encouragement and counsel. Together we shared and endured the fears,
trials and hardships of a pioneer life.
This work cannot fail to be of deep interest to all persons of similar
experience; and to their descendants for ages to come who can never too
fully appreciate the blessings earned for them by their parents and
others amid hardships, privations and sufferings (in a new country) the
half of which can never be told.
I--TALKING OF MICHIGAN
III--HOW WE GOT OUR SWEET, AND THE HISTORY OF MY FIRST PIG
IV--OUR SECOND HOUSE AND FIRST APPLE TREES
V--THE JUG OF WHISKY AND TEMPERANCE MEETING
VI--HOW WE FOUND OUR CATTLE
VII--TROUBLE CAME ON THE WING
VIII--HARD TIMES FOR US IN MICHIGAN
IX--A SUMMER HUNT
X--HOW WE GOT INTO TROUBLE ONE NIGHT AND I SCARED
XI--THE INDIANS VISIT US--THEIR STRANGE AND PECULIAR WAYS
XII--THE INSIDE OF OUR HOUSE--A PICTURE FROM MEMORY
XIII--METHEGLIN; OR, THE DETECTED DRINK
XIV--OUR ROAD--HOW I WAS WOUNDED
XV--PROSPECT OF WAR
XVI--FISHING AND BOAT RIDING,
XVII--HOW I GOT IN TROUBLE RIDING IN A CANOE
XVIII--OUR CLEARING AND THE FIRST RAILROAD CARS
XX--DRAWING CORD-WOOD--HOW THE RAILROAD WAS BUILT--THE STEAM WHISTLE
XXI--HOW I HUNTED AND WE PAID THE MORTGAGE
XXIII--GRANDFATHER'S POWDER HORN--WAR WITH PIRATES
XXIV--LIGHT BEGINS TO DAWN
XXV--MAKING A BARGAIN
XXVI--HOW I COMMENCED FOR MYSELF--FATHER'S OLD FARM
XXVII--THOUGHTS IN CONNECTION WITH FATHER AND EARLY PIONEER LIFE
XXVIII--FATHER'S NEW HOUSE AND ITS SITUATION--HIS CHILDREN VISIT HIM
XXIX--MY WATCH LOST AND VISIT TO CANADA
XXX--MOTHER'S VISIT TO THE EAST
XXXI--LEAVING NEW YORK CITY FOR HOME
THE BARK-COVERKD HOUSE
THE THOMPSON TAVERN
HOUSE BUILT IN 1836
FIRST RAILWAY CARS
HOUSE BUILT IN 1854
TALKING OF MICHIGAN.
My father was born in 1793, and my mother in 1802, in Putnam County,
State of New York. Their names were John and Melinda Nowlin. Mother's
maiden name was Light.
My father owned a small farm of twenty-five acres, in the town of Kent,
Putnam County, New York, about sixty miles from New York City. We had
plenty of fruit, apples, pears, quinces and so forth, also a never
failing spring. He bought another place about half a mile from that. It
was very stony, and father worked very hard. I remember well his building
But hard work would not do it. He could not pay for the second
place. It involved him so that we were in danger of losing the place
where we lived.
He said, it was impossible for a poor man to get along and support his
family; that he never could get any land for his children there, and he
would sell what he had and go to a better country, where land was cheap
and where he could get land for them.
He talked much of the territory of Michigan. He went to one of the
neighbors and borrowed a geography. I recollect very well some things
that it stated. It was Morse's geography, and it said that the territory
of Michigan was a very fertile country, that it was nearly surrounded by
great lakes, and that wild grapes and other wild fruit grew in abundance.
Father then talked continually of Michigan. Mother was very much opposed
to leaving her home. I was the eldest of five children, about ten or
eleven years of age, when the word Michigan grated upon my ear. I am not
able to give dates in full, but all of the incidents I relate are facts.
Some of them occurred over forty years ago, and are given mostly from
memory, without the aid of a diary. Nevertheless, most of them are now
more vivid and plain to my mind than some things which transpired within
the past year. I was very much opposed to going to Michigan, and did all
that a boy of my age could do to prevent it. The thought of Indians,
bears and wolves terrified me, and the thought of leaving my schoolmates
and native place was terrible. My parents sent me to school when in New
York, but I have not been to school a day since. My mother's health was
very poor. Her physician feared that consumption of the lungs was already
seated. Many of her friends said she would not live to get to Michigan if
she started. She thought she could not, and said, that if she did,
herself and family would be killed by the Indians, perish in the
wilderness, or starve to death. The thought too, of leaving her friends
and the members of the church, to which she was very much attached, was
terribly afflicting. She made one request of father, which was that when
she died he would take her back to New York, and lay her in the grave
yard by her ancestors.
Father had made up his mind to go to Michigan, and nothing could change
him. He sold his place in 1832, hired a house for the summer, then went
down to York, as we called it, to get his outfit. Among his purchases
were a rifle for himself and a shot gun for me. He said when we went to
Michigan it should be mine. I admired his rifle very much. It was the
first one I had ever seen. After trying his rifle a few days, shooting at
a mark, he bade us good-by, and started "to view" in Michigan.
I think he was gone six or eight weeks, when he returned and told us of
his adventures and the country. He said he had a very hard time going up
Lake Erie. A terrible storm caused the old boat, "Shelvin Thompson" to
heave, and its timber to creak in almost every joint. He thought it must
go down. He went to his friend, Mr. George Purdy, (who is now an old
resident of the town of Dearborn) said to him: "You had better get up; we
are going down! The Captain says 'every man on deck and look out for
himself.'" Mr. Purdy was too sick to get up. The good old steamer
weathered the storm and landed safely at Detroit.
Father said that Michigan was a beautiful country, that the soil was as
rich as a barn-yard, as level as a house floor, and no stones in the way.
(I here state, that he did not go any farther west than where he bought
his land.) He also said he had bought eighty acres of land, in the town
of Dearborn, two and a half miles from a little village, and twelve
miles from the city of Detroit. Said he would buy eighty acres more, east
of it, after he moved in the spring, which would make it square, a
quarter section. He said it was as near Detroit as he could get
government land, and he thought Detroit would always be the best market
in the country.
Father had a mother, three sisters, one brother and an uncle living in
Unadilla Country N.Y. He wished very much to see them, and, as they were
about one hundred and fifty miles on his way to Michigan, he concluded to
spend the winter with them. Before he was ready to start he wrote to his
uncle, Griffin Smith, to meet him, on a certain day, at Catskill, on the
Hudson river. I cannot give the exact date, but remember that it was in
the fall of 1833.
The neighbor, of whom we borrowed the old geography, wished very much to
go West with us, but could not raise the means. When we started we passed
by his place; he was lying dead in his house. Thus were our hearts,
already sad, made sadder.
We traveled twenty-five miles in a wagon, which brought us to
Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson river, then took a night boat for Catskill
where uncle was to meet us the next morning. Before we reached Catskill,
the captain said that he would not stop there. Father said he must. The
captain said he would not stop for a hundred dollars as his boat was
behind time. But he and father had a little private conversation, and
the result was he did stop. The captain told his men to be careful of
the things, and we were helped off in the best style possible. I do not
know what changed the captain's mind, perhaps he was a Mason. Uncle met
us, and our things were soon on his wagon. Now, our journey lay over a
rough, hilly country, and I remember it was very cold. I think we passed
over some of the smaller Catskill Mountains. My delicate mother, wrapt
as best she could be, with my little sister (not then a year old) in her
arms, also the other children, rode. Father and I walked some of the
way, as the snow was quite deep on the mountains. He carried his rifle,
and I my shot-gun on our shoulders. Our journey was a tedious one, for
we got along very slowly; but we finally arrived at Unadilla. There we
had many friends and passed a pleasant winter. I liked the country
better than the one we left, and we all tried to get father to buy
there, and give up the idea of going to Michigan. But a few years
satisfied us that he knew the best.
Early in the spring of 1834 we left our friends weeping, for, as they
expressed it, they thought we were going "out of the world." Here I will
give some lines composed and presented to father and mother by father's
sister, N. Covey, which will give her idea of our undertaking better than
any words I can frame:
"Dear Brother and Sister, we must bid you adieu,
We hope that the Lord will deal kindly with you,
Protect and defend you, wherever you go,
If Christ is your friend, sure you need fear no foe.
"The distance doth seem great, to which you are bound,
But soon we must travel on far distant ground,
And if we prove faithful to God's grace and love,
If we ne'er meet before, we shall all meet above."
About twenty years later this aunt, her husband and nine children
(they left one son) sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and grand-children
visited us. Uncle had sold his nice farm in Unadilla and come to
settle his very intelligent family in Michigan. He settled as near us
as he could get government land sufficient for so large a family. With
most of this numerous family near him, he is at this day a sprightly
old man, respected (so far as I know) by all who know him, from
Unionville to Bay City.
Now as I have digressed, I must go back and continue the story of our
journey from Unadilla to Michigan. As soon as navigation opened, in the
spring, we started again with uncle's team and wagon. In this manner we
traveled about fifty miles which brought us to Utica. There we embarked
on a canal boat and moved slowly night and day, to invade the forests of
Michigan. Sometimes when we came to a lock father got off and walked a
mile or two. On one of these occasions I accompanied him, and when we
came to a favorable place, father signaled to the steersman, and he
turned the boat up. Father jumped on to the side of the boat. I attempted
to follow him, did not jump far enough, missed my hold and went down, by
the side of the boat, into the water. However, father caught my hand and
lifted me out. They said that if he had not caught me, I must have been
crushed to death, as the boat struck the side the same minute. That,
certainly, would have been the end of my journey to Michigan. When it was
pleasant we spent part of the time on deck. One day mother left my little
brother, then four years old, in care of my oldest sister, Rachel. He
concluded to have a rock in an easy chair, rocked over and took a cold
bath in the canal. Mother and I were in the cabin. When we heard the cry
"Overboard!" we rushed on deck, and the first thing we saw was a man
swimming with something ahead of him. It proved to be my brother, held
by one strong arm of an English gentleman. He did not strangle much; some
said the Englishman might have waded out, in that case he would not have
strangled any, as he had on a full-cloth overcoat, which held him up
until the Englishman got to him. Be that as it may, the Englishman was
our ideal hero for many years, for by his bravery and skill, unparalleled
by anything we had seen, he had saved our brother from a watery grave.
That brother is now the John Smith Nowlin, of Dearborn.
Nothing more of importance occurred while we were on the canal. When we
arrived at Buffalo the steamer, "Michigan," then new, just ready for her
second trip, lay at her wharf ready to start the next morning. Thinking
we would get a better night's rest, at a public house, than on the
steamer father sought one, but made a poor choice.
Father had four or five hundred dollars, which were mostly silver, he
thought this would be more secure and unsuspected in mother's willow
basket, which would be thought to contain only wearing apparel for the
child. We had just got nicely installed and father gone to make
preparations for our embarkation on the "Michigan," when the lady of
the house came by mother and, as if to move it a little, lifted her
basket. Then she said, "You must have plenty of money, your basket is
When father came, and mother told him the liberty the lady had taken, he
did not like it much, and I am sure I felt anything but easy.
But father called for a sleeping room with three beds, and we were shown
up three flights of stairs, into a dark, dismal room, with no window,
and but one door. Mother saw us children in bed, put the basket of silver
between my little brother and me, and then went down. The time seemed
long, but finally father and mother came up. I felt much safer then. Late
in the evening a man, with a candle in one hand, came into the room,
looked at each bed sufficiently to see who was in it. When he came to
father's bed, which proved to be the last, as he went round, father asked
him what he wanted there. He said he was looking for an umbrella. Father
said he would give him umbrella, caught him by the sleeve of his coat;
but he proved to be stronger than his coat for he fled leaving one sleeve
of a nice broadcloth coat in father's hand. Father then put his knife
over the door-latch. I began to breathe more freely, but there was no
sleep for father or mother, and but little for me, that night.
Everything had been quiet about two hours when we heard steps, as of two
or three, coming very quietly, in their stocking feet. Father rose, armed
himself with a heavy chair and waited to receive them.
Mother heard the door-latch, and fearing that father would kill, or be
killed, spoke, as if not wishing them to hear, and said: "John have the
pistols ready," (it will be remembered that we had pistols in place of
revolvers in those days) "and the moment they open the door shoot them."
This stratagem worked; they retired as still as possible.
In about two or three hours more, they came again, and although father
told mother to keep still, she said again: "Be ready now and blow them
down the moment they burst open the door."
Away they went again, but came once more just before daylight, stiller
if possible than ever; father was at his station, chair in hand, but
mother was determined all should live, if possible, so she said "They are
coming again, shoot the first one that enters!" &c., &c.
They found that we were awake and, do doubt, thought that they would meet
with a little warmer reception than they wished. Father really had no
weapons with him except the chair and knife. I said, the room had no
window, consequently, it was as dark at daylight as at midnight. The only
way we could tell when it was daylight was by the noise on the street.
When father went down, in the morning, he inquired for the landlord and
the man that came into his room; but the landlord and the man with one
sleeve were not to be found. Father complained to the landlady, of being
disturbed, and showed her the coatsleeve. She said it must have been an
old man, who usually slept in that room, looking for a bed.
We went immediately to our boat. As father was poor and wished to
economize, he took steerage passage, as we had warm clothes and plenty of
bedding, he thought this the best that he could afford. Our headquarters
were on the lower deck. In a short time steam was up, and we bade
farewell to Buffalo, where we had spent a sleepless night, and with about
six-hundred passengers started on our course.
The elements seemed to be against us. A fearful storm arose; the captain
thought it would be dangerous to proceed, and so put in below a little
island opposite Cleveland, and tied up to a pier which ran out from the
island. Here we lay for three weary days and nights, the storm
Finally, the captain thought he must start out. He kept the boat as near
the shore as he could with safety, and we moved slowly until we were near
the head of the lake. Then the storm raged and the wind blew with
increased fury. It seemed as if the "Prince of the power of the air" had
let loose the wind upon us. The very air seemed freighted with woe. The
sky above and the waters below were greatly agitated. It was a dark
afternoon, the clouds looked black and angry and flew across the horizon
apparently in a strife to get away from the dreadful calamity that seemed
to be coming upon Lake Erie.
We were violently tempest-tossed. Many of the passengers despaired of
getting through. Their lamentations were piteous and all had gloomy
forebodings of impending ruin. The dark, blue, cold waves, pressed hard
by the wind, rolled and tumbled our vessel frightfully, seeming to make
our fears their sport. What a dismal, heart-rending scene! After all our
efforts in trying to reach Michigan, now I expected we must be lost. Oh
how vain the expectation of reaching our new place, in the woods! I
thought we should never see it. It looked to me as though Lake Erie would
terminate our journey.
It seemed as if we were being weighed in a great balance and that
wavering and swaying up and down; balanced about equally between hope and
fear, life and death.
[Illustration: "THE MICHIGAN."--AFTER LEAVING THE ISLAND IN THE
SPRING OF 1834.]
No one could tell which way it would turn with us. I made up my mind, and
promised if ever I reached terra-firma never to set foot on that lake
again; and I have kept my word inviolate. I was miserably sick, as were
nearly all the passengers. I tried to keep on my feet, as much as I
could; sometimes I would take hold of the railing and gaze upon the wild
terrific scene, or lean against whatever I could find, that was
stationary, near mother and the rest of the family. Mother was calm, but
I knew she had little hope that we would ever reach land. She said, her
children were all with her and we should not be parted in death; that we
should go together, and escape the dangers and tribulations of the
I watched the movements of the boat as much as I could. It seemed as if
the steamer could not withstand the furious powers that were upon her.
The front part of the boat would seem to settle down--down--lower and
lower if possible than it had been before. It looked to me, often, as
though we were going to plunge headforemost--alive, boat and all into the
deep. After a while the boat would straighten herself again and hope
revive for a moment; then I thought that our staunch boat was nobly
contending with the adverse winds and waves, for the lives of her
numerous passengers. The hope of her being able to outride the storm was
all the hope I had of ever reaching shore.
I saw the Captain on deck looking wishfully toward the land, while the
white-caps broke fearfully on our deck. The passengers were in a terrible
state of consternation. Some said we gained a little headway; others said
we did not. The most awful terror marked nearly every face. Some wept,
some prayed, some swore and a few looked calm and resigned. I was trying
to read my fate in other faces when an English lady, who came on the
canal boat with us, and who had remained in the cabin up to this, time,
rushed on deck, wringing her hands and crying at the top of her voice,
"We shall be lost! we shall be lost! oh! oh! oh! I have crossed the
Atlantic Ocean three times, and it never commenced with this! We shall be
lost! oh! oh! oh!"
One horse that stood on the bow of the boat died from the effects of the
storm. Our clothes and bedding were all drenched, and to make our
condition still more perilous, the boat was discovered to be on fire.
This was kept as quiet as possible. I did not know that it was burning,
until after it was extinguished; but I saw father, with others, carrying
buckets of water. He said the boat had been on fire and they had put it
out. The staunch boat resisted the elements; ploughed her way through and
landed us safely at Detroit.
Some years after our landing at Detroit, I saw the steamboat "Michigan"
and thought of the perilous time we had on her coming up Lake Erie. She
was then an old boat, and was laid up. I thought of the many thousand
hardy pioneers she had brought across the turbulent lake and landed
safely on the shore of the territory whose name she bore.
But where, oh where "are the six hundred!" that came on her with us? Most
of them have bid adieu to earth, and all its storms. The rest of them are
now old and no doubt scattered throughout the United States. But time or
distance cannot erase from their memory or mine the storm we shared
together on Lake Erie.
It was night, in the Spring of 1834, when we arrived at Detroit, and we
made our way to the "United States Hotel" which stood near where the old
post office was and where the "Mariner's Church" now stands, on
The next morning I was up early and went to view the city. I wished to
know if it was really a city. If it looked like Utica or Buffalo.
I went up Jefferson Avenue; found some brick buildings, barber
poles, wooden clocks, or large watches, big hats and boots, a brass
ball, &c., &c.
I returned to the Hotel, satisfied that Detroit was actually a city, for
the things I had seen were, in my mind, sufficient to make it one. After
I assured myself that there was a city, so far from New York, I was quite
contented and took my breakfast. Then, with our guns on our shoulders,
father and I started to see our brand-new farm at Dearborn. First we went
up Woodward Avenue to where the new City Hall now stands, it was then
only a common, dotted by small wooden buildings.
Thence we took the Chicago road which brought us to Dearbornville. From
there the timber had been cut for a road one mile south. On this road
father did his first road work in Michigan and here afterwards I
helped to move the logs out. The road-master, Mr. Smith, was not
willing to allow full time, for my work; however I put in part time.
Little did I think that here, one mile from Dearbornville, father
would, afterwards, buy a farm, build a large brick house, and end his
days, in peace and plenty.
From this point, one mile south of the little village, we were one mile
from father's chosen eighty, but had to follow an Indian trail two miles,
which led us to Mr. J. Pardee's. His place joined father's on the west.
We crossed Pardee's place, eighty rods, which brought us to ours. I dug
up some of the earth, found it black and rich, and sure enough no stones
in the way. Late in the afternoon I started back to mother, to tell her
that father had engaged a Mr. Thompson (who kept tavern in a log house,
half a mile east of Dearbornville) and team, and would come after her in
the morning. When I reached the Chicago road again, it seemed anything
but inviting. I could just see a streak ahead four or five miles, with
the trees standing thick and dark either side.
If ever a boy put in good time I did then. However, it was evening when I
reached Detroit, and I had traveled more than twenty-six miles. Mother
was very glad to see me, and listened with interest, to her boy's first
story of Michigan. I told her that father was coming in the morning, as
he had said; that Mr. Joseph Pardee said, we could stay with him while we
were building. I told her I was glad we came, how nice the land was, what
a fine country it would be in a few years, and, with other comforting
words, said, if we lived, I would take her back in a few years, to visit
her old home.
The next morning father and Mr. Thompson came, and we were soon all
aboard the wagon. When we reached Mr. Pardee's his family seemed very
much pleased to see us. He said: "Now we have 'Old Put' here, we'll
Putnam county joined the county he came from, and he called father "Old
Put" because he came from Putnam county.
Father immediately commenced cutting logs for a house. In one week he had
them ready, and men came from Dearbornville to help him raise them. He
then cut black ash trees, peeled off the bark to roof his house, and
after having passed two weeks under Mr. Pardee's hospitable roof, we
moved into a house of our own, had a farm of our own and owed no one.
Father brought his axe from York State; it weighed seven pounds; he gave
me a smaller one. He laid the trees right and left until we could see the
sun from ten o'clock in the morning till between one and two in the
afternoon, when it mostly disappeared back of Mr. Pardee's woods.
Father found it was necessary for him to have a team, so he went to
Detroit and bought a yoke of oxen; also, at the same time, a cow. He paid
eighty dollars for the oxen and twenty-five for the cow. These cattle
were driven in from Ohio. The cow proved to be a great help toward the
support of the family for a number of years. The oxen were the first
owned in the south part of the town of Dearborn. They helped to clear the
logs from the piece father had cut over, and we planted late corn,
potatoes and garden stuff. The corn grew very high but didn't ear well.
The land was indeed very rich, but shaded too much.
The next thing, after planting some seeds, was clearing a road through a
black ash swale and flat lands on our west section line, running north
one mile, which let us out to the point mentioned, one mile south of
Dearbornville. We blazed the section line trees over, cleared out the old
logs and brush, then felled trees lengthwise towards each other,
sometimes two together, to walk on over the water; we called it our
log-way. We found the country was so very wet, at times, that it was
impossible to go with oxen and sled, which were our only means of
conveyance, summer or winter. When we could not go in this style we were
obliged to carry all that it was necessary to have taken, on our
shoulders, from Dearbornville.
We had many annoyances, and mosquitoes were not the least, but they did
us some good. We had no fences to keep our cattle, and the mosquitoes
drove the oxen and cow up to the smoke which we kept near the house in
order to keep those little pests away. The cattle soon learned, as well
as we, that smoke was a very powerful repellant of those little warriors.
Many times, in walking those logs and going through the woods there would
be a perfect cloud of mosquitoes around me. Sometimes I would run to get
away from them, then stop and look behind me and there would be a great
flock for two rods back (beside those that were around me) all coming
toward me as fast as their wings could bring them, and seeming only
satisfied when they got to me. But they were cannibals and wanted to eat
me. All sang the same song in the same old tune. I was always glad when I
got out of their company into our own little clearing.
[Illustration: THE BARK COVERED HOUSE--1834.]
But Mr. Pardee was a little more brave; he said it was foolish to
notice such small things as mosquitoes. I have seen them light on his
face and run in their bills, probe in until they reached the fountain of
life, suck and gormandize until they got a full supply, then leisurely
fly away with their veins and bodies full of the best and most benevolent
blood, to live awhile, and die from the effects of indulging too freely
and taking too much of the life of another. Thus at different times I saw
him let them fill themselves and go away without his seeming to notice
them; whether he always treated them thus well or not, I cannot say, but
I do know they were the worst of pests. Myriads of them could be found
any where in the woods, that would eagerly light on man or beast and fill
themselves till four times their common size, if they could get a chance.
The woods were literally alive with them. No one can tell the wearisome
sleepless hours they caused us at night. I have lain listening and
waiting for them to light on my face or hands, and then trying to slap
them by guess in the dark, sometimes killing them, and sometimes they
would fly away, to come again in a few minutes. I could hear them as they
came singing back. Frequently when I awoke I found them as wakeful as
ever; they had been feasting while I slept. I would find bunches and
blotches on me, wherever they had had a chance to light, which caused a
disagreeable, burning and smarting sensation.
Frequently some one of us would get up and make a smudge in the room to
quiet them; we did it by making a little fire of small chips and dirt, or
by burning some sugar on coals, but this would only keep them still for a
short time. These vexatious, gory-minded, musical-winged, bold denizens
of the shady forest, were more eager to hold their carniverous feasts at
twilight or in the night than any other time. In cloudy weather they were
very troublesome as all the first settlers know. We had them many years,
until the country was cleared and the land ditched; then, with the
forest, they nearly disappeared.
As I have said our oxen were the first in our part of the town. Mr.
Pardee had no team. Father sold him half of our oxen. They used them
alternately, each one two weeks, during the summer. For some reason, Mr.
Pardee failed to pay the forty dollars and when winter came father had to
take the oxen back and winter them. The winter was very open, and much
pleasanter than any we had ever seen. The cattle lived on what we called
"French-bogs" which grew all through the woods on the low land and were
green all winter.
We found wild animals and game very numerous. Sometimes the deer came
where father had cut down trees, and browsed the tops. Occasionally, in
the morning, after a little snow, their tracks would be as thick as
sheep-tracks in a yard, almost up to the house. The wolves also, were
very common; we could often hear them at night, first at one point, then
answers from another and another direction, until the woods rang with
their unearthly yells.
One morning I saw a place by a log where a deer had lain, and noticed a
large quantity of hair all around on the snow; then I found tracks where
two wolves came from the west, jumped over the log, and caught the deer
in his bed. He got away, but he must have had bare spots on his back.
One evening a Mr. Bruin called at our house and stood erect at our north
window. The children thought him one of us, as father, mother and I were
away, and they ran out to meet us, but discovered instead a large black
bear. When they ran out, Mr. Bruin, a little less dignified, dropped on
all fours, and walked leisurely off about ten rods; then raised again,
jumped over a brush fence, and disappeared in the woods.
Next morning we looked for his tracks and, sure enough, there were the
tracks of a large bear within four feet of the window. He had apparently
stood and looked into the house.
The first Indian who troubled us was one by the name of John Williams. He
was a large, powerful man, and certainly, very ugly. He used to pass our
house and take our road to Dearbornville after fire-water, get a little
drunk, and on his way back stop at John Blare's. Mr. Blare then lived at
the end of our new road. Here the Indian would tell what great things he
had done. One day when he stopped, Mrs. Blare and her brother-in-law,
Asa, were there. He took a seat, took his knife from his belt, stuck it
into the floor, then told Asa to pick it up and hand it to him; he
repeated this action several times, and Asa obeyed him every time. He,
seeing that the white man was afraid, said: "I have taken off the scalps
of six damned Yankees with this knife and me take off one more."
When father heard this, with other things he had said, he thought he was
the intended victim. We were all very much frightened. Whenever father
was out mother was uneasy until his return, and he feared that the
Indian, who always carried his rifle, might lay in ambush, and shoot him
when he was at work.
One day he came along, as usual, from Dearbornville and passed our house.
Father saw him, came in, took his rifle down from the hooks and told
mother he believed he would shoot first. Mother would not hear a word to
it and after living a year or two longer, in mortal fear of him, he died
a natural death. We learned afterward that Joseph Pardee was the man he
had intended to kill. He said, "Pardee had cut a bee-tree that belonged
According to his previous calculation, on our arrival, father bought, in
mother's name, eighty acres more, constituting the south-west quarter of
section thirty-four, town two, south of range ten, east; bounded on the
south by the south line of the town of Dearbon. A creek, we called the
north branch of the River Ecorse, ran through it, going east. It was
nearly parallel with, and forty-two rods from, the town line. When he
entered it he took a duplicate; later his deed came, and it was signed
by Andrew Jackson, a man whom father admired very much. Mother's deed
came still later, signed by Martin Van Buren.
This land was very flat, and I thought, very beautiful. No waste land on
it, all clay bottom, except about two acres, a sand ridge, resembling the
side of a sugar loaf. This was near the centre of the place, and on it we
finally built, as we found it very unpleasant living on clayey land in
wet weather. This land was all heavy timbered--beech, hard maple,
basswood, oak, hickory and some white-wood--on both sides of the creek;
farther back, it was, mostly, ash and elm.
HOW WE GOT OUR SWEET, AND THE HISTORY OF MY FIRST PIG.
We made troughs, tapped hard maples on each side of the creek; took our
oxen, sled and two barrels (as the trees were scattered) to draw the sap
to the place we had prepared for boiling it.
Now I had an employment entirely new to me: boiling down sap and making
sugar, in the woods of Michigan. This was quite a help to us in getting
along. We made our own "sweet" and vinegar, also some sugar and molasses
to sell. Some springs, we made three or four hundred pounds of sugar.
Sugar was not all the good things we had, for there was one added to my
father's family, a little sister, who was none the less lovely, in my
eye, because she was of Michigan, a native "Wolverine."
Now father's family, all told, consisted of mother and six children. The
children grew to be men and women, and are all alive to this day,
January 26, 1875.
After we came to Michigan mother's health constantly improved. She soon
began to like her new home and became more cheerful and happy. I told
her we had, what would be, a beautiful place; far better than the rocks
and hills we left, I often renewed my promise that if she and I lived and
I grew to be a man, we would go back, visit her friends and see again the
land of her nativity.
To cheer her still more we received a letter from Mr. G. Purdy of York
State, telling us that he was coming to Michigan in the fall, with his
wife (mother's beloved sister, Abbie,) and her youngest sister, Sarah,
was coming with them.
Asa Blare, the young man who picked up the Indian's knife, bought forty
acres of government land joining us on the east, built him a house, went
to Ohio, married and brought his wife back with him.
Now we had neighbors on the east of us, and Mr. Henry Travis (a
brother-in-law of Mr. Pardee) came, bought land joining Mr. Pardee on
the west, built and settled with a large family. About the same time
many families from the East came and settled along the creek, for miles
west of us.
Now we were on the border of civilization. Our next clearing of any
importance was the little ridge. Father commenced around the edge, cut
the brush and threw them from the ridge all around it to form a brush
fence; then all the trees that would fall into the line of the fence were
next felled, also, all that would fall over it, then those which would
reach the fence were felled toward it. Then we trimmed them, cut the logs
and piled the brush on the fence. I felt very much interested in clearing
this piece. When father took his ax and started for work I took mine and
was immediately at his side or a little behind him. In this manner we
returned and we soon had the two acres cut off and surrounded by an
immense log, tree-top and brush fence; at least, I thought it was a great
fence. Now came the logging and burning, father worked with his oxen and
handspike, I with my handspike. Some of the large logs near the fence he
swung round with the oxen and left them by it. Others we drew together
and when we piled them up, father took his handspike and rolled the log,
I held it with mine until he got a new hold. In that way I helped him
roll hundreds and thousands of logs. We soon had them all in heaps but
they were green and burned slowly, some of them would not burn at all
then. We scratched round them and put some seeds in every spot. We could
do but very little with a plow. Father made a drag out of the crotch of a
tree and put iron teeth in it; this did us some service as the land was
In raising our summer crops we had to do most of the work with a hoe.
Sometimes where it was very rooty we planted corn with an ax. In order to
do this we struck the blade into the ground and roots about two inches,
then dropped the corn in and struck again two or three inches from the
first place which closed it and the hill of corn was planted.
Now I must go back to the first season and tell how I got my first pig.
It was the first of the hog species we owned in Michigan. Father went to
the village and I with him. From there we went down to Mr. Thompson's
(the man who moved us out from Detroit). He wished father to see his
hogs. They went to the yard, and as was my habit, I followed along. Mr.
Thompson called the hogs up. I thought he had some very fine ones. Among
them was an old sow that had some beautiful pigs. She seemed to be very
cross, raised her bristles and growled at us, as much as to say, "Let my
[Illustration: "THE THOMPSON TAVERN"--1834.]
I suppose Mr. Thompson thought he would have some sport with me, and
being generous, he said: "If the boy will catch one I will give it to
him." I selected one and started; I paid no attention to the old sow, but
kept my eye on the pig I wanted, and the way I went for it was a caution.
I caught it and ran for the fence, with the old sow after me. I got over
very quickly and was safe with my pig in my arms. I started home; it
kicked and squealed and tried to get away, but I held it tightly, patted
it and called it "piggy." I said to myself, '"Now I have a pig of my own,
it will soon grow up to be a hog, and we'll have pork." When I got home I
put it in a barrel, covered it up so it could not get out and then took
my ax, cut poles, and made it a new pen and put it on one place in Adam's
world where pig and pig-pen had never been before. Now, thought I, I've
got an ax, a pig and a gun.
One morning, a day or two after this, I went out and the pig was gone.
Thinking it might have gone home, I went to Mr. Thompson's and enquired
if they had seen it. I looked in the yard but the pig was not there. I
made up my mind that it was lost, and started home. I followed the old
trail, and when within sixty rods of the place where I now live, I met my
pig. I was very glad to see it, but it turned from me and ran right into
the woods. Now followed a chase which was very exciting to me. The pig
seemed running for its life, I for my property, which was going off,
over logs and through the brush, as fast as its legs could carry it. It
was a hard chase, but I caught the pig and took it back. I made the pen
stronger, and put it in again, but it would not eat much and in a few
days after died, and away went all my imaginary pork.
Mr. Pardee had bought a piece of land for a Mr. Clapp, of Peakskill, New
York, and was agent for the same. He said the south end of this land was
openings. It was about one mile from our place, and Mr. Pardee offered to
join with father and put corn on it, accordingly, we went to see it.
There was some brush, but it was mostly covered with what we called
"buffalo grass," which grew spontaneously. Cattle loved it very much in
the summer, but their grazing it seemed to destroy it. It soon died out
and mostly disappeared, scrub-oak and other brush coming up in its place.
Mr. Pardee and father soon cleared five or six acres of this land, and
with the brush they cut made a light brush fence around it, then tore up
three or four acres and planted it with corn. The soil was light yellow
sand. When the corn came up it was small and yellow. They put in about
two acres of buckwheat. A young man by the name of William Beal worked
for Pardee. He helped to tend the corn. One morning, as they were going
up to hoe the corn, William Beal took his gun and started ahead; this he
frequently did very early. He said, when about half way to the corn, he
looked toward the creek and saw a black bear coming toward him. He stood
in the path, leading to the corn-field, which they had under-brushed.
The bear did not discover him until he was near enough, when he fired
and shot him dead. This raised quite an excitement among us. I went to
see the bear. It was the first wild one I saw in Michigan. They dressed
it, and so far as I know, the neighbors each had a piece; at all events,
we had some.
They hoed the corn once or twice, and then made up their minds it was no
use, as it would not amount to much, the land being too poor. The whole
crop of corn, gathered there, green at that, nubbins and all, was put
into a half bushel handle basket, excepting what the squirrels took.
The buckwheat didn't amount to much, either. Wild turkeys trampled it
down and ate the grain, in doing which, many of them lost their lives. I
began to consider myself quite a marksman. I had already, with father's
rifle, shot two deer, and had gotten some of the turkeys.
Father never cropped it any more on the openings, and his experience
there made him much more pleased with his own farm. That land is near
me, and I have seen a great many crops growing on it, both grain and
other crops, but never one which I thought would pay the husbandman for
Father's partnership with Mr. Pardee was so unsuccessful on the openings,
and in having to take the oxen back, and buy hay for them when that
article was very high (their running out helped him some) that he
concluded to go into partnership with Mr. Pardee, no more.
He sold half of his oxen to Asa Blare, who paid the money down, so their
partnership opened in a little better shape. This partnership, father
said, was necessary as our money had become very much reduced, and
everything we bought, (such as flour and pork) was extremely dear;
besides, we had no way to make a farthing except with our "maple-sweet"
or the hide of a deer.
Father could not get work, for there were but few settlers, and none near
him, who were able to hire. So he economized to save his money as much as
possible, and worked at home. The clearing near the house grew larger and
larger, and now we could see the beautiful sun earlier.
Father worked very hard, got three acres cleared and ready for wheat.
Then he went away and bought about four bushels of white wheat for seed.
This cost a snug sum in those days. About the last of August he sowed it
and dragged it in with his drag. He sowed about a bushel and a peck to
the acre. (I have for many years back, and to the present time, sowed two
bushels to the acre).
His wheat came up and looked beautiful. The next spring and early summer
it was very nice. One day a neighbor's unruly ox broke into it. I went
through it to drive him out and it was knee high. Father said take the ox
home. I did so. The neighbor was eating dinner. I told him his ox had
been in our wheat and that father wished him to keep the ox away. He said
we must make the fence better and he would not get in. This was the first
unkind word I had received from a neighbor in Michigan. The wheat escaped
the rust, headed and filled well and was an excellent crop. It helped us
a great deal and was our manna in the wilderness.
Father and I continued our chopping until we connected the two clearings.
Then we commenced to see the sun in the morning and we thought it shone
brighter here than it did in York State. Some of the neighbors said that
it really did, and that it might be on account of a reflection from the
water of the great lakes. Perhaps it was because the deep gloom of the
forest had shaded us so long and was now removed. Israel like, we looked
back and longed for the good things we had left, viz:--apples, pears and
the quince sauce. Even apples were luxuries we could not have and we
greatly missed them. We cleared new ground, sowed turnip seed, dragged it
in and raised some very large nice turnips. At this time there was not a
wagon in the neighborhood, but Mr. Traverse, being a mechanic and
ingenious, cut down a tree, sawed oft two short logs, used them for hubs
and made the wheels for a cart. These he took to Dearbornville and had
them ironed oft. He made the body himself and then had an ox-cart. This
was the only wheeled vehicle in the place for some years. As Mr. Traverse
was an obliging man the neighbors borrowed his cart. Sometimes it went to
Dearbornville to bring in provision, or other things, and sometimes it
went to mill. (There was a mill on the river Rouge, one mile north of
Dearbornville.) With this cart and oxen the neighbors carried some of
their first products, sugar, butter, eggs, &c., to Detroit. Some young
sightseers, who had not seen Detroit since they moved into the woods and
wished to see it, were on board. They had to start before midnight so it
would be cool traveling for the oxen. This was the first cart and oxen
ever seen in Detroit from our part of the town of Dearborn.
They reached home the following night, at about ten o'clock, and told me
about the trip.
We wanted apples, so father took his oxen, went and borrowed the cart,
loaded it with turnips, went down the river road half way to Detroit,
traded them with a Frenchman for apples and brought home a load which
were to us delicious fruit. In this way we got our apples for many years.
These apples were small, not so large and nice as those we had been used
to having; but they were Michigan apples and we appreciated them very
much. They lasted us through the winter and did us much good.
OUR SECOND HOUSE AND FIRST APPLE TREES.
Father said he would get us some apple trees. He had heard there was a
small nursery below Dearbornville. One morning he and I started for the
village; from there, we went to Mr. McVay's, about two miles east, near
Of him father bought thirteen apple trees, did them up in two bundles,
his large, mine small. We took them on our shoulders and started home,
through the woods, thus saving two miles travel. On our way we explored
woods we had never seen before.
We planted the apple trees on the west end of the little ridge. They are
now old trees. I passed them the other day and thought of the time we set
them. Now some of them look as if they were dying with old age. I counted
and found that some of them were gone. I thought there was no one but me,
who could tell how, or when, those trees were planted, as they are nearly
forty years old.
East of those trees father built his second house in 1836. He made the
body of this house of large whitewood logs, split oak shakes with which
to cover it, and dug a well east of the house. Into this well he put the
shell of a large buttonwood log; we called it a "gum." It was said that
water would not taste of buttonwood; we had very good water there.
Father borrowed Mr. Traverse's cart, loaded up our things and we were
glad to leave our Bark Covered house, clay door-yard and Mr. Pardee's
woods, to which we had lived so near, that we could see the sun only for
a short time in the afternoon.
In the house we were leaving we had some unwelcome visitors, an Indian,
John Williams, and a snake. One day, towards evening, mother was getting
supper, and as the floor boards were lain down loosely they would shake
as she walked across the floor. Some member of the family heard a
strange noise (something rattling) which seemed to come from a chest
that stood in the back part of the room on legs about six inches high.
Every time mother stepped on the board upon which he was coiled up, his
snakeship felt insulted and he would rattle to let them know that he was
there and felt indignant at being disturbed. Mother said they all tried
to find out what it was; they finally looked under the chest and there,
to their astonishment, they saw a large black rattlesnake all curled up
watching their movements and ready, with his poisonous fangs, to strike
any one that came within his reach. He was an interloper, a little too
bold. He had, however, gotten in the wrong place and was killed in the
room. He had, no doubt, crawled up through a hole in the floor at the
end of a board.
The children were very much alarmed and mother was frightened. She said
she thought it was a terrible place where poisonous reptiles would crawl
into the house. Near the house sometime after, brother John S. and sister
Sarah were out raking up some scattering hay. I suppose sister was out
for the sake of being out, or for her own amusement. While she was raking
she saw a large blue racer close by her with his head up nearly as high
as her own, looking at her and not seeming inclined to leave her. I never
heard of a blue racer hurting any one and this was the only one I ever
knew to make the attempt. Sister was greatly scared and hallooed and
screamed, as if struck with terror. Brother John S., then a little way
off ran to her as quickly as possible; while he was running the snake
circled around her but a few feet off and seemed determined to attack
her. Though brother was the younger of the two his courage was good. With
the handle of his pitchfork he struck the snake across the back, a little
below the head, and wounded him. Then he succeeded in sticking the tine
of the pitchfork through the snake's head; at that sister Sarah took
courage and tried with her rake to help brother in the combat. As she
held up the handle the snake wound himself around it so tightly that he
did not loosen his coils until he was dead. That snake measured between
six and seven feet in length.
We knew nothing of this species of reptile until we came to Michigan. I
have killed a great many of them, but have found that if one gets a rod
or two the start, it is impossible to catch him. I well recollect having
run after them across our clearing (where we first settled). They would
go like a streak of blue, ahead. I make this statement of the reptiles,
so that the people of Wayne County, or Michigan, who have no knowledge
of such things may know something about the vexatious and fearful
annoyances we had to contend with after we settled in Michigan.
We were all pleased when we got into the new house. We had a sand
door-yard, and lived near the centre of our place. East of this house, on
the little ridge, we raised our first patch of-water-melons, in Michigan.
Father said they raised good melons on Long Island, where it was sandy
soil, and he thought he could raise good ones there. He tried, and it
proved to be a success; the melons were excellent. When they were ripe
father borrowed the cart, picked a load of melons and (just before
sundown) started for Detroit. Mother and my little Michigan sister,
Abbie, went with us. I think it was the first time mother saw Detroit
after she left it, on the morning following her first arrival there. She
wished to do some trading, of course. Father and I walked. We took a
little hay to feed the oxen on the road. The next morning we reached
Detroit. The little market then stood near where the "Biddle House" now
stands, or between that and the river.
Father sold his melons to a Frenchman for one shilling apiece. The market
men said this was the first full load of melons ever on Detroit market;
at all events, I know it was the first load of melons ever drawn from the
town of Dearborn.
Mother's youngest sister lived in the city, and was at the store of Mr.
Cook, or "Cook & Burns," where we did some of our trading. Their store
was on Jefferson avenue. Mr. Cook was an eccentric man, and had his own
way of recommending his goods, and one which made much sport. Auntie
called for some calico. Mr. Cook took a piece off the shelf, threw it on
the counter, threw up both arms, put his hands higher than his head, then
picked it up again shook it and said: "There, who ever saw the like of
that in Michigan? Two shillings a yard! A yard wide, foot thick and the
colors as firm as the Allegheny Mountains!"
But an old colored woman came in who rather beat the clerk. She inquired
for cheap calico; the clerk threw down some and told her the price. She
said, "Oh that is too much! I want some cheap." Then the clerk threw down
some that looked old and faded. With a broad grin, showing her teeth and
the white of her eyes not a little, she said: "Oh, ho! my goot Lo'd dat
war made when Jope war paby!"
When father and mother had traded all they could afford, it was nearly
night, and we all got into the cart and started for home. We got upon the
Chicago road opposite where the Grand Trunk Junction now is, and stopped.
Mother thought she could not go any farther, and the oxen were tired.
Father went into a log house on the north side of the Chicago road and
asked them if they could keep us all night. They said they would, and we
turned in. They used us first-rate, and treated us with much respect.
Next morning after breakfast we went home.
THE JUG OF WHISKY AND TEMPERANCE MEETING.
I have already said that, as money was getting short; father sold Asa
Blare half of his oxen. They thought they could winter the oxen on marsh
hay. They found some they thought very good on the creek bottom, about a
mile and a quarter from where we lived. They said they would go right at
work and cut it before some one else found it. As there was some water on
the ground, and they would have to mow in the wet, they thought they
would send and get a jug of whisky.
In the morning we had an early breakfast, and they ground up their
scythes, then started, I with the jug, they with their scythes. We went
together as far as our new road. Father told me after I got the whisky,
to come back round the old trail to a certain place and call, when they
heard me they would come and get the jug.
I went to Dearborn, got my jug filled, paid two shillings a gallon, or
there-abouts, and started back. When I had gone as far as the turn of the
road, where Dr. Snow now lives, out of sight, I thought to myself I'd
take a drink. I had heard that whisky made one feel good and strong and
as my jug was heavy, took what I called "a good horn;" I thought,
however, it did not taste very pleasant. After that I went on as fast as
I could, a little over a mile, till I got beyond where the road was cut
out and into the trail, when I made up my mind I was stouter and my jug
really seemed lighter. There I stopped again and took what I called "a
good lifter." It burnt a little but I went on again till I came to the
creek, then I called father who answered.
I felt so wonderfully good that I thought I'd take one more drink
before he came in sight. So I took what I called "a good swig." When
father came he said they had found plenty of good grass and he wished
me to go and see it. I told him I didn't feel very well (I was afraid
he would discover what I had been doing, I began to feel queer) but I
The grass was as high as my head in places and very heavy. It was what we
call "blue-joint," mixed with a large coarse grass that grew three square
at the butt. I got to the scythes where they had been mowing, told father
I could mow that grass, took his scythe, cut a few clips and bent the
blade very badly. (He often told afterwards, how much stronger I was than
he, said he could mow the stoutest grass and not bend his scythe, but I
had almost spoiled it.) I lay down the scythe, everything seemed to be
bobbing up. I told father I was sick, he said I had better go home and I
started gladly and as quickly as possible. The ground didn't seem to me
to be entirely still, it wanted to raise up. I struck what I called a
"bee-line" for home. When I got there I told mother I was sick, threw
myself on her bed and kept as quiet as possible. When father came he
inquired how I was; I heard what he said. Mother told him I was very sick
but had got a little more quiet than I had been. He said they had better
not disturb me so I occupied their bed all night, the first time I had
ever had it all alone one night. The next morning I felt rather
crest-fallen but congratulated myself in that they did not know what the
trouble was, and they never knew (nor any of the rest of the family until
I state it now). But I knew at the time what the trouble was, and the
result was I had enough of whisky for many years, and took a decided
stand for temperance.
Some years after that, there was a temperance meeting at a log
school-house two miles and a half west of us. I was there and the house
was full. After the opening speech, which pleased me very much, others
were invited to speak. Thinking I must have a hand in I found myself on
the floor. When I got there and commenced speaking, if it had been
reasonable, I would have said I was somebody else, I would have been glad
to have crawled out of some very small knot-hole, but I found it was I
and that there was no escaping, so I proceeded.
Of course I did not relate my own experience, nor tell them that I had
been sick. I gave them a little of the experience of others that I had
heard. I had an old temperance song book from which I borrowed some
extracts and appropriated them as my own. I swung my arms a little and
with my finger pointed out the points. I stepped around a little and
tried to stamp to make them believe that what I said was true. As I
advanced and became more interested I spoke loud, to let them know it was
I, and that I was in earnest. I admonished them all to let whisky alone.
Told some of its pernicious effects; how much money it cost, how many
lives it had taken, how many tears it had caused to flow and how many
homes it had made desolate.
When I came away I was pleased with myself, and thought I had made quite
a sensation. A few days afterward I met my friend, William Beal, and
asked him how the neighbors liked the temperance meeting. Of course, I
was anxious to know what they said about my speech. He told me the old
lady said I was "fluent and tonguey," that I was like a sort of a lawyer,
she named, who lived at Dearbornville. I knew this man well, and hadn't a
very good opinion of him. But what she said was not so much of a breaker
as what the old gentleman said, for I considered him in many respects a
very intelligent man. He came here from Westchester County, near
Peakskill. He owned the farm and lived on it (I have seen where he lived)
which was given to John Spaulding for the capture of Major Andre. His
occupation there was farming and droving. He drove cattle to New York
city in an early day, when that great metropolis was but a small city. I
have often heard him tell about stopping at Bullshead. He said that was
the drovers' headquarters. I know he was worth ten thousand dollars
there, at one time; how much more I cannot say, but somehow his thousands
dwindled to hundreds and he came here to seek a second fortune.
Of course I thought a man of his experience was capable of forming a
pretty correct opinion of me. He said, "Who is he? His father brought him
here, and dropped him in the woods; he's been to mill once and to meeting
twice. What does he know?"
When I heard this it amused me very much, although the decision seemed
to be against me. I made no more inquiries about temperance meeting, in
fact, I didn't care to hear any more about it.
Writing my first temperance effort has blown all the wind out of my
sails, and if I were not relating actual occurrences I should certainly
be run ashore. As it is, sleep may invigorate and bring back my memory.
When relating facts it is not necessary to call on any muse, or fast, or
roam into a shady bower, where so many have found their thoughts. When
relating facts, fancy is hot required to soar untrodden heights where
thought has seldom reached; but too freely come back all the weary days,
the toils, fears and vexations of my early life in Michigan, if not
frightened away by the memory of the decision of the old lady and
gentleman, on my temperance speech.
Perhaps I should say, in honor of that old gentleman, Mr. Joseph Pardee,
now deceased, that he was well advanced in years when he came to
Michigan, in the fall of 1833, stuck his stakes and built the first log
house on the Ecorse, west of the French settlement, at its mouth, on
Detroit River. He was a man of a strong-mind and an iron will. He cleared
up his land, made it a beautiful farm, rescued it from the wilderness,
acquired, in fact, a good fortune. When he died, at the good old age of
eighty-one years, he left his family in excellent circumstances. He died
in the year one thousand eight hundred and fifty-nine.
HOW WE FOUND OUR CATTLE.
The old cow always wore the bell. Early in the spring, when there were no
flies or mosquitoes to drive them up the cattle sometimes wandered off.
At such times, when we went to our chopping or work, we watched them, to
see which way they went, and listened to the bell after they were out of
sight in order that we might know which way to go after them if they
didn't return. Sometimes the bell went out of hearing but I was careful
to remember which way I heard it last.
Before night I would start to look for them, going in the direction I
last heard them. I would go half a mile or so into the woods, then stop
and listen, to see if I could hear the faintest sound of the bell. If I
could not hear it I went farther in the same direction then stopped and
listened again. Then if I did not hear it I took another direction, went
a piece and stopped again, and if I heard the least sound of it I knew it
from all other bells because I had heard it so often before.
That bell is laid up with care. I am now over fifty years old, but if
the least tinkling of that bell should reach my ear I should know the
sound as well as I did when I was a boy listening for it in the woods
When I found the cattle I would pick up a stick and throw it at them,
halloo very loudly and they would start straight for home. Sometimes, in
cloudy weather, I was lost and it looked to me as though they were going
the wrong way, but I followed them, through black-ash swales where the
water was knee-deep, sometimes nearly barefooted.
I always carried a gun, sometimes father's rifle. The deer didn't seem to
be afraid of the cattle; they would stand and look at them as they passed
not seeming to notice me. I would walk carefully, get behind a tree, and
take pains to get a fair shot at one. When I had killed it I bent bushes
and broke them partly off, every few rods, until I knew I could find the
place again, then father and I would go and get the deer.
Driving the cattle home in this way I traveled hundreds of miles. There
was some danger then, in going barefooted as there were some massassauga
all through the woods. As the country got cleared up they disappeared,
and as there are neither rocks, ledges nor logs, under which they can
hide, I have not seen one in many years.
One time the cattle strayed off and went so far I could not find them. I
looked for them until nearly dark but had to return without them. I told
father where I had been and that I could not hear the bell. The next
morning father and I started to see if we could find them. We looked two
or three days but could not find or hear anything of them. We began to
think they were lost in the wilderness. However, we concluded to look one
more day, so we started and went four or five miles southeast until we
struck the Reed creek. (Always known as the Reed creek by us for the
reason, a man by the name of Reed came with his family from the State of
New York, built him a log house and lived there one summer. His family
got sick, he became discouraged, and in the fall moved back to the State
of New York. The place where he lived, the one summer, was about two
miles south of our house and this creek is really the middle branch of
There was no settlement between us and the Detroit River, a distance of
six miles. We looked along the Reed creek to see if any cattle had
While we were looking there we heard the report of a rifle close by us
and hurried up. It was an Indian who had just shot a duck in the head.
When we came to him father told him it was a lucky shot, a good shot to
shoot it in the head. He said, "Me allers shoot head not hurt body." He
took us to his wigwam, which was close by, showed us another duck with
the neck nearly shot off. Whether he told the truth, or whether these two
were lucky shots, I cannot tell, but one thing I do know, in regard to
him, if he told us the truth he was an extraordinary man and marksman.
Around his wigwam hung from half a dozen to a dozen deer skins; they hung
on poles. His family seemed to consist of his squaw and a young squaw
almost grown up. Father told him we had lost our cattle, oxen and cow,
and asked him if he had seen them. We had hard work to make him
understand what we meant. Father said--cow--bell--strap round neck--he
tried to show him, shook his hand as if jingling a bell. Then father
said, oxen--spotted--white--black; he put his hand on his side and said:
black--cow--bell--noise, and then said, as nearly as we could understand,
"Me see them day before yesterday," and he pointed in the woods to tell
us which way. Father took a silver half-dollar out of his pocket, showed
it to the Indian, and told him he should have it if he would show us the
cattle. He wiped out his rifle, loaded it and said, "Me show." He took
his rifle and wiper and started with us; we went about half a mile and he
showed us where he had seen them. We looked and found large ox's tracks
and cow's tracks. I thought, from the size and shape of them, they were
our cattle's tracks. The Indian started upon the tracks, father followed
him, and I followed father. When we came to high ground, where I could
hardly see a track; the Indian had no trouble in following them, and he
went on a trot. I had hard work to keep up with him. I remember well how
he looked, with his bowing legs, it seemed as if he were on springs. He
moved like an antelope, with such ease and agility. He looked as if he
hardly touched the ground.
The cattle, in feeding round, crossed their own tracks sometimes. The
Indian always knew which were the last tracks. He followed all their
crooks, we followed him by sight, which gave us a little the advantage,
and helped us to keep in sight. He led us, crooking about in this way,
for nearly two hours, when we came in hearing of the bell. I never had a
harder time in the woods but once, and it was when I was older, stronger,
and better able to stand a chase, that time I was following four bears,
and an Indian tried to get them away. I was pleased when we got to the
cattle. Father paid the Indian the half-dollar he had earned so well, and
thanked him most heartily, whether he understood it or not. Father asked
the Indian the way home, he said, "My house, my wigwam, which way my
home?" The Indian pointed with his wiper, and showed us the way.
Father said afterward, it was strange that the Indian should know where
he lived, as he had never seen him before. I never saw that Indian
The cattle were feeding on cow-slips and leeks, which grew in abundance,
also on little French bogs that had just started up. We hallooed at them
very sharply and they started homeward, we followed them, and that night
found our cattle home again. Mother and all the children were happy to
see them come, for they were our main dependence. They were called many
dear names and told not to go off so far any more.
TROUBLE CAME ON THE WING.
Among the annoyances common to man and beast in Michigan, of which we
knew nothing where we came from, were some enormous flies. There were two
kinds that were terrible pests to the cattle. They actually ate the hide
off, in spots. First we put turpentine, mixed with sufficient grease so
as not to take the hair off, on those spots. But we found that fish oil
was better, the flies would not bite where that was.
What we called the ox-flies were the most troublesome. In hot weather and
in the sun, where the mosquitoes didn't trouble, they were most numerous.
They would light on the oxen in swarms, on their brisket, and between
their legs where they could not drive them off. I have frequently struck
these flies with my hand and by killing them got my hand red with the
blood of the ox.
The other species of flies, we called Pontiacers. This is a Michigan
name, and originated I was told, from one being caught near Pontiac with
a paper tied or attached to it having the word Pontiac written upon it.
These flies were not very numerous; sometimes there were three or four
around at once. When they were coming we could hear and see them for some
rods. Their fashion was to circle around the oxen before lighting on
them. I frequently slapped them to kill them, sometimes I caught them, in
that case they were apt to lose their heads, proboscis and all. These
flies were very large, some were black and some of the largest were
whitish on the front of the back. I have seen some of them nearly as
large as young humming birds. The Germans tell me they have this kind of
fly in Germany. But with the mosquitoes, these flies have nearly
HARD TIMES FOR US IN MICHIGAN, 1836-7.
The oxen having worked hard and been used to good hay, which we bought
for them, grew poor when they were fed on marsh hay. Then Mr. Blare
wanted to sell his part to father; then the cattle would not have so much
to do. Father was not able to buy them, as his money was nearly gone. He
said he would mortgage his lot for one hundred dollars, buy them back,
buy another cow and have a little money to use.
He said he could do his spring's work with the cattle, then turn them
off, fatten them, and sell them in the fall for enough to pay the
mortgage. Mother said all she could to prevent it, for she could not bear
the idea of having her home mortgaged. It seemed actually awful to me,
for I thought we should not be able to pay it, and in all probability we
should lose the place. I said all I could, but to no avail. The whole
family was alarmed; one of the small children asked mother what a
mortgage was, she replied that it was something that would take our home
away from us, if not paid.
Father went to Dearbornville and mortgaged his lot to Mrs. Phlihaven, a
widow woman, for one hundred dollars, said to be at seven per cent., as
that was lawful interest then. We supposed, at the time, he got a hundred
dollars, but he got only eighty. Probably the reason he did not let us
know the hard conditions of the mortgage, was because we opposed it so.
Mrs. Phlihaven said as long as he would pay the twenty dollars shave
money, and the seven dollars interest annually, she would let it run. And
it did run until the shave money and interest more than ate up the
Father bought the oxen back for the old price, forty dollars, and bought
another cow, of Mr. McVay, for which he paid eighteen dollars, leaving
him twenty-two dollars of the hired money.
It was now spring, the oxen became very poor, one of them was taken sick
and got down. Father said he had the hollow horn and doctored him for
that; but I think to day, if the oxen had had a little corn meal, and
good hay through the winter, they would have been all right.
After the ox got down, and we could not get him up he still ate and
seemed to have a good appetite. I went to Dearbornville, bought hay at
the tavern and paid at the rate of a dollar a hundred. I tied it up in a
rope, carried it home on my back and fed it to him. Then I went into the
woods, with some of the other children, and gathered small brakes that
lay flat on the ground. They grew on beech and maple land, and kept green
all winter. The ox ate some of them, but he died; our new cow, also, died
in less than two weeks after father bought her. Then we had one ox, our
old cow, and two young cattle we had raised from her, that we kept
through the spring. In the summer the other ox had the bloody murrain
and he died.
Then we had no team, no money to get a team with, and our place was
mortgaged. Now when father got anything for the family he had to bring it
home himself. We got out of potatoes, these he bought at Dearbornville,
paid a dollar a bushel for them, and brought them home on his back. He
sent me to the village for meal. I called for it and the grocerman
measured it to me in a quart measure which was little at the top, such as
liquors are measured with. I carried the meal home. In this way we had to
pack home everything we bought.
When potatoes got ripe we had plenty of the best. On father's first visit
to Michigan he was told that the soil of Michigan would not produce good
potatoes. We soon found that this was a mistake for we had raised some
good ones before, but not enough to last through the summer.
We still had wheat but sometimes had to almost do without groceries. We
always had something to eat but sometimes our living was very poor.
Sometimes we had potatoes and milk and sometimes thickened milk. This was
made by dampening flour, rolling it into fine lumps and putting them into
boiling milk with a little salt, and stirring it until it boiled again.
This was much more palatable than potatoes and milk.
One afternoon two neighbors' girls came to visit us. They stayed late.
After they went away I asked mother why she didn't give them some tea;
she said she had no tea to give them, and that if she had given them the
best she had they would have gone away and told how poor we were.
Mother had been used to better days and to treating her guests well, and
her early life in Michigan did not take all of her spirit away. She was a
little proud as well as I, but I have learned that pride, hard times and
poverty are very poor companions. It was no consolation to think that the
neighbors, most of them, were as bad off as we were. This made the thing
A SUMMER HUNT.
Father and I went hunting one day. I took my shot-gun, loaded with half a
charge of shot and three rifle bullets, which just chambered in the
barrel, so I thought I was ready to shoot at anything. Father went ahead
and I followed him; we walked very carefully in the woods looking for
deer; went upon a sand ridge where father saw a deer and shot at it. I
recollect well how it looked; it was a beautiful deer, almost as red as a
cherry. After he shot, it stood still. I asked father, in a whisper, if I
might not shoot. He said, "Keep still!" (I had very hard word to do so,
and think if he had let me shot, I should have given it a very loud call,
at least, I think I should have killed it.) Father loaded his rifle and
shot again. The last time he shot, the deer ran away. We went to the
place where it had stood. He had hit it for we found a little blood; but
it got away.
It is said "the leopard cannot change his spots nor the Ethiopian his
skin," but the deer, assisted by nature, can change both his color and
his hide. In summer the deer is red, and the young deer are covered with
beautiful spots which disappear by fall. The hair of the deer is short in
summer and his hide is thick. At this time the hide is most valuable by
the pound. His horns grow and form their prongs, when growing we call
them in their velvet; feel of them and they are soft, through the summer
and fall, and they keep growing until they form a perfect horn, hard as a
bone. By the prongs we are able to tell the number of years old they are.
In the fall of the year when an old buck has his horns fully grown to see
him running in his native forest is a beautiful sight. At that season his
color has changed to a bluish grey. When the weather gets cold and it
freezes hard his horns drop off, and he has to go bareheaded until
spring. Then his hair is very long and grey. Deer are commonly poor in
the spring, and at this season their hide is very thin and not worth
much. So we see the deer is a very singular animal. As I have been going
through the woods I have often picked up their horns and carried them
home for curiosities. They were valuable for knife-handles.
When the old buck is started from his bed and is frightened how he
clears the ground. You can mark him from twenty to thirty feet at every
jump. (I have measured some of his jumps, by pacing, and found them to
be very long, sometimes two rods.) How plump he is, how symmetrically
his body is formed, and how beautiful the appearance of his towering,
branching antlers! As he carries them on his lofty head they appear like
a rocking chair. As he sails through the air, with his flag hoisted, he
sometimes gives two or three of his whistling snorts and bids defiance
to all pursuers in the flight. He is able to run away from any of his
enemies, in a fair foot race, but not always able to escape from flying
missiles of death.
Before the fawn is a year old, if frightened and startled from its bed,
it runs very differently from the old deer. Its jump is long and high.
It appears as though it were going to jump up among the small tree tops.
The next jump is short and sometimes sidewise, then another long jump
and so on. It acts as though it did not know its own springs, or were
cutting up its antics, and yet it always manages to keep up with the
rest of the deer.
Father had killed some deer. He shot one of the largest red bucks I had
seen killed. After this we wanted meat. Father said we'll go hunting and
see if we can get a deer. He said I might take his rifle and he would
take my gun. (For some reason or other he had promoted me, may be he
thought I was luckier than he.) We started out into the woods south of
our house, I went ahead. There was snow on the ground, it was cold and
the wind blew very hard. We crossed the windfall. This was a strip of
land about eighty rods wide. It must have been a revolving whirlwind that
past there, for it had taken down pretty much all the timber and laid it
every way. Nothing was left standing except some large trees that had
little tops, these were scattered here and there through the strip. It
struck the southeast corner of what was afterward our place. Here we had
about three acres of saplings, brush and old logs that were windfalls.
I think this streak of wind must have passed about ten years before we
came to the country. It came from the openings in the town of Taylor,
went a northeast course until it struck the Rouge (after that I have no
knowledge of it.) In this windfall had grown up a second growth of
timber, saplings and brush, so thick that it was hard work to get through
or see a deer any distance. We got south of the windfall and scared up a
drove of deer, some four or five.
The woods were cracking and snapping all around us; we thought it was
dangerous and were afraid to be in the woods. Still we thought we would
run the risk and follow the deer. They ran but a little ways, stopped and
waited until we came in sight, then ran a little ways again. They seemed
afraid to run ahead and huddled up together, the terrible noise in the
timber seemed to frighten them. The last time I got sight of them they
were in a small opening standing by some large old logs. I remember well
to this day just how the place looked. I drew up the rifle and shot.
Father was right behind me; I told him they didn't run. He took the rifle
and handed me my gun, saying, "Shoot this." I shot again, this gun was
heavily loaded and must have made a loud report, but could not have been
heard at any great distance on account of the roaring wind in the
tree-tops. The deer were still in sight, I took the rifle, loaded it, and
shot again; then we loaded both guns but by this time the deer had
disappeared. We went up to where they had stood and there lay a beautiful
deer. Then we looked at the tracks where the others had run off, and
found that one went alone and left a bloody trail, but we thought best to
leave it and take home the one we had killed. When we got home we showed
our folks what a fat heavy deer we had and they were very much pleased,
as this was to be our meat in the wilderness.
A man by the name of Wilson was at our house and in the afternoon he
volunteered to go with us after the other deer. We took our dog and
started taking our back tracks to where we left; we followed the deer but
a very little ways before we came across the other one we had hit; it had
died, and we took it home, thinking we had been very fortunate. Here I
learned that deer could be approached in a windy time better than in any
other. I also learned that the Almighty, in His wisdom, provided for his
creatures, and caused the elements, wind and snow, to work together for
Now we were supplied with meat for a month, with good fat venison, not
with quails, as God supplied his ancient people over three thousand years
before, in the wilderness of Sinai, or at the Tabernacle, where six
hundred thousand men wept for flesh, and there went forth a wind and
brought quails from the Red Sea. No doubt they were fat and delicious,
and the wind let them fall by the camp, and around about the camp, for
some distance. They were easily caught by hungry men. Thus was the wind
freighted with flesh to feed that peculiar people a whole month and more.
When the terrific wind, that helped us to capture the deer, raged through
the tree-tops it sounded like distant thunder. It bent the tall trees, in
unison, all one way, as if they agreed to bow together before the power
that was upon them. When they straightened up they shook their tops as
though angry at one another, broke off some of the limbs which they had
borne for years, and sent them crashing to the ground.
Some of the trees were blown up by the roots, and if allowed to remain
would in time form such little mounds as we children took to be Indian
graves when we first came into the woods. Those little mounds are
monuments, which mark the places where some of those ancient members of
the forest stood centuries ago, and they will remain through future ages
unless obliterated by the hand of man.
We thought that the wind blew harder here than in York State, where we
came from. We supposed the reason was that the mountains and hills of New
York broke the wind off, and this being a flat country with nothing to
break the force of the wind, except the woods, we felt it more severely.
HOW WE GOT INTO TROUBLE ONE NIGHT, AND I SCARED.
One warm day in winter father and I went hunting. I had the rifle that
day. We went south, crossed the windfall and Reed creek, and went into
what we called the "big woods." We followed deer, but seemed to be very
unlucky, for I couldn't shoot them. We travelled in the woods all day and
hunted the best we could.
Just at sundown, deer that have been followed all day are apt to stop and
browse a little. Then if the wind is favorable and blowing from them to
you, it is possible to get a shot at them; but if the wind is blowing
from you to them, you can't get within gunshot of them. They will scent
you. They happened to be on the windward side, as we called it. I got a
shot at one and killed it. It was late and, carelessly, I didn't load the
rifle. It being near night, I thought I should not have a chance to shoot
It was my custom to load the rifle after shooting, and if I didn't have
any use for it before, when I got near home, I shot at a mark on a tree
or something. In that way I practiced shooting and let the folks know I
was coming. In this way I also kept the rifle from rusting, as sometimes
it was wet; when I got into the house I cleaned it off and wiped it out.
In a few minutes we had skinned the two fore quarters out. Then we
wrapped the fore part of the hide around the hind quarters, and each took
a half and started. It was now dark, and we did not like to undertake
going home straight through the woods, so took our way to the Reed house,
from which there was a dim path through to Pardee's, and we could find
our way home.
We were tired and hungry, and our feet were wet from travelling through
the soft snow. As Mr. Reed had moved away there was no one in the house,
and we went in and kindled a fire in the fireplace. The way we did it, I
took some "punk" wood out of my pocket, held flint stone over it, struck
the flint with my knife, and the punk soon took fire. We put a few
whitlings on it, then some sticks we had gathered in the way near by the
house. We soon had a good fire and were warming and drying our feet.
This "punk" I got from soft maple trees. When I wanted some I went into
the woods and looked for an oldish tree, looked up, and if I could see
black knots on the body of the tree, toward the top, I knew there was
"punk" wood in it and would cut it down, then cut half way through the
log, above and below the black knot, and split it off. In the center of
the log I was sure to find "punk" wood. Sometimes, in this way, I got
enough to last a year or two from one tree. It was of a brown color and
was found in layers, which were attached and adhered together. When I
chopped a tree I took out all I could find, carried it home, laid it up
in a place where it would get drier, and it was always ready for use.
We had to use the utmost precaution not to get out of this material.
Sometimes I have known my little Michigan sister, Abbie, to go more than
a quarter of a mile, to the Blare place, to borrow fire; on such
occasions we had to wait for breakfast until she returned. I do not know
that the fire was ever paid back, but I do know that we had callers
frequently when the errand was to borrow fire.
When I went hunting I was careful to take a piece of this with me. I
broke or tore it off (it was something like tearing old cloth). With
this, a flint and a jackknife I could make a fire in case night overtook
me in the woods and I could not get out. Fire was our greatest protection
from wild animals and cold in the night. This was the way we kindled our
fire in the Reed house, before "Lucifer matches" or "Telegraph matches"
were heard of by us, although they were invented as early as 1833. After
we got a little comfortable and rested, and the wood burned down to coals
we cut some slices of venison, laid them on the coals and roasted them.
Although we had no salt, the meat tasted very good.
Late in the evening we took our venison and started again. It was hard
work to follow the path in the thick woods, and we had to feel the way
with our feet mostly as it was quite dark. We had got about eighty rods
from the house when, as unexpected as thunder in the winter, broke upon
our startled ears the dismal yells and awful howls of wolves. No doubt
they had smelled our venison and come down from the west, came down
almost upon us and broke out with their hideous yells. The woods seemed
to be alive with them. Father said: "Load the rifle quick!" I dropped my
venison, and if ever I loaded a gun quick, in the dark, it was then. I
threw in the powder, ran down a ball without a patch, and, strange to
say, before I got the cap on the wolves were gone, or at least they were
still, we didn't even hear them run or trot. What it was that frightened
them we never knew; whether it was our stopping so boldly or the smell
of the powder, or what, I cannot say; but we did refuse to let them have
our venison. We got away with it as quickly as possible and carried it
Another wolf adventure worth relating: I had been deer hunting; I had
been off beyond what we called the Indian hill and was returning home. I
was southwest of this hill, and on the north side of a little ridge which
ran to the hill, when two wolves came from the south. They ran over the
little ridge, crossing right in front of me, to go into a big thicket
north. I had my rifle on them. They did halt, but in shooting very
quickly I did not get a very good sight, however, I knocked one down and
thought I had killed him. (They were just about of a size, and when I
shot, the other went back like a flash the way he came from.) I loaded
the rifle, but before I had it loaded the one I had shot got up and
looked at me. I saw what I had done. I had cut off his lower jaw, close
up, and it hung down. Another shot finished him quickly. He measured six
feet from the end of his nose to the point of his tail.
I have seen many wolves, I have seen them in shows, but never saw any
that compared in size with these Michigan wolves. It takes a very
large, long dog to measure five feet. There was a bounty on wolves. I
went down through the woods to Squire Goodel's, who lived near the
Detroit river, got him to make out my papers and got the bounty. These
pests were more shy in the day-time. They were harder to get a shot at
than the deer. There were many of them in the woods, and we heard them
so often nights that we became familiar with them. When the "Michigan
Central Railroad" was built, and the cars ran through Dearborn, there
was something about the iron track, or the noise of the cars which
drove them from the country.
THE INDIANS VISIT US--THEIR STRANGE AND PECULIAR WAYS.
Some three or four years after we came to the country there came a
tribe, or part of a tribe, of Indians and camped a little over a mile
southwest of our house, in the timber, near the head of the windfall
next to the openings. They somewhat alarmed us, but father said, "Use
them well, be kind to them and they will not harm us." I suppose they
came to hunt. It was in the summer time and the first we knew of them,
my little brother and two sisters had been on the openings picking
huckleberries not thinking of Indians. When they started home and got
into the edge of the woods they were in plain sight of Indians, and they
said it appeared as if the woods were full of them. They stood for a
minute and saw that the Indians were peeling bark and making wigwams:
they had some trees already peeled.
They said they saw one Indian who had on a sort of crown, or wreath, with
feathers in it that waved a foot above his head. They saw him mount a
sorrel pony. As he did so the other Indians whooped and hooted, I
suppose to cheer the chief. Childlike they were scared and thought that
he was coming after them on horseback. They left the path and ran right
into the brush and woods, from home. When they thought they were out of
sight of the Indian they turned toward home. After they came in sight of
home, to encourage his sisters, my little brother told them, he wouldn't
be afraid of any one Indian but, he said, there were so many there it was
enough to scare anybody. When they got within twenty rods of the house
they saw some one coming beyond the house with a gun on his shoulder. One
said it was William Beal, another said it was an Indian. They looked
again and all agreed that it was an Indian. If they had come straight
down the lane, they would have just about met him at the bars, opposite
the house, (where we went through). There was no way for them to get to
the house and shun him; except to climb the fence and run across the
field. The dreaded Indian seemed to meet them everywhere, and if possible
they were more scared now than before. Brother and sister Sarah were over
the fence very quickly. Bessie had run so hard to get home and was so
scared that in attempting to climb the fence she got part way up and fell
back, but up and tried again. Sister Sarah would not leave her but helped
her over. But John S. left them and ran for his life to the house; as
soon as they could get started they ran too. Mother said Smith ran into
the house looking very scared, and went for the gun. She asked him what
was the matter, and what he wanted of the gun; he said there was an
Indian coming to kill them and he wanted to shoot him. Mother told him
to let the gun alone, the Indian would not hurt them; by this time my
sisters had got in. In a minute or two afterward the Indian came in,
little thinking how near he had come being shot by a youthful hero.
Poor Indian wanted to borrow a large brass kettle that mother had and
leave his rifle as security for it. Mother lent him the kettle and he
went away. In a few days he brought the kettle home.
A short time after this a number of them had been out to Dearbornville
and got some whisky. All but one had imbibed rather too freely of
"Whiteman's fire water to make Indian feel good." They came down as far
as our house and, as we had no stick standing across the door, they
walked in very quietly, without knocking. The practice or law among the
Indians is, when one goes away from his wigwam, if he puts a stick across
the entrance all are forbidden to enter there; and, as it is the only
protection of his wigwam, no Indian honorably violates it. There were ten
of these Indians. Mother was washing. She said the children were very
much afraid, not having gotten over their fright. They got around behind
her and the washtub, as though she could protect them. The Indians asked
for bread and milk; mother gave them all she had. They got upon the
floor, took hold of hands and formed a ring. The sober one sat in the
middle; the others seemed to hear to what he said as much as though he
had been an officer. He would not drink a drop of the whisky, but kept
perfectly sober. They seemed to have a very joyful time, they danced and
sang their wild songs of the forest. Then asked mother for more bread and
milk; she told them she had no more; then they asked for buttermilk and
she gave them what she had of that. As mother was afraid, she gave them
anything she had, that they called for. They asked her for whisky; she
said she hadn't got it. They said, "Maybe you lie." Then they pointed
toward Mr. Pardee's and said, "Neighbor got whisky?" She told them she
didn't know. They said again, "Maybe you lie."
When they were ready the sober one said, "Indian go!" He had them all
start in single file. In that way they went out of sight. Mother was
overjoyed and much relieved when they were gone. They had eaten up all
her bread and used up all her milk, but I suppose they thought they had
had a good time.
Not more than two or three weeks after this the Indians moved away, and
these children of the forest wandered to other hunting grounds. We were
very much pleased, as well as the other neighbors, when they were gone.
Father had a good opinion of the Indians, though he had been frightened
by the first one, John Williams, and was afraid of losing his life by
him. He considered him an exception, a wicked, ugly Indian. Thought,
perhaps, he had been driven away from his own tribe, and was like Cain, a
vagabond upon the face of the earth. He was different from other Indians,
as some of them had the most sensitive emotions of humanity. If you did
them a kindness they would never forget it, and they never would betray a
friend; but if you offended them or did them an injury, they would never
forget that either. These two traits of character run parallel with their
lives and only terminate with their existence.
I recollect father's relating a circumstance that happened in the
State of New York, about the time of the Revolutionary War. He said an
Indian went into a tavern and asked the landlord if he would give him
something to eat. The landlord repulsed him with scorn, told him he
wouldn't give him anything and to get out of the house, for he didn't
want a dirty Indian around. There was a gentleman sitting in the room
who saw the Indian come in and heard what was said. The Indian started
to go; the gentleman stepped up and said: "Call him back, give him what
he wants, and I'll pay for it." The Indian went back, had a good meal
and was well used; then he went on his way and the gentleman saw him no
more, at that time.
Shortly after this the gentleman emigrated to the West, and was one of
the advanced guards of civilization. He went into the woods, built him a
house and cleared a piece of land. About this time there was a war in the
country. He was taken captive and carried away a long distance, to an
Indian settlement. He was tried, by them, for his life, condemned to
death and was to be executed the next morning. He was securely bound and
fastened. The chief detailed an Indian who, he thought, knew something of
the whites and their tricks and would be capable of guarding the captive
safely, and he was set as a watch to keep him secure until morning. I
have forgotten what father said was to have been the manner of his
execution; whether he was to be tomahawked or burned, at all events he
was to meet his fate in the morning. Late in the night, after the
warriors were fast asleep and, perhaps, dreaming of their spoils, when
everything was still in the camp, the Indian untied and loosed the
captive, told him to be careful, still, and follow him. After they were
outside the camp, out of hearing, the Indian told the white man that he
was going to save his life and show him the way home. They traveled until
morning and all that day, and the night following, the next morning they
came out in sight of a clearing and the Indian showed him a house and
asked him if he knew the place; he said he did. Then the Indian asked him
if he knew him; he told him that he did not. Then he referred him to the
tavern and asked if he remembered giving an Indian something to eat. He
said he did. "I am the one," said the Indian, "and I dare not go back to
my own tribe, they would kill me." Here the friends par Led to meet no
more. One went home to friends and civilization; the other went an exile
without friends to whom he dared go, with no home, a fugitive in the
There was a man by the name of H. Moody who often visited at father's
house he told me that when he was young he was among the Mohawk Indians
in Canada. This tribe formerly lived in what is now the State of New
York. They took up on the side of the English, were driven away to Canada
and there settled on the Grand River. Mr. Moody was well acquainted with
the sons of the great chief, Brant, and knew the laws and customs of the
tribe. He said when they considered one of their tribe very bad they set
him aside and would have nothing to do with him.
If one murdered another of the same tribe he was taken up and tried by a
council, and if it was found to be wilful murder, without any cause, he
was condemned and put to death; but if there were any extenuating
circumstances which showed that he had some reason for it, he was
condemned and sentenced, by the chief, to sit on the grave of his victim
for a certain length of time. That was his only hope and his "City of
refuge." If any of the relatives of the deceased wanted to kill him
there they had a right (according to their law) to do so. If he remained
and lived his time out, on the horrible place, he was received back
again to the fellowship of his tribe. This must have been a terrible
punishment. It showed, however, the Indian's love of his tribe and
country, to sit there and think of the danger of being shot or
tomahawked, and of the terrible deed he had committed. He had taken away
what he could never give. How different was his case from the one who
left tribe, friends and home, and ran away to save the life of a white
man who had given him bread.
About two and a half miles southwest of our house there was a large sand
hill. Huckleberries grew there in abundance. I went there and picked some
myself. On the top of that hill we found Indian graves, where some had
been recently buried. There were pens built of old logs and poles around
them, and we called it the "Indian Hill." It is known by that name to
this day. The old telegraph road runs right round under the brow of this
hill. This hill is in the town of Taylor. I don't suppose there are many
in that town who do not know the hill or have heard of it, and but few in
the town of Dearborn. I don't suppose there are six persons living who
know the reason it is called the "Indian Hill" for we named it in a very
Some twelve or fifteen years after this a man by the name of Clark had
the job of grading down a sand hill nearly a mile south of Taylor Center.
In grading he had to cut down the bank six or seven feet and draw it off
on to the road. He hired me with my team to go and help him. I went. He
had been at work there before and he showed me some Indian bones that he
had dug up and laid in a heap. He said that two persons were buried
there. From the bones, one must have been very large, and the other
smaller. He had been very careful to gather them up. He said he thought
they were buried in a sitting or reclining posture, as he came to the
skulls first. The skulls, arm and thigh bones were in the best state of
preservation, and in fact, the most that was left of them.
I took one thigh bone that was whole, sat down on the bank and we
compared it with my own. As I was six feet, an inch and a half, we tried
to measure the best we could to learn the size of the Indian. We made up
our minds that he was at least seven, or seven and a half, feet tall. I
think it likely it was his squaw who sat by his side. They must have been
buried a very long time. We dug a hole on the north side of a little
black oak tree that stood on the hill west of the road, and there we
deposited all that remained of those ancient people. I was along there
the other day (1875) and as I passed I noticed the oak. It is now quite a
large tree; I thought there was no one living in this country, but me,
who knew what was beneath its roots. No doubt that Indian was a hunter
and a warrior in his day. He might have heard, and been alarmed, that the
white man had come in big canoes over the great waters and that they were
stopping to live beyond the mountains. But little did he think that in a
few moons, or "skeezicks" as they called it, he should pass to the happy
hunting ground, and his bones be dug up by the white man, and hundreds
and thousands pass over the place, not knowing that once a native
American and his squaw were buried there. That Indian might have sung
"And when this life shall end,
When calls the great So-wan-na,
Southwestern shall I wend,
To roam the great Savannah."
No doubt he was an observer of nature. In his day he had listened to the
voice of Gitche Manito, or the Great Spirit, in the thunder and witnessed
the display of his power in the lightning, as it destroyed the monster
oak and tore it in slivers from top to bottom, and the voice of the wind,
all told him that there was a Great Spirit. It told him if Indian was
good he would go to a better place, where game would be plenty, and, no
one would drive him away. No doubt he had made preparation for his
departure and wanted his bow, arrow, and maybe other things, buried with
him. If this was so they had disappeared as we found nothing of the kind.
It is known to be the belief of the Indian in his wild state, that he
will need his bow and arrow, or his gun and powder horn, or whatever he
has to hunt with here, to use after lie has passed over to the happy
About the time that Clark dug up the bones, I became acquainted with
something that I never could account for and it has always been a
mystery to me. An Englishman was digging a ditch on the creek bottom, to
drain the creek, a little over three-quarters of a mile west of
father's house. He was digging it six feet wide and two feet deep, where
brush called grey willows stood so thick that it was impossible for a
man to walk through them. He cut the brush and had dug eight or ten
inches when he came to red earth. Some day there had been a great fire
at this place. The streak of red ground was about an inch thick, and in
it he found what all called human bones. I went to see it myself and the
bones we gathered up were mostly small pieces, no whole ones; but we saw
enough to convince us that they were human bones. The ground that was
burned over might have been, from the appearance, twelve feet square. It
must have been done a great many years before, for the ground to make,
and the brush to grow over it.
This creek, the Ecorse, not being fed by any rivulets or springs from
hills or mountains, is supplied entirely by surface water. It is
sometimes quite a large stream, but during dry weather in the summer time
it is entirely dry. The Englishman was digging it deeper to take off the
surface water when it came.
It is possible that, sometime, Indians had burned their captives there.
In fact there is no doubt of it. It must have been the work of Indians.
We may go back in our imaginations to the time, when the place where the
city of Detroit now stands was an Indian town or village, and ask its
inhabitants if they knew who were burned twelve miles west of there on a
creek, they might not be able to tell. We might ask the giant Indian of
the sand hill, if he knew, and he might say, "I had a hand in that; it
was in my day." But we have no medium, through which we can find out the
dark mysteries of the past. They will have to remain until the light of
eternity dawns, and all the dead who have ever lived are called to be
again, and to come forth. Then the dark mysteries of the past which have
been locked up for centuries will be revealed.
THE INSIDE OF OUR HOUSE--A PICTURE FROM MEMORY.
As I have been led away, for some years, following poor Indian in his
belief, life and death, and in doing so have wandered from my story, I
will now return to the second or third year of our settlement. I
described how the body of our second house was made, and the roof put on.
I now look at its interior. The lower floor was made of whitewood boards,
in their rough state, nailed down. The upper floor was laid with the same
kind of boards, though they were not nailed When they shrunk they could
be driven together, to close the cracks. The chimney was what we called a
"stick" or "Dutch chimney." The way it was built; two crooked sticks, six
inches wide and four inches thick, were taken for arms; the foot of these
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