The Bark Covered House
Part 3 out of 4
might have examined them at my leisure.
We followed my tracks until we found where I left the bear tracks, then
we followed them. T supposed they were so tired they would lie down and
rest, probably in the windfall. But they were too badly scared for that.
They seemed to have traveled all night. We followed them across the north
part of the town of Taylor, through-the oak openings, into what we called
the west woods and into the town of Romulus. They had given us a wide
range before we came up to them, but here in a swamp or swale, between
two sand ridges, we found them. They saw us first and ran. As soon as we
saw we had started them we let the dogs go. They started with a rush.
"And then the dogs the game espy;
An ill bred and uncivil pack;
And such a wild discordant cry!
Another fury on his back!"
We could hear them yelp, yelp, yelp, while they were on the tracks and
heard them when they came up to the bears. Then there was a wonderful
confusion of voices. We could hear our dogs and they seemed to be
struggling hard for their lives. "Bow-wow, bow, bowwow, yelp, yelp, yelp,
tii, tii, tii."
When the dogs got to the bears we were about half a mile from them. We
hurried through the brush and over the logs, as fast as possible, to help
our canine friends for we supposed that they were in a life and death
struggle. It is now my opinion that there never was such a noise and
conflict in those woods before, nor since, at least heard by white men.
When we were about half way to where the battle raged most furiously, it
was all at once still; we could not hear a sound from them any more. We
went a little farther and met old Watch, and some of the other dogs
crawling back. Watch, by his wounds, gave a good report of his courage
himself. He was bleeding; had been wounded and torn badly. He was hurt
the worst of any of the dogs. Before we reached the battle ground we met
the last one; he was not hurt at all, he had kept a proper distance. But
they were all badly whipped or scared. They had got enough of the bears.
"Sir Bruin to his forest flew,
With heart as light as paws were fleet;
Nor further dare the curs pursue,
It was a 'masterly retreat.'"
When we got to the battle ground we could see where they had fought,
clenched and rolled over and over. The blood of the dogs was sprinkled
all around on the snow. We saw that it was the large bears which did the
fighting. They would not leave the small ones but fought for them. We saw
in one place, where the fight was the most severe, one bear had attempted
to climb a tree. He went up a piece on one side of it and down the other,
then jumped off, before we got in sight, and ran. We could see by the
marks of the claws, on the bark of the tree, and the tracks, where he
jumped oft, that he had climbed part way up.
I have seen hundreds of times in the woods where bears had reached up as
high as they could around little trees and scratched them. It showed the
plainest on beech trees as their bark is smooth. It is easy to see the
size of the bear's paws and his length from the ground by these marks on
That day we saw where the bears had done some marking of dogs as well as
trees. We found that the dogs had separated the bears, some having gone
one way and some another. The grit had been taken out of us as well as
out of the dogs, and the bear hunt had lost its charms for us. We were a
long ways from home and we thought it best to get our wounded dogs back
there again, if we could. We gave up the chase and let those bears go. I
felt the effects of the previous day's chase and tired out more easily; I
wished I had let the Indian have the bears to do what he was a mind to
with, and that I had never seen them.
I presume there are now many persons in Wayne County, who little think
that thirty-three years ago, 1842, there could have been four wild bears
followed, in different towns in that county, for two days; yet such was
the case. This was about the last of my hunting. My attention was called
to other business, of more importance which I thought it was necessary
for me to attend to, so I hung up my rifle and have not used it to hunt
with, in the woods, six full days since. That Indian, who wanted the
bears, was the last Indian I ever saw in the woods hunting for a living.
I don't think there is a wild deer in the town of Dearborn at this day
and but very few, if any, in Wayne County. I heard that there was one
bear killed by a man, near the mouth of the Ecorse, last fall, 1874. He
was a stranger and, no doubt, far from his native home. He was the first
one I have heard of being seen in this country for years.
GRANDFATHER'S POWDER-HORN--WAR WITH PIRATES.
Time sped on. The earth had traveled its circuit many times since father
sold his little place in Putnam County, State of New York, and bade adieu
to all the dear scenes of his childhood and youth and came to battle, for
himself and family in the wilds of Michigan. And he did his part bravely.
He was a strong man; mentally and physically strong, and possessed just
enough of the love of a romantic and strange life, to help him battle
successfully with the incidents and privations common to such as settle
in a new country, with but little capital. He worked his way through. He
had a very retentive memory and possessed the faculty of pleasing his
visitors, to no common extent.
Father at the close of the Tripoli war, 1805, was about the age that I
was when we started for Michigan. He often told me of the war with
Tripoli and trouble with Algiers. He gloried in the name of an American
and often related the prowess and bravery of our soldiers, in defending
their flag and the rights of American citizens, at home and abroad, on
the land and on the sea.
Of course when the Fourth of July came round I went to celebrate the day.
As cannon were almost always fired at Dearbornville, on that day, I would
go out there to listen to the big guns and their tremendous roar, as they
were fired every minute for a national salute. The sound of their booming
died away beyond Detroit River, in Canada, and let the Canadians, and all
others in this part of the universe, know that we were holding the Fourth
of July in Dearbornville. When I went home at night I told father about
it, and what a good time I had enjoyed, and that they fired one big gun
in honor of Michigan.
On such days his patriotic feelings were wrought up and he talked much of
wars, patriotism and so forth. On such an occasion he told me that his
father, William Nowlin, was a captain of militia, in the State of New
York, when he was a boy. That I was named for him and that, when he was
done with it, I should have my grandfather's ancient powder-horn. It is
red and carved out very nicely, covered with beautiful scrolls and
old-fashioned letters. The two first letters of my grandfather's name, W.
N., are on it, and toward the smaller end of the horn--my father's given
name, John. These were inscribed on it long since the horn was made. It
was made when Washington was about twenty-five years old, and, no doubt,
saw service in the French and Indian war, in the defence of the English
colonies of America. Its history, some of it, is shrouded in mystery. It
has passed down through the revolutionary war, and the war of 1812,
through four generations of men, and was given to me by my father as an
heir-loom, a relic of the past.
Next to my father's given name is the inscription, E.b. Then follows
these old lines:
"I, powder, with my brother ball,
A hero like, do conquer all."
"'Tis best abroad with foreign foes to fight,
And not at home, to feel their hateful spite,
Where all our friends of every sex and age,
Will be expos'd unto their cruel rage."
--Lieut. Abl Prindel's. Made at No. 4. June 30th, 1757.
The letters are old fashioned, the "s" on it is made as an "f" is made
now. I presume it was a present from Lieut. Prindel to grandfather. This
horn is sixteen inches long, measures nine and one-half inches around the
butt and would hold fully four pounds of powder.
Father said in the war with Tripoli, 1803, one of the Barbary States,
Captain Bainbridge sailed, in the Philadelphia, to Tripoli and chased one
of the pirate boats into the harbor. He ventured a little too far and ran
aground. The officers were made prisoners and the crew slaves, to the
Turks, and joined their countrymen who had preceded them. But, father
said, the Americans were too brave a people to be subjected to slavery.
Other Americans rescued them and it was proved that the United States
would protect their flag throughout all the world. He often told me of
Commodore Decatur and William Eaton. They were among his ideal American
heroes. He said that Decatur conceived the idea of retaking the
"Philadelphia" and destroying her. He sailed into the harbor of Tripoli
at night and up to the "Philadelphia," made his vessel, the "Intrepid,"
fast to her side and sprang on board. There he had often walked before
under very different circumstances, in the light of other days, when
thousands of miles away and among his friends. Now how changed the scene!
The "Philadelphia" was in an enemy's hands, and her guns loaded, to turn
on her former owners at a moment's notice. Decatur was followed by
seventy or eighty men, as brave Americans as ever walked on deck. The
surprise was complete, and the astonished Turks now saw the decks
swarming with Americans, armed and with drawn swords in their hands. Some
of the Tripolitans lost their heads, some of them cried for quarters,
others tried to climb in the shrouds and rigging of the ship and some
In ten minutes' time, Decatur and his crew were masters of the frigate.
Now what grieved him most was that the noble ship, which they had rescued
from the barbarous Arabs, had to be burned, it being impossible to remove
her from the sandbar where she lay. So they brought, on board the
"Philadelphia," combustible material, which they had with them on the
"Intrepid," and set her on fire. In a short time the flames were leaping
and dancing along the sides of the doomed ship. The devouring fire,
greedily burning, cracking and hissing, destroyed the timbers, leaped up
the spars, caught hold of the rigging and lighted up the whole place. It
could have been, and was, seen for miles. The spectacle was awfully grand
as well as sublime. Tripoli was lighted up and hundreds of people could
be seen in the streets, by the light of the burning ship.
The land forts and corsairs were all in plain sight of the American
fleet. The light enabled the enemy to see the bold "Intrepid," with her
valiant crew, leaving the burning ship and sailing away toward the
American blockading fleet. The forts and some of the galleys opened fire
upon them; it was one continuous roar of cannon belching forth fire and
missiles of death. The balls and shot went singing over their heads and
around, some striking the water and raising a cloud of spray which flew
in all directions. But the victorious crew paid no attention and quietly
sailed away to join their country's defenders. They were soon beyond the
reach of the foe and out of danger. Then they had time to consider what
they had accomplished. They had entered the enemy's stronghold,
re-captured and burned the "Philadelphia" and put her Arab crew to the
sword, or driven them into the sea. All this they did without the loss of
a single man. Father said that the inhabitants of Tripoli were Turks who
exacted taxes and received tribute from all Christian nations; that they
had taken some of the American seamen and held them as slaves. The Bashaw
declared war with America, (a country about which he knew but very
little.) He put his American slaves in chain-gangs, in this way they were
obliged to labor for that government. There was no chance for them to
escape and they must remain in slavery unless rescued by their
countrymen. Father said that the Turks of Tripoli were a band of pirates,
in disguise, robbers upon the high seas.
The war occurred during the administration of President Jefferson.
Congress sent Commodore Preble with a squadron of seven sail, and a
thousand men, armed with heavy cannon. They appeared before Tripoli; the
reigning Bashaw refused to treat for peace or give up his slaves, without
he received a large ransom. Then it was that the thunder of the American
cannon broke upon Tripoli and the bombardment of that city commenced,
1830. They were answered by hundreds of the enemy's guns. The earth
trembled, the sea shook, the wild waves danced and the white caps broke
as the cannon balls glanced on, plowed their way and plunged into the
water. The strong buildings of Tripoli trembled to their foundations and
hundreds of Arabs, who were out upon their roofs when the battle
commenced, to witness it, in five minutes' time were skedaddling for
their lives. The Bashaw's castle and the entire city felt severely the
heavy blows of the American cannon. The enemy's fleet took refuge under
the forts and away from the ships of North America. The "Constitution"
sunk one of their boats, run two aground and the rest got under shelter
the best they could.
One of the last wonders of the wrath of the Americans was poured out upon
Tripoli in the shape of a fire ship. It contained one hundred barrels of
powder stored away below deck, in a room prepared expressly for its
reception. On the deck, over the powder, was placed hundreds of shells
and pieces of iron, which the powder, when it exploded, would hurl as
messengers of destruction among the enemy. The "Intrepid" was the ship
selected for the daring deed. She was Decatur's favorite; with her he
captured the "Philadelphia." There were twelve American braves who
volunteered to take the fire-ship into the enemy's squadron and, near the
fort, to fire it with a slow match. Then they were to try and escape back
to their countrymen, in a small boat. When it was night they hoisted
their sails and the ship quietly started through the darkness, but
before they had gone as far as they wished to get, among the enemy's
boats, they were discovered from the fort and an alarm raised.
The great Decatur, with his comrades, stood gazing at the craft as it
receded from them and the sails disappeared in the distance and darkness
of the night. What must have been their feelings, as the noble ship
disappeared? They were, no doubt thinking of their comrades, so brave,
who might be going into the jaws of death. Could it be possible that they
would never return, that they would never meet any more? They looked and
listened, but they were gone, no sound of them could be heard. Awful
suspense--all at once the fort opened fire on the brave crew. The light
of their batteries brightened up the shore and the thunder of their
cannon shook sea and earth. But where were the twelve Americans? Brave
fellows, where were they? They had, no doubt, failed to get as far as
they wished to, before they were discovered, and risked their lives a
little too long. They applied the fire to the trail of powder and the
ship was blown up. Tripoli had never been shaken before, nor had she ever
witnessed such a sight. The flames shot up toward the sky; the whole city
was illuminated and the report and awful force caused by the blowing up
of the ship, made the enemy's vessels in the harbor heave to and fro, and
rock as though in a storm. Men's hearts failed them; they did not know
but that they were going to sink. The city itself was shaken to its
foundation, from center to circumference. Men stood trembling and gazed
with horror and astonishment. Not another cannon was fired, and the noise
they made was no more when compared with the noise of the explosion,
than the sound of a pop-gun compared to the sound of a cannon. In fact it
was no comparison at all. Thousands stood ghastly and pale not knowing
what the next moment might reveal. The proud Bashaw had been badly "shook
up" and disturbed in his dreams of conquering the Americans. He had heard
of the advance of William Eaton and he made up his mind that it was
dangerous, for him, to carry on a war with beings who fought more like
devils than men, so he concluded that he would go in for peace. The
twelve brave men, who went with the fireship, were never heard of again.
They returned to their comrades, to tell the thrilling story of their
last adventure, never, no never. They had sold their lives, for their
country, dearly. They were never to see their homes in North America, or
their loved ones again; they had met their fate bravely and sacrificed
their own lives for their country's glory.
Father also related the adventures and hardships that were encountered
and overcome by William Eaton, who formed a union with Hamet, the elder
brother and rightful heir to reign at Tripoli. Hamet had been driven from
his country and family, wife and children, and was in hopes, by the aid
of Eaton and the American war, of being reinstated at Tripoli. He joined
with General Eaton, who had received his commission from the American
government, and assumed the title of General. In conjunction with Hamet,
he raised an army of twelve hundred men, adventurers of all nations, who
volunteered to fight under the American flag. They started from
Alexandria, in Egypt, and marched a thousand miles across the desert of
Barca. They bore in their advance the American flag, something that had
never been seen in that country before. After a tedious march they
arrived at Derne, a city on the Mediterranean, belonging to Tripoli.
General Eaton summoned the city to surrender. The Governor sent him this
reply, "My head or yours." Then the American general drew up his men and
rapidly advanced to attack the fort, which defended the city. He met with
a strong resistance, the enemy numbering about three thousand. A terrible
fire of musketry enveloped the combatants in fire and smoke. The voice of
General Eaton, though he was wounded, was heard, amid the din of battle,
encouraging his men.
After a severe contest of about two hours they charged and carried, by
storm, the principal fort. They tore down the Tripolitan flag and ran up
the stripes and stars in its place. This was the first time it had ever
been raised over a fort on the Mediterranean Sea, or in fact the old
world. General Eaton was fortifying, making the place stronger, receiving
some volunteers, through the influence of Hamet, and preparing to march
upon Tripoli to help the American fleet. But he was in need of supplies
and every day was expecting to receive them.
As the city and harbor were under his control, he had everything in
readiness for his march, excepting the supplies, when the American
Frigate, the "Constitution," appeared and announced that peace was
declared, 1805. The conditions were that Hamet should leave the country
and his wife and children should be sent to him. The American prisoners
were to be exchanged and the American seamen not to be compelled to pay
tribute any more.
The Americans who had been enslaved by the government of Tripoli were to
be paid for the labor they had performed. It is evident that the reigning
Bashaw was alarmed for his own safety and was glad to compromise.
Father said it always grieved him to think, that the Americans who had
been held as slaves at Tripoli never returned to their native home. They
were paid for their service during the time they had been enslaved, went
on board a ship, sailed for North America and were never heard of again.
They slept the sleep of death with the twelve most brave beneath the dark
cold waves, never more to see their families or friends.
Father often repeated such stories in our wilderness home in regard to
this war, the revolutionary war and the war of 1812. I and the other
children always listened to these tales with much attention and interest.
It was the way I received most of my knowledge, in regard to such things,
in those days. As we lived in the woods of Michigan my means of acquiring
book-knowledge were very limited. Now, I believe, if I were to read the
sum and substance of the same thing every month in the year, for years;
the way he related those old stories would still be the accepted way to
my mind. Although they might be clothed in language more precise and far
more eloquent it would not appear so to me.
LIGHT BEGINS TO DAWN.
Father's farm improved with astonishing rapidity and became quite a
pleasant place. Some of the stumps rotted out, some we tore out and some
were burned up. In these ways many had disappeared and it began to look
like old land. It was rich and productive and, in truth, it looked as
level as a house floor. Some seasons it was rather wet, not being
ditched sufficiently to take the water off. Yet father raised large
crops of corn, potatoes, oats and wheat. Wheat grew very large but
sometimes ran too much to straw; some seasons, rust would strike it and
then the grain would shrink, but as that and gets older, and the more
the clay is worked up with the soil, the better wheat it raises. In my
opinion it will be as good wheat land as the oak openings or prairies of
the West for all time to come.
Father built him a good frame barn and was getting along well. He bought
him a nice pair of black horses which proved to be very good and
serviceable. It began to seem like home to mother. She too possessed
very good conversational powers. Her conversation was always accompanied
with a style of frankness and goodness, peculiar to herself, which gained
many friends, who became warmly attached to her, enjoyed her hospitality,
witnessed her good cheer, as they gathered around her board and enjoyed
luxuries, which in some of the years past we had not been able to
procure. The learned and illiterate, the rich and the poor, shared alike
her hospitality. No one ever asked for bread, at her door, who was
refused, if she had it, even to the poor Indian. We had many comers and
goers, and I think there were but few in the town of Dearborn who had
more friends than father and mother.
Several years after we planted the first thirteen apple trees, father set
out a little orchard of fifty trees, west of them. Some of these proved
to be very good fruit and supplied us with better apples, of our own
raising, (and in fact some earlier apples) than we had been used to
getting from along the Rouge. Then it could be said of us that we sat
under our own vine and apple tree and ate the fruit of our hands, without
any one to molest us or make us afraid. And, it could be said of father,
that he made the place, where the wilderness stood, to blossom as the
rose. Everything seemed to work together for our good and all nature
seemed more cheerful.
The evening breeze that kissed the rose and made the morning glory (that
grew by our window) unfold its robe, so that it would be ready in the
morning to display its beauty, and caused the sunflower, aided by the
evening dew, to change its face so that it would be ready to look toward
the sun, bore away on its wings, over the fields, the fragrance of the
rose and the joyful songs of civilization. In the stillness of the
beautiful evenings the air, under the starry canopy of heaven was made
vocal with the songs and tunes of other days, which had been learned and
sung oftimes before in a native land nearly eight hundred miles away.
Now the pioneer felt himself safe. He could retire to his bed, in his log
house, and quietly rest in sleep, without draining any more of the
redman's approach, or having by his own strong arm, to defend his family.
Now he need have no fear of Mr. Bruin entering his pig pen and carrying
off his pig, as he did ours one night some years before. He tore the hog
so badly that it died, although it was rescued by father and his dog. The
bear escaped to the woods. Now how changed the scene with us. We could
retire and sleep soundly; feeling as secure as if we had gone to bed way
down in the State of New York. We could leave the leather string of the
door latch hanging out for any one to enter, as nearly all the early
settlers were friends. The ax was now left stuck in the wood block on the
wood pile. The rifle hung in its hooks, not to be disturbed. In other
nights, of our first settlement, father did not feel safe; the string of
the door latch was taken in, the door was fastened and blockaded on the
inside, his ax and rifle were placed with care back of the curtains, at
the head of his bed. None of us knew what might happen before the light
of another morning, for we were in a wilderness land and neighbors were
far apart. How different a few years have made it! Now nature seems to
smile upon us and the evening, when it comes in its beauty, seems to
offer us quiet and repose, rest and security. Now when nature puts on her
sable habiliments of night, the blue canopy was covered with stars, that
glistened and shone in their glory, as they looked down upon us and
seemed to witness our prosperity. How they illumined our beautiful spring
nights! The beautiful feathered songsters, that had returned from the
south, warbled their songs in our ears anew and seemed to exert
themselves, to make their notes clear, and let us know they had come. The
little grey phebe-birds, the robins and the blue birds were the first
harbingers of spring. As night put on its shade their little notes were
hushed in the darkness, then the whip-poor-will took up the strain. He
would come, circle around and over our house and door yard and then light
down. He too came to visit us, he had found our place again. In fact, he
found us every spring after we settled in Michigan, and cut out a little
hole in the woods. At first his song seemed to be "whip-poor-will,
whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will;" then, by listening, it could be made out
to say, "good-will, good-will." In later years, by the aid of
imagination, his notes were interpreted, "peace and plenty, peace and
plenty." But, whatever we might imagine him to say, his song was always
the same. He was a welcome visitor and songster, and his appearance in
spring was always hailed with joy.
Sometimes I would rise early in the morning and go out of the door just
at daylight. I could hear the notes of the little songsters, just waking,
singing their first songs of the morning. I would listen to see if I
could hear the gobbling of the wild turkeys. I hardly ever failed to hear
them, sometimes in different directions. I frequently could hear two or
three at once. The old gobblers commonly selected the largest trees, in
the thickest woods, with limbs high up, for their roosts and as soon as
it came daylight, in the east, they would be up strutting and gobbling.
They could be heard, in a still morning, for a mile or two. The gobbling
of the turkey, the drumming of the partridge upon his log, the crowing of
our and the neighbors' roosters and the noise of woodpeckers pounding the
tops of old trees, were the principal sounds I could hear when I set out
with my rifle in hand. I made my way through the prickly ash brush,
sometimes getting my clothes torn and my hands and face scratched, when
going into the dark woods in the early morning. I went for the nearest
turkey that I heard, often wading through the water knee deep, the woods
being nearly always wet in the spring.
If the turkey did not happen to be too far off and I got near it, before
it was light, and got my eye on it, before it saw me and flew away, I
would crawl up, and get behind some tree that came in range between me
and it so that it could not see me. I had lo be careful not to step on a
stick, as the breaking of a stick or any noise that I was liable to make
would scare the turkey away. If I had the good luck to get up to that
tree without his discovering me, I would sit or stand by it and look with
one eye at the old turkey as he gobbled, strutted, spread his wings then
drew them on the limb where he stood and turned himself around to listen
and see if there was anything new for him to gobble at. If he heard the
distant woodpecker, pounding away with his beak, on the old hollow top,
he would stretch up his neck and gobble again as cheerfully as before.
Then I would put my rifle up aside the tree to see if it was light
enough for me to see the sights on it. If it was not I would have to take
it down and wait a few minutes for it to get lighter.
I felt very uneasy and impatient, while waiting, and wanted to take that
turkey, by the legs, and carry him home over my shoulder. When it was
light enough so I thought it was dangerous to wait, as the turkey might
discover me or fly off his perch then I would draw up my rifle, by the
side of the tree, and shoot at him. Sometimes the old turkey would retain
all his feathers, fly away and leave me, to wade back to the house,
thinking to myself I had had a hard job for nothing. The great trouble in
shooting wild turkeys on the roosts, in the spring of the year and in the
early morning, is in not being able to see the sights on the rifle plain
enough. Of course, I was sometimes rewarded, for my early rising and wet
feet, by a nice turkey to take home to father and mother for dinner.
This style of hunting for the wild turkeys was known by the settlers in
an early day. Another way I had of capturing the turkeys by shooting
them, was by the use of a small instrument that I almost always carried
in my vest pocket when in the woods. It was made from the hollow bone of
a turkey's wing. I called it a turkey call. By holding the end of my hand
and sucking it right, it would make a noise, or squeak, very similar to
the turkey's voice. Sometimes, when I heard one gobbling in the woods, I
would go as near as I could, and not let him see me, and hide myself
behind an old log, or root, where a tree had been blown down, take the
hollow bone out of my pocket and call. I have seen them come up on the
run, sometimes one, at other times more. While lying in ambush once I
shot two, at the same time, with one rifle bullet and got them both.
I have often shot at a flock, in the woods. They would scatter and fly in
all directions. I would run ahead, near where I thought they lighted,
hide and call. If a lone turkey heard the shrill note, he would answer
and was easily decoyed up to me. In this way I was very sure to get him.
Father made one of the luckiest shots at wild turkeys of which I ever
knew. They had a notion of coming into his buckwheat field and filling
their crops with buckwheat, sometimes two or three times a day. Father
discovered them in the field; he went away round and approached them from
the woods, on the back side of the field, where they came in. The turkeys
discovered him through the brush and fence and huddled up, with their
heads together. He said they were just getting ready to fly. He shot
amongst them, with a shot gun, and killed four at once. There are at the
present time, 1875, scattering wild turkeys in the town of Dearborn, but
they have mostly disappeared. Tame turkeys, in abundance, have long since
taken their place.
MAKING A BARGAIN.
When I was twenty-one we had a good young team, of our own, and father
made it a rule to go to Detroit once in two weeks, with butter and eggs.
When he had other farm products he went oftener. Every other Friday was
his market day, for butter and eggs. His butter was contracted at Detroit
by the season, for one shilling a pound, and father thought that did very
well. By starting early, he could go and do his marketing and return by
noon. How different from what it was when it took us two nights and a
day, and sometimes more, to go to Detroit and back. Father had to sell
his produce cheap; when we had commenced raising and had some to sell,
all appeared to have an abundance to sell. Detroit market then seemed
rather small not having its outlets for shipping, and everything we had
to sell was cheap. We also bought cheap; we got good tea for fifty cents
a pound, sugar was from six to ten cents per pound, and clothing much
cheaper than it was when we came to Michigan.
We could buy brown sheeting for from six to eight cents per yard. Very
different from what it was, when everything we bought was so dear, and
when we had so little to buy with. One day father and I went to Detroit
with a large load of oats. We drove on to the market and offered them for
sale; eighteen cents a bushel was the highest offer we could get for them
and father sold them for that price. We fattened some pork, took it to
Detroit and sold it for twenty shillings per hundred. In days back,
father had often paid one shilling a pound for pork and brought it home
on his arm, in a basket over two miles. Now we were able to sell more
than we had to buy. The balance of trade was in our favor and, of course,
we were making some money; laying up some for a rainy day, or against the
time of need.
I told father, as we had a good team, it would be handy if I got me a
buggy. I could take mother at her pleasure, and it would be very handy
for me to go around with, so I went and bought one. It was a double buggy
with two seats. After the buggy was bought, when mother and my sisters
wished to go to meeting or to visit friends, I would hitch up the team
and take them in, what I thought, pretty good style. We had, what I
called, a gay team and, in fact, a good rig for the woods of Michigan. I
took care of the team, and when I went out with them I tried to make
those horses shine. I trimmed their head stalls with red balls, as large
as hens' eggs, and from them hung scarlet ribbons six inches long. When I
came home in the evening between, sun down and dark, through the woods,
the little blacks made the evening breeze fan my passengers and we left
the little musical songsters in the shade. I now worked very hard and
helped father all I could in fixing up his farm. He had everything around
him that was necessary to make him and mother comfortable.
About this time I formed a more intimate acquaintance with a young lady,
Miss Traviss, although her name was very familiar to me and sounded very
beautifully in my ear, some how or other I wished to have it changed.
After I made this acquaintance I thought I would go to Detroit and spend
the next "Fourth" and see what they were doing there and try city life a
little. As one of my sisters wanted to go I gave Miss Traviss an
invitation to go with us, which invitation she accepted. So when the
morning of the "Fourth" came, we started for town. We put up at the
"Eagle Tavern" on Woodbridge street and spent the day very patriotically.
We had what we thought a very splendid dinner. We had the first cherry
pie that some of us had eaten since we came to Michigan. We visited all
the sights we could hear of, and honored almost every display with our
presence. When the salute of the day was fired, of course, we were there;
they fired one big gun for Michigan. As the cannon thundered forth its
fire and smoke, it seemed to fairly sweep the street with its tremendous
force; it was terrible and grand. It seemed to bid defiance to all the
world. It was the salute of the cannon of American freemen. We thought we
would go over to Canada to see what was going on there. When we were
across, we observed that the people didn't seem to be paying any
attention to the "Fourth." But we felt very much like holding
Independence and thought we would take a walk, down toward Sandwich. Of
course, I was seeing all I could of Canada, but Miss Traviss took the
greater part of my attention. The more I enjoyed her company, the more I
thought, in view of future life, that it was necessary for me to make a
private bargain with her.
After we had walked as far as we thought it was pleasant, we turned back
toward Windsor; when we were nearly there we met a colored man. I pointed
over the river toward Detroit, and asked him, saying, "What place is that
yonder?" "Why," said he, "dat am die United States ob 'Merica ober dar."
He answered me like a man, with frankness, supposing that I was a
stranger to Detroit, and accompanied by beautiful young ladies of Canada
he naturally supposed that I did not know the place. I left Canada
thinking that all of the North American Continent ought to belong to the
We sailed back to Detroit, the beautiful "City of the Straits." We all
felt as though we were at home, in our own country and thanked our stars,
that we did not live in Canada; that we lived in the land of the free,
and that our flag, the old star-spangled banner, waved over "the home of
the brave." We went back to the "Eagle Tavern;" I told the hostler I
wanted my team. In a very few minutes he had it ready and we were on our
way home, enjoying our evening ride. I was very attentive and vigilant,
in the presence of my company.
When we were home we told our parents all the incidents of the day. We
had had a good time and had enjoyed ourselves very much. Then I attended
to hard work and farming, and think it would have been difficult to find
a man, who would have performed more labor than I did until I was past
twenty-two years old.
In the mean time, I was having an eye out and thinking of domestic
affairs and life. I will not tell what old folks would call it, but I
call it falling in love with Miss Traviss. I made a private bargain with
her and got the consent of her father and mother, which was a hard job
for me although they acquiesced willingly. It was also approved by my
parents. We had it ratified by a minister and afterward I heard her
called, by others, Mrs. William Nowlin. She had taken a new name upon
herself. I left my father's home to build up one for myself and another,
and never more to return to my father's house and call it my home.
HOW I COMMENCED FOR MYSELF--FATHER'S OLD FARM IN 1843.
When I commenced for myself, father gave me a strip across the two lots
on the south end of his farm, south of the Ecorse, containing forty-two
acres and lying on the town line between Dearborn and Taylor. Thus
fulfilling (as far as I was concerned) what he had said long before; he
wanted land for his children. I supposed, at the time, I should build a
house, live there and make it my home. I had a chance to trade it off
even, for eighty acres of land lying half a mile west of it, subject to a
mortgage of one hundred and fifty dollars. I made the trade, paid the
mortgage and afterward built on the place, the house in which I now live.
Father bought back the forty-two acres which he had given me, and he
easily paid for it--two hundred and fifty dollars. Then he had the old
farm together again, with money left, which he had saved by his frugality
and industry. He made up his mind that he would buy another place, which
was offered for sale, out one mile toward Dearbornville, beyond the clay
road. It had a good barn on it and a comfortable farm house. He moved
there in 1848 and lived on one of the most beautiful building places in
the town of Dearborn and on the corner where three roads met.
About this time, my second sister became acquainted with a young man, by
the name of Michael Nowlin, and married him. She was more lucky than most
young ladies; she did not have to change her name, only from Miss to Mrs.
Nowlin. She went with her husband to live near Romeo, Macomb County,
Michigan. He was a farmer there. Father did not like to have one of his
children so far away. I told him it would be well for him to let my
brother-in-law and sister have ninety acres of the old farm, which would
make them a good home. So he offered it to them, and they came and
settled on it, and lived where I had lived so long before, with my father
and mother, brother and sisters, in the woods of Michigan.
Father let them have it on easy terms, and gave Sarah what he considered
was her portion as far as he was able. My brother-in-law easily met the
payments, paid for his place and had a good farm. He, being a good
business man, soon had his farm clear and things comfortable around him.
But he was not entirety satisfied with the place, though it was the best
of land, and he was a man capable of knowing and appreciating it. He
thought he was laboring under some disadvantages. In the spring of the
year the clay road was very bad and he had hard work to get out and in.
School privileges were also poor, not such as he desired for his
children, and he made up his mind to sell has place. He sold it in two
parts, at a good advantage. The last piece for over a hundred dollars an
acre. He bought him a nice house and lot in the city of Ypsilanti, is
nicely situated there and has given his children a liberal education. So
ninety acres, of what was once my father's old farm, were disposed of.
After I had left home, a few years passed and my brother, John Smith
Nowlin, was married and started out in life for himself. Father let him
have the west seventy acres of the old farm. He, being the youngest son,
father desired to see him settled comfortably in life near him. He gave
him the place so cheap and on such easy terms that he was able to pay for
it in a short time, right off of the place, with the exception of what
father gave him as his portion. Father said he gave him his part. He soon
had as nice a little farm as any one need wish to own in the State of
Michigan, and he had it clear from debt. After my brother-in-law moved
away my brother became lonesome, dissatisfied and was not contented with
so good a place. He sold it in two pieces and bought a farm out within
half a mile of Dearbornville, beyond father's. He moved on to it and
lives there now right in sight of the village.
It is not my intention to delineate, at any length, the circumstances of
any of the family unless in connection, with my father and mother, or the
old place where we first settled in the wilderness, where I labored so
hard, in my young life, and took so much interest in my father's getting
along during his trying days in the woods of Michigan.
I was along there, by what was father's old place, one day this winter,
1875. I looked at the barn and saw that it was getting old. I noticed the
two little orchards, some of the trees had disappeared and others looked
as if they were dying, with old age. I saw young orchards on the place,
which were set out by other hands, those who knew but little of us. I
thought things looked strange; that there was not one of the Nowlin name
who owned a foot of the old farm. I suppose to this day no part of it,
nor the whole of it, could be bought for less than one hundred dollars an
acre, probably not for that.
I counted the dwelling houses that have been built on it, there are five
of them; three very good frame houses, well painted and built in good
style, the other two houses are not so nice. I noticed there were four
good frame barns on it. The old place is inhabited by an industrious race
of men. It is divided up into German farms.
Men may cover mother earth with deeds and mortgages, call her their own
and live upon her bounty, little thinking of the hardships, toils and
privations, that were endured by those who preceded them. How they
labored, toiled and sweat, sometimes without enough to eat and not
knowing where the next meal was coming from. I know this was the case
with some of the first settlers.
In view of the hardships and sufferings of the pioneer and his passing
away, I exclaim in the language of another, "This earth is but a great
inn, evacuated and replenished by troops of succeeding pilgrims."
"One generation passeth away and another generation cometh, and man here
hath no continuing city."
[NOTE.--Since this was written, I have learned that I made a slight
mistake in regard to the forty-two acres, of the old farm, which father
gave me, as it passed through other hands before my brother and
brother-in-law came in possession of it; but it was finally divided as I
THOUGHTS IN CONNECTION WITH FATHER AND EARLY PIONEER LIFE.
I follow father, in my mind, to his last farm which he bought in 1849,
where he lived out his days. It was not cleared up, as he wished to have
it, and he continued to labor as hard as ever before, trying to fix it up
to suit him and to get it in the right shape for his comfort and
convenience. The soil was as good as the place he left. He raised large
crops on it. One day I went to father's and inquired for him. Mother said
he was down in the field cutting corn. I went to him; he had a splendid
field of corn and was cutting it up. The sweat was running off from him.
I told him it was not necessary for him to work so hard and asked him to
let me take his corn-cutter, as though I was going to cut corn. He handed
it to me, then I said I am going to keep this corn-cutter: I want you to
hear to me. Let us go to the house and get some one else, to cut the
corn; so we went to the house together.
But it was impossible for me or anybody else to keep him from hard
labor, although he had plenty. He had become so inured to hard work
that it seemed he could not stop. He finally got all of his farm cleared
that he wanted cleared. A few of the last years of his eventful life, he
let some of his land to be worked on shares and kept his meadow land and
pasture. He needed all of that, for he kept quite a stock of cattle,
sheep and horses and took care of them himself, most of the time, up to
his last sickness.
He was a great lover of good books; and spent much of his leisure time
reading. He did not often refer to the hardships which he had endured in
Michigan; but often spoke of the privations and endurance of others.
Thus, in his latter days, not thinking of what he had done, he seemed to
feast on the idea, that America had produced such and such ones, who had
been benefactors and effectual workers for the good of our race.
Most of those men who came here in the prime of life, about the time that
father came, are gone. The country shows what they have done, but few
consider it properly. Some know what it was then and what it is now and
know also, that it has arrived at the exalted position it now occupies
through the iron will, clear brain and the steady unflinching nerve of
others. Yet they pass on in their giddy whirl and the constant excitement
of the nineteenth century, when wealth is piled at their doors, and
hardly think of their silent benefactors.
Who can think of what they have done and not feel their heart beat high
with gratitude, admiration and love to the Giver of all good, in that he
ever raised up Such glorious people as some of the Michigan pioneers
were? So enduring, so self-sacrificing, so noble--in fact, every element
necessary to make beings almost perfect seemed concentrated in them. I do
not say it would be right, for me to wish the pioneer to live forever
here, and labor and toil as is the common lot of man. He might be
surrounded by friends and loved ones and plenty of this world's goods,
and have time to look back upon his past life and see what he had been
through and accomplished. He had gone into the forest, built him a house,
cleared up a farm, and lived where a white man had never lived before.
I would say to him as Daniel said, 2426 years ago, to King Darius, who
visited, very early in the morning, the cavern where he was confined. The
king asked him, in a mournful voice, if his God, whom he served, had been
able to deliver him. Daniel said, "O King, live forever!" It has been the
belief of good men, in all ages of the world, that they were going to
have a better and happier existence in the future after this life had
passed away. Darius had spent a restless and sleepless night fasting. No
instruments of music were brought into his presence, his mind was too
much troubled thinking of the prophet, who lay in the lions' den.
Thinking how his faithful servant had been divested of his scarlet robe,
golden chain and office, and might be devoured by the lions. In the early
gray of the morning the king hurried to the cavern and cried out in a
sorrowful voice to his friend and said, "Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the
living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver
thee from the lions?" Daniel answered the king and said, "O King, live
forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths."
Daniel was aware that the King wished him no evil, but had set his heart
on him to deliver him and that he had labored hard to save him. He knew,
that the king had been caught in a snare which was set for him by the
crafty princes. That he had been persuaded by them to sign a decree,
which according to law could not be changed. It was gotten up, through
jealousy and envy, for the purpose of taking Daniel's life. When Daniel
heard the doleful voice of the king, calling him, he answered, and with
an honest heart exclaimed; "O King, live forever!"
This was not wishing, as some might suppose, that the king might live
forever, on the earth, in his natural or mortal state, or forever reign
over his kingdom in this world, but this acclamation was "Live forever."
As it was evident he could not live long in this world, Daniel wished him
a better existence in a future state.
Man has not been able to find, in this world, the land of perpetual youth
or spring of life. Nearly all the veteran pioneers, who have fought with
the forests of Michigan, and labored for themselves and others, until
they grew old, and wrinkled and their heads were silvered o'er with gray,
have passed from the storms of life.
They failed to find such a land as Ponce de Leon, looked for in Florida,
in the year 1512. He was so delighted with the variegated flowers, wild
roses, ever green and beautiful foliage, and the fragrance of the air,
that he thought that these woods must contain the fountain of life and
youth and that that must be the place upon the earth where men could live
and never grow old.
When I was quite young, a few years after our settlement, I think in
1838, Mr. Elijah Lord came and settled about a mile and a half
north-west of father's. He came down with his oxen by father's place to
get small, hard-maple trees, out of the woods, that he wanted to take
home and set out on his place. He was then about a middle-aged man. He
set out the trees on both sides of the road, running through his place,
for about eighty rods, in front of his house. I asked him if he expected
to see them grow up; he said he did not set them out for himself, but for
the benefit of other people, for the good of the generations that would
Some years after that, I visited Mr. Lord in his last sickness. He looked
very much older than he did when he planted the trees. He looked careworn
and sad; his locks were gray and he was very feeble. He was fighting his
last battle of life and he soon went to that bourne, whence no traveler
returns. He was a good man, a deacon of the Presbyterian church at
Dearbornville at the time of his death.
The hard maple trees, which he set out, are grown up to be large trees.
When leaved out, they have the most beautiful tops, with the most perfect
symmetry that could be imagined. They make splendid shade for the road.
In summer weather, when the rays of the sun were very hot, thousands have
enjoyed walking under their protecting boughs. The poor horses and cattle
that travel that road alike enjoy the benefit of those trees. The farmer
as he is going or coming from market and stops his team, to rest under
their shade, enjoys their cooling and refreshing influence. The
pedestrian, who sits down by the fence to rest his weary limbs, takes off
his hat and with his handkerchief, wipes the perspiration from his brow,
as he fans himself with his hat talks to his neighbor about the price of
things and the beautiful shade, that is around and over them. Neither of
them know anything about the benevolent man, who over thirty-five years
before set out the maple trees, whose shade they enjoy and which protects
them, from the scorching rays of the sun, and makes them so comfortable.
Now, in looking at the shortness of human life, which is compared to a
hand's breadth or to the vapor, which appears in the morning is seen but
a little while and then vanishes away to be seen no more; and thinking
that the pioneers stopped but so short a time to enjoy the fruits of
their toil and the labor of their hands, I would exclaim again in
language similar to that of the good man of old, "O, pioneers, pioneers,
O, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passes from life to his rest in the grave.
The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust and together shall lie.
So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To report every tale that has often been told.
For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.
The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all like a bird on the wing.
Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge.
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.
'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,
O, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
It appears to me that it will be interesting to men, who in the future
shall live along the Ecorce and enjoy their beautiful homes and farms, to
know who were the brave, sacrificing, benovolent men who first settled
the country, and were a few of the many who have made the State of
Michigan what it will be to them.
I give together the names of some of those early worthies whom I have
mentioned before in this sketch. They were the first settlers of the
southeast part of the town of Dearborn. Their names are arranged
according to the time of their settlement along and near the Ecorce with
the years and seasons of their settlement in the wilderness.
Joseph Pardee--Fall of 1833.
John Nowlin--Spring of 1834.
Asa Blare--Fall of 1834.
Henry Traviss--Summer of 1835.
George Purdy--Fall of 1835.
Elijah Lord, about--1837 or 1838
Let these bright names be imperishable! Let them be indelibly written, in
letters of gold, on leaves as white as snow and live in the light. Let
them be handed down through future ages, in the archives and annals of
the country, until the end of time.
Of the six, whom I have mentioned here, only one survives. That one
is Mr. George Purdy. He lives on the Ecorce yet and owns a good
Recently a wise man said to me: "We can engrave the names of our kindred
and the friends of humanity upon stately monuments of marble and they
will crumble to dust, be obliterated and rubbed out by the hand of time;
but, if inscribed upon the flat surface of a written page, their names
Men of all ages have delighted to honor their heroes and to perpetuate
their names. It is right to give honor to whom honor is due. We cannot
tell how many of the names of the good and great of the earth's true
philanthropists were engraven upon tablets of dead stone, who have long
since been forgotten and the knowledge of them lost in the past.
The blight--mildew--blackness and creeping moss of time have hidden their
names from earth. How few, in comparison to the many, have been handed
down to us in history.
FATHER'S NEW HOUSE AND ITS SITUATION--HIS CHILDREN VISIT HIM.
I have said that I tried to persuade father to take life more easily and
not to labor so hard himself on the new place he had bought. It was a new
place to him; but in an early day it was the oldest place south of
Dearbornville. The first log house built south of Dearbornville, in the
town of Dearborn was built on it by John Blare in the year 1832 or 1833.
It was one mile south of Dearbornville. So there was a house standing
there when we were slowly making our way to Michigan. When we came, it
was the first house south of Dearbornville. Mr. Joseph Pardee, who
crossed Lake Erie, with his family, the fall before when father came
viewing, built his house a mile south of that. These two houses were the
first ones, south of the village of Dearborn, in the town of Dearborn.
When we came in and built, our bark covered house was the next.
It was at this house of Mr. J. Blare that the Indian, John Williams,
threw his knife on the floor and commanded Asa Blare to pick it up. There
he sat in his chair, flourished his knife, looked at its frightful edge
and told what it had done. If the Indian told the truth, it had cleaved
the locks and taken off the scalps of six of the Anglo Saxon race--some
body's loved ones. It had been six times red with human gore, and was
going to be used again, to take off one more scalp, one of the few who
was then in the woods.
This house of Mr. Blare's had long since been torn down and had
disappeared. I could now go within five rods, and I think less, of where
the house stood. When Mr. Mather bought the place he built him a frame
house across the road, beyond where Blaire's house stood. It was built on
a hill, on five acres of ground, that he owned there by itself as a
Mather sold these two places to Barnard and Windsor and father bought
the places of them, and moved into the Mather house. Father talked, from
an early day, that when he got able to build a house, he would like to
build it of brick or stone. He said if he had stone, he could build a
house for himself. I have no doubt that he would have built his house
himself, if he had had the stone, as old as he was, when he got the
money to do it with.
He thought himself quite a stone mason, at least he thought he could lay
a stone wall as strong as any one. I stated that I had seen where he had
built stone walls. The walls I had reference to then were walls for
fence. I saw where he had built one large out door stone cellar and
arched it over with stone; I also saw where he had built a smaller one,
that opened into what was styled a cellar kitchen. He also built the
three walls of the kitchen, on the back side and two ends, of stone; the
front of the house being wood.
[Image: HOUSE BUILT 1854.]
The practice of laying stone, in his early life, made him want to build
him a stone house in Michigan. If he had settled in another part of
Michigan, he might have done it; but he found that stone were hard to get
here, being too far away. So he made up his mind, he would build him a
brick house. He said brick buildings were safer, in regard to fire, and
were more durable, that they did not require so much repairing, were
warmer in winter and cooler in summer than wooden buildings.
So he went at it, and built him a good, substantial plain, brick
farm-house in 1854. Not so palatial as some might admire, but a good
substantial house; a brick basement under the whole of it, with two
stories above. He set it right facing the "Hard scrabble road" and right
in front of his door yard was the junction of three roads. He lived on
the corners and, by looking south, he could see to the place where he
first settled in Michigan, from his own door. He built across the front
side of his house a double stoop or piazza, running the whole length of
the front. There he could sit, in the cool of the day, and rest himself,
accompanied by some of his family. Two of my sisters yet lived at home;
the rest of the family had gone for themselves. While sitting there he
could see people passing and repassing, coming and going in every
direction. What a contrast it was to our early life in Michigan. Now he
could sit on his veranda in the twilight, when it was pleasant, and when
the shadows of evening were spread over the face of nature, he could peer
away into the distance to the south and southwest, for a mile and more,
and see lights in different places glistening and shining like stars
through the darkness. They were the lights of lamps and candles, burning
in his distant neighbors' dwellings and shining through their windows. He
could go to his north window and see lights all along, from his house to
Dearbornville, for he was in plain sight of the village. Now he lived in
what might be styled, if not an old country, a thickly inhabited part of
A few years before, when father and I were out and could not get home
until after dark, we frequently walked through the woods a mile or two
without seeing a light. When we came to our clearing we could see one
light, and that was mother's lone light in the window waiting for us. It
was three or four years, after we settled in Michigan, before the light
of any neighbor's window could be seen, from our house. Father's
situation was very different when he was comfortably settled in his new
house. When he had it built he told me that he lacked a very little of
paying for it. I asked him how much he needed. He said, "Not more than a
hundred dollars." I told him I could let him have it as well as not. So I
gave it to him and he sat down and wrote me a note of a hundred dollars,
ten per cent interest per annum. I told him I didn't want any note. He
said I must take it if he took the money. So I took the note, looked at
it, saw that it was upon interest and told him that I would not take any
interest of him. But I took the note home and laid it away. I was pleased
to think that father had so good a house and was so well situated. He
built him a very strong house and located it upon a commanding eminence
overlooking the country in every direction. From its very solid
appearance shortly after it was built it was called "Nowlin Castle;" it
is now known to many by that name.
Father and mother enjoyed their new home very much. They usually invited
their children, and their companions home all together once in a year or
two. They often got into their carriage and rode down to see me and I was
always glad to see them. I usually counseled and consulted with father
when I thought of transacting any business of importance.
After a year or two father spoke to me about the hundred dollars; I told
him I didn't want it, that he could keep it just as long as he wanted
it, until he could pay it just as well as not and it wouldn't cost him
Time passed on until about five years were counted after father built,
when he came down one day, on foot, to see me. He brought in his hand a
little leather bag of silver money--mostly half dollars. He said he had
come down to pay me that note, that he didn't need the money at all and
wanted me to take it out of his way. I looked up the note, sat down by
the table, turned out the money and counted it. I saw there were just
fifty dollars; then I looked at the note and saw it had been given about
five years before.
I told father that I had said I shouldn't take any interest of him, but
it had run so long, I didn't know but what it would be right, for me to
have the interest. I couldn't quite afford to give so much. The fifty
dollars was just enough to pay the interest and I could endorse it on the
back of the note. I turned a little in my chair, to look at father, as he
sat off at one side and said but little to me, to see what I could make
out in mind reading. I found that I failed; I could not make out, by
what he said nor by his silence, what he thought of me. Then I told him,
that I had a little job or two on hand, which I wanted him to help me
about. I asked him it he would help me. He said he would if I didn't
bother him too much. I told him I wanted him to have his stoop painted
over, it would preserve and make the wood last longer, and make it look
better. And I wanted him to go to Detroit for me, as soon as he could
conveniently, and get some oysters, and other good things, and bring home
with him. Then I wanted him to invite all of his children to come and
take dinner with him and mother and enjoy the day together. Besides, I
wanted him to take the fifty dollars, toward paying the expenses, and
also take that note out of my way, toward what I was owing him.
In a few days after that I was invited up to the castle to spend the day.
We were all there, father, mother, brother, sister, and our companions.
We had a good dinner. The table was spread with the bounties of life. We
passed a very pleasant day, and listened to father's stories of wars, and
stories connected with his early life. He would relate them as nobody
else could. He told us stories that I had often heard him relate before.
Still there was a charm in his manner of telling them and they seemed to
be always good and new; his old stories were certainly as attractive,
interesting and pleasing as ever before.
It would make almost any one laugh who listened to them, though he always
looked rather grave while repeating them. It pleased him to think that
they all enjoyed them so much; but what pleased him still more was that
his children were all alive at home. As they were most all singers,
sometimes, he would set them singing for him, songs new and old, as he
was no singer himself.
Mother was a beautiful singer. He often got her to sing for him, and
sometimes asked her to sing his favorite song, which was styled "The Star
in The East." I have heard her sing it for him, at different times, ever
since as long ago as I can remember hearing her sing. It was a beautiful
piece, connected with the Messiah's advent, which happened over eighteen
hundred years before. One verse of it was this:
"Cold on his cradle the dew drops were shining,
Low lies his head, with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all."
It is claimed by some, that the human voice is capable of producing more
different sounds and is more musical and pleasing to the ear than
anything else earthly; that it is but little below the seraphic strains.
"The Star in The East" referred back to the most glorious night, for the
human race, that earth ever knew. A multitude of the heavenly hosts came
down in the east of Judea; the darkness of night was driven away and the
place became more beautiful than day, for glory shone around them. They
announced to the wise men of the East, that the Savior of mankind was
upon the earth, and that he was at Bethlehem. They told them how and
where they would find him. The Heavenly visitors showed them a star or
meteor of exceeding brilliancy and told them it would conduct them to the
place where he was. They started with the star in advance; it lighted
their path and conducted them to the place. There was heard sung, that
night, one of the most heavenly, beautiful, thrilling and enchanting
songs that ever broke upon the ear of mortal men. It was sung by angels,
this was their song: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace,
good will toward men." Then the bright messengers plumed their pinions,
spread out their snow white wings, filled up their shining train and in a
cloud of glory flew away to Heaven.
Now as I have strayed a little in thinking of the subject of "The Star in
The East" I find myself back again in the presence of the one who sung
father's favorite song.
I told mother she must get ready, and, in the fall, we would go back to
the state of New York. I asked father to go with us, and tried to get him
to say he would go. But he thought he would have to stay at home and take
care of things while we were gone. Mother concluded she would go and said
she would get ready for the journey and we would go and see the old
native places, and old friends and make the visit we had talked about so
long. The thought of Lake Erie had always been a dread to mother,
whenever we spoke of going back. But now we could go back very easily and
in a very short time with the cars on the "Great Western Railway" I told
her it would be as easy, for her, as though she were sitting in a parlor.
I encouraged her all I could, for she was getting quite old and feeble,
and it looked like a big undertaking to her. I said, to encourage her,
that she would be able to stand it first rate, and the trip, no doubt,
would do her good. I think the thought of going was pleasing to her.
But we met not many more times at my father's house, under so favorable
and happy circumstances, nor gathered around his board with everything in
such good cheer, and prospects so bright.
MY WATCH LOST AND VISIT TO CANADA.
Mother's maiden name was Melinda Light. Her mother died when she was
quite young. She and father were married when she was about nineteen
years old. She took one of her youngest brothers to live with her, and
she acted more the part of a mother than a sister to him. She sent him to
school and gave him a good education. His name was Allen Light and he was
thoroughly qualified to officiate in the capacity of a pedagogue. He
taught a number of terms, prudently saved his wages and bought father's
little farm, before we left the state of New York. He married a young
woman, who had some capital of her own, before we came away, and they
settled on father's old place, and lived there when we came to Michigan.
For this uncle I did some of my first working out, mostly picking up
stone; he gave me a shilling a day. I worked for him until I had, what I
thought was quite a purse of money and I brought some of it to Michigan.
As father lived in a hired house I had my own time, during my vacations
when I was not going to school. One man was quite displeased with me,
because I refused to work for him for sixpence a day. Another man for
whom I did work in haying, and spread hay after two or three mowers and
raked after, never paid me anything. I supposed he would give me eighteen
cents or two shillings a day. I worked for him four days; he was a rich
man at that time. I wanted father to ask him for it for me, but he said
if the man wasn't a mind to pay it let him go.
Thirty years afterward, when I was there, I met the same man, he was
riding a horse down a hill as we were going up. I asked my cousin who he
was and when he told me I remembered the work I had done for him. I
inquired, of my cousin, about his circumstances; he said that he used to
be a rich man, but that he had lost his property and was poor. I am sure,
I didn't feel much like sympathizing with him.
Uncle Allen wrote to mother very often after she came to Michigan. He
told her how much he missed her, that she had been a mother to him. He
said the doors of the house, as he turned them on their hinges, seemed to
mourn her absence. It was this brother and his family that we wanted to
see the most. We heard from him often and learned that he had been
successful in business. He bought two farms, joining the one he bought of
father, and one about a mile off and paid for them, they were farms which
father and mother knew very well. We learned, from others, that he was a
wealthy, prominent and influential man, in that old country. Fickle
fortune had smiled on him and he had taken what she offered to give. In
the fall we were going to see them. The war of the rebellion had
commenced, 1861, when we got ready to go and see them.
Some three or four years before this I hired three or four colored men,
who came from Canada, to work for me. The right name of one of them, I
think I never knew, it was necessary for him to keep it to himself.
Campbell and Obadiah were the names of the other two.
The people of the United States, both North and South, were very much
excited, at that time, upon the subject of slavery. The Government had
passed a law, in favor of the South, thundering forth its penalties
against any one who should aid or harbor, feed or employ one who was a
fugitive slave. That law required northern men to turn out when notified,
leave their business, help to hunt and chase the fugitive down, capture
him and help to put on his fetters. So it was not for me to know the name
of the one, who had been recently a slave.
Campbell had a considerable confidence in me and told me a little of the
history of the escaped slave, (some things I knew already); that when he
ran away, from the land of bondage, he was guided in his flight by the
north star. The slave had heard of Canada and knew if he could reach that
country he would own himself and be a free man. If he ever had a family
his wife and children would be his, and would not be owned by any one
else. They would belong to himself and not another. To gain his freedom
he traveled mostly nights. When he came to a creek or river, if he
couldn't find a bridge or boat, he either swam or waded across. While on
his journey he subsisted on fruit or grain, anything he could get hold
of. When he saw it was coming light, in the morning, he would select him
a place a little way from the road, if he happened to be in one, in a
swamp or woods, or any place that offered him a hiding spot, and there
spend the day sleeping or watching. When everything was quiet in the
evening he would come out of his hiding place, set his face toward the
north and hurry on. He was trying to leave his master as fast as
possible, and every night he was making the distance greater between
them. Sometimes, when he reached the road, he would stop and listen to
see if he could hear the sound of horses' hoofs, or men approaching him,
or the shrill yelp of the blood hounds, that might have discovered his
whereabouts or been on his tracks. If he heard nothing to alarm him he
hastened on. Sometimes he was bare-footed and bare-headed, with no one to
pity him, or know the anguish of his heart, but his Creator.
When night had spread her mantle over him, and the innumerable stars
appeared, sprinkled over the vault of heaven, millions of miles away, all
joined together to shower down upon the poor fugitive slave their rays of
light. The faithful old north star, with its light beckoned him on to
freedom until he got among friends and was safely taken, by the
under-ground railroad, into Canada.
So I knew these colored men, while working for me, had some fear that one
of them, at least, might be arrested and taken back into slavery. They
didn't feel safe in working so far from Canada. But I am sure if I had
heard of his master's approach, or his agent's, I should have conducted
him, or the three, six miles, through the woods, to Detroit River,
procured a boat and sent them across to Canada, regretting the existence
of the "Fugitive Slave Law," and obeying a higher law.
As I have said I hired these three, from Canada, to help me through my
haying and harvesting. I also gave them some other jobs. I relate this
circumstance as it comes in connection with mother's visit to the East
and what I said to my uncle there.
The names of two of these men were Campbell and Obadiah, as I have
already stated, and these were all the names I ever knew for them.
Campbell was an oldish man, and I found him to be very much of a man,
trusty, ingenious and faithful in everything he did for me. Obadiah was a
young man. He told me his parents died when he was young, that he had a
sister younger than himself and a brother still younger. He said that he
wanted to keep them together and provide them a home. This young woman
kept house for my three workmen. She frequently came down to our house
and helped Mrs. Nowlin. She seemed to be very nice and smart and had
access to our house.
After I had finished my haying and harvesting they moved back to what, I
think, was styled the "Reservation" in Canada, near Windsor. A short time
after they were gone I missed my watch. It was kept hanging up in my
room. It had unaccountably disappeared and seemed to be gone. I made up
my mind, after all of my kindness to the colored people, that the girl
had taken my watch and given it to her brother, Obadiah, or that at least
he knew something about it, and that they had carried it to Canada. I
wanted my watch and hated to lose it; what made it seem worse was its
being taken from me under such circumstances. I made up my mind that I
could contrive to get it again.
I went out to Dearborn, saw the Deputy-Sheriff of Wayne County, Daniel D.
Tompkins, told him the circumstances and what my suspicions were, and my
plan, and asked him if he would go with me to Canada. He said he would. I
told him that I would come out with my team, he and I would go to Canada
and decoy Obadiah across the river, have the papers ready and arrest him
in Detroit. I had made up my mind that he had the watch or knew its
whereabouts. I thought he would be glad to give it up in order to get out
of the scrape, and all I wanted was, somehow, to get my watch.
Accordingly, in the morning I took my team and we started, went to
Detroit, drove down to the wharf and waited for the large ferry boat to
come to her wharf. Mr. Tompkins was a shrewd man. He thought that he
would cross on the little ferry boat, that was then in, and see what he
could learn on the other side, and got aboard and went over. While I was
waiting I spoke to a mulatto and asked him if he was acquainted in
Canada, and what they called the reservation back of Windsor, three or
four miles. I told him I wanted to find a man by the name of Campbell. (I
thought I should be able to find Campbell as he was the oldest man and he
would be able to tell me where Obadiah was.) The mulatto asked me what
his given name was. I told him I didn't know, I always called him
Campbell. He said there were two men by the name of Campbell there; they
were brothers and one of them was a preacher. I told him I thought one of
them was the man I wanted to see. He stepped back by the corner of a
saloon and commenced talking with another colored man privately; soon
another one joined them, and there were three. I noticed them, as they
cast sly glances at me, and I thought they were making some remarks about
me, or my rig. I had a large team hitched to a covered carriage,
double-seated. I led my horses on to the ferry boat, and when it started,
two of the colored men stepped aboard. We went across to Canada, I led my
horses on to the wharf and found my comrade there waiting for me. I asked
him if he had found out where they lived; he said not. We got into the
carriage and started for the reservation, being sure that no one knew
anything about our business but ourselves, however, I thought, from what
I had seen, that things appeared rather suspicious.
We drove up the river road. There was another road running back farther
from the river, into the country, which also led to the reservation. We
drove along a pretty good jog for a mile or two, and who should we meet
but the old man Campbell! He seemed very glad to see me, and came right
up to shake hands with me. He wondered how I came to be in Canada, and
inquired very particularly about the health of my family. I asked him
where Obadiah was, told him I wanted to see him. He pointed across the
road and said, that he came down with him and stopped there to get an ax
helve. Said he would run in and tell him, that I had come, and in a
minute out they came; Obadiah laughing and looking wonderfully pleased
to see me. Of course I had to appear friendly, although I didn't feel
very well pleased. I supposed that I would have to wear two faces that
day; but I was spared the disagreeable task. I told Campbell and
Obadiah, that I had come over to see them, that I had a little job on
hand which I wanted to have done and that if they would go to Detroit
with me I would tell them about it. They said they would go and I told
them to get into the carriage. They said they could walk, they were
afraid of soiling it; I told them to tumble in and I would take them to
Windsor in a few minutes.
While we were talking up came a colored man on horseback, his horse upon
the jump, breathing as if he had rode him fast. He spoke to Campbell and
took him one side and talked with him. Then Campbell stepped back to me
laughing and told me what the man said. He said: "Heaps of colored
people" thought I was a "Kentuckian;" they said, I looked like one and
that my team and carriage looked like a Kentucky rig. The man would not
believe but that I was one, and thought that I had come to get a colored
woman, who had been a slave in Kentucky; and he said, that there was a
great excitement among the colored people about it.
I learned something of the circumstance; that woman had been a slave in
Kentucky. Her master thought a great deal of her, treated her with much
kindness, in fact made quite a lady of her and gave her liberties and
privileges, which thousands of other slaves never enjoyed. But she made
up her mind, that she wouldn't be the property of any one; her life
should be her own. She ran away to Canada to gain her liberty. When she
arrived there, she didn't find every thing as pleasant as she had
expected and expressed a willingness to return to her master and slavery,
in the land of bondage. Through a secret agent, her master had learned
where she was. He made a bargain with the preacher, Campbell, to get her
back. He was to have quite a sum of money if he succeeded in persuading
her to return to her master.
The colored people had found it out and every man of them branded the
preacher Campbell, as a traitor and enemy to his race. They were watching
him and the colored woman, and were determined, that no one who had
gained their liberty should ever be subjected to slavery again, if they
could prevent it.
Campbell and Obadiah got into the carriage. By this time we had
convinced the first trooper, that I actually was a Michigan man (for he
saw for himself, that I had no woman) and we started back toward
Windsor. We shortly after met another horseman following up; when he met
us he turned with us. They had alarmed all of the colored people on the
road and nearly every man had volunteered for duty. They told us that
some men had gone on the other road, on horse back, to cut us off in
case we turned that way.
I began to make up my mind that, sure enough some how or other, we had
raised quite an excitement among the colored people. We were attended by
quite a cortege. They seemed to be paying a good deal of attention to a
couple of Michigan men. We had attendants on foot and on horse back,
before and behind, and we were quietly making our way toward Windsor. If
persons, who did not know us, and knew nothing of the affair or
circumstance, had stood in the main street in Windsor, opposite the
ferry, and seen us come in, attended by our retinue, they might have
thought, that I, a Michigan farmer, had the King of the Sandwich Islands
accompanied by some great Mogul, that I was their driver and that the
Deputy Sheriff, of Wayne County, Michigan, was their footman.
When we came up opposite the ferry, the crowd of colored men was so
great, we had to stop and give an account of ourselves. They had raised
the alarm in Detroit and she had furnished her quota of colored men for
the emergency. The excitement had helped the ferry business a little.
We found ourselves surrounded by a large concourse of people. I told
them, that I did not know anything about the woman nor of Kentucky. Some
of them wouldn't believe but what there was actually a woman in the
carriage and they had to step up and look in and examine it, in order to
satisfy themselves. Luckily, some of those who came across from Detroit
knew me and knew that I was no Southerner.
Campbell was my main spokesman. He was a very sensible man and more than
an average talker. He said: "Why gemman, I know this man well; he libs in
Dearbu'n. I worked for him heaps of times, often been to his house. We're
goin to Detroit wid him to see 'bout a job."
One colored man, more suspicious than the rest, crowded his way through
up to the carriage, opened the door, took Obadiah by the arm and told him
to get out, that he wouldn't let him go across; he said he was a young
man and it was dangerous for him to go over. Obadiah said that he knew
"Misser Nowlin fust rate," that he had worked for him and that he had
more work for him to do and he must go over. Other men, who knew me,
reasoned the case with them, and they finally concluded it was a false
alarm, closed the carriage door and we were permitted to drive on to the
ferry. We soon crossed back to Detroit; to what some of the colored
people considered so dangerous a place for their race.
I had Campbell hold the horses while my friend, Mr. Tompkins, and I
consulted together concerning Obadiah. I told my friend, that I hadn't
been able to detect any guilt in Obadiah from the first to the last. I
thought if he had been guilty he would have been alarmed, and have
allowed himself to have been taken out of the carriage in Windsor, and
would not have crossed the river with us. Mr. Tompkins had made up his
mind to the same thing. T stepped back to them and said, that I had
consulted with my friend and changed my mind, that I wouldn't do anything
about the job then. I have no doubt, they thought the colored people had
raised such an excitement it had discouraged me and cheated them out of a
job. (It is seen that the job I wished done just then, was to get my
watch, and I had thought that Obadiah was the one who could help me
accomplish it.) I told them, some other time when I had work I would
employ them, and I did employ Campbell a number of times after that. I
gave them money to get them some dinner and to pay their passage back, as
I had paid it over. I left them feeling first rate; they never knew the
object of my visit. They must have thought that I treated them with a
great deal of respect.
When I reached home at night my pocket book was a little lighter, my trip
had cost me something. I told my folks that if they had made out in
Canada, that I was a southern man and that I was after that woman, it
would have been doubtful about my ever getting home and that it would
have taken three hundred Michigan troops to have gotten us out of
Windsor, dead or alive. But I do say to exonerate those colored people
from all suspicion, in the affair, that, some time after, the watch was
found, nicely wrapped up in a piece of cloth and in a bureau drawer,
where it had been laid away carefully and forgotten.
MOTHER'S VISIT TO THE EAST--1861.
I go with her, accompanied by my wife and brother John S. As the train we
wished to take did not stop at Dearborn I had a hired man, with my team,
take us to Detroit. Father went with us to Detroit and to the Michigan
Central Depot. We went aboard the railroad ferry boat and were soon
across the river and on the cars on the "Great Western Railway." We were
soon receding very fast from Michigan; going across lots and down through
the woods of Upper Canada. I tried to see as much as I could of the
country, while we were swiftly passing through it. I told mother we would
manage it so as to see the whole route, either going or coming, by
daylight. I didn't see anything in particular to admire in Canada until
we got down near London and beyond. Then I saw some good country and I
thought it would compare favorably with Michigan land.
Just before sundown we got to the swinging bridge, which hangs over and
across Niagara River. We crossed it very carefully. Just as the sun was
about half hid beyond the Western horizon our car reached terra-firma in
the state of New York. I felt a little more secure and at home, than I
felt when leaving Canada, when we had reached our native state.
In a little while we were aboard the cars of the "New York Central
Railroad" and making our way through the darkness rapidly, toward the
east. I told mother we must try and get a good rest, that night, on the
way to Albany. We located ourselves the best we could for the night. We
had only gone a little ways when, all at once, there was a terrible
rattling and jingling, made by the passing of another train. It made a
noise something like the shelf of a crockery store tumbling down and
breaking in pieces glass ware, earthen ware and all. This noise was
accompanied with a heavy rumbling sound which shook the ground and the
car we were in and caused them to tremble. The flash of the light of the
passing train, as it sped on its way, was so quick by us that it was
impossible to see whether it was a light or not. It appeared like the
ghost of a light or a spectre in its flight through the darkness, for a
moment and it was gone. It left no trace behind that I could see. There
had two or three of those trains of cars passed us before I was able to
make out what made the extra noise. Not having any knowledge that there
was a double track there, and never having rode where there was one
before, it took me a little while, to make up my mind in regard to it.
Both trains going at full speed, in the night, the one we passed
vanishing so quickly, yet not taking the impression it made on us with
its whizzing, hissing, tearing sound, it seemed like some fierce demon
from Tartarus bent on an errand of annihilation. But it was only another
train, like unto the one we were enjoying, and, if as successful as the
officers of the "New York Central Railroad" wished, it would only seem to
annihilate time for its transient occupants. For the coal miner's
invention seemed to make as much discount on time as any wonder of the
last age except our American Morse' lightning talker. We found there was
but very little sleep or rest for us that night. I could look out of the
car window and peer into the darkness and see lights dotted along here
and there; every once in a while, they seemed low down and looked some
like the lights from the back windows of low log cabins. I made out that
they were lights on board of canal boats. I recollected having passed
along there about thirty years before, and that I jumped into the canal
and got terribly wet. Now we were traveling at a more rapid rate; yes, as
far in one hour as we did in all day then, with a large train of
passengers. It was impossible for mother to get any rest that night. Just
as it got nicely light, in the morning, we arrived at Albany.
No doubt there were on that train, who rode through the night with us,
the churchman, the statesman, the officer and men who would quickly dress
themselves in blue and march, under the old flag to defend our country.
Farmers and mechanics, men and women of almost every station in life were
there. Some went one way and some another, each intent upon what they
thought concerned them most at the time.
We went to a restaurant for breakfast and especially to get a good cup of
tea for mother. (It had been rather a tedious night for her.) Then we
went on board a ferry boat and crossed over the North River, then took
the "Harlem Railroad" for Pattison, where we arrived about noon. This
was within three miles of where mother was brought up and I was born. We
hired a livery team to take us to Uncle Allen Light's. In going we passed
by a school house where I learned my "A, B, Abs."
Mother's heart beat high with emotions of joy as she neared her much
beloved brother's dwelling. She had always thought of him as the young
man she left thirty years before; but she found that the frosts of thirty
winters had changed his locks as well as hers.
I asked the driver if Allen Light was much of a farmer; he said that he
was. I asked him if he kept a good many cattle; he said he did. I told
him when he got there to let the valises remain in the carriage, and to
cover them up, after we got out, with the robes so they would not be
seen, and that I wanted him to wait a little while, and I would try and
buy uncle's fat cattle. At least, I would sound him a little and see what
kind of mettle he was made of, and he would see the result. I made a
special bargain with mother and she promised to keep still and keep her
veil over her face until I introduced her. She told me afterward, she
never would make another such a bargain as that with me. She said, it was
too hard work for her, when she saw them to keep from speaking.
Just before we made this visit, my brother and I went to see friends
west, and viewed some prairies of Illinois. We visited Chicago, the great
city of the West, went through it where we saw a great deal of it. We
went into the City Hall, or Court House, and up its winding stairs to a
height so great, that we could overlook most of the city. I saw that the
city covered a good deal of ground. From the elevated position we were
occupying, we looked down and saw men and women walking, in the street
below us, and they looked like a diminutive race. As I looked I thought
the ground was rather flat and level for a city, but we made up our minds
it was a, great place. Some of the merchandise of all the world was
there. We came home feeling very well satisfied with our own city,
Detroit. For the beauty of its scenery and the location of the city I
should give my preference to the "City of the Straits."
Now I had gotten away down east. I had rode a little ways on the outside
of Cowper's wheel. We had all got out of the carriage, in front of
uncle's house, went up to the door and knocked and all went in. I asked
if Mr. Light lived there. Uncle said he was the man. Aunt brought chairs
for the ladies and they sat down. She asked them if they would take off
their things, they refused, as much as to say, they were not going to
stop but a few minutes. I asked uncle immediately, if he had some fat
cattle to sell. He said he had some oxen that he would sell, and we went
out to look at them. Of course I was more anxious to see how uncle
appeared than I was to see the cattle. They were in the barnyard near the
house. I tried to make uncle think, that I had cattle on the brain the
most of anything. I walked around them, viewed them, felt of them,
started them along, asked uncle how much they would weigh, &c. I kept a
sly eye on uncle, to see how much in earnest he was and how he looked. He
was a portly, splendid looking man. He appeared, to me, to be a good,
hale, healthy, honest farmer, well kept and one who enjoyed life. He
would sell his property if he got his price, not otherwise. He was rather
austere and independent about it. He asked me my name and where I was
from. (This is a trait of eastern men, down near Connecticut, to ask a
man his name and where he lives and, sometimes, where he is going.) I saw
that uncle was getting me in rather close quarters, but I talked away as
fast as possible, walking around and looking at the cattle. I asked him
what he would take for them, by the lump, I was trying to evade the
questions, that he had asked me.
I told him that my home was wherever I happened to be, that I paid the
cash for every thing which I bought, that I had just come from Illinois,
where I had relatives, and down through Michigan. I told him that I was
very well acquainted in some parts of Michigan, that I had been in Canada
and that a great many people there called me a "Kentuckian;" and I didn't
know as it mattered what I was called so long as I was able to pay him
for his cattle. I wanted to know the least he would take for them; he
told me. Then I said, I would consider it, we would go to the house and
see how the ladies were getting along.
Going along I made up my mind that uncle thought I was rather an
eccentric drover. He seemed to be interested in what I had said about
Michigan and wanted to know something about the country. When we went
into the house, I saw that mother was getting impatient and our livery
driver sat there yet, waiting to hear how it came out and to deliver
Mr. Light, your name sounds very familiar to me, I have heard the name,
Light, often before. Have you any relatives living in the West? He said
he had two sisters living in Michigan, in the town of Dearborn. Why, said
I, I have been in the town often and am well acquainted there I know a
good many of the people. It is ten miles west of Detroit on the Chicago
road. I saw he began to take great interest in what I said. I asked if he
thought he would know one of his sisters if she were present. He said he
thought he would. I told him there was one there.
Then they threw off all restraint and met as only loved ones can after so
long a separation. Uncle was overjoyed to see her again, upon earth, and
mother was delighted to see him and Aunt Betsey. The light of other days,
youth and happy associations of life flashed up before them in memory
clear and vivid, which touched the most sensitive chord of their hearts
and caused them to vibrate, in love for one another. They visited as only
two who love so well and have been separated so long can visit. Minds
less sensitive, than theirs, cannot imagine with what degree of intensity
of spirit and feeling, they told over to each other, first some of the
scenes of their youth, which they enjoyed together so many years before,
then the absence of loved ones dear to them both. A father, two brothers
and a sister had departed their life since mother moved to Michigan. Ah!
what changes thirty years had produced! Their voices, which mother had
heard so often there, she never would hear again and the smile of their
countenances would never greet her more. They were gone and their places
left vacant. A great many former acquaintances of mother had also
disappeared. They talked about the hardships they had endured while apart
and of some things they had enjoyed which were as bright spots, or
oases, in the desert of their separation.
Now as I was there, I wished to visit the place where I had been in days
of yore, in my childhood. The places had changed some but I could go to
every place I remembered. The distance, from one place to another, didn't
seem more than half as far as I had it laid out in my mind.
The country appeared very rough to me. What we used to call hills, looked
to me like small mountains. I supposed the reason was because I had been
living so long in a level country. The rocks and stones appeared larger
and the stones seemed to lie thicker on the ground than I had supposed.
The ledges and boulders appeared very strange to me I had been gone so
long. I found that the land was very natural for grass, where it wasn't
too stony. It produced excellent pasture upon the hillsides, good meadow
on the bottom and ridges, where it was smooth enough and not so stony but
that it could be mowed.
I went to see our old spring. It was running yet. Uncle had plenty of
fruit. I looked for the apple trees that I used to know and they had
almost entirely disappeared. I saw where they had raised good corn and
potatoes on uncle's place. Oats, that season, had been a very poor crop.
Wheat, uncle said they couldn't raise, but they could raise good crops of
rye. I passed by another school house where I had attended school. The
same building where I got one pretty warm whipping for failing to get a
lesson. The school buildings which I saw there both looked old and
dilapidated. I thought they looked poor in comparison to our common
school houses in Michigan. I had a good many cousins, who lived there;
scattered around. I went to see as many of them as I could. I had one
cousin, who lived off about four or five miles. I wished very much to see
her for I remembered her quite well, we were young together. Uncle's
folks said she was married and lived on a ridge that they named. Cousin
Allen said he would go with me to see her, so we started. Before we got
there we had about a mile to go up hill. Cousin got along very well and
didn't seem to mind it, but it was up hill business for me to climb that
ridge. I wondered how teams could get up and down safely; they must have
understood ascending and descending better than our Michigan teams or, it
seemed to me, they would have got into trouble. We finally got on to the
top of what they called a ridge. I found some pretty nice table land up
there, for that country, and two or three farms. After we reached the
highest part of the ridge we stopped and I looked off at the scenery, it
appeared wild and strange. I could look north and see miles beyond where
uncle lived and see hills and ridges. I could look in every direction and
the same strange sights met my view. I think my cousin told me, that to
the southwest of us, we could see some of the mountains near the North
river. While I looked at the rugged face of the country, it didn't seem
hardly possible that that could be so old a country, and Michigan so new.
West of us we could look down into a hollow or valley. The flat appeared
to be about eighty rods wide, on the bottom between the ridges. West of
the hollow there arose another great ridge, like unto the one on which we
stood. Along this hollow there was a creek and a road running lengthwise
with the hollow. I saw a man, with a lumber wagon and horses, driving
along the road; from where I stood, and looked at them, they didn't
appear larger than Tom Thumb and his Shetland ponies.
We finally got to my cousin's, I found that she had changed from a little
girl to an elderly woman. She was very glad to see me and wanted me to
stay longer than I felt inclined to, for I wanted to be back to the old
home again, viewing the scenes of my childhood as, to me, there was a
sort of fascination about them.
Up there I noticed a small lake, near the top of the ridge. I thought
it a strange place for a lake. I asked cousin if there were fish in it,
he said there were, that they caught them there sometimes. I asked if
the lake was deep; he said in some parts of it they could not find
bottom. I looked over it away down into the hollow beyond, and thought
there might be room enough below for it to be bottomless; it might head
in China for all I knew. As I gazed I thought, can it be possible that
this country appears so much rougher, to me, than it used to, and yet
be the same? As I stood and peered away from one mountain and hill to
another, at the gray and sunburnt rocks, jagged ledges, precipices and
the second growth of scrubby timber, that dotted here and there and
grew on the sides of hills, where it was too stony and steep for
cultivation, it astonished me.
My friends appeared well pleased with their native hills and vales and I
have no doubt they thought, as they expressed it to me, that they lived
near the best market and that New York was ahead. But the place how
changed to me! If I could have seen some wigwams and their half nude
inhabitants, on the hill sides, in the room of the houses of white men,
and have witnessed the waving of the feathery plume of the red man, above
his long black hair, I should have thought, from the view and the face of
the land, that that old country was very new and wild and that Michigan,
where I lived at least, was the old country after all.
Nature seemed to be reversing the two countries. It appeared to me like
the wild--wild--west Yosemite valley and mountains, or some other place.
How strange! Here I am standing upon my native soil. I used to think it
was the brightest spot upon this dim place men call earth.
In coming down the hill, I had to be cautious how far I stepped, in order
to keep upright, as I was liable to move too fast, get up too much
motion, I had to hold back on myself and keep one knee at a time crooked.
In that way I got safely down. I was a little cautious, for I had on me
scars made by falling on stones and cutting myself, when near that place
long years before, when I was a little boy driving father's cows, to and
fro, night and morning, from the new place he bought, (the buying of
which was one great reason of our going to Michigan to find a new home
and live where white men had never lived before.)
I went back to uncle's and told him, that I had made him a pretty good
visit. I tried to get him and some of the rest of my friends to promise
me to go west and see our country and judge of it for themselves. They
said we western men had to bring our produce, and whatever we had to
sell, down to the New York market, in order to dispose of it. I made up
my mind, if New York was the head and mouth of Uncle Sam, that his body
and heart were in the great central West, his hands upon the treasury at
Washington and his feet were of California, like unto polished gold,
washed by the surf of the Pacific Ocean. When Uncle Sam wished them wiped
he could easily place them on his snow topped foot-stool, the Rocky
mountains, and Miss Columbia, with a smile would wipe them with the
clouds and dry them in the winds of the Nevada, while she pillowed his
head softly on the great metropolis, New York, where the Atlantic breeze
fans his brow and lets him recline in his glory, the most rapidly risen
representation of a great nation that the world has ever seen.
When Uncle Sam brings his hand from Washington it is full of green backs
and gold, which he scatters broadcast among his subjects. Here and there
across the continent it flies, like the leaves in autumn, so that it can
be gathered by persevering men, who till the soil or follow other
pursuits of industry. It is free for all who will get it honestly.
A little east and north of the garden city, is Michigan, one of Uncle
Sam's gardens. I think it is a beautiful place, dotted here and there and
nearly surrounded by great fountains that sparkle, glimmer and shine, in
the sun, like the rays of the morning--beautiful garden. It is
interspersed, here and there, with groves of primeval evergreens and
crossed now and then by beautiful valleys and dotted by flowery walks and
pleasant homes of the gardeners. It abounds in picturesque scenery, has a
very productive soil and helps to furnish some of Uncle Sam's family, of
about forty millions, with many of the good things of life, even down in
"Gotham." So we get some of their money, from down there, if they are
ahead of us and the head of America. I am satisfied for one, to live in
one of the peninsula gardens of the West.
As my wife wished to visit her native place on the Hudson River, we would
have to stop there a short time, and as my wife and brother wished to
visit the city of New York we bade good by to uncle and his family and
started. Took the "Harlem Railroad" and in a short time were in the city.
We put up at the "Lovejoy Hotel" opposite the City Hall. We had rooms and
everything comfortable. We visited the Washington market and some of the
ships that lay in the harbor. We went on board one ocean steamer, went
through it and examined it. We crossed the river to Brooklyn. Visited
Greenwood Cemetery and saw all the sights we could conveniently, on that
side of the river. One night we visited Barnum's American Museum, after
this we went to see the Central Park and other places. We made up our
minds that we had seen a good deal and that New York was an immense city.
LEAVING NEW YORK CITY FOR HOME.
We thought it was about time we started for home. We began to want to get
back to Michigan, so we agreed to start. Brother J. S. was to take the
"Harlem Railroad," go to uncle's, stop and visit, get mother and meet us,
on a certain day at Albany. My wife and I took the "Hudson River
Railroad" and came as far as Peekskill. We visited together the place of
her nativity, where she lived until she was twelve years old. She found
many very warm friends there among her relatives. We passed through
Peekskill hollow to visit some of her friends. There I saw some beautiful
land. It looked nice enough for western land, if it had not been for the
rugged scenery around it.
When the day came, that we were to meet mother at Albany, we took the
cars and started. When we passed Fishkill I knew the place well. I had
been there a number of times before, when I was a boy. Newburg, on the
opposite side of the river, appeared the most natural of any place I had
seen. Along the river it appeared beautiful, and the mountains grand. It
was the first time I had been there since we moved to Michigan. We soon
passed Poughkeepsie, the place where we took the night boat, so many
years before, bound for the territory of Michigan.
As we approached the Catskill mountains, I should say ten or fifteen
miles away, they looked like a dark cloud stretched across the horizon;
and when we came nearer and nearer the highest one, and it was in plain
sight, it appeared majestic and grand. From the car window, we could see
the mountain house that stood upon its towering summit. We could see
small clouds, floating along by the top of the mountain. That was the
greatest mountain I had ever seen; yet it is small in comparison to some
in our own country. Not one third so high in the world as Fremont's peak,
where he unfurled the banner of our country, threw it to the breeze and
it proudly floated in the wind, higher than it had ever been before.
We soon got to Albany, went to a hotel near the railroad depot, called
for a room and told the landlord that we would occupy it until the next
morning. As mother could not rest on the cars, I thought it would be
easier for her to stay there over night, and we would see some of the
western part of the state of New York the next day.
After dinner we locked up our room and Mrs. Nowlin and I went out to take
a look at Albany. We went up to the state house, the capitol, and visited
the room, where the legislators of the "Empire state" meet to make laws
for her people. There we saw the statue of the extraordinary man,
Secretary of State and statesman, William H. Seward. He, who shortly
after, was attacked by an assassin, where he lay sick upon his bed, in
his room at Washington and was so severely wounded, that the nation
despaired of his life for some time.
We went back to the hotel, and as the time was nearly up for the Harlem
train from New York City, I went back across the river to meet mother and
brother John Smith. The train shortly came in and they had come. Brother
had mother upon his arm. She was very glad to see me. I got hold of her
and she had two strong arms of her boys to lean upon. I told her we had a
room over in Albany and were keeping house; that we would stop there all
night and start again in the morning. It would make it more easy for her,
and we would not have those jingling, rattling cars passing in the night,
to keep us awake. We crossed over the river and went to our quarters. We
four were all together again and had some new things to tell each other
as we had been apart a few days. We passed the night very comfortably.
Early the next morning a regiment of soldiers, from the west, came
hurrying on to the seat of war to defend the flag of our Country and the
glorious Union. It rained very hard, I stood one side and noticed the
"Boys in Blue" as they came pouring out of the depot. Their officers did
not seem to have them under very good control. Their discipline wasn't
very good yet; after they got out, there were several of them who seemed
to be inclined to go on their own hooks. The officers had about all they
could do to keep them along. One physically powerful, hardy looking man
passed near me. He said, he thought it was a little hard, early in the
morning, after a fellow had been jammed and bruised all night and it
rained that he couldn't be allowed to stop and take a drop. The officer
told him to keep in the ranks. I felt interested to know if they were
Michigan men, but was not able to learn where they were from.
In a few minutes we were aboard of our train and started again for
Michigan. The prospect of getting home soon elated mother very much. She
had lost most of her attachment for her native place, and it was no
comparison, in her mind, to her Michigan. She said uncle offered to give
her a farm, if she would move back there and spend the remainder of her
days by him. But it was nothing in comparison to Michigan, it was an
inducement far too small for her to consider favorably. We were coming
home as fast as steam could bring us and it was raining all the time. I
told mother I thought we should run out from under the rain clouds before
night, but that was a mistake. It rained all day long and was dark when
we got to the suspension bridge. When we got off the cars, the runners
were a great annoyance to mother. I told her not to pay any attention to
them, we would find a good place. There was a gentleman standing near us,
who heard what I said. He told me that there was a good house, the "New
York Hotel," which stood close by. Said he was not interested for any,
but that that house was a good one. I told mother we would go there and
we started. I was helping mother along and told my wife and brother to
follow us. It was hard work for them to get away from the runners. They
hated very much to give them up, and they were making as much noise over
them as a flock of wild geese. But my wife and brother left them and
followed us. We got to the "New York House" and called for a room. We
found it to be a very good house. We wanted to stay over night there, as
it would be better for mother and we wished to go up and see the Falls
next day. The next morning after breakfast my wife, brother and I went up
to the Falls. As it was still raining mother stayed in her room, she
didn't wish to go.
We went up on the American side and went down three hundred steps of
stairs to the foot of the Falls. After this we viewed Goat Island, went
across it to the stone tower, went up its rickety winding stairs to the
top and looked upon the majestic scenery of nature, which was spread out
before us there. I saw no place there where it appeared so terribly grand
to me as it did when I stood at the foot of the Falls. There we went out
on the rocks as far as we could, and not get too wet with the spray, and
viewed the water as it poured over the cataract and plunged into the
abyss below, beat itself into foam and spray, which settled together
again and formed the angry waves that went rolling and tumbling away to
the sea. There I heard the sound of many waters thundering in their fall
and I thought, while looking at that sublime and wonderful display of
nature, that the waters of the river and creeks of my own "Peninsula
State," after turning hundreds of mills, slaking thirst and giving life
to both man and beast, came there for an outlet. It plunges into Niagara
River and goes gliding away to the ocean; some of it to be picked up by
the wind and rays of the sun and rise in vapor. When formed into clouds
in the atmosphere it is borne back on the wings of the wind, condensed by
the cold air and falls in copious showers of rain upon the earth, to
purify the atmosphere, moisten and fertilize the fields and cause
vegetation to spring forth in its beauty. The rain falling upon the just
and the unjust makes the heart of the husbandman leap for joy, at the
prospect of a bountiful harvest, causes the foliage and the gardens to
put on a more beautiful green, the lilies of the valley and the rose in
the garden ("the transient stars of earth") to unfold themselves more
beautifully. Then the cloud passes away, bearing and sprinkling the
limpid fluid upon other lands, and the sun looks out upon the cool,
healthful, invigorating and refreshing scene. The beautiful rainbow, in
its splendor, seems to span the arch of heaven, placed there as a token
of remembrance, so long before. It lasts but a little while and then
disappears, the cloud also passes away. In this and similar ways the
rivers and creeks are kept supplied with water and the Falls of Niagara
kept continually roaring.
We went back to the "New York House" and shortly after took the cars for
Dearborn. We arrived there about ten o'clock in the evening. Mother
walked home, to the "Castle," a mile, very spryly. She seemed to feel
first rate. She was pleased to get home. Father and the family had
retired for the night when we got there, but father soon had a light and
a fire and was ready to listen to our stories. We told him how near we
had come losing mother. That uncle had offered to give her a farm if she
would come back, live on it and spend her days by him. We told him what
farm it was; he knew the place as he was well acquainted in that country.
We told him if she went back they could go together and he could carry on
the farm. But the inducement was far too small for them to entertain the
thought of going, for a moment. Michigan was their home, had won their
affections and was their favorite place.
I told father, that he must go and visit his native place, see how rough
it was and I would go with him. I thought it would appear rougher to him
than he expected or could imagine. He said he would like to go back
sometime and see the country once more. He kept putting it off from year
to year. It is said, "Procrastination is the thief of time." He never
went. He bought him eight acres more land joining his two places. He paid
for it seventy dollars an acre and had some money left.
Part of the eight acres was a ridge covered with chestnut trees. Father
enjoyed himself there very much, a few of the last falls of his life,
picking up chestnuts. He was a man a little over six feet tall. He walked
straight and erect until the sickness, which terminated his existence in
time, at the age of seventy-six years, in the year 1869. He went the way
of all the earth. The rest of the family and I, missed him very much. Our
counselor and one of our best friends was gone. He had fought his last
battle and finished his course.
Mother survived him. She gave each of the children a silver piece (they
were all old coins of different nations and times, each worth a dollar or
more) which father had saved in an early day. They were in mother's work
basket in the dark room at Buffalo, were brought in it, through the
fearful storm on Lake Erie, to Michigan and saved through all of our hard
times in the wilderness. I have my piece yet, as a keepsake, and I think
my brother and sisters have theirs. After father's death, mother still
lived at the "Castle" and my sister Bessie, who took all the care of her
in her old age that was possible, stayed with her. All the rest of the
children did every thing they could for her comfort. She felt lonesome
without father, with whom she had spent nearly fifty years of her life.
She lived a little over three years after he was gone and followed him.
She was seventy-one years old, in 1873, when her voice was hushed in
death and mother too was gone.
We laid her by father's side in a place selected by himself for that
Back to Full Books