Now finally I thought we had quite a clearing. I could stand by our house, and look to the west, and see Mr. Pardee's house and the smoke of his chimney. I could see Mr. Pardee and his sons when they came out in the morning and went to their work. I could look to the east and there, joining ours, was the clearing and house of Mr. Asa Blare, and he could be seen. Then it began to seem as if others were living in Michigan, for we could see them. The light of civilization began to dawn upon us. We had cleared up what was a few years before, the lair of the wolf and the hunting ground of the red man. The Michigan bird of the night had no more chance to make his nest in hollow trees or live there, but had to go back to the woods. There we could hear him almost any evening hallooing. "Whoo! whoo! whoo!" His nearest neighbor would answer him, "Whoo! whoo!" then they would get together and have a great talk about something. Whether they were talking about our chickens, or our clearing off their woods and driving them away, or something else, I cannot say as I did not understand what they said.
Father said: "Now our best wood is worth something, as the road," which is now the Michigan Central Railroad, "has got as far as Dearborn, and they are building it farther west." He thought we could cut some of our best timber into cord wood and sell it to the managers of the road, and make something from it. We drew some of the first cord wood that they used on the railroad, and continued to furnish a share of it for years. We had learned what day the first steam car was expected out to Dearborn. I went to see it, as it was to be there at a certain time of day. I was in time and with others waited anxiously for its appearance. While we were waiting I heard that there was to be a race from Mr. Conrad TenEyck's, a distance of one mile, to Dearborn. William Cremer, a young man who lived at TenEyck's, had made up his mind to have the race on his own hook and let the people of Dearborn see him come in. He got his sorrel, white-faced pony, had him saddled and bridled, and wailed in readiness, so that when the iron horse came opposite he could try him a race to Dearborn, and likewise try the speed of his pony. I don't suppose the railroad men knew any thing about his arrangement. As the TenEyck tavern, where he started, stood within twenty rods of the railroad, no doubt some of the railroad men saw him when he started. Toward the village the roads ran nearer and nearer together for about a hundred rods, then came side by side for a short distance. As he had a little the start, and came to the narrows first, he must have been in plain sight of the men on the cars. It is easy to imagine how the puffs of the iron horse scared the little sorrel and gave him, if possible, more speed. The passengers who saw him might have thought it was another "train band captain, John Gilpin," running after his wife. Nearly all the people of Dearborn (who were but few at that time), had gathered in front of the arsenal, in the Chicago road, at the side of the Dearborn House and were anxiously waiting. From this point we could see half a mile down the Chicago road east, and we could see the smoke of the engine beyond the TenEyck place ...
The time appointed was up and we were very impatient, waiting and looking, for the least sign of the approach of the long-talked-of cars. As we were waiting some one said the cars would stop for Mr. TenEyck, as he was the richest and most influential man there was in the town, and the road ran a long way through his farm. Some said, "of course they will stop and take him on." At last we could hear a distant rumbling like the sound of a thousand horses running away, and we saw the smoke. As they came nearer we saw a long string of smoke disappearing in the air. The cars were approaching us rapidly, and stopped for no one. When they got opposite Mr. Thompson's tavern, sure enough, there on the Chicago road came William Cremer, like a streak, with his hat off, waving it in his hand, looking back over his shoulder at the cars, hallooing like a trooper and his horse running for dear life. He had beat them for the mile. Of course, before Cremer got up to us, we all started for the railroad, which was about twenty-five rods to the south, to see the iron horse come in. He came prancing and pawing upon the iron track, and he disdained to touch the ground. His body was as round as a log. His bones were made of iron, his veins were filled with heat, his sinews were of brass, and "every time he breathed he snorted fire and smoke." He moved proudly up to the station, little thinking that he had just been beaten by a Dearborn horse. "With his iron reins" he was easily controlled and held in subjection by his master. His groom pampered and petted him, rubbed him down, oiled his iron joints and gave him water to drink. He fed him upon the best of cord-wood, as he relished that very well, and devoured it greedily. The contents of his iron stomach seemed to be composed of fire. While he was waiting he seemed to be very impatient, letting off and wasting his breath and seeming eager for a start. He was sweating profusely. The sweat was falling in drops to the ground. When all was ready, the cry was, "All aboard!" and away he went snorting at every jump.
I went home and told the wonderful story of the sight I had seen. There was but little talked about, at our house, except the cars, until the whole family had been to see them. We thought, surely, a new era had dawned upon us, and that Michigan was getting to be quite a country.
There were two stately trees which stood near the center of the place. In view of their antiquity it seemed almost wrong to cut them. One was an elm which stood on the flat of the Ecorse. The other was what we called a swamp white oak. It stood in a little hollow at the west end of the ridge (where we lived) about twenty rods north of the elm. They appeared as though they were about the same age. They were nearly the same size. They were five or six feet through at the butt.
Father often said that the tree recorded within itself a true record of its own age. After a tree was cut down, I have known him frequently to count the grains or yearly rings and from them extract a register by which he learned how many years old it was.
How my mind reaches back forty years and views again that venerable old oak and elm. Trees whose history and lives began before the first settlement of America. How familiar still their appearance to me, as they stood with their arms stretched out bidding me the most graceful salutations. They seemed almost like friends, at least there was some companionship about them, their forms were very familiar to me.
On the west side of the elm, just above the ground and running up about six feet, there was a huge knot which grew out of the side of the tree. It was large enough to stand upon, when upon it, but there was not room enough for us to stand upon it and chop. We had to build a scaffold around the tree, up even with the top of the knot to stand upon. In that way we were able to cut the great tree down. It was a hard job and was attended with danger. When the tree started we had to get down very quickly and run back to a place of safety, for the tree was very angry in the last throes of its dissolution. It broke other trees down, tore other trees to pieces, broke off their limbs, bent other small ones down with it as it went, and held their tops to the earth. Other trees went nearly down with it but were fortunate enough to break its hold and gained again their equilibrium with such swiftness that their limbs which had been nearly broken off, yet, which they retained until they straightened, then their stopping so suddenly, the reaction caused the fractured and dry limbs to break loose, and they flew back of where we had been chopping. They flew like missiles of death through the air, and the scaffold upon which we stood but a minute before was smashed into slivers. In the mean time we were looking out for our own safety.
No man, unless he has experienced it himself, can have an adequate idea of the danger and labor of clearing a farm in heavy, timbered land. Then he knows something of the anxieties and hardships of a life in the woods: the walking, the chopping and sweating, the running and the dodging like Indians behind trees. He trusts to their protection to save him from falling trees and flying limbs, although he is often lacerated and bruised, jambed and torn by them. I knew a man and a boy in our town who were killed by falling limbs. Sometimes he is cut by the ax and is obliged to go home, over logs, between stumps and through brush, leaving a bloody trail behind him.
Father's farm was rescued from the wilderness and consecrated to the plow and husbandry through sweat and blood. We ofttimes encountered perils and were weary from labor, often times hungry and thirsty, often suffered from cold and heat, frequently destitute of comfortable apparel and condemned to toil as the universal doom of humanity—thus earning our bread by the sweat of our brows.
Father and I labored some years in sight of the great elm stump. It appeared like a giant, with a great hump on his back, overlooking the surrounding stumps. It was about eight feet high. But it was doomed to decay, and entirely disappeared long years ago.
The oak tree was more fortunate and escaped the fatal ax, a number of years after all the timber around it had been chopped and cleared away. On account of its greatness, and its having so nice a body, father let it stand as monarch of the clearing. But few came into our clearing without seeing his majesty's presence. His roots were immense. They had been centuries creeping and feeling their way along, extracting life from mother earth to sustain their gigantic body. The acorn, from which that oak grew, must have been planted long before, and the tree which grew from it have been dressed many times in its summer robe of green, and it was, doubtless, flourishing when the "Mayflower" left the English Channel. When she was slowly making her way from billow to billow, through the then almost unknown sea, bearing some of the most brave and liberty-loving men and women the world, at that time, could produce; when the hearts of the Pilgrim Fathers were beating high with hopes of liberty and escape from tyranny, when their breath came low and short for fear of what might await them; when they landed on the American shore—yes! when that little band of pilgrims were kneeling on Plymouth Rock, and offering up thanksgiving and praise to the Almighty, who had brought them safely o'er the trackless deep, that oak was quietly standing, gathering strength to make it what it was when we came to Michigan. There it had stood, ever since the days of yore, spreading its boughs over the generations of men who have long since passed away. Around it had been the Indian's camping and hunting ground. When we came to plow and work the ground near it I found some of their stone arrows which had been worked out very beautifully. Their edges and points showed very plainly where they had been chipped off in making. We also found stone hatchets, the bits of which were about two and a half inches broad and worked to an edge. They were about six inches long. The pole or head was round. From their appearance they must have been held in the hand using the arm for a helve. For an encounter with bruin or any other enemy, it is possible they bound a withe around the pole and used that as a handle. Much ingenuity and skill must have been required to work out their implements when they had nothing better with which to do it than other stones.
I often picked up the arrows and hatchets and saved them as relics of past ages, knowing that they had been in other hands long years before. I have some of them now (1875). The stones from which they were made must have been brought from some distance as there were few other stones found in this part of the country.
If that oak could have talked, what a wild, wild story it might have told, not only of lost arrows and hatchets, but also of their owners, about whom the world has little knowledge. It might have told also of the hundreds of years it had stood there and showered down its acorns upon the earth, enough in one season to have planted a forest of its own kind; how often its acorns had been gathered by the Indian youth, and devoured by the wild beasts of the forest; how many times its leaves had been changed by the autumn frosts from a green to a beautiful golden hue; how the cold wind swept them off and they flew down in huddled races to the ground, carpeted and cushioned the earth, protected the roots and enriched the soil. How, after it had been shorn of its leaves, its life current had been sent back through the pores of its body to its roots and congealed by the cold freezing frosts of winter; how the wind sighed and moaned through its branches while it cracked and snapped with the frost. But there was to be an end to its existence. The remorseless ax was laid at its roots and there is nothing left of it, unless it be a few old oak rails. There are some moss-covered rails on the place yet that were made at an early day. How my thoughts go back and linger round that oak whose branches gave shelter to the deer, furnished them with food, protected the Indian and his home—the place where I, so long afterward, advanced to manhood.
It is no wonder that Boston men are so careful in protecting their trees. With their usual care and foresight they have guarded the celebrated elm on Boston common. Thousands of the American people from every State in the Union, even from the Pacific coast, visit the beautiful city of Boston but are not satisfied until they visit the ancient elm, read its history, as far as known, from the iron plate, and gaze with admiration on the wonderful tree and the fence that surrounds it.
The full history of that tree is not known, but it reaches back prior to the settlement of Boston. It was a good sized tree in 1656. "A map of Boston made in 1722 showed the tree as one of the principal objects." That tree is a sacred relic of the past. Its branches waved over the heads of honored colonial ancestors.
Trees are our most beautiful and best antiquities. "It was a beautiful thought," says Ruskin, "when God thought of making a tree and giving it a life so long." Another says: "What vicissitudes mark its life, almost tender with suggestion. Trees are the Methuselahs of nature. The famous Etna chestnut is a thousand years old. There is a cypress tree in Mexico, over forty feet in diameter, whose zones record nearly three thousand years. The baobab trees of the Green Cape are fully four thousand years old. The great dragon tree at Ortova, Teneriffe, (recently said to be dying), is said to be five thousand years old—a life that runs parallel to almost the entire period of human chronology." No doubt some of those trees will last as long as time. Is it any wonder that I claim some companionship to trees, since I passed so many years of my youth among them? Trees often prevented sharp eyes from seeing me, secreted me and helped me to luck, which was very gratifying to me. Trees, when it rained and the wind was piercing, have often protected, sheltered and kept me dry and comfortable for hours.
I frequently when at some distance from home, hunting, and night coming on, began traveling, as I supposed, toward home. I often came to tracks in the snow which, at first, I thought were made by some one else, but, upon a more particular examination, would find that they were my own tracks. Then I would know that I had been circling round and round, that the "wigwam was lost" and I had the gloomy prospect of remaining in the woods all night—"out of humanity's reach." Then I would trust to the trees, look at them, take their directions and start again in a new course. This would seem wrong to me, but I always came out right. Trees never deceived, but showed me the way home.
When I have been in the woods, hungry, trees furnished me food. When thirsty, they often supplied me with drink. When cold and almost freezing, trees have warmed and made me comfortable. Trees furnished most of the material for father's "bark-covered house," which sheltered us for more than two years.
If trees have done so much for one, surely all humanity have derived great good from them. The earth itself is adorned and beautified by trees.
DRAWING CORD-WOOD—HOW THE RAILROAD WAS BUILT—THE STEAM WHISTLE.
Father commenced chopping cord-wood and he said I could draw it as fast as he could chop it. I was so much engaged that, when the moon was in its full, I often started with my load of wood a little before plain daylight. Of course I felt cheerful, I thought we were doing some business. Sometimes I walked by the side of the team and load and sometimes behind them. Hallooing at my team, driving them, singing, whistling and looking into the woods occasionally, occupied my time until I got to Dearbornville.
One morning I met William Ozee. I told him I had seen two or three deer as I was coming along. Told him where they stood and looked at me and the team, until we were out of sight, and that I thought they were there yet. He said he would attend to them. He had his rifle on his shoulder, and he said he would go for them. I saw him afterward and he said he had taught them better than to stand and look at anybody so impudently as that. He had killed some of them.
I made up my mind that if I could get a good rifle, I could make as much, or more, with it than father and I both could make cutting and drawing wood. Father said I might have a new one made. Accordingly I went to John W. Alexander and selected a rifle barrel, from a pack of new barrels that he had. I tried to select as soft a one as I could, as I considered those the best in frosty weather. I selected what I thought was about the right calibre, and told him I wanted him to make it with a raised sight so I could shoot any distance. I told him to make a buster for me, one that couldn't be beat. He said he would try and do it for twenty dollars. I told him I wanted him to make it as quickly as he could; in a short time he had it done. I thought it was a beautiful rifle. The name of the maker was inscribed on the barrel. I took it home feeling very good. I tried it shooting at a mark; shooting the distance of ten rods at a mark the size of a two shilling silver piece. With a rest, when there was not much wind, I could hit it every time and did do it five or six times in succession. Frequently when shooting the bullet holes would break into one another, and sometimes two bullets would go into the same hole. The only way I could tell where the last shot struck was by plugging up the old holes. Often the little white paper would fly away, the pin in the center having been shot away.
I made up my mind I had a splendid rifle, one that it would be hard to beat. That same rifle now stands in my bedroom. It was made over thirty-five years ago, with the bright name of John W. Alexander on it. He is now an old resident of Dearborn, a useful and ingenious man, and fills a prominent place in society; if he were gone it would be difficult to find a man capable of filling his place.
But I must return to my drawing wood. The place where we heaped it was on the north side of the railroad, about fifteen rods east of where the postoffice is now kept. The woodyard, including the depot, I should judge, was not more than one hundred feet square. Here we piled our wood, sometimes ten feet high. We were to have seven shillings a cord for it and if we chopped and hauled three cords a day we thought we did well. I drew it as fast as I could, sometimes I got to Dearborn just as the old Solar made his appearance in the east. The Lunar had already done her work toward helping me, veiled her face and disappeared. When we had drawn a lot of wood in father had it measured up and got his voucher for the amount. One time when he went to Detroit to get his money I went with him. We went on the cars. The depot and railroad office, where father did his business, stood where the City Hall now stands. I thought the railroad was a splendid thing. We went in so much nicer, easier and quicker than we could have gone on foot, or with our ox-team.
Now we were going to get some money of the railroad officers, I thought we would have money to pay the interest on our mortgage and help us along. Father got his pay in Michigan State scrip, a substitute for money. It was good for its face to pay State taxes; but to turn it into money father had to sell it for six shillings on a dollar. Here it will be seen, that what we really received for our wood, was a little over sixty-five cents per cord, and that when we drew in three cords a day (which was as much as father could chop, and all that I and the team could draw) we made a little over a dollar and ninety-five cents per day.
What would some of the workingmen of the present day who get together and form "Union Leagues," "Trade Unions," strike for higher wages and conspire against their employers and their capital, doubtless thinking such a course justifiable, think of such wages as that, and provisions very dear, as they were at that time? I began to think myself rough and ready and was able to grapple with almost anything and do a good days' work. Father, I and the team all worked hard and with the wood thrown in we all together did not make two dollars a day.
As father had a small job in the building of the railroad and some of the time I was with him, I will describe as well as I can, how the railroad was built. They first graded the road-bed and made it level, then took timbers as long as the trees would make them, hewed them on each side and flattened them down to about a foot in thickness, then laid them on blocks which were placed in the bed of the road. They were laid lengthwise of the road, far enough apart so that they would be directly under the wheels of the cars, and the ground graded up around them. In this manner they continued until the road-bed was finished.
The next thing was to get out the ties. These were made from logs nine feet long, which were split open through the heart, then quartered and split from the heart to the center of the back, until the pieces were about six or seven inches through on the back. Then the backs of the ties were hewed flat, making them about three square, when they were ready to be used on the road. They were placed back down across the bed pieces and spiked fast to them. They were laid about three feet apart the length of the road. Over those sills, in the upper edge of the ties, they cut out two gains. In those gains they laid two stringers running directly over the sleepers. These stringers were sawed out about four by six inches square. They were laid in the gains of the ties, spiked fast and wedged with wooden wedges. Then the woodwork was finished and everything ready for pulling on the iron. They used the strap rail iron. The bars were two inches and a quarter wide and half an inch thick. These bars were laid flat on top, and next to the in-edge, of the stringers and were spiked fast to them. In this way our railroad was built. The cars running away west on it, penetrating Michigan as the harbinger of civilization, opened up a way for the resources of the country.
The strap iron which they used first proved to be very poor iron. In after years, if a spike came out or the bar cracked off at the spike hole, the bar would turn up like a serpent's head and if not seen in time it was liable to throw the train off the track and do damage. I was at Dearborn at one time when an accident, of this kind, happened to a freight train, a little west of the village. There was considerable property destroyed, barrels broken in pieces and flour strewed over the ground, but no lives were lost.
Father said the railroad was a good thing for us and our country, and that they would soon have one, and the cars running on it to the State of New York. Then I reiterated my promise to mother. I said if the cars ran through our native place, we could go back there without crossing Lake Erie, the thought of which chilled me every time I spoke to mother about going back to make a visit. Time sped on, days, months, and some years had passed, since the first of the Michigan Central Railroad was built, and the cars running east and west loaded with passengers and freight, when one morning I heard a strange noise. It was terrible and unaccountable to me, as much so as it would have been if I had heard heavy thunder at mid-day, from a clear sky. I heard it from the direction of Dearbornville; It appeared to originate there, or in the woods that way. I heard it two or three times, several days in succession.
If there had come a herald from Dearbornville and told me that the man of the moon had stepped out of his old home, and down on to our earth, at Dearborn, and that he had a great horn, twenty feet long, in his hand, and that it was him, I had heard, tooting on his horn to let us know, and the inhabitants of his own country, that he had arrived safe on the earth, I might not have believed what he said in regard to the arrival of the supernatural being and his visit to us; but I could have believed almost anything wonderful in regard to the horn for I had heard its thrilling blast myself.
Father, mother and, in fact, none of us were able to think or imagine what it could be. It came through the woods as swift as lightning and its shrill and piercing voice was more startling than thunder. It echoed and re-echoed across our clearing, from woods to woods and died swiftly away in the distance. What on earth could it be? Could it be the voice of a wild animal? That seemed impossible, it was too loud. I thought such an animal would need lungs as large as a blacksmith's bellows, and a voice as strong as a steamboat, to have raised such an unearthly yell.
It was enough to scare all the bears and wolves to death, or at least, enough to make them hide away from the voice and face of the dragon. But there was a man, who lived one mile south of Dearbornville, by the name of Alonzo Mather; he was a little more sensible and courageous. He thought he knew what made the strange noise. When he came out of his house one morning, all at once, the terrible sound broke upon his ear. He had heard it two or three times before, about the same place in the woods, toward Dearbornville. He said to his hired man, a Mr. Whitmore, who was utterly astonished and seemed to be all in a fright, "Hear that! I know what it is! It is a bear, and he lives right over there in the woods. I have heard him two or three times in the same place. Don't say a word to anyone; not let the hunters know anything about his being there and I'll shoot him myself.'" He took down his rifle immediately, and started on the double quick, followed by the hired man, who could help him in case of trouble.
He went through the woods looking carefully in every direction, scanning the old logs and large hollow trees and searching from top to bottom to see if he could find a hole large enough for a bear to crawl in. In this way he looked all around, near the railroad, where he thought the noise originated, but he could not find a track or sign of Mr. Bruin, for the bear wasn't there, so, in disgust, he gave up the hunt.
About the next day after Mr. Mather's hunt, he and all the rest of us learned what had caused the excitement. It was a new invention, the steam whistle of the cars; something we had never heard before.
HOW I HUNTED AND WE PAID THE MORTGAGE.
The mortgage which had hung so long over us, like a dark cloud obscuring our temporal horizon and chilling our hopes, was at last removed, May first, 1841. After the mortgage was on the place it hardly seemed to me as if it were ours. It was becoming more and more valuable all the time, and I thought it was dangerous to let the mortgage run, as the old lady might foreclose at any time and make us trouble and expense. The mortgage was like a cancer eating up our substance, gnawing day and night as it had for years. I made up my mind it must be paid. I knew it caused mother much trouble and although, father said very little about it, I knew that he would be over-joyed to have it settled up. I told him I thought I had better hunt during one fall and winter and that I thought I could, in that way, help him raise money to pay the mortgage. I was about twenty years old at that time and thought I had a very good rifle and knew how to use it.
I went to my friend William Beal, and told him I had concluded to hunt through the winter. I asked him if he didn't want to join with me and we would hunt together, at least some of the time. He said he would. I told him I thought we could make more money by hunting than we could in any other way as deer were worth, on an average, from two and a half to five dollars a piece at Detroit, and we could take them in very handily on the cars.
We found the deer very numerous in the town of Taylor, next south of the town of Dearborn. Sometimes we went and stayed a week. We stopped nights with an old gentleman whose name was Hodge. He always appeared very glad to see us and gave us a hearty welcome. As he and his old lady (at that time) lived alone, no doubt they were glad of our company. They must have felt lonesome and they knew they would be well rewarded with venison and money for the trouble we made them. Mrs. Hodge took as much pains for us and used us as well as mother could have done. We carried our provisions there on our backs, flour, potatoes, pork and whatever we needed. We carried pork for the reason we relished it better a part of the time than we did venison. Mrs. Hodge prepared our meals at any time we wanted them. Sometimes we ate our breakfast before daylight and were a mile or two on the runway of the deer when in became light. The woods and oak openings abounded in deer and we had very good luck as a general thing. We made it a rule to stay and not go home until we had killed a load, which was not less than six. Then we went and got father's oxen and sled to go after and bring them home. After we brought them home we took the hind quarters, the hide, and sometimes whole deer, to Detroit and sold them. In this way we got considerable money. In fact my pocket-book began to pod out a little. Of course, we saved enough, of the fore-quarters for our family use and for our old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hodge. But we couldn't afford to let them have the saddles; we wanted them to sell as we were going in for making money.
It would be impossible for me to delineate the occurrences incident to my hunting days. The story told in full would fill a volume, but if it were not in connection with my father's family and how we got along, when I was at home with him, I should not mention it at all. As it is, I will try to describe one day's hunt after deer, which might be called a successful day, and another hunt after bears, which was not successful and one or two deer fights. My comrade and I started from father's very early one morning. A nice tracking snow, three or four inches deep, had fallen during the fore part of the night. In the morning it was warm and pleasant. When we came near the head of the windfall, we found the tracks where three large bucks had been along. It is not common that those large deer go together. They are generally scattering, one or two, or with other deer, but in this case, it seemed, three old bucks had agreed to go together. We followed them about half a mile to the west until they crossed what is now the old telegraph road in the town of Taylor, south of where Mr. Putnam lives. We thought the deer went into a large thicket, that stands there yet. We made up our minds they were lying in that thicket. William said he would go around and stand on the ridge, beyond the thicket, in a good place to see them when they were driven out. I told him I wanted him to be sure and down with one, so that I could see how they looked. I stood where he left me about half an hour, to give him plenty of time to get around, then I started along slow on the tracks.
I followed them about ten or fifteen rods when I found, that instead of going into the thicket where we supposed, they had turned into a little thicket, near a fence and clearing that had been made at an early day. I little thought they were lying there, but sure enough, in a minute, they jumped up and away they went, one after the other, toward the big thicket. They seemed desirous of making all the sport of me they could; as they were running across a little opening they showed me their white flags. I shot very quickly at the middle one. I told him by the report of my rifle, which rang out clear on the morning air, that I wanted him to stop, and he struck his flag.
They were running from me a little diagonally, and were about twenty-five rods off, when my bullet struck his side, it being partly toward me. They ran right into the big thicket where we first supposed they lay. I loaded my rifle and went where they were running when I shot. I saw that the blood flew in small particles on the snow and I was sure he was ours. He ran for one breath, got out of my sight and fell dead, having made his last tracks, being shot through the lights.
I hurried across to my friend Beal and told him I had shot a noble buck. That he was running away from me and that I would not allow him to do so. The other two had gone out of the thicket, over the ridge, so far east that he didn't see them at all. We hurried back to where the one we had got lay, took out his entrails, climbed up a sapling, bent down the top and fastened the gambrels of the old buck to it; then sprinkled powder on his hair, so as to keep the ravens from picking him, let go the sapling and it straightened up with him so that he was out of the way of the dogs and wolves. Then we started as quickly as possible after the other two. They went a south-west direction about eighty rods, then turned south-east and went straight for the Indian hill, went over it and took their course nearly east. They had ceased to run and were walking. There was another large thicket east of us, which was about half a mile through and we thought, possibly, they might stop in that before they went through into the woods. It was agreed that I should go around, that time, to the lower end of the thicket, and stand. He was to try and drive them through if they were there. I went south to, what we called, the south branch of the Reed creek. It was frozen over and there were three or four inches of snow on the ice; I went on it without making any noise. I ran down a little over half a mile very quickly; when I was below the thicket I turned north, went through the brush that grew on the bank of the creek, up to a little ridge where it was open and stopped by the side of a tree, which was about twenty or thirty rods from where I turned north.
I didn't stand there but a very short time before I heard and saw some partridges fly away, and I knew they had been disturbed by something in the thicket. Then I saw the two deer coming just as straight toward me as they could run, one right after the other. When they got within about eight or ten rods of me I had my rifle ready. They saw me and, as they went to jump side-wise, my rifle spoke to another one and the voice of it forbade him going any farther. That was the second word my rifle had spoken that morning.
The deer turned and ran in a semi-circle half round me in plain sight, then off, out of sight, over the ridge where Doctor Snow's farmhouse now stands, in the town of Taylor. In a few moments out came my comrade; I asked him, what the report of my rifle said, as it burst through the thicket by him and echoed over the Indian hill. He said he thought it spoke of luck. We followed the old buck a little ways over the ridge and came to where he had made his last jump. He was a beautiful fellow, equally as fine as the first one.
Then we thought we had done well enough for one day, we had each of us one. So we cut a wooden hook, put it into his under-jaw, both took hold and drew him up where the other one hung. We put them together and started slowly for home. We were following along an old trail and had drawn both deer about half a mile together, when we came to where five or six deer had just crossed. They were going south-east and we were going north-east. While we were looking at the tracks two men came in sight. One was Mr. Arvin Sheldon, the other Mr. Holdin. We knew them very well and knew that they were good hunters. They looked at our deer and said that we must hang them up, said they would help us. So we bent down two saplings and hung the deer up, side by side, then we started with them. It was early in the day, perhaps about ten o'clock. We followed the deer beyond what is now Taylor Center, and into the west woods two miles from there. Near Taylor Center, Holdin left us. He thought there were too many of us together, and went off to try his luck alone and followed another flock. We found that these deer were very shy and it seemed impossible for us to get a shot at them.
After we got into the west woods we were bound to stick to the same ones. It was late in the afternoon and as we were getting so far from home, we thought we had better use a little stratagem. We would go very slowly; it was agreed that I should follow the tracks and that the other two should be governed by my movements. One was to go to my right, and keep as far off as he could and see me, through the woods; he was to keep a little ahead of me. The other was to manage in the same way at my left. When we started we were something in the shape of a letter V, only spread more. If I went fast they were to go fast and if I went slowly they were to do the same. They were to watch me and look out ahead for the deer. We traveled some little distance in this way when I saw a deer standing about thirty-five rods off. It was a long shot, but I drew up my rifle and fired. Mr. Sheldon had two clogs with him and when I shot they broke from him and ran after the deer we had been following. They went yelling after them, out of hearing. It was always my practice, after I shot, to stand in my tracks and load my rifle, keeping my eye on the place where the deer were. When I shot, my comrades started for me and soon we three friends were together. Sheldon remarked, that he guessed I hadn't hit that one. I asked him why. He said the dogs had already gone out of hearing and that if I had killed one, they would have stopped. I left the tracks and walked along in the direction of where the deer had stood, watching upon the snow and brush to see if I could see any signs where the bullet had struck a bush or twig, until I came to the place where the deer had stood. It proved to be, not one of those we had been following, but an old buck that had just got up out of the bed where he had been lying and was standing over it when I fired. I looked and saw some short hair lying on the snow, and told Mr. Sheldon that that looked as if I had made a square shot and that the dogs had gone after the well ones we had been following, that this one was an old buck which we hadn't disturbed before. I thought perhaps he had got up to see the flock that we were following go by. We didn't follow him more than ten rods before we found where he lay last. He was a very large buck, a full mate for either of those we already had.
A little ways back we had crossed a coon's track and we knew that he had been along in the latter part of the night, as it snowed in the earlier part of the night. We thought he hadn't gone far, so we agreed that Sheldon should follow his tracks and find his tree, (at that time coon skins were valuable) while we went back about a mile, to a lone settler's, by the name of Plaster, (who lived on the openings) and borrowed an ax. When we came back to the woods we were to halloo and he was to answer us. We had to do what we did very quickly as it was getting near night. When we had borrowed the ax and were nearly back to the woods again, we heard the report of Sheldon's rifle, as it rang out of the timber clear and sharp and died away in the oak openings. When we got into the woods we hallooed for him, he answered and we went to him; he had found the tree. We asked him what he had shot at, he said at a deer, but missed him. We cut down the tree and were rewarded by getting four coons. Afterward I sold the coon skins in Detroit for a dollar apiece. That Mr. Arvin Sheldon is now an old resident of the town of Taylor and lives about two miles south-west of me.
After we got the tree cut down and the coons secure, it was between sundown and dark. We were six or seven miles from home and then had to take the ax home. Late that evening, when I got back under the old paternal roof, there was one there who was very tired but the excitement of the day helped him a little. By hunting (and it was hard work for me as I made a business of it) I accumulated a considerable sum of money. Father had earned and saved some money, so that with what I had, he made out enough to pay off the mortgage to Mrs. Phlihaven and had it cancelled. Then his farm was clear. If I had not felt anxious about it myself, the joy expressed by the other members of the family, when they knew that the mortgage was paid, would have been a sufficient reward for all the labors I had performed, for all the weary walks, the running and racing done, while upon the chase, both day and night.
It is a little singular that an animal as mild and harmless as the deer ordinarily is, should when cornered or wounded have such courage that he will fight man or dog in his own defense, jumping upon them, striking with his feet. As their hoofs are sharp they cut to the quick, at the same time they are hooking with their horns. I will relate one or two incidents. One of which came under my own observation:
I was out hunting with R. Crandell. We were near the Reed creek when he shot a buck. The deer fell. Crandell thought he was sure of him; handed his rifle to me. I told him to stand still and load his gun, but he ran like an Indian; he took long steps. When he got up near, the old buck had gotten a little over the shock the bullet gave him and he got up, turned upon Crandell, raised the hair upon his back so that it stood forward. Then the scene changed; Crandell ran, and the deer ran after him. He came very near catching Crandell and must have done so if he had not dodged behind a tree, and around it he went and the deer after him. Crandell said he called upon his legs to be true to his body then if ever; and I thought, judging from the way those members of his organism were carrying him around that tree, that they were exerting every nerve to save him. He hallooed every minute for me to shoot the deer. But the race was so amusing, I did not care to hurry having never seen such an exhibition of Crandell's speed before. (Without doubt he did his level best). Soon, however, I thought it necessary and I shot the deer. Crandell said I had laughed enough to kill myself. He appeared to be displeased with me; said I was too slow, and might have released him quicker.
Some two or three years after this, Crandell had another hunt with a Mr. Holden, of Dearbornville. The incidents of which are given in his own words: "Being anxious for a hunt, Holden and myself started out for a deer hunt on our southern hunting ground. After traveling about three-fourths of a mile from Dearbornville, Holden, being a little way from me, started a buck, he running directly south; I told Holden where to go on a certain road, newly cut out, and stand and I would drive the deer to him from the east. As expected, I soon started him and Holden's dog followed the deer straight to him. In about three minutes whang went Holden's gun; I ran with all my might. The dog had stopped barking and I knew the deer was ours. But, when I got to the road, I heard Holden hallooing loudly for help. The deer had jumped across the road into the old tree tops and the dog caught him. Holden saw that the deer was getting the better of the dog, laid down his gun, took out his knife and went for the deer. When he got up to the deer the deer paid all his attention to him instead of the dog. The deer had gotten Holden down between two logs and stood on him, stamping and hooking him desperately. Holden said: 'For God sake kill him or he will kill me.'
"I was so much excited I was afraid to shoot for fear of killing Holden or the dog, but I shot and the deer fell lengthwise on Holden, I rolled him off and Holden got up, all covered with blood from head to foot, with his clothes torn into shreds. He looked at himself and said despondingly, 'What a spectacle I am!' I peeled some bark, tied his rags round him, patched him up the best possible and we started for home through the woods, got as near his home as we could and not be seen, then I left him, went to his house and got him some clothes, took them back to him and helped him put them on. When clothed he went home a bruised and lacerated man."
BEAR HUNT OF 1842.
One day in winter my brother-in-law, Reuben Crandell, and myself started to go hunting deer, as we supposed. We went south across the windfall, started a flock of deer and were following them. We had a good tracking snow and thought it was a good day for hunting. We followed the deer south across Reed Creek and saw a little ahead of us quite a path. It appeared as though a herd of ponies had passed along there. (Then there were plenty of French ponies running in the woods.) When we came up to the trail or path, that we saw they had made, in the snow we discovered it was four bears which had made the path. They had passed along a little time before for their tracks were fresh and new. There seemed to be a grand chance for us and we started after them. We either walked very fast or ran, sometimes as fast as we could stand it to run.
In this way we had followed them several miles and expected to see them every minute. We were going a little slower when I looked one side of us and there was an Indian, on a trot, going in the same direction that we were. I told Crandell that he had seen our tracks and knew that we were after the bears and that he was trying to cut us off and get the bears away from us. Just then I saw the bears and drew up my rifle and shot at one, as he was standing on an old log. The Indian then turned and ran up to the bear tracks to see, probably, if I had killed one. I told Crandell to go on with him and not let him get the start of us and I would load my rifle, as quickly as possible, and follow.
Being in a hurry, I did not place my bullet right on the patch, in the muzzle of the rifle and it bothered me in getting down. When it was loaded, I broke for them. I could just see Crandell putting in the best he could and trying to make two-forty time; but he was alone the Indian had left him. Then there might have been seen some long steps and tall running done by me, in those woods, (if any one had been there to witness it) for about eighty rods. When I came up with Crandell I asked him where the Indian was; he said, "Yonder he goes almost out of sight." I asked him what he let him get ahead for; he said that he could not keep up with him, and that he had told him, two or three times, to stop and wait for me, but he would not pay the least attention to what he said. I told him to keep on the tracks as fast as he could, and I would try to stop the Indian.
I saw that the four bears' tracks were all together yet, and Crandell said I didn't hit one when I shot. I thought it was singular and that perhaps my bullet had struck a bush or twig, glanced off and saved Mr. Bruin's hide. Now it looked as though the Indian was going to get our bears away from us, sure enough, and now for a chase that is more excitable than is often seen in the woods.
The Indian was on a good lope after the bears and I on a good run after him. I had the advantage of the Indian, the bears would run crooked. Sometimes they would run on a large log and follow it its whole length right in another direction from the way they had been going. The Indian had to follow their tracks; I followed him by sight and cut off the crooks as much as I could. In this way I ran at least half a mile after leaving Crandell and was cutting off and gaining on the Indian fast, and had got near enough to have hallooed at him and told him to stop. But I though that would do no good, that it was necessary for me to overtake him, and I was bound to stop him. I had got up to within fifteen rods and as good luck would have it, the bears turned from an easterly course around to the northwest. The Indian turned also and I struck across the elbow and came to the tracks ahead of him. I stood facing him when he came up and informed him that the bears were ours. I told him that he should not follow them another step, and to wait, right where he was, until the other man came up. I am sure the Indian thought the white man had outrun him and maybe he did not think how it was done. He stood there perfectly still, and I guard over him. I thought he looked ugly and mad; he would hardly say a word. In two or three minutes Crandell came up, puffing-and blowing like a porpoise. The sweat was running off him in profusion, and while wiping it from his brow with his hands, he said to the Indian: "You would not stop when I told you to, if I had got a good sight of you I would have shot you." Of course Crandell only said this because he wanted to scare the Indian as he had no thought of shooting, or hurting him in the least.
We started slowly off on the bear tracks and left the Indian standing and looking at us. I told Crandell I thought the Indian was scared and very mad at us for his threatening to shoot him, and my stopping him; that if he got us both in range, it might be possible he would shoot us. I told him to walk at least a rod one side of me so as not to get both in range of his rifle and I thought he would not dare to disturb us. As we walked away I would once in a while turn an eye over my shoulder and look back to see the Indian. He stood there like a statue until we were out of sight and I never saw that Indian again.
As soon as we were fairly out of sight of him we walked fast and finally tried running, some of the time as long as we could stand it. One of the bears was large, another about the common size and two were small; the small ones followed behind. They were a fine sight passing through the woods, but they led us a wild chase. Late in the afternoon they crossed the Reed Creek going north, partly in the direction of father's home. Crandell said, "Now I know where we are. I can follow up the creek until I get to the Reed house and then take the path home. I am so tired I cannot follow the bears another step." So he sat down to rest. I told him to come on, it was necessary for us to have two or three of those bears and I thought if we could kill one of the large ones the small ones would be likely to hang around until we could shoot them. But I could not get him to go another step. He said he was going home and I told him I was going to follow the bears. I went after them as fast as it was possible, and after awhile came in plain sight of them. The large one was standing with his fore feet upon a log, broadside to me and looking back at me. I thought Crandell would see how much he missed it leaving me. I drew up my rifle and fired, "ping went the rifle ball" and it made the woods ring, but away went the bears. I expected to see the bear drop, or at least roll and tumble. I loaded my rifle and went up to where Mr. Bruin had stood. I looked to see if I had not cut off some of his hair, but could see no signs of having touched him with the bullet. I followed along a little ways and made up my mind I had not hit him. I thought it strange; it was a fair broadside shot, not more than twenty or twenty-five rods off, and what the reason was I had missed him I could not tell. I followed them on, very much discouraged and miserably tired, after a little they were making almost straight for father's clearing. I followed them into the windfall within half a mile of home. It was then about sundown and as their tracks turned off I thought I would leave following them until next morning, and would then start after them again.
As I came in sight of our clearing I thought, as usual, I would fire off my rifle at a mark, which was on the side of a tree, about ten rods off; I drew it up and shot. My parents knew by the report and sharp song of my rifle that I was coming; it was my parting salute to the forest. As the sound of it penetrated the lonely gloom and died away in the darkness of the woods I looked at the mark on the tree, to see where my bullet had struck. I had shot nearly a foot right over it. Then I looked at the sight of my rifle and found that the back sight had been raised clear up. Strange to say, I had not noticed it before. No doubt it was done by one of my little sisters or John S. They must have taken it down and been fooling with it, on the sly. Then I knew the reason of my bad luck. I think a more tired and discouraged hunter than I was, never crawled out of the woods. With my, hitherto, trusty companion I had met with a signal defeat. I had carried it hundreds of miles on my shoulder and was not afraid, with it, to face anything in the woods, day or night; but this time it failed me and the bears escaped.
The report of my rifle, that evening, seemed changed as if the very sound told of my bad luck. I made up my mind, as I went into the house, that the next morning; we would raise as many men and as many dogs as there were bears and try them again. Of course I was too tired to notify any one that night myself, so John S. went down to Mr. Purdy's. I knew he had a large dog, which he called Watch, that was not afraid to tackle anything that ran in the woods, on four legs. I told J.S. to tell Mr. Purdy that I had been following a pack of bears, and that I wanted him to come early the next morning, and be sure and bring his dog to go with me after them. We had a good dog, and I sent Crandell word to be ready with his dog. James Wilson volunteered to go with us and take his dog; they were to be on hand at daylight in the morning. After we got together ready to start after the bears I told them that I thought the dogs would at least tree the small bears. We all started for the bear tracks. We took my back tracks; when we got to the tree I showed them the shot I had made the night before, and told them the reason I was not able to take one, or more, of those bears by the heels the day before, and then I 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.'" —Bishop.
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 the trees.
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 jumped overboard.
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.