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 United States.
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 have stated.]
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 follow him.
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, live forever!"
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 farm. (1875.)
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 will live."
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 building spot.
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 the country.
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 any interest.
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 our satchels.
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 purpose. It is a beautiful place, about a mile and a half southwest of where they lived and in plain sight of what was their home.
Long before this there was a voice of one often heard in prayer in the wilderness, where we first settled, and that voice was mother's. Father and mother believed in one faith and mother from her youth. For years they tried to walk hand in hand, in the straight and narrow path, looking for and hastening to a better country than they had been able to find on this mundane sphere.