MACHIAS - INCIDENTS
Submitted by PHGS member Pam Davis
Many incidents, some
of a comic and others of a more pathetic nature, occurred in all these
settlements during the first quarter of the present century. The
old historians of the taverns, the participants and witnesses of these scenes,
have nearly all passed away, and the following are recounted as illustrative of
pioneer life in the wild woods of Cattaraugus sixty years ago.
old revolutionary hero,
, in passing through the woods in the
north part of the town, discovered a bear ascending a large hollow tree, and
watched him until he had disappeared inside; then hurrying to the Corners, a
dozen men and boys, and as many dogs were gathered together, and marched upon
Arriving there the tree was surrounded, and then began a loud and
contradictory discussion, as to the means to be employed to encompass the bear
and destroy him. Whether the tree should be cut down, or whether they should
endeavor to drive him out by loud noise, etc., etc. Meanwhile
had concluded to change his base, and
emerging from his hiding-place had backed down to within about 12 feet of his
enemies, before being discovered. The
next moment he dropped, or rather rolled right among them, like a huge black
ball. The snarling, yelling pack
closed upon him, but rising upon his haunches, he shook them off, and then,
while cuffing them to the right and left, began his retreat to a swamp near by.
The hunters dared not shoot for fear of killing their dogs, which were
valuable in those days.
finally escaped unharmed.
The ludicrous termination of this bear-hunt was the subject for much
merriment among the rollicking, boisterous frequenters of the neighborhood
taverns, and the participators did not hear of the last of it for many a day
was more successful as a bear-hunter.
At an early day he was the owner of two cows, and traded them for a dog.
This was considered by his neighbors as a very poor trade, but
was fully equal to the vocation he
had chosen, and the following winter, with his dog, rifle, and spear (a weapon
he extemporized by affixing an old bayonet to a stout pole), killed fifteen
bears, and earned more money than would then have been the value of several
may of the first settlers of Machias and Yorkshire paid for their land with
money received as bounty for the killing of noxious animals.
the fall of 1823 three daughters of
ranging from ten to seventeen years
of age, started out one pleasant Sunday morning in quest of wintergreen-berries.
They did not intend to go farther than half a mile from the house, but,
after entering the woods, lost their way, and began wandering.
Go whichever direction they would, it was all, all wilderness;
no opening could be found. As
they did not return at dinner-time, their people became alarmed, and began to
halloo for them, but got no answer. In
the afternoon search was begun by a few neighbors their numbers constantly
increasing as the news spread through the settlements that lost children were in
the woods. Night-fall came, and still no tidings of the lost ones.
A drenching rain-storm set in, and the search was discontinued except by
two men, who volunteered to remain out all the night and listen for any unusual
sound or cry of distress. By this
time the search had been carried over into Ashford, three or four miles
house. Late in the night,
these two men heard a cry as if of a female or a panther, they could not
determine which, but concluded not to investigate further until morning.
They then proceeded to a settler’s house in Dutch Hollow, and remained
following day a militia company were to meet at Machias Corners for training.
They assembled early, and, learning of the lost children, postponed their
contemplated military evolutions and joined in the search.
At daybreak the two men who had been out through the night sought the
locality from whence proceeded the cry of the night before, and there away up on
a high bluff, near the creek, were found the girls, shivering with hunger, cold,
and fear, but otherwise unharmed.
had walked the woods and called for help all through the long night.
Once they passed very near and disturbed some animals, which they
described as making a noise like little pigs.
These no doubt, were young cubs. Although
this happened fifty years ago, the girls (now quite elderly ladies) were all
here to-day, viz.,
MRS. CHESTER ASHCRAFT
MRS. NATHAN ASHCRAFT
of Machias, andMRS. MERCY READ
, of Arcade.
The above information was obtained from the History of Cattaraugus County, New York by L. H. EVERTS, 1879.
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Last Update February 2, 2020