submitted by PHGS members
Kay M. Anderson & Claudia Patterson
In writing this little work it has been my object to lay before the
rising generation in plain unvarnished language some of the hardships,
privations, and inconveniencies of what the early settlers had to contend
with when they first settled in this country; and if I should unintentionally
misstate or misquote anything, I beg the reader to not criticise too harshly
as everything herein written, excepting dates, is drawn from memory.
But all the incidents herein related being placed upon Memory's page when
it was in a semi-plastic state, they are almost as unerasable as though
chiseled upon the granite. If I can but awaken in the minds of the
young, a desire to compare their conditions with those of the more unfortunate
Early Settlers, and see the many many advantages which they are enjoying,
of which the Pioneers were wholly denied, my object will have been accomplished.
(signed) Orre Snow
March 18, 1899
Nathan Snow was born at Ellington, Conn., March 9th, 1789. Afterwards his father's family removed to Tolland, Tolland County, Conn.
He had one brother living at Tolland Conn., Joseph, and one at Syracuse, N.Y. He also had one sister, Anna, who married one Joel Taylor. They after living in Cattaraugus County, N.Y. for several years removed to New Albany, Indiana many years ago. Nathan while a young man decided to seek his fortune in the then far west. He came to Warsaw then Gennesee County, N.Y. He there became acquainted with Lura Hovey to whom he was married March 18th, 1813 by Rev. Hurlburt. By their union they had a family of ten children, seven sons, and three daughters of whom at this writing (March 18, 1899) there are five sons and one daughter living. After residing in Warsaw until February 1827, they decided to penetrate the deep Wild Forest of the still farther Western New York. And such an undertaking in the depth of winter and a family of wife, and five children, required a strong, and courageous heart. But with that undaunted courage of which the Pioneers of early years were possessed, they with Oxen and Sled containing their meager possessions set out on their long and tedious journey. After seven days of slow, and weary traveling they arrived at what is known as Elm Creek, in the town of Conewango, Cattaraugus County, N.Y. There by the kindness, and hospitality of a neighbor by the name of Harry Lampheer, he located his family, took up 107 acres of land adjoining this neighbor, and went to work. It was the primeval forest - not a mark of the woodman's ax upon it. He selected a site for the house and commenced felling the giants of the forest, using them as material for building his forest home. With Energy, and Perseverance in just one week's time he had erected a rude structure called a house, into which he then moved his family. He chinked the openings between the logs with split bits of basswood, and then plastered over them with mud to keep out the cold, and piercing wintry winds. Notwithstanding the crude, and quickly constructed building, it served as a home - and with the huge back logs, and wood piled high, crackling in the long fire-place, contentment, and happiness reigned Supreme. But misfortune comes to us unawares.
My father in chopping, and clearing away the timber, unfortunately cut his foot badly. My mother assisted him into the house, threw down upon the floor a straw bed, and placed him upon it. The wound was bleeding most profusely. My mother dispatched my older brother for a neighbor some distance away, by the name of Alexander Wandale. He came bringing with him his Powder Horn. When he arrived, the wound had bled so profusely that the blood had saturated the straw bed upon which my father lay, and had also made a pool across the floor. Wandale at once gave him a dose of gunpowder, from his Powder Horn which stopped the flow in a measure, while one more dose cause it to cease bleeding entirely. This accident of course caused my father to be laid up for many long weeks.
But I must go back a little in my story. At the breaking out of the war of 1812, my father enlisted in the Army, and went to Blackrock, and fought under General Porter. I well remember of hearing him relate while in a skirmish with the enemy, the old General had gotten slightly wounded in one of his hands, and it being quite warm, he had unintentionally rubbed his face with that hand leaving the marks of blood well plastered thereon, and while in this condition, he gave orders to draw up a field piece, and fire, saying "G-d- them let them come out into the open field, and we'll give them h-l"!
My father was promoted to Captaincy during the war. After many years the Government made a small recompense to him in the way of Land Warrant.
After living in the log house many years, my father (being one of the Highway Commissioners of the town) conceived the idea of moving the highway from the hill, onto Elm Creek flats, and after diligent perseverance he finally succeeded in obtaining the consent of the other two Commissioners for the removal. Therefore the road was removed to the flats, and he built thereon near the bank of the stream, a more commodious farm house (which my youngest brother now occupies, it having been remodeled) where he resided until his death, which occurred Oct. 13, 1860. My mother having survived him many years, died Nov 1, 1897.
The younger people of the present day realize but little the extreme hardships, and privations which the Pioneers, and their families were obliged to endure in those days. Breadstuff, and in fact everything which goes to sustain life was extremely scarce.
There being at that time no Railroads to transport such commodities from more favored localities; and if there had been, there was no money with which to buy them. Almost the only source of obtaining that extremely scarce commodity was by manufacturing black salts, which were made by leaching hard wood ashes, and boiling the lye in large kettles.
Those were hauled to Buffalo some 60 miles distant, where you could get money for them.
After my father had cleared a sufficient amount of his land so he could begin to sow a small quantity of wheat, he sowed some and just as soon as it was ripe enough to possibly answer, some of it was cut with a sickle, bound, and transported to the bard - the sheaves being placed against the sunny side of the barn, until sufficiently dry to thrash. It was then taken into the barn, and with a flail pounded out. Then with a hand grain fan the chaf was separated, and the wheat taken into the house, and spread on blankets, placed on the chamber floor; remaining there until dry enough to grind, it was then put into a bag put upon the back of a horse, and placing the writer of this on top of it started for Crum's Mill, at Clear Creek, some six or seven miles away. I well remember how carefully, and closely I watched that bag, lest by the motion of the horse it would get to one side, or otherwise get unbalanced, for should it once get off it would be an utter impossibility for me to get it on again.
About half the distance to the Mill, there was a dug-way by the side of the road very near as high as the horse's back which I invariably rode up to, dismounted, and tued up or balanced my load, after which I would remount, and go on my way, with my eye still on the bag.
You can judge how long such a small amount of flour would last a large family of hungry boys, and girls - in fact I do not think any one in a new country like that, lacks in the least degree for that reminder of the stomach called appetite. In the spring of the year as soon as the cow-cabbage, and cow-slips were up large enough, they were eagerly sought for to cook for greens, and even leeks were also used. Wild game was quite abundant, such as Foxes, Deer and occasionally a bear was seen.
We sometimes had the pleasure of a feast of venison. I recollect one day a man by the name of Curtis came along, with his rifle on his shoulder, and said he had just fired at a deer in a neighbor's wheat field, saying he was sure he had wounded it, but he being in a hurry did not follow after it. He gave us the direction in which it went, so my brother Chauncy, and I concluded we would investigate the matter, therefore started in pursuit. We had not gone far, before we came upon the Deer lying on the ground. With a Jack-Knife we soon opened the Jugalar Vein allowing the blood to escape, after which it was carried to the house, by tying its legs together, and putting a pole through, and placing it upon our shoulders. All such good luck was duly appreciated I assure you. I also recollect of seeing a Deer come down out of the woods, and graze in the pasture, so common were they. One day some hunters were out hunting, and their dogs chased a Deer down off the bank on the east side, and across the flats to the west bank, where the dogs caught him - there being a crust on the snow at the time; the Deer would break through, while it would support the dogs. We of course assisted the dogs in dispatching it, and taking it to the house when the owners of the dogs came, and they dressing it gave a portion of the meat to us for our trouble. All the so called luxuries and conveniences which go to make life pleasant, were entirely unknown in those days. Carriages of every description were an unheard of thing. In fact people were deprived of any, and everything which would in any way tend to make physical labor easier. The strong muscular arm of the sturdy Pioneer was obliged to perform all that which at the present time is performed by machinery.
The grass was cut with the scythe, raked by hand, the grain cut with the sickle, thrashed with a flail, cleaned with a hand fan - while all the farmers implements were of the crudest kind. While in the kitchen it was ditto. Cooking was all done over the fire-place, kettles hung on a crane which could be swung out at pleasure, baking done in a flat bottomed iron kettle, called a bake-kettle, with an iron cover which was heated by putting coals of fire on top, the kettle sitting on coals also. Later came a blessing, in the way of the tin bake oven which was placed before the fire, and bread baked very nicely in it. And so it was with nearly everything in the way of conveniences in those days, the above being only a faint idea of what it was then. Even the little inexpensive article of matches was not in existence. At night people would cover the coals with ashes in the fire place, so it might keep until morning. If by any means one was so unfortunate as to have the fire go out, why they had to go to a neighbor and borrow some. And at times if they were fortunate enough to have a flint and steel, some Punk, (a species of rotten wood) by placing the Punk on the underside of the flint, and drawing the steel quickly across the flint, the Plunk would ignite, and so get fire in that way.
Speaking of carriages - I recollect at one time of improvising an Eliptic spring, or rather a spring in the absence of one, by putting some iron hooks on the edge of a rough lumber wagon box, and placing thereon some small hemlock poles, and then putting some rough boards across these for seats. And if any one was fortunate enough to have a sheepskin, or perhaps a blanket to put on them we men rigged O.K. My! What would the young lady of today think if a young gentleman should drive up of a Sunday afternoon with such a rig to take her out riding. Methinks she would not only lose her breath, but her nose would be elevated at an angle of about 45 degrees - saying "No Sir! Excuse me; I do not care to ride". The neighbors were all very social and friendly to each other there, far more so, I think than at the present day. They would often at night - yoke up the oxen hitch onto the sled, put in some straw, and the family pile in, and hie away to some neighbor to spend the evening in a real old fashion social visit. They were happy, and enjoyed it hugely - took solid comfort in these evening visits. And many times they would go to church on Sunday in the same manner, and with the same conveyance. We would hardly think at the present day of going to church with such a conveyance.
The advancement, and the improvement of Education has been wonderful since then. I remember of attending school in the old log school house on Elm Creek which was located just south of the Tuttle Farm, almost on the same site where D. M. Metcalf afterwards built a house, and resided many years. The seats were made of Slabs with holes bored into them, and small Saplings or poles inserted for legs. If we were the possessor of a book, it made not so much difference as to the title, so we were the owner thereof, we must take it to School, and be taught to read therefrom.
Yes school books in those days were like Jacob's Cattle of many colors, and kinds, and varied. Later on there was a framed school house built just across the way from where Wm. Winship now resides. There we also spent a portion of our school days. And still later the District being divided, a new school house was built - North of my father's farm a half mile distant which was then called Farler's Corners. The house at the present time still remains there, and used as a school house, (after being remodeled). It was while attending school at the last named, that we enjoyed so much the old fashioned Spelling Schools.
There existed at that time the greatest of rivalry among the surrounding schools as to spelling. On the evening appointed for such, the Scientific Spellers, and also those who were not considered well versed in that Science, would come from far and near until the house would be literally packed. At the appointed hour the teacher would call them to order and two of the Scholars, were designated to choose sides. They taking seats on the opposite sides of the house would commence choosing. Each choosing alternately. The boys and girls being chosen promiscuously, and if a young man was chosen next to a nice young lady it was so much the better for him, and if by chance one was chosen to sit next to him on the opposite side, of course he did not object. After all being chosen who were to take part in the Exercises, the teacher would select some disinterested person to keep tally. Now all being in readiness, and house quiet, the teacher commences pronouncing - commencing at the head. If a word was misspelled, and afterwards spelled correctly by the same side it was not marked missed - but if spelled correctly by the opposing side then it was marked missed - and at the close, the Tallyman announced the number misspelled by each. After perhaps ten minutes intermission, giving the young people an opportunity to chat, and arrange matters as to going home with the girls, the house was again called to order, and the same as to choosing sides was repeated. After spelling at the discretion of the teacher as to time, they all rose up, and commencing at the head on one side would spell, and as fast as one missed he or she sat down. And the last one down was pronounced the victor. There being intense interest as one after another succumbed, increasing till the last when the school to whom the victor belonged would vociferously applaud.
I have enjoyed those old fashioned spelling schools both as scholar, and teacher. They were always a great source of gratification to me.
There is one thing in teaching at the present day which has been discarded (I am thankful for) that was almost universally used in former times. Yes, I am thankful that people have become sufficiently civilized as to realize that such a thing as the rod is entirely unnecessary in the school room. I have taught many terms, and I never yet saw the time when I deemed it necessary to introduce such an article into the school room. Kindness is far better to take with you into the school than the rod. If one cannot govern without the rod, he certainly cannot with.
Above I spoke of there not being any Railroads in this section of country in those days. People were under the necessity of hauling all commodities with teams, no matter how great the distance. I well recollect in Sept. 1848, the State Fair being held at that time in Buffalo. Derauyel Thorp and myself were very desirous of attending it, and as good luck would have it, we found that Mr. Saml. Allen was going to the city after some loading with a lumber wagon, so we secured a passage with him.
I never had at that time seen a Railroad. On arriving in the city, and after viewing to me that wonderful piece of mechanism, an engine, my astonishment and amazement were - - well, my pen refuses to describe it, but suffice it to say that I was well pleased and gratified to think I had indeed seen a real Railroad. My friend and I decided to even take a ride for the first time to Niagara Falls on this steam vehicle. Accordingly we took our seats in the cars drawn by the iron horse, and away we whirled towards the Falls. I say whirled - - yes indeed it was considered fast riding in those days - - but at the present day we would only compare it to riding after an ox team. The track of the road-bed was composed of timbers being placed lengthwise of the road and flat bars of iron perhaps a half inch in thickness and two inches in width, were spiked thereon. I am told at times one end of these bars would become loosened and raise or bend up - - the car wheel passing under it, the end thereby penetrating the car floor causing many times serious accidents to passengers. The end at such times was called "Snake-head." My friend and I remaining at the Falls over night. Hotels were filled to overflowing, beds being at a premium, but we were fortunate in securing a lounge for our accomodation for the night. And in order to both occupy it we were under the necessity of laying our heads in opposite directions, or "heads and points." Thus we passed the long night, often being awakened by the roar of the mighty cataract near us. Such lodging costing us, if I mistake not, 50 cents each. But we were higher than some of our less fortunate neighbors, who took the soft side of the floor for their slumbers, paying 25 cents therefor. My pen refuses to picture or portray the feelings of wonder and amazement upon viewing for the first time this awful and sublime work of nature. With what feelings of caution and astonishment must the red man of the forest have approached and beheld this for the first time. Never shall I forget as I stood on the bank far above, the feelings which came over me as I with abated breath gazed at the awful abyss below. One mile from the Falls down the river a suspension bridge (the first one) had just been completed. This bridge was only about eight feet in width, with slight railings on either side. We crossed over on this into the Queen's dominions. In crossing this, to me extremely frail structure, a feeling of fear came over me and as I gazed over its sides down, down, hundreds of feet into the seething, tumbling waters below as they leapt from rock to rock, I must confess I felt a chilliness in the region of my spinal column, a something passing rapidly back and forth along the vertebra as though it was in great haste to get there. A small steamer called the "Maid of the Mist" (the original one) played between this bridge and the Falls, the water being sufficiently smooth and free from rocks to admit of this, while below this point the bed of the river is full of rocks, and the water extremely rapid, making it almost impossible for a boat to pass down it without being dashed to atoms. We took passage on the boat on her trip up around by the Falls and passing as near to the sheet of water as the current would permit, the mist coming in torrents on the deck of the boat. O! what a magnificent sight to look out upon that enormous column of water almost directly over our heads plunging into the depths below. And then the reaction as it comes rolling, foaming to the surface again - - making the little steamer quiver and tremble as they beat against its sides like an aspen leaf. Although propelled by two engines of twenty-six horse power each, she would at times in passing through those turbulent waters be swerved from her direct course. A feeling of relief came to me as we left that raging torrent behind. On returning to the Falls we found the cars which were to convey us back to Buffalo already standing on the track (the engine as yet not having been attached) and stepping in taking seats as by this time our weary limbs needed rest. Presently an elderly man with a bundle tied in one of those old-fashioned black and yellow cotton handkerchiefs under his arm, presented himself at the car door, evidently a back-woods man and like myself, had never before set eyes on a Railroad car, stood intently gazing and surveying with great interest the interior of the car. After taking a scrutinizing look at all its contents he cautiously moved along and taking a seat to the rear of me. After sitting a few moments still surveying the car and resting somewhat uneasily, he says to me, "Is there as much danger here as in the other end of the car?" I thinking to alleviate his fears somewhat, "O yes!" says I, "there is great danger any where in the car of being knocked to 'Kingdom come' at any moment!" The engine soon backed down and hitched onto the train and as it gave the signal for starting, this man seemed to almost raise from his seat, and I imagined I could see his hair all standing on end with his cap far above his head. I am sure he must have felt a great relief when he safely alighted from the car in Buffalo.
In the year 1846 I attended the Fredonia Academy, Chautauqua County, one term under the instruction of Prof. F. A. Redington as Principal. There were no public conveyances at that time whereby I could reach there. Consequently I had to go with a team. And it being my first experience in attending any school, save a District one, I must confess I felt much as the old saying is "Like a cat in a strange garret." There was but one person (Willard Wellman) in the school or village that I had ever before seen. I knew nothing about the Modus operandi of such an institution - - nothing about its rules and regulations, where to go or what room to enter. But with a limited amount of books under my arm I made my way into the school-building and as I saw some going up the stairs to the second floor I thought I might venture to follow, which I did. Taking my seat I very carefull watched everything that was being done or transpired in the room. At intervals some of the students would get up and leave the room, and others would come in. Where they went or what they did I could not tell – I only knew they went out and came in that was all. And so it continued until nearly noon I still remaining in my seat a silent spectator – when one of the teachers came to me and asked me if I had been assigned to any classes? I replied in the negative. He then inquired what studies I intended to pursue? After telling him he said such and such classes came at such and such hours. But as there was no time piece in the room, and I not being the possessor of a watch I had no way of discerning very accurately the time of day – so of course did not go to any classes. Finally the teacher perceiving I did not leave the room came and told me when and where to go. After once getting the road learned, I got along very well. But if any person ever experienced that terrible feeling called home-sickness I was that person. When Sunday came, why, I could scarcely contain myself. It really seemed to me that I could have walked fifty miles to have been at the old home again. But I never told anyone of the awful, lonely, agonizing feelings I underwent while there at school. And even at the present day if I hear anyone speak of being homesick I am sure I can fully sympathize with them in their sad feelings. I got along very well, but one thing I learned very readily – that was to stand up for my rights. I very well recollect one little incident that occurred which will verify the above. There was a young man attending school then, a son of one of the directors by the name of Crane, who would invariable hector and irritate anyone who he thought was a fit subject for him; and especially a new comer in the school. And he very soon selected me as one of that class as his victim. He had been playing his pranks upon me for some little time—when one day we both went to the same class, he taking a seat directly back of me and soon commenced his irritations upon me. I remarked to him that he had better attend to his own business and leave me alone. But he seemed to think he knew best in regard to that matter so continued his gyrations upon me. I finally told him in a whisper that if he did that again he would get hit. But I suppose he thought I was not a man of my word and so tried it once more. He had no sooner done it when I jumped to my feet and gave him one, square between the eyes with my fist. The teacher in alarm cried out, "What, what is going on here?" I coolly turned around and before sitting down, said to him that ever since I came into the school this young man, Crane, had been picking upon me and irritating me in every way possible until "Forbearance had ceased to be a virtue," and I told him that if he did that again he would get hit – and I almost always kept my word – and I did – and then sit down. He talked to us a few minutes and then went on with the class. After we were dismissed from the class Crane came to me and says "We'll get read in public next Friday." (It being the rule to read all misdemeanors, calling the student by name in public on each Friday for the past week.) "Well", I said, "let it come." So on Friday Crane came (an unusual thing for him to do) and took his seat beside me. There we sat like criminals in the stocks, expecting every moment to hear our doom from Prof. Redington. But to our great delight, he said not a word to us – and I never heard from it again. But Crane attended to his own business ever after. We were the best of friends from that time on. He was a brother of Mrs. C. P. Adams of Rudolph. And at another time while there a fellow by the name of Putnam did something to me and then started to run away from me and I in hot pursuit until he came near a pool of mud and water and when just near enough it it, I caught his foot and sent him headlong into it. He was a fine looking object when he came out. He also attended to Putnam's affairs after that. So as I said anyone had to look out for himself and play his part and if he did they soon let him alone. After that I attended school at the Randolph Academy – Prof. Post as Principal. I then followed teaching winters for several years. And the wages which the best teachers commanded then, compared with what they get now, were small indeed. The first term I taught I received $12.00 per month. What would the teachers of today, carrying a certificate of the first grade, (as that was what mine was) think of teaching for that meager sum. I taught in one school when I had between 60 and 70 names upon the roll – receiving then – for $16.00 per month and board – boarding around the District. After that I taught in East Randolph where I had between 90 and 100 names upon the roll, and students from almost the first rudiments to advanced classes. And I had to build my own fires, digging the green wood from beneath the snow as there was no wood-house, and cutting my kindling from a huge pine log some 20 or 25 feet in length, furnished me for that purpose, with an old rusty, dull ax, which the District very generously furnished me for the occasion. I received for my services in that school the bountiful sum of $29.00 per month and boarded myself. I think this was the winter of 1855 and 1856. That very same winter I paid Amos Dow $8.00 for one half barrel of flour. You talk to the teachers of today about teaching for such wages and under such difficulties and they would look upon you as a fit subject for the Insane Asylum. During the fifties I was elected to the office of Town Superintendent of Schools for the town of Conewango, N.Y., which I held one or two terms. Was afterwards elected to the office of Justice of the Peace for the same town, which I held for some time then resigning. Was then elected Assessor, which I held seven years – refusing to serve longer in that capacity. I also held many minor offices in town for many years.
A neighbor living near us by the name of Hiriam Butler with the help of my older brothers carried on the business of manufacturing wooden wheels, chairs, rocking chairs, little chairs, foot wheels, etc. and would often hire my father with his team to take a load of his goods and make a trip of several days duration around through the country peddling them – taking in payment therefor all kinds of farm products, such as, wheat, corn, oats, pork, maple sugar and occasionally a little store pay, which he almost invariably took in cotton cloth, as that was a standard article among the early settlers for shirts, pillow-cases, sheets, etc. It was quite rare that he ever received any cash in payment for his goods. He would sometimes sell on credit and collect later. I well remember of one instance when he sold some chairs to a man by the name of Bover living at what was then called Kents Corners about two miles below Coldspring on the Allegheny River near the Quaker crossing, who kept what was termed a Hotel. He sold in those days large quantities of "Sneak-ey-eye" (whiskey) to both the whites and Indians. All the Indians are extremely fond of it. This and one other article "Quish-quish" (pork) were always invariably in good demand among the Indians. And in fact the whites even, seldom ever refused a drop of the former – Red-eye. Father sent me several times to collect this debt as it required considerable urging and dun in those days to collect a debt. I being a mere boy when the order came for me to march on the "Morra" no one but myself knows the fear and dread which came over me as I thought of the lonely horse back ride of some twelve or fourteen miles distance among the Indians. I had heard so many blood curdling stories told about the Indians scalping and torturing the whites and their barbarities that it had a great impression upon my youthful mind, a fear lest my topnot might be lifted. The road from what is now called the Stewart Farm to the Coldspring Creek or Brown Farm led through one dense forest of mostly pine timber. This to me was the most lonely, dismal, and dreary portion of my route. On one of these occasions as the wind was sighing its lonely requiem among the lofty pines, they waving their lofty crests in obedience of its will. My horse carefully picking its way through the mud and among the roots which ran in every direction across my path, near the middle of these woods I discovered but a few rods in front of me a sight which almost made my heart cease to beat and caused the cold chills to course up and down my spine in rapid succession. For there in front of me and coming directly towards me was an elderly Indian dress is all his fantastic gewgaw style, his head decorated with feathers, tomahawk and knife suspended from his wampam belt, with all his other paraphernalia attached to his person. The sight of which was enough to almost strike a dread to the stoutest heart. Scarcely knowing what to do I reined my horse to the opposite side as far from him as possible and proceeded keeping a vigilant eye upon him until I was a little past him and thought it safe to do so still keeping my eye to the rear I put whip to my horse and was soon safely far away from the object of my fear. A feeling of great relief came to me. M y hair then began to return to its normal condition, I being thankful that it was still there and the cold chills ceased to play "tag" along my spine. But I never traveled that lonely road again without being forcibly reminded of how I felt on that occasion.
Pardon me if I occasionally digress a little to relate some of our freaks or boyhood capers. One comes very vividly to my mind just now. It was in the winter time and there being a nice frozen crust on the top of the snow, a splendid time for coasting. My brotherinlaw, G. W. Watkins and myself were out with our sled enjoying ourselves in general. When on coming to what was called the Orchard Hill as we stood gazing down it, a hill some 25 or 30 feet in height and almost perpendicular. About half way down it was a little flat or plateau of perhaps five feet in width. Watkins proposed that I hazard the risk of riding down it on our sled. But I of course strenuously objected. "Why" said he "I dare". And so saying he drew the sled to the brink and mounted it and started. Sled and he went flying with almost the velocity of a rifle ball – the sled on leaving the plateau not troubling itself to keep on the snow but with one tremendous leap went flying through the air until it reached the bottom, when with some 200 pounds on top of it struck the snow bedding itself in the hard crust and stopping almost as suddenly as though it had struck the Rocks of Gibraltar. Now had Watkins followed the example by the sled and stopped when that did he would have been all right. But no, far from it – he at once decided to continue his journey farther. He at once and very abruptly and in a very hurried manner too, left the sled and measured his length, pitched head formost into the frozen crust of snow embedding his face and head therein. When he gathered himself up and brushed the snow and ice from his face and eyes I discovered his physiognomy was wonderfully changed and in a very short space of time too. For he had lacerated his face and nose, the blood trickling therefrom so much so he was almost unrecognizable. Laugh, well I couldn't help it notwithstanding the accident he had met with. Suffice it to say neither of us were at all anxious to repeat the experiment.
I have often thought what a task it must have been for our Parents to furnish food and clothing for a large family of boys and girls. Of course the material for doing so must to a very large extent be produced from the farm. Our summer clothing was mostly made from flax grown on the farm. After it was sown and had grown to maturity it then had to be pulled, dried, taken to the barn and the seed thrashed out with a flail – then it was spread on the grass to be rotted, turned over several times then taken back to the barn again and then broke, dressed, hetcheled, etc. The flax being spun into fine yard, was woven into cloth and used for all extra purposes – such as fine shirts or "go to meeting shirts", etc. The two being spun into coarse yarn and made into cloth for every day wear - such as shirts, frocks and pants. The men frequently while at work chopping and clearing the land would wear one of these two frocks on the outside of his pants. They were extremely strong and would not tear under any ordinary circumstances which made them very serviceable and economical for the rough wear and tear of the Pioneer. Then for our winter clothing it was a far greater and more wearisome task to take the wood from the sheep's back and place it upon ours. Allow me to give you an idea or rather Modus operandi of this procedure. Of course in the first place the wool had to be grown. Then usually during the month of June a yard would be erected on the bank of a stream where a pond of water could be obtained about waist deep. The sheep were then driven into this yard and one by one taken by the men and boys into this pond and the wool thoroughly washed. The sheep were then allowed to remain in the pasture two or three days or until the wool was thoroughly dry. They were then taken into the stable and a competent hand engaged to shear them. The wool was then taken to the house where the women would look it over or pick it, carefully removing all dirt or foreign matter, etc. therefrom. It was not unfrequently the case that the women on these occasions would make a bee and invite in her neighbors of an afternoon to assist her. By this method they would materially shorten the process of picking. It was then taken to the carding machine and then made into rolls. It was then brought home again and a girl engaged to spin them into yarn. Where could we find a girl at the present day that is possessed of skill to manufacture on a woolen wheel, wool into yarn? Methinks they would be few and far between, merely a lost art. Next the yarn was taken to a weaver to be woven into cloth then brought home and calculations made how many yards they wanted made into full cloth for men and boys clothing and how many they wanted dressed for flannel for shirts and women's wear. The cloth was then taken to one Calvin Hills who owned and conducted a carding and cloth dressing mill on Elm Creek but a short distance above my father's farm. After all this labor you just had the material for clothing. The next thing was to take the cloth to a tailor and he would take measurements of the different men and boys and cut their garments. Bear in mind there was an expense attending each one of these operations. Next comes the item of trimmings and not a very small one either for the merchants in those days did not believe in small profits – such as linings, thread, buttons, silk, twist, wadding, buckram, padding, stay linen, etc. etc. Our people usually engaged two seamstresses - Caroline and Emily Coe, sisters, each fall to come to the house and make up the clothing. When the total footings of expenses were taken attending all these operations it made it extremely dear clothing indeed. But I say all this process of fuss and time of labor and expense was but the transferring of the wool from the sheep's back to that of ours.
How different and what a contrast at the present day. Now one can step into almost any country store and for a comparatively small sum purchase a good suit of clothes and that is not all, he can immediately get inside of them without having to wait six or eight months as he was obliged to in early days. And then the clothing of the other sex is so different and much more expensive now than then. Then eight yards of cloth was considered a sufficient amount from which to make a dress, and from one to two days in which to make it and that without the aid of machine either as such an article did not exist among them then. Now the ladies require nearly double the amount of material and if by the help of a machine they complete a dress in less than two weeks they are doing pretty well. And then so much more fixtures and furbelows about their person now than then, that of necessity it requires very much more time to complete all their regalia. The ladies of earlier times simply had not the time and means to expend upon dress, their entire energies being employed in the obtaining of the strictly necessaries of life. Now if perchance some fair ladie's eye should scan these ill wrought lines I would not for one moment have her think I was advocating the return of barbarous, heathenish customs of tight lacing shall forever be done away with and instead of seeing those unnatural, wasp-like waists we shall see woman in all her beauty and loveliness as the Great Being designed her, and that future generations will bless her, and become more vigorous, strong and healthy for her so doing. Several years ago, while attending school at Fredonia Academy, N.Y., I had the pleasure of listening to a course of lectures in Physiology, delivered before the students of that school by a celebrated physician of New York by the name of Cutter. He while touching upon this point of the evils of tight lacing and corset wearing made this suggestion. He said he wished the young men would form clubs all over the country having this for their motto, "Natural waists or no wifes". Said he thought it would exert a greater influence over the young ladies than anything else which might be said or done.
Taking it altogether and looking at it in a common sense way, it is certainly surprising that as many of the female sex are enjoying a degree of health under such adverse circumstances as they are, wonderful indeed! There are other very unhealthy customs of dress which I might mention, such as high heeled shoes, trailing dresses, high collars or "chokers" etc. The latter causing a loss of voice and also the use of the muscles of the neck. But I refrain lest the ladies deem me altogether to sarcastic.
A singular coincidence in my father's family was that there were three boys born in succession and then one girl that lived (one boy and one girl having died while quite young) and then again three boys and one girl, I being the older of the three younger boys of course it fell to my lot to be promoted to the office of general errand boy. My older brothers being engaged in assisting my father in clearing the land and in raising something for the family to live upon etc. After we had land enough cleared so we could keep two or three cows for the families' use my father did so and they were allowed to roam at large in the woods. And each day as the sun was gradually sinking behind the western woods the order would invariable come for me to go for the cows. Of course, I did not know where or in what direction they might be, so I would start into the woods and after traveling a short distance would stop and listen intently for the tinkle of the cow-bell. Perhaps at first, I could not hear it al all, would then travel on still farther into the woods and gain listening, I might be able perhaps, to hear the faint tinkle, tinkle of the bell away in the distant forest. I would then travel on and on, always keeping the direction of the welcome sound in view. After finding them and starting them, I invariably allow them to take their own course as it was often very difficult for me to designate the exact direction I wishes to take to reach home. But my parents had told me that at any time if I had any doubts as to the course, just let the cows take their own course and they would lead me to my home. So I would start them and then keep in very close proximity behind them until they reached home.
Father used to get his blacksmithing done in various places: at Napoli corners, about one mile from where the R.R. Station now is, and at Axville. A man by the name of Seffingwell, monopolized the blacksmithing trade at the last named place. He also made and repaired many axes, which gave the four corners the name of Axville. I was frequently sent there to get horses shod, and it was almost invariably an extremely tedious task. He seldom ever had but a limited amount of stock in hand and frequently had to manufacture his iron with which to make the shoes after I got there. To do this he would commence hunting around over his shop for a scrap of sheet iron. He would then commence gathering up old bits of iron of every conceivable description putting them into this receptacle, placing that in the forge, commence heating and welding these particles together until he had a bar large enough with which to make a show, and then forge the shoe therefrom. Then he had to make his nails from nailrod iron and point them. All this had to be done before he could commence fitting the shoe. So I say it was indeed a long and wearisome job to get a horse shod in those days. O! I used to get so awfully hungry before I reached home that I often rode the last mile or two at a lively rate of speed I assure you.
This man, Leffingwell, was one of those peculiar, or what might properly be termed odd specimens of humanity. While at his forge he would suddenly cease manipulating his bellows and in a hurried manner go to the shop door and casting his eye up and down the street would then return again to his forge in the same hurried manner. He would sometimes miss or lose some of his tools about the shop and while searching, if anyone happened to be present, he would anxiously inquire if they had seen anything of it. As a natural consequence they would ask him what kind of a tool it was he wished to find. "Why," says he, and catching up a piece of chalk would hurriedly draw a diagram of the tool he was in search of on the floor, exclaim, "there, it looks like that." I recollect of hearing the story told of him while he was attending and taking part in a debating school. It seems he thought that his opponent's arguments were not very closely allied or connected, so when he came to reply he made this somewhat unique comparison; "My opponent's arguments are as far apart as the mudsills of hell are from the dome of heaven." I merely mention these little incidents as a very forcibly showing the peculiar excentricities of the man. I well remember of assisting my Mother in making cheese for the family's use and also of constructing a rude press to press them in. It being so constructed that by placing the cheese under a long lever and hanging a huge iron pot on the end of it filled with small stones, it would press them very nicely. Not being possessed of a very extensive dairy at this time the cheese were of necessity not huge, perhaps weighing from ten to fifteen pounds each. But to be strong, robust, romping boys and girls, our appetites being extremely sharp in those days no use for the grind-stone in that respect, they were always a welcome viand and eagerly sought for. Mother occasionally made what was called a sage cheese, sage being introduced into the curd, which gave it the flavor of that herb. To prevent the cheese from freezing in winter they were stored in a box of wheat in the chamber.
The Pioneer was obliged to depend upon the forest to a large extent for his supplies of materials with which to make his farming implements and tools for use on the farm. For a harrow to harrow the new land with he would take a crotched tree, making a V shaped implement and putting iron teeth into it, which served a very good purpose; and for a light vehicle to do light work, like going to mill etc., I have taken a small crotched tree, using the body for the tongue and cutting off the crotches some five or six feet in length and fastening a box on them which made a receptacle for carrying things in, and by placing the tongue in the yoke between the oxen and allowing the ends of the crotches to drag on the ground, I had a vehicle, though rude, which was very convenient. Then for a leach for leaching ashes for making soft-soap (empty barrels and casks being scarce indeed) would saw off a piece of a large hollow log and placing it upright on a platform, fill it with ashes and they were ready to leach. Again for something to catch the sap in as it ran from the tree would take smallish cucumber or basswood trees, chopping them up into lengths perhaps three feet long and then splitting them so each length would make two troughs, then with the ax dig out the center thereby making a receptacle for holding sap, called sap-troughs. Indeed the ax was the Pioneer's best friend.
As I have before remarked, carriages were almost wholly unknown. Therefore horse-back riding was indulged in to a great extent, in fact it 3was the only mode of conveyance (if they were fortunate enough to be the possessor of the horse) both for male and female. If they were not the owner of that very necessary beast, they were obliged to use the vehicles of nature and go on foot.
It was not unfrequently the case that a young gentleman dressed in his home-spun suit, would blushingly invite his best girl to accompany him to the circus or some other place of entertainment, on foot a distance of perhaps two or three miles and think nothing of it, only as a delightful pleasure trip. But if he could by some hook or crook secure a nag for the occasion, he was indeed not only fortunate but happy. He would don his best, add a little 'ile' to his hair, and perhaps give his cowhide shoes an extra coat of tallow, mount his steed not forgetting to take an extra blanket and in the best of spirits hie away to the home of his sweet-heart and courageously riding up by the side of the fence or some other convenient place, spread on his blanket behind him, she climbing the fence would seat herself upon it, and to balance herself she would gently wind her arms about the waist of her partner and away they would ride apparently as happy as though seated in an elaborately cushioned barouche.
I recollect one time while my father was one of the trustees of the school district, he sent me on horse-back after the teacher (it being the custom for the trustee to send for the teacher in those days.) Miss Sallie Morton, afterwards Mrs. Sallie Marsh, mother of Duane and Wellman Marsh. Her parents then living in a log house on the farm now owned by Ernest Holdridge in the town of Napoli. I had but one horse with a gentleman's saddle on it. After she had placed herself in the saddle, I took passage just in the rear of her on the same conveyance. She taught in a school-house which was located just opposite of where William Windship now resides, on Elm Creek. Of course I was one of her pupils at that time. After she became Mrs. Marsh and while those two boys above mentioned were young and small, in fact they never succeeded in becoming anything else but small, featherweights, Inchabod Tuttle happened to call at her house one day and Mrs. Marsh says to him, "Mr. Tuttle what would you do if you had two such little fellows as these?" Tuttle after scrutinizing them for a moment or two made this reply: "Golly, I believe I should put the feed to them." But she never succeeded in making giants or heavy weights of them. Notwithstanding Tuttle's advice.
Again father sent me after a hired girl by the name of Lucy Town, who resided in the town of Leon. On this occasion, I recollect I was allowed to take an extra horse and saddle, while I was under the necessity of using a blanket for my saddle, we not being the owner of but one. Yes, then it was either a lumber-wagon, or horse-back or on foot for conveyance, according to convenience.
While a small boy and living near one Hiram Butler (heretofore mentioned) I used to do small jobs for him, like going after his mail at "Bushnell's Hollow" that being the nearest P.O. for which he would sometimes pay me as high as one shilling, which indeed I highly prized and coveted. Then again I would go fishing and catch a small string of brook trout which he would buy, paying me a few pennies perhaps for them, all of which I put way down in the lower corner of my small pocket, every little while pulling them out and carefully counting them to see that I had not lost any of them or that they were all still there.
One spring a man by the name of Ray Gardner whose home was near Rutledge came along and stopped at Father's, he had been down the river on a raft and while there was taken sick with fever, and he was trying to get to his home on foot. As you must understand there were no public conveyances at that time. He was very pale, weak and emaciated. I well recollect Father's sympathy for the poor unfortunate man were aroused, so he told me to take two horses, the man riding one and I the other, and escort him a few miles on his journey toward home, which I did. On parting with him he seemed to be very thankful for our kindness unto him, and said he had no money, but if I would come to Rutledge the next fall to general training, he would pay me one shilling for my services.
During that summer, how many, many times did I think of that debt and think how thankful I would be to have that amount, and also at the very time when I wanted it most to buy something with. I looked forward with eager anticipations for the date when I was to receive my cash. So when the time came I was there. How I got there I cannot tell, but I was sure I was there. My first object on arriving was to look out for the man Gardner. So I kept a sharp lookout while being jostled about by the croud. After looking for a long time without discovering the object of my search, as good luck would have it, all of a sudden I came face to face with him. Of course, he did not at first recognize me, but after making myself known to him and that I was a son of Nathan Snow and was the lad who carried him on horseback last spring, he at once went down into his pocket and drew forth the cash and paid me in full. Wasn't I happy. I went around with my hand in my pocket tightly clasping the coveted coin, until I espied at one of the stands some nice looking gingerbread, and I being hungry, I at once squandered one half of my pile for a card of that gingerbread. That was one of my weaknesses, and in fact is still, a love for that good old fashioned gingerbread. What I bought with the balance of my pile, I cannot tell, but it was all spent before going home I am sure. Yes, I am quite certain that I prized one of those old copper pennies as highly in those days as I do a five dollar bill at the present time. Money was indeed a luxury then.
When the early settlers wished to clear off a piece of timber-land, it was quite customary for two men at least to work together or in company. They with their keen axes would walk up to one of the giants of the forest, one on either side of it, commence chopping, each vieing with the other in seeing which should but the heart of the tree. After felling it one would mount the body and measuring off usually about sixteen feet or thereabouts, commence chopping it off, a task which but few young men at the present day would care to engage in, to mount a log from one to two and many times more feet in diameter and cutting it off with an ax, that bringing into action the strong muscles of the arms and back. While the other man would commence trimming and piling the boughs. The most favorable time of the year for chopping down a piece of timber was during the month of June, while the leaves or foliage were on the trees and also if timber is cut, then the stumps will not sprout, while if cut during the winter they will. They usually let this brush and timber remain until the next spring and would then set fire to it and burn the brush etc. It then being ready for logging. It being quite often the case when a man had a large piece to log that he would make a bee and invite all his neighbors in for miles around to come some afternoon. Those having a yoke of oxen would come with them, and those who had not would come as "rollers" to pile up the logs in large heaps ready to burn. It being the business of the men driving the teams to drag the logs along by the heaps, while the men with handspikes would pile them up. Having three men beside the teamster in each gang. Each gang taking a strip of timber, and then the fun would commence. Each gang trying their best to excel in making the largest number of heaps and even the oxen many times would seem to partake of the excitement, the man driving them had to be very cautious when he wrapped the chain around the log, lest he got his hand between the log and chain, as many of the teams would become so accustomed to that peculiar click of the chain after wrapping it around the log that the instant they heard it they would jump for the heap making the chain snap. After working hard during the afternoon, and sweating profusely and the timber being burned black, and more or less dust in the air, the men would look more like coal heavers than anything else. The man making the bee would so far as his limited means allow get a substantial supper for them and after partaking heartily of the same they would all wend their way homewards with the gratifying consciousness that they had performed a noble and generous act for their esteemed neighbor. I think the people in those days were far more willing to do a neighbor an act of kindness, not so distant, in fact, seemed more like own family than they do at the present time.
In closing, I wish to give a word of advice to the young, and in doing so I can do no better than to quote the following valuable advice: "You are aware, my young friends that you live in an age of light and knowledge, an age in which science and the arts are marching onward with gigantic strides. You live too in a land of liberty, a land on which the smiles of Heaven beam with uncommon refulgence. The clangor of arms no longer echo on mountains or in our valleys, the garments dyed in blood have passed away, and you live to enjoy the rich boon of Freedom and Prosperity, purchased by the blood of our soldiers. These considerations forbid that you should ever be so undignified of your duty to your country, to your Creator, and to succeeding generations as to be content to grovel in ignorance. Remember that knowledge is power, that an enlightened and virtuous people can never be enslaved, and that on the intelligence of our youth, rests the future happiness, the grandeur, and the glory of our beloved country. Go on then with a laudable ambition, and an unyielding perseverance in the path which leads to honor and renown. Press forward. Go and gather laurels on the hill of science, linger among her unfading beauties, drink deep of her crystal fountain and join in the march of fame, become learned and virtuous and you will be great, love God and serve him and you will be happy."
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