The Reverend Mr. David Craft
RENEWAL OF SETTLEMENTS
AT the close of the Revolutionary war, on the retirement of the British troops, the Indians, deserted by their allies, by whom they had been persuaded to engage in hostilities, immediately intimated their desire to be at peace with the "Thirteen Fires," as they designated the States forming the original confederacy. Left to take care of themselves, they agreed to lay down the hatchet, and trust to the magnanimity of the victors for protection and security.
The danger from Indian invasion and disturbances being removed, many of the old settlers began to return to their former homes on the Susquehanna, and to occupy the farms from which they had been driven. A number of the soldiers who had been connected with the Sullivan expedition sought the earliest practicable opportunity to secure for themselves farms in the northern part of the county; and the broad plains of Sheshequin, Queen Esther’s flats, and Athens were speedily occupied. Several others set out with the intention of locating in central New York, but the unsettled condition of land titles, and the non-extinction of the Indian claims in that part of the State, induced some of them to remain in Pennsylvania.
It will be remembered that the Revolutionary war virtually closed with the surrender of Cornwallis, Oct. 19, 1781, that the Trenton commissioners pronounced their decision, giving the jurisdiction to the Susquehanna purchase to Pennsylvania, December 30, 1782. Eighteen days after, viz., January 18, 1783, a petition, signed by John Paul Schotts, Nathan Denison, Hugh Forsman, Obadiah Gore, and Samuel Shephard, setting forth the history of the settlements at Wyoming, the sufferings of the people, the poverty and distress of the inhabitants who had survived the trials of the war, in which they pray that they may be quieted in their possessions, that any unlawful acts may be consigned to oblivion, "and that courts of judicature be established according to the usages and customs of this State," was presented to the assembly.
Acting on this petition the assembly appointed a commission to make inquiry into the cases at Wyoming, stayed proceedings on writs of ejectments, and for the "protection of the said settlement against the savages," ordered thither two companies of rangers, under Captains Robinson and Shrawder.
The report of the commission to the assembly was so decidedly partisan against the settlers, the conduct of the soldiers was so brutal, and the acts of Esquire Patterson were so inhuman, that many of the old settlers at Wyoming, wearied with the long-continued strife, and foreseeing the bitterness of the impending conflict, determined to remove to the northern part of this county. Esquire Patterson writes that numbers of the New England people were going up the river to settle, in which he was giving them every encouragement in his power. From all of these causes combined, in May, 1786, three years after the resettlement began, not more than two hundred families were in the county. These were scattered along the river valley from Wyalusing to the State line.
The latter part of the year 1786, and the beginning of 1787, witnessed a large influx of families into the territory of the county. The settlers, goaded to desperation by the unfeeling treatment they were receiving from the Pennsylvania authorities, determined upon a forcible resistance to their oppressors. Accordingly, the Susquehanna company had offered as a gratuity three hundred acres of land to any settler who would come upon their purchase and remain thereon for three years, subject to the direction of the committee of the company. The project of forming a new State, in which General Ethan Allen was interested, brought on a considerable emigration from Vermont. A large number implicated in Shays’ rebellion were offered an asylum on the purchase if they would cast in their lot with the company. This was also an era of land speculation, especially in the Connecticut title. Associations of New England people were formed for the purchase of townships surveyed by the Susquehanna company. If the reader will refer to the table of grants, in a former chapter, he will observe that from 1786 to 1796 most of these townships were disposed of by the company. They were purchased at a trifling price, but, in order to promote the actual settlement of the country, the owner was required to secure twenty actual settlers in his township within three years, or he forfeited his claim. In order to procure these, agents were sent out through all of the older settled portions of New York, New Jersey, and New England, who, by representations of the beauty and fertility of the country, the cheapness of the land, the advantages of its water-power, and the rapid prospective growth of all this region, induced a large number to emigrate to what was declared to be the Eden of America. To aid in these representations, drafts of the township were made, on which were the field-notes of the surveyor, and glowing descriptions of the timber, soil, streams, and waterfalls. A number of these drafts are now in the hands of the author. So strong did the tide of emigration become, that before the beginning of the present century settlements had been begun in most of the townships of the county, and some of the older ones began to enjoy the conveniences of civilization.
It is said, "Give a Yankee a piece of flat land as large as a leather apron, and a spring of water, and he looks no farther for a place to build his house and establish his home." This remark found numerous illustrations in the early settlement of our county. The greater number of the early emigrants, regarding the ridges along the river, which were covered with pitch pine, and called "pitch pine plains" or "barrens," as good for nothing, pushed up the creeks, and wherever they found a little broader flat, pitched the log house, and began hewing out a farm. In answer to the question frequently asked of the older people, "What induced your folks to come up among these hills, when land on the river could be had from twenty to fifty cents per acre?" the almost invariable answer has been, "The early settlers thought the plains were worthless, and the creek flats were richer, and the hill lands were much stronger, because they were so heavily timbered." It is not at all certain but the judgment of the fathers, which was until recently thought to have been a great mistake, will at last turn out to be correct. For this reason, for a number of years, the settlements were confined to the immediate vicinity of the streams.
In the spring of 1784 occurred the notable "ice flood." I am unable to learn that any serious damage was done to the twenty or thirty settlers in this county, but in Wyoming its effects were terrible. As many of the families who subsequently became residents of this county were heavy losers, and some of them were put in imminent peril by this unusual occurrence, a brief account of it, found among the papers of Col. Franklin, will be inserted. He says, "The breaking up of the Susquehanna river, on the 15th of March, 1784, greatly distressed the inhabitants, who had been obliged during the time of war to remove, and build their houses on the lowlands near the banks of the river. The uncommon rain, and large quantities of snow on the mountains, together with the amazing quantity of ice in the river, occasioned by the uncommon inclemency of the winter season, swelled the streams to an unusual height---ten, and many places twenty feet higher than ever it had been known since the settlement of the country.
"The ice, choking the current of the stream, raised the water so suddenly and so rapidly in the night season, that the retreat of the inhabitants from the lowlands was cut off before they were apprised of danger. Upwards of one hundred and fifty families were left to the mercy of the boisterous stream, their houses taken off by the rapidity of the current or wrecked in pieces by mountains of ice. Five hundred souls were in the most perilous situation, having no other hope but the interposition of heaven to stay the raging of the proud waters. A number of families were carried a mile, and others two miles, in their houses, racking in pieces over their heads by the amazing force of the water and ice, some clinging to the roofs or broken pieces of their houses, rolling with the ice; some clinging to limbs of trees, others in boats or canoes, or on islands of ice, hurried along the impetuous current. But by the interposition of kind heaven the waters were stayed in so extraordinary a manner that but one human life was lost in the inundation. However, the greatest part of the horses, cattle, and other effects of the settlers were swept down with the torrent and forever lost."
The ravages of the Indians and the flood had completely impoverished the people. Nothing was left but the bare soil, and to that their title was contested. Col. Timothy Pickering had purchased a large tract of land at the Great Bend, and in the fall of this year (1784) made a journey up the river for the purpose of viewing it. He remarks, "We were under the necessity of passing through the Wyoming settlements from Nescopeck to Tioga. The inhabitants, from the causes before mentioned, were universally poor, and their stock of cattle small, and inadequate to the common purposes of husbandry. From Nescopeck to Tioga, a distance of one hundred and twenty miles, we tasted bread but once."
In October, 1786, two and a half years after the great ice flood, the river rose rapidly to a height greater than was ever known before in the fall, and occasioned great loss. The hay was gathered, and much of it was in stacks, the corn was in the shock, and the cattle were feeding in the meadows, when the flood swept all before it. The fruit of the summer’s toil, the hope of the winter’s sustenance, was borne off by the turbulent waters. In consequence, no little suffering ensued. Those who escaped, however, shared their store with true fraternal generosity with others less fortunate, and the next season these hardy pioneers commenced their labors with renewed courage. This is known as the "pumpkin freshet," from the large quantity of that vegetable which floated down the river.
Col. Franklin, in a letter to Dr. Joseph Hamilton, under date of Nov. 7, 1786, gives such a vivid account of this flood also that I cannot forbear quoting a paragraph:
"I expect you have heard of the latest deluge. The rain on the 5th Oct’r, which fell in about 24 hours, raised the river about six feet, and in the narrows ten feet deeper than ever known. The small streams became mighty rivers, the mills are mostly swept off, and one-half of all kind of food for man and beast is forever lost; even the roots in the earth, such as potatoes, turnips, parsnips, etc., are mostly rotten in the earth. The greatest part of the rain fell in the afternoon and evening of the fifth. The Susq’h river that was fordable at 4 o’clock afternoon, was over the face of the earth from mountain to mountain at 6 o’clock on the morning of the sixth. It is surprising to see the mountains in the smallest runs of water. You may see stones from three pounds to three tons weight drove to a great distance, and hove up in heaps. A stone, judged to weigh two tons, lies mounted on two stumps near Toby’s creek, that was drove from a considerable distance. A number of cattle were drowned, our fences all gone. One man was drowned attempting to save some effects."
In addition to the poverty of the inhabitants, they were subject to a multitude of privations, and exposed to dangers which would have appalled any but the stoutest hearts. Excepting the few partial Indian clearings, the county was covered with a dense growth of heavy timber, some of which must be chopped away to make a place for the settler to erect his log house. Then a small patch is cleared for corn and potatoes.
Let us take a glance at one of these houses. It is about sixteen or eighteen feet square, the walls are built of round logs, with the bark left on them, and held together by notches cut in the ends, while the spaces between the logs are filled with clay mixed with grass and leaves. The walls are from six to seven feet high, and if the house be new it is roofed with bark, and floored with mother earth. On one side an opening has been left for a door, while two or three smaller ones let in the light. At one end rises a huge chimney, with its ample fire-place. Two or three benches, made of slabs split from a log, with legs set in holes bored from the rounded side, afford seats for the family and guests, and a higher bench answers for a table. Four or five sticks, one end of which is received in a hole bored into the logs of the house, and the other supported by a forked stick, form the bedstead, which, covered with hemlock boughs and the skins of wild beasts, with a blanket, is the place of rest; a kettle or two, some wooden plates and bowls, a spinning-wheel and loom, constitute the furniture. Before winter sets in a door is made of slabs fastened with wooden pins, three or four panes of glass are obtained for the windows, slab floors are laid, and a ladder made by which the loft is reached, where is stored the corn, and where the younger members of the family sleep.
It is true the rain and the snow beat in, the wind whistles through the chinks and crannies; but the family think little of that; their furniture is not injured by the storm, and they are inured to the heat and the cold. Their home is simple, but it is the best they could make with an axe and an auger, which are their only tools.
The nearest mill is at Wilkes-Barre, which is from sixty to a hundred miles distant. As our pioneer settler has no wheat to grind, he makes a mortar by burning out the stump of a hard-wood tree near by, and with a stone suspended from an adjoining sapling for a pestle, he pounds his corn into hominy. Deer abound in the woods, and fish in the streams. For the first year of the pioneer’s life his food must be mainly fish, venison, and hominy, and this eaten frequently without salt, which is expensive and difficult to obtain. Deer-skins supply the greater part of the clothing for the men, while for the rest of the family the cloth is made by the matron of the household.
These men and women who thus broke into the wilderness, far from the privileges and comforts of older communities, are the real heroes. To go naked-handed with one’s family into the unbroken forest, build a home, procure sustenance, hew out a farm, undergo the toil, submit to the privation, and encounter the dangers which these early settlers did, requires a pluck and courage of which we can have but the faintest conception.
Wolves, bears, panthers, and other destructive animals were numerous. Sheep and hogs must be kept in high, strong pens near the house, or they would be devoured, while not unfrequently the settler or his family made hair-breadth escapes from a like fate. There were no roads, and the settler was guided to his cabin by marked trees through the pathless forests. Not unfrequently the belated traveler lost his way, and would be compelled to remain in the wood all night, while in a few instances parties thus bewildered perished from exposure.
To give the reader a better idea of the habits and modes of life of the people here at this early day, a few quotations from the journals and observations of travelers will be introduced. In 1789, Jonas Ingham came to reside in the county, and says: "I traveled up the Susquehanna, following the course of the river, and found it had been very little traveled, hardly a plain path, and this very crooked and hard to follow – quite impassable for more than a man and a single horse. Along the edges of precipices, next the river and other places, I had to ascend and descend, from one ledge of rocks to another, some feet perpendicular, at a great height from the water, and in some places extremely dangerous. The habitations of men were very few; and the inhabitants, instead of being glad to converse with strangers or travelers, would hardly speak to them. When I would ask concerning the road they would hardly give me an answer. The chief they would say, ‘Take any road you please, you can’t miss the way.’ The weather was warm, there was plenty of feed for my horse, and I fared tolerably well."
In 1793, Rev. William Colbert, an itinerant Methodist minister, traveled in this county for a few months. From one place, where he stayed all night, he set out and rode six miles before he could find anything for his horse, and here all they had was "some smoky, dirty corn," and adds, "as for myself, I thought I would wait a little longer before I would eat in such a filthy place," and rode twenty-five miles without breakfast or dinner. At this time the roads were almost impassable, and many were his escapes from tumbling off high precipices, or falling through the treacherous ice. He describes the houses as "miserable cabins, some of them without chimneys," and says, "if you speak to them about being more decent, they will plead that they are in a new country and have many difficulties to encounter."
In 1795, about ten or eleven years after the re-settlement of the county had been begun, the Duke de la Rochefoucault-Liancourt, a French nobleman, came up the river on a visit to Asylum, and gives us the following picture of the country. Under date of May 20, 1795, he says:
"Left Wilkes-Barre…The road was bad, and we were several times obliged to travel in foot-paths which were hardly passable. We frequently met with spots where a path only eighteen inches in breadth was cut through the rock, or where the road was supported by trunks of trees, narrowed by falls of earth, obstructed by fallen trees, and led along the edges of a precipice. We often passed over declivities rendered more dangerous by the ground being strewed with loose stones or fragments of rock. Fortunately, it so happened that we never got more than a few rods out of our road; but we were obliged to inquire the way of every one we met, to avoid more considerable deviation. The dwelling-houses in this district are most of them so new that the inhabitants are often ignorant of the names of places which are scarce two miles distance, nor are they able to point out the direction and distance, so that their information, beyond the next farm-house, is not to be depended upon. There is not an inn on the whole road [from Wilkes-Barre to Asylum]; but some private individuals are in the habit of selling oats to travelers. They live at certain distances, and being known, travelers constantly put up at their houses."
These places, in the language of the people, were called taverns. In regard to the accommodation they afforded, the duke says –
"We found in this house Indian corn for our horses, but neither oats nor hay, and no milk for ourselves, nor even an egg. The house consists of one room on the ground-floor, and of a corn-loft over it. Beds were not to be had. Hunt took an old paillasse from his own bed and lent it me for the night, and on this, with my saddle-cloth, I rested comfortably….
"May 21. In the morning we halted at one Mr. Gaylord’s [Black Walnut]. All the dwelling-houses are of the same sort. We pursued our journey to Asylum, by Wyalusing. The latter is a considerable village, seated on a creek from which it takes its name. The road is the same as yesterday, at times even and good, often recently cut through the wood or interrupted by new settlements, the fences of which occasion a circuit of nearly a furlong, at the end of which it is difficult to find the road again."
After remaining at Asylum a short time, the duke continued his journey northward on the west side of the river, the road at that time passing over the hills by which he was shut off from the river until he reached Towanda, and from there to Ulster, where he stopped to rest at Mr. Solomon Tracy’s, who lived below the Narrows, of whose place he speaks as follows:
"This planter occupies an estate of five hundred acres, only thirty of which are yet cleared….He wishes to dispose of his plantation, which he holds from the State of Connecticut; the price he demands is five thousand three hundred and ninety dollars; that is to say, about ten and three-fourths dollars per acre. Another land-holder [probably Mr. Isaac Cash], at whose house we stopped to procure directions about the road, intimated to us a similar design, as he mistook us for jobbers. His plantation consisted of three hundred acres, sixty of which were cleared, with a corn- and a saw-mill, which he estimated at one thousand three hundred dollars. He asked for the whole estate two thousand six hundred dollars, which is tantamount to eight and one-half dollars per acre. The state of agriculture here is no better than in other parts of Pennsylvania, and even worse than in many of them, all the plantations being in that infant state where the soil yields rich crops without cultivation. The settlers, too, are doubtful whether their rights to their possessions will be confirmed, have much business on their hands, and are in general little able to advance money for the improvement of their lands, so that they give themselves hardly the trouble to plough up the ground. For this purpose they make use of oxen, the medium price of a yoke of which is seventy dollars. Wheat commonly sells for one dollar a bushel, rye for four shillings, and oats from two shillings sixpence to three shillings. There are two schools in the neighboring country, which are both kept by women, who teach needle-work and reading. To learn to read, therefore, is the only instruction which boys can obtain here. These schools are maintained solely by a fee of five shillings a quarter paid by each scholar. They are evidently insufficient, but they are schools, and these are very rare yet in Pennsylvania.
"No place has hitherto been set apart for religious worship. Those who desire to perform this assemble in private families, and engage a preacher for a yearly salary, which, however, is very small. Families of Methodists constitute the principal part of the inhabitants.
"On the other side of the river stands New Sheshequin, a small, neat town, containing about twelve houses, which are either built of rough logs or boards. It is located on a very pleasant plain. The justice of the peace, surgeon, and the pastor the neighboring country reside in this place. It contains shops; in short, all those things which are found only in principal towns.
"The road from Old Sheshequin to Tioga, which had been represented to us as a very bad one, proved, on the contrary, very good. Here the farm-houses lie closer to each other. Near Tioga the river of the same name discharges itself into the Susquehanna. The site of the town, or rather the eight or ten houses which are so called, is about two miles distant from the confluence of the two rivers….The price of land in the neighborhood of the town is eight dollars per acre, when, out of three hundred acres, the proportion of fifty or sixty are cleared of wood. The town shares are sixteen yards in breadth and fifty in depth, and cost twenty dollars. The price of wheat is seven shillings sixpence per bushel; rye sells for six shillings, and oats from three to four (Pennsylvania currency). Some venison excepted, which at times comes to market, no fresh meat has been seen at Tioga since last autumn. The merchants of the place carry on an inconsiderable trade in hemp, which they get from the upper parts of the river, and send to Philadelphia by Middletown. We were informed that the shops at Asylum prove very hurtful to the trade of Tioga—a complaint which gave our fellow traveler, who keeps a shop at Asylum, no small satisfaction. Last year there were three inns in Tioga, but at this time there was but one; we found it crowded with travelers from the Jerseys, Pennsylvania, and New York, who intend to settle on the lakes. After a scanty supper, we were all obliged to take up with two beds; more were not to be had on any terms. The sheets, which had already served three or four travelers, were, according to the landlady’s account, very clean; and so indeed they are called in all the American inns, when they are in fact totally unfit for use. Yet, on the other hand, we enjoyed the special favor of being permitted to lie down in boots, as those of our party really did who, like myself, preferred taking their repose on the ground wrapped up in a blanket….Near the confines of Pennsylvania a mountain rises from the banks of the river Tioga in the shape of a sugarloaf, upon which are seen the remains of some intrenchment; these the inhabitants call the Spanish ramparts, but I rather judge them to have been thrown up against the Indians in the times of M. de Nouville. One perpendicular breastwork is yet remaining, which, though covered over with grass and bushes, plainly indicates that a parapet and a ditch have been constructed here."
It will be remembered that at this period the controversy growing out of the Connecticut claim was going on with great bitterness, and it is interesting to know the opinion of so acute an observer and impartial a judge of the posture and obligations of the parties as the duke. He says, "Nearly all the plantations which we have hitherto traversed in this district have been more or less recently formed by families who derive their titles from Connecticut. The right of property claimed by that State in regard to these lands has been declared to be unfounded; first, by arbitrators in Trenton, three or four years ago, and since that by the judges of assize, who hold their sittings in Philadelphia. The last sentence has excited general discontent in these parts; and, in truth, should it be confirmed by the supreme court of justice, the natural consequence must be a general dispossessing of all the cultivators who have settled here by the rights of purchase or gift from the State of Connecticut, and who have spent several years on a soil on which they established themselves in a most legal form. Several of these settlers were, during the last war, driven from their possessions by the Indians, who destroyed all the buildings and burnt the woods as far as they were able on their retreat. These are indeed sufficient reasons for discontent; and the State of Pennsylvania, satisfied with being reinstated in its right to these lands, will undoubtedly leave them in the possession of these families who, bona fide, obtained them either for money or by labor. If Pennsylvania had sold the same land the supreme court of judicature would doubtless award an indemnification in money. But in the United States, whose constitution is and must be founded on the rights of man, and modeled by justice, peaceful and industrious inhabitants will never be driven from their possessions, or expelled from their homes."*
In 1792, Reading Howell published his map of Pennsylvania. On that portion of it which covers the territory he has marked what were the most noted points about the year 1790 or ’91. These are "Standing Stone;" "Singer’s," on the Towanda, between Monroeton and the mouth of the creek; "Melville," which is evidently a mistake for Meansville, which is the present Towanda; "Sheshequin Flats," at present Ulster; "Gore’s," at present Sheshequin; "Lockhartsburg," at present Athens; and "Letsom," on the Sugar creek, at Burlington, and "Shepard’s," at the mouth of Shepard’s creek. The country covering Orwell, Pike, Herrick, Warren, and Windham, is marked as the "country abounding in the sugar-tree." On this map are also marked the Indian trails or paths. The Sheshequin is indicated as entering the southwestern angle of the county, and soon dividing, one branch passing down the Towanda to West Franklin, and taking nearly a direct course for the lower part of Ulster, the other branch taking an easterly course along the divide of the waters of the Towanda and Sugar Run, and the Loyal Sock takes a southeast direction to Tunkhannock.
In 1810, Mr. Howell published a new edition of his map, on which the streams are more accurately delineated, Lockhartsburg has become "Tyoga town," the Melville has no name, the locality of "Assylum" is indicated, and the State roads and the Berwick and Elmira turnpike are noted.
In the month of October, 1804, Alexander Wilson, the celebrated ornithologist, with two companions, visited Niagara Falls. He wrote a rhyming description of his journey from Philadelphia, through Easton, Wyoming, up the Susquehanna and the Tioga, called the "Foresters," of which the following extracts describe that portion of the journey lying in this county:
"Night’s shades at last descend—the stars appear—
Dull barking dogs proclaim the village near;
Soon Wyalusing round us we survey
And finished here the labors of the day.
The inn was silent, not a mortal there,
Before the fire each plants his crazy chair,
When slow down-stairs a cautious step was heard,
And Job,** the landlord, soberly appeared;
Begged our excuse, bewailed his luckless lot,
Wife in the straw and everything forgot;
So finding honest Job so hard bestead,
We skinned our squirrels, supped, and went to bed.
"The morning dawned, again we took the road,
Each musket shouldered o’er the lightened load,
Through Wyalusing’s plains we gaily pass,
‘Midst matted fields of rank, luxuriant grass.
Here Nature bounteous to excess has been,
Yet loitering hunters scarce a living glean.
Blest with a soil that e’en in winter gray
Would all their toils a hundred-fold repay,
Few cultured fields of yellow grain appear,
Rich, fenceless pastures rot unheeded here.
Huge, from the vale, the towering walnuts grow,
And wave o’er wretched huts that lie below;
No blossoming orchards scent the opening May,
No bleating flocks upon their pastures play.
The wolves, say they, would soon our flocks destroy,
And planting orchards is a poor employ.
The hungry traveler dining on this plain
May ask for fowls and wish for eggs in vain;
And while he dines upon a flitch of bear,
To wolves and foxes leave more gentle fare.
Now down the hoary woods we scour along,
Rousing the echoes with our jovial song,
Through paths** where late the skulking Indian trod,
Smeared with the infant’s and the mother’s blood,
Their haunts no more, far to the setting day,
In western woods, their prowling parties stray,
Where vast Superior laves his drifted shores,
Or loud Niagara’s thundering torrent roars.
Gaul’s exiled royalists,*** a pensive train,
Here raise the hut and clear the rough domain,
The way-worn pilgrim to their fires receive,
Supply his wants, but at his tidings grieve;
Afflicting news! Forever on the wing,
A ruined country, and a murdered king!
Peace to their lone retreats while sheltered here,
May these deep shades to them be doubly dear;
And Power’s proud worshipers, wherever placed,
Who saw such grandeur ruined and defaced,
By deeds of virtue to themselves secure
Those inborn joys that, spite of kings, endure,
Though thrones and states from their foundations part,
The precious balsam of a wounded heart.
"All day up winding solitudes we passed,
Steep hung o’er steep, as if at random cast,
Through every opening towering groups were seen
Piled to the clouds with horrid gulfs between.
Thus (as the bard of old creation sings,
‘Mongst other marvelous scenes and mighty things),
When squabbling angels raised in heaven a rout,
And hills, uprooted, flew like hail about,
Thus looked, in these tremendous days of yore,
Their field of battle when the fight was o’er.
Impending cliffs, with ruined woods o’ergrown,
And mountains headlong over mountains thrown.
One vast pre-eminent ascent we scaled,
And high at last its level summit hailed;
There as we trod along, fatigued and slow,
Through parting woods the clouds appeared below,
And lo! At once before our ravished view
A scene appeared, astonishing and new:
Close on the brink of an abyss we stood,
Concealed till now by the impending wood,
Below, at dreadful depth, the river lay,
Shrunk to a brook, ‘midst little fields of hay;
From right to left, where’er the prospect led,
The reddening forests like a carpet spread,
Beyond, immense, to the horizon’s close,
Huge ampitheatres of mountains rose.
Charmed with this spot, our knapsacks we resigned,
And here, like gods, in airy regions dined.
Like gods of old, the cordial cup we quaffed,
Sung songs of liberty, and joked and laughed,
Huzza’d aloud, then listened from on high,
If haply slumbering Echo might reply.
A long, dead pause ensued—at once the sound,
In tenfold shouts, from distant hills rebound;
Not Polyphemus’ self e’er louder roared,
When burning goads his monstrous visage gored.
Huzza! Huzza! The echoing mountains cry;
Huzza! Huzza! More distants hills reply;
And still more distant, till the faint huzza,
In lessening shouts, successive died away.
Surprised, astonished, heedless of our meal,
We seized our muskets for a louder peal,
Filled their dark bowels with the glistening grain,
And, facing, pointed to the extended scene;
Then at the word their fiery thunders poured,
That through the wide expanse impetuous roared.
Deep silence hung—the loud returning roar
From bellowing mountains thunders o’er and o’er;
Peal after peal successive bursts away,
And rolls tremendous o’er the face of day;
From hill to hill the loud responses fly,
And in the vast horizon, lessening, die.^
Thus from Olympus, o’er a prostrate world,
The fabled Jove his bolts imperious hurled,
Earth heard, and echoed back the peals profound,
And heaven’s exalted regions shook around.
With deep reluctance, ne’er to be forgot,
And many a lingering look, we left the spot,
Since called Olympus—worthier of the name
Than that so blazoned by the trump of fame.
Ye souls whom nature’s glorious works delight,
Who chance to pass o’er this stupendous height,
Here turn aside; and if serene the day,
This cliff sublime will all your toil repay;
Here regions wide your ravished eye will meet;
Hills, rivers, forests, lying at your feet;
Here to Columbia make your muskets roar,
While heaven’s artillery thunders back encore.
"’Twas now dull twilight; trudging on we keep
Where giddy Breakneck nods above the steep,
And down the darkening forest slowly steer
Where woods, receding, show a dwelling near,
A painted frame, tall barracks filled with hay,
Clean whitewashed railings raised along the way;
Young poplars, mixed with weeping willows green,
Rose o’er the gate, and fringed the walk within.
An air of neatness, gracing all around,
Bespoke that courtesy we so quickly found;
The aged judge,^* in grave apparel dressed,
To cushioned chairs invites each weary guest;
O’er the rich carpet bids the table rise,
With all the sweets that India’s clime supplies,
And supper served with elegance; the glass
In sober circuit was allowed to pass.
The reverend sire, with sons and grandsons round,
Ruddy as health, by summer suns embrowned,
Inquires our road and news with modest mien;
Tells of the countries he himself has seen,
His Indian battles, midnight ambuscades,
Wounds and captivity in forest glades;
And with such winning, interesting store
Of wildwood tales and literary lore,
Beguiled the evening and engaged each heart,
That, though sleep summoned, we were loth to part;
And e’en in bed reposed, the listening ear
Seemed still the accents of the sage to hear.
The morning came; ye gods! How quickly hies
To weary folks the hour when they must rise!
Groping around, we fix our various load,
And full equipt forth issued to the road.
Inured to toil, the woods slide swiftly past,
O’er many an opening farm our eyes we cast;
Here rich, flat meadows most luxuriant lie,
Some gleaming orchards gladly we espy;
Full-loaded peach-trees, drooping, hung around,
Their mellow fruit thick scattered o’er the ground.
Six cents procured us a sufficient store,
Our napkins crammed, and pockets running o’er’
Delicious fare—nor did we prize them less
Than Jews did manna in the wilderness.
Still journeying on, the river’s brink we keep,
And pass the Narrows’ high and dangerous steep,
That to the clouds like towering Atlas soars,
While deep below the parted river roars.
Beyond its eastern stream, on level lands,
There Athens (once Tioga) stands.
Unlike that Athens known in days of old,
Where learning found more worshipers than gold,
Here waste, unfinished, their sole school-house lies,
While pompous taverns all around it rise.
Now to the left the ranging mountains bend,
And level plains before us wide extend;
Where, rising lone, old Spanish Hill appears,
The post of war in ancient, unknown years.
Its steep and rounding sides with woods embrowned,
Its level top with old intrenchments crowned;
Five hundred paces thrice we measured o’er,
E’en all their circling boundaries we explore;
Now overgrown with woods alone it stands,
And looks abroad o’er open, fertile lands.
Here on the works we ruminating lay,
Till sudden darkness muffled up the day;
The threat’ning storm soon drove us to the plain,
And on we wandered through the hills again."
I have quoted at length from these journals of various travelers, because they give us a better view of the country at the time of their visits than can be obtained in any other way. It is the concurrent testimony of all parties that the first emigrants were very poor. They were destitute of farming implements and stock. For a number of years many a settler was accustomed to chop a small piece of wood, which, when it became dry, he set fire to, by which the underbrush and smaller limbs of the trees were burned up, and then with an axe he would plant his corn among the partially consumed trunks as they lay on the ground, where his only crop grew without further cultivation. For nearly ten years there were neither roads, stores, nor mills in the county.
The next ten years witnessed considerable improvements. Roads were opened through the principal settlements, mills were erected at various places, stores were opened, and distilleries were built. The older settlers had begun to improve their houses, and in a few instances framed houses were built. Farms were placed under a better state of cultivation. Trade was carried on with the lower settlements mainly by Durham boats and canoes. These were easily floated down the stream, but to bring them up they were pushed with the "setting-pole," which was slow, toilsome, expensive business. At first peltry and maple-sugar were the only articles of export. To these were added cattle, grain, whisky, and lumber. For a number of years maple-sugar and whisky were almost the sole currency of the country among the settlers, and not unfrequently the price agreed upon for a day’s work, a bushel of grain, a yoke of cattle, or other commodity would be so much whisky or so many pounds of sugar. Money was hardly known. Owing to the difficulties of transportation, the prices of all exported articles were very low, while those of imports were correspondingly high.
The great uncertainty in regard to land-titles, which prevailed through all this period (from 1784 to 1804), served also to retard the settlement and improvement of the country. The settler could hardly be expected to do much in improving his farm until he was certain he should reap the benefits of his labor, and felt somewhat certain that he would not be summarily driven from his possessions. Hence, as soon as this question was settled, we find the county rapidly increasing in wealth and population.
It may be of interest not only to know how these early pioneers lived,
but to know the prices they received for their products, and also the cost
of such articles as they were compelled to buy. I am indebted to Mr. Edward
Welles for the list of prices recorded in the books of his grand-father’s,
Judge Hollenback, store at Athens in 1787-88. In the values given, 1 Pound
equals $2.50, and fractional parts in the same ratio:
|Baize, per yard, 2s 6 d.||Salt, per bushel, 28s.|
|Black Stroud, per yard, 12s.||Serge, per yard, 4s.@4s. 6d.|
|Beef, Salt, per pound, 6d.||Shad, 4d.|
|Beans, per bushel, 8s.||Shoes, per pair, 18s.|
|Blankets, 12s.@20s.||Shingles, per thousand, 30s.|
|Bull, Yearling, 2 Pounds||Shot, per pound, 2s. 6d.|
|Butter, per pound, 1s.||Sickles, 5s. 6d.@6s. 6d.|
|Calico, French, per yard, 8s.
" White Sprig, per yard, 7s.
|Silk, per skein, 1s.|
|Cider, per quart, 1s.||Snuff, per pound, 6s.@8s.|
|Cloth, Superfine, 32s.
" Drab, 7s.6d.
|Sow and Pigs, 2 Pounds 8s.|
|Corn, per bushel, 3s. 6d.@4s.||Steel, per pound, 1s. 4d.|
|Corduroy, per yard, 10s.||Spelling-book, 3s.@3s. 6d.|
|Cotton Stripe, per yard, 8s.||Sugar, per pound, 1s.@1s. 4d.
" Maple, per pound, 1s. 3d.
|Cow, 5 Pounds||Tallow, per pound, 1s.|
|Deer Skins, Dressed, 24s.||Tea, per pound, 7s.|
|Drilling, per yard, 4s. 6d.||Thread, per skein, 3d.|
|Flannel, Red, per yard, 4s. 6d.||Tobacco, Plug, per pound, 2s.@3s.
" Leaf, per pound, 1s. 3d.
|Flaxseed, per bushel, 12s.||Toddy, per bowl, 1s. 3d.|
|Flour, per pound, 5d.||Tumblers, Pint, each, 2s.|
|Grog, per bowl, 1s. 3d.@2s.||Teacups and Saucers, pr s’t, 4s. 6d.|
|Handkerchiefs, 8s.@4s. 6d.||Venison, per pound, 1d@3d.|
|Hats, 5s.||Whisky, per gallon, 10s.|
|Hay, per hundredweight, 2s.||
|Heifer, 4 Pounds||Bear Skins, 16s.@20s.|
|Hoes, each, 7s. 6d.||Beaver " 22s.|
|Indian Meal, per bushel, 4s.@5s.||Calf " 5s.|
|Indigo, per ounce, 1s.||Elk " 16s.|
|Irish Linen, per yard, 4s.||Deer " 2s. 6d.@7s.|
|Labor, per day, 2s. 6d.@4s.
" Mason, per day, 8s.
|Fisher " 4s.|
|Lead, per pound, 1s.||Fox, Red, Skins, 7s.@8s.|
|Linen Stripe, per yard, 3s.||Martin " 4s.|
|Muslin, per yard, 6s. 6d.||Mink " 3s.@4s.|
|Nails, per pound, 1s. 6d.||Muskrat " 1s.|
|Potatoes, per bushel, 3s.@4s.||Otter " 10s.@24s.|
|Pork, Live, per pound, 4d.
" Salt, 1s.
|Panther " 8s.|
|Pipes, 3d.||Raccoon " 3s.@5s.|
|Powder, per pound, 5s.@6s.||Weasel " 4s.|
|Rum, per gallon, 12s.||Wild Cat " 5s@8s.|
|Sheeting, per yard, 4s. 6d.||Wolf " 6s.|
*Travels of the Duke de la Rochefoucault. Translated by II. Newman. Second London edition, pp. 151-154.
***French settlement at Asylum.
^Wilson’s Note. This echo may be considered as one of the greatest curiosities of this part of the country. After more than a quarter of a minute had elapsed the sound was reverberated with astonishing increase at least ten successive times, each time more and more remote, till at last it seemed to proceed from an immense distance. The words were distinctly articulated, as if giants were calling to one another from mountain to mountain. When our guns were discharged at once the effect was still more astonishing, and I scarcely believe that a succession of broadsides from a train of seventy-fours, at like distances, in any other place, would have equaled it. The state of the atmosphere was very favorable, and the report roared along the clouds in one continuous peal.