A Long and Dangerous Journey--The first winter after Samuel Gore
settled in Sheshequin he was compelled to go via Wyoming to the Delaware
river to winter his oxen, no means of doing so being nearer. His money
to carry him a journey of 150 miles was an English crown. The paths were
impassable, nearly, but on the fourth day he arrived at Wyoming, where
he rested and prepared feed for his cattle for the balance of the journey
by twisting hay into large ropes and fastening them around their bodies
and necks. He packed his wallet with Indian johnny-cake and slung it upon
his arm, and entered the great Dismal Swamp. The snow was two feet deep
and the weather severe. On the second day he had a creek to cross, so deep
that footmen could not pass without wading. Mounting one of his oxen, he
attempted to ride across, but the anchor-ice hit his legs, his steed played
him false and left its rider to make his way out as best he could. He was
now four miles from any house, his clothes were frozen and he alone in
the depths of the forests and night approaching. That he should have escaped
death seems miraculous. Afterwards in relating this terrible plight, he
said he considered his chances for life more hopeless and desperate than
when pursued by the yelling savages at Wyoming.
Facing Dangers--It was more than a century ago that John and
Nathaniel Ballard, twin brothers, aged 18, with knapsacks upon their backs,
filled with pork and johnny-cake, each with an ax, pushed on up Sugar Creek
from Burlington to begin improvements in what is now Columbia. They followed
the creek to avoid losing their way, there being no visible track or blazed
tree to guide them. When they arrived at the present site of Long’s Mills,
two panthers sprang from the coverts across their way and seemed disposed
to dispute the further progress of the young pioneers. The beasts were
not easily scared and the "grass policy" only made them show their fangs
the more fiercely. At last, each armed with a heavy club, the boys made
a dash upon the long-tailed cats, and a few blows well delivered soon put
them to flight. Before reaching their destination, a drove of bears attempted
to oppose their advance and being treated to a like onslaught, retreated
and left the field to the victors. After a week’s labor, provisions gave
out and they returned to Burlington for a fresh supply. When they went
back they took their rifles with them.
Brave Woman Saves Her Pig--One of the courageous pioneer women
was Mary Park Moore of South Litchfield. One night an old bear had the
impudence to visit Mr. Moore’s hog-pen, taking therefrom a pig which he
was fattening. Though it was a dark night and Mr. Moore away from home
his wife was equal to the emergency. Seizing a couple of pine torches she
started in pursuit with her dogs. The bear was soon overtaken, the struggling
pig preventing him from getting over the ground very rapidly. Mrs. Moore
and her dogs were so close upon the bear’s heels that he had no opportunity
to stop to kill the pig; for the brave woman, with torches ablaze and swinging
them too and fro, calling loudly upon her dogs to "catch him, seize him,"
seemed to inspire them with the notion that much depended upon their best
effort. So spirited was the attack upon the bear that he dropped the pig
to defend his heels. The pig not being badly hurt, scampered to his pen,
while the bear, seemingly unwilling to cope with such a formidable array,
made a break for the forest.
Remarkable Courage and Endurance--Among the dauntless Germans
who settled in the wilderness of Overton was Jacob Hottenstein. To provide
the wants of his family, he worked in the vicinity of Monroeton and Towanda
and not infrequently after his day’s work, backed a grist to his family,
a distance of 12 or 15 miles, through an unbroken wilderness. His journey,
which was generally after night, was beset with dangers--the woods then
being full of wild beasts. One night as he was coming across huckleberry
mountain with a bag of corn upon his back, he heard the wolves upon his
track. By making good speed, he reached the "Baker clearing" before they
could do him harm. In order to reach his work again in the morning to get
in a full day, he had to arise very early. He had no watch and could only
tell the time by the rise of a certain star.
Hard Pressed by Wolves--The following is related of Samuel Avery,
an early settler of Armenia: "Avery had been engaged by Reuben Nash of
Columbia flats to assist in butchering hogs and received for pay, a liberal
piece of pork with several ‘plucks thrown in.’ After laying in a good supply
of rations from Mrs. Nash’s generous table, Avery started in the darkness
through an almost unbroken wilderness for his home four miles distant.
His road lay through a glen called Painter Lick and he soon heard wolves
on his track. Return he could not and his only avenue of escape was towards
his home, for which he pushed his steps as fast as possible. The snapping
of the jaws of the ugly brutes smote ominously on his ear. Near and nearer
the gaunt, hungry pack advanced, and something must be done to check the
close pursuit. Avery was for once, at least, equal to the emergency forced
upon him. Cutting off with his knife a small piece of liver, he cast it
down in the path where it was seized by the voracious beasts and quarreled
over for a time, and then the pursuit was again taken up. Again the liver
was sacrificed upon the altar of necessity and again the advance of danger
stayed. Thus by husbanding and using judiciously his ‘pluck’ Avery saved
his ‘bacon’ and lived to recount his adventure on Armenia mountain to admiring
crowds of small boys if not to children of a larger growth."
Shot For a Deer--One of the saddest events in the early history
of Ulster was the tragic death of Lockwood, the 19 year old son of Wm.
Curry. July 8, 1801, a son of Joseph Smith betook himself to the mountain
to watch a deer lick. Some time after Lockwood Curry started out for the
same purpose. As he approached through the dense foliage in the dusky light,
young Smith supposing the object to be a deer, discharged his rifle and
the mark fell to the ground. Smith ran to the spot where the object lay
and to his horror and anguish found his friend and companion, bleeding
and speechless with a wound through his breast. he was too terrified to
render assistance but hastened to alarm the neighbors who rallied and carried
Curry home. He lived until the afternoon of the next day.
Struggle With a Bear--One of the fearless pioneer hunters was
Daniel Heverly, Jr. of Overton who had many narrow escapes in his encounters
with wild beasts. On one occasion he came upon a large bear. He fired but
only wounded the animal. A fierce battle at once ensued between his dog
and the bear. Before he could reload, the bear had got the advantage, and
not wishing to lose his dog, he ran up to the bear and caught him by the
hind legs to draw him off. The bear then turned upon him and he fought
him off as best he could till the dog could again close in by a new hold
on the bear’s heels. Thus the battle went on for some time, until the hunter
was nearly exhausted. Finally their struggles brought them near an old
tree, when Heverly seized a hemlock knot and dealt the bear several telling
blows across the head and put an end to his existence.
Entering The Wilderness--When Nathaniel Moody, Rome’s first settler,
moved with his family, night coming on before they reached their cabin,
they were compelled to encamp at the junction of Bear and Wysox creek.
Mr. Moody with flint and steel kindled a fire in a dry pine tree, in the
light of which they slept on the ground, their lullaby being the howling
wolves in the distance. In the morning Mrs. Moody was frightened at what
she supposed were Indians, but proved to be some settlers from below--Henry
Tallady, Henry Lawrence, Matthias Fencelor (the hermit) and a Mr. Hathaway.
They had been hunting and had a wolf hung by his heels on a pole which
they bore on their shoulders past the encampment. It was small wonder that
a Massachusetts woman should mistake such costumed men for natives of the
forest. It was a glad surprise to her, however, to learn she had white
neighbors so near--four miles.
Little Girl’s Escape From Wolves--John Ingham was one of the
pioneer settlers above Camptown. His wife narrated the following: "Her
little daughter when five or six years old went to visit at Joseph Ingham’s,
the whole distance nearly being through heavy timber. She stayed until
it was nearly dark. On her return she met what she supposed was her father’s
dog, which was about the size and color of a wolf. She spoke to the animal
but it passed her and went into the woods and immediately, she heard the
howl of a wolf, which was answered by a number in different directions.
Joseph Ingham heard them and fearing the little girl had not yet reached
home, sprang upon his horse and rode at full speed after her; but the little
one was too well posted in woodcraft not to comprehend the significance
of that signal and had run home as fast as her little feet would carry
her. She arrived there about the same time that Mr. Ingham did, safe, but
A Night of Terror--In April 1800, Ephraim Ladd, sons Horatio,
Charles and others went from Monroe up the South Branch on a prospecting
tour. The first day brought them to the central part of present Albany
township where a brush cabin was constructed against the bank of the creek
to protect them from the night. A fire was built in front of the cabin
and after their evening meal, the party lay down to sleep. Horatio Ladd
was a timid man. He had heard of panthers and knew they were an object
to be dreaded. He was sore afraid with fear and could not sleep. His hair
fairly stood on ends as his ear caught the sound of a crackling among the
brush--a panther sure. It was evident that the animal was moving in the
direction of the camp and would make an attack. Awakening his father as
quietly as possible, Horatio soon made known his fears and had the gun
and powder horn. The ferocious beast finally stood before them. Horatio
leveled his gun and fired, and as he pulled the trigger he screamed, "a
panther!" There was commotion in camp for a short time. However, no one
was carried off by panthers that night but in the morning a dead deer was
found a short distance from the encampment.
Settlement Thrown Into Consternation--A novel cure for homesickness was developed in the Sugar Creek settlement in the years of privation and land troubles, when food was scarce and quarrels and vexations between Pennamites and Connecticut titlers were abundant. It is no wonder that women and children in thinking of the comforts of their father’s house, where they had "enough and to spare," while they were reduced to husks almost literally should long for the old fireside, rosy-cheeked apples, the smoking brown loaf from the old brick oven and the generous boiled beef and pork, flanked by garden sass in profusion. And as they longed for it, no wonder that intense desire to return to the old scenes which every home-sick boy or girl, or strong man or tender woman has felt, that brings that indescribable lump into the throat and turns the stomach against every tempting morsel that can be set before the miserable victim of nostalgia. One poor lad of 16, sorely afflicted, hit upon, not a very brilliant scheme it must be confessed, to force a return of his family to the old home.
One morning while the men of the settlement were all at the river for
supplies, he took his gun into the woods and taking off his hat shot a
hole through it and then did the same thing to his coat, being careful
to shoot it where, if on him, the ball would not have hit him; but unfortunately
for his pretty little scheme he forgot to take that precaution with his
hat. Having thus unloaded his gun, he appeared in the hamlet in an apparently
hasty condition and proclaimed his escape from a body of Indians, who commanded
him to halt but not doing so they fired on him, exhibiting the bullet-holes
in his had and coat as evidence of his statement and, his empty gun as
a proof of his alleged stout defense. The alarm spread like wildfire through
the settlement, messengers were dispatched to the river to hasten the return
of the men, the houses were prepared for defense, bullets cast, guns cleaned,
in momentary anticipation of hearing the dreaded war-whoop of the savage
and seeing the gleaming of his knife. The men returned quickly and equipping
themselves with their rifles, took the boy who gave the alarm and proceeded
cautiously to the point where he alleged he saw the Indians. Arriving there,
they examined the ground carefully but failed to find any signs of a body
of Indians, the only tracks seen being all of one size and going one way,
towards the houses. Pressing the lad closely with questions, he at last
confessed it was a sham, conceived and executed by himself to scare the
women and so induce them to force a removal back to Connecticut. The men
laughed heartily at the ruse and especially when an examination of the
boy’s hat revealed the fact that if it had been hit while on his head it
would certainly have been death to him. The women were not so easily pacified,
especially some who had passed through the horrors of Wyoming, but having
a fellow-feeling for the homesick boy, they at last forgave him.
Champion over Indians--There were a number of exciting incidents
connected with the treaty of 1790 with the Six Nations. "About 300 warriors
in full gala dress, passed down the Susquehanna and encamped on the Sheshequin
flats. Their whoops and war dances though terrifying still became interesting
in the extreme. General Spalding contributed to their frolic and cuisine
at the same time by giving them six good running hogs for capturing and
cooking. The race was a long and exciting one. They cooked these shoats
in a kettle with corn and beans, without dressing, and called it ump-a-squanch.
On their return from Philadelphia they again stopped at General Spalding’s
and challenged the whites for a foot-race. The challenge was accepted and
William Witter Spalding selected as the champion of the settlers and won
the race. This gave umbrage to the Indians and then Spalding challenged
them to run a mile, but was refused, and peace was maintained with much
difficulty, the Indians drawing their knives for fighting."
Almost a Panther’s Victim--The following was narrated by the
late Editor A. S. Hooker of Troy: "Many years ago when nearly the whole
Leona Valley was a dense wilderness, Ezekiel Leonard was a famous hunter.
One evening he went over to the large spring just east of the road, leading
from Dally’s mill to Troy. This was a well known deer-lick and the hunter
repaired thither to replenish his larder with the toothsome venison. As
he was following the dim path through the dense woods of pine, hemlock
and birch, he heard a not unfamiliar sound through the stillness of the
autumn evening air. It seemed to come from a distance and began with a
low cooing note that ran to a low quaver and dwindled to a piping child’s
voice, broken by sobs and whimperings, as if a baby had strayed from its
mother’s arms and had been lost in the woods. He knew that it was the cunning
voice of that most savage and cowardly beast of the American wilds and
moved on. Arrived at the spring below a steep bank, he felt the autumn
wind a little bit chill and a few rods from the deer lick he lay down on
a dry bank, in a good place, waiting for the hunter’s moon to rise. Covering
himself from the night air with a thick blanket, he listed to the fretful
gurgling of the spring and waited for the deer to come. The evening was
passing in loneliness and still no steps of deer came down the hillside
path. What could have kept them away? Just as the soft rays of the moon,
beginning to rise over Pisgah, were gilding the landscape, a slight noise
was heard overhead and a small piece of bark fell on his blanket; supposing
it was the wind moving among the branches or the snapping of a twig by
some bird of the night he waited. Suddenly a huge body precipitated itself
through the air on the prostrate form beneath the blanket, nearly knocking
the breath out of his body and causing him to utter a piercing yell of
pain and fright. Alighting on the outspread blanket with outstretched limbs
and claws the panther astonished, drew himself together, gathering up the
loose blanket in his embrace with one desperate clutch. Then half frightened
and realizing its blunder with a shriek of disappointment, it gave one
spring and bounded away into the forest. It was a large sized panther which
had come to watch in a tree for deer. The hunter was not unwilling to let
the beast escape."
Fearless Pioneer Woman--Among the pioneer women who were stout
hearted and brave, Mrs. Sophia Fowler, wife of Russell Fowler of Monroe,
proved herself a heroine on more occasions that one. The following is related:
"One day to the great amazement of ‘Aunt Sophia’ her door was suddenly
burst open and a hunter appeared, exhausted and terribly frightened. Inquiring
as to the trouble, he made known in his excited way that a bear of prodigious
size was close upon his heel. Losing no time to look up cowardly hunters,
Bruin made for the pig-pen and was soon embracing a young shoat. Hearing
the pig squeal Aunt Sophia grabbed a fire-brand and put to the rescue,
but despite the burns which she inflicted, the bear killed the pig and
carried it off, the hunter remaining in the house in the meantime. One
day while the men were busily engaged about the mill-yard skidding logs,
a panther came, took Aunt Sophia’s calf out of the pen and carried it to
the shade of a large oak tree standing in the yard, where after a hearty
dinner of fresh veal, he left the carcass and returned to the mountains
undetected. The pen from which the calf was taken stood not more than five
rods from where the men were working."
A Child Lost!--Mrs. Elizabeth Wolcott of Litchfield narrated
the following, concerning the little son of her daughter, Mrs. Hiram Merrill:
"Early in the struggle of Mr. and Mrs. Merrill for a home occurred one
of those incidents which in pioneer life is always most startling and stirs
to the very depths the heartfelt sympathies of all who may read or hear,
the announcement, ‘a child is lost!’ Yet, this was the heart-rending experience
of my daughter and her husband. Little Chester, their second son, one bright
morning wandered away into the forrest with no other covering than his
little night shirt, unnoticed by any one and for an hour or more unmissed.
Having realized what had happened Mrs. Merrill flew into the woods wildly
calling the little fellow’s name. Her husband and brother, William, though
working at some distance, heard her despairing cries and came in haste
to the rescue. They instituted a search as thorough as their limited number
would admit but of no avail. The child was hopelessly lost in a dense forest
where wild and vicious beasts of prey had their haunts. William went for
aid while Mrs. Merrill and her husband were searching the woods in every
direction in quest of their darling or some sign or trail which they could
follow. The people responded generously at the call for help. More than
200 men came but not until the third day were their efforts rewarded. They
found the little fellow alive and well, but almost wild with fear and his
little body one solid mass of mosquito bites. Such a shout as reverberated
through the forest! Signal guns were fired and a courier dispatched post
haste to carry the glad tidings to the nearly distracted mother who had
not been able to eat or sleep in her anxiety."
A Narrow Escape From Wolves--Nearly a century ago when the Towanda hills were yet a wilderness, Sim West, a young man, started one evening from his father’s home to William Finch’s, two miles distant. He not gone far when a pack of gray wolves struck his track and followed, making the woods ring with their dismal howls. He ran at his best speed, the wolves constantly gained on him and would soon have overtaken him had it not been for the Cox house on the way. Bursting open the door, he barely had time to mount the ladder leading to the second story, which he drew up after him, before the denizens of the wood filled the room below. All night long the hungry pack kept up their howls, leaving at daylight, when the young man passed on to Mr. Finch’s and related his adventure.
Capturing an Elk as narrated by Elder S. W. Alden of Monroe: "At length things became dull in the settlement and needed a change. Something new must be had that would do to be talked about--something to make a sensation or a stir. All topics had become old, even the seven pairs of twins that had been so safely numbered with the populace. Freeman Wilcox had killed his huge panther with a club while it was fighting the dogs. Sheffield Wilcox had robbed a panther’s nest of its young and brought the ‘little varmints,’ as he called them, and put them down in our dooryard for us to play with. The wolves’ den had been invaded, the old one killed and the pups (five or six in number) brought and exhibited to us for an hour, before drawing the bounty; and even the ferocious bear’s lair was not sacred, he having been compelled to yield his cubs or his life, or both, to satisfy the energy and daring of the men of those times. Well, all of these things became old and commonplace and ceased to be talked about and a sensation was demanded. Uncle Sim Bristol was equal to the emergency. He planned and helped to execute the new and daring feat that would give new tone to conversation for a month. It was to capture a live elk and bring him in as a living witness.
"Moses Miller and Sheffield Wilcox, two veterans, were selected as the right and left hand supporters. Forward was the word and away they went to the deep woods. Once in the herd and the dogs slipped, the fun is fast at once. Those right good old dogs, such as Bose, Bessie, Trim, Tige, Mage, Drive and Brandy--they would now make tramps scarce and burglars law-abiding citizens. The hunters were so sanguine of success as to have taken the ropes with them with which to halter-break and bring in his antlership, after learning him a few things. You may suppose that the noble elk was dragged down by the dogs and then roped; not at all. He could not be loaded with dogs enough to down him. The sport had quite a little more of the dangerous about it than the approach of a prostrate and subdued animal. Some study, old male elk, with horns spreading from four to six feet, usually makes a dash among the dogs by way of defiance and to defend the cows and calves that the dogs are barking furiously at and by this means he draws the whole pack around him at once, allowing the rest of his tribe to make good their escape, if indeed they have escaped the rifles that first broke the notes of surprise in their quiet camp. Sometimes this old patriarch would find more of fight than he bargained for and get the worst of the conflict all the way through. This is not a pack of untutored wolves that he is defying, but dogs as true as ever drew blood or kissed the babies’ cheeks before the homestead fire. They will do all that their masters expect of them and quit only at the signal of recall.
"The deer when persistently pursued invariably takes to the water. Not so with the elk. He takes to the deepest wilds of the wilderness and the highest peaks of the mountains and the ledges and cliffs that he is aware of and proposes to fight it out on that line. If possible, he will perch himself upon the ledge of some high precipitous cliff with his heels to the edge of the precipice while his antlers guard his front, assisted by now and then a shot from the shoulder with his forefoot, which comes like an arrow at his assailants and often with marked success. He has practiced this kind of fencing for many years in his battles with the wolves that have attempted to carry away or eat up the calves of the herd. When in this, his natural fortress, woe be to the luckless inexperienced hound that attempts to pass his rear and get a nip at his heels or a taste of his hams. One of those dexterous kicks is most likely to disintegrate him from both the cliff and the fight all at once; and if after a fall and tumble of thirty to sixty feet without choice of a spot on which to stop, he ever comes back to the fight again, it will be as a wiser dog, if not at the cost of being a cripple for life. Nature has given this noble stag another advantage in the contest that is scarcely ever mentioned in the description of the chase. Like the polecat and the panther the elk can secrete and discharge upon the dogs around him a disheartening fluid that sometimes is of great service to him in holding his enemies at a distance, whether they be dogs or wolves.
"But here he is; in majesty itself and the most inviting specimen of game that has gladdened those hunters’ eyes; and now for the capture and securing of the truly noble and worthy prize. The stealthy hunters advance, the dogs, aware of the reinforcements, become more fierce, and the elk with steady nerve parries every snap and despises every bark. He is at bay and in every parry, cut, thrust and kick he leaves no part of his person unguarded. He fights by rule, not heeding the hunters, for they are not barking at him. The stealthy hunters nevertheless advance, one of them taking up his position twenty feet right in front of the quarry, his rifle at the ‘ready’ covering the game. The other two men have fixed a noose in the middle of the rope, and a man at each end of it, fifteen feet or so apart and they are carefully approaching his front with their rope extending as far as possible to keep them out of reach of his horns. If he charges the rifle must kill him; if he makes a lunge, the noose must catch him, and so goes the fight until the noose of the rope is over his head, or has caught safely his horns, or until he gets his head or horns into it. Not a word is spoken until ‘There, we have got him!’ ‘Hold firm!’ ‘Call off the dogs!’ ‘Be quick, Uncle Moses and get your noose on his hind foot!’ etc. Right here the stalwart hunter’s richest fun just opens in all the plenitude of excitement. The surges, snorts, rears, lunges, falls, laughs and pumps and tears and thumps that the three men and the elk take (about an even thing) are sports that a blooded, good-natured hunter can but enjoy. It would draw a larger crowd than any circus. The dogs are relieved and the hunters are more than delighted.
"Clothes are a consideration never taken into the account any more than
the shins. The fight once open, all is absorbed in passing events. The
first intimation of any necessity for a clothing store is when the hunter’s
wife in good nature reminds him of his approach to nudity. No account is
taken of time passing; all is devotion to the hunt, the game and success.
The elk was brought down the mountain and then to Greenwood and where Monroe
now is. Wilcox and Miller walked one on each side of him, close up to him.
He had become quite domesticated, except he yet remembered how to kick
viciously. He was kept with Uncle Simeon at the still-house to repair damages
for several days. Then he was moved up South Branch to Albany to be kept
by Uncle Sheffield Wilcox. He became a fine pet but never fully recovered
from the bites of the dogs, the bruises and injuries of the fight. He was
a fine specimen but he pined away and died as he had lived, ‘game.’ This
was the first living elk captured by our hunters."
Unequalled Courage, Girl of 13--In 1778 Rudolph Fox of Towanda
removed his family down the river to a place of safety. In 1783 he returned
to his old home with four of his children. Reaching it, they found the
buildings and stacks of grain which they had left in ashes. A bark-covered
cabin was constructed and other preparations made for the return of the
family. When ready to return, the daughter, Elizabeth, then 13 years of
age, was the only one who would consent to remain. A more heroic undertaking
could scarcely be proposed--a young girl on the spot where their buildings
had been burned, surrounded by ferocious beasts and liable to be disturbed
by savage men, consents to be the sole occupant of the premises for five
days--the time supposed to be necessary for the trip. But unexpected trials
awaited her. The mother was found to be too ill to be removed and a delay
of two weeks was unavoidable. The shrill scream of the panther and howls
of the wolf at night added horror to the girl’s dreary situation in the
wilderness. Both these savage beasts had been heard upon her cabin trying
to gain admission. One night as she was lying upon her bed of hemlock boughs
asleep, a panther unceremoniously came in through her blanket-door, took
the jerked venison from over her head and then left without doing her any
harm. Elizabeth kept her post 17 days, when, after eating the last of her
provisions and seeing no prospect of relief, set out to meet the family
or find a hut where she might procure some food. She had proceeded only
a few miles when she discovered the boat with her family slowly ascending
the river. The father inquired, "Where are you going?" "To Wilkes-Barre
to get something to eat," replied the daughter. She was taken on board
and the family reached home after an absence of five years. Such was the
courage of the first pioneer child born in Bradford county.
Thrilling Boyhood Experiences as narrated by Uncle Treat Shoemaker (1902): "In May, 1826, my father, mother and family moved from the central part of Pennsylvania, to the western part of Granville township in this county, which was at that time a dense mass of woods. Here my father settled, erected a hat factory on a small scale and commenced clearing and otherwise improving his property. There were but few neighbors and they were far between. Bears, panthers, wolves and deer were very plentiful. The wolves were not the ferocious ones but quite timid. If they heard us coming through the woods they would skulk behind a tree and peeping out from behind shelter to see what we were doing and if they had a chance they would skip behind a log and then run for dear life. But don’t think for a moment we were not afraid of them for we were and didn’t go far from home without father or mother or our older brothers; but if we did venture a little ways it didn’t take much of a noise for use to imagine it to be a bear or panther and we would take to our heels and run like little tigers.
"The following spring after we settled in the woods, my father and older brothers concluded to tap some large maple trees that were situated about three-fourths of a mile from the house and to that end they built a little cabin and got things real handy and commenced business. The next morning they started out bright and early and of course I was anxious to go too. But father said, ‘No you can wait and when mammy gets the dinner ready for us you may bring it down to us.’ I didn’t fall in with the arrangement very readily but concluded I would have to do as told. I contented myself about the house till mother had the lunches ready. She fried venison, made some fried cakes, some warm biscuits, and with some nice honey gathered from a ‘bee tree’ a few days before, she told me the dinner was ready for me to start. I took the basket on my arm and started, she telling me to run along as fast as possible as she was afraid the howling of the wolves might frighten me, for they would probably scent the fresh venison and she would listen for me; and father would be listening too, as they were expecting me. I had not gone far before the basket seemed very heavy to me as I was only six years old but quite rugged for my age.
"Nevertheless I hurried along and I had traveled about two-thirds of the distance when I commenced to hear the wolves howl; and it seemed as though they were coming nearer, nearer, and the nearer they seemed the faster I traveled. At last I commenced to cry and of course couldn’t run as fast nor didn’t dare look behind. Just as I began to expect to have a wolf jump on my back, I heard my brother shout and looking, there he was just ahead of me in the path and ready to carry my basket. Then I dared to look around and just got a glimpse of a little grey wolf disappearing around a tree, but quite a ways from me so I had been imagining him to be closer than he really was. They had heard the wolves and concluded I was the object of their notice. We started on and it was only a few minutes before we had arrived at the boiling place. The afternoon passed rapidly and it had begun to get real dark when the sap had boiled down to syrup and they had it in the pails ready to start home. By this time the panthers had commenced to prowl around and father and the boys made torches for each of us out of pine knots. Taking their knives and whittling till they had a row of shavings all around them then lighting them, for all wild beasts are afraid of fire. We started, each one moving a torch, when a noise was heard in the bushes, and they would run back, sometimes making quite a noise, others only a slight sound as if afraid of being heard.
"But one animal seemed determined to follow us despite our efforts to
frighten it away. It followed in the path about twenty feet behind us.
We could see its eyes glaring and a more frightened boy it would be hard
to find. I kept as close to father and the boys as possible waving my torch
and ‘hollering’ but all to no effect. At last father says, ‘Old fellow
I’ll fix you if you don’t stay back where you belong,’ and he told us all
to get a stone and we would try stoning it, but when you want stones, the
size you want are not there especially when a wild animal is near you.
At last father found one that was of good size and he threw it at it thinking
he would hit it in the head, but just about the time for the stone to strike
the panther, as it proved to be, sprang aside and gave one of the most
unearthly screams I ever heard. I know my hair stood ‘on ends,’ then father
said that it is a panther and a big one too, we will have to keep a pretty
good look out for him. By the time we got started he was behind us creeping
along as before, but getting closer to us all the time. We kept stones
flying most of the time and when we struck him or near him he would jump
and give another of his awful screams, but in a moment again we could hear
its pit-a-pat, pit-a-pat behind us. We hurried along and in a short time
arrived at the house. Mother had been looking for us and stood in the door
with a tallow dip in her hand and I tell you it didn’t take long for us
to get in the house and fasten the door. For a long time we could hear
noises around the house and in the morning in damp places around the house
we could see its tracks larger than a man’s hand. The same panther killed
sheep all summer, but next winter it was caught while feasting on a deer
it had killed. Thus ends one day in the life of a boy in ‘ye Olden Times.’"
A Glance Backwards as related by the late James Wilcox of Burlington (1885): "I can remember when the country was literally a howling wilderness, void of roads and mills with but a sparse population. The only road through this section was the one from Burlington to Troy. I helped to cut the State road through from Towanda. There were but three stores in the county, one at Meansville and two at Tioga Point. There were two log school houses in what was known as Burlington. One was at the present location of the old meeting house in West Burlington. This was built of hewed logs and used both for school and religious purposes. The other stood on the hill above the Jos. F. Morley residence. James Braffit built the first framed house about 1804. The lumber was drawn in by ox-teams from Franklin. The kitchen part of Joseph Morley’s dwelling is the original framed house. Ezra Goddard’s mill stood near where Rockwell’s mills now are. It was a saw and grist mill and was erected about 1808 or 10. I can remember when the people went to Wilkes-Barre to mill, going down the river in boats. The first mill in the county was that of John Shepard at Milltown where the first carding mill was erected also. When I came the Indians were all gone except Tom Jack who then lived about half a mile up the creek from Burlington village. His cabin was a sort of frame, composed of crotched sticks driven into the ground with cross-beams and covered with bark. The families living in East Burlington at this time were the Campbells, James Braffit, Levi Soper, Derrick Miller, John T. Clark and David Ross.
"The summer of 1812 was a wet and cold one and each summer grew more so until 1816, when that capped the climax. We had a very heavy frost every month of that year and we all came near starving. The spring of 1817 was the trying one for the pioneers. The children cried for bread, but their hunger could not be satisfied. In one instance, I remember after the mother had listened to the pitiful cries of her little ones, she finally thought of the bran she had used in making a pin cushion. This she tore open, took out the bran and made bread for her starving children. A man by the name of Nelson came in from the East and brought with him a negro slave. It was in those trying times when provisions were very scarce. Mr. Nelson had planted some potatoes, and the negro was so nearly starved that in the evening he dug up a portion of them and roasted them, eating so many that he became sick and died. I have heard the Ballard boys say that after they came to Burlington for a period of six weeks the only subsistence they had for food was beech leaves prepared without salt.
"In those early times farmers’ tools were few and rude. Forks, plow-shares,
etc., were made by blacksmiths. More than once have I carried the plow-share
to Deacon Calkins’s at West Burlington to be sharpened. My manner of transporting
this tool was by placing it in one end of a bag which was thrown across
my back with a stone in the other end to make the load balance. The first
cast-steel axe I ever saw I purchased. I cut 100 logs for it, cutting them
with the axe after which I sold it for 100 feet of pine boards and a bushel
of wheat. The greater part of Burlington was heavily timbered with the
handsomest pines and for many years the lumbering business seemed to absorb
all others. The improvements were very slow, indeed, until lumbering was
done away with."
Life in the Wilderness--During the survey of Orwell in 1796, Zenas Cook and Truman Johnson were caught in a severe snowstorm, so far from their cabin that they could not reach it that night. They had one axe and one overcoat between them, and while one chopped to keep from freezing the other wore the garment, and thus they alternated during the night.
When Asahel Johnson settled in Orwell his nearest neighbor was Mr. Mesusan,
four miles distant. He came in with his wife and three or four small children,
the eldest but seven years of age. His only stock was a cow, which he bought
of his neighbor, Mesusan, and which was inclined to return to its former
home at every opportunity. Mr. Johnson was compelled to go to Sheshequin
to work to obtain grain for his family supplies, during which time his
family remained alone, Mrs. Johnson taking care of the cow and her children.
On one of these trips Mr. Johnson was delayed past his usual time of returning,
and Mrs. Johnson in attempting to replenish her depleted wood-pile, cut
her foot severely, and for some time it bled profusely despite all her
efforts to stanch the flow. She became alarmed, and fearing she would bleed
to death, instructed the children, in case she did not succeed in stanching
the wound, to bind the bloody clothes about the cow’s head and turn her
loose, hoping she would make her way to her old home, and so alarm the
neighbor and bring relief. Happily, she succeeded in stopping the flow
of blood, but was disabled for many weeks. During this time the house caught
fire, but the children extinguished it. Mr. Johnson, possessed of a fear
that something had happened, hastened home, finding his wife crippled and
the family out of provisions and wood.
Exciting Hunting Scenes--On an August afternoon, when "Old Monroe"
was young, William and Nathan Northrup, celebrated hunters, were watching
a deer lick when the latter seeing a large buck advancing fired at it.
The animal dropped and he supposed it dead. But as he was about to use
his hunting knife the animal galvanized into life and sprang to its feet.
William grabbed the animal by the horns but had no sooner than done so
when the animal’s antlers caught his tough doe-skin pants and almost completely
undressed him. However, he hung on and was carried several rods at a rapid
rate before the frightened animal could dislodge him and make its escape.
He frequently clinched a deer and generally got his game. More than once,
like Nathan, he was chased by a bear and only escaped by taking to his
heels. In all of his encounters and adventures he escaped uninjured. Nathan’s
best record was seven deer in a day, five of which were shot without moving
out of his tracks, and in another five elk, all being killed without changing
A Successful Morning Hunter--One of the pioneers who settled in the wilderness on the Sheshequin hills was Isaac S. Horton. He was remarkably successful with his gun. Frequently taking his rifle and going into the woods not far from his house he would knock down a deer or two and return home by breakfast time. One morning in June he took his gun and went into the woods about half a mile from his home, when a fine buck appeared before him and down he went. While reloading his gun he heard a wolf howl and going a little further he brought him down also. On returning to the place where he shot the deer, behold a huge panther had taken possession of the buck and was regaling himself by licking up the blood and preparing to feast upon the carcass. He stood still for some minutes, thinking it rather cruel to kill him before he had a chance to take his fill of his much coveted food. But at length the panther saw him and showed signs of fight, and he then put a ball through his brains. On going home for his team, he found he had been absent only a little over an hour.
The Nimrod of Albany--Sheffield Wilcox, Jr., one of the Albany
pioneers, was indeed a great nimrod and undoubtedly killed more panthers
and bears than any other man in the country. He sought to destroy the terror
of the northern woods to two reasons--to secure the $8.00 bounty and rid
the country of an animal that was destroying the sheep and other stock.
Sheep had to be confined in a yard at night and even then they were not
sufficiently protected. One night, in Mr. Wilcox’s absence from home, a
panther entered the pen within a few feet of the house, killed a sheep,
ate what he wanted of the carcass and left the remainder. The next morning
on Mr. Wilcox’s return, he and his brother, Freeman, took their rifles
and dogs and started in pursuit of the depredator, which they discovered
about a mile from the house and soon dispatched him. One day when hunting
deer on Hatch Hill, Mr. Wilcox saw through the brush what he supposed to
be a deer and fired. A little twig threw the bullet out of its course and
the game ran off, but as it did so he saw by its movement that it was a
panther. Luckily he had his panther dog with him which soon run the animal
up a tree, whence he was dispatched with a rifle ball. Taking his back
track, Mr. Wilcox finally found a second and third panther and succeeded
in killing them both. They were full grown and were captured within a space
of two hours. However, Mr. Wilcox was not always so fortunate as these
ferocious beasts sometimes turned the tables on him and put to the test
his strategic skill in making his escape. He is said to have killed over
two hundred bears and many hundred deer. When in search of the latter he
did "still-hunting." During the greater part of his hunting he used a "flint-lock."
His equipments consisted of an ammunition pouch, powder horn, hunting knife
and sometimes a tomahawk. When on a couple of days’ trip he would carry
a sack filled with provisions. He generally hunted bears and panthers in
company with others and always had his dogs when after such game.
Skulker in Bear Fight--It was not long after the Irvines had
settled the eastern hills of Monroe, Welch Irvine and James Rippey were
working for George irvine. Hearing the dog set up an earnest barking--signifying
that game of importance was at hand--George with his gun, accompanied by
the other two men, hastened to the spot of interest. Up a large pine, Bruin
was unmindful of the oncoming storm. George levelled "old Trusty" on the
animal and invited him down with the touch of the finger. When the gun
spoke the bear tumbled to the ground, but not dead. The faithful canine
sprung upon him and an encounter ensued in which Bruin was likely to get
the best of it. Welch with a cane in hand put to the rescue, while George
reloaded as quickly as possible. Welch’s blows not proving effective with
his light cudgel and George not being able to shoot again in fear of wounding
the dog, he picked up a pine knot and dealt the animal several lusty blows
which ended his bearship. After the battle had been fairly ended, Rippey
was looked for. He had decided early in the contest that "discretion was
the better part of valor," and was found up a tree, far out of harm’s way.
When Bradford county was a great wilderness with ferocious wild beasts on every side, it is indeed most remarkable that neither man, woman nor child was killed by them. With the pioneer’s faithful friend, the dog, that kept watch and generally fought the battles, fate was frequently against him. Many times he went down before a more powerful foe or lost his life by being overwhelmed in numbers. The following as related by the late Ira Ballard, of Pisgah, will illustrate: "Wolves in great numbers used to gather around our log cabin at night and make us almost frantic with their terrible howls. One evening we let the dog out on them and all we saw of him afterwards was a couple of ears and a few picked bones.
Venomous reptiles were quite as much dreaded by the pioneers as the wild beasts. Rattlesnakes were especially numerous in some localities. Persons and cattle were frequently bitten by them, death sometimes resulting. Snake hunts were instituted to locate the dens and destroy these pests. Often their hiding places, usually among the rocks were found and snakes killed by the hundred. In most localities with the improvement of the country, rattlesnakes have been exterminated.
One morning, as Josiah Cranmer of Monroe, was in search of his cows, his dog treed a young panther. The animal wishing to change his position or fall upon the dog, made one mighty spring and landed upon the ground. The dog seized him and a struggle for life ensued. At this juncture Mr. Cranmer came up with a club and ended the contest in favor of his watchful companion.
The late Myron Kellogg of Monroe relates that in one of his early courting experiences, as he was returning from Overton late at night, a pack of wolves struck his track and soon made the woods ring with their hideous howls. he hastened as fast as possible, the wolves pursuing and gaining. The race was growing more exciting every minute, which seemed almost hours, but he finally reached the John Heverly place first and was secure. Mr. Kellogg concluded by saying this was the last pleasure trip he made to Overton after night.
David Watkins, one of the pioneers of Columbia, frequently carried a bag of wheat on his back to the mill in Sheshequin, a distance of 20 miles, bringing the flour home in the same way for want of a horse to do the porterage.
Mercy, daughter of Thomas Keeney of Wilmot, like her mother was a woman of great resolution and courage. It is related that on one occasion a party of men had driven a panther up a tree and no one of them dare stay alone to watch the beast while the others went for guns. Mercy, although but 16 years old at this time, volunteered to remain and did so while two men went more than a mile for the firearms with which the panther was dispatched.
It is related that in 1802 the late Henry Russell of Windham, then 15 years of age, was sent to mill with Josiah Grant to get two bushels of wheat ground. They traveled 262 miles over paths only indicated by blazed trees to obtain the flour needed. At another time he took a small grist in a canoe from Nichols to Lackawanna, now Pittston, poling the canoe down and back over 200 miles.
Charlotte Ormsby, daughter of Freeman Wilcox, a pioneer of Albany, says (1885): "I have plowed, sowed grain and reaped for days. One season I put out a piece of flax. I plowed the ground, harrowed it, sowed it, pulled the flax, broke it, hatcheled it, spun and wove it. I learned the art of making shoes and not only repaired and made new ones for my own family but met the wants of the neighborhood in this line. Tapping men’s boots was not a difficult task. I have gone visiting on horseback without bridle or saddle and taken three of the children with me.
Henry Northrup of Monroe, coming home from Muncy on foot, saw where something had been killing sheep. His dogs soon treed an enormous catamount. Approaching the spot and having no other weapon, he cast a stone at the creature. With a scream of rage, the savage brute sprang for his face. He met it with a kick in the open mouth which gave the cat a set-back. The struggle that ensued was a lively one but finally resulted in the death of the catamount which showed fight till the very last.
The late Alexander Lane of Burlington was an itinerant preacher for many years. He says (1885): "I not only preached in the log school house and private dwellings but I have called the people together in barns and shingle cabins. I began my ministerial duties at the age of 18 years. I have preached in various parts of the county and in the States of Maryland and New Jersey. The first year I was on the circuit I received a salary of $40 and the second year $110, the discipline allowing no more. It generally took a number of weeks to make the rounds when we would go over the circuit again. Once a young couple came to be married, and after some questions, I concluded to do the job. Having tied the knot the young fellow expressed his gratitude and handed me 25 cents, all the money he had. Not many hours after they had departed, Squire Soper came to visit me, informing me that the girl’s father had been to him and wished to have a warrent issued for my arrest. The Squire prevailed upon him to wait and that he could make it all right between us. Accordingly, in the evening we visited the angry father and after having flattered his vanity sufficiently, we got a compromise by paying him a dollar."
The following was related by the late William Tracy of Springfield (1885): "When I was a boy it was common for everybody to drink whisky. Not only men, boys and women, but even ministers thought as much of taking their bitters as they did their meals. On one occasion when Brother J was making his pastoral calls, he stopped at our house just before noon with the announcement that he would stay with us during the night. Of course we boys were glad to see him as the table always furnished the best the house could afford together with an extra supply of whisky when he was visiting us. On this occasion we were nearly out of liquor, so mother hastened one of the boys to the field where father was informing him that Brother J had come and that there was but a pint of whisky in the house. "That will do for dinner.’ ‘Yes, but Brother J is going to stay all night.’ ‘Take the horse and bag and go to -----and borrow a gallon of whisky, but be sure and keep the snout of the jug up so that the cob will not come out.’ The bag was thrown across the animal’s back with the stone in the one end and the jug in the other. The whisky was obtained and the evening pleasantly spent in the way of years ago."
The Husking Bee--"In early times social life was all aglow and sometimes fun was fast and furious--the quiltings, raisings, logging-bees, apple-cuts and times of neighborhood gatherings were times of great social and convivial talkativeness, song and merriment. The husking had decidedly my boyish preference, because of its surroundings and the usual accompaniments of the occasion. here is the husking bee of olden times:
"The corn was stripped from the stalks and hauled by loads out upon a clean grass second growth meadow and there piled in a row three or four feet high, six or seven feet across the base and from twenty to thirty rods long and all prepared for an evening bee. The whole male population of the neighborhood were invited and usually all attended if the evening was fine. Adjacent to the pile of corn was a dry pine stub standing about 25 feet high, rich in fat pitchy streaks and looked for all the world as if it had stood there on its four-foot base for fifty years in anxious expectancy of just this occasion. At dusk fire is communicated to the top of the stub and a beautiful light beams forth in full harmony with the evening’s pastime. The owner of the pile of corn takes his seat, as soon as he has made husks to sit on, husks his corn and throws it over to the pile in front of him and all the neighbors come and do as he is doing.
"Soon the pile is strung with busy men from end to end, each man full of talk, the news of the day, deaths, births, marriages, thefts, politics, crops, prices of grain, goods and land, the abundance of game, the success of the recent hunt and the probability of the next wedding. But hark! hear those ears of corn fall on the pile over in front. A perfect storm, a bushel a minute is a small estimate, now, say five bushels and we would be nearer the mark. Hands work, corn flies and tongues move, time speeds and the work is being done with a will. Half an hour has passed when the voice of the gray-haired veteran owner of the corn rings out in a stentorian sound, ‘boys, the jug, the jug, pass that jug,’ and in a moment the jug is started; handed along from hand to hand and from mouth to mouth along the entire pile, until each man has taken a moderate sip of the pure ‘old rye,’ just from the still-house, and no corn in it in those days. This was repeated every half hour through the entire evening, and yet they did not get drunk but just had plenty.
"How beautifully the stub burned and how fast time flew! I hear a voice calling for a song, a song, and in a moment a clear musical voice rings out upon the evening atmosphere, far surpassing many of our modern operatic performances, while all listen and husk. It seems to me as if I could almost hear them now, as they sung, each man his favorite piece, such as ‘Barbara Allen,’ ‘Kate and the Cow’s Hide,’ ‘Battle of Lake Champlain,’ ‘Perry’s Victory,’ ‘The Jolly Plow Boy,’ and sometimes ‘Old Hundred’ would be sung with a zest that showed that devotion was not at all left behind by the puritanic mass. Now finally as a closing song we will hear them sing the battle and victory of New Orleans. Hear it:
General Jackson on such occasions lucky;
Soon round the General flocked,
With rifles ready cocked
The hunters of old Kentucky.
Every man was half a horn and half an alligator.
"This would generally bring down the whole field with shouts and yells in perfect keeping with the old Jacksonian times. Storm after storm of applause either to the song or the General, it made no difference the people felt patriotic and must find vent in some direction. Shout they would and shout they did to their heart’s utmost satisfaction. it is now ten o’clock or a trifle later, when it is announced that the corn is husked and all the men rise up, repair to the brilliant light around the remaining stump of the stub and take a good finishing imbibe from the old stone jug. Here a few wrestling matches are enjoyed where some of the young experts try their skill to the mirth and merriment of all.
"Just about here the old veteran of crops and field, steps to the front with hat in hand, his iron-grey locks shining in the light of the stub, and in a moment all is still. He thanks all for their presence and help, hopes soon to have an opportunity to reciprocate the favor, assures them, one and all, that he will not be slow to respond to an invitation of the kind and concludes his truly native eloquence by inviting all men and boys forthwith to his house for some refreshments, ‘come boys, come all.’
"At the house: it was a large double log-house in those days, and a place of comfort, quietude and repose. The luxuries of life was dispensed with while the necessaries were fully enjoyed. The old fashioned fire-place, large and ample, with its maplewood fire, dispensing both light and heat; the cheerful and tidy appearance of all within, told plainly of days of sturdy integrity, industry and thrift. The matron of the house with her daughters had anticipated the occasion fully, all was in readiness, cheerfulness and moderate quietude; that well starched cap on the mother’s head, those nice white, clean aprons worn by the daughters as well as the tables loaded with the substantial cookery, all told of the times, the occasion and a good hearty welcome.
"All are invited to eat as there are passed around doughnuts, apple
pies, pumpkin pies, berry pies, cheese and cider almost new. All eat as
if they had not devoured anything before for days. See that boy in the
act of craming a large piece of pumpkin pie into his mouth until he has
daubed both his nose and chin and appears to wish that his mouth and throat
were both larger. Oh, those delicious pies, the cakes would almost melt
in your mouth. Why can not our wives and daughters make such pies and cakes?
is it because we have lost our boyish taste and avidity? I guess that it
must be so. The old men told their best stories; another song was sung,
all were pleased and went home feeling fine."--As described by the late
Elder S. W. Alden of Monroe.
SUBMITTED BY PAT RAYMOND