Infomotions, Inc.Woman on the American Frontier / Fowler, William Worthington



Author: Fowler, William Worthington
Title: Woman on the American Frontier
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
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Title: Woman on the American Frontier

Author: William Worthington Fowler

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WOMAN ON THE AMERICAN FRONTIER.

A Valuable and Authentic History

OF THE HEROISM, ADVENTURES, PRIVATIONS, CAPTIVITIES, TRIALS, AND NOBLE
LIVES AND DEATHS OF THE "PIONEER MOTHERS OF THE REPUBLIC."

By WILLIAM W. FOWLER, M.A.

ILLUSTRATED WITH NUMEROUS ENGRAVINGS.




PREFACE.


The history of our race is the record mainly of men's achievements, in war,
in statecraft and diplomacy. If mention is made of woman it is of queens
and intriguing beauties who ruled and schemed for power and riches, and
often worked mischief and ruin by their wiles.

The story of woman's work in great migrations has been told only in lines
and passages where it ought instead to fill volumes. Here and there
incidents and anecdotes scattered through a thousand tomes give us glimpses
of the wife, the mother, or the daughter as a heroine or as an angel of
kindness and goodness, but most of her story is a blank which never will be
filled up. And yet it is precisely in her position as a pioneer and
colonizer that her influence is the most potent and her life story most
interesting.

The glory of a nation consists in its migrations and the colonies it plants
as well as in its wars of conquest. The warrior who wins a battle deserves
a laurel no more rightfully than the pioneer who leads his race into the
wilderness and builds there a new empire.

The movement which has carried our people from the Atlantic to the Pacific
Ocean and in the short space of two centuries and a half has founded the
greatest republic which the world ever saw, has already taken its place in
history as one of the grandest achievements of humanity since the world
began. It is a moral as well as a physical triumph, and forms an epoch in
the advance of civilization. In this grand achievement, in this triumph of
physical and moral endurance, woman must be allowed her share of the honor.

It would be a truism, if we were to say that our Republic would not have
been founded without her aid. We need not enlarge on the necessary position
which she fills in human society every where. We are to speak of her now as
a soldier and laborer, a heroine and comforter in a peculiar set of dangers
and difficulties such as are met with in our American wilderness. The
crossing of a stormy ocean, the reclamation of the soil from nature, the
fighting with savage men are mere generalities wherein some vague idea may
be gained of true pioneer life. But it is only by following woman in her
wanderings and standing beside her in the forest or in the cabin and by
marking in detail the thousand trials and perils which surround her in such
a position that we can obtain the true picture of the heroine in so many
unmentioned battles.

The recorded sum total of an observation like this would be a noble
history of human effort. It would show us the latent causes from which
have come extraordinary effects. It would teach us how much this republic
owes to its pioneer mothers, and would fill us with gratitude and
self-congratulation--gratitude for their inestimable services to our
country and to mankind, self-congratulation in that we are the lawful
inheritors of their work, and as Americans are partakers in their glory.

In the preparation of this work particular pains have been taken to avoid
what was trite and hackneyed, and at the same time preserve historic truth
and accuracy. Use has been made to a limited extent of the ancient border
books, selecting the most note-worthy incidents which never grow old
because they illustrate a heroism, that like "renown and grace cannot die."
Thanks are due to Mrs. Ellet, from whose interesting book entitled "Women
of the Revolution," a few passages have been culled. The stories of Mrs.
Van Alstine, of Mrs. Slocum, Mrs. McCalla, and Dicey Langston, and of
Deborah Samson, are condensed from her accounts of those heroines.

A large portion of the work is, however, composed of incidents which will
be new to the reader. The eye-witnesses of scenes which have been lately
enacted upon the border have furnished the writer with materials for many
of the most thrilling stories of frontier life, and which it has been his
aim to spread before the reader in this work.




ILLUSTRATIONS.


A VIRGINIA MATRON ENCOURAGING THE PATRIOTISM OF HER SONS AT THE DEATH-BED
OF THEIR FATHER,

LOST IN A SNOW STORM,

THE HUNTRESS OF THE LAKES SURPRISED BY INDIANS,

A HEROIC EXPLOIT IN SUPPLYING WITH POWDER A BLOCK-HOUSE BESIEGED BY
INDIANS,

DARING EXPLOIT OF MISS VAN ALSTINE,

FOOD AND CLOTHING SUPPLIED TO THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY BY PATRIOTIC WOMEN,

PERILOUS CROSSING OF THE ALLEGHANY RIVER,

WAGON TRAIN ON THE PRAIRIE,

STRATAGEM OF MRS. DAVIESS IN CAPTURING A KENTUCKY ROBBER,

TWO KENTUCKY GIRLS CAPTURED BY INDIANS,

PARTED FOR EVER,

AN EQUESTRIAN FEAT,

TREED BY A BEAR,

RESCUING A HUSBAND FROM WOLVES,

DEFEAT OF GUERILLAS,

MASTERING BANDITS,




CONTENTS


CHAPTER I.

WOMAN AS A PIONEER,
 America's Unnamed Heroines.
 Maids and Matrons of the "_Mayflower_."
 Woman's Work in Early Days.
 Devotion and Self-sacrifice.
 Strange Story of Mrs. Hendee.
 Face to Face with the Indians.
 A Mother's Love Triumphant
 Woman among the Savages.
 The Massacre of Wyoming.
 Sufferings of a Forsaken Household.
 The Patriot Matron and her Children.
 The Acmé of Heroism.
 Adventures of an English Traveler.
 Woman in the Rocky Mountains.
 A Story of a Lonely Life.
 Nocturnal Visitors and their Reception.
 Life in the Far West.
 Mrs. Manning's Home in Montana,
 Female Emigrants on the Plains.
 A True Heroine.


CHAPTER II.

WOMAN'S WORK IN FLOODS AND STORMS,
 The Frontier two Centuries ago.
 The Pioneer Army.
 The Pilgrim "Mothers."
 Story of Margaret Winthrop.
 Danger in the Wilderness.
 A Reckless Husband and a Watchful Wife.
 Lost in a Snow-storm.
 The Beacon-fire at Midnight.
 Saved by a Woman.
 Mrs. Noble's Terrible Story.
 Alone with Famine and Death.
 A Legend of the Connecticut.
 What befel the Nash Family.
 Three Heroic Women.
 In Flood and Storm.
 A Tale of the Prairies.
 A Western Settler and her Fate.
 Battling with an Unseen Enemy.
 Emerging from the Valley of the Shadow.
 Heartbroken and Alone.


CHAPTER III.

EARLY PIONEERS.--WOMAN'S ADVENTURES AND HEROISM,
 In the Maine Wilderness.
 Voyaging up the Kennebec.
 The Huntress of the Lakes.
 Extraordinary Story of Mrs. Trevor.
 Two Hundred Miles from Civilization.
 Sleeping in a Birch-bark Canoe.
 A Fight with Five Savages.
 A Victorious Heroine.
 The Trail of a Lost Husband.
 Only just in Time.
 A Narrow Escape,
 Voyaging in an Ice-boat.
 Snow-bound in a Cave.
 Fighting for Food.
 Grappling with a Forest Monster.
 Mrs. Storey, the Forester.
 Alida Johnson's Thrilling Narrative.
 Caught in a Death-trap.
 A Desperate Measure and its Result.
 The Connecticut Settlers.
 Their Courage and Heroism.


CHAPTER IV.

ON THE INDIAN TRAIL
 A Block-house Attacked.
 Wild Pictures of Indian Warfare.
 Exploits of Mrs. Howe.
 A Pioneer Woman's Record.
 Holding the Fort alone.
 Treacherous "Lo."
 Witnessing a Husband's Tortures.
 The Beautiful Victim.
 Forced to Carry a Mother's Scalp.
 The Fate of the Glendennings.
 A Feast and a Massacre.
 Led into Captivity.
 Elizabeth Lane's Adventures.
 In Ambush.
 Siege of Bryant's Station.
 Outwitting the Savages.
 Mrs. Porter's Combat with the Indians.
 Ghastly Trophies of her Prowess.
 "Long Knife Squaw."
 Smoking out Redskins.
 The Widows of Innis Station.
 A Daring Achievement.
 The Amazon of the Stockade.


CHAPTER V.

CAPTIVE SCOUTS--HEROINES OF THE MOHAWK VALLEY,
 The Poetry of Border Life.
 Mrs. Mack in her Forest Fort.
 The Ambush in the Cornfield.
 The Night-watch at the Port-hole.
 A Shot in the Dark.
 The Hiding Place of her Little Ones.
 A Sad Discovery.
 An Avenger on the Track.
 Massy Herbeson's Strange Story.
 On the Trail.
 Miss Washburn and the Scouts.
 An Extraordinary _Rencontre_.
 A Wild Fight with the Savages.
 Mysterious Aid.
 Passing through an Indian Village.
 Hairbreadth Escapes.
 Courageous Conduct of Mrs. Van Alstine.
 Settlements on the Mohawk.
 Circumventing a Robber Band.
 How she Saved him.
 The Pioneer Woman at Home.


CHAPTER VI.

PATRIOT WOMEN OF THE REVOLUTION
 Times that Tried Men's Souls.
 The Women of Wyoming.
 Silas Deane's Sister.
 Mrs. Corbin, the Cannoneer.
 A Heroine on the Gun-deck.
 The Schoharie Girl.
 Women of the Mohawk Wars.
 Concerning a Curious Siege.
 The Patriot Daughter and the Bloody Scouts.
 What she Dared him to do.
 Brave Deeds of Mary Ledyard.
 Ministering Angels.
 Heroism of "Mother Bailey."
 Petticoats and Cartridges.
 A Thrilling Incident of Valley Forge.
 Ready-witted Ladies.
 Miss Geiger, the Courier.
 How Miss Darrah Saved the Army.
 Adventures of McCalla's Wife.
 Love and Constancy.
 A Clergyman's Story of his Mother.


CHAPTER VII.

GOING WEST.--PERILS BY THE WAY,
 After the Revolution.
 Starting for the Mississippi.
 Curious Methods of Migration.
 A Modern Exodus.
 Incidents on the Route.
 Wonderful Story of Mrs. Jameson.
 Forsaking all for Love.
 A Woman with One Idea.
 That Fatal Stream.
 Alone in the Wilderness.
 A Glimpse of the Enemy.
 Strength of a Mother's Love,
 Saved from a Rattlesnake.
 Individual Enterprise.
 Migrating in a Flat-boat.
 A Night of Peril on the Ohio River.
 Terrifying Sounds and Sights.
 A Fiery Scene of Savage Orgies.
 Coolness and Daring of a Mother.
 An Extraordinary Line of Mothers and Daughters.
 A Pioneer Pedigree and its Heroines.


CHAPTER VIII.

HOME LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS,
 The Nomads of the West.
 Romance of a Pioneer's March.
 How the Cabin was Built.
 Where Mrs. Graves Concealed her Babes.
 Husband and Wife at Home.
 Rather Rough Furniture.
 Forest Fortresses.
 Fighting for her Children.
 Mrs. Fulsom and the Ambushed Savage.
 Domestic Life on the Border.
 From a Wedding to a Funeral.
 Among the Beasts and Savages.
 Little Ones in the Wilds.
 Woman takes Care of Herself.
 Ann Bush's Sorrows.
 The Bright Side of the Picture.
 Western Hospitality.
 A Traveler's Story.
 "Evangeline" on the Frontier.
 An Eden of the Wilderness and its Eve.


CHAPTER IX.

SOME REMARKABLE WOMEN,
 Diary of a Heroine.
 The Border Maid, Wife, Mother, and Widow.
 Strange Vicissitudes in the Life of Mrs. W.
 Adopted by an Indian Tribe.
 Shrewd Plan of Escape.
 The Hiding-place in the Glen.
 Surprised and Surrounded, but Safe.
 Successful Issue of her Enterprise.
 Mrs. Marliss and her Strategy.
 Combing the Wool over a Savage's Eyes.
 Marking the Trail.
 A Captive's Cunning Devices.
 A Pursuit and a Rescue.
 Extraordinary Presence of Mind.
 A Robber captured by a Woman.
 A Brave, Good Girl.
 Helping "the Lord's People."
 A Home of Love in the Wilderness.
 A Singular Courtship.
 The Benevolent Matron and her Errand.
 Story of the Pioneer Quakeress.


CHAPTER X.

A ROMANCE OF THE BORDER,
 The Honeymoon in the Mountains.
 United in Life and in Death.
 A Devoted Lover.
 Capture of Two Young Ladies.
 Discovery and Rescue.
 The Captain and the Maid at the Mill.
 The Chase Family in Trouble.
 The Romance of a Young Girl's Life.
 Danger in the Wind.
 Hunter and Lover.
 Treacherous Savages.
 Old Chase Knocked Over.
 The Fight on the Plains.
 An Unexpected Meeting.
 Heroism of La Bonte.
 The Guard of Love.
 The Marriage of Mary.
 Miss Rouse and her Lover.
 A Bridal and a Massacre.
 Brought back to Life but not to Joy.
 A Fruitless Search for a Lost Bride.
 Mrs. Philbrick's Singular Experience.


CHAPTER XI

PATHETIC SCENES OF PIONEER LIFE,
 Grief in the Pioneer's Home.
 Graves in the Wilderness.
 The Returned Captive and the Nursery Song.
 The Lost Child of Wyoming
 Little Frances and her Indian Captors.
 Parted For Ever.
 Discovery of the Lost One.
 An Affecting Interview.
 Striking Story of the Kansas War.
 The Prairie on Fire.
 Mother and Children Alone.
 Homeless and Helpless.
 Solitude, Famine, and Cold.
 Three Fearful Days.
 The Burning Cabin.
 A Gathering Storm.
 A Dream of Home and Happiness.
 Return of Father and Son.
 A Love Stronger than Death.
 The Last Embrace.
 A Desolate Household.


CHAPTER XII.

THE HEROINES OF THE SOUTH WEST,
 Texas and the South West.
 Across the "Staked Plain."
 Mrs. Drayton and Mrs. Benham.
 A Perilous Journey.
 Sunstrokes and Reptiles.
 Death From Thirst
 Mexican Bandits.
 A Night Gallop to the Rendezvous.
 Escape of our Heroines.
 A Ride for Life.
 Saving Husband and Children.
 Surrounded by Brigands on the Pecos.
 Heroism of Mrs. Benham.
 The Treacherous Envoy.
 The Gold Hunters of Arizona.
 Mrs. D. and her Dearly Bought Treasure.
 Battling for Life in the California Desert.
 The Last Survivor of a Perilous Journey.
 Mrs. L., the Widow of the Colorado.
 Among the Camanches.
 A Prodigious Equestrian Feat.


CHAPTER XIII.

WOMAN'S EXPERIENCE ON THE NORTHERN BORDER,
 March of the "Grand Army"
 Peculiar Perils of the Northern Border.
 Mrs. Dalton's Record.
 A Dangerous Expedition.
 Her Husband's Fate.
 A Trance of Grief.
 Between Frost and Fire.
 A Choice of Deaths.
 Rescued from the Flames.
 One Sunny Hour.
 The Storm-Fiend.
 Terrific Spectacle.
 In the Whirlwind's Track.
 The Only Refuge.
 Locked in a Dungeon.
 A Fight for Deliverance.
 Arrival of Friends.
 Another Peril.
 Walled in by Flames.
 Passing Through a Fiery Lane.
 Closing Days of Mrs. Dalton.
 A Story of Minnesota.
 What the Hunters Saw.
 A Mother's Deathless Love.


CHAPTER XIV.

ENCOUNTERS WITH WILD BEASTS--COURAGE AND DARING,
 Personal Combat with a Bear.
 The Huntress of the Northwest.
 An Intrepid Wife and her Assailant.
 Combat with an Enraged Moose.
 A Bloody Circus in the Snow.
 Trapping Wolves--a Georgia Girl's Pluck.
 A Kentucky Girl's Adventure.
 A Wild Pack in Pursuit.
 The Snapping of a Black Wolf's Jaws.
 Female Strategy and its Success.
 A Cabin Full of Wolves.
 Comical Denouement.
 A Young Lady Treed by a Bear.
 Some of Mrs. Dagget's Exploits.
 Up the Platte, and After the Grizzlies.
 Catching a Bear with a Lasso.
 What a Brave Woman Can Do.
 Facing Death in the Desert.
 A Woman's Home in Wyoming.
 A Night with a Mountain Lion.


CHAPTER XV.

ACROSS THE CONTINENT.--ON THE PLAINS,
 Voyaging in a Prairie Schooner.
 A Cavalry Officer's Story.
 The Homeless Wanderer of the Plains.
 Mrs. N. Battling alone with Death.
 A Fatherless and Childless Home.
 The Plagues of Egypt.
 Murrain, Grasshoppers, and Famine.
 Following a Forlorn Hope.
 A Bridal Tour and its Ending.
 On the Borders of the Great Desert.
 An Extraordinary Experience.
 Women Living in Caves.
 A Waterspout and its Consequences.
 Drowning in a Drought.
 Fleeing from Death.
 A Woman's Partnership in a Herd of Buffaloes.
 The Huntress of the Foot-hills.
 A Charge by Ten Thousand Bison.
 Hiding in a Sink-hole.
 A Terrible Danger and a Miraculous Escape.
 A Prairie Home and its Mistress.


CHAPTER XVI.

WOMAN AS A MISSIONARY TO THE INDIANS,
 The Heroine and Martyr among the Heathen.
 Mrs. Eliot and her Tawny Protegés.
 Five Thousand Praying Indians.
 Mrs. Kirkland among the Oneidas.
 Prayer-meetings in Wigwams.
 The Psalm-singing Squaws.
 A Revolutionary Matron and her Story.
 A Pioneer Sunday-school and its Teacher.
 The Last of the Mohegans and their Benefactors.
 Heroism of the Moravian Sisters.
 The Guardians of the Pennsylvania Frontier.
 A Gathering Storm.
 Prayer-meetings and Massacres.
 Surrounded by Flame and Carnage.
 An Unexpected Assault.
 The Fate of the Defenders.
 A Fiery Martyrdom.
 Last Scene in a Noble Life.
 Closing Days of Gnadenhutten.
 Massacre of Indian Converts.
 The Death Hymn and Parting Prayer.


CHAPTER XVII.

WOMAN AS A MISSIONARY TO THE INDIANS, (CONTINUED),
 Missionary Wives Crossing the Rocky Mountains.
 Buried Alive in the Snow.
 Shooting the Rapids in a Birch Canoe.
 Sucked Down by a Whirlpool.
 A Fearful Situation and its Issue.
 A Brace of Heroines and their Expedition.
 Women Doubling Cape Horn.
 A Parting Hymn and Long Farewell.
 A Missionary Wife's Experience in Oregon.
 All Alone with the Wolves.
 A Woman's Instinct in the Hour of Danger.
 Dr. White's Dilemma and its Solution.
 A Clean Pair of Heels and a Convenient Tree.
 A Perilous Voyage and its Consequences.
 A Heartrending Catastrophe.
 A Mother's Lost Treasure.
 A Savage Coterie and the White Stranger.
 Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spalding.
 A Murderous Suspicion.
 The Benefactress and the Martyr.


CHAPTER XVIII.

WOMAN IN THE ARMY,
 The Daughter of the Regiment.
 A Loving Wife and a True Patriot.
 Mrs. Warner in the Canadian Campaign.
 The Disguised Couriers.
 Deborah Samson in Buff and Blue.
 A Woman in Love with a Woman.
 A Wound in Front and what it Led to.
 Mrs. Coolidge's Campaign in New Mexico.
 Bearing Dispatches Across the Plains.
 A Fight with Guerillas.
 A Race for Life.
 Two against Five.
 Frontier Women in our Last Great War.
 Their Exploits and Devotion.
 Miss Wellman as Soldier and Nurse.
 The Secret Revealed.
 A Noble Life.
 A Devoted Wife.
 Life in a Confederate Fort.
 The Little Soldier and her Story.
 A Sister's Love.
 The Last Sacrifice.


CHAPTER XIX.

ACROSS THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS,
 A Woman's Adventures on the Platte River.
 On a False Trail, and What it Led To.
 Over a Precipice, and Down a Thousand Feet.
 All Alone on the Face of the Mountain.
 Mrs. Hinman's Extraordinary Situation.
 Swinging Between Heaven and Earth.
 What a Loving Wife Will Do.
 Living or Dying Beside her Husband.
 A Night on the Edge of a Precipice.
 Out of the Jaws of Death.
 The Two Fugitive Women of the Chapparel.
 A Secret Too Dreadful to be Told.
 The Specters of the Mountain Camp.
 Maternal Sacrifice and Filial Love.
 The Cannibals of the Canon.
 The Insane Hunter and his Victims.
 A Woman's Only Alternative.
 Female Endurance _vs_. Male Courage.
 Mrs. Donner's Sublime Devotion.
 Dying at her Post of Duty.


CHAPTER XX.

THE COMFORTER AND THE GUARDIAN,
 The Ruined Home and its Heroine.
 The Angel of the Sierra Nevada.
 Mrs. Maurice and the Dying Miners.
 The Music of a Woman's Word.
 The Young Gold Hunter and his Nurse.
 Starving Camp in Idaho.
 The Song in the Ears of the Dying.
 The Seven Miners and their Golden Gift.
 A Graveyard of Pioneer Women.
 Mrs. R. and her Wounded Husband.
 The Guardian Mother of the Island.
 The Female Navigator and the Pirate.
 A Life-boat Manned by a Girl.
 A Night of Peril.
 A Den of Murderers and an Unsullied Maiden.
 The Freezing Soldiers of Montana.
 A Despairing Cry and its Echo.
 The Storm-Angel's Visit.


CHAPTER XXI.

WOMAN AS AN EDUCATOR ON THE FRONTIER,
 A Mother of Soldiers and Statesmen.
 A Home-school on the Border.
 The Prairie Mother and her Four Children.
 A Garden for Human Plants and Flowers.
 The First Lesson of the Boy and Girl on the Frontier.
 The Wife's School in the Heart of the Rocky Mountains.
 A Leaf from the Life of Washington.
 The Hero-Mothers of the Republic.
 A Patriot Woman and a Martyr.
 A Mother's Influence on the Life of Andrew Jackson.
 Woman's Discernment of a Boy's Genius.
 West, the Painter, and Webster, the Statesman.
 The Place where our Great Men Learned A. B. C.
 Miss M. and her Labors in Illinois.
 A Martyrdom in the Cause of Education.
 Woman as an Educator of Human Society.
 Incident in the Life of a Millionaire.
 What a Mother's Portrait Did.
 A Woman's Visit to "Pandemonium Camp."
 An Angel of Civilization.




CHAPTER I.

WOMAN AS A PIONEER


Every battle has its unnamed heroes. The common soldier enters the stormed
fortress and, falling in the breach which his valor has made, sleeps in a
nameless grave. The subaltern whose surname is scarcely heard beyond the
roll-call on parade, bears the colors of his company where the fight is
hottest. And the corporal who heads his file in the final charge, is
forgotten in the "earthquake shout" of the victory which he has helped to
win. The victory may be due as much, or more, to the patriot courage of him
who is content to do his duty in the rank and file, as to the dashing
colonel who heads the regiment, or even to the general who plans the
campaign: and yet unobserved, unknown, and unrewarded the former passes
into oblivion while the leader's name is on every tongue, and perhaps goes
down in history as that of one who deserved well of his country.

Our comparison is a familiar one. There are other battles and armies
besides those where thousands of disciplined men move over the ground to
the sounds of the drum and fife. Life itself is a battle, and no grander
army has ever been set in motion since the world began than that which for
more than two centuries and a half has been moving across our continent
from the Atlantic to the Pacific, fighting its way through countless
hardships and dangers, bearing the banner of civilization, and building a
new republic in the wilderness.

In this army WOMAN HAS BEEN TOO OFTEN THE UNNAMED HEROINE.

Let us not forget her now. Her patience, her courage, her fortitude, her
tact, her presence of mind in trying hours; these are the shining virtues
which we have to record. Woman _as a pioneer_ standing beside her
rougher, stronger companion--man; first on the voyage across a stormy
ocean, from England to America; then at Plymouth, and Jamestown, and all
the settlements first planted by Europeans on our Coast; then through the
trackless wilderness, onward across the continent, till every river has
been forded, and every chain of mountains has been scaled, the Peaceful
Ocean has been reached, and fifty thousand cities, towns, and hamlets all
over the land have been formed from those aggregations of household life
where woman's work has been wrought out to its fullness.

Among all the characteristics of woman there is none more marked than the
self-devotion which she displays in what she believes is a righteous cause,
or where for her loved ones she sacrifices herself. In India we see her
wrapped in flames and burned to ashes with the corpse of her husband. Under
the Moslem her highest condition is a life-long incarceration. She
patiently places her shoulders under the burden which the aboriginal lord
of the American forest lays upon them. Calmly and in silence she submits to
the onerous duties imposed upon her by social and religious laws.
Throughout the whole heathen world she remained, in the words of an elegant
French writer, "anonymous, indifferent to herself, and leaving no trace of
her passage upon earth."

The benign spirit of Christianity has lifted woman from the position she
held under other religious systems and elevated her to a higher sphere. She
is brought forward as a teacher; she displays a martyr's courage in the
presence of pestilence, or ascends the deck of the mission-ship to take her
part in "perils among the heathen." She endures the hardships and faces the
dangers of colonial life with a new sense of her responsibility as a wife
and mother. In all these capacities, whether teaching, ministering to the
sick, or carrying the Gospel to the heathen, she shows the same
self-devotion as in "the brave days of old;" it is this quality which
peculiarly fits her to be the pioneer's companion in the new world, and by
her works in that capacity she must be judged.

If all true greatness should be estimated by the good it performs, it is
peculiarly desirable that woman's claims to distinction should thus be
estimated and awarded. In America her presence has been acknowledged, and
her aid faithfully rendered from the beginning. In the era of colonial
life; in the cruel wars with the aborigines; in the struggle of the
Revolution; in the western march of the army of exploration and settlement,
a grateful people must now recognize her services.

There is a beautiful tradition, that the first foot which pressed the
snow-clad rock of Plymouth was that of Mary Chilton, a fair young maiden,
and that the last survivor of those heroic pioneers was Mary Allerton, who
lived to see the planting of twelve out of the thirteen colonies, which
formed the nucleus of these United States.

In the _Mayflower_, nineteen wives accompanied their husbands to a
waste land and uninhabited, save by the wily and vengeful savage. On the
unfloored hut, she who had been nurtured amid the rich carpets and curtains
of the mother-land, rocked her new-born babe, and complained not. She, who
in the home of her youth had arranged the gorgeous shades of embroidery,
or, perchance, had compounded the rich venison pasty, as her share in the
housekeeping, now pounded the coarse Indian corn for her children's bread,
and bade them ask God's blessing, ere they took their scanty portion. When
the snows sifted through the miserable roof-tree upon her little ones, she
gathered them closer to her bosom; she taught them the Bible, and the
catechism, and the holy hymn, though the war-whoop of the Indian rang
through the wild. Amid the untold hardships of colonial life she infused
new strength into her husband by her firmness, and solaced his weary hours
by her love. She was to him,

  "----an undergoing spirit, to bear up
  Against whate'er ensued."

The names of these nineteen pioneer-matrons should be engraved in letters
of gold on the pillars of American history:

The Wives of the Pilgrims.

  Mrs. Catharine Carver.
  Mrs. Dorothy Bradford.
  Mrs. Elizabeth Winslow.
  Mrs. Mary Brewster.
  Mrs. Mary Allerton.
  Mrs. Elizabeth Hopkins.
  Mrs. ------ Tilley.
  Mrs. ------ Tilley.
  Mrs. ------ Ticker.
  Mrs. ------ Ridgdale.
  Mrs. Rose Standish.
  Mrs. ------ Martin.
  Mrs. ------ Mullins.
  Mrs. Susanna White.
  Mrs. ------ Eaton.
  Mrs. ------ Chilton.
  Mrs. ------ Fuller.
  Mrs. Helen Billington.
  Mrs. Lucretia Brewster.

Nor should the names of the daughters of these heroic women be forgotten,
who, with their mothers and fathers shared the perils of that winter's
voyage, and bore, with their parents, the toils, and hardships, and changes
of the infant colony.

The Daughters of the Pilgrim Mothers.

  Elizabeth Carver.
  Remember Allerton.
  Mary Allerton.
  Sarah Allerton.
  Constance Hopkins.
  Mary Chilton.
  Priscilla Mullins.

The voyage of the _Mayflower_; the landing upon a desolate coast in
the dead of winter; the building of those ten small houses, with oiled
paper for windows; the suffering of that first winter and spring, in which
woman bore her whole share; these were the first steps in the grand
movement which has carried the Anglo-Saxon race across the American
continent. The next steps were the penetration of the wilderness westward
from the sea, by the emigrant pioneers and their wives. Fighting their way
through dense forests, building cabins, block-houses, and churches in the
clearings which they had made; warred against by cruel savages; woman was
ever present to guard, to comfort, to work. The annals of colonial history
teem with her deeds of love and heroism, and what are those recorded
instances to those which had no chronicler? She loaded the flint-lock in
the block-house while it was surrounded by yelling savages; she exposed
herself to the scalping-knife to save her babe; in her forest-home she
worked and watched, far from the loved ones in Old England; and by
discharging a thousand duties in the household and the field, did her share
in a silent way towards building up the young Republic of the West.

Sometimes she ranged herself in battle beside her husband or brother, and
fought with the steadiness and bravery of a veteran. But her heroism never
shone so brightly as in undergoing danger in defense of her children.

In the early days of the settlement of Royalton, Vermont, a sudden attack
was made upon it by the Indians. Mrs. Hendee, the wife of one of the
settlers, was working alone in the field, her husband being absent on
military duty, when the Indians entered her house and capturing her
children carried them across the White river, at that place a hundred yards
wide and quite deep for fording, and placed them under keepers who had some
other persons, thirty or forty in number, in charge.

Returning from the field Mrs. Hendee discovered the fate of her children.
Her first outburst of grief was heart-rending to behold, but this was only
transient; she ceased her lamentations, and like the lioness who has been
robbed of her litter, she bounded on the trail of her plunderers.
Resolutely dashing into the river, she stemmed the current, planting her
feet firmly on the bottom and pushed across. With pallid face, flashing
eyes, and lips compressed, maternal love dominating every fear, she strode
into the Indian camp, regardless of the tomahawks menacingly flourished
round her head, boldly demanded the release of her little ones, and
persevered in her alternate upbraidings and supplications, till her request
was granted. She then carried her children back through the river and
landed them in safety on the other bank.

Not content with what she had done, like a patriot as she was, she
immediately returned, begged for the release of the children of others,
again was rewarded with success, and brought two or three more away; again
returned, and again succeeded, till she had rescued the whole fifteen of
her neighbors' children who had been thus snatched away from their
distracted parents. On her last visit to the camp of the enemy, the Indians
were so struck with her conduct that one of them declared that so brave a
squaw deserved to be carried across the river, and offered to take her on
his back and carry her over. She, in the same spirit, accepted the offer,
mounted the back of the gallant savage, was carried to the opposite bank,
where she collected her rescued troop of children, and hastened away to
restore them to their overjoyed parents.

During the memorable Wyoming massacre, Mrs. Mary Gould, wife of James
Gould, with the other women remaining in the village of Wyoming, sought
safety in the fort. In the haste and confusion attending this act, she left
her boy, about four years old, behind. Obeying the instincts of a mother,
and turning a deaf ear to the admonitions of friends, she started off on a
perilous search for the missing one. It was dark; she was alone; and the
foe was lurking around; but the agonies of death could not exceed her
agonies of suspense; so she hastened on. She traversed the fields which,
but a few hours before,

  "Were trampled by the hurrying crowd,"

where--

  "----fiery hearts and armed hands,
  Encountered in the battle cloud,"

and where unarmed hands were now resting on cold and motionless hearts.
After a search of between one and two hours, she found her child on the
bank of the river, sporting with a little band of playmates. Clasping her
treasure in her arms, she hurried back and reached the fort in safety.

During the struggles of the Revolution, the privations sustained, and the
efforts made, by women, were neither few nor of short duration. Many of
them are delineated in the present volume. Yet innumerable instances of
faithful toil, and patient endurance, must have been covered with oblivion.
In how many a lone home, from which the father was long sundered by a
soldier's destiny, did the mother labor to perform to their little ones
both his duties and her own, having no witness of the extent of her heavy
burdens and sleepless anxieties, save the Hearer of prayer.

A good and hoary-headed man, who had passed the limits of fourscore, once
said to me, "My father was in the army during the whole eight years of the
Revolutionary War, at first as a common soldier, afterwards as an officer.
My mother had the sole charge of us four little ones. Our house was a poor
one, and far from neighbors. I have a keen remembrance of the terrible cold
of some of those winters. The snow lay so deep and long, that it was
difficult to cut or draw fuel from the woods, or to get our corn to the
mill, when we had any. My mother was the possessor of a coffee-mill. In
that she ground wheat, and made coarse bread, which we ate, and were
thankful. It was not always we could be allowed as much, even of this, as
our keen appetites craved. Many is the time that we have gone to bed, with
only a drink of water for our supper, in which a little molasses had been
mingled. We patiently received it, for we knew our mother did as well for
us as she could; and we hoped to have something better in the morning. She
was never heard to repine; and young as we were, we tried to make her
loving spirit and heavenly trust, our example.

"When my father was permitted to come home, his stay was short, and he had
not much to leave us, for the pay of those who achieved our liberties was
slight, and irregularly given. Yet when he went, my mother ever bade him
farewell with a cheerful face, and told him not to be anxious about his
children, for she would watch over them night and day, and God would take
care of the families of those who went forth to defend the righteous cause
of their country. Sometimes we wondered that she did not mention the cold
weather, or our short meals, or her hard work, that we little ones might be
clothed, and fed, and taught. But she would not weaken his hands, or sadden
his heart, for she said a soldier's life was harder than all. We saw that
she never complained, but always kept in her heart a sweet hope, like a
well of water. Every night ere we slept, and every morning when we arose,
we lifted our little hands for God's blessing on our absent father, and our
endangered country.

"How deeply the prayers from such solitary homes and faithful hearts were
mingled with the infant liberties of our dear native land, we may not know
until we enter where we see no more 'through a glass darkly, but face to
face.'

"Incidents repeatedly occurred during this contest of eight years, between
the feeble colonies and the strong mother-land, of a courage that ancient
Sparta would have applauded.

"In a thinly settled part of Virginia, the quiet of the Sabbath eve was
once broken by the loud, hurried roll of the drum. Volunteers were invoked
to go forth and prevent the British troops, under the pitiless Tarleton,
from forcing their way through an important mountain pass. In an old fort
resided a family, all of whose elder sons were absent with our army, which
at the north opposed the foe. The father lay enfeebled and sick. By his
bedside the mother called their three sons, of the ages of thirteen,
fifteen, and seventeen.

"Go forth, children," said she, "to the defence of your native clime. Go,
each and all of you; I spare not my youngest, my fair-haired boy, the light
of my declining years.

"Go forth, my sons! Repel the foot of the invader, or see my face no more."

[Illustration: A VIRGINIA MATRON ENCOURAGING THE PATRIOTISM OF HER SONS AT
THE DEATH BED OF THEIR FATHER]

In order to get a proper estimate of the greatness of the part which woman
has acted in the mighty onward-moving drama of civilization on this
continent, we must remember too her peculiar physical constitution. Her
highly strung nervous organization and her softness of fiber make labor
more severe and suffering keener. It is an instinct with her to tremble at
danger; her training from girlhood unfits her to cope with the difficulties
of outdoor life. "Men," says the poet, "must work, and women must weep."
But the pioneer women must both work and weep. The toils and hardships of
frontier life write early wrinkles upon her brow and bow her delicate frame
with care. We do not expect to subject our little ones to the toils or
dangers that belong to adults. Labor is pain to the soft fibers and unknit
limbs of childhood, and to the impressible minds of the young, danger
conveys a thousand fears not felt by the firmer natures of older persons.
Hence it is that all mankind admire youthful heroism. The story of
Casabianca on the deck of the burning ship, or of the little wounded
drummer, borne on the shoulders of a musketeer and still beating the
_rappel_--while the bullets are flying around him--thrill the heart of
man because these were great and heroic deeds performed by striplings. It
is the bravery and firmness of the weak that challenges the highest
admiration. This is woman's case: and when we see her matching her strength
and courage against those of man in the same cause, with equal results,
what can we do but applaud?

A European traveler lately visited the Territory of Montana--abandoning the
beaten trail, in company only with an Indian guide, for he was a bold and
fearless explorer. He struck across the mountains, traveling for two days
without seeing the sign of a human being. Just at dusk, on the evening of
the second day, he drew rein on the summit of one of those lofty hills
which form the spurs of the Rocky Mountains. The solitude was awful. As far
as the eye could see stretched an unbroken succession of mountain peaks,
bare of forest--a wilderness of rocks with stunted trees at their base, and
deep ravines where no streams were running. In all this desolate scene
there was no sign of a living thing. While they were tethering their horses
and preparing for the night, the sharp eyes of the Indian guide caught
sight of a gleam of light at the bottom of a deep gorge beneath them.

Descending the declivity, they reached a cabin rudely built of dead wood,
which seemed to have been brought down by the spring rains from the
hill-sides to the west. Knocking at the door, it was opened by a woman,
holding in her arms a child of six months. The woman appeared to be fifty
years of age, but she was in reality only thirty. Casting a searching look
upon the traveler and his companion, she asked them to enter.

The cabin was divided into two apartments, a kitchen, which also served for
a store-room, dining-room, and sitting-room; the other was the chamber, or
rather bunk-room, where the family slept. Five children came tumbling out
from this latter apartment as the traveler entered, and greeted him with a
stare of childlike curiosity. The woman asked them to be seated on blocks
of wood, which served for chairs, and soon threw off her reserve and told
them her story, while they awaited the return of her husband from the
nearest village, some thirty miles distant, whither he had gone the day
before to dispose of the gold-dust which he had "panned out" from a gulch
near by. He was a miner. Four years before he had come with his family from
the East, and pushing on in advance of the main movement of emigration in
the territory, had discovered a rich gold placer in this lonely gorge.
While he had been working in this placer, his wife had with her own hands
turned up the soil in the valley below and raised all the corn and potatoes
required for the support of the family; she had done the housework, and had
made all the clothes for the family. Once when her husband was sick, she
had ridden thirty miles for medicine. It was a dreary ride, she said, for
the road, or rather trail, was very rough, and her husband was in a burning
fever. She left him in charge of her oldest child, a girl of eleven years,
but she was a bright, helpful little creature, able to wait upon the sick
man and feed the other children during the two days' absence of her mother.

Next summer they were to build a house lower down the valley and would be
joined by three other families of their kindred from the East. "Have you
never been attacked by the Indians?" inquired the traveler.

"Only three times," she replied. "Once three prowling red-skins came to the
door, in the night, and asked for food. My husband handed them a loaf of
bread through the window, but they refused to go away and lurked in the
bushes all night; they were stragglers from a war-party, and wanted more
scalps. I saw them in the moonlight, armed with rifles and tomahawks, and
frightfully painted. They kindled a fire a hundred yards below our cabin
and stayed there all night, as if they were watching for us to come out,
but early in the morning they disappeared, and we saw them no more.

"Another time, a large war-party of Indians encamped a mile below us, and a
dozen of them came up and surrounded the house. Then we thought we were
lost: they amused themselves aiming at marks in the logs, or at the chimney
and windows; we could hear their bullets rattle against the rafters, and
you can see the holes they made in the doors. One big brave took a large
stone and was about to dash it against the door, when my husband pointed
his rifle at him through the window, and he turned and ran away. We should
have all been killed and scalped if a company of soldiers had not come up
the valley that day with an exploring party and driven the red-skins away.

"One afternoon as my husband was at work in the diggings, two red-skins
came up to him and wounded him with arrows, but he caught up his rifle and
soon made an end of them.

"When we first came there was no end of bears and wolves, and we could hear
them howling all night long. Winter nights the wolves would come and drum
on the door with their paws and whine as if they wanted to eat up the
children. Husband shot ten and I shot six, and after that we were troubled
no more with them.

"We have no schools here, as you see," continued she; "but I have taught my
three oldest children to read since we came here, and every Sunday we have
family prayers. Husband reads a verse in the Bible, and then I and the
children read a verse in turn, till we finish a whole chapter. Then I make
the children, all but baby, repeat a verse over and over till they have it
by heart; the Scripture promises do comfort us all, even the littlest one
who can only lisp them.

"Sometimes on Sunday morning I take all the children to the top of that
hill yonder and look at the sun as it comes up over the mountains, and I
think of the old folks at home and all our friends in the East. The hardest
thing to bear is the solitude. We are awful lonesome. Once, for eighteen
months, I never saw the face of a white person except those of my husband
and children. It makes me laugh and cry too when I see a strange face. But
I am too busy to think much about it daytimes. I must wash, and boil, and
bake, or look after the cows which wander off in search of pasture; or go
into the valley and hoe the corn and potatoes, or cut the wood; for husband
makes his ten or fifteen dollars a day panning out dust up the mountain,
and I know that whenever I want him I have only to blow the horn and he
will come down to me. So I tend to business here and let him get gold. In
five or six years we shall have a nice house farther down and shall want
for nothing. We shall have a saw-mill next spring started on the run below,
and folks are going to join us from the States."

The woman who told this story of dangers and hardships amid the Rocky
Mountains was of a slight, frail figure. She had evidently been once
possessed of more than ordinary attractions; but the cares of maternity and
the toils of frontier life had bowed her delicate frame and engraved
premature wrinkles upon her face: she was old before her time, but her
spirit was as dauntless and her will to do and dare for her loved ones was
as firm as that of any of the heroines whom history has made so famous. She
had been reared in luxury in one of the towns of central New York, and till
she was eighteen years old had never known what toil and trouble were.

Her husband was a true type of the American explorer and possessed in his
wife a fit companion; and when he determined to push his fortune among the
Western wilds she accompanied him cheerfully; already they had accumulated
five thousand dollars, which was safely deposited in the bank; they were
rearing a band of sturdy little pioneers; they had planted an outpost in a
region teeming with mineral wealth, and around them is now growing up a
thriving village of which this heroic couple are soon to be the patriarchs.
All honor to the names of Mr. and Mrs. James Manning, the pioneers of
Montana.

The traveler and his guide, declining the hospitality which this brave
matron tendered them, soon returned to their camp on the hill-top; but the
Englishman made notes of the pioneer woman's story, and pondered over it,
for he saw in it an epitome of frontier life.

If a tourist were to pass to-day beyond the Mississippi River, and journey
over the wagon-roads which lead Westward towards the Rocky Mountains, he
would see moving towards the setting sun innumerable caravans of emigrants'
canvas-covered wagons, bound for the frontier. In each of these wagons is a
man, one or two women with children, agricultural tools, and household
gear. At night the horses or oxen are tethered or turned loose on the
prairie; a fire is kindled with buffalo chips, or such fuel as can be had,
and supper is prepared. A bed of prairie grass suffices for the man, while
the women and children rest in the covered wagon. When the morning dawns
they resume their Westward journey. Weeks, months, sometimes, roll by
before the wagon reaches its destination; but it reaches it at last. Then
begin the struggle, and pains, the labors, and dangers of border life, in
all of which woman bears her part. While the primeval forest falls before
the stroke of the man-pioneer, his companion does the duty of both man and
woman at home. The hearthstone is laid, and the rude cabin rises. The
virgin soil is vexed by the ploughshare driven by the man; the garden and
house, the dairy and barns are tended by the woman, who clasps her babe
while she milks, and fodders, and weeds. Danger comes when the man is away;
the woman must meet it alone. Famine comes, and the woman must eke out the
slender store, scrimping and pinching for the little ones; sickness comes,
and the woman must nurse and watch alone, and without the sympathy of any
of her sex. Fifty miles from a doctor or a friend, except her weary and
perhaps morose husband, she must keep strong under labor, and be patient
under suffering, till death. And thus the household, the hamlet, the
village, the town, the city, the state, rise out of her "homely toils, and
destiny obscure." Truly she is one of the founders of the Republic.




CHAPTER II.

THE FRONTIER-LINE--WOMAN'S WORK IN FLOODS AND STORMS


The American Frontier has for more than two centuries been a vague and
variable term. In 1620-21 it was a line of forest which bounded the infant
colony at Plymouth, a few scattered settlements on the James River, in
Virginia, and the stockade on Manhattan Island, where Holland had
established a trading-post destined to become one day the great commercial
city of the continent.

Seventy years later, in 1690, the frontier-line had become greatly
extended. In New England it was the forest which still hemmed in the coast
and river settlements: far to the north stretched the wilderness covering
that tract of country which now comprises the states of Maine, New
Hampshire, and Vermont. In New York the frontier was just beyond the posts
on the Hudson River; and in Virginia life outside of the oldest settlements
was strictly "_life on the border_." The James, the Rappahannock, and
the Potomac Rivers made the Virginia frontier a series of long lines
approaching to a parallel. But the European settlements were still sparse,
as compared with the area of uninhabited country. The villages, hamlets,
and single homesteads were like little islands in a wild green waste: mere
specks in a vast expanse of wilderness. Every line beyond musket shot was a
frontier-line. Every settlement, small or large, was surrounded by a dark
circle, outside of which lurked starvation, fear, and danger. The sea and
the great rivers were perilous avenues of escape for those who dwelt
thereby, but the interior settlements were almost completely isolated and
girt around as if with a wall built by hostile forces to forbid access or
egress.

The grand exodus of European emigrants from their native land to these
shores, had vastly diminished by the year 1690, but the westward movement
from the sea and the rivers in America still went forward with scarcely
diminished impetus: and as the pioneers advanced and established their
outposts farther and farther to the west, woman was, as she had been from
the landing, their companion on the march, their ally in the presence of
danger, and their efficient co-worker in establishing homes in the
wilderness.

The heroic enterprises recorded in the history of man have generally been
remarkable in proportion to their apparent original weakness. This is true
in an eminent degree of the settlement of European colonies on the western
continent. The sway which woman's influence exercised in these colonial
enterprises is all the more wonderful when we contemplate them from this
point of view. Three feeble bands of men and women;--the first at
Jamestown, Virginia, in 1609-1612; the second at Plymouth, in 1620; the
third on the Island of Manhattan, in 1624;--these were the dim nuclei from
which radiated those long lines of light which stretch to-day across a
continent and strike the Pacific ocean. This is a simile borrowed from
astronomy. To adopt the language of the naturalist, those three little
colonies were the puny germs which bore within themselves a vital force
vastly more potent and wonderful than that which dwells in the heart of the
gourd seed, and the acorn whose nascent swelling energies will lift huge
boulders and split the living rock asunder: vastly more potent because it
was not the blind motions of nature merely, but a force at once physical,
moral, and intellectual.

These feeble bands of men and women took foothold and held themselves
firmly like a hard-pressed garrison waiting for re-enforcements.
Re-enforcements came, and then they went out from their works, and setting
their faces westward moved slowly forward. The vanguard were men with pikes
and musketoons and axes; the rearguard were women who kept watch and ward
over the household treasures. Sometimes in trying hours the rearguard
ranged itself and fought in the front ranks, falling back to its old
position when the crisis was past.

In order to appreciate the actual value of woman as a component part of
that mighty impulse which set in motion, and still impels the pioneers of
our country, we must remember that she is really the cohesive power which
cements society together; that when the outward pressure is greatest, the
cohesive power is strongest; that in times of sore trial woman's native
traits of character are intensified; that she has greater tact, quicker
perceptions, more enduring patience, and greater capacity for suffering
than man; that motherly, and wifely, and sisterly love are strongest and
brightest when trials, labors, and dangers impend over the loved ones.

We must bear in mind too, that woman and man were possessed of the same
convictions and impulses in their heroic enterprise--the sense of duty, the
spirit of liberty, the desire to worship God after their own ideas of
truth, the desire to possess, though in a wilderness, homes where no one
could intrude or call them vassals; and deep down below all this, the
instincts, the gifts, and motive power of the most energetic race the world
has ever seen--the Anglo-Saxon; thus we come to see how in each band of
pioneers and in each household were centered that solid and constant moving
force which made each man a hero and each woman a heroine in the struggle
with hostile nature, with savage man more cruel than the storm or the wild
beasts, with solitude which makes a desert in the soul; with famine, with
pestilence, that "wasteth at noon-day,"--a struggle which has finally been
victorious over all antagonisms, and has made us what we are in this
centennial year of our existence as an independent republic.

Another powerful influence exercised by woman as a pioneer was the
influence of religion. The whole nature certainly of the Puritan woman was
transfused with a deep, glowing, unwavering religious faith. We picture
those wives, mothers, and daughters of the New England pioneers as the
saints described by the poet,

  "Their eyes are homes of silent prayer."

How the prayers of these good and honorable women were answered events have
proved.

Hardly had the Plymouth Colony landed before they were called upon to
battle with their first foes--the cold, the wind, and the storms on the
bleak New England coast. Famine came next, and finally pestilence. The
blast from the sea shook their frail cabins; the frost sealed the earth,
and the snow drifted on the pillow of the sick and dying. Five kernels of
corn a day were doled out to such as were in health, by those appointed to
this duty. Woman's heart was full then, but it kept strong though it
swelled to bursting.

Within five months from the landing on the Rock, forty-six men, women, and
children, or nearly one-half of the _Mayflower's_ passengers had
perished of disease and hardships, and the survivors saw the vessel that
brought them sail away to the land of their birth. To the surviving women
of that devoted Pilgrim band this departure of the _Mayflower_ must
have added a new pang to the grief that was already rending their hearts
after the loss of so many dear ones during that fearful winter. As the
vessel dropped down Plymouth harbor, they watched it with tearful eyes, and
when they could see it no more, they turned calmly back to their heroic
labors.

Mrs. Bradford, Rose Standish, and their companions were the original types
of women on our American frontier. Nobly, too, were they seconded by the
matrons and daughters in the other infant colonies. Who can read the
letters of Margaret Winthrop, of the Massachusetts Colony, without
recognizing the loving, devoted woman sharing with her noble husband the
toils and privations of the wilderness, in order that God's promise might
be justified and an empire built on this Western Continent.

In her we have a noble type of the Puritan woman of the seventeenth
century, representing, as she did, a numerous class of her sex in the same
condition. Reared in luxury, and surrounded by the allurements of the
superior social circle in which she moved in her native England, she
nevertheless preferred a life of self-denial with her husband on the bleak
shores where the Puritans were struggling for existence. She had fully
prepared her mind for the heroic undertaking. She did not overlook the
trials, discouragements, and difficulties of the course she was about to
take. For years she had been habituated to look forward to it as one of the
eventualities of her life. She was now beyond the age of romance, and
cherished no golden dreams of earthly happiness to be realized in that
far-off western clime.

Two traits are most prominent in her letters: her religious faith, and her
love for and trust in her husband. She placed a high estimate on the
wisdom, the energy, and the talents of her husband, and felt that he could
best serve God and man by helping to lay broad and deep the foundations of
a new State, and to secure the present and future prosperity, both temporal
and spiritual, of the colony. With admiration and esteem she blended the
ardent but balanced fondness of the loving wife and the sedate matron. In
no less degree do her letters show the power and attractiveness of genuine
religion. The sanctity of conjugal affection tallies with and is hallowed
by the Spirit of Grace. The sense of duty is harmoniously mingled with the
impulses of the heart. That religion was the dominant principle of thought
and action with Margaret Winthrop, no one can doubt who reflects how
severely it was tested in the trying enterprise of her life. A sincere,
deep, and healthful piety formed in her a spring of energy to great and
noble actions.

There are glimpses in the correspondence between her and her husband of a
kind of prophetic vision, that the planting of that colony was the laying
of one of the foundation-stones of a great empire. May we not suppose that
by the contemplation of such a vision she was buoyed up and soothed amid
the many trials and privations, perils and uncertainties that surrounded
her in that rugged colonial life.

The influence of Puritanism to inspire with unconquerable principle, to
infuse public spirit, to purify the character from frivolity and
feebleness, to lift the soul to an all-enduring heroism and to exalt it to
a lofty standard of Christian excellence, is grandly illustrated by the
life of Margaret Winthrop, one of the pioneer-matrons of the Massachusetts
colony.

The narrations which we set forth in this book must of course be largely
concerning families and individuals. The outposts of the advancing army of
settlement were most exposed to the dangers and hardships of frontier life.
Every town or village, as soon as it was settled, became a garrison against
attack and a mutual Benefit-Aid-Society, leagued together against every
enemy that threatened the infant settlement; it was also a place of refuge
for the bolder pioneers who had pushed farther out into the forest.

But as time rolled on many of these more adventurous settlers found
themselves isolated from the villages and stockades. Every hostile
influence they had to meet alone and unaided. Cold and storm, fire and
flood, hunger and sickness, savage man and savage beast, these were the
foes with which they had to contend. The battle was going on all the time
while the pioneer and his wife were subjugating the forest, breaking the
soil, and gaining shelter and food for themselves and their children.

It is easy to see what were the added pains, privations, and hardships of
such a situation to the mind and heart of woman, craving, as she does,
companionship and sympathy from her own sex. It is a consoling reflection
to us who are reaping the fruits of her self-sacrifice that the very
multiplicity of her toils and cares gave her less time for brooding over
her hard and lonely lot, and that she found in her religious faith and hope
a constant fountain of comfort and joy.

One of the greatest hardships endured by the first settlers in New England
was the rigorous and changeable climate, which bore most severely, of
course, on the weaker sex. This makes the fortitude of Mrs. Shute all the
more admirable. Her story is only one of innumerable instances in early
colonial life where wives were the preservers of their husbands.

In the spring of 1676, James Shute, with his wife and two small children,
set out from Dorchester for the purpose of settling themselves on a tract
of land in the southern part of what is now New Hampshire, but which then
was an unbroken forest. The tract where they purposed making their home was
a meadow on a small affluent of the Connecticut.

Taking their household goods and farming tools in an ox-cart drawn by four
oxen and driving two cows before them, they reached their destination after
a toilsome journey of ten days. The summer was spent in building their
cabin, and outhouses, planting and tending the crop of Indian corn which
was to be their winter's food, and in cutting the coarse meadow-grass for
hay.

Late in October they found themselves destitute of many articles which even
in those days of primitive housewifery and husbandry, were considered of
prime necessity. Accordingly, the husband started on foot for a small
trading-post on the Connecticut River, about ten miles distant, at which
point he expected to find some trading shallop or skiff to take him to
Springfield, thirty-eight miles further south. The weather was fine and at
nightfall Shute had reached the river, and before sunrise the next morning
was floating down the stream on an Indian trader's skiff.

Within two days he made his purchases, and hiring a skiff rowed slowly up
the river against the sluggish current on his return. In twelve hours he
reached the trading-post. It was now late in the evening. The sky had been
lowering all day, and by dusk it began to snow. Disregarding the
admonitions of the traders, he left his goods under their care and struck
out boldly through the forest over the trail by which he came, trusting to
be able to find his way, as the moon had risen, and the clouds seemed to be
breaking. The trail lay along the stream on which his farm was situated,
and four hours at an easy gait would, he thought, bring him home.

The snow when he started from the river was already nearly a foot deep, and
before he had proceeded a mile on his way the storm redoubled in violence,
and the snow fell faster and faster. At midnight he had only made five
miles, and the snow was two feet deep. After trying in vain to kindle a
fire by the aid of flint and steel, he prayed fervently to God, and
resuming his journey struggled slowly on through the storm. It had been
agreed between his wife and himself that on the evening of this day on
which he told her he should return, he would kindle a fire on a knoll about
two miles from his cabin as a beacon to assure his wife of his safety and
announce his approach.

Suddenly he saw a glare in the sky.

During his absence his wife had tended the cattle, milked the cows, cut the
firewood, and fed the children. When night came she barricaded the door,
and saying a prayer, folded her little ones in her arms and lay down to
rest. Three suns had risen and set since she saw her husband with gun on
his shoulder disappear through the clearing into the dense undergrowth
which fringed the bank of the stream, and when the appointed evening came,
she seated herself at the narrow window, or, more properly, opening in the
logs of which the cabin was built, and watched for the beacon which her
husband was to kindle. She looked through the falling snow but could see no
light. Little drifts sifted through the chinks in the roof upon the bed
where her children lay asleep; the night grew darker, and now and then the
howling of the wolves could be heard from the woods to the north.

Seven o'clock struck--eight--nine--by the old Dutch clock which ticked in
the corner. Then her woman's instinct told her that her husband must have
started and been overtaken by the storm. If she could reach the knoll and
kindle the fire it would light him on his way. She quickly collected a
small bundle of dry wood in her apron and taking flint, steel, and tinder,
started for the knoll. In an hour, after a toilsome march, floundering
through the snow, she reached the spot. A large pile of dry wood had
already been collected by her husband and was ready for lighting, and in a
few moments the heroic woman was warming her shivering limbs before a fire
which blazed far up through the crackling branches and lighted the forest
around it.

For more than two hours the devoted woman watched beside the fire,
straining her eyes into the gloom and catching every sound. Wading through
the snow she brought branches and logs to replenish the flames. At last her
patience was rewarded: she heard a cry, to which she responded. It was the
voice of her husband which she heard, shouting. In a few moments he came up
staggering through the drifts, and fell exhausted before the fire. The snow
soon ceased to fall, and after resting till morning, the rescued pioneer
and his brave wife returned in safety to their cabin.

[Illustration: LOST IN A SNOW STORM]

Mrs. Frank Noble, in 1664, proved herself worthy of her surname. She and
her husband, with four small children, had established themselves in a
log-cabin eight miles from a settlement in New Hampshire, and now known as
the town of Dover.

Their crops having turned out poorly that autumn, they were constrained to
put themselves on short allowance, owing to the depth of the snow and the
distance from the settlement. As long as Mr. Noble was well, he was able to
procure game and kept their larder tolerably well stocked. But in
mid-winter, being naturally of a delicate habit of body, he sickened, and
in two weeks, in spite of the nursing and tireless care of his devoted
wife, he died. The snow was six feet deep, and only a peck of musty corn
and a bushel of potatoes were left as their winter supply. The fuel also
was short, and most of the time Mrs. Noble could only keep herself and her
children warm by huddling in the bedclothes on bundles of straw, in the
loft which served them for a sleeping room. Below lay the corpse of Mr.
Noble, frozen stiff. Famine and death stared them in the face. Two weeks
passed and the supply of provisions was half gone. The heroic woman had
tried to eke out her slender store, but the cries of her children were so
piteous with hunger that while she denied herself, she gave her own portion
to her babes, lulled them to sleep, and then sent up her petitions to Him
who keeps the widow and the fatherless. She prayed, we may suppose, from
her heart, for deliverance from her sore straits for food, for warmth, for
the spring to come and the snow to melt, so that she might lay away the
remains of her husband beneath the sod of the little clearing.

Every morning when she awoke, she looked out from the window of the loft.
Nothing was to be seen but the white surface of the snow stretching away
into the forest. One day the sun shone down warmly on the snow and melted
its surface, and the next morning there was a crust which would bear her
weight. She stepped out upon it and looked around her. She would then have
walked eight miles to the settlement but she was worn out with anxiety and
watching, and was weak from want of food. As she gazed wistfully toward the
east, her ears caught the sound of a crashing among the boughs of the
forest. She looked toward the spot from which it came and saw a dark object
floundering in the snow. Looking more closely she saw it was a moose, with
its horns entangled in the branches of a hemlock and buried to its flanks
in the snow.

Hastening back to the cabin she seized her husband's gun, and loading it
with buckshot, hurried out and killed the monstrous brute. Skilled in
woodcraft, like most pioneer women, she skinned the animal and cutting it
up bore the pieces to the cabin. Her first thought then was of her
children, and after she had given them a hearty meal of the tender
moose-flesh she partook of it herself, and then, refreshed and
strengthened, she took the axe and cut a fresh supply of fuel. During the
day a party came out from the settlement and supplied the wants of the
stricken household. The body of the dead husband was borne to the
settlement and laid in the graveyard beneath the snow.

Nothing daunted by this terrible experience, this heroic woman kept her
frontier cabin and, with friendly aid from the settlers, continued to till
her farm. In ten years, when her oldest boy had become a man, he and his
brothers tilled two hundred acres of meadow land, most of it redeemed from
the wilderness by the skill, strength, and industry of their noble mother.

The spring season must have been to the early settlers, particularly to the
women, even more trying than the winter. In the latter season, except after
extraordinary falls of snow, transit from place to place was made by means
of sledges over the snow or on ox-carts over the frozen ground. Traveling
could also be done across or up and down rivers on the ice, and as bridges
were rare in those days the crossing of rivers on the ice was much to be
preferred to fording them in other seasons of the year. Fuel too was more
easily obtained in the winter than in the spring, and as roads were
generally little more than passage-ways or cow-paths through the meadows or
the woods, the depth of the mud was often such as to form a barrier to the
locomotion of the heavy vehicles of the period or even to prevent travel on
horseback or on foot.

Other dangers and hardships in the spring of the year were the freshets and
floods to which the river dwellers were exposed. Woman, be it remembered,
is naturally as alien to water as a mountain-fowl, which flies over a
stream for fear of wetting its feet. We can imagine the discomfort to which
a family of women and children were exposed who lived, for example, on the
banks of the Connecticut in the olden time. In some seasons families were,
as they now are, driven to the upper stories of their houses by the
overflow of the river. But it should be remembered that the houses of those
days were not the firm, well-built structures of modern times. Sometimes
the settler found himself and family floating slowly down stream, cabin and
all, borne along by the freshet caused by a sudden thaw: as long as his
cabin held together, the family had always hopes of grounding as the flood
subsided and saving their lives though with much loss of property, besides
the discomfort if not positive danger to which they had been exposed.

But sometimes the flood was so sudden and violent that the cabin would be
submerged or break to pieces, and float away, drowning some or all of the
family. It might be supposed that the married portion of the pioneers would
select other sites than on the borders of a large river subject every year
to overflow, but the richness of the alluvial soil on the banks of the
Connecticut was so tempting that other considerations were overlooked, and
to no part of New England was the tide of emigration turned so strongly as
to the Connecticut Valley.

In the year 1643, an adventurous family of eight persons embarked on a
shallop from Hartford (to which place they had come shortly before from
Watertown, Mass), and sailing or rowing up the river made a landing on a
beautiful meadow near the modern town of Hatfield.

The family consisted of Peter Nash and Hannah his wife, David, their son, a
youth of seventeen, Deborah and Mehitabel, their two daughters, aged
respectively nineteen and fourteen, Mrs. Elizabeth Nash, the mother of
Peter, aged sixty-four, and Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Nash. They found the land
all ready for ploughing, and after building a spacious cabin and barns,
they had nothing to do but to plant and harvest their crops and stock their
farm with cattle which they brought from Springfield, driving them up along
the river. For four years everything went on prosperously. They harvested
large crops, added to their barns, and had a great increase in stock.
Although the wolves and wild cats had made an occasional foray in their
stock and poultry yard and the spring freshets had made inroads into their
finest meadow, their general course had been only one of prosperity.

Their house and barns were built upon a tongue of land where the river made
a bend, and were on higher ground than the surrounding meadow, which every
spring was submerged by the freshets. Year after year the force of the
waters had washed an angle into this tongue of land and threatened some
time to break through and leave the houses and barns of the pioneers upon
an island. But the inroads of the waters were gradual, and the Nashes
flattered themselves that it would be at least two generations before the
river would break through.

Mrs. Peter Nash and her daughter were women of almost masculine courage and
firmness. They all handled axe and gun as skillfully as the men of the
household; they could row a boat, ride horseback, swim, and drag a seine
for shad; and Mehitabel, the younger daughter, though only fourteen years
old, was already a woman of more than ordinary size and strength. These
three women accompanied the men on their hunting and fishing excursions and
assisted them in hoeing corn, in felling trees, and dragging home fuel and
timber.

The winter of 1647-8 was memorable for the amount of snow that fell, and
the spring for its lateness. The sun made some impression on the snow in
March, but it was not till early in April that a decided change came in the
temperature. One morning the wind shifted to the southwest, the sun was as
hot as in June; before night it came on to rain, and, before the following
night, nearly the whole vast body of snow had been dissolved into water
which had swelled all the streams to an unprecedented height. The streams
poured down into the great river, which rose with fearful rapidity,
converting all the alluvial meadows into a vast lake.

All this took place so suddenly that the Nash family had scarcely a warning
till they found themselves in the midst of perils. When the rain ceased, on
the evening of the second day, the water had flooded the surrounding
meadows and risen high up into the first story of the house. The force of
the current had already torn a channel across the tongue of land on which
the house stood and had washed away the barns and live-stock. One of their
two boats had been floated off but had struck broadside against a clump of
bushes and was kept in its place by the force of the current. The other
boat had been fastened by a short rope to a stout sapling, but this latter
boat was ten feet under water, held down by the rope.

The water had now risen to the upper story, and the family were driven to
the roof. If the house would stand they might yet be saved. It was firmly
built but it shook with the force and weight of the waters. If either of
the boats could be secured they might reach dry land by rowing out of the
current and over the meadows where the water was stiller. The oars of the
submerged boat had been floated away, but in the other boat they could be
seen from the roof of the house lying safely on the bottom.

It was decided that Jacob Nash should swim out and row the boat up to the
house. He was a strong swimmer, and though the water was icy cold it was
thought the swift current would soon enable him to reach the skiff which
lay only a few rods below the house. Accordingly, he struck boldly out, and
in a moment had reached the boat, when he suddenly threw up his hands and
sank, the current whirling him out of sight in an instant, amid the shrieks
of his young wife, who was then a nursing mother and holding her babe in
her arms as her husband went down. Mrs. Nash, the elder, gazed for a moment
speechless at the spot where her son had sunk, and then fell upon her
knees, the whole family following her example, and prayed fervently to
Almighty God for deliverance from their awful danger. Then rising from her
kneeling posture, she bade her other son make one more trial to reach the
boat.

Peter Nash and his son Daniel then plunged into the water, reached the
boat, and took the oars, but the force of the current was such that they
could make, by rowing, but little headway against it. The two daughters
then leaped into the flood, and in a few strokes reached and entered the
boat. By their united force it was brought up and safely moored to the
chimney of the cabin. In two trips the family were conveyed to the
hillside. Then the brave girls returned and brought away a boat-load of
household gear. Not content with that they rowed to the submerged boat, and
diving down, cut the rope, baled out the water, and in company with their
mother, father, and brother, brought away all the moveables in the upper
stories of the house. Their courage appeared to have been rewarded in
another way, since the house stood through the flood, and in ten days they
were assisting to tear down the house and build another on a hill where the
floods never came.

As soldiers fall in battle, so in the struggles and hardships of border
life, the delicate frame of woman often succumbs, leaving the partner of
her toils to mourn her loss and meet the onset of life alone. Such a loss
necessarily implies more than when it occurs in the comfortable homes of
refined life, since it removes at once a loving wife, a companion in
solitude, and an efficient co-worker in the severe tasks incident to life
in frontier settlements. Sometimes the husband's career is broken off when
he loses his wife under such circumstances, and he gives up both hope and
effort.

About sixty years since, and while the rich prairies of Indiana began to be
viewed as the promised land of the adventurous pioneer, among the emigrants
who were attracted thither by the golden dreams of happiness and fortune,
was a Mr. H., a young man from an eastern city, who came accompanied by his
newly married wife, a dark-eyed girl of nineteen. Leaving his bride at one
of the westernmost frontier-settlements, he pushed on in search of a
favorable location for their new home. Near the present town of LaFayette
he found a tract which pleased his eye and promised abundant harvests, and
after his wife had been brought to view it and expressed her satisfaction
and delight at the happy choice he had made, the site was selected and the
house was built.

They moved into their prairie-home in the first flush of summer. Their
cabin was built upon a knoll and faced the south. Sitting at the door at
eventide they contemplated a prospect of unrivaled beauty. The sun-bright
soil remained still in its primeval greatness and magnificence, unchecked
by human hands, covered with flowers, protected and watched by the eye of
the sun. The days were glorious; the sky of the brightest blue, the sun of
the purest gold, and the air full of vitality, but calm; and there, in that
brilliant light, stretched itself far, far out into the infinite, as far as
the eye could discern, an ocean-like extent, the waves of which were
sunflowers, asters, and gentians, nodding and beckoning in the wind, as if
inviting millions of beings to the festival set out on the rich table of
the earth. Mrs. H. was an impressible woman with poetic tastes, and a
strong admiration for the beautiful in nature; and as she gazed upon the
glorious expanse her whole face lighted up and glowed with pleasure. Here
she thought was the paradise of which she had long dreamed.

As the summer advanced a plenteous harvest promised to reward the labors of
her husband. Nature was bounteous and smiling in all her aspects, and the
young wife toiled faithfully and patiently to make her rough house a
pleasant home for her husband. She had been reared like him amid the
luxuries of an eastern city, and her hands had never been trained to work.
But the influences of nature around her, and the almost idolatrous love
which she cherished for her husband, cheered and sweetened the homely toils
of her prairie life.

Eight months sped happily and prosperously away; the winter had been mild,
and open, and spring had come with its temperate breezes, telling of
another summer of brightness and beauty.

Soon after the middle of April in that year, commenced an extraordinary
series of storms. They occurred daily, and sometimes twice a day,
accompanied by the most vivid lightning, and awful peals of thunder; the
rain poured down in a deluge until it seemed as if another flood was coming
to purify the earth. For more than sixty days those terrible scenes
recurred, and blighted the whole face of the country for miles around the
lonely cabin. The prairies, saturated with moisture, refused any longer to
drink up the showers. Every hollow and even the slightest depression became
a stagnant pool, and when the rains ceased and the sun came out with the
heat of the summer solstice, it engendered pestilence, which rose from the
green plain that smiled beneath him, and stalked resistless among the
dwellers throughout that vast expanse.

Of all the widely isolated and remote cabins which sent their smoke curling
into the dank morning air of the region thereabouts, there was not one in
which disease was not already raging with fearful malignity. Doctors or
hired nurses there were none; each stricken household was forced to battle
single-handed with the destroyer who dealt his blows stealthily, suddenly,
and alas! too often, effectually. The news of the dreadful visitation soon
reached the family of Mr. H.--and for a period they were in a fearful
suspense. They were surrounded by the same malarial influences that had
made such havoc among their neighbors, and why should they escape? They
were living directly over a noisome cess-pool; their cellar was filled with
water which could not be drained away, nor would the saturated earth drink
it up. Centuries of vegetable accumulations forming the rich mould in which
the cellar was dug, gave out their emanations to the water, and the fiery
rays of the sun made the mixture a decoction whose steams were laden with
death.

There was no escape unless they abandoned their house, and this they were
reluctant to do, hoping that the disease would pass by them. But this was a
vain hope; in a few days Mr. H. was prostrated by the fever. Mrs. H. had
preserved her courage and energy till now, but her impressible nature began
to yield before the onset of this new danger. Her life had been sunny and
care-free from a child; her new home had till recently been the realization
of her dreams of happiness; but the loss of her husband would destroy at
once every fair prospect for the future. All that a loving wife could do as
a nurse or watcher or doctress, was done by her, but long before her
husband had turned the sharp corner between death and life, Mrs. H. was
attacked and both lay helpless, dependent upon the care of their only hired
man. Neighbors whose hearts had been made tender and sympathetic by their
own bereavements, came from their far-off cabins and for several weeks
watched beside their bedside. The attack of the wife commenced with a fever
which continued till after the birth of her child. For three days longer
she lingered in pain, sinking slowly till the last great change came, and
Mr. H., now convalescent, saw her eyes closed for ever.

The first time he left the house was to follow the remains of his wife and
child to their last resting place, beneath an arbor of boughs which her own
hands had tended. We cannot describe the grief of that bereaved husband.
His very appearance was that of one who had emerged from the tomb. Sickness
had blanched his dark face to a ghastly hue, and drawn great furrows in his
cheeks, which were immovable, and as if chiseled in granite. During his
sickness he had seen little of her before she was stricken down, for his
mind was clouded. When the light of reason dawned he was faintly conscious
that she lay near him suffering, first from the fever, and then from
woman's greatest pain and trial, but that he was unable to soothe and
comfort her; and finally that her last hours were hours of intense agony,
which he could not alleviate. He was as one in a trance; a confused
consciousness of his terrible loss slowly took possession of him. When at
length his weakened intellect comprehended the truth with all its sad
surrounding, a great cloud of desolation settled down over his whole life.

That cloud, sad to say, never lifted. As he stood by the open grave, he
lifted the lid, gazed long and intently on that sweet pale face, bent and
kissed the marble brow, and as the mother and child were lowered into the
grave, he turned away a broken-hearted man.




CHAPTER III.

EARLY PIONEERS--WOMAN'S ADVENTURES AND HEROISM.


For nearly one hundred years after the settlement of Plymouth, the whole of
the territory now known as the State of Maine was, with the exception of a
few settlements on the coast and rivers, a howling wilderness. From the sea
to Canada extended a vast forest, intersected with rapid streams and dotted
with numerous lakes. While the larger number of settlers were disinclined
to attempt to penetrate this trackless waste, some few hardy pioneers dared
to advance far into the unknown land, tempted by the abundance of fish in
the streams and lakes or by the variety of game which was to be found in
the forests. It was the land for hunters rather than for tillers of the
soil, and most of its early explorers were men who were skillful marksmen,
and versed in forest lore. But occasionally women joined these predatory
expeditions against the denizens of the woods and waters.

In the history of American settlements too little credit has been given to
the hunter. He is often the first to penetrate the wilderness; he notes the
general features of the country as he passes on his swift course; he
ascertains the fertility of the soil and the capabilities of different
regions; he _reconnoiters_ the Indian tribes, and learns their habits
and how they are affected towards the white man. When he returns to the
settlements he makes his report concerning the region which he has
explored, and by means of the knowledge thus obtained the permanent
settlers were and are enabled to push forward and establish themselves in
the wilderness. In the glory and usefulness of these discoveries woman not
unfrequently shared. Some of the most interesting narratives are those in
which she was the companion and coadjutor of the hunter in his explorations
of the trackless mazes of our American forests.

In the year 1672 a small party of hunters arrived at the mouth of the
Kennebec in two canoes. The larger one of the canoes was paddled up stream
by three men, the other was propelled swiftly forward by a man and a woman.
Both were dressed in hunters' costume; the woman in a close-fitting tunic
of deerskin reaching to the knees, with leggins to match, and the man in
hunting-shirt and trowsers of the same material. Edward Pentry, for this
was the name of the man, was a stalwart Cornishman who had spent ten years
in hunting and exploring the American wilderness. Mrs. Pentry, his wife,
was of French extraction, and had passed most of her life in the
settlements in Canada, where she had met her adventurous husband on one of
his hunting expeditions. She was of manly stature and strength, and like
her husband, was a splendid shot and skillful fisher. Both were
passionately fond of forest life, and perfectly fearless of its dangers,
whether from savage man or beast.

It was their purpose to explore thoroughly the region watered by the upper
Kennebec, and to establish a trading-post which would serve as the
headquarters of fur-traders, and ultimately open the country for
settlement. Their outfit was extremely simple: guns, traps, axes,
fishing-gear, powder, and bullets, &c., with an assorted cargo of such
trinkets and other articles as the Indians desired in return for peltry.

In three weeks they reached the head-waters of the Kennebec, at Moosehead
Lake. There they built a large cabin, divided into two compartments, one of
which was occupied by three of the men, the other by Mr. and Mrs. Pentry.
All of the party were versed in the Indian dialect of the region, and as
Mrs. Pentry could speak French, no trouble was anticipated from the
Indians, who in that part of the country were generally friendly to the
French.

The labors of the men in felling trees and shaping logs for the cabin, as
well as in framing the structure, were shared in by Mrs. Pentry, who in
addition did all the necessary cooking and other culinary offices. They
decided to explore the surrounding country for the purpose of discovering
the lay of the land and the haunts of game. No signs of any Indians had yet
been seen, and it was thought best that the four men should start, each in
a different direction, and having explored the neighboring region return to
the cabin at night, Mrs. Pentry meanwhile being left alone--a situation
which she did not in the least dread. Accordingly, early in the morning,
after eating a hunter's breakfast of salt pork, fried fish, and parched
corn, the quartette selected their several routes, and started, taking good
care to mark their trail as they went, that they could the more readily
find the way back.

It was agreed that they should return by sunset, which would give them
twelve good hours for exploration, as it was the month of July, and the
days were long. After their departure Mrs. P. put things to rights about
the house, and barring the door against intruders, whether biped or
quadruped, took her gun and fishing-tackle and went out for a little sport
in the woods.

The cabin stood on the border of Moosehead Lake. Unloosing the canoes, she
embarked in one, and towing the other behind her, rowed across a part of
the lake which jutted in shore to the southwest; she soon reached a dense
piece of woods which skirted the lake, and there mooring her canoe, watched
for the deer which came down to that place to drink. A fat buck before long
made his appearance, and as he bent down his head to quaff the water, a
brace of buck-shot planted behind his left foreleg laid him low, and his
carcase was speedily deposited in the canoe.

The sun was now well up, and as Mrs. P. had provided for the wants of the
party by her lucky shot, and no more deer made their appearance, she lay
down in the bottom of the boat, and soon fell fast asleep. Hunters and
soldiers should be light sleepers, as was Mrs. Pentry upon this occasion.

How long she slept she never exactly knew, but she was awakened by a
splash; lifting her head above the edge of the boat, she saw nothing but a
muddy spot on the water some thirty feet away, near the shore. This was a
suspicious sign. Looking more closely, she saw a slight motion beneath the
lily-pads, which covered closely, like a broad green carpet, the surface of
the lake. Her hand was on her gun, and as she leveled the barrel towards
the turbid spot, she saw a head suddenly lifted, and at the same moment a
huge Indian sprang from the water and struggled up through the dense
undergrowth that lined the edge of the lake.

It was a sudden impulse rather than a thought, which made Mrs. P. level the
gun at his broad back and pull the trigger. The Indian leaped into the air,
and fell back in the water dead, with half a dozen buck-shot through his
heart. At the same moment she felt a strong grasp on her shoulder, and
heard a deep guttural "ugh!" Turning her head she saw the malignant face of
another Indian standing waist-deep in the water, with one hand on the boat
which he was dragging towards the shore.

A swift side-blow from the gun-barrel, and he tumbled into the water;
before he could recover, the brave woman had snatched the paddle, and sent
the canoe spinning out into the lake. Then dropping the paddle and seizing
her gun she dashed in a heavy charge of powder, dropped a dozen buck-shot
down the muzzle, rammed in some dry grass, primed the pan, and leveled it
again at the savage, who having recovered from the blow, was floundering
towards the shore, turning and shaking his tomahawk at her, meanwhile, with
a ferocious grin. Again the report of her gun awakened the forest echoes,
and before the echoes had died away, the savage's corpse was floating on
the water.

[Illustration: THE HUNTRESS OF THE LAKES SURPRISED BY INDIANS]

She dared not immediately approach the shore, fearing that other savages
might be lying in ambush; but after closely scrutinizing the bushes, she
saw no signs of others, besides the two whom she had shot. She then cut
long strips of raw hide from the dead buck, and towing the bodies of the
Indians far out into the lake sunk them with the stones that served to
anchor the canoes. Returning to the shore, she took their guns which lay
upon the shelving bank, and rapidly paddled the canoe homeward.

It was now high noon. She reached the cabin, entered, and sat down to rest.
She supposed that the savages she had just, killed were stragglers from a
war-party who had lagged behind their comrades, and attracted by the sound
made by her gun when she shot the buck, had come to see what it was. The
thought that a larger body might be in the vicinity, and that they would
capture and perhaps kill her beloved husband and his companions, was a
torture to her. She sat a few moments to collect her thoughts and resolve
what course to pursue.

Her resolution was soon taken. She could not sit longer there, while her
husband and friends were exposed to danger or death. Again she entered the
canoe and paddled across the arm of the lake to the spot where the waters
were still stained with the blood of the Indians. Hastily effacing this
bloody trace, she moored the canoes and followed the trail of the savages
for four miles to the northwest. There she found in a ravine the embers of
a fire, where, from appearances as many as twenty redskins had spent the
preceding night. Their trail led to the northwest, and by certain signs
known to hunters, she inferred that they had started at day-break and were
now far on their way northward.

When her four male associates selected their respective routes in the
morning, her husband had, she now remembered, selected one which led
directly in the trail of the Indian war-party, and by good calculation he
would have been about six miles in their rear. Not being joined by the two
savages whose bodies lay at the bottom of the lake, what was more likely
than that they would send back a detachment to look after the safety of
their missing comrades?

The first thing to be done was to strike her husband's trail and then
follow it till she overtook him or met him returning. Swiftly, and yet
cautiously, she struck out into the forest in a direction at right angles
with the Indian camp. Being clad in trowsers of deer skin and a short tunic
and moccasins of the same material, she made her way through the woods as
easily as a man, and fortunately in a few moments discovered a trail which
she concluded was that of her husband. Her opinion was soon verified by
finding a piece of leather which she recognized as part of his
accoutrements. For two hours she strode swiftly on through the forest,
treading literally in her husband's tracks.

The sun was now three hours above the western horizon; so taking her seat
upon a fallen tree, she waited, expecting to see him soon returning on his
trail, when she heard faintly in the distance the report of a gun; a moment
after, another and still another report followed in quick succession.
Guided by the sound she hurried through the tangled thicket from which she
soon emerged into a grove of tall pine trees, and in the distance saw two
Indians with their backs turned toward her and shielding themselves from
some one in front by standing behind large trees. Without being seen by
them she stole up and sheltered herself in a similar manner, while her eye
ranged the forest in search of her husband who she feared was under the
fire of the red-skins.

At length she descried the object of their hostility behind the trunk of a
fallen tree. It was clearly a white man who crouched there, and he seemed
to be wounded. She immediately took aim at the nearest Indian and sent two
bullets through his lungs. The other Indian at the same instant had fired
at the white man and then sprang forward to finish him with his tomahawk.
Mrs. Pentry flew to the rescue and just as the savage lifted his arm to
brain his foe, she drove her hunting knife to the haft into his spine.

Her husband lay prostrate before her and senseless with loss of blood from
a bullet-wound in the right shoulder. Staunching the flow of blood with
styptics which she gathered among the forest shrubs, she brought water and
the wounded man soon revived. After a slow and weary march she brought him
back to the cabin, carrying him part of the way upon her shoulders. Under
her careful nursing he at length recovered his strength though he always
carried the bullet in his shoulder. It appears he had met three Indians who
told him they were in search of their two missing companions. One of them
afterwards treacherously shot him from behind through the shoulder, and in
return Pentry sent a ball through his heart. Then becoming weak from loss
of blood he could only point his gun-barrel at the remaining Indians, and
this was his situation when his wife came up and saved his life.

After receiving such an admonition it is natural to suppose the whole party
were content to remain near their forest home for a season, extending their
rambles only far enough to enable them to procure game and fish for their
table; and this was not far, for the lake was alive with fish; and wild
turkeys, deer, and other game could be shot sometimes even from the cabin
door.

The party were also deterred by this experience from attempting to drive
any trade with the Indians until the following spring, when they expected
to be joined by a large party of hunters.

The summer soon passed away, and the cold nights of September and October
admonished our hardy pioneers that they must prepare for a rigorous winter.
Mrs. Pentry made winter clothing for the men and for herself out of the
skins of animals which they had shot, and snow-shoes from the sinews of
deer stretched on a frame composed of strips of hard wood. She also felled
trees for fuel and lined the walls of the cabin with deer and bear skins;
she was the most skilful mechanic of the party, and having fitted runners
of hickory to one of the boats she rigged a sail of soft skins sewed
together, and once in November, after the river was frozen, and when the
wind blew strongly from the northwest, the whole party undertook to reach
the mouth of the river by sailing down in their boat upon the ice. A boat
of this kind, when the ice is smooth and the wind strong, will make fifteen
miles an hour.

They were interrupted frequently in their course by the falls and rapids,
making portages necessary; nevertheless in three days and two nights they
reached the mouth of the river.

Here they bartered their peltry for powder, bullets, and various other
articles most needed by frontiersmen, and catching a southeast wind started
on their return. In a few hours they had made seventy miles, and at night,
as the sky threatened snow, they prepared a shelter in a hollow in the bank
of the river. Before morning a snow-storm had covered the river-ice and
blocked their passage. For three days, the snow fell continuously. They
were therefore forced to abandon all hopes of reaching their cabin at the
head-waters of the Kennebec. The hollow or cave in the bank where they were
sheltered they covered with saplings and branches cut from the bluff, and
banked up the snow round it. Their supply of food was soon exhausted, but
by cutting holes in the ice they caught fish for their subsistence.

The depth of the snow prevented them from going far from their place of
shelter, and the nights were bitter cold. The ice on the river was two feet
in thickness; and one day, in cutting through it to fish, their only axe
was broken. No worse calamity could have befallen them, since they were now
unable to cut fuel or to procure fish. Mr. Pentry, who was still suffering
from the effects of his wound, contracted a cold which settled in his lame
shoulder, and he was obliged to stay in doors, carefully nursed and tended
by his devoted wife. The privations endured by these unfortunates are
scarcely to be paralleled. Short of food, ill-supplied with clothing, and
exposed to the howling severity of the climate, the escape of any one of
the number appears almost a miracle.

A number of bear-skins, removed from the boat to the cave, served them for
bedding. Some days, when there was nothing to eat and no means of making a
fire, they passed the whole time huddled up in the skins. Daily they became
weaker and less capable of exertion. Wading through the snow up to the
waist, they were able now and then to shoot enough small game to barely
keep them alive.

After the lapse of a fortnight there came a thaw, succeeded by a cold rain,
which froze as it fell. The snow became crusted over, to the depth of two
inches, with ice that was strong enough to bear their weight. They
extricated their ice-boat and prepared for departure. One of the party had
gone out that morning on the crust, hoping to secure some larger game to
stock their larder before starting; the rest awaited his return for two
hours, and then, fearing some casualty had happened to him, followed his
trail for half a mile from the river and found him engaged in a desperate
struggle with a large black she-bear which he had wounded.

The ferocious animal immediately left its prey and rushed at Mrs. Pentry
with open mouth, seizing her left arm in its jaws, crunched it, and then,
rising on its hind legs, gave her a terrible hug. The rest of the party
dared not fire, for fear of hitting the woman. Twice she drove her hunting
knife into the beast's vitals and it fell on the crust, breaking through
into the snow beneath, where the two rolled over in a death-struggle. The
heroic woman at length arose victorious, and the carcase of the bear was
dragged forth, skinned, and cut up. A fire was speedily kindled, Mrs.
Pentry's wounds were dressed, and after refreshing themselves with a hearty
meal of bearsteak, the remainder of the meat was packed in the boat.

The party then embarked, and by the aid of a stiff easterly breeze, were
enabled, in three days, to reach their cabin on the head-waters of the
Kennebec. The explorations made along the Kennebec by Mrs. Pentry and her
companions attracted thither an adventurous class of settlers, and
ultimately led to the important settlements on the line of that river.

The remainder of Mrs. Pentry's life was spent mainly on the northern
frontier. She literally lived and died in the woods, reaching the advanced
age of ninety-six years, and seeing three generation of her descendants
grow up around her. Possessing the strength and courage of a man, she had
also all a woman's kindness, and appears to have been an estimable person
in all the relations of life--a good wife and mother, a warm friend, and a
generous neighbor. In fact, she was a representative woman of the times in
which she lived.

The toils of a severer nature, such as properly belong to man, often fall
upon woman from the necessities of life in remote and isolated settlements;
she is seen plying strange vocations and undertaking tasks that bear hardly
on the soft and gentle sex. Sometimes a hunter and trapper; and again a
mariner; now we see her performing the rugged work of a farm, and again a
fighter, stoutly defending her home. The fact that habit and necessity
accustom her, in frontier life, to those employments which in older and
more conventional communities are deemed unfitting and ungraceful for woman
to engage in, makes it none the less striking and admirable, because in
doing so she serves a great and useful purpose; she is thereby doing her
part in forming new communities in the places that are uninhabited and
waste.

Vermont was largely settled by the soldiers who had served in the army of
the Revolution. The settlers, both men and women, were hardy and intrepid,
and seem to have been peculiarly adapted to subjugate that rugged region in
our New England wilderness. The women were especially noted for the
strength and courage with which they shared the labors of the men and
encountered the hardships and dangers of frontier life.

When sickness or death visited the men of the family, the mothers, wives,
or widows filled their places in the woods, or on the farm, or among the
cattle. Often, side by side with the men, women could be seen emulating
their husbands in the severe task of felling timber and making a clearing
in the forest.

In the words of Daniel P. Thompson, author of "The Green Mountain Boys":--

"The women of the Green Mountains deserve as much credit for their various
displays of courage, endurance, and patriotism, in the early settlement of
their State, as was ever awarded to their sex for similar exhibitions in
any part of the world. In the controversy with New York and New Hampshire,
which took the form of war in many instances; in the predatory Indian
incursions, and in the War of the Revolution, they often displayed a
capacity for labor and endurance, a spirit and firmness in the hour of
danger, a resolution and hardihood in defending their families and their
threatened land against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, that
would have done honor to the dames of Sparta."

The first man who commenced a settlement in the town of Salisbury, Vermont,
on the Otter Creek, was Amos Storey, who, in making an opening in the heart
of the wilderness on the right of land to which the first settler was
entitled, was killed by the fall of a tree. His widow, who had been left in
Connecticut, immediately resolved to push into the wilderness with her ten
small children, to take his place and preserve and clear up his farm. This
bold resolution she carried out to the letter, in spite of every
difficulty, hardship, and danger, which for years constantly beset her in
her solitary location in the woods. Acre after acre of the dense and dark
forest melted away before her axe, which she handled with the dexterity of
the most experienced chopper. The logs and bushes were piled and burnt by
her own strong and untiring hand; crops were raised, by which, with the
fruits of her fishing and unerring rifle, she supported herself and her
hardy brood of children. As a place of refuge from the assaults of Indians
or dangerous wild beasts, she dug out an underground room, into which,
through a small entrance made to open under an overhanging thicket on the
bank of the stream, she nightly retreated with her children.

Frequently during the dreary winter nights she was kept awake by the
howling of the wolves, and sometimes, looking through the chinks in the
logs, she could see them loping in circles around the cabin, whining and
snuffing the air as if they yearned for human blood. They were gaunt,
fierce-looking creatures, and in the winter-time their hunger made them so
bold that they would come up to the door and scratch against it. The
barking of her mastiff would soon drive the cowardly beasts away but only a
few rods, to the edge of the clearing where, sitting on their haunches,
they frequently watched the house all night, galloping away into the woods
when day broke.

Here she continued to reside, thus living, thus laboring, unassisted, till,
by her own hand and the help which her boys soon began to afford her, she
cleared up a valuable farm and placed herself in independent circumstances.

Miss Hannah Fox tells the following thrilling story of an adventure that
befel her while engaged in felling trees in her mother's woods in Rhode
Island, in the early colonial days.

We were making fine progress with our clearing and getting ready to build a
house in the spring. My brother and I worked early and late, often going
without our dinner, when the bread and meat which we brought with us was
frozen so hard that our teeth could make no impression upon it, without
taking too much of our time. My brother plied his axe on the largest trees,
while I worked at the smaller ones or trimmed the boughs from the trunks of
such as had been felled.

The last day of our chopping was colder than ever. The ground was covered
by a deep snow which had crusted over hard enough to bear our weight, which
was a great convenience in moving from spot to spot in the forest, as well
as in walking to and from our cabin, which was a mile away. My brother had
gone to the nearest settlement that day, leaving me to do my work alone.

As a storm was threatening, I toiled as long as I could see, and after
twilight felled a sizeable tree which in its descent lodged against
another. Not liking to leave the job half finished, I mounted the almost
prostrate trunk to cut away a limb and let it down. The bole of the tree
was forked about twenty feet from the ground, and one of the divisions of
the fork would have to be cut asunder. A few blows of my axe and the tree
began to settle, but as I was about to descend, the fork split and the
first joints of my left-hand fingers slid into the crack so that for the
moment I could not extricate them. The pressure was not severe, and as I
believed I could soon relieve myself by cutting away the remaining portion,
I felt no alarm. But at the first blow of the axe which I held in my right
hand, the trunk changed its position, rolling over and closing the split,
with the whole force of its tough oaken fibers crushing my fingers like
pipe-stems; at the same time my body was dislodged from the trunk and I
slid slowly down till I hung suspended with the points of my feet just
brushing the snow. The air was freezing and every moment growing colder; no
prospect of any relief that night; the nearest house a mile away; no
friends to feel alarmed at my absence, for my mother would suppose that I
was safe with my brother, while the latter would suppose I was by this time
at home.

The first thought was of my mother. "It will kill her to know that I died
in this death-trap so near home, almost within hearing of her voice! There
must be some escape! but how?" My axe had fallen below me and my feet could
almost touch it. It was impossible to imagine how I could cut myself loose
unless I could reach it. My only hope of life rested on that keen blade
which lay glittering on the snow.

Within reach of my hand was a dead bush which towered some eight feet above
me, and by a great exertion of strength I managed to break it. Holding it
between my teeth I stripped it of its twigs, leaving two projecting a few
inches at the lower end to form a hook. With this I managed to draw towards
me the head of the axe until my fingers touched it, when it slipped from
the hook and fell again upon the snow, breaking through the crust and
burying itself so that only the upper end of the helve could be seen.

Up to that moment the recollection of my mother and the first excitement
engendered by hope had almost made me unconscious of the excruciating pain
in my crushed fingers, and the sharp thrills that shot through my nerves,
as my body swung and twisted in my efforts to reach the axe. But now, as
the axe fell beyond my reach, the reaction came, hope fled, and I shuddered
with the thought that I must die there alone like some wild thing caught in
a snare. I thought of my widowed mother, my brother, the home which we had
toiled to make comfortable and happy. I prayed earnestly to God for
forgiveness of my sins, and then calmly resigned myself to death, which I
now believed to be inevitable. For a time, which I afterwards found to be
only five minutes, but which then seemed to me like hours, I hung
motionless. The pain had ceased, for the intense cold blunted my sense of
feeling. A numbness, stole over me, and I seemed to be falling into a
trance, from which I was roused by a sound of bells borne to me as if from
a great distance. Hope again awoke, and I screamed loud and long; the woods
echoed my cries, but no voice replied. The bells grew fainter and fainter,
and at last died away. But the sound of my voice had broken the spell which
cold and despair were fast throwing over me. A hundred devices ran swiftly
through my mind, and each device was dismissed as impracticable. The helve
of the axe caught my eye, and in an instant by an association of ideas it
flashed across me that in the pocket of my dress there was a small
knife--another sharp instrument by which I could extricate myself. With
some difficulty I contrived to open the blade, and then withdrawing the
knife from my pocket and gripping it as one who clings to the last hope of
life, I strove to cut away the wood that held my fingers in its terrible
vise. In vain! the wood was like iron. The motion of my arm and body
brought back the pain which the cold had lulled, and I feared that I should
faint.

After a moment's pause I adopted a last expedient. Nerving myself to the
dreadful necessity, I disjointed my fingers and fell exhausted to the
ground. My life was saved, but my left hand was a bleeding stump. The
intensity of the cold stopped the flow of blood. I tore off a piece of my
dress, bound up my fingers, and started for home. My complete exhaustion
and the bitter cold made that the longest mile I had ever traveled. By nine
o'clock that evening I had managed to drag myself, more dead than alive, to
my mother's door, but it was more than a week before I could again leave
the house.

The difficulties encountered by the first emigrant-bands from
Massachusetts, on their journey to Connecticut, may be understood best when
we consider the face of the country between Massachusetts Bay and Hartford.
It was a succession of ridges and deep valleys with swamps and rapid
streams, and covered with forests and thickets where bears, wolves, and
catamounts prowled. The journey, which occupies now but a few hours, then
generally required two weeks to perform. The early settlers, men, women,
and children, pursued their toilsome march over this rough country, picking
their way through morasses, wading through rivers and streams, and climbing
mountains; driving their cattle, sheep, and swine before them. Some came,
on horseback; the older and feebler in ox-carts, but most of them traveled
on foot. At night aged and delicate women slept under trees in the forest,
with no covering but the foliage and the cope of heaven.

The winter was near at hand, and the nights were already cold and frosty.
Many of the women had been delicately reared, and yet were obliged to
travel on foot for the whole distance, reaching their destination in a
condition of exhaustion that ill prepared them for the hardships of the
ensuing winter. Some were nursing mothers, who sheltered themselves and
their babes in rude huts where the wind, rain, and snow drove in through
yawning fissures which there were no means to close. Others were aged
women, who in sore distress sent up their prayers and rolled their
quavering hymns to the wintry skies, their only canopy. The story of these
hapless families is told in the simple but effective language of the old
historian.

"On the 15th of October [1632] about sixty men, women, and children, with
their horses, cattle, and swine, commenced their journey from
Massachusetts, through the wilderness, to Connecticut River. After a
tedious and difficult journey through swamps and rivers, over mountains and
rough grounds, which were passed with great difficulty and fatigue, they
arrived safely at their respective destinations. They were so long on their
journey, and so much time and pains were spent in passing the river, and in
getting over their cattle, that after all their exertions, winter came upon
them before they were prepared. This was an occasion of great distress and
damage to the plantation. The same autumn several other parties came from
the east--including a large number of women and children--by different
routes, and settled on the banks of the Connecticut river.

"The winter set in this year much sooner than usual, and the weather was
stormy and severe. By the 15th of November, the Connecticut river was
frozen over, and the snow was so deep, and the season so tempestuous, that
a considerable number of the cattle which had been driven on from the
Massachusetts, could not be brought across the river. The people had so
little time to prepare their huts and houses, and to erect sheds and
shelter for their cattle, that the sufferings of man and beast were
extreme. Indeed the hardships and distresses of the first planters of
Connecticut scarcely admit of a description. To carry much provision or
furniture through a pathless wilderness was impracticable. Their principal
provisions and household furniture were therefore put on several small
vessels, which, by reason of delays and the tempestuousness of the season,
were cast away. Several vessels were wrecked on the coast of New England,
by the violence of the storms. Two shallops laden with goods from Boston to
Connecticut, were cast away in October, on Brown's Island, near the
Gurnet's Nose; and the men with every thing on board were lost. A vessel
with six of the Connecticut people on board, which sailed from the river
for Boston, early in November, was, about the middle of the month, cast
away in Manamet Bay. The men and women got on shore, and after wandering
ten days in deep snow and a severe season, without meeting any human being,
arrived, nearly spent with cold and fatigue, at New Plymouth.

"By the last of November, or beginning of December, provisions generally
failed in the settlements on the river, and famine and death looked the
inhabitants sternly in the face. Some of them driven by hunger attempted
their way, in that severe season, through the wilderness, from Connecticut
to Massachusetts. Of thirteen, in one company, who made this attempt, one
in passing the river fell through the ice and was drowned. The other twelve
were ten days on their journey, and would all have perished, had it not
been for the assistance of the Indians.

"Indeed, such was the distress in general, that by the 3d and 4th of
December, a considerable part of the new settlers were obliged to abandon
their habitations. Seventy persons, men, women, and children, were
compelled, in the extremity of winter, to go down to the mouth of the river
to meet their provisions, as the only expedient to preserve their lives.
Not meeting with the vessels which they expected, they all went on board
the Rebecca, a vessel of about sixty tons. This, two days before, was
frozen in, twenty miles up the river; but by the falling of a small rain,
and the influence of the tide, the ice became so broken and was so far
removed, that she made a shift to get out. She ran, however, upon the bar,
and the people were forced to unlade her to get off. She was released, and
in five days reached Boston. Had it not been for these providential
circumstances, the people must have perished with famine.

"The people who kept their stations on the river suffered in an extreme
degree. After all the help they were able to obtain, by hunting, and from
the Indians, they were obliged to subsist on acorns, malt, and grains.

"Numbers of the cattle which could not be got over the river before winter,
lived through without anything but what they found in the woods and
meadows. They wintered as well, or better than those which were brought
over, and for which all the provision was made and pains taken of which the
owners were capable. However, a great number of cattle perished. The
Dorchester or Windsor people, lost in this way alone about two hundred
pounds sterling. Their other losses were very considerable."

It is difficult to describe, or even to conceive, the apprehensions or
distresses of a people in the circumstances of our venerable ancestors,
during this doleful winter. All the horrors of a dreary wilderness spread
themselves around them. They were compassed with numerous fierce and cruel
tribes of wild and savage men who could have swallowed up parents and
children at pleasure, in their feeble and distressed condition. They had
neither bread for themselves nor children; neither habitation nor clothing
convenient for them. Whatever emergency might happen, they were cut off,
both by land and water, from any succor or retreat. What self-denial,
firmness, and magnanimity are necessary for such enterprises! How
distressing, in the beginning, was the condition of those now fair and
opulent towns on Connecticut River!

Under the most favorable circumstances, the lives of the pioneer-women must
have been one long ordeal of hardship and suffering. The fertile valleys
were the scenes of the bloodiest Indian raids, while the remote and sterile
hill country, if it escaped the attention of the hostile savage, was liable
to be visited by other ills. Famine in such regions was always imminent,
and the remoteness and isolation of those frontier-cabins often made relief
impossible. A failure in the little crop of corn, which the thin soil of
the hillside scantily furnished, and the family were driven to the front
for game and to the streams for fish, to supply their wants. Then came the
winter, and the cabin was often blockaded with snow for weeks. The fuel and
food consumed, nothing seemed left to the doomed household but to struggle
on for a season, and then lie down and die. Fortunately the last sad
catastrophe was of rare occurrence, owing to the extraordinary resolution
and hardihood of the settlers.

It is a striking fact that in all the records, chronicles, and letters of
the early settlers that have come down to us, there are scarcely to be
found any complaining word from woman. She simply stated her sufferings,
the dangers she encountered, the hardships she endured, and that was all.
No querulous or peevish complaints, no meanings over her hard lot. She bore
her pains and sorrows and privations in silence, looking forward to her
reward, and knowing that she was making homes in the wilderness, and that
future generations would rise up and call her blessed.




CHAPTER IV.

THE BLOCK HOUSE, AND ON THE INDIAN TRAIL.


The axe and the gun, the one to conquer the forces of wild nature, the
other to battle against savage man and beast--these were the twin weapons
that the pioneer always kept beside him, whether on the march or during a
halt. In defensive warfare the axe was scarcely less potent than the gun,
for with its keen edge the great logs were hewed which formed the
block-house, and the tall saplings shaped, which were driven into the earth
to make the stockade. We know too that woman could handle the gun and ply
the axe when required so to do.

In one of our historical galleries there was exhibited not long since a
painting representing a party of Indians attacking a block-house in a New
England settlement. The house is a structure framed, and built of enormous
logs, hexagonal in shape, the upper stories over-hanging those beneath, and
pierced with loopholes. There is a thick parapet on the roof, behind which
are collected the children of the settlement guarded by women, old and
young, some of whom are firing over the parapet at the yelling fiends who
have just emerged from their forest-ambush. A glimpse of the interior of
the block-house shows us women engaged in casting bullets and loading
fire-arms which they are handing to the men. In the background a brave girl
is returning swiftly to the garrison, with buckets of water which she has
drawn from the spring, a few rods away from the house. A crouching savage
has leveled his gun at her, and she evidently knows the danger she is in,
but moves steadily forward without spilling a drop of her precious burden.

The block-house is surrounded by the primeval forest, which is alive with
savages. Some are shaking at the defenders of the block-house fresh scalps,
evidently just torn from the heads of men and women who have been overtaken
and tomahawked before they could reach their forest-citadel: others have
fired the stack of corn. A large fire has been kindled in the woods and a
score of savages are wrapping dry grass around the ends of long poles, with
which to fire the wooden walls of the block-house.

Thirty or forty men women and children in a wooden fort, a hundred miles,
perhaps, from any settlement, and surrounded by five times their number of
Pequots or Wampanoags thirsting for their blood! This is indeed a faithful
picture of one of the frequent episodes of colonial life in New England!

Every new settlement was brought face to face with such dangers as we have
described. The red-man and the white man were next door neighbors. The
smokes of the wigwam and the cabin mingled as they rose to the sky. From
the first there was more or less antagonism. Life among the white settlers
was a kind of picket-service in which woman shared.

At times, as for example in the wars with the Pequots and King Philip,
there was safety nowhere. Men went armed to the field, to meeting, and to
bring home their brides from their father's house where they had married
them. Women with muskets at their side lulled their babes to sleep. Like
the tiger of the jungles, the savage lay in ambush for the women and
children: he knew he could strike the infant colony best by thus desolating
the homes.

The captivities of Mrs. Williams and her children, of Mrs. Shute, of Mrs.
Johnson, of Mrs. Howe, and of many other matrons; as well as of unmarried
women, are well-conned incidents of New England colonial history. The story
of Mrs. Dustin's exploit and escape reads like a romance. "At night," to
use the concise language of Mr. Bancroft, "while the household slumbers,
the captives, each with a tomahawk, strike vigorously, and fleetly, and
with division of labor,--and of the twelve sleepers, ten lie dead; of one
squaw the wound was not mortal; one child was spared from design. The love
of glory next asserted its power; and the gun and tomahawk of the murderer
of her infant, and a bag heaped full of scalps were choicely kept as
trophies of the heroine. The streams are the guides which God has set for
the stranger in the wilderness: in a bark canoe the three descend the
Merrimac to the English settlement, astonishing their friends by their
escape and filling the land with wonder at their successful daring."

The details of Mrs. Rowlandson's sufferings after her capture at Lancaster,
Mass., in 1676, are almost too painful to dwell upon. When the Indians
began their march the day after the destruction of that place, Mrs.
Rowlandson carried her infant till her strength failed and she fell. Toward
night it began to snow; and gathering a few sticks, she made a fire.
Sitting beside it on the snow, she held her child in her arms, through the
long and dismal night. For three or four days she had no sustenance but
water; nor did her child share any better for nine days. During this time
it was constantly in her arms or lap. At the end of that period, the frost
of death crept into its eyes, and she was forced to relinquish it to be
disposed of by the unfeeling sextons of the forest.

She went through almost every suffering but death. She was beaten, kicked,
turned out of doors, refused food, insulted in the grossest manner, and at
times almost starved. Nothing but experience can enable us to conceive what
must be the hunger of a person by whom the discovery of six acorns and two
chestnuts was regarded as a rich prize. At times, in order to make her
miserable, they announced to her the death of her husband and her children.

On various occasions they threatened to kill her. Occasionally, but for
short intervals only, she was permitted to see her children, and suffered
her own anguish over again in their miseries. She was obliged, while hardly
able to walk, to carry a heavy burden, over hills, and through rivers,
swamps, and marshes; and in the most inclement seasons. These evils were
repeated daily; and, to crown them all, she was daily saluted with the most
barbarous and insolent accounts of the burning and slaughter, the tortures
and agonies, inflicted by them upon her countrymen. It is to be remembered
that Mrs. Rowlandson was tenderly and delicately educated, and ill fitted
to encounter such distresses; and yet she bore them all with a fortitude
truly wonderful.

Instances too there were, where a single woman infused her own dauntless
spirit into a whole garrison, and prevented them from abandoning their
post. Mrs. Heard, "a widow of good estate a mother of many children, and a
daughter of Mr. Hull, a revered minister formerly settled in Piscataqua,"
having escaped from captivity among the Indians, about 1689, returned to
one of the garrisons on the extreme frontier of New Hampshire. By her
presence and courage this out-post was maintained for ten years and during
the whole war, though frequently assaulted by savages. It is stated that if
she had left the garrison and retired to Portsmouth, as she was solicited
to do by her friends, the out-post would have been abandoned, greatly to
the damage of the surrounding country.

Long after the New England colonies rested in comparative security from the
attacks of the aboriginal tribes, the warfare was continued in the Middle,
Southern, and Western States, and even at this hour, sitting in our
peaceful homes we read in the journals of the day reports of Indian
atrocities perpetrated against the families of the pioneers on our extreme
western frontier.

Our whole history from the earliest times to the present, is full of
instances of woman's noble achievements. East, west, north, south, wherever
we wander, we tread the soil which has been wearily trodden by her feet as
a pioneer, moistened by her tears as a captive, or by her blood as a martyr
in the cause of civilization on this western continent.

The sorrows of maidens, wives, and mothers in the border wars of our
colonial times, have furnished themes for the poet, the artist, and the
novelist, but the reality of these scenes as described in the simple words
of the local historians, often exceeds the most vivid dress in which
imagination can clothe it.

One of the most deeply rooted traits of woman's nature is sympathy, and the
outflow of that emotion into action is as natural as the emotion itself.
When a woman witnesses the sufferings of others it is instinctive with her
to try and relieve them, and to be thwarted in the exercise of this faculty
is to her a positive pain.

We may judge from this of what her feelings must have been when she saw, as
she often did, those who were dearest to her put to torture and death
without being permitted to rescue them or even alleviate their agonies.

Such was the position in which Mrs. Waldron was placed, on the northern
border, during the French and Indian war of the last century. She and her
husband occupied a small block-house which they had built a few miles from
Cherry Valley, New York, and here she was doomed to suffer all that a wife
could, in witnessing the terrible fate of her husband and being at the same
time powerless to rescue him.

"One fatal evening," to use the quaint words of our heroine, "I was all
alone in the house, when I was of a sudden surprised with the fearful
war-whoop and a tremendous attack upon the door and the palisades around. I
flew to the upper window and seizing my husband's gun, which I had learned
to use expertly, I leveled the barrel on the window-sill and took aim at
the foremost savage. Knowing their cruelty and merciless disposition, and
wishing to obtain some favor, I desisted from firing; but how vain and
fruitless are the efforts of one woman against the united force of so many,
and of such merciless monsters as I had here to deal with! One of them that
could speak a little English, threatened me in return, 'that if I did not
come out, they would burn me alive in the house.' My terror and distraction
at hearing this is not to be expressed by words nor easily imagined by any
person unless in the same condition. Distracted as I was in such deplorable
circumstances, I chose to rely on the uncertainty of their protection,
rather than meet with certain death in the house; and accordingly went out
with my gun in my hand, scarcely knowing what I did. Immediately on my
approach, they rushed on me like so many tigers, and instantly disarmed me.
Having me thus in their power, the merciless villians bound me to a tree
near the door.

"While our house and barns were burning, sad to relate, my husband just
then came through the woods, and being spied by the barbarians, they gave
chase and soon overtook him. Alas! for what a fate was he reserved! Digging
a deep pit, they tied his arms to his side and put him into it and then
rammed and beat the earth all around his body up to his neck, his head only
appearing above ground. They then scalped him and kindled a slow fire near
his head.

"I broke my bonds, and running to him kissed his poor bleeding face, and
threw myself at the feet of his barbarous tormentors, begging them to spare
his life. Deaf to all my tears and entreaties and to the piercing shrieks
of my unfortunate husband, they dragged me away and bound me more firmly to
the tree, smiting my face with the dripping scalp and laughing at my
agonies.

"Thank God! I then lost all consciousness of the dreadful scene; and when I
regained my senses the monsters had fled after cutting off the head of the
poor victim of their cruel rage."

When the British formed an unholy alliance with the Indians during the
Revolutionary War and turned the tomahawk and scalping knife against their
kinsmen, the beautiful valley of Wyoming became a dark and bloody
battle-ground. The organization and disciplined valor of the white man,
leagued with the cunning and ferocity of the red man, was a combination
which met the patriots at every step in those then remote settlements, and
spread rapine, fire, and murder over that lovely region.

The sufferings of the captive women, the dreadful scenes they witnessed,
and the fortitude and courage they displayed, have been rescued from
tradition and embodied in a permanent record by more than one historian.
The names of Mrs. Bennet, Mrs. Myers, Mrs. Marcy, Mrs. Franklin, and a host
of others, are inseparably associated with the household legends of the
Wyoming Valley.

Miss Cook, after witnessing the barbarous murder and mutilation of a
beautiful girl, whose rosy cheeks were gashed and whose silken tresses were
torn from her head with the scalping knife, was threatened with instant
death unless she would assist in dressing a bundle of fresh, reeking scalps
cut from the heads of her friends and relatives. As she handled the gory
trophies, expecting every moment that her own locks would be added to the
ghastly heap, she saw something in each of those sad mementos that reminded
her of those who were near and dear to her. At last she lifted one which
she thought was her mother's; she gazed at the long tresses sprinkled with
gray and called to mind how often she had combed and caressed them in
happier hours: shuddering through her whole frame, the wretched girl burst
into a passion of tears. The ruthless savage who stood guard over her with
brandished tomahawk immediately forced her to resume and complete her
horrible task.

In estimating the heroism of American women displayed in their conflicts
with the aborigines, we must take into account her natural repugnance to
repulsive and horrid spectacles. The North American savage streaked with
war-paint, a bunch of reeking scalps at his girdle, his snaky eyes gleaming
with malignity, was a direful sight for even a hardened frontiers-man; how
much more, then, to his impressionable and delicate wife and daughter. The
very appearance of the savage suggested thoughts of the tomahawk, the
scalping knife, the butchered relations, the desolated homestead. Nothing
can better illustrate the hardihood of these bold spirited women than the
fact that they showed themselves not seldom superior to these feelings of
dread and abhorrence, daring even in the midst of scenes of blood to
denounce personally and to their face the treachery and cruelty of their
foes.

[Footnote: DeHass.] In the year 1763 a party of Shawnees visited the
Block-House at Big Levels, Virginia, and after being hospitably entertained
by the inhabitants, turned treacherously upon them and massacred every
white man in the house. The women and children were carried away as
captives, including Mrs. Glendenning, the late wife, and now the widow of
one of the leading settlers. Notwithstanding the dreadful scenes through
which she had passed, Mrs. Glendenning was not intimidated. Her husband and
friends had been butchered before her eyes; but though possessed of keen
sensibilities, her spirit was undaunted by the awful spectacle. Filled with
indignation at the treachery and cruelty of the Indians, she loudly
denounced them, and tauntingly told them that they lacked the hearts of
great warriors who met their foes in fair and open conflict. The savages
were astounded at her audacity; they tried to frighten her into silence by
flapping the bloody scalp of her husband in her face and by flourishing
their tomahawks above her head. The intrepid woman still continued to
express her indignation and detestation. The savages, admiring her courage,
refrained from inflicting any injury upon her. She soon after managed to
effect her escape and returned to her desolate home, where she gave decent
interment to the mangled remains of her husband. During all the trying
scenes of the massacre and captivity Mrs. Glendenning proved herself worthy
of being ranked with the bravest women of our Colonial history.

The region watered by the upper Ohio and its tributary streams was for
fifty years the battle-ground where the French and their Indian allies, and
afterwards the Indians alone, strove to drive back the Anglo-Saxon race as
it moved westward. The country there was rich and beautiful, but what made
its possession especially desirable was the fact that it was the strategic
key to the great West. The French, understanding its importance,
established their fortresses and trading-posts as bulwarks against the army
of English settlers advancing from the East, and also instructed their
savage allies in the art of war.

The Indian tribes in that region were warlike and powerful, and for some
years it seemed as if the country would be effectually barred against the
access of the Eastern pioneer. But the same school that reared and trained
the daughters and grand-daughters of the Pilgrims, and of the settlers of
Jamestown, and fitted them to cope with the perils and hardships of the
wilderness, and to battle with hostile aboriginal tribes, also fitted their
descendants for new struggles on a wider field and against more desperate
odds. The courage and fortitude of men and women alike rose to the
occasion, and in those scenes of danger and carnage, the presence of mind
displayed by women especially, have been frequent themes of panegyric by
the border annalists.

[Footnote: DeHass.] The scene wherein Miss Elizabeth Zane, one of these
heroines, played so conspicuous a part, was at Fort Henry, near the present
city of Wheeling, Virginia, in the latter part of November, 1782. Of the
forty-two men who originally composed the garrisons, nearly all had been
drawn into an ambush and slaughtered. The Indians, to the number of several
hundred, surrounded the garrison which numbered no more than twelve men and
boys.

A brisk fire upon the fort was kept up for six hours by the savages, who at
times rushed close up to the palisades and received the reward of their
temerity from the rifles of the frontiersmen. In the afternoon the stock of
powder was nearly exhausted. There was a keg in a house ten or twelve rods
from the gate of the fort, and the question arose, who shall attempt to
seize this prize? Strange to say, every soldier proffered his services, and
there was an ardent contention among them for the honor. In the weak state
of the garrison, Colonel Shepard, the commander, deemed it advisable that
only one person could be spared; and in the midst of the confusion, before
any one could be designated, Elizabeth Zane interrupted the debate, saying
that her life, was not so important at that time as any one of the
soldiers, and claiming the privilege of performing the contested services.
The Colonel would not at first listen to her proposal, but she was so
resolute, so persevering in her plea, and her argument was so powerful,
that he finally suffered the gate to be opened, and she passed out. The
Indians saw her before she reached her brother's house, where the keg was
deposited; but for some cause unknown, they did not molest her until she
reappeared with the article under her arm. Probably, divining the nature of
her burden, they discharged a volley as she was running towards the gate,
but the whizzing balls only gave agility to her feet, and herself and the
prize were quickly safe within the gate.

The successful issue of this perilous enterprise infused new spirit into
the garrison; re-enforcements soon reached them, the assailants were forced
to beat a precipitate retreat, and Fort Henry and the whole frontier was
saved, thanks to the heroism of Elizabeth Zane!

[Footnote: McClung's Sketches of Western Adventure.] The heroines of
Bryant's Station deserve a place on the roll of honor, beside the name of
the preserver of Fort Henry, since like her their courage preserved a
garrison from destruction. We condense the story from the several sources
from which it has come down to us.

The station, consisting of about forty cabins ranged in parallel lines,
stood upon a gentle rise on the southern banks of the Elkhorn, near
Lexington, Kentucky. One morning in August, 1782, an army of six hundred
Indians appeared before it as suddenly as if they had risen out of the
earth. One hundred picked warriors made a feint on one side of the fort,
trying to entice the men out from behind the stockade, while the remainder
were concealed in ambush near the spring with which the garrison was
supplied with water. The most experienced of the defenders understood the
tactics of their wily foes, and shrewdly guessed that an ambuscade had been
prepared in order to cut off the garrison from access to the spring. The
water in the station was already exhausted, and unless a fresh supply could
be obtained the most dreadful sufferings were apprehended. It was thought
probable that the Indians in ambush would not unmask themselves until they
saw indications that the party on the opposite side of the fort had
succeeded in enticing the soldiers to an open engagement.

[Footnote: McClung's Sketches of Western Adventure.] Acting upon this
impression, and yielding to the urgent necessity of the case, they summoned
all the women, without exception, and explaining to them the circumstances
in which they were placed, and the improbability that any injury would be
done them, until the firing had been returned from the opposite side of the
fort, they urged them to go in a body to the spring, and each to bring up a
bucket full of water. Some, as was natural, had no relish for the
undertaking; they observed they were not bulletproof, and asked why the men
could not bring the water as well as themselves; adding that the Indians
made no distinction between male and female scalps.

To this it was answered, that women were in the habit of bringing water
every morning to the fort, and that if the Indians saw them engaged as
usual, it would induce them to believe that their ambuscade was
undiscovered, and that they would not unmask themselves for the sake of
firing at a few women, when they hoped, by remaining concealed a few
moments longer to obtain complete possession of the fort; that if men
should go down to the spring, the Indians would immediately suspect that
something was wrong, would despair of succeeding by ambuscade, and would
instantly rush upon them, follow them into the fort, or shoot them down at
the spring. The decision was soon made.

A few of the boldest declared their readiness to brave the danger, and the
younger and more timid rallying in the rear of these veterans, they all
marched down in a body to the spring, within point blank shot of more than
five hundred Indian warriors! Some of the girls could not help betraying
symptoms of terror, but the married women, in general, moved with a
steadiness and composure which completely deceived the Indians. Not a shot
was fired. The party were permitted to fill their buckets, one after
another, without interruption, and although their steps became quicker and
quicker, on their return, and when near the gate of the fort, degenerated
into a rather un-military celerity, attended with some little crowding in
passing the gate, yet only a small portion of the water was spilled. The
brave water carriers were received with open arms and loud cheers by the
garrison, who hailed them as their preservers, and the Indians shortly
after retired, baffled and cursing themselves for being outwitted by the
"white squaws."

The annals of the border-wars in the region of which we have been speaking
abound in stories where women have been the victors in hand-to-hand fights
with savages. In all these combats we may note the spirit that inspired
those brave women with such wonderful strength and courage, transforming
them, from gentle matrons into brave soldiers. It was love for their
children, their husbands, their kindred, or their homes rather than the
selfish instinct of self-preservation which impelled Mrs. Porter, the two
Mrs. Cooks, Mrs. Merrill, and Mrs. Bozarth to perform those feats of
prowess and daring which will make their names live for ever in the
thrilling story of border-warfare.

The scene where Mrs. Porter acted her amazing part was in Huntingdon
county, Pennsylvania, and the time was during the terrible war instigated
by the great Pontiac. While sitting by the window of her cabin, awaiting
the return of her husband, who had gone to the mill, she caught sight of an
Indian approaching the door. Taking her husband's sword from the wall where
it hung, she planted herself behind the door; and when the Indian entered
she struck with all her might, splitting his skull and stretching him a
corpse upon the floor. Another savage entered and met the same fate. A
third seeing the slaughter of his companions prudently retired.

Dropping the bloody weapon, she next seized the loaded gun which stood
beside her and retreated to the upper story looking for an opportunity to
shoot the savage from the port-holes. The Indian pursued her and as he set
foot upon the upper floor received the contents of her gun full in the
chest and fell dead in his tracks. Cautiously reconnoitering in all
directions and seeing the field clear she fled swiftly toward the mill and
meeting her husband, both rode to a neighboring block-house where they
found refuge and aid. The next morning it was discovered that other Indians
had burned their cabin, partly out of revenge and partly to conceal their
discomfiture by a woman. The bones of the three savages found among the
ashes were ghastly trophies of Mrs. Porter's extraordinary achievement.

In Nelson county, Kentucky, on a midsummer night, in 1787, just before the
gray light of morning, John Merrill, attracted by the barking of his dog,
went to the door of his cabin to reconnoiter. Scarcely had he left the
threshold, when he received the fire of six or seven Indians, by which his
arm and thigh were both broken. He managed to crawl inside the cabin and
shouted to his wife to shut the door. Scarcely had she succeeded in doing
so when the tomahawks of the enemy were hewing a breach into the apartment.

[Footnote: McClung's Sketches of Western Adventure.] Mrs. Merrill, with
Amazonian courage and strength, grasped a large axe and killed, or badly
wounded, four of the enemy in succession as they attempted to force their
way into the cabin.

The Indians then ascended the roof and attempted to enter by way of the
chimney, but here, again, they were met by the same determined enemy. Mrs.
Merrill seized the only feather-bed which the cabin afforded, and hastily
ripping it open, poured its contents upon the fire. A furious blaze and
stifling smoke ascended the chimney, and quickly brought down two of the
enemy, who lay for a few moments at the mercy of the lady. Seizing the axe,
she despatched them, and was instantly summoned to the door, where the only
remaining savage appeared, endeavoring to effect an entrance, while Mrs.
Merrill was engaged at the chimney. He soon received a gash in the cheek
which compelled him with a loud yell to relinquish his purpose, and return
hastily to Chillicothe, where, from the report of a prisoner, he gave an
exaggerated account of the fierceness, strength, and courage of the "Long
knife squaw!"

The wives of Jesse and Hosea Cook, the "heroines of Innis station"
(Kentucky), as they have been styled, are shining examples of a firmness of
spirit which sorrow could not blench nor tears dim.

While the brothers Cook were peacefully engaged in the avocations of the
farm beside their cabins, in April, 1792, little dreaming of the proximity
of the savages, a sharp crack of rifles was heard and they both lay
weltering in their blood. The elder fell dead, the younger was barely able
to reach his cabin.

The two Mrs. Cooks with three children were instantly collected in the
house and the door made fast. The thickness of the door resisted the hail
of rifle-balls which fell upon it, and the Indians tried in vain to cut
through it with their tomahawks.

While the assault was being made on the outside of the cabin, within was
heart-rending sorrow mingled with fearless determination and high resolve.
The younger Cook while the door was being barred breathed his last in the
arms of his wife, and the two Mrs. Cooks, thus sadly bereaved of their
partners, were left the sole defenders of the cabin and the three children.

There was a rifle in the house but no balls could be found. In this
extremity one of the women took a musket-ball and placing it between her
teeth bit it into pieces. Her eyes streaming with tears, she loaded the
rifle and took her position at an aperture from which she could watch the
motions of the savages. She dried her tears and thought of vengeance on her
husband's murderers and of saving the innocent babes which she was
guarding.

After the failure of the Indians to break down the door, one of them seated
himself upon a log, apprehending no danger from the "white squaws" who, he
knew, were the only defenders of the cabin. A ball sped from the rifle in
the hands of Mrs. Cook, and with a loud yell the savage bounded into the
air and fell dead.

The Indians, infuriated at the death of their comrade, threatened, in
broken English, the direst vengeance on the inmates of the cabin. A half
dozen of the yelling fiends instantly climbed to the roof of the cabin and
kindled a fire upon the dry boards around the chimney. As the flames began
to take effect the destruction of the cabin and the doom of the unfortunate
inmates seemed certain.

But the self-possession and intrepidity of the brave women were equal to
the occasion. While one stood in the loft the other handed her water with
which she extinguished the fire. Again and again the roof was fired, and as
often extinguished. When the water was exhausted, the dauntless pair held
the flames at bay by breaking eggs upon them. The Indians, at length
fatigued by the obstinacy and valor of the brave defenders, threw the body
of their comrade into the creek and precipitately fled.

The exploits of Mrs. Bozarth in defending her home and family against
superior numbers, has scarcely been paralleled in ancient or modern
history. Relying upon her firmness and courage, two or three families had
gathered themselves for safety at her house, on the Pennsylvania border, in
the spring of 1779. The forest swarmed with savages, who soon made their
appearance near the stockade, severely wounding one of the only two men in
the house. [Footnote: Doddridge's Notes.] The Indian who had shot him,
springing over his prostrate body, engaged with the other white man in a
struggle which ended in his discomfiture. A knife was wanting to dispatch
the savage who lay writhing beneath his antagonist. Mrs. Bozarth seized an
axe and with one blow clove the Indian's skull. Another entered and shot
the white man dead. Mrs. Bozarth, with unflinching boldness, turned to this
new foe and gave him several cuts with the axe, one of which laid bare his
entrails. In response to his cries for help, his comrades, who had been
killing some children out of doors, came rushing to his relief. The head of
one of them was cut in twain by the axe of Mrs. Bozarth, and the others
made a speedy retreat through the door. Rendered furious by the desperate
resistance they had met, the Indians now besieged the house, and for
several days they employed all their arts to enter and slay the weak
garrison. But all their efforts were futile. Mrs. Bozarth and her wounded
companion employed themselves so vigorously and vigilantly that the enemy
were completely baffled. At length a party of white men arrived, put the
Indians to flight, and relieved Mrs. Bozarth from her perilous situation.




CHAPTER V.

THE CAPTIVE SCOUTS--THE GUARDIAN MOTHER OF THE MOHAWK.


The part that woman has taken in so many ways and under so many conditions,
in securing the ultimate results represented by our present status as a
nation, is given too small a place in the general estimate of those who pen
the record of civilization on the North American continent. This is no
doubt partly due to her own distaste for notoriety. While man stands as a
front figure in the temple of fame, and celebrates his own deeds with pen
and voice, she takes her place in the background, content and happy so long
as her father, or husband, or son, is conspicuous in the glory to which she
has largely contributed. Thus it is that in the march of grand events the
historian of the Republic often passes by the woman's niche without
dwelling upon its claims to our attention. But notwithstanding the
self-chosen position of the weaker sex, their names and deeds are not all
buried in oblivion. The filial, proud, and patriotic fondness of sons and
daughters have preserved in their household traditions the memory of brave
and good mothers; the antiquarian and the local historian, with loving zeal
have wiped the dust from woman's urn, and traced anew the names and
inscriptions which time has half effaced.

As we scan the pages of Woman's Record the roll of honor lengthens,
stretching far out like the line of Banquo's phantom-kings. Their names
become impressed on our memory; their acts dilate, and their whole lives
grow brighter the more closely we study them.

Among the many duties which from necessity or choice were assigned to woman
in the remote and isolated settlements, was that of standing guard. She was
_par excellence_ the vigilant member of the household, a sentinel ever
on the alert and ready to give alarm at the first note of danger. The
pioneers were the pickets of the army of civilization: woman was a picket
of pickets, a sentinel of sentinels, watchful of danger and the quickest to
apprehend it. She was always a guardian, and not seldom the preserver of
her home and of the settlement. Such duties as these, faithfully performed,
contribute perhaps to the success of a campaign more even than great
battles. As soon as the front line or picket-force of the pioneers was
fairly established in the enemies' country, the work was more than half
done, and the whole army--center, right, and left wings--could move forward
with little danger, though labor, hard and continuous, was still required.
In successive regions the same sentinel and picket duties were performed;
in New England and on the Atlantic coast first; then in the interior
districts, in the middle States; and already, a hundred years ago, the
flying skirmish-line had crossed the great Appalachian range, and was
fording the rivers of the western basin. On the march, on the halt, in the
camp, that is, in the permanent settlement, woman was a sentinel keeping
perpetual guard over the household treasures.

What materials for romance--for epic and tragic poetry--in the lives of
those pioneer women! The lonely cabin in the depths of the forest; the
father away; the mother rocking her babe to sleep; the howling of the
wolves; the storm beating on the roof; the crafty savage lying in ambush;
the war-whoop in the night; the attack and the repulse; or perchance the
massacre and the cruel captivity; and all the thousand lights and shadows
of border life!

During the French and Indian war, and while the northern border was being
desolated by savage raids, a hardy settler named Mack, with his wife and
two children, occupied a cabin and clearing in the forest a few miles south
of Lake Pleasant, in Hamilton County, New York. For some months after the
breaking out of the war no molestation was offered to Mr. Mack or his
family, either owing to the sequestered situation in which they lived, or
from the richer opportunities for plunder offered in the valleys some
distance below the lonely and rock-encompassed forest where the Mack
homestead lay. Encouraged by this immunity from attack, and placing
unbounded confidence in the vigilance and courage of his wife, Mr. Mack,
when summoned to accompany Sir William Johnson's forces on one of their
military expeditions, obeyed the call and prepared to join his
fellow-borderers. Mrs. Mack cheerfully and patriotically acquiesced in her
husband's resolution, assuring him that during his absence she would
protect their home and children or perish in attempt.

The cabin was a fortress, such as befitted the exposed situation in which
it lay, and was supplied by the provident husband before his departure with
provisions and ammunition sufficient to stand a siege: it was furnished on
each side with, a loop-hole through which a gun could be fixed or a
reconnoisance made in every direction.

Yielding to the dictates of prudence and desirous of redeeming the pledge
which she had made to her husband, Mrs. Mack stayed within doors most of
the time for some days after her husband had bade her farewell, keeping a
vigilant look-out on every side for the prowling foe. No sound but the
voices of nature disturbed the stillness of the forest. Everything around
spoke of peace and repose. Lulled into security by these appearances and
urged by the necessities of her out-door duties, she gradually relaxed her
vigilance until she pursued the labors of the farm with as much regularity
as she would have done if her husband had been at home.

One day while plucking ears of corn for roasting, she caught a glimpse of a
moccasin and a brawny limb fringed with leggins, projecting behind a clump
of bushes not twenty paces from her. Repressing the shriek which rose to
her lips, she quietly and leisurely strolled back to the house with her
basket of ears. Once she thought she heard the stealthy tread of the savage
behind her and was about to break into a run; but a moment's reflection
convinced her that her fears were groundless. She steadily pursued her
course till she reached the cabin. With a vast weight of fear taken from
her mind she now turned and cast a rapid, glance towards the bushes where
the foe lay in ambush; nothing was visible there, and having closed and
barred the door she made a reconnoisance from each of the four loop-holes
of her fortress, but saw nothing to alarm her.

It seemed to her probable that it was only a single prowling savage who was
seeking an opportunity to plunder the cabin. Accordingly with a loaded gun
by her side, she sat down before the loop-hole which commanded the spot
where the savage lay concealed and watched for further developments. For
two hours all was still and she began to imagine that he had left his
hiding place, when she noticed a rustling in the bushes and soon after
descried the savage crawling on his belly and disappearing in the
cornfield. Night found her still watching, and as soon as her children had
been lulled to sleep she returned to her post and straining her eyes into
the darkness, listened for the faintest sound that might give note of the
approach of the enemy. It was near midnight when overcome with fatigue she
leaned against the log wall and fell asleep with her gun in her hand.

She was conscious in her slumbers of some mesmeric power exerting an
influence upon her, and awakening with a start saw for an instant by the
faint light, a pair of snaky eyes looking directly into hers through the
loop-hole. They were gone before she was fairly awake, and she tried to
convince herself that she had been dreaming. Not a sound was audible, and
after taking an observation from each of the loop-holes she became
persuaded that the fierce eyes that seemed to have been watching her was
the figment of a brain disturbed by anxiety and vigils.

Once more sleep overcame her and again she was awakened by a rattling sound
followed by heavy breathing. The noise seemed to proceed from the chimney
to which she had scarcely began to direct her attention, when a large body
fell with a thud into the ashes of the fire-place, and a deep guttural
"ugh" was uttered by an Indian who rose and peered around the room.

The first flickering light which follows the blackness of midnight, gave
him a glimpse of the heroic matron who stood with her piece cocked and
leveled directly at his breast. Brandishing his tomahawk he rushed towards
her yelling so as to disconcert her aim. The brave woman with unshaken
nerves pulled the trigger, and the savage fell back with a screech, dead
upon the floor. Almost simultaneously with the report of the gun, a
triumphant war-whoop was sounded outside the cabin, and peering through the
aperture in the direction from which it proceeded she saw three savages
rushing toward the door. Rapidly loading her piece she took her position at
the loop-hole that commanded the entrance to the cabin, and taking aim,
shot one savage dead, the ball passing completely through his body and
wounding another who stood in range. The third made a precipitate retreat,
leaving his wounded comrade who crawled into the cornfield and there died.

After the occurrence of these events we may well suppose that the life of
Mrs. Mack was one of constant vigilance. For some days and nights she stood
sentinel over her little ones, and then in her dread lest the Indians
should return and take vengeance upon her and her children for the
slaughter of their companions, she concluded the wisest course would be to
take refuge in the nearest fort thirty miles distant. Accordingly the
following week she made all her preparations and carrying her gun started
for the fort with her children.

Before they had proceeded a mile on their course she had the misfortune to
drop her powder-horn in a stream: this compelled her to return to the cabin
for ammunition. Hiding her children in a dense copse and telling them to
preserve silence during her absence, she hastened back, filled her
powder-horn and returned rapidly upon her trail.

But what was her agony on discovering that her children were missing from
the place where she left them! A brief scrutiny of the ground showed her
the tracks of moccasins, and following them she soon ascertained that her
children had been carried away by two Indians. Like the tigress robbed of
her young, she followed the trail swiftly but cautiously and soon came up
with the savages, whose speed had been retarded by the children. Stealing
behind them she shot one of them and clubbing her gun rushed at the other
with such fierceness that he turned and fled.

Pursuing her way to the fort she met her husband returning home from the
war. The family then retraced their steps and reached their home, the scene
of Mrs. Mack's heroic exploit.

It was during their captivities that women often learned the arts and
practiced the perilous profession of a scout. Their Indian captors were
sometimes the first to suffer from the knowledge which they themselves had
taught their captive pupils. In this rugged school of Indian life was
nurtured a brave girl of New England parentage, who acted a conspicuous
part in protecting an infant settlement in Ohio.

[Footnote: Finley's Autobiography.] In the year 1790, the block-house and
stockade above the mouth, of the Hockhocking river in Ohio, was a refuge
and rallying point for the hardy frontiersmen of that region. The valley of
the Hockhocking was preëminent for the richness and luxuriance of nature's
gifts, and had been from time immemorial the seat of powerful and warlike
tribes of Indians, which still clung with desperate tenacity to a region
which had been for so many years the chosen and beloved abode of the red
man.

The little garrison, always on the alert, received intelligence early in
the autumn that the Indian tribes were gathering in the north for the
purpose of striking a final and fatal blow on this or some other important
out-post. A council was immediately held by the garrison, and two scouts
were dispatched up the Hockhocking, in order to ascertain the strength of
the foe and the probable point of attack.

The scouts set out one balmy day in the Indian summer, and threading the
dense growth of plum and hazel bushes which skirted the prairie, stealthily
climbed the eastern declivity of Mount Pleasant, and cast their eyes over
the extensive prairie-country which stretches from that point far to the
north. Every movement that took place upon their field of vision was
carefully noted day by day. The prairie was the _campus martius_ where
an army of braves had assembled, and were playing their rugged games and
performing their warlike evolutions. Every day new accessions of warriors
were hailed by those already assembled, with terrific war-whoops, which,
striking the face of Mount Pleasant, were echoed and re-echoed till it
seemed as if a myriad of yelling demons were celebrating the orgies of the
infernal pit.

To the hardy scouts these well-known yells, so terrible to softer ears,
were only martial music which woke a keener watchfulness and strung their
iron nerves to a stronger tension. Though well aware of the ferocity of the
savages, they were too well practiced in the crafty and subtle arts of
their profession to allow themselves to be circumvented by their wily foes.

On several occasions small parties of warriors left the prairies and
ascended the mount. At these times the scouts hid themselves in fissures of
the rocks or beneath sere leaves by the side of some prostrate tree,
leaving their hiding places when the unwelcome visitors had taken their
departure. Their food was jerked beef and cold corn-bread, with which their
knapsacks had been well stored. Fire they dared not kindle for the smoke
would have brought a hundred savages on their trail. Their drink was the
rain-water remaining in the excavations in the rocks. In a few days this
water was exhausted, and a new supply had to be obtained, as their
observations were still incomplete. McClelland, the elder of the two,
accordingly set out alone in search of a spring or brook from which they
could replenish their canteens. Cautiously descending the mount to the
prairie, and skirting the hills on the north, keeping as much as possible
within the hazel-thickets, he reached at length a fountain of cool limpid
water near the banks of the Hockhocking river. Filling the canteens he
rejoined his companion.

The daily duty of visiting the spring and obtaining a fresh supply, was
after this performed alternately by the scouts. On one of these diurnal
visits, after White had filled his canteens, he sat watching the limpid
stream that came gurgling out of the bosom of the earth. The light sound of
footsteps caught his practiced ear, and turning round he saw two squaws
within a few feet of him. The elder squaw at the same moment spying White,
started back and gave a far reaching war-whoop. He comprehended at once his
perilous situation. If the alarm should reach the camp, he and his
companion must inevitably perish.

A noiseless death inflicted upon the squaws, and in such a manner as to
leave no trace behind, was the only sure course which the instinct of
self-preservation suggested. With men of his profession action follows
thought as the bolt follows the flash. Springing upon his victims with the
rapidity and power of a tiger, he grasped the throat of each and sprang
into the Hockhocking river. The head of the elder squaw he easily thrust
under the water, and kept it in that position; but the younger woman
powerfully resisted his efforts to submerge her. During the brief struggle
she addressed him to his amazement in the English language, though in
inarticulate sounds. Relaxing his hold she informed him that she had been
made a prisoner ten years before, on Grave Creek Flats, that the Indians in
her presence had butchered her mother and two sisters, and that an only
brother had been captured with her, but had succeeded on the second night
in making his escape, since which time she had never heard of him.

During this narrative, White, unobserved by the girl, had released his grip
on the throat of the squaw, whose corpse floated slowly down stream, and,
directing the girl to follow him, he pushed for the Mount with the greatest
speed and energy. Scarcely had they proceeded two hundred yards from the
spring before an Indian alarm-cry was heard some distance down the river. A
party of warriors returning from a hunt had seen the body of the squaw as
it floated past. White and the girl succeeded in reaching the Mount where
they found McClelland fully awake to the danger they were in. From his
eyrie he had seen parties of warriors strike off in every direction on
hearing the shrill note of alarm first sounded by the squaw, and before
White and the girl had joined him, twenty warriors had already gained the
eastern acclivity of the Mount and were cautiously ascending, keeping their
bodies under cover. The scouts soon caught glimpses of their swarthy faces
as they glided from tree to tree and from rock to rock, until the hiding
place of the luckless two was surrounded and all hope of escape was cut
off.

The scouts calmly prepared to sell their lives as dearly as they could, but
strongly advised the girl to return to the Indians and tell them that she
had been captured by scouts. This she refused to do, saying that death
among her own people was preferable to captivity such as she had been
enduring. "Give me a rifle," she continued, "and I will show you that I can
fight as well as die! On this spot will I remain, and here my bones shall
bleach with yours! Should either of you escape, you will carry the tidings
of my fate to my remaining relatives."

All remonstrances with the brave girl proving useless, the two scouts
prepared for a vigorous defense. The attack by the Indians commenced in
front, where from the nature of the ground they were obliged to advance in
single file, sheltering themselves as they best could, behind rocks and
trees. Availing themselves of the slightest exposure of the warriors
bodies, the scouts made every shot tell upon them, and succeeded for a time
in keeping them in check.

The Indians meanwhile made for an isolated rock on the southern hillside,
and having reached it, opened fire upon the scouts at point blank range.
The situation of the defenders was now almost hopeless; but the brave never
despair. They, calmly watched the movements of the warriors and calculated
the few chances of escape which remained. McClelland saw a tall, swarthy
figure preparing to spring from cover to a point from which their position
would be completely commanded. He felt that much depended upon one lucky
shot, and although but a single inch of the warrior's body was exposed, and
at a distance of one hundred yards, yet he resolved to take the risk of a
shot at this diminutive target. Coolly raising the rifle to his eye, and
shading the sight with his hand, he threw a bead so accurately that he felt
perfectly confident that his bullet would pierce the mark; but when the
hammer fell, instead of striking fire, it crushed his flint into a hundred
fragments. Rapidly, but with the utmost composure, he proceeded to adjust a
new flint, casting meantime many a furtive glance towards the critical
point. Before his task was completed he saw the warrior strain every muscle
for the leap, and, with the agility of a deer, bound towards the rock; but
instead of reaching it, he fell between and rolled fifty feet down hill. He
had received a death-shot from some unseen hand, and the mournful whoops of
the savages gave token that they had lost a favorite warrior.

The advantage thus gained was only momentary. The Indians slowly advanced
in front and on the flank, and only the incessant fire of the scouts
sufficed to keep them in check. A second savage attempted to gain the
eminence which commanded the position where the scouts were posted, but
just as he was about to attain his object, McClelland saw him turn a
summerset, and, with a frightful yell, fall down the hill, a corpse. The
mysterious agent had again interposed in their behalf. The sun was now
disappearing behind the western hills, and the savages, dismayed by their
losses, retired a short distance for the purpose of devising some new mode
of attack. This respite was most welcome to the scouts, whose nerves had
been kept in a state of severe tension for several hours. Now for the first
time they missed the girl and supposed that she had either fled to her old
captors or had been killed in the fight. Their doubts were soon dispelled
by the appearance of the girl herself, advancing toward them from among the
rocks, with a rifle in her hand.

During the heat of the fight she had seen a warrior fall, who had advanced
some fifty yards in front of the main body; she at once resolved to possess
herself of his rifle, and crouching in the undergrowth, she crept to the
spot and succeeded in her enterprise, being all the time exposed to the
cross-fire of the defenders and assailants; her practiced eye had early
noticed the fatal rock, and hers was the mysterious hand by which the two
warriors had fallen--the last being the most wary, untiring, and
bloodthirsty brave of the Shawanese tribe. He it was who ten years before
had scalped the family of the girl, and had led her into captivity. The
clouds which had been gathering now shrouded the whole heavens, and, night
coming on, the darkness was intense. It was feared that in the contemplated
retreat they might lose their way or accidentally fall in with the enemy,
which latter contingency was highly probable, if not almost inevitable.
After consultation it was agreed that the girl, from her intimate knowledge
of the localities, should lead the way, a few paces in advance.

Another advantage might be derived from this arrangement, for in case they
should fall in with an outpost of savages, the girl's knowledge of the
Indian tongue might enable them to deceive and elude the sentinel. The
event proved the wisdom of the plan, for they had scarcely descended an
hundred feet from their eyrie when a low "hush!" from the girl warned them
of the presence of danger. The scouts threw themselves silently upon the
earth, where by previous agreement they were to remain until another signal
was given them by the girl, who glided away in the darkness. Her absence
for more than a quarter of an hour had already begun to excite serious
apprehensions for her safety, when she reappeared and told them that she
had succeeded in removing two sentinels who were directly in their route,
to a point one hundred feet distant.

The descent was noiselessly resumed, the scouts following their brave
guide for half a mile in profound silence, when the barking of a small dog,
almost at their feet, apprised them of a new danger. The click of the
scout's rifle caught the ear of the girl, who quickly approached and warned
them against making the least noise, as they were now in the midst of an
Indian village, and their lives depended upon their implicitly following
her instructions.

A moment afterwards the head of a squaw was seen at an opening in a wigwam,
and she was heard to accost the girl, who replied in the Indian language,
and without stopping pressed forward. At length she paused and assured the
scouts that the village was cleared, and that they were now in safety. She
had been well aware that every pass leading out through the prairies was
guarded, and resolved to push boldly through the midst of the village as
the safest route.

After three days rapid marching and great suffering from hunger, the trio
succeeded in reaching the block-house in safety. The Indians finding that
the scouts had escaped, and that their plan of attack was discovered, soon
after withdrew to their homes; the girl, who by her courage, fortitude, and
skill, thus preserved the little settlement from destruction, proved to be
a sister of Neil Washburn, one of the most renowned scouts upon the
frontier.

The situation of the earlier pioneers who settled on the outskirts of the
Mississippi basin was one of peculiar peril. In their isolation and
weakness, they were able to keep their position rather by incessant
watchfulness, than by actual combat. How to extricate themselves from the
snares and escape from the dangers that beset them, was the constant study
of their lives. The knowledge and the arts of a scout were a part of the
education, therefore, of the women as well as of the men.

Massy Herbeson and her husband were of those bold pioneers who crossed the
Alleghany Mountains and joined the picket-line, whose lives were spent in
reconnoitering and watching the motions of the savage tribes which roamed
over Western Pennsylvania.

[Footnote: Massey Herbeson's Deposition.] They lived near Reed's
block-house, about twenty-five miles from Pittsburgh. Mr. Herbeson, being
one of the spies, was from home; two of the scouts had lodged with her that
night, but had left her house about sunrise, in order to go to the
block-house, and had left the door standing wide open. Shortly after the
two scouts went away, a number of Indians came into the house, and drew her
out of bed, by the feet.

The Indians then scrambled to secure the articles in the house. Whilst they
were at this work, Mrs. Herbeson went out of the house, and hallooed to the
people in the block-house. One of the Indians then ran up and stopped her
mouth, another threatened her with his tomahawk, and a third seized the
tomahawk as it was about to fall upon her head, and called her his squaw.

Hurried rapidly away by her captor, she remembered the lessons taught by
her husband, the scout, and marked the trail as she went on. Now breaking a
bush, now dropping a piece of her dress, and when she crossed a stream,
slyly turning over a stone, she hoped thus to guide her husband in pursuit
or enable herself to find her way back to the block-house. The vigilance of
the Indians was relaxed by the nonchalance with which she bore her
captivity, and in a few days she succeeded in effecting her escape and
pursuing the trail which she had marked, reached home after a weary march
of two days and nights, during which it rained incessantly.

These and countless other instances illustrate the watchfulness and courage
of woman when exposed to dangers of such a description. In the west
especially, the distances to be traversed, the sparseness of the
population, and the perils to which settlers are exposed, render the
profession of a scout a useful and necessary one, and woman's versatility
of character enables her, when necessary, to practice the art.

The traveler of to-day, passing up the Mohawk Valley will be struck by its
fertility, beauty, and above all by the air of quiet repose that broods
over it. One hundred years ago how different the scene! It was then the
battle-ground where the fierce Indian waged an incessant warfare with the
frontier settlers. Every rood of that fair valley was trodden by the wily
and sanguinary foe. The people who then inhabited that region were a
mixture of adventurous New Englanders and of Dutch, with a preponderance of
the latter, who were a brave, steadfast, hardy race; the women vieing with
the men in deeds of heroism and devotion.

Womanly tact and presence of mind was often as serviceable amid those
scenes of danger and carnage, as valor in combat; and when woman combined
these traits of her sex with courage and firmness she became the "guardian
angel" of the settlement.

Such preeminently was the title deserved by Mrs. Van Alstine, the "Patriot
mother of the Mohawk Valley."

All the early part of her long life, (for she counted nearly a century of
years before she died,) was passed on the New York frontier, during the
most trying period of our colonial history. Here, dwelling in the midst of
alarms, she reared her fifteen children; here more than once she saved the
lives of her husband and family, and by her ready wit, her daring courage,
and her open handed generosity shielded the settlement from harm.

Born near Canajoharie, about the year 1733, and married to Martin J. Van
Alstine, at the age of eighteen, she settled with her husband in the valley
of the Mohawk, where the newly wedded pair occupied the Van Alstine family
mansion.

In the month of August, 1780, an army of Indians and Tories, led on by
Brant, rushed into the Mohawk Valley, devastated several settlements, and
killed many of the inhabitants; during the two following months, Sir John
Johnson made a descent and finished the work which Brant had begun. The two
almost completely destroyed the settlements throughout the valley. It was
during those trying times that Mrs. Van Alstine performed a portion of her
exploits.

During these three months, and while the hostile forces were making their
headquarters at Johnstown, the neighborhood in which Mrs. Van Alstine lived
enjoyed a remarkable immunity from attack, although in a state of continual
alarm. Intelligence at length came that the enemy, having ravaged the
surrounding country, was about to fall upon the little settlement, and the
inhabitants, for the most part women and children, were almost beside
themselves with terror.

Mrs. Van Alstine's coolness and intrepidity, in this critical hour, were
quickly displayed. Calling her neighbors together, she tried to relieve
their fears and urged them to remove with their effects to an island
belonging to her husband, near the opposite side of the river, believing
that the savages would either not discover their place of refuge or would
be in too great haste to cross the river and attack them.

Her suggestion was speedily adopted, and in a few hours the seven families
in the neighborhood were removed to their asylum, together with a store of
provisions and other articles essential to their comfort. Mrs. Van Alstine
was the last to cross and assisted to place out of reach of the enemy, the
boat in which the passage had been made. An hour after they had been all
snugly bestowed in their bushy retreat, the war-whoop was heard and the
Indians made their appearance. Gazing from their hiding place the
unfortunate women and children soon saw their loved homes in flames, Van
Alstine's house alone being spared, owing to the friendship borne the owner
by Sir John Johnson.

The voices and even the words of the Indian raiders could be distinctly
heard on the island, and as Mrs. Van Alstine gazed at the mansion untouched
by the flames she rejoiced that she would now be able to give shelter to
the homeless families by whom she was surrounded. In the following year the
Van Alstine mansion was pillaged by the Indians, and although the house was
completely stripped of furniture and provisions and clothing, none of the
family were killed or carried away as prisoners.

The Indians came upon them by surprise, entered the house without ceremony,
and plundered and destroyed everything in their way. "Mrs. Van Alstine saw
her most valued articles, brought from Holland, broken one after another,
till the house was strewed with fragments. As they passed a large mirror
without demolishing it, she hoped it might be saved; but presently two of
the savages led in a colt from the stables and the glass being laid in the
hall, compelled the animal to walk over it. The beds which they could not
carry away they ripped open, shaking out the feathers and taking the ticks
with them. They also took all the clothing. One young Indian, attracted by
the brilliancy of a pair of inlaid buckles on the shoes of the aged
grandmother seated in the corner, rudely snatched them from her feet, tore
off the buckles, and flung the shoes in her face. Another took her shawl
from her neck, threatening to kill her if resistance was offered."

The eldest daughter, seeing a young savage carrying off a basket containing
a hat and cap her father had brought her from Philadelphia, and which she
highly prized, followed him, snatched her basket, and after a struggle
succeeded in pushing him down. She then fled to a pile of hemp and hid
herself, throwing the basket into it as far as she could. The other Indians
gathered round, and as the young girl rose clapped their hands, shouting
"Brave girl," while he skulked away to escape their derision. During the
struggle Mrs. Van Alstine had called to her daughter to give up the
contest; but she insisted that her basket should not be taken.

[Illustration: DARING EXPLOIT OF MISS VAN ALSTINE]

Winter coming on, the family suffered severely from the want of bedding,
woolen clothes, cooking utensils, and numerous other articles which had
been taken from them. Mrs. Van Alstine's arduous and constant labors could
do but little toward providing for so many destitute persons. Their
neighbors were in no condition to help them; the roads were almost
impassable besides being infested with the Indians, and all their best
horses had been driven away.

This situation appealing continually to Mrs. Van Alstine as a wife and a
mother, so wrought upon her as to induce her to propose to her husband to
organize an expedition, and attempt to recover their property from the
Indian forts eighteen or twenty miles distant, where it had been carried.
But the plan seemed scarcely feasible at the time, and was therefore
abandoned.

The cold soon became intense and their necessities more desperate than
ever. Mrs. Van Alstine, incapable longer of witnessing the sufferings of
those dependent upon her, boldly determined to go herself to the Indian
country and bring back the property. Firm against all the entreaties of her
husband and children who sought to move her from her purpose, she left home
with a horse and sleigh accompanied by her son, a youth of sixteen.

Pushing on over wretched roads and through the deep snow she arrived at her
destination at a time when the Indians were all absent on a hunting
excursion, the women and children only being left at home. On entering the
principal house where she supposed the most valuable articles were, she was
met by an old squaw in charge of the place and asked what she wanted.
"Food," she replied; the squaw sullenly commenced preparing a meal and in
doing so brought out a number of utensils that Mrs. Van Alstine recognized
as her own. While the squaw's back was turned she took possession of the
articles and removed them to her sleigh. When the custodian of the plunder
discovered that it was being reclaimed, she was about to interfere forcibly
with the bold intruders and take the property into her possession. But Mrs.
Van Alstine showed her a paper which she averred was an order signed by
"Yankee Peter," a man of great influence among the savages, and succeeded
in convincing the squaw that the property was removed by his authority.

She next proceeded to the stables and cut the halters of the horses
belonging to her husband: the animals recognized their mistress with loud
neighs and bounded homeward at full speed. The mother and son then drove
rapidly back to their house. Reaching home late in the evening they passed
a sleepless night, dreading an instant pursuit and a night attack from the
infuriated savages.

The Indians came soon after daylight in full war-costume armed with rifles
and tomahawks. Mrs. Van Alstine begged her husband not to show himself but
to leave the matter in her hands. The Indians took their course to the
stables when they were met by the daring woman alone and asked what they
wanted. "Our horses," replied the marauder. "They are ours," she said
boldly, "and we mean to keep them."

The chief approached in a threatening manner, and drawing her away pulled
out the plug that fastened the door of the stable, but she immediately
snatched it from his hand, and pushing him away resumed her position in
front of the door. Presenting his rifle, he threatened her with instant
death if she did not immediately move. Opening her neck-handkerchief she
told him to shoot if he dared.

The Indians, cowed by her daring, or fearing punishment from their allies
in case they killed her, after some hesitation retired from the premises.
They afterwards related their adventure to one of the settlers, and said
that were fifty such women as she in the settlement, the Indians never
would have molested the inhabitants of the Mohawk Valley.

On many subsequent occasions Mrs. Van Alstine exhibited the heroic
qualities of her nature. Twice by her prudence, courage, and address, she
saved the lives of her husband and family. Her influence in settling
difficulties with the savages was acknowledged throughout the region, and
but for her it may well be doubted whether the little settlement in which
she lived would have been able to sustain itself, surrounded as it was by
deadly foes.

Her influence was felt in another and higher way. She was a Christian
woman, and her husband's house was opened for religious worship every
Sunday when the weather would permit. She was able to persuade many of the
Indians to attend, and as she had acquired their language she was wont to
interpret to them the word of God and what was said by the minister. Many
times their rude hearts were touched, and the tears rolled down their
swarthy faces, while she dwelt on the wondrous story of our Redeemer's life
and death, and explained how the white man and the red man alike could be
saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. In after years the savages
blessed her as their benefactress.

Nearly a hundred summers have passed since the occurrence of the events we
have been describing. The war-whoop of the cruel Mohawk sounds no more from
the forest-ambush, nor in the clearing; the dews and rains have washed away
the red stains on the soft sward, and green and peaceful in the sunshine
lies the turf by the beautiful river and on the grave where the patriot
mother is sleeping; but still in the memory of the sons and daughters of
the region she once blessed, lives the courage, the firmness, and the
goodness of Nancy Van Alstine, the guardian of the Mohawk Valley.




CHAPTER VI.

PATRIOT WOMEN OF THE REVOLUTION.


During the dangers and trials of early colonial life, the daughters learned
from the example of their mothers the lesson and the power of self-trust;
they learned to endure what their parents endured, to face the perils which
environed the settlement or the household, and grew up to woman's estate
versed in that knowledge and experience of border-life which well fitted
them to repeat, in wilder and more perilous scenes, the heroism of their
forefathers and foremothers.

The daughters again taught these, and added other lessons, to their
children. The grand-daughters of the first emigrants seemed to
possess--with the traits and virtues of woman--the wisdom, courage, and
strength of their fathers and brothers. Each succeeding generation seemed
to acquire new features of character, added force, and stronger virtues,
and thus woman became a heroine endowed with manly vigor and capable of
performing deeds of masculine courage and resolution.

The generation of daughters, fourth in descent from the first settlers,
lived during the stormy days of the Revolution; and right worthily did they
perform their part on that stage of action, and prove by their deeds that
they were lineal descendants of the first mothers of the Republic.

If we were to analyze the characters and motives of the women who lived and
acted in that great crisis of our history, we should better understand and
appreciate, in its nature, height, and breadth, their singular patriotism.
Untainted by selfish ambition, undefiled by greed of gain, and purged of
the earthy dross that too often alloys the lofty impulses of soldiers and
statesmen in the path of fame, hers was a love of country that looked not
for gain or glory, imperiled much, and was locked fast in a bitter
companionship with anxiety, fear, and grief. Her heroism was not sordid or
secular. Dearly did she prize the blessings of peace--household calm, the
security of her loved ones, and the comforts and amenities of an unbroken
social status. But she cheerfully surrendered them all at the call of her
country in its hour of peril. For one hundred and fifty years she had
toiled and suffered. She had won the right to repose, but this was not yet
to be hers. A new ordeal awaited her which would test her courage and
fortitude still more keenly, especially if her lot was cast in the frontier
settlements.

It is easy to see that border-life in--"the times that tried men's
souls"--was surrounded by double dangers and hardships. Indeed it is
difficult to conceive of a more trying situation than that of woman in the
outlying settlements in the days of the Revolution. Left alone by her
natural protector, who had gone far away to fight the battles of his
country; exposed to attacks from the red men who lurked in the forest, or
from the British soldiers marching up from the coast; wearied by the labors
of the farm and the household; harassed by the cares of motherhood; for
long years in the midst of dangers, privations, and trials; with serene
patience, and with dauntless courage, she went on nobly doing her part in
the great work which resulted in the glorious achievement of American
Independence.

The wonder is that the American wives and mothers of that day did not sink
under their burdens. Their patient endurance of accumulated hardships did
not arise from a slavish servility or from insensibility to their rights
and comforts. They justly appreciated the situation and nobly encountered
the difficulties which could not be avoided.

Possessing all the affections of the wife, the tenderness of the mother,
and the sympathies of the woman, their tears flowed freely for others'
griefs, while they bore their own with a fortitude that none but a woman
could display. In the absence of the father the entire education devolved
upon the mother, who, in the midst of the labors and sorrows of her
isolated existence, taught them to read, and instructed them in the
principles of Christianity.

The countless roll of these unnamed heroines is inscribed in the Book of
the Most Just. Their record is on high. But the names and deeds of not a
few are preserved as a bright example to the men and women of to-day.

While the husbands and fathers of Wyoming were on public duty the wives and
daughters cheerfully assumed a large portion of the labor which women could
perform. They assisted to plant, to make hay, to husk, and to garner the
corn. The settlement was mainly dependent on its own resources for powder.
To meet the necessary demand, the women boiled together a lye of
wood-ashes, to which they added the earth scraped from beneath the floors
of their house, and thus manufactured saltpeter, one of the most essential
ingredients. Charcoal and sulphur were then mingled with it, and powder was
produced "for the public defense."

One of the married sisters of Silas Deane, that eminent Revolutionary
patriot, while her husband, Captain Ebenezer Smith, was with the army, was
left alone with six small children in a hamlet among the hills of
Berkshire, Massachusetts. Finding it difficult to eke out a subsistence
from the sterile soil of their farm, and being quick and ingenious with her
needle, she turned tailoress and made garments for her little ones, and for
all the families in that region. She wrote her husband, telling him to be
of good cheer, and not to give himself anxiety on his wife's or his
children's account, adding that as long as her fingers could hold a needle,
food should be provided for them. "Fight on for your country," she said;
"God will give us deliverance."

Each section of the country had its special burdens, trials, and dangers.
The populous districts bore the first brunt of the enemy's attack; the
thinly settled regions were drained of men, and the women were left in a
pitiable condition of weakness and isolation. This was largely the
condition of Massachusetts and Connecticut, where nearly every family sent
some, if not all, of its men to the war. In the South the patriots were
forced to practice continual vigilance in consequence of the divided
feeling upon the question of the propriety of separation from the
mother-country. New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were battle grounds,
and here, perhaps more fully than elsewhere, were experienced war's woes
and desolation. But in every State throughout the thirteen colonies, and in
every town, hamlet, or household, where there were patriot wives, mothers,
or daughters, woman's claims to moral greatness in that crisis were
gloriously vindicated.

If we were to search for traits and incidents to illustrate the whole
circle of both the stronger and the gentler virtues, we might find them in
woman's record during the American Revolution.

In scenes of carnage and death women not seldom displayed a cool courage
which made them peers of the bravest soldiers who bore flint-locks at
Bunker Hill or Trenton. Of such bravery, the following quartette of
heroines will serve as examples.

During the attack on Fort Washington, Mrs. Margaret Corbin, seeing her
husband, who was an artillery man, fall, unhesitatingly took his place and
heroically performed his duties. Her services were appreciated by the
officers of the army, and honorably noticed by Congress. This body passed
the following resolution in July, 1779:

_Resolved_, That Margaret Corbin, wounded and disabled at the battle
of Fort Washington while she heroically filled the post of her husband, who
was killed by her side, serving a piece of artillery, do receive during her
natural life, or continuance of said disability, one half the monthly pay
drawn by a soldier in the service of these States; and that she now receive
out of public store one suit of clothes, or value thereof in money.

Soon after the commencement of the Revolutionary War, the family of a Dr.
Channing, being in England, removed to France, and shortly afterwards
sailed for the United States. The vessel, said to be stout and well armed,
was attacked on the voyage by a privateer, and a fierce engagement ensued.
During its continuance, Mrs. Channing stood on the deck, exhorting the crew
not to give up, encouraging them with words of cheer, handing them
cartridges and aiding such of them as were disabled by wounds. When at
length the colors of the vessel were struck, she seized her husband's
pistol and side arms and flung them into the sea, declaring that she would
prefer death to the spectacle of their surrender into the hands of the foe.

At the siege of one of the forts of the Mohawk Valley, it is related by the
author of the "Border Wars of the American Revolution," that an interesting
young woman, whose name yet lives in story among her own mountains,
perceiving, as she thought, symptoms of fear in a soldier who had been
ordered to fetch water from a well, without the ranks and within range of
the enemy's fire, snatched the bucket from his hands and ran to the well
herself. Without changing color or giving the slightest evidence of fear,
she drew and brought back bucket after bucket to the thirsty soldiers, and
providentially escaped without injury.

Four or five miles north of the village of Herkimer, N. Y., stood the
block-house of John Christian Shell, whose wife acted a heroic part when
attacked by the Tories, in 1781. From two o'clock in the afternoon until
twilight, the besieged kept up an almost incessant firing, Mrs. Shell
loading the guns for her husband and older sons to discharge. During the
siege, McDonald, the leader of the Tories, attempted to force the door
with, a crow-bar, and was shot in the leg, seized by Shell, and drawn
within doors. Exasperated by this bold feat, the enemy soon attempted to
carry the fortress by assault; five of them leaping upon the walls and
thrusting their guns through the loop-holes. At that moment the cool
courageous woman, Mrs. Shell, seized an axe, smote the barrels, bent and
spoiled them. The enemy soon after shouldered their guns, crooked barrels
and all, and quickly buried themselves in the dense forest.

Heroism in those days was confined to no section of our country. Moll
Pitcher, at Monmouth, battle-stained, avenged her husband by the
death-dealing cannon which she loaded and aimed. Cornelia Beekman, at
Croton, faced down the armed Tories with the fire of her eye; Angelica
Vrooman, at Schoharie, moulded bullets amid the war and carnage of battle,
while Mary Hagidorn defended the fort with a pike; Mrs. Fitzhugh, of
Maryland, accompanied her blind and decrepit husband when taken prisoner at
midnight and carried into the enemy's lines.

Dicey Langston, of South Carolina, also showed a "soul of love and
bravery." Living in a frontier settlement, and in the midst of Tories, and
being patriotically inquisitive, she often learned by accident, or
discovered by strategy, the plottings so common in those days against the
Whigs. Such intelligence she was accustomed to communicate to the friends
of freedom on the opposite side of the Ennosee river.

Learning one time that a band of loyalists--known in those days as
the--"Bloody Scouts"--were about to fall upon the "Elder Settlement," a
place where a brother of hers and other friends were residing, she resolved
to warn them of their danger. To do this she must hazard her own life.
Regardless of danger she started off alone, in the darkness of the night;
traveled several miles through the woods, over marshes, across creeks,
through a country where foot-logs and bridges were then unknown; came to
the Tyger, a rapid and deep stream, into which she plunged and waded till
the water was up to her neck. She then became bewildered, and zigzagged the
channel for some time, finally reaching the opposite shore, for a helping
hand was beneath, a kind Providence guided her. She then hastened on,
reached the settlement, and her brother and the whole community were saved.

She was returning one day from another settlement of Whigs, in the
Spartanburg district, when a company of Tories met her and questioned her
in regard to the neighborhood she had just left; but she refused to
communicate the desired information. The leader of the band then put a
pistol to her breast, and threatened to shoot her if she did not make the
wished-for disclosure.

"Shoot me if you dare! I will not tell you!" was her dauntless reply, as
she opened a long handkerchief that covered her neck and bosom, thus
manifesting a willingness to receive the contents of the pistol, if the
officer insisted on disclosure or life.

The dastard, enraged at her defying movement, was in the act of firing, but
one of the soldiers threw up the hand holding the weapon, and the uncovered
heart of the girl was permitted to beat on.

The brothers of Dicey were no less patriotic than she; and they having, by
their active services on the side of freedom, greatly displeased the
loyalists, these latter were determined to be revenged. A desperate band
accordingly went to the house of their father, and finding the sons absent,
were about to wreak vengeance on the old man, whom they hated for the sons'
sake. With this intent one of the party drew a pistol; but just as it was
aimed at the breast of the aged and infirm old man, Dicey rushed between
the two, and though the ruffian bade her get out of the way or receive in
her own breast the contents of the pistol, she regarded not his threats,
but flung her arms round her father's neck and declared she would receive
the ball first, if the weapon must be discharged. Such fearlessness and
willingness to offer her own life for the sake of her parent, softened the
heart of the "Bloody Scout," and Mr. Langston lived to see his noble
daughter perform other heroic deeds.

At one time her brother James, while absent, sent to the house for a gun
which he had left in Dicey's care, with orders to deliver it to no one,
except by his direction. On reaching the house one of the party who were
directed to call for it, made known their errand. Whereupon she brought and
was about to deliver the weapon. At this moment it occurred to her that she
had not demanded the countersign agreed on between herself and brother.
With the gun still in her hand, she looked the company sternly in the face,
and remarking that they wore a suspicious look, called for the countersign.
Thereupon one of them, in jest, told her she was too tardy in her
requirements; that both the gun and its holder were in their possession.
"Do you think so," she boldly asked, as she cocked the disputed weapon and
aimed it at the speaker. "If the gun is in your possession," she added,
"take charge of it!" Her appearance indicated that she was in earnest, and
the countersign was given without further delay.

In these women of the Revolution were blended at once the heroine and the
"Ministering Angel." To defend their homes they were men in courage and
resolution, and when the battle was over they showed all a woman's
tenderness and devotion. Love was the inspiring principle which nerved
their arm in the fight, and poured balm into the wounds of those who had
fallen. Should we have ever established our Independence but for the
countless brave, kind, and self-sacrificing acts of woman?

After the massacre of Fort Griswold, when it was found that several of the
prisoners were still alive, the British soldiers piled their mangled bodies
in an old cart and started it down the steep and rugged hill, towards the
river, in order that they might be there drowned. Stumps and stones however
obstructed the passage of the cart, and when the enemy had retreated--for
the aroused inhabitants of that region soon compelled them to that
course--the friends of the wounded came to their aid, and thus several
lives were saved.

One of those heroic women who came the next morning to the aid of the
thirty-five wounded men, who lay all night freezing in their own blood, was
Mrs. Mary Ledyard, a near relative of the Colonel. "She brought warm
chocolate, wine, and other refreshments, and while Dr. Downer, of Preston,
was dressing the wounds of the soldiers, she went from one to another,
administering her cordials, and breathing gentle words of sympathy and
encouragement into their ears. In these labors of kindness she was assisted
by another relative of the lamented Colonel Ledyard--Mrs. John Ledyard--who
had also brought her household stores to refresh the sufferers, and
lavished on them the most soothing personal attentions. The soldiers who
recovered from their wounds, were accustomed, to the day of their death, to
speak of these ladies in terms of fervent gratitude and praise."

Another "heroine and ministering angel" at the same massacre was Anna
Warner, wife of Captain Bailey. She received from the soldiers the
affectionate _sobriquet_ of "Mother Bailey." Had "Mother Bailey" lived
in the palmy days of ancient Roman glory no matron in that mighty empire
would have been more highly honored. Hearing the British guns, at the
attack on Fort Griswold, she hurried to the scene of carnage, where she
found her uncle, one of the brave defenders, mortally wounded. With his
dying lips he prayed to see his wife and child--once more; hastening home,
she caught and saddled a horse for the feeble mother, and taking the child
in her arms ran three miles and held it to receive the kisses and blessing
of its dying father. At a later period flannel being needed to use for
cartridges, she gave her own undergarment for that purpose. This patriotic
surrender showed the noble spirit which always actuated "Mother Bailey" and
was an appropriation to her country of which she might justly be proud.

The combination of manly daring and womanly kindness was admirably
displayed in the deeds of a maiden, Miss Esther Gaston, and of a married
lady, Mrs. Slocum, whose presence upon battlefields gave aid and comfort,
in several ways, to the patriot cause.

On the morning of July 30th, 1780, the former, hearing the firing, rode to
the scene of conflict in company with her sister-in-law. Meeting three
skulkers retreating from the fight, Esther rebuked them sharply, and,
seizing the gun from the hands of one of them, exclaimed, "Give us your
guns, and we will stand in your places!" The cowards, abashed and filled
with shame, thereupon turned about, and, in company with the females,
hurried back to face the enemy.

While the battle was raging, Esther and her companion busied themselves in
dressing and binding up the wounds of the fallen, and in quenching their
thirst, not even forgetting their helpless enemies, whose bodies strewed
the ground.

During another battle, which occurred the following week, she converted a
church into a hospital, and administered to the wants of the wounded.

Our other heroine, Mrs. Slocum, of Pleasant Green, North Carolina, having a
presentiment that her husband was dead or wounded in battle, rose in the
night, saddled her horse, and rode to the scene of conflict. We continue
the narrative in the words of our heroine.

"The cool night seemed after a gallop of a mile or two, to bring reflection
with it, and I asked myself where I was going, and for what purpose. Again
and again I was tempted to turn back; but I was soon ten miles from home,
and my mind became stronger every mile I rode that I should find my husband
dead or dying--this was as firmly my presentiment and conviction as any
fact of my life. When day broke I was some thirty miles from home. I knew
the general route our army expected to take, and had followed them without
hesitation. About sunrise I came upon a group of women and children,
standing and sitting by the road-side, each one of them showing the same
anxiety of mind which I felt.

"Stopping a few minutes I enquired if the battle had been fought. They knew
nothing, but were assembled on the road-side to catch intelligence. They
thought Caswell had taken the right of the Wilmington road, and gone toward
the northwest (Cape Fear). Again was I skimming over the ground through a
country thinly settled, and very poor and swampy; but neither my own spirit
nor my beautiful nag's failed in the least. We followed the well-marked
trail of the troops.

"The sun must have been well up, say eight or nine o'clock, when I heard a
sound like thunder, which I knew must be a cannon. It was the first time I
ever heard a cannon. I stopped still; when presently the cannon thundered
again. The battle was then fighting. What a fool! my husband could not be
dead last night, and the battle only fighting now! Still, as I am so near,
I will go on and see how they come out. So away we went again, faster than
ever; and I soon found, by the noise of the guns, that I was near the
fight. Again I stopped. I could hear muskets, rifles, and shouting. I spoke
to my horse and dashed on in the direction of the firing and the shouts,
which were louder than ever.

"The blind path I had been following, brought me into the Wilmington road
leading to Moore's creek bridge, a few hundred yards below the bridge. A
few yards from the road, under a cluster of trees, were lying perhaps
twenty men. They were wounded. I knew the spot; the very tree; and the
position of the men I knew as if I had seen it a thousand times. I had seen
it all night! I saw _all_ at once; but in an instant my whole soul
centered in one spot; for there wrapped in a bloody guard cloak, was my
husband's body! How I passed the few yards from my saddle to the place I
never knew. I remember uncovering his head and seeing a face crusted with
gore from a dreadful wound across the temple. I put my hand on the bloody
face; 'twas warm; and an _unknown voice_ begged for water; a small
camp-kettle was lying near, and a stream of water was close by. I brought
it; poured some in his mouth, washed his face; and behold--it was not my
husband but Frank Cogdell. He soon revived and could speak. I was washing
the wound in his head. Said he, 'It is not that; it is the hole in my leg
that is killing me.' A puddle of blood was standing on the ground about his
feet I took the knife, and cut away his trousers and stockings, and found
the blood came from a shot hole through and through the fleshy part of his
leg. I looked about and could see nothing that looked as if it would do for
dressing wounds, but some heart-leaves. I gathered a handful and bound them
tight to the holes; and the bleeding stopped. I then went to others; I
dressed the wounds of many a brave fellow who did good service long after
that day! I had not enquired for my husband; but while I was busy Caswell
came up. He appeared very much surprised to see me; and was with his hat in
hand about to pay some compliment; but I interrupted him by asking--'Where
is my husband?'

"'Where he ought to be, madam; in pursuit of the enemy. But pray,' said he,
'how came you here?'

"'O, I thought,' replied I, 'you would need nurses as well as soldiers.
See! I have already dressed many of these good fellows; and here is
one'--and going up to Frank and lifting him up with my arm under his head
so that he could drink some more water--'would have died before any of you
men could have helped him.'

"Just then I looked up, and my husband, as bloody as a butcher, and as
muddy as a ditcher, stood before me.

"'Why, Mary!' he exclaimed, 'what are you doing there? Hugging Frank
Cogdell, the greatest reprobate in the army?'

"'I don't care,' I said. 'Frank is a brave fellow, a good soldier, and a
true friend of Congress.'

"'True, true! every word of it!' said Caswell. 'You are right, madam,' with
the lowest possible bow.

"I would not tell my husband what brought me there I was so happy; and so
were all! It was a glorious victory; I came just at the height of the
enjoyment. I knew my husband was surprised, but I could see he was not
displeased with me. It was night again before our excitement had at all
subsided.

"Many prisoners were brought in, and among them some very obnoxious; but
the worst of the Tories were not taken prisoners. They were, for the most
part, left in the woods and swamps wherever they were overtaken. I begged
for some of the poor prisoners, and Caswell told me none should be hurt but
such as had been guilty of murder and house-burning.

"In the middle of the night I again mounted my horse and started for home.
Caswell and my husband wanted me to stay till next morning, and they would
send a party with me; but no! I wanted to see my child, and I told them
they could send no party who could keep up with me. What a happy ride I had
back! and with what joy did I embrace my child as he ran to meet me!"

The winter at Valley Forge was the darkest season in the Revolutionary
struggle. The American army were sheltered by miserable huts, through which
the rain and sleet found their way upon the wretched cots where the
patriots slept. By day the half-famished soldiers in tattered regimentals
wandered through their camp, and the snow showed the bloody tracks of their
shoeless feet. Mutinous mutterings disturbed the sleep of Washington, and
one dark, cold day, the soldiers at dusk were on the point of open revolt.
Nature could endure no more, and not from want of patriotism, but from want
of food and clothes, the patriotic cause seemed likely to fail. Pinched
with cold and wasted with hunger, the soldiers pined beside their dying
camp-fires. Suddenly a shout was heard from the sentinels who paced the
outer lines, and at the same time a cavalcade came slowly through the snow
up the valley. Ten women in carts, each cart drawn by ten pairs of oxen,
and bearing tons of meal and other supplies, passed through the lines amid
cheers that rent the air. Those devoted women had preserved the army, and
Independence from that day was assured.

[Illustration: FOOD AND CLOTHING SUPPLIED TO THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY BY
PATRIOTIC WOMEN]

Fortitude and patience were exemplified in a thousand homes from which
members of the family had gone to battle for Independence. Straitened for
means wherewith to keep their strong souls in their feeble bodies, worn
with toil, tortured with anxiety for the safety of the soldier-father or
son, or husband or brother, and fighting the conflict of life alone, woman
proved in that great ordeal her claim to those virtues which are by common
consent assigned to her as her peculiar characteristics.

We may well suppose, too, that ready wit and address had ample scope for
their exercise in those perilous times. And who but woman could best
display those qualities?

While Ann Elliott, styled by her British admirers, "the beautiful rebel,"
was affianced to Col. Lewis Morris, of New York, the house where he was
visiting her was suddenly surrounded by a detachment of "Black Dragoons."
They were in pursuit of the Colonel, and it was impossible for him to
escape by flight. What to do he knew not, but, quick as thought, she ran to
the window, opened it, and, fearlessly putting her head out, in a composed
manner demanded what was wanted. The reply was, "We want the rebel." "Then
go," said she, "and look for him in the American army;" adding, "how dare
you disturb a family under the protection of both armies?" She was so cool,
self-possessed, firm, and resolute, as to triumph over the dragoons, who
left without entering the house.

While the conflict was at its height in South Carolina, Captain Richardson,
of Sumter district, was obliged to conceal himself for a while in the
thickets of the Santee swamp. One day he ventured to visit his family--a
perilous movement, for the British had offered a reward for his
apprehension, and patrolling parties were almost constantly in search of
him. Before his visit was ended a small party of soldiers presented
themselves in front of the house. Just as they were entering, with a great
deal of composure and presence of mind, Mrs. Richardson appeared at the
door, and found so much to do there at the moment, as to make it
inconvenient to leave room for the uninvited guests to enter. She was so
calm, and appeared so unconcerned, that they did not mistrust the cause of
her wonderful diligence, till her husband had rushed out of the back door,
and safely reached the neighboring swamp.

The bearing of important dispatches through an enemy's country is an
enterprise that always requires both courage and address. Such a feat was
performed by Miss Geiger, under circumstances of peculiar difficulty.

At the time General Greene retreated before Lord Rawdon from Ninety-Six,
when he passed Broad river, he was desirous to send an order to General
Sumter, who was on the Wateree, to join him, that they might attack Rawdon,
who had divided his force. But the General could find no man in that part
of the state who was bold enough to undertake so dangerous mission. The
country to be passed through for many miles was full of blood-thirsty
Tories, who, on every occasion that offered, imbrued their hands in the
blood of the Whigs. At length Emily Geiger presented herself to General
Greene, and proposed to act as his messenger: and the general, both
surprised and delighted, closed with her proposal. He accordingly wrote a
letter and delivered it, and at the same time communicated the contents of
it verbally, to be told to Sumter in case of accidents.

She pursued her journey on horseback, and on the second day was intercepted
by Lord Rawdon's scouts. Coming from the direction of Greene's army and not
being able to tell an untruth without blushing, Emily was suspected and
confined to a room; and the officer sent for an old Tory matron to search
for papers upon her person. Emily was not wanting in expedients, and as
soon as the door was closed and the bustle a little subsided, she _ate up
the letter_, piece by piece. After a while the matron arrived, and upon
searching carefully, nothing was found of a suspicious nature about the
prisoner, and she would disclose nothing. Suspicion being then allayed, the
officer commanding the scouts suffered Emily to depart. She then took a
route somewhat circuitous to avoid further detentions and soon after struck
into the road leading to Sumter's camp, where she arrived in safety. Emily
told her adventure, and delivered Greene's verbal message to Sumter, who in
consequence, soon after joined the main army at Orangeburgh.

The salvation of the army was due more than once to the watchfulness and
tact of woman.

When the British army held possession of Philadelphia, a superior officer
supposed to have been the Adjutant General, selected a back chamber in the
house of Mrs. Lydia Darrah, for private conference. Suspecting that some
important movement was on foot, she took off her shoes, and putting her ear
to the key-hole of the door, overheard an order read for all the British
troops to march out, late in the evening of the fourth, and attack General
Washington's army, then encamped at White Marsh. On hearing this, she
returned to her chamber and laid herself down. Soon after, the officers
knocked at her door, but she rose only at the third summons, having feigned
to be asleep. Her mind was so much agitated that, from this moment, she
could neither eat nor sleep, supposing it to be in her power to save the
lives of thousands of her countrymen, but not knowing how she was to carry
the necessary information to General Washington, nor daring to confide it
even to her husband. The time left was short, and she quickly determined to
make her way as soon as possible, to the American outposts. She informed
her family, that, as they were in want of flour, she would go to Frankfort
for some; her husband insisted that she should take with her the servant
maid; but, to his surprise, she positively refused. Gaining access to
General Howe, she solicited what he readily granted--a pass through the
British troops on the lines. Leaving her bag at the mill, she hastened
towards the American lines, and encountered on her way an American,
Lieutenant Colonel Craig, of the light horse, who, with some of his men,
was on the lookout for information. He knew her, and inquired whither she
was going. She answered, in quest of her son, an officer in the American
army; and prayed the Colonel to alight and walk with her. He did so,
ordering his troops to keep in sight. To him she disclosed her momentous
secret, after having obtained from him the most solemn promise never to
betray her individually, since her life might be at stake. He conducted her
to a house near at hand, directed a female in it to give her something to
eat, and hastened to head-quarters, where he made General Washington
acquainted with what he had heard. Washington made, of course, all
preparation for baffling the meditated surprise, and the contemplated
expedition was a failure.

Mrs. Murray of New York, the mother of Lindley Murray, the grammarian, by
her ceremonious hospitality detained Lord Howe and his officers, while the
British forces were in pursuit of General Putnam, and thus prevented the
capture of the American army. In fine, not merely the lives of many
individuals, but the safety of the whole patriot army, and even the cause
of independence was more than once due to feminine address and strategy.

Patriotic generosity and devotion were displayed without stint, and women
were ready to submit to any sacrifice in behalf of their country.

These qualities are well illustrated by the three following instances.

Mrs. William Smith, when informed that in order to dislodge the enemy then
in possession of Fort St. George, Long Island, it would be necessary to
burn or batter down her dwelling-house, promptly told Major Tallmadge to
proceed without hesitation in the work of destruction, if the good of the
country demanded the sacrifice.

While General Greene was retreating, disheartened and penniless, from the
enemy, after the disastrous defeat at Camden, he was met at Catawba ford by
Mrs. Elizabeth Steele, who, in her generous ardor in the cause of freedom,
drew him aside, and, taking two bags of specie from under her apron,
presented them to him, saying, "Take these, for you will want them, and I
can do without them."

While Fort Motte, on the Congaree River, was in the hands of the British,
in order to effect its surrender, it became necessary to burn a large
mansion standing near the center of the trench. The house was the property
of Mrs. Motte. Lieut. Colonel Lee communicated to her the contemplated work
of destruction with painful reluctance, but her smiles, half anticipating
his proposal, showed at once that she was willing to sacrifice her property
if she could thereby aid in the least degree towards the expulsion of the
enemy and the salvation of the land.

Pennsylvania had the honor of being the native State of Mrs. McCalla, whose
affectionate and devoted efforts to liberate her invalid husband,
languishing in a British dungeon, have justly given her a high rank among
the patriot women of the Revolution.

Weeks elapsed after the capture of Mr. McCalla, before she was able, with
the most assiduous inquiries, to ascertain the place of his confinement. In
the midst of her torturing anxiety and suspense her children fell sick of
small-pox. She nursed them alone and unaided, and as soon as they were out
of danger, resumed her search for her husband.

Mounting her horse, she succeeded in forcing her way to the head-quarters
of Lord Rawdon, at Camden, and obtained reluctant permission to visit her
husband for ten minutes only in his wretched prison-pen. Though almost
overcome by the interview, she hastened home, having altogether ridden
through the wilderness one hundred miles in twenty four hours.

She proceeded immediately to prepare clothing and provisions for her
husband and the other prisoners. Her preparations having been completed,
she set out on her return to Camden, in company with one of her neighbors,
Mrs. Mary Nixon. Each of the brave women drove before her a pack-horse,
laden with clothes and provisions for the prisoners. These errands of mercy
were repeated every month, often in company with other women who were
engaged in similar missions, and sometimes alone.

Meanwhile she did not relax her efforts to effect the release of her
husband. After many months she succeeded in procuring an order for the
discharge of her husband with ten other prisoners, whose handcuffs and
ankle chains were knocked off, and who left the prison in company with
their heroic liberator.

Examples are not wanting, in our Revolutionary annals, of a stern and lofty
spirit of self-sacrifice in behalf of country, that will vie with that
displayed by the first Brutus.

We are told by the orator of the Society of the Cincinnati that when the
British officers presented to Mrs. Rebecca Edwards the mandate which
arrested her sons as "objects of retaliation," less sensitive of private
affection than attached to her honor and the interest of her country, she
stifled the tender feelings of the mother and heroically bade them despise
the threats of their enemies, and steadfastly persist to support the
glorious cause in which they had engaged--that if the threatened sacrifice
should follow they would carry a parent's blessing, and the good opinion of
every virtuous citizen with them, to the grave; but if from the frailty of
human nature--of the possibility of which she would not suffer an idea to
enter her mind--they were disposed to temporize and exchange this liberty
for safety, they must forget her as a mother, nor subject her to the misery
of ever beholding them again.

As among the early Puritan settlers, so among the women of the Revolution,
nothing was more remarkable than their belief in the efficacy of prayer.

In the solitude of their homes, in the cool and silence of the forest, and
in the presence of the foe, Christian women knelt down and prayed for
peace, for victory, for rescue from danger, and for deliverance from the
enemies which beset them. Can we doubt that the prayers of these noble
patriot women were answered?

Early in the Revolutionary War, the historian of the border relates that
the inhabitants of the frontier of Burke County, North Carolina, being
apprehensive of an attack by the Indians, it was determined to seek
protection in a fort in a more densely populated neighborhood, in an
interior settlement. A party of soldiers was sent to protect them on their
retreat. The families assembled; the line of march was taken towards their
place of destination, and they proceeded some miles unmolested--the
soldiers forming a hollow square with the refugee families in the center.
The Indians had watched these movements, and had laid a plan for the
destruction of the migrating party. The road to be traveled lay through a
dense forest in the fork of a river, where the Indians concealed themselves
and waited till the travelers were in the desired spot.

Suddenly the war-whoop sounded in front and on either side; a large body of
painted warriors rushed in, filling the gap by which the whites had
entered, and an appalling crash of fire-arms followed. The soldiers,
however, were prepared. Such as chanced to be near the trees darted behind
them, and began to ply the deadly rifle; the others prostrated themselves
upon the earth, among the tall grass, and crawled to trees. The families
screened themselves as best they could. The onset was long and fiercely
urged; ever and anon, amid the din and smoke, the braves would rush out,
tomahawk in hand, towards the center; but they were repulsed by the cool
intrepidity of the backwoods riflemen. Still they fought on, determined on
the destruction of the destined victims who offered such desperate
resistance. All at once an appalling sound greeted the ears of the women
and children in the center; it was a cry from their defenders--a cry for
powder! "Our powder is giving out!" they exclaimed. "Have you any? Bring us
some, or we can fight no longer."

A woman of the party had a good supply. She spread her apron on the ground,
poured her powder into it, and going round from soldier to soldier, as they
stood behind the trees, bade each who needed powder put down his hat, and
poured a quantity upon it. Thus she went round the line of defense till her
whole stock, and all she could obtain from others, was distributed. At last
the savages gave way, and, pressed by their foes, were driven off the
ground. The victorious whites returned to those for whose safety they had
ventured into the wilderness. Inquiries were made as to who had been
killed, and one, running up, cried, "Where is the woman that gave us the
powder? I want to see her!" "Yes! yes!--let us see her!" responded another
and another; "without her we should have been all lost!" The soldiers ran
about among the women and children, looking for her and making inquiries.
Others came in from the pursuit, one of whom, observing the commotion,
asked the cause, and was told.

"You are looking in the wrong place," he replied.

"Is she killed? Ah, we were afraid of that!" exclaimed many voices.

"Not when I saw her," answered the soldier. "When the Indians ran off; she
was _on her knees in prayer_ at the root of yonder tree, and there I
left her."

There was a simultaneous rush to the tree--and there, to their great joy,
they found the woman safe and still on her knees in prayer. Thinking not of
herself, she received their applause without manifesting any other feeling
than gratitude to Heaven for their great deliverance.

An eminent divine whose childhood was passed upon our New England frontier,
during the period of the Revolution, narrated to the writer many years
since, the story of his mother's life while her husband was absent in the
patriot army. Their small farm was on the sterile hill-side, and with the
utmost pains, barely yielded sufficient for the wants of the lone wife and
her three little ones. There was no house within five miles, and the whole
region around was stripped of its male inhabitants, such was the patriotic
ardor of the people. All the labors in providing for the household fell
upon the mother. She planted and hoed the corn, milked the cow and tended
the farm, at the same time not neglecting the inside duties of the
household, feeding and clothing the children, nursing them when sick and
instructing them in the rudiments of education.

"I call to mind, though after the lapse of eighty years," said the
venerable man, "the image of my mother as distinctly as of yesterday, and
she moves before me as she did in my childhood's home among those bleak
hills--cheerful and serene through all, though even with my young eyes I
could see that a brooding sorrow rested upon her spirit. I remember the day
when my father kissed my brothers and me, and told us to be good boys, and
help mother while he was gone: I remember too, that look upon my mother's
face as she watched him go down the road with his musket and knapsack.

"When evening came, that day, and she had placed us in our little beds, I
saw her kneeling and praying in a low tone, long and fervently, and heard
her after she had pleaded that victory might crown our arms, intercede at
the throne of grace for her absent husband and the father of her children.

"Then she rose and kissed us good-night, and as she bent above us I shall
never forget till my latest hour the angelic expression upon her face.
Sorrow, love, resignation, and holy trust were blended and beamed forth in
that look which seemed to transfigure her countenance and her whole
bearing.

"During all those trying years while she was so patiently toiling to feed
and clothe us, and bearing the burdens and privations of her lonely lot,
never did she omit the morning and evening prayer for her country and for
the father of her children.

"One day we saw her holding an open letter in her hand and looking pale and
as if she were about to faint. We gathered about her knees and gazed with
wondering eyes, silently into her sad and care-worn face, for even then we
had been schooled to recognize and respect the sorrows of a mother. Two
weeks before that time, a battle had been fought in which father had been
severely wounded. The slow mail of those days had only just brought this
sad intelligence. As we stood beside her she bent and clasped us to her
heart, striving to hide the great tears that coursed down her wasted
cheeks.

"We begged her not to cry and tried to comfort her with our infantile
caresses. At length we saw her close her eyes and utter a low prayer. Ere
her lips had ceased to intercede with the Father of mercies, a knock was
heard at the door and one of the neighboring settlers entered. He had just
returned from the army and had come several miles on foot from his home,
expressly to tell us that father was rapidly recovering from his wounds. It
seemed as if he were a messenger sent from heaven in direct answer to the
silent prayers of a mother, and all was joy and brightness in the house."

The patriot father returned to his family at the close of the war with the
rank of Captain, which he had nobly won by his bravery in the battle's van.
The sons grew up and became useful and honored citizens of a Republic which
their father had helped to make free; and ever during their lives they
fondly cherished the memory of the mother who had taught them so many
examples of brave self-denial and pious devotion.

And still as we scan the pages of Revolutionary history, or revive the oral
evidence of family tradition, the names and deeds of these brave and good
women fill the eye and multiply in the memory. Through the fires, the
frosts, the rains, the suns of one hundred years, they come back to us
_now_, in the midst of our great national jubilee, vivid as with the
life of yesterday. That era, which they helped to make glorious, is "with
the years that are beyond the flood."

  "Another race shall be, and other palms are won,"

but never, while our nation or our language endures, shall the memory of
those names and deeds pass away. In every succeeding year that registers
the history of the Republic which they contributed to build, brighter and
brighter shall grow the record of the Patriot Women of the Revolution.




CHAPTER VII.

MOVING WEST--PERILS OF THE JOURNEY


In regarding or in enjoying an end already accomplished by others, we are
too apt to pass by the means through which that end was reached. America of
to-day represents a grand result. We see that our land is great, rich, and
powerful; we see that the flag waves from ocean to ocean, over a people
furnished with all the appliances of civilization, and happy in their
enjoyment; we are conscious that all this has come from the toils and the
sufferings of many men and of many women who have lived and loved before
us, and passed away, leaving behind them their country growing greater and
richer, happier and more powerful, for what they have borne and done. But
our views of the means by which that mighty end was reached are apt to be
altogether too vague and general. While we are enjoying what others have
worked to attain, let us not selfishly and forgetfully pass by the toils,
the struggles, the firm endurance of those who went before us and
accomplished this vast aggregate of results.

Each stage in the process by which these results were wrought out, had its
peculiar trials, its special service. Looking back to that far-off past,
and in the light of our own knowledge and conceptions, we find it almost
impossible to decide which stage was encompassed with the deadliest
dangers, the severest labors, the keenest sorrows, the largest list of
discomforts. But certainly to woman, the breaking up of her eastern home,
and the removal to the far west, was not the least burdensome and trying.

No characteristic of woman is more remarkable than the strength of her
local associations and attachments. In making the home she learns to love
it, and this feeling seems to be often strongest when the surroundings are
the bleakest, the rudest, and the most comfortless. The Highlander and the
Switzer pine amid the luxuriant scenes of tropical life, when their
thoughts revert to the smoky shieling or to the rock-encompassed
_chalet_ of their far-off mountains. Such, too, doubtless, was the
clinging fondness with which, the women regarded their rude cabins on the
frontier of the Atlantic States. They had toiled and fought to make these
rude abodes the homes for those dearest to them; here children, the
first-born of the Republic, had been nurtured; here, too, were the graves
of the first fathers and mothers of America. Humble and comfortless as
those dwelling-places would have seemed to the men and women of to-day,
they were dear to the wives and mothers of colonial times.

Comprehending, as we may, this feeling, and knowing the peculiar
difficulties of long journeys in those days, into a wild and hostile
country, we can understand why the westward march of emigration and
settlement was so slow during the first one hundred and fifty or sixty
years of our history. New England had, it is true, been largely subjugated
and reclaimed; a considerable body of emigrants, wedge-like, were driving
slowly up through the Mohawk Valley towards Niagara; a weak, thin line, was
straggling with difficulty across the Alleghanies in Pennsylvania, towards
the Ohio, and a more compact and confident battalion in Virginia, was
pushing into Kentucky. But how scattered and feeble that picket-line
compared to the army which was soon to follow it.

For a season, and while the British were trying to force their yoke on the
reluctant colonists, the westward movement had a check. The danger was in
the rear. His old home in the east was threatened, and the pioneer turned
about and faced the rising sun, until the danger was past and he could
pursue his journey.

The close of the Revolutionary struggle gave a new impulse to the westward
march of the American people, which had been arrested for the time being by
the War of Independence.

The patriot soldiers found themselves, upon the advent of peace,
impoverished in fortune; but with high hopes and stout hearts they
immediately set about repairing the ravages of the long war. Nurtured in
the rugged school of danger and hardship, they had ceased to regard the
West with dread. Curiosity, blended with the hope of bettering their
condition, turned their faces to that "fresh, unbounded, magnificent
wilderness." Accustomed to camp life and scenes of exciting interest, the
humdrum days at the old homestead became distasteful. The West was the
hunter's paradise. The toil held beneath it the potency of harvests of
extraordinary richness, and the soldier who had faced the disciplined
battalions of Great Britain recked little of the prowling red man.

During the Revolution, the women, left alone by their husbands and fathers,
who were with the army, were more than ever thrown on their own resources.
They tilled the farm, reared their swarthy and nimble broods of children,
and sent the boys in blue and buff all they could spare from their slender
store. During all this trying period they were fitting themselves for that
new life in the western wilds which had been marked out for them by the
hand of an overruling Providence.

And yet, hard and lonely as the lives of these devoted women must have been
in their eastern homes, and bright as their imaginations may have pictured
the richness of the West, it must have given them many a pang when the
husband and father told them that the whole family must be removed at once
from their beloved homestead, which they or their fathers had redeemed from
the wilderness after so many years of toil. We may imagine the resolution
that was required to break up the old attachments which bind women to their
homes and firesides.

It must have required a heroic courage to do this for the purpose of
seeking a new home, not only among strangers, but among wild beasts and
savages. But the fathers and mothers a hundred years ago possessed a spirit
which rose above the perils of their times. They went forward,
unhesitatingly, in their long and toilsome journeys westward, driving their
slow-footed oxen and lumbering-wagons hundreds of miles, over ground where
no road was; through woods infested with bears and wolves, panthers and
warlike tribes of Indians; settling in the midst of those dangerous
enemies, and conquering them all.

The army of pioneers, like the skirmishers who had preceded them, moved
forward in three columns; the northernmost passed through New York State;
the middle column moved westward through Pennsylvania; the southernmost
marched through Virginia. Within ten years after the treaty of Versailles,
the three columns had met in Ohio and Kentucky, and spreading out over that
beautiful region, were fighting with nature and savage men to subjugate
both and bring them within the bounds of civilization. No more sublime
spectacle has ever greeted the eye of the historian than the march of that
army. Twenty or thirty thousand men and women, bearing, like the Israelites
of old, their ark across the desert and waste places--that ark which bore
the blessings of civilization and religion within its holy shrine! Aged
matrons, nursing mothers, prattling infants, hoary patriarchs, and strong
veterans fresh from the fields of their country's glory, marching to form a
mighty empire in the wilderness!

In this present age of rapid and easy transition from place to place, it is
difficult to form a just conception of the tediousness, hardships, and
duration of those early emigrations to the West. The difference in
conveyance is that between a train of cars drawn by a forty-ton locomotive
and a two-horse wagon, without springs, and of the most lumbering and
primitive construction. This latter was the best conveyance that the
emigrant could command. A few were so fortunately situated on the banks of
rivers that they could float down with the current in flat-boats, while
their cattle were being driven along the shore; or, if it was necessary to
ascend toward the head-waters of a river, they could work their way
up-stream with setting-poles. But most of the emigrants traveled with
teams. Some of those who went part of the way in boats had to begin or end
their journey in wagons. The vehicles which they provided on such occasions
for land carriage were curiosities of wheel-craft--I speak of the Jersey
wagons.

The old-fashioned Jersey wagon has, years ago, given place to more showy
and flexible vehicles; but long before such were invented the Jersey wagon
was an established institution, and was handed down, with the family name,
from father to son. It was the great original of the modern emigrant wagon
of the West; but as I have elsewhere pictured its appearance upon the
arrival of a band of pioneers at their final destination, it is unnecessary
to enter here upon any further description.

The spring of the year was the season usually selected for moving, and
during many weeks previous to the appointed time, the emigrants had been
actively providing against the accidents and discomforts of the road. When
all was ready, the wagon was loaded, the oxen yoked and hooked to the neap;
the women and children took their places on the summit of the huge load,
the baby in its mother's lap, the youngest boy at his grandmother's feet,
and off they started. The largest boy walked beside and drove the team, the
other boys drove the cows, the men trudged behind or ahead, and the whole
cavalcade passed out of the great gate, the grandmother peering through her
spectacles, and the mother smiling through her tears and looking back more
than once at the home which she had made but was now to leave for ever.

In this manner the earlier emigrants went forward, driving their heavily
laden wagon by day and sleeping at night by the camp. After they had passed
the region of roads and bridges they had to literally hew their way;
cutting down bushes, prying their wagon out of bog-holes, building bridges
or poling themselves across streams on rafts. But, in defiance of every
obstacle, they pressed forward.

Neither rivers nor mountains stayed the course of the emigrant. Guiding his
course by the sun, and ever facing the West, he went slowly on. When that
luminary set, his parting rays lit the faces of the pioneer family, and
when it rose it threw their long shadows before them on the soft, spongy
turf of the forest glades. Sweating through the undergrowth; climbing over
fallen trees; sinking knee-deep in marshes; at noon they halted to take a
rest in the shade of the primeval forest, beside a brook, and there eat
their mid-day meal of fried pork and corn cakes, which the women prepared;
then on again, till the shadows stretched far back toward their old homes.

Sometimes a storm burst upon them, and the women and children huddled
beneath the cart as the thunderbolts fell, shivering the huge trunks of the
forest monarchs; and the lightning crimsoned the faces of the forlorn party
with its glare. Then the heavens cleared; the sun came out; and the ox-cart
went rumbling and creaking onward. No doubt the first days of that weary
tramp had in them something of pleasurable excitement; the breezes of
spring fanned the brows of the wayfarers, and told of the health and
freedom of woodland life; the magnificence of the forest, the summits of
the mountains, tinged with blue, the sparkling waters of lake and stream,
must have given joy to even the most stolid of those households. But
emotions of this description soon became strangers to their souls.

But the emigrants ere long found that the wilderness had lost the charms of
novelty. Sights and sounds that were at first pleasing, and had lessened
the sense of discomfort, soon ceased to attract attention. Their minds,
solely occupied with obstacles, inconveniences, and obstructions, at every
step of the way, became sullen, or, at least, indifferent.

To the toils and discomforts incident to their journey were often added
casualties and great personal risks. An unlucky step might wrench an ankle;
the axe might glance from a twig and split a foot open; and a broken leg,
or a severed artery, is a frightful thing where no surgeon can be had.
Exposure to all the changes of the weather--sleeping upon the damp ground,
frequently brought on fevers; and sickness, at all times a great calamity,
was infinitely more so to the pioneer. It must have been appalling in the
woods. Many a mother has carried her wailing, languishing child in her
arms, to lessen the jolting of the wagon, without being able to render it
the necessary assistance. Many a family has paused on the way to gather a
leafy couch for a dying brother or sister. Many a parent has laid in the
grave, in the lonely wilderness, the child they should meet no more till
the morning of the resurrection. Many a heart at the West has yearned at
the thought of the treasured one resting beneath the spreading tree.
After-comers have stopped over the little mound, and pondered upon the rude
memorial carved in the bark above it; and those who had sustained a similar
loss have wrung their hands and wept over it, for their own wounds were
opened afresh.

Among the chapters of accident and casualty which make up the respective
diaries of the families who left their eastern homes after the Revolution
and joined the ranks of the Western immigrants there is none more
interesting than that of Mrs. Jameson. She was the child of wealthy
parents, and had been reared in luxury in the city of New York. Soon after
peace was declared she was married to Edward Jameson, a brave soldier in
the war, who had nothing but his stout arms and intrepid heart to battle
with the difficulties of life. Her father, dying soon after, his estate was
discovered to have been greatly lessened by the depreciation in value which
the war had produced. Gathering together the remains of what was once a
large fortune, the couple purchased the usual outfit of the emigrants of
that period and set out to seek their fortunes in the West.

All went well with them until they reached the Alleghany River, which they
undertook to cross on a raft. It was the month of May; the river had been
swollen by rains, and when they reached the middle of the stream, the part
of the raft on which Mr. Jameson sat became detached, the logs separated,
and he sank to rise no more. The other section of the raft, containing Mrs.
Jameson, her babe of eight months, and a chest of clothing and household
gear, floated down-stream at the mercy of the rapid current.

[Illustration: PERILOUS CROSSING OF THE ALLEGHANY RIVER]

Bracing herself against the shock, Mrs. Jameson managed to paddle to the
side of the river from which she had just before started. She was landed
nearly a mile below the point where had been left the cattle, and also the
ox-cart in which their journey had been hitherto performed, and which her
husband expected to carry over the river on the raft, returning for them as
soon as his wife and babe had been safely landed on the western bank. The
desolate mother succeeded in mooring the remains of the raft to the shore;
then clasping her babe to her bosom, followed the bank of the river till
she reached the oxen and cart, which she drove down to the place where she
landed, and by great exertions succeeded in hauling the chest upon the
bank. Her strength was now exhausted, and, lying down in the bottom of the
cart, she gave way to grief and despair.

Her situation may be easily imagined: alone in the forest, thirty miles
from the nearest settlement, her husband torn from her in a moment, and her
babe smiling as though he would console his mother for her terrible loss.
In her sad condition self-preservation would have been too feeble a motive
to impel her to make any further effort to save herself; but maternal
love--the strongest instinct in a woman's heart--buoyed her up and
stimulated her to unwonted exertions.

The spot where she found herself was a dense forest, stretching back to a
rocky ledge on the east, and terminated on the north by an alluvial meadow
nearly bare of trees. Along the banks of the river was a thick line of high
bushes and saplings, which served as a screen against the observations of
savages passing up and down the river in their canoes. The woods were just
bursting into leaf; the spring-flowers filled the air with odor, and
chequered the green foliage and grass; the whole scene was full of vernal
freshness, life, and beauty. The track which the Jamesons had followed was
about midway between the northern and southern routes generally pursued by
emigrants, and it was quite unlikely that others would cross the river at
that point. The dense jungle that skirted the river bank was an impediment
in the way of reaching the settlements lower down, and there was danger of
being lost in the woods if the unfortunate woman should start alone.

"On this spot," she said, "I must remain till some one comes to my help."

The first two years of her married life had been spent on a farm in
Westchester County, New York, where she had acquired some knowledge of
farming and woodcraft, by assisting her husband in his labors, or by
accompanying him while hunting and fishing. She was strong and healthy; and
quite, unlike her delicate sisters of modern days, her lithe frame was
hardened by exercise in the open air, and her face was tinged by the kisses
of the sun.

Slowly recovering from the terrible anguish of her loss, she cast about for
shelter and sustenance. The woods were swarming with game, both large and
small, from the deer to the rabbit, and from the wild turkey to the quail.
The brooks were alive with trout. The meadow was well suited for Indian
corn, wheat, rye, or potatoes. The forest was full of trees of every
description. To utilize all these raw materials was her study.

A rude hut, built of boughs interlaced, and covered thickly with leaves and
dry swamp grass, was her first work. This was her kitchen. The cart, which
was covered with canvas, was her sleeping-room. A shotgun, which she had
learned the use of, enabled her to keep herself supplied with game. She
examined her store of provisions, consisting of pork, flour, and Indian
meal, and made an estimate that they would last eight months, with prudent
use. The oxen she tethered at first, but afterwards tied the horns to one
of their fore feet, and let them roam. The two cows having calved soon
after, she kept them near at hand by making a pen for the calves, who by
their bleating called their mothers from the pastures on the banks of the
river. In the meadow she planted half an acre of corn and potatoes, which
soon promised an amazing crop.

Thus two months passed away. In her solitary and sad condition she was
cheered by the daily hope that white settlers would cross her track or see
her as they passed up and down the river. She often thought of trying to
reach a settlement, but dreaded the dangers and difficulties of the way.
Like the doe which hides her fawn in the secret covert, this young mother
deemed herself and her babe safer in this solitude than in trying unknown
perils, even with the chance of falling in with friends. She therefore
contented herself with her lot, and when the toils of the day were over,
she would sit on the bank and watch for voyagers on the river. Once she
heard voices in the night on the river, and going to the bank she strained
her eyes to gaze through the darkness and catch sight of the voyagers; she
dared not hail them for fear they might be Indians, and soon the voices
grew fainter in the distance, and she heard them no more. Again, while
sitting in a clump of bushes on the bank one day, she saw with horror six
canoes with Indians, apparently directing their course to the spot where
she sat. They were hideously streaked with war-paint, and came so near that
she could see the scalping knives in their girdles. Turning their course as
they approached the eastern shore they silently paddled down stream,
scanning the hanks sharply as they floated past. Fortunately they saw
nothing to attract their attention; the cart and hut being concealed by the
dense bushes, and there being no fire burning.

Fearing molestation from the Indians, she now moved her camp a hundred rods
back, near a rocky ledge, from the base of which flowed a spring of pure
water. Here, by rolling stones in a circle, she made an enclosure for her
cattle at night, and within in it built a log cabin of rather frail
construction; another two weeks was consumed in these labors, and it was
now the middle of August.

At night she was at first much alarmed by the howling of wolves, who came
sniffing round the cart where she slept. Once a large grey wolf put its
paws upon the cart and poked its nose under the canvas covering, but a
smart blow on the snout drove it yelping away. None of the cattle were
attacked, owing to the bold front showed to these midnight intruders. The
wolf is one of the most cowardly of wild beasts, and will rarely attack a
human being, or even an ox, unless pressed by hunger, and in the winter.
Often she caught glimpses of huge black bears in the swamps, while she was
in pursuit of wild turkeys or other game; but these creatures never
attacked her, and she gave them a wide berth.

One hot day in August she was gathering berries on the rocky ledge beside
which her house was situated, when seeing a clump of bushes heavily loaded
with the finest blackberries, she laid her babe upon the ground, and
climbing up, soon filled her basket with the luscious fruit. As she
descended she saw her babe sitting upright and gazing with fixed eyeballs
at some object near by; though what it was she could not clearly make out,
on account of an intervening shrub. Hastening down, a sight met her eyes
that froze her blood. An enormous rattlesnake was coiled within three feet
of her child, and with its head erect and its forked tongue vibrating, its
burning eyes were fixed upon those of the child, which sat motionless as a
statue, apparently fascinated by the deadly gaze of the serpent.

Seizing a stick of dry wood she dealt the reptile a blow, but the stick
being decayed and brittle, inflicted little injury on the serpent, and only
caused it to turn itself towards Mrs. Jameson, and fix its keen and
beautiful, but malignant eyes, steadily upon her. The witchery of the
serpent's eyes so irresistibly rooted her to the ground, that for a moment
she did not wish to remove from her formidable opponent.

The huge reptile gradually and slowly uncoiled its body; all the while
steadily keeping its eye fixed on its intended victim. Mrs. Jameson could
only cry, being unable to move, "Oh God! preserve me! save me, heavenly
Father!" The child, after the snake's charm was broken, crept to her mother
and buried its little head in her lap.

We continue the story in Mrs. Jameson's own words:--

"The snake now began to writhe its body down a fissure in the rock, keeping
its head elevated more than a foot from the ground. Its rattle made very
little noise. It every moment darted out its forked tongue, its eyes became
reddish and inflamed, and it moved rather quicker than at first. It was now
within two yards of me. By some means I had dissipated the charm, and,
roused by a sense of my awful danger, determined to stand on the defensive.
To run away from it, I knew would be impracticable, as the snake would
instantly dart its whole body after me. I therefore resolutely stood up,
and put a strong glove on my right hand, which I happened to have with me.
I stretched out my arm; the snake approached slowly and cautiously towards
me, darting out its tongue still more frequently. I could now only
recommend myself fervently to the protection of Heaven. The snake, when
about a yard distant, made a violent spring. I quickly caught it in my
right hand, directly under its head; it lashed its body on the ground, at
the same time rattling loudly. I watched an opportunity, and suddenly
holding the animal's head, while for a moment it drew in its forked tongue,
with my left hand I, by a violent contraction of all the muscles in my
hand, contrived to close up effectually its jaws!

"Much was now done, but much more was to be done. I had avoided much
danger, but I was still in very perilous circumstances. If I moved my right
hand from its neck for a moment, the snake, by avoiding suffocation, could
easily muster sufficient power to force its head out of my hand; and if I
withdrew my hand from its jaws, I should be fatally in the power of its
most dreaded fangs. I retained, therefore, my hold with both my hands; I
drew its body between my feet, in order to aid the compression and hasten
suffocation. Suddenly, the snake, which had remained quiescent for a few
moments, brought up its tail, hit me violently on the head, and then darted
its body several times very tightly around my waist. Now was the very acme
of my danger. Thinking, therefore, that I had sufficient power over its
body, I removed my right hand from its neck, and in an instant drew my
hunting-knife. The snake, writhing furiously again, darted at me; but,
striking its body with the edge of the knife, I made a deep cut, and before
it could recover its coil, I caught it again by the neck; bending its head
on my knee, and again recommending myself fervently to Heaven, I cut its
head from its body, throwing the head to a great distance. The blood
spouted violently in my face; the snake compressed its body still tighter,
and I thought I should be suffocated on the spot, and laid myself down. The
snake again rattled its tail and lashed my feet with it. Gradually,
however, the creature relaxed its hold, its coils fell slack around me, and
untwisting it and throwing it from me as far as I was able, I sank down and
swooned upon the bank.

"When consciousness returned, the scene appeared like a terrible dream,
till I saw the dead body of my reptile foe and my babe crying violently and
nestling in my bosom. The ledge near which my cabin was built was infested
with rattlesnakes, and the one I had slain seemed to be the patriarch of a
numerous family. From that day I vowed vengeance against the whole tribe of
reptiles. These creatures were in the habit of coming down to the spring to
drink, and I sometimes killed four or five in a day. Before the summer was
over I made an end of the whole family."

In September, two households of emigrants floating down the river on a
flatboat, caught sight of Mrs. Jameson as she made a signal to them from
the bank, and coming to land were pleased with the country, and were
persuaded to settle there. The little community was now swelled to fifteen,
including four women and six children. The colony throve, received
accessions from the East, and, surviving all casualties, grew at last into
a populous town. Mrs. Jameson was married again to a stalwart backwoodsman
and became the mother of a large family. She was always known as the
"Mother of the Alleghany Settlement."

Not a few of the pioneer women penetrated the West by means of boats. The
Lakes and the River Ohio were the water-courses by which the advance guard
of the army of emigrants was enabled to reach the fertile regions adjacent
thereto. This mode of travel, while free from many of the hindrances and
hardships of the land routes, was subject to other casualties and dangers.
Storms on the lakes, and snags and shoals on the rivers, often made the
pioneers regret that they had left the forests for the waters. The banks of
the rivers were infested with savages, who slaughtered and scalped the men
and carried the women and children into a captivity which was worse than
death. The early annals of the West are full of the sad stories of such
captivities, and of the women who took part in these terrible scenes.

The following instances will be interesting to the reader:

In the latter part of April, 1784, one Mr. Rowan, with his own and five
other families, set out from Louisville, in two flat-bottomed boats, for
the Long Falls of Green River. Their intention was to descend the Ohio to
the mouth of Green River, then ascend that stream to their place of
destination. At that time there were no settlements in Kentucky within one
hundred miles of Long Falls, afterwards called Vienna.

Having driven their cattle upon one of the boats they loaded the other with
their household goods, farming implements, and stores. The latter was
provided with covers under which the six families could sleep, with the
exception of three of the men who took charge of the cattle boat.

The first three days of their journey were passed in ease and gaiety.
Floating with the current and using the broad oars only to steer with, they
kept their course in the main channel where there was little danger of
shoals and snags. The weather was fine and the scenery along the banks of
the majestic river had that placid beauty that distinguishes the country
through which the lower Ohio rolls its mighty mass of waters on their way
to the Mississippi. These halcyon days of the voyage were destined,
however, to be soon abruptly terminated. They had descended the river about
one hundred miles, gliding along in peace and fancied security; the women
and children had retired to their bunks, and all of the men except those
who were steering the boat were composing themselves to sleep, when
suddenly the placid stillness of the night was broken by a fearful sound
which came from the river far below them. The steersmen at first supposed
it was the howling of wolves. But as they neared the spot from which the
sound proceeded, on rounding a bend in the river, they saw the glare of
fires in the darkness; the sounds at the same time redoubled in shrillness
and volume, and they knew then that a large body of Indians were below them
and would almost inevitably discover their boats. The numerous fires on the
Illinois shore and the peculiar yells of the savages led them to believe
that a flat-boat which preceded them had been captured and that the Indians
were engaged in their cruel orgies of torture and massacre. The two boats
were immediately lashed together, and the best practical arrangements were
made for defending them. The men were distributed by Mr. Rowan to the best
advantage in case of an attack; they were seven in number. The boats were
neared to the Kentucky shore, keeping off from the bank lest there might be
Indians on that shore also. When they glided by the uppermost fire they
entertained a faint hope that they might escape unperceived. But they were
discovered when they had passed about half of the fires and commanded to
halt. They however remained silent, for Mr. Rowan had given strict orders
that no one should utter any sound but that of the rifle; and not that
until the Indians should come within reach. The savages united in a most
terrific yell, rushed to their canoes and pursued them. They floated on in
silence--not an oar was pulled. The enemy approached the boats within a
hundred yards, with a seeming determination to board them.

Just at this moment Mrs. Rowan rose from her seat, collected the axes and
placed one by the side of each man, where he stood with his gun, touching
him on the knee with the handle of the axe as she leaned it up beside him
against the edge of the boat, to let him know it was there. She then
retired to her seat, retaining a hatchet for herself.

None but those who have had a practical acquaintance with Indian warfare,
can form a just idea of the terror which their hideous yelling is
calculated to inspire. When heard that night in the mighty solitude through
which those boats were passing, we are told that most of the voyagers were
panic-stricken and almost nerveless until Mrs. Rowan's calm resolution and
intrepidity inspired them with a portion of her own undaunted spirit. The
Indians continued hovering on their rear and yelling, for nearly three
miles, when awed by the inference which they drew from the silence of the
party in the boat, they relinquished farther pursuit.

Woman's companionship and influence are nowhere more necessary than on the
long and tedious journey of the pioneer to the West. Man is a born rover.
He sails over perilous seas and beneath unfamiliar constellations. He
penetrates the trackless forest and scales the mountains for gain or glory
or out of mere love of motion and adventure. A life away from the fetters
and conventionalities of civilized society also has its charms to the manly
heart. The free air of the boundless wilderness acts on many natures as a
stimulus to effort; but it seems also to breed a spirit of unrest. "I will
not stay here! whither shall I go?" Thus the spirit whispers to itself.
Motion, only motion! Onward! ever onward! The restless foot of the pioneer
has reached and climbed the mountains. He pauses but a moment to gaze at
the valley and presses forward. The valley reached and he must cross the
river, and now the unbounded expanse of the plain spreads before him.
Traversing this after many weary days he stands beneath a mightier
mountain-range towering above him. Up! up! Struggling upward but ever
onward he has reached the snowy summit and gazes upon wider valleys lit by
a kinglier sun and spanned by kindlier skies; and far off he sees sparkling
in the evening light another and grander ocean on whose shores he must
pause. Thus by various motives and impulses the line which bounds the area
of civilized society is constantly being extended.

But all through this tumult of the mind and heart, through this rush of
motion and life there is heard another voice. Soft and penetrating it
sounds in the hour of calm and stillness and tells of happiness and repose.
As in the beautiful song one word is its burden, Home! Home! Sweet Home!
where the lonely heart and toil-worn feet may find rest. That voice must
have its answer, that aspiration must be reached by the aid of woman. It is
she, and only she that makes the home. Around her as a beaming nucleus are
attracted and gather the thousand lesser lights of the fireside. She is the
central figure of the domestic group, and where she is not, there is no
home. Man may explore a continent, subjugate nature and conquer savage
races, but no permanent settlement can be made nor any new empire formed
without the alliance of woman.

She must therefore be the companion of the restless rover on his westward
march, in order that the secret cravings of his soul may be at last
satisfied in that home of happiness and rest, which woman alone can form.

Nothing will better illustrate the restless and indomitable spirit that
inspires the western pioneer, and at the same time display the constant
companionship and tireless energy of woman, than the singular history of a
family named Moody. The emigrant ancestors of this family lived and died in
eastern Massachusetts, where after arriving from England, in 1634, they
first settled. In 1675, two of the daughters were living west of the
Connecticut river. A grand-daughter of the emigrant was settled near the
New York boundary line in 1720. _Her_ daughter marrying a Dutch farmer
of Schoharie made her home in the valley of the Mohawk during the French
and Indian wars and the Revolution. In 1783, although an aged woman, she
moved with her husband and family to Ohio, where she soon after died,
leaving a daughter who married a Moody, a far away cousin, and moved first
into Indiana and finally into Illinois, where she and her husband died
leaving a son, J. G. Moody, who inherited the enterprising spirit of his
predecessors, and, marrying a female relative who inherited the family name
and spirit, before he was of age resumed the family march towards the
Pacific.

The first place where the family _halted_ was in the territory of
Iowa. Here they lived for ten years tilling a noble farm on the Des Moines
river. Then they sold their house and land, and pushed one hundred miles
further westward. Here again new toils and triumphs awaited them. With the
handsome sum derived from the sale of their farm on the Des Moines, they
were enabled to purchase an extensive domain of both prairie and woodland.
In ten years they had a model farm, and the story of their successful
labors attracted other settlers to their neighborhood. A large price
tempted them and again they disposed of their farm.

We have traced genealogically the successive stages in the history of this
pioneer family for the purpose of noting, not merely the cheerfulness with
which so many generations of daughters accompanied their husbands on their
westward march, but the energy which they displayed in making so many homes
in the waste places, and preparing the way for the less bold and
adventurous class of settlers who follow where the pioneer leads.

The family, after disposing of their second Iowa farm, immediately took up
their line of march for Nebraska, where they bought and cultivated a large
tract of land on one of the tributaries of the Platte. In due time the
current of emigration struck them. A favorable offer for their house and
cattle ranche was speedily embraced, and again they took up their line of
march which extended this time into the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in
Colorado, of which State they were among the earliest settlers.

Here Mr. Moody died; but his widow with her large family successfully
maintained her cattle and sheep ranche till a rich gold mine was discovered
upon her land. A sale was soon effected of both the mine and the ranche. In
two weeks after the whole family, mother, sons, and daughters were _en
route_ to California, where their long wanderings terminated. There they
are now living and enjoying the rich fruits of their energy and enterprise,
proving for once the falsity of the proverb that "a rolling stone gathers
no moss."

[Illustration: WAGON TRAIN ON THE PRAIRIE]

The women of this family are types of a class--soldiers, scouts, laborers,
nurses in the "Grand Army," whose mission it is to reclaim the waste places
and conquer uncivilized man.

If they fight, it is only for peace and safety. If they destroy, it is only
to rebuild nobler structures in the interest of civilization. If they toil
and bleed and suffer, it is only that they may rest on their arms, at last,
surrounded by honorable and useful trophies, and look forward to ages of
home-calm which have been secured for their posterity.




CHAPTER VIII.

HOMESTEAD-LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS AND ON THE PRAIRIE


The first stage in pioneer-life is nomadic: a half-score of men, women, and
children faring on day after day, living in the open air, encamping at
night beside a spring or brook, under the canopy of the forest, it is only
when they reach their place of destination, that the germ of a community
fixes itself to the soil, and rises obedient to those laws of social and
civil order which distinguish the European colonist from the Asiatic nomad.

The experiences of camp life form the initial steps to the thorough
backwoods education which a woman must at length acquire, to fit her for
the duties and trials incident to all remote settlements. Riding, driving,
or tramping on, now through stately groves, now over prairies which lose
themselves in the horizon, now fording shallow streams, or poling
themselves on rafts across rivers, skirting morasses or wallowing through
them, and climbing mountains, as they breathe the fresh woodland air and
catch glimpses of a thousand novel scenes and encounter the dangers or
endure the hardships of this first stage in their pilgrimage, they learn
those first hard lessons which stand them in such good stead when they have
settled in their permanent abodes in the heart of the wilderness which it
is the work of the pioneer to subdue.

To the casual observer there is an air of romance and wild enjoyment in
this journey through that magnificent land. Many things there doubtless are
to give zest and enjoyment to the long march of the pioneer and his family.
The country through which they pass deserves the title of "the garden of
God." The trees of the forest are like stately columns in some verdurous
temple; the sun shines down from an Italian sky upon lakes set like jewels
flashing in the beams of light, the sward is filled with exaggerated
velvet, through whose green the purple and scarlet gleams of fruit and
flowers appear, and everything speaks to the eye of the splendor, richness,
and joy of wild nature. Traits of man in this scene are favorite themes for
the painter's art. The fire burning under the spreading oak or chestnut,
the horses, or oxen, or mules picketed in the vistas, Indian wigwams and
squaws with children watching curiously the pioneer household sitting by
their fire and eating their evening meal; this is the picture framed by the
imagination of a poet or artist, but this is but a superficial sketch,--a
mere glimpse of one of the many thousand phases of the long and weary
journey. The reality is quite another thing.

The arrival of the household at their chosen seat marks the second stage in
backwoods-life, a stage which calls for all the powers of mind and body,
tasks the hands, exercises the ingenuity, summons vigilance, and awakens
every latent energy. Woman steps at once into a new sphere of action, and
hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, with her stronger but not more resolute
companion, enters on that career which looks to the formation of
communities and states. It is the household which constitutes the primal
atom, the aggregation whereof makes the village, town, or city; the state
itself rests upon the household finally, and the household is what the
faithful mother makes it.

The toilsome march at length ended, we see the great wagon, with its load
of household utensils and farming implements, bedsteads walling up the
sides, a wash-tub turned up to serve as a seat for the driver, a broom and
hoe-handle sticking out behind with the handles of a plough, pots and
kettles dangling below, bundles of beds and bedding enthroning children of
all the smaller sizes, stopping at last "for good," and the whole cortege
of men, women, and boys, cattle, horses, and hogs, resting after their
mighty tramp.

Shelter and food are the first wants of the settler; the log-cabin rises to
supply the one; the axe, the plough, the spade, the hoe, prepare the other.

The women not seldom joined in the work of felling trees and trimming logs
to be used in erecting the cabins.

Those who have never witnessed the erection of log-cabins, would be
surprised to behold the simplicity of their mechanism, and the rapidity
with which they are put together. The axe and the auger are often the only
tools used in their construction, but usually the drawing-knife, the
broad-axe, and the crosscut-saw are added.

The architecture of the body of the house is sufficiently obvious, but it
is curious to notice the ingenuity with which the wooden fireplace and
chimney are protected from the action of the fire by a lining of clay, to
see a smooth floor formed from the plain surface of hewed logs, and a door
made of boards split from the log, hastily smoothed with the drawing-knife,
united firmly together with wooden pins, hung upon wooden hinges, and
fastened with a wooden latch. Not a nail nor any particle of metal enters
into the composition of the building--all is wood from top to bottom, all
is done by the woodsman without the aid of any mechanic. These primitive
dwellings are by no means so wretched as their name and rude workmanship
would seem to imply. They still frequently constitute the dwelling of the
farmers in new settlements; they are often roomy, tight, and comfortable.
If one cabin is not sufficient, another and another is added, until the
whole family is accommodated, and thus the homestead of a respectable
farmer often resembles a little village. The dexterity of the backwoodsman
in the use of the axe is also remarkable, yet it ceases to be so regarded
when we reflect on the variety of uses to which this implement is applied,
and that in fact it enters into almost all the occupations of the pioneer,
in clearing land, building houses, making fences, providing fuel; the axe
is used in tilling his fields; the farmer is continually obliged to cut
away the trees that have fallen in his enclosure, and the roots that impede
his plough; the path of the surveyor is cleared by the axe, and his lines
and corners marked by this instrument; roads are opened and bridges made by
the axe, the first court houses and jails are fashioned of logs with the
same tool. In labor or hunting, in traveling by land or water, the axe is
ever the companion of the backwoodsman.

Most of these cabins were fortresses in themselves, and were capable of
being defended by a family for several days. The thickness of the walls and
numerous loop-poles were sometimes supplemented by a clay covering upon the
roof, so as to resist the fiery arrows of the savages. Sometimes places of
concealment were provided for the women and children beneath the floor,
with a closely fitting trap door leading to it. Such a place of refuge was
provided by Mrs. Graves, a widow who lost her husband in Braddock's
retreat. In a large pit beneath the floor of the cabin every night she laid
her children to sleep upon a bed of straw, and there, replacing one of the
floor logs, she passed the weary hours in darkness, seated by the window
which commanded a view of the clearing through which the Indians would have
to approach. When her youngest child required nursing she would lift the
floor-log and sit on the edge of the opening until it was lulled to sleep,
and then deposit the nursling once more in its secret bed.

Once, while sitting without a light, knitting, before the window, she saw
three Indians approaching stealthily. Retreating to the hiding place
beneath the floor, she heard them enter the cabin, and, having struck a
light, proceed to help themselves to such eatables as they found in the
pantry. After remaining for an hour in the house, and appropriating such
articles as Indians most value, viz., knives, axes, etc., they took their
departure.

More elaborate fortresses were often necessary, and, for purposes of mutual
defence in a country which swarmed with Indians, the settlers banded
together and erected stations, forts, and block-houses.

[Footnote: DeHass.] A _station_ may be described as a series of cabins
built on the sides of a parallelogram and united with palisades, so as to
present on the outside a continuous wall with only one or two doors, the
cabin doors opening on the inside into a common square.

A fort was a stockade enclosure embracing cabins, etc., for the
accommodation of several families. One side was formed by a range of cabins
separated by divisions, or partitions of logs; the walls on the outside
were ten or twelve feet high, with roofs sloping inward. Some of these
cabins were provided with puncheon-floors, i.e., floors made of logs split
in half and smoothed, but most of the floors were earthen. At the angles of
these forts were built the block-houses, which projected about two feet
beyond the outer walls of the cabins and stockade; these upper stories were
about eighteen feet, or two inches every way larger than the under one,
leaving an opening at the commencement of the second story, to prevent the
enemy from making a lodgment under the walls.

These block-houses were devised in the early days of the first settlements
made in our country, and furnished rallying points for the settlers when
attacked by the Indians. On the Western frontier they were enlarged and
improved to meet the military exigencies arising in a country which swarmed
with savages.

[Footnote: Doddridge's Notes.] In some forts, instead of block-houses, the
angles were furnished with bastions; a large folding gate, made of thick
slabs nearest the spring, closed the forts; the stockade, bastion, cabin,
and block-house walls were furnished with port-holes at proper heights and
distances. The whole of the outside was made completely bullet-proof; the
families belonging to these forts were so attached to their own cabins on
their farms that they seldom moved into the forts in the spring until
compelled by some alarm, i.e., when it was announced by some murder that
Indians were in the settlement.

We have described thus in detail the fortified posts established along the
frontier for the purpose of showing that the life of the pioneer woman,
from the earliest times, was, and now is, to a large extent, a military
one. She was forced to learn a soldier's habits and a soldier's virtues.
Eternal vigilance was the price of safety, and during the absence of the
male members of the household, which were frequent and sometimes
protracted, the women were on guard-duty, and acted as the sentinels of
their home fortresses. Watchful against stratagem as against violent
attack, they passed many a night all alone in their isolated cabins,
averting danger with all a woman's fertility of resource, and meeting it
with all the courage of a man.

On one occasion a party of Indians approached a solitary log-house with the
intention of murdering the inmates. With their usual caution, one of their
number was sent forward to reconnoiter, who, discovering the only persons
within to be a woman, two or three children, and a negro man, rushed in by
himself and seized the negro. The woman caught up the axe and with a single
blow laid the savage warrior dead at her feet, while the children closed
the door, and, with ready sagacity, employed themselves fastening it. The
rest of the Indians came up and attempted to force an entrance, but the
negro and the children kept the door closed, and the intrepid mother,
having no effective weapon, picked up a gun-barrel which had neither stock
nor lock and pointed it at the savages through the apertures between the
logs. The Indians, deceived by the appearance of a gun, and daunted by the
death of their companion, retired.

The station, the fort, and the block-house were the only refuge of the
isolated settlers when the Indians became bolder in their attacks.

When the report of the four-pounder, or the ringing of the fort bell, or a
volley of musketry sounded the alarm, the women and children hurried to the
fortification. Sometimes, while threading the mazes of the forest, the
hapless mother and her children would fall into an ambush. Springing from
their cover, the prowling savages would ply their tomahawks and scalping
knives amid the shrieks of their helpless victims, or bear them away into a
captivity more cruel than death.

One summer's afternoon, while Mrs. Folsom, with her babe in her arms, was
hasting to Fort Stanwig in the Black River Country, New York, after hearing
the alarm, she caught sight of a huge Indian lying behind a log, with his
rifle leveled apparently directly at her. She quickly sprang to one side
and ran through the woods in a course at right angles with the point of
danger, expecting every moment to be pierced with a rifle ball. Casting a
horror-stricken glance over her shoulder as she ran, she saw her husband
hastening on after her, but directly under the Indian's rifle. Shrieking
loudly, she pointed to the savage just in time to warn her husband, who
stepped behind a tree as the report of the rifle rang through the forest.
In an instant he drew a bead upon the lurking foe, who fell with a bullet
through his brain.

Before the family could reach the fort a legion of savages, roused by the
report of the rifles, were on their trail. The mother and child fled
swiftly towards their place of refuge, which they succeeded in reaching
without harm; but the brave father, while trying to keep the savages at
bay, was shot and scalped almost under the walls of the fort.

Ann Bush, another of these border heroines, was still more unfortunate than
Mrs. Folsom. While she and her husband were fleeing for safety to one of
the stations on the Virginia borders, they were overtaken and captured by
the Indians, who shot and scalped her husband; and although she soon
escaped from captivity, yet in less than twelve months after, while again
attempting to find refuge in the same station, she was captured a second
time, with an infant in her arms. After traveling a few hours the savages
bent down a young hickory, sharpened it, seized the child, scalped it and
spitted it upon the tree; they then scalped and tomahawked the mother and
left her for dead. She lay insensible for many hours; but it was the will
of Providence that she should survive the shock. When she recovered her
senses she bandaged her head with her apron, and wonderful to tell, in two
days staggered back to the settlement with the dead body of her infant.

The transitions of frontier life were often startling and sad. From a
wedding to a funeral, from a merrymaking to a massacre, were frequent
vicissitudes. One of these shiftings of the scene is described by an actor
and eye-witness as follows:

"Father had gone away the day before and mother and the children were
alone. About nine o'clock at night we saw two Indians approaching. Mother
immediately threw a bucket of water on the fire to prevent them from seeing
us, made us lie on the floor, bolted and barred the door, and posted
herself there with an axe and rifle: We never knew why they desisted from
an attack or how father escaped. In two or three days all of us set out for
Clinch Mountain to the wedding of Happy Kincaid, a clever young fellow from
Holston, and Sally McClure, a fine girl of seventeen, modest and pretty,
yet fearless. We knew the Shawnees were about; that our fort and household
effects must be left unguarded and might be destroyed; that we incurred the
risk of a fight or an ambuscade, a capture, and even death, on the route;
but in those days, and in that wild country, folks did not calculate
consequences closely, and the temptation to a frolic, a wedding, a feast,
and a dance till daylight and often for several days together, was not to
be resisted. Off we went. Instead of the bridal party, the well spread
table, the ringing laughter, and the sounding feet of buxom dancers, we
found a pile of ashes and six or seven ghastly corpses tomahawked and
scalped." Mrs. McClure, her infant, and three other children, including
Sally, the intended bride, had been carried off by the savages. They soon
tore the poor infant from the mother's arms and killed and scalped it, that
she might travel faster. While they were scalping this child, Peggy
McClure, a girl twelve years old, perceived a sink-hole immediately at her
feet and dropped silently into it. It communicated with a ravine, down
which she ran and brought the news to the settlement. The same night Sally,
who had been tied and forced to lie down between two warriors, contrived to
loosen her thongs and make her escape. She struck for the canebrake, then
for the river, and to conceal her trail resolved to descend it. It was deep
wading, and the current was so rapid she had to fill her petticoat with
gravel to steady herself. She soon, however, recovered confidence, returned
to shore, and finally reached the still smoking homestead about dark next
evening. A few neighbors well armed had just buried the dead; the last
prayer had been said, when the orphan girl stood before them.

Yielding to the entreaties of her lover, who was present, and to the advice
and persuasion of her friends, the weeping girl gave her consent to an
immediate marriage; and beside the grave of the household and near the
ruins of the cabin they were accordingly made one.

These perilous adventures were episodes, we should remember, in a life of
extraordinary labor and hardship. The luxuries and comforts of older
communities were unknown to the settlers on the border-line, either in New
England two centuries ago or in the West within the present generation.
Plain in every way was the life of the borderer--plain in dress, in
manners, in equipage, in houses. The cabins were furnished in the most
primitive style. Blocks or stumps of trees served for chairs and tables.
Bedsteads were made by laying rows of saplings across two logs, forming a
spring bed for the women and children, while the men lay on the floor with
their feet to the fire and a log under their heads for a pillow.

The furniture of the cabin in the West, for several years after the
settlement of the country, consisted of a few pewter dishes, plates, and
spoons, but mostly of wooden bowls, trenchers, and noggins; if these last
were scarce, gourds and hard-shell squashes made up the deficiency; the
iron pots, knives, and forks were brought from the East, with the salt and
iron on pack-horses. The articles of furniture corresponded very well with
the articles of diet. "Hog and hominy" was a dish of proverbial celebrity;
Johnny cake or pone was at the outset of the settlement the only form of
bread in use for breakfast or dinner; at supper, milk and mush was the
standard dish; when milk was scarce the hominy supplied its place, and mush
was frequently eaten with sweetened water, molasses, bear's oil, or the
gravy of fried meat.

In the display of furniture, delft, china, or silver were unknown; the
introduction of delft-ware was considered by many of the backwoods people
as a wasteful innovation; it was too easily broken, and the plates dulled
their scalping and clasp knives.

The costume of the women of the frontier was suited to the plainness of the
habitations where they lived and the furniture they used. Homespun,
linsey-woolsey and buckskin were the primitive materials out of which their
everyday dresses were made, and only on occasions of social festivity were
they seen in braver robes. Rings, broaches, buckles, and ruffles were
heir-looms from parents or grand-parents.

But this plainness of living and attire was a preparation for, and almost
necessary antecedent of hardihood, endurance, courage, patience, qualities
which made themselves manifest in the heroic acting of these women of the
border. With such a state of society we can readily associate assiduous
labor, a battling with danger in its myriad shapes, a subjugation of the
hostile forces of nature, and a developing of a strange and peculiar
civilization.

Here we see woman in her true glory, not a doll to carry silks and jewels,
not a puppet to be dandled by fops, an idol of profane adoration reverenced
to-day, discarded to-morrow, admired but not respected, desired but not
esteemed, ruling by passion not affection, imparting her weakness not her
constancy, to the sex she should exalt--the source and marrow of vanity. We
see her as a wife partaking of the cares and guiding the labors of her
husband and by domestic diligence spreading cheerfulness all around for his
sake; sharing the decent refinements of civilization without being injured
by them; placing all her joy, all her happiness in the merited approbation
of the man she loves; as a mother, we find her affectionate, the ardent
instructress of the children she has reared from infancy and trained up to
thought and to the practice of virtue, to meditation and benevolence and to
become strong and useful men and women.

"Could there be happiness or comfort in such dwellings and such a state of
society. To those who are accustomed to modern refinement the truth appears
like fable. The lowly occupants of log cabins were often among the most
happy of mankind. Exercise and excitement gave them health, they were
practically equal; common danger made them mutually dependent; brilliant
hopes of future wealth and distinction led them on, and as there was ample
room for all, and as each new comer increased individual and general
security, there was little room for that envy, jealousy, and hatred which
constitutes a large portion of human misery in older societies. Never were
the story, the joke, the song, and the laugh better enjoyed than upon the
hewed blocks or puncheon-stools around the roaring log-fire of the early
western settler. The lyre of Apollo was not hailed with more delight in
primitive Greece than the advent of the first fiddler among the dwellers of
the wilderness, and the polished daughters of the East never enjoyed
themselves half so well moving to the music of a full band upon the elastic
floor of their ornamented ball-room, as did the daughters of the western
emigrants keeping time to the self-taught fiddler on the bare earth or
puncheon floor of the primitive log cabin--the smile of the polished beauty
is the wave of the lake where the breeze plays gently over it, and her
movement the gentle stream which drains it; but the laugh of the log cabin
is the gush of nature's fountain and its movement the leaping water."

Amid the multifarious toils of pioneer-life, woman has often proved that
she is the last to forget the stranger that is within the gates. She
welcomes the coming as she speeds the parting guest.

Let us suppose travelers caught in a rain storm, who reach at last one of
these western homes. There is a roof, a stick chimney, drenched cattle
crowding in beneath a strawy barrack, and some forlorn fowls huddling under
a cart. The log-house is a small one, though its neat corn-crib and
chicken-coop of slender poles bespeaks a careful farmer. No gate is seen,
but great bars which are let down or climbed over, and the cabin has only
a back door.

Within, everything ministers to the useful; nothing to the beautiful.
Flitches of bacon, dried beef, and ham depend from the ceiling; pots and
kettles are ranged in a row in the recess on one side the fireplace; and
above these necessary utensils are plates and heavy earthen nappies. The
axe and gun stand together in one corner.

The good woman of the house is thin as a shadow, and pinched and wrinkled
with hard labor. Little boys and girls are playing on the floor like
kittens.

A free and hospitable welcome is given to the travelers, their wet garments
are ranged for drying on those slender poles usually seen above the ample
fireplace of a log-cabin in the West, placed there for the purpose of
drying sometimes the week's wash when the weather is rainy, sometimes whole
rows of slender circlets of pumpkins for next spring's pies, or festoons of
sliced apples.

The good woman, after busying herself in those little offices which evince
a desire to make guests welcome, puts an old cloak on her head and flies
out to place tubs, pails, pans, and jars under the pouring eaves,
intimating that as soap was scarce, she "must try and catch rain water
anyhow."

The "old man" has the shakes, so the woman has all to do; throws more wood
on the fire and fans it with her apron; cuts rashers of bacon, runs out to
the hen-coop and brings in new-laid eggs; mixes a johnny-cake and sets it
in a pan upon the embers.

While the supper is cooking the rain subsides to a sprinkle, and the
travelers look at the surroundings of this pioneer household.

The cabin stands in a prairie, skirted by a forest. A stream gurgles by.
The prairie is broken with patches of corn and potatoes, which are just
emerging from the rich black mould. Pig-pens, a barn, and corn-houses, a
half-dozen sheep in an enclosure, cows and calves and oxen in a barn-yard,
a garden patch, and hen-coops, and stumps of what were once mighty trees,
tell the story of the farmer's labors; and the cabin, with all its
appurtenances and surroundings, show how much the good woman has
contributed to make it the abode of rustic plenty, all provided by the
unaided toil of this pioneer couple.

They had come from the East ten years before, and their cabin was the
initial point from which grew up a numerous settlement. Other cabins sent
up their smoke in the prairie around them. A school-house and church had
been built, and a saw-mill was at work on the stream near by, and surveyors
for a railroad had just laid out a route for the iron horse.

Two little boys come in now, skipping from school, and at the same time the
good woman, who is all patience and civility, announces supper. Sage-tea,
johnny-cake, fried eggs, and bacon, seasoned with sundry invitations of the
hostess to partake freely, and then the travelers are in a mood for rest.

The sleeping arrangements are of a somewhat perplexing character. These are
one large bed and a trundle bed, the former is given up to the travelers,
the trundle bed suffices for the little ones; the hostess prepares a cotton
sheet partition for the benefit of those who choose to undress, and then
begins to prepare herself for the rest which she stands sorely in need of.
She and her good man repose upon the floor, with buffalo robes for pillows,
and with their feet to the fire.

The hospitality of the frontier woman is bounded only by their means of
affording it. Come when you may, they welcome you; give you of their best
while you remain, and regret your departure with simple and unfeigned
sincerity. If you are sick, all that sympathy and care can devise is done
for you, and all this is from the heart.

Homestead-life, and woman's influence therein, is modified to some extent
by the different races that contributed their quotas to the pioneer army.
The early French settlements in our western States furnish a picture
somewhat different from those of the emigrants of English blood: a
patriarchal state of society, self-satisfied and kindly, with bright
superficial features, but lacking the earnest purpose and restless
aggressive energy of the Anglo-American, whose very amusements and
festivals partook of a useful character.

Those French pioneer-women made thrifty and industrious housewives, and
entered, with all the gaiety and enthusiasm of their race, into all the
merry-makings and social enjoyments peculiar to those neighborhoods. On
festive occasions, the blooming damsels wound round their foreheads
fancy-colored handkerchiefs, streaming with gay ribbons, or plumed with
flowers. The matrons wore the short jacket or petticoat. The foot was left
uncovered and free, but on holidays it was adorned with the light moccasin,
brilliant with porcupine quills, shells, beads, and lace.

A faithful picture of life in these French settlements possesses an
indescribable charm, such as that conveyed by the perusal of Longfellow's
Acadian Romance of "Evangeline," when we see in a border settlement the
French maiden, wife, and widow.

Different types, too, of homestead-life are of course to be looked for in
different sections. On the ocean's beach, on the shores of the inland seas,
on the banks of great rivers, in the heart of the forest, on the rugged
hills of New England, on southern Savannas, on western prairies, or among
the mountains beyond, the region, the scenery, the climate, the social laws
may be diverse, yet homestead-life on the frontier, widely varying as it
does in its form and outward surroundings, is in its spirit everywhere
essentially the same. The sky that bends over all, and the sun that sheds
its light for all, are symbols of the oneness of the animating principle in
the home where woman is the bright and potent genius.

We have spoken of the western form of homestead-life because the
frontier-line of to-day lies in the occident. But in each stage of the
movement that carried our people onward in their destined course from ocean
to ocean, the wife and the mother were centers from which emanated a force
to impel forward, and to fix firmly in the chosen abode those organisms of
society which forms the molecular atoms out of which, by the laws of our
being, is built the compact structure of civilization.

In approximating towards some estimate of woman's peculiar influence in
those lonely and far-off western homes, we must not fail to take into
account the humanizing and refining power which she exerts to soften the
rugged features of frontier-life. Different classes of women all worked in
their way towards this end.

"The young married people, who form a considerable part of the pioneer
element in our country, are simple in their habits, moderate in their
aspirations, and hoard a little old-fashioned romance--unconsciously
enough--in the secret nooks of their rustic hearts. They find no fault with
their bare loggeries, with a shelter and a handful of furniture, they have
enough." If there is the wherewithal to spread a warm supper for the "old
man" when he comes in from work, the young wife forgets the long, solitary,
wordless day and asks no greater happiness than preparing it by the help of
such materials and utensils as would be looked at with utter contempt in
the comfortable kitchens of the East.

They have youth, hope, health, occupation, and amusement, and when you have
added "meat, clothes, and fire," what more has England's queen?

We should, however, remember that there is another large class of women
who, for various reasons, have left comfortable homes in older communities,
and risked their happiness and all that they have in enterprises of pioneer
life in the far West. What wonder that they should sadly miss the thousand
old familiar means and appliances! Some utensil or implement necessary to
their husbandry is wanting or has been lost or broken, and cannot be
replaced. Some comfort or luxury to which she has been used from childhood
is lacking, and cannot be furnished. The multifarious materials upon which
household art can employ itself are reduced to the few absolute essentials.
These difficulties are felt more by the woman than the man. To quote the
words of a writer who was herself a pioneer housewife in the West:

"The husband goes to his work with the same axe or hoe which fitted his
hand in his old woods and fields; he tills the same soil or perhaps a far
richer and more hopeful one; he gazes on the same book of nature which he
has read from his infancy and sees only a fresher and more glowing page,
and he returns home with the sun, strong in heart and full of
self-congratulation on the favorable change in his lot. Perhaps he finds
the home bird drooping and disconsolate. She has found a thousand
difficulties which her rougher mate can scarcely be taught to feel as
evils. She has been looking in vain for any of the cherished features of
her old fireside. What cares he if the time-honored cupboard is meagerly
represented by a few oak boards lying on pegs called shelves. His tea
equipage shines as it was wont, the biscuits can hardly stay on the
brightly glistening plates. His bread never was better baked. What does he
want with the great old-fashioned rocking chair? When he is tired he goes
to bed, for he is never tired till bed-time. The sacrifices in moving West
have been made most largely by women."

It is this very dearth of so many things that once made her life easy and
comfortable which throws her back upon her own resources. Here again is
woman's strength. Fertile in expedients, apt in device, an artisan to
construct and an artist to embellish, she proceeds to supply what is
lacking in her new home. She has a miraculous faculty for creating much out
of little, and for transforming the coarse into the beautiful. Barrels are
converted into easy chairs and wash-stands, spring beds are manufactured
with rows of slender, elastic saplings; a box covered with muslin stuffed
with hay serves for a lounge. By the aid of considerable personal exertion,
while she adds to the list of useful and necessary articles, she also
enlarges the circle of luxuries. An hour or two of extra work now and then
enables her to hoard enough to buy a new looking-glass, and to make from
time to time small additions to the showy part of the household.

After she has transformed the rude cabin into a cozy habitation, she turns
her attention to the outside surroundings. Woodbine and wild cucumber are
trailed over the doors and windows; little beds of sweet-williams and
marigolds line the path to the clearing's edge or across the prairie-sward
to the well; and an apple or pear tree is put in here and there. In all
these works, either of use or embellishment, if not done by her own hand
she is at least the moving spirit. Thus over the rugged and homely features
of her lot she throws something of the magic of that ideal of which the
poet sings:

  "Nymph of our soul and brightener of our being
  She makes the common waters musical--
  Binds the rude night-winds in a silver thrall,
  Bids Hybla's thyme and Tempe's violet dwell
  Round the green marge of her moon-haunted cell."

It is the thousand nameless household offices performed by woman that makes
the home: it is the home which moulds the character of the children and
makes the husband what he is. Who can deny the vast debt of gratitude due
from the present generation of Americans to these offices of woman in
refining and ameliorating the rude tone of frontier life? It may well be
said that the pioneer women of America have made the wilderness bud and
blossom like the rose. Under their hands even nature itself, no longer a
wild, wayward mother, turns a more benign face upon her children. A land
bright with flowers and bursting with fruitage testifies to the labors and
influence of those who embellish the homestead and make it attractive to
their husbands and children.

A traveler on the vast prairies of Kansas and Nebraska will often see
cabins remote from the great thoroughfares embowered in vines and shrubbery
and bright with beds of flowers. Entering he will discern the rugged
features of frontier life softened in a hundred ways by the hand of woman.
The steel is just as hard and more serviceable after it is polished, and
the oak-wood as strong and durable when it is trimmed and smoothed. The
children of the frontier are as hardy and as manly though the gentle voice
of woman schools their rugged ways and her kind hand leads them through the
paths of refinement and moulds them in the school of humanity.




CHAPTER IX.

SOME REMARKABLE WOMEN


Of all the tens of thousands of devoted women who have accompanied the
grand army of pioneers into the wilderness, not one but that has been
either a soldier to fight, or a laborer to toil, or a ministering angel to
soothe the pains and relieve the sore wants of her companions. Not seldom
has she acted worthily in all these several capacities, fighting, toiling,
and ministering by turns. If a diary of the events of their pioneer-lives
had been kept by each of these brave and faithful women, what a record of
toil and warfare and suffering it would present. How many different types
of female character in different spheres of action it would show--the
self-sacrificing mother, the tender and devoted wife, the benevolent
matron, the heroine who blenched not in battle! Unnumbered thousands have
passed beautiful, strenuous and brave lives far from the scenes of
civilization, and gone down to their graves leaving only local, feeble
voices, if any, to celebrate their praises and to-day we know not the place
of their sepulcher. Others have had their memories embalmed by the pens of
faithful biographers, and a few also have left diaries containing a record
of the wonderful vicissitudes of their lives.

Woman's experience of life in the wilderness is never better told than in
her own words. More impressible than man, to passing events; more
susceptible to pain and pleasure; enjoying and sorrowing more keenly than
her sterner and rougher mate, she possesses often a peculiarly graphic
power in expressing her own thoughts and feelings, and also in delineating
the scenes through which she passes.

A woman's diary of frontier-life, therefore, possesses an intrinsic value
because it is a faithful story, and at the same time one of surpassing
interest, in consequence of her personal and active participation in the
toils, sufferings, and dangers incident to such a life.

Such a diary is that of Mrs. Williamson which in the quaint style of the
olden time relates her thrilling experience in the wilds of Pennsylvania.
We see her first as an affectionate, motherless girl accompanying her
father to the frontier, assisting him to prepare a home for his old age in
the depths of the forest and enduring with cheerful resolution the manifold
hardships and trials of pioneer-life, and finally closing her aged parent's
eyes in death. Then we see her as a wife, the partner of her husband's
cares and labors, and as a mother, the faithful guardian of her sons; and
again as a widow, her husband having been torn from her arms and butchered
by a band of ruthless savages. After her sons had grown to be sturdy men
and had left her to make homes for themselves, she shows herself the strong
and self-reliant matron of fifty still keeping her outpost on the border,
and cultivating her clearing by the assistance of two negroes. At last
after a life of toil and danger she is attacked by a band of savages, and
defends her home so bravely that after making her their captive they spare
her life and in admiration of her courage adopt her into their tribe. She
dissembles her reluctance, humors her savage captors and forces herself to
accompany them on their bloody expeditions wherein she saves many lives and
mitigates the sufferings of her fellow-captives.

The narrative of her escape we give in her own quaint words.

"One night the Indians, very greatly fatigued with their day's excursion,
composed themselves to rest as usual. Observing them to be asleep, I tried
various ways to see whether it was a scheme to prove my intentions or not,
but, after making a noise, and walking about, sometimes touching them with
my feet, I found there was no fallacy. My heart then exulted with joy at
seeing a time come that I might, in all probability be delivered from my
captivity; but this joy was soon dampened by the dread of being discovered
by them, or taken by any straggling parties; to prevent which, I resolved,
if possible, to get one of their guns, and, if discovered, to die in my
defense, rather than be taken. For that purpose I made various efforts to
get one from under their heads (where they always secured them), but in
vain.

"Frustrated in this my first essay towards regaining my liberty, I dreaded
the thought of carrying my design into execution: yet, after a little
consideration, and trusting myself to the divine protection, I set forward,
naked and defenceless as I was; a rash and dangerous enterprise! Such was
my terror, however, that in going from them, I halted and paused every four
or five yards, looking fearfully toward the spot where I had left them,
lest they should awake and miss me; but when I was about two hundred yards
from them, I mended my pace, and made as much haste as I could to the foot
of the mountains; when on sudden I was struck with the greatest terror and
amaze, at hearing the wood-cry, as it is called, they make when any
accident happens them. However, fear hastened my steps, and though they
dispersed, not one happened to hit upon the track I had taken. When I had
run near five miles, I met with a hollow tree, in which I concealed myself
till the evening of the next day, when I renewed my flight, and next night
slept in a canebrake. The next morning I crossed a brook, and got more
leisurely along, returning thanks to Providence, in my heart, for my happy
escape, and praying for future protection. The third day, in the morning, I
perceived two Indians armed, at a short distance, which I verily believed
were in pursuit of me, by their alternately climbing into the highest
trees, no doubt to look over the country to discover me. This retarded my
flight for that day; but at night I resumed my travels, frightened and
trembling at every bush I passed, thinking each shrub that I touched, a
savage concealed to take me. It was moonlight nights till near morning,
which favored my escape. But how shall I describe the fear, terror and
shock that I felt on the fourth night, when, by the rustling I made among
the leaves, a party of Indians, that lay round a small fire, nearly out,
which I did not perceive, started from the ground, and seizing their arms,
ran from the fire among the woods. Whether to move forward, or to rest
where I was, I knew not, so distracted was my imagination. In this
melancholy state, revolving in my thoughts the now inevitable fate I
thought waited on me, to my great astonishment and joy, I was relieved by
a parcel of swine that made towards the place where I guessed the savages
to be; who, on seeing the hogs, conjectured that their alarm had been
occasioned by them, and directly returned to the fire, and lay down to
sleep as before. As soon as I perceived my enemies so disposed of, with
more cautious step and silent tread, I pursued my course, sweating (though
the air was very cold) with the fear I had just been relieved from.
Bruised, cut, mangled and terrified as I was, I still, through divine
assistance, was enabled to pursue my journey until break of day, when,
thinking myself far off from any of those miscreants I so much dreaded, I
lay down under a great log, and slept undisturbed until about noon, when,
getting up, I reached the summit of a great hill with some difficulty; and
looking out if I could spy any inhabitants of white people, to my
unutterable joy I saw some, which I guessed to be about ten miles distance.
This pleasure was in some measure abated, by my not being able to get among
them that night; therefore, when evening approached I again re-commended
myself to the Almighty, and composed my weary mangled limbs to rest. In the
morning I continued my journey towards the nearest cleared lands I had seen
the day before; and about four o'clock in the afternoon I arrived at the
house of John Bell."

Mrs. Daviess was another of these women who, like Mrs. Williamson, was a
born heroine, of whom there were many who acted a conspicuous part in the
territorial history of Kentucky. Large and splendidly formed, she possessed
the strength of a man with the gentle loveliness of the true woman. In the
hour of peril, and such hours were frequent with her, she was firm, cool,
and fertile of resource; her whole life, of which we give only a few
episodes, was one continuous succession of brave and noble deeds. Both she
and Mrs. Williamson appear to have been real instances of the poet's ideal:

  "A perfect woman nobly planned
  To warn, to comfort, and command."

[Footnote: Collins' Historical Sketches.] Her husband, Samuel Daviess, was
an early settler at Gilmer's Lick, in Lincoln County, Kentucky. In the
month of August, 1782, while a few rods from his house, he was attacked
early one morning by an Indian, and attempting to get within doors he found
that his house was already occupied by the other Indians. He succeeded in
making his escape to his brother's station, five miles off, and giving the
alarm was soon on his way back to his cabin in company with five stout,
well armed men.

Meanwhile, the Indians, four in number, who had entered the house while the
fifth was in pursuit of Mr. Daviess, roused Mrs. Daviess and the children
from their beds and gave them to understand that they must go with them as
prisoners. Mrs. Daviess occupied as long a time as possible in dressing,
hoping that some relief would come. She also delayed the Indians nearly two
hours by showing them one article of clothing and then another, explaining
their uses and expatiating on their value.

While this was going on the Indian who had been in pursuit of her husband
returned with his hands stained with pokeberries, waving his tomahawk with
violent gestures as if to convey the belief that he had killed Mr. Daviess.
The keen-eyed wife soon discovered the deception, and was satisfied that
her husband had escaped uninjured.

After plundering the house, the savages started to depart, taking Mrs.
Daviess and her seven children with them. As some of the children were too
young to travel as rapidly as the Indians wished, and discovering, as she
believed, their intention to kill them, she made the two oldest boys carry
the two youngest on their backs.

In order to leave no trail behind them, the Indians traveled with the
greatest caution, not permitting their captives to break a twig or weed as
they passed along, and to expedite Mrs. Daviess' movements one of them
reached down and cut off with his knife a few inches of her dress.

Mrs. Daviess was accustomed to handle a gun and was a good shot, like many
other women on the frontier. She contemplated as a last resort that, if not
rescued in the course of the day, when night came and the Indians had
fallen asleep, she would deliver herself and her children by killing as
many of the Indians as she could, believing that in a night attack the rest
would fly panic-stricken.

Mr. Daviess and his companions reaching the house and finding it empty,
succeeded in striking the trail of the Indians and hastened in pursuit.
They had gone but a few miles before they overtook them. Two Indian spies
in the rear first discovered the pursuers, and running on overtook the
others and knocked down and scalped the oldest boy, but did not kill him.
The pursuers fired at the Indians but missed. The latter became alarmed and
confused, and Mrs. Daviess taking advantage of this circumstance jumped
into a sink-hole with her infant in her arms. The Indians fled and every
child was saved.

Kentucky in its early days, like most new countries, was occasionally
troubled with men of abandoned character, who lived by stealing the
property of others, and after committing their depredations, retired to
their hiding-places, thereby eluding the operation of the law. One of these
marauders, a man of desperate character, who had committed extensive thefts
from Mr. Daviess, as well as from his neighbors, was pursued by Daviess and
a party whose property he had taken, in order to bring him to justice.

While the party were in pursuit, the suspected individual, not knowing that
any one was pursuing him, came to the house of Daviess, armed with his gun
and tomahawk,--no person being at home but Mrs. Daviess and her children.
After he had stepped into the house, Mrs. Daviess asked him if he would
drink something; and having set a bottle of whiskey upon the table,
requested him to help himself. The fellow not suspecting any danger, set
his gun by the door, and while he was drinking Mrs. Daviess picked it up,
and placing herself in the doorway had the weapon cocked and leveled upon
him by the time he turned around, and in a peremptory manner ordered him to
take a seat or she would shoot him. Struck with terror and alarm, he asked
what he had done. She told him he had stolen her husband's property, and
that she intended to take care of him herself. In that condition she held
him prisoner until the party of men returned and took him into their
possession.

[Illustration: STRATAGEM OF MRS. DAVIESS IN CAPTURING A KENTUCKY ROBBER.]

These are only a few out of many similar acts which show the character of
Mrs. Daviess. She became noted all through the frontier settlements of that
region during the troublous times in which she lived, not only for her
courage and daring, but for her shrewdness in circumventing the stratagems
of the wily savages by whom her family were surrounded. Her oldest boy
inherited his mother's character, and promised to be one of the most famous
Indian fighters of his day, when he met his death at the hands of his
savage foes in early manhood.

If Mrs. Williamson and Mrs. Daviess were representative women in the more
stormy and rugged scenes of frontier life, Mrs. Elizabeth Estaugh may stand
as a true type of the gentle and benevolent matron, brightening her forest
home by her kindly presence, and making her influence felt in a thousand
ways for good among her neighbors in the lonely hamlet where she chose to
live.

Her maiden name was Haddon; she was the oldest daughter of a wealthy and
well educated but humble-minded Quaker of London. She was endowed by nature
with strength of mind, earnestness, energy, and with a heart overflowing
with kindness and warmth of feeling. The education bestowed upon her, was,
after the manner of her sect, a highly practical one, such as might be
expected to draw forth her native powers by careful training of the mind,
without quenching the kindly emotions by which she was distinguished from
her early childhood.

At the age of seventeen she made a profession of religion, uniting herself
with the Quakers. During her girlhood William Penn visited the house of her
father, and greatly interested her by describing his adventures with the
Indians in the wilds of Pennsylvania. From that hour her thoughts were
directed towards the new world, where so many of her sect had emigrated,
and she longed to cross the ocean and take up her abode among them. She
pictured to herself the toils and privations of the Quaker-pioneers in that
new country, and ardently desired to join them and share their labors and
dangers, and alleviate their sufferings by charitably dispensing a portion
of that wealth which she was destined to possess.

Her father sympathized with her views and aims, and was at length induced
to buy a large tract of land in New Jersey, where he proposed to go and
settle in company with his daughter Elizabeth, and there carry out the
plans which she had formed. His affairs in England took such a turn that he
decided to remain in his native land.

This was a sad disappointment to Elizabeth. She had arrived at the
conviction that among her people in the new world was to be her sphere of
duty; she felt a call thither which she could not disregard; and when her
father, who was unwilling that the property should lie unimproved, offered
the tract of land in New Jersey to any relative who would settle upon it,
she gladly availed herself of the proffer, and begged that she might go
herself as a pioneer into that far-off wilderness.

It was a sore trial for her parents to part with their beloved daughter;
but her character was so stable, and her convictions of duty so unswerving,
that at the end of three months and after much prayer, they consented
tearfully that Elizabeth should join "the Lord's people in the new world."

Arrangements were accordingly made for her departure, and all that wealth
could provide or thoughtful affection devise, was prepared, both for the
long voyage across that stormy sea and against the hardships and trials in
the forest home which was to be hers. In the spring of 1700 she set sail,
accompanied by a poor widow of good sense and discretion, who had been
chosen to act as her friend and housekeeper, and two trustworthy
men-servants, members of the Society of Friends.

Among the many extraordinary manifestations of strong faith and religious
zeal connected with the early settlement of this country, few are more
remarkable than this enterprise of Elizabeth Estaugh. Tenderly reared in a
delightful home in a great city, where she had been surrounded with
pleasing associations from infancy, and where as a lovely young lady she
was the idol of the circle of society in which she moved, she was still
willing and desirous at the call of religious duty, to separate herself
from home, friends, and the pleasures of civilization, and depart to a
distant clime and a wild country. Hardly less remarkable and admirable was
the self-sacrificing spirit of her parents in giving up their child in
obedience to the promptings of her own conscience. We can imagine the
parting on the deck of the vessel which was spreading its sails to bear
this sweet missionary away from her native land and the beloved of her old
home. Angelic love beams and sorrow darkles from the serene countenances of
the father, and mother, and daughter, and yet no tear is shed on either
side. The vessel drops down the harbor, and the family stand on the wharf
straining their eyes to catch the last look from the departing maiden, who
leans on the bulwark and answers the silent and sorrowful faces with a
heavenly smile of love and pity. Even during the long and tedious voyage
Elizabeth never wept. Her sense of duty controlled every other emotion of
her soul, and she maintained her martyr-like cheerfulness and serenity to
the end.

That part of New Jersey where the Haddon tract lay was at that period an
almost unbroken wilderness. Scarcely more than twenty years had then
elapsed since the twenty or thirty cabins had been built which formed the
germ-settlement out of which grew the city of Brotherly Love, and nine
miles of dense forest and a broad river separated the maiden and her
household from the people in the hamlet across the Delaware.

The home prepared for her reception stood in a clearing of the forest,
three miles from any other dwelling. She arrived in June, when the
landscape was smiling in youthful beauty, and it seemed to her as if the
arch of heaven was never before so clear and bright, the carpet of the
earth never so verdant. As she sat at her window and saw evening close in
upon her in that broad forest home, and heard for the first time the
mournful notes of the whippoorwill, and the harsh scream of the jay in the
distant woods, she was oppressed with a sense of vastness, of infinity,
which she never before experienced, not even on the ocean. She remained
long in prayer, and when she lay down to sleep beside her matron-friend, no
words were spoken between them. The elder, overcome with fatigue, soon sank
into a peaceful slumber; but the young enthusiast lay long awake, listening
to the lone voice of the whippoorwill complaining to the night. Yet,
notwithstanding this prolonged wakefulness, she arose early and looked out
upon the lovely landscape. The rising sun pointed to the tallest trees with
his golden finger, and was welcomed with a gush of song from a thousand
warblers. The poetry in Elizabeth's soul, repressed by the severe plainness
of her education, gushed up like a fountain. She dropped on her knees, and
with an outburst of prayer, exclaimed fervently, "Oh, Father, very
beautiful hast thou made this earth! How beautiful are thy gifts, O Lord!"

To a spirit less meek and brave, the darker shades of the picture would
have obscured these cheerful gleams; for the situation was lonely, and the
inconveniences innumerable. But Elizabeth easily triumphed over all
obstacles, by practical good sense and by the quick promptings of her
ingenuity. She was one of those clear, strong natures, who always have a
definite aim in view, and who see at once the means best suited to the end.
Her first inquiry was, what grain was best adapted to the soil of her farm;
and being informed that rye would yield the best, "Then, I shall eat rye
bread," was the answer.

When winter came, and the gleaming snow spread its unbroken silence over
hill and plain, was it not dreary then? It would have been dreary indeed to
one who entered upon this mode of life for mere love of novelty, or a vain
desire to do something extraordinary. But the idea of extended usefulness,
which had first lured this remarkable girl into a path so unusual,
sustained her through all her trials. She was too busy to be sad, and
leaned too trustingly on her Father's hand to be doubtful of her way. The
neighboring Indians soon loved her as a friend, for they always found her
truthful, just, and kind. From their teachings she added much to her
knowledge of simple medicines. So efficient was her skill, and so prompt
her sympathy, that for many miles round, if man, woman, or child were
alarmingly ill, they were sure to send for Elizabeth Haddon; and wherever
she went, her observing mind gathered some hint for the improvement of farm
or dairy. Her house and heart were both large, and as her residence was on
the way to the Quaker meeting-house in Newtown, it became a place of
universal resort to Friends from all parts of the country traveling that
road, as well as an asylum for benighted wanderers.

Late one winter's evening a tinkling of sleigh-bells was heard at the
entrance of the clearing, and soon the hoofs of horses were crunching the
snow as they passed through the great gate towards the barn. The arrival of
strangers was a common occurrence, for the home of Elizabeth Haddon was
celebrated far and near as the abode of hospitality. The toil worn or
benighted traveler there found a sincere welcome, and none who enjoyed that
friendly shelter and abundant cheer ever departed without regret. But now
there was an unwonted stir in that well-ordered family; great logs were
piled in the capacious fireplace, and hasty preparations were made as if to
receive guests who were more than ordinarily welcome. Elizabeth, looking
from the window, had recognized one of the strangers in the sleigh as John
Estaugh, with whose preaching years before in London she had been deeply
impressed, and ever since she had treasured in her memory many of his
words. It was almost like a glimpse of her dear old English home to see him
enter, and stepping forward with more than usual cordiality she greeted
him, saying,

"Thou art welcome, friend Estaugh, the more so for being entirely
unexpected."

"And I am glad to see thee, Elizabeth," he replied, with a friendly shake
of the hand, "it was not until after I had landed in America that I heard
the Lord had called thee hither before me; but I remember thy father told
me how often thou hadst played the settler in the woods, when thou wast
quite a little girl."

"I am but a child still," she replied, smiling.

"I trust thou art," he rejoined; "and as for those strong impressions in
childhood, I have heard of many cases when they seemed to be prophecies
sent from the Lord. When I saw thy father in London, I had even then an
indistinct idea that I might sometime be sent to America on a religious
visit."

"And hast thou forgotten, friend John, the ear of Indian corn which my
father begged of thee for me? I can show it to thee now. Since then I have
seen this grain in perfect growth; and a goodly plant it is, I assure thee.
See," she continued, pointing to many bunches of ripe corn which hung in
their braided husks against the wall of the ample kitchen; "all that, and
more, came from a single ear, no bigger than the one thou didst give my
father. May the seed sown by thy ministry be as fruitful!" "Amen," replied
both the guests.

That evening a severe snow-storm came on, and all night the blast howled
round the dwelling. The next morning it was discovered that the roads were
rendered impassable by the heavy drifts. The home of Elizabeth had already
been made the center of a settlement composed mainly of poor families, who
relied largely upon her to aid them in cases of distress. That winter they
had been severely afflicted by the fever incident to a new settled country,
and Elizabeth was in the habit of making them daily visits, furnishing them
with food and medicines.

The storm roused her to an even more energetic benevolence than ordinary.
Men, oxen, and sledges were sent out, and pathways were opened; the whole
force of Elizabeth's household, under her immediate superintendence,
joining in the good work. John Estaugh and his friend tendered their
services joyfully, and none worked harder than they. His countenance glowed
with the exercise, and a cheerful childlike outbeaming honesty of soul
shone forth, attracting the kind but modest regards of the maiden. It
seemed to her as if she had found in him a partner in the good work which
she had undertaken.

When the paths had been made, Elizabeth set out with a sled-load of
provisions to visit her patients, and John Estaugh asked permission to
accompany her.

While they were standing together by the bedside of the aged and suffering,
she saw her companion in a new and still more attractive guise. His
countenance expressed a sincerity of sympathy warmed by rays of love from
the Sun of mercy and righteousness itself. He spoke to the feeble and the
invalid words of kindness and consolation, and his voice was modulated to a
deep tone of tenderness, when he took the little children in his arms.

The following "first day," which world's people call the Sabbath, meeting
was attended at Newtown by the whole family, and then John Estaugh was
moved by the Spirit to speak words that sank into the hearts of his
hearers. It was a discourse on the trials and temptations of daily life,
drawing a contrast between this course of earthly probation, with its
toils, sufferings, and sorrows, and that higher life, with its rewards to
the faithful beyond the grave.

Elizabeth listened to the preacher with meek attention; he seemed to be
speaking to her, for all the lessons of the discourse were applicable to
herself. As the deep tones of the good man ceased to vibrate in her ears,
and there was stillness for a full half hour in the house, she pondered
over it deeply. The impression made by the young preacher seemed to open a
new window in her soul; he was a God-sent messenger, whose character and
teachings would lift still higher her life, and sanctify her mission with a
holier inspiration.

A few days of united duties and oneness of heart made John and Elizabeth
more thoroughly acquainted with each other than they could have been by
years of ordinary fashionable intercourse.

They were soon obliged to separate, the young preacher being called to
other meetings of his sect in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When they bade
each other farewell, neither knew that they would ever meet again, for John
Estaugh's duty might call him from the country ere another winter, and his
avocations in the new world were absorbing and continuous. With a full
heart, but with the meekness characteristic of her sect, Elizabeth turned
away to her daily round of good works with a new and holier zeal.

In May following they met again. John Estaugh, in company with numerous
other Friends, stopped at her house to lodge while on their way to the
quarterly meeting at Salem. The next day a cavalcade started from her
hospitable door on horseback, for that was before the days of wagons in
Jersey.

John Estaugh, always kindly in his impulses, busied himself with helping a
lame and very ugly old woman, and left his hostess to mount her horse as
she could. Most young women would have felt slighted; but in Elizabeth's
noble soul the quiet, deep tide of feeling rippled with an inward joy. "He
is always kindest to the poor and neglected," thought she; "verily he is a
good youth."

She was leaning over the side of her horse, to adjust the buckle of the
girth, when he came up on horseback and enquired if anything was out of
order. She thanked him, with slight confusion of manner, and a voice less
calm than her usual utterance. He assisted her to mount, and they trotted
along leisurely behind the procession of guests, speaking of the soil and
climate of this new country, and how wonderfully the Lord had here provided
a home for his chosen people. Presently the girth began to slip, and the
saddle turned so much on one side that Elizabeth was obliged to dismount.
It took some time to readjust the girth, and when they again started, the
company were out of sight. There was brighter color than usual in the
maiden's cheeks, and unwonted radiance in her mild, deep eyes.

After a short silence, she said, in a voice slightly tremulous, "Friend
John, I have a subject of importance on my mind, and one which nearly
interests thee. I am strongly impressed that the Lord has sent thee to me
as a partner for life, I tell thee my impression frankly, but not without
calm and deep reflection, for matrimony is a holy relation, and should be
entered into with all sobriety. If thou hast no light on the subject, wilt
thou gather into the stillness and reverently listen to thy own inward
revealings? Thou art to leave this part of the country to-morrow, and not
knowing when I should see thee again, I felt moved to tell thee what lay
upon my mind."

The young man was taken by surprise. Though accustomed to that suppression
of emotion which characterizes his religious sect, the color came and went
rapidly in his face, for a moment. But he soon, became calmer, and replied,
"This thought is new to me, Elizabeth, and I have no light thereon. Thy
company has been right pleasant to me, and thy countenance ever reminds me
of William Penn's title-page, '_Innocency with her open face_.' I have
seen thy kindness to the poor, and the wise management of thy household. I
have observed, too, that thy warm-heartedness is tempered with a most
excellent discretion, and that thy speech is ever sincere. Assuredly, such
is the maiden I would ask of the Lord as a most precious gift; but I never
thought of this connection with thee. I came to this country solely on a
religious visit, and it might distract my mind to entertain this subject at
present. When I have discharged the duties of my mission, we will speak
further."

"It is best so," rejoined the maiden, "but there is one thing disturbs my
conscience. Thou hast spoken of my true speech; and yet, friend John, I
have deceived thee a little, even now, while we conferred together on a
subject so serious. I know not from what weakness the temptation came, but
I will not hide it from thee. I allowed thee to suppose, just now, that I
was fastening the girth of my horse securely; but, in plain truth, I was
loosening the girth, John, that the saddle might slip, and give me an
excuse to fall behind our friends; for I thought thou wouldst be kind
enough to come and ask if I needed thy services."

They spoke no further upon this topic; but when John Estaugh returned to
England in July, he pressed her hand affectionately, as he said, "Farewell,
Elizabeth: if it be the Lord's will I shall return to thee soon."

The young preacher made but a brief sojourn in England. The Society of
Friends in London appreciated his value as a laborer among them and would
have been pleased to see him remain, but they knew how fruitful of good had
been his labors among the brethren in the wilderness, and deemed it a wise
resolution when he informed them that he should shortly return to America.
Early in September he set sail from London and reached New York the
following month. A few days after landing he journeyed on horseback to the
dwelling where Elizabeth was awaiting him, and they were soon after married
at Newtown Meeting according to the simple form of the Society of Friends.
Neither of them made any change of dress for the occasion; there was no
wedding feast; no priest or magistrate was present; in the presence of
witnesses they simply took each other by the hand and solemnly promised to
be kind and faithful to each other. The wedded pair then quietly returned
to their happy home, prepared to resume together that life of good words
and kind deeds which each had thus far pursued alone.

Thrice during the long period of their union did she cross the Atlantic to
visit her aged parents, and not seldom he left her for a season when called
to preach abroad. These temporary separations were hard for her to bear,
but she cheerfully gave him up to follow in the path of his duty wherever
it might lead him. Amid her cares and pleasures as a wife she neither grew
self-absorbed nor, like many of her sex, bounded her benevolence within the
area of the household. Her heart was too large, her charity too abounding,
to do that, and her sense of duty to her fellow-men always dominated that
narrow feeling which concentrates kindness on self or those nearest to one.
While her husband performed his noble work in the care of souls, she
pursued her career within the sphere where it was so allotted. As a
housewife she was notable; to her might be applied the words of King
Lemuel, in the Proverbs of Solomon, celebrating and describing the good
wife, "and her works praised her in the gates." As a neighbor she was
generous and sympathetic; she stretched out her hand to the poor and needy;
she was at once a guardian and a minister of mercy to the settlement.

When, after forty years of happiness in wedlock, her husband was taken from
her, she gave evidence of her appreciation of his worth in a preface which
she published to one of his religious tracts entitled, "Elizabeth Estaugh's
testimony concerning her beloved husband, John Estaugh." In this preface
she says:

"Since it pleased Divine Providence so highly to favor me with being the
near companion to this dear worthy, I must give some small account of him.
Few, if any, in a married state, ever lived in sweeter harmony than we did.
He was a pattern of moderation in all things; not lifted up with any
enjoyments, nor cast down at disappointments; a man endowed with many good
gifts, which rendered him very agreeable to his friends, and much more to
me, his wife, to whom his memory is most dear and precious."

Elizabeth survived her excellent husband twenty years, useful and honored
to the last. The monthly meeting of Haddonfield, in a published
testimonial, speaks of her thus:

"She was endowed with great natural abilities, which, being sanctified by
the Spirit of Christ, were much improved; whereby she became qualified to
act in the affairs of the church, and was a serviceable member, having been
clerk to the woman's meeting nearly fifty years, greatly to their
satisfaction She was a sincere sympathizer with the afflicted; of a
benevolent disposition, and in distributing to the poor, was desirous to do
it in a way most profitable and durable to them, and, if possible, not to
let the right hand know what the left did. Though in a state of affluence
as to this world's wealth, she was an example of plainness and moderation.
Her heart and house were open to her friends, whom to entertain seemed one
of her greatest pleasures. Prudently cheerful and well knowing the value of
friendship, she was careful not to wound it herself nor to encourage others
in whispering supposed failings or weaknesses. Her last illness brought
great bodily pain, which she bore with much calmness of mind and sweetness
of spirit. She departed this life as one falling asleep, full of days,
'like unto a shock of corn fully ripe.'"

The maiden name of this gentle and useful woman has been preserved in
Haddonfield, thus appropriately commemorating her manifold services in the
early days of the settlement of which she was the pioneer-mother.




CHAPTER X.

ROMANCE OF THE BORDER.


The romance of border-life is inseparably associated with woman, being her
natural attendant during her wanderings through the wilderness. A
distinguished American orator has suggested that a series of novels might
be written founded upon the true stories of the border-women of our
country. Such a contribution to our literature has thus far been made only
to a limited extent. The reason for this deficiency will be obvious on a
moment's reflection. The _true stories_ of the pioneer wives and
mothers are often as interesting as any work of fiction, and need no
embellishment from the imagination of a writer, because they are crowded
with incidents and situations as thrilling as those which form the staple
out of which novels are fabricated; love and adventure, hair-breadth
escapes, heart-rending tragedies on the frontier, are thus woven into a
narrative of absorbing and permanent interest, _permanent_ because it
is part of the history and biography of America. Some of the truest of
these stories are those which are most deeply fraught with tenderness and
romance. What is more calculated to move the mind and heart of man for
example than a story of two lovers environed by some deadly danger, or of
separation and reunion, or a love faithful unto death?

Many years ago a young pioneer traveling across the plains met a lady to
whom he became attached, and after a short courtship they were united in
marriage. A trip over the plains in those days was not one to be chosen for
a honey-moon excursion but the pair bore their labors and privations
cheerfully; perils and hardships only seemed to draw them closer together,
and they were looking forward to a home on the Pacific slope where in
plenty and repose they would be indemnified for the pains and fatigues of
the journey. But their life's romance was destined, alas! to a sudden and
mournful end. While crossing one of the rapid mountain streams their boat
filled with water, and though the young man struggled manfully to gain the
shore with his bride, the rush of the torrent bore them down and they sank
to rise no more. An hour later their bodies were found locked together in a
last embrace. The rough mountaineers had not the heart to unclasp that
embrace but buried them by the side of the river in one grave.

The Indian was of course an important factor in the composition of these
border romances. He was generally the villain in the plot of the story, and
too often a successful villain whose wiles or open attacks were the means
of separating two lovers. These tales have often a tragical catastrophe,
but sometimes the _denouement_ is a happy one, thanks to the courage
and constancy of the heroine or hero.

[Footnote: Potters Life of Daniel Boone] Among the adventurers whom Daniel
Boone the famous hunter and Indian fighter of Kentucky, describes as having
re-inforced his little colony was a young gentleman named Smith, who had
been a major in the militia of Virginia, and possessed a full share of the
gallantry and noble spirit of his native State. In the absence of Boone he
was chosen, on account of his military rank and talent, to command the rude
citadel which contained all the wealth of this patriarchal band, their
wives, their children, and their herds. It held also an object particularly
dear to this young soldier--a lady, the daughter of one of the settlers, to
whom he had pledged his affections. It came to pass upon a certain day when
a siege was just over, tranquillity restored, and the employment of
husbandry resumed, that this young lady, with a lady companion, strolled
out, as young ladies in love are very apt to do, along the bank of the
Kentucky River.

Having rambled about for some time they espied a canoe lying by the shore,
and in a frolic stepped into it, with the determination of visiting a
neighbor on the opposite bank. It seems that they were not so well skilled
in navigation as the Lady of the Lake who paddled her own canoe very
dexterously; for instead of gliding to the point of destination they were
whirled about by the stream, and at length thrown on a sandbar from which
they were obliged to wade to the shore. Full of the mirth excited by their
wild adventure they hastily arranged their dresses and were proceeding to
climb the bank, when three Indians rushed from a neighboring covert, seized
the fair wanderers, and forced them away. Their savage captors evincing no
sympathy for their distress, nor allowing them time for rest or reflection,
hurried them along during the whole day by rugged and thorny paths. Their
shoes were worn off by the rocks, their clothes torn, and their feet and
limbs lacerated and stained with blood. To heighten their misery one of the
savages began to make love to Miss ------, (the intended of Major S.) and
while goading her along with a pointed stick, promised in recompense for
her sufferings to make her his squaw. This at once roused all the energies
of her mind and called its powers into action. In the hope that her friends
would soon pursue them she broke the twigs as she passed along and delayed
the party as much as possible by tardy and blundering steps. The day and
the night passed, and another day of agony had nearly rolled over the heads
of these afflicted girls, when their conductors halted to cook a hasty
repast of buffalo meat.

The ladies meanwhile were soon missed from the garrison. The natural
courage and sagacity of Smith now heightened by love, gave him the wings of
the wind and the fierceness of the tiger. The light traces of feminine feet
led him to the place of embarkation; the canoe was traced to the opposite
shore; the deep prints of the moccasin in the sand told the rest of the
story.

The agonized Smith, accompanied by a few of his best woodsmen, pursued the
spoil-encumbered foe. The track once discovered they kept it with that
unerring sagacity so peculiar to our hunters. The bended grass, the
disentangled briars, and the compressed shrubs afforded the only, but to
them the certain indication of the route of the enemy. When they had
sufficiently ascertained the general course of the retreat of the Indians,
Smith quitted the trace, assuring his companions that they would fall in
with them at the pass of a certain stream-head for which he now struck a
direct course, thus gaining on the foe who had taken the most difficult
paths.

Having arrived at the stream, they traced its course until they discovered
the water newly thrown upon the rocks. Smith, leaving his party, now crept
forward upon his hands and knees, until he discovered one of the savages
seated by a fire, and with a deliberate aim shot him through the heart. The
women rushed towards their deliverer, and recognizing Smith, clung to him
in the transport of newly awakened joy and gratitude; while a second Indian
sprang towards him with his tomahawk. Smith, disengaging himself from the
ladies, aimed a blow at his antagonist with his rifle, which the savage
avoided by springing aside, but at the same moment the latter received a
mortal wound from another hand. The other and only remaining Indian fell in
attempting to escape. Smith with his interesting charge returned in triumph
to the fort where his gallantry no doubt was repaid by the sweetest of
all rewards.

The May flower, or trailing arbutus, has been aptly styled our national
flower. It lifts its sweet face in the desolate and rugged hillside, and
flourishes in the chilly air and earth of early spring. So amid the rude
scenes of frontier-life, love and romance peep out, and courtship is
conducted in log cabins and even in more untoward places.

A tradition of the early settlement of Auburn, New York, relates that while
Captain Hardenberg, the stout young miller, was busy with his sacks of
grain in his little log-mill, he was unexpectedly assaulted and overwhelmed
with the arrows not of the savages but of love. The sweet eyes as well as
the blooming health and courage of the daughter of Roeliffe Brinkerhoff who
had been sent by her father to the mill, made young Hardenberg capitulate,
and during the hour while she was waiting for the grist he managed
thoroughly to assure her of the state of his affections; the courtship thus
well begun resulted soon after in a wedding.

The imagination of the poet garnering the anecdotes and early traditions of
the frontier around which lingers an aroma of love, has clothed them with
new life, adorned them with bright colors, endowed them with fresh and
vernal perfume and then woven them into a wreath with the magic art of
poesy. From out of a group of stern features on Plymouth rock, graven with
the deep lines of austere and almost cruel duty, the sweet face of Rose
Standish looks winningly at us. The rugged captain of the Pilgrim band
wooes Priscilla Mullins, through his friend John Alden, and finds too late
that love does not prove fortunate when made by proxy; and Evangeline,
maid, wife and widow comes back to us in beauty and sorrow from the far
Acadian border. These romances of our eastern country have been fortunate
in having a poet to make them immortal. But the West is equally fruitful in
incidents which furnish material, and only lack the poet or novelist to
work them up into enduring form.

The western country seems naturally fitted in many ways for love and
romance. In that region the mind is uncramped and unfettered by the
excessive schooling and over-training which prevails in the older
settlements of the East. The heart heats more freely and warmly when its
current is unchecked by conventionalities. Life is more intense in the
West. The transitions of life are more frequent and startling. Both men and
things are continually changing. In such a society impulse governs largely:
the cooler and more selfish faculties of man's nature are less dominant.
When we add to these conditions, the changes, hardships, and enforced
separations of the frontier as frequent concomitants, we have exactly a
state of society which is fruitful in romantic incidents--brides torn from
their husband's embrace and hurried away; but restored as suddenly and
strangely; two faithful lovers parted forever or re-united miraculously;
and thrilling scenes in love's melodrama acted and re-acted on different
stages but always with startling effect.

The effects of the romantic incidents in the lives of our pioneer women are
also heightened by the extraordinary freshness and ever-changing scenery of
the wilderness. Nature there spreads out like a mighty canvas: the forest,
the mountains, and the prairies show clear and distinct through the crystal
air so that peak and tree and even the tall blades of grass are outlined
with a microscopic nearness. Over this vivid surface bison are browsing,
and antelopes gambolling; plumed warriors flit by on their ponies, as the
pioneer-men and women with wagons, oxen and horses are moving westward.
This is the scene where love springs spontaneously out of the close
companionship which danger enforces.

The story of the Chase family is an illustration of the adage that truth is
often stranger than fiction, and might readily furnish the groundwork upon
which the genius of some future Cooper could construct an American romance
of thrilling interest.

The stage whereon this drama of real life was acted lay in that rich, broad
expanse between the Arkansas and the South Platte Rivers. The time, 1847.
The principal actors were the Chase family, consisting of old Mr. Chase,
his wife, sons, and grandsons, Mary, his daughter, La Bonte and Kilbuck two
famous hunters and mountaineers, Antoine a guide and Arapahoe Indians.

The scene opens with a view of three white-tilted Conestoga wagons or
"prairie schooners," each drawn by four pair of oxen rumbling along through
a plain enameled with the verdure and many tinted flowers of spring. The
day is drawing to its close, and the rays of the sinking sun throw a mellow
light over a waving sea of vernal herbage. The wagons are driven by the
sons of Mr. Chase and contain the women and the household goods of the
family. Behind the great swaying "schooners" walk the men with shouldered
rifles, and a troup of mounted men have just galloped up to bid adieu to
the departing emigrants. From out this group, the mild face of Mary Chase
beams with a parting smile in response to rough but kindly farewells of
these her old friends and neighbors. The last words of warning and
God-speed are spoken by the mounted men, who gallop away and leave them
making their first stage on a journey which will carry them northward and
westward more than two thousand miles from their old home in Missouri.

And now the sun has set, and still in the twilight the train moves on,
stopping as the darkness falls, at a rich bottom, where the loose cattle,
starting some hours before them, have been driven and corralled. The oxen
are unyoked, the wagons drawn up, so as to form the sides of a small
square. A huge fire is kindled, the women descend and prepare the evening
meal, boiling great kettles of coffee, and baking corn-cakes in the embers.
The whole company stretch themselves around the fire, and having finished
their repast, address themselves to sweet sleep, such as tired voyagers
over the plains can so well enjoy. The men of the party are soon soundly
slumbering; but the women, depressed with the thoughts that they are
leaving their home and loved friends and neighbors, perhaps forever, their
hearts filled with forebodings of danger and misfortune, cast only wakeful
eyes upon the darkened plain or up to the inscrutable stars that are
shining with marvelous brightness in the azure firmament. Far into the
night they wake and watch, silently weeping until nature is exhausted, and
a sleep, troubled with sad dreams, visits them.

With the first light of morning the camp is astir, and as the sun rises,
the wagons are again rolling along across the upland prairies, to strike
the trail leading to the south fork of the Platte. Slowly and hardly,
fifteen miles each day, they toil on over the heavy soil. At night, while
in camp, the hours are beguiled by Antoine, their Canadian guide, who tells
stories of wild life and perilous adventures among the hunters and trappers
who make the prairies and mountains their home. His descriptions of Indian
fights and slaughters, and of the sufferings and privations endured by the
hunters in their arduous life, fix the attention of the women of the party,
and especially of Mary Chase, who listens with greater interest because she
remembers that such was the life led by one very dear to her--one long
supposed to be dead, and of whom, since his departure, fifteen years
before, she has heard not a syllable. Her imagination now pictures him
anew, as the most daring of these adventurous hunters, and conjures up his
figure charging through the midst of yelling savages, or as stretched on
the ground, perishing of wounds, or of cold and famine.

Among the characters that figure in Antoine's stories is a hunter named La
Bonte, made conspicuous by his deeds of hardihood and daring. At the first
mention of his name Mary's face is suffused with blushes; not that she for
a moment dreamed that it could be her long lost La Bonte, for she knows
that the name is a common one, but because from associations which still
linger in her memory, it recalled a sad era in her former life, to which
she could not revert without a strange mingling of pleasure and pain. She
remembers the manly form of La Bonte as she first saw him, and the love
which sprang up between them; and then the parting, with the hope of speedy
reunion. She remembers how two years passed without tidings of her lover,
when, one bitter day, she met a mountaineer, just returned from the far
West to settle in his native State; and, inquiring tremblingly after La
Bonte, he told how he had met his death from the Blackfeet Indians in the
wild gorges of the Yellowstone country.

Now, on hearing once more that name, a spring of sweet and bitter
recollections is opened and a vague hope is raised in her breast that the
lover of her youth is still alive. She questions the Canadian, "Who was
this La Bonte who you say was such a brave mountaineer?" Antoine replies,
"He was a fine fellow--strong as a buffalo-bull, a dead shot, cared not a
rush for the Indians, left a girl that he loved in Missouri, said the girl
did not love him, and so he followed the trail to the mountains. He hasn't
gone under yet; be sure of that," says the good natured guide, observing
the emotion which Mary showed, and suspecting that she took a more than
ordinary interest in the young hunter.

As the guide ceased to speak, Mary turns away and bursts into a flood of
tears. The mention of the name of one whom she had long believed dead, and
the recital of his praiseworthy qualities, awake the strongest feelings
which she had cherished towards one whose loss she still bewails.

The scene now changes to the camp of a party of hunters almost within
rifle-shot of the spot where the Chase family are sitting around their
evening fire. There are three in this party: one is Kilbuck, so known on
the plains, another is a stranger who has chanced to join them, the third
is a hunter named _La Bonte_.

The conversation turning on the party encamped near them, the stranger
remarks that their name is Chase. La Bonte looks up a moment from the lock
of his rifle, which he is cleaning, but either does not hear, or, hearing,
does not heed, for he resumes his work. "Traveling alone to the Platte
valley," continues the stranger, "they'll lose their hair, sure." "I hope
not," rejoins Kilbuck, "for there's a girl among them worth more than
that." "Where does she come from, stranger," inquires La Bonte. "Down below
Missouri, from Tennessee, I hear." "And what's her name?" The colloquy is
interrupted by the entrance into the camp of an Arapahoe Indian. The
hunters address him in his own language. They learn from him that a
war-party of his people was out on the Platte-trail to intercept the
traders on their return from the North Fork. He cautions them against
crossing the divide, as the braves, he says, are "a heap mad, and take
white scalp." The Indian, rewarded for his information with a feast of
buffalo-meat, leaves the camp and starts for the mountains. The hunters
pursue their journey the next day, traveling leisurely along, and stopping
where good grass and abundant game is found, until, one morning, they
suddenly strike a wheel-track, which left the creek-bank and pursued a
course at right angles to it in the direction of the divide. Kilbuck
pronounces it but a few hours old, and that of three wagons drawn by oxen.
"These are the wagons of old Chase," says the strange hunter: "they're
going right into the Rapahoe trap," cries Kilbuck. "I knew the name of
Chase years ago," says La Bonte in a low tone, "and I should hate the worst
kind to have mischief happen to any one that bore it. This trail is fresh
as paint, and it goes against me to let these simple critters help the
Rapahoes to their own hair. This child feels like helping them out of the
scrape. What do you say, old hos?" "I think with you, my boy," replies
Kilbuck, "and go in for following the wagon-trail and telling the poor
critters that there's danger ahead of them." "What's your talk, stranger?"
"I'm with you," answered the latter; and both follow quickly after La
Bonte, who gallops away on the trail.

Returning now to the Chase family, we see again the three white-topped
wagons rumbling slowly over the rolling prairie and towards the upland
ridge of the divide which rose before them, studded with dwarf pines and
cedar thickets. They are evidently traveling with caution, for the quick
eye of Antoine, the guide, has discovered recent Indian signs upon the
trail, and with the keenness of a mountaineer he at once sees that it is
that of a war-party, for there were no horses with them and after one or
two of the moccasin tracks there was the mark of a rope which trailed upon
the ground. This was enough to show him that the Indians were provided with
the usual lassoes of skin with which to secure the horses stolen on the
expedition. The men of the party accordingly are all mounted and thoroughly
armed, the wagons are moving in a line abreast, and a sharp lookout is kept
on all sides. The women and children are all consigned to the interior of
the wagons and the former also hold guns in readiness to take part in the
defense should an attack be made. As they move slowly on their course no
Indians make their presence visible and the party are evidently losing
their fears if not their caution.

As the shadows are lengthening they reach Black Horse Creek, and corrall
their wagons, kindle a fire, and are preparing for the night, when three or
four Indians suddenly show themselves on the bluff and making friendly
signals approach the camp. Most of the men are away attending to the cattle
or collecting fuel, and only old Chase and a grandson fourteen years of age
are in the camp. The Indians are hospitably received and regaled with a
smoke, after which they gratify their curiosity by examining the articles
lying around, and among others which takes their fancy the pot boiling over
the fire, with which one of them is about very coolly to walk off, when old
Chase, snatching it from the Indian's hands, knocks him down. One of his
companions instantly begins to draw the buckskin cover from his gun and is
about to take summary vengeance for the insult offered to his companion,
when Mary Chase, courageously advancing, places her left hand on the gun
which he is in the act of uncovering and with the other points a pistol at
his breast.

Whether daunted by this bold act of the girl, or admiring her devotion to
her father, the Indian, drawing back with a deep grunt, replaces the cover
on his piece and motioning to the other Indians to be peaceable, shakes
hands with old Chase, who all this time looks him steadily in the face.

The other whites soon return, the supper is ready, and all hands sit down
to the repast. The Indians then gather their buffalo-robes about them and
quickly withdraw. In spite of their quiet demeanor, Antoine says they mean
mischief. Every precaution is therefore taken against surprise; the mules
and horses are hobbled, the oxen only being allowed to run at large; a
guard is set around the camp; the fire is extinguished lest the savages
should aim by its light at any of the party; and all slept with rifles and
pistols ready at their side.

The night, however, passes quietly away, and nothing disturbs the
tranquility of the camp except the mournful cry of the prairie wolf chasing
the antelope. The sun has now risen; they are yoking the cattle to the
wagons and driving in the mules and horses, when a band of Indians show
themselves on the bluff and descending it approach the camp with an air of
confidence. They are huge braves, hideously streaked with war-paint, and
hide the malignant gleams that shoot from their snaky eyes with assumed
smiles and expressions of good nature.

Old Chase, ignorant of Indian treachery and in spite of the warnings of
Antoine, offering no obstruction to their approach, has allowed them to
enter the camp. What madness! They have divested themselves of their
buffalo-robes, and appear naked to the breech-clout and armed with bows and
arrows, tomahawks, and scalping knives. Six or seven only come in at first,
but others quickly follow, dropping in by twos and threes until a score or
more are collected around the wagons.

Their demeanor, at first friendly, changes to insolence and then to
fierceness. They demand powder and shot, and when they are refused begin to
brandish their tomahawks. A tall chief, motioning to the band to keep back,
now accosts Mr. Chase, and through Antoine as an interpreter, informs him
that unless the demands of his braves are complied with he will not be
responsible for the consequences; that they are out on the war-trail and
their eyes red with blood so that they cannot distinguish between white
man's and Utah's scalps; that the party and all their women and wagons are
in the power of the Indian braves; and therefore that the white chief's
best plan will be to make what terms he can; that all they require is that
they shall give up their guns and ammunition on the prairie and all their
mules and horses, retaining only the medicine-buffaloes (the oxen) to draw
their wagons. By this time the oxen have been yoked to the teams and the
teamsters stand whip in hand ready for the order to start. Old Chase
trembles with rage at the insolent demand. "Not a grain of powder to save
my life," he yells; "put out boys!" As he turns to mount his horse which
stands ready saddled, the Indians leap upon the wagons and others rush
against the men who make a brave fight in their defence. Mary, who sees her
father struck to the ground, springs with a shrill cry to his assistance at
the moment when a savage, crimson with paint and looking like a red demon,
bestrides his prostrate body, brandishing a glittering knife in the air
preparatory to plunging it into the old man's heart. All is wild confusion.
The whites are struggling heroically against overpowering numbers. A single
volley of rifles is heard and three Indians bite the dust. A moment later
and the brave defenders are disarmed amid the shrieks of the women and the
children and the triumphant whoops of the savages.

Mary, flying to her father's rescue, has been overtaken by a huge Indian,
who throws his lasso over her shoulders and drags her to the earth, then
drawing his scalping-knife he is about to tear the gory trophy from her
head. The girl, rising upon her knees, struggles towards the spot where her
father lies, now bathed in blood. The Indian jerks the lariat violently and
drags her on her face, and with a wild yell rushes to complete the bloody
work.

At that instant a yell as fierce as his own is echoed from the bluff, and
looking up he sees La Bonte charging down the declivity, his long hair and
the fringes of his garments waving in the breeze, his trusty rifle
supported in his right arm, and hard after him Kilbuck and the stranger
galloping with loud shouts to the scene of action. As La Bonte races madly
down the side of the bluff, he catches sight of the girl as the ferocious
savage is dragging her over the ground. A cry of horror and vengeance
escapes his lips, as driving his spurs to the rowels into his steed he
bounds like an arrow to the rescue. Another instant and he is upon his foe;
pushing the muzzle of his rifle against the broad chest of the Indian he
pulled the trigger, literally blowing out the savage's heart. Cropping his
rifle, he wheels his trained horse and drawing a pistol from his belt he
charges the enemy among whom Kilbuck and the stranger are dealing
death-blows. The Indians, panic-stricken by the suddenness of the attack,
turn and flee, leaving several of their number dead upon the field.

Mary, with her arms bound to her body by the lasso, and with her eyes
closed to receive the fatal stroke, hears the defiant shout of La Bonte,
and glancing up between her half-opened eyelids, sees the wild figure of
the mountaineer as he sends the bullet to the heart of her foe. When the
Indians flee, La Bonte, the first to run to her aid, cuts the skin-rope,
raises her from the ground, looks long and intently in her face, and sees
his never-to-be-forgotten Mary Chase. "What! can it be you, Mary?" he
exclaims, gazing at the trembling maiden, who hardly believes her eyes as
she returns his gaze and recognizes in her deliverer her former lover. She
only sobs and clings closer to him in speechless gratitude and love.

Turning from these lovers reunited so miraculously, we see stretched on the
battle-field the two grandsons of Mr. Chase, fine lads of fourteen or
fifteen, who after fighting like men fall dead pierced with arrows and
lances. Old Chase and his sons are slightly wounded, and Antoine shot
through the neck and half scalped. The dead boys are laid tenderly beneath
the prairie-sod, the wounds of the others are dressed, and the following
morning the party continue their journey to the Platte. The three hunters
guide and guard them on their way, Mary riding on horseback by the side of
her lover.

For many days they pursued their journey, but with feelings far different
from those with which they had made its earlier stages. Old Mr. Chase
marches on doggedly and in silence; his resolution to seek a new home on
the banks of the Columbia has been shaken more by the loss of his
grandsons, than by the fatigues and privations incident to the march. The
unbidden tears often steal down the cheeks of the women, who cast many a
longing look behind them towards the southeastern horizon, far beyond whose
purple rim lay their old home. The South Fork of the Platte has been
passed, Laramie reached, and for a fortnight the lofty summits of the
mountains which overhang the "pass" to California have been in sight; but
when they strike the broad trail which would conduct them to their promised
land in the valley of the Columbia, the party pause, gaze for a moment
steadfastly at the mountain-summits, and then as if by a common impulse,
the heads of the horses and oxen are faced to the east, and men, women, and
children toss their hats and bonnets in the air, hurrahing lustily for home
as the huge wagons roll down along the banks of the river Platte. The
closing scene in this romantic melodrama was the marriage of Mary and La
Bonte, in Tennessee, four months after the rescue of the Chase family from
the Indians.

The following "romance of the forest" we believe has never before been
published. The substance of it was communicated to the writer by a
gentleman who received it from his grandfather, one of the early settlers
of Michigan.

In the year 1762 the Great Pontiac, the Indian Napoleon of the Northwest,
had his headquarters in a small secluded island at the opening of Lake St.
Clair. Here he organized, with wonderful ability and secrecy, a
wide-reaching conspiracy, having for its object the destruction of every
English garrison and settlement in Michigan. His envoys, with blood-stained
hatchets, had been despatched to the various Indian tribes of the region,
and wherever these emblems of butchery had been accepted the savage hordes
were gathering, and around their bale-fires in the midnight pantomimes of
murder were concentrating their excitable natures into a burning focus
which would light their path to carnage and rapine.

While these lurid clouds, charged with death and destruction, were
gathering, unseen, about the heads of the adventurous pioneers, who had
penetrated that beautiful region, a family of eastern settlers, named
Rouse, arrived in the territory, and, disregarding the admonitions of the
officers in the fort at Detroit, pushed on twenty miles farther west and
planted themselves in the heart of one of those magnificent oak-openings
which the Almighty seems to have designed as parks and pleasure-grounds for
the sons and daughters of the forest.

Miss Anna Rouse, the only daughter of the family, had been betrothed before
her departure from New York State to a young man named James Philbrick, who
had afterward gone to fight the French and Indians. It was understood that
upon his return he was to follow the Rouse family to Michigan, where, upon
his arrival, the marriage was to take place.

In a few months young Philbrick reached the appointed place, and in the
following week married Miss Rouse in the presence of a numerous assemblage
of soldiers and settlers, who had come from the military posts and the
nearest plantations to join in the festivities.

All was gladness and hilarity; the hospitality was bounteous, the company
joyous, the bridegroom brave and manly, and the bride lovely as a wild
rose. When the banquet was ready the guests trooped into the room where it
was spread, and even the sentinels who had been posted beside the muskets
in the door-yard, seeing no signs of prowling savages, had entered the
house and were enjoying the feast. Scarcely had they abandoned their post
when an ear-piercing war-whoop silenced in a moment the joyous sound of the
revelers. The soldiers rushed to the door only to be shot down. A few
succeeded in recovering their arms, and made a desperate fight. Meanwhile
the savages battered down the doors, and leaped in at the windows. The
bridegroom was shot, and left for dead, as he was assisting to conceal his
bride, and a gigantic warrior, seizing the latter, bore her away into the
darkness. After a short but terrific struggle, the savages were driven out
of the house, but the defenders were so crippled by their losses and by the
want of arms which the enemy had carried away, that it was judged best not
to attempt to pursue the Indians, who had disappeared as suddenly as they
came.

When the body of the bridegroom was lifted up it was discovered that his
heart still beat, though but faintly. Restoratives were administered, and
he slowly came back to life, and to the sad consciousness that all that
could make life happy to him was gone for ever.

The family soon after abandoned their new home and moved to Detroit, owing
to the danger of fresh attacks from Pontiac and his confederates. Years
rolled away; young Philbrick, as soon as he recovered from his wounds, took
part in the stirring scenes of the war, and strove to forget, in turmoil
and excitement, the loss of his fair young bride. But in vain. Her
remembrance in the fray nerved his arm to strike, and steadied his eye to
launch the bullet at the heart of the hated foes who had bereft him of his
dearest treasure; and in the stillness of the night his imagination
pictured her, the cruel victim of her barbarous captors.

Peace came in 1763, and he then learned that she had been carried to
Canada. He hastened down the St. Lawrence and passed from settlement to
settlement, but could gain no tidings of her. After two years, spent in
unavailing search, he came back a sad and almost broken-hearted man.

Her image, as she appeared when last he saw her, all radiant in youth and
beauty, haunted his waking hours, and in his dreams she was with him as a
visible presence. Months, years rolled away; he gave her up as dead, but he
did not forget his long-lost bride.

One summer's day, while sitting in his cabin in Michigan, in one of those
beautiful natural parks, where he had chosen his abode, he heard a light
step, and, looking up, saw his bride standing before him, beautiful still,
but with a chastened beauty which told of years of separation and grief.

Her story was a long one. When she was borne away from the marriage feast
by her savage captor, she was seen by an old squaw, the wife of a famous
chief who had just lost her own daughter, and being attracted by the beauty
of Miss Rouse, she protected her from violence, and finally adopted her.
Twice she escaped, but was recaptured. The old squaw afterwards took her a
thousand miles into the wilderness, and watched her with the ferocious
tenderness that the tigress shows for her young. At length, after nearly
six years, her Indian mother died. She succeeded then in making her escape,
traveled four hundred miles on foot, reached the St. Lawrence, and after
passing through great perils and hardships, arrived at Detroit. There she
soon found friends, who relieved her wants and conveyed her to her husband,
whom she had remembered with fondness and loved with constancy during all
the weary years of her captivity.




CHAPTER XI.

PATHETIC PASSAGES OF PIONEER LIFE.


A hundred ills brood over the cabin in the wilderness. Some are
ever-present; others lie in wait, and start forth at intervals.

Labor, Solitude, Fear; these are the companions of woman on the border: to
these come other visitants--weariness, and that longing, yearning, pining
of the heart which the Germans so beautifully term _sehn-sucht_--hunger,
vigils, bodily pain and sickness, the biting cold, the drenching storm, the
fierce heat, with savage eyes of man and beast glaring from the thicket.
Then sorrow takes bodily shape and enters the house; loved ones are borne
away--the child, or the father, or saddest of all, the mother; the long
struggle is over, and the devoted woman of the household lays her wasted
form beneath the grassy sod of the cabin yard.

Bereavement is hard to bear in even the houses where comfort, ease, and
luxury surround the occupants, where friends and kinsfolk crowd to pour out
sympathy and consolation. But what must it be in the rude cabin on the
lonely border? The grave hollowed out in the hard soil of the little
inclosure, the rough shell-coffin hewn with tears from the forest tree, the
sorrowing household ranged in silence beside the form which will gladden
the loneliness of that stricken family no longer, and then the mourners
turn away and go back to their homely toils.

If from the time of the landing we could recall the long procession of the
actors and the events of border-life, and pass them before the eye in one
great moving panorama, how somber would be the colors of that picture! All
along the grand march what scenes of captivity, suffering, bereavement,
sorrow, and in these scenes, woman the most prominent figure, for she was
the constant actress in this great drama of woe!

The carrying away and the return of captives in war has furnished themes by
which poets and artists in all ages have moved the heart of man. The
breaking up of homes, the violent separations of those who are kindred by
blood, and the sundering for ever of family ties were ordinary and every
day incidents in the border-wars of our country: but the frequency of such
occurrences does not detract from the mournful interest with which they are
always fraught.

At the close of the old French and Indian War, Colonel Henry Bouquet
stipulated with the Indian tribes on the Ohio frontier as one of the
conditions of peace that they should restore all the captives which they
had taken. This was agreed to, and on his return march he was met by a
great company of settlers in search of their lost relatives. "Husbands
found their wives and parents their children, from whom they had been
separated for years. Women frantic between hope and fear, were running
hither and thither, looking piercingly into the face of every child, to
find their own, which, perhaps, had died--and then such shrieks of agony!
Some of the little captives shrank from their own forgotten mothers, and
hid in terror in the blankets of the squaws that had adopted them. Some
that had been taken away young, had grown up and married Indian husbands or
Indian wives, and now stood utterly bewildered with conflicting emotions. A
young Virginian had found his wife; but his little boy, not two years old
when captured, had been torn from her, and had been carried off, no one
knew whither. One day a warrior came in, leading a child. No one seemed to
own it. But soon the mother knew her offspring and screaming with joy,
folded her son to her bosom. An old woman had lost her granddaughter in the
French war, nine years before. All her other relatives had died under the
knife. Searching, with trembling eagerness, in each face, she at last
recognized the altered features of her child. But the girl who had
forgotten her native tongue, returned no answer, and made no sign. The old
woman groaned, wept, and complained bitterly, that the daughter she had so
often sung to sleep on her knees, had forgotten her in her old age.
Soldiers and officers were alike overcome. 'Sing,' whispered Bouquet, 'sing
the song you used to sing.' As the low, trembling tones began to ascend,
the wild girl gave one sudden start, then listening for a moment longer,
her frame shaking like an ague, she burst into a passionate flood of tears.
That was sufficient. She was the lost child. All else had been effaced from
her memory, but the music of the nursery-song. During her captivity she had
heard it in her dreams."

Another story of the same character is that of Frances Slocum, the "Lost
child of Wyoming," which though perhaps familiar to some of our readers,
will bear repeating.

In the time of the Revolution the house of Mr. Slocum in the Wyoming
valley, was attacked by a party of Delawares. The inmates of the house, at
the moment of the surprise, were Mrs. Slocum and four young children, the
eldest of whom was a son aged thirteen, the second, a daughter aged nine,
the third, Frances Slocum, aged five, and a little son aged two and a half.

The girl, aged nine years old, appears to have had the most presence of
mind, for while the mother ran into a copse of wood near by, and Frances
attempted to secrete herself behind a staircase, the former seized her
little brother, the youngest above mentioned, and ran off in the direction
of the fort. True she could not make rapid progress, for she clung to the
child, and not even the pursuit of the savages could induce her to drop her
charge. The Indians did not pursue her far, and laughed heartily at the
panic of the little girl, while they could not but admire her resolution.
Allowing her to make her escape, they returned to the house, and after
helping themselves to such articles as they chose, prepared to depart.

The mother seems to have been unobserved by them, although, with a yearning
bosom, she had so disposed of herself that while she was screened from
observation she could notice all that occurred. But judge of her feelings
at the moment when they were about to depart, as she saw her little Frances
taken from her hiding place, and preparations made to carry her away into
captivity. The sight was too much for maternal tenderness to endure.
Rushing from her place of concealment, she threw herself upon her knees at
the feet of the captors, and with the most earnest entreaties pleaded for
the restoration of the child. But their bosoms were made of sterner stuff
than to yield even to the most eloquent and affectionate entreaties of a
mother, and with characteristic stoicism they prepared to depart. Deaf
alike to the cries of the mother, and the shrieks of the child, Frances was
slung over the shoulder of a stalwart Indian with as much indifference as
though she were a slaughtered fawn.

The long, lingering look which the mother gave to her child, as her captors
disappeared in the forest, was the last glimpse of her sweet features that
she ever had. But the vision was for many a long year ever present to her
fancy. As the Indian threw the child over his shoulder, her hair fell over
her face, and the mother could never forget how the tears streamed down her
cheeks, when she brushed it away as if to catch a last sad look of the
mother from whom, her little arms outstretched, she implored assistance in
vain.

These events cast a shadow over the remaining years of Mrs. Slocum. She
lived to see many bright and sunny days in that beautiful valley--bright
and sunny, alas! to her no longer. She mourned for the lost one, of whom no
tidings, at least during her pilgrimage, could be obtained. After her sons
grew up, the youngest of whom, by the way, was born but a few months
subsequent to the events already narrated, obedient to the charge of their
mother, the most unwearied efforts were made to ascertain what had been the
fate of the lost sister. The forest between the Susquehanna and the Great
Lakes, and even the most distant wilds of Canada, were traversed by the
brothers in vain, nor could any information respecting her be derived from
the Indians. Once, indeed, during an excursion of one of the brothers into
the vast wilds of the West, a white woman, long ago captive, came to him in
the hopes of finding a brother; but after many anxious efforts to discover
evidences of relationship, the failure was as decisive as it was mutually
sad.

There was yet another kindred occurrence, still more painful. One of the
many hapless female captives in the Indian country becoming acquainted with
the inquiries prosecuted by the Slocum family, presented herself to Mrs.
Slocum, trusting that in her she might find her long lost mother. Mrs.
Slocum was touched by her appearance, and fain would have claimed her. She
led the stranger about the house and yards to see if there were any
recollections by which she could be identified as her own lost one. But
there was nothing written upon the pages of memory to warrant the desired
conclusion, and the hapless captive returned in bitter disappointment to
her forest home. In process of time these efforts were all relinquished as
hopeless. The lost Frances might have fallen beneath the tomahawk or might
have proved too tender a flower for transplantation into the wilderness.
Conjecture was baffled, and the mother, with a sad heart, sank into the
grave, as did also the father, believing with the Hebrew patriarch that the
"child was not."

Long years passed away and the memory of little Frances was forgotten, save
by two brothers and a sister, who, though advanced in the vale of life,
could not forget the family tradition of the lost one. Indeed it had been
the dying charge of their mother that they must never relinquish their
exertions to discover Frances.

Fifty years and more had passed since the disappearance of little Frances,
when news came to the surviving members of the bereaved family that she was
still alive. She had been adopted into the tribe of the Miami Indians, and
was passing her days as a squaw in the lodges of that people.

The two surviving brothers and their sister undertook a journey to see, and
if possible, to reclaim, the long lost Frances. Accompanied by an
interpreter whom they had engaged in the Indian country, they reached at
last the designated place and found their sister. But alas! how changed!
Instead of the fair-haired and laughing girl, the picture yet living in
their imagination, they found her an aged and thoroughbred squaw in
everything but complexion. She was sitting when they entered her lodge,
composed of two large log-houses connected by a shed, with her two
daughters, the one about twenty-three years old, and the other about
thirty-three, and three or four pretty grandchildren. The closing hours of
the journey had been made in perfect silence, deep thoughts struggling in
the bosoms of all. On entering the lodge, the first exclamation of one of
the brothers was,--"Oh, God! is that my sister!" A moment afterward, and
the sight of her thumb, disfigured in childhood, left no doubt as to her
identity. The following colloquy, conducted through the interpreter,
ensued:

"What was your name when a child?"

"I do not recollect."

"What do you remember?"

"My father, my mother, the long river, the staircase under which I hid when
they came."

"How came you to lose your thumb-nail?"

"My brother hammered it off a long time ago, when I was a very little girl
at my father's house."

"Do you know how many brothers and sisters you had?"

She then mentioned them, and in the order of their ages.

"Would you know your name if you should hear it repeated?"

"It is a long time since, and perhaps I should not."

"Was it Frances?"

At once a smile played upon her features, and for a moment there seemed to
pass over the face what might be called the shadow of an emotion, as she
answered, "_Yes_."

Other reminiscences were awakened, and the recognition was complete. But
how different were the emotions of the parties! The brothers paced the
lodge in agitation. The civilized sister was in tears. The other, obedient
to the affected stoicism of her adopted race, was as cold, unmoved, and
passionless as marble.

The brothers and sister returned unable, after urgent and loving
entreaties, to win back their tawny sister from her wilds. Her Indian
husband and children were there; there was the free, open forest, and she
clung to these; and yet the love of her kinsfolk for her, and her's for
them, was not quenched.

[Illustration: PARTED FOREVER.]

Transporting ourselves far from the beautiful valley of Wyoming, where the
grief-stricken mother will wake never more to the consciousness of the loss
of her sweet Frances, we stand on the prairies of Kansas. The time is 1856.
One of the settlers who, with his wife, was seeking to build up a community
in the turmoil, which then made that beautiful region such dangerous
ground, has met his death at the hands of a rival faction. We enter the
widow's desolated home. A shelter rather than a house, with but two
wretched rooms, it stands alone upon the prairie. The darkness of a stormy
winter's evening was gathering over the snow-clad slopes of the wide, bare
prairie, as, in company with a sympathizing friend, we enter that lonely
dwelling.

In the scantily-furnished apartment into which we are shown, two or three
women and as many children are crowding around a stove, for the night is
bitter cold, and even the large wood-fire scarcely heated a space so thinly
walled. Behind a heavy pine table, on which stands a flickering
tallow-candle, and leaning against a half-curtained window on which the
sleet and winter's blast beat drearily, sits a woman of some forty years of
age, clad in a dress of dark, coarse stuff, resting her head on her hand,
and seeming unmindful of all about her.

She was the widow of Thomas W. Barber, one of the victims of the Kansas
war. The attenuated hand supporting the aching head, and half shielding the
tear-dimmed eyes, the silent drops trickling down the wasted cheeks, told
but too well the sad story.

"They have left me," she cried, "a poor, forsaken creature, to mourn all my
days! Oh, my husband, my husband, they have taken from me all that I hold
dear! one that I loved better than I loved my own life!"

Thomas W. Barber was a careful and painstaking farmer, a kind neighbor, and
an inoffensive, amiable man. His "untimely taking off" was indeed a sad
loss to the community at large, but how much more to his wife! She had
loved him with a love that amounted to idolatry. When he was returning from
his daily toil she would go forth to meet him. When absent from home, if
his stay was prolonged, she would pass the whole night in tears; and when
ill, she would hang over his bed like a mother over her child. With a
presentiment of evil, when he left his home for the last time, after
exhausting every argument to prevent him from going, she had said to him,
"Oh, Thomas! if you should be shot, I shall be left all alone, with no
child and nothing in the wide world to fill your place!" This was their
last parting.

The intelligence of his death was kept in mercy from her, through the
kindness of friends, who hoped to break it to her gently. This thoughtful
and sympathetic purpose was marred by the unthinking act of a young man,
who had been sent with a carriage to convey her to the hotel where her
husband's body lay. As he rode up he shouted, "Thomas Barber is killed!"
His widow half-caught the dreadful words, and rushing to the door cried,
"Oh, God! What do I hear?" Seeing the mournful and sympathetic faces of the
bystanders, she knew the truth and filled the house with her shrieks. When
they brought her into the apartment where her husband lay, she threw
herself upon his corpse, and kissing the dead man's face, called down
imprecations on the heads of those who had bereaved her of all she held
dear.

The prairies of the great West resemble the ocean in more respects than in
their level vastness, and the travelers who pass over them are like
mariners who guide themselves only by the constellations and the great
luminaries of heaven. The trail of the emigrant, like the track of the
ship, is often uncrossed for days by others who are voyaging over this
mighty expanse. Distance becomes delusive, and after journeying for days
and failing to reach the foot-hills of the mountains, whose peaks have
shone to his eyes in so many morning suns, the tired emigrant is tempted by
the abounding richness of the country to pause. He is one hundred miles
from the nearest settlement. Beside a stream he builds his cabin. He is
like a voyager whose ship has been burned, leaving him in a strange land
which he must conquer or die.

Such was the situation of that household on the prairie of Illinois,
concerning whom is told a story full of mournful pathos. We should note, in
passing on to our story, one of the dangers to which prairie-dwellers are
exposed. They live two or three months every year in a magazine of
combustibles. One of the peculiarities of the climate in those regions is
the dryness of its summers and autumns. A drought often commences in August
which, with the exception of a few showers towards the close of that month,
continues, with little interruption, throughout the full season. The
immense mass of vegetation with which the fertile soil loads itself during
the summer is suddenly withered, and the whole earth is covered with
combustible materials. A single spark of fire falling anywhere upon these
plains at such a time, instantly kindles a blaze that spreads on every
side, and continues its destructive course as long as it finds fuel, these
fires sweeping on with a rapidity which renders it hazardous even to fly
before them.

The flames often extend across a wide prairie and advance in a long line;
no sight can be more sublime than to behold at night a stream of fire
several miles in breadth advancing across these plains, leaving behind it a
black cloud of smoke, and throwing before it a vivid glare which lights up
the whole landscape with the brilliancy of noonday. A roaring and crackling
sound is heard like the rushing of the hurricane; the flame, which, in
general, rises to the height of about twenty feet, is seen sinking and
darting upward in spires precisely as the waves dash against each other,
and as the spray flies up into the air; the whole appearance is often that
of a boiling and flaming sea violently agitated. Woe to the farmer whose
ripe corn-field extends into the prairie, and who has carelessly suffered
the tall grass to grow in contact with his fences; the whole labor of a
year is swept away in a few hours.

More than sixty years since, and before the beautiful wild gardens of
Illinois had been tilled by the hand of the white man, an emigrant with his
family came thither from the East in search of a spot whereon to make his
home. One bright spring day his white-topped wagon entered a prairie richer
in its verdure and more brilliant in its flowers, than any that had yet met
his eyes. At night-fall it halted beside a clump of trees not far from a
creek. On this site a log-cabin soon rose and sent its smoke curling
through the overhanging boughs.

The only neighbors of the pioneers were the rambling Indians. Their
habitation was the center of a vast circle not dwelt in, and rarely even
crossed by white settlers; oxen, cows, and a dog were their only domestic
animals. For many months after their cabin was built they depended on wild
game and fruits for subsistence; the rifle of the father, and traps set by
the boys, brought them an abundant supply of meat. The wife and mother
wrought patiently for those she loved. Her busy hands kept a well-ordered
house by day, and at night she plied the needle to repair the wardrobe of
her little household band. It was already growing scanty, and materials to
replace it could only be procured at a distance, and means to procure it
were limited. Patching and darning until their garments were beyond repair,
she then supplied their place with skins stripped from the deer which the
father had shot. Far into the night, by the flickering light of a single
candle, this gentle housewife plied "her busy care," while her husband,
worn out with his day's work, and her children, tired by their rambles,
were slumbering in the single chamber of the cabin.

October came, and a journey to the nearest settlement for winter goods and
stores, must be made. After due preparation the father and his eldest son
started in the emigrant wagon, and expected to be absent many days, during
which the mother and her children, with only the dog for their protection,
looked hourly forth upon the now frost-embrowned prairie, and fondly hoped
for their return.

Day after day passed, and no sign of life was visible upon the plain save
the deer bounding over the sere herbage, or the wolf loping stealthily
against the wind which bore the scent of his prey. A rising haze began to
envelope the landscape, betokening the approach of the Indian summer,

  "The melancholy days had come,
  The saddest of the year,"

and the desolation of nature found an answering mood in the soul of that
lone woman. One day she was visited by a party of Indian warriors, and from
them she learned that there was a war between the tribes through whose
country the journey of her husband lay. A boding fear for his safety took
possession of her, and after the warriors had partaken of her hospitality
and departed, and night came, she laid her little ones in their bed, and
sat for hours on the threshold of the cabin door, looking out through the
darkness and praying silently for the return of her loved ones. The wind
was rising and driving across the sky black masses of clouds which looked
like misshapen specters of evil. The blast whistled through the leafless
trees and howled round the cabin. Hours passed, and still the sorrowful
wife and mother sat gazing into the gloom as if her eyes would pierce it
and lighten on the wished-for object.

But what is that strange light which far to the north gleams on the
blackened sky? It was not the lightning's flash, for it was a steady
brightening glow. It was not the weird flash of the aurora borealis, but a
redder and more lurid sheen; nor was it the harbinger of the rising sun
which lit that northern sky. From a tinge it brightens to a gleam, and
deepened at last into a broad glare. That lonely heart was overwhelmed with
the dreadful truth. The prairie is on fire! Often had they talked of
prairie fires as a spectacle of grandeur. But never had she dreamed of the
red demon as an enemy to be encountered in that dreadful solitude.

Her heart sank within her as she saw the danger leaping toward her like
some fiery and maddened race-horse. Was there no escape? Her children were
sweetly sleeping, and the faithful dog, her only guardian, was gazing as if
with mute sympathy into her face. Within an hour she calculates the
conflagration would be at her very door. All around her is one dry ocean of
combustibles. She cannot reach the tree-tops, and if she could, to cling
there would be impossible amid those towering flames. The elements seemed
to grow madder as the fire approached; fiercer blew the blast, intermitting
for a moment only to gather fresh potency and mingle its own strength with
that of the flames. She still had a faint hope that a creek a few miles
away would be a barrier over which the blaze could not leap. She saw by the
broad light which made even the distant prairie like noonday, the tops of
the trees that fringed the creek but for a few moments, and then they were
swallowed up in that crimson furnace. Alas! the stream had been crossed by
the resistless flames, and her last hope died away.

Bewildered and half stupefied by the terrors of her situation, she had not
yet wakened her children. But now no time was to be lost. Already in
imagination she felt the hot breath of her relentless foe. It was with much
difficulty that she awoke them and aroused them to a sense of their awful
danger. Hastily dressing them she encircled them in her arms and kissed and
fondled them as if for a last farewell. Now for the first time she missed
the dog, the faithful companion and guardian of her solitude, and on whose
aid she still counted in the hour of supreme peril. She called him loudly,
but in vain. Turning her face northward she saw one unbroken line of flame
as far as the eye could reach, and forcing its way towards her like an
infuriated demon, roaring, crackling, sending up columns of dun-colored
smoke as it tore along over the plain. A few minutes more and her fate
would be decided. Falling on her knees she poured out her heart in prayer,
supplicating for mercy and commending herself and her helpless babes to
Almighty God. As she rose calmed and stayed by that fervent supplication a
low wistful bark fell on her ear; the dog came bounding to her side;
seizing her by the dress as if he would drag her from the spot, he leaped
away from her, barking and whining, looking back towards her as he ran.
Following him a few steps and seeing nothing, she returned and resumed her
seat, awaiting death beside her children.

Again the dog returned, pawing, whining, howling, and trying in every way
to attract her attention. What could he mean? Then for the first time
flashed upon her the thought which had already occurred to the sagacious
instinct of the dumb brute! The ploughed field! Yes, there alone was hope
of safety! Clasping the two youngest children with one arm she almost
dragged the eldest boy as she fled along the trodden path, the dog going
before them showing every token of delight. The fire was at their heels,
and its hot breath almost scorched their clothes as they ran. They gained
the herbless ploughed field and took their station in its center just as
the flames darted round on each side of them.

The exhausted mother, faint with the sudden deliverance, dropped on the
ground among her helpless babes. Father of mercies! what an escape!

In a few moments the flames attacked the haystack, which was but a morsel
to its fury, and then seizing the house devoured it more slowly, while the
great volume of the fire swept around over the plain. Long did the light of
the burning home blight the eye of the lone woman after the flames had done
their worst on the prairie around her and gone on bearing ruin and
devastation to the southern plains and groves.

The vigils and the terrors of that fearful night wrought their work on the
lonely woman, and she sank into a trance-like slumber upon the naked earth,
with her babes nestling in her lap and the dog, her noble guardian,
crouching at her feet. She awoke with the first light of morning to the
terrible realities from which for a few brief hours she had had a blessed
oblivion. She arose as from a dream and cast a dazed look southward over a
charred and blackened expanse stretching to the horizon, over which the
smoke was hanging like a pall. Turning away, stunned by the fearful
recollection, her eyes fell upon the smouldering ruins of her once happy
home. She tottered with her chilled and hungry children towards the heap of
smoking rafters and still glowing embers of the cabin, with which the
morning breezes were toying as in merry pastime, and sat down upon a mound
which stood before what had once been the door. Here, at least, was warmth,
but whither should she go for shelter and food. There was no house within
forty miles and the cruel flames had spared neither grain nor meat. There
was no shelter but the canopy of heaven and no food but roots and
half-burned nuts.

Wandering hither and thither under the charred and leafless trees, she
picked up with her numb and nerveless fingers the relics of the autumn nuts
or feebly dug in the frost-stiffened ground for roots. But these were rare;
here and there she found a nut shielded by a decayed log, and the edible
roots were almost hidden by the ashes of the grass. She returned to the
fire, around which her innocent children had begun to frolic with childlike
thoughtlessness. The coarse morsels which she gave them seemed for the
moment to quiet their cravings, and the strange sight of their home in
ruins diverted their minds. The mother saw with joy that they were amusing
themselves with merry games and had no part in her bitter sorrows and
fears. Long and earnestly did she bend her eyes on the wide, black plains
to see if she could discern the white-topped wagon moving over that dark
expanse. Noon came and passed but brought not the sight for which she
yearned: only the brown deer gamboling and the prairie hen wheeling her
flight over the scorched waste!

Night came with its cold, its darkness, its hunger, its dreadful solitude!
The chilled and shelterless woman sat with the heads of her sleeping
children pillowed in her lap, and listened to the howling of the starved
wolves, the dog her only guardian. She had discovered a few ground-nuts,
which she had divided among the children, reserving none for herself; she
had stripped off nearly all her clothing in order to wrap them up warmly
against the frosty air, and with pleasant words, while her head was
bursting, she had soothed them to sleep beside the burning pile; and there,
through the watches of the long night, she gazed fondly at them and prayed
to the Father of mercies that they, at least, might be spared.

The night was dark: beyond the circle of the burning embers nothing could
be discerned. At intervals, her blood was curdled by the long, mournful
howl of the gaunt gray wolf calling his companions to their prey. The cold
wind whistled around her thinly clad frame and chilled it to the core. As
the night grew stiller a drowsiness against which she contended in vain,
overcame her, her eyelids drooped, her shivering body swayed to and fro,
until by the tumbling down of the embers she was again aroused, and would
brace herself for another hour's vigil. At last the darkness became
profoundly silent and even the wind ceased to whisper, the nocturnal
marauders stole away, and night held her undisputed reign. Then came a
heavy dreamless sleep and overpowered the frame of the watcher, chilled as
it was, and faint with hunger, and worn with fatigue and vigils: she curled
her shivering limbs around her loved ones and became oblivious to all.

It was the cry of her babes that waked her from slumber. The fire was
slowly dying; the sun was looking down coldly from the leaden sky; slowly
his beams were obscured by dark, sullen masses of vapor, which at last
curtained the whole heavens. Rain! When she sat watching in the darkness, a
few hours before, she thought nothing could make her condition worse. But
an impending rain-storm which, thirty-six hours before, would have been
hailed as merciful and saving, would now only aggravate their situation.
Darker and darker grew the sky. She must hasten for food ere the clouds
should burst. Her limbs were stiff with cold, her sight was dim, and her
brain reeled as she rose to her feet and tottered to the grove to search
for sustenance to keep her wailing babes alive. Her own desire for food was
gone, but all exhausted as she was she could not resist the pleadings of
the loved ones who hung upon her garments and begged for food.

Gleaning a few more coarse morsels on the ground so often searched, she
tottered back to the spot which still seemed home though naught of home was
there. Strange, racking pains wrung her wasted body, and sinking down
beside her children she felt as if her last hour had come. Yes! she would
perish there beside those consecrated ashes with her little ones around
her. A drizzling rain was falling faster and faster. The fire was dying and
she pushed the brands together, and gathered her trembling babes about her
knees, and between the periods of her agony told them not to forget their
mamma nor how they had lost her; she gave the eldest boy many tender
messages to carry to her husband and to her first born. With wondering and
tearful face he promised to do as she desired, but begged her to tell him
where she would be when his father came and whether his little brother
would go with her and leave him all alone.

The rain poured down mercilessly and chilly blew the blast. The embers
hissed and blackened and shed no more warmth on the suffering group. Keener
and heavier grew the mother's pangs, and there beside the smoking ruins of
her home, prone on the drenched soil, with the pitiless sky bending above
her, her helpless children wailing around her writhing form, the hapless
woman gave birth to a little babe, whose eyes were never opened to the
desolation of its natal home.

Unconscious alike to the cries of the terror stricken children and of the
moaning caresses of her dumb friend, that poor mother's eyes were only
opened on the dreadful scene when day was far advanced. Through the cold
rain, still pouring steadily down, the twilight seemed to her faint eyes to
be creeping over the earth. Sweet sounds were ringing in her ears. These
were but dreams that deluded her weakened mind and senses. She strove to
rise, but fell back and again relapsed into insensibility. Once again her
eyes opened. This time it was no illusion. The eldest of the little
watchers was shouting, in her ear, "Mother, I see father's wagon!" There it
was close at hand. All day it had been slowly moving across the blackened
prairie. The turf had been softened by the rain and the last few miles had
been inconceivably tedious. The charred surface of the plain had filled the
heart of both father and son with terror, which increased as they advanced.

When they were within a mile of the spot where the cabin stood and could
see no house, they both abandoned the wagon, and leaving the animals to
follow as they chose, they flew shouting loudly as they sped on till they
stood over the perishing group. They could not for the moment comprehend
the dreadful calamity, but stared at the wasted faces of the children, the
infant corpse, the dying wife, the desolate home.

Cursing the day that he had been lured by the festal beauty of those
prairies, the father lifted the dying woman in his arms, gazed with an
agonized face upon her glassy eyes, and felt the faint fluttering in her
breast that foretold the last and worst that could befall him. Slowly, word
by word, with weak sepulchral voice, she told the dreadful story.

He slipped off his outer garments and wrapped them around her, and wiping
off the rain-drops from her face drew her to his heart. But storm or
shelter was all the same to her now, and the death-damp on her brow was
colder than the pelting shower. He accused himself of her cruel murder and
wildly prayed her forgiveness. From these accusations she vindicated him,
besought him not to grieve for her, and with many prayers for her dear
children and their father, she resigned her breath with the parting light
of that sad autumnal day.

After two days and nights of weeping and watching, he laid her remains deep
down below the prairie sod, beside the home which she had loved and made
bright by her presence.




CHAPTER XII.

THE HEROINES OF THE SOUTHWEST


No portion of our country has been the scene of more romantic and dangerous
adventures than that region described under the broad and vague term the
"Southwest." Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, are vast, remote, and varied
fields with which danger and hardship, wonder and mystery are ever
associated. The country itself embraces great contrarieties of scenery and
topography--the rich farm, the expansive cattle ranch, the broad lonely
prairie watered by majestic rivers, the barren desert, the lofty plateau,
the secluded mining settlement, and vast mountain ranges furrowed by
torrents into black cañons where sands of gold lie heaped in inaccessible,
useless riches.

The forms of human society are almost equally diverse. Strange and
mysterious tribes, each with different characteristics, here live side by
side. Vile mongrel breeds of men multiply to astonish the ethnologist and
the moralist. Here roam the Comanches and the Apaches, the most remorseless
and bloodthirsty of all the North American aboriginal tribes. Mexican
bandits traverse the plains and lurk in the mountain passes, and American
outlaws and desperadoes here find a refuge from justice.

As the Anglo-Saxon after fording the Sabine, the Brazos, and the Colorado
River of Texas, advances westward, he is brought face to face with these
different races with whom is mixed in greater or less proportion the blood
of the old Castilian conquerors. Each of these races is widely alien from,
and most of them instinctively antagonistic to the North European people.

Taking into view the immense distances to be traversed, the natural
difficulties presented by the face of the country, the remoteness of the
region from civilization, and the mixed, incongruous and hostile character
of the inhabitants, we might naturally expect that its occupation by
peaceful settlers,--by those forms of household life in which woman is an
essential element--would be indefinitely postponed. But that energy and
ardor which marks alike the men and the women of our race has carried the
family, that germ of the state, over all obstacles and planted it in the
inhospitable soil of the most remote corners of this region, and there it
will flourish and germinate doubtless till it has uprooted every
neighboring and noxious product.

The northeastern section of this extensive country is composed of that
stupendous level tract known as the "Llano Estacado," or "Staked Plain."
Stretching hundreds of miles in every direction, this sandy plain,
treeless, arid, with only here and there patches of stunted herbage,
whitened by the bones of horses and mules, and by the more ghastly
skeletons of too adventurous travelers, presents an area of desolation
scarcely more than paralleled by the great African Desert.

In the year 1846, after news had reached the States that our troops were in
peaceful occupation of New Mexico, a party of men and women set out from
the upper valley of the Red River of Louisiana, with the intention of
settling in the valley of the river Pecos, in the eastern part of the newly
conquered territory. The company consisted of seven persons, viz.: Mr. and
Mrs. Benham and their child of seven years, Mr. and Mrs. Braxton and two
sons of fifteen and eighteen years respectively.

They made rapid and comfortable progress through the valley of the Red
River, and in two weeks reached the edge of the "Staked Plain," which they
now made preparations to cross, for the difficulties and dangers of the
route were not unknown to them. Disencumbering their pack-mules of all
useless burdens and supplying themselves with water for two days, they
pushed forward on their first stage which brought them on the evening of
the second day to a kind of oasis in this desert where they found wood,
water, and grass. From this point there was a stretch of ninety miles
perfectly bare of wood and water, and with rare intervals of scanty herbage
for the beasts. After this desolate region had been passed they would have
a comparatively easy journey to their destination.

On the evening of the second day of their passage across this arid tract
they had the misfortune to burst their only remaining water cask, and to
see the thirsty sands drink up in a moment every drop of the precious
liquid. They were then forty miles from the nearest water. Their beasts
were jaded and suffering from thirst. The two men were incapacitated for
exertion by slight sun-strokes received that day, and one of the boys had
been bitten in the hand by a rattlesnake while taking from its burrow a
prairie dog which he had shot.

The next day they pursued their march only with the utmost difficulty; the
two men were barely able to sit on their horses, and the boy which had been
bitten was faint and nerveless from the effect of the poison. The heat was
felt very severely by the party as they dragged themselves slowly across
the white expanse of sand, which reflected the rays of the sun with a
painful glare into the haggard eyes of the wretched wanderers. Before they
had made fifteen miles, or little more than one-third of the distance that
would have to be accomplished before reaching water, the horses and mules
gave out and at three o'clock in the afternoon the party dismounted and
panting with heat and thirst stretched themselves on the sand. The sky
above them was like brass and the soil was coated with a fine alkali
deposit which rose in clouds at their slightest motion, filling their
nostrils and eyes, and increasing the agonies they were suffering.

Their only hope was that they would be discovered by some passing train of
hunters or emigrants. This hope faded away as the sun declined and nothing
but the sky and the long dreary dazzling expanse of sand met their eyes.

The painful glare slowly softened, and with sunset came coolness; this was
some slight mitigation to their sufferings; sleep too, promised to bring
oblivion; and hope, which a merciful Providence has ordained to cast its
halo over the darkest hours, told its flattering tale of possible relief on
the morrow.

The air of that desert is pellucid as crystal, and the last beams of the
sun left on the unclouded azure of the sky a soft glow, through which every
thing in the western horizon was outlined as if drawn by some magic pencil.
Casting their eyes in that direction the wretched wayfarers saw far away a
dun-colored haze through which small black specks seemed to be moving.
Growing larger and more distinct it approached them slowly over the vast
expanse until its true nature was apparent. It was a cloud of dust such as
a party of horsemen make when in rapid motion over a soil as fine and light
as ashes. Was it friend or foe? Was it American cavalry or was it a band of
Mexican guerrillas that was galloping so fiercely over that arid plain?
These torturing doubts were soon solved. Skimming over the ground like
swallows, six sunburnt men with hair as black as the crow's wing, gaily
dressed, and bearing long lances, soon reined in their mustangs within
twenty paces of the party and gazed curiously at them. One of the band
then rode up and asked in broken English if they were "Americans:" having
thus made a reconnoisance and seeing their helplessness, without waiting
for a reply, he beckoned to his companions who approached and demanded the
surrender of the party. Under other circumstances a stout resistance would
have been made; but in their present forlorn condition they could do
nothing.

Their guns, a part of their money, and whatever the unfortunate families
had that pleased the guerrillas, was speedily appropriated, the throats of
their horses and mules were cut, Mrs. Braxton and Mrs. Benham were seized,
and in spite of their struggles and shrieks each of them was placed in
front of a swarthy bandit, and then the Mexicans rode away cursing "Los
Americanos," and barbarously leaving them to die of hunger and thirst.

After a four hours' gallop, the marauders reached an adobe house on Picosa
Creek, a tributary of the Rio Pecos. This was the headquarters of the gang,
and here they kept relays of fresh horses, mustangs, fiery, and full of
speed and bottom. Mrs. Benham and Mrs. Braxton were placed in a room by
themselves on the second story, and the door was barricaded so that escape
by that avenue was impossible; but the windows were only guarded by stout
oaken bars, which the women, by their united strength, succeeded in
removing. Their captors were plunged in a profound slumber, when Mrs.
Benham and her companion dropped themselves out of the window and succeeded
in reaching the stable without discovery. Here they found six fresh horses
ready saddled and bridled, the others on which the bandits had made their
raid being loose in the enclosure.

It was a cruel necessity which impelled our brave heroines to draw their
knives across the hamstrings of the tired horses, thus disabling them so as
to prevent pursuit. Then softly leading out the six fresh mustangs, each of
our heroines mounted one of the horses man-fashion and led the others
lashed together with lariats; walking the beasts until out of hearing, they
then put them to a gallop, and, riding all night, came, at sunrise, to the
spot where their suffering friends lay stretched on the sand, having
abandoned all hope.

After a brief rest, the whole party pushed rapidly forward on their
journey, arriving that evening at a place of safety. Two days after, they
reached the headwaters of the Pecos. Here they purchased a large adobe
house, and an extensive tract, suitable both for grazing and tillage.

These events occurred early in the autumn. During the following winter the
Mexicans revolted, and massacred Governor Bent and his military household.
On the same day seven Americans were killed at Arroyo Hondo; a large
Mexican force was preparing to march on Santa Fé, and for a time it seemed
as if the handful of American soldiers would be driven out of the
territory. This conspiracy was made known to the authorities by an American
girl, who was the wife of one of the Mexican conspirators, and becoming,
through her husband, acquainted with the plan of operations, divulged them
to General Price in season to prevent a more general outbreak. As it was,
the American settlers were in great danger.

The strong and spacious house in which the Benhams and Braxtons lived had
formerly been used as a stockade and fortification against Indian attack.
Its thick walls were pierced with loop-holes, and its doors, of double oak
planks, were studded with wrought-iron spikes, which made it bullet-proof.
A detachment of United States troops were stationed a short distance from
their ranch, and the two families, in spite of the disturbed condition of
the country, felt reasonably secure. The troops were withdrawn, however,
after the revolt commenced, leaving the new settlers dependent upon their
own resources for protection. Their cattle and horses were driven into the
enclosure, and the inmates of the house kept a sharp lookout against
hostile parties of marauders, whether Indian or Mexican.

Early on the morning of January 24th a mounted party of twelve Mexicans
made their appearance in front of the enclosure, which they quickly scaled,
and discharged a volley of balls, one of which passed through a loop-hole,
and, entering Mr. Braxton's eye as he was aiming a rifle at the assailants,
laid him dead at the feet of his wife. Mrs. Braxton, with streaming eyes,
laid the head of her husband in her lap and watched his expiring throes
with agony, such as only a wife and mother can feel when she sees the dear
partner of her life and the father of her sons torn in an instant from her
embrace. Seeing that her husband was no more, she dried her tears and
thought only of vengeance on his murderers.

The number of the besieged was twelve at the start, viz.: Mr. and Mrs.
Braxton, Mr. and Mrs. Benham and their children, three Irish herders, and a
half-breed Mexican and his wife, who were house servants. The death of Mr.
Braxton had reduced their number to eleven. A few moments later the
Mexican half-breed disappeared, but was not missed in the excitement of the
defense.

The besieged returned with vigor the fire of their assailants, two of whom
had already bit the dust. The women loaded the guns and passed them to the
men, who kept the Mexicans at a respectful distance by the rapidity of
their fire. Mrs. Benham was the first to mark the absence of Juan the
Mexican half-breed, and, suspecting treachery, flew to the loft with a
hatchet in one hand and a revolver in the other. Her suspicion was correct.
Juan had opened an upper window, and, letting down a ladder, had assisted
two of the attacking party to ascend, and they were preparing to make an
assault on those below by firing through the cracks in the floor, when the
intrepid woman despatched Juan with a shot from her revolver and clove the
skull of another Mexican; the third leaped from the window and escaped.

As Mrs. Benham was about to descend from the loft, after drawing up the
ladder and closing the window, she was met by the wife of the treacherous
half-breed, who aimed a stroke at her breast with a _machete_ or large
knife, such as the Mexicans use. She received a flesh wound in the left arm
as she parried the blow, and it was only with the mixed strength of Mrs.
Braxton and one of the herders, who had now ascended to the loft, that the
infuriated Mexican whom Mrs. Benham had made a widow, could be mastered and
bound.

Three of the attacking party had now been killed and three others placed
_hors de combat_; the remnant were apparently about to retire from the
siege, when six more swarthy desperadoes, mounted on black mustangs, came
galloping up and halted on a hill just out of rifle shot.

Mrs. Braxton and Mrs. Benham, looking through a field glass, at once
recognized them as the band which had made them captives a few months
before.

After a few moments of consultation one of the band, who appeared to be
only armed with a bow and arrow, advanced towards the house waving a white
flag. Within thirty paces of the door stood a large tree, and behind this
the envoy, bearing the white flag, ensconced himself, and, striking a
light, twanged his bow and sent a burning arrow upon the roof of the house,
which, being dry as tinder, in a moment was in a blaze.

Both of the women immediately carried water to the roof and extinguished
the flames. Another arrow, wrapped in cotton steeped in turpentine, again
set the roof on fire, and as one of the intrepid matrons threw a bucket of
water upon the blaze, the dastard stepped from behind the tree and sent a
pistol ball through her right arm, but at the same moment received two
rifle balls in his breast, and fell a corpse.

Mrs. Benham, for it was she who had been struck, was assisted by her
husband to the ground floor, where her wound was examined and found to be
fortunately not a dangerous one. A new peril, however, now struck terror to
their hearts; the water was all exhausted. The fire began to make headway.
Mrs. Braxton, calling loudly for water to extinguish it, and meeting no
response, descended to the ground floor, where the defenders were about to
give up all hope, and either resign themselves to the flames, or by
emerging from the house, submit to massacre at the hands of the now
infuriated foe. As Mrs. Braxton rolled her eyes hither and thither in
search of some substitute for water, they fell on the corpse of her
husband. His coat and vest were completely saturated with blood. It was
only the sad but terrible necessity which immediately suggested to her the
use to which these garments could be put. Shuddering, she removed them
quickly but tenderly from the body, flew to the roof and succeeded, by
these dripping and ghastly tokens of her widowhood, in finally
extinguishing the flames.

The attack ceased at night-fall, and the Mexicans withdrew. The outbreak
having been soon quelled by the United States forces, the territory was
brought again into a condition of peace and comparative security.

At the close of the war in 1848, Mrs. Braxton married a discharged
volunteer named Whitley, and having disposed of the late Mr. Braxton's
interest in the New Mexican ranche, removed, in 1851, with her husband and
family, to California, where they lived for two years in the Sacramento
valley.

Whitley was possessed of one of those roving and adventurous spirits which
is never happy in repose, and when he was informed by John Crossman, an old
comrade, of the discovery of a rich placer which he had made during his
march as a United States soldier across the territory of Arizona, at that
time known as the Gadsden purchase, he eagerly formed a partnership with
the discoverer, who was no longer in the army, and announced to his wife
his resolution to settle in Arizona. She endeavored by every argument she
could command to dissuade him from this rash step, but in vain, and finding
all her representations and entreaties of no avail, she consented, though
with the utmost reluctance, to accompany him. They accordingly sold their
place and took vessel with their household goods, for San Diego, from which
point they purposed to advance across the country three hundred miles to
the point where Crossman had located his placer.

The territory of Arizona may be likened to that wild and rugged mountain
region in Central Asia, where, according to Persian myth, untold treasures
are guarded by the malign legions of Ahriman, the spirit of evil. Two of
the great elemental forces have employed their destructive agencies upon
the surface of the country until it might serve for an ideal picture of
desolation. For countless centuries the water has seamed and gashed the
face of the hills, stripping them of soil, and cutting deep gorges and
cañons through the rocks. The water then flowed away or disappeared in the
sands, and the sun came with its parching heat to complete the work of
ruin. Famine and thirst stalk over those arid plains, or lurk in the
waterless and gloomy cañons; as if to compensate for these evils, the soil
of the territory teems with mineral wealth. Grains of gold glisten in the
sandy _débris_ of ancient torrents, and nuggets are wedged in the
faces of the precipices. Mountains of silver and copper are waiting for the
miner who is bold enough to venture through that desolate region in quest
of these metals.

The journey from San Diego was made with pack mules and occupied thirty
days, during which nearly every hardship and obstacle in the pioneer's
catalogue was encountered. When they reached the spot described by Crossman
they found the place, which lay at the bottom of a deep ravine, had been
covered with boulders and thirty feet of sand by the rapid torrents of five
rainy seasons. They immediately commenced "prospecting." Mrs. Braxton had
the good fortune to discover a large "pocket," from which Crossman and her
husband took out in a few weeks thirty thousand dollars in gold. This
contented the adventurers, and being disgusted with the appearance of the
country, they decided to go back to California.

Instead of returning on the same route by which they came, they resolved to
cross the Colorado river higher up and in the neighborhood of the Santa
Maria. They reached the Colorado river after a toilsome march, but while
searching for a place to pass over, Crossman lost his footing and fell
sixty feet down a precipice, surviving only long enough to bequeath his
share of the treasure to his partner. Here, too, they had the misfortune to
lose one of their four pack-mules, which strayed away. Pressing on in a
northwesterly direction they passed through a series of deep valleys and
gorges where the only water they could find was brackish and bitter, and
reached the edge of the California desert. They had meanwhile lost another
mule which had been dashed to pieces by falling down a cañon. Mr. Whitley's
strength becoming exhausted his wife gave up to him the beast she had been
riding, and pursued her way on foot, driving before her the other mule,
which bore the gold-dust with their scanty supply of food and their only
remaining cooking utensils. Their tents and camp furniture having been lost
they had suffered much from the chilly nights in the mountains, and after
they had entered the desert, from the rays of the sun. Before they could
reach the Mohave river Mr. Whitley became insane from thirst and hunger,
and nothing but incessant watchfulness on the part of his wife could
prevent him from doing injury to himself. Once while she was gathering
cactus-leaves to wet his lips with the moisture they contained, he bit his
arm and sucked the blood. Upon reaching the river he drank immoderately of
the water and in an hour expired, regaining his consciousness before death,
and blessing his devoted wife with his last breath. Ten days later the
brave woman had succeeded in reaching Techichipa in so wasted a condition
that she looked like a specter risen from the grave. Here by careful
nursing she was at length restored to health. The gold-dust which had cost
so dearly was found after a long search, beneath the carcass of the mule,
twenty miles from Techichipa.

The extraordinary exploits of Mrs. Braxton can only be explained by
supposing her to be naturally endowed with a larger share of nerve and
hardihood than usually falls to the lot of her sex. Some influence, too,
must be ascribed to the peculiarly wild and free life that prevails in the
southwest. Living so much of the time in the open air in a climate
peculiarly luxuriant and yet bracing, and environed with dangers in
manifold guise, all the latent heroism in woman's nature is brought out to
view, her muscular and nervous tissues are hardened, and her moral
endurance by constant training in the school of hardship and danger, rests
upon a strong and healthy physique. Upon this theory we may also explain
the following incident which is related of another border-woman of the
southwest.

[Footnote: Marcy's Border Reminiscences.] Beyond the extreme outer line of
settlements in western Texas, near the head waters of the Colorado River,
and in one of the remotest and most sequestered sections of that sparsely
populated district, there lived in 1867, an enterprising pioneer by the
name of Babb, whose besetting propensity and ambition consisted in pushing
his fortunes a little farther toward the setting sun than any of his
neighbors, the nearest of whom, at the time specified, was some fifteen
miles in his rear.

The household of the borderer consisted of his wife, three small children,
and a female friend by the name of L------, who, having previously lost her
husband, was passing the summer with the family. She was a veritable type
of those vigorous, self-reliant border women, who encounter danger or the
vicissitudes of weather without quailing.

Born and nurtured upon the remotest frontier, she inherited a robust
constitution, and her active life in the exhilarating prairie air served to
develop and mature a healthy womanly physique. From an early age she had
been a fearless rider, and her life on the frontier had habituated her to
the constant use of the horse until she felt almost more at home in the
saddle than in a chair.

Upon one bright and lovely morning in June, 1867, the adventurous borderer
before mentioned, set out from his home with some cattle for a distant
market, leaving his family in possession of the ranch, without any male
protectors from Indian marauders.

They did not, however, entertain any serious apprehensions of molestation
in his absence, as no hostile Indians had as yet made their appearance in
that locality, and everything passed on quietly for several days, until one
morning, while the women were busily occupied with their domestic affairs
in the house, the two oldest children, who were playing outside, called to
their mother, and informed her that some mounted men were approaching from
the prairie. On looking out, she perceived, to her astonishment, that they
were Indians coming upon the gallop, and already very near the house. This
gave her no time to make arrangements for defense; but she screamed to the
children to run in for their lives, as she desired to bar the door, being
conscious of the fact that the prairie warriors seldom attack a house that
is closed, fearing, doubtless, that it may be occupied by armed men, who
might give them an unwelcome reception.

The children did not, however, obey the command of their mother, believing
the strangers to be white men, and the door was left open. As soon as the
alarm was given, Mrs. L------ sprang up a ladder into the loft, and
concealed herself in such a position that she could, through cracks in the
floor, see all that passed beneath.

Meantime the savages came up, seized and bound the two children outdoors,
and, entering the house, rushed toward the young child, which the
terror-stricken mother struggled frantically to rescue from their clutches;
but they were too much for her, and tearing the infant from her arms, they
dashed it upon the floor; then seizing her by the hair, they wrenched back
her head and cut her throat from ear to ear, putting her to death
instantaneously.

Mrs. L------, who was anxiously watching their proceedings from the loft,
witnessed the fiendish tragedy, and uttered an involuntary shriek of
horror, which disclosed her hiding-place to the barbarians, and they
instantly vaulted up the ladder, overpowered and tied her; then dragging
her rudely down, they placed her, with the two elder children, upon horses,
and hurriedly set off to the north, leaving the infant child unharmed, and
clasping the murdered corpse of its mangled parent.

In accordance with their usual practice, they traveled as rapidly as their
horses could carry them for several consecutive days and nights, only
making occasional short halts to graze and rest their animals, and get a
little sleep themselves, so that the unfortunate captives necessarily
suffered indescribable tortures from harsh treatment, fatigue, and want of
sleep and food. Yet they were forced by the savages to continue on day
after day, and night after night, for many, many weary miles toward the
"Staked Plain," crossing _en route_ the Brazos, Wachita, Red,
Canadian, and Arkansas Rivers, several of which were at swimming stages.

The warriors guarded their captives very closely, until they had gone so
great a distance from the settlements that they imagined it impossible for
them to make their escape and find their way home, when they relapsed their
vigilance slightly, and they were permitted to walk about a little within
short limits from the bivouacs; but they were given to understand by
unmistakable pantomime that death would be the certain penalty of the first
attempt to escape.

In spite of this, Mrs. L------, who possessed a firmness of purpose truly
heroic, resolved to seize the first favorable opportunity to get away, and
with this resolution in view, she carefully observed the relative speed and
powers of endurance of the different horses in the party, and noted the
manner in which they were grazed, guarded, and caught; and upon a dark
night, after a long, fatiguing day's ride, and while the Indians were
sleeping soundly, she noiselessly and cautiously crawled away from the bed
of her young companions, who were also buried in profound slumber, and
going to the pasture-ground of the horses, selected the best, leaped upon
his back _à la garçon_, with only a lariat around his neck, and
without saddle or bridle, quietly started off at a slow walk in the
direction of the north star, believing that this course would lead her to
the nearest white habitations. As soon as she had gone out of hearing from
the bivouac, without detection or pursuit, she accelerated the speed of the
horse into a trot, then to a gallop, and urged him rapidly forward during
the entire night.

At dawn of day on the following morning she rose upon the crest of an
eminence overlooking a vast area of bald prairie country, where, for the
first time since leaving the Indians, she halted, and, turning round,
tremblingly cast a rapid glance to the rear, expecting to see the savage
blood-hounds upon her track; but, to her great relief, not a single
indication of a living object could be discerned within the extended scope
of her vision. She breathed more freely now, but still did not feel safe
from pursuit; and the total absence of all knowledge of her whereabouts in
the midst of the wide expanse of dreary prairie around her, with the
uncertainty of ever again looking upon a friendly face, caused her to
realize most vividly her own weakness and entire dependence upon the
Almighty, and she raised her thoughts to Heaven in fervent supplication.

The majesty and sublimity of the stupendous works of the great Author and
Creator of the Universe, when contrasted with the insignificance of the
powers and achievements of a vivified atom of earth modeled into human
form, are probably under no circumstances more strikingly exhibited and
felt than when one becomes bewildered and lost in the almost limitless
amplitude of our great North American "pampas," where not a single
foot-mark or other trace of man's presence or action can be discovered, and
where the solitary wanderer is startled at the sound even of his own voice.

The sensation of loneliness and despondency resulting from the appalling
consciousness of being really and absolutely lost, with the realization of
the fact that but two or three of the innumerable different points of
direction embraced within the circle of the horizon will serve to extricate
the bewildered victim from the awful doom of death by starvation, and in
entire ignorance as to which of these particular directions should be
followed, without a single road, trail, tree, bush, or other landmark to
guide or direct--the effects upon the imagination of this formidable array
of disheartening circumstances can be fully appreciated only by those who
have been personally subjected to their influence.

A faint perception of the intensity of the mental torture experienced by
these unfortunate victims may, however, be conjectured from the fact that
their senses at such junctures become so completely absorbed and
overpowered by the cheerless prospect before them, that they oftentimes
wander about in a state of temporary lunacy, without the power of
exercising the slightest volition of the reasoning faculties.

The inflexible spirit of the heroine of this narrative did not, however,
succumb in the least to the imminent perils of the situation in which she
found herself, and her purposes were carried out with a determination as
resolute and unflinching as those of the Israelites in their protracted
pilgrimage through the wilderness, and without the guidance of pillars of
fire and cloud.

The aid of the sun and the broad leaves of the pilot-plant by day, with the
light of Polaris by night, enabled her to pursue her undeviating course to
the north with as much accuracy as if she had been guided by the magnetic
needle.

She continued to urge forward the generous steed she bestrode, who, in
obedience to the will of his rider, coursed swiftly on hour after hour
during the greater part of the day, without the least apparent labor or
exhaustion.

It was a contest for life and liberty that she had undertaken, a struggle
in which she resolved to triumph or perish in the effort: and still the
brave-hearted woman pressed on, until at length her horse began to show
signs of exhaustion, and as the shadows of evening began to appear he
became so much jaded that it was difficult to coax or force him into a
trot, and the poor woman began to entertain serious apprehensions that he
might soon give out altogether and leave her on foot.

At this time she was herself so much wearied and in want of sleep that she
would have given all she possessed to have been allowed to dismount and
rest; but, unfortunately for her, those piratical quadrupeds of the plains,
the wolves, advised by their carnivorous instincts that she and her
exhausted horse might soon fall an easy sacrifice to their voracious
appetites, followed upon her track, and came howling in great numbers about
her, so that she dared not set her feet upon the ground, fearing they would
devour her; and her only alternative was to continue urging the poor beast
to struggle forward during the dark and gloomy hours of the long night,
until at length she became so exhausted that it was only with the utmost
effort of her iron will that she was enabled to preserve her balance upon
the horse.

Meantime the ravenous pack of wolves, becoming more and more emboldened and
impatient as the speed of her horse relaxed, approached nearer and nearer,
until, with their eyes flashing fire, they snapped savagely at the heels of
the terrified horse, while at the same time they kept up their hideous
concert like the howlings of ten thousand fiends from the infernal regions.

Every element in her nature was at this fearful juncture taxed to its
greatest tension, and impelled her to concentrate the force of all her
remaining energies in urging and coaxing forward the wearied horse, until,
finally, he was barely able to reel and stagger along at a slow walk; and
when she was about to give up in despair, expecting every instant that the
animal would drop down dead under her, the welcome light of day dawned in
the eastern horizon, and imparted a more cheerful and encouraging influence
over her, and, on looking around, to her great joy, there were no wolves in
sight.

She now, for the first time in about thirty-six hours, dismounted, and
knowing that sleep would soon overpower her, and the horse, if not secured,
might escape or wander away, and there being no tree or other object to
which he could be fastened, she, with great presence of mind, tied one end
of the long lariat to his neck, and, with the other end around her waist,
dropped down upon the ground in a deep sleep, while the famished horse
eagerly cropped the herbage around her.

She was unconscious as to the duration of her slumber, but it must have
been very protracted to have compensated the demands of nature, for the
exhaustion induced by her prodigious ride.

Her sleep was sweet, and she dreamed of happiness and home, losing all
consciousness of her actual situation until she was suddenly startled and
aroused by the pattering sound of horses' feet, beating the earth on every
side.

Springing to her feet in the greatest possible alarm, she found herself
surrounded by a large band of savages, who commenced dancing around,
flouting their war-clubs in terrible proximity to her head, while giving
utterance to the, most diabolical shouts of exultation.

Her exceedingly weak and debilitated condition at this time, resulting from
long abstinence from food, and unprecedented mental and physical trials,
had wrought upon her nervous system to such an extent that she imagined the
moment of her death had arrived, and fainted.

The Indians then approached, and, after she revived, placed her again upon
a horse, and rode away with her to their camp, which, fortunately, was not
far distant. They then turned their prisoner over to the squaws, who gave
her food and put her to bed; but it was several days before she was
sufficiently recovered to be able to walk about the camp.

She learned that her last captors belonged to "Lone Wolf's" band of Kiowas.

Although these Indians treated her with more kindness than the Comanches
had done, yet she did not for an instant entertain the thought that they
would ever voluntarily release her from bondage; neither had she the
remotest conception of her present locality, or of the direction or
distance to any white settlement; but she had no idea of remaining a slave
for life, and resolved to make her escape the first practicable moment that
offered.

During the time she remained with these Indians a party of men went away to
the north, and were absent six days, bringing with them, on their return,
some ears of green corn. She knew the prairie tribes never planted a seed
of any description, and was therefore confident the party had visited a
white settlement, and that it was not over three days' journey distant.
This was encouraging intelligence for her, and she anxiously bided her time
to depart.

Late one night, after all had become hushed and quiet throughout the camp,
and every thing seemed auspicious for the consummation of her purposes, she
stole carefully away from her bed, crept softly out to the herd of horses,
and after having caught and saddled one, was in the act of mounting, when a
number of dogs rushed out after her, and by their barking, created such a
disturbance among the Indians that she was forced, for the time, to forego
her designs and crawl hastily back to her lodge.

On a subsequent occasion, however, fortune favored her. She secured an
excellent horse and rode away in the direction from which she had seen the
Indians returning to camp with the green corn. Under the certain guidance
of the sun and stars she was enabled to pursue a direct bearing, and after
three consecutive days of rapid riding, anxiety, fatigue, and hunger, she
arrived upon the border of a large river, flowing directly across her
track. The stream was swollen to the top of its banks; the water coursed
like a torrent through its channel, and she feared her horse might not be
able to stem the powerful current; but after surmounting the numerous
perils and hardships she had already encountered, the dauntless woman was
not to be turned aside from her inflexible purpose by this formidable
obstacle, and she instantly dashed into the foaming torrent, and, by dint
of encouragement and punishment, forced her horse through the stream and
landed safely upon the opposite bank.

After giving her horse a few moments' rest, she again set forward, and had
ridden but a short distance when, to her inexpressible astonishment and
delight, she struck a broad and well-beaten wagon-road, the first and only
evidence or trace of civilization she had seen since leaving her home in
Texas.

Up to this joyful moment the indomitable inflexibility of purpose of our
heroine had not faltered for an instant, neither had she suffered the
slightest despondency, in view of the terrible array of disheartening
circumstances that had continually confronted her, but when she realized
the hopeful prospect before her of a speedy escape from the reach of her
barbarous captors, and a reasonable certainty of an early reunion with
people of her own sympathizing race, the feminine elements of her nature
preponderated, her stoical fortitude yielded to the delightful
anticipation, and her joy was intensified and confirmed by seeing, at this
moment, a long train of wagons approaching over the distant prairie.

The spectacle overwhelmed her with ecstasy, and she wept tears of joy while
offering up sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Almighty for delivering her
from a bondage more dreadful than death.

She then proceeded on until she met the wagons in charge of Mr. Robert
Bent, whom she entreated to give her food instantly, as she was in a state
bordering upon absolute starvation. He kindly complied with her request,
and after the cravings of her appetite had been appeased he desired to
gratify his curiosity, which had been not a little excited at the unusual
exhibition of a beautiful white woman appearing alone in that wild country,
riding upon an Indian saddle, with no covering on her head save her long
natural hair, which was hanging loosely and disorderly about her shoulders.
Accordingly, he inquired of her where she lived, to which she replied, "In
Texas." Mr. B. gave an incredulous shake of his head at this response,
remarking at the same time that he thought she must be mistaken, as Texas
happened to be situated some five or six hundred miles distant. She
reiterated the assurance of her statement, and described to him briefly the
leading incidents attending her capture and escape; but still he was
inclined to doubt, believing that she might possibly be insane.

He informed her that the river she had just crossed was the Arkansas, and
that she was then on the old Santa Fé road, about fifteen miles west of Big
Turkey Creek, where she would find the most remote frontier house. Then,
after thanking him for his kindness, she bade him adieu, and started away
in a walk toward the settlements, while he continued his journey in the
opposite direction.

On the arrival of Mr. Bent at Fort Zara, he called upon the Indian agent,
and reported the circumstance of meeting Mrs. L------, and, by a singular
coincidence, it so happened that the agent was at that very time holding a
council with the chiefs of the identical band of Indians from whom she had
last escaped, and they had just given a full history of the entire affair,
which seemed so improbable to the agent that he was not disposed to credit
it until he received its confirmation through Mr. Bent. He at once
dispatched a man to follow the woman and conduct her to Council Grove,
where she was kindly received, and remained for some time, hoping through
the efforts of the agents to gain intelligence of the two children she had
left with the Comanches, as she desired to take them back to their father
in Texas; but no tidings were gained for a long while.

The two captive children were afterwards ransomed and sent home to their
father.

It will readily be seen, by a reference to the map of the country over
which Mrs. L------ passed, that the distance from the place of her capture
to the point where she struck the Arkansas river could not have been short
of about five hundred miles, and the greater part of this immense expanse
of desert plain she traversed alone, without seeing a single civilized
human habitation.

It may well be questioned whether any woman either in ancient or modern
times ever performed such a remarkable equestrian feat, and the story
itself would be almost incredible were we not in possession of so many well
authenticated instances of the hardihood and powers of endurance shown by
woman on the frontiers of our country.




CHAPTER XIII.

WOMAN'S EXPERIENCE ON THE NORTHERN BORDER.


The vanguard of the "Great Army" which for nearly three centuries has been
hewing its pathway across the continent, may be divided into certain
_corps d'armée_, each of which moves on a different line, thus acting
on the Napoleonic tactics, and subjugating in detail the various regions
through which it passes. One corps, spreading out in broad battalions,
marches across the great prairies and winding through the gorges of the
Rocky mountains, encamps on the shore of Peaceful sea: another, skirting
the waves of the gulfs and fording the wide rivers of the South, plants its
outposts on the Rio Grande; a third cuts its way through the trackless
forests on the northern border till it strikes the lakes, and then crossing
these inland seas or passing round them, pauses and breathes for a season
in that great expanse known as the country of the Red River of the North.

Each of these mighty pioneer divisions has its common toils, dangers, and
sufferings. Each, too, has toils, dangers, and sufferings peculiar to
itself. The climate is the deadly foe of the northern pioneer. The
scorching air of a brief summer is followed closely by the biting frost of
a long winter. The snow, piled in drifts, blocks his passage and binds him
to his threshold. Sometimes by a sudden change in the temperature a thaw
converts the vast frozen mass into slush. In the depth of those arctic
winters sometimes fire, that necessary but dangerous serf, breaks its
chains and devastates its master's dwelling; then frost allies its power to
that of fire, and the household often succumbs to disaster, or barely
survives it.

Fire, frost, starvation, and wild beasts made frantic by winter's hunger,
are the imminent perils of the northern pioneer!

The record of woman in these regions on the northern frontier is crowded
with incidents which display a heroism as stern, a hardihood as rugged, a
fortitude as steadfast, as was ever shown by her sex under the most trying
situations into which she is brought by the exigencies of border life.

Such a record is that of Mrs. Dalton, who spent her life from early
womanhood in that region.

Naturally of a frail and delicate organization, reared in the ease and
luxury of an eastern home, and possessed of those strong local attachments
which are characteristic of females of her temperament, it was with the
utmost reluctance that she consented to follow her husband into the
wilderness. Having at last consented, she showed the greatest firmness in
carrying out a resolution which involved the loss of a happy home at the
place of her nativity, and consigned her to a life of hardship and danger.

Her first experience in this life was in the wilds of northern New York,
her husband having purchased a small clearing and a log-cabin in that
region on the banks of the Black river. She was transported thither,
reaching her destination one cold rainy evening early in May, after a
wearisome journey, for this was before the days of rapid transit.

Her first impressions must have been gloomy indeed. Without was pouring
rain and a black sky; the forest was dark as Erebus; within no fire blazed
on the hearth in the only room on the first floor of the cabin, and the
flickering light of a tallow candle made the darkness but the more visible;
a rude table and settles made out of rough planks, were all the furniture
the cabin could boast; there was no ladder to reach the loft which was to
be her sleeping room; the only window, without sash or glass, was a mere
opening in the side of the cabin; the rain beat in through the cracks in
the door and through the open window, and trickled through the roof, which
was like a sieve, while the wind blew keenly through a hundred seams and
apertures in the log walls.

The night, the cold, the storm, the dark and cheerless abode, were too much
to bear; the delicate young wife threw herself upon a settle and burst into
a flood of tears. This was but a momentary weakness. Rising above the
depression produced by the dreary scene, the woman's genius for creating
comfort out of the slenderest materials and bringing sunshine into
darkness, soon began to manifest itself.

We will not detail the various trials and cares by which that forlorn cabin
was transformed into a comfortable home, nor how fared Mrs. Dalton the
first rather uneventful year of her life in the woods. The second spring
saw her a mother, and the following autumn she became again a homeless
westward wanderer. Her husband had sold the cabin and clearing in New York,
and having purchased an extensive tract of forest-land a few miles south of
Georgian Bay in Upper Canada, decided to move thither.

The family with their household goods took sloop on Lake Ontario late in
October, and sailed to Toronto; from this place on the 15th day of
November, they proceeded across the peninsula in sleighs. Their party
consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Dalton and their child, and John McMurray, their
hired man, and his wife.

The first forty miles of their journey lay over a well-beaten road, and
through a succession of clearings, which soon began to diminish until they
reached a dense forest, which rose in solemn stillness around them and cast
across their path a shadow which seemed to the imagination of Mrs. Dalton
an omen of coming evil.

The sun had now set, but the party still drove on through the
forest-shadows; the moon having risen giving a new and strange beauty to
the scenery. The infant had fallen asleep. A deep silence fell upon the
party; night was above them with her mysterious stars; the ancient forest
stretched around them on every side; nature lay wrapped in a snowy winding
sheet; the wind was rising, and a drifting scud of clouds from the
northeast passed across the moon, and gave a still more weird and somber
character to the scene. A boding sadness sank into the heart of Mrs. Dalton
as the sleighs drove up to the cabin in the clearing where they were to
pass the night. It was occupied by an old negro and his wife, who had found
in the Canadian woods a safe refuge from servitude.

Hardly had they and their horses been safely bestowed under shelter when
the sky became entirely overcast, the wind rose to a gale, and a driving
storm of snow and sleet filled the air. All night, and the following day
the tempest raged without intermission, and on the morning of the second
day the sun struggling through the clouds looked down on the vast drifts of
snow, some of them nearly twenty feet in depth, completely blocking their
farther passage, and enforcing a sojourn of some days in their present
quarters.

During this time the babe fell ill, and grew worse so rapidly that Mr.
Dalton determined to push through the snow-drifts on horseback to the
nearest settlement, which lay eight miles south of them, and procure the
services of a physician. He started early in the morning, expecting to
return in the afternoon. But afternoon and evening passed, and still Mr.
Dalton did not return. His course was a difficult one through forest and
thicket, and when evening came, and night passed with its bitter cold, Mrs.
Dalton's anxiety was increased to torture. Her only hope was that her
husband had reached the settlement in safety, and had been induced to
remain there till the following morning before undertaking to return.

Soon after the sun rose that morning, Mrs. Dalton and the hired man set out
on horseback in search of the missing one. Tracing his course through the
snow for four miles they at length caught sight of him standing up to his
waist in a deep drift, beside his horse. His face was turned toward them.
So lifelike and natural was his position that it was only when his wife
grasped his cold rigid fingers that she knew the terrible truth. Her
husband and the horse were statues of ice thus transformed by the deadly
cold as they were endeavoring to force a passage through those immense
drifts.

From the speechless, tearless trance of grief into which Mrs. Dalton was
thrown by the shock of her awful loss, she was roused only by the
recollection of the still critical condition of her child and the necessity
that she should administer to its wants. Its recovery from illness a few
days after, enabled the desolate widow to cast about her in grief and
doubt, and decide what course she should pursue.

As her own marriage portion as well as the entire fortune of her late
husband was embarked in the purchase of the forest tract, she concluded to
continue her journey twenty miles farther to the point of her original
destination, and there establish herself in the new house which had been
provided for her in the almost unbroken wilderness.

A thaw which a few days after removed a large body of the snow, enabled her
with her companions, the McMurrays, to reach her destination, a large and
commodious cabin built of cedar-logs in a spacious clearing by the former
owner of the tract.

Her first impressions of her new home were scarcely more prepossessing than
those experienced upon reaching the dreary cabin on the banks of the Black
river. A small lake hard by was hemmed in by a somber belt of pine-woods.
The clearing was dotted by charred and blackened stumps, and covered with
piles of brushwood. The snowy shroud in which lifeless nature was wrapped
and the utter stillness and solitude of the scene, completed the funereal
picture which Mrs. D. viewed with eyes darkened by grief and
disappointment.

The cares and labors of pioneer-life are the best antidotes to the
corrosion of sorrow and regret, and Mrs. Dalton soon found such a relief in
the myriad toils and distractions which filled those wintry days. A
thousand duties were to be discharged: a thousand wants to be provided for:
night brought weariness and blessed oblivion: morning again supplied its
daily tasks and labor grew to be happiness.

Midwinter was upon them with its bitter cold and drifting snows; but with
abundant stores of food and fuel, Mrs. D. was thanking God nightly for his
many mercies, little dreaming that a new calamity impended over her
household.

One bitter day in January the two women were left alone in the cabin,
McMurray having gone a mile away to fell trees for sawing into boards. Mrs.
McM. had stuffed both the stoves full of light wood; the wind blowing
steadily from the northwest, produced a powerful draught, and in a few
moments the roaring and crackling of the fire and the suffocating smell of
burning soot attracted Mrs. Dalton's attention. To her dismay, both the
stoves were red hot from the front plates to the topmost pipes which passed
through the plank-ceiling and projected three feet above the roof. Through
these pipes the flames were roaring as if through the chimney of a blast
furnace.

A blanket snatched from the nearest bed, that stood in the kitchen, and
plunged into a barrel of cold water was thrust into the stove, and a few
shovels full of snow thrown upon it soon made all cool below. The two women
immediately hastened to the loft and by dashing pails full of water upon
the pipes, contrived to cool them down as high as the place where they
passed through the roof. The wood work around the pipes showed a circle of
glowing embers, the water was nearly exhausted and both the women running
out of the house discovered that the roof which had been covered the day
before by a heavy fall of snow, showed an area of several square feet from
which the intense heat had melted the snow; the sparks falling upon the
shingles had ignited them, and the rafters below were covered by a sheet of
flame.

A ladder, which, for some months, had stood against the house, had been
moved two days before to the barn which stood some thirty rods away; there
seemed no possibility of reaching the fire. Moving out a large table and
placing a chair upon it, Mrs. D. took her position upon the chair and tried
to throw water upon the roof, but only succeeded in expending the last
dipper full of water that remained in the boiler, without reaching the
fire.

Mrs. McMurray now abandoned herself to grief and despair, screeching and
tearing her hair. Mrs. D., still keeping her presence of mind, told her to
run after her husband, and to the nearest house, which was a mile away, and
bring help.

Mrs. McM., after a moment's remonstrance, on account of the depth of the
snow, regained her courage, and, hastily putting on her husband's boots,
started, shrieking "fire!" as she passed up the road, and disappeared at
the head of the clearing.

Mrs. D. was now quite alone, with the house burning over her head. She
gazed at the blazing roof, and, pausing for one moment, reflected what
should first be done.

The house was built of cedar-logs, and the suns and winds of four years had
made it as dry as tinder; the breeze was blowing briskly and all the
atmospheric conditions were favorable to its speedy destruction. The cold
was intense, the thermometer registering eighteen degrees below zero. The
unfortunate woman thus saw herself placed between two extremes of heat and
cold, and apprehended as much danger from the one as from the other.

In the bewilderment of the moment, the direful extent of the calamity never
struck her, though it promised to put the finishing stroke to her
misfortune, and to throw her naked and houseless upon the world.

"What shall I first save?" was the question rapidly asked, and as quickly
answered. Anything to serve for warmth and shelter--bedding, clothing, to
protect herself and babe from that cruel cold! All this passed her mind
like a flash, and the next moment she was working with a right good will to
save what she could of these essential articles from her burning house.

Springing to the loft where the embers were falling from the burning roof,
she quickly threw the beds and bedding from the window, and emptying trunks
and chests conveyed their contents out of reach of the flames and of the
burning brands which the wind was whirling from the roof. The loft was like
a furnace, and the heat soon drove her, dripping with perspiration, to the
lower room, where, for twenty minutes, she strained every nerve to drag out
the movables. Large pieces of burning pine began to fall through the
boarded ceiling about the lower rooms, and as the babe had been placed
under a large dresser in the kitchen, it now became absolutely necessary to
remove it. But where? The air was so bitter that nothing but the fierce
excitement and rapid motion had preserved Mrs. Dalton's hands and feet from
freezing. To expose the tender nursling to that direful cold was almost as
cruel as leaving it to the mercy of the fire.

A mother's wit is not long at fault where the safety of her child is
concerned. Emptying out all the clothes from a large drawer which she had
dragged a safe distance from the house, she lined it with blankets and
placed the child inside, covering it well over with bedding, and keeping it
well wrapped up till help should arrive.

The roof was now burning like a brush heap; but aid was near at hand. As
she passed out of the house for the last time, dragging a heavy chest of
clothes, she looked once more despairingly up the clearing and saw a man
running at full speed. It was McMurray. Her burdened heart uttered a deep
thanksgiving, as another and another figure came skipping over the snow
towards her burning house.

She had not felt the intense cold, although without bonnet or shawl, and
with hands bare and exposed to the biting air. The intense anxiety to save
all she could had so diverted her thoughts from herself that she took no
heed of the peril in which she stood from fire and frost. But now the
reaction came; her knees trembled under her, she grew giddy and faint, and
dark shadows swam before her.

The three men sprang on the roof and called for water in vain; it had long
been exhausted. "Snow! snow! Hand us up pails full of snow!" they shouted.

It was bitter work filling the pails with frozen snow, but the two women
(for Mrs. McMurray had now returned) scooped up pails full of snow with
their bare hands and passed them to the men on the roof.

By spreading this on the roof, and on the floor of the loft, the violence
of the fire was checked. The men then cast away the smoldering rafters and
flung them in the snow-drifts.

The roof was gone, but the fire was at last subdued before it had destroyed
the walls. Within one week from the time of the fire the neighboring
settlers built a new roof for Mrs. Dalton in spite of the intense cold, and
while it was building Mrs. D. and her household were sheltered at the
nearest cabin.

The warm breath of spring brought with it some halcyon days, as if to
reconcile Mrs. Dalton to her life of solitude and toil. The pure beauty of
the crystal waters, the august grandeur of the vast forest, and the
aromatic breezes from the pines and birches, cast a magic spell upon her
spirit. She soon learned the use of the rifle, the paddle, and the fishing
rod. Charming hours of leisure and freedom were passed upon the water of
the lake, or in rambles through the arches of the forest. In these
pleasures, enhanced by the needful toils of the household or the field, the
summer sped away.

August came, and the little harvest of oats and corn were all safely
housed. For some days the weather had been intensely hot, although the sun
was entirely obscured by a bluish haze, which seemed to render the unusual
heat of the atmosphere more oppressive. Not a breath of air stirred the
vast forest, and the waters of the lake took on a leaden hue.

Before the sun rose on the morning of the 12th the heavens were covered
with hard looking clouds of a deep blue-black color, fading away to white
at their edges, and in form resembling the long, rolling waves of a heavy
sea, but with the difference that the clouds were perfectly motionless,
piled in long curved lines, one above the other.

As the sun rose above the horizon, the sky presented a magnificent
spectacle. Every shade of saffron, gold, rose-color, scarlet, and crimson,
mottled with the deepest violet, were blended there as on some enormous
tapestry. It was the storm-fiend who shook that gorgeous banner in the face
of the day-god!

As the day advanced the same blue haze obscured the sun, which frowned
redly through his misty veil. At ten o'clock the heat was suffocating. The
thermometer in the shade ranged after midday from ninety-six to
ninety-eight degrees. The babe stretched itself upon the floor of the
cabin, unable to jump about or play, the dog lay panting in the shade, the
fowls half-buried themselves in the dust, with open beaks and outstretched
wings. All nature seemed to droop beneath the scorching heat. At three
o'clock the heavens took on a sudden change. The clouds, that had before
lain so still, were now in rapid motion, hurrying and chasing each other
round the horizon. It was a strangely awful sight. Before a breath had been
felt of the mighty blast that had already burst on the other side of the
lake, branches of trees, leaves, and clouds of dust were whirled across the
water, which rose in long, sharp furrows, fringed with foam, as if moved in
their depths by some unseen but powerful agent.

The hurricane swept up the hill, crushing and overturning everything in its
course. Mrs. Dalton, standing at the open door of her cabin, speechless and
motionless, gazed at the tremendous spectacle. The babe crept to its
mother's feet, its cheeks like marble, and appealed to her for protection.
Mrs. McMurray, in helpless terror, had closed her eyes and ears to the
storm, and sat upon a chest, muffled in a shawl.

The storm had not yet reached its acme. The clouds, in huge cumuli, were
hurrying as to some great rendezvous, from which they were to be let loose
for their work of destruction. The roaring of the blast and the pealing of
the thunder redoubled in violence. Turning her eyes to the southwest, Mrs.
Dalton now saw, far down the valley, the tops of the huge trees twisted and
bowed, as if by some unseen but terrible power. A monstrous dun-colored
cloud marked the course of this new storm-titan. Nearer and nearer it came,
with a menacing rumble, and swifter than a race-horse.

The cabin lay directly in its track. In a moment it would be upon them.
Whither should they fly? One place of safety occurred on the instant to the
unfortunate woman; clasping her babe to her breast and clutching the gown
of her companion, she ran to the trap-door which conducted to the cellar
and raising it pushed Mrs. McMurray down the aperture and quickly following
her, Mrs. Dalton closed the trap.

Not five seconds later the hurricane struck the cabin with such force that
every plank, rafter, beam, and log was first dislocated and then caught up
in the whirlwind and scattered over the forest in the wake of the storm. As
the roar of the blast died away the rain commenced pouring in torrents
accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning and loud peals of thunder.

The air in the close shallow cellar, where the women were, soon grew
suffocating, and as the fury of the tempest was spent, they took courage
and pushed at the trap. It stuck fast; again they both applied their
shoulders to it but only succeeded in raising it far enough to see that the
trunk of an enormous tree lay directly across the door.

The cellar in which they were, was little more than a large pit, eight feet
by six, and served as a receptacle for their winter's stores; as it lay
directly in the center of the floor which was formed of large logs split in
halves and their surfaces smoothed, there was no mode of egress except by
digging underneath the floor as far as the walls of the cabin and so
emerging; but this was a work of extreme difficulty, owing to the fact that
the soil was full of the old roots of trees which had been cut down to make
room for the cabin.

The first danger, however, was from suffocation; to meet this Mrs. Dalton
and her companion pried open the door as far as the fallen trunk would
allow, and kept it in position by means of a large chip which they found in
the pit. This gave them sufficient air through a chink three inches in
width; and they next looked about them for means of egress. After trying in
vain to dislodge one of the floor logs, they proceeded to dig a passage
through the earth underneath the floor. Discouraged by the slowness of
their progress in this undertaking, and drenched with the rain which poured
in through the crevice in the door, they began to give themselves up for
lost. Their only hope was that McMurray or some one of the neighbors would
come to their relief.

The rain lasted only one hour, and the sun soon made its appearance. This
was after six o'clock, as the prisoners judged from the shadows cast over
the ruins of the cabin. The shades of evening fell and at last utter
darkness; still no one came. No sound was borne to the ears of the women in
their earthly dungeon save that of the rushing waters of the creek and the
mournful howling of wolves who, like jackals, were prowling in the track of
the tempest. Several of these animals, attracted by the infant's cries,
came and put their noses at the door of the pit and finding that it held
prey, paced the floor above it all night: but with the first light of
morning they scampered away into the woods.

Meanwhile the women resumed their efforts to burrow their way out, taking
turns in working all night. By daybreak the passage lacked only four feet
of the point where an outlet could be had. Ere noon, if their strength held
out, they would reach the open air.

But after four hours more of severe toil they met an unexpected obstacle:
their progress was blocked by a huge boulder embedded in the soil. Weary
with their protracted toil and loss of sleep, and faint from want of food,
they desisted from further efforts and sat down upon the damp earth of that
dungeon which now promised to be their tomb.

Sinking upon her knees Mrs. Dalton lifted her heart to God in prayer that
he might save her babe, her faithful domestic and herself from the doom
which, threatened them. Hardly had she risen from her knees, when, as if a
messenger had been sent in answer to her prayer, voices were heard and
steps sounded upon the floor above them. The party had come from a
neighboring settlement for the express purpose of relieving the sufferers
from the recent storm. A few blows with an axe and the prisoners were free.
Recognizing their preservation as a direct answer to prayer, and with deep
gratitude both of the women fell on their knees and lifted up their hearts
in humble thanksgiving to that God who had saved them by an act of his
providence from an awful death. When all hope was gone His hand was
stretched forth, making his strength manifest in the weakness of those
hapless women and that helpless babe.

Before the first of October a new cabin had been built for Mrs. D. by her
generous neighbors, and the other ravages of the storm had been repaired.
Once more fortune, so often adverse, turned a smiling face upon the
household. Two weeks sped away and then the fickle goddess frowned again
upon this much enduring family.

A long continued drought had parched the fields and woods until but a spark
was needed to kindle a conflagration. Two parties of hunters on the 16th of
October, had rested one noon on opposite sides of Mrs. Dalton's clearing
and carelessly dropped sparks from their pipes into the dried herbage. Two
hours after their departure, the flames, fanned by a gentle breeze, had
formed a junction and encircled the cabin with a wall of fire. A dense
canopy of smoke hung over the clearing, and as it lifted, tongues of flame
could be seen licking the branches of the tall pines. Showers of sparks
fell upon the roof. The atmosphere grew suffocating with the pitchy smoke
and it became a choice of deaths, either that of choking or that of
burning.

Only one avenue of escape was left open to the family; if they could reach
the lake and embark in the canoe which lay moored near the shore they would
be safe: a single passage conducted to the water, and that was a burning
lane lined with trees and bushes which were bursting into fiercer flames
every moment as they gazed down it.

Nearer and nearer crept the fire, and hotter and hotter grew the choking
air. There was no other choice. McMurray threw water on the gowns of his
wife and Mrs. Dalton until they were drenched; then wrapping the baby in a
blanket and enveloping their heads in shawls, the whole party abandoned
their house to destruction, and ran the gauntlet of the flames. They passed
the spot of ordeal in safety, reached the canoe and embarking pushed off
into the lake. From this point of security they caught glimpses of the
element as it crept steadily on its way towards the cabin. Through the
rifts in the smoke they saw the fiery tongues licking the lower timbers and
darting themselves into the cracks between the logs like some gluttonous
monster preparing to gorge himself. The women clasped their hands and
looked up. Both were supplicating the Father of All that their home might
be spared.

A rescue was coming from an unlooked for source. While Mrs. Dalton's face
was upturned to heaven in silent prayer, a large drop splashed upon her
brow; another followed--the first glad heralds of a pouring rain which
extinguished the fire just as it had begun to feed on that unlucky
habitation.

After such an almost unbroken series of disasters and losses, we might well
inquire whether the subsequent life of Mrs. Dalton was saddened and
darkened by similar experiences.

"Every cloud has a silver lining." The hardest and saddest lives have their
hours of softness, their gleams of sunshine. It is a wise and beautiful
arrangement in the economy of Divine Providence that the law of physical
and moral compensation is always operating to equalize the pains and the
pleasures, the hardships and the comforts, the joys and the sorrows of
human life. Before continuous, patient, and conscientious endeavors, the
obstacles that fill the pathway of the pioneer through the wilderness are
surmounted, the rough places are made smooth, and the last days of the
dwellers in the desert and forest become like the latter days of the
patriarch, "more blessed than the beginning."

We may truly say of Mrs. Dalton, that her "latter days were more blessed
than the beginning." A happy marriage which she entered into the following
spring, and a long life of prosperity and peace after her escape from the
last great danger, as we have narrated, were the fitting reward of the
courage, diligence, and devotion displayed during the two first summers and
winters which she passed in the northern wilderness.

The wide region, lying between the sources of the Mississippi and the bends
of the Missouri in Dakota, and stretching thence far up to the Saskatchewan
in the north, has been appropriately styled "the happy hunting ground." The
_rendezvous_ to which the mighty nimrods of the northwest return from
the chase are huge cabins, built to stand before the howling blasts, and
give shelter against the arctic regions of the winter. In these abodes
dwell the wives and children of many of those rugged men, and create even
there, by their devoted toils and gentle companionship, at least the
semblance of a home. Almost whelmed in the snow, and when even the mercury
freezes in the bulb of the thermometer, these anxious and loving housewives
feed the lamp and keep the fire burning on the hearth. Dressing the skins
of the deer, they keep their husbands well shod and clothed. The long
winter of eight months passes monotonously away; the men, accustomed to a
life of excitement, chafe and grow surly under their enforced imprisonment;
but the women, by their kind offices and sweet words, act as a constant
sedative upon these morose outbreaks. The hunters, it is said, grow softer
in their manners as the winter wanes. They are unconscious scholars in the
refining school of woman.

Among the diversions which serve to while away the tediousness of those
winter nights are included the narration of personal adventures passed
through by the different hunters in their wild life. Tales of narrow
escapes, of Indian fights, of desperate encounters with beasts of the
forests; and through the rough texture of these narratives now and then
appears a pathetic incident in which woman is the prominent figure.
Sometimes it is a hunter's wife who is the heroine, and again the scene is
laid in the home of the settler, where woman faces some dreadful danger for
her loved ones, or endures extraordinary suffering faithfully to the end.
Such an incident as the following was preserved in the memory of a hunter,
who recently communicated the essential facts to the writer.

Minnesota well deserves the name of the pioneer's paradise. Occupying as it
does that high table-land out of which gush into the pure bracing air, the
thousand fountains of the Father of waters and of the majestic Red river;
studded with lakes that glisten like molten silver in the sunshine;
shadowed by primeval forests; now stretching out in prairies which lose
themselves in the horizon; now undulating with hills and dales dotted with
groves and copses, nature here, like some bounteous and imperial mother,
seems to have prepared with lavish hand a royal park within which her
roving sons and daughters may find a permanent abode.

The country through which the Red river flows from Otter Tail lake towards
Richville, is unsurpassed for rural beauty. Trending northward it then
passes along towards Pembina, a border town on our northern boundary,
through a plain of vast extent, dotted with groves of oak planted as if by
hand. Voyaging down this noble river in midsummer, between its banks
embowered with wild roses we breathe an air loaded with perfume and view a
scene of wild but enchanting loveliness. Here summer celebrates her brief
but splendid reign, then lingering for a while in the lap of dreamy, balmy
autumn, flies at length into southern exile, abdicating her throne to
winter, which stalks from the frozen zone and rules the region with
undisputed and rigorous sway.

In the month of March, 1863, a party of four hunters set out from Pembina,
where they had passed the winter, and undertook to reach Shyenne, a small
trading post on the west bank of the Red river, in the territory of Dakota.
A partial thaw, followed by a cold snap, had coated the river in many
places with ice, and by the alternate aid of skates and snow-shoes, they
reached on the third evening after their departure, Red Lake river in
Minnesota, some eighty miles distant from Pembina. Clearing away the snow
in a copse, they scooped a shallow trench in the frozen soil with their
hatchets, and kindling a fire so as to cover the length and breadth of the
excavation, they prepared their frugal repast of hunters' fare. Then
removing the fire to the foot of the trench and piling logs upon it, they
lay down side by side on the warmed soil, and wrapping their blankets
around them slept soundly through the still cold night, until the sun's
edge showed itself above the rim of the vast plain that stretched to the
east. As the hunters rose from their earthy couch and stretched their
cramped limbs, casting their eyes hither and thither over the boundless
expanse, they descried upon the edge of a copse some quarter of a mile to
the south a bright-red object, apparently a living thing, crouched upon the
snow as if sunning itself. Rising simultaneously and with awakened
curiosity they approached the spot. Before they had taken many steps the
object disappeared suddenly. Fixing their eyes steadily on the point of its
last appearance, they slowly advanced with cocked rifles until they reached
a large tree with arching roots, around which were the traces of small
_shoeless_ feet. An orifice barely large enough to admit a man showed
them beneath the tree a cave. One of the hunters, peering through the
aperture, spied within, a girl of ten years crouched in the farthest corner
of the recess, covered with a thick red flannel cloak, and shivering with
cold and terror. Speaking kind words to the little stranger they succeeded
at length in reassuring her. She came out from her hiding-place, and the
hunters with rugged kindness wrapped her feet and limbs in their coats and
bore her to the fire. The first words she uttered were, "mother! go for
mother!" She had gone away to shoot game the night before, the little girl
said, and had not returned.

Two of the hunters hastened back and succeeded in tracing the mother's
course a mile up the river to a thicket; there, covered thinly with leaves
and with her rifle in her stiffened hand, they found the hapless wanderer,
but alas! cold in death. Her set and calm features, her pinched and wasted
face, her scantily robed form, mutely but eloquently told a tale of fearful
suffering borne with unflinching fortitude. Weak and weary, the deadly cold
had stolen upon her in the darkness and with its icy grip had stilled for
ever the beating of her brave true heart. Excavating a grave in the snow
they decently straightened her limbs, and piling logs and brush upon her
remains to keep them from the beasts of prey, silently and sorrowfully left
the scene.

Who were these lonely wanderers in that wild and wintry waste! The presence
of the rifle and of the large high boots which she wore, together with
other circumstances, were evidences which enabled the shrewd hunters to
guess a part of their story. It appeared that the family must have
consisted originally of three persons, a man and wife, with the child now
the sole survivor of the party. Voyaging down the Red river during the
preceding summer and autumn; lured onward by the fatal beauty of the
region, and deluded by the ease with which their wants could be supplied,
they had evidently neglected to provide against the winter, which at length
burst upon them all unprepared to encounter its rigors.

The rest of this heart-rending story was gathered from the lips of their
little protege. Her father, mother, and herself had started from Otter Tail
lake in September, 1862, after the quelling of the Sioux outbreak, and
voyaged down the Red river in a canoe, intending to settle in the wild-rice
region a few miles southeast of the spot where they then were. Their canoe
with most of their household goods had broken from its moorings in
November, one night while they were encamped on the shore. The father had
gone to bring it back, and being overtaken by a terrible snow-storm, had
never returned. [His body was found the following spring.] The mother had
managed to procure barely sufficient game during the winter to keep herself
and her child alive. The cave, their only shelter, was strewed with the
beaks and feathers of birds, and with the teeth and claws of small animals;
all the other portions of the game she had shot had been devoured in the
extremity to which hunger had reduced them. Her mother, the little girl
said, was very weak the last day, and could hardly walk. "I begged to go
with her when she took her gun and went out to shoot something for supper,
but she told me I must stay at _home_ and keep warm." Home! could that
wretched shelter be a home for the hapless mother and her child? Tears were
wrung from those rugged sons of the wilderness, and coursed down their iron
cheeks when they visited the spot where parental tenderness had striven to
shield the object of its affection from the bitter blast. The snow banked
about the roots of the tree and showing the marks of her numbed fingers,
the crevices stuffed with moss, the bed of dried leaves and the bedding
which she had stripped from her own person to cover her child, were proofs
and tokens of the love which would have created comfort in the midst of
desolation and given even that miserable nook in winter's dreary domain the
semblance of a home. In the heart of that frozen waste, far from human
fellowship, with hunger gnawing at her vitals and the frost curdling the
genial current in her veins, still burned brightly in that poor lonely
heart the pure and deathless flame of maternal love.




CHAPTER XIV.

ENCOUNTERS WITH WILD BEASTS--COURAGE AND DARING


The inhabitants of the frontier from the earliest times have had to face
the fiercest and most ravenous wild beasts which prowl in the forests of
this continent; and the local histories of the various sections and single
settlements on our border-land abound in thrilling accounts of combats
between those pests of the forest and individual men and women.

Wolves, like the poor, were always with the frontiersmen. Bears, both black
and brown, were familiar visitors. The cougar, American lion, catamount, or
"_painter_" (panther), as it is variously styled, was a denizen of
every forest from Maine to Georgia, and from the St. Croix River to the
Columbia. Wild cats, and even deer, when brought to bay, proved themselves
dangerous combatants. Last, but not the least terrible in the catalogue,
comes the grizzly bear, the monarch of the rocky waste that lies between
the headwaters of the Platte and the Missouri rivers, and the sierras of
the Pacific slope.

The stories of _rencontres_ and combats between pioneer women and
these savage rangers of the woods, are numerous and thrilling. Sometimes
they seem almost improbable, especially to such as have only known Woman as
she appears to the dwellers of our eastern cities, and in homes where
luxury and ease have softened the sex.

A story like the following, for example, as told by one of our most
veracious travelers, may be listened to with at least some degree of
incredulity by gentlemen and ladies of the lounge and easy chair. A woman
living on the Saskatchewan accompanied her husband on a hunting expedition
into the forest. He had been very successful, and having killed one more
deer than they could well carry home, he went to the house of a neighboring
settler to dispose of it, leaving his wife to take care of the rest until
his return. She sat carelessly upon the log with his hunting knife in her
hand, when she heard the breaking of branches near her, and turning round,
beheld a great bear only a few paces from her.

It was too late to retreat, and, seeing that the animal was very hungry and
determined to come to close quarters, she rose, and placed her back against
a small tree, holding her knife close to her breast, and in a straight line
with the bear.

The shaggy monster came on. She remained motionless, her eyes steadily
fixed upon her enemy's, and, as his huge arms closed around her, she slowly
drove the knife into his heart. The bear uttered a hideous cry, and sank
dead at her feet. When her husband returned, he found the courageous woman
taking the skin from the carcass of the formidable brute. "How," some of
our readers will exclaim, "can a woman possess such iron nerves as to dare
and do such a deed as this?" And yet, evidence of masculine courage and
daring, displayed by women in this and multitudes of other cases where
confronted by danger in this form, is direct and unimpeachable.

Such stories, however startling and extraordinary, become credible when we
remember the circumstances by which woman is surrounded in pioneer life,
and how those circumstances tend to strengthen the nerves and increase the
hardihood of the softer sex. Hunting is there one of the necessary
avocations, in which women often become practiced, in order to supply the
wants of existence. On our northwestern frontier, especially, female
hunters have, from the start, been noted for their courage and skill.

One of the famous huntresses of the northwest, while returning home from
the woods with a wild turkey which she had shot, unexpectedly encountered a
large moose in her path, which manifested a disposition to attack her. She
tried to avoid it, but the animal came towards her rapidly and in a furious
manner. Her rifle was unloaded, and she was obliged to take shelter behind
a tree, shifting her position from tree to tree as the brute made at her.

At length, as she fled, she picked up a pole, and quickly untying her
moccasin strings, she bound her knife to the end of the pole. Then, placing
herself in a favorable position, as the moose came up, she stabbed him
several times in the neck and breast. At last the animal, exhausted with
the loss of blood, fell. She then dispatched it, and cut out its tongue to
carry home as a trophy of victory. When they went back to the spot for the
carcass, they found the snow trampled down in a wide circle, and copiously
sprinkled with blood, which gave the place the appearance of a
battle-field. It proved to be a male of extraordinary size.

The gray wolf species, two centuries ago and later, was spread over the
Atlantic States from Maine to Georgia, and was in most newly-settled
regions a frequent and obnoxious visitor to cattle yards and sheep-folds.
We are told that the first Boston immigrants were obliged to build high and
strong fences around their live stock to keep them from the depredations of
these marauders.

Less bold than his European kindred, the gray wolf of North America is
still an extremely powerful and dangerous animal, as may be proved by
recalling the frequent encounters of the early settlers--both men and
women--with these prowling pests. When pinched with hunger or driven to
extremities, they will attack men or women and fight desperately, either to
satiate their appetites or to save their skins from an assailant. A great
number of stories and incidents concerning collisions between women and
these savage brutes are scattered through the local histories of our early
times, and illustrate the nerve and daring which, as we have shown, were
habitual to the women in the border settlements.

About the middle of the last century, a household in the hill country of
Georgia was greatly vexed by the frequent incursions of a large animal of
this species which prowled about the cow-yard, and carried off calves and
sheep, sometimes even venturing up to the door of the cabin. The family
consisted of a man and his wife and three daughters, all grown up. Each one
of the five had shot ineffectually at the brute, which seemed to bear a
charmed life. A strong steel trap was finally set near the calf pen, in a
stout enclosure, and in a few days the trappers were delighted to hear a
commotion in that quarter which indicated the success of their stratagem.
His wolfship, sure enough, had been caught by one of his hind legs, and was
found to be furiously gnawing at the trap and the chain which held him. The
womenkind, rejoicing in the capture of their old enemy, all entered the
enclosure and stood watching the struggles of the fierce beast, while the
father was loading his gun to dispatch it.

In one of his leaps, the staple that held the chain gave way, and the wolf
would have bounded over the fence, and made his escape to the woods, but
for the ready courage of the eldest daughter of the family, a large,
powerful woman of twenty-five. Seizing the chain, she held it firmly in
both her hands; the wolf snapped at her arms, and at last, in his
desperation, sprang at her throat with such force that he overthrew her,
but still she did not relax her grip of the chain, though the animal, in
his struggles, dragged her on the ground across the enclosure. Her father,
at this critical moment, returned with his loaded gun and dispatched the
brute. The young woman, barring a few bruises and scratches, was entirely
uninjured.

The speed and endurance of these animals, when in pursuit of their prey,

  "With their long gallop, which can tire
  The hound's deep hate, the hunter's fire,"

makes them very dangerous assailants, when ravenous with hunger. We recall,
in this connection, the thrilling story of a brave Kentucky girl, who, with
her sisters, was pursued by a pack of black wolves.

The pluck and ready wit for which the Kentucky girls have been so
celebrated is well illustrated by this adventure, which, after threatening
consequences of the most tragical nature, had finally a comical
_denouement_.

In the year 1798, a family of Virginia emigrants settled in central
Kentucky in the midst of a dense forest, where, by the aid of three negro
men whom they had brought with them, a spacious cabin was soon erected and
a large clearing made. The family consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Carter, three
daughters, well grown, buxom girls, full of life and fun, and a son, who,
though only fourteen years of age, was a fine rider and versed in
forest-craft.

The country where they lived was rich and beautiful. One could ride on
horseback for miles through groves of huge forest trees, beneath which the
turf lay firm and green. Through this open wood a wagon could be driven
without difficulty; but locomotion in those days and regions was largely on
horseback. There were no roads, except between the larger settlements;
unless those passage-ways through the woods could be called roads. These
were made by cutting down a tree or clearing away the undergrowth here and
there, and "blazing" the trees along the passage by chopping off a portion
of the bark as high as a man could reach with an axe.

At that period Kentucky was a famous hunting-ground! All kinds of game
abounded in those magnificent forests and beneath that genial clime. Wild
turkeys roosted in immense flocks in the chestnut, beech, and oak trees;
pigeons by the million darkened the air; deer could be shot by any hunter
by stopping a few moments in the forest where they came to feed.

The fiercer and more ravenous beasts abounded in proportion. Bears,
catamounts, and wolves swarmed in the denser parts of the forests, and in
the winter the two last named beasts were a great annoyance to the settlers
by the boldness with which they invaded the cattle and poultry-yards and
pig-pens.

The black wolf of the Western country was and is a very destructive and
fierce annual, hunting in large packs, which, after using every stratagem
to circumvent their prey, attacked it with great ferocity.

Like the Indian, they always endeavored to surprise their victims and
strike the mortal blow without exposing themselves to danger. They seldom
attack a man except when asleep or wounded, or otherwise taken at a
disadvantage.

As the Carter homestead was ten miles from any settlement, it was fairly
haunted by these wild beasts, which considered the cattle, calves, colts,
sheep, and pigs of the new comers their legitimate prey.

Young Carter and his sisters having emigrated from the most populous part
of Virginia where social entertainments were frequent, found the time
during the winter months hang heavy on their hands, and as the young
ladies' favorite colts and pet lambs had often suffered from incursions of
the wolves and panthers, they amused themselves by setting traps for them
and occasionally giving them a dose of cold lead, for they were all good
shots with the rifle,--the girls as well as their brother.

Two or three years passed in the forest taught them to despise the wolves
and panthers as cowardly brutes, and the girls were not afraid to pass
through the forest at any time of the day or night. Often just at dusk,
when returning from a picnic or walk, they would see half a dozen or more
wolves prowling in the woods; the girls would run towards them screaming
and shaking their mantles, and the whole pack would scurry away through the
undergrowth.

This cowardly conduct of the wolves taught their fair pursuers to
underestimate the ferocious nature of the beasts, as we shall hereafter
see.

The winter of 1801 was a severe one. Heavy snows fell, and the passage
through the woods was difficult, either by reason of the snows or from the
thaws which succeeded them. Never before had the wolves been so bold and
ferocious. It happened that in the depth of this winter a merry-making was
announced to take place in the nearest settlement, ten miles distant.

The Carter girls were of course among the invited guests, for their beauty
and spirit were famed through the whole region. Their parents having
perfect confidence in the ability of the girls to take care of themselves,
and also considering that their brother was to accompany them on horseback,
Mr. Carter, the elder, ordered their house-servant, an old negro named
Hannibal, to tackle up a pair of stout roadsters to a two-seated wagon and
drive his daughters to the merry-making.

Hannibal was a fiddler of renown and that of course formed a double reason
why he should go to the ball.

The snow was not so deep as to delay the party materially. They were
determined under any circumstances to reach the scene of Christmas
festivities, where the young ladies, as well as their partners, anticipated
a "good time" in the dance, and perchance "_possibilities_" which
might be protracted until a late hour upon the following morning, when the
guests would disperse upon the understanding that they were to meet and
continue their amusements the same evening.

In spite of the urgent invitations of their friends that the young ladies
should pass the night at the settlement, they set out on their way home, to
which they were lighted by a full moon, whose light was reflected from the
snow and filled the air with radiance.

The girls were assisted into the old two-seated wagon, Hannibal, rolling
his eyes and showing his teeth, clambered on the front seat, placing his
fiddle in its case between his knees, and grasping the reins shouted to the
horses, which started off at a rattling pace, young Carter and an escort of
admiring cavaliers riding behind as a guard of honor.

After accompanying them on their way for three miles, the escort took leave
of them amid much doffing of hats and waving of handkerchiefs.

The wagon was passing through the dense forest which it had traversed the
night before, when a deep, mournful howl was borne to the ears of the
party. Another followed, and then a succession of similar sounds, till the
forest resounded with the bayings as if of a legion of wolves.

Upon the departure of the escort, young Carter, with youthful impetuosity
and thoughtlessness, had put spurs to his horse, a beast of blood and
mettle, and was now far in advance of the wagon, which was moving slowly
through the forest, barely lighted by the moon, which cast its beams
through the interlacing boughs.

The girls were not in the least scared by the wolfish concert. Not so
Hannibal, who rolled his eyes up and down the woods, whipped up the horses,
and uttered sundry ejaculations in the negro dialect expressive of his
alarm and apprehension on the young ladies' account.

An open space in the forest soon showed to the party a half dozen dark,
gaunt objects squatted on their haunches, whining and sniffing, directly in
the track of the wagon. They rose and ranged themselves by the side of the
road, the vehicle passing so near that Hannibal was able to give them with
his whip two or three cuts which sent them snarling to the rear.

The howling ceased, and for a few moments the girls thought their
disagreeable visitors had bid them good night. Looking back, however, one
of the girls saw a dozen or more loping stealthily behind them. They soon
reached the wagon, and one of the boldest of the pack leaped up behind and
tore away a piece of the shawl in which one of the girls was wrapped, but a
smart blow on the snout from the hand of the brave girl sent him yelping
back to his fellows.

The horses becoming frightened, tore, snorting, through the woods, lashed
by the old negro, half beside himself with terror: but the wolves only
loped the faster and grew the bolder in proportion to the speed of the
wagon. Sometimes they would throw their forepaws as high as the hind seat,
and snap at the throats of the girls, who thereupon gave their wolfships
severe buffets with their fists and thus drove them back.

The wolves were increasing in number and ferocity every moment, and but for
a happy thought of the oldest Miss Carter, the whole party would have
undoubtedly fallen a prey to the ferocious animals.

An old deserted cabin stood in the forest close to the track which they
were following. Seizing the reins from the hands of the affrighted darkey,
she guided the wagon up to the door of the cabin, and the whole party
dismounting rushed into the door. Here Miss Carter stood with a stout
stick, while the negro helped her sisters up into a loft by means of a
ladder.

The pack again squatted on their haunches and whined wistfully, but were
kept at bay by the daring maiden. After her sisters had been safely housed
in the loft, with Hannibal who had in his fright quite forgotten her, she
immediately joined them and had scarcely ascended the ladder when more than
twenty of the wolves rushed pell-mell into the cabin.

The rest of the pack made an attack on the horses, which by their kicking
and plunging broke loose from the harness, and dashed homewards through the
woods followed by the yelling pack.

While this was going on, the young women recovered their equanimity, and
hearing the horses break away from their assailants, directed the negro to
close the door; which after some difficulty he succeeded in doing. Twenty
wolves were thus snugly trapped.

One of the girls soon proposed that the old fiddler should play a few tunes
to the animals, which were now whining in their cage.

The darkey accordingly took his violin, which he had clung to through all
their mad drive, and struck up "Money Musk," which he played as correctly
and in as good time as was possible under the circumstance. Soon collecting
his nerve and coolness as he went on, he scraped out his whole
_répertoire_ of dancing tunes, "_St. Patrick's day in the
morning_," "_The Irish Washerwoman_," "_Pop goes the Weasel_,"
winding up with a "_Breakdown_ and _Fishers' Hornpipe_."

The effect of the music, while it cheered and amused the girls in their
strange situation, seemed to have a directly contrary effect on the wolves,
who crouched, yelped, and trembled until they seemed utterly powerless and
harmless. What threatened to be a tragedy was in this way turned into
something that resembled a comedy.

By daylight Mr. Carter, with his son and two negroes, arrived on the scene,
armed to the teeth with guns and axes, and made short work with the brutes,
climbing on the roof of the cabin and descending into the loft from which
place they shot them in detail. The bounty which at that time was paid for
wolves' heads was awarded to Miss Carter by whose ingenuity the brutes were
trapped.

The wild cat of this continent is said to be the lineal descendant of "the
harmless, necessary cat," which the early emigrants brought over with them
from Europe, among their other four-footed friends and companions. Certain
depraved and perverse representatives of this domestic creature took to the
woods, and, becoming outlaws from society, reverted to their original
savage state. Their offspring waxed in size and fierceness beyond their
progenitors. They became at last proverbial for their fighting qualities,
and to be able to "whip one's weight in wild cats," is a terse expression
signifying strength.

The fecundity of this animal, as well as its predatory skill, makes it an
extremely frequent and annoying poacher on the poultry-yards of the
backwoods settlers, especially in the hill districts of the Southern
States, where the climate and the abundance of game appear to have
developed them to an uncommon size and fierceness.

Their strength and ferocity was fully tested by a settler's wife, in the
upper part of Alabama, some fifty years ago, as will appear from the
following account:

Mrs. Julia Page, a widow, with three small children, occupied a house in a
broken and well-wooded country, some miles west of the present town of
Huntsville, where the only serious annoyance and drawback was the immense
number of these animals which prowled through the woods and decimated the
poultry. Stumpy tailed, green eyed, they strolled through the clearing and
sunned themselves on the limbs of neighboring trees, blinking calmly at the
clucking hens which they marked for their prey, and even venturing to throw
suspicious glances at the infant sleeping in its cradle. Sociable in their
disposition, they appeared to even claim a kind of proprietary interest in
the premises and in the appurtenances thereof.

Shooting a dozen and trapping as many more, made little appreciable
difference in the numbers of the feline colony. The dame at last
constructed with much labor a close shed, within which her poultry were
nightly housed. This worked well for a season. But one evening a commotion
in the hennery informed her that the depredators were again at work.
Hastily seizing an axe in one hand and carrying a lighted pitch pine knot
in the other, she hurried to the scene of action, and found Grimalkin
feasting sumptuously on her plumpest pullet. The banqueters were evidently
a mother and her well-grown son, whom she was instructing in the predatory
art and practice.

The younger animal immediately clambered to the hole where it had made its
entrance, and was about to make a successful exit, when the matron,
sticking the lighted knot in the ground, struck the animal with the axe,
breaking its back and bringing it to the ground. Without an instant's
warning, the mother cat sprang upon Mrs. Page, and fastening its powerful
claws in her breast, tore savagely at her neck with its teeth.

The matron, shrieking with terror, strove with all her might to loosen the
animal's hold, but in vain. The maternal instinct had awakened all its
fierceness, and as the blood commenced to flow in streams from the deep
scratches and bites inflicted by its teeth and claws, its ferocious
appetency redoubled. It tore and bit as if nothing would appease it but the
luckless victim's death. Mrs. Page would doubtless have fallen a prey to
its savage rage, but for a happy thought which flashed across her mind in
her desperate straits.

Snatching the pine knot from the earth, she applied it to the hindquarters
of the wild cat. The flame instantly singed off the thick fur and scorched
its flesh. With a savage screech, it relaxed its hold and fell to the
ground, where she succeeded at last in dispatching the creature. It proved
to be one of the largest of its species, measuring nearly three feet from
its nose to the tip of its tail, and weighing over thirty pounds.

For many years this colony of pioneer wild cats continued to "make things
hot" for the settlers in that region, but most of them were finally
exterminated, and the remnant emigrated to some more secluded region.

The character of the common black hear is a study for the naturalist, and
the hunter. He is fierce or good natured, sullen or playful, lazy or
energetic, bold or cowardly, "all by turns and nothing long." He is the
clown of the menagerie, the laughing stock rather than the dread of the
hunter, and the abhorrence of border house-wives, owing to his intrusive
manners, his fondness for overturning beehives, and his playful familiarity
with the contents of their larders in the winter season.

Incidents are related where in consequence of these contrarieties of
bear-nature, danger and humor are singularly blended.

While the daughter of one of the early settlers of Wisconsin was wandering
in "maiden meditation," through the forest by which, her father's home was
surrounded, she was suddenly startled from her reverie by a hoarse, deep,
cavernous growl, and as she lifted her eyes, they were opened wide with
dismay and terror. Not twenty paces from her, rising on his huge iron
clawed hind feet, was a wide-mouthed, vicious looking black bear, of
unusual size, who had evidently been already "worked up," and was "spoiling
for a fight." That the bear meant mischief was plain, but the girl was a
pioneer's daughter, and her fright produced no symptoms of anything like
fainting.

Bears could climb, she knew that very well; but then if she got out of his
way quickly enough he might not take the trouble to follow her.

It was the only chance, and she sprang for the nearest tree. It was of
medium size, with a rough bark and easy to climb. All the better for her,
if none the worse for the bear, and in an instant she was perched among the
lower branches. For two or three minutes the shaggy monster seemed puzzled
and as if in doubt what course he had best pursue; then he came slowly up
and began smelling and nuzzling round the roots of the tree as if to obtain
the necessary information in order to enable him to decide this important
question.

The young woman in the tree was no coward, but little as was the hope of
being heard in that forest solitude she let her fears have their own way
and screamed loudly for help. As if aroused and provoked by the sound of
her voice, bruin began to try the bark with his foreclaws while his fierce
little eyes looked up carnivorously into the face of the maiden, and his
little tongue came twisting spirally from his half opened jaws as if he
were gloating over a choice titbit.

A neighboring settler, attracted by the cries of distress, soon reached the
scene of action. Though completely unarmed he did not hesitate to come to
close quarters with bruin, and seizing a long heavy stick he commenced to
vigorously belabor the hind quarters of the brute, who, however, only
responded to these attentions by turning his head and winking viciously at
his assailant, still pursuing his upward gymnastics in the direction of the
girl, who on her part was clambering towards the upper branches of the
tree.

The young man redoubled his blows and for a moment bruin seemed disposed to
turn and settle matters with the party in his rear, but finally to the
dismay of both the maiden and her champion, and evidently deeming his
readiest escape from attack would be to continue his ascent he resumed his
acrobatic performance and was about to place his forefeet on the lower
limbs, when his foe dropping his futile weapon, seized the stumpy tail of
the beast with his strong hands, and bracing his feet against the trunk of
the tree pulled with all his might. The girl seeing the turn that matters
had taken, immediately broke off a large limb and stoutly hammered the
bear's snout. This simultaneous attack in front and rear was too much for
bruin: with an amusing air of bewilderment he descended in a slow and
dignified manner and galloped off into the forest.

There are but few instances on record where female courage has been put to
the severe test of a hand to hand combat with grizzly bears. The most
remarkable conflict of this description is that which we will endeavor to
detail in the following narrative, which brings out in bold relief the
traits of courage, hardihood, and devotion, all displayed by woman, in most
trying and critical situations, wherein she showed herself the peer of the
stoutest and most skillful of that hardy breed of men--the hunters of the
far west.

In the summer of 1859 a party of men and women set out from Omaha, on an
exploring tour of the Platte valley, for the purpose of fixing upon some
favorable location for a settlement, which was to be the head-quarters of
an extensive cattle-farm. The leader in the expedition was Col. Ansley, a
wealthy Englishman. He was accompanied by Joseph Dagget, his agent, whose
business had carried him several times across the Rocky Mountains to
California; Mrs. Dagget and a daughter of sixteen, both of whom had crossed
the plains before with Mr. D.--two half-breeds also accompanied the party
as guides, hunters, muleteers, and men of all work.

As Mrs. Dagget is the heroine of our story, she deserves a description in
detail. Her early life had been spent in the wilds of Northern New York,
where she became versed in fishing, hunting, and wood-craft. She grew up in
that almost unbroken wilderness to more than woman's ordinary stature, and
with a masculine firmness of nerve and fiber. We need hardly add that she
was an admirable _equestrienne_.

At the age of seventeen she was married to Joseph Dagget, who possessed
those qualities which she was naturally most inclined to admire in a man.

The seventeen years that followed her marriage she spent with her husband
in the wilds of the North and West, where she obtained all the further
experience necessary to complete her education as a practical Woman of the
Border. It is unnecessary to state that such a woman as Mrs. Dagget was an
exceedingly useful member of frontier society. Several times she and her
husband had been the leading spirits in starting new settlements far in
advance of the main stream of immigration: after the courage and experience
of Mr. and Mrs. D. had helped on the infant settlement for a season, the
restless spirit of adventure would seize them, and selling out, they would
push on further west.

Miss Jane Dagget was a girl after her father's and mother's own heart, and
was their constant companion in their expeditions and journeys over prairie
and mountain.

The party started in June from Omaha, and journeyed along the north bank of
the Platte river as far as the North Fork of that stream. They were
well-mounted on blooded horses, furnished by Col. Ansley, and were followed
by four pack-mules with such baggage as the party needed, under the care of
the half-breed guides.

Two weeks sufficed to locate the ranch, after which they pursued their way
along the North Platte, as far as Fort Laramie, intending from that post to
advance northward to strike the North Fork of the Cheyenne, and following
that stream to the Missouri river, there take the steamboat back to Omaha.
This diversion in their proposed route was made at the suggestion of Col.
Ansley, who was a keen and daring sportsman, and wished to add a fight with
grizzlies to his _répertoire_ of hunting adventures.

The first day's journey, after leaving Fort Laramie, was barren of
incident. Pursuing their route due-north over a rolling and well-grassed
country, interspersed with sandy stretches, they reached, on the evening of
the second day, some low hills, covered with thickets and small trees,
between which ran valleys thickly carpeted with grass. Here they were
preparing their camp, when one of the half-breeds cried out, "Voila
Greezly!"

The whole party turned their eyes, and saw, sure enough, an enormous
mouse-colored grizzly sitting on his haunches beside a tree, regarding them
with strong marks of curiosity.

The half-breeds straightway began to prepare for action, after the
California fashion, that is to say, they coiled their "lariats," and rode
slowly up to the brute, who stood his ground, only edging up until his
flank nearly rested against the tree, a stout sapling some four inches in
diameter.

The rest of the party stood ready with their rifles, not excepting even the
ladies. The horses snorted and trembled, while their hearts beat so loudly
that the riders could plainly hear them.

Meanwhile François, one of the half-breeds, had let slip his lasso, which
fell squarely over the head of the grizzly; then drawing it "taut," he kept
it so while he slowly walked his horse around the tree, binding the grizzly
firmly to it.

The whole party now advanced with rifles poised, ready to give the _coup
de gráce_ to his bearship; when, with a thundering growl, _another_
"grizzly" came shambling swiftly out from the bushes, and made directly for
François. Before the party recovered from their surprise at this new
appearance on the scene, the brute reared up and seized François by the
leg, which he crunched and shattered.

Only one of the party dared to fire, for fear of wounding the guide; that
one was Mrs. Dagget, who, poising her carbine, would have sent a ball
through the monster's heart but for a sudden start of her high-mettled
horse. As it was, her shot only wounded the beast, which immediately left
François and dashed at our heroine, who drew a navy-revolver from her
holsters, gave the infuriated animal two more shots, and then wheeled her
horse and galloped away, making a circuit as she rode, so as to reach the
other side of the tree from which the first grizzly had now disengaged
himself, and attacking Michael, the remaining guide, had broken his horse's
leg with a blow of his paw; the horse fell, and Michael's arm was
fractured, and the bear then dashing at Col. Ansley and Mr. Dagget, put
them to flight, together with Miss Dagget. The Colonel's horse, stumbling,
threw his rider, and leaving him with a dislocated shoulder, galloped away
across the plain.

Mr. Dagget and his daughter quickly dismounted, and led the Colonel,
groaning, to a thicket, where they placed him in concealment, and then
returned to the combat. Mrs. Dagget meanwhile, having diverted both the
grizzlies by repeated shots from her revolver, also drew them after her,
away from the unfortunate half-breeds, who lay with shattered limbs on the
ground where they had first fallen. By skillfully manoeuvring her horse,
she had been completely successful in drawing her antagonists some forty
rods away. But although she had emptied her revolvers, making every shot
tell in the bodies of the grizzlies, and the blood was streaming from their
huge forms, they showed no abatement in their strength and ferocity, and it
was with an indescribable feeling of relief that she saw her husband and
daughter now advancing to her own rescue. This feeling was, however,
blended with a wife's and mother's fears lest her beloved husband and
daughter should take harm from the savage monsters.

Mr. Dagget and his daughter, having carefully reloaded their rifles, had
now crept up cautiously behind, and watching their opportunity, had planted
a ball squarely in each of the bears, just behind their fore-shoulders.
This appeared to be the finishing stroke, and the brutes stretched
themselves on the plain--to all appearance lifeless.

François and Michael were then placed in as comfortable a position as
possible; the Colonel was brought out of the thicket; the mules and stray
horses were brought back to camp; and then a consultation was held between
the Daggets as to what should be done for the sufferers. Refreshment was
given them; some attempts at rude surgery were made in the way of bandaging
and setting the broken limbs and dislocated shoulders. It was sixty miles
to Fort Laramie; the night was on them, and the best course seemed to be to
rest their jaded steeds and start for a surgeon early in the morning.

This course would have been pursued, but for another disaster, which
occurred just as they were preparing to rest for the night. Mr. Dagget,
from pure curiosity, was prompted to examine the carcasses of the bears. He
noticed that one of them had dragged itself some distance from where it
fell towards a thicket, but lay on its side as if dead. With a hunter's
curiosity, he lifted one of its forepaws to examine the position of the
death-wound, when the brute rose with a terrific growl and struck Mr.
Dagget's arm with its paw, breaking it like a pipe-stem, and then, rolling
over, groaned away its life, which it had thus far clung to with such fatal
tenacity.

This was too much for the equanimity of Mrs. Dagget. The moans of the
guides, with broken limbs, which had already swelled to a frightful size,
and the pain which Col. Ansley and her husband strove in vain to conceal,
were too harrowing to her woman's nature to permit her to rest quietly in
camp that night. She was not long in adopting the seemingly desperate
resolution of riding to the Fort and bringing back a nurse and surgeon.

Whispering to her daughter, she informed her of her determination, and
quickly saddling the swiftest and freshest of the horses, she led him
softly out from the camp, and, mounting, set her face southward, and
touched the horse lightly with the whip. The generous beast seemed, by
instinct, to understand his rider's errand, and bounded over the wild plain
with a kind of cheerful alacrity that rendered unnecessary any further
urging.

The sky was overcast, so that she had no stars to guide her course, and was
obliged to guess the route which the party had followed from the Fort.
By-and-by she struck a trail, which she thought she recognized as the one
over which they had come after leaving the Platte River. For four hours she
rode forward, the horse not flagging in his steady gallop. According to her
calculations, she must have made forty miles of her journey, and she was
anticipating that by the break of day she would have made the Fort, when,
turning her eyes upward to the left, she saw--through the clouds that had
rifted for the first time--the great dipper, and knew at once that instead
of riding southward, she had been riding eastward, and must be now at least
seventy miles from the Fort, instead of being within twenty miles of it, as
she had supposed.

Her horse began to show symptoms of fatigue. She slowed him to a walk as
she turned his head to the southwest, and pursued her course sluggishly
across the plains. Erelong the blackness of night faded into gray, and then
came twilight streaks, which showed her the dreary country she was passing
through. It was a vast sandy plain, thinly dotted with sage-bush and other
stunted shrubs. The sun rose bright and hot, and, until ten o'clock, she
pursued her way not faster than two miles an hour. Her horse now gave out,
and refused to move a step. She dismounted and sat down on the sand beside
a sage-bush, which partially sheltered her from the sun's rays.

We continue our narrative with Mrs. Dagget's own account of her perilous
adventure:--

"For nearly two hours I sat on the ground, while my poor horse feebly
staggered from bush to bush, and nibbled at the stunted herbage. I then
remounted him and pursued my way, at a snail's pace, towards the Fort. The
most serious apprehension I entertained at this moment was that of
sun-stroke, as my head was only shielded from the rays by a white
handkerchief; my hat had blown off in the conflict with the bears, and, in
my distress and anxiety to start for assistance, I had not stopped to look
for it. I felt no hunger, but a little after noon, when the burning heat of
the sun was reflected with double violence from the hot sand, and the
distant ridges of the hills, seen through the ascending vapor, seemed to
wave and fluctuate like the unsettled sea, I became faint with thirst, and
climbed a tree in hopes of seeing distant smoke or other appearance of a
human habitation. But in vain; nothing appeared all around but thick
underwood and hillocks of white sand.

"My thirst by this time became insufferable; my mouth was parched and
inflamed; a sudden dimness would frequently come over my eyes with other
symptoms of fainting; and my horse, being barely able to walk, I began
seriously to apprehend that I should perish of thirst. To relieve the
burning pain in my mouth or throat, I chewed the leaves of different
shrubs, but found them all bitter, and of no real service to me.

"A little before sunset, having reached the top of a gentle rising, I
climbed a high tree, from the topmost branches of which I cast a melancholy
look over the barren wilderness, but without discovering the most distant
trace of a human dwelling. The same dismal uniformity of shrubs and sand
everywhere presented itself, and the horizon was as level and uninterrupted
as that of the sea.

"Descending from the tree, I found my horse devouring the stubble and
brushwood with great avidity, and as I was now too faint to attempt
walking, and my horse too fatigued to carry me, I thought it but an act of
humanity, and perhaps the last I should ever have it in my power to
perform, to take off his bridle and let him shift for himself; in doing
which I was suddenly affected with sickness and giddiness, and falling upon
the sand, I felt as if the hour of death was fast approaching.

"'Here then,' thought I, after a short but ineffectual struggle,
'terminates all my hopes of being useful in my day and generation; here
must the short span of my life come to an end!' I cast (as I believed) a
last look on the surrounding scene, and whilst I reflected on the awful
change that was to take place, this world with its enjoyments seemed to
vanish from my recollection. Nature, however, at length resumed its
functions; and on recovering my senses, I found myself stretched upon the
sand, with the bridle still in my hand, and the sun just sinking behind the
trees. I now summoned all my resolution, and determined to make another
effort to prolong my existence. And as the evening was somewhat cool, I
resolved to travel as far as my limbs would carry me, in hopes of reaching
(my only resource) a watering place.

"With this view, I put the bridle on my horse, and driving him before me,
went slowly along for about an hour, when I perceived some lightning from
the northeast; a most delightful sight; for it promised rain. The darkness
and lightning increased rapidly; and in less than an hour I heard the wind
roaring among the bushes. I had already opened my mouth to receive the
refreshing drops which I expected; but I was instantly covered with a cloud
of sand, driven with such force by the wind as to give a very disagreeable
sensation to my face and arms; and I was obliged to mount my horse and stop
under a bush, to prevent being suffocated. The sand continued to fly in
amazing quantities for near an hour; after which I again set forward, and
traveled with difficulty, until ten o'clock. About this time, I was
agreeably surprised by some very vivid flashes of lightning, followed by a
few heavy drops of rain.

"In a little time the sand ceased to fly, and I alighted and spread out all
my clean clothes to collect the rain, which at length I saw would certainly
fall. For more than an hour it rained plentifully, and I quenched my thirst
by wringing and sucking my clothes. A few moments after I fell into a
profound slumber, in spite of the rain which now fell in torrents.

"The sky was clear and the sun was well up when I woke: drenched to the
skin I rose as soon as my stiffened limbs would permit, and cast a look at
the southern horizon. A line of black dots was distinctly visible, slowly
moving westward. Mounting my horse, which was now freshened by his rest and
the scanty provender which he had gathered in the night, I pushed on and
succeeded in overtaking the party which was a detachment of United States
cavalry. Before night we reached the Fort, and early next morning I
accompanied a surgeon and two attendants, with an ambulance, to the camp
where we found all as we had left them, and overjoyed at my return. When
the fractures had been reduced, and Col. Ansley's shoulder put into place,
the whole party were brought back to the Fort, quite content to wait awhile
before engaging again in a 'grizzly-bear hunt.'"

The strength of nerve and fortitude which maternal love will inspire, is
brilliantly illustrated by the story of an adventure with an American lion
which happened not long since in the remote territory of Wyoming.

A Mrs. Vredenbergh one night, during the absence of her husband, had
retired with her three children, to rest, in a chamber, on the first floor
of the cabin where she lived, when an enormous mountain-lion leaped into
the room through an open window placed at some distance from the ground for
purposes of ventilation. The brute after entering the apartment whined and
shook itself, and then lay down upon the floor in a watchful attitude with
its eyes fixed upon the bed where lay Mrs. V., almost paralyzed with fright
at this dangerous visitor. Her children were her first thought. Two of them
were in a cot beyond the bed, where she lay; the third, an infant of six
months, was reposing in its mother's arms.

Mrs. Vredenbergh remembered in an instant that perfect silence and
stillness might prevent the brute from springing upon them; and accordingly
she suppressed every breath and motion on her own part, while her children
luckily were sleeping so profoundly that their breathing could not be
heard. After a few minutes the monster began to relax the steady glare of
his great green orbs, and winked lazily, purring loudly as though in good
humor. The first powerful impulse to scream and fly to the adjoining
apartment having been repressed, the matron's heart became calmer and her
mind employed itself in devising a thousand plans for saving herself and
her children. Her husband's gun hung loaded above the head of the bed, but
it could not be reached without rising; if she woke her children she feared
her action in so doing or the noise they would make would bring the monster
upon them. She had heard that the mountain-lion could not attack human
beings when his hunger had been appeased, and from a noise she had heard in
the cow-house just after retiring, she surmised that the brute had made a
raid upon the cattle and glutted himself; this conjecture received
confirmation from the placidity of the animal's demeanor. Resting upon this
theory she finally maintained her original policy of perfect stillness,
trusting that her husband would soon return. Her greatest fear now was that
the infant might wake and cry, for she was well aware that the ferocity of
the mountain-lion is roused by nothing so quickly as the cry of a child.

A full hour passed in this manner. The moon was at its full, and from her
position on the couch, Mrs. Vredenbergh could, without turning her head,
see every motion of the creature. It lay with its head between its forepaws
in the posture assumed by the domestic cat when in a state of
semi-watchfulness, approaching to a doze. The senses of the matron were
strung to an almost painful acuteness. The moonlight streaming in at the
window was to her eyes like the glare of the sun at noonday: the ticking of
the clock on the wall fell on her ears, each tick like a sharply pointed
hammer seeming to bruise the nerve. A keen thrill ran like a knife through
her tense frame when the infant stirred and moaned in his sleep. The lion
roused himself in an instant, and fixing his eyes upon the bed came towards
it arching his back and yawning. He rubbed himself against the bedstead and
stood for a moment so near that Mrs. V. could have touched him with her
hand, then turned back and commenced pacing up and down the room. The
infant fortunately ceased its moaning and sighing gently fell back into its
slumbers; and again the beast, purring and winking, lay down and resumed
its former position.

The quick tread of the lady's husband at this moment was heard; as he put
his hand upon the latch to enter, Mrs. V. could contain herself no longer,
and uttered a series of loud shrieks. The lion, rising, bounded over the
head of Mr. Vredenbergh as he entered the cabin, and disappeared in the
forest.

The safety of the family consisted partly perhaps in the fact that the
intruder before entering the house had satiated his appetite by gorging
himself upon a calf, the remains of which were next day discovered in the
cow-house; but the preservation of herself and children was also due to the
self-control with which Mrs. Vredenbergh maintained herself in that trying
situation.




CHAPTER XV.

ACROSS THE CONTINENT--ON THE PLAINS


The movement of emigration westward since the early part of the seventeenth
century resembles the great ocean billows during a rising tide. Sweeping
over the watery waste with a steady roll, dragged by the lunar force, each
billow dashes higher and higher on the beach, until the attractive
influence has been spent and the final limit reached. The spirit of
religious liberty and of adventure carried the European across the
Atlantic. This was the _first_ wave of emigration. The achievement of
our Independence gave the next great impetus to the movement. The
acquisition of California and the discovery of gold was the third stimulus
that carried our race across the continent. The final impulse was
communicated by the completion of the Pacific railroad.

At the close of the Mexican War in 1848, our frontier States were, Texas,
Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin. With the exception of a few forts,
trading-posts, missionary stations, and hunters' camps, the territory
extending from the line of furthest settlement in those States, westward to
the Pacific Ocean, was for the most part an uninhabited waste. This tract,
(including the Gadsden purchase,) covering upwards of seventeen hundred
thousand square miles and nearly half as large as the whole of Europe, was
now to be penetrated, explored, reclaimed, and added to the area of
civilization.

The pioneer army of occupation who were to commence this mighty work moved
through Missouri and Iowa, and crossing the turbid flood which formed one
of the great natural boundaries of that wild empire, saw before them the
vast plains of Nebraska and Kansas stretching with scarcely a break for
five hundred miles as the crow flies to the foot-hills of the Rocky
Mountains. The Platte, the Kansas, and the Arkansas, with their
tributaries, indicated the general bearings of the march, the sun and moon
were unerring guides.

The host divided itself: one part spread over and tilled the rich country
which extends for two hundred miles west of the Missouri River; another
part grazed its flocks and herds on the pasture ground beyond; another,
crossing the belt of desert, settled in the picturesque region between the
barrens and the foothills, another penetrated into the mountains and
planted itself in the labyrinthian valleys and on the lofty table lands
between the Black Hills and the California Sierras, another more boldly
marched a thousand miles across a wilderness of mountain ranges and settled
on the slope which descends to the shores of the Pacific.

The rivers and streams between the Missouri and the mountains, and latterly
the railroads, were the _axes_ around which population gathered and
turned itself. Here were the dwelling places of the settlers, here woman's
work was to be done and her influence to be employed in building up the
empire on the plains.

We have stated how, by a series of processes extending through successive
generations and the lapse of centuries, she grew more and more capable to
fulfill her mission on this continent, and how, as the physical and moral
difficulties that beset frontier-life multiplied, she gathered
corresponding strength and faculties to meet them. In entering that new
field of pioneer enterprise which lay beyond the Missouri River in 1848,
there still, among others, remained that one great grief over the
separation from her old home.

When the eastern woman bade farewell to her friends and started for the
plains it seemed to her, and often proved to be, a final adieu. We say
nothing of that large class which, being more scantily endowed with this
world's goods, were forced to make the long, wearisome journey with ox
teams from the older settlements of the East. We take the weaker case of
the well-to-do immigrant wife who, by railroad, and by steamboat on the
lakes or rivers, reached, after a journey of two thousand miles, the point
upon the Missouri River where she was to enter the "prairie schooner" and
move out into that vast expanse; even to her the pangs of separation must
have then been felt with renewed and redoubled force. That "turbid flood"
was the casting-off place. She was as one who ventures in a small boat into
a wide, dark ocean, not knowing whether she would ever return or find
within the murky waste a safe abiding place.

There was the uncertainty; the positive dangers of the route; the
apprehended dangers which might surround the settlement; the new country,
with all its difficulties, privations, labors, and trials; the
possibilities of disease, with small means of relief; the utter solitude,
with little prospect of solacing companionship.

And yet, with so dreary a picture presented to her mental vision, she did
not shrink from the enterprise, nor turn back, until all hope of making a
home for her family in that remote region had fled. We recall a few
instances in which, after years of toil, sorrow, and suffering--when all
had been lost, the heroine of the household has been driven back by a
stress of circumstances with which human power was unavailing to cope. Such
a case was that of Mrs. N------, of which the following are the substantial
facts:

While a squad of United States cavalry were journeying in 1866 from the
Great Bend of the Arkansas to Fort Riley, in Kansas, the commanding
officer, as he was sweeping with his glass the horizon of the vast level
plain over which they were passing, descried a small object moving towards
their line of march through the tall grass some two miles to their left. No
other living thing was visible throughout their field of vision, and
conjecture was rife as to what this single moving object in that lonely
waste could be. It moved in a slow and hesitating way, sometimes pausing,
as if weary, and then resuming its sluggish course towards the East. They
made it out clearly at last. It was a solitary woman. She had a rifle in
her hand, and as the squad changed their course and approached her, she
could be seen at the distance of half a mile putting herself in the posture
of defense and making ready to use her rifle. The horsemen waved their hats
and shouted loudly to advise her that they were friends. She kept her rifle
at her shoulder and stood like a statue, until, seeming to be reassured,
she changed her attitude and with tottering steps approached them.

She was a woman under thirty, who had evidently been tenderly reared; small
and fragile, her pale, wasted face bore those lines which mutely tell the
tale of long sorrow and suffering. Her appearance awoke all those
chivalrous feelings which are the honor of the military profession. She was
speechless with emotion. The officer addressed her with kind and respectful
inquiries. Those were the first words of her mother tongue she had heard
for four weeks. Like the breath of the "sweet south" blowing across the
fabled lute, those syllables, speaking of home and friends, relaxed the
tension to which her nerves had been so long strung and she wept. Twice she
essayed to tell how she happened to be found in such a melancholy situation
on that wild plain, and twice she broke down, sobbing with those convulsive
sobs that show how the spirit can shake and over-master the frail body.

Weak, weary, and worn as she was, they ceased to question her, and
preserved a respectful silence, while they did all that rough soldiers
could do to make her comfortable. An army overcoat was wrapped around her,
stimulants and food given her, and one of the soldiers, shortening a
stirrup, and strapping a folded blanket over his saddle, made a comfortable
seat upon his horse; which he surrendered to her. The following day she had
acquired sufficient strength to tell her sad story.

Three years before, she, with her husband and four children, had left her
childhood's home, in the eastern part of Ohio, and set out for Kansas. Her
oldest boy sickened and died while passing through Illinois, and they laid
him to rest beneath the waving prairie grass. After crossing the Missouri
river, her second child, a lovely little girl of six years, was carried off
by the scarlet fever, and they left her sleeping beneath the green meadow
sward on the bank of the Kansas.

After a wearisome march of eighty days, they reached their destination on
the Smoky Hill Branch of the Kansas River, and lying about three hundred
miles west of Fort Leavenworth. Here, in a country suitable for grazing and
tillage, they chose their home. Mr. N. devoted himself to the raising of
cattle, tilling only land enough to supply the wants of himself and family.

She had toiled day and night to make their home comfortable and happy for
her husband and children. Fortune smiled upon them. Their herds multiplied
and throve upon the rich pasturage and in the mild air of the region where
they grazed. Two more children were added to their flock. Their roof-tree
sheltered all from the heats of summer and the bleak winds which sweep
those plains in the winter season. Bounteous harvests blessed their store.
They were visited by the red man only as a wayfarer and friend.

This bright sky was at last suddenly overclouded. A plague raged among
their cattle. A swarm of grasshoppers ravaged their crops. A drought
followed, which burned up the herbage. "Terrors," says, the poet, "come not
as single spies, but in battalions." Pestilence at last came to complete
the ruin of that hapless household. Her husband was first stricken down,
and after a week of suffering, died in a delirium, which, while it startled
and saddened the little flock, kept him all unapprehensive of the evils
which might visit his bereaved family after his departure. The wife dug,
with her own hands, a shallow grave on the bluff where their house stood,
and bearing, with difficulty, in her slender arms the wasted remains, laid
them, coffinless, in the trench, and covering them with earth, returned to
the house to find her three oldest children suffering from the same malady.
The pestilence made short but sure work with their little frames. One by
one they breathed their last in their mother's arms. Kissing their waxen
features, she bore them out all alone and laid them tenderly side by side
with their father.

The little babe of four months was still the picture of health. All
unconscious of its bereavements and of the bitter sorrows of her on whose
bosom he lay, he throve upon the maternal bounty which poured for him,
though her frail life seemed to be passing away with it.

Like some subtle but potent elixir, which erects the vital spirit, and
holds it when about to flee from its tenement, so did that sweet babe keep
the mother's heart pulsing with gentle beat during the days which followed
those forlorn funeral rites.

A week passed, during which a great terror possessed her, lest she too
should have the latent seeds of the pestilence in her frame, and should
have imparted the dreadful gift to her babe through the fountain of
motherhood.

A racking pain in her forehead, followed by lassitude, told her alas! that
all she had shuddered to think of was coming to pass. Weary and suffering,
she laid herself upon the couch, which she prayed but for her infant might
be her last resting place. Too soon, as she watched with a keenness of
vision which only a mother can possess, did she see the first shadow of the
destroyer reflected on the face of her little one. It faded like a flower
in the hot blast of July,

  "So softly worn, so sweetly weak,"

and before two suns had come and gone, it lay like a bruised lily on the
fever-burning bosom which gave it life.

Unconsciousness came mercifully to the poor mother. For hours she lay in
blessed oblivion. But the vital principle, which often displays its
wondrous power in the feeblest frames, asserted its triumph over death, and
she awoke again to the remembrance of losses that could never be repaired
this side the grave.

Three days passed before the fever left her. She arose from her couch, and,
with shaking frame, laid her little withered blossom on its father's grave,
and covering it with a mound of dried grass, crowned it with yellow autumn
leaves.

The love of life slowly returned; but the means to sustain that life had
been destroyed by murrain, the grasshoppers, and the drought. The household
stores would suffice but for a few days longer. The only and precarious
means of subsistence which would then remain, would be such game as she
could shoot. The Indians becoming apprised of the death of Mr. N., had
carried off the horses.

Only one avenue of escape was left her; casting many "a longing, lingering
look" at the home once so happy, but now so swept and desolate, she took
her husband's rifle and struck boldly out into the boundless plain, towards
the trail which runs from the Arkansas River to Fort Riley, and after
several days of great suffering fell in with friends, as we have already
described.

The sad experience of Mrs. N. is fortunately a rare one at the present day.
The vast area occupied by the plains of Kansas and Nebraska, is in many
respects naturally fitted for those forms of social life in which woman's
work may be performed under the most favorable circumstances; a country
richly adapted to the various forms of agriculture and to pastoral
occupations; a mild and generally equable climate are there well calculated
to show the pioneer-housewife at her best.

Another great advantage has been the fact that this region was a kind of
graduating school, into which the antecedent schools of pioneer-life could
send skilled pupils, who, upon a fair and wide field, and in a virgin soil,
could build a civil and social fabric, reflecting past experiences and
embodying a multitude of separate results into a large and harmonious
whole.

Visiting some years since the States of Kansas and Nebraska, we passed
first through that rich and already populous region in the eastern part of
the former State, which twenty-five years since was an uninhabited waste.
Here were all the appliances of civilization: the school, the church, the
town hall; improved agriculture, the mechanic arts, the varied forms of
mercantile traffic, and at the base of the fabric the home made and ordered
by woman. Here but yesterday was the frontier where woman was performing
her oft before repeated task, and laying, according to her methods and
habits, and within her appropriate sphere, the foundations of that which is
to-day a great, rich, and prosperous social and civil State. Here, too, we
saw many of the mothers, not yet old, who through countless trials, labors,
and perils have aided in the noble work on which they now are looking with
such honest pride and satisfaction.

For many successive afternoons we passed on from city to city, and from
village to village. The sun preceded us westward; we steered our course
directly towards it, and each day as it sank to the earth, brightly and
more brightly glowed the sky as with the purest gold. The settlements
became more scattered, the uninhabited spaces grew wider. _We were
nearing one of the frontiers_.

In the spring the mead through which we were passing was a natural
parterre, where in the midst of the lively vernal green, bloomed the oxlip,
the white and blue violet, the yellow-cup dotted with jet, and many another
fragile and aromatic member of the floral sisterhood.

Ascending a knoll crowned by a little wood which lay like a green shrub
upon that treeless, grassy plain, we saw from this point the prairie
stretching onward its loftily waving extent to the horizon. Here and there
amidst the vast stretch arose small log-houses, which resembled little
birds' nests floating upon the ocean. Here and there, also, were people
harvesting grain.

Among the harvesters were three young women, who were nimbly binding
sheaves, with little children around them. The vastness of the prairie made
the harvesters themselves look like children playing at games.

Some distance beyond us, in the track we were pursuing, we saw what at
first glance appeared to be a white dahlia. As we neared it, this huge
white flower seemed to be moving; it was the snowy sun-bonnet of a young
school-teacher, who was convoying a troop of children to the school-house,
whose brown roof showed above the luxuriant herbage. She seemed to be
beloved by her scholars, for they surrounded her and clung to her. She had
been giving them, it appeared, a lesson in practical botany; their hats
were adorned with scarlet and yellow blossoms, and they carried bunches of
oxlips and violets. The school-mistress had a face like a sister of
charity; the contour and lines showed resolution and patience; the whole
expression blended with intelligence, a strong and lovely character. She
entered the door of the log school-house, and gently drew within it the
youngest of her charges. Around the school-house we saw other groups of
sturdy boys and chubby girls, frisking and shouting gaily as we drove by.

It is under the tuition of the women especially that a vigorous,
intelligent, and laborious race grows up in these border settlements on the
plains. The children are taught the rudiments, and afterwards endeavor to
improve their condition in life. The boys often enter upon political and
public careers. The girls marry early, and contribute to make new societies
in the wilderness. These farms are the nurseries from which the State will
soon obtain its officials and its teachers, both male and female.

The gardens, the cottages, and cabins nearly all showed some external signs
of the embellishing hand of woman. Entering one of these houses, we found
the men and young women out gathering the harvest. An elderly woman acted
as our hostess. She was maid of all-work, a chamber-maid, cook,
dairy-woman, laundress, and children's nurse; and yet she found time to
make us a cordial welcome. The house was only one year old, and rather open
to the weather, but bore the marks of womanly thrift and even of
refinement.

The matron who entertained us displayed piety, restless activity, humanity,
intelligence, and a youthfully warm heart, all of which marked her as a
type of that large class of elderly housewives who are using the education
which they acquired in their girlhood in the East to form new and model
communities on these wide and rich plains.

We asked her about her life and thus came to hear, without the least
complaint on her part, of its many difficulties. And yet when her husband
and sons and daughters returned home from the field, we could see that it
was a joyous and happy home.

The eldest daughter, Mrs. B------, then a widow of twenty-five or six, told
us the story of her experience in border-life. She was born in Wisconsin,
when as a territory it had a population of only three thousand. Soon after
the removal of her father and mother to Kansas, and at the age of sixteen
she had married one of the most adventurous of the race of young pioneers
which drew their first breath upon the then frontier in Illinois.

Their wedding tour was in a prairie schooner from Atchison to the
semi-fertile region which borders on the desert belt which stretches
through western Nebraska and Kansas to New Mexico. Here they made their
first home. Life in that particular section must be a pastoral rather than
an agricultural one: her husband accordingly devoted himself almost
entirely to the raising of cattle.

We hardly need say, that next to the hunter, the cattle-herder approximates
most nearly to savage life; his wife must accordingly find her position
under such circumstances, a peculiarly trying one. The house in which Mrs.
B------ and her husband lived was a simple hut constructed by digging away
the side of a hill which formed the earthen rear and side walls of their
dwelling, the top and front being of logs also covered with earth. Their
kitchen, sleeping-room, dining-room, and parlor were represented by a
single apartment Three men with their wives were their companions in the
enterprise, and all lived in similar houses.

As most of the men's time was occupied in looking after their herds and
preventing them from wandering too far or from being stamped and stolen by
thievish savages, a large share of the other out-door labors fell upon the
women. Cheerfully accepting these burdens Mrs. B------ and her three female
companions tilled the small patches of corn and potatoes which with pickled
beef formed their only food. Much of the time they were left entirely alone
and were alarmed as well as annoyed by frequent visits from Indians, who,
however, abstained from violence, contenting themselves with eating what
was given them and pilfering whatever stray articles they could find.

Three years were passed by the little colony in this wild pastoral life.
Though the heats of summer and the sudden storms of wind in winter, were
severe, disease was never added to their list of ordinary discomforts and
privations. Two of the men twice a year drove their cattle two hundred and
fifty miles to the nearest railway station, but none of the women
accompanied them on these trips, which were always looked forward to by
their husbands as a relief from the monotony of their life as herders.

The third summer after their arrival was extremely sultry, and the drought
so common in that region, promised to be more than usually severe. The
crops were rapidly being consumed by four weeks of continuous hot, dry
weather, when one day late in July, the four housewives, who were sitting
together in the cabin of Mrs. B------, observed a sudden darkening of the
western sky, and felt sharp eddying gusts of wind which blew fitfully from
the southwest. A succession of small whirlwinds carried aloft the sand in
front of their houses, which were ranged not far apart on the hillside.

These phenomena, accompanied with various other atmospheric commotions,
lasted for half an hour, and ceased to attract their attention. The wind,
however, continued to increase, and the ears of the four matrons anon
caught the sound of a dull, steady roar, which rose above the fitful
howling of the blast. They ran to the door and saw a dark cloud shaped like
a monstrous funnel moving swiftly towards them from the west. The point of
this funnel was scarcely more than one hundred feet from the earth, and
swayed like the car of a balloon descending from a great height.

Dismayed by this extraordinary spectacle they hastened in doors. Scarcely
had they gained shelter when their ears were saluted by a sound louder than
the broadside of a double decker, and the next moment the roof of the house
was torn away with tremendous force and almost at the same instant a flood
of water twenty feet deep swept the four women with the _débris_ of
the house down the hillside and whirled them away over the plain.

Three of the women, including Mrs. B------, severely bruised and half
drowned, emerged from the torrent when it spread out and spent itself upon
the level; the fourth stunned by a blow from one of the house-logs, and
suffocated by the rush of the waters, could not be resuscitated. The
water-spout, for such was the agent of the destruction which had been
wrought, had fallen on the hillside and swept away two of the other houses
besides that of Mrs. B------, and for ten days, while new dwellings could
be constructed and the furniture and other articles carried away could be
recovered, the three houseless families were quartered partly in the
remaining house, and the rest encamped under the open sky, where they
suffered additional discomfort from the thunder storms in the night, which
followed the water-spout.

The next summer they were visited by another disaster in the shape of
grasshoppers. Often had these terrible pests of the settlers in that and
the adjacent regions, flown in immense clouds over their heads during
former seasons, winging their way to the richer country which lay to the
east, but never before had they been attracted to the scanty patches of
corn and potatoes which skirted the hovels where the herders dwelt. But
early in July of that year a swarm settled down almost ancle deep on the
little strip of ploughed land, and within the space between the rising and
the setting of the sun, every vestige of greenness had disappeared as if
burned with fire.

After a short consultation that evening, the whole party determined to take
time by the forelock, and abandoning their cabins remove with their
household goods and herds of cattle before the insect plunderers had
prepared the way for a famine which they were certain to do before many
days. Hastily loading their carts with their household goods and stores,
and collecting their cattle, five hundred in number, they set out for the
Missouri River, three hundred miles distant.

Having reached their destination they sold all their cattle, and after
resting a few days joined a company of five pioneers who were traveling
over the military road, via Fort Kearney and through the Platte valley,
with the intention of settling in the picturesque and well watered region
east of the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains, and slaughtering buffaloes
for their skins.

Mrs. B------, and her two female companions, with a shrewd eye to profit,
concluded an arrangement with the hunters by which they were to board and
make the whole party comfortable, in their capacity as housewives, for a
certain share in the profits of the buffalo skins, their husbands joining
the party as hunters.

All the necessary preparations having been made, they set out on horse-back
with ten pack-mules, and made rapid progress, reaching the buffalo country
without accident in twenty-two days.

Here the women occasionally joined in the hunt, and being fearless riders
as well as good shots added a few buffalo robes to their own account. On
one of these hunts, Mrs. B------, becoming separated from the party while
following a stray bison with too much ardor, reached a small valley which
looked as if it might be a favorite grazing ground for the brutes. The wind
blew in her face as she rode, and owing to this circumstance, the bison
being a quick scented animal, she was enabled to approach a solitary bull
feeding by a stream at the foot of the hill and dispatched it by a shot
from her rifle.

Dismounting, she whipped out her hunting knife and was proceeding to flay
the carcass, when she was attracted by a low rumbling sound which shook the
earth, and looking up the steep bluff at the foot of which she stood, saw a
herd which must have contained ten thousand bison, plunging madly down upon
her. Her horse taking fright broke away from the bush to which he was
fastened and galloped off. Mrs. B------ ran after him at the top of her
speed, but was conscious that the black mass behind her would soon overtake
and trample her under foot, such was the impetus they had received in their
course down the hill.

Not a tree was in sight, but remembering two or three sink-holes which she
had seen beside a clump of bushes near the spot where she had taken aim at
the bull-bison, she hastened thither and succeeded in dropping into one
some ten feet in depth just as the leaders of the herd were almost upon
her. Lying there panting and up to her waist in water, she heard the shaggy
battalions sweep over her, and, a moment after they had passed, caught the
sound of voices. Emerging cautiously for fear of Indians, which were
swarming in the region, she saw four of the hunters whom she had left an
hour before galloping in hot pursuit of the herd. The five other hunters
coming up in front of the herd as it was commencing to climb the bluff on
the other side of the valley, succeeding in turning the terrified multitude
to one side, and when they came up with Mrs. B------ she saw they had
caught her horse, which had met them as it was galloping homeward.

Thus supplied with a steed she mounted, and regaining her rifle which she
had dropped in her flight, nothing daunted by the danger she had so
narrowly escaped, joined in the hunt which ended in a perfect
_battue_. The hunters succeeded in driving a part of the herd into a
narrow gorge and strewing the ground with carcasses.

Three months of this wild life made our heroine pine for more quiet
pursuits, and she induced her husband to return to the frontier of eastern
Nebraska, where, with the profits of the cattle enterprise and the hunt, a
large tract was purchased on one of the tributaries of the Platte. Here,
after six years of labor, they built up a model farm, well stocked with
choice breeds of cattle, planted with nurseries of fruit trees, and laid
down to grain. Attracted by the story of their success, other settlers
flocked into the region. The completion of the Pacific Railroad soon after
furnished them with an easy access to market. Every thing went on
prosperously till the death of Mr. B------ from a casualty. But
notwithstanding this loss, Mrs. B------ kept up the noble farm which her
energy and perseverance had done so much to make what it was. She was then
on a visit to her father's family in Kansas, where we met her, and had
invited her father, mother, and sisters to remove to her home in Nebraska,
which they were intending shortly to do.

The whole family showed evidence of the possession of the same bold and
energetic character which the eldest daughter had displayed during her ten
years' experience on the extreme frontier, beside those other qualities
both of heart and mind which mark the true pioneer woman.

Heartfelt kindness and hospitality, seriousness and mirth in the family
circle,--these characteristics of border life, when it is good, had all
been transplanted into the western wilderness by these colonists. That day
among the dwellers of the plain; that fine old lady; those handsome,
fearless, warm-hearted, kind, and modest young women; that domestic life;
that rich hospitality, combined to show how much happiness may be enjoyed
in those frontier homes, where woman is the presiding genius.




CHAPTER XVI.

WOMAN AS A MISSIONARY TO THE INDIANS.


"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good
tidings: that publisheth peace: that bringeth good tidings of good: that
publisheth salvation."

Among the faithful messengers who have borne this Gospel of peace to the
benighted red man, there have been many devoted and pious women. The story
of woman as a missionary in all climes and countries contains in itself the
elements of the moral-sublime. History has not recorded,--poetry itself has
seldom portrayed more affecting exhibitions of Christian fortitude, of
feminine heroism, and of all the noble and generous qualities which
constitute the dignity and glory of woman, than when it spreads before the
wondering eyes of the world the picture of her toils, her sacrifices, and
even her martyrdom, in this field of her glory.

We see her in the pestilential jungles of India, or beneath the scorching
sun on Africa's burning sands, or amid the rigors of an Arctic winter, in
the midst of danger, disease, and every trial or hardship that can crush
the human heart; and through all presenting a character equal to the
sternest trial, and an address and fertility of resource which has often
saved her co-workers and herself from what seemed an inevitable doom.

Such an exhibition of heroic qualities, such a picture of toils,
sacrifices, sufferings, and dangers, is also presented to our eyes in the
record of woman as a missionary among the fierce and almost untamable
aboriginal tribes which roam over our American continent. The trials,
hardships, and perils which always environ frontier life, were doubled and
intensified in that mission. Taking her life in her hand, surrounded by
alien and hostile influences, often entirely cut off from communication
with the civilized world, armed not with carnal weapons, but trusting that
other armor--the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, and the helmet
of salvation--with her heart full of love and pity for her dark-browed
brethren, woman as a missionary to the Indians is a crowning glory of her
age and sex.

The influence of woman in this field has been poured out through two
channels--one direct, the other indirect; and it is sometimes difficult to
decide which of these two methods have produced the greatest results. As an
indirect worker, she has lightened her husband's labors as a missionary,
has softened the fierce temper of the pagan tribes, and by her kind and
placid ministrations has prepared their minds for the reception of Gospel
truth.

As an example of such a worker, Mrs. Ann Eliot, the wife of the Rev. John
Eliot, surnamed the "Apostle," stands conspicuous among a host. It was the
prudence and skill of this good woman, exercised in her sphere as a wife, a
mother, a housekeeper, and a doctress, that enabled her husband to carry
out his devout and extensive plans and perform his labors in Christianizing
the Indian tribes of New England.

In estimating the great importance of those pious and far-reaching plans,
we must bear in mind the precarious condition of the New England Colonies
in the days of the "Apostle" John and his excellent wife. The slender and
feeble settlements on Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay had hardly yet taken
root, and were barely holding their own against the adverse blasts that
swept over them. A combination between the different savage tribes, by
which they were surrounded, might have extinguished, in a day, the Puritan
Colonies, and have set back, for generations, the destinies of the American
continent.

The primary and unselfish purpose of the "Apostle" John Eliot was to
convert these wild tribes to the doctrine and belief of Christ. One of the
results of his labors in that direction was also, we can hardly doubt, the
political salvation of those feeble colonies. The mind and heart of the
"Apostle" were so absorbed in the great work wherein he was engaged that a
skillful and practical partner was absolutely necessary to enable him to
prepare for and fully discharge many duties which might properly devolve
upon him, but from which his wife in his preoccupation now relieved him.

In her appropriate sphere she also exercised an important influence,
indirectly, in carrying out her husband's plans. Amidst her devoted
attentions to the care and nurture of her six children she found time for
those many duties that devolved on a New England housekeeper of the olden
time, when it was difficult and almost impossible to command the constant
aid of domestics. To provide fitting apparel and food for her family, and
to make this care justly comport with a small income, a free hospitality,
and a large charity, required both efficiency and wisdom.

This she accomplished without hurry of spirit, fretfulness, or misgiving.
But she had in view more than this: she aimed so to perform her own part as
to leave the mind of her husband free for the cares of his sacred
profession, and in this she was peculiarly successful. Her understanding of
the science of domestic comfort, and her prudence--the fruit of a correct
judgment--so increased by daily experience, that she needed not to lay her
burdens upon him, or divert to domestic cares and employments the time and
energy which he would fain devote to God. "The heart of her husband
_did_ safely trust in her," and his tender appreciation of her policy
and its details was her sweet reward.

It was graceful and generous for the wife thus to guard, as far as in her
lay, her husband's time and thoughts from interruption. For, in addition to
his pastoral labors, in which he never spared himself, were his missionary
toils among the heathen. His poor Indian people regarded him as their
father. He strove to uplift them from the debasing habits of savage life.

Groping amid their dark wigwams, he kneeled by the rude bed of skins where
the dying lay, and pointed the dim eye of the savage to the Star of
Bethlehem. They wept in very love for him, and grasped his skirts as one
who was to lead them to heaven. The meekness of his Master dwelt with him,
and day after day he was a student of their uncouth articulations, until he
could talk with the half-clad Indian children, and see their eyes brighten,
for they understood what he said. Then he had no rest until the whole of
the Book of God, that "Word" which has regenerated the world, was
translated into their language.

Not less remarkable was the assistance lent by Mrs. Eliot to her husband's
labors in her capacity as a medical assistant. The difficulty of commanding
the attendance of well educated physicians, by the sparse population of the
colony, rendered it almost indispensable that a mother should be not
unskillful in properly treating those childish ailments which beset the
first years of life. Mrs. Eliot's skill and experience as a doctress soon
caused her to be sought for by the sick and suffering. Among the poor, with
a large charity, she dispensed safe and salutary medicines. Friends and
strangers sought her in their sicknesses, and from such as were able she
received some small remuneration, often forced upon her, and used to eke
out the slender income of her husband.

The poor Indians, too, were among her patients. Often they would come to
her house in pain and suffering, and she would cheerfully give them
medicine and advice, and dismiss them healed and rejoicing. The red man in
his wigwam, tossing on his couch of anguish, was visited by this angel of
mercy, who bound up the aching brow, and cooled the sore fever. Who can
question that many souls were won to Christ by these deeds of practical
charity.

In the light of such acts and such a life, we ascribe to Mrs. Eliot no
small share in the success of those heroic labors by which five thousand
"praying Indians" in New England were brought to bear testimony to the
truths of the Bible and the power of revealed religion.

While woman's work in the Indian missions has been often indirect, in many
other cases she has cooperated directly in efforts looking to the
conversion of the red man. Prominent among the earlier pioneers in the
missionary cause was Jemima Bingham. She came of a devout and God-fearing
race, being a niece of Eleazur Wheelock, D. D., himself a successful
laborer in the Indian missionary work, and was reared amid the religious
privileges of her Connecticut home. There, in 1769, she married the Rev.
Samuel Kirkland, who had already commenced among the Oneida Indians those
active and useful labors which only terminated with his life.

Entering with a sustained enthusiasm into the plans of her husband, she
shortly after her marriage, accompanied him to his post of duty in the
wilderness near Fort Stanwix--now Rome. This was literally on the frontier,
in the midst of a dense forest which extended for hundreds of miles in
every direction, and was the abode of numerous Indian tribes, some of which
were hostile to the white settlers.

Their forest-home was near the "Council House" of the Oneidas--in the heart
of the forest. There, surrounded by the dusky sons of the wilderness, the
devoted couple, alone and unaided, commenced their joint missionary labors.
The gentle manners and the indomitable courage and energy of Mr. Kirkland,
were nobly supplemented by the admirable qualities of his wife. With the
sweetness, gentleness, simplicity, and delicacy so becoming to woman under
all circumstances, were blended in her character, energy that was
unconquerable, courage that danger could not blench, and firmness that
human power could not bend.

Faithfully too, in the midst of her missionary labors, did she discharge
her duties as a mother. One of her sons rewarded her careful teaching by
rising to eminence, and becoming President of Harvard College.

Prior to his marriage Mr. Kirkland made his home and pursued his missionary
labors at the "Council House;" after a house had been prepared for Mrs.
Kirkland, he still continued to preach and teach at the "Council House,"
addressing the Indians in their own language, which both he and his wife
had acquired. Mrs. Kirkland visited the wigwams and instructed the squaws
and children, who in turn flocked to her house where she ministered to
their bodily and spiritual wants.

The women and children of the tribe were her chosen pupils. Seated in
circles on the greensward beneath the spreading arches of giant oaks and
maples, they listened to her teachings, and learned from her lips the
wondrous story of Christ, who gave up his life on the cross that all tribes
and races of mankind might live through Him. Then she prayed for them in
the musical tongue of the Oneidas, and the "sounding aisles of the dim
woods rang" with the psalms and hymns which she had taught those dusky
children of the forest.

The change wrought by these ministrations of Mr. and Mrs. Kirkland was
magical. A peaceful and well-ordered community, whose citizens were red
men, rose in the wilderness, and many souls were gathered into the fold of
Christ.

During the years of her residence and labors among the Oneidas, she won
many hearts by her kind deeds as a nurse and medical benefactor to the red
men and their wives and children. She was thus presented to them as a
bright exemplar of the doctrines which she taught. Both she and her husband
gained a wide influence among the Indians of the region, many of whom they
were afterwards and during the Revolutionary contest, able to win over to
the patriot cause.

The honor of having inaugurated Sunday schools on the frontier, must be
awarded to woman. Truly this class of religious enterprises, in view of the
circumstances by which they were surrounded, and the results produced, may
be placed side by side with that missionary work which looks to the
conversion of the pagan. The impressing of religious truth on the minds of
the young, and preparing them to build up Christian communities in the
wilderness, is in itself a great missionary work, the value of which is
enhanced by the sacrifices and difficulties it involves. It was in Ohio
that one of the first Sunday-schools in our country was kept, with which
the name of Mrs. Lake must ever be identified.

In 1787, a year made memorable by the framing of the Constitution of the
United States, the Ohio Company was organized in Boston, and soon after
built a stockade fort at Marietta, Ohio, and named it Campus Martius. The
year it was completed, the Rev. Daniel Storey, a preacher at Worcester,
Massachusetts, was sent out as a chaplain. He acted as an evangelist till
1797, when he became the pastor of a Congregational church which he had
been instrumental in collecting in Marietta and the adjoining towns, and
which was organized the preceding year. He held that relation till the
spring of 1804. Probably he was the first Protestant minister whose voice
was heard in the vast wilderness lying to the northwest of the Ohio river.

In the garrison at Marietta, was witnessed the formation and successful
operation of one of the first Sunday-schools in the United States. Its
originator, superintendent, and sole teacher, was Mrs. Andrew Lake, an
estimable lady from New York. Every Sabbath, after "Parson Storey had
finished his public services," she collected as many of the children at her
house as would attend, and heard them recite verses from the Scriptures,
and taught them the Westminster catechism. Simple in her manner of
teaching, and affable and kind in her disposition, she was able to interest
her pupils--usually about twenty in number--and to win their affections to
herself, to the school, and subsequently, in some instances, to the
Saviour. A few, at least, of the little children that used to sit on rude
benches, low stools, and the tops of meal bags, and listen to her sacred
instructions and earnest admonitions, have doubtless ere this become pupils
with her, in the "school of Christ" above.

Among the many names especially endeared to the friends of missions, there
is another that we cannot forget--that of Sarah L. Smith. Like the Rev.
Samuel Kirkland, she was a native of Norwich, Connecticut.

Her maiden name was Huntington. She was born in 1802; made a profession of
religion in youth; became the wife of the Rev. Eli Smith in July, 1833;
embarked with him for Palestine in the following September, and died at
Boojah, near Smyrna, the last day of September, 1836.

Her work as a foreign missionary was quickly finished. She labored longer
as a home missionary among the Mohegans, who lived in the neighborhood of
Norwich, and there displayed most conspicuously the moral heroism of her
nature. In conjunction with Sarah Breed, she commenced her philanthropic
operations in the year 1827. "The first object that drew them from the
sphere of their own church was the project of opening a Sunday-school for
the poor Indian children of Mohegan. Satisfied that this was a work which
would meet with the Divine approval, they marked out their plans and
pursued them with untiring energy. Boldly they went forth, and, guided by
the rising smoke or sounding axe, followed the Mohegans from field to
field, and from hut to hut, till they had thoroughly informed themselves of
their numbers, condition, and prospects. The opposition they encountered,
the ridicule and opprobrium showered upon them from certain quarters, the
sullenness of the natives, the bluster of the white tenants, the brushwood
and dry branches thrown across their pathway, could not discourage them.
They saw no 'lions in the way,' while mercy, with pleading looks, beckoned
them forward."

The Mohegans then numbered a little more than one hundred, only one of
whom was a professor of religion. She was ninety-seven years of age. In her
hut the first prayer-meeting and the first Sunday-school gathered by these
young ladies, was held.

Miss Breed soon removed from that part of the country, and Miss Huntington
continued her labors for awhile alone. She was at that time very active in
securing the formation of a society and the circulation of a subscription,
having for their object the erection of a chapel. She found, ere long, a
faithful co-worker in Miss Elizabeth Raymond. They taught a school in
conjunction, and, aside from their duties as teachers, were, at times,
"advisers, counsellors, law-givers, milliners, mantua-makers, tailoresses,
and almoners."

The school was kept in a house on Fort Hill, leased to a respectable
farmer, in whose family the young teachers boarded by alternate weeks, each
going to the scene of labor every other Sunday morning, and remaining till
the evening of the succeeding Sunday, so that both were present in the
Sunday-school, which was twice as large as the other.

A single incident will serve to show the dauntless resolution which Miss
Huntington carried into her pursuits. Just at the expiration of one of her
terms of service, during the winter, a heavy and tempestuous snow blocked
up the roads with such high drifts that a friend, who had been accustomed
to go for her and convey her home in bad weather, had started for this
purpose in his sleigh, but turned back, discouraged. No path had been
broken, and the undertaking was so hazardous that he conceived no woman
would venture forth at such a time. He therefore called at her father's
house to say that he should delay going for her till the next day. What was
his surprise to be met at the door by the young lady herself, who had
reached home just before, having walked the whole distance on the hard
crust of snow, _alone_, and some of the way over banks of snow that
entirely obliterated the walls and fences by the roadside.

While at Mohegan, Miss Huntington corresponded with the Hon. Lewis Cass,
then Secretary of War, and secured his influence and the aid of that
department. In 1832, a grant of nine hundred dollars was made from the fund
devoted to the Indian Department, five hundred being appropriated towards
the erection of missionary buildings, and four for the support of a
teacher.

Before leaving the Mohegan for a wider field, this devoted and courageous
missionary had the happiness of seeing a chapel, parsonage, and
school-house standing on "the sequestered land" of her forest friends, and
had thus partially repaid the debt of social and moral obligation to a
tribe who fed the first and famishing settlers in Connecticut, who strove
to protect them against the tomahawk of inimical tribes, and whose whoop
was friendly to freedom when British aggressors were overriding American
rights.

In most of the missionary movements among the Indian tribes on our
frontier, from the time of the Apostle, John Eliot, to the present, woman
has taken, directly or indirectly, an active part. In the mission schools
at Stockbridge and Hanover; among the Narragansetts, the Senecas, the
Iroquois, the Cherokees, the Choctaws, the Creeks, and many other tribes,
we see her, as a missionary's wife, with one hand sustaining her husband in
his trying labors, while with the other she bears the blessed gospel--a
light to the tawny Gentiles of our American wilderness. This passing
tribute is due to these devout and zealous sisters. Their lives were passed
far from their homes and kindred, amid an unceasing round of labors and
trials, and not seldom they met a martyr's death at the hands of those whom
they were seeking to benefit.

The following record of a passage in the life of a faithful minister and
his wife, when about to leave a beloved people and enter on the missionary
work, will show how hard it is for woman to sunder the ties that bind her
to her home, and go she knows not where, and yet with what childlike trust
she enters that perilous and difficult field of effort to which she is
called.

"My dear good wife seems more than usually depressed at the thought of
leaving the many friends who have endeared themselves to her by their kind
offices. It is hard enough for me to break the bands of love that a year's
tender intercourse with the people has thrown around my heart. But this I
could bear, if other and gentler hearts than mine were not made to suffer;
if other and dearer ties than those I have formed had not to be broken. My
wife is warm in her attachments. She loves companionship. On every new
field where our changing lot is cast, she forms intimate friendships with
those who are of a like spirit with herself, if such are to be found.
Sometimes she meets none to whom she can open her heart of hearts--none who
can sympathize with her. But here it has been different. She has found
companions and friends--lovers of the good, true, and beautiful, with whom
she has often taken sweet counsel. To part with these and go, where and
among whom she cannot tell, is indeed a hard trial. I passed through her
room a little while ago, and saw her sitting by the bed, leaning her arm
upon it, with her head upon her hand, and looking pensively out upon the
beautiful landscape that stretches far away in varied woodland, meadow,
glittering stream, and distant mountain. There was a tear upon her cheek.
This little messenger from within, telling of a sad heart, touched my
feelings.

"Mary," said I; sitting down by her side, and taking her hand in one of
mine, while with the other I pointed upward, "He will go with us, and He is
our best and kindest friend. If we would wear the crown, we must endure the
cross. 'For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us
a far more exceeding weight of glory.' We are only pilgrims and sojourners
here; but our mission is a high and holy one--ever to save the souls of our
fellow-men. Think of that, Mary. Would you linger here when our Master
calls us away, to labor somewhere else in His vineyard? Think of the Lord,
when upon earth. Remember how He suffered for us. Hear Him say, 'The foxes
have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath
not where to lay his head.' And shall the servant be greater than his
Master?"

"I know I am but a poor, weak, murmuring creature," she said, looking up
into my face, with overflowing eyes. "But I ask daily for grace to make me
resigned to His holy will. I do not wish to remain here when I know it is
the Lord who calls me away. Still my weak heart cannot help feeling pain at
the thought of parting from our dear little home and our good friends who
have been so kind to us, and going, I know not whither. My woman's heart is
weak, while my faith is strong. Thus far the Lord has been better to me
than all my fears. Why, then, should I hold back, and feel so reluctant to
enter the path His wisdom points out? I know if He were to lead me to
prison, or to death, that it would be good for me. If He were to slay me,
yet would I trust in him."

When we compare the greatness of the ends secured, with the smartness of
the means employed, a review of the results of the Moravian Missions,
throughout the heathen world, will strike us with astonishment.

The character of the Moravian women peculiarly fitted them for the work.
They were a mixed race. The fiery enthusiasm of the Sclaves was in them
blended with the steadfast energy and patient docility of the Germans. The
fire of their natures was a holy fire--a lambent flame which lighted but
did not destroy. Their creed was one of love; it was a _joyful
persuasion_ of their interest in Christ and their title to His purchased
salvation. Here, then, we have the key to the success which attended the
Moravian Missions in all parts of the world. They brought the heathen to
the feet of Christ by the spirit of love; they faced every danger and
endured every hardship in the cause of their Master, for theirs' was a
_joyful persuasion_. They were the "_Herrenhutters_," the soldiers
of the Lord, and yet in their lives they were representatives of the Prince
of Peace, and sought to gather about them in this life the emblems of
heaven.

It was before the middle of the last century that those gentle and pious
brothers and sisters commenced their especial labors among the North
American Indians, and to-day those labors have not ceased.

The story of these Moravian Missions for nearly a century is one long
religious epic poem, full of action, suffering, battle, bereavement,--all
illumined with the dauntless, fervent, Christ-like spirit which bore these
gentle ministers along their high career. Their principal field of labor
for the first forty years was Pennsylvania, where they established
missionary stations at Bethlehem, Gnadenhutten, (tents of grace,) Nazareth,
Friedenshutten, (tents of peace,) Wechquetank, and many other places.

The settlement at Gnadenhutten was the most important and the most
interesting, historically considered, of all the stations. Here the
Moravian brothers and sisters showed themselves at their best, and that is
saying much. Assuming every burden, making every sacrifice, and performing
the hardest service, they at the same time displayed consummate tact and
address in conciliating their red brethren, taking their meals in common
with them, and even adopting the Indian, costume.

In a short time Gnadenhutten became a regular and pleasant town. The
church, stood in a valley. On one side were the Indian houses, in the form
of a crescent, upon a rising ground; on the other, the houses of the
missionaries and a burying-ground. The Indians labored diligently in the
fields, one of which was allotted to each family; and as these became too
small, the brethren purchased a neighboring plantation and erected a
saw-mill. Hunting, however, continued to be their usual occupation. As this
is a precarious mode of subsistence, a supply of provisions was constantly
forwarded from Bethlehem. The congregation increased by degrees to about
five hundred persons. A new place of worship was opened and a school
established. The place was visited by many heathen Indians, who were struck
with the order, and happiness of the converts, and were prepared to think
favorably of the Christian religion.

Besides laboring with unwearied diligence at Gnadenhutten, the brethren
made frequent journeys among the Indians in other parts. Several
establishments were attempted, among which one was at Shomoken, on the
Susquehanna river. This was attended with great expense, as every necessary
of life was carried from Bethlehem. The missionaries were likewise in
constant danger of their lives from the drunken frolics of the natives.
They visited Onondaga, the chief town of the Iroquois, and the seat of
their great council, and obtained permission for two of them to settle
there and learn the language. They went, but suffered much from want, being
obliged to hunt, or seek roots in the forest, for subsistence.

The missionaries' wives united with their husbands in these arduous labors
in the wilderness, and their kind offices and gentle ways did much to
render the missionary work entirely effectual.

Under such auspices for eight years, Gnadenhutten was the smiling abode of
peace, happiness, and prosperity. The good work was bringing forth its
legitimate fruits. A large Indian congregation was being instructed in the
Word and prepared to disseminate the doctrines of Christ among their
heathen brethren, when the din of the French and Indian war was heard on
the border. The Moravians in their various settlements were soon surrounded
literally with circles of blood and flame. Some of them fled eastward to
the larger towns; others sought concealment in the depths of the forest or
on the mountains.

The Brethren at Bethlehem and Gnadenhutten resolved to stand at their post.
Slowly the fiery circles encompassed them closely and more closely till
November, 1755, when the long expected bolt fell.

The missionaries with their wives and families were assembled in one house
partaking of their evening meal, when a party of French Indians approached.
Hearing the barking of the dogs, Senseman, one of the Brethren, went to the
back door and others at the same time hearing the report of a gun rushed to
the front door, where they were met by a band of hideously painted savages
with guns pointed ready to fire the moment the door was opened.

The Rev. Martin Nitschman fell dead in the doorway. His wife and others
were wounded, but fled with the rest up to the garret and barricaded the
door with bedsteads. One of the Brethren escaped by jumping out of a back
window, and another who was ill in bed did the same though a guard stood
before his door. The savages now pursued those who had taken, refuge in the
garret, and strove hard to break in the door, but finding it too well
secured, they set fire to the house. It was instantly in flames.

At this time a boy called Sturgeous, standing upon the flaming roof,
ventured to leap off, and thus escaped. A ball had previously grazed his
cheek, and one side of his head was much burnt. Mr. Partsch likewise leaped
from the roof while on fire, unhurt and unobserved. Fabricius made the same
attempt, but was brought down by two balls, seized alive and scalped. All
the rest, eleven in number, were burned to death. Senseman, who first went
out, had the inexpressible grief of seeing his wife perish in the flames.

Mrs. Partsch, who had escaped, could not, through fear and trembling, go
far, but hid herself behind a tree upon a hill near the house. From this
place the gentle sister of that forlorn band gazed trembling and with
ghastly features upon that scene of fire and butchery. She saw her beloved
brethren and sisters dragged forth and shot or tomahawked. Before the
breath had left their bodies she saw the scalps torn from their heads, some
of the wounded women kneeling and imploring for mercy in vain. The burning
house was the funeral pyre from which the loving spirit of Mrs. Senseman
took its flight to eternal rest. Gazing through the windows which the fire
now illumined with a lurid glare, she saw Mrs. Senseman surrounded by
flames standing with arms folded and exclaiming--"'Tis all well, dear
Saviour!"

One of the closing scenes in the history of the protracted toils and
sufferings of the missionaries of Gnadenhutten, is of thrilling and
tragical interest. Ninety-six of the Indian converts having been
treacherously lured from the settlement, and taken prisoners, by hostile
Indians and white renegades, were told that they must prepare for death.
Then was displayed a calmness and courage worthy of the early Christian
martyrs. Kneeling down in that dreadful hour; those unfortunate Indian
believers prayed fervently to the God of all; then rising they suffered
themselves to be led unresistingly to the place appointed for them to die.
The last sounds that could be heard before the awful butchery was finished
were the prayers and praises of the Indian women, of whom there were forty,
thus testifying their unfaltering trust in the promise taught them by their
white sisters--the devoted Moravians of Gnadenhutten.




CHAPTER XVII.

WOMAN AS A MISSIONARY TO THE INDIANS--(CONTINUED)


Of all that devout and heroic bands of men and women who have undertaken to
bear the hardships and face the dangers of our American wilderness, for the
special purpose of carrying the Gospel of peace, love, and brotherhood to
the benighted denizen of our American forests, none have exhibited more
signal courage, patience, and devotion than the companies which first
selected Oregon as their special field of labor.

In order to properly estimate the appliances and dangers of this
enterprise, the Oregon field must be surveyed, not from our present point
of view, when steam locomotive power on land and water has brought that
distant region within comparatively easy reach; when the hands of the State
and National Government have grown strong to defend, and can be stretched a
thousand leagues in an hour to punish, if the lightning brings tidings of
wrong; when a multitude of well-ordered communities have power and lawful
authority to protect their citizens; and when peace and comfort are the
accompaniments, and a competency is the reward of industry.

How different was the view of Oregon presented to the eye in 1834! A vast
tract of wilderness, covering an area of more than three hundred thousand
square miles, composed of sterile wastes, unbroken forests, and almost
impassable ranges of mountains, presenting a constant succession of awful
precipices, rugged crags, and yawning chasms, and traversed by rapid
torrents, emptying into rivers full of perils to the navigator. This mighty
expanse was roamed by more than thirty different Indian tribes; the only
white inhabitants being at the few posts and settlements of the Hudson Bay
Company. The different routes by which this region could be reached
presented to the traveler a dilemma, either side of which was full of
difficulty.

The water route was nearly twenty thousand miles in length, and involved a
long and perilous voyage round Cape Horn. The land route was across the
continent, through the gorges and over the precipices of the Rocky
Mountains, up and down the dangerous rivers, and among numerous
bloodthirsty tribes. Such was the opening prospect offered to the eye of
religious enterprise, when the question of the mission to Oregon was first
agitated.

It is something more than forty years since the "Macedonian Cry" was heard
from the dark mountains and savage plains of that far country, startling
the Christian church in America. The thrill of the appeal made by the
delegation of Flathead Indians, was electric, and fired the churches of all
the principal denominations with a spirit of noble emulation.

Dr. Marcus Whitman, and Mrs. Whitman, his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Spaulding,
were among the earliest to respond to the appeal. In 1836 they crossed the
continent, scaled the Rocky Mountains, and penetrated to the heart of the
wild region which was to be the scene of their heroic labors, crowned at
length by a martyr's death.

Mrs. Whitman and Mrs. Spaulding, it should be remembered, were the first
white women that ever crossed that mighty range which nature seems to have
intended as a barrier against the aggressive westward march of the
Anglo-Saxon race.

Strong indeed must have been the impelling motive which carried these two
weak women over that rugged barrier!

Mr. and Mrs. Gray, Mr. and Mrs. Clark, Mr. and Mrs. Littlejohn, Mr. and
Mrs. Smith, and the Lees came next, pursuing their toilsome march over the
same mountain ranges, and closely behind them came Mr. and Mrs. Griffin and
Mr. and Mrs. Munger.

The story of the adventures and difficulties passed through by these
missionary bands in forcing their way over the mountains, would fill
volumes. Their way lay sometimes over almost inaccessible crags, and at
others, through gloomy and tangled forests, and as they descended, the snow
increased in depth, and they felt the effects of the increasing cold very
keenly. The only living things which they saw were a few mountain goats.
Sometimes chasms yawned at their feet, and they were forced to go out of
their course twenty miles before they could cross. Once one of the ladies
wandered from the party in search of mountain ferns. She was soon missed,
and one of the guides was sent back to search for her. After a short quest
they found her tracks in the snow, which they followed till they came to a
_crevasse_, through which she had slipped and fallen sixty feet into a
monstrous drift, where she was floundering and shouting feebly for help.

With some difficulty she was extricated unhurt from this perilous
situation.

When their day's journey was ended, they had also to encamp on the snow,
beating down the selected spot previously, till it would bear a man on the
surface without sinking. The fire was kindled on logs of green timber, and
the beds were made of pine-branches. All alike laid on the snow.

One of the peculiar dangers to which they were exposed, were the mountain
torrents, which in that region were impassable often for the stoutest
swimmer; and this danger became magnified when they reached the upper
Columbia River, which they were obliged to navigate in boats. At one
particular spot in the course of their voyage they narrowly escaped a
serious disaster.

The Columbia is, at the spot alluded to, contracted into a passage of one
hundred and fifty yards, by lofty rocks on either side, through which it
rushes with tremendous violence, forming whirlpools in its passage capable
of engulphing the largest forest trees, which are afterwards disgorged with
great force. This is one of the most dangerous places that boats have to
pass. In going up the river the boats are all emptied, and the freight has
to be carried about half a mile over the tops of the high and rugged rocks.
In coming down, all remain in the boats; and the guides, in this perilous
pass, display the greatest courage and presence of mind, at moments when
the slightest error in managing their frail bark would hurl its occupants
to certain destruction. On arriving at the head of the rapids, the guide
gets out on the rocks and surveys the whirlpools. If they are filtering
in--or "making," as they term it--the men rest on their paddles until they
commence throwing off, when the guides instantly reembark, and shove off
the boat and shoot through this dread portal with the speed of lightning.

Sometimes the boats are whirled round in the vortex with such awful
rapidity that renders all management of the vessel impossible, and the boat
and its hapless crew are swallowed up in the abyss. One of the party had
got out of the boat, preparing to walk, when looking back he saw one of the
other boats containing two of the ladies, in a dangerous situation, having
struck, in the midst of the rapids, upon the rocks, which had stove in her
side.

The conduct of the men in this instance, evinced great presence of mind.
The instant the boat struck they had sprung on the gunwale next the rock,
and by their united weight kept her lying upon it. The water foamed and
raged round them with fearful violence. Had she slipped off, they must all
have been dashed to pieces amongst the rocks and rapids below; as it was,
they managed to maintain their position until the crew of the other boat,
which had run the rapids safely, had unloaded and dragged the empty boat up
the rapids again. They then succeeded in throwing a line to their hapless
companions. But there was still great danger to be encountered, lest in
hauling the empty boat towards them they might pull themselves off the
rock. They, at length, however, succeeded by cautious management in getting
the boat alongside, and in embarking in safety. A moment afterwards their
own boat slipped from the rock, and was dashed to pieces. Everything that
floated they picked up afterwards.

The same noble spirit which carried Mrs. Whitman, Mrs. Spaulding, Mrs.
Gray, Mrs. Littlejohn, Mrs. Clark, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Munger, Mrs. Griffin,
and their coadjutors across our continent on their lofty errand, also
inspired another band of gospel messengers to move in the same great
enterprise.

Dr. White of New York, and his wife, were prominent in this latter
movement. Their immediate company consisted of thirteen individuals, five
of whom were women, viz.: Mrs. White, Mrs. Beers, Miss Downing, Miss
Johnson, and Miss Pitman. These ladies were all admirably fitted both
physically and mentally for the enterprise in which they were embarked.

Mrs. White was a lady in whom were blended quiet resolution, a high sense
of duty, and great sensibility. When her husband informed her one cold
night, in the winter of 1836, that there was a call for them from Oregon;
that the Board of Missions advertised for a clergyman, physician, etc.,
etc., and as he could act in the capacity of doctor, he thought it might
be well to respond thereto. She did not immediately answer; and looking up,
he was surprised to find her weeping. This seemed to him singular, as her
disposition was so unusually cheerful, and it was seldom there was a trace
of tears to be found upon her cheek, especially, as he thought, for so
trivial a cause. In some confusion and mortification, he begged her not to
allow his words to cause her uneasiness. Still she wept in silence, till,
after a pause of several moments, she struggled for composure seated
herself by his side, extended her hand for the paper, and twice looking
over the notice, remarked, that if he could so arrange his affairs as to
render it consistent for him to go to Oregon, she would place no obstacle
in his way, and with her mother's consent would willingly accompany him.

Dr. White offered his services to the Board of Missions, they were
accepted, and he was requested to be in readiness to sail in a few weeks,
from Boston via the Sandwich Islands, to Oregon. Mrs. White still retained
her determination to accompany her husband, though till she saw the
appointment and its publication, she scarcely realized the possibility of a
necessity for her doing so. The thought that they were now to leave,
probably for ever, their dear home, and dearer friends, was a sad one, and
she shed tears of regret though not of reluctance to go. She pictured to
herself her mother's anguish, at what must be very like consigning her only
daughter to the grave.

The anticipated separation from that mother, who had nursed her so tenderly
and loved her with that tireless, changeless affection which the maternal
heart only knows, filled her with sorrow. However, by a fortunate
coincidence they were spared the painful scene they had feared, and
obtained her consent with little difficulty. When they visited her, for
that purpose, she had just been reading for the first time the life of Mrs.
Judson; and the example of this excellent lady had so interested her that
when the project was laid before her she listened with comparative
calmness, and, though somewhat astonished, was willing they should go where
duty led them. This in some measure relieved Mrs. White, and with a
lightened heart and more composure she set about the necessary
preparations.

In a short time all was in readiness, the last farewell wept, rather than
spoken, the last yearning look lingered on cherished objects, and they were
on their way to Oregon.

On the day that their eldest son was one year old, they embarked from
Boston.

That their adieus were sorrowful may not be doubted, indeed this or any
other word in our language is inadequate to describe the emotions of the
party. As the pilot-boat dropped at the stern of the vessel, its occupants
waved their handkerchiefs and simultaneously began singing a farewell
"Missionary Hymn." The effect was electric; some rushed to the side in
agony as though they would recall the departed ones and return with them to
their native land. Others covered their faces, and tears streamed through
their trembling fingers, and sobs shook the frames of even strong men. They
thought not of formalities in that hour; it was not a shame for the sterner
sex to weep. The forms of their friends fast lessened in the distance, and
at last their boat looked like a speck on the wave, and the sweet cadences
of that beautiful song faintly rolling along to their hearing, like the
sigh of an angel, were the last sounds that reached them, from the home of
civilization.

With hushed respiration, bowed heads, and straining ears, they listened to
its low breathings now wafted gently and soothingly to them on the breeze,
then dying away, and finally lost in the whisperings of wind and waves.

For weeks did it haunt their slumbers while tossing upon the treacherous
deep. And it came not alone; for with it were fair visions of parents,
home, brothers, and sisters, joyous childhood and youth, and everything
they had known at home floated in vivid pictures before them touching them
as by the fairy pencil of the dream-angel.

The voyage was a protracted one. But the close relationship into which they
were brought served to knit together the bonds of Christian fellowship, and
inspire them with a oneness of purpose in carrying out their noble
enterprise. Immediately on arriving at their field of labor they entered on
their first work, viz.: that of establishing communities. In that
almost unbroken wilderness, cabins were erected, the ground prepared for
tillage, and steps were taken towards the building of a saw and grist-mill.
The Indians were conciliated, and a mission-school for their instruction
was established. The party received constant accessions to their numbers as
the months rolled away, and opened communication with the other
mission-colonies in the territory.

During the summer the ladies divided their labors; the school of Indians
was taught by Miss Johnson; Miss Downing (now Mrs. Shepherd) attended to
the cutting, making, and repairing of the clothing for the young Indians,
as well as these for the children of the missionaries; Mrs. White and Miss
Pitman (now Mrs. Jason Lee) superintended the domestic matters of the
little colony.

In September, Mr. and Mrs. Leslie, three daughters, and Mr. Perkins the
_fiancé_ of Miss Johnson, joined them. The family was now enlarged to
sixty members. Dr. and Mrs. White removed into their new cabin--a mile
distant. Here ensued a repetition of trials, privations, and hardships,
such as they had already endured in their former habitation.

Their cabin was a rude affair, scarcely more than a shanty, without a
chimney, and with only roof enough to cover a bed; a few loose boards
served for a floor; one side of the house was entirely unenclosed, and all
their cooking had to be done in the open air, in the few utensils which
they had at hand.

One by one these deficiencies, with much toil and difficulty, were
supplied; a tolerably close roof and walls shielded them measurably from
the autumn tempests; a new chimney carried up about half the smoke
generated from the green fuel with which the fireplace was filled; the
hearth, made of clay and wood-ashes, was, however, a standing eyesore to
Mrs. White, who appears to have been a notable housewife, as it did not
admit of washing, and had to be renewed every two or three months.

These were discomforts indeed, but nothing compared with another annoyance
to which they were nightly subject--that part of the territory where they
lived being infested by black wolves of the fiercest species. Their
situation was so lonely, and Doctor White's absences were so frequent, that
Mrs. White was greatly terrified every night by the frightful howlings of
these ferocious marauders.

One night Doctor White left home to visit Mr. Shepherd, who was ill, and
some of the sick mission children. Mrs. White, while awaiting his return,
suddenly heard a burst of prolonged howling from the depths of the forest
through which the Doctor would have to pass on his return homeward. The
howls were continued with all the eagerness which showed that the brutes
were close upon their prey. She flew to the yard, and in the greatest
terror, besought the two hired men to fly to her husband's rescue.

They laughed at her fears, and endeavored to reason her into composure. But
the horrid din continued. Through the wild chorus she fancied she heard a
human voice faintly calling for help. Unable longer to restrain her excited
feelings, she snatched up a long pair of cooper's compasses--the first
weapon that offered itself--and sallied out into the woods, accompanied by
the men, armed with rifles.

They ran swiftly, the diapason of the howls guiding them in the proper
course, and in a few moments they came to a large tree, round which a pack
of hungry monsters had collected, and were baying in full chorus, jumping
up and snapping their jaws at a man who was seated among the branches.

The cowardly brutes, catching sight of the party, sneaked off with howls of
baffled rage, and were soon beyond hearing. The doctor descended from his
retreat, quite panic-stricken at his narrow escape. He informed them that
on first starting from the mission, he had picked up a club, to defend
himself from the wolves, should they make their appearance; but when one of
the animals came within six feet of him, and by its call, gathered others
to the pursuit, his valiant resolutions vanished--he dropped his stick and
plied his heels, with admirable dexterity, till the tree offered its
friendly aid, when he hallooed for help with all the power of his lungs;
but for Mrs. White's appreciation of the danger, and her speedy appearance
upon the scene, Dr. White's term of usefulness in the Oregon mission would
have been greatly abridged.

The necessities of their missionary life compelled different members of
their little band to make frequent journeys both by land and water. It was
on one of these journeys, and while passing down the Columbia River in a
canoe, that Mrs. White met with an accident that plunged the whole mission
into mourning.

Mrs. White, with her babe, and Mr. Leslie, had embarked in a canoe on the
river where the current was extremely rapid, and as they reached the middle
of the stream, the canoe began to quiver and sway from side to side. The
sense of her danger came upon Mrs. W., as with a presentiment of coming
disaster. She trembled like a leaf as she remarked, "How very helpless is a
female with an infant." At the instant that her voice ceased to echo from
the rocky shores, and as if a spirit of evil stood ready to prove the truth
of her exclamation, the canoe, which was heavily laden, gave a slight
swing, and striking a rock began to fill with water, and, in a few seconds,
went down. As the water came up round them, the child started convulsively
in its mother's arms and gave a piercing shriek, Mr. Leslie at the same
time exclaiming, "Oh, God! we're lost!"

When the canoe rose, it was free from its burthen, and bottom upwards; and
Mrs. White found herself directly beneath it, painfully endeavoring to
extricate herself, enduring dreadful agony in her struggle for breath.

Despairingly she felt herself again sinking, and, coming in contact with
the limbs of a person in the water, the reflection flitted across her
brain, "I have done with my labors for these poor Indians. Well, all will
be over in a moment; but how will my poor mother feel when she learns my
awful fate?" Mr. Leslie afterwards stated that he had no recollection till
he rose, and strove to keep above water, but again sank, utterly hopeless
of succor.

He rose again just as the canoe passed around a large rock, and its prow
was thrown within his reach. He clutched it with eager joy, and supported
himself a moment, gasping for breath, when he suddenly thought of his
fellow-passenger, and the exclamation ran through his mind,--"What will the
doctor do?" He instantly lowered himself in the water as far as possible,
and, still clinging with one hand, groped about as well as he was able,
when, providentially, he grasped her dress, and succeeded in raising her to
the surface. By this time the Indians--expert swimmers--had reached the
canoe; and, with their assistance, he supported his insensible burden, and
placed her head upon the bottom with her face just out of water. After a
few moments, she gasped feebly, and, opening her eyes, her first words
were, "Oh, Mr. Leslie, I've lost my child!"

"Pray, do dismiss the thought," said he, "and let us try to save
ourselves."

They were wafted a long way down the river, no prospect offering for their
relief. At length they espied, far ahead, the two canoes which had entered
the river before them, occupied, as it proved, by an Indian chief and his
attendants. Mr. Leslie hallooed to them with all his remaining strength,
and they hastened towards them, first stopping to pick up the trunks and a
few other things which had floated down stream.

When, at last, they reached the sufferers, finding them so much exhausted,
the chief cautioned them to retain their hold, without in the least
changing their position, while he towed them gently and carefully to the
shore. Here they rested, draining the water from their clothes, and Mr.
Leslie from his head and stomach,--for he had swallowed a vast quantity. In
half an hour the Indians righted the canoe, which had been drawn on shore,
and, to their amazement, and almost terror, they found beneath it the dead
babe, wrapped in its cloak, having been kept in its place by the
atmospheric pressure.

Mr. Leslie was now uncertain what course to pursue, and asked his
companion's advice. She told them she was desirous of proceeding
immediately to Fort Vancouver, as they had nothing to eat, no fire, and, in
short, had lost so many of their effects, that they had nothing wherewith
to make themselves comfortable, if they remained there till even the next
day.

Their canoe was a large one, being about twenty feet in length and four in
breadth, and was laden with a bed, bedding, mats, two large trunks of
clothing, kettles, and dishes, and provisions to last the crew throughout
the journey, and also articles of traffic with the natives, and they lost
all but their trunks, the contents of which were now thoroughly soaked.

They seated themselves in the canoe, and the chief threw his only blanket
over Mrs. W------'s shoulders, both himself and men exerting themselves to
render their charges comfortable during the thirty-six miles they were
obliged to travel before reaching the fort, which was late in the evening.

They were met by Mr. Douglas, who was greatly shocked at the narrative, and
whose first words were, "My God! what a miracle! Why, it is only a short
time since, in the same place, we lost a canoe, with seven men, all good
swimmers."

The following morning, the bereaved mother was quite composed. They started
at eight o'clock, and with the little coffin, provided by Mr. Douglas, at
their feet, traveled rapidly all day, and camped at night just above the
falls of the Willamette. They took supper, the men pitched their borrowed
tents, and, after a day of great fatigue, they lay quietly down to rest.

In a short time, however, they were disturbed by a loud paddling, and
voices; and looking out, beheld about thirty Indians, men, women, and
children, in canoes, who landed and camped very near them.

Their arrival filled Mrs. White with new apprehension. She feared now that
she might be robbed of her dead treasure, and perhaps lose her own life,
before she could consign it to its last resting-place. All through that
restless, dreary night, she kept her vigils, with bursting heart, beside
the corpse of her babe. The noises of the Indian camp, the guttural voices
of the men, the chattering of the squaws, rang in her ears, while the cries
and prattling of the children, by reminding her of the lost one, served to
enhance the poignancy of her grief. What a situation for the desolate
mother! All alone with death, far from her mother, husband, home, and
friends, surrounded by a troop of barbarous, noisy savages weighed down
with grief, tearless from its very weight, not knowing what next would
befall her. What agony did she endure through that night's dreary vigils!
She felt as though she were draining the cup of sorrow to its dregs,
without the strength to pray that it might pass from her.

They set off as soon as it was light, that they might, if possible, reach
the Mission before putrescency had discolored the body of the infant. They
arrived at McKoy's about one o'clock, where, while they were dining, horses
were prepared, and they went on without delay. It is impossible to describe
the emotions of the doctor when he met them about twelve miles from the
Mission, as, excepting a floating rumor among the natives, which he hardly
credited, he had had no intimation of the accident. The sad presentiment
was realized. Death had entered their circle and robbed them of their fair
child! As he looked into the face of his wife, he comprehended in part her
sufferings.

Amid these and similar sad experiences, this heroic band of Christian women
abated not their zeal or efforts in the work to which they had put their
hand.

In other parts of the territory, separate missionary establishments were
superintended by the Whitmans, the Spauldings, and others. The blessings of
civilization and religion were thus extended by these devoted men and women
to the benighted red man.

For a period of eight years Dr. and Mrs. Whitman resided on the banks of
the Walla-Walla River, doing all in their power to benefit the Indians.
Such labors as theirs deserved a peaceful old age, and the enduring
gratitude of their tawny protégés. Alas! that we have to record that such
was not their lot! Melancholy indeed was the fate of that devoted band upon
the Walla-Walla!

The measels had broken out among the Indians and spread with frightful
rapidity through the neighboring tribes. Dr. Whitman did all he could to
stay its progress, but great numbers of them died.

The Indians supposed that the doctor could have stayed the course of the
malady if he had wished it, and accordingly concocted a plan to destroy him
and his whole family. With this object in view about sixty of them armed
themselves and came to his house.

The inmates, having no suspicion of any hostile intentions, were totally
unprepared for resistance or flight. Dr. and Mrs. Whitman and their
nephew--a youth of about seventeen or eighteen years of age--were sitting
in the parlor in the afternoon, when Sil-aw-kite, the chief, and To-ma-kus,
entered the room and addressing the doctor told him very coolly they had
come to kill him. The doctor, not believing it possible that they could
entertain any hostile intentions towards him, told him as much; but whilst
in the act of speaking, To-ma-kus drew a tomahawk from under his robe and
buried it deep in his brain. The unfortunate man fell dead in his chair.
Mrs. Whitman and the nephew fled up stairs and locked themselves into an
upper room.

In the meantime Sil-aw-kite gave the war-whoop, as a signal to his party
outside, to proceed in the work of destruction, which they did with the
ferocity and yells of so many fiends. Mrs. Whitman, hearing the shrieks and
groans of the dying, looked out of the window and was shot through the
breast by a son of the chief, but not mortally wounded. A party then rushed
up stairs and dispatched the niece on the spot, dragged her down by the
hair of her head and taking her to the front of the house, mutilated her in
a shocking manner with their knives and tomahawks.

There was one man who had a wife bedridden. On the commencement of the
affray he ran to her room, and, taking her up in his arms, carried her
unperceived by the Indians to the thick bushes that skirted the river, and
hurried on with his burden in the direction of Fort Walla-Walla. Having
reached a distance of fifteen miles, he became so exhausted that, unable to
carry her further, he concealed her in a thick clump of bushes on the
margin of the river, and hastened to the Fort for assistance.

On his arrival, Mr. McBain immediately sent out men with him, and brought
her in. She had fortunately suffered nothing more than fright. The number
killed, (including Dr. and Mrs. Whitman,) amounted to fourteen. The other
females and children were carried off by the Indians, and two of them were
forthwith taken as wives by Sil-aw-kite's son and another. A man employed
in the little mill, forming a part of the establishment, was spared to work
the mill for the Indians. The day following the awful tragedy, a Catholic
priest, who had not heard of the massacre, stopped on seeing the mangled
corpses strewn round the house, and requested permission to bury them,
which was readily granted.

On the priest leaving the place, he met, at a distance of five or six
miles, a brother missionary of the deceased, Mr. Spaulding, the field of
whose labors lay about a hundred miles off, at a place on the river
Coldwater. He communicated to him the melancholy fate of his friends, and
advised him to fly as fast as possible, or, in all probability, he would be
another victim. He gave him a share of his provisions, and Mr. Spaulding
hurried homeward, full of apprehensions for the safety of his own family;
but, unfortunately, his horse escaped from him in the night, and after a
six days' toilsome march on foot, having lost his way, he at length reached
the banks of the river, but on the opposite side to his own home.

In the dead of the night, in a state of starvation, having eaten nothing
for three days, everything seeming to be quiet about his own place, he
cautiously embarked in a small canoe, and paddled across the river. But he
had no sooner landed than an Indian seized him, and dragged him to his own
house, where he found all his family prisoners, and the Indians in full
possession. These Indians were not of the same tribe with those who had
destroyed Dr. Whitman's family, nor had they at all participated in the
outrage; but having heard of it, and fearing the white man would include
them in their vengeance, they had seized on the family of Mr. Spaulding for
the purpose of holding them as hostages for their own safety. The family
were uninjured; and he was overjoyed to find things no worse.

Notwithstanding this awful tragedy the heroic women remained at their posts
in the different missionary stations in the territory, and long afterwards
pursued those useful labors which, by establishing pioneer-settlements in
the wilderness, and by civilizing and christianizing the wild tribes,
prepared the way for the army of emigrants which is now converting that
vast wilderness into a great and flourishing state.




CHAPTER XVIII.

WOMAN IN THE ARMY


In the great wars of American history, there are, in immediate connection
with the army, two situations in which woman more prominently appears: the
former is where, in her proper person, she accompanies the army as a
_vivandiere_, or as the daughter of the regiment, or as the comrade
and help-meet of her husband; the latter, and less frequent capacity, is
that of a soldier, matching in the ranks and facing the foe in the hour of
danger. During the war for Independence a large number of brave and devoted
women served in the army, principally in their true characters as wives of
regularly enlisted soldiers, keeping even step with the ranks upon the
march, and cheerfully sharing the burdens, privations, hardships, and
dangers of military life.

In some cases where both wife and husband took part in the struggle for
independence, the wife even surpassed her husband in those heroic virtues
which masculine vanity arrogates as its exclusive possession. The name of
Mrs. Jemima Warner has been embalmed in history as one of those remarkable
women in whom was seen at once the true wife, the heroine, and the patriot.

She appears to have been a native of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and became
the wife of James Warner, a private in Captain Smith's company, of Daniel
Morgan's rifle corps.

In 1775 she followed her husband to the north, and joined him at Prospect
Hill, Cambridge, in the fall of that year. Morgan's riflemen were picked
men, and were sure to be placed in the posts where the greatest danger
threatened.

But James Warner, though a stalwart man in appearance, possessed none of
the qualities demanded in extraordinary emergencies. If ever man needed, in
hardship and danger, a constant companion, superior to himself, it was
private James Warner, and such a companion was his wife Jemima. She is
described as gifted with the form and personal characteristics of a true
heroine, and the heroic qualities which she displayed through all the
romantic and tragic campaign against Canada proves that her spirit
corresponded to the frame which it animated.

The Canadian campaign was in many respects the severest and most trying of
any during the Revolution. General Arnold's march through the woods of
Maine was attended with delays, misfortunes, and losses which would have
discouraged any but the bravest, and most determined and hardy. The
strength, and fortitude of the men was tried to the utmost, by wearisome
marches, floods, winter's cold and famine, and in these crises private
Warner was one of those few whose soldiership failed to stand the test.

The advanced guard of the army of the wilderness was composed of Morgan's
troops, who, with incredible labor and hardship, ascended the Dead river
and crossed the highlands into the Canadian frontier, one hundred and
twenty miles from Quebec, with their last rations in their knapsacks, and
with their passage obstructed by a vast swamp overflowed with water from
two to three feet deep. Smith's and Hendrick's companies reached it first,
and halted to wait for stragglers. Mrs. Warner came up with another woman,
the wife of Sergeant Grier, of Hendrick's company--as much a heroine as
herself, though less unfortunate in her experience. The soldiers were
entering the water, breaking the ice as they went with their gun-stocks,
and the women courageously wading after them, when some one shouted, "Where
is Warner?" Jemima, who had not noticed her husband's disappearance,
started back in search of him. Warner was no more enfeebled in body than
many of the other men, but his fortitude had given out. Begging his
comrades to delay their march for a while, she hurried back in search of
her husband, but an hour passed, and his company marched without him.
Utterly destitute of that forethought which is so necessary an element of
endurance and resolution in extremity, he had eaten all his rations, which
should have lasted him two days. Knowing that the supplies of the army were
exhausted, his faint heart saw no hope ahead. His brave wife had had a sad
trial with him. From the day that provisions had began to be scarce he had
been the same improvident laggard. Familiar with his failings, she was in
the habit of hoarding food, the price of her own secret fastings, against
such need as this. She now exerted herself to the utmost to rouse him, and
induce him to press on and rejoin his comrades. It was long before she
prevailed, and at last, when they started, the army had gone on, and Warner
and his heroic wife were forced to make their way through the wilderness
alone. She realized that her husband's safety depended entirely upon
herself, and took care of him as she would have taken care of a child.
Refusing to entertain, for a moment, the thought of perishing in the
wilderness, she did her best to cheer her husband and drive such thoughts
from his mind. It was a thankless task, but her love and devotion were
equal to everything. Endowed with a strong constitution, and free from
disease, the young soldier could have survived the terrible march to
Canada, had he possessed but a little of her courage and good sense. Taking
the lead in the bitter journey, through swamps and snows, threading the
tangled forests, climbing cliffs, and fording half-frozen creeks,--day
after day the heroic woman pushed her faint-hearted husband on, feeding him
from her own little store of ember-baked cakes, and eating almost nothing
herself till they were more than half way to Sertigan on the Chaudiere
river, toward Quebec.

Here Warner dropped down, completely discouraged, and resisted all his
wife's entreaties to rise again. It was in vain that she appealed to every
motive that could nerve a soldier, every sentiment that could inspire and
stimulate a man. Relief, she said, _must_ be before them, and not far
away; for her sake, would he not try once more? Her pleadings and her tears
were wasted. The faint-hearted soldier had made his last halt. Weak he
undoubtedly was, but comparing the nourishment each had taken, she should
have been physically worse off than he. It was the superiority of her
mental and moral organization that kept her from sinking as low as her
husband. Failing to stir him to make another effort to save himself, she
filled his canteen with water, and placing that and the little remnant of
her wretched bread between his knees, she turned away and went down the
river, with a heavy but dauntless heart, in search of help. On her way she
met a boat coming up the river, and in it were two army officers and two
friendly Indians. Hailing the party, she told them of her distress and
begged them to take her husband on board. They replied that it was
impossible. They had been sent after Lieutenant Macleland, a sick officer
left behind with an attendant, at Twenty-foot Falls, and the little birch
bark canoe would only carry two more men. They could only spare her food
enough to keep herself alive. Weeping, she turned back and sadly followed
the canoe up the stream till it was lost to view. When she again reached
the spot where she had left her discouraged husband, she found him alive
but helpless, and sinking fast. While the devoted wife sat by his side,
doing what little she could for his comfort, the canoe party came down the
river, bearing the gallant Macleland, their loved but dying officer. Again
the hapless wife begged, with piteous tears, that they would take her
husband in. No! All her prayers were useless. Macleland was worth more than
Warner.

When all hope had fled, Jemima staid faithfully by her husband till he had
breathed his last. She could only close his eyes and try to cover his body
from the wolves. Then, when love had done its best, she strapped his powder
horn and pouch to her person, shouldered his rifle, and set out on her
weary tramp toward Quebec. Melancholy as it was, one sees a certain
sublimity in the woman's act of selecting and carrying with her those
warlike keepsakes. It was in perfect keeping with those tragic times.
Tender thoughtfulness of her poor husband's martial honor outlived her
power to inspire him again to her heroism, and made her grand in the
forlornness of her sorrow. She was determined that his arms should go to
the war, if he could not.

The same brave mind that had made her so admirable as a soldier's helpmeet,
upheld her through tedious hardships and continued perils on her lonely way
to the settlement. Once there, it was necessary for her to wait till she
could recover her exhausted strength. Her triumph over the severe tasking
of all those bitter days in the wilderness, without chronic injury, or even
temporary sickness, would be called now, in a woman, a miracle of
endurance.

As she passed on from parish to parish, the simple Canadian peasant, always
friendly to the American cause, welcomed with warm hospitality the handsome
young woman, the story of whose singular bravery and devotion had reached
their ears.

Her subsequent life and history is shrouded in obscurity. We know not
whether she married a husband worthier of such a partner in those trying
times, or whether she retired to brood alone over a sorrow with which shame
for the object of her grief must have mingled. Whatever her lot may have
been, her name deserves a place on the golden roll of our revolutionary
heroines.

As we have already remarked, only a few instances are on record where women
served in the army of the revolution as enlisted soldiers. Occasional
services performed under the guise of men, were more frequent. As bearers
of dispatches and disguised as couriers, they glided through the enemy's
lines. Donning their father's or brother's overcoats and hats, they
deceived the besiegers of the garrison into the belief that soldiers were
not lacking to defend it, and even ventured in male habiliments to perform
more perilous feats; such, for example, as the following:

Grace and Rachel Martin, the wives of two brothers who were absent with the
patriot army, receiving intelligence one evening that a courier under guard
of two British officers, would pass their house on a certain night with
important dispatches, resolved to surprise the party and obtain the papers.

Disguising themselves in their husband's outer garments, and providing
themselves with arms, they waylaid the enemy. Soon after they took their
station by the roadside, the courier and his escort made their appearance.
At the proper moment the disguised ladies sprang from their bushy covert,
and presenting their pistols, ordered the party to surrender their papers.
Surprised and alarmed, they obeyed without hesitation or the least
resistance. The brave women having put them on parole, hastened home by the
nearest route, which was a bypath through the woods, and dispatched the
documents to General Greene.

Perhaps the most remarkable case of female enlistment and protracted
service in the patriot army, was that of Deborah Samson. The career of this
woman shows that her motive in adopting and following the career of a
soldier was a praiseworthy one. The whole country was aglow with patriotic
fervor, and in no section did the flame burn with a purer luster than in
that where Deborah was nurtured. It was not idle curiosity nor mere love of
roving, that incited her, in those straitlaced days, to abandon her home
and join in the perilous fray where the standard of freedom was "full high
advanced." She had evidently counted the cost of the extraordinary step
which she was about to take, but found in the difficulties and dangers
which it entailed nothing to obstruct or daunt her purpose.

Her parents were in humble circumstances, and lived in Plymouth,
Massachusetts, where Deborah grew up with but slender advantages for
anything more than a practical education; and yet such was her diligence in
the acquisition of knowledge, that before she was eighteen she had shown
herself competent to take charge of a district school, in which duty she
displayed some of the same qualities which made her after-career
remarkable.

She seems for several months to have cherished the secret purpose of
enlisting in the American army, and with that view laid aside a small sum
from her scanty earnings as a school-teacher, with which she purchased a
quantity of coarse fustian; out of this material, working at intervals and
by stealth, she made a complete suit of men's clothes, concealing in a
hay-stack each article as it was finished.

When her preparations had been completed, she informed her friends that she
was going in search of higher wages for her labor. Tieing her new suit of
men's attire in a bundle, she took her departure. She probably availed
herself of the nearest shelter for the purpose of assuming her disguise.
Her stature was lofty for a woman, and her features, though finely
proportioned, were of a masculine cast. When at a subsequent period she had
donned the buff and blue regimentals and marched in the ranks of the
patriot army, she is said to have looked every inch the soldier.

Pursuing her way she presented herself at the camp of the American army as
one of those patriotic young men who desired to assist in opposing the
British, and securing the independence of their country.

Her friends, supposing that she was engaged at service at some distant
point, made little inquiry as to her whereabouts, knowing her
self-reliance, and her ability to follow out her own career without the aid
of their counsel or assistance. Those who were nearest to her appear to
have never made such a search for her as would have led to her discovery.

Having decided to enlist for the whole term of the war, from motives of
patriotism, she was received and enrolled as one of the first volunteers in
the company of Captain Nathan Thayer, of Medway, Massachusetts, under the
name of Robert Shirtliffe. Without friends and homeless, as the young
recruit appeared to be, she interested Captain Thayer, and was received
into his family while he was recruiting his company. Here she remained some
weeks, and received her first lessons in the drill and duties of the young
soldier.

"Accustomed to labor from childhood upon the farm and in outdoor
employment, she had acquired unusual vigor of constitution; her frame was
robust and of masculine strength; and, having thus gained a degree of
hardihood, she was enabled to acquire great expertness and precision in the
manual exercise, and to undergo what a female, delicately nurtured, would
have found it impossible to endure. Soon after they had joined the company,
the recruits were supplied with uniforms by a kind of lottery. That drawn
by Robert did not fit, but, taking needle and scissors, he soon altered it
to suit him. To Mrs. Thayer's expression of surprise at finding a young man
so expert in using the implements of feminine industry, the answer was,
that, his mother having no girl, he had been often obliged to practice the
seamstress's art."

While in the family of Captain Thayer, she was thrown much into the society
of a young girl then visiting Mrs. Thayer. She soon began to show much
partiality for Deborah (or Robert), and as she seemed to be versed in the
arts of coquetry, Robert felt no scruples in paying close attention to one
so volatile and fond of flirtation; she also felt a natural curiosity to
learn within how short a time a maiden's fancy might be won.

Mrs. Thayer regarded this little romance with some uneasiness, as she could
not help perceiving that Robert did not entirely reciprocate her young
friend's affection. She accordingly lost no time in remonstrating with
Robert, and warning him of the serious consequences of his folly in
trifling with the feelings of the maiden. The remonstrance and caution were
good-naturedly received, and the departure of the blooming soldier soon
after terminated all these love passages, though Robert received from his
fair young friend some souvenirs, which he cherished as relics in after
years.

For three years, and until 1781, our heroine appears as a soldier, and
during this time she gained the approbation and confidence of the officers
by her exemplary conduct and by the fidelity with which her duties were
performed. When under fire, she showed an unflinching boldness, and was a
volunteer in several hazardous enterprises. The first time she was wounded,
was in a hand-to-hand fight with a British dragoon, when she received a
severe sword-cut in the side of her head, laying bare her skull.

About four months after the first wound, she was again doomed to bleed in
her country's cause, receiving another severe wound in her shoulder, the
bullet burying itself deeply, and necessitating a surgical examination.

She described her first emotion when the ball struck her, as a sickening
terror lest her sex should be discovered. The pain of the wound was
scarcely felt in her excitement and alarm, even death on the battle-field
she felt would be preferable to the shame that would overwhelm her in case
the mystery of her life were unveiled. Her secret, however, remained
undiscovered, and, recovering from her wound, she was soon able again to
take her place in the ranks.

Some time after, she was seized with a brain fever, which was then
prevalent in the army. During the first stages of her malady, her greatest
suffering was the dread that consciousness would desert her and her
carefully guarded secret be disclosed to those about her. She was carried
to the hospital, where her case was considered a hopeless one. One day the
doctor approached the bed where she lay, a corpse, as every one supposed.
Taking her hand, he found the pulse feebly beating, and, attempting to
place his hand on the heart, he discovered a female patient, where he had
little expected one. The surgeon said not a word of his discovery, but with
a prudence, delicacy, and generosity ever afterwards appreciated by the
sufferer, he provided every comfort her perilous condition required, and
paid her those medical attentions which soon secured her return to
consciousness. As soon as her condition would permit, he had her removed to
his own house, where she could receive the better care.

After her health was nearly restored, Doctor Binney, her generous
benefactor, had a long conference with the commanding officer of the
company in which Robert had served, and this was followed by an order to
the youth to carry a letter to General Washington.

Ever since her removal into the doctor's family, she had entertained the
suspicion that he had discovered the secret of her life. Often while
conversing with him, she watched his face with anxiety, but never
discovered a word or look to indicate that the physician knew or suspected
that she was other than what she represented herself to be. But when she
received the order to carry the letter to the commander-in-chief, her long
cherished misgivings became at last a certainty.

The order must be obeyed. With a trembling heart she pursued her course to
the headquarters of Washington. When she was ushered into the presence of
the Chief, she was overpowered with dread and uncertainty, and showed upon
her face the alarm and confusion which she felt. Washington, noticing her
agitation, and supposing it to arise from diffidence, kindly endeavored to
re-assure her. She was soon bidden to retire with an attendant, while he
read the communication of which she had been the bearer.

In a few moments, she was again summoned to the presence of Washington, who
handed her in silence a discharge from the service, with a note containing
a few brief words of advice, and a sum of money sufficient to bear her
expenses to some place where she might find a home. To her latest hour, she
never forgot the delicacy and forbearance shown her by that great and good
man.

After the war was over, she became the wife of Benjamin Gannet, of Sharon.
During the presidency of General Washington, she was invited to visit the
seat of government, and, during her stay at the capital, Congress granted
her a pension and certain lands in consideration of her services to the
country as a soldier.

In the War of 1812, woman shared more or less in the hard and perilous
duties of a soldier, especially upon the Canadian border, and on the
western frontier, where Indian hostilities now broke out afresh. She stood
guard in the homes exposed to attack all along the thin line, which the
savage or the British soldier threatened to break through, and on more than
one battle-field proved her lineal descent from the brave mothers of the
Revolution.

To the female imagination, the war with Mexico must have been clothed with
peculiar hardships and dangers. The length of the marches, the vast
distance from home, the torrid heats, fell diseases that prevailed in that
clime, and the nature of the half-civilized enemy, all conspired to warn
the gentler sex against taking part in that conflict. And yet all these
appalling difficulties and perils could not damp the martial ardor of Mrs.
Coolidge. She was born in Missouri, where, at St. Louis, she married her
husband, who was a Mexican trader. Accompanying him on one of his yearly
journeys to Santa Fe, she had the misfortune to see him meet his death, at
the hands of a Mexican bravo, in the outskirts of that city.

Her life had been a stirring one from her early girlhood, and, when war
broke out with Mexico, she attired herself in manly garments, and by her
stature and rather masculine appearance readily passed muster with the
recruiting officer. Under the name of James Brown, she was duly entered on
the rolls of a Missouri company, which soon after took steamboat for Fort
Leavenworth, the rendezvous. From this point, on the 16th of June, 1846, a
force of sixteen hundred and fifty-eight men, including our heroine (or
hero), took up their line of march to Santa Fé.

Most of this little army were mounted men, and of this number was Mrs.
Coolidge, who was an admirable horsewoman. Their course lay over the almost
boundless plains that stretch westward to the foothills of the Rocky
Mountains, a distance of nearly one thousand miles.

In fifty days they reached Santa Fe, of which they took possession without
opposition. The soldierly bearing and quick intelligence of Mrs. Coolidge
soon attracted the attention of Col. Kearney, the commanding officer, and
she was selected by him to be one of the bearers of dispatches to the war
department.

A picked mustang, of extraordinary mettle and endurance, was placed at her
disposal; a strong and fleet horse of the messenger stock, crossed with the
mustang, was selected for her guide, a sturdy Scotchman, formerly in the
Santa Fé trade; and one bright day, early in September, they set out on
their long and perilous journey for Leavenworth. The first sixteen miles,
over a broken and hilly country, was void of incident. They had passed
through Arroyo Hondo and reached the Cañon, (El Boca del Cañon,) one of the
gateways to Santa Fé; as they were threading this narrow pass, they saw, on
turning a short angle of the precipice that towered three hundred feet
above them, four mounted Mexicans, armed to the teeth and prepared to
dispute their passage. One of them dismounted, and, advancing towards our
couriers, waved a white handkerchief, and demanded in Spanish and in broken
English their surrender. The guide replied in very concise English, telling
him to go to a place unmentionable to polite ears. The envoy immediately
rejoined his companions and mounted his horse; the party then turned and
trotted forward a few paces as if they were about to give Mrs. Coolidge and
the guide a free passage, when they suddenly wheeled their horses, and,
discharging their pieces, seized their lances and dashed down full tilt
upon our heroine and her guide. A shot from the guide's rifle hurled one of
the Mexicans out of his saddle, like a stone from a sling. Mrs. Coolidge
was less fortunate in her aim; missing the rider, her bullet struck a horse
full in the forehead, but such was the speed with which it was approaching,
that it was carried within twenty paces of the spot where she stood before
it fell; the rider, uninjured, quickly extricated himself, and, seizing
from his holster a horse-pistol, shot Mrs. Coolidge's horse, which
nevertheless still kept his legs, and, as her assailant rushed towards her
with his _machete_, or large knife, she leveled a pistol and sent a
ball through one of his legs, breaking it and bringing him to the ground.
Dismounting from her horse, which was reeling and staggering with loss of
blood, she held her other pistol to the head of the prostrate guerrilla,
who surrendered at discretion.

Meanwhile, the guide had dispatched one of the two remaining Mexicans, and,
though he had a shot in the fleshy part of his leg, he had succeeded in
compelling the other to surrender by shooting his horse.

Mrs. Coolidge now, for the first time, discovered blood dripping from a
wound made by a musket-ball in her bridle-arm. Hastily winding her scarf
about it, she bound the arms of her prisoner with a piece of rope, and
broke his lance and the locks of his pistols and carbine. The other
prisoner was served in the same fashion. The arms of the two dead Mexicans
were also broken or disabled. The fleetest and best of the two remaining
horses was taken by Mrs. Coolidge in lieu of her own gallant little
mustang, which was now gasping out his life on the rocky bottom of the
pass. Our gallant couriers then paroled the two prisoners, and galloped
rapidly down the cañon, taking the other mustang with them, and leaving the
guerrillas to find their way home as they best might. As they mounted their
horses, the guide remarked to Mrs. Coolidge that he had heretofore
entertained the suspicion that she might be a woman, but that now he knew
she was a man.

A swift ride brought them to old Pecos, a distance of ten miles, where they
supped and passed the night. Their wounds were mere scratches and did not
necessitate any delay, and the next day, after a long, slow gallop, they
reached Los Vegas. Then, keeping their course to the northwest and pushing
rapidly forward, they passed the present site of Fort Union, and, having
secured a large supply of dried buffalo meat, crossed the wonderful
_mesa_ or table-land west of the Canadian River, and encamped for a
night and day on the east bank of that stream.

The next stretch for two hundred miles lay through a country infested with
Utah and Apache Indians. Three or four days of swift riding would carry
them through this dangerous region to a place of security on the Arkansas
River. If they should meet a hostile band, it was agreed that they would
trust for safety in the swiftness of their steeds, which had already proved
themselves capable of both speed and endurance.

They had crossed Rabbit ear Creek and reached the Cimarron, without seeing
even the sign of a foe, when, early one morning, the guide, looking
eastward over the vast sandy plain, from the camp where they had passed the
night, saw far away a body of fifty mounted Indians, whom, after examining
with his glass, he pronounced to be Utahs coming rapidly towards them.
There was no escape, and, in accordance with their programme, they mounted
their horses and rode slowly to meet them.

The Indians, spying them, formed a semicircle and galloped towards the
fearless couple, who put their horses to a canter, and, riding directly
against the center of the line of warriors, dashed through it on the run.
The Indians, quickly recovering from the astonishment produced by this
daring manoeuver, wheeled their horses and dashed after them. All but ten
of the Indians were soon distanced; these ten continued the pursuit, but in
an hour and a half this number was reduced to seven, and in another hour
only five remained. They were evidently young braves, who were hoping to
distinguish themselves by taking two American soldiers' scalps.

On they sped--the pursuers and the pursued--over the wild plain. A space of
barely half a mile divided them. The horses, however, of each party seemed
so evenly matched in speed and endurance that neither gained on the other.
The mustangs, the one ridden by our heroine, the other with only a ninety
pound pack on its back, though glossy with sweat, and their nostrils
crimson and expanded with the terrible strain upon them, showed no sign of
flagging. The guide's horse, a heavier animal, began at length to show
symptoms of fatigue. If there had been time, he would have shifted his
saddle on the pack-mustang, but this was not to be thought of. By dint of
spurring and lashing the smoking flanks of the now drooping steed, he
barely kept his place by the side of his companion.

They were now near a small creek, an affluent of the Arkansas, when the
guide, turning his eyes, saw that only three of the Indians were on their
trail, the two others were galloping slowly back. Just as he announced this
fact to Mrs. Coolidge, his tired horse fell heavily, throwing him forward
upon his head and stunning him senseless.

Our heroine, dismounting, dragged her unconscious comrade to the bank of
the creek, and, throwing water in his face, quickly restored him to his
senses; but, before he could handle his gun, the Indians had come within a
hundred paces, whooping fiercely to call back their companions, who just
before abandoned the pursuit. They were luckily only armed with bows and
arrows, and, circling about the fearless pair, they launched arrow after
arrow, though without doing any execution. One of them fell before the
rifle of Mrs. Coolidge. A second was brought to earth by the guide, who had
by this time revived sufficiently to join in the fight. The third turned
and galloped off towards his two companions, who were now hastening to the
scene of conflict.

This gave our heroine and her associate in danger time to reload their
rifles and to shield their horses behind the bank of the creek. Then, lying
prostrate in the grass, they completely concealed themselves from sight.
The three Indians, seeing them disappear behind the bank of the creek, and
supposing that they had taken to flight again, rode unguardedly within
range, and received shots which tumbled two of them from their saddles. The
only remaining warrior gave up the contest and galloped away, leaving his
comrades dead upon the field. One of the Indian mustangs supplied the place
of the guide's horse, which was wind broken, and the two now pursued their
journey at a moderate pace, reaching Fort Leavenworth without encountering
any more dangers.

Mrs. Coolidge (under her pseudonym of James Brown), after delivering her
despatches, was promoted to the rank of sergeant, and was, at her own
request, detached from the New Mexican division of the army and ordered to
Matamoras, where she did garrison duty without any suspicion being awakened
as to her sex. She afterwards entered active service, and accompanied the
army on the march to the city of Mexico. She took part in the storming of
Chepultepec, and never flinched in that severe affair, covering herself
with honor, and proving what brave deeds a woman can do in the severest
test to which a soldier can be put.

During the recent war between the North and the South woman's position on
the frontier was similar to that which she occupied in the war of 1812. The
greater part of the army of the United States, which, in time of peace, was
stationed along the vast border line from the Red River of the North to the
Rio Grande, had been withdrawn. The outposts, by means of which the
blood-thirsty Sioux, the savage Comanches, the remorseless Apaches, and
numerous other fierce and war like tribes had been kept in check, were
either abandoned, or so poorly garrisoned that the settlements upon the
border were left almost entirely unprotected from the treacherous savage,
the lawless Mexican bandit, and the American outlaw and desperado.

What made their position still more unguarded and dangerous was the absence
of their fathers, husbands, and brothers, as volunteers in the armies. The
war fever raged in both the North and the South, and nowhere more hotly
than among the pioneers from Minnesota to Texas. This brave and hardy class
of men, accustomed as they were to the presence of danger, obeyed the call
to arms with alacrity, and the women appear to have acquiesced in the
enlistment of their natural protectors, trusting to God and their own arms
to guard the household during the absence of the men of the family.

The women were thus left alone to face their human foes, and the thousand
other perils which beset them. They were, to all intents and purposes,
soldiers. They belonged to the home army, upon which the frontier would
have mainly to rely for security. Ceaseless vigilance by night and day, and
a steady courage in the presence of danger, had to be constantly exercised.

Sometimes the savage foe came in overwhelming numbers, and in such cases
the only safety lay in flight, during which all woman's address and
fortitude was called into requisition, either to devise means of
successfully eluding her pursuers, or to endure the toils and hardships of
a rapid march. Sometimes she stood with loaded gun in her household
garrison, and faced the enemy, either repelling them, or dying at her post,
or, what was worse than death, seeing her loved ones butchered before her
eyes, and their being led into a cruel captivity.

On the Texas border, in 1862, one of these home-warriors, during the
absence of her husband in the Southern army, was left alone not far from
the Rio Grande, and ten miles from the house of any American settler. Three
Mexican horse thieves came to the house and demanded the key of the stable,
in which two valuable horses were kept, threatening, in case of refusal, to
burn her house over her head. She stood at her open door, with loaded
revolver, and told them that not only would she not surrender the property,
but that the first one that dared to lay violent hands upon her should be
shot down. Cowed by her intrepid manner, the bandits slunk away.

On another occasion she was attacked by two American outlaws, while riding
on the river bank. One of them seized the bridle of the horse, and the
other attempted to drag her from the saddle. Turning upon the latter, she
shot him dead, and the other, from sheer amazement at her daring, lost his
self-possession and begged for mercy. After compelling him to give up his
arms, she allowed him to depart unmolested, as there was no tribunal of
justice near by where he could be punished for his villainy. These exploits
gained for the borderer's wife a wide reputation throughout the region, and
either through fear of her courage, or through an admiring respect for such
heroism, when displayed by a lone woman, she was never again troubled by
marauders.

The Sioux war in Minnesota, in 1862, was remarkable for the sufferings
endured and the bravery displayed by women whose husbands had left them to
join the army.

A notable instance of this description was that of two married sisters who
lived in one house on the Minnesota River, some eighty miles above Mankato.
One morning in the spring of that year their house was surrounded by Sioux
Indians, but was so bravely defended that the savages withdrew without
doing much damage. Two weeks of perfect peace passed away, and the two
sisters renewed their outdoor work as fearlessly as ever, as their secluded
situation prevented them from hearing of the ravages of the Indians in the
eastern settlements.

Late one afternoon, while both the women were sitting in a small grove, not
far from the house, they heard the war-whoop, and, stealing through the
bushes, saw ten savages, who had dragged the three children from the house
and cut their throats, and, after scalping them, were dancing about their
mangled corpses. They then set fire to the house and barns, and, butchering
the cow, proceeded to prepare a great feast.

Not knowing how long the monsters would remain, and having no food nor
means to procure any, the hapless women set out for the nearest house,
which was situated ten miles to the east. They succeeded in reaching the
spot at ten o'clock that night, but found nothing but a heap of ashes and
two mangled bodies of a woman and her child.

Grief, fear, and fatigue kept them from obtaining that rest they so much
needed, and before daylight they resumed their march towards the next
house, eight miles farther east. This had also been destroyed. The younger
sister, who was the mother of the three children who had been butchered,
now gave up in grief and despair, and declared that she would die there.
But she was at length induced to proceed by the urgent persuasions of the
older and stronger woman.

The borders of the river at this point were covered with woods rendered
impervious to the rays of the sun by the herbs, and shrubs that crept up
the trunks, and twined around the branches of the trees. They resumed their
melancholy journey; but observing that following the course of the river
considerably lengthened their route, they entered into the wood, and in a
few days lost their way. Though now nearly famished, oppressed with thirst,
and their feet sorely wounded with briars and thorns, they continued to
push forward through immeasurable wilds and gloomy forests, drawing
refreshment from the berries and wild fruits they were able to collect.
At length, exhausted by hunger and fatigue, their strength failed them, and
they sunk down helpless and forlorn. Here they waited impatiently for death
to relieve them from their misery. In four days the younger sister expired,
and the elder continued stretched beside her sister's corpse for
forty-eight hours, deprived of the use of all her faculties. At last
Providence gave her strength and courage to quit the melancholy scene, and
attempt to pursue her journey. She was now without stockings, barefooted,
and almost naked; two cloaks, which had been torn to rags by the briars,
afforded her but a scanty covering. Having cut off the soles of her
sister's shoes, she fastened them to her feet, and went on her lonely way.
The second day of her journey she found water; and the day following, some
wild fruit and green eggs; but so much was her throat contracted by the
privation of nutriment, that she could hardly swallow such a sufficiency of
the sustenance which chance presented to her as would support her emaciated
frame.

That evening she was found by a party of volunteers who had been in pursuit
of the Indians, and she was brought into the nearest settlement in a
condition of body and mind to which even death would have been preferable.

Notwithstanding the dangers and distractions of this quasi-military life
led by wives and mothers on the frontier they did not neglect their other
home duties.

When the scarred and swarthy veterans returned to their homes on the border
there were no marks of neglect to be erased, no evidences of dilapidation
and decay. "They found their farms in as good a condition as when they
enlisted. Enhanced prices had balanced diminished production. Crops had
been planted, tended, and gathered, by hands that before had been all
unused to the hoe and the rake. The sadness lasted only in those
households--alas! too numerous--where no disbanding of armies could restore
the soldier to the loving arms and the blessed industries of home."

These women of the frontier during the late war may be called the irregular
forces of the army, soldiers in all respects except in being enrolled and
placed under officers. They fought and marched, stood on guard and were
taken prisoners. They viewed the horrors of war and were under fire
although they did not wear the army uniform nor walk in files and platoons.
All these things they did in addition to their work as housewives, farmers,
and mothers.

Many others took naturally to the rough life of a soldier, and enlisting
under soldiers' guise followed the drum on foot or in the saddle, and
encamped on the bare ground with a knapsack for a pillow and no covering
from the cold and rain but a brown army blanket.

One of these heroines was Miss Louisa Wellman of Iowa. Born and nurtured on
the border, habituated from childhood to an outdoor life, a fine rider, as
well as a good shot with both a rifle and a pistol, it was quite natural
that she should have felt a martial ardor when the war commenced, and
having donned her brother's clothes, should have enlisted as she did in one
of the Iowa regiments. Her most serious annoyance was the rough language
and profanity of the soldiers. While in camp she managed to associate with
the sober and pious soldiers, of whom there were several in the company.
This was afterwards known as "the praying squad;" but she did not in
consequence of her reluctance to associate with the others lose her
popularity, owing to her unvarying cheerfulness, her generosity and her
disposition to oblige often at the greatest inconvenience to herself. If a
comrade was taken sick she was the first to tender her services as watcher
and nurse, and in this way came to be known as "Doctor Ned."

She took part in the storming of Fort Donelson where she was slightly
wounded in the wrist. Afterwards she served often in the picket line and
distinguished herself by her courage, vigilance, and shrewdness. The
boldness with which she exposed herself on every occasion, led to such a
catastrophe as might have been expected. The battle of Pittsburgh Landing
was an affair in which she figured with a cool bravery that kept her
company steady in spite of the terrible fire which was decimating the ranks
of the Federal Army. The pressure, however, was at last too great. Slowly
driven towards the river, and fighting every inch of ground, the regiment
in which she served seemed likely to be annihilated. They had just reached
the shelter of the gun-boats when a stray shell exploded directly in the
faces of the front rank, and Miss Wellman was struck and thrown violently
to the earth, but instantly sprang to her feet and was able to walk to the
temporary hospital which had been established near the river bank.

Like Deborah Samson, her sex was discovered by the surgeon who dressed her
wound. The wound was in the collar bone and was made by a fragment of
shell. Although not a dangerous one it required immediate attention. When
the surgeon desired her to remove her army jacket she demurred, and not
being able to assign any good reason for her refusal, the surgeon coupling
this with the modest blush which suffused her features when he made his
requisition for the removal of her outside garment, immediately guessed the
truth. With chivalrous delicacy he immediately dispatched her with a note
to the wife of one of the Captains who was in the camp at the time,
recommending the maiden soldier to her care, and begging that she would
dress the wound in accordance with a prescription which he sent. Although
Miss Wellman begged that her secret might not be disclosed and that she
might be permitted to continue to serve in the ranks, it was judged best to
communicate the fact to the commanding officer, who, though he admired the
bravery and resolution of the maiden, judged best that she should serve in
another capacity if at all, and having notified her parents and obtained
their consent she was allowed to do service in the ambulance department.

She was furnished with a horse, side-saddle, saddle-bags, etc., and
whenever a battle took place she would ride fearlessly to the front to
assist the wounded. Many a poor wounded soldier was assisted off the field
by her, and sometimes she would dismount from her horse, and, aiding the
wounded man to climb into the saddle, would convey him to the hospital. She
carried bandages and stimulants in her saddle-bags, and did all she was
able to relieve the sufferings of such as were too badly wounded to be
removed.

During this service she was often exposed to the enemy's fire. She was with
Grant in the Vicksburg campaign, and on one occasion; being attracted by a
tremendous firing, rode rapidly forward, and missing her way found herself
within one hundred yards of a battalion of the enemy, whose gray jackets
could be seen through the smoke of their rapid firing. Wheeling her horse
she galloped out of range, fortunately escaping the storm of bullets which
flew about her.

She shared the hardships as well as the perils of the soldiers, and in the
bivouac wrapped herself in her blanket and lay on the bare ground, with no
other shelter but the sky, rising at the sound of reveille to partake with
her comrades of the plain camp fare. All this she did cheerfully and with
her whole heart. Her sympathy was not bounded by the wants and sufferings
of the soldiers of the federal army, but embraced in its boundless
outpouring those of her countrymen who were then ranged against her as
foes. Many a sick and suffering Southerner had cause to bless the kindness
and devotion of this noble girl. Herein she showed herself a Christian
woman and a practical example of the teachings of Him who said,--"Love your
enemies." Such deeds as her's shine amid the terrible passions and carnage
of war with a heavenly radiance which time can never dim.

Either in the army or in close connection with it, woman's affectionate
devotion was illustrated in all those relations of life in which she stands
beside man. As a mother, as a wife, and as a sister, she brightly displayed
this quality. The following instance of wifely devotion is related of a
woman who came from the Red River of Louisiana with her husband, who was a
Southern officer.

In the fall of 1863, during the bombardment of Charleston by the federal
batteries, this young woman, being tenderly attached to her husband, who
was in one of the forts, begged the military authorities to allow her to
join her husband and share the fearful dangers and hardships to which he
was daily and nightly exposed. All representations of the difficulties,
privations, and perils she would encounter failed to daunt her in her
purpose. The importunities of the loving wife prevailed over military rules
and even over the expostulations of her husband, and she was allowed to
take her post beside the one whom she regarded with an affection amounting
to idolatry. Sending her two children to the care of a maiden aunt some
miles from the city, she was conveyed to her husband's battery, a large
earth-work outside of the city.

Here she remained for sixty days, during which the battery where she was,
made one of the principal targets for the federal cannon. For weeks
together she lay down in her clothes in the midst of the soldiers. The
bursting of the shells and the sound of the federal hundred-pounders, with
answering volleys from the fort, scarcely intermitted night or day. Sleep
was for several days after her arrival out of the question. But at length
she became used to the cannonade and enjoyed intermittent slumbers, from
which she was sometimes awakened by the explosion of a shell which had
penetrated the roof of the fort and strewed the earth with dead and
wounded.

Her only food was the wormy bread and half-cured pork which was served out
to the soldiers, and her drink was brackish water from the ditch that
surrounded the earth-work. The cannonading during the day was so furious
that the fort was often almost reduced to ruins, but in the night the
destruction was repaired. A fleet of gunboats joined the land batteries in
bombarding the fort, and at last succeeded in making it no longer tenable.
Guns had been dismounted, the bomb-proof had been destroyed, and the sides
of the earth-work were full of breaches where the huge ten-inch balls had
ploughed their way.

During all these terrifying and dreadful scenes, our heroine stayed at her
post of love and duty beside her husband. When the little garrison
evacuated the fort at night and retired to the city, she was carried in an
ambulance drawn by four of the soldiers in honor of her courage and
devotion.

One of the most singular and romantic stories of the late war, is that of
two young women who enlisted at the same time, and were engaged in active
service for nearly a year without any discovery being made or even a
suspicion excited as to their true sex.

Sarah Stover and Maria Seelye, for these were the names of these heroines
of real life, being homeless orphans, and finding it difficult to earn a
subsistence on a small farm in Western Missouri, where they lived,
determined to enlist as volunteers in the Federal Army. Accordingly, having
donned male attire and proceeded to St. Louis early in 1863, they joined a
company which was soon after ordered to proceed to the regiment, which was
a part of the army of the Potomac.

Within two weeks after their arrival at the scene of conflict in the East,
the battle of Chancellorsville was fought, the two girls participating in
it and seeing something of the horrors of the war in which they were
engaged as soldiers. In one of the minor battles which occurred the
following summer they were separated in the confusion of the fight, and
upon calling the muster, Miss Stover, known in the regiment as Edward
Malison, was found among the missing. Her comrade, after searching for her
among the killed and wounded in vain, at last ascertained that she had been
taken prisoner and conveyed to Richmond.

Miss Seelye, although she was well aware of the serious consequences which
might follow, decided to adopt a bold plan in order to reach her friend
whom she loved so devotedly, and who was now suffering captivity and
perhaps wounds or disease. Through an old negress she obtained a woman's
dress and bonnet, and disguising herself in these garments, deserted at the
first favorable opportunity. She reached Washington in safety and was
successful in an application for a pass to Fortress Monroe, from which
place she made her way after many difficulties to the lines of the Southern
Army. By artful representations she overcame the scruples of the officers
and passed on her way to Richmond, where she soon arrived, and overcoming
by her address and perseverance all obstacles, obtained admission to Libby
Prison, representing that she was near of kin to one of the prisoners.

Her singular success in accomplishing her object was due doubtless to her
intelligence, fine manners, and good looks, with great tact in using the
opportunities within her reach.

She found her friend just recovering from a wound in her arm. The secret of
her sex was still undiscovered; and after her wound was entirely healed
they prepared to attempt an escape which they had already planned. Miss
Seelye contrived to smuggle into the prison a complete suit of female
attire, in which, one night just as they were relieving the guard, she
managed to slip past the cordon of sentries, and joining her friend at the
place agreed upon, the two immediately set out for Raleigh, to which city
Miss Seelye had obtained two passes, one for herself, the other for a lady
friend. They traveled on foot, and after passing the lines struck boldly
across the country in the direction of Norfolk. When morning dawned they
concealed themselves in a wood and at night resumed their march.

On one occasion, just as they were emerging from a wood in the evening,
they were discovered by a cavalryman. Their appearance excited his
suspicions that they were spies, and he told them that he should have to
take them to headquarters. But their lady-like manners and straightforward
answers persuaded him that he was wrong, and he allowed them to proceed.
Another time they narrowly escaped capture by two soldiers who suddenly
entered the cabin of an old negro where they were passing the day.

After a tedious journey of a week, they reached the Federal pickets, and
finally were transported to Washington on the steamer. This was in the
autumn of 1863; their term of service would expire in two months, but after
great hesitation they resolved to report themselves to the headquarters of
their regiment as just escaped from Richmond. Accordingly, procuring suits
of men's attire, they again disguised their sex and proceeded to rejoin
their regiment, which was encamped near Washington.

The desertion of Miss Seelye having been explained in this manner, she
escaped its serious penalty, and both the girls were soon after regularly
discharged from service. As we have already remarked, no suspicion was
excited as to their sex, each shielding the other from discovery, and it
was only after their discharge that they themselves revealed the secret.

The stories of women who have served as soldiers often disclose motives
which would have little influence in impelling the other sex to enter the
army. Love and devotion are among the most prominent of the moving causes
of female enlistment. Sometimes a maiden, like Helen Goodridge, followed
her lover to the war; sometimes a mother enlisted in the hospital
department in order to nurse a wounded or sick husband or son. It was often
some species of devotion, either to individuals or to her country, that led
gentle woman to march in the ranks and share the dangers and privations of
army life. Such an instance as the following furnishes a singularly
striking illustration of this unselfish love and devotion of which we are
speaking.

While the hostile armies were fighting, in the summer of 1864, those
desperate battles by which the issues of the war were ultimately decided, a
small, slender soldier fighting in the ranks, in General Johnson's
division, was struck by a shell which tore away the left arm and stretched
the young hero lifeless on the ground. A comrade in pity twisted a
handkerchief around the wounded limb as an impromptu tourniquet, and thus
having staunched the flowing blood, placed the slender form of the
unfortunate soldier under a tree and passed on. Here half an hour after he
was found by the ambulance men and brought to the hospital, where the
surgeon discovered that the heroic heart, still faintly beating, animated
the delicate frame of a woman.

Powerful stimulants were administered, and as soon as strength was restored
the stump of the wounded limb was amputated near the shoulder. For a week
the patient hovered between life and death. But her vitality triumphed in
the struggle, and in a few days, with careful nursing she was able to sit
up and converse. One of those noble women, who emulated the example and the
glory of Florence Nightingale in nursing and ministering to the sick and
wounded in the army, won the maiden-soldier's confidence, and into her ear
she breathed her story.

She and a brother aged eighteen had been left orphans two years before.
They were in destitute circumstances and had no near relations. They both
supported themselves by honest toil, and their lonely and friendless
situation had drawn them together with a warmth of affection, that even
between a brother and sister has been rarely felt. They were all in all to
each other, and when, in the spring of 1864, her brother had been drafted
into the army, she learned the name of the regiment to which he had been
assigned, and unknown to him assumed male attire and joined the same
regiment.

She sought out her brother, and in a private interview made herself known
to him. Astonished and grieved at the step she had taken he begged her to
withdraw from the army, which she could easily do by disclosing the fact of
her true sex. She remained firm against all his affectionate entreaties,
informing him that if he was wounded or taken sick she would be near to
nurse him, and in case of such a disaster she would reveal her secret and
get a discharge so that she could attend constantly upon him. On the
morning of the battle in which she had been wounded they had met for the
last time, and, as they well knew the battle would be a bloody one, agreed
that each one would notify the other of their respective safety in case
they both survived. A note had reached her just after the battle, that her
brother was safe, and she on her part had sent a message to him that she
was alive and well, believing that she would recover, and not wishing to
alarm him by telling the truth. Since that time she had heard nothing from
him, and begged with streaming eyes that the lady would inquire if he had
been wounded in any of the recent severe battles. The lady hastened to
procure the much desired information. After diligent inquiries she
discovered that the brother had been shot dead in a battle which occurred
the day following that in which his sister had been wounded.

The good lady, sadly afflicted by this intelligence, and fearing its effect
upon the invalid, strove to assume a cheerful countenance as she approached
the couch. A smile of almost painful sweetness shone on the face of the
girl soldier when she first glanced at the serene face of the lady who
kindly put her off in her penetrating inquiries, but could not avoid
showing a trace of grief and anxiety over the sad message with which she
was burdened.

The smile slowly faded from the girl's face, her voice grew tremulous, her
questions more searching and direct. The lady tried to commence to break
the sad truth gently to her, but already the unfortunate maiden had
comprehended the fact. Her face grew a shade paler, then flushed; she
breathed with difficulty, they raised her up, a crimson stream gushed from
her lips, and an instant after the strong heart of the true and loving
sister was still for ever.




CHAPTER XIX.

ACROSS THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS


The frontier of to-day is on the plains and in the mountains. In that
immense territory bounded by the Pacific on the west, and on the east by a
line running irregularly from the sources of the Red River of the North to
the Platte, one hundred miles from Omaha, and thence to the mouth of the
Brazos in Texas, wherever a settlement is isolated, there is the frontier.

Life in these remote regions is affected, of course, by external
surroundings. The same is true of the passage of the pioneer battalions
from the eastern settlements through the country westward. The
mountain-frontier presents, both to the settler who makes her abode there,
and to her who passes through its wild pathways, a distinct set of
difficulties and dangers besides those which are incident to every family
which settles far from the more populous districts.

The enormous extent of the mountain region can be measured in linear and
square miles; it can be bounded roughly by the Pacific Ocean and the
fountains of the great rivers which course through the Mississippi valley;
it can be placed before the eye in an astronomical position between such
and such latitudes and longitudes, but such descriptions convey to the mind
only an idea which is quite vague and general. When we say that one hundred
and fifty states like Connecticut, or twenty states like New York or
Illinois, spread over that infinitude of peaks and ranges, would scarcely
cover them, we gain a somewhat more adequate idea of their extent. But it
is only by actually traversing this wilderness of hills and mountains, east
and west, north and south, that we can more fully comprehend its extent and
the difficulties to be encountered by the emigrant who crosses it.

A straight line from Cheyenne on the east, to Placer at the foot of the
Sierra Nevada in California, is eight hundred and fifty miles; by the
shortest traveled route between these points it is upward of one thousand
miles. A straight line from the same point in the east to Oregon City,
among the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, measures nine hundred and fifty
miles; by the traveled routes it is more than twelve hundred.

Thirty years ago, when railroads were unknown west of Buffalo, the journey
by ox-teams across the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, was
more than three thousand miles, and might occupy from one year to eighteen
months, according to circumstances.

After leaving the regions where roads and settlements made their march
comparatively comfortable and secure, they struck boldly across the plains,
fording rivers, hewing their way through forests, toiling across wide
tracks of desert, destitute of food, herbage, and water, until they reached
the Rocky Mountains. The region they were now to pass through had been
penetrated by scarcely any but hunters, fur traders, soldiers, and
missionaries. It was to the peaceful settler who was seeking a home, a
_terra incognita_, an unknown land. Those mountain peaks were veiled
in clouds, those devious labyrinthine valleys were the abode of darkness.
The awful majesty of nature's works, the Titanic wonder-shapes which God
hath wrought, are calculated to burden the imagination and subdue the
aspiring soul of man by their vastness. Those mountain heights, seen from
which the files of travelers passing through the profound defiles, look
like insects; the relentless sway of nature's great forces--the storm
roaring through the gorges, the flood plunging from the precipice and
wearing trenches a thousand feet deep in the flinty rock; the walls which
rear themselves into giant ramparts which human power can never scale; the
wide circles of desolation, where hunger and thirst have their domain; such
spectacles must indeed have thrilled the hearts, awed the minds, and filled
the imaginations of the early pioneers with forebodings of difficulty and
danger.

And yet the actual difficulties encountered by the emigrants, the actual
toils, dangers, and hardships endured then in conquering a passage through
and over the Rocky Mountains and their kindred ranges, must have surpassed
the anticipations of the shrewdest forethought, and the bodings of the
gloomiest imagination. Tongue cannot tell, nor pen describe, nor hath it
entered into the heart of the eastern home-dweller to conceive of the
forlorn and terrible stories of those early mountain passages. We may
wonder whether the fortunate traveler of these days, who is whirled up and
down those perilous slopes by a forty-ton locomotive, often looks back to
the time when those rickety wagons and lean oxen jogged along, drearily,
eight or ten miles a day through those terrible fastnesses, or reverting to
such a scene, expends upon it a merited sympathy. _Now_ a seven days'
journey from Manhattan to the Golden Gate, sitting in a palace car, well
fed by day, well rested by night, scarcely more fatigued when one steps on
the streets of San Francisco than by a day's journey on horseback in the
olden time! _Then_ a year's journey in the emigrant wagon, scantily
fed, poorly nourished with sleep, footsore and haggard, the weary emigrant
and his wife dragged themselves into the spot in the valley of the
Sacramento, or the Columbia, where they were to commence anew their homely
toils!

Who can sit down calmly, and, casting his eyes back to those heroes and
heroines--the Rocky Mountain pioneers--and not feel his heart swell with
pride and gratitude! Pride, in that, as an American, he can count such men
and women among his countrymen; gratitude, in that he and the whole country
are reaping fruits from their heroic courage, fortitude, and enterprise.
Dangers met with an undaunted heart, hardships endured with unshrinking
fortitude, trials and sufferings borne with cheerful patience,
forgetfulness of self, devotion and sacrifice for others: such, in brief
words, is the record of woman in those first journeys of the pioneers who
crossed the continent for the purpose of making homes, forming communities,
and building states on the Pacific slope.

Among these histories, which illustrate most clearly the virtues of the
pioneer women, we count those which display her battling with the
difficulties of the passage through the mountains, as proving that the
heroine of our own time may be matched with those who have lived before her
in any age or clime. One of these histories runs as follows: In the corps
of pioneers who, in 1844, were pushing the outposts of civilization farther
towards the setting sun, was a young couple who left Illinois late in the
summer of that year, and, journeying with a white-tilted wagon, drawn by
four oxen, crossed the Missouri near the site of old Fort Kearney, and
moving in a bee line over the prairie, early in November, encamped for the
winter just beyond the forks of the Platte.

A low cabin, built of cotton-wood, banked up with earth, and consisting of
a single room, which contained their furniture, farming utensils, and
stores, sufficed as a shelter against the severe winds which sweep over
those plains in the inclement season; their oxen, not requiring to be
housed, were allowed to roam at large and browse upon the sweet grass which
remains nourishing in that region throughout the winter.

At that period immense herds of bison roved through that section, and in a
few days after the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Hinman--for this was their
name--they had each shot, almost without stirring from their camp, three
fat buffalo cows, whose flesh was dried and added to their winter's store.
A supply of fresh meat was thus near at hand, and for five weeks they fared
sumptuously on buffalo soup and ribs, tender-loin and marrow bones, roasted
with succulent tidbits from the hump, and tongue, which, with boiled Indian
meal, formed the staple of their repasts.

Both Mr. Hinman and his wife were scions of that hardy stock which had,
even before the Revolutionary War, set out from Connecticut, and, cutting
their way through the forest, had crossed the Alleghany Mountains and
river, and pitched their camp in the rich valley of the Muskingum, near the
site of the present city of Marietta. Both had also grown up amid the
surroundings of true frontier life, and were endowed with faculties, as
well as fitted by experience, to engage in the bold enterprise wherein they
were now embarked, namely, to cross the Rocky Mountains with a single
ox-team and establish themselves in the fertile vale of the Willamette in
Oregon.

The spare but well-knit frame, the swarthy skin, the prominent features,
the deep-set eyes, the alert and yet composed manner; marked in them the
true type of the born borderer. To these physical traits were united the
qualities of mind and heart which are equally characteristic of the class
to which they belonged; an apparent insensibility to fear, a capacity for
endurance that exists in the moral nature rather than in the body, and a
self-reliance that never faltered, formed a combination which fitted them
to cope with the difficulties that environed their perilous project.

As early in the spring of 1845 as the ground would permit, they re-packed
their goods and stores, hung out the white sails of their prairie schooner
and pursued their journey up the north fork of the Platte, crossed the Red
Buttes, went through Devil's Gate, skirted the banks of the Sweet Water
River, and winding through the great South Pass, diverted their course to
the north in the direction of the head-waters of Snake River, which would
guide them by its current to the Columbia.

At this stage in their journey they consulted a rough map of the route on
which two trails were laid down, either of which would lead to the stream
they were seeking. With characteristic boldness they chose the shorter and
more difficult trail.

Following its tortuous course in a northwesterly direction they reached a
point where the path was barely wide enough for the wagon to pass, and was
bounded on the one side by a wall of rock and on the other by a ragged
precipice descending hundreds of feet into a dark ravine.

Here Mrs. Hinman dismounted from her seat in the wagon to assist in
conducting the team past this dangerous point. Her husband stood between
the oxen and the precipice when the hind wheel of the wagon slipped on a
smooth stone, the vehicle tilted and being top-heavy upset and was
precipitated into the abyss, dragging with it the oxen who, in their fall,
carried down Mr. Hinman who stood beside the wheel yoke.

He gave a loud cry as he fell, and gazing horror-stricken over the brink
Mrs. Hinman saw him bounding from rock to rock preceded by the wagon and
oxen which rolled over and over till they disappeared from view.

In the awful stillness of that solitude the beating of her heart became
audible as she rapidly reviewed her terrible situation, and taxed her mind
to know what she should do. Summoning up all her resolution she ran swiftly
along the edge of the precipice in search of a place where she could
descend, in the hope that by some rare good fortune her husband might have
survived his fall. Half a mile back of the spot where the accident occurred
she found a more gradual descent into the ravine, and here, by swinging
herself from bush to bush she managed at length with the utmost difficulty
and danger to reach the bottom of the ravine, but could find there no trace
either of her husband or of the ox-team.

Scanning the face of the precipice she saw, at last, one hundred feet above
her the wreck of the wagon, and the bodies of the oxen, which had landed
upon a projecting ledge.

At great risk of being dashed to pieces, she succeeded in climbing to the
spot. The patient beasts which had carried them so far upon their way were
crushed to a jelly; among the remains of the wagon scarcely a vestige
appeared of the furniture, utensils, and stores with which it was laden.
She marked the track it had made in its descent, and digging her fingers
and toes into the crevices of the rock, and drawing herself from point to
point in a zigzag course, by means of bushes and projecting stones, she
slowly scaled the declivity and reached a narrow ledge some three hundred
feet from the ravine, where she paused to take breath.

A low moan directed her eyes to a clump of bushes some fifty feet above
her, and there she caught sight of a limp arm hanging among the stunted
foliage. Climbing to the spot she found her husband breathing but
unconscious. He was shockingly bruised, and although no bones had been
broken, the purple current trickling slowly from his mouth showed that some
internal organ had been injured. While there is life there is hope. If he
could be placed in a comfortable position he might still revive and live.
Feeling in his breast pocket she found a leather flask filled with whisky
with which she bathed his face after pouring a large draught down his
throat. In a few moments he revived sufficiently to comprehend his
situation.

"Don't leave me, Jane," whispered the suffering man, "I shan't keep you
long." It was unnecessary to prefer such a request to a woman who had gone
through such perils to save one whom, she loved dearer than life. "I'll
bring you out safe and sound, Jack," returned she, "or die right here with
you."

While racking her brain for means to remove him fifty feet lower to the
ledge from which she had first spied him, a welcome sight met her eye. It
was the axe and the coil of rope which had fallen from the wagon during its
descent, and now lay within easy reach. Passing the rope several times
around his body so as to form a sling she cut a stout bush, and trimming
it, made a stake which she firmly fastened into a crevice, and with, an
exertion of strength, such as her loving and resolute heart could have
alone inspired her to put forth, she extricated him from his position, and
laying the ends of the rope over the stake gently lowered him to the ledge,
and gathering moss made a pillow for his bleeding head. Then descending to
the spot where the carcasses of the oxen lay she quickly flayed one, and
cutting off a large piece of flesh she ransacked the wreck of the wagon and
found a blanket and a pot. Returning to her husband she kindled a fire, and
made broth with some water which she found in the hollow of a rock.

Gathering moss and lichens she made a comfortable couch upon the rock, and
gently stretched her groaning patient upon it, covering him with the
blanket for the mountain air was chill even in that August afternoon. The
wounded man's breathing grew more regular, the bloody ooze no longer flowed
from his white lips, but his frame was still racked by agonizing pains.

The hours sped away as the devoted wife bent over him; the height of the
mountains in that region materially shortens the day to such as are in the
valleys, but though the sun sets early behind the western summits twilight
lingers long after his departure. When the orb of day had disappeared, Mrs.
H. still viewed with wonder, not unmixed with fear, the savage grandeur of
the mountains which lifted their heads still glittering in the passing
light; and gazing into the profound below she watched the shades as they
deepened to blackness.

The ledge on which the forlorn pair lay was barely four feet wide and less
than ten feet long. There, on the face of that precipice, one hundred miles
from the nearest settlement, all through the lonely watches of the night,
the strong-hearted wife, with tear-dimmed eyes, hung over the sufferer.
Many a silent prayer in the weary hours of that moonless night did she send
up to the Father of mercies. Many a plan for bringing succor or for
alleviating pain on the morrow did she devise.

Will-power is the most potent factor in giving a satisfactory solution of
the problem of vitality. Just as the gray light was shimmering in the
eastern sky the wounded man moaned as if he wished to speak. His wife
understood that language of pain and weakness, and placed her ear to his
lips. "I _won't die_, Jane," he said scarcely above a whisper. "You
shan't die, Jack," was the reply. A great hope dawned like a sun upon her
as those four magic syllables were uttered.

He fell into a doze, and when he woke the sun was up. "Can you stay here
all alone for a few hours," inquired Mrs. H------, after feeding her
patient, "I am going to see if I can fetch some one to help us out of
this." "Go," he answered. Placing the flask and broth within reach of her
husband, and kissing him, she sprang up the acclivity as though she had
wings, reached the trail and sped along it southward. Fifteen miles would
bring her to the spot where the two trails met: here she hoped to meet some
wayfaring train of emigrants, or some party of hunters coursing through the
defiles of the mountains.

Sooner than she expected, after reaching the fork, her wish was gratified.
In less than half an hour six hunters came up with her, and, hearing her
story, three of them volunteered to go and bring her husband to their
cabin, which stood half a mile away from the trail. A horse was furnished
to Mrs. H------, and the three hunters and she rode rapidly to the scene of
the disaster.

Skipping down the declivity like _chamois_, and helping their brave
companion, who was now quite fatigued with her exertion, they reached the
rocky shelf. The mountain air and the delicious consciousness that he would
live, coupled with implicit confidence in the success of his wife's errand,
had acted like a charm on the vigorous organization of the wounded man, and
he begged that he might be immediately removed.

He was accordingly carried carefully to the trail, and placed astride of
one of the horses in front of one of the hunters. After a slow march of
four hours, he was safely stowed in the cabin of the hunters, where, in a
few weeks, he entirely recovered from his injuries.

It might be readily supposed after such a grave experience of the dangers
of mountain life, that our heroine and her husband would have been inclined
to return to their old home on the sunny prairies of Illinois. On the
contrary, they strongly desired to continue the prosecution of their Oregon
enterprise, and were only prevented from carrying it out by the lack of a
team and the necessary utensils, etc.

The hunters, learning their wishes, returned to the scene of the mishap,
and scoured the side of the mountain in search of the articles which had
been thrown from the wagon in its descent. They succeeded in recovering
uninjured a large number of articles, including a few which still remained
in the wrecked vehicle. Then clubbing together, they made up a purse and
bought two pair of oxen and a wagon from a passing train of emigrants, who
also generously contributed articles for the use and comfort of the
resolute but unfortunate pair. Such deeds of charity are habitual with the
men and women of the frontier, and the farther west one goes the more
spontaneously and warmly does the heart bound to relieve the sufferings and
supply the wants of the unfortunate, particularly of those who have been
injured or reduced while battling with the hardships and dangers incident
to a wild country. The more rugged the region on our western border, the
more boundless becomes the sympathetic faculty of its inhabitants. Nowhere
is a large and unselfish charity more lavishly exercised than among the
Rocky Mountain men and women. Free as the breezes that sweep those towering
summits, warm as the sun of midsummer, bright as the icy peaks which lift
themselves into the sky, the spirit of loving kindness for the unfortunate
animates the bosoms of the sons and daughters of that mountain land.

After wintering with their hospitable friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hinman pursued
their journey the following spring, and, after a toilsome march, attended
by no further startling incidents, reached their destination in Oregon.

There in their new home, which Mrs. H------, by her industry and
watchfulness, contributed so largely to make, they found ample scope for
the exercise of those qualities which they had proved themselves to
possess. It is men and women like these whom we must thank for building up
our empire on that far off coast.

The old hunters and gold-seekers in that region are the faithful
depositaries of the mountain legends respecting the adventures of the early
emigrants, and the observers and annotators, as it were, of the passages
made by the pioneers in later times. Around their camp fires at night, when
their repast is made and their pipes lighted, they beguile the lonely hours
with tales of dreadful suffering, or of hairbreadth escapes from danger, or
of heroism displayed by mountain wayfarers. This, as we have elsewhere
remarked, is the hunters' pastime.

While a hunting party were once threading the defiles of the mountain, they
espied below them in the valley certain suspicious signs. Approaching the
spot, they discovered that a train of emigrants had been attacked by the
savages, their wagons robbed, their oxen killed, a number of the party
massacred and scalped, and the rest dispersed.

One of the hunters proceeds with the story from this point.

"Thirsting for a speedy revenge, the men at once divided. With Augur-eye as
guide, I took command of the detachment who had to search the river bank;
the old Sergeant commanded the scouting party told off to cross the ford
and scour the timber on the right side of the river; whilst the third band
was appropriated to the Doctor. The weather was cold, and the sky, thickly
covered with fleecy clouds, foreboded a heavy fall of snow. The wind blew
in fitful gusts, and seemed to chill one's blood with its icy breath, as,
sweeping past, it went whistling and sighing up the glen. The rattle of the
horses' hoofs, as the receding parties galloped over the turf, grew fainter
and fainter, and when our little band halted on a sandy reach, about a mile
up the river, not a sound was audible, save the steady rhythm of the
panting horses and the noisy rattle of the stream, as, tumbling over the
craggy rocks, it rippled on its course. The 'Tracker' was again down; this
time creeping along upon the sand on his hands and knees, and deliberately
and carefully examining the marks left on its impressible surface, which,
to his practiced eye, were in reality letters, nay, even readable words and
sentences. As we watched this tardy progress in impatient silence,
suddenly, as if stung by some poisonous reptile, the Indian sprang upon his
legs, and, making eager signs for us to approach, pointing at the same time
eagerly to something a short distance beyond where he stood. A near
approach revealed a tiny hand and part of an arm pushed through the sand.

"At first we imagined the parent, whether male or female, had thus roughly
buried the child--a consolatory assumption which Augur-eye soon destroyed.
Scraping away the sand partially hiding the dead boy, he placed his finger
on a deep cleft in the skull, which told at once its own miserable tale.
This discovery clearly proved that the old guide was correct in his
readings, that the savages were following up the trail of the survivors. A
man who had escaped and just joined us, appeared so utterly terror-stricken
at this discovery, that it was with difficulty he could be supported on his
horse by the strong troopers who rode beside him. We tarried not for
additional signs, but pushed on with all possible haste. The trail was
rough, stony, and over a ledge of basaltic rocks, rendering progression not
only tedious but difficult and dangerous; a false step of the horse, and
the result might have proved fatal to the rider. The guide spurs on his
Indian mustang, that like a goat scrambles over the craggy track; for a
moment or two he disappears, being hidden by a jutting rock; we hear him
yell a sort of 'war-whoop,' awakening the echoes in the encircling hills;
reckless of falling, we too spur on, dash round the splintered point, and
slide rather than canter down a shelving bank, to reach a second
sand-beach, over which the guide is galloping and shouting. We can see the
fluttering garments of a girl, who is running with all her might towards
the pine trees; she disappears amongst the thick foliage of the underbrush
ere the guide can come up to her, but leaping from off his horse, he
follows her closely, and notes the spot wherein she has hidden herself
amidst a tangle of creeping vines and maple bushes. He awaited our coming,
and, motioning us to surround the place of concealment quickly, remained
still as a statue whilst we arranged our little detachment so as to
preclude any chance of an escape. Then gliding noiselessly as a reptile
through the bushes, he was soon hidden. It appeared a long time, although
not more than a few minutes had elapsed from our losing sight of him, until
a shrill cry told us something was discovered. Dashing into the midst of
the underbrush, a strange scene presented itself. The hardy troopers seemed
spell-bound, neither was I the less astonished.

"Huddled closely together, and partially covered with branches, crouched
two women and the little girl whose flight had led to this unlooked-for
discovery. In a state barely removed from that of nudity, the unhappy trio
strove to hide themselves from the many staring eyes which were fixed upon
them, not for the purpose of gratifying an indecent curiosity, but simply
because no one had for the moment realized the condition in which the
unfortunates were placed. Soon, however, the fact was evident to the
soldiers that the women were nearly unclad, and all honor to their rugged
goodness, they stripped off their thick topcoats, and throwing them to the
trembling females, turned every one away and receded into the bush. It was
enough that the faces of the men were white which had presented themselves
so unexpectedly. The destitute fugitives, assured that the savages had not
again discovered them, hastily wrapped themselves in the coats of the
soldiers, and, rushing out from their lair, knelt down, and clasping their
arms round my knees, poured out thanks to the Almighty for their
deliverance with a fervency and earnestness terrible to witness. I saw, on
looking round me, streaming drops trickling over the sunburnt faces of many
of the men, whose iron natures it was not easy to disturb under ordinary
circumstances.

"It was soon explained to the fugitives that they were safe, and as every
hour's delay was a dangerous waste of time, the rescued women and child
were as carefully clad in the garments of the men as circumstances
permitted, and placed on horses, with a hunter riding on either side to
support them. Thus reinforced, the cavalcade, headed by Augur-eye, moved
slowly back to the place where we had left the pack-train encamped, with
all the necessary supplies. I lingered behind to examine the place wherein
the women had concealed themselves. The boughs of the vine-maple, together
with other slender shrubs constituting the underbrush, had been rudely
woven together, forming, at best, but a very inefficient shelter from the
wind, which swept in freezing currents through the valley. Had it rained,
they must soon have been drenched, or if snow had fallen heavily, the
'wickey' house and its occupants soon would have been buried. How had they
existed? This was a question I was somewhat puzzled to answer.

"On looking round I observed a man's coat, pushed away under some branches,
and on the few smouldering embers by which the women had been sitting when
the child rushed in and told of our coming, was a small tin pot with a
cover on it, the only utensil visible. Whilst occupied in making the
discoveries I was sickened by a noisome stench, which proceeded from the
dead body of a man, carefully hidden by branches, grass, and moss, a short
distance from the little cage of twisted boughs. Gazing on the dead man a
suspicion too revolting to mention suddenly flashed upon me. Turning away
saddened and horror-stricken, I returned to the cage and removed the cover
from the saucepan, the contents of which confirmed my worst fears. Hastily
quitting the fearful scene, the like of which I trust never to witness
again, I mounted my horse and galloped after the party, by this time some
distance ahead.

"Two men and the guide were desired to find the spot where the scouting
parties were to meet each other, and to bring them with all speed to the
mule camp. It was nearly dark when we reached our destination, the sky
looked black and lowering, the wind appeared to be increasing in force, and
small particles of half-frozen rain drove smartly against our faces,
telling in pretty plain language of the coming snowfall. Warm tea, a good
substantial meal, and suitable clothes, which had been sent in case of need
by the officers' wives stationed at the 'Post,' worked wonders in the way
of restoring bodily weakness; but the shock to the mental system time alone
could alleviate. I cannot say I slept much during the night. Anxiety lest
we might be snowed in, and a fate almost as terrible as that from which we
had rescued the poor women, should be the lot of all, sat upon me like a
nightmare. More than this, the secret I had discovered seemed to pall every
sense and sicken me to the heart, and throughout the silent hours of the
dismal darkness I passed in review the ghostly pageant of the fight and all
its horrors, the escape of the unhappy survivors, the finding of the
murdered boy and starving women, and more than all--the secret I had rather
even now draw a veil over, and leave to the imagination."

A fugitive woman in the wilds of the Rocky Mountains is indeed an object of
pity; but when she boldly faces the dangers that surround her in such a
position, and succeeds by her courage, endurance, and ingenuity in holding
her own, and finally extricating herself from the perils by which she is
environed, she may fairly challenge our admiration. Such a woman was Miss
Janette Riker, who proved how strong is the spirit of self-reliance which
animates the daughters of the border under circumstances calculated to
daunt and depress the stoutest heart.

The Riker family, consisting of Mr. Riker, his two sons, and his daughter
Janette, passed through the Dacotah country in 1849, and late in September
had penetrated to the heart of the mountains in the territory now known as
Montana. Before pursuing their journey from this point to their destination
in Oregon, they encamped for three days in a well-grassed valley for the
purpose of resting their cattle, and adding to their stock of provisions a
few buffalo-humps and tongues.

On the second day after their arrival at this spot, the father and his two
sons set out on their buffalo hunt with the expectation of returning before
nightfall. But the sun set and darkness came without bringing them back to
the lonely girl, who in sleepless anxiety awaited their return all night
seated beneath the white top of the Conestoga wagon. At early dawn she
started on their trail, which she followed for several miles to a deep
gorge where she lost all trace of the wanderers, and was after a long and
unavailing search compelled in the utmost grief and distraction of mind, to
return to the camp.

For a week she spent her whole time in seeking to find some trace of her
missing kinsmen, but without success. As the lonely maiden gazed at the
mighty walls which frowned upon her and barred her egress east and west
from her prison-house, hope died away in her heart, and she prayed for
speedy death. This mood was but momentary; the love of life soon asserted
its power, and she cast about her for some means whereby she could either
extricate herself from her perilous situation, or at least prolong her
existence.

To attempt to find her way over the mountains seemed to her impossible. Her
only course was to provide a shelter against the winter, and stay where she
was until discovered by some passing hunters, or by Indians, whom she
feared less than an existence spent in such a solitude and surrounded by so
many dangers.

Axes and spades among the farming implements in the wagon supplied her with
the necessary tools, and by dint of assiduous labor, to which her frame had
long been accustomed, she contrived to build, in a few weeks, a rude hut of
poles and small logs. Stuffing the interstices with dried grass, and
banking up the earth around it, she threw over it the wagon-top, which she
fastened firmly to stakes driven in the ground, and thus provided a shelter
tolerably rain-tight and weather-proof.

Thither she conveyed the stoves and other contents of the wagon. The oxen,
straying through the valley, fattened themselves on the sweet grass until
the snow fell; she then slaughtered and flayed the fattest one, and cutting
up the carcase, packed it away for winter's use. Dry logs and limbs of
trees, brought together and chopped up with infinite labor, sufficed to
keep her in fuel. Although for nearly three months she was almost
completely buried in the snow, she managed to keep alive and reasonably
comfortable by making an orifice for the smoke to escape, and digging out
fuel from the drift which covered her wood-pile. Her situation was truly
forlorn, but still preferable to the risk of being devoured by wolves or
mountain lions, which, attracted by the smell of the slaughtered ox, had
begun to prowl around her shelter before the great snow fall, but were now
unable to reach her beneath the snowy bulwarks. She suffered more, however,
from the effect of the spring thaw which flooded her hut with water and
forced her to shift her quarters to the wagon, which she covered with the
cotton top, after removing thither her blankets and provisions. The valley
was overflowed by the melting of the snows, and for two weeks she was
unable to build a fire, subsisting on uncooked Indian meal and raw beef,
which she had salted early in the winter.

Late in April, she was found in the last stages of exhaustion, by a party
of Indians, who kindly relieved her wants and carried her across the
mountains with her household goods, and left her at the Walla Walla
station. This act on the part of the savages, who were a wild and hostile
tribe, was due to their admiration for the hardihood of the "young white
squaw," who had maintained herself through the rigors of the winter and
early spring in that awful solitude--a feat which, they said, none of their
own squaws would have dared perform. The fate of her father and brothers
was never ascertained, though it was conjectured that they had either lost
their way or had fallen from a precipice.

Miss Riker afterwards married, and, as a pioneer wife, found a sphere of
usefulness for which her high qualities of character admirably fitted her.

Among the most authentic histories of these bands of early pioneers which
undertook to make the passage of this region thirty years since, when it
involved such difficulties and dangers, is the following:

In the year 1846, soon after the commencement of the Mexican War, a party
of emigrants undertook to cross the Continent, with the intention of
settling on the Pacific coast. The party consisted of J. F. Reed, wife, and
four children; Jacob Donner, wife, and seven children; William Pike, wife,
and two children; William Foster, wife, and one child; Lewis Kiesburg;
wife, and one child; Mrs. Murphy, a widow woman, and five children; William
McCutcheon, wife, and one child; W. H. Eddy, wife, and two children;
W. Graves, wife, and eight children; Jay Fosdicks, and his wife; John
Denton, Noah James, Patrick Dolan, Samuel Shoemaker, C. F. Stanton, Milton
Elliot, ------ Smith, Joseph Rianhard, Augustus Spized, John Baptiste,
------ Antoine, ------ Herring, ------ Hallerin, Charles Burger, and Baylie
Williams, making a total of sixty-five souls, of whom ten were women, and
thirty-one were children.

Having supplied themselves with wagons, horses, cattle, provisions, arms,
ammunition, and other articles requisite for their enterprise, they set out
on their journey from the Mississippi, and, after a toilsome march of many
weeks across the prairies, they reached, late in the summer of that year,
the foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains. Resting for a few days in a grassy
valley, and, gazing with wistful eyes on the mighty peaks which towered
beyond them, they girded up their loins for the novel toils and perils they
were soon to encounter, and pushed on, expecting to follow the great
military route which would conduct them, before the winter snows, to the
sunny slopes which are fanned by the breezes of the peaceful ocean.

They reached the Sweet-Water River, on the eastern side of the mountains,
late in August. While in camp there, they were induced, by the
representations of one Lansford W. Hastings, to take a new route to the
Pacific coast. Relying on the truth of these statements, and full of hope
that they would thus shorten their journey, they left the beaten track and
started onward through an unknown region. Long before they had reached the
valley of the Great Salt Lake, they began to encounter the greatest
difficulties. At one time they found themselves in a dense forest, and,
seeing no outlet or passage, were forced to cut their way through, making
only forty miles progress in thirty days.

In September, they were passing through the Utah Valley, since occupied by
the Mormons. Here death invaded their ranks, and removed Mr. Hallerin. This
and an accident to one of the wagons, detained them two days.

Pursuing their march, they were next forced to travel across a desert tract
without grass or water, and lost many cattle.

At this point of the journey, the gloomiest forebodings seized the stoutest
heart. They were in a rugged and desolate region, far from all hope of
succor, surrounded by hostile Indians, their cattle dying, and their stock
of provisions lessening rapidly, with the sad conviction hourly forcing
itself upon their minds, that they had been betrayed by one of their own
countrymen.

Some of the families had already been completely ruined by the loss of
their cattle and by being forced to abandon their goods and property. They
were in complete darkness as to the character of the road before them. To
retreat across the desert to Bridger, was impossible. There was no way left
to them but to advance; and this they now regarded as perilous in the
extreme. The cattle that survived were exhausted and broken down; but to
remain there was to die. Some of the men, broken by their toils and
sufferings, lay down and declared they might as well die there as further
on; others cursed the deception of which they had been the victims; others
uttered silent prayers, and then sought to raise the drooping spirits of
their comrades, and encourage them to press forward. Of these last were the
females of the party--wives, who never faltered in these hours of trial,
but sustained their husbands in their dark moods; and mothers, who fought
the dreadful battle, thinking more of their children than of themselves.

Once more the party resumed their journey, but only to meet fresh
disasters.

"Thirty-six head of working cattle were lost, and the oxen that survived
were greatly injured. One of Mr. Reed's wagons was brought to camp; and
two, with all they contained, were buried in the plain. George Donner lost
one wagon. Kiesburg also lost a wagon. The atmosphere was so dry upon the
plain, that the wood-work of all the wagons shrank to a degree that made it
next to impossible to get any of them through.

"Having yoked some loose cows, as a team for Mr. Reed, they broke up their
camp, on the morning of September 16th, and resumed their toilsome journey,
with feelings which can be appreciated by those only who have traveled the
road under somewhat similar circumstances. On this day they traveled six
miles, encountering a very severe snow storm. About three o'clock in the
afternoon, they met Milton Elliot and William Graves, returning from a
fruitless effort to find some cattle that had strayed away. They informed
them that they were in the immediate vicinity of a spring."

This spring they succeeded in reaching, and there they encamped for the
night. At the early dawn, on September 17th, they resumed their journey,
and, at four o'clock A. M. of the 18th, they arrived at water and grass,
some of their cattle having meanwhile perished, and the teams which
survived being in a very enfeebled condition. Here the most of the little
property which Mr. Reed still had was burned, or _cached_, together
with that of others. Mr. Eddy now proposed putting his team on Mr. Reed's
wagon, and letting Mr. Pike have his wagon so that the three families could
be taken on. This was done. They remained in camp during the day of the
18th, to complete these arrangements, and to recruit their exhausted
cattle.

The journey was continued, with scarcely any interruption or accident,
until the first of October, when some Indians stole a yoke of oxen from Mr.
Graves. Other thefts followed, and it became evident that the party would
suffer severely from the hostility of the Indians.

A large number of cattle were stolen or shot by the merciless marauders.
The women were kept in a perpetual state of alarm by the proximity of the
savages. Maternal love and anxiety for those thirty-one innocent children
now exposed to captivity and death at the hands of the prowling redskins,
made the lives of those unfortunate matrons one long, sad vigil. They could
meet death locked in the fastnesses of the mountains, or in the desolate
plain; they could even lay the remains of those dear to them, far from
home, in the darkest cañon of those terrible mountains, but the thought of
seeing their children torn from their embrace and borne into a barbarous
captivity, was too much for their woman's natures. The camp was the scene
of tears and mourning from an apprehension more dreadful even than real
sufferings.

The fear of starvation, also, at this stage in their journey, began to be
felt. An account was taken of their stock of provisions, and it was found
that they would last only a few weeks longer, and that only by putting the
party on allowances.

Here, again, the self-sacrificing spirit that woman always shows in hours
of trial, shone out with surpassing brightness. Often did those devoted
wives and mothers take from their own scanty portion to satisfy the
cravings of their husbands and children.

For some weeks after the 19th of October, 1846, the forlorn band moved
slowly on their course through those terrible mountains. Sometimes climbing
steeps which the foot of white man had never before scaled, sometimes
descending yawning cañons, where a single misstep would have plunged them
into the abyss hundreds of feet below. The winter fairly commenced in
October. The snow was piled up by the winds into drifts in some places
forty feet deep, through which they had to burrow or dig their way. A
sudden rise in the temperature converted the snow into slush, and forced
them to wade waist deep through it, or lie drenched to the skin in their
wretched camp.

One by one their cattle had given out, and their only supply of meat was
from the chance game which crossed their track. At last their entire stock
of provisions was exhausted, and they stood face to face with the grim
specter of starvation. They had now encamped in the mountains, burrowing in
the deep snow, or building rude cabins, which poorly sufficed to ward off
the biting blast, and every day their condition was growing more pitiable.

On the 4th of January, 1847, Mr. Eddy, seeing that all would soon perish
unless food were quickly obtained, resolved to take his gun and press
forward alone. He informed the party of his purpose. They besought him not
to leave them. But some of the women, recognizing the necessity of his
expedition, and excited by the feeble wails of their perishing children,
bade him God-speed. One of them, Mary Graves, who had shown an iron nerve
and endurance all through their awful march, insisted that she would
accompany him or perish. The two accordingly set forward. Mr. Eddy soon
afterwards had the good fortune to shoot a deer, and the couple made a
hearty meal on the entrails of the animal.

The next day several of the party came up with them, and feasted on the
carcass of the deer. Their number during the preceding night had again been
lessened by the death of Jay Fosdicks. The survivors, somewhat refreshed,
returned to their camp on the following day.

The Indians Lewis and Salvadore, being threatened with death by the
famished emigrants, had some days before stolen away. After the deer had
been consumed, and while Mr. Eddy's party were returning to camp, they fell
upon the tracks of these fugitives; Foster, who was at times insane through
his sufferings, followed the trail and overtook and killed them both. He
cut the flesh from their bones and dried it for future use. Mr. Eddy and a
few of the party, in their wanderings, at length reached an Indian village,
where their immediate sufferings were relieved.

The government of California being informed of the imminent peril of the
emigrants in the mountain camp, took measures to send out relief, and a
number of inhabitants contributed articles of clothing and provisions. Two
expeditions, however, failed to cross the mountains in consequence of the
depth of the snow. At length, a party of seven men, headed by Aquilla
Glover, and accompanied by Mr. Eddy, who, though weak, insisted on
returning to ascertain the fate of his beloved wife and children, succeeded
in crossing the mountains and reaching the camp.

The last rays of the setting sun were fading from the mountain-tops as the
succoring party arrived at the camp of the wanderers. All was silent as the
grave. The wasted forms of some of the wretched sufferers were reposing on
beds of snow outside the miserable shelters which they had heaped up to
protect them from the bitter nights. When they heard the shouts of the new
comers, they feebly rose to a sitting posture and glared wildly at them.
Women with faces that looked like death's heads were clasping to their
hollow bosoms children which had wasted to skeletons.

Slowly the perception of the purpose for which their visitors had come,
dawned upon their weakened intellects; they smiled, they gibbered, they
stretched out their bony arms and hurrahed in hollow tones. Some began to
stamp and rave, invoking the bitterest curses upon the mountains, the snow,
and on the name of Lansford W. Hastings; others wept and bewailed their sad
fate; the women alone showed firmness and self-possession; they fell down
and prayed, thanking God for delivering them from a terrible fate, and
imploring His blessing upon those who had come to their relief.

Upon going down into the cabins of this mountain camp, the party were
presented with sights of woe and scenes of horror, the full tale of which
never will and never should be told; sights which, although the emigrants
had not yet commenced eating the dead, were so revolting that they were
compelled to withdraw and make a fire where they would not be under the
necessity of looking upon the painful spectacle.

Fourteen, nearly all men, had actually perished of hunger and cold. The
remnant were in a condition beyond the power of language to describe, or
even of the imagination to conceive. A spectacle more appalling was never
presented in the annals of human suffering. For weeks many of the sufferers
had been living on bullocks' hides, and even more loathsome food, and some,
in the agonies of hunger, were about to dig up the bodies of their dead
companions for the purpose of prolonging their own wretched existence.

The females showed that fertility of resource for which woman is so
remarkable in trying crises. Mrs. Reed, who lived in Brinn's snow-cabin,
had, during a considerable length of time, supported herself and four
children by cracking and boiling again the bones from which Brinn's family
had carefully scraped all the meat. These bones she had often taken and
boiled again and again for the purpose of extracting the least remaining
portion of nutriment. Mrs. Eddy and all but one of her children had
perished.

The condition of the unfortunates drew tears from the eyes of their
preservers. Their outward appearance was less painful and revolting, even,
than the change which had taken place in their minds and moral natures.

Many of them had in a great measure lost all self-respect. Untold
sufferings had broken their spirits and prostrated everything like an
honorable and commendable pride. Misfortune had dried up the fountains of
the heart; and the dead, whom their weakness had made it impossible to
carry out, were dragged from their cabins by means of ropes, with an apathy
that afforded a faint indication of the change which a few weeks of dire
suffering had produced in hearts that once sympathized with the distressed
and mourned the departed. With many of them, all principle, too, had been
swept away by this tremendous torrent of accumulated, and accumulating
calamities. It became necessary to place a guard over the little store of
provisions brought to their relief; and they stole and devoured the rawhide
strings from the snow-shoes of those who had come to deliver them. But some
there were whom no temptation could seduce, no suffering move; who were

  'Among the faithless faithful still.'

The brightest examples of these faithful few were to be found among the
devoted women of that doomed band. In the midst of those terrible scenes
when they seemed abandoned by God and man, the highest traits of the female
character were constantly displayed. The true-hearted, affectionate wife,
the loving, tender mother, the angel of mercy to her distressed
comrades--in all these relations her woman's heart never failed her.

On the morning of February 20th John Rhodes, Daniel Tucker, and R. S.
Mootrey, three of the party, went to the camp of George Donner, eight miles
distant, taking with them a little beef. These sufferers were found with
but one hide remaining. They had determined that, upon consuming this, they
would dig up from the snow the bodies of those who had died from
starvation. Mr. Donner was helpless. Mrs. Donner was weak, but in good
health, and might have come into the settlements with Mr. Glover's party,
yet she solemnly but calmly declared her determination to remain with her
husband, and perform for him the last sad offices of affection and
humanity. And this she did in full view of the fact that she must
necessarily perish by remaining behind.

The rescuing party, after consultation, decided that their best course
would be to carry the women and children across the mountains, and then
return for the remnant of the sufferers. Accordingly, leaving in the
mountain-camp all the provisions that they could spare, they commenced
their return to the settlement with twenty-three persons, principally women
and children, from whom, with a kind thoughtfulness, they concealed the
horrible story of the journey of Messrs. Eddy and Foster.

A child of Mrs. Pike, and one of Mrs. Kiesburg, were carried in the arms of
two of the party. Hardly had they marched two miles through the snow, when
two of Mrs. Reed's children became exhausted--one of them a girl of eight,
the other a little boy of four.

There were but two alternatives: either to return with them to the
mountain-camp, or abandon them to death. When the mother was informed that
it would be necessary to take them back, a scene of the most thrilling and
painful interest ensued. She was a wife, and her affection for her husband,
who was then in the settlement, dictated that she should go on; but she was
also a mother, and all-powerful maternal love asserted its sway, and she
determined to send forward the two children who could walk, and return
herself with the two youngest, and die with them.

No argument or persuasion on the part of Mr. Glover could shake her
resolution. At last, in response to his solemn promises that, after
reaching Bear River, he would return to the mountain-camp and bring back
her children, after standing in silence for some moments, she turned from
her darling babes and asked Mr. Eddy, "Are you a mason?" A reply being
given in the affirmative, she said, "will you promise me, upon the word of
a mason, that when you arrive at Bear River Valley, you will return and
bring back my children if we do not meantime meet their father going for
them?" "I do thus promise," Mr. Glover replied. "Then I will go on," said
the mother, weeping bitterly as she pronounced the words. Patty, the little
girl, then took her mother by the hand and said, "Well, mamma, kiss me
good-bye! I shall never see you again. I am willing to go back to our
mountain-camp and die, but I cannot consent to your going back. I shall die
willingly if I can believe that you will see papa. Tell him good-bye for
his poor little Patty."

The mother and the children lingered in a long embrace. As Patty turned
from her mother to go back to the camp, she whispered to Mr. Glover and Mr.
Mootrey, who were to take her, that she was willing to go back and take
care of her little brother, but that she should never see her mother again.

Before reaching the settlement Mrs. Reed met her husband, who had been
driven, for some cause, from the party several weeks before, and had
succeeded in crossing the mountains in safety.

Messrs. Reed and McCutchen next headed a relief party, and crossed the
mountains with supplies for the remainder of the emigrants. The Reed
children were alive, but terribly wasted from their dreadful sufferings.

Hunger had driven the emigrants to revolting extremities. In some of the
cabins were found parts of human bodies trussed and spitted for roasting,
and traces of these horrid feasts were seen about the space in front of the
doors where offal was thrown.

The persons taken under Mr. Reed's guidance on the return, were Patrick
Brinn, wife and five children; Mrs. Graves, and four children; Mary and
Isaac Donnor, children of Jacob Donner; Solomon Work, a stepson of Jacob
Donner, and two of his children. They reached the foot of the mountain
without much difficulty; but they ascertained that their provisions would
not last them more than a day and a half. Mr. Reed then sent three men
forward with instructions to get supplies at a _cache_ about fifteen
miles from the camp. The party resumed its journey, crossed the Sierra
Nevada, and after traveling about ten miles, encamped on a bleak point, on
the north side of a little valley, near the head of the Yuba River. A storm
set in, and continued for two days and three nights. On the morning of the
third day, the clouds broke away and the weather became more intensely cold
than it had been during the journey. The sufferings of the emigrants in
their bleak camp were too dreadful to be described. There was the greatest
difficulty in keeping up the fire, and during the night the women and
children, who had on very thin clothing, were in great danger of freezing
to death; when the storm passed away, the whole party were very weak,
having passed two days without food. Leaving Patrick Brinn and his family
and the rest of the party who were disabled, Mr. Reed, and his California
friends, his two children, Solomon Hook and a Mr. Miller, pressed forward
for supplies, and in five days they succeeded in reaching the settlement.

It was some weeks before a new relief party organized by Messrs. Eddy and
Foster were successful in reaching the party which Reed had left. A
shocking spectacle was presented to the eyes of the adventurers at the
"Starved Camp" as they rightly named it. Patrick Brinn and his wife were
sunning themselves with a look of vacuity upon their faces. They had eaten
the two children of Jacob Donner: Mrs. Graves' body was lying near them
with almost all the flesh cut from the arms and limbs. Her breasts, heart,
and liver were then being boiled over the fire. Her child sat by the side
of the mangled remains crying bitterly.

After being supplied with food they were left in charge of three men who
undertook to conduct them to the settlement. Meanwhile Messrs. Eddy and
Foster went on to the horrible mountain-camp only to be shocked and
revolted by new scenes of horror. Strewed about the cabins and burrows, in
the snow, were the fragments of human bodies from which the flesh had been
stripped; among the _débris_ of the hideous feasts sat the emaciated
survivors looking more like cannibal-demons than human beings. Kiesburg had
dug up the corpse of one of Mr. Eddy's children and devoured it, even when
other food could be obtained, and the enfuriated father could with
difficulty be restrained from killing the monster on the spot. Of the five
surviving children at the mountain-camp, three were those of Mr. and Mrs.
Jacob Donner. When the time came for the party of unfortunates to start for
the settlement under the guidance of their generous protectors, Mr.
Donner's condition was so feeble that he was unable to accompany them, and
though Mrs. Donner was capable of traveling, she utterly refused to leave
her husband while he survived. In response to the solicitations of those
who urged that her husband could live but a little longer, and that her
presence would not add one moment to the remaining span of his life, she
expressed her solemn and unalterable purpose which no hardship or danger
could change, to remain and perform for him the last sad offices of duty
and affection. At the same time she manifested the profoundest solicitude
for her beloved children, and implored Mr. Eddy to save them, promising all
that she possessed if he would convey them in safety to the settlement. He
pledged himself to carry out her wishes without recompense, or perish in
the attempt.

No provisions remained to supply the needs of these unhappy beings. At the
end of two hours Mr. Eddy informed Mrs. Donner that a terrible necessity
constrained him to depart. It was certain that Jacob Donner would never
rise from the wretched couch on which he lay, worn out with toil and wasted
by famine. It was almost equally certain that unless Mrs. Donner then
abandoned her unfortunate partner and accompanied Mr. Eddy and his party to
the settlement, she would die of wasting famine or perish violently at the
hands of some lurking cannibal. By accompanying her children she could
minister to their wants and perhaps be the means of saving their lives. The
all-powerful maternal instinct combined with the love of life, urged her to
fly with her children from the scene of so many horrors and dangers. Well
might her reason have questioned her, "Why stay and meet inevitable death
since you cannot save your husband from the grave which yawns to receive
him? and when your presence, your converse and hands can only beguile the
few remaining hours of his existence?" Time passed. By no entreaties could
she enlarge the hour of departure which had now arrived. Nor did she seek
to and thus endanger the lives of those who were hastening to depart. She
must decide the dread question that moment.

Rarely in the long suffering record of woman, has she been placed in
circumstances of such peculiar trial, but the love of life, the instinct of
self-preservation, and even maternal affection, could not triumph over her
affection as a wife. Her husband begged her to save her life and leave him
to die alone, assuring her that she could be of no service to him, as he
could not probably survive under any circumstances until the next morning;
with streaming eyes she bent over him, kissed his pale, emaciated, haggard,
and even then, death-stricken cheek, and said:

"No! no! dear husband, I will remain with you, and here perish rather than
leave you to die alone, with no one to soothe your dying sorrows, and close
your eyes when dead. Entreat me not to leave you. Life, accompanied with
the reflection that I had thus left you, would possess for me more than the
bitterness of death; and death would be sweet with the thought in my last
moments, that I had assuaged one pang of yours in your passage into
eternity No! no! no!" She repeated, sobbing convulsively.

The parting interview between the parents and the children is represented
to have been one that can never be forgotten as long as reason remains or
the memory performs its functions. In the dying father the fountain of
tears was dried up; but the agony on his death-stricken face and the feeble
pressure of his hand on the brow of each little one as it bade him adieu
for ever, told the story of his last great sorrow. As Mrs. Donner clasped
her children to her heart in a parting embrace, she turned to Mr. Eddy with
streaming eyes and sobbed her last words, "O, save, save, my children!"

This closing scene in the sad and eventful careers of those unfortunate
emigrants was the crowning act in a long and terrible drama which
illustrated, under many conditions of toil, hardship, danger, despair, and
death, the courage, fortitude, patience, love, and devotion of woman.




CHAPTER XX.

THE COMFORTER AND THE GUARDIAN.


Mind-power and heart-power--these are the forces that move the moral
universe. Which is the stronger, who shall say? If the former is within the
province of the man, the latter is still more exclusively the prerogative
of woman. With this she wins and rules her empire, with this she celebrates
her noblest triumphs, and proves herself to be the God-delegated consoler
and comforter of mankind. This is the power which moves the will to deeds
of charity and mercy, which awakens the latent sympathies for suffering
humanity, which establishes the law of kindness, soothes the irritated and
perturbed spirit, and pours contentment and happiness into the soul.

If we could collect and concentrate into one great pulsating organ all the
noble individual emotions that have stirred a million human hearts, what a
prodigious agency would that be to act for good upon the world! And yet we
may see something of the operation of just such an agency if we search the
record of our time, watch the inner movements which control society and
reflect that nearly every home contains a fractional portion of this
beneficent agency, each fraction working in its way, and according to its
measure, in harmony with all the others towards the same end.

Warm and fruitful as the sunshine, and subtle, too, as the ether which
illumines the solar walk, we can gauge the strength of this agency only by
its results. Nor can we by the symbols of language fully compass and
describe even these results.

The man of science can measure the great forces of physical nature; heat,
electricity, and light can all be gauged by mechanisms constructed by his
hand, but by no device can he measure the forces of our moral nature.

The poet, whose insight is deeper than others' into this great and
mysterious potency, can only give glimpses of its source, and draw tears by
painting, in words, the traits which it induces.

The historian and biographer can record and dwell with fondness upon the
acts of men and women, which were prompted by this power of the soul.

The moralist can point to them as examples to follow, or as cheering
evidence of the loftier impulses of humanity. But still, in its depth and
height, in its fountain, and in its remotest outflow, this power cannot be
fully measured or appreciated by any standards known to man. The
comprehensive and conceptive faculty of the imagination is wearied in
placing before itself the springs, the action, and the boundless
beneficence of this grand force, which flourishes and lives in its highest
efficiency in the breast of woman. "Thanks," cries the poet of nature and
of God,

  "Thanks, to the human heart, by which we live,
  Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, its fears."

We have shown how in all the ages since the landing, woman has proved her
title to the possession of the manly virtues. We have shown her as a
heroine, battling with the hostile powers of man and nature, and yet, even
in those cases, if we were to analyze the motives which prompted her heroic
acts, we should find them to spring at last from the source of power
whereof we are speaking. It is out of her abounding and forceful emotional
nature that she becomes a heroine. It is to relieve, to succor, or to save
her dear ones, that she is brave, strong, enduring, patient, and devoted.

Frontier life has called, upon her for the exercise of these qualities, and
she has nobly responded to the call. She fought; she toiled; she was
undaunted by the apprehension of dangers and difficulties as well as
intrepid in facing them. She bore without complaint the privations and
hardships incident to such a life, and taxed every resource of body and
mind in efforts to secure for her successors a home which neither peril nor
trial should assail.

But this did not embrace the entire circle of her acts and her influence.
To soothe, to comfort, to sustain in the trying time, to throw over the
darkest hour the brightness of her sunny presence and sweet voice--by these
influences she did more to establish and confirm, that civilization which
our race has been carrying westward, than by even those exhibitions of
manly heroism of which we have spoken.

Nine generations of men and women, through a period which a few years more
will make three centuries, have been engaged in extending the frontier
line, or have lived surrounded by circumstances similar to those which
environ the remote border. The aggregate number of these men and women
cannot be any more than estimated. Doubtless it will amount to many
millions. A million helpmeets and comforters in a million homes! Mothers,
wives, daughters, sisters--all supporting and buoying up the well-nigh
broken spirits of the "stronger sex," and, by simple words, encouraging and
stimulating to repair their desperate fortunes. Who can calculate the sum
total of such an influence as this?

Among the myriad instances of the solacing and soul-inspiring power of a
woman's voice in hours of darkness on the lonely border, we select a few
for the purpose of showing her in this her appropriate domain.

Nearly two centuries ago, in one of those heated religious controversies
which occurred in a river settlement in Massachusetts, a young man and his
wife felt themselves constrained, partly through a desire for greater
liberty of thought and action, and partly from natural energy of
disposition, to push away from the fertile valley and establish their home
on one of those bleak hillsides which form the spurs of the Green Mountain
range. Here they set up their household deities, and lit the lights of the
fireside in the darkness of the forest, and amid the wild loneliness of
nature's hitherto untended domain.

In such situations as these, not merely from their isolation, but from the
sterility of the soil and the inhospitable air of the region, the struggle
for existence is often a severe one. Perseverance and self-denial, however,
triumphed over all difficulties. Year after year the trees bowed themselves
before the axe, and the soil surrendered its reluctant treasures in the
furrow of the ploughshare.

Plenty smiled around the cabin. The light glowed on the hearth, and the
benighted traveler hailed its welcome rays as he fared towards the
hospitable door.

Apart from the self-interest and happiness of its inmates, it was no small
benefit to others that such a home was made in that rugged country. Such
homes are the outposts of the army of pioneers: here they can pause and
rest, gathering courage and confidence when they regard them as
establishments in the same wilderness where they are seeking to plant
themselves.

Five years after their arrival their house and barns were destroyed by
fire. Their cattle, farming utensils, and household furniture were all
fortunately saved, and before long the buildings were replaced, and in two
years all the ravages of the devouring element had been repaired. Again a
happy and plenteous abode rewarded the labors of the pair. Three years
rolled away in the faithful discharge of every duty incumbent upon them,
each toiling in their respective sphere to increase their store and rear
their large family of children.

A series of severe rains had kept them within doors for nearly ten days.
One afternoon as they were sitting before their fire they experienced a
peculiar sensation as though the ground on which the house stood was
moving. Running out doors, they saw that the rains had loosened the
hill-side soil from the rock on which it lay, and that it was slowly moving
into the ravine below. Hastily collecting their children, they had barely
time to escape to a rock a short distance from their house, when the
landslide carried the house and barns, with the ground on which they stood,
into the ravine, burying them and their entire contents beneath twenty feet
of earth.

Almost worn out with his unremitting toils continued through ten years, and
seeing the fruits of that toil swept away in an instant, looking around him
in vain for any shelter, and far away from any helping hand, it was not
surprising that the man should have given way to despair. He wept, groaned,
and tore his hair, declaring that he would struggle no longer with fates
which proved so adverse. "Go," said he, "Mary, to the nearest house with
the children. I will die here."

His wife was one of those fragile figures which it seemed that a breath
could blow away. Hers, however, was an organization which belied its
apparent weakness. A brave and loving spirit animated that frail tenement.
Long she strove to soothe her husband's grief, but without avail.

Gathering a thick bed of leaves and sheltering her children as well as she
could from the chilly air, she returned ever and anon to the spot where her
husband sat in the stupor of despair, and uttered words of comfort and
timely suggestions of possible means of relief.

"We began with nothing, John, and we can begin with nothing again. You are
strong, and so am I. Bethink yourself of those who pass by on their way to
the great river every year at this time. These folk are good and
neighborly, and will lend us willing hands to dig out of the earth the gear
that we have lost by the landslip." Thus through the night, with these and
like expressions, she comforted and encouraged the heart-broken man, and
having at length kindled hope, succeeded in rousing him to exertion.

For two days the whole family suffered greatly while awaiting help, but
that hope which the words of the wife had awakened, did not again depart.
A party of passing emigrants, ascertaining the condition of the family, all
turned to, and having the necessary tools, soon dug down to the house and
barn, and succeeded in recovering most of the buried furniture, stores, and
utensils. The unlucky couple succeeded finally in retrieving themselves,
and years after, when the father was passing a prosperous old age in the
valley of the Mohawk, to which section the family eventually moved, he was
wont to tell how his wife had lifted him out of the depths of despair by
those kind and thoughtful words, and put new life and hope into his heart
during those dark days among the mountains of Massachusetts.

There is no section of our country where the presence of woman is so strong
for good, and where her words of lofty cheer to the stricken and distressed
are so potential as in the mountain republics on our extreme western
border. There are in that section communities composed almost entirely of
men who not only treat the few of the other sex who live among them, with a
chivalrous respect, but who listen to their words as if they were
heaven-sent messages. In one of the mining settlements of California,
during the early years of that State, an epidemic fever broke out, and
raged with great malignity among the miners. The settlement was more than
two hundred miles from San Francisco, in a secluded mountain gorge, barren
of all but the precious metal which had attracted thither a rough, and
motley multitude. There was no doctor within a hundred miles, and not a
single female to nurse and watch the forlorn subjects of the pestilence.

Mrs. Maurice, a married lady who had recently come from the east to San
Francisco with her husband, hearing of the distress which prevailed in that
mountain district, immediately set out, in company with her husband, who
heartily sympathized with her generous enterprise, and crossed the Sierra
Nevada for the purpose of ministering to the wants of the sick. She carried
a large supply of medicines and other necessaries, and after a toilsome
journey over the rough foot-paths which were then the only avenues by which
the place could be reached, arrived at the settlement. By some means the
miners had become apprised of her approach, and she was met by a cavalcade
of rough-bearded men, a score in number, mounted on mules, as a guard of
honor to escort her to the scene of her noble labors. As she came in sight,
riding down the mountain side, the escort party waved their huge hats in
the air and hurrahed as if they were mad, while the tears streamed down
their swarthy cheeks. With heads uncovered they ranged themselves on either
side of the lady and her husband, and accompanied them to the place where
the pestilence was raging. Some of the sick men rose from their beds and
stood with pale, fever-wasted faces at the doors of their wretched cabins,
and smiled feebly and tried to shout as the noble woman drew near. Their
voices were hollow and sepulchral, and the ministering angel who had
visited them witnessed this moving spectacle not without tears. For two
months she passed her time night and day in watching over and ministering
to those unfortunate men. Snatching a nap now and then, every other
available moment was given to her patients. Many died, and after receiving
their last messages to friends far away in the east, she closed their eyes
and passed on in her errand of mercy.

One of her patients thus testified to the efficacy of her ministrations:
"As I owe my recovery to her exertions, I rejoice to give my testimony to
her untiring zeal, her self-sacrificing devotion, and her angelic kindness.
She never seemed to me to be happy except when engaged in alleviating the
sufferings of us who were sick, and she watched over us with all the
tenderness and love of a mother. Many of the sick men called her by that
endeared name, and we all seemed to be her children.

"Even in the gloomiest cabins and to the most disheartened of the
fever-stricken, her presence seemed to bring sunshine. Her face always wore
a smile so sweet that I forgot my pain when I gazed upon her. Her voice
rings in my ears even now. It was peculiarly soft and musical, and I never
heard her speak but I recalled those lines of the great dramatist, 'Her
voice was ever low, an excellent thing in woman.' Every sufferer waited to
hear her speak and seemed to hang upon her accents. Her words were few, but
so kind that we all felt that with such a friend to help us we could not
long be sick.

"She was entirely forgetful of herself, so much did the poor invalids dwell
in her thoughts.

"The storms of autumn raged with frightful violence throughout that gorge,
and yet I have known her, while the wind was howling and the rain pouring,
to go round three times in one night to the bedsides of those whose lives
were hanging by a thread. Once I recollect after my recovery, going to see
a young man who was very low and seemed to have life only while Mrs.
Maurice bent over him. She had visited him early that evening, and had
promised to come and see him again after making her rounds among her other
patients. A fierce snow storm had come up and a strong man could barely
maintain himself before the blast. I found the poor fellow very low. He was
evidently sinking rapidly. He moved feebly and turned away his eyes, which
were fixed upon me as I entered. It was already considerably past the hour
when it was expected she would return, and as I bent to ask him how he was,
he looked into my face with a bright eager gaze, and said in a whisper,
'ask mother to come.' I knew in an instant whom he meant and said I would
go in search of her and conduct her thither through the storm.

"I had only reached the door when she met me. I never shall forget her
appearance as she entered out of the howling storm and stood in that dim
light all radiant with kindness and sympathy, which beamed from her face
and seemed to illumine the room. The sufferer's face brightened and his
frame seemed to have a sudden life breathed into it when he saw her enter.
It seemed to me as if she had a miraculous healing power, for that moment
he began to mend, and in a few weeks was restored to his pristine health."

It was beyond doubt that her presence and gentle words were more potent in
effecting cures than were the medicines which she administered. Those who
recovered and walked out when they saw her approaching, even at a distance,
were wont to remove their hats and stand as she went by gazing at her as if
she was an angel of light.

The scene after the last patient was convalescent, and when she came to
take her departure, was indescribable. All the miners quit work and
gathered in the village; a party was appointed to escort her to the
mountain and the rest formed a long line on each side and stood bareheaded
and some of them weeping as she passed through.

The mounted men accompanied her and her husband and their guide to the top
of the mountain. All of the escort had been her patients and some of them
were still wasted and wan from the fever. When they bade her farewell there
was not a dry eye among them, and long after she had left them they could
have been seen gazing after the noble matron who had visited and comforted
them in their grievous sickness and pain.

Life in the Rocky Mountains before the great transcontinental line was
built was remarkable for concentrating in itself the extremest forms of
almost every peril, hardship, and privation which is incident to the
frontier. Even at the present day and with the increased facilities for
reaching the Atlantic and Pacific coast by that single railroad, the
greater part of the region far north and far south of that line of travel
is still isolated from the world by vast distances and great natural
obstacles to communication between the different points of settlement.

So much the more valuable and stronger therefore upon that field is the
emotional force of good women. Such there were and are scattered through
that rocky wilderness whose ministrations, in many a lonely cabin, and with
many a wayfaring band, are like those of the angel who visited the prophet
of old when he dwelt "in a desert apart".

An incident is told of a party of emigrants, who were journeying through
Idaho that powerfully illustrates this idea.

There were five in the party, viz. James Peterson, an aged man, his two
daughters, his son, and his son's wife.

While pursuing their toilsome and devious course through the gorges and up
and down the steeps, a friendly Indian whom they met informed them that a
few miles from the route they were following, a body of men were starving
in an almost inaccessible ravine where they had been prospecting for gold.
Mr. Peterson and his son, although they pitied the unfortunate gold
hunters, were disinclined to turn from their course, judging that the
difficulties of reaching them, and of conveying the necessary stores over
the rocks and across the rapid torrents were such that they would render
the attempt wholly impracticable.

The two daughters, as well as the wife of young Peterson, refused to listen
to the cold dictates of prudence which controlled Mr. Peterson and his son:
they saw in imagination only the wretched starving men, and their hearts
yearned to relieve them.

Turning a deaf ear to the arguments and persuasions of the elder and
younger Peterson, they urged in eloquent and pleading tones that they might
be allowed to follow the impulses of kindness and pity and visit the
objects of their compassion. The father could stay with the team and the
brother and husband could accompany them under the guidance of the Indian,
on their errand of mercy.

Their prayers and persuasions at last prevailed over the objections which
were offered. Selecting the most concentrated and nourishing food, which
their store of provisions embraced, young Peterson and the Indian loaded
themselves with all that they could carry, the three women, who were strong
and active, also bearing a portion of the supplies. The party, after a most
difficult and toilsome march on foot, succeeded in reaching the top of the
mountain, from which they could look down into the ravine upon the spot
where the unfortunate men were encamped. They could see no sign of life,
and feared they had come too late.

As they neared the place, picking their way down precipices where a single
misstep would have been death, one of the women waved her handkerchief and
the men shouted at the top of their voices. No response came back except
the echoes which reverberated from the wall of the mountain opposite. The
rays of the setting sun fell on seven human forms stretched on the ground.
One of these forms at length raised itself to a sitting posture and gazed
with a dazed look at the rescuers hastening towards them. The rest had
given up all hope and lain down to die.

A spoonful of stimulant was immediately administered to each of the seven
sufferers, and kindling a fire, the women quickly prepared broth with the
dried meat which they had brought. The starving men were in a light-headed
condition, induced by long fasting, and could scarcely comprehend that they
were saved. "Who be those, Jim, walking round that fire; not women?" said
one of the men. "No, Pete," was the reply, "them's angels; didn't you hear
'em sing to us a spell ago?" The kind words with which the three women had
sought to recall the wretched wayfarers to life and hope might well have
been mistaken for an angel's song. One of the men afterwards said he
dreamed he was in heaven, and when his eyes were opened by the sound of
those sweet voices, and he saw those noble girls, he knew his dream had
come true.

Another said that those voices brought him back to life and hope, more than
all the food and stimulants.

For a week these angels of mercy nursed and fed the starving men, the
Indian meanwhile having shot a mountain goat, which increased their
supplies, and at the end of that period the men were sufficiently recruited
to start, in company with their preservers, for the camp, where Mr.
Peterson was awaiting the return of his daughters, of whose safety he had
been already informed by the Indian.

When the rescued men came to bid them farewell, they brought a bag
containing a hundred pounds weight of gold dust, the price for which would
have been their lives, but for those devoted women, and begged them to
accept it, not as a reward, but as a token of their gratitude. The girls
refused to take the gift, believing that the adventurous miners needed it,
and that they had been amply rewarded by the reflection that they had saved
seven lives.

The parting, on both sides, was tearful, the rough miners being more
affected than even the women. Each party pursued its separate course, the
one towards Oregon, the other towards Utah; but after the Petersons had
reached the spot where they encamped that night, they discovered the bag of
gold, which the miners had secretly deposited in the wagon. The treasure
thus forced upon them was divided between the Miss Petersons and their
sister-in-law. Bright and pure as that metal was, it was incomparably less
lustrous than the deeds which it rewarded, and infinitely less pure than
the motives which prompted them.

Finely has a poet of our own time celebrated the wondrous power of those
words of cheer and comfort which woman utters so often to the unfortunate.

  O! ever when the happy laugh is dumb,
  All the joy gone, and all the sorrow come,
  When loss, despair, and soul-distracting pain,
  Wring the sad heart and rack the throbbing brain,
  The only hope--the only comfort heard--
  Comes in the music of a woman's word.
  Like beacon-bell on some wild island shore,
  Silverly ringing through the tempest's roar,
  Whose sound borne shipward through the ocean gloom
  Tells of the path and turns her from her doom.

Acting within their own homes, who can sum up the entire amount of good
which the frontier wife, mother, sister, and daughter have accomplished in
their capacities as emotional and sympathetic beings? How many fevered
brows have they cooled, how many gloomy moods have they illumined, how many
wavering hearts have they stayed and confirmed?

This service of the heart is rendered so freely and so often that it ceases
to attract the attention it merits. Like the vital air and sunshine, it is
so free and spontaneous that one rarely pauses to thank God for it. The
outflow of sympathy, the kind word or act, and all the long sacrifice of
woman's days pass too often without a thought, or a word, from those who
perhaps might droop and die without them.

England has its Westminster Abbey, beneath whose clustered arches
statesmen, philanthropists, warriors, and kings repose in a mausoleum,
whither men repair to gaze at the monumental bust, the storied urn, and
proud epitaph; but where is the mausoleum which preserves the names and
virtues of those gentle, unobtrusive women--the heroines and comforters of
the frontier home? In the East, the simple slabs of stone which record
their names have crumbled into the dust of the churchyard. In the far West,
they sleep on the prairie and mountain slope, with scarcely a memorial to
mark the spot.

Nowhere more strongly are the manifestations of heart-power shown than
among the women of our remote border. Speaking of them, one who long lived
in that region says, "If you are sick, there is nothing which sympathy and
care can devise or perform, which is not done for you. No sister ever hung
over the throbbing brain, or fluttering pulse, of a brother with more
tenderness and fidelity. This is as true of the lady whose hand has only
figured her embroidery or swept her guitar, as of the cottage-girl,
wringing from her laundry the foam of the mountain stream. If I must be
cast, in sickness or destitution, on the care of a stranger, let it be in
California; but let it be before avarice has hardened the heart and made a
god of gold."

What is said of the California wives, mothers, and sisters, may, with equal
force, be applied to woman throughout the whole vast mountain region,
including ten immense states and territories. In the mining districts, on
the wild cattle ranche, in the eyrie, perched, like an eagle's nest, on the
crest of those sky-piercing summits, or on the secluded valley farm,
wherever there is a home to be brightened, a sick bed to be tended, or a
wounded spirit to be healed, there is woman seen as a minister of comfort,
consolation, and joy.

The military posts on the frontier have long had reason to thank the wives
of the soldiers and officers for their kindness, manifested in numberless
ways.

One of these ladies was Mrs. R------, who accompanied her husband to his
post on the Rio Grande, in 1856.

Here she remained with him for more than three years, till that grand
mustering of all the powers of the Republic to the long contested
battle-grounds along the Potomac. Their life on the Mexican frontier was
full of interest, novelty, and adventure. The First Artillery was often
engaged in repulsing the irregular and roving bands of Cortinas, who rode
over the narrow boundary river in frequent raids and stealing expeditions
into Texas. When in camp, Mrs. Ricketts greatly endeared herself to the men
in her husband's company by constant acts of kindness to the sick, and by
showing a cheerful and lively disposition amid all the hardships and
annoyances of garrison life, at such a distance from home and from the
comforts and refinements of our American civilization.

She was a spirit of mercy as well as good cheer; and many a poor fellow
knew that, if he could but get her ear, his penance in the guard-house for
some violation of the regulations, would be far less severe on account of
her gentle and womanly plea.

She afterwards shared her husband's imprisonment in Richmond. Captain
R------ had been severely wounded and grew rapidly worse. The gloomiest
forebodings pressed like lead upon the brave heart of the devoted wife.
Again the surgeons consulted over his dreadfully swollen leg, and
prescribed amputation; and again it was spared to the entreaties of his
wife, who was certain that his now greatly enfeebled condition would not
survive the shock. Much of the time he lay unconscious, and for weeks his
life depended entirely on the untiring patience and skill with which his
wife soothed down the rudeness of his prison-house, cheering him and other
prisoners who were so fortunate as to be in the room with him, and
alleviating the slow misery that was settling like a pall upon him.

As the pebble which stirs the lake in wider and ever wider circles, so the
genial emotion which begins in the family extends to the neighborhood, and
sometimes embraces the whole human race. Hence arises the philanthropic
kindness of some, and the large-hearted charity that is willing to labor
anywhere and in any manner to relieve the wants of all who are suffering
pain or privation.

In all our wars from the Revolutionary contest to the present time, woman's
work in the army hospitals, and even on the battle-field, as a nurse, has
been a crown to womanhood and a blessing to our civilization and age. Many
a life that had hitherto been marked only by the domestic virtues and the
charities of home, became enlarged and ennobled in this wider sphere of
duty.

Wrestling in grim patience with unceasing pain; to lie weak and helpless,
thinking of the loved ones on the far off hillside, or thirsty with
unspeakable longing for one draught of cold water from the spring by the
big rock at the old homestead; to yearn, through long, hot nights, for one
touch of the cool, soft hand of a sister or a wife on the throbbing
temples, the wounded soldier saw with joy unspeakable the coming of these
ministering angels. Then the great gashes would be bathed with cooling
washes, or the grateful draught poured between the thin, chalky lips, or
the painful, inflamed stump would be lifted and a pad of cool, soft lint,
fitted under it. These ministrations carried with, them a moral cheer and
a soothing that was more salutary and healing than medicines and creature
comforts.

The poor wounded soldier was assured in tones, to whose pleasant and
homelike accents his ear had long been a stranger, that his valor should
not be forgotten, that they too had a son, a brother, a father, or a
husband in the army. After a pallid face and bony fingers were bathed,
sometimes a chapter in the New Testament or a paragraph from the newspapers
would be read in tones low but distinct, in grateful contrast to the hoarse
battle shouts that had been lingering in his ear for weeks.

Then the good lady would act as amanuensis for some poor fellow who had an
armless sleeve, and write down for loving eyes and heavy hearts in some
distant village the same old soldier's story, told a thousand times by a
thousand firesides, but always more charming than any story in the Arabian
Nights,--how, on that great day, he stood with his company on a hillside,
and saw the long line of the enemy come rolling across the valley; how,
when, the cannon opened on them, he could see the rough, ragged gaps
opening in the line; how they closed up and moved on; how this friend fell
on one side, and poor Jimmy ------ on the other; and then he felt a general
crash, and a burning pain, and the musket dropped out of his hand; then the
ambulance and the amputation, and what the surgeon said about his pluck;
and then the weakness, and the pain, and the hunger; and how much better he
was now; and how kind the ladies had been to him.

Such offices as these lift woman above the plane of earthly experience and
place her a little lower than the angels. Only she can fill the measure of
such duties, and only she does fill them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Among the deities of the Eastern Pantheon, the god representing the
destroyer is embodied under the form of a man, while the preserver is
symbolized under the form of a woman. This is an adaptation in Polytheism
of a great and true idea. Woman is a preserver. Her's is the conservative
influence of society. It is from man that the destructive forces that shake
the social organization emanate. He wars on his kind and the earth shakes
under the tread of his armies. He organizes those mighty revolutionary
movements which pull down the fabric of states. He is restless, aggressive,
warlike. But it is woman's province to keep. Her mission is peace.

A party of soldiers passing through the western wilds, sees in the distance
a body of horsemen approaching. Cocking their rifles and putting themselves
in a defensive attitude, they prepare for battle. But when they see that
there are women among the riders who are galloping towards them, they relax
their line and restore their rifles to their shoulders. They know there
will be no battle, for woman's presence means peace.

Woman is the guardian of our race. In the household she is saving; in the
family she is protecting, and everywhere her influence is that which keeps.

It is this characteristic that makes her presence on the frontier so
essential to a successful prosecution of true pioneer enterprises. The
man's work is one of destruction and subjugation. He must level the forest,
break the soil, and fight all the forces that oppose him in his progress.
Woman guards the health and life of the household, hoards the stores of the
family, and economizes the surplus strength of her husband, father, or son.

We are speaking now of the sex as it is seen in a new country and in remote
settlements. In crowded cities, amid a superabundant wealth, and an idle
and luxurious mode of life, we see too often the types of selfish,
frivolous, and conventional females such as are hardly known on the border.
But even in these, populous districts the same spirit is not unfrequently
shown, with important results, in respect to the accumulation of great
fortunes.

Some forty years since, a capitalist who now counts his fortune by the tens
of millions, informed his wife that if he was only in possession of five
thousand dollars, he could derive great gains from a business into which he
designed to enter. To his astonishment she immediately brought him a bank
book showing a balance of five thousand dollars, the savings of many years,
and told him to use it as he thought best. Those hoardings judiciously
invested laid the foundation of one of the largest properties owned by a
single man upon this continent.

As a conserving agency, the spirit and influence of woman is of course most
strongly exerted within the circle of her own family. Here she knits the
ties that binds that circle together, and gathers and holds the material
and moral resources which make the household what it is. When disaster
comes, it is her study to prevent disintegration and keep the home
uninjured and unbroken.

While a family were flying from a ferocious band of tories during the
Revolution, in the confusion, one of the children was left behind. It was
the eldest daughter who first discovered the fact, and only she dared to
return and save her little brother from their blood-thirsty enemies. It was
dark and rainy, and imminent danger would attend the effort to rescue the
lad. But the brave girl hastened back; reached the house still in
possession of the British; begged the sentinel to let her enter; and though
repeatedly repulsed doubled the earnestness of her entreaties, and finally
gained admittance. She found the child in his chamber, hastened down stairs
and passing the sentry, fled with the shot whizzing past her head, and with
the child soon joined the rest of the family.

When deprived of her natural protector and left the sole guardian of her
children she becomes a prodigy of watchful care.

Some years since, one of the small islands on our coast was inhabited by a
single poor family. The father was taken suddenly ill. There was no
physician. The wife, on whom every labor for the household devolved, was
sleepless in care and tenderness by the bedside of her suffering husband.
Every remedy in her power to procure was administered, but the disease was
acute, and he died.

Seven young children mourned around the lifeless corpse. They were the sole
beings upon that desolate spot. Did the mother indulge the grief of her
spirit, and sit down in despair? No! she entered upon the arduous and
sacred duties of her station. She felt that there was no hand to assist her
in burying her dead. Providing, as far as possible, for the comfort of her
little ones, she put her babe into the arms of the oldest, and charged the
two next in age to watch the corpse of their father. She unmoored her
husband's fishing boat, which, but two days before, he had guided over the
seas to obtain food for his family. She dared not yield to those tender
recollections which might have unnerved her arm. The nearest island was at
the distance of three miles. Strong winds lashed the waters to foam. Over
the loud billows, that wearied and sorrowful woman rowed, and was
preserved. She reached the next island, and obtained the necessary aid.
With such energy did her duty to her desolate babes inspire her, that the
voyage which, depended upon her individual effort was performed in a
shorter time than the returning one, when the oars were managed by two men,
who went to assist in the last offices to the dead.

But female influence in the way of conservation, is not bounded by the
narrow limits of home, family, and kindred. It is also seen on a wider
field and in the preservation of other interests. The property, health, and
life of strangers often become the object of woman's careful guardianship.
Nearly thirty years since a heavily freighted vessel set sail from an
English port bound for the Pacific coast. After a voyage of more than three
months it reached the Sandwich Islands, and after remaining there a week,
sailed in the direction of Oregon and British Columbia.

When two days out from Honolulu, the captain and mate were taken down with
fever, which not only confined them, to their berths, but by its delirium
incapacitated them from giving instructions respecting the navigation of
the vessel. The third officer, upon whom the command devolved, was shortly
afterwards washed overboard and lost in a gale. The rest of the crew were
of the most common and ignorant class of sailors, not even knowing how to
read and write. The heavens, overspread with clouds which obscured both the
sun and the stars, was a sealed book to the man at the wheel, and the good
ship, at the mercy of the winds and waves, was drifting they knew not
whither.

At this juncture the wife of the captain stepped to the front, and boldly
assumed the command. She had been reared on Cape Cod, and was a woman of
uncommon intelligence and strength of character. Her husband, in the early
stages of his illness, had thoughtfully instructed her in the rudiments of
navigation, and foreseeing that such knowledge might be the means of
enabling her to steer the ship safely to port, she diligently employed
every moment that she could spare from the necessary attendance on the sick
men, in studying the manual of navigation. She soon learned how to
calculate latitude and longitude. When the third officer was washed
overboard she knew that all must then depend upon her, and at once put
herself in communication with the steersman, and instructed him as to their
true position. The men all recognized the value of her knowledge, and
obeyed her as if she had been their chief from the outset. The correctness
of her calculations was soon proved, and such was her firmness and kindness
while in command, that the sailors came to regard her as a superior being
who had been sent from heaven to help them out of their dangers. The clouds
at length cleared away, the wind subsided, and after a voyage of
twenty-five days, the ship made the mouth of the Columbia River. Meanwhile
by diligent nursing she had also contributed to save the lives of her
husband and his second officer. But for her knowledge and firmness it was
acknowledged by all that the ship would have been lost; and a large salvage
was allowed her by the owners as a reward for her energy and intelligence
in saving the vessel and its valuable cargo.

Another of these guardians on the deep was Mrs. Spalding, of Georgia. She
was one of those patriot women of the Revolution of whom we have already
spoken. The part she bore in that struggle, and the anxieties to which she
had been necessarily subjected, so impaired her health that some years
after the termination of the war an ocean voyage and a European climate was
prescribed for her restoration.

While crossing the Atlantic a large ship painted black, carrying twelve
guns, was seen to windward running across their course. She was evidently
either a privateer or a pirate. As there was no hope of out-sailing her, it
was judged best to boldly keep the vessel on her course, trusting that its
size and appearance might deter the strange craft from attacking it.

Mr. Spalding, realizing the danger of their situation, and not daring to
trust himself with an interview till the crisis was past, requested the
captain to go below and do what he could for the security of his family.

The captain on visiting the cabin, found that Mrs. Spalding had placed her
daughter-in-law and the other inmates of the cabin, for safety, in the two
state-rooms, filling the berths with the cots and bedding from the outer
cabin. She had then taken her station beside the scuttle, which led from
the outer cabin to the magazine, with two buckets of water. Having noticed
that the two cabin-boys were heedless, she had determined herself to keep
watch over the magazine. She did so till the danger was past. The captain
took in his light sails, hoisted his boarding nettings, opened his ports,
and stood on upon his course. The privateer waited till the ship was within
a mile, then fired a gun to windward, and stood on her way. This ruse
preserved the ship.

America, like England, has had her Grace Darlings, whose lives have been
devoted to the rescue of drowning sailors. Such a life was that of Kate
Moore, who some years since resided on a secluded island in the Sound.
Disasters frequently occur to vessels which are driven round Montauk Point,
and sometimes in the Sound when they are homeward bound; and at such times
she was always on the alert. She had so thoroughly cultivated the sense of
hearing, that she could distinguish amid the howling storm the shrieks of
the drowning mariners, and thus direct a boat, which she had learned to
manage most dexterously, in the darkest night, to the spot where a fellow
mortal was perishing. Though well educated and refined, she possessed none
of the affected delicacy which characterizes too many town-bred misses,
but, adapting herself to the peculiar exigencies of her father's humble yet
honorable calling, she was ever ready to lend a helping hand, and shrank
from no danger if duty pointed that way. In the gloom and terror of the
stormy night, amid perils at all hours of the day and all seasons of the
year, she launched her barque on the threatening waves, and assisted her
aged and feeble father in saving the lives of twenty-one persons during the
last fifteen years. Such conduct, like that of Grace Darling, to whom Kate
Moore has been justly compared, needs no comment; it stamps its moral at
once and indelibly upon the heart of every reader.

That great land ocean which stretches southwestward from Fort Leavenworth
on the Missouri, to the fountains of the great rivers of Texas, has its
perils to be guarded against as well as the stormy Atlantic. The voyagers
over that expanse, as well as the mariners on the ocean, have not seldom
owed their safety to the watchfulness of the prairie woman, who possesses,
in common with her more cultivated and conventional sisters, a keen insight
into character. This enables her to take early note of danger arising from
the agency of bad men, and avoid it.

In 1858, a gentleman, accompanied by a Creek Indian as a guide, while
escorting his sister to her husband, who was stationed at Fort Wayne, in
the Indian Territory, near the southwest corner of Missouri, lost the
trail, and the party found themselves, at nightfall, in an immense plain,
which showed no signs of any habitation. Riding southward in the darkness,
they saw, at last, a light twinkling in the distance, and, directing their
course toward it, they discovered that it proceeded from the window of a
lonely cabin. Knocking at the door, a man of singularly repulsive
appearance responded to the summons--invited them in. Three rough-looking
characters were sitting around the fire. The hospitalities of the cabin
were bargained for, the horses and Indian being quartered in a shed, while
the gentleman and his sister were provided with shakedowns in the two
partitions of the loft. The only inmates of the house besides the four whom
we have mentioned was a girl some fifteen years of age, the daughter of one
of the men. The lady, who was very much fatigued, was waited upon by this
girl, who moved about as if she was in a dream. She was very pale, and had
a look as if she was repressing some great fear, or was burdened by some
terrible secret.

When she accompanied the lady to her sleeping apartment, she whispered to
her hurriedly that she wished to speak to her brother, but begged her to
call him without making any noise, as their lives depended upon their
preserving silence. The lady, though astonished and terrified at such a
revelation at that hour and place, checked the exclamation which rose to
her lips, and, lifting the partition of cotton cloth which hung between the
apartments, in a low tone asked her brother to come and hear what the girl
had to say.

Her information was of a terrible character. They were, she said, in a den
of murderers. She knew not how they could escape, unless by a miracle. It
was the intention of the assassins, she believed, to murder and rob the
whole party. Then, telling them to keep awake and be on their guard, she
glided down to the room below. The brother and sister, listening sharply
for a few minutes, heard the girl say in a loud tone, as if she intended
the guests should hear her, that she was going out to the shed to look for
her ear-ring, which she believed she had dropped there. They surmised she
was going to put the Indian on his guard.

The gentleman had a pair of revolvers, and resolved to sell his life
dearly, should he be attacked. Peering down into the room below, he saw, by
the dim light, the ruffians making preparations for bloody work. Axes,
knives, pistols, and guns had been brought out, and, in low whispers, the
miscreants were evidently discussing the plan of attack. Sometime after
midnight two of the men stole out of the door, with the obvious intention
of killing the Indian, as the first act in the bloody drama. For a few
minutes after their disappearance all was still, and then the silence was
broken by two pistols shots in quick succession, followed by a triumphant
war-whoop, which served to tell the story. The Indian, who was also armed
with a revolver, must have shot his two assailants. The gentleman fired
down the hatchway of the loft, killing one of the villains as he was
running out of the door. The other, after shouting loudly for his partners
in murder, took to his heels and fled away.

It appeared that the Indian guide, having been notified of his danger by
the girl, rose from his bed and ensconced himself behind the shed. When the
two men came out to attack him, he shot them both dead, and then waited,
expecting that the others would have come out and furnished him with a new
target.

The girl came out of her hiding place, whither she had run on hearing the
shots, and looked sharply into the faces of the three dead ruffians, and
finding that her father was not among them, expressed her joy that her
unworthy parent had escaped the fate he richly deserved.

She told her story to the gentleman and lady while they were standing on
guard and waiting for the morning to dawn. It appeared that she had been
brought to the den a few days before by her father, and had become knowing
to a murder which he and his companions had committed. Her mother, a pious
woman, had instructed her daughter in the principles of Christianity, and
had checked the evil propensities of her husband as long as she lived, but
after her death, which had taken place shortly before the events we have
been describing, all constraint had been removed from the evil propensities
of the misguided man, and he joined the murderous gang who had just met
their fate.

The natural goodness of the young girl's nature, fostered by the teachings
of her guardian mother, thus exerted itself to save three lives from the
assassin's stroke.

She gladly accompanied the lady on her route the following morning, and
ever remained her attached _protegé_.

Montana is one of the newest and wildest of our territories. Its position
so far to the north and the peculiarly rugged face of the country, make it
the fitting abode for the genius of the storms. Gathering their battalions
the tempests sweep the summits and whirling round the flanks of the
mountains, roar through the deep, lonely gorges with a sound louder than
the ocean surges in a hurricane. The snows fill the ravines in drifts one
hundred feet in depth, and such are the rigors of winter that the women who
live in the fur-trading posts on that section of our northern border, are
often carried across the mountains into Oregon or Washington territory, to
shield them from the severities of the inclement season.

Late in the fall of 1868, a party consisting of thirty soldiers, while
faring on through the mountains of that territory, were overtaken by one of
these fearful snowstorms. The wind blew from the north directly in their
faces, and the snow was soon piled in drifts which put a thorough embargo
upon their further progress. Selecting the fittest place that could be
found they pitched their tents on the snow, but hardly had they fastened
the tent ropes when a blast lifted the tents in a moment, and whirled them
into the sky. After a night of great suffering they found in the morning
that all their mules were missing. They had probably strayed or been driven
by the fury of the blast into a deep ravine south of the camp, where they
had been buried beneath the enormous drifts.

The storm raged and the snow fell nearly all day. The rations were all
gone, and progress against the wind and through the drifts was impossible.
Another night of such bitter cold and exposure would in all probability be
their last.

They shouted in unison, but their shouts were drowned in the shrieks of the
tempest. Towards night the storm lulled and again they shouted, but no
sound came back but the sigh of the blast. Help! help! they cried. Unhappy
men, could help come to them except from on high! What was left to them but
to wind their martial cloaks around them and die like soldiers in the path
of duty!

But what God-sent messenger is this coming through the drifts to meet them?
Not a woman! Yes, a poor, weak woman has heard their despairing cry and has
hastened to succor them. Drenched and shivering with the storm she told
them to follow her, and conducted them to a recess in the crags, where
beneath an overhanging ledge and between projecting cliffs, a spacious
shelter was afforded them. They crowded in and warmed their numbed limbs
before a great fire, while their preserver brought out her stores of food
for the wayfarers.

But how could a woman be there in the heart of the mountains in the wintry
weather, with only the storm to speak to her?

Her husband was a miner and she a brave and self-reliant woman. He had left
her two weeks before to carry his treasure of gold dust to the nearest
settlement She was all _alone! Alone_ in that rock-encompassed cabin
in the realms of desolation, and still the heroine-guardian who had
snatched thirty fellow beings from the jaws of death.

Solitude is the theatre where untold thousands of devoted women--the brave,
the good, the loving--for ages past have acted their unviewed and
unrecorded dramas in the great battle of frontier life. Warriors and
statesmen have their need of praise, and crowds surround them to throw the
wreath of laurel or of bay upon their fainting brows, or to follow their
plumed hearse to the mausoleum which a grateful people has raised to their
memory.

    "Yet it may be a higher courage dwells
    In one meek heart which braves an adverse fate,
  Than his whose ardent soul indignant swells
    Warmed by the fight or cheered through high debate,
  The soldier dies _surrounded_, could he live
  _Alone_ to suffer and alone to strive?"




CHAPTER XXI.

WOMAN AS AN EDUCATOR ON THE FRONTIER


"Within the house, within the family the woman is all: she is the
inspiring, moulding, embellishing, and controlling power." This terse
description of woman's influence in the household applies with double
force and significance to the position of the pioneer wife and mother. Her
life in that position was one long battle, one long labor, one long trial,
one long sorrow. Out of this varied, searching, continuous educational
process came discipline of the body, of the mind, and of the whole moral
nature. Adversity, her

  "Stern, ragged nurse, whose rigid lore,
  With patience, many a year, she bore,"

taught her the practice of the heroic as well as of the gentler virtues;
courage, labor, fortitude, plain living, charity, sobriety, pity. In that
school these virtues became habitual to her mind; because their practice
was enforced by the stress of circumstances. Daily and nightly, in those
homes on the frontier, there is some danger to be faced, some work to be
done, some suffering to be borne or some self-denial to be exercised, some
sufferer to be relieved or some sympathy to be extended.

There is a two-fold result from this educational process: first, the
transmission, by the law of hereditary descent, of marked traits of
character to her children, who show, in a greater or less degree, their
mother's nature as developed in this severe school; second, woman becomes
fitted to mould the character and instruct the mind of her children in the
light of her own experience and discipline. Woman is the great educator of
the frontier.

Within the first half of the 18th century, in that narrow belt of thinly
settled country which follows the indentation of the Atlantic ocean, in
lonely cabins in the forest, or on the, hill-slope, or by the unvisited
sea, most of the representative men of our Revolutionary Era first saw the
light, and were pillowed on the breasts of the frontier mothers.

The biographical records of our country are bright with the names of
men--the brave, the wise, the good--who were born of pioneer women, and who
inherited from them those traits which, in after life, made them great and
illustrious in the learned professions, in the camp, and in the councils of
their native country. Who can doubt that the daughters, too, of those
strong women, and the sisters of those eminent men, inheriting similar
traits, exercised in their sphere as potent though silent an influence as
did their brothers in the high stations to which they were called.

As by a strain of blood, inherited traits come down to succeeding
generations, and, as from the breast of the mother the first elements of
bodily strength are received, so from her lips are obtained those first
principles of good and incentives of greatness which the sterner features
and blunter feelings of the father are rarely sufficient to inculcate.

On parent knees, or later, in intervals of work or play, the soldier who
fought to make us a free republic, and the statesman who laid deep and wide
the foundations of our constitution, acquired from their mothers' lips
those lessons of virtue and duty which made their after careers so useful
to their country and memorable in history.

We have said that woman was the great _educator_ on the frontier. She
was something more than an _educator_, as the term is usually applied.
The teaching of the rudiments of school-learning was a fraction in the
sum-total of her training and influence.

The means of moulding and guiding the minds of the young upon the border
are very different from what they are in more settled states of society.
Education in the older states of the Union is organized in the district and
high school, in the academy and the college, and is maintained by large
taxation of the town, city, or state. Here are wealth, aggregations of
intelligence, and a surplus of the educated labor class. Commodious and
often beautiful edifices shelter the bright tribes whom the morning bell
calls together beneath the eye of cultured teachers. Stately halls and
quaint chapels are the seats where the higher learning is inculcated; the
paraphernalia of education is splendid, the appliances are adequate, and
the whole machinery by which knowledge is diffused among the young, works
with a smooth regularity that makes it almost automatic.

Contrast this system which prevails to-day, and in the more settled
conditions of American society, with that which prevailed in earlier years
in a thinly and newly-inhabited country, and which now obtains on our
frontier line, and how striking is the difference!

Indeed, how could we look for any such organism where small settlements
were separated from each other by long spaces and bad roads, and where
single cabins were so completely isolated, as in the New England and the
Middle and Southern States a century and a half ago, or as in the earlier
settled States of the West seventy years ago, or as in the newly-settled
States of the West within the present generation, or as on the frontier
proper to-day? Under such conditions even the district school was
impracticable or inaccessible. To supply its place, each household where
there were children was a training school, of which the mother was the
head.

The process, under her eyes and hand, of forming the mind and character, is
very slow, but it is healthy and natural. It is conducted in the short
interval of severe toil. She reverts to first principles, and teaches by
objects rather than by lessons. It is the character that she forms more
than the mind.

She has about her a band of silent but powerful coadjutors. The sunshine
and free air of the wilderness are poured around the little stranger, which
soon grows into a handsome, largely-developed, vigorous nursling.

The air of the wilderness, too, is the native air of freedom: this, and the
ample space wherein the young plant flourishes, makes it large in frame and
broad in mind and character.

Transplant a cypress from a garden in a populous community to the deep
black mould of the west, and it grows to be a forest monarch. It is Hazlitt
who says "the heart reposes in greater security on the immensity of
nature's works, expatiates freely there and finds elbow room and breathing
space."

In the log-cabin there is perhaps but a single room: there is a bed, a
table, blocks of wood for chairs, and a few wretched cooking utensils.
Thank God! The life of the pioneer woman is not "cribbed and confined" to
this hovel. The forest, the prairie, the mountain-side are free to her as
the vital air, and the canopy of heaven is her familiar covering. A life
out doors is a necessary part of both the moral and the physical education
of her children.

Riding through one of the prairies of the far West, some years since, we
arrived just at dusk in front of a cabin where a mother was sitting with
her four young children and teaching them lessons from the great book of
nature. She had shown them the sun as it set in glory, and told them of its
rising and of its going down; of the clouds and of the winds, and how God
made the grass and trees, and the stars, which came trooping out before
their eyes. She taught them, she said, little as yet from books. She had
but a Bible, a catechism, an almanac. The Bible was the only Reader in her
little school. Already she had whispered in their ears the story of Jesus'
life and death, and charged their infant memories with the wise and
beautiful teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.

What a practical training was that which children had in that outdoor
knowledge which had been useful to their mother! The chemistry of common
life learned from the processes wrought out by the air and sunshine;
astronomy from the great luminaries which are the clocks of the wilderness,
and the science of the weather from the phenomena of the sky. There was no
"cramming" in that home-school; each item of knowledge was well absorbed
and assimilated, for the mother's toils made the intervals long between the
lessons. So much the better for the young heart and mind, which grows,
swells, and gathers force unlaced and unfettered by scholastic pedantry and
repression.

It is from the mother, too, that the boy or girl must take their first
lessons in the tillage of the soil, which are most readily learned in the
garden, for the women are the gardeners of the frontier. Gardening is a
labor of patience and virtue, and is excellent discipline for the
character. A child's true life is in the fields, and should be early
familiarized with the forms of vegetable life. No small part of the
education of a child may be carried on by the care and assiduous
contemplation of plants and flowers. Observation, experience, reflection,
and reasoning, would all come of it. A flower is a whole world, pure,
innocent, peacemaking.

Woman's natural fitness for the work of an educator of the human plant is
seen in the readiness and zeal with which she enters into this work of
tending and training the plants in a vegetable or flower garden, and the
garden is one of the outdoor schools where her little ones gain their most
useful instruction. The difference between plants, the variegation of
colors, their relations to the air, the sunshine, the dew, the rain; the
habits of plants, some erect, some creeping, some climbing, the seasons of
flowering, fruitage, and seed, are impressed with ease upon the plastic
mind of childhood.

From the garden it is but one step to the meadow and the forest. Here the
boy and girl sees nature unaided by man working out similar processes on a
grander scale. There is heroic force and valor in the trees and grasses,
and the child is early brought into antagonism with these strong forms of
wild nature, and learns that he and his parents live by subjugating or
converting them to their use. This is the lesson of contention in carrying
through a useful purpose. The native sward is to be overturned and a new
growth implanted; bushes are to be torn up root and branch so that the
cattle may have pasture; the trees must be hewn down and cut into beams and
boards.

Thus, too, is learned the great lesson of labor. There is no rest for the
mother. The stove, the broom, the needle, the hoe, and the axe are ever the
familiar implements of her household husbandry. The cows and poultry are
her _protégés_. Her brown arms and sunburned face are seen among the
mowers and reapers. Endowed with the practical faculty for small things,
she reaches into details which escape the blunter senses of the stronger
sex. The necessities and contingencies of frontier life make her variously
accomplished in the useful arts. She becomes a "jack at all trades,"
carding, spinning, weaving, cobbling shoes, fitting moccasins, mending
harness, dressing leather, making clothes, serving as cook, dairy-maid,
laundress, gardener, and nurse. From example and from precept the children
learn the lesson of labor from the mother.

The girls of course remain longer than their brothers under her tutelage.
Theirs is a lofty destiny--lofty because as wives and mothers they are to
carry the shrine of civilization into the wilderness, and build upon the
desert and waste places the structure of a new civil and social state.
Serving as a duty and a pleasure is woman's vocation. The great German poet
and philosopher has finely amplified this idea:

  "Early let woman learn to serve, for that is her calling,
  For by serving alone she attains to ruling;
  To the well-deserved power which is hers in the household.
  The sister serves her brother while young; and serves her parents,
  And her life is still a continual going and coming,
  A carrying ever and bringing, a making and shaping for others.
  Well for her if she learns to think no road a foul one,
  To make the hours of the night the same as the hours of the day;
  To think no labor too trifling, and never too fine the needle;
  To forget herself altogether, and live in others alone.
  And lastly, as mother, in truth, she will need every one of the virtues."

A French traveler in the course of his wanderings through, the western
wilds of our country, came to a single cabin in one of the remotest and
most inaccessible of our mountain territories. The only inmates in that
lonely home were a middle-aged woman and four girls, ranging from eight to
fifteen. The father was a miner, who spent a large part of the time in
digging or "prospecting" for precious ores, as yet with only moderate
success. The matron did the work of both man and woman. The cabin was a
museum of household mechanisms and implements. Independent of the clothier,
the merchant, and the grocer, their dress was the furry covering of the
mountain beasts; their tea was a decoction of herbs; their sugar was boiled
from the sap of the maple; the necessaries of life were all of their own
culture and manufacture. Yet, thanks to the unwearied toils of the good
woman and her little help-meets, there was warmth, comfort, and abundance,
for love and labor were inhabitants of those rocks.

The girls had already been taught all that their mother knew, and she had
sent out to fight their own battle, three sons, strong, brave, and versed
in border-lore.

It was my mother, said the matron, that taught me all that I know, forty
years ago in the forests of Michigan, and I am trying to bring up my girls
so that they shall know everything that their grandmother taught me. They
could read, and write, and cypher. They were little farmers, and gardeners,
and seamstresses, and housewives. Nor had their religious and moral
training been neglected. The good Book lay well thumbed and dogeared on the
kitchen shelf. The sound of the "church-going bell" had never been heard by
those children, but every Sunday the mother gathered them about her, and
they read together from the New Testament. "It is ten years," said the
matron, "since I have seen a church. I remember the last time I visited San
Francisco, awaking Sunday morning and hearing the sound of the bell which
called us to meeting. It was sweeter than heavenly music to my ears, and I
burst into tears." What a suggestion was that, pointing to the unsatisfied
craving of that lonely heart for the consolation of the promises uttered by
consecrated lips! Right and fitting it is that woman, God-beloved in old
Jerusalem, that she, the last at the cross and the first at the sepulcher,
though far from the Sabbath that smiles upon eastern homes, should keep
alive in the hearts of her children the remembrance of the Saviour and of
the Lord's day.

Rove wherever they may, the sons and daughters of the wilderness will find
amid the stormiest lives a safe anchorage in the holy keeping of the
Christian Sabbath, and in the word of God, for these are the best and
surest legacies of a pious mother's precepts. A civilization in which the
early lispings of childhood are of God and Christ, cannot become altogether
corrupt and degenerate, for woman here is the depository and transmitter of
religious faith.

From the earliest times to a comparatively recent period, a large
proportion of the distinguished men of our country have necessarily passed
their first years in remote settlements, if not on the extreme border of
civilization. The lives of those men who have risen to eminence as
generals, statesmen, professional men, and authors, and date their success
from the lessons received from woman's lips in the early homes of their
childhood, would fill volumes. We pass by the first generations of these
pupils, and come to the men of that period from which to-day we date the
birth of the Republic.

The heroic age of American statesmanship commenced in 1776. Of all those
illustrious men who signed the immortal Declaration, or framed the
Constitution of the United States, a considerable number passed their
childhood and youth in secluded and remote settlements. They were the sons
of "Women on the American Frontier." They drew in with their mother's milk
the intellectual and moral traits, and gathered from their mother's lips
those lessons which prepared them in after years to guide the councils of
their country in the most trying period of its history.

Let us commence the list with the deathless name of Washington. Born in a
secluded and primitive farm-house at Bridge's Creek, Virginia, he was left
by the death of his father to the care and guardianship of his mother.
"She," says his biographer, "proved herself worthy of the trust. Endowed
with plain, direct good sense, thorough conscientiousness, and prompt
decision, she governed her family strictly, but kindly, exacting deference
while she inspired affection. George, being her eldest son, was thought to
be her favorite, yet she never gave him undue preference, and the implicit
deference exacted from him in childhood continued to be habitually observed
by him to the day of her death. He inherited from her a high temper and a
spirit of command, but her early precepts and example taught him to
restrain and govern that temper, and to square his conduct on the exact
principles of equity and justice. Tradition gives an interesting picture of
the widow, with her little flock gathered round her, as was her wont,
reading to them lessons of religion and morality out of some standard work.
Her favorite volume was Sir Mathew Hale's Contemplations, moral and divine.
The admirable maxims therein contained, for outward action as well as self
government, sank deep into the mind of George, and doubtless had a great
influence in forming his character. They certainly were exemplified in his
conduct throughout life. His mother's manual, bearing his mother's name,
Mary Washington, written with her own hand, was ever preserved by him with
filial care, and may still be seen in the archives of Mount Vernon. A
precious document! Let those who wish to know the moral foundation of his
character, consult its pages."

Among the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, the
author of that immortal document; George Wythe, afterwards Chancellor of
Virginia; Francis Hopkinson, the poet and patriot Benjamin Franklin, Samuel
Huntington, Edward Rutledge, and many others, have left upon record
testimonials of their great obligations to their mother's care and
teachings.

In the second era of American statesmanship, a large number of those most
eminent for public services were also born and nurtured on the frontier. A
cursory examination of the biographies of those distinguished men will show
how largely they were indebted to the early training which they received
from their mothers.

Incidents drawn from the early life of the seventh President of the United
States, will prove with striking clearness the lasting influence of a
mother's teachings.

During one of the darkest periods of the Revolution, and after the massacre
at Warsaw by the bloodthirsty Tarleton, when the British prison-pens in
South Carolina were crowded with wounded captive patriots, an elderly
woman, with the strongly marked physiognomy which characterizes the
Scotch-Irish race, could have been seen moving among the hapless prisoners,
relieving their wants and alleviating their sufferings. She had come the
great distance, alone and on foot, through swamps and forests, and across
rivers, from a border settlement, on this errand of compassion.

After her work of charity and mercy had been finished, she set out alone
and on foot, as before, upon her journey home. She sped on, thinking
doubtless of her sons, and most of all of the youngest, a bright and manly
little fellow whom she had watched over and trained with all of a mother's
care and tenderness. The way was long and difficult, the unbridged streams
were cold, the forest was dark and tangled. Wandering from her course,
weary and worn with her labors of love and pity, she sank down at last and
died.

That woman who gave her life to her country and humanity was the mother of
Andrew Jackson, and that youngest son, her especial pupil, was the seventh
president of the United States. He had lost his father when an infant, and
his early training devolved upon that patriot mother, from whom he also
inherited some of those marked and high traits of character for which he
was afterwards so conspicuous. She was an earnest and devoted Christian
woman, and strove, like the mother of Washington, to glorify God as much in
the rearing of her children as in the performance of any other duty. She
taught Andrew the leading doctrines of the Bible, in the form of question
and answer, from the Westminster catechism: and these lessons he never
forgot. In a conversation with him some years since, says a writer,
"General Jackson spoke of his mother in a manner that convinced me that she
never ceased to exert a secret power over him, until his heart was brought
into reconciliation with God." Just before his death, which occurred in
June, 1855, he said to a clergyman, "My lamp is nearly out, and the last
glimmer is come, I am ready to depart when called. The Bible is true. Upon
that sacred volume I rest my hopes of eternal salvation, through the merits
and blood of our blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ."

If departed spirits, the saintly and ascended, are permitted to look from
their high habitation, upon the scene of earth, with what holy transport
must the mother of Andrew Jackson have beheld the death-bed triumph of her
son. The lad whom she sent to an academy at the Warsaw meeting-house,
hoping to fit him for the ministry, had become a man, had filled the
highest elective office in the world, and was now an old man, able in his
last earthly hour, _by the grace of God attending his early pious
instruction_, to challenge death for his sting and to shout "victory"
over his opening grave.

It is a faculty of the female mind to penetrate with singular facility into
the true character of the young. Every intelligent mother quickly, and by
intuition, discerns the native bent of her child and measures his
endowments. Evidences of latent talent in any particular direction are
scrutinized with maternal shrewdness, and encouraged by applause and
caresses. The lonelier the cabin, the more secluded the settlement, the
sharper seem to grow the mother's eyes, and the more profound this
intuitive faculty. It is the mother who first discerns the native bent and
endowments of her child, and she too is the quickest to encourage and draw
them out. How many eminent and useful men whose childhood was passed in the
outlying settlements have been able to trace their success to a mother's
insight into their capabilities.

In one of the forest homes on the skirts of civilization in Pennsylvania,
Benjamin West, the greatest historical painter of the last century, showed
first to his mother's eyes the efforts of his infant genius. The picture of
a smiling babe made on a summer's day, when the little painter was but a
child of seven, caught his mother's delighted eyes, and she covered him
with her kisses. Years after, when Benjamin West was the guest of kings and
emperors, that immortal artist was wont to recall those electric caresses
and say "my mother's kiss made me a painter."

Daniel Webster's childhood home was in a log-cabin on the banks of the
Merrimac, in a sequestered portion of New Hampshire. Here he passed his
boyhood and youth, and received from his admirable mother those lessons
which formed his mind and character, and fitted him for that great part
which he was to play in public life. She recognized the scope of his genius
when she gave him the copy of the constitution on a pocket handkerchief.
She pinched every household resource that he might go to Exeter Academy,
and to Dartmouth College, as if she had had a prophetic vision that he
would come to be called the defender of those institutions which his father
fought to obtain. And when in after years he had grown gray in honors and
usefulness, he was wont to refer with tears to the efforts and sacrifices
of this mother who discerned his great capacity and was determined that he
should enjoy the advantages of a college education.

It is the affectionate and noble ambition of many other pioneer mothers
besides Mrs. Webster which has secured to their sons the benefits of a
thorough academical training.

The next step from the home-school is the district-school. The cabin which
shelters a single family is generally placed with shrewd eyes to its being
the point around which a settlement shall grow up. Wood and water are
contiguous: the soil is rich: not many seasons roll away before other
cabins send up their smoke hard by: children multiply, for these matrons of
the border are fecund: out of the common want rises the schoolhouse, built
of logs, with its rude benches: here the school teacher is a woman--the
grown-up daughter, or the maiden sister of the pioneer.

How many of our greatest men have learned their first rudiments from the
lips of "school marms," in their primitive school-houses on the frontier!

Population increases by production and accession. There is soon a dearth of
teachers; all along the frontier the cry is sent up to the east, come and
teach us! Woman again comes to the front; the schools of the border
settlements have been largely taught by the faithful and devoted female,
missionaries in the cause of education from the east. These pioneer school
mistresses bore the discomforts of remote western life patiently, and did
their duties cheerfully. Most of them afterwards became wives and mothers,
and have in both these relations done much towards building up the
settlements where they made their homes. Others have enrolled their names
among the missionary martyrs. The toils, hardships, and privations incident
to a newly settled country have often proved too heavy for the delicate
frames reared amid the comforts and luxuries of eastern homes, and they
have fallen victims to their noble ambition, giving their lives to the
cause they sought to promote.

One of these martyrs was Miss M. She was one of that band of lady-teachers,
numbering several hundred who, nearly thirty years ago, went out to the
then far west under the auspices of Governor Slade and Miss Catharine
Beecher, to supply the crying need of teachers which then existed in that
section of our country.

This, it should be remembered, was before railroads had brought that region
within easy access from the east. That wild, primeval garden had been, as
yet, redeemed from nature only in plots and patches. On the boundless
prairies of Illinois the cabins of the settlers were like solitary vessels
moored in a waste of waters, and between them rolled in green billows,
under the wind, the tall, coarse grass. The settlers themselves were of the
most adventurous and often of the roughest class. Society presented to the
cultured eye a rude and almost barbarous aspect.

Man, while grappling, almost unaided, with untamed nature, and seeking to
subdue her, seems to gravitate away from civilization and approach his
primitive state. Everything is taken in the rough; the arts and the graces
of a more settled condition of society are cultivated but little, because
they are non-essentials. The physical qualities are prized more than mental
culture, and the sentiments and sensibilities are in abeyance during the
reign of the more robust emotions.

During the onset which the pioneer makes upon the wilderness he and his
entire family bear the rugged impress which such a life stamps upon them.
The wife, in the practice of the sterner virtues of courage, self-denial,
and fortitude, may become hardened against the access of the quick
sensibilities and tender emotions of her more delicately reared sisters.
The children, bright-eyed, strong, and nimble, run like squirrels through
the woods, and leap like fawns on the plain. The mother's tutelage has done
much, but more remains to be done in the schooling to be had from books.
After the first victory has been won over the forest and the soil, and the
pioneer reposes for a season upon his laurels, in comparative ease, he
discerns the needs of his flock, and craves the offices of one who can
supply the place of the weary mother in schooling the children.

Out of the void that exists the appliances of education must be created;
the nurslings of the plain must be brought together and taught to subject
themselves to the regular discipline of the district school; and who but
woman can best supply such a discipline!

Such was the condition of frontier society and education when Miss M. came
to Illinois. Her immediate field of labor was a wide prairie, over which
were thinly scattered the cabins of the pioneer families. There were no
books, no school house, no antecedent knowledge of what was needed. But
under the advice and suggestions of this intelligent young lady every want
was, in a measure, supplied. A rough structure, with logs for seats, and
planks for benches, was soon prepared, books provided, and the children
gathered together into the comfortless room, where Miss M. made her first
essay as a preceptor of the little pioneers.

The children were like wild things caught and confined in a cage. Their
restlessness was a severe tax to the patience of the delicate girl. The
long walk to and from the school room in all weathers, through the snows of
winter, the mud of spring, and against the blast which sweeps those plains,
formed no small part of her labor. Luxuries and even comforts were denied
her. They gave her the best they had, but that was poor enough. Her chamber
was an unplastered loft; her bed a shakedown of dried grass. The moonbeams
showed her the crevices where the rain trickled in, and the snow fringed
her coverlid. Her fare was of the coarsest, and her social intercourse, to
her sensitive nature, was almost forbidding.

But she never swerved from the course she had marked out, nor shrank from
the labors and duties incident to her mission. Her body, extremely fragile,
was the tenement of an intellect of premature activity and grasp, a native
delicacy, sensibility, and great moral force. She was a born missionary,
and in the difficult and trying career which she had chosen, she showed
courage, self-denial, tenacity of purpose, which, combined with a sweetness
of disposition, soon made her beloved by her scholars and enabled her to
soften their wildness, smooth their rudeness, and impress upon their minds
the lessons of knowledge which it was her study to impart.

In sunshine or storm her presence was never wanting at her post of duty. On
the dark mornings of winter she could have been seen convoying her little
_protégés_ through the driving sleet, or the snow, or slush, and those
rough but not unkindly parents scarcely dreamed that her life was waning.
The vivid carnation of her cheeks was not painted by the frosty air, nor by
the scorching heat of the iron box which warmed her little charges as they
gathered beneath the ethereal splendors of her eye in the school room. The
destroyer had set his seal upon her, but her frail body was swayed and
animated by the spirit whose energies even mortal disease could not subdue.

The discovery of the sacrifice was too late, though, all that rude kindness
and unlearned thoughtfulness could do was lavished upon her in those few
days that remained to her. Months of exposure, hardship, solitude of the
soul, and intense ambition in her noble mission had done their work, and
before the light of the tenth day after she was driven to her couch, had
faded, surrounded by a score of her pupils, she passed away, and was
numbered in the army of missionary heroines and martyrs.

Those brave labors and that noble life was not for nought. The lessons
taught those pupils, the high example set before them, and the life
expended for their sake were not lost or forgotten. Some of those little
scholars have grown to be good and useful men and women, and are now
repeating, in other schools, farther towards the setting sun, the lessons
and example of devotion which they learned from the teacher who gave her
life that they might have knowledge.

The place which woman, as an educator, now fills, and so long has filled
upon the frontier, is not bounded, however, by the home-school, nor by the
district school, in both of which she is the teacher of the young. She is
the educator of the man. She moulds and guides society.

The home where she rules is the center and focus from which wells out an
influence as light wells out from the sun. The glow of the fireside where
the mother sits, is a beacon whose light stretches far out to guide and
guard.

The word "home," as used among the old races of Northern Europe, contains
in its true signification something mystic and religious. The female
patriarch of the household was regarded with superstitious veneration. Her
sayings were wise and good, and the warrior sat at her feet on the eve of
battle and gathered from her as from an oracle, the confidence and courage
which nerved him for the fight; and today the picture of an aged mother
sitting by the hearth, and the recollection of her counsels, is a source of
comfort and strength to many a son who is far away fighting the battle of
life. The home and mother is the polar-star of absent sons and daughters.
She who sat by the cradled bed of childhood, "the first, the last, the
faithfulest of friends," she, the guardian of infancy, is the loving and
never to be forgotten guide of riper years. As far as thought can run upon
this earthly sphere, or memory fondly send back its gaze, so far can the
influence of a mother reach to cheer, to sustain, to elevate, and to keep
the mind and heart from swerving away from the true and the right.

One who received his early training from a mother's lips in a frontier
State, and afterward attained to wealth and influence in one of our
mountain republics, lately told the writer that he kept the picture of his
mother hanging up in his chamber, where it was the last object which his
eyes lighted on before retiring, and the first upon rising; and whenever he
was about to adopt any new course, or commence any new enterprise into
which the question of right or wrong entered, he always asked himself,
"what will my mother say if I do thus and thus?" That mother's influence
was upon him though a thousand miles away from her, and the thought of her
in the crises of his life was the load-star of his strong heart and mind.

We may well imagine those hardy sons who are now building up our empire in
the Rocky Mountains, as finding in a mother's portrait a tie which binds
them fast to the counsels and the love of their earliest guardian, and that
as they gaze on the "counterfeit presentment" of those endeared features,
they might long to hear again the faithful counsels which guided their
youth, exclaiming with the poet,

  "O, that those lips had language! life has passed
  With me but roughly since I saw thee last."

We have elsewhere spoken of the refining and humanizing influence of woman,
amid the rude and almost barbarous atmosphere of frontier life. The mother
moulds and trains the child, the wife moulds and trains the husband, the
sister moulds and trains the brother, the daughters mould and train the
father. We speak now of moulding and of training in a broader sense than
they are embraced in the curriculum of books. The influence exerted is
subtle, but not the less potent. _Woman is the civilizer par excellence_.
Society in its narrower meaning exists by her and through her. That state
of man which is best ordered and safest, is only where woman's membership
is most truly recognized.

Man _alone_ gravitates naturally towards the savage state. Communities
of men, such as exist in some of our most remote territories, are mere
clubs of barbarians. They may be strong, energetic, and brave, but their
very virtues are such as those which savages possess.

Into one of the loneliest valleys in the Rocky Mountains, some years since,
fifty men, attracted by the golden sands which were rolled down by the
torrents, built their huts and gave the settlement a name. There were
cabins, a tavern, and a bar-room. There were men toiling and spending their
gain in gambling and rioting. There was rugged strength and hardihood.
There was food and shelter, and yet there was no basis for civil and social
organism, as those terms are properly understood, because no wife, no
mother, no home was there.

Those strong and hardy men clove the rock and sifted the soil, and chained
the cataract, but their law was force and cunning, and the only tie they
recognized was a partnership in gain. What civilization or true citizenship
could there be in a society in which the family circle and its kindred
outgrowth--the school and the church--were unknown! The denizens of that
mountain camp slid, by an irresistible law of gravitation, away from civil
order, from social beneficence, and from humanity. They gorged themselves,
and swore, and wrangled, and fought, and like the "dragons of the prime,"
they tore each other in their selfish greed for that which was their only
care.

Into this savage semi-pandemonium entered one day, two unwonted
visitors--the wives of miners who had come to join their husbands. Polite,
kind, gentle, intelligent, and pious, their very presence seemed to change
the moral atmosphere of the place. All the dormant chivalry of man's nature
was awakened. Their appearance in the midst of that turbulent band was a
sedative which soon allayed the chronic turmoil in which the settlement was
embroiled. The reign of order commenced again: manners became softened,
morals purified: the law of kindness was re-established, and slowly out of
social chaos arose the inchoate form of a well-ordered civil society.

This illustrates woman's influence in one of the peculiar conditions of our
American frontier communities. But in all other phases of true pioneer
life, her influence is as strongly, if not as strikingly displayed as a
humanizing, refining, and civilizing agent.

We have said that woman is the cohesive force which holds society together.
This thesis may be proved by facts which show that power in all those
relations in which she stands to the other sex. In cultured circles she
shapes and controls by the charms of beauty and manner. But in the lonely
and rude cabin on the border her plastic power is far greater because her
presence and offices are essentials without which development dwindles and
progress is palsied. There, if anywhere, should be the vivified germ of the
town and the state. There, if anywhere, should be the embryonic conditions
which will ripen one day into a mighty civil growth. A wife's devotion, the
purity of a sister's and a daughter's love, the smiles and tears and
prayers of a mother--these make the sunshine which transforms the waste
into a paradise, the wild into a garden, and expands the home by a law of
organic growth into a well ordered community.

The basis of civil law and social order is the silent compact which binds
the household into one sweet purpose of a common interest, a common
happiness. Woman is the unconscious legislator of the frontier. The gentle
restraints of the home circle, its calm, its rest, its security form the
unwritten code of which the statute book is the written exponent.

The cross is emblazoned on the rude entablature above the hearth-stone of
the cabin, and where woman is, there is the holy rest of the blessed
sabbath. She, who is the child's instructor in the truths of revealed
religion, is also the father's guide and mentor in the same ways. Faith and
hope in these doctrines as cherished by woman are the sheet anchors of our
unknit civilizations.

Law is established because woman's presence renders more desirable, life,
property, and the other objects for which laws are made.

Religion purifies and sanctifies the frontier home because she is the
repository and early instructress in its Holy Creeds.

The influence that woman exerts on man is one that exalts: while she
educates her child she elevates and ennobles the entire circle of the
family.

If we cast our eyes back over the vast procession of actors and events
which have composed the migrations of our race across the continent, from
ocean to ocean, we are first struck by the bolder features of the march. We
see the battles, the feats of courage and daring, the deeds of high
enterprise in which woman is the heroine, standing shoulder to shoulder
beside her hero-mate. Again we look and see the wife and mother worn with
toils and hardships, and wasted with suffering which she endures with
unshaken heart--a miracle of fortitude and patience. Then we behold her as
the comforter and the guardian of the household amid a thousand trying
scenes, soothing, strengthening, cheering, and preserving.

Grand and beautiful indeed are such spectacles as these. They rivet the
eye, they swell the breast, they lift the soul of the gazer, because they
are an exhibition of great virtues exercised on a wide field, in a noble
cause--the subjugation of the wilderness, and the extension of the area of
civilization. The hero who fights, the martyr who dies, the sufferer who
bleeds, the spirit of kindness and sympathy which comforts and confirms are
objects which call for our tears, our praise, our gratitude. But after all,
these are incidents merely, glorious and soul-stirring indeed, yet scarcely
more than superficial features and external agencies of the grand march,
compared to the moral influence which emanates from the wife and mother in
a million homes and through a million lives with a steadfastness and power
and beneficence which can best be likened to the sunshine.

We praise it less because it is everywhere. We hardly see it, but we know
that it is present, and that society--frontier society--could not long
exist without that penetrating, shaping, elevating force. And so while we
applaud the heroine we may not forget the patient and often unconscious
educator.

When the philosophical historian of the future collects the myriad facts
upon which he is to base those generalizations which show the progress of
the race upon this continent, and how that progress was induced, he will
draw from woman's record a noble array of names and virtues, and a vast
multitude of good, kind, and brave deeds, but he will not forget to take
note also of the silent agencies, and the unobtrusive but ever-present
influence of woman which will be found to outweigh the potency of the
stronger and more brilliant virtues with all the acts that they have
wrought.

And so it is to-day. As we gaze fixedly on the great expanse which the
record of our time unrolls, we see high up on the majestic scroll a
thousand bright and speaking evidences of woman's silent agency in the
building of a new empire upon our dark and distant borderland.





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