THE LIFE OF JOSEPH BISHOP,
THE CELEBRATED OLD PIONEER IN THE FIRST SETTLEMENTS
OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE, EMBRACING
HIS WONDERFUL ADVENTURES AND NARROW ESCAPES
WITH THE INDIANS, HIS ANIMATING AND
REMARKABLE HUNTING EXCURSIONS.
INTERSPERSED WITH RACY ANECDOTES OF THOSE EARLY TIMES.
BY JOHN W. GRAY, M.D.
Thanks to Chuck Robertson, for donating this information!
THERE perhaps never has been a man of any rank or age, of any creed or calling, who has lived through as many years as I have seen pass away forever, and who had a medium memory, that could not recall to mind a sufficient number of incidents to make a hook of some size, and to many persons of some interest; but though I have held my courteous friends to many a narration of the scenes through which I have passed, I never once dreamed until now that it was to cost me the trial of dictating this; for, in it, my first undertaking of the kind, I find, as I have always imagined, that it is no easy matter for one whose education has been so much neglected as mine. But I am persuaded by my friends that they cannot see me disappear from this world without leaving behind me the recollections of other days; and when I persist in the idea that not many of my stories are worthy of a place in the public records, they tell me that I cannot see myself as others do, and, as a sort of last argument, they tell me that the book is to be a kind of neighborhood entertainment, which is not expected to find its way to the closets of remote cities and other places where critics dwell; and I must confess that this idea has a greater influence with me than any they could adduce; for even if a copy should straggle away from Smith county, and fall into the path of some learned judge of story-telling, I still have one consolation left, which, according to the ancient philosopher, is that “Eagles never stoop to catch flies;” and even to leave out the pert sayings of ancient philosophers, a class of men that I never knew much about, withal, there is one thing that I do know, and that is, that good hunters in my day never stooped to shoot small game. Sixty years ago, and up to a much later period, the hare might have sported in safety at the guns-man’s feet when the bear and the buffalo stood before him, and the sparrow might have chirped unharmed upon the limb his fowling-piece rested upon while he took aim at the swan or the larger members of the feathered tribe. Be all this as it may, I am one of those determined kind of characters who, when they get their minds set to do a thing, enter forthwith upon the task, and leave the consequences to take care of themselves; so now you see I am going to dictate the history of my life to a friend, and as I cannot stay here much longer than the time he will require to write it in, I shall make truth my aim from preface to conclusion, allowing my narrator to fill each story out in his own language; and I hope that where I have had misfortunes, they may serve as a kind of buoy on the sea of life to prevent those who are to succeed me from running upon the reefs, and that those acts of mine which may be adjudged worthy, may stand up as so many lights, by which they may be guided in a smoother voyage than was my lot to experience, for it will be seen in the course of these pages that I have been tossed and buffeted from time to time, until one could scarcely realize the truth of the life I have lived. But, then, we should be strangers to joy without some acquaintance with pain—the sunshine of our lives would become monotonous without the darkness with which to contrast it. However, I believe that God gave me a cheerful disposition, and one that has borne me triumphant through all the troubles which I am about to recount.
UPON a cold winter evening, when seated by a cheerful fire, in the humble domicile of the subject of this sketch, and talking with him over the various news of the times, some sentence perchance escaped my lips, which, with the fleetness of a shooting star, carried the old man’s thoughts away back to the earliest scenes of his life; and making this his starting-point, he began to detail them with so much feeling of interest, that we at once determined to sacrifice all other topics, until he should narrate to us the events of his past career; but after holding our attention for an hour, he came to a sudden pause, and with the same modesty which has marked his character through life, said, “I expect the stories which I have been giving you all this while seem more eloquent to myself than to you, who have never experienced the realities whence they originated.” We told him that we might call to mind examples going to show where and when we had been imposed upon, even bored to intolerance, by fools who attempted to look wise, and presume upon our ignorance by relating falsehoods, or spinning out to a thread which would pass through the eye of a lady’s cambric needle, some unconnected, uninteresting yarn, of which they most commonly made themselves the hero; but that this was not our present lot. “If you will only proceed,” continued we, “you shall have an audience until the cock’s shrill clarion shall ring out on the morning air, and if you then have not finished, we will hear you again, and still again, until you have done.” Here the old man thanked us for what he feared was an unmerited compliment, and said, “I am now too old to labor with my hands, and since the mind is a piece of machinery, the continued motion of which God never designed should stop during life, it is evident that I must have employment, and I, therefore, agree to tax your patience for the period I propose to occupy in relating my story.” We told him such a tale would be to us a delightful burden. “Then,” said he, “you must transport yourself in imagination with me back through a space of nearly a hundred years, to a period that dates some five years beyond the bursting forth of the American Revolution, to a time when our cannons had never boomed upon the bloody fields of Lexington and Concord, to a time when the first Congress of the Colonies had never assembled, and when the burning of the Gaspee had not taken place: to be brief, you must go with me far beyond.” Here we interrupted him, and desired him to begin with his earliest childhood, the morning of his existence, and we were ready to start and come down with him to the evening in which his sun was so clearly setting; and he began as may be seen in the succeeding chapter.
THE 80th of July, 1770, at night, when the stars, for all I know, were shining bright, and the crystal dews were being distilled plentifully upon the earth’s green herbage around the small habitation of my parents, I made my advent into this world, and I am unable to determine at this remote period of my life whether I was born with a caul over my face or not, but am disposed to regard it more as a fact than a mere probability, for it is evident that I have enjoyed many privileges debarred others, and have seen many sights upon which other eyes than mine have never gazed, and superstition informs us that this is the fate of all who enter this existence under such strange auspices. But be this as it may, superstition has sustained her reputation so far as to have allowed me the privilege of springing from Virginia, the Ancient Dominion, which gave birth to Washington, the savior of his country, and Jefferson, the great author of the Declaration of Independence, and Patrick Henry, the famous revolutionary orator, and since permitted me to live in Tennessee, where I shall doubtless die, which can boast of her generals, her statesmen, and presidents.
At the time of my birth, to say nothing about superstition—a thing which, after all, is very unpopular with me—my parents resided near Cabin Point, in Prince George county, Eastern Virginia, and their names were respectively Benjamin and Caroline, both of English descent, members of the Baptist Church, and had seven children, two sons and five daughters. They were both very pious, and it is a vast source of pride and happiness to me, in this the evening of my existence, to reflect on the life they led, and to think with what vigilance they watched over their offspring, endeavoring all the while to train the twig in a manner that it would shoot direct toward heaven.
I remember that I was a very mischievous boy, and that my father told me that I would be hung; but if you will look at these white locks you will be of opinion with me, that I have survived the probability of a death so ignoble—at least, I am sure that I have no inclination to commit suicide and lose my salvation; none to perpetrate a crime which would cause my countrymen to stretch my neck, and it were unreasonable to suppose that it would be done by robbers, for my goods of this earth would not amount to an inducement; and lastly, if I have an enemy, it must be some man upon whom, in other days, it became my duty as an officer to serve warrants for just debts which they desired to make clear.
In giving the reason why my father said that I would be hung, I might offer a train of innumerable rudenesses which I committed, but the world already knows what bad boys are prone to, and I will not give the record of my mischief; indeed, there are many circumstances connected with my boyhood which I should feel a touch of shame to tell; but as the history of my life is the object sought by the public, and as many of the thousands who may condescend to read it will expect a bit of the least along with the greatest, I will favor them with the two following specimens.
A woman having been detained at my father’s house in consequence of a heavy fall of snow, and it not being convenient to entertain her longer than a time at which it would be safe for her to depart, he told her that as she was travelling on foot and had two children to carry, be would send me with her as far as the swamp, which was no short distance from the house, and make me pack one of them through it. This struck my ears, as some writer has suggested, like a peal of thunder from a clear sky, for it was unexpected, and broke into other arrangements which I had made; but knowing that his word was the law, I shouldered up one of the little fat rascals and put out, not, however, without beginning with my first step to contrive a scheme by which to make my part of the journey short, nor had I fairly gone out of sight before my plan was laid. I stumbled, of course accidentally, and fell, tumbling the child over into the snow and making it squall at a fearful rate; the woman ran to the spot both frightened and angry, and with all the persuasion of which I found it convenient to be master, I could not induce her to trust me with it again, and thus depriving myself of my luggage I returned, but not without receiving a severe rebuke from my father.
Again, a neighbor boy and myself, in the absence of other mischief, agreed that while one of us should represent a wild deer, the other should act the huntsman and shoot at him with a cane-gun. We repaired to the forest, and after parleying a few minutes over preliminaries, I induced him to let me act the deer first and he take the first shot, I having a special inclination to take a crack at him last. The terms now being understood, he loaded his cane-gun with powder and one shot, and prepared a chunk of fire with which to touch her off. I about this time went away into the bushes and lay down, and jumped up as though a pack of yelling hounds had suddenly come upon me, and upon all-fours came running past the hunter’s stand, at a distance of eight or ten paces from him. He waited until I reached a point directly opposite the stand and fired, and to my utter astonishment he so effectually knocked me down that I thought of taking the last privilege that belongs to living things, or, in other words, making my last kick. In reality I knew not but that I was mortally wounded. His shot had struck me, to use a huntsman’s term, just behind the shoulder, raising a knot upon one of my ribs full as large as a partridge egg, and while I tumbled and scringed and writhed as though a firebrand had been pressed against me for the time—for it stung most intolerably—he turned pale and shuddered as if the icy fangs of death were closing around his heart. This cured us of that kind of sport, for while the very thought of a cane-gun threw him into an immediate nervous trepidation, regarding them, as he now did, as sharp-shooters, I had no disposition on the other hand to kill him, an event which previous to my being shot I had never apprehended.
In lieu of the above two stories, and as a kind of ransom, to those who think that books should be made of sterner stuff, I will relate the two following, which will be regarded as having a more laudable bearing.
During my boyhood the fate of the Republic was decided. Being six years old when the Declaration of Independence was declared, I was yet a lad while the great struggle for freedom was going on, and though too young to stand in the angry tide of battle, I can never forget how earnestly my feelings became enlisted with the spirit of the times. I, like every man, woman, and child of those days, was full of war, and of liberty or death to overflowing, and many were the little battles I fought in imitation of my father.
Upon one occasion we manufactured, after our own way, a supply of cane-muskets; loaded them with powder and one shot in each, to be discharged by the application of a chunk of fire, all the same as in the deer-hunt, except that we this time took the precaution to extend the distance from eight to thirty yards. At length the dreadful hour for battle came on, and the two little hostile armies assembled upon the ground, and having marched to their allotted distance, formed the line of contact, and all being up in arms and eager for the fray, the firing at once commenced, but after being kept up very briskly for an indefinite time, I struck the same boy who had knocked down the deer on the front of the thigh, just above the knee. He laid hold of the limb with both hands, limped round, and bellowed to such a frightful degree that the battle was at once lost and won, the victory mine. I was the hero of the field, and shall always doubt whether General Washington ever felt prouder than I did at the head of his patriotic army after the achievement of the most brilliant victory that during the Revolution wreathed his noble brow.
At another time we constructed ships out of corn-stalks, manned them with so many cannons formed of cane, and launched them upon the deep waters of a tan vat. These little floating navies all being put in readiness for battle, began to maneuver, and soon the fearful engagement took place; and as the cane cannons were booming away, the favorite of my little ships seemed to be so eager for the blood of her enemies, that she would sometimes leap the full length of her cable toward them. A terrible cannonading continued; each vessel trembled upon the agitated waters in extreme suspense, first one being crippled and then another sunk. My fleet, from the masts of which were streaming the immortal stars and stripes—which floated in triumph over the bloody fields of the seven years’ war, like the colors from the heights of the brave old ship Constitution—survived the heaviest shocks of the hour, while those which supported the red flags went down. Here again I saw that the victory was mine. My ships were already mooring in the midst of the wrecked and ruined vessels of the enemy, and my bosom, which for the time had been stirred with an almost breathless anxiety, now swelled higher with enthusiastic emotion, and throbbed if possible with a nobler sense of pride than ever heaved the manly breast of Commodore Perry at any moment while the British were surrendering to him on the waters of Lake Erie.
AT the age of eleven years I was left at home alone, sole proprietor as it were of the little farm. My father and brother, the latter of whom was only sixteen years old, had enlisted for the war, and were started to meet the great English lion, which now stood upon and was prowling over our native soil, while he snarled and shook his shaggy mane, and vengeance glared in his fiery eyes for what he looked upon as presumptuous insolence in our brave fathers. Still feeling the spirit of war in me, I wanted to join the army with them; and O, how I implored my father to let me go! But he kindly told me that I was too young to bear arms, that his little home required some protection; and no matter how great my mania for the field, he had been a father who had won my confidence. I knew that he had always acted honestly with and spoken truthfully to me; that he possessed none of that detestable quality, low cunning, and had never encouraged me to do wrong, thus exercising over me the strongest rod that could be placed into a parent’s hand. I consented to remain, and a tear trickled down my cheek as they bade me adieu. When they were gone I began to move about, look around and reflect, and thought, no matter if I was disappointed in treading the plains which were being rocked by my country’s battles, I was proprietor of a farm, and, like Selkirk, was monarch of all I surveyed.
Previous to my father’s departure he had shot a mad dog which bit a calf of his, and one day while my brother was at home on a furlough he went out, and coming in told me that he believed the calf was mad; that it had rolled its eyes at him. I told him that I was not afraid, started, and coming to the lot fence, I leaped over and went directly to the calf, which was standing at the opposite side with his head close in the corner of the fence. I slapped my hand upon his hindquarters, expecting him to turn round to eat as he usually did, but, to my surprise, he shook his head, and as he turned rolled his eyes as if he was entering the last dying agony. My courage failed: I took to my scrapers, and perhaps never made a narrower escape, for it was a trial of speed across a wide lot, he bellowing on my heels at every stride I could possibly make until I reached the fence, which I did not climb but just kind o’ rolled over.
After so long a time the old warrior, my father, returned and blessed his boy; and when I was about sixteen years of age, still living with him, I began in my mind to cast about in quest of an occupation to follow through life, and without stopping to spend a single thought upon the learned professions, I soon ran over the whole catalogue of the trades, but crossed none which I thought I should like to pursue, which left me with the conclusion that I should like to spend my life as a farmer, and, according to the philosophy of many persons belonging to those days, I hugged to my bosom the opinion that tillers of the soil had but little use for an education; but I can now see that I was embosoming a viper, which was to hiss and sting me through every subsequent period of my life; and still another opinion that I had was that a manual laborer had no chance to become informed from books, but I now feel much remorse of conscience for having ever embraced such false notions, for when it is too late the fact of my error darts into my mind with the clearness of a sunbeam. My mind is revolutionized; I can no longer regard the necessity of manual labor as a full apology for one’s not becoming learned, upon whom God has bestowed sufficient rationality to secure his success in a college. It has not been a great while since I read of Elihu Burritt, the blacksmith, who acquired a thorough knowledge of fifty-two languages, and whose hammer, during the whole course of his studies, was the first heard falling upon his anvil in the village at the dawn of each succeeding day, and with an arm powerful as that of Mureno, he swung his weighty sledge until the ringing of the last hammer in other shops had died away with the twilight, and experience has at length convinced me that a liberal education is as essential to the success of a farmer as a knowledge of human anatomy is to the surgeon or physician, or as a guide-book to a stranger in populous London.
About this time my father removed to Edgecombe county, North Carolina, and carried me with him; but not being satisfied on his arrival, and thinking that he could better his fortune elsewhere, he, after remaining a while, continued his journey a distance of about one hundred miles to the waters of Cape Fear river, in Chatham county, where he settled, and leaving some business open in Edgecombe, sent me back to adjust it. After my departure, I had not gone far before I accidentally fell in with a Mr. Teal, who, upon learning for what country I was bound, informed me that he was going my route. I was exceedingly glad to hear this, for company was as much of an item in those days with a traveler as ten dollars a hundred for tobacco is to a Smith county farmer in these.
As we proceeded, we observed a heavy cloud in the distance before us which was swinging across our path, and a few hours’ travel brought us upon signs which told us that a torrent of rain had fallen. We now became apprehensive that the passage of the watercourses would give us a great deal of trouble, for bridges had not yet begun to shade the streams in this region, nor had we gone far before we reached Buckhorn creek, which was already swollen to twenty times its usual volume. To have attempted to cross it would have been to swim from bank to bank, and get wet from foot to head. A stranger whose name we ascertained to be Cobb was stopped here, and absolutely in a state of great perplexity as to how he should get over. We observed that he had a saddle-bag with a jug in each end, his mission being rum, a quantity of which was kept for purchasers in a doggery on the opposite shore. I told him that I had a halter, and being rather serious in my manner, and he feeling guilty, I perceived that he turned pale and began to tremble, and with a look of terror and astonishment asked me if I thought it any crime for a man that was wet and cold to drink a little rum, as though he thought I aimed the halter for his neck. No, no, said I, we only wish to contrive some plan by which to conduct our horses across the tide, and think by fastening the halter securely on the neck of one horse at a time, and then tying a long grape-vine to it, we can succeed. The grape-vine was soon procured and attached to the halter, and a tree having fallen from a contiguous bluff and making a kind of footway across, we sent Cobb with one end of the vine to the other bank, while we remained where we were and led the horse first tied to the edge of the bluff, and when Cobb declared himself ready to pull, we pushed him off broadside into the water about ten feet below, and, contrary to what had been the fate of a cat, each one as we succeedingly pushed them off lit on his back. Cobb pulled, but not a lick would one of them try to swim. He heaved away, however, and drew each one across under water. We now walked the log, and saw Cobb get his jugs filled and leave. I should have enjoyed this scene exceedingly, but just as the pleasure began to laugh about me, my reason stumbled and fell into a state of profound reflection upon the vanity of human life. Here I saw one of the creatures which God had endowed with a soul, a being of lawful age and fashioned after his own image, risking his horse and staking his own life, willing as it seemed to sacrifice all upon the polluted altar of the rosy god who presides over the wrecked and destroyed destinies of all who kneel at his shrine, or make themselves familiar with the little hell-hole from which he obtained his rum. But we passed on without ever hearing whether the red-nosed Cobb got drunk and drowned, or reached home and abused an innocent wife and children. In a few days’ travel, during which time nothing of unusual interest occurred, we reached the place my father had moved from in Edgecombe County. The spring musters, so common in those days, had already commenced, and we attended all the parades for the purpose of shooting, for at this time no other amusement was half so popular, and I soon became universally known as the little shooting Bishop, for if a man who shot with me knocked the centre out, it was no matter, for my ball broke the target in no other place, and when a second trial came on and the guns were fired, the victory was generally mine.
When we were not attending muster-grounds we were hunting in the woods, for there were some famous hounds kept in the neighborhood, and during our stay we heard some brilliant canine concerts, which came off under the leader-ship of a good old deer dog followed by a pack of ten or fifteen fine-mouthed fellows, which in the most happy manner sounded the treble, tenor, counter, and base notes. Indeed, it would not have been impossible to have made us believe, while they were in full cry, that each one of them had drawn inspiration from Mozart or Paganini. We killed many a deer that made their flight before them, and at length returned to my father’s in Chatham County.
WHEN I reached home I found that there was a great deal being said about the country then called Cumberland, now Middle Tennessee, and having understood that an acquaintance of mine, a Mr. Dillard, was going to it, and was proposing to defray the expenses of any young man who would accompany him, I went to see him, and finding him at home, told him that I was his man. We were soon agreed, and had the time set for our departure. The day rolled round. We said good-bye to all of our friends, and took the trail for the above-named country, and we had not crossed the boundary line of Chatham County before we came up with Captain William Douglass, an old revolutionary soldier, the uncle of Ila Douglass. He had with him his family, a young man by the name of W. Jones, and another whose name was Terry Poe, all bound for Cumberland. Jones was a man of capacious soul. Upon his face was stamped in unmistakable characters the true gentleman, for it lay wide open in every feature. His father, feeling the sting of ignorance from a neglected education, had given his boy extensive learning, and now had generously aided him while he was young and full of enterprise, and before his noble energies became blunted, having given him what was then termed a fortune, about nine negroes and a few hundred dollars in money, all of which he turned to a good use in after years; but however strong my inclination to enlarge upon the character of young Jones, I must at once return to my subject.
Just after crossing New river a tire upon one of our wagon wheels broke, and while it was being mended, Jones, Poe, and myself concluded that we would seek a little pastime at a house that was nearby; Poe, who, I should have mentioned, was a very particular kind of man, was wearing buckskin knee pants and long stockings, and, additionally, a poultice on a sore toe. We all arrived at the house, of course perfect strangers, entered and accepted seats. Jones and myself were disposed to treat the young ladies, three of whom were present, with as much courtesy as we knew how; but Poe was one of those mush-and-molasses sort of fellows who could not sit off and talk to a lady as a gentleman, but must have hold of her, or rub against her in some manner or other; in fine, he had a goodly share of the low breeding in him, and as an evidence, as one of the young ladies passed near him, he caught her and pulled her down into his lap; she screamed and struggled with all her might to get loose, and, as with one voice, Jones and myself stormed out at him to release her; but seeing that he was obstinate, we started to her assistance, but soon saw that she had severed the right link from the fetters that bound her. She had discovered Foe’s sore toe, and secured her deliverance by grinding her heel heavily down upon it. The sudden fall from his transport of joy into the most agonizing pain man ever endured, had caused him to violently push the innocent and justly revenged maiden away. He now caught up the foot to which was attached the miserable toe in both hands, and went skipping round the room, and zigzagging over the floor upon the other. The grating of his teeth was distinctly heard by all present, and I am sure that the grimace of his mouth and general distortion of his features were quite sufficient to have frightened a boy of ten years half to death. He seemed at first determined to utter not a word, but the toe throbbed so violently that it shook his very heart, until at length he cried out in all the agony of despair, “You have ruined my sore toe.” As soon as we could turn his face towards the door we all withdrew, Poe limping along, and scringing at every step, while we were smiling and walking by his side as nimbly as an Alpine fawn. When we reached the shop we found the smith dropping the linen-pin into its place, and the wagon being ready we put it in motion. We began to relate the circumstances which attended us at the house that we had just left, and Poe in return commenced giving each sentence a contradiction as it dropped from our lips. The toe by this time had became calm, but he was not able to tolerate the odium which he conceived he had brought upon himself by his conduct, and the signal victory that the young lady had gained over him; but a chance soon occurred for him to retrieve a portion of his lost character. We were soon to encounter a scene of quite a different nature. As we were travelling down beside the Holston, we came upon a party engaged in shooting. They had with them the common attendant of the times, a lusty jug of whiskey; we stopped the wagon, and started one of Jones’s negroes to the spring after a pail of water, which he took up, and as he returned one of the men asked him for a gourd-full, but the boy having been ordered to hurry, was disposed to be true to his master, and manifested a little unwillingness to stop. At this the applicant rushed upon him, took the pail, and dashed the water against the ground. This brought Poe to the spot with a volley of oaths, such as Ad Lazenberry never was known to produce in his highest rage, and just as he was about to leap upon the offender with the spring of a tiger, another one ran up behind him, and throwing his hands around his head, attempted to gouge him, but Poe reached back, grabbed him, and in the twinkling of an eye hurled him over his head, and being more than his equal, gave him a desperate fisticuffing. In the mean time, a third seized Captain Douglass’s gun; I sprang to his assistance, and we soon had his rude hands thrown off. Here the contest abated, but we did not leave until they were satisfied that we would defend ourselves to the last. At this point we crossed the river. The wagons passed on. I remained at the bank with Poe, who desired to wash after the fight. While we were here, several of these half-cur, half-bulldog rowdies came at full speed on their horses, with their rifles, and shouting in a manner which proved to us that their object was to oppress us with awe. They dashed into the water on their side of the river, and while their horses were drinking we went on after our guns, having sent them forward in the train. When we came up with the wagons we stopped them, and cut a number of clubs for the negroes, and ordered them when to strike, and our guns being taken out, we were ready for the second battle. Just at this time a wayfarer rode up from the direction we were travelling, and perceiving our attitude, inquired what brought us into it; we informed him that we were awaiting the arrival of a threatening mob, and desired that he should tell them when he met them to come on, that we were ready to accommodate them. “No,” rejoined he, “I will stop their unholy career,” and galloped away towards the river, and this was the last we ever heard of him or them.
The remainder of our journey lay through an almost untraveled wilderness, the breadth of which was about two hundred miles. We then looked upon such a distance as almost an eternity, while in these days of locomotives we regard the same as but a span. We, however, toiled on, cutting our way into the forest, and one night where we had camped the Indians stole one bed and two of our horses, but we escaped the tomahawk and the scalping-knife, which generally satisfied the traveler in those regions. We had not calculated our provisions accurately. They gave out, and we were overtaken by want and hunger, but before we had suffered seriously, a small bag of parched corn meal was discovered in one of the wagons, and for several days was meagerly given out to each by a spoonful for a meal. This we bore very well, in the hope that brighter days would dawn for us all, and after the last small allowance had been distributed, and hunger beginning to pinch us sore, sure enough dame fortune smiled, bringing us upon a hunting camp, which was occupied by Mr. Edmond Jennings, who provided us with as much meat and meal as we desired, and which lasted us until the twenty-fourth day of August, which ended our journey in Cage’s Bend, settled by Colonel Cage, Lewis Crane, and one or two others.
HERE I looked out upon the noble forest trees and valleys waving with luxuriant cane, and as I contemplated the wild scenery around me, I wondered if the seeds of civilization which were here being scattered would ever spring up, prosper, and arrive at that maturity which I saw upon the face of this delectable verdure; and a moment’s reflection told me that God had never reared these majestic oaks, these tall hickories, and towering poplars, had never heaved these beautiful hills, and leveled these green vales, and supplied them with these purling little streams, and this majestic river, to be forever the habitation of yelling Indians, and howling wolves, and hooting owls. And how delightful it is to me now to look through the long vista of years, extending back to the scenes of 1791, and contrast them with the joyous prospects of 1858. Some families were in scattered settlements, three or four miles from us, on Station Camp Creek, and the Indians were becoming so very troublesome that it was necessary for the whites to form a company, to prevent their depredations; and Poe and myself entered the list for about three months; I spent the most of my time as a kind of spy, and hunting upon both sides of the river, and when my time was out, a party of bear hunters were passing on their route to the head of Barren river, and proposed to have me along, and having long since acquired a taste for hunting, and especially a mania for larger game than I had been in the habit of shooting, I leaped into the ranks, and marched off with them, and when we came into the hunting-grounds for bear, pitched our camp and rested for the night. The morning sun saw me plunge into the forest alone for a hunt. I travelled on until late in the afternoon, and thought of returning; but I hated the idea of having killed no game, and could not retrace my steps without a good deal of deliberation and regret; but I was already far away from camp, and to reach it by night must be off; but, alas for me, a lone wanderer in the wild woods, I had ventured far beyond my depth, not in a sea of glory, as it turned out, but in a pathless wilderness, and long before I should have reached the camp I was lost; and after wending my way in directions which would lead me I knew not where, night arrested me under the wide-spread boughs of the largest tree I have ever seen before or since. I sat me down beside this mammoth of the forest, and as the last vestige of the twilight passed away, leaving “the world to darkness and to me,” I fell into a deep meditation upon the nature and fate of man. But I shall never be able to recall my speculations, for just at the time my thoughts were the profoundest I was unfortunately frightened out of my wits by the heinous howling of wolves, which was suddenly set up by a whole pack, consisting certainly of no less than a hundred, which had approached to within a few rods of the spot I occupied. I heard them for awhile, and then kindling a little fire, I threw a chunk at them, at which they retreated a short distance; and I was about to say I slept; but no, I could not have done it if I had been so disposed, for when my little fire had died out, it seemed that they had only retreated to increase their numbers and return, for as they prowled about, the howling seemed to grow louder and louder, and I knew not at what moment I should be literally devoured. Sleep? no! I only remained here in fear and trembling; now watching for the wolves to attack me, and now earnestly looking for the first gleam of day. At length the latter filled me with gladness, and it may be imagined how eagerly I took advantage of it, and turned my back upon the great tree, not, however, without stepping round it, with a view to ascertain its size, which I made out to be eleven feet in diameter, it being thirteen steps round. This tree, I should have mentioned, was a walnut, and I am informed that it may be seen, much enlarged of course, and still standing on the plantation of Mr. Rhodes, some four miles from Lafayette, a pretty little town in the county of Macon, and, as the story runs, there have been about fifteen hundred squirrels shot off of it since. When I left the tree I gave it the name of Wolf Camp.
The courses, which the day before were all wrong to me, had become right, and I moved on without any trouble towards my companions, and before I had gone far I saw a buck coming towards me, and shot him; the second came, and received the same fate; and the third soon slept beside them. I had to leave them, and went on to the camp, where for an hour I entertained my fellows with a much longer story than I could give at this period of my life. The next day Mr. Crane went out, and for fear of sharing my fate took me along; nor had we deeply penetrated the forest before our dogs commenced baying in a way that convinced Mr. Crane that they had struck the track of a bear. They were running from us. We put off after them at our best speed, each enthusiastic to shoot; for while Crane wished to swell the great number he had killed, I was on tiptoe to kill my first. We ran ahead of each other alternately, continually begging of each other the privilege of shooting, until finally he told me, if I would take good aim, I might shoot. The last syllable had scarcely escaped his lips before my good old rifle was laying to my face, and my eye darting along the unvarying barrel, and the trigger touched—she fired. The monster fell dead upon the ground, and, as Crane would have it, I leaped the full length of my frame up into the air, so overjoyed was I at my luck; in fact, I felt as full of glory as though I had killed a whole army of Indians.
This bear fell upon a spot which has ever since been distinguished as the residence of an old constituent of General Washington, Daniel B. Claiborne, now aged about ninety years, and, commencing with Washington, has voted in every presidential election since. He likewise served against the whiskey insurrection in Pennsylvania in 1794, under Gov. Lee, of Virginia, on the approach of whom the insurgents laid down their arms. He has often seen Washington, and never hears his name called without feelings of the deepest emotion. He never went a man’s security in his life, or asked one to go his. He is the father of Col. John Claiborne, clerk and master at Lafayette, and is proud of having descended from William Claiborne, so well known in history.
And now to descend from the sublime to the ridiculous, or, to speak right out, from my highly esteemed friends Crane and Claiborne to one Joshua Mounts, you will indulge me in a remark or two about him.
Mounts was a kind of pot-merchant, who had brought a boat-load of castings round to our bend, and not finding a very ready sale for them, owing to the limited number of settlers, and to avoid paying board during his detention, proposed a hunt with me; and it being a thing for which I was ever ready, I at once agreed to go. We had not entered the hunt fairly before I saw that I must be a sort of servant for him, while he was determined to act the gentleman; but this did not make a particle of difference with me, for I had never come out much a loser with such characters. I took him to be a man who looked upon himself as being better than any person else. I waited on him very faithfully, but never could in the first instance please him; did not try, but he was none the wiser. I could never make soup to his liking, or anything that we had to eat, until at length, after several days, I had almost effectually starved him out; and it now becoming necessary that he must swallow something, he said, if I would make him some coffee he would try to join me in a cup, I mean a muscle-shell full, for these constituted our cups and spoons. Haying nothing else out of which to make his coffee, I took some ground parched-corn meal, and soon had a large kettle-full ready. He dipped into it, and I think when he had desisted I could miss about a gallon. He soon began to feel uneasy, and so much so that he after awhile asked me what he should do; I told him that he must lie down on a bear-skin and let me coyer him with our blankets; and he by this time was the victim of so much pain that he rolled right down, and I swaddled him up in the bear-skin and blankets until I had excluded every breath of air which might seek his body, and in addition to these comforts the weather was unusually warm. I now thought that this was my time to wait on him, and to sweat his meanness out. I made myself very busy skipping round and tucking the blankets about, and pressing them upon him; I examined his face, observing not to raise the blanket too high, lest he should enjoy the fresh air. I saw the sweat beginning to roll. He begged me to let his hands out; but I told him, “No.” He implored me to uncover his face, and beginning to fear from his groans that I might be pressing him too closely for his safety, I consented, but was forced to the necessity of stepping round a contiguous bluff to prevent his seeing me laugh; thinking however that he might escape, I shook my sides awhile, and then, controlling my risibles, returned and ran round as long as I could, and then tucking my head cut for the rear of the bluff again. In this manner I continued to alternate my fits of laughter and labor, to keep the blankets close to him, until, while I had sweated nearly everything but his bones out of him, I had almost died a laughing. From this out he had some excuse for being waited on, and I could always serve such without compunctions of conscience. I soon had him recruited, however, on soup made of doe’s bag, which he had before refused, and long before our hunt was at an end, he was willing to be waitman turn about.
When we were ready to return we procured a canoe, and came down the Cumberland by water; and when we reached a point just opposite the present residence of Mr. Basil Foley, we saw two huge bears coming up the bank. We rowed to the shore, and leaving Mounts in the canoe, I took my gun and stepped out, ascended the bank, and took a stand; but the bears not making their appearance, I feared that they had taken another route, and in order to attract them I began to bleat like a fawn, a practice which was common among hunters, and continued until I concluded that they were gone, and was just in the act of leaving the spot, when I heard a sudden scraping noise against some dry stinging-nettles. I looked round, and, to my horror, the largest of the two was coming bolting and snarling at me. In an instant I faced him, and just having time to bring the muzzle of my gun between him and me, I fired, and without stopping to see the consequences, tumbled down the bank, narrowly escaping a ducking; but when I recovered I found him dead, and ready to be rolled into the canoe, and it now being about sunset, we rowed down to the island, just below where Joseph Sumerset now lives, and camped, and next day reached the bend.
During this summer, now nearly past, there was a circuit rider preaching through the wilderness, and it was his custom to take what he termed one “rest day” out of every four weeks to himself. He was in the habit of spending one of these days first with one neighbor and then with another, especially with those who had the most comforts for him, and always finding such at the house of my old friend Douglass, he would spend an occasional day with him; and but few days at a time ever escaped, while I was about home, without my being there likewise; and the ministry, a class of men for whom I have the highest regard, need not fear that I will misrepresent the body generally, by relating the following story of one who undoubtedly was unworthy of so high a calling. I have hunted more than I ever preached, but, with all the time I ever employed in slaying bears and buffaloes, I have faced the pulpit and its worthy functionaries pretty regularly on through a period of nearly a century, and during all this time have known how to value its benefits, and am well aware, to use the language of another, that the pulpit, blent with a thousand memories, and hallowed by a thousand associations, consecrating the recollections of the past and the hopes of the future, should never be prostituted to unworthy purposes; that it should always stand the sentinel of truth and virtue, like Milton’s personification of purity amid the abandoned crew of Comus.
Our preacher, in fine, was a stiff, self-conceited young man, who must he heard first and all the time in society; who must decide all questions, whether embraced within the scope of his very superficial knowledge or not; who, when he wished to lounge, must put his boots on the best bed in the house; and when he wished to sit, must have the most comfortable situation and chair, with perhaps his feet on the next; and at table must be seated next the lady, where he could exercise what he supposed to be a kind of ministerial privilege, of gluttonizing for half an hour upon everything before him, and then delving into the sugar-bowl for the remainder of the hour, and not without returning the sugar-spoon into its place well slobbered. And now he would get up from the first table and light his long stem pipe and puff away, until he had curled the fumes of the tobacco into the nostrils and very throats of the other guests, while they were being served at the second. Though I could not help noticing all this, I said nothing: he was a preacher. On one occasion, however, when he had devoured his meal and smoked his pipe, he went into an adjoining room to loll, and without wishing to give any offence or thinking that it would he any harm, I went to the cupboard where he usually and vulgarly deposited his pipe and took it out, filled it with tobacco, and began to smoke. He saw me, and rose right up and came toward me. I at once saw that I had committed an intrusion and owed him an apology, and before he had time to speak, I said,” Parson, I am taking the liberty of smoking your pipe.” “Yes,” said he, “I perceive you are, and I don’t desire you to assume such freedom again.” He was a preacher. I said nothing, but handed the pipe up. He seated himself, and taking out his knife gave the stem a complete scraping, especially that part which had been in my mouth. I then told him, for I could no longer hold my peace, that I had often and again smoked one and the same pipe with as good and as nice people as he was, and with people who had never slobbered on a sugar-spoon, and afterward placed it back into the bowl from which whole parties had to be served. Here I was willing to play quits, but the bigoted creature could not rest until he had used his utmost to ruin me. I learned this, and concluded to follow him a little farther, for I knew that he was not one of those ministers of God around whom the shield of Heaven is thrown, and celestial honors cluster, and whose aim is the redemption of the world. I heard of him at another house in the neighborhood, and with more punctuality, perhaps, than if he had been going to preach, attended! I saw him roll in his meat and bread, and get up and go to the fireplace, and send hack a cloud over the table. I watched him where he placed his pipe, and when he went off to loll, I picked my opportunity and stole it away. I now went to the kitchen, obtained a bit of bread, called up half a dozen dogs and rubbed the stem over them and under them, carrying them one at a time through the same process, until, thinking that I had as much dog on the pipe as was in the owner, I concluded to return it; but I had never thought the first time about old Toler, a dog that I was about to slight; so I called him up, and taking hold of his tail, I rubbed the stem well under and over him, which caused him to yell at such a rate that it brought one of the resident young ladies to the door, and I was thus caught in the act. I replaced the pipe as soon as I could, and stood round until he woke up, whereupon he marched up to the cupboard, took out the pipe, and broke the spell of suspense in which I was so effectually bound by running the dog-flavored stem into his dainty mouth. Glory enough, thinks I, and went my way; and what made me nearly kill myself a laughing, was to think he had been silly enough to tell it and bring the notice of the whole settlement down upon his conduct, which I have since been informed had the effect of curing him so far as to make him act ever afterward as though he thought every person was made out of dust, and by the same God that made himself.
But the summer was past; the yellow leaves were fallen: home-scenes had become monotonous; my heart panted for the forest and the chase. I replenished my shot-bag, shouldered my gun and began to wind my horn, which brought my faithful old dog Double-head barking by my side. He was a splendid body-guard, and when he met a foe worthy of his steel, often reminded me of the dog which Elian carried before Alexander the Great, with which to prove to him the value of the race, and which, despising all inferior combatants, waited until the lion was turned loose before him, and then rushing forward seized him by the throat, and encountered him until his tail had been cut off, and then till one leg had been severed, and another and another until the lion swung him, the cruelly-treated dog, round and round without tail or limb, but which still held to the monster’s throat until having bled to death he dropped off. He following, I called up my other dogs and betook myself to the woods. In this ramble, as old uncle Simpson Bennet would say after a game of sledge, “I had a merry through of it.” Many a fine old buck bounded high at the keen crack of my rifle and bounded no more, and Double-head stood exultingly over him. Many a swan did I shoot as they clumsily and unsuspectingly strolled on the shore, and as they commanded a thousand graceful attitudes, moving at pleasure and proudly rowing in state on the smiling river; and again called them down while their strong wings were cleaving the air.
During one of these wild-goose chases, I induced my old friend Dillard to go with me to the river one day when a great many wild geese were flying over, in order to shoot them on the wing; and lie knowing more about the prayer-book than a gun, and gunning was very awkward, I had to load for him, and usually loaded the shot-guns very heavily. His eyesight not being the best, and wishing to get from under the timber, he concluded that he would walk out on the ice and take a stand. At length a flock came over him and he began to take aim, but could not get his bead until they were straight above him, which causing him to lean back rather far, when he fired the old gun kicked, and the old man’s heels were in an instant upon a parallel with his head, both being at least four feet from the ice, until he came down in the hardest fall I ever saw a man get. But it was not that of Lucifer. He lay and grunted awhile and scrambled up, took his head into his hands, and leaving the gun went staggering out, and not a goose had he quite killed. I was sorry for the old man, but then I couldn’t help laughing.
I hunted by short excursions through this winter, at the close of which I had killed swans and geese enough to yield a sufficient quantity of feathers to make a large bed, which I sold to James Douglass for the handsome sum of one specie dollar per pound; and this was not the only fruits of my labor and fine sport, but a clear receipt for my board and washing, as good hunters never had bills of this kind to adjust in this age of the country.
THE bleak winter had been chased away by a lovely spring, which passed so mildly into the summer that one would think there was no good reason for a division in the two seasons of the year, save that one was the time for sowing and the other growing; one was the time for budding, and the other for blooming and maturing; but the brightest seasons are sometimes fraught with the gloomiest and bitterest disasters, and thus it might be said of the summer of 1792; for with all its beauty, it brought with it innumerable hosts of Indians; nor had they been long arrived, before they began to commit the most atrocious depredations. They came with thirst for our blood, and first satiated it by murdering a Mr. Ziglar, while he was out quietly and honestly toiling in his little patch for bread with which to feed a hungry family. The people about the station heard the report of a gun, and saw that the poor man had fallen. They watched their chance, and ran out to bring the lifeless body in. In this they succeeded, but not without risking their own lives, for when they had picked up the body, where the savages had so rudely laid it down, and started back with it, the Indians fired upon them at every advance toward the fort. The savages now ran off, but their devilish deeds had scarcely yet begun. When night came darkening on, they returned and set fire to the station and house and environed all. It was evident that a desperate scene must follow, and not only between the hardy men of the fort and the yelling host whose polluted hands were already stained with the innocent blood of Ziglar, but they had made us stake the odds. The women and helpless children were in the fort, and had to share our fate. The struggle came, and, alas, in the hour of need two of our men, forgetful of their duty to the common cause, and to the weaker sex with their babes, began to take care of themselves by crawling out into the gutter and then leaping off, but while one Black made his escape unhurt, the other was tomahawked to death. After seeing the forces thus weakened by the cowardice of the strongest men, it became evident that discretion in the balance was the better part of valor, and that decision must be immediate. Rather than be butchered and burned to death, it was in a moment determined to stake all upon a single hazard, and plunge into the storm which howled without.
At this crisis, Roger Gibson cried out to the women and children to follow him, and bursting the door open, rushed fearlessly out, firing upon the enemy as he went. Mrs. Ziglar, with her infant in her arms, followed and escaped; but while a number of others were killed, the kind-hearted Miss Nelly Wilson and her sister were taken prisoners. The station was left in ashes, and the bones of some of its inmates in cinders. The Indians, being encouraged by the success of this dreadful night’s work, determined to destroy the whole settlement. They sent the Misses Wilson, with their hearts panting like that of a captured bird, to the nation; where they remained for a long time with the Indians, until at length some traders procured their freedom, and they were returned uninjured, without having suffered insult or violence, to their friends.
The land upon which the station was situated is owned by the heirs of James Charlton, deceased, and the traveler going from Gallatin to Hartsville, on the old dirt road, who may desire to see the spot so fatal to many of the early settlers, may inquire at the house of Mr. J. A. Mentlo, a very gentlemanly young man, who will take pleasure in pointing it out. We visited the old station a few weeks since for the first time in sixty years, and when I found myself upon the sad spot, treading the soil which had drunk the blood of my fellow-pioneers, the joyous scenes of the present gave way, and the horrid events of the past stood up before my mind as fresh as the realities of yesterday. I saw in my imagination the vast and stately forest, interspersed with waving fields of cane. In the midst of these wilds I saw a little band of pioneers pent up in the narrow limits of small fortifications, around which the heinous wolves and the atrocious savages alike skulked and yelled in all their demon-like nature. I heard the terrible report of the gun that killed the unfortunate Ziglar, and saw him being borne a corpse, upon a rude litter from the spot where he fell, and seemed to hear the volley of guns and the whizzing of bullets about the pall-bearers as they bore him along toward the fort. I heard the report of the savages’ guns at night, and their horrid yelling. I saw the station in devouring flames, and the fearful butchery going on, while, alas, I heard the women and children scream as the fatal blade was sunk to their hearts. I saw the blood gush amid the scramble for life, until the groans of the dying closed out the lamentable scene.
The visitor to this spot may still see the ruins of the old station, and though it be in dim obscurity, he will yet find much to interest him. A part of the outlines may be traced by three trees: one mulberry, which bends over a portion of the identical spot, as in the attitude of mourning the fate of those who were murdered there more than half a century ago, and two cedars, the emblems of which seem to say, let the memory of the unfortunate victims be ever green in our souls. If he looks a little below this he will perceive a sparkling rivulet, the murmuring of which seems but the constant and solemn requiem of those who bled near its moss-covered banks; and if there late in the afternoon he will behold a beautiful sunset, and as he gazes on him sinking like a mass of blood upon the earth, he cannot avoid thinking of the remaining old pioneers whose sun of life is also setting, we hope to rise full-orbed in a better world.
Soon after this, a Frenchman and a half-breed Indian, Findleston, came to Nashville, a place then scarcely deserving the title of a village, for it consisted of a few little log-cabins, built on the shanty order. They informed the people that the hostile tribes had a plot on foot by which to commence their operations of destruction, and the information came far enough in advance of them to get a general circulation in every direction. It reached us ten days prior to the attack, which was appointed to take place at the full of the ensuing moon. We lost no time in parleying; there seemed to be none to lose; but we set about constructing forts to prevent being butchered. Having gathered up our implements we started to work, and work we did in a manner that perhaps was not unequalled by our ancestors when they were throwing up the redoubt on Bunker’s Hill; but before the time came, our forts were completed, and we in readiness to give our enemies a warm if not a welcome reception. We watched the pale queen of night as she rose evening after evening, and looked down smilingly on our little band. At length one night she ascended full-orbed in all her modest glory; we began to look in earnest for our foes, nor did we look in vain; for the largest Indian force ever mustered in Middle Tennessee had already marched into the bowels of the land, without impediment, and were ready for the bloody scene. They were under the command of Capt. Jonna Watts and Chiachattalley or Tom Tunbridge, the same Indian who applied the torch to and burnt Siglar’s Fort. When they had reached a point from which they heard the bellowing of the cattle about the fort, they halted, and in determining which they should first lead their warriors against, Nashville or Buchanan’s Fort, they had a serious disagreement. The Creek chief stood out for attacking the latter, while the Cherokee chief contended that they should first go and take Nashville, and destroy Buchanan’s on their return. Watts exhausted every argument, but seeing that he could not bend the views of the haughty Chiachattalley, said, “Then go take the fort, and I will stand by and see you do it.” This was all the Creek chief wanted to hear. He gave orders to his men, and they approached the fort undismayed, in every maneuver showing themselves full of confidence to the brim, and the daring chief boldly leading the attack with a chunk of fire in his hand with which to burn the station, and without pausing for a moment, cried out, “Who commands that fort?” The answer was, “Capt. Buchanan.” The men of the fort in return cried out, “Who commands there?” The answer was, “Capt. Jonna Watts.” The Creek chief by this time had fearlessly advanced up to the very walls of the fortification. He stooped down and was in the act of kindling the fire, and he stooped to never rise again. Capt. Buchanan’s men extinguished the fire, and his life with it, by a shower of bullets from their unerring rifles. Others advanced to pick the body up, but the same rifles had been reloaded, and they were laid down by the side of their dead chieftain; but instead of intimidating the balance, this seemed to inspire them with fiercer rage. Now the fight began to reach its highest acme, and in the midst of its awful sublimity, Watts reeled and fell: a blunderbuss had been discharged, and a missile had struck him. He was immediately borne bleeding and fainting from the fatal field on a horse-litter; but still courageous, their numbers were rushing against the trembling little battlements, as an avalanche from the brow of a mountain; but Buchanan’s men stood firmly up to and fearlessly pressed their noble bosoms against the inner walls of the fort, rapidly loading and firing, and dreaming of nothing but a glorious victory, which they were resolved to achieve or be entombed with the dead. The hoarse voice of their old Cincinnatus-like commander, who had left his plough to lead the armies of his country to battle and to glory, was distinctly heard amid the clamorous volley of guns, as it were the thunder which rolled between each broad sheet of lightning that flashed along the walls, and now when one would think that his voice had strained the last nerve in the fort to cords of steel, it was but to show the forge for a higher tempering. Still, another more powerful incentive was springing up, which as the poet has said would make a coward brave. Mrs. Buchanan, who had been moulding bullets with her own hands, now caught their eyes; she was actually on the battle-ground, amid the terror of the conflict, with them in her apron, busily flying to and fro, distributing them as she went to her heroic defenders; enough to make an American soldier press through fire and storm, and pour out his last precious drop of blood upon the altar of his country. This wonderful woman has left to the Republic as a legacy her descendants, who would number, we think, over a hundred warriors, who are now able to bear arms, and the most of whom live in Middle Tennessee. Indeed, commencing with that great-souled man Moses Buchanan, of Rutherford, they people half the country from thence to Nashville. The least we can say in addition for her noble self is, that she was to the Indian wars of her day, what such women as Frederica de Riedesel, Mrs. Bratton, Mrs. Israel, Lydia Darrah, and Mrs. Adair, were to the wars of the Revolution.
The Indians at length, seeing that they were badly whipped, withdrew, and a guard was appointed for the several forts in the settlement, and I being one of the guards was sent to Douglass’s Fort in the vicinity. Before I took the post assigned me, I had orders to shoot the first Indian I saw and run into the fort, the gate of which was to be thrown open for me at the report of my gun, and I had not been out above an hour before I perceived some persons coming toward me whom I took to be Indians. I caught up my gun and leveled her upon them, but the distance was great, and a second thought admonished me not to be so hasty—that I had better bring her down and determine whether they were friends or foes, and if the latter to let them get opposite to me, which would bring them within fifteen steps, and fire; but, to my satisfaction, on their nearer approach, I saw that it was my old acquaintance Tom George and others coming in from another fort, and I guarded here in vain, the Indians never returning again.
THE closing of the above scenes appeared only to be the harbinger of others, which, though of quite a different nature, may be equally interesting, for though the clouds that hung over Buchanan’s Station had been rolled away, and the light of that sunny joy which always follows victory had taken their place, the events of the early settlements had not all transpired which make up the history of those times, and much of that part immediately connected with my own career is yet untold.
Winter had returned; “December’s surly blasts” were laying “fields and forests bare;” and at a time when the rude winds were sweeping and sighing over the earth, I was employed by a trader to take a peroque, and go below Nashville after a load of lead; and having hired Tom George and a negro man to assist me, I took them and embarked. We had good luck in reaching the spot and procuring the lead. We now untied our cable, and began to bush-hack it in a homeward direction, and after pulling and pushing on until late in the afternoon, we reached the mouth of Stone’s river, and being hungry, cold, and tired, we concluded to land and try to kill some game, it being our only dependence, to get a little meat for supper. By the time we had cabled up, the sun was down, and George and myself took our guns, and leaving the negro at the peroque to kindle a fire by which to cook, we started out, and had only gone about two hundred yards before I heard a stick crack, and so delighted was I for the moment, that I forgot the constant dangers to which a visitor was always exposed upon penetrating these wilds. I had thought the limb was broken by the heavy tread of a bear. I heard another, and another, and was actually running in the direction of the noise, when suddenly a dampening reflection came upon me. I paused; perhaps, thought I, that noise may be made by something worse than a bear. Just at this moment I heard something falling like so many loads from the shoulders of men. In order to test what was afloat, and rather than return to the boat without something to eat, and perhaps without a good foundation upon which to establish my alarm, as well as to prevent George and the negro from bringing me under the epithet of sheer cowardice, I crept up within shooting distance, and peeping through the cane, I saw that the noise I had heard was made by a party of Indians, who, as I had conjectured, were throwing down turns of wood, with which to build a fire. With as little noise as possible I returned to the boat, and finding George already in, we rowed for the opposite side of the river, and after ascending about two miles, we landed near a cabin, from the inmates of which we begged provisions, and camped for the night; and the next day we reached our destiny, having been exposed all the route to the treachery of the Indians.
At this time I resided at the house of —, who had a large family of boys, one of whom, James, was a very haughty young man, and from some cause or other I began to feel quite an interest in him, and my reflections induced me to think, that if the proper means could be employed to humble him, he would be more useful to himself and fellow-men, and better calculated to meet the demands for which his God had designed him. For a beginning, one day, when the weather was extremely fine for the season of the year, I contrived to get him to go a fowling with me. I expected a change of weather, but never said a word to that effect to him, for I well knew how tender he was, having kept himself housed up all the previous part of the winter, while it mattered little with myself whether rain, hail-storm, or snow came, for such things had no terrors for me, and really I desired all three, for I believed he needed-a great deal of hardening. According to my own suggestion, we had provided ourselves with but one quilt. The first seven miles brought us to as fine a little lake as we had ever seen, and in time to kill several wild geese and as many swans, out of a number that were swimming upon its smiling face. We had not gone many miles beyond this before night overtook us, when we sought the thickest spot of cane in our view for a resting-place, and by means of a little dry tow and a flash in the pan we produced fire enough to take effect on a pile of chunks, which were soon flaming up, and making us feel very cheerful, my companion made happy by the prospects he thought he had of a good night’s comfort, and myself, who always guess well at the weather, with those of a very bad one for him. And alas for the poor young gentleman! about eight of the hour-glass the sky became clouded; the wintry winds began to moan among the tree-tops and the cane; the rain began to flow down in heavy torrents. I turned my face aside and smiled. I knew the work was going on swimmingly. The rain continued to pour. I beheld his eyes fixed upon the fire. In its warmth he had embarked all his hopes for comfort, and freighted all his aims against cold. The rain, if any odds, rolled down with increased rapidity. The fire began to disappear, and his eyes to widen; the last spark, smiling wishfully in the face of its destroyer, was struggling to be seen. His eyes now stretched into a wild stare. It was all I could do to contain myself. I pressed my hands heavily upon my sides, and being already brought to a half-squatting position, I thought I should split a laughing at the long sigh, almost amounting to a deep groan, he fetched as the only remaining spark winked out. “Now the fire is out,” said I, “and the wood so wet that it is impossible to rekindle it.” James here broke his silence by commencing to curse his luck. The rain-drops congealing far above us, began to fall in great flakes of snow, which in a few hours lay fourteen inches upon the ground. This was followed by a sudden increase of cold, and the sleet began to fall like hail from a thunder-cloud, and the weather became so intensely bitter that certainly the thermometer, had there been one in this dreary region that night, would have dropped its mercury to twenty below zero. James was now shivering with wet and cold, and cursing the very Ruler of the tempestuous night; but to no purpose. The snow and sleet at this time afforded us a little light. We saw the cane already grown weary under its icy habiliments; bowed down and interlocked, and our camp environed on every side as by the walls of a prison. The cold became still more intolerable. The old quilt was frozen as stiff as a board, and to lay down without it we thought we must freeze to death, and yet we had no space in which to walk for exercise, and while I laughingly jumped up and down in one spot, James cursed and “nursed his wrath to keep his anger warm,” in another. At length said I, in a calm tone, “James, what are we to do to avoid freezing to death?” He answered, “There is nothing that we can do;” and the way he said it savored so much of resignation, that I thought then was my time to strike, and I immediately summoned a man by the name of Shakespeare to my aid, and changing his words to fit the occasion, commenced soliloquizing in a very serious tone:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question;
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The rains, sleets, and snows of this outrageous night;
Or to take courage ‘gainst a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
No more;—and by a sleep to say we end
The aching of our fingers and toes, and the frost
That we are here heir to: ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die! ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long a life.”
At this he interrupted me, saying, “Joe, I shall freeze to death.” I again turned my face aside until I could recover from a fit of laughter which was about to burst out, and upon regaining possession of myself looked round, and said, “I think by one plan we can just keep from freezing to death, and it will be a tight squeeze;” and while his teeth shattered, he wrung his hands, and cried, “How?” I told him that we would have to lie down, and cover each other alternately with ourselves. He was ready to accept even the most hopeless terms. So I told him, as an experiment, I would lie down and let him cover me first. “No,” said he; “let me lie down and you cover me first.” “No,” I rejoined; “you must let me lie down.” Here he flew into a kind of passion, and said, “Well, by G—d, land, there’s no use in talking about it until we will both have to lie down dead.” I landed, not, however, without thinking that the work was going on swimmingly. He lit upon, me, so to speak, like a duck upon a June bug, and, unlike the same, shivered until the vibrations from his frame shook my whole body, and really caused me to perspire. We had agreed to alternate our position every half hour, but before he had been covering me above fifteen minutes, he called to know if his time was not out, and I told him, that from the way he kicked I thought it was nearly over with him. “I do not mean that,” said he; “I want to know if I have not been on you my half hour?” “O, no,” said I, “nothing like it.” He screwed on about ten minutes longer, and for fear he might be too far gone, I consented for him to get off, and roll under me; I raised myself upon my all-fours, and down I came upon him, and, although I was a small man, and he, on the contrary, very stout, he came so near drawing the last inch of himself under me, that I felt for the time like a good-sized fellow. At length, however, though I knew better, I told him my time was out; but he remonstrated, “No, no, no; not half;” I was quiet a few minutes, and again told him that I knew my time was out, and he swore that I was mistaken, for that I had not been on him half as long as he had been on me. I stayed up my full half hour, and then throwing my arms around him, rolled him over, and took his place; and he crawled up, and began to shake, for while I had partially warmed him, the winds began anew to whistle with a hollow murmur along the white-capped sea of cane, and he was less prepared to receive it than before, nor do I believe he covered me ten minutes before he swore by the hell above, as he termed it, and the heaven below, that half an hour was too long for mortal man to live on top at this stage of the weather; but I made him grin and bear it, until at length he became so humble that he, like the haughty Queen Elizabeth, cried out, in substance, “Millions for one inch of time.” At length day dawned, and found him still covering me, and we agreed that there never had been such a night of trouble in the known world. We now worked until sun up untangling cane and brush, which was necessary to secure our deliverance from the snow-bound prison; and I never shall forget the rising of that morning’s sun. Were I to live a thousand years, the scene would doubtless still linger a brilliant spectacle upon my mental vision. The morning was clear beyond comparison; the land was overspread with a spotless sheet; everything was ice-bound; the tree-tops were bowing until a sufficient stroke against their trunks would have caused them to have thrown down a thousand glittering pearls; each plant, every shrub groaned underneath the weight of radiant gems; not a stump or stone but could support its hundred jewels; not a fallen oak, or elm, or heap of brush, but could boast its myriad of sparkling diamonds; and now imagine the early sun, in his gorgeousness of glory, lending his dazzling, beams to the brilliancy of the scene, and you have a miniature of the original, and must let us go on with our story. We succeeded in kindling a little fire; after it was light, and we had got out of the thickest of the cane, and after a good thawing of the quilt and my frozen friend, we started out, and coming to a more open part of the woods, we discovered some large flocks of geese, which we shot until we had added a considerable number to that we had killed the previous afternoon, and returned home.
James, upon his arrival, swore that he would never go so far again upon a hunt, but that he could camp at home when night came. Longfellow had not written in those days, or perhaps he had not nursed the hearthstone so closely, or become so impatient in his undertakings; he had never said—
“Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.”
I determined to get him out again if possible, and after so long a time he agreed to go with me to hunt bears, provided I would return the same night, and sleep at home. We started, and knowing that he was no woodsman, I began to meander, and soon had him lost, and in a condition to render him easily convinced that he was going towards one point, when in reality he was going directly in the direction of another. About three o’clock P. M., he proposed returning; I agreed, and we started, and every step carried him farther and farther from home, while I was continually laughing confidentially to myself, and thinking how badly he should find himself mistaken. Just before night I told him that we had unquestionably missed our way. He hoped not; but upon my pointing to the evening star, which I just now pretended to discover, he cried out, “Well, d—n the luck.” I told him that there was no use to blaspheme God nor man, for we had to camp out. He cursed a little more, and went about gathering up brash and chunks for fuel, and here we rested until the next morning, and left for home, having to pack a bear, which I should have mentioned that we killed on the previous day. When we reached Spencer’s creek, in the territory which Wilson now embraces, we found that it had risen so from the rains and melting snows, that it was impossible for us to cross without swimming, and as we could not venture into it with the bear on either of our horses, we concluded to make a raft, and freight the meat over, and then came the tug; we mounted, and after a little altercation as to who should enter first, I succeeded in getting him to take the lead, thinking all the while of the adage which instructs us to always be behind in water, but before in the woods. His horse reached the deep water, and instead of swimming like mine when he reached the same point, he began to plunge at a fearful rate; the rider saw that with all his efforts he could not stick on him, and would be compelled to conform to the necessities of the crisis, which forced him to lunge off into the water; and when he after so long a time rose, for I am sure he went to the bed of the stream, he made for the shore he had just left, it occurring to me in the meantime that things were still going on swimmingly. He said nothing until he reached a point at which he could touch bottom. Here he stood up, and at the top of his voice cursed all the newly-invented oaths of the day, and then turning upon those long since made threadbare, cursed all of those, and continued cursing until, exhausted for wind, he set up a horrid grin, and walked out. The horse followed mine, as he would have done at first had I taken the lead, and landed about the same time I did. I now took the raft and ferried the immersed rider over; but I must now take my leave of James, and though I had effected his complete baptism, I shall ever be disposed to doubt whether I had made the necessary change in him or not, but am sure that if it had been his lot to have followed me much longer, he had been quite a different person.
This brings me upon an occurrence which I shall relate word for word, and action for action, as it took place.
In the times of which I have just spoken, I ascertained that I could economize a little by manufacturing my own saltpetre and gunpowder, and there being a great many fine hickory trees which had been previously deadened, I cut a number of them down, and made a log-rolling, and among my invited assistants was a young Mr. Smith, who was notorious for his indolence, having been accused publicly by a merry, droll fellow in the vicinity of being too habitually idle to shut his eyes when he went to sleep. He lived nearby, but would not come and help. We, however, succeeded without him, I being in the meantime resolved to take my revenge upon him by a bit of pleasantry, which I had been busy in devising. I proceeded to burn my heaps, which yielded me sixteen large tubs of fine asBes, and to get them to the house they had to be carried on the shoulders a long distance. The first tub I carried myself, and when I had emptied it I good-humoredly said to the lady, that I intended to make that lazy fellow bring up all the balance. She doubted the success of my contrivance, upon which I told her that there was a talk of a State’s warrant being taken out for the arrest of a man in the neighborhood, (calling his name,) and I am convinced, continued I, that Smith has heard all about it; besides, madam, you know that he is not to be numbered among the bravest of men! “True enough,” rejoined the lady, as she laughingly turned away. I now procured a sheet of paper, wrote on it, folded it, pushed it into my pocket, went out in the yard, and called Smith. He answered me and came. I slapped my hand, sheriff-like, upon his shoulder, an operation which I guess your readers never had performed on them, and looking him steadily in the eyes, said, “Mr. Smith, I summon you in the name of the State to take the desperate Mr. —.” He demanded my authority; I drew forth the fictitious warrant, and upon reading it to him, he immediately began to apologize, and beg most lamentably, wanting me to summon a young Mr. Dillard; but I, with a great deal of gravity, said, “Smith, I am actually too tired to go after him, having labored hard to roll my logs and burn my ashes, of which I have made an excellent lot, and again if I take time to run after Dillard, merely to accommodate you, I will lose them; and you must not expect to be released; so go and do your duty, or you must suffer the penalty of the law.” “But,” said he, “I don’t want to kill the man, and I know that I shall have it to do whenever I attempt to take him.” “I know that very well,” said I, “and for this reason we have selected you to take the desperado, believing you, as we do, to be a brave and fearless man.” Hearing this, “Go,” said he, “and summon Dillard; I will work in your place and carry up all your ashes.” Thinking that the work was going on swimmingly, I pretended to start after Dillard, leaving Smith to sweat under the heavy tubs; and when I returned I saw all my ashes securely sheltered, and that I had thus made a bird sing that could but would not sing.
I met Smith many years after the above occurrence, and saw that the old scene still lingered in his mind, and, as the same wag of whom we have before made mention said at the time of its happening, he had been too lazy to ever forget it.
THE winter having terminated, the spring of 1793 opened very beautifully, and began to call forth her myriads of natural charms; but just as my mind was beginning to be filled with admiration and delight by the prospects of the promising season, and I to enjoy delightful anticipations as to the happiness which should be mine during this lovely period, I stumbled, as it were, and fell into the hands of one Alexander Douglass, an unprincipled fellow, whose business it was to trade with the Spaniards, and who, in company with a Frenchman, had come to our neighborhood. On his arrival he made it known that he wished to employ hands to go with him to Kaskaskia, in the country now embraced by Illinois.
Besides containing the oldest document in the State, which is a petition to Louis XV. for a grant of common fields, specifying the great losses to which the people were subjected the year previous by an extraordinary flood, this town belonged to the great chain of posts which stretched from Canada to the mouth of the Mississippi, near the banks of which it was situated, where Okaw river enters into it, opposite Mizzier; and I had a natural curiosity to see it, and upon conditions that a friend of mine, Wells Robins, could be induced to go, I agreed that I would accompany Douglass. He consented, and we departed on the journey, which we pursued finely to the mouth of the Ohio, where Douglass left us to go down to Ainsley Griss, now New Madrid, in Missouri, while we were to ascend to Kaskaskia; and when we arrived, the young Frenchman, who had accompanied us from Cumberland, introduced me to his kind old mother and father, and I found their house an excellent home for many weeks. I soon picked up a number of French words; could call for anything at table, say good morning, good evening, inquire the way to a place, and the price of an article, etc.; but I loved my mother tongue too well to desire a continued residence in this, although it was one of the kindest families under whose roof I had ever sought or received protection. I began to look out for a boarding-house where the English was spoken, and meeting with the high-sheriff, Jones, who could speak my language neatly as well as his own, I went to live with him. One portion of my time I passed on his farm, and the other at my favorite employment, hunting and shooting with the Indians, who had camped around the town, having come hither in great numbers, as was their custom to do every fall, to trade with the French and Spaniards, bringing their peltry, bear’s oil, roots, moccasins, etc., and receiving in return blankets, calico, red prints most preferred, beads, silver rings, and brooches, made by the Spaniards for the trade; and whiskey, a single drink of which would perhaps consume the price of a skin which they had stripped from the once bounding roe, the fleet animal, to capture which had cost them, as like as not, a whole day’s hard pursuit, besides packing it a long distance to market.
To give incidents as they occurred, upon one occasion after we had retired to bed and fallen to sleep, our slumbers were interrupted by a rapid succession of screams which broke the stillness of the night, and which we recognized to be a female voice. So startled were Jones and myself, that both, moved by the same impulse, sprang to our feet and hurried to the scene of distress without even stopping to put on our clothes. An Indian had forced his way into the house whence the cry proceeded, and for the purpose of committing depredations, the nature of which are yet unknown. When we entered, the woman’s husband was holding the Indian round the waist, and without pausing or asking any questions, we seized and dragged him out into the yard, but upon our releasing him he ran back into the house. We dragged him out again and with a continued savage yell he ran away, leaving us to think from his actions that he was a maniac, or had triumphantly succeeded in deceiving us.
One morning after this I went, as I was in the habit of doing, to the river to wash, and while I was laving my hands in the stream, a party of seven Indians approached me and made signs that they desired to cross, and I in return made signs which gave them to understand that they might get into the boat, and as soon as they were on board I pushed out into the river; before we had reached the opposite bank, one of the party who stood second from me reached over the first and pulled a handkerchief from my head, and after spreading it out as though to see the size and the figures upon it, took hold of one corner, drew it lengthwise through his hand, and tied it round his waist. I paid no further attention to him until the boat struck the shore, when all went out but him, and then he attempted to pass me with my handkerchief, but I ran my hand into the belt it had formed around him, and with a sudden and violent jerk, brought him back to the very centre of the boat; at which he became very indignant, and while his lip curled with scorn, he untied it and dashed it at my feet.
It was a very common thing when the Indians came into Kaskaskia, from their hundred tents which spotted the confines of the town, for them to return gloriously drunk, and when this was the case, the squaws might be seen exhibiting a great deal of precaution, for they well knew the desperate ferocity of their nature at such times; as they would be coming home singing their wild drunken songs, as they were styled, and began busily to put the axes out of their way, and remove from their reach all the billets of wood, sticks, and stones, lest they should kill each other with them. But with all the caution of the squaws, an Indian chief was slain in one of these drunken overtures, and I noticed that they sought and selected from the masses, without regard to his own family, those who were considered the best criers, whose duty it was to assemble at stated times around the house in which the fallen chief had lived, and bewail his loss.
During my stay, my landlord, Jones, left to convey some public messages to Vincennes, which place he reached in safety, but as he was returning he was taken prisoner and adopted as the son of an old Indian. After a good long stay, however, he procured his release by giving his note to his new parent for the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars, and thus, after so long a confinement, made his escape and returned home without any other injury except loss of time, for he of course never liquidated the debt which he had incurred to be free.
The next thing I noted was that the greatest insult which could be given to an Indian warrior was to call him a woman. This I learned by being out with Jones near where some Indians were talking, and seeing one assume a certain posture, I was led to inquire why he did it, and Jones informed me that he had been heretofore conquered, and that it was a stipulation in their treaties that a conquered warrior should be called a squaw.
I will now wind up these short and scattering stories by giving you an account of a shooting match I had at Kaskaskia, with an Indian. It was my habit during my stay to frequently stroll among the tents, notice the habits of the Indians, and whenever an opportunity would offer to take a shoot at a mark with one of them, I was sure to take instantaneous advantage of it; and in one of these peregrinations I wore a velvet jacket with bright buttons upon it, and catching the eye of an Indian whose fancy it wonderfully struck, he advanced and by signs gave me to understand that he would stake his new beaver hat against it and shoot with me for the two. Agreed, gestured I, and holding up three fingers and pointing at two of them, by which means to make him understand that I meant to shoot the best two out of three; but he shook his head and held up one finger, meaning the first shot. I nodded my head for an acceptance of his terms, and the target now being set up we shot, and upon examination of the mark I picked up my jacket and the hat, but he opposed my having them on the ground that we were to shoot the best two in three, and having great confidence in my aim and to avoid a difficulty, I staked up both articles again. The target was again fixed up. He shot. His ball took effect near the centre, but no matter, I leveled my rifle and fired, and what remained for me to do was to take into possession my plunder, for I had knocked the cross clear out. And now, after having endeavored to entertain you with the foregoing, I find the next in course is that of
MY GREAT HUNT WITH ANDERSON.
About the time above referred to, an old experienced hunter, Anderson by name, having been struck—as he expressed himself—with my success as a gunsman when from time to time he had noticed my luck in shooting with the Indians, proposed to me to take a hunt with him. And having long since grown tired of Kaskaskia—a place in which I as a poor man had no desire to remain, unless I could make more than mere experience, and this had been my fate ever since my arrival, for that cur of all curs, the ungrateful swindling Alexander Douglass, [No kin to Elmore and Ila Douglass.] never paid me a solitary cent for my trip —one can imagine how eagerly I accepted the invitation of the old hunter, and joined him for a tour of two or three months.
We provided a large kettle, the substance of which being very thin rendered it quite light, a butcher-knife, a hatchet, and some other necessaries, as our guns, ammunition, etc., and on the morning of the 20th day of May, 1793, we departed for the Big Saline, aiming to reach a point now known as the Salt Works. We travelled on all day, and about the time the shades of night began to fall upon the beautiful landscape which we were entering, “and all the air a solemn stillness hold,” we found ourselves about twenty-five miles on our journey. We now concluded to make arrangements for camping, and after we had hobbled our horse—having but one, which we rode time about—Anderson took his gun and started out to kill some meat for supper, leaving me to make up a fire; but not being able to bear the idea of camp-keeping when at the same time my comrade’s rifle was ringing through the forest, I dropped all, and catching up mine, bounded away in an opposite direction into the wilderness, and soon had a fine deer stretched upon the ground, and another and another, until three had fallen. We met, at the camp, Anderson with one poor turkey, which could not have been eaten even in the absence of other food without first skinning it, for the ten thousand ticks that were gnawing into its body. But I had done the work. We cast the filthy bird aside and skinned my three deer, prepared venison, and after a hearty and well-relished meal retired. The next morning we set out again, first one riding and then the other, and after travelling on for a couple of days we came upon buffalo signs, and in a little while we reached what is known as Knight’s Prairie, Illinois, in which there was a large lick, and pausing a minute on the confines of this great opening, we concluded to separate; Anderson to go round, and myself take the lick in my route to a point of woodland were we had been informed water might be found, and at which we were to await each other’s coming. Anderson took his course and I struck off in the direction of the lick and trudged along until I came in sight, when I discovered two large-sized buffaloes, having proceeded hither to enjoy in quiet the luxury of licking, perhaps to have their blood enriched by seasoning the fresh green grasses which they had been mowing, and to whet their appetites for a new supply by taking into their maws the saline substances which they were so fond of. I drew a little nearer, with a tread as light as that of a cat upon a barn-floor, and made another pause, for I knew that the buffalo was a very dangerous animal, and infinitely more so on the prairie plains than in the woods, because in the latter their velocity would be impeded by getting their horns tangled in the bushes and vines, so as to give those who were the object of their pursuit a chance to escape; while on the plains they must be overtaken, gored to death, and trampled into a jelly. I knew, however, that there were two extremes widely differing in the animal’s nature, for when enraged they would rush forward with a violence that upturned the very roots of the small trees which stood in their path, knowing as it were no hounds to their courage; while, under other circumstances, they were easily frightened, and made to flee from the hunter with the same rapidity that in the former case they were induced to fly after him. Taking advantage of this thought, I raised my rifle and fired. One of the two buffaloes threw himself at a single hound clear out of the lick, and went thundering across the plain. The other staggered and fell dead in his tracks, and it being the first that I had ever killed, I was about to leap straight up into the air with exultation, but thought of the Indians and desisted. I now ran up, jerked out my knife, cut out a fine steak and proceeded to the point where I awaited Anderson’s arrival. He came, and we both started back to the lick with a view to save the tallow, each pound of which was as good to us as a quarter of a dollar, and the tongue, which for food was regarded by the old pioneers, as well as by persons of good relish to this day, as one of nature’s most delicious morsels; but before we had reached the lick we happened to perceive two Indians on the trail which led to it, and for fear of their discovering us we receded to a point at which we could be sheltered from their view, and from which we could survey their maneuvers. They walked up, and after looking around to observe what danger attended, took possession of the buffalo I had just killed; and seeing that the tallow and tongue were irrecoverably lost to us, we had no other means of resentment left but to broil the meat we had, take it between our teeth and devour it with an appetite far better known to the hunter remote from human habitation, than to him who dwells in the halls of luxury and opulence. After we had thus refreshed ourselves we travelled on, not long, however, until we fell into a large trail, and from the signs, we were satisfied that it had just been passed over by a perfect horde of Indians who could not be far ahead of us; and seeing all this, we sheared off to the right hand to prevent our coming in contact with them, and travelled on, making no permanent camp, until we reached our destination upon the waters of the Big Saline, where we were about to resume our hunting. We viewed the grounds and were much delighted with the prospects, which promised us quite a jubilee here among the wild beasts of these regions, wherein a thousand signs told us that they roamed and prowled in gangs innumerable; but, alas, all our bright anticipations vanished like the lightning that sports for a moment upon a cloud, and the next is gone. We soon discovered that such prospects were not unknown to the Indians, and that great numbers of them were even at this time around and about us. After a minute’s deliberation we rolled our chattels up and departed, for we saw that it would not be safe to attempt to take the game of this quarter. We did not stick our stakes again until we had gone full twenty miles, which brought us within half a mile of Big Saline Lick, where we rested during the night, but rose at the dawn of day and started to go into the lick; nor had we gone farther than a hundred yards, before we saw a large buffalo crossing our path. “Anderson,” said I, “he is of tremendous size and very fat; we must shoot him for breakfast.” “Yes,” said he, jokingly, “he will make a plenty for us or any other two men this side the Island of Samos, or born since its distinguished inmate, whom a man once misrepresented by telling me he could throw dawn at a single meal more than ordinary men could at a dozen, or, in other words, eat such men as you and myself into convulsions, and then leave the camp as hungry as a hound. But fire away, Jo,” continued he. The report of my gun rang through the woods as clear as a morning bell, and the great buffalo tumbled. But hark! what low whoop is this I hear? “The croak of a raven,” responded Anderson; “there are thousands of them around us.” But another whoop made it too evident that the noise emanated from something not quite so black as the plumage of the wrongfully suspicioned bird. We saw that there was no time to be lost, for with another whoop or two the Indians raised their voices into a perfect yell. Anderson caught the bridle and started with the horse, requesting me to go behind and whip, and with both hands I stripped a limb from a neighboring sapling arid followed hard by his heels, making tracks with all our might and main for about an hour, before we saw anything of our pursuers, and just at this time a dog on our track came running up behind us. We halted a moment, and he saw us and ran back, and, greatly to our satisfaction, without barking. We now went off again at our best speed, knowing that when the dog met his masters, they would know that we had frightened him hack, and this would convince them that our track was very warm. We reached the Saline and hurried across, but, O horror! we could not get our horse up the bank. We held up the load and assisted him all we could, but to no purpose. We now went down the stream a few yards to a point at which the bank was not quite so steep, and succeeded in climbing to the top. In the struggle, a bladder of bear’s oil had rolled down from under the kettle, and I had picked it up and laid it on my arm, with a determination that the Indians should not have it so long as it was possible for me to keep it. Now, after losing perhaps some of the most precious time that man ever parted with, and thus giving the Indians a good run upon us, we again found ourselves under the very best headway we could make, I carrying my bladder of oil, until I saw that to abandon it would not be the worst of folly. I could not forbear fetching one sigh as I tossed it from my hands, for it was a large bladder filled with nearly three gallons of the purest oil; and then how could I fancy to see it going into the possession of those who I knew sought my life’s blood? About this time we reached an opening about two hundred yards wide, which we crossed, and looking back saw the savages like a vast herd pouring out of the woods into the side of the opening we had just fled from, with their scalping-knives and tomahawks already upraised, and incredible as it may seem, we stopped and hailed them, crying out, “What nation?” And were answered,” Yankee Shaws and Delawares.” And now, when we had run until it seemed that it was almost impossible for us to go out of a good walk, the great struggle came on. A race was now to be run in earnest, and our lives the precious wager. Anderson said, “Jo, they are gaining upon us; we must part, for by that means one of us may perchance be saved;” and thus speaking he varied his direction; and I seeing that the horse was becoming jaded under his load, jerked out my butcher knife, aiming to release the pack from him by cutting the rope by which it was confined, and in my great hurry took into the sweep the girth, and in attempting to push over the pack carried saddle and all together, and in the act of mounting, my tomahawk fell upon the pile; but I had no time to recover it, and gave it over with the one common sacrifice: even the ammunition except what was in my pouch was lost. They made a considerable gain on me during this process, and being encouraged by it came yelling as if they all had brazen throats and were inspired with iron lungs. But I began to believe that I had been born under an unlucky star, to say nothing of the caul which was upon my face at my first appearance in this nether world, £or while my lagging horse was by this time not carrying me faster than I had run on foot during the first half of the race, I had the misfortune to find the track of a hurricane across my path. At first sight of it despair threatened to seize my very being, for it seemed to be an insurmountable limit to my days, even minutes, upon this earth. I paused for a moment, and reflected how swift the winds must have been which had upturned and leveled this once magnificent forest, compared to the speed at which I was flying from the bloodthirsty Indians, and in the wild whirl of my imagination I could but tacitly plead for the fleet wings of the storm, that I might rise and fly away, laughing, as I went, the pursuit of my enemies to scorn. The trees had here fallen one upon another, with their tops woven together, and their roots wreathing so high, and all interlaced in such a manner that I could now scarcely think of anything but a prayer and a last adieu; but before the Indians had run full upon me I summoned my courage, and keeping it to the last strain, I plunged into the ruins where the tempest had reveled; now riding through the tree-tops, over the logs, around many an ancient root, clustering bamboos, and grape-vines, which ran and twined about the laps and logs, as it were so many strong bands designed to bind the masses which had been driven together by the angry storm; but by cutting vines, meandering and stumbling both myself and my wearied horse, almost fainting with fatigue, reeled and staggered over the last log; leaving the Indians about the centre of the space the hurricane had swept across. I well remember that when I came through I thought I had never seen a clearer track than the one which lay before me, for, although not free from obstacles, it gave a contrast which made it almost appear like a floor. It is said that the quality of mercy is not strained, but I am sometimes nearly ready to think that my poor, tired horse had instinct enough to doubt this, for I still had to drive him on at his best speed, until the day was far spent, and until the shadows of night veiled me from the savages. I now dismounted, hobbled my horse, and kindled a fire, and one may well imagine the condition I was in when they think of a man who had just passed through such a scene. I had run and labored, and rode hard all day, without even a pad under me, and without food or water. Here I was a lonely hunter in a wilderness, which was as strange as vast, separated from my only companion, without a hope of ever meeting him again, and not knowing at what moment I should be called upon to run another race for my life, without the ability to even make the attempt, should it have been necessary.
If I should go to sleep, I knew not at what moment I might be woke by a blow from a tomahawk, or a thrust from a dagger, for, unlike an army in camp, I had no outpost, no sentinel to fire for me an alarm. I was my only guard, my only chance to conduct and fight a battle.
My wearied muscles were in a perfect tremor. I stretched myself upon the ground; the foregoing scene began to pass before my mental vision, and seeming so far below what I could ever accomplish again, I viewed it, in the stead of its stern reality, as an intrusive fiction, and feeling my eyelids closing heavily down, I was insensibly drawn into some very happy anticipations in regard to what I thought was to be my future glory in hunting. In the meantime, however, I seemed to perceive a boy, whose handsome features and beautifully-turned limbs charmed me very much; and further, thought that he was standing on tiptoe, and by the gentle motioning of a pair of brilliant little wings he was balancing himself upon my forehead. In his right hand I observed a horn, from which he was pouring something that fell very noiselessly about me; and in his left hand I noticed a bunch of poppies, which he seemed to be gently shaking over my eyelids. I thought all this very unaccountable; but at the same time had not the least inclination to see the sweet little fellow depart, for so soothing was the something he was pouring out of the horn, so gently did he oscillate the poppies over my eyes, and so delicate was the pressure of his nice tiny toes upon my forehead, that I never once felt the least desire to escape from under either.
At one time during his stay with me I remember to have begun to think of similar horrors, perhaps the very same which had attended me the past day; and no sooner had the thought entered my mind than he commenced making signs that he would leave me if I didn’t desist, and so far had my mind run into this train of thought at another time, that he actually took his leave of me, going almost entirely out of sight; but upon my turning over upon my side to relieve, as I now suppose, my spine from too long a pressure upon the ground, he returned, and very kindly resumed his former position over me. At length I seemed to turn my eyes to the east, and thought I saw an inexpressibly beautiful female seated in a light car, drawn towards me by a number of white horses, “and who sprinkled with rosy light the dewy lawn,” and at whose approach the boy, with a motion or two of his little wings, wafted himself away. Just at this time the song of innumerable birds upon the neighboring boughs woke me, and the first thought explained to me that the boy’s name was Morpheus, the god of sleep, to whom I shall ever feel grateful for the blessings he bestowed upon me during this night, which otherwise must have been one of dreadful anxiety; and that the beautiful female I saw driving her chariot towards me was Aurora, the goddess of morning.
When I had been thus woke I felt much refreshed in body, but my mind soon relapsed into reflections which conducted me back through the trying scenes of the past day, and I could not avoid thinking over my losses; none, however, afflicted me so much as that of my comrade Anderson; but here I found myself leaning upon the strong arm of hope, and thinking that unless he had been overtaken and devoured by the savages, I should see him again; I summoned up all of what resolution I had left, and began to make ready for my departure. I took one circuit in search of my horse, but did, not find him, not being able to track him because of the multitude of buffalo signs, In this round I saw two male buffaloes coming towards me, and I immediately stepped behind a tree, thinking that I would let them pass, having two reasons for not wanting to shoot, one being to avoid notifying the Indians of my whereabouts, and the other was because I had but seventeen bullets, and sufficient powder left with which to defend myself, and procure food on my journey home. When they had come to a bluff which was opposite me, at a distance of about fifteen paces, I stealthily approached to within a few yards of them, and suddenly discovered myself by rushing out to their view, which gave them such an affright that they both went bounding and tumbling down the fearful precipice. Perhaps they kicked again, perhaps never. I resumed my ramble, and soon found my horse, that really could yet hold his head up. I mounted him and pursued my journey until the evening of the second day, it being the third since I had swallowed a mouthful of food, and what may seem more remarkable is, that I had not during all this time experienced any hunger; I knew however that I must eat, and stopped to spend a bullet and a charger of powder. I took a little ramble, killed a doe, and caught her fawn; but being without water I travelled on, hoping to come to a stream, which, after making about three miles, I discovered before me, distant some two hundred yards, with a large bear standing by it; I had a good will to shoot him, but wishing to lie there that night, I made up my mind not to create any noise, lest some savage might be in hearing; but it just then occurred to me that the skin would make a kind of saddle, without which I did not believe I could ride any farther, so sore was I already from riding barebacked such a great distance; and I determined to cast the die, and let chance direct the consequences. I bleated like a fawn. He came. I shot, and he ran back near the spot he had left by the quiet stream, and died. That night I feasted on the fawn, and lodged with the bear. I slept very calmly, but am sure that my bedfellow never stirred or even breathed. When day was come I went about skinning him, and having accomplished my task, I folded the hide, stuffed it with grass, which I confined with whangs taken from the edges of the skin, and having previously cut straps for stirrups, and fastened them on, I threw it upon my horse, mounted him, and thus finding myself seated upon a very easy pad, with plenty of meat, and a good bladder of oil, I commenced my fourth day’s journey, the incidents of which amounted to nothing more than that of my being brought upon a camp, which, as I approached, I believed to be vacated, for there was no smoke issuing from it; but, lest I might be mistaken, I ventured nearer and nearer in the most cautious manner, until I became thoroughly convinced that there were no inmates, but saw that they had not been gone long, for there were fresh raw hide strings wrapped round and continuing from one sapling to another, until they quite encircled the camp, having been thus arranged for the purpose of drying deer-skins upon; and thinking that it would be some retaliation for former grievances, I cried out, Come forth, honest butcher-knife, with a resolve to sever each trembling cord. I started, but a simple reflection changed my determination. It is sometimes well for man that he cannot always be in reach of the object of his revenge at the first impulse, for by his passions he would often destroy that which his more deliberate judgment would protect from harm. It occurred to me that the Indians might be lurking round, and should they detect me in the act of mutilating their strings, it would be an ample degree of crime in their eyes to induce them to build a great fire, and roast me alive over it; so I returned my knife to its scabbard, and rode oil; but had not gone many miles before it was time for me to take up for the night. I dismounted, hobbled my horse, kindled a little fire, to keep the gnats and mosquitoes away, lay down, and reposed until the next morning, when I started upon my fifth day’s travel, and at the end of less than a quarter of a mile I found myself entering the Grand Prairie. The weather was very warm, and by the time I had gone fairly into the prairie, I discovered that my saddle was tainted, and actually flyblown, which rendered it so offensive that I was compelled to cast it aside; and not being yet recovered from the bruises by my former bare-back riding, it became necessary for me to walk and lead. After going on for some time I became very thirsty, though not sick. At length I began to experience a giddiness about my head, and the next thing I knew I found myself struggling to rise, without knowing that I had fainted, or when I fell; but perceiving that it was impossible for me to get up, I fell back again and again, and as often found myself trying to recover, without the ability to do it. I cannot now number the times that I went through the maneuver of trying to rise and falling back, before I found that I was able to even maintain a sitting posture. When I thus far recovered, I looked around in the different directions, to contrast the height of the timber at various points, with a view to go to the tallest, which indicated the shortest route to a shade, and saw that this would be at the very place where I had entered. I rose, without feeling any more thirst, and, by a hard struggle, succeeded in clambering to my horse’s back, and began to retrace my steps, but soon had occasion to test the realities of the old maxim, which says, that “misfortunes never come single.” My horse, by biting and stamping at the flies, which were swarming about, and stinging and sucking the very blood out of him, had got one of his forelegs tangled in the bridle reins, and I could not relieve him without, in attempting to alight, nearly falling off, and then encountering the almost impossibility of mounting him again. As soon as this trying scene was over, I proceeded on to the woods, and though I did not yet feel any thirst, I took a little water, believing that my fainting spell had partly originated from the want of it. I rested the remainder of the day, and slept at the same place I had camped at the previous night; and on the morning of the sixth day I emptied my bear’s oil out of the bladder, filled it with water, and undertook the passage of the prairie, by the same route I had attempted it the day before, and succeeded with but little difficulty. During all this time I had indulged the constant habit of tacitly inquiring, “Where, O, where” is my lost friend? and of hearing echo answer, “Where, O where?” I had the consolation to know that Anderson had been a good woodsman, and knew much about tacking with the Indians; but feared that while they had pursued me they had likewise sent a gang upon his track that perhaps had overtaken and murdered him. My sixth day’s journey was now coming to a close; the sun had already dipped his disc in the western ocean. I began to prepare for spending another lonesome night in the forest; but first of all I had, if possible, to find water; and, with this view, started down a dry branch, nor had I travelled above half an hour before my eyes were gladdened by the sought-for sight. As I turned the point of a bluff, the brow of which had overhung me for fifty yards, a collection of water in the distance, made to smile charmingly by the sheen of the bright, silver moon, leaped suddenly, full and clear, into the field of my vision. I now tied my horse to a projecting rock, and alighted, thinking that it were not safe for me to boldly ride up without first examining well the premises, lest this water had been sought by my enemies, and proceeding on foot, my approach discovered to me a lone pilgrim, seated at the base of a great tree, near the brink of what I now recognized as a pool, who was steadily gazing into it, and seemed to be wrapped in deep meditation. I paused, and the first thought that struck me was that I saw an Indian, who perhaps had come thither after water for some neighboring camp, which might be pitched a little back among the trees. And now the question arose in my mind, what shall I do? I looked around for the purpose of discovering any fire that might be peeking out from amid the trees, or any smoke which might be curling up among them. I could see neither. I listened for any human voice that might perchance vibrate upon the ambient air; but all was as silent as the tomb, save on my right an owl hooted, while on my left an occasional croak from a raven broke the stillness of the hour. I thought of withdrawing, but the very idea of seeing a human being, after being so long debarred from a privilege so delightful, stood up before me a most grateful spectacle, and I determined to stake a little upon the throw, though it should cost me my life, or another race for the same. I began to advance, observing to shelter myself from view by the heavy shade of the timber, which was so thick that it were impossible for the moonlight to have reached the pool from any other point in the heavens except from the situation she occupied at this particular hour. I again paused; the stranger’s eyes were still steadfastly fixed upon the water, and forgetting for the moment the cause of my apprehensions, I found my gaze sympathizing with his. I, like him, was looking into the bright pool, and with all the terrors which had haunted my mind, I could not forbear falling into a state of sensible admiration of the works of Him whose skilful hand had made this excavation, filled it with limpid fluid, and set the lovely queen of night upon her throne far above, to smile upon its face. I looked upon the ancient oak, which the same hand had created, and which perhaps had bowed over it for hundreds of years. Just at this time the light reflected from the water rose full into the pilgrim’s face. I saw that it was white; former fears returned no more. I started; he saw and recognized me; and, springing to his feet with the activity and quickness of an ancient gladiator, shouted, “It is little Joe!” “‘Tis Anderson!” exclaimed I, A bound or two by each brought us together, and the slap of our hands into each other’s was ringing across the water, and echoing from the bluff; and a large tear stood in the eye of each, as, leading me to a neighboring sod, he said, “Let’s sit down and talk together.”
And he asked me how I came to find this retreat. I told him that I came to the head of the dry branch, and thinking perhaps that I should find water, I was induced to follow it, which I did until I discovered the pool, around which I had been spying and speculating for half an hour, lest by approaching it too suddenly I might bring myself upon trouble. “A very good idea,” responded he; “I took the same precaution, and had like you followed the course of the branch in quest of water;” and upon further inquiry, I found out that the Indians had not followed him, or if so, they had never come in sight. He now desired me to tell him of all my adventures from the time we had been cast asunder, and complying with his request, he said that the trials I had gone through were not far surpassed by those experienced by Julian retreating to and across the everlasting Alps.
The next morning, we named the spot the Pool of the Two Lost Hunters, and set out together in the direction of Kaskaskia, and about nine o’clock in the morning we heard a kind of grunting, which Anderson informed me was a herd of buffalo cows that had calves, for he said he understood the peculiar noise they made at these times, and he rode out to a point from which he could see them, and while he shot one of the cows I captured the calf, haltered it, and at first it was much disposed to butt at us, but it soon became very docile and followed us all the day like a dog, and at night lay down by our horse, but the next morning it had disappeared and we saw it no more.
The second day we crossed a large prairie, and the sun of the burning summer days had long since called back to the white clouds, which here and there floated high above us, the last raindrop that had for many a day fallen upon the thirsty plain. We saw no brook bubbling by; no salient fount bursting upon the gaze of the weary hunter; nor should we perhaps have reached the opposite side, but for having taken the precaution to provide ourselves with a good supply of slippery elm bark, which we chewed freely on the route to allay our thirst. We found some consolation, however, in the thought that we somewhat resembled the Arabians, who feel safe in their deserts and ready to defy all the armies of the earth by flying before them on their camels, for we had our faithful horse, and could at least feel secure from the tomahawk and the scalping-knife.
Nothing of interest happening the next few hours of our travel, Andersen entertained me with the following story:
“A Mr. Curry and myself,” said he, “took a hunt, and being unsuccessful, we concluded to return, and as we came back happened to find a waste hut in which we took up quarters for the night; but about light, to our great surprise, the door was knocked at by the Indian proprietors, and well knowing how fearful the consequences would be, we refused to let them in. Curry pushed a chinkin out, however, to get a shot at them, but standing ready to take advantage of this chance, the Indian was too quick for him, shooting before he could present his gun, and wounding him in the left arm. He now removed another chinkin, and was again shot by the enemy, the ball carrying away one finger from his right hand. He now attempted to push the door-shutter out, but inadvertently sticking his foot through a cat-hole at the bottom, found it instantly fastened to the door-sill by a spear tomahawk which an Indian had struck through his instep, and there being no other alternative, he gave a quick jerk and split his foot out to the very toes. In the meantime,” said Anderson, “I found a crack in the wall above the loft, fired through it, and killed one of the savages, and his comrades picked him up and ran off with him into the thicket, and while they were accomplishing this, I made a hole through the roof, crawled out, and made good my escape, the Indians seeing and firing at me as I went; and Curry, notwithstanding his split foot, to say nothing of his arm and finger, followed in train and escaped likewise.”
A few hours after Anderson had finished his narrative, we reached Kaskaskia, much worn down by fatigue, thirst, and hunger.
AFTER resting at Kaskaskia about one month, the thoughts of seeing my old Cumberland home began to crowd fast upon me, and soon I felt my heart beating high at a prospect which promised me the happy realization of such a privilege, for just at this time a lawyer of renown, who had visited the above place on some legal business, and having accomplished his mission, remarked in my hearing that he was going to return to Cumberland, whence he had come, and should like to have some young man to accompany him.. I told him that I would go, and he with seeming delight replied, “You are my man.” My proposal was immediately followed by five others, among whom there was one Indian named Cola, and all of whom were received.
We embarked on board a peroque, and rowed on in a fine glee until we were about to pass an Indian town where Cape Girardeau now stands, then in possession of Shawnees and Delawares. So well did I know the treachery of these tribes, that I looked for some trouble before we could get by them, and proposed to Love, for that was the lawyer’s name, that we should load our guns, but he objected, and upon drawing nearer to the town I proposed again, upon which he said in a peremptory manner, “Sir, I command this peroque. I see no necessity for loading. I am going to call at this place.” I thought of the duty a subordinate owes to a superior, and said no more. The boat at length landed, and the Indians flocked to the bank in great numbers. I ran out, and just as I was entering one of the wigwams I heard Love calling me very hurriedly. I returned as quick as I could, and when I reached .the peroque, I found much difficulty in getting on board. The Indians had threatened to detain Cola, and a contention was going on—Cola’s comrades endeavoring to keep him in the boat, and the Indians struggling to pull him out of it. We, however, succeeded in shoving off, leaving the Indians yelling and threatening to kill us before we should ever get to the Cumberland, and Love crying out all the time, “Shoot and be d—d.” Cola all this time said not a word, nor betrayed the least manifestation of anger. We ran to an island about three miles from the town, and here Love ordered every gun on board to be loaded, with the same authoritative voice that he had before ordered that they should not be loaded. This having been done, Cola went to his wallet, took out his looking-glass and paint, and after completely tattooing his face, began to rage with hostile signs, but the Indians did not pursue us. We rested upon the island, and then untied our cable and floated away again upon the waters of the Mississippi, continuing to row day and night until we reached the mouth of the Ohio, where we found ourselves transported from a rapid and turbulent stream into the calm bosom of that beautiful river. The Mississippi seemed to be mad with the world, the Ohio appeared to be smiling at his folly. We made good speed to the mouth of the Cumberland river, and here the scene again shifted; we now leaving a smiling river to enter one that was actually leaping and laughing, and ascended to Clarksville—not Clarksville of 1858, numbering her thousands, but that of 1793, consisting of three or four little log-cabins. At this point we landed. I bade adieu to my comrades and hurried away to my home in Cage’s Bend, where, upon my arrival, my friends gave me such a hearty welcome that it made me call to mind my meeting with Anderson at the Pool of the Two Lost Hunters.
AFTER my return, and after a short spell of recreation, I were appointed spy by Governor Blount, through Colonel since General James Winchester. At this time there were but three counties in Cumberland, (now Middle Tennessee,) Sumner, Davidson, and Tennessee. The latter is now known as Robertson, its name having been changed, for the reason that the State has since been named Tennessee.
As spy, I served three tours, enlisting each time for three months. My range reached from Lindsley’s Bluff, in Sumner county, to Barton’s Creek—now embraced in the county of Wilson—the distance being about fifteen miles.
It was common for only two spies to go together. On my first route, my colleague was William Stagner; on my second, Nat Parker; and on my third, William Wilmouth; and when we stopped to rest or to eat, we made it a rule to sit with our backs together, in order that we might see in every direction from us, thus making it impossible for an Indian to approach us without being discovered.
During my first tour, Stagner and myself were passing from the above-mentioned bluff to Barton’s Creek, looking out for the savages, and coming to a large spring in a section of country that was heavily set with flourishing cedars, we saw three fine otters sporting in its crystal waters, and knowing the value of their skins, I concluded to shoot them, aiming to get one before they would dive, but they discovered us and went under. We squatted, however, behind a bush, and in a few minutes one of them presented his head above water; I fired, and his blood began to streak the stream. I now reached back, and Stagner handed me his gun. By this time the head of the second made its appearance. I pulled trigger and he floated up; but when the third, which soon followed, came to view, both the guns were empty.
It has only been a few months since I visited the same spring; but, instead of standing upon its rude moss-covered, rock-bound borders, I stood upon a macadamized square, looking over a balustrade; instead of seeing boughs of evergreens gracefully waving over and around it, I saw mercantile houses, with golden names above their doors; in the place of seeing otters sporting therein, I beheld the dip and splash of pails and buckets. I looked in vain for the lawless savages, loitering in the wigwams around it; but I saw in their place civilized man and courts of justice. When I looked for the tawny squaw and her pappooses, I saw the refined white woman and her cornelian jewels, her bright-eyed children; and when I looked for the wild roses, blooming and wasting their sweetness on the desert air, my vision was gladdened by fair maidens, blushing and blossoming like the immortal amaranth among the stars.
Little did I think half a century ago that I should live to see this bold spring, then shaded by a wild forest and lapped by bears and wolves, now the true emblem of a great seat of learning; and the various paths leading to it, instead of being prowled over and trod by wild beasts and as wild Indians, now annually beaten by the feet of from five to seven hundred law, literary, and divinity students; little, in fine, could I have conceived that from this pure fountain, ever welling forth its living waters, there were to spring men upon whom, as so many pillars, the glory of the State was to rest—perhaps depend the salvation of the Republic.
From time to time a goodly number of spies and others, who did not belong to them, were murdered and wounded. James Gamble, the fiddler, was out before Morgan’s Station, in Sumner country, chopping a billet of wood, and was shot by an Indian in ambush. The ball passed through his body just above the heart. He ran with as much speed as though he had never been touched, to the fort gate, but there he fell. His friends hurried to get him in the house and administer to his wants; and to the astonishment of all who saw him, he recovered, and they had the pleasure, long after that, of hearing him draw many a sprightly strain from his violin.
At another time McAdams, an Irishman, and a man by the name of Webb, left the neighborhood to go to Kentucky after salt. When they started, Webb requested me to look after his wife and children, to stay with them as often as I could of nights, and see that nothing should be wanting while he was gone to make them comfortable; bat the anxious wife never had the joy of welcoming her husband home again; his little children never met to “climb his knee the envied kiss to share.” No, he never returned. The savages had murdered him, leaving McAdams to tell the story, after having every tooth in his own head shot out but one. Having so often travelled the space between Lindsley’s Bluff and Barton’s Creek, the scenes along the route became monotonous to me, and I quitted them to join the Light-Horse. During my services in this company Major George Winchester was killed. He met his fate upon the spot where Gallatin now stands. His death was much lamented by his fellow-citizens. I knew him to be an estimable man, and know that the public sustained a loss which was seriously felt in those days. I joined the company that followed the Indians after they had murdered him, but we never could overtake them. My time having expired in the Light-Horse company, I returned to Cage’s Bend, and began to make preparations for going to see my father, in North Carolina; and about the time I was ready to take leave of my friends, I was not a little surprised at receiving the following certificate from the best class of men in Sumner county:
“Territory south of Ohio, Mero District.
“The bearer, Joseph Bishop, hath lived in this neighborhood and district for near three years, and has at all times behaved himself as an orderly, good citizen, and peaceable member of society. These are therefore to recommend to the notice and attention of all good people, wherever chance or fortune may direct him, he being about to travel from this district to North Carolina.
“Given under our hands, in Sumner county, this 15th day of August, 1794.
“MAJ. EDMOND DOUGLASS.
“JUDGE JOHN OVERTON.
“MAJOR DAVID WILSON.
“COL. WILLIAM CAGE.
“GEN. JAMES WINCHESTER.
“COL. ROBT. HAYS.
“COL. J. T. ROBERTSON.
“THOS. MASTON, ESQ.
“GEN. DAVID SMITH.”
After receiving this certificate, and before I could get off, I was summoned as a guard for the safe-keeping of one John Kirkindale, who had been arrested for breaking open his uncle’s still-house, and stealing whiskey. Alex. Douglass was left to assist me while the sheriff would go away on some other business; and he had not been gone long before Douglass had occasion to leave, and now I was the prisoner’s only guard. I placed myself near the door, rested the butt of my gun on the floor, and held it by the muzzle. The prisoner now began to walk from one side of the room to the other, and after measuring the distance from wall to wall perhaps twenty times, he commenced singing a series of songs, all calculated in their nature to draw me off guard, and not suspecting his design, some of them were warbled so softly and sweetly that they effected his purpose; for seeing me quite absorbed, and taking advantage of the state of mind into which he had drawn me, he sprang towards me, and grasped my gun with his left hand, while he drew from his bosom a long knife with his right, and raising it, ordered me to surrender. At this I jerked the gun so suddenly and violently that I threw the muzzle against his bowels, and instantly gave him such a punch thereabouts as to cause him to stagger back to a seat at the opposite side of the room. He remained silent for six or eight minutes, then jumping up, exclaimed, “Well, Joe, I’ll be d—d if you ain’t ball against the field.” Without any further difficulty I retained him until the sheriff came, and delivered him up, when all the people said, if I had killed him it would have reflected more credit on me than if I had slain twenty Cherokees.
At length, after delivering the whiskey thief up to the limbs of the law, I entered upon my journey for North Carolina, and not meeting with anything worthy of note before, when I reached the Crab Orchard I took very sick, and had determined to turn out of the trace at the first water, and lie down; but I soon reached a place which sent up a most horrid odor; and being curious to know whence it came, I began to look about, and saw that it proceeded from a sink-hole, in which I discovered the dead bodies of three men, whom, as I was subsequently informed, had a few days before been murdered and cast into it. This had the effect of proving to my satisfaction that doctors could cure the sick by making them sicker, for such was the influence of that awful aroma upon me. I was so effectually cured that I never experienced the least sick feeling after I passed the bounds of the atmosphere impregnated by the effluvia, and was perfectly able to continue my journey to Knoxville. Upon reaching this place, I found much being said in regard to an Indian who had been hanged but the day before. He was the first of his race I had ever heard of being tried by a court of law and hanged, and perhaps the first that ever had been thus tried and executed in the United States. His councilor advised him to plead not guilty; but, stained all over as he was with diabolical crime, he found in his nature enough of that nobleness peculiar to many of his fallen fellows to actuate him to refuse, saying, “I will not deny my guilt: I came here to steal and to murder, and will die like a man—I am an Indian.” He met the king of terrors, and not a nerve was shaken. But nothing could detain me in Knoxville long. There was an object ahead of me which was of far greater attraction. I departed out of the village, and after a few days of unmolested travel, reached the cottage that sheltered my dear old father. My arrival was unexpected to him. He was not standing on the stile looking for me. He was in his chair upon the hearthstone. I stood upon the floor full before him ere he saw me. We joined hands, and the old man leaned upon me and wept. I now knew for the first time in my life how to value a father’s love. When the shock was off—and it was quite awhile before it passed away—I made his blessed old heart relapse suddenly into rejoicing by showing him my certificate. When he had finished reading it, he raised his eyes, glistening with tears, and said in a tremulous tone, “Well, my boy, this is far better than had you brought me gold. You have passed through many scenes, doubtless many very perilous, amid the Western wilds, and have returned clothed in the habiliments of a good character.” He read the certificate over again, and looking up smilingly, said, “Well, Joe, I hope you will not, as I used to tell you, be hung after all.” I of course now had to detail my whole career to him, which I did after the same manner in which I have detailed it to you; and I never shall forget how sorry he was for the way I had served the preacher, and under what strong obligations he brought me to never put such a trick upon another. I might implore your pardon for the manner in which I sometimes allude to myself, but then you have asked me to detail the events of my life, and I am doing it just as they happened. Besides, this may be related to some reckless young man, and be the means of causing him to remember the advice of his father, and actuate him, after he has wandered forth in early adventure, to carry home to the old man’s heart something to make him happy in his declining years.
Having enjoyed the society of my father for about five months, I shook hands with him to visit a brother and two sisters, who resided on Tiger river, Union county, in South Carolina, distance about sixty miles. I reached them without difficulty, and remained with them until the fall of 1795, and then, in company with a young man, McKinney, I set out on my return, by a circuitous route, for Cumberland, wishing to take Knoxville in my way again. We travelled over the mountains, and coming to that great phenomenon, the Warm Springs, I swam across French Broad river, bathed in the spring, and swam back; and after going out of the river into the spring, and thence into the river again, I thought the transition from heat to cold was more sudden than I should like to experience another time, unless I was induced by something more than mere curiosity; but I must admit that I felt better, and enjoyed a finer flow of spirits for a day or two after my bath, than I had the same length of time before it. Leaving this point, we travelled whole days without seeing a human habitation; but coming to a house one evening, we called, and obtained permission to stay during the night, and when we had alighted the old landlord said to me, “Let your friend come along, and he and I will care for the horses, if you will let the old woman alone while we are gone.” We never have to this day been able to determine exactly what the landlord meant, although a thousand constructions have, from time to time, when I have been telling it to my friends, been put upon it. I well remember, however, to have let the old woman alone. The next day we proceeded to Knoxville, where McKinney and myself parted, and I went out twelve miles to see another brother, and I had been with him but a short time before we had a project on foot for a bear hunt; and off we went to the woods, in the midst of which we arranged our camp-ground, and around which we had some rare sports, having the luck to kill a great number of bears; and I remember that one morning, before we started out, a bear ventured too near our camp for his own longevity. I saw the intruder, and, without stopping to inquire whether he brought with him proposals for a general treaty of peace between the bear kingdom and ourselves, or a mere flag of truce, and thinking, from previous experience, that there were times when all forms were impracticable and should be laid aside, I raised my rifle, and the report which followed was beautiful and clear, as it rang through the stillness of the bright, sunny morning. When I raised my face from the gun, I beheld the object of my aim weltering in his own blood. We now proceeded to drag him up in front of the camp, and skin him.
The succeeding morning an Indian came to our camp, and related the circumstance of our killing the bear, and upon inquiring he informed us that he was, at the time the gun fired, in hearing, and crawling up to see what was meant by it, saw all of our maneuvers; “but,” continued he, “I had no harm at heart; and have come to the white man’s camp to be friendly, and to invite him to go with me to the Indian’s wigwam, about three miles from here.” We paused for a moment before we would give him an answer; first McKinney, and then I, casting significant glances at each other, both fearing that our strange guest might perchance desire to give us the fate of the bear we had slaughtered, and had fallen upon this plan to decoy us to a place where he might carry out the design to his own liking; but happening to think that the town of Nickojack had been taken, and that the Indians were since more friendly, we concluded to accompany him; and when we reached his encampment we found all seemingly delighted to see us, and they really treated us with so much kindness, that we concluded to spend the night with them. The following morning we returned, packed our meat and oil, broke up the hunt, and went home. I remained with this brother one month or five weeks, and started alone through the wilderness, and just as the sun, which had shone brightly all day, was about to consign the world to oblivion and to me, and when I was meditating seriously upon what was to be my fate for the night, I perceived in the distance what I supposed to be a mover’s camp. At this grateful sight I mended my gait, and upon reaching the spot found it occupied by three men and two women. I told them whence I came, and whither I was bound, and that it seemed that I must go alone unless perchance they would take me, the stranger, in, and be my company as far as our routes ran together. They informed me that they were countrymen of mine, and that their destiny was Cumberland, and furthermore, that they would be most happy to have me join them. I entered their camp, and after supper was over we all began to talk about the Old Dominion and North Carolina, and other days and other scenes, until we became so much interested that when we found it necessary to conclude, the night had been ended for about an hour. The sun was actually up, and the ladies calling us to breakfast, which we dispatched in rather short order, and started, and moving on a distance of several miles we heard the report of two guns, and making no stop, soon reached the point opposite which they had fired, and began to look about to know what it meant. We saw a fresh-skinned deer hanging up by the side of a tree, and not being able to see the Indians, who we supposed had killed it, I cut off the hams, and carried them away with us. A little distance farther brought us in view of another deer skinned, like the first, suspended from the side of a tree, and I cut his hams off as I did the other, tied them on the pack, and we proceeded. We had in our company a very superstitious old bachelor, who, no doubt, had often swooned at a ghost story, and who, on this occasion, became very suspicious that the Indians had insinuated some deadly poison into the deer we had purloined, with a view to ensnare the unwary traveler, and to plunder him. In those days I was by nature so full of fun that often the slightest cause was sufficient to make it overrun its bounds, and inundate all in reach who could not swim. I immediately went about making a confederate of one, of the company, who was to feign himself sick, and this being arranged, I prepared several small wisps of hair, and put them into my vest pocket. The venison was nicely served, and the old bachelor was one of those men who have a kind of gluttonous appetite, and who, when they come to their meals, would eat the meat though the green poison were issuing from every pore of it; so after supper, at which he ate very heartily of the venison, my confederate began to appear very sick; said he felt something bitter to the taste, and was very hot all over; that his mouth and throat were very dry, and he felt a sense of distressing tightness there. Violent vomiting came on. He complained of great pain in the stomach and bowels, and said that his pulse was too frequent, and showed that his breathing was quick and difficult. He appeared to be somewhat intoxicated, and informed us that he felt a kind of numbness, showing evidently that he had swallowed some one of the vegetable poisons. I could scarcely suppress my risibles at the effectual manner in which the sick man put on; but I expressed great alarm, and went straight about examining a piece of venison which had been left at supper, and slipping my little balls into it, cried out, “Here it is! we are all done for; yes, we are all poisoned.” The old bachelor began to stare and gag. I did the same; and as fortune would have it, he vomited before the venom had entered the circulation, and of course in time to save his life; but he imagined that he could feel the effects of it for several weeks afterwards. We succeeded in keeping him in profound ignorance about the trick until long after he had made many an old woman’s hair stand straight on her head by the great solemnity with which he had a hundred times related the circumstances of this his narrow escape. The fun which we had once and again at the old fellow’s expense served greatly towards shortening our journey, and proved very salutary to himself, by removing from his mind the innumerable companies of hobgoblins which had resided with him for above forty years.
Upon our arrival at Cumberland, I discovered that a great change had taken place in the country. The population had increased, fields were opened and fences erected, and there were actually several neighborhood roads. Soon the people began to come in such numbers from the older States that it was impossible for them all to get a supply of provisions; but I had not noticed their distresses long before I took compassion on them, and one morning threw my gun upon my shoulder, and before noon I had fired her above a dozen times, and as many quadrupeds had ceased their pilgrimage upon this earth; and before night I had banished all the apprehensions of famine from around every camp-fire. I had laid food enough before them to last for the week to come; and during my stay among them I killed and carried in many another good horse-load of wild meat. They offered me pay for my trouble, but I could not have the heart to receive a single shilling.
IN the spring of 1796, I came with Elmore Douglass and others to commence a settlement on the south side of CUMBERLAND RIVER. When we arrived, we stuck the pegs of our tent, the first that were ever stuck within the present boundaries of Smith county, at the head of a fine fountain of water which we found breaking up in the midst of a beautiful forest, now a charming lawn spreading out extensively before a handsome two-story mansion, the early residence of that splendid old citizen, Hickerson Barksdall, whose recent death has been so much lamented by a large circle of friends, and mourned over by five promising sons and one interesting daughter. It is now occupied by Thomas, the oldest child. This mansion was also the abode, at an early date, of a very excellent old pioneer, Capt. Green B. Lowe. Soon after our arrival, John Ward and his wife, with an infant Bon Bryan, came and settled within a mile of the same place, where they were soon blessed with another son, to whom they gave the name of Henry; and while Douglass and myself were the first settlers, Henry was the first child born in the county. The good old parents, with whom many of those now composing the present generation of this section of Tennessee were familiar, have long since gone down among the tombs. They had several other children, but their two eldest sons, Bryan and Henry, though their locks are white as snow—the former haying lived out his three-score years and ten, and the latter following hard by—may yet be seen lingering upon the old homestead lands of their father, still erect for men of their age, riding to and fro over their possessions, their fine fields, and rich pastures, beside their fountains, among their horses, sheep, and cattle, and always ready to show the spot where the germ of the county was planted, and from which it has sprung up and reached its present maturity.
All the settlers being dependent upon me for meat, I again betook myself to the woods, and opened a tremendous warfare upon the wild beasts and fowls which roamed and flew in the regions round about, soon proving to those who looked to me for meat that they would not look in vain, for each day I laid at their respective doors an abundant supply. During my hunt the weather became very cold. The waters of the Cumberland, instead of continuing to dance to the music of the whistling winds, became one solid sheet of ice, extending from bank to bank; and one day as I was going up stream, after travelling a distance of five miles along the river, I saw a flock of swans upon the opposite shore. The distance for a shot was very great, but I presented arms and fired, and two of them fell flapping their wings on the ground. I reloaded, passed over on the ice, shot the third, gathered them up, recrossed, and carried them all to the work-hands.
But it soon became evident that our luck must change. Our supplies of meat were exhausted; the last slice had been divided and swallowed, and we were driven to the necessity of scraping a couple of fresh bear-skins, and making of the gleanings another meal, or do worse. Fortunately for the settlers, however, the rigidity of the weather gave way and was succeeded by a spell approaching in mildness that of a summer’s day. Jesse McLendon—of whom I have heretofore spoken—and myself, buckled on our hunting paraphernalia and immediately disappeared from the huts, and after hunting a few miles, our ears were greeted by the joyous baying of Double-head. He was thus telling us that he pursued some good game, for we knew that he, like the eagle, never stooped to catch flies. We hurried to the spot. His eyes were gleaming with mingled expressions; brightening with joy when he looked at us, and flashing as fire when he turned them upon the bear. I saw the bear enter a hole, and started back after an axe and a horse, advising McLendon to shoot if she showed her head. I soon reached the camp, procured a horse and an axe, and being joined by Moses Grissom, returned to the scene which seemed to be so rapidly driving dull cares away, and on our arrival we saw that the bloody deed was done—the bear was dead. She had been shot in the mouth, and dropped back into the hollow of the tree; not, however, until she had heaved one of her cubs out, as ‘twere an hostage to stay for a moment the hand of the enemy. I left McLendon and Grissom to cut the tree down, and took another little round at hunting, and before they had finished the work they had undertaken to do, I had fired upon and killed another bear. We now had two and but one horse, and Grissom being the lightest man among us, we put it on him to ride and carry them. The horse manifesting some terror at the sight and smell of the load he had to carry, we were compelled to blindfold him, and we split the bear’s feet for stirrups, and tying them together, threw them upon his back. We now mounted Grissom, handed him the bridle, turned the horse’s head homeward and cleared the track, whereupon he with one tremendous bound went almost three times his length, throwing his load high above his back and running from under it. All came down to the ground in one common pile, though the rider was worse alarmed than hurt, happening, as one of the party said, to catch the flat of his back upon the ground. We caught the affrighted horse, he not being able to run fast with his blind, brought him back and threw the bears upon him again, and while two of us led by the bridle, the other followed behind with a brush, and by pulling and whipping, we succeeded in delivering our load of meat to the hungry expectants at the camp-ground.
McLendon and myself next left the settlement for the waters of Mulherren, where we opened another hunt, and we had scarcely chosen the spot for our camp, before we heard the haying of our dogs ringing among the tall trees. They had evidently struck the trail of a bear, but just at this time the sky began to darken and the invisible winds to blow so loud, that all sound else was precluded from our ears. The clouds had been collecting for some time previous; and now the winds increasing, began to sweep and moan, the tree-tops to sway and groan in the increasing storm. A tempest was at hand. The wilderness at once became sombre; yes, ten-fold gloomier than I had ever seen it; but, in accordance with all nature, it was too violent to last long. At length it began to abate, and we started in the direction where we had last heard the dogs, but which we could now hear no longer, and soon met one of them returning upon three legs, while the other, badly mangled, was swinging and dangling above the ground. We now hurried on, fearing that the fate of the other was bad, and, alas I we had not gone fifty yards before we discovered a very heart-rending scene. Poor Double-head lay lacerated and bleeding upon the ground, and our anguish became deeper and deeper as we listened in vain for his voice of complaint. He bore his awful affliction with so much fortitude and patience that we could not forbear associating him in our mind with the brave old DeKalb, who fell in the arms of his country by the storm which rolled over Camden, and who finished his career on this earth without a murmur. We were soon on our knees, bending over the tempest-scattered remains of the noble dog. He yet breathed, but was still bleeding. He feebly wagged his tail, looked dreamingly in our face, licked his master’s hand, and saw him shed a bitter tear. We gently took him up, carried him to the camp, and as gently laid him down again. Here we watched him and cared for him as though he had been a brother, for three successive days; hearkening to his slightest wants, even at the latest time of the night. But his final hour was come. Poor Double-head was dying, and it was a solemn thing with us to know that he had run his last race; guarded his master’s body and licked his hand for the last time; that he had barked his final bark, was sleeping his last sleep, and that no shout of mine, no blast of horn could ever awake him to action again. Noble dog, methought,
“Though hast perished in thy pride,
Like a fountain summer-dried;
Like a flower of odorous breath
That the tempest scattereth.”
Having at length paid our last tribute to his departed spirit, we again renewed our hunt, and soon experienced the truth of the old adage, “A bad beginning makes a good ending,” for we were rewarded for our next round by the sight of three fine elks, all of which we killed by a large tree on a branch of Mulherren, ever since known as Elk Fork. McLendon set fire to the tree, which burned down and fell so close to him that I am sure if the fright of both of us had been put together, and fixed upon either one, it had been quite sufficient to have deprived him of his life, for each of us felt like we were about half dead.
We now returned to camp, where we found in waiting for us two young men, who wished to join us in another round. We took a horse each, and after reaching the head of Barren Fork, crossed it and took a course for Cumberland river, at a point where it receives Jennings’ creek, and hereabout we had some good sport and fine luck in killing game. Our dog which had been wounded by the storm, and not so badly as we had imagined, had recovered, and though not so great a favorite as Double-head, was nevertheless on foot, and when he barked seemed to say, “Richard is himself again.” At the end of three days, we had killed meat enough to load that number of horses. We started the young men, Wright and Patterson, home with it, instructing them to unload and return. They were gone five days, I having in the meantime slept in the camp by night and hunted in the woods. by day all this while, and when they returned, I supplied each of them with a bear, took one myself, and we all departed for home, not, however, without leaving painful remembrances behind us. At the end of the day’s travel, we dismounted and began to make preparations for supper. We had a little corn along for our horses, and I concluded that I must have some bread, and with this view cut a sapling down, leveled the top at the stump, wrapped a broad band of raw bear-hide around the top and confined it, thus forming a mortar into which I poured the corn and beat it into meal. I now removed a green bear-skin from under my saddle, hollowed out a small concavity in the ground, spread it with the flesh side up, and pressing into the hole until it fitted all round, I had quite a snug little tray. I emptied my meal into it and proceeded to work it into dough. My next step was to select a nice flat rock, and put the mass upon it. I soon had a fine johnny-cake, which looked as black but tasted as well as any morsel I had ever seen or eaten. The next day we reached home, and finding that we had more meat than the settlers could consume for a time, I took two out of the six loads and carried them to Dixon’s Spring, where I sold one hundred pounds or about half of the load for ten dollars in silver.
HUNTING continued to be my principal employment during several years after this, but the sea of civilization, heretofore dammed up in a great degree by the Alleghanies, had by this time swollen so much that its billows had already broken over that eternal chain of mountains, and the waves were flowing over the valleys of the West, carrying before them the bear, the buffalo, and the elk, and thus terminating in no small measure the pursuit in which I so much gloried.
About this time a Mr. Stokes came from North Carolina to survey a large tract of land in this country, which he had never seen. He requested me to point it out to him, and I readily and cheerfully fulfilled the request, whereupon he would make me receive for my services a gratuitous lease on six hundred acres for ten years. This land lay upon my side of the river, but having no immediate use for it, I laid it out into two parts, and gave it separately to two of my friends to settle upon. I then accompanied Mr. Stokes to Gallatin, where I witnessed an amusing introduction betwixt him and Gen. Andrew Jackson. The parties upon being introduced struck hands very heartily, both overflowing with expressions of delight, and during the ceremonies Stokes sunk his hand very deep into his pocket, and as he withdrew it, brought to light a large old knife, saying, “General, here is a thing that belongs to you.” The General received it with a very profound bow, and putting it into his pocket, resumed the thread of the conversation without seeming to remember a moment afterward that he had ever seen or heard of such property. I was wonderfully amused at two other fellows, who were present, to see them leap out at a back window and run away, lest they should become the immediate possessors of the knife, for Gen. Jackson was not the only ugly man in the house by three or four; for although I did not bolt myself, I was actually afraid to look the General straight in the face, or hold mine in a position that would render it possible for him to make a survey of it, lest he should observe its shortness and general irregularities, and hand the knife over to me.
In the year 1797 I cleared a few acres of ground, and made a small crop upon it. In 1798 I took a lease on both banks of the Cumberland, some miles above Lindsley’s bluff; and here I erected a small cabin, constructed a flat-boat, and began to keep ferry at a point on the river which is now embraced by a magnificent farm owned by E. P. Lowe, Esq. At the time I launched my boat, there was not a single road leading to the spot I had selected for my ferry, but the people soon found my crossing-place, and it was not long before I had a sort of road, and many people travelling upon it. In the meantime, however, there was a man who was keeping a ferry just above me, and just below Heart’s Ferry, who took the liberty to tear down a sign which I had stuck up where his road and mine separated. I replaced the sign, but he knocked it down as soon as I was out of sight; I set it up again, and he again knocked it down; and thus the act of replacing and tearing down continued from time to time, until at length I found myself becoming very angry; but as you have long since learned that fun was my predominant passion, I abandoned my ire, and began to contrive a trick to saddle upon him in remuneration for the trouble he had taken in so often demolishing my sign; and haying my scheme all laid, there came a dark, cold night, as though to favor me in its execution, and though I never had regarded my deeds so evil as to blush at the light of day, I this time adopted the maxim which says, “Fight the devil with fire;” and when I thought it was late, and dark, and cold enough, and that he was snugly and warmly enough covered up in bed, I crept up near his ferry, crossed the river in my canoe, in order to get upon the bank opposite to his house; when I called he answered, and I told him to bring his boat over in a great hurry, and I soon heard the splash of his oars in the water. He made them strike with unusual violence, as on he came, blowing and cursing at every movement, and declaring audibly that the weather was cold enough to freeze off the horns of a bull. I knew however, cold as it was, he could have tolerated that; but another object he had in complaining so egregiously, was to convince his supposed traveler that he was suffering so horribly, that he should be entitled to double price for ferrying him such a night as this, for he was one of those narrow-souled creatures that would charge a preacher for a night’s lodging after attending church with him all day. He came on, and I heard his boat strike the hank, as I leisurely floated along down the river; and ever after, as often as my sign disappeared, just so often, according to the minutest calculation I was capable of making, did he rise from his warm bed late at night, and cross the chilling stream; and to say nothing of double price, he made the passage every time without receiving any price at all. This trick succeeded most admirably, for it did not only cause my sign to stick to the tree as tight as its own bark, but actually made him refuse to set passengers over from the opposite shore after it was dark, which of course resulted in throwing all that custom into my boat. Again, I ferried all persons who were going to and from church free of charge; while my rival exacted of them full price, which meanness on his part effected the ruin of his prospects as ferryman, and he abandoned the business.
It soon became notorious that I would cross people over, money or no money; and there were a certain class of two-legged animals, called spongers, who began at once to take serious advantage of my kindness and impose on me at an intolerable rate. To avoid this, which had ruined me had I let it go on unchecked, I began to fall back upon my fun for relief; and it was not long before I was favored with an opportunity to see what it would avail me. A man of gentlemanly appearance rode up one day, and applied for a passage, stating at the same time that he had no money; but the expression of his face, when he would look full in mine, was not good. The cut of his eye did not fill the bill. I had seen too many Indians by this time; but concealing my sentiments, I looked him in the face very earnestly, and said, “Then, sir, you have no money?” “No,” rejoined he, “upon the honor of an honest man; I am swamped in that particular.” “Well, well,” said I, “you will not be amiss to a fair proposition?” “No more,” replied he, “than a cat would be to fish.” “Then,” said I, “you must know that I am a very poor man, and am compelled to labor hard for my bread, and in consequence must require you to work for your passage;” and still I could but notice the cut of his eyes as they opened to nearly twice their usual dimensions, while I was pointing out a large sycamore tree that stood in my way, and telling him that if he would cut it down his ferriage account would be acquitted. He walked up to the tree, and looking round it a little, remarked that it was of great size to be cut for so small a price. I told him that my axe was unusually sharp; and put off after it, and when I returned from my cabin with it, he began to feel in his pockets, and all at once exclaimed, “Will you just look here, Mr. Ferryman! I have found a twelve-and-a-half piece, which, upon my honor, I did not know I had.” I told him that it was not a matter of surprise to me, for that small things, even things less than the twelve-and-a-half-cent piece, would sometimes come to light. I took the little piece of money and ferried the man of little principle over the river, taking particular pains to fret him nearly out of himself throughout the entire passage with a kind of quizzical, sarcastic look, which I constantly directed at him from bank to bank, and continuing to maintain my features to my utmost, until he had ascended the shore, and turned to take his leave of me.
A few days after trapping the above gentleman, I saw a man approaching the ferry. He was whistling along in a right cheery manner, and when he reached me at the boat it was really with the salutation of a merry Andrew. He unpuckered his mouth, and changing his features into those of a good, earnest face, said, “Mr. Ferryman, I wish to cross the river, and it troubles me mightily to tell you that I have no money.” I felt inclined from this fellow’s appearance to believe his statement to be true; but lest he might have it at heart to save twelve and a half cents, I thought of the axe and the large sycamore; but a moment’s reflection, without the like of which I seldom ever transacted any kind of business, actuated me to have a little more commiseration for an honest face like his, by making lighter exactions from him than I had done with the fellow who found the ferriage money before he would fell the great tree; so I merely asked him if he could sing? He replied good-humoredly, “I can sing a little.” I then told him that I was very fond of singing; that perhaps it would be some recreation for him to spread his mouth a little by a song, after having had it so long puckered by whistling; and that if he would sing all the way across, I would transport him to the opposite bank for nothing. Replying he said, “Agreed, but you must not expect me to sing like you have heard people.” “No matter,” said I; “just raise the tune, and you shall soon be able to say ‘Amen’ upon the other shore.” His mouth about this time flew open, and it became my duty to shove off. I rowed on leisurely until he had terminated his first song, and at the very time his voice ceased, my oars fell from my grasp. Said he, “I just stopped to get breath.” Said I, “I just stopped to spit on my hands.” He raised the tune again, and I my oars. When the second song was done he paused, and down went my oars. He took the hint, and began to expand his throat and lungs, and I in turn began to move my oars. Thinking certainly that he had by this time given me singing enough, he at the termination of the third song hushed again, and down came my oars. Said he, “I am tired.” “Then,” said I, “let’s rest awhile;” but seeing that the boat was making no headway except downstream, he burst forth once more in a very sprightly strain, and taking hold of my oars I mended the lick a little; but with all this he still shut his mouth again, and at the very same instant my oars flew out of my hands; and after this manner we went on singing, rowing, ceasing to sing, and easing on the oars, until no doubt he began to regard me as a kind of Shylock, who was determined to have the fulfillment of the bond or the pound of flesh; at all events, he harped away upon still another song without ceasing, until the boat was landed. This was the longest voyage I ever made across the Cumberland; but he seemed not to take the detention at all to heart, for he knew that it had not interfered with the stipulation made before embarking; at least, he shook hands as he departed, both expressing general satisfaction. I might mention this individual’s name, but perhaps he does not want his history, like mine, written before I am fairly dead, or rather have it done as Napoleon Bonaparte desired that his should be, not until he had ceased to exist for twenty years.
On the eighth day of September, 1801, in the same year that Thomas Jefferson, the father of the Declaration of American Independence, was elected President of the United States for his first term, I dropped my oars forever, and about the same time left the ferry. I now determined to change my mode of life, or, to speak in round English terms, I had serious thoughts of marrying, and began at once to cast about to find if possible my sister-soul, and soon discovered it in the person of Sarah, the daughter of John Norris, a very respectable citizen of Sumner county. I made love to her, and she favoring my advances, we were directly engaged to marry; but, for the reason that a little romance is most commonly necessary to the fulfillment of such compacts, love was deferred, the heart made sick, and we did not unite our destinies until the lapse of several years. The fruit of our ultimate union was two children, a son and a daughter. My son, Joseph Berry, died at the age of fourteen. My daughter, Amelia, now the widow of Richard W. Harris, deceased, is yet living.
After locating the farm upon which I now reside, I cultivated the soil without any other occupation until the year 1805, when I was elected constable, and was sworn into office upon the very day that Jefferson was inaugurated as President of the United States in his second term.
During my official career, I was brought upon many very interesting scenes. Smith county was then very large compared with its present limits, extending as it did from Kentucky, its northern boundary, to the confines of the Indian nation, beginning some four or five miles beyond what is now known as Liberty, on Smith’s Fork of the Cumberland river. The county was thinly inhabited in parts, and though the bears and wolves were moving on before the great tide of civilization, many of their ferocious kind, in the shape of human beings, were yet left behind.
I recollect, once upon a time, to have taken out a State’s warrant for a man whose name I must not call, for this part of my narrative brings me down to a date so recent, that it embraces a period in which many of his good honest friends live, and who would regret to see it in this capacity. But to go on with the story, the fellow armed himself cap-a-pie, and swore he would not be taken by little Jo or any other man. I doubted this declaration so much, that I one day mounted my horse and started with a determination to arrest him, but before I reached the place where I expected to find him, I discovered his horse hitched to a fence which enclosed a neighbor’s house upon the road, and I immediately rode up, dismounted, and while I walked in at the front, he walked out at the back door; but seeming to pay no attention to him, I took a seat and opened a common conversation with the landlord, observing, however, to place my chair at a point from which I could keep an eye upon his horse, which turned out to be a very good idea, for I soon saw the fellow slowly moving up to the animal. I started in a brisk run, hoping to catch him before he could mount, but the sight of my approach put such springs into his muscles that I was a little behind time; to use a cant phrase of this age of locomotives, “the train was off.” I pursued, and he turned and fired upon me, but missed his aim, when I at once determined to take him dead or alive; but seeing that my resolution was fixed, he soon fell an easy victim into my hands by giving himself up.
Upon another occasion, a man by the name of John Young, a very powerful, athletic, blood-thirsty monster of a fellow, who lived on Peyton’s creek, was indebted to a merchant about sixty dollars; and he was such a terror to the people who had the misfortune to know him, and especially to the limbs of the law, that none of them would undertake to collect the debt. At length, however, the account fell into my hands, and knowing the desperate disposition of Young, I provided myself with a good brace of pistols, and went the overnight to the house of one of his neighbors, intending to make a levy the next morning. During the night I kept my business to myself, and as soon as it was day, I rose and asked the landlord if he would not accompany me to the mill, and he refused; but I had fixed my mind upon doing the work, and proceeded directly to the spot, thinking to await Young’s arrival; but behold, he was already there, standing by a fire before the mill, with an axe in his hand and a friend at his side. He had evidently received an item, for said he as I came up, “Do you see this axe?” “What,” inquired I, “is to prevent me?” “Then,” continued he, “if you attempt to go to that mill, I will split your head open, and slash your brains all over the ground.” “But,” said I, “you are too well-bred a cavalier to object to a man warming at your fire.” “Ah!” said he, “that is a horse of another color, but I’ll be d—d if you can go to that mill.” I advanced and stood by the fire for nearly half an hour, meditating in my own mind whether to recklessly make the levy at once, or try to effect my purpose by other means, and decided on the latter course. But with a view to test the extent of his resolution, I told him that I would go round him to the mill, and started, but he jumped betwixt me and the door, having at the same time grasped his axe-handle in both hands. I now distinctly saw the devil looking out at the windows through which the soul in better men looks. Indeed, the eyes of an enraged tiger had not looked more terrific than he did. I jerked out my pistol and presented it, and here we stood, he with his uplifted axe, and I with my ready cocked, primed, and presented pistol. I, after so long a time, picked up a billet of wood and threw it to the mill, for I knew how ignorant he was of the law, and thought if he took that for a levy, I should by this means have closed the scene, but the scheme failed. I now took my pistol down, and drew a weapon of a different nature—I mean, that of argument, thinking that though he was an angry beast in action, he was yet shaped like a human being, and might have some nook in his brain that concealed at least a little reason. Said I, “You have obtained certain articles from your merchant which cost him actual money, and which he disposed of to you under the promise that you would pay him for them, and you ought to do it; but since you have refused to pay for that which never belonged to you until you obligated your honor to return their value in money, I have been selected as an officer to force you if possible to comply. This,” continued I, “the law requires of me. It is required by my solemn oath, by my sacred honor, and I never have swerved from my duty, and never will be terrified from that path. I know that you are a large and powerful man, and in this instance the battle may be to the strong, but you cannot intimidate me. You owe this debt, and I can make it out of your effects; but I have one proposition to make, and that is, if you will give me the watch which you have in your pocket, and some cash notes you hold on certain individuals, I will not molest you any further.” To this he consented, laid his axe down, and appeared very friendly. We now all three left the mill, and started to his house after the cash notes, but upon reaching the yard stopped at a work-bench, and three men professing to be carpenters came up as ‘twere to go to dressing plank. Young seated himself upon one end of the bench, and said to me, “Let us see that little gun of yours:” meaning my pistol. I at first hesitated, but thinking that I might discover to him that I had but little confidence in the reconciliation we had made, and thus irritate him unnecessarily, and dreaming not but that the workmen were disinterested, I drew it out and handed it to him. He sprung the cock, and as quick as thought discharged its contents at me, and the ball struck my right arm just above the elbow, with so much violence as to throw me half round, and making me believe that it had shivered the bone. Thinking of my other pistol, I drew it instantly, cocked it by holding the butt against my thigh and took aim, but owing to its being hard on trigger, and in my left hand, I could not pull it down until the workmen—who turned out to be a set of cowardly confederates—ran up behind me, and catching me, endeavored to wring from my hand my last weapon of defense. I told them that if they did unarm me, and not kill me, I should never stop short of the fiercest revenge. “We will turn you loose,” said they, “if you will promise not to shoot Young;” and this seeming to be the only possible treaty I could negotiate, I told them that if they would unhand me I would not kill him; but when I was at liberty, I fixed my eyes steadfastly upon him, without stopping to examine my wound, and never took them off until I compelled him to hand over a good and sufficient number of sterling cash notes with that same watch to fully satisfy the claim. He did all this very humbly, for he now had the best of reasons to believe that I would blow the whole top of his head away in the event of his refusal. I now mounted my horse, having first placed my arm in a sling—which after air was not hurt as bad as I had imagined—and rode off; and when I had returned and showed the merchant that I had secured his debt, he said that he was so surprised, that he could hardly look upon it as a reality.
The above were not the only troubles which were to come into the measure of my official career, for before the cup was filled, I found it my duty at a subsequent period to take out a State’s warrant for one John Shearman, by nature so terrible and ferocious, that had Shakespeare ever seen him, he doubtless would hare repeated the language which he caused to totter on the tongue of Richmond when, in his address to his soldiers, he called the base Richard “the bloody and devouring boar.” I expected to meet him at our muster-ground, perhaps I should say battleground, as the sequel might justify, near Rome. I prepared myself, as I had done in earlier days, when I would go forth expecting to encounter the savages and wild beasts of the forest, and went to the parade; and when I arrived found a multitude of my fellow-citizens assembled, and in the shade of their respectability I saw the horrible Shearman moving. He, after a long time, discovered me, and forthwith walked out fifteen or twenty paces from the crowd, to an open space,’ and drew out a knife, similar in size to the old battle-blades which our forefathers used to wield in the Revolution, and which he held high and tight in the grasp of his large sinewy hand, the great muscles in his arm standing out until they bulged his clothes; and he seemed to say, in the terror of his aspect and the horror of his frown, “I’m on my native heath, and my name’s McGregor.” I was at first impressed with the idea that I should have to summon a whole battalion of men to assist in what seemed to be an undertaking too full of peril for any one man; but it occurred to me that I had fulfilled the requirements of my calling through a space of nearly twenty years, and had never summoned a person during all that period to aid me in the arrest of any man, and that I would try again the single-handed process, by which I had so often succeeded. Just at this crisis I heard it being whispered around me, “He is a very dangerous man, he is reckless and desperate when excited;” but no matter for all this, I was resolved to take him, or be consigned to the land of the eternal sleepers. I started toward him. I heard several voices saying that I would get killed, and as many uttering that there was no law to compel an officer to approach such danger, but this only had the effect to make me improve my stride towards him. He raised his thirsty weapon higher, and held it with a firmer grasp. His eyes flashed fire. His entire attitude became more threatening; but I advanced faster and faster, until I rushed full upon him, when he began to slash and sabre me with his long knife at a murderous rate; first wiping me over my shoulders, and then under my arms and across my ribs; but summoning all the energy belonging to my frame, I, with one tremendous effort, hurled him to the ground, and just at this crisis the crowd, led by Armstead Moore, began to rush in a mass toward the scene, but before they reached the spot Shearman was trembling like the leaf of an aspen; he had suffered his excitement to rage, too high and fiercely. A nervous trepidation had seized him. Moore had caught up a billet of white oak as he came, and was in the very act of demolishing the monster, but seeing that he was conquered, that I had fought, and won the field, and that I was not mortally wounded, he withheld the fatal blow. Indeed, Moore was not only an honest, brave man, but good-hearted, and discriminating in his judgment.
The next difficulty that I had to encounter was with Moses Pinckston, the magistrate, before whom I had returned all the business I had transacted during many years, and of whom I, in consequence, had a good knowledge; but it having been to his interest peculiarly to act squarely with me, I had never been right sure that I had ever seen his cloven foot. At length, however, I suffered myself to be persuaded by him to go with him to Georgia with a drove of horses; and with one negro man, whom he took along, we all started, and the same day made a good travel; stopped, and stayed all night with a nice, quiet little family, where we had every necessary attention paid us, and the next morning departed with a cheerfully-expressed hope from the kind landlady and her husband that our journey should be a safe one; but the scenes in this life are ever shifting:
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
The next night we stopped at a house, and asked for quarters, and being requested to alight, Pinckston and myself walked in, and took seats by the fire, while the landlord and the negro, or rather the negro and the land-devil, went on to attend to the stock, and they had not been out long before we heard a fair volley of angry oaths at the crib; but we did not yet leave our seats, thinking that the landlord might be one of that self-important kind of two-legged, unfeathered animals, who thought a horse could understand his vulgar, oath-seasoned garrulity, or that to vaunt and swear would cause the world to regard him as a man of some importance. He ultimately became so furious, however, that Pinckston went to the door, and with as much authority as though the house belonged to him, cried out, “What does all this mean?” The landlord cried out as though his throat would split, “This d—d negro has ‘shaken’ my half ‘bushel,’ and if the black scoundrel does it any more, I will splatter his brains all over the face of the earth, by G—d.” Pinckston told him, in a very fierce manner, that he wanted no more of it; and this brought on a most noisy quarrel betwixt them; one too in which Mrs. Land-devil likewise heartily joined. I said nothing for the several hours which the wrangle lasted; but at length thinking that a period had arrived in its progress when a mediator might be usefully admitted, I said, “Let us rest in peace the balance of the night, and the golden morn will smile upon us as we part, perhaps to never meet again in this world, or in that to come.” We retired to bed, and tried to rest until daylight, which was a long time coming, although the night had been half spent in wrangling; we rose however as soon as the darkness had passed away, fed our stock, broke our fast on some half-served venison, and paid our bill. The old woman now flew up with the spring and flutter of an old hen that had just discovered a snake, and cackled with as much violence as if a whole flock of falcons were about to sink their talons into her. She clinched, not, like Murena, a half-forged brand, with which to rescue the angel-like yet insulted maiden of Rome, but a rusty old polking stick, and issued a wrathy proclamation of war, all about the half bushel—I should say three-peck measure—of corn, which the negro had shaken down to two. The land-devil, within the dark walls of whose bosom still smoldered the devouring embers of the former night, bursting out into a sudden flame, began to roll forth his blasphemous oaths, and, jerking up his gun, sprung the cock, and presented it at Pinckston, and, from all appearances, it seemed that the battle would come on. I saw that there was no time for reasoning, that we had jackals, and jackal’s hate, to contend with, and that all was being tossed in the whirlpool of passion, and therefore drew one of my pistols, handed it to Pinckston, and told him to shoot the beast down, and end so intolerable a scene. In the meantime I drew my other pistol, thinking that my own person might require defense. The landlord surveyed with wild eyes the aspect of affairs, and, bounding off, ran like a “quarter horse,” and his dear companion began to bellow like a cow. Pinckston now mounted his horse, and called me to start. I told him that when I had seen more about this matter, I should then think of starting, and not before. The quarter-horse, so to speak, returned, and brought another man with him, who lived hard by. He was still holding his gun in his hand, while I stood still in the yard, with my pistol in mine. When they came within about ten feet of me I raised my weapon, and said, “Sir, you have brought on a difficulty with us in your own house, and I am now ready to settle the matter with you by exchanging a shot or two.” Whereupon he said, “I have nothing against you, sir; it is with that d—d rascal on the horse.” They both went into the house, and I followed them, and knowing that we must not be detained long enough with the drove of stock to answer what might be the demands of the law, I thought of a scheme by which perhaps it might be settled without. Said I, “Sir, you have treated us very badly under your own roof, and I am determined to see if there is anything in the laws of your country that will suffer you to thus molest innocent and inoffensive travelers; so if I can find an officer you may expect him, and that soon too.” We now left, and travelled straight toward Georgia, but not without looking back from time to time, until we had rode many miles, even without inquiring after the first officer; the scene has now passed away forever, except this trace which it has left in the gray-haired subject’s memory.
But having returned from Georgia, I found that my squire was owing a good deal of money, and it fell to my lot to collect a certain sum which he was refusing to pay, and which made it my duty to levy upon several articles of his property, which brought him into such a bad humor that he went round and tore down the advertisements which I had posted up. This of course vexed me not a little; but he was my old magistrate, and I concluded not to resent the offence, but that I would go round and post up new notices; and while I was in the act of tacking one to a tree he saw me, and as soon as I left the spot he walked up and tore it down. I tacked on another in its place, and said, “Pinckston, there is a notice of the same purport as that which you have just mutilated.” Rejoined he, “It shall not stick there,” and forthwith pulled it down. I grasped a stick of wood, and aimed a violent blow at his head; but so much manual dexterity was required to wield so large a weapon, he was enabled to dodge. I then jerked the paper out of his hand, and he ran off, crying revenge, and swearing that I should suffer for my conduct; and it was but a little while before it came to pass that I was arraigned at the bar in Carthage, charged with having kicked the magistrate, bruised him severely with stones and clubs of unlawful dimensions. I inquired of the court if I could be permitted to tell the truth, and, upon receiving a negative answer, I asked him if he did not pull down my advertisements? but to this question I received no answer; he, as I supposed, not being compelled to criminate himself in an indictable offence. The judge fined me five dollars, and Pinckston started out, but I followed him, and thinking that I could not be tried twice for the same offence, I would now do the kicking, which he had prematurely placed in his bill of charges; and when we reached the door, I said, “Pinckston, I had to pay five dollars for kicking you when I did not do it, and now I will give you another five to let me kick you once round this court-house.” He consented, and though he was nearly twice my size and strength, I began to count out the money, with the full intention to set my foot in motion as soon as he had received it; but the citizens interfered, and prevented the kicking circumambulation about the place of law and equity.
This lawsuit, like many others, sowed the seeds of a new one. The same magistrate held in his possession a note, signed by me, for one hundred and forty dollars, which I knew to be unjust, and which I am sure would never have made its appearance against me in the absence of the above difficulty. I agreed, however, to leave it to arbitration, and it was decided in my favor; but when the decision was made known to Pinckston, he snatched it from the hand of one of the arbitrators, and went immediately and sold it to a gentleman in Gallatin, and in consequence the note was presented to me again in a few days for payment. I informed the new holder that I had signed it, but did not intend to pay it. He of course required an explanation, which I unhesitatingly gave in detail, and which in this place I can condense into a few words, to wit: When John Douglass, who was sheriff, went out of office, he handed over to me arrearages to the amount of one hundred and forty dollars, and I having just then been elected constable, and consequently without experience, gave him my note for the amount of the old claims, instead of a simple receipt. I had tried to collect the claims, but found receipts against nearly every one of them. Upon hearing this my Gallatin friend took the bond back to Pinckston, and made him refund the purchase-money; and I was again carried to the Carthage court. The case was tried, and the jury, to the twelfth man, decided that I should not pay the note.
ALTHOUGH it was not my fortune to be an immediate participant in the national scenes and commotions of 1812 and ‘13, I yet remember well that I had a heart full of hope for the good of the republic, and was at all times ready, if an opportunity presented, to fall into line at the first roll of my country’s drum. The glories of those times even now flame up in my mind as if they had transpired but yesterday. It was in those times that the eighteenth pillar of the republican Union, Louisiana, was admitted, and into her hands placed the “keys of entrance, through the mouth of a mighty river, to the richest, if not the most extensive, valley in the world.”
Those were the times in which came forth, like the blast of a trumpet, the proclamation of a war, the tide of which swept over a great portion of our country; but which was ultimately dammed up at New Orleans by Gen. Jackson, who raised our standard, as Washington had done in other days; and from its martial head hung forth the popular flag of freedom. It was in 1813 that Tecumseh, the great Shawnee chief, fell. The same year gave birth to the Massachusetts’ Society for the Suppression of Intemperance, the author of which was Dr. Benjamin Rush; and in this year the first steamboat, ever launched on the Western waters started from Pittsburgh; and it was in 1813 that Commodore Oliver H. Perry wreathed his brow with laurels which shall never fade; but the joy I have in looking back over such scenes as these, always brings with it its share of bitterness, for it was in this year that the seeds of many of my own misfortunes were sown. In 1813 I bought a negro man and woman on a credit, and thought that I would take them to New Orleans, and sell them for a profit, having been informed that a flat-boat was soon to start, and that I could take my blacks and one horse free of charge, and get one hundred dollars in the bargain, provided myself and the negro man would work as bow hands. We started, and met no impediment until we left the Cumberland and floated into the Ohio, where we were compelled to lie cabled to the shore for several days, in consequence of the wind, which nearly all the while was sweeping the waters of this usually placid river up into a continuous field of foam. The next remove we reached Natchez, and tied up again. Here we found an acquaintance and fellow-boatman, who had sold one-half of his cargo, consisting of corn, flour, and whiskey, and was holding out inducements to sell the other half, which we bought, and let him return. I now hired a man to go on with my boat, and sending a horse which I had purchased from Samuel Capliener, instructed him to sell him at New Orleans. The next night my negroes ran away, leaving me at the boat without assistance. I inquired round the town, without hearing anything about them; and then went to a printer, and asked him what he would charge for twenty placards. He replied four dollars; and upon my complaining at the price, he said that he had as soon print five hundred as twenty; that it was all the same with him, the same type being required for that number as would be for that many thousand. “Very well,” said I, “you may give me five hundred,” and I started; but he followed me to the door, saying that I would not need so many; but I gave him no satisfaction, only to give me a plenty of them; and when I returned to receive them, he had been, printer-like, as good as his word; for which I voluntarily gave him an additional sum, and left his office; and went about handing them, one by one, to every footman, horseman, and coachman that came to or went from the town. I now took up a permanent residence in my boat at Natchez under the Hill, for thirty days, and it would be my delight to give you a description of some of the scenes that came under my observation during this period, but am restrained by the conscientious fact that the refined could not, would not tolerate them, when you came to lay them before the public. Suffice it to say, that it is my candid belief that the Natchez under the Hill, of 1813, has never been slandered even by the most vulgar narrator who ever attempted the description of what she then was, and continued to be for many years after; but I am happy to be informed that the town has undergone vast improvements.
When at length I was about to despair of ever hearing of my negroes, I received a letter, informing me where they were. They had wandered off through the country, a distance of over eighty miles, in the direction of home; and having sent my horse on to New Orleans, I was put to the necessity of going to a livery-stable and hiring one, at the rate of one dollar per day. I took up my gun, mounted him, and travelled on until I came to the place where they had been arrested; and found the boy confined by the ankle with a log-chain, and the woman left free, the landlord having the idea that she would not leave her husband. He had caught them with a pack of dogs, that guarded his premises with as much vigilance and discrimination as ever those of Vulcan did the temple dedicated to him upon Mount Etna. The same night of my arrival the negro man, by some means, slipped the chain over his heel, and he, with the woman, tried to escape; but the dogs gave the alarm, and the landlord and his sons ran out and took the man, while the woman went her way. I told the landlord that this was no matter, he should have his reward, for, as to the woman, I thought I should get her; and to effect my purpose, I noised it round, that if she wanted to see her husband again, she had better he about it, for that she had but little time to spare. I then went to see a neighboring man, and, owing to a heavy fall of rain, had to remain with him all night, and when I returned the woman had come in. The next morning I had a pair of handcuffs made, and put them on the boy. The next day I started for Natchez under the Hill, telling the boy that if he would go quietly all would be well with him; but if not, we should determine the consequences. We travelled on without difficulty during this day, as I had expected, for I feared nothing before night, when I apprehended that they would try to make their escape again. About sundown I called at the stile before a house upon the trace, and asked the landlord if he could furnish a room in which myself and two negroes could lodge, telling him that we were on such friendly terms, that nothing would do but for us to occupy the same apartment; and hearing this, together with seeing the handcuffs, he took the hint, and showed us into a chamber, which answered very well, and which, upon examination, I found to have three doors; and when it was time for me to go to bed I locked one; moved my bedstead athwart the second, and told the landlord to lock the other outside as he retired. I now took my gun as a bedfellow, knowing that she had the reputation of being very quiet, except when, at my pleasure, she would be disposed to become a little fiery. When I woke up the next morning I found all safe, and as soon as breakfast was over I paid my bill, and took the path again for my boat, which I reached on the third day; and on the ensuing morning we cut cable, and floated away for the Crescent City, finding the father of waters higher than he had been for the previous thirty-five years. We reached New Orleans in time to be there on the fourth day of July; and when I now look back in imagination, and see the manifestations of joy with which the people hailed the coming of the glorious anniversary of American Independence in those days, I can’t but feel like they have comparatively forgotten it in these, for now, though that immortal day still comes and goes with the rapid succession of years, we listen in vain for martial notes, or cannon’s booming; we look in vain to see the stars and stripes, followed by exulting thousands, floating upon the earliest morning breeze; and in vain do we bend our ears to catch the eloquent accents of some orator, telling where Montgomery bled or Warren fell.
Having disposed of my load at a great sacrifice, and my horse having been sold in New Orleans, we sailed on the morning of the sixth across the beautiful Lake Ponchartrain to Ellis’s Landing, and footed it to Natchez, where I went to the livery-stable and bought the same horse I had hired to pursue my negroes on, with the money for which I had sold mine, and leaving this point we came out six miles to Washington, where the negro woman was taken sick with fever. I at once employed a physician and spoke for ten days’ board, thinking that if I aimed to cheat the doctor out of ten dollars, I might cheat myself out of a thousand; but before a week was past, he told me that, with caution, he thought I might try her on the road at the rate of about six miles per day, and availing myself of the suggestion, we left, and had travelled but a short time before we could make a full day’s journey for footmen. On the way, I was overtaken by a lone traveler, who informed me that his name was Alloway, a brother to the late Dr. John Alloway, of Nashville, who told me that he had suffered the misfortune to have his boat sunk after reaching the port of New Orleans. Having the two negroes along, who had to walk, we were compelled to travel slower than he was, but, for the sake of company, he agreed to keep back with us. We were just then entering the borders of the Choctaw nation. After travelling some miles, we came to the house of an Indian, at which we called, and when we entered, I observed a tall, fine-looking squaw who had her head bound up, and who showed me her arm, making signs that she wished to be bled. I showed her that I had no lancet, whereupon her husband reached up to a shelf and took down the fragments of a green-glass bottle, and after many unsuccessful efforts to knock off a suitable piece, I beckoned to him to hand it to me, and by means of my knife I struck off a number of pieces, and ultimately one that suited me. He then took it and fixing it into a stick handed it back to me, and instructed me how to set it upon the vein, and strike it as though a horse was to be phlebotomized. I shook my head, and taking the piece of glass between my thumb and forefinger, showed him how I should use it. He nodded assent, and I corded her arm and bled her very freely. They were so wonderfully pleased that the squaw handed me a piece of chalk, and made signs to me to write my name above the fireplace, and when I had complied with her request, she gave me a dram and we left, but as soon as we got out of hearing, Alloway said to me, “I wouldn’t care if that squaw’s head killed her;” I did not know what he meant, until it occurred to me that he had got no whiskey. The fact is, he was no doctor, like I was, on this occasion. We next found ourselves going through the Chickasaw nation, and I remember that a beautiful hound took up with us one day, and this being about the time that Tecumseh had men in every nation trying to excite the Indians against the whites, I did not want a noisy dog about, and especially when we might be compelled to camp, as was often the case with us. I told Alloway that I would shoot him, but just at that time I happened to see an Indian, and beckoned him to me, and made signs that he might have the dog, whereupon he took a string from around his waist—a thing that an Indian is seldom without—tied him by the neck, and we went on, but before we had gone five miles, he had overtaken us again, and we suffered him to follow us until at length we came up with another Indian, who was carrying a rifle, who could talk English, and, contrary to most of his race, was willing to do it. We offered him the hound, and he like the first untied a string from around his waist, and after attaching it to his neck, he asked me my name, and when I informed him what it was, he began to pat the dog on the back and say, “Jo Bishop! Jo Bishop!” So I at least had one namesake in the world. He now said, “That he would carry me to where I could find good water.” We ventured to follow him, and found the water, as he had represented it, very good. The same night we reached the Tennessee river, and put up with George Colbert, an Indian universally known as the proprietor of Colbert’s Ferry, which to this day bears his name. He gave us very good fare, and set us across promptly the next morning, and that day we reached what was and perhaps is yet known as the Sixteen-Mile-House, the last of the Indian settlements north of the river, and stopped. At this place there were some outbuildings for travelers, the largest of which was known as the Kentucky House. We saw some twelve or thirteen Indians about the premises who did not seem to belong there; and when we had dismounted, one from among them came up and took out one of my holsters, but I made him instantly let it go, and gave him to understand that his presence was no longer desired. I now started into the Kentucky House, but was met by a little negro who said, “that I must not go in;” though, without paying any attention to what he had uttered, I proceeded, and as I entered, saw an Indian run out at the back door and begin to wash his face, it having been painted as black as ebony. I did not like this sign, for it led me at once to believe that all the Indians about the place were the recruiting officers of Tecumseh. I, however, passed out, and the little negro showed me some stalls in the rear of another out-house, in which we lay all night; I was about to say in which we slept, but no, for this was impossible, owing to an entertainment which they had within called the war-dance, and we verily believe that Tam O’Shanter never saw higher capers cut up in the dance of the Warlocks and Witches, with their hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels, than we saw accomplished by these drunken devils, who revelled all night, and, like witches, were only to he chased away by the coming of morn.
After leaving this place, we came through what is now universally known as the Polk Settlement, to Columbia, and thence to Franklin, at which place we stayed, having camped out the previous night, and the next morning when I rose, my negroes were gone again. I could hear nothing about them from the citizens of the village, and concluded to pursue my journey without them, and the second day from this I reached home, having been absent more than five months.
Soon after my arrival a negro man robbed the house of my neighbor, a Mr. Banks, and stole his canoe. A Mr. McAlister came after me to go with him in pursuit of the thief. We took another canoe, and thinking that he would not go up, we rowed downstream, and after going about a mile, discovered the canoe lying against a drift, bat upon examination found it entirely empty. We now examined either bank opposite, but finding no traces here, we coasted along up the north bank of the river, and found his tracks where he had landed. McAlister having recovered his canoe, had no inclination to go any farther. I told him that the negro had very probably remained in the bottom during the previous night, and would not leave before the next, and that we might do something by still hunting a little, but he refused, and I started alone. The bottom was very extensive, and there had been a number of large white-oaks felled in it by men who rived staves for market, leaving the great laps spread over the ground in every direction. I traversed the territory by taking one land at a time, as the farmer would say in sowing his small grain, and made it a rule in going over each land to walk in upon all the fallen trees which lay with their butts toward me, and examine the tops thoroughly for the object of my search; and my plan succeeded, for as I was walking in through the high weeds upon an unusually large log, I discovered the runaway, who upon seeing me rose and bounded off like a wild buck. I raised my gun, but he was smart enough to take a course by which he could avail himself of the advantage of the trees, and ran about thirty yards before I could catch him long enough in an open space for me to shoot with the hope of hitting him; I fired, however, and just as the gun went off I slipped and fell back into the brushes and weeds, without knowing whether I had struck him or not. When I rose, I called for McAlister as loud as I could. He came, and we followed the negro, but could not overtake him. We now returned, and after communicating to Banks the occurrence, and telling him how I aimed, he, pointing his finger to a spot on the wall, said, “You have hit him about this high; you have hit him about the hips, for a gun will scatter that much in thirty yards, and if you will take my dogs they will track him.” We called the dogs and started, being this time accompanied by Berryman Turner, Esq., that good old citizen, who is yet lingering about his old homestead, upon a romantic bluff which overlooks the beautiful Cumberland, and which he in 1815 left for a time, to fight under the never-pining banners of Gen. Jackson at New Orleans; and what redounds more to the credit of this humble old man is, that he was there the first to scale the cotton breastworks. But to go on with the story, when we came to the tree where I had ousted the thief, we found him in the very spot which he occupied when I first discovered him. I ordered him to run, but he said in a sullen and unsubdued manner, “I cannot run, I am shot.” We put him on a horse, and carried him back to the house. I asked him why he did not stop and avoid being shot; and his reply was, that he had been fired at twice before without being hit, and had come to the conclusion that he could not be struck while running. We now carried him to a shed, under which Mr. Banks kept a wagon-bed, and it being the best and only chance, we laid him into it, and left him without a guard, thinking that his wounds would be sufficient to prevent him from going away. I visited him every day but one for thirteen, at the expiration of which time I perceived that his recovery was so rapid, that, to avoid his escape, I had better take him to jail; and accordingly had two horses caught, and started with him to Carthage, though not until I had first offered him choice of the horses, and told him that if he came to any place that suited for another race, he would be welcome to make a break. We however reached town without his attempting to escape, and I placed him securely in jail, where he remained until his owner, John Rodgers, who lived on Hiwassee river, in the Cherokee nation, came and took him away.
And now to return to the story of my own negroes, who left me at Franklin, I have to say that I heard nothing from them until the lapse of several months, when I learned that they were in Lexington, Kentucky; and as soon as the news reached me, I procured the services of a friend, made preparation, and went after them; and upon coming in sight of the town, I requested him to stop while I went in, with a view to spy round in quest of their locality, and in a very short time I found out the street they lived in. My next step was to look for a magistrate, whom I likewise found without the least difficulty, and who informed me that the negroes were regarded by the people as being free, having thus represented themselves to the citizens. Fearing that they would see and recognize my horse, I requested the magistrate to allow me to put him into his back lot; he consented, and at the same time told me that the negro man had to pass by his house every day, to and from a job of work which he was doing, and as this was early in the morning, he had not yet gone by. I now went out and stationed myself at a little gate, and waited until he came along, and just as he passed the second post, I walked out and surprised him by fastening my hand in his collar. I led him into the yard, and securely tied him; by which time the woman had received the news? and was out in the street cutting up tall capers; I hurried round, caught her, brought her into the yard, tied them firmly together, and marched both up to the court-house, (court then being in session,) and proclaimed that they were my property, and had run away from me in Tennessee. A Yankee lawyer interfered, and induced them to bring suit for their freedom, before Judge Ben. Johnson, who actually decreed that they should be detained six months, and hired out; and who could see no law, as he said, to indemnify me for their forthcoming upon the day for trial. The suit came on at the end of the six months, and I gained it; but this righteous judge, with his confederate, the Yankee lawyer, had carried out his designs: had allowed the negroes a chance to escape, by neither giving me security in the outset, nor allowing them to attend trial. The next news I heard of either of them was that the woman was still in Lexington; I gave a man five dollars to take her and secure her in jail, in which he succeeded; and the next morning I took her out, and my friend by this time having joined me, we, after a few days’ travel, had her at home, and after the lapse of about one month I heard that the man was in Cincinnati; and about the same time the woman ran away again, and went to him. I now went to Lexington, where I had stood my suit for the property, procured a copy from the records to show in Cincinnati, and proceeded after them. When we reached the city we put up with a man by the name of Grissom, and in making up an acquaintance with and communicating my mission to him, he frankly told me that this was his place of earning a livelihood, and in consequence could not assist me, but would be quiet on the subject. I had noticed a gentlemanly-looking man about the tavern, by the name of Laban Urton, and concluded that since I was doing nothing toward getting my negroes, I would inform him of my business. He seemed much excited in my behalf, and pulling out his pocket-book, said, “If you want a friend, you shall have one; come, go with me, I will show you Stephen Sedgewick, an excellent lawyer.” I followed, and arriving at the office was introduced to the gentleman of the long robe, who, upon hearing my complaint, said, “Why, sir, I know the man and his wife very well; the woman is in the city now, but her husband is away on a trip to New Orleans, as a fireman upon a steamboat.” I asked him what he would charge me to put my property in a condition that I would be sure to get it; and his reply was, “Five dollars.” I informed him that I would give the amount most freely. He soon brought the woman to trial. I showed my papers, but all to no purpose. I told the judge that I had always looked upon his office as one which was to dispense justice between man and man, but by his judgment he had cut me off from my just rights, by thus turning my slaves loose before my own eyes, and then walked out of the court. In the afternoon of the same day I was musing leisurely along the streets, and suddenly receiving a slap on the shoulder, turned to inquire the meaning; and to my utter surprise, an officer stood before me, inquiring if my name was not Joseph Bishop? and upon receiving an affirmative answer, he said, “Mr. Bishop, I have a couple of warrants for you of five dollars each, in favor of Mr. Sedgewick and Mr. Urton.” I asked him to show me the magistrate’s office, and to put the trial off until the next day, all of which he politely consented to, and we parted. The next morning I repaired to the place of trial, and found both of my dear deceitful friends in attendance, and whom I take the present opportunity to denounce as notorious scoundrels. I desired every person to behold the scene, for it was a trial in which this tavern-loitering wretch and this legal villain were to show their cloven feet, and the extent of their diminutive five-dollar souls; and, without assigning my reason, I requested the magistrate to give me a few more minutes’ time, which being granted, I went to the pavement, and made a loud proclamation that a stranger was to be tried. The house was soon crowded from wall to wall, and then the street became blocked up with people as tightly as the lobby of a post-office for fifty yards. In the presence of this assembly I told the circumstances which led to the trial, and pointed the finger of scorn at the mean-looking lawyer, who, in my eyes, was a slander to the noble calling, and then I pointed to his worse than mean-looking accomplice, who was more than a burlesque upon the title gentleman. I gained my case over the pettifogger, but had the other sponging impostor to pay. I next had Sedgewick sworn, and made him tell whether or not he was to get, say about two dollars and a half, of the five Urton recovered off of me.
After the trial was over another man came up, and taking me aside, pointed to a block of buildings across the street, and said, “If you want a friend you shall have one, for all these belong to me.” I thanked him for his extreme kindness, but at the same time had but little doubt in my own mind that if it had been dark, and the block of buildings had been thievable, they in reality would have all belonged to him before day. When I left the court I was well enough satisfied in one particular: I had outcoped a man who was said to be the best lawyer in the Queen City. I should be really ashamed of even Tennessee pettifoggers, to say nothing of her splendid lawyers, were I to catch them acting as this pitiful thing did with me, for the small sum of two dollars and a half.
I now returned home, determined to give up my property for lost, and forever; but a man, whose name was Roundtree, proposed that if I would give him one-third of the Tennessee value of the negroes, he would go and get them, and upon my agreeing to the proposition he went to Cincinnati, but returned without them, stating that he had seen the woman, but could not get her. Some considerable time after this a young lawyer, Woodfork, came from above Carthage, on purpose to see me, having heard the circumstances of my situation, and said he would deliver them to me for one-half of their value; I closed the bargain with him, and he started, and when he had been gone about three months, I received a line from him, stating that if I had been there he could have secured them. I heard no more from Woodfork; but Roundtree returned, and offered me a set of blacksmiths’ took for the chance of the woman, which I accepted; and he went after her again, and after an absence of several weeks, came back with information for me, that he had succeeded in getting her, bat had sold her; and this part of the scene closed, I never afterwards having heard of them.
But perhaps the worst is to come: I waft still in debt for them, and they not here to assist me in making the money, for which my bonds were out. The chains which debt binds a man in, were to me intolerable. I yearned to be free; but to burst my fetters I knew would require a desperate struggle. I thought, however, that I would not yet despair; that I had gone through some very trying scenes, and could pass what now seemed to be the wreck of my fortunes, and, keeping each nerve up to its highest pitch, I resolved to pay, and restore my personal independence; but with all my efforts, no matter howsoever willingly they were made, the thought of being a victim to another man left me neither night nor day. I was not myself, I was the slave of him who held my bond. I labored with all the energy I was master of, but my debts fell due faster than I could pay them. Despair often looked me in the face; but I turned aside, and struggled on. I perhaps would have failed at length, but I had a prop, of which every man cannot boast: my kind-hearted wife, unlike many women, who help the world to pull their husbands down, stood by and encouraged me. She advised me to cut, and clip, and sell off all we could spare, and accordingly I selected for sale every horse, cow, and sheep on the place; but she saw that this would not be sufficient to discharge the debts, and when I had added several other things, and all that I thought could be culled from our meagre stock of goods and chattels, I was upon the very verge of weeping, when upon looking round I saw her coming with her sifter in one hand, which scene I endeavored to tolerate, but could no longer restrain my tears when I saw in the other her bed-curtains, those too which she had embroidered with her own hand. The sheriff came and levied on the articles we had parceled out; but on the day of sale, friends discovered themselves to us, by going round and telling the people that we were honest, and not to buy. The officer cried long and loud, but could not get a single bid. He closed the sale, and as he was about to leave, I told him that if he would not sell upon the next day of sale, I would raise him five hundred dollars, and he agreed to it. The next day for selling came on, but he did not offer my property; my friends had not only promised, but handed me the five hundred dollars; and I paid it over, and he promised to wait as long as he could for the balance. I now started out, and took a round to collect that which I had previously sold property for, but failed. The sheriff returned, levied, and advertised to sell; but before the day of sale came round, Thomas Hamilton, an old friend from the Emerald Isle, took compassion on me, and voluntarily offered me three hundred dollars; and with that amount I freed myself from the sheriff; but the debt was yet standing out against me, so my wife and myself went to work, and after a good deal of tugging and toiling we paid our kind old Irish friend, and once again began the world anew; and perhaps if the prime of my life had not been gone, I had made a fortune. This shows how a man may be poor all his life by even a small accident in the outset, and I know not how I can better close my narrative than to advise the rising generation to love their country, and keep clear of debt as much as possible, for the want of a single hundred dollars has often determined and spoiled a young man’s fortunes for ever. And I will only add that by diligent industry and rigid economy, and the never abating of my wife’s energies and devotion, I now find myself possessed of a good little farm, two faithful servants, Anthony and Dick, and a comfortable cottage, freed from debt; and being now far advanced in years, I shall soon close my earthly career, with hopes of admission to a better and brighter world, where the wicked shall cease from troubling, and the weary shall be forever at rest.
WHEN the biography of an individual is offered to the public, it is generally after the people who are or have been acquainted with the life he had lived have expressed a desire that such a thing should be done for the reason that such a person is or has been of more value to his fellow-men, or proved himself a more extraordinary character in some manner, than those with whom we deal every day, or have dealt in the affairs which constitute the ordinary commerce of life. In the present humble offering we have attempted to tell the story of such an individual, believing as we did that his name and deeds deserved some space—at least a niche in memory; and though in doing so it has not been our lot to give in detail the career of some renowned statesman, commanding the bent ear of listening senates; of some immortal hero, whose banners have flaunted in triumph over floating navies; who has led armies through bloody fields, and fleets to victory; of some great philosopher, unravelling the wonderful mysteries of nature, showing the grand march of the planets, the whirl of the earth, the ebb and flow of the ocean; of some poet, sweeping the harp-strings of heaven, or causing blandusian fountains to stream with nectar; of some great historian, pointing to the spot whereon Palmyra stood or Babel towered, and telling when and why they fell; nor yet again of some story incredible burning fresh from the regions of romance,—we were nevertheless persuaded to become instrumental in recording the memories and civil events of one whom we had the satisfaction of claiming as an old pioneer resident of Tennessee; of one who nearly a hundred years ago stood amid the Western wilds, and saw our then uninhabited mountains towering in their lonely grandeur, as so many noble elevations shadowing forth the future monumental glory of the State; of one who stood amid our virgin bowers, our noble forest trees, through which the woodman’s axe had seldom rung, bending over the wide-waving fields of native cane, which was gracefully waving above the wild flowers flourishing upon the untilled soil; and one who yet survives, as well he deserves, in his place of pride, to see his State, the character of which he has helped to form, the destiny of which he has helped to carve out and exalt, after it has sprung from such a source to be the great southern keystone to a mighty national republic, and to share with his countrymen under such auspices their general joy. In other words, we have attempted to offer to the public the life of JOSEPH BISHOP, a name at the bare mention of which we knew the heart of-many a surviving old pioneer would leap with very sweetness, and which the offspring of these old fathers would hail as the advent of something worthy the sons of Tennessee.
It may be said that much unnecessary attention is being paid to the early history of Tennessee; but I cannot imagine how such a thing could be done; for it should be borne in mind that the character of the State was in a great measure fashioned by its founders; that the life-spring of its institutions had its origin in their wholesome views; and that what may seem of small moment in the records of these early times, nevertheless wielded a potent influence upon all the events that have succeeded. If we would preserve our history and hand it down complete to those who are to live after us, we should record occurrences which are great and those which are small, both being alike necessary to make up the sum of a State’s or a nation’s true character; and such events should he penned before they begin to fade from memory’s tables—before the frail tabernacle that may contain them passeth away forever; or else, to get our history, the next ages must do as those have been necessitated to do who lived and wrote in times long since buried beneath the shade of years—they must draw upon ideal conjecture; and thus it might be said that Tennessee had her fabulous ages, like other divisions of the earth. Unborn generations might read of a second Romulus and Remus standing apart, pointing to another flock of birds winging their ominous flight over our green hills. In view of this, we should make our record full, so that when our houses shall be occupied, our beautiful fields tilled, our garners filled, our great highways trod, our senates composed, our Bible-gospel proclaimed all over the world, by those unnumbered and yet unborn, they may hold it up as a beacon-light by which, under His direction whose providence has smiled brighter than sunlight over the past destinies of the republic, to guide our glorious progress onward still through all the courts and camps of wisdom, while peace shall continue to reign; and, if necessity again demands, to loyal deeds in times when the angry brow of battle shall hang over us; and to leave nothing out of the registration, we must not stop at the mention, however great, of Washington and Jefferson, Cass and Webster, or of Jackson, Clay, and Calhoun. The biography of other men must have a place. When we read the life of Washington, that great and godlike spirit, we must evidently regard it as the golden page, not only of American annals, but of the wide, wide world. Yet this would not make our history complete. In reading the life of this splendid character, we see no mention made of a thousand others who have contributed their stone, their strength, and their precious lives to the building of the great national structure. Had the life of him alone been written, future generations would never read of DANIEL BOONE planting the seeds of civilization in the “Dark and Bloody Ground” in our sister State, Kentucky. They had never read of Tennessee’s adopted and favorite child, General Jackson, meeting the English lion at the Crescent City, and hurling him back into the boisterous sea, as it were to wash the blood from his shaggy mane and the guilt from his sullied soul; nothing of his dear friend and companion, General Carroll, executing his grand schemes in battle, or commanding the first steamer that ever sported upon the waters of the beautiful Cumberland; nothing of the cultivated shores of that bright flowing river, the charming valleys through which it flows, or the romantic hills and flowery bluffs between which it winds; nothing of the vine-clad cottages, the magnificent palaces, the happy villages, the splendid City of Rocks, looking down upon its hundred steamers plying as so many proud things of earth busily acting in the regular scenes of life upon its waters—upon those waters in which, less than a century ago, we had only seen the red man of the forest lave his manly limbs, and upon which we had only beheld his light bark canoe darting from shore to shore, almost with the speed of the arrow from his own strong bow.
By the neglect of our forefathers to record everything that came under their cognizance in the first settlements of America, we are forced upon the keenest point of regret; for though much has been preserved and handed down to us in faultless characters, whenever we attempt, or whenever an effort has been made, to write that part of our history, it has been seen that a great deal has been left untold and lost forever; and it is unnecessary to attempt to say with what eagerness the latter by the present is sought after, and will continue to be by the mental cravings of succeeding generations. Let us ask ourselves with what veneration we should reverence that man who could tell us as much again as we have ever known about GEORGE WASHINGTON, and the grand scenes through which he passed on the great highway along which he trod, as stride after stride, fearlessly and undismayed, he carried himself and his country on to glory; or how we could worship that man who could tell us more about the great pillars that, aiming to support his cause, fell immortalized in the arms of their country. To know this would be to know more of the brave Warren, than merely of his bleeding on the heights of Bunker’s Hill; more of Montgomery, the proudest of Erin’s sons, than that he was struck from the roll of life and filled a patriot’s grave at Quebec; more of the heroic Mercer than that he was shaken down, never to rise again, by the rocking plains of Trenton; of the gallant Wooster, than that he willingly shed his blood in the cradle of liberty, Massachusetts; more of the brave old De Kalb, than that he faced the furious front of the tempest which swept over Camden, and by being overpowered with its surges sunk beneath its red tide. But should it be said that these alone were mighty deeds, done by mighty men, and that it was enough to tell in praise of such, characters, we would affirm that from the fact of their valor in thus nobly falling, our desires are but the more ardently excited to have a better knowledge of them; for characters calculated to do such deeds were capable of doing others, and doubtless did accomplish many which should be known; and by the same parity of reasoning, we might put the tinselling on the picture by alluding to the women of the Revolution—the matron, the wife, the celestial Venus of the young soldier’s heart, and here we should feel the redoubled force of what we have already alleged in relation to neglected history; for when we read the circumscribed sketches which have been given upon the character and deeds of noble daring done by our great mothers, we can but experience the bitterest regret for the want of a better knowledge of them. It was in their ample souls that the vortex of the Revolutionary storm so fully defined itself. If she did not plunge her country’s bayonet, she spiked her enemy’s cannon, and exposed their treacherous schemes. Whose, need we ask, but the ingenuity of Lydia Darrah, saved Washington’s army from destruction near Philadelphia, and, in consequence, the country from bitterest disaster? Who but the intrepid Mrs. Israel pressed into the field amid the terror-inspiring guns and harsh mandates of cowardly Britons, and protected the herd in the absence of her brave but captured husband? Who but Mrs. Wilkinson boldly and frankly affirmed, in the presence of British officers, that she would never strike again her loved guitar until they should return her countrymen from the prison-ship? Whose but the same patriotic tongue, moved by the impulses of a generous soul, declared in the very teeth of her enemy, while their captive, that she hoped to live to see the thirteen stripes once more hoisted on the bastions of the garrison in which she stood and was proud to stand? Who but Mrs. Adair, mother of the late Governor of Kentucky, carried in her so called rebel sons? Who but Mrs. Braton applied the torch to the American magazine rather than see it go into the hands of the enemy, and afterward gloried in the good work she had done? What daring heroines stepped forth upon the perilous highway and captured the British news-bearers, and obtained from them documents of vital importance to their country’s army? In fine, who toiled, who suffered, who comforted and encouraged her husband and son, her brother and lover to be seen where valor fought, and to urge their way through all the paths of glory to victory? It was hers, the lyrical tongue, the music of which distilled pathos sweet as Hermon’s dews gently descending upon the heavenly hills; hers the tears brewed abundantly and sweeter than early morn’s dew-drops upon famishing flowers, over the gaping wounds of the bleeding brave. Give us the full record of the past, in our own country, and we have no occasion to transport ourselves into an ideal world, with the flight of poets to array in the mental vision the true character of American women; we need not even call to mind Olympia, the mother of Alexander the Great, Aspasia the Oratress and wife of the eloquent Pericles, the mother of the Cornelian jewels, or Joan of Arc, to show the greatest of females, for to be almost blasted with excess of light and overpowered with conviction, we have only to hold to the gaze the mothers of the republic; and when we shall fail to cherish her memory with reverence and affection, when we shall have become unmindful that she diffused contentment and sunlight cheerfulness in the dreariest scenes of the winter’s rude tempest, or when we shall have laid down at our feet the ever green laurels she helped our fathers to win, it shall be when the steady and perdurable current of time, made red by the blood of our lives, shall have long washed over Columbia’s land, the land of our birth and freedom; leveled our houses, our National, Mount Vernon, and Bunker Hill Monuments with the soil we so firmly and proudly tread; moved away in the torrent all our literature, our science, our arts and arms; blotted out for ever our country’s existence; the memories, hanging like the rainbow jewels of life’s sweet visions over the names we have just mentioned—all, all, that is worthy of undying consecration. We hope that that day may never dawn when we cannot look with veneration and pride to the tomb of the mother of our country; or to the bosom of Pennsylvania, which holds the hallowed remains of Mrs. Israel; or to Cumberland Island, where sleeps Mrs. Esther de Read, hard by the precious dust of the gallant Lee; to Clifford, and weep over the grave of the intellectual Mrs. Warren.
The fame of perhaps a hundred others, male and female, who figured in the Seven Years’ War, and at earlier periods, lie buried deep down beneath its avalanches, and the reason that their deeds were left unrecorded, while they might have been, must remain there obscured, nay, blotted out from the world for ever, unless, perchance, the antiquarian or geologist may in futurity disembowel some old relic and trace in its rust-eaten remains some motto, shape, or dimensions, which at last can only serve as a legend to make the world curious.
Another century, and the scenes through which Joseph Bishop, and John Carr, and Mrs. Buchanan passed, were they left alone to the mercy of memory and unrecorded, would be earnestly sought after, but, alas, in vain. Even now the people have a desire to hear all that happened when such persons figured in Middle Tennessee, when the denizens of the forest disputed dominion with them.
IN writing the life of Joseph Bishop, we know that we have not been able to give such scenes as many of those alluded to in the preceding chapter, but at the same time we have given such as belong to the early history of the country in which his career was run; such as actually happened; and if he has varied in a slight degree from Capt. John Carr and others in his story of Siglar’s and Buchanan’s Fort, it is no more than so many witnesses would do who would qualify to what they individually had seen in a common petty muster or street fight; for though each witness might swear the truth, their evidence would differ in so far as neither saw every act in the melee, and could not in consequence depose precisely alike. So we imagine it has been with Captain Bishop and Captain Carr in their respective narratives—that the one has Siglar killed first, and the other Shaffer; but as both of these old pioneers are alike men of undoubted veracity, we will give in this part of the book Captain Carr’s story, word for word as we have given Captain Bishop’s in another; and which we copy from the NARRATIVE OF THE EARLY SETTLERS OF THE SOUTH-WEST, as published by Wales & Roberts.
“In June, 1792, the Indians killed Shaffer, near Siglar’s Station, whilst he was working in the field. The locality is in sight of my present residence, on Siglar’s branch, a tributary of Bledsoe’s creek. He was killed in the first part of the day, and the neighbors having collected together to bring the body from the field into the fort, the Indians, lying in ambush, made an attack upon the party, and wounded Gabriel Black, a brother-in-law of General Winchester and Joel Eccles; both, however, afterward recovered from their wounds. The Indians chased the men into the fort, and fired upon it afterward for some time. Thinking toward night that they had left, the men in the fort went out and brought in the body. The fort was poorly manned, and about bedtime the Indians came and made another attack on the fort, set fire to it, and succeeded in taking it. They killed Mr. Siglar, the owner of it, and also Archie Wilson, a fine young man, who had volunteered his services to help protect the people that night. He had fought bravely, but wounded, and finally retreating from the fort, he was brought to bay at about one hundred yards distant. I was there the next day, and the ground was beaten all round in token of the desperate defense he had made. They had broken the breach of a gun over his head in the fight, and had he not been badly wounded, there is little doubt but that he would have gotten off. It was an awful sight. They wounded Joseph Wilson the same night. Himself and son, twelve years old, were all that escaped of his family. The others, his wife and six children, were taken prisoners, and led by the Indians into captivity, to the Cherokee and Creek nations. One of the girls only went to the Creek nation. Mrs. Siglar made her escape with one child, thrusting her handkerchief into its mouth to prevent its crying whilst she fled. Two of Siglar’s children were taken. . . . . . . Mrs. Wilson and her children were carried to the Cherokee nation, with the exception of one mentioned as taken by the Creeks, and being a sister of General White, of East Tennessee, he sent on a runner and had them all purchased, except the one mentioned. She remained so long with the Indians, that when she was brought back, it was many years before she lost her Indian habits. Mrs. Wilson stated that when the party which had captured her got to Duck river, they waited for the missing ones, whom they had relied upon to bring up the plunder; and when they made their appearance without any, they had a regular battle, drawing knives on each other in the melee. She was much alarmed, lest in their rage they might kill herself and family.”
IT was the earnest desire of Captain Bishop that the names of many more of his old friends and compeers should have been kindly mentioned in the foregoing pages than have received a notice, and among those of whom we have heard him speak, we well remember Wyatt Bailey, of Smith county, with whom he had some rich times in days long passed away, and again, a Mr. Green, of Wilson county, with whom he had often been associated in the early wildwood scenes of the country; but while from age and infirmity he was not able to travel so far to see them, our own leisure was too sparing to do it for him. If, however, a second edition of the book should be called for, which at present seems evident, we hope they may not be forgotten, for, as we have before intimated, it is by such means alone that the whole history of the country can be preserved from oblivion, and we sincerely hope that everything possible may be collected and written that belongs to the early times in Tennessee; written at once and contributed to the Historical Society of the State, to which, without consulting its worthy functionaries, I take the liberty to dedicate this little volume, and the present opportunity of expressing a heartfelt desire for the prosperity of that institution, with a hope that it may ultimately carve out for itself a noble destiny; for it is calculated in its nature to collect the beacon-lights of experience from the past, and transmit them to future generations, as a chart would be given to the mariner to direct his way in safety through rugged seas, and its promotion is, as it should be, an object of paramount interest with every historian, patriot, and philanthropist. From it an infinite amount of good may be anticipated as a result. Man at best is liable to err, and without such a repository from which to draw the lights of bygone days, he is as sure to do it as a mariner would be to miss his port without star or compass, and it is therefore the common duty of every member of society, who would accept the precious boon it bestows by teaching them to act correctly, to aid as much as practicable in collecting with vigilance and preserving with care all such information of transpiring events; all such relics of the past as have not already been carried far beyond our reach, by the ever-flowing stream of time.
One grand reason why so much that would be valuable is lost to the world is, because many things accomplished by any designated generation are looked upon by themselves as being too commonplace, too familiar, too well understood by all classes to entitle them to a registration on history’s page, as though they thought to make it the more intelligible to ages yet to come, by rendering it obscure to the present; but we should remember that there is not a truly rational man among us, whose breast would not fill with rapture to see all the lost gems of early times gathered and strung; all the flowers that have withered and fallen, and upon which we now tread with all the insolence of youth, watered and resuscitated by memory, and preserved by record in a manner that they should bloom on eternally; and need we inquire the infinity of our gratitude for our fathers, had they while living placed those tender buds where they would have blossomed and flourished in the very face of the ravages of time; those jewels where they would remain in immortality, exempt from mutilation and decay; or how succeeding generations would smile upon our memory long after we have shaken off the mortal coil and been consigned our place among the silent tombs, if we would but preserve the things and doings of the present; if while we live for ourselves, we do not prove unmindful of them; for by the lights obtained from our experience, they are to be guarded and directed in their every remove from the rocks on which others have been wrecked, from the quagmires in which they stuck, the quicksands in which they were hopelessly engulphed.
Where are we to go to find the relics of other days in Tennessee? Are we to dig down among the rubbish and ruins of time? Take the Historical Society away from us, or fail to cherish and increase what of it there is, and the interrogation will be at once answered with a reply that shall fall upon the ear like the sentence of death upon a doomed criminal. The young plant has been wisely planted in a fertile soil. Cherish it, and it shall flourish and bloom, prosper and arrive at a brilliant maturity; cherish it, and the halls of our splendid Capitol shall not be trod in vain, hundreds, nay, thousands of years hence, by those who would inquire our fate, ask who their fathers were; whether they were nobly or basely born; if they writhed beneath the yoke of tyranny, or rejoiced amid the sunlight of freedom. No, for there they would see and learn all they would desire to know. It would be written in books and manuscripts, inscribed upon medals and stones, carved on wood, cut on arms, and stamped on banners. It would stand upon the floors, lie upon the shelves, and hang upon the walls, all pointing to the deeds and virtues of their sires, telling them that on the eternal hill upon which now stands this wonderful pile of buildings, less than a century ago they might have seen a single wigwam standing, or the smoke of a great council-fire curling high in the air through which our Capitol now lifts its proud dome. They might have heard the hooting of the moping owl, the wild scream of the panther, and the yell of the ferocious Indian, where now the organ of hearing is penetrated by the charming echoes of eloquence, peace and civilization vibrating from wall to wall like the deep-toned melody of an æolian harp, in the gilded chambers of this, one of the grandest structures our country can boast; second to none unless it be the Capitol of the United States; and methinks while I see the spire of the one gilded with the glory of the nation and pointing to the celestial realms where the soul of Washington is gone, I see that of the other looking up into those where that of Jackson abides. While I seem to see the shadows of the one falling silently and mournfully upon Mount Vernon, I see the shades of the other quietly resting upon the tomb at the Hermitage. But to return to the Historical Society of Tennessee, let us again anticipate for a moment the feelings of succeeding generations that have approached and been whirled away, when the classic historian shall charm the mind by directing it to the innumerable relics here collected, with a view to perpetuate and keep alive the important events connected with the growth and onward march of our republican institutions, from their infancy to that riper and glorious maturity which under the direction of a wise Providence they will have attained. When equal rights shall spread over the empires of the earth; when republican liberty, that liberty which had its birth, its nurse and nourishment upon our own soil, shall hold undisputed dominion from ocean to ocean, and perhaps from the rivers to the ends of the earth, pour and bubble, flash and sparkle about the boundary-lines of the world, it shall then be pleasing to look back upon our day of events, many of which are now thought too trivial for preservation, and pay a just and willing tribute to the memory of all those who labored in the cause of such institutions; toiled to build up the mighty fabric of freedom, and to save from destruction whatsoever genius and patriotism have achieved to minister to the comfort and happiness of man.