John D. Burlend
Buried at Bethel Cemetery
(21 Dec 1783 - 4 Apr. 1871)
Rebecca (Burton) Burlend
Buried at Bethel Cemetery
(18 May 1793-31 Jan 1872)
Whatever may have been our success in America, I can attribute but little of it to myself; as I gave up the idea of ending my days in my own country with the utmost reluctance, and should never have become an emigrant, if obedience to my husband's wishes had left me any alternative. His motives, briefly stated, were these, - In the year 1817 we took a small farm at a village in Yorkshire on a lease for fourteen years, and as corn was at that time selling well, the rent was fixed at too high a rate for us to obtain a comfortable livelihood. We did indeed by dint of great industry and strict economy, maintain our credit to the end of the lease; but the severe struggles we had to endure to meet our payments, the gradual diminution of our little property, and the entire absence of any prospects of being able to supply the wants of a large family had tended effectually to fix my husband's purpose of trying what could be done in the western world. We accordingly disposed of our little furniture, settled our pecuniary affairs, and ultimately began our long journey the last week in August 1831.
The reader will now enquire to what part of America we were going, or whether we had any plans as to the locality of our future home. This is an important consideration for every emigrant, though little attended to by many. We were not, however, like the poor Northumbrian, who, on landing at New York a few years ago, required a person whom he met in the street, to direct him to the back settlements. My husband had traveled many miles to obtain a sight of private American letters, and after maturely considering all the intelligence he could collect, he determined to go to Pike County, Illinois, to a person named Mr. B --, who had settled there a year or two before, and written to a brother of his in this country (1).
Without further preface, we are therefore to be considered on our way from the centre of Yorkshire to Liverpool, self, husband, and five children, the eldest a boy about nine years old, two others we were leaving behind, the one my eldest son engaged as an under teacher in a boarding school, the other my eldest daughter serving also in a respectable family.(2)
To persons such as we were, who had never been forty miles from home, a journey by wagon and railway, where every hour presents the eye with something new, does not afford the best opportunity for reflection; we in consequence reached Liverpool before we fully felt the importance of the step we were taking. Nature had indeed yielded a little as we gazed upon the scenes of our industry, which time had endeared, for the last time. But it was at Liverpool, when we had got our luggage to a boarding-house and were waiting the departure of a vessel, that the throes of leaving England and all its endearments put our courage to a test the most severe. Our minds were now undisturbed by surrounding objects; we occupied a small apartment for which we paid two shillings a day, without even the indulgence of a fire to cook our provisions. The dark smoky walls of the opposite buildings were the only prospect that the situation of our sojourn could afford. Predisposed to melancholy as we were, no one can be surprised when he is told that its effects were soon apparent. A stranger would have thought us a most unsocial family, as we sat in profound silence for an hour together, only now and then a sigh would escape us tending to vary but not to enliven this painful monotony. Even our children participated in our disquietude, and seemed to lose their wonted vivacity. My dear husband, who before had displayed nothing but hardihood, on this occasion had almost played the woman. After a deep silence I not unfrequently observed his eyes suffused with tears, which though unnoticed by him, fell in quick succession down his sun browned cheeks. We were six days in this abode, and I may venture to assert that he did not spend six hours of the time in the forgetfulness of sleep.
At last the day dawned on which we were to embark. We had already bespoke our berths and paid a deposit to secure them. It was a critical period: my husband appeared to feel as if all the responsibility was laid upon him. He doubtless felt for himself; but his children and myself were the principal objects of his solicitude. Those he was leaving behind would be left to the wide world without any one to watch over them; and that at a time when the passions which actuate the human breast, are in the greatest need of parental authority and advice. The destiny of those he was taking with him appeared about to be consigned to a vague uncertain probability. The die was going to be cast. In twelve hours more we should be on the deep, where return would be impracticable. These considerations, the perils of the sea the more dreaded because unknown, together with many other weighty considerations which a father and a husband in such a situation could not but feel, got the better of his natural prowess, and that morning he addressed me in the following manner: "O Rebecca, I cannot do it, I cannot do it for myself I fear nothing; but the impenetrable gloom and uncertainty attending this step completely bewilders me. Should anything befall me, what will become of you and my children on the stormy ocean, or in a strange land and among pathless woods. Bad as our prospects are in England we must go back! Such another night as the last has been I cannot survive! this terrible suspense and anxiety tears me in pieces.
Sentiments like these a few months ago would have been hailed with delight, and even then I must confess I felt a sort of inward satisfaction, although I knew them to be rather the effects of his feelings than his mental decisions. If we returned I knew he could not be satisfied with his condition, still less with his present conduct. I however acquiesced in silence, only replying, I would do what he thought best. We accordingly began to remove our boxes back to the luggage waggon, whither I accompanied him; but all the time we were thus employed he appeared like one whose movements are coerced. The smile with which he usually accompanied his addresses no longer appeared. I saw it like those who return from the interment of a near relative, in mournful silence. Never before had I felt so much to devolve on me, and perhaps never in my life did I so much feel it my duty to practise self-denial. My native land was as dear to me as ever: my two children, to whom I had bidden adieu, were strong ties. But the consciousness that it was my duty to bear up the sinking spirits of my partner, left me only one course to adopt. For a moment I raised my eyes to him "who sitteth above the water-floods, and with feelings I am not able to depict, broke silence as follows,
"I admit, my dear husband, that our situation is a very trying one; but remember how often and how long you have resolved to go to America; hitherto we have experienced nothing that we did not anticipate; and should any calamity befall us on our journey, you have adopted emigration only from a conviction that it would tend to the good of the family; and the Almighty is as able to preserve us and our children across the seas or in America as he is in England. Besides, if we return, we have broken up our home and sold our furniture, and should be worse situated than ever; let us even go, and look to Providence for success." The above advice on my part operated like a charm. All that has been said of the effects of martial music was here realized. His answer was rather in deed than in word. In two hours more our luggage was removed from the waggon, where it had just been placed with a view of returning home, to the ship in which we had taken our berths. The remainder of the day till four o'clock was spent in procuring stores, cooking utensils, necessary for our voyage; and when the sun went down on the second of September, 1831, we were on the waters; having previously confided ourselves to the care of Him "whom earth and seas are ready to obey."
After we had thus finally determined and put it out of our power to alter that decision, our minds were more at ease than before. There being no longer any doubt as to whether we should go to America, the suspense which had hitherto been so afflicting began in a great measure to subside. My husband resumed his wonted cheerfulness, and expressed his belief that the course we had ultimately adopted would prove the best in the end. We were now passengers, in the steerage, on the vessel "Home," bound for New Orleans. Our reasons for sailing to that port the most distant in North America, and not in a direct course to the Illinois, were on account of the ready transit we should make thence into the interior up the Mississippi; whereas, by landing at New York, Boston, or Philadelphia, we should have had to cross the Allegheny mountains, and travel a great distance by land, which would have been both very troublesome on account of our luggage, and very expensive.
The perplexed state of mind in which we were prior to embarking had prevented our noticing or enjoying the fine sights which the port of Liverpool presents. I speak not of the magnitude of the town, nor of its architectural decorations, but of the immense forests of ships, which on every hand strike the eye of the beholder as he sails out of the harbor. Whatever might have been my ideas of the greatness and wealth of England before, I am sure they were greatly enlarged when I beheld for the first time in my life those unwieldily instruments of commerce crowded like forest trees on the sea further than the eye could reach. As the wind was favorable we soon lost sight of the shore. Yet the eye with unwearied vigilance kept steadily fixed on the few eminences which remained visible, till they gradually waned into obscurity, and at last disappeared altogether. The reader may think me needlessly precise in naming this circumstance; but I assure him there were many on board, who, as well as myself, felt a gratification in gazing at the naked rocks that projected from the land that had given us birth; and when it was finally announced that England was no longer visible, there was not a person in the ship who would not have heartily responded amen to the prayer, 'God bless it. For myself, I felt as if I was leaving all I had been wont to prize; and when I could no longer see the shore, I shall never forget how enviously I looked upon the vessels that were approaching the shores I was leaving. I followed them with my eye, one by one, till quite weary with looking I descended into the cabin, and endeavored to be reconciled to my situation by exercising myself in some necessary employment.
Although we were entire strangers to a seafaring life, we found we had been judicious in the choice of our provisions: we were well supplied with oatmeal and flour, bacon, biscuits, tea and coffee, etc, and as we had to cook for ourselves at a fire which supplied all the steerage passengers, I found I should have something to do besides descrying distant sails, and sighing a blessing to those bound for England.
At home I had always been fond of regularity with regard to the dinner hour, but I soon found if I continued my punctual habits on board I should often be liable to be laughed at for my pains, and lose my dinner in the bargain. Imagine to yourself, kind reader, a small fire surrounded by half-a-dozen sturdy rustic's, as busy boiling, roasting, and frying, as if their lives depended upon a single meal, and I will hazard an opinion you would be very hungry before you would venture among them. I do not say they would eat you; but either from the motion of the ship, or their uncouthness, your fortune would be better than mine if you got your meal prepared without being scalded. For the above reasons I soon forgot my punctuality, and through the remainder of the voyage our custom was to cook and eat when we could, for seasons are not unknown on ship-board when both must be dispensed with.
During the first few days the weather was calm: we had sailed down the Irish channel before the much dreaded sea-sickness began to annoy us. I had even begun to think, that like many other evils, its terrors had been overrated; but before we had been a week on board a heavy gale began to blow from the north-west, the sky became dark and unsettled, when I began to be exceedingly sick; a disorder in which nearly all the passengers participated. Painfully afflictive as this malady was, it soon became of little consideration on account of a more alarming misfortune which threatened to befall us. The sea was beginning to be unusually rough, its huge foaming waves came dashing against the sides of the vessel, as if they had been let loose to destroy it. Sometimes we appeared about to leave the waters, and become inhabitants of aerial regions; then again one might suppose the ship was instantaneously descending into the caverns of the deep, overwhelmed by the mass of waters which on all sides encompassed it, and at times came sweeping over the deck with irresistible fury. A thousand times I thought the ship would be upset by the force of the tempest, which, roaring tremendously, carried all before it, and often laid our masts nearly level with the main; when suddenly regaining her upright position, she seemed to be contending with the blast, and by a movement I can scarcely account for, obtruding her briny sails against the forces of the storm. The crew were all in action; their shouting's were vociferous; louder even than the voice of the wind. Terror and dismay were on every hand. The captain alone preserved his serenity; his orders were delivered in a loud but unfaltering tone; he might have been a divinity of the waters so dignified and majestic was his deportment on this occasion. Not so the passengers, they were indeed mortals, and suppliants too. Impiety was banished from the ship. You might have seen those, who yesterday could not conclude a sentence without the usual flourish of an oath, now on their knees serious enough. The night came on, the passengers were ordered below: such a night I never witnessed. The storm was incessant.
The timbers creaked alarmingly; and the sailors, hurrying to and fro on the deck, filled us with renewed consternation. Every moment we expected the waters to rush in upon us. I shall never forget the horrors of that night, increased as they were by the heart-rending moaning's of my despairing companions. It was not the time for reflection: reason had little control over our actions; as our fears directed, so we conducted ourselves. Nature's bonds, however, were not entirely dissevered, for then even I found myself in a corner of the cabin, my husband at my right hand, which he often clasped in his, and our dear little children huddled around us, giving us their little hands to fondle over and caress. Art thou a mother, gentle reader, thou mayest in part conceive what my feelings were; but there are sensations which no description can embody; there are emotions which nothing but experience can explain: of this kind were mine.
At length the morning began to dawn; we were all anxiety to see the day, and ascertain our real situation. Of all the emotions of which the human bosom is susceptible, suspense is the most intolerable. We desired to know the worst; but our orders were to keep within, and we feared to disobey. The little light we obtained from the semi pellucid glass at the top of our cabin, was of no avail. Our ears had caused us to think the storm was abating; but this only increased our anxiety, as we were afraid to hope, lest we should be deceived, when to our surprise the cabin door sprung open; it was the captain himself who had opened it. His appearance was like one of those celestial visitors, which the sacred pages have portrayed on errands of mercy. We hurried to meet him; but he desired us to be at ease, assuring us the danger was past. His expressive words "the danger is past," were repeated again and again through all the cabin; and now the scene was changed. In the place of lamentations and the voice of despair, were immediately heard jocularity and the tumult of mirth. His words had metamorphosed the room. Forgotten or disregarded were all the pious vows which had been made the preceding night. "They ate and they drank and they rose up to play;" but few could be seen in the attitude of praise. The storm had indeed abated; and, such is human nature, religion had vanished at the same time. The following day I learnt we had been driven considerably out of our course into the Bay of Biscay; but no further injury was sustained except a little to the cordage, which the sailors shortly put right, and before evening the sails were again unfurled, and our ship in good repair, majestically making head-way across the Atlantic. This was the only storm we encountered during our passage; it was a severe one; even the sailors spoke of it with concern, and seemed aware our danger had been great.
A long sea-voyage is generally allowed to be a tedious time, and there is some foundation for the remark, when it is considered how little variety is there observable. The ship, your companions, the sky above you and the 'dark blue ocean* below, with occasionally a solitary sail gliding quietly along at a distance, constitute the principal objects that come under the notice of ordinary travellers. There is nothing of that everlasting newness and beauty, that pleasing variety of hill and dale, of trees whose foliage is varied by a thousand hues, meandering streams, village towers and spires that everywhere meet the eye in an English landscape. Nor is the ear more favoured than the eye. The creaking of the cables and the mast, the coarse discordant notes of the seamen and the monotonous dashing of the waves against the vessel, are the most common and almost the entire sounds that a sea-breeze can boast. The melodious warbling of the grove are there unknown; and when the nightdews are falling, the mellow flute notes of the swain breathing innocence and love, never once remind the passenger on the deep that the labours of the day are ended, and the star of evening appears.
The sea, nevertheless, has its beauties and grandeur; but these are rather perceptible to the reflecting mind than the external sense. One evening I well remember when we were about half-way across the Atlantic, I was alone on the deck, pensively considering the peculiarity of my situation, and impatiently desirous to know what my future condition should be, when casting my eyes towards the east I beheld a most magnificent spectacle: the large full moon was just clearing the watery horizon. I always love to see the moon beginning her nocturnal rambles; her beams are the light in which meditation appears the most lovely; but when on that delightful evening, in the midst of the great Atlantic, I beheld the same kind planet, beneath whose balmy light I had gamboled in my childhood and conversed on subjects the most endearing in maturer age, my whole soul was overpowered with ecstasy. Bear with me, kind reader, bear with a woman's weakness, if I tell thee I looked upon her as an old companion, and addressed her as a bosom friend, so forcibly did she remind me of the many delightful and happy hours I had spent under her auspicious beams in my native land. Independent of these interesting associations, her appearance at such a time and in such a place was highly imposing, and calculated in a remarkable degree to remind me of the insignificance of man and his noblest performances. Impressed in this manner I gazed upon her broad disk, and O how magnificently splendid! I next surveyed the deep, gilded on one side by her rays and on the other terminating the view by a dark half-visible horizon; and what a world of water seemed to surround me. I then considered the ship, poor feeble bark, thought I, how insecure thou art! a single wave could undo thee. Lastly I looked at myself: the contrast was sickening; human pride could not bear it; I cast my eyes once more upon the moon, and returned into the cabin.
To proceed, by the time we had well got half-way across the water, our impatience to see land daily increased; the hours began to pass more tardily along than before. Those that kept their minds most engaged were the most happy; a piece of philosophy this which will generally hold true. I am not going to describe my fellow-passengers as philosophers, the few traits I have already given prove they were not; but to do them justice, many of them were expert hands at dispelling melancholy. This they did sometimes by cracking jokes at each other, sometimes by relating portions of their histories, or celebrating the matchless heroism or strength of their kindred. Thus by degrees having severally acquired an epitome of each other's lives, a sort of community was formed and neighbourhoods established, less regulated indeed by locality than peculiar likings. When first we set out each must cook for himself, or at most for his own family; now you might have seen three or four messing together, having previously agreed to throw their respective provisions into one common store. By this means there were fewer dishes to prepare, and consequently better accommodation. We were too strict economists to adopt the joining system; and our solicitude respecting our journey caused us rather to avoid intimacy with our companions than to court it. Yes, many a time when mirth and noise have been the prevailing order on deck, have I sought retirement to muse upon the past, and pry into the future. I own such conduct was unwise; I should have been happier if I could have mingled in the diversions of my companions: but, reader, knowest thou not when the heart is sick the very means which should be beneficial are often the most repulsive?
It was impossible, from the nature of things, that I could be happy, while as yet we were travelling we scarcely knew whither. On one occasion while thus alone on the deck, near the cook's cabin, I perceived an unusual quantity of smoke issuing from the door and chimney, and on looking down I perceived a person named Jack, who by the by had stolen on board at Liverpool and was working his passage, involved in a cloud of smoke and flame from a pan of pitch, which by accident he had spilled into the fire. I gave the alarm, and all hands were immediately on the spot. The wood was beginning to ignite, and if it had not been attended to with the utmost promptitude our situation would soon have been awful. A mattress, which happened to be near, was instantly put upon the chimney to prevent the draught, and buckets of water were plentifully thrown in at the door, so that in a very short time the fire was extinguished. Poor Jack fared the worst: his right arm was almost roasted, which caused him to be, as an invalid, exempt from duty to the end of the voyage. His misfortune excited the compassion of many on board, some of whom presented him with wearing apparel, of which he was in great need. For myself by being in the centre of the crowd, I became entangled in a rope near the mouth of the cabin, which subjected me to the stench and steam thence arising. I was however soon released from my accidental fetters, and laden with the grateful acknowledgments of all around. Another time while pacing upon the deck, I was almost struck dumb to see my son, the boy before alluded to, a fine youth, but uncommonly daring, (3) fast asleep on the bow sprit. The least accidental movement and he would have lost his equilibrium, and been precipitated into the water. Alarmed as I was, I did all that a mother could do in such a situation to preserve the life of one so dear. My husband was just at hand. I made no noise, but all in agitation pointed out the cause of my distress. He soon understood me, and, with all the concern of an affectionate father, hastened softly towards the lad, and rescued him from that imminent peril into which his daring spirit had unwittingly led him. The recital of these incidents brings me, through the order in which they occurred, towards the West Indies; and to another occurrence which for a short time caused a greater alarm than any thing we met with during the voyage. The circumstances are as fresh in my mind as if they had transpired only yesterday. I had been observing with interest and pity a number of flying fishes occasionally rise out of the water to avoid their pursuers, when several of the passengers came to the side on which I was standing to behold a fine-looking vessel which had recently made its appearance. Various were the conjectures as to whither she was bound and to what country she belonged. It was every one's opinion she approached us, and no little pleasure was experienced at the idea of having a vessel so near us, after having been several days without one. The captain seemed alarmed, and kept continually looking at her with his glass, and shortly afterwards the sailors were seen all busy cleaning out the guns, and preparing them for action. By and by it became whispered on board that the vessel was a pirate, and the busy manner in which the seamen were employed at their guns tended to confirm the conjecture. The captain caused all to come on deck. His motives were immediately made out; meanwhile the vessel, which was a good sailer, kept growing nearer, and every thing betokened hostility. We were all in agitation; even the captain and the sailors turned pale with excitement. Every eye was intent on the vessel, and every muscle betokened alarm. She was now within the range of our guns, which were ready for action. At length she hoisted a colour, and immediately a large spreading flag was unfurled on our ship. A breathless silence succeeded; that moment was indescribable. The flags then flying were symbols of peace. Three cheers, spontaneously given, immediately succeeded. A thrill of transport moved the ship, and not a few wept for joy. Our captain, with a trumpet, asked their intentions; he was answered in English from the other ship that they were sailing to the West Indies, and having encountered a storm, they had injured their time-keeper, and could not ascertain their longitude. We gave them all the information they required, and parted with cheerings which were responded to by the other ship, which we soon afterwards lost sight of.(4)
The following day a sailor on the mast announced the appearance of land, a declaration which was eagerly received; during the remainder of the day the passengers were constantly on the look-out, and before night we had the unspeakable pleasure of knowing for ourselves that land was visible. The next day we passed several small islands clad in all the beauty of summer; we were sufficiently near some of them to discover negroes at work besides their little huts, coconut trees and many other kinds, the names of which I cannot give, being not very near them, and but imperfectly conversant with the productions of tropical regions. The weather was here excessively hot: but a large sail-cloth being put up to shade us from the sun, we almost invariably remained on deck, feasting our eyes with the luxuriant and beautiful appearance of the numerous little islands we were continually passing. I am not aware that the West Indian islands surpass others in beauty, but on account of the length of time we had been without seeing land, we were incessant in our encomiums upon them. Never, thought I, had I seen anything so lovely; I could have wished this the situation of our future abode, this the America so long in anticipation. The two following days no land was visible, a circumstance attended with considerable uneasiness, as we had begun to consider our voyage at an end. On the morning of the third, however, land was again visible, and this was America- A sort of melancholy came creeping over me as I gazed upon it; portentous, perhaps, of the many hardships I was destined there to endure. We were now in the mouth of the Mississippi; that night a large lantern was suspended on the mast, as a signal for the pilot to come on board and take charge of the ship. Early the next morning, while it was yet dark, my husband, who had been on deck most of the night, came to invite me thither. I followed him shortly afterwards, and beheld a fine large city lighted in a most splendid manner: its appearance was really brilliant, and gave me more exalted ideas of the country to which we were hastening. That morning, by break of day, a small boat came cutting the water almost with the speed of the wind; it was rowed along by four black sailors on each side; a dignified person was seated in the midst of them; it was the pilot; he came alongside the ship, and was taken on board with his boat and men. After respectful compliments had passed between him and the captain, he undertook the management of the ship, his own sailors obeying his commands, while ours were relieved from duty to enjoy themselves in chanting their native melodies, which they did most heartily, almost to the annoyance of the pilot and his men. This was Sunday morning, the first in November; we had been on board two months and a few days a period on which I never look back without emotion, as it reminds me of the anxieties I then endured, and of the consequences which that voyage involved.
As I intimated in the preceding chapter, we reached New Orleans on Sunday morning; but when I came to survey the town more leisurely, I could scarcely believe it was the Lord's day. I remembered that frequently on our passage I had heard it remarked that the time varied with the time in England a few hours, and for a moment I supposed that the Sabbath varied also. The reader will perceive the cause of my surprise, when he is told that the shops were every where open, stalls set out in all directions, and the streets thronged with lookers-on more in the manner of a fair than a Christian Sabbath. This I was told was the general method of spending that day in New Orleans. With regard to the inhabitants, their appearance was exceedingly peculiar, their complexions varying almost as much as their features; from the deep black of the flat-nosed negro to the sickly pale hue of the American showman. This city is a regular rendezvous for merchants and tradesmen of every kind, from all quarters of the globe. Slavery is here tolerated in its grossest forms. I observed several groups of slaves linked together in chains, and driven about the streets like oxen under the yoke. The river, which is of immense width, affords a sight not less unique than the city. No one, except eye-witnesses, can form an adequate idea of the number and variety of vessels there collected, and lining the river for miles in length. New Orleans being the provision market for the West Indies and some of the Southern States, its port is frequented not merely by foreign traders, but by thousands of small craft, often of the rudest construction, on which the settlers in the interior bring down the various produce of their climate and industry. (5)
The town itself, from its low marshy situation, is very unhealthy; the yellow fever is an everlasting scourge to its inhabitants, annually carrying off great numbers. As a trading port, New Orleans is the most famous and the best situated of any in America; but whoever values a comfortable climate or a healthy situation, will not, I am sure, choose to reside there.
But to resume my narrative: having arrived at the port, it was our intention to proceed immediately up the river to St. Louis; but as no steam vessel left till the next day, we remained on board in front of the town. The custom-house officers had not yet been on board to examine the ship, but as we had nothing for which duty would be required, our captain gave my husband a document to present to the inspectors, by which we were allowed to pass early the next morning. Before entering the steam vessel, we got the remainder of our money, all in English sovereigns, exchanged into American dollars. We found that our expenses, since leaving home, amounted to about twenty-three pounds. On leaving the ship I felt a renewal of my home-sickness, to use a quaint expression; it seemed to be the only remaining link between me and England. I was now going to be an alien among strangers. Hitherto I had been accompanied by persons, who when my pain on leaving home manifested itself, could sympathize with me. I should have preferred the meanest passenger on the ship to any I saw on the packet. As, however, we were all in haste to be on our way, I had little time to spend on those tender associations.
I certainly left the ship with an aching heart; the captain and cabin passengers had been very kind to us during the voyage, and on going away my children were severally presented with small tokens of approbation, of which they were not a little proud.
I must now leave the ship to pursue my route up the stream of the Mississippi to St. Louis, a distance of not less than thirteen hundred miles. The country on each side of the river is of a dead level, but to all appearance exceedingly productive, and cultivated with considerable pains. On account of the heat which prevails in these districts, the productions of tropical regions are here grown in great abundance. The extensive plantations, notwithstanding their flat appearance, are exceedingly beautiful; and if any thing could have made me forget that I was an unsettled exile, the scenery of the country bordering this river must have done it. There was, nevertheless, one drawback: these beautiful plantations are cultivated by slaves, many of whom we saw as we passed along. As we had regularly to stop by the way to obtain timber for our fires, that being the fuel invariably used by the steamers on this river, we had frequent opportunities of stepping ashore. On one occasion a passenger seeing a negro smoking his pipe by his little cabin, which was just at hand, took the liberty of going up to him for the purpose of begging a little fruit, which hung in plenty on the trees around. The negro, without hesitation, granted his request; and our hero immediately mounted a tree, which he partially stripped of its juicy burden. This little incident might have passed unnoticed, had not the intruder on descending from the tree made use of a kind of box, which was underneath, to break his fall; its structure was too slender for so unusual a load, and in consequence he burst in the top to the terror of the negro, who immediately darted across the orchard, leaving our companion to make the best of his misfortune. The latter was soon convinced that he had committed a blunder, as the box was a bee-hive, and its occupants, aware they had been insulted, would accept no apology, but drawing their sabres attacked their foe with tremendous fury. Poor Yankee was no Leonidas; but with all the speed his heels could muster betook himself to the packet, where he was greeted with roars of laughter by his less enterprising associates.
As we proceeded up the river the country assumed a more rude and uncultivated appearance: the date and plantain tree of the lower regions were exchanged for majestic forest trees and untrodden wilds. Further down it was delightfully pleasant; here magnificently grand eternal forests, in appearance as interminable as the universe, with here and there a patch of ground rudely cultivated by the hand of a lonely settler, constitute the scenery for thousands of miles contiguous to this matchless stream. As to the river itself, I shall not attempt a description of it; what has already been said proves its magnitude to be immensely great; even some of its branches, as the Ohio and the Missouri, are to be classed among the largest rivers in the world. The former (6) is noted for being very muddy, and hurrying in its ungovernable career vast quantities of floating timber, which, decayed by age or other causes, fall into it so as often to render it dangerous for the steamers to pass along. Of these the Mississippi contains acres, that coming from above, have in the lapse of years gradually settled together in places where the current is least active.
Proceeding with my narrative, I must confess I liked the packet much better than I expected. We had engaged to find our own provisions, but on account of their cheapness, or partly because I acted the part of matron to such as needed my assistance, we were frequently presented with young fowls, coffee, rice, etc., so that our food cost us very little on the river. During this transit we obtained considerable information respecting Illinois, which tended in some degree to lessen our disquietude. We were nevertheless very far from being at ease; our unsettled condition was ever the uppermost in our thoughts, and shed a settled gravity over our conduct. Whilst thus the subjects of painful uncertainty, we were one night much alarmed by the following attempt to rob us: my husband and I were in our berths; I was fast asleep, but he was awake, musing upon our situation, when a black man, one of the crew, knowing we were going to settle in the country, and thinking no doubt we should have money with us, came to the side of our berths and began to search under my pillow, so softly indeed as not to awake me; he was going to examine under my husband's likewise, but as he was awake, he told him he could get him anything he wanted; such unexpected kindness was immediately understood, and the villain disappeared in a moment. Although this attempt proved a complete failure, we were induced to give up our money to the captain the following day, which he kept till we arrived at St. Louis. As my husband kept the money under his pillow, I have never looked back on this circumstance but with feelings of gratitude to Almighty God for his protecting providence, for had he succeeded, we should have been in a most miserable situation, not even able to reach the end of our journey; destitute and penniless in a strange land, without friends and without home.
The time occupied in passing from New Orleans to St. Louis was about twelve days. We reached the latter place about noon, and found another steamer ready to convey us forward to the situation at which we purposed to remain. I had little opportunity of surveying the town, and therefore can say little respecting it; but was somewhat surprised to find that this noted city should be built principally of wood; its situation is not the most eligible as it regards health, being near the confluence of the Missouri and the Illinois. It is however on that very account likely to become a large and wealthy city, and is indeed by some described as such already.(7)
On entering the second steamer I found I had made a poor exchange; the weather was beginning to feel uncommonly-chill, and our accommodation was here very inferior, so that we felt exceedingly anxious to be at our journey's end.
The place at which we intended to leave the river was not more than one hundred and twenty miles from St. Louis; we therefore comforted ourselves with the idea that we should soon be there. We were finally to disembark at Phillip's Ferry, according to the directions sent by the aforementioned Mr. B. to his brother. We should then be within two miles of his residence. Mr. B., therefore, and Phillip's Ferry, occupied our thoughts almost to the exclusion of every other subject. We had already travelled nearly seven thousand miles. Our food had been principally dried provisions. For many long weeks we had been oppressed with anxious suspense; there is therefore no cause for wonder, that, jaded and worn out as we were, we felt anxious to be at our destined situation. Our enquiries of the sailors 'how much further we had to go,' almost exhausted their patience. Already we had been on the vessel twenty-four hours, when just at nightfall the packet stopped: a little boat was lowered into the water, and we were invited to collect our luggage and descend into it, as we were at Phillip's Ferry; (8) we were utterly confounded: there was no appearance of a landing place, no luggage yard, nor even a building of any kind within sight; we, however, attended to our directions, and in a few minutes saw ourselves standing by the brink of the river, bordered by a dark wood, with no one near to notice us or tell us where we might procure accommodation or find harbor. This happened, as before intimated, as the evening shades were rapidly settling on the earth, and the stars through the clear blue atmosphere were beginning to twinkle. It was in the middle of November, and already very frosty. My husband and I looked at each other till we burst into tears, and our children observing our disquietude began to cry bitterly. Is this America, thought I, is this the reception I meet with after my long, painfully anxious and bereaving voyage? In vain did we look around us, hoping to see a light in some distant cabin. It was not, however, the time to weep: my husband determined to leave us with our luggage in search of a habitation, and wished us to remain where we then stood till he returned. Such a step I saw to be necessary, but how trying! Should he lose himself in the wood, thought I, what will become of me and my helpless offspring? He departed: I was left with five young children, the youngest at my breast. When I survey this portion of my history, it looks more like fiction than reality; yet it is the precise situation in which I was then placed.
After my husband was gone I caused my four eldest children to sit together on one of our beds, covered them from the cold as well as I could, and endeavored to pacify them. I then knelt down on the bare ground, and committed myself and little ones to the Father of mercies, beseeching him 'to be a lantern to my feet, a light unto my path, and to establish my goings.' I rose from my knees considerably comforted, and endeavored to wait with patience the return of my husband. Above me was the chill blue canopy of heaven, a wide river before me, and a dark wood behind. The first sound we heard was that of two dogs that came barking towards us, so as greatly to increase our alarm; the dogs came up to us, but did us no harm, and very soon after I beheld my dear husband, accompanied by a stranger, who conducted us to his habitation, whither our luggage was shortly afterwards removed in a waggon.
My husband had followed a sort of cattle track, which led him to the house, which had been concealed by trees and underwood growing around it. And now, for the first time in my life, did I fairly see the interior of a log-house, which, however rude I might think it, I felt, as the reader will readily believe, most happy to enter. It was much more comfortable to sleep on a bed laid on the floor before a fire of glowing embers, than it would have been on the cold ground, which a short time before I feared would be my lodging. The following morning, after a comfortable night's repose, we felt our health and spirits improved. My husband began to examine the soils and produce of the country, and I to collect what information I could respecting American housewifery, manners, religion, etc.. Our hostess was a little woman, exceedingly fond of smoking, as the Americans generally are, particularly the females. Before leaving England I had heard a great deal said in behalf of American hospitality, but these encomiums certainly require to be qualified: they are exceedingly hospitable to gentlemen who may be making a tour, likewise amongst themselves as neighbours; but when they know a person really must trouble them, they appear to be aware they are conferring a favour, and expect an equivalent. The little lady I have been describing knew little of generosity; we understood very soon that we should be expected to pay for our harbour, although we used our own provisions. I am forgetting that on one occasion she generously told me I might give my children the broth in which she had boiled some cabbage, if I thought they would drink it; I told her they had not been accustomed to such fare. We remained here three days, during which I became tolerably conversant in the theory of American housekeeping, and as Mrs. Phillips (9) (that was the name of our hostess) was very loquacious, she initiated me into the peculiarities of Illinois politeness. No person, however slender his pretensions to knighthood, or how long soever the time since his small-clothes were new, is addressed without the courteous epithet of 'Sir;' and this practice is observed by the members of the same family in their intercourse with each other; of course the females are in like manner honoured with 'Madam/Ubi tu Caius ego Caia.' It is not etiquette in Illinois to sit at the table after you have done eating; to remain after you have finished your meal implies that you have not had sufficient. This custom I subsequently found a very convenient one.
But I am forgetting the house. It was a fair specimen of a log-house, and therefore a description of it will give the reader a pretty correct idea of the American peasantry. There were two rooms, both on the ground floor, separated from each other with boards so badly joined, that crevices were in many places observable. The rooms were nearly square, and might contain from thirty to forty square yards each; beneath one of the rooms was a cellar, the floor and sides of which were mud and clay, as left when first dug out; the walls of the house consisted of layers of strong blocks of timber, roughly squared and notched into each other at the corners; the joints filled up with clay. The house had two doors, one of which is always closed in winter, and open in summer to cause a draught. The fire was on the floor at the end of the building, where a very grotesque chimney had been constructed of stones gathered out of the land, and walled together with clay and mud instead of cement. It was necessarily a great width, to prevent the fire from communicating with the building. The house was covered with oak shingles; that is to say, thin riven boards nailed upon each other, so as just to over-reach. The floors of the house were covered with the same material, except a large piece near the fire, which was paved with small stones, also gathered from the land. There was no window to the house I am describing, although many log-houses may now be found having glass windows. This inconvenience I pointed out to my hostess, who replied, 'upon the whole it was as well without, for in winter the house was warmer and in summer they had always the door open, which was better than any window. It is in reality true, that the want of light is felt very little in a log-house; in winter they are obliged to keep fine blazing fires, which, in addition to the light obtained from their low wide chimneys, enable the inmates to perform any business that is requisite.
It is however by no means to be understood that an American log house equals in comfort and convenience a snug English cottage. It is quite common to see, at least, one bed in the same room as that in which the fire is kept; a practice which invariably gives both the bed and house a filthy appearance. There was no chamber, only a sort of loft, constructed rather with a view to make the house warmer, than to afford additional room. Adjoining one side were a few boards nailed together in the form of a table, and supported principally by the timber in the wall. This was dignified with the name 'sideboard.' In the centre of the room, stood another small table, covered with a piece of coarse brown calico; this was the dining table. The chairs, four in number, were the most respectable furniture in the house, having bark of chichory platted for bottoms. Besides these there were two stools and a bench for common use, a candlestick made from an ear of Indian corn, two or three trenchers and a few tin drinking vessels. One corner of the house was occupied with agricultural implements, consisting of large hoes, axes, etc., for stubbing, called in America grubbing, flails and wooden forks, all exhibiting specimens of workmanship rather homely. Various herbs were suspended from the roof with a view of being medicinally serviceable, also two guns, one of them a rifle. There were also several hams and sides of bacon, smoked almost till they were black; two or three pieces of beef, etc.. Under one of the beds were three or four large pots filled with honey, of which Mrs. P. was not a little lavish, as she used it to every meal along with coffee. The furniture in the other room consisted of two beds and a hand-loom, with which the family wove the greater part of their own clothes. In the cellar I observed two or three large hewn tubs, full of lard, and a lump of tobacco, the produce of their own land, in appearance sufficient to serve an ordinary smoker his life.
During our sojourn at Mr. Phillips', my husband found Mr. B., and on the third day after our arrival, brought that gentleman's team, two stiff oxen yoked to a clumsy sledge; on which we placed our beds, boxes, etc.. and bid good by to Mrs. P., who, as we paid her for our harbour, contrived to shed a tear or two at the thoughts of parting. After arriving at Mr. B.'s house, I certainly felt I had been a little cajoled. My husband had seen him the day before, but had made no mention of his condition. He was in the fields when we arrived; but as the door was unlocked, or rather lockless, we took the liberty of introducing ourselves and luggage. Mr. B. was at once a bachelor and solitaire.
He had left England precipitately, and what is more unusual, a great part of his money, which at this time he was daily expecting by a remittance. The property he had taken with him was all expended in land and cattle, so that a little money was a desideratum. Shortly after our arrival, Mr. B. made his appearance, which, as I before intimated, was rather mysterious. In his letters sent to England, he had spoken of his situation as 'a land flowing with milk and honey'; but I assure you patient reader, his appearance would have led any one to suppose that he gathered his honey rather from thorns than flowers. He was verily as ragged as a sheep: too much so for decency to describe. And his house was more like the cell of a hermit who aims at super-excellence by enduring privations than the cottage of an industrious peasant. The bed on which he slept was only like a bolster which he had used on shipboard, and laid upon a kind of shelf of his own constructing. Then again the walls of his house were of hewn timber as others, but the joinings or interstices were left quite open. The first night I passed in this miserable abode I was almost perished. My husband was obliged to heat a flat iron, and after wrapping it in flannel, apply it to my feet, so little were we protected from the inclemency of the weather. Finding our comforts here so few, we determined to have a home of our own as soon as possible. Mr. B. was too busy in his farm to render my husband much assistance in selecting a piece of ground. Besides the condition of his haut-dechaussex (Meaning, his trousers). rendered it almost imperative upon him to keep near home, especially as he was a bachelor.
Before I proceed any further with my narrative, perhaps it will be of advantage to the reader to explain the method of purchasing land in the United States. The land in the various states has all been surveyed by direction of the government, and divided into portions of eighty acres each. For the sale of the land thus surveyed and laid down on large plans, a land-office is established in various central situations, where all the allotments of a certain district are sold, and the purchasers' names registered. Any person, therefore, who wishes to purchase one or more of these subsections, can see the plan, and select any that are unsold. They will even sell as small a quantity as forty acres; but as they do this merely to accommodate new settlers, no person already possessing eighty acres, can purchase a smaller quantity than that at a time. In some of the older states the government lands are all sold off. It must there be bought of private owners; but in Illinois and other new states there is plenty unsold. The government price everywhere is one hundred dollars for eighty acres. As there are myriads of acres yet in its native luxuriant wildness, any person may with impunity cultivate as much as he chooses without paying anything; and, as a further inducement, when a person begins thus to cultivate, no other person can legally purchase that land, till four years have expired from the time of his beginning to cultivate. By obtaining what is termed a preemption the improvement arising from his own industry is as secure to him for four years as if he was the actual owner. Should, however, he fail to pay for the land before the term expires, an indifferent person may then purchase it; but this seldom happens. Every person purchasing land at the office, must declare upon oath, if required, that no other party has an improvement on it. And, if it be proved to be other- wise, such purchase is in every case invalid; and the fraudulent party liable to a heavy fine.
An improved eighty acres was the first land we purchased: we obtained it in the following manner: A person named Mr. Oakes (10) having heard that a family about to settle was sojourning at Mr. B.'s came to invite my husband to buy some venison, which he had killed with his rifle just before. My husband went with him, and in conversation found he was disposed to sell his improvement right; for the four years were not expired, and he had not entered it at the land office. For this right he wanted sixty dollars. My husband told him he would call upon him the next day, and returned to Mr. B.'s after buying a quantity of nice venison at a halfpenny per pound. The following day, my husband and I visited at Mr. Oakes's, who took us round the estate, shewed us the boundaries, which were marked out by large stones set at each corner, termed the corner stones.
On the land there were about four hundred sugar maples which Mr. Oakes had tapped the preceding year. These trees grow plentifully in the United States, and promise with proper culture to supersede the use of West Indian sugar in America. They like a low situation and a deep soil, and grow to a larger size than any trees in this country. They are said to thrive the better the oftener they are pierced. The method of obtaining sugar from them is very simple. A small cabin, or, as it is there termed, camp, is built in the midst of the trees; two or three large coppers, holding from five to ten gallons each, are set within it, to boil the liquor, which being drained from the trees into hewn wooden troughs, is carried into the camp. The incisions are made with an auger in the beginning of March, when the sap is beginning to rise. Into each of these holes a tube is inserted, about an inch in diameter, so as just to fill the hole, through this the liquor flows as through a spout. The tree from which these tubes are made, is admirably adapted for the purpose, growing somewhat like the elder, only its branches are straighter and contain more pith. It is usually called in Illinois the shoemaker's tree,(11) its botanical name I do not know. The most suitable weather for the discharge of this liquor is when the days are fine and the nights frosty. After the liquor is thus collected, it is boiled down to the consistency of thin treacle. It is then strained through a coarse woollen cloth, and afterwards boiled again at a slower fire till it becomes hard and firm like raw sugar. It is at present much used in the United States, and always sells at a higher rate than that from the West Indies. On the land now under consideration, Mr. Oakes had broken up about twelve acres, three of which were sown with wheat, and the remaining nine ready to be sown with Indian corn, oats, etc.. the following spring. As we liked the situation and land very much and were wishful to be settled, the agreement was completed that evening, and the money paid and possession obtained the following day. The reader is aware that the sixty dollars given to Mr. Oakes, were only for his house, improvement right, sugarmaking utensils, etc.. One hundred more we paid at the land office, at Quincy, and we obtained the usual certificate or title deeds; and thus by the first of December, having spent about thirty pounds in travelling, thirty-five more in land, we were the rightful owners of a farm of eighty acres, with a log house in the centre of it (12). What more could we require? The reader will perceive in the next chapter.
During the time we were at lodgings we had felt ourselves dependent, and looked forward with anxious expectation to the time when we might again taste the sweets and independence of home, and those enjoyments which are only to be expected at one's own fireside. That period had now arrived. We had indeed a house such as I have already described, but we had no furniture except two large boxes, two beds, and a few pots and cooking utensils; besides, our provisions were just finished. Till this time we had been using principally the remains of biscuits, etc., purchased at New Orleans. The first wants of nature must be first attended to: whether we had a chair to sit on or not, something to eat we must have. Our nearest neighbour lived about half-a-mile from us, and we were at least two miles and a-half from any place at which flour was sold; thither, however, my husband went, and as our money was growing scarce, he bought a bushel of ground Indian corn, which was only one-third the price of wheaten flour; it was there sold for thirty cents a bushel. Its taste is not pleasant to persons unaccustomed to it; but as it is wholesome food, it is much used for making bread. We had now some meal, but no yeast, nor an oven; we were therefore obliged to make sad paste, and bake it in our frying pan on some hot ashes. We procured a little milk of our nearest neighbour, Mr. Paddock, which, on account of the severe frosts that prevail in Illinois, we generally received in lumps of ice.
Thus we lived the first few weeks at our new estate. Hasty pudding, sad bread, and a little venison which we had left, were our ordinary food. The greater part of my husband's time was spent in cutting and preparing wood for our fires. About this time we made further purchases of a cow and calf, for which we paid fourteen dollars, a young mare, which cost us twenty dollars, two pigs, and a shallow flat-bottomed iron pan, with a cover to it, to bake in. This is the common, and indeed almost the only kind of oven used in Illinois. It is vulgarly called a skillet. To make it hot it is immersed in glowing embers, the lid is then removed till the dough is put in; it is then replaced and ashes again thrown over it, till the cake is baked. Hence it will be perceived that a quantity of bread beforehand is unknown in Illinois: their custom is to bake a cake to each meal, which is generally very good; eggs and milk being so plentiful, are regularly used in their bread, along with a little celeratus to lighten it, whereby it becomes very rich and nutritive.
The Illinois settlers live somewhat differently from the English peasantry; the former have only three meals a-day, and not much variety in them: bread, butter, coffee, and bacon, are always brought to the table, but fresh meat is a rarity, and is never obtained as in England by going to a butcher for it. In Illinois the farmers all kill their own cattle, and salt what is not used immediately; sometimes, however, they distribute portions among their neighbours, with the view of receiving as much again when they kill theirs. It is by no means uncommon for an old settler to have a couple of fowls, ducks, a goose, or a turkey to dinner; and, generally speaking, everybody has plenty of plain good food. [The object contemplated in this work requires that I should occasionally leave my own history, to render more complete the information I have to impart; I hope, therefore, the reader will not think me incoherent. To proceed:] we bought the live stock above described of Mr. Oakes, and as it was winter, we wanted something with which to feed them. Indian corn is nearly the only winter food used in Illinois; and as the culture and management of it occupy a great portion of the farmer's time and industry, it may be not out of place to explain the method of cultivating it: the land intended for Indian corn should be ploughed and harrowed once or twice to make the earth loose and mellow, that the roots may strike with greater freedom; furrows are then made at the distance of about a yard from each other: these are afterwards crossed by other furrows made at right angles to the first, and about the same distance apart; by this means the field appears divided into numberless little square portions, each somewhat less than a square yard as if hollowed at the centre; into each of these crossings four seeds are thrown, and slightly covered with a hoe; this is done in the beginning of March, and after the young blades make their appearance the plough is occasionally drawn along between the rows, for the purpose of checking weeds and keeping the mould as light as possible; as these groups of plants are so far apart, kidney beans, melons, and pumpkins are frequently sown among them, for which the strong stems of the corn are excellent supports.
Indian corn usually ripens about the beginning of October, and is of an immense produce. There are commonly four or five ears to each stem, each ear having from five hundred to a thousand grains in it. (13)
As the ears ripen they gradually assume a pendent form, and are in that position severally overhung with the leaves of the plant, which form a sort of sheath, securely protecting them from rain; in this manner, when properly ripened, it will remain in perfect safety all winter uncut; and it is by no means uncommon to sow the land with wheat before the corn crop is all removed. It is not always allowed to ripen; part of the crop is often cut, when the corn is about half-fed, which being dried in the sun, the stem and leaves make excellent hay; in this state it is both hay and corn, and is in fact the only hay the farmer preserves for winter, of which he makes small stacks of a peculiar construction, so as not to require thatching. Nothing can be more beautiful than a field of Indian corn in full blossom, and perhaps nothing in nature displays the munificence of Providence more strikingly than this matchless plant. In order to supply our cattle with winter meat, we applied to Mr. Paddock, our nearest neighbour, who sold us part of a field unreaped; some of it we cut down and took home, the rest we allowed to stand and turned our cattle to it. The reader may think it strange that we should turn cattle into the fields in the depth of winter, especially as the winters are there more severe than in England; it is however the regular custom: the cattle are inured to it, as they are never kept up any part of the year, either day or night. The two pigs we had bought we were obliged to kill shortly after we purchased them, as we wanted them for our own use, and we wished to spare the small stock of Indian corn we had on hand. The reader must also know our money was nearly done: I believe we had not more than four or five dollars remaining; part of it we were obliged to spend in sulphur, to cure what is called the Illinois mange, from which we were all suffering.
This complaint invariably attacks new settlers, shortly after their arrival, and is a complete scourge until it is removed. The body breaks out all over in little spots, attended with intolerable itching. It is generally attributed to the change of water, but as theirs possesses no peculiarity of taste, I cannot understand how that can be the cause. We were soon cured after using the sulphur, and never felt anything more of it. (14)
It has already been said that when we entered our house we had no furniture; this inconvenience my husband, although no joiner, had undertaken to remove, by making for himself and me each a stool, and a low bench for our children, or more properly a log of wood, squared and laid across the hearth for a seat. He had also contrived to make a table, which if not as neat as those used in England, was quite as substantial: having met with a section of a strong tree about two feet long, he rolled it into the house, and set it upon its end; had it been a little longer, its upper surface would have been just what we wanted; we however nailed a few boards upon it, making them fit as well as we could, and having covered it with a cloth to conceal its roughness, it was far from being contemptible, at least for persons like us, who had been some days without any. As to bedsteads, we were a few weeks before we got any; of course we had them to make ourselves, and as we were ill furnished with tools and unaccustomed to such employment, when they were finished they served rather to shew how little ornament is absolutely necessary, than our skill as expert carpenters.
Hitherto the light of the fire had served us instead of a candle, which was very inconvenient, as I wished to sew a little in the evenings. It is certainly true that days are never so short as in England, nevertheless we were very wishful to have some candles. The inhabitants commonly make their own, in tin moulds; but as we had neither moulds nor tallow, we were obliged to put a little lard into a saucer, and light a piece of rag previously inserted in it; by this we could see to sew and read pretty well; but as the rag frequently got immersed in the melted lard it was very troublesome, and by constant use we had three or four saucers broken with the heat, a circumstance much to be regretted, as pots of all kinds are dear in Illinois. To prevent a recurrence of this misfortune we ultimately made use of our kettle lid, inserting the knob or holder into a piece of board to make it stand.
Our next great inconvenience was want of soap: having however learnt from Mrs. Phillips the method of making it, we were by this time in a state of readiness for supplying ourselves. The reader will remember we had before this time killed two pigs, the entrails of which we had cleaned and preserved, along with the bits of offal, rendering, scraps, and now the finest of our ashes were collected and put into a large wooden trough, and boiling water poured over them, whence we obtained a strong solution of potash, which we poured off and boiled down; fresh ashes were then used as before, and a fresh solution obtained; the whole was next boiled down to about one third of the original quantity, by which means the solution became so caustic, that it would have taken the skin off one's fingers in a moment. In this state the waste meat and entrails were mixed with it, which it very soon assimilated. After it had obtained the consistency of soft soap, it was poured into a vessel appropriated for the purpose, to be ready for use.
This is the manner the American peasantry supply themselves with soap. Their practice of burning wood furnishes them with potash, which they saturate with other ingredients as above described. Since we were thus obliged to provide necessaries for ourselves in a manner very different from that to which we had been accustomed in England, it may be asked if there are no shops in that country. Illinois, it must be known, is very thinly populated, and on that account it is not the situation for shopkeepers. There are, however, in various places, what are termed store keepers, who supply the settlers with articles the most needed, such as food, clothing, implements of husbandry, medicine, and spirituous liquors: for which they receive in exchange the produce of their farms, consisting of wheat, Indian corn, sugar, beef, bacon, etc.. As these store-keepers exercise a sort of monopoly over a certain district, their profits are great, and they often become wealthy. Besides their store, they often have a saw-mill and a corn-mill, at which they grind the corn they obtain from the farmers, for the purpose of sending it to New Orleans, or some other place where it can be readily sold. Stores therefore are in Illinois, nearly what markets are in England, only there is more barter in the former country. The mills in that neighbourhood are chiefly turned by water.
We were destined to be unfortunate with the young mare we had purchased of Mr. Oakes. Having been accustomed to run in the fields with other horses, she would not settle with our cow and calf. Every day she was lost; no fences could turn her. We were therefore obliged to sell her, or rather exchange for one not near so good; only she was expected to have a foal the following spring. Shordy after we had parted with the young mare, my husband found two strange horses in the field feeding upon our corn, he turned them out and returned home. On going to the field again they were there a second time; he felt assured some one had turned them in, as the fences were all good. The next morning explained the circumstance, for the horses being in the field as before, he was about to drive them out, when a tall man hastened towards him, and bade him desist, telling him that the horses were his and he intended them to be there. My husband remonstrated with him on the injustice of such behaviour, and persevered in his attempts to drive them out; at which the person, whose name was Brevet, went up to him, and struck him a blow on the forehead with his fist, and threatened further violence if he did not allow them to remain. Seeing that physical force was the only available argument, my husband began to prepare for resistance; but calling to mind the situation of his family, and not knowing what perfidy might be resorted to, he wisely concluded to leave the man and his horses where they were. I mention this circumstance principally to shew how much we were indebted to an over-ruling Providence for the preservation of my husband's life on this occasion. We afterwards learnt that Brevet was a pest to the neighbourhood, and that he had told one of his acquaintances of this interview, and declared he would have stabbed my partner with a large dirk which he always carried with him, if he had resisted. In a short time afterwards he left the neighbourhood, dreaded or detested by all who knew him.
We have already seen that considerable labour is required to prepare fuel, as a good fire in America is essential during the winter season. The frosts are intensely keen, a wide river is sometimes iced over in a single night, so as to be unnavigable. Every thing of a fluid nature, exposed to the weather, is formed into a solid. For two or three months the milk freezing as soon as it is taken from the cows, affords no cream, consequently no butter. It is nevertheless possible to obtain butter, by keeping the churn near the fire, and churning cream and milk both together; but as this method is exceedingly troublesome it is seldom practised. The nights in winter are at once inexpressibly cold, and poetically fine. The sky is almost invariably clear, and the stars shine with a brilliancy entirely unknown in the humid atmosphere of England. Cold as it was, often did I, during the first winter, stand at the door of our cabin, admiring their lustre and listening to the wolves, whose howlings, among the leafless woods at this season, are almost unceasing. These animals are numerous in America; and, unless the sheep be regularly folded, their depredations are extensively injurious, as they lacerate the throats of nearly all the flock; sometimes also they will seize young pigs, but as they fear the old ones, unless they are impelled by hunger, these animals are not in much danger. The timid submissive sheep is always their favourite prey.
The reader will perceive we had not much intercourse with the rest of the world. For a while no one seemed to notice us, except Mr. B., our neighbour Mr. Paddock, and one Mr. Burns, who lived about two miles off, (all are Misters in America.) But indeed the villainous conduct of Mr. Brevet had made us so suspicious, that we scarcely knew whether to wish for an increased circle of acquaintance, or entire seclusion. One thing was very afflictive, our being deprived of Christian Sabbath ordinances. We always honoured that day, by abstaining from our accustomed labour; we read our Bible, and meditated thereon: but Sabbath after Sabbath passed away without our once being able to assemble with those who 'keep holy day,' or in the great congregation to unite our tribute of praise, with the aspirations of those whose sentiments are 'how amiable are thy tabernacles O Lord of Hosts!' At this time we were five miles from any place where public worship was regularly conducted; subsequently preaching-houses much nearer were opened, the character of which will be noticed in its proper place.
The motives which occasioned this work to be written require that a strict regard to truth be maintained; and, in matters of fact, that nothing be introduced calculated to mislead, either by deterring or alluring; this rule has hitherto been carefully observed. Am I then asked if we thus far were satisfied with the step we had taken, my answer is, we regretted it very much. We had indeed plenty of corn-bread and milk, but neither beer nor tea; coffee was our chief beverage, which we used very sparingly, for want of money. All the water we wanted we had to thaw, and during the nights, on account of the severe frosts, we were very cold indeed; although we always kept the fire burning. Our bed-clothes we had taken with us from England, and we were unable to procure any more, as they were dear, and our means almost exhausted. We had indeed some good land, but it was nearly all uncultivated, and we had nothing to sell except our cattle, which we wanted. The only ground of hope we had was in our industry and perseverance. My husband worked very hard; the little time we had to spare, after feeding the cattle and procuring fuel, was spent in splitting trees to make rails. All the fences here are made of rails, there are no thorns in the neighbourhood. The method of fencing is peculiar: they use no posts; but having prepared their rails, they lay one down on the ground, where they wish to make a fence; not precisely in the same direction as the line of their intended fence, but making a small angle with it. Another rail is then laid down with its end overreaching the first, with which it forms a cross like the letter X, only instead of the crossing being at the centre, it is near the end of each rail. A third is then made to cross the second as before, and so on to an indefinite length. On each side of these several crossings a stake is driven into the ground to prevent their being removed. Other rails are then placed upon these, crossing each other in a similar manner, till the fence is as high as it is required. Generally they are about nine rails high. From the description here given, the reader will perceive that the fences are not straight as in England, but in a continued zig-zag. The reason for this difference is, timber and land are of comparatively little value in America, while their method requires less labour than ours.
In this manner we spent our first winter; we have plenty of work; our amusements even tended to advantage. Great numbers of quails frequented our home-stead to feed on our small stock of Indian corn; we caught several of them with snares, which were excellent eating. My husband also shot a few rabbits, of which there are vast numbers in America. We likewise saw several deer, but as we had no rifle, we could not kill any. We observed several kinds of birds, which we had not before seen, one in particular, which we took to be a species of turkey, engaged our attention; my husband tried several times to kill one, without effect. One Saturday, however, he was successful, and brought home his game with as much apparent consciousness of triumph, as if he had slain some champion hydra of the forest. The following day we expected Mr. B., who by this time had received his money, to dine with us. We accordingly dressed our bird, and congratulated ourselves with the idea of having our countryman to dine with us on a fine boiled turkey. Sunday morning arrived, and in due time our turkey was in the pot boiling for dinner. Mr. B. came; we told him how happy we were on account of the treat we were going to give him. He was surprised at our story, as those birds are difficult to obtain with a common fowling-piece, and desired to see the feet and head. But the moment he saw them, he exclaimed 'it's a buzzard,' a bird which, we subsequently learnt, gormandizes any kind of filth or carrion, and consequently is not fit to be eaten. We were sorely disappointed; our turkey was hoisted into the yard, and we were obliged to be contented with a little bacon, and a coarse Indian corn pudding, for which our stomachs were not altogether unprepared, although recently in anticipation of more sumptuous fare. The reader may think we were stupid not to know a turkey; the bird in question is very much like one, and indeed on that account is called in Illinois a turkey-buzzard.
As spring approached we felt some symptoms of those hopes which had animated us in England with reference to our success as emigrants. Man's career in prospective is always brilliant; and it is providentially ordered that it should be so. Could we have foreseen our destiny, the prospect would have thrown us into despair. It would have robbed us of much present enjoyment, and unfitted our minds for the difficulties with which we had to struggle. I am, however, anticipating my history. The symptoms to which I referred originated with the idea of being the cultivators of our own land. How those prospects were realized, the sequel will explain. By the beginning of March our Indian corn was done, and it had served so long only through the greatest care. There was however by this time a little fresh grass in the woods, to which we were very glad to turn our little stock, consisting as before stated of a cow and calf, and a mare near foaling. As this method of summering cattle in America is peculiar to that country, and affords to the farmer considerable advantages, I shall endeavour to be explicit in the account of it, which I am about to give. I must then premise that all unenclosed lands, whether purchased of government or otherwise, are considered common pasturage; and as there are in Illinois thousands of acres in that state, any person can keep as many cattle during summer as he chooses. They are turned out at spring, and thus run where they please. A person unacquainted with these habits would naturally be afraid of losing them in such immeasurable regions. This, however, seldom happens. There are few animals having a sufficiency of food that are fond of ranging over strange domains. Even in this country we observe foxes and hares to have their favourite haunts, from which it is difficult to break them. Domesticated animals manifest this principle of attachment still more strongly. Hence no American farmer, having his cattle on the range, would fear being able to find them in a few hours; and indeed a person unacquainted with the haunts of any certain herd, would most probably go directly towards them. Rivers and smaller streams have certainly some confining influence, but independent of that, their habits are to frequent those situations only to which they are accustomed. In that country cattle have a great liking for salt, and indeed it seems essential to their health, particularly in summer. An English farmer would smile to see a herd of cattle contending with each other over a few handfuls of dry salt which had been thrown on the floor for them. This is seen every day in America. The milch cows require more of it than the rest, and unless they are regularly served with it, their milk becomes unpleasant. This induces them to come to their stand to be milked twice-a-day. Oxen and heifers will take no harm if they have a little twice-a-week, or even not so often. Where so many different herds of cattle run at large, there is a greater danger of their intermixing than of their being lost. To prevent this, great care is taken by each grazier at the spring to mark his own. Some cut their ears in various ways. Others burn certain marks on their horns with a hot iron. There is not, however, much confusion. The cattle which have been fed together during winter, most generally associate with each other in summer; all having an unaccountable attachment to the master beast of the herd, apparently considering his presence a source of protection or honour. For this reason the owner usually suspends a bell round this animal's neck, which enables him to find his cattle with greater ease. Hence the phrase, 'bear the bell/ is common even in this country. In this manner the cattle graze during summer, and when the pasturage fails, they cease to range; but besetting their master's cabin with incessant lowings remind him that winter is approaching, and that their claims to his bounty deserve attention, and must have it. At this time if any strange cattle have joined the herd, the law requires that the farmer cause them to be valued, and their mark to be taken down and sent to four of the nearest mills for publicity; if they are not owned within a year they belong to the herd.
I must now leave our small herd of cattle running in the woods, to acquaint the reader with our first summer's performances and success. The first fruits of our industry were derived from our sugar orchard, the care of which devolved principally on me. We were in want of nearly all kinds of implements of husbandry, without the means of procuring them, except by running into debt, a practice which we felt reluctant to adopt. Our sugar trees therefore at this time afforded us a seasonable boon. The weather was favourable, and by hard working we made nearly three hundred weight, besides a barrel of molasses. We disposed of the greater part of it to a store-keeper named Mr. Varley, at the rate of seven or eight cents per pound. It must not be understood that we got money for it. Business is seldom transacted after that manner in Illinois. My meaning is we were allowed to take anything we wanted from the store by paying for it with sugar at the above rate. Our first care was to have some Indian corn for seed, and some more meal for our own use, which at that time we wanted. We likewise obtained a little coffee, two or three hoes, and a Yankee axe, which is much larger and broader than the one used in this country, and better adapted for the every-day business of hewing large blocks of timber for fuel and other purposes. And now, kind reader, if thou hast any intentions of being an emigrant, I cordially wish thee success; but before thou forsaken the endearments of thy present home, consider the situation in which we were placed with a helpless family dependent upon us. Thou hast seen us expend our little money with the utmost frugality; thou art acquainted with our possessions, real and personal. It was now the middle of March, when Indian corn, the most useful produce of that country, must be sown, or the season would be past. We had land and seed, but no plough, nor any team, except an old mare, that we feared would scarcely live while she foaled, and consequently we could not yoke her. What could we do? If we did not sow we could not reap; we should have nothing to feed our cattle with the ensuing winter. "Labor omnia vincit" was our motto. We set to work with our hoes; I, husband, and son, the latter under ten years of age, and day after day, for three successive weeks, did we toil with unwearied diligence till we had sown and covered in nearly four acres. We should probably have sown more, had not the rains which fall in torrents at this season prevented us. Whilst referring to the weather, it will be proper to observe that during the month of April in Illinois, a great quantity of rain usually falls, accompanied almost invariably with thunder storms of a most awful character. A person who has lived only in England can have but an imperfect conception of these electrical phenomena. They happen most frequently in the night, which considerably increases their power of striking terror through the most intrepid bosom. The weather is at this time close and sultry, and as the sun declines the sky becomes gradually overcast; midnight arrives, a pitchy darkness overhangs the earth; by and by the wind begins to roar in the trees, and the hoarse thunder in the distance announces the coming of the storm. As it approaches the thunder claps wax louder and louder, while the lightning begins to play across the gloomy firmament, in a most awful and terrific manner. Every moment the voice of the thunder acquires additional compass, never ceasing even for a moment; but before one peal has well broken on the ear, it is drowned by another still more tremendous and loud. The lightning is even more overpowering than the thunder. One moment all is in obscurity, a second the heavens seem rent asunder, the bright blue lightning dancing in all directions with a frightful and deadly velocity; meanwhile the rain descends in torrents, threatening to sweep away the foundation of the dwelling. The length of time these storms continue is generally about an hour. The first I witnessed made an impression on my mind that will never be forgotten; my senses were completely disordered: I became alarmed at the slightest noise, and for a while felt more afraid of a thunder storm than of any calamity which appeared in the power of misfortune to inflict upon me. Probably my late anxieties and bereavement preying on my mind had indisposed my nerves for such phenomena, at once terrific, awful, and sublime. But whatever was the cause, I have great pleasure in stating that I soon got the better of my timidity. Trees have frequently been struck near our house, but hitherto no accident has befallen us. We now consider these storms rather as annoying than dangerous; one reason perhaps is that a dry log house is a bad conductor of the electric fluid.
About this time we were sorely tormented with another scourge, which unlike the one just noticed, possessed exceedingly little of a poetical or sublime character. It certainly operated on the nerves powerfully enough, but that in a manner rather calculated to move the lower than the more elevated passions of our nature. I refer to the mosquitoes; swarms of which infest that country during spring and autumn, much to the annoyance of its inhabitants. This troublesome insect is not unlike the gnat, which in this country so often terminates its existence by flying into the candle. Its bite is slightly venomous, causing small blisters somewhat like those occasioned by the sting of a nettle, only the pain attending it is more acute. They are the most numerous in low situations, or among thick woods where the heat is less oppressive. This insect cannot bear great heats, and on that account is never seen during the hottest weather, except in very shady places. It is always most troublesome in the nights; and as it makes a constant humming when it flies, it is a most noisy as well as a most unwelcome guest in a lodging room. I do assure the reader I have lain for hours together with a handkerchief in my hand, fanning them from my face, when a little sleep would have been a more seasonable relaxation. Various methods are practised to drive them off or avoid them. We frequently made a fire at the door, and covered it with green leaves to make as much smoke as possible, and thereby to banish them from the neighbourhood; but the moment the smoke was dissipated they again made their appearance as numerous as flies in England on a summer day. Many persons make what are termed mosquito hangings for their beds; these are constructed of laths strung together so closely as not to allow a space for them to pass through. They seldom are seen on the prairies, or indeed in any place remote from thick shady woods; thus some of our neighbours have been quite free from them, while we were tortured incessantly. We however had the advantage of being near fuel, a consideration of great importance in that country, especially as the soil of wood land is always more valuable than that of the prairies, and when cleared is likewise free from mosquitoes.
Having referred to the prairies, it may perhaps be necessary to be a little more explicit. Many persons in England have a wrong idea of the uncultivated lands in America, imagining they are all wood. This is by no means the case. In Illinois there are thousands of acres with not a tree upon it, but covered with a sort of strong wild grass, growing sometimes three or four feet high. These lands are termed prairies, and require only to be broken up with a prairie plough, and they become at once fine arable land. As I before intimated, this kind of land, though the soonest cultivated, is not the most productive being, as the farmers term it, of a stronger quality than the other. The soil of both prairies and woodland is quite black, probably owing to the vegetable matter, which for ages has decayed thereon. At the season of the year now under notice, these prairies present to the eye a most charming appearance. Let the reader imagine himself by the side of a rich meadow, or fine grass plain several miles in diameter, decked with myriads of flowers of a most gorgeous and varied description, and he will have before his mind a pretty correct representation of one of these prairies. Nothing can surpass in richness of colour, or beauty of formation many of the flowers which are found in the most liberal profusion on these extensive and untrodden wilds. The naturalist would here meet with abundance of materials for his genius to arrange, while the poet, reminded of his elegies, would perceive how
"Many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air."
In contrasting the hues of flowers grown in America with those in England, I must acknowledge that the former country presents the more splendid; but if they are superior in colour, they are much inferior in odour. Perhaps the superabundance of light and heat, which produces such fine colour, is prejudicial to the production of odoriferous plants, as any thing at all approaching the fragrance of the honey suckle or sweet briar, I never witnessed in America. In the woody districts, the trees most commonly met with are the oak, chichory, walnut and sugar maple, besides a great deal of underwood and wild fruit trees of the plum family. As all these grow in a wild state, it is not to be supposed that the trees are as numerous as they are in the plantations of this country. The strong timber trees grow at various distances from each other, sometimes being as near to each other as they can possibly grow, at others twenty or thirty yards apart. They not only vary considerably in this respect, but also in magnitude and age. Not a few are to be found in the last stage of decay, their patriarchal dignity gradually submitting to the all-subduing influence of time. Numbers more are quite hollow, in which bees, owls, and rabbits severally find shelter and propagate their species. Every thing here bears the mark of ancient undisturbed repose. The golden age still appears, and when the woodman with his axe enters these territories for the first time, he cannot resist the impression that he is about to commit a trespass on the virgin loveliness of nature, that he is going to bring into captivity what has been free for centuries.
In resuming the thread of my narrative, I have to state, that as soon as we had sown our Indian corn, and planted a few potatoes, we began to prepare for taking in more land, although we had four or five acres unsown of that which Mr. Oakes had broken up. We hoped, nevertheless, that before another season we should be able to plough and sow in a regular manner. Accordingly my husband worked hard every day with his grubbing hoe and axe, tearing up the roots of underwood and cutting down some of the largest trees. When trees are cut down in America, as little regard is paid to the timber, they do not cut them off level with the ground as in England, but about three feet from it. The remaining part is burnt after it has been exposed to the sun's rays a few months. Many trees however are allowed to remain standing, after the bark has been cut, to cause them to die. In this state they remain even after the land is sown, for, being destitute of foliage, they do no harm to the crop.
While my husband was thus engaged I frequently went to him, and, assisted by our little boy, gathered the most portable pieces of brushwood, and took them to our cabin to be ready for fuel; thus, by continued exertions, we had cleared three or four acres by the end of May, and made a fence half round the piece we intended to enclose as our next field, consisting of about eight acres. Before this time our old mare had foaled, and as we hardly expected, only survived that event a few weeks. Near our house there is a sort of rivulet, termed in Illinois a branch, in which one Sunday evening, after we had walked ten miles in going to and from the chapel, we found her laid; we got her out with the help of a rope, and after a while she appeared little worse; a week or two afterwards, however, her foal came by itself neighing to our door; we were immediately assured that something had befallen its mother, and set out in search of her, whither the foal, going before, led us as naturally as if it had been endowed with reason; she had again fallen into the branch, and was quite dead. The foal, notwithstanding its loss, throve very well, and subsequently became a very valuable brood mare.
In the month of June, notwithstanding our economy, we were obliged to purchase some meal on credit. Mr. Varley, the storekeeper, very willingly allowed us to have as much as we wanted, and indeed offered to sell us anything else on the same terms. His miller, however, as soon as he knew we were not giving ready money, only partly filled the bushel, thereby making it dearer to us than before, and we dared not complain to his master for fear he should refuse it altogether. The debt we contracted was very small, not a dollar for which we had bread for the family not less than six weeks; the expiration of which brings us to the end of our first wheat harvest, a season conspicuous in my history on account of the severe trials I then experienced.
Towards the end of June our three acres of wheat began to look ripe, and we consequently had to consider how we should reap it; we had no sickles, nor were any to be had under a dollar each; we therefore, self and husband, resolved to go to our friend Mr. B., who lent us two, for which we were thankful enough, although they were poor ones. As we were returning home, my husband had the misfortune to stumble over a log of wood, and having a sickle in his hand, he pitched upon the edge of it with his knee, and cut it severely. We were then a mile from home, and the wound bled profusely. I bound it up with a handkerchief, and after a little faintness he was able to proceed. The next day, on examining the cut, we found it to be more serious than we had imagined: the symptoms were also bad; instead of being warm and irritable, it was cold and numb. In vain did we apply lotions, it kept growing worse and worse. The following day it began to swell very much, and to be exceedingly painful at a distance from the cut. The pain took away his appetite for food, and symptoms of inflammation and fever became rapidly apparent. My situation requires no comment: I could not but perceive I was likely to lose my dearest earthly friend, and with him all visible means of supporting myself, or maintaining my family. I was almost driven to frenzy. Despair began to lay hold of me with his iron sinews; I longed to exchange situations with my husband; there was no one near to assist or encourage me. My eldest child alone manifested any signs of sympathy: the poor boy went up to his father's bed, and with affectionate and child-like simplicity said, 'don't die, father, don't die'. Meanwhile the swelling increased; my husband had taken nothing but a little coffee for two days. Here was a crisis: I saw a short time would determine whether I was to be reduced to a situation the most wretched imaginable, or see my husband restored to me again. The latter idea seemed to contain all I had in this world to cling to. I could not give it up. I fomented the swelling with increased diligence, till at length he began to perspire, and his leg to possess its wonted sensibility. A change for the better had evidently taken place, and by degrees all the bad symptoms disappeared.
On perceiving this, I felt myself the happiest woman on earth, although my situation the one just described, are now by no means rare during warm weather in Illinois: snakes are the creatures now referred to, of which there are not only a great variety, but vast numbers of each species, many of which are exceedingly venomous. One kind called the black snake, alias the racer, is noticed for pursuing people who may chance to come near them during the breeding season; it is large and completely black, its bite is not venomous, nor does it attempt to pursue intruders, unless they shrink from its intimidating appearance, and even then it generally returns to its post as soon as it fancies it has driven them off; sometimes however, it will wrap round a person's legs, and if the individual in that situation attempts to fly, he is almost sure to fall; he may however, soon release himself with a small stick or a knife; as it is the only snake in America that will approach man without being previously irritated, it is fortunate that its bite is not venomous: one kind about the size of a small eel is able to raise itself nearly in a perpendicular direction; when struck it immediately appears to be broken or disjointed into three or four pieces not unlike the herb or weed termed foxtail, when its joints are disunited; a third called the copperhead has a most angry appearance, and its bite is venomous, but it usually endeavours to get away on the approach of man. The species are too numerous for me to attempt to enumerate them here; it seldom happens that any one is injured by them, but as they are known to lurk in concealed situations, hollow trees, and some even among the branches, they cause people to be constantly on their guard when they have to enter situations favorable for them to lie in.
The rattlesnake, however, is not to be despised, for although it is not so numerous as some of the other kinds, it is more dreaded than them all; this formidable foe never attacks man except in self-defence, and then its bite, if no antidote be taken, is speedily fatal. The usual medicine given to a person thus bitten, is a strong infusion of a herb called the rattlesnake's master. The rattle from which the reptile has its name, is situated at the end of its tail, and composed of thin hollow bones articulated so as to make a rattling noise when the animal moves, thereby warning other animals of its approach; the number of bones contained in the rattle varies according to its age, one being added every year, from which it appears to live about twelve years, as snakes are sometimes killed with that number of bones in the rattle; when about to strike an animal it coils itself up like the contraction, to enable it to dart forward its head with greater rapidity, and without any part of its body touching the ground, except the tail, on which it supports itself during the time. This reptile is becoming less and less numerous, as none are allowed to escape when once observed. They are usually found in pairs, and often among the growing corn. A neighbour of ours was once bitten with one on which he had accidentally trodden. He killed it immediately afterwards, and then hastened to the nearest house, but before he could reach it he was obliged to hollow to make the occupiers know what was his misfortune, as he felt his tongue and limbs beginning to grow stiff; the antidote was immediately administered, but not before he had become insensible; he however, recovered. When an individual attacks these reptiles he should be cautious how he approaches them when in their favourite coiled position. When they are extended at length on the ground, they may be approached with safety, as they are then not able to dart forward their heads as they do when they attempt to inflict a wound.
Insects are likewise numerous in America, and many of them of a larger size than any to be met with in England. There is a species animal classed among the plantigrada, which will hardly account for the above circumstance.
The continuation of my narrative presents my partner recovered from his lameness, and busy thrashing our wheat in the open air: we had a small barn, but as the ground is almost as hard as a boarded floor at the season I am now speaking of, the corn is often thrashed in the open air. Many farmers thrash as soon as harvest is over, and, without winnowing it, place it on a large heap, and cover it with a thick coat of straw and another of earth, as farmers preserve potatoes in England. In this state it will keep very well for several months if required. As the cattle lie out all the year round, the straw is of no use, they therefore burn it out of their way. The time had not yet arrived for us to practise this system of preserving corn; we wanted the full worth of our wheat, and that as soon as we could get. As we had no winnowing machine we were obliged to winnow with the wind, which, though a troublesome method, is frequently practised in Illinois, for the same reason as that which induced us to practise it on this occasion. The farmers in that country are much troubled with a weed that grows amongst the wheat, and of which it is next to an impossibility to clear it. This was the first time we had anything to do with it. Its appearance when growing can scarcely be distinguished from wheat till it begins to ear; on this account it is called 'cheat/ and not undeservedly, as it sometimes stands on the ground as abundant as the crop itself, and yet it is so valueless, that even the poultry will not eat it. I have not seen anything in England that resembles it more nearly than the weeds termed by Yorkshire farmers droke and darnel. It is more like the former than the latter.
Having thrashed and winnowed our wheat in the manner above described, our next consideration was how we were to sell it. The produce of the three acres might be about eighty bushels, one-fourth of which was but imperfectly cleared of cheat, and was therefore unsaleable. We had only five sacks, which we had taken with us from England, but these even we did not require, as we subsequently learnt the store-keepers were accustomed to furnish the settlers with bags for their corn. My husband took a specimen of wheat, which as it had been sown too sparingly on the ground was a fine sample. Mr. Varley offered half a dollar per bushel in money, or a few cents more in barter. We borrowed a waggon and a yoke of oxen of one of our neighbours, and carried to the store fifty bushels. The first thing we did was to settle our meal account; we next bought two pairs of shoes for self and husband, which by this time we wanted as we did other articles of apparel, which we knew we could conveniently procure. The truth is, we had intended to have a little more clothing, but finding the prices so extravagant, we felt compelled to abandon that intention. For a yard of common printed calico, they asked half a dollar, or a bushel of wheat, and proportionate prices for other goods. We gave ten bushels of wheat for the shoes. I may just remark that the prices are considerably lower at the present time for all kinds of wearables than they were then. Our next purchase was a plough, bought in hopes that we should, at some time, have cattle to draw it, as we were tired of the hoeing system. We also bought two tin milk bowls; these and the plough cost about twenty bushels. We obtained further a few pounds of coffee, and a little meal; the coffee cost us at the rate of a dollar for four pounds; and thus we laid out the greater part of our first crop of wheat. We had only reserved about twenty bushels for seed, besides a quantity imperfecly cleared of cheat, which was unfit either for sale or making bread. On balancing our account with Mr. Varley, we found we had to take about five dollars, which we received in paper money, specie being exceedingly scarce in Illinois.
The interval between this time and the latter part of September, was spent in further clearing the field which we had before fenced somewhat more than half round. Our Indian corn was likely to be a failing crop, partly because it had been sown late, and partly for want of a plough it had been but imperfectly cultivated. The autumnal rains had now begun to fall, and while other people's corn was ripe, a great part of ours was quite green, and not likely to ripen before the frosts. The little that was ready, we cut, and made it into small stacks, to be ready for seed the ensuing spring. October arrived; it was the season for sowing wheat, and we were little better prepared than we had been the preceding spring; for although we had a plough we had no team. We could readily have hired one had we possessed the means. Five or six dollars were all the money we had, and we fully purposed to buy a pig or two with them, as we had been some weeks without any animal food, except a few fowls for which we had bartered one of our china tea-cups. Our inability to raise a team and sow our wheat, was a source of very great anxiety. The hoeing system had answered so indifferently that we felt determined, if possible to have it ploughed. We knew a Mr. Knowles who ploughed for hire; his house was about two miles from ours. My husband waited upon him and offered him one-fifth of the produce of eight acres for ploughing and harrowing it. Reward, it is said, sweetens labour: of this Mr. Knowles was conscious; but the idea of waiting for the reward till the ensuing harvest did not suit his genius: in short, he declined undertaking the work on any such terms. My husband was coming away almost in despair; but happening to look at his watch, Mr. Knowles accosted him in a tone of surprise that he should want any one to work on credit while he possessed such a watch as that, telling him at the same time, that he would plough and harrow the whole eight acres for it. I need scarcely say they immediately agreed, as the watch had been bought in England a year or two before for something less than a sovereign. We were thus relieved from our distressing anxiety, and got the wheat sown as conveniently as we could possibly wish.
This acquaintance with Mr. Knowles led to a further bargain between him and my husband for three young pigs just taken in from the range; for which we paid him the small sum of three dollars. They were scarcely fat enough to kill; we therefore gave them a little unsaleable wheat which fed them very rapidly, so that in about a month's time they became nice pork, weighing between nine and ten stones each. By this time our little stock of cattle required to be fed daily with Indian corn, part of which was uncut, and what is worse some of it was unripe. That which had ripened was excellent fodder, the greater part of which we had cut: the little that remained in the field, being ripe, suffered no harm; whereas, the last sown, not ripening before the frosts came on, was much injured, the cattle would scarcely touch it. There is nothing peculiar in this: water, it is well known, expands when it is frozen. Hence, all sorts of succulent plants or soft grain, having their vessels filled with a watery or juicy substance, must of necessity, when frozen, experience a disarrangement of their parts, and have their vascular structure destroyed, and consequently be liable to putrefaction and mould.
In the various transactions I have had to enumerate, I have overlooked our potato crop which was abundant; for although we had only planted half a rood, we had more than sufficient for our own use. The reader must be aware that no manure is used for anything that is grown: the land is as fat as already endured were not forgotten. The tattered appearance of our children's clothes, compared with what they had worn in England, made an impression on our minds, which even padent endurance could not resist. We were again on the eve of a hard winter with less warm clothing to meet it, than we had the preceding winter by the wear of a twelvemonth. This was one of the gloomy days in our history. The previous winter we had been prevented from attending religious worship on account of distance, we were now prevented from another cause, want of decent clothing. It was on this occasion that we perceived something more than poetry in the lines of Cowper:
"When I think of my own native land,
In a moment I seem to be there;
But alas! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair."
There was however one cheering consideration: in all respects except clothing, we were better situated than we had been the foregoing season. We had four acres more of wheat sown this year than the year before; we were now in possession of a plough; our cattle had likewise increased in value; the cow had calved again, and the former calf had grown a fine-looking heifer, we therefore saw, after all, we were gaining ground. In accordance with my pretensions, I ought here to state that both I and husband had the ague very bad this month; happily not both at the same time. This complaint is too well known to require any description of it from me. It generally attacks new settlers at the end of their first summer, and, even afterwards. At the fall of the leaf it is by no means an uncommon complaint. As land becomes better cultivated and drained, this disease is less frequent. At the present time, notwithstanding its prevalence in autumn, it rarely proves fatal, except in instances where the constitution has manifested previous symptoms of decline, and like a withered leaf is ready to be blown down by the first fresh breeze that blows. The inhabitants have various specifics, real and imaginary: a weak infusion of common pot-herbs drunk hot appears to be as efficacious as anything. When the patient ceases to shake, the ague is said to be broken, and unless fever ensue, as it sometimes happens, he is in a short time quite well.
After we had recovered, for a while nothing occurred worthy of note. As, in the winter previous, our chief employment consisted in attending to the cattle, preparing firewood, and splitting rails. As before, our cattle remained out day and night, generally resorting, during the latter, to some sheltered situation. About Christmas, a person with whom we had several interviews, named Mr. Vanderoozen, (15) came to our house and wished us to buy two young steers and a milch cow. We replied we could not purchase them for want of money. "That reason," said he, "shall not prevent you: I am going to keep a shop at St. Louis, and shall often have to come up into the country, you may pay for them when it is convenient, meanwhile I shall expect interest for my money." At the time I am now speaking of, the usual interest paid for the loan of money was twenty-five per cent per annum. It has since very properly declined to twelve per cent. Having considered Mr. Vanderoozen's proposal, we felt inclined to accept it; the only impediment was in the failure of our Indian corn crop. By using the remainder of our unsaleable wheat, however, we presumed we should be able to winter them, and felt assured that when spring arrived they would be able to do well, and greatly add to our advantages. The bargain was accordingly struck: my husband gave him a promissory note for thirty dollars, with interest for the same at the same rate. We thus appeared to have increased our possessions, and endeavoured to brave our privations and the severity of the weather as well as we could. We were obliged, nevertheless, to economize our winter fodder, which was seen in the condition of our cattle; by degrees they began to lose their flesh, a circumstance which made us doubly anxious for the return of spring.
After much anxiety and unceasing diligence to preserve the health of our stock, the first of March arrived. In a fortnight more we expected there would be plenty of fresh grass in the wilds, and we consequently looked forward to the time with pleasure, little anticipating how sudden a check to our satisfaction we were about to receive. On the third of March, who should darken our door but Mr. Vanderoozen, who had, as he expressed himself, called upon us for the money we owed him; that is to say, the thirty dollars we had agreed to give him for the steers and cow. Thunderstruck at a request so unexpected and unreasonable, we expostulated with him on the terms of the agreement, and explained our inability to answer his demands. Unfortunately the note absence my mind had been in a state of vacillation between hope and fear; but the moment I saw his countenance hope entirely fled. What kind of a night we experienced, those alone can conceive who have struggled earnestly and perseveringly with adversity without success. In vain did we extend our languid limbs on our homely couch. Spirits so disordered as ours, were beyond the powers of sleep to lull into forgetfulness. The entire labours of a twelve month were doomed to disappear. On other occasions when my spirits had been depressed, I had laid my cause before the Supreme Ruler, and found relief; but at this time I felt no disposition to look upward. We seemed despised and forsaken by all. In this state of mind we continued until morning, when a knock was heard at the door, to which my husband attended. Will the reader here believe my story? Shall I not rather be charged with fabrication? I can, however, tax no one with incredulity, inasmuch as I doubted my husband's assertion myself, when, returning from the door, he told me that Mr. B. had brought us the money, and gone away saying he could not rest any longer without lending it.
This account I am aware has too much of the air of fiction, appears too nearly allied to the marvellous to obtain general credit. It might have been suppressed, but as I am prompted to regard it as an instance of the over-ruling power of that being "who maketh the wrath of man to praise him," I deem it to be my duty to record it as it occurred, and where it is now placed. The story is now easy to conclude: the following day, to the surprise of our creditor, we paid the money, and thereby put an end to the proceedings. We had no sooner settled this affair than we turned out our cattle into the woods, having previously marked them on the right ear. The sugar trees were now ready for tapping, and as we were anxious to pay Mr. B. as soon as we could, we resolved to make the best of them, especially as sugar is an article for which money can be easily obtained. We made incisions into a great many trees, and shortly had our large kettles boiling down the liquor; the greatest difficulty we experienced arose from an insufficiency of troughs to place at the bottom of the trees. We were obliged to cork up the holes of the greater part to prevent the liquor from wasting, while the rest alternately were running into the troughs. Notwithstanding this hindrance, we made at least three hundred and fifty pounds of sugar, which enabled us to return our friend fifteen dollars, half the sum we had borrowed. For the loan of the remainder my husband agreed to work for him five days in the year, till we could return it. The sugar this year did exceedingly well; for besides raising the above sum, we exchanged about forty pounds of it for a sow and a litter of pigs, which we kept near home till they knew the premises, and afterwards allowed them to run at large till autumn.
Thus, the reader will perceive our circumstances kept improving, as we had now two milch cows, two steers almost ready for the yoke, one young heifer, a calf, a fine young mare, and the family of pigs just named. In agricultural pursuits every season presents its peculiar task to the husbandman, and situated as we were that task was not a small one; the season for sowing Indian corn had again arrived, and again we were unprepared with a team. In the whole round of our agricultural labours nothing so much perplexed us as the sowing of our corn; we had only four acres this spring as we had sown eight with wheat, and all our other land was unbroken up; having no fixed plan in view and not knowing what means to adopt to get in the seed, we were agreeably surprised one morning to behold a person in the field busy ploughing; this was Mr. Burns, the person named on a previous occasion, with whom we had formed an intimacy, or rather a friendship, which up to the time I am writing has only increased in degree and in value; in any country such a person as he would be valuable as a friend, but in the thinly inhabited regions of the "far west," his worth cannot be fully set forth; his kindness towards us at this time is, however, a specimen; he and his wife had been at our house the previous week, and perceiving our coming difficulty, gave us the above seasonable boon; we thus saw the whole of the twelve acres systematically sown: the wheat was a fine thriving crop, we therefore began to feel ourselves more composed, and to use a good old English phrase "more at home."
Hitherto we had no garden, my husband therefore dug up about a rood of fine dry land, and fenced it round with brush-work after the Yorkshire style of dead fencing; the greater part of it we planted with potatoes, and the rest with other kinds of vegetables, obtaining the seeds and plants from older settlers; before our wheat crop was ripe we had finished the fence round the new field, and rooted up the greater part of the underwood growing thereon; most of the stronger timbers we allowed to stand, having previously proceedings, adverse and successful, does not allure his fancy with ideas of visionary prosperity as the invariable result of crossing the seas, it may perchance tend to make him a little better satisfied with his present condition, though it should only be a snug little cottage in the land where his childhood was reared. If it does this, it will be something, my purpose will be served, and thus, reader, I wish thee farewell.
Note. The writer (16) feels it due to state that the subject of this narrative, as implied above, returned, after a stay in England of about three months, taking with her the daughter,(17) mentioned at the first outset as being left, the husband of the same, and their two children, besides a family or two of connections. Since their departure three or four other families from their own immediate neighbourhood have followed.
(1) Charles Bickerdike, the first of his name to settle in Pike County, came to America (and Illinois) and settled in Flint Township, Pike County, about 1828. It was the reading of" his letters to his brother in England which determined the migration of the Burlends. The Bickerdike family is still represented in Pike County, and the graves of earlier members of the line may be seen in Bethel Cemetery where Rebecca Burlend and her husband lie buried. Charles Bickerdike is also buried in Bethel Cemetery, according to family information, although no monument identifies his grave.
(2)The author and her husband had fourteen children in all. Four had died in England before the migration to America, and two more (Edward, the "eldest son" and Mary, the "eldest daughter" of the present sentence) remained behind. The five children who shared in the family migration were John, then nine years old, Hannah, eight years old, Sarah, three years old, Charlotte, and William, an infant. John served in the Mexican War and was slain in a soldiers' brawl while returning to his Illinois home. Hannah married Thomas Dalby and lived to her ninetieth year, dying at Griggsville in 1913. Sarah married Francis Allen, and Charlotte married Daniel Burns. William, the infant of 1831, died at Griggsville in 1900. Information taken from article by Jess M. Thompson in Pike County Republican (Pittsfield), July 11, 1936.
(3) The venturesome character of John Burlend, the child here alluded to, is still a matter of family tradition. Information supplied by Jess M. Thompson
(4) The author's recital serves vividly to remind the present-day reader of the fact that barely one hundred years ago the perils of piracy were braved by all who went down to the sea in ships. At least one famous pirate of the gulf region valiantly aided General Andrew Jackson in the defense of New Orleans against British attack in 1814, and for a decade thereafter piracy continued to flourish in the waters adjoining our eastern and southern seaboard.
(5) The flat-boat commerce by which the surplus produce of the upper Mississippi Valley was brought to New Orleans flourished for a generation or more, until the era of railroad construction which immediately preceded the Civil War. An Illinois youth of recent adoption who made the long journey to New Orleans the year preceding Mrs. Burlend's arrival in America bore the name of Abraham Lincoln. The journey he made was typical of thousands of similar ones performed in the period here alluded to.
(6) The river here alluded to is obviously the Missouri, rather than the Ohio.
(7) Although St. Louis dates from 1764, the increase in population was extremely slow for several decades. Upon incorporation as a city in 1823, there were only a few hundred inhabitants. By 1830, the year prior to
(8) Philips Ferry is still conducted, on or near the original site, at Valley City, where the present Editor utilized it late in the month of August, 1936. The ferry was established by Garret Van Dusen in 1822, who two years later transferred it to Nimrod Philips. The latter had come from Kentucky to Pike County about 1821; he died here a decade later. By his will, made in 1826, he bequeathed the ferry to his son, Andrew. This document, still on file in the Court House at Pittsfield, we copy in full for the entertainment of the reader:
"Illinois pike County in the name of God Amen I Nimrod Philips of the State and County aforesaid intend to travel and Not knowing but I may die before I return do make this my last will and testament first I give to Zerrelda Jean my youngest child five head of Cattle a cow cald Cherry and her Caves a horse Cald Jack three beds and furniture and all the kitchen furniture and utensils this I give to my youngest child by Nancy Philip. Nancy Norris Zerrelda Jean Philips is her name I give to Nancy Philips my wife one loom and its furniture 3 breeding Sows and their pigs six barrows for her meat She is to have her choice of the above named Hoggs She is to live where I now live at the ferry My part of the crop of corn that has been on the place this year to be hers She is to live on the place until Zerrelda is of age and have the benefit of the improved land Zerrelda is to have six dolers for 3 years Scholling 18 dollers. I give to Elizabeth Elledge my oldest daughter one doller the rest of my estate and property is to be equaly divided between my 3 children Andrew Philips, Selah Philips, Asa Philips except Andrew is to have the ferry this is my last will and testament"
(9) The will of Nimrod Philips seems to indicate that the Mrs. Philips whom Mrs. Burlend knew was a second wife of Nimrod, whose maiden name was Nancy Norris. Of her we have learned nothing apart from the vivacious picture by our author. An earlier wife of Philips who was a member of the Elledge family intermarried with the Boones, and on coming to Illinois settled in Scott County on the east side of the Illinois River from Pike.
(10) There were, commonly, three waves of migration in the settlement of any given portion of the frontier. First of all came the traders, hunters, and trappers, with no particular intention of improving the country. Second came the "squatters," who occupied (without troubling to buy legal title) a tract of land and made some slight improvements on it, frequently building a cabin and reducing one or more acres to cultivation, but relying largely upon hunting and on the natural products of the forest for their support. In the wake of the squatter came the permanent settler, who acquired legal tide to the soil and developed a home with the intention of" passing it on to his children. Oakes, the individual here noted, was evidently a squatter, who has left no record of his sojourn in the community. Of him and his kind, Mr. Jess M. Thompson, local historian, observes, "All seem to have vanished from the community at an early day."
(11) Apparently the co-author of Mrs. Burlend's narrative nodded here. The tree in question is the sumac.
(12) The farm which the immigrants thus obtained for their home is legally known as the northeast 1/4 of the northeast X of Section 6, Twp. 5 S, R. 2 W. of the Fourth P. M. It lies about two miles east of Bethel Cemetery, and about three miles north of the village of Detroit, in northwestern Detroit Township. Three miles to the northeast lies Valley City, formerly Philips Ferry. The approach of the Burlends to the farm site was, of course, by way of Philips Ferry. The original cabin site was on the face of a sloping hillside, a few rods from a spring which still gives forth a stream of clear, cool water.
(13) It seems probable that Edward Burlend, who never saw America, misunderstood what his mother actually told him concerning the corn crop. A yield of four or five ears of corn to a single stalk is so uncommon that the Editor, who grew up on an Iowa farm cannot remember ever having seen a single example. The Illinois River bottom land is very rich and still produces splendid crops of corn, but the statement that a yield of four or five ears to the stalk was common, even a century ago,' is evidently erroneous.
(14) The "Illinois Mange,'a well-known pioneer affliction, as the name itself indicates, seems not to trouble present-day denizens of Pike County. Mr. Francis Allen, a grandson of our author and now eighty years of age, who has lived his entire life in the county, informed the Editor that he had never heard of the disease. Jess M. Thompson, however, local historian (and a great-grandson of Mrs. Burlend) is familiar with its early-day prevalence in the county. He relates that local opinion attributed its occurrence to the rotting of plowed-under vegetation. Another theory attributed its ravages to the decayed fish which perished with the drying-up of ponds along the river bottoms. At Atlas, Pike County, the disease assumed the proportions of an epidemic in 1821, when many of the settlers died from it.
)15) Garret Van Dusen, a resident of Pike County from 1821 to about 1850. He was a Kentuckian and an early commissioner of Pike County, a farmer, and a stock trader. Nothing further is known concerning him, or his family. Information supplied by Jess M. Thompson.
(16) Edward Burlend whose role in writing the narrative is recited in our Historical Introduction.
(17)Mary Burlend, the daughter alluded to on previous pages, as remaining behind in England when the family migrated to America in 1831. On Feb. 10,1840, she married, in her native Yorkshire, Luke Yelliott. In 1846 the Yelliott followed the Burlends to Pike County, Illinois, where they established their permanent home, in which John and Rebecca Burlend were sheltered during their declining years. See History of Pike County, Illinois (Chicago, 1880), 444.