The first fall we were in Michigan, the people organized a school district and built what was known as the Tamarack School. It was made of Tamarack logs, glass windows, coarse sawed lumber floors, rude benches and writing desks and heated with a box stove. We did not go to school much the first winter, as it was one mile and three quarters, no path only marked trees and woods full, so to speak, of wild beasts.
Mason Blakeman and wife stayed with Mr. Dillon and he followed shoe making, I think for a year or more. Thomas Dexter moved into his house a few days before our folks moved. It was certainly a cabin standing in the woods. Trees standing within reach of the house, but before spring several acres were chopped and brush piled. It was an every night occurrence for deer to come close to the house to browse on the newly cut brush, as we could see in the morning when there was a little snow.
William Fuller purchased 80 acres of land lying on the east side of Thomas Dexter and he chopped five acres that winter. So there was a beginning made to open up four farms so near together that the sound of the ax and the falling of trees could be heard by each other as the great trees came thundering down on the frozen ground during those still, cold days.
The fourth place spoken of was on what is known as the Loveridge Place. Buxton lives there now. Nobody lived south closer than where Milan now is. There was one house. Mr. Marvin, at that place and some settlers along the river but no communication between us for several years.
There is one thing worth mentioning that people in old settled countries or that rich people know very little about, and that is the pleasure of mutual dependence. It was an absolute necessity that the people should all turn out and help raise a house.
It was an absolute necessity that the people should all turn out and help raise a house. When father got ready, it was known for several miles and men came with axes through the wood by following the lines for they all knew the section corner where the house was to be set. Some people came four or five miles. This afforded an excellent opportunity to get acquainted. There seemed to be a general rejoicing that a settlement of such magnitude was being made in the heart of the very heaviest timber.
My father, at that time was a fine-appearing, plain, frank man and made friends with nearly everybody. He had a family of ten children and already, two sons-in-law, and to go to Uncle Levi's was to have a good time. His house soon became the most public place in that part of the township.
There is another thing perhaps worth mentioning, at least it was very interesting to us boys, and that was the marks made on the back of beech trees by the Indians. We did not know what they signified but it was commonly believed they were designed to convey an account of some hunting or righting exploit.
I remember one of that kind, on Section 25 where the figures cut in the smooth outside bark of the beech represented an outline the figures of two men in deadly conflict. Each had grasped the other by the throat with the left hand, while the right hand of each was outstretched and holding a club in the act of striking. On the opposite side of the tree, there was the figure of a man with a gun and a short distance in front of him, was a figure of what we supposed was meant to represent a bear. On the southwest corner of Section 14 there were trees marked by surveyors and that indicated they had trouble with the Indians. All such things that could be described became landmarks to us when we hunted the cows or got partially lost during cloudy weather. It is a very disagreeable sensation, when out in heavy timber, to lose one's bearings so as not to know the way home. And every peculiar tree, walnut, oak, or any other kind, shape, size or any other peculiarity was noted in one's mind. The direction the water flowed was a sure guide.
There was just one large boulder seven or eight feet in diameter lying on top of the ground, nothing like it within more than a mile and then only two were found near together.
On the NE part of Section 24 there stood an oak tree that was six feet in diameter, tall and strait and appeared to be sound. On Section 25 there was a white wood tree that I helped chop down, full six feet in diameter but had a small, hollow at the butt for a short distance and 60 feet to the first limb. With the exception of one sycamore that was seven feet in diameter, but a mere shell, these were the largest trees in the neighborhood. When we found any of these or a great many other things that were peculiar, we knew what course to take to get home.
In hunting cows the first year, Mother worried about us boys a great deal. We had a bell on the lead cow that in ordinary weather could be heard at least one mile, and I have heard it on a still evening, three miles. But, if we could find the cows before dark and start them home, they never failed to take us home. I never knew a cow to get lost.
At the end of the first year we had about thirteen acres cleared, had raised four or five acres of corn, some potatoes, a patch of oats that was very heavy and I had, with one horse and shovel plow, dug up two or three acres and it was sowed to turnips and they were fine.
The next winter we cut down the timber so that we could see through to Thomas Dexter's and cut out the road up to Mr. Inman's.
We boys got to go to school some, and so year after year it was chop and log, chop and log.
Alva married in '35 I think and before I was 16 Utter married, but we had a clearing half a mile wide on the road, and Thomas Dexter had some twenty acres cleared, while the farm across from us had cleared out to the road. So I suppose there was perhaps one hundred acres of improved land in a body, which really was quite a hole in the woods.
Alva during this time had cleared about five acres on his farm. Wilcox had commenced improving, a mill had been built by Woodard on the River where Milan now is. William Fuller had sold his place to Mr. Withers and bought 80 acres further south, sold that to William Dexter and finally left the country and went to Wisconsin.
During this time came, William and James Wardle, John Coe, and three Hitchcock brothers, old Mr. Gilmore who bought out Calvin his son. Calvin bought 40 acres joining Blakeman. Sacket improved the place that my brother Thomas owned afterwards. Shay settled near him. Ben Redman settled where Gillett lives now on the Ridge Road. William Moore came in and built the same fall we did. David Eaton bought Elsby's farm where Jerome Gooding's widow now lives. Aylsworth, Harringtons, Matthew Dillon with his three boys, one married, and four girls moved into William Dillon's house and stayed, I think, two years. It was during that time that my brother Alva married his oldest daughter, Lorretta. Her mother was a cousin of my father, her maiden name being Anna Ryan. Matthew afterwards bought land and settled in Hillsdale Co.
Mr. Wheller and Othniel Gooding came into the country in the spring of 1834. Wheeler bought out Snow, Thayer and Hall, and contracted for a little sawmill to be built in the year 1835.
But there is not necessity for particularizing for the whole country became settled except sections 25 and 26. They were bought for speculation and were held for several years for that purpose. There was one family that settled on the S.26 corner of Section 15 who came into the country in 1835 by the name of Aaron Warren, accompanied by his brother in law, John Blakeslee. Warren bought out his brother, Albert and Blakeslee bought out Mourton who joined him on the south on Section 22. They brought two girls with them by the name of Jane and Mary Ann Bonney, whose parents had died when they were young. Jane lived with Blakeslee and Mary with Warren, who had no children of his own. Jane was about 15 and Mary 13. Their coming to that country, proved afterwards to be an important matter to me as the sequel will show.
About 1836 a log church house was built on what had now become a laid out road known as the Ridge Road, the best route from Ypsilanti to Adrian, crossing the Saline River at Mooreville. The building of that log meeting-house was an important event for that community. It soon became a rendezvous of the people for miles around, and its whole influence in molding public sentiment will never be known to any one person. It certainly was a wild looking place at the time it was built, but people soon had it cleaned up around it.
Many people came to meeting on foot or rode after ox teams. In the spring and summer when it was wet twas a common thing to wear old shoes and stockings and for the big girls to go barefoot until they got near to church, there find a pool of water, wash their feet, put on clean stockings and their shoes which they had carried, stuff their old shoes in a hollow log or stump and go into church as presentable as need be.
In the year 1837, we had about 40 acres cleared off that was very productive. John and Thomas were large enough to help considerable so I was allowed to work for Mr. Wheeler one month in May for 10 dollars so I got some clothes. Then in the fall, I worked one month for Mr. Gooding while they were gone to the State of NY on a visit. William Dexter was working for Gooding by the month at that time.
In the next January, I commenced working for Othniel Gooding at (91 dollars a month.) Saved to myself enough to buy a suit of good clothes that cost $25. Father had the remainder. During the previous years he had incurred a debt that I felt bound to help pay so that when my time was out at Gooding, he had taken a job of clearing 10 acres of land for Parley Phillipps for which he obtained $120. I was the oldest boy at home and was expected to and did do a large part of the work and did it according to contract. Before the Phillipps job was finished, Rather had agreed to clear another 10 acres at the same price, which we did.
But before we commenced, our plans were somewhat frustrated. We had been successful in raising a good crop of corn, oats, hay, wheat, turnips, and potatoes. Levi and I could do a man's work each and cleared up twelve acres of the old sugar brush and were feeling pretty good, had the corn husked and the potatoes partly dug, when one Saturday night in October, I was awakened by my mother's call about two or three o'clock in the morning and soon aroused enough to know the house was on fire. When I started to go down the stairs were on fire so as to cut off my escape in that direction. I hurried to the other end of the room and got out of the window and fortunately found a ladder standing leaned against the house where it had been used for picking hops. John was sleeping with me so we were able to get down but it was too late to save the house. We managed to save three beds and a lot of yarn that was ready for weaving and some chairs.
When daylight came all the clothes I had was an old pair of pants and the shirt I had worn through the week. No shoes, no hat. I, a boy of 18 and unable to go anywhere in company for the want of clothes. It looked dark.
John Dexter gave me a pair of shoes and an old hat. The whole family was destitute, no dishes or furniture, certainly we were objects of pity.
One of the greatest losses sustained by that fire was my Grandmother McLouth's papers and records, dishes (her pewter ware), bric-a-brac, the savings of a lifetime. Her husband's enlistment and discharge papers of service during the Revolutionary War were among them.
Another special sufferer was my sister, Annie. She had planned to marry the coming winter and now most of her clothes were burned and our folks were in no condition to assist, so that marriage was postponed.
It was a terrible blow. Annie and myself were the oldest at home and the main dependence of our parents at that time. Mother had fallen and dislocated her shoulder and for a time, was helpless. Father was getting old and the load suddenly thrown upon us seemed ready to overwhelm us at times.
Its effect upon us was to bring us very close together in our sympathy, and a tender sisterly and brotherly affection was felt, stronger than for any other relative we had, and I still think that my sister Annie was one of the noblest women I ever knew.
Well, we had reason to be thankful for the neighbors came on the next Tuesday with axes and teams and in a week's time, we had a new house. Thomas Dexter and Mr. Robinson took their teams and went soliciting aid, and they succeeded in picking up odds and ends of clothing, bedding, dishes, etc., so that by the time the house was done, we had enough to keep us warm, but how it looked!
I stop to remark that my father and mother never recovered from that loss; and never again were the same hopeful, cheerful pair they had been. On the contrary, assumed the appearance of people who had been disappointed in their aspirations.
However, I staid at home and Levi and I finished the fall work and during the year, cleared off the 10 acres of Phillipps as well as cleared and cleaned up about home.
I shall have to tell one out of many bear stories as an illustration of the way we spent our time while I should have been in school.
During the summer and fall of 1840, a bear that was bolder than any we had ever known continued to prowl around and had caught two hogs not very far from the house. On one occasion, brother John and Tirzah Blakeman (his sister) ran to drive it off and the bear took after them frightening them terribly. Another time one caught a hog near Bro Alva's. He got his gun and shot at it but missed and it took after him. Later in the season my brother, John staid at Oliver Blakeman's wife for company and to help her do the chores. Their dog made such a fuss John went to see what was the cause and he reported seeing a bear but we thought he was mistaken and laughed at him.
On Christmas we had planned a deer hunt. The night before a light snow had fallen and I was sent down the road to William Dexter's with the dogs while the men went down the road to Youngs to wait for the deer to cross the road near where Charley Buxton now lives. (Note from Gram. I remember Grandpa said three of the dogs were Ring, Beaut, and Belle. He should have told how the bear mauled them. Guess he forgot.) I found a bear's track and followed it until I found it had gone up a large white wood tree. Of course, I hurried to inform the men. At first they did not believe me but on investigation, decided I was right. We got axes and commenced cutting down the tree which stood just in the edge of the clearing, not more than thirty rods from Oliver Blakeman's house.
Before we got the tree half down the bear which was a large one, came out and down taking us all by surprise. It backed down and when about 20 feet from the ground, snarled or growled so viciously that the men who were chopping dropped their axes and got their guns as quickly as possible.
I was standing 30 or 40 feet from the tree at the time and no one at that moment was watching for the bear. There were eleven men and boys and seven had guns. The dogs had gone after a deer that someone had wounded. That unearthly growl and the showing of those vicious teeth was not soon to be forgotten, and as soon as the men stepped back from the tree the bear just let go and dropped to the ground, landed on his rump, and gathered himself up and started to run. He had not gone more than eight or ten feet before my brother, Utter, and Ira Hitchcock both fired at almost the same instant. Both hit him in the left fore shoulder. Before he ran fifty feet, Harrison Flewelling shot him again fight through the body back of the ribs. We knew how it was hurt for the blood spurted out on both sides from the last shot and the bear could not step on its left fore foot.
I reckon we were about as excited a lot of men as ever it was my privilege to behold. The bear ran west across Section 26 and 27, almost to Mooreville and then turned around and ran east into the big woods and swamps of Augusta. About 3 o'clock he ran into some hunters who shot and killed him, about a quarter of a mile ahead of our company.
That bear, wounded as it was, had run eight or nine miles, faster than the men could although it barely kept out of their way.
When the tree was cut down, there was found, at the forks, sixty or seventy feet from the ground, a great hollow for eight of ten feet that could not be seen from the ground and had probably served as a den for many years. The mystery was explained. That old bear was slow to give up her den and had been prowling around the neighborhood all the latter part of the summer. Having become old, she had also grown bold. Up to that time fourteen bear had been killed in that immediate neighborhood. But that was the last, no difficulty in keeping hogs after that.
(Note from Gram: When the bear got away and started to run, they put the dogs after her and she made a stand. Mauled the dogs severely. Old Ring and Belle, also badly hurt, stayed with her.)
There are one or two things to say about bears that I have never seen in print and the next generation of Americans will see less bear than our generation has. Bears, like coon, live on vegetables or animal food, preferring vegetable. I have never known them to trouble hogs in the fall of the year when there are plenty of hickory nuts, acorns, beechnuts, wild plums, corn or wild ripe thorn apples, and like coon they put on fat very fast and put it on outside the carcass between muscle and skin.
We killed one that rendered nearly four gallons of pure oil. It's a habit of bears to stretch themselves up their utmost height by the side of trees three or four inches through and bite and tear off bark, leaving the marks of their teeth that will show for years.
That is enough bear.
In 1840 William Harrison was elected to the Presidency after one of the most noisy and vigorous campaigns of the century. One in which the real issue was hidden most completely of any during my lifetime. The real issue was re-charting of the National Bank.
The Democratic Party had refused so to do under the leadership of Jackson and Van Buren. "Two dollars a day and Roast Beef." (Gram: "Sounds familiar yet in this year 1945, 105 years later.") The party represented Harrison as a western man and log cabins, coonskins, hard cider, and cornbread as the party emblems. "Old Tippecanoe." But they made one fatal mistake as has been done several times since; they nominated a vice president who entertained different views from the President. Harrison, like Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley in later years, died. The object for which all that display was made failed for Tyler vetoed the Bill to re-charter the National Bank for the reason it would give Europeans a chance to control our finances. Such is politics and has been as long as I a can remember. (Note: Gram. "Perhaps if the National Bank hadn't been granted a re-charter it would have saved us from World Wars 1 and 11. The complicated international financial agreements and cartels constitute the greatest threat to reconversion at the present time, in my opinion. Oct. 1945")
In the spring of 1841, finding Father's business in fair shape, my younger brothers, old enough to attend to the farm, I was allowed to work out for wages and worked for Esquire William Moore six months for $12 per month with which I bought a new suit of clothes. The next year I worked for the same man for 40 acres of land and as I was to work and pay for the clothes and spending money necessary for me to have during the tear. It took me one year and almost half of another to pay out on it.
I had found time during all the days that passed to read a large number of books. In fact, spent many an evening reading until eleven and even twelve o'clock. Our folks, that is, Father, Mother, Grandmother McLouth, Annie, and the younger brothers took to reading, and consequently we were furnished with a larger number and greater variety of books than any of the neighbors that I was acquainted with.
My mother's name, Daraxa was taken from a novel, the title of which was Osmin and Daraxa, a Spanish tale, the plot of which was laid in the struggle between Spain and Morocco or Christianity and Mohammadism and was in many respect similar to Walter Scott's, Ivanhoe. Like Ivanhoe it gave the reader an idea of the customs and habits of the people of those times.
I remember reading another book that I since have to be rare, no other than Lady Mary Wortley Montague's description of Turkey as she was the wife of the first ambassador that England ever sent to Turkey. There was one or two things in that book that made an impression on my mind. It was the custom of that people to manufacture articles in the same building in which they were sold. The front room used for salesroom and the backrooms for living and working rooms. Instead of keeping clerks and salesmen, every article was marked and the price made plain. The customer, if he found what he wanted, left the money and took the article without disturbing anyone. The laws were very strict in favor of honesty and were very severe on the dishonest. There was a case in point where a Baker was accused of cheating in the weight of bread. In the morning he was tried, convicted, and hung the same day. Honesty was a virtue in that country at that time.
The other peculiarity was the method of the soldiers in showing their devotion to their Sovereign by mutilating and wounding themselves until they were bloody from head to foot as they were being reviewed by the Sultan.
The Ponca Indians had a very similar custom when first brought into the Indian Territory near Baxter Springs, Kansas. They gave an exhibition or at least one of their feasts was advertised and a great many white people attended. One of their performances consisted in mutilating themselves by gathering up the flesh just below the shoulder and above the waist piercing it and drawing a thong through it and fastening it.
This body of work was originally transcribed by Jessie Fuller Hoover (Granddaughter), then copied by Mary Louise Hamilton Rogers (GG Granddaughter) for the website. The original narrative was owned by Lynn Sale (Granddaughter of Jessie Fuller Hoover)
A special 'thank you' to Mary Lou Hamilton Rogers for her generosity in sharing this extremely interesting piece of history for the Washtenaw Co., MI USGenWeb site.