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STORIES OF AMERICAN LIFE AND ADVENTURE
Author of _Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans_,
_A First Book in American History_, and
_A History of the United States and its People for the Use of Schools_
American Book Company
New York : Cincinnati : Chicago
[Illustration: Grand Canyon.]
This book is intended to serve three main purposes.
One of these is to make school reading pleasant by supplying matter
simple and direct in style, and sufficiently interesting and exciting
to hold the reader's attention in a state of constant wakefulness;
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that is, to keep the mind in the condition in which instruction can be
received with the greatest advantage.
A second object is to cultivate an interest in narratives of fact by
selecting chiefly incidents full of action, such as are attractive to
the minds of boys and girls whose pulses are yet quick with youthful
life. The early establishment of a preference for stories of this sort
is the most effective antidote to the prevalent vice of reading
inferior fiction for mere stimulation.
But the principal aim of this book is to make the reader acquainted
with American life and manners in other times. The history of life
has come to be esteemed of capital importance, but it finds, as yet,
small place in school instruction. The stories and sketches in this
book relate mainly to earlier times and to conditions very different
from those of our own day. They will help the pupil to apprehend the
life and spirit of our forefathers. Many of them are such as make
him acquainted with that adventurous pioneer life, which thus far has
been the largest element in our social history, and which has given
to the national character the traits of quick-wittedness, humor,
self-reliance, love of liberty, and democratic feeling. These traits
in combination distinguish us from other peoples.
Stories such as these here told of Indian life, of frontier peril and
escape, of adventures with the pirates and kidnappers of colonial
times, of daring Revolutionary feats, of dangerous whaling voyages, of
scientific exploration, and of personal encounters with savages and
wild beasts, have become the characteristic folklore of America. Books
of history rarely know them, but they are history of the highest
kind, - the quintessence of an age that has passed, or that is swiftly
passing away, forever. With them are here intermingled sketches of the
homes, the food and drink, the dress and manners, the schools and
children's plays, of other times. The text-book of history is chiefly
busy with the great events and the great personages of history: this
book seeks to make the young American acquainted with the daily life
and character of his forefathers. In connection with the author's
"Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans," it is intended to
form an introduction to the study of our national history.
It has been thought desirable to make the readings in this book cover
in a general way the whole of our vast country. The North and the
South, the Atlantic seaboard, the Pacific slope, and the great
interior basin of the continent, are alike represented in these pages.
A White Boy among the Indians
The Making of a Canoe
Some Things about Indian Corn
Some Women in the Indian Wars
The Coming of Tea and Coffee
The Last Battle of Blackbeard
An Old Philadelphia School
A Dutch Family in the Revolution
A School of Long Ago
Stories of Whaling
A Whaling Song
A Strange Escape
The Great Turtle
The Rattlesnake God
Witchcraft in Louisiana
A Story of Niagara
Among the Alligators
Song of Marion's Men
A Brave Girl
A Prisoner among the Indians
Hungry Times in the Woods
Scouwa becomes a White Man again
A Baby Lost in the Woods
The River Pirates
A Boy's Foolish Adventure
A Foot Race for Life
Loretto and his Wife
A Blackfoot Story
How Fremont crossed the Mountains
Finding Gold in California
Descending the Grand Canyon
The Lazy, Lucky Indian
The Greatest of Telescope Makers
Adventures in Alaska
STORIES OF AMERICAN LIFE AND ADVENTURE.
A WHITE BOY AMONG THE INDIANS.
Among the people that came to Virginia in 1609, two years after the
colony was planted, was a boy named Henry Spelman. He was the son of a
well-known man. He had been a bad and troublesome boy in England, and
his family sent him to Virginia, thinking that he might be better in
the new country. At least his friends thought he would not trouble
them so much when he was so far away.
Many hundreds of people came at the same time that Henry Spelman did.
Captain John Smith was then governor of the little colony. He was
puzzled to know how to feed all these people. As many of them were
troublesome, he was still more puzzled to know how to govern them.
In order not to have so many to feed, he sent some of them to live
among the Indians here and there. A chief called Little Powhatan asked
Smith to send some of his men to live with him. The Indians wanted to
get the white men to live among them, so as to learn to make the
things that the white men had. Captain Smith agreed to give the boy
Henry Spelman to Little Powhatan, if the chief would give him a place
to plant a new settlement.
Spelman staid awhile with the chief, and then he went back to the
English at Jamestown.
But when he came to Jamestown he was sorry that he had not staid among
the Indians. Captain John Smith had gone home to England. George Percy
was now governor of the English. They had very little food to eat, and
Spelman began to be afraid that he might starve to death with the rest
of them. Powhatan - not Little Powhatan, but the great Powhatan, who
was chief over all the other chiefs in the neighborhood - sent a white
man who was living with him to carry some deer meat to Jamestown. When
it came time for this white man to go back, he asked that some of his
countrymen might go to the Indian country with him. The governor sent
Spelman, who was glad enough to go to the Indians again, because they
had plenty of food to eat.
Three weeks after this, Powhatan sent Henry Spelman back to Jamestown
to say to the English, that if they would come to his country, and
bring him some copper, he would give them some corn for it. The
Indians at this time had no iron, and what little copper they had they
bought from other Indians, who probably got it from the copper mines
far away on Lake Superior.
The English greatly needed corn, so they took a boat and went up to
the Indian country with copper, in order to buy corn. They quarreled
with the Indians about the measurement of the corn. The Indians hid
themselves near the water, and, while the white men were carrying the
corn on their vessel, the Indians killed some of them. About this
time, seeing that the white men were so hungry, the Indians began to
hope that they would be able to drive them all out of the country.
Powhatan saved Spelman from being killed by the Indians; but, now that
the Indians were at war with the white men, who were shut up in
Jamestown without food, they wished to kill all the white people in
Spelman and a Dutchman, who also lived with Powhatan, began to be
afraid that he would not protect them any longer. So, when a chief of
the Potomac Indians visited Powhatan, and asked the Dutchman and the
boy to go to his country, they left Powhatan and went back with them.
Powhatan sent messengers after them, who killed the Dutchman. Henry
Spelman ran away into the woods. Powhatan's men followed him, but the
Potomacs got hold of Powhatan's men, and held them back until Spelman
could get away. The boy managed at last to get to the country of the
It was very lucky for Spelman that he was among the Indians at this
time. Nearly all the white people in Jamestown were killed, or died of
hunger. Spelman lived among the Indians for years. During this time
more people came from England, and settled at Jamestown. A ship from
Jamestown came up into the Potomac River to trade. The captain of the
ship bought Spelman from the Indians. He was now a young man, and, as
he could speak both the Indian language and the English, he was very
useful in carrying on trade between the white men and the Indians.
At the time that Henry Spelman first went among the Indians, they had
no iron tools except a very few that they had bought of the white
people. They had no guns, nor knives, nor hatchets. They had no hoes
nor axes. They made their tools out of hard wood, shells, stones, deer
horns, and other such things. They had not yet bought blankets from
the white men, but made their clothes mostly out of the skins of
The Indians could not learn much about the white man's arts from
Spelman, because he did not know much. Besides, he had no iron of
which to make tools. He learned to make arrows of cane such as we use
for fishing rods. He also learned to point his arrows with the spur of
a wild turkey, or a piece of stone. These arrow points he stuck into
the arrow with a kind of glue. But he first had to learn how to make
his glue out of deers' horns. Before he could make any of the tools,
he had to make himself a knife, as the Indians did. Having no iron,
the blade of his knife was made out of a beaver's tooth, which is very
sharp, and will cut wood. He set this tooth in the end of a stick. You
see how hard it was for an Indian to get tools. He had to learn to
make one tool in order to use that in making another tool.
One of the principal things that an Indian had to do was to make a
canoe; for, as the Indians had no horses, they could travel only by
water, unless they went afoot. Canoes were the only boats they had.
They had to make canoes without any of the tools that white men use.
Let us explain this by a story about Henry and an Indian boy. The
things in the story may not have happened just as they are told, but
the account of how things are made by the Indians is all true.
THE MAKING OF A CANOE.
Henry had a young Indian friend whose name was Keketaw. One day
Keketaw said to him, "Let us go into the woods and make a canoe."
"If we had an ax to cut down the trees," said the white boy, "or an
adz, such as they have at Jamestown, or if we could get a hatchet, we
might make a canoe; but we have not even a little knife."
"We will make a canoe in the Indian way," said Keketaw. "I will show
you how. Let us get ready."
"What shall we do to get ready?" asked Henry.
"We must take our bows, and we must make many arrows, so as to get
something to eat, and we must have fishing lines," said Keketaw, "or
we shall not be able to live in the woods."
For some days the two boys were getting ready. It took them a long
time to scrape a piece of bone into a fishhook by means of a beaver's
tooth set in a stick, but they made three of these hooks. They made
some more hooks not so good as these by tying a splinter of bone to a
little stick. Keketaw's mother made fishing lines for them. She took
the long leaves of the plant which we call Spanish bayonet, and
separated these threads into a hard cord, rubbing them between her
hand and her knee.
"We must have swords," said Keketaw.
"We can cut our meat with this," said Henry, pointing to a knife made
of cane, such as the Indians called a pamesack.
"But the Monacans may come," said Keketaw. "If we should see one
sticking up his head, I should want a sword to fight him with; and if
we should kill him, we could cut off his scalp with it;" and Keketaw's
eyes glistened a little at the thought of fetching home a Monacan's
The Monacans were fierce Indians of a tribe living in the country west
of the Powhatan Indians. They were deadly enemies of Keketaw's tribe.
The two boys, by much slow work with stones and shells and
beaver-tooth chisels, managed to scrape a wooden sword into shape.
This, Henry was to wear at his back. Keketaw, for his part, found a
piece of deer's horn. He stuck it into a stick so that it made
something like a small pickax. With this he said he could quickly
break the head of a Monacan. It would also serve as a sort of hatchet.
The land round the village in which Keketaw lived had been cleared of
trees. This had been done by burning the trees in order to make room
for fields. In these fields the Indians planted corn, beans, pumpkins,
and tobacco, and a plant something like a sunflower, which is called
an artichoke. Of the root of this artichoke they made a kind of bread.
For many miles there were no good canoe trees near the water. They had
all been picked out and used. Henry and Keketaw traveled twenty miles
into a deep woods, and chose a tree that would make a good canoe, and
that stood near a stream which ran into the James River.
The first thing they did was to break down young trees and boughs, and
build themselves a brush tent. They made a bed out of dry leaves. The
first night they had nothing to eat, for they had no time to shoot any
game. The next morning they were too hungry to sleep late, and they
knew that squirrels are early risers. Soon after daylight the Indian
boy killed a squirrel with an arrow. Having no fire, they ate it
without cooking; for, when one is a savage, one must not be too nice.
How should they get a fire? They first took a piece of dry wood, which
they scraped flat with stones. Then, with a blow of his tomahawk of
deer's horn, Keketaw made a round hole in the wood. One end of a dry
stick was placed in this hole. The other end was supported in the
hollow of a shell which Keketaw held in his hand.
The string to Henry's bow was made of one of the cords or sinews of a
deer's leg. He wound this once round the stick. With his left hand,
Keketaw then put some dry moss about the stick where it entered the
hole in the dry wood.
When all was ready, Henry drew his bow to and fro like a saw. Keketaw
pressed the shell down on the upper part of the stick. The bow-string
holding the stick made it whirl in the hole beneath. At first this
seemed to produce no effect. After a while the rapid rubbing of the
piece of wood in the hole made heat. Presently a very thin thread of
smoke began to come up through the little heap of moss about the
stick. Henry was now pretty well out of breath, but he sawed the bow
faster than ever. At last the moss began to smolder and to show fire.
Keketaw then withdrew the smoking stick, and gathered the moss
together. Lying down by it, and putting his arm about it, the Indian
lad began to blow it gently. The smoldering fire increased until a
little blue flame, which he could barely see, appeared. Keketaw now
added some very thin paper-like bits of dry bark and some small twigs
to the pile of smoking moss. These caught fire, and sent up a
straw-colored flame. Henry put on larger twigs until there was at last
a crackling blaze.
Taking lighted sticks from this fire, the boys made a fire all round
the base of a large tree from which they meant to get the canoe. This
fire they kept going constantly for two days. They even got up at
night to put dead boughs on, it.
[Illustration: Burning down a Tree.]
On the third night of their stay in camp, they didn't lie down at the
usual time, for the tree was burned nearly through. About two o'clock
in the morning a little breeze rustled in the leaves of the great
tree. Slowly at first, then more and more rapidly, the tree fell with
a tremendous crashing sound, until with a final thundering roar it lay
flat upon the ground.
Sleepy as the boys were, they did not lie down for the night until
they had built a new fire near the trunk of the tree. Having no ax to
chop with, they had to burn the log in two. They put the fire at a
place that would cut off enough of the tree trunk to make a canoe.
The next day they built up this new fire, and then went fishing in the
neighboring stream with their bone fishhooks, and lines made of the
Spanish bayonet leaf. In two days after the fall of the tree they had
burned off the log that was to make their canoe, and had scraped off
all the bark with shells.
They then lighted little fires on top of the log, and, when these had
charred the wood for an inch or more in depth in any place, they
removed the fire and scraped away the charcoal. Then they built
another little fire in the same place. These little fires were made
with gum taken from the pine trees.
By burning and scraping they gradually dug out the inside of their
boat, scraping out one end of it while they were burning out the
other, and working at it day after day.
The only tools they had for scraping were shells from the river, and
sharp stones. Keketaw sometimes used his deer-horn tomahawk for the
same purpose. It was fourteen days from the time they first lighted
the fire at the foot of the tree until their canoe was finished. Two
more days were spent in making paddles. This work was also done by
burning and scraping.
When all was done, the canoe was slid down the soft bank into the
water. It floated right side up to the delight of its makers. The boys
now thought it would be a fine stroke to take a deer home with them.
So they pulled one end of their canoe up on the shore, and started out
to look for one.
But the first tracks they found were not deer tracks. They were the
footprints of men. Keketaw made a sign to Henry by turning the palm of
his hand toward the earth, and then moving the hand downward. This
meant to keep low, and make no noise. Then Keketaw climbed a high pine
tree. From the top of the tree he could see a number of Indians at a
spring of water.
The boy slid down the tree in haste. "Monacans on the war path!" he
whispered as he reached the ground.
Swiftly and silently the two boys hurried back to their canoe. They
wasted no time in admiring it. They gathered their weapons and fishing
lines, and got aboard. It was not a question of killing Monacans now,
but of saving themselves and their friends. They rowed with all their
might from the start.
For hours they kept their new paddles busy. They reached the village
after dark, and when they uttered the dreadful word "Monacans," it ran
from one wigwam to another. The women and children shuddered with
fear. The warriors smeared their faces with paint, to make themselves
uglier than ever, and departed. Soon after the boys had started home,
the Monacans had found their camp fire still burning. Thinking they
had been discovered, and knowing that a strong party of the Powhatan
Indians might come after them, the Monacans had hurried back to their
own home more swiftly than they had come.
SOME THINGS ABOUT INDIAN CORN.
When the white people first came to America, they had never seen
Indian corn, which did not grow in Europe. The Indians raised it in
little patches about their villages. Before planting their corn, they
had to clear away the trees that covered the whole country. Their axes
were made of stone, and were not sharp enough to cut down a tree. The
larger trees they cut down by burning them off at the bottom. They
killed the smaller trees by building little fires about them. When the
bark all round a tree was burned, the tree died. As dead trees bear no
leaves, the sun could shine through their branches on the ground where
corn was to be planted.
Having no iron, they had to make their tools as they could. In some
places they made a hoe by tying the shoulder blade of a deer to a
stick. In other places they used half of the shell of a turtle for a
hoe or spade to dig up the ground. This could be done where the ground
was soft. In North Carolina the Indians had a little thing like a
pickax which was made out of a deer's horn tied to a stick. An Indian
woman would sit down on the ground with one of these little pickaxes
in her hand. She would dig up the earth for a little space until it
was loose. Then she would make a little hole in the soft earth. In
this she would plant four or five grains of corn, putting them about
an inch apart. Then she covered these grains with soft earth. In
Virginia, where the ground was soft and sandy, the Indians made a kind
of spade out of wood.
Sometimes they planted a patch a long way off from their bark house,
so that they would not be tempted to eat it while it was green. The
Indians were very fond of green corn. They roasted the ears in the
ashes. Some of the tribes held a great feast when the first green corn
was fit to eat, and some of them worshiped a spirit that they called
the "Spirit of the Corn."
When the corn was dry, the Indians pounded it in order to make meal or
hominy of it. Sometimes they parched the corn, and then pounded it
into meal. They carried this parched meal with them when they went
hunting and when they went to war. They could eat it with a little
water, without stopping to cook it. They called it Nokick, but the
white people called it No-cake.
When the Pilgrims came to Cape Cod, they sent out Miles Standish and
some other men to look through the country and find a good place for
them to settle. Standish tried to find some of the Indians in order to
make friends with them, but the Indians ran away whenever they saw him
coming. One day he found a heap of sand. He knew it had been lately
piled up, because he could see the marks of hands on the sand where
the Indians had patted it down. Standish and his men dug up this heap.
They soon came to a little old basket full of Indian corn. When they
had dug further, they found a very large new basket full of fine corn
which had been lately gathered.
The white men, who had never seen it before, thought Indian corn very
beautiful. Some of the ears were yellow, some were red. On other ears
blue and yellow grains were mixed. Standish and his men said it was a
"very goodly sight." The Indian basket was round and narrow at the
top. It held three or four bushels of corn, and it was as much as two
men could do to lift it from the ground. The white men wondered to see
how handsomely it was woven.
[Illustration: Standish and his Men find Corn.]
Near the pile of corn they found an old kettle which the Indians had
probably bought from some ship. They filled this kettle with corn,
They also filled their baskets with it. They wanted the corn for seed.
They made up their mind to pay the Indians whenever they could find
them. The next summer they found out who were the owners of this
buried corn, and paid them for all the corn they had taken. If they
had not found this corn, they would not have had any to plant the next
spring, and so they would have starved to death.
The people that were with Miles Standish settled at Plymouth. They
were the first that came to live in New England. An Indian named
Squanto came to live with the white people at Plymouth. Squanto was
born at this very place. He had been carried away to England by a sea
captain. Then he had been brought back by another captain to his own
country. When he got back to Plymouth, he found that all the people of
his village had died from a great sickness. He went to live with
another tribe near by. When the white people came to Plymouth, they
settled on the ground where Squanto's people had lived. As he could
speak some English, and as all his own tribe were dead, he now came to
live with the white people.
The people at Plymouth did not know how to plant the corn they had
found, but Squanto taught them. By watching the trees, the Indians
knew when to put their corn into the ground. When the young leaf of
the white oak tree was as large as a squirrel's ear, they knew that it
was time to put their corn into the ground. Squanto taught the white
people how to catch a kind of fish which were used to make their corn
grow. They put one or two fishes into each hill of corn, but they were
obliged to watch the cornfield day and night for two weeks after
planting. If they had not watched it, the wolves would have dug up the
fishes, and the corn with them.
The white people learned also to cook their corn as the Indians did.