Mary Hazelton Blanchard Wade.

The coming of the white men; stories of how our country was discovered online

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[Illustration: THE NORSEMEN]


Stories of How Our Country was Discovered




_Copyright_, 1905,
_All rights reserved._



The true American is happy in the thought that his country is a great
and glorious one. He can say with his heart as well as his lips, "This
is the land of the Free and the home of the Brave."

Those who journey far from their native land and find themselves in
foreign countries tell us how they are stirred and thrilled when by
any chance the stars and stripes of the American flag meet their view.
These stars and stripes stand for the struggles for freedom, the brave
deeds in the cause of right and justice, the heroism of those who have
laid down their lives that their country should still live, and the
brother-love that binds together all the men, women, and children who
can say, "I am an American!"

It is only right that the boys and girls of America, as soon as they
are able to understand, should hear the stories of those who took the
first steps toward the building of this nation—those who risked life
and fortune and who were willing to face unknown dangers for the sake
of freedom.

If these boys and girls of America are to grow up with the earnest
desire of keeping the sacred trust that must descend to them; if they
are to keep this country the land of the free and the home of the
brave; if their aspirations and ideals shall be of the highest and the
purest, so that the powers and privileges of America shall increase
rather than diminish with the coming years, then let the plant of
patriotism take root early in their hearts that it may grow with their
growth and blossom in perfect fullness with their maturer years.



















THE NORSEMEN _Frontispiece_ 18







His name wasn't Sam and he wasn't their real uncle, but everybody else
called him Uncle Sam, so Joe and Lucy followed their example.

He was tall and thin and had a sharp face. A funny little tuft of
hair grew on his chin and when he was thinking deeply he was fond of
stroking this tuft with his big bony hand.

His clothes always seemed to be old-fashioned. When the neighbors were
speaking of him they would sometimes say, "How much he looks like the
newspaper pictures of 'Uncle Sam.'"

"Whenever I meet him, he somehow makes me think of America," said Joe's
father. "I never knew anyone who loved his country as dearly as he
does. He is perfectly happy whenever he can get anyone to listen to
stories of our great men and the things that happened here long ago."

It was for these reasons that people began calling him Uncle Sam before
Joe and Lucy were born.

His real name was Ebenezer Wilkins, but the children had to stop and
think before they could remember it. He lived in a cosy little cottage
at the end of the village and kept house there all alone from one
year's end to another.

Everybody loved him. His kind blue eyes looked tenderly upon each child
in the place. If measles or chicken-pox shut a boy or girl away from
playmates, Uncle Sam was sure to hear of it. Then, when his day's work
was done and he had eaten his supper of bread and milk, he would visit
the sick child and make him forget his troubles as he told stories
of boys and girls who lived in the early days of the white people in

Joe and Lucy were twins. Somehow or other Uncle Sam had grown to love
them more than any other children in the country round. When they were
babies he used to dandle them on his knees. He taught them to take
their first steps alone. He bought a book of "Mother Goose's Melodies"
on purpose to learn the rhymes and afterwards repeat them to the
listening babies.

Sometimes he even stayed home from church on Sunday mornings so as to
take care of these twins and give their father and mother a chance to
go away together.

"Twins are a great care, a great care," he would say slowly. But he
would add with a twinkle in his eyes, "They are never too much of a
care for Uncle Sam."

"He is better than any _real_ uncle in the world," said Joe, as he and
Lucy opened the gate leading into the old man's garden.

It was a summer evening and the sun was just setting. The rows of
hollyhocks and marigolds looked prettier than ever in the sunset light.

"Uncle Sam loves bright things," said Lucy, looking at the flowers. "He
is always finding something new to admire. That is why I like to walk
in the woods with him."

"He shows me many things I should never see myself," answered Joe.

By this time the children had reached the door of the house, and
stepped inside. They never stopped to knock; Uncle Sam would not have
liked it.

"I've brought you some cookies, Uncle Sam," said Lucy, handing a
covered dish to the old man. "Mother made them this morning. She put
raisins in them because she knew you are fond of fruit cookies."

Uncle Sam was pleased when he lifted the napkin and looked at his

"I can make bread and cook meat and potatoes, but cake is beyond my
skill. It takes women-folks to do such work." The old man laughed
softly as he put the cookies away in the cupboard.

"It is a lovely evening. Won't you come out on the porch and tell us
stories in the twilight?"

As Lucy spoke, she reached up and put her arms around Uncle Sam's neck.
He was so tall he had to bend down to let her do so.

"I suppose you want me to tell you about Cinderella for the fiftieth
time, or maybe you would rather hear about Aladdin and his Wonderful

"No, Uncle Sam," said Joe before Lucy had a chance to answer. "We
are getting too big for fairy stories. We have just begun to study
geography at school. We like it better than anything we've ever had.
So Lucy and I have been talking it over. We said we would ask you to
tell us true stories now about America, and the Indians, and the brave
white people who first dared to come here, you know, and all such

Uncle Sam fairly beamed with delight.

"I've been thinking of that very thing, children. I have been longing
for the time when you would like to hear some of the history of this
glorious country. You will like it, too. Why, it is better than any
fairy stories that ever were told."

In five minutes more the old man was sitting in his big easy chair on
the porch. Lucy was perched on one of the broad arms of the chair, and
Joe on the other.

"We are all ready, so please begin," said Lucy, coaxingly.

"Very well. Shut your eyes for a minute so you cannot look at those
rows of hollyhocks in front of you. I want you to see a different
picture. You must take a peep at this country of ours before a white
man ever set foot on it."

"All right; I am ready, for my eyes are shut tight," cried Joe with a

"Now, then. First you must notice the great forests that stretch over a
large part of the land. Wild beasts are roaming about in the darkness
of those woods. Wolves and foxes, bears and wildcats live a free and
happy life, for the sound of a gun has never yet been heard.

"Turn your thoughts next to the great plains of the west. Thousands
of buffaloes are wandering about. The herds are so vast that in some
places the earth is fairly black with them.

"Here and there, over the country, stand the villages of the Red Men.
They are usually built near the shores of streams or ponds so that
fresh water may be plentiful.

"There are no stores, no factories, no churches, no roads, from one
shore of America to the other.

"At first, it may seem strange to you that the Indians made no roads,
for they were traveling a good deal of the time. They moved their homes
whenever the game became scarce where they happened to be living.
Besides that, they delighted in war and one tribe was continually
taking some other one by surprise.

"They did not, however, go about in the way white people do. They
journeyed on foot in single file and the narrow paths they trod through
the forests can be seen to this day. Some of those paths are hundreds
of years old. They are many miles in length. Such paths are called

"I have traveled over one of the Indian trails. It was in the state of
New York. It made me feel queer as I thought of the painted Red Men who
so long ago made that path through the dark woods.

"The clothing and houses of these people were quite different in the
different parts of this country. The games and festivals of one tribe
were often unlike those of any other.

"Some Indians lived in tents covered with the skins of wild animals.
Others had houses of birch bark. Then again, there were tribes who
braided grasses into pretty mats with which they covered the framework
of their houses.

"The food was also different. In the south, where the air is warm and
pleasant almost all the year, the Red Men ate a great deal of fruit.
Up here in the north they lived largely on the corn that the women
planted and tended, while out on the great plains they ate quantities
of buffalo meat."

Lucy's eyes opened wider and wider as the old man talked.

"I didn't need to close them at all," she said. "I can always see the
pictures you paint with words. You make them so bright, Uncle Sam."

"Some other time, my dear, we will talk more about the Red Children,
but now we will turn to the first white men who visited America.

"The first visitors from Europe were bold Norsemen. Their homes were
in the far north. There were many deep, narrow bays along the shores
of their own country and they loved the ocean from the time they
were born. While they were still children, they learned to sail over
its rough waves, and by the time they were young men they were quite
fearless. The worst storms and the fiercest winds did not make them

"From year to year they kept sailing farther and farther westward in
their queer boats."

"Why were they queer, Uncle Sam?" asked Lucy.

"They would seem queer to us because they had such high prows and
sterns and because large figures of dragons and other strange creatures
were often carved on the ends of the boats. The sails, too, were of a
different shape from any you ever saw.

"But let me go on with my story. It happened one time that some
Vikings, as these brave Norse seamen were called, sailed so far into
the west that they came to an island they had never seen before. This
was Iceland. You have heard the name, haven't you, children?"

"Yes, Uncle Sam."

"Iceland lies about half-way between Europe and America, but it is much
farther north than we are. The Norsemen who came upon it by accident,
called it Snowland."

"I think that is a pretty name. I wish it were called Snowland, now,"
said Lucy, half to herself.

"Yes, it is a pretty name," said Uncle Sam. Then he went on.

"The one who first saw Iceland did not remain there. He went back to
Norway. Four years later, another Norseman was driven to the coast of
Iceland by a storm. Before he left it, he sailed all around its shores
and found it was an island.

"When he got home again, he said it was such a pleasant place that
another daring Viking decided to go to Iceland to live. He carried
seeds for planting and cattle to furnish milk and meat. He stayed there
all one winter. It was so cold that the poor cattle died.

"When spring came, the Norseman made ready to plant his seeds, but the
land was still covered with ice. 'This is not a fit place for anyone to
live,' he cried. He once more packed his goods on his ship and sailed
for Norway.

"That, however, was not the end of the white men's life in Iceland.
Ten years after that another band of Norsemen went there and settled.
They lived in peace and comfort. Children were born and grew up in that
cold island of the north. They were carefully taught by their parents
and became wise men and women. This settlement in Iceland lasted for
hundreds of years.

"You children may wonder why I tell you so much about the Norsemen
coming to Iceland, but it is like the first step of a ladder. Perhaps
you are getting tired, though, and do not wish to hear any more

"O no, we are not a bit tired, Uncle Sam," said both Lucy and her

"Well, then, if Iceland was the first step toward America, Greenland
was the second one.

"Some of the early settlers in Iceland were driven westward in a storm
while they were out sailing. It was then that they first saw the rocky
shores of Greenland.

"A good many years after this there was a certain man living in Iceland
named Eric the Red. He did not get along very well with his neighbors
and had many quarrels with them. He said to himself:

"'I will seek that land west of us and will make a home for myself

"He sailed away from Iceland and was not heard of again for three
years. When he came back on a visit, he spoke of the place where he had
been living as 'Greenland.' He thought:

"'If I give it a good name, others will like to go there and settle.'"

"Now I know why it was called Greenland," said Lucy, laughing.
"Whenever we sing 'From Greenland's Icy Mountains,' I always wonder
about the name. I knew it must be a cold and icy land, because of the
words of the hymn."

"Yes, that was the way of it. The name Greenland sounded very pleasant
to the people of Iceland and a large company of them went back with
Eric to settle among the icy mountains you sing about.

"We come now to the third accident and the third step that brought the
Norsemen to our own land.

"Eric the Red had sons. They were bold and daring sailors, like their
father. During the long winter evenings they used to listen to the
stories of the older people. There was one that they liked best of
all. It was the tale of a young man named Biarne who was trying to find
the way from Iceland to Greenland. His father had gone there with Eric,
and Biarne wished to follow him.

"He started off in the right direction. When he had sailed out of sight
of land, a thick fog settled down. Then a north wind began to blow. Day
after day, the ship was driven by the strong north wind. Biarne could
do nothing but wonder, 'Where are we going? Surely, this wind will
never carry us to Greenland.'

"At last the fog cleared away and not long after that the Norseman
and his crew found they were sailing near a shore on which trees were
growing. Low hills rose behind it. It could not be Greenland, truly,
for Biarne had been told that the hills there were high and that they
were covered with ice.

"When Biarne refused to land, his men were quite angry. 'I must go on
with my search for my father,' he told them. 'I only care now to find

"Again they set sail and after two more days they saw land again. It
was low and wooded, so Biarne knew that this could not be the country
he was seeking.

"'I will not stop here,' he told his men. Of course they grumbled, but
they were obliged to do as he wished.

"Three more days passed, and a land with high and snowy mountains came
into sight.

"'I am sure this is not Greenland, either,' said Biarne, and he would
not stop. He sailed along its shores, however, long enough to find it
was an island.

"In three days from that time, he reached the shores of Greenland. When
Biarne at last cast anchor he was very near that part of the country
where his father was living.

"Whenever Eric's sons heard this story of Biarne, they thought, 'When
we grow up, we will go to sea. Then we will try to find the country
with green hills and many trees. Who knows what else we shall see in
such a pleasant land?"

"The time came at last when the eldest son of Eric was old enough to
start on a long voyage. It was in the year 1000. Biarne went with him.

"The first shore that met their eyes was Newfoundland. They landed and
found it was a plain covered with stones. They returned to the ships
and soon Nova Scotia came in sight.

"After they had looked over that land, they started once more and
sailed southward. They came to our own New England. I believe they were
not a hundred miles away from where we are this very minute.

"They were much pleased with the place. They found plenty of large
salmon in the waters. Trees grew everywhere about them. The air was
much warmer and pleasanter than in Greenland.

"There was one thing which delighted them more than anything else. They
found vines with great bunches of grapes growing upon them. This is how
it happened. One night one of their party was missing. He had gone with
a few men to look around and see what they could discover. This man was
a German and his name was Tyrker. His friends came back without him. He
had wandered away from them. They believed he was lost.

"Everyone felt bad. They thought they should never see him again. Some
of them went to hunt for the missing man. They had not gone far when
they met him. He seemed wild with joy. He could hardly speak, he was so
glad. At first, his friends thought he had lost his mind.

"After a while he was able to say that he had found vines with grapes
upon them. He knew what they were, for he had seen grapes growing in
his own country of Germany.

"It seemed too good to be true. They all knew that the wine they liked
so well was made from grapes. They followed Tyrker and found the vines
he had described.

"What a treasure they had discovered! Stores of grapes were gathered
day after day and carried on board the ship. Trees were also cut down,
for the people in Greenland would be glad to have all the lumber their
friends could bring them.

"The Vikings said, 'We will call this place Vinland because of the
grape vines we have found.'

"As soon as the ship had been loaded with all it could carry, the
joyful party left our shores and turned northward once more. During
their short visit here they saw no other people.

"When they reached home they told such bright stories of their visit
that others wished to go to Vinland.

"Another party of Norsemen soon started. When they got here, they met
some people who must have been Eskimos. These savages were quite short
and had broad faces. They had skin boats such as the Eskimos use to
this day."

"I never heard of Eskimos around here!" said Joe in surprise.

"I don't know how to explain it except in this way," replied Uncle Sam.
"In those days the Eskimos, or some of them, must have lived along
these shores, for the Norsemen certainly found them here. The Indians
may have driven them away afterwards. We can only guess about it.

"The last Norsemen who came here did not stay long. Many things
happened to prevent it. I will tell you of one of these, because it is
really funny.

"A bull which the Norsemen had brought among their cattle rushed out
of the woods one day. It frightened some Eskimos who had come to trade
with the white men. They managed to reach their boats and paddled away
as fast as they could go. They thought the bull was some dreadful
creature the Norsemen would use against them in war.

"They went away, as I said, but they returned with great numbers of
their own people. The Vikings said that they were now like a rushing
torrent. They came to fight and to drive the white men from their

"It would have been a sad day for the Norsemen if it had not been for
one brave woman. They were fleeing from the Eskimos when she rushed out
and faced the savages. She did not try to attack them, but began to
strike at herself with a sword. They were so startled that they turned
and fled to their boats.

"This was only one of the many adventures the Vikings had in Vinland.
They had so many troubles that after a few years they made up their
minds to remain in Greenland."

"How do you know all these things are true, Uncle Sam? Did the Norse
people write books about them?"

"Those are good questions, Joe. The Norsemen did not write any history
of themselves at that time. They did not know how to write. They were
great story-tellers, however, and during the long winter evenings they
used to tell, over and over again, the things that had happened to
them. They made songs about their adventures. Their children learned
these songs and when they grew up they taught them to their children.
Hundreds of years afterwards Roman priests came among them and told
them of the Christian God. At the same time the priests taught them
to read and write. They now began to write down the history of their

"But, dear me, children, I have been so busy talking I never thought
how late it is growing. There is your father at the gate. He must be
coming for you."

"Thank you, Uncle Sam," said Lucy, as she kissed the old man
good-night, "I enjoyed what you told us ever so much."

"I am glad you started with the Norsemen," said Joe. "I always like to
hear the first part of anything. So, of course, as you are going to tell
us the story of America, we ought to know the very beginning of it."

"My dear boy," said Uncle Sam, "no one knows the real beginning. All
I could do was to start with the coming of the white men to this



"Here we are, Uncle Sam. We came early so there would be time for a
good long story."

The old man sat reading his newspaper in the soft light of the setting
sun. He looked up with a pleasant smile to greet the twins as they came
arm in arm down the path.

"So you did not get too tired last night, Joe?" he replied. "I didn't
know but that you would beg me to go back to fairy stories and leave
true ones till you get older."

"Fairy stories indeed!" exclaimed the boy with a look of scorn. "Lucy
and I both want to hear about real people. Don't we Lucy?"

"Of course; we said so last night, and we think so more than ever now.
Have you made up your mind what to tell us next, Uncle Sam? But perhaps
you want to finish your newspaper."

"Newspapers can wait till little folk are asleep in their beds, my
darlings. Besides, I have a story all ready and waiting. It is knocking
at the door of my mind this very moment and saying, 'Please let me out,
please let me out.' So out it must come. There, Joe, stretch yourself
comfortably in that hammock; and Lucy, take the steamer chair and draw
it up close by my side. Now I hope you are both ready for a visit to
another part of the world.

"We won't take any trunks, and there will be no sea-sickness, nor
trouble of any kind. So let us start at once on a voyage across the
Atlantic Ocean.

"Whew! Here we are safe and sound on the shores of Italy. The waves are
rolling gently and the air is sweet and pleasant.

"A dark-skinned boy is sitting on the edge of the wharf and looking out
to sea. He is watching the ships coming into port. He can see a tiny
speck in the distance but he knows it is the top of some mast. As he

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Online LibraryMary Hazelton Blanchard WadeThe coming of the white men; stories of how our country was discovered → online text (page 1 of 8)