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Forest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier online

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covered, one-horse vehicle, to which was speedily transferred
myself and baggage.

"When we set out from S******, it wanted about an
hour and a half of sunset ; and it was calculated that, by
good driving, we could reach p**** a little past midnight,
which would give me the whole of the morning in advance
of the regular stage, and enable me to be ready to take it
when it should pass that way.

" For some three or four hours every thing went on very
pleasantly the road being a good one, and leading
through a fine but rather sparsely settled country, and
Mr. Kinney relieving the tedium of travel by congenial

"During our intercourse I had become much attached
to him. He was a man of no little intellectual capacity,
of manners the most pleasing, and apparently possessed a
rare refinement of thought and speech. He had studied
much, read much, traveled much, and had been at all times
a deep and practical thinker at least such seemed evident
from his conversation. There was scarcely a subject that
he did not seem familiar with, and he could at all times
express his ideas clearly and concisely. Though contend-
ing for the highest morality, he was not, so far as I could
judge, wanting in that true benevolence which excludes
bigotry, and affirms a conviction that there are good men
among all classes and denominations. In short, by one


means and another, he made himself so agreeable, that I
more than once thanked fortune for our acquaintance, and
secretly regretted that our arrival in the city of N******
would probably bring about a final separation.

"Night having set in as we journeyed onward and
our route, owing to the deep darkness of the heavy wood
through which the road mostly lay, being too uncertain
for any thing like speed and Mr. Worrell also becoming
deeply interested in the remarks of his clerical friend, who
just at this time had become more than usually entertain-
ing our horse was allowed to pick his way forward at a
gait most pleasing to himself.

" When it was, therefore, that we left the main road, I
do not know; but at length my attention was called off
from the absorbing narration of the Rev. Mr. Kinney, by
discovering, from the motion of our vehicle, that we were
actually plunging into deep ruts or gullies, and jolting
over stumps or stones, in a manner inconsistent with the
idea of being upon a regularly traveled stage-route.

" ' Excuse me for interrupting you,' said I to my clerical
friend, 'but have we not got off the main road?'

" ' Upon my faith, it would seem so !' he replied. 'Eh !
friend Worrell how about this ? Surely no stage passes
over ground like this V

" 'There must have been a heavy rain here, and gullied


the road,' answered Worrell ; ' for my horse has been
along here too often to mistake the way.'

" 'I think it will all come right presently, Mr. Withers/
said the clergyman, addressing me. 'The road is some-
what rough, it is true ; but I believe it is the main road,
nevertheless. Let me see I where was I ? Oh, yes I
remember !' and forthwith he resumed his story, and went
on to its conclusion, occupying some fifteen minutes more,
and we all this time jolting, rocking, and pitching as badly
as ever.

" 'Well, upon my word, friend Worrell,' he said, as soon
as he had finished his narration, ' I am seriously inclined
to believe you have got out of the main road indeed !'

" ' I do not see how that can be,' replied the other ; 'for
certainly the instinct of my horse would not permit him to
turn aside from a route which he must know leads to good
quarters. '

" ' Still,' said I, ' there, is a possibility of our having
turned off from the main route ; and I think, before we go
any further, a careful examination should be made.'

" ' So think I,' coincided the Rev. Mr. Kinney.

"'Well, gentlemen,' rejoined Worrell, 'I will wager
half-a-dozen bottles of wine that we are right; but to
satisfy you, I will agree to make an examination in five
minutes, if we do not come to smooth traveling before that


" We rode on, slowly but roughly, our way being very
dark and running through a heavy wood ; but after a lapse
of more than the time specified, finding our road had not
improved, I insisted upon a halt and a careful examination
of the locality.

" ' Certainly,' said Mr. Kinney, ' an examination must be
made here, for I think myself there is some mistake. Do
not disturb yourself, however, Mr. Withers,' he added, as
he left the vehicle with his friend, 'but remain quietly
where you are, and we will soon have the matter set right.'

"After leaving the carriage, my two companions walked
away together a few paces, as if to make an examination
of the surrounding scene, and I heard them conversing
together in low, cautious tones.

" And then it was, I scarcely know how nor why, that a
strange feeling of distrust and suspicion began to creep
over me. Who were these men ? Pshaw ! one of them
was a clergyman and could I suspect a man of his sacred
calling ? and the other was his friend. Ha ! but did I
know him to be a minister of the gospel ? Might he not be
a wolf in sheep's clothing ? I then remembered having
heard of noted desperadoes and robbers assuming a
clerical appearance for the purpose of carrying out some
sinister design ; and my suspicions being now fully
aroused, I thought rapidly and even painfully, and recalled
a hundred little incidents, nothing as it were in them-


selves, but now seeming to form a chain of evidence that
should be duly weighed and considered.

" Who was this Mr. Kinney ? I had met him as a
stranger in a strange place ; he had in a manner pressed
himself upon my acquaintance ; he had proposed accom-
panying me, and had done so, notwithstanding such
obstacles as would have deterred most travelers from a
like proceeding ; he had absented himself, perhaps to find
a confederate ; he had unexpectedly, and somewhat myste-
riously, found a friend on the route, and persuaded me to
accept of a private conveyance instead of the regular
coach ; and we had apparently got lost on a plain road,
or else turned into some by-path in a manner that seemed
to prove some design rather than accident !

" What could all this mean ? It might mean much, or
it might mean nothing. But I was not a poor traveler ; I
had a large sum of money in my possession ; a large sum
of money might be a temptation to men of reputed
integrity, to say nothing of its effect upon professional
robbers or highwaymen ; and under the circumstances, was
it not best for me to look out for myself ? I thought so.
Could there be any harm in my being upon my guard ?
Certainly not. If they were honest men, I should do them
no wrong ; if they were dishonest men, I should but do
justice to them and myself.

"All these thoughts flashed through my brain, seemingly


in a moment of time ; and the first thing I did was to feel
for my pistols, a loaded pair of which I always carried
concealed about my person. I drew them forth, and
examined them with my ram-rod. To my utter amazement
and alarm, I found they were capped, but empty!

" Then it was that my suspicions became confirmed ; and
I remembered of once having left them in my room, to
which my clerical friend had access. Instantly I felt the
hot blood rush to my temples, and beads of cold perspira-
tion seemed to start from every pore.

"Gracious heavens ! perhaps 1 was on the point of being
murdered !

" Quickly, but quietly, I reloaded my weapons, and
capped them anew. Then stealing softly and silently from
the covered vehicle, I found myself in a deep hollow, with
a heavy wood on either side of the narrow by-road. My
companions were still conversing in low tones at a short
distance. Stealthily I crept up to within a few feet of
them, just in time to hear the voice of the reverend gentle-
man say :

" ' Yes, Charley, I tell you it can be done in that way.
We will announce that we have made a mistake ; and then,
in our apparent endeavor to turn the carriage, we will
manage to cramp and upset it. Then, as you pretend to
assist Withers to get out, you can seize him in such a
manner as to pitch him forward upon the ground, so that


we can both spring upon him at the same time, drag him
into the bushes, and put an end to him where his blood will
not show upon the path.'

"I heard this, and, without waiting for a reply, stole
round to the back of the carriage, to await the result. I
could have escaped, but a large portion of my money was
contained in my traveling trunk, and 1 was resolved that
that should not fall into the hands of the villains, even if
they escaped themselves.

" I had scarcely got myself into the position intended,
when Mr. Worrell came up to the carriage ; and addressing
me, whom he supposed to be still inside, he said, with a
laugh, that he believed he had lost the wine, for by some
means or other we had got upon a by-road, but himself and
friend would soon turn the carriage about and regain the
main route. He then advised me to keep perfectly quiet,
that he would manage the matter in a moment or two, and
so forth and so on : to which I replied speaking through
the back portion of the vehicle, so that my voice sounded
within that, having an easy seat, I was not disposed to
leave it unless he required more help.

"The two then commenced turning the vehicle, and so
managed matters as to upset it as they intended. I still
carried out my part and uttered a groan as if from within.

"'Good Lord, sir, are you much hurt?' exclaimed

Worrell, in a sympathetic and anxious tone.



" I groaned again.

" 'Ah 1 sir, what a blundering accident !-let me assist yon !'

" And as he began to feel carefully forward for that pur-
pose, I slipped quietly round to the side where he stood,
and, seizing him from behind, fiercely hurled him to the
ground, where his head, fortunately for me, struck against
a rock and deprived him of consciousness.

" ' Villain !' cried I, cocking my pistols and turning upon
Kinney, whom in the faint light I discovered in the act of
springing forward, ' you are caught in your own vile snare,
and shall not escape. Take that, thou doubly-dammed
monster, and return to thy master !'

"I pulled one trigger as I spoke, but the cap only
exploded and the pistol remained undischarged. The
next moment, along with a bitter curse, there came a flash,
a report, and a seeming blow upon my forehead ; and by a
strange feeling of dizziness which immediately followed, I
comprehended that I was shot myself, and believed that my
hour had come. Staggering backward, I fell to the ground ;
but did not lose my consciousness, nor my presence of mind ;
and as the ruffian sprung forward to finish his work, I raised
my other pistol, just as he was in the act of bending over
me, and providentially sent its contents so directly through
his heart that he fell back dead, almost without a groan.

" Gentlemen, I need not prolong my story. I was
wounded by Kinney's shot, but not seriously the ball


having glanced from the frontal bone without fracturing it,
producing dizziness and confusion without depriving
me at any moment of consciousness. I therefore was
enabled to get up in time to bind Worrell before he
recovered from the effects of his fall; and righting the
vehicle, and placing him and his dead companion within
it, I led the horse back to the main road, and drove on to
the nearest village, some two or three miles distant, where
I roused the inn-keeper and several of the inhabitants, told
my story, and placed both the living and the dead in the
hands of the proper authorities.

" Subsequently I appeared at the trial of Worrell, and
had the satisfaction of seeing him convicted and sentenced
to a long period of imprisonment. During that trial it
came out that both he and Kinney were well known rob-
bers, belonging to an organized band of desperadoes ; and
that even before the appearance of the pseudo clergyman
at L****, there had been concocted a design to waylay
and murder me for my money. Unsuspecting myself, I
had fallen into their easiest trap, and by a kind Providence
had barely been saved from a fearful doom.

" But I assure you, gentlemen, the lesson was one which
I have never forgotten, and shall ever remember ; and I
think no pne can blame me for henceforth insisting upon
every man proving himself worthy of confidence before I
put faith in him."

$tt til

HORSE-STEALING, during the early settling of the Great
West, was one of the means, if not of border warfare, at
least of border annoyance, to both the whites and Indians.
The Indians stole from the whites whenever they could,
and in retaliation the whites frequently formed themselves
into small parties and penetrated through the dense forests
to the Indian towns for a like purpose. Sometimes these
predatory parties were successful, and got off with their
booty without molestation ; but it frequently happened that
they were pursued by the party wronged ; and when over-
taken, a fierce and bloody conflict was generally the result.

About the year 1791, or 1792, the settlers along the Ohio
river being sufferers in a great degree from the incursions
of their forest neighbors, a small, intrepid band of hunters,
or scouts, resolved to act upon the aggressive ; and as their
numbers were too few for venturing an attack upon the
savages at their towns, they decided upon the next best
thing the stealing and running off of as many horses as

they could manage.


This party was composed of the best men that could be
got together for such a daring, lawless purpose, but num-
bered only seven all told. And yet these seven were all
experienced hunters, trained from. their very youth to a
perfect familiarity with all the mysteries and perils of the
forest from the finding of their way to a given quarter,
for a hundred miles, by signs only known to the practiced
woodsman, to the rousing and killing of all the wild
animals, and even more savage men and regarded them-
selves as a company sufficiently strong for the purpose they
had in view.

In fine spirits, therefore, they set out on their latest-
planned expedition ; and crossing the Ohio from the Yir-
ginia shore, they proceeded, with strong determination and
due caution, to push their way through the almost unex-
plored forest, which stretched away for many a goodly
league from the right bank of the river named.

Always keeping a subdued fire, if any, in their camp at
night, and at least two of their number watching by turns,
they penetrated far into the Indian country without meet-
ing with any mishap, and at last found themselves in the
vicinity of an Indian town, somewhere near the dividing
ridge between the head- waters of the Muskingum and San-
dusky rivers.

The Indians, being so far inland from the settlements of

the whites, were not of course expecting such visitors, and



were in consequence entirely off their guard ; and the night
following their arrival in the vicinity, our little band of
adventurers stole cautiously around the outskirts of the
town, and, getting in among the horses, succeeded in
securing fourteen of the best, each man bridling and mount-
ing one and leading another. These they managed to get
away with little or no noise, and without attracting the
notice of their enemies ; and when they found themselves a
couple of miles from the village, with neither sign of pursuit
nor of their proximity having been discovered, it required
all the caution and prudence which they had acquired in
their long years of stern experience, to prevent them from
congratulating themselves on their success by a series of
hilarious shouts and yells. They did not ride fast through
the night, for their present safety would not admit of it,
however much a goodly distance from their enemies might
have increased their security ; but they kept their horses
steadily in motion, in a southern direction, and anxiously
watched for the coming dawn. Just before the break of
day they halted, and hastily prepared their morning's meal ;
and then, with the return of light, they remounted and
dashed away, believing that the Indians would now discover
their loss, and probably set off in hot pursuit.

All through that anxious day they urged their animals
through the thick, dark wood, at the utmost speed that
could be accomplished, and only halted for their camp at


night when they found, from the jaded condition of their
horses, it would not be judicious to take them further with-
out food and rest. Selecting a pleasant little dingle,
through which flowed a tiny stream of pure water, and
where luxurious grass and wild flowers proclaimed the fer-
tility of the soil, they hoppled their horses and picketed
them ; and then, starting a fire, they cooked their own
supper, and ate it with the relish of hardy and hungry men.

Knowing that a goodly stretch of country now lay
between them and the Tillage where they had committed
their depredations, our borderers had little fear of moles-
tation ; but they were not disposed to neglect all proper
precautions, and two of their number remained on guard
through the night, which passed off without disturbance.

At an early hour the next morning, they again set for-
ward, in fine spirits, and rode hard all day, reaching about
nightfall an excellent camping-ground on the right of Will's
Creek, in the present county of Guernsey, Ohio, and near
the site of the present town of Cambridge. Here one of
the most active of the party, one William Linn, complained
of violent pains and cramps in his stomach, and declared
himself unable to ride another mile. A halt for the night
was accordingly decided on ; but for some cause, which
not a man of the company could rationally explain, all
regarded this camp as more dangerous than the one of the
night preceding ; and the extra precautions were taken of


placing three sentinels at different intervals on the back
trail, to keep a sharp look-out for pursuers ; while the
other three, who were well, were to prepare their evening
meal and minister to the sick man as best lay in their

Such simple remedies as they chanced to have with
them were given to Mr. Linn, but without producing any
favorable result ; in fact, he gradually grew worse instead
of better ; and his pains at times became so excrutiating as
to compel him to screech out in tones that could be heard
afar through the dreary solitude of the gloomy forest.
Rough, hardened, and unrefined ; as were the companions
of the sick man, they were men of heart, and not devoid of
sympathy for a suffering fellow-being, and they did what
they could to aid, cheer, and console him, cautioning him
at the same time to suppress if possible his cries of agony,
lest the sounds should reach pursuing or out-lying foes
and bring destruction upon all.

The three at the camp having refreshed themselves by a
frugal but hearty meal, they immediately relieved the three
sentinels, who proceeded to do the same ; after which,
towards midnight, the whole party collected together, and
held a consultation upon the supposed danger. As they
had seen no Indians since quitting their village, some
forty-eight hours previously, and no signs of any during
their present watch, and as it was now waxing late into the


night, and no trail could be easily followed after dark, it
was thought that no apprehension of an attack need be
felt ; and that with one man to stand guard and wait upon
the suffering Mr. Linn, the rest might camp down in safety
and get a few hours of needful rest. The party to act as
sentinel was decided by lot, and fell upon one William
McCollough a cool, brave, intrepid Indian hunter, who
subsequently rose to the command of a company in the war
of 1812, and fell at the battle of Brownstown in Hull's

The immediate camp of our adventurers was on a
small branch of Will's creek ; and around the cheerful fire
there kindled, five weary men lay down to snatch a few
hours of repose, and were soon fast asleep Linn and
McCollough only remaining awake the former wrapped
in his blanket and stretched on the ground between the
fire and water, rolling and groaning with pain and the
latter stationed on the edge of a thicket, just beyond the
reach of the fire-light, where he could best see about him,
and be ready to give instant alarm at the first approach of

In this position of affairs some three or four hours passed
away ; the only sounds that broke the solemn stillness
being the slight movement of some of the horses picketed
near, the dismal hooting of an owl, the distant howling of
a wolf, and the occasional groaning of the sufferer, with


perhaps the exchange of a few words between him and the
sentinel the fire, meantime, burning gradually down, and,
in its dying flickers, throwing strange, fantastic shadows
over the quiet scene.

At length, Mr. Linn, with a louder groan than usual,
and a sharp cry of pain, raised himself upon his elbow,
and exclaimed :

" Oh, my God ! my God ! I can't stand this no longer
every breath I draw is killing me. Here, Bill quick 1 let
me try one thing more some hot salt and water and if
that thar don't help me, may Heaven have mercy on my
poor, sinful soul ! Take my cup here," he added, some-
what gaspingly, as McCollough stepped hastily forward,
" and heat me some water, with a handful of salt in't, and
let me try that. Quick ! quick ! for God's sake I for I'm
in the agonies of death !"

McCollough seized the cup alluded to, and running to
the water, only a few feet distant, filled it, and hastened
back to the dying fire ; but as he stooped down and
raked some coals together, for the purpose of heating it,
he suddenly discovered, with a feeling of considerable
uneasiness, if not alarm, that the water in the vessel was
unusually muddy.

"Excuse me, Linn 1" he said, starting hastily to his feet,
and glancing quickly and suspiciously around him ; " but
I'm afeard all the rest o' us is in danger as well as you."


" Ha ! what's the matter ?' asked Linn.

" So'thing's muddied this water, by gitting into it; and
that so'thiug, I'm afeard, is Injuns!"

" Better call up the boys, and git their opinions, and, if
thar's danger, have 'em ready for it !" returned Linn, with
a groan of blended fear arid pain.

Linn had not ceased speaking, ere McCollough was
actively carrying out his suggestion ; and the five heavy
sleepers were suddenly roused, each with a vigorous shake
and the single word " danger," which was communicated
in a low but ominous tone to the sense of hearing. As one
after another they started up, with expressions of alarm,
and instinctively grasped their weapons, McCollough ex-
claimed, with a warning gesture :

" Hist ! boys keep quiet don't make a noise I It's
eyther nothing, or thar's trouble about ; but don't let's
draw it on to us by child's play."

He then went on to state what he had discovered, and
what were his suspicions ; and as soon as he had finished,
the opinion of his comrades was quickly and unanimously
given, that the "sign" justified a belief in danger, and that
he had done right in waking and putting them on their
guard, and that prudence demanded a careful search, which
they forthwith proceeded to make.

Separating themselves, and quickly gliding away beyond
the fire-light, they stealthily approached the bank of the



little stream, and passed up and down it for several rods ;
listening to the faintest sound, and peering cautiously into
tlie darkness ; but, unfortunately for them, as the sequel
will show, neither hearing nor perceiving aught to justify
a belief in the proximity of savage foes. When they had
all again collected together, one of the party said, address-
ing McCollough:

" Bill, you're ginerally purty sure on Injun sign ; but I'll
lay one of my captur'd bosses agin yourn, that you've
made a mistake this time."

"Bill did right in waking us, though," said another,
" for there mought have been Injuns about, and we lost all
our top-knots."

"And thar may be yit, for what you know, Tom,"
rejoined McCollough; "for so'thing above has riled the
water, and it's jest as like to be Injuns as any thing else ;
and the fact that we hain't found 'em, don't prove they

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Online LibraryEmerson BennettForest and prairie, or, Life on the frontier → online text (page 21 of 22)