Henry David Thoreau.

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I. TREES 329








SNOWBERRY, Carbon photograph (page 227) Frontispiece








THE MAINE WOODS was the second volume collected
from his writings after Thoreau's death. Of the material
which composed it, the first two divisions were already
in print. " Ktaadn and the Maine Woods " was the title
of a paper printed in 1848 in The Union Magazine,
and " Chesuncook " was published in The Atlantic
Monthly in 1858. The book was edited by his friend
William Ellery Channing.

It was during his second summer at Walden that
Thoreau made his first visit to the Maine woods. It was
probably in response to a request from Horace Greeley
that he wrote out the narrative from his journal, for
Mr. Greeley had shown himself eager to help Thoreau
in putting his wares on the market. In a letter to Emer
son, January 12, 1848, Thoreau writes: "I read a part
of the story of my excursion to Ktaadn to quite a large
audience of men and boys, the other night, whom it
interested. It contains many facts and some poetry."
He offered the paper to Greeley at the end of March,
and on the 17th of April Greeley responded: "I inclose
you $25 for your article on Maine scenery, as promised.
I know it is worth more, though I have not yet found
time to read it; but I have tried once to sell it without
success. It is rather long for my columns, and too fine
for the million ; but I consider it a cheap bargain, and
shall print it myself if I do not dispose of it to better
advantage. You will not, of course, consider yourself


under any sort of obligation to me, for my offer was in
the way of business, and I have got more than the worth
of my money." But this generous, high-minded friend
was thinking of Thoreau's business, not his own, for in
October of the same year he writes, " I break a silence
of some duration to inform you that I hope on Monday
to receive payment for your glorious account of ' Ktaadn
and the Maine Woods/ which I bought of you at a
Jew's bargain and sold to The Union Magazine. I am
to get $75 for it, and as I don't choose to exploiter you
at such a rate, I shall insist on inclosing you $25 more
in this letter, which will still leave me $25 to pay various
charges and labors I have incurred in selling your arti
cles and getting paid for them, the latter by far the
most difficult portion of the business."

The third of Thoreau's excursions in the Maine woods
was made very largely for the purpose of studying In
dian life and character in the person of his guide. He
had all his life been interested in the Indians, and Mr.
Sanborn tells us what is also evident from his journal
- that it was his purpose to expand his studies into a
separate work on the subject, for which he had col
lected a considerable amount of material from books
as well as from his own observations. After his return
from the Allegash and East Branch he wrote as fol
lows to Mr. Blake under date of August 18, 1857: "I
have now returned, and think I have had a quite profit
able journey, chiefly from associating with an intelligent
Indian. . . . Having returned, I flatter myself that the
world appears in some respects a little larger, and not
as usual smaller and shallower for having extended my


range. I have made a short excursion into the new
world which the Indian dwells in, or is. He begins
where we leave off. It is worth the while to detect new
faculties in man, he is so much the more divine; and
anything that fairly excites our admiration expands us.
The Indian who can find his way so wonderfully in the
woods possesses so much intelligence which the white
man does not, and it increases my own capacity as
well as faith to observe it. I rejoice to find that intel
ligence flows in other channels than I knew. It redeems
for me portions of what seemed brutish before. It is a
great satisfaction to find that your oldest convictions
are permanent. With regard to essentials I have never
had occasion to change my mind. The aspect of the
world varies from year to year as the landscape is dif
ferently clothed, but I find that the truth is still true, and
I never regret any emphasis which it may have inspired.
Ktaadn is there still, but much more surely my old
conviction is there, resting with more than mountain
breadth and weight on the world, the source still of fer
tilizing streams, and affording glorious views from its
summit if I can get up to it again."



ON the 31st of August, 1846, 1 left Concord in Massa
chusetts for Bangor and the backwoods of Maine, by
way of the railroad and steamboat, intending to accom
pany a relative of mine, engaged in the lumber trade
in Bangor, as far as a dam on the West Branch of the
Penobscot, in which property he was interested. From
this place, which is about one hundred miles by the river
above Bangor, thirty miles from the Houlton military
road, and five miles beyond the last log hut, I proposed
to make excursions to Mount Ktaadn, the second highest
mountain in New England, about thirty miles distant,
and to some of the lakes of the Penobscot, either alone
or with such company as I might pick up there. It is
unusual to find a camp so far in the woods at that season,
when lumbering operations have ceased, and I was glad
to avail myself of the circumstance of a gang of men be
ing employed there at that time in repairing the injuries
caused by the great freshet in the spring. The mountain
may be approached more easily and directly on horse
back and on foot from the northeast side, by the Aroos-
took road, and the Wassataquoik River; but in that
case you see much less of the wilderness, none of the
glorious river and lake scenery, and have no experience
of the batteau and the boatman's life. I was fortu
nate also in the season of the year, for in the summer
myriads of black flies, mosquitoes, and midges, or, as
the Indians call them, " no-see-ems," make traveling in


the woods almost impossible; but now their reign was
nearly over.

Ktaadn, whose name is an Indian word signifying
highest land, was first ascended by white men in 1804.
It was visited by Professor J. W. Bailey of West Point
in 1836; by Dr. Charles T. Jackson, the State Geolo
gist, in 1837; and by two young men from Boston in
1845. All these have given accounts of their expeditions.
Since I was there, two or three other parties have made
the excursion, and told their stories. Besides these, very
few, even among backwoodsmen and hunters, have ever
climbed it, and it will be a long time before the tide of
fashionable travel sets that way. The mountainous re
gion of the State of Maine stretches from near the White
Mountains, northeasterly one hundred and sixty miles,
to the head of the Aroostook River, and is about sixty
miles wide. The wild or unsettled portion is far more
extensive. So that some hours only of travel in this di
rection will carry the curious to the verge of a primitive
forest, mofe interesting, perhaps, on all accounts, than
they would reach by going a thousand miles westward.

The next forenoon, Tuesday, September 1, I started
with my companion in a buggy from Bangor for "up
river," expecting to be overtaken the next day night at
Mattawamkeag Point, some sixty miles off, by two more
Bangoreans, who had decided to join us in a trip to the
mountain. We had each a knapsack or bag filled with
such clothing and articles as were indispensable, and
my companion carried his gun.

Within a dozen miles of Bangor we passed through
the villages of Stillwater and Oldtown, built at the falls


of the Penobscot, which furnish the principal power by
which the Maine woods are converted into lumber.
The mills are built directly over and across the river.
Here is a close jam, a hard rub, at all seasons; and then
the once green tree, long since white, I need not say as
the driven snow, but as a driven log, becomes lumber
merely. Here your inch, your two and your three inch
stuff begin to be, and Mr. Sawyer marks off those spaces
which decide the destiny of so many prostrate forests.
Through this steel riddle, more or less coarse, is the ar
rowy Maine forest, from Ktaadn and Chesuncook, and
the head-waters of the St. John, relentlessly sifted, till
it comes out boards, clapboards, laths, and shingles such
as the wind can take, still, perchance, to be slit and slit
again, till men get a size that will suit. Think how stood
the white pine tree on the shore of Chesuncook, its
branches soughing with the four winds, and every in
dividual needle trembling in the sunlight, think how
it stands with it now, sold, perchance, to the New
England Friction-Match Company ! There were in
1837, as I read, two hundred and fifty sawmills on the
Penobscot and its tributaries above Bangor, the greater
part of them in this immediate neighborhood, and they
sawed two hundred millions of feet of boards annually.
To this is to be added the lumber of the Kennebec, An-
droscoggin, Saco, Passamaquoddy, and other streams.
No wonder that we hear so often of vessels which are
becalmed off our coast being surrounded a week at a
time by floating lumber from the Maine woods. The
mission of men there seems to be, like so many busy
demons, to drive the forest all out of the country, from


every solitary beaver swamp and mountain-side, as soon
as possible.

At Oldtown, we walked into a batteau-manufactory.
The making of batteaux is quite a business here for the
supply of the Penobscot River. We examined some on
the stocks. They are light and shapely vessels, calculated
for rapid and rocky streams, and to be carried over long
portages on men's shoulders, from twenty to thirty feet
long, and only four or four and a half wide, sharp at
both ends like a canoe, though broadest forward on the
bottom, and reaching seven or eight feet over the water,
in order that they may slip over rocks as gently as pos
sible. They are made very slight, only two boards to a
side, commonly secured to a few light maple or other
hard-wood knees, but inward are of the clearest and
widest white pine stuff, of which there is a great waste
on account of their form, for the bottom is left perfectly
flat, not only from side to side, but from end to end.
Sometimes they become "hogging" even, after long
use, and the boatmen then turn them over and straighten
them by a weight at each end. They told us that one
wore out in two years, or often in a single trip, on the
rocks, and sold for from fourteen to sixteen dollars.
There was something refreshing and wildly musical to
my ears in the very name of the white man's canoe, re
minding me of Charlevoix and Canadian Voyageurs.
The batteau is a sort of mongrel between the canoe and
the boat, a fur-trader's boat.

The ferry here took us past the Indian island. As we
left the shore, I observed a short, shabby, washerwoman-
looking Indian, they commonly have the woebegone


look of the girl that cried for spilt milk, just from
"up river," land on the Oldtown side near a grocery,
and, drawing up his canoe, take out a bundle of skins
in one hand, and an empty keg or half -barrel in the other,
and scramble up the bank with them. This picture will
do to put before the Indian's history, that is, the history
of his extinction. In 1837 there were three hundred and
sixty-two souls left of this tribe. The island seemed de
serted to-day, yet I observed some new houses among
the weather-stained ones, as if the tribe had still a design
upon life; but generally they have a very shabby, for
lorn, and cheerless look, being all back side and wood
shed, not homesteads, even Indian homesteads, but in
stead of home or ab road-steads, for their life is domi aut
militia, at home or at war, or now rather venatus, that
is, a hunting, and most of the latter. The church is the
only trim-looking building, but that is not Abenaki,
that was Rome's doings. Good Canadian it may be,
but it is poor Indian. These were once a powerful tribe.
Politics are all the rage with them now. I even thought
that a row of wigwams, with a dance of powwows, and
a prisoner tortured at the stake, would be more respect
able than this.

We landed in Milford, and rode along on the east side
of the Penobscot, having a more or less constant view of
the river, and the Indian islands in it, for they retain all
the islands as far up as Nicketow, at the mouth of the
East Branch. They are generally well-timbered, and
are said to be better soil than the neighboring shores.
The river seemed shallow and rocky, and interrupted by
rapids, rippling and gleaming in the sun. We paused a


moment to see a fish hawk dive for a fish down straight
as an arrow, from a great height, but he missed his prey
this time. It was the Houlton road on which we were
now traveling, over which some troops were marched
once towards Mars' Hill, though not to Mars' field, as
it proved. It is the main, almost the only, road in these
parts, as straight and well made, and kept in as good
repair as almost any you will find anywhere. Every
where we saw signs of the great freshet, this house
standing awry, and that where it was not founded, but
where it was found, at any rate, the next day; and that
other with a waterlogged look, as if it were still airing
and drying its basement, and logs with everybody's
marks upon them, and sometimes the marks of their
having served as bridges, strewn along the road. We
crossed the Sunkhaze, a summery Indian name, the
Olemmon, Passadumkeag, and other streams, which
make a greater show on the map than they now did on
the road. At Passadumkeag we found anything but
what the name implies, earnest politicians, to wit,
white ones, I mean, on the alert to know how the elec
tion was likely to go; men who talked rapidly, with sub
dued voice, and a sort of factitious earnestness you could
not help believing, hardly waiting for an introduction,
one on each side of your buggy, endeavoring to say much
in little, for they see you hold the whip impatiently, but
always saying little in much. Caucuses they have had,
it seems, and caucuses they are to have again, vic
tory and defeat. Somebody may be elected, somebody
may not. One man, a total stranger, who stood by our
carriage in the dusk, actually frightened the horse with


his asseverations, growing more solemnly positive as
there was less in him to be positive about. So Passa-
dumkeag did not look on the map. At sundown, leaving
the river road awhile for shortness, we went by way of
Enfield, where we stopped for the night. This, like most
of the localities bearing names on this road, was a place
to name which, in the midst of the unnamed and unin
corporated wilderness, was to make a distinction with
out a difference, it seemed to me. Here, however, I no
ticed quite an orchard of healthy and well-grown apple
trees, in a bearing state, it being the oldest settler's house
in this region, but all natural fruit and comparatively
worthless for want of a grafter. And so it is generally,
lower down the river. It would be a good speculation,
as well as a favor conferred on the settlers, for a Massa
chusetts boy to go down there with a trunk full of choice
scions, and his grafting apparatus, in the spring.

The next morning we drove along through a high and
hilly country, in view of Cold-Stream Pond, a beautiful
lake four or five miles long, and came into the Houlton
road again, here called the military road, at Lincoln,
forty-five miles from Bangor, where there is quite a vil
lage for this country, the principal one above Old-
town. Learning that there were several wigwams here,
on one of the Indian islands, we left our horse and wagon
and walked through the forest half a mile to the river,
to procure a guide to the mountain. It was not till after
considerable search that we discovered their habita
tions, small huts, in a retired place, where the scenery
was unusually soft and beautiful, and the shore skirted
with pleasant meadows and graceful elms. We paddled


ourselves across to the island side in a canoe, which we
found on the shore. Near where we landed sat an Indian
girl, ten or twelve years old, on a rock in the water, in
the sun, washing, and humming or moaning a song
meanwhile. It was an aboriginal strain. A salmon-spear,
made wholly of wood, lay on the shore, such as they
might have used before white men came. It had an
elastic piece of wood fastened to one side of its point,
which slipped over and closed upon the fish, somewhat
like the contrivance for holding a bucket at the end of a
well-pole. As we walked up to the nearest house, we were
met by a sally of a dozen wolfish-looking dogs, which
may have been lineal descendants from the ancient In
dian dogs, which the first voyageurs describe as "their
wolves." I suppose they were. The occupant soon ap
peared, with a long pole in his hand, with which he beat
off the dogs, while he parleyed with us, a stalwart,
but dull and greasy-looking fellow, who told us, in his
sluggish way, in answer to our questions, as if it were
the first serious business he had to do that day, that there
were Indians going " up river " he and one other to
day, before noon. And who was the other ? Louis Nep
tune, who lives in the next house. Well, let us go over
and see Louis together. The same doggish reception,
and Louis Neptune makes his appearance, a small,
wiry man, with puckered and wrinkled face, yet he
seemed the chief man of the two ; the same, as I remem
bered, who had accompanied Jackson to the mountain
in '37. The same questions were put to Louis, and the
same information obtained, while the other Indian stood
by. It appeared that they were going to start by noon,


with two canoes, to go up to Chesuncook to hunt moose,
to be gone a month. " Well, Louis, suppose you get
to the Point (to the Five Islands, just below Mattawam-
keag) to camp, we walk on up the West Branch to
morrow, four of us, and wait for you at the dam,
or this side. You overtake us to-morrow or next day,
and take us into your canoes. We stop for you, you stop
for us. We pay you for your trouble." " Ye'," replied
Louis, " may be you carry some provision for all,
some pork, some bread, and so pay." He said,
"Me sure get some moose;" and when I asked if he
thought Pomola would let us go up, he answered that
we must plant one bottle of rum on the top; he had
planted good many; and when he looked again, the
rum was all gone. He had been up two or three times;
he had planted letter, English, German, French,
etc. These men were slightly clad in shirt and panta
loons, like laborers with us in warm weather. They did
not invite us into their houses, but met us outside. So
we left the Indians, thinking ourselves lucky to have
secured such guides and companions.

There were very few houses along the road, yet they
did not altogether fail, as if the law by which men are
dispersed over the globe were a very stringent one, and
not to be resisted with impunity or for slight reasons.
There were even the germs of one or two villages just
beginning to expand. The beauty of the road itself was
remarkable. The various evergreens, many of which are
rare with us, delicate and beautiful specimens of the
larch, arbor- vita?, ball-spruce, and fir-balsam, from a
few inches to many feet in height, lined its sides, in


some places like a long front yard, springing up from
the smooth grass-plots which uninterruptedly border it,
and are made fertile by its wash ; while it was but a step
on either hand to the grim, untrodden wilderness, whose
tangled labyrinth of living, fallen, and decaying trees
only the deer and moose, the bear and wolf can easily
penetrate. More perfect specimens than any front-yard
plot can show grew there to grace the passage of the
Houlton teams.

About noon we reached the Mattawamkeag, fifty-six
miles from Bangor by the way we had come, and put up
at a frequented house still on the Houlton road, where
the Houlton stage stops. Here was a substantial cov
ered bridge over the Mattawamkeag, built, I think they
said, some seventeen years before. We had dinner,
where, by the way, and even at breakfast, as well as
supper, at the public-houses on this road, the front rank
is composed of various kinds of " sweet cakes," in a con
tinuous line from one end of the table to the other. I
think I may safely say that there was a row of ten or a
dozen plates of this kind set before us two here. To
account for which, they say that, when the lumberers
come out of the woods, they have a craving for cakes
and pies, and such sweet things, which there are almost
unknown, and this is the supply to satisfy that demand.
The supply is always equal to the demand, and these
hungry men think a good deal of getting their money's
worth. No doubt the balance of victuals is restored by
the time they reach Bangor, Mattawamkeag takes
off the raw edge. Well, over this front rank, I say, you,
coming from the " sweet cake " side, with a cheap phi-


losophic indifference though it may be, have to assault
what there is behind, which I do not by any means
mean to insinuate is insufficient in quantity or quality
to supply that other demand, of men, not from the woods
but from the towns, for venison and strong country fare.
After dinner we strolled down to the " Point," formed by
the junction of the two rivers, which is said to be the
scene of an ancient battle between the Eastern Indians
and the Mohawks, and searched there carefully for
relics, though the men at the bar-room had never heard
of such things ; but we found only some flakes of arrow
head stone, some points of arrowheads, one small leaden
bullet, and some colored beads, the last to be referred,
perhaps, to early fur-trader days. The Mattawamkeag,
though wide, was a mere river's bed, full of rocks and
shallows at this time, so that you could cross it almost
dry-shod in boots; and I could hardly believe my com
panion, when he told me that he had been fifty or sixty
miles up it in a batteau, through distant and still uncut
forests. A batteau could hardly find a harbor now at its
mouth. Deer and caribou, or reindeer, are taken here
in the winter, in sight of the house.

Before our companions arrived, we rode on up the
Houlton road seven miles to Molunkus, where the Aroos-
took road comes into it, and where there is a spacious
public house in the woods, called the "Molunkus
House," kept by one Libbey, which looked as if it had
its hall for dancing and for military drills. There was
no other evidence of man but this huge shingle palace
in this part of the world; but sometimes even this is
filled with travelers. I looked off the piazza round the


corner of the house up the Aroostook road, on which
there was no clearing in sight. There was a man just
adventuring upon it this evening in a rude, original,
what you may call Aroostook wagon, a mere seat,
with a wagon swung under it, a few bags on it, and a
dog asleep to watch them. He offered to carry a mes
sage for us to anybody in that country, cheerfully. I
suspect that, if you should go to the end of the world,
you would find somebody there going farther, as if just
starting for home at sundown, and having a last word
before he drove off. Here, too, was a small trader,
whom I did not see at first, who kept a store, but no
great store, certainly, in a small box over the way,
behind the Molunkus sign-post. It looked like the bal
ance-box of a patent hay-scales. As for his house, we
could only conjecture where that was; he may have
been a boarder in the Molunkus House. I saw him

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