Henry David Thoreau.

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have explored these woods in midsummer led us to anti
cipate. Yet I have no doubt that at some seasons and in
some places they are a much more serious pest. The
Jesuit Hierome Lalemant, of Quebec, reporting the
death of Father Reni Menard, who was abandoned, lost
his way, and died in the woods, among the Ontarios near
Lake Superior, in 1661, dwells chiefly on his probable
sufferings from the attacks of mosquitoes when too weak
to defend himself, adding that there was a frightful
number of them in those parts, " and so insupportable,"
says he, " that the three Frenchmen who have made that
voyage affirm that there was no other means of defending
one's self but to run always without stopping, and it was
even necessary for two of them to be employed in driving
off these creatures while the third wanted to drink,
otherwise he could not have done it." I have no doubt
that this was said in good faith.



312 THE MAINE WOODS

August 1.

I caught two or three large red chivin (Leiiciscus
pulchellus) early this morning, within twenty feet of the
camp, which, added to the moose-tongue, that had been
left in the kettle boiling overnight, and to our other
stores, made a sumptuous breakfast. The Indian made
us some hemlock tea instead of coffee, and we were not
obliged to go as far as China for it ; indeed, not quite so
far as for the fish. This was tolerable, though he said it
was not strong enough. It was interesting to see so sim
ple a dish as a kettle of water with a handful of green
hemlock sprigs in it, boiling over the huge fire in the
open air, the leaves fast losing their lively green color,
and know that it was for our breakfast.

We were glad to embark once more, and leave some
of the mosquitoes behind. We had passed the Wassata-
quoik without perceiving it. This, according to the
Indian, is the name of the main East Branch itself, and
not properly applied to this small tributary alone, as on
the maps.

We found that we had camped about a mile above
Hunt's, which is on the east bank, and is the last house
for those who ascend Ktaadn on this side.

We had expected to ascend it from this point, but my
companion was obliged to give up this on account of sore
feet. The Indian, however, suggested that perhaps he
might get a pair of moccasins at this place, and that he
could walk very easily in them without hurting his feet,
wearing several pairs of stockings, and he said beside
that they were so porous that when you had taken in



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 313

water it all drained out again in a little while. We
stopped to get some sugar, but found that the family
had moved away, and the house was unoccupied, except
temporarily by some men who were getting the hay.
They told me that the road to Ktaadn left the river eight
miles above ; also that perhaps we could get some sugar
at Fisk's, fourteen miles below. I do not remember that
we saw the mountain at all from the river. I noticed a
seine here stretched on the bank, which probably had
been used to catch salmon. Just below this, on the west
bank, we saw a moose-hide stretched, and with it a bear
skin, which was comparatively very small. I was the
more interested in this sight, because it was near here
that a townsman of ours, then quite a lad, and alone,
killed a large bear some years ago. The Indian said that
they belonged to Joe Aitteon, my last guide, but how he
told I do not know. He was probably hunting near, and
had left them for the day. Finding that we were going
directly to Oldtown, he regretted that he had not taken
more of the moose-meat to his family, saying that in a
short time, by drying it, he could have made it so light
as to have brought away the greater part, leaving the
bones. We once or twice inquired after the lip, which is
a famous tidbit, but he said, " That go Oldtown for my
old woman; don't get it every day."

Maples grew more and more numerous. It was lower
ing, and rained a little during the forenoon, and, as we
expected a wetting, we stopped early and dined on the
east side of a small expansion of the river, just above
what are probably called Whetstone Falls, about a
dozen miles below Hunt's. There were pretty fresh



314 THE MAINE WOODS

moose-tracks by the waterside. There were singular long
ridges hereabouts, called "horsebacks," covered with
ferns. My companion, having lost his pipe, asked the
Indian if he could not make him one. " Oh, yer," said
he, and in a minute rolled up one of birch bark, telling
him to wet the bowl from time to time. Here also he left
his gazette on a tree.

We carried round the falls just below, on the west
side. The rocks were on their edges, and very sharp.
The distance was about three fourths of a mile. When
we had carried over one load, the Indian returned by
the shore, and I by the path, and though I made no par
ticular haste, I was nevertheless surprised to find him at
the other end as soon as I. It was remarkable how
easily he got along over the worst ground. He said to me,
"I take canoe and you take the rest, suppose you can
keep along with me ? " I thought that he meant that
while he ran down the rapids I should keep along the
shore, and be ready to assist him from time to time, as I
had done before ; but as the walking would be very bad,
I answered, " I suppose you will go too fast for me, but I
will try." But I was to go by the path, he said. This I
thought would not help the matter, I should have so far
to go to get to the riverside when he wanted me. But
neither was this what he meant. He was proposing a
race over the carry, and asked me if I thought I could
keep along with him by the same path, adding that I
must be pretty smart to do it. As his load, the canoe,
would be much the heaviest and bulkiest, though the
simplest, I thought that I ought to be able to do it, and
said that I would try. So I proceeded to gather up the



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 315

gun, axe, paddle, kettle, frying-pan, plates, dippers,
carpets, etc., etc., and while I was thus engaged he threw
me his cowhide boots. "What, are these in the bar
gain?" I asked. "Oh, yer," said he; but before I could
make a bundle of my load I saw him disappearing over
a hill with the canoe on his head ; so, hastily scraping the
various articles together, I started on the run, and im
mediately went by him in the bushes, but I had no sooner
left him out of sight in a rocky hollow than the greasy
plates, dippers, etc., took to themselves wings, and while
I was employed in gathering them up again, he went by
me; but hastily pressing the sooty kettle to my side, I
started once more, and soon passing him again, I saw
him no more on the carry. I do not mention this as any
thing of a feat, for it was but poor running on my part,
and he was obliged to move with great caution for fear
of breaking his canoe as well as his neck. When he
made his appearance, puffing and panting like myself,
in answer to my inquiries where he had been, he said,
"Rocks (locks) cut 'em feet," and, laughing, added,
" Oh, me love to play sometimes." He said that he and
his companions, when they came to carries several miles
long, used to try who would get over first; each, per
haps, with a canoe on his head. I bore the sign of the
kettle on my brown linen sack for the rest of the voyage.

We made a second carry on the west side, around
some falls about a mile below this. On the mainland
were Norway pines, indicating a new geological forma
tion, and it was such a dry and sandy soil as we had not
noticed before.

As we approached the mouth of the East Branch,



316 THE MAINE WOODS

we passed two or three huts, the first sign of civilization
after Hunt's, though we saw no road as yet ; we heard a
cow-bell, and even saw an infant held up to a small
square window to see us pass, but apparently the infant
and the mother that held it were the only inhabitants
then at home for several miles. This took the wind out
of our sails, reminding us that we were travelers surely,
while it was a native of the soil, and had the advantage
of us. Conversation flagged. I would only hear the
Indian, perhaps, ask my companion, "You load my
pipe ? " He said that he smoked alder bark, for medi
cine. On entering the West Branch at Nicketow it
appeared much larger than the East. Polis remarked
that the former was all gone and lost now, that it was all
smooth water hence to Oldtown, and he threw away his
pole which was cut on the Umbazookskus. Thinking of
the rapids, he said once or twice that you would n't
catch him to go East Branch again; but he did not by
any means mean all that he said.

Things are quite changed since I was here eleven
years ago. Where there were but one or two houses, I
now found quite a village, with sawmills and a store (the
latter was locked, but its contents were so much the more
safely stored), and there was a stage-road to Matta-
wamkeag, and the rumor of a stage. Indeed, a steamer
had ascended thus far once, when the water was very
high. But we were not able to get any sugar, only a
better shingle to lean our backs against.

We camped about two miles below Nicketow, on the
south side of the West Branch, covering with fresh twigs
the withered bed of a former traveler, and feeling that



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 317

we were now in a settled country, especially when in the
evening we heard an ox sneeze in its wild pasture across
the river. Wherever you land along the frequented part
of the river, you have not far to go to find these sites of
temporary inns, the withered bed of flattened twigs, the
charred sticks, and perhaps the tent-poles. And not
long since, similar beds were spread along the Connecti
cut, the Hudson, and the Delaware, and longer still ago,
by the Thames and Seine, and they now help to make
the soil where private and public gardens, mansions and
palaces are. We could not get fir twigs for our bed here,
and the spruce was harsh in comparison, having more
twig in proportion to its leaf, but we improved it some
what with hemlock. The Indian remarked as before,
"Must have hard wood to cook moose-meat," as if that
were a maxim, and proceeded to get it. My companion
cooked some in California fashion, winding a long string
of the meat round a stick and slowly turning it in his
hand before the fire. It was very good. But the Indian,
not approving of the mode, or because he was not
allowed to cook it his own way, would not taste it. After
the regular supper we attempted to make a lily soup
of the bulbs which I had brought along, for I wished
to learn all I could before I got out of the woods. Fol
lowing the Indian's directions, for he began to be sick,
I washed the bulbs carefully, minced some moose-meat
and some pork, salted and boiled all together, but we had
not patience to try the experiment fairly, for he said it
must be boiled till the roots were completely softened so
as to thicken the soup like flour; but though we left it on
all night, we found it dried to the kettle in the morning,



318 THE MAINE WOODS

and not yet boiled to a flour. Perhaps the roots were not
ripe enough, for they commonly gather them in the fall.
As it was, it was palatable enough, but it reminded me
of the Irishman's limestone broth. The other ingredients
were enough alone. The Indian's name for these bulbs
was Sheepnoc. I stirred the soup by accident with a
striped maple or moose-wood stick, which I had peeled,
and he remarked that its bark was an emetic.

He prepared to camp as usual between his moose-hide
and the fire ; but it beginning to rain suddenly, he took
refuge under the tent with us, and gave us a song before
falling asleep. It rained hard in the night, and spoiled
another box of matches for us, which the Indian had
left out, for he was very careless ; but, as usual, we had
so much the better night for the rain, since it kept the
mosquitoes down.

SUNDAY, August 2.

Was a cloudy and unpromising morning. One of us
observed to the Indian, "You did not stretch your
moose-hide last night, did you, Mr. Polis ? " Whereat
he replied, in a tone of surprise, though perhaps not of
ill humor : " What you ask me that question for ? Sup
pose I stretch 'em, you see 'em. May be your way talk
ing, may be all right, no Indian way." I had observed
that he did not wish to answer the same question more
than once, and was often silent when it was put again
for the sake of certainty, as if he were moody. Not that
he was incommunicative, for he frequently commenced
a long-winded narrative of his own accord, repeated
at length the tradition of some old battle, or some pas-



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 319

sage in the recent history of his tribe in which he had
acted a prominent part, from time to time drawing a
long breath, and resuming the thread of his tale, with the
true story-teller's leisureliness, perhaps after shooting a
rapid, prefacing with "We-e-11, by-by," etc., as he
paddled along. Especially after the day's work was
over, and he had put himself in posture for the night,
he would be unexpectedly sociable, exhibit even the
bonhommie of a Frenchman, and we would fall asleep
before he got through his periods.

Nicketow is called eleven miles from Mattawamkeag
by the river. Our camp was, therefore, about nine miles
from the latter place.

The Indian was quite sick this morning with the colic.
I thought that he was the worse for the moose-meat he
had eaten.

We reached the Mattawamkeag at half past eight in
the morning, in the midst of a drizzling rain, and, after
buying some sugar, set out again.

The Indian growing much worse, we stopped in the
north part of Lincoln to get some brandy for him ; but
failing in this, an apothecary recommended Brandreth's
pills, which he refused to take, because he was not
acquainted with them. He said to me, " Me doctor,
first study my case, find out what ail 'em, then I
know what to take." We dropped down a little farther,
and stopped at mid-forenoon on an island and made him
a dipper of tea. Here, too, we dined and did some wash
ing and botanizing, while he lay on the bank. In the
afternoon we went on a little farther, though the Indian
was no better. " Burntibus," as he called it, was a long,



320 THE MAINE WOODS

smooth, lake-like reach below the Five Islands. He said
that he owned a hundred acres somewhere up this way.
As a thunder-shower appeared to be coming up, we
stopped opposite a barn on the west bank, in Chester,
about a mile above Lincoln. Here at last we were
obliged to spend the rest of the day and night, on account
of our patient, whose sickness did not abate. He lay
groaning under his canoe on the bank, looking very woe
begone, yet it was only a common case of colic. You
would not have thought, if you had seen him lying about
thus, that he was the proprietor of so many acres in that
neighborhood, was worth six thousand dollars, and had
been to Washington. It seemed to me that, like the
Irish, he made a greater ado about his sickness than
a Yankee does, and was more alarmed about himself.
We talked somewhat of leaving him with his people in
Lincoln, for that is one of their homes, and tak
ing the stage the next day, but he objected on account
of the expense saying, " Suppose me well in morning,
you and I go Oldtown by noon."

As we were taking our tea at twilight, while he lay
groaning still under his canoe, having at length found
out " what ail him," he asked me to get him a dipper of
water. Taking the dipper in one hand he seized his
powder-horn with the other, and, pouring into it a charge
or two of powder, stirred it up with his finger, and drank
it off. This was all he took to-day after breakfast beside
his tea.

To save the trouble of pitching our tent, when we had
secured our stores from wandering dogs, we camped in
the solitary half-open barn near the bank, with the



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 321

permission of the owner, lying on new-mown hay four
feet deep. The fragrance of the hay, in which many
ferns, etc., were mingled, was agreeable, though it was
quite alive with grasshoppers which you could hear
crawling through it. This served to graduate our ap
proach to houses and feather beds. In the night some
large bird, probably an owl, flitted through over our
heads, and very early in the morning we were awakened
by the twittering of swallows which had their nests there.

MONDAY, August 3.

We started early before breakfast, the Indian being
considerably better, and soon glided by Lincoln, and
after another long and handsome lake-like reach, we
stopped to breakfast on the west shore, two or three
miles below this town.

We frequently passed Indian islands with their small
houses on them. The Governor, Aitteon, lives in one of
them, in Lincoln.

The Penobscot Indians seem to be more social, even,
than the whites. Ever and anon in the deepest wilderness
of Maine, you come to the log hut of a Yankee or
Canada settler, but a Penobscot never takes up his
residence in such a solitude. They are not even scat
tered about on their islands in the Penobscot, which
are all within the settlements, but gathered together on
two or three, though not always on the best soil,
evidently for the sake of society. I saw one or two houses
not now used by them, because, as our Indian Polis said,
they were too solitary.

The small river emptying in at Lincoln is the Mata-



THE MAINE WOODS

nancook, which also, we noticed, was the name of a
steamer moored there. So we paddled and floated along,
looking into the mouths of rivers. When passing the
Mohawk Rips, or, as the Indian called them, " Mohog
lips," four or five miles below Lincoln, he told us at
length the story of a fight between his tribe and the
Mohawks there, anciently, how the latter were over
come by stratagem, the Penobscots using concealed
knives, but they could not for a long time kill the
Mohawk chief, who was a very large and strong man,
though he was attacked by several canoes at once, when
swimming alone in the river.

From time to time we met Indians in their canoes,
going up river. Our man did not commonly approach
them, but exchanged a few words with them at a dis
tance in his tongue. These were the first Indians we had
met since leaving the Umbazookskus.

At Piscataquis Falls, just above the river of that name,
we walked over the wooden railroad on the eastern
shore, about one and a half miles long, while the Indian
glided down the rapids. The steamer from Oldtown
stops here, and passengers take a new boat above.
Piscataquis, whose mouth we here passed, means
"branch." It is obstructed by falls at its mouth, but can
be navigated with batteaux or canoes above through a
settled country, even to the neighborhood of Moosehead
Lake, and we had thought at first of going that way. We
were not obliged to get out of the canoe after this on
account of falls or rapids, nor, indeed, was it quite
necessary here. We took less notice of the scenery to-day,
because we were in quite a settled country. The river



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 323

became broad and sluggish, and we saw a blue heron
winging its way slowly down the stream before us.

We passed the Passadumkeag River on our left and
saw the blue Olamon mountains at a distance in the
southeast. Hereabouts our Indian told us at length the
story of their contention with the priest respecting
schools. He thought a great deal of education and had
recommended it to his tribe. His argument in its favor
was, that if you had been to college and learnt to calcu
late, you could " keep 'em property, no other way."
He said that his boy was the best scholar in the school
at Oldtown, to which he went with whites. He himself
is a Protestant, and goes to church regularly at Oldtown.
According to his account, a good many of his tribe are
Protestants, and many of the Catholics also are in favor
of schools. Some years ago they had a schoolmaster,
a Protestant, whom they liked very well. The priest
came and said that they must send him away, and
finally he had such influence, telling them that they
would go to the bad place at last if they retained him,
that they sent him away. The school party, though
numerous, were about giving up. Bishop Fenwick came
from Boston and used his influence against them. But
our Indian told his side that they must not give up, must
hold on, they were the strongest. If they gave up, then
they would have no party. But they answered that it
was " no use, priest too strong, we 'd better give up." At
length he persuaded them to make a stand.

The priest was going for a sign to cut down the liberty-
pole. So Polis and his party had a secret meeting about
it; he got ready fifteen or twenty stout young men,



324 THE MAINE WOODS

" stript 'em naked, and painted 'em like old times," and
told them that when the priest and his party went to
cut down the liberty-pole, they were to rush up, take
hold of it, and prevent them, and he assured them that
there would be no war, only a noise, " no war where
priest is." He kept his men concealed in a house near
by, and when the priest's party were about to cut down
the liberty-pole, the fall of which would have been a
death-blow to the school party, he gave a signal, and his
young men rushed out and seized the pole. There was
a great uproar, and they were about coming to blows,
but the priest interfered, saying, " No war, no war," and
so the pole stands, and the school goes on still.

We thought that it showed a good deal of tact in him,
to seize this occasion and take his stand on it; proving
how well he understood those with whom he had to deal.

The Olamon River comes in from the east in Green-
bush a few miles below the Passadumkeag. When we
asked the meaning of this name, the Indian said there
was an island opposite its mouth which was called
Olarmon; that in old times, when visitors were coming
to Oldtown, they used to stop there to dress and fix up
or paint themselves. " What is that which ladies used ? "
he asked. Rouge? Red Vermilion? "Yer," he said,
" that is larmon, a kind of clay or red paint, which they
used to get here."

We decided that we, too, would stop at this island,
and fix up our inner man, at least, by dining.

It was a large island, with an abundance of hemp
nettle, but I did not notice any kind of red paint there.
The Olamon River, at its mouth at least, is a dead



THE ALLEGASH AND EAST BRANCH 325

stream. There was another large island in that neigh
borhood, which the Indian called " Soogle" (i. e., Sugar)
Island.

About a dozen miles before reaching Oldtown he
inquired, " How you like 'em your pilot ? " But we post
poned an answer till we had got quite back again.

The Sunkhaze, another short dead stream, comes in
from the east two miles above Oldtown. There is said to
be some of the best deer ground in Maine on this stream.
Asking the meaning of this name, the Indian said, " Sup
pose you are going down Penobscot, just like we, and
you see a canoe come out of bank and go along before
you, but you no see 'em stream. That is Sunkhaze."

He had previously complimented me on my paddling,
saying that I paddled " just like anybody," giving me an
Indian name which meant "great paddler." When off
this stream he said to me, who sat in the bows, " Me
teach you paddle." So, turning toward the shore, he got
out, came forward, and placed my hands as he wished.
He placed one of them quite outside the boat, and the
other parallel with the first, grasping the paddle near
the end, not over the flat extremity, and told me to slide
it back and forth on the side of the canoe. This, I found,
was a great improvement which I had not thought of,
saving me the labor of lifting the paddle each time, and
I wondered that he had not suggested it before. It is
true, before our baggage was reduced we had been
obliged to sit with our legs drawn up, and our knees
above the side of the canoe, which would have pre
vented our paddling thus, or perhaps he was afraid of
wearing out his canoe, by constant friction on the side.



326 THE MAINE WOODS

I told him that I had been accustomed to sit in the
stern, and, lifting my paddle at each stroke, give it a
twist in order to steer the boat, only getting a pry on
the side each time, and I still paddled partly as if in
the stern. He then wanted to see me paddle in the stern.
So, changing paddles, for he had the longer and better
one, and turning end for end, he sitting flat on the bot
tom and I on the crossbar, he began to paddle very hard,
trying to turn the canoe, looking over his shoulder and
laughing; but finding it in vain, he relaxed his efforts,
though we still sped along a mile or two very swiftly. He


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