Jeptha Root Simms.

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ing unable to return, had died on the recession of the
water, to the great annoyance of those hunters, who
thus named the lakes. Their outlet runs into that of
Pine lake. Several small lakes in the southerly part
of Hamilton county, unite their waters to form the head
of West Canada creek. Lake Good Luck, some ten
or tw^elve miles in circumference, which lies only a
few miles to the northward of Stink lakes, empties
into the west branch of the Sacondaga, one and a half
miles below Devereux's mills. This lake derived its
name from the following incident. While Vrooman
was surveying near it, and several of his party were
making a large canoe from the trunk of a tree, John
Burgess, his son-in-law, discharged his gun at a loon,
off on the water. The piece burst and scattered its
fragments harmlessly in every direction. The acci-
dent terminated so fortunately, that the name the lake

now bears, was entered on the surveyor's field-book.


About two miles below the mouth of the outlet from
Gook Luck, is a small lake called Trout lake. It
abounds in trout, which circumstance originated its
name ; and not a few anglers visit it to replenish their
larder. On the shore of this lake, the reader will re-
member, a poor Indian once lost a turtle's and his own
shell. Stoner at different times, killed two moose in the
edge of this lake, while the animals were fighting flies.
Satterlee's mills are located on West Sacondaga, at a
rapid some two miles below the outlet of Trout lake.
From those mills to the outlet of Piseco lake, the
stream is rapid, affording fine mill-seats. At this
rapid w^as also a carrying place, w^here the Indian and
other hunters carried their canoes over land to get into
Piseco lake. It is some twelve miles from the inlet of
Piseco lake, to where the east and west branches of
the Sacondaga unite.

The Piseco is the largest of a cluster of lakes in
Hamilton county, which empty into the west branch
of the Sacondaga, and is some nine miles long, and in
places, nearly three broad, or twenty miles in circum-
ference. 0£ the lakes in the neighborhood of Piseco,
are Mud lake, so called because its shores are muddy;
Spy lake, so named by the surveyors, because ap-
proached so unexpectedly by them; Round lake, the
name indicating its form; and Ox-Bow lake. The
last mentioned is three or four miles long, though not
very wide, and shaped like the bow of an ox-yoke.
In the territory adjoining, and know^n as the Ox-bow


tract, Seth Wetmore, a former sheriff of Montgomery
county, owned some thousands of acres, a consider-
able portion of which w^as received from the state
as compensation for opening a road, the survey of
which I have alluded to, from the shore of Piseco lake
to the Bleeker settlements. Lake Pleasant, another
large and beautiful sheet of water, lies off to the north-
east of the Piseco; and its outlet, with other streams,
forms the eastern branch of the Sacondaga: to the
westward of Lake Pleasant, some ten or twelve miles,
is a pretty lake, called Louis's lake, after a Canadian
Indian, who formerly hunted upon its shores.

The land in the Piseco country, though hilly and
often mountainous, is said, to be less stony and more
fertile than that of the Garoga and Bleeker territory;
and when New England gets her telescope upon it, it
will beyond all doubt, be thickly peopled by enter-
prising inhabitants. Many acres of the soil are covered
wnth a heavy growth of pine and spruce timber, w^hich
only needs an avenue to market richly to reward the
pioneer for the blow^s of his axe and saw^

From the lakes of Hamilton county, streams run off
in almost every point of compass. Besides the lakes
named, there are numerous others in diiFerent parts of
this county; among which are Lake Janet, named
after the accomplished w^ife of Professor James E. De
Kay, zoologist of the state in her late scientific survey;
Lake Catharine, named after a multitude of good
Dutch women, and one in particular ; Racket and Long


lakes. The two last named are the largest in the
r.ounty, being one fourteen and the other eighteen
miles in length. Hamilton county, from her isolated
situation with regard to the export of her products;
being too far removed to warrant a transport by land
to a good market, is mostly in a wild and unsettled
condition; she having only one legal voter to every
twenty-six hundred square acres of her territory; but
could a communication by rail road or canal be opened
to some good market place, it would soon teem with
a busy population. That a connected water commu-
nication is feasible, is thus hinted at by Professor
Emmons, in his volume of the New York Geology.
He observes, speaking of the waters of Hamilton
county: "These lakes, together with their bays, inlets
and outlets, and other waters which may be connected
with them, are capable of forming an extended line
of water communication, by which a large portion of
this section of country may be traversed; and proba-
bly the time may not be far distant, when it will be
thought expedient to form and perfect some of the
natural channels of communication which intersect
this part of the state."

In one of his annual reports during the geological
survey. Dr. Emmons thus describes this region of
country. " I have the pleasure of stating that it is
far from being the wet, cold, swairi'py, and barren dis-
trict which it has been represented to be. The soil is
generally strong and productive; the mountains are


not SO elevated and steep, but that the soil is preserved
of sufficient thickness to their tops to secure their
cultivation, and most of the marshy lands may be re-
claimed by ditching ; by this means they will become
more valuable than the uplands for producing hay. In
fine, it will be found an excellent country for grazing,
raising stock, and producing butter and cheese. The
strength of the soil is sufficiently tested by the heavy
growth of timber, which is principally of hard wood,
as beech, maple, yellow-birch, butternut and elm. The
evergreens or pines, are confined mostly to the lower
ranges of mountains. Some of them are of the largest
growth of any in the state, and are suitable for the
main shafts of the largest of the cotton mills. In the
main, the county resembles the mountainous districts
of New England, and like these produces the same
intermixture of forest trees, and has about the same
adaptation for the production of the different kinds of
grain, as wheat, rye, oats, peas, barley, together with
fine crops of potatoes."

Comparatively little is yet known of northern New
York, indeed, a great part of what has heretofore been
known, was only so in error; this is my apology, for
saying so much about it.

In a hunting excursion accompanied by Lieut. Wal-
lace and one Coffin, Major Stoner went down to
Jessup's river, some fifteen miles below Fish House;
and in the woods between that river and the Sacondaga,

they found the body of a white man they supposed


had possibly been insane; and had strayed into the
wilderness and there died: but he may have been a
hunter and crossed the track of one of like craft, who
revenged with death a real or supposed injury.

The local Indian names Garoga, and Kennyetto, I
have sought in vain to get the English definition of.
If any individual can give the signification of either
of them, they will confer a favor by communicating
the same to my address. It is not only important that
Indian names be preserved, but that their true mean-
ing be handed down to future generations, which,
divested of the prejudices that influence the present,
will drop a tear of pity over the wrongs and injuries
done this brave, indeed once noble but now degraded
race; and cherish the significant and purely American
names they once gave to our lakes, rivers, and moun-
tains, as they would their household gods.


Nathaniel Foster, justly celebrated as a hunter and
trapper of northern New York, was a native of Hins-
dale, Windham county, Vermont; the town is now
called Vernon. He was named after his father, and
was born about the year 1767. At the age of three
or four and twenty he married Miss Jemima, daughter
of Amos Streeter, of New Hampshire; a year or two
after which, and nine or ten years subsequent to the
close of the Revolution, he removed to the town of
Salisbury, Herkimer county. New York; at which
time the country around his new home was mostly a

In person he was nearly six feet high, erect antl
strongly built, with a large muscular frame that seem-
ed well fitted for fatigue. His features were com-
manding, though not finely marked, and when cheer-
fulness lit up his countenance through his keen dark
eye, they were rather prepossessing. His complexion
was sallow, his hair was a sandy brown, but not very
gray to the hour of his death, although he grew bald
in the latter part of his life.

At the time of Foster's emigration to New York,
wild game was so abundant in the northerly part of
Herkimer county, that^with his fondness for the eX'


citement attending a hunter's life, circumstances com-
bined to make him a perfect Nimrod. To adopt the
language of a correspondent, " He was a Leather stock-
ing of an original stamp, and devoted to a wild-wood
lifeP He began his pioneer residence in the winter,
and the following spring he took a sufficient quantity
of fur, principally beaver, to purchase a cow and
many articles necessary in housekeeping. He after-
wards obtained yearly large quantities of valuable
fur, such as beaver, otter, musk-rat, marten, &c. He
has been known to have three or four hundred musk-
rat traps set in a single season, employing at times
several men to help him tend them.

Deer, bears and wolves were so numerous for years
after Foster made his home on the borders of the
forest, that he slaughtered them in great numbers.
Indeed, it is believed, that he has killed more of
those animals collectively, than any other individual
in the state during the same period; having slain no
less than seventy-six deer in one season, and ninety-
six bears in three seasons. He has also been known
to kill twenty-five wolves in one year; having a line
of traps set for them from Salisbury to the St. Law-
rence. These animals were so great a pest among
the sheep-folds when the country was new, that a
liberal bounty was paid for their destruction by the
state; increased at times by the liberality of certain
counties and towns in w^hich they were the most nu-
merous. The avails of his hunting and trapping


amounted in one year, when a liberal price was set
upon wolves, to the sum of twelve hundred and fifty
dollars. He occasionally killed a v, anther.

The bounties paid for the destruction of wild ani-
mals, often made the taxes of frontier towns a bur-
then; and a w^ealthy ftirmer ia the neighborhood of
Foster, took a stand one season which prevented the
paying of such a reward for the destruction of wolves
as hunters thought they deserved. The consequence
was, that all the old and young Nimrods in the vi-
cinity turned their attention to other game, and pur-
posely let the wolves alone; w^hich in a year or two
more were greatly on the increase. Foster told his
farmer friend at the election, he would be sorry for
the manner in which he had voted, and after the
animals had had time to increase, he was not much
surprised, one morning, to hear a most pitiful story
from hiin, about the injuries he had sustained the
night before by wolves ; they had been into his sheep-
fold and destroyed more property in a single night,
than his tax, when the highest bounty was paid for
their scalps, had amounted to in several years. He
soon found, to use a hunter's phrase, he was barking
up the wrong tree for sympathy. " Well," said
Leatherstocking, with not a little manifest indiffer-
ence, " I don't knov as I can pity you much. If you
are unwilling to pay me for protecting your sheep,
you must buy traps and take care of them yonrself^
It is perhaps unnecessary to add, the penurious far-


mer was ready to vote a more liberal bounty than
ever for the destruction of wolves, at the next proper

Some winters Foster turned his attention almost
wholly to the killing of deer, disposing of their sad-
dles and skins for the eastern market. The visitor to
the Albany Museum w^ill there see the skin of a large
moose which was shot by this hunter, and for which he
received from the proprietor some fifty dollars. There
is the skin of another large moose in a New York or
Philadelphia museum, also killed by this hunter.
The following incident attended the death of one of
those animals. Foster had a favorite dog, as fond of
hunting as was his master. The bay of this saga-
cious animal one day called its owner to a retired
spot in the forest, where he discovered ^Vatch
holding a moose by the nose; keeping his own body
between the fore-legs of his adversary, to avoid the
heavy blows aimed at him with the antlers of the
enraged animal, which formidable weapons weighed
together nearly thirty pounds.

On nearing the spot Foster sent a bullet through
the heart of the moose, which in its death-struggle
dashed the dog off with a terrible blow. The print
of the dog's teeth remained upon the nose of the
moose, but both animals appeared to be dead. Foster
took off his coal and laid his canine friend upon it,
at which time a partner in the hunt arrived upon the
ground. With a heavy heart Foster prepared to skin


the game, when his comrade observed a moving of
the muscles about the dog's neck, and told the former
it would recover, but the old hunter shook his head
douhtingly. After a while Watch raised his head
slowly from the ground to receive the caress of his
master; but as soon as his eye rested upon his fallen
antagonist, he sprang to his feet and seized the life-
less moose by the throat, from which he was with no
little difficulty removed. The restoration of his favor-
ite dog to life, caused Foster more real joy than could
possibly the killing of a dozen moose.

One or two years after Nathaniel Foster settled in
Salisbury, his father removed from the east with his
family, and located in the same town. He, too, was
something of a sportsman. Nathaniel had two bro-
thers younger than himself, who, as they attained
sufficient age, indulged occasionally in hunting deer.
The following incident will show how providentially
the elder brother was once saved from harm. His
brother Elisha having on some occasion borrowed his
gun, sent it home by a young son. The lad as he
neared the dwelling saw his uncle going in at the
door, and to be very smart, as boys sometimes are, he
drew up the piece and snapped it at him. On enter-
ing the house he told his kinsman what he had done;
when the old hunter took the piece from the hand of
his nephew, walked to the door and snapped it,
^nd a bullet whizzed through the air from its muzzle.
He remarked as he went to set it away, that he had


shot seventy-six deer with his rifle that season, and it
had not before missed fire in a single instance during
the whole time.

The rifle with which Foster usually hunted would
carry two balls as well as one; and when he desired
to render the death of large game doubly sure, he
it>aded with two bullets. Foster and Stoner had each
a rifle at one time made after the same pattern, by
Willis Avery, of Salisbury, and called double shatters.
They were made with a single barrel with two locks,
one placed above the other far enough to admit of two
charges, and have the upper charge of powder rest
upon the lower bullet. The locks were made for
percussion pills, and when the pick which crushed
the pill at the first lock was down, there was no dan-
ger to be apprehended in firing the lower charge.
These rifles cost about seventy dollars each. That of
Stoner was borne by a soldier into the late Florida

The following incident will serve to show one of
the numberless perils to which hunters are exposed
in the forest. Nathaniel Foster and his brother,
Shubael, w^ere on a deer hunt many years ago in St.
Lawrence county, when the former came suddenly
upon two noble bucks trying titles to the soil. To end
the dispute, he drew up and shot one, and as it fell
the other bounded oflf a few rods, and halted to wit-
ness a more novel engagement than its own recent
one. The fallen deer was not killed, but was badly


stunned by the ball striking it near the back-bone,
and as the hunter ran up to cut its throat, the animal
sprang upon its haunches, and in its own defence
struck furiously at him with its antlers. Quick as
thought, this modern Leatherstocking placed the knife
between his teeth, and grappled the weapons of his
unexpected foe. The struggle for the mastery was
long and fierce, the hunter not daring to let go his
holdj but, as good luck would have it, he got the
head of the deer between two trees, against one of
which a horn was broken, and the worried animal
thrown down. Before it could recover, the hunter
dealt it a blow upon the head with a club fortune had
placed at his command, when he succeeded in cutting
its throat. The tussle lasted more than thirty minutes;,
and when his brother arrived upon the ground, he
found the grass and bushes trampled down for several
rods around. The strength of the hunter was nearly
exhausted in the engagement; while his tattered gar-
ments gave evidence, that a visit to his wardrobe
would alone restore his outward man to the condition
it was in an hour before

On a certain occasion, Shubael Foster visited a
wolf-trap, in company with his brother, Nathaniel,
in which a wolf was caught by one of its hind
legs. It crawled under a log on their approach;
and the senior hunter conceiving it would make him
a fine pet, resolved to take the snarler home alive.

With a forked stick he fixed a kind of halter upon its


nose, and loosening it from the trap, he thus led the

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Online LibraryJeptha Root SimmsTrappers of New York; → online text (page 11 of 17)