Jeptha Root Simms.

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cept that he was rather eccentric; and early evincei
a disposition to be alone in the woods, with his do^
and gun. At the age of eighteen he had, in the pur
suit of wild game and fur, reconnoitred the northerly
part of his native state, know^ing more, doubtless, oJ
its topography than of its improvements. When ou
Revolutionary difficulties began, he was found amon^
the champions of liberty; and five days before th(
Bunker Hill battle he arrived at the American camj
near Boston, accompanied by a neighbor namec
Moffatt; both armed cap-a-pie for action. He wa;
a volunteer under the brave Prescott, to aid in forti
fying Bunker hill the night before the battle, in whicl
he took an active part. When Wright got back t(
his quarters in the evening, almost exhausted, h(
heard a call for a guard to prevent surprise from th(
enemy, '^ There 's no danger of that," he exclaimed
" the rascals have enough to do to dress their shin
and wrap up their fingers for the next twelve hours
without beating up our quarters. I shall sleep for th(
next ten hours without fear."

The reveille and tattoo savored too much of re
straint for the tameless spirit of a hunter, and tirin*
of camp monotony Wright returned home, and dii
not again join the army until Arnold's retreat froii



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 255

Quebec to Ticonderoga; when he there enlisted under
Capt. Whitcomb; preferring to perform scouting or
other hazardous duty. Capt. W. had been accused
of shooting Major Gordon, a Btitish officer, and rifling
his pockets; of which act General Carlton complain-
ed, and demanded his trial for murder. The Ameri-
can officer in command did not think the act, which
was one of daring, demanded such a title; but viewed
it as a consequence of war, and soon the matter was
hushed.

While on duty at Fort Ticonderoga, Wright and
his captain went on a scout toward the lower end of
lake Champlain, where they unexpectedly fell in with
and captured two British officers well mounted. They
proved to be a pay-master and lieutenant; who, not
expecting a foe so far from the American camp, were
off their guard, and easily secured by their rifle-poised
captors. The horses could not be taken along, and
they were set free in the road, to return to their mas-
ters' former quarters. After the prisoners were dis-
mounted and disarmed, they inquired the names of
their more fortunate companions. At hearing the
name of Whitcomb the pay-master turned deadly
pale, and inquired w- ith evident agitation, " Are you
the man who shot Major Gordon? "

" I suppose that I am; " replied the captain.
Wright, who witnessed the "effect of this announce-
ment, divined tliat a desperate effort might be made
by the prisoners to escape, and advanced with a



256 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

ready rifle to a commanding position; when he as-
sured them they should have good qur.rters, and not
be injured unless they tried to escape; in which event
they would he sent to oblivion in a hurry ! This assu-
rance tended to quiet their fears, and soon the party
were threading a circuitous route for Ticonderoga.
The pay-master chanced to have no funds on his per-
son, on which account he may have felt the more
secure. When the captures were made, the scout
were just out of provisions, and early the next morn-
ing, as Wright was the best runner, it was settled
that he should proceed to the fort with all possible
dispatch; obtain food, and return to succor the party,
which was to proceed up the lake shore. The adven-
ture was carried out as anticipated, and in a few days
all arrived safely at Ticonderoga. Soon after, the
captives were exchanged.

Wright ever spoke highly of this lieutenant, whose
name is now forgotten. Just before they parted, the
latter addressed him as follows, " Wright, you have
been kind to us, and I shall always retain grateful
feelings toward you. We shall be down the next
campaign, and then you may rely on my friendship,
as you must and will he subjugated ! "

" You go to the devil! " replied Wright. " If you
come again, death is your portion. You talk of sub-
duing the States; when 'you come again, you fetch
your coffins with you, for you HI surely want them! "

He continued with the northern army, acting much



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 257

of the time either as a scout or a spy, until after the
surrender of Burgoyne. Some few days before that
event, being on a scout in the vicinity of the British
army, a violent rain-storm came on, and he sought a
temporary shelter beneath the trrnik of a leaning tree;
with his blanket over his shoulders, and his rifle in a
position to be kept dry. While thus situated, his
quick ear detected amid the roaring elements, an ap-
proaching footstep; and looking up, he saw a large
wolf just ready to spring upon him. He carefully
raised his piece, and without bringing it to his shoul-
der, discharged it, the muzzle being within a few-
feet of the animal's head, which w^as literally blown
off. Thus did he scalp one English ally.

Recollecting his former friend, the British lieuten-
ant, Wright sought for him among the vanquished,
and found him an object of commiseration. He had
been wounded, and what w^ith his sufferings and pri-
vations, had growm dejected; sick in body and mind;
and did not readily recognize his former captor.
When he did he saluted him with great emotion. In-
deed, the meeting was such as caused the better feelings
of both to mingle in a flow of tears. Wright was the
first to regain his self-possession, and broke forth in
a strain between seriousness and jesting much as fol-
lows : — " By ! you are a lucky devil though. 1

supposed you long since dead, as I told you you would
be at the end of this campaign; but I rejoice to find
you still alive, and hope you may live to repent of



258 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

your sins 3 but by the heavens, if I ever find you in
arms against the States again, I will surely blow
your brains to the four winds ! "

Wright with no little trouble got his friend in a
wagon and conveyed him to a place of security,
where he was well cared for, and soon after they
parted, as they supposed, for ever. The winter fol-
lowing, the lieutenant was retained with many other
prisoners in Boston; and having occasion to visit
that city in the mean time, Wright and his British
friend again met; the latter then in good health and
fine spirits. After several days of social intercourse
the friends finally parted, but not until the lieutenant
had pressed upon the acceptance of his guest numer-
ous presents; with an assurance that no consideration
would ever induce him to be found in arms again,
against so brave and generous a people. Wright
said in the latter part of his life, that of all the friends
he ever met, this military foeman gave him the
heartiest welcome.''^

Wright took no active part in the war after 1777,
but followed his favorite avocation of a hunter in the
northerly part of New Hampshire and Vermont;
which the neutrality of the latter state, then a terri-
tory in dispute, enabled him to do. Soon after the
war, he, and a cousin of his, named Belden, who was
usually called the Rattle-snake hunter, began to fre-
quent the shores of lakes Champlain and George, and
their inlets; as also the sources of the Hudson, iii



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 259

quest of fur. Belden bore a deadly hatred to rattle-
snakes, and when near their haunts was continually
warring wath themj hence his significant appellation.
The following incident attending his snake-killing, I
shall give very nearly in my correspondent's ow^n
words.

" One day in early spring, as they were on the
west shore of the lake near fort Ty., and upon a ledge
of rocks; they came to a den just as the snakes had
crawled from their winter slumber, and lay basking
in the warm noon-day sun. Belden was dressed for
hunting, having on a loose woolen frock retiring be-
low the knee, with shoes and leggins to match.
Armed with a long stick in one hand, and a short
one in the other, Belden led the way to the snakes;
and Wright followed with his ( ompanion's dog and
gun. Belden's eyes flashed fire at the sight before
him, and a smile on his lips betrayed that their
snakeships' quarters w^ould surely be beaten up. He
began the onset striking and dealing death at every
blow, jumping and springing from one to the other,
in fear that some might take shelter in the rocks.

" In his eagerness, his foot slipped as he was aim-
ing a blow at a monster that lay in a fighting atti-
tude, and he fell forw^ard. He tried to keep himself
off from the dangerous reptile, but without effect, and
it struck his frock near his chin, and hung fast by its
fangs. Both fell down together, rolled off the ledge
and down a declivity, some twelve feet, tumbling



260 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

over and over; the snake coming up at the last roll.
Belden bounded up, seized the snake round the neck,
loosened its fangs, and whipped it to death against
the rocks; as his sticks had been lost in the fight.
Wright often said this was the only time he ever saw
Belden either scared or even started by danger; but
the snakes had rest the remainder of the day."

The two friends followed trapping for several sea-
sons in the region of country under consideration,
and until beaver began to grow scarce; for the reader
must not suppose that they were sole monarchs there;
Indian hunters were continually crossing their tracks.
As game grew scarce, however, they occasionally
hunted for a season as far eastward as the present
state of Maine. While hunting in the neighborhood
of lake Champlain they u .ed a light skiff to coast
with, and navigate streams. On one occasion when
they had moored their little barque in some safe nook,
they set off to visit their traps in different directions;
to meet at night at the starting point. Wright re-
turned just at sunset much fatigued, and as his com-
rade was not there, he deposited his game, laid down
in the boat, and was soon in a sound slumber; from
which he did not awake until it was quite dark.

He was then aroused by what he supposed the
halloo of his companion, and while listening to hear
the voice again, Belden made his appearance, loaded
down with a deer and other game, which he deposited
in the boat. Wrio^ht asked him if he had heard a



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 261

human voice, or any thing resembling it, and was
answered in the negative. Wright stepped to the
bow of the boat to loosen it, when he was met by a
loud scream and the glaring eye-balls of a monstrous
panther directly before him. " Well Belden," he ex-
claimed starting back, you have brought a fine friend to
supper! " " Yes," replied the latter, " and just wait
until I give him a polite reception." Snatching up
his rifle he discharged it, almost scorching the ani-
mal's head; still it was not hurt or frightened from
its purpose; but stood at the bow and prevented them
from untying. Wright then fired also without effect.
Belden had soon reloaded, and with a piece of chalk
carried for the purpose, he whitened the barrel of his
rifle, took a more deliberate aim at the glaring target.
and fired again; when a scream and a few scratches
followed, and all was still. Belden then hauled the
animal into the boat, cast it off; and away they
steered for their camp. The panther proved an ex-
ceedingly large and old one; its teeth were mostly
gone, and it appeared to have been in the last stage
of starvation.

When the hunting of fur in his former haunts
would no longer pay, Wright removed to the westward.
About the year 1796, he settled in the present town
of Norway, N. Y., at which time he was some forty-
five or fifty years of age. He then had a family,
which consisted of his wife, whom he invariably
called Nabby, a son, named Jonathan, and three



262 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

daughters. He wore, when hunting, a coat, called
at that time a French coat, which fastened tightly
round the waist, and moccasons, or shoe packs, as
then denominated. He was never known to wear
boots or shoes in hunting. When he left home on
a hunt, he was laden with his traps, about fifty pounds
of corn-meal, and his gun; with possibly some few
other fixins. Thus provided he would enter the
forest, and at times be gone for months, subsisting on
his meal and what his gun and traps could provide
him; with the addition of now and then a trout. He
had, as all men of his craft have, to eat many scanty
meals; but on returning to the settlements he made
ample amends for all privations in eating and drink-
-ing. He became known soon after his arrival in
Norway, by" the familiar title of Uncle Jock. Most
people at that day were fond of liquor, and our hero
among the rest.

" Uncle Jock," said a friend one day, " has

stolen your jug! " A man who could scent a beaver
in the water, could easily find the course his jug had
taken, and soon he overtook the thief; not, however,
until he had secreted the stolen treasure. He refused
to disclose where it was, and old Nimrod clenched
and threw him upon the ground, where he struggled
manfully, but to little purpose; as his hands were
soon secured, and his conqueror had one to spare.
With an uplifted fist shouted the victor, " Now tell
me what you have done with the rum, or to heaven



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 263

or hell in a moment!" The brief time alloted for
repentance, instantly disclosed the whereabouts of the
jug, and a promise to pay all demands.

Some four or five years before Uncle Jock pitched
his tent in Norway, a singular individual named Ni-
chols began the life of a hunter in the forests contig-
uous to Norway. He was from some place in New
Hampshire, upon the Connecticut river. He was to
appearance some forty years of age, of middling sta-
ture, mild disposition; and in his deportment was
simple, honest and obliging. He lived the most of
his time in the wilderness by hunting and trapping.
He was something of a musician, and kept a fiddle in
his camp, with which to cheer his hermitage. The
only living object of his care was a favorite hound,
imported by Arthur Noble, from Ireland; " Which,"
as my correspondent observes, " was one of no vulgar
blood; but a real Johnny Bull pup!" His fiddle,
hound, rifle and traps, constituted the principal stock
in trade of this secluded hunter.

Nichols was at first an unpracticed hunter, took
but little fur, and as supposed made a poor living;
for which reason it was thought by the few w^ho now
and then saw him; that he must have some resources
to lean upon, besides the avails of his avocation; as
he was always in funds to pay down for his plain
wearing apparel, and things needed in his isolated
camp. For a long time he avoided society, and was
disinclined to speak of his former residence or pm-



264 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

suits; but before his death it became known that he
was a good mathematician, and a mill-weight of the
first order. From him the carpenters in that part of
Herkimer county first learned to frame by the square
rule, casting aside for ever their scribe rule. He was
looked upon as a man of superior abilities, and what
could have induced him to adopt a wilderness life
was a mystery then, indeed, is to the present day.

When Uncle Jock moved into his neighborhood,
Nichols, to whom he was previously know^n, became
his partner in the chase, and under his teaching after-
wards proved a very successful trapper. It was not
known in Norway until Uncle Jock settled there, that
Nichols had left a good property in land and mills on
the Connecticut river, to which he never returned, or
even looked after. Although it was never satisfac-
torily known what induced Nichols to abandon his
property and friends, still it w^as believed to be solely
attributable to disappointment in love. But whether
some fair daughter of Yankeedom sighed her gentle
spirit aw^ay with " hope deferred," or whether Ni-
chols plodded his weary way through the wilderness
in fruitless attempts to forget some maiden.

With raven locks and lily skin,

And cheeks with dimples deep within,

can not be told, as the secret died with him.

Uncle Jock and Nichols, together in their trapping
excursions for beaver and other game, became fami-
liar with nearly every source of the East and West



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 265

Canada creeks, Black, Racket, and Sacondaga rivers.
They were as familiar with the lakes and water-
courses on and contiguous to Brown's tract, as is a hen
with her own chickens. Nichols, in tracing a small
stream that is tributary to the West Canada cre-^k,
obtained upon or near it, a fine specimen of lead ore^
but its locality has been sought for since, as yet in
vain. In the latter part of his life Nichols renewed
his avocation of a mill-wright, and only hunted in the
fall and winter. He was drowned w^hile repairing a
mill, in 1803

In one of his rambles after his partner's death. Uncle
Jock discovered a lake that is now called Jock's lake,
to which I have elsewhere alluded. It has for years
been a great resort for trout fishing. He said that
when he first visited it, it appeared to be alive with
fish, and for several years it became known to him
alone. From it he would take loads of trout at al-
most any season of the year to the settlements.

Many individuals not hunters, but who were anx-
ious to have a hunt, if it w^ere only to be able to say
that they had been in the woods and camped out with
a master hunter; used to urge their company upon
Uncle Jock; indeed, not a few of this sort received
the tuition of Stoner and Foster. In a few of his
trapping seasons Uncle Jock was accompanied by a
stout ; ble-bodied man, named Simmons, ^vho was
usually called Crookneck, probably from some pecu-
liar inclination of his bead. They w^ere on snow-
23



266 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

shoes in the month of March, hunting marten; or as
called by hunters wan-pur-noc-er. The bait used foi
those animals, which are a variety of weasel, is frest
meat; and as the hunters had taken no gun along
they had to depend on a dog to run down deer foi
marten-bait and their own food; which the crustec
snow enabled them to do.

Their dog one day got a large buck at bay, anc
the hunters approached to kill it. Crookneck cam(
up first, and hurried on thinking to seize the anima
by its antlers and throw it down. As he approachec
the worried deer, it made a furious plunge at him
Falling short of its aim, it drove a hoof through one
of his snow-shoes as Crookneck fell backwards! anc
not being familiar with the use of such broad " un-
derstandings," it turned a somerset and fell upon the
top of its antagonist. The new^ly initiated hunter
by his loud yells for help, gave evidence that hi;
lungs were in good condition; and soon the maste]
hunter was on hand, who drew his hunting knife, cu
the deer's hamstrings, and then easily dispatched him
As the liberated hunter regained his feet. Uncle Joel
dryly remarked, " Well Simmons, you are older thai
you might have been! If the buck had not fallen ;
little short, you would have been in oblivion now! "

At another time during the hunt, the dog started i
large moose, and as the crust cut its legs, it stoppei
and kept the dog at bay until the hunters approached
Uncle Jock wanted his companion to kill it, bu



TRAPPERS OF x\EW YORK. i?67

nothing could induce him to approach very near it.
The senior hunter then initiated Crookneck into a
new degree in game killing. He cut a pole, tied his
knife to the end of it, and gaining the cover of a tree
sufficiently near, he very dexterously wielded his pole
and hamstrung the animal, when it was easily de-
stroyed. To give his comrade a third degree in the
mysterious art of slaughtering large animals in the
forest, without a gun; when the dog called them to
another moose, Uncle Jock fastened his knife to a
long pole, stole up behind a large tree, and plunged
the blade into the heart of his victim.

Uncle Jock was ever a firm believer in a Supreme
Being, and also that earnest and sincere 'prayer, if
consistent with our circumstances, would readily be
answered by Divine Providence. One day after hear-
ing an over-zealous, ignorant preacher pray at great
length, a friend inquired how he liked the prayer?
" How fortunate it was for him," he replied, " that
he was addressing a Being that knew better than he
did what he wanted, or he would have been in h — in
a minute ! and at all events if he told the truth, he
is deserving of a halter or state prison for life ! But
though a /bo/, I think he is not quite as wicked as he
represents himself."

His own prayers were remarkably brief, and de-^
livered with great earnestness. They could hardly be
repeated by another, however, without seeming very
profane; and yet there was so much apparent sincerity



268 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

in their utterance by him, as to divest them of the
levity they might create when repeated by another.
One of them, which tradition has preserved entire, I
will insert. He was trapping marten in the month
of March, with Crookneck Simmons again for a part-
ner, and was severely attacked with pleurisy. Crook-
neck soon became alarmed and wanted to go to the
nearest settlement, some twenty miles oiF, for assist-
ance; much of which distance it would be necessary
to travel upon snow-shoes; but to this proposition
Uncle Jock would not consent. It was in vain for
him to remonstrate, however. In vain he told Crook-
neck, that it would take him two days to accomplish
the journey, in which time he must perish with cold,
if not by disease, as he could not keep his own fire
going; but go he would, and start he did.

Simmons had been gone but a few minutes, when
the invalid, conscious that he must soon die, unless
relieved immediately, uttered with great earnestness
the following prayer. " Great God, Jehovah, Jesus
Christ, our Lord ! if it is expedient that I should come
in and see JYabbi/ and Jonathan again, let it he brought
to a crisis d quick II "

After the utterance of this laconic and eccentric
petition, the sick man said he not only felt greatly
relieved in mind, but also a consciousness that it would
be answered; and in about half an hour Crookneck
returned. " The more haste the less speed," is an
old adage, was verified in his case; for in attempting



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 269

to proceed as fast as possible, he got an improper
angle into his neck, and down he went, breaking one
of his snow-shoes; and not having ingenuity enough
to repair it, he returned to their wigwam, where his
sick friend was still lying upon a hurdle of hemlock
boughs. The latter got him to sharpen his hunting
knife, and also to cord his arm; when he took the
knife and hied himself. Simmons fainted and fell,

and Uncle Jock said " he really thought the d

fool would die first ! "

After a copious flow of blood, the invalid stopped
it by thrusting a pin through the orifice, and w^inding
it with a lock of his own hair. In a little while
Simmons got about again, and in their camp-kettle
made a strong decoction of hemlock boughs, of which
Uncle Jock drank freely and laid down, when he ex-
perienced, as he said, the greatest relief he ever did
in so short a space of time. He fell into a slumber
which lasted several hours, and when he awoke he
was entirely free from pain. The third day after he
reached a settlement, and the fourth his prayer was
answered, by again embracing his dear JYahhy and
little Jonathan.

Uncle Jock, it is believed, never had any serious
difficulty with either Indian or white hunters. He
often spoke of the hind quarters of a beaver, as afford-
ing the most dainty morsel an epicure could obtain;
being preferable, as he said, to any other meat or fish,

because it possessed the virtues of both. This wilder-
23*



270 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

ness-explorer seldom said bitter things of any one;
but if insulted, the offender was pretty sure sooner or
later, to feel his dry sarcasm. He received a pension
from our government for Revolutionary services, under
the first pension act; which might with proper econo-
my have kept him and his Nabby from want, without
the necessity of his hunting, as his children were
grown up and married; but it only tended to make
him the more independent of the settlements, and
bury himself still deeper among the ever-greens of
the forest, from which he could not be weaned.

It was his usual custom to look up suitable loca-
tions for fall hunting in June, when trees would peel
the best; at which time he would build himself com-
fortable bark huts for fall and winter use. Hunting
seemed to have become with him a second nature,


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