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and he followed it to the last. When his eye grew
dim and his arm unsteady, so that he could no longer
use his trusty rifle, he would still venture, unattended
even by a dog into the far-off wilderness; and there,
armed only with a hatchet, follow his avocation for
weeks. He often said, that " the howling of the wolf,
growling of the bear, screaming of the panther, and
nightly concert of owls, kept him from being lonesome,
and was music to his ears." Such is man of the
woods ! The comforts of social life afford no enjoy-
ment for him.

After a hunt, he came into the settlement with beaver
and other furs, took them to market, returned home.



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 271

sat down at the table to eat, and fell dead upon the
fl^or without a struggle or groan, we believe in the
seventy-fifth year of his age. He died about the
year 1826.

The following brief notice of a hunter of northern
New York, appeared in the newspapers, in January,
1850.

Death of a JVimrod.— The St. Lawrence Mercury
says that Mr. Thomas Meacham, of the town of
Hopkinton, St. Lawrence county, who died a few
weeks ago, and who, for several years, was a resi-
dent of the North West Bay road, of what they then
called township No. 10, in Franklin county, on East-
brook, near the bounds of Hopkinton, w-as something
of a hunter. He kept an exact account of the game
killed by him, which amounts to the following: num-
ber of wolves, 214 j panthers 77^ bears 219; deer
2,550



CHAPTER XVIII.

Believing that the reader who has followed the
footsteps of our trappers, would be interested in
knowing something more of the animals they sought
for fur, and of their habits, I here insert a portion of
their history. The full grown Beaver will weigh
from fifty to sixty pounds, and is about four feet in
length from the snout to the end of the tail. The
tail is a foot long, five or six inches wide, by one
inch in thickness 3 and what is peculiar, although the
body of the animal is so well covered w^ith fur and
hair, the tail is without either, except at its insertion,
and is covered with scales. The fore part of the
beaver has the taste and consistency of land animals,
while the hind legs and tail have not only the smell,
but the savor and nearly all the qualities of fish.

This peculiarity is thought by some to be accounted
for by the habits of the animal, as when in the water
its hind legs and tail are submerged and never seen;
but it appears rather to be a connecting link between
the inhabitants of land and water, its singularity in
this respect being placed by nature beyond the con-
trol of mere circumstance. The beaver, when cap-
tured young, may easily be domesticated, and when
hungry will ask by a plaintive cry for food. It is not



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 273

very particular about its food, if of some green vege-
table kind^ but it generally refuses meat.

The bait used to entice beaver to a hunter's trap is
castoreuin, as I have elsewhere remarked. This sub-
sfance is obtained from the glandulous pouches of the
male animal, and is often called by hunters harkstone.
It is squeezed by hand into some vessel such as a cup
or bottle; a full grown animal affording several
ounces. Beaver castor is sometimes used by physi-
cians in medical practice. Oil, extracted from the
tail of the beaver, is used medicinally by the Indians.
The beaver is found only in cold or northern latitudes.
Its senses are acute. In its habits it is very neat, and
will allow no filth near its habitation.

In its natural or forest life, where undisturbed by
man, the beaver is social in its habits, often number-
ing twenty or more habitations in a single commu-
nity, containing from two to twenty members each at
some seasons of the year, as circumstances warrant.
The following account of the manner in which those
sagacious animals construct their dams and dwellings,
is from Godman's Natural History.

" They are not particular in the site they select for
the establishment of their dwellings, but if in a lake
or pond, where a dam is not required, they are care-
ful to build w^here the water is sufficiently deep. In
standing waters, however, they have not the advan-
tage afforded by a current for the transportation of
their supplies of wood; which, when they build on a



274 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

running stieam, is always cut higher up than the
place of their residence, and floated down.

" The material used for the construction of their
daQ:kS, are the trunks and branches of small birch,
mulberry, willow, poplar, &,c. They begin to cut
down their timber for building, early in the summer,
but their edifices are not commenced until about the
middle or latter part of August, and are not com-
pleted until the beginning of the cold season. The
strength of their teeth, and their perseverance in this
w^oik, may be fairly estimated, by the size of the
trees they cut down. These are cut in such a man-
ner as to fall into the w^ater, and then floated towards
the site of the dam or dwelling. Small shrubs, &c.,
cut at a distance from the water, they drag with their
teeth to the stream, and then launch and tow them to
the place of deposit. At a short distance above a
beaver dam, the number of trees which have been
cut down, appears truly surprising, and the regularity
of the stumps which are left, might lead persons un-
acquainted with the habits of the animals to believe,
that the clearing was the result of human industry.

" The figure of the dam varies according to cir-
cumstances. Should the current be very gentle, the
dam is carried nearly straight across; but when the
stream is swnftly flowing, it is uniformly made with a
considerable curve, having the convex part opposed
to the current. Along with the trunks and branches
of trees, they intermingle mud and stones, to give



TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 275

greater security; and when dams have been long un-
disturbed and frequently repaired, they acquire great
solidity, and their power of resisting the pressure of
\^ater and ice, is greatly increased by the willow,
birch, &c., occasionally taking root, and eventually
growing up into something of a regular hedge. The
materials used in constructing the dams, are secured
solely by the resting of the branches, &c., against the
bottom, and the subsequent accumulation of mud and
stones, by the force of the stream, or by the industry
of the beavers.

"The dwellings of the beaver are formed of the
same materials as their dams, and are very rude,
though strong, and adapted in size to the number of
their inhabitants. There are seldom more than four
old, and six or eight young ones. Double of that
number have been occasionally found in one of the
lodges, though it is by no means a very common
occurrence.

" When building their houses, they place most of
the wood cross-wise, and nearly horizontally, observ-
ing no other order than that of leaving a cavity in
the middle. Branches, which project inward, are cut
off with their teeth and thrown among the rest. The
houses are by no means built of sticks first, and then
plastered, but all the materials, sticks, mud and stones,
if the latter can be procured, are mixed up together,
and this composition is employed from the foundation
to the summit. The mud is obtained from the adja-



276 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

cent banks or bottom of the stream or pond, near the
door of the hut. Mud and stones, the beaver always
carries by holding them between his fore paws and
throat.

" Their work is all performed at night, and with
much expedition. When straw or grass is mingled
with the mud used by them in building, it is an acci-
dental circumstance, owning to the nature of the spot
w^hence the latter was taken. As soon as any part
of the material is placed where it is intended to re-
main, they turn round and give it a smart blow with
the tail. The same sort of blow is struck by them,
on the surface of the water when they are in the act
of diving.

" The outside of the hut is covered or plastered
with mud, late in the autumn, and after frost has be-
gun to appear. By freezing it soon becomes almost
as hard as stone, effectually excluding their great
enemy, the wolverine, during the winter. Their habit
of walking over the w^ork frequently during its pro-
gress, has led to the absurd idea of their using their
tail as a trowel. The habit of flapping w-ith the
tail is retained by them in a state of captivity, and,
unless it be the acts already mentioned, appears de-
signed to effect no particular purpose. The houses,
when they have stood for some time, and been kept
in repair, become so firm from the consolidation of all
the materials, as to require great exertion, and the
ice chisel, or other iron instruments, to be broken



TKAPPERS OF NEW YORK. 277

open. The laborious nature of such an undertaking
may easily be conceived, when it is known that the
tops of the houses are generally from four to six feet
thick at the apex of the cone."

The tail of the beaver when swimming, serves for
a rudder to aid the animal in its changing and often
rapid movement in the water. Near their habitations,
beavers establish magazines of green bark and soft
wood for food, keeping them well replenished; ar>d
never do the members of one family plunder from the
larder of another. A community of beavers, althouo-h
It may consist of several hundred members, is seldom
disturbed by domestic difficulties; peace and harmony
being the bond which cements their union. If an
individual is threatened with danger, it immediately
takes measures to forewarn the whole village; which
is done by striking the water furiously with its tail
Thus apprised of an enemy's proximity, the animals
take shelter either in the water or their strong dwell-
ings, which are very tidily kept in order. The en-
trance to a beaver's dwelling is by a small open door
towards the water. The legs of a beaver are short,
the foot has four toes, and what is remarkable, the
hind feet have membranes between the toes to aid the
animal in swimming.

The Otter, which is also hunted for its valuable fur,
resembles the beaver somewhat in size, but very little
in its general habits. It lives a more solitary life,
often changing its habitation, especially in the winter,'



278 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

when seeking to find unfrozen water. It often travels
a great distance at such times, and if threatened by
danger on the snow, it slides on its belly rapidly,
leaving a furrow behind it. Some suppose it is done
by the animal in an attempt to bury itself in the
snow. This is not the case, but rather a necessity
arising from the shortness of its legs, as proportioned
to its body. The animal has been known, not unfre-
quently, to get upon a hill near its own residence,
when covered with snow, and with its fore feet bent
back, slide down the hill for several rods, with great
rapidity. This feat is evidently performed for a pas-
time.

The otter usually feeds upon fish, frogs, and other
small animals; and when they can not be obtained, it
will eat the tender branches and bark growing in or
near the water, and sometimes grass. They are bad
economists of food, and often annoy a community of
beavers, by destroying their husbanded store of grow-
ing eatables. The otter is less numerous than the
beaver, and its fur more valuable. The foot of the
otter has five toes, connected by webs, like the toes
of a duck. It displays considerable sagacity in pre-
paring its burrow, which it makes upward under a
bank, the entrance being beneath the water, and that
in a freshet it shall not be drowned, it opens a small
vent to the surface, often concealed by leaves and
bushes. The otter taken young has been tamed, and
tau2:ht to fish for its master.



TRArpERS OF NEW YORK. 279

The Musk-rat in its habits much resembles the
beaver, but is small as compared with that animal,
being scarcely one-third as large. It is called the
musk-rat, because it is furnished with a peculiar
matter, of a strong musky odor. The entrance to its
burrow like that of the beaver, is usually made under
a bank beneath the water. Its food, which is similar
to that of the beaver, is usually sought in the night.
Although the latter animal entirely disappears as the
country becomes settled, it is not so with the musk-
rat, it continues its proximity to man's abode, occu-
pying marshy lands along the shore of some river or
pond, long after the lands are cleared up and culti-
vated to the water's edge. It is an excellent swim-
mer, and dives with great celerity. The flesh of the
musk-rat is sel(k>m eaten unless in cases of great
hunger, because of its powerful odor. It is still quite
numerous in and about the Mohawk river, where the
country has been settled for more than a century, and
is destroyed every spring in great numbers, when
driven from its burrows by heavy freshets, at the
breaking up of winter. On such occasions the banks
of the Mohawk are lined with men and boys, watch-
ing w^ith eagle-eye to shoot the terrified animals,
which are often slain in the very villages contiguous
to the river. Not unfrequently they are, by freshets,
driven up drains into cellars, where they make great
havoc among cabbage and other vegetables there
stored.



280 TRAPPERS OF NEW YORK.

The Pine Marten, or forest weasel, is so called, be-
cause of its preference to forests of pine, in the lofty
tops of which it resides. It lives upon small quadru-
peds and birds, obtained in the forest, and seldom
approaches the habitation of man. It sometimes
lives in the hollow of a tree, and not unfrequently
takes forcible possession of a squirrel's nest, which it
enlarges and occupies to rear its young. The fur of
the marten is often used in the manufacture of hats,
and in ornamenting winter dresses. The animal is
about eighteen inches in length to the tail, the latter
appendage being about ten inches long. The male
is nearly one-third larger than the female. Trappers
have often found the taking of the marten profitable.

The Wolverine, which annoys the hunter by steal-
ing game from his traps, resembles ^e skunk some-
what in appearance. It is about two feet tw^o inches
long from the end of the nose to the origin of the tail,
and the latter, which is quite bushy, is some eight
inches long to the end of the hair. The animal is
very strong for its, size, having very sharp claws and
teeth. It is covered with fur, but not of fine quality.
It is said to be able to defend itself against the at-
tacks of much larger animals, not unfrequently over-
powering and destroying them.



APPENDIX.



A.— ( page 23).— What finally became of ^^Billy the
Musician,^' on the breaking up of the Johnson family,
IS not known with certainty. Mr. Shew seems confident
he did not remove to Canada with the Johnstown
royalists. He probably went to New York city.



B.~(page 23).— Sir William Johnson's Gardener,
who answered to the name of « Old Daddy Savage.''
was very old at the time of the Baronet's death. He
had long been faithful to his trust, and doubtless de-
served a better finale to mortality. He remained with
Sir John Johnson until his flight to Canada, when he
was left at the mercy of the winds, or if not, with a
pittance that soon placed him there. He was for se-
veral years supported by the charity of the district
until his death, which occurred back of Johnstown
about the year 1780. He died at the age of nearly one
hundred years.



282 TRAPPERS OF NEW-YORK

C. — (page 23). — As suggested to the writer by an
antiquarian friend, the name of Pontiac was probably
given to his waiter by Sir William Johnson, as a com-
pliment to the distinguished Ottawa chieftain of that
name. At the termination of the French war in 1763,
which ended in the conquest of Canada by Great Bri-
tain, several western tribes of Indians who had been in
the French interest, and often engaged with the French
against the English and Iroquois, were unreconciled to
British dominion ; and, instigated by Pontiac, their
master spirit, they leagued " in a confederacy, the de-
sign of which was to expel the English, and restore
French ascendency."* Under the direction of Pontiac,
the confederates captured several British posts on the
western frontier, and by their bold and atrocious acts
were filling the country with alarm, when Gen. Brad-
street was sent against them m 1765, with a force suf-
ficient to subdue and bring them to terms. Sir William
Johnson accompanied the expedition to Niagara, ^vhere
he held a treaty, in July, " with the Shawanese, Dela-
wares and Mingos ;" as intimated in a letter from him
to Commissary General Leake, under date of July 18,
1765.1 Pontiac and other chiefs in his confidence, not
present at the Niagara treaty, met Sir William Johnson
on behalf of the British government at Ontario, in July
1766 ; when the war hatchet was buried, and peace
restored. { This latter meeting is barely hinted at on
page 861, Vol. 2 of the Documentary History of New-

=* Turner's History of the Holland Purchase in Western N. Y.

t Documentary History, Vol 2, p. 820.

X Correspondence of Lyman C. Draper^ of Leverington, Pa.



APPENUIX. 283

York, in a letter from the Baronet to Gen. Gage ; but
what seems passing strange, the wary chieftain Pontiac
is not named in the Broadhead papers.



D. — ( page 29). — Samuel Olmsted and Zadock
Sherwood, natives of Ridgfield, Connecticut, located at
Northville about the year 1786, going up the Sacondaga
from Fish-House in a canoe, containing a few necessary
articles ; and after constructing a rude hut, they began
to clear up the forest. Nearly four years after the two
named took up their abode in the wilderness, Caleb and
Daniel Lobdell, brothers, removed thither from Dan-
bury, Comiecticut. Between the advent of the Lob-
dells, and the year 1794, the Sacondaga settlement had
been increased by the arrival of Joseph Olmsted,
Abraham Van Aernam, Paul Hammond, John Shoe-
craft, Aaron Olmsted, Samuel Price, and possibly one
or two others. The settlers, who had gone through the
hardships and experienced the thousand and one dif-
ficulties attending the settling of all new countries, were
at this time living very comfortably on the lands, not a
few acres of which, on both sides of the river, were
under improvement ; yielding, in their virgin strength,
a rich compensation to the husbandman.

Indian hunters were very frequent guests among the
pioneer settlers of Northville ; and as the latter spared
no pains to cultivate amity with them, the reader may
judge their surprise, when, on some occasion in the sum-
mer of 1794 — possibly on the eve of which intimations



284 TRAPPERS OF NEW-YORK.

of savage invasion had been clandestinely put afloat, an
alarm spread through the settlement, that a party of
Indians hideously painted were in their vicinity, only
waiting a favorable opportunity to kill the inhabitants
and bear off their hard earnings. While all was bustle
and confusion at the rude tenements of the settlers,
peal after peal of fire-arms broke the stillness of night,
interrupted occasionally with the whoops and shouts of
the foe, approaching as they seemed to be on the west
side of the river. Every preparation that could be
made on the emergency to resist the invaders was
quickly made ; and the colonists, there being no chicken-
hearted among them, resolved to sell their lives as
dearly as possible. Houi' after hour wore away until
morning : the clangor of arms and lungs had ceased ;
still the foeman had not crossed the river.

Some of the settlers, whose mettle had been tried in
the Revolution, crossed the river in the morning, when,
lo ! they found greater evidence of Indian invasion than
did the Windhamites, on the morning after their alarm
by the frogs of their neighborhood in olden time ; for
in a cornfield nearly opposite the Lobdell dwelling,
there were numerous mocasined tracks, and not a few
half consumed gun-wads. One peculiarity was ob-
servable, however ; the footsteps did not turn in at the
toes, as those of the red man invariably did. It was
now recollected, that Price and Aaron Olmsted had not
been among the excited inhabitants when counseling for
defense ; and froni some impending circumstances, sus-
picion rested upon them of having played possum for
some purpose.



APPENDIX. 285

It soon leaked out that the suspicion of the inhabit-
ants was well founded ; that the two had undertaken,
as the menials of certain land speculators, to frighten
aw^ay the earUest settlers, for which service they were
to receive twenty-Jive dollars ; the land sharks to get
the improvements the hard-fisted yeomanry had made,
for a very nomi^^l sum. Accordingly they repaired to
the cornfield with pistols and stentorian lungs, to prac-
tice the war dance. When the trick was discovered,
the Achans, who had families, were obliged to make a
hasty flight from the country, to escape the vengeance
of their enraged neighbors ; and so precipitate was their
departure, that Olmsted forgot his own, and took along
another man's wife. Thus terminated the only Indian
alarm the pioneers of Northville ever experienced.

(Facts from Nathan P. Lobdell^ a son of one of the pioneer
settlers named above.)



E. — (page 199). — The solitary pine formerly stand-
ing on Elba island in Fourth lake, which was twelve
or fifteen inches in diameter, says John Stilwell of
Herkimer county, was cut down in the spring of 18B1.
In the preceding summer, he adds, the following thrilling
incident occurred there.

A party of fishermen in several boats were engaged
on the lake near the island catching trout, when their
attention was arrested by an unusual noise upon the



286 TRAPPERS OF NEW-YORK.

lake shore nearly a mile distant. Presently a noble
deer was seen bounding along the beach, closely pursued
by a monstrous panther. The timid animal plunged
into the lake and swam for the opposite shore, followed
by its bloodthirsty foe. One of the boats which
chanced to be directly in the deer's course, was rowed
farther out from the island, to give the panting animal
sea-room; when it came into the allotted space, and
not daring to tinist itself upon the sterile island near
which it passed, it swam off to the opposite shore —
adding a second mile to its voyage — and safely dis-
appeared in the forest. The deer could swim faster
than its pursuer ; and as the latter approached the
fishermen, they closed in toward the island, upon which
they compelled it to land.

The panther, for its better security, lost no time in
ascending the pine to its branches, where it crouched
with lashing tail ; evidently in no very good humor at
being thwarted in its murderous design. The fisher-
men, some of whom were fortunately armed with rifles,
then gave their boats positions affording a good view
of the panther, yet far enough off" to ensure their own
safety, should it be wounded and resent the insult. A
rifle was poised by a marksman, and the animal fell
dead at the first fire. It was a very large one, and its
skin, I am told, is now in the Utica Museum. If an-
other effort in nature should produce a second pine or
some other forest-tree on this western Elba, we hope
it may be allowed to remain in its sentinel position, if
only to afford a favorable place from which to shoot
panthers.



APPENDIX. 287

Hunters and fishermen about the lakes on Brown's
tract are usually much annoyed in warm weather by
musketoes and punkies. It is a fact worthy of note,
however, that they are not troublesome on this Elba of
Fourth lake : hence a reason why it has long been a
favorite place for sportsmen to take their lunch, or re-
main over night. For some years, the chips of the Elba
pine served the temporary occupants of the island as
substitutes for plates, from which not a few hearty
meals have been eaten.



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