Jeptha Root Simms.

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animal's mouth, he discharged it and blew out his
brains. The yell of the dog attracted the attention
of several neighbors, and just as Stoner fired a second
time, Lieut. Wallace and his hired man, Hulster, ar-
rived at the scene of action, armed with pitchforks.

The bear proved to be very large, and had one
white paw. On examining, to learn the cause, it was
found that one of the bullets fired at him in the corn-
field, had passed through the centre of a forefoot while
in an erect position, and the animal had sucked it
until the inner part was white as snow.

Major Stoner was not only a trapper, but in the
proper season he indulged frequently in a deer or a
fox hunt; in which he was generally successful. On
a certain occasion many years ago, accompanied by
Benjamin DeLine and Jacob Frederick, he w^ent to hunt
deer around the shores of the Canada lake, since by
some called Fish lake, and by others Byrn lake.
They succeeded in killing two noble deer, and started
tow^ard night to cross the lake in the direction of


home. Their water-craft, a tree canoe, when they
were all in with their game, was loaded almost as
heavily as she could float; and the wind causing the
waves to roll, made the voyage a dangerous one.
Stoner managed the canoe, while his companions,
seated on its bottom, used the utmost caution to pre-
serve its equilibrium: but long before the little barque
neared her destined landing, she began to dip water.
Safety required that his comrades, whose seat became
uncomfortable as the water ran round them, should
keep quiet, while Stoner renewed his exertions at the
paddle to gain the opposite shore. As it became doubt-
ful whether the destined haven could be gained, Stoner
steered for the nearest land, which proved to be a pro-
jecting point of a small rocky island, which, in the
absence of a better name, I shall call Stoner's island.
The farther they sailed, the more the gale increased,
and as wave after wave left a portion of its crest in
the overloaded canoe; the situation of its inmates be-
came one of the greatest peril. DeLine and Frederick,
substituting their hats for basins, used their utmost
exertions to keep the boat afloat by bailing, while
Stoner, urging upon his friends the necessity of cool-
ness and a uniform position, sent her forward rapidly.
Still several rods from the land, and already up to his
knees in water, as the canoe was nearly full; DeLine
sprang out and found bottom, although the water was
several feet deep. Fearing that if their craft found-
ered they would lose their guns and game, and ob-


serving that DeLine got on so well, Frederick also
jumped into the lake; but a little distance made quite
a difference in the depth of water, for he found no
bottom. He was unable to swim, and seeing him
sinking below the surface, Stoner leaped out to his
rescue. His hair fortunately was done up in a cue,
wound wath an eel-skin, and at this his deliverer made
a successful grab and swam to the shore. All having
gained the land, the canoe, which had been guided
along by DeLine, was drawn up on the beach, its
valuables removed to a place of safety, and its water
emptied out. Frederick, whose powers of suction had
gained him one swell too much, soon disgorged the
contents of his stomach; and when he could again
speak, he broke out with an oath in imperfect English,
" / cross de ocean all safe from Sharmany, and 0,
musht 1 pe tromn in dish tarn vrog-pojit .'"

Stoner's island, although preferable to the bottom
of the lake, was far from affording the weary hunters
a very comfortable night's rest. It had indeed some
trees and wild-wood vines, but nothing like a human
habitation ; still, as the gale continued w^ith unabated
violence, and it was now almost night, it w^as out of
the question to think of proceeding farther that eve-
ning: they therefore set about making themselves as
comfortable as circumstances would permit. As not
only their guns and ammunition were w^et, but their
materials for kindling a torch, they were obliged to
camp dow^n with their clothes saturated and their


bodies shivering, without one blazing faggot to dry
their garments or cheer the midnight hour.

The Sun once more came peering o'er the Earth,
sending his light in golden streams through the pri-
mitive forest which covered the surrounding hills, to
reflect their mellowed rays on the glassy waters of
Lake Byrn; in the bosom of which Stoner's island
lay reposing, as calmly and as quietly as an infant
nestled to sleep in its mother's arms. The deer-hunters
rose betimes, and although their study of cause and
effect, as we may suppose, had been somewhat limited,
still the contrast of nature's dramatic scenes since the
previous evening had been so great, that they could
not fail to mark the change, and look w^ith an ad-
miring eye on the rich and varied scene Heaven had
spread before them. Once more embarked with their
treasures, they gained the lake shore in safety, and
proceeded home without further adventure. For the
kind services rendered him at the lake, said Frederick,
on his arriving at his own dwelling, " JYow, JYick,
schurst so long ash I has von cent in de vorld, so long
you shall never wants for any ting, for hulling me out
from dat tarn vrog-pont niit mine eel-shkin dail.'^

For saving his life in the manner here related, this
worthy German proved the sincere and grateful friend
of our hero to the hour of his death, just before which
event he urged upon his children as a debt due to
himself, that they should never see his lake savior
want the comforts of life. It is gratifying to observe


that the Fredericks (a very respectable name in Ful-
ton county) have honored their father, even in death,
by remaining the warm friends of the old trapper,
their father's friend; having ever held themselves re-
sponsible for the proper fulfilment, if needs be, of their
parent's unostentatious wish.

On the eve of our last war with Great Britain,
Major Stoner and William Mason entered the wilder-
ness with their traps, and were gone over two months.
Their stay was protracted several weeks beyond the
time intended, and their anxious friends, who had heard
nothing from them, began to consider them as lost

Hunters usually carried fishing tackle, and although
they often had to do without bread in long hunts, they
could generally procure a supply of fish or wild game.
Their food frequently consisted of either deer's or
bear's meat, and not unfrequently of squirrels, rabbits,
ducks, partridges, and possibly the flesh of beaver.
Meats were usually roasted before the fire on a spit of
wood, one end of which was planted in the ground.

If the reader will just peep in at the entrance of a
well regulated hunter's camp, he will see at a glance
how the disciples of Nimrod live in their wilderness,
womenless home. He w^ill observe that excitement
renders them not only contented but comparatively
happy, in a little hut, destitute of a chair, table, or
bed. Should the visitor accept an invitation to step
in and dine, he may expect to receive a liberal slice


of meat, scorched upon one side and nearly raw on
the other, with a reasonable allowance of salt and a
morsel of stale bread, if not too late in the hunt, served
with a hearty welcome upon the inner side of a clean
piece of bark; while he is seated upon a large stone,
or block of wood. If he tarried over night, for an
evening's entertainment, he would listen to not a few
perilous adventures in unexpected encounters with
wild animals, or novelties attending the chase; and
at early bed-time, he would find himself stretched upon
a hurdle of hemlock boughs in one corner of the lodge,
gathering himself into as small a heap as possible;
with a secret prayer that no hungry wolf would thrust
its nose beneath the blanket or pelt that covered him,
while midnight visions of squaws and beaver-skins
haunted his brain.

Out of provisions and almost out of their icckoning,
Stoner and his friend, having hung up their fur in some
safe place which they could again find, were making
theif way to one of the nearest w^hite settlements, when
suddenly they came upon an Indian in the forest, whom
the major mistaking for some other animal, 'possibly a
hear, was about to fire upon. The Indian, whose name
was Anderly, proved to be one of the Caughnaw^aga
tribe, from txrand river in Canada. He had him
a little daughter, his wife having died in the forest.
The sudden appearance of two white men greatly ter-
rified this little forest flower; but her fears were quieted
with an assurance of friendship, and the white hunters


shared the hospitality of their dusky friends over night.
This Indian first communicated to the Johnstown
trappers the fact, that hostilities had commenced be-
tween England and the United States. Knowing this
fact, and thinking that possibly the whites were either
spies or foes, was what at first caused the fear of the
young wood-nymph. Parting with their new friends,
with whom they were much pleased, Stoner and Ma-
son journeyed on, and finally came out in Norway,
Herkimer county; where they obtained provisions,
and where too, they saw several families that were
removing from the Black river country to the Mohawk
valley. They also came in contact wuth a body of
United States drafts marching to the line between New
York and Canada.

Trappers in their excursions seldom take shaving
utensils with them, and not unfrequently on their re-
turn home, they might have been mistaken for the
prototype of Lorenzo Dow, of long-beard memory.
The Johnstown friends had wandered so long in the
forest, that their clothes were much worn ; and Mason,
whose appearance was perhaps the most ragged, was
arrested on suspicion of being a spy, and his gun taken
from him. Stoner having been a hero of the preceding
war, was fortunately known to some of the soldiery,
and succeeded in effecting the liberation of his com-
rade and the restoration of his gun ; and after liberally
replenishing their larder, they again buried themselves
in the moaning wilderness. In this hunt, Stoner car-


lied his rifle and Mason a fowling-gun with which to
shoot small game for food. On their way back to the
place where they had secreted their fur, and when in
a gloomy, mountain-encompassed dell, they accident-
ally fell in with tw^o Indians, who were there on the
same errand as themselves. It seems to be a pretty
true, though stale maxim, that two of a trade can not
agree. The strangers were Canadian hunters, having
very little fur, one of w^hom was armed with a rifle.
Scarcely had the parties met, when the one last alluded
to commenced a fierce quarrel with Stoner. He took
the latter for Green White, another bold trapper, and
accused him of plundering and then burning their
camp some two years before. Stoner, enraged at the
false charge, retorting the harsh epithets of his accuser,
denied being White; or having stolen the fur of any
one. The other Indian, who said he had seen White,
told his companion that he was not the hunter before
them, but this the passionate savage would not admit,
and the dispute continued.

Observing that his partner would not be appeased,
and that the quarrel must prove a serious one, the In-
dian without a rifle approached Mason, w^ho, as we
have seen, was a little timorous in such an emergency,
and desired to look at his gun. His object undoubt-
edly was to arm himself. This seemingly small favor
would possibly have been indulged, had not a caution
from Stoner, in the Low Dutch tongue, reached his
friend, to beware of a treacherous design. The master-


hunter could not only understand, but spoke the Indian
dialect very well. Determined to possess himself of
Mason's gun, his antagonist grappled with him to
wrest it from his hands. A shrill rifle-shot now rang
among the towering hemlocks, followed by a yell so
loud and death*like, as to startle the wolf and panther
in their mountain lair. A moment after and the figure
of an Indian was seen receding in the forest with the
fleetness of an antelope, and the click of a gun-lock
fell on the ear; but its priming having been lost in
his scuffle with Mason, it missed fire, and the dark form
vanished in safety and alone.

After this adventure, the Johnstown trappers pur-
sued their way, w^ithout further molestation, to their fur
and their traps, and ere long they returned home, to
the great joy of their friends; bearing a most valuable
lot of fur, and a spare rifle. It is not improbable that
their store of fur was augmented some in that lone
spot, where they had left a human carcass to return to
its earthly afifinity.

Major Stoner was gone so long that a rumor pre-
judicial to his character was put in circulation in
Johnstown just before his return. It w^as reported,
and perhaps by some believed, that he had been en-
gaged in the contraband trade of smuggling goods
from Canada to that village, for Cornelius Herring
and Amaziah Rust. He says the accusation was false,
and although he saw goods carrying in the wilderness
at this time, which mav have been destined for Johns-


town; they were in the hands of individuals who were
strangers to him. Squaws generally started with the
merchandise from Canada, and at some designated
place they met and gave it over to men employed to
run it through.

It is not unlikely that Green White, to whom allu-
sion is made in these pages, who was a celebrated
and successful trapper, traversing the wilderness from
Otsego county to the shores of the St. Lawrence, had
numerous and sometimes fatal quarrels with rival
hunters. John G. Seely informed the writer that he
once playfully, though ironically, remarked to White,
" he did not like it that he was killing off all his na-
tion,''^ The hunter replied, " D — n them, they must
not search my traps then. The last one I saw was
peeking over the hushes to look into one of my traps, and
soon after my dog was shaking his old blanket .'" Some
further account of this hunter, with his melancholy
fate, is given in another part of this volume.



White hunters as well as Indians wore moccasons
on their long hunts; usually making their own from
the pelts of wild animals. Aaron Griswold hunted
with Maj. Stoner on one occasion, and having killed
a bear, as his boots chafed his ancles, he was not long
in making himself moccasons from the raw hide,
with the fur inside ; and hanging up his boots in some
secure place, they journeyed on some fifteen miles.
Stoner had a favorite dog with him at the time, and
in the night the animal ate up one of the newly made
moccasons. Griswold was very angry next morning,
and swore he would shoot the dog; but Stoner ap-
peased his wrath by cutting the needed garment from
his own blanket, which lasted until the return of
Griswold to his boots; about which time the major
shot a deer, and the breach in his companion's ward-
rbbe was repaired from its skin.

Maj. Stoner was on a deer-hunt many years ago to
the Sacondaga vlaie, in company with Captain Henry
Shew. At a suitable place to camp out, he collected
some dry wood and struck up a fire for their comfort,
his companion in the meanwhile, visiting a favorite
crossing place of the deer. Having started his fire,
he crossed the low ground to the bank of the creek


which courses through it. He had scarcely reached
the stream, when he saw the tall grass covering the
bog on the opposite shore bending towards him. He
at once recognized in the undulatory motion of the
grass, the probable presence of some wild animal;
w^hich he thought hardly lofty enough in its carriage
for a deer. He remained quiet, and soon the object
made its appearance near the creek. At first sight
he thought it a hunter's dog, but its wild appearance
undeceived him, and he shot it. This was near night,
and the following morning they made a raft of drift-
wood, on which Capt. Shew crossed the stream to see
what Stoner had killed. It proved to be a large she
wolf, and a young cub which had just been trying to
obtain nourishment from it, fled on the hunter's ap-
proach, (as he had not taken his gun along,) and se-
creted its famishing form in the rank grass. Shew
skinned the wolf, and Judge Simon Veeder paid them
twenty shillings, the then legal bounty, for its scalp.

Maj. Stoner shot but one other wolf while hunting,
although he trapped them often. He never killed a
panther, as none were so reckless of life as to cross
his path; but he very often heard their startling
scream from their mountain haunts. He killed no
less than seventeen bears in two seasons.

The celebrated Nathaniel Foster and Maj. Stoner
were hunting together one fall, when they trapped a
large eagle. They set the trap beside the carcase
of a deer the wolves had killed on the ice upon


Round lake ; and the national bird, as a reward for the
low company it kept, was caught in a wolf-trap, and
flew oif with it; a heavy clog being attached to its
chain. The follow^ing spring one Barrington visited
the place with Stoner, and in searching they found
the trap in the bush beside the lake, where the clog
had become entangled, else the majestic bird would
possibly have soared away to its eyry with its vast
load. It was dead when discovered, and the trap,
which was Foster's, was restored to him.

During the time he was a hunter, a period of forty
or fifty years, Maj. Stoner hunted with very many in-
dividuals; among whom were several Indians. He
was out some time with a man named Flagg, of
whom we can say nothing, except that he wore a cu-
rious cap, made from the skin of a loon with its
downy coat on. He hunted one season with a St.
Regis Indian, named Powlus, and his acquaintances
wondered that he dared to do it. With this Indian
he explored the head waters of Grass river, which
empties into the St. Lawrence. At this place they
met with a small area of land with a fine growth of
hickory and oak timber. Persons going from Canada
to Johnstown in the summer season, either had to go
by way of the Sacondaga river, or else far to the west
of it, on account of a large territory of drowned lands
in the vicinity of Grass river. The latter district was
traversed with ease in the winter, however, by hunt-
ers on snow shoes, when the low lands were frozen.


Near the head of Grass riv^r, the Johnstown trappers
met a French Canadian hunter, who had a squaw for
a wife. He was desirous of going as far south as
Johnstown, and Stoner traced a map of the most feasi-
ble route for him, upon a piece of birch bark, to en-
able him to accomplish the journey. Whether he
ever reached the designated point is not known.

Subsequent to Maj. Stoner 's hunting with Mason,
Dunn, and Jackson, who were most frequently his
companions; he hunted two seasons with another St.
Regis Indian, called Capt. Gill; with whom he was
very successful. They caught twenty-six beavers and
five otters, beside considerable other game, in one
spring. Beaver usually sold for about one dollar a
pound ; and good skins would weigh about four pounds
each. Otter skins sold from five to seven dollars the
pelt. Stoner has received one hundred dollars for
peltries taken in a single season.

Gill had his squaw Molly with him while hunting,
and a daughter, or a Molly junior, who, the Indian said,
was not his papoose. Indian women usually remained
at the camp, and did the cooking for the hunters.
Beavers generally built their dams across the outlets
of the lakes. Gill was very successful in spearing
those sagacious animals in their houses. While to-
gether, they once trapped no less than four beavers in
a single night. This Indian was a catholic, and in
a thunder shower would cross himself repeatedly. He

was in the English service in the war of the Revolu-


tion, and was present at the destruction of Stone
Arabia; but in the last war he took protection under
the authorities of New York. He entertained no lit-
tle fear, and possibly harbored not much love for his
fellow countrymen; and on an emergency, would per-
haps have scrupled as little as did his fearless com-
panion, to punish their aggressions.

Eben Blakeman, who several times hunted with our
hero, was once on a hunt when the Indians disturbed
his traps; but being joined by Stoner, they left the
hunting grounds sans ceremonie. Obadiah "Wilkins,
another lover of the chase, was more than once asso-
ciated with Major Stoner in trapping excursions.
Their wives were cousins. On one occasion when
they were hunting in Bleeker, Wilkins, to replenish
their larder, took fishing tackle and seated himself on
a rock in West Stoney creek, a tributary of the Sa-
condaga. He had barely gained the position, when
a stout Indian came to him and inquired rather insult-
ingly, " What doing here ?" He replied, " I am fish-
ing." " Have got gun ?"" interrogated the visitor.
" Yes, at the camp," said Wilkins, a little disconcert-
ed at the fierce manner of his inquirer. Observing
the advantage he had gained, the red hunter continued,
" This Indian'* s hunting ground — Yankees no business
here — you must leave him .'" As Wilkins made but
little reply to the last remark, the speaker continued,
" Has white man got partner ?" " Yes, at the camp."
" What his name ?" " Nick Stoner."


Had the witch of Endor risen before him, the
forest-son would not have been more disagreeably
taken a-back, and he gave a loud guttural " Umph! "
Observing the magic wrought by the utterance of a
single name, Wilkins became reassured, and invited
the blanketed hunter to go with him to the camp.
" JYo! Indian go to his own camp / " he responded,
and soon after disappeared in the wilderness. This
Indian had frightened a hunter, named Wheeler, from
these grounds not long before; but when he heard
that Stoner was in the neighborhood, the air seemed
to oppress his lungs; and hastily collecting his traps,
he broke up his camp and sought afar off a new forest-
home. The reason assigned by Wilkins to his part-
ner for being disconcerted at the interrogatories of
this savage hunter was, that the latter was armed with
a hatchet, and himself only with a fishing-rod.

The last difficulty Stoner had with the Indians while
trapping, occurred at Lake Pleasant. Dunning, who
then live^ at the Ox-Bow, four miles from Lake
Pleasant, had left his traps in the wilderness where he
had previously hunted, and was afraid to go after them
alone at the return of the hunting season. Obadiah
W^ilkins left home with Stoner on this enterprise, and
leaving him to hunt with Cunning's father nearer
home, Stoner and Dunning set out to find and use the
hidden traps. Before reaching them, and about thirty
miles from the settlement, Stoner set two of his own
traps for beaver, one in the stream and the other on


the shore of a small lake; a little distance further he
set another trap for an otter. Arriving at a pond
which lay in their route, not far from where the last
trap was set, they found a large moose in it fighting
flies, which Stoner, with some twinges of conscience,
drew up and shot. They skinned it and sunk the hide
beneath the water, to get the hair off; and two musk-
rat skins they had already secured they hung up in
the vicinity. Not more than one-fourth of a mile far-
ther on, they came to a deserted camp, with the
appearance of having been recently occupied. Much
wearied and the day far spent, they tarried over night
at this hunter's lodge.

On the following morning, as the distance was not
very great. Dunning w^ent back to the place where
the nearest trap was set, but could not find it; and
before renewing the journey for his traps, they returned
together, if possible to learn the fate of the one, and
recover the other two traps. The trap set for an otter
was indeed clear gone, and about it were Indians'
tracks, but the other two were safe. In the one left
in the creek a beaver had been caught that proved
wise enough to gnaw its own leg off, and escape by
leaving its foot in the trap; and in the other they
found an otter.

While on their way to obtain their traps, they heard
the report of a gun fired in the distance, which they
thought might possibly tell w^hat direction the lost

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