John Stearns Minard.

Recollections of the log school house period, and sketches of life and customs in pioneer days online

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attended the institute. There were others.

The time now referred to was before even the old Prince «&
Go's, melodeons, so well remembered by all our elderly peo-
ple, made their appearance. Occasionally one more proficient
of the teachers who had mastered the mysteries of violin or
bass viol and thought himself qualified to execute (?) music
thereon, would bring with him his favorite instrument with
which to accompany the singing. The tuning fork was invari-
ably used to get the key or pitch, as they called it, and some
of them made use of a small portable black board, upon which
to illustrate the lessons.

There was a great difference in the singing masters of those
days. Of course every blessed one of them thought himself
possessed of a superb voice, and a thorough knowledge of
music. They were probably not all alike endowed in that par-
ticular any more than in the art of imparting their knowledge
to their pupils, which, it must be confessed, was with varymg
and widely differing degrees of success.

But the difference in the teachers found a full match in the
great variety of pupils. Some had good voices, while the
voices of others were horrible in the extreme. Some came to
learn to sing, and learned easily: while others were hard to
teach, though paying the best attention. Others came because
others came. They wanted to meet the young people, get ac-
quainted, and have a good time socially, before and after the


session, and at intermission, and go home with the girls: while
it is barely possible some of the girls came more with the de-
liberate purpose of "catching a beau" than of learning to sing.
Still others possibly were there, though their number was small
of course, who were quite willing to pay the amount of the tuition
and attend, more out of curiosity than any other motive, and
were on the watch for any opportunity for a little fun, even
sometimes at the expense of good order, and the plain viola-
tion of the acknowledged rules of good deportment. Paren-
thetically, it may be well to remind the reader, that the charac-
ters just enumerated were the grandparents of the present gen-
eration, and possibly, if not indeed quite likely, his or her
grandmother attended this particular school.

The writer still retains a vivid recollection of one ot those
singing masters. In personal appearance he was a genuine
Abe Lincoln style of a fellow. He stood six feet three in his
stocking feet, and his name in length fully agreed with his
statue. It was Oricus Zewingelus Garrett. He had a good
voice, and probably understood music pretty well, but he was
uncouth, awkward and not over good looking. By trade he
was a blacksmith but he had a young man with him who was
serving his last six months of apprenticeship, so he could easi-
ly leave home half, or even a whole day at a time. He didn't
attend the musical convention and thought those institute fel-
lows were sort of "stuck up", and didn't know any more than
he did.

A black board and tuning fork constituted his whole equip-
ment, but he brought along with him a goodly number of sing-
ing books called the "Handel and Haydn collection". This
was the book he used in his schools aud he seemed to be much
interested in selling them. Another singing master used the
"Boston Academy". Still others used a book called "Car-
mina Sacra".


The teacher just described must have been the one the artist
who ilhistrated Will Carleton's "Festival of Melody", had for
his model. Sure thing! It was really worth going a long
distance just to sit and watch his movements, listen to his talk
and time beating, and the singing, which, when the whole
school joined in the chorus, had a wonderfully elevating effect,
perceptibly lifting the beams and rafters, and so bulging out
the old logs in the walls as to start the "chinking" and make
the windows and door fairly squeak in sympathy. Some poet
has said, and been considered smart because he did say it, that

"Music hath charms to quell a savage,

Rend an oak, or split a cabbage".

and the saying has been verified lots of times in the old log
school house singing school.

It may be well to quote a few lines, they seem so eminently

"The blackboard behind him frowned fierce on our sight.
Its old forehead creased with five wrinkles of white.

On which he paraded his armies of notes,
Sending them on a raid through our eyes to our throats.
How (in his particular specialty) grand.

He looked as he tiptoed with baton in hand,
And up, down, and up, in appropriate time,

Compelled us that slippery ladder to climb.
As he flourished his weapon and marched to and fro,

With his "Do— re— mi— fa— sol— la— si— do".

And certainly Will Carleton must have attended that selfsame
school, and had it in mind when he penned

Nathaniel P. Jenkins! how sadly you tried.

With your eyes a third closed, and your mouth opened wide.
To sport an acceptable voice like the rest,

And cultivate powers you never possessed",
Little Clarissa Smith! how you thrilled us all

When you made that young, soul-sweetened voice rise and fall!
"The Whippoorwills" voice is sweet-spoken and true.

But not w'th a h'^art and a spirit like you".


"Mrs. Caroline Dean, how you revelled in song!

There was no singing school to which you didn't belong.
What a method was your's of appearing prepared

To make any tune in the note book look scared!
Your voice v/as voluminous rather than rich.

And not predistinguishedfor accent or pitch".

To see Mr. Garrett as he announced the piece and the page
in the singing book, strike the desk with his tuning fork,
quickiy hold it to his ear to catch the sound, repeat the notes
"Do-mi— sol~do", in g'etting the correct key, beating time to
words "Down, left, right, up, down, left, right, up" and giving
the command "Sing", was richly worth all it cost to get there.

And then to hear them sing! There was "Old Hundred"
(and is now) and "Coronation", "Boylston", "Balerma",
"Uxbridge", and others: really glorious old tunes which will
live when all the hifalutin, folderol stuff of these degenerate
days is forg'otten. Sure thing! If you don't believe it, just
ask any old white head like me!

When about half of the evening was gone a recess, or inter-
mission, of fifteen or twenty minutes would be had. This was
a pretty good idea. It gave the pupils a chance to change
their positions, visit a little, stir about, and, if so minded, take
a ride or two down a near by hill which aif orded excellent facil-
ities for coasting.

It is greatly to be regretted that a proper regard for the
"truth of history" makes it imperative to indite the tew lines
which immediately follow, for it is a painful duty. Funerals,
logging-bees, and raisings were not only occasions when whis-
key was used, and candor prompts the statement that Mr.
Garrett had unfortunately acquired the habit of iinbibing ardent
spirits to an extent which some might call intemperate. Some,
times he would come with a bottle artfully concealed among
his belongings. Then he would take a drink before he


opened the school, just enough to slightly exhilarate him, "tune
him up" as it were, and put him in good shape for the arduous
work of the evening. If by chance he succeeded in get-
ting another nip before recess it only stimulated him to more
heroic efforts. Then a couple of drinks during recess would
so fix him that by the time the session was resumed, he could
not wield his tongue to his own satisfaction or the satisfaction
of his pupils.

On such occasions his conduct contributed largely to the
merriment of the evening. When the victim of such spiritual
influence, he was always clever, never cross or ugly, and his
cleverness bordered closely on silliness. In such an emergency
some advanced pupil would get hold of the bottle, give him
another good swig, and then throw it away or pour out what
was left. This would so quiet him that, under the direction of
this proficient pupil, the exercises would be resumed and car-
ried on to the conclusion, at which time, or shortly after, Mr.
Garrett would be sulificiently sobered off to make his way
home safely.

The singing school will be abruptly dismissed, with the satis-
fying and consoling suggestion, that all our older readers, with
the help of only an average imagination, will be abundantly
able to supply all the incidents and happenings which are sup-
posed to have attended, all the sweet words said or thought,
and "all the appurtenances thereunto belonging or in anywise
appertaining" to the home going of all the different members;
with the added surmise, however, that possibly, indeed pro-
bably, our younger people, if it were left to them, could do
quite as well in supplying the omission.


Our hardy pioneers, the men who, nursed

Amid the blooming fields of cultured lands.
Forsook the scenes of infancy, and first.

With hearts of lofty daring and strong hands,
Pierced old primeval groves, by hunter bands

And beasts of carnage tenanted alone.
And lit their camp fires on the lowly strands

Of lakes and seas, to geographer unknown,
Deserve the bard's high lay — the sculptor's proudest stone.

W. H. C. Hosmer.

"We had a well, a deep old well,

When the spring was never dry,
And the cool drops down from the mossy stones,

Were falling constantly:
And there never was water half so sweet.

As the draught which filled my cup.
Drawn up to the curb by the rude old sweep.

That my father's hand set up:
And that deep old well; O! that deep old well,

I remember now the splashing sound
Of the bucket as it fell".

Alice Gary.

Establishing and definitely marking the lines of the several
great tracts like the Holland Land Company's Purchase, the
Phelps & Gorham tract, the Church tract and others, was the
■ first work of the surveyor in the new country. One of the most
important, as well as notable, of such lines, was that which
marked the eastern boundary of the Holland Purchase known
to people over a large extent of country as the "transit line",
and to the surveyor as the "transit meridian". It was run in
1798 by Joseph and Benjamin Ellicott, assisted by a company


of twenty-five men, two or three of whom were surveyors,
most of them very handy with axes.

■ The instrument used for defining the line was a cumbrous
afl^air, made for that particular purpose, by Benjamin Ellicott
and David Rittenhouse, the famous mathematical instrument
maker of Philadelphia: and, with the exception of only a little
other work done with it for the company, it is doubtful if it
Vv^as ever more used.- The parts of the instrument still left
were, with thoughtful propriety, placed in the rooms of the
Bufifalo Historical Society, some years since, by the late David
E. E. Mix, in whose keeping they had been for many years.
As near as the writer can remember, the circle must have been
at least twenty inches in diameter.

The running of the transit meridian and the township lines
of the Holland Purchase was probably the largest undertaking
of the kind ever undertaken in this, country by any individual
or company. To give some idea of its magnitude it may
be said that Thomas Morris, son of the great financier of the
Revolution, had the contract for furnishing "one hundred
barrels of pork, fifteen barrels of beef, and two hundred and
seventy barrels of flour", for the surveyors and their assistants
the first season of work (1798), and Mr. Elliott's enumeration
of articles to be provided for the campaign covered a great
variety" from pack horses to horseshoes, nails and gimlets,
from tents to towels, from barley and rice to chocolate, coffee
and tea: and from camp kettles to teacups", saying nothing of
"medicine or wine, spirits and loaf sugar for headquarters",
and the estimated cost was $7213.13: while the wages for the
surveyors and their help for six months were laid at $19830.00.

The transit meridians (there were more than one) and town
lines once established, the next work of the company
was the sub-division of the several townships into sections
and lots, to facilitate the location and definition of purchases
made by the settlers, and this gave employment to


many men. Only one surveyor would be assigned to any par-
ticular township, and his party usually consisted of two chain
bearers, one axeman, and a man with the pack horse, whose
business it was to look after the commissary supplies, pitch the
tent and do the cooking. Another pack horse and man would
be employed in making trips to and from headquarters, loaded
with provisions, and carrying letters and doing errands.

While in the woods engaged in their work, "guns, cards and
liquor were prohibited," and they went to work as early as the
season would permit, and remained till driven in by the storms
of winter. The surveyors were required to make a careful
record of the topography of the country, noting on all the lines
the character of soil, kinds of timber and herbage, streams, mill
sites and such other features as would enable the company to
properly estimate the value, help to locate roads, and gener-
ally facilitate the progress of settlement.

About six miles per day was the usual progress of the sub-
division surveyor. No ten hour system was in vogue, but
when the shades of evening settled over the grand old woods,
their camp was made, of course near to some spring or brook-
let, and after partaking of a frugal supper prepared by the pack
horse man, refreshing sleep on beds made by spreading their
blankets on a collection of boughs and twigs, restored their
energies and fitted them for the labor of the coming day.

These surveyors were the first to explore the wilderness that
covered the country, except upon the lines of the Indian trails
and along the routes travelled by French and English soldiers,
and from the nature of their work, surveying parties came as
near as one hundred and twenty rods to any point which might
be designated, in the entire country. A pamphlet giving
"several methods by which Meridianal lines may be found",
was printed and distributed among the surveyors. For running


those lines, the parties consisted of two chain bearers, two
flag' men, two axe men, and two pack horsemen: and to ' en-
courage the several surveyors that will be employed" "the
com.pany agreed to pay them the munificent sum of $3.00 per
day from the time of their entering' the service until the date
of their discharg:e". The pay of the men was "$15.00 per
calendar month."

Minute directions were g'iven as to marking the township
lines, and setting the town corner stakes, "for which a spade
must be used". The stakes were to be "slipped" on four
sides with a marking iron, carving the number of the range
and township opposite such side, also "requiring the bearing,
distance, size and kind of the trees standing as witnesses to
the township corners to be noted, designating the notches,
blazes and letters to be marked on each witness tree."

The township and range lines were required to be marked
by trees blazed on three sides, one facing, the others with,
the line. All sight trees were to be "marked with two notches
and a blaze above them, and to be cut on the part of the tree
where the line strikes.*' The chain was to be measured every

The following extract from a letter from Mr. Thompson,
who was a sort of superintendent of surveyors, to Mr. Atwater,
who was engaged in running township lines, will give an
impressive idea of some of the conditions prevailing one
hundred years ago. It was in answer to a call for candles.
"There are no candles here of any consequence. You must
endeavor to make out with the piece I have sent. You can
make shift with rhines of pork". The quotation is literal.

Immediately succeeding the work of the Company's sur-
veyors, began the sale of lands, and during the first forty years
of the last century, the services of the surveyor were in fre-
quent demand all over the new country. Lands were all the
time being "taken up", and though the contracts or "articles",


as they were called, and deeds, contained carefully drawn des-
criptions of the lands involved, made out at the land office by
experts at the business, and plainly sketched in the margin,
the actual measuring of the distances and running of the lines
and marking the same, was generally left to some surveyor of
the neighborhood whom the purchaser might employ to do the
work. The demand for such services was quite frequent, and
so it soon came about that the surveyor, with his coarse iron
wire chain and pins, suspended from a strap thrown over his
shoulder; with plain open sighted, though frequently Vernier
compass, resting on one arm, the other hand grasping his
Jacob-staff, was a very familiar figure in all the settlements.

Sometimes the surveyor was a justice of the peace: again he
was the doctor, who supplemented his medical practice with an
occasional day in the woods, setting out lines and establishing
corners, or laying out roads, as it helped out in matters of sub-
sistence and finance.

And yet again the surveyor was the minister who may have
been educated at some eastern academy, or college even, who
failed to derive sufficient revenue from expounding the Scrip-
tures, to defray his living expenses which were constantly in-
creasing, to keep pace with his growing family. In such case his
theoretical knowledge of the art was utilized by securing an
outfit and helping others, as well as himself, in parting ofif the
lands of the early settlers. But no matter: whoever or what-
ever they may have been, in some respects, comparing their
work and the obstacles they had to contend with, with the
work of the surveyor of our times, they really had a "pic-nic".
The corner stakes were still standing, as well as the corner
trees, with the marks still plainly visible, while the marks on
the line trees were all fresh, and, in many cases, the vistas cut
through the underbrush by the surveyors' axemen, were easily
traced. This was a great help, and very much facilitated the
process of laying out the new farms. And then there were


roads to be laid out and altered and discontinued, which ad-
ded largely to the business of the pioneer surveyor.

It is not to be wondered at that some who aspired to do the
work of the surveyor made rather a bungling job of it. It
would be more a matter of surprise were there no such cases.
It is a matter of tradition that one of the early surveyors in
the northern part of Allegany, was called "the wooden com-
pass surveyor" from his having improvised his own compass
from materials, with the exception of the needle, close at hand,
and mostly wood at that!

The late vSaml. A. Early informed the writer that in the
early days, some surveyor, not a hundred miles from present
Wellsville, used a compass, the graduations of which were
made on sole leather!

Though there were many faulty descriptions like this for in-
stance, quoting from the record, "Beginning at a pine stump
within a quarter or half mile of the Red Tavern", in the main
tbey were perhaps as well done as could be expected under
the circumstances: and as to the laying out of the original pur-
chases, the wonder is, that there has been so little controversy
over the lines they set out. So the conclusion is very safe at
least, that the work of the pioneer surveyor as a rule, was well
and faithfully done. Much honor indeed should be accorded
to the memory of those hardy men of the Jacob staff and open

The accompaning illustration is introduced as a matter of
personal inteiest to many people in western Allegany and
eastern Cattaraugus Counties, at the same time of general in-
terest, it is hoped, to all who may read this chapter. The
parties posing for the picture, beginning at the left, are Mr. F.
E. Hammond, a competent and veteran surveyor, his son,
Cleo, and Mr. Byron Lockwood, all of North Cuba, N. Y., re-

presenting, as well as may be, with modern clothing, the
surveyor, head chain bearer and axeman of a party of pioneer
surveyors. The compass, Jacob staff and chain are just about
an even hundred years old. The compass bears the name of H.
Hunt as maker, Auburn, and was first used by Ephraim Ham-
mond (who probably got it from the shop) who was born in 1788,
and came to Fleming, Cayuga Co., N. Y. with his father's fam-
ily, from Saratoga Co. in 1806. Mr. Hammond lived in Fleming
till his death in 1836. He was supervisor of the town of Au-
relius when it included Fleming and Auburn, and in 1829 and
1830 represented Cayuga Co. in the legislature. He was Jus-
tice of the Peace for many years. The outfit came into pos'
session of his nephew, H. Nelson Hammond in 1H'A6. He was



born in Sempronius, Cayuga Co., N. Y. in 1812, and came
with his people to Rushford, Allegany Co., when four years
old, and, with the exception of from 1845 to 1855, when he
lived in Belfast, ever lived in Rushford, where he died in 1864.

He practiced surveying over quite a large extent of country,
was town superintendent of common schools: taught 26 winter
terms of school in succession, and enough more to make full
30. He also conducted writing schools. His son, F. Eugene
Hammond, succeeded to the possession of the instruments in
1864. He also taught many terms of school, and practiced
surveying in Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties. He has
been supervisor of the town of Cuba several terms.

And now his son, Cleo, is taking up surveying, making four
generations in succession, of Hammond surveyors. He has
also taught school. This makes a record which adds to the in-
terest in the picture.


TUis Shows a corne,. in one o. tUe -™-f '^^J^^f^'; ";:;
torical Society, with table upon are .roup
surveying instruments which are quUe h.stor.c

At the extreme left is seen » ,^,».'™-";;: ^ ' ^Chi^f of
vertical Circe, used by ^^^^^^ ^^" ^e telescope
ralt:t^Ltar.'^~- mentioned at the be.inmn.

"rthX:. seen the — ^^^^-r^JyCiatS
.hieh he did -J™* rt'"field WU;. drafting instru-


We are indebted to the courtesy °\^''J/^^;J^^^^ i„ ,ecur-


"They recked not, though the beast of prey

By night was on his bloody walk.
And prowled the red man forth to slay

Armed with his murderous tomahawk."

The first settlers in any section of our covintry east of the prai-
rie states, found little less than one vast empire of forest, which
perhaps afforded a greater variety of timber than any other
area of the same extent in the world. Here and there were
found the deeply trodden trails of the red men which led from
one Indian village to another, and formed the arteries of com-
munication between the different tribes and nations of our



immediate predecessors. Here and there also, were found
windfalls and occasional open flats along some of the prmcipal
streams, and near some of the lakes; but the grand old woods
were guiltless of axe marks, save perhaps those left by govern-
ment or land company surveyors in establishing state and
property lines. Those were the only visible evidences to the
pioneer, that the foot of the white man had ever pressed the
soil of the new country.

It was indeed a land of lofty summits, and lovely and re-
poseful valleys and lowlands; of silvery lakes, gushing sprmgs,
winding streams, beautiful cascades and foaming cataracts.
This great wilderness was thickly peopled with deer, bears,
wolves, panthers, beavers and other animals, and the lakes and
streams were fairly alive with fish of many kinds.

The first settler had either made a personal reconnoissance
of the new country, or gathered the information at the land

office, or of the sur-
veyors, which enabled
him to plunge, with
confidence, into the
big woods with per-
haps only an ox team
hitched to a dray, upon
which was secured a
few articles indispens-
able to the rudest life
in the wilderness.
As the place where he had determined to "plant his des-
tiny" was neared, he had to cut his way as he went, passing
around the huge trunk of some prostrate monarch of the woods,
or following for a distance the clear, gravelly bed of a creek,
any way to get there, and all the time on the lookout for an
improved route. If the first settler was short of help, smgle

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Online LibraryJohn Stearns MinardRecollections of the log school house period, and sketches of life and customs in pioneer days → online text (page 4 of 9)