John Stearns Minard.

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

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howling, and, as practice make perfect, his howl came to be a
"Howling success": and when a pack of fifteen or twenty as-
sembled for a promenade concert in the dark old forest wild,
or some clearing close to the cabin and near to the sheep fold,
the effect was simply appalling.

Said Guy McMaster, historian of Steuben County: "Each
pack had its chorister, a grizzled old veteran, perhaps, who
might have lost a paw in some settler's trap, or whose shat-
tered thigh declared him a martyr for the public good. This
son of the Muses, beginning with a forlorn and quavering
howl, executed a few bars in solo: then the whole gang broke
in with miracles of discord. All the parts recognized by the
scientific were carried by these "minions of the moon".
"Some moaned in baritone, some yelled in soprano, and the
intermediate discords were howled forth upon the night air in
a style that would make a jackal shiver. The chorus was an


aggregation of every known modulation of the wolf voice, and
the eflfect was indescribable; the cattle would herd closer to-
gether and assume an attitude of defense: the sheep and lambs
would be paralyzed with fear, and it has been asserted, and
never yet successfully refuted, that in some instances where an
unusual convocation of talent was employed, young and thrifty
trees have been stripped of their bark by their vociferous and
long continued bowlings".

No wonder that our pioneers declared a war of extermination
against these howling and prowling denizens of the big woods.
The legislature was appealed to, and laws were enacted which
offered bounties on the part of the state, and the counties and
towns were authorized to offer additional bounties for the kill-
ing of wolves. The law provided that the party killing a wolf,
or any one to whom he might sell, could go before a supervisor
or justice of the peace and, presenting his scalps "prove up",
as it was called, and get a negotiable certificate, payable by
the tax gatherers or county treasurer after the next tax was

The war against the wolves than began in earnest, and the
bounties were raised, so that before it was concluded one
might realize as much as $45.00 for a full grown wolf: the
state and county each paying $20.00 and the town $5.00. For
young wolves, or whelps as they were called, the bounty was
just half as much as for the full grown ones. The wolves
rapidly disappeared, but it has been claimed that the law be-
came so much abused in the way of using the same scalps over
and over again, as to require additional legislation to the ef-
fect that every supervisor or justice of the peace who granted
certificates, should immediately burn the scalps so certified.

It has even been claimed that one noted hunter and trapper,
at least, did a thriving business in catching young wolves and
keeping them till barely able to pass for full grown, thus real-
ising $20.00 or more per head for the short time he had to care



for them. Also that this same man had back in some dark re-
cess in the old woods, a particular she wolf which, for several
years he guarded with jealous care, for the reason that she
brought him good revenue by occasionally presenting him with
a fine litter of whelps which he would, at the proper time, take
from her and keep till full grown!

The wolf statistics of Allegany County, N. Y., show that
from 1808 to 1845 inclusive, there were 1746 wolves and pan-
thers certified, at a cost to the state and county of $26,679.70.

The same methods were in vogue in other parts of the
country as well, and an immense amount of money must have
been spent in the war against wolves. Since 1845 no record
of them appears, and if a wolf has since been seen in western
New York it must have been some stray tramp from the more
secluded regions south.





For the purpose of facilitating the identification of sheep and
cattle during the years covered by the process of clearing up
the farms of western New York, when such animals were gen-
erally voted "free commoners", and the only fences were those
inclosing the crops, the legislature enacted laws requiring the
owners to mark their cattle and sheep, and have a description
of the marks recorded in the office of the town clerk.

These marks were generally made by cutting notches, holes
or slits in, or cropping the ears of the animals.

Then in the fall, or at any other time when they were taken
up, the ear marks with the record, would furnish the proof of
identity and established the ownership of the animal.

In the town of Allen, Allegany Co., N. Y., in 1826, there
was a town clerk, (the record does not reveal his name) who
was a good penman for those days. He was also of an artistic
turn of mind and hand. So in addition to the record, this
clerk illustrated the marks by the figures of sheep heads with
ears som.ewhat enlarged, for the purpose of showing them.
■ An entry from this record book is reproduced, and helps
to form the heading of this chapter.

The record of ear marks for the town of Allen, began April
4, 1823, and the last one was made March 10, 1856.


The first settlers in any new country were by no
means exempt from the many ills that afflict humanity. Though
hardy and robust to a high degree, determined in will and
nerved with steel, they were necessarily exposed to perils of
sickness and accident, to which the congested populations of
their old homes were strangers. There were diseases pe-
culiar to the new country, generated perhaps by stirring the
new soil, and fevers caused by the malaria evolved in clear-
ing, consequent upon the exposure of swales and marshes to



evaporation. Cases of fever and ague were frequent along the
course of the Genesee river and some other streams, and
the low, marshy lands in the vicinity of some of the lakes.

The rough work of felling the forest trees, piling the logs
and burning them, opening roads, constructing dams and mills,
and building houses and barns, afforded abundant opportunity
for accidents, and cuts and fractured limbs occured sometimes
at places quite remote from the nearest doctor.

If it required sterling qualities in the settlers to subdue the
wilderness, the requirement was much emphasised when it
came to the matter of the pioneer doctor. To be successful
in his chosen profession, and where he had determined to es-
tablish himself and "grow up with the country", he must needs
be possessed of rare qualities of endurance, to be exposed to
fatigue and hunger, and all kinds of weather, to make
long journeys over the worst roads, or no roads even,
and with the assistance perhaps of an Indian for a guide, and
a hatchet to mark trees where the path was obscure or to help
him on his return in case of detention over night in the woods,
to cut browse for his horse, and hemlock bows for a bed, upon
which he could throvv himself wrapped in a blanket for the
night's sleep in the gloomy forest. All these incidents have
been encountered by the pioneer doctor.

The doctor of the period made most of his visits on horse-
back. A pair of saddle bags were thrown across the saddle,
while a receptacle for vials, pill boxes and packages on either
side was filled to its capacity with "Vials and blisters, plasters
and pills, Boneset, peppermint, syrups and squills", besides
calomel; jalap, ipecac, and the usual variety of medicines then
in use in country practice. When the doctor came, he first
warmed himself by the open fire, then sat down by the sick
one, felt the pulse, looked at the tongue, asked some ques-
tions of the patient, then, setting his thinking machinery in
operation, and assuming a knowledgeable look, proceeded to



select and prepare some medicine. Throwing his saddle bags
over his knees, he unbuckled one of the covers. The first
thing disclosed was the inevitable turnkeys for ex-
tracting teeth, a harsh, rude old instrument, which

even now, the
thought of,
awakens with
all our
older people,
which are indeed horrible in the extreme. The lan-

cet was always ready to hand in the vest pocket, and
here's dollars to dimes, that in nine cases out of ten, the pa-
tient was bled, or emetic was given, for it was "bleed 'em and
puke 'em and purge 'em" in those days.

But who shall say their success was not equal to the success
of the present day physicians? People did not have any such
disease as appendicitis in those days. It was simply irflamma-
tion of the bowels, or colic, or belly-ache: and as for microbes,
why they had never been thought of and were not to be found.

Anesthetics were unknown, and when a surgical operation
was imperative, some of the strongest nerved men in the set-
tlement were summoned to assist in holding the subject, who
after being fortified by copious draughts of liquor, was strap-
ped upon a table or plank for the operation, in which perhaps
a saw from the tool chest of the nearest carpenter did the ser-
vice of the finest instruments of our times.

It seemed a Godsend almost to those settlements which had
some sainted old mother who was "good in sickness", who
prided herself on her ample store of roots and herbs, like bone-
set, pennyroyal, smartweed, catnip, skunk's cabbage, sarsapar"
illa, wild turnip, &c., &c., which she knew so well how to pre-
pare and administer to those who were sick, and sometimes
she was in great demand. And when a new comer was ex-


pected in some cabin, it was planned to have her present to
greet its arrival and care for the mother and child. Gentle
reader, I am aware that I may have violated a propriety in
what I have just said. Instead of saying "when a newcomer
was expected in some cabin" I should have said, and will say
now, "when the stork was hovering over some cabin". I hope
now, I have so amended it as to comply with the usages of
modern society.

At the best, the life of the pioneer doctor, if he had a good
practice, was laborious and wearing. The average settler was
in anything but affluent circumstances, and the doctors were
sometimes paid in driblets, a little now and then, and in grain
or vegetables: in some cases, as now, never paid. Some of
the pioneer doctors attained great fame in the healing art, and
their practice extended over a large extent of country. A
notable instance was that of Dr. Ebenezer Hyde, the pioneer
doctor of all Allegany, whose ride extended from 30 to 75 miles
in every direction. A son, the late Dr. E. E. Hyde of Bel-
mont, himself a doctor, used to say, with a queer kind of
twinkle in his eye, that his father's fame was owing largely 'to
the fact that he could not visit his patients often enough to
keep them in bed!

Many of the doctors of the pioneer period held warm places
in the hearts and affections of the people, and their memory is
still kept green and associated with many of the pleasant recol-
lections of the older people of our day.

It happened frequently that others besides the doctors "pull-
ed teeth" in those early days, and in many of the settlements
were found men who had equipped themselves with turnkeys,
and held themselves ready to remove the offending and trou-
blesome teeth of their neighbors, saving a trip to the doctor.

Dr. J. E. K. Morris, in a paper read at the Centennial Cele-
bration of Cattaraugus County and the City of Olean, held at


Olean, October 6th and 7th, 1904, related two incidents which

1 am permitted to use, quoting entirely from memory.

A young physician had succeeded to the practice and equip-
ment of an older one who had died or removed to other parts.
Receiving a call, he threw the old saddle-bags of his prede-
cessor over the saddle and mounting his horse, he made his
way to the bed side of the sick one, where he found himself
unable to make a diagnosis which entirely suited him. It was
indeed a poser. But thoroughly rummaging over the contents
of the saddle bags, which consisted largely of roots, herbs,
leaves and but little else, he found a little package of snuff
from which he prepared a number of powders, leaving the
same with minute directions how to take.

Upon his next visit he found his patient well on the road to
recovery, which was rapid and complete!

A doctor had a patient who was very sick, so sick indeed,
as to suggest the propriety of counsel. Two other doctors
were sent for, one of them living at a long distance from the
home of the patient The doctors living nearest, had to wait
some time for the more distant one, who finally came, and the
council was held. When the doctors were ready to go, the
man inquired as to their bills, offering payment.

The doctors nearest by hesitated, but quickly agreed to leave
it all to the one who was the most remote, and all to share

"Well" said the doctor from way off, "We've had a good visit,
and a good dinner, and our horses have been well fed; As the
pay is to be in cash, I think fifty cents will be about right" !



i , « Early Religious Scenes


A liberal percentage of our pioneers came from New Eng-
land, where'churches were many, and church going habits were
firmly established: and many of them were church members.
To be deprived of the privilege of attending church was con-
sidered by such people as one of the hardest features of pion-
eering. It'is therefore, no wonder that the church came close
after the school house, and regular worship was instituted at
the earliest practicable time. While waiting for the church
edifice, however, they were not long, nor entirely, deprived of
preaching services, for the roving missionary was close at
hand. Some of those early evangelists came on foot, others
on horseback, and sending the word through the settlement,
would hold a meeting on short notice in the school house, or
the largest private dwelling in the neighborhood, which at first


in nearly every instance was of logs. Instances have been
known where the meeting was held in some new barn where
the floor had just been laid.

In those early years there were probably twenty five such
missionaries engaged in Western New York, holding meetings,
distributing tracts and founding churches. Perhaps as distinctly
a typical missionary character as ever appeared in these parts,
was good old Elder Ephrai Sanfordm. He roamed all over the
country covered by Tompkins, Schuyler, Steuben, Allegany,
Cattaraugus and part of Chautauqua counties, N. Y., and pro-
bably preached the first sermon in more towns than any other
of his like.

Attired in deer skin coat and trousers, corduroy waistcoat,
and bearskin cap, he made his way from settlement to settle-
ment on a fairly good horse with an easy saddle, and an ample
portmanteau: one side of which was loaded with some necess-
sary articles of apparel, Testaments, Bibles and tracts: while
the other would be filled with potatoes and a loaf or two of
bread to appease hunger and provide against emergencies.

Approaching some lowly cabin just at nightfall, he would in-
quire if he could be entertained for the night. If, as was
sometimes the case, he was told there was no spare bed in the
house, and they were in want of food for themselves and had
no oats or hay, he would ask, "May I cut some browse for my
horse, roast my own potatoes by your fire, roll myself in my
blanket and sleep on your floor?" And the request, it is need-
less to say, was always granted.

Elder Sanford felt that he was called to proclaim the glad
tidings whenever and wherever he could secure a dozen or
more auditors, be it in school house, the private cabin, under
the leafy canopy of "God's first temple", or even in the field,
or among the blackened stumps. He braved many dangers
and suffered many privations, enduring fatigue, hardship, cold


and hunger, in the prosecution of the work he thought himself
called upon to perform.

Some years since, in an interview with the late Mrs. Timothy
Rice of Caneadea, she told me that the first rehgious service
she ever attended in that town, was on the east side of the
river in a log school house. It was warm summer weather and
the preacher lived on the opposite side of the stream. .He
came barefooted. Rolling his trousers nearly up to his knees
he waded across on a riffle and, fearing he was a little late,
made his way directly to the school house where, without
stopping to put them down, he immediately proceeded with the


Hymn books were scarce in that neighborhood, so the hymns
were "deaconed". Fearing that young people may not know
what the term means, and strongly suspecting that many of
the older ones may not, it is but fair to say that the practice
was quite common in the first years of the last century, and
was brieflv this. After the hymn was given out and read,
some familiar tune which was fitted to it would be selected.
The preacher would read a couple of lines, those lines would be
suncT then a couple more would, in like manner be read and sung,
and^'so continued. The system of "deaconing" enabled those
who had no books to join in the singing, for they could easily,
by giving good attention, remember two lines at a time for the
brie'f moment required. The practice was also called "lining".
Later on, camp meetings were held, and churches erected,
mostly in the villages, but some so remote from any center as
to be quite isolated, sometimes even on lofty hill tops. Many
of those early church edifices were of large and lofty propor-
tions, with a gallery on three sides, and the pulpit was reached
by a flight of stairs from six to eight feet in height. Directly
over the minister's head, and but little distance removed, was
placed a "sounding board" which was simply what its name



would imply, and was designed for the purpose of improving",
or, megaphone-like, enlarging or intensifying his voice, or
giving it more emphasis so as to be heard distinctly in remote
parts of the house.

The pews in the body of the house were square, so, if all were
filled, one fourth of the people would face the minister, one half
would, of necessity, have to turn one quarter of the way around
to look at the preacher, and the backs of the remaining ones
would be turned toward the pulpit.

In cold weather foot stoves
were used to keep the people
warm. Filled with charcoal
and placed in the middle of a
square pew, the feet of the
occupants would be presented
to it. One of them was
capable of making comfor-
table quite a number.

Music, at first in the pioneer churches, was entirely vocal.
In time it was sought to introduce instrumental, and it was
done, in some instances, only after a sanguinary struggle
which made a coolness between the members for a long time.

An incident. In a certain town in western New York the
Methodists had become quite strong and had built a good
church. "Some of the members wanted to introduce choir
singing." Other members bitterly opposed it urging that "the
congregation should do the singing as genuine Methodists had
always done in the past." This raised a contention which
lasted for some time, but in the end a choir was organized and
peace was partially restored for a time, but the worst was yet
to come. In time the leader of the choir wanted to use a bass
viol and discard the "pitch pipe." This proposition was con-
sidered, by part of the members, as a horrid desecration of
God's house, and a contention was again raised that lasted for



weeks. However, at a special meeting, the bass viol carried
the day by a majority vote, most of the younger members
voting in favor of it. "On the next Sabbath the bass viol, six
feet high, was carried into the choir. After the regular ser-
vice was over, the "class" or "speaking meeting" followed.
The choir leader, himself a member of the church, placed the
"big fiddle", as it was called, up in the corner of the church,
when, as a good brother arose to speak, he turned to the big
bass viol, shook his fist at it, and cried out: "Thank God, my
•wooden brother, you can't speak in class meeting."

All in all however, the memory of those services has been
tenderly cherished in the heart of many an old timer, as among
the most pleasant of the many recollections of pioneer life
and times.

A typical pair of the old time brass And-Irons,

The picture was made from a pair said to have been in us6
in the home of President Martin Van Buren, at Kinderkook,
New York.



A very good idea of some of the social and financial con-
ditions which prevailed during the years covered by the "clear-
ing up" period of our country, may be gained by an inspection
of old account books kept in the stores and shops of those
days. Such records reveal, to a large extent, the habits, tastes
and circumstances also of pioneer families.

With that purpose in view the writer was, a few years since,
permitted to look over a journal kept in the store of Augustus
D'Autremont at Angelica, N. Y., which covered a period from
Oct. 29, 18]7, to Aug. 13, 1819. The following items are
thought proper to quote in this connection.

Alvin Burr is charged with 1-4 yard bear skin for padding
(?) 62 l-2c. (He was a son-in-law of Major Moses Van Cam-
pen, a lawyer and surveyor). At another time he is charged


with "1-2 pound of raisins at 3 shillings per pound." Probably
they "had company" at his house, and half a pound would
answer the immediate requirements, but how does the price
compare with "7 pounds for 25c" as we have seen in recent
years? A paper of pins, the old fashioned ones of course, with
twisted heads, often slipping off, is charged at 37 l-2c, while
on the same page appears a credit of "8 quarts of black rasp-
berries, 25c."

John Kinghorn, the pioneer tanner, is credited with "9 sides
of upper leather, and 20 pairs of shoes, $61.25," and to show
that Mr. Kinghorn indulged in some fine things at least, he is
charged with "l 3-4 yards superfine B. cloth at $8.00-$14.00".
Such charges as these are found: "1 cow bell, $2.25: 1 pr. of
cards $1.50: 2 hats, $5.00" Judge Philip Church is charged with
"1 pound salt peter, $1.00", also "2 pounds Muscovado sugar
at 2 shillings sixpence": while Amos Peabody is charged with
"3 1-4 pounds sugar at 3 shillings sixpence, $1.42"!

Jacob Post is credited "By cutting 16 cords wood at two
shillings sixpence, $5.00" and "one half months wages at
$10.00, $5.00", and is charged with "1 pair taps, 25c: 1 hat
$5.00 and 1 vest, $3.50." And here is an entry from which
we catch the first glimpse of the commercial traveller. "Aug.
24, 1818, Bought this day from Mr. Sidmon, their agent,
$260.00 of goods of G. Washburn & Co".

Here is something that would paralyze some of the wealthy
people to day even. "John Gait, Dr. To 1 1-4 yards super-
fine B. cloth at $10.00, $12.50". This was evidently for a pair
of trousers. Now when Mr. Gait had bought his trimmings
and paid his tailor's bill his "pantaloons" would be found to
cost him anywhere from $16.00 to $20.00."

John Moore is credited with "2 dressed deer skins $1.12 1-2".

If John Gait had been a hunter and had paid for his
trousers in dressed deer skins at the rate Mr. Moore was


credited, it would have taken more than seventeen of them to
settle the score!

Wolf scalp certificates were negotiable, and were, with
some, as current as the bank notes of the times. Mr. D'Autre-
mont had a wolf scalp account as appears by this. "Wolf
scalps. Dr. To wolf scalp certificates, $185.00" and all along
are found entries of transactions in wolf scalps and certifi-
cates, as, June 4, 1819, "Wm. Foster, Cr, by full grown wolf

Cash is credited with "expenses to go and see saltpetre
mine", but no amount is specified against it, and where was
the mine?

The charges for liquor of various kinds were frequent, as
many as fifteen of such being found on one page, and some of
the most prominent names were found in connection with
charges for rum, brandy, gin, whiskey and wine, the price
for whiskey being 25c, per gallon. "My account" is found
charged with "4 pigeons from Oliver S. King, 16c", and a
day's work same party 62 l-2c.

The price of deer meat fluctuated from 3c to 10c per pound,
and for years, in bartering with the Indians, a loaf of bread
Would bring a saddle of venison. Near to and sometimes at

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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 6 of 9)