John Stearns Minard.

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

. (page 7 of 9)
Online LibraryJohn Stearns MinardRecollections of the log school house period, and sketches of life and customs in pioneer days → online text (page 7 of 9)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

places quite remote from the reservations the Indians were
frequent customers at the stores, bringing venison, peltry,
baskets, butter ladles etc. to barter for such goods and trinkets
as pleased them.

But it is needless to pursue these entries further. Enough
has been given to materially assist one, if possessed of only an
ordinary imagination, in making a tolerably correct estimate of
many of the conditions prevailing in those times, and perhaps
cause him to wonder how those early settlers could succeed as
well as they did in conquering the imposing difficulties with
which they were beset.

Conditions Improve-

X X X : patient labor plied

The ringing axe; and from his old domain,
Fled drowsy solitude; while far and wide,

The scene grew bright with fields of golden grain,
And orchards robed in bloom on hill and sunny plain.


For years only the fields devoted to crops were enclosed.
Next to the brush fence, came the old Virginia worm or zig
zag fence, made of rails, the foundation generally of logs. The
woods were depended upon for pasture and the tinkle of cow
hells was heard in every direction. Some one of the boys
went after the cows just at nightfall and if he were detained
beyond a reasonable time, a gun would be fired to assure him
of the right direction to the house. Leeks were plentiful and



the butter generally tainted. So, to make it palatable, a leek
or piece of an onion would be provided for each one to be
eaten before using the butter.

The deer population of the new country was immense, and
the trusty rifle was depended upon largely for the supply of
venison which was a staple meat diet. The grand old woods
were full of wolves and sheep raising was attended with much
risk, and no small item of expense. But the large bounties,

K -i — \ -

r~-»*- — -' ■

-%«3 in some years aggregating for-
, 'J^^^c^ ty-five dollars, so stimulated
>^« ""■ *^*^ the crafty hunters and trap-
T - pers, that the country was

practically cleared of them by 1840.

Ox teams were very much in evidence, and every black-
smith shop was provided with a frame in which they were
swung up and their feet strapped in proper position for shoeing.
Mr. Harrison Crandall of Belmont furnished the photo from
which the pen and ink sketch of the ox frame was made. It



is the last one in all that part of Allegany County, and is at
least 65 years old.

The clothing was of the home spun and home woven variety
mostly. A small patch of flax to furnish tow and linen, and a
/y,//:'/r'^,'...4i^^^^^^ ^^^^ ^^^^P ^^ supply the
-^wool for the family use,
Jwere considered indis-
;pensable with the aver-
age pioneer husbandman
The little flax wheel,
propelled by pressing
the foot on a treadle,
upon which was spun
the tow and linen thread,
to be woven into the
coarser and finer cloth
for the family, was an
article familiar to every
thrifty household. As soon as the sheep were shorn, the wool
was hurried off to the carding mill, which might be thirty
or more miles distant. One settler would often take the en-
tire crop of the neighborhood, and when the wool had been
made into rolls for spinning, another neighbor would go after

And then the spinning sea-
son would begin. Many and
many of the silver locked peo-
ple of our time can say that
the hum of their mother's
spinning wheel was the sweet
lullaby which soothed them to sleep in the rude old cradle
which, perchance, may have been as in fact it really was, in
some instances, a sap trough!



After a while,
a s conditions
-_ i m p r o V ed, a
better class of
fire places was
made of brick,
an d fashioned
with solid jams,
from which a
crane was hung
provided wi t h
the proper ap-
pendages which
greatly facili-
tated cooking
operations. If
beside such fire
places was con-

arched brick oven, with a flue opening into the
was considered a strictly up-to-date affair in every

structed an
chimney, it

Spring beds and mattresses were things yet in the dim and
distant future; so geese were quite generally kept to furnish
feathers for beds and pillows. The furniture of the pioneer's
cabin was always plain, except in some possible instances
where the young wife had left a home of affluence in the east,
and brought along with her some treasured household effects.
The bed-steads were generally of the square legged variety,
sometimes ruder still, with rope or bark cordage. Sometimes
an awning overhead called a tester, around which ran a fringe
or network tipped with little tassels, was attached to the tall
bed posts. Those who indulged in such extravagance were
supposed to be well-to-do people.



Wooden benches with high backs, and long enough for two
or three, served for chairs, and were called settles, and the
chairs were generally of the splint bottomed variety, still oc-
casionally met with. Rocking chairs were few and far be-
tween. Cross legged tables made of good pine were used for
common purpo s e s,
and the brooms were I
of splint, made of an
evening, with a sharp
jacknife, from some
good straight speci-
men of birch sapling.
But the pride of many
a pioneer housewife
centered in her best
coverlets. In all the
different processes of
manufacture, the se-
lection of the wool,
the spinning, the
twisting, the coloring,
the weaving, the best
possible work, mater-
ial and coloring, were
employed. Some of
them were decidedly
artistic. Occasionally, in these days, one is met with, which
commands much praise and admiration, and is held of course
as an heirloom, above all price: a veritable beauty.

Wooden plates and pewter platters were still in use, but the
table ware, though generally plain, sometimes presented fine
specimens of crockery. The food of the pioneer was plain,
but hearty and abundant, except in some seasons of unusual
scarcity like that of 1817, succeeding the "cold season" of

L. or



1816. During that year there was actual suffering in most
parts of the country. But that was exceptional. Indian bread,
mush and milk, samp and milk, Johnny cake and milk, salt
pork, venison, corned beef and potatoes, and hulled corn, were
the usual variations, while

"Bean porridge hot,
Bean porridge cold,
Bean porridge best
When it's nine days old"

was a stand-by with many.

Logging bees and raisings came


to be of /-^
freque n t

occurrrence, and at most such gather-
ings, whiskey was freely used, some-
times perhaps a little too freely; in
which case disorder might ensue and
possibly a fight.

Speaking of fights, reminds the au-
thor that in looking over the court records, th;
fact is disclosed that cases of assault and bat-
tery were of frequent occurrence during the earlier years of
settlement, and many names of men, prominent in early his-
tory, are found to be associated with such cases as parties. It







would seem that they took it into their
heads at times, to settle their own differ-
ences, instead of going to court, and fre-
quently the vanquished party would get
the other indicted. Sometimes those in-
dictments were dropped: in other cases,
moved: and the aggressor would be fined.
The fines in such cases ran from $2.50 to
$10.00, though $5.00 was more generally
imposed: which leads directly to the con-
clusion that the fellow who was fined
$2.50 didn't hurt the other fellow much,
while $5.00 paid for a good drubbing, and
$10.00 meant a good sound thrashing. The
reason for the appearance of this is that if
it was not mentioned, and some curious fel-
low looking over those dusty old records
should find it, he might complain that the
whole story had not been told, you see!

Quilting and paring bees were popular in
some settlements. They were usually fol-
lowed by a dance in the evening. Spelling
schools, singing schools, and even writing
schools, with occasional religious services in
the school house, or some good sized private
house or barn, if weather conditions favored,
conducted by some travelling missionary,
filled up the measure of the seasons. In
case of death, the coflftn was made by the
nearest carpenter and joiner, and the dead
was borne to his grave in the best wagon
suitable for the purpose in the settlement,
or carefully carried to his last resting
place by his neighbors on a bier. Then
perhaps some handy settler, with impro-
vised chisel and hammer, would rudely,



but reverently, carve on some stone block or slab from the
creek bottom, the name and the dates of birth and death of the
dead, and place it at the head of his grave. Some such are
still to be found in our old cemeteries.

A semi, or tri-weekly mail carrier on horseback, delivered
letters at the post office for from 25 cents down, as the years
passed, the sendee paying the postage, sometimes leaving it a
month or more till he could get the money. But few news-
papers were taken, and
sometimes two or three
would club together to
take one.

The grain was a 1 1
sown by hand, cut with
sickle or cradle, and
thrashed wnth a flail.
Going to the mill some-
times involved a day'i-^
journey going, and the*
same for return.

Mixed in with all these was the company drill and the gen-
eral training: the circus had already become well established,
and the clown, in fantastic costume, sporting stripes of many
colors, his face so deftly painted as to show a mouth stretched
from ear to ear, as he sang, as no one else could ever hope to
sing, that inspiring old ballad "Betsey Baker", had so won the
hearts of the small boy of the period, as to make one of the
most pleasant memories of some of the white haired octogen-
arians of this twentieth century.

All this while still the old log school house teemed with its
crowds of rustic pupils. And so, for all the world, there
seemed to be as much happiness and real unalloyed enjoyment
to the square mile in those days, as in the present, with clubs
galore, cityfied manners, railroads, telegraphs, telephones,
phonographs, bicycles and automobiles.


excited tone of voice from the

"Scat! Go away pussy".
But pussy didn't go. She
kept right on playing with
the waxed ends, and as the
shoemaker swiftly drew the
threads, she was soon caught
in one of the loops, when
"Get away I tell you" came
in a very much vexed and

angered shoemaker, followed.

as soon as the cat could be extricated, by "Say, Mrs. Baker,
that cat is just making me mad. She plays with the waxed-
ends, she's mixed my pegs all up, and tipped over the blacking
bottle. I can't work with her raising the 'Old Harry' all the
time. Shall I whip her?" "Yes", said Mrs. Baker, "just give
her a good whipping and I guess she'll keep away". "Give
her a good smart one. I'll risk the cat".

So, watching for an opportunity, he soon succeeded in lay-
ing on two or three smart blows with a strap. Ever after, that
cat kept at a respectful distance from the shoemaker. That


was just about that particular shoemaker's experience in the
many homes he visited, and incidents like this were happening-
all over the country.

But what of it? Oh, nothing, only it was in this way that the
practice of the early shoemaker in going from house to house,
and staying at each place till every foot in the family was pro-
vided with boots or shoes, as the case might be, for the year,
came to be called "whipping the cat". In short it came so
that when some member of a family where the shoemaker's ap-
pearance had long been delayed, went to hunt him and hurry
him up, he would ask, "When are you going to whip our cat?"
or would say, perhaps, "You said you would whip our cat
week before last. Now, if you don't come right off, we will
have to look up some one else, for it is soon going to be too
cold to go barefoot".

In no other article of apparel, and the methods employed to
produce it, has the change been so noticeable, as in foot gear.
The moccasin of the Indian was appropriated and copied by
some of the settlers in the vicinity of the reservations, and for
purposes of hunting and tramping in the woods, had no super-
ior. Indeed that primitive article of foot-clothing is still worn
by professional hunters, and finds champions even in refined
society. They were light and easy, warm and comfortable,
and when made of the genuine Indian tanned deer skin, and
in the real aboriginal style, sewed with sinews, they were very
serviceable and also admitted of elaborate ornamentation. But
our pioneers could not, neither did they care to go far, in im-
itation of their immediate predecessors in such matters, and
the moccasin too, was illy adapted to rough work among roots
and stumps.

They had occasionally to take off the hide of an ox, or cow,
or steer, killed by accident or for purposes of food, and this
was taken to the nearest tannery, in some cases a long dis-


tance from home, and there sold, or left to be tanned on shares,
or for a price to be paid when taken away. In this way sides
of leather were found in most of the settlers homes, and in
some instances they accumulated so as to be quite considera-
ble in numbers. The whipping of the cat was looked forward
to with pleasurable anticipations, and during the shoemaker's
stay in the family, the younger members would watch his pro-
ceedings with much interest: and when he was a jolly, good
natured man, which was quite likely to be the case, they would
greatly enjoy the time devoted to shoeing up the family. In
some instances, whipping the cat was delayed till the family
Was gfeatly in need, and sore distress was experienced.

In course of time boots and shoes came to be made in the
shops in the villages and hamlets. The shops were frequent-
ly connected with tanneries, and as many as ten or a dozen shoe-
makers would be employed. During the "whipping the cat"
period, the boots and shoes were made on straight lasts, and
many people practiced changing them every day to secure an
even wear of sole and heel. When the storekeepers began to
exhibit stocks of ready made boots and shoes, they were made
to conform more nearly to the shape of the foot: people called
them rights and lefts, and they seemed very odd indeed. A
man who naturally toed out so much as to excite comment,
purchased a pair of the new fangled boots. In a few days he
again appeared at the store. His habit of changing his boots
had become so firmly established, that he still kept it up with
his new boots. The merchant noticed his feet, and observing
that his toeing out was greatly exaggerated in apperrance,
said to him "Why, Mr. Blank, you've got your boots on
wrong. Your right boot is on your left foot, and your left
boot is on your right foot". "Can't help it sir, can't help it.
I always change my boots, sir", was the response.

Ye ^^^.^ide Inn -

"The Tales of a Wayside Inn", so interesting-
ly versified by Longfellow, embalmed its mem-
ory in the hearts of, and endeared its story to thousands of ap-
preciating readers. But the Wayside Inn was as distinctly
peculiar to this new country, as the one he so celebrated in
song "in Sudbury Town" and others, were to people "down
east", or,

"As any in the land may be.

Built in the old Colonial day,

When men lived in a grander way,

With ampler hospitality":

and our wayside inn was just what the name im-
plies. Those wayside inns of our new country were scattered
along the routes of greatest travel, and were built without any
reference to villages present or prospective. It was however
generally considered a favorable circumstance if the location
happened at some four corners or forks of the road, and in-
deed in some cases, the four corners or forks, were made to
conform to the location of the inn.



Railroads and Automobiles were many years in the future,
and the most popular and aristocratic mode of travel was by
private conveyance, or the old fashioned stage coach drawn by

four horses, over only the best and most travelled of the roads,
leaving- the larger part to be done by a great variety of con*
veyances, a large proportion over roads less travelled, and
vastly inferior in construction. The great stage route from
Albany to Buffalo, following for a considerable part of the way
the famous "Ridge Road", was in active operation. A main
road from the south eastern part of the state passed through
Elmira, Corning, Canisteo, Hornellsville, Angelica, Cuba to
Olean, or "Olean Point" as it was called by many, where emi-
grants to the "far west" took passage on boats and rafts on
the swollen waters of the Allegheny.

Another road from Auburn through Canandaigua, Leicester,
Perry, and from thence to Olean became the famous "Allegany
Road" and travel constantly increasing, many of the thrifty
farmers along the main roads, conceived the idea of construct-
ing commodious houses partitioned off into rooms, convenient

Note — Readers who are acquainted with the locality, will discern historic
Villa Belvedere, the old time seat of the Church family near Belvidere, N. Y.
The coach and four are shown crossing the last wooden bridge on the upper


for the entertainment of guests, and in this way they converted
their surplus of hay and oats, potatoes and other vegetables,
into money. During the earlier . years, many of these hostel-
ries were built of logs, notably those of Col. Samuel H. Mor-
gan, near Cuba, Chauncey G. Ingham, at Hume, a quite noted
one at Bath, and one on site of International Hotel at Niagara
Falls. In due time framed additions, often larger than the
original log structures, would appear, and more than probable,
a dancing hall would be provided; for we must not forget that
dancing was indulged in to a considerable extent in those

Many of these wavside inns became quite popular with the
travelling public, and the emigrants to the west, while others.,
owing largely to the peculiar personal characteristics of the
proprietor, came in time to be shunned. Indeed it was the
custom of those passing over the road, to inform their friends
in the east who contemplated making the same journey, as to
the merits or demerits of the different places along the route,
freely advising them where to stop, and where not to stop.

The landlords of the wayside inns came to be extensively ac-
quainted with people of other sections, and the best posted on
current events of any in their several neighborhoods. All
sorts of people were constantly passing, and with every con-
ceivable style of outfit, from the cumbrous covered emigrant
wagon, to the latest production of the New York or Albany
carriage maker. Newspapers were few, and the landlords of
those inns, varying of course with their differing aptness and
degrees of inquisitiveness, gathered the accounts of flagrant
crimes, serious assaults and murders, from travellers more or
less loquacious, and of evenings, or whenever John Smith,
Sam Skinner, Hank Strong, Nehemiah Radwin, all or any of
them, with their friends, were indulging in the social glass,
would regale them with the same, cut up in chunks for retail
purposes, and as likely as anyway embellished, and perhaps,



enlarged and amplified in due accord with their ability for such

The wide awake, up to date and fairly inquisitive innkeeper
was acquainted with all the public men who traveled his way.
Judges, senators, members of Congress, and even Governors,
and aspiring young politicians, he knew them all, and with many
of them was on terms of close intimacy.

t r ' M \

/////^rlf;i\',\\. ,^A\\^\^

Those wayside inns were the scenes of much festivity, of
m xny pleasant gatherings, great mirth and good cheer. Gath-
ered around the cheerful fire of the spacious bar room, the
neighbors and guests discussed the events of the war of 1812,
like Perry's victory, and the incidents in the battles of Oueens-


town, Lundy's Lane and Chippewa were rehearsed: and when
the .battle of New Orleans was fought, the news found lodg-
ment in every one of them, to be dispensed to Tom, Dick and
Harry as they quaffed their toddy over the bar, or stopped at
the door to tell some neighborhood happenmg. And so with
the Seminole war, the Patriot war, and the Mexican war.

Song singing was a favorite amusement, and the new
country boasted of many who had excellent voices, and a large
repertoire of patriotic, sentimental and lovesick songs, which
were sung as the company sat around the cheerful fireplace
fire. At the wayside inn the strolling ventriloquist and "sleight
of hand" magician would hold forth to delighted country peo-
ple, seated on benches improvised from boards and planks.

Hardy and courageous troops of concert singers have been
known to discourse their sweet songs from the same "boards"
to the same benches more or less populated with admiring au-
ditors. • Occasionally some travelling missionary would be ac-
corded the use of the hall for religious meetings, and the dan-
cing room has more than once been the scene of the first relig-
ious meeting of the town or settlement. It is a tradition that
the minister on some of those occasions, was thought to be
more nimble of thought and tongue, from taking a glass of
good warm flip dexterously prepared by the landlord just be-
fore the services!

In the better class and most popular houses of pioneerdom,
the guests were supplied with slippers when they retired for
the night, leaving their boots and shoes paraded about the am-
ple health, and the warming pan was freely used in the beds,

> MmmimiMMimum>'ffl'«ii"i'in'iiHnnii«n-Mimi - i ■-^x^.^^.^-^^ ^ ^s.-^i^^^^■l.^.^■^^>.«..s^ .A^^|v;

From Hon. Wm. P. Letchworth's



the most of which were in rooms not warmed, and some quite
remote from any fires. By filling; the pan with good live coals,
and deftly moving it between the sheets, a bed, albeit in a
room of zero temperature, was made quite comfortable in a
very few minutes to the great satisfaction and delight of the

In the days of the wayside inn, all the beef cattle were driven
to New York and other markets in droves, and some of the
keepers of those inns made a business of keeping them, hav-
ing large pasture fields securely fenced, and well provided
with water, and derived considerable profit from the business.
If it happened that the wayside inn was favorably situated, as
at some prominent four corners, and easily accessible to a
large extent of country, the company drills and general train-
ings would be held there, also turkey shoots, in which case
the innkeeper was sure to derive considerable revenue from the
crowds which always attended.

Many of the old structures built during the second quarter
of the last century, are still standing, and the practiced eye
will at once detect them. As a rule the better class, which
were stately, two storied edifices, guiltless of any attempt at
a porch, wore on their gable ends, the inevitable "sun-
bursts" of those days. Some of the more ambitious private
houses of the day were so ornamented, and architecture, like
history and fashion, repeating itself, they are again coming in-
to vogue, though in a somewhat modified form.

Bill Moseley^s Turkey Shoot.

Bill Moseley, of Butternut Flats, had succeeded in raising a
full hundred turkeys. They had been carefully tended and
bountifully fed and were in prime condition, the best in all the
parts. When the cold, frosty nights came on, he began to
think of disposing of them, for his stock of turkey food was
getting low. Bill's was not the only flock of turkeys in that
section, and their cash value was low, lower considerably than
their roosts, even if they roosted on the fence. So after duly


considering the matter, he concluded to put them up to be shot
at, and have a first-class turkey shoot.

Bill was a jolly fellow and his acquaintance was extensive.
He was also sharp and quick witted, and in matters of deal,
though perfectly responsible, would bear watching: in fact he
needed it, for his conscience was of tf'^ adjustable kin^d— q':iite
elastic, and could be accomodated to alfnosL," ::-:y iJonceivable

Bugville was in the midst of beautiful Butternut Flats and
boasted of its Eagle Tavern, a store and post office, grist mill,

1 2 3 4 5 7 9

Online LibraryJohn Stearns MinardRecollections of the log school house period, and sketches of life and customs in pioneer days → online text (page 7 of 9)