Samuel W Durant.

History of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers online

. (page 155 of 192)
Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 155 of 192)
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ing through the whole process, and offered its communication to Mr.



Stevens, at Fort Brewevton, and others, but it was not accepted, — too
much trouble! too distant! too unceitnin the proppect of gain I no
control over the Indian brethren I no cncourogcmeDt by the Legisla-
ture ! I do, nevertheless, not yet despair or a happier period shall

"The eel of the Oneida Lake is equal to the beft of the Holland
market, and far euipasecs every kind which I have ever tasted here
in size, in fatness, in tenderness of the fith. The Salmon River
possesses, besides this plentifulness of the finny tribe, another im-
portant advantage, — our full-laden bateaux may have access and re-
cess to both. "What a potent lure, merchant, to Canadians, who now
must purchase many articlee at three and four times the capital higher
from Quebec than they may obtain these from the State of New York I
They who pay at Cataraqui $3, and $3.50 at Niagara for one bushel
salt, are often supplied with it at the Salmon Creek for five thillings,
although even at Whitrstown, Fort Stanwix, and its vicinity, often
is paid from eight to ten shillings. Here, too, in time the price shall
be lower; cut only canals, incicase the salt work, and manufacture
it to a higher degree of perfection.

"A bountiful God has in this respect, too, provided for the wants
of the western country with profusion. Kverywhere are salt-springs,
and but few miles from Oneida Lake, in Onondaga, is a copious salt-
lake, encircled with salt-springs, the domain of the people of the State
of New York. A ccnsidcrable quantity is already transported to Can-
ada, and thousand American families make never use of any other.
How the copiousness must be increased when rock-salt too is manu-
factured and carried to the south and west of our immense continent I
How exuberant it must become when that limestone crust, through
whose crevices it is now ascending, shall be broken, and that vast
body of solid salt discovered from which now a thousand springs
through ages have been saturated I You perceive that I believe in the
real existence of this subterraneous treasure, which I presume may be
discovered without Jacques Aymar*s liaguette Divinatoire, and I have
no less name than that of Leibnitz to procure credit to my Bupposi-
tion. He said, in his 'Protegea,' 'Sub terra esse conditoria talis,
satis fontes nquarum salsarum doceat,' which, as you have often
heard when in Holland, faithfully translated in our English lan-
guage, is, ' that there are repositories of salt under the earth is evi-
dent from the salt-water springs;' but Home, says the proverb, was
not built in one day. What a time elapsed before the Chestershire
salt-springs were of any advantage! What a time elapsed before the
basket-salt was brought to market, and bow late was it that the ruck-
salt was there discovered, from which considerable quantit'es, dug in
large masses, are now transferred to the west coast of England, melted
in sea-water, and again reduced in salt and used in the cure of her-
rings. And how much must the value of this treasure be enhanced
when the discovered coal mines are placed in the west at its side?

"This country, so abundant in water and fish, is, if possible, yet
more profusely endowed by our bountiful Maker with wood. Every
kind of timber of the Northern and Eastern States is here in the
greatest plenty and perfection, — butternut, walnut, white oak, sugar-
maple, chestnut, beech, black ash, pine, hemlock, the lime-tree, white-
wood or canoe's-wood, and several other species. When I asserted
that the most part of these were to be found in the highest perfection,
I always limit it to our States, as our timber is unquestionably infe-
rior to that which is carried to the Dutch markets from the interior
parts of Germany and the Baltic. Oak, pine, and chestnut are
chiefly found at short distances from the lakes; the remainder in a
more fertile soil at some greater distance; the hemlock, fir, and pine
on more barren spots.

" The canals cannot be opened or the value of the timber must be
raised. You know the scarcity of white oak and pine on several
points of the North River and Mohawk, so that they are scarce suflS-
cient to supply the first wants of the inhabitants, who are often com-
pelled to employ timber of an inferior kind. I might enlarge on the
blessings of the hard maple, without which the new settlers would be
bereft of the comforts of life, — sugar, molasses, vinegar, — were you
not thoroughly acquainted with the inestimable value of this precious

'* It is true, my dear fair, a good soil, good water, and plenty of wood
for fuel and timber are strong inducements to settle in a new country,
— more so when the price of all this is enhanced by the prospect of a
good market in the neighborhood; but if thou art there nearly alone
without neighbors; if from the vicinity you obtain nothing even for
ready cash; if, as is the situation of the largest number who trans-

port their families to the woods, their all consists in an axe, a plow^
a wheel, a frying-pan, kettle, bed, and pillow, with a scanty provision
of flour, potatoes, and salt-pork, then what? Then, my dear sir,
something else besides is required not to suffer during the first season.
It is true a little wheat is often saved in the fall, a small spot cleared
to plant in the spring corn and potatoes, while they live in the hope,
if their health is spared, to prepare the soil for sowing flax-seed; but
something more yet is required to the maintenance of a numerous,
hungry family, and in this respect, too, Providence has in this dis-
trict graciously provided even to satiety. Never did I yet see a
country wheie all kind of fish was so abundant and good. It may be
equalled; it cannot be excelled. I tasted, within a short time, of
more than a dozen difl'erent species, the one contending with the other
for the pre-eminence, the least of these affording a palatable food, —
salmon, pike, pickerel, catfish {if well prepared, boiled or stewed,
resembling the taste of the delicious turbot), Otzicrgo baas (an epi-
curean morsel), yellozc perch, anvjiah, triuh (chub), three species of
trout, river lobsters, turtle, swordfish, and a green-colored Jiah of an
exquisite taste, whitefish, etc.

" The salmon is generally salted, and sold at £4 the barrel ; catfish at
£4 and £4 10; the eel is smoked, and, with the two preceding sorts,
preserved for the winter provision ; others are consumed fresh. Hun-
dreds of gull eggs may be gathered on the islands. Ducks and
geese visit annually the lakes and creeks in large flocks; the swao is
but seldom seen in this vicinity, while bears and deer are roaming in
the neighborhood of every cottage. It is enough to set out a few lines
at evening, to make now and then an excursion to the woods, without
sacrificing much of his time, that a settler may supply his family
with meat and tish during five or six tnonths.

"This is the country in which I could wish that our families were
transplanted, with a few industfious families around us, whom we
could assist, and be mutually aided by them. Here we might soon
forget the bustle of the great world, might secure our happiness if we
can curb our affections, and leave a handsome inheritance to our chil-
dren. But He who directs all human affairs for the best shall direct
our steps.

"Do not suspect that I placed too much trust in general favor-
able reports. Follow me and we will take ocular inspection of the

" On Sundjiy morning wo bid adieu to the good widow, who left
nothing undone which was in her power to render her homely cot-
tage comfortable to us. About three miles from her house a small,
swift-running stream empties its waters in the Wood Creek from the
south. From thence we proceeded to a place called Oak Orchard,
situated at the same side. We arrived ere long at a singular neck of
land about a mile in length, and so small that, by standing, we dis-
covered the water at the opposite side. This was a tedious circum-
navigation indeed. We might have passed it in a few seconds if a
passage had been cut through it.

"Not far from this spotwc discovered a clearing, extended towards
the Fish Creek, or Oneida River, known by name of Captain Philips'
and Dean's improvements. We left our canoe now and then to look
at the land ; it was low and flat near the borders of the creek, and
had the appearance of being annually overflowed. The muddy sedi-
ments placed it beyond doubt; the luxuriant foliage of the stately
trees did leave no room to suspect that the land might not be trans-
formed in verdant meadows and grass lands; at some distance the
land became gradually more elevated, and was adorned with oak,
beech, and maple.

" The approaching night compelled us to look out for a convenient
spot for our encampment, in which we soon succeeded. Our tent was
pitched, and a blazing fire prepared by the boys. We spread our
carpet and made our beds ready, waiting for our supper. Here thous-
ands of muskitoes welcomed us in their abode, obtruded their com-
pany, and exhausted our patience by their treacherous caresses, in
which they continued till we had encircled our tent with smoke, and
yet we heard their singing, but quite different from Pergolesi's
Sttihat Mater.

" We covered our faces with a veil before we went to sleep. This
was the first time in my life I slept in the woods, and yet my sleep
was sound, but short and not very refreshing, as I awoke fatigued,
and was not at ease till I drove sleep from the eyes of all my com-
panions, and had hurried them to the canoe to pursue our journey.

"We did so, and had scarce proceeded t. mile when the Wood
Creek, increasing imperceptibly in breadth, lost the appearance of a



ditch and appeared a handsome river. But how charming was the
sight! How delightfully was I surprised when I did see it, unex-
pectedly, enlarged to more than double its breadth, and our frail
vessel, if a hollow tree may be decorated with this pompous name, in
its middle! This sensation, however, was only raomentaneous. It
was succeeded by another of a different stamp, which I could not
suppress, although 1 endeavored to conquer it. You know that in
days of yore presumption was rather my fault than fear, and here I
could not have dreamed that it lurked in my breast, and yet I longed
to be somewhat nearer the banks with our canoe j but the sight of
danger is as fleeting when we dare to look sternly at it, and are
willing to brave it, as that of a careless security is blinding our sight,
when we heedless rush on in an untrodden road. I soon perceived
thnt we were now as safe as in the Wood Creek, and it was a delight
to observe how this river doubled its speed to pay its tribute to the
lake. Now we hurried on, and encouraged our raw and unexpert
hands to row on with alacrity, as we longed impatiently to see this vast
expansion of water. Our wishes were ere long gratified. We stopped
our course about nine o'clock, unloaded our canoe, pitched our tent,
and brought fire-wood together, that we might have full leisure to
contemplate this beautiful lake.

" De Zeng left me with the canoe and one hand to take a short ex-
cursion on the Oneida Creek, to the south side of the lake, to fetch
some implements left there the year before by one Peter Frey.

" This Peter Frey, born in (jermany, lives since twenty years among
the Oneida Indians, and gained their confidence in such a degree that
they use him in any affairs of consequence, and consider him as the
most honest white man with whom they have been acquainted. True
it is that he takes care of their interests with a fidelity and ardor bor-
dering on entiiusiasm, which is but seldom met with. He is peculiarly
entrusted with the managemcnt.of the affairs of a Colonel Lewip,^- who
served in the Revolutionary army, and was rewarded by the State with
a bounty In land.

"Tbe Oneida and Oaoiidago Indians cultivate many hundreds choice
apple-trees, from which they liberally distribute the fruits among their
white neighbors, and provide them with grafts and young trees, if they
are inclined to settle in their vicinity.

" While Major De Zeng continued his course in exploring the Canada
Creek, I took a walk along the eastern sandy shore of this charming
lake, and examined its northern salient angles, of which the first was
four, the second about nine miles distant in this circuit from the mouth
of Wood Creek. The woods on the south shore are overshadowed by a
chain of mountains, from east to west, curiously diversified by three
elevations, which, by their undulations in a serpentine line, altered the
horizon in a most delightful manner. The small isliinis in the lake
could be distinguished, and zephyrs ruffled the silver waves. Within
a few moments I saw three canoes, one with Indians, among whom
Capt. Jacob Reed, and one bateau from the south and west, while two
bateaux with four families, from the Fish Creek, landed a little below
our encampment.

'* The soil is a barren sand ; the trees near the shore dwarfish and of
little value. At first, when I entered the woods, I met with a swampy
ground, but further proceeding, a good loam, increasing in depth and
richness as I went on. Oak, fir, pine, water-aah, then oak, beech, and
maple, are the principal timber.

"The baron returned about twelve, with two most capital eels, pre-
sented him by an Oneida^ Good Peter, who had been hired by him the
last year to follow him on a similar expedition as that in which we
now were engaged.

"Having loitered here away the afternoon in examining shells and
stones, and plants and shrubs, we pursued our course the next morning ;
then rowing, then using the setting-poles along the shore, till we reached
the point from which its northerly side may be calculated. From here
the shore was generally covered with pebbles. A small creek, called
by the Indians who were with us Little Fish Creek, falls here in the
lake. At the coast-side, near the lake, the pine, oak, and hemlock
elevate their heads, and overshadow an extensive tract of tolerable
good land, although it docs not assnme this appearance, as at some
distance from the lake, where thoy are intermixed, often outnumbered
by bass-wood, ash, whitcwood, chestnut, and sugar-maple. To the
west side of this creek is a large tract of oaks, a gray, sandy soilj a
little further it is covered with a, thin loam; there the oaks become

* Colonel Lewis, chief of the St. Regis tribe, and of mixed Indian
and negro biood.

mingled with beech, ere long with butternut and maple, then ash,
walnut, maple, and beech, in a rich loam from six to eighteen inches
deep, increasing by every step which you advance to the interior.

" We had now lost a great part of two days in fishing, without an
adequate reward to our exertions, and might have suspected that the
exuberant abundance of this lake in fish, of which we had heard so
much boasting from white men as well as Indians, had been exag-
gerated, but we soon discovered the cause of our failure, while the
Indians and roving Americans confirmed us in our opinion. The lake
was now covered as with a white cloak of hundred, thousands, millions
of insects, which we call ffaft in Holland, and which lay in some parts
of the shore one and two inches deep. This insect appears here an-
nually at a stated period, although somewhat earlier than in Holland.
The eggs are hatched in the surface of the water, the winged insect
flutters a short time in the air, and is buried after a short life in its
watery grave, to supply the finny tribe a rich repast, from which man
reaps in his turn the advantages. My imagination, warmed and ex-
alted by the present scenes, brought me in a twinkling of the eye on
.the Meuse, and I ordered the rowers to steer to the Stotie Chamber
(Steene-kamer), to regale myself with that delicious and so hand-
somely-shaped fish, the roach,'}' which preys upon this insect, and is
never called for by the lovers of a good fare except in these few days.
A decent public-house, at the mouth of the Wood Creek, might here
replace the Steene-kamer, and the landlord might regale his guests in
a more luxurious manner. The water-plants, with their broad, oval
loaves, and their yellow and white flowers, continued the illusion. It
wanted only to complete its success a few bottles of old Mozel wine.

" It was infallible, ray dear friend, as I spent in my youth so many
delicious hours on the Meuse, when I often staid several weeks in its
vicinity, or this remembrance contributed to exhilarate my soul, en-
raptured with the charms of the spot, with the contemplation of the
wonders which a bountiful God spread over the face of the earth, and
might to be traced in every step.

"We were, a little after sunset, surprised at a number of fires in a
semicircular form on the lake. I numbered nine, others sev^eral more.
These were made by the Oneida Indians spearing eel. They are usu-
ally two or three in a canoe, — one steerman, one who spears in the bow,
the third takes care of the fire, made from dry, easily-flaming wood,
in a hollow piece of bark, first covered with sand. This brings rae
again to the Meuse, to see the/«y/c« setting for the salmon fishery, or
emptying these from their captures, when some are saved, others, as
you know, intended for fat salmon, receive their immediate doom,
being knocked on the forepart of the head, which they term Ictii/zen.
How the fisherman laughs at (he fruitless endeavor of the inexpert
youth to kill the salmon j he performs it always with one, and well, u>
soft stroke.

" We proceeded on our course, and arrived at no great distance to
another, but much smaller creek, emptying its waters in a pretty bay.
Here was the land to some extent towards the lake low, and could only
be appropriated for pasture or hay-land j but it gradually ascended
about twenty feet, where it was covered with a deep, black, rich, fertile
soil, mixed with a small portion of black sand, and covered with ma-
jestic oak, beech, butternut, walnut, ash, and maple. Here the pros-
pect was admirable indeed. Imagine, my dean sir, — and yours ia
lovely enough, — imagine that falling plain near the lake, cleared
from trees and stumps, and covered with verdure, embellished with a
dozen of cows, justly as you contemplated in the days of yore, in the
rich pastures of the South Rhine and Belfsland, the lake in front, n.
wood to the south, at the other side, behind it, the Canoserago Moun-
tain, the small rambling creek to the east, and to the west the islands
in the lake in the perspective, while behind you the noblest fields in-
vite you to admire the rich produce of the soil, equal to the best-tilled
in our country.

" Major De Zeng walked slowly with his gun on shore,

' With head upraised and look intent,
And eye and ear attentive bent,*

while we rowed on; he gave us a signal; we pushed to the shore; he
told us that he saw a bear on the next point ; in an instant we left the
canoe, and dispatched our boys, well armed, in the woods, to cut off
his retreat. De Zeng and I advanced in his front from the lake-side ;
when within a pistol-shot of this surly lord of the woods, he stood
still, trotted on a few steps, and received a shot from the woods, whict

'j' Cisco, or lake herring.



MOTOS Br i 8 WIH)*M5 UrrCA /itW VoffK

Lprw BY L H EVEBrs Phila Pa

Residence or MBS. FRANCIS GUITEAU,trenton,oneidaco.,n.Y,



broke his left hind leg; another glnnced his hrawny side. De Zeng
missed his aim, ond while I stepped forward with the cocked gun,
De Zeng, throwing his gun aside, eprung impetuouBly forward with
Ihe tcmnhawk in his hand, attacked him in front, and knocked him
on the bead twice. Bruin lilted up his paw, twice he opened bis
mouth J at last, staggering, he fnllsj in blood and foam expires. We
dragged him with difficulty towards the canoe, as he wos indeed of
monstrous size, lilted him in it, and lelumcd by land to the little
creek, while our men rowed towards the eanie spot. Heie we resolved
to make our encampment for that night. In the morning it proved
to be the most delightful spot which we had yet Feen.

*' Melhinks, my dear fir, you must now be pretty tired with the
reading; take, then, what repose. The bow cannot be always lent;
we are making our prepaiations for the Fame end, while our boys are
opening the bear early in the morning. They shall take off his hide
to preserve it our trophy, fasten bis limbs to the ti ees for the fii st pas-
senger, — man or other beast of prey, — and prepare for our breakfast a
few slices, roasted, with a £mall piece for soup at dinner.

" Adio. Yours."

" Kingston, Ist August, 1792.

" Mt beak Sik, — If you never tasted it you might have declined
to share in our breakfast. Stewed slices of surly Bruin was the prin-
cipal dish. It was not to his advantage that, though bulky enough,
he was not fat; otherwise you must know that in the country not only
everywhere, but even to the fastidious palate of many polished New
Yorkers, it is a dainty, and this meat deserved indeed this high praife,
if you obtain it in its season in perfection. With all this I should not
be surprised at all that you had rather preferred a pike, of three feet
and sis inches, which we discovered on shore, — his belly torn open,
without entrails, — if we had caught it. I doubt not or he fell a prey
to a bald eagle, who, by some accident, was prevented to destroy

" We entered once more our canoe; discovered two bateaux steering
towards the south, and arrived about noon at the Black Creek, the
largest at this side of the lake after the Fish Creek or Oneida Biver;
here we dined on an excellent rice soup, from one of Brown's
gammons, which we had saved. Here was a broad piece of foreland,
watered by this crctk, and about a. hundred rods further on another
creek, sufficient to turn a wheel, joined it. The upland was excessive
steep, high, and barren; the soil, fine yellow sand; the trees, fir, hem-
lock, pine, and a few oak. At some distance the land gradually de-
scended, the soil became richer, and the timber was improving; oak,
ash, }-et further, butternut, beech, naaple, and again the same rich
black soil, not subject of being so soon exhausted in intensive hot
weather as the Whitestuwn loam.

"M'e continued our course after dinner along the shore, and hoped
that we might reach the Fisher's Bay, in which the little creek empties
herself, whose vicinity was highly extolled by De Zeng, with an un-
bounded praise ; and j et his description did not appear to me, after a
cool examination, to be too highly colored.

" It was late before we reflected upon it, and a rising thunder-storm
urged us to take quickly hold of all our oars. I ought to have said
payayi, as we were in «, canoe. We did run — by our hurrying too
fast, and through the inattention of our man at the helm — with our
canoe on a huge stone, without having it in our power for a long while
to move it backward or forward; at length we got again afloat, and
arrived safe in the creek at Mr. Biuce's, in former days a Connecticut
merchant, now an independent inhabitant of the Oneida Lake, main-
taining himself by the chase and fishery, and what be earned from a
small potato spot. He fetched directly upon our arrival a fine catfi^b,
from a reservoir constructed from saplings and twigs, so well twisted
that no escape was possible. He praised himself not a little on hia
invention, as this magazine supplied his wants by foul weather, or, aa
he said, 'when Bruce was too lazy to go in quest for other food;' and
who would have been willing to poison hia complacency, or withhold
the tribute to his ingenuity, which was really exerted in no ordinary
way in this and other similar circumstances, when his powers of action
were circumscribed within such a narrow sphere? Was not Caesar
himself delighted with the success of his invention, aa when he con-
structed that wonderful bridge over the Rhine, which he crossed with
his army to penetrate into Germany, and of which he seemed pleased
to leave us such a minute description ? and Bruce, poor as he now was,
had a pretty high opinion of himself, seemed not to wish to repass the
Mohawk, and if not eua ae virtuti invohem, considering himself aa

the best man, appeared at least to enjoy ease and contentment — he was
a Bruce !

"This catfish weighed ten pounds. We obtained afterwards one of

Online LibrarySamuel W DurantHistory of Oneida County, New York : with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers → online text (page 155 of 192)