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3: Early Pioneers-Woman's Adventures and Heroism

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For nearly one hundred years after the settlement of Plymouth, the whole of the territory now known as the State of Maine was, with the exception of a few settlements on the coast and rivers, a howling wilderness. From the sea to Canada extended a vast forest, intersected with rapid streams and dotted with numerous lakes. While the larger number of settlers were disinclined to attempt to penetrate this trackless waste, some few hardy pioneers dared to advance far into the unknown land, tempted by the abundance of fish in the streams and lakes or by the variety of game which was to be found in the forests. It was the land for hunters rather than for tillers of the soil, and most of its early explorers were men who were skillful marksmen, and versed in forest lore. But occasionally women joined these predatory expeditions against the denizens of the woods and waters.

In the history of American settlements too little credit has been given to the hunter. He is often the first to penetrate the wilderness; he notes the general features of the country as he passes on his swift course; he ascertains the fertility of the soil and the capabilities of different regions; he reconnoiters the Indian tribes, and learns their habits and how they are affected towards the white man. When he returns to the settlements he makes his report concerning the region which he has explored, and by means of the knowledge thus obtained the permanent settlers were and are enabled to push forward and establish themselves in the wilderness. In the glory and usefulness of these discoveries woman not unfrequently shared. Some of the most interesting narratives are those in which she was the companion and coadjutor of the hunter in his explorations of the trackless mazes of our American forests.

In the year 1672 a small party of hunters arrived at the mouth of the Kennebec in two canoes. The larger one of the canoes was paddled up stream by three men, the other was propelled swiftly forward by a man and a woman. Both were dressed in hunters' costume; the woman in a close-fitting tunic of deerskin reaching to the knees, with leggins to match, and the man in hunting-shirt and trowsers of the same material. Edward Pentry, for this was the name of the man, was a stalwart Cornishman who had spent ten years in hunting and exploring the American wilderness. Mrs. Pentry, his wife, was of French extraction, and had passed most of her life in the settlements in Canada, where she had met her adventurous husband on one of his hunting expeditions. She was of manly stature and strength, and like her husband, was a splendid shot and skillful fisher. Both were passionately fond of forest life, and perfectly fearless of its dangers, whether from savage man or beast.

It was their purpose to explore thoroughly the region watered by the upper Kennebec, and to establish a trading-post which would serve as the headquarters of fur-traders, and ultimately open the country for settlement. Their outfit was extremely simple: guns, traps, axes, fishing-gear, powder, and bullets, &c., with an assorted cargo of such trinkets and other articles as the Indians desired in return for peltry.

In three weeks they reached the head-waters of the Kennebec, at Moosehead Lake. There they built a large cabin, divided into two compartments, one of which was occupied by three of the men, the other by Mr. and Mrs. Pentry. All of the party were versed in the Indian dialect of the region, and as Mrs. Pentry could speak French, no trouble was anticipated from the Indians, who in that part of the country were generally friendly to the French.

The labors of the men in felling trees and shaping logs for the cabin, as well as in framing the structure, were shared in by Mrs. Pentry, who in addition did all the necessary cooking and other culinary offices. They decided to explore the surrounding country for the purpose of discovering the lay of the land and the haunts of game. No signs of any Indians had yet been seen, and it was thought best that the four men should start, each in a different direction, and having explored the neighboring region return to the cabin at night, Mrs. Pentry meanwhile being left alone—a situation which she did not in the least dread. Accordingly, early in the morning, after eating a hunter's breakfast of salt pork, fried fish, and parched corn, the quartette selected their several routes, and started, taking good care to mark their trail as they went, that they could the more readily find the way back.

It was agreed that they should return by sunset, which would give them twelve good hours for exploration, as it was the month of July, and the days were long. After their departure Mrs. P. put things to rights about the house, and barring the door against intruders, whether biped or quadruped, took her gun and fishing-tackle and went out for a little sport in the woods.

The cabin stood on the border of Moosehead Lake. Unloosing the canoes, she embarked in one, and towing the other behind her, rowed across a part of the lake which jutted in shore to the southwest; she soon reached a dense piece of woods which skirted the lake, and there mooring her canoe, watched for the deer which came down to that place to drink. A fat buck before long made his appearance, and as he bent down his head to quaff the water, a brace of buck-shot planted behind his left foreleg laid him low, and his carcase was speedily deposited in the canoe.

The sun was now well up, and as Mrs. P. had provided for the wants of the party by her lucky shot, and no more deer made their appearance, she lay down in the bottom of the boat, and soon fell fast asleep. Hunters and soldiers should be light sleepers, as was Mrs. Pentry upon this occasion.

How long she slept she never exactly knew, but she was awakened by a splash; lifting her head above the edge of the boat, she saw nothing but a muddy spot on the water some thirty feet away, near the shore. This was a suspicious sign. Looking more closely, she saw a slight motion beneath the lily-pads, which covered closely, like a broad green carpet, the surface of the lake. Her hand was on her gun, and as she leveled the barrel towards the turbid spot, she saw a head suddenly lifted, and at the same moment a huge Indian sprang from the water and struggled up through the dense undergrowth that lined the edge of the lake.

It was a sudden impulse rather than a thought, which made Mrs. P. level the gun at his broad back and pull the trigger. The Indian leaped into the air, and fell back in the water dead, with half a dozen buck-shot through his heart. At the same moment she felt a strong grasp on her shoulder, and heard a deep guttural "ugh!" Turning her head she saw the malignant face of another Indian standing waist-deep in the water, with one hand on the boat which he was dragging towards the shore.

A swift side-blow from the gun-barrel, and he tumbled into the water; before he could recover, the brave woman had snatched the paddle, and sent the canoe spinning out into the lake. Then dropping the paddle and seizing her gun she dashed in a heavy charge of powder, dropped a dozen buck-shot down the muzzle, rammed in some dry grass, primed the pan, and leveled it again at the savage, who having recovered from the blow, was floundering towards the shore, turning and shaking his tomahawk at her, meanwhile, with a ferocious grin. Again the report of her gun awakened the forest echoes, and before the echoes had died away, the savage's corpse was floating on the water.


She dared not immediately approach the shore, fearing that other savages might be lying in ambush; but after closely scrutinizing the bushes, she saw no signs of others, besides the two whom she had shot. She then cut long strips of raw hide from the dead buck, and towing the bodies of the Indians far out into the lake sunk them with the stones that served to anchor the canoes. Returning to the shore, she took their guns which lay upon the shelving bank, and rapidly paddled the canoe homeward.

It was now high noon. She reached the cabin, entered, and sat down to rest. She supposed that the savages she had just, killed were stragglers from a war-party who had lagged behind their comrades, and attracted by the sound made by her gun when she shot the buck, had come to see what it was. The thought that a larger body might be in the vicinity, and that they would capture and perhaps kill her beloved husband and his companions, was a torture to her. She sat a few moments to collect her thoughts and resolve what course to pursue.

Her resolution was soon taken. She could not sit longer there, while her husband and friends were exposed to danger or death. Again she entered the canoe and paddled across the arm of the lake to the spot where the waters were still stained with the blood of the Indians. Hastily effacing this bloody trace, she moored the canoes and followed the trail of the savages for four miles to the northwest. There she found in a ravine the embers of a fire, where, from appearances as many as twenty redskins had spent the preceding night. Their trail led to the northwest, and by certain signs known to hunters, she inferred that they had started at day-break and were now far on their way northward.

When her four male associates selected their respective routes in the morning, her husband had, she now remembered, selected one which led directly in the trail of the Indian war-party, and by good calculation he would have been about six miles in their rear. Not being joined by the two savages whose bodies lay at the bottom of the lake, what was more likely than that they would send back a detachment to look after the safety of their missing comrades?

The first thing to be done was to strike her husband's trail and then follow it till she overtook him or met him returning. Swiftly, and yet cautiously, she struck out into the forest in a direction at right angles with the Indian camp. Being clad in trowsers of deer skin and a short tunic and moccasins of the same material, she made her way through the woods as easily as a man, and fortunately in a few moments discovered a trail which she concluded was that of her husband. Her opinion was soon verified by finding a piece of leather which she recognized as part of his accoutrements. For two hours she strode swiftly on through the forest, treading literally in her husband's tracks.

The sun was now three hours above the western horizon; so taking her seat upon a fallen tree, she waited, expecting to see him soon returning on his trail, when she heard faintly in the distance the report of a gun; a moment after, another and still another report followed in quick succession. Guided by the sound she hurried through the tangled thicket from which she soon emerged into a grove of tall pine trees, and in the distance saw two Indians with their backs turned toward her and shielding themselves from some one in front by standing behind large trees. Without being seen by them she stole up and sheltered herself in a similar manner, while her eye ranged the forest in search of her husband who she feared was under the fire of the red-skins.

At length she descried the object of their hostility behind the trunk of a fallen tree. It was clearly a white man who crouched there, and he seemed to be wounded. She immediately took aim at the nearest Indian and sent two bullets through his lungs. The other Indian at the same instant had fired at the white man and then sprang forward to finish him with his tomahawk. Mrs. Pentry flew to the rescue and just as the savage lifted his arm to brain his foe, she drove her hunting knife to the haft into his spine.

Her husband lay prostrate before her and senseless with loss of blood from a bullet-wound in the right shoulder. Staunching the flow of blood with styptics which she gathered among the forest shrubs, she brought water and the wounded man soon revived. After a slow and weary march she brought him back to the cabin, carrying him part of the way upon her shoulders. Under her careful nursing he at length recovered his strength though he always carried the bullet in his shoulder. It appears he had met three Indians who told him they were in search of their two missing companions. One of them afterwards treacherously shot him from behind through the shoulder, and in return Pentry sent a ball through his heart. Then becoming weak from loss of blood he could only point his gun-barrel at the remaining Indians, and this was his situation when his wife came up and saved his life.

After receiving such an admonition it is natural to suppose the whole party were content to remain near their forest home for a season, extending their rambles only far enough to enable them to procure game and fish for their table; and this was not far, for the lake was alive with fish; and wild turkeys, deer, and other game could be shot sometimes even from the cabin door.

The party were also deterred by this experience from attempting to drive any trade with the Indians until the following spring, when they expected to be joined by a large party of hunters.

The summer soon passed away, and the cold nights of September and October admonished our hardy pioneers that they must prepare for a rigorous winter. Mrs. Pentry made winter clothing for the men and for herself out of the skins of animals which they had shot, and snow-shoes from the sinews of deer stretched on a frame composed of strips of hard wood. She also felled trees for fuel and lined the walls of the cabin with deer and bear skins; she was the most skilful mechanic of the party, and having fitted runners of hickory to one of the boats she rigged a sail of soft skins sewed together, and once in November, after the river was frozen, and when the wind blew strongly from the northwest, the whole party undertook to reach the mouth of the river by sailing down in their boat upon the ice. A boat of this kind, when the ice is smooth and the wind strong, will make fifteen miles an hour.

They were interrupted frequently in their course by the falls and rapids, making portages necessary; nevertheless in three days and two nights they reached the mouth of the river.

Here they bartered their peltry for powder, bullets, and various other articles most needed by frontiersmen, and catching a southeast wind started on their return. In a few hours they had made seventy miles, and at night, as the sky threatened snow, they prepared a shelter in a hollow in the bank of the river. Before morning a snow-storm had covered the river-ice and blocked their passage. For three days, the snow fell continuously. They were therefore forced to abandon all hopes of reaching their cabin at the head-waters of the Kennebec. The hollow or cave in the bank where they were sheltered they covered with saplings and branches cut from the bluff, and banked up the snow round it. Their supply of food was soon exhausted, but by cutting holes in the ice they caught fish for their subsistence.

The depth of the snow prevented them from going far from their place of shelter, and the nights were bitter cold. The ice on the river was two feet in thickness; and one day, in cutting through it to fish, their only axe was broken. No worse calamity could have befallen them, since they were now unable to cut fuel or to procure fish. Mr. Pentry, who was still suffering from the effects of his wound, contracted a cold which settled in his lame shoulder, and he was obliged to stay in doors, carefully nursed and tended by his devoted wife. The privations endured by these unfortunates are scarcely to be paralleled. Short of food, ill-supplied with clothing, and exposed to the howling severity of the climate, the escape of any one of the number appears almost a miracle.

A number of bear-skins, removed from the boat to the cave, served them for bedding. Some days, when there was nothing to eat and no means of making a fire, they passed the whole time huddled up in the skins. Daily they became weaker and less capable of exertion. Wading through the snow up to the waist, they were able now and then to shoot enough small game to barely keep them alive.

After the lapse of a fortnight there came a thaw, succeeded by a cold rain, which froze as it fell. The snow became crusted over, to the depth of two inches, with ice that was strong enough to bear their weight. They extricated their ice-boat and prepared for departure. One of the party had gone out that morning on the crust, hoping to secure some larger game to stock their larder before starting; the rest awaited his return for two hours, and then, fearing some casualty had happened to him, followed his trail for half a mile from the river and found him engaged in a desperate struggle with a large black she-bear which he had wounded.

The ferocious animal immediately left its prey and rushed at Mrs. Pentry with open mouth, seizing her left arm in its jaws, crunched it, and then, rising on its hind legs, gave her a terrible hug. The rest of the party dared not fire, for fear of hitting the woman. Twice she drove her hunting knife into the beast's vitals and it fell on the crust, breaking through into the snow beneath, where the two rolled over in a death-struggle. The heroic woman at length arose victorious, and the carcase of the bear was dragged forth, skinned, and cut up. A fire was speedily kindled, Mrs. Pentry's wounds were dressed, and after refreshing themselves with a hearty meal of bearsteak, the remainder of the meat was packed in the boat.

The party then embarked, and by the aid of a stiff easterly breeze, were enabled, in three days, to reach their cabin on the head-waters of the Kennebec. The explorations made along the Kennebec by Mrs. Pentry and her companions attracted thither an adventurous class of settlers, and ultimately led to the important settlements on the line of that river.

The remainder of Mrs. Pentry's life was spent mainly on the northern frontier. She literally lived and died in the woods, reaching the advanced age of ninety-six years, and seeing three generation of her descendants grow up around her. Possessing the strength and courage of a man, she had also all a woman's kindness, and appears to have been an estimable person in all the relations of life—a good wife and mother, a warm friend, and a generous neighbor. In fact, she was a representative woman of the times in which she lived.

The toils of a severer nature, such as properly belong to man, often fall upon woman from the necessities of life in remote and isolated settlements; she is seen plying strange vocations and undertaking tasks that bear hardly on the soft and gentle sex. Sometimes a hunter and trapper; and again a mariner; now we see her performing the rugged work of a farm, and again a fighter, stoutly defending her home. The fact that habit and necessity accustom her, in frontier life, to those employments which in older and more conventional communities are deemed unfitting and ungraceful for woman to engage in, makes it none the less striking and admirable, because in doing so she serves a great and useful purpose; she is thereby doing her part in forming new communities in the places that are uninhabited and waste.

Vermont was largely settled by the soldiers who had served in the army of the Revolution. The settlers, both men and women, were hardy and intrepid, and seem to have been peculiarly adapted to subjugate that rugged region in our New England wilderness. The women were especially noted for the strength and courage with which they shared the labors of the men and encountered the hardships and dangers of frontier life.

When sickness or death visited the men of the family, the mothers, wives, or widows filled their places in the woods, or on the farm, or among the cattle. Often, side by side with the men, women could be seen emulating their husbands in the severe task of felling timber and making a clearing in the forest.

In the words of Daniel P. Thompson, author of "The Green Mountain Boys":—

"The women of the Green Mountains deserve as much credit for their various displays of courage, endurance, and patriotism, in the early settlement of their State, as was ever awarded to their sex for similar exhibitions in any part of the world. In the controversy with New York and New Hampshire, which took the form of war in many instances; in the predatory Indian incursions, and in the War of the Revolution, they often displayed a capacity for labor and endurance, a spirit and firmness in the hour of danger, a resolution and hardihood in defending their families and their threatened land against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, that would have done honor to the dames of Sparta."

The first man who commenced a settlement in the town of Salisbury, Vermont, on the Otter Creek, was Amos Storey, who, in making an opening in the heart of the wilderness on the right of land to which the first settler was entitled, was killed by the fall of a tree. His widow, who had been left in Connecticut, immediately resolved to push into the wilderness with her ten small children, to take his place and preserve and clear up his farm. This bold resolution she carried out to the letter, in spite of every difficulty, hardship, and danger, which for years constantly beset her in her solitary location in the woods. Acre after acre of the dense and dark forest melted away before her axe, which she handled with the dexterity of the most experienced chopper. The logs and bushes were piled and burnt by her own strong and untiring hand; crops were raised, by which, with the fruits of her fishing and unerring rifle, she supported herself and her hardy brood of children. As a place of refuge from the assaults of Indians or dangerous wild beasts, she dug out an underground room, into which, through a small entrance made to open under an overhanging thicket on the bank of the stream, she nightly retreated with her children.

Frequently during the dreary winter nights she was kept awake by the howling of the wolves, and sometimes, looking through the chinks in the logs, she could see them loping in circles around the cabin, whining and snuffing the air as if they yearned for human blood. They were gaunt, fierce-looking creatures, and in the winter-time their hunger made them so bold that they would come up to the door and scratch against it. The barking of her mastiff would soon drive the cowardly beasts away but only a few rods, to the edge of the clearing where, sitting on their haunches, they frequently watched the house all night, galloping away into the woods when day broke.

Here she continued to reside, thus living, thus laboring, unassisted, till, by her own hand and the help which her boys soon began to afford her, she cleared up a valuable farm and placed herself in independent circumstances.

Miss Hannah Fox tells the following thrilling story of an adventure that befel her while engaged in felling trees in her mother's woods in Rhode Island, in the early colonial days.

We were making fine progress with our clearing and getting ready to build a house in the spring. My brother and I worked early and late, often going without our dinner, when the bread and meat which we brought with us was frozen so hard that our teeth could make no impression upon it, without taking too much of our time. My brother plied his axe on the largest trees, while I worked at the smaller ones or trimmed the boughs from the trunks of such as had been felled.

The last day of our chopping was colder than ever. The ground was covered by a deep snow which had crusted over hard enough to bear our weight, which was a great convenience in moving from spot to spot in the forest, as well as in walking to and from our cabin, which was a mile away. My brother had gone to the nearest settlement that day, leaving me to do my work alone.

As a storm was threatening, I toiled as long as I could see, and after twilight felled a sizeable tree which in its descent lodged against another. Not liking to leave the job half finished, I mounted the almost prostrate trunk to cut away a limb and let it down. The bole of the tree was forked about twenty feet from the ground, and one of the divisions of the fork would have to be cut asunder. A few blows of my axe and the tree began to settle, but as I was about to descend, the fork split and the first joints of my left-hand fingers slid into the crack so that for the moment I could not extricate them. The pressure was not severe, and as I believed I could soon relieve myself by cutting away the remaining portion, I felt no alarm. But at the first blow of the axe which I held in my right hand, the trunk changed its position, rolling over and closing the split, with the whole force of its tough oaken fibers crushing my fingers like pipe-stems; at the same time my body was dislodged from the trunk and I slid slowly down till I hung suspended with the points of my feet just brushing the snow. The air was freezing and every moment growing colder; no prospect of any relief that night; the nearest house a mile away; no friends to feel alarmed at my absence, for my mother would suppose that I was safe with my brother, while the latter would suppose I was by this time at home.

The first thought was of my mother. "It will kill her to know that I died in this death-trap so near home, almost within hearing of her voice! There must be some escape! but how?" My axe had fallen below me and my feet could almost touch it. It was impossible to imagine how I could cut myself loose unless I could reach it. My only hope of life rested on that keen blade which lay glittering on the snow.

Within reach of my hand was a dead bush which towered some eight feet above me, and by a great exertion of strength I managed to break it. Holding it between my teeth I stripped it of its twigs, leaving two projecting a few inches at the lower end to form a hook. With this I managed to draw towards me the head of the axe until my fingers touched it, when it slipped from the hook and fell again upon the snow, breaking through the crust and burying itself so that only the upper end of the helve could be seen.

Up to that moment the recollection of my mother and the first excitement engendered by hope had almost made me unconscious of the excruciating pain in my crushed fingers, and the sharp thrills that shot through my nerves, as my body swung and twisted in my efforts to reach the axe. But now, as the axe fell beyond my reach, the reaction came, hope fled, and I shuddered with the thought that I must die there alone like some wild thing caught in a snare. I thought of my widowed mother, my brother, the home which we had toiled to make comfortable and happy. I prayed earnestly to God for forgiveness of my sins, and then calmly resigned myself to death, which I now believed to be inevitable. For a time, which I afterwards found to be only five minutes, but which then seemed to me like hours, I hung motionless. The pain had ceased, for the intense cold blunted my sense of feeling. A numbness, stole over me, and I seemed to be falling into a trance, from which I was roused by a sound of bells borne to me as if from a great distance. Hope again awoke, and I screamed loud and long; the woods echoed my cries, but no voice replied. The bells grew fainter and fainter, and at last died away. But the sound of my voice had broken the spell which cold and despair were fast throwing over me. A hundred devices ran swiftly through my mind, and each device was dismissed as impracticable. The helve of the axe caught my eye, and in an instant by an association of ideas it flashed across me that in the pocket of my dress there was a small knife—another sharp instrument by which I could extricate myself. With some difficulty I contrived to open the blade, and then withdrawing the knife from my pocket and gripping it as one who clings to the last hope of life, I strove to cut away the wood that held my fingers in its terrible vise. In vain! the wood was like iron. The motion of my arm and body brought back the pain which the cold had lulled, and I feared that I should faint.

After a moment's pause I adopted a last expedient. Nerving myself to the dreadful necessity, I disjointed my fingers and fell exhausted to the ground. My life was saved, but my left hand was a bleeding stump. The intensity of the cold stopped the flow of blood. I tore off a piece of my dress, bound up my fingers, and started for home. My complete exhaustion and the bitter cold made that the longest mile I had ever traveled. By nine o'clock that evening I had managed to drag myself, more dead than alive, to my mother's door, but it was more than a week before I could again leave the house.

The difficulties encountered by the first emigrant-bands from Massachusetts, on their journey to Connecticut, may be understood best when we consider the face of the country between Massachusetts Bay and Hartford. It was a succession of ridges and deep valleys with swamps and rapid streams, and covered with forests and thickets where bears, wolves, and catamounts prowled. The journey, which occupies now but a few hours, then generally required two weeks to perform. The early settlers, men, women, and children, pursued their toilsome march over this rough country, picking their way through morasses, wading through rivers and streams, and climbing mountains; driving their cattle, sheep, and swine before them. Some came, on horseback; the older and feebler in ox-carts, but most of them traveled on foot. At night aged and delicate women slept under trees in the forest, with no covering but the foliage and the cope of heaven.

The winter was near at hand, and the nights were already cold and frosty. Many of the women had been delicately reared, and yet were obliged to travel on foot for the whole distance, reaching their destination in a condition of exhaustion that ill prepared them for the hardships of the ensuing winter. Some were nursing mothers, who sheltered themselves and their babes in rude huts where the wind, rain, and snow drove in through yawning fissures which there were no means to close. Others were aged women, who in sore distress sent up their prayers and rolled their quavering hymns to the wintry skies, their only canopy. The story of these hapless families is told in the simple but effective language of the old historian.

"On the 15th of October [1632] about sixty men, women, and children, with their horses, cattle, and swine, commenced their journey from Massachusetts, through the wilderness, to Connecticut River. After a tedious and difficult journey through swamps and rivers, over mountains and rough grounds, which were passed with great difficulty and fatigue, they arrived safely at their respective destinations. They were so long on their journey, and so much time and pains were spent in passing the river, and in getting over their cattle, that after all their exertions, winter came upon them before they were prepared. This was an occasion of great distress and damage to the plantation. The same autumn several other parties came from the east—including a large number of women and children—by different routes, and settled on the banks of the Connecticut river.

"The winter set in this year much sooner than usual, and the weather was stormy and severe. By the 15th of November, the Connecticut river was frozen over, and the snow was so deep, and the season so tempestuous, that a considerable number of the cattle which had been driven on from the Massachusetts, could not be brought across the river. The people had so little time to prepare their huts and houses, and to erect sheds and shelter for their cattle, that the sufferings of man and beast were extreme. Indeed the hardships and distresses of the first planters of Connecticut scarcely admit of a description. To carry much provision or furniture through a pathless wilderness was impracticable. Their principal provisions and household furniture were therefore put on several small vessels, which, by reason of delays and the tempestuousness of the season, were cast away. Several vessels were wrecked on the coast of New England, by the violence of the storms. Two shallops laden with goods from Boston to Connecticut, were cast away in October, on Brown's Island, near the Gurnet's Nose; and the men with every thing on board were lost. A vessel with six of the Connecticut people on board, which sailed from the river for Boston, early in November, was, about the middle of the month, cast away in Manamet Bay. The men and women got on shore, and after wandering ten days in deep snow and a severe season, without meeting any human being, arrived, nearly spent with cold and fatigue, at New Plymouth.

"By the last of November, or beginning of December, provisions generally failed in the settlements on the river, and famine and death looked the inhabitants sternly in the face. Some of them driven by hunger attempted their way, in that severe season, through the wilderness, from Connecticut to Massachusetts. Of thirteen, in one company, who made this attempt, one in passing the river fell through the ice and was drowned. The other twelve were ten days on their journey, and would all have perished, had it not been for the assistance of the Indians.

"Indeed, such was the distress in general, that by the 3d and 4th of December, a considerable part of the new settlers were obliged to abandon their habitations. Seventy persons, men, women, and children, were compelled, in the extremity of winter, to go down to the mouth of the river to meet their provisions, as the only expedient to preserve their lives. Not meeting with the vessels which they expected, they all went on board the Rebecca, a vessel of about sixty tons. This, two days before, was frozen in, twenty miles up the river; but by the falling of a small rain, and the influence of the tide, the ice became so broken and was so far removed, that she made a shift to get out. She ran, however, upon the bar, and the people were forced to unlade her to get off. She was released, and in five days reached Boston. Had it not been for these providential circumstances, the people must have perished with famine.

"The people who kept their stations on the river suffered in an extreme degree. After all the help they were able to obtain, by hunting, and from the Indians, they were obliged to subsist on acorns, malt, and grains.

"Numbers of the cattle which could not be got over the river before winter, lived through without anything but what they found in the woods and meadows. They wintered as well, or better than those which were brought over, and for which all the provision was made and pains taken of which the owners were capable. However, a great number of cattle perished. The Dorchester or Windsor people, lost in this way alone about two hundred pounds sterling. Their other losses were very considerable."

It is difficult to describe, or even to conceive, the apprehensions or distresses of a people in the circumstances of our venerable ancestors, during this doleful winter. All the horrors of a dreary wilderness spread themselves around them. They were compassed with numerous fierce and cruel tribes of wild and savage men who could have swallowed up parents and children at pleasure, in their feeble and distressed condition. They had neither bread for themselves nor children; neither habitation nor clothing convenient for them. Whatever emergency might happen, they were cut off, both by land and water, from any succor or retreat. What self-denial, firmness, and magnanimity are necessary for such enterprises! How distressing, in the beginning, was the condition of those now fair and opulent towns on Connecticut River!

Under the most favorable circumstances, the lives of the pioneer-women must have been one long ordeal of hardship and suffering. The fertile valleys were the scenes of the bloodiest Indian raids, while the remote and sterile hill country, if it escaped the attention of the hostile savage, was liable to be visited by other ills. Famine in such regions was always imminent, and the remoteness and isolation of those frontier-cabins often made relief impossible. A failure in the little crop of corn, which the thin soil of the hillside scantily furnished, and the family were driven to the front for game and to the streams for fish, to supply their wants. Then came the winter, and the cabin was often blockaded with snow for weeks. The fuel and food consumed, nothing seemed left to the doomed household but to struggle on for a season, and then lie down and die. Fortunately the last sad catastrophe was of rare occurrence, owing to the extraordinary resolution and hardihood of the settlers.

It is a striking fact that in all the records, chronicles, and letters of the early settlers that have come down to us, there are scarcely to be found any complaining word from woman. She simply stated her sufferings, the dangers she encountered, the hardships she endured, and that was all. No querulous or peevish complaints, no meanings over her hard lot. She bore her pains and sorrows and privations in silence, looking forward to her reward, and knowing that she was making homes in the wilderness, and that future generations would rise up and call her blessed.

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