7: Moving West—Perils of the Journey
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In regarding or in enjoying an end already accomplished by others, we are
too apt to pass by the means through which that end was reached. America of
to-day represents a grand result. We see that our land is great, rich, and
powerful; we see that the flag waves from ocean to ocean, over a people
furnished with all the appliances of civilization, and happy in their
enjoyment; we are conscious that all this has come from the toils and the
sufferings of many men and of many women who have lived and loved before
us, and passed away, leaving behind them their country growing greater and
richer, happier and more powerful, for what they have borne and done. But
our views of the means by which that mighty end was reached are apt to be
altogether too vague and general. While we are enjoying what others have
worked to attain, let us not selfishly and forgetfully pass by the toils,
the struggles, the firm endurance of those who went before us and
accomplished this vast aggregate of results.
Each stage in the process by which these results were wrought out, had its
peculiar trials, its special service. Looking back to that far-off past,
and in the light of our own knowledge and conceptions, we find it almost
impossible to decide which stage was encompassed with the deadliest
dangers, the severest labors, the keenest sorrows, the largest list of
discomforts. But certainly to woman, the breaking up of her eastern home,
and the removal to the far west, was not the least burdensome and trying.
No characteristic of woman is more remarkable than the strength of her
local associations and attachments. In making the home she learns to love
it, and this feeling seems to be often strongest when the surroundings are
the bleakest, the rudest, and the most comfortless. The Highlander and the
Switzer pine amid the luxuriant scenes of tropical life, when their
thoughts revert to the smoky shieling or to the rock-encompassed
chalet of their far-off mountains. Such, too, doubtless, was the
clinging fondness with which, the women regarded their rude cabins on the
frontier of the Atlantic States. They had toiled and fought to make these
rude abodes the homes for those dearest to them; here children, the
first-born of the Republic, had been nurtured; here, too, were the graves
of the first fathers and mothers of America. Humble and comfortless as
those dwelling-places would have seemed to the men and women of to-day,
they were dear to the wives and mothers of colonial times.
Comprehending, as we may, this feeling, and knowing the peculiar
difficulties of long journeys in those days, into a wild and hostile
country, we can understand why the westward march of emigration and
settlement was so slow during the first one hundred and fifty or sixty
years of our history. New England had, it is true, been largely subjugated
and reclaimed; a considerable body of emigrants, wedge-like, were driving
slowly up through the Mohawk Valley towards Niagara; a weak, thin line, was
straggling with difficulty across the Alleghanies in Pennsylvania, towards
the Ohio, and a more compact and confident battalion in Virginia, was
pushing into Kentucky. But how scattered and feeble that picket-line
compared to the army which was soon to follow it.
For a season, and while the British were trying to force their yoke on the
reluctant colonists, the westward movement had a check. The danger was in
the rear. His old home in the east was threatened, and the pioneer turned
about and faced the rising sun, until the danger was past and he could
pursue his journey.
The close of the Revolutionary struggle gave a new impulse to the westward
march of the American people, which had been arrested for the time being by
the War of Independence.
The patriot soldiers found themselves, upon the advent of peace,
impoverished in fortune; but with high hopes and stout hearts they
immediately set about repairing the ravages of the long war. Nurtured in
the rugged school of danger and hardship, they had ceased to regard the
West with dread. Curiosity, blended with the hope of bettering their
condition, turned their faces to that "fresh, unbounded, magnificent
wilderness." Accustomed to camp life and scenes of exciting interest, the
humdrum days at the old homestead became distasteful. The West was the
hunter's paradise. The toil held beneath it the potency of harvests of
extraordinary richness, and the soldier who had faced the disciplined
battalions of Great Britain recked little of the prowling red man.
During the Revolution, the women, left alone by their husbands and fathers,
who were with the army, were more than ever thrown on their own resources.
They tilled the farm, reared their swarthy and nimble broods of children,
and sent the boys in blue and buff all they could spare from their slender
store. During all this trying period they were fitting themselves for that
new life in the western wilds which had been marked out for them by the
hand of an overruling Providence.
And yet, hard and lonely as the lives of these devoted women must have been
in their eastern homes, and bright as their imaginations may have pictured
the richness of the West, it must have given them many a pang when the
husband and father told them that the whole family must be removed at once
from their beloved homestead, which they or their fathers had redeemed from
the wilderness after so many years of toil. We may imagine the resolution
that was required to break up the old attachments which bind women to their
homes and firesides.
It must have required a heroic courage to do this for the purpose of
seeking a new home, not only among strangers, but among wild beasts and
savages. But the fathers and mothers a hundred years ago possessed a spirit
which rose above the perils of their times. They went forward,
unhesitatingly, in their long and toilsome journeys westward, driving their
slow-footed oxen and lumbering-wagons hundreds of miles, over ground where
no road was; through woods infested with bears and wolves, panthers and
warlike tribes of Indians; settling in the midst of those dangerous
enemies, and conquering them all.
The army of pioneers, like the skirmishers who had preceded them, moved
forward in three columns; the northernmost passed through New York State;
the middle column moved westward through Pennsylvania; the southernmost
marched through Virginia. Within ten years after the treaty of Versailles,
the three columns had met in Ohio and Kentucky, and spreading out over that
beautiful region, were fighting with nature and savage men to subjugate
both and bring them within the bounds of civilization. No more sublime
spectacle has ever greeted the eye of the historian than the march of that
army. Twenty or thirty thousand men and women, bearing, like the Israelites
of old, their ark across the desert and waste places—that ark which bore
the blessings of civilization and religion within its holy shrine! Aged
matrons, nursing mothers, prattling infants, hoary patriarchs, and strong
veterans fresh from the fields of their country's glory, marching to form a
mighty empire in the wilderness!
In this present age of rapid and easy transition from place to place, it is
difficult to form a just conception of the tediousness, hardships, and
duration of those early emigrations to the West. The difference in
conveyance is that between a train of cars drawn by a forty-ton locomotive
and a two-horse wagon, without springs, and of the most lumbering and
primitive construction. This latter was the best conveyance that the
emigrant could command. A few were so fortunately situated on the banks of
rivers that they could float down with the current in flat-boats, while
their cattle were being driven along the shore; or, if it was necessary to
ascend toward the head-waters of a river, they could work their way
up-stream with setting-poles. But most of the emigrants traveled with
teams. Some of those who went part of the way in boats had to begin or end
their journey in wagons. The vehicles which they provided on such occasions
for land carriage were curiosities of wheel-craft—I speak of the Jersey
The old-fashioned Jersey wagon has, years ago, given place to more showy
and flexible vehicles; but long before such were invented the Jersey wagon
was an established institution, and was handed down, with the family name,
from father to son. It was the great original of the modern emigrant wagon
of the West; but as I have elsewhere pictured its appearance upon the
arrival of a band of pioneers at their final destination, it is unnecessary
to enter here upon any further description.
The spring of the year was the season usually selected for moving, and
during many weeks previous to the appointed time, the emigrants had been
actively providing against the accidents and discomforts of the road. When
all was ready, the wagon was loaded, the oxen yoked and hooked to the neap;
the women and children took their places on the summit of the huge load,
the baby in its mother's lap, the youngest boy at his grandmother's feet,
and off they started. The largest boy walked beside and drove the team, the
other boys drove the cows, the men trudged behind or ahead, and the whole
cavalcade passed out of the great gate, the grandmother peering through her
spectacles, and the mother smiling through her tears and looking back more
than once at the home which she had made but was now to leave for ever.
In this manner the earlier emigrants went forward, driving their heavily
laden wagon by day and sleeping at night by the camp. After they had passed
the region of roads and bridges they had to literally hew their way;
cutting down bushes, prying their wagon out of bog-holes, building bridges
or poling themselves across streams on rafts. But, in defiance of every
obstacle, they pressed forward.
Neither rivers nor mountains stayed the course of the emigrant. Guiding his
course by the sun, and ever facing the West, he went slowly on. When that
luminary set, his parting rays lit the faces of the pioneer family, and
when it rose it threw their long shadows before them on the soft, spongy
turf of the forest glades. Sweating through the undergrowth; climbing over
fallen trees; sinking knee-deep in marshes; at noon they halted to take a
rest in the shade of the primeval forest, beside a brook, and there eat
their mid-day meal of fried pork and corn cakes, which the women prepared;
then on again, till the shadows stretched far back toward their old homes.
Sometimes a storm burst upon them, and the women and children huddled
beneath the cart as the thunderbolts fell, shivering the huge trunks of the
forest monarchs; and the lightning crimsoned the faces of the forlorn party
with its glare. Then the heavens cleared; the sun came out; and the ox-cart
went rumbling and creaking onward. No doubt the first days of that weary
tramp had in them something of pleasurable excitement; the breezes of
spring fanned the brows of the wayfarers, and told of the health and
freedom of woodland life; the magnificence of the forest, the summits of
the mountains, tinged with blue, the sparkling waters of lake and stream,
must have given joy to even the most stolid of those households. But
emotions of this description soon became strangers to their souls.
But the emigrants ere long found that the wilderness had lost the charms of
novelty. Sights and sounds that were at first pleasing, and had lessened
the sense of discomfort, soon ceased to attract attention. Their minds,
solely occupied with obstacles, inconveniences, and obstructions, at every
step of the way, became sullen, or, at least, indifferent.
To the toils and discomforts incident to their journey were often added
casualties and great personal risks. An unlucky step might wrench an ankle;
the axe might glance from a twig and split a foot open; and a broken leg,
or a severed artery, is a frightful thing where no surgeon can be had.
Exposure to all the changes of the weather—sleeping upon the damp ground,
frequently brought on fevers; and sickness, at all times a great calamity,
was infinitely more so to the pioneer. It must have been appalling in the
woods. Many a mother has carried her wailing, languishing child in her
arms, to lessen the jolting of the wagon, without being able to render it
the necessary assistance. Many a family has paused on the way to gather a
leafy couch for a dying brother or sister. Many a parent has laid in the
grave, in the lonely wilderness, the child they should meet no more till
the morning of the resurrection. Many a heart at the West has yearned at
the thought of the treasured one resting beneath the spreading tree.
After-comers have stopped over the little mound, and pondered upon the rude
memorial carved in the bark above it; and those who had sustained a similar
loss have wrung their hands and wept over it, for their own wounds were
Among the chapters of accident and casualty which make up the respective
diaries of the families who left their eastern homes after the Revolution
and joined the ranks of the Western immigrants there is none more
interesting than that of Mrs. Jameson. She was the child of wealthy
parents, and had been reared in luxury in the city of New York. Soon after
peace was declared she was married to Edward Jameson, a brave soldier in
the war, who had nothing but his stout arms and intrepid heart to battle
with the difficulties of life. Her father, dying soon after, his estate was
discovered to have been greatly lessened by the depreciation in value which
the war had produced. Gathering together the remains of what was once a
large fortune, the couple purchased the usual outfit of the emigrants of
that period and set out to seek their fortunes in the West.
All went well with them until they reached the Alleghany River, which they
undertook to cross on a raft. It was the month of May; the river had been
swollen by rains, and when they reached the middle of the stream, the part
of the raft on which Mr. Jameson sat became detached, the logs separated,
and he sank to rise no more. The other section of the raft, containing Mrs.
Jameson, her babe of eight months, and a chest of clothing and household
gear, floated down-stream at the mercy of the rapid current.
Bracing herself against the shock, Mrs. Jameson managed to paddle to the
side of the river from which she had just before started. She was landed
nearly a mile below the point where had been left the cattle, and also the
ox-cart in which their journey had been hitherto performed, and which her
husband expected to carry over the river on the raft, returning for them as
soon as his wife and babe had been safely landed on the western bank. The
desolate mother succeeded in mooring the remains of the raft to the shore;
then clasping her babe to her bosom, followed the bank of the river till
she reached the oxen and cart, which she drove down to the place where she
landed, and by great exertions succeeded in hauling the chest upon the
bank. Her strength was now exhausted, and, lying down in the bottom of the
cart, she gave way to grief and despair.
Her situation may be easily imagined: alone in the forest, thirty miles
from the nearest settlement, her husband torn from her in a moment, and her
babe smiling as though he would console his mother for her terrible loss.
In her sad condition self-preservation would have been too feeble a motive
to impel her to make any further effort to save herself; but maternal
love—the strongest instinct in a woman's heart—buoyed her up and
stimulated her to unwonted exertions.
The spot where she found herself was a dense forest, stretching back to a
rocky ledge on the east, and terminated on the north by an alluvial meadow
nearly bare of trees. Along the banks of the river was a thick line of high
bushes and saplings, which served as a screen against the observations of
savages passing up and down the river in their canoes. The woods were just
bursting into leaf; the spring-flowers filled the air with odor, and
chequered the green foliage and grass; the whole scene was full of vernal
freshness, life, and beauty. The track which the Jamesons had followed was
about midway between the northern and southern routes generally pursued by
emigrants, and it was quite unlikely that others would cross the river at
that point. The dense jungle that skirted the river bank was an impediment
in the way of reaching the settlements lower down, and there was danger of
being lost in the woods if the unfortunate woman should start alone.
"On this spot," she said, "I must remain till some one comes to my help."
The first two years of her married life had been spent on a farm in
Westchester County, New York, where she had acquired some knowledge of
farming and woodcraft, by assisting her husband in his labors, or by
accompanying him while hunting and fishing. She was strong and healthy; and
quite, unlike her delicate sisters of modern days, her lithe frame was
hardened by exercise in the open air, and her face was tinged by the kisses
of the sun.
Slowly recovering from the terrible anguish of her loss, she cast about for
shelter and sustenance. The woods were swarming with game, both large and
small, from the deer to the rabbit, and from the wild turkey to the quail.
The brooks were alive with trout. The meadow was well suited for Indian
corn, wheat, rye, or potatoes. The forest was full of trees of every
description. To utilize all these raw materials was her study.
A rude hut, built of boughs interlaced, and covered thickly with leaves and
dry swamp grass, was her first work. This was her kitchen. The cart, which
was covered with canvas, was her sleeping-room. A shotgun, which she had
learned the use of, enabled her to keep herself supplied with game. She
examined her store of provisions, consisting of pork, flour, and Indian
meal, and made an estimate that they would last eight months, with prudent
use. The oxen she tethered at first, but afterwards tied the horns to one
of their fore feet, and let them roam. The two cows having calved soon
after, she kept them near at hand by making a pen for the calves, who by
their bleating called their mothers from the pastures on the banks of the
river. In the meadow she planted half an acre of corn and potatoes, which
soon promised an amazing crop.
Thus two months passed away. In her solitary and sad condition she was
cheered by the daily hope that white settlers would cross her track or see
her as they passed up and down the river. She often thought of trying to
reach a settlement, but dreaded the dangers and difficulties of the way.
Like the doe which hides her fawn in the secret covert, this young mother
deemed herself and her babe safer in this solitude than in trying unknown
perils, even with the chance of falling in with friends. She therefore
contented herself with her lot, and when the toils of the day were over,
she would sit on the bank and watch for voyagers on the river. Once she
heard voices in the night on the river, and going to the bank she strained
her eyes to gaze through the darkness and catch sight of the voyagers; she
dared not hail them for fear they might be Indians, and soon the voices
grew fainter in the distance, and she heard them no more. Again, while
sitting in a clump of bushes on the bank one day, she saw with horror six
canoes with Indians, apparently directing their course to the spot where
she sat. They were hideously streaked with war-paint, and came so near that
she could see the scalping knives in their girdles. Turning their course as
they approached the eastern shore they silently paddled down stream,
scanning the hanks sharply as they floated past. Fortunately they saw
nothing to attract their attention; the cart and hut being concealed by the
dense bushes, and there being no fire burning.
Fearing molestation from the Indians, she now moved her camp a hundred rods
back, near a rocky ledge, from the base of which flowed a spring of pure
water. Here, by rolling stones in a circle, she made an enclosure for her
cattle at night, and within in it built a log cabin of rather frail
construction; another two weeks was consumed in these labors, and it was
now the middle of August.
At night she was at first much alarmed by the howling of wolves, who came
sniffing round the cart where she slept. Once a large grey wolf put its
paws upon the cart and poked its nose under the canvas covering, but a
smart blow on the snout drove it yelping away. None of the cattle were
attacked, owing to the bold front showed to these midnight intruders. The
wolf is one of the most cowardly of wild beasts, and will rarely attack a
human being, or even an ox, unless pressed by hunger, and in the winter.
Often she caught glimpses of huge black bears in the swamps, while she was
in pursuit of wild turkeys or other game; but these creatures never
attacked her, and she gave them a wide berth.
One hot day in August she was gathering berries on the rocky ledge beside
which her house was situated, when seeing a clump of bushes heavily loaded
with the finest blackberries, she laid her babe upon the ground, and
climbing up, soon filled her basket with the luscious fruit. As she
descended she saw her babe sitting upright and gazing with fixed eyeballs
at some object near by; though what it was she could not clearly make out,
on account of an intervening shrub. Hastening down, a sight met her eyes
that froze her blood. An enormous rattlesnake was coiled within three feet
of her child, and with its head erect and its forked tongue vibrating, its
burning eyes were fixed upon those of the child, which sat motionless as a
statue, apparently fascinated by the deadly gaze of the serpent.
Seizing a stick of dry wood she dealt the reptile a blow, but the stick
being decayed and brittle, inflicted little injury on the serpent, and only
caused it to turn itself towards Mrs. Jameson, and fix its keen and
beautiful, but malignant eyes, steadily upon her. The witchery of the
serpent's eyes so irresistibly rooted her to the ground, that for a moment
she did not wish to remove from her formidable opponent.
The huge reptile gradually and slowly uncoiled its body; all the while
steadily keeping its eye fixed on its intended victim. Mrs. Jameson could
only cry, being unable to move, "Oh God! preserve me! save me, heavenly
Father!" The child, after the snake's charm was broken, crept to her mother
and buried its little head in her lap.
We continue the story in Mrs. Jameson's own words:—
"The snake now began to writhe its body down a fissure in the rock, keeping
its head elevated more than a foot from the ground. Its rattle made very
little noise. It every moment darted out its forked tongue, its eyes became
reddish and inflamed, and it moved rather quicker than at first. It was now
within two yards of me. By some means I had dissipated the charm, and,
roused by a sense of my awful danger, determined to stand on the defensive.
To run away from it, I knew would be impracticable, as the snake would
instantly dart its whole body after me. I therefore resolutely stood up,
and put a strong glove on my right hand, which I happened to have with me.
I stretched out my arm; the snake approached slowly and cautiously towards
me, darting out its tongue still more frequently. I could now only
recommend myself fervently to the protection of Heaven. The snake, when
about a yard distant, made a violent spring. I quickly caught it in my
right hand, directly under its head; it lashed its body on the ground, at
the same time rattling loudly. I watched an opportunity, and suddenly
holding the animal's head, while for a moment it drew in its forked tongue,
with my left hand I, by a violent contraction of all the muscles in my
hand, contrived to close up effectually its jaws!
"Much was now done, but much more was to be done. I had avoided much
danger, but I was still in very perilous circumstances. If I moved my right
hand from its neck for a moment, the snake, by avoiding suffocation, could
easily muster sufficient power to force its head out of my hand; and if I
withdrew my hand from its jaws, I should be fatally in the power of its
most dreaded fangs. I retained, therefore, my hold with both my hands; I
drew its body between my feet, in order to aid the compression and hasten
suffocation. Suddenly, the snake, which had remained quiescent for a few
moments, brought up its tail, hit me violently on the head, and then darted
its body several times very tightly around my waist. Now was the very acme
of my danger. Thinking, therefore, that I had sufficient power over its
body, I removed my right hand from its neck, and in an instant drew my
hunting-knife. The snake, writhing furiously again, darted at me; but,
striking its body with the edge of the knife, I made a deep cut, and before
it could recover its coil, I caught it again by the neck; bending its head
on my knee, and again recommending myself fervently to Heaven, I cut its
head from its body, throwing the head to a great distance. The blood
spouted violently in my face; the snake compressed its body still tighter,
and I thought I should be suffocated on the spot, and laid myself down. The
snake again rattled its tail and lashed my feet with it. Gradually,
however, the creature relaxed its hold, its coils fell slack around me, and
untwisting it and throwing it from me as far as I was able, I sank down and
swooned upon the bank.
"When consciousness returned, the scene appeared like a terrible dream,
till I saw the dead body of my reptile foe and my babe crying violently and
nestling in my bosom. The ledge near which my cabin was built was infested
with rattlesnakes, and the one I had slain seemed to be the patriarch of a
numerous family. From that day I vowed vengeance against the whole tribe of
reptiles. These creatures were in the habit of coming down to the spring to
drink, and I sometimes killed four or five in a day. Before the summer was
over I made an end of the whole family."
In September, two households of emigrants floating down the river on a
flatboat, caught sight of Mrs. Jameson as she made a signal to them from
the bank, and coming to land were pleased with the country, and were
persuaded to settle there. The little community was now swelled to fifteen,
including four women and six children. The colony throve, received
accessions from the East, and, surviving all casualties, grew at last into
a populous town. Mrs. Jameson was married again to a stalwart backwoodsman
and became the mother of a large family. She was always known as the
"Mother of the Alleghany Settlement."
Not a few of the pioneer women penetrated the West by means of boats. The
Lakes and the River Ohio were the water-courses by which the advance guard
of the army of emigrants was enabled to reach the fertile regions adjacent
thereto. This mode of travel, while free from many of the hindrances and
hardships of the land routes, was subject to other casualties and dangers.
Storms on the lakes, and snags and shoals on the rivers, often made the
pioneers regret that they had left the forests for the waters. The banks of
the rivers were infested with savages, who slaughtered and scalped the men
and carried the women and children into a captivity which was worse than
death. The early annals of the West are full of the sad stories of such
captivities, and of the women who took part in these terrible scenes.
The following instances will be interesting to the reader:
In the latter part of April, 1784, one Mr. Rowan, with his own and five
other families, set out from Louisville, in two flat-bottomed boats, for
the Long Falls of Green River. Their intention was to descend the Ohio to
the mouth of Green River, then ascend that stream to their place of
destination. At that time there were no settlements in Kentucky within one
hundred miles of Long Falls, afterwards called Vienna.
Having driven their cattle upon one of the boats they loaded the other with
their household goods, farming implements, and stores. The latter was
provided with covers under which the six families could sleep, with the
exception of three of the men who took charge of the cattle boat.
The first three days of their journey were passed in ease and gaiety.
Floating with the current and using the broad oars only to steer with, they
kept their course in the main channel where there was little danger of
shoals and snags. The weather was fine and the scenery along the banks of
the majestic river had that placid beauty that distinguishes the country
through which the lower Ohio rolls its mighty mass of waters on their way
to the Mississippi. These halcyon days of the voyage were destined,
however, to be soon abruptly terminated. They had descended the river about
one hundred miles, gliding along in peace and fancied security; the women
and children had retired to their bunks, and all of the men except those
who were steering the boat were composing themselves to sleep, when
suddenly the placid stillness of the night was broken by a fearful sound
which came from the river far below them. The steersmen at first supposed
it was the howling of wolves. But as they neared the spot from which the
sound proceeded, on rounding a bend in the river, they saw the glare of
fires in the darkness; the sounds at the same time redoubled in shrillness
and volume, and they knew then that a large body of Indians were below them
and would almost inevitably discover their boats. The numerous fires on the
Illinois shore and the peculiar yells of the savages led them to believe
that a flat-boat which preceded them had been captured and that the Indians
were engaged in their cruel orgies of torture and massacre. The two boats
were immediately lashed together, and the best practical arrangements were
made for defending them. The men were distributed by Mr. Rowan to the best
advantage in case of an attack; they were seven in number. The boats were
neared to the Kentucky shore, keeping off from the bank lest there might be
Indians on that shore also. When they glided by the uppermost fire they
entertained a faint hope that they might escape unperceived. But they were
discovered when they had passed about half of the fires and commanded to
halt. They however remained silent, for Mr. Rowan had given strict orders
that no one should utter any sound but that of the rifle; and not that
until the Indians should come within reach. The savages united in a most
terrific yell, rushed to their canoes and pursued them. They floated on in
silence—not an oar was pulled. The enemy approached the boats within a
hundred yards, with a seeming determination to board them.
Just at this moment Mrs. Rowan rose from her seat, collected the axes and
placed one by the side of each man, where he stood with his gun, touching
him on the knee with the handle of the axe as she leaned it up beside him
against the edge of the boat, to let him know it was there. She then
retired to her seat, retaining a hatchet for herself.
None but those who have had a practical acquaintance with Indian warfare,
can form a just idea of the terror which their hideous yelling is
calculated to inspire. When heard that night in the mighty solitude through
which those boats were passing, we are told that most of the voyagers were
panic-stricken and almost nerveless until Mrs. Rowan's calm resolution and
intrepidity inspired them with a portion of her own undaunted spirit. The
Indians continued hovering on their rear and yelling, for nearly three
miles, when awed by the inference which they drew from the silence of the
party in the boat, they relinquished farther pursuit.
Woman's companionship and influence are nowhere more necessary than on the
long and tedious journey of the pioneer to the West. Man is a born rover.
He sails over perilous seas and beneath unfamiliar constellations. He
penetrates the trackless forest and scales the mountains for gain or glory
or out of mere love of motion and adventure. A life away from the fetters
and conventionalities of civilized society also has its charms to the manly
heart. The free air of the boundless wilderness acts on many natures as a
stimulus to effort; but it seems also to breed a spirit of unrest. "I will
not stay here! whither shall I go?" Thus the spirit whispers to itself.
Motion, only motion! Onward! ever onward! The restless foot of the pioneer
has reached and climbed the mountains. He pauses but a moment to gaze at
the valley and presses forward. The valley reached and he must cross the
river, and now the unbounded expanse of the plain spreads before him.
Traversing this after many weary days he stands beneath a mightier
mountain-range towering above him. Up! up! Struggling upward but ever
onward he has reached the snowy summit and gazes upon wider valleys lit by
a kinglier sun and spanned by kindlier skies; and far off he sees sparkling
in the evening light another and grander ocean on whose shores he must
pause. Thus by various motives and impulses the line which bounds the area
of civilized society is constantly being extended.
But all through this tumult of the mind and heart, through this rush of
motion and life there is heard another voice. Soft and penetrating it
sounds in the hour of calm and stillness and tells of happiness and repose.
As in the beautiful song one word is its burden, Home! Home! Sweet Home!
where the lonely heart and toil-worn feet may find rest. That voice must
have its answer, that aspiration must be reached by the aid of woman. It is
she, and only she that makes the home. Around her as a beaming nucleus are
attracted and gather the thousand lesser lights of the fireside. She is the
central figure of the domestic group, and where she is not, there is no
home. Man may explore a continent, subjugate nature and conquer savage
races, but no permanent settlement can be made nor any new empire formed
without the alliance of woman.
She must therefore be the companion of the restless rover on his westward
march, in order that the secret cravings of his soul may he at last
satisfied in that home of happiness and rest, which woman alone can form.
Nothing will better illustrate the restless and indomitable spirit that
inspires the western pioneer, and at the same time display the constant
companionship and tireless energy of woman, than the singular history of a
family named Moody. The emigrant ancestors of this family lived and died in
eastern Massachusetts, where after arriving from England, in 1634, they
first settled. In 1675, two of the daughters were living west of the
Connecticut river. A grand-daughter of the emigrant was settled near the
New York boundary line in 1720. Her daughter marrying a Dutch farmer
of Schoharie made her home in the valley of the Mohawk during the French
and Indian wars and the Revolution. In 1783, although an aged woman, she
moved with her husband and family to Ohio, where she soon after died,
leaving a daughter who married a Moody, a far away cousin, and moved first
into Indiana and finally into Illinois, where she and her husband died
leaving a son, J. G. Moody, who inherited the enterprising spirit of his
predecessors, and, marrying a female relative who inherited the family name
and spirit, before he was of age resumed the family march towards the
The first place where the family halted was in the territory of
Iowa. Here they lived for ten years tilling a noble farm on the Des Moines
river. Then they sold their house and land, and pushed one hundred miles
further westward. Here again new toils and triumphs awaited them. With the
handsome sum derived from the sale of their farm on the Des Moines, they
were enabled to purchase an extensive domain of both prairie and woodland.
In ten years they had a model farm, and the story of their successful
labors attracted other settlers to their neighborhood. A large price
tempted them and again they disposed of their farm.
We have traced genealogically the successive stages in the history of this
pioneer family for the purpose of noting, not merely the cheerfulness with
which so many generations of daughters accompanied their husbands on their
westward march, but the energy which they displayed in making so many homes
in the waste places, and preparing the way for the less bold and
adventurous class of settlers who follow where the pioneer leads.
The family, after disposing of their second Iowa farm, immediately took up
their line of march for Nebraska, where they bought and cultivated a large
tract of land on one of the tributaries of the Platte. In due time the
current of emigration struck them. A favorable offer for their house and
cattle ranche was speedily embraced, and again they took up their line of
march which extended this time into the heart of the Rocky Mountains, in
Colorado, of which State they were among the earliest settlers.
Here Mr. Moody died; but his widow with her large family successfully
maintained her cattle and sheep ranche till a rich gold mine was discovered
upon her land. A sale was soon effected of both the mine and the ranche. In
two weeks after the whole family, mother, sons, and daughters were en
route to California, where their long wanderings terminated. There they
are now living and enjoying the rich fruits of their energy and enterprise,
proving for once the falsity of the proverb that "a rolling stone gathers
The women of this family are types of a class—soldiers, scouts, laborers,
nurses in the "Grand Army," whose mission it is to reclaim the waste places
and conquer uncivilized man.
If they fight, it is only for peace and safety. If they destroy, it is only
to rebuild nobler structures in the interest of civilization. If they toil
and bleed and suffer, it is only that they may rest on their arms, at last,
surrounded by honorable and useful trophies, and look forward to ages of
home-calm which have been secured for their posterity.
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