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Chapter 5
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Chapter 5
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TOWARDS the end of June our three acres of wheat began to look ripe, and we consequently had to consider how we should reap it; we had no sickles, nor were any to be had under a dollar each; we therefore, self and husband, resolved to go to our friend Mr. B., who lent us two, for which we were thankful enough, although they were poor ones. As we were returning home, my husband had the misfortune to stumble over a log of wood, and having a sickle in his hand, he pitched upon the edge of it with his knee, and cut it severely. We were then a mile from home, and the wound bled profusely. I bound it up with a handkerchief, and after a little faintness he was able to proceed. The next day, on examining the cut, we found it to be more serious than we had imagined: the symptoms were also bad; instead of being warm and irritable, it was cold and numb. In vain did we apply lotions, it kept growing worse and worse. The following day it began to swell very much, and to be exceedingly painful at a distance from the cut. The pain took away his appetite for food, and symptoms of inflammation and
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fever became rapidly apparent. My situation requires no comment: I could not but perceive I was likely to lose my dearest earthly friend, and with him all visible means of supporting myself, or maintaining my family. I was almost driven to frenzy. Despair began to lay hold of me with his iron sinews; I longed to exchange situations with my husband; there was no one near to assist or encourage me. My eldest child alone manifested any signs of sympathy: the poor boy went up to his father's bed, and with affectionate and child-like simplicity said, 'don't die, father, don't die.' Meanwhile the swelling increased; my husband had taken nothing but a little coffee for two days. Here was a crisis: I saw a short time would determine whether I was to be reduced to a situation the most wretched imaginable, or see my husband restored to me again. The latter idea seemed to contain all I had in this world to cling to. I could not give it up. I fomented the swelling with increased diligence, till at length he began to perspire, and his leg to possess its wonted sensibility. A change for the better had evidently taken place, and by degrees all the bad symptoms disappeared.
On perceiving this, I felt myself the happiest woman on earth, although my situation
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was still embarrassing. Our wheat was quite ripe, indeed almost ready to shake, and if not cut soon, would be lost. We had no means of hiring reapers, and my husband could not stir out. I was therefore obliged to begin myself; I took my eldest child into the field to assist me, and left the next in age to attend to their father and take care of the youngest, which was still unweaned. I worked as hard as my strength would allow; the weather was intolerably hot, so that I was almost melted. In little more than a week, however, we had it all cut down. Meanwhile my husband had continued to mend, and was now able to leave his bed and sit in a chair, or rather on a stool placed near the wall for support to his back, and made further comfortable with the help of a pillow or two. The wheat was still unhoused, and exposed to the rays of the burning sun, by which it was in danger of being dried so as to waste on the slightest movement. It was absolutely necessary that it should be gathered together forthwith. Having neither horses nor waggon, we here encountered another difficulty. The work, however, could not be postponed. With a little trouble I got two strong rods, upon which I placed a number of sheaves near one end of them; I then caused my little son to take hold of the
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lighter end, and in this manner we gathered together the whole of the three acres. My partner had by this time so far recovered as to be able to move about with the help of a strong staff, or crutch, and thus he came to the door to shew me how to place the sheaves in forming the stack. The reader may probably suppose I am endeavouring to magnify my own labours, when I tell him I reaped, carried home, and stacked our whole crop of wheat, consisting, as before stated, of three acres, with no other assistance than that of my little boy under ten years of age.
My statements are nevertheless uncol-oured facts, and what renders them still less credible, the work was performed in addition to the attendance necessarily required by my young family and sick husband, and during the hottest part of the year, in a climate notorious for excessive heat. I would not be understood to represent the climate of Illinois as greatly prejudicial to the health of English emigrants. My health had hitherto been much better there than in England, a circumstance "which I attribute in part to the beneficial effects of the voyage, but still more to the difference in the state of the atmosphere between America and England. The reader must know that previous to leaving this country I was slightly affected with
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asthmatic symptoms, which entirely left me for a number of years after my arrival in America. A dry air is always allowed to be favourable to persons troubled with the above disease; and it is no less notorious that the atmosphere of England is comparatively moist and humid, its insular situation being probably a principal cause. Physical causes, however, I pretend not to understand; I merely refer to them because they seem to bear upon the facts I have to narrate, and because I deem it necessary to be precise and perspicuous on a subject of such importance to the emigrant as is the climate of the country to which his capabilities may be invited. The atmosphere of Illinois then is much drier than that of the British islands. This is apparent from the comparatively few rainy days that occur in that country: in summer the droughts are excessive and long, from which the corn crops sometimes suffer severely; and in winter, during the two coldest months, scarcely any rain falls. Spring and autumn are often very rainy; but, even then, the number of fine days is not less than those in England during the same season. When it does rain it falls in torrents, and is generally accompanied with thunder and lightning, as before stated; a circumstance which corroborates the statements above-named
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relative to the dryness of the air. A continental situation like that of Illinois must necessarily be affected with greater extremes of heat and cold than a country surrounded by water like Britain. The influence of the sun's rays in the latter place is considerably diminished by the process of evaporation, for which such facilities are offered where water abounds; while on the other hand the cold is less intense on account of the abundance of caloric given out by water to the superincumbent air, when the temperature of the latter descends below the freezing point.
The striking difference between the climate of America and England therefore is, that the extremes of heat and cold are considerably greater in that country than in this; hence tobacco and cotton may be cultivated with success, though the climate in Illinois is scarcely hot enough for the latter; every farmer, however, cultivates tobacco for his own use, in the same manner as the peasants in this country grow cabbages and potatoes; it is sown in beds like onions, at the spring of the year, and though of all seeds apparently the slowest to manifest the vegetative principles, when it has begun to put forth its leaves it grows with unaccountable rapidity. At this period of its growth it is
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much infested with a species of green caterpillar of an enormous size, from whose ravages the plants require to be daily protected, or they would shortly disappear. When ripe its appearance is very much like that of the rhubarb cultivated in our cottage gardens in England after it has seeded, only the leaves of the tobacco plant are larger and not so heavy. In this state they are cut and dried in the sun a day or two, and afterwards gathered together to cause them to sweat, which gives them that peculiar fragrance common to tobacco.
As a further illustration of the temperature of the climate, it may be remarked that melons, pumpkins, cucumbers and peaches ripen early without any assistance from art. The woods abound with wild plum-trees, for which the climate is nevertheless too hot, as they frequently wither on the trees before they are fully ripe, and are eaten by pigs, or remain to decay and fertilize the ground. Grapes, strawberries and raspberries likewise grow wild in great abundance; the settlers gather them near their houses, in order to make wine of them; but there are thousands of bushels left to decay where they grew, after birds and insects have devoured as many of them as they choose. The raspberries are of a different species from those
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grown in England; the bushes themselves are quite similar in appearance, and the flavour of the fruit not much different; but when the berries are ripe they are quite black like the fruit of the bramble. Of all the fruits that are met with in the woods, nuts are the most plentiful; hazels and filberts are found in all directions. During the first two years of our residence in that country my children gathered bushels of them, and even recently I have often been surprised that no bad consequences have ensued from the quantities they have eaten. There are two different kinds of walnut, termed the black and the white walnut, and indeed the ichory is considered as belonging to the same genus, but its fruit is different.
Notwithstanding the beauty and luxuriance of the vegetable productions of Illinois, the summary account here given being a mere sketch, the animal kingdom is still more remarkable for numbers and variety. The naturalist must not search for entertainment in the description about to be given: as a common and unscientific observer I saw and admired them, and as such alone I am able to describe them.
America is certainly and emphatically the country for the feathered tribe, whether numbers, variety, or beauty be the subject
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of special consideration; nor will any one wonder that they are so numerous when he considers the comparative safety with which they rear their young, and the abundance of food that must be found in a country highly productive, whose seeds and fruits are the undisputed property of the first finder. During the breeding season, their noise, I cannot call it music, is, in the woods, one continued gabble; as their species are so numerous, their tones possess every degree of hoarseness, chatter and chirp, that can possibly be> conceived. To represent their performances in writing is a thing absolutely impossible, especially to persons accustomed to identify their vocal powers with something like music. Some idea of their noise may be gath-ered by imagining an assembly consisting of magpies, jays, and turkeys, together with a few of the minor species as the gold-finch, the spink, and the sparrow, all giving full play to their vocal energies, and each endeavouring to make his own favorite note as significant as possible; there is nothing of that fine flowing sweetness with which the "early lark" and "sooty blackbird" an-nounce the approach of summer in this country. But if their voices like that of the peacock are offensive to the ear; like that majestic bird's their plumage is exceedingly
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beautiful. I must not be understood to include all kinds of birds met with in Illinois, in the description now given; one kind is completely black like the rook, and this sort is a downright pest to the ripe and ripening crops; assembling in flocks almost like a cloud, they require all the farmer's vigilance to prevent their flying away with the fruits of his industry. Of the parrot, the owl, and the jay families there are great numbers, but the humming bird is the most interest-ing little bird of any I notice, of which there are hundreds buzzing about during the summer season. As it would be out of keeping with the character of this work to describe the peculiar habits of the various classes of birds seen in America, I deem it unnecessary to give the names by which they are known among the unlettered inhabitants of Illinois, especially as those names are mostly provincial terms; notwithstanding they are so numerous there are very few that I could recognize as species common in my own country. In vain did I listen for the cuckoo at the spring of the year, and happy should I have been to see the tame confiding redbreast hopping about our door, but it never appeared.
Proceed we next to notice another class of animals, which, though not as numerous as
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the one just described, are now by no means rare during warm weather in Illinois: snakes are the creatures now referred to, of which there are not only a great variety, but vast numbers of each species, many of which are exceedingly venomous. One kind called the black snake, alias the racer, is noticed for pursuing people who may chance to come near them during the breeding season; it is large and completely black, its bite is not venomous, nor does it attempt to pursue intruders, unless they shrink from its intimidating appearance, and even then it generally returns to its post as soon as it fancies it has driven them off; sometimes however, it will wrap round a person's legs, and if the individual in that situation attempts to fly, he is almost sure to fall; he may however, soon release himself with a small stick or a knife; as it is the only snake in America that will approach man without being previously irritated, it is fortunate that its bite is not venomous: one kind about the size of a small eel is able to raise itself nearly in a perpendicular direction; when struck it immediately appears to be broken or disjointed into three or four pieces not unlike the herb or weed termed foxtail, when its joints are disunited; a third called the copperhead has a most angry appearance, and its bite is venomous,
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but it usually endeavours to get away on the approach of man. The species are too numerous for me to attempt to enumerate them here; it seldom happens that any one is injured by them, but as they are known to lurk in concealed situations, hollow trees, and some even among the branches, they cause people to be constantly on their guard when they have to enter situations favorable for them to lie in.
The rattlesnake, however, is not to be despised, for although it is not so numerous as some of the other kinds, it is more dreaded than them all; this formidable foe never attacks man except in self-defence, and then its bite, if no antidote be taken, is speedily fatal. The usual medicine given to a person thus bitten, is a strong infusion of a herb called the rattlesnake's master. The rattle from which the reptile has its name, is situated at the end of its tail, and composed of thin hollow bones articulated so as to make a rattling noise when the animal moves, thereby warning other animals of its approach; the number of bones contained in the rattle varies according to its age, one being added every year, from which it appears to live about twelve years, as snakes are sometimes killed with that number of bones in the rattle; when about to strike an
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animal it coils itself up like the contraction, (&) to enable it to dart forward its head with greater rapidity, and without any part of its body touching the ground, except the tail, on which it supports itself during the time. This reptile is becoming less and less numerous, as none are allowed to escape when once observed. They are usually found in pairs, and often among the growing corn. A neighbour of ours was once bitten with one on which he had accidentally trodden. He killed it immediately afterwards, and then hastened to the nearest house, but before he could reach it he was obliged to hollow to make the occupiers know what was his misfortune, as he felt his tongue and limbs beginning to grow stiff; the antidote was imme-diately administered, but not before he had become insensible; he however, recovered. When an individual attacks these reptiles he should be cautious how he approaches them when in their favourite coiled position. When they are extended at length on the ground, they may be approached with safety, as they are then not able to dart forward their heads as they do when they attempt to inflict a wound.
Insects are likewise numerous in America, and many of them of a larger size than any to be met with in England. There is a species
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of ant found on the prairies, about half the size of a working bee. In traversing these grounds, particularly in summer, a person will naturally feel inclined to rest himself occasionally, and may probably select for himself, as a seat, some little hillock, of which there are many. If he does, however, I will venture to assert he will be caught trespassing, and have to pay the smart too.
The butterflies in America are really splendid, nothing can surpass them in design, depth of colouring, or in the delicacy with which their finely powdered wings are finished. I have sometimes observed in very hot weather, when I happened to throw to the door a little greasy or soapy water, that the place thus moistened has been covered in a few minutes with butterflies of the richest and most brilliant dress. All the hues that the prism can elicit from the "parent of colours," have been there manifested, and that with such a beautifully variegated combination, as to render imitation utterly impracticable.
The plan proposed in this narrative requires that mention be made only of such objects as would come under the notice of common observers, whereby a tolerably correct idea of the general state of the country may be obtained. I cannot however close
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these succinct observations on insects, without noticing one which flies about during the evenings in summer, and emits a light considerably brighter than that of the glow worm. When I first beheld it, I was not aware of its existence. It was one evening as husband and I were returning from the chapel, on a road that was principally through an uncultivated piece of wooded land. As we were passing along, we observed in many places what we took to be sparks of fire dancing about most mysteriously. Our curiosity was excited not a little, but not knowing what to think, we dared not approach them, for fear they were connected with something super-human. Superstition certainly got hold of us, and we hastened home imagining some strange catastrophe was about to occur. On reaching home we found a neighbour waiting our arrival, to whom we related what we had witnessed. He smiled at our simplicity, and told us they were light bugs, the name they are known by in Illinois; fire-flies I believe is a more gen-eral term, which gave us no small satisfaction, as we had been much disturbed to know what such a prodigy could imply.
A few pages back I attempted to describe the appearance of a winter night. I may now be allowed to make a few remarks on
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the peculiarities of a night in summer. As our situation in America is about fourteen degrees further south than Yorkshire, I scarcely need say that the shortest summer night there is longer than the shortest in England by two or three hours. In this country, as the shades of twilight gradually usher in the more sombre aspect of night, a delightful silence seems to repose on the bosom of nature. Hence Milton: "Now came still evening on and twilight grey," &c. The reverse of this is nearer the truth in Illinois. It would be a burlesque on language for any one during a night in summer, to repeat Grey's admired line,—"All the air a solemn stillness holds." I have already stated that owls are very numerous, they are also very noisy during the night. There is another bird, however, that outdoes them in this respect. It is about the size of a lark, and has a loud voice, but only three notes, which it keeps continually repeating. It thus appears to keep crying: "Whip away," or "Whip poor Will," as some will have it. Hence one or other of these terms is the name of the bird, which I believe is common through all North America. Unceasing as are the noises made by these nocturnal performers, there is a species of frog, known as the bull-frog, whose voice completely drowns
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the preceding; it abounds in small creeks and ponds, of which there are many in some districts, though none near our farm. The moment this animal observes darkness approaching, it begins its tremendous croak-ings, which, as its name suggests, are more like the bellowing of a bull than the voice of a frog.
Other animals might be mentioned with propriety, as being peculiar to that country, as the mink, the opossum, and the raccoon; but as these are fully described in works on natural history, I forbear to enlarge, after I have related the following little incident. The foot-print of the last-named animal is precisely like that which a little child, just able to walk, would make. There is the rounded heel, the hollow under the rise of the metatarsus, the toes, and toe nails, as exactly delineated as if it had been actually made with the foot of a child. This impression we observed before we knew anything about it. My husband's curiosity led him to trace it across a ploughed field, as he really thought these prints had been made either by fairies or the diminutive offspring of some concealed Indians, and was a long time before he could be persuaded they were made by a quadruped. If the reader consults a volume on natural history, he will find this
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animal classed among the plantigrada, which will partly account for the above circumstance.
The continuation of my narrative presents my partner recovered from his lameness, and busy thrashing our wheat in the open air: we had a small barn, but as the ground is almost as hard as a boarded floor at the season I am now speaking of, the corn is often thrashed in the open air. Many farmers thrash as soon as harvest is over, and, without winnowing it, place it on a large heap, and cover it with a thick coat of straw and another of earth, as farmers preserve potatoes in England. In this state it will keep very well for several months if required. As the cattle lie out all the year round, the straw is of no use, they therefore burn it out of their way. The time had not yet arrived for us to practise this system of preserving corn; we wanted the full worth of our wheat, and that as soon as we could get. As we had no winnowing machine we were obliged to winnow with the wind, which, though a troublesome method, is frequently practised in Illinois, for the same reason as that which induced us to practise it on this occasion. The farmers in that country are much troubled with a weed that grows amongst the wheat, and of which it is next to an impossibility to clear it. This
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was the first time we had anything to do with it. Its appearance when growing can scarcely be distinguished from wheat till it begins to ear; on this account it is called 'cheat,' and not undeservedly, as it sometimes stands on the ground as abundant as the crop itself, and yet it is so valueless, that even the poultry will not eat it. I have not seen anything in England that resembles it more nearly than the weeds termed by Yorkshire farmers droke and darnel. It is more like the former than the latter.
Having thrashed and winnowed our wheat in the manner above described, our next con-sideration was how we were to sell it. The produce of the three acres might be about eighty bushels, one-fourth of which was but imperfectly cleared of cheat, and was therefore unsaleable. We had only five sacks, which we had taken with us from England, but these even we did not require, as we subsequently learnt the store-keepers were accustomed to furnish the settlers with bags for their corn. My husband took a specimen of wheat, which as it had been sown too sparingly on the ground was a fine sample. Mr. Varley offered half a dollar per bushel in money, or a few cents more in barter. We borrowed a waggon and a yoke of oxen of one of our neighbours, and carried to the store
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fifty bushels. The first thing we did was to settle our meal account; we next bought two pairs of shoes for self and husband, which by this time we wanted as we did other articles of apparel, which we knew we could conveniently procure. The truth is, we had intended to have a little more clothing, but finding the prices so extravagant, we felt compelled to abandon that intention. For a yard of common printed calico, they asked half a dollar, or a bushel of wheat, and proportionate prices for other goods. We gave ten bushels of wheat for the shoes. I may just remark that the prices are considerably lower at the present time for all kinds of wearables than they were then. Our next purchase was a plough, bought in hopes that we should, at some time, have cattle to draw it, as we were tired of the hoeing system. We also bought two tin milk bowls; these and the plough cost about twenty bushels. We obtained further a few pounds of coffee, and a little meal; the coffee cost us at the rate of a dollar for four pounds; and thus we laid out the greater part of our first crop of wheat. We had only reserved about twenty bushels for seed, besides a quantity imperfectly cleared of cheat, which was unfit either for sale or making bread. On balancing our account with Mr. Varley, we found we had
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to take about five dollars, which we received in paper money, specie being exceedingly scarce in Illinois.
The interval between this time and the latter part of September, was spent in further clearing the field which we had before fenced somewhat more than half round. Our Indian corn was likely to be a failing crop, partly because it had been sown late, and partly for want of a plough it had been but imperfectly cultivated. The autumnal rains had now begun to fall, and while other people's corn was ripe, a great part of ours was quite green, and not likely to ripen before the frosts. The little that was ready, we cut, and made it into small stacks, to be ready for seed the ensuing spring. October arrived; it was the season for sowing wheat, and we were little better prepared than we had been the preceding spring; for although we had a plough we had no team. We could readily have hired one had we possessed the means. Five or six dollars were all the money we had, and we fully purposed to buy a pig or two with them, as we had been some weeks without any animal food, except a few fowls for which we had bartered one of our china tea-cups. Our inability to raise a team and sow our wheat, was a source of very great anxiety. The hoeing system had answered
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so indifferently that we felt determined, if possible to have it ploughed. We knew a Mr. Knowles who ploughed for hire; his house was about two miles from ours. My husband waited upon him and offered him one-fifth of the produce of eight acres for ploughing and harrowing it. Reward, it is said, sweetens labour: of this Mr. Knowles was conscious; but the idea of waiting for the reward till the ensuing harvest did not suit his genius: in short, he declined undertaking the work on any such terms. My husband was coming away almost in despair; but happening to look at his watch, Mr. Knowles accosted him in a tone of surprise that he should want any one to work on credit while he possessed such a watch as that, telling him at the same time, that he would plough and harrow the whole eight acres for it. I need scarcely say they immediately agreed, as the watch had been bought in England a year or two before for something less than a sovereign. We were thus relieved from our distressing anxiety, and got the wheat sown as conveniently as we could possibly wish.
This acquaintance with Mr. Knowles led to a further bargain between him and my husband for three young pigs just taken in from the range; for which we paid him the small sum of three dollars. They were
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scarcely fat enough to kill; we therefore gave them a little unsaleable wheat which fed them very rapidly, so that in about a month's time they became nice pork, weighing between nine and ten stones each. By this time our little stock of cattle required to be fed daily with Indian corn, part of which was uncut, and what is worse some of it was unripe. That which had ripened was excellent fodder, the greater part of which we had cut: the little that remained in the field, being ripe, suffered no harm; whereas, the last sown, not ripening before the frosts came on, was much injured, the cattle would scarcely touch it. There is nothing peculiar in this: water, it is well known, expands when it is frozen. Hence, all sorts of succulent plants or soft grain, having their vessels filled with a watery or juicy substance, must of necessity, when frozen, experience a disarrangement of their parts, and have their vascular structure destroyed, and consequently be liable to putrefaction and mould.
In the various transactions I have had to enumerate, I have overlooked our potato crop which was abundant; for although we had only planted half a rood, we had more than sufficient for our own use. The reader must be aware that no manure is used for any thing that is grown: the land is as fat as
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nature requires, and tillage would, in its present state, rather injure it than otherwise. We had not sown any turnips this year; they are generally sown in July, immediately after the wheat crop is reaped, and often on the land on which it has grown. In all probability we should have endeavoured to sow some, had not my husband at this time been an invalid.
The first Sunday in November was the anniversary of our landing in America, for we have now gone through the principal events of our first year's residence in that country. It was further distinguished as being the day on which the yearly feast is held at the little village where we had lived in England. This circumstance, trifling as it is, had a tendency to bring to our recollection in a most vivid manner, bygone associations and endearments, the value of which we only discovered when they were lost. Does the reader ask for an explanation ? Let him consider for a while our condition; and if experience has taught him anything of the nature of those feelings which the love of one's country inspires; if he knows even what emotions are kindled by being removed from old and congenial attachments, he will perceive we had reasons for being sad on the occasion here referred to. The difficulties and privations we had
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already endured were not forgotten. The tattered appearance of our children's clothes, compared with what they had worn in England, made an impression on our minds, which even patient endurance could not resist. We were again on the eve of a hard winter with less warm clothing to meet it, than we had the preceding winter by the wear of a twelvemonth. This was one of the gloomy days in our history. The previous winter we had been prevented from attending religious worship on account of distance, we were now prevented from another cause,—want of decent clothing. It was on this occasion that we perceived something more than poetry in the lines of Cowper:
"When I think of my own native land, In a moment I seem to be there;
But alas! recollection at hand Soon hurries me back to despair."
There was however one cheering consideration: in all respects except clothing, we were better situated than we had been the foregoing season. We had four acres more of wheat sown this year than the year before; we were now in possession of a plough; our cattle had likewise increased in value; the cow had calved again, and the former calf had grown a fine-looking heifer, we therefore saw, after all, we were gaining ground.
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In accordance with my pretensions, I ought here to state that both I and husband had the ague very bad this month; happily not both at the same time. This complaint is too well known to require any description of it from me. It generally attacks new settlers at the end of their first summer, and, even afterwards. At the fall of the leaf it is by no means an uncommon complaint. As land becomes better cultivated and drained, this disease is less frequent. At the present time, notwithstanding its prevalence in autumn, it rarely proves fatal, except in instances where the constitution has manifested previous symptoms of decline, and like a withered leaf is ready to be blown down by the first fresh breeze that blows. The inhabitants have various specifics, real and imaginary: a weak infusion of common pot-herbs drunk hot appears to be as efficacious as anything. When the patient ceases to shake, the ague is said to be broken, and unless fever ensue, as it sometimes happens, he is in a short time quite well.
After we had recovered, for a while nothing occurred worthy of note. As, in the winter previous, our chief employment consisted in attending to the cattle, preparing firewood, and splitting rails. As before, our cattle remained out day and night, generally
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resorting, during the latter, to some sheltered situation. About Christmas, a person with whom we had had several interviews, named Mr. Vanderoozen,1 came to our house and wished us to buy two young steers and a milch cow. We replied we could not purchase them for want of money. "That reason," said he, "shall not prevent you: I am going to keep a shop at St. Louis, and shall often have to come up into the country, you may pay for them when it is convenient, meanwhile I shall expect interest for my money." At the time I am now speaking of, the usual interest paid for the loan of money was twenty-five per cent per annum. It has since very properly declined to twelve per cent. Having considered Mr. Vanderoozen's proposal, we felt inclined to accept it; the only impediment was in the failure of our Indian corn crop. By using the remainder of our unsaleable wheat, however, we presumed we should be able to winter them, and felt assured that when spring arrived they would be able to do well, and greatly add to our advantages. The bargain was accordingly
1 Garret Van Dusen, a resident of Pike County from 1821 to about 1850. He was a Kentuckian and an early commissioner of Pike County, a farmer, and a stock trader. Nothing further is known concerning him, or his family. Information supplied by Jess M. Thompson.
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struck: my husband gave him a promissory note for thirty dollars, with interest for the same at the same rate. We thus appeared to have increased our possessions, and endeavoured to brave our privations and the severity of the weather as well as we could. We were obliged, nevertheless, to economize our winter fodder, which was seen in the condition of our cattle; by degrees they began to lose their flesh, a circumstance which made us doubly anxious for the return of spring.
After much anxiety and unceasing diligence to preserve the health of our stock, the first of March arrived. In a fortnight more we expected there would be plenty of fresh grass in the wilds, and we consequently looked forward to the time with pleasure, little anticipating how sudden a check to our satisfaction we were about to receive. On the third of March, who should darken our door but Mr. Vanderoozen, who had, as he expressed himself, called upon us for the money we owed him; that is to say, the thirty dollars we had agreed to give him for the steers and cow. Thunderstruck at a request so unexpected and unreasonable, we expostulated with him on the terms of the agreement, and explained our inability to answer his demands. Unfortunately the note
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we had given him contained no intimation as to the time our creditor had allowed us. All our expostulations were unheeded; he withdrew, assuring us he would immediately make use of the means the law allowed him for obtaining his money. He was as good as his word; the following day an Esquire* waited upon us with a writ, which allowed us only a few days to prepare for its demands. Our only method of preventing the seizure of our property forthwith was either to replevin or pay the money. The idea of a law-suit was neither adapted to our feelings nor circumstances; but how were we to raise the money? It is not so easy to raise money for cattle in Illinois as in England; besides ours were at that time looking ill, and would consequently be undervalued. Should an execution be issued our cattle would be driven to the appointed place for the sale of distrained goods, and sold by auction, be the price what it would. In all probability our whole stock thus sacrificed would be inadequate to the debt and expenses, which would place our very land in jeopardy. Now it was that we regretted having bought them on credit. Remorse the most pungent preyed on our heart-strings. The emaciated appearance
*A legal officer, so named, whose duties embody both those of attorney and policeman.
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of our cattle condemned our cupidity, and upbraided us with all our contrivances to economize their provender.
Meanwhile the time approached for us to answer the demands of our creditor, or submit to the process of the law. We had only one plan in view which appeared at all likely to avert the threatened calamity. Our friend Mr. B. had been privy to this speculation, and had commended our resolves. He had plenty of money in his possession, as he had made no heavy purchases since he obtained the remittance, and he was naturally thrifty. Two days before the time expired, my husband went to him and explained the conduct of Vanderoozen, requesting him either to buy some of our cattle or lend the money, for which ample interest should be paid. It is unpleasant to record this part of the conduct of our countryman, yet truth demands that I should say he refused to do either, alleging that he did not want any more cattle, nor did he like to lend his money. This refusal rendered our wretchedness complete. After my husband had heard his denial his feelings were too heavily laden for him to urge any more. He came home melancholy enough, without having made any reply to his refusal. I shall never forget his return that evening. During his
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absence my mind had been in a state of vacillation between hope and fear; but the moment I saw his countenance hope entirely fled. What kind of a night we experienced, those alone can conceive who have struggled earnestly and perseveringly with adversity without success. In vain did we extend our languid limbs on our homely couch. Spirits so disordered as ours, were beyond the powers of sleep to lull into forgetfulness. The entire labours of a twelve month were doomed to disappear. On other occasions when my spirits had been depressed, I had laid my cause before the Supreme Ruler, and found relief; but at this time I felt no disposition to look upward. We seemed despised and forsaken by all. In this state of mind we continued until morning, when a knock was heard at the door, to which my husband attended. Will the reader here believe my story? Shall I not rather be charged with fabrication ? I can, however, tax no one with incredulity, inasmuch as I doubted my husband's assertion myself, when, returning from the door, he told me that Mr. B. had brought us the money, and gone away saying he could not rest any longer without lending it.
This account I am aware has too much of the air of fiction, appears too nearly allied to
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the marvellous to obtain general credit. It might have been suppressed, but as I am prompted to regard it as an instance of the over-ruling power of that being "who maketh the wrath of man to praise him," I deem it to be my duty to record it as it occurred, and where it is now placed. The story is now easy to conclude: the following day, to the surprise of our creditor, we paid the money, and thereby put an end to the proceedings. We had no sooner settled this affair than we turned out our cattle into the woods, having previously marked them on the right ear. The sugar trees were now ready for tapping, and as we were anxious to pay Mr. B. as soon as we could, we resolved to make the best of them, especially as sugar is an article for which money can be easily obtained. We made incisions into a great many trees, and shortly had our large kettles boiling down the liquor; the greatest difficulty we experienced arose from an in-sufficiency of troughs to place at the bottom of the trees. We were obliged to cork up the holes of the greater part to prevent the liquor from wasting, while the rest alternately were running into the troughs. Notwithstanding this hindrance, we made at least three hundred and fifty pounds of sugar, which enabled us to return our friend
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Submitted: 02/03/08 (Edited 02/03/08)

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