Графични страници
PDF файл



FOR a long time after the first settlement of this country the inhabitants in general married young. There was no distinction of rank, and very little of fortune. On these accounts the first impression of love resulted in marriage, and a family establishment cost but a little labor and nothing else.

A description of a wedding, from the beginning to the end, will serve to shew the manners of our forefathers, and mark the grade of civilization which has succeeded to their rude state of society in the course of a few years.

At an early period the practice of celebrating the marriage at the house of the bride began, and it should seem with great propriety. She also has the choice of the priest to perform the ceremony.

In the first years of the settlement of this country, a wedding engaged the attention of a whole neighborhood, and the frolick was anticipated by old and young with eager anticipation. This is not to be wondered at, when it is told that a wedding was almost the only gathering which was not accompanied with the labor of reaping, log-rolling, building a cabin, or planning some scout or campaign.

In the morning of the wedding day, the groom and his attendants assembled at the house of his father, for the purpose of reaching the mansion of his bride by noon, which was the usual time for celebrating the nuptials, which for certain must take place before dinner.

Let the reader imagine an assemblage of people, without a store, tailor or mantuamaker, within an hundred miles, and an assemblage of horses, without a blacksmith or saddler within an equal distance. The gentlemen dressed in shoe-packs, moccasons, leather breeches, leggins, and linsey hunting shirts, all home-made. The ladies dressed in linsey petticoats and linsey or linen bed gowns, coarse shoes, stockings, handkerchiefs, and buckskin gloves, if any; if there were any buckles, rings, buttons or ruffles, they were the relics of old times, family pieces from parents or grand-parents. The horses were caparisoned with old saddles, old bridles or halters, and pack-saddles, with a bag or blanket thrown over them: a rope or string as often constituted the girth as a piece of leather.

The march, in double file, was often interrupted by the narrowness and obstructions of our horse-paths, as they were called, for we had no roads; and these difficulties were often increased, sometimes by the good, and sometimes by the ill will of neighbors, by falling tices and tying grape

vines across the way. Sometimes an ambuscade was formed by the way side, and an unexpected discharge of several guns took place, so as to cover the wedding company with smoke. Let the reader imagine the scene which followed this discharge, the sudden spring of the horses, the shrieks of the girls, and the chivalric bustle of their partners to save them from falling. Sometimes, in spite of all that could be done to prevent it, some were thrown to the ground; if a wrist, elbow or ankle happened to be sprained, it was tied with a handkerchief, and little more was thought or said about it.

Another ceremony took place before the party reached the house of the bride, after the practice of making whiskey began, which was at an early period. When the party were about a mile from the place of their destination, two young men would single out to run for the bottle: the worse the path, the more logs, brush and deep hollows, the better, as these obstacles afforded an opportunity for the greater display of intrepidity and horsemanship. The English fox chase, in point of danger to the riders and their horses, was nothing to this race for the bottle. The start was announced by an Indian yell, when logs, brush, mud holes, hill and glen, were speedily passed by the rival ponies. The bottle was always filled for the occasion, so that there was no use for judges; for the first who reached the door was presented with the prize, with which he returned in triumph to the company. On approaching them he announced his victory over his rival by a shrill whoop. At the head of the troop he gave the bottle to the groom and his attendants, and then to each pair in succession, to the rear of the line, giving each a dram; and then putting the bottle in the bosom of his hunting shirt, took his station in the company.

The ceremony of the marriage preceded the dinner, which was a substantial backwoods feast of beef, pork, fowls, and sometimes venison and bear meat, roasted and boiled, with plenty of potatoes, cabbage and other vegetables. During the dinner the greatest hilarity always prevailed, although the table might be a large slab of timber, hewed out with a broadaxe, supported by four sticks set in auger holes, and the furniture some old pewter dishes and plates, the rest wooden bowls and trenchers. A few pewter spoons, much battered about the edges, were to be seen at some tables; the rest were made of horns. If knives were scarce, the deficiency was made up by the scalping knives, which were carried in sheaths suspended to the belt of the hunting shirt.

After dinner the dancing commencdd, and generally lasted until the next morning. The figures of the dances were three and four handed reels, or square sets and jigs. The commencement was always a square four, which was followed by what was called jigging it off, that is, two of the four would single out for a jig, and were followed by the remaining couple. The jigs were often accompanied with what was called cutting out, that is, when any of the parties became tired of the dance, on intimation, the place was supplied by some of the company, without any interruption of the dance; in this way a dance was often continued till the musician was heartily tired of his situation. Toward the latter part of the night, if any of the company through weariness attempted to conceal

themselves for the purpose of sleeping, they were hunted up, paraded on the floor, and the fiddler ordered to play "hang out till morning.

[ocr errors]

About nine or ten o'clock a deputation of young ladies stole off the bride and put her to bed. In doing this it frequently happened that they had to ascend a ladder instead of a pair of stairs, leading from the dining and ball room to the loft, the floor of which was made of clapboards lying. loose and without nails. This ascent one might think would put the bride and her attendants to the blush; but as the foot of the ladder was commonly behind the door, which was purposely open for the occasion, and its rounds at the inner ends were well hung with hunting shirts, petticoats and other articles of clothing, the candles being on the oppositeside of the house, the exit of the bride was noticed but by a few. This done, a deputation of young men in like manner stole off the groom and placed him snugly by the side of his bride. The dance still continued, and if seats happened to be scarce, which was often the case, every young man when not engaged in the dance was obliged to offer his lap as a seat for one of the girls, and the offer was sure to be accepted. In the midst of this hilarity the bride and groom were not forgotten. Pretty late in the night some one would remind the company that the new couple must stand in need of some refreshment; Black Betty, which was the name of the bottle, was called for and sent up the ladder. But sometimes. Black Betty did not go alone. I have many times seen as much bread, beef, pork and cabbage, sent along with her, as would afford a good meal for half a dozen of hungry men. The young couple were compelled to eat. more or less of whatever was offered them.

In the course of the festivity, if any wanted to help himself to a dram and the young couple to a toast, he would call out, "Where is Black Betty? I want to kiss her sweet lips." Black Betty was soon handed to him, when, holding her up in his right hand, he would say, "Here's health to the groom, not forgetting myself, and here's to the bride, thumping luck and big children!" This, so far from being taken amiss, was considered as an expression of a very proper and friendly wish; for big children, especially sons, were of great importance, as we were few in number and engaged in perpetual hostility with the Indians, the end of which no one could foresee. Indeed many of them seemed to suppose that war was the natural state of man, and therefore did not anticipate any conclusion of it; every big son was therefore considered as a young


But to return. It often happened that some neighbors or relations, not being asked to the wedding, took offense; and the mode of revenge adopted by them on such occasions, was that of cutting off the manes, foretops, and tails of the horses of the wedding company.

Another method of revenge which was adopted when the chastity of the bride was a little suspected, was that of setting up a pair of horns on poles or trees, on the route of the wedding company. This was a hint to the groom that he might expect to be complimented with a pair of horns himself.

On returning to the infare, the order of procession and the race for Black Betty was the same as before. The feasting and dancing often

lasted several days, at the end of which the whole company were so ex-hausted with loss of sleep, that several days' rest were requisite to fit them to return to their ordinary labors.

Should I be asked why I have presented this unpleasant portrait of the rude manners of our forefathers? I in my turn would ask my reader, why are you pleased with the histories of the blood and carnage of battles? Why are you delighted with the fictions of poetry, the novel and romance? I have related truth, and only truth, strange as it may seem. I have depicted a state of society and manners which are fast vanishing from the memory of man, with a view to give the youth of our country a knowledge of the advantage of civilization, and to give contentment to the aged by preventing them from saying, "that former times were better than the present."



I will proceed to state the usual manner of settling a young couple in the world.

A spot was selected on a piece of land of one of the parents for their habitation. A day was appointed shortly after their marriage for commencing the work of building their cabin. The fatigue party consisted of choppers, whose business it was to fall the trees and cut them off at proper lengths-a man with his team for hauling them to the place, and arranging them, properly assorted, at the sides and ends of the building --and a carpenter, if such he might be called, whose business it was to search the woods for a proper tree for making clapboards for the roof. The tree for this purpose must be straight-grained, and from three to four feet in diameter. The boards were split four feet long, with a large frow, and as wide as the timber would allow. They were used without planing or shaving. Another division were employed in getting puncheons for the floor of the cabin; this was done by splitting trees about eighteen inches in diameter, and hewing the faces of them with a broad-axe. They were half the length of the floor they were intended to make.

The materials for the cabin were mostly prepared on the first day, and sometimes the foundation laid in the evening; the second day was allotted for the raising.

In the morning of the next day the neighbors collected for the raising. The first thing to be done was the election of four corner-men, whose business it was to notch and place the logs, the rest of the company furnishing them with the timbers. In the mean time the boards and pun

cheons were collecting for the floor and roof, so that by the time the cabin was a few rounds high, the sleepers and floor began to be laid. The door was made by cutting or sawing the logs in one side so as to make an opening about three feet wide; this opening was secured by upright pieces of timber about three inches thick, through which holes were bored into the ends of the logs for the purpose of pinning them fast. A similar opening, but wider, was made at the end for the chimney. This was built of logs, and made large, to admit of a back and jambs of stone. At the square two end logs projected a foot or eighteen inches beyond the wall, to receive the butting poles as they were called, against which the ends of the first row of clapboards was supported. The roof was formed by making the end logs shorter until a single log formed the comb of the roof. On these logs the clapboards were placed, the ranges of them lapping some distance over those next below them, and kept in their places by logs placed at proper distances upon them.

The roof and sometimes the floor were finished on the same day of the raising; a third day was commonly spent by a few carpenters in leveling off the floor, making a clapboard door, and a table. This last was made of a split slab, and supported by four round legs set in auger holes; some three-legged stools were made in the same manner. Some pins, stuck in the logs at the back of the house, supported some clapboards which served for shelves for the table furniture. A single fork, placed with its lower end in a hole in the floor, and the upper end fastened to a joist, served for a bedstead, by placing a pole in the fork with one end through a crack between the logs in the wall. This front pole was crossed by a shorter one within the fork, with its outer end through another crack. From the front pole, through a crack between the logs of the end of the house, the boards were put on which formed the bottom of the bed. Sometimes other poles were pinned to the fork a little distance between these, for the purpose of supporting the front and foot of the bed, while the walls were the support of its back and head. A few pegs around the walls, for the display of the coats of the women and hunting shirts of the men, and two small forks or buck's horns to a joist for the rifle and shot pouch, completed the carpenter work.

In the mean time masons were at work. With the heart pieces of the timber of which the clapboards were made, they made billets for chunking up the cracks between the logs of the cabin and chimney. A large bed of mortar was made for daubing up these cracks; and a few stones formed the back and jambs of the chimney.

The cabin being finished, the ceremony of house warming took place, before the young couple were permitted to move into it. This was a dance of the whole night's continuance, made up of the relations of the bride and groom and their neighbors. On the day following, the young couple took possession of their new mansion.


« ПредишнаНапред »