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CHAPTER XXIV.

WORKING..

THE necessary labors of the farms along the frontiers were performed with every danger and difficulty imaginable. The whole population of the frontiers, huddled together in their little forts, left the country with every appearance of a deserted region; and such would have been the opinion of a traveler concerning it, if he had not seen here and there some small fields of corn or other grain in a growing state.

It is easy to imagine what losses must have been sustained by our first settlers owing to this deserted state of their farms. It was not the full measure of their trouble that they risked their lives, and often lost them, in subduing the forest and turning it into fruitful fields; but compelled to leave them in a deserted state during the summer season, a great part of the fruits of their labors was lost by this untoward circumstance. The sheep and hogs were devoured by the wolves, panthers and bears. Horses and cattle were often let into their fields, through breaches made in their fences by the falling of trees, and frequently almost the whole of a little crop of corn was destroyed by squirrels and raccoons, so that many families, even after an hazardous and laborious spring and summer, had but little left for the comfort of the dreary winter.

The early settlers on the frontiers of this country were like Arabs of the desert of Africa, in at least two respects. Every man was a soldier, and from early in the spring till late in the fall was almost continually in arms. Their work was often carried on by parties, each one of whom had his rifle and every thing else belonging to his war dress. These were deposited in some central place in the field. A sentinel was stationed on the outside of the fence, so that on the least alarm the whole company repaired to their arms, and were ready for combat in a moment.

Here again the rashness of some families proved a source of difficulty. instead of joining the working parties, they went out and attended their farms by themselves, and in case of alarm, an express was sent for them, and sometimes a party of men to guard them to the fort. These families, in some instances, could boast that they had better crops, and were every way better provided for in the winter than their neighbors: in other instances their temerity cost them their lives.

In military affairs, when every one concerned is left to his own will, matters were sure to be badly managed. The whole frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia presented a succession of military camps or forts. We had military officers, that is to say, captains and colonels; but they in many respects were only nominally such. They could advise, but not

command. Those who chose to follow their advice did so, to such an extent as suited their fancy or interest. Others were refractory and thereby gave much trouble. These officers would leave a scout or campaign, while those who thought proper to accompany them did so, and those who did not remained at home. Public odium was the only punishment for their laziness or cowardice. There was no compulsion to the perfor mance of military duties, and no pecuniary reward when they were performed.

It is but doing justice to the first settlers of this country to say, that instances of disobedience of families and individuals to the advice of our officers, were by no means numerous. The greater number cheerfully submitted to their directions with a prompt and faithful obedience.

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CHAPTER XXV.

MECHANIC ARTS.

IN giving a history of the state of the mechanic arts, as they were exercised at an early period of the settlement of this country, I shall present a people, driven by necessity to perform works of mechanical skill, far beyond what a person enjoying all the advantages of civilization, would expect from a population placed in such destitute circumstances.

My reader will naturally ask where were their mills for grinding grain -where their tanners for making leather-where their smith shops for inaking and repairing their farming utensils? Who were their carpenters, tailors, cabinet workmen, shoemakers and weavers? The answer is, those manufacturers did not exist, nor had they any tradesmen who were professedly such. Every family were under the necessity of doing every thing for themselves as well as they could.

The hommony blocks and hand mills were in use in most of our houses. The first was made of a large block of wood about three feet long, with an excavation burned in one end, wide at the top and narrow at the bottom, so that the action of the pestle on the bottom threw the corn up to the sides towards the top of it, from whence it continually fell down into the centre. In consequence of this movement, the whole mass of the grain was pretty equally subjected to the strokes of the pestle. In the fall of the year, whilst the Indian corn was soft, the block and pestle did very well for making meal for journeycake and mush, but were rather slow when the corn became hard.

The sweep was sometimes used to lessen the toil of pounding grain into meal. This was a pole of some springy clastic wood, thirty feet long

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or more, the but end of which was placed under the side of a house or å large stump. This pole was supported by two forks, placed about one third of its length from its but end, so as to elevate the small end about fifteen feet from the ground. To this was attached, by a large mortise, a piece of sapling about five or six inches in diameter, and eight or ten feet long, the lower end of which was shaped so as to answer for a pestle, and a pin of wood was put through it at a proper height, so that two persons could work at the sweep at once. This simple machine very much Jessened the labor and expedited the work.

I remember that when a boy I put up an excellent sweep at my father's. It was inade of a sugar tree sapling, and was kept going almost constanly from morning till night by our neighbors for several weeks.

In the Greenbrier country, where they had a number of saltpetre caves, the first settlers made plenty of excellent gunpowder by means of these sweeps and mortars.

A machine still more simple than the mortar and pestle was used for making meal when the corn was too soft to be beaten. It was called a grater. This was a half circular piece of tin, perforated with a punch from the concave side, and nailed by its edges to a block of wood. The ears of corn were rubbed on the rough edges of the holes, while the meal fell through them on the board or block to which the grater was nailed, which being in a slanting direction, discharged the meal into a cloth or bowl placed for its reception. This, to be sure, was a slow way of making meal, but necessity has no law.

The hand mill was better than the mortar and grater. It was made of two circular stones, the lowest of which was called the bed stone, the upper one the runner. These were placed in a hoop, with a spout for discharging the meal. A staff was let into a hole in the upper surface of the runner, near the outer edge, and its upper end through a hole in a board fastened to a joist above, so that two persons could be employed in turning the mill at the same time. The grain was put into the opening in the runner by hand. These mills are still in use in Palestine, the ancient country of the Jews. To a mill of this sort our Savior alluded, when, with reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, he said, "Two women shall be grinding at a mill, the one shall be taken and other left."

This mill is much preferable to that used at present in upper Egypt for making the dhourra bread. It is a smooth stone, placed on an inclined plane, upon which the grain is spread, which is made into meal by rubbing another stone up and down upon it.

Our first water mills were of that description denominated tub mills. It consists of a perpendicular shaft, to the lower end of which a horizontal wheel of about four or five feet in diameter is attached: the upper end passes through the bed stone and carries the runner, after the manner of a trundlehead. These mills were built with very little expense, and many of then answered the purpose very well. Instead of bolting cloths, sifters were in general use. These were made of deer skins in the state of parchment, stretched over a hoop and perforated with a hot wire.

Our clothing was all of domestic manufacture. We had no other resource for clothing, and this indeed was a poor one. The crops of flax

often failed, and the sheep were destroyed by the wolves. Linsey, which is made of flax and wool, the former the chain, and the latter the filling, was the warmest and most substantial cloth we could make. Almost every house contained a loom and almost every woman was a weaver.

Every family tanned their own leather. The tan vat was a large trough sunk to the upper end in the ground. A quantity of bark was easily obtained every spring in clearing and fencing land. This, after drying, was brought in, and in wet days was shaved and pounded on a block of wood with an axe or mallet. Ashes was used in place of lime for taking off the hair. Bear's oil, hog's lard and tallow, answered the place of fish oil. The leather, to be sure, was coarse; but it was substantially good. The operation of currying was performed by a drawing knife with its edge turned after the manner of a currying knife. The blacking for the leather was made of soot and hog's lard.

Almost every family contained its own tailors and shoemakers. Those who could not make shoes could make shoe-packs. These, like moccasons, were made of a single piece of leather, with the exception of a tongue piece on the top of the foot, which was about two inches broad and circular at the lower end, and to which the main piece of leather was sewed with a gathering stitch. The seam behind was like that of a moccason, and a sole was sometimes added. The women did the tailor work. They could all cut out and make hunting shirts, leggins and drawers.

The state of society which existed in our country at an early period of its settlement, was well calculated to call into action every native mechanical genius. There was in almost every neighborhood, some one whose natural ingenuity enabled him to do many things for himself and his neighbors, far above what could have been reasonably expected. With the very few tools which they brought with them into the country, they certainly performed wonders. Their plows, harrows with their wooden teeth, and sleds, were in many instances well made. Their cooper-ware, which comprehended every thing for holding milk and water, was generally pretty well executed. The cedar-ware, by having alternately a white and red stave, was then thought beautiful. Many of their puncheon floors were very neat, their joints close, and the top even and smooth. Their looms, although heavy, did very well. Those who could not exercise these mechanic arts were under the necessity of giving labor or barter to their neighbors in exchange for the use of them, so far as their necessities required.

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An old man in my father's neighborhood had the art of turning bowls, from the knots of trees, particularly those of the ash. In what way he did it I do not know, or whether there was much mystery in his art. that as it may, the old man's skill was in great request, as well-turned wooden bowls were amongst our first-rate articles of household furniture. My brothers and myself once undertook to procure a fine suit of these bowls made of the best wood, the ash. We gathered all we could find on our father's land, and took them to the artist, who was to give, as the saying was, one half for the other. He put the knots in a branch before the door, when a freshet came and swept them all away, not one of them

being ever found. This was a dreadful misfortune. Our anticipation of an elegant display of new bowls was utterly blasted in a moment, as the poor old man was not able to repair our loss or any part of it.

My father possessed a mechanical genius of the highest order, and necessity, which is the mother of invention, occasioned the full exercise of his talents. His farming utensils were the best in the neighborhood. After making his loom he often used it as a weaver. All the shoes belonging to the family were made by himself. He always spun his own shoe-thread, saying that no woman could spin shoe-thread as well as he could. His cooper-ware was made by himself. I have seen him make a small, neat kind of wooden ware, called set work, in which the staves were all attached to the bottom of the vessel, by means of a groove cut in them by a strong clasp knife and a small chisel, before a single hoop was put on. He was sufficiently the carpenter to build the best kind of houses then in use, that is to say, first a cabin, and afterwards the hewed log house, with a shingled roof. In his latter years he became sickly, and not being able to labor, he amused himself with tolerably good imitations of cabinet work.

Not possessing sufficient health for service on the scouts and campaigns, his duty was that of repairing the rifles of his neighbors when they needed it. In this business he manifested a high degree of ingenuity. A small depression on the surface of a stump or log, and a wooden mallet, were his instruments for straightening the gun barrel when crooked. Without the aid of a bow string he could discover the smallest bend in a barrel, and with a bit of steel he could make a saw for deepening the furrows when requisite. A few shots determined whether the gun might be trusted.

Although he never had been more than six weeks at school, he was nevertheless a first rate penman and a good arithmetician. His penmanship was of great service to his neighbors in writing letters, bonds, deeds of conveyance, &c.

Young as I was, I was possessed of an art which was of great use, viz: that of weaving shot pouch straps, belts and garters. I could make my loom and weave a belt in less than one day. Having a piece of board about four feet long, an inch auger, spike gimlet, and a drawing knife, I needed no other tools or materials for making my loom.

It frequently happened that my weaving proved serviceable to the family, as I often sold a belt for a day's work, or making an hundred rails; so that although a boy, I could exchange my labor for that of a full grown person for an equal length of time.

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