The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2002

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The Pioneer Settler

upon the Holland Purchase, and his Progress


Orsamus Turner from the History of the Holland Purchase

First Scene, Second Scene, Third Scene, Fourth Scene

First Scene

[Illustration will be posted shortly.]

The engraved view, No. 1, introduces the pioneer. It is Winter. He has, the fall preceding, obtained his "article," or had his land "booked" to him, and built a rude log house; cold weather came upon him before its completion, and froze the ground, so that he could not mix the straw mortar for his stick chimney, and that is dispensed with. He has taken possession of his new home. The oxen that are browsing, with the cow and three sheep; the two pigs and three fowls that his young wife is feeding from her folded apron; these, with a bed, two chairs, a pot and kettle, and a few other indispensable articles for house keeping, few and scanty altogether, as may be supposed, for all were brought in upon that ox sled, through an underbrushed woods road; these constitute the bulk of his worldly wealth. The opening in the woods is that only, which has been made to get logs for his house; and browse his cattle for the few days he has been the occupant of his new home. He has a rousing fire; logs are piled up against his rude chimney back; his fire wood is convenient and plenty, as will be observed. There is a little hay piled on a hovel off to the right; the cattle and the sheep well understand that to be a luxury, only to be dealt out to them occasionally. The roof of his house is of peeled elm bark; his scanty window is of oiled paper; glass is a luxury that has not reached the settlement of which he forms a part. The floor of his house is of the halves of split logs; the door is made of three hewed plank—no boards to be had—a saw mill has been talked of in the neighborhood, but it has not been put in operation. Miles and miles off, through the dense forest, is his nearest neighbor. Those trees are to be felled and cleared away, fences are to be made; here, in this rugged spot, he is to carve out his fortunes and against what odds! The land is not only to be cleared, but it is to be paid for; all the privations of a wilderness home are to be encountered. The task before him is a formidable one, but he has a strong arm and a stout heart, and the reader has only to look at him as he stands in the foreground, to be convinced that he will conquer all obstacles; that rugged spot will yet "blossom like the rose;" he will yet sit down there with his companion in long years of toil and endurance—age will have come upon them, but success and competence will have crowned their efforts. They are destined to be the founders of a settlement and of a family; to look out upon broad smiling fields where now is the dense forest, and congratulate themselves that they have been helpers in a work of progress and improvement, such as has few parallels, in an age and in a country distinguished for enterprise and perseverance.

Through the deep wilderness, where scarce the sun
Can cast his darts, along the winding path
The Pioneer is treading. In his grasp
Is his keen axe, that wondrous instrument,
That like the talisman, transforms
Deserts to fields and cities. He has left
The home in which his early years were past,
And, led by hope, and full of restless strength,
Has plunged within the forest, there to plant
His destiny. Beside some rapid stream
He rears his log-built cabin. When the chains
Of winter fetter Nature, and no sound
Disturbs the echoes of the dreary woods,
Save when some stem cracks sharply with the frost;
Then merrily rings his axe, and tree on tree
Crashes to earth; and when the long keen night
Mantles the wilderness in solemn gloom,
He sits beside his ruddy hearth, and hears
The fierce wolf snarling at the cabin door,
Or through the lowly casement sees his eye
Gleam like a burning coal.
— Alfred B. Street
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