...begin sample pages...
The first white winter was a hard time
for the pioneer to keep his cattle, on account of the scarcity of fodder. It took several years to clear the trees, and get
a crops of hay grown in their places; and a year or two was required before cornstalks, or straw could be produced. If nobody
in the neighborhood had fodder to sell, the new settler must cut down trees for his cattle to browse, or feed upon the boughs,
a work of immense labor, especially in severe cold weather, and deep snows; and a sad time the poor cattle had, compelled
to lie out exposed to all storms, and feeding on such diet.
Especial care had to taken to keep fire
from going out in their dwelling, it was so difficult to recover it again. An instance is given of such a loss in the house
of widow Gilbert, in Gaines, who returning from the funeral of her husband, found the fire was out, and no means at hand to
kindle it. Fire had to be procured from the nearest neighbor, then several miles off. The tinder box and powder horn, were
the usual resort in such cases, but these might be out as well as the fire. Friction matches had not then been invented. And
it was an inconvenience at least, to be deprived of soft water, the bark roof of a log cabin being a poor contrivance for
collecting it, when there was no snow to melt. The hard water from the ground was prepared for washing clothes by "cleansing,"
as they called it, by putting in wood ashes enough to form a weak lye.
The Holland Company commonly sold their
land for s mall payment down; and gave a contract, extending payments for the balance, from five to ten years; with interest
annually after about two years.
This seemed to be a good bargain to the
settler at first; for, although he was poor, he felt hopeful and strong, and went into the woods to begin his clearing, sanguine
in the belief that he could meet his payments as they fell due, from the produce of his land; beside spaying the necessary
expenses of his living, and his improvements. But, after a year or two, a part must be paid; stock, team, tools, furniture,
d provisions must be bought. He may have cleared a few acres, built a log cabin, and raised some crops, more than was needed
for home consumption; but the surplus he could not sell. The road to a market was impassable for teams; and, if the road had
been opened, it was hard work at best to pay for land by raising a bushel. Is it surprising that under circumstances like
these, some of the earlier settlers of this county, after toiling several years, and finding themselves constantly running
behind land, got discouraged, and wanted to sellout, and go away. And many would have sold their claims, and left the country,
or gone any way, whether they sold or not, if the Land company had enforced their legal rights on their Articles as they fell
due. But the Company were lenient.--they gave off interest due them, and sometimes principal, in cases of great hardship to
the settler. Many times, when he went to the Land Office to say he could not make his payments, and must give it up; the agents
of the Company finding him industrious and frugal, trying to do the best he could, would meet him with such words of kindness,
generous encouragement and cheer, that he would go back to his home with fresh courage, to renew his battle with the musketos,
the ague, and the bears; and wait a little longer for the good time coming. But few were able to take deeds of their lands,
and pay for them, until after the Erie Canal was navigable. They kept on clearing land, and enlarging their fields; and between
the years 1830 and 1836, good crops of wheat were raised, and sold at the canal, for about a dollar a bushel.--Then the clouds
of gloom began to lift from the face of the country. Prosperity had verily come; no more "hardships, privations and sufferings"
after that; and more deeds of land were taken from the Holland Company, in this county, in those years, than were given in
all others together.
Notwithstanding so many and so great discouragements,
surrounded the pioneers, they never yielded to the gloom of the present, or suffered their great hope in the future to die.
They had their joys as well as griefs, running along their pathway together. Social amusements, conviviality, fun and good
feeling, were intermingled with their sadder experiences.
They visited together, labored for, and
with each other. The exchanged work in chopping, logging, and in heavy toil on their lands where several together could work
at better advantage then alone.
They were "given to hospitality." They
aided, assisted, and helped one another; with a liberality and kindness, that seems remarkable in contrast with the selfishness
of older society.
If a family came in, who had not in advance
built themselves a cabin for their residence, they had no difficulty in finding a stopping place with almost any settler,
who had got a house, until a log house could be built. And the best of it was, all the men in the neighborhood assembled at
a "bee," and built a log house gratis, for their new friends, if it was necessary.
If a man fell sick in seed time, or harvest,
and could not do his work, his neighbors would turn in and sow his seed, or gather his crop for him. If a family was out of
provisions, everybody, who had a stock, shared with the needy ones.