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Pioneer Life Near Dearborn Michigan

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The Bark Covered House

Recollections of Pioneer Life in Michigan

Author William Nowlin’s family moved to Michigan from New York in 1834. Authors recollections of the people and times offer an up-close look at what life was like for him and his family in their new home near Dearborn.

Oroginally published in 1876, this is on CD and is in Microsoft Word format. It is fully searchable, and as presented is about 148 pages long.

 

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But Mr. Pardee was a little more brave; he said it was foolish to notice such small things as mosquitoes. I have seen them light on his face and run in their bills, probe in until they reached the fountain of life, suck and gormandize until they got a full supply, then leisurely fly away with their veins and bodies full of the best and most benevolent blood, to live awhile, and die from the effects of indulging too freely and taking too much of the life of another. Thus at different times I saw him let them fill themselves and go away without his seeming to notice them; whether he always treated them thus well or not, I cannot say, but I do know they were the worst of pests. Myriads of them could be found any where in the woods, that would eagerly light on man or beast and fill themselves till four times their common size, if they could get a chance. The woods were literally alive with them. No one can tell the wearisome sleepless hours they caused us at night. I have lain listening and waiting for them to light on my Gee or hands, and then trying to slap them by guess in the dark, sometimes killing them, and sometimes they would fly away, to come again in a few minutes. I could hear them as they came singing back. Frequently when I awoke I found them as wakeful as ever; they had been feasting while I slept. I would find bunches and blotches on me, wherever they had had a chance to light, which caused a disagreeable, burning and smarting sensation.

Frequently some one of us would get up and make a smudge in the room to quiet them; we did it by making a little fire of small chips and dirt, or by burning some sugar on coals, but this would only keep them still for a short time. These vexatious, gory-minded, musical-winged, bold denizens of the shady forest, were more eager to hold their carniverous feasts at twilight or in the night than any other time. In cloudy weather they were very troublesome as all the first settlers know. We had them many years, until the country was cleared and the land ditched; then, with the forest, they nearly disappeared.

As I have said our oxen were the first in our part of the town. Mr. Pardee had no team. Father sold him half of our oxen. They used them alternately, each one two weeks, during the summer. For some reason, Mr. Pardee failed to pay the forty dollars and when winter came father had to take the oxen back and winter them. The winter was very open, and much pleasanter than any we had ever seen. The cattle lived on what we called "French-bogs"which grew all through the woods on the low land and were green all winter.

We found wild animals and game very numerous. Sometimes the deer came where father had cut down trees, and browsed the tops. Occasionally, in the morning, after a little snow, their tracks would be as thick as sheep-tracks in a yard, almost up to the house. The wolves, also, were very common; we could often hear them at night, first at one point, then answers from another and another direction, until the woods rang with their unearthly yells.

One morning I saw a place by a log where a deer had lain, and noticed a large quantity of hair all around on the snow; then I found tracks where two wolves came from the west, jumped over the log, and caught the deer in his bed. He got away, but he must have had bare spots on his back.

One evening a Mr. Bruin called at our house and stood erect at our north window. The children thought him one of us, as father, mother and I were away, and they ran out to meet us, but discovered instead a large black bear. When they ran out, Mr. Bruin, a little less dignified, dropped on all fours, and walked leisurely off about ten rods; then raised again, jumped over a brush fence, and disappeared in the woods.

Next morning we looked for his tracks and, sure enough, there were the tracks of a large bear within four feet of the window. He had apparently stood and looked into the house.

The first Indian who troubled us was one by the name of John Williams. He was a large, powerful man, and certainly, very ugly. He used to pass our house and take our road to Dearbornville after fire-water, get a little drunk, and on his way back stop at John Blare's. Mr. Blare then lived at the end of our new road. Here the Indian would tell what great things he had done. One day when he stopped, Mrs. Blare and her brother-in-law, Asa, were there. He took a seat, took his knife from his belt, stuck it into the floor, then told Asa to pick it up and hand it to him; he repeated this action several times, and Asa obeyed him every time. He, seeing that the white man was afraid, said: "I have taken off the scalps of six damned Yankees with this knife and me take off one more."

When father heard this, with other things he had said, he thought he was the intended victim. We were all very much frightened. Whenever father was out mother was uneasy until his return, and he feared that the Indian, who always carried his rifle, might lay in am-bush and shoot him when he was at work.

One day he came along, as usual, from Dearbornville and passed our house. Father saw him, came in, took his rifle down from the hooks and told mother he believed he would shoot first. Mother would not hear a word to it and after living a year or two longer, in mortal fear of him, he died a natural death. We learned afterward that Joseph Pardee was the man he had intended to kill. He said, "Pardee had cut a bee-tree that belonged to Indian."

According to his previous calculation, on our arrival, father bought, in mother's name, eighty acres more, constituting the south-west quarter of section thirty-four, town two, south of range ten, east; bounded on the south by the south line of the town of Dearbon. A creek, we called the north branch of the River Ecorse, ran through it, going east. It was nearly parallel with, and forty-two rods from, the town line. When he entered ...

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