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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 27. Thoughts in Connection with Father and Early Pioneer Life


I FOLLOW father, in my mind, to his last farm which he bought in 1849, where he lived out his days. It was not cleared up, as he wished to have it, and he continued to labor as hard as ever before, trying to fix it up to suit him and to get it in the right shape for his comfort and convenience. The soil was as good as the place he left. He raised large crops on it. One day I went to father's and inquired for him. Mother said he was down in the field cutting corn. I went to him; he had a splendid field of corn and was cutting it up. The sweat was running off from him. I told him it was not necessary for him to work so hard and asked him to let me take his corn-cutter, as though I was going to cut corn. He handed it to me, then I said I am going to keep this corn-cutter: I want you to hear to me. Let us go to the house and get some one else, to cut the corn; so we went to the house together.

But it was impossible for me or anybody else to keep him from hard labor, although he had plenty. He had become so inured to hard work that it seemed he could not stop. He finally got all of his farm cleared that he wanted cleared. A few of the last years of his eventful life, he let some of his land to be worked on shares and kept his meadow land and pasture. He needed all of that, for he kept quite a stock of cattle, sheep and horses and took care of them himself, most of the time, up to his last sickness.

He was a great lover of good books; and spent much of his leisure time reading. He did not often refer to the hardships which he had endured in Michigan; but often spoke of the privations and endurance of others. Thus, in his latter days, not thinking of what he had done, he seemed to feast on the idea, that America had produced such and such ones, who had been benefactors and effectual workers for the good of our race.

Most of those men who came here in the prime of life, about the time that father came, are gone. The country shows what they have done, but few consider it properly. Some know what it was then and what it is now and know also, that it has arrived at the exalted position it now occupies through the iron will, clear brain and the steady unflinching nerve of others. Yet they pass on in their giddy whirl and the constant excitement of the nineteenth century, when wealth is piled at their doors, and hardly think of their silent benefactors.

Who can think of what they have done and not feel their heart beat high with gratitude, admiration and love to the Giver of all good, in that he ever raised up such glorious people as some of the Michigan pioneers were? So enduring, so self-sacrificing, so noble—in fact, every element necessary to make beings almost perfect seemed concentrated in them. I do not say it would be right, for me to wish the pioneer to live forever here, and labor and toil as is the common lot of man. He might be surrounded by friends and loved ones and plenty of this world's goods, and have time to look back upon his past life and see what he had been through and accomplished. He had gone into the forest, built him a house, cleared up a farm, and lived where a white man had never lived before.

I would say to him as Daniel said, :46 years ago, to King Darius, who visited, very early in the morning, the cavern where he was confined. The king asked him, in a mournful voice, if his God, whom he served, had been able to deliver him. Daniel said, "O King, live forever!" It has been the belief of good men, in all ages of the world, that they were going to have a better and happier existence in the future after this life had passed away. Darius had spent a restless and sleepless night fasting. No instruments of music were brought into his presence, his mind was too much troubled thinking of the prophet, who lay in the lions' den. Thinking how his faithful servant had been divested of his scarlet robe, golden chain and office, and might be devoured by the lions. In the early gray of the morning the king hurried to the cavern and cried out in a sorrowful voice to his friend and said, "Daniel, 0 Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continuallv, able to deliver thee from the lions?" Daniel answered the king and said, "O King, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions' mouths." Daniel was aware that the King wished him no evil, but had set his heart on him to deliver him and that he had labored hard to save him. He knew that the king had been caught in a snare which was set for him by the crafty princes. That he had been persuaded by them to sign a decree, which according to law could not be changed. It was gotten up, through jealousy and envy, for the purpose of taking Daniel's life. When Daniel heard the doleful voice of the king, calling him, he answered, and with an honest heart exclaimed, "O King, live forever!"

This was not wishing, as some might suppose, that the king might live forever, on the earth, in his natural or mortal state, or forever reign over his kingdom in this world, but this acclamation was "Live forever." As it was evident he could not live long in this world, Daniel wished him a better existence in a future state.

Man has not been able to find, in this world, the land of perpetual youth or spring of life. Nearly all the veteran pioneers, who have fought with the forests of Michigan, and labored for themselves and others, until they grew old, and wrinkled and their heads were silvered o'er with gray, have passed from the storms of life.

They failed to find such a land as Ponce de Leon, looked for in Florida, in the year I51. He was so delighted with the variegated flowers, wild roses, ever green and beautiful foliage, and the fragrance of the air, that he thought that these woods must contain the fountain of life and youth and that that must be the place upon the earth where men could live and never grow old.

When I was quite young, a few years after our settlement, I think, in 1838, Mr. Elijah Lord came and settled about a mile and a half north-west of father's. He came down with his oxen by father's place to get small, hard-maple trees, out of the woods, that he wanted to take home and set out on his place. He was then about a middle-aged man. He set out the trees on both sides of the road, running through his place, for about eighty rods, in front of his house. I asked him if he expected to see them grow up; he said he did not set them out for himself, but for the benefit of other people, for the good of the generations that would follow him.

Some years after that, I visited Mr. Lord in his last sickness. He looked very much older than he did when he planted the trees. He looked careworn and sad; his locks were gray and he was very feeble. He was fighting his last battle of life and he soon went to that bourne, whence no traveler returns. He was a good man, a deacon of the Presbyterian church at Dearbornville at the time of his death.

The hard maple trees, which he set out, are grown up to be large trees. When leaved out, they have the most beautiful tops, with the most perfect symmetry that could be imagined. They make splendid shade for the road. in summer weather, when the rays of the sun were very hot, thousands have enjoyed walking under their protecting boughs. The poor horses and cattle that travel that road alike enjoy the benefit of those trees. The farmer as he is going or coming from market and stops his team, to rest under their shade, enjoys their cooling and refreshing influence. The pedestrian, who sits down by the fence to rest his weary limbs, takes off his hat and with his handkerchief, wipes the perspiration from his brow, as he fans himself with his hat talks to his neighbor about the price of things and the beautiful shade, that is around and over them. Neither of them know anything about the benevolent man, who over thirty-five years before set out the maple trees, whose shade they enjoy and which protects them, from the scorching rays of the sun, and makes them so comfortable.

Now, in looking at the shortness of human life, which is compared to a hand's breadth or to the vapor, which appears in the morning is seen but a little while and then vanishes away to be seen no more; and thinking that the pioneers stopped but so short a time to enjoy the fruits of their toil and the labor of their hands, I would exclaim again in language similar to that of the good man of old, "O, pioneers, pioneers, live forever!"

O, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
Like a swift fleeting meteor, a fast-flying cloud,
A flash of the lightning, a break of the wave,
Man passes from life to his rest in the grave.

The leaves of the oak and the willow shall fade,
Be scattered around and together be laid;
And the young and the old, and the low and the high,
Shall moulder to dust and together shall lie.

So the multitude goes, like the flowers or the weed
That withers away to let others succeed;
So the multitude comes, even those we behold,
To report every tale that has often been told.

For we are the same our fathers have been;
We see the same sights our fathers have seen;
We drink the same stream, and view the same sun,
And run the same course our fathers have run.

The thoughts we are thinking our fathers would think;
From the death we are shrinking our fathers would shrink;
To the life we are clinging they also would cling;
But it speeds for us all like a bird on the wing.

Yea! hope and despondency, pleasure and pain,
We mingle together in sunshine and rain;
And the smiles and the tears, the song and the dirge,
Still follow each other, like surge upon surge.

'Tis the wink of an eye, 'tis the draught of a breath,
From the blossom of health to the paleness of death,
From the gilded saloon to the bier and the shroud,
O, why should the spirit of mortal be proud?
—Selected.

It appears to me that it will be interesting to men, who in the future shall live along the Ecorce and enjoy their beautiful homes and farms, to know who were the brave, sacrificing, benevolent men who first settled the country, and were a few of the many who have made the State of Michigan what it will be to them.

I give together the names of some of those early worthies whom I have mentioned before in this sketch. They were the first settlers of the southeast part of the town of Dearborn. Their names are arranged according to the time of their settlement along and near the Ecorce with the years and seasons of their settlement in the wilderness.

Joseph Pardee—Fall of 183.
John Nowlin—Spring of 1834.
Asa Blare Fall of 1834.
Henry Travis—Summer of 1835.
George Purdy—Fall of 1835.
Elijah Lord—about 1837 or 1838.

Let these bright names be imperishable! Let them be indelibly written, in letters of gold, on leaves as white as snow and live in the light. Let them be handed down through future ages, in the archives and annals of the country, until the end of time.

Of the six, whom I have mentioned here, only one survives. That one is Mr. George Purdy. He lives on the Ecorce yet and owns a good farm. (1875.)

Recently a wise man said to me: We can engrave the names of our kindred and the friends of humanity upon stately monuments of marble and they will crumble to dust, be obliterated and rubbed out by the hand of time; but, if inscribed upon the flat surface of a written page, their names will live."

Men of all ages have delighted to honor their heroes and to perpetuate their names. It is right to give honor to whom honor is due. We cannot tell how many of the names of the good and great of the earth's true philanthropists were engraven upon tablets of dead stone, who have long since been forgotten and the knowledge of them lost in the past.

The blight—mildew—blackness and creeping moss of time have hidden their names from earth. How few, in comparison to the many, have been handed down to us in history.


 


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