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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 28. Father's New House and Its Situation—His Children Visit Him


I HAVE said that I tried to persuade father to take life more easily and not to labor so hard himself on the new place he had bought. It was a new place to him; but in an early day it was the oldest place south of Dearbornville. The first log house built south of Dearbornville, in the town of Dearborn was built on it by John Blare in the year 1832 or 1833. It was one mile south of Dearbornville. So there was a house standing there when we were slowly making our way to Michigan. When we came, it was the first house south of Dearbornville. Mr. Joseph Pardee, who crossed Lake Erie, with his family, the fall before when father came viewing, built his house a mile south of that. These two houses were the first ones, south of the village of Dearborn, in the town of Dearborn. When we came in and built, our bark covered house was the next.

It was at this house of Mr. J. Blare that the Indian, John Williams, threw his knife on the floor and commanded Asa Blare to pick it up. There he sat in his chair, flourished his knife, looked at its frightful edge and told what it had done. If the Indian told the truth, it had cleaved the locks and taken off the scalps of six of the Anglo Saxon race—some body's loved ones. It had been six times red with human gore, and was going to be used again, to take off one more scalp, one of the few who was then in the woods.

This house of Mr. Blare's had long since been torn down and had disappeared. I could now go within five rods, and I think less, of where the house stood. When Mr. Mather bought the place he built him a frame house across the road, beyond where Blare's house stood. It was built on a hill, on five acres of ground, that he owned there by itself as a building spot.

Mather sold these two places to Barnard and Windsor and father bought the places of them, and moved into the Mather house. Father talked, from an early day, that when he got able to build a house, he would like to build it of brick or stone. He said if he had stone, he could build a house for himself. I have no doubt that he would have built his house himself, if he had had the stone, as old as he was, when he got the money to do it with.

He thought himself quite a stone mason, at least he thought he could lay a stone wall as strong as any one. I stated that I had seen where he had built stone walls. The walls I had reference to then were walls for fence. I saw where he had built one large out door stone cellar and arched it over with stone; I also saw where he had built a smaller one, that opened into what was styled a cellar kitchen. He also built the three walls of the kitchen, on the back side and two ends, of stone; the front of the house being wood.

The practice of laying stone, in his early life, made him want to build him a stone house in Michigan. If he had settled in another part of Michigan, he might have done it; but he found that stone were hard to get here, being too far away. So he made up his mind, he would build him a brick house. He said brick buildings were safer, in regard to fire, and were more durable, that they did not require so much repairing, were warmer in winter and cooler in summer than wooden buildings.

So he went at it, and built him a good, substantial plain, brick farm-house in 1854. Not so palatial as some might admire, but a good substantial house; a brick basement under the whole of it, with two stories above. He set it right facing the '6Hard scrabble road" and right in front of his door yard was the junction of three roads. He lived on the corners and, by looking south, he could see to the place where he first settled in Michigan, from his own door. He built across the front side of his house a double stoop or piazza running the whole length of the front. There he could sit, in the cool of the day, and rest himself, accompanied by some of his family. Two of my sisters vet lived at home; the rest of the family had gone for themselves. While sitting there he could see people passing and repassing, coming and going in every direction. What a contrast it was to our early life in Michigan. Now he could sit on his veranda in the twilight, when it was pleasant, and when the shadows of evening were spread over the face of nature, he could peer away into the distance to the south and southwest, for a mile and more, and see lights in different places glistening and shining like stars through the darkness. They were the lights of lamps and candles, burning in his distant neighbors' dwellings and shining through their windows. He could go to his north window and see lights all along, from his house to Dearbornville, for he was in plain sight of the village. Now he lived in what might be styled, if not an old country, a thickly inhabited part of the country.

A few years before, when father and I were out and could not get home until after dark, we frequently walked through the woods a mile or two without seeing a light. When we came to our clearing we could see one light, and that was mother's lone light in the window waiting for us. It was three or four rears, after we settled in Michigan, before the light of any neighbor's window could be seen, from our house. Father's situation was very different when he was comfortably settled in his new house. When he had it built he told me that he lacked a very little of paving for it. I asked him how much he needed. He said, "Not more than a hundred dollars." I told him I could let him have it as well as not. So I gave it to him and he sat down and wrote me a note of a hundred dollars, ten per cent interest per annum. I told him I didn't want any note. He said I must take it if he took the money. So I took the note, looked at it, saw that it was upon interest and told him that I would not take any interest of him. But I took the note home and laid it away. I was pleased to think that father had so good a house and was so well situated. He built him a very strong house and located it upon a commanding eminence overlooking the country in every direction. From its very solid appearance, shortly after it was built it was called "Nowlin Castle;" it is now known to many, by that name. [The "Castle" is still in use as a residence, being owned by a granddaughter of the builder, and occupied by a tenant. The location is attractive enough, but the illustration exaggerates the extent of the elevation.]

Father and mother enjoyed their new home very much. They usually invited their children and their companions home all together once in a year or two. They often got into their carriage and rode down to see me and I was always glad to see them. I usually counseled and consulted with father when I thought of transacting any business of importance.

After a year or two father spoke to me about the hundred dollars; I told him I didn't want it, that he could keep it just as long as he wanted it, until he could pay it just as well as not and it wouldn't cost him any interest.

Time passed on until about five years were counted after father built, when he came down one day, on foot, to see me. He brought in his hand a little leather bag of silver money—mostly half dollars. He said he had come down to pay me that note, that he didn't need the money at all and wanted me to take it Out of his way. I looked up the note, sat down by the table, turned out the money and counted it. I saw there were just fifty dollars; then I looked at the note and saw it had been given about five years before.

I told father that I had said I shouldn't take any interest of him, but it had run so long, I didn't know but what it would be right, for me to have the interest. I couldn't quite afford to give so much. The fifty dollars was just enough to pay the interest and I could endorse it on the back of the note. I turned a little in my chair, to look at father, as he sat off at one side and said but little to me, to see what I could make out in mind reading. I found that I failed; I could not make out, by what he said nor by his silence, what he thought of me. Then I told him, that I had a little job or two on hand, which I wanted him to help me about. I asked him if he would help me. He said he would if I didn't bother him too much. I told him I wanted him to have his stoop painted over, it would preserve and make the wood last longer, and make it look better. And I wanted him to go to Detroit for me, as soon as he could conveniently, and get some oysters, and other good things, and bring home with him. Then I wanted him to invite all of his children to come and take dinner with him and mother and enjoy the day together. Besides, I wanted him to take the fifty dollars, toward paying the expenses, and also take that note out of my way, toward what I was owing him.

In a few days after that I was invited up to the castle to spend the day. We were all there, father, mother, brother, sister, and our companions. We had a good dinner. The table was spread with the bounties of life. We passed a very pleasant day, and listened to father's stories of wars, and stories connected with his early life. He would relate them as nobody else could. He told us stories that I had often heard him relate before. Still there was a charm in his manner of telling them and they seemed to he always good and new; his old stories were certainly as attractive, interesting and pleasing as ever before.

It would make almost any one laugh who listened to them, though he always looked rather grave while repeating them. It pleased him to think that they all enjoyed them so much; but what pleased him still more was that his children were all alive at home. As they were most all singers, sometimes, he would set them singing for him, songs new and old, as he was no singer himself.

Mother was a beautiful singer. He often got her to sing for him, and sometimes asked her to sing his favorite song, which was styled "The Star in The East." I have heard her sing it for him, at different times, ever since as long ago as I can remember hearing her sing. It was a beautiful piece, connected with the Messiah's advent, which happened over eighteen hundred years before. One verse of it was this:

"Cold on his cradle the dew drops were shining,
Low lies his head, with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all."

It is claimed by some, that the human voice is capable of producing more different sounds and is more musical and pleasing to the ear than anything else earthly; that it is but little below the seraphic strains. "The Star in The East" referred back to the most glorious night, for the human race, that earth ever knew. A multitude of the heavenly hosts came down in the east of Judea; the darkness of night was driven away and the place became more beautiful than day, for glory shone around them. They announced to the wise men of the East, that the Savior of mankind was upon the earth, and that he was at Bethlehem. They told them how and where they would find him. The Heavenly visitors showed them a star or meteor of exceeding brilliancy and told them it would conduct them to the place where he was. They started with the star in advance; it lighted their path and conducted them to the place. There was heard sung, that night, one of the most heavenly, beautiful, thrilling and enchanting songs that ever broke upon the ear of mortal men. It was sung by angels, this was their song: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Then the bright messengers plumed their pinions, spread out their snow white wings, filled up their shining train and in a cloud of glory flew away to Heaven.

Now as I have strayed a little in thinking of the subject of "The Star in The East" I find myself back again in the presence of the one who sung father's favorite song.

I told mother she must get ready, and, in the fall, we would go back to the state of New York. I asked father to go with us, and tried to get him to say he would go. But he thought he would have to stay at home and take care of things while we were gone. Mother concluded she would go and said she would get ready for the journey and we would go and see the old native places, and old friends and make the visit we had talked about so long. The thought of Lake Erie had always been a dread to mother, whenever we spoke of going back. But now we could go back very easily and in a very short time with the cars on the "Great Western Railway" I told her it would be as easy, for her, as though she were sitting in a parlor. I encouraged her all I could, for she was getting quite old and feeble, and it looked like a big undertaking to her. I said to encourage her, that she would be able to stand it first rate, and the trip, no doubt, would do her good. I think the thought of going was pleasing to her.

But we met not many more times at my father's house, under so favorable and happy circumstances, nor gathered around his board with everything in such good cheer, and prospects so bright.


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