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The Bark Covered House
Chapter 31. Leaving New York City for Home


WE thought it was about time we started for home. We began to want to get back to Michigan, so we agreed to start. Brother J. S. was to take the "Harlem Railroad," go to uncle's, stop and visit, get mother and meet us, on a certain day at Albany. My wife and I took the "Hudson River Railroad" and came as far as Peekskill. We visited together the place of her nativity, where she lived until she was twelve years old. She found many very warm friends there among her relatives. We passed through Peekskill hollow to visit some of her friends. There I saw some beautiful land. It looked nice enough for western land, if it had not been for the rugged scenery around it.

When the day came, that we were to meet mother at Albany, we took the cars and started. When we passed Fishkill I knew the place well. I had been there a number of times before, when I was a boy. Newburg, on the opposite side of the river, appeared the most natural of any place I had seen. Along the river it appeared beautiful, and the mountains grand. It was the first time I had been there since we moved to Michigan. We soon passed Poughkeepsie, the place where we took the night boat, so many years before, bound for the territory of Michigan.

As we approached the Catskill mountains, I should say ten or fifteen miles away, they looked like a dark cloud stretched across the horizon; and when we came nearer and nearer the highest one, and it was in plain sight, it appeared majestic and grand. From the car window, we could see the mountain house that stood upon its towering summit. We could see small clouds, floating along by the top of the mountain. That was the greatest mountain I had ever seen; yet it is small in comparison to some in our own country. Not one third so high in the world as Fremont's peak, where he unfurled the banner of our country, threw it to the breeze and it proudly floated in the wind, higher than it had ever been before. [On his first exploring expedition to the South Pass of the Rockies in 1842, John C. FrÍmont visited and ascended a mountain of the Wind River Range which he (mistakenly) supposed to be the highest peak of the Rockies. His spirited description of the exploit, together with his explorations in general made him a national hero, with the proud title of "Pathfinder of the Rockies." Nowlin's comment, written over thirty years later, illustrates how deeply Fremont's explorations impressed his contemporary generation.]

We soon got to Albany, went to a hotel near the railroad depot, called for a room and told the landlord that we would occupy it until the next morning. As mother could not rest on the cars, I thought it would be easier for her to stay there over night, and we would see some of the western part of the state of New York the next day.

After dinner we locked up our room and Mrs. Nowlin and I went out to take a look at Albany. We went up to the state house, the capitol, and visited the room, where the legislators of the "Empire state" meet to make laws for her people. There we saw the statue of the extraordinary man, Secretary of State and statesman, William B. Seward. He, who shortly after, was attacked by an assassin, where he lay sick upon his bed, in his room at Washington and was so severely wounded, that the nation despaired of his life for some time.

We went back to the hotel, and as the time was nearly up for the Harlem train from New York City, I went back across the river to meet mother and brother John Smith. The train shortly came in and they had come. Brother had mother upon his arm. She was very glad to see me. I got hold of her and she had two strong arms of her boys to lean upon. I told her we had a room over in Albany and were keeping house; that we would stop there all night and start again in the morning. It would make it more easy for her, and we would not have those jingling, rattling cars passing in the night, to keep us awake. We crossed over the river and went to our quarters. We four were all together again and had some new things to tell each other as we had been apart a few days. We passed the night very comfortably.

Early the next morning a regiment of soldiers, from the west, came hurrying on to the seat of war to defend the flag of our Country and the glorious Union. It rained very hard. I stood one side and noticed the "Boys in Blue" as they came pouring out of the depot. Their officers did not seem to have them under very good control. Their discipline wasn't very good yet; after they got out, there were several of them who seemed to be inclined to go on their own hooks. The officers had about all they could do to keep them along. One physically powerful, hardy looking man passed near me. He said, he thought it was a little hard, early in the morning, after a fellow had been jammed and bruised all night and it rained that he couldn't be allowed to stop and take a drop. The officer told him to keep in the ranks. I felt interested to know if they were Michigan men, but was not able to learn where they were from.

In a few minutes we were aboard of our train and started again for Michigan. The prospect of getting home soon elated mother very much. She had lost most of her attachment for her native place, and it was no comparison, in her mind, to her Michigan. She said uncle offered to give her a farm, if she would move back there and spend the remainder of her days by him. But it was nothing in comparison to Michigan, it was an inducement far too small for her to consider favorably. We were coming home as fast as steam could bring us and it was raining all the time. I told mother I thought we should run out from under the rain clouds before night, but that was a mistake. It rained all day long and was dark when we got to the suspension bridge. When we got off the cars, the runners were a great annoyance to mother. I told her not to pay any attention to them, we would find a good place. There was a gentleman standing near us, who heard what I said. He told me that there was a good house, the "New York Hotel," which stood close by. Said he was not interested for any, but that that house was a good one. I told mother we would go there and we started. I was helping mother along and told my wife and brother to follow us. It was hard work for them to get away from the runners. They hated very much to give them up, and they were making as much noise over them as a flock of wild geese. But my wife and brother left them and followed us. We got to the "New York House" and called for a room. We found it to be a very good house. We wanted to stay over night there, as it would be better for mother and we wished to go up and see the Falls next day. The next morning after breakfast my wife, brother and I went up to the Falls. As it was still raining mother stayed in her room; she didn't wish to go.

We went up on the American side and vent down three hundred steps of stairs to the foot of the Falls. After this we viewed Goat Island, went across it to the stone tower, went up its rickety winding stairs to the top and looked upon the majestic scenery of nature, which was spread out before us there. I saw no place there where it appeared so terribly grand to me as it did when I stood at the foot of the Falls. There we went out on the rocks as far as we could, and not get too wet with the spray, and viewed the water as it poured over the cataract and plunged into the abyss below, beat itself into foam and spray, which settled together again and formed the angry waves that went rolling and tumbling away to the sea. There I heard the sound of many waters thundering in their fall and I thought, while looking at that sublime and wonderful display of nature, that the waters of the river and creeks of my own "Peninsula State," after turning hundreds of mills, slaking thirst and giving life to both man and beast, came there for an outlet. It plunges into Niagara River and goes gliding away to the ocean; some of it to be picked up by the wind and rays of the sun and rise in vapor. When formed into clouds in the atmosphere it is borne back on the wings of the wind, condensed by the cold air and falls in copious showers of rain upon the earth, to purify the atmosphere, moisten and fertilize the fields and cause vegetation to spring forth in its beauty. The rain falling upon the just and the unjust makes the heart of the husbandman leap for joy, at the prospect of a bountiful harvest, causes the foliage and the gardens to put on a more beautiful green, the lilies of the valley and the rose in the garden ("the transient stars of earth") to unfold themselves more beautifully. Then the cloud passes away, bearing and sprinkling the limpid fluid upon other lands, and the sun looks out upon the cool, healthful, invigorating and refreshing scene. The beautiful rainbow, in its splendor, seems to span the arch of heaven, placed there as a token of remembrance, so long before. It lasts but a little while and then disappears, the cloud also passes away. In this and similar ways the rivers and creeks are kept supplied with water and the Falls of Niagara kept continually roaring.

We went back to the "New York House" and shortly after took the cars for Dearborn. We arrived there about ten o'clock in the evening. Mother walked home, to the "Castle," a mile, very spryly. She seemed to feel first rate. She was pleased to get home. Father and the family had retired for the night when we got there, but father soon had a light and a fire and was ready to listen to our stories. We told him how near we had come losing mother. That uncle had offered to give her a farm if she would come back, live on it and spend her days by him. We told him what farm it was; he knew the place as he was well acquainted in that country. We told him if she went back they could go together and he could carry on the farm. But the inducement was far too small for them to entertain the thought of going, for a moment. Michigan was their home, had won their affections and was their favorite place.

I told father, that he must go and visit his native place, see how rough it was and I would go with him. I thought it would appear rougher to him than he expected or could imagine. He said he would like to go back sometime and see the country once more. He kept putting it off from year to year. It is said, It is the thief of time." He never went. He bought him eight acres more land joining his two places. He paid for it seventy dollars an acre and had some money left.

Part of the eight acres was a ridge covered with chestnut trees. Father enjoyed himself there very much, a few of the last falls of his life, picking up chestnuts. He was a man a little over six feet tall. He walked straight and erect until the sickness, which terminated his existence in time, at the age of seventy-six years, in the year 1869. He went the way of all the earth. The rest of the family and I, missed him very much. Our counselor and one of our best friends was gone. He had fought his last battle and finished his course.

Mother survived him. She gave each of the children a silver piece (they were all old coins of different nations and times, each worth a dollar or more) which father had saved in an early day. They were in mother's work basket in the dark room at Buffalo, were brought in it, through the fearful storm on Lake Erie, to Michigan and saved through all of our hard times in the wilderness. I have my piece yet, as a keepsake, and I think my brother and sisters have theirs. After father's death, mother still lived at the "Castle" and my sister Bessie, who took all the care of her in her old age that was possible, stayed with her. All the rest of the children did every thing they could for her comfort. She felt lonesome without father, with whom she had spent nearly fifty years of her life. She lived a little over three years after he was gone and followed him. She was seventy-one years old, in 1873, when her voice was hushed in death and mother too was gone.

We laid her by father's side in a place selected by himself for that purpose. It is a beautiful place, about a mile and a half southwest of where they lived and in plain sight of what was their home. [The Nowlin family cemetery occupies a small sand ridge near the southwest corner of William Yowlin's farm, adjoining Van Born Road, the present name of the highway running between Dearborn and Taylor townships. John Nowlin and Melinda are buried side by side; he died on Dec. 4, 1869, and she on Jan. 2, 1873. The graves of William and Adelia Nowlin and several of their children are in a row immediately west of the graves of John and Melinda. Several other members of the family, including William's Sisters Abby and Bessie, are buried close by. In 1886 William Nowlin caused a receiving vault to be erected, which he fondly hoped would stand forever. It is still standing, but already is in a sad state of disrepair.]

Long before this there was a voice of one often heard in prayer in the wilderness, where we first settled, and that voice was mother's.

Father and mother believed in one faith and mother from her youth. For years they tried to walk hand in hand, in the straight and narrow path, looking for and hastening to a better country than they had been able to find on this mundane sphere.


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