I LITTLE thought when I
left my farm yards, horses and cattle in the care of other men, and
began to write, that I should spend nearly all the winter of 1875 in
writing; much less, that I should offer the product of such labor to the
public, in the Centennial Year. But I have been urged to do so by many
friends, both learned and unlearned, who have read the manuscript, or
listened to parts of it. They think the work, although written by a
farmer, should see the light and live for the information of others. One
of these is Levi Bishop, [Levi Bishop came to Detroit from Massachusetts
in 1835 to follow his trade of shoemaker. On July 4, 1839, fate
intervened in his career in the guise of an exploding cannon, which blew
off his right hand. He thereupon deserted the last for the law, and
eventually became a leading member of the Detroit bar. He devoted much
time to public education, and the Bishop Union School was named in
recognition of this service. As regent of the University of Michigan he
was influential in procuring the dismissal of President Tappan, one of
the ablest presidents in the history of the University. Bishop
manifested much interest in historical subjects, and in poetical
composition. In 1870 he published Teuchsa Grondie, a 10,000-line
composition which he himself believed to be "the longest and most
elaborate epic poem ever yet produced by an American author." A few
years later he published another poem of 8co verses dealing with the
recent Civil War. He was an able lawyer, a useful and successful
citizen, and a less than mediocre poet.] of Detroit, who was long a
personal friend of my father and his family, and has recently read the
manuscript. He is now President of the "Wayne County Pioneer Society,"
and is widely known as a literary man, poet and author.
SKETCH of the lives of
John and Melinda Nowlin; of their journeying and settlement in Michigan.
Thrilling scenes and incidents of pioneer life, of hopes and fears, of
ups and downs, of a life in the woods; continuing until the gloom and
darkness of the forest were chased away, by the light of civilization,
and the long battle for a home had been fought by the pioneer soldiers
and they had gained a signal victory over nature herself.
Hope never forsook them
in the darkest hours, but beckoned and cheered them on to the conquest
of the wilderness. When that was consummated hope hovered and sat upon
her pedestal of realization. For better days had come for the pioneers
in the country they had found. Then was heard the joyful, enchanting
"Harvest Home;" songs of "Peace and Plenty."
Crowned with honor,
prosperity and happiness—for a time.
I HAVE delineated the
scenes of this narrative, from time to time, as they took place. I
thought at the time when they occurred that some of them were against
I do not place this
volume before its readers that I may gain any applause; I have sought to
say no more of myself than was necessary.
This is a labor of love,
written to perpetuate the memory of some most noble lives, among whom
were my father and mother who sought a home in the forests of Michigan
at an early day. Being then quite young, I kept no record of dates or
occurrences, and this book is mostly sketched from memory.
It is a history of my
parents' struggles and triumphs in the wilderness. It ought to encourage
all who read it, since not many begin life in a new country with fewer
advantages than they.
It is said that "Truth is
stranger than fiction." In this I have detailed the walks of ordinary
life in the woods. In these pictures there is truth. All and more than I
have said have been realized. My observations have been drawn from my
own knowledge, in the main, but I am indebted to my sisters for some
incidents related. Together, with our brother, we often sat around the
clay hearth and listened to father's stories, words of encouragement and
counsel. Together we shared and endured the fears, trials and hardships
of a pioneer life.
This work cannot fail to
be of deep interest to all persons of similar experience; and to their
descendants for ages to come who can never too fully appreciate the
blessings earned for them by their parents and others amid hardships,
privations and sufferings (in a new country) the half of which can never
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