Among the Forrest Trees Chapter XXI - Riverbend
On the first of
October, as the sun was going down, a man in middle life knocked at
the door of John Bushman's house. John was out doing up the chores
for the night. On going to the door Mary met a stranger that she had
never seen before. He announced himself as a civil engineer who had
been sent to superintend the building of a mill-dam across the
Catfish River for Messrs. Root and Millwood, who were to erect mills
at the four corners. Mary invited him to be seated, and she went out
and told John that a stranger had come.
When John carne into
the house he was a little surprised to see a man who had a familiar
look, but he could not call to mind where or when he had seen or met
him before. The man soon solved the problem by saying, as he reached
out his band, "You have made great changes here since I saw you a
little over two years ago.
John remembered the
man, and he turned to Mary, saying, "This is the surveyor you have
heard me speak about, who, with his men, found me here in the woods
seven miles from a house."
Then turning to the
man, he said: `You will stop with us to-night, so sit down and make
yourself at home."
"Well," said he, "the
fact is, I came here by the directions of Mr. Root, and I will
gladly accept your invitation for the night."
"That, then, is
settled," said John. "Now, what have you been doing since I saw
"Since I left you
here, that day, I and my helpers have outlined a number of
townshipsenough to make two large counties. Besides this, we were
prospecting for a while on Manitoulin, or Spirit Island; we found
plenty of Indiatis there, but we found very few white people."
Supper was now ready,
and they took that customary meal in a social and friendly way.
After all was over and as they sat around the fire, John said to the
guest: "Now tell us some of your experiences in the bush, especially
on Spirit Island, for no doubt you have met with some strange
adventures since you went back there," John said.
"My experiences have
been somewhat varied, but on the whole they have been rather of an
exciting kind; others, however, within the range of my acquaintance
have had some very thrilling experiences, some of an amusing
character, and some were very sad and heartrending in the extreme,"
was Mr. Rushvalley's reply.
"Did you say there
are women on the island?" inquired Mary.
"Yes," said he; "and
I will tell you a little story about a woman and her baby on one of
the islands in the Georgian Bay. Her husband was a trader with the
Indians. On one occasion he took his wife and baby with him to an
island called Mindimoina, or Old Woman's Island.
"The woman had a baby
about four months olda little boy. When she landed on the island
the Indians came around her to look at the 'white papoose.' While
she was engaged she laid the baby out of her arms on some bedding.
In a few moments she carne to take it up again, but imagine her
feelings, if you can, when she discovered that there was no baby in
sight. There were in the company a lot of white men and another
woman, but no one had seen the baby carried off; but it was quite
clear that the squaws had stolen it. The men proposed to go in
pursuit of the Indians, and take the little one from them, but the
trader, who was best acquainted with Indian character, told there
not to attempt it, for, said he, the Indians will fight for their
own squaws, and we would all get into trouble. And he said to the
mother: 'Don't you be at all alarmed about your baby, they will be
back in a couple of hours with it all right. When they come don't
let them know that you had any fears about it. Allow them to think
that you trusted them, and you will make friends of them for
yourself and baby for all time to come.'
"Well, the time
seemed long for that mother. How could she wait till they would
bring back the baby? What if the trader should be mistaken? What if
the Indians should go away to the great North-West country? She had
heard of such things, and to think that her beautiful white boy
should take the place of a little Indian boy in some far-off wigwam
was more than the young mother could do without feelings of great
"But after about
three hours of anxious waiting she saw a procession of squaws and
Indian children coming to the camp. As they came near she saw her
baby carefully held in the motherly arms of an old squaw. The other
Indian women and papooses were in great glee, and were laughing and
jabbering like a lot of delighted children.
"When they came up to
the mother, she could not do anything but laugh at the comical
appearance of her baby; the squaws had fixed it up in complete
Indian fashion from head to foot. All kinds of ornamentation, with
the exception of tattooing, had been practised on airs. Cherriwood's
baby. In fact, it was rigged out like a miniature Indian chief, and
the `belt of peace,' or strip of wampum, adorned its waist.
"The Indians named
the baby after the celebrated Indian chief, Tecumseha name that the
boy went by until he died in early manhood. The Indians became very
much attached to the boy and his mother to whom they gave the name
of Peta ostzaboa co qua, which means, `The good cook under the
"I should have stated
that when the squaws brought the baby back to its mother, they
brought a shawl full of presents for the two. Some were made of
beads and some of grass and wood, in various forms, and all of them
intended for use or ornament.
"At another time this
same woman was going on a trading round with her husband. A storm
drove them on an island and broke their boat. After the storm was
over the men took the remains of the boat and went for assistance,
leaving the woman and child alone, with one week's provisions. They
expected to be gone two or three days, but another storm came on and
drove them far out of their course, and it was fifteen days before
they could get back to the island where they left the woman and
"On the eighth day an
Indian came to the shanty and asked for something to eat. Mrs.
Cherriwood told him that she had nothing to give himthat she had
nothing for herself and baby, and she did not know what she would do
if her husband did not come home that day.
"The Indian scanned
her features closely for a moment, and then turned and went away
saying, 'Umph, umph, white squaw and papoose no starve.' She
understood him to mean that she was not so badly off as she
pretended to be, and she thought that he had gone away offended, and
she felt sorry that she had been misunderstood by him, but in this
she was herself mistaken. The Indian had understood her, and had
fully realized her situation.
"After the lapse of
about three hours the Indian came back, and brought his wife with
him. They had a lot of provisions with them, consisting of corn, and
venison, and fish, and potatoes, and some rough-looking maple sugar,
to sweeten the spicewood or hemlock tea with.
"When they came in
the man said, as he pointed to the baskets, 'Me told urn white squaw
and white papoose no starve. Me fetch my squaw, me fetch dinner,
supper, breakfast; me fetch everything but windigoose. We
stay with white man's squaw and papoose till he come home.'
"They stayed seven
days, and supplied her with food and fuel in abundance until the men
returned. When Mr. Cherriwood offered to pay Jumping-fox for his
services, he would take no pay, but he accepted a present. He said,
`White squaw good to Indians; we will be good to her.'"
When Mr. Rushvalley
ended his story, Mary wanted to know how long Mrs. Cherriwood had
lived among the Indians.
"About eleven or
twelve years;" he said.
"And were the Indians
always civil to her?" Mary inquired.
"Yes, invariably so,"
he answered. "In conversation with Mrs. Cherriwood, I asked her if
she had ever been molested in any way by an Indian. She said that
she had never known of a case where a white woman had been insulted
by an Indian. They were always civil and courteous, according to
their ideas of courtesy. 'In fact,' she said, 'I would rather meet
half-a-dozen drunken Indians than one drunken white man.
John Bushman remarked
that, while the Indians showed so much respect for white women, it
was a shame and disgrace that so many white men showed so little
respect to the Indian women.
"That is true," said
Mr. Rushvalley; "whatever may be said of the ferocity of the Indian
when he is on the war path, in ordinary life there seems to be a
manly instinct and nobility of nature about him that raises him
above the petty meanness of the man who can offer insult or injury
to lonely women or helpless children."
"Well," said Mary,
"if that is true, it seems a pity that some white men could not have
a red skin put on them, and an Indian's heart put into them."
"That is a fact,"
said John Bushman. "With all our blowing about the superiority of
our white race over the Indian, some of the self-lauding and much
praised-up race get down to actions so low and mean that even the
red skin of an Indian would blush with shame were he by any chance
to be caught in the same acts. And some white men will do things so
wicked, that if an Indian should do the same his conscience would
torture him by night and by day, until he would confess his wrong,
and make all possible restitution."
"It seems to me that
you are severe on the delinquent whites, Mr. Bushman," said Mr.
"So I am," answered
John; "and the reason is, I hate contemptible meanness wherever I
see it. If men will not be Christians, they ought to be manly, at
"That is so," replied
Mr. Rushvalley; "but the highest type of manhood can only be
developed in connection with Christian teaching and under Christian
"Worldly men can
hardly be expected to endorse that sentiment," said John.
"They do endorse it,
though, notwithstanding pretended scepticism on the subject," said
"How do you make that
out?" asked John.
"In two ways," said
Mr. Rushvalley. "For, first, if anyone professing to be a Christian
is in anything found to be untrue or dishonest, there is a great
outcry raised about it. This goes to show that more is expected from
the Christian than from worldlinas. And no higher tribute can be
paid to Christianity than the admission, by worldly men, that
Christians are supposed to stand on higher ground, and to be
influenced by loftier motives than others. And although there may be
now and then a false professor, the common sense of men teaches them
that the counterfeit always implies a genuine article, for no one
would be such a fool as to counterfeit a sham.
"And another reason
for what I say is found in the fact that whenever a worldly man must
find some friend in whom to place implicit confidence, and in whose
hands he must commit important trusts, he will, in nine cases out of
ten, select a tried and faithful Christian. All this, it seems to
me, indicates that true Christianity is at a premium, even among
those who profess least respect for Christians."
The next day after
Mr. Rushvalley came to Riverbend, he and John went over the Root and
Millwood lots, to see where would be the best place to locate the
After going over a
great part of the land, the surveyor said it was one of the best
places for a grist and saw mill that he had seen. He located the
place for the mill-dam so that the buildings could stand near the
line between the townships of Riverbend and Ashdown.
As they were passing
the four corners on their way back to Bushman's, Mr. Rushvalley said
to John, "There will be a town here some day. I have never seen a
better site for a town than there is right here, where these four
townships join corners. I would not be at all surprised if, before
twenty years are past, this would be the centre of a county."
"More unlikely things
have come to pass," John answered.
"How soon will the
work be commenced?" inquired John.
"Just as soon as Mr.
Root can finish a bridge that he is building over a large creek in
one of the townships that borders on Lake Huron. It may be one week,
or it may be two, before he will get here with his men. But when he
does come he will make things move with a rush, as he is a thorough
American. He will either make or break, every time," replied he.
"That is the kind of
men to build up a new country," replied. John. "Sometimes, though,
they help the country more than they benefit themselves. But, after
all, they are driving the world's machinery and leading the nation's
enterprises. They are the men that are driving, back the wild beasts
and, wild savages, and turning the wilderness into cultivated fields
and stately homesteads."
"O Misther Bushman,
an' will yez place to be afther cornin' till our place?" called out
Harry Hawthorn's hired man, as he came running after the two men.
"Why, what in the
world is the matter, Billy?" said John, as the man came up to them.
"You seem terribly frightened. What has happened at your place?"
"Shure, sur, Harry
and meself wer' choppin' out in the foller, and the two swate
childer was play in' among the brush piles, an' we did not see them.
An' would yez belave it, sur, they both got buried beneath a stump,
an' so they did. Will yez an' the gintleman come wid me?"
"How could the
children get under a stump? Are you not mistaken, Billy?" said John.
"No, no; Mr. Bushman,
I am not. Shure an' with me own ears I heard the screams of the
little darlins whin the stump went on them. No; I only wish that I
could be mistaken."
Bushman and his
companion made all possible haste to the place of the accident.
When they came there
a most harrowing sight presented itself to them. There sat Harry,
with his chin resting on his knees, completely broken down with his
sorrow. Beside him, on the ground, lay his wife, in a paroxysm of
grief. Her pitiful moaning was enough to tough the most insensible,
and to melt the coldest heart.
Her only cry was, "Me
babes, me babes. Och, me poor innocent babes."
When John, who could
scarcely command himself to speak, asked Harry what had happened, he
could only point to the stump and, between his sobs, say, "The
little dears are under there."
William, or Billy as
he was usually called, was the only one that could give any
information on the matter. With the help of what he said, John soon
understood the facts of the case, which were as follows:
An elm tree, some two
feet across, had been turned up by the roots in a recent gale. As is
frequently the case with that kind of timber, a large amount of
earth clung to the roots, thus making a big hollow under the
overhanging roots, some of which still held on to the ground, and
formed a sort of canopy or covering. Under this the children were
playing, it seems, while their father and his man were chopping up
the fallen tree.
Harry was cutting the
tree off some three feet from the ground. For want of experience in
the matter, he did not understand the danger that his children were
in. When he severed the connection between the stump and the tree,
the weight of earth, and the spring of the unbroken and elastic
roots, caused the stump to rise to an upright position, and fill up
the hole, burying the poor children under a couple of tons of earth
and wood. One pitiful scream was all that was heard of them, then
everything was still.
The alarm was given
to all the neighbors, and men turned out to help in getting the
bodies of the children out of the place. But it was only after the
roots had been cut away and two yoke of oxen hitched to it that the
stump could be removed. Then the earth was carefully lifted until
the crushed and broken remains of the poor children were found lying
close together, with their playthings still clenched in their hands.
Strong arms and ready hands tenderly removed the mangled little
forms, and laid them on a pile of leaves, hastily scraped together
for a couch.
Around those lifeless
children strong men were standing. But every face was wet with
tears. Brave hearts were there, but not one heart so hard as to be
unmoved by the sad and touching scene that was there witnessed.
Poor Bridget had been
led to the house by the sympathizing women. But at times her cries
could be heard. Harry still sat upon the ground crushed by the
weight of sorrow that had fallen upon his household. When the
children were laid on the impromptu bed provided for them, he got up
and stood over them, with the great tear drops falling from his
manly face upon the pale upturned faces of his two dead babies. At
last he broke the silence, saying:
"Oh me babes, me
babes, me poor dear babes! Was it for this that I brought yez away
from the green fields of dear Ould Ireland? Was it for this that
me-self and your poor mother have wrought so hard, and lived so
cheap to try and get a house for yez?"
With slow and solemn
steps the little morsels of mangled mortality were carried to the
house from which they had so lately come full of life and childish
Two days after the
accident the first funeral procession that was ever seen in the
Riverbend settlement moved silently from the house of Harry and
Bridget Hawthorn to a grave on the banks of Catfish River, near
where it crossed over the boundary of Harry's land and went on to
A sudden and
unexpected death, in any community, brings into view some of the
grandest elements of our human brotherhood, as nothing else can do
it. Though neither priest nor parson could be had, yet these
children were not buried without religious service. Protestant and
Catholic forgot their differences as they stood around this open
grave and joined in the service, while Mr. Woodbine read from John
Bush-man's "Book of Discipline" the ritual of the funeral service as
it was used by the Methodist Church of that day. The death of the
Hawthorn children was an event long remembered in the settlement.
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