“Going to a wedding in the early days of our wilderness home"

transcribed by G. Douglas Clarke and Carol M. Clarke

In the fall of the year after my father had moved his family from the East, way out west, in Allegany County, and we were getting used to our wilderness home, with the stately pine, the oak the maple and the beach [sic] laden with nuts when the foliage was changing its color, with all its varied hues of beauty and loveliness and the constant warbling of the birds, the chitter of the black and gray squirrels made up in part for the [lack of the] roaring surge of the great Atlantic Ocean with all the beautiful scenes which we had left behind us.  One day when the inmates of our home were busy laying by in store for winter, a rap was heard, and upon opening the door a young man stood there by the side of his horse, with bridle in hand and presented mother with a written invitation to our family from Capt. B[enjamin] Maxson & wife to attend the marriage of their daughter Fannie the next Thursday at 8 pm, to A.P. Stetson, a young "Tan and Courier by trade".  The young couple were to settle some four miles away in an adjoining town.  We felt that they would be missed from our social circle and were anxious to greet them with our best congratulations for their future welfare.  So we were ready for the occasion.

The settlers had not yet had time to work the roads, but trees and underbrush were felled and cleared away wide enough for teams to pass each other leaving the roots of the trees remaining, making it impossible for any transportation save with oxen and sled or on horseback.

Capt. M. had just completed a commodious two-story frame house and he was one who always made his guests feel at home by his welcome greeting.

My father and mother had invited their next neighbor to join them in the ride on the sled, and the day appointed for the ceremony to take place, our neighbor came with his wife and two children ready to go.  John the hired man was to drive the team.  The hour came for a start.  John's voice was heard, "Haw Buck" and "Gee Bright, Whoa".  The door opened with the word, "Team is ready".

We went out to the sled and found the floor covered with clean hay and a chain extended around the outside of the sled, steaks [sic] to fasten two chairs for mother and her friend to be seated, then the two Buffalo robes that we brought with us from the East were placed one over the ladies laps who were seated in the chairs and the other on the hay for us children, with one half spread over our laps.

The gentlemen were seated or standing as they thought most convenient and safe for the party.  The driver took his stand by the side of the near ox with his ox goad in hand ready to play its part at any event, when Buck and Bright refused to attend to the call of "Haw, Buck" and "Gee, Bright, go 'long there".  Father said "we are ready" and John cracked his whip in the air as a signal for the team to start, whereupon they started with more speed than we expected, making it necessary to hold onto the chain railing which each member of the party continued to do until the end of the ride.  One side of the sled was up on roots, while the other side was down mired in deep mud sometimes up to the poor patient oxen's knees, making it necessary to hold onto the chain and stick to the sled or to land in a puddle of mud and stick there.

We had gone but a few rods when mother and her friend vacated their chairs and seated themselves with the children on the sled bottom thinking it the wiser part of valor to do so.

As we drove up to the door, the Capt. and his lovely wife received us with great cordiality.  O: it was such a relief to get off from the sled and feel that our zig-zag uncomfortable ride was over, that we offered up a silent prayer of gratitude that we were safe from broken limbs and our lives were spared even for the gala occasion.

The guests and the officiating clergyman having arrived, it was announced that all were ready for the ceremony to be performed.  The door opened and the bride and her maid came in and took their stand in front of a recess; the maid at her right and the groom and his man following, the groom taking his place beside the bride, the groomsman at his left.  The minister arose and stood in front of them.  He asked the groom if he would take this woman for his life companion and would forsake all others and cleave to her alone, would nourish and cherish her and support her and let nothing but death seperate [sic] them and would she love, honor and obey him so long as life did last, if so "please join your right hands", which they did.  He then in the sight of God and all these witnesses present pronounced them husband and wife.  While standing he nade an earnest prayer for their temporal and spiritual welfare.  Then taking their hands wished them a happy life as well as a life of usefulness.  Her father and mother came next with congratulations, the guests following.

After the greetings, supper was announced.  O! such a bountiful supper, in this wilderness home, as was this wedding supper.  At one end of the table on a large platter, stood a roasted pig with a ribbon tied around his neck, and an ear of corn in his mouth.  At the other end of the table was a stuffed turkey with a carving knife and fork ready for use.

In the center of the table was a pyramid cake all iced over having the appearance of a mound of snow.

Brown bread, white bread, cream biscuit, fruitcake with dried huckleburys [sic] instead of raisins and other fruit such as we put into cake, doughnuts and cookies, wild plums preserved, and honey from a bee tree, which they had found a short time previously, the find being considered a providential one by the hostess.  A man was seated at each end of the table to carve.  The bride and groom, and the maid and man of honor at the right of the carver of the roasted pig, and on the left of the table opposite were seated the bride's and groom's parents, with brothers and sisters and relatives filling up on either side.

As was the custom, before the company was seated the clergyman returned thanks for the table laden with these bounties and implored a blessing on all present.

After serving the company to the course of meats and vegitables [sic] then came fruitcake, cookies, doughnuts, mince pie, pumpkin pie, and cheese.  Last of all the pyramid cake was placed before the bride and all waited around the table while she dealt out very liberally a piece of cake to each guest to take home with them.

 Supper being over, we spent a social hour and then bade them good night and returned to our homes in much the same way as we went, feeling that life was all the brighter for having spent that social hour in Capt. Maxson's home.   [finis]

When I was a little girl, my father moved his family from the State of Rhode Island, way out west as it was then termed, and settled in Little Genesee Allegany Co. New York State.  A number of families accompanied us enroute.

In those days, it was considered a great undertaking to travel with one's own conveyance five hundred miles.  The country was a dense wilderness infested with many wild and ferocious animals, such as Bears, Wolves, and Panthers.  Deer were so plenty, that many families depended largely on venison for meat, to supply their tables.  Fish were very plenty in the flowing streams, and served as a table luxury.  Land in its wild state, could be obtained for one-dollar-fifty pr acre.  But few men made a purchase of a farm less than one hundred acres.  After purchasing the land, they chopped and cleared a spot large enough to set a log house and barn on.  They felled the trees and asked the neighboring men to come and help roll up the logs for the house and barn.  They sawed pine trees up into shingle bolts, then shaved shingles to cover the buildings.

They were obliged to go twelve miles to Olean Point for floor boards, as there were no sawmills nearer at that time.  On account of poor roads, their mode of conveyance was a sled with a pair of Oxen attached, and on horseback.  Dry goods and groceries could only be obtained by going twelve miles either way.

Maple trees were plenty.  Every family expected to make four or five-hundred pounds of maple sugar for their family supplies.  Crust sugar was kept alone for coffee, chocolate and tea.

Religious services were mantained [sic] from house to house, on the Sabbath.  School was started in the same way by some one of the neighbors giving up one of their rooms in their house.

Early and late, the woodsman's ax was heard, cutting, and felling the timber.  Sawmills were built, and logs suitable for making into boards were taken to a mill and worked up, then rafted into the creek, and run into the Ohio river, and so to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati [sic] where they found a market.  What was not wanted for wood, was rolled up into log-heaps, and fire set to, and burned up.  In a few years, the dense wilderness gave place to green meadows and waving grain.

Good churches and school-houses were built; comfortable and commodious frame houses were built for the comfort of the patient and self-sacraficing [sic] wife and mother, in order that she could make her family more comfortable with less ill-convenience.

Lumbering was the chief occupation while clearing the land.  The wilderness was composed mostly of the stately pine and when taken to market, remunerated the laborer for all his toils.

Quite often, men who were at work in the woods were confronted with some wild animal.  One day Capt Benjamin Maxson went into the edge of the wood with his cross-cut saw to cut the logs, the right length for boards.  When he commenced, a large black bear sprang up on the other side and hugged the saw.  After trying some time to rid the saw of the Bear, the Captain thought the best thing for him to do was to leave the saw in bruins posesion [sic] and go to the house.

He armed himself, and returned with one of his neighbors to the spot, and found the saw all bloody and bent, but the bear had hid away.  The condition of the saw showed he had a hard struggle.

A few days later, Timothy Cowles, a hunter, killed the bear.  The skin was badly mangled where he hugged the saw.

One morning quite early, one of the lumbermen drove his team up to the skid-way to roll the logs on to the sled, as he raised the cant hook to roll the log he heard a growl and at that moment saw a panther in the act of springing on to him, he brought the cant-hook down on to his head and stuned [sic] him, then dispatched him.  He skinned the animal and got a twenty-dollar bounty, as there was a bounty on bears, wolves, and panthers at that time.

My father had given me a black lamb for a pet.  The lamb had one blue eye, I prized it above all my pets.  One night the howling of the wolves seemed very near.  My father and his men went out and salted his sheep between the house and barn, and hung up lights near them, and kept watch until after midnight.  They then left the lights burning and retired for the night.

In the morning he found twelve of his sheep killed and my dear little lamb was one.  My grief for the cruel fate of my pet and fear of the wild beasts I need not relate.