Page images
PDF
EPUB

chanced to investigate. Currency, or the want of it, was a source of happiness or misery as well in those days as in these.

I have not enumerated in my list the most emphatic and noteworthy “old settler” that is entitled to the widest field and the highest honor; I mean the one who, in early manhood, living not far from the 74th meridian, packed his wife and children in a covered wagon, yoked his faithful oxen to the front, bidding good-by to New England, or New York, and in spite of all opposing elements, came through the Cattaraugus woods and planted himself here, root and branch, to live or die, survive or perish, in spite of whatever may prevail to discourage so bold an enterprise.

He who brought his perpendicular, honesty and unflinching determination to win, together with his bible, his religion, his rifle, his axe, his plow, his politics ånd a good sized chunk of Poley White's sticking salve, was the man for this country. You who were born here, or came here in your mothers arms, or ran away from home out of shire cussedness, or dropped in by chance and could get no further, are all worthy of an honorable place among “Old Settlers,” nevertheless it would be a mark of respect you owe to that stalwart sort of which I speak, if you would but raise your hat when one of them passes you on the street. He is entitled to the double merit of Pioneer as well as Old Settler."

It was easy enough for a young man, forty-five years ago, with only a little grain of enterprise, to start out for the west, riding by stage coach or canal boat, steam boat, or even foot it away from New England clear to Ohio. He had no cares on his mind to trouble him, except to eat and sleep and more on when the day was pleasant enough, even after he gets here some trilling matter may cross his path, or he hears that times are booming some other where, and off he goes like any rolling stone. Don't you see that such a fickle settler has nothing substantial to tie to like the man of family of the ox team and the covered wagon, and the children growing up Not a few of that former sort of boys have found their way back to Watertown or Taunton, or Groton, in order to get under the old familiar roof tree once more; failing to bring out any faculty of perserverance or pluck he feels assured that his mother will receive him with open arms, whatever the old man may say or think about it. The poor fellow can easier withstand the taunts of the boys in his neighborhood rather than suffer that intolerable nostalgia that made him feel so bad under his jacket.

After passing through all you have and rejoicing in your preserverance, while you may be reveling in the luxury of all the modern appliances of the aesheties, you should bear no ill will towards your unfortunate neighbors who neither had the pluck nor the disposition to pull out and stay out,

abandoning the hills and the valleys of their youth for an uncertain tenure in this unbroken wilderness, when we were told that every newly turned ferrow brought a streak of chill along the spine and an ague in every bone that would bring our red hair with jaundice to the grave. New England people have been known to fumigate and disinfect the letters received from here, before reading them, in order to be secure against contagion and infection. We had a reputation among the people in the east for a considerable ague, and perhaps were worthy of it.

A little beyond Bedford on the old Pittsburg road is a heavy strip of swale and in muddy seasons was well nigh impassable for wagons; the mail and stage coaches would manage to work their way by making detours through the woods and fields. In the spring of 1837, Philetus Francis, a man who is yet among us, wrestling with men and horses ; while driving an open mud wagon in place of the covered coach through this swale, had a full load of passengers, including a man from Boston. The Boston man was disgusted with Ohio and expressed himself to that effect in unmistakable terms; he had never seen a log cabin until that day in all his life. When they came to the bad bit of road, “ Fleet ” politely told his passengers of the state of things asking them to walk across the dangerous path as a matter of safety for themselves and the horse. The Boston traveler declared he would “do no such thing,” proclaiming that he had paid his fare and the stage company was under an obligation to carry him to Pittsburgh; he would not budge, although all the others, including two ladies, took the chances on foot. Coming to an unfortunate pitch-hole in the road, the wagon gave a heavy lurch and the Boston man was thrown completely out and landed on his ruffled shirt front in the soft mud, becoming one of the “first settlers” of Bedford; he went back to Boston and his mother with clearer ideas of the west, but dirtier linen, than if he had not unexpectedly settled in Bedford. They sometimes print books in Boston and it may be this man has published his experiences in Ohio, if so, it would be well that this society place his volume on file among its archives for future reference as part of our history.

Some of you, no doubt, came here under the most favor able auspices—had a friend to live on, had good luck, health and happiness all through, and no serious impediment to your ultimate success, for all this you have reason to kick up your heels, thank God and rejoice. There were those who were perplexed yith all the hindrances a human being could well be surrounded with. In either case you can sit by the fireside and tell over your experiences to your grand-children, but 't is well that you be careful not to magnify the incidents too much.

Perhaps the man is alive who declares with a wonderful positiveness that when his father settled here he could have bought all that tract of land north of Superior street, and west of Bank street, extending to the lake and river for two plugs of tobacco, a pint of whisky and a Jew's harp. Such wonderful tales, when told in solemn earnest, only tend to dampen a man's ambition and make him provoked with himself to think that he was not born sooner, and been possessed of those valuable articles of commerce. Yet if he had the offer made him at the time with the goods on hand, he may have taken a look all round and imprudently ’wait until land went up or whisky went down.

As your cities grew up it was wonderful how quick you put on metropolitan airs. From an overgrown village Cleveland sprung out of her bounds in a single day to a first class city, from a line of municipal officers ranging in salaries in the aggregate to about three thousand dollars, she leaped into a liability of some thirty thousand at one bound, and it is yearly on the increase.

It has somewhere been said that God made the country and man the city. We are also told that cities are an unnatural fungus growth or wart on the body politic. Whether these propositions are correct or not, I have no present intention to controvert them, yet we are all willing to concede that the city has vastly more art and cunning, more elegance and style, more applied art to beautify the human form and habi

« PreviousContinue »