Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

interesting account of the builders and architects of these little commonwealths, and from him I have gleaned the following:

The beavers which he describes were from three to four feet in length, and weighed from forty to sixty pounds. The toes of the fore-feet were separated, answering the purpose of hands and fingers ; and the hind-feet webbed, and thus suited to the purpose of swimming. These animals were brown in color. The fur upon their backs was course and long, but on other parts of the body fine and thick like down and as soft as silk, and much prized by fur dealers.

When the young beavers were seeking for homes, their first care was to find a place suitable for their purpose. If the site were a lake or pond, they were careful to select one where they were not likely to be disturbed, and where the water was of sufficient depth to give them room to swim under the ice. If a stream were chosen, it was always one that could be formed into a pond.

In the building of their villages the beavers showed much ingenuity and intelligence. In case a stream were chosen, they first set about constructing a dam. If there were a tree at hand that would naturally fall across the stream, they set to work with their sharp strong teeth to cut it down ; and when it had fallen, so that it would assume a level position, gnawed off the branches. Then by the means of branches, earth, and the like, they filled in until a dam was completed, as firm and secure as if made by master workmen, as indeed it was. These dams were often of great size and strength, and the ponds thus made often covered several acres.

Then there were the homes to be built along the borders of the pond. These were made of twigs and earth, were oval in form (somewhat resembling a haystack), from two to four stories in height, and varied in their diameter from four to ten feet, according to the number of families they were intended to accommodate. Passages led from one floor to another; and the lower floor was always built above the level of high water. Each hut had two exits, one upon land, and the other under water below the freezing limit, the latter to preserve their communication with the pond throughout the winter season. In these cabins the beavers remained through the long winter, living upon bark and tender twigs, which they had laid by for the winter.

These little creatures always lived in perfect harmony with each other ; each knew his own home and storehouse, and was never known to pilfer the goods of his neighbors. Such was the beaver of that day, and such no doubt he is to-day wherever he may be found.

Recreations. The old-fashioned custom of making “ bees” was a happy combination of work and pleasure; and because of the merry-making it afforded, was kept up long after its necessity and helpfulness had ceased. It grew out of a generous desire on the part of the settlers to help out friends and neighbors whenever extra hands were needed or when any great work was going on.

There were logging bees whenever logs were to be piled in a new clearing ; raising bees, whenever the framework of a house or barn was to go up; and in the autumn, when the corn was ready to be husked, husking bees, in which men and women, boys and girls took part. This was often followed by a dance on the barn floor, after the husks had been cleared away. At this, the workers were invariably regaled with doughnuts, pumpkin pies, and cider. When the apples began to rot in the cellar came the paring bee, when young and old lent a hand at paring, coring, and stringing the apples for drying. This bee usually wound up in romping games or a dance, enjoyed alike by the young and the more frolicsome of their elders. The most popular bee with the matrons of that day was the quilting bee. Here many a worthy Vermont dame displayed her fine and even stitching upon the pieced-up bed-coverings, of varied patterns, which were stretched upon four poles and rolled inward as the work progressed.

CHAPTER X

THE GRANTS UNDER NEW YORK CONTROL-THEIR DIS

CONTENT-PATENTS- PATENTEES

The Change of Jurisdiction, and how it affected the Settlers. The royal decree which placed the New Hampshire Grants under the government of New York somewhat surprised and did not altogether please a majority of the settlers, but caused them no uneasiness ; for, since the territory had originally belonged to the king, and they had obtained their grants through one of his servants and by his consent, they did not doubt that their titles would be confirmed to them, and that they would go on improving their lands and enjoying their homes as heretofore, only under another of his Majesty's governments.

On the contrary, they were at once treated as trespassers by the New York officials, and required to surrender their charters and repurchase new ones from the New York governor, who claimed that the territory of the New Ilampshire Grants had always belonged to New York, and that, therefore, the charters granted by Governor Wentworth were null and void. Some complied with this unjust demand, but a majority of them refused so to do. Adding insult to injury, the New York governors exacted fees twenty times greater than had Governor Wentworth, the cost of a charter thus being $2,000 or more.

The lands of those who refused to repurchase them were granted to others, and actions of ejectment were brought against the settlers and proprietors. The settlers were, in general, people of moderate circumstances, many of them having expended the whole of their limited fortunes in purchasing and improving their lands, and so were absolutely unable to meet this demand.

The entire grants were at first treated as a part of Albany County, of which Albany was the county seat ; and actions of ejectment tried in that court were always in favor of the New York claimants.

An Appeal to the Crown.-Finding that they had nothing favorable to hope for in the courts, the settlers called a convention of the inhabitants on the west side of the mountains, who appointed Samuel Robinson, of Bennington, as their agent to go to England and represent their grievances to the English Government, and if possible to obtain a confirmation of their cbarters. Robinson never returned to this country, being, while in England, smitten with smallpox, of which he died; but he was successful in obtaining a special order from the king prohibiting the Governor of New York from making any further grants whatever of any part of the lands in dispute, or molesting any one in possession of lands under New Hampshire grants until authorized by him to do so.

New York Patents and Patentees.-Notwithstanding the king's command, the New York governors for several years continued to make wholesale grants. They granted not only that territory between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River which had not previously been granted by Governor Wentworth, but also those shares which had been reserved for Governor Wentworth in the different townships, and the lands of those who, possessing them under New Hampshire authority, had refused to repur

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »