A 12 year Old, A Shanty, and a Gun

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Chapter eight in this series on the history of Portage County begins with the early life of the author Christian Cackler. It is told from his first person account from his book Recollections of an Old Settler written in 1874. Previous chapters are listed below.

Following is a short history of my early life, together with the habits and customs of the Indians, and the wild animals that infested this country in its wild state.

I was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania, June, 1791. In 1795 I moved to Wheeling Creek, Green County, PA about twenty miles from Wheeling, Virginia. The place then went by the name of Indian Wheeling, owing to its being a great hunting resort. In the spring of 1804, together with my father and eldest brother, I came to Ohio. We brought with us one horse, one yoke of oxen, and what we could carry on the horse. We crossed the Ohio River at Steubenville, passing through Yellow Creek, Deerfield, where there were a few families living at that time, and Ravenna where there were also several families by the name of Wright. At that time, there was a road marked out to Hudson and some of the underbrush cut. We passed on to Hudson where we found our stopping place. Father bought half of lot No.10 in the southeast corner of the township. On selecting our site, we relieved our horse, cut four forks, and drove them into the ground upon which we laid poles and covered the sides and top with bark, and also constructed a bark floor. Our beds filled with leaves and blankets spread, we were ready for operation. We commenced by clearing land for spring crops. It was the 10th of May, 1804. We got in about three acres of corn and cleared off a piece in time to sow wheat.

pioneer boy1

Provisions were hard to get and were obtained by working for neighbors. We found out that Mr. Abram Thompson of Hudson had pork which he wished to exchange for work, so father sent my brother and myself up there to work for three and a half pounds of pork per day. Abram’s father, a deacon of the church, lived with him. He would stand and keep us at work every minute of the time, and when meal time came, would always ask a blessing. He was very expert in the use of the knife and fork, and when he was satisfied, he seemed to think the rest ought to be, and would lay down his table cutlery and offer thanks for what he had eaten and then leave the table. As boys, we were rather bashful, and of course would follow suit, whether we had eaten half enough or not. We stood it two days, then we took our fourteen pounds of pork and went home. We told father that we could not work on that way; that we did not get enough to eat. He said he would go up next day, and I went with him. When we arrived, they had eaten breakfast and we went to work without any, but when noon came, we were prepared for a hearty meal. We went in and seated ourselves about the table; the deacon asked the blessing and then went to work as usual. When he had finished, he dropped his knife and fork and returned thanks and then left the table. My father said to the deacon, “Your prayers are good, but Abram’s pork is a d___d sight better; prayers will not strengthen a man to roll up logs,” and went on eating again. The old deacon never tried to choke him off with his “thankfulness” after that.

Squirrel_sketchIn September, my father and brother went back for the family and left me in charge of the shanty until they returned. I was then only twelve years of age. They left for my use a small loaf of bread, an old rifle that carried an ounce ball, and some powder and bullets that I might kill squirrels for meat. They thought they would be back in three weeks.

It was a trying time for me. I could get along very well through the day, but when night came, I was lonesome indeed. I would build a big fire and roll myself up in my blankets so that I could not hear anything and there remain until morning. I managed so about two weeks. My loaf began to get very small and I had to make my allowance still smaller to make it hold out. The three weeks expired and nobody came. The fourth week wore slowly away and no one came. My bread was gone and I had to live on squirrels alone. The fifth week expired and still I was alone with no bread and no bullets. What to do, I did not know.Wolf_3_(PSF)

 

It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. There was a necessity for my doing something, so I went down to the brook and picked up small stones which I used in place of bullets, using a handful for a charge. I managed to kill some squirrels in this way, but many were only crippled and would get away. I stayed there till the sixth week began, when one afternoon a severe thunderstorm came up. I fell asleep, and when I awoke it was getting dark. I tried to start a fire, but everything was so wet that I could not kindle it. As I sat there tinkering with my fire, all at once there came a screaming of wolves a little way off. I soon left my fireplace and rolled myself up in my blankets, partly sitting up, with my gun by my side loaded with gravel stones. I thought that if they attempted to come in I would give them the contents. But they did not attempt it. I sat there until morning, when I left the old shanty to take care of itself and went over to where Harry O’Brien lived, about three miles distant, and remained until our family came back which was not long.

The corn we planted was all destroyed by squirrels, blackbirds, coons, and porcupines before it was large enough to roast; not an ear came to maturity.

Chapter Nine: Marriage and Farming and Bears – OH MY!

Recollections of an Old Settler / Animals and Hunting Excursions / More Animals and Hunting Excursions / First Execution in the County / Interesting Highlights of the History of Franklin County Part I / Interesting Highlights of the History of Franklin County Part II / Lost in the Night Wilderness and a Questionable Revival in 1840

 

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