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BACKWOODSMEN—ADVICE TO TRAVELLERS.
From Chillicothe I continued my route towards Wheeling, passing through Zanesville and several other flourishing little towns. As the road approaches the Ohio, the country around is heavily timbered; and though it becomes more hilly and even mountainous, yet it is nevertheless very fertile, and is rapidly coming into cultivation. Coal is here very abundant, and will in a short time be of great value to the State. This is a part of the great coal formation, that begins at Cumberland on the Potowmac, and terminates in the State of Ohio.
Several days of slow and tedious travelling brought me to Wheeling. As at this place I took leave of the Western States, I shall here give a short sketch of their inhabitants.
The first circumstance that struck me in these people was their extraordinary stature, which far exceeds that of all the other nations I have ever seen. I could not however hear of any particular cause for this, and must therefore only attribute it to abundance of food, and habits of great activity. The King of Prussia would easily have filled up his regiment of tall Grenadiers if he could have recruited among the Kentuckians, as almost every man in the State would have been considered a good recruit. I am certain if Monsieur de Buffon could have seen them, he would have completely altered his opinion, that men degenerate in the New World.
It is indeed remarked, that the members sent to Congress from the Western States are of Patagonian stature, as compared to those of their fellow citizens, who dwell to the East of the Alleghanies.
Great part of Kentucky and Ohio are now becoming so thickly settled that most of the real Backwoodsmen, such as Old Leather Stocking,* finding themselves crowded, that is having cultivators of the earth within five or six miles of them, have moved off towards the frontier, and are now chiefly to be found in Indiana, Illinois, and the Missouri.
The Backwoodsmen unite a great deal of hospitality to the most perfect independence, which occasionally indeed verges on rudeness. They are brave and hardy, appearing to delight in danger. This character is even preserved by many of their descendants, who, remaining in Kentucky and Ohio, have adopted a mode of life perfectly different from that of their forefathers. The mere circumstance that Lexington was illuminated, when war was proclaimed against Great Britain in 1812, may perhaps be considered a sufficient proof that much of
.. * Vide, The Pioneers, an American novel.
the turbulent spirit of the old Backwoodsmen still animates their more polished offspring.
The following is the manner in which land is at present obtained from the Indians. The United States send proposals to the tribe of Indians to whoni the district belortgs, and signify that they wish to purchase it. The tribe then holds a general council, and decides, whether they shall sell, how much they shall demand, and what portions Of the district they shall reserve. After this is decided, they conclude a treaty with commissioners appointed by the United States, attd receive the sums of money, and the blankets, guns> &c. for Which they have stipulated. These are generally paid to the tribe annually, in order that their de^ scendants may not suffer from the sale eflfected by their forefathers. Individuals cannot buy land of the Indians under any pretence whatsoever 5 but as soon as a district comes into the possession of the United States, it is surveyed and sold at the prices settled by Congress, and the money is paid into the public treastlry. The price of Congress land is at present a dollar and a half per acre.
Before this fair and just method of obtaining land was adopted) it was the custom to drive off the Indians by force, which, as might be supposed', occasioned frequent Wars, and, at times, a great deal of blood-shed. Colonel Boon, whose memory will long be venerated by the Backwoodsmen, who look upon him as one of the greatest heroes that ever lived, wag the first white that effected a Settlement in Kentucky. In the year 1768, this daring hvwter, accompanied by five companions, determined to pass the Alleghanies, that great chain of mountains, which has net improperly been termed the back-bone of thp United States.
Hg accordingly ascended that part of the ridge that hes at the hack of North Carolina, and, on arriving at the summit, was delighted at beholding the level and rich country stretched out beneath hini. On descending into it, he was still more rejoiced at seeing the enormous si?e of the timber, and the great quantity of that noble vegetable the Cane, which proved the soil to be more fertile than that of North Carolina, his native State. He also observed a most astonishing number of buffaloes, elk, deei?, bears, turkeys, and all kinds of game.
After a time he returned, bringing his wife and children with him; and the favourable accounts given of the country, soon induced many other persons to cross over into it, with a determination of settling there.
Now Kentucky, from the abundance of game which was found in it, had been reserved by the Indians as a hunting ground; and, though many different tribes had the right of hunting there, they all agreed in hindering any tribe from making it a fixed abode. This regulation was the cause of many disputes and wars among themselves, and the country was in consequence called "Kentucky," a name signifying in the Indian language, "the Bloody Ground."
It may therefore easily be supposed how much they were irritated, when they saw their old enemies, the "Long Knives," (for so they call the Virginians and the whites in general), not only coming down to hunt in their favourite district, but without ceremony, and even without asking permission, settling, as if they had a right to the soil, building cabins, cutting down the trees, driving off the game, and in fact appropriating the country to themselves.
The Indians therefore immediately opposed the intruders with their utmost force; and had they then been as well armed as they are at present, it is doubtful whether Kentucky would yet have been settled. Even as it was, they were two or three times very nearly driving their enemies back again over the mountains. Nothing but the most astonishing fortitude, courage, and perseverance, enabled the whites to make a stand.
Now every one knows, that the wars carried on by the North American Indians are always wars of extermination; for it very rarely happens that the victorious party gives quarter, either to man, woman, or child.
The settlers therefore, in order to protect themselves, erected forts of logs, which they called "Stations," occupying themselves during the day in cultivating the ground immediately in the