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nating the every-day conditions by which they were surrounded, they left but little that was set down with his torical purpose. Most of our knowledge of the sort has been pieced together from fragments such as diaries and personal letters that have survived by accident.
The report to Governor Fletcher condenses into a few words certain conditions which dominated all travel in America from the time of its first permanent English oc
4.-Indians building bark canoes in the forest. They were made from the bark
of the birch, spruce or elm. The first white settlers at once adopted this conveyance, and used it in their westward advance for more than two centuries.
cupation until shortly before the Revolution. Those conditions were the use of water routes wherever possible; the uselessness of horses except near settlements or on beaten paths; the necessity of performing extended journeys on foot; and the extreme difficulty of progress through the woods. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River - excepting some open country in the region now in part occupied by Indiana, Kentucky and Illinois — the land was covered by a continuous and almost unbroken forest. This wilderness was a thousand miles in extent from east to west, and about as long from north to south. Through it, in every direction, ran countless rivers and their tributaries.
Now this genuine primeval forest of America was very different in its character and appearance from any of the so-called primeval American woods of to-day. Centuries of alien human companionship affect the nature of forests in a marked degree. Those that still remain, even though covering areas never swept bare by the hand of man, have become, in a sense, civilized. The bulk of the wilderness, as it was until about 1790, was composed of trees that were from two to five feet in diameter. In those regions where the trees grew close together the girth gave way to height, and many reached a hundred and fifty feet into the air. Not until a tree was some six or eight feet in diameter was it considered a large one and those that attracted the attention of travellers, and were measured, were ten, twelve and sometimes even fifteen feet in thickness. There are numerous records of such monsters in the region east of the Mississippi now occupied by the Middle States."
The earth beneath these huge growths was cumbered with fallen trees of all sizes and in all stages of decay. The hurricanes that now do occasional damage to towns and farms regularly wrought their havoc in the wilderness, and the confusion and tangle of the forest after the
On Manhattan Island, New York City, there still survives one of those ancient monarchs. It is a tulip tree about ten fect in diameter at the ground, and six feet thick at the height of a man.
visit of such a storm can easily be pictured. Up from the earth made rich by ages of decayed vegetation sprang all manner of thickets and similar small growths that sometimes choked the lower spaces and were frequently bound together by a snarl of vines tough as wires or as big as a man's wrist. The rains or melting snows left such soil very slowly, and that is why there are frequent references, in olden records, to swamps or morasses which then occupied sections that have long since become dry and solid ground.
Such was the wilderness. It climbed the hills and mountains with its three hundred species of trees, and, stopping only for the passage of a river, resumed its sway upon the farther bank and still marched on. The little streams, completely covered, flowed under archways amid somber shadows.
The human habitants of this vast and gloomy region, in which the sun's rays in places never reached the ground, were two or three hundred thousand copper-colored natives, whose numbers were too small to have made any impression on it, even had they been so inclined. But they were not so purposed. Instead, they were peculiarly in harmony and sympathy with their home, and desired that it should remain always as they knew it. The few agricultural clearings made by some of the Indians who lived north of the Ohio River, by the Iroquois in what is now central New York state, and elsewhere, were trivial gashes amid the universal woods. When the Indians travelled they moved by water if their purpose made it possible. For their land travel they created paths leading from one stream to another. In going across country they had a wonderful faculty for establishing routes that were, 1 Early estimates of the number of the Indian population were much exaggerated.
in an economic sense, the best that could be chosen. An Indian overland trail always led the traveller to his destination in less time, or with fewer physical obstacles to overcome, than any other course that could be selected
Marlig i lane ma rapid 5.—White men travelling through the wilderness by bark canoe. The craft
is about to be unloaded and carried overland around the rapids.
between the two points which it connected. Practically the whole present-day system of travel and transportation in America east of the Mississippi River, including many turnpikes, is based upon, or follows, the system of forest paths established by the Indians hundreds of years ago.
These Indian trails — the corner-stone of land travel in America — were from twelve to eighteen inches in width, and sometimes, when they led through regions where the native travel was particularly heavy and long continued, were worn a foot deep by generations of soft moccasins. Along such native highways the trained runners of the Indians are believed to have covered, on some few occasions, almost a hundred miles between sunrise and sunset.
Centuries after their paths were laid out a white man named Nathaniel Hawthorne spoke of the use of them made by his fellow white men of Massachusetts, and he said: “The forest track trodden by the hob-nailed shoes of these sturdy Englishmen has now a distinctness which it never could have acquired from the light tread of a hundred times as many moccasins. It goes onward from one clearing to another, here plunging into a shadowy strip of woods, there open to the sunshine, but everywhere showing a decided line along which human interests' have begun to hold their career
And the Indians coming from their distant wigwams to view the white man's settlement marvel at the deep track which he makes, and perhaps are saddened by a flitting presentiment that this heavy tread will find its way over all the land."
Hawthorne, had he not the mind of a poet, would have put the idea more bluntly than he did, for it was no mere flitting presentiment that the Indian of his day held. It was a realization of the inevitable, acknowledged with a despair that was felt, though unspoken. When Peter Wilson, a Cayuga chief and very able Indian, visited New York City in 1847 he delivered an address before the New York Historical Society in which he referred to this same subject. “The Empire State, as you love to call it,” were the words of the red chief, “was once laced by our trails from Albany to Buffalo; trails that we have trod for centuries; trails worn so deep by the feet of the Iroquois that they became your roads of travel, as your possessions grad
1 White men's interests is what he meant.