Page images

52.—Many families who lived on the coast, or near bays or rivers, kept little covered boats for use in

journey making, just as a farmer or business man of the twentieth century keeps a motor-car.

Indians, from behind their trees, enjoyed the human battue.

After the war between England and France Braddock's Road became one of the principal routes by which travellers from the northern and middle colonies advanced through central and western Pennsylvania to the Alleghany region, and the pack-horse train was the only method by which they moved themselves and their goods back and forth between the older towns and the frontier posts. Those immigrants who were making the trip toward the frontier for the first time journeyed in large groups, in the immemorial method, and also carried on their later intercourse with the coast region in a somewhat similar way. During the autumn of each year all the border inhabitants within a radius of ten, twenty or twenty-five miles contributed their joint efforts to the creation of a pack-train by which they sent furs and skins and whisky to the eastern towns in exchange for such necessities as they could not themselves produce. They had no money, and could obtain iron, salt and a few other commodities only in that manner.

In fact, the Whisky Rebellion of 1794 was a direct result of this transportation problem. To carry bulky grain and fruit to the eastern market was impracticable, so many of the settlers converted their surplus of such products into whisky and brandy. A horse could carry two kegs of eight gallons each, worth about fifty cents a gallon on the western and one dollar on the eastern side of the mountains, and he came back with a little iron and salt. The Federal excise tax of 1791 bore hard on the trans-Alleghany people, and those in western Pennsylvania rose in armed rebellion but were overawed by an army sent into the region by President Washington.


The organization and progress of a pack-train is thus described in the work of an early historian.'

“In the fall of the year, after seeding time, every family formed an association with some of their neighbors, for starting the little

A master driver was to be selected from among them, who was to be assisted by one or more young men and sometimes a boy or two. The horses were fitted out with pack-saddles, to the latter part of which was fastened a pair of hobbles made of hickory withes,-a bell and collarornamented their necks. The bags provided for the conveyance of the salt were filled with feed for the horses; on the journey a part of this feed was left at convenient stages on the way down, to support the return of the caravan. Large wallets well filled with bread, jerk,3 boiled ham, and cheese furnished a provision for the drivers. At night, after feeding, the horses, whether put in pasture or turned out into the woods, were hobbled and the bells were opened. The barter for salt and iron was made first at Baltimore; Frederick, Hagerstown, Oldtown, and Fort Cumberland, in succession, became the places of exchange. Each horse carried two bushels of alum salt, weighing eighty-four pounds to the bushel. This, to be sure, was not a heavy load for the horses, but it was enough, considering the scanty subsistence allowed them on the journey. The common price of a bushel of alum salt, at an early period was a good cow and a calf.”

The appearance that such a cavalcade presented while on its march and the nature of the travel route over which it proceeded were told by another writer of earlier times,* who said:

"The whole amount of hide and peltries, ginseng, snake-root, and bears grease were exchanged or bartered for salt, nails, and other articles of iron, and occasionally for a few pewter plates and dishes for the table. The bartering for the settlement being finished, the caravan was ready for its retrograde march. ... The caravan route from the Ohio River to Frederick crossed the stupendous ranges of the Allegheny mountains as they rise, mountain behind mountain, in the distant prospect. ... The path, scar

The path, scarcely two feet wide, and traveled by horses in single file, roamed over hill and dale, through mountain defile, over craggy steeps, beneath impending rocks, and around points of dizzy heights, where one false step might hurl horse and rider into the abyss below. To prevent such accidents, the bulky baggage was

1 Doddridge's "Notes on the Settlements and Indian Wars": chap. 13.
2 The horse collar was often made of woven corn husks.
3 Smoked venison or bear meat.
• Monette: “History of the Valley of the Mississippi": Vol. ii, p. 14.
6 An early family remedy highly esteemed.

removed in passing the dangerous defiles, to secure the horse from being thrown from his scanty foothold. This route, selected by experienced woodsmen, differed but little from that selected for turnpikes and railroads by professed engineers at a much later day. ... The horses, with their packs, were marched along in single file, the foremost led by the leader of the caravan, while each successive horse was tethered to the pack-saddle of the horse before him. A driver followed behind, to keep an eye upon the proper adjustment of the packs, and to urge on any horse that was disposed to lag. In this way two men could manage a caravan of ten or fifteen horses. When night came, a temporary camp and a camp-fire protected the weary travels.”

Those who were going into the newly settled country for the first time joined an experienced caravan whenever possible. Twenty days or more, according to the state of the weather and trail, were required to pass over Braddock's Road by pack-train from the Atlantic coast to the head waters of the Ohio. The extent to which pack-trains were relied on as the one method of travel and transportation throughout many parts of the colonies as recently as the last quarter of the eighteenth century, and the causes that led professional pack-men to oppose the building of roads for wheeled vehicles, were referred to by a third writer who long ago discussed the period in question.' He wrote:

“Sixty or seventy years ago’ five hundred pack-horses had been at one time in Carlisle, going thence to Shippensburg, Fort Loudon and further westward. . . The pack-horses used to carry bars of iron on their backs; crooked over and around their bodies; barrels or kegs were hung on each side of these. Colonel Snyder, of Chambersburg, in a conversation with the writer in August, 1845, said that he cleared many a day from $6 to $8 in crooking or bending iron and shoeing horses for western carriers at the time he was carrying on a blacksmith shop in the town of Chambersburg. . . . When the bridle path passed along declivities or over hills, the path was in some places washed out so deep that the packs or burdens came in contact with the ground or other impending obstacles, and were frequently displaced. . .

... When wagons were first introduced, the carriers considered that mode of 1 Rupp: "The History and Topography of Dauphin

[and] Cumberland Counties (Pa.}": pp. 376-377.

? The words were written in 1848.

[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

53.-A Conestoga wagon. The frigate of early overland travel and transpor

tation in America. First appearing in Pennsylvania about the middle of the eighteenth century, it survived until the California rush a hundred years afterward.

transportation an invasion of their rights; their indignation was more excited and they manifested greater rancor than did the regular teamstersi when the line of single teams was started some thirty years ago."

So, while the roads leading out from Boston, Providence, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore were witnessing the first introduction and early rivalries of the stage wagons and Flying Machines, the remainder of the northern and middle section was still dependent on the pole-boat, saddle-horse and pack-train.

The second important development witnessed in Pennsylvania about the middle of the eighteenth century — the first use of the Conestoga wagon — became noticeable during the decade between 1750 and 1760. The peculiar type of pioneer vehicle thus evolved remained in persistent use during all advance movements of the population for about a century. As the frontier inhabited by

1 These teamsters were the drivers of four and six-horse Conestoga wagons, which had followed pack-trains, and that were in turn succeeded by the two-horse vehicles here mentioned, as the dirt roads were changed to turnpikes covered with gravel or broken stone.

« PreviousContinue »