Page images
PDF
EPUB

ually ate into those of my people. Your roads still traverse those same lines of communication which bound one part of the Long Housel to the other."

The forest roads of the natives — first aids to such land travel as was attempted in early days by the white population of America — were not the only contribution made by the red men to the methods of the newcomers. From them, also, was taken the earliest form of water craft. The canoe, as used by the Indians and at once adopted by the whites, was of two very different forms. One was made from a log of suitable size, and the other from the bark of trees, especially the birch, spruce, or elm. The use of these two types, both by the Indians and afterward by white invaders, depended on the nature of the waters to be navigated, the desire for speed, and the frequent necessity of making portages from one stream to another. To some extent also the type was a geographical one, since the birch tree from the bark of which the best kind of bark canoe was made was not so plentiful in the South as in the North. For a heavy wooden canoe a fallen log was selected that, while still entirely sound, had become somewhat seasoned. Sometimes a standing tree was chosen by the Indians and felled by means of hatchets or fire. A section of the trunk from fifteen to thirty feet long and about three feet in diameter was then cut out and elevated from the ground, for convenience in carrying on the work. The log was shaped and hollowed by fire and cutting implements, and a very strong and serviceable, though rough and slow moving craft was obtained.” Such canoes were only adapted for lakes or single rivers. They were not taken overland from one water to another.

In fashioning the much more graceful, mobile and 1 The Iroquois name for their Confederacy.

? Such a canoe became known by the colonists as a "pirogue," or "perogue."

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

Eroaren

T SMIT'S VIX IN EARLY TIMES 6.—Building pinnaces, schooners and similar boats for travel along the coast. A scene in New Amsterdam during the Dutch occupancy,

drawn from an early description and sketch.

useful birch-bark canoe the Indian selected his tree, made a straight vertical incision in the bark from near the base of the trunk to a spot at the height of his head, and then, with utmost care, peeled the bark from the tree by the aid of his knife. The framework of the craft was made of thin strips of cedar or spruce, and the birch-bark covering was attached to it by long, tough, slender, fibrous roots of the larch or balsam, which had previously been manipulated into extreme pliability. The various strips of birchbark were also sewed together with the same sort of roots, and, before being fastened to the framework, were cut to the necessary pattern. The boat was then completed and given its final shape by the insertion of the many narrow and elastic ribs of spruce. All seams and cracks were covered with hot pitch from the balsam or spruce, and the canoe was water-tight and ready for use. Each tribe had its own pattern or style for its canoes, and they varied in size from ten or twelve feet to fifty or sixty feet in length.

In this wonderful and famous boat, created by the woodcraft genius of the Indian from the materials immediately about him, he could travel for thousands of miles if need be. When he came to the head waters of a stream, where the current no longer afforded the few inches of depth necessary to carry him on his way, he could pick up his canoe and carry it for miles to another lake or river. In times of storm it served him as a snug shelter, and the forest was a factory where it could be repaired, or replaced, at any time, with prompt delivery guaranteed.

“Thus the Birch Canoe was builded
In the valley, by the river,
In the bosom of the forest;
And it floated on the river
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water lily.”ı

Longfellow's lines, from "Hiawatha."

CHAPTER III

EARLY DEVELOPMENT GOVERNED BY THE NEEDS OF COM

MUNITIES RATHER THAN BY KNOWLEDGE OR EXPLORA-
TION THE CENTERS FROM WHICH TRAVEL MOVE-
MENTS RADIATED - PRIMITIVE BRIDGES - THE.
BUILDING OF SMALL BOATS BEGUN — A PHILAN-
THROPIC MISTAKE OF THE DUTCH ORGANIZED MI-
GRATIONS OF LARGE COMPANIES OF PEOPLE AN IMPOR-
TANT FEATURE OF THE FIRST CENTURY

TH

HE many years of early exploration throughout the

whole extent of the continent, carried on by brave individual adventurers and trappers chiefly from Spain and France before the year 1620 had almost no effect in shaping the after-history and development of America's travel system. The significance of any discovery in its relation to the subject, whether of route or method of travel, did not lie in the earliest information respecting that route or method, but in the popular impulse which was later - sometimes much later -- to recognize its value and demand its use. It was necessity or comprehension, not knowledge; the needs or desires of the people rather than the exploits and achievements of individuals that always influenced the progress of the system and led on, little by little, to what now exists.

Hence it was that definite and visible progress in creating established methods of getting about the country did not begin until several English colonies had found firm foothold along the Atlantic coast. There were three motives that caused the first travel movements among

the early population. One was the natural wish of a settlement to get into touch with its neighbors; another was need of betterment and growth; and the third was an occasional impulse, due to differences of one sort or another, which sometimes caused part of a colony to separate from the rest of it and go elsewhere to set up for itself.

The five principal localities from which radiated the first travel movements of the country were the Chesapeake Bay region; eastern Massachusetts; New York Bay and the Great River of the Mountains;' the Connecticut River valley and Long Island Sound; and Delaware Bay and the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers. Three of these, the Chesapeake, New York and Delaware Bays, are important among those gateways already referred to through which the interior of the country is accessible from the Atlantic seaboard. But the two biggest entrances of all—the Mississippi River with its tributaries and the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes — were destined to play a much smaller part in the story than their importance warranted. For it so happened that the course of wars and politics in Europe produced conditions in America which deprived the Mississippi, the St. Lawrence River and the lakes of much of the influence they might otherwise have had in shaping the development of travel in America.

For generations five mutually jealous and conflicting groups were quarreling and fighting in an effort to get control of the continent. Each of three nationsFrance, Spain and England — was scheming to extend its own possessions and oust the others; the English colonies

1 An early name for the Hudson River.

« PreviousContinue »