Sampler from MIDWEST FRONTIER STORIES – COLLECTION 2
From Black Hawk Dancing: “What was wanting in confusion, the boys happily remedied by very good imitations. So take it all in all, we ne’er may look upon its like again. The ladies declared on their way home, there was something worth seeing. A very edifying and interesting spectacle, abating the fact that some three or four who did not dance – wore blankets; this was the only drawback upon the amusements of the occasion.”
From Peter Pierre’s Great Race: Peter Pierre was a large stout young man, that had no more business at the trading houses than myself, but he happened to get scared a little worse and started from Jordan’s house to run angling down the river. The river was partly open. He did not turn for water. Across to Wells’ house they saw him coming and closed the doors. He ran once round the house and then struck a beeline in the Southwest direction. There was snow on the ground. He went through the brush and over broken ground scarcely deviating from a straight line. He started about ten o’clock, and by three he had run to some place on Fox River, not far from where Milton is now situated and stopped at a solitary Indian Lodge overnight, or he must have frozen. (about 6 miles)
From A Common Little Indian Fight: At the time of which I am writing he was about twenty-four or twenty-five years of age, with not a wrinkle on his face, though some people then called him “old Bill Phelps.” In height he was about five feet eight inches, and weighed two hundred pounds, a perfect blonde, having light colored hair and blue eyes, full, rosy cheeks, mouth rather small, teeth perfectly white, a musical voice that some persons might call rather feminine, but I have often noticed, in a large crowd, where men were noisy, that I could hear his voice ring out distinctly above all others.
From First Sermon in the Elm Bottom: The meeting was held in Josiah Roberts’ cabin, in Sweet Home. The room may have been sixteen feet square, containing all his household goods and a large family of children. With the hearers, I can truly say the house was well filled; the preaching was earnest if not eloquent; the singing was tolerable; the closing prayer truly fervent and the religious services were over. But the most interesting portion of the meeting was still to come. A small keel-boat, containing some emigrants and their goods, landed just at the mouth of that small brook about that time. The preacher must stay and get some dinner, and while this was being done Bedell went on to the keel-boat and got some whisky to drink. Nearly all early settlers on this river have seen a kind of ferry boat improvised by placing a platform on two canoes; but in this case we only lashed a small canoe on to the side of a large one to keep it from turning over, and had the horse stand up in the big canoe.
From William Clark: The Indians called him “Nesholo”, signifying twin, he being a twin brother of Jotham Clark, recently deceased, one of the early settlers of Hancock County, Illinois. He is fond of good liquor and tolerably fond of bad whiskey, has had frequent spells of drinking for at least twenty-five years, but deserves much credit for being sober sometimes for months. People of late years call him Old Billy. He is about six feet high, dark complexion, stout build, still enjoys good health, and looks like he might last about twenty-five years longer. He says that he has frequently done without bread for more than six months at a time, but at those times he generally had boiled corn or hominy, and like most pioneers, he likes a good joke, even if he should be the butt of the joke himself. He is now about sixty-seven years of age, and has been partially bald for many years. I believe that he has never been a professor of religion.
From First Jury Trial on Elm Bottom: The reader will bear in mind that said James Smith that was being tried for vagrancy in Missouri, was at the time living in Iowa, as well as the Constable, Nathaniel Dews, who served the process. I would further premise that said Smith was rather a lazy, worthless fellow, living on a claim immediately above the Missouri line. It was rather a pretty piece of land, on which Rollins looked with longing eyes. It was generally believed, though never proven, that said Smith held that claim for Frank Church, with whom Rollins was not friendly, and hence the suit for vagrancy. Perhaps I had as well explain some further, that under the then laws of the State of Missouri, the man proven to be a vagrant was sold out as a slave to the lowest bidder; that was, to the person that would take him and work him for the shortest length of time, not exceeding six months, to pay the expenses of his own prosecution.
From Early Times in Iowa: During the Fall, Winter and Spring of 1836 and 1837 a Methodist preacher by the name of Cartwright, living in Des Moines County, preached in West Point, on his way to Van Buren County once a week. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, he was at his appointment. That was a desperate cold winter, and there was no road more bleak and dreary than the one from West Point, to the timber of the Des Moines River. There were twelve or fifteen miles of open prairie, without a house, and fancy him crossing that prairie in a northwest wind with snow, sleet and rain falling in torrents. It was truly a hard circuit, but Cartwright never failed his appointments, and in all the year did not receive in money what would be the present weekly pay of your leading minister in your fast town.