BY CAPTAIN HERVEY PARKE. (The sketch by Captain Parke treats of a variety of topics, and covers a large field of experience in various portions of the northwest, pertaining more particularly to the early surveys. The captain is still living, at the age of eighty-eight years, and he wields the pen in his latter days quite as effectively as when in the vigor of youth.) To the Oakland County Pioneer Society: In a former paper I related some incidents connected with my first visit to Michigan, in 1821, concluding with my introduction by 3Mr. Horatio Ball to Hon. Edward Tiffin, surveyor-general of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan Territories, and the assurance given me that I should have a contract for surveying at the earliest opportunity. From this place (Chillicothe, Ohio) I returned to my family and home in Camden, Oneida county, New York. My arrangements were soon made.
All our furniture was disposed of, as it would not do to transport it so great a distance, and there remained two large chests and several trunks in which our bedding and clothing was packed, including, of course, my surveying apparatus; also a large, strong cask, from which, after removing the chime hoops, I had placed one large seven-pail kettle, inside that a smaller one, then several still smaller, until it was quite filled. A log-chain and some other iron articles added made this cask a weighty affair, and caused many a tough fellow to say hard words when attempting to move it.
The morning of May 12, 1822, was fixed upon for our departure. A few neighbors assembled; the Rev. Henry Smith, pastor of the Presbyterian church, offered prayer and gave us his blessing; the last good-by said, and the hand shaking over, with my wife and only child, now Mrs. W. M. McConnell, I mounted the wagon standing before our door, and with one last long look at our eastern home, set off for the Erie canal, twelve miles distant. We proceeded on the canal as far as it was finished, within eighty miles of Buffalo, where I hired a man with a team to take me to the latter place. The "Superior," the only steamer on the lake, was absent on her first trip to Detroit, and I concluded to wait for her return, rather than ship on board a sail-vessel. While waiting for the steamer I met several families on their way to Michigan,-Asa Castle and his son Lemuel, Apollos Dewey, F. Perrin and wife, who were on board the steamer "Walk-in-the-water," the previous fall, at the time she was beached at Buffalo in a severe gale of wind.
During this gale, I was encamped in the Saginaw woods, surrounded by the falling and crashing timber, and in as much danger of losing life as if in a naval engagement. In about a week the steamer returned and we continued our journey. Putting into Sandusky as usual to receive passengers, I met Judge Burtt for the first time, direct from the surveyor-general's office. Arriving at Detroit, I met John Hamilton, with whom I formed an acquaintance the previous year. He was provided with an ox-team, and being in pursuit of a load, I engaged him to take me to my journey's end. It was late before we left the city; we did not reach the angle of the road (six miles) until nearly sunset. At this point begins the causeway constructed by the United States troops, when garrisoned at Detroit, under the command of Colonel Leavenworth. I need not describe this piece of road, as it is already known by all the pioneers.When nearly over the causeway, the teamster announced that he must halt and feed his team, as "they would not feed in the heat of the day." "Very well, we'll walk on slowly." Soon, "Do you see that cloud?" I said to my wife. "See how it enlarges, and there is no shelter for a long distance." It was growing dark, and we were often saluted with peals of thunder and flashes of lightning, taking advantage of which, we kept as near the centre of the road as possible.
The water being of unequal depth, and were it not for occasional bars, it would have been excellent canoeing. I cautioned my wife to keep close to me, as, having the child upon my back or in my arms, I was unable to render much assistance. Soon she sang out, "I've lost one of my shoes!" "Hold on; I will come to your assistance." "Oh, I've found it." Approaching her, she was adjusting the sleeve of her dress to the arm, and leading her back to where I had left the little lone pioneer, on a hummock above the water, we were once more in close marching order. During all this time the rain was pouring down upon us, and the darkness so great that we were compelled to proceed with the greatest caution to keep clear of the brush. Arriving at White's tavern, their beds were occupied, but Mrs. White spread a few blankets on the floor, where we slept as soundly as the swarming mosquitoes would permit. In the morning Hamilton came up, and we again mounted the wagon, going smoothly along over the plains to the angle of the Paint creek road, where then stood the famous oak-tree. The numerous pitch-holes made riding so uncomfortable we were glad to get out and walk the remaining five miles to Mr. J. W. Hunter's place of residence.
Here we received such a welcome as only himself and family could give, and we were invited to remain several weeks with them. During this time, Mr. and Mrs. Hunter visited their eastern home, leaving us in charge of their family of young daughters. On their return home he offered me the use of the shop, as he called it,-an unfinished log house, built but not used for blacksmithing purposes, which he said I would be quite welcome to occupy. Doors, windows, and floors were soon put in, and we moved into our first home in the west. Our furniture consisted of a table made by myself from a rough board, and chairs which my brother-in-law, Harry Brownson, who came soon after myself, built with his axe out of rough timber. These articles, with our beds and bedding, several trunks, and a small stock of clothing, comprised all my worldly possessions. I will not neglect to add that eight dollars and fifty cents in cash remained, and I was at this time in my thirty-third year. Of course, the strictest economy was necessary, but my hopes were bright. I was in perfect health, and all the preliminaries for the future work in surveying public lands entered into the previous year. It being time I was on the move for family supplies, when, with the assistance of a friend, I raised a sum sufficient, added to the above, set out on foot for Detroit, encountering mud, water, flies, and mosquitoes.
Cattle-drovers from Ohio were the chief dependence of the pioneers, but finding none at the time, I bought a fine-looking new milch-cow of a Frenchman, which proved to be so ungovernable as to require two men to hold and milk her, until I made a pen, so constructed that she could neither turn, go ahead, or back out, and the milking could then be performed by a single person; After this I made another purchase of a cow at the administrator's sale of the estate of Webster, in the fall of 1824. Mr. Webster died in 1823. He came as a passenger in the steamer " Superior" in May, 1822, with the mill-irons on board, when it was said that Burtt & Allen, millwrights, were set at work, and the saw-mill was put in running order at Auburn. At the time of my arrival at Hunter's the settlement (now Birmingham) contained four log dwellings, occupied by Elijah Willetts, John W. Hunter, Elisha Hunter, his father, and John Hamilton. In the fall of 1822, my brother, Dr. Ezra S. Parke, having recently completed his medical studies, arrived with his wife and one child, an infant daughter, who afterwards became the wife of M. W. Kelsey. He was an earnest, zealous Christian, member of the Methodist Episcopal church, and, soon after his arrival, commenced holding occasional religious services in his own house on Sunday afternoon.
On these occasions the singing was principally performed by his wife, who was remarkable for her rich, sweet voice, as well as many other lovely Christian graces. The early settlers and other friends can never forget this excellent woman; her cheerfulness of temper in all circumstances, her kindness and sympathy in sickness and affliction, were unsurpassed. She literally went about doing good. These meetings were the first held in the neighborhood, with the exception of a sermon I heard in 1821, in Willett's bar-room, by a Methodist minister who came up the Rouge, and whose name I do not remember. I could get but little employment during the summer. Occasionally I assisted immigrants in land-looking and surveying, but endeavored to wait patiently for the fulfillment of the promise which had been given me. Early in the winter I received the place of teacher in the school on Swan's Plains, where I continued until February, when a letter from Mr. Mullett, of Detroit, proposed our visiting Chillicothe together, that we might soon procure the promised contract. I resigned my place in the school to my brother, Dr. Parke, and soon arranged with Mr. Mullett for our journey.
Our outfit consisted of a French pony, a jumper, rudely constructed with a crockery crate for a box; this, half filled with straw, a couple of blankets, not forgetting a saddle, and we were soon gliding down on the ice of the Detroit river to Sandusky. Here we left the jumper, saddled the pony, and proceeded on our journey, one riding, the other walking. After going a certain distance, the horseman would dismount, hitch the pony to a sapling, and proceed, taking his turn in walking, while his companion after a time would pass him by on horseback, and in the proper place he, too, would dismount and hitch, and the journey was concluded on this ride-and-tie principle. Our interview with the general was most satisfactory; the oath of office was administered, each received a contract. Mr. Mullett and myself were the first appointed from this Territory, except Mr. Ball, who filled one contract of ten townships in 1821. In a year or two, Wm. Brockfield, of Detroit, received a contract; others were furnished work soon after. I commenced work seven miles south of Fenton (township 4 north, range 11 east) the last week in March, completing my work within fifty days from the time of leaving home. Nothing occurred worthy of note, except Chester Ball becoming frightened at what he called a panther, and running away from camp, and everything near being burned up during his absence; and Lucius Hunt breaking through the ice in Long lake, three steps in my rear, when drawing the surveying chain.Messrs. Lyon & Sibley secured contracts for subdividing towns 7 and 8 north, extending to range 16 east, to Lake Huron, in the autumn of 1823. Dr Swan, John Mack, Clark, of Toledo, John Mullett, and myself, received contracts for subdividing on the head-waters of the Raisin, covering a tract of twenty-five or thirty miles square, and extending east to meet the first surveys in 1815, near Tecumseh. John Hamilton transported my provisions and camp equipage, accompanied by John Mack's and my own party, from Detroit to Woodworth's grove, where two families had located.
This was our supply depot, and the most western settlement at this time, December, 1823. An unoccupied log house was standing on the right bank of the Huron, about two miles above where Ypsilanti is located. A few weeks later I heard that Rumsey & Allen had settled where now is Ann Arbor. We crossed the Huron the following morning, and steered west over the Poor Oak barrens, or Dry Oak barrens, as I have seen them described in the original field books of 1816. Said Wampler to me, "I never signed the unfavorable report made by the first surveyors, but left the matter to older and more experienced men." We encamped in a snow-storm at night, with plenty of green oak timber for kindling a fire, while some of the party had just been seriously ducked by falling from a slippery log on which they were crossing a creek. Our work was in the vicinity of Adrian. The evening previous to commencing my last township I received a message from Mullett, requesting me to head his party after finishing my own work, as it was necessary for him to return home for ten days. My work completed, we took a general shave, having neglected it from the time of leaving home.
Converting my blankets to an Indian pack, into which I stowed three days' rations, --pork and bread,-- with axe in hand, I started south and the boys east, for home. At the usual time for lunch my bread was hard as rocks (this was a common occurrence throughout the winter). With the head of the axe I would convert it into use in quick time. Continuing through the day moderately, plenty of time for thoughts, there being no one with whom to speak, and when the sun was about setting I saw a fallen tree, as I had been on the lookout for one as a wind-breaker, when I immediately made preparations for lodging. Wrapping my blanket around me, I turned in, or rather on the frozen ground. Well, I slept some, but was moving before it was fairly daylight. The second night I passed in an Indian hut, and came near being smoked, bacon-like, and decided on disturbing no more wigwams.
At five o'clock P.M. intersected white men's tracks going west, and looking east discovered the smoke of the surveyors' camp. It was near dark when I arrived, and I soon heard the cry of " tally sixteen!" by the forward chain-man, indicating their return to a corner as well as to camp. Mullett left for home the second day after my arrival. I was to run a township line, subdividing the same in his absence. We were near Bear creek, and not far from the meridian. I finished the township when Mullett returned. Next morning set off for home; course southeast. The first night lay by the side of a fallen tree, as it had been snowing; I banked up my bed with the same and slept tolerably well. Next day intersected the road leading to Detroit, and tarried overnight at a Frenchman's house. I passed through Detroit on Sunday, just as the citizens were returning home from church, and lest I should meet an acquaintance, avoided the sidewalk, and took the centre of Jefferson avenue, for my clothes were so worn that my legs were wrapped in moose-wood bark from my knees to my feet. Arrived home next day. In the year 1825 or 1826, while subdividing some twenty miles east of Battle Creek, I was surprised, when returning one night from my work, to find Mullett and his party, who had left their camp on the creek before light the same morning, in consequence of an encounter with Indians the day previous. The red men in the vicinity, thinking the survey of the land would be likely to interfere with their sugar-making, had for some time manifested displeasure by hindering and obstructing the work; and one time a sub-chief, while standing near Mr. Mullett, suddenly sprang in front, and brought him to a halt. "Had I best hit him?" he asked of John Monroe, his rear chain-man, who replied, "I guess not." The day previous, Edwin Baldwin, the packer, and Taylor, the cook, were together in camp. It was the first day of March, the bees were flying, and the former were trying to get their line. Two Indians appeared and demanded provisions, which the cook refused, and called Baldwin. One Indian seized a camp-kettle, when the cook sprang upon him. The second Indian attempted to assist his comrade, when the packer aimed a blow at him with the fire-poker,-a big handspike,-which failed in effect by striking the tent-pole; then there was a clinch.
Baldwin soon quieted his antagonist and sprang to help Taylor, who was a small-sized man, with a crippled hand, and was on the ground with his Indian, holding fast to the handle of his adversary's tomahawk with one hand, while with the other he clinched firmly the fellow's long hair. A few blows made him as quiet as the other. The Indian had fired his rifle during the encounter; Baldwin showed me where his clothes were scorched by the powder. Some anxious hours followed, for the party came in later than usual that night. One Indian rallied, and desired to leave, but as his comrade was so severely injured they feared he would die, they prudently bound him until morning, when they gave him his liberty, and leaving the still insensible Indian, the party broke camp, and started for home, stopping with me, as I have described, the first night out. I finished my work unmolested in three weeks, and Mullett returned to his a few weeks later. This originated the name of Battle Creek. In the autumn of 1823 I purchased of Shubael Conant the southeast quarter section 33 in the township of Pontiac, at a little less than three dollars per acre. The following year I added thirty-one acres on the north, and adjoining the same, at five dollars per acre.
The year previous, however, I purchased of the same sixteen and one-half acres to secure building-ground, as the line of the road from Detroit had cut off my former building-ground and first purchase; the price being ten dollars, with the privilege of one, or as many acres as I chose. In May, 1824, I was ready to take possession, when Judge Le Roy, who owned and occupied the house in which Joseph J. Todd has since resided about forty years, kindly offered me a room for the use of my family while my own house was building. This required the labor of three men besides myself for two weeks. The roof was covered with boards, battened with slabs, and as the house-logs were cut unequal lengths, when raised to their proper place they formed steps convenient for mounting the roof at the alarm of fire. The interior was quite comfortable and pleasant, the logs being hewn and partially covered with newspapers, the floor of white pine, and two doors and windows opposite of seven by nine glass. A wide, open fireplace, one side of which, in the corner, was a ladder, for ascending the loft, where our friends found a comfortable bed. And soon after, for further convenience, especially for the aged, as it was difficult to ascend the ladder, and dangerous withal, I added to the rear of the house a room for their accommodation, and a sixteen by twenty room at the south end for a kitchen. From the year 1824 up to December, 1829, I surveyed twenty-two townships in addition to the foregoing, extending from the principal meridian to the western boundary of the large Indian reservation extending to Saginaw bay. In the fall and winter of 1826-27 I subdivided six townships on Looking-glass river (Clinton county). This survey extended south and west to the north line of the township in which the State capital is located. The Stevens family-father of Messrs. Rufus and Sherman Stevens-resided at Grand Blanc, and from this place I packed my provisions, finishing my district the 13th of January, arriving home in the evening; my wife, on the lookout, having heard of my arrival at the village, met me at the door welcoming me, presenting to my arms our infant daughter aged six weeks. It was a joyful meeting of the family, I having been absent sixty-two days. The last week in December, 1829, three surveyors-Clark, Thomas, and Christmas —left Pontiac on a surveying tour west from Saginaw, myself following them a day or two afterwards; my work being. twelve townships, from township 11 to township 18 north from the meridian, east to the reservation above mentioned on the Kankanin river. Having engaged Philip Bigler to transport my provisions to Saginaw, where I made my headquarters. Proceeding on the ice of the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers to the line of township 12 on the west side of the Titabawassee river, the snow full knee-deep at every step rendered our work slow and tedious, when, before we were aware of it, found ourselves running a line in the Forks reservation, causing much delay in our work in hunting the lines, when backing out for this purpose. Succeeding in this, our work went on at the rate of four or five miles a day only, as the lines were to be walked over a second time, continuing at this rate only throughout the winter, not losing a day on account of the weather until the 8th of April, we started out as usual as soon as it was light.The wind, rising as the sun rose, increased, and, as the tree-tops were loaded with snow, filled the air, so that we were compelled to return to camp, where we remained two days. When hearing from Thomas, it was said he was about at the point of discouragement in not being able to find his starting-point, this being his first experience in the woods, when he sang out, "I will give any man fifty dollars that will show me my starting-point." "Will you give me that?" said Chester Goodrich, who had been through one surveying tour with Mr. Mullett. The next I heard was Christmas had gone to the settlement, and engaged board for himself with Mr. O. Williams for the winter, leaving two men to keep camp at half-pay. Thomas had found his corner, had become stimulated with courage, declaring that he would leave his bones in the woods sooner than leave his work.
I never heard whether Chester had received the fifty dollars. The snow disappeared, and warm weather succeeded; the men composing the three parties (for Christmas had now returned) suffered so extremely from inflamed and swollen feet that they were obliged to stop work, and went to the forks of the river, where there was a trading-house, which was our base of supplies. A sub-chief soon brought me a letter from Clark, urging me also to discontinue work, in order to make it a general thing. I had already performed the full amount of my twelve townships, for Clark had been unable to reach me with his lines, and I had been necessitated to run several of his township lines. For eight weeks I had carried the compass with a badly-crippled foot, the result of a frostbite, and during the breaking up of the ice swamps, when we were compelled to wade a good share of the time in ice-cold water, I suffered more than my pen can describe. Being in this position, and John Powell, my axe-man, just taken lame, I acceded to the request, and we were soon on our way to Pontiac. While traveling together, Clark said, "Parke, if we are ordered to complete our work, you must finish mine, for I would rather lose all I have done than return here." During this winter we had many hindrances to encounter. When encamped at the northwest corner of township 17, it was necessary to go to the northeast corner of the township to run the line west. This corner having been previously established on the left bank of the Tittabawassee, when we mistook the Tobacco river for the Tittabawassee river, and sought nearly two days in a blinding snowstorm, having passed the junction of the two rivers when not able to see the corner, on account of the brush covered with snow, having passed it several times during the second day.
At night I told the boys we must have intersected some other stream, and in the morning we would continue east, when we would find the corner. My expectations were realized, and we found the corner, and a brush hut built by Steinbrook, in which he had been waiting our arrival. Becoming impatient, he had left, probably for Saginaw. On his return, owing to the difficulties of passing through the brush, he rigged a kind of jumper, drawing it on the ice, attaching it to himself in such a manner as to disengage himself when breaking through the ice in deep water; but at one time he came near losing his life. On another occasion, when returning from Saginaw with his jumper, discovering a pack of wolves feasting on a deer they had just drawn from an ice-hole, he decided on sharing a portion of the deer with the wolves, and, when they growled and glared at him, hastily sprang upon them, yelling and waving his hat; they slowly retired a few paces, while he took a portion that was left and retired.
Early in autumn, 1830, we, the delinquent surveyors of the past year, were notified to go forward and complete our work without delay. When preparing outfits for another campaign in the Saginaw woods, Christmas made his appearance, being on his way to complete his unfinished work. The two parties, his and my own, left Pontiac together, and when on our way, he suggested assisting me in completing the three contracts on my hands. Arriving at Saginaw, the schooner from Detroit, on board of which were our supplies, had grounded on the river bar, causing a delay and serious consequences for a time. Through the kindness of the Messrs. E. F. and Gardner Williams, at Saginaw city, we were supplied with sufficient provisions for a single trip, as they were short, their supplies being on board of the same vessel. Dividing with Christmas, and leaving part of my own for the next trip of the packer, Samuel Steinbrook, the parties proceeded together and recommenced work. The other packer going for supplies first, and as the schooner had not arrived, my provisions were taken for the other party, Steinbrook being provided with two bags of potatoes, being all our friends, Messrs. Williams, could do for us. I regretted, when too late, that I did not send Steinbrook with a letter demanding a share of the provisions stolen after dividing with the party. Potato diet, working twelve hours a day, was hardly sufficient.
The third day, as we were running a line east, met the packer, and never did the pony obtain relief so sudden as then. Every man had his pocket-knife in requisition, sharpening sticks for broiling pork.After this occurrence our work went on regularly, as there was no further delay for some time. Steinbrook, on his return, brought a letter from Christmas, desiring to know what I would give for the privilege of completing his work. Answering him briefly; as for giving for this privilege it was out of the question, and respecting the finishing his work, no encouragement could I offer. On the next return trip of the packer this surveyor had taken passage. leaving two men at. camp, Eli Sawtels being one of them, Christmas renewing his application for my assistance in the further fulfillment of his contract. He had become broken down, discouraged, home-sick, and sick of the woods, to the shedding of tears as he was pleading for assistance. When, out of pity to him, I said, " If you will finish the township in which you are engaged, I will complete the remainder (two townships) of your work." It is not for me to say how I found his work had been performed, having but two men left to assist, the others having left for home. The following year I received a letter from him, stating his expenditures during the two trips exceeded the amount of his receipts ninety dollars. I never heard from Thomas after his leaving Saginaw woods. Clark dropped dead from apoplexy with the compass under his arm while extending a range-line in the western part of the State, in 1836 or 1837. I will mention here that I finished the work of the two last-named surveyors in the Saginaw woods and marshes. In the autumn of 1832 I left home for the purpose of subdividing fifteen town- * ships in the lead-mine district in Wisconsin. This is remembered as the cholera year, and also the one which closed the Black Hawk war. A little cluster of white-washed houses at the mouth of the Chicago river marked the site of the present great city. A little distance from this point we discovered fresh wagon-tracks diverging, from the main road, which had been made by General Scott's little army in pursuit of Black Hawk and his warriors, which, with the aid of a pocket-compass for general course, we mainly followed. Our troops must have made about eleven miles a day in their march, as was indicated by their camping grounds, where we found traces of their fires, cast-off clothing, and frequent new-made graves. Half a mile east of Rock river we first discovered where Black Hawk and his warriors had encamped three weeks previous, and took possession for one night only. In addition to the tent-poles, were six or eight brush-heaps twelve or fifteen feet in diameter, three or four feet high, the use of which, considering their mode of warfare, we could not comprehend. At sunrise we were by the river, which was filled by new-made, sharp, cutting ice, and the depth of water was midride to the pony.
The poor animal had a hard time taking us all over. Erwin Tyler, the cook, being the smallest man, was selected as ferryman, and crossed and recrossed, carrying one man behind him each trip. From this point the character of the country changed from level to hilly, and reaching the height of ground we could distinctly see, looking ahead, three Indian trails apparently six feet apart, indicating that the warriors marched in single file. The second day after crossing the river we came across an Indian trader rebuilding, the Indians having burned his house, and from him obtained a fresh supply of provisions. Arriving at Mineral Point, met a son of General Dodge, from whom I engaged a good supply of smoked side-pork, not needed for the troops, as the war had closed. I engaged flour at fourteen dollars per barrel. During our journey the weather had been warm and smoky, but the night of our arrival a terrible snow-storm occurred, continuing thirty-six hours, with drifts fifteen to twenty feet high. This was discouraging, for in a prairie country the corners are made by raising mounds of earth two and a half feet high; in the top a stake is driven and inscribed with marking-iron, denoting town, range, and section. The weather was bitter cold, and our labor severe, but with a spade and two-edged axe we overcame all difficulties. The month of February was pleasant, and the honey-bees out flying in the air. One morning I discovered a honey-comb near the foot of a hollow tree, from which we took two camp-kettles of as beautiful honey as I ever saw, and from this time forward we were constantly supplied with honey. There was occasionally much excitement caused by movements of the Indians, although after the battle of Bad Axe, on the Mississippi, where General Dodge gave them a terrible whipping,, some of the principal warriors succeeded in crossing the Mississippi. Black Hawk was soon after captured, having left his warriors after crossing. Rock river. One day, sitting there in camp, copying field-notes to transmit to the officers, having sent the boys out to complete a couple of lines, I was a little startled in hearing the crack of a rifle close by, and rapid approaching footsteps, followed by an Indian greatly excited, who pointed in the direction of the gun-shot; then stooping to the ground he picked up a piece of bark, which he threw in the same direction. Shaking my head, he saw I was determined not to understand him and he looked sullen, mad, and much disappointed. Of course I thought he had, an accomplice, and had I left would have robbed the camp. In a few minutes two more Indians appeared, and when within six feet of the tent placed the butt of their rifles upon the ground. I felt quite relieved. We exchanged the usual salutation of "bon jour!" at their first appearance. I invited then to lunch with me, as was always my custom in Michigan, after which we parted good friends. I finished this work the last of April, and my men returned home, with the exception of my nephew, M. B. Smith, who accompanied me to Cincinnati, as the surveyor-general's office had been removed to that city. I had waited at Galena three weeks for the arrival of the first steamer going south. During my stay at Galena great excitement existed in regard to Indians, as rumor said they were assembling by hundreds at Dixon's ferry on Rock river. One day a great scare occurred as a horseman appeared on the opposite side of the river shouting, "To arms! to arms!" All the inhabitants were fleeing from Dixon's ferry to Galena for safety in great terror. He plunged his poor, panting horse into the stream, rapidly urging him over; the poor animal fell dead soon after reaching the opposite shore. Laying aside my papers I set off for the ferry, where drums and fifes were playing and fifty or more men and boys had assembled. About the tine I was leaving the assembled multitude, fifteen or twenty young men mounted on horseback were crossing the river to assist the women and children on their way. But, as usual, it proved a false alarm. When making returns at this time, the surveyor-general suggested my entering into contract for surveying the exterior lines of townships in Indiana, and proceeding to the work as soon as I could make the necessary arrangements.
Owing to the ill health of my wife, when last heard from, I chose to defer giving an answer until I arrived home, when it was suggested iny leaving a blank contract, to which I assented. The work in Indiana was afterwards given to Sylvester Sibley and another Michigan surveyor. For this act of the government agent the Indiana surveyors were much displeased, so much so, as I was told, it was carried into Congress at the next session. During the following autumn orders were received by the surveyor-general to cause that part of the territory lying between Saginaw bay and township 9, on Lake Huron, to be surveyed. The chief clerk was instructed to fill the blanks in the above-mentioned contract and forward the same to me. This work had been given to Joseph Wampler in the fall of 1822; embraced about eighty township exterior lines, extending south to township 6, and from range 8 east to Lake Huron. He (Wampler) having surveyed about twenty-four townships, leaving the north line of township 10 un-surveyed, such being his anxiety to leave the swamps. It was the most dreaded portion of the lower peninsula, and would have been objectionable at the most favorable season of the year; but as there was one deputy-surveyor, Wm. A. Burt, Esq., at work near the lake, and another on his way, it was necessary the survey of the township lines should be continued or the subdivision must cease. I was on the ground with a full party, on or about the first day of January, 1834, at the northwest corner of township 10 east, and therefore nearly forty miles of township line (nine of township 10) left un-surveyed by Wampler. To commence surveying it was necessary to cross the townships by ranging with pocket-compass to intersect just south of quarter section corner, it being necessary to measure from said corner a half-mile, at which point the township corner was established in readiness to run the line west. This operation was necessary to perform in every range of townships. The snow being eighteen inches deep, and the evergreen underbrush bent to the ground, it was extremely difficult ranging to keep our course, which occasioned our falling two miles short of camp when overtaken by night, and the going of this our first day without supper, tent, or blankets. In running long lines among swamps, there it is impossible for horses to pass, it was a common thing for each man to shoulder and carry throughout the day a pack containing a blanket and several days' provisions. Continuing my work for a few weeks under great disadvantages, I concluded to return home, and wait until the frost should bridge the streams, which would enable us to extend our lines into the interior. In six weeks I entered the second time, after having obtained the field-notes of a survey in town 9, where the beech timber denoted hard land, indicating that pack-horses could be used. With this view I made a deposit of provisions at Mill creek, in addition to that made at Lapeer and Burch's mill, on Black river, six miles north of Port Huron. In addition to the horses, I engaged an extra pack-man, and proceeded via Romeo to Mill creek.
Crossed the creek early in the morning, but soon plunged into an almost impenetrable swamp, where I had expected being able to proceed with the horses, but they repeatedly sunk, were unpacked, dragged out through mud and water, repacked, but soon down again, until night overtook us, when we chanced to find a section corner, by which we learned we had progressed one and one-half miles. Finding it impossible to get the horses through, I sent them with two men back to Romeo, with orders to proceed to Port Huron, thence up to the lake-shore twenty miles, thence northwest to the point designated. The axe-man, two chain-men, and cook, headed by myself, each with blanket and two weeks' provisions, pocket-compass in hand, course northeast, set off through the marsh, readily finding the corner left in my first trip. We commenced work, continuing two weeks, our provisions much reduced, and not hearing from the pack-men, I decided we would go in pursuit. Taking an east course, intersected Black river, followed down-stream, boarded a shingle shanty, and were informed by the men that the men and horses had crossed the river and gone west. Turning back in our course we followed their tracks, and in due time met together. While running west I dispatched our new pack-man, directing him to go southwest by the pocket-compass, and when eight miles look sharply for an east and west line I had surveyed, follow it until he found what I had described on paper,-handing it to him, and he would find provisions in a basswood trough covered with a like-made trough, secured by heavy logs for security. Finding, the provisions, he made a full pack from the deposit, and set off to meet the surveying party. But his return was long delayed. Fortunately, the other packer, Steinbrook, was returning from my other deposit --Burch's mill-- and met the lost and bewildered man, when the two returned to camp the following day. Of course, he had a long story to tell of his adventures and sufferings during his two weeks' solitude in the wilderness. For six or eight weeks the land in the vicinity of the heads of Cass and Black rivers (the English of the Indian name is "Big Marsh") was under water from knee- to waist-deep, and we were obliged to dispense with our horses while extending range and township lines, while each man carried on his back his own blanket and provisions. Our progress, of course, was slow, making two and a half to three miles per day. We were frequently obliged to lay down poles and pile on them hemlock boughs to keep out of the water while we slept. I remember we built one campfire on the earth, covered roots of an overthrown hemlock, after driving centrepoles to scaffold up to the fire. The difficulty of transporting provisions caused us to be on short allowance, and I well remember, at one time, when our hunger had not been satisfied for days, and while establishing a corner on the bank of Lake Huron, a couple of the boys killed a coon, when starting for camp, and not being able to reach it before night, we roasted one-quarter of the coon for our supper, and lay down blanketless for our night's repose. The remainder of the little ani mal, with the last pint of flour at camp, was quickly disposed of on our arrival. In April, finding I was accomplishing so little after two months' hard work, I decided to return home and wait a more favorable season.
When making returns of the work performed I was offered twelve townships' subdividing, with privilege of selecting my own location. This I accepted, and early in the autumn started on my third trip. When recommencing my work on Lake Huron another surveyor was landing his provisions preparatory to commencing subdividing where I had already surveyed the township lines, and another party was said to be on his way for like purposes. It seemed as though the government were determined the survey of this part of the lower peninsula should be completed, twelve years having passed by since Wampler commenced the township lines. I found the condition of the country more favorable, the water having passed off. We found plenty of game, elk, deer, and indications of moose. Trappers had marked their lines with numerous dead-falls for marten and other animals valuable for their furs, having coasted along the lake-shore, as we found their boats well secured at the mouth of one of the streams. My work subdividing lay partly on Saginaw bay. I completed it and returned home in February. In the autumn of 1836 I received a contract for surveying the exterior lines of about sixty townships in Iowa, extending from the south boundary of the Territory to a point five miles north of Rock Island, being equal to about one-third of the Black Hawk reservation. Arriving on the left bank of the Mississippi, opposite Burlington, the 23d day of December, 1836, the river nearly filled with thick cakes of ice, it was with great difficulty that a ferryman, with my assistance, could take me over in a small boat. The party, excepting the packer, crossed over next morning with my assistance in throwing a line to them from shore, by which they hauled the boat to land, having floated with the current far below the city. The packer, going down the river twelve miles, was able to cross over the pack-horses, returning to the party in about two weeks.
During this two weeks we were extending lines, putting up at night with the settlers. During the time required for the performance of this work up to June following, the party suffered extremely with the severity of the weather, it being an open tract of country, principally prairie. The great wonder among the "squatters" was why we came to survey in winters. "Why," they say, "you cannot survey half the time, as you cannot endure the cold." In addition to this, the snow was sixteen inches deep for eight weeks. Much time was lost daily in travel to and from timber, for camping. We continued many days working, while the "squatters" were sitting by the firesides. I well remember one rainy morning during this month, entering the open widespread prairie, six miles west of Burlington, when running a range-line (the pack-man with the horses turning to the right for wood-shelter), my nephew, M. B. Smith, said, "Uncle, your face is frozen." This was about the middle of the day. Such was the sudden change of weather in three or four hours' time, and increasing, that, were it not that we had reached the town-corner, and running east with our backs to the wind, we should have been compelled to flee to the timber to avoid freezing. One terrible cold night the prairie winds blew out all our fire, and our full supply of blankets seemed to afford no protection. Some of the boys started on a bee-line for the nearest house, going in their stocking feet, as the fire had been insufficient to thaw hard-frozen boots. The remainder soon followed, and I remained alone in camp until sunrise, when I was glad to follow, the entire company's blankets being insufficient protection from such terrible cold and wind. During the month of March the reflection of the sun on the snow was extremely painful to our eyes, and notwithstanding we adopted the Indian custom of blacking our faces, it was unsuccessful, and I was compelled to send a long distance for green glasses, giving relief at once. After the middle of April our work went on finely. Approaching the western boundary of the reservation, we were anticipating some trouble with the Indians, as they had manifested some dissatisfaction regarding the line as surveyed near their encampment. But the only annoyance we received from them was stealing the only remaining pack-pony, and as I had sent his mate off with the pack-man during his raising mounds, compelled the party to carry packs when extending lines. This was the fourth horse stolen by the Indians during my surveys. Completed this work the 1st of June, having been absent from home about six months. Receiving another contract for subdividing twelve townships, also in Iowa, extending from Dubuque to Turkey river, and two ranges west to an extensive prairie, I left home on the 22d day of August, 1837, it being the second day of election, under the Territorial law. Arrived at Dubuque the 6th of September, and before the first township was completed three of the party were taken down with the ague and fever, causing much delay with our work. Nevertheless, we finished the subdivision in due time, and commenced the survey of the islands in the Mississippi, and when about two-thirds completed, the January thaw breaking up, the ice compelled us to discontinue our work,-the only contract I ever failed to fulfill. After waiting a week in vain for a change of weather, we crossed the river, with much trouble, for home, via Galena, as there was no road open farther north. Arriving at Chicago, the principal topic was the Michigan wild-cat money, followed by the Canadian Patriot war. We frequently met sleighs overloaded with families fleeing from their Canadian troubles. Arrived home the latter part of February. I then intended discontinuing the survey of public lands. However, in the autumn of 1844, I received a letter accompanied by a contract for resurveying the township of Salem. (Township 1 south, range 7 east.) The county surveyor declined making further surveys. It furthermore being enjoined on me to pay strict regard to the instructions transmitted, they having emanated from the hand of the commissioner of the land-office. This work required three weeks. Early in the year 1845 the office of the surveyor-general was removed from Cincinnati to Detroit, when one of the early pioneer surveyors, the late Hon. Lucius Lyon, received the appointment of surveyor-general. Up to this time there had been no material change in the instructions to the deputy-surveyors, and as one surveyor-general succeeded another by the change of administration, the instructions for subdividing remained the same, or with very little addition, up to the time of the above-mentioned new appointment. There had been a doubt in my mind for many years whether the instructions to the deputies were full and complete, as required by the act of Congress,-that every interior full section should be eighty chains square, and to contain six hundred and forty acres, consequently each quarter-section would be forty chains square, containing one hundred and sixty acres, and this should be divided by corners placed equidistant from section to quarter-section corner, in the same as dividing a section in the absence of the evidence of a quarter-section corner, so it has appeared to me the jogs of the section corners should never have been made.
The corners established on the township lines would, and, as I think, should have been also the corners for the adjoining townships, that the remaining thirty-five miles of unconverted lands-twenty-five miles having been converted-should have been converted also saving the necessity of the jogs. It required a practical and experienced surveyor to have drawn the instructions to the deputies by which the jogs would have been avoided, when no jogs and no portions of an acre would appear, except on the fractional one-half sections. The number of miles of established lines which I surveyed in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa, from March, 1822, up to the middle of January, 1838, including the survey of township 1 south, range 7 east, Washtenaw county, if performed in subdividing, would be equal to more than three times the size of Oakland County, amounting to five thousand four hundred miles, the ground twice walked over amounting to ten thousand eight hundred; to this add the daily walking from and return to camp, about equal to thirty miles to the township; to this add the travel to and from my districts, sometimes several hundred miles from home, and the whole number would not fall short of twenty thousand miles. I have not penned the foregoing as being anything extraordinary, as there are thousands of men in Michigan who could go through the same fatigue, if they would form a resolution to do so. We suffered much from frozen feet, the painful effects of which I am still hourly reminded, after a lapse of forty years. It was not uncommon to carry packs of blankets and provisions, camping when overtaken by night. In the prairie country we occasionally carried poles from two to three inches in diameter, from which to cut posts to set in mounds every half-mile, when raised in the spring. These posts we marked with the marking-iron, township, range, and section. I have occasionally entered a prairie with three poles, equal to nine posts, with compass and staff in hand. Our food was healthy, highly relished, and never gave us dyspepsia. Our breakfast was eaten before daylight, from October to June, that we might reach our work before sunrise, traveling three or four miles in prairie or open country.
This meal consisted of strong tea, fried or cold boiled pork, and short-cake, yellow with saleratus and rich with pork drippings. Our lunch, finished by ten or eleven o'clock and eaten while walking, for we never stopped in winter, consisted of a bit of cold pork and a piece of bread, the latter often frozen too hard for use, until the axe was used to cut it into small pieces. We worked until near dark, and arriving late in camp, the hot bean-soup, with bread and tea, was eaten with great relish. Before leaving the subject I would like to record the names of some of the men who assisted me in this work. They were the following: Samuel F. Bryan, Oliver Torry, Lucius Hunt, David Wilcox, Calvin and Chester Ball, Moses Peck and brother, John Powell, C. P. Webster, William Phillips, M. B. Smith, Pliny Skinner, George Case, Jed. Van Wagoner, Samuel Steinbrook, Marvin Tyler, I. Welch, Davis, George Galloway, C. Killicut, Hannibal, Sawtells, Pike, Gould, Phipps, Hart, Meachem, Dixon, Walter Ostrander, Allen, Michael Van Buren, E. J. White, and others I do not remember. I will mention the name of O. Risden, United States surveyor, who published the first map of the surveyed part of Michigan Territory, and had several contracts. I hear he is still living, residing at Saline, Washtenaw county, and must be near my own age, --eighty-six in April next. We are probably all that are left of the pioneers employed by government in surveying the lands of Michigan.
PONTIAC, February 22, 1876. Source: History of Oakland County, Michigan by Durant, Samuel W. Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & co., 1877.