The First Wedding and the First Funeral       Page 1

(From Arthur’s Home Magazine, February 1854, pp134-138, under the title HOME PICTURES FRAMED; OR, LIFE LN THE WILDERNESS)

 

‘It grieves me, Mattie, to see you so often weeping," said Captain Lee, as he climbed up into the travelling wagon, and seated himself beside his wife, who had turned away her head to hide the traces of tears from her husband. "If I had thought you would have grieved so, after leaving the home of your girlhood, I could not have subjected you to the trial."

 

The poor wife smiled, and, placing her hand in her husband's, murmured—

"Say no more, Allen; we will have a happy home beyond the Ohio, even though it be in the wild forest. I was thinking of the graves of our children, and wondering if any kind hand would train the white roses and culture the violets. I wept not "that I was leaving the home of my childhood, for, wherever you are, there is my home."

Captain Lee thought his wife never looked lovelier than at that moment, with the light of love radiating every feature.

 

Allen Lee was one of six families who were journeying from their pleasant homes, in New York, to our own Ohio, then known as a dense forest, inhabited by the Indians and a few hardy emigrants.

 

It is useless to follow the enterprising travellers in their long and toilsome march. Needless to tell, in this day of peace and hospitality and plenty, of how the honest Dutch rebuffed them from their doors, and their mistaken hearts, for the simple reason — they were Yankees; how, in the evenings, the mothers crept slyly apart from the band of husbands, and huddled together, and | wept bitter tears; of the noble-hearted fathers ; and brothers keeping guard through the long, dark hours, listening to the night-bird, and wolf and panther in the wilderness.

 

Every night, sweet and soft and strong blend together in singing a hymn, after Capt. Lee had read a chapter from the Bible, and uncle Solomon Hill, rising, reverently said, "Let us pray;" and there, with the starry vault above, the forest trees around them, they knelt, that hardy little band, and fervently invoked the blessing of the Father in Heaven.

 

After weary weeks of travel through the sweetest wild that nature ever smiled upon, after fording streams, some deep and dark and swift, others wide and winding and pure as crystal, they halted where the oaks were monarchs in size and beauty, and a willow-fringed stream flowed swiftly, sparkling in the sunshine. The land was hill and vale intermingled — a beautiful spot. A rude shelter was hastily formed of boughs and bark, in a wild nook where a spring gushed forth a plentiful supply of good water.

 

The little band had become so attached to each other that they resolved to select their lands in a body. Uncle Solomon chose a quarter section on the bank of the stream, running westward over the range of hills. Willie Morton, the millwright, chose his down by the great bend of the stream, thinking of a valuable mill property that, in a few years, would be his. Captain Lee's was half a mile from Uncle Solomon's, half hill and half valley, with a superior growth of timber.

Judge Coulter chose his, embracing the prettiest site for a village, while vanity whispered he would call it "Coulterville."

 

Old Pap Bond, with the big family of half-naked children, chose two quarters, while mother Bond whispered to her bright daughter Nelly, "Yon is a choice place to raise flax;" and that made Nelly's girl-heart glad, for she and Tommy Hill were to be wed, and like every prudent lass who looks to comfort and the days to come, she thought of the nice linen sheets, and table-cloths, and towels, and pillow-slips, that she must make with her own little, brown hands, before that time could be.

 

 

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With a friendly spirit uniting them as brothers, the husbands and sons, with axes on their shoulders, started out, and, at the end of the third day, Pap Bond had a rude yet comfortable log-cabin reared on his own land.

 

Three days more, and there was another little home to shelter the dear ones of Captain Lee. It was a pretty situation. Great oaks towered above the lowly dwelling, and a bright little brook sang merrily as it wound along.

 

Very soon they were comfortably settled, although experiencing privations that in their New York homes they would have deemed more than they could endure. Then, too, the savages at Greentown, five miles up the stream from the little settlement, had vowed vengeance on the emigrants, and the fear that they had brought their children, from homes and friends and civilization, to meet, perchance, a horrible death by savage cruelty, was torture to a parent.

 

In a few months, things wore a pleasant aspect; and little clearings, with the blue smoke rising from the log and brush heaps, made the new cabins seem cheerful and home-like. The rough cribs were soon made to hold the yellow ears, and rude garden patches did look gaily, even though they were quite filled with potatoes, and turnips and onions, for the house-wives would find a strip or corner in which to plant red hollyhock, or gay poppy, or some of the sweet, wild flowers with which the wilderness was beautified.

 

The sturdy hop vine was made to arch over the space between the house and garden, and the blue and white morning-glorys, and scarlet flowering bean, did a great work towards making tasteful, by clambering over the oiled paper windows, and stealing to the roof, where they lay in tangled masses, or crept through the crevices into the loft, where the children slept. Then, the lithe, leafy beeches and maples made the log springhouse seem so much cooler and tidier to be bent down over it and tied together.

 

It was June, and Nelly Bond and Tommy Hill were to make the first wedding in the wilderness. Just like it is now-a-days, there was buzz and bustle and fixing for the event. Pounded corn wouldn't make bread good enough for a wedding. Oh! no. The nearest mill was in Knox county. Uncle Solomon's horses were oxen, as were Pap Bond's; so Captain Lee's eldest boy, Frank, was to go with their white horse, Granite. Frank was only ten years old; yet he had often been to mill, and knew the road well, but he always dreaded going through the "twelve-mile woods," for there was only one house, and that was the widow Lane's, by the "Forest Fountain."

 

Good Mattie Lee put a great piece of corn bread and a bit of wild hog meat in the pocket of the captain's big-caped overcoat, and fixed it on the back of Granite, for Frank to ride on, with the injunction:

 

"Now, Frankie, you must get home by noon, tomorrow; for the wedding is to be in the evening, and Nelly said you might come; and more, too, son; don't you know we are to have such good cake for breakfast on Sunday morning, and that's what you like."

 

Leaving Frank to go eighteen miles, and sleep on the mill floor, making three or four meals out of the contents of the capacious pocket, we will look into Uncle Solomon's cabin.

 

The rough puncheon floor is nicely sanded, thanks to little Kate's busy hands, and the dishes on the rough shelves are arranged so as to show the blue roses to the best advantage. Aunt Polly is brushing uncle's fine blue coat, and thinking of the time he wore it when she was the bride.

 

Tommy is rubbing lard on a queer-looking pair of shoes, occasionally pausing and looking down the valley towards neighbor Bond's. He had heard Nelly say they would have to borrow his mother's bake-kettle, or they would have nothing to make tea in — he knows she will come after it, and he thinks he had better go and help her carry it home.

 

Mother Bond opened her brown eyes very wide when Frank came with the fine yellow meal, and told her he did not know what he would have done, had it not been for the widow Lane, for when opposite her house, old Granite got frightened and threw him off with the meal, and Mrs. Lane, dear, good woman, shouldered the two bushels and put it on again. Frank declared he would always love her next best to his mother.

 

We girls would blush rosily with our convenient kitchens, parlors, dining and sleeping rooms, compared with Pap Bond's little square cabin, whose own room was kitchen, parlor and hall, combined.

 

Even though they had but one room, and that one half fire-place, it resembled a wood nymph's leafy bower.

 

Mother Bond had consented to cook out of doors, under the gnarled maple, and Nelly had filled the spacious tire-place with leafy bushes, and the broad stone hearth with a carpeting of green moss, fresh gathered from the wild rocks down in Sylvan Dell.

 

Then from among the rank grass that edged the stream, she had untwined the wild creeper vines, and made them to twine among the boughs in the fire-place, and all about the old "Buckeye clock" on the wall, and the prim portrait of her grandmother, and the sober-faced picture of Gen. Washington on horseback.

 

On the mantle was a great pitcher filled with sweet flags and wild red roses, and the drooping and fragrant pond lily, and the long, leafy stalks of the raspberry, bending over till they glassed themselves in the little mirror that modestly perched itself above a snowy diaper towel, that bore the impress of the smooth, hot iron. A pretty quilt — not of fancy pattern though; not the "Wreath of Roses," or "Flower of Paradise," or "Love in Eden" — nothing to make one sad in thoughts of aching heads, lustreless eyes, worn fingers, and a life passing away in stitches — but a plain blue and white "nine patch" covered the only bed in the tidy room.

 

They were a motley group — the hardy, sunburnt men, women and children, congregated together to witness the first wedding in the wilderness. The clergyman was a plump, rosy old man, brimming over with good humor, and loved Nelly almost as well as he loved his only daughter, Annie May.

 

Tommy, in his father's coat, looked like something pertaining to the garment. The skirts were long, and seem disposed to crowd each other at the extremities, while the high, stiff collar, gave his head the appearance of a tortoise peeping from its shell, or, to speak in poetical parlance, of a rose-bud just bursting. The pants were made of good, stout tow linen, rather tight, and so short as to give tangible proof of his being mortal flesh and blood. Nelly looked as a bride would be expected to appear in 1811. She was a sweet girl, though the free summer winds and golden sunshine had dallied unmolested with her fresh complexion, and made it a little shade darker than nature designed.

 

Her dress was a checked linen, yellow and white, with a snowy cambric apron, all ironed into pretty diamond checks. Her plump neck and shoulders were covered with a handkerchief, white as was her apron, neatly pinned down at the corners, to look womanly, as Lucy Morton remarked when she pinned it precisely between the shoulders.

A full bordered lace cap, with white bows and white rose-buds with leaves, completed her attire. She looked bright and happy, except when her gaze fell on the sorrowing face of her mother. Nelly was the eldest born, and the first one to leave the home circle. When the ceremony was over, and they had sung that old hymn about Isaac and Rebecca, the lady guests pinned up their best gowns, and laying aside their Sunday caps, assisted mother Bond in preparing tea. Nelly wished to lend a helping hand, but Lucy Morton said they had better take a nice little bridal tour in the canoes, and return by tea time.

 

The girls all flung off their best shoes and white aprons, and laid by their new cotton dress handkerchiefs, and were soon ready for a pleasant row up the stream.

 

It was very beautiful, that quiet stream, with the willows and alders draping its wild, green banks. Tall sycamores, with their mighty trunks strangely spotted, reached high above their gaunt and giant arm-boughs, until they quite interlocked above the sparkling water.

 

Dear Nelly, with her unseemly cap and handkerchief, and apron thrown aside, and her little feet and dimpled arms and plump shoulders bare, looked very pretty, and Ned Coulter and John Oliver whispered to their partners. Fan Lee and Sue Talbot, that Nelly looked more like a bride then, as she sat dipping her light oar among the waves, and thoughtlessly patting her little foot in the canoe, than when dressed as became a bride.

 

In an hour or two the gay party returned, just as tea was ready for them. The wedding supper consisted of light corn cakes, butter, fresh from a cool spring-house, honey, wild hog meat, potatoes, and fine fish, caught from the stream.

Tommy and Nelly moved into a cabin home of their own, and often was honest Tom heard to remark that Nelly was the best wife he ever bad.

 

Except occasional threats from the Indians, nothing transpired to mar the happiness of the little neighborhood, until the next summer Uncle Solomon was taken ill from a fever. From the first night of his illness, he expressed the idea that he would never recover. His tried friends were with him every moment, doing all in their power to alleviate his sufferings.

 

In delirium his thoughts dwelt on his former home and those who had been his associates in early years.

Captain Lee and Willie Morton scarce left his bed side, till on the evening of the eighth day of his illness, when they told Aunt Polly if he grew worse or died, one of the attendants must fire the musket and give the alarm.

 

Just as the old clock had bodingly tolled the midnight hour, Captain Lee started from his sleep at the ominous discharge of the musket.

 

"Poor Uncle Solomon! It may be the token that the great curtain which unfolds the mysteries of the future, is drawn aside," mused Captain Lee, as he hastily dressed himself.

 

Another louder and heavier report, and the cabin door was hurriedly swung on its wooden hinges, and his hasty steps died away in the distance.

 

Sweetly and softly had the spirit plumed its pinions, and a gentle smile, the parting impress, was left upon the pallid lips of the husband and father. Aunt Polly, and Kate and the boys were weeping bitterly over the first death of the household, when Captain Lee returned.

 

When the morning came, with its cheerful sunshine, and blue sky, and summer breezes, two men were seen thoughtfully wending their way through the tangled wild, over hill and vale, with heavy mattocks on their shoulders, seeking a spot the most meet in which to lay their emigrant friend.

 

"Here," said the eldest, striking his mattock into the rich earth that was purple and white with wild violets, "this is a beautiful and quiet spot, and that singing dove in the low hawthorn; yonder, makes me think this is the right place I know be must be laid where the savage step would be least likely to intrude."

 

"You are right, Mr. Oliver," said the one addressed, as he bent down and laid the long elderstick measure on the ground, "and now let us remove the thick sod and lay it off to replace after we are done."

 

The two men, with their hard, rough hands, carefully gathered it aside, and then, preparatory to digging, fastened back the saplings and shrubbery that clustered thickly about the sacred spot.

 

Willie Morton, the millwright, nailed a rude coffin together — very rough and rude it was, too — and the cold form was laid in it with the slightly tinged gray hair put aside from his white brow, and his blue-veined, bony hands rigidly clasped together.

 

 

© 2011 Peggy Mershon                                                                                     Contact at marwelmer@aol.com