The following is a must read.
I (DM) alluded to this true account put to verse last week.
Lines written on the circumstance of my children going to Chicago for salt in the year of thirty-one, in most bitter cold weather.
“My brother Jacob charge me,
And told me not to let them go,
Across those wide prairies, In the winter, on the snow.
For he said, “The snow kept blowing
And drifting all around,
My children might get lost
And perish on the ground.”
He said, “You must prepare for winter,
Get your salt and bread and meat,
And all things else accordingly,
That you may want to eat. “
And when the winter comes,
Don’t let them go far away,
Not much farther than the ravines,
To make rails on a good day.”
Our salt was in a gum,
And was standing on the loft,
But met with a bad accident
When the cover got shoved off.
I had some in a box,
That was standing down below,
Not enough to last till spring,
And we knew not where to go
A man had been selling salt,
That lived up at Marseilles,
But when I saw the man
He said his salt had failed
. I asked him when he’d have some,
He said, “Never, as I know,
If I go for salt I’ll freeze to death,
And perish in the snow.”
I said I had fat oxen
That were able then to go,
But my children had the ague
And were unfit to try the snow.
When I got home, I told my children
What the man said,
Then William said, “I’ll go myself
And take that big old sled.
“Mother, do not be uneasy,
None but lazy people freeze,
Because they will not exercise,
They are so fond of ease.
“There is no fear for me, Mother,
I will jump and kick the sled,
I will keep myself in exercise,
Run, and kick the wagon bed.”
The sled roller was so low
That the gopher hills it hit,
Then they’d have to stop, hitch on behind,
And haul it back a bit.
And take another course,
So they might get along;
Their team was good and active,
All four year olds, and strong.
With an axe he had along,
When he could, he chopped them down,
And that did save the trouble
To unhitch and drive around.
When at the mouth of the Fox
They did take off their team,
For the river was frozen over,
And very smooth did seem.
Squire Cloud and George E. Walker
Helped them over with their sled,
“For the cattle had enough
to do To keep their feet,” they said.
Then they hitched on their team
And drove on out of sight,
That first day they got lost,
And lay out all that night.
It was most bitter weather,
A terrific, freezing night,
The Good Lord did protect them,
They did not freeze one mite.
And when the child got lost,
He drove till late, he said,
Then chained his oxen on
To the hind part of his sled.
Where he gave them corn and hay;
After the team was fed,
The next thing to be done
Was to creep down in his bed.
And that good dog was at his feet,
His brother at his side,
He said he slept most sweetly;
The Lord doth still provide.
When he awake next morning
He saw a man in sight,
A riding very fast,
Soon after it was light.
He called and did inquire
Where he might find the grove.
He point out the course
And then on did move.
His boots were very tight,
And his socks were very thin,
And his feet were still a growing,
Made long before they’d been.
And they hauled frozen people
From day to day, they said;
People that were traveling,
Glad to get in their sled.
A lady lately told me
That when he asked to stay,
He turned about immediately
And put his team away.
She said, “When the men came in,
They came to the fire to warm,
Leaving out their teams
Standing hungry in the storm.
“But that manly little boy,
Went back and fed his team,
And when he came to the fire,
He not much cold did seem.”
A man called for spring water
And said his feet were froze,
And as the boy came in,
Said, “I must lose two of my toes.”
He saw six toes upon each foot,
And he replied, so grave,
“You will have as many left
As other people have.
” No one had taken notice
That he had so many toes,
Then they took a hearty laugh,
Though some of them were froze.
His little brother had come in,
His eyes looked black and bright,
And those children cheered the company
All the forepart of the night.
The weather was extremely cold
All the time that they were gone
Hard freezing day and night,
could but sigh and groan.
And of those dear lost children
I hardly could make mention,
I could not sleep, my heart was full
Of direful apprehension.
When they came to the mouth of the Fox,
Come to the other shore,
Those kind gentlemen did meet them,
And again did help them o’er.
And came with them through the timber,
Perhaps more than a mile,
For fear he might get lost,
That they might help the child.
At length the tedious week rolled round,
And on the appointed night
Those children did come stepping in
, O, it was a joyful sight.
On that same night a young man stopped,
That day he was some froze,
He was riding upon horseback
And froze his cheeks and nose.
We all set by a good log fire,
Talking of those poor boys,
When we heard the front door open,
In the entry, heard some noise.
The room door quick flew open,
In stepped those precious boys,
I never shall forget that hour,
It was so full of thankful joys.
Their cheeks they looked so red,
And their eyes they looked so bright,
O, I was one glad mother,
And my heart, it felt so light!
The distance more than ninety miles,
To Chicago, where they went
And brought us back six barrels of salt,
And but one week they spent
. Its thirty-one years now
Since those children went away,
Twenty-seventh day of November,
They started on that day.
The little one was seven years old,
His brother was fifteen,
The little one rode in the sled,
The other drove the team.
He said he had not ague
From the day he went away,
His health was still improving,
He grew stronger every day.
He took three yoke of oxen,
As sound as might be found,
To bring six barrels of salt,
If the snow should leave the ground.
But that was not the case,
The snow was but too plenty,
And did lay upon the ground
Till January Twenty
. That salt prove quite essential,
Bought corn and apple trees,
Although predicted by the neighbors
The little boys would freeze.
For we had hogs and cattle,
And all the horses still,
Except the one that killed herself
A grinding in the mill.
And some we got the cash for,
And that went near Lacon,
When my brother came to visit us,
It was my brother John.
I should be very thankful
For so much mercy given,
O, grant me, gracious Saviour,
But the lowest seat in Heaven.
Question for you to ponder
What was the big deal about salt in 1831?
Loosing what today might have the same implications in our lives?
Let me know if you’d like to hear any more of these accounts. (all 6 regular readers to my blog)
There are several more poems where this came from. DM