HISTORIC NOTES ON WATERTOWN, JEFFERSON CO. NY

from WATERTOWN RE-UNION NEWSPAPER


Part 1, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12


March 6, 1873, p. 1: Part 12:

Among the many wants of the first families of this town, in common with all new settlements on timber lands, and one not easily supplied, was the want of pasturage for their cattle. The farmer was obliged to let his own, cows and other stock, as he was able to obtain it, run at large in the woods, where they would live and grow very well when the ground was bare of snow. To provide feed for their cattle in the winter the farmers would resort to the many beaver meadows, one or more of which could be found on all of the small creeks running through every valley. In the summertime they would cut the coarse hay growing on these meadows, and stack it on large brush heaps to keep the bottom dry and in the winter draw it home for use. In the summer and fall a good deal of precious time was almost daily spent in hunting up their oxen when they were wanted for work, and the cows must be driven in at night to be milked, and it was often the case that neither could be found when they were wanted, which would require another diligent and often protracted search the next day. The following incident will give the reader some idea of the hardships and privations many of the first settlers were called on to endure during the first two or three years of their back woods life: SAMUEL WATERS at a very early day took up a farm in this town, now owned by T. A. SMITH on the Sackets Harbor Road. He brought on with him a pair of young oxen, and as usual when not at work they were turned out to live as best they could, in the wild woods, to crop the coarse grass in the big swamp and the beaver meadows. Once on a time the oxen were wanted for some work, but after a diligent search through all of their usual haunts they could not be found, when a more extended hunt was determined on. One of the oxen had on what every farmer had in those days, a cow bell made of sheet brass, light and strong. The oxen still had on their winter shoes, and by that means he soon got on their track which led towards the river. Having tracked them to the river he soon satisfied himself that they had waded across the rive and he did the same. That was at the lower end of the river park grounds, opposite the dugway. There he soon found the ox shoe tracks and followed on slowly on account of the many crooks and turns made by the oxen while feeding here and there. By great diligence and perseverance he succeeded in following the track still going from the river till he got to what he afterwards found to be one of the head branches of Philomel Creek, in the valley just south of the old Davenport Hotel, (now Scovil's). By that time night came on and he had not found his oxen, but he was pretty well convinced that he had lost himself. As it was a cloudy day he could not judge of his bearings. One thing was evident, he must look up a lodging place. He selected a good sized tree with a bushy top that he thought he would not be apt to fall out of if he should go to sleep. Just then he heard a wolf howl not far from him, and pretty soon another, and then others--each in a different direction. He knew well what that meant. The first wolf had issued a call to his fellows to come to a feast, which they consented to do. Mr. Waters says he then lost no time in climbing up his chosen tree, which he had no sooner done than the wolves began to make their appearance; rather timidly at first but growing bolder as the darkness increased, when he thinks there were twenty or more of them around the tree, howling, yelling, snarling, and fighting each other, in their madness and rage at being thus disappointed in their expected repast--making night hideous. He soon found there was no danger of his going to sleep and falling down from the tree. Thus he spent the long weary night. As daylight began to appear the wolves began to disappear. He kept his place in the tree top till after sunrise and then he knew which was was the river and his home. Just then he heard the welcome sound of the cow bell; his oxen had just got up and began to feed around. He soon found them and drove them home rejoicing.



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