Page:American History Told by Contemporaries, v2.djvu/416

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388
[1772-1774
The West

There was at an early period of our settlements an inferior kind of land title denominated a "tomahawk right," which was made by deadening a few trees near the head of a spring, and marking the bark of some one, or more of them with the initials of the name of the person who made the improvement. I remember having seen a number of those "tomahawk rights," when a boy. For a long time many of them bore the names of those who made them. I have no knowledge of the efficacy of the tomahawk improvement, or whether it conferred any right whatever, unless followed by an actual settlement. These rights however were often bought and sold. Those who wished to make settlements on their favorite tracts of land, bought up the tomahawk improvements, rather than enter into quarrels with those who had made them. Other improvers of the land with a view to actual settlement, and who happened to be stout veteran fellows, took a very different course from that of purchasing the "tomahawk rigths [rights]." When annoyed by the claimants under those rights, they deliberately cut a few good hiccories, and gave them what was called in those days " a laced jacket," that is a sound whipping.

Some of the early settlers took the precaution to come over the mountains in the spring, leaving their families behind to raise a crop of corn, and then return and bring them out in the fall. This I should think was the better way. Others, especially those whose families were small, brought them with them in the spring. My father took the latter course. His family was but small and he brought them all with him. The indian meal which he brought over the mountain was expended six weeks too soon, so that for that length of time we had to live without bread. The lean venison and the breast of the wild turkies, we were taught to call bread. The flesh of the bear was denominated meat. This artifice did not succeed very well, after living in this way for some time we became sickly, the stomach seemed to be always empty, and tormented with a sense of hunger. I remember how narrowly the children watched the growth of the potatoe tops, pumpkin and squash vines, hoping from day to day, to get something to answer in the place of bread. How delicious was the taste of the young potatoes when we got them ! What a jubilee when we were permitted to pull the young corn for roasting ears. Still more so when it had acquired sufficient hardness to be made into johnny cakes by the aid of a tin grater. We then became healthy, vigorous and contented with our situation, poor as it was.

My father with a small number of his neighbours made their settle-