THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 23 (Mrs. Juliand )

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The residence was as proper and meticulous as Mr. Juliand was. It was a perfect match, as well as it should be, for Mr. Juliand had directed each piece of the construction. Mr. Juliand oversaw each craftsman and artisan; from the first stone of the foundation to the small weather watch on top of the second story. The windows were made of real glass; not the oiled canvas windows that were used in most frontier homes. It was hand blown, cut and flattened amethyst hued glass. The only imperfections were the round punt marks that remained where the blowing tube had been attached. Grandfather estimated that the punt marks appeared about once for every four window panes.

 

Upon entering the home Grandfather could see that the doors were all raised panels of black walnut surrounded by a framework of white ash. Likewise, each door and window had black walnut trim. The contrast of alternating black walnut and white ash on the doors was striking. Mr. Juliand led the Esquire and Grandfather to a small room lined with bookshelves. Each shelf was full. This was a comfortable room with comfortable bent wood chairs.

 

Mr Juliand called out “Hannah, we have guests.” A smiling petite woman with jet black eyes, and hair to match, appeared in the doorway.

 

“Esquire Garnsey, we have missed you” her voice beamed. She was a pretty woman, not strikingly pretty but self assured and extremely outgoing. When she spoke to anyone, it was if that person was the only person in her universe. “An extremely self assured and proper woman indeed” thought Grandfather. “Another perfect match for Mr. Juliand.”

 

The Esquire introduced Grandfather to Mrs. Juliand and, correctly, the esquire anticipated Mrs. Juliand’s next move; which would be to offer a cold mint gin tonic to each man.

 

He prevented an embarrassment for Mrs. Juliand by stating “Mr. Birdsall has informed me that he would be our first Quaker in this area.” She caught the semi-hidden message at about the same time that Grandfather did.

 

Grandfather spoke out first by saying “Mr. Juliand offered us a cold drink and water would be just fine for me, if you do not mind, Mrs. Juliand.”

 

Esquire Garnsey followed up with “Hannah,” addressing Mrs. Juliand by her first name, “If you were going to offer me “the normal” it will be fine with Mr. Birdsall.”

 

With that semi-uncomfortable moment out of the way Esquire Garnsey told the story of the previous evening and how gracious Grandfather was regarding “what a man does in his own home – – – -.”

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 22 (Mr. Juliand )

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They remounted their horses and rode down river until they came to an immaculate house with gardens and grounds to match. “Mr. Juliand’s place” announced the Esquire.

 

“Garnsey, old friend” came a slightly French accented voice; it came from somewhere within a large group of flowering bushes. A fairly tall man, thin in structure, emerged from behind the bushes. His posture was erect, his dark hair meticulously kept and his clothes were made of rich cloth. Striding confidently and with the command presence of a born leader he met the two men. They were already half way down the path that ran between the road and his home.

 

“Mr. Juliand, I would like you to meet Mr. Birdsall. He is looking to purchase a piece of land in our beautiful Chenango Valley” announced Esquire Garnsey.

 

“Wonderful intentions” responded Mr. Juliand. He continued “Come, tie your horses. Come inside. I will have a man tend to them while we have a cool drink.”

 

The two riders dismounted and tied their horses to two of the six obelisk stones that were planted upright at the end of the path. Each stone was magnificently carved to form a square cross-section with chamfered corners. There was not one sharp corner on which a horse could accidently injure itself. Each of the four foot tall stones had a perfectly round hole through which a rope could be passed to tie the horses.

 

Mr. Juliand called out firmly, but not harshly, “Samuel!” A tall strongly built black man appeared from an outbuilding. Grandfather counted three carriages in the building. To one side of this large structure a shed was attached; it held a small blacksmith shop.

 

“Could you please attend to these men’s horses?” Mr. Juliand asked of Samuel. Samuel answered with a wave of his hand and a smile. Grandfather noticed, as Mr. Juliand led the way into his house, that Samuel promptly untied the horses and led them to the carriage house.

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 21 (Parcels #2 & #3 )

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They followed the river downstream. Another parcel, some loam, some sandy soil, more yellow dirt on the hillside, sparse trees, minimal flatland at the river.

 

“Fifty-five acres, eighty five dollars, one more parcel before the Juliand place Mr. Birdsall.”

 

It was late afternoon when they reached the third parcel. Grandfather had never before seen a piece of land like this. Every single acre had either a small hill or valley. It was as if God had played a trick on the earth. The hills were more like knolls, twenty or thirty feet high, and the valleys in between held no water. The trees appeared stunted except for those at the riverside. There, the butternut and the sycamore trees were large and healthy.

 

Grandfather walked around this parcel and again dug with the heel of his boot. Sand! He dug again in the same spot but deeper this time. More sand! He repeated the process at the top of the knolls, half way down the knolls, and again at the bottom. Always the same; either sand or gravel or a mixture of the two. A final sample was taken along the river flats. He was surprised at the dark loam that he had kicked up. Taking a substantial stick he dug a little deeper; more dark loam.

 

“An interesting piece of land but what kind of crop yield would I get?” Grandfather asked himself out loud.

 

Esquire Garnsey answered the question that had not been directed at him. “Sufficient, Mr. Birdsall, sufficient. Mr. Ketchum on the other side of the river purchased a similar piece of land and he makes ends meet.”

 

After a short period of silence the Esquire boomed out with his usual closing remarks on acreage and price.

 

“One hundred acres, one hundred and ninety dollars Mr. Birdsall.”

 

Grandfather had serious misgivings about the lack of trees or other building materials. His knowledge of this type of land was so severely limited that he felt uncomfortable about it.

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 20 (Land Parcel #1 )

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Grandfather was amused by the story of the Vermont Sufferers and was quiet for some time. His mind was busy attempting to figure out who was right and who was wrong.

 

Around noon Esquire Garnsey stopped his horse and dismounted. “This is the first parcel Mr. Birdsall,” stated the Esquire. He put his hand out at arm’s length and swept it in an arc indicating the land in front of them. “Some timber, some potential pasture, the Chenango River lays below.”

 

Grandfather quickly surveyed the trees and made a mental note; “minor amount of oak, chestnut, hemlock and a few white pines.” He then dismounted and walked his horse down the hill. He dug at the earth with the heel of his boot. Another mental note “an inch of loam, an inch of yellow dirt, and then a mixture of yellow dirt laden with a lot of small flat stone, mostly sterile earth”. Another mental note;   “Sparse cropland and poor pasture.”

 

The land remained sloping steeply right down to the river. The loam was thicker near the river but it really would not support crops for his large family.

 

Grandfather’s lack of enthusiasm must have been apparent for Esquire Garnsey stated “Forty acres, eighty dollars, bigger parcels in front of us Mr. Birdsall.”

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 19 (Vermont Sufferers)

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The two men partook of minor portions of food and water at the old French village. They then remounted for the balance of their trip. The remainder of the journey was expected to be leisurely. Esquire Garnsey explained “there is a long road that the French refugees had contracted to be cut. This old road joins the abandoned French settlement with Hornby.”

 

A strong storm had previously created a large blow down. Trees were scattered this way and that, some laying in the same direction and others lying across each other. The road was impassable. The ten acres of forest that surrounded the road was in the same condition. The Esquire led his horse and Grandfather around the wooden maze. They soon came upon the road again.

 

During the conversations on this leg of their trip Esquire Garnsey informed Grandfather that his house in Jericho was more a place of business. “I carry on the business of land sales and law there. My family and primary home are located in Norwich.”

 

Grandfather also learned that the Esquire was, additionally, involved in several other businesses and political activities. The conversation drifted back to Jericho, the Float Master and Mr. Aiken. This reminded Grandfather of the term that Mr. Aiken had used.

 

“Tell me Esquire,” prodded Grandfather, “what is a Vermont Sufferer? Mr. Aiken mentioned it just before my float accident.”

 

“Oh, that term!” Esquire Garnsey was, apparently, not to pleased with the phrase. He thought for a minute, as if to square away a complex story, and then spoke out.

 

“The ‘Vermont Sufferer’ story is rather confusing, and, depending on who you get the story from, it has different sides. It would appear that a group of families living in Vermont were being taxed rather unfairly. Well – – – unfairly according to them. There was an attempt to avoid the taxes through stubborn refusal to pay. They thought that their farms were located in New York. A few of the men ended up in jail but a few escaped by hiding. One of the escapees contacted the governor of New York and attempted to get the New York militia involved.”

           

Esquire Garnsey was quiet for a minute or so while he attempted to gather his facts. “The governor wisely side-stepped the issue. Finally, when the other men were released from jail, it would appear that they attempted to have New York annex the part of Vermont that was having the tax trouble. After some lengthy period of time the New York legislature, sick of the whole mess, decided to give these ‘Vermont Sufferers’ a large plot of land where Jericho now stands. It was divided up amongst them. Some of them cleared the land for farms and stayed. Some stayed for a time, sold out, and moved on. Others never moved there, they simply sold the land.”

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 18 (Abandoned Village)

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A breakfast of rolled oats and warm milk satisfied the two potential riders.

 

Indentured Timothy had saddled the horses after inspecting all four legs of Grandfather’s horse. “Are we well prepared Timothy?” asked the Esquire.

 

Timothy responded positively with a firm nod of his head.

 

The Esquire performed a second check by grasping the saddles to see if they were secure, shaking the overnight packs to see if they had been properly tied. The Esquire’s final inspection was a repeat check on all four legs of each horse. Timothy watched all of this out of the corner of his eye.

 

A big grin crossed his face when the Esquire let out a loud “Hurrumph.” Esquire seemed to always hurrumph when he could find nothing wrong with Timothy’s work.

 

The Esquire was fit and trim, although a little on the slim side. The two men, both natural astride a horse, made several legs of the trip without incident. Grandfather was amazed at the natural beauty of the land, the gentle rolling hills and the abundance of large standing timber.

 

They arrived at the old French refugee camp in the woods. Four or five log cabins remained but nature was already at work. Saplings grew thick around the cabins. Smaller tree shoots made a crown on top of all the cabins; except one.

 

The esquire stated, as he pointed to the cabin without the tree shoots on the roof, “Indians sometimes stay there on hunting trips”.

 

He motioned Grandfather off his horse and they peered inside the cabin. There was a fire pit in the middle and heavy beds made of pine needles here and there. In one corner there were small piles of stone flakes and several chunks of dark shiny stone. “They make arrowheads and scraping tools while they rest here” said the Esquire.

 

“Yes,” replied Grandfather, “I have observed this over near the Hudson.” He continued, referring to the Indians, “Ever any trouble with them?”

 

“No, they pass through from time to time. Usually on hunting forages. One day they appear, spend a few days, and then disappear just as quickly. Not friendly like John Leaf, but not savage either” responded the Esquire.

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 17 (Sizing Up)

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And throughout that evening’s conversation each man learned and understood a lot about the other.

 

The evening by the fire progressed very smoothly. Grandfather updated the Esquire on several families back in Salem.

 

The Esquire told Grandfather about various parcels of land that were available. Grandfather made mental notes about each parcel and, at times, asked questions or offered comments about them. They agreed to look at three specific parcels.

 

Timothy appeared in the doorway. Esquire Garnsey commanded him to “Fetch me another sherry!”

 

Grandfather was taken aback by the terseness of the direction that the Esquire had given Timothy. There was a noticeable silence in the room as Grandfather took stock of Esquire Garnsey’s manner and Esquire Garnsey sized up Grandfather.

 

Then the Esquire asked, somewhat bluntly, “Well Mr. Birdsall, what would be your vision if you had your pick of any parcel in New York?

 

Grandfather’s mind abandoned his thoughts regarding the esquire’s treatment of Timothy. His thoughts leapt to those grand estates along the Hudson River. He blurted out “A parcel with both highlands and lowlands, a slope on which to pasture my animals, flat rich river bottom where my family can grow crops, and a section of good timber from which we could build..”

 

AND THERE IT WAS. Before Grandfather realized it he had led Esquire Garnsey to his deepest of dreams. It was the vision he held for his whole family. He felt somewhat tricked and ashamed that he had blurted it out without too much prodding.

 

“Well, then, Mr. Birdsall, – – – you shall have it – – but without many neighbors” said the Esquire. He continued “It lays farther south than the other parcels so we will make it a two day trip with an overnight at Mr. Juliand’s in the village of Hornby. Mr. Juliand is a friend with who I sometimes do business.

 

“Hornby?” asked Grandfather.

 

Oh, excuse me,” replied the Esquire, “I still call it Hornby, it was renamed Greene last year.” He then directed indentured Timothy, who had returned with the Esquire’s sherry, to prepare overnight packs and foodstuffs for the ride to Hornby/Greene.

 

After some preliminary discussion the Esquire specified the various portions of the trip and what obstacles they would likely encounter. The two men then agreed to get some rest.

 

Grandfather slept very well that night. So well, in fact, that indentured Timothy had a dreadful time awakening him the next morning.

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 16 (Evening Conversation)

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“The float fee has been taken care of” replied Esquire Garnsey.

 

“Then I must repay you” countered Grandfather as he stood up to retrieve the five cents from his salvaged wet belongings.

 

“Not now,” the Esquire said with a dismissing wave of his hand, “we can work something out later.”

 

Grandfather realized that this was typical of business men. He thought “Get you to owe them a favor and then they pull you in like a wet fish.” Still, he liked Esquire Garnsey and, after all, he was being treated more like a relative than a guest.

 

“Tomorrow, if you and your horse are up to it, we will ride over the mountain and to the Chenango Valley. I will show you where the French lived and we can look at some parcels of land.”

 

“I’m ready and my horse looked fine as we departed the riverside. Your man fed him and wiped him down. Said he looked fine also.”

 

“Good!” said the Esquire slapping the palm of his hand on the table. “Let us move our chairs by the fire. The sun has set and the cold night air is moving in.   – – TIMOTHY – -,” he hollered to his indentured man, “Please fetch us each a jigger of sherry.”

 

“Oh – – no thank you Esquire” interrupted Grandfather. “You enjoy your drink but I do abstain from alcohol.”

 

“Suit yourself Mr. Birdsall,   will I not offend you if I drink?” replied the Esquire.

 

 “Never, Esquire, – – – – not in your home. Each man’s rules follow in each man’s home. I am sure you will not be offended when you visit me in my new home and I do not allow drinking.”

 

“Abolitionist – – – Mr. Birdsall?” queried the Esquire

 

“No – – – orthodox Quaker – – Esquire Garnsey” replied Grandfather.

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 15 (The Land Agent)

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The Float Master took Grandfather to Esquire Garnsey’s home. There, Grandfather was welcomed, given dry clothing, a bowl of hot water for bathing, and a warm meal.

 

Esquire Garnsey’s indentured servant had taken Grandfather’s horse to an outbuilding where he wiped him down, gave him a meager sample of grain and a large amount of fresh grass. The servant brought, to Grandfather’s room, those things that remained tied to the saddle.

 

During supper Esquire Garnsey probed Grandfather about his trip from Salem. He was surprised to learn of the route that Grandfather had taken. He was not surprised to hear about the Indian returning his horse.

 

“Must have been young John Leaf. He is the only one I can think of who would not ride off.” When the Esquire asked Grandfather for a description the reply was not clear.

 

Grandfather had responded “Except for one thing there was nothing remarkable about him.”

 

Grandfather continued his memory of the encounter. “The Indian was young and he did have one strange thing – – – it was a tattered blue and red silken scarf wrapped around his waist. The loose ends hung down to reach his knees.”

 

“Yes – – – it was John Leaf” responded Esquire Garnsey, “You met John Leaf. He lived with a French family for a year. They found him in the woods with a broken leg. He speaks no English, some French and a lot of Indian. The red and blue scarf was a gift to him from a young French woman.

 

Grandfather assumed that the young Indian was nursed to health up north, on Lake Champlain, where a few French Families remained. “How did he come to reach way down here?” asked Grandfather.

 

“A few French families lived near here, just over the mountains, westward, close to the Chenango River” responded the Esquire. “Moved there to escape the revolution in France – – -reached here about 1792 – – only stayed abut two years – – moved down river to meet some other French folks in Pennsylvania. An adventure laced with disaster, it was.”

 

With that Esquire Garnsey abruptly stopped his story and said “Now disaster, young man, is what you nearly had. Almost lost your horse and your life.”

 

Grandfather did not care to be referred to as “Young Man”, especially from another man who might even be younger than him. Grandfather recognized it for what it was; a rather lame attempt by the Esquire to give himself more status than he deserved.

 

“Land agents – – – an interesting lot” thought Grandfather. It was only then that Grandfather suddenly realized, and stated out loud, that in the hubbub and aftermath of the float accident he had not paid the Float Master.

 

He still owed him the “Five cent to cross.”

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 14 (Calamity)

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“Mr. Birdsall – – – lay down” commanded the Float Master. His second command was “Mr. Aiken move away, – – far away – -, from the rope.” And with that the Float Master himself sprinted away from his position.

 

As Grandfather lay there in frozen awe the rope finally frayed in a few spots. The loose strands curled and twisted like snakes in a fire. And then, with a deafening “CRACKKK”, the pulley on Mr. Aiken’s side exploded into several pieces. Grandfather, the horse and the float were all swept downstream until they reached the end of the rope. The other end was still attached to the Float Master’s tree.

 

The float swung in a wide arc downstream and toward the shore. The uprooted tree broke loose just as the float slammed into the river bank. Both Grandfather and the horse were thrown into the cold mountain water. Grandfather grasped at several pieces of brush and tree roots that were growing on the river bank, but each time the force of the current ripped him away from his temporary anchor.

 

Finally he was swept into an eddy and the back-current pushed him to shore. As he clawed his way up the slippery mud bank his thoughts went immediately to his horse. There was no sight of him upstream or down.

 

Grandfather’s heart sank, and just as suddenly it leaped, as he heard a horse whinny in the brush behind him. Grandfathers grasping at the roots had slowed his progress. The horse’s natural instincts allowed him to reach the eddy before Grandfather.

 

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