THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 39 (Loading the Livestock)

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Epinetus continued with his story of the journey from Salem to Greene as best as he could remember the way his father Horace had told it to him.

 

“The brig ‘Mary Louise’ had a ramp from the wharf to the deck and a second ramp from the deck to the lower hold. My father told me that the horses balked at both ramps. Grandfather took the reigns to lead each team of the animals; first the horses and then the oxen. The horses sidestepped and whinnied at the first ramp. Only the heavy side rails kept them from the depths of the Hudson River. By the time they reached the second ramp, which sloped steeply down into the semi-darkness they were terrified. With eyes bugging out of their skulls, neck veins pulsing, noses flaring, and hooves pounding on the ramp, they begrudgingly followed Grandfather’s calm but stern voice and the meaningful tugs on the reigns until they reached their specified places. Once there Uncle Henry secured them to a wooden rail.”

 

George’s heavy dinner worked against his ability to stay awake and clear headed. Epinetus noticed this and raised his voice a little louder while trying to create a little excitement in his story.

 

“Captain Tanner spoke to Grandfather ‘Keep the ramps clean Mr. Birdsall. We do not want your oxen to slip.’ Grandfather knew what the captain meant so he assigned my father and Aunt Deborah to grab a shovel and bucket. They were to clean up the horse dung that now littered both ramps. Grandfather also informed them that they were assigned that job for the remainder of the trip. Father and Aunt Deborah were not too pleased with that news.”

 

Horses below deck

 

George sat a little straighter in his chair as Epinetus finished the story regarding the loading of livestock into the ship.

 

“Thanks to the superb training that Grandfather had given the oxen they behaved much better than the horses. In fact, father told me that they were almost meek. Everything was to remain loaded and harnessed for the full trip. The Birdsall women herded their livestock down the ramp.”

 

“Uncle Henry was helping Grandfather by feeding and watering the animals. My father and the aunts were on the top deck inspecting the cabin. It was made of rough-sawn wooden slabs and had wooden slab seats all around the outside walls. There were two cast iron stoves placed at equal distances from the ends of the cabin. The windows had no glass but there were wooden doors that, when loosened, swung down to keep out the rain and river mist. The area outside the cabin was flat except for the ramp down into the hold and the few stairs up to a small captain’s deck. Slab boards also formed a bench row around the perimeter of this outside deck. Anyone using these benches could use the wooden deck rails as a backrest.”

 

“Father always remembered Captain Tanner.” Epinetus related to George, who had lit another cigarette.

 

Preston Manor in the mid-afternoon always got hot and stuffy. A few of the older patients had bladder problems and the odor of ammonia had permeated the building.

 

Epinetus then told George his father’s favorite story.

 

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 38 (Dominionship)

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Epinetus informed George that his father Horace had related the following.

 

“The first twenty miles from Salem Township to Peekskill-on-the-Hudson should have been covered in one day. However, because the wagons shook and rolled, the rope ties had loosened, hooks became loose, and wagon bolts required frequent tightening. This extra effort took time and the family did not reach Peekskill that first day.”

 

“After getting permission from a farmer, we slept in a pasture that night. Rolled up in woolen or feather quilts we slept on straw filled mattresses beneath the wagons. This kept the spring frost off most of us.”

 

Epinetus informed George Parks about what more his father had told him.

 

“My father, Horace, told me that the remaining six miles to Peekskill were covered well before noon the next day. Through a stroke of luck and the late arrival of important cargo, their transport ship, heading north up the Hudson River, was still tied at the wharf. Grandfather had made reservations on the packet brig ‘Mary Louise,’ which was sailed by Stephen Tanner; ‘Master.’ The advertisement had been posted in the town square in North Salem.”

 

“Would you like to see the hand printed advertisement – – Mr. George Parks Esquire – –  ?”

 

Epinetus arose and once more started rummaging around in his box of treasures.

 

George took the opportunity to speak and addressed a completely different matter.

 

“Epinetus, this is my second trip to see you. Please call me by my first name”

 

Epinetus was still hurt by something George had done on the first visit. George had rather pointedly informed Epinetus that he was a lawyer. Epinetus, realizing that he was the senior of the two men was quite disturbed by Georges attempt to place himself above him. Some of the Epinetus’ hurt was self-inflicted; he was embarrassed that he had to live in the poor house.

 

“Oh, – – – I don’t have to call you by your full name and title? I thought that was what you were fishing for when you told me you were a lawyer.” Epinetus continued in mock reverence, “Well then, how about if I call you Georgie?”

 

George’s patience had not been strained. After all, he was a lawyer and had encountered many instances of being insulted.

 

“Why not settle on ‘Mr. Parks’?” George asked. He still wanted some formality used when being addressed.

 

Epinetus responded with some sarcasm in his voice. “I must have been confused – – – , Mr. Parks. Yes, ‘Mr. Parks’ will do just fine. But you can simply call me Epinetus.”

 

The sarcasm was not lost on George. He realized that old Epinetus still had one leg up on him. Silence surrounded the two men as the emotions ebbed to a level where decent conversation could be had.

 

Returning to the previous subject Epinetus stated, “I saved the advertisement along with my other keepsakes in my leather case. Did I mention that I had a few daguerreotypes there also?”

 

George, once more, used the gap of a question to remind Epinetus of the intent of the visit. “Do you have anything in that trunk about Jean Guillame DeBesse?”

           

Epinetus attempted, once more, to gain the upper hand by trimming down the way George always employed hegemony to establish his superior position.

 

“Jean Guilliame DeBesse? –   –   –   Oh yes, Mr. Bessac, your Frenchman. You wanted to discuss what I might know about him. Why yes, Mr. Parks, I will. But first I must finish Grandfather’s story. Here is the advertisement my father took as a souvenir from North Salem.”

 

Epinetus unrolled the old paper and, as best he could, attempted to hold it flat against the wall.”

 

Packet Ship Ad

 

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 37 (Preparation and Departure)

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“Yes sir – – – – Mr. George Parks Esquire – – – -, “ Epinetus continued, “prices sure have changed but please do not miss the point. Grandfather might not have been an educated man but he knew his crops, he was a good worker, and best of all he was a good man at knowing how to multiply a dollar. He now had this $151.65 plus the $250 owed to him by the new owner. That gave him over $400 minus the expenses he would incur for the move. Grandfather had the contract for the land. Now he could trade it with Esquire Garnsey for the $480 promissory note.”

 

George Parks smiled and nodded so that Epinetus would know that he understood how hard working and clever his grandfather was.

 

“That fall and winter Grandfather and Grandmother planned the move. Everything could not be hauled to Greene. It was painful for them to decide what to keep and what to sell. I do not remember everything they decided to keep. I believe that they kept the teams of oxen and horses. The wagon and two-wheeled ox cart was needed for hauling everything else.”

 

Esquire Parks thought to himself “What is Epinetus going to pull out of his box of treasures next. Another map? Another list of sales? The promissory note?”

 

However, Epinetus simply continued with his story; this time invoking his grandmother.

 

“Grandmother Abashaby told me that the two cows were needed for milk on the trip. Milk was needed for their own survival when they arrived. One female calf and one bull calf were needed for future breeding. The cows and calves had to walk alongside the wagon as did several ewe sheep and a ram. Crates of chickens, several bushels of seed rye, seed wheat and seed corn, plus several piglets rode in the wagons. The remaining space in, on, or around the wagons would be taken up with a plow, an adz, some bedding, a whetting grindstone, a small loom, hay forks, cast iron kettles and frying pans, chairs, benches and a butter churn.”

 

Epinetus’ mind was tired after dredging up what had been told to him about the family’s planned trip. He was quiet as he rested for a few minutes.

 

“Anything that was not sold during the fall or set aside for the spring trip would have to give the family sustenance throughout that winter of 1811 to 1812. The family remained in good health and in late March a sale was held. The items that could not be carried to Greene were sold to community members. Grandfather and his family departed with two full wagons, two teams of draft animals, and $506.60 in their pockets, or, secreted in a variety of places throughout both wagons.”

 

Epinetus thought it important to tell Mr. Parks about who rode and who walked.

 

“The children, who were allowed to ride in the wagons, chattered with excitement. They scrambled here and there over the chairs, bedding and crates of chickens. The older children and Grandfather walked beside and behind the wagons. Uncle Henry drove the team of oxen and Grandmother Abashaby controlled the team of horses.”

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 36 (Highway Men and Women)

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Epinetus consolidated his thoughts regarding the story of his grandfather. He continued.

 

“There were both level and steep areas between Franklin and Cairo on the eastern side of the Catskill Mountains. Intermittently, large rocks had erupted onto the surface due to the previous winter’s freeze. From Cairo to Catskill-on-the-Hudson the turnpike was extremely well maintained although heavily travelled.”

 

Epinetus’ story took a turn toward the dark side.

 

“The road was as disastrous in some places as were some of the taverns along its path. The travelling Quaker minister’s stories, told to grandfather, were well founded. Grandfather stumbled upon people in various and nefarious activities. Sometimes there was gaming at the toll houses. At other times people appeared to be procreating in the semi-darkness behind the taverns. Grandfather fashioned an oaken club and tied it with hide-string to his saddle. Strangers would suddenly appear from amongst the trees where upon he would bare his club for their eyes. The would-be turnpike robbers would then blend back into the brush just as eerily as they had appeared.”

 

Epinetus finished off the story of Henry Birdsall’s return home while excitedly motioning George to follow him to his room.

 

“My father told me that Grandfather did not speak much of his turnpike trip until a few years afterward. He did not want to alarm his family before their move to Greene. He knew that, during that summer, their full concentration had to be on crop production and animal care. With a good season Grandfather could multiply the $30 yearly rent into $150 worth of crops and meat.”

 

Browsing through the trunk that held his treasures Epinetus stated;

 

“It turned out to be a good year and the yield outpaced his expectations. The sale records of that years harvest are still in my possession.”

 

Culling out, from the trunk, another yellow piece of paper he excitedly waived it around in the air.

 

Henry Birdsall summer sale

 

“YES! Here is the list, you see;”

 

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 35 (An Uneaten Lunch)

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As George Parks was enjoying his free lunch at ‘The Preston Manor; Home for the Indigent’, Epinetus continued telling the story about his grandfather’s second visit to the newly opened ‘Indian Territory.’

 

“Grandfather decided to scout the Susquehanna to Catskill Turnpike in preparation for next years move. It would take supreme effort to relocate his family and livestock, therefore he knew that his knowledge of the turnpike was imperative. With that foremost in his mind he awoke early, had a light breakfast, bid his host Nathanial Wattle goodbye, and paid for his room.”

 

The Preston Manner cook approached the table to see if everyone had enough food. Mr. Parks indicated that he still had some on his plate and the cook skipped over Epinetus when she saw that he had not even touched his food. He was having too much fun telling the story of his ancestors.

 

Epinetus continued his story.

 

“Grandfather was immediately mortified by the condition of the turnpike between Unadilla and Franklin. Large ruts  had been created by wagon tracks. They covered the entire road, from side to side. At Franklin there was a marked improvement. Upon questioning some of the local men Grandfather determined that the wagon track damage was due to heavy trade traffic between Unadilla and Franklin. The condition of the turnpike east of Franklin was much better. It appeared that sheep droving was the main source of traffic. These sheep, grown in the hills around Franklin were driven eastward to Catskill-on-the-Hudson where they would be shipped southward to New York City.”

 

Epinetus’ lunch plate was still full. On the other hand, George’s plate was empty. After all, Epinetus was the one doing all the talking. George removed his napkin from his lap and wiped his mouth. Epinetus stated that he was not hungry. He pushed his plate away and removed his napkin from where he had tucked it between his shirt and neck. Hoping to impress George he wiped his mouth with as much style as he knew how to muster.

 

They walked out of the dining room. George offered Epinetus a factory rolled cigarette. Epinetus graciously declined as they proceeded to the front room of Preston Manor. George knew that he would probably not hear anything about Jean Guilliame DeBesse that day. “Patience George!”, he told himself.

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 34 (Strange Comments)

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Epinetus told George Parks about a strange conversation that Esquire Garnsey had with Grandfather Birdsall.

 

“Garnsey lamented to Grandfather about the pristine nature of Greene. He told granfather ‘I wish the same could be said for Norwich. It grows in leaps – –  – and that is good for my business – – – – good for my business. On the other hand there appear two new taverns or ale houses for every house of worship that is constructed. These drinking places breed nothing but trouble for Norwich – – – nothing but trouble. Our jail is always full. And sharp dealing between some business men does not meet the needs of our township.’”

 

George Parks sat back and waited for Epinetus to continue the comparison that Esquire Garnsey was making between Norwich and Greene.

 

“The Esquire continued his lament to Grandfather by differentiating between the men in Norwich and Greene. ‘The men in Greene are serious about moving forward with this new territory. The men in Norwich appear to take life as it comes. I do wish they would fight harder for the things that are needed for progress. The seriousness of the men in Greene is accompanied by its remoteness. The men of Greene must work hard to survive and the influence of God will make Greene a center of business.’ Grandfather was taken back at the Esquire’s mention of God. Never before had he spoken His name.”

 

Epinetus expanded on the real meaning of that story.

 

“Esquire Garnsey, realizing that he may have laid it on a little too thickly, quickly changed the subject by informing Grandfather that he must be returning to Norwich the next morning. Grandfather responded with ‘That is well with me, Esquire, as I must return to my spring planting. Our weather is three weeks ahead of yours.’”

 

Epinetus changed his voice as he imagined Esquire Garnsey would speak.

 

“And how would you know such a thing Mr. Birdsall? – – – – How would you know such a thing?”

 

Changing his voice and mannerisms again, this time in an impression of his grandfather, Epinetus answered Garnsey’s question.

 

“By the Shadbush, Esquire. I kept aware of the Shadbush from Salem to Unadilla. In Salem the leaves were as large as the ear of a squirrel. In Unadilla the Shadbush remains in bud.”

 

Switching back to Esquire Garnsey’s manner of speaking – – – thus repeating everything at least twice – – – Epinetus continued.

 

“Brilliant observation Mr. Birdsall, – – – brilliant observation”

 

Epinetus then moved back into his normal mode of story telling.

 

“After some light conversation the buyer and the seller congenially shook hands and parted. It would be a year before they met again.”

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 33 (A Down Payment)

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Returning to the subject, that George Parks was searching for, Epinetus continued.

 

“Grandfather soon realized the immensity of the westward movement. The few wagon wheel marks on Captain Gray’s trail turned into deep ruts on the turnpike. Mud holes and piles of animal dung littered the path. Grandfather despised this new path for two reasons; first, simply because of its filthy appearance and second, for what it stood for – the obvious invasion into the pristine territory that he had observed the previous year.”

 

Epinetus informed Mr. Parks that Grandfather at this point had finished his trek on the Susquehanna Turnpike and had reached the Susquehanna River.

 

“The Wattle’s Ferry at Unadilla was much more substantial that the float Grandfather had used to cross the Susquehanna at Bainbridge – – -or Jericho – – – whatever name you wish to use. By previous agreement he met with Esquire Garnsey at Wattle’s Inn. Over supper they exchanged news and viewpoints. Esquire Garnsey astutely suggested that they exchange documents and money in the privacy of their rooms. ‘Thieving eyes abound, you know, – – –   thieving eyes abound,’ stated Esquire Garnsey in his annoying repetitive fashion.”

 

Epinetus was silently gathering his thoughts again when very young boy passed through the halls of Preston Manor. The boy rang a large bell attached to a wooden handle. George Parks was searching Epinetus’ face for an explanation when a lady stepped into the room.

“Lunch time Epinetus” she stated, adding, “Please join us Mr. Parks, it is a long time before supper.”

 

“Thank you. I would surely like to enjoy some of your cooking” replied Mr. Parks.

 

Epinetus and George found places where they could face each other. It was at the end of a large table. Privacy was not a concern, so they continued their conversation over lunch. Epinetus opened the conversation without prompting from George.

 

“That evening, in their second meeting, Grandfather gave $220 and a promissory note for $480 to Esquire Garnsey. Did I mention that this was in Unadilla. Yes, – – in Unadilla. The promissory note was in exchange for a contract. It assigned to Grandfather ‘One hundred acres below Abram Storms and from the Chenango River eastward to several chains beyond the mountain ridge, the terminal eastern edge being the large chestnut tree on one corner and a manmade stone pile in the other’.”

 

“After the business was completed Grandfather voiced his concern with the rapid movement of pioneers into the Indian Territory. The Esquire reassured Grandfather that Greene was lightly populated and that the parcel he had chosen was unencumbered by neighbors, save except for Abram Storms.”

 

Epinetus felt compunction to tell George about uncomfortable feelings that Esquire Garnsey was experiencing at that time.

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 32 (A Return Trip)

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Epinetus gathered his thoughts and continued his conversation with Mr. Parks.

 

“Grandfather returned home in mid-September; just in time for harvest. Discussions in the field centered on the experiences of his trip and the beauty of the land that he had spoken for. All of my aunts, my father Horace, and my uncle Henry were excited. Well – – – almost all of them were excited. Aunt Fanny who had her eye on a young local boy by the name of Syrus Page, and, Aunt Hester who had some thoughts about a lad named Isaac Marshall may have wanted to stay in Salem. Grandfather’s children had more questions that he had answers for. I am sure that Grandmother Abashaby also had a lot of very pointed questions. Those questions must have been asked in private as my aunts, uncle or father never mentioned any discussions, regarding the move, between Grandmother and Grandfather.”

 

Other clients of the Preston Manor Home walked by the two men having this earnest conversation; Epinetus and Mr. Parks. Some smiled knowingly at George Parks. Others simply shuffled by cocooned in their own worlds. Epinetus was moving the story along.

 

“The following spring, April 1811, Grandfather sold his farm with the stipulation that he would pay rent and live there for one more year. Grandfather was paid half the agreed to price of $500.00 minus $30.00 for that one year’s rent. Grandfather was anxious to deliver the difference of $220.00 to Esquire Garnsey. That required another trip to the Chenango Valley. Esquire Garnsey and Grandfather had been communicating by mail throughout the winter. Traveling ministers would read the Esquire’s letters to Grandfather and wrote Grandfather’s responses to the Esquire. Grandfather told the Esquire that he had some money for him and would like to set up a meeting. The Esquire set a date for the meeting and asked Grandfather to meet him in Unadilla this time. Unadilla was eleven miles north of Jericho – –   – sorry – – – Bainbridge.”

 

Epinetus rummaged around in an old trunk in his room. He pulled out maps and papers that would help him to put his story together. George Parks watched over Epinetus’ shoulder to see if he could glean anything from the yellowed disintegrating papers.

 

“Grandfather informed uncle Henry, who was twenty years old at the time, that he would be in charge of plowing and planting. Grandfather’s trip went much faster that spring. He knew the trail much better on this second round trip through the Katskill Mountains. Additionally, he would be taking a more northerly route for the last leg of his trip. This leg would take him on the same path as Captain William Gray’s 1779 march. The Gray march was in support of General Sullivan’s war against the Indians. Grandfather picked up the trail four miles north of the big island ford on the Delaware River. Parts of the trail were better used and some parts even had wagon tracks in them. Grandfather realized that the movement westward, into the newly opened Indian Territory must be gainnng momentum.”

 

Epinetus pointed to a scribbling on one of the maps. Esquire Parks could not make heads or tails out of it due to the poor condition of the paper.

 

“At the end of that last leg of the trip to Unadilla Grandfather departed from Captain William Gray’s trail at Bartlet Hollow and finished the last seven miles to Unadilla on the Susquehanna Turnpike.”

 

Epinetus broke away from his grandfather’s story to add in his own thoughts.

 

“Do you know why they call it ‘The Katskill Turnpike’ and not by its rightly name ‘The Susquehanna Turnpike?’ Well sir, you go on over there and look for yourself. Every few miles there is another milestone stating ‘Catskill 83 Miles’ then ‘Catskill 87 miles’ then ‘Catskill 90 Miles’. Ignorant bastards, those stone cutters! Everybody was heading west and they were marking the distances eastward.”

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 31 (George Parks’ Patience)

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Epinetus Birdsall sat back as he finished telling Esquire George Parks about his grandfather’s search for a new homestead. After being rather quite for a minute or so he continued.

 

“So Mr. Parks, how did you find your way here to the Preston Manor Home? You were here before, were you not? The home master said that you wanted to interview me about some relative of yours.”

 

And the second visit between “Mr. Esquire George Park” and Epinetus Birdsall had started.

 

“His name again, please? Ah yes, your father-in-law Jean Guilliame de Besse! Remind me again, how would I have come to know him?”

 

Esquire Parks had to remind Epinetus that Jean Guilliame de Besse was his father-in-law. Parks had married de Besse’s daughter. The esquire had not yet lost patience with Epinetus; he realized that he was getting rather old and had been in the home for the indigent for quite some time.

 

“Oh, the Frenchman, John Bessac! Yes, yes. I knew of him well. He lived up-river from Grandfather. That was fifty or sixty years ago. I was born two years after his death in 1824. Even though I was only a boy I do remember the many conversations Grandfather and other neighbors had regarding Mr. Bessac’s French Language books and the stories about his life.”

 

The esquire appeared to be losing interest as Epinetus rambled on.

 

“I know, I know. You asked me about him at the initial interview. However, I do need to finish Grandfather Birdsall’s story so that you can better understand how Mr. Bessac’s story fits in. Patience, young man, patience. We will get to your Frenchman shortly.”

 

Esquire Park nodded and smiled; as if he understood.

 

“Let me think now. Oh yes. Grandfather had promised to purchase that special parcel of land from Esquire Garnsey. They stayed one more night at Mr. Juliand’s home in Greene. The next morning they parted ways. The Esquire headed for his full-time home in Norwich and Grandfather returned to Salem on the same path that he had travelled on a few days earlier. That was eight months before Grandfather made his first payment to Esquire Garnsey and twenty months before the family moved from Salem to Greene.”

 

Epinetus continued telling George Parks the story.

 

“As Grandfather made that return trip home he encountered those cold nights and dry warm days of early September. The ride was at a brisk pace, for the most part, due to the familiarity of the trail. As he rode along Grandfather thought about his conversations with Esquire Garnsey and weighed them against the Quaker precepts that he had learned in the weekly Salem meetings. The traveling ministers had left these impressions on him.”

 

Precept 1: Keep thine heart always open to the Light that is Christ.

 

Precept 2: Love they wife, but beware of the snares and curses that thy comforts could prove.

 

Precept 3: In conversation with strangers, mark carefully what thou open thine mouth to say. Hide thy own mind. Mark well what others say or do. Open sparingly, as the matter will let you.

 

Precept 4: Be niether a manufacturer, seller or user of alchohol; avoid tobacco in all its forms.

 

Precept 5: Be neither a pessimist, lest though judge all men to be depraved, nor an optimist, lest though replace God with man.

 

Precept 6: Collect and pay all just debts owed to you or that thou owest to others.

 

“Grandfather quivered in his saddle as he realized that he had violated a precept. In doing so he may not have made the best business deal. His own words echoed in his ears ‘My own Hudson River Estate!’”

 

“Grandfather berated himself. ’How foolish of me to let my thoughts be known. Could it be that my sins started because of this trip itself? I did become prideful and very optimistic of my own ability as I followed the map through the Katskills.’ He thought about Esquire Garnsey’s advice to take the Susquehanna Turnpike from Unadilla to Katskill-on-the-Hudson. Grandfather was pleased with his decision not to take the turnpike. He had good information that was gathered from traveling ministers in the Society of Friends Meetings. The turnpike was no place for a Quaker to travel alone. The taverns suffered from an abundance of inebriates and questionable women. Fornication, gaming and taking oaths were commonplace. Grandfather had also been informed that local road thieves abounded. And, if they were caught, other local accomplices would give false witness against the traveler; accusing him of thievery.”

 

George Parks was silent as Epinetus sat deep in thought. It was obvious that he was grappling with a poor memory. Minutes passed as George sat patiently. Finally Epinetus put some pieces together.

 

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THE PILGRIMAGE: Part 30 (Located! A Homestead)

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The next two land parcels looked promising. The third one had a strange feature. A large portion of flatland sat between the bottom of the hill and the river bank. However there was a large knoll between the flatland and the river. Beyond that knoll the land fell slowly to the river.

 

Grandfather, standing between the mountain and the river knoll, dug his heel into this lowland. Black soil erupted from the back of his boot. With each following thrust of his boot heel Grandfather dug deeper and found the same black dirt.

 

“Shovel, Mr. Birdsall? – – – try the shovel” shouted Esquire Garnsey as he held out the tool.

 

Grandfather took the shovel from the Esquire and dug in several locations not likely to contain tree roots. Shovel after shovel turned up nothing but that dark black rich soil. He then decided to check for depth; two feet down with the same results. Sweating from his brow he stopped and leaned against the shovel.

 

“Satisfied Mr. Birdsall? – – – Satisfied?” asked the Esquire.

 

“Indeed I am” responded Grandfather. They moved beyond the knoll towards the river. The soil was fertile but nowhere as deep. Glacier waste appeared about one foot down.

 

The pair rode their horses back toward the mountain. It was extremely steep; too steep for the horses. The men tethered their horses to the trees and moved forward on foot. The ground was strewn with flat rocks about the size of a man’s hand. The earth was thin and half of the trees had mineral rot.

 

“On top, Mr. Birdsall, – – – on top” said Esquire Garnsey in the repeat fashion that Grandfather was growing weary of.

 

The mountain became so steep that the men had a hard time holding their footing. Grasping at tree trunks they continued on. Esquire Garnsey stated that his heart was thumping and so he stopped from time to time to rest against a tree.

 

When they reached the mountain top the esquire found a fallen tree and sat upon the log trunk. Grandfather who was in better shape was exhilarated by the climb and the beauty of the forest at the top.

 

There were mature oak, pine, hemlock, ash, gum, chestnut, slippery elm and basswood trees. All of them were free of mineral rot. After a short rest they walked deeper into the forest. Grandfather, still carrying the shovel, sampled the depth and quality of the earth. It was satisfactory but nowhere as rich as the black earth in the valley.

 

“How much Esquire Garnsey?” asked grandfather.

 

“Seven hundred dollars, one hundred acres, Mr. Birdsall” stated the Esquire.

 

As they retreated across the semi-flat mountain top and down the steep side Grandfather made mental notes of several features. “Two water springs on top. Three small stone cliffs jutting out at the edge of the mountain top. Five water springs where the bottom of the mountain met the flat lands.”

 

Grandfather’s heart leaped with joy. Here was a parcel of land that would grow crops, yield hard wood for tools and wagon parts, had quarry stone for building foundations, log timber was abundant for a cabin and the river would serve as a waterway to move produce downstream to large villages such as Binghamton. “

 

THIS IS IT, Esquire Garnsey,” exclaimed grandfather, “my own small Hudson River Estate, except it is on the Chenango!”

 

Both men were exuberant. One had found his paradise and the other had made a fine profit.

 

Esquire Garnsey had never once, during the whole trip, asked Grandfather about how or when he would pay for the land he was looking for. And why would the Esquire have to ask? He knew that Grandfather was a Quaker and a Quaker’s word was as good as gold.

 

“One way or another,” thought Esquire Garnsey with total conviction, “the Quaker will pay on his own; even if he has to work himself to death.”

 

© wtomosky

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