Thursday, July 11, 2013

Stephen Stateler - Second of Three Articles

Part Two of Three.  The following was taken from the Hartford Herald, published October 30, 1907.



Graphic Narrative of Dangerous
Travel and Encounters With Indians

(Continued from last week)

            My situation now was mournfully interesting; I was alone in that trackless forest, two hundred miles from any human habitation that I knew of, with no weapon except my hunting knife, no clothes other than those I had on, no blanket to cover me and worse than all these my gun was gone. I endeavored to ascertain the depth of the river thinking I might possibly dive down and recover it, but judging from the steepness of the bank, the locality, etc., I concluded that such an effort would be folly.

            I left that place with a sad heart and turned my steps toward the spot where Davis and I had constructed our raft, for besides being in the destitute condition mentioned above, I had no provisions and no salt, and I was getting hungry and I remembered that we had left some four or five venison hams at the place where the boat had left us, and I returned there intending to furnish myself with four or five days provisions; but “misfortunes never come singly,” a maxim the truth of which was verified in this instance, for when I arrived I found that the buzzards and wolves had been ahead of me, and had not left me a single mouthful.

            It was necessary now for me to commence traveling. I had heard that there was a station on Green river called Vienna (now called Calhoun) some fifteen or twenty miles from the Yellow Banks (Owensboro) and that there was a trace leading from one place to the other. I determined to make my way up the river to the Yellow Banks and thence out to Vienna. I walked steadily all that day and must have traveled forty miles. I stopped to camp out for the night. I was very hungry and had nothing to eat nor had I eaten anything for more than two days. Although hundreds of deer wild turkey, squirrels, rabbits, etc.  had attracted my attention during the day yet I had no way of killing any of them. At night however when I stopped I was fortunate enough to kill a skunk, or polecat, as I always call it with a stone. I skinned and dressed it as nicely as I could and cooked it over the coals. I made my supper that night off of the polecat but I assure you I have never since that time had the slightest desire to renew the acquaintances which my stomach then formed with that animal.

            On the evening of the third day I arrived at a point a little above the mouth of Green river and made a raft for the purpose of crossing over to the Kentucky side. At this time no land could be seen near the mouth of the river, but, by the most desperate exertions I succeeded in getting my raft across the Ohio, and out into the timber on the Kentucky side, above the mouth of Green river. I worked my wily on the raft for several miles through the timber until I reached the land and then gladly left my raft. A greater portion of the country between the Yellow Banks and the mouth of Green river is low, and most of it was at that time covered with water. Very frequently I came to ravines which it was necessary for me to swim, but I could tell the shallowest places by the tops of cane bushes projecting above the water. I reached the Yellow Banks in safety and spent a clay drying my clothes and watching for a boat. During the day two boats passed down. I endeavored by every manner of means in my power to get the boats to take me aboard but at that time it was dangerous for boats to land on account of the Indians and I was passed by without being noticed. They regarded me as a mere decoy to induce them to land so that the Indians might murder the whole crew, and plunder the boat. This was so frequently done then that it was very seldom a boat ever landed after leaving the Falls until it had passed into the Mississippi.

            The next day I started for Vienna. My breakfast that morning as well as my supper the night before consisted of a “possum” which I had caught. I cooked it without salt or pepper. I ate it with great relish. It was much better than the polecat and I have liked possum ever since that time.

            I started for Vienna, but being cloudy I got bewildered in the woods, and having passed the same buffalo bed three different times I concluded to take out from the Ohio river until I came to the trace leading from the Falls (Louisville) to Nashville, for I had heard of such a place as Nashville but had indefinite ideas a to where it was.

            The night after I left the Yellow Banks I stayed in the flats of the north branch of Panther creek. I found a hollow tree with barely enough dry ground in front of it for me to build a fire. I slept inside of the tree and my fire blazing in front of the opening made it warm. It was cold and raining out so I enjoyed a comfortable nights rest in the hollow tree and left it reluctantly next morning, for I did not know where would be my next resting place, but my spirits were buoyed up at the thought and firm belief that I would,
that day, see some habitation or come across some trace of an human being.

            I traveled on that day, endeavoring as well as I could without a compass to keep a south course. I traveled until late in the afternoon, and was beginning to despair of seeing anything to bid me hope for the better, when suddenly I discovered tracks of cattle in the woods. This comforted me with the hope that I should soon see human faces. In a short time I heard a bell. I left the trace in which I was then traveling and went to find the bell, thinking that the cattle might be at home, but I was disappointed and I could not make them go in any particular direction so I left them and returned to the trace. I wandered on through the water, or flats, until nearly sundown. I was weary, hungry, wet, and cold, and, as I sat resting on a log, I beheld the sun sinking behind the western horizon in all its glorious splendor, and it occurred to me that probably I then saw “my last of suns go down on me.” I determined, however, that I would endeavor to reach the “high ground,” or at least find as dry a place as I could to camp that night. I neglected that day my usual precaution of gathering small pieces of wood, or punk, by which to light a fire at night, and I was fearful that I could not build a fire that evening. I struggled on through the water until I reached the bank of Rough creek, which by the moonlight I could see was quite a good-sized stream. Suddenly, to my unbounded joy, I heard the sound of an ax as if some one was chopping wood on the other side of the creek, and listening, 1 distinctly heard children’s voices at play in the town of Hartford. I had never heard of the place before. I hallooed as loud as I could, but could make no one hear me. I waited very impatiently until everything became quite and made another effort to make myself heard. I succeeded and some one answered me. It was a Mr. Rhoades who ferried me across the creek in a large trough.

            I was as hospitably received us I could have expected under the circumstances. My destitute and ragged condition, my strange garb and appearance, and my almost incredible story made me, as I discovered an object of suspicion. There were at that time twenty-seven families living in Hartford and they were extremely cautious whom they admitted into their midst. This was of course a wise and necessary precaution on account of the unfriendly tribes of Indians that infested the whole surrounding country.

            I spoke but little, however, of myself, but always told the same story when questioned by any one. I spoke frequently and deplored the loss of my gun.

(Concluded next week)

No comments:

Post a Comment