On the Trail of Pontiac by Edward Stratemeyer
Chapter XIII. Building the New Trading-Post
Four days later found the entire party encamped on the bank of the Ohio River, about twenty miles from the district which had suffered from the terrible ravages of fire.
They had, indeed, found a spot as beautiful as that which had once chained James Morris to the Kinotah. There was a tiny bluff overlooking the broad stream, and back of this a long, low hill, covered with a forest of exceptionally good timber. Around the hill wound a pleasing brook, gurgling gently in its passage over the stones. The brook was lined with various kinds of bushes and flowering plants, and not far off was a series of rocks, where a spring of pure, cold water gushed forth. The soil along the river bank was rich in the extreme, and James Morris saw at once that anything planted in it would grow with but little care.
"After all, I think we have done well to come thus far," said he to Dave and Henry. "The Ohio is a larger stream than the Kinotah, hence I think the chances to do some trading will be better." And without loss of time he staked out a plot of ground, and, in his own way, proclaimed himself proprietor. He knew that, later on, he would have to prove his claim to the Land Company claiming the whole tract, but he felt that this, with proper influence, would be easy. The Land Companies were glad to have the backing of honest traders, for to survey their possessions and dispose of certain plots was by no means easy.
The spot for the location of the new trading-post having been found, many hard days of toil followed for all of the white men, and for Dave and Henry. The Indians could not be persuaded to work, but spent their time in hunting and fishing, and thus supplied the entire party with food.
The first work was to build a rude, but substantial palisade, of logs about twelve feet long, and sharpened at the upper end. This palisade extended from the river front to where the brook made a turn, almost parallel to the Ohio, with the north side flanked by a small rise of rocks. The gateway was at the south end, ten feet wide, and later on, fitted with a strong pair of gates, secured by a top and a bottom crossbar.
Fortunately, as already stated, good timber was close at hand, and while Dave, Henry, and Sam Barringford cut the logs, the others had the horses haul them to where they were wanted and set them up as desired. James Morris was an old hand at this sort of employment, and so the work went forth rapidly.
"This is really working for a living," said Dave, one day, after having brought down a tall, straight tree, from which, at least, four logs could be cut. "We are truly earning our bread by the sweat of our face."
"But it's healthy labor, and I don't mind it," answered his cousin.
"Do you really mean that, Henry?" asked Dave, resting for a moment and gazing sharply at the other.
Henry colored slightly. "I suppose you think I'd rather be out hunting with White Buffalo's crowd," he said slowly.
"Wouldn't you? Tell the plain truth?"
"Perhaps I would. But I don't let myself think about it, Dave. This work has got to be done, and I mean to do my full share of it. I reckon everybody has to do things he don't just like in this life."
"I think you are right there--I know I often have to do 'em."
"And it don't do to growl either. The best thing to do is to pitch in and get through as fast as possible," went on Henry, and then set to chopping with renewed vigor.
"Do you remember the time we first started to chop down trees?" continued Dave. "How our hands got blistered, and how we wouldn't give up because the men were looking on?"
"Indeed I do. What a lot has happened since that time! The war, and our going to Fort Niagara, and then down the Lakes and the St. Lawrence to Quebec and Montreal, and all the fighting! In one way, Dave, we have seen quite something of life."
"So we have. But I want no more war."
"Neither do I," answered Henry. Neither dreamed of the terrors of the Indian uprising, or of the grim horrors of the Revolution which would come later. The molding of this great nation into what it is to-day was to be no easy matter.
Inside of two months the greater part of the work on the palisade was complete. There were many things still to accomplish, but James Morris decided to let these rest until later. He and the others set to work to clear the grounds within, called the stockade, and then a long, low log house was started at one side, and a low storehouse and horse stable at the other.
So far, but few hunters and trappers had appeared to do any trading. Strange as it may seem, the Ohio at this point had but few Indians upon it, the red men confining their operations very largely to the smaller streams. But those who did appear were treated liberally by James Morris, and soon they spread the news, with the result that quite a fair trade was established by the time snow was flying once more.
The white men, and especially Dave and Henry, were glad enough to shift from the outside camp to the log house as soon as one end of the building was completed. All was still in a crude state, but sleeping under any sort of roof was preferable to the open. The entire house could not be completed that season, so only two rooms were made weather proof, one for trading, and the other for living and sleeping purposes.
"Not as nice as at home," observed Dave, as he gazed at the rough logs, filled in with mud, and the dirt flooring. "But it will be warm this winter, and that's something."
It had been decided that Barrington and Henry should return to the Morris homestead before winter set in. They were to take six of the horses, and, if everything went well, were to return to the trading-post as early as possible in the spring, bringing with them a long list of articles wanted by James Morris. Both were now quite anxious to return to the East, Henry to learn how his folks were faring, and Barringford to see the twins and find out if their identity had yet been disclosed.
"If they ain't found out nuthin' about them twins, I'm going to make 'em my own," said the old frontiersman. "I ain't got no chick nor child, an' I might as well be a-doin' somethin' for somebody in this world."
"But you must leave them at our house," returned Henry. "Mother and little Nell are so attached to them."
The departure of Henry and Barringford was an event, and all quit working to see them off. Dave was sorry to part with his cousin, and wrung his hand several times.
"You take good care of yourself," he said. "Don't tumble over any more cliffs."
"And you take good care of yourself during the winter," returned Henry. "It snows heavily out here, so they tell me. Don't you get lost in a snowstorm, like you did when you and Sam were journeying to Fort Oswego."
Dave and James Morris accompanied the pair as far as the burn-over and then watched them as they disappeared over a distant ridge. As they were lost to sight, the youth could not repress a sigh, which reached his parent's quick ears.
"Sorry to see Henry go, I suppose, Dave."
"Yes, father. We have been together so much, you know. Henry seems like a brother to me."
"I don't doubt it, for he is to me almost like a son. I trust he and Sam reach Will's Creek in safety."
Both father and son had thought to return to the new trading post as soon as they left the others, but now neither was in the humor for working, for what little was left of the day, and James Morris asked Dave if he wished to go on a short hunt.
"We may not stir up much, but I think the change will do us good."
"I'll go gladly!" cried Dave, and they set off on horseback, up the Kinotah, and then followed a small creek, along which both had hunted in days gone by.
The day was an ideal one, and though game in that vicinity was scarce, the Indians having gone over the ground half a dozen times, each enjoyed the outing thoroughly. Dave managed to bring down some birds and two squirrels, and his father a pair of grouse, and with this they rested content.
"Supposing we take another look at the ruins of the old post?" suggested Dave, when they were on the return. "It is not so very late yet, and we may pick up something which we missed before."
"Very well, Dave."
Along the creek the wild flowers grew in reckless profusion, and the youth often stopped to admire them, and once he picked a handful to take back with him.
"You love flowers," said his father.
"I do, father. Don't you?"
"Somewhat. Your taste comes from your mother. She thought much of them, and when we planted the garden she always planted flower seeds, too." And the trader gave a long sigh as he thought of the good woman who had died so many years before.
Presently they came once more to the burn-over and then made their way straight to the ruins of the old trading-post. The spot looked more forlorn than ever, for the storms of the summer had washed some mud over part of the ground, and grass and weeds flourished amid the blackness.
"That shows what nature can do," observed James Morris. "Give this a few years more and it will be impossible to tell that a post ever stood here. In the same fashion, entire villages have been wiped out, so that historians, going there later, cannot locate even the first sign of the ruins."
An old shovel had been left at the place, and working with this James Morris began to turn over some of the burnt sticks at a spot where he thought he might possibly come upon something of value. In the meantime Dave poked around to suit himself, and presently found two jugs and an iron pot.
"I think these are still good to use," he said, and started down to the creek, to wash them off and inspect them more closely.
He had just reached the creek when a sound in the brushwood beyond caught his ears. He looked up, to see three Frenchmen on horseback riding toward him. The man in advance looked familiar to him, and as this individual drew closer, Dave recognized Jean Bevoir.