A LIVING HISTORY BLOG.

18TH CENTURY LIVING HISTORY IN AUSTRALIA.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Period Fire Lighting & Tinder Quotes.

American Aloe, Agave or Sentry Plant. Also found in Australia.

Their grow’s here Large Berch trees…on the Root of the branches of the Said tree, grow’s Large Knops of wood of Different form’s, which they style (posogan) which posogan is of great service to the Natives, they use itt to strike Light to, as we do touch wood… itts Substance Resembles Spunge…once Light is Very Difficult to put out…will Clow and Bur’n tell Consum’d to ashes and never Blaze.”
~James Isham, Hudson’s Bay, 1743-49

“They employ tree mushrooms very frequently instead of tinder. Those which are taken from the sugar maple are reckoned the best; those of the red maple are next in goodness, and next to them, those of the sugar birch, for want of these, they likewise make use of those which grow on the aspen tree.”
~ Peter Kalm, Canada, 1749

"Maple trees usually have large growths on them, which are cut and dried in the sun, making a sort of touchwood which the Canadians call tondre."
- Jolicoeur Charles Bonin, 1750’s

“…fungus that grows on the outside of the birch-tree…used by all the Indians in those parts for tinder…called by the Northern Indians Jolt-thee, and is known all over the country bordering on Hudson’s Bay by the name of Pesogan…there is another kind…that I think is infinitely preferable to either. This is found in old decayed poplars, and lies in flakes…is always moist when taken from the tree but when dry…takes fire readily from the spark of a steel: but it is much improved by being kept dry in a bag that has contained gunpowder.”
~Samuel Hearne, Northern Canada, 1772

“I said to them…you Fools go to the Birch Trees and get some touchwood,”
~David Thompson, Lake Athabasca, 1790s

“This induced me to resolve not to travel more by land without my gun, powder and shot, steel, spunge and flint, for striking a fire…”
~Patrick Campbell, Canada/New York, 1792

“A Canadian never neglects to have touchwood for his pipe”
~David Thompson, Red Lake River, 1798 
"There was Dry leaves and sticks under our shelter. I stoped the tuch hole of my gun with tallow and then did ketch fire and we made up a fire and Dryed our selves."
Westward Into Kentucky, Daniel Trabue, 1779:

"There happened to be an iron pot and an ax on board--- they cut off a piece of the boat rope, and picked it to oakum, and putting it in the pan of a gun, with some powder, catched it on fire, which with some thin pieces cut from the mast, they kindled in the pot, and then cut up their mast, seats, &c. for fuel, and making a tent of their sail, wrapt themselves as well as they could;"
From The Pennsylvania Gazette, 1765, 3 men trapped in the ice in their boat during a waterfowl hunt and likely to freeze to death:


'Our party having separated, the important articles of tinder and matches were in the baggage of the division which had proceeded: and as the night was rainy and excessively dark, we were, for some time, under anxiety, lest we should have been deprived of the comfort and security of a fire. Fortunately, my powder-flask was in my saddlebags, and we succeeded in supplying the place of tinder, by moistening a piece of paper, and rubbing it with gunpowder. We placed our touch paper on an old cambric handkerchief, as the most readily combustible article in our stores. On this we scattered gunpowder pretty copiously, and our flint and steel soon enabled us to raise a flame, and collecting dry wood, we made a noble fire.
Birkbeck, Morris. Notes on a Journey in America . London: Severn and Co., 1818.

They rubb'd Fire out of particular sorts of Wood (as the Antients did out of the Ivy and Bays) by turning the end of a hard piece upon the side of a piece that is soft and dry, like a Spindle on its Inke, by which it heats, and at length burns; to this they put sometimes also rotten Wood, and dry Leaves to hasten the Work.
Robert Beverley 1705.

To make Tinder.
Take three ounces of Salt-petre, put it to a Pint and a half of fair Water, set it on a Fire in a Kettle or Pan to heat till the Salt-petre be dissolved; then take a Quire of smooth brown Paper, and
put them in Sheet by Sheet into the hot water till they are wet through, and then lay them on a clean Floor or Grass to dry. You may at any Time tear a Piece off, and put it in your Tinderbox,; it will catch like Wild-Fire. By this Means you may save all your Linen Rags in the Family, keep them clean in a Bag, and, if you are careful of them, they may produce you a Pair of Shoes and Stockings at the Years End; and by this Frugality you will have the Pleasure to think of encouraging the making of Paper, and employing the Industrious.
 Madam Johnson's present: or, every young woman's companion in ... - Page 181 .

"and with a girdle of their making, bound round about their middles, to which girdle is fastned a bagg, in which his instruments be, with which hee can strike fire upon any occasion"
Thomas Morton: Manners and Customs of the Indians, 1637
Thomas Morton 1579-1647

"Tree fungi are used very frequently instead of tinder. Those which are taken from the sugar maple are reckoned the best; those of the red maple are next in quality; and next to them, those of the sugar birch. For want of these they make use of those which grow on the aspen tree.”
Pehr Kalm,
Travels in North America, 1749
"Maple trees usually have large growths on them, which are cut and dried in the sun, making a sort of touchwood which the Canadians call tondre."
Jolicoeur Charles Bonin,
Memoir of  French and Indian War Soldier, 1750's
Their grow’s here Large Berch trees…on the Root of the branches of the Said tree, grow’s Large Knops of wood of Different form’s, which they style (posogan) which posogan is of great service to the Natives, they use itt to strike Light to, as we do touch wood… itts Substance Resembles Spunge…once Light is Very Difficult to put out…will Clow and Bur’n tell Consum’d to ashes and never Blaze.”
~James Isham, Hudson’s Bay, 1743-49

“They employ tree mushrooms very frequently instead of tinder. Those which are taken from the sugar maple are reckoned the best; those of the red maple are next in goodness, and next to them, those of the sugar birch, for want of these, they likewise make use of those which grow on the aspen tree.”
~ Peter Kalm, Canada, 1749

"Maple trees usually have large growths on them, which are cut and dried in the sun, making a sort of touchwood which the Canadians call tondre."
- Jolicoeur Charles Bonin, 1750’s 

“…fungus that grows on the outside of the birch-tree…used by all the Indians in those parts for tinder…called by the Northern Indians Jolt-thee, and is known all over the country bordering on Hudson’s Bay by the name of Pesogan…there is another kind…that I think is infinitely preferable to either. This is found in old decayed poplars, and lies in flakes…is always moist when taken from the tree but when dry…takes fire readily from the spark of a steel: but it is much improved by being kept dry in a bag that has contained gunpowder.”
~Samuel Hearne, Northern Canada, 1772



Fomes fomentarius - the tinder fungus
-a wood rotting fungus (Aphyllophorales) that produces hoof shaped basidiocarps up to2 feet in diameter; basidiocarps are prennenial, producing a new layer of pores each year; was once
common in North Asia, North America and Europe
-suggested to be the earliest fungus to have been used by humans with discoveries dating to
mesolithic settlements around 8000 BC
-flesh of basidiocarp was treated to produce amadou, which had two functions depending upon method of treatment
1. softest part of flesh was removed, soaked in hot water and pounded with a mallet until it was felt-like; resulting material was very absorbent and was used as a styptic; also used to make parts of hats and purses
2. tougher parts soaked in hot water with ashes, pounded and soaked again in potassium nitrate; end product was excellent tinder
http://www.plant.uga.edu/labrat/mims/overheads03.pdf

“Mr MacKay lighted a bit of touch-wood with a burning glass, in the cover of his tobacco box…”
                Alexander Mackenzie, 1793.

“Fire making is a simple process with the mountaineers. Their bullet pouches always contain a flint and steel, and sundry pieces of “punk”-a pithy substance found in dead pine trees-or tinder; and pulling a handful of dry grass, which they screw into a nest, they place the lighted punk in this, and closing the grass over it, wave it in the air, when it soon ignites, and readily kindles the dry sticks forming the foundation of a fire.”
Ruxton, 1848.

“…rain began hammering down so heavily that, one hundred miles from the nearest trees, and with nothing available but moss, nobody could start a fire.”
                Samuel Hearne, 1770.

 “…he was left to amuse himself all night a long side his fier (fire) which he made with his gun.” ~A. McKenzie, 1804.

“In the woods we were under some disadvantage, having no fire-works”. Journal of John Woolman, 1720-1742.

Take those great things which are called olde Todestooles growing out of the bottomes of nuttrees, beechtrees, okes, and such like trees, drye them with the smoke of fire, & then cut them into as many peeces as you will, and hauing well beaten them, boyle the  in strong lie with waule floure, or saltpeeter, till all the lie shal be consumend. After this laying them in a heape uppon a boorde, drie them in an oven which must not be made verie hotte, and after you haue so done, beate them well with a wooden mallet, and when you shall haue cause to use any parte of those Todestooles (now by the means above declared made touchwood) rubbe well that parte betweene your handes for to make it softe and apte to take fire. But when you will make tinder for a Gunners tinder boxe, take peeces of fustian, or of old and fine linnen clothe, make them to burn and flame in a fire, & suddenly before the flame which is in the  doth die, choke the fire, & keepe their tinder so made in a boxe lined within with clothe, to the ende that it may not be moyste at any time.

Appendix 20-1,  Lucar, C., Translation of Tartaglia, Three Bookes of Colloquies Concerning the Arte of Shooting in Great and Samll Peeces of Artillerie with Appendix, London,1588.

 “An Indian often goes off alone…with only his musket, powder and shot, and tinderbox… 
Pouchot, Pierre. Memoirs on the Late War in North America between France and England pg. 482 

 “…by the help of their punk, made a fire.” 
A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Johnson (1754-57) as found in Calloway, Colin G. North Country Captives pg. 61 .

Shall I instruct you in the practical science of getting a light with flint and steel? The first thing is to make your tinder, by burning or rather scorching a piece of rag. Toast it or char it till it is tenderly made into tinder. Neither do it too little, nor too much; cook your rags to a turn. Be very mindful to keep your tinder dry as a bone; for a spark will be of no service if it does not fall where it will be nourished; and the least damp will kill it. The sparks of temptation would be harmless if it were not for the tinder of corruption in our hearts. Good teaching is also lost unless it falls upon a mind prepared to receive it: so that the metaphor can be used either way.
Having secured your tinder, you had next to know how to strike your flint and steel so as to create sparks. Many a knock of the fingers would you get if you did not look alive. Possibly you would also bark your knuckles if you did know the art, if the weather was cold and your hands were half frozen. So is it in your dealing with men's consciences: you may give a hard knock and fetch fire out of them, or you may break your own knuckles by bringing upon yourself personal ill-will.
If you were so skilful or so fortunate as to cause a spark to drop into the tinder, you had to blow upon it very gently; just as the first sign of grace in any heart needs encouraging with the fostering breath of sympathy. How often have I seen a servant go down on her knees to blow at a coal which seemed to have a little life in it! Let us do the like with those persons concerning whom we are somewhat hopeful.
When the spark had become fairly prosperous in the tinder, then you applied the point of your brimstone match. You do not quite know what I mean. Well, mind you do not make a brimstone match when you get married. The brimstone, at the sharpened point of the match, would take fire when it touched the spark, and then your labour approached its reward. When you had your match flaming, and smelling, you lighted your candle; and having done with your elaborate apparatus, you popped the flat lid of the box upon the tinder to put it all out.
http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/candles2.htm

“He carrieth about him a purse of tewed leather, a mineral stone and a flat emery stone, tied fast to the end of a little stick. Gently, he striketh upon the mineral stone, and within a strike or two, a spark falleth upon a piece of touchwood and with the least spark, he maketh the fire."
- John Brereton describing the firemaking skills of the Wampanoag Indians (early 17th century).

Fortunately the water was not deep about the rock, nor between it and the land, and though a thin ice had formed, I was able to break it, and carry my children on shore. But here we had nearly perished from cold, as my spunk wood was wet, and I had no means of kindling a fire, until I thought to split open my powder horn, when I found in the middle of the mass of powder, a little which the water had not reached. This enabled me to kindle a fire, and was the means of saving all our lives.

Owing to our hands being benumbed with the cold, it was long before we could extricate ourselves from our snow shoes, and we were no sooner out of the water than our moccasins and clothes were frozen so stiff that we could not travel. I began also to think that we must die. But I was not like my Indian brother, willing to sit down and wait patiently for death to come. I kept moving about to the best of my power, while he lay in a dry place by the side of the bank where the wind had blown away the snow. I at length found some very dry rotten wood which I used as a substitute for spunk, and was so happy as to raise a fire. We then appliedourselves to thaw and dry our moccasins, and when partly dry we put them on, and went to collect fuel [Page 24] for a larger fire than we had before been able to make.

The wind was high, and the snow driving violently. In a vast extent of the plain, which we overlooked, we could see no wood, but some small oak bushes, scarce as high as a man's shoulders; but inthis poor cover we were compelled to encamp. The small and green stalks of the oaks were, with the utmost difficulty, kindled, [Page 50] and made but a poor fire. When the fire had remained some time in one place, and the ground under it become dry, we removed the brands and coals, and lay down upon the warm ashes.

The prophet, we are told, has forbid us to suffer our fire to be extinguished in our lodges, and when we travel or hunt, he will not allow us to use a flint and steel, and we are told he requires that no man should give fire to another. Can it please the Great Spirit that we should lie in our hunting camps without fire, or is it more agreeable to him that we should make fire by rubbing together two sticks than with a flint and a piece of steel?" But they would not listen to me, and the serious enthusiasm which prevailed among them so far affected me that I threw away my flint and steel, laid aside my medicine bag, and, in many particulars, complied with the new doctrines. But I would not kill my dogs. I soon learned to kindle a fire by rubbing some dry cedar, which I was careful to carry always about me, but the discontinuance of the use of flint and steel subjected many of the Indians to much inconvenience and suffering.

 A narrative of the captivity and adventures of John Tanner, (U.S. interpreter at the Saut de Ste. Marie,): during thirty years residence among the Indians in the interior of North America.

2 comments:

Bob said...

Wikipedia indicates that the correct spelling of the agave plant you mentioned is century, not "sentry."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agave#Agave_americana

Keith H. Burgess said...

Thank you Bob, much appreciated. I should have looked it up myself.
Regards, Keith.