Friday 11 December 2009

Rule Brittania! New France & Old England.

I found this video a long time ago and did not post it because of the scene with the British officer playing with the children. He is pointing his musket at them!!! We all know the rule about where to point the muzzle!

However, this video is one of the best I have seen and well worth viewing. This is the English New France & Old England Living History group and the Iroquois Indians are a German group. This is how a reenactment should be done, even the camp scenes are spot on. I have yet to see an American reenactment scene as good as this one, these people are acting as though the situation is real.

My thanks to Flintlock & Tomahawk http://flintlockandtomahawk.blogspot.com  for posting this video, for I had forgotten all about it. Thanks Ralphus, much obliged. Le Loup.

Monday 7 December 2009

Period Game.

When I went up to feed the chooks early this morning I saw a Hare just outside the cottage. A beautiful animal. we do not see many these days. I hope it stays in my forest.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Mystery Costrel.

This post is curtesy of "The Reverend's Big Blog Of Leather at: http://leatherworkingreverend.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/costrels/

Can anyone identify the water bottle/costrel in the following photos. I hope to add more information on its construction later on, but from what I can see it is either leather covered leather or covered wood. No stitching is visible that I can see.

The Reverend Said: "The way the "foot" is done reminds me of the earthenware maniform costrels of the early 17th century from near London, but the loops don't fit that. The straps appear to have been done as paired slits in the leather and the loop stretched away from what I'm assuming is a wooden core."

Friday 4 December 2009

Captured By Indians, 1755.

"The party that took us consisted of six Indians and four Frenchmen, who immediately commenced plundering, as I just observed, and took what they considered most valuable; consisting principally of bread, meal, and meat. Having taken as much provision as they could carry, they set out with their prisoners in great haste, for fear of detection, and soon entered the woods".

Living Among the Mohawks, 1644.
In winter, they hang about them simply an undressed deer or bear or panther skin; or they take some beaver and otter skins, wild cat, raccoon, martin, otter, mink, squirrel or such like skins, which are plenty in this country, and sew some of them to others, until it is a square piece, and that is then a garment for them. . . They make themselves stockings and also shoes of deer skin, or they take leaves of their corn, and plait them together and use them for shoes.
We go with them into the woods, we meet with each other, sometimes at an hour or two's walk from any houses, and think no more about it than as if we met with a Christian. They sleep by us, too, in our chambers before our beds. I have had eight at once lying and sleeping upon the floor near my bed, for it is their custom to sleep simply on the bare ground, and to have only a stone or a bit of wood under their heads. In the evening, they go to bed very soon after they have supped; but early in the morning, before day begins to break, they are up again.
They make their houses of the bark of trees, very close and warm, and kindle their fire in the middle of them. They also make of the peeling and bark of trees, canoes or small boats, which will carry four, five and six persons. In like manner, they hollow out trees, and use them for boats, some of which are very large.
Their weapons in war were formerly a bow and arrow, with a stone axe and mallet; but now they get from our people guns, swords, iron axes and mallets.


Woodland Foot Powered Lathe.

If you look carefully toward the end of this video you can see that three trees are being used for this lathe, and you can see the wedge that sets the pressure on the spindle.

Women in Early Colonial New World Settlement.

Thursday 3 December 2009

17th Century Jamestown. New Findings. Equipment.

All images curtesy of Gutenberg Project.

17th Century Colonial Clothing.

Clothing and Footwear.

The Jamestown settlers of the middle class were usually dressed in hard wearing, rough clothes made of homespun material, with a slightly better costume for Sunday and holiday wear. In 1622 each Englishman who planned to emigrate to Jamestown was advised to supply himself with the following wearing apparel:
• “One Monmouth cap
• Three falling bands [a neckband or collar of a shirt which turned down over the shoulders].
• Three shirts.
• One waste-coate.
• One suite of Canvase [a suit made of coarse cloth, such as cotton, hemp, tow, or jute].
• One suite of Frize [a woolen fabric with a nap].
• One suite of Cloth.
• Three paire of Irish stockins.
• Foure paire of shooes.
• One paire of garters.
• One doozen of points [a point was a tie or string ending with an anglet and used to join parts of a costume as doublet and hose].”
The women wore plain frocks and petticoats, although a few of the wealthy ladies owned silk, satin, and velvet dresses. Bodices, as a rule, were long pointed, and skirts were full and long.

Period Foods.


"Set off on our journey for Ofwegotchy, against a rapid stream, and being long in it, and our provisions
running short, the Indians put to shore a little before night. My lot was to get wood, others were ordered to get fires and some to hunt.Our Kettle was put over the fire with some pounded Indian Corn, and after it had boiled about two hours, my oldest Indian Brother returned with a She Beaver, big with young, which he soon cut to pieces, and threw into the kettle, together with the guts, and took the four young beavers, whole as they came out of the dam, and put them likewise into the kettle, and when all was well boiled, gave each one of us a large dishful of broth, of which we ate freely, and then part of the Old Beaver, the Tail, of which was divided equally amongst us, there being Eight at our fire; The four young Beavers were cut in the middle, and each of us got half of a Beaver; I watched an oppurtunity to hide my share, having satisfied myself before that tender dish came to hand, which if they had seen, would have much displeased them.
The other Indians catched young Mufk-Rats, run a stick through their bodies, and roafted, without being skinned or gutted, and so eat them."

Cymro Faggot.

Faggots are made of meat fragments left over after pig slaughter, wrapped in membrane that covers the pig's abdominal organs, and shaped like sausages.

Welsh (Cymro) Rabbit.

Grated cheese mixed with ale or wine and mustard. Spread on toast and heat until browning.

English Cake Bread.

Take one Gallon of flowre, two pound of Currans, and one pound of butter or better, a quarter of a pound of sugar, a quarter of a pint of Rose-water, halfe an ounce of nutmeg, & half an ounce of Cinnamon, two egs, then warm cream, break the butter into the flower, temper all these with the creame, and put a quantity of yest amongst it, above a pint to three gallons, wet it very lide, cover your Cake, with a sheet doubled, when it comes hot out of the Oven; let it stand one hour and a half in the Oven.

Archimagirus Anglo-Gallicus; Or, Excellent & Approved Receipts and Experiments in Cookery, 1658.

To make an Oatmeal-pudding.

Take a pint of Milk, and put to it a pint of large, or midling Oatmeal, let it stand on the Fire till it be scalding hot, then let it stand by, and soak about half an hour, then pick a few sweet Herbs, and shred them, and put in half a pound of Currans, and half a pound of Suet, and about two spoonfuls of Sugar, and three or four Eggs; these put into a bag, and boyled, do make a very good Pudding.

The Accomplish'd Lady's Delight In Preserving, Physick, Beautifying, and Cookery, 1675

To make an Oatmeal Pudding boyled.

Take the biggest Oatmeal, mince what herbs you like best and mix with it, season it with Pepper and Salt; tye it strait in a bag; and when it is boyled, butter it and send it up.

The whole Body of Cookery Dissected, 1661

Sunday 29 November 2009

The Crooked Knife & The Items You Can Make With One.

“The most valuable things I own are my axe, my wife and my crooked knife.”
—Blue Coat, a Northern Cree

“Almost unknown today, this knife is one of the most distinctive antiquities of the ‘Man of the North.’”
—Carl Russell, Firearms, Traps and Tools of the Mountain Men

“No man ever goes off on a journey without this knife, no matter how short the distance … and to make one thousand and one indispensable objects.”
—John Wesley Powell, Curator, U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, 1898

Every object has a story. The better we know the story the more we appreciate the object.
—Axiom of curators and collectors

In the realm of material culture, the tool for making an object is often as important as the object itself.
—Axiom of anthropologists

“No one will know why such a dull stub of a blade found such a fanciful handle, as if the one who gripped it
fought with ghosts.”
—From a poem, Worn Tool, by Stephen Sandy

Early 17th Century crooked knife blade.

War Club.

Ball Headed Club.

Ball Headed Club.

Rifle Stock Club.

Spiked War Club.

Spiral Tomahawk Helve.

A Lacross Stick.

Wooden Eating Spoon.

Wooden Eating Spoon.

Whet Stone Holder.

Saturday 28 November 2009

The Crooked Knife, or Mocotaugan.

"Captain John Gyles, writing of his captivity about 1696 by the Maliseet Indians in Maine, observed that the crooked knife was part of every man’s equipment".


The crooked knife is a one handed drawknife, and the term "crooked" referes as far as I understand it to the handle, not the blade. Because I have images of crooked knives with straight blades. The crooked knife is used to make many objects, from canoes and canoe paddles to wooden spoons. The unique shape of the handle enables the user to assert a lot of power safely but just flexing the wrist.
I just made a crooked knife this morning out of the blade from a hoof scraper which I had to heat and reshape and then harden again, and a piece of wood cut from some dead pussy willow. I carved out the recess for the blade after final reshaping of the handle. The blade I secured to the handle with two brass screws. Then I bound the whole with wet rawhide and let it dry. Wet rawhide is flexible and stretches a little. When it dries it shrinks and hardens.

Crooked Knife 1720-1800.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Kentucky Pioneers 1941.

Alone In The Wilderness.

Two things stood out for me in this video. (1) this chap is only carrying minimal gear on his back and (2) he did not carry in all the tools he used in one trip, and at some time it looks as though he trekked in by canoe.

This started me wondering if this was ever done in the 18th century, people taking equipment in to the site and stashing it there and then making a return trip. I guess if there were a group of you you could probably take everything in one trip.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Fortification Tests.

This post from youtube, but can also be seen at: http://flintlockandtomahawk.blogspot.com/2009/11/fort-necessity-musket-test.html

Brain Tanning.

This video does not tell the whole story, but it might encourage you to do further research. The skin does not have to be frozen, once placed on a frame and allowed to dry it will become rawhide and quite hard and stiff. This skin can then be scraped clean and then the brain tan solutionn can be applied.
There should be enough brains in each animal to tan its skin.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

18th Century Long Term Wilderness Survival 3. The little Things.

Little things can make a difference in a survival situation. There are some things that an 18th century person tends to carry that a 21st century person may not. Let us look at a couple of these items.
The Housewife/Sewing Kit.

The House Wife is a small cloth sewing kit that folds up neatly to fit in your knapsack. Mine includes: linen thread, needles, a small piece of beeswax, some rolls of sinew, some rolls of rawhide, some pins in an attached pin cushion, and some spare buttons.
This sewing kit is for repairing clothes, moccasins, and packs if needs be. The needles are handy for removing splinters.

The Awl.

I carry my Father’s awl with me in a wood sheath that is wrapped with waxed linen thread. With this awl and my sewing kit I can repair my moccasins and make a new pair if needed.

The Journal.

I like to carry a small leather covered journal and a pencil for taking notes of things that need doing, anything that I need to be reminded of later on. I carry a beeswax candle so I can see to read and write at night without having to get near the fire to see. It is a great comfort if I have an idea and I am able to note it down.

Blade Sharpening.

I carry a small whet stone in a wooden holder and a small file. Blades need to be kept sharp to be safe and to perform properly when needed. Blade sharpening is something you can do in camp which is pleasing and relaxing.

Fire lighting.

I have covered fire lighting before and the use of flint & steel & the tinderbox. I just wanted to emphasise the use of a beeswax candle stub for drying out any damp kindling. Fire is one of those things that really makes a cosy camp, especially in cold or wet weather. It warms me in my shelter, it cooks my food, it dries my clothes and moccasins if they get wet. It heats water for a hot drink, it sterilizes, it dries my gun if it gets wet and it dries the barrel out after cleaning. A blazing torch will keep wild dogs at bay and it lights the area around my shelter so I can see what is there.

Fire can be seen at night if I want to be seen or I can use it to send a smoke signal. With the heat from the fire I can straighten arrow shafts and spears and harden wooden tips. I can make items such as clay bowls, ball moulds, and grease lamps and harden them in my fire. I can dry meat over it and I can use fire to smoke brain tanned skins to stop them from hardening. I can heat rocks for boiling water in a vessel that can not be placed on a fire. Fire will help build a dugout. Fire can be buried under a bed for warmth on a cold night. Fire is a welcome sight to friends and an invite to come sit and chat awhile. Fire is very important.

Long term 18th Century Survival, Then & Now; Number 2.

Note the hammer cap made of leather. This is a safety device that fits over the hammer to make sure the gun can not fire when not needed.


Setting up a trap line is a priority. A trap line will work for you when you are asleep or working elsewhere. In times when there is little game about you can hunt to and from your trap line all year round, in good times you can wait until the traps have been checked and reset and then if needs be you can hunt on the return trip.

Don’t forget that if a trap line is discovered it will be a good place to lay in ambush, so keep your wits about you and a sharp look-out. For those of you that think this is taking things too far, consider this. In the 18th century in the New World there was a constant danger from hostiles, both woodland Indians and white men. On camps and treks I have been on, on one occasion I was openly attacked and fired on by seven assailants, and on another occasion tracked by four young men who backed off when they saw I was armed. Man is the most dangerous land animal in the world, and he/she is just as dangerous now as they were 300 years ago. In a survival situation the risks will be higher.

Fishing is another good source of food, and in a survival situation there is no law against set lines. Set lines are lines baited and left just like a trap line.

Fish hooks can also be used on floats/small platforms baited with bread for ducks. The line is attached to the shore, and a rock is attached to the line and supported by the float. When the duck takes the bait the rock is pulled from the float and the duck drowns. PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS A SURVIVAL TRAP ONLY!

The same goes for fish traps. Research fish traps so that you know how to make them.

Land animal traps include: cage traps, dead falls, pit traps, fence traps and snares. There is no point in carrying steel jaw traps when you can make your own traps on site from natural plant materials, though I would advise making your small game and preditor snares from brass picture hanging wire. A 7 strand wire is good for rabbit and possum, or you can twist two 4 strand wires together if the number 7 is not available. Preditor snares for feral dog and cat and fox can be made from two 7 strand wires twisted together. This is as close as you can get to 18th century snares today. Be careful of snaring cats and foxes, they do carry diseases. Cat I am told tastes like chicken, though I have never tried it. Snake I have eaten though and it does taste like chicken.

Kangaroo, goat and pig snares need to be made from cordage or rope.


The Rabbit Stick. A very simple hunting tool is the rabbit stick. This stick is about as long as a tomahawk helve (though I like my tomahawk helve a little longer) from your clenched fist to you elbow. You can add a point to each end and use it as a digging stick as well. If you can throw a tomahawk you can throw a rabbit stick. The rabbit stick is thrown like a boomerang for rabbit, duck, geese and other birds, but it won’t come back if you miss!

The Tomahawk. The tomahawk is a very useful tool and can be used for hunting, butchering, shelter construction, defence, offence, and trap construction. The helve fits in the head from the top just like a pick axe or mattock so it is easy to make and easy to fit in the field if one should break.

The Hunting Knife. Choose your hunting knife well. I like a big knife but not too big and not heavy. I find a butcher knife works very well. The long blade would enable me to use this knife bound to the end of a stabbing spear so if needs be I could lie beside a trail and ambush game.

The Bow & Arrow. The bow is probably the ultimate survival tool, but it is not so easy to find decent bow woods and arrow woods in Australia. But it can be done. Simple self-bows for survival can be made from wattle and other woods with some experimentation. Where I live in the New England area I use wattle, but in other areas you may find other suitable woods.

Arrows can be made from reeds with hard wood tips and notches fitted in the ends if you can’t find any decent reasonably straight timber. Arrows of course can be heated and straightened in the fire and fletching can be secured by binding or wrapping.

The Flintlock Muzzleloading Gun. The flintlock gun or rifle is a first rate survival tool.
• You do not need to carry brass cartridges but you can make your own paper ones.
• A fusil or musket can digest round ball, bird shot, and swan shot (buck shot), or a combination of these.
• There are very few parts to a flintlock and they are easy to repair.
• You can get moulds for all shot types.
• You can use the lock on the gun to make fire.
• If the lock breaks and you have no spare parts, you can turn it into a matchlock and keep using it.
• The ignition only requires a sharp edged rock to fire the gun, and you can find these in the field if you should run out of spares.
• Far easier to dig the used lead out of targets and game for reuse.

A few flintlock tips for beginners:
1. Always use the correct black powder, it is the name BLACK POWDER that counts, not the colour.
2. Always use a powder measure of the correct volume and NEVER load directly from the powder horn or a flask.
3. The flint held in the cock must be sharp or it will not cut sparks from the hammer and will not fire. If the hammer is not sparking with a good flint (any good hard sharp rock will work), then the hammer may need hardening or replacing.
4. Do not overfill the priming pan. It does not require much powder to work.
5. Prime from your main horn, there should be no need for an extra priming horn.
6. The flintlock should fire instantaneously. Make sure you use your vent pick to clear the vent each time you load. Powder in the vent will slow ignition.
7. You carry a pan brush to brush burnt powder from the pan in damp weather to stop it attracting moisture. I suggest you also wipe the surface of the hammer.
8. If after doing everything right you find that you have misfires or slow ignition, check the size of the vent (flash hole). I drilled mine out in a bigger size and it works great now. Sometimes they make them too small. I also countersunk the hole.
9. Cleaning is easily done by removing the barrel from the stock and with your cleaning stick or ram rod and some cloth or tow or similar you place the vent hole beneath water and use the barrel like a bicycle pump. Sucking in clean water and pumping out the dirty water.
If you use hot water it will dry quickly after wiping out with a dry cloth or similar. If using cold water simply wipe out the bore and heat gently in front of your fire until dry.
This may all sound like a lot of hard work, but it really is not. You get used to knowing what to do and it does not take long.

The Siege Of Fort William Henry 1757. These are some deleated scenes from the movie, Last Of The Mohicans.

Curtesy of Flintlock & Tomahawk. http://flintlockandtomahawk.blogspot.com/2009/11/fort-william-henry-1757-lotm.html

Monday 23 November 2009

Long Term 18th Century Wilderness Survival, Then & Now.

Long Term 18th Century Wilderness Survival, Then & Now.

I know that there are some survival minded people following this blog. I used to teach wilderness survival skills and I still do within our 18th century living History group. So I will start this series of survival posts based on 18th century survival, because I firmly believe that if we are ever placed in a serious long term survival situation through whatever cause, that it is these 300 year old skills that will be the savour of those of us who practice them.

Many years ago in a magazine called “The Buckskin Report” a reader made the same observation. He said that years after any major disaster the only ones surviving would be “Buckskinners”. That is what we do was called back then, Buckskinning.

In this day and age we are used to being able to just walk into any suitable store and purchase what we want, or something close to it. Clothing shops are everywhere, in fact there are so many in each city that I fail to see how any one of them manages to survive, some don’t I guess but there are always enough to serve our wants including the second hand clothing that can be purchased through the local op-shops.

But what would happen if all of a sudden these establishments were no longer there? Just how did people get their clothing on the New World frontier 300 years ago? Well the answer of course is that they made their own clothing. They grew the wool or the flax and they spun it into yarn. Then they wove that yarn into cloth, and with that cloth they made their clothes. Some would have traded for the yarn, some had yarn and went to a weaver to have it woven into cloth. Whichever way it was done they did it themselves.

Those that could not trade and could not grow flax or wool could still have used other native plant materials, or they made their clothing out of leather. This leather was made from the skins of animals and again there was a skill to this craft. Many of these skills have now been forgotten through lack of use. The industrial revolution put an end to cottage industry and sent many once hard working skilled people to the work house!

But now through Living History there is a move to bring back these forgotten skills. Through experimental archaeology many of us are making the tools of an age past and learning how to use them to complete a task. Just as that person said all those years ago, if anyone is going to survive a major long term survival situation, it will be us.

So where do I start? There are a multitude of skills and crafts that I have learnt and practiced in my lifetime and some I guess have priority over others, but only in the short term. Sooner or later they will all become equally as important.

Water: You can last 3 minutes without oxygen, three days without water, and 3 weeks without food. These are rough estimates of course and they depend on the weather, your fitness, your exertion, and your ability to find shade or build a shelter. The water need can be solved by finding water. You look for bands of green vegetation, if you are on the coast you can dig down in the sand in low areas and see if you can find a fresh water seap, the same as you can find water in a dry creek bed in low areas.

Some rock outcroppings can contain rock wells, holes in the rock that hold water. I have found water in the bowls in forks of trees. But in long term wilderness survival you will be looking for a more permanent supply of water. You will be looking for wilderness areas with streams, creeks and rivers and you will be setting up your home not too far away.

Water is life. We are animals called humans. We need water just like any other species of animal. I should imagine even aliens need water but that is a pure assumption and may not be the case. But earth bound animals certainly do need water and where you find water you will find life, game and edible plants. So this then is a basic need for our survival. We need to find a permanent source of water, and then we need to set up home not too far away.

In order to get to where we are going we will need to carry water with us, and I have already covered water bottles and canteens in a previous post. Needless to say in a survival situation where you have to leave home to survive in the wilderness you will be considering modern devices to carry water as well as any 18th century equipment you may have, such as wine carton bladders and plastic bottles.

Bear in mind here that I am not against modern methods or modern equipment in the short term. It is just that I am well aware that they will not last!

When you get to wherever you are going you will need shelter, that too I have recently covered. The one thing I do advise in regard to equipage and food etc, is that everyone in your group be self reliant. I do not recommend that one of a couple carries the oil cloth/oilcloth and the other person carries the food or whatever. If anything should happen to one person, that person and their partner are going to have to go without something. Each person should be fully equipped. That way couples will have two blankets in winter, and a large shelter made from two tarpaulins/oilcloths. The same goes for the children. Those big enough to carry something should be supplied with food, water, and at least a small pure wool blanket.

Before I finish this post I will mention one more item regarding children. In our group we invent games that teach the children survival skills; Simple skills that do not require too much work but skills that may save their lives. These children are used to participating with their parents/guardians in our living history activities and historical treks. IF a real survival situation should ever arise, leaving home and carrying their own equipment on the trail will not be knew to them, there will be no panic and no stress because to them this is NORMAL. Please bear that in mind if you are survival oriented and wish to prepare Just In Case. Involve the whole family. Living History is a good way of doing this because it is seen as playing.

Sunday 22 November 2009

Living Among the Mohawks, 1644.

Joseph Brant

Portrait by
George Romney
The painting is inscribed
"Thayeadanegea, Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief"

The principal nation of all the savages and Indians, hereabouts with which we have the most intercourse, is the Mohawks who have laid all the other Indians near us under contribution.

The people and Indians here in this country are like us Dutchmen in body and stature; some of them have well formed features, bodies and limbs; they all have black hair and eyes, but their skin is yellow. In summer they go naked, having only their private parts covered with a patch. The children and young folks to ten, twelve and fourteen years of age go stark naked.

In winter, they hang about them simply an undressed deer or bear or panther skin; or they take some beaver and otter skins, wild cat, raccoon, martin, otter, mink, squirrel or such like skins, which are plenty in this country, and sew some of them to others, until it is a square piece, and that is then a garment for them. . . They make themselves stockings and also shoes of deer skin, or they take leaves of their corn, and plait [braid] them together and use them for shoes.

They generally live without marriage; and if any of them have wives, the marriage continues no longer than seems good to one of the parties, and then they separate, and each takes another partner. I have seen those who had parted, and afterwards lived a long time with others, leave these again, seek their former partners, and again be one pair.

The women, when they have been delivered, go about immediately afterwards, and be it ever so cold, they wash themselves and the young child in the river or the snow. They will not lie down (for they say that if they did they would soon die), but keep going about. They are obliged to cut wood, to travel three or four leagues with the child; in short, they walk, they stand, they work, as if they had not lain in, and we cannot see that they suffer any injury by it. . .

The men have great authority over their concubines, so that if they do anything which does not please and raises their passion, they take an axe and knock them in the head, and there is an end of it. The women are obliged to prepare the land, to mow, to plant, and do everything; the men do nothing, but hunt; fish, and make war upon their enemies.

They are very cruel towards their enemies in time of war; for they first bite off the nails of the fingers of their captives, and cut off some joints, and sometimes even whole fingers; after that, the captives are forced to sing and dance before them stark naked; and finally, they roast their prisoners dead before a slow fire for some days, and then eat them up. The common people eat the arms, buttocks and trunk, but the chiefs eat the head and the heart.

Our Mohawks carry on great wars against the Indians of Canada, on the River Saint Lawrence, and take many captives, and sometimes there are French Christians among them.

They spare all the children from ten to twelve years old, and all the women whom they take in war, unless the women are very old, and then they kill them too. Though they are so very cruel to their enemies; they are very friendly to us, and we have no dread of them.

We go with them into the woods, we meet with each other, sometimes at an hour or two's walk from any houses, and think no more about it than as if we met with a Christian. They sleep by us, too, in our chambers before our beds. I have had eight at once lying and sleeping upon the floor near my bed, for it is their custom to sleep simply on the bare ground, and to have only a stone or a bit of wood under their heads. In the evening, they go to bed very soon after they have supped; but early in the morning, before day begins to break, they are up again.

They make their houses of the bark of trees, very close and warm, and kindle their fire in the middle of them. They also make of the peeling and bark of trees, canoes or small boats, which will carry four, five and six persons. In like manner, they hollow out trees, and use them for boats, some of which are very large.

Their weapons in war were formerly a bow and arrow, with a stone axe and mallet; but now they get from our people guns, swords, iron axes and mallets.

Their money consists of certain little bones, made of. shells or cockles, which are found on the sea-beach; a hole is drilled through the middle of the little bones, and these they string upon thread, or they make of them belts as broad as a hand, or broader, and hang them on their necks, or around their bodies. They have also several holes in their ears, and there they likewise hang some. They value these little bones as highly as many Christians do gold, silver and pearls; but they do not like our money, and esteem it no better than iron."


This eyewitness account appears in: Jameson, J. Franklin (ed.), Narratives of New Netherland 1609-1664 (1909); Ellis, David M. (et al), A Short History of New York State (1957).

How To Cite This Article:

"Living Among the Mohawks, 1644," EyeWitness to History, (2007).


Captured By Indians, 1755.

The Capture Of Mary Jemmison By Robert Griffing.

"The party that took us consisted of six Indians and four Frenchmen, who immediately commenced plundering, as I just observed, and took what they considered most valuable; consisting principally of bread, meal, and meat. Having taken as much provision as they could carry, they set out with their prisoners in great haste, for fear of detection, and soon entered the woods.

On our march that day, an Indian went behind us with a whip, with which he frequently lashed the children, to make them keep up. In this manner we traveled till dark, without a mouthful of food or a drop of water, although we had not eaten since the night before. Whenever the little children cried for water, the Indians would make them drink urine, or go thirsty. At night they encamped in the woods, without fire and without shelter, where we were watched with the greatest vigilance. Extremely fatigued, and very hungry, we were compelled to lie upon the ground, without supper or a drop of water to satisfy the cravings of our appetites. As in the daytime, so the little ones were made to drink urine in the night, if they cried for water. Fatigue alone brought us a little sleep for the refreshment of our weary limbs; and at the dawn of day we were again started on our march, in the same order that we had proceeded the day before.

About sunrise we were halted, and the Indians gave us a full breakfast of provision that they had brought from my father's house. Each of us, being very hungry, partook of this bounty of the Indians, except father, who was so much overcome with his situation, so much exhausted by anxiety and grief, that silent despair seemed fastened upon his countenance, and he could not be prevailed upon to refresh his sinking nature by the use of a morsel of food. Our repast being finished, we again resumed our march; and before noon passed a small fort, that I heard my father say was called Fort Canagojigge.

Corn Planter, a Seneca Chief

That was the only time that I heard him speak from the time we were taken till we were finally separated the following night.

Toward evening, we arrived at the border of a dark and dismal swamp, which was covered with small hemlocks or some other evergreen, and various kinds of bushes, into which we were conducted; and having gone a short distance, we stopped to encamp for the night.

Here we had some bread and meat for supper; but the dreariness of our situation, together with the uncertainty under which we all labored, as to our future destiny, almost deprived us of the sense of hunger, and destroyed our relish for food.

As soon as I had finished my supper, an Indian took off my shoes and stockings, and put a pair of moccasins on my feet, which my mother observed; and believing that they would spare my life, even if they should destroy the other captives, addressed me, as near as I can remember, in the following words:

'My dear little Mary, I fear that the time has arrived when we must be parted for ever. Your life, my child, I think will be spared; but we shall probably be tomahawked here in this lonesome place by the Indians. Oh! how can I part with you, my darling? What will become of my sweet little Mary? Oh! how can I think of your being continued in captivity, without a hope of your being rescued? Oh! that death had snatched you from my embraces in your infancy: the pain of parting then would have been pleasing to what It now is; and I should have seen the end of your troubles! Alas, my dear! my heart bleeds at the thought of what awaits you; but, if you leave us, remember, my child, your own name, and the names of your father and mother. Be careful and not forget your English tongue. If you shall have an opportunity to get away from the Indians don't try to escape; for if you do they will find and destroy you. Don't forget, my little daughter, the prayers that I have learned you - say them often: be a good child, and God will bless you! May God bless you, my child, and make you comfortable and happy.'

During this time, the Indians stripped the shoes and stockings from the little boy that belonged to the woman who was taken with us, and put moccasins on his feet, as they had done before on mine. I was crying. An Indian took the little boy and myself by the hand, to lead us off from the company, when my mother exclaimed, 'Don't cry, Mary! - don't cry, my child! God will bless you! Farewell - farewell!'

Mary Jemison tells her story,


The Indian led us some distance into the bushes or woods, and there lay down with us to spend the night. The recollection of parting with my tender mother kept me awake, while the tears constantly flowed from my eyes. A number of times in the night, the little boy begged of me earnestly to run away with him, and get clear of the Indians; but remembering the advice I had so lately received, and knowing the dangers to which we should be exposed, in traveling without a path and without a guide, through a wilderness unknown to us, I told him that I would not go, and persuaded him to lie still till morning.

My suspicion as to the fate of my parents proved too true; for soon after I left them they were killed and scalped, together with Robert, Matthew, Betsey, and the woman and her two children, and mangled in the most shocking manner

After a hard day's march we encamped in a thicket, where the Indians made a shelter of boughs, and then built a good fire to warm and dry our benumbed limbs and clothing; for it had rained some through the day. Here we were again fed as before. When the Indians had finished their supper, they took from their baggage a number of scalps, and went about preparing them for the market, or to keep without spoiling, by straining them over small hoops which they prepared for that purpose, and then drying and scraping them by the fire.

Having put the scalps, yet wet and bloody, upon the hoops, and stretched them to their full extent, they held them to the fire till they were partly dried, and then, with their knives, commenced scraping off the flesh; and in that way they continued to work, alternately drying and scraping them, till they were dry and clean. That being done, they combed the hair in the neatest manner, and then painted it and the edges of the scalps, yet on the hoops, red. Those scalps I knew at the time must have been taken from our family, by the color of the hair. My mother's hair was red; and I could easily distinguish my father's and the children's from each other. That sight was most appalling; yet I was obliged to endure it without complaining. In the course of the night, they made me to understand that they should not have killed the family, if the whites had not pursued them."


References: Seaver, James E., Life of Mary Jemison (1824, reprinted 1856).

How To Cite This Article:

"Captured By Indians, 1755," EyeWitness to History, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/ (1999).