History of pioneers



Early in the nineteenth century, the conditions for the formation of new States were rapidly appearing in the West. The vast territory east of the Mississippi had been gradually filling up since the era preceding the Revolution. Along the borders of the great lakes and on the banks of the Ohio settlements had early been founded, while Boone and his followers had crossed the Cumberland Mountains and led a tide of emigration towards the fair land of Kentucky. All these formed centres of departure for new pioneer movements, while from the Eastern States emigration pushed northward into Maine and westward into Vermont and central New York, forcing its way ever and ever deeper into the wilderness. McMaster gives a vivid description of the pioneer fever in 1800. Then Kentucky and New York were the Far West. The flood of emigration followed two routes. Of these New-Englanders chose the northern, via Albany and along the Mohawk valley to the wilderness beyond. Every trade and profession, except that of seamanship, was represented in these westward-flowing columns. A genuine pioneer fever arose. In front of the tide moved the speculators and land-jobbers, buying up the land, often in whole counties at a time. Then came the restless pioneer, who built his log cabin, girdled the trees, sowed a handful of grain, and then gave way to the impatient longing that possessed him, and moved on, to make way for a second line of settlers, with some money, who purchased his improvements and availed themselves of the results of his labor. These in their turn moved on, leaving the country more habitable behind them. Next came the permanent settlers, the founders of towns and villages, and civilization began to settle upon the land.

The hardships endured by these pioneers were severe. Food was scarce, their huts were rude and ill fitted to bear the inclemency of the winter, but the fever of adventure which possessed them kept them in steady march, the aborigines yielding step by step before them, and civilization, with slower but firmer steps, advancing in their rear.

The other route, that via the Ohio, was pursued by the aid of rude boats, which floated down the current with the families and household goods of the hardy emigrants. Towns and villages quickly dotted the fertile borders of this great stream. The savages, who had fiercely assailed the early voyagers, were driven back, and as early as 1794 a line of packet-boats had begun to ply between Pittsburg and Cincinnati. These, which made one voyage a month, were bullet-proof, and carried six small cannon, throwing one-pound balls. After Wayne's victory the stream flowed into the Northwest. In the census of 1800 the population of Ohio Territory was already 45,360, while Kentucky had a population of 220,950.

During the succeeding period the West filled up with remarkable rapidity. As new emigrants from the Old World poured into the Atlantic ports, many of the older settlers made way for them, and followed the routes described into the boundless West. After the purchase of Louisiana the stream crossed the Mississippi, and spread over the broad forest-region beyond. State after State was admitted into the Union, as the Territories gained the requisite population, until by 1820 to the original thirteen States were added eleven others. All the States now existing east of the Mississippi, with the exception of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida, were by that time admitted, while west of that river the two States of Missouri and Louisiana were members of the Union.

It was a rude population that filled up the region that intervened between the pioneer outposts and the older civilized settlements. Drunkenness, gambling, profanity, fighting, and duelling prevailed, and no modern mining camp ever presented a more detestable "reign of terror" than did the frontier settlements of the wild West of that era. One locality is thus described by Peter Cartwright, the celebrated pioneer preacher: "Logan County, Kentucky, when my father moved to it (1793), was called `Rogues' Harbor.' Here many refugees from almost all parts of the Union fled to escape punishment or justice; for, although there was law, yet it could not be executed, and it was a desperate state of society. Murderers, horsethieves, highway-robbers, and counterfeiters fled here, until they combined and actually formed a majority." A battle with guns, pistols, dirks, knives, and clubs took place between the "Rogues" and the "Regulators." The latter were defeated, and villainy reigned supreme.

On the wickedness of Kentucky there suddenly fell, in the early years of the century, an epidemic of religious conversion so remarkable in character as to call for some attention at our hands. Many of its peculiar features had never before been seen, and none of them have ever appeared since in like intensity. This "awakening" of the people began in 1799, in Logan County, Kentucky, the home of wickedness above described. Several ardent sensational preachers, of the Presbyterian denomination, roused a strong revival spirit in their congregations, which spread widely through the adjoining country. But it was in the summer of 1800 that the "revival" broke out in the fullness of its intensity. It was in a measure due to a new feature of missionary work, the "camp-meeting." A religious encampment was organized under the trees of the forest, to which people flocked in thousands, while the impassioned appeals of the excitable preachers produced an extraordinary effect. Thousands were convicted of sin, while the camp-meeting idea spread rapidly throughout the whole region, and nearly all the population flocked to these emotional assemblies.





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