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The Life of John W. Johnson
Chapter 6
Traveling In Maine - 1853 to 1854

Transcribed - June 1998 - by Ne-Do-Ba

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I could got nothing to do in Boston, and I therefore went to Bath where I hired out with a doctress woman named Nichola. We stopped here until winter, and then went to Sidney where we camped out. We camped in an old road, and it having been raining very hard for a few days past, and as we were near a river, the water was turned off, owing to an obstruction in the river above, and it came down the old road. It came rolling toward us in the night, but hearing the noise of the waters I went out and finding what the trouble was, we turned out and struck our tent, and moved back farther into the woods, into safe quarters. There was quite a freshet, and a young man and myself made some money catching logs and towing them ashore, where we made them fast.

I bought a horse while here for the doctress, and then we went to Oldtown, leaving one of the family to take charge of the tent while we were gone. In passing along between Unity and China, we came to a place called Albion Corner, where there was a public house, and we rode up and tried to get a dinner, but the people locked the doors, and would not let us come in. There was a tall post at the door, the sign had tumbled down years before, showing that it was a public house, and feeling rather provoked at the way they treated us, we took our hatchets and cut the post down, thinking that they did not need any sign as they did not entertain strangers.

We kept on our way and stopped at Troy, where we were received in better shape, and got something to eat, but as our horse was taken sick, we could go no father, we therefore stopped all night. The next day we resumed our journey, and the same night arrived at Oldtown, being ferried across the river in an old scow that we obtained.

We stopped at Oldtown about six weeks, and had some fine times, gunning and fishing, while there. Some days twenty of us or more would go a moose hunting, sometimes we would chase them into the water, and then paddle our canoes up to them, and cut their throats which is easily done in deep water. I thought that this seemed a very cruel way of killing moose, the first time I saw it done, but after sometime I got used to it, and could butcher them in this way without flinching. We went back to Sidney, and there hired a house and stable, and the family made baskets, while my mistress practiced medicine. We did very well while here. One day while I was at Sidney my mistress loaded up a pung with baskets, and sent me off to sell, but was somewhat afraid that I should ran away, and therefore just before I left she said, "You won't bring back my baskets, will you?" "I hope not," I said, "I want to sell them." This quieted her, and I started off, and was gone for four days, going through a number of villages, but a storm coming up on the fourth day, I hurried back, not quite selling out my stock.

One of the boys being taken sick, part of the family vent to Oldtown with the sick boy, whilst myself, and two others with the doctress remained. We remained in Sidney making baskets until February, and then we started for Oldtown. It was dreadful cold the day we left and we had been on the road but a short time before it began to storm; but we kept on until we came to a tavern in China, but here we could not get put up, as the keeper said the house was full. It stormed faster than ever, and it seemed to grow colder, but we had to go forward, and after sometime we reached Albion Corner, where the people had all gone to bed, and we could not rouse any one, and we had to keep on. The snow had drifted badly, and we made but slow progress, but we soon came to a house where a light was burning, and with some little cheerfulness, though we were all nearly frozen, we drove up to the door. There were four in our company, the doctress and a child in the pung, whilst myself and another young man walked along by the side of the horse, as it had stormed so fast that the road was full of snow.

We went up to the house in a bad condition; as to myself I was never colder, and the doctress was crying, she was so cold, while the little child was wrapped up in the buffaloes so that she did not suffer so much, yet suffering as we were, they refused us admittance.

I did not know whether they were suspicious of us or not, but we stopped there and plead and entreated of that family to let us enter the house and warm us for half an hour, but to no avail. After some time we made a compromise, and they agreed to let the woman and child in, and myself and young man to sleep in the barn. The doctress and child went into the house, and after taking care of the horse, the family relented and let us in. I found that I had frozen one of my toes, but felt satisfied to got off as well as I had. After warming myself well at the fire I went out into the pung in the barn, and wrapping myself in the buffaloes, went to sleep. The next morning we got our breakfast at the house, and after paying them for their trouble resumed our journey, but the road was in such a bad condition that we did not make much progress that day, only going as far as Dixmont where we stopped over night. The next night we arrived at Oldtown, crossing the Penobscot river on the ice.

One day while there, I was driving to Bangor with the doctress, when overtaking two Indian women, she asked them to ride. I got out and walked, and as one of them said she knew how to drive, I relinquished the reins into her hands. Unfortunately neither of the women know how to drive, and the horse not being used to such management, took fright and ran away, throwing them out, and injuring himself somewhat, as I afterwards found out. A few days after I went with the doctress to Waterville, and while there I noticed for the first time that the horse's leg was cut. The family with whom we stopped had a young man whom they wished to take my place, and they therefore told the doctress that they thought that I cut the horse's leg and my mistress accused me of it. I was somewhat surprised at the charge, as she had placed the fullest confidence in me up to that time, and denied it, but all that I could say, availed nothing. She settled with me, if it could be called a settlement, for she paid me nothing for the time I had worked, but as I had lent her some money when I went to work, she deducted what she had paid for clothes, and gave me the balance of the borrowed money.

I was to receive one hundred dollars a year, and board and clothes, and I had been working some six months, and had not received a cent of money, and no clothing, but as I could not do anything better I had to bear it. I started to walk to Oldtown that night, and went an far as Troy, and stopped all night, and the next night I arrived at Bangor. I went to the depot, but finding that the cars had left for Oldtown, I remained all night, and the next day went to that place. I bought some baskets here, and in company with another young man opened a shop, he to stop in it, and I intended to travel and sell baskets, going off some distance in the stage or cars, and then travel towards home, selling an I went along.

Having procured some baskets, I went to Bangor, and as the stage was full, I drove an extra team to China, getting my fare for services, where I commenced to sell my baskets. I soon sold out and returned to Bangor, arriving there in the night, and having got my supper walked to Oldtown. I loaded up the next day and started off, taking the stage at Bangor for Waterville about dusk, and as the inside was full, I jumped up with the driver.

As the stage was about to start off, a red-faced, blustering man, who looked as if he was very intimate with the brandy bottle, came out of the hotel, and seeing me upon the outside with the driver, said, "Come, my little fellow, just get down and jump inside, and let your uncle take your place, you'll freeze." "You need not trouble yourself on my account," I replied, "I have seen cold weather, and am accustomed to it." "I don't want you to freeze, come, jump down," he said, and as it was exceedingly cold, and growing dark, and having on only a thin coat, and no gloves, I did not insist much upon riding outside. I therefore jumped down and got inside, whilst he clambered up with the driver. We started off, having on six horses, two extra ones being put on as it looked likely to storm. Before we had gone a great distance, I heard the old follow that took my place with the driver, slap his hands, and curse the weather, saying, "that it was always his luck when he went anywhere, it was as cold as Greenland;" and before long the stage stopped, and he jumped down, and came and got into the stage, exclaiming, "That the weather was a little too tough." "You ain't quite so tough as you thought you was." I said, as I got out of the stage to take his place. He muttered out something as I got out, but the wind smothered it, and I clambered up on the top of the stage. The appearance of things had altered materially whilst I had been riding inside, for now it was dreadful dark, it stormed, and the snow was blowing in our faces, and there was a sharp, cutting wind that nearly took our breath away. My baskets were upon the top of the stage, and these were covered over with canvas, which was buckled at the sides and and, but the wind blow so fiercely that it would unbuckle the straps, as they were somewhat worn, and the canvas would then blow and slat terribly. I had, therefore, very often to creep along upon the top of the stage, and buckle the straps to keep the canvas over them. I did not care so much about the canvas, but my baskets were colored ones, and if they got wet, the fast colors would fast disappear, so I was kept at work pretty much all of the time. We got as far as Hampden, where it had drifted so badly that we could not make much progress, and our female passengers, and the very tough old follow got out, and went into a private house to stop, whilst two other passengers besides myself kept on. We kept on a short distance after they got out, and then got fast into the snow, and had to all turn out and help get the stage out.

We got some rails off from a fence by the side of the road, and the passengers would pry up the stage, whilst the driver touched up the houses, getting out of this, we went a short distance farther, only to go through the operation, and in this way we managed to got along for some distance.

In one place we got into a drift, and could not find a rail anywhere upon the side of the road; the fences were all gone as far as we could see. What to do in this extremity was the question. The driver, in a rage, was swearing at the Millerites for burning up their fences, whilst I was at work near where I supposed the fence should be, kicking up the snow, and fortunately struck a rail some distance under it. We now found rails along under the snow, and managed to got enough to use in this way, but they were rather scarce, I should think for a distance of some eight miles.

We got the stage out and proceeded on our way, but as it had continued to snow all the time, we did not go a great distance before we went into a snow bank that was more formidable than any that we had met with before. I jumped off from the stage, and looking ahead, the bank could be seen as far as my sight extended, and I told the driver it was no use to try to get any further.

He moved down, and after looking around, came to the same conclusion, and as we had stopped opposite a house, we unharnessed the horses, while one went and aroused the inmates, and having come out the house and thrown open the barn doors, we drove them in. The people of the house built up a large fire in the kitchen, and the driver and passengers, excepting myself, went in and laid down by the fire and went to sloop; as for myself , I took charge of the horses, wiping off the snow and rubbing them down, which took me until morning.

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