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The Life of John W. Johnson
Chapter 7
Partnership & Hunting - c1854

Transcribed - June 1998 - by Ne-Do-Ba

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I was extremely tired when I finished my job, but as soon as it was light I went to the neighbors, and got them out shoveling the snow, and then returned to the house.

The driver paid me very well for my services, giving me my fare to Troy and two dollars-and-a-half in moneys besides buying a number of my baskets and and presenting them to the inmates of the house where we stopped. We got our breakfast and then started, making but slow progress, but got as far as Dixmont where they changed horses, and then kept on to Troy, arriving there about noon. As this was as far as I could go by the stage, as they went in a different direction, I got my dinner at the tavern, and started to walk to Unity, about six miles distant. This was about the hardest jaunt I ever experienced, as I had upon my back some seventy or eighty pounds weight, and the snow was drifted badly, and not even a foot-print was visible for some considerable part of the way; but plucking up courage, I started off to travel it. For some little distance, I got along pretty well, but then I came to quite a drift which was pretty deep, and to get through I unslung my baskets, and throwing them a little distance ahead of me, I waded up to them, and throwing them again, I pushed along to them and in this way I worked along until I passed a drift, and then resuming my load, kept on until I came to another.

At times my strength would be exhausted, and I would lie down upon my back upon the snow, to recover my breath, and in this way I kept on until worn out and completely exhausted, I reached Unity, having traveled six miles, taking all the afternoon. After getting something to sat, I went to bed and slept soundly until morning, and then I walked towards Freedom, selling my baskets upon the way, and after having sold out, I walked to Bangor and took the cars for Oldtown. I stopped a few days, and then loading up again, I took the stage for Waterville, and then walked to Kendall's Mills, and selling out my baskets, I went back to Oldtown. My next trip was an unlucky one. I went to Newport and Palmyra, part of the distance by stage, but a storm came up as I was traveling, my baskets got wet, and one color ran into another, so that they were a rather streaked lot, and not being able to sell them, I exchanged for tobacco, candy, and other things, to put into my shop, and then went back to Oldtown. This was my last excursion in peddling baskets while here, and I found it a hard life, and although a person might be very tough, yet this kind of life followed up pretty closely would wear upon him. Soon after I arrived back, I went to Greenfield after some ash for baskets, and after game; I was gone about a week, and shot one deer, and got a load of basket ash, which I hauled to the road, and had it carried to Oldtown, whilst I walked back.

I was out on a hunting excursion soon after this in the same place, with some company, when I got strayed away from them, having with me a blanket, hatchet, and some provisions. I was unsuccessful in shooting any game, and on the third day I got entirely out of provisions. It came up dark and foggy, and to complete my misery began to rain, and having no camp I got completely wet through; powder, caps, matches, and myself completely drenched with water.

I was in what might be well termed, "a fix." Night was approaching, surrounded on all sides by a dense wood, without any compass, dog, or companion, relying alone upon "good luck" to bring me out of the dilemma. To spend much time in forming plans would have been useless, and perhaps fatal, therefore taking a direction, I pursued my way, walking swiftly through the forest. I kept on for a short distance through the woods, when all at once I stepped into a logging road, which I could hardly see, it was so dark, and walking along in this road a few rods, I was cheered by a light in the distances which I found to proceed from a log cabin. I went up and rapped upon the door, when a Frenchman came and invited me in, and kindly procured me a change of clothing, and stirring up the log fire, requested me to be seated. I found upon inquiry that I was not a great distance from home, and after partaking of a warm supper I went to bed.

It cleared off very cold in the night, and when I arose in the morning, the water in the road was frozen solid, but after eating breakfast, I thanked my host and started for home, where I arrived to the satisfaction of my friends, who were somewhat fearful that I might have perished in the woods. This was the most unsuccessful hunt that I ever had experienced, but the one that followed was not quite so fortunate as this one was, as my story will show.

I started off one day a short time after my last excursion, upon another hunting expedition alone, but was more fortunate in finding game, for I shot some deer upon the third day. I got strayed away while shooting the deer, and having no compass, and being overcast, I found that I was lost. I had some matches and a hatchet, and I built me a camp, and having dug away the snow, prepared to build a fire. I got some birch bark and kindled me a fire, and soon began to feel quite comfortable, but not having wood enough to last me all night, I went to cut up some, when in striking into a pine knot, my hatchet glanced, and one corner entered the top of my foot. I had on besides my moccasins, three pair of stockings, which protected my foot somewhat, but not enough to prevent my getting a severe cut.

This was something that I had not reckoned upon, and I was without anything to bind up the wound, but I knew that I must stop the flow of blood, which had even in a short space of time made me feel faint. I put on my snow shoes, and made my way to a swamp, where I got a stick of osier, and scraping off the bark, I chewed it up soft and applied it to the wound, binding it up with a part of the sleeve of my shirt that I tore off. But finding that this would not do, as the gash was open, I took off the bandage, and taking a pin I brought the edges of the wound together, and stuck it through, and winding some thread underneath the ends of the pin, I brought the wound closely together, and then applying my bark, I bound it up with a piece of my shirt. I then limped to where my fire was, and renewed it, and gathering my blanket around me, laid down upon some boughs near the fire.

I passed the night pretty comfortably, considering my condition, and in the morning made preparations to find my way home. I found that every stop I took caused my wound to bleed, but as the only alternative for me was to find my my out, I continued on, and fortunately came across a road that led me safely Out.

Not seeing any one upon the road, I took a shorter cut across some woods, leaving my mark as I went along, and at last arrived at Oldtown, and proceeded to my shop, when opening the door I felt weak, and fell prostrate upon the floor. My partner came and took me up, and carried me into the back part of the shop, where he lived himself, and laid me upon the bad where I shortly recovered.

My wound was attended to, and telling my partner that I left two deer, he and his brother started after them, tracking my way back to the spot by the blood that I left upon the snow. They got the deer to the road, and hired a man to take them to Oldtown. I was laid up by this accident about two months, and as I had lost some considerable blood, I was extremely weak. When sufficiently recovered to go out, I went to a school which was in the next building to our shop. This was a most wretched place for a school, for when it rained, the water came through the roof, and when it snowed, it would drift in some part of the room. As the building was so open, of course it was cold and uncomfortable; and in this place the Indian children gathered them selves to be instructed. I would say a few words here in regard to the subject of education among the Indians at Oldtown, as it existed at the time I was there, and am not aware as yet a that there has been any change for the better. The same old building -- the same old rickety stairs and leaky roof, are there now, and as long, we suppose, as the materials hold together, they intend to occupy the time-honored building for the education of Indian children. The building is best described in the language of Nichola, the representative of the Penobscot tribe, who said, before the Legislature, that "the building weeped without and within, and looked ragged and tattered, like a dead poplar in the woods." The interests of the Indian children were presented by Nichola before the Legislature, and the need of appropriating a part of the interest of the Indian fund for the erection of a schoolhouse; but the proposition was rejected. At that time fifty dollars were paid annually to a Catholic Priest of Bangor, for going six times a year to Oldtown to confess the Catholic Indians there, which was thought nothing of, whilst that sum would have paid the interest, and much more, of a sum sufficient to have erected a school house. Which is most for the interest of the Indians, sending a priest a number of times a year to confess them, or erecting a good school house, and abolishing the priesthood? In this way have the poor Indians been treated by some who wish to eat up year after year, the interest on their funds, who at the same time pretend to be their friends.

There are but few, if any, of the Indians, who are opposed to the education of their children, and yet they are kept in as ignorant a state as possible by the Catholic power, that they may exercise their authority, and hold control over them. It is for this reason that some Catholics in some of the neighboring places near Oldtown are opposed to educating the Indian children because they are well aware that if a school house should be erected, it would be a death blow to the power of the priesthood over them.

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