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lurked in every thicket. Between the settlements were extensive tracts, as desert, as blooming, and as wild, as hunter could wish or poet could imagine.
So long as the frontier was subject to the hostile irruptions of the Indians, the first care of every little colony was to provide for its defence. This was, in general, effected by the erection of a rude fortress, constructed of such materials as the forest afforded, and in whose design no art was displayed, beyond that which the native ingenuity of the forester sup plied. A block-house was built of logs, surrounded by a palisade, or picket work, composed of long stakes driven into the ground, forming an inclosure sufficiently large to contain the people of the settlement, and affording a sufficient protection against the sudden irruptions of savage warfare. This was a temporary refuge for all in time of danger; but it was also the permanent residence of a single family, usually that of the man whose superior skill, courage, or opulenca, constituted him, for the time being, a sort of chieftain in this little tribe. For, as in all societies there are master spirits who acquire an influence over their fellow men, there was always, in a frontier settlement, some individual who led the rest to battle, and who, by his address or wisdom in other matters, came into quiet possession of many of the duties and powers of a civil magistrate. There remain traditions of able stratagem, and daring self-devotion, on the part of such men, which may be proudly compared with the best exploits of Rome or Greece. When one of these primitive fortifications formed the rallying point of a numerous population, or was placed at an important
point, it was called a “ fort;” but in other cases they were known by the less dignified title of “station." Of the latter, there were many which afforded protection only to single families, who had boldly disconnected themselves from society, either for the purpose of acquiring possession, by occupancy, of choice tracts of land, or to gain a scanty emolument by supplying the wants of the chance travelers, who occasionally penetrated into these wilds, and who accomplished their journeys to the most distant settlements, as a general penetrates to the capital of an enemy, by advancing from post to post.
Such was the general character of the first settlers who followed the adventurous footsteps of Boone; and whose exploits were not confined to the forests of Kentucky. From the shores of the Ohio, the hardy pioneers moved forward to those of the Wa. bash, and from the Wabash to the Mississippi, subduing the whole country, and preserving in Illinois and Missouri the same bold outlines of character which they first exhibited in Kentucky.
If we trace the history of this country, still further back into the remote periods of its discovery and earliest occupation of European adventurers, a fund of interesting, though somewhat unconnected information, is presented. We are favorably impressed with its features and character, by the manner in which the first travelers invariably speak of its fertility and beauty. The Spaniards, who discovered the southern coast, called it Florida, or the land of flowers; the French, who first navigated the Ohio, named it the Beautiful river, and La Salle, when he beheld the
shores of the Illinois, pronounced them a terrestial paradise. The imaginations of those adventurous spirits warmed into a poetic fire, as they roamed over the extensive plains of the west, reposed in its delightful groves, or glided with hourly increasing wonder along those liquid highways, which have since become the channels of a commerce as mighty in its extent as it has been rapid in its growth.
The French were the first allies and earliest friends of our nation; and of all the emigrants from foreign countries, they most cheerfully submit to our laws, and most readily adopt our manners and language. They engraft themselves on our stock, and take a deep root in our affections. It is more than a century since a colony of that nation settled at Kaskaskia, a thousand miles from the ocean, a thousand miles from any community of civilized men. Here they flourished for many years, increasing in wealth and population, cultivating the most amicable relations with the Indian tribes, and enjoying a more than ordinary portion of health, prosperity, and peace. Living so long in a situation thus insulated, and having but little commerce with the civilized world, they imbibed many peculiar customs and traits of character, to which their descendants still adhere with singular tenacity. They preserved the gayety, the content, the hospitality of their nation—but their houses, their language, their agriculture, their trade, and their amusements, are all singularly impressed with characteristic marks of their estranged position, and point them out as a peculiar people. As they were not a literary race, they have left few records behind them,
but many valuable traditions, fraught with curious matter, are extant among their descendants, which ought to be preserved.
The Indians still linger on our borders, and sometimes pass through the settled parts of our country, the squallid and miserable remains of a once warlike population. Can it be that they haye not degenerated? Is it possible that these wretched beings exhibit fair specimens of savage men? If they have indeed fallen from a better estate, it should be our task to rescue from oblivion the memory of their former virtues. Our immediate predecessors saw them in their untamed state, in the vigor of their power and the pride of their independence. Many of these have left behind them testimonials of what they saw, and a few who properly belong to a departed generation, yet linger on the confines of existence, as if destined to instruct the present generation, by their knowledge of
Passing down to periods still more remote, a boundless field of inquiry is presented to our attention. The inexhaustible fertility of the soil, the salubrity of the climate, and the various and amazing resources of our country, evince its capacity to support a dense population. Such a country was not made in vain, nor can it be believed that it was intended by a wise Creator, as the residence of savages and beasts of prey. That it once sustained a numerous population, may be inferred from indications which admit of little doubt; that the character of that population was superior to that of the present race of Indians, has been suspected upon evidence, which, though far from being conclusive, is worthy of great consideration.
THE FRENCH SETTLEMENTS.
The French, who first explored the beautiful shores of the Mississippi, and its tributary streams, believed they had found a terrestrial paradise. Delighted with this extensive and fertile region, they roamed far and wide over its boundless prairies, and pushed their little barks into every navigable stream. Their inoffensive manners procured them every where a favorable reception; their cheerfulness and suavity conciliated even the savage warrior, whose suspicious nature discovered no cause of alarm in the visits of these gay strangers. Divided into small parties, having each a separate object, they pursued their several designs without concert, and with little collision. One sought wealth, and another fame; one came to discover a country, another to collect rare and nondescript specimens of natural curiosities; one traveled to see man in a state of nature, another brought the gospel to the heathen; while the greater number roved carelessly among those interesting scenes, indulging their curiosity and their love of adventure, and seeking no higher gratification than that which the novelty and excitement of the present moment afforded.
The adventurers of no other nation have ever penetrated so far, or so fearlessly, into the interior of a newly discovered country. The fathers of New England were circumscribed to narrow boundaries, on the sterile shores of the Atlantic; the first settlers