Table of Contents
A CHAPTER OF ADVENTURES
Bounties on Bears
Bears always have abounded in the Albany Intervale. Sixteen of them were killed during one month, October, 1866.1 At one time they became a nuisance and a menace. Hence the town, although poor, offered a generous bounty upon bears, said bounty to be paid upon the presentation of the ears of the bear. Bounties were claimed and paid on a surprisingly large numbers of bears' ears. Presently it came to light that some of the people then in the town were cutting out pieces of sheep-skin to resemble bears' ears in shape, dyeing these black, and turning them in to the authorities. So says tradition. I do not vouch for the alleged facts.
Eagle and Rabbit
During the summer of 1903, some friends of ours were tenting at the foot of Hedgehog, at beautiful "Camp Comfort." I was a moccasined, bare-legged lad of seven, and, upon hearing that the campers were planning a little target practice one clear, warm August morning, I was delighted and excited. Therefore, as soon as breakfast was over, I scampered and pattered down the Mast Road just as fast as my legs could carry me, now and then casting hasty glances over my shoulder to see if my departure had yet been discovered by my parents in the cottage. I soon reached the tall bushes, and behind this screen I felt that I was beyond the zone of recall. Nevertheless, I sped on I with unabated ardor, and was within a few rods of the edge of the woods when, "crack" went a rifle.
Instantly a monstrous eagle rose from behind the bushes, tightly clasping in his talons something brownish gray. The eagle was within a few rods of me. Seeing me, the great bird began a marvelous ascent on his three-foot wings. As he rose, his talons opened, ever so slightly, and down dropped his prey into the bushes. Within a minute or two this "monarch of the heavens" had dwindled into a mere speck in the blue sky. Then, from this immense height, he sailed off, straight as a ruler, over the top of Passaconaway. I hunted in the bushes and found a fat, warm, lovely rabbit. Picking it up, I found it to be quite dead. The vice-like talons had sunk deep into "Br'er Rabbit." Little bloody holes told the story. The rabbit certainly was a beauty, dead or alive, being soft and fluffy. I was completely captivated with the little creature and proudly showed it to the campers. But upon their suggesting that a fine rabbit stew could be made, I fled with my prize back to the cottage, where I cuddled the furry thing for hours. It was my intention to keep the rabbit "forever and ever," just as it was. But this plan was vetoed by the "powers that be." After protracted protestations on my part, a solemn funeral was held, and the little creature was reverently interred.
When my father decided to build our cottage, "Score-o'-Peaks," he spent his spare hours of the spring making a tent in which the family might live until a wooden roof could be erected. The tent was fifteen feet long, ten feet wide, with walls about a yard high.
The poles were made of pieces of steam-pipe, cut into proper lengths, which sections could be screwed together. The interior of the tent was curtained off into compartments. In addition to the tent proper, which was sheltered by a "fly," there was an arrangement for a dining room or living porch in front of this canvas house. Nothing could be completer. With our folding cots and folding chairs every inch of space was made to count.
We had not lived in the tent a week before we passed through an exciting experience. We had gone to bed and some of us had dropped off to sleep, when a roaring sound was heard. Nearer and nearer it came, down the mountain-side, through the forest, and before we could realize what was the cause of the noise, a raging storm broke upon us. The mighty wind laid low our beautiful tent at its first onset. With the wind came a deluge of rain. Crawling through the wet tent canvas, our parents fished us children out of our beds, rolled us in blankets, bundled us into the wheelbarrow and carted us over to the hotel. It was a terrifying night. Tremendous gusts of wind made walking almost impossible. The rain seemed to come in solid masses, and blazing lightning and crashing thunder were mingled with blackest darkness.
We were thankful indeed to reach the shelter of the hotel, which, in spite of its heavy frame of great oak beams, creaked and shook. The barn door was blown off. Mr. Shackford had been laying a pump-pipe from a spring out of doors into the kitchen. The wind blew in through the ditch under the house and lifted and turned over some floor boards which had been temporarily laid down without being nailed.
Father went back to the tent to learn the extent of the damage. He rescued all the supplies, furniture and clothing, and stored them in the Passaconaway House. He found that the iron pipes which formed the tent frame had broken in places (at some of the threaded joints). He rolled up the tent, tied it in a solid roll, and made this bundle fast to a stake in the ground. Next morning the tent was set up again and its furnishings put back in place, but, after such a thrilling experience, we children would scud for the hotel if a black cloud showed itself in the sky all the rest of the summer.
While climbing Chocorua soon after the "blow-down" we found great trees prostrate on the ground, freshly uprooted, and for miles the ground was carpeted with green leaves which-had been torn off by the fury of the storm. Some idea of the force of the wind may be conveyed by a statement of two or three facts. Our wash-basin, which, when we retired, had been left on an empty barrel which was used for a wash-stand, was found next day perhaps twenty-five rods from its starting-place, and it evidently had collided with a tree in its wild midnight flight, A canvas out-house, frame and all, was lifted bodily into the air and was sailing away on the wings of the storm, when its flight was arrested by "Uncle Jim's" hackmatacks, some fifteen rods from where it had been originally pegged down, Many of Mr. Knowles' cables, by which the Chocorua Peak House was anchored, snapped under the terrific strain. No more "blow-downs" for us, thank you, if you please!
The Capture of Highwaymen
It was during the summer of 1912, I think, that our quiet valley was startled by a telephoned warning that some highwaymen were on their way up from Coway to our valley. Rumors, two or three days old, informed us that an aged woman had been held up by highwaymen. It was thought that the desperate criminals were now fleeing from justice, with the intention of escaping into the wilderness,
About fifteen minutes later two sheriffs came speeding up the road in an automobile, They left the machine at the Passaconaway House and soon were lost to sight in the woods back of our cottage. In about half an hour four men appeared far down the Mast Road. As they passed our cottage we could see the victims' pallid and frightened countenances. They were poorly dressed and unkempt in appearance, truly tough-looking specimens of the genus homo.
The nearest Justice of the Peace, at that time, was located at the lumber store, and as the sheriffs wished to consult him, they left the highwaymen in the custody of a prominent citizen of the valley. The three men, prisoners and guard, sat on the hotel porch for over an hour the prisoners, humble, mute, frightened, and apparently penitent the stern guard, rifle in hand, glowering, and ever alert. One could easily see that he meant business. One single step from their chairs and the prisoners would have been dead men. At length the officials returned. After a searching interrogation the prisoners were found to be innocent lumberjacks who had been peaceably walking up the railroad from Conway, on their way to Camp No. 5.
A Wild-cat or Panther Scare
Tuesday, August 6, 1912, was an exceptionally clear day, so I decided to give my Colorado cousin a view of the valley from Allen's Ledge, on Hedgehog. In preference to striking through the tangled woods, we decided to ascend by the lumber-road trail, although it is nearly twice as long. At the old camp we paused to shoot at several inviting marks about the place. We had gone but a few hundred feet beyond, when, directly back of us, from the road, a savage and powerful cry broke the silence of the woods and brought us up with a start. Sweat started out on our brows in great drops. We had taken but a few steps more when the cry was again repeated, this time nearer than before. He was following us! Although never having heard the cry before, nevertheless I decided instantly, from the hoarse, snarling "Mur-r-r-ow-w-w," that it came from a wild-cat or a panther. It had all the elements of a house cat's snarling cry, yet was a hundred times as terrifying,
We lost no time in gaining the foot of the ledges. Every forty steps we took we were greeted with this blood-curdling and hair-raising cry, No matter how fast we ran, he seemed to keep the same distance behind us. At the foot of the ledges I discharged one of my three remaining birdshot-shells, to try and divert his attention. Then, with all possible haste, we scrambled up to the topmost ledge and lay flat, facing the woods, ready for the onslaught. With our bird-shot we could at best only blind and infuriate him. Tales of wild-cat ferocity and their cruel attacks upon their prey ran through my mind; how they would spring upon one and with their fangs throttle him, or with their hind paws disembowel him. All these thoughts chilled my blood and frightened me even more than his steadily approaching scream.
Now the cry was just below us! "Where will it be next ?" This question was continually in our minds as we lay motionless yet anxious, scanning the woods below. Just as the silence around us began to be almost audible, this ear-piercing cry would rise from the depths of the woods and echo and re-echo from the surrounding hills. Now his cry was right at the very spot where I had fired. The next few minutes were literally agonizing for us. "Would he be frightened at the smell of powder, or would he come right on up over the ledges?" At last the spell was broken; the next cry was from the ridge. He had smelt the freshly burnt powder and was making off over the ridge. For the next fifteen minutes we thankfully listened to his rapidly receding cries, until finally they were swallowed up in the fastnesses of the dark forests on the side of Mount Passaconaway.
Probably we shall never know just what the animal's motive was. Some natives claim that he was merely calling his mate. On our return trip we could easily trace in the soft mud in certain spots, paw-prints as large as tea-cups in our very path. The strange part is that, as we turned from one branch road to another, he invariably changed his course correspondingly. We were thankful to emerge from the great cat's jurisdiction without coming to close quarters with his pussyship. A well known citizen of Conway said, on looking at the stuffed lynx in our cottage, "I shouldn't want such gentlemen to camp on my trail." Although "all's well that ends well," my cousin and I, from personal experience, can testify that it isn't pleasant to have "such gentlemen camp on one's trail."
Wanted-A New Noah!
"Patter, Patter, Splash!" I rouse myself from sound sleep and listen to the gentle sprinkling on the roof. Is there any music like the patter of rain on a wooden roof? Outside everything is pitch dark. It must be about midnight. Rapidly the rain increases. Now it pours. This is no ordinary shower. Such sheets of rain I never want to see or hear again. The torrent beats upon our frail roof as if it would batter it in. This storm will be remembered in our Passaconaway valley as "the 1912 Cloud-burst."
By five o'clock next morning the rain ceased, and, coming down-stairs, we saw, in the dim light―for the clouds were still very low and threatening―huge puddles of water, in places a foot deep, in our front yard, garden and Mast Road. But look across Mr. Povall's hay-field! There is a silver streak foaming by. How the Swift over-laps its banks and spreads out over the fields! The little river must have risen six or seven feet since sundown.
After breakfast, the sun having come out brightly, all of the inhabitants of the valley turned out to see the unusual sight. In the Grove, which is at least four or five feet above the normal water-level, the water was knee-deep. Mr. Smith's bridge had been carried down-stream and was now wedged between tall trees a quarter of a mile away. The river was running like a mill-race. Muddy water stretched and surged beneath the trees and bushes. Huge logs, some two feet in diameter, rushed down on the current like race horses. Whole trees swept by, now and then striking the bank or a half-submerged fence, then veering off, or swinging round, and rushing on. These, I imagined, gave the appearance of crocodiles or derelicts as their ugly forms went whirling by. At the junction of the Downes with the Swift, all familiar landmarks were obliterated. A great lake reached far into the woods on both sides. The volume of the combined streams was something incredible and indescribable.
The lumberjacks, in their camp on the Downes, had been awakened at three o'clock in the morning by the deafening roar of logs and rocks which were swept and rolled along by the current. The men rushed to the stable and liberated the frightened horses. Some of the poor animals were standing in four feet of water. (Lumbermen seem to love to build on the very edge of the water.) A few days before the storm, a wheezy little automobile had carried a party of berry pickers to a hillock between the Downes and the Swift, just west of the junction. This party was marooned for two or three days. Two of the hotel people, ardent photographers, started up to Sabbaday Falls for the purpose of securing one of the wonderful pictures obtainable only in flood time. But in crossing the Sabbaday, in water which came to their waist, one of them lost his footing. Had not the other quickly assisted him, possibly he might have been lost, for the current on that day was so strong that no swimmer, however powerful, could hope to breast it.
In the early years of the settlement at Conway, every building in the Saco basin was carried away by a flood.2 The Swift has a very steep pitch, and in a few hours is able to drain off the enormous quantity of water which the mountains contribute to it. Our 1912 flood had subsided considerably by night time. By noon, in fact, we could see that its high-water mark had been reached. Within a couple of days the streams were of normal size. A few washouts, undermined banks and misplaced logs constituted practically all the damage. Yet the flood was an almost terrifying sight during the few hours it was at its height. The fields back of the Passaconaway House were one broad sheet of water, extending up to the ice-house. At one time we thought that we might be called upon to attempt the role of a new Noah.
Pine Bend Camp
Far up the Swift River Trail, there stood a tiny cabin in the very heart of the great wilderness. This camp was built of logs, chinked with mud. Bunks were built against the walls. The owner of the camp was a Conway physician. Many are the stories of savage visitors told by those who have spent the night in this camp.
Late one autumn the doctor brought some friends up for a week end. The next night, I think, an urgent telephone message came to the hotel for the doctor f to return quickly to Conway. The night was starless and pitch dark, and the camp was four good long mountain miles away. The path lay through dense unfrequented woods. One of the Smith boys set out to carry the message to the physician. Armed only with a lantern, he started out at a brisk pace. The black trees and bushes, the silent and dark mountains, the gurgling Downes Brook and murmuring Swift River made the night a lonely one.
Young Smith walked on in the biting air, now with echoing steps passing from rock to rock over the brook, and soon was buried in the darkness of the thick woods. Now the snap of a twig would make his tense nerves start; now a rustling bush just ahead, just out of the lantern light, would tell of the scurrying away of some timid creature. The sudden hoot of an owl so startled him that he almost dropped his lantern.
But, hark! 'Tis not an owl now. Again, again and again, only about half a mile ahead, sounds a long, loud and terrifying cry, something like the cry of a woman. The cry is repeated, louder and more terrifying than before. With beads of sweat upon his forehead, hair standing on end, hat―as he afterwards expressed it―"six inches above his head," the stalwart youth presses forward. Now the animal is but a few rods ahead, directly in the path, and rapidly approaching. The lad must either turn back with message undelivered, or press on and perhaps die in the clutches of the horrible animal. Duty requires the latter course. With the fatalism of desperation, he reasons that if he is to die, die he will, and if he is destined to reach his destination he will do so; but never will he turn back! As if in a dream he mechanically presses on. Eager either to do Or die, he becomes impatient and lopes along. Suddenly his progress is abruptly checked by a powerful, nerve-racking shriek out of the deathlike silence of the wood. Only a few yards ahead the beast is coming.
And now, directly in the path in front of the boy, a huge shaggy beast appears, twice-as big as a barrel. For a moment the approaching bear hesitates. Straight at the light he looks. The valiant boy, all unarmed, continues to press on. His lantern bobs up and down. The bear, blinking his eyes, half rises on his haunches, and then, with a swift turn, lumbers off towards the south. So close was the boy to the bear that he could have cut it with a long-lashed whip. The retreating brute was almost instantly lost to ear and eye. When, a few minutes later, young Smith entered the camp, he was as pale as a sheet and drops of cold sweat stood on his forehead.
Why the Chowder Did Not Come to a Boil
The Doctor is a great devotee of fishing and not infrequently during the season he used to bring friends up to his little Pine Bend camp. On one such trip, several summers ago, the campers brought up milk, salt, pepper, butter, onions, pork, and crackers to have a chowder. The trout bit voraciously on the first day, which was dark and misty, with low-hanging clouds.
Next morning proved to be of similar character and, anything, more "open and shut." Well knowing that such fishing days were rare, the men went out again, leaving Mr. Smith to cook a chowder.
Shortly after their departure the guide took the pan of fish down to the brook to clean them. Already over fifty had been cleaned when a strong mouse-like odor permeated the air, and a twig snapped between the man and the camp. Looking back, Mr. Smith saw a huge black bear, not four rods away, coming towards him down the path from the camp. On came Bruin and presently he rose upon his haunches. The man had no weapon except his jack-knife and the pan of fish. My, but wasn't that black bear a giant! But the guide did not stop to welcome or measure his visitor. He promptly abandoned fish and all and beat a precipitous retreat across the brook. Bruin thankfully accepted the guide's hospitality, and, lowering himself to all fours again, devoured the trout. Then with a grunt of thanks, or satisfaction, he shuffled off.
Not until the shaggy guest was well out of sight did the host abandon his post of observation from which he had been watching the "company manners" of his visitor. At dark, when the fishermen returned to the log cabin, tired and hungry, they found a platter of steaming canned baked beans awaiting them instead of the luscious trout chowder which they had expected. The reason the chowder had not boiled was that the "cook had been entertaining a caller."
How the Deer Helped to Harvest Our Crops
We had been considerably troubled, during the summer of―, by deer coming into our garden and eating the tops off the young vegetables. Every morning we found fresh hoof-prints and could see where the sweet and newly sprouted vegetables had been cropped off close to the ground.
Father and I decided to watch, in four-hour watches, for the deer through an open window just under our porch roof. As night drew near we made our necessary arrangements and I prepared for bed. At precisely midnight I was aroused and notified (much against my inclination) that my watch was to begin. So far all had been quiet. Wrapping up as warmly as possible, with "Old Jack's" rifle lying across my knee, and with field glasses at my side, I waited and waited and waited. Just as I was beginning to get sleepy I heard a snip, snip, snip, and a sniff or two. It sounded much like a person trimming a tender hedge with a pair of shears. Then followed a ripping and tearing. Then again snip, snip. The stars were out, but a thin layer of fog rested over the intervale and garden. Shivering and intensely excited, I peered into the fog, but although the deer was only fifty feet away (as was shown by his tracks next morning) I couldn't see a thing. It was weird, ghostly; the snip, snipping, now a step or two, now a sniff, and then some more snip, snip. At last I raised the field glasses to my eyes and there before me I saw, not the deer, but the white belly, white neck, and his white flag, nervously swishing and whisking, first this side and then that. I put aside my glasses and leveled the rifle, but it was no use. The phantom had vanished, though I could hear the continued snip, snipping close at hand. At length, abandoning all thought of trying to injure the beautiful creature, I decided to watch his every movement through the glasses. Try as I might, I could not, save in my imagination, make out his entire outline. All I could see was the "white lining of his coat." This kept up until a rooster, over at the hotel, crowed; and then "my wild friend, my guest and companion for half a night, stealthily worked his way towards the road. Suddenly the morning light began to shine through the fog and I was able to see clearly the form of a large buck, with head erect, leisurely sauntering down the road towards the Hill Farm. As soon as the sun came up I went out into the garden and saw where he had tracked up and down several times in each row. He had taken away every young sprout. But I came to the conclusion that if he enjoyed our vegetables as much. as he appeared to, he was quite welcome to them, for we couldn't possibly get as much enjoyment out of them as he was getting. He came every night all the rest of the summer, making his appearance between one and two in the morning. And sometimes the hoof-prints would show that a doe and little fawn also had been helping to harvest our crops.
One thing seems to pursue lumbering operations as closely and as inevitably as a cloud of dust follows a speeding automobile, and that is a forest fire; and a forest fire can cause plenty of destruction and excitement. The first real forest fire I ever saw, and then only from a distance, was when I was perhaps ten years old. The sky became dirty and mud colored, and so heavily laden with smoke was the air that breathing became somewhat difficult. Next morning the sun was blood red and appeared as it does when viewed through smoked glass. With increasing fury the fire raged for days, about fifteen miles north of us. At night there was a pink glow, stretching for miles just over Green's Cliff and Carrigain. Sometimes it would brighten up considerably, then, after a short time, die down to its usual steady glow. This may have been caused by the flames rushing up a strip of white birches, which burn furiously for a short time. The last few days of our vacation, large black cinders, some of them several inches in length, floated over our valley, and we children delighted in chasing and catching some of the lowest ones. Upon the day we left the air was fearfully smoky, the north wind wafting mammoth rolls of smoke across our valley, and it was with some anxiety for our little cottage that we returned to the city. Later we learned of the devastation wrought.
I recall the exciting summer of 1912. On June thirtieth of that year an ugly looking cloud of smoke appeared just the other side of Bartlett Haystack and Tremont. An hour later Chief Povall was running his automobile at breakneck speed, carrying Wardens Howe and Brewster over to Rocky Branch, all three having been summoned. They returned a little after dark and reported the fire well in hand.
Friday noon, July 27, while drawing water for dinner, I noticed a thread of smoke curling up from the notch between Paugus, Hedgehog and Passaconaway. Thinking it to be from a camp-fire, I dismissed it from my mind. After dinner, chancing to look again, I saw a column of white, brown, red, and black smoke rising, now of ominous size. No camp-fire was it, we knew now! Larger and larger it grew, spreading in all directions. There was a gentle breeze blowing from the northwest, so that we were able to trace its rapid progress unmolested by smoke. Telephone calls flew back and forth, and from the hotel the news came that several of the Passaconaway men were on their way to aid Fred Howe, the Lumber Company's energetic young fire warden. Thinking ourselves not actually needed, but a little uneasy lest the wind should swing around to the south and send the fire roaring through the hackmatacks like an express train in uncomfortable proximity to our house, we thought it best to improve the time. Therefore, armed with bush- and grass- scythes, we cut down and burned all the bushes and grass for some distance around the cottage.
Later in the afternoon several of us walked down to Mrs. Colbath's―the old post office―where we sat on the high bank and looked down the gorge through which the Mast Road passes. A cloud of thick white smoke hovered over the center of the conflagration and large tributary curls could be seen twisting up from dozens of places. Here and there a curl would die out, as if the men had subdued it, but in general those columns seemed to grow larger, thicker and more numerous. Down in that hot valley, the Passaconaway men, only a mere handful, were bravely working. But at the time we knew it not. Considerable relief came to the little group of anxious watchers when the report came from the store that a train full of French Canadians was on its way up from Conway.
Long after the lumberjacks were supposed to arrive the fire continued to spread with alarming rapidity. While all of us were gathered at the hotel in the evening, gazing upon the fascinating sight, an excited voice from the store phoned to Chief Povall, saying that all the male citizens of Passaconaway were wanted at the fire at daylight.
At half-past three, in the cold dim light, my father and I arose. After breakfasting on fried ham and coffee, we took rations, canteens and hatchets and set out. Down to the now lonely little Jack Allen camp―for the old guide had been buried only the previous Monday―we tramped. Here we turned sharply southward into the woods, taking the main tote-road. While making this change in our course we noticed that the dense fog had already begun to lift. About half a mile more and it had all disappeared. My, but didn't the morning air smell smoky! Just ahead was a cloud of smoke which hung low and thick in the damp atmosphere. Suddenly we came upon a long rustic table by the roadside, with a "cookee" clearing away and washing some greasy tin dishes. The men had just eaten breakfast.
How smoky everything about us seemed! Directly ahead there was a sharp turn in the rough road. Upon rounding it a scene of devastation unfolded itself before us. The smoldering logs and charred trees even then, when fanned by the wind, glowed and smoked. A gentle gust turned an apparently dead stump into a bed of live coals, from which a tongue of flame shot six feet into the air. We heard a rustling and snapping almost above us it was a blazing clump of little poplars, which until now somehow had escaped the flames. Now, however, this isolated little clump, an oasis in the black desert, was roaring and blazing. Crash! Down came some of the outer ones, now some more, and at length the remainder, with undermined and fire-gnawed roots, thundered to the ground, falling almost across the road a few feet ahead. On all sides were hundreds of charred upright shafts, the remains of formerly valuable trees, while prostrate on the ashy turf were many hundreds more, smoldering and smoking. Many had been felled to keep the fire from the tree tops but many more had fallen victim to the carelessness of campers. Here and there a fallen trunk was roaring furiously, as the wind drew through its hollow shell, and a tongue of flame might be seen blazing out from its leeward end. The hollow inside was a mass of flame and as hot as a blast furnace.
A rattling and clanking announced the approach of the fire-fighters. Standing majestically in the center of the ruin, upon a little eminence ahead, was Mr. Schoppe, the superintendent of the camps, a noted fire-fighter. Just over the brow of this ridge he pointed out to us a long line of "Frenchmen," each armed with a shovel, advancing in a stooping posture. They were digging a trench around the inside of the ring of fire, one having already been dug around the outside. These trenches were as wide as the width of a shovel, and a few inches deep. Gradually the workmen approached us, leaving a fresh trench in their wake, as a spider spins his thread. The first man in the line broke the turf, the second loosened it, the third shoveled it off, and the succeeding ones each threw out a small shovelful at every step they took. By this method a trench was dug in a remarkably short time.
As the fire was well under control our services were not needed, but we were extremely interested in studying the situation. On the extreme left, several smoky-faced boulders and a musical gurgling at their base announced a brook. Between the black boulders and ashy dirt ran a little "smutty-faced" rill, bearing ashes, black twigs and soaked cinders. Down by this brook we found the only Passaconaway man, the others having wearily trudged home as soon as the Frenchmen arrived. Fred Howe, who had just returned from a couple of hours' sleep. He was directing a gang of men with buckets of water. They were dashing it on a spot where the fire had crossed the trench. Others were returning from different quarters to be directed flit to blazing stumps or logs after refilling their pails.
Lumberjacks kept arriving all the time; evidently all the camps had been ordered to send their men here on foot. I should judge that before we left there were nearly two hundred. After thoroughly exploring the battlefield from end to end, we retraced our steps and arrived home before noon.
The fire, although it was now only a turf fire, was not completely extinguished until a week later, when a hard shower thoroughly drenched out the last smouldering spark. It seems that the night before the fire broke out, two young Princeton University lads had left our valley and passed over this trail. It is thought that their imperfectly extinguished camp-fire probably was the cause of the conflagration.
On Saturday, August 16, 1913, a cloud of smoke rising from the western side of Kancamagus completely blotted out that mountain. Later, the papers stated that a fire over in North Woodstock, on the opposite side of Kancamagus from us, had raged through the heart of that town.
Last summer, just before we arrived, the northern side of Bald and the eastern end of Paugus were swept by flames. We were told that this was very beautiful to look at, but it cost the little town several thousand dollars before it was extinguished, and raised the tax-rate noticeably. Although blueberry bushes usually spring up where a forest-fire has raged, the cultivation of blueberries by starting forest-fires would be about as economical as burning down one's house to roast one's dinner, as in Charles Lamb's famous "Dissertation Upon Roast Pig."
The Siege of Wolves
Let me close this chapter of adventures with an account of the famous siege of wolves which took place in 1830. Although the battle took place in Tamworth, nevertheless it was from our mountains that the wolves descended upon that town, and to our mountain fastnesses the surviving wolves retreated after the battle.
All this region, during the first third of the nineteenth century, abounded in moose, deer, bears, wolves, and perhaps panthers. On the evening of [Sunday] Nov. 14 couriers rode furiously through Tamworth and the surrounding towns, proclaiming that "countless numbers" of wolves had come down from the Sandwich Range mountains and had established themselves in the woods on Marston Hill. All able-bodied males, from ten years old to eighty, were therefore summoned to report at Marston Hill by daylight on the following morning.
Marston Hill was crowned by about twenty acres of woods, entirely surrounded by cleared land. Sentinels were posted around the hill and numerous fires were lighted to prevent the wolves from effecting a return to the mountains. All through the night a continuous and hideous howling was kept up by the besieged wolves and answering howls came from the slopes of the great mountains. The shivering besiegers were regaled with food and hot coffee furnished by the women of the country-side throughout their long lonely watch.
All night long reinforcements kept arriving. By daylight there were six hundred men and boys on the scene, armed with rifles, shotguns, pitchforks and clubs. A council of war was held and a plan of campaign agreed upon. General Quimby, of Sandwich, a war-seasoned veteran, was made commander-in-chief. The general immediately detailed a thin line of sharpshooters to surround the hill, while the main body formed a strong line ten paces in the rear of the skirmishers. The sharpshooters then were commanded to advance towards the center, that is, towards the top of the hill. The firing began. The reports of the rifles and the unearthly howling of wolves made the welkin ring. The beleaguered animals, frenzied by the ring of flame and noise, and perhaps by wounds, made repeated attempts to break through "the thin red line," but all in vain. They were driven back into the woods, where they unceasingly continued running, making it difficult for the marksmen to hit them. In about an hour the order was given for the main line to advance, which was done.
Closing in on the center, the circular battle-line at last massed itself in a solid body on the hilltop, where, for the first time in sixteen hours, the troops raised their voices above a whisper, bursting out into wild hurrahs of victory. Joseph Gilman records that few of the besieged wolves escaped. But the historian of Carroll County maintains that the greater part of the frantic animals broke through the line of battle and escaped to the mountains whence they had come. Returning to the great rock on which the commander-in-chief had established headquarters, the victorious warriors laid their trophies at the feet of their leader―four immense wolves―and once more gave thrice three thundering cheers.
The little army then formed column, with the general, in a barouche, at its head. In the barouche also reposed the bodies of the slain wolves. After a rapid march of thirty-five minutes, the triumphant volunteers entered the village and formed a hollow square in front of the hotel, the general, mounted on the top of his barouche, being in the center of the square. What a cheering and waving of handkerchiefs by the ladies, in windows and on balconies, there was! General Quimby then made a speech befitting the occasion, after which the thirsty soldiers stampeded to the bar to assuage the awful thirst engendered by twenty mortal hours of abstinence and warfare.3
1. Merrill: Hist. of Carroll County, 783.