- The Jockey Cap.
ALL who have taken Fryeburg on their way from Portland to the White Mountains, are acquainted with the location of our story, though at the time of its commencement that beautiful village was far from presenting the cheerful aspect which delights the traveller of the present day. Then, a pine forest waved its close branches over the plain where the academy now stands, a memento of the great statesman who took the first step of his splendid career in its walls. The Saco river, which now winds its thousand intricacies amid green pasture lands and luxuriant meadows, then threaded the wilderness and glided on, in the shadow of trees that had battled with the storms for centuries unscathed by the settler's axe. The rich and highly cultivated intervals, stretching from beyond the village, almost to the brink of Lovell's Pond, was then one dense wilderness, peopled by the wild beasts of the forest; while the near hills, and more distant White Mountains, which give a picturesque variety to the scene, were but another wild feature in the gloomy but magnificent landscape; the first frowning with their bleak crags over the timber land spreading away from their feet; the other looming dark and bald against the sky, looking gloomy and terrible as if they formed the outposts of the universe. Of all the cultivated acres which at the present day sustain thousands with their produce, one patch of clearing only existed. It lay in the very heart of what now constitutes the village. Here a few emigrants from the Bay state and from the mouth of the Saco, composing in all about thirty persons, had located themselves. A cluster of log houses had been erected, and the land, just disencumbered of its timber and dotted with blackened stumps, was burthened with its first growth of Indian corn, which shot up to an uncommon height, for the season, so rich was the newly broken alluvial.
Though in the neighborhood of a savage tribe of Indians, the settlers had remained undisturbed in their humble occupations until security made them confident; but on the first winter after their emigration hostilities had broken out with various tribes, and the colonial government injudiciously set a price on the heads of the savages, much at the same rate and on the same principle, that our State legislature offer premiums for wolves and crows. By making the Indian scalps a matter of traffic, hunting parties were formed from the more populous provinces, and they returned from the woods equally well pleased with the carcass of a fat stag, a racoon [sic], or the scalp of an Indian, as the first two provided viands for their tables, and the last put money in their purses. How far this traffic in human life comported with the strict creed of our christian forefathers we will not stop [End Page 107] to inquire; certain we are, that the hostilities thus provoked operated very unfavorably with the little colony of which we write.1
It was early in May about a year after the first settlement of the emigrants when some six or eight of the stoutest men started for the woods in search of game. A bear had been seen on the brink of the clearing at break of day, and while the greater number struck off in the direction of Stark's Hill in search of more humble game, three of the most resolute followed his trail, which led to the west, and was most likely to terminate about the Kearsarge mountain, a tall, twin-like hill, whose bald head was deluged by the golden sun-light, as it broke over and scattered its refulgence upon the dense foliage, clothing its sides and sweeping off to the brink of the Saco.
The foremost of the three hunters was an Englishman of about forty, habited in a thread-bare suit of blue broadcloth, with drab gaiters buttoned up to his knees, and a hat sadly shorn of its original nap. His hunting apparatus bespoke the peculiar care which all of his country so abundantly bestow on their implements of sport. The barrel of his...