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EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA-TO WIT:
Be it remembered, That on the Nineteenth day of October, [L. S.] Anno Domini, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-nine, J. Pritts, of the said District, hath deposited in this office the title of a Book, the title of which is in the words following, to wit: "Incidents of Border Life, Illustrative of the Times and Condition of the First Settlements in parts of the Middle and Western States, comprising Narratives of strange and thrilling Adventure, accounts of Battles-Skirmishes and Personal Encounters with the Indians-Descriptions of their Manners, Customs, Modes of Warfare, Treatment of Prisoners, &c. &c.:-Also, The History of several Remarkable Captivities and Escapes.-To which are added Brief Historical Sketches of the War in the North-West, embracing the Expeditions under Gens. Harmar, St. Clair and Wayne-With an Appendix and a Review, compiled from authentic sources." The right whereof he claims as Proprietor, in conformity with an Act of Congress, entitled "An act to amend the several acts respecting Copy-Rights."
FRA'S HOPKINSON, C'k of the Dist.
Astor, Lenox nd Tiden
Several years since, the compiler of this work was in company, in a stage coach, with two gentlemen of the clerical profession, on our way to Philadelphia. In the course of the journey, the conversation happening to turn upon the early history of the region of country through which we were passing, one of our companions was very naturally led to touch upon some of those remarkable and stirring incidents of border life, to which the almost constant state of hostility between the white settlers and the aboriginal inhabitants, so abundantly gave rise. The other of our companions-a gentleman distinguished for his piety, learning, and rarely surpassed powers of oratory-became so much interested in the subject of discourse, that he enquired with some earnestness of manner where he should be able to procure a work from which he might become more intimate with the details of those frontier events. To this it was replied, that it was to be regretted that the written history of these times was so very meagre; and that even what little has found a record in the detached and homely narratives of some participators in these frontier adventures, or in the equally unpretending and fragmentary chronicles of other, but contemporary writers of their deeds, had almost passed from the reach of the general reader-books of this kind having become extremely scarce. The result of the conversation was an expression of an increased desire on the part of the clergyman to obtain a particular work devoted to the subject, and of a determination on our part to collect as many of the printed fragments of that part of our country's history as a diligent research might enable us to procure; and from the collection, and such additional resources as might fall within our reach, to compile a volume embracing whatever might seem interesting and suitable to the design and scope of the desired work. Though years clapsed without putting us in possession of the sought-for materials as fully as we wished, we flatter ourselves that we have at length succeeded in bringing together such a collection of narratives, and detail of adven
tures, as seem sufficiently copious, authentic, and interesting to jus tify committing them to the press and the judgment of the reading public.
In presenting this work to his countrymen, the compiler feels that he has mistaken the American taste, and greatly overrated the value attached to the contents of his book, if it does not meet with a welcome reception. It would be strange, indeed, if at a period when even the most extravagant and frivolous creations of fancy find ready consumption in the perhaps growing appetite for the marvellous and romantic, a narration of exciting scenes, known to be undoubted facts, and presented in the unadorned language of truth, should be less acceptable. If the admiration and sympathy of readers can be so strongly enlisted in the heroism and suffering that never existed save in the creative imagination of the novelist, how much more readily and rationally should their sensibilities be touched by the noble daring, the toils and sufferings of the pioneers, sccking, amidst ceaseless peril, to convert a howling wilderness into "a land flowing with milk and honey," and preparing the way for us, their successors and children, to sit down in peace under our own vine and figtree, where there are none to make us afraid.
On many accounts, we think our volume must be received with great eagerness. As already intimated, there have been but few books ever offered to the world, whether of real or fictitious adventure, so rich in varied, thrilling, and wonderful incident. From the first sound of their axe on the borders of the wilderness, through all the successive stages of improvement, until the forest was gradually cleared away, and other frontier settlements formed by other but kindred adventurers, to be in their turn the scenes of wild and daring exploits, interposed to shield the first against the predatory incursions of a never-tiring foe, the original settlers of any given portion of the country whose early history it is intended to illustrate, passed through so many strange and exciting events that the unadorned record of the life of any one of these back-woods-men, appears far more like an ingenuous romance than a sober and veritable biography. We do not purport to give a book made up entirely of the memoirs of individual adventurers. For the most part our volume is filled with only the most remarkable incidents occurring in the settlements, of which any account has been preserved. It is much to be regretted that the entire lives of many more of the pioneers of civilization, are not recorded.-A few such, however, are to be found
in the following pages. And we defy any reader of the least pretension to literary taste, to take up any one of these, the Life of Col. James Smith, for instance, with which our volume begins, and perusing it as a mere story book, independent of its value as a record of very interesting events, and not pronounce that simple and artless narrative one of the most charming compositions he ever read. It is but recently we heard one of our friends, (alas! now no more,) a gentleman of a remarkably classic turn of mind, and keenly alive to all that is beautiful in literature, exclaim, unconsciously to himself, as he rose from the perusal of it, "The untutored Defoe!" We have often thought since how appropriately the term was applied. We see throughout the whole narrative, told in language always plain and simple as a child's, though in some places, it is true, not quite grammatically correct, the same minute yet not tiresome detail of circumstances, the same descriptive manuer of relating events as they appear to have occurred, which have made Robinson Crusoe a favorite with all, from the boy just beginning to read, or the unlettered servant girl half spelling through its pages, up to those most distinguished for learning and cultivation of taste. But rich in wonderful, yet at the same time apparently natural incident, as this best production of Defoe undoubtedly is, we deem it to be even surpassed in that respect by the humble sketch we have just ventured to compare with it. And what has been said of this first article of our volume, might be said also, to a certain extent, of nearly every one that follows. We have referred to it as a specimen merely because of its place, and not because of any great superiority, either in matter or in manner, it possesses over a number of the other articles, except that it is somewhat more complete as a biography. Our whole book throughout abounds with scenes and adventures equally romantic, and many of them are described as artlessly and as well.
Indeed, what almost every one knows generally of the kind of life led by the first settlers in the middle, and some parts of the western states, will serve to convince him that our compilation must be a work of no little interest. Almost every one knows something, yet how indefinite is his knowledge, of the early history of this now. flourishing part of the country. He may have some general notion of brave men starting out, with their families, from homes of security, and settling in little groupes in the wilderness, erecting their log cabins in their clearings, and a rude stockade fort near the centre of each of these little colonies, to which, at the alarm of an invasion,
their wives and children were seen hastily flying-of the whole of one of these little settlements assembled at times of extraordinary danger, and going from farm to farm to plough their fields or to cut down their harvest, their rifles all the time at their sides, or ready to be seized at a moment's warning-of savages lurking in the woods, shooting down whoever ventured to go forth unarmed and alone to his labor, then rushing into the undefended door to kill or to carry into captivity, all the inmates of his dwelling-of desperate conflicts between the white settlers and their savage foes, sometimes one party victorious, and sometimes the other of fugitive Indians pursued into the heart of the wilderness, and the captives they had carried off, perhaps the wives, children, brothers, or sisters of the pursuers, rescued-of other prisoners, when pursuit was either unsuccessful or not made, sometimes making their escape by the way, then chased by their disappointed captors, and if not again taken, wandering days and nights in the forest, without food or the means of procuring it, and at length reaching their homes, perhaps only to find them desolate; sometimes, less fortunate, bound to the stake, and expiring in tortures; and sometimes carried to the Indian villages, adopted into their families, and becoming learned in their language and traditions, their manners and customs, modes of life and of warfare, and then perhaps after long years of captivity, returning to their friends, and describing all the wonders they had witnessed during a sojourn among a strange and uncivilized people. But beyond these vague generalities, how few know any thing of the life these settlers led. Yet who that knows aught of that life does not long to know more? Who that has heard of any such incidents as we have just now enumerated, does not feel a longing desire to hear them described at length, with all their attending circumstances? To gratify such a feeling as this was one object of our compilation. Whether we have succeeded to the satisfaction of our readers it is for them to determine; but for our own part, we repeat, we would not know where to seek, whether in the pages of fiction or of history, a relation of events more romantic, or possessing a more absorbing interest, than many of the narratives we have given to the public.
But it is not merely as a collection of entertaining and wonderful adventure, to be read for a winter evening's amusement, and then to be thrown aside as a thing of little worth, our volume recommends itself to the American reader. It is still more valuable as a faithful