Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Cornelius Feather - Snakes on the Rocks

One of my ancestors is Cornelius Feather (1777-1851), who settled early in Trumbull County, Ohio and then moved to Mercer County, Pennsylvania before 1830.

Cornelius Feather wrote a narrative about the settlement of Warren township, which is in the manuscripts of the Ashtabula Historical Society. The narrative includes (from the book by Henry Howe, "Historical Collections of Ohio," Volume I, 1887, page 343):

"The plat of Warren in September, 1800, contained but two log cabins, one of which was occupied by Capt. Ephraim Quimby, who was proprietor of the town and afterwards judge of the court. He built his cabin in 1799. The other was occupied by Wm. Fenton, who built his in 1798. On the 27th of this month, Cornelius Feather and Davison Fenton arrived from Washington County, PA. At this time Quimby's cabin consisted of three apartments, a kitchen, bed-room and jail, although but one prisoner was ever confined in it, viz. Perger Shehigh, for threatening the life of Judge Young, of Youngstown.

"The whole settlements of whites within and about the settlement of Warren, consisted of sixteen settlers, viz: Henry and John Lane, Benj. Davison, Esq., Meshach Case, Capt. John Adgate, Capt. John Leavitt, William Crooks and Phineas Leffingwell, Henry Lane, Jr., Charles Daily, Edward Jones, George Loveless and Wm. Tucker, who had been a spy five years under Capt. Brady.

"At this time, rattlesnakes abounded in some places. And there was one adventure with them worth recording, which took place in Bracefield township.

"A Mr. Oviatt was informed that a considerable number of huge rattlesnakes were scattered over a certain tract of wilderness. The old man asked whether there was a ledge of rocks in the vicinity, which way the declivity inclined, and if any spring issued out of the ledge. Being answered in the affirmative, the old man rejoined, "we will go about the last of May and have some sport." Accordingly they proceeded through the woods well armed with cudgels. Arrived at the battleground, they cautiously ascended the hill, step by step, in a solid column. Suddenly the enemy gave the alarm, and the men found themselves completely surrounded by hosts of rattlesnakes of enormous size, and a huge squadron of black snakes. No time was lost. At the signal of the rattling of the snakes, the action commenced, and hot and furious was the fight. In short, snakes beat a retreat up the hill, our men cudgelling with all their might. When arrived at the top of the ledge, they found the ground and rocks in places almost covered with snakes retreating into their dens. Afterwards, the slain were collected into heaps, and found to amount to 486, a good portion of which were larger than a man's leg below the calf, and over five feet in length.

"The news of this den of venomous serpents being spread, it was agreed that the narrator and two more young men in Warren, and three in Braceville, should make war upon it until the snakes should be principally destroyed, which was actually accomplished.

"One circumstance I should relate in regard to snake-hunting. Having procured an instrument like a very long chisel, with a handle eight or nine feet long, I proceeded to the ledge alone, placed myself on the body of a butternut tree, lying slanting over a broad crevice in the rocks, seven or eight feet deep, this bottom of which was literally covered with the yellow and black serpents. I held my weapon poised in my right hand, ready to give the deadly blow, my left hold of a small branch to keep my balance, when both my feet slipped, and I came within a hairs' breadth of plunging headlong into the den. Nothing but the small limb saved me from a most terrible death, as I could not have gotten out, had there been no snakes, the rocks on all sides being nearly perpendicular. It was a merciful and providential escape."

Aren't the old history books wonderful? It is this type of detail that makes the lives of our ancestors more real than just names, dates and places.

1 comment:

Jasia said...

This is just wonderful Randy!If you haven't shared this with your family in one of your annual newsletters you really should. What a great story!