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Narrative of the Travels and Adventures of Mr. Ker, through
the wilderness from New-Orleans, toward New-Mexico, as far as the Macedus, or Welch Indians.-Also his account of seva eral other Tribes, of Mines, Wild Beasts, &c.
I LEFT New Orleans on the 1st Sept. for Natches, taking the nearest route, which was to cross lake Ponchartrain, from which a bayou makes up within one mile and a half of the l'eår of the city of New Orleans. This lake communicates with the gulf of Mexico, and by lake Maurepas and Ibberville river it communicates with the Mississippi ; it is fifty miles in length and thirty in breadth. The bayau is about eight miles, from its head to the lake, very narrow and crooked; the motion of its water is very slow, meandering through a low, swampy marsh, inhabited only by alligators and reptiles.
In the summer season nothing could equal the nauseous and disagreeable smells that proceed from these stagnated waters, which breed innumerable legions of musquetoes, filling the air with their music, and sparing no pains in visiting strangers, and bestowing their attentions upon the whole animal crea io io As the evening approaches, the air is darkened with clouds of them, arising from the marshes and lakes. The inhabitants, for the preservation of their blood and the safety of their lives, sleep under a netting stretched over their beds, suffering rather with suffocation than to be devoured alive.
I hired a negro, who being free soon, offered his services on reasonable terms. Having a boat of my own construction now completed. which was small, merely for the purpose of a temporary use. I spent several weeks in making preparations, and constructed a cover over the stern of my boat, that I could take down at pleasure. Besides this ! prepared myself with oil skins, and a provision chest : I also purchased a number of articles fancied by the ludians, as well as dran ing instruments, and paint brushes and colours, having with my uncle in London acquired the art of miniature painting. I had a good brace of pistols, but not thinking them suflicient, I purchased a rifle and tomahawk.' Likewise procured a prospective glass, compass, thermometer, &c.
Thus equipped, with a stout, rugged negro, I left Natches on the 5th Oct. 1809, bound for new discoveries. Natches lies 31° north lat. Various were the opinions of the inhabitants with respect to my appearance at my departure, and where I was destined; but all their enquiries were in vain. My boat was light, and I soon lost sight of Natches.
The weather being extremely warm, my awning of canvass was spread, which attorded a goodly shade, without which the eat would have been intolerable. On the 6th the thermome. ter stood at 98° at ten o'clock in the morning. There was not the smallest breeze stirring, which is something uncommon, and what I considered as a forerunner of convulsive winds and rain. I never before felt heat so intolerable. The p tch ran in every direction on my little boat. It continued so till three o'clock, when the heavens were clouded with darkness until it was relieved by heavy rain and hail, accompanied with such tremendous shocks of thunder that in a little time the stores of nature seemed exhausted, and a cooling breeze succeeded. This was the first trial I had of my oil-cloths, which kept me perfectly dry, as well as my apparatus.
My negro seemed to be delighted with having an opportunity of displaying his enterprizing disposition, and in the thickest of the storm would use every exertion; and when the rain de scended, not in drops or streams, but in entire sheets, he would with seeming pleasure cry out, Ah, massa, dis be notten what we see yet. After the storm had subsided I set him to bailing out the boat: I then informed him of the dangers to which we should in all probability be exposed from the elements, as well as from the wilds of the country, and that the levgth of our tour was uncertain. I likewise told him of the object of my pursuit, adding if he would be faithful to me he should reap a share of any profit that might accrue from the undertaking. He consented to every proposal, and I now had an African born negro for my companion. He was six feet two inches high, and would weigh 260 pounds.
On the 7th, at night, we reached the mouth of Red river.We came too aster entering, and encamped for the night, having made a small fire and smoke, in order to sleep more securely from musquetoes. After we had taken a little supper, 1 sat down meditating on my plans. My distracted brain filled me with such impatience that I thought every moment an hour.The fatigue of the day had wearied us both; but I observed Edom busied in some reflection, and with a very thoughtful air. A kind of melancholy ensued as he turned his eyes towards the dying colours of the west. I watched him for sometime, and at length asked him if he wished he was at Natches. He firmly replied, No: but, says he, I was just thinking of my tired life, and the trouble I had seen. I then requested him to relate the account. He took his seat near me, and began as follows:
“I was brought to this country about twenty years ago, by the Portuguese, who sold me to a very ugly man on the island of Jamaica. By that master I was shamefully abused for two years, for being, as he called me, dumb; I could not undertand what he said, and could not for some time handle the tools bor:longing to the plantation: I was whipped almost every dav.
and was siuking under a pressure of trouble too great for me to bear, when a kind providence interceded, and I was for a short time at ease, by being confined on board a ship; but I was sorely pinched with hunger, and knew not my destiny.Having been torn from a loving wife who I had lately married, and crammed with several of my companions slaves in the hold of the ship, and there suffocating with heat, hunger, and anguish ;-but as I said before, I was again sold and went on board a ship; 1 had done nothing, but runaway from my master, and gone to work for another man; this so enraged him that he tied me down to the ladder and gave me seventy lashes, which was near being my end. Finding I was not now able to work he sold me. I was then taken to St. Domingo, and was made to work with a great chain to my feet, which galled me sorely. My new master was, if possible, worse than the other. I one day was very sick, and was scarcely able to move, though I had much more to do, for I had my chain to carry, as well as to roll a wheel-barrow with stone, as we were building a fort. My sickness continued a few days, when I sunk down on the ground with acute pains in every part of my body, such as I had never experienced before. I had not lain in this posture long before my pains were increased by the tormenting whip of the overseer, who said as he gave me sixty lashes, that he would teach me to be stubborn, My back was quite raw: I could not rise from the ground when I was told, but lay still; at which he began to kick me with violence in the face and sides, which soon deprived me of my senses. How long 1 lay there I am not able to tell, but on my recovery, I found myself in a dark cellar; I gave free vent to my anguish, and prayed to be out of existence. The next day there
was brought three more who were whipped, and the blood running in streams from their backs. After the master had left the cell, my poor companions informed me that they were to receive thirty more lashes in the morning, and for no other crime than that of having been asleep: they also informed me of [their hearing the master say
to receive fifty. This news did not shock me, hoping it might put me to an end ; I resolved, however, that I would not die alone. In the morning one of my companions was taken out and whipped. His cry awakened me from melancholy to anger. After whipping him they sent him to work, and took out the two remaining prisoners, leaving me for the last. I was now resolved on death or victory. While they were executing this horrid deed on my companions, I with some exertions got off my chain, and hunting about the cellar, I found a broken spade. 'placed myself at the door, and heard curses threatened against me. When the overseer entered I had new strength, and made a blow with the edge of my spade, and soon brought papers, and
him down; I repeated my blows, and had the pleasure of seeing his brains. During this time he bad cried for help, and now came down two or three others, one of which I knocked down; the others seized me, and bound me with iron bands. I was now in hopes of immediate death; but I had other scenes to encounter. Thinking it would be losing too much money to kill me, they shipped me on board a vessel. The captain seemed to use me with more mercy; he helped to release me from my fetters. We had a good passage to New-Orleans, where I was sold to a sugar-planter. The cruelties here, exceeded all I had ever before experienced, and if I should explain every particular, it would cause a hatred to all people of your colour, though I have since found amongst them the exercise of the true principles of virtue and charity. I shall only say, that I could not endure it ; I therefore set out, I knew not whither, but made shift to travel by night till I got to Natches. A worthy gentleman there took compassion on my distressed situation. Know. ing from my account I had ran away, he advertised me in the
my master soon appeared. I could see determined fury in his countenance. I fell on my knees before my new master, begging him to relieve me from my impending ruin, and to my great joy I found they were making a bargain ; I soon saw the demon depart, and was in a world of happiness. I served my good master with care. He kept me to the boating business for several years.
then called me to his house for his fa. vourite servant. Soon after, he was taken ill, to my great mortification, and died. In his will he left me about five hundred dollars, and my freedom. This money was soon swindled from me, and I hired with a gentleman for one year, when I came across you, and I hope you will be a good master, and I will be a good negro. I don't fear any thing if I can please my new master."
Morning appeared, and we again set forth on our journey. This river had a gentle current: the water is of a reddish colour, from which it derived its name; this colour is caused from a red clay on the banks. The mouth of the river is in latitude 290 50' north. There are a few settlements at the mouth, where they raise cotton and indigo. We had some wind this day, to which we set our little sail, and ran about ten miles. My negro was well acquainted with the boating business, and he worked up the little boat with astonishing alacrity. The weather still continued warm, and we had frequent showers of rain, which watered the thirsty plains and afforded new life to the animal and vegetable creation.
A few days brought us to a nation of Indians, called the Cadoes, who inhabit a fine tract of country lying on the north side of the Red river. A creek emptying into this river I pursued
till I found it to be settled with wigwams and Indian huts. During my stay amongst them I was well treated. The Chief informed me that their forefathers sprang from a race of people towards the setting sun, and that they had by wars been reduced to about fifteen hundred.
These Indians are of small stature in comparison with the other tribes east of the Mississippi : they live principally by fishing and hunting deer, which are in great abundance. They have had the Gospel amongst them, as well as a teacher of the English language ; but their labor was met with coolness. Many of them speak the Spanish language, by which means I received information respecting the neighbouring tribes.
I was treated with great politeness by the chief warrior, who was about sixty years of age, and of large stature. He shewed me his armour, which was worn by his great-grandfather, who never saw a white man. His grandfather, he informed me, had had many conflicts with the Spaniards, as well as his own father ; but they had now given up all idea of combating so powerful a nation as the whites. He believed the Great Spirit would yet restore them all their lands, and banish the aggressors.
This little tribe are very filthy in their way of living, only washing themselves on particular days, as a kind of ordinancé. They seern not to have that jealous disposition with regard to their wives which other tribes have.
They informed me of a number of tribes that lived towards the setting sun; that some of them were very numerous, and disliked the white men. They also told me that precious metals and stones were found amongst them, but they were jealous of their rights and would not suffer any search from strangers, and that they held correspondence with no one except some particular Spaniards, who by intrigue had pried into their secrecy, and by insinuating little presents had received from them much wealth.
My boat and appara tus excted much wonder. Some few of these Indians raise corn, which they pound and boil. They informed me that they should in a few days have a grand hunting party, and invited me to stay ; but as I had now wasted much time, I concluded to proceed.
These nations inhabit a fine tract of country, beautiful ele. vations, and delightful vallies glowing with wild verdure. Such a country ought to be fostered by an industrious hand, and not left in waste by indolence and sloth.
Oct. 30. We were escorted out of this bayou into the river, hy the chief warrior, in a canoe rowed by four men.
He wore his hair in three cues behind encompassed by silver bands, and a ring in his nose of nine inches in circumference, handed down