This is an expanded version of my Lost Nation tales. This is an expanded edition and the Kindle version will be set up for a free promotion day tomorrow, January 6. This will be followed sometime next week with the release of a large print edition in softcover. This book as also available on Kindle Unlimited to read for free or it may be purchased for $0.99… The paperback version will be available for $8.49.
History has always fascinated me. Not the history of dates and upheavals that get covered in the History Books. But the lives of the people that actually lived that history. History books never seem interested in the day to day lives of average people doing the things people do.
For instance, my Grandfather, born in 1895, told us kids about the first electric lightbulb he ever saw, or the first time he heard a radio or witnessed an automobile. I will never forget the amazement on his face when we landed men on the moon. And then there was the time on a nice spring day when he didn’t want to spend the day in school…
He was trapping skunks at the time for pocket money. There was a bounty paid for skunks at that time, so he caught a live one by “tailing it” as he put it, which involved quickly picking it up by the tail so it couldn’t spray him. He then released the skunk in the school’s unused heating ducts… Trust me! That bit of history caught my ten-year old attention!
So, this book is set up as an oral history, covering the things that get discussed around a campfire or similar in a similar setting. Most relate to how people did things before radios and electric lights. Some are about bad men who prowled the night, and what common people did to survive.
My goal in writing this tale is to relate what life was like for the early settlers in the area known locally and variously as Coos County or more broadly just “north of the notches. The “Notches” being Franconia Notch and Crawford Notch which provided the easiest passages for the early settlers through the White Mountains surrounding Mt. Washington. The other route into the North Country was up the Connecticut River. That was a very different river than the one we know today with all it’s flood control dams and submerged falls and rapids.
It is hard to imagine what the forests were like in the later 1700’s when this area was first settled. They were certainly very unlike what we see today. Contrary to popular perception the general area is much more forested today than it was at that time. For one thing there were more mature hardwoods growing back then. Especially nut trees such as oaks, beechnuts and butternuts, (often called White Walnuts. The Indians actually planted nut trees as a food source. They even had developed methods to make Acorn and Beechnut meal palatable.
There was a high beaver population at that time, which was largely responsible for the extensive system of meadows along most streams and smaller rivers. The first settlers called these areas as well as the flood plains of the Connecticut River the Coos intervals. Over time, the beaver dams filled in with sediment and rich productive land was developed.
The original inhabitants naturally took advantage of these open areas to co-plant corn, beans and squashes, just as the Indians taught them. The beans climbed the corn and the squashes provided weed control on the ground. This tended to be common practice throughout the Appalachian area and beyond.
They also burned over these fields to enrich them and reduce the invasive brush which, if left to grow would quickly turn into forest. The Indians had a vested interest in keeping the land open. Not only for corn production but to attract the white-tailed deer, which is a border lands forager. Deer need open fields for summer feeding and young hardwood browse as a winter food supply. Without both, the deer cannot survive to provide protein for those in need. The beaver ponds also attracted the moose which is not dependent on open fields for grazing, but does need ponds and marshes where they feed on aquatic plants during the summer months.
The other native species that helped keep the land rich and clear were the passenger pigeons. Huge flocks of these pigeons darkened the sky, they roosted in trees, often weighed down the trees so heavily that they broke branches. Also, the massive flocks produced a byproduct that contained so much nitrogen that it literally killed the ground cover. A flock passing overhead could entirely cover the ground to a depth of a half inch or more, over hundreds of square miles with bird droppings when they passed.
Now that we don’t have passenger pigeons and beaver are considered a pest by many, the forests have grown to claim more land than was ever forest in the late 1700’s. Deer and moose populations have altered to fit the “new” environment, (less deer, more moose).
The Indian population, already in deep decline ever since Columbus brought measles, small-pox, and influenza from Europe. The Indians who had very little to no natural resistance, were no longer available to keep the open areas open and the forest was in the process of taking over. In the almost 300 years since the Europeans arrived, mortality from these foreign diseases had caused a decline of eighty to ninety-five percent in the Native American population. In some areas the devastation was total.
This explains why the Indian chiefs were so willing to make alliances with the invaders from across the sea. They neither liked nor trusted these hairy faced strangers. The major tribes were in a state of near constant warfare amongst themselves. They no longer had the ability to keep the land open and productive due to a lack of population resources. It should be kept in mind that at that time no one understood how diseases spread or how to stop them once they started. Neither the Europeans or the Native Americans knew what we know today. The Europeans had no concept that they had spent hundreds of years developing resistance to these diseases and once the contagions had spread away from the coasts the Indians, who had wide spread networks of commerce, had no chance of stopping the spreading wave of death.
The native population had, in many ways, the superior technology for survival. Bows and arrows functioned in all-weather unlike the inaccurate and slow firing muskets of the Europeans. They were silent, didn’t disturb the game animals and didn’t require dry gunpowder, flints, or lead balls. True they never developed the wheel, but then they had no horses or oxen to pull wheeled carts. They had developed maize, (corn), through hybridization, as a staple food that was far more efficient than the European grains for feeding large populations.
Consider that corn is not self-seeding, unless someone removes the husks, it rots on the cob. Corn was not an accidental discovery. It was developed by the Native Americans in Central America and spread outwards all through the Americas. See Charles C. Manns excellent book “1491” for much more information on this topic. I truly wish this book had been available when I was majoring in History in College back in the ‘70’s. It explains so much of what my wife and I observed throughout the Yucatan, Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize when we were researching the Mayans in the ‘90’s.
Another major influence on this story was my Grandfather, Neal Farnsworth, (born in 1895). He gave me hands-on lessons in using one and two-man saws, axes, broad axes, spuds and froes to fall trees and convert them to useful materials for building and heating both. Trust me, getting out ten cords of firewood with a hand buck, splitting axe, wedges and a sledge hammer has given me a sense of sincere gratitude for 40 lb. bags of pellets as a home heating fuel! Even burning pellets, I have learned the wisdom which he taught me on buying wood heating fuel… “If you are buying by volume, buy hardwoods, If you are buying by weight, buy softwoods.” As true today as it was back in the day…
This brief tale is intended as a prequel to a larger volume that I am currently planning to write on the Indian Stream Republic, a short lived Constitutional Republic which the residents carved out of the Northern most section of New Hampshire where both the United States and Canada had claims based on the various settlers having bought the same land from two different Indian chiefs…
You will probably note several areas in this story that modern people find objectionable. As an historian I believe it is not only proper, but responsible to relate those attitudes without passing moral judgement on them. One cannot understand history properly while using moral judgements that did not exist at that time. To do so is to commit the historian’s sin of “Presentism”.
For instance, today we consider taking the law into our own hands to be a great wrong. In the wilderness of the 1700’s, it was the expected thing to do. There really were no other realistic options. In short, how can we say that today is so much better without having an accurate yardstick to judge our progress against. This is how we truly learn from having an honest history.
Another, more extreme example, Columbus and Small Pox. There were more Indians living in the Americas than existed in all of Europe at that time. They had larger cities, better mathematics, and better agricultural practices. Yet the Europeans unknowingly released what amounted to an extinction level event in the Americas. It was probably the single greatest human tragedy to ever occur. To call it genocide is to completely ignore the facts of what occurred. The Europeans knew only that Small Pox and the other diseases had been the scourge of Europe. To hold the European explorers responsible for the Indians lack of any immunity is to ignore the real lesson of history.
Any exchange of resources between cultures can have dire unintended consequences. Other exchanges which luckily have not been as horrific, such as the Spanish Flu, the Dutch Elm disease, Japanese Beetles, Kudzu, and so many other invasions still occur. There is even solid evidence that introducing Maize, (corn), into Africa was responsible for increasing the population to the point that African Chiefs accepted the slave trade as a viable recourse to thin out excess population.
Yet people still attempt to smuggle birds, reptiles and exotic pets, any of which could start a whole new and unexpected plague in areas that have no natural immunity. This is why playing the “blame game” through presentism is not high on any Historian’s agenda.
In summary, this is a work of fiction, and I trust my readers to make their own decisions on the subject of morality. My only goal is to present the times as they actually existed so that the important lessons of history may be preserved and not forgotten.
Links to countries where I have had sales. (Thank you all!)
The Ranger’s Tale, US version
The Ranger’s Tale UK version
The Ranger’s Tale, Canadian version
The Ranger’s Tale, Australian version
The Ranger’s Tale, India version (in English)
The Ranger’s Tale, Brazilian version (in English)
The Ranger’s Tale, Japanese version (in English)
The Ranger’s Tale, German version, (in English)
The Ranger’s Tale, French version, (in English)
The Ranger’s Tale, Netherlands version, (in English)