Autobiography of Luther Rice Delano
Macedon NY / Plainwell MI
Written in 1899
A Biographical sketch of Luther Rice De Lano,
Written by him in this, the 83rd year of his life.
I was born in the Township of Macedon, County of Wayne, State of New York, September 9th 1816, of ordinary, though honorable, parentage. My father and mother were both of Yankee origin, and were both members of the Baptist church.
My father's name was Israel, my mother's maiden name was Martha Rogers, daughter of General William Rogers of Revolutionary fame under General Washington.
I was, from my earliest memory, what was termed a healthy, rugged, tough, rollicking boy, extremely fond of sports and amusements - which often led me into dangerous, and sometimes, serious trouble. It has always seemed to be a propensity to seek danger rather than avoid it, which has caused me many broken bones and serious bruises, and lots of sleepless nights, and a great deal of limping and hobbling about on crutches and in slings.
My favorite pastimes, in youth and early manhood, were ball-playing and hunting, at both of which I considered myself an expert. Especially did I consider myself an expert at climbing.
I call to mind a number of fetes of climbing that I have never seen excelled, even by David Crockett himself. One was in climbing, and passing from three different trees to get to the larger tree into which I had driven a coon the night before.
Not wishing to cut the large tree, which was four or five feet through, I climbed a smaller one until I reached the lower limb of the large one, passed on to that, followed it back to the trunk of the large tree, which was, a that place, some three or four feet through, changed on to another limb of the same large tree running directly out the other way, reaching the top of another large, crotched tree, one of the branches leaning back into the large tree on to which I passed, up which I climbed, until I could again get on to the large tree on which sat Mr. Coon.
Upon being disturbed, he immediately climbed to the top of the large tree, up which I followed to the height of some eighty or ninety feet from the ground. At that lofty height, I could view the landscape for miles around. Being above, I called to a neighbor to come and enjoy the sport.
He came to me, in the woods, but could not find me, until I told which particular tree I was on. After dislodging Mr. Coon, on my return unto the ground, I was very glad I had called a neighbor to witness my exploit.
In getting from the large tree, back on to the crotched one, I thought to come directly down the same and save two or three transfers. I did so, and came down to the main, or lower crotch, hanging by my right hand and wrist in the crotch.
I lowered my body, and left arm, below, but the trunk of the tree was so large, I could not cling with my arms and legs sufficient to extricate my hand and arms from the crotch above. Consequently, I was obliged to hang there, suspended by my right arm, thirty or forty feet from the ground, until my neighbor could fall a small tree against me to let me out.
He, being frightened and excited, had to cut three small trees before he could lodge one against me so that I could bear my weight sufficient to loosen my right arm above. But, when I did so, I came down the trunk of that tree with a smash and crash to the ground, and glad to get there at that, with numerous bruises and scratches, but no broken bones.
I have referred to David Crockett, the celebrated Coon hunter, as an example of Coon hunting, and have given a little of my experiences in that line also. I will now mention Israel Putnam, the daring wolf hunter, who entered the wolf's den, gun in hand, shot the ferocious beast in her den, and was dragged forth, by his astonished comrades, with the dead wolf in his hands.
I will cite one more instance of climbing and leave the subject.
In the election campaign of 1840, I think it was, excitement ran high between the two prominent parties, Whig and Democrat, the town being about equally divided.
Each party striving to excel the other in Political demonstration, we, the Whigs, raised a very fine Ash pole, which, being spliced about 83 ft. from the ground, was nearly, or quite, 100 ft. high.
Our pole had a very fine pulley and flag-rope attached, but, in raising, we were so unfortunate as to loose our flag-line and could not secure it again without lowering, or climbing, the pole. We were in a dilemma.
I finally volunteered to climb the pole.
This I did, in the presence of perhaps 100 people, carrying a cord in my mouth, to the height of 80ft. or more, tying the cord to the flag-rope, and returning safely to the ground, without any climbers or creepers, except for those nature gave me, a fete I have never seen equaled, much less excelled. But enough of this.
I remained with my parents until my majority, 21 years of age. I then started to paddle my own canoe.
My first adventure was to the west, to Michigan, I think in the fall of 1837, to the County of Washtenaw, Town of Salem.
I lived with my brother-in-law, Alexis Packard, on year, then returned to my old home in New York. I then worked by the month, the day, and the job, for three years.
I had, by that time, secured a small pittance of the Filthy Lucre, which led me again to seek my fortune in the west. I landed in Allegan County, Township of Plainwell, State of Michigan, I think in the fall of '44 or '45.
I had designed spending the fall, with my bachelor brothers, William and John, fishing and hunting, both of which I was extremely fond, and then go to Lexington, Kentucky, to school. But fate had ordered otherwise.
I had, meanwhile, purchased a 1/4 section of wild land which must, of necessity, be somewhat improved, which occupied a large share of my time the next season.
Nevertheless, I could not, altogether, forgo the pleasure of "Duck" hunting along the shady banks of the beautiful Kalamazoo River, of which I had, of late, become extremely fond.
While thus engaged, between business and pleasure, I discovered that time was on the wing and his flight was very rapid. I saw the necessity of making some provision for the future wants and comforts of life.
I had, also made the acquaintance of one young "Duck" that I had set my heart on capturing, if possible, and I wanted to capture her alive. The young thing was so coy and shy, she led me a long chase before I captured her.
It was three long years before I snared her, but I got her in my nest at last, built a "Duckling" per(?), took her home with me, and between us, we have succeeded in raising five young "ducklings," who, like ourselves, we hope and trust, are happily and satisfactorily mated, and of whom we are justly proud, and thankful that you can all be present here, today, to celebrate, and commemorate, with us, this, our Fiftieth Marriage Anniversary.
I will now relate a few of the events of married life and close the chapter.
The first important step, I think, was in the spring of 1849. We gathered up our marriage dower of flocks and herds, which embraced one little black three-year-old heifer, thirteen sheep, and one pair
of peacocks, and like the old patriarch, Jacob, when he left his father-in-law, Laben, he took his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and departed, so I in like manner, took my one "duck" wife, together with the flocks and herds, and journeyed eastward to my home near Gun Marsh, where, between the varied occupations of labor, fishing, and coon hunting, and visiting, we spent six or eight years of a happy period of our married life.
Our neighbors were fun, and we sought risk and diversion within ourselves, which we often found in fishing and coon hunting.
Often, after a day of toil and labor, we would take the horse and buggy, dog, axe, gun, and lantern, drive four or five miles up the marsh and then hunt back in the evening, sometimes catching as many as three or four coons.
If the coon chanced to be up to girdling, my wife would hold the lantern, I would school the coon. I think we caught over thirty in this manner the first fall, which, to us, was a source of a good deal of sport and amusement.
We sometimes amused ourselves by making a visit to the old home, which was about three miles away, and a portion of that through the woods, in an ox cart propelled by a pair of unbroken, short horned colts.
With my "Dulcema" perched in the cart to steer the craft, and myself on the ground, to propel, we would sally forth. No matter how many logs we tumbled over, or how many trees we snubbed, our craft could not tip over and would not break down.
If my colts broke away from me and ran, I was sure to overtake them, somewhere straddle of a tree, with the mistress of the craft, calmly and quietly perched in the car, awaiting results.
To quote the words of the Poet
"If solid happiness we prize,
Within our breast this jewel lies"
And we were bound to demonstrate the truth of his words and seek happiness at home and within ourselves. And we did not always seek in vain. 'Tis True.
"When disaffection, cause,
We found ourselves, somewhat to blame,
So, in ourselves, we sought relief, Which healed the wounds of every grief"
We lived in our first home, on Gun Marsh, six or eight years, then sold the same with a view to returning to New York, the which we did, I think, in the Fall of '57 or '58, but not being as well pleased as we anticipated, we returned to Michigan the same fall.
We located in the Township of Martin, Allegan County, and enjoyed the pleasure of clearing a new farm 100 acres, and raising a family of five girls, all of which we still retain. (except the girls.)
One after another they saw fit to leave the old roof-tree, until we found ourselves alone, with the cares and burdens of a farm hanging heavy on our hands in our old age. So, thinking to lighten ourselves, somewhat, of the burdens and cares of farm life, and with the advice of the children, we concluded to lease the farm and try city life in Plainwell.
Accordingly, in the fall of about 1890, we pulled up stakes, left the farm, and located in this beautiful and prosperous village of Plainwell, in the which, about our first adventure was to lose our last girl, by marriage, upon whom we had depended so much. But we comfort ourselves by thinking, if we have lost on the one had, we have gained on the other. We have gained two little ones, of whom we are extremely fond and justly proud.
We are vain enough, sometimes, to think the second brood of "Ducklings" are equal, if not superior, to the first, the which, to our pride and self-esteem, is rather humiliating.
Our last enterprise, in the A.D.1899, is in engaging in a co. partnership, with Chas. A. Bush, in the Lumber trade, with what success time alone can tell.
We have now lived 8 or 9 years of the most idle, indolent, easy portion of our married life in the beautiful village of Plainwell. Our health good, our cares few, and our burdens light. It appears as though our last days were to be our best and happiest days.
We seem to be located in the midst of plenty. Our home is comfortable, if not grand. All of our necessary wants are reasonably supplied for which we desire to be very grateful to Him who doeth all things well.
We are within easy reach of and surrounded by, a group of dutiful, affectionate, and loving children, who are, we hope and think, ready and willing to lighten the cares and burdens of live, and smooth the wrinkled brow of age, and gently and kindly, rock, for us, the cradle of declining age.
"There when life's feast is o'er,
Grateful, from table, we'll arise;
Nor grudge our sons, with envious eyes,
The relics of our store"
May this be our happy lot, and God bless us all
These pages have been transcribed by Cynthia Closs Haskell Meincke.
August 31, 2006;
from a copy of the original hand of Luther Rice De Lano
The copy was given to me by my Uncle Robert Closs the Great Grandson of Luther and Martha by way of their daughter "Nettie" and her husband Eli Closs through their son Maurice "John" Closs, who was Robert's father, as well as the father of Jack Closs.
Copyright © 2006 - 2011 Cynthia Meincke
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