The Pioneer History of
By Arad Thomas
Online Edition by Holice & Deb
|The interesting details of border
settlement in this country have so often been the theme of remark that
they become trite mattes of history. The solemn and deepening shade of
antiquity is beginning to clothe them with its mysterious interest, and
as the immediate actors leave us, slowly and silently fading away from
among the living, their memory is cherished as the pride of their
kindred, and they come to be regarded as the benefactors of their
country. The Pioneers of Orleans County are not all dead, but the times
of their trouble have gone by. The Holland Purchase is settled, subdued,
and made the cheerful home of an industrious and thriving population,
now in their turn sending out their caravans of emigrants with the
fervent spirit of their fathers, carrying the arts and institutions of
our favored country to those new States so rapidly growing up in the
regions of the West. All the improvements in science and the arts are
brought to aid the swift progress of our people in spreading themselves
over our entire national territory.
If the earlier march of emigration and settlement, from the Atlantic westward has been toilsome and slow, and two hundred years scarce brought settlers to the great lakes, and the slopes of the Alleghanies, what shall we say of the advances of the last fifty years, and which are now going forward?
Since the first tree fell here under the ax of the white
Man, the triumphs of steam power have appeared.--By the help of this tremendous agent, a voyage across the Atlantic, which took the Mayflower months to accomplish, is now made in a week. A trip to Boston, which once cost these pioneers a month to perform, is now the business of a day. Steam drives our mills, carries our burdens, plows our fields, warm out houses, digs our canals, and furnishes a motive power, to effect the mightiest and minutest work attempted by the ingenuity of man.
But steam, though admitted to be strong is voted slow, in this fast age, and electricity is sent out to run the errands of our ordinary business.
Excelsior! Higher! Is the motto of our noble Empire State, and Forward is the cry of encouragement with which Young American stimulated its ardor in the race for victory.
My friends, we who are the juniors of these noble men, whose praise we have thus faintly endeavored to celebrate, should never forget that we are building upon foundations they had laid for us. That we inherit the lands their hands have cleared; that we enjoy the liberties they have achieved.
We shall ever admire their enterprise, patience and fortitude. We shall justly feel proud to claim acquaintance, perhaps relationship with such worthy predecessors.
We shall teach our children the story of their labors and success, as examples to be imitated; and from every, memorial they have left us of strenuous effort in a good cause, take courage and gain strength to help our resolution in the performance of all the duties, which have fallen to our lot. And when we look about us upon the board patrimony we have derived from them and take an inventory of the abundant good things they have bequested to us, as the fruits of their labors, let us not forget our duty ofgratitude to the memory of these our benefactors, to whom we owe so much, nor fail to improve as we ought, the rich inheritance we enjoy.
Venerable Pioneers---You have not met on the present occasion to gratify your vanity by publishing to the world the exploits you have performed, or boasting for the wonder of other to the marvelous adventures you may have achieved; but, like a company of weary travelers, life's toilsome journey almost done,--you are here to spend an evening house in social converse, on scenes you have witnessed by the way, to bring to mind again the stirring events in which you have been called to mingle; and to soothe your spirits by a grateful recollection of that kind Providence which has sustained you in all your toils and brought you in old age to the abundant enjoyment and realization of the most ardent hopes of your youth.
You have seen the country of your choice a gloomy wilderness. You now behold it, by your exertions changed to cultivated fields, and dotted over with noble houses, interspersed with thriving villages and connected by public highways.
Where a few years ago you hunted the savage bear, your splendid herds and numerous flocks now roam and feed in safety. Where but lately you was compelled to grope your way from town to town through pathless woods, by marked trees, or Indian trails, the railroad or telegraph afford you means of communication, in which time and distance are scarcely items in the account of delay.
The rich produce of your fields, instead of rotting on you hands, valueless because no buyer could be found, commands at all times the highest price in the markets of the world.
The howl of the wolf is exchanged for the scream of the steam whistle, and though you live so far inland, the gallant steam vessel is made to float by your very doors.
How astonishing, how stupendous the change! We have read of the Wonderful Lamp of Aladdin, and stories of Oriental necromancy, where by the superhuman power of magic, and the agency of demons, the loftiest works of art, and the noblest productions of industry and skill were made to appear or vanish at a word,--but the magic which wrought the works we celebrate, was the power of indomitable energy, applied with strong hands and stubborn perseverance. The mighty improvements which excite our admiration are only the happy results of your steady, well directed industry overcoming its early discouragements and trials,--the honorable testimonials of the sternest conflict and most complete success.
Fortunate men and women! Long, long may you live, enjoying the rich fruits of your early toils. And may you be permitted to witness the return of many anniversaries of your present association, happy in the consciousness that you have accomplished the object of your youthful ambition, and leaving, when at least you shall be called to your rest, a noble history, and a worthy example, embalmed in the memory of your grateful posterity.
The Pioneer History of Orleans County, NY, By Arad Thomas
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Deb
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