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Among the Forrest Trees
Chapter XXVI - The Mills Completed

ON the first day of May the first grist was ground at the Riverbend Mills. This was an event of considerable importance in the settlement. As a matter of course, there would be some questioning as to whose grist should be ground first.

By common consent it was decided that the first grinding ought to be done for John Bushman. He was the first man in the settlement. He cleared the first land, built the first house, brought in the first woman, and his was the first baby. He brought in the first sheep and cattle and pigs and poultry.

On the morning of the appointed day John Bushman brought several bans of good, clean wheat to the mill. Everybody was on the tiptoe of expectation to know how the thing was going to work. Root and Millwood, the owners, were anxious to know whether or not their enterprise was going to be a success. The carpenter was anxious to know if the frame was shaky or not. The millwright wanted to find out if the machinery was going to behave itself in a becoming manner. The people would like to know if the Riverbend Mill was going to give them good flour. Dusticoat, the miller, was ready and anxious to test the grinding and bolting qualities of the new mill. He was here and there, and everywhere, as nearly at the same time as it was possible for a short-limbed, short-breathed and heavy-bodied man to be. His only trouble seemed to be one of a national character.

He said, "If I honly 'ad some good Hinglish boltin' cloth, I've no hexpectation but I could turn lout as good a sample of flour as hanybody would want to see.

But with what he had on hand he hustled up, and after an hour or two of waiting, the spectators had the satisfaction of seeing the great under-shot waterwheel begin to move, and to hear the clatter of machinery and the hum of the mill-stones, as faster and faster went the wheel and quicker and quicker whirled the stones. When the broken wheat began to run down the short pipe leading into the bolting chamber, and then, as the fine white flour began to dust through the bolting cloth into the flour box, the enthusiasm of the crowd grew boisterous, and they swung their hats and hurrahed until the woods were made to echo for a mile around.

The work done by the new mill was entirely satisfactory to all concerned. They said one to another, as they saw the flour piling up in the box, "No more twenty miles of wearisome travel to get a bag of wheat ground. We have a mill of our own now; it will seem more like living within the bounds of civilization." Every one was pleased with the way the mill, under the effective management of Mr. Dusticoat, did its work.

Three years had now passed since John Bushman struck the first blow toward clearing away the forest trees. But, short as the time was, a great deal had been done in the way of settlement. There were but few vacant lots in a radius of five or six miles. Nearly every lot had some sort of a residence on it, owned by an actual or prospective settler. The people were industrious and energetic. The soil was productive, and their crops were generally good. It is true that the roads were not of much account, excepting the ones opened out by the Government; but this was looked upon as only a temporary inconvenience.

Up to this time there had been no religious teacher among the settlers, except themselves. Regularly the Sabbath services had been kept up in John Bushman's house. Bushman and Mr. Woodbine and Moses Moosewood had mostly been the leaders in the movement. And while these unpretending Christian men had been humbly trying to encourage others in the right way, they had been steadily growing stronger and better themselves, as is always the case in matters of religious duty. The more they did the more they could do. They became very successful leaders of the people's devotion.

About a month after the completion of the mills, a Methodist minister made his advent into the settlement. He had been told out at Mapleton of the settlement at Riverbend, and he came in on foot to make the place a visit. He came to inquire into the religious condition of the people, and preach to them if they wished it.

His first call was at Mr. Woodbine's. That gentleman strongly advised him to come in and take up an appointment in the place. He went with the Rev. Mr. Goodhope to see John Bushman, and to get his opinion about the preaching appointment. Bushman and the minister were drawn to each other at once. They were congenial spirits, and from the start they became fast friends. It was arranged for Mr. Goodhope to make his home at Bushman's, and to visit around among the people until the Sabbath, and then preach to them. When the word went through the settlement that there was to be preaching on the Sabbath, it caused quite a flutter, and elicited considerable comment as to what kind of a congregation the man would have to start with.

When Sabbath morning came the people began at an early hour to come from the east and west and north and south. By ten o'clock the house was filled, mostly with women and children, while scores of men stood in the yard outside. It was quite clear that the house was far too small to accommodate the crowd that had gathered to hear the first sermon ever preached in the four townships that at River-bend joined corners.

After consultation, it was decided to arrange some seats in the grove on the border of Sylvan Lake. This was not hard to do, for Bushman had a lot of planks and square timber near by. Twenty-five or thirty active, energetic and willing men were only a short time in arranging seats for all the people. An impromptu pulpit was provided by running John's ox-sled near the edge of the lake, where the speaker could face the audience who were sitting on the ascending slope of ground that arose from the lake.

The preacher was visibly affected as he stood before that company of hardy, honest men and women, who had not heard a gospel sermon since they left their homes in the older settlements, and came to the wilderness, to share the hardships and privations of pioneers.

Mr. Goodhope commenced the service by giving out the hymn which begins with

"Jesus the name high over all
In hell or earth or sky,
Angels and men before it fall
And devils fear and fly."

According to the custom of the times, the preacher read the hymn over first. Then he read two lines at a time, and when these were sung he read two lines more, and so on to the end. This method of reading and singing made it sometimes difficult to keep the tune, but it helped the people who had no books to remember the words. But every one got accustomed to it, and perhaps there were not any more breakdowns in the singing than there are now. But that system would not match in with modern choir performances.

After singing and prayer the preacher held up before the people a small Bible, and, pointing with his finger to the lake behind him, said: " The cool, clear and beautiful water that sparkles and glistens on the smooth surface of Sylvan Lake is not so pure and so refreshing as is the blessed Gospel that I find in this book. The honey that the busy bee is gathering this morning from the June flowers is not so sweet to the taste as the blessed influences of the Gospel is to the hungering and thirsting soul." Then lifting his eyes upward, he said, "The bright sunbeams that dart through the interstices of the leafy canopy spread over us, and falling, like drops of melted gold, on the leafy carpet spread out under our feet, are not so bright as are the rays of truth that beam into the mind and heart of man from the teachings of this book."

"Now," said the preacher, "listen to the text: `Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'

"Listen: When man turned his back upon his God, and sinned his way out of Eden, God wrote one word in flaming characters across the vaulted sky, so that the universe might read, and all might know, that undying love still yearned over His wandering, wayward child. That word was COME! That word has come floating down the centuries. It has been heard in the crashing of the thunderstorm, and it has been heard in the gentle summer evening breeze. In accents sweeter than a mother's lullaby, it has fallen upon the ear and echoed in the heart of the sailor, as his trembling boat has been tossed like a plaything upon the foamy crest of the billows of the deep. That word has fallen like a heavenly benediction upon the worn-out and starving traveller, as he laid himself down to die alone on the burning sands of an African desert, or gave himself up to the cruel teeth of the monsters of the jungles in India.

"When God gave to the world a revelation of His will, the invitation, in some form or other, was placed in every book and on almost every page. And when the last book has been almost finished, lest some one somewhere would never hear the invitation, He seemed to recapitulate and focalize all that had been said before, and in one grand invitation, made just as the book was closed, the all-loving Father calls in this wise: `The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And whosoever will, let him come."' After a powerful and affectionate appeal to all to come to Jesus and find rest, the preacher closed the sermon, Then he gave an opportunity for any one to speak if they wished to do so. Some half-a-dozen spoke; some of them were clear in their religious experience, others were hopeful and determined to press on to higher states of grace.

Harry Hawthorn and his wife were among the most earnest listeners that morning. A cloud had hung over their domestic life for some months. Their hearts had been strangers to gladness since the day that their two children were crushed to death.

That morning, as they listened to the invitation to come with their burdens and their sorrows,—to come with all their cares and anxieties,—to come with all their wants and woes, and cast all upon Jesus, they responded to the call by simply trusting in His Word, and their weary hearts found rest.

They went hone from that service, hand in hand, with buoyant steps and gladdened hearts: Everything seemed changed. Life wore a different aspect. The future, which looked dark and gloomy before, looked bright and cheerful now. They felt that now they could face life's trials, and endure its hardships, as they had never done before. And as the years rolled on, there were no more earnest and devoted Christians than Harry and Biddy Hawthorn, in the Sylvan Lake congregation.

One thing was made apparent by the events of that Sabbath service. John Bushman's house had become too small to accommodate the settlement for a place of worship, when a general rally was made. Something would have to be done, or the religious interest of the neighborhood would not be promoted in proportion to its progress in other departments.

Before dismissing the congregation, Mr. Goodhope asked the people whether or no they wanted him to give them regular fortnightly preaching, saying that if they did he could arrange to do so.

The first one to speak was Harry Hawthorn. He got up, and with tears in his eyes, he said, "Indade, we do, sur. Your words this morning have fallen bike the gintle dews of Heaven upon me heart, and upon me poor wife's heart, and, I belave, upon everybody's heart. Yes, sur, we wants yez till come again, and till kape on coming."

His words, spoken in such earnestness, seemed to stir the whole audience. And when Mr. Millwood asked an expression of sentiment by a show of hands, everybody's hand went up. A more unanimous vote was never given.

A meeting was called for consultation, to be held in the boarding-house at the mill, on Tuesday, at one o'clock p.m.

Mr. Root now arose to his feet, and said to the minister, "I always want a fair understanding at the start. I and others would be pleased to know about what amount you would expect us to pay you for preaching for us once in two weeks?"

"In answer to the question," said the preacher, "I wish to say my terms are these: When I come to visit you, treat me kindly; when I preach, come to hear me; seek the Lord, and help me what you can financially. I set no price on my services. Always bear in mind that I seek not to get your money, but I want to help you to save your souls."

"On those terms," said Mr. Root, "come on, and we will do the best we can for you, while you do what you can for us." To this they all assented, and the matter was settled in that way.

When Tuesday came, a considerable portion of the men came together. This was the first public meeting for business ever held in the place. The meeting was organized by the appointment of John Bushman as chairman, and Mr. Woodbine as secretary.

After due discussion, it was resolved to put up a moderate-sized building, that would serve the double purpose of school-house and church—since the increasing number of growing children would make a school-house a necessity in the near future.

The next question to decide was, "Shall the house be built of loos, or shall it be a frame?" On this there seemed to be but one opinion. If they were able to do it, let it be frame by all means. Men never know what they can do till they try. And it is hard to stick a lot of active, energetic men, when they are thrown upon their ingenuity and their mettle.

After careful inquiry it was found that a suitable frame building could be put up without any outlay of money, except what would buy the nails and glass, and trimmings for the door. They were to make a bee and cut and haul logs to the mill, and Root and Millwood would saw the lumber. Old Mr. Crautmaker offered to kiln-dry the boards. William Briars and Moses Moosewood agreed to make the shingles. Everybody was ready and willing to do his part. John Bushman was appointed to oversee the whole job. The lime was burned on a big log-heap in Harry Hawthorn's fallow. Everything went on smoothly, so much so that by the time the autumn leaves began to fall the house was ready for use; and in the years that succeeded each other the benefits of that early effort by the first settlers at Sylvan Lake were felt, and the influence that went from that little humble house of worship is still felt, and many of the children of those pioneers remember with grateful and reverential feelings the little frame building at the four corners where they received the first lessons in secular learning, and where the first religious impressions were made on their young minds.

When the meeting-house was completed, and regular Sabbath services established, the next question that was brought forward by the leading spirits of the community was in connection with the securing of a post-office. To go some twenty miles to mail a letter, or to get one, was too much of a burden to be longer borne if a remedy could be secured. A petition was circulated asking for a post-office to be established, and that it be called "Riverbend Post-Office," and also that it be located at the mills, and Mr. Root to be the postmaster. Three months after the agitation started the post-office was an accomplished fact, and the people felt the benefit of it at once.

Shortly after the establishment of the post-office there came to the mill one day a stranger. He introduced himself to Messrs. Root and Millwood as intending to settle at Riverbend if suitable encouragement was given. His name, he said, was Sylvanus Yardstick. He contemplated starting a general store at some point in the back country. He had come to consult with them about the matter of locating at Riverbend. He said he could bring in a couple of thousand dollars worth of goods, and have them all paid for when he got them, and still have another thousand of reserve capital behind the amount of goods.

After a little consultation, Mr. Root said, "We will do what we can to help you if we have some guarantee that you are the right sort of a man to help to build up a new place. We expect to have a village here some day. We have not got a mean or shabby settler in the neighborhood. Perhaps I am the roughest man among the inhabitants at present, and I want to have no one here worse than I am. How does that meet your views?"

"All right," said he, "but I have no written recommendations. I could get them if I saw fit to try, but I don't intend to try. My face, my manners and my tongue must carry me through this world, or I won't go through it. But if I settle here and do not conduct myself in a respectable and neighborly way, you may put me on a pole some night, and carry me out and dump me into the mill-pond. Will that do?"

"Yes, that will do," was answered.

"This locality has greatly changed in four years," said the stranger.

"Were you ever here before?" was asked.

"I am not sure. Nearly four years ago I was with some others going to the rear to survey out some new townships. We must have passed near by this place, but it was all wilderness then; but as I came up the road from towards Mapleton it seemed to me that the ground had a familiar look, and I felt that I must have been over it before. Who lives in the lot that corners on this one—the place where the new frame barn is?" inquired Mr. Yardstick.

"That is the home of the first settler. His name is John Bushman," was the reply.

"Bushman, Bushman," said he, as if talking to himself; "that surely is the name of the young man that we found in the woods one day." Then, turning to Mr. Root, he said, "Has this Bushman got a beautiful little lake on his place?"

"Yes, and it is surrounded with a fringe of evergreens. He calls it Sylvan Lake," said Mr. Root. "Do you know how it got that name?"

"Yes, Bushman says the name was given to it by a poetic young man, who carne along one day with a surveying party, shortly after he first came to the bush."

"Well, I am that young man. How is Bushman getting, along? Is he married yet?"

"He is doing well in every way. Yes, he has a wife, and she is a good one. They have two fine children. Bushman is one of the best men that I have ever met with. He is a good man every way. The moral tone of the neighborhood is largely to be attributed to the influence of Bushman and his wife."

"That agrees with what Mr. Rushvalley said on the day that we left him alone in the woods. He said to the rest of us, `That young man has the stuff in him to make a first-class man.' And it seems that he has fulfilled the prediction."

Just as the stranger finished the last sentence, Bushman came in to where they were. Mr. Root said to him, "Here is a friend of yours. Look at him and see if you can make out when or where you saw him."

John looked at the man for a moment with one of his sharp, good-natured looks. Then he said, "I have seen that face before, but where or when I cannot now recall."

"Well," said the stranger, "you only saw me for a short time, and under circumstances not the most favorable for making a lasting acquaintance. Do you remember the surveying party that came across you in the woods one day?"

"O, yes; I see it all now. You are the poet who gave Sylvan Lake its name, and made some lines of poetry about it. I am happy to meet you again," said John.

"My name is Sylvanus Yardstick. I already know your name, Mr. Bushman. I am very much pleased to meet you again, and to find that you are still living at Sylvan Lake."

"I did not know that you were giving the lake a part of your own name, but now I see you did so. You remember that I told you that day, that if you ever found yourself in this vicinity, there would be a welcome for you at Sylvan Lake. I am happy now to renew that invitation with emphasis, since I have one to help me to make you welcome. I want you to make `Sylvan Lodge' your home while you remain amongst us."

"I am very thankful for your kind offer; but, in the meantime, I want to talk a little about business. The fact of the matter is this: I am looking for a place to start a general store, and I carne here to make inquiries, and to see what I can do in the way of finding a lot to build on, and in getting information as to the prospects of success in such an enterprise."

"That is just the thing that is needed here. A well-conducted little store could hardly fail to be successful. Commence on a small scale, and enlarge the business as the necessities of the place increase; and, as for a lot to build on, I will give you a lot at a nominal sum, on one condition, that is, there must be a clause in the title that the place shall never be used as a place to keep, make, or sell whiskey, or other intoxicating liquors."

"All right, I will agree to that. But it is an unusual condition," said he.

"Yes; we all know that. But the owners of the four corners are determined that the coming village shall be a sober one. Now, come home with me, and we can talk over the thing to-morrow with some of the neighbors."

In three months from this the store was in full operation, with every prospect of being successful. And in three months more, by the request of the mill-owners, the post-office was removed to the store. Mr. Yardstick was in ecstasies over his prospects, so much so, that he once more became poetical, and wrote the following, and posted it up in the store:


"How well I remember the day that we found him,
Alone in the forest, with nobody near;
His strong arm was felling the trees all around him,
The sound of his axe was refreshing to hear.
But now, wife and children, and home and contentment,
Are his to enjoy as the years pass away;
And at his prosperity none feel resentment,
But all wish him happiness every day."

Bushman demurred. But the poet would have his way.

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