Page images
[ocr errors]

orchard on Manhattan Island, a rope was adjusted around his neck, and the officer in charge said to him, You may make your last speech.”

With a clear strong voice, Hale responded, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

One of the villages not far east from the Connecticut River in its lower course is Moodus, a place that is famous for its peculiar noises. Strange subterranean sounds have been heard in the region from time immemorial. The town's first minister, writing in 1729, says he had “heard the noises coming from the north like slow thunder, until the sound came near,

“The Old Leather Man,” who wore

a suit that was all made of leather and then there seemed to be a breaking like the noise of a cannon shot, which shakes the houses and all that is in them."

Perhaps the oddest person who ever dwelt in the state was “The Old Leather Man." He was born in



France, and as a boy was apprenticed there to a tanner. He proved so capable that he at length assumed charge of his master's business. About the same time he fell in love with his employer's daughter, but her parents opposed the match and he came to America. That was in 1860, when he was about twenty-five years old. He avoided people and became a solitary rover. His clothing was all of leather. It was made principally of old boot-legs, closely sewed together with leather lacing. His shoes had wooden soles and weighed about ten pounds. He had shelters or caves to which he resorted at various places among the rocks on the lonely hills. In them he slept on a bed of leaves with a log for a pillow. He had a regular route between the Connecticut and Hudson rivers, over which he went about once every three months, stopping at each shelter several days. When the local people saw his fire burning at night on the hills they would remark, “The Old Leather Man is around again.”

The rustling of his leather suit was likely to be heard before he was seen.

He would stop at houses where he had been treated kindly, and seat himself on the doorstep, never uttering a word. If spoken to he would look up and smile. When food was given to him he ate what he wanted and put the rest in a large leather pouch that he always carried. In March, 1889, he was found dead in one of his shelters.



A gate decorated with bones from the jaw of a whale

The Story of Block Island


LOCK Island is one of the most popular of the

New England shore resorts. It is about eight miles long and three wide, and is twelve miles from the Rhode Island mainland. The island was discovered in the year 1524 by a French voyager, who says, “It was well-peopled, for we saw fires all along the coast."

The Indians called it Manisses. It gets its present name from Adrian Block, a Dutch navigator, who visited it in 1614.

The native inhabitants were a vigorous race, and they engaged in perpetual wars with other tribes. One moonlight night the Mohegans of Montauk, Long Island, eighteen miles southerly, came in a fleet of canoes to assail them. The invaders were discovered approaching, and after they had landed and


The Mohegan Bluffs, on the summit of which a party of

besieged Indians perished

marched up into the island the Manisseans stole their canoes. Then the islanders followed the Mohegans


and drove them to the lofty bluffs on the opposite shore. The fugitives could retreat no farther, and there on the heights they contrived to dig a trench, in which they crouched and defended themselves with their arrows. They had no shelter, no food, no water, their besiegers were pitiless, and gradually they all pined away and perished.

Another tragedy of the island occurred in the summer of 1636. John Oldham of Watertown, Massachusetts, was trading with a crowd of Indians two miles off shore in his pinnace when they suddenly overwhelmed and killed him. Two boys and two friendly Indians who were with him were made prisoners. Afterward they and a part of the vessel's goods were put into a canoe, and some of their captors paddled away with them toward the shore.

About this time an English vessel somewhat larger than the pinnace arrived in the vicinity, and its commander, Captain John Gallop of Boston, espied the pinnace. The Indians were attempting to navigate it, but they managed so unskillfully that Gallop's suspicions were aroused. He drew nearer and knew it was John Oldham's, and he saw that the deck was full of Indians. There were fourteen of them.

Gallop concluded they had killed Oldham, and he wished to attack them, but he had to be cautious about doing so, for he and the one man and two boys with him had no weapons except two guns and two pistols, and only duckshot with which to load these firearms.

« PreviousContinue »