Recollections of My Life and Reflections on Times and Events During It: A Memoir by Father W. J. Howlett

Page 8

          At Buffalo we transferred to a lake steamer, The Keystone State, bound for Detroit. Besides the name of the boat, the wide expanse of water, and a pipe that continually poured out a stream of cold water I remember nothing until we were at Detroit looking across the water at a country they told me was Canada. My next recollection is of being on the train. The cars looked like the present day freight cars, painted the same dull red color, with wide doors at the sides, and I think small doors and platforms at the ends similar to the construction and boarding cars of today. A few loose benches were inside, but people had their chairs and all their years there was a great deal of moving from place to place, from state to state and often several families would combine and hire a car, which would be left near by until loaded, when it would be attached to a train and carried on to its destination with all the worldly belongings of the movers; even a cow or a horse might be taken along in the same way. There, however, the distance was not too great the horses and wagons might be driven along the highways, and I have often seen them with a cow or two tied by ropes and led behind the wagons. Of course all the emigrants did not ravel [travel] this way. The regular passenger coaches had their quota of people seeking new homes, but the great bulk of them were poor and this saving was no small item in their budget.

          Our destination was supposed to be Chicago, and I know not what change or information caused my father to change his mind and unload us all our baggage at a little station on the Michigan Central Railroad called Dowagiac, in Cass County about one hundred miles east of Chicago. He may have listened to some boomers, who are always on hand and ready to praise their locality as the best place on earth for a poor man to settle and grow rich. Well, if Chicago felt the loss of the addition of a big family to its rising population it has recovered from the loss, and my father never found the wealth promised, for the vicinity was a poor place for a poor man to settle and prosper. The soil was light and sandy, and covered with heavy timber which must be cleared away before one could touch the soil.

          We remained but a few days in Dowagiac while father looked around for a place where he could locate the least temporarily. He found such a farm one mile west of the Village of Cassapolis, in Cass County and, if my memory serves me correctly, it was on May 12, 1853, that a Mr. Gibbs transferred us and all our belongings to our new home. We had good neighbors there and it was not long before things were running smoothly on the farm about the farming, except seeing my father use the flail and the winnowing sheet, which makes me believe that our crop was not large and that machines for thrashing out the grain were not

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