Pioneer Life of Chauncey Case

This narrative was found among family papers. It's believed to be written by Chauncey Case himself.

My father, George Case, married Miss Emeline Doty and settled in Ionia County in 1834. He came from Oakland County when I was two years old.

When I lived there all the playmates I had were Indian boys. I soon learned their language and my parents thought they would have to send me back to Oakland County to talk English becaause I learned to talk nothing but "Injun."

Some of these boys were my school mates. One Saturday one of these Indian boys went with me to some muskrat houses on the ice. Half of the length of these houses we left some of the rats on the ice and at the last hole we took out a rat, we pulled his leg off and I threw him out on the ice. I said to the Indian, "Kugam Maw" which means, "That is my rat." He said, "No, it is my father's rat." I told him he would have lost it had it not been for me. Then we went on, on the run to the place where we had left the rats on the ice. I told him I would get one from there. While running he stumbled and fell through the ice and skinned his knee. Then he would not talk any more.

My father was drowned in fording the Thornapple River, being thrown from the back of a three-year-old colt he was riding. He was on his way to a place near Grand Rapids to make arrangements for establishing a village on his land.

In 1838, my mother (Emaline Doty) married a Mr. John L. Smith, and they remained there keeping the family together. In 1853 they traded their farm for 400 acres in Crystal Township, which they had looked out in 1852 in the month of October. Then after that we came to Barnhart's Corners and chopped a road through a mile and a half, and then chopped four acres on what is known as the John L. Smith farm and built a log shanty.

After we had built our shanty, Father Smith went to Ionia to get some lumber to cover it. He was gone two days and during his absence I killed three deer the first night. When he came back I had some of it roasted and he ate so much that it made him sick and he said, "Oh, Chauncey, you have poisoned me." because he knew I had some poison around for wolves which I had not used.

In June Father Smith and I came up and planted three bushels of potatoes and some watermelon seeds between the windrows.

In August, we came up on what was known as the Langdon Marsh, now owned by James Eldridge. We cut our hay, carrying the heaps together with poles and stacking it on a willow brush bottom.

On September 20, my brother Will and I brought a load of goods from Ionia, staying all night with old Mr. Clock. Next morning we came by the way of the Isham and Robinson places. There was no road across from the Robinson place and Will and I took our axes and compass and blazed threes for a road across for a mile and a half, and by makeing an angle, we came within a few roads of the chopping. When we got there we found lots of melons and some had been eaten by deer. Then we went back to where we left our wagon and started with our load, clearing out the road we had blazed through, and arrived with our goods at the shanty at noon. In the afternoon we went back again, staying overnight at Mr. Clock's. We came for good with three loads, September 25, over this new road we had made. This road was used as a thoroughfare up from Ionia for over eight years.

Father Smith then build us a log house and we covered the roof with "shakes" which we had made from timber on our land. Some of the men that came to the raising came nine miles, among whom were the Knapps, Covells and Miners from Bloomer.

In order to get our hay, which we had mowed and stacked, across Fish Creek, Will and I cut two pine trees standing fourteen feet apart on the banks and they were felled so straight that there was only a foot and a half difference between each end, we covered them with poles six inches through. This bridge was used in the settlement of this and Ferris townships. This bridge I went over to see my future wife and whom I brought over after Father Smith had married us, with my yoke of steers, Brin and Bright, the first day of January, 1857, snow being two feet deep. We dug sixty bushels of potatoes from my three bushels planted.

The second year we lived here, I had to kill deer to feed my hogs, for corn was out of the question. I killed fifty deer in one winter.

We commenced housekeeping with only a stove, bed, chair and broom and a few other household articles. Feed was so scarce that I had at one time to feed the straw out of our bed to our steers and cow. I one brought forty pounds of groceries on my back up from Ionia.

I will close by giving an account of a bear hunt I was engaged in once. Father Smith, Hiram Stewart, Lorenzo Smith and I started with two dogs northwest of the cemetery. We went about forty rods and treed a bear. He went up the tree about fifty feet when I shot at him. He fell to the ground and bounded up three feet and then ran. The dogs chased him eighty rods to the creek. He got under a tree near the bank. The dogs chased him out of there. When he got to the bank I snapped my gun twice and it would not go. Then we run him twenty rods more and he ran up another tree about fifty feet when I again shot at him. He again dropped and bounded up. I then saw that he could not run. I found that the first time I had shot, I had broken one leg and the last time the other. Smith and Stewart came up with their axes and tried to kill him, the dogs helping. I tried to strike him and he knocked me over. After a while I got a good blow and laid him out.