Our Mansker cousin, Rick Friese, and his wife, Rhonda, both took a trip to Penn State University in June 2018 to sort through the notes of author, Conrad Richter. Conrad Richter is a novelist from the mid 1900s who researched his novel's material by interviewing surviving children of early pioneers. A list of his published works and a synopsis of each is available at GoodReads. Among those pioneers were John Minsker and William Minsker. According to Rick Friese's grandmother, it was her father who was interviewed by Conrad Richter concerning stories about the Minskers. What follows is a word for word transcription of Conrad Richters mostly typewritten notes from Box 3, Folder 2, pages 3 through 10.
The notes are just that, notes. Often, the notes are followed by a name, presumably the person whom the note is attributed to. I will not follow the page layout of the notes, as the layout is too rough to reproduce. The original copies notes are available in this pdf file, for those who would like to examine them. Again, we are grateful to Rick and his wife for copying these notes and sharing them with us.
Hunting, Wild Animals, Wild Fowl
DEER LIVES as old as horse. Shoemaker
DEER BEST EATING when coats are red in June. Shoemaker
TYGER CAT so called of the West.
BIG HORN or mountain ram.
TOOK WOLF SCALP for bounty but this was in later days.
GREAT HINCKEEY HUNT. Bears ahd been raiding pigpens and wolves killing sheep. Settlers stage a great hunt. 204 Ohio 2.
A BEAR TRAP AND HOW MADE & OPERATED. 848 Ohio 2.
HUNTER CRAWLS DOWN IN STUMP to get two bear cubs and cannot crawl again as stump is in bell shape. His predicament 848-9 Ohio 2
TWO MEN SEE WHICH COULD KILL MOST DEER. One 99 in two months, one 65. Couldn't make it even 100. 848 Ohio 2
WILD PIGEON, passenger pigeon called. Minsker remembered them well. Always fell on their breast when shot. Bluish gray. Breast reddish brown. Some called it a red breast. "The roosters". Long tails and swift flyers. One make a man a meal. Feed on white oak acorns which were small enough for them. Coo and talk together in white oaks like people talking together. When he was a boy he shot two on a white oak with perciussion cap shotgun. Minsker
FISHER FOX. so called by Minsker. Short legged like a mink but big in body as a fox. Longer fur than a mink. Would sneak after rabbit. Moved fast when wanted to. Lot of space between tracks. Tracked like a mink, two feet then a ways and two more. Buried part of rabbit under a log. Holed up in a cock of the woods hole up in chestnut tree. Minsker
COCK O THE WOODS. So called when Minsker was a boy. Big woodpecker, redheaded. Would hear them miles away calling their laugh, harsh, "Ha, hanh, hanh, hanh, hanh." Hear them miles away hammering on limb. Minsker
WILD CAT SHOT AT. Jumped six feet in air and ran on. 199 feet futher found him. One shot had cut jugular vein. Minsker
USED SHOT for foxes, etc. Minsker
WILD PIGEON AGAIN. Minkser said men from Clinton County or up where there was lots of timber told him they made so many nests together the limbs would break.
MINSKER SKINS from rear. Cuts around foot and down inside of legs from vent and pulls skin over head. It comes off easy. He does it in no times, he says. But a lot of people start in the front and make a mistake. An old fox hunter he knew, a very good one, always started in front and it took him long time and he had lots of trouble.
CAN TELL by color and look on flesh side of skin within two weeks of year when pelt was taken. Minsker
BLUE PELT when thin and not yet prime. Minsker
"Up at our fox stand" (Minsker. Where they waited for foxes)
Watched a rabbit unseen. Rabbit rolled self on back in dust and sand. Got up and shook himself like a hen. Started off at a terrific pace, then back he came to same spot. Did this few times from sheer energy and getting dust out of his fur. Minsker
CAUGHT FOX peeped out behind bushes, ashamed he was trapped. BUT COON SAT UP ON A STUMP, pretty as your please. Minsker
MINK COLOR: Minks and muskrats usually drowned in creek. Set set so they would be. Once set two mink sets a foot apart. Had two mink in them and they were all bit up, showing they got in them together and each jumped on the other thinking he did it. A LARGE MINK made a track big as a fisher fox. Trapped it and measured 37" from tip to tip. Minsker
White Weasel. Got $2 for pelt, ermine they called it. Said they migrated from Canada. That year got four or five dollars for muskrats. Minsker
WATCHED DEER RUN. Was a tame one nearly grown. He sailed like a pheasant over deep ravines 30 feet wide. Didn't seem like he ever touched the ground. Minsker
DEER"S TAIL always up. Long as it's up, not hit.
"Natural born hunter." "I always stretched a hide nice." Minsker
SAW RED FOX RUN like a straight line with tail out behind him.
RED FOX INCIDENTS: When Minsker was a boy he went out with father brother and musket. He heard the hound come toward him and looked ahead of him but couldn't see any fox. Then he saw the fox was close to the hound and the hound was trying to get his brush in his teeth. That old fox was playing with the hound. He knew how fast the dog could go and kept there. He was an old dog fox with a white tip on his tail. The minute Minsker let go his musket, the fox took leaps of thirty feet and soon out of sight. Father and brother mad. He was coming toward them also. When they started home they saw a fresh track of wildcat they missed also by boy shooting. CATCHES FOX THAT HAD BEEN TAME. Had a collar tight around his neck. Must have been there when he was young tame fox. Thinks he knows whose it was and takes collar to him. "Yes that was my fox." FOX NEVER EATS insides of rabbit. Minsker
YOUNG MINSKER USED A 28 bore musket with double B shot.
"HOUND BLOWED LIKE A HORN" Minsker, and always came home at sundown. But man he had covered some ground.
RED FOX. Minsker's "pap" watched him from mountain on Devil's Raceground. Fox made all kinds of manouvers, backing on his track, jumping from rock to rock, all to fool dog.
WEASEL AND RABBIT. Saw where they met in snow. Fur about where rabbit made for stone pile. Two tracks went in but only one came out. "Man can't catch a weasel running. They take awful leaps." Minsker
STUMP EARS (gray squirrels) Find them only where timber is big. "One of them makes two or three of the others" and they are grayer than regular grays that have some brown in them. Ears small and stumpy. Minsker
FOXES. Old dog fox. Other wild animals, "old he one" or "old she one".
GIGGING LIGHT. Bucket on top of pole and this filled with pine knots. Would hunt big lot of them for gigging. Let them at a place along shore an lay coat there so would see it and stop on way back. Minsker
SQUIRRELS LIKE white walnuts especially.
DEER TRAP. Sharp stakes driven in the ground to impale deer on their crossings or regular trails or when driven by dogs. Shoemaker
FISHING FOR WILD PIGEONS. "To fish for pigeons was to net or trap wild pegeons." Shoemaker
BOIL TRAPS IN MAPLE WATER. Cut up bark of soft or red maple and boil traps in it. They get blue. All smell of iron goes. Minsker
WILD CAT. Mostly cinnamon brown, black striped or spotted on legs. Some are rich chestnut brown spotted with black. Most have white patch on ear. WILD CAT MEAT white and tender like veal. PANTHER MEAT spoken highly of by colonists. Shoemaker
KITS OF wildcat. Panther Cub, Blue Mountain cat.
FRONTIERSMEN ALWAYS NAMED favorite rifle - My Friend, My Brother, Sure Shot, Kill Deer, Kill Buck. Shoemaker
PANTER SCRATCHES OUT HUNTERS BOAST. Panthers likes especially to claw the tupelo tree. Two hunters had laboriously cut "John ____ and ____ __ kilt 4 deers here." Panther came along and scratched it out. Shoemaker
PANTHER 11 feet from tip to tip, but many only 6 feet. Panther would shed real tears when caught in trap and trapper drew knife to kill it. Shoemaker
MAN SAW PANTER LAYING ON PATH playing with her cubs. He went around it. It made no effort to molest him but when he got to town he hurried for his gun to return but panter had disappeared.
PENNSYLVANIA WOLVES. Big gray and black wolves crafty and mean. Small brown wolves "nasty like little cur dogs". Black and gray wolf howled. Small brown wolf barked. Shoemaker
ELMIRA TRAPS about 1820.
YELLOW WOLF, Pennsylvania. A long tailed wolf whose tail dragged a trail in snow.
LITTE DEER and Big Deer. Called little deer "Mike Courtenay's or Courtney's sheep"
BARKING SQUIRRELS. Hitting branch it was on with rifle ball. Knocked them to the ground sometimes the impact of ball stunning them. Such a shooter called squirrel barker. Shoemaker
JUMPING MOUSE. Onekind in hemlocks one in meadow. Shoemaker
PANTHER DIDN'T BEAR YOUNG every year but only when abandoned by almost mature young ??? Shoemaker Another time he says panther cubs found straying on mountains.
PANTHER LIKED TUPELO TREE best to scratch claws on.
Oltime Pennsylvania Beliefs and Sayings
Don't breath on wild pigeon's nest or pigeon won't return.
A hex can run her hand along barrel of gun and put a spell on it causing it to miss hitting game. She can rub a dog's back and he can't run a deer.
Many hunters would not let a hex touch their gun. ANOTHER KEEPS PAPERS under gun barrel against hex - protection.
"Hits wonderful that things you see when you hain't got a gun"
The deer have left the country when the panter changes his rocks.
Look for the wild bulls (bison) when the red bud blooms.
You are a sportsman if you've shot a gadd (wild goose), a gandersnipe (heron) and a whaup (curlew).
[End of Pennsylvania Beliefs]
AT GREAT WILD PIGEON FLIGHTS Will Minsker as boy and others would standup on rocks on little mountain and birds flew so low they would know them over with poles
"SNAP, PISH, BANG" - that's the way flintlocks went, first snap of flint on steel, then pish of powder lighting in pan, then explosion of poder in gun. Hard to shoot anything on wing or run because by that time it was farther on.
DOGS TAKE TURN KEEPING BEAR TREED. Sheily's two dogs out Clarks Valley in old day when Camp Shikilemy was a farm. Dogs treed bear. Took turns coming home for something to eat until Sheily followed at last and found bear and shot it. Will Minsker
SHEILY KILLS BEAR WITH PINE KNOT when he found it in hog pen.
ONE OF THE ABOVE DOGS TACKLED A LARGE PANTHER. The marks were left in snow. Signs of threshing and short tussel and then tracks of only panther and one dog led over creek. Believed panther killed dog and then slung it over back and went on. Will Minsker
HUNTER WHO RODE DEER TILL HE FAGGED HIM. Shot him at base of horn and only stunned him. Straddled him to cut his throat and as he pulled out hunting knife blade caught on branch and broke off. Deer got u and hunter hung on. Went through deepest brush trying to get him off. Fagged him out down in valley and hunter killed him with stone. Pap Minsker would often tell this. Will Minsker
MARKS ON SHEILY'S RIFLE were wolf marks. It was a single shot muzzle loader and after shooting once into wolves he used the butt as a club. Boy would ask him what marks were and he would say that's where I clobbed wolves and wolves chawed at it. Will Minsker
PASSENGER PIGEONS NESTED in hemlocks up Clarks Valley. Pap Minsker said he counted fifty nests on a single tree. They would feed on blueberries and wintergreen berries etc early and acorns and chestnuts later. He would see flock after flock fly down the valley about five o'clock in the morning. Where they went he didn't know They would come back before dark. Will Minsker
SHEILY HAD TROUT BASKET set in creek. When trout came up stream they found themselves in. Would salt down barrel of trout at a time.
HORNED OWL WOULD EAT HEAD OFF RABBIT. Find rabbit with head gone. How they ate it a mystery but he would catch a horned owl if he set a trap there. Did it twice. Minsker
JUST TO SEE THE TANGLED COLORED LEAVES? THE OAK? THE GUM, the run bush, all in a towseled covert, makes him want to hear tonguing of dog etc.
WOLF TRAP BEFORE 1824. Strong. Caught man in steel jaws. Doddridge
OLDTIME HUNTERS felt it dishonorable to take deer when it sank through crust in winter and all wolves after it. Also, its hide and flesh not prime in dead of winter. Doddridge
FUR GOOD DIRING EVERY MONTH with an R. Doddridge
IN ORIGINAL WOODS IN PENNSYLVANIA, WEST VIRGINIA, & OHIO buzzards, gray and bald eagles, ravens called "corbies" sometimes being 50 to 100 on tree over carrion. NO SONG BIRDS UNTIL immigration of whites, then crows and blackbirds became numerous. These were not natives of wilderness. RATS UNKNOWN Children never saw a mouse with smooth tail before. Possums late comers. Fox squirrel also. Doddridge
SETTLER SURE SHOT. Never missed. Would go to salt lick a mile or two from house and tell his son, "When you hear me shoot, bring sled" with oxen to bring back deer. Enders
EYED SHOTGUN in 1820 with a great deal of contempt in woods. "Luck's like a shotgun, mighty uncertain." Used rifles.
"SET HIS TRIGGERS" as one hunter expressed it.
"Indian scaffolded up his skins" to move them to another place.
Called quail partridges.
A BUFFALO which has a large hump on thier shoulders. They don't rise from ground as cattle do but spring up at once on their feet. Weight from 5 to 10 hundred weight. Heard a hunter say he saw 1000 buffalo at Blue Licks. From Fillson
IVORY BILL WOOD COCK whistles, white plume, flies screaming through the woods.
BEAVER TALK WITH THEIR OIL STONES. They are dumb. One goes out on bank and rubs breech on ground. This scent tells other to get to work.
FIND BEAR HOLE AND BEAR ASLEEP by marks on tree.
STEEL AND WOODEN TRAPS 1755-59 Smith
WOULD BREAK ALL ICE around beaver house in winter, then smash in house. Beavers no longer had ice under which they could come up and breathe. They come out of water on bank and would catch them by back foot - from front foot would bite, was said - and kill them with knife or tomahawk. Indians used to do this. Kill many.
SHINING THEIR EYES. Would have fire pan filled with burning pine fat or hickory bark and shoot at eyes of deer at night.
WOODEN TRAP. Cut heavy sapling and another to fall on it, put brush along side so small animal had to go over bottom sappling. When top fell it usually killed it.
- "What will you tell my father dear
- When he asks for his son John?
- I'll tell him you're in the western woods
- A-learning your hounds to run." Old Song
FIND BUFFALO and heifer calves with ears marked along Ohio 1775 (Cresswell). Buffalo cross from one lick to another, have veritable roads See FOOD for curing buffalo meat. Buffalo run with tails erect and grunt like hogs, with beards like goats. Wooly in winter.
SEE GAME CROSS river, deer, bear, wolf after fawn, 1775
SEES FLOCK OF paroquets along Ohio 1775
CALL OF BULL ELK. "Long drawn, weird bugling call of the roaming bull, one of the oddest and indescribably wild (Boyd in N.M. Mts)
BEAVER. Bags of the Castoreum are not the upper two but two lower containing a resinous soft matter of a strong disabreeable smell. Can be hardened hung in chimney. They say the beaver when pursued will bite off these pretended testicles and leave them to hunter to save his life. Beaver goes 4 months, usually has 4 yound. Has 4 dugs. Father Charlevoix
BEAR RUTS IN JULY. Turns very lean and flesh so insipid or bad cannot eat it. turns stomach. Worse than when abstains from food for 6 months in winter. After rutting season bear grows fat. Eats grapes. Bear's whelp good and tasty. Father Charlevoix
THE FLY-BIRD (Hummingbird)
WILD PIGEONS SO THICK IN BOTTOM can't hear self talking because of the whirr of wings. Near Philadelphia.
PAN FISH Philadelphia early, Sunfish probably.
No FROST stick on a wolverene or otter fur, hair. Wind can't go through it. Steve
JOKE TODAY about furred fish they could catch only on a glacial worm on a red hot hook and catch it in the ice of lake. Make Oldfash.
ELK LIVER best you ever tasted. Always brought it in if couldn't carry anything else or quartered elk and hung it up. Steve
MOOSE MEAT good, very good, the best. Coarse meat but fine. Fry steak and could cut it with a fork. Dryer than other meat but tasty. Steve
STEVE WOULD KNOW WHERE HE WAS ALL THE TIME. Once he left Beth and others to pick huckleberries. They set down their lunch and when they looked for it, couldn't find it When Steve came back much later, they said someone had stolen it. He took them right to it.
NO HILL OR MTN TOO STEEP OR BRUSH TOO THICK. Steve would put his pipe in his mouth and go up or through anything and never take it out.
TELLING GOOD FUR. Hold it up by the tail and if it's good it will fall down when you shake it and fall back when you turn it other end up. "Shake it out both ways." Steve
OPEN SIGHT on gun sometimes called buckhorn sight - half buckhorn.
FOR DESC. of hunter in house, see Woods & Fields - Forests.
OTHER DIDN'T BELIEVE IN SMALL MAN. Steve was small. Went out and got three elk that day. Two bull and one cow. He dragged the cow behind him in the snow. Astonished when he got it in. Told them where the others were and the went out with pack horses. Had to go over steep hill to get bull elk to horses. When Steve got there they had quartered them and rigged up a rope to pull them up one by one to the top of hill. Snow up to hips. Had one quarter up on rope and couldn't move it. Steve took one quarter after the other and took it up the steep place. Little but could carry anything.
MINK, Marten, Fisher each like the other only larger.
"I USED TO GO out and not take anything along. All I wanted I cuold lay beside a fire all night."
SPOTS STILL ON FAWNS in fall means late winter. Steve
STEVE shakes pistol and says, "Never buy this kind. Always loose. You can call the chickens with it."
INCIDENT. "Listen to that heavenly music." "Strange them hounds make so much noise & can't hear anything."
ELK Would run down elk with halters and tame them. Full grown elk seldom lived long but half grown ones would tame. Be driven East to shows. Elk disappeared in this locality 1825.
BUFFALO. Remembers being a small tyke and being lifted up to see buffalos swimming the river.
HOUNDS NAMES ???
TUCK THE COON would make hole in ground. Dogs would come and cover it up.
SOME BUCKS have, carry only pencil horns, very different from the grand old shovel horns hanging about in George Walton's Shoemaker
PITS. Wolf pits, fur pits, were wider at bottom than top, covered with a pivotal roof of hemlock boughs to which were attached pieces of bloody meat. Woud watch them carefully that two different kind didn't fall in together. Wolves or wolverenes and anything else would fight. Shoemaker (How did second one get in?)
NESTING GROUNDS OF WILD PIGEONS arrayed in military precision. Sometimes in shape of squares. Others in circles. No nests on trees outside the line. Sometimes nests on one side of tree and not on other if line passed through middle.
WILD PIGEONS. Always fell on breasts when shot. Fed on little white oak acorns, buckwheat and poke berries. Talk to each other like people. Hear them a ways off, "OohOcooh-ooh."
FISHING with horsehair line. See Children, boy and girl.
LAST BUFFALO killed in Ohio and West Virginia 1825. Shoemaker Buffalo chased down to streets of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and killed in 1794.
PENNSYLVANIA PARROTS, small about size of Chewink, would light on corn shocks by hundreds and eat corn in spring and farmer would knock them off.