Building Homesteads and Families – The 1860s

Chapter Five:  Building Homesteads and Families — The 1860s
by Kay F. Reinartz, PhD; copied from Queen Anne:  Community on the Hill

Published 1993 by Queen Anne Historical Society, edited by Kay Reinartz

[We] were obliged to do whatever {we} could to obtain a livelihood; [we] were neither ashamed nor afraid of honest work and enjoyed the reward of a good conscience and vigorous health.  Life held many pleasures and much freedom from modern frets besides. … We were happy then, in our log cabin homes.
                                                                         Louisa Boren Denny
                                                                          circa 1876

On November 9, 1860, Territorial Governor Henry M. McGill proclaimed November 29th “as the day of Thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God.”  In the district north of Seattle, neighbors congregated at Dr. Smith’s, whose house was the largest, and as the rain fell outside they sat down to their first Thanksgiving Day celebration.  There was much to be thankful for.  Most of the pioneers had been on the hill or around the cove for at least five years and some nearly ten.  No one had died in the conflict with the Native Americans.  Houses, barns, and fences had been rebuilt.  The crops, gardens, herds, and orchards were growing, there had been marriages, and children had been born.  Everyone was healthy and they were prospering.  In spite of the hardships, they still believed in the future of the Northwest and most particularly Seattle.

“A Visit from Our Tillicum,” by Inez Denny, depicts the Denny family’s house in the swale, later the site of the Seattle Opera House.  Inez shows the sisters visiting with Indian friends through the open half-door locally called a “Seattle door.”  Courtesy Museum of History and Industry

After the native uprising the rapid growth that had characterized Seattle from 1853 ended, and for several years no one started new business enterprises.  Dillis Ward reported that when he arrived in Seattle in August 1859 there were no real streets, just a rough road that followed the shoreline with trails leading away from the water’s edge up to the homesteads and businesses.  There were no more than six houses in the settlement proper north of Mill Street (Yesler Way), with David and Louisa Denny’s little cottage being the northernmost house.
Along Commercial Street, between Mill and Jackson streets, stood four dry goods and general merchandise stores.  The post office operated out of Plummer’s Mercantile.  In addition, there were two restaurants, three saloons, two small lodging houses, a tin shop, and a stove shop.   Nearby was a blacksmith shop and tannery, as well as the Methodist Episcopal Church and the school house.
Although three wharves had been built, only Yesler’s was maintained, and it received nearly all of the business from ships picking up logs and pilings and dropping off supplies and merchandise.  Yesler’s sawmill, the only industry, provided five full-time jobs.  A good deal of the money in circulation in Seattle was brought in by the loggers and lumbermen from the thriving milling centers of Port Orchard, Port Madison, and other places along the west side of Puget Sound.
Elliott Bay was no longer regularly visited by coastal sailing ships looking for lumber cargoes, and the flow of settlers slowed to a trickle.  Gold reversed this trend.  From 1855 to 1865 the discovery of gold in various locations throughout the Northwest created a series of little “gold rushes.”  Men weary of the monotonous round of cutting, clearing and burning slash dropped everything to join the excitement at Colville, Rock Creek, Stehekin, Lillooet, Wenatchee, Florence, Boise, and the Fraser and Thompson rivers, where streams yielded enough placer gold to bring in thousands of prospectors overnight.
It was the big Fraser River Gold Rush of 1858 that brought energy and activity back to Seattle.  The population grew, but it was lopsided with young single men.  The 1860 census reports a population of 275 for King County and 160 for Seattle.  Clarence Bagley records that in 1861 the community had 100 men, 25 women, and 25 children.  There was a total of 23 families including several headed by a single man or woman.  There were only two marriageable-age women in the community — Kate Denny, Arthur and Mary Denny’s daughter; and Susie Mercer.

Isolation was the greatest tension source for everyone living around Puget Sound.  The telegraph line from Portland had been completed in 1855 but was destroyed by the natives that winter.  The telegraph connection to Portland, thence San Francisco and the rest of the country, was not re-established until 1866.
The handful of settlers remaining in 1856 attempted several plans to end their isolation, including cutting a road through Snoqualmie Pass and trying to organize a railroad company.  Their plans were getting support from the federal government until the national disruption of the Civil War diverted all federal funds, without which such ambitious projects could not be accomplished.  David Denny, John Ross, Thomas Mercer, and Dr. Henry Smith were at the center of all these schemes.

All roads around Seattle led to Yesler’s Mill.  After the native uprising, the local roads leading back through the hills and to the lakes were neglected and quickly became nigh impassable.  Thomas Mercer and David Denny diligently maintained the road out to their homesteads, as well as the lane that connected Mercer’s with John Nagle’s place (Eastlake area).  A trail led out from Mercer’s homestead to his daughter Eliza and Walter Graham’s place on Lake Washington.  Inez Denny describes the Eden Hill road as “being the most notable for ups and downs, stumps in the middle and numerous muddy places, but useful nevertheless.”

Thomas Mercer’s two older daughters had married in 1857.  Mary Jane, at age 18, married Henry G. Parsons and moved to Olympia.  Eliza Ann, at age 15, married Walter Graham and they homesteaded on Lake Washington.
While on a trip to Salem to purchase livestock in the summer of 1859, Thomas Mercer met Hester L. Ward, 28, and after a whirlwind courtship the couple married and returned to Seattle, bringing Hetty’s younger half-brother Dillis B. Ward with them.  After living a year in Seattle, Hetty and Tom moved permanently back onto Mercer’s homestead on the hill.

The Mercer Family
Hester Loretta Ward was a very unusual woman, who was known for her ability to learn and adapt quickly, good judgment, and an all-prevailing courage and calmness in a crisis.  Possessing enormous reserves of energy and stamina, she always did more work than most and yet had energy left for fun.
Born in 1826 on the Kentucky frontier, she became a highly skilled frontier woman at a young age.  She lost her mother when she was an infant and at age 13, upon the death of her stepmother, she assumed the role of “woman of the family” by caring for four younger children born of her father Jesse Ward’s various marriages.  This role included caring for newborn infant Dillis Ward, Hester’s half-brother.
In spite of the exceptionally heavy adult responsibilities placed on her as a young girl, she completed grammar school.  Hester Ward was also a textile artist.  She learned to weave while still a girl and often processed raw cotton or wool into fine threads and yarns, which she then wove into fabric.  Over the years she originated many complex patterns which were expressed in useful textiles, particularly coverlets, tablecloths, and clothing.
Inez Denny, who as a child often visited her and became her friend in adulthood, observes regarding Hester’s character:  “A more generous, frank and warmhearted nature was hard to find, the demands made upon it were many and such as to exhaust a shallow one.”  Hester Ward died in 1903 and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery by the side of Thomas Mercer.
On May 23, 1861, Susannah, age 18, married David Graham, the younger brother of her sister Eliza Anne’s husband, Walter Graham.  The wedding was held at the Mercer homestead with Rev. Daniel Bagley officiating.  Susie was dressed in a simple dress of white lawn made by a local seamstress, while David wore his old black suit, long in the bottom of his emigrant trunk.
That evening Susie and David were shivareed by a group of men who went out to the Mercers’, where the newlyweds were staying.  The gang stood around the outside of the house and pounded on tin cans, washtubs and anything else they found lying around to make a racket.  They also sang nonsense songs to the newlyweds and then called for whiskey.  Graham, like Thomas Mercer, was a temperance man but he finally went out and told the crowd to go down to the saloon to get what they wanted to drink.  When he went down to the village the next morning, he found the men were still celebrating at the saloon.  He ended their party by paying the bill.
After the marriage David Graham returned to surveying work, which took him out of the village most of the time.  Susie lived with Rev. and Mrs. Bagley and attended the nearby Territorial University.
David Graham’s pioneer dream included farming in the Duwamish Valley, and he and Susie moved to a homestead in what became the Duwamish-Allentown district of Tukwila.  Homesteading so far from Seattle was not totally to the sociable Susie Mercer’s liking.  She often went into Seattle to visit her family and friends via a native “canoe taxi” which she would catch by going down to the riverbank and calling, “Mi-Ka Ticky Klat-a-wa Kopa Seattle” (I need a ride to Seattle).  Any native who wanted a job would answer her call and come by with his canoe and a clean cattail mat for her to sit on.  For 50 cents, he would paddle her to the cove where she would walk around the hill to the homestead.  It took almost an entire day to get to Eden Hill from the Duwamish homestead.
In 1862, Eliza Ann died, leaving William, four, and George, two, to be raised by Walter Graham.  Grief-stricken, Thomas Mercer’s heart went out to his son-in-law, who like himself had to face the task of raising his children alone.
In 1862, Tom’s brother Asa Shinn Mercer came to live with the family.  Twenty-two-year-old Asa would gain much notice in a handful of years in Seattle for his promotion schemes, including easing the shortage of marriageable women by arranging for two small parties of New England school-teachers to come to Seattle to seek their fortunes.  Asa Mercer married one of the teachers himself and they left the region a few years later.

Natural wonders of the Northwest amazed and frightened the settlers in the 1860s.  On April 2, 1859, they experienced their first serious earthquake.  Inez Denny describes her family’s experience:
Not a breath of wind was stirring, the stars were shining and reflected in the depths of the water, no storm was there, but the people saw the tree tops waving, like plumes of warriors swiftly riding and heard a sound like a cannonading, as thousands of trees feel crashing to the earth.  The house … rocked like a boat, [and they] held on to the door frames and looked out — soon it passed by — and it really was quite an earthquake!
It is recorded that the earthquake lasted 90 seconds and seemed to move from the north to the south.  While no damage was done, it had a sobering effect on the pioneers, few of whom had come from areas that had seismic activity on the scale of the Northwest.
Also troublesome to many of the settlers who had come from New England or Midwest states was the Puget Sound weather.  The mildness everyone seemed to agree was most desirable, but the periods of continuous rain were wearying to say the least, particularly in the dark winter months.
The weather was normally gentle, lacking extremes.  However, there were dramatic departures from this pleasant norm.  The winter of 1861 was one to remember.  What began in early December as a mild winter changed radically just before the Christmas holidays when snow began falling and continued falling for a week.  When it stopped snowing the mercury dropped to four below zero, where it stayed for days.  Tom Mercer and Louisa and David Denny lost fruit trees, but Dr. Smith’s sheltered orchard in the cove was undamaged.  Many homesteaders around King County lost livestock.  There was snow on the ground until April, and the pioneers always called this season the Big Winter.

The winter of 1861 Lake Union was frozen solid one-half foot for four months.  The little lake tucked away in the deep woods suddenly became a community social meeting place as settlers originating from New England and other cold parts of the country turned out in full force to ice-skate.  Some people miraculously produced ice skates from the bottom of trunks.  Others ingeniously invented ice skates from things they had around their place.
The Seattle village dwellers made the two-mile trek to the lake walking up Front Street, around the east side of Denny Hill and along Military Road, scrambling over deep frozen ruts, logs, and skids until they veered off Military Road onto a path leading to the lakeshore.  One person estimated that over half the population of the Seattle area joined in on the skating fun that winter.

In the mid-1860s the area was hit by a cyclone.  Inez Denny describes the storm as the Dennys experienced it in their house on the swale:
It began in the evening with a sky of living hues, puffs of wind increasing every hour until one hurtling stream tore at the forest as with giant hands, uprooting great trees, twisting others off as though wisps of straw, lifting sheets of spray from the frothing waves; . . .  Large stones were taken up from the high bank on the bay and piled on the roofs along with limbs broken from tough fir trees.  Thousands of giant trees fell crashing and groaning on the ground, like a continuous cannonade; the noise was terrific and we feared for our lives.
[Down along the beach] the Indian camps caught fire and long streams of flame flowed horizontally into the thick darkness beyond.
The [family] prepared to leave [the house] and go to the big barn, substantially built of heavy timbers and standing on a more protected place.
[They] put out all the fires in the house and [Louisa] wrapped the children well and all sat in one room  — with the lanterns lit, waiting for a lull.  [About midnight they] knelt and commended [themselves] to Him who rules the storm.
Fortunately, [about one o’clock] the wind died down more quickly than it came and much relieved the people retired to rest.  When morning broke some trees near the home were missed, the roads were blocked for many miles ….
The Spring of 1866 was a particularly wet one.  Early in June the rains abruptly stopped and the pioneers sweltered under temperatures reaching 114 degrees F in the shade.  In December 1867 the worst flood on record covered the region and many settlers in low-lying areas, including those living by the cove, were forced out of their homes.  Homesteads up on the hill suffered no losses.  The next year the weather reversed and little rain fell.

In 1868 the Puget Sound area experienced its most severe drought since the beginning of the settlement.  From June 1 to October 29 no rain fell.  A hot dry wind shriveled the crops in the fields and in July, forest fires began breaking out.  By September fires were roaring throughout the Northwest from 600 miles north of the United States-British Columbia border, through Washington and Oregon territories, and into California.  The drifting smoke was reported 1,000 miles west on the Pacific Ocean.  The air was so filled with the acrid smoke of resinous woods as to be almost intolerable.  There was no way to stop the fires and vast areas of forest were burned totally clear.  The onset of the autumn rains finally brought the destruction to a halt.
During this season of forest fires, the south slope of Eden Hill burned.  Inez Denny recounts how she and her sisters ran down the road to their farm with “the tall firs and cedars flaming far above their heads.”

In the autumn of 1861 Rev. Daniel Bagley moved his family from Salem, Oregon, to Seattle so that his son Clarence might attend the new Washington Territorial University, which had opened in 1860.  They traveled over the newly-completed section of Military Road running from Seattle to Portland.  Their arrival in late October brought everyone out into the dusty streets to see the first carriage to come into Seattle from “the outside” on its own wheels.  Rev. Bagley agreed to teach the Fall term at the university, with Clarence assisting him.  When his father was away Clarence took over and taught all of the classes, which were grades 1-12.  Eighteen-year-old Clarence Bagley was the envy of every young man in the area for he had a horse and buggy at his disposal for courting the young women.  The drives were short since there were only two roads — the north route to Tom Mercer’s place, and the south route over the ridge of Beacon Hill down to Lake Washington.
Rev. Bagley was disappointed with the university as a place for Clarence to complete his higher education.  The Bagley family went back East in 1862 and Clarence entered Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania, Dr. Smith’s alma mater.  Before he left Puget Sound, Clarence Bagley had renewed his friendship with the Mercers and over the next four years, which included several trips back to Seattle, he courted Alice Mercer.

The pioneer historian Cornelius Hanford comments on the Seattle settlement in the 1860s:
Life in the village was serious and strenuous.  The friendship of neighbors was the principal source of good cheer, dispelling gloom.  Neighbors visited each other, and those occasions were holidays for the visitors and the visited.  Evening prayer meetings, spelling schools, and singing schools were means of assembling the community, and occasionally, questions of public concern were debated at meetings of the library association, which existed without a library.
As the community grew there were regular church socials.  Chicken dinners, oyster suppers, and strawberry festivals were the most popular entertainments.  George Frye organized a dozen young men to buy and master the instruments.  The Seattle Brass Band turned out for every community event and infused the occasion with musical delights.

Without a doubt the Fourth of July celebration was the grandest event of the year for the pioneers.  Beginning in 1852, the day was observed with speeches, picnicking, and dancing on a wooden platform built just for the occasion.  The Native Americans, who attended the settlers’ party, called the event Hyas Sunday, as they did all of the settlers’ social gatherings.
The Fourth of July that the Denny girls remembered the best was held in the Methodist Protestant Church around 1864.  The Denny family was a little late in arriving and the orator had already launched into his speech.  Their commotion at the door of the church turned every head, and they beheld Inez, Madge, and Abbie marching down the aisle, each respectively dressed in red, white, and blue and proudly holding high a banner with mottos written with large letters cut out of the newspaper:  “Freedom for All,” “Slavery for None,” and “United we stand, divided we fall.”  Each motto was encircled with a bountiful wreath of fresh red, white, and blue flowers.  The girls were wildly applauded by the audience, composed mostly of young bachelors, who were by far the majority of the population.

Beginning in the 1860s there was a regular Christmas party held in Yesler’s Hall, attended by everyone in the community.  At one end of the hall was a curtain that was dramatically drawn aside at the critical moment to reveal a tall Douglas fir glowing from the light of hundreds of homemade tallow candles.  The graceful branches were festooned with strings of popcorn and local cranberries.  Henry Yesler wore a Santa suit that his wife Sarah had made for him, and handed out wonderful trinkets, many of which were not to be found in the Seattle mercantiles, but had been ordered from Victoria.
Louisa Boren Denny was asked on the fiftieth anniversary of the Denny Boren party’s arrival at Alki Point how the pioneers kept Christmas in the early years.  Louisa, 76, responded with her characteristic energetic good humor:
If you get up as good a Christmas dinner now as we could fifty years ago, I should like to help eat it.  Here is one the Indians would call hyas closh muck-a-muck:
Olympia Oysters, panned
Clam Soup
Fried Smelts
Grouse Pie
Roast Wild Goose — Giblet Sauce
Roast Haunch of Venison — Native Cranberry Sauce
Browned Potatoes — Creamed Carrots — Baked Squash
Huckleberry Pie — Cranberry Tarts — Clotted Cream
Coffee — Milk — Tea

In the 1860s two important lodges were formed, St. John’s Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and the Order of Good Templars.  The former did not involve north district settlers to any extent, but the latter was their organization.  In the Fall of 1865 Rev. A. C. McDougall came up to the frontier settlement from California and delivered a series of lectures on temperance at Headquarters Hall, the old Snoqualmie Hall on the second floor of Plummer’s Mercantile.
McDougall’s visit inspired many to increase their commitment to temperance, David and Louisa Denny among them.  Around the Dennys’ kitchen table the Independent Order of Good Templars, Seattle Lodge No. 6, was formed.  The settlers in the district north of Seattle were at the hub of the organization, with 20 percent of the charter members being from that area.  Officers were elected, including David Denny, Lodge Chaplain; William Hammond, Secretary; John Shoudy, Financial Secretary; Louisa Boren Denny, Treasurer; John H. Nagle, Marshall; Gertrude Boren, Inside Guard; and Inez Denny, Outside Guard.  The group met regularly to discuss temperance goals and ways it could advance them in Seattle.  Thirty years later this nucleus of temperance movement advocates would be at the center of a highly visible Prohibition political party championing the Queen Anne community’s needs at City Hall.

By the late 1860s there was still only a handful of settlers in the north district and game still roamed the area, although in ever smaller numbers.  In 1854 David Denny had killed a nine-foot cougar; however, few wild cats of this size were seen by the pioneers.  However, cougars were still common through the 1860s.  Around 1867 David killed one on the north side of the hill near John Ross’s homestead.  The half-grown cat had been dining on one of Dr. Smith’s sheep.  David reported that it was the color of a deer.  In September 1869 David Denny killed a 650-pound elk in the woods northwest of Green Lake.
John Wetmore, who was homesteading along Lake Washington, was having trouble with cougar attacking his herd of sheep.  He heard that Denny’s little dog Watch was a good hunter and came over to borrow the small fierce dog.  Watch successfully treed the cougar and remained below the tree all night.  However, the cat finally escaped only to be later captured with a trap.

In 1867 Dr. Henry Smith wrote a series of articles called “Reminiscences” for the Seattle Star.  In the November installment he commented on his hermit neighbors Ira Utter, David Stanley, and Osmine Frost.  He observed that all three of these mean suffered from mental disorders, resulting from too much social isolation in Smith’s opinion.  Throughout the 1860s Ira Utter, who lived north of Smith Cove on Salmon Bay, diligently improved his land and bought additional nearby parcels.  By 1869 he had become the largest landowner in the district north of Seattle, owning more land than even David and Louisa Denny.  His holdings included 850 acres located on Queen Anne Hill, Denny Hill, the cove, and Salmon Bay.
Utter never married and as the years went by he rarely went to Seattle and his neighbors saw less and less of him.  Of the neighbors, John Ross knew him best, but no one seemed to really know him.  Dr. Henry Smith says of his neighbor across Salmon Bay:
Ira W. Utter, the Salmon Bay hermit … was an educated man and more than ordinarily intelligent, but for twenty years he was the only white man on the north side of Salmon Bay and solitude finally soured his mind so that he became suspicious and censorious and finally deserted the throne, and he ended his days, I believe, in an eastern asylum.
On November 28, 1870, the Weekly Intelligencer announced the somber news that Ira Utter, age 46, “had been taken into custody on account of insanity, and his neighbor John Ross was appointed by the court as his guardian.”  On the same date it is noted that Utter had walked away from the county jail, where he was being cared for until his family arrived from the east coast.  On January 9, 1871, his brothers George and Francis Utter arrived from Bridgeport, New York, and after assisting Ira in putting his affairs in order took him back home with them.  He died in 1876 at age 51 in an asylum for the mentally ill.
The fate of Osmine Frost was not unlike that of Ira Utter.  Frost lived alone proving up his claim for 32 years.  His mental health deteriorated and he was sent by his neighbors to a mental institution in Portland.  After eight years he was released and, returning to Elliott Bay, hired a boatman to paddle him around the Magnolia shoreline as he searched for his land papers.  Before leaving for Portland he had buried under a large tree an iron box containing all his documents, including his donation claim patent.  Leaping suddenly from the boat into the water which was icy cold and chest-deep on the old man, Frost scrambled ashore and ran into the woods.  Although the tree was gone, he proclaimed he had found the spot, and after ten minutes of digging, the box of papers was in his lap.  Frost was jubilant.  He lived on the cove for a few more years, but the hard life and solitude seemed to have a deteriorating effect on his mental health.  Dr. Smith observed the following about his hermit neighbor:
Solitude soured him also [comparing him to Ira Utter], and to such an extent that in order to seclude himself as much as possible from all mankind and to shield himself from assassination at the hand of the Rev. Daniel Bagley, H. L. Yesler, A. A. Denny, and D. T. Denny, and other old timers equally harmless, he dug a cave on the hillside where he passed most of his time, until his brother-in-law came last Spring [1887] from the east, at the earnest solicitation of Mr. Bowman, and induced the old man to return with him.  Verily it is not good for man to live alone.
David Stanley does not appear to have been insane so much as highly eccentric.  He often appeared at his neighbors’ doorsteps, sometimes because his cabin had been stripped bare by the natives.  Each time this happened over the years his neighbors, the Dennys, Mercers, Rosses, and Petersons, furnished the old man with food, bedding, and sympathy.  Thus did he live year after year in his shanty on the beach at the mouth of Salmon Bay until his old age compelled him to accept the hospitality of friends.  It appears that he died while living in the home of an unnamed neighbor in the north district.
Thus, young and old, the little band of stalwarts in the wilderness lived out the days of the years far from the comforts and cares of “civilization,” their attention focused close to home on the needs of the season and their neighbors around the hill.

[61] Henry A Smith Home, 2827 15th Ave W.
By the Dreaming Shores
Lake Union in 1864
by Emily Inez Denny
On a pleasant day of early Spring in 1864, a pioneer was driving his team of grays with a stout farmer’s wagon on a road through the great forest of Western Washington Territory.  …  The little party was on its way to an inland body of water some distance from their small village of tidewater …  they walked along a narrow trail through dense woods to the shore.  Here they looked out over the placid water to see a primeval forest on every hand, and absolute wilderness.  From afar came the cry of a loon and an otter slipped into the water nearby and swam noiselessly away.
Here, indeed, were the Dreaming Shores.  The past eons had woven a marvelous dress like a rich mantle it hung from the shoulders of the hills and trailed its fringes in the waters.  There was not a mark of fire or axe, no human habitations, no improvements whatsoever. …  They saw on this fair day that all the trees and shrubs by a forward spring were in full array of fresh foliage and maple, dogwood, syringa, service berry, vine of honeysuckle crowded thickly among the green mass of dark green evergreen forest of fire, spruce, hemlock and cedar.
Thick forest they saw on all the Dreaming Shores and the surrounding hills.  No taint of smoke or dust was in the air.  No clamorous sound broke harshly on the ear.  Only the gay voice of the little children, the thrushes singing in their shadowy retreats, low-lapping of little waves, soft sighing of a breeze in the tree tops.

The Primeval Forest Burns
by Dr. Henry A. Smith (1830-1915)
As soon as the fire worked its way to the massive windrows of dry brush, piled in making roads in every direction, a circular wall of solid flame rose half way to the tops of the tall trees.  Soon the rising of the heated air caused strong currents of cooler air to set in from every side.  The air currents soon increased to cyclones.  Then began a race of the towering, billowy, surging walls of fire for the center.
Driven furiously on by those ever-increasing, eddying, and fiercely contending tornadoes the flames lolled and rolled and swayed and leaped, rising higher and higher, until one vast, circular tidal wave of liquid fire rolled in and met at the center with the whirl and roar of pandemoniac thunder and shot up in a spiral and rapidly revolving red-hot cone, a thousand feet in mid-air, out whose flaring and crater-like apex poured dense volumes of tarry smoke, spreading out on every side, like unfolding curtains of night, till the sun was darkened and the moon turned to blood and the stars seemed literally raining from heaven, as glowing firebrands that had been carried up by the fierce tornado of swirling flame and carried to immense distances by upper air currents, feel back in showers to the ground.
The vast tract, but a few moments before as quiet as a sleeping infant in its cradle. was now one vast arena of seething, roaring, raging flame.  The long, lithe limbs of the tall cedars were tossing wildly about, while the strong limbs of the sturdier firs and hemlocks were freely gyrating like the sinewy arms of might giant athletes engaged in mortal combat.  Ever and anon their lower, pitch-dripping branches would ignite from the fervent heat below, when the flames would rush to the very tops with the roar of contending thunders and shoot upward in bright silvery volumes from five to seven hundred feet, or double the height of the trees themselves.
Hundreds of these fire-volumes flaring and flaming in quick succession and sometimes many of them simultaneously, in conjunction with the weird eclipse-like darkness that veiled the heavens, rendered the scene one of awful grandeur never to be forgotten.