FULLERTON’S BLUFF.By William C. Hill.
In the early part of the present century there settled in this country of East Tennessee, a gentleman of moderate means whose only desire was to escape the crowded town and enjoy the delights of a primeval existence.
His fortune was not excessive as we have said before. On the contrary it was comparatively meagre, but still he had invested it in funds of such a nature as brought him a sure yearly income, and one that was ever welcome. He was the proud possessor of four promising children, two boys and two girls, and had a helpmate whose knowledge of housewifery was only equaled by her close attention to their very intricate details. By her influence, her husband’s capital had been invested in a banking house, of which her brother was cashier, and for several years the interest realized from the investment was sufficient for their wants. Contented with their pecuniary gains they only desired to found for themselves an earthly Elsium [sic], in which to bring up their young children, and spend their own declining years.
With this determination in view, husband and father had traveled on horseback through various parts of Tennessee seeking a locality which would suit his purpose.
Tennessee at the time was covered with vast forests of gigantic trees, oak, poplar and chestnut. The densest timber lands were of course along the river bottoms and the low valley lands, while those that covered the mountain tops and plateaus were of a more stunted character.
The deer without dread of the hunter’s rifle herded in the dim recesses of the forests; ungainly bears prowled over the fallen logs and made their dens in the caverns under the cliffs; catamounts shrieked defiance to one another, and sharpened their claws upon the standing trunks in their mad wrath, and foxes, squirrels, turkeys, pheasants, and other smaller game, lived and preyed upon each other in the greatest numbers. Snakes were plentiful, too—they always are in a new country. Rattlesnakes sunned themselves upon the rugged cliffs, and copperheads peered sinisterly from the bushes in the vicinity of the few trails that crossed the country. The Indians were peaceable, and had their own villages, and were more or less associated with the whites. Trading posts had been established, and the mighty monarch of the forest was bowed before the heavy strokes of the axe. Such were the characteristics of the epoch. The people were rude and hardy, endowed with sterling qualities for a backwoods life, self reliant and vigorous. They were keen of vision, and constant of hearing through their continual attention to the various sights and sounds of forest life. They had their dances and social gatherings, where buxom girls tread the mazes of their favorite measures with great strapping lumbermen, with violent exertions and mad festivity. Then they had corn-hustings and log rollings, and occasionally a wedding at which all officiated.
Such was the backwoods life at the time when Mr. Fullerton first made his appearance in the vicinity of the place which was afterwards to become his home.
A few months later and there might have been seen a wagon train slowly crossing the Cumberland plateau. There were two covered wagons drawn by mules, an extra team slowly hauled by two yokes of oxen, followed in the rear by several cows, while other domestic animals were stowed away in various parts of the caravan.
As there were no roads in that section and the trails were poor at the best, progress was necessarily slow and it was some time before they arrived on the spot which Mr. Fullerton had fixed upon as the one most suited to his desires. It was on the edge of the mountain, on a gently rolling descent, which rather abruptly ended in a precipice of many hundred feet, strewn at the bottom with enormous boulders, and tangled and thorny vines. The land was mostly covered with cedar and chestnut, and with the exception of occasional pines that soon fell beneath the sturdy strokes of the two black servants who had accompanied Mr. Fullerton, and served, when fallen, as walls for a log house. There was also a fine spring, which after wandering through laurel beds for some distance, fell over the grey cliff in a thin veil of spray, which soon gave it the name of the “Bridal Veil.” In the winter season it was more than a bridal veil, it was demoniac in action, twisting and turning, churning itself into greater fury and greater action at every successive leap until it paused in a wide circular basin in the rocks, where it disappeared as if for ever.
It is needless to relate the first clearing of this charming spot; how the logs were piled in great heaps and fired; how the land was first broken in amid the constant urging and herculean efforts of the laboring oxen; how the the first crops were sown, worked and harvested; how one of their most valued horses fell over the cliff one night in the darkness—a gallant grey, which they had brought with them from old Virginia, one of a pair; or what were their conflicts with bears and catamounts that preyed unceasingly upon their stock and crops, or their expeditions for the more harmless deer. Each succeeding year saw more improvements upon their mountain farm and blessed by sun and rain, it grew in beauty and abundance with every season.
Mr. Fullerton was a passionate admirer of flowers. He came from a paternal line of florists, one of whom had been chief gardener to Evelyn, that lover of all things pertaining to floriculture, whose parks had often been enriched by the fertile imaginings of his brain. As we have said, Mr. Fullerton was an enthusiast in his way. A choice variety of lily or a collection of cacti was of greater value to him than a whole mint full of precious stones. His flowers were his pride. Early and late he watched for their first opening, or even for the first tiny leaf that pierced the rich mold of his garden. He loved them with that earnest attention that admits of no waverings, no distractions. There are things in flowers which are well worth study. Mr. Fullerton appreciated that in its broadest development. His earliest desire was to know more of their qualities and peculiarities, and to understand the reasons thereof. Of course there were an infinitude of difficulties in his path, but after all, what such to a man of his mold.
So with an enthusiast’s eagerness, almost before the ground had been laid out, he had sent for all the flowers that were the prime favorites of his heart—dahlias, peonys [sic], fuschias [sic], flaunting gladioli, and a host of others.
It was a great hour when they arrived, carefully packed, and in good condition from their long and difficult journey from older civilization. The minute it took to unwrap the bundles seemed an age to his impatient fingers, and when the leafless treasures were exposed to view his eye fairly gloated upon them. Nor had he forgotten those fruits which delight the taste as well as the eye.
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