Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Anecdotes of a Traveller

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Anecdotes of a Traveller

By Timothy Dwight (1752–1817)

[From Travels in New England and New York. 1821.]


THERE is a spot in this township which, from the following fact, is called “The Devil’s Invention.” An inhabitant, offended with one of his neighbors, determined to revenge himself by starving two of his children—boys between six and nine years of age. To accomplish this design, he built a small enclosure of logs at the side of a precipice. The logs above jutted over those below, so as to make it impossible to escape by climbing. When the work was finished, he persuaded the children to go out with him to hunt bird’s-nests. Having led them to this spot, he forced them into the enclosure and left them to their fate. Necessity can sharpen the wits even of children. The little fellows, finding no egress at the top, began to look for one at the bottom; and, under the direction of mere nature, scratched a passage beneath the logs, through which they escaped. As they knew not the way to the town, they wandered three days about the fields and forests, and were, at length, led by the noise of the ocean to the shore. Here they were found alive by some of the inhabitants, most of whom had during this time been employed in a diligent search for the unfortunate sufferers. This event took place in 1676. As Philip’s war was raging at the time, it is not improbable that the mischief was contrived with an expectation that the disaster would be attributed to savage incursion, and cease so soon to be an object of public attention that no effectual attempts would be made to find them.

The villain who formed and supposed that he had done everything to execute this diabolical purpose was sentenced to receive “thirty stripes,” well laid on; to pay the father five pounds, and the Treasurer of the County ten; to pay the charges of imprisonment; and to remain a close prisoner during the pleasure of the Court Few inventions have, I think, been more worthy of the Devil, than this.


The following anecdote, transmitted among his descendants, is in several particulars strongly expressive of his character. In the latter part of autumn Mr. Hooker, being suddenly awakened by an unusual noise, thought he heard a person in his cellar. He immediately arose, dressed himself, and went silently to the foot of the cellar stairs. There he saw a man with a candle in his hand, taking pork out of the barrel. When he had taken out the last piece, Mr. Hooker, accosting him pleasantly, said, “Neighbor, you act unfairly; you ought to leave a part for me.” Thunderstruck at being detected, especially at being detected by so awful a witness, the culprit fell at his feet, condemned himself for his wickedness, and implored his pardon. Mr. Hooker cheerfully forgave him and concealed his crime, but forced him to carry half the pork to his own house.