Fort Pitt

Fort Pitt
Center of the ohio country universe

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Mohair, Mistaken Turkeys and Matt Stein's new clothes

 "Taylor turned sportsman"   I wonder if he thought it was a turkey?

 Below are a few political cartoons showing the dress and tools of 18th century "Taylors" the men who worked at Fort Pitt may have dressed like these fellows.

Stroud Legging blanks and Breechclouts I've begun making. If interested in getting a set drop me an email
    Been awhile since I’ve been here. Well I blame children and water in a computer full of posts, or I could blame the fact I spent a crazy amount of time in the woods and reading. I have to admit I’m more than a little disillusioned with the idea of sharing information. The waterheads have been in full agro mode at me again and the odd part is I haven’t  really surfaced on a public forum for a very long time.  After a weekend at the School of the long hunter and a day at Fort Pitt talking with likeminded folks I feel refreshed and ready to jump back in with both feet. Or it could be the fact I cant trap anything so the boredom is driving me to this.

 Say trading post to most folks and the images of natives, hunters and clerks spring to mind. A place of mixing cultures and ideas….Yadda yadda, add in paragraph about cultural immersion here…this idea glosses over the many jobs that were involved in the fur trade at places such as Fort Pitt. Coopers, blacksmiths, packhorse men, Bateau men  and other skilled working class trades all moved to these locations to take an active and needed part in the trade.  One major trade however has been overlooked in my opinion and it’s that of the tailor. Yes the table monkey, the stitch Jockey….

Let’s face it the basic idea many have is that long hunters dressed a certain way, natives another and traders yet another. Well the odd thing is that “trade goods” cost the same for hunters,Traders, natives and slaves. So when Morgan dressed his slaves in blanket coats, leggings and clouts the price of those items was the same a hunter would have paid for them. I gotta say it again loudly THERE WAS NO LONGHUNTER SECTION OF THE TRADING POST.  Add to this the sheer volume of cloth that was part of fur trade, the shrewd eye of the native cliental, the fact you have a lot of working ppl/soldiers and it doesn’t take long to realize someone needed to clothe these guys when their clothes wore out.

BWM had a few tailors to sew for the Fort Pitt store and also had sent some folks down river to Dechartes to sew for that post as well.  It seems as these men would  work for the company directly:


Nov 12 1767

 Tho. Mckee to Peter Rowleter for making Breeches and Spatterdashes “/12/6


May 1767

John Callinder  BaTT  (The bateau)  Sherlock  to sundry account

3 French Matchcoats 3/”/”

1 ½ yards stroud 24/  4 skeins thread 1/5/0

2 check shirts 30/  1 pr shoes 2/0/0

1 cutteau knife 2/6  thread & needles 1/6      “/4/0

To Peter McKaghney the Taylor  “/7/6


(This is interesting because most of the men listed serving on the Bateau Sherlock were listed as purchasing different amount of cloth/thread and paying money to the Taylor. Checked shirts, Scarves, Russia duck (for trousers?) and blanket coats. It gives us an interesting look into how the boatmen at fort pitt may have looked….and it’s not much different than---the same type of men working on the coast.)


Pennsylvania trader and Kentucky superman explorer John Finley paid the tailors of BWM for the following:

 Feb 21 1766

Making 2 pr trowsers “5”

Mending 1 pr breeches “4”6

Lacing 2 hatts

Making a suit of cloths

Making 1 pr Breeches “7”6

Making 2 pr DRAWERS “10”

Making 2 Short coats 1”10”


I was particularly pumped to see the use of “drawers” at the fort. This garment was a type of 18th cent underclothes that helps keep someone warm. Ok let me spell it out for you….not a blanket shirt worn over 4 linen shirts. The basic European cold weather garments for men made their way to the frontier. Hmmm I wonder if he had drawers in his pack when he made it to Kentucky?  Or did Long hunter etiquette of the time require him to check those at the headman’s house at Shawnee town?

What you see here is the basic clothes used and worn by a working class person of the 1760’s. No notation that this was what he wore in town, no addendum about how much of a dandy he was. Working class clothes worn by a guy who worked in the backcountry. Here is another example of a working class man buying cloth/notions and paying taylors for work. No specific garment is mentioned but it does give you an idea of the colors and cloth you would see on a guy building a house at Fort Pitt in the 1760’s. Let’s all see if Matt Stein buys any of this stuff this weekend at Fort Frederick Market fair:

May 1767

Henry Butler…..House Carpenter

1 pair shoes 10/ 1 ½ yard Russia Duck 6/3

1 ½ yard strouds, 2 yards flannels

Thread buttons & hair , ½ yard Buckrams

1 ½ yards , 2 sticks Hair

1 skein Silk

¾ yards claret colored cloth, ¼ yard linen

1 stick hair, 1 pair thread stockings

1 pair leggings


To Peter Mckaughney the Taylor  1/2/6

To Peter Rowletter Taylor 7/6


So again we see items like mohair, buckrams etc being sold to make clothes. Not some shoddy thrown together garments made out of nettles and deer hide. The items being worn by working class folks reflect the common dress of the time. We also see premade leggings being purchased by a guy who does woodwork. So when your looking at cloth at the market fairs over the next few weeks please keep in mind that just because you didn’t live in Philadelphia doesn’t mean you cant own a claret colored…something.

Well It’s that time of year again when the Turkey’s start to fill our minds. So here is an 18th century Hunting accident to remind us that we need to know what we’re shooting at:

One John Cahie, of the Irish Station killed a Mr. McCutcheon of miller’s Station…..McCutcheon had pursued some turkeys over to the neighborhood of irish station, Where Cahie was engaged in the same buissness and seeing the back of his head above a log, mistook it for a turkey’s back and put 6 shot in it. (from the Draper manuscripts: Dale Payne’s Frontier memories III)

Well I’m off to dye more stroud cloth, Sew leggings for Fort Pitt and Weave like a mad man. Also thanx to prompting from Steve Davis….Ithere will soon be a lot more to this blog (insert evil laugh here)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hunting from Tree Stands and Mr. Schrecengost gets the Fidgets

 This Years Buck. Tumplines make way better drag ropes then the things walmart sells

 Tumplines also make great ropes for skinning out game

Hawk and  trade Knife by Eric Schatzel used to skin out Buck. I cant say enough about how easy it is to skin things out with a thin bladed well made knife.  Giant knives are for guys who sit in camp and talk about hunting.... trade knives are for the guys who hunt
So it’s been so Cold I had to pull most of my traps and with muskrat season out here In Pennsylvania that means I now have to wait a few days to set some beaver sets. As a result I’ve been going back thru semi finished postings to get back to posting info. What can I say I haven’t been slacking but the ADD has been in full control.

                One thing I’ve been really focusing on as of late is rereading hunting narratives to pass the time (still beats msg board debates on ugly coats and how ninjas are the same thing as a native warrior)  While reading narratives of late 18th/early 19th century hunters backed to back a funny detail popped out to me…Tree stands. Ok I’ve read these before but was probably so focused on looking for another detail I passed these up. I’ve often skipped climbing into tree stands in late Muzzleloader season because well…..I was in my gear. Now I think this is a project I’ll jump on next fall. Though I will skip the baiting part of the stand (despite the ugly rumors Mr. Schrecengost spreads about my hunting)


Phillip Tome
If a tree stood within three or four rods of the lick I built my scaffold upon that If there was no tree in a favorable place, I set four crotches in the earth, lay poles across, and make a screen of bushes or bark to conceal myself from the deer. About a month after I had prepared a log, I visited it, and if the deer had found it, I built a scaffold near it. for hunting at these licks, I mounted the scaffold by a ladder which I drew up after me, and patiently awaited the approach of the deer

. If none came during the day, I prepared a torch of pitch pine, sometimes adding lard or bear's grease, which I swung upon a pole reaching from the scaffold to the ground. The torch was attached to a crane of withes and bark, made to slide upon the pole, and slipped down by a cord to within three feet of the ground. As the deer came along, they would stop and stare &t the light, forming an easy mark for me. When alone in these expeditions, I was always provided with two guns, a musket and a rifle.

 If several deer came at once within shot, I fired the musket, which was loaded with buckshot, and the deer frequently stood fixed to the spot, not knowing which way to flee, and I could kill three or four before coming down from the scaffold. Besides the light near the ground, I had another upon the scaffold, about as high as my head, and when firing from the scaffold, I raised the gun above the range of the deer, and lower it gradually until the end of the barrel became dark, and then fire, scarcely ever missing my aim. When I fired from the ground by torchlight, I pointed the gun below the game, and raised it till the end became dark


Meshach Browning

Shooting deer at a lick differs but little from the mode just related, if the lick be a natural one. The plan is to climb a tree, to the distance of thirty or forty feet, and there make a nest of limbs to shade the hunter. Then either a few coals of fire and some fine splinters, or a large candle, is tied to a pole like those used in fishing, and a place is fixed to lay the pole on after the candle is lighted.

 When the deer come to the lick, the candle is laid as near over it as the length of the pole will admit, when the light will display the entire body of the deer and the sights of of the gun as plain as they could be seen by daylight. The deer will sometimes stand until they receive a second and a third shot ; so perfectly astonished are they at the blaze of the candle and the thunder of the heavily-loaded rifle. They become confused, and seem to lose their senses for a time.

The way to make a deer-lick with common salt, is to select a place where the deer have found a crossing, and near which is a tree, on which a convenient seat can be arranged at a considerable elevation. Then take a small stake, drive it into the ground to the depth of eighteen inches or two feet, and fill the hole made by it with clean alum-salt. Make three or four such holes, fill them all, and sprinkle a little salt over the ground around them. The deer will soon find the place, and come often to lick the salt, while the hunter, sitting high up in the tree, has every chance for obtaining a fair shot at them.

One story from Meshach Browings narrative that reminded me of my friend the rumor spreading Dutchman ( Mr. Schrecengost) was the following:

   On examination, I found my first ball had passed along his back, under the skin, without doing any injury ; and then I felt certain that I had overshot my mark the evening before. I then put up a snow-ball about sixty yards distant, and shot at it, and found that my ball struck about eighteen inches above the mark. This gave me the fidgets ; and putting the gun between the forks of a tree, I gave it a bend downward, which made it very crooked. I put it in again and again, until by frequent twisting I got it so that it would shoot a ball within six inches of a mark. I then concluded to try if I could kill with it in that condition.

                After shooting with the Dutchman I’ve seen him suffer from “the fidgets” a few times. It’s also another example of Rifle tweeking that I’d love to see in action (like removing the breechplug with a tomahawk).

                Tome also mentions carrying an “auger” with his hunting gear to drill holes into logs to make salt licks. As well as this nice description of jerking deer meat:

 We now brought our venison together, and built a scaffold upon which we placed it to dry. It may be well here to describe the manner of preserving elk's meat in the summer. It is firs 4- cut in thin slices, and salted down in the skin. We always carried a bag of salt with us for that purpose. Two large poles are laid across crotches about five feet high, and a number of smaller ones are laid across these. After the meat has lain a sufficient length of time in the skin, it is spread upon this scaffold, and a slow fire built under it. The fire is gradually increased and the meat turned until it it dried through. In t'us state it is called jerk.


                So looks like Now I’ll need to add a decent auger and bigger bag of salt to my 18th century hunters shopping list (salt for making Jerk of course…Shut up Duane)  Well I should get back to work trying to keep the pipes from freezing and trying to thaw out a frozen raccoon for skinning. I thought I had reached the pinnacle of angry Wife disease when I messed up skinning a skunk in the backyard but I guess one should always warn others that there is a dead animal hanging in the basement. I have a few more posts ready to go: an interview with Jim Jacobs of Blue Heron Mercantile, more on snuff boxes, hunting equipment  so here is to 2014 without ADD….Lets go ride bikes.
Phillip Tome's Memoir
Meshach Browning