Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. — George Orwell

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

Our Country Long Ago

Learned men, who read the story of the earth in the mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes, and seas which cover its surface, tell us that America, although known as the New World, is really older than Europe. The sun has shone upon this continent and the rain has watered it for more centuries than we can count. If you study your maps carefully, you will notice lofty mountains, great lakes, and long rivers in many parts of the country; and you will see that it is beautiful and fertile almost everywhere, except in the far north, where snow covers the ground most of the year.

The same wise men who found out that the country is so old, dug down into the soil, examined the things they found there, questioned the Indians, and, little by little, discovered that our continent has been inhabited by many different kinds of animals and men. They found huge bones of animals which died thousands of years ago, and placed these in museums, where you can now see them. They also found the bones of some of the ancient men and women, with some of their weapons, tools, kitchen pots, and bits of their garments.

A savage Indian

By studying these things very carefully, and by listening to the stories of the natives, they learned a great deal about the country which, from Greenland and Alaska in the north, to Cape Horn in the south, was once inhabited by tribes of Indians. None of these had white skins like the inhabitants of Europe, black skins like the negroes in Africa, or yellow skins like the Chinamen in Asia. But as they were more like the people in Asia than like those in Africa or Europe, some men now think they may once have belonged to the same family.

Still, the men living on our continent were so unlike others that they are called red men, and form a race by themselves. Those who lived in the part of the country which is now called the United States had copper-colored skins, high cheek bones, straight, coarse black hair, small black eyes, and very wide mouths. Although they all looked somewhat alike, they were very different in their ways of living. The Indians living east of the Rocky Mountains were a little more civilized than those living west of those mountains and in the far northern parts of the continent.

The western and northern Indians are generally called savage Indians, for they lived by hunting and fishing, had no houses like ours, and were always roaming around in search of game. They were sheltered from the sun and rain by tents called wigwams. These rude dwellings were made by driving poles in the ground, in a circle as big as the wigwam was to be. When all the poles had been set up, the tops were drawn close together and firmly tied. Over these slanting poles the Indians spread the skins of the animals they had killed, or else they wove leaves and branches between the poles to form a thick screen. The space between two of the poles was left open to serve as a door, and over this was hung a bear or buffalo skin to keep out the sun, rain, or cold.

[Illustration] from Story of the Thirteen Colonies by Helene Guerber

The space inside the wigwam was generally very small; but all the family crowded in, and when it was cold or wet, a fire was lighted in the middle of the floor. The smoke then escaped through a hole purposely left in the top of the wigwam, or through the open door.

The savage Indians had learned to make baskets, which they plastered with clay inside and out, and dried in the sun until they could hold water. When they wanted to boil their meat or to warm water, the women, called squaws, heated stones in the fire, and then dropped them into the water, which was thus brought to a boil.

Making a canoe

These Indians rowed about in canoes made of basket work, of birch bark, or even of hollow tree trunks. As they had only stone axes, they could not easily cut down trees, so they brought them to the ground by kindling a fire all around them. When the tree had fallen they built another fire farther up the trunk. A log of the right length having thus been secured, they hollowed it out by starting small fires on top of the trunk, and scraping away the charred wood, until the log formed a rude canoe.

The Indians made their birch-bark canoes by sewing long strips of bark together with plant fibers or the sinews of the animals they had killed. The basket-work canoes were covered with skins to make them water-tight.


Front Matter

Our Country Long Ago
The Barbarous Indians
The Mounds
Where the Northmen Went
The Northmen in America
Queer Ideas
Prince Henry the Navigator
Youth of Columbus
Columbus and the Queen
"Land! Land!"
Columbus and the Savages
Home Again
Columbus Ill-treated
Death of Columbus
How America Got its Name
The Fountain of Youth
"The Father of Waters"
The French in Canada
French and Spanish Quarrels
The Sky City
Around the World
Nothing but Smoke
Smith's Adventures
The Jamestown Men
Smith Wounded
Pocahontas Visits England
Hudson and the Indians
The Mayflower
Plymouth Rock
The First Thanksgiving
Snake Skin and Bullets
The Beginning of Boston
Stories of Two Ministers
Williams and the Indians
The Quakers
The King-Killers
King Phillip's War
The Beginning of New York
Penn and the Indians
The Catholics in Maryland
The Old Dominion
Bacon's Rebellion
A Journey Inland
The Carolina Pirates
Charter Oak
Salem Witches
Down the Mississippi
La Salle's Adventures
Indians on the Warpath
Two Wars with the French
Washington's Boyhood
Washington's Journey
Washington's First Battle
Stories of Franklin
Braddock's Defeat
Wolfe at Quebec
England and her Colonies
The Stamp Tax
The Anger of the Colonies
The Boston Tea Party
The Minutemen
The Battle of Lexington
Bunker Hill
The Boston Boys
The British leave Boston
Declaration of Independence
A Lady's Way of Helping
Christmas Eve
The Fight at Bennington
Burgoyne's Surrender
Winter at Valley Forge
The Quaker Woman
Putnam's Adventures
Indian Cruelty
Boone in Kentucky
Famous Sea Fights
The "Swamp Fox"
The Poor Soldiers
The Spy
A Traitor's Death
Two Unselfish Women
Surrender of Cornwallis
British Flag hauled down
Washington's Farewell