from A New Home–Who’ll Follow? or, Glimpses of Western Life (1839) — Chapter III

from A New Home–Who’ll Follow? or, Glimpses of Western Life (1839)

by Caroline Kirkland (AKA Mary Clavers)


The greatness of an estate, in bulk and territory, doth fall, under measure; and the greatness of finances and revenues doth fall, under amputation. * * * By all means it is to be procured, that the trunk of Nabuchadenezzar’s tree of monarchy be great enough to bear the branches and the boughs. Bacon


The morning passed in viewing and reviewing the village site and the ‘mill privilege,’ under the condescending guidance of a regular land speculator, into whose clutches …. but I anticipate.

The public square, the water lots, the value per foot of this undulating surface, clothed as it then was with burroaks, and haunted by the red deer; these were almost too much for my gravity. I gave my views, however, as to the location of the grand esplanade, and particularly requested that the fine oaks which now graced it might be spared when the clearing process commenced.

‘Oh, certainly, mem!’ said our Dousterswivel, ‘a place that’s designed for a public promenade must not be divested of shade trees!’ Yet I believe these very trees were the first ‘Banquos’ at Montacute. The water lots, which were too valuable to sell save by the foot, are still in the market, and will probably remain there for the present.

This factotum, this Mr. Mazard, was an odd-looking creature, with ‘diverse ocular foci,’ and a form gaunt enough to personify Grahamism. His words sometimes flowed in measured softness, and sometimes tumbled over each other, in his anxiety to convince, to persuade, to inspire. His air earnest conviction, of since anxiety for your interest, an above all, of entire forgetfulness of his own, was irresistible. People who did not know him always believed every word he said; at least so I have since been informed.

This gentleman had kindly undertaken to lay out our village, to build a mill, a tavern, a store, a blacksmith’s shop; houses for cooper, miller,&c., &c., to purchase the large tracts which would be required for the mill-pond, a part of which land was already improved; and all this, although sure to cost Mr. Clavers an immense sum, he, from his experience of the country, his large dealings with saw-mills, &c., would b able to accomplish at a very moderate cost. The mill, for instance, was to be story and a half high, and to cost perhaps twenty-five hundred dollars at the utmost. The tavern, a cheap building of moderate size, built on th most popular plan, and connected with a store, just large enough for thee infant needs of the village, reserving our strength for a splendid one—I quote Mr. Mazard—to be built out of the profits in about three years. All those points being thus satisfactorily arranged, Mr. Mazard received a carte-blanche for the purchase of the lands which were to be flowed, which he had ascertained might be had for a mere trifle.

The principal care now was to find a name—a title at once simple and dignified—striking and cuphonious—recherché and yet unpretending. Mr. Mazard was for naming it after the proprietor. It was a proper opportunity, he thought, of immortalizing one’s self. But he failed in convincing the proprietor, who relished not this form of fame, and who referred the matter entirely to me. Here was a responsibility! I begged for time, but the matter must be decided at once. The village plot was to be drawn instanter; Lithographed and circulated through the United States, and, to cap the climax, printed in gold, splendidly framed, and hung up in Detroit, in th place ‘where merchants most do congregate.’

I tried for an aboriginal designation, as most characteristic and unworn. I recollected a young lady speaking with enthusiastic admiration of our Indian names, and quoting Ypsilanti as a specimen. But I was not fortunate in my choice; for to each of the few which I could recollect, Mr. Mazard found some insuperable objection. One was too long, another signified Slippery Eel, another Big Bubble; and these would be so inappropriate! I began to be very tired. I tried romantic name; but these again did not suit any of us. At length I decided by lot, writing ten of the most sounding names I could muster from my novel reading stores on slips of paper, which were mingled in a Shako, and out came Montacute. How many matters of greater importance are thus decided!


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