Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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took the bulk of this river commerce and the business prospered and grew apace.
It was young Foster's duty to accompany these float­ing caravans down the river, making on the average two trips a year. He would occasionally return over­land, by way of Natchez, Nashville, Maysville and Wheeling. For such journeys through this unsettled wilderness, large parties were made up at the starting-point, travelling strongly armed, for the Indians were both hostile and dangerous.
At other times, he would take ship at New Orleans, sailing for New York. These journeys brought him into a danger as thrilling and as terrible as that offered by any marauding band of Indians, for piracy was in those days a fine art, and the voyage led him straight across the heart of the "Spanish Main," where were hidden the lairs of those rapacious and blood-thirsty pirates whose horrible deeds have curdled the blood of suc­cessive generations of small boys down to the present day. On one voyage, indeed, the ship was actually captured by pirates off the coast of Cuba, and Foster, with the other passengers, would no doubt have "walked the plank," had not a Spanish man-of-war suddenly appeared in the best dime-novel fashion, causing the pirates to flee for their lives.
In New York and Philadelphia he bought goods for the Pittsburgh store, and accompanied them on their long westward journey. In the earlier years of the busi­ness, these shipments were carried over the mountains on the backs of horses. Later, large six-horse wagons of the type known as "Conestoga wagons" were used. The driver sat on one of the horses in the shafts, controlling the others by a check-rein, and on each horse was a string of bells attached to a bow above the collar, "dis­coursing most eloquent music" as the long line of wagons travelled slowly through the still forests of the moun­tains.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III