The Spirit of the Border HTML version
The author does not intend to apologize for what many readers may call the "brutality" of
the story; but rather to explain that its wild spirit is true to the life of the Western border
as it was known only a little more than one hundred years ago.
The writer is the fortunate possessor of historical material of undoubted truth and interest.
It is the long-lost journal of Colonel Ebenezer Zane, one of the most prominent of the
hunter-pioneer, who labored in the settlement of the Western country.
The story of that tragic period deserves a higher place in historical literature than it has
thus far been given, and this unquestionably because of a lack of authentic data regarding
the conquering of the wilderness. Considering how many years the pioneers struggled on
the border of this country, the history of their efforts is meager and obscure.
If the years at the close of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century
were full of stirring adventure on the part of the colonists along the Atlantic coast, how
crowded must they have been for the almost forgotten pioneers who daringly invaded the
trackless wilds! None there was to chronicle the fight of these sturdy, travelers toward the
setting sun. The story of their stormy lives, of their heroism, and of their sacrifice for the
benefit of future generations is too little known.
It is to a better understanding of those days that the author has labored to draw from his
ancestor's notes a new and striking portrayal of the frontier; one which shall paint the
fever of freedom, that powerful impulse which lured so many to unmarked graves; one
which shall show his work, his love, the effect of the causes which rendered his life so
hard, and surely one which does not forget the wronged Indian.
The frontier in 1777 produced white men so savage as to be men in name only. These
outcasts and renegades lived among the savages, and during thirty years harassed the
border, perpetrating all manner of fiendish cruelties upon. the settlers. They were no less
cruel to the redmen whom they ruled, and at the height of their bloody careers made futile
the Moravian missionaries' long labors, and destroyed the beautiful hamlet of the
Christian Indians, called Gnaddenhutten, or Village of Peace.
And while the border produced such outlaws so did it produce hunters Eke Boone, the
Zanes, the McCollochs, and Wetzel, that strange, silent man whose deeds are still
whispered in the country where he once roamed in his insatiate pursuit of savages and
renegades, and who was purely a product of the times. Civilization could not have
brought forth a man like Wetzel. Great revolutions, great crises, great moments come,
and produce the men to deal with them.