The Bittinger Family
"It would be difficult to find any ill to say of them, and surely there is no dispositiou[sic] in that direction. They are industrious, honest, inoffensive and law-abiding; would rather endure trouble than make it for others.
If a little amusing anecdote or two shall be told of their antiquated ways, the object will be not to displease, but illustrate the manner in which the plain, well-meaning people lived in early times, and of this the young people of the present day have neither idea or knowledge. The refined of this period can well afford to take a retrospective glance into the dead past. However not much is promised here.
Henry Bittinger was the sole ancestor of all the numerous race in Garrett County. He had some experience with the Indians in the Northwest in his early life, but the nature or particulars of which cannot now be given. He used to say he had "tough times with the yellow buggers." He made his way east and stopped in Somerset County, Pa., for some years, then over the line in Maryland; lived for years in a log house just beyond the Ridgely place, where he mostly raised a large family of children, nearly all sons, all hardy and capable of great endurance. They were Daniel, Joseph, Peter, George, Jonathan, Jonas and William. Only one daughter can be recalled. She was the wife of Casper Durst. All are now dead except Jonas.
After living many years as a renter he felt himself able to buy a tract of land on his own account futher up the forks called "Brier Patch." Here he lived the remainder of his life and died about the year 1852. It is now the site of the village of Bittinger. The purchase of this land called the plain old farmer to Cumberland, a place he never before or afterwards saw. The object of the trip was to obtain a deed for land. He fell into the hands of the "scribes," to be a little plainer - lawyers. He came home in a very ill humor about his "teet" for which he had to pay a lawyer "tin tollars" for writing it, when John Layman could make just so good a one for one "tollar". It is safe to say he never paid another legal fee. "That one was enough for de whole family."
The old father was industrious, honest and orderly, with no disposition to indulge in disturbances, which in his time were only too common. Yet on field days he could enjoy sport and even help to make; could dance a jig in a barroom with considerable vim with moccasined feet and the accompanying hunting shirt approaching the ankles, when enlivened by the music of Henry Durst, H. Hare and Aaron Ramsey, the latter a mixture of three different bloods, white, black and red. An exhibition of this kind with such mirth-enjoyers as George Bruce, Shad Garlitz, Mike Durst and George Smouse for encouragers, was as good as a side show and much cheaper, except that drinks had to be set up at 3 cents per glass from stuff that cost from 18 to 25 cents per gallon.
Space will not allow a reference of any length to each of these seven unpretending brothers. Most of them were fond of the woods and the gun. Two of the number lost their lives in a strange manner in pursuit of game. George, in 1847, felled a tree with a family of coons in it's cavity and just as he was securing his prey a detached limb, momentarily suspended, fell upon him, killing him instantly. William undertook to run down a deer with his own legs and so exerted himself in the chase that he died from the effects of it.
Peter, too, kept his rifle hung up in the old-time way. We once, when a youth, asked him for his experience in trout fishing. Said he did not know much about it, but one morning while hunting his cows, with rifle on his shoulder, he heard quite a noise just below him in the South Fork - something like a shingle clapping on the water. He went to see what it meant. Two unknown animals were fighting furiously in the water. At once he fired at the belligerants, one of which was struck and killed. All he knew of it was a tremendous fish; did not know what kind. He ran a large stick through its gills and carried it home on the vacant shoulder. Neighbor James McGuffin was sent for to get his opinion of the strang[sic] fish. The expert came and gave judgement about as follows: "Pete, you fool, it is nothing but a ___ big trout." It was laid upon a table and a notch made at the end of the tail as a proof of its greatness. We pressed our entertainer for particulars, such as length, weight and breadth and were referred to his kitchen table which was not many miles away. Finally, upon further pressure he said it was as large as a hand saw anyway. "But ___, don't you go off and say it was as big as a cross-cut saw." What will Dick Browning and Gus Delawder say to this reality? To be candid and reliable McGuffin was questioned and he confirmed the story that no such trout had ever been seen before. We ourselves once helped to capture a trout 20 inches in length in a drained mill dam. It was as beautiful in color and shape as one of ordinary size. But none such for many years past.
Then comes Joseph, the most enduring of them all. If he ever done any harm the world would never knew[sic] it. In his latter years he became a Dunkard preacher, not a learned one, but sincere, a shade superstitious, but a little of it helps the faith. Joe, in his worldly days, liked the forest too, and never cared for bad weather when the "buck fever" seized him. Holmes Wiley a great Nimrod in his day, as well as a joker, told this for a fact; On a mild February day, the ground covered with soft snow, he came upon a strange and unknown track in the woods. What could it be? A new animal "roving the woods?" Hot pursuit made at once. Here and there would be found an imprssion in the snow as large as the bottom of a bucket. The speed was increased and after a long chase the animal was overtaken - nothing more or less than Joe, barefooted. The impressions in the snow were made by his standing on his hat to warm his feet. His moccasins were no doubt out of repair. Wiley admitted in all his rambles he was never so badly beaten. It was no use to swear, as justice could not be done to such a disappointment.
The educated member of the family is Henry Thomas, son of William, once a school commissioner of the county, lately a candidate for the Legislature, and now or recently a postal clerk on the P. & C. R.R.
This family is a fair type of the old time life. The seven brothers, when growing up, were like the rest of people, shy and timid, almost ready to escape through the throat of a wide chimney upon the approach of a stranger. All of the seven are dead except one, now very aged and infirm. The record of this quaint family for peace, quiet and good citizenship is good. They were all strangers to court proceedings, especially the criminal department."
Brown's Miscellaneous Writings ~ 1880 to 1895
by Jacob Brown
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