Gateway to the Classics: Stephen of Philadelphia by James Otis
Stephen of Philadelphia by  James Otis

Going Ashore

Captain Smith, master of the John and Sarah, was only too well pleased to be rid of his passengers, that he might return to England, and within an hour after the people had agreed to go on shore, there to set up such shelters as would serve as houses until the remainder of the company should arrive, he had the ship warped well in toward the land to take out our belongings.


There was a promise of frost in the air, although the sun shone warm after the day was well begun, and we knew that it stood us in hand to put up that which would serve to shield us from the wet and cold of the winter.

It would have pleased me right well to wander around in the noble forest, for the trees came close to the water's edge, and the whirring of wings, when one but stepped within the screen of foliage, told that we need not suffer for food while we had the wherewith to charge a gun.

It was my duty, however, to do that which might be of service to my parents, for a great hulking lad of twelve years has no right to stand with his hands in his pockets when there is work to be done.

At first father believed that he might make such a hut of logs as we had been told were set up by those settlers in Plymouth and Boston; but he was not skilled in the use of an axe, and before the first tree had been felled, it was plain to be seen that the task was far beyond his endurance, unless it might be that we had four or five months in which to perform it.

Then again, it really seemed useless to put so much labor into a dwelling which we might not use more than two or three months, for the land my father had bought of William Penn was to be in the new city, and when the location for that had been decided upon, we might find ourselves many miles away from it.

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