An Account of the Wonderful Old Hermit's Death and Burial, Aged Two Hundred Twenty Eight Years: an Eighteenth-century American Broadside
The following is the text (with image) of a late eighteenth-century manuscript printed in Worchester, Massachusetts in 1787 and now deposited in "An American Time Capsule: Three Centuries of Broadsides and other Printed Ephemera," a section of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. [Editing limited to paragraph breaks, minor spelling.]
Sometime in June, 1787, Doctor Samuel Brake, a gentleman eminent both for physick and surgery, and a man indefatigable in the search of curiosities, hearing of the wonderful account of the Hermit, set out with a full determination to go and find him.
The Doctor furnished himself with the best intelligence Capt. Buckland could possibly give him, and took with him two attendants well armed, and as much provision as was necessary for such a journey, and being favored with good weather, they soon came to the Allegany Mountains.
Here the Doctor discovered a certain root never known nor heard of before, which proves a remedy for all diseases.
After a great deal of trouble they found the Hermit, but it was entirely by accident that they happened at last to discover him; for the country was very wild, covered with shrubs as thick as possible, and the trees grew large beyond description.
One day the Doctor discovered with his spy-glass, a very high hill at a considerable distance; and thought he would go and take an observation from the top of that hill; when he arrived there, he soon found the old Hermit's path, just as Capt. Buckland had directed.
They followed the path down the valley, and soon came to the Hermit's cave; nothing was seen of the Hermit for sometime, and they supposed he was asleep in his cave, and not one soul durst venture into his old habitation; at length, whilst they were listening at the mouth of the cave, they discovered the Hermit at a little distance, coming with a handful of roots which he had been gathering for food
He walked in a slow and grave manner, and when he saw them he came and embraced them, but did not seem to be so much surprised to see them as he was when first discovered by Capt. Buckland, &c.
He invited them in a very friendly manner into his cave, and was overjoyed to see them. The cave was very curious, which appeared to be dug out of a solid white flint rock. But as a particular description has been given of it, it will be needless to say any thing further concerning it.
The Hermit made particular enquiry after Capt. Buckland and Mr. Fielding, and said that he received great satisfaction from a visit which they had made him, and added, that they were the first human beings that he had seen from the time that he first landed on this shore, which was about two hundred years.
Dr. Brake tarried there several days, and he became very intimate with the Hermit, and found several things which were not discovered before: two books in particular, which he brought with him from England, one in poetry, the other in prose. The Hermit appeared to have had a good education when he was young, and discovered a surprising greatness of mind. His eyes were good, but his teeth were very poor, he had but little hair on his head, but his beard was very long. He could not articulate his words very distinctly, but his language was better than any spoken in England at the time he left it, which makes it appear evident that he was an extraordinary genius when he was young.
He showed Doctor Brake his books, writings, &c. of which he had a large pile in one corner of his cave, some were done on barks of trees, and some on [wood?] made into a kind of parchment. The Doctor obtained liberty to take a copy of the Hermit's compositions. One contained principally moral sentiments, and the following sentences were found written in one of them:
"Young men and young women, beware of seducing appearances which may surround you and recollect what others have suffered from the power of headstrong desire. This world is but a wilderness--eager passions and violent desires were not made for man. Pitch upon that course of life which is best, and habit will render it most delightful."
After a while the Doctor determined to try the Hermit with a little rum, and see what the effect would be; but it was with great difficulty that he could persuade him to drink. The Doctor said that it was an excellent cordial that tended to strengthen the constitution, and at last the poor innocent Hermit was persuaded to drink a little of that horrid bane, which hath sent thousands out of the world. He drank about three quarters of a gill of that poison liquor, and in a quarter of an hour there was a visible alteration in his looks and conduct; and in half an hour he appeared wild and almost mad, and attempted to tell a kind of a love story; and in about an hour he was entirely senseless, and remained in that shocking situation until 12 o'clock at night and then died.
Poor old man! He lived about two hundred years in his cave, free from the busy scenes of the world, and enjoying all the happiness of a retired life! And might perhaps have lived as many more, had he not drank that horrid draught! Cursed liquor! Thousands have fell a sacrifice to its bewitching power.
Among the Hermit's writings was found his will, which appeared to have been made soon after he was discovered. He had given his cave to Capt. Buckland and Mr. Fielding, as also all his writings. His curious cane he willed to one of Capt. Buckland's servants, which was all the Hermit was possessed of, excepting a few old skins which had served to clothe him. Those he gave to the other servant, as a reward for his kindness in singing a love song to him before they departed.
Doctor Brake was much affected at the sudden death of the Hermit, more especially the manner in which he was brought to his untimely death -- but the Doctor said he felt no remorse of conscience, as he really supposed that a little of that cordial would serve to raise his spirits, and make him more cheerful with his new visitors.
The next day the Doctor and his attendants employed themselves about burying the old gentlemen in as decent a manner as possible in his cave, which was done with great solemnity and good order. The Doctor ordered one of his attendants to shave the Hermit, and his beard is carefully preserved as a very great curiosity, it being at least twelve inches long.
N. B. Doctor Brake mentions that this good old man made it his constant custom to devote himself to prayer every day, and there is no doubt of his everlasting happiness.
Those who do not credit the above, may apply to Doctor Brake for better information.