Duffels by Edward Eggleston Page 1 of 200
The once famous Mrs. Anne Grant - known in literature as Mrs. Grant of Laggan - spent part of her childhood in our New York Albany, then a town almost wholly given to traffic with the aborigines.
To her we owe a description of the setting out of the young American-Dutch trader to ascend the Mohawk in a canoe, by laborious paddling and toilsome carrying round rifts and falls, in order to penetrate to the dangerous region of the tribes beyond the Six Nations.
The outfit of this young "bushloper," as such a man was called in the still earlier Dutch period, consisted mainly of a sort of cloth suited to Indian wants. But there were added minor articles of use and fancy to please the youth or captivate the imagination of the women in the tribes.
Combs, pocket mirrors, hatchets, knives, jew's-harps, pigments for painting the face blue, yellow, and vermilion, and other such things, were stored away in the canoe, to be spread out as temptations before the eyes of some group of savages rich in a winter's catch of furs. The cloths sold by the traders were called duffels, probably from the place of their origin, the town of Duffel, in the Low Countries.
By degrees the word was, I suppose, transferred to the whole stock, and a trader's duffels included all the miscellany he carried with him. The romantic young bushloper, eager to accumulate money enough to marry the maiden he had selected, disappeared long ago from the water courses of northern New York.
In his place an equally interesting figure - the Adirondack guide - navigates single-handed the rivers and lakes of the "North Woods." By one of those curious cases of transference that are often found in etymology, the guide still carries duffels, like his predecessor; but not for Indian trading.