| American History Stories, Volume I|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of early exploration and founding of American colonies, conflicts over religion, and troubles with the Indians, culminating in the French and Indian War. Ages 8-12 |
 Little indeed did the people of Europe know of this country
across the water or of the strange copper-colored people
Lately there has been raised in Boston a monument in memory
of Lief, the brave Northman or Norseman, who in the year
1000 sailed from his home in Iceland and came to the coast
The vessel in which this Norseman
 came was odd-looking enough. Sometimes it moved along by
the aid of its sails, sometimes each man would take an oar
and so help it to move over the water.
The first land these hardy Norsemen found
was flat and stony near the sea; but inland
high mountains could be seen from the shore.
This was Newfoundland. Then on the Norsemen
sailed farther south, pleased with the
warmth of the sun and the green trees, the
song birds and the rich fruits. At one place,
supposed to be on the shores of Massachusetts
or Rhode Island, one of their company found such
delicious wild grapes and in
such abundance that Lief gave to the country
the name of Vinland.
So delightful was the climate and so rich the fruits that
the little band built huts and planned to spend the winter
in the beautiful
 Vinland. It was all very strange to them,
the swiftly changing day and night;
for in their own land they had only one long day and one
long night in a year.
STATUE OF LEIF ERICSON, BOSTON
Spring came, and Lief hastened back to Iceland to tell
of the wonderful new land. Other Norsemen came, and, later still,
a Norwegian nobleman
with his beautiful young wife, Gudfrida. A colony was formed
and the people lived very happily here for three years or more.
Then for some reason the colony died out, and little is known
of them except what has been found in old chronicles in
In Newport, Rhode Island, is a strange old tower which was
once believed to have been built by these Norsemen.
Certainly it is old enough and strange enough; but as to the
true story of the Norsemen in America, I suppose we shall
never know it.
ROUND TOWER, NEWPORT
 They were a brave, sturdy people and very fond of
adventures. No people were ever so brave upon the sea as
these Norsemen, and it is a great pity we do not know all
These Northmen were the only Europeans who ever ventured far
away from home. The people of the southern counties of
Europe would look out across the sea and wonder; but they
dared not venture out a great ways upon the ocean.
In fact, the ships in those days were small and frail,
hardly more sea-worthy than a simple pleasure yacht to-day;
and therefore very little had been learned of the oceans.
"There is," sailors of southern Europe would sometimes say,
"an island far out at sea,—a beautiful sunny island with
rich fruits and beautiful flowers and great purple
moun-  tains. Rich gems and gold and silver sparkle about its
shores, and in the centre on a gentle slope of ground stands
the palace of the sea-god."
But although the southern sailors talked of it and the
poets sang of it, no one had ever seen this land. Sometimes
on a clear day, standing upon the shores and looking away
out to where the sky seemed to dip down and meet the earth,
some imaginative person would think he saw the island,
and would call to his companions; but before they could
come, behold, it always disappeared.
There was living at this time a good man whom the people
called Saint Brandon. He was always trying to help others
to do what to him seemed right and good; and when he heard
of this island, he with another good priest sailed away
towards it, hoping to find
 an opportunity to help the people who might be living
He never found the island, however—the
Atlantis, as it was called, but he did find, so
he said, another island, afterwards called the
island of St. Brandon. But the wonderful
part of the story is that even this island could
never again be found. Whether St. Brandon
was fond, like the other adventurers of his day, of telling a
big story, or whether he did honestly find an island
which, by and by, sank below the level of the water, as
sea-islands sometimes do sink, no one could ever tell.
Once in the history of Spain there was a terrible war
between the Moors and the Spaniards. Seven Spanish
bishops, pursued by these Moors, took to their ships and
sailed out upon the sea. "Better by far drown than be
overtaken by our cruel foe," said they; and
 they sailed out into the great sea, beyond all sight of
land, into the very sunset, so they said.
These bishops came at last upon an island,—a beautiful
sunny island, rich in fruit and flowers and the most
Here they built seven cities, each bishop placing himself
at the head of his own city and governing such natives as
lived in his part of the island.
By and by, when the cities were prosperous, the seven
bishops returned to Spain and told of their wonderful
discovery. Strange to say, however, no one was ever able
again to find this island; and no one has ever found it
Of one other island we must speak—and that is the island
of Bimini. This island was not only rich and beautiful, but
there was upon it a fountain of sparkling water whose
 waters could restore youth and strength to the weakest and
oldest of men.
Such an island as that was certainly well worth searching
for; and, in 1512, long after Columbus had sailed to the
new world, an old man, Ponce de Leon, sailed away in
search of this wonderful "Fountain of Youth."
Remember this was the childhood of the modern world, a time
when wise old men and women would listen to stories that
to-day only a baby could be made to believe. It does not
seem possible that they believed these tales; yet they
must really have thought them true, for the books they made
in those days tell us so. And who knows, after all, that the
things we believe to-day may not, hundreds of years later,
seem just as strange to the people who will be living then.
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