Letters of a Traveller
William Cullen Bryant
Part 4 out of 6
belt of firm sand which forms the border of the lake. Light-green waves
came to the shore in long lines, with a crest of foam, like a miniature
surf, rolling in from that inland ocean, and as they dashed against the
legs of the horses, and the wheels of our carriage, the air that played
over them was exceedingly refreshing.
When we set out the following day in the stage-coach for Peru, I was
surprised to see how the settlement of Chicago had extended westward into
the open country. "Three years ago," said a traveller in the coach, "it
was thought that this prairie could neither be inhabited nor cultivated.
It is so level and so little elevated, that for weeks its surface would
remain covered with water; but we have found that as it is intersected
with roads, the water either runs off in the ditches of the highways, or
is absorbed into the sand which lies below this surface of dark vegetable
mould, and it is now, as you perceive, beginning to be covered with
If you ever go by the stage-coach from Chicago to Peru, on the Illinois
river, do not believe the glozing tongue of the agent who tells you that
you will make the journey in sixteen hours. Double the number, and you
will be nearer the truth. A violent rain fell in the course of the
morning; the coach was heavily loaded, nine passengers within, and three
without, besides the driver; the day was hot, and the horses dragged us
slowly through the black mud, which seemed to possess the consistency and
tenacity of sticking-plaster. We had a dinner of grouse, which here in
certain seasons, are sold for three cents apiece, at a little tavern on
the road; we had passed the long green mound which bears the name of Mount
Joliet, and now, a little before sunset, having travelled somewhat less
than fifty miles, we were about to cross the channel of the Illinois canal
for the second or third time.
There had once been a bridge at the crossing-place, but the water had
risen in the canal, and the timbers and planks had floated away, leaving
only the stones which formed its foundation. In attempting to ford the
channel the blundering driver came too near the bridge; the coach-wheels
on one side rose upon the stones, and on the other sank deep into the mud,
and we were overturned in an instant. The outside passengers were pitched
head-fore-most into the canal, and four of those within were lying under
water. We extricated ourselves as well as we could, the men waded out, the
women were carried, and when we got on shore it was found that, although
drenched with water and plastered with mud, nobody was either drowned or
A farm wagon passing at the moment, forded the canal without the least
difficulty, and taking the female passengers, conveyed them to the next
farm-house, about a mile distant. We got out the baggage, which was
completely soaked with water, set up the carriage on its wheels, in doing
which we had to stand waist high in the mud and water, and reached the
hospitable farm-house about half-past nine o'clock. Its owner was an
emigrant from Kinderhook, on the Hudson, who claimed to be a Dutchman and
a Christian, and I have no reason to doubt that he was either. His kind
family made us free of their house, and we passed the night in drying
ourselves, and getting our baggage ready to proceed the next day.
We travelled in a vehicle built after the fashion of the English
post-coach, set high upon springs, which is the most absurd kind of
carriage for the roads of this country that could be devised. Those
stage-wagons which ply on Long Island, in one of which you sometimes see
about a score of Quakers and Quakeresses, present a much better model.
Besides being tumbled into the canal, we narrowly escaped being overturned
in a dozen other places, where the mud was deep or the roads uneven.
In my journey the next day, I was struck with the difference which five
years had made in the aspect of the country. Frame or brick houses in many
places had taken the places of log-cabins; the road for long distances now
passed between fences, the broad prairie, inclosed, was turned into
immense fields of maize, oats, and wheat, and was spotted here and there
with young orchards, or little groves, and clumps of bright-green
locust-trees, and where the prairie remained open, it was now depastured
by large herds of cattle, its herbage shortened, and its flowers less
numerous. The wheat harvest this year is said to have failed in northern
Illinois. The rust has attacked the fields which promised the fairest, and
they are left unreaped, to feed the quails and the prairie-hens.
Another tedious day's journey, over a specially bad road, brought us to
Peru a little before midnight, and we passed the rest of the night at an
inn just below the bank, on the margin of the river, in listening to the
mosquitoes. A Massachusetts acquaintance the next morning furnished us
with a comfortable conveyance to this pleasant neighborhood.
Return to Chicago.
Chicago, _August_ 8, 1846.
You may be certain that in returning to this place from Princeton I did
not take the stage coach. I had no fancy for another plunge into the
Illinois canal, nor for being overturned upon the prairies in one of those
vehicles which seem to be set high in the air in order they may more
easily lose their balance. We procured a private conveyance and made the
journey in three days--three days of extreme heat, which compelled us to
travel slowly. The quails, which had repaired for shade to the fences by
the side of the road, ran from them into the open fields, as we passed,
with their beaks open, as if panting with the excessive heat.
The number of these birds at the present time is very great. They swarm in
the stubble fields and in the prairies, and manifest little alarm at the
approach of man. Still more numerous, it appears to me, are the grouse, or
prairie-hens, as they call them here, which we frequently saw walking
leisurely, at our approach, into the grass from the road, whither they
resorted for the sake of scattered grains of oats or wheat that had fallen
from the loaded wagons going to Chicago. At this season they are full fed
and fearless, and fly heavily when they are started. We frequently saw
them feeding at a very short distance from people at work in the fields.
In some neighborhoods they seem almost as numerous as fowls in a
poultry-yard. A settler goes out with his gun, and in a quarter of an hour
brings in half a dozen birds which in the New York market would cost two
dollars a pair. At one place where we stopped to dine, they gave us a kind
of pie which seemed to me an appropriate dessert for a dinner of
prairie-hens. It was made of the fruit of the western crab-apple, and was
not unpalatable. The wild apple of this country is a small tree growing in
thickets, natural orchards. In spring it is profusely covered with
light-pink blossoms, which have the odor of violets, and at this season it
is thickly hung with fruit of the color of its leaves.
Another wild fruit of the country is the plum, which grows in thickets,
plum-patches, as they are called, where they are produced in great
abundance, and sometimes, I am told, of excellent quality. In a drive
which I took the other day from Princeton to the alluvial lands of the
Bureau River, I passed by a declivity where the shrubs were red with the
fruit, just beginning to ripen. The slope was sprinkled by them with
crimson spots, and the odor of the fruit was quite agreeable. I have eaten
worse plums than these from our markets, but I hear that there is a later
variety, larger and of a yellow color, which is finer.
I spoke in my last of the change caused in the aspect of the country by
cultivation. Now and then, however, you meet with views which seem to have
lost nothing of their original beauty. One such we stopped to look at from
an eminence in a broad prairie in Lee county, between Knox Grove and
Pawpaw Grove. The road passes directly over the eminence, which is round
and regular in form, with a small level on the summit, and bears the name
of the Mound. On each side the view extends to a prodigious distance; the
prairies sink into basins of immense breadth and rise into swells of vast
extent; dark groves stand in the light-green waste of grass, and a dim
blue border, apparently of distant woods, encircles the horizon. To give a
pastoral air to the scene, large herds of cattle were grazing at no great
distance from us.
I mentioned in my last letter that the wheat crop of northern Illinois has
partially failed this year. But this is not the greatest calamity which
has befallen this part of the country. The season is uncommonly sickly. We
passed the first night of our journey at Pawpaw Grove--so named from the
number of pawpaw-trees which grow in it, but which here scarcely find the
summer long enough to perfect their fruit. The place has not had the
reputation of being unhealthy, but now there was scarce a family in the
neighborhood in which one or more was not ill with an intermittent or a
bilious fever. At the inn where we stopped, the landlady, a stout
Pennsylvania woman, was just so far recovered as to be able, as she
informed us, "to poke about;" and her daughter, a strapping lass, went out
to pass the night at the bedside of one of the numerous sick neighbors.
The sickness was ascribed by the settlers to the extremely dry and hot
weather following a rainy June. At almost every place where we stopped we
heard similar accounts. Pale and hollow-eyed people were lounging about.
"Is the place unhealthy," I asked one of them. "_I_ reckon so," he
answered; and his looks showed that he had sufficient reason. At Aurora,
where we passed the second night, a busy little village, with mills and
manufactories, on the Fox River, which here rushes swiftly over a stony
bed, they confessed to the fever and ague. At Naperville, pleasantly
situated among numerous groves and little prairies swelling into hills, we
heard that the season was the most sickly the inhabitants had known. Here,
at Chicago, which boasts, and with good reason, I believe, of its healthy
site, dysenteries and bilious attacks are just now very common, with
occasional cases of fever.
It is a common remark in this country, that the first cultivation of the
earth renders any neighborhood more or less unhealthy. "Nature," said a
western man to me, some years since, "resents the violence done her, and
punishes those who first break the surface of the earth with the plough."
The beautiful Rock River district, with its rapid stream, its noble
groves, its banks disposed in natural terraces, with fresh springs gushing
at their foot, and airy prairies stretching away from their summits, was
esteemed one of the most healthy countries in the world as long as it had
but few inhabitants. With the breaking up of the soil came in bilious
fever and intermittents. A few years of cultivation will render the
country more healthy, and these diseases will probably disappear, as they
have done in some parts of western New York. I can remember the time when
the "Genesee Country," as it was called, was thought quite a sickly
region--a land just in the skirts of the shadow of death. It is now as
healthy, I believe, as any part of the state.
Voyage to Sault Ste. Marie.
Sault Ste. Marie, _August_ 13, 1846.
When we left Chicago in the steamer, the other morning, all the vessels in
the port had their flags displayed at half-mast in token of
dissatisfaction with the fate of the harbor bill. You may not recollect
that the bill set apart half a million of dollars for the construction or
improvement of various harbors of the lakes, and authorized the deepening
of the passages through the St. Clair Flats, now intricate and not quite
safe, by which these bulky steamers make their way from the lower lakes to
the upper. The people of the lake region had watched the progress of the
bill through Congress with much interest and anxiety, and congratulated
each other when at length it received a majority of votes in both houses.
The President's veto has turned these congratulations into expressions of
disappointment which are heard on all sides, sometimes expressed with a
good deal of energy. But, although the news of the veto reached Chicago
two or three days before we left the place, nobody had seen the message in
which it was contained. Perhaps the force of the President's reasonings
will reconcile the minds of people here to the disappointment of their
It was a hot August morning as the steamer Wisconsin, an unwieldy bulk,
dipping and bobbing upon the small waves, and trembling at every stroke of
the engine, swept out into the lake. The southwest wind during the warmer
portion of the summer months is a sort of Sirocco in Illinois. It blows
with considerable strength, but passing over an immense extent of heated
plains it brings no coolness. It was such an air that accompanied us on
our way north from Chicago; and as the passengers huddled into the shady
places outside of the state-rooms on the upper deck, I thought of the
flocks of quails I had seen gasping in the shadow of the rail-fences on
People here expose themselves to a draught of air with much less scruple
than they do in the Atlantic states. "We do not take cold by it," they
said to me, when I saw them sitting in a current of wind, after perspiring
freely. If they do not take cold, it is odds but they take something else,
a fever perhaps, or what is called a bilious attack. The vicissitudes of
climate at Chicago and its neighborhood are more sudden and extreme than
with us, but the inhabitants say that they are not often the cause of
catarrhs, as in the Atlantic states. Whatever may be the cause, I have met
with no person since I came to the West, who appeared to have a catarrh.
From this region perhaps will hereafter proceed singers with the clearest
Some forty miles beyond Chicago we stopped for half an hour at Little
Fort, one of those flourishing little towns which are springing up on the
lake shore, to besiege future Congresses for money to build their harbors.
This settlement has started up in the woods within the last three or four
years, and its cluster of roofs, two of the broadest of which cover
respectable-looking hotels, already makes a considerable figure when
viewed from the lake. We passed to the shore over a long platform of
planks framed upon two rows of posts or piles planted in the sandy
shallows. "We make a port in this manner on any part of the western shore
of the lake," said a passenger, "and convenient ports they are, except in
very high winds. On the eastern shore, the coast of Michigan, they have
not this advantage; the ice and the northwest winds would rend such a
wharf as this in pieces. On this side too, the water of the lake, except
when an east wind blows, is smoother than on the Michigan coast, and the
steamers therefore keep under the shelter of this bank."
At Southport, still further north, in the new state of Wisconsin, we
procured a kind of omnibus and were driven over the town, which, for a new
settlement, is uncommonly pretty. We crossed a narrow inlet of the lake, a
_creek_ in the proper sense of the term, a winding channel, with water in
the midst, and a rough growth of water-flags and sedges on the sides.
Among them grew the wild rice, its bending spikes, heavy with grain,
almost ready for the harvest.
"In the northern marshes of Wisconsin," said one of our party, "I have
seen the Indian women gathering this grain. Two of them take their places
in a canoe; one of them seated in the stern pushes it with her paddle
through the shallows of standing water, while the other, sitting forward,
bends the heads of the rice-plant over the sides of the canoe, strikes
them with a little stick and causes the grain to fall within it. In this
way are collected large quantities, which serve as the winter food of the
Menomonies, and some other tribes." The grain of the wild rice, I was
told, is of a dark color, but palatable as food. The gentleman who gave me
this account had made several attempts to procure it in a fit state to be
sown, for Judge Buel, of Albany, who was desirous of trying its
cultivation on the grassy shallows of our eastern rivers. He was not
successfull at first, because, as soon as the grain is collected, it is
kiln-dried by the Indians, which destroys the vegetative principle. At
length, however, he obtained and sent on a small quantity of the fresh
rice, but it reached Judge Buel only a short time before his death, and
the experiment probably has not been made.
On one side of the creek was a sloping bank of some height, where tall old
forest trees were growing. Among these stood three houses, just built, and
the space between them and the water was formed into gardens with regular
terraces faced with turf. Another turn of our vehicle brought us into a
public square, where the oaks of the original forest were left standing,
a miniature of the _Champs Elysees_, surrounding which, among the trees,
stand many neat houses, some of them built of a drab-colored brick. Back
of the town, we had a glimpse of a prairie approaching within half a mile
of the river. We were next driven through a street of shops, and thence to
our steamer. The streets of Southport are beds of sand, and one of the
passengers who professed to speak from some experience, described the
place as haunted by myriads of fleas.
It was not till about one o'clock of the second night after leaving
Chicago, that we landed at Mackinaw, and after an infinite deal of trouble
in getting our baggage together, and keeping it together, we were driven
to the Mission House, a plain, comfortable old wooden house, built thirty
or forty years since, by a missionary society, and now turned into an
hotel. Beside the road, close to the water's edge, stood several wigwams
of the Potawottamies, pyramids of poles wrapped around with rush matting,
each containing a family asleep. The place was crowded with people on
their way to the mining region of Lake Superior, or returning from it, and
we were obliged to content ourselves with narrow accommodations for the
At half-past seven the next morning we were on our way to the Sault Ste.
Marie, in the little steamer General Scott. The wind was blowing fresh,
and a score of persons who had intended to visit the Sault were withheld
by the fear of seasickness, so that half a dozen of us had the steamer to
ourselves. In three or four hours we found ourselves gliding out of the
lake, through smooth water, between two low points of land covered with
firs and pines into the west strait. We passed Drummond's Island, and then
coasted St. Joseph's Island, on the woody shore of which I was shown a
solitary house. There I was told lives a long-nosed Englishman, a half-pay
officer, with two wives, sisters, each the mother of a numerous offspring.
This English polygamist has been more successful in seeking solitude than
in avoiding notoriety. The very loneliness of his habitation on the shore
causes it to be remarked, and there is not a passenger who makes the
voyage to the Sault, to whom his house is not pointed out, and his story
related. It was hinted to me that he had a third wife in Toronto, but I
have my private doubts of this part of the story, and suspect that it was
thrown in to increase my wonder.
Beyond the island of St. Joseph we passed several islets of rock with
fir-trees growing from the clefts. Here, in summer, I was told, the
Indians often set up their wigwams, and subsist by fishing. There were
none in sight as we passed, but we frequently saw on either shore the
skeletons of the Chippewa habitations. These consist, not like those of
the Potawottamies, of a circle of sticks placed in the form of a cone, but
of slender poles bent into circles, so as to make an almost regular
hemisphere, over which, while it serves as a dwelling, birch-bark and mats
of bulrushes are thrown.
On the western side of the passage, opposite to St. Joseph's Island,
stretches the long coast of Sugar Island, luxuriant with an extensive
forest of the sugar-maple. Here the Indians manufacture maple-sugar in the
spring. I inquired concerning their agriculture.
"They plant no corn nor squashes," said a passenger, who had resided for
some time at the Sault; "they will not ripen in this climate; but they
plant potatoes in the sugar-bush, and dig them when the spring opens. They
have no other agriculture; they plant no beans as I believe the Indians do
A violent squall of wind and rain fell upon the water just as we entered
that broad part of the passage which bears the name of Muddy Lake. In
ordinary weather the waters are here perfectly pure and translucent, but
now their agitation brought up the loose earth from the shallow bottom,
and made them as turbid as the Missouri, with the exception of a narrow
channel in the midst where the current runs deep. Rocky hills now began to
show themselves to the east of us; we passed the sheet of water known by
the name of Lake George, and came to a little river which appeared to have
its source at the foot of a precipitous ridge on the British side. It is
called Garden River, and a little beyond it, on the same side, lies Garden
Village, inhabited by the Indians. It was now deserted, the Indians having
gone to attend a great assemblage of their race, held on one of the
Manitoulin Islands, where they are to receive their annual payments from
the British government. Here were log-houses, and skeletons of wigwams,
from which the coverings had been taken. An Indian, when he travels, takes
with him his family and his furniture, the matting for his wigwam, his
implements for hunting and fishing, his dogs and cats, and finds a home
wherever he finds poles for a dwelling. A tornado had recently passed over
the Garden Village. The numerous girdled-trees which stood on its little
clearing, had been twisted off midway or near the ground by the wind, and
the roofs had, in some instances, been lifted from the cabins.
At length, after a winding voyage of sixty miles, between wild banks of
forest, in some places smoking with fires, in some looking as if never
violated either by fire or steel, with huge carcasses of trees mouldering
on the ground, and venerable trees standing over them, bearded with
streaming moss, we came in sight of the white rapids of the Sault Sainte
Marie. We passed the humble cabins of the half-breeds on either shore,
with here and there a round wigwam near the water; we glided by a white
chimney standing behind a screen of fir-trees, which, we were told, had
belonged to the dwelling of Tanner, who himself set fire to his house the
other day, before murdering Mr. Schoolcraft, and in a few minutes were at
the wharf of this remotest settlement of the northwest.
Falls of the St. Mary.
Sault Ste. Marie, _August_ 15, 1846.
A crowd had assembled on the wharf of the American village at the Sault
Sainte Marie, popularly called the _Soo_, to witness our landing; men of
all ages and complexions, in hats and caps of every form and fashion, with
beards of every length and color, among which I discovered two or three
pairs of mustaches. It was a party of copper-mine speculators, just
flitting from Copper Harbor and Eagle River, mixed with a few Indian and
half-breed inhabitants of the place. Among them I saw a face or two quite
familiar in Wall-street.
I had a conversation with an intelligent geologist, who had just returned
from an examination of the copper mines of Lake Superior. He had pitched
his tent in the fields near the village, choosing to pass the night in
this manner, as he had done for several weeks past, rather than in a
crowded inn. In regard to the mines, he told me that the external tokens,
the surface indications, as he called them, were more favorable than those
of any copper mines in the world. They are still, however, mere surface
indications; the veins had not been worked to that depth which was
necessary to determine their value with any certainty. The mixture of
silver with the copper he regarded as not giving any additional value to
the mines, inasmuch as it is only occasional and rare. Sometimes, he told
me, a mass of metal would be discovered of the size of a man's fist, or
smaller, composed of copper and silver, both metals closely united, yet
both perfectly pure and unalloyed with each other. The masses of virgin
copper found in beds of gravel are, however, the most remarkable feature
of these mines. One of them which has been discovered this summer, but
which has not been raised, is estimated to weigh twenty tons. I saw in the
propeller Independence, by which this party from the copper mines was
brought down to the Sault, one of these masses, weighing seventeen hundred
and fifty pounds, with the appearance of having once been fluid with heat.
It was so pure that it might have been cut in pieces by cold steel and
stamped at once into coin.
Two or three years ago this settlement of the Sault de Ste. Marie, was but
a military post of the United States, in the midst of a village of Indians
and half-breeds. There were, perhaps, a dozen white residents in the
place, including the family of the Baptist Missionary and the agent of the
American Fur Company, which had removed its station hither from Mackinaw,
and built its warehouse on this river. But since the world has begun to
talk of the copper mines of Lake Superior, settlers flock into the place;
carpenters are busy in knocking up houses with all haste on the
government lands, and large warehouses have been built upon piles driven
into the shallows of the St. Mary. Five years hence, the primitive
character of the place will be altogether lost, and it will have become a
bustling Yankee town, resembling the other new settlements of the West.
Here the navigation from lake to lake is interrupted by the falls or
rapids of the river St. Mary, from which the place receives its name. The
crystalline waters of Lake Superior on their way through the channel of
this river to Lake Huron, here rush, and foam, and roar, for about three
quarters of a mile, over rocks and large stones.
Close to the rapids, with birchen-canoes moored in little inlets, is a
village of the Indians, consisting of log-cabins and round wigwams, on a
shrubby level, reserved to them by the government. The morning after our
arrival, we went through this village in search of a canoe and a couple of
Indians, to make the descent of the rapids, which is one of the first
things that a visitor to the Sault must think of. In the first wigwam that
we entered were three men and two women as drunk as men and women could
well be. The squaws were speechless and motionless, too far gone, as it
seemed, to raise either hand or foot; the men though apparently unable to
rise were noisy, and one of them, who called himself a half-breed and
spoke a few words of English, seemed disposed to quarrel. Before the next
door was a woman busy in washing, who spoke a little English. "The old
man out there," she said, in answer to our questions, "can paddle canoe,
but he is very drunk, he can not do it to-day."
"Is there nobody else," we asked, "who will take us down the falls?"
"I don't know; the Indians all drunk to-day."
"Why is that? why are they all drunk to-day?"
"Oh, the whisky," answered the woman, giving us to understand, that when
an Indian could get whisky, he got drunk as a matter of course.
By this time the man had come up, and after addressing us with the
customary "_bon jour_" manifested a curiosity to know the nature of our
errand. The woman explained it to him in English.
"Oh, messieurs, je vous servirai," said he, for he spoke Canadian French;
"I go, I go."
We told him that we doubted whether he was quite sober enough.
"Oh, messieurs, je suis parfaitement capable--first rate, first rate."
We shook him off as soon as we could, but not till after he had time to
propose that we should wait till the next day, and to utter the maxim,
"Whisky, good--too much whisky, no good."
In a log-cabin, which some half-breeds were engaged in building, we found
two men who were easily persuaded to leave their work and pilot us over
the rapids. They took one of the canoes which lay in a little inlet close
at hand, and entering it, pushed it with their long poles up the stream in
the edge of the rapids. Arriving at the head of the rapids, they took in
our party, which consisted of five, and we began the descent. At each end
of the canoe sat a half-breed, with a paddle, to guide it while the
current drew us rapidly down among the agitated waters. It was surprising
with what dexterity they kept us in the smoothest part of the water,
seeming to know the way down as well as if it had been a beaten path in
At one time we would seem to be directly approaching a rock against which
the waves were dashing, at another to be descending into a hollow of the
waters in which our canoe would be inevitably filled, but a single stroke
of the paddle given by the man at the prow put us safely by the seeming
danger. So rapid was the descent, that almost as soon as we descried the
apparent peril, it was passed. In less than ten minutes, as it seemed to
me, we had left the roar of the rapids behind us, and were gliding over
the smooth water at their foot.
In the afternoon we engaged a half-breed and his brother to take us over
to the Canadian shore. His wife, a slender young woman with a lively
physiognomy, not easily to be distinguished from a French woman of her
class, accompanied us in the canoe with her little boy. The birch-bark
canoe of the savage seems to me one of the most beautiful and perfect
things of the kind constructed by human art. We were in one of the finest
that float on St. Mary's river, and when I looked at its delicate ribs,
mere shavings of white cedar, yet firm enough for the purpose--the thin
broad laths of the same wood with which these are inclosed, and the broad
sheets of birch-bark, impervious to water, which sheathed the outside, all
firmly sewed together by the tough slender roots of the fir-tree, and when
I considered its extreme lightness and the grace of its form, I could not
but wonder at the ingenuity of those who had invented so beautiful a
combination of ship-building and basket-work. "It cost me twenty dollars,"
said the half-breed, "and I would not take thirty for it."
We were ferried over the waves where they dance at the foot of the rapids.
At this place large quantities of white-fish, one of the most delicate
kinds known on our continent, are caught by the Indians, in their season,
with scoop-nets. The whites are about to interfere with this occupation of
the Indians, and I saw the other day a seine of prodigious length
constructing, with which it is intended to sweep nearly half the river at
once. "They will take a hundred barrels a day," said an inhabitant of the
On the British side, the rapids divide themselves into half a dozen noisy
brooks, which roar round little islands, and in the boiling pools of which
the speckled trout is caught with the rod and line. We landed at the
warehouses of the Hudson Bay Company, where the goods intended for the
Indian trade are deposited, and the furs brought from the northwest are
collected. They are surrounded by a massive stockade, within which lives
the agent of the Company, the walks are graveled and well-kept, and the
whole bears the marks of British solidity and precision. A quantity of
furs had been brought in the day before, but they were locked up in the
warehouse, and all was now quiet and silent. The agent was absent; a
half-breed nurse stood at the door with his child, and a Scotch servant,
apparently with nothing to do, was lounging in the court inclosed by the
stockade; in short, there was less bustle about this centre of one of the
most powerful trading-companies in the world, than about one of our
Crossing the bay, at the bottom of which these buildings stand, we landed
at a Canadian village of half-breeds. Here were one or two wigwams and a
score of log-cabins, some of which we entered. In one of them we were
received with great appearance of deference by a woman of decidedly Indian
features, but light-complexioned, barefoot, with blue embroidered leggings
falling over her ankles and sweeping the floor, the only peculiarity of
Indian costume about her. The house was as clean as scouring could make
it, and her two little children, with little French physiognomies, were
fairer than many children of the European race. These people are descended
from the French voyageurs and settlers on one side; they speak Canadian
French more or less, but generally employ the Chippewa language in their
intercourse with each other.
Near at hand was a burial ground, with graves of the Indians and
half-breeds, which we entered. Some of the graves were covered with a low
roof of cedar-bark, others with a wooden box; over others was placed a
little house like a dog-kennel, except that it had no door, others were
covered with little log-cabins. One of these was of such a size that a
small Indian family would have found it amply large for their
accommodation. It is a practice among the savages to protect the graves of
the dead from the wolves, by stakes driven into the ground and meeting at
the top like the rafters of a roof; and perhaps when the Indian or
half-breed exchanged his wigwam for a log-cabin, his respect for the dead
led him to make the same improvement in the architecture of their narrow
houses. At the head of most of these monuments stood wooden crosses, for
the population here is principally Roman Catholic, some of them inscribed
with the names of the dead, not always accurately spelled.
Not far from the church stands a building, regarded by the half-breeds as
a wonder of architecture, the stone house, _la maison de pierre_, as they
call it, a large mansion built of stone by a former agent of the Northwest
or Hudson Bay Company, who lived here in a kind of grand manorial style,
with his servants and horses and hounds, and gave hospitable dinners in
those days when it was the fashion for the host to do his best to drink
his guests under the table. The old splendor of the place has departed,
its gardens are overgrown with grass, the barn has been blown down, the
kitchen in which so many grand dinners were cooked consumed by fire, and
the mansion, with its broken and patched windows, is now occupied by a
Scotch farmer of the name of Wilson.
We climbed a ridge of hills back of the house to the church of the
Episcopal Mission, built a few years ago as a place of worship for the
Chippewas, who have since been removed by the government. It stands remote
from any habitation, with three or four Indian graves near it, and we
found it filled with hay. The view from its door is uncommonly beautiful;
the broad St. Mary lying below, with its bordering villages and woody
valley, its white rapids and its rocky islands, picturesque with the
pointed summits of the fir-tree. To the northwest the sight followed the
river to the horizon, where it issued from Lake Superior, and I was told
that in clear weather one might discover, from the spot on which I stood,
the promontory of Gros Cap, which guards the outlet of that mighty lake.
The country around was smoking in a dozen places with fires in the woods.
When I returned I asked who kindled them. "It is old Tanner," said one,
"the man who murdered Schoolcraft." There is great fear here of Tanner,
who is thought to be lurking yet in the neighborhood. I was going the
other day to look at a view of the place from an eminence, reached by a
road passing through a swamp, full of larches and firs. "Are you not
afraid of Tanner?" I was asked. Mrs. Schoolcraft, since the assassination
of her husband, has come to live in the fort, which consists of barracks
protected by a high stockade. It is rumored that Tanner has been seen
skulking about within a day or two, and yesterday a place was discovered
which is supposed to have served for his retreat. It was a hollow, thickly
surrounded by shrubs, which some person had evidently made his habitation
for a considerable time. There is a dispute whether this man is insane or
not, but there is no dispute as to his malignity. He has threatened to
take the life of Mr. Bingham, the venerable Baptist missionary at this
place, and as long as it is not certain that he has left the neighborhood
a feeling of insecurity prevails. Nevertheless, as I know no reason why
this man should take it into his head to shoot me, I go whither I list,
without the fear of Tanner before my eyes.
Indians at the Sault.
Mackinaw, _August_ 19, 1846.
We were detained two days longer than we expected at the Sault de Ste.
Marie, by the failure of the steamer General Scott to depart at the proper
time. If we could have found a steamer going up Lake Superior, we should
most certainly have quieted our impatience at this delay, by embarking on
board of her. But the only steamer in the river St. Mary, above the falls,
which is a sort of arm or harbor of Lake Superior, was the Julia Palmer,
and she was lying aground in the pebbles and sand of the shore. She had
just been dragged over the portage which passes round the falls, where a
broad path, with hillocks flattened, and trunks hewn off close to the
surface, gave tokens of the vast bulk that had been moved over it. The
moment she touched the water, she stuck fast, and the engineer was obliged
to go to Cleveland for additional machinery to move her forward. He had
just arrived with the proper apparatus, and the steamer had begun to work
its way slowly into the deep water; but some days must yet elapse before
she can float, and after that the engine must be put together.
Had the Julia Palmer been ready to proceed up the lake, I should
certainly have seized the occasion to be present at an immense assemblage
of Indians on Madeleine Island. This island lies far in the lake, near its
remoter extremity. On one of its capes, called La Pointe, is a missionary
station and an Indian village, and here the savages are gathering in vast
numbers to receive their annual payments from the United States.
"There were already two thousand of them at La Pointe when I left the
place," said an intelligent gentleman who had just returned from the lake,
"and they were starving. If an Indian family has a stock of provisions on
hand sufficient for a month, it is sure to eat it up in a week, and the
Indians at La Pointe had already consumed all they had provided, and were
living on what they could shoot in the woods, or get by fishing in the
I inquired of him the probable number of Indians the occasion would bring
"Seven thousand," he answered. "Among them are some of the wildest tribes
on the continent, whose habits have been least changed by the neighborhood
of the white man. A new tribe will come in who never before would have any
transactions with the government. They are called the Pillagers, a fierce
and warlike race, proud of their independence, and, next to the Blackfeet
and the Camanches, the most ferocious and formidable tribe within the
territory of the United States. They inhabit the country about Red River
and the head-waters of the Mississippi."
I was further told that some of the Indian traders had expressed their
determination to disregard the law, set up their tents at La Pointe, and
sell spirits to the savages. "If they do, knives will be drawn," was the
common saying at the Sault; and at the Fort, I learned that a requisition
had arrived from La Pointe for twenty men to enforce the law and prevent
disorder. "We can not send half the number," said the officer who
commanded at the Fort, "we have but twelve men in all; the rest of the
garrison have been ordered to the Mexican frontier, and it is necessary
that somebody should remain to guard the public property." The call for
troops has since been transferred to the garrison at Mackinaw, from which
they will be sent.
I learned afterward from an intelligent lady of the half-caste at the
Sault, that letters had arrived, from which it appeared that more than
four thousand Indians were already assembled at La Pointe, and that their
stock of provisions was exhausted.
"They expected," said the lady, "to be paid off on the 15th of August, but
the government has changed the time to nearly a month later. This is
unfortunate for the Indians, for now is the time of their harvest, the
season for gathering wild rice in the marshes, and they must, in
consequence, not only suffer with hunger now, but in the winter also."
In a stroll which we made through the Indian village, situated close to
the rapids, we fell in with a half-breed, a sensible-looking man, living
in a log cabin, whose boys, the offspring of a squaw of the pure Indian
race, were practicing with their bows and arrows. "You do not go to La
Pointe?" we asked. "It is too far to go for a blanket," was his answer--he
spoke tolerable English. This man seemed to have inherited from the white
side of his ancestry somewhat of the love of a constant habitation, for a
genuine Indian has no particular dislike to a distant journey. He takes
his habitation with him, and is at home wherever there is game and fish,
and poles with which to construct his lodge. In a further conversation
with the half-breed, he spoke of the Sault as a delightful abode, and
expatiated on the pleasures of the place.
"It is the greatest place in the world for fun," said he; "we dance all
winter; our women are all good dancers; our little girls can dance single
and double jigs as good as any body in the States. That little girl
there," pointing to a long-haired girl at the door, "will dance as good as
The fusion of the two races in this neighborhood is remarkable; the mixed
breed running by gradual shades into the aboriginal on the one hand, and
into the white on the other; children with a tinge of the copper hue in
the families of white men, and children scarcely less fair sometimes seen
in the wigwams. Some of the half-caste ladies at the Falls of St. Mary,
who have been educated in the Atlantic states, are persons of graceful and
dignified manners and agreeable conversation.
I attended worship at the Fort, at the Sault, on Sunday. The services were
conducted by the chaplain, who is of the Methodist persuasion and a
missionary at the place, assisted by the Baptist missionary. I looked
about me for some evidence of the success of their labors, but among the
worshipers I saw not one male of Indian descent. Of the females, half a
dozen, perhaps, were of the half-caste; and as two of these walked away
from the church, I perceived that they wore a fringed clothing for the
ankles, as if they took a certain pride in this badge of their Indian
In the afternoon we drove down the west bank of the river to attend
religious service at an Indian village, called the Little Rapids, about
two miles and a half from the Sault. Here the Methodists have built a
mission-house, maintain a missionary, and instruct a fragment of the
Chippewa tribe. We found the missionary, Mr. Speight, a Kentuckian, who
has wandered to this northern region, quite ill, and there was
consequently no service.
We walked through the village, which is prettily situated on a swift and
deep channel of the St. Mary, where the green waters rush between the
main-land and a wooded island. It stands on rich meadows of the river,
with a path running before it, parallel with the bank, along the velvet
sward, and backed at no great distance by the thick original forest,
which not far below closes upon the river on both sides. The inhabitants
at the doors and windows of their log-cabins had a demure and subdued
aspect; they were dressed in their clean Sunday clothes, and the peace and
quiet of the place formed a strong contrast to the debaucheries we had
witnessed at the village by the Falls. We fell in with an Indian, a quiet
little man, of very decent appearance, who answered our questions with
great civility. We asked to whom belonged the meadows lying back of the
cabins, on which we saw patches of rye, oats, and potatoes.
"Oh, they belong to the mission; the Indians work them."
"Are they good people, these Indians?"
"Oh yes, good people."
"Do they never drink too much whisky?"
"Well, I guess they drink too much whisky sometimes."
There was a single wigwam in the village, apparently a supplement to one
of the log-cabins. We looked in and saw two Indian looms, from which two
unfinished mats were depending. Mrs. Speight, the wife of the missionary,
told us that, a few days before, the village had been full of these
lodges; that the Indians delighted in them greatly, and always put them up
during the mosquito season; "for a mosquito," said the good lady, "will
never enter a wigwam;" and that lately, the mosquitoes having disappeared,
and the nights having grown cooler, they had taken down all but the one we
We passed a few minutes in the house of the missionary, to which Mrs.
Speight kindly invited us. She gave a rather favorable account of the
Indians under her husband's charge, but manifestly an honest one, and
without any wish to extenuate the defects of their character.
"There are many excellent persons among them," she said; "they are a kind,
simple, honest people, and some of them are eminently pious."
"Do they follow any regular industry?"
"Many of them are as regularly industrious as the whites, rising early and
continuing at their work in the fields all day. They are not so attentive
as we could wish to the education of their children. It is difficult to
make them send their children regularly to school; they think they confer
a favor in allowing us to instruct them, and if they happen to take a
little offense their children are kept at home. The great evil against
which we have to guard is the love of strong drink. When this is offered
to an Indian, it seems as if it was not in his nature to resist the
temptation. I have known whole congregations of Indians, good Indians,
ruined and brought to nothing by the opportunity of obtaining whisky as
often as they pleased."
We inquired whether the numbers of the people at the mission were
diminishing. She could not speak with much certainty as to this point,
having been only a year and a half at the mission, but she thought there
was a gradual decrease.
"The families of the Indians," she said, in answer to one of my
questions, "are small. In one family at the village are six children, and
it is the talk of all the Indians, far and near, as something
extraordinary. Generally the number is much smaller, and more than half
the children die in infancy. Their means would not allow them to rear many
children, even if the number of births was greater."
Such appears to be the destiny of the red race while in the presence of
the white--decay and gradual extinction, even under circumstances
apparently the most favorable to its preservation.
On Monday we left the Falls of St. Mary, in the steamer General Scott, on
our return to Mackinaw. There were about forty passengers on board, men in
search of copper-mines, and men in search of health, and travellers from
curiosity, Virginians, New Yorkers, wanderers from Illinois, Indiana,
Massachusetts, and I believe several other states. On reaching Mackinaw in
the evening, our party took quarters in the Mansion House, the obliging
host of which stretched his means to the utmost for our accommodation.
Mackinaw is at the present moment crowded with strangers; attracted by the
cool healthful climate and the extreme beauty of the place. We were packed
for the night almost as closely as the Potawottamies, whose lodges were on
the beach before us. Parlors and garrets were turned into sleeping-rooms;
beds were made on the floors and in the passages, and double-bedded rooms
were made to receive four beds. It is no difficult feat to sleep at
Mackinaw, even in an August night, and we soon forgot, in a refreshing
slumber, the narrowness of our quarters.
The Island of Mackinaw.
Steamer St. Louis, Lake Huron, _August_ 20, 1846.
Yesterday evening we left the beautiful island of Mackinaw, after a visit
of two days delightfully passed. We had climbed its cliffs, rambled on its
shores, threaded the walks among its thickets, driven out in the roads
that wind through its woods--roads paved by nature with limestone pebbles,
a sort of natural macadamization, and the time of our departure seemed to
arrive several days too soon.
The fort which crowns the heights near the shore commands an extensive
prospect, but a still wider one is to be seen from the old fort, Fort
Holmes, as it is called, among whose ruined intrenchments the half-breed
boys and girls now gather gooseberries. It stands on the very crest of the
island, overlooking all the rest. The air, when we ascended it, was loaded
with the smoke of burning forests, but from this spot, in clear weather, I
was told a magnificent view might be had of the Straits of Mackinaw, the
wooded islands, and the shores and capes of the great mainland, places
known to history for the past two centuries. For when you are at Mackinaw
you are at no new settlement.
In looking for samples of Indian embroidery with porcupine quills, we
found ourselves one day in the warehouse of the American Fur Company, at
Mackinaw. Here, on the shelves, were piles of blankets, white and blue,
red scarfs, and white boots; snow-shoes were hanging on the walls, and
wolf-traps, rifles, and hatchets, were slung to the ceiling--an assortment
of goods destined for the Indians and half-breeds of the northwest. The
person who attended at the counter spoke English with a foreign accent. I
asked him how long he had been in the northwestern country.
"To say the truth," he answered, "I have been here sixty years and some
"You were born here, then."
"I am a native of Mackinaw, French by the mother's side; my father was an
"Was the place as considerable sixty years ago as it now is?"
"More so. There was more trade here, and quite as many inhabitants. All
the houses, or nearly all, were then built; two or three only have been
put up since."
I could easily imagine that Mackinaw must have been a place of consequence
when here was the centre of the fur trade, now removed further up the
country. I was shown the large house in which the heads of the companies
of _voyageurs_ engaged in the trade were lodged, and the barracks, a long
low building, in which the _voyageurs_ themselves, seven hundred in
number, made their quarters from the end of June till the beginning of
October, when they went out again on their journeys. This interval of
three months was a merry time with those light-hearted Frenchmen. When a
boat made its appearance approaching Mackinaw, they fell to conjecturing
to what company of _voyageurs_ it belonged; as the dispute grew warm the
conjectures became bets, till finally, unable to restrain their
impatience, the boldest of them dashed into the waters, swam out to the
boat, and climbing on board, shook hands with their brethren, amidst the
shouts of those who stood on the beach.
They talk, on the New England coast, of Chebacco boats, built after a
peculiar pattern, and called after Chebacco, an ancient settlement of
sea-faring men, who have foolishly changed the old Indian name of their
place to Ipswich. The Mackinaw navigators have also given their name to a
boat of peculiar form, sharp at both ends, swelled at the sides, and
flat-bottomed, an excellent sea-boat, it is said, as it must be to live in
the wild storms that surprise the mariner on Lake Superior.
We took yesterday a drive to the western shore. The road twined through a
wood of over-arching beeches and maples, interspersed with the white-cedar
and fir. The driver stopped before a cliff sprouting with beeches and
cedars, with a small cavity at the foot. This he told us was the Skull
Cave. It is only remarkable on account of human bones having been found
in it. Further on a white paling gleamed through the trees; it inclosed
the solitary burial ground of the garrison, with half a dozen graves.
"There are few buried here," said a gentleman of our party; "the soldiers
who come to Mackinaw sick get well soon."
The road we travelled was cut through the woods by Captain Scott, who
commanded at the fort a few years since. He is the marksman whose aim was
so sure that the western people say of him, that a raccoon on a tree once
offered to come down and surrender without giving him the trouble to fire.
We passed a farm surrounded with beautiful groves. In one of its meadows
was fought the battle between Colonel Croghan and the British officer
Holmes in the war of 1813. Three luxuriant beeches stand in the edge of
the wood, north of the meadow; one of them is the monument of Holmes; he
lies buried at its root. Another quarter of a mile led us to a little bay
on the solitary shore of the lake looking to the northwest. It is called
the British Landing, because the British troops landed here in the late
war to take possession of the island.
We wandered about awhile, and then sat down upon the embankment of pebbles
which the waves of the lake, heaving for centuries, have heaped around the
shore of the island--pebbles so clean that they would no more soil a
lady's white muslin gown than if they had been of newly polished
alabaster. The water at our feet was as transparent as the air around us.
On the main-land opposite stood a church with its spire, and several roofs
were visible, with a background of woods behind them.
"There," said one of our party, "is the old Mission Church. It was built
by the Catholics in 1680, and has been a place of worship ever since. The
name of the spot is Point St. Ignace, and there lives an Indian of the
full caste, who was sent to Rome and educated to be a priest, but he
preferred the life of a layman, and there he lives on that wild shore,
with a library in his lodge, a learned savage, occupied with reading and
You may well suppose that I felt a strong desire to see Point St. Ignace,
its venerable Mission Church, its Indian village, so long under the care
of Catholic pastors, and its learned savage who talks Italian, but the
time of my departure was already fixed. My companions were pointing out on
that shore, the mouth of Carp River, which comes down through the forest
roaring over rocks, and in any of the pools of which you have only to
throw a line, with any sort of bait, to be sure of a trout, when the
driver of our vehicle called out, "Your boat is coming." We looked and saw
the St. Louis steamer, not one of the largest, but one of the finest boats
in the line between Buffalo and Chicago, making rapidly for the island,
with a train of black smoke hanging in the air behind her. We hastened to
return through the woods, and in an hour and a half we were in our clean
and comfortable quarters in this well-ordered little steamer.
But I should mention that before leaving Mackinaw, we did not fail to
visit the principal curiosities of the place, the Sugar Loaf Rock, a
remarkable rock in the middle of the island, of a sharp conical form,
rising above the trees by which it is surrounded, and lifting the stunted
birches on its shoulders higher than they, like a tall fellow holding up a
little boy to overlook a crowd of men--and the Arched Rock on the shore.
The atmosphere was thick with smoke, and through the opening spanned by
the arch of the rock I saw the long waves, rolled up by a fresh wind, come
one after another out of the obscurity, and break with roaring on the
The path along the brow of the precipice and among the evergreens, by
which this rock is reached, is singularly wild, but another which leads to
it along the shore is no less picturesque--passing under impending cliffs
and overshadowing cedars, and between huge blocks and pinnacles of rock.
I spoke in one of my former letters of the manifest fate of Mackinaw,
which is to be a watering-place. I can not see how it is to escape this
destiny. People already begin to repair to it for health and refreshment
from the southern borders of Lake Michigan. Its climate during the summer
months is delightful; there is no air more pure and elastic, and the winds
of the south and southwest, which are so hot on the prairies, arrive here
tempered to a grateful coolness by the waters over which they have swept.
The nights are always, in the hottest season, agreeably cool, and the
health of the place is proverbial. The world has not many islands so
beautiful as Mackinaw, as you may judge from the description I have
already given of parts of it. The surface is singularly irregular, with
summits of rock and pleasant hollows, open glades of pasturage and shady
nooks. To some, the savage visitors, who occasionally set up their lodges
on its beach, as well as on that of the surrounding islands, and paddle
their canoes in its waters, will be an additional attraction. I can not
but think with a kind of regret on the time which, I suppose is near at
hand, when its wild and lonely woods will be intersected with highways,
and filled with cottages and boarding-houses.
An Excursion to the Water Gap.
Stroudsberg, Monroe Co., Penn. _October_ 23, 1846.
I reached this place last evening, having taken Easton in my way. Did it
ever occur to you, in passing through New Jersey, how much the northern
part of the state is, in some respects, like New York, and how much the
southern part resembles Pennsylvania? For twenty miles before reaching
Easton, you see spacious dwelling-houses, often of stone, substantially
built, and barns of the size of churches, and large farms with extensive
woods of tall trees, as in Pennsylvania, where the right of soil has not
undergone so many subdivisions as with us. I was shown in Warren county,
in a region apparently of great fertility, a farm which was said to be two
miles square. It belonged to a farmer of German origin, whose comfortable
mansion stood by the way, and who came into the state many years ago, a
"I have heard him say," said a passenger, "that when his father brought
him out with his young wife into Warren county, and set him down upon what
then appeared a barren little farm, now a part of his large and productive
estate, his heart failed him. However he went to work industriously,
practicing the strictest economy, and by applying lime copiously to the
soil made it highly fertile. It is lime which makes this region the
richest land in New Jersey; the farmers find limestone close at hand, burn
it in their kilns, and scatter it on the surface. The person of whom I
speak took off large crops from his little farm, and as soon as he had any
money beforehand, he added a few acres more, so that it gradually grew to
its present size. Rich as he is, he is a worthy man; his sons, who are
numerous, are all fine fellows, not a scape-grace among them, and he has
settled them all on farms around him."
Easton, which we entered soon after dark, is a pretty little town of seven
thousand inhabitants, much more substantially built than towns of the same
size in this country. Many of the houses are of stone, and to the sides of
some of them you see the ivy clinging and hiding the masonry with a veil
of evergreen foliage. The middle of the streets is unpaved and very dusty,
but the broad flagging on the sides, under the windows of the houses, is
sedulously swept. The situation of the place is uncommonly picturesque. If
ever the little borough of Easton shall grow into a great town, it will
stand on one of the most commanding sites in the world, unless its
inhabitants shall have spoiled it by improvements. The Delaware, which
forms the eastern bound of the borough, approaches it from the north
through high wooded banks, and flows away to join the Susquehanna between
craggy precipices. On the south side, the Lehigh comes down through a
deep, verdant hollow, and on the north the Bushkill winds through a glen
shaded with trees, on the rocky banks of which is one of the finest drives
in the world. In the midst of the borough rises a crag as lofty as that on
which Stirling Castle is built--in Europe, it would most certainly have
been crowned with its castle; steep and grassy on one side, and
precipitous and rocky on the other, where it overhangs the Bushkill. The
college stands on a lofty eminence, overlooking the dwellings and streets,
but it is an ugly building, and has not a tree to conceal even in part its
ugliness. Besides these, are various other eminences in the immediate
vicinity of this compact little town, which add greatly to its beauty.
We set out the next morning for the Delaware Water Gap, following the road
along the Delaware, which is here uncommonly beautiful. The steep bank is
mostly covered with trees sprouting from the rocky shelves, and below is a
fringe of trees between the road and the river. A little way from the
town, the driver pointed out, in the midst of the stream, a long island of
loose stones and pebbles, without a leaf or stem of herbage.
"It was there," said he, "that Gaetter, six years ago, was hanged for the
murder of his wife."
The high and steep bank of the river, the rocks and the trees, he
proceeded to tell us, were covered on that day with eager spectators from
all the surrounding country, every one of whom, looking immediately down
on the island, could enjoy a perfect view of the process by which the poor
wretch in the hands of the hangman was turned off.
About five miles from Easton we stopped to water our horses at an inn, a
large handsome stone house, with a chatty landlord, who spoke with a
strong German accent, complaining pathetically of the potato disease,
which had got into the fields of the neighborhood, but glorying in the
abundant crops of maize and wheat which had been gathered. Two miles
further on, we turned away from the river and ascended to the table-land
above, which we found green with extensive fields of wheat, just springing
under the autumnal sun. In one of the little villages nestling in the
hollows of that region, we stopped for a few moments, and fell into
conversation with a tolerably intelligent man, though speaking English
with some peculiarities that indicated the race to which he belonged. A
sample of his dialect may amuse you. We asked him what the people in that
part of the country thought of the new tariff.
"Oh," said he, "there are different obinions, some likes it and some not."
"How do the democrats take it?"
"The democratic in brinciple likes it."
"Did it have any effect on the election?"
"It brevented a goot many democrats from voting for their candidate for
Congress, Mr. Brodhead, because he is for the old tariff. This is a very
strong democratic district, and Mr. Brodhead's majority is only about a
A little beyond this village we came in sight of the Water Gap, where the
Blue Ridge has been cloven down to its base to form a passage for the
Delaware. Two lofty summits, black with precipices of rock, form the gates
through which the river issues into the open country. Here it runs noisily
over the shallows, as if boasting aloud of the victory it had achieved in
breaking its way through such mighty barriers; but within the Gap it
sleeps in quiet pools, or flows in deep glassy currents. By the side of
these you see large rafts composed of enormous trunks of trees that have
floated down with the spring floods from the New York forests, and here
wait for their turn in the saw-mills along the shore. It was a bright
morning, with a keen autumnal air, and we dismounted from our vehicle and
walked through the Gap.
It will give your readers an idea of the Water Gap, to say that it
consists of a succession of lofty peaks, like the Highlands of the Hudson,
with a winding and irregular space between them a few rods wide, to give
passage to the river. They are unlike the Highlands, however, in one
respect, that their sides are covered with large loose blocks detached
from the main precipices. Among these grows the original forest, which
descends to their foot, fringes the river, and embowers the road.
The present autumn is, I must say, in regard to the coloring of the
forests, one of the shabbiest and least brilliant I remember to have seen
in this country, almost as sallow and dingy in its hues as an autumn in
Europe. But here in the Water Gap it was not without some of its
accustomed brightness of tints--the sugar-maple with its golden leaves,
and the water-maple with its foliage of scarlet, contrasted with the
intense green of the hemlock-fir, the pine, the rosebay-laurel, and the
mountain-laurel, which here grow in the same thicket, while the ground
below was carpeted with humbler evergreens, the aromatic wintergreen, and
the trailing arbutus. The Water Gap is about a mile in length, and near
its northern entrance an excellent hotel, the resort of summer visitors,
stands on a cliff which rises more than a hundred feet almost
perpendicularly from the river. From this place the eye follows the Water
Gap to where mountains shut in one behind another, like the teeth of a
saw, and between them the Delaware twines out of sight.
Before the hotel a fine little boy of about two years of age was at play.
The landlord showed us on the calf of the child's leg two small lurid
spots, about a quarter of an inch apart. "That," said he, "is the bite of
a copper-head snake."
We asked when this happened.
"It was last summer," answered he; "the child was playing on the side of
the road, when he was heard to cry, and seen to make for the house. As
soon as he came, my wife called my attention to what she called a scratch
on his leg. I examined it, the spot was already purple and hard, and the
child was crying violently. I knew it to be the bite of a copper-head, and
immediately cut it open with a sharp knife, making the blood to flow
freely and washing the part with water. At the same time we got a yerb"
(such was his pronunciation) "on the hills, which some call lion-heart,
and others snake-head. We steeped this yerb in milk which we made him
drink. The doctor had been sent for, and when he came applied hartshorn;
but I believe that opening the wound and letting the blood flow was the
most effectual remedy. The leg was terribly swollen, and for ten days we
thought the little fellow in great danger, but after that he became better
and finally recovered."
"How do you know that it was a copper-head that bit him?"
"We sent to the place where he was at play, found the snake, and killed
it. A violent rain had fallen just before, and it had probably washed him
down from the mountain-side."
"The boy appears very healthy now."
"Much better than before; he was formerly delicate, and troubled with an
eruption, but that has disappeared, and he has become hardy and fond of
the open air."
We dined at the hotel and left the Water Gap. As we passed out of its jaws
we met a man in a little wagon, carrying behind him the carcass of a deer
he had just killed. They are hunted, at this time of the year, and killed
in considerable numbers in the extensive forests to the north of this
place. A drive of four miles over hill and valley brought us to
Stroudsburg, on the banks of the Pocano--a place of which I shall speak in
my next letter.
An Excursion to the Water Gap.
Easton, Penn., _October_ 24, 1846.
My yesterday's letter left me at Stroudsburg, about four miles west of the
Delaware. It is a pleasant village, situated on the banks of the Pocano.
From this stream the inhabitants have diverted a considerable portion of
the water, bringing the current through this village in a canal, making it
to dive under the road and rise again on the opposite side, after which it
hastens to turn a cluster of mills. To the north is seen the summit of the
Pocano mountain, where this stream has its springs, with woods stretching
down its sides and covering the adjacent country. Here, about nine miles
to the north of the village, deer haunt and are hunted. I heard of one man
who had already killed nine of these animals within two or three weeks. A
traveller from Wyoming county, whom I met at our inn, gave me some account
of the winter life of the deer.
"They inhabit," he said, "the swamps of mountain-laurel thickets, through
which a man would find it almost impossible to make his way. The
laurel-bushes, and the hemlocks scattered among them, intercept the snow
as it falls, and form a thick roof, under the shelter of which, near some
pool or rivulet, the animals remain until spring opens, as snugly
protected from the severity of the weather as sheep under the sheds of a
farm-yard. Here they feed upon the leaves of the laurel and other
evergreens. It is contrary to the law to kill them after the Christmas
holidays, but sometimes their retreat is invaded, and a deer or two
killed; their flesh, however, is not wholesome, on account of the laurel
leaves on which they feed, and their skin is nearly worthless."
I expressed my surprise that the leaves of the mountain laurel, the
_kalmia latifolia_, which are so deadly to sheep, should be the winter
food of the deer.
"It is because the deer has no gall," answered the man, "that the pison
don't take effect. But their meat will not do to eat, except in a small
quantity, and cooked with pork, which I think helps take the pison out of
"The deer," he went on to say, "are now passing out of the blue into the
gray. After the holidays, when their hair becomes long, and their winter
coat is quite grown, their hide is soft and tender, and tears easily when
dressed, and it would be folly to kill them, even if there were no law
against it." He went on to find a parallel to the case of the deer-skins
in the hides of neat-cattle, which, when brought from a hot country, like
South America, are firmer and tougher than when obtained in a colder
climate like ours.
The Wyoming traveller gave a bad account of the health, just at present,
of the beautiful valley in which he lived. "We have never before," said
he, "known what it was to have the fever and ague among us, but now it is
very common, as well as other fevers. The season has neither been
uncommonly wet nor uncommonly dry, but it has been uncommonly hot." I
heard the same account of various other districts in Pennsylvania. Mifflin
county, for example, was sickly this season, as well as other parts of the
state which, hitherto have been almost uniformly healthy. Here, however,
in Stroudsburg and its neighborhood, they boasted that the fever and ague
had never yet made its appearance.
I was glad to hear a good account of the pecuniary circumstances of the
Pennsylvania farmers. They got in debt like every body else during the
prosperous years of 1835 and 1836, and have been ever since working
themselves gradually out of it. "I have never," said an intelligent
gentleman of Stroudsburg, "known the owners of the farms so free from
debt, and so generally easy and prosperous in their condition, as at this
moment." It is to be hoped that having been so successful in paying their
private debts, they will now try what can be done with the debt of the
We left Stroudsburg this morning--one of the finest mornings of this
autumnal season--and soon climbed an eminence which looked down upon
Cherry Hollow. This place reminded me, with the exception of its forests,
of the valleys in the Peak of Derbyshire, the same rounded summits, the
same green, basin-like hollows. But here, on the hill-sides, were tall
groves of oak and chestnut, instead of the brown heath; and the large
stone houses of the German householders were very unlike the Derbyshire
cottages. The valley is four miles in length, and its eastern extremity is
washed by the Delaware. Climbing out of this valley and passing for some
miles through yellow woods and fields of springing corn, not Indian corn,
we found ourselves at length travelling on the side of another long
valley, which terminates at its southern extremity in the Wind Gap.
The Wind Gap is an opening in the same mountain ridge which is cloven by
the Water Gap, but, unlike that, it extends only about half-way down to
the base. Through this opening, bordered on each side by large loose
blocks of stone, the road passes. After you have reached the open country
beyond, you look back and see the ridge stretching away eastward towards
the Water Gap, and in the other direction towards the southwest till it
sinks out of sight, a rocky wall of uniform height, with this opening in
the midst, which looks as if part of the mountain had here fallen into an
abyss below. Beyond the Wind Gap we came to the village of Windham, lying
in the shelter of this mountain barrier, and here, about twelve o'clock,
our driver stopped a moment at an inn to give water to his horses. The
bar-room was full of fresh-colored young men in military uniforms, talking
Pennsylvania German rather rapidly and vociferously. They surrounded a
thick-set man, in a cap and shirt-sleeves, whom they called Tscho, or
Joe, and insisted that he should give them a tune on his fiddle.
"Spiel, Tscho, spiel, spiel," was shouted on every side, and at last Tscho
took the floor with a fiddle and began to play. About a dozen of the young
men stood up on the floor, in couples, facing each other, and hammered out
the tune with their feet, giving a tread or tap on the floor to correspond
with every note of the instrument, and occasionally crossing from side to
side. I have never seen dancing more diligently performed.
When the player had drawn the final squeak from his violin, we got into
our vehicle, and in somewhat more than an hour were entering the little
village of Nazareth, pleasantly situated among fields the autumnal verdure
of which indicated their fertility. Nazareth is a Moravian village, of
four or five hundred inhabitants, looking prodigiously like a little town
of the old world, except that it is more neatly kept. The houses are
square and solid, of stone or brick, built immediately on the street; a
pavement of broad flags runs under their windows, and between the flags
and the carriage-way is a row of trees. In the centre of the village is a
square with an arcade for a market, and a little aside from the main
street, in a hollow covered with bright green grass, is another square, in
the midst of which stands a large white church. Near it is an avenue, with
two immense lime-trees growing at the gate, leading to the field in which
they bury their dead. Looking upon this square is a large building, three
or four stories high, where a school for boys is kept, to which pupils are
sent from various parts of the country, and which enjoys a very good
reputation. We entered the garden of this school, an inclosure thickly
overshadowed with tall forest and exotic trees of various kinds, with
shrubs below, and winding walks and summer-houses and benches. The boys of
the school were amusing themselves under the trees, and the arched walks
were ringing with their shrill voices.
We visited also the burying place, which is situated on a little eminence,
backed with a wood, and commands a view of the village. The Moravian grave
is simple in its decorations; a small flat stone, of a square shape, lying
in the midst, between the head and foot, is inscribed with the name of the
dead, the time and place of his birth, and the time when, to use their own
language, he "departed," and this is the sole epitaph. But innovations
have been recently made on this simplicity; a rhyming couplet or quatrain
is now sometimes added, or a word in praise of the dead One recent grave
was loaded with a thick tablet of white marble, which covered it entirely,
and bore an inscription as voluminous as those in the burial places of
other denominations. The graves, as in all Moravian burying grounds, are
arranged in regular rows, with paths at right angles between them, and
sometimes a rose-tree is planted at the head of the sleeper.
As we were leaving Nazareth, the innkeeper came to us, and asked if we
would allow a man who was travelling to Easton to take a seat in our
carriage with the driver. We consented, and a respectable-looking,
well-clad, middle-aged person, made his appearance. When we had proceeded
a little way, we asked him some questions, to which he made no other reply
than to shake his head, and we soon found that he understood no English. I
tried him with German, which brought a ready reply in the same language.
He was a native of Pennsylvania, he told me, born at Snow Hill, in Lehigh
county, not very many miles from Nazareth. In turn, he asked me where I
came from, and when I bid him guess, he assigned my birthplace to Germany,
which showed at least that he was not very accurately instructed in the
diversities with which his mother tongue is spoken.
As we entered Easton, the yellow woods on the hills and peaks that
surround the place, were lit up with a glowing autumnal sunset. Soon
afterward we crossed the Lehigh, and took a walk along its bank in South
Easton, where a little town has recently grown up; the sidewalks along its
dusty streets were freshly swept for Saturday night. As it began to grow
dark, we found ourselves strolling in front of a row of iron mills, with
the canal on one side and the Lehigh on the other. One of these was a
rolling mill, into which we could look from the bank where we stood, and
observe the whole process of the manufacture, which is very striking.
The whole interior of the building is lighted at night only by the mouths
of several furnaces, which are kindled to a white heat. Out of one of
these a thick bar of iron, about six feet in length and heated to a
perfect whiteness, is drawn, and one end of it presented to the cylinders
of the mill, which seize it and draw it through between them, rolled out
to three or four times its original size. A sooty workman grasps the
opposite end of the bar with pincers as soon as it is fairly through, and
returns it again to the cylinders, which deliver it again on the opposite
side. In this way it passes backward and forward till it is rolled into an
enormous length, and shoots across the black floor with a twining motion
like a serpent of fire. At last, when pressed to the proper thinness and
length, it is coiled up into a circle by the help of a machine contrived
for the purpose, which rolls it up as a shopkeeper rolls up a ribbon.
We found a man near where we stood, begrimed by the soot of the furnaces,
handling the clumsy masses of iron which bear the name of bloom. The
rolling mill, he said, belonged to Rodenbough, Stewart & Co., who had very
extensive contracts for furnishing iron to the nailmakers and wire
"Will they stop the mill for the new tariff?" said I.
"They will stop for nothing," replied the man. "The new tariff is a good
tariff, if people would but think so. It costs the iron-masters fifteen
dollars a ton to make their iron, and they sell it for forty dollars a
ton. If the new tariff obliges them to sell it for considerable less they
will still make money."
So revolves the cycle of opinion. Twenty years ago a Pennsylvanian who
questioned the policy of the protective system would have been looked upon
as a sort of curiosity. Now the bloomers and stable-boys begin to talk
free trade. What will they talk twenty years hence?
Portland, _July_ 31, 1847.
I left Boston for this place, a few days since, by one of the railways. I
never come to Boston or go out of it without being agreeably struck with
the civility and respectable appearance of the hackney-coachmen, the
porters, and others for whose services the traveller has occasion. You
feel, generally, in your intercourse with these persons that you are
dealing with men who have a character to maintain.
There is a sober substantial look about the dwellings of Boston, which
pleases me more than the gayer aspect of our own city. In New York we are
careful to keep the outside of our houses fresh with paint, a practice
which does not exist here, and which I suppose we inherited from the
Hollanders, who learned it I know not where--could it have been from the
Chinese? The country houses of Holland, along the canals, are bright with
paint, often of several different colors, and are as gay as pagodas. In
their moist climate, where mould and moss so speedily gather, the
practice may be founded in better reasons than it is with us.
"Boston," said a friend to whom I spoke of the appearance of comfort and
thrift in that city, "is a much more crowded place than you imagine, and
where people are crowded there can not be comfort. In many of the
neighborhoods, back of those houses which present so respectable an
aspect, are buildings rising close to each other, inhabited by the poorer
class, whose families are huddled together without sufficient space and
air, and here it is that Boston poverty hides itself. You are more
fortunate on your island, that your population can extend itself
horizontally, instead of heaping itself up, as we have begun to do here."
The first place which we could call pleasant after leaving Boston was
Andover, where Stuart and Woods, now venerable with years, instruct the
young orthodox ministers and missionaries of New England. It is prettily
situated among green declivities. A little beyond, at North Andover, we
came in sight of the roofs and spires of the new city of Lawrence, which
already begin to show proudly on the sandy and sterile banks of the
Merrimac, a rapid and shallow river. A year ago last February, the
building of the city was begun; it has now five or six thousand
inhabitants, and new colonists are daily thronging in. Brick kilns are
smoking all over the country to supply materials for the walls of the
dwellings. The place, I was told, astonishes visitors with its bustle and
confusion. The streets are encumbered with heaps of fresh earth, and
piles of stone, brick, beams, and boards, and people can with difficulty
hear each other speak, for the constant thundering of hammers, and the
shouts of cartmen and wagoners urging their oxen and horses with their
loads through the deep sand of the ways. "Before the last shower," said a
passenger, "you could hardly see the city from this spot, on account of
the cloud of dust that hung perpetually over it."
"Rome," says the old adage, "was not built in a day," but here is a city
which, in respect of its growth, puts Rome to shame. The Romulus of this
new city, who like the Latian of old, gives his name to the community of
which he is the founder, is Mr. Abbot Lawrence, of Boston, a rich
manufacturer, money-making and munificent, and more fortunate in building
cities and endowing schools, than in foretelling political events. He is
the modern Amphion, to the sound of whose music, the pleasant chink of
dollars gathered in many a goodly dividend, all the stones which form the
foundation of this Thebes dance into their places,
"And half the mountain rolls into a wall."
Beyond Lawrence, in the state of New Hampshire, the train stopped a moment
at Exeter, which those who delight in such comparisons might call the Eton
of New England. It is celebrated for its academy, where Bancroft, Everett,
and I know not how many more of the New England scholars and men of
letters, received the first rudiments of their education. It lies in a
gentle depression of the surface of the country, not deep enough to be
called a valley, on the banks of a little stream, and has a pleasant
retired aspect. At Durham, some ten miles further on, we found a long
train of freight-cars crowded with the children of a Sunday-school, just
ready to set out on a pic-nic party, the boys shouting, and the girls, of
whom the number was prodigious, showing us their smiling faces. A few
middle-aged men, and a still greater number of matrons, were dispersed
among them to keep them in order. At Dover, where are several cotton
mills, we saw a similar train, with a still larger crowd, and when we
crossed the boundary of New Hampshire and entered South Berwick in Maine,
we passed through a solitary forest of oaks, where long tables and benches
had been erected for their reception, and the birds were twittering in the
branches over them.
At length the sight of numerous groups gathering blue-berries, in an
extensive tract of shrubby pasture, indicated that we were approaching a
town, and in a few minutes we had arrived at Portland. The conductor, whom
we found intelligent and communicative, recommended that we should take
quarters, during our stay, at a place called the Veranda, or Oak Grove, on
the water, about two miles from the town, and we followed his advice. We
drove through Portland, which is nobly situated on an eminence overlooking
Casco Bay, its maze of channels, and almost innumerable islands, with
their green slopes, cultivated fields, and rocky shores. We passed one
arm of the sea after another on bridges, and at length found ourselves on
a fine bold promontory, between Presumpscot river and the waters of Casco
Bay. Here a house of entertainment has just been opened--the beginning of
a new watering-place, which I am sure will become a favorite one in the
hot months of our summers. The surrounding country is so intersected with
straits, that, let the wind come from what quarter it may, it breathes
cool over the waters; and the tide, rising twelve feet, can not ebb and
flow without pushing forward the air and drawing it back again, and thus
causing a motion of the atmosphere in the stillest weather.
We passed twenty-four hours in this pleasant retreat, among the oaks of
its grove, and along its rocky shores, enjoying the agreeable coolness of
the fresh and bracing atmosphere. To tell the truth we have found it quite
cool enough ever since we reached Boston, five days ago; sometimes, in
fact, a little too cool for the thin garments we are accustomed to wear at
this season. Returning to Portland, we took passage in the steamer
Huntress, for Augusta, up the Kennebeck. I thought to give you, in this
letter, an amount of this part of my journey, but I find I must reserve it
for my next.
Keene, New Hampshire, _August 11, 1847_.
We left Portland early in the afternoon, on board the steamer Huntress,
and swept out of the harbor, among the numerous green islands which here
break the swell of the Atlantic, and keep the water almost as smooth as
that of the Hudson. "It is said," remarked a passenger, "that there are as
many of these islands as there are days in the year, but I do not know
that any body has ever counted them." Two of the loftiest, rock-bound,
with verdant summits, and standing out beyond the rest, overlooking the
main ocean, bore light-houses, and near these we entered the mouth of the
Kennebeck, which here comes into the sea between banks of massive rock.
At the mouth of the river were forests of stakes, for the support of the
nets in which salmon, shad, and alewives are taken. The shad fishery, they
told me, was not yet over, though the month of August was already come. We
passed some small villages where we saw the keels of large unfinished
vessels lying high upon the stocks; at Bath, one of the most considerable
of these places, but a small village still, were five or six, on which
the ship-builders were busy. These, I was told, when once launched would
never be seen again in the place where they were built, but would convey
merchandise between the great ports of the world.
"The activity of ship-building in the state of Maine," said a gentleman
whom I afterward met, "is at this moment far greater than you can form any
idea of, without travelling along our coast. In solitary places where a
stream or creek large enough to float a ship is found, our builders lay
the keels of their vessels. It is not necessary that the channel should be
wide enough for the ship to turn round; it is enough if it will contain
her lengthwise. They choose a bend in the river from which they can launch
her with her head down stream, and, aided by the tide, float her out to
sea, after which she proceeds to Boston or New York, or some other of our
large seaports to do her part in carrying on the commerce of the world."
I learned that the ship-builders of Maine purchase large tracts of forest
in Virginia and other states of the south, for their supply of timber.
They obtain their oaks from the Virginia shore, their hard pine from North
Carolina; the coverings of the deck and the smaller timbers of the large
vessels are furnished by Maine. They take to the south cargoes of lime and
other products of Maine, and bring back the huge trunks produced in that
region. The larger trees on the banks of the navigable rivers of Maine
were long ago wrought into the keels of vessels.
It was not far from Bath, and a considerable distance from the open sea,
that we saw a large seal on a rock in the river. He turned his head slowly
from side to side as we passed, without allowing himself to be disturbed
by the noise we made, and kept his place as long as the eye could
distinguish him. The presence of an animal always associated in the
imagination with uninhabited coasts of the ocean, made us feel that we
were advancing into a thinly or at least a newly peopled country.
Above Bath, the channel of the Kennebeck widens into what is called
Merrymeeting Bay. Here the great Androscoggin brings in its waters from
the southwest, and various other small streams from different quarters
enter the bay, making it a kind of Congress of Rivers. It is full of
wooded islands and rocky promontories projecting into the water and
overshading it with their trees. As we passed up we saw, from time to
time, farms pleasantly situated on the islands or the borders of the
river, where a soil more genial or more easily tilled had tempted the
settler to fix himself. At length we approached Gardiner, a flourishing
village, beautifully situated among the hills on the right bank of the
Kennebeck. All traces of sterility had already disappeared from the
country; the shores of the river were no longer rock-bound, but disposed
in green terraces, with woody eminences behind them. Leaving Gardiner
behind us, we went on to Hallowell, a village bearing similar marks of
prosperity, where we landed, and were taken in carriages to Augusta, the
seat of government, three or four miles beyond.
Augusta is a pretty village, seated on green and apparently fertile
eminences that overlook the Kennebeck, and itself overlooked by still
higher summits, covered with woods, The houses are neat, and shaded with
trees, as is the case with all New England villages in the agricultural
districts. I found the Legislature in session; the Senate, a small quiet
body, deliberating for aught I could see, with as much grave and tranquil
dignity as the Senate of the United States. The House of Representatives
was just at the moment occupied by some railway question, which I was told
excited more feeling than any subject that had been debated in the whole
session, but even this occasioned no unseemly agitation; the surface was
gently rippled, nothing more.
While at Augusta, we crossed the river and visited the Insane Asylum, a
state institution, lying on the pleasant declivities of the opposite
shore. It is a handsome stone building. One of the medical attendants
accompanied us over a part of the building, and showed us some of the
wards in which there were then scarcely any patients, and which appeared
to be in excellent order, with the best arrangements for the comfort of
the inmates, and a scrupulous attention to cleanliness. When we expressed
a desire to see the patients, and to learn something of the manner in
which they were treated, he replied, "We do not make a show of our
patients; we only show the building." Our visit was, of course, soon
dispatched. We learned afterward that this was either insolence or
laziness on the part of the officer in question, whose business it
properly was to satisfy any reasonable curiosity expressed by visitors.
It had been our intention to cross the country from Augusta directly to
the White Hills in New Hampshire, and we took seats in the stage-coach
with that view. Back of Augusta the country swells into hills of
considerable height with deep hollows between, in which lie a multitude of
lakes. We passed several of these, beautifully embosomed among woods,
meadows, and pastures, and were told that if we continued on the course we
had taken we should scarcely ever find ourselves without some sheet of
water in sight till we arrived at Fryeburg on the boundary between Maine
and New Hampshire. One of them, in the township of Winthrop, struck us as
particularly beautiful. Its shores are clean and bold, with little
promontories running far into the water, and several small islands.
At Winthrop we found that the coach in which we set out would proceed to
Portland, and that if we intended to go on to Fryeburg, we must take seats
in a shabby wagon, without the least protection for our baggage. It was
already beginning to rain, and this circumstance decided us; we remained
in the coach and proceeded on our return to Portland. I have scarcely ever
travelled in a country which presented a finer appearance of agricultural
thrift and prosperity than the portions of the counties of Kennebeck and
Cumberland, through which our road carried us. The dwellings are large,
neatly painted, surrounded with fruit-trees and shrubs, and the farms in
excellent order, and apparently productive. We descended at length into
the low country, crossed the Androscoggin to the county of York, where, as
we proceeded, the country became more sandy and sterile, and the houses
had a neglected aspect. At length, after a journey of fifty or sixty miles
in the rain, we were again set down in the pleasant town of Portland.
The White Mountains.
Springfield, Mass., _August_ 13, 1847.
I had not space in my last letter, which was written from Keene, in New
Hampshire, to speak of a visit I had just made to the White Mountains. Do
not think I am going to bore you with a set description of my journey and
ascent of Mount Washington; a few notes of the excursion may possibly
From Conway, where the stage-coach sets you down for the night, in sight
of the summits of the mountains, the road to the Old Notch is a very
picturesque one. You follow the path of the Saco along a wide valley,
sometimes in the woods that overhang its bank, and sometimes on the edge
of rich grassy meadows, till at length, as you leave behind you one summit
after another, you find yourself in a little plain, apparently inclosed on
every side by mountains.
Further on you enter the deep gorge which leads gradually upward to the
Notch. In the midst of it is situated the Willey House, near which the
Willey family were overtaken by an avalanche and perished as they were
making their escape. It is now enlarged into a house of accommodation for
visitors to the mountains. Nothing can exceed the aspect of desolation
presented by the lofty mountain-ridges which rise on each side. They are
streaked with the paths of landslides, occurring at different periods,
which have left the rocky ribs of the mountains bare from their bald tops
to the forests at their feet, and have filled the sides of the valley with
heaps of earth, gravel, stones, and trunks of trees.
From the Willey house you ascend, for about two miles, a declivity, by no
means steep, with these dark ridges frowning over you, your path here and
there crossed by streams which have made for themselves passages in the
granite sides of the mountains like narrow staircases, down which they
come tumbling from one vast block to another. I afterward made
acquaintance with two of these, and followed them upward from one clear
pool and one white cascade to another till I was tired. The road at length
passes through what may be compared to a natural gateway, a narrow chasm
between tall cliffs, and through which the Saco, now a mere brook, finds
its way. You find yourself in a green opening, looking like the bottom of
a drained lake with mountain summits around you. Here is one of the houses
of accommodation from which you ascend Mount Washington.
If you should ever think of ascending Mount Washington, do not allow any
of the hotel-keepers to cheat you in regard to the distance. It is about
ten miles from either the hotels to the summit, and very little less from
any of them. They keep a set of worn-out horses, which they hire for the
season, and which are trained to climb the mountain, in a walk, by the
worst bridle-paths in the world. The poor hacks are generally tolerably
sure-footed, but there are exceptions to this. Guides are sent with the
visitors, who generally go on foot, strong-legged men, carrying long
staves, and watching the ladies lest any accident should occur; some of
these, especially those from the house in the Notch, commonly called Tom
Crawford's, are unmannerly fellows enough.
The scenery of these mountains has not been sufficiently praised. But for
the glaciers, but for the peaks white with perpetual snow, it would be
scarcely worth while to see Switzerland after seeing the White Mountains.
The depth of the valleys, the steepness of the mountain-sides, the variety
of aspect shown by their summits, the deep gulfs of forest below, seamed
with the open courses of rivers, the vast extent of the mountain region
seen north and south of us, gleaming with many lakes, took me with
surprise and astonishment. Imagine the forests to be shorn from half the
broad declivities--imagine scattered habitations on the thick green turf
and footpaths leading from one to the other, and herds and flocks
browzing, and you have Switzerland before you. I admit, however, that
these accessories add to the variety and interest of the landscape, and
perhaps heighten the idea of its vastness.
I have been told, however, that the White Mountains in autumn present an
aspect more glorious than even the splendors of the perpetual ice of the
Alps. All this mighty multitude of mountains, rising from valleys filled
with dense forests, have then put on their hues of gold and scarlet, and,
seen more distinctly on account of their brightness of color, seem to
tower higher in the clear blue of the sky. At that season of the year they
are little visited, and only awaken the wonder of the occasional
It is not necessary to ascend Mount Washington, to enjoy the finest views.
Some of the lower peaks offer grander though not so extensive ones; the
height of the main summit seems to diminish the size of the objects beheld
from it. The sense of solitude and immensity is however most strongly felt
on that great cone, overlooking all the rest, and formed of loose rocks,
which seem as if broken into fragments by the power which upheaved these
ridges from the depths of the earth below. At some distance on the
northern side of one of the summits, I saw a large snow-drift lying in the
The Franconia Notch, which we afterwards visited, is almost as remarkable
for the two beautiful little lakes within it, as for the savage grandeur
of the mountain-walls between which it passes. At this place I was shown a
hen clucking over a brood of young puppies. They were littered near the
nest where she was sitting, when she immediately abandoned her eggs and
adopted them as her offspring. She had a battle with the mother, and
proved victorious; after which, however, a compromise took place, the slut
nursing the puppies and the hen covering them as well as she could with
her wings. She was strutting among them when I saw her, with an appearance
of pride at having produced so gigantic a brood.
From Franconia we proceeded to Bath, on or near the Connecticut, and
entered the lovely valley of that river, which is as beautiful in New
Hampshire, as in any part of its course. Hanover, the seat of Dartmouth
College, is a pleasant spot, but the traveller will find there the worst
hotels on the river. Windsor, on the Vermont side, is a still finer
village, with trim gardens and streets shaded by old trees; Bellows Falls
is one of the most striking places for its scenery in all New England. The
coach brought us to the railway station in the pleasant village of
Greenfield. We took seats in the train, and leaving on our left the quiet
old streets of Deerfield under their ancient trees, and passing a dozen or
more of the villages on the meadows of the Connecticut, found ourselves in
less than two hours in this flourishing place, which is rapidly rising to
be one of the most important towns in New England.
A Passage to Savannah.
Augusta, Georgia, _March 29, 1849_.
A quiet passage by sea from New York to Savannah would seem to afford
little matter for a letter, yet those who take the trouble to read what I
am about to write, will, I hope, admit that there are some things to be
observed, even on such a voyage. It was indeed a remarkably quiet one, and
worthy of note on that account, if on no other. We had a quiet vessel,
quiet weather, a quiet, good-natured captain, a quiet crew, and remarkably
When we left the wharf at New York last week, in the good steamship
Tennessee, we were not conscious, at first, as we sat in the cabin, that
she was in motion and proceeding down the harbor. There was no beating or
churning of the sea, no struggling to get forward; her paddles played in
the water as smoothly as those of a terrapin, without jar or noise. The
Tennessee is one of the tightest and strongest boats that navigate our
coast; the very flooring of her deck is composed of timbers instead of
planks, and helps to keep her massive frame more compactly and solidly
together. It was her first voyage; her fifty-one passengers lolled on
sofas fresh from the upholsterer's, and slept on mattresses which had
never been pressed by the human form before, in state-rooms where foul air
had never collected. Nor is it possible that the air should become impure
in them to any great degree, for the Tennessee is the best-ventilated ship
I ever was in; the main cabin and the state-rooms are connected with each
other and with the deck, by numerous openings and pipes which keep up a
constant circulation of air in every part.
I have spoken of the passengers as remarkably quiet persons. Several of
them, I believe, never spoke during the passage, at least so it seemed to
me. The silence would have been almost irksome, but for two lively little
girls who amused us by their prattle, and two young women, apparently just
married, too happy to do any thing but laugh, even when suffering from
seasickness, and whom we now and then heard shouting and squealing from
their state-rooms. There were two dark-haired, long-limbed gentlemen, who
lay the greater part of the first and second day at full length on the
sofas in the after-cabin, each with a spittoon before him, chewing tobacco
with great rapidity and industry, and apparently absorbed in the endeavor
to fill it within a given time. There was another, with that atrabilious
complexion peculiar to marshy countries, and circles of a still deeper hue
about his eyes, who sat on deck, speechless and motionless, wholly
indifferent to the sound of the dinner-bell, his countenance fixed in an
expression which seemed to indicate an utter disgust of life.
Yet we had some snatches of good talk on the voyage. A robust old
gentleman, a native of Norwalk, in Connecticut, told us that he had been
reading a history of that place by the Rev. Mr. Hall.
"I find," said he, "that in his account of the remarkable people of
Norwalk, he has omitted to speak of two of the most remarkable, two
spinsters, Sarah and Phebe Comstock, relatives of mine and friends of my
youth, of whom I retain a vivid recollection. They were in opulent
circumstances for the neighborhood in which they lived, possessing a farm
of about two hundred acres; they were industrious, frugal, and extremely
charitable; but they never relieved a poor family without visiting it, and
inquiring carefully into its circumstances. Sarah was the housekeeper, and
Phebe the farmer. Phebe knew nothing of kitchen matters, but she knew at
what time of the year greensward should be broken up, and corn planted,
and potatoes dug. She dropped Indian corn and sowed English grain with her
own hands. In the time of planting or of harvest, it was Sarah who visited
and relieved the poor.
"I remember that they had various ways of employing the young people who
called upon them. If it was late in the autumn, there was a chopping-board
and chopping-knife ready, with the feet of neat-cattle, from which the
oily parts had been extracted by boiling. 'You do not want to be idle,'
they would say, 'chop this meat, and you shall have your share of the
mince-pies that we are going to make.' At other times a supply of old
woollen stockings were ready for unraveling. 'We know you do not care to
be idle' they would say, 'here are some stockings which you would oblige
us by unraveling.' If you asked what use they made of the spools of
woollen thread obtained by this process, they would answer: 'We use it as
the weft of the linsey-woolsey with which we clothe our negroes.' They had
negro slaves in those times, and old Tone, a faithful black servant of
theirs, who has seen more than a hundred years, is alive yet.
"They practiced one very peculiar piece of economy. The white hickory you
know, yields the purest and sweetest of saccharine juices. They had their
hickory fuel cut into short billets, which before placing on the fire they
laid on the andirons, a little in front of the blaze, so as to subject it
to a pretty strong heat. This caused the syrup in the wood to drop from
each end of the billet, where it was caught in a cup, and in this way a
gallon or two was collected in the course of a fortnight. With this they
flavored their finest cakes.
"They died about thirty years since, one at the age of eighty-nine, and
the other at the age of ninety. On the tomb-stone of one of them, it was
recorded that she had been a member of the church for seventy years. Their
father was a remarkable man in his way. He was a rich man in his time, and
kept a park of deer, one of the last known in Connecticut, for the purpose
of supplying his table with venison. He prided himself on the strict and
literal fulfillment of his word. On one occasion he had a law-suit with
one of his neighbors, before a justice of the peace, in which he was cast
and ordered to pay ten shillings damages, and a shilling as the fees of
court. He paid the ten shillings, and asked the justice whether he would
allow him to pay the remaining shilling when he next passed his door. The
magistrate readily consented, but from that time old Comstock never went
by his house. Whenever he had occasion to go to church, or to any other
place, the direct road to which led by the justice's door, he was careful
to take a lane which passed behind the dwelling, and at some distance from
it. The shilling remained unpaid up to the day of his death, and it was
found that in his last will he had directed that his corpse should be
carried by that lane to the place of interment."
When we left the quarantine ground on Thursday morning, after lying moored
all night with a heavy rain beating on the deck, the sky was beginning to
clear with a strong northwest wind and the decks were slippery with ice.
When the sun rose it threw a cold white light upon the waters, and the
passengers who appeared on deck were muffled to the eyes. As we proceeded
southwardly, the temperature grew milder, and the day closed with a calm
and pleasant sunset. The next day the weather was still milder, until
about noon, when we arrived off Cape Hatteras a strong wind set in from
the northeast, clouds gathered with a showery aspect, and every thing
seemed to betoken an impending storm. At this moment the captain shifted
the direction of the voyage, from south to southwest; we ran before the
wind leaving the storm, if there was any, behind us, and the day closed
with another quiet and brilliant sunset.
The next day, the third of our voyage, broke upon us like a day in summer,
with amber-colored sunshine and the blandest breezes that ever blew. An
awning was stretched over the deck to protect us from the beams of the
sun, and all the passengers gathered under it; the two dark-complexioned
gentlemen left the task of filling the spittoons below, and came up to
chew their tobacco on deck; the atrabilious passenger was seen to interest
himself in the direction of the compass, and once was thought to smile,
and the hale old gentleman repeated the history of his Norwalk relatives.
On the fourth morning we landed at Savannah. It was delightful to eyes
which had seen only russet fields and leafless trees for months, to gaze
on the new and delicate green of the trees and the herbage. The weeping
willows drooped in full leaf, the later oaks were putting forth their new
foliage, the locust-trees had hung out their tender sprays and their
clusters of blossoms not yet unfolded, the Chinese wistaria covered the
sides of houses with its festoons of blue blossoms, and roses were nodding
at us in the wind, from the tops of the brick walls which surround the
Yet winter had been here, I saw. The orange-trees which, since the great
frost seven or eight years ago, had sprung from the ground and grown to
the height of fifteen or twenty feet, had a few days before my arrival
felt another severe frost, and stood covered with sere dry leaves in the
gardens, some of them yet covered with fruit. The trees were not killed,
however, as formerly, though they will produce no fruit this season, and
new leaf-buds were beginning to sprout on their boughs. The dwarf-orange,
a hardier tree, had escaped entirely, and its blossoms were beginning to
I visited Bonaventure, which I formerly described in one of my letters. It
has lost the interest of utter solitude and desertion which it then had. A
Gothic cottage has been built on the place, and the avenues of live-oaks
have been surrounded with an inclosure, for the purpose of making a
cemetery on the spot. Yet there they stand, as solemn as ever, lifting and
stretching their long irregular branches overhead, hung with masses and
festoons of gray moss. It almost seemed, when I looked up to them, as if
the clouds had come nearer to the earth than is their wont, and formed
themselves into the shadowy ribs of the vault above me. The drive to
Bonaventure at this season of the year is very beautiful, though the roads
are sandy; it is partly along an avenue of tall trees, and partly through
the woods, where the dog-wood and azalea and thorn-trees are in blossom,
and the ground is sprinkled with flowers. Here and there are dwellings
beside the road. "They are unsafe the greater part of the year," said the
gentleman who drove me out, and who spoke from professional knowledge, "a
summer residence in them is sure to bring dangerous fevers." Savannah is a
healthy city, but it is like Rome, imprisoned by malaria.
The city of Savannah, since I saw it six years ago, has enlarged
considerably, and the additions made to it increase its beauty. The
streets have been extended on the south side, on the same plan as those of
the rest of the city, with small parks at short distances from each other,
planted with trees; and the new houses are handsome and well-built. The
communications opened with the interior by long lines of railway have, no
doubt, been the principal occasion of this prosperity. These and the
Savannah river send enormous quantities of cotton to the Savannah market.
One should see, with the bodily eye, the multitude of bales of this
commodity accumulating in the warehouses and elsewhere, in order to form
an idea of the extent to which it is produced in the southern states--long
trains of cars heaped with bales, steamer after steamer loaded high with
bales coming down the rivers, acres of bales on the wharves, acres of
bales at the railway stations--one should see all this, and then carry his
thoughts to the millions of the civilized world who are clothed by this
great staple of our country.
I came to this place by steamer to Charleston and then by railway. The
line of the railway, one hundred and thirty-seven miles in length, passes
through the most unproductive district of South Carolina. It is in fact
nothing but a waste of forest, with here and there an open field, half a
dozen glimpses of plantations, and about as many villages, none of which
are considerable, and some of which consist of not more than half a dozen
houses. Aiken, however, sixteen miles before you reach the Savannah river,
has a pleasant aspect. It is situated on a comparatively high tract of
country, sandy and barren, but healthy, and hither the planters resort in
the hot months from their homes in the less salubrious districts. Pretty
cottages stand dispersed among the oaks and pines, and immediately west of
the place the country descends in pleasant undulations towards the valley
of the Savannah.
The appearance of Augusta struck me very agreeably as I reached it, on a
most delightful afternoon, which seemed to me more like June than March. I
was delighted to see turf again, regular greensward of sweet grasses and
clover, such as you see in May in the northern states, and do not meet on
the coast in the southern states. The city lies on a broad rich plain on
the Savannah river, with woody declivities to the north and west. I have
seen several things here since my arrival which interested me much, and if
I can command time I will speak of them in another letter.
Southern Cotton Mills.
Barnwell District, South Carolina, _March_ 31, 1849.
I promised to say something more of Augusta if I had time before departing
from Cuba, and I find that I have a few moments to spare for a hasty
The people of Augusta boast of the beauty of their place, and not without
some reason. The streets are broad, and in some parts overshadowed with
rows of fine trees. The banks of the river on which it stands are high and
firm, and slopes half covered with forest, of a pleasant aspect, overlook
it from the west and from the Carolina side. To the south stretches a
broad champaign country, on which are some of the finest plantations of
Georgia. I visited one of these, consisting of ten thousand acres, kept
throughout in as perfect order as a small farm at the north, though large
enough for a German principality.
But what interested me most, was a visit to a cotton mill in the
neighborhood,--a sample of a class of manufacturing establishments, where
the poor white people of this state and of South Carolina find occupation.
It is a large manufactory, and the machinery is in as perfect order as in
any of the mills at the north. "Here," said a gentleman who accompanied
us, as we entered the long apartment in the second story, "you will see a
sample of the brunettes of the piny woods."
The girls of various ages, who are employed at the spindles, had, for the
most part, a sallow, sickly complexion, and in many of their faces, I
remarked that look of mingled distrust and dejection which often
accompanies the condition of extreme, hopeless poverty. "These poor
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