SEVERAL of these letters have already appeared in the New-York American; — the favourable reception they have met with has induced the writer to complete the series and publish them in the present form. In preparing them for publication, he has thought proper to illustrate some of the facts contained in them, by observations derived from other sources or made subsequent to their date. These additions the author has preferred to place in an appendix, rather than imbody them with the original matter, as he feared that whatever attraction his sketches of scenery and manners might possess would evaporate upon throwing them into a different form, and their chief merit as first and faithful impressions would be lost. The eloquent writings of Mr. Flint, the graphic sketches of Judge Hall, and the valuable scientific researches of Mr. Schoolcraft, Professor Keating, and the lamented Say, have already made the regions described in these pages well known to the public; but there is an ever-salient freshness in the theme of "The Far West," which prevents its becoming trite or tiresome; and as the author believes himself to be the first tourist who has taken a winter view of scenes upon the Indian frontier, he trusts that this circumstance will impart some degree of novelty to his descriptions in that quarter, while the romantic beauty of the region described nearer home will bear its own recommendation with it.
Easton, Pennsylvania, Oct. 17.
MY DEAR —,
My journey has not as yet furnished an incident worthy of being entered into the diary of the most unambitious tourist. Still I take the first opportunity of fulfilling the promise given, when starting on the wide excursion I meditate, of writing to my friends from the different stages of the route, and describing its features with sufficient minuteness for those who take an interest in my letters to accompany their writer in his wanderings. With which of my friends, with whom breathing, my dearest —, can I better commence my little narrative than with one who will only regard its details with the eye of affection — unmindful alike of their want of intrinsic interest, and the unattractive form in which they may be conveyed, so they be but a faithful record of my wayfaring.
Our route hither from New-Brunswick (or Rougemont, as some one proposes calling it from the colour of the soil) was as uninviting as a rainy, disagreeable day, bad roads, and a country neither fertile nor picturesque could make it. Occasionally, indeed, glimpses of the Raritan gave animation to the scene, as, sparkling restlessly between its cold brown banks, it rushes like an ill-matched bride from their dreary embrace to sully its pure waters in the marsh through which it passes to the sea. These glimpses, however, are but transient, and for the remainder of the drive but few natural objects presented themselves to induce one to dispute that quaint Indian tradition which avers, that when the Manitou had finished making the rest of this mighty continent, he slapped from his fingers the mud and gravel which form this part of New Jersey.
We reached a straggling village, called Jacksonville, about nightfall, at a low-roofed unpretending looking stone inn, where we had a capital supper — of which buckwheat-cakes, not quite so large as a New-York grass-plat, formed no mean ingredient — and slept in sheets of snow. To this auspicious characteristic their properties in other respects bore a resemblance, as I afterward discovered, which might readily be dispensed with. I awoke
3at dawn, with rheumatic pains in every part of my bones, and found, what had escaped me the night before, that every particle of the covering of my bed was as wet as if it had been transferred at once from the hands of the laundress to my bed, without undergoing the dilatory process of drying. I was glad to get at once into the saddle, and mounting one of the led horses, it took a warm trot of a dozen miles to relax my aching muscles, and make me anticipate my breakfast with any thing like satisfaction.
The morning, though cloudy, broke beautifully. The country, as we approached the borders of Pennsylvania, increased in interest. Richly wooded hills, with here and there a fertile slope evincing a high state of cultivation, shone out beneath the fitful sky. The streams from the uplands were more frequent, and their currents flowed with heightened animation. The farm-houses, too, became more substantial in appearance; and their gray-stone fronts, standing sometimes in a clump of sycamores aloof from the road, betokened the quiet comfort of their inhabitants. The roads indeed were worse than indifferent — but that, though a sudden rain soon set in, did not prevent our enjoying the clouded but still beautiful landscape.
We crossed the bridge over the Delaware to
4Easton at about two o'clock, and driving to the famous inn of Mr. White, the Cruttenden of these parts, were soon safely housed in his hospitable establishment. Having breakfasted at eleven, we ordered dinner at five, and strolled out to see the lions of the place. The roar of a waterfall was the first thing which attracted my notice, and following the sound I soon found myself near the great dam over the Lehigh, where, at its junction with the Delaware, back water is created for the sake of supplying the Lehigh Canal. The pond thus formed, which, with its abrupt banks, and frowning limestone cliffs wooded to the top, might almost pass for a small natural lake, is filled with small craft, — the lubberly-looking ark, and sharp clean-built Durham boat, lying moored by the shore, with numerous light skiffs drawn up near them. I easily procured one of the latter, and shooting under the chainbridge which spans the Lehigh, the wind and current carried me in a moment past stone wharves heaped with anthracite coal to the brink of the dam. The sudden slope of the water here had an awkward look about it which reminded me vividly of a peep I once took from a row-boat into "the Pot" at Hell-gate, when its screwing eddies carried the eye with a strange fascination deep into the boiling caldron. Bending heartily to my
5oars, I was glad to leave the glassy brim that sloped so smoothly to destruction.
The operations of a keel-boat working up against the rapid current of the Delaware next caught my attention. She had four men to manage her — the roughest, hardiest looking set of fellows I ever saw, broad-shouldered and brawny, with complexions like copper, and having no covering to their heads but coarse curly hair, matted so thick that it looked as if the stroke of a sabre might almost be turned by it. The strength and agility of these fellows is very striking, as they stride along the gunwale with their long poles, and twist themselves into all sorts of positions while urging their unwilling craft against the foaming current. After they had gained and passed the lock, and floated into the basin where my boat was lying, I could not help rowing near theirs to examine their iron frames more narrowly. I was just making up my mind that such a collection of bold, reckless, impudent faces as were borne by these worthies, I had never before seen, when my surmises in physiognomy were fully confirmed by a volley of billingsgate which one of them let fly at me. It being perfectly in character I was of course much amused at it, and by gently lying on my oars and looking at him, incensed my amiable acquaintance to a
6degree that was irresistibly ludicrous. I waited till he was exhausted; and when he wound up by "damning my spectacles," I reflected with Dr. Franklin, that it was not the first time they had saved my eyes; and mentally consigning the fellow to the tender mercies of Hall and Trollope, pulled for the berth of my little shallop, and soon after regained my quarters.
I think you would be much pleased with Easton. The situation of the village itself is eminently happy — almost picturesque — and the country around it delightful. Imagine a lap of land, not quite a mile square, embosomed among green hills, bounded by two fine rivers and a pretty mill-stream. — The straight rectangular streets now terminating with a bold bluff, descending so immediately to their very pavements that its rocky sides, skirted with copsewood, seem to overhang the place, and again either washed by one of the streams that determine the site of the town, or facing some narrow ravine which leads the eye off through a wild vista to the open country; and the remarkably nourishing and well-built appearance of the village itself, with its two bridges, and the extensive works of the Morris and the Lehigh Canals adjacent, — and you have almost as favourable a combination of
7rural objects and city improvements as could well be effected on one spot.
The chief buildings are the County Court-house, situated in a fine square in the centre of the place, and the Lafayette College, which, from a commanding position over the Bushkill, faces one of the principal streets. The latter is a Manual labour institution (a term I need hardly explain to you), recently incorporated, and likely to flourish under the energetic superintendence of the Rev. Mr. Junkin, its able principal. Easton, as you are probably aware, is celebrated for the rich mineralogical specimens found in its vicinity. The salubrity of the place, as I am informed by an eminent physician, is remarkable; and one can readily believe in its exemption from most of the fevers of the country, from the fact of there being no woodcock ground within five miles of the Court-house. The site was chosen and the town-plat laid out by Penn, a town-monger who, if he did cut his plans with a scissors from paper, as a recent foreign traveller has hinted was the case with regard to Philadelphia, had certainly a happy knack in adapting the model to the locality. The descendants of the great colonizer are still said to own property in Easton, while the peaceful members of his brotherhood, in our day, bless his
8memory when turning up the jasper arrow-head within the precincts of the village; and thank Heaven for the teacher whose gentle counsels withdrew for ever from this lovely valley the red archers that shot them.
Eagerly as I am now treading on the steps of that fated race to their fleeting home in the far west, with what emotions of pleasure shall I not count every returning mile that will bring me near you.
Rodrocksville, Pa., Oct. 19.
The last red hues of sunset were just dying over the western extremity of the road we had long been following, when a herd of cattle, under the guidance of a woolly-headed urchin, collecting indolently around an extensive farm-yard, reminded us alike that it was time to seek shelter, and that one was at hand. A few paces farther brought us to the door of a large stone building, displaying, with the usual insignia of an inn, an unwonted neatness in all its out-door arrangements: unharnessing our four-footed fellow-travellers, we proceeded, in spite of the threatening outcry of a huge bandog chained at its entrance, to bestow them comfortably in a stable near at hand. A Canadian pony, with a couple of goats, the companionable occupants, seemed hardly to notice the intrusion; and leaving an active mulatto ostler to reconcile any difficulties which might arise between our pampered steeds and a sorry-looking jade which just then entered to claim a share of
10the comforts at hand, we soon ensconced ourselves before a crackling wood-fire in the comfortable apartment where I am now writing.
Every mile of our route to-day has given some new occasion to admire the scale upon which farming is conducted in Pennsylvania. The fences, indeed, are not remarkable for the order in which they are kept; but while the enclosures themselves are tilled with a nicety which preserves the utmost verge of a field from shooting up into weeds or brushwood, the barns into which their harvests are gathered are so spaciously and solidly built, that they want only architectural design to rival in appearance the most ambitious private mansions. Stone is almost the only material used here in building; and the massive profusion in which not only the barns, but the smallest outhouses upon the premises of these sturdy husbandmen, are piled upon their fertile acres, is such as would astonish and delight the agriculturist accustomed only to the few and frail structures with which the farmers of most other sections of our country content themselves. The establishment of our host is admirably supplied with these lordly appurtenances in which a true tiller of the soil may so justly show his pride. The huge cathedral-looking edifice which towers above his farm-yard would make as proud a temple
11as could be well reared to Ceres, even by Triptolemus himself.
The most picturesque country we have yet seen is that immediately around Easton. Indeed, the first view that opened upon us when gaining the brow of a wooded hill, about half a mile from the town, was so fine as to make us forget the regret with which we had a few moments before bid adieu to our prince of landlords and his blooming daughters.
The Lehigh, for about half a mile in extent, lay in the form of a crescent beneath us — a wooded ravine striking down to either horn, and undulating fields, some ruddy with buckwheat stubble, and some green from the newly-sprouting wheat, filled up the curves. A gray stone-barn stood here and there on an eminence against the bright morning sky, while sheltered below on the alluvial flats formed by the river, a white-walled cottage might be seen reposing by its cheerful current. The Lehigh Canal, winding through the valley, side by side with the river, like a younger sister bent on the same errand, added not a little, when viewed at such a distance, to the beauties of the scene.
We took our breakfast at Bethlehem, and availing myself of an hour's delay while the horses were feeding, I left my friend puzzling himself over
12a German newspaper, and strolled off to look at the village. It is a place of considerable interest, not less on account of its ancient and peculiar appearance than the Moravian institutions which have rendered it so celebrated. I was fortunate enough to meet with Mr. Seidel, the principal of the female seminary, who, upon my asking him some trivial question about that excellent establishment, offered, in the most polite manner, though I was wholly unknown to him, to show me through the building. It is a plain stone structure, of some eighty feet in length, subdivided internally into lecture-rooms and dormitories like some of our colleges; one range of small apartments being used entirely as washing- rooms by the pupils, and having all the necessary furniture for that purpose neatly arranged about each. These, like every other part of the establishment, have their peculiar superintendent, and standing thus distinctly by themselves, form an essential feature in the economy of the institution, and with the extensive play-grounds in the rear of the building, evince the attention which is paid to the health and personal habits, as well as the intellectual improvement of its inmates. I was shown into the school-rooms of the several classes, and had ample opportunity, as the ruddy bright-eyed occupants rose to receive my conductor, to
13observe the happy effect of the life they led upon their personal appearance. A fresher, fairer assemblage of youthful beauty has rarely greeted my eyes. Several of the apartments were furnished with pianos, and my curious entrance into these smiling domains startled more than one young musician from her morning's practising. I was, as you may suppose, a little, a very little, confused at being thus exposed to the full broadside gaze of a hundred "boarding-school misses." This, though, however it might forbid my examining their features in detail, did not prevent me from observing that their general expression was happy and natural — two sources of attraction not so very common in the sex, but that they will still strike one even when displayed, as was the case in this instance, in mere children.
I subsequently visited the burial-ground of the place, which I contemplated with no slight interest. The disposal of the dead is as true a test of civilization in a community as the social relations of the living. The taste which embellishes life passes with the arts attendant upon it, from one nation to another, like a merchantable commodity; but the sentiment that would veil the dreariness of the grave, and throw a charm even around the sepulchre, that would hide the forbidding features of
14that formal mound, and shelter the ashes beneath it from contumely — this is a characteristic springing from some peculiar tone of national feeling, and radically distinctive of the community that possesses it. The philosopher, it is true, may sneer at our care of this bodily machine when the principle that gave it motion has ceased to actuate it; but how stolid is he who can look upon the ruin of a noble edifice, even though made irretrievably desolate, with apathy: or who would not fence up from intrusive dilapidation halls hallowed, whether by the recollection of our own personal enjoyments or the memory of the great and good of other times. It is one and the same feeling which arrests our steps beneath a mouldering fortress, and which induces a pilgrimage to the tomb of a departed poet; which kindles our indignation against the plunderer of the Parthenon, that "titled pilferer of what Time and Turks had spared;" and which makes it ready to consume the wretches who tore the bones of Milton from his sepulchre.
The calm sequestered privacy of the Bethlehem burial-ground would have satisfied even the particularity of Sir Lucius O'Trigger, whose encouraging suggestion to his non-combative friend Acres, "that there was good lying in the Abbey," shows that he had an eye to his comfort in these matters. It
15stands aloof from the bustling part of the village, near a noble church, which still faces on one of the principal streets. The approach from the church, which has grounds of its own, in the form of an ornamented terrace around it, is through a narrow green lane. At the entrance of this, shaded by a clump of willows, stands a small stone building called, I believe, from the purposes to which it is applied, "The Dead House." Here the bodies of the dead are deposited for many hours previous to interment. The head is left uncovered, and life, if by any possibility it be yet remaining, has a chance of renewing its energies before the jaws of the tomb close for ever over its victim. I looked through the grated windows, but saw nothing except an empty bier in the centre, and several shells adapted to coffins of different sizes leaning against the wall. With the usual perversity of human nature, I half regretted that the solemn chamber was at the moment untenanted, and passed on to the place of which it is the threshold.
There my eye was met by the same neat appearances and severe taste which seem to prevail throughout the economy of the Moravians. The graves, arranged in rows, with an avenue through the centre dividing the males from the females, are in the form of an oblong square, flattened on the
16top, with a small slab reposing in the centre. On this are cut simply the name of the deceased, and the dates of his birth and death — a meager memorial — but, enough: and I could not help — after deciphering a number of these moss-covered stones, upon which the dews of more than a century had wept — turning with distaste from a few flaring marble slabs at the farther end of the yard, upon which the virtues of those beneath were emblazoned in the most approved modern forms.
I left the spot, thinking it a pity that a greater number of trees did not, by shading the grounds, complete their beauty, and felt willing that the young locusts which skirt them round should have time to fling their branches farther towards the centre, before I should have occasion to claim the hospitality of the place.
Need I say how truly, until then, I am Yours.
Harrisburgh, Pa., Oct. 22.
I write to you from the banks of the Susquehannah. A dull steady rain prevails out of doors, and after wading through the mud about the purlieus of this place for an hour, I am glad to be housed at last for the rest of the day. I see the capital of Pennsylvania under every disadvantage, but still am pleased with it. Although a city in miniature (and this contains only four or five thousand inhabitants) is generally odious to one who has resided in a metropolis — reminding him perhaps of Goose Gibbie in jack-boots, at the Review of Tillietudlem — there is much in the appearance of Harrisburgh to reconcile the most captious to its assumption of civic honours. The manner in which the place is laid out and built, the substantial improvements going forward, and the degree of wealth and enterprise manifested in those already made, and above all, its beautiful site, make it an exception to the generally uninteresting character of country towns.
The chief part of the town lies on a piece of champaign land, about 40 feet above the level of the Susquehannah; the handsomest street in the place, though occupied chiefly by petty tradesmen and mechanics, verging on the waters of that lovely stream. The other streets run at right-angles to, and parallel with, the river, which is nearly straight, except where it washes the town with a graceful bend near the suburbs of either end. Facing the Susquehannah at the upper part of the town, and only a few hundred yards from the river, is a sudden elevation rising into a level platform, about 60 feet above the surrounding plain. Upon this eminence, fronting the river through a broad street, stands the capitol and state buildings, containing the chief public offices. The centre edifice, and one standing detached on either side, are all ornamented with Grecian porticoes, and their size, their simple design, and just architectural proportions, would. make an imposing display, and impress a stranger favourably until he ascertained the paltry material of which they are built. But I defy any one, unless he may have written sonnets to Time in the ruins of Babel, to have one respectful association with a structure of brick. Putting the perishable mature of the material entirely out of the question, although a sufficient objection to its use in a public
19building, its size alone is fatal to effect in a structure of any pretension. For it is massiveness in the details as well as in combination, which delights the beholder in architectural forms: and the pyramids of Egypt themselves, if reared of boyish marbles, though they might be so ingeniously put together as to awaken curiosity, could never inspire awe. The disciple of Malthus perhaps might busy himself in calculating how many urchins it took — supposing every one in the dominions of Cheops to have contributed his mite to complete the fabric — but where would have been all those ingenious surmises with which antiquarians, since the days of old Herodotus, and who knows how many centuries before, have puzzled the brains of their readers? Where would be that reverence with which mankind in every known age have regarded these monuments of the power of their race in the early vigour of its creation? Where would be the awe with which we now regard these artificial mountains that rear their stupendous forms in proportions that mock at modern art; and, rivalling in their heaped-up rocky masses the masonry of Nature herself, speak of the labours of a race for whom the Mastodon of our own continent would have been a fitting beast of burden?
What a singular perversion of taste is that existing
20in the towns and villages through which I am passing, which induces the inhabitants to make their barns and cow-sheds of solid stone, and their ornamental buildings of brick and stucco. I sometimes see Gothic churches of the first, and Grecian fronts of the last; and these not unfrequently planted in the midst of a cluster of gray mansions, whose towering gables, huge stone-buttresses, and deep-cut narrow windows make the former show like some pert poplar thrusting his dandy figure among a clump of hoary oaks. Still one cannot but admire the air of comfort — I might almost say of opulence — which prevails throughout the country I am traversing. This, in the village of Reading, through which we passed yesterday, is particularly the case. It has a population of about 7,000 inhabitants; and the numerous coaches filled with passengers which pass daily through it, the wagons loaded with produce that throng the streets of the place, and the rich display of goods and fancy articles in the shops, give Reading a most flourishing appearance. It is prettily situated on the Schuylkill, with a range of high rocky hills in the rear; but its position wants the picturesque beauty of Harrisburgh. Here the Susquehannah is, I should think, full half a mile wide. It is studded with wooded islets, and flows between banks which, though not
21very bold in themselves, yet rise with sufficient dignity from the margin, and blend with the undulating country, until the arable slopes and sunny orchards are bounded by a distant range of mountains.
The prospect from the capitol is, I am told, uncommonly fine; but the thick mist which limited my view to a very narrow compass while walking along the banks of the river an hour ago, has hitherto prevented me from trying the view. I shall visit the spot from which it is to be had in the morning.
Yesterday I had, for the first time, the gratification of hearing a sermon pronounced in German — the common language of this part of the country. I walked some distance through a pelting shower to the church in Womelsdorf; and though the preacher was prevented by sudden indisposition from giving more than the exordium of his discourse, I was sufficiently delighted with his clear, mellow enunciation, and the noble sound and volume of the language which he spoke in all its purity, to regret most deeply an often-deferred resolution of mastering that manly tongue. One must think more strongly in such a muscular language. I have frequently had occasion to admire the expressiveness of the German in poetry, when Goethe or
22Schiller were quoted by others, but I had not till now a conception of the effect in oratory of that language which gave energy to the torrent of Luther's denunciations, and richness to the flow of Melancthon's eloquence. I listened, it is true, not understandingly, but like one who admires the compass of an instrument, though ignorant of the air that is produced from it. I conceived, however, that I could follow the preacher in his preliminary address; and, indeed, the tone of fervid feeling and unaffected solemnity in which it was made would have impressed, if it did not bear along, the most ignorant listener. The congregation, owing to the weather, was but small. The two sexes sat apart from each other, and had a separate entrance to the building. We were not aware of this at our entrance; and as a matter of good taste, my friend and I took our seat among the ladies, when an active master of ceremonies, probably the sexton, insisted upon showing us to another place, and with difficulty induced us to change our situation, after we had once or twice declined with thanks what we conceived to be an officious act of politeness on his part. The young Vrounlies appeared to regard our interchange of civilities with particular interest; and I am half persuaded that had we not struck our flag to the
23gentleman-usher just when we did, the womankind (as Jonathan Oldbuck presumes to call the suzeraines of the lords of creation) would have risen to a man (Hibernice) in our favour, and insisted upon keeping us among them.
I shall keep open this letter till to-morrow evening, and add every thing I have to say on this side of the Alleghanies — for the present, good-night.
October 23. — The rain still continued when I left Harrisburgh this morning, and the view I promised myself from the capitol was not to be had. My disappointment at not having seen more of the Susquehannah is not slight, and the feeling is enhanced by a delicious glance I caught of its waters in the sunlight, as the clouds parted for a moment, just as a turning of the road shut out the view behind us. I almost grew melancholy while recalling with a sort of home feeling the delight with which, years ago, I first beheld its sources, to remember now that it was the last stream running eastward, that I should see for a long time to come. And then those calm, gentle waters, which flow as smoothly as the verse of him who has immortalized them, once seen are never to be forgotten nor passed again without interest. The Susquehannah has its birth in one of the loveliest of lakes, and bears with it the impress of its parentage wherever
24it wanders — the bright green surface and transparent depths below, the winding current which, unbroken by cascade or rapids, whether it steals through the rich fields and beautiful glens of Otsego, or smiles on the storied vale of Wyoming, loiters alike beside its fertile banks, as if reluctant to pass them on its long journey to the ocean. For grandeur of scenery, indeed, the Hudson far surpasses it; and where is the stream that can match that lordly river! But there is a gentle beauty about the Susquehannah which touches without striking, and wins while you are unawed. The one, like a fair face lit up with glorious intellect, commands and exacts your homage; with the other, as with features softened with tenderness, you leave your heart as an offering.
We are now, you will observe, on the main road from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and as our stopping-places, instead of being in those mongrel establishments, half inn, half farm-house, will probably be at the stage-coach offices along the route, but little opportunity will offer for observing the manners of the residents. Thus far I have no reason to complain of the want of civility of the people among whom I have passed the last week; with the exception of the amusing little incident detailed in my first letter, not a circumstance has occurred to qualify
25this remark. The general appearance of the country east of the mountains, you have already gathered from the two previous letters. Latterly we have travelled so continually in the rain that I have had no opportunity of seeing it to advantage. But the only change I observe in the face of the country is that, instead of being broken up into small hills, where forest and cultivation are most happily mingled — as around Bethlehem — the vales here spread out into plains, and the high grounds receding, swell off till they show like mountains in the distance. I miss, too, those fine barns upon which I have dwelt with so much pleasure; nor do the better fencing and spruce-looking dwelling-houses compensate for the loss of the imposing appearance of such huge granaries in an agricultural country. I thought, when first observing the change, and marking the herds of cattle and droves of sheep that sometimes throng the roads, that we had got at last completely into a grazing region. But the delicious wheat-bread met with at the humblest inns, with the little stock to be seen in the fields seems to indicate that such is not the case. It seems odd in a country so thickly settled, where one meets a hamlet at every two or three miles, with scattering houses at frequent intervals between them, that wild animals should be yet abundant.
26But I was told at Bethlehem that it was not uncommon to kill bears upon the neighbouring hills; and a gentleman informed me this morning that they frequently drove deer into the Susquehannah, within a few miles of Harrisburgh. I can account for it only by the fine forests which are everywhere left standing isolated in the midst of cultivated tracts, making so many links in the chain of woodland from mountain to mountain across the country, and tempting the wild animals, while it extends their range, to venture near to the settlements.
You may be aware that, in New-York, owing to the wholesale manner in which clearings are made, the deer are swept off with the forests that sheltered them, and retreating into the mountain fastnesses of the northern counties, or the rude wilds of the southern tier, are there crowded so thickly as to be butchered for their skins. In the former region, while fishing, within a few weeks since, among the picturesque lakes which stud the surface of the country, I have seen the deer grazing like tamed cattle on the banks. It was a beautiful sight to behold a noble buck calmly raising his head as the skiff from which we trolled approached the margin; and then, after standing a moment at
27gaze, toss his antlers high in air, and with a snort of defiance bound into the forest.
Farewell. You shall hear from me again so soon as we pass the Alleghanies, the first purple ridge of which I can already see limning the sky in the distance. In the mean time, I will note down any thing of interest which catches my eye, and endeavour to give you hereafter some idea of the lofty land-mark which, before you read this, will be placed between us.
Bedford, Pa., Oct. 24th, 1833.
We have commenced ascending the Alleghanies. A cold, difficult ride among the hills has brought us at last to an excellent inn in the little town from which I write. A blazing fire of seasoned oak in a large open stove, sputters and crackles before me; and, after having warmed my fingers, and spent some twenty minutes in examining an extensive collection of Indian arms and equipments, arranged around the room with a degree of taste that would not have disgraced the study of Sir Walter Scott, I sit down quietly to give you my first impressions of this mountain region.
We entered these highlands yesterday; S., who values himself upon being a great whip, driving his ponies up the ascent, and I, as usual, on horseback. It was about an hour before sunset that we commenced ascending a mountain ridge, whose deep blue outline, visible for many a long mile before we reached the base, might be mistaken in the distance for the loftier rampart of which it is only the outpost. The elevation, which showed afar off like a
29straight line along the horizon, became broken in appearance as the eye, at a nearer view, measured its ragged eminences; but it was not till we were winding up a broad hollow, scooped out of the hillside, and through which the beams of the declining sun played upon the fields and farm-houses beyond, that the true character of the adjacent region opened upon us. The ridge we were ascending still rose like a huge wall before us, but the peaks, which had seemed to lean against the clear October sky, like loftier summits of the same elevation, now stood apart from the frowning barrier, towering up each from its own base — the bastions of the vast rampart we were scaling. Each step of our ascent seemed to bring out some new beauty, as, at the successive turns of the road, the view eastward was widened or contracted by the wooded glen up which it led. But all of these charming glimpses, though any of them would have made a fine cabinet picture, were forgotten in the varied prospect that opened upon us at the summit of the ridge. Behind, towards the east, evening seemed almost to have closed in upon the hamlet from which we had commenced our ascent, at the base of the mountain; but beyond its deepening shadow, the warm sunset smiled over a thousand orchards and cultivated
30fields, dotted with farm-houses, and relieved by patches of woodland, whose gorgeous autumnal tints made them show like the flower-beds of one broad garden. Southwardly, the sweeping upland which here heaved at once from the arable grounds beneath us, while it swelled higher, rose less suddenly from the plain. At one point the brown fields seemed to be climbing its slopes, while here and there a smooth meadow ran like the frith of a sea within its yawning glens; and now again peak after peak of this part of the range could be traced for leagues away, till the last blue summit melted into the sky, and was finally lost in the mellow distance. Such, while our horses' heads were turned to the north-west, was the rich and varied view behind us — the prospect from the Catskills is the only one I can recollect that rivals it in magnificence. But another scene, more striking, though not so imposing, was also at hand, — a ridge like that we had just crossed rose before us; but beneath our very feet, and apparently so near that it seemed as if one might drop a stone into its bosom, lay one of the loveliest little valleys that the sun ever shone into. It was not a mile in width, beautifully cultivated, and with one small village reposing in its very centre; the southern extremity
31seemed to wind among the lofty hills I have already attempted to describe, but its confines towards the north were at once determined by a cluster of highlands, whose unequal summits waved boldly forth in the purple light of evening. The sun, which had now withdrawn his beams from the scene behind us, still lingered near this lovely spot, and his last glances, before they reached the hill-side we were descending, flashed upon the windows of the village church, and, creeping unwillingly up its spire, touched with glory the gilded vane; then from the sweeping cone of a pine above us, smiling wistfully back on the landscape he was leaving, yielded it at last to coming night.
The descent of the mountain, from its multiplied windings, consumed more time than I had anticipated. The faint rays of a young moon were just beginning to compete successfully with the fading tints of day, before we had neared the village sufficiently to hear the lowing of cattle, and the shrill shout of the cow-boy, driving his charge homeward; and her maturer beams were softened by the thin haze which rose imperceptibly from a brook winding through the valley, before we reached our destination for the night. The occasional jingling of a wagoner's bells in the distance, and the merriment of a group of children playing by the
32moonlight in a grassy field near the stream, were the only sounds that broke the stillness of the scene as we drove up to the door. I thought of the happy valley of Rasselas, and wondered whether the inhabitants of this secluded spot could really ever wish to wander beyond its beautiful precincts.
The gradual, successive, and delicious blending of lights, as I have attempted to describe them, under which I first beheld the little valley of M'Connelsville, will, doubtless, account for much of my admiration of it; and indeed some of its features were changed, and not for the better, when viewed under a different aspect the next morning. A sharp north-easter, in spite of the barriers which had seemed to shelter it, drove down the valley; a cold drizzling rain, with its attendant mist, shut from view the mountain tops around; and the village dwellings, lining one long narrow street, and now no longer gilded with the hues of sunset, nor standing clearly out in the silver light of the moon, showed like the miserable hovels they were; the snug stone-house where I had passed the night seemed to be almost the only tolerable building in the village, and I was not sorry to pass its last straggling enclosure, and commence ascending the arduous height beyond.
33The summit of this attained, another valley, about double the width of that just passed, lay before us; and as the rain subsided at noon, leaving a gloomy lowering day, we could discover through the cold gray atmosphere ridge succeeding to ridge, leaning like successive layers against the western sky.
A half day's rough ride among these wild ravines brought us at last to the banks of the Juniata, along which an excellent road is cut for some distance. The stream, though in the midst of scenery of the boldest description, keeps its way so calmly between its rocky banks, that the dead leaf upon its bosom floats many a mile before a ripple curls over its crisped sides, and sinks the little shallop to the bottom. We dined near nightfall at a small hamlet, known, from a brook that runs through it, as "The Bloody Run." The stream which bears this startling name is a rill so small that its existence is barely perceptible, as it creeps through the pebbles across the road, and hastens to hide its slender current in the long grass of an orchard beyond; but its waters will be pointed out by the villager with interest, so long as they dampen the channel where they once flowed in all the pride and fulness of a mountain torrent.
It was several years before the Revolution, according to the statement given to me by one of
34those distinguished persons who in country towns always figure after a great storm or freshet, as the "oldest inhabitant of the place," that a large party of colonists, on their march towards Fort DuQuesne, were here cut off by the Indians. The ambushed foe had allowed the main body to pass the brook and surmount the heights beyond; and the rear-guard, with the cattle they had in leading for the use of the troops, were drinking from the stream, when the onslaught was made. The Indians rushed from their covert, and burst upon their victims so suddenly that fifty whites were massacred almost before resistance was attempted. Those who were standing were dropped like deer at gaze by the forest marksmen; and those who were stooping over the stream, before they even heard the charging yell of their assailants, received the blow from the tomahawk which mingled their life's blood with the current from which they were drinking.
The retribution of the whites is said to have been furious and terrible. The body of men in advance returned upon their tracks, encamped upon the spot, and after duly fortifying themselves, divided into parties, and scoured the forest for leagues. My informant, who gave me only the traditionary account of the village, could not tell how long this
35wild chase lasted; but that it must have been fearfully successful is proved, not only by the oral record of the place, but by the loose bones and Indian weapons which are at this day continually found amid piles of stone in the adjacent woods; the Indians probably returning to the valley after the storm had passed over, and heaping their customary cairn over the bodies of their dead kindred.
What a contrast was the peaceful scene I now beheld to that which the place witnessed some seventy years ago ! A train of huge Pennsylvania wagons were standing variously drawn up, upon the very spot where the conflict was deadliest; the smoking teams of some were just being unharnessed, a few jaded beasts stood lazily drinking from the shallow stream that gurgled around their fetlocks, while others, more animated at the near prospect of food and rest, jingled the bells appended to the collars in unison with their iron traces, which clanked over the stones as they stalked off to the stable. To these signs of quiet and security were added those true village appearances which struck me so pleasingly on my approach to M'Connelsville. A buxom country-girl or two could be seen moving through the enclosures, bearing the milk-pail to meet the cows which were coming in
36lowing along the highway, while the shouts and laughter of a troop of boys just let loose from school came merrily on the ear as they frolicked on a little green hard by. My companion stood in the midst of them, holding a piece of silver in his fingers, while a dozen little chaps around him were trying who could win the bright guerdon by standing on one leg the longest. The ridiculous postures of the little crew, with the not less ludicrous gravity of my friend, who was thus diverting himself, of course, put an end to my sober musings; but I could not help, while advancing to the scene of the sport, fancying for a moment the effect of the war-whoop breaking suddenly, as ere now it often has, upon a scene apparently so safe, sheltered, and happy. — Good-night.
P.S. — Somerset, Oct. 26th. — You have read in the newspapers of the recent destruction of this place by fire; it must have been large and flourishing, judging by the extensive ruins which I have just been trying to trace by the frosty light of the moon now shining over them. The appearances of desolation here are really melancholy; the inn where we put up is the only one left standing, out of five or six, and it is so crowded with the
37houseless inhabitants that I find it difficult to get a place to write in.
We are now in the bosom of the Alleghanies: the scenery passed to-day is beautiful, most beautiful. The mountains are loftier, as well as more imposing in form, than those which skirt these wild regions eastwardly; whichever way the eye directs itself, they are piled upon each other in masses, which blend at last with the clouds above them. At one point they lie in confused heaps together; at another they lap each other with outlines as distinct as if the crest of each were of chiselled stone: some, while the breeze quivers through their dense forests, rear their round backs, like the hump of a camel, boldly near; and some, swelling more gradually from the vales below, show in the blue distance like waves caught on the curl by some mighty hand, and arrested ere they broke on the misty region beyond. Then for their foliage ! the glorious hues of autumn are here displayed in all their fulness, and brilliancy, and power — volume upon volume, like the rolling masses of sunset clouds, the leafy summits fold against the sky — calm at one moment as the bow of peace, whose tints they borrow; and at another naming like the banners of a thousand battles in the breeze.
38But why should I attempt to describe what baffles all description? The humblest grove of our country is, at this season, arrayed in colours such as the Italian masters never dreamed of; and woods like these assume a pomp which awes the pencil into weakness. Such forests, such foliage were unknown when our language was invented. Let those who named the noble-sounding rivers that reflect their glories supply words to describe them.
Farewell. I shall write, to you next from Wheeling, Virginia; and if you do not think me tedious, will touch again upon the beauties of the region through which I am now passing.
Wheeling, Virginia, October 29th.
I used to think our sea-board climate as capricious as it could well be; but the changing skies under which we have travelled for the last three days convince me that nowhere is the office of weather-cock less of a sinecure than in the region through which I have just travelled. Yet I do not complain of the weather — far from it; I consider myself peculiarly fortunate in having, during a three days' ride over the Alleghanies, seen that fine mountain-district under every vicissitude of climate; and though the cold has at times been severe — the harsh rains any thing but agreeable for the time — the Indian summer heat almost sultry, and, lastly, the snow most unseasonable, I could not, if I had made my own private arrangements with the clerk of the weather, have fixed it upon the whole more to my satisfaction. The still cold frosty mornings gave a vigour and boldness of outline to the mountain-scenery, that extended its limits and heightened its effect. The rains which an hour afterward washed the changing leaves brightened their tints for the noonday sun which
40followed; and the warm mist of evening imbued the landscape with a Claude-like mellowness that suited the rich repose of evening among the hills.
As for the snow, nothing could be more beautiful than the effect of it at this season in the woods. We had two flurries on successive days, each of which, after covering the ground about an inch in depth, was succeeded by a bright glowing sky. The appearance the woods then presented it would be almost impossible to describe to you. Call up in your mind the brilliant and animated effect produced by a January sun shining through a leafless grove, over the fresh white carpet that has been wound among the trees during the preceding night. How do the dead branches smile in the frosty sunbeams; how joyously does every thing sparkle in the refracted light! Now imagine the tinted leaves of autumn blushing over those rigid limbs, and reflecting warmth upon the dazzling mantle beneath them — green, gold, and purple, scarlet, saffron, and vermilion; the dolphin hues of our dying woods glistening in the silver shower, and relieved against a surface of virgin whiteness. Let the scene lie, if you choose, among mountains clothed with forests as far as the eye can reach — their billowy forms now sweeping off in vast curves along the sky, and now broken by ravines, through
41which a dozen conflicting lights climb their shaggy sides; or, not less striking, let it be a majestic river, whose fertile islands, rich alluvial bottoms, and wooded bluffs beyond are thus dressed at once in Autumn's pomp and Winter's robe of pride, and you can hardly conceive a more beautiful combination. Such was the aspect under which I crossed the last summit of the Alleghanies yesterday, and such under which I viewed the Ohio this morning.
The fine undulating country between the mountains and this place, especially after passing the post-town of Washington, on the borders of Pennsylvania, left me nothing to regret in the way of scenery after crossing the last ridge this side of Somerset. And yet nothing can be more exhilarating than a canter over those heights on a bracing October day. The sudden breaks and turns of the mountain road open new views upon you at every moment, and the clear, pure atmosphere one breathes, with the motion of a spirited horse, would "create a soul beneath the ribs of death," and rejuvenate Methuselah himself. One must once have been a dyspeptic to estimate to the full that feeling of exulting health. For my own part, however philosophers may preach up the sublimity of intellectual pleasures, or poets dilate upon the delights of etherealizing sentiment, I confess that I hold one
42good burst of pure animal spirits far above them all. On horseback, especially, when life quickens in every vein, when there is life in the breeze that plays upon your cheek, and life in each bound of the noble creature beneath you; who that has felt his pulses gladden, and youth, glorious indomitable youth, swelling high above manhood's colder tide in his bosom — who would give the rush of spirits, the breathing poetry of that moment, for all the lays that lyrist ever sung — for all the joys philosophy e'er proved? This, I know, must appear a shocking doctrine to "the march of mind" people; but as they are presumed to go on foot, they are no authority on the subject. Apropos of pedestrians, though your true western man generally journeys on horseback, yet one meets numbers of the former on this side of the Alleghanies. They generally have a tow-cloth knapsack, or light leathern valise, hung across their backs, and are often very decently dressed in a blue coat, gray trousers, and round hat. They travel about forty miles a day.
The horsemen almost invariably wear a drab great-coat, fur cap, and green cloth leggins; and in addition to a pair of well-filled saddle-bags, very often have strapped to their crupper a convenience the last you would expect to find in
43the wardrobe of a backwoodsman, videlicet, an umbrella. The females of every rank, in this mountainous country, ride in short dresses. They are generally wholly unattended, and sometimes in large parties of their own sex. The saddles and housings of their horses are very gay; and I have repeatedly seen a party of four or five buxom damsels, mounted on sorry-looking beasts, whose rough hides, unconscious of a currycomb, contrasted oddly enough with saddles of purple velvet, reposing on scarlet saddle-cloths, worked with orange-coloured borders. I have examined the manufacture of these gorgeous trappings at the saddleries in some of the towns in passing. They much resemble those which are prepared in New York for the South American market, and are of a much cheaper make, and far less durable, than those which a plainer taste would prefer. Still the effect of these gay colours, as you catch a glimpse of them afar off, fluttering through the woods, is by no means bad. They would show well in a picture, and be readily seized by a painter in relieving the shadows of a sombre landscape.
But by far the greatest portion of travellers one meets with, not to mention the ordinary stagecoach passengers, consists of teamsters and the emigrants. The former generally drive six horses before
44their enormous wagons — stout, heavy-looking beasts, descended, it is said, from the famous draught horses of Normandy. They go about twenty miles a day. The leading horses are often ornamented with a number of bells suspended from a square raised frame-work over their collars, originally adopted to warn these lumbering machines of each other's approach, and prevent their being brought up all standing in the narrow parts of the road.
As for the emigrants, it would astonish you to witness how they get along, A covered one-horse wagon generally contains the whole worldly substance of a family consisting not unfrequently of a dozen members. The tolls are so high along this western turnpike, and horses are comparatively so cheap in the region whither the emigrant is bound, that he rarely provides more than one miserable Rosinante to transport his whole family to the far west. The strength of the poor animal is of course half the time unequal to the demand upon it, and you will, therefore, unless it be raining very hard, rarely see any one in the wagon, except perhaps some child overtaken by sickness, or a mother nursing a young infant. The head of the family walks by the horse, cheering and encouraging him on his way. The good woman, when not
45engaged as hinted above, either trudges along with her husband, or, leading some weary little traveller by the hand far behind, endeavours to keep the rest of her charge from loitering by the wayside. The old house-dog — if not chained beneath the wagon to prevent the half-starved brute from foraging too freely in a friendly country — brings up the rear. I made acquaintance with more than one of these faithful followers in passing, by throwing him a biscuit as I rode by, and my canine friend, when we met at an inn occasionally afterward, was sure to cultivate the intimacy. Sometimes these invaluable companions give out on the road, and in their broken-down condition are sold for a trifle by their masters. I saw several fine setters which I had reason to suspect came into the country in this way; and the owner of a superb brindled greyhound which I met among the mountains, told me that he had bought him from an English emigrant for a dollar. He used the animal with great success upon deer, and had already been offered fifty dollars for him.
The hardships of such a tour must form no bad preparatory school for the arduous life which the new settler has afterward to enter upon. Their horses, of course, frequently give out on the road; and in companies so numerous, sickness must frequently
46overtake some of the members. Nor should I wonder at serious accidents often occurring with those crank conveyances among the precipices and ravines of the mountains. At one place I saw a horse, but recently dead, lying beneath a steep, along the top of which the road led; and a little farther in advance, I picked up a pocket-book with some loose leaves floating near the edge of the precipice. It recalled the story of Cardenio in Don Quixote, with the dead mule and the rifled portmanteau lying a few yards apart, among the rocks of the Sierra Morena; and we almost expected to see the grotesque figure which so excited the noble emulation of the worthy knight, leaping from rock to rock in the same guise that the admirable pencil of Cervantes has assigned to him. The apparition did not show itself, however; and we left the pocket-book at the nearest inn, to be disposed of according to the claimants that might appear. These mountains, though occasionally thus cut up by precipitous glens, are still by no means rocky — as would appear from the fact of the inhabitants hunting deer on horseback, through woods which would be almost impervious to a pair of city-bred legs. The modus operand! is very simple. The hunters collect in a troop — drive the deer in a circle — and then shoot from the
47saddle. You may remember something of the same kind described in Waverley. The soil must in general be indifferent, according to what was told us by the keeper of a turnpike-gate, who claimed to be the father of twenty-seven children! I asked this worthy paterfamilias if the country was healthy. "Healthy, sir!" he replied, "that it is — healthy and poor — ten people run away where one dies in it." The soil improves much after leaving the mountains; and we crossed some rich bottom lands when fording the Youghioghany and Monongahela Rivers, — the former a branch of the latter, and both fine pebbly streams, navigable at certain seasons of the year.
About thirty miles from Wheeling we first struck the national road. It appears to have been originally constructed of large round stones, thrown without much arrangement on the surface of the soil, after the road was first levelled. These are now being ploughed up, and a thin layer of broken stones is in many places spread over the renovated surface. I hope the roadmakers have not the conscience to call this Macadamizing. It yields like snow-drift to the heavy wheels which traverse it, and the very best parts of the road that I saw are not to be compared with a Long Island turnpike. Two-thirds indeed of the extent we traversed
48were worse than any artificial road I ever travelled, except perhaps the log causeways among the new settlements in northern New-York. The ruts are worn so broad and deep by heavy travel, that an army of pigmies might march into the bosom of the country under the cover they would afford; and old Ixion himself could hardly trundle his wheel over such awful furrows. Perhaps I was the more struck with the appearance of this celebrated highway from the fact of much of the road over the mountains having been in excellent condition. — There is one feature, however, in this national work which is truly fine, — I allude to the massive stone bridges which form a part of it. They occur, as the road crosses a winding creek, a dozen times within twice as many miles. They consist either of one, two, or three arches; the centre arch being sprung a foot or two higher than those on either side. Their thick walls projecting above the road, their round stone buttresses, and carved key-stones combine to give them an air of Roman solidity and strength. They are monuments of taste and power that will speak well for the country when the brick towns they bind together shall have crumbled in the dust.
These frequently recurring bridges are striking objects in the landscape, where the road winds for
49many miles through a narrow valley. They may be seen at almost every turn spanning the deep bosom of the defile, and reflected with all their sombre beauty in the stream below.
The valley widens within a few miles of Wheeling, and the road strikes into the hill-side, whose crooked base it has long been following. It soon begins to be cut out of the solid rock, and the ascent is rapidly accelerated. Above, on the right, the trees impend from a lofty hill over your path, and far below you see the stream, so long your companion, gleaming through a small cultivated bottom, which shows like a garden to the eye. It is girdled by steep hills, and seems, with its single mill and one or two farm-houses, to be shut out from all the world. Advance but a pistol-shot, and you look into the chimneys of Wheeling. The OHIO is beneath your feet. The town lies in so narrow a strip along the river, that, from the ridge on which you stand, you will hardly notice its crowded buildings; — that first view of the lovely river of the west is worth a journey of a thousand miles. The clear majestic tide, the fertile islands on its bosom, the bold and towering heights opposite, with the green esplanade of alluvion in front, and the forest-crowned headlands above and below, round which the river sweeps away, to
50bless and gladden the fruitful regions that drink its limpid waters, — these, with the recollections of deeds done upon its banks — the wild incidents and savage encounters of border story, so immediately contrasted with all the luxuries of civilization that now float securely upon that peaceful current, — these make up a moral picture whose colours are laid in the heart, never to be effaced: — no man will ever forget his first view of the Ohio.
I descended with regret from the elevation which afforded this noble prospect, and plunging into the smoky town below, am now comfortably quartered in the best tavern in the place. I shall remain here only till a steamboat comes along, and will write to you next from Pittsburg.
Pittsburg, November 3d.
I passed an evening most agreeably at Wheeling, with two or three prominent members of the Bar, who were distinguished by that courtesy and cordial frankness which mark the western Virginian. A venison steak and flask of old Tuscaloosa (the relish and flavour of which would have been tocsin to the soul of Apicius, and made Anacreon uneasy in his grave) gave cordiality to the meeting. It was my first introduction into western society, and I could hardly have been initiated under better auspices, as I went under the wing of an Ohio gentleman, whose warm hospitality and endearing social qualities, united as they are to distinguished professional talents, seem to make him a universal favourite in this region. The conversation, animated, various, and instructive, would supply material for a dozen letters. But the nervous expressions, and almost startling boldness, of western phraseology would lose half its vividness and power when transferred to paper. I found myself, however, catching occasionally
52something of the characteristic tone of those around me, and my new friends gave so encouraging a reception to each fresh fledged sally, that I live in the humble hope of being able to express myself with sufficient propriety by the time I reach the really outer west, to prevent people from detecting at once the early disadvantages I have laboured under, in living so long in a land where every lip lisps homage to mincing Walker, and each tongue trembles in terrorem of terrible Johnson. In that event I may have both scenes and characters to describe, when we meet, such as would now split my pen in telling.
Wheeling is one of the most flourishing places on the Ohio. The immense quantity of bituminous coal in the adjacent region, which may be had merely for the digging, gives it great advantages as a manufacturing place, while the rich back country and favourable position on the river, especially in low water, when steamboats find Pittsburgh difficult of access, make the town a place of active trade. It lies in two parallel streets, beneath a hill extending along the river, and its smoky purlieus, when viewed from within, except to the eye of the man of business, are any thing but attractive. The principal tavern of the place, wherein I lodged, is well supplied with bedchambers, and parlours,
53and a comfortable reading-room, where the leading papers in the Union are taken. The attendance too, all the servants being blacks, is very good. Among them, a perfect treasure, in the shape of a genuine old Virginian negro, must not be forgotten. The features of Billy (for that is the name of my sable friend) are an exact copy of those generally introduced into Washington's picture when he is painted with his favourite groom in attendance. I piqued myself considerably upon having discovered the likeness, when I afterward found that the worthy Ethiop had actually been "raised," as he expressed it, in the Washington family. He is a professing member of the Baptist church, and I was much interested, while talking with the newly converted heathen (for such he called himself prior to the "change"), to find how the precepts with which he had lately become indoctrinated assorted with the ideas he had been brought up in as a slave; religion seemed only to have strengthened the bonds which held him to his master. "This new light," he said, "showed the old nigger" (I give his exact words) "that to whatever station God pleased to call him, there it was good for the old nigger to be." I was told that he was rigidly attentive to his spiritual duties, and as for his worldly ones, I never met with a more thorough-bred and respectful
54ful servant. He is among the last of a race once numerous in the Old Dominion, but now fading from the face of the earth. Sero in caelum redeas, and when thy dusky soul takes flight, thy name be immortal Billy, let thy statue, carved in ebony, be set up in Hudson's door-way, and a memoir of thy life flare in each intelligence-office in the Union.
It was with no slight regret that I parted with my friend S., when stepping on board a pretty steamboat, called the Gazelle, to take my passage up the river; his foreign travel, and various opportunities, have given him habits of observation which, with a dash of humour and ready flow of fine spirits, constitute a capital travelling companion. His literary tastes are well known to you; and I should not be surprised if, at a future day, he should distinguish himself as another member of his family has so happily done, by committing to the press a few notes of his wanderings.
The snow of yesterday yet covered the ground,
55as we rubbed along the shores of the Ohio; and those pictured woods, with the morning sun gleaming through their tall stems, and glistening on the powdered tree-tops, were indescribably beautiful. The islets, particularly where the hues of the foliage were most vivid, shone like shields of silver blazoned with no mortal heraldry. Before noon, however, the sun absorbed every particle of earth's fragile covering. The warm mist of Indian summer succeeded, the river became like glass, every island floated double upon its bosom, and each headland seemed to drop its cliffs against a nether sky. The harsh panting of our high-pressure engine, or the sudden flapping of a duck's wing, as he rose abruptly from under the bow of the boat, were the only sounds abroad. The day so still, so soft, and summery, seemed like the sabbath of the dying year.
The evening came on calm and mellow, and the broad disc of the moon slept as quietly on the fair bosom of the Ohio, as if her slumbers there had never been broken by the war-whoop, or reveille, from the shadowy banks around.
Having always been a faithful seeker after border legends and traditions of the old Indian wars, I could not help calling to mind a few of those with which my memory was stored, and endeavouring
56to lay their proper venue in the scenes around me. Unfortunately, however, there, was no one aboard of the boat who could enlighten me in this respect; and though particularly anxious to see the spot where the doughty Adam Poe, like another Jack the Giant-killer, vanquished a Wyandot large enough to swallow him at a mouthful, I could only, by asking the distances, from time to time, along the river, guess at the point, among others similarly associated with romantic adventure.
The peculiar scenery of the Ohio has been so graphically described by Flint and Hall, in their various writings upon the West, that I will not detain you by dwelling minutely upon its features. The prominent characteristics of the river, are a clear winding current, studded with alluvial islands, and flowing between banks, which now lie in a level esplanade of several hundred acres, elevated perhaps fifty feet above the water, and again swell boldly from the margin to the height of three or four hundred feet in headlands, which, when the mists of evening settle upon the landscape, wear the appearance of distant mountains; when I add that an occasional farm-house, with its luxuriant orchards and other enclosures, may be found along
57the smaller "bottoms," while the larger ones are frequently enlivened by a bustling village, reposing in their ample bosoms, you have the main features of the Ohio, as I have seen it between Wheeling and Pittsburg. The windings of the river present, at every turn, some of the most beautiful views in the world; but the regular alternations of "bluff" and "bottom" give such a sameness to the landscape, that unless familiar with the points of the country around, one might be dropped in a dozen different places along the river, and not be aware of a change in his situation. Nature seems to have delighted in repeating again and again the same lovely forms, which she first moulded in this favourite region.
We passed Rapp's nourishing settlement, called Economy, during the day, but only near enough to see the regular arrangement of the square brick dwellings, standing about twenty feet apart, on broad streets which intersect each other at right angles; the factories with their high cupolas, and the thriving orchards, and young vineyards, which stretch along the banks of the river beyond the suburbs. I may hereafter, if I have time to visit it, give you some account of the present condition of this settlement, which belongs to a society organized, I believe, partially upon Mr. Owen's
58plan. The site of the town was formerly a favourite rallying-point for the Delaware Indians, under their chief Monahatoocha, whose council-fires once blazed where now the smoke of a dozen factories rolls from the chimneys of the German emigrant. What a contrast between the toilsome race, whose clanking machinery is now the only sound that greets the ear as you near the shore, and the indolent savage, or laughter-loving Frenchman, who once stalked along the borders, or danced over the bosom of the beautiful river.
"How changed the scene since merry Jean Baptiste Paddled his pirogue on La Belle Riviere, And from its banks some lone Loyola priest Echoed the night song of the voyageur."
The afternoon sun shone warmly on the eastern bank of the river, where the increasing number of farm-houses, and occasionally a handsome seat tastefully planted among them, with its hanging garden, not unfrequently kissed by the current of the river, indicated our approach to the city of Pittsburg, — the eastern head of the Mississippi Valley, and the key to the broad region bathed by its waters. Our course lay for a few moments among islands, that seemed to bloom in never-dying verdure, and then, as we escaped from their
59green cincture, the tall cliffs of the Monongahela, blackened by the numerous furnaces that smoke along their base, and pierced in various points with the deep coal shafts that feed their fires, frowned over the placid water. It was just sunset, and the triangular city, with its steeples peering through a cloud of dense smoke, and its two rivers, spanned each by a noble bridge, that seem, when thus viewed, a reflection of each other, lay before us. On the right, the calm and full tide of the Monongahela, flowing beneath rocky banks, some three hundred feet in elevation, was shaded by the impending height, and reflected the blaze of a dozen furnaces in its sable bosom. On the left, the golden tints of sunset still played over the clear pebbly wave of the Alleghany, and freshened the white outline of a long, low-built nunnery, standing on a sudden elevation back from the river. The dusty city lay in the midst, the bridges springing from its centre terminating the view up both rivers; while the mists of evening were rapidly closing in upon the undulating country that formed the background of the picture.
Truly, the waters have here chosen a lovely spot for their meeting, and it was but natural that such a stream as the Ohio should spring from such a union. Looking backward now I could see that
60river, like a young giant rejoicing in its birth, sweeping suddenly on its course, but turning every moment among its green islands, as if to look back till the last upon the home of its infancy.
We entered the Monongahela, and disembarked a few hundred yards from the site of the old fort Du Quesne. The river was some twenty-five feet lower than usual, and giving my baggage to a drayman in attendance, I ascended the bank, and soon found my way through streets, which, though neither broad nor cheerful-looking, are still well-built, to the Exchange Hotel on the opposite side of the town. Here I am now housed, and, after delivering my letters and looking further about the place, you shall have the result of my observations.
Pittsburg, November 10th.
It was a bright, bracing autumnal morning, as I rode out of Pittsburg with a party of gentlemen, for "Braddock's Field." Our route followed the course of the river; sometimes keeping the rich bottom on its borders, sometimes ascending a hilly ridge. The height commanded a wide view of the river, now winding between steep hills, whose shadows met as they slept upon its quiet bosom, now expanding into a small lake, so completely landlocked that it seemed to have no connection with the bright stream seen flashing through the meadows farther on. After catching more than one glimpse like this of the landscape behind us, whose sunny fields contrasted beautifully with the dense smoke of Pittsburg in the back-ground, we struck into a ravine cutting the road hitherto pursued at right angles. Winding now through a deep dingle, where the path-side was festooned with vines, we crossed a small brook, and reached the shore of the Monongahela opposite to a broad
62alluvial flat, whose high cultivation and sunny aspect contrasted vividly with the wild and secluded dell from the mouth of which we beheld it. The road next led for some distance through a wood on the immediate bank of the river, and then gaining the more public highway, we found ourselves, after passing several comfortable farmhouses, immediately in front of the battle-ground.
It is cut up now by three or four enclosures,- the field upon which the fight was hottest lying nearly in the centre, bounded on one side by the road, and having its opposite extremity about a quarter of a mile from the river, with a wooded flat intervening. Beyond this flat is the ford over which Braddock passed. The ground about two hundred yards from the ford rises in a gradual slope for some two hundred yards more, and then swells suddenly into a tolerably steep hill, the summit of which may be half a mile from the river. On the middle slope lies the central field of action, to which I have already alluded. It is seamed with two shallow ravines, or gullies,
63In these ravines, concealed by the underwood, and protected by the trunks of trees felled for the purpose, lay the French and Indian force. It amounted, according to the best accounts, to only 500 men,
It was about midday when he passed his troops over the river in detachments of two hundred and five hundred, followed by the column of artillery, the baggage, and the main body of the army, commanded by himself in person. The latter had hardly time to form upon the flat below, when a quick fire in front told them that the two detachments which had gained the first slope were already engaged. They advanced in double quick step to sustain them; but the whole seven hundred gave way, and falling back upon the advancing troops, struck panic and dismay throughout the ranks in a moment. The confusion seemed for a while irremediable. Some fired off their ammunition without aim or object, and others, deaf to
64the commands and exhortations of their officers, flung away their arms, and gave themselves up to despair.
Burning with the disgrace, and eager to shame their soldiers into better conduct, the British officers advanced singly and in squads among the bullets of the enemy. They were slaughtered indeed like sheep; but their men, whose retreat had been partially cut off by the river, rallied at the galling sight. The cool determination of young Washington, who had already had two horses shot under him, and his clothes pierced with bullets, imparted some steadiness to their feelings, and they seemed ready to protract the fight to the best advantage. The madness of Braddock, however, whose weak mind took fire at the idea of receiving a lesson from a provincial youth of three-and-twenty, destroyed every remaining chance of success. He insisted upon his men forming on the spot, and advancing in regular platoon against an enemy which none of them could see. Line after line, they would hardly attain a pace between the fatal ravines before they would be mowed down like grass. But their courage was now up, and though broken, and in some disorder, they attempted with courageous pertinacity, to secure each step they gained, by protecting themselves
65behind the trees, and returning the murderous fire of the foe after his own fashion. The military coxcomb who commanded this ill-fated band would not hear of this. He stamped, raved, and swore, called his men cowards, and struck them with his sword. In the mean time, an evolution was being executed in another part of the field which might yet have turned the fate of the day. Capt. Waggoner, of the Virginia forces, pushed his fine corps, consisting of eighty men, beyond the voice of his besotted commander, to the summit of the hill, with the loss of only three men, in running the fearful gauntlet to attain that position. A fallen tree here protected his brave little force, and enabled him to rake the ravines, which lay at right angles to his natural breastwork, to great advantage. But the Virginians were mistaken by their English friends below for a new enemy, and fired upon so furiously that they were compelled to retreat from their position with the loss of two-thirds of the corps, killed by their misguided comrades. Thus was the strife protracted for nearly three hours, when the fall of Braddock, after losing 700 men and forty officers, put an end to the blind conflict. Fifteen hundred men, being thrice the number of the enemy, escaped to tell the havoc
66of the day, and spread consternation and horror throughout the province.
The military chest of the British, containing 25,000 pounds, fell into the hands of the enemy, as did likewise an extensive train of artillery, with ammunition and provisions to a large amount. Among those who perished on this disastrous occasion were Sir William Shirley, a son of the Governor of New-York, and Sir Peter Halket, with one of his sons, and other officers of distinction or promise. Sir John St. Clair and Lieut. Colonel Gage, afterward well known in our revolutionary history, were among the wounded. Many of the officers fell at the first onset; but Braddock himself had advanced some distance up the hill when he received the mortal wound, of which he died a day or two afterward. The stump of the tree against which he leaned after being struck is still pointed out in a wheat-field above the highway. He was carried off by the flying troops, and dying with many others on the march, was buried beneath the road over which his men were retreating.
The Letters of Horace Walpole, recently published, have thrown a light upon Braddock's character that should put an end at once to all
67the forbearance hitherto exercised in commenting upon his share in this bloody transaction. The misfortunes of the hot and misguided, but high-bred and gallant soldier were to be touched upon with lenity: the selfish rashness and utter destitution of military capacity of the broken-down gambler should be stigmatized as they deserve. Yet it is not from Walpole alone that we learn what a presumptuous blockhead England sent hither to mend his ruined fortunes, at the risk of the best blood in the country; for, though history has dealt so leniently with his character, the records of those times paint the man in his true colours; and so gross was his ignorance, and so offensive his pride, that he seems to have been hated and despised from the moment he assumed the command of the forces destined hither. The interest with which I viewed the battle-ground has kept me all the morning looking over a mass of documents relating to those times, and, as they are still before me, I am tempted to make more than one extract. "We have a general," writes the brave and accomplished Sir William Shirley, from the camp at Cumberland, to his friend Governor Morris, at Philadelphia — "we have a general most judiciously chosen for being disqualified for the service he is employed in, in almost every respect.
68I am greatly disgusted at seeing an expedition (as it is called) so ill-concerted originally in England, so ill-appointed, and so improperly conducted since in America. I shall be very happy to have to retract hereafter what I have said, and submit to be censured as moody and apprehensive. I hope, my dear Morris, to spend a tolerable winter with you at Philadelphia." Poor Shirley! He never saw that winter. He was shot through the brain at the very commencement of the battle.
There is a lively comment on this letter in the well-known reply of Braddock to the prudent suggestions of Washington, previous to the battle, when he urged his commanding officer to push an advanced guard into the wood before his main body: — "By G-d, sir, these are high times, when a British general is to take counsel from a Virginia buckskin!"
The speech of an Indian chief before the council of Pennsylvania, preserved among the State records at Harrisburg, offers an illustration still more striking. "Brothers," said the sagacious ally of the colonists, "it is well known to you how unhappily we have been defeated by the French on Monongahela: we must let you know that it was all of the pride and ignorance of that great general that came from England. He is now dead; but
69he was a bad man when he was alive. He looked upon us as dogs, and would never hear any thing that was said to him. We often endeavoured to advise him, and to tell him of the danger he was in with his soldiers; but he never appeared pleased with us, and that was the reason that a great many of our warriors left him, and would not be under his command. Brothers, we advise you not to give up the point, though we have in a measure been chastised from above. But let us unite our strength. You are very numerous, and all the governors along your eastern shores can raise men enough. Don't let those that come over the great seas be concerned any more. They are unfit to fight in the woods. Let us go by ourselves — we that come out of this ground. WE may be assured to conquer the French." The military counsel and support of this intrepid and high-souled chieftain would have been heard at least, even if it did not prevail, in the camp of Napoleon. Does it not make you indignant to think how it was trampled upon and insulted by such a creature as Braddock? One would have thought that the insolent spirit of the London debauchee would have felt rebuked into nothingness before the genius of the warrior of the woods. But let the man rest; he had that one virtue to which all weak minds bow — courage.
70And so had the Hessians that in a subsequent war were bought to fight against us for sixpence a day. May we rather meet, again and again, such brave mercenaries in battle, than be marshalled once to the fight by a leader whom even valour cannot shelter from deserved contempt.
The field of this celebrated action presents, of course, a very different appearance from what it did when Braddock's followers were here hunted through the forest. It is, however, but a few years since the wood was cut from the side-hill, and traces of the conflict are still occasionally discovered in the grove along the margin of the river below. I was told, too, that bones and bullets, with rusted knives, hatchets, and Layonets, were sometimes even yet turned up by the plough on the spot where the fight was hottest. The central enclosure was cleared about seventeen years since. It was heavily timbered at the time, and they tell in the neighbourhood that the teeth of the saws in the mills adjacent were continually broken upon the balls imbedded in the ancient trees. Quantities of human bones and rust-eaten weapons are said to have been found beneath the surface of the soil, when the plough first invaded this memorable wood. I picked up a bone myself, which my horse's hoof disengaged from the soil; but my
71skill in anatomy not being sufficient to determine whether it was even human or not, I returned the mouldering relic to the dust, of which it was rapidly becoming a part. It was an animated and interesting hour's amusement, after our party had taken down the intermediate fences, which were too high to clear, to gallop over the whole battleground, and survey it from every point. A prettier spot to fight on never greeted the eye of a soldier. The undulations of the field are just sufficient to exercise a nice military discrimination in the choice of position, while the ground is yet so little broken that cavalry might act on any part of it to advantage. The centre of the battle-field would command a fine view of the river, were but a vista or two cut in the wood below; and even now it offers a beautiful site for a private residence, and would, with the lands adjacent, make a noble park. There are a few superb oaks still standing at the foot of the slope, which might constitute a lawn, and what must enhance the value of the place with all faithful ghost-believers and pious lovers of the marvellous — the dim form of the red savage, with the ghastly spectre of his pallid victim shrinking before it, it is said, may be seen gliding at times among these hoary trunks. The exorcising light of noon most perversely shone down among them
72while I lingered near the spot, but I could fancy that the November wind which sighed among their branches was charged at times with a wailing sound, such — such in fact as an orthodox tree in a perfect state of health would never make of its own accord.
Returning home, one of the party proposed stopping at a gentleman's house in the vicinity, where a number of articles picked up from the field were said to be collected. Not a soul of us knew the proprietor of the establishment, and it would have amused you to see the effect produced upon its inmates, — whom I soon ascertained to be a large collection of boarding-school young ladies, — by our formidable descent upon the premises. We were asked into a handsome parlour, and in about fifteen minutes our host appeared. A gentleman of our number, whose western frankness of manner made him the most suitable spokesman at such an awkward meeting, opened the preliminaries, and apologizing for our unceremonious intrusion, revealed our character as relic hunters. The stranger host, overlooking the absence of "sandal shoon and scallop shell," welcomed us at once with the same politeness that pilgrims have ever received in civilized countries, and regretting that he had not even a remnant to swear by — not
73an atom of a relic — sent us home to our supper with appetites considerably sharpened by the disappointment.
Returning, I diverged with one of the company from the direct road a little, to take a look at the United States' arsenal. It lies on the banks of the Alleghany, and consists, together with the officers' quarters, of a number of handsome brick-buildings, painted cream colour, and so arranged with regard to each other as that, in connection with the improved grounds adjacent, they make quite a handsome appearance.
It was nearly dark when we got fairly into town, where the dust and smoke, with the rattling of drays along the streets, returning from their day's work to the suburbs, reminded me not a little of my own bustling city at night-fall. There is one sound, however, in the streets of Pittsburg which utterly forbids a stranger mistaking them for those of any other town on the continent — it is the ceaseless din of the steam-engines. Every mechanic here, of any pretension, has one of these tremendous journeymen at work in his establishment. They may be purchased for what would be the price of a pair of horses in New-York; and it costs a mere trifle to keep them in fuel. These machines must do the work of a great many thousand men
74at Pittsburg; and though I am hardly such a friend of universal suffrage as to think that these substitutes for men ought to be represented in the legislature, yet, upon my word, they should always be taken into consideration when estimating the population of the place, which their industrious labour renders so flourishing.
Pittsburg, Nov. 8.
There is no place in the Western country, as Judge Baldwin observed, in his address before the Mechanics' Institution of Pittsburg, "which can more justly boast of its small beginnings, its rapid but solid growth, and its future greatness," than this. It is about seventy years since General Washington, then a. young man of two-and-twenty, was despatched by Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia to the French commander on Le Bceuf (near Erie), to demand that he should desist from aggression upon the British frontier. The young officer, on his return down the Alleghany, upon a raft made with tomahawks, was wrecked with a single Indian attendant, on an island near the present city of Pittsburg. The situation of the point of land formed by "the forks of the Ohio" at once caught his military eye; and crossing on the ice in the morning, he examined the position with sufficient minuteness to impress his commander with its importance. The spot was soon
76after taken possession of by a small colonial force, which in 1754 was easily dispersed by the formidable descent of the French under Contrecoeur. He came with a thousand men at his back, and floated various munitions of war, among which were eighteen pieces of cannon, in three hundred and sixty canoes, down the Alleghany. The first blow was struck of the old French war, which lost France all her possessions east of the Mississippi. Contrecosur intrenched himself upon the spot, and the bloody annals of Fort Du Quesne received their first notoriety from this bold invader.
Thirty years afterward the place, now become known as Fort Pitt began to assume commercial importance from the Indian fur-trade then carried on with vigour from this point. An increase of population ensued; the extensive coal-beds in the vicinity began to be appreciated; they indicated the prodigious manufacturing resources of the rising town of Pittsburg. The adjacent country became rapidly peopled, and it was soon the agricultural depot for the rich region on this side of the Alleghanies. The genius of Fulton matured at once the rising fortunes of Pittsburg, and gave her a market for her overflowing productions.
Situated two thousand miles from New-Orleans, by the aid of steam she supplies the whole of the intermediate region with hardware, machinery and cutlery.
The timber-trade is another great feature in the business relations of Pittsburg; the boards and scantling measured within the city in 1830 amounted to more than five millions of feet; of this a great deal was floated down the branches of the Alleghany River from the south-western counties of New-York. The romantic hills of Chatauque county supply not a few of the stately trunks which, after being hewn into shape at Pittsburg, subsequently float the varied products of Northern industry through many a stranger climate
78to the rich markets of Louisiana, You will not wonder, therefore, that the freight exported from Pittsburg in 1830 amounted to upwards of 18,000 tons, its imports for the same year being more than 14,000 tons. The city is now, with the adjacent villages of Alleghany-town and Lawrenceville on the Alleghany, and Birmingham and Manchester on the Monongahela,the third town in population, wealth, and importance in the Mississippi valley. Next to its admirable situation, the nourishing condition of the place is no doubt to be mainly attributed to the inexhaustible quantities of fine bituminous coal which may be had for the digging in all the adjacent hills. Pittsburg is, however, indebted to the character of her early settlers for her present eminence; they were chiefly mechanics, enterprising, industrious, practical men; the improvements they commenced were based upon utility, and every path of trade they struck out led to some immediate and tangible good. The result shows itself in one of the most substantial and flourishing, but least elegant, cities on the continent. The site of the town I have already described to you as one of the most beautiful that can be imagined. The want of beauty in the place itself is to be attributed entirely to the manner in which it is laid out, for the streets, though by no
79means wide, are well and substantially built upon with brick; and a species of yellow freestone found in the vicinity is coming into use, which, for elegance as a building-material, is not surpassed by marble itself. The great defect in the town is the total want of public squares, and, indeed, of an agreeable promenade of any kind; this is the more remarkable, I might almost say provoking, as Pittsburg boasts of one spot which, if converted into a public place, would, from the view it commands, be unrivalled by any thing of the kind in the Union, unless it be the Battery of New-York. I allude to a triangular piece of ground, at the confluence of the two rivers, at the end of the town. It is the site of the old forts, and commands the first view of the Ohio, and the finest of its waters I have yet seen; the prospect I have described to you in a former letter. Had but the ancient fortifications been preserved, this would have been one of the most interesting spots upon the continent; of Fort Du Quesne there remains now but a small mound, containing, perhaps, a couple of loads of earth; Fort Pitt may be more easily traced, part of three bastions, about breast-high, stand within different private enclosures, and a piece of the curtain, which, within a few years, was in complete preservation, may still be discovered among the
80piles of lumber in a steam saw-mill yard. The commandant's quarters, a steep-roofed brick dwelling, in the form of a pentagon, is, however, the only perfect remnant of these old military structures. I expected to have seen the magazine of the fort, which I was told was an admirable piece of masonry, and still endured in the shape of a porter-cellar; but upon arriving at the spot where it had stood but a few weeks before, a pile of rough stones was all that we could discover. In a country like ours, where so few antiquities meet the eye, it is melancholy to see these interesting remnants thus destroyed, and the very landmarks where they stood effaced for ever. Occasionally, too, the works of which every vestige is thus painfully obliterated were, especially when erected by the French, of a peculiarly striking character. The French engineers, who first introduced the art of fortification into this country, were of the school of Vauban, and the enduring monuments they raised were not less noble proofs of their skill than were the sites selected of their high military discernment.
There is yet another place in Pittsburg which at some future day should be appropriated as a public square; a triangular bluff about one hundred feet high stretches like a huge promontory
81far into the town, and overlooks the whole place. The Pittsburgers, however, I fear, are more bent upon increasing their "fathers' store" than on beautifying the favoured spot in which they dwell; and it requires all the cordial hospitality of the place to reconcile a stranger to the few city improvements he sees going forward, in a community so pre-eminent for its individual enterprise. I wish we could lend them our "improving" corporation for a few weeks, — they would be really of service here, and could easily be spared at home; they might, too, learn more than one thing of the Pittsburgers, and especially how to supply the city with pure water; we have it here in the greatest abundance. The water is pumped up from the Alleghany by a steam-engine, into a large open basin, situated on an eminence known as Grant's Hill, from the signal defeat of that rash but gallant officer at its base, during the old French war. From this ample reservoir pipes conduct the fluid to every part of the city. A large Gothic cathedral is now about to be erected near the water-works.
You remember Grant's fight, as described by Hall, in his beautiful Western Sketches. Grant bivouacked beneath the hill now called after him, and ordering his reveille to beat at dawn; the
82French and Indians charged upon him to the sound of his own trumpets, and cut his troops to pieces. His force, I believe, consisted chiefly of Highlanders. The skeleton of a young officer, with gold in his pocket and marks of rank about his person, was turned up in a field not far distant, a few years since. A western poet, of whose existence I first became aware through a file of the Pittsburg Gazette (for the use of which, with many interesting facts relating to the adjacent country, I am indebted to the politeness of Mr. Craig, the editor), has commemorated the incident in some verses, among which are the following simple lines: —
Retreated up the Alleghany side;
Wounded and faint, he miseed his tangled way,
And near its waters laid him down and died.
Which overlooks the clear and pebbled wave;
Shrouded in leaves, none found him where he fell,
And mouldering nature gave the youth a grave.
And brought to light frail vestiges of him,
Whose unknown fate perhaps is not forgot,
And fills with horror yet a sister's dream."
On the side of the hill is a place still pointed out as "Grant's grave." I know not why it should be thus designated, however; for I believe that the worthy colonel, who afterward served in the British army during the Revolution, never returned to lay his bones in a spot where the spirits of his rashly sacrificed soldiers might have made him uneasy in his grave. There is a more authentic tomb on the western bank of the Alleghany; it is the last resting-place of an Indian, who, as tradition avers, seeing "Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt," shot himself for love ! — an instance of intense regard — of passionate devotion to woman which most writers upon Indian character would have us believe could never exhibit itself in
The walks and rides in the environs of Pittsburg are rendered interesting by a variety of objects, besides the fine scenery through which they lead. A description of the Pennsylvania Canal, which flows on an aqueduct over the Alleghany, and passing through a tunnel of a few yards in length, locks into the Monongahela, on the opposite side of the city, would furnish you with no newer ideas than a description of any other canal. The Nunnery, which is also one of the lions of the neighbourhood, I have not hitherto had an opportunity
84to visit, and "Braddock's field" you have already in a letter by itself; so, having now a tolerable idea of the town — with its compact brick dwellings, dingy with coal-smoke; its natural wharves, where the Ohio rises 25 feet; its gravelly banks, lined with steamboats and river-craft, and bustling with business operations upon the most extensive scale — you must follow me in my ride of this morning along the Monongahela.
The fog and coal-smoke together rendered the atmosphere so thick, even after crossing the bridge over the river to a straggling village opposite, that I verily believe it was only the dazzling sparkle of a pair of queen-like eyes, marshalling me through the gloom, that enabled me to ascend the opposite height with safety. Leaving the rest of the party far behind, I followed their beautiful and high-spirited owner up a windng path, where our horses, after sinking to their fetlocks in the clayey soil, would slip half a pace backward at every step, and gained at last an elevation nearly five hundred feet above the level of the river, where, to my surprise, instead of a sudden descent upon the opposite side, the eminence continued rising, in a succession of fertile fields, until the last green slope was terminated by a distant wood. We rode along the edge of the precipice for a mile or two, and from
85the state of the atmosphere on the side towards the town, you can conceive nothing more singular than the effect of the scene below. Imagine yourself standing on Weehawk Height, with your own city brought immediately beneath your feet, the whole landscape bright and clear above, and a cloud so impervious below that not an object can be discerned at five yards' distance. The gulf seems unfathomable. The hoarse jar of machinery comes upon the ear like the groans of a nether world; and the lurid flame which ever and anon shoots from some furnace athwart the gloom shows like the penal element itself. But now the noon-day sun has pierced into that murky glen, — the fog begins to rise, — a gilded spire glances here and there in the broad sunshine, and some tall headland stands greenly out from the silver veil that wraps its base; the banner from yonder arsenal floats gayly forth in the warm air; and as the flaky mist rolls more rapidly up the river, begins to stream upon the freshening breeze. The rivers themselves can now be traced far away, with many a dewy island stealing out, one by one, upon their bosom. Beneath, a bustling city seems as if it had sprung at once to life, while the quiet farmhouses slowly appear upon the sleeping fields beyond.
86This single view is worth a journey to Pittsburg.
I took an opportunity, while a lady of the party stopped to visit a pensioner in a cottage by the road-side, to examine a coal-pit just beneath the brow of the hill. Dismounting on a small platform some two hundred feet above the river, from which a railway empties the coal into the coke-kilns upon its bank and the freight-boats upon the shore, I entered an aperture in the rock, about six feet in height and four in breadth. A guide preceded me with a candle, and after penetrating under his escort a few hundred yards, I turned aside to explore some of the adjacent shafts: they lie like the streets of one main avenue, — the veins of a grand artery, which, after winding through the body of the hill, for the distance of half a mile, finds its way again to the light. In one of these cavernous passages, in a ledge of the rock, lay a sleeping man, the water trickling from the black walls around was the only sound to disturb his slumbers; a long-wicked candle stuck in a crevice above his head, shining over thickly-matted locks, and features begrimmed with coal-dust, revealed a figure of gigantic mould. The mattock on which his ponderous arm reposed told that it was only a miner at his noonday nap; but he might have been
87mistaken, by one coming suddenly upon his singular place of repose, for a slumbering Titan, who, though pent within such narrow confines, might yet shake the .mountain piled upon him to its base.
Our route now, after leading still farther along the height, commanding at every step some new view of the town and the adjacent country, with the three rivers seaming its bosom, struck at last into a fine wood, and then descending suddenly into a romantic dell, followed a small stream which soon led us back to the Ohio. Here, again, might be traced a display of French taste, which, when the fabric was entire, must have been exceedingly beautiful. It was the remains of a mill-dam constructed by the officers of Fort Du Quesne, according to the most approved rules of the time, like a perfect fortification; a part of the curtain, with traces of some of the bastions, yet reward the eye of the curious. At the mouth of the glen we paused to look at a salt factory; and then crossing a bridge over the brook, we passed by a steel factory, and several coke-kilns, situated along the base of the cliff, from the summit of which I had recently looked down upon and admired the scene below.
88The embouchure of the Monongahela was at hand, and stepping on board of a small horse-boat at the point where that river loses itself in the Ohio, I soon terminated on the opposite side one of the most delightful rides I can recollect to have taken.
Cleaveland, Ohio, NOV. 15.
I took my passage in the stage-coach for this place early in the evening three days since, and having at a late hour bade adieu to more than one whose friendship I trust will not be the less enduring that it was made in so brief a space of time, retired to my chamber to catch a nap before my morning's ride. The clock was striking three, when at the call of the porter I rose and descended to the bar-room. The attentive landlord, himself in waiting, was ruminating before a large coal-fire; and stretched upon the floor in a corner lay the tired domestic, who, having just fulfilled a part of his duty, in awakening the various passengers, was catching a dog-nap before the stage-coach should drive to the door. The flavour of last night's potations still hung around the scene of so many symposia, and the fragrance of more than one recently smoked segar stole; charged with the aroma of whiskey, upon the senses. Cold as it was, I was not sorry to snuff a less scented atmosphere, as each stage
90that passed the house in succession hurried me vainly to the door. My own proper vehicle came at last, and by the light of the stage lamps, — the only ones, by-the-by, which shone through the sleeping city, — I climbed to the coachman's box, and took the traveller's favourite seat by his side. It was as dark as Erebus when we crossed the bridge over the Alleghany, and looking back when we had passed the gate and were turning into the village, I could distinguish nothing of the city opposite but the red glare of a furnace which shot out from the bank of the river, and glowed an inverted pyramid of light upon its waters. Keeping on our way, the massive walls of the state-prison, with their circular towers and octangular area, frowned like some old Moorish castle over our path, as we drove beneath their dun-coloured battlements, and passed the last environs of Pittsburg. It was, I confess, with some soberness of spirit that I bade a last adieu to a spot where the politeness and hospitality of the inhabitants had made my time pass so pleasantly. I must, however, have been de trop among my new acquaintances, had I remained much longer: for in Pittsburg every one is so occupied with business, that the time bestowed in attentions to a stranger is a sacrifice of some importance. I have since been
91much vexed to find, in looking over my papers here, that a letter of introduction, from a most nattering source, to the U. S. officer now commanding at Pittsburg, escaped me entirely. I was chagrined the more, inasmuch as I should have liked both to visit the arsenal, and to make the acquaintance of the valued officer who has charge of it. I had not, however, this reflection to annoy me as, wrapped up warmly, I rode along, watching the cheerful dawn, streaking the east with pencillings of light, and dappling with ruddy rays the broad bosom of the Ohio. As the morning gradually broke, I discovered that the banks of the river presented a different appearance from what they did when I sailed along them ten days before. The November winds had been at work in the woods. The gorgeous panoply of autumn no longer hung on the forest. The trees stood bare in the growing sunlight, and the thick-strewn leaves rustled to the tread of the gray squirrel that leaped from the naked boughs by the roadside.
We stopped to breakfast at a low log-built shantee, within a stone's throw of the river, and being asked into a narrow chamber, half-parlour, half-kitchen, I had for the first time an opportunity, as we collected around the breakfast table, to survey
92my fellow-passengers. They were chiefly plain people, small farmers and graziers, returning perhaps from market, where they had been to part with their produce. Their manner, like most of our countrymen of the same class, was grave and decorous at table, to a degree approaching to solemnity, though they ate with the rapidity characteristic of Americans at their meals. The ceremony of the board commenced by the oldest man in the company taking a beef-steak before him, and cutting it into small pieces with his own knife and fork. He then passed the dish around to each, and finally, when all were served, helped himself. The bread was in the same way circulated by the youngest of the company, and then, each having as fair a start as his neighbour, we all fell to work with a lustihood that would have done beet-eating Queen Bess good to witness. The appetites of those present were generally sharpened by the morning's ride; and, maugre the huge piles of buckwheat-cakes that smoked along the board flanked each by a cold apple-pie, the beef-steak was decidedly the favourite dish; and was meted out again and again, by the same knife and fork that played a private part the whiles for the stout yeoman who thus plied them for the public good. Your bandbox-bred elegant, who was ignorant
93that the Spaniards and the Turks, the two most polite peoples in the world, thrust their fingers into the reeking bowl of olla podrida, or the smoking dish of pilau — while, like our sturdy Pennsylvanian, they always help their fellow-travellers of the caravanserai, or posada, before attending to themselves — might have turned up his nose in a transport of Trollopism at such refinement. The charge of vulgarity, however, would rest only with him who, mistaking the conventional rules of society for the essential principles of politeness, should measure the manners of strangers by the standard of his own narrow circle. There was but one of my fellow-passengers I observed, who ate with his fork. He was 'better dressed, and sat somewhat apart from the rest, interchanging with them none of the homely but hearty civilities which they proffered to each other. I set him down as some Eastern shop-keeper, who, though he might have been envied by a Chinese for the chop-stick dexterity with which he managed to pitch the morsels of food into his mouth with a two-pronged fork, might better have passed the time spent in acquiring his sleight-of-hand in gaining real good-breeding, from those whom he evidently set down in his own mind as far beneath him.
Pursuing our journey, we stopped soon after to
94change horses at Economy. I was much disappointed in not having even five minutes to look through this celebrated village, where the German Rapp has so successfully raised a community, who labour in common, and own all their property only as trust members of a corporation. I saw hardly as much of the town, thus passing its suburbs inland, as when sailing by the front on the Ohio. It struck me as remarkably neat, however; and it being Sunday, a perfect silence seemed to reign over the village. Rapp, I believe, unlike most of his co-community-mongers, retains religion, not only as incident to, but an essential feature of, his system. Had it been otherwise, the attempt to form such an establishment could hardly have succeeded as it has. Religion I believe to be an instinct of the human mind — a natural impulse, which at some time determines the thoughts of every heart heavenward. It is a feeling which as palpably prompts us to seek a God and to worship him, as does the instinct of a bird suggest the season of building her nest and the materials for its construction. The form of her frail fabric varies indeed with the climate in which it is built, and the character of the winged artificer: but the haughty temples of heathenism, the sumptuous mosques of the Mussulman, and the Christian's humbler house
95of worship may each find a semblance on the towering cliffs or tall tree-top, where birds of prey alone will build, — in the imbowered copse, where the luxurious dove delights to brood, — or mid the lowly rushes, where the lapwing's fragile nest is made. There is, indeed, a stolid race of birds who deposite their eggs upon the barren shore, leaving the sun to vivify or the sea to scatter their contents as chance may determine. But stupid as their offspring must he be who, in constructing an aviary, made no provision for the interesting wants of the rest of the species, because this particular genus is so coarsely constituted. Let us thank Heaven, when thinking of the privileges of which the intrusive bigotry of foreign infidels at times would strip us, that in our free forests, there are fields, hills, and groves where religion, unshackled as a new-fledged bird, may build her altars how and where she pleases.
Our route continuing along the river, we soon passed a fine elevated field on the bank where General Wayne — or Mad Antony, as he was more familiarly called — encamped with his army that encountered the Indians so successfully near the Miami of the Lakes.
The stone fireplaces of the soldiery, now overgrown with turf, were, with a few other scattered
96marks of the encampment, discernible upon the ground; and they suggested to one of the passengers the well-known anecdote of the general having one of his men tried and shot for desertion, because he had, without permission from his officer, accompanied an only brother, his visiter at the camp, a few miles on his return home. The example was a terrible one, but the condition of Wayne's army, from which the men were daily dropping off, strongly required it; and I confess that in military affairs I respect the firmness equal to such an occasion too much to merge my admiration of the unblenching disciplinarian in sympathy for the unfortunate sufferer.
We reached the thriving town of Beaver about noon, and crossing the creek of the same name by a high wooden bridge, struck inland, and soon lost sight Of the beautiful Ohio in the broken country that here approaches its banks. A cold shower drove me for protection inside the stage, and there, wrapping myself up as comfortably as I could, 1 passed the night. The passengers had gradually dropped off along the road, leaving only a solitary country merchant and myself. We beguiled the time for a while in conversation, and then, as midnight came on, and he grew drowsy, I resigned myself to the same influence that had begun to send
97sounds any thing but musical from his "innocent nose." Awaking with the sun, I found that we were in the midst of new clearings, the road leading through a level country as far as the eye could reach, and having its sides faced beyond the fields with trees, which, with tall stems and interlacing summits, stood like giants locking arms along the highway. I must now be in Ohio, thought I; and I was right. The effect of this magnificent vegetation was striking even at this season; but after riding for half a day along such a wood, with not a valley to break the view, nor a hill to bound it, it could not but be monotonous. We passed two lakes in the course of our ride, approaching one of them near enough to see that it was a clear sheet of water, with a pretty yellow sand-beach. But, though shut up by woods, it wanted entirely the wild yet gentle picturesqueness of the lakes I have seen among and near the Highlands of the Hudson; much less could it boast of the savage grandeur of those which form the sources of that princely river.
The most interesting objects on this route are decidedly the growing towns and hamlets which abound along the road. Some of them have been manufactured only this season; and it is really surprising to see rude log huts of two years' date standing side by side with tasteful edifices
98of yesterday, like the old and new branches of one flourishing tree; brick churches and hotels, with handsome porticoes, surrounded by the stumps of recently-felled forests. In one village, called Hudson, particularly, — where, by-the-way, much good taste is exhibited in the private houses, — the progress of improvement is said to be as perceptible as the rise of the tide at the seaboard. I could not, however, discover a palpable growth in the place from the time we sat down to dinner till hurried away from table by the call of the stage-driver.
We reached Cleaveland during a heavy shower long after nightfall. The roar of the surf reminded me of Rockaway; and the first view of Lake Erie, the next morning, was really grateful to my eyes. I felt, while walking along the high esplanade of turf which here forms its banks, and upon which the town is built, like one who has just come out of a pent-up chamber into the full and free air of heaven. The effect of coming on such a wide expanse of water when just emerging from the forest is much greater than when, after long riding through an open country, you view the ocean stretched beyond its shining beach.
Cleaveland is very prettily situated upon the lake. The Cayuhoga makes a bend around a high
99bluff as it passes into the inland sea which receives its waters, and on the level peninsula thus formed is built the town. The harbour, naturally an indifferent one, has been much improved by running out a pier from either side of the river, where it debouches into Lake Erie; and there being now few better ports on this side of the lake, Cleaveland must become one of the most important places on its waters. The adjacent region is, I believe, not remarkably well suited to agricultural purposes; but there is an immense tract of the most fertile country inland, which looks to Cleaveland for the chief outlet of its products. This will account for the rapid rise of property here, which is almost incredible; building-lots in some places commanding now as many thousands as they did hundreds of dollars five years since. The town, which can already boast of a public library, a fine church, two capital taverns, and many handsome private dwellings, is laid out with broad streets and a spacious square in the centre. The business part is as yet beneath the bluff, where a single winding street runs along the bank of the river towards the lake; but the main street above is already the scene of much bustle, and bears about the same relation to that below as Broadway does to South-Street in your city.
I have been happy here to meet with some old school-fellows settled in the place — where, indeed, among our wandering people can one tread without finding an acquaintance? — and this morning I was agreeably surprised by finding an English groom waiting at the door for me with a fine saddle-horse, and mentioning that my friend its owner would soon join me with another. We first rode out through a clearing, back of the village, and enjoyed a very pretty prospect of the Cayuhoga winding through a piece of rich meadow-land below us, and affording, as the high grounds recede at its entrance into the lake, a striking view of Erie in the distance. Returning upon our tracks, we passed the village on the east, and then rode westwardly along the shore of the lake. The banks, which are high and covered with sod on the top, are here composed of clay and gravel: on the surface they appear perfectly firm, but for the distance of nearly a mile along shore they have sunk, or are sinking, to the breadth of about 300 feet, and slipped off into the lake, whose waters thus swallow building-lots worth a great amount of money. The cause is believed to lie in quicksands beneath; and it offers a singular phenomenon to stand on the shore below, and marking the sunken platforms of earth behind, see where half
101an acre of clay has risen through the sandy beach in front, within a few inches of the surface of the water.
The treacherous attributes of the shore suggested to my companion, who, though young, has been a traveller in his day, an incident he witnessed while journeying through some of the remote provinces of Mexico, which would make no feeble subject for the pencil of Weir or Inman. He had ridden with an English gentleman for many hours through an unsettled country, where not a drop of water was to be obtained for their horses, when, coming suddenly upon a clear stream, sparkling over its bed of yellow sand, their weary beasts sprang forward simultaneously, to drink from the grateful current. A break in the bank caused their riders to rein up and dismount, retaining at the same time the loosened reins in their hands, while their horses stepped down to the margin of the brook. The American, finding that the deceitful bottom yielded as soon as touched, jerked his terrified beast from the fatal spot, while as yet his forefeet were only immersed in the quicksand. But the horse of the Englishman, in his eagerness to get at the water, made but one step to destruction. He sunk floundering to his shoulders before an effort could be made to rescue him; and then, as in
102his struggles to extricate himself from the ingulfing pool, he heaved his broad chest high above its surface, and the sucking sands drew his quarters in a moment beneath them. The nostrils of the suffering animal dilated with the fierce death encounter, and giving that hideous cry —
Detroit, Michigan, November 25.
I had just left the reading-room of the Franklin Hotel, in Cleaveland, and was making myself at home for the rest of the evening, in my own neat chamber, when the sound of a steamboat-bell, about nine o'clock, gave note that one of these vessels, which at this stormy season cannot navigate the lake with any regularity, had touched at Cleaveland on her way to this place. No time was to be lost, and huddling my clothes, &c. into my trunk as quickly as possible, I jumped into a vehicle, waiting at the tavern door, and in a few minutes was upon the quay. Here I witnessed a scene of indescribable confusion. The night was dark and somewhat gusty, and the boat and the wharf were both crowded with boxes, bales, and the effects of emigrants, who were screaming to each other in half as many languages as were spoken at Babel. Lanterns were flashing to and fro along the docks, and hoarse orders and countermands,
104mingled with the harsh hissing of the steam on every side. At length we pushed from the shore, and escaping in a moment from the head of the mole, stood fairly out into the lake, while the bright beacon of the Cleaveland lighthouse soon waned in the distance, and was at last lost entirely. I found myself, upon looking around, on board of the fine steamboat "New-York," Captain Fisher, to whose politeness I was much indebted for showing me about the boat before turning in for the night. Taking a lantern in his hand, and tucking my arm under his, he groped about among his motley ship's company like Diogenes looking for an honest man.
Our course first led us through a group of emigrants collected around a stove, mid-ships, where an English mother nursing her infant, a child lying asleep upon a mastiff, and a long-bearded German smoking his meerchaum on the top of a pile of candle-boxes, were the only complete figures I could make out from an indefinite number of heads, arms, and legs lying about in the most whimsical confusion. Passing farther on, we came to two tolerable cabins on either side of the boat just forward of the wheels, both pretty well filled with emigrants, who were here more comfortably bestowed. We next passed the forward bar-room
105(there being another abaft for cabin-passengers), and finally came to the bow, of which a horse and several dogs had already been the occupants for so many days, — the New-York having been twice driven into port and delayed by stress of weather, — that it might have been mistaken for either stable or kennel. A noble English blood-hound, the second dog only of that rare breed that I have ever seen, here attracted my attention, and delayed me until I made his acquaintance; which was but a moment, however, for every dog of a generous strain can tell instinctively when a friend of his kind approaches him.
Among others of the canine crew, too, there was a fine spaniel, whose deplorable fate, subsequently, I may as well mention here as elsewhere. The master of poor Dash, it seems, went ashore during the night at Huron, where the boat put in to land way-passengers; and the animal, springing eagerly along a plank at his call, was kicked from his narrow foothold, by some brute of a fellow, into the lake. The night was dark, and the shadow of the high wharf shut out the few lights on shore from the view of the poor animal, while those on board of the boat led him away from the land. He swam after us, yelling most piteously,
106until his suffocating cries were lost in the freshening sea, which probably the next morning tossed him a carrion on the shore. Had I witnessed the act of throwing him overboard, I could scarcely have restrained myself from pitching the dastardly perpetrator of the cruelty after the victim of his brutality: for if there be one trait in men which awakens in me indignation amounting almost to loathing of my kind, it is to see human things treating those parts of the animal creation beneath them as if this earth was meant for none of God's creatures but man.
But to return to our travels through this floating castle; We next ascended a steep stairway to the upper deck of all, and I here spent some moments rather amusingly in surveying the furniture of the emigrants with which it was crowded. They differed according to the origin of their owner. The effects of the Yankee were generally limited to a Dearborn wagon, a featherbed, a saddle and bridle, and some knickknack in the way of a machine for shelling corn, hatchelling flax, or, for aught I know, manufacturing wooden nutmegs for family use. Those of the Englishman are far more numerous; for John Bull, when he wanders from home, would not only, like the roving
107Trojan, carry his household gods with him into strange lands, but even the fast-anchored isle itself, could he but cut it from its moorings. Whenever, therefore, you see an antique-fashioned looking-glass, a decrepit bureau, and some tenderly-preserved old china, you will probably, upon looking further, have the whole house-keeping array of an honest Briton exposed to your view.
But still further do the Swiss and Germans carry their love of family relics. Mark that quaint-looking wagon which lumbers up a dozen square feet of the deck. You may see a portrait of it among the illuminated letters of a vellum-bound edition of Virgil's Bucolics. It was taken from an Helvetian ancestor that transported Caesar's baggage into winter-quarters. It might be worth something in a museum, but it has cost five times its value in freight to transport it over the Atlantic. What an indignity it is to overwhelm the triumphal chariot with the beds and ploughs, shovels, saddles, and sideboards, chairs, clocks, and carpets that fill its interior, and to hang those rusty pots and kettles, bakepans, fryingpans, and saucepans, iron candlesticks, old horse-shoes, and broken tobacco-pipes, like trophies of conquest over Time, along its racked and wheezing sides. That short man yonder, with square shoulders and
108a crooked pipe in his mouth, is the owner; he, with the woollen cap, that is just raising his blue cotton frock to thrust his hand into the fob of his sherrivalleys. That man had probably not the slightest idea of the kind of country he was coming to. His eyes are but now just opening to his new condition; nor will he sacrifice a particle of his useless and expensive trumpery until they are completely open. That man has not yet a thought in common with the people of his new abode around him. He looks, indeed, as if he came from another planet. Visit him on his thriving farm ten years hence, and, except in the single point of language, you will find him (unless he has settled among a nest of his countrymen) at home among his neighbours, and happily conforming to their usages; while that clean-looking Englishman next to him will still be a stranger in the land.
I subsequently looked into the different cabins and compartments of the boat not yet visited, and had reason to be gratified with the appearance of all; though the steamboat Michigan, which I have since visited at the docks here, puts me completely out of conceit of every part of the New-York, except her captain. The Michigan, machinery and all, was built at Detroit; and without entering into a
109minute description of it, I may say, that fine as our Atlantic boats are, I do not recollect any on the Atlantic waters, for strength and beauty united, equal to this. A great mistake, however, I think, exists here in building the boats for these waters with cabins on deck, like the river boats. In consequence of such a large part of the hull being above water, they are rendered dangerous during the tremendous gales which sweep Lake Erie, and are often compelled to make a port of safety several times during a passage. The English steamers which ply between Dover and Calais are built like other sea-vessels; and having their machinery below, can consequently keep on their course in a sea where one of ours would live but a few minutes. I was fortunate, considering the stormy season of the year, in having a tolerably smooth passage across the lake, there being but few persons sea-sick on board of the boat, and I happily not included in the number. But it must be very unpleasant, during a heavy blow, to be tossed on the short cobble sea which the light fresh water of these lakes always breaks into beneath the wind.
We passed a number of islands in the morning soon after breakfast; some of them mere rocks, and
110others several miles in circumference. On one of these, of a few acres in extent, a row-boat, in which a man undertook to transport himself and one or two members of his family to the shore, was wrecked some years since. The father and brother, with a daughter of about twelve years, managed to subsist upon the snakes and snails they found among the rocks, until a passing vessel took them off, after some ten days of suffering.
It was during a shower, shortly after noon, when some low wooded islands on the American side of the lake, with a tall flag-staff peering above the haze from the little town of Amherstburg on the British shore, indicated that we had entered the mouth of the Detroit River. The wind, which was now beginning to rise into a threatening tempest, compelled us to hug the Canadian shore so closely, that the red-coated sentinel pacing along the barracks above Fort Maiden was plainly seen from the boat. The river soon after narrows sufficiently for one to mark with ease the general appearance of its banks, and the different settlements upon their course. Their appearance must be pretty in summer, when fields and woods show to the most advantage. But now, though slightly undulating, with a sudden rise from the river of some fifty or sixty feet, the adjacent country is too
111low to be strikingly beautiful. Those, however, who admire the Delaware below Trenton, if they can dispense with the handsome seats which ornament its not very clear waters, may find a charm in the gentle banks and transparent tide of the Detroit River.
The city of Detroit itself stands upon an elevated piece of table-land, extending probably for some twenty miles back from the river, and being perfectly unbroken for at least two miles along its margin. Beneath the bluff — for the plain is so high as almost to deserve the name — is a narrow bustling street of about half a mile in length, with the wharves just beyond it; and fifty yards inboard runs a spacious street called Jefferson Avenue, parallel with the lower street and the river;. the chief part of the town extends for a mile or two along the latter. The dwelling-houses are generally of wood, but there are a great many stores now building, or already erected, of brick, with stone basements. The brick is generally of an indifferent quality; but the stone, which is brought from Cleaveland, Ohio, is a remarkably fine material for building purposes. It is a kind of yellow freestone, which is easily worked when first taken from the quarry, and hardens subsequently upon exposure to the air. There are at
112this moment many four-story stores erecting, as well as other substantial buildings, which speak for the flourishing condition of the place.
The want of mechanics is so great, however, that it is difficult as yet to carry on these Operations upon the scale common in our Atlantic cities, although the demand for houses in Detroit, it is said, would fully warrant similar outlays of capital. The public buildings are the territorial council-house, situated upon an open piece of ground, designated on an engraved plan of the city as "The Campus Martius," a court-house, academy, and two banks. There are also five churches, a Catholic, an Episcopal, a Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist. The Catholic congregation is the largest; their stone church, after remaining several years in an unfinished state, is soon, it is said, to be completed with funds derived from Rome; it will make an imposing appearance when finished. The population of Detroit is, I believe, between three and four thousand — it increases so rapidly, however, that it is difficult to form an estimate. The historical associations, the safety, and commodiousness of the harbour, with its extensive inland commercial advantages, must ever constitute this one of the most interesting and important points in the Union, although other
113causes may combine to make newer places in the territory equally as flourishing as Detroit.
The appearance of the place is any thing but what you would expect from a town founded in the same year with Philadelphia. The ancient houses, which formerly stood upon streets hardly ten feet wide, were all swept away in the great fire twenty years since, and the new white dwellings, standing upon broad avenues of twenty-five yards, make the town look like a place of yesterday.
I am surprised to find but few military remains in a frontier post so frequently fortified, and which has witnessed so many scenes of border war. A small stone arsenal, with a tall picket fence around it, is the only thing of the kind discoverable, and yet the place is thought by military men to have been sufficiently strong during the last war to have held out, if properly commanded, against twice the force which the brave General Brock brought against it. The lapse of twenty-two years has not yet cooled the indignation of the inhabitants at its dastardly surrender by Hull. It is necessary to see the ground to estimate properly that besotted act, at which his officers broke their swords, and his men nearly rose in open mutiny; while even the women of the fort shut the gates,
114and declared that their husbands and brothers should not abide by the disgraceful orders of their commander. It is astounding to think how slight an exertion of force might have annihilated the attacking party. They landed about two miles below the town, and advanced in solid column along a straight road, which runs parallel with the river, and is walled inland with a high picket fence, in front of the French farm-houses which line the way. At the entrance of the town, and nearly in front of the hotel where I am staying, were planted two pieces of cannon, loaded with grape and canister. A single discharge must have swept half of the British force into eternity, while the river on one side, and the high picket on the other, would have hedged the remainder in upon a spot where the destruction of the whole would have been inevitable. The artillerymen were standing with lighted portfires, when the order to retire within the fort caused them to fling their matches to the ground, and leave it with disgust. The memory of General Hull, which, with that love of glorification that constitutes the weakest point of our national character, was so hallowed in the Eastern newspapers when he died, a few years since, is here held in the contempt that was the due of a man who was sentenced
115to be shot to death for conduct entailing so much disgrace upon the nation.
I was not a little amused while talking over these events, with some gentlemen a few evenings since, upon the very scene of contention, to hear a person, whom I soon discovered to be an Englishman, sliding into the conversation, and taking his part of it with equal animation and good feeling; upholding, however, like a leal and true Briton, the acts of his own nation. The conversation was very frank on both sides, although, when he spoke of the Kentuckians flaying the body of Tecumseh after the battle of the Thames, I could not trust myself to retaliate by mentioning Proctor's massacre at Frenchtown of the flower of the youth of Kentucky, which, as you know, prompted this ferocious act of their countrymen, in relation to the fierce but noble savage. The ball of conversation, which had hitherto been thrown with equal temper and breeding by better and abler hands, fell into mine, just as "the delicate question of impressment" was suggested by the English stranger; and in begging him to dismiss a matter upon which our views could so little harmonize, I could not help adding the opinion you have often heard me express, though of course in
116a manner that conveyed nothing offensive, that my country should never notice the existence of that national difficulty except through the mouths of our cannon; that is, that we should regard and treat impressment like piracy or kidnapping on the highway. "Kidnapping !" exclaimed my well-bred antagonist, smiling jocosely at the word, and politely waiving the further discussion of the subject, "why, I myself, sir, have been taken up for kidnapping within the very precincts of this town." He then went on to tell, in quite dramatic style, a series of whimsical adventures which he met with, when on a surveying party on the Lakes, just after the last war. (" Surveying on the Lakes twenty years ago !" exclaimed I to myself; "why, who can this man be? I have already travelled with him, since tea, over all Europe and a great part of Asia, not to mention the West Indies and South America, with the whole coast of Africa.") The lively and unaffected relation was every thing to the story, which at once enlisted the attention of all present, but the particulars were barely these: — The stranger, then a subaltern in the British service, was sent by his commanding officer to seize some deserters, who had escaped by night from the schooner in which the surveying-party
117were embarked, and which was anchored in the Detroit River. He landed on the American shore, and tracing one of tlie knaves to an inn hard-by, he seized him near the door, handcuffed him, and handed him to his men to take off to their boat in waiting. Then entering the inn, the sight of a number of articles stolen by the runaways induced the young officer to search for the rest of their number. Provoked at his want of success, he very naturally exclaimed, while passing vainly from room to room, "Well, thank Heaven, I have one of the rascals in limbo." A stout-looking fellow present immediately slid out of the apartment. The young Englishman, tired at last with his search of the premises, determined to leave the house to look further elsewhere. His foot was on the threshold of the door. "Stop there, you mister," exclaimed a tall Yankee, bringing a bayonet to a charge at his breast, "you don't come here and kidnap our citizens at that rate, I guess."
"Kidnap your citizens ! Why, my good fellow, that was a rascally deserter that I apprehended."
"Deserter or no deserter, we don't want no such doings over our side; and you don't budge from here, my hearty, except to go before Governor Cass."
"Governor Cass! Why, my dear sir, I have a
118letter here for Governor Cass, and am anxious to find him out in person."
It was "no go," however, as the sturdy yeoman said, and he and his comrades at once led our young and hasty adventurer to the residence of the governor. Detroit was then a military post of the first distinction. The town was crowded with officers and their families, and on that very day there was a levee, at which three general officers with their respective suites received company at the governor's. The culprit was politely received by the governor, and being soon drawn within a group of officers, they all heartily sympathized with him, and agreed that they might, without thinking, have acted similarly in violating a foreign territory when sent after "a scoundrel of a deserter." It was, in short, a mere matter of moonshine, and the young offender need give himself no concern about it, but fill his glass, and let the hour bring forth what it might. To make a long story short, however, our subaltern was soon ordered before the governor, who in a totally altered manner explained the grave nature of his offence to him, and told him he must be handed over to the civil authority; adding, that if he did not like to go to jail, he might take up his residence in the fort, under the care of Captain O'Fallon, whose politeness
119the English gentleman had already experienced, and under whose custody he was glad to place himself. His stay there he found far from disagreeable, and he spoke with warmth of the courtesy of the officers in walking out with him every day, and keeping up their necessary surveillance over his person in a manner that made it not at all unpleasant. The grand jury soon after found a bill against him for "the crime of kidnapping an American citizen, name unknown;" and he was held to bail in the sum of $2000, which was at once forthcoming from a gentleman on the Canadian side. The result of the trial was against the prisoner, but a higher tribunal subsequently quashed the proceedings of the court, and set the culprit at liberty.
This relation, the particulars of which I have since found are familiar to the older residents of Detroit, seemed, from the unaffected yet animated manner in which it was made, to strike every one present; and, as you may imagine, our interest in the party chiefly concerned was not a little heightened by our discovering the next morning, that the individual who had made himself so agreeable the evening before was Captain V— of the British Navy, whose enviable reputation, as the companion of Captain Owen in his recent arduous
120voyage of discovery along the coast of Africa, gives one the privilege of mentioning his name as that of a public man. Captain V— has just settled on a farm on the Canada side, but so near to Detroit that his society will be an acquisition to a neighbourhood remarkable for its agreeableness and elegant hospitality.
I have made several excursions to different places in the vicinity of Detroit. The pleasantest ride, perhaps, is one along the river on the Canada side; from which Detroit appears to great advantage. Every thing looks dead, however, in William IV.'s dominions, after coming from the bustling American town. The French there insist upon holding on to their acres, and being unwilling to improve their property, its value remains stationary. These French tenures have had their effect, too, in retarding the growth of Detroit, and they still check in no slight degree its advances in prosperity. The French farms are laid out along the river on both sides, with a front of only two or three acres on its bank, while they extend back into the country for half a dozen miles; a disposition of property very unfavourable to agriculture, and only adopted originally to bring the colonists as near together as possible, for the sake of mutual protection against the Indians. Many of these
121farms now cross the main street of Detroit at right angles at the upper end of the town, and, of course, offer on either side a dozen building lots of great value. The original owners, however, persist in occupying them with their frail wooden tenements and almost valueless improvements, notwithstanding large sums are continually offered for the merest slice in the world off the end of their longtailed patrimonies. They are a singular race of beings altogether. Mild and amiable, with all that politeness of manner which distinguishes every class of the courteous nation from which they derived their origin — they are still said to be profoundly ignorant. They call Detroit "the Fort" to this day, and yet few of them know any thing of the country whose soldiers first held it. They are good gardeners, but very indifferent farmers; and their highest ambition is to turn out the fastest trotting pony when the carriole races commence on the ice at mid-winter. Some of them will own a hundred of these ponies, which, in defiance of snow and sun, run in the woods from one end of the year to the other. The fastest of the herd, which is generally a three-minute horse, the owner will keep for himself, or, if he parts with him, asks the purchaser two or three hundred dollars for the animal, while from the rest, for twenty-five or
122thirty, he may select at pleasure. They are very easy-gaited animals, carrying astonishing weights with ease; but their shoulders are so low it is difficult to keep an ordinary saddle on their backs with any comfort. But though generally rough misshapen looking creatures, some are very elegantly formed, and remind me often — while neither resembling the Arabian nor the English horse — of some French drawings I have seen of the spirited steeds of the Balkan, or the rushing coursers of the Ukraine. I am informed that they are known to perform journeys under the saddle of sixty-miles a day for ten days in succession, without being at all injured by it. They are thought to have a different origin from the Canadian horse, to which the best of them bears no particular resemblance except in size.
With judicious crossing, a most valuable race of horses might be produced from this hardy stock, which, for their vigour and endurance, I can only compare to the tough wild thorn of the country; an unpromising shrub, which, when grafted upon, produces the most flourishing fruit-trees I have ever seen.
The drive to Lake St. Clair must be very pleasant in summer, judging from what I saw of it during a raw snowy day. The banks of this river
123are indeed rather low for beauty, and the lake itself, when you arrive at it, is only a large black sheet of clear water; but the thick-set orchards of the French farmers, coming quite down to the shore of the river, are pleasing objects in themselves, and with the green islands in the strait, the decaying windmills so frequently recurring along its shores, and the groups of shaggy ponies almost invariably grouped around their base, would enable a painter to eke out a very pretty landscape.
About ten miles from Detroit, a United States arsenal is now erecting, under the superintendence of Lieutenant Howard, of the army; for an introduction to whom I was indebted to two young officers, who rode out with me to visit the place. The day was cold and cloudy, like most it has been my lot to describe to you of late; but my companions were intelligent and agreeable, my iiorse free and sufficiently fast, and my reception at the end so satisfactory, that I still think of my ride along the lazy banks of the bilious-looking River Rouge with pleasure. The arsenal, though of brick, is by far the best specimen of masonry I have yet seen here. It is to be regretted, however, that for such a national work, the appropriation by government for its erection had not been
124large enough to have permitted the beautiful Cleaveland stone, which form the lintels of its doors and windows, to be substituted for the perishable-looking material of which the building is now constructed. The taste of Lieutenant H., which is already evinced by some arrangements in the vicinity, will no doubt induce him to preserve some hoary and fantastic-looking oaks, which fling their gnarled branches within a few yards of the walls, and which even now, stripped as they are of their foliage, are worth a whole forest of common ornamental shrubbery. The trees I have generally seen around our military posts, look ail as straight and martinet-like as if planted by a drill-sergeant. These veteran oaks stand upon a sloping bank, and as they are too crooked ever to catch the eye of the utilitarian, and be sawed up into boards, they may, if not now molested, wave yet for a century above these ingenious idlers who delight to —
Too much praise can hardly be accorded to the activity of the officer, who, in five months, has reared such a building, and created the village which is already growing up around it in the midst
125of an unbroken forest. There is a capital inn, a store, and two or three dwellings in the new town of "Dearbornville," all built since last July. I sat down to dine on a fine haunch of venison, with the veteran General B— and his young aid, who were together on a hunting expedition in the vicinity. Nothing could have impressed a stranger more favourably with military breeding, than the bland, paternal manner of the gentlemanlike old officer to his four juniors present. The deer yet abound within a morning's walk of Detroit; the primitive forest standing untouched within a few hundred yards of the town, immediately in its rear. They are hunted daily at this season, and no slight sensation was made here a day or two since, by the prolonged absence of the general, who had been benighted and lost his way, upon one of these short excursions. The town was about to turn out en masse, when the reappearance of the hunter, after two days' absence, relieved a very general anxiety.
The tedious length of this letter is sufficient apology for the abruptness with which I must break off.
Monroe, Michigan, Dec. 3, 1833
The drive from Detroit hither is dull enough at this season of the year. The road leads through almost a dead level, and the muddy streams creep over the fat black soil, as if they had gormandized upon its rich vegetation till grown too lazy for locomotion. Among others, the Huron River, from which — seeing that it rises in one of the brightest and most beautiful lakes in the peninsula, better things might be expected, waddles on to the lake, as little excited by the flocks of ducks which frolic on its bosom, as an alderman after dinner by the flies that disport upon his jerkin. Occasionally, indeed, some bright little rill will ripple across the road, and smirk over its yellow pebbles on its way to the big lake, with much the same air that the mill-streams of Long Island dance over the level ground while hurrying to the sea. But a wet prairie soon intervenes, and the innocent rivulet, like a child that is snubbed, becomes at once silent and sulky. But though some
127parts of Wayne county are thus unattractive, I am told that other sections contain much arable land of excellent quality, consisting of sand loam and some clay with heavy timber, and occasionally fine bottoms along the streams. The population is about eight thousand.
The village of Monroe, in the county of the same name, from which I now write, is situated on the banks of the River Raisin, and about two miles from its entrance into Lake Erie. It was incorporated two years since, and comprises a part of the old site of Frenchtown, celebrated, as you remember, in the annals of the last war. The place is said to be regularly laid out; but the most business part of it — and it is the fussiest little town in the world — looks as if the buildings had all been tossed from the other side of the river, and left 10 settle just where they might fall upon this. If the place continues to increase as rapidly, however, as it has during the last year — the population having doubled in that time — the inhabitants can art'ord to burn down the river side of the village, and arrange it to more advantage. There are now about 150 houses, of which 20 or 30 are stone; some of them are wholesale establishments, and make a very handsome display of fancy goods. There are also two grist-mills immediately
128in the town, a woollen factory, an iron foundry, several saw-mills, a chair factory, a tannery, &c. And yet, notwithstanding the supply of water-power affords every facility for the use of machinery, the demand for manual labour is very great, and mechanics of every kind may here, as in Detroit, find constant employment. Indeed, I am told, that the demand for mechanics in every part of Michigan is excessive; and as for labourers, I have seen them repeatedly advertised for, bv written notices on tavern doors and elsewhere. The emigrants to the territory, I find, are generally people of a very respectable class, who have both the disposition and the means to employ the services of others around them.
The "Bank of the River Raisin" is established at this place, with a capital of $100,000; and though in its infancy, is said to be doing a very nourishing business. The notes are among the handsomest specimens of bank-note engraving I have 'seen. There is also a Land-Office established here, at which the sales of public lands since last April amount to upwards of $22,000; the sales at Detroit and White Pigeon together a little exceeding this sum. The government price of land ($100 for 80 acres) being the same in every part
129of the territory, this will give you some idea of the immigration into the Peninsula.
I must not forget to mention that with a population of only 1600 souls, five religious denominations are represented in their respective clergymen at Monroe; and that three of these,the Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Presbyterian, have each a neat church of their own. I ought to add that a newspaper, with a good circulation, is printed here.
The advantageous position of Monroe, situated as it is at the head of Lake Erie, induced the government to make an appropriation for improving the harbour, which, except that of Maumee, is the only one at this part of the lake. The lamented Major Maurice, of the Engineer Corps (who, you may remember, fell down and instantly expired in the act of shaking hands with General Gratiot at Washington, last winter), and whom the inhabitants of this place speak of with the tenderest remembrance — made minute surveys of the harbour and of the different channels of the river; and the bill which has been at various times introduced into Congress for their improvement was based upon his reports. A bill was passed at the last session of Congress appropriating $8,000 for rebuilding the pier at the mouth of the river, and
130also appropriating the sum of $20,000 for a road from La Plaisance bay, through which the Raisin debouches into Lake Erie, to intersect the Chicago road, which traverses the whole Peninsula at a point about 40 miles from here; an improvement which will open a new market to southern and western Michigan, and contribute of course much to the prosperity of Monroe. A bill was also passed by both houses appropriating $15,000 for a canal connecting the waters of Lake Erie and the River Raisin, by a cut across the bar at the mouth of the latter. The money has not been expended, however, in consequence of an oversight in the engrossing clerk, which, from his omitting this important item, has prevented the bill as yet becoming a law. The moneys appropriated for the pier and road have already been mostly expended, and those public works are now nearly completed under the active and efficient superintendence of Capt. Henry Smith, of the Engineer Corps. When all these improvements are completed, Monroe must come in for a large share of the immense trade and commerce which must flow through the three outlets of eastern Michigan. The mouth of the Maumee can hardly compete with it on account of the extreme unhealthiness of that swampy region; but I am inclined to think that the enterprising inhabitants
131of this thriving little place are somewhat too vivacious in their expectations, when they think of not only rivalling, but outstripping, the ancient city of the straits on the onward road to prosperity. Detroit, like every other point selected by the French on the Western waters of our country, is as commanding a position, whether for war or trade, as could be chosen.
The Monroeites are, however, a driving people in their way. They are now building a steamboat of the largest class, which will cost not less than $45,000, to ply directly between here and Buffalo; and this morning I saw launched a beautiful schooner, for the lake navigation. It was the first launch that had ever taken place at Monroe, and the occasion caused a general turn out of the inhabitants, who hurried to the spot, a mile or two off, upon horses of every variety of appearance. There was the bull-necked French pony and his scraggy looking Indian cousin, the sleek spongy-looking Ohio horse, and the clean-limbed quickly-gathering Kentuckian, galloping between the swift but shuffling Illinois pacer, and the high-actioned tight-looking New-York trotter. Every one rode as if for a wager, and when we drew our reins the talk upon horse flesh superseding almost the interest of the schooner, showed that the Monroeites, like Catiline and Purdy, deserve to be celebrated
132for their judgment in these matters. A very good and full band of Amateur Musicians, composed of respectable private individuals of the village, came at last upon the ground, and changed the subject to the name of the new vessel, which several wished to alter before launching, from the hackneyed one of Diana to the more characteristic sound of Tecumseh, the spot being so celebrated in the memoirs of that great chief. "You knew Tecumseh then, sir ?" said I to an old gentleman, who, I was informed, had been a field officer during the late war, and engaged in several battles. "I did, sir, and he was as thorough a gentleman and as high-toned an officer as any in the British service." The chief, you know, actually held his commission as a general officer immediately from the King of Britain. "What do you then, sir, think of his massacre upon this spot," I rejoined. "The barbarity of that act, sir, was only in accordance with Indian ideas of warfare. The disgrace of it attaches entirely to the English officer (Proctor) who permitted, perhaps sanctioned, the atrocity." The old officer's blood seemed to kindle anew as he dwelt upon that horrible slaughter of a force which had capitulated on honourable terms with a full reliance on the foe for protection. I asked him about the sick and wounded, who were burnt up in the hospital, or
133shot to death as they ran shrieking through the flames. "I saw their bones," he replied," when the ruins were still recent. I came on with the corps of Kentuckians which advanced soon after into this country, and subsequently so eagerly avenged their countrymen at the battle of the Thames.
Speaking of the troops who were concerned in the early operations of these regions, I have heard a number of interesting accounts from different persons of the formation of the several corps. One of these, though I may very probably, in trying to recall the particulars, confound them with the incidents of another, I will venture to repeat. A graduate of Williams College, Massachusetts, who had been recently admitted to the bar, was riding through the State of Kentucky, perhaps with the design of finding some favourable point at which to fix his abode and commence the practice of his profession, when he was accosted near a village by a mounted traveller, who, mentioning that he was a planter of the country, invited the young advocate, with all the freedom of western hospitality, to dine at his house the following day. The invitation was accepted; and the eastern gentleman, arriving at the mansion of the unknown host, found a large party collected, the majority of whom were well acquainted with each other, while many were strangers like himself, and invited apparently in the same manner. The dinner, however, was got through with sociably enough; and by the time the glass began to circulate freely, all felt that easy confidence in the fellowship and good feeling of each other which is the soul of good society.
135The host, then rising, described briefly the state of the north-western frontier, and produced a commission from his pocket to raise a corps and march at once thither. They enlisted to a man; their entertainer provided them on the spot with the necessary stores and munitions; and the band of volunteers started in a few hours on their march to the border.
The name of the noble host was not mentioned, but the eastern adventurer, who was elected a lieutenant upon the spot, and soon after became a captain, was said to have been better known since as colonel, general, governor, and lastly, — Mr. Secretary Cass.
I regret now that I did not inquire into and note down the names and other particulars of a relation so striking, but you have the tale as it was told in my hearing, minus the admirable manner of the relation. But I am forgetting the Diana — that burst of music tells that she begins to move on her ways — calmly now she slides like a pair of Broqua's slippers through a quadrille; and now, as that bottle of champaign foams over her bow, her motion increases almost to the velocity of a gallope. What a sensation does she make among the waves, and how do they coquet with her on every side! She bobs about till she seems as unstable as themselves.
136But now the sober skipper, like a good husband, takes possession of her virgin charms, and placing himself at once at the helm, the unmeaning waters cease their flirting, and sustain her above them without daring to attempt to influence her course.
The ride to these dock-yards is rather pleasant; but I have seen handsomer rivers than the Raisin. The banks for several miles around the village have been almost denuded of trees; and the limestone channel lets off so much of the stream through its crevices, that, like a tankard of liquor passed round, according to custom, at a western inn, it is half drunk up before it gets to its real owner, the lake. It would delight an eastern farmer, to see the magnificent pear-trees which, tall as the trees of the forest, and of the growth of a century, extend through orchards for miles along the stream. Here, too, are apple-trees, to the excellence of whose fruit I can testify, that were brought by the French to this country in 1731. The grape-vines, also, from which the river takes its name, constitute a beautiful feature in the level landscape, as they hang in rich festoons along the banks of the stream, and climb wherever it is wooded to the tops of the loftiest elms.
There is now an application and great interest
137making to incorporate a company for the purpose of improving the navigation of the River Raisin and the Saline by a lock and dam navigation, — an improvement which it is said can be made at slight expense. The river, flowing gently in its channel, with banks of equal elevation, seems ready to receive and bear upon its bosom the rich products of the country on its borders. By constructing a tow-path, the expense of which will not be heavy, an excellent canal can be easily made.
The subject of canals and railroads awakens at this moment the keenest interest in Michigan; and, after the route of the projected grand communication between Lakes Erie and Michigan, through the peninsula, shall be determined upon by the general government, I have no doubt but that large and advantageous outlays of private capital upon similar works will be made at other points. Of the plans talked of as best worthy the attention of government, that of a grand railroad from Chicago to Detroit, with a lateral one perhaps to Monroe, seems to be considered as the least chimerical; though there are not a few who advocate a canal immediately across the peninsula, in a direct line from the mouth of the Maumee to Lake Michigan; and still a greater number who urge the construction of one from the mouth of the Raisin to that of
138the St. Joseph's, on the opposite side of the peninsula — a route which would pass through a country acknowledged, I believe, to be the most fertile in Michigan. But another project still remains, as feasible, or perhaps more so than either of these. It is to connect the Washtenong or Grand River — a noble stream, which waters half the territory, and is navigable nearly 240 miles in bateaux — with the Huron, a fine stream, which, after rising within a few miles of the sources of the Washtenong, empties into Lake Erie, on the opposite side of the peninsula. You can hardly form an idea of the relative importance and feasibility of these projects, without more knowledge of the territory of Michigan than is common at the east, where people generally know about as much of it as they do of Timbuctoo. I have already been so fortunate in my opportunities of talking with well-informed people here, that I might venture at once to give you a general view of the country, but I prefer that you should gather whatever information I have to give from my own actual observations made along the road. With regard to scenery, I do not think, from what I have yet seen, I can promise you much; but for agricultural and mineral resources, and for manufacturing and commercial advantages, I think I can produce some data which,
139if they do not astonish our good people at home in regard to Michigan, will at least account for the emigrants pouring into the territory as they do, and believing it to be the garden of the Union. You must, however, pick up your information as I shall, by jogging along quietly with me through the country, and observing matters and things just as they come beneath our eyes. To-morrow I start for the interior. Farewell.
Monroe Co., M. T., Dec. 5, 1833.
I write to you from a log-cabin on the banks of the river Raisin, about thirty miles above Monroe. The worthy farmer, upon whose premises I am quartered for the night, sits with his child on his knee, in the chimney-corner, with a prosing visitor, pipe in mouth, opposite, while the good woman is engaged doing some "chores" at the farther end of the apartment, which is, of course, the chief cooking, eating, sitting, sleeping, and smoking chamber in the house. My dormitory, I have a shrewd suspicion, is to be in a loft, from which a lad is at this moment descending by a ladder with some corn for my horse. The black walnut stand, upon which I am writing, occupies the centre of the room; and as I am at this moment keeping up my share in a desultory conversation going forward around me, and at the same time trying to check the undue familiarity of a large bull-dog — who, like other individuals, has become troublesome from being admitted too rapidly into intimacy
141— you must not expect me to be very coherent in detailing the impressions of the day.
It was a gloomy, lowering morning, with occasional flakes of snow driving through the harsh atmosphere, when I started from the village of Monroe, well mounted on a stout roan, whose figure and action would command thrice the sum in New-York that the animal cost me here, and whose performance to-day speaks well of the dependence I may place upon him to carry me through my arduous route into the interior of the Peninsula. It was with a feeling of almost boyish pleasure that, after the slight taste I have had of stage-coach travelling from Pittsburg to Cleveland, and from Detroit to Monroe, I found myself once more in the saddle, with the full privilege of regulating my motions as I choose. The delightful mode in which I travelled with S— from New York to Wheeling, in a barouche, with two led horses under the saddle, was, indeed, both for pleasure and solid comfort, not to be surpassed. But now, though I have neither the agreeable friend, the attentive groom, nor the luxurious carriage to enhance the gratification and relieve the weariness of travelling, the feeling of independence still remains. And though I confess I could not suppress a sigh this morning, when packing up the
142linen and books which, with my trunk, I shall not see for a month to come; yet that pair of saddlebags beneath my feet, though conscious only of a shirt apiece, flanked as they are by my light fowling-piece, which that weather-beaten worthy is at this moment curiously examining, and my leggings, which are drying upon those andirons, make me feel as rich as did that famous soldato Dugald Dalgetty himself, with his single change of chamois leather and iron overcoat, while handling his arms and surveying his compact appointments from the back of the doughty Gustavus.
My road led, from the moment of leaving the village, along the banks of the Raisin, whose serpentine current flowed fuller and clearer the farther I advanced into the country. The land at the same time gradually rising, and though never hilly, yet leaving the stream far enough below to form a bluff of some ten or fifteen feet, where the timber-land rose from the rich bottoms on its margin. After riding thus for about twenty miles along the river, where the log-cabins gradually became fewer and farther between, I struck through a wood so dense that it seemed to terminate the settlements in this direction, and then at a sudden turning of the path, I came at once upon the "oak openings." It would be difficult to convey an idea
143of the pleasing effect of such a surprise. Imagine yourself emerging from a New-Jersey swamp, and coming at one bound upon one of the English parks which Puckler Muskaw so admirably describes. Clumps of the noblest oaks, with not a twig of underwood, extending over a gently undulating grassy surface as far as the eye can reach; here clustered together in a grove of tall stems supporting one broad canopy of interlacing branches, and there rearing their gigantic trunks in solitary grandeur from the plain. The feeling of solitude I had while in the deep woods deserted me the moment I came upon this beautiful scene, and I rode on for hours, unable without an effort to divest myself of the idea that I was in a cultivated country.
Towards evening I found myself in the thick forest again, and was glad, as the night closed in darkly over the road where at every step my horse would either sink to his knees in mud, or trip over the stubble of newly cut saplings, to be overtaken by a mail-rider, with his leathern charge on horseback. The lonely lad was as glad of company through the forest as I was of a guide; and he willingly taking the lead, I flung my bridle on my horse's neck, as the skies became blacker and blacker, and touching him smartly with the spur, away we went through the woods together. —
144" Take care of that tree, sir; look out for the mud-hole" — called my goblin usher at each moment, as we tramped and splashed along, where I would have defied the Evil One himself to have seen any thing but the impenetrable dark. I heeded him not; but bending low in the saddle to avoid the boughs, and gluing my knees to the surcingle, I surrendered myself to my destiny, and attended to nothing but keeping my horse as close as possible to the heels of his file leader. At length we reached & clearing, and a few yards of better road brought us to a log-cabin. The family were at supper when I entered; and sitting down with the rest, I helped myself with an iron spoon from a dish of suppawn, and fishing up a cup from the bottom of a huge pan of milk, I poured the snowy liquid over the boiled meal that rivalled it in whiteness. The corn, from which it is made, my host tells me, grew to the height of sixteen feet, the stalks being of a blackish green colour. From the same soil, a black sandy loam of easy tillage, wheat as high as a man's head has been raised; the produce from a single grain being from 300 to 400, and in one instance one thousand and twenty-six. I see symptoms of sleeping in those around me; and having no right to monopolize this important apartment, will conclude this elsewhere to-morrow.
Tecumseh, Lenawee Co., M. T., Dec. 6.
The cockloft, as I expected, was my place of rest. I stumbled over a pile of corn, and struck my head against the roof, almost as soon as I had got my body fairly above the trap-door. I found a clean bed, however, and it was a very sociable place after all; for there were four persons besides myself stowed away in the different corners. So soundly did I sleep on my straw pallet, that the night seemed to me but just begun, when the red glare of a tallow candle flashing over my eyes, with the tap of the mail rider on my shoulder, told me that dawn was breaking, and that we must be gone. The landlord brought out a lantern for me to. mount by; and we had proceeded far on our journey before the faintest streak in the East indicated the waking of the sun.
It was about seven o'clock, when, stopping to water at a little shantee, I found several labouring people at breakfast within; and the mail carrier consenting to wait for me, I sat down at table at once with the rest. The fare consisted of hot rolls and tea, with large pieces of pork swimming in its gravy, witli a plate of noble potatoes, that pulverized when you touched them. My plate was heaped at once with all, while each one present vied with the other in civility to me. They were talking of a horse,
146for which a hundred dollars had been paid, when I entered; and an English poaching gun I have with me, not worth a fifth of the sum, caught the fancy of the owner. He insisted upon "swapping with me on equal terms," and seemed much hurt when I refused not only to "trade," but expressed no inclination to see his favourite steed. I replied, however, so good humouredly to his entreaties, that he still persisted in them until taken aside by one or two of those present. He then came up to me in an altered manner — "I hope, sir, that I don't insult you by wanting to buy that curiosest of guns, for I don't mean to be uncivil — not at all — in the least." Upon assuring him that I had taken no offence, he rejoined, that if his horse was not worth two hundred dollars he would eat him, but he had set his heart upon that gun, and must have it. I did not like to expose myself to the temptation of seeing the horse, though of course I did not think fora moment of taking advantage of the honest yeoman's caprice; but had it not been a present from a friend abroad,! should certainly have given my ardent acquaintance the toy which caught his fancy after what followed. "I say, stranger," said he, musing for a moment, "do you want a farm, eh ! a house, eh! I'll trade you as good a tavern stand, two miles from this, as there is in the
147county." I got away at last as he followed me to the door, and held my bridle to mount, by promising to leave him the object of his desires in my will.
The character of the country continued for some miles much the same as that passed over yesterday, though the river gradually degenerated into a narrow, muddy stream. The log-cabins which always occurred in the heavily-timbered district, had nothing to distinguish them from each other, and the openings were as silent as if man and beast had deserted them; though I saw a couple of deer in one instance feeding afar off, and met a settler who was carrying a wolf, just caught in a trap by the road-side, on his shoulders. I was struck, too, at seeing no less than three pet fawns near different houses, within a few miles of each other. In one instance a tall hound was sitting erect beside one of these gentle creatures, who was licking the ears of the enemy of his race. The incident reminded me of an anecdote I heard told by an old hunter in one of the wild mountain districts of New-York. His favourite hound, one morning, when the deer were in the red coat and not fit to hunt, came to him while chopping, and made signs for his master to follow to a thicket not far off, where the woodman discovered a fawn so
148entangled that it could not escape. It was so small and feeble that he carried it away with ease in his arms, while the doe, which was near at hand, followed her bleating offspring. The dog accompanied him with great apparent joy, and, though one of the keenest of his kind, would drive off the grown deer only a few rods, and then return at once to keep an eye on his master's movements. The fawn was taken home, and, being fed continually by the children, soon went tame about the house. The dog, however, insisted upon sleeping with it, and could scarcely be separated from his long-eared friend; and when it met with the usual fate of pets, and died prematurely, a month or two after, poor Ring was inconsolable. The worthy English settler, who had been a gamekeeper in the "auld country" in his day, added, that he had the curiosity to dress a piece of the venison, which, fond as hounds are of that food, was rejected with disgust by tlie canine mourner.
One of the other fawns which I saw, would, with the group attendant, have made a pretty subject for Fisher's pencil. He had thrust his head into a bevy of rosy little girls, who were making "sand pies" on the bank of the river; and as his delicate hoofs threatened to demolish the rural substitutes for the card-houses of parlour-bred
149urchins, one of the little architects, covering her work with her hands, kept the intrusive animal at bay with her head; the long yellow locks of which streamed over his bluish crest, while the perverse beast twisted his snout under and insisted upon licking her face.
It was still early in the afternoon when I arrived at this place, and my surprise was not slight, after coming through a region where every mile seemed to lead me farther from civilization, to light suddenly upon a pretty village laid out with broad streets, and having an excellent tavern on a public square in the centre. I entered the town through an oak opening. Within a few hundred yards from the village I passed a half-dozen graves, apparently dug at random among the trees, though each was ornamented with a handsome head-stone. I have since learned that the town's people, with a degree of consideration which might well be emulated in larger cities, are already making arrangements to lay out and plant a public cemetery for the use of every religious denomination in the place. At Monroe, I believe they have already done the same thing. There, indeed, they had an ample number of guests for the narrow house, before even the abodes for the living were built. The bones of those massacred on the Raisin,
150bleached till within a few years on the banks of that river; and an inhabitant of the place told me that he had often walked over the execution-ground and handled sculls that were cloven with the tomahawk. There is also an Indian cemetery about twelve miles from Monroe, where the skeletons of the dead can be plainly seen through the crevices of the stone-pile heaped above them. I am told that they are wholly unmolested by the white inhabitants; partly from feelings of decency creditable to themselves, and partly, perhaps, from fear of the roving relatives of the deceased, who return yearly and observe the condition of the spot with a jealous eye. Not far from this place resides an old settler, who has killed a half a dozen Indians with his own hand. Three or four of them he shot with his rifle from his cabin, when they surrounded it to capture him; and the stories told of his encounters with the others might better be detailed by a novelist than a letter-writer. I have seen nothing of the natives yet, except a couple of Wyandott squaws; though the French settlers, with their elf locks and blanket capotes, might at a distance be well taken for aborigines. I think a little of starting at once for the rapids of the Grand River, and spending a week or two among the Ottowas, who, I am told, are still there in consider
151able numbers, and preserving enough of their original habits to make them fair specimens of the Michigan Indians. They tell me, however, that a guide will be indispensable; and having already offered one in vain a fair compensation, I may be compelled to give up the attempt.
The Grand River, or Washtenong, is, as I have before mentioned, the largest stream in the Peninsula, being 270 miles in length, while the country watered by it consists of about 7,000 square miles. It has a good harbour at its mouth, on Lake Michigan, for vessels drawing eight feet water, and it is navigable for those drawing four feet for more than thirty miles from the lake: while farther inland it traverses a country represented by my informant, who has recently returned from surveying in that distant region, as of immense fertility. There are also beds of gypsum and lime, with stone-quarries and mines of iron, with indications of the existence of copper, to be found on its tributaries, while a hundred mineral springs — which seem to abound in this country, for I have already seen a half a dozen — enrich the central region where its branches interlock with the bright waters of the Huron on the eastern, and the myriads of streams and lakes which form the sources of the Kekalamazoo, on the western side of the Peninsula.
They tell me here that it would be in vain for me to attempt to cross the country from Chicago to St. Louis alone at this season of the year, when, if the vast prairies are covered with snow, I should be lost beyond a certainty; and as I am now compelled to remain until the new public conveyance, contracted for by government, commences running on the first of January, I shall employ the intermediate time in seeing as much of Michigan as possible. I find myself among the most intelligent population of the middle class (the bone and sinew of a community) I ever mixed with; and every one seems so contented, may even say delighted, with his adopted home, that I am catching a little of the spirit of those around me, and am eager to visit more intimately scenes, which one would suppose were Elysian, by the way in which people talk of them. I find myself as yet only thirty-five miles from Monroe by the new U. S. road, though the route I travelled was sixty-five. When you next hear from me I shall be farther in the interior, and hope to be able to tell you that I have seen a hill or a rock, the sight of either of which would, I confess, be refreshing, in spite of all the charms of oak openings, vine-hung streams, and grassy bottoms.
Saline, Washtenaw Co., M. T., Dec. 7.
I have just spent an hour with Mr. Risden, the surveyor of a great part of Michigan, at whose house I have stopped for the night, in talking about the district with which he is familiar; and I shall avail myself of the information thus acquired, in filling up hereafter my notes upon the country. The conversation turning upon the healthfulness of Michigan, there was not one out of several residents present who did not allow the existence of bilious fevers and fever and ague, in every part of the country; but they spoke of passing through these diseases as merely a slight process of acclimating, which, in the general health of the country, was hardly to be considered. They asserted, too, what I have before heard stated by more than one physician in the territory, that Michigan is exempt from many of the diseases most fatal to human life at the East. Consumption, for instance, — which a reference to the bills of mortality will show destroys almost as many in New-York,
154take year and year together for several in succession,
155that has been travelled perhaps for centuries, and bears here the same relation to an ordinary road thcit a turnpike does to a railroad in your state. He chooses, in short, the most fertile spot on his acres, in order to have a garden immediately around his house, which he places plump upon the road, in order to have it "more sociable-like, and see folks passing." His garden grows from almost nothing. The first year the hog-pen and cow-yard occupy the place designed for its commencement. They are moved farther from the house the second year, and a few cabbages occupy the place which they have enriched by their temporary situation upon it. They move again on the third year; and the garden, which can now boast of a few currant-bushes and a peach-tree, expands over the place they have ceased to occupy. And now our settler, having built a fine barn, and "got things snug about him," begins to like the looks of the woods again, which he has so industriously swept from every spot that can be seen from his door. He shoulders his pickaxe, goes out into the forest, and selecting two of the straightest maple saplings he can find, they are at once disinterred, their heads chopped off, to make these tall awkward things look civilized, and the pair of poles,
156thrust into the ground within two feet of his door, are whitewashed and called trees.
Dexter, Washtenaw Co., M. T., Dec. 12.
I have been here two or three days; but so occupied in riding about looking at the country, that I have not till now attempted to finish this letter. Far different is the appearance of the cottages here from those described above, as the common residence of new settlers. They build almost altogether in the oak openings; and as the country is now undulating, I have seen some cabins very prettily situated in clumps of oaks, a gun-shot from the road, with fields of young wheat extending in every direction around them. The soil, when first turned up, is a kind of yellow gravel, very unpromising in its appearance; but it rapidly undergoes a chymical change, becoming almost black in fields of two years' cultivation, and improving every season without the aid of a particle of manure. I have now got among the rolling land, in a region full of lakes and oak openings, of which hitherto I had only a taste. I need hardly say how much more grateful such a country is to my eye than the level thickly-timbered lands about Detroit and Monroe.
I came hither by way of the pretty village of
157Anne-Arbour, which contains, I should think, seven or eight hundred inhabitants; many of whom, I am told, are very respectable English emigrants. I stopped at a farm-house, about five miles from here, to dine. A white-headed boy, six or seven years old, was turning a grindstone before the door, while a couple of Indians sharpened their knives. Near them a miserable pony, with his wooden saddle covered with a freshly-flayed deer, and a brindled, wiry-haired dog, with the head of a wolf and the crest of a boar, skulked around the slaughtered game, and snarled in its protection, when, after dismounting, I approached it. His swarthy masters and myself entered the house together. "Tenepe keen chemocomon ?" (Where is your American ?) said the oldest of the two to a very pretty Connecticut girl, who had recently followed her husband to this country. She, replied by pointing to him, working at a distance in a field, and the Indians sat down patiently till the farmer entered. The venison was then laid on a table, and a bargaining scene commenced, which lasted full half an hour. "Cau-nee-shin, chomocomon" (Not a good American), said one of the red barterers, turning to me, as the white trader offered him what he thought too little for a whole deer. The bargain was struck, however
158before a by-stander could interpret the appeal for me. The skin still remained with the Indian, and I was not a little surprised to see produced from it a variety of articles of Indian produce, among which were large cakes of deer's tallow, about the size of an ordinary cheese. These were all traded away in succession, and a small cask produced by the Indian was filled with whiskey on the spot; and the eldest mounting the pony, they both shook me by the hand, and soon disappeared with their poisonous burden behind a turning of the road. They were of the Ottawa tribe, well-made men, though slightly built, and with aquiline noses and finely-shaped heads; and each, when I first saw them, had the freest and most graceful step I ever saw, whether on the sod or in the ball-room. How complete was the metamorphosis when I overtook them half an hour afterward in the woods! The eldest, who could not have been more than five-and-thirty, was barely sober enough to guide his horse, and sitting with both arms around the barrel of whiskey on the pommel before him, he reminded me of an engraving of Bacchus, in a very vulgar and not very witty book, called Homer Travestie. The Indian gravity, which had before been preserved amid all the nervousness incident to a trading operation, had
159now thoroughly deserted him, and toddling from side to side, he muttered a sort of recitative, which combined all the excellences of the singing and spouting of a civilized toper. His companion, a youth of but seventeen, seemed perfectly sober, and stopping only occasionally to pick up the whip of the fumbling rider, he stepped so lightly by his horse's side that the leaves scarcely rustled beneath his moccasin. I was somewhat pained, of course, at the exhibition, though I confess I was not a little diverted, while riding along for miles in the silent woods, with such grotesque company. The pedestrian continued as reserved and respectful as ever; but my fellow-cavalier, after talking a quantity of gibberish to me, which was, of course, perfectly unintelligible, seemed to be at last quite angry because I could not understand him; then, after again becoming pacified, he found a new source of vehemence in urging me to "schwap pasischegun" (exchange my gun, to which he took a great fancy) for his "papooshe pascocachee" (child of a horse), as he called a colt that followed the forlorn pony on which he rode. I could not help blaming myself, however, for having been so long diverted with the frailties of this hospitable Silenus, when at parting, about nightfall, where he struck into the forest, he gave me an invitation to
160his wigwam, twenty miles off, signifying the distance by raising all his fingers twice, at the same time using the words," Howh! keen marchee neen wigwam" (come to my wigwam). How strangely are we constituted, that one should derive amusement in the woods from an exhibition which, in a city, would only excite pain and disgust! I have never seen a half-intoxicated Indian before without the deepest feelings of commiseration. As for the alleged crime of selling Indians whiskey, it is impossible to prevent it. The love of spirituous liquors is a natural craving of the red man, which is irrepressible, and as such I have heard the most humane and intelligent persons speak of it, — people who have passed their lives among the Indians, and have done their best to snatch them from this perdition. The haughtiest chief will travel a hundred miles for a pint of whiskey, and get drunk the moment he receives it, wheresoever he may be. Providence seems to have designed that this mysterious race should not continue upon the earth, and fate has infused a fatal thirst into their bosoms, which is hastening their doom with fearful celerity. But six years ago, and the woods around me were alive with Indians; now they are only traversed by a few such stragglers as these. You may talk of civilizing them, — but that, too, is impossible.
161You may more easily civilize the stupidest African than the most intelligent Indian; and yet, who for a moment would compare the erect port and manly tread, the air, the blooded look of the one, with his keen sagacity and rare instincts, to the misshapen form, the shuffling gait, and stupid bearing of the other ? Where, then, lies the difficulty? The African is an imitative animal, — the Indian is not. He will copy the form of your weapons, for he lias felt their edge; and he will make himself ridiculous by wearing a cocked hat, because he conceives it to be an emblem of authority. Rings and bracelets he may wear, for they recommend him to his own tribe; but the forms and fashions of civilization he despises. The negro furnishes the best raw material for a dandy that can be had; he learns at once how to wear his hat and adjust his shirt-collar, according to the last mode of the white man. The Indian, if a fop, departs even further than usual from the costume of a European. He comes from Nature's hands all that she ever intended him to be, — the wild man of the woods. To the fleetness of the deer in traversing the forest, he unites the instinct of the hound in finding his way; and when you add to these the mental gift of a certain wild eloquence, wholly unimprovable by cultivation, you have
162nearly summed up the intellectual qualifications of the American savage, — the genuine child of nature — the untamed — the untameable.
I had a long conversation on this subject yesterday with a middle-aged gentleman of high intelligence and character, for many years settled in the territory, and who has availed himself of unusual opportunities of studying Indian life and manners. We had been all day in a canoe, paddled by ourselves, exploring a chain of small lakes in this vicinity; and the perfect stillness of the woods around, while floating at sunset over the transparent water, induced him to remark upon the rapid disappearance of the inhabitants; who, but six years since, when he first visited this part of Michigan, kept their canoes upon every stream in the country. The observation suggested the discussion, already alluded to, upon the feasibility of civilizing the Indians; and lie told me a variety of anecdotes about a young Ottawa chief with an unpronounceable name, whom, on various accounts, he had once thought the fittest subject for social life he had ever met with among the aborigines. The conclusion of his relation was so whimsical and strikingly characteristic, that I will finish this letter with the details precisely as I took them down in my note-book from the lips of my informant;
163our canoe, the while, being allowed to float as she listed along the placid bosom of one of those beautiful lakes into which the river Huron expands a few miles from its sources.
"As we came one day to the Indian encampment, Ketche-waun-doug-enink caught me by the hand as usual, with his shrill exclamation of welcome, and my party proceeded at once to pitch our tent near his, before a blazing fire of logs. After affording us what assistance he could, the young chief left us; but in the evening he called in again at our tent, and brought his father and mother, his wife, and three sisters with him. They all looked quite solemn, and in his manner, particularly, there was something altogether unusual. Young Ketche-waun-doug-enink had been quite my friend, always appeared glad to see me, and was generally sociable in his way, but now he was grave and reserved, almost to severity. My familiarity with Indian character induced me to suppress every thing like surprise at such an extraordinary change of deportment, and we sat thus, I should think, for at least half an hour. At last the young Indian rose up in a formal way, and taking a position full in the light of the fire, began a speech abounding with gesture and vehemence. The amount of it was this: — ‘Listen, my friend; I
164see that you are wiser than any of your white brethren.’ — [‘I must interrupt my story,’ said my companion, ‘to remind you, that believing my young Indian friend, who was a fine-looking fellow, had some relish for civilization, and half a mind, indeed, to turn white man, 1 anticipated that some proposition to that effect would be the purport of his speech.’] — He continued — ‘ I am glad to see that you love the Indians; that you are not ashamed of our mode of life. Let me tell you, what I presume you already know, that the life of the white man is one of care and trouble. The Great Spirit has blessed his red children in a peculiar manner. We have no care. We are as Che-manitou
165seen that dwells in the mind of the Indian. He has no disguise — no cause for it — the troubles of the white man disturb not the clear stream of his soul. Come with us — share with us the gifts of Che-manitou — think no more of those distant lands of your childhood, where men live but to harass each other, and gather riches that eat the soul up with care — come — here you will build your wigwam — I will help you — you shall have my sister for your wife — she shall weave your mats, and raise your corn, and dry your venison, which we will kill together in the woods. You have lived long enough a life of wretchedness; come and be happy with us.’"
I was curious to learn how the rest of the family, and especially the fair member of it particularly designated in this singular harangue, behaved while her brother was pronouncing it; and more than all, how the object of it himself received the address. I will endeavour to give you the exact replies of my interesting companion, without repeating the various questions from me which elicited them.
"My young friend sat down. Throughout his speech, the family observed the utmost silence. The lady in question was as indifferent as an Indian could be, at least in manner. They all looked at
166me for my opinion — the lady excepted. I will confess that I felt embarrassed, though I had but half a dozen Indians for my audience. An answer however was necessary. ‘ I thank you, my friend,’ said I,‘ and needed not this new proof of your friendship. I am sensible Che-manitou has smiled upon you; that you are his favourite children. But we white men have been spoiled by education; we have been taught to think many things necessary that you red men can do well without; and inferior as our mode of life is to yours, it is not the least of its evils that it has unfitted us for the simple pleasures that Che-manitou every day gives you. I have friends and a mother far away towards the rising sun. She does not know the red men, and might not be a mother to your sister. Your sister, if I should take her to the rising sun with me, would pine for her green woods and wigwam by the bright Shiawassee. She will doubtless be happier as she is. She will take for her husband some red man like yourself, who will love her, and prize the blessings which Che-manitou yields you. I again thank you, my friend, and your sister. I must, after a few days, leave this country; but I shall bear my friends in my heart, and in the crowded city where the white men live, I shall often sigh for these green woods, and lament the absence of my red friends.’"
Dexter, Washtenaw Co., M. T., Dec. 15th.
I have been waiting here since I last wrote, in order to join an exploring party of three or four individuals, to go up into Shiawassee county, to examine lands. A heavy snow-storm has set in to-day, however, and as it will put an end to the expedition, I shall probably start by myself for the Kalamazoo country to-morrow. The journey to Grand River, which I proposed to myself, I shall, from the time it would consume, be compelled now to abandon entirely. I do not regret the time I have spent here, for I am not far from the centre of the territory; and while I have my head-quarters at a good inn, in a well-settled place, I can, in a ride of a few miles, plunge at once into the wilderness. It is a pretty dangerous matter, however, for a stranger to go without a guide reconnoitring through a country where every hill, lake, and wood looks so much like its brother that the ordinary landmarks are of no assistance to the eye. The scenery of Michigan will be far more attractive
168when cultivation shall have given variety to a landscape which, however beautiful at present, is somewhat monotonous. After visiting nearly a dozen of the transparent ponds of every size which stud the surface of the country, and finding but two or three whose firm banks of some fifteen or twenty feet elevation assumed a picturesque appearance, from the irregular manner in which they pushed their beautifully wooded promontories far into the lakes they bounded, I started, the other day, to visit a sheet of water somewhat elevated, about twelve miles off. My way, after going a mile or two from the village, led through oak openings of rolling land, called "the Short Hills," which I can best assimilate to a collection of enormous graves — the tombs of households, if you choose — thrown confusedly together upon a perfectly level surface; where a patch of wild meadow-land, a cranberry marsh, or a bog that looked like the desolated bed of a lake, and frequently, indeed, the shallow lake itself, filled up the intervals. The huge oaks that crowned the summits of these formal mounds were the only objects that relieved the dreariness of the landscape; even they, I thought, while riding alone beneath their branches, that sighed to the December wind, were not the most enlivening objects in the world. I rode thus
169for miles without seeing a living thing except a raven, which, as that description of bird is only found in those parts of the Union where wolves still infest the country, I at once took it for granted was hovering near one of the savage beasts to which he so faithfully plays the jackal. Wheeling my horse suddenly from the trail towards a thicket of dwarf oaks, where I expected to find the carrion deer that attracts these worthies, he shied from the bush, and I was thrown upon the spot. After extricating the foot, by which I was dragged a yard or two, from the stirrup, I sprang up but little hurt, and moved as quickly as possible to catch my horse, who, having paused for an instant in a clump of trees near by, turned his head round, like a pointer taken aback with the scent after he has passed a bush, and stood calmly gazing at me. At the first step towards the rascal, however, he moved nearly a rod sideways, and then, ducking his head towards the ground, and throwing his heels high in the air, my ungrateful courser, accompanying these motions with every additional mark of disrespect he could summon to his aid, left his master alone in the wilderness. He disappeared behind a hill in a moment. I could not help ejaculating, with the Kentuckian whose house and family had been burned up by the
170savages, while he was cleaning his rifle at a brook hard by — "This is very ridiculous." No time was to be lost, however. It was late in the day, and I was far from any house; while the occasional flakes of snow which began to fall from the black lowering sky, threatened a storm which might cover in a moment the only path that could guide me homeward. I sat down at once among the long dry grass, and stripping off my leggings, and disembarrassing my heels of the now useless spurs, stowed all away in my coat-pockets. The coat itself I rolled up in a bundle around my left arm, and taking my gun, to which I applied a fresh cap, in my right, I strode off in as good a humour as one could summon under such provoking circumstances. I could not help thinking, indeed, how much worse matters might have been had I been thus deserted in one of the broad prairies, thirty miles, perhaps, from any house. As for the loss of my horse, I felt so indignant against the inconsiderate brute, that, I confess, it did not much trouble me. Thus did I trudge on, growing momentarily in better humour with myself. The scene around was dreary at present; but having had all the wild flowers that grow in Michigan described to me, I exercised my imagination by conceiving the more attractive appearance it must wear in summer. I thought how the brown
171woods must look when the lofty oaks around were clothed in their deep-green foliage. I thought of the various vines and flowers which then fill the broad openings between their stems — of the clumps of cluster-roses that here grow wild and cover whole acres — of the crimson daisy and fragrant balm pink, the deep-hued lichnidia, and gorgeous golden rod, which, with jonquils and amaranth, the purple fox-glove and saffron-coloured silk-weed, paint the -surface of the soil. I could fancy the glossy leaves of the nightshade with its white blossoms and poisonous berries, the creeping ivy, and red columbine, clustering at the base of the hills. The snow-white lily of the valley, the lilac-tinted adder's-tongue, and straw-coloured arrowhead, shooting through the long grass between, while the purple fleur-de-lis bloomed along the wet marshes, where the splendid cardinal-flower tossed its scarlet blossoms in the breeze.
I must have practised horticulture in this way for some time when, on rising a slight eminence in my path, I saw my amiable roan standing quietly looking in the direction whence I was coming, apparently waiting for me. I was completely mollified. I forgave him the little freak, and advanced with a light heart to lay my hand upon the bridle. He moved a little, and so did I. He moved a little
172more, and I stood still. I spoke to him, but he continued moving. I coaxed him, in a tone that would have melted the heart of one of the marble horses of St. Mark's; he was moved by it — only farther from me. I whistled to him — (I had taught him a day or two before to come to my whistle, when he had obeyed me like a dog) — he stopped, and I advanced once more to lay my hand on the saddle, and the scoundrel broke into a trot just as I was about touching him. I brought my piece to my shoulder, and could hardly forbear drawing the trigger upon him as I stood.
The ground now rolled like the waves of a frozen sea, and my nefarious brute, who soon began to stalk leisurely along about a hundred yards ahead of me, would, to carry out the figure, be just topping the combing while I was in the trough, and vice versa — like two children balancing on a plank. It was perfectly insufferable, mile after mile, to see that eternal saddle bobbing up and down a hundred yards ahead of me. Sometimes, indeed, the vexatious wearer would step aside among a cluster of oaks, to nip the tender grass which still lingered around their roots; and then, as he would arch his neck, and, seeming to admire the Indian blanket and flame-coloured surcingle which, after the gay taste of the West, I had
173buckled, combining use with ornament, to the back of the ungrateful brute, dash off with a snort into a patch of prairie-land, I could not but admire the eye of fire and gracefully-gathering limbs of the spirited creature. I wished, however, that he was anybody's horse but mine, disporting himself at that rate. At last, at a turning of the path he disappeared behind a hill, and ceasing longer to tantalize, left me comparatively comfortable. I reached the first "clearing" about twenty minutes afterward, and looking along the highway which here commenced, my horse was nowhere to be seen. Tired alike with walking and vexation, and parched with thirst (I had neither eaten nor drunk since breakfast, and it was now nightfall), I advanced to the only shantee near, and knocked at the door. There was no answer, and I shook it violently. A rush-bottomed chair rattled, and a cat, the solitary occupant, sprang out through a broken window. I soon found my way, however, to the dilapidated trunk of a large sycamore-tree near, which formed the top of a well, and drawing up a moss-covered bucket, I placed my lips to the rusty iron-bound brim and took a draught, to which the most delicious of Lynch's chateau were but vile vin-du-pays in comparison. I can remember but one drink in my life before to compare with it, and that was
174from a similar goblet, after other lips than mine had hallowed the brim. A few moments after a lad rode into the yard with the object of my pursuit, whose bridle had been broken to pieces in the effort of several men to catch him a mile or two off. I was mounted in a moment, and regained my lodgings in an hour; when I found that the adventure of the day had not impaired my relish for a supper of fresh pike and white-fish, just smoking on the table.
The range of hills which traverse the peninsula longitudinally near here, though never, I believe, more than 150 feet high, are said by some to constitute the most elevated part of Michigan. As they abound in game, and consist altogether of oak openings, you can conceive of nothing more animating than to gallop over them on horseback. I was out again among them yesterday; and having a pocket-compass and a map of the country with me, I ventured to leave the trails that wind among the hollows, and scamper over the hills as my fancy led me. A large flock of grouse rose almost from beneath my horse's feet as I topped the first slight eminence, and then, just as the animal was recovering from the flurry into which the rushing sound of their wings threw him, a tall broad-antlered buck, the largest I ever saw, sprang from
175a small covert, and bounded through the wide forest glades. Away too I went — the feeling was irresistible — I could see the fellow leaping as if he had wings, over the rolling land, and the clear bracing atmosphere had given spirits to my horse, that sent us ahead like one and the same animal. In spite of the deer's prodigious jumps, which were as high as they were long, I had gained decidedly on the chase, when, coming to the brow of a steep hill, he dashed down the side, and was far away over another before my less agile horse could descend the first. I saw two more deer, besides several flocks of grouse, during my morning's ride. Singularly enough, this was the only time that I had moved a mile without a gun since I left New-York; and it was the only opportunity I have had to use one to advantage. If Der Freyschutz were in this region, I should certainly let the wild huntsman make his own terms with me for better luck.
To-day, for the first time, I saw the meadows on fire. They are of vast extent, running far into the woods like the friths of a lake; and as the wild grass, which they supply in the greatest profusion, furnishes the new settler with all the hay he uses for his stock, they are burnt over thus annually to make it tender. These fires, travelling far over the country, seize upon the large prairies, and
176consuming every tree in the woods, except the hardiest, cause the often-mentioned oak openings, so characteristic of Michigan scenery. It is a beautiful sight to see the fire shooting in every direction over these broad expanses of land, which are kindled at a variety of points. The flame at one moment curls along the ground, and seems to lick up its fuel from below, while at the next it tumbles over like the breakers of the sea upon the dried grass, and sweeps it in a wave of fire from the ground. I found myself repeatedly surrounded by the fire, while riding hither and thither, watching its progress; but was only on two occasions exposed to any inconvenience — once when my horse was bogged to the saddle-girths, so that I had to dismount in a morass, covered with high weeds, to which the flame was approaching, and again when I found myself in a small patch of woodland, which crackled and roared like Tophet itself.
As I rode to and fro here, trying to find a point where, if necessary, I might encounter the flame to the least disadvantage, if unable to avoid it altogether, the ridiculous position in which I had placed myself reminded me not a little of that which Andrew Fairservice occupied on the rock, when he trotted hither and thither on his narrow
177platform, to avoid the bullets of Rob Roy's caterans. A finer subject for reflection, however, presented itself near the spot. A small brook crossed the meadow, and I bethought myself of placing it between me and the fire, which was closing undesirably near around me; but my horse, when I rode him rapidly to the brink, and endeavoured to jump him, recoiled. I wheeled round, and tried it again; but his recent experience in the treacherous marsh made him fear the sedgy margin, and nothing could prevail upon the cautious animal to approach it. At the last attempt, he recoiled so suddenly with a terrified snort, that I was nearly thrown over his head; and looking for the new cause of anxiety where the stream wound around, so as almost to double itself in front of me I saw, on the little peninsula of the burning meadow thus formed, an Indian standing with folded arms amid the wreathing smoke, and surveying my motions with an aspect of perfect calmness. He was a middle-aged man, rather tall,-and in the full costume of his tribe. The hair on his forehead, which was seamed with several ghastly scars, was nearly white; but three long plaited locks of raven black fell down behind, from the crimson handkerchief which bound his brows. He wore a white woollen frock, edged
178with black, with scarlet leggings and moccasins, while armlets of silver, and a belt containing his tomahawk and scalping-knife, completed his equipments. All these, however, were observed afterward, when I had given up the attempt to cross the brook, and spurring through the flame where it was lowest, had placed myself by the side of the old warrior. But. for the present I remained fixed in my seat, gazing on the noble apparition with as much delight as if my own call had evoked it from the ground. I had seen a dozen Indians, of all sizes and sexes, in the course of the day, not one of whom had awakened the slightest interest; but there was that about the port and bearing of this grim-looking savage which, with the somewhat theatrical attitude he assumed ,and the circumstances under which I first beheld him, carried me away completely. He smiled when I approached him, and saluted me with great kindness of manner; though, as neither of us understood the language of the other, there could be but little interchange of ideas between us. The few Indian expressions of which I am master were soon expended, and he seemed not to have a word of English to give me in exchange. He made me understand, however, that the frightful wounds which disfigure his noble
179front were received while fighting on the side of the British against the Americans at Sandusky.
Grass Lake, Jackson Co., M. T., Dec. 16.
The storm of yesterday still prevailed when I left my excellent quarters at the growing little hamlet of Dexter, to find my way towards the country watered by the beautiful Kekalamazoo. I had been furnished by mine host with a map of the route for the first eight or ten miles; and it would have amused you to see me occasionally stopping in a furious snow-storm to balance my pocket-compass on the hasty chart thus supplied. I found my way, however, with very little difficulty, through a thick wood, where the heavy coat of snow that robed the trees gave. a most fantastic appearance to the forest, and about noon I struck the Washtenaw trail to the west. The travelling, however, was any thing but agreeable. The snow, being soft, would "ball," as it is called, beneath my horse's feet, and what with the stumbling and slipping on this account, I have been unable after a day's travel to make more than twenty miles. There was barely light enough left for me to distinguish my way, when I arrived at a comfortable log-house belonging to an intelligent and hospitable
180farmer, a recent emigrant from the western part of the sate of New-York. The owner of the dwelling was absent; and it was not till after a parley of some minutes, between two very pretty women, whom I could distinguish through the window by the light of a tempting-looking fire within, that I gained admittance to pass the night. Once there, however, nothing could exceed the kindness of the family to make the few hours of my sojourn pass agreeable.
Spring-Arbour, Dec. 17.
It snowed when I rose at dawn this morning; but my hospitable entertainer of last night insisted, after an early breakfast, upon accompanying me several miles on my journey; and when he finally parted with me, would not hear of receiving any thing in compensation.
The snow still continues, and the road becoming worse and worse, I have made even less progress to-day. But there is something so wild and picturesque in the country through which I am passing, that even such travelling has its pleasures. I have counted more than a dozen lakes on my route; and though some of them are only dreary-looking pools, covering a few acres, in the midst of an extensive moss-marsh, yet the short sudden
181hills which surround others, with the beautiful groves of white oak on their banks, and the natural meadows that open upon their mimic friths, make a most romantic appearance. I came unexpectedly upon a travelling band of Ottawas this morning, in one of the most abrupt of these passes. They were returning home amply furnished with presents from the recent treaty held on the Wabash; and their fluttering blankets, gleaming weapons, and gaudy equipments generally, would have made them a fine subject for a painter, as a furious squall of snow swept along the side-hill they were descending. We exchanged the customary salutation, "Boju" (probably from the French bonjour), and passed on.
There are several Indian graves immediately before the door of the shantee where I am stopping for the night, which I am told are regularly visited and weeded by the surviving relatives of those here buried. My host has had the good taste to put a fence around them, to keep his cattle from the spot — a piece of attention with which the Indians appeared to be much gratified at their last visit; and I may here observe that the settlers of Michigan, generally, appear to treat this ill-fated race with a degree of kindness and consideration that might well be imitated in other sections of our
182frontier. This morning I crossed the far-flowing Washtenong, or Grand River, near the new village of Jacksonburg; and the sight of its clear smooth waters inspired a new regret, that I must abandon my original intention of following them down to the last trading-post.
Forks of the Kekalamazoo (Calhoun), Dec. 18.
This never-ending storm still continues, and the trails, where not incessantly travelled, being now completely covered and effaced, I lost my way this morning, and wandered several miles from the track. After traversing a broad marsh, however, where my horse seemed loth enough to venture, I struck a burr-oak opening, and found my way by the blazed
183It took me three hours to gain six miles in this way, my horse slipping and floundering at almost every step. But, lost as I was, I could not help pausing frequently when I struck the first burr-oak opening I had ever seen, to admire its novel beauty. It looked more like a pear-orchard than any thing else to which I can assimilate it — the trees being somewhat of the shape and size of full-grown pear-trees, and standing at regular intervals apart from each other on the firm level soil,.as if planted by some gardener. Here, too, I first saw deer in herds; and half-frozen and weary as I was, the sight of those spirited-looking creatures sweeping in troops through these interminable groves, where my eye could follow them for miles over the smooth snowy plain, actually warmed and invigorated me, and I could hardly refrain from putting the rowels into my tired horse, and launching after the noble game.
What a country this is. Into land like this, which is comparatively undervalued by those seeking to settle on the prairie, a man can run his plough without felling a tree; and, planting a hundred acres, where he would clear but ten in the unsettled districts of New-York, raise his twenty-five bushels of wheat to an acre in the very first season. "How is the soil here, sir ?" said I to a farmer whose broad
184fields, though but a year under cultivation, looked as if they had been tilled for ten. "A pretty good gravelly loam of eighteen inches; but I think some of moving off to Kalamazoo, where they have it four feet deep, and so fat that it will grease your fingers." Railroads and canals will make one broad garden of Michigan; and even now there is something singularly pleasing to light upon spots in the wildest districts which, were it not for the rude shantees which indicate their recent settlement, — often of but a few months back, — might be mistaken for the cultivated farms of an old country. The absence of stumps in the land under cultivation, and the open groves adjacent, give a smiling openness to the landscape which, with the myriads of wild flowers that brighten the woods in their season, must make the aspect of the country perfectly delightful. I hardly know, though, how some of your city elegants, the votaries of Delmonico, or the fair visitants at Gardiner's, would meet the inconveniences of travelling here. As for eating, indeed, they might manage with the aid of cranberry sauce to rough it on venison and wild honey, backed by the finest potatoes and best wheat bread in the world; but I think that, when it comes to sleeping, they would be somewhat posed between a bed in the bush and one shared with the
185hospitable inmates of a cabin, whose dormitory for the whole family is often, as well as their kitchen and parlour, comprised in a single room. Were it not an infraction of the laws of hospitality, I could draw some queer pictures of scenes I have witnessed in this way.
I have now passed the central region where the Eastern and Western rivers of Michigan have their rise; and while I follow down the pebbly waters of the beautiful Kekalamazoo to their western outlet, and from thence pass to the mouth of the St. Joseph's, you must not expect the same regularity in my correspondence that I have hitherto attempted to preserve.
Marshall, Calhoun Co., M. T., Dec.
I confess that it was with some pleasure that — after dividing my time for several days, as described in my last, between roads rendered almost impassable by continual snows and log-cabins, where the recent settler, however hospitable, had but spare accommodation to offer to the passing traveller — on rising an elevation on the northern bank of the Kekalamazoo, I saw a large frame-building, which was evidently an inn, rearing its comfortable-looking chimneys above a group of log-huts on the plain beneath. My horse, who had doubtless repented of former escapadoes in the companionable intercourse which had now for some time subsisted between us, seemed to sympathize in the feeling; and pricking up his ears, as he snuffed the grain in a flour-mill directly beneath us, we descended the slippery height, and were soon tolerably well-housed in the new inn of Marshall. The house was, indeed, not as yet plaistered inside; and the different bed-rooms, though lathed, seemed
187divided from each other by lines rather imaginary than real; but the bar-room wore already the insignia of a long-established inn in an old community; and apprized me at once, by the placarded sheriffs' notices and advertisements for stolen horses, grain to be sold, and labourers wanted, which indicate the growth of business in country life, that society was in a pretty mature state — at least six months old — in the county town of Marshall. I was, therefore, not at all surprised to find among these notices a call for "a railroad meeting" in the evening, especially as nearly eighteen months had elapsed since the first white man erected his cabin in this section of the country.
The meeting, which might be termed a crowded one, was conducted with more animation than unanimity. There were several intelligent men present, however; and I listened with interest to their exposition of the resources of this section of Michigan, which, as a wheat growing country, may be justly compared to the celebrated Genessee valley of New-York, while the soil, as I have heard it well observed by a resident, "unlike the heavily-timbered land of the Eastern States, instead of wearing out one generation in subduing it for the purposes of the husbandman, invites the plough at
188once." Nor, if a rail-road should be constructed from Detroit to the mouth of the St. Joseph's passing through the counties of Wayne, Washtenaw, Jackson, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Van Buren, and Berrien, do I think it would be too bold to assert that the amount to be transported by the time the work was completed would be equal to one million of barrels, which is a less estimate by two hundred thousand than I have seen given by an intelligent writer on this subject in a Detroit paper. The route thus designated, I am persuaded, is the right one for a rail-road; though, should a different mode of communication be determined upon, it would be difficult to decide whether it were most expedient to construct a canal from the falls of Grand River to Detroit, or from the navigable waters of the St. Joseph's to Monroe. I do not hesitate to add, that before two years have expired, all of these routes will be under contract. The abundant resources of Michigan are developing so rapidly, that they will shortly require all these outlets; and in a country where you may drive a barouche-and-four for hundreds of miles in any direction through the woods, the expense of constructing more artificial ways will be comparatively trivial.
Did I not know how ignorant generally the
189people of the east are of the resources and condition of this country, it would surprise me that some New-York capitalists have not embarked in some of these works. A tempting speculation might be realized by laying out a rail-road on one of these routes above described; having first purchased the land in its vicinity at government prices, to be disposed of afterward when its value should be enhanced by the completion of different sections of the work. The ingenious writer, above alluded to, has already suggested this mode of covering the expense of such an undertaking. You can have no idea of the feeling existing on the subject of internal communications throughout Michigan; and it would amuse you not a little to witness the heart-burnings and jealousies on the subject which pervade a country but just beginning to be peopled. The rapidity with which people establish themselves and collect the indications of agricultural wealth around them, before they have even the ordinary comforts of life, will, in a great measure, account for their looking thus ahead and quarrelling about the game before it is hunted down. The farmer, who has more grain in the sheaf stacked in the field than he can accommodate in his barn, is naturally more eager to find the means of sending a share of it to market.
I was quite diverted at the turn matters took at the meeting which suggested these remarks, when a discussion in relation to the various routes to be recommended to government in case they should consent to make a railroad through the Peninsula, became unpleasantly warm. "This pother reminds me, Mr. Chairman," said an old pioneer, "of two trappers who, in planning a spearing expedition for the next day, quarrelled about the manner in which a turtle, which they proposed taking, should be cooked for their supper, after the day's sport was over. An old Indian happily settled the difficulty, by proposing that they should first catch the turtle! Now, sir, as this railroad," — ‘ the case is not at all parallel’ — interrupted a still more ancient speaker, "for Nature has already caught the turtle for us. She meant the railroad to pass right along here, and nowhere else."
The councils of the meeting were not on the whole so harmonious as I could have wished from the courtesies offered me after its termination by the adherents of the two parties of Guelphs and Ghibbelines, which distract the unhappy city of Marshall; but it was surprising to a stranger, upon looking round at the hovels of mud and logs which as yet occupy its site, to find so many persons of intelligence and refinement thus collected within their
191precincts. The population of Michigan generally, — as I believe I have before observed, — is much superior in character to the ordinary settlers of a new country. The ease with which a man can here support a family as a farmer, induces a great many persons of all professions, in other states, to abandon their former pursuits and become tillers of the soil. The alteration of life, I should judge by the contentment I everywhere witness, is almost always for the better.
I have met with several dispeptics who have been completely cured of that horrible disease by their change of life. With such, health is a sensation — a positive delight; and in duly estimating the blessing, they of course were ever ready to praise the conditions upon which they enjoy it. Others again, bred up in a city, find in the indulgence of that love of rural life which, when it is a natural taste, is inextinguishable, an ample compensation for breaking up established habits and associations. The majority again are men of slender means; and while the necessity of attending practically to the subsistence of their families keeps them employed, the want of pecuniary resources prevents their embarking in the thousand idle schemes which tend so often to the chagrin and the ruin of "gentlemen farmers." But the
192main cause of Michigan being settled by such respectable people remains yet to be mentioned. It is, that no one can take up an acre of land without first paying cash for it, at one of the three land-offices of the territory. The whole surface of the Peninsula has either been, or is now being, surveyed into townships of six miles square. These again are sub-divided into sections of a mile square; which sections are again cut up into lots of forty acres; which is the smallest quantity of land that can be taken up from the government. The price is invariably $1 25 an acre. When you consider, therefore, that every emigrant who means to locate (this is a sound American word, and as indispensable in the vocabulary of a western man as are an axe and a rifle among his household furniture), must, however poor, have some earnings in advance to purchase the spot upon which he is to live, and to bring his family to such a remote distance, it will be easy to conceive that the industrious and the enterprising must constitute the largest portion of such a population of freeholders. The prosperity of a whole community, composed of such aggregate masses, may be safely predicted; and though one sometimes meets with those whom the first process of accumulating renders discontented, and induces to speak ill of the country, yet
193in general I may say, that the pride of a Michiganian, in the beautiful land of his adoption, is as strong as the home-feeling upon which the citizens of some of the older States pique themselves. As for the sickness which always prevails more or less among the new settlers, to one who is aware of their imprudences the wonder is that the majority of them escape with their lives. Think but of people setting themselves down on a soil of twenty inches in depth, and in the month of June, when the weeds and wild flowers o'ertop the head of the tallest man, turning over the rank soil immediately around their dwellings, and allowing the accumulation of vegetable decomposition to be acted upon by a vertical sun, and steam up for months under their very nostrils; and yet this, I am told, is continually practised by settlers who come in late in the season, and are anxious still to have a crop the first year. Here, as in the case of those settlers who, for the sake of the wild hay, locate themselves near the great marshes, imprudence alone is manifested; but the charge of culpability will justly attach to some other cases, when nuisances, not before existing, are created by the owners of property. I allude to the practice, expressly prohibited by the laws of Michigan, of flooding land while constructing mill-ponds, without
194removing the green timber growing upon the spot. So pernicious is this to the health of the neighbourhood, that it affects very sensibly the value of property near the new pond; and yet, in their eagerness to have mills erected, and aid the market of their overflowing granaries, the new inhabitants overlook entirely the gross violation of their laws, and the melancholy consequences which ensue to their families. Another cause of sickness is drinking the water of springs or rivers which rise in marshes, and are of course impregnated with their baleful properties, instead of digging wells where water is not liable to such exception. As for general healthfulness of situation, I believe it is agreed that the banks of the small lakes which so abound in the peninsula are — when these transparent bodies of water are surrounded by a sand-beach, which is the case with about a third of them — among the healthiest. They are fed generally by deep springs, and in many instances are supposed to have a subterranean outlet; while so beautifully transparent are their waters, that the canoe suspended on their bosom seems to float in mid-air. These lakes abound with fish; and in some of them, of only a few acres in extent, fish have been taken of forty pounds weight. They generally lie imbosomed in the oak openings, and with their
195regular and almost formal banks crowned with open groves, these silver pools might be readily taken for artificial trout-ponds in a cultivated park. I need hardly add, that it is necessary to diverge, as I have, from the route generally travelled, to see these scenic gems, so numerous, lonely, and beautiful. Not one in a hundred has a settler on its banks; and I confess I take a singular pleasure in surveying these beauties, as yet unmarred by the improving axe of the woodman, and unprofaned by the cockney eyes of city tourists; nor would I change my emotions, while ranging alone over the broad meadows, traversing the lofty forests, or loitering by the limpid lakes of Michigan, for the proudest musings of the scholar who revels in classic land. It may argue a want of refinement in taste, but I confess that a hoary oak is to me more an object of veneration than a mouldering column; and that I would rather visit scenes where a human foot has never trod than dwell upon those gilded by the most arrogant associations of our race.
What are the temples which Roman robbers have reared, — what are the towers in which feudal oppression has fortified itself, — what the blood-stained associations of the one, or the despotic superstitions of the other, to the deep forests which
196the eye of God has alone pervaded, and where Nature, in her unviolated sanctuary, has for ages laid her fruits and flowers on his altar! What is the echo of roofs that a few centuries since rung with barbaric revels, or of aisles that pealed the anthems of painted pomp, to the silence which has reigned in these dim groves since the first fiat of Creation was spoken!
I shall diverge from my western course to-morrow a few miles southward, in order to visit a group of lakes, near which a band of Pottawattamies, a tribe I have not yet seen, have their encampment. I will leave this letter open, in erder to give you the result of my visit.
Calhoun Co., M. T., Dec. 23.
I write to you from a little cottage in a beautiful grove, not far from the banks of the Kekalamazoo, where two young gentlemen, recently from the east, have made their home in this land of enterprise. It is amusing to observe how little singularity people here attach to a mode of life which, in older countries, would be looked upon as highly eccentric. My entertainers are both young lawyers, liberally educated, and unused to privation; and yet the house in which I am passing the night, with every article of furniture
197it contains, is of their own manufacture; a saw, an axe, a wood-knife, and a jack-plane being their only tools. It would amuse you not a little to look through the window, and see our group at this moment. One of my companions, whose axe and rifle are suspended by wooden hooks to the rafters over his head, is professionally engaged in drawing a declaration at the table upon which I am writing; while the other, having just got through removing the remains of our game dinner, prepared and cooked by his chum, is now sitting with a long pipe in his mouth, watching a coffee-pot, which steams up so fragrantly from the live embers, that no light consideration would induce me to part with the interest I have in its contents. Their house, which has been thus occupied for three months, is a perfect pattern of neatness; though, as it consists of but a single room, no little ingenuity is required to arrange their books, housekeeping apparatus, and sporting equipments, so as to preserve even an appearance of order in such a bandbox. They have already sufficient business, they tell me, to sustain their moderate household; and as the Indians supply them with abundance of provisions, they have ample leisure to devote to study.
It is not very uncommon, however, to meet thus
198with persons of education, and some accomplishment, under as humble a roof as this in the wilds of Michigan. For so rapid is the growth of society here, that he who aims at a prominent station in the new community must be a pioneer far in advance of the growing settlements. Two years ago the first white man raised his log hut in the county of Calhoun; it has now a population of 1500, and I have passed an evening in at least one mud-plastered cabin, whose fair and elegant inmates would grace any society.
When I see the wives and daughters of men habituated by early education to all the comforts of refined life, thus submitting cheerfully to every privation for the sake of those whose happiness is involved with theirs, I cannot help calling to mind the jargon of novels so often adopted by people of sense in cities, where the terms "excellent match," and "supporting in the station where she has been accustomed to move," usurp all considerations of mutual affection, and capability in the parties united to study each other's happiness through life. I am more than ever persuaded that there are two kinds of refinement in life, which bear but little similarity to each other; and the one least often met with is that
199which is independent of modes and fashions, of tailors, milliners, and cabinet-makers, — which does not necessarily lean upon a pier-table, nor repose upon a chaise longue, — which — shall I confess it? — may be nursed without a silver fork. The purest porcelain which the factories of China produce does not require a single tint upon its surface to show the fineness of the texture; but that in which coarser clay is blended is always charged with some gaudy hue to hide the intermixture of the mongrel material. This doctrine, though, is so little in accordance with those taught in those English novels which constitute the modern text-books of elegance, that while the mode of eating an egg is the test of good-breeding, and the art of pattering French phrases the criterion of intellectual cultivation, I should as soon think of interfering with the particular province of a lackey or friseur, as of breaking a spear at such disadvantage with the authors of "Almack's" and "Men and Manners —".
But a truce to this prosing. Did you ever see a jumper? A couple of hickory poles so bent that the runners and shafts are of the same piece, with a crate placed on four props, complete this primitive species of sledge; and when the crate is filled with hay, and the driver well wrapped-up in a buffalo robe, the "turn-out" is about as comfortable
200a one as a moderate man could wish. In such a vehicle as this, with a harness every way suitable, viz. a collar of undressed deerskin and reins of rope (the twisted bark of trees is often used), did I, with one of my present entertainers, the first companion I have yet had in travelling, sally out from Marshall this morning. My horse, who had detained me there a couple of days by a soreness of his back proceeding from the saddle, seemed highly to approve of this new mode of travel: Mr. Osbaldistone behind Tom Thumb, Sesostris in his chariot, or Yorke in one of Brewer's new omnibuses, could not have dashed off with more glee than did we with our merry jumper along the dimpling waters of the Kekalamazoo; when, lo! just as we had crossed a bridge of unhewn timber, and were under full way through the oak openings, our frail bark struck on a rock hidden by the snow, and we were capsized and wrecked in an instant. Fortunately, though both were pitched like a couple of quoits from the machine, we were neither of us hurt; and my companion returning to the settlement to borrow a horse, I mounted mine, and leaving the remains of my crank establishment where chance had thrown them, I rode on, while he overtook me in time to introduce me to his friend, and make me so pleasantly at home in their
201dwelling as, you must observe, I now am. Goodnight; I will tell you to-morrow evening how we dispose of our time till then.
The air was mild this morning, and large flocks of snow-birds twittering among the bur-oaks, with jays screaming from the woods, and packs of grouse rising continually before us in the openings, made our route to the camp of Warpkesick, a Pottawattamie chieftain,
202tapering tamaracks around, we struck at last into a dense forest. Here the numerous deer-runways, with the flocks of wild turkeys, and innumerable tracks of rackoons, wolves, and bears, showed us that we were upon a favourite hunting-ground of the Pottawattamies. As for the wolves, they are little disturbed by the Indians, who consider them fair hunters like themselves, and privileged to go unmolested. They generally abound around a hunting-camp; and soon grow fat on the offals of game slaughtered near it. But bears, though the successful hunter invariably takes his dead quarry by the paw, calls him his grandfather, and asks his pardon for killing him, "being compelled to it by necessity,"
We had ridden for about a mile through the heavily timbered land, when reaching the banks of the Nottawaseepe, a branch of the St. Joseph's, I heard the sound of children's voices, and descried two or three red urchins wading through the shallow stream on stilts, while others of a similar age were amusing themselves in shooting bows and arrows on the opposite side. We immediately forded the
203stream, and making our way into a swamp, where the horses sank to the knee at every step, came unexpectedly upon a piece of firm ground, some eighty yards in diameter, and found ourselves in the middle of the camp of Warpkesick. It was composed of three .or four wigwams only, but they were large, and probably contained several families each. They were constructed of mats, arranged precisely in the form of a tent,
204be assiduously engaged — the men having all a lounging air of indolence, incompatible with the idea of actual employment: pressing skins was the occupation of the former; and they sat grouped each like a hare in its form around a collection of boiling kettles, over which the skins were suspended.
A tall virago of fifty, whose erect stature, elf locks, and scarlet blanket floating about her person would entitle her to flourish as Meg Merrilies in the frontispiece of Guy Mannering, stood up in the midst; and had it not been for some tolerably pretty faces among her junior colaborators, might have been taken for Hecate herself, surrounded by the weird sisters of the caldron. A pack of wolfish-looking curs, about twenty in number, completed the assemblage; which, when you take into consideration the variously coloured calico dresses and wampum ornaments in which the females had arrayed themselves, with the white, blue, red, and green blankets in which the men were wrapped, constituted about as motley a collection as ever followed Falstaff to the field. Warpkesick himself, the chief of the gipsy band, issued from his lodge while I was thus studying the appearance of his adherents. He was a young man, not more. than thirty, with a handsome though somewhat
205voluptuous cast of countenance and remarkably fine eyes. His stature was rather below the middle size; and though the upper part of his person was extremely well formed, with a deep chest and broad flat shoulders, one of his legs, whether from deformity or misfortune I did not like to inquire, was so twisted under his body as to be worse than useless. He supported himself upon an ashen staff about eight feet in length, and terminating at the bottom in a round ball, to prevent it, probably, from sinking too deeply into the earth while in rapid pursuit of game; the chief being, in spite of the unsightly encumbrance he is compelled to drag after him, when bounding like a stricken panther on his prey, one of the keenest hunters of his tribe. He received us courteously, but remained standing; while several Indians gathered in a few moments around him: after shaking hands with them all in succession, I took up a loaded gun, and by way of breaking up the formality of the meeting, desired an eagle-eyed young Indian to make a shot with it. He hesitated for a moment to comply, and immediately all the others, from some whim or other, insisted that I should shoot. Our conversation being altogether in signs, it was some moments before I understood their gestures; and I confess, that having but little practice with a
206single ball, I was any thing but unembarrassed when I came to understand the purport of the request they were proffering with so much animation. A small blaze that was instantly made with a tomahawk in a sapling, forty or fifty yards distant, left me no excuse for pretending longer to misunderstand my worthy acquaintances; and placing the gun to my shoulder, I was as much surprised at putting the ball within a couple of inches of the centre, as if the tree had screamed when thus pierced by my random bullet.
Having met with those in Michigan who will drive a rusty nail with a rifle at this distance, and shoot leaves from each other's heads at six rods, I could not account for the degree of approval manifested by the spectators, till my companion informed me that the Indians, owing perhaps to the inferiority of their rifles, which are of English manufacture, are but indifferent marksmen at still objects. "Tai-ya," cried the women, "Neshin," said the chief, and "Nesheshin," echoed his attendants; while the blankets of the lodges were now for the first time raised, and entering, we stretched ourselves on mats around the fire. A youth of nineteen sprang to his feet as I removed the dingy curtain which formed the door, and revealed a face and form that might be the model of an
207Apollo. Being ill at the time, he was but half-dressed; the purple blanket dropping from his shoulders setting off a neck and chest of the finest manly proportions. His features were copied by Nature from a Greek model; while his shaven crown, with the single chivalric scalp-lock tufted with a heron's feather, would, in its noble developments, have thrown the disciples of Gall and Spurzheim into ecstasy. The peculiarity of his headdress, with the beautifully beaded leggins round his ankles, revealed to me at once that the young gentleman was an Indian dandy — a Pottawattamie Pelham in an undress; and I assure you that Mr. C— never schooled any of his New-York rivals to wear their Spanish cloak with a better air than was exhibited by my red friend Mitosway-Coquatchegun, or Ten-Garters, as he gathered the folds of his blankets about his person.
Pipes were now lit, and Ten-Garters, who was too unwell to smoke himself, politely, after a few whiffs, tendered me his, while my companion, who could partially speak the language, was supplied from another quarter: we were soon perfectly at home. I had picked up from the floor of the lodge, on entering, a rude musical instrument — a species of flute, of imperfect tones, but having
208a rich mellow sound — when, as I was trying to squeeze a tune from the gammutless pipe, Warpkesick rose abruptly, and stating that he had to start at once on a trapping expedition, signified that we should take our departure. An Indian pony stood at the door, and leaping at one bound into the wooden saddle, an immense bundle of steel-traps was handed to the chief by a by-stander; and accompanied by an Indian on foot, almost as sorry-looking as the miserable beast he rode, our abrupt host disappeared at once into the woods. I was lingering behind to purchase the flute, and had conciliated the squaws wonderfully by tearing out the silk lining of my frock-coat, and giving it in shreds to their children, when my friend, being already mounted, told me we had better move off. I had barely time to cross the saddle, when a whoop rang through the woods, which, while it made my horse spring almost from beneath me, would have wakened Rip Vanwinkle from. his twenty years' doze. The piercing cry from the forest was echoed with an exulting shout from every wigwam. A dozen dusky figures leaped through their flimsy porches, with as many rifles gleaming in their hands. He of the heron feather was the first that caught my eye, and as his gun pointed in the direction whence the first whoop came, immediately behind me, I could not help, in spite of the
209undesirable propinquity of its muzzle, admiring the eagle-eye and superb attitude of the young warrior. Not a soul advanced three paces from the covert whence he sprung. There was a dead silence. The children held their breath, and "Meg Merrilies," who had stepped on a fallen tree at the first outcry, now stood so still that her eldritch form, were it not for the elf locks streaming over her scarlet blanket in the breeze, might have been mistaken for a figure of stone. Another whoop, and the cause of all the commotion at once appeared. A noble buck, roused from his lair by "Warpkesick, comes bounding by the camp, and buries his proud antlers in the dust in a moment. . A dozen scalping-knives pierce his leathern coat, and the poor creature is stripped of his skin almost before he has time to pant out his expiring breath.
I rode home reflecting upon all I had ever read of the want of vivacity and fire in the Indian character, and concluded that I would rather have witnessed the spirited scene I have just attempted to describe to you, than double all the knowledge I have hitherto laid up from such sources.
I leave this comfortable house in the morning, and it will be long before I reach again one half so agreeable.
Prairie Ronde, Kalamazoo Co., M. T., Dec. 26.
"Stranger, will you take a cocktail with us?" called out a tall athletic fellow to me as I was making my way through a group of wild-looking characters assembled an hour since around the fire by which I am now writing. There was a long-haired "hooshier" from Indiana, a couple of smart-looking "suckers"
211ever seen — on an island of timber, whose lee, while making slow headway for the last two hours, with a biting breeze on my beam, it had been my whole object, aim, and ambition to get — a comfortable bar-room, a smoking "cocktail," a worshipful assemblage (Goldsmith's Club was a fool to it) had never entered my dreams! Could I refuse to drink with such a company ? The warm glass is in my frozen fingers. The most devout temperance man could see no harm in that! It is touched smartly by the rim of the red-horse, — it is brushed by the hooshier, — it rings against the badger, — comes in companionable contact with the wolverine, — "My respects to you, gentlemen, and luck to all of us."
Here was a capital commencement with just the sort of sallad of society I have been long wishing to meet with, having as yet only tasted its component parts in detail. But auspicious as was the beginning, I nearly got into a difficulty with my new acquaintances a few moments afterward, by handing the landlord a share of the reckoning; and I took back the coin forced upon me, with many apologies upon my part for having presumed to pay part of a "general treat," while labouring under the disqualifications of being a stranger. Room was then civilly made for me by the
212fireplace, and accepting a pipe proffered by one of the company, a few whiffs made me sufficiently sick and at home to lay it by without further ceremony. "There's a smart chance of cigars there in the bar, stranger, if you'd try some of them," said one of the hooshiers. — "Yes," echoed the other; "and they are a heap better than those pipes." — "I allow," rejoined another of the company; "but I wish that fellow would shut the door; he must think that we were all raised in a saw-mill, and then he looks so peert whenever he comes in." — "Poor fellow !" ejaculated one who had not yet spoken, "he is considerably troubled with youngness."
"From the eastern side, stranger ?" said another to me," I am told it's tolerable frog pasture. Now here the soil's so deep one can't raise any long sarce — they all get pulled through the other side. We can winter our cows, however, on wooden clocks, there's so many Yankees among us," &c.
A scattering conversation was kept up in similar quaint expressions for some time; but as Mr. Hackctt has already given the cream of western phraseology in his whimsical caricature of "the Kentuckian," I will not tire you with enumerating more of those which fell under my observation.
213These unique terms, indeed, were poured out so copiously, that it was impossible for one's memory, though elastic as a pair of saddle-bags, to retain them. At last a train and a couple of carioles drove up to the door, and I discovered, upon their bundling merrily into these vehicles, that the whole company were bound for a wedding. "Jim," cried one driver to another, snapping his whip, "let our horses run near the silk." Jim cracked his snapper, and the light carioles taking the lead, the more humble train skimmed rapidly after them: their dark shadows were soon lost upon the moonlit prairie, and the sound of their bells died away in the distance by the time I had regained my now solitary seat by the fire.
I have had but a sorry time since leaving the agreeable company I spoke of in my last. To-day, indeed, the weather, though cold and windy, has been clear. But on the two previous, I rode for the whole time through alternate snow and sleet, which the wind at times blew so directly in my face as to make it almost impossible to proceed. In one instance, while making my way through a dense forest of twelve or fourteen miles between the openings, without a cabin by the way, my horse stopped suddenly, and looking about ten paces ahead, I saw a couple of deer standing immediately
214in my path, and gazing on me with the most perfect unconcern; but my fingers were so numb with cold that I was unable to cock my gun, while the timid creatures slowly retired within the depths of the forest. The Kekalamazoo wound through this wood, but the under-growth of timber was so very heavy that its waters, though within a few yards of me, were rarely discernible; and their ample flow, when seen as now swollen by the troubled current of Battle Creek and other tributaries, though capable of bearing boats of considerable burthen, possessed less charms for me than when I first struck the slender rill as it leaped unsullied from its virgin fountain, and went singing on its course. Still it was with regret, when at last ferried over the Kekalamazoo, so long my only companion, that, on turning my horse's head to the south, I took leave of its Arcadian banks for ever. I passed the previous night at the little hamlet of Comstock, where an enterprising young gentleman, after whom the place is called, having the advantage of a good mill-site, is creating a flourishing establishment around him; a frame-store and several log-cabins, with two or three mills, already giving some importance to the situation in a new country. My ride of to-day, having started late, brought me, about sunset, a distance of twenty miles, to the
215verge of Prairie Ronde; the intermediate country consisting partly of burr-oak plains, broken sometimes by the short round hills I have before described, and partly of broad grassy meadows, running sometimes into marshes, and occasionally watered by some clear stream, whose sandy bottom would contrast strongly with its low sedgy brink. The ground became higher and firmer as I approached Prairie Ronde; and then, after riding for a few miles through the openings, when I expected to descend upon a broad meadow, somewhat resembling the many I have seen in Michigan, fully answering to my preconceived ideas of a prairie, I came suddenly upon an immense piece of cleared table-land, some fifty feet above a pretty lake in its vicinity. The scattering houses around its borders, with the island of timber in the centre and the range of six or seven miles of prairie on every side, assured me that this was Prairie Ronde; while the piercing blast which, as the sun sunk redly on the opposite side, rushed out from his western resting-place and blew the snow-drift in my teeth, made me eager to cross the waste as rapidly as possible, and sufficiently accounts for the pleasure with which I entered this hospitable inn. The collection of houses which stand sheltered by this wood is called "Schoolcraft." The wood itself,
216though only five or six hundred acres in extent, has a small lake in the centre, and the village, if not the whole settled part of the prairie, is distinguished by the number of fine running-horses, blooded dogs, and keen sportsmen it has in proportion to the population. Fox-hunting on horseback, with full packs of hounds, is the favourite sport; though wolf, bear, and badger-baiting have each their active followers. The soil is so easy of culture and so generous in its product, that the settlers, after attending to their necessary avocations, have ample leisure for their many recreations. Prairie Ronde, though, like all parts of Michigan, in a great measure settled by emigrants from the State of New-York, is said to count a still greater number of its residents from natives of the south and west. The population generally was, perhaps, fairly represented at the assembly to which I so unceremoniously introduced you at the opening of the letter.
Niles, Berrien Co., M. T., Dec. 28.
I have been now for two days in St. Joseph's county, considered among the finest in Michigan; having, since I wrote the above, traversed the counties of St. Joseph and Cass, watered by the St. Joseph's river, which is the most imposing-looking stream I have yet seen. A ride of fourteen miles
217from Prairie Ronde brought me first to its banks, which, rising occasionally fifty or sixty feet above the water in a sudden bluff, look higher than those of any river I have yet seen in the peninsula. You must already have gathered, from my attempts at portraying Michigan scenery, that neither the grand, the picturesque — hardly even the romantic — are to be numbered among its characteristics. "The beautiful" comprehends them all: and yet you can readily imagine that, that beauty is neither tame nor monotonous which can shine through the dreary months of winter, and make the half-frozen and solitary traveller almost forget its rigours. It is true, that one brought up in a more rugged and broken country might often miss the mountain-tops leaning against the sky, — might sigh for the sound of a cascade, and long once more to plant his foot upon a cliff; and yet, where would the eye more delight to wander than through these beautiful groves, which in summer must stretch their green arcades on every side ? Where rest more happily than on those grassy meadows on which their vistas open? These streams, too, that sparkle so brightly over their golden beds, are they no substitute for the rushing torrents of more mountainous countries? or does the lichen-covered crag tempt one's footsteps more than this teeming soil, when nature has carpeted it
218with the myriad of wild flowers which the summer's sun calls forth ? To no scenery of our country that I have yet seen is the term "Arcadian" more applicable, than to the rich and fairy landscape on the western side of the peninsula, watered by the Kekalamazoo and the St. Joseph's.
The latter stream, when I first beheld it, was filled with floating ice, which the deep and rapid tide brought down with such force, that my horse recoiled with affright when I attempted to urge him into the current, at a point where an old woman told me was the usual place of fording. A rope-ferry, a quarter of a mile farther on, removed the difficulty; and finding my way along a rich bottom, where the trail was so encumbered with vines that it was difficult, even at this season, to keep it, I hailed a grim-looking Charon, with a shock head of hair, attired in a green hunting-shirt, who was standing in the doorway of a cabin on the opposite side, and crossing for me in his scow, I was aoon conveyed across the wintry torrent. The country now became gradually more populous as I approached the village and prairie of White Pigeon. I had ridden fourteen miles in the morning without seeing the sign of a habitation; and as one meets with neither travellers nor emigrants at this season, there is some
219company even in the smoke of a chimney, though you do not stop to warm your fingers by the fire beneath it. I expected long before this to have fallen in with a most agreeable companion, in a gentleman of the country whom I met with at Detroit, and who is a considerable proprietor on the St. Joseph's. Having a fine taste for natural scenery, and being one of the best rifle-shots that I have ever heard of, I anticipated much pleasure and advantage from his company and guidance through the western part of the peninsula. But my journey through Michigan is now nearly finished, as it began, entirely alone. At White Pigeon, where I found quite a pretty village of four years' growth, I seemed, in getting upon the post-route from Detroit to Chicago, to get back once more to an old country. I found a good inn and attendance at Savary's, and discovered, by the travellers going north and south, that travelling was not as yet completely frozen up. There are a great many English emigrants settled upon this prairie, who, I am told, are successfully introducing here the use of live hedges instead- of fences in farming. They are generally of a respectable class, and seem to be quite popular with the American settlers.
The morning was fine when I left White Pigeon
220to-day; and as the sun shot down through the tall woods, nothing could be more cheering than my ride among the beautiful hills of Cass county. The road, which is remarkably good, meanders through ravines for a distance of many miles, the conical hills resting upon the plain in such a manner as barely to leave a wheel-track between them, except when at times some pretty lake or broad meadow pushes its friths far within their embrace. A prairie of some extent was to be traversed on this side of these eminences, and the floating ice on the St. Joseph's was glistening beneath its shadowy banks in the rays of the cold winter moon when I reached its borders, and arrived at the stage-house in this flourishing town of Niles. Mine host, who does not seem to be the most accommodating person in the world, has refused to provide supper for myself and two other gentlemen at so late an hour, assigning as a reason that "his women are not made of steel," — an instance of cause and effect which I merely put upon record as being the only one of the kind I have met with in all Michigan. My fellow-sufferers appear to be both agreeable men; and as we are to travel in company to Chicago, the sympathy arising from our present melancholy condition may ensure a pleasant intercourse under happier auspices.
The county of Cass, through which I have passed to-day, has a population of more than 2000, and contains seven prairies of six or eight miles in diameter, besides many smaller ones. They produce, when cultivated, from thirty to eighty bushels of new corn, of forty of wheat, to the acre. The mode of planting the former is to run a furrow, drop the corn in, and cover it with a succeeding furrow, which is planted in a similar way, and the field is rarely either ploughed or hoed after planting. There are several pretty lakes in this county; but it is not so well watered as St. Joseph's, through which I passed yesterday, which for local advantages of every kind, as well as fertility of soil, is generally considered one of the best in the peninsula. I like Kalamazoo county, however, as much as any part of Michigan I have seen. I am now within eight or ten .miles of the Indiana boundary, and some twenty or thirty only from the shores of Lake Michigan, having described nearly a semicircle in my tour through the peninsula, including, with some deviations, the counties of Wayne, Monroe, Lenawee, and Washtenaw on the east, Jackson in the centre, and Calhoun, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph's, Cass, and Berrien on the west; and I have not met a resident in that whole range but what was pleased with the country,
222and I may almost say attached to its soil. The females indeed will sometimes murmur; and in some remote places I have heard those whose conversations indicated that they had not been brought up with the most ordinary advantages, complain of "the want of society!" But even these would love to dilate upon the beauties of the country when the flowers were in bloom. Others again, who had been more gently nurtured, would sigh at one moment for the comforts and elegancies of their maternal homes, while their eyes would kindle with enthusiasm the next, when speaking of the appearance which the woods around their new dwellings wore in summer. Small communities form but slowly in a country where the settlers, instead of gradually pushing their way together into the depths of the forest, as at the Eastward, drive their wagons in any direction a hundred miles through the openings, and plant themselves down a day's journey apart, just where their fancy prompts them. This will account for my so often lighting upon a pleasant hamlet, after a day's travel through a perfect wilderness.
The river St. Joseph debouches into Lake Michigan in this county; and as a steamboat will probably run the next season from the town
223rapidly growing at its mouth to Chicago, a railroad from Detroit to this steamboat-harbour is only wanting to bring the visitor of Niagara within a few days' travel of Chicago, and carry him through the flowery groves of Michigan to one of the most important points in the Union, and what may be termed the central head of the Mississippi Valley. Delmonico may then stock his larder with grouse from the meadows of Michigan, and Gassin try his skill upon the delicious fish that swarm her lakes and rivers (would that I could at this moment witness some of their curious orgies); while sportsmen will think no more of a trip hither than they do now of an excursion to Islip, RaynerSouth, or Patchogue. In the mean time I have secured you the seeds of more than twenty varieties of wild flowers, which I shall send to their destination as soon as possible, lest, from the rapid increase of internal communication, they may lose half their value from ceasing to be a rarity.
Door Prairie, Indiana, Dec. 29,1833.
Being now on the mail route between Detroit and Chicago, I am travelling very comfortably in a four-horse wagon, with the gentlemen mentioned in my last. I found my horse's back so chafed at White Pigeon, that it was unpleasant to use him longer under the saddle; and having met with my trunk at Niles, which was forwarded from Monroe by a friend, I am in a measure compelled to adopt what is certainly the most agreeable mode of travelling at this season through a bleak prairie country.
The cold winter moon was still riding high in the heavens as we ferried over the St. Joseph's at Niles this morning. A low-sided scow was the means of conveyance; and after breaking the solid ice near the shore to loose us from our moorings, it required some pains to shun the detached cakes which came driving down the centre of the dark rolling river; while, near the opposite shore, they had become so wedged and frozen together that it required considerable exertion to break a way with
225our long poles, and make good our landing. At length, ascending the bank, a beautiful plain, with a clump of trees here and there upon its surface, opened to our view. The establishment of the Carey Mission,
About ten o'clock we reached a shanty on Terre Coupe prairie, and finding no one at home, we rummaged the establishment to find the materials for a breakfast, which we cooked ourselves, and left payment upon the table. Our next stage carried us over a rolling prairie to Laporte. The undulating surface resembled the ground-swell of the sea; and nothing could be more dreary, at this season, when
226the bright sky of the morning became overcast, than moving mile after mile over this frozen lake — for such it appeared — with nothing but its monotonous swell to catch the eye wherever its glances roamed.
It was afternoon when we reached the little settlement of Laporte, which is situated on a pretty lake, in a prairie of the same name, the skirts of which are beautifully timbered. There was just light enough remaining when we reached our present stopping-place, a comfortable log-cabin, to see the opening ahead through the timber, from which this prairie takes its name. It forms a door opening upon an arm of the Grand Prairie, which runs through the States of Indiana and Illinois, and extends afterward, if I mistake not, to the base of the Rocky Mountains. I am now in the land of the Hooshiers, and find that long-haired race much more civilized than some of their western neighbours are willing to represent them. The term "Hooshier," like that of Yankee, or Buck-eye, first applied contemptuously, has now become a soubriquet that bears nothing invidious with it to the ear of an Indianian. This part of the State is as yet but thinly settled, but the land is rapidly coming into market, and it is calculated to support a dense population. A new
227town and harbour, called "Michigan City," about thirty miles off, on the shore of the lake, is fast coming into notice, and giving a spur to the settlements in these parts. The country is, however, still wild enough, and I have a wilder yet to pass, before reaching Chicago.
Chicago, Jan. 1, 1834.
We left the prairie on the east, after passing through "the door," and entered a forest, where the enormous black-walnut and sycamore trees cumbered the soil with trunks from which a comfortable dwelling might be excavated. The road was about as bad as could be imagined; and after riding so long over prairies as smooth as a turnpike, the stumps and fallen trees over which we were compelled to drive, with the deep mud-holes into which our horses continually plunged, were any thing but agreeable. Still, the stupendous vegetation of the forest interested me sufficiently to make the time, otherwise enlivened by good company, pass with sufficient fleetness, though we made hardly more than two miles an hour throughout the stage. At last, after passing several un-tenanted sugar-camps
228brook, winding through the forest. A little Frenchman waited at the door to receive our horses, while a couple of half-intoxicated Indians followed us into the house, in the hope of getting a'netos (vulgarly, "a treat") from the new comers. The usual settlers' dinner of fried bacon, venison cutlets, hot cakes and wild honey, with some tolerable tea and Indian sugar, as that made from the maple-tree is called at the West, was soon placed before us; while our new driver, the frizzy little Frenchman already mentioned, harnessed a fresh team, and hurried us into the wagon as soon as possible. The poor little fellow had thirty miles to drive before dark, on the most difficult part of the route of the line between Detroit and Chicago. It was easy to see that he knew nothing of driving, the moment he took his reins in hand; but when one of my fellow-travellers mentioned that little Victor had been preferred to his present situation of trust from the indefatigable manner in which, before the stage route was established last season, he had for years carried the mail through this lonely country — swimming rivers and sleeping in the woods at all seasons, — it was impossible to dash the mixture of boyish glee and official pomposity with which he entered upon his duties, by suggesting any improvement as to the mode of performing there.
229Away then we went, helter skelter, through the woods — scrambled through a brook, and galloping over an arm of the prairie, struck again into the forest. A fine stream, called the Calaminc, made our progress here more gentle for a moment. But immediately on the other side of the river was an Indian trading-post, and our little French Phaeton who, to tell the truth, had been repressing his fire for the last half-hour, while winding among the decayed trees and broken branches of the forest, could contain no longer. He shook the reins on his wheel-horses, and cracked up his leaders, with an air that would have distinguished him on the Third Avenue, and been envied at Cato's. He rises in his seat as he passes the trading-house; he sweeps by like a whirlwind: but a female peeps from the portal, and it is all over with poor Victor.
230was going forward was on finding myself two or three yards from the shattered wagon, with a tall Indian in a wolf-skin cap standing over me. My two fellow-passengers were dislodged from their seats with the same want of ceremony; but though the disjecta membra of our company were thus prodigally scattered about, none of us providentially received injury. Poor Victor was terribly crest-fallen; and had he not unpacked his soul by calling upon all the saints in the calendar, in a manner more familiar than respectful, I verily believe that his tight little person would have exploded like a torpedo. A very respectable-looking Indian female, the wife, probably, of the French gentleman who owned the post, came out; and civilly furnished us with basins and towels to clean our hands and faces, which were sorely bespattered with mud, while the gray old Indian before mentioned assisted in collecting our scattered baggage.
The spot where our disaster occurred was a sequestered, wild-looking place. The trading establishment consisted of six or eight log-cabins of a most primitive construction, all of them gray with age, and so grouped on the bank of the river as to present an appearance quite picturesque. There was not much time, however, to be spent in
231observing its beauties. The sun was low, and we had twenty-five miles yet to travel that night before reaching the only shanty on the lake-shore. My companions were compelled to mount two of the stage-horses, while I once more put the saddle on mine; and leaving our trunks to follow a week hence, we slung our saddle-bags across the cruppers, and pushed directly ahead.
A few miles' easy riding through the woods brought us to a dangerous morass, where we were compelled to dismount and drive our horses across, one of the party going in advance to catch them on the other side. A mile or two of pine barrens now lay between us and the shore, and winding rapidly among the short hills covered with this stinted growth, we came suddenly upon a mound of white sand at least fifty feet high. Another of these desolate-looking eminences, still higher, lay beyond. We topped it; and there, far away before us, lay the broad bosom of Lake Michigan, — the red disk of the sun just sinking beneath it, and the freshening night-breeze beginning to curl its limpid waters on the shore; and now, having gained their verge, whichever way we turned, there was nothing discernible but the blackening lake on one side and these conical hills of shifting white sand on the other. Some of them, as the
232night advanced, and objects were only discernible by the bright starlight, assumed a most fantastic appearance, and made me regret that I could not visit the "Sleeping Bear," and other singularly-formed mounds, which, many miles farther to the north, swell from two to three hundred feet above the level of the lake. The deep sand, into which our horses sunk to the fetlocks, was at first most wearisome to the poor beasts; and having twenty miles yet to travel entirely on the lake-shore, we were compelled, in spite of the danger of quicksands, to move as near the water as possible. But though the day had been mild, the night rapidly became so cold that, before we had proceeded thus many miles, the beach twenty yards from the surf was nearly as hard as stone, and the finest Macadamized road in the world could not compare with the one over which we now galloped. Nor did we want lamps to guide us on our way. Above, the stars stood out like points of light, while the resplendent fires of the Aurora Borealis, shooting along the heavens on our right, were mocked by the livid glare of the Kankakee marshes burning behind the sand-hills on our left. The lake alone looked dark and lowering; though even its gathering waves would smile when touched with light as they broke upon the shore. The
233intense cold seemed to invigorate our horses; and dashing the fire from the occasional pebbles, they clattered along the frozen beach at a rate that brought us rapidly to our destination for the night.
It was a rude cabin, built of stems of the scrub pine, standing behind a sandy swell about two hundred yards from the shore. My fingers were numb with cold; and seeing a rough-looking fellow moving from the door towards the horses of my companions, I requested him to take mine also; but upon his politely rejoining that "he was nobody's servant but his own," I could only wish him "a more civil master;" and proceeded to take care of the animal myself. A brake of stunted evergreens, near-by, supplied the place of a stable; and passing a whisp of dry grass over the reeking limbs of my four-footed friend, I flung my cloak over his back and tethered him for the night. The keeper of the rustic hos-telrie came up just as I had got through with this necessary task, and explaining to me that the insolent lounger was a discharged mail-carrier, returned with me to the house for a measure of corn while I, guided by the light flickering through the crevices of his frail dwelling, rejoined my companions, nestled with two other half-frozen travellers
234around the grateful fire within. The strangers were both western men; one, I believe, a farmer, for some time settled in Illinois, and the other an Indian trader of long standing in Chicago. Warlike incidents in border story, and the pacific dealings between the whites and Indians, formed the chief subjects of conversation, which soon became general, and was prolonged to a late hour; finally, the late treaty held at Chicago — at which, as you have probably seen in the newspapers, several thousand Indians were present — was discussed, and the anecdotes that were told of meanness, rapacity, and highway robbery (in cheating, stealing, and forcibly taking away) from the Indians exasperated me so that I expressed my indignation and disgust in unmeasured terms. The worthy trader, who was a middle-aged man, of affable, quiet good manners, seemed to sympathize with me throughout; but the whole current of my feelings was totally changed, when, upon my observing shortly afterward to another gentleman, that "I should have liked to have been at Chicago a year ago," my warm coadjutor ejaculated from under the bed-clothes where he had in the mean time bestowed himself, "Ah, sir, if you had, the way in which you'd have hooked an Indian blanket by this time would be curious." The chivalric knight of
235La Mancha himself could not have sustained heroics under such a home-thrust, but must have burst into the hearty laugh in which I was joined by all present. The hour of sleep for all at last arrived, and a couple of wooden bunks, swung from the roof, falling to the lot of those who had come in first, I wrapped myself in a buffalo-skin, and placing my saddle under my head for a pillow, soon "slept like a king;" a term which, if
Our transient acquaintances parted from us in a most friendly manner in the morning; and after waiting in vain till near noon, to see if by any chance little Victor might not be able to forward our trunks to this point, we mounted once more, and pushed ahead with all speed, to accomplish the remaining twenty or thirty miles between the shanty and Chicago. Our route was still along the shore; and after passing round the end of the lake and taking a northwardly direction,the way in which the icy blast would come down the bleak shore of the lake "was a caution." We galloped at full speed, every man choosing his own route along the beach, our horses' hoofs ringing the while as if it were a pavement of flint beneath them. The rough
236ice piled up on the coast prevented us from watering our beasts; and we did not draw a rein till the rushing current of the Calaminc, which debouches into Lake Michigan some ten miles from Chicago, stayed our course. A cabin on the bank gave us a moment's opportunity to warm, and then being ferried over the wintry stream, we started with fresh vigour, and crossing about a mile of prairie in the neighbourhood of Chicago, reached here in time for an early dinner. Our horses this morning seem none the worse for this furious riding; their escape from ill consequences being readily attributable to the excellence of the road, and the extreme coldness of the weather while travelling it. For my own part, I never felt better than after this violent burst of exercise. We had not been here an hour before an invitation to a public ball was courteously sent to us by the managers; and though my soiled and travel-worn riding-dress was not exactly the thing to present one's self in before ladies of an evening, yet, in my earnestness to see life on the frontier, I easily allowed all objections to be overruled by my companions, and we accordingly drove to the house in which the ball was given. It was a frame-building, one of the few as yet to be found in Chicago; which, although one of the most ancient French trading-posts on the Lakes, can
237only date its growth as a village since the Indian war, eighteen months since
238about with a great many airs and graces, was decidedly the king of the company, and it was amusing, while his head followed the direction of his fiddle-bow with pertinacious fidelity, to see the Captain Manual-like precision with which the soldier dressed to the front on one side, and the nonchalant air of importance which the cit attempted to preserve on the other. As for the company, it was such a complete medley of all ranks, ages, professions, trades, and occupations, brought together from all parts of the world, and now for the first time brought together, that it was amazing to witness the decorum with which they commingled on this festive occasion. The managers (among whom were some officers of the garrison) must certainly be au fait at dressing a lobster and mixing regent's punch, in order to have produced a harmonious compound from such a collection of contrarieties. The gayest figure that was ever called by quadrille playing Benoit never afforded me half the amusement that did these Chicago cotillons. Here you might see a veteran officer in full uniform balancing to a tradesman's daughter still in her short frock and trousers, while there the golden aiguillette of a handsome surgeon napped in unison with the glass beads upon a scrawney neck of fifty. In one quarter, the high-placed buttons of a linsey-woolsey
239coat would be dos a dos to the elegantly turned shoulders of a delicate-looking southern girl; and in another, a pair of Cinderella-like slippers would chassez cross with a brace of thick-soled broghans, in making which, one of the lost feet of the Colossus of Rhodes may have served for a last. Those raven locks, dressed a la Madonne, over eyes of jet, and touching a cheek where blood of a deeper hue, mingling with the less glowing current from European veins, tell of a lineage drawn from the original owners of the soil; while these golden tresses, floating away from eyes of heaven's own colour over a neck of alabaster, recall the Gothic ancestry of some of "England's born." How piquantly do these trim and beaded leggins peep from under that simple dress of black, as its tall nut-brown wearer moves, as if unconsciously, through the graceful mazes of the dance. How divertingly do those inflated gigots, rising like windsails from that little Dutch-built hull, jar against those tall plumes which impend over them like a commodore's pennant on the same vessel. But what boots all these incongruities, when a spirit of festive good-humour animates every one present. "It takes all kinds of people to make a world" (as I hear it judiciously observed this side the mountains),
240and why should not all these kinds of people be represented as well in a ball-room as in a legislature? At all events, if I wished to give an intelligent foreigner a favourable opinion of the manners and deportment of my countrymen in the aggregate, I should not wish a better opportunity, after explaining to him the materials of which it was composed, and the mode in which they were brought together from every section of the Union, than was afforded by this very ball. "This is a scene of enchantment to me, sir," observed an officer to me, recently exchanged to this post, and formerly stationed here. "There were but a few traders around the fort when I last visited Chicago, and now I can't contrive where the devil all these well-dressed people have come from!" I referred him to an old resident of three months' standing, to whom I had just been introduced, but he could throw no light upon the subject, and we left the matter of peopling Chicago in the same place where philosophers have put the question of the original peopling of the Continent. I made several new acquaintances at this New-year's ball, and particularly with the officers of the garrison, from whose society I promise myself much pleasure during my stay. The geographical position of Chicago is so
241important that I must give you a more minute description of the place in my next. Would that in folding this I could enclose you half the warm wishes for your welfare which the season awakens in my bosom.
Chicago, Illinois, Jan. 10, 1834.
I have been here more than ten days, without fulfilling the promise given in my last. It has been so cold, indeed, as almost to render writing impracticable in a place so comfortless. The houses were built with such rapidity, during the summer, as to be mere shells; and the thermometer having ranged as low as 28 below zero, during several days it has been almost impossible, notwithstanding the large fires kept up by an attentive landlord, to prevent the ink from freezing while using it, and one's fingers become so numb in a very few moments when thus exercised, that, after vainly trying to write in gloves, I have thrown by my pen, and joined the group, composed of all the household, around the bar-room fire. This room, which is an old log-cabin aside of the main house, is one of the most comfortable places in town, and is, of course, much frequented; business being, so far as one can judge from the concourse that throng it, nearly at a stand still. Several persons have been severely frost-bitten in passing from door to door; and not
243to mention the quantity of poultry and pigs that have been frozen, an ox, I am told, has perished from cold in the streets at noonday. An occasional Indian
The situation of Chicago, on the edge of the Grand Prairie, with the whole expanse of Lake Michigan before it, gives the freezing winds from the Rocky Mountains prodigious effect, and renders a degree of temperature which in sheltered situations is but little felt, almost painful here.
Do sorely ruffle; for many a mile about,
There's scarce a bush."
The town lies upon a dead level, along the banks of a narrow forked river, and is spread over a wide extent of surface to the shores of the lake, while vessels of considerable draught of water can, by
244means of the river, unload in the centre of the place. I believe I have already mentioned that four-fifths of the population have come in since last spring: the erection of new buildings during the summer has been in the same proportion; and although a place of such mushroom growth can, of course, boast of but little solid improvement in the way of building, yet contracts have been made for the ensuing season which must soon give Chicago much of that metropolitan appearance it is destined so promptly to assume. As a place of business, its situation at the central head of the Mississippi Valley will make it the New-Orleans of the north; and its easy and close intercourse with the most flourishing eastern cities will give it the advantage, as its capital increases, of all their improvements in the mode of living.
There is one improvement to be made, however, in this section of the country, which will greatly influence the permanent value of property in Chicago. I allude to a canal from the head of Lake Michigan to the head of steam navigation on the Illinois, the route of which has been long since surveyed. The distance to be overcome is something like ninety miles; and when you remember that the head-waters of the Illinois rise within eleven
245miles of Chicago River
246scarcely any toil, and where the most prolific soil in the world requires no other preparation for planting than passing the plough over its bosom. The most effectual mode of making this canal would be to give the lands along its banks to an incorporated company, who should construct the work within a certain time. The matter is now merely agitated at elections as a political handle.
I had got thus far in a letter to you, when several officers of the garrison, to whom I am indebted for much hospitable attention and many agreeable hours, stopped opposite the door with a train of carioles, in one of which I was offered a seat, to witness a pacing-match on the ice. There were several ladies with gentlemen in attendance already on the river, all muffled up, after the Canadian fashion, in fur robes, whose gay trimmings presented a rich as well as most comfortable appearance. The horses, from which the most sport was expected, were a black pony bred in the country, and a tall roan nag from the lower Mississippi. They paced at the rate of a mile in something less than three minutes. I rode behind the winning horse one heat, and the velocity with which he made our cariole fly over the smooth ice was almost startling. The southern horse won the
247race; but I was told that in nine cases out of ten, the nags from his part of the country could not stand against a French pony.
In the middle of the chase, a wolf, probably roused by the sleigh-bells from his lair on the river's bank, trotted along the prairie above, within gunshot, calmly surveying the sport. The uninvited presence of this long-haired amateur at once suggested a hunt for the morrow, and arrangements were accordingly made, by the several gentlemen present, for that most exciting of sports, a wolf-chase on horseback.
I was not present at the assembling of the hunt; and the first intimation I had of the game being afoot, was from hearing the cry of hounds and the shouting of a party of horsemen, as they clattered along the frozen river, with two prairie wolves and one gray wolf running at full speed, about a pistol-shot ahead of them. One wolf was killed, and another had made his escape, before I joined the party. But the third, the gray wolf, which had struck off into the prairie, was still fresh when I came into the hunt with an untired horse. But one of the hunters had been able to keep up with him, and him I could distinguish a mile off in the prairie, turning and winding his foaming horse as the wolf would double every moment upon his tracks, while
248half a dozen dogs, embarrassed in the deep snow, were slowly coming up. I reached the spot just as the wolf first stood at bay. His bristling back, glaring eyes, and ferociously distended jaws might have appalled the dogs for a moment, when an impetuous greyhound, who had been for some time pushing through the snow-drifts with unabated industry, having now attained a comparatively clear spot of ground, leaped with such force against the flank of the wolf as to upset him in an instant, while the greyhound shot far ahead of the quarry. He recovered himself instantly, but not before a fierce, powerful hound, whose thick neck and broad muzzle indicated a cross of the bull-dog blood with that of a nobler strain, had struck him first upon the haunch, and was now trying to grapple him by the throat. Down again he went, rolling over and over in the deep snow, while the clicking of his jaws, as he snapped eagerly at each member of the pack that by turns beset him, was distinctly audible. The powerful dog, already mentioned, secured him at last, by fixing his muzzle deeply into the breast of the prostrate animal. This, however, did not prevent the wolf giving some fearful wounds to the other dogs which beset him; and, accordingly, with the permission of the gentleman who had led the chase, I threw myself from
249my horse, and gave the game the coup de grace with a dirk-knife which I carried about me. The success of this hunt induced us, upon the spot, to appoint another for this day.
It was a fine bracing morning, with the sun shining cheerily through the still cold atmosphere far over the snow-covered prairie, when the party assembled in front of my lodgings, to the number of ten horsemen, all well mounted and eager for the sport. The hunt was divided into two squads; one of which was to follow the windings of the river on the ice, and the other to make a circuit on the prairie. A pack of dogs, consisting of a greyhound or two for running the game, with several of a heavier and fiercer breed for pulling it down, accompanied each party. I was attached to that which took the river; and it was a beautiful sight, as our friends trotted off in the prairie, to see their different coloured capotes and gayly equipped horses contrasted with the bright carpet of spotless white over which they rode, while the sound of their voices was soon lost to our ears, as we descended to the channel of the river, and their lessening figures were hid from our view by the low brush which in some places skirted its banks. The brisk trot in which we now broke, brought us rapidly to the place of meeting; where,
250to the disappointment of each party, it was found that neither had started any game. We now spread ourselves into a broad line, about gunshot apart from each other, and began thus advancing into the prairie. We had not swept it thus more than a mile, when a shout on the extreme left, with the accelerated pace of the two furthermost riders in that direction, told that they had roused a wolf. "The devil take the hindermost," was now the motto of the company, and each one spurred for the spot with all eagerness. Unhappily, however, the land along the bank of the river, on the right, was so broken by ravines, choked up with snow, that it was impossible for us, who were half a mile from the game when started, to come up at all with the two or three horsemen who led the pursuit. Our horses sunk to their cruppers in the deep snow-drift. Some were repeatedly thrown; and one or two, breaking their saddle-girths, from the desperate struggles their horses made in the snow-banks, were compelled to abandon the chase entirely. My stout roan carried me bravely through all; but when I emerged from the last ravine on the open plain, the two horsemen who led the chase, from some inequality in the surface of the prairie, were not visible; while the third, a fleet rider, whose tall figure and Indian headdress
251had hitherto guided me, had been just unhorsed, and abandoning the game afoot, was now wheeling off apparently with some other object in view. Following on the same course, we soon encountered a couple of officers in a train, who were just coming from a mission of charity in visiting the half-starved orphans of a poor woman, who was frozen to death on the prairie a day or two since — the wolves having already picked her bones before her fate became known. One by one, our whole party collected around to make inquiries about the poor children, and the two fortunate hunters soon after joined us, one of them with a large prairie wolf hanging to the saddle-bow.
It was now about eleven o'clock; we were only twelve miles from Chicago; and though we had kept up a pretty round pace, considering the depth of the snow, in coursing backward and forward since eight, our horses generally were yet in good condition, and we scattered once more over the prairie, with the hope of rousing more game.
Not ten minutes elapsed before a wolf, breaking from the dead weeds which, shooting eight or ten feet above the level of the snow, indicated the banks of a deep ravine, dashed off into the prairie pursued by a horseman on the right. He made instantly for the deep banks of the river, one of whose windings
252was within a few hundred yards. He had a bold rider behind him, however, in the gentleman who led the chase (a young educated half-blood, of prepossessing manners, and well connected at Chicago). The precipitous bank of the stream did not retard this hunter for a moment, but dashing down to the bed of the river, he was hard upon the wolf before he could ascend the elevation on the opposite side. Four of us only reached the open prairie beyond in time to take part in the chase. Nothing could be more beautiful. There was not an obstacle to oppose us in the open plain; and all our dogs having long since given out, nothing remained but to drive the wolf to death on horseback. Away, then, we went, shouting on his track; the hotly pursued beast gaining on us whenever the crust of a deep snow-drift gave him. an advantage over the horse, and we in our turn nearly riding over him when we came to ground comparatively bare. The sagacious animal became at last aware that his course would soon be up at this rate, and turning rapidly in his tracks as we were scattered over the prairie, he passed through our line and made at once again for the river. He was cut off, and turned in a moment, by a horseman on the left, who happened to be a little behind the rest; and now came the keenest part of the
253sport. The wolf would double every moment upon his tracks, while each horseman in succession would make a dash at, and turn him in a different direction. Twice I was near enough to strike him with a horsewhip, and once he was under my horse's feet; while so furiously did each rider push at him, that as we brushed by each other and confronted horse to horse, while riding from different quarters at full speed, it required one somewhat used "to turn and wind a fiery Pegasus" to maintain his seat at all. The rascal, who would now and then look over his shoulder, and gnash his teeth, seemed at last as if he was about to succumb — when, after running a few hundred yards in an oblique direction from the river, he suddenly veered his course, at a moment-when every one thought his strength was spent; and gaining the bank before he could be turned, he disappeared in an instant. The rider nearest to his heels became entangled in the low boughs of a tree which grew near the spot; while I, who followed next, was thrown out sufficiently to give the wolf time to get out of view, by my horse bolting as he reached the sudden edge of the river. The rest of the hunt were consequently at fault when they came up to us: and after trying in vain to track our lost quarry over the smooth ice for half an hour, we were most vexatiously compelled to
254abandon the pursuit as fruitless, and return to the village with only one scalp as the reward of our morning's labour.
It was with no enviable feelings, I assure you, that, on making my arrangements, an hour ago, to start in the new line of stage-coaches which has just been established between this point and St. Louis, I found myself compelled to part with the friend to whom I was chiefly indebted for my share in the glorious sports I have just attempted to describe to you — the four-footed companion of my last six weeks' rambles. I remember being once struck with the remark of an ingenious writer, in the Library of Useful Knowledge, when, in discussing the real and the relative value of horses, he observes that the commonest hackney, if in every respect suiting his owner, is priceless to the possessor. A favourite horse, in fact, though his estimation may only depend upon the whim of his master, is one of this world's goods which can never be thoroughly replaced. It is not, however, when the charge of such property falls exclusively to grooms and others, from one end of the year to another, that you feel its value. The stall-fed paltry, which you drive along a turnpike from one hotel to another, and abandon when he falls sick for some other means
255of conveyance, with as little concern as you would exchange your trunk for a portmanteau, or vice versa, has but little hold on one's feelings in comparison with the hearty animal with which you wander away, where he meets with no care but such as you bestow upon him; and when you in turn become wholly dependent upon him for over coming; distances and difficulties between places so remote from each other, that not only your comfort, but sometimes your personal safety, depend upon accomplishing the intervals within certain periods — when you push ahead through falling sleet, ford rivers, plunge through snow-banks, or cross morasses, where the matted grass, spreading its carpet over the shaking slough, embarrasses and wearies the step of your sagacious quadruped, while it prevents his feet from sinking into the dangerous quagmire beneath. Three weeks of such intercourse between man and brute are like three rainy days when one is shut up in a country-house with strangers. They cherish a fellowship more cordial than years of ordinary intercourse could engender. It is no little consolation to me that I leave my Bucephalus in excellent hands; nor does this necessary separation so engross my sympathies that I have none to spare for other partings. Upon
256these, however, I shall not dilate here, though you must not be surprised to find me returning more than once hereafter to characters, scenes, and incidents at Chicago which I have hitherto left untouched.
Banks of the Au Sable, Illinois, Jan. 15.
It was about eight o'clock, and a bright cold morning when a handsome four-horse stage-coach, built in New-York, and placed with more liberality than judgment on a route where a broad-tired, low-hung, and light wagon would be much more appropriate, — drove up to my quarters at Chicago; and, having received my luggage, crossed the river on the ice, and was a few moments after travelling through the deep snow over the Grand Prairie. My fellow-passengers were, a respectable middle-aged female and a smartly dressed young man of amiable appearance, whose handsome broadcloth suit, worn as a travelling dress, bespoke the favoured beau of some country village, or possibly a thriving young clerk from the city, engaged upon some agency business, and travelling in the style which he thought would best comport with the dignity of his employers. The driver was also accompanied on the box by a well-made young half-blood Chippeway of about five-and-twenty, who had come
258down from Mackinaw to seek employment, and was now going farther south for the same object. The air being rather sharp on the prairie, the lady took her seat between the young gentleman and myself, and thus wedged in together, we contrived to keep very comfortable; though our near neighbourhood did not render us more communicative than people generally are after an early breakfast. We merely exchanged the ordinary commonplaces which custom exacts from people thus thrown together; and then, unless when a wolf passing near our track, or a particularly large pack of grouse rising before us, called forth some exclamation, but few words were spoken by any of the company. at, length, after having counted six wolves within twice as many miles, we approached a grove of timber, where, while the trees grew quite densely in the centre, a few thin rows shot out like a reef of rocks from the shadowy island far into the prairie. Here, on the edge of a deep gully, through which winds the River Au Plaine, was the log-tavern at which the first stage of our day's journey, being twelve miles, concluded. The horses were in a complete foam with their exertions in getting through the deep snow-drifts across the prairie, and I easily persuaded the driver to abandon the comfortable but cumbersome vehicle which had
259brought us so far, and hitch his smoking team, which had still twelve miles to go, to a rough but strongly-built sled before the door. My fellow-passengers approved the arrangement, and subsequent events proved it a very fortunate one; for so deep was the snow on many parts of the road afterward traversed, that it would have been impracticable to get a wheel-carriage forward, and it must have been deserted on the prairie. There was much to do, however, about our new equipage, before we could get started; and while our driver looked after his horses, one of the passengers had to shovel the snow out of the sleigh, another to drive a pin through the tongue in order to fasten on the leaders; and a third, after filling the bottom with hay, to adjust the baggage, &c. &c. All this, with the aid of the stout Chippeway and the active young eastern traveller, was soon effected; and the former taking his seat with the driver on a board in front, while the latter shared half of my buffalo robes, and stowed himself upon the hay with inc in the rear; madame was well accommodated, with the cushions taken from the stage, on a trunk placed in the middle; and some heated stones being brought from the house and placed beneath her feet just as we started, no grandmother could sit more comfortably in her cushioned pew in old
260Trinity. A fast drive of twelve miles brought us at noon to another island of timber, where a little piquant girl of sixteen, with sloe-black eyes and glossy locks as dark as night, arranged a plain but neat meal for us, and gave a relish to the entertainment by loosing one of the most vivacious tongues I had heard wag in the last three months. Here we changed horses, and a ride of sixteen miles more brought us about nightfall to a place called "Walker's Grave," where two or three log-huts were sheltered from the north wind under an island of tall timber, and in one of which we have established ourselves for the night. A pile of bur-oak, which makes a capital fire, flames up the enormous wooden chimney before me, and a number of stout yeomen around it, engaged in discussing the price of horses on the Wabash, prevent me, while handling a matter of such moment, from enlarging more upon the few objects of interest which have presented themselves to-day.
Ottawa, Illinois, January 16.
I was hardly dressed this morning, when my only remaining fellow-traveller — the lady and the half-blood having parted company last evening — called me to the door to "see the cloud of prairie hens before it." I looked out, and there indeed,
261true enough, the oaks within gunshot of the porch were so loaded with grouse, that they showed more like a flock of pigeons than a covey of game birds. Having broken my gun, however, it was intolerably vexatious to see such capital shots thrown away, while these fine birds in those districts where I was prepared to bag them were too wild to approach within shooting distance at all. The sleigh soon after came to the door, our driver having diminished his team by two horses, to meet, probably, the reduction of passengers already mentioned; and about a hundred yards from the house we crossed a broad brook, known as the Au Sable River, and commenced ascending the bank beyond. But the snow was deep, and the heavy drift having had its surface frozen over during the preceding night, our single pair of horses were unable to drag through it the clumsy sled behind them. They plunged in up to their chests. "Go ahead, Sam! gie up, Major!" shouted the driver. But Sam was thoroughly planted; while the Major, in trying to sustain his military character by obeying orders, gave one spring, and, floundering over the traces, was buried in the snow up to his crupper, and placed, nolens volens, in full as quiescent a condition as the already settled Sam. For all of us to get out and take hold of the bits was the next
262move; but it wouldn't do. Sam, indeed, seemed a little inclined to make a retrograde movement, by kicking out the footboard with his heels; while the Major, having gathered new energy for another charge, wasted his fire in lifting up his knees as high as his mouth, and ineffectually throwing his fore hoofs in advance on the crusted snow; handling his feet the while much after the manner of the rampant unicorn on a calico stamp, who, unmindful of the mottoed garter he treads under his foot, so bravely paws the crown which the complaisant lion is pushing towards him. The driver at last became convinced of the necessity of returning for another pair of horses; and a young colt called Blackhawk, with a hoary old plough-horse named Judge, were, after a little delay, procured, and placed in advance of Sam and the Major on the top of the bank. Poor Sam seemed to dislike having the Judge's fetlocks brought so immediately in contact with his nose, they being nearly on a horizontal line; and he was accordingly inclined to retreat upon his haunches, beneath which the snow formed so easy a cushion; but a single crack from the driver's whip sent the Major charging so vigorously upon Blackhawk, that the sable young chief gave a bound which carried us through the difficulty in a trice, and sent our vehicle
263skimming far over the prairie. The grove in which we had passed the night soon vanished from sight, and a boundless expanse of snow-covered surface lay like an ocean before us. The arch of the clear blue sky seemed to spring at once from the silvered earth, which shone under the bright January sun with an intensity almost painful to the eye. The blue vault above, and the white plain below, were the only objects that met its glances, as they roamed for miles around: yet no one could complain of sameness in the tints of a picture so vast, a scene so illimitable. The immensity of the prospect seemed to exclude the idea of monotony, and perfect solitude was only wanting in such a scene to make one feel its grandeur. The lively rattle of my companion, however, whose society, after travelling so long entirely alone, I found no slight acquisition, prevented me from realizing its full effect; and when, after riding for about twelve miles, an island of timber hove in sight, while the beautiful sky of the morning clouded over, and the cold wind, which began to set in from the west, indicated that the twelve miles we had yet to travel before we should reach the first house across this arm of the prairie would be any thing but agreeable, — I was contented to wrap myself as closely as possible in my buffalo
264robe, and join him in a game of prairie loo. Lest you might search vainly in Hoyle for this pastime, I must inform you that the game consists merely in betting upon the number of wild animals seen by either party, towards the side of the vehicle on which he is riding, a wolf or deer counting ten, and a grouse one. The game is a hundred; and you may judge of the abundance of these animals from our getting through several games before dinner, — my companion looing me with eleven wolves. Some of these fellows would stand looking at us, within half-gunshot, as we rode by them; while the grouse would rise continually from under our very horses' feet.
Before we had got through the twenty-four miles, the scene enacted at starting was to be repeated with improvement; for on coming to the edge of a frozen gully, our two leaders, in their anxiety to avoid former difficulties, gave such a spring that they sunk through the ice to their shoulders, on the opposite side; while the wheel-horses, being thrown down, were driven by the runners of the sleigh against the sharp edges of the ice thus exposed, and one of them was terribly lacerated. It was the unfortunate Sam, who, poor fellow, not having been watered since the morning, lay quietly on his side in the traces, with his forelegs
265up the slope, and his hinder ones in the pool, eating the snow thus brought in contact with his mouth, apparently perfectly unconscious of his wounds. Blackhawk and the Judge, of course, came to an anchor when they found such an accumulated weight dragging behind them; while the spirited Major seemed to be thoroughly dejected at this second discomfiture, and allowed us to turn him over and put him on his feet with scarcely the interposition of a struggle. Not far from the scene of this catastrophe we crossed the Au Page, a narrow stream, with smooth banks, utterly divested of shrubbery; and after, in the next eight miles, encountering two or three tremendous snowbanks, where our horses were frequently immersed to their cruppers, and whence nothing but the leaders, from their firm footing beyond, dragging the wheel-horses through the heavy drift, could have extricated us, we reached a beautiful grove of elms and oaks, and stopped to change our worn-out team.
Entering a log-cabin, not at all differing from the usual dwellings of the frontier settlers, I found a choice collection of books in one corner, — a volume, a fine old edition, of Algernon Sidney's works being the first book I took up; and upon entering into conversation with the occupants of the cabin,
266I found that degree of general cultivation which, though not unfrequently met with on the frontier, still always strikes a stranger with novelty; and yet, I know no reason why the fullest expanding of the intellect is incompatible with the handling of an axe, or the most luxuriant development of the imagination with following the plough. The farmer, of all operatives, has, perhaps, the most time for improvement; and when he dwells in a land where, while Nature showers her choicest bounties, man passes towards it from every side, and contributes on his new coming to the general stock of ideas, keeping, by this lively interchange, those already afloat in active circulation, there is every thing in his circumstances to make him acute and reflective, and to liberalize his mind, if not to polish his manners.
It would be giving you a wrong impression, however, did I allow you to gather from this, that the oldest western settlers of this country are by any means so familiar with books as the emigrants from the east; for among the latter there are many persons of altered circumstances, who, having once enjoyed better opportunities for literary culture, carry the traces of their old habits with them into the new scenes to which they so readily adapt themselves. Fluency of language, with an
267ease and power of expression which sometimes swells to the dignity of eloquence, and often displays itself in terms of originality, at once humorous and forcible, constitute the conversational resources of the western man; but as his knowledge is gathered almost altogether from conversation, he wants that exact acquaintance with facts and things which enriches the intellectual armory of his eastern brother, in a similar situation of life. My opportunities as yet of forming an opinion might, perhaps, be questioned by one who did not know that the southern part of Michigan and the northern sections of Illinois are settled by people from almost every State in the Union. Having now traversed them both, I may venture the above observation, at least with you.
A dinner of grouse at this place came very opportunely after our keen ride of twenty-four miles over the prairie without once stopping; and, by way of varying our customary fare of bacon and corn-bread along the road, we purchased a few brace of these fine birds for a mere trifle, there being at hand a coopful of them just caught alive upon the premises.
It was just sunset when, after riding about thirteen miles over a dreary-looking prairie, we came suddenly to one of those steppes into which these
268singular plains sometimes break so beautifully; and, looking down over two broad platforms, which successively projected their flat surfaces and angular edges below us, beheld the Illinois River winding through the lowest meadow, and receiving its tributary, the Fox River, opposite the little village of Ottawa. It seemed to repose upon a rich alluvia! flat, with the rocky bluffs of the Illinois rising in a regular line to the height of seventy or eighty feet immediately in the rear, while their rugged and varying outline, both above and below, towered opposite to a much greater height. The warm light of the setting sun resting upon their mossy edges, and touching with freshness an evergreen that sprouted here and there among the cliff's, while the rising mists of evening imparted a bluish tint to the distant windings of the smooth valley below, gave an Italian softness to the landscape, but little in unison with the icy rigours that enchained the streams to which in summer it must owe its greatest beauty. A mile or two farther brought us over the frozen river to the comfortable frame-house from which this letter is dated.
Ottawa, which is situated a few miles above the head of steamboat navigation on the Illinois, is, from its central situation, gradually becoming a place of some commercial importance, though still
269a mere hamlet in size. It was within six miles of this place that the worst of the Indian horrors were perpetrated during the difficulties with the Sacs and Foxes in 1832. You must remember the newspaper accounts of every member of two families being butchered, except two young girls, who were carried into captivity, and afterward recovered from the Indians
270upon an enemy that outnumbered them so as to make the attempt to get into the house and reach their rifles perfect madness. It is needless to add that they were shot down, tomahawked, and scalped in an instant; not, however, as some say, before they had witnessed some of the atrocities practised upon the feebler members of their families. These, both before and after death, are too shocking to mention.
"Why, sir," said an Illinois man to me, who was on the spot shortly afterward, "those Indians behaved most ridiculous. They dashed children's brains against the door-posts; they cut off their heads; they tore —;" but the detail to which my informant applied so quaint an epithet is one that I would not think for a moment of giving you. I must not forget to add, that the two surviving females, after losing every near blood-relative in this horrible manner, have lately found legal protectors, and are now settled in life as respectable married women. I had previously, even as far north as the borders of Michigan in Indiana, seen stockades erected in the open prairie as a place of refuge for the settlers, with other similar marks of the late border-strife, but had no idea till this evening that I was approaching the seat of the bloodiest acts of the unhappy contest. The neutral Indians,
271who disappeared from this part of the country at the time, are now, I am told, dispersed again in large numbers over the neighbourhood. They are perfectly harmless; but, though treated with great kindness by the new emigrants, there will probably never again be much confidence between them and the old settlers. The latter somehow seem to have long regarded the Indians as hereditary enemies; and the events of 1832 have given new vigour to dislikes which seemed to be gradually losing their rancour. A man who has to plough with a heavy rifle, ready-loaded, slung to his back, day after day, while he fears even to send his child to the spring for a pail of water, may be well excused for being warm upon a subject which must thus fill his thoughts and harass his mind throughout each hour of the day. It is therefore useless to argue with an Illinois "Indian hater." What cares he for the "lean famine, quartering steel, and climbing fire," which you tell him often beset the red man's wigwam before his ancestors made good their footing on another's land. He thinks but of the frantic outrages he has witnessed in his own day. He thinks of his often-abandoned husbandry, "while that the coulter rusts" corrupting in its own fertility. He thinks of his butchered friends and neighbours, — of his wife and offspring slaughtered
272upon his hearth-stone, — and asks bitterly how you could
The blind and bloody savage with foul hand
Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;
Your fathers taken by the silver beards,
And their most reverend heads dashed to the walls;
Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,
While the mad mothers with their howls confused
Do break the clouds."
An accumulation of horrid images, which shows with what fearful fidelity Shakspeare would have painted Indian warfare, had these wild tragedies of our day been acted in his.
Boyd's Grove, Illinois, Jan. 25th, 1834.
It was so long since I had seen a stone at all deserving the name of a rock, that I took a good deal of satisfaction in scaling the bluff's of the Illinois, and traversing the adjacent ravines, before getting out on the prairie the morning that I left Ottawa, In one of these rocky gullies, — which run generally at right angles to the river, and with their precipitous walls in one place, and cavernous passages beneath the jutting limestone in another, often form some picturesque dell, or afford a romantic glimpse of the open country beyond, — I saw the first cascade I have met with since leaving Pennsylvania. The fall was not more than ten feet; but the column of water, being frozen in a solid sheet, as white as the purest porcelain, presented a very singular appearance as it raised its pale glistening front beneath a canopy of stunted cedars, whose green branches impended from the rocks above. Our sleigh, after winding for some time among this broken ground, and passing over one or two small but beautiful pieces of bottom land
274lying among the ravines, reached at last the top of the bluff, where, instead of descending on the other side, the level prairie extended as far as the eye could reach beyond. A few hours' drive brought us to a log-cabin, which was our place for dining and changing horses, and here we found that, owing to the newness of the route, arrangements were not yet completed for the public conveyances going farther. Hearing a stranger speaking in terms of enthusiasm of the fine view from "Starved Rock," — a detached crag some 200 feet high, on the banks of the Illinois, where one band of Indians was surrounded and starved to death by another (I refer you to "Flint's Valley of the Missisippi" for the legend), — I made arrangements to visit the spot in the morning.
A chill north-easter swept over the bleak prairie as my travelling companion and myself, mounted upon two miserable nags, neither of which was shod, struck on an Indian trail, that brought us in an hour's ride to the craggy and precipitous banks of the Vermilion River, which it was necessary to cross. A sickly-looking but rather interesting woman came out of a miserable log-hut — beside which, housed under a few boards, stood a handsome barouche — to direct us where to descend the bank; and my friend on foot leading his horse,
275mine followed trembling after him; and, notwithstanding the steep path was glazed with ice, we descended the first pitch in safety.
Pausing for a moment, the confused masses of rock, with trees and shrubs of all kinds growing in their crevices, reminded me, as I looked around, of more than one scene of the kind in the river counties of my native State. It was now my turn to lead down the next pitch, which led to the frozen bed of the river. Upon gaining the edge I perceived that the descent was a perfect glare of ice; and pausing a moment to hand a loaded gun, which I carried, to my companion, lest it might be discharged in the accident which I anticipated, my horse lost his footing even as I turned in the saddle, and falling flat over upon me, down we slid together. I had not gone two yards, however, before a small jutting rock brought me, but little bruised, to an anchorage, while my unfortunate consort, after sliding over a part of my person, went, though struggling fearfully to regain his feet, slipping to the bottom. He landed at last erect, with his face up the ascent, and though now on the level ice of the river, the poor brute seemed to think he was still midway on the declivity he had been hurried over so roughly; for without looking at all behind him, he stood trembling for an instant, and then, in
276spite of all the outcry we could raise to keep him back, commenced ascending to where we stood, and actually persevered till he had gained the place from whence he had started. The only way now to effect our purpose was for one to go below, and the other to drive the horses down to him. This we indeed did, and I do not know when I have been more amused, than upon seeing my worthy Rozinante, as if taught by past experience, quietly — when he found he must go-placing himself upon his haunches, and sliding down the little hill with a degree of coolness and skill that would have been envied by the boldest schoolboy on Flattenbarrack.
Crossing the Vermilion, we were compelled to drive our horses in the same way up the bank on the opposite side; and by catching hold of the branches of trees, drag ourselves after them as we best could. Once on the height, nothing but a level plain of rich prairie land lay between us and the bluffs of the Illinois. It was crossed here and there at intervals of a few miles with Indian trails, about a foot in width, and worn as deep as if they had been trod for centuries. They ran in various directions, and were generally as straight as the flight of an arrow. A heavy rain throughout the previous night had swept all the snow from the
277prairie, and these black lines drawn over its brown surface were now perceptible at a great distance. A long reach of woodland immediately before us indicated our approach to the Illinois bottoms; but on entering the timbered ground, where the snow still lingered in considerable quantities, we found ourselves on the slippery bluffs, a hundred feet above the level of the river opposite, without the possibility of descending to its bed. These bluffs were divided at intervals by the romantic ravines already described; and having now discovered that we had entirely missed the road to "The Starved Rock," it only remained for us to attempt descending through these passages, and find the place by a route of our own. We led the way by turns, and urging our unwilling horses down the frozen beds of the little streams which impart their coolness in autumn to these sequestered dells, we tried three ravines in succession, without attaining our object. One would bring us up against a dead wall of limestone, in the crevices of whose base the rill we had been following suddenly disappeared; a second carried us to the abrupt edge of a precipice, about fifty feet above the river, whose rich bottoms, extending far away below, reminded me, with the occasional copses and detached clumps of trees which studded them,
278of points of views in the valley of the Mohawk. Nothing, on so small a scale, could be more picturesque than the nook to which the third ravine led us. It was to the upper edge of a double cascade, over the second fall of which an arch of rock projected, so as to shut out from view the basin into which the water finally fell below. The passage through which we reached the spot was a mere fissure in the side-hill; and when, not wishing to get my feet wet, I urged my horse to the brink of the little cascade, the long icicles pendent from the hanging rock above were almost within reach of my riding-whip. A number of gnarled and stunted cedars, "moist trees, that have outlived the eagle," fling their dusky branches over the chasm, and when summer foliage glitters on the tall stems whose naked boughs project above them, the sun must be wholly excluded from this cool retreat.
Our horses were so fagged out when we extricated ourselves from this ravine, that we did not think it well to try another; and my companion being afraid of freezing his feet, which were wet from his having dismounted at the most difficult parts of the descent, I was sorry to be compelled to give up the search and return to our lodgings, after an eight hours' ride, without having seen the interesting
279point we had taken so much trouble to attain
The mail contractor, resident at Chicago, had arrived at the farm-house during our absence; and hearing that two gentlemen were detained upon the road, had, with great politeness, at once taken measures to send us on the next morning. The room, too, in which we had slept before — four in two beds, and three on the floor — had now been
280vacated by five of its occupants, and my companion and I each appropriated a couch to himself. We were hardly warm under the cover, however, before the tramping of horses, with the sound of travellers' voices, was heard without; and the good dame thrust her head into the room, in the vain expectation of showing them an unoccupied bed. My companion pretended to be in a sound sleep; and I intimated that I should betake myself to my buffalo robe and the floor, in case a bed-fellow were thrust in upon me: whereat the kind lady was exceedingly miffed; and we could hear her through the board partition, a moment afterward, expressing herself after this amiable fashion — "Ugh! great people, truly! — a bed to themselves — the hogs! — They travel together — and they eat together — and they eat enough, too — and yet they can't sleep together!" Here the husband, a respectable middle-aged man, who did every thing to make our situation comfortable during the thirty-six hours we spent at his cabin, interposed, and silenced his better half; and the new comers, wrapping themselves in their cloaks before the fire, in a few minutes all became still about the establishment.
The good dame, who must have been a fine-looking woman in her day, and was, I believe, in spite of her scolding ways, really well-disposed towards
281us at heart, gave us a capital cup of coffee and a kind farewell in the morning. A four-horse wagon, with an active driver, quickly accomplished a mile of rough road through the grove, and brought us once more to the edge of the smooth prairie. I can conceive nothing more desolate than the appearance of that boundless plain. The fires had traversed it in the autumn as far as the eye could reach, and the snow having now disappeared entirely from the upland, the black and charred surface was all that met our vision wherever it wandered. A dark sullen sky which lowered overhead added not a little to the gloominess of the prospect; and the day being excessively cold, our ride for the next fifteen miles over this dreary plain was any thing but agreeable. At last we came to some broken ground, dotted here and there with a handful of shrubbery, from which every moment a pack of grouse and occasionally a bevy of quail would rise. The little village of Hennepin — called after Father Hennepin — next hove in sight; though it lay so sheltered along the banks of the Illinois that we were nearly upon the hamlet before its vicinity was discoverable.
After stopping an hour or two to dine and feed our horses, we left the driver to take a circuitous route down the steep bank, which, though not rocky,
282is about sixty feet high, and very precipitous on that side of the river, while my friend and I descended to the ice, and walked over the river, which was here a broad and noble stream, with some beautiful alluvial islands on its bosom. The difference of temperature here and on the bleak prairie above was astonishing; and when I sat down upon a fallen tree among the tangled vines of the rich bottom opposite to Hennepin, and watched a flock of green paroquets fluttering among the wych-elms which here and there skirted the shore, while the sun, for a moment piercing his murky veil, touched with gold the icicles that glazed their drooping branches, I could fancy myself transported to a different climate. The driver overtook us at last, and then we commenced making our way through a timbered bottom, which, for appearance of rank fertility, excelled any spot I have ever beheld. The trees, which were of enormous size, seemed chained together at every point by the huge vines which clambered to their very summits, locking the stately stems in their ponderous embrace, and clasping each outer bough with some twining tendril, which, having thus secured its prey on one tree, seemed like a living animal to have bounded to another, and fastened its eager grasp upon some limb as yet untouched. Beneath
283the whole an interminable growth of underwood, protected by the woven canopy above, and flourishing rankly in its living fetters,
A half-hour's ride carried us through this teeming region to the foot of a steep and open-wooded hill, which ascending with some difficulty, we came out once more upon the prairie, and found the change of temperature instantaneous. The road over the dry grassy plain was very good, however, for the first six or eight miles; and as the evening began to close in intensely cold, we rattled them off in a very short time. At last we came to a deep-frozen gully, in crossing which our leaders bruised themselves so badly by breaking through the ice, that when we reached a spot of the same kind, but rather worse, a mile or two in advance, the frightened animals recoiled from the place, and refused to cross it Our driver, a doughty little chap, about four feet eleven, who rejoiced in the name of Samson, and was a capital whip, by-the-by, after using every exertion to get his whole team over, was at last compelled to give up the point, and proceed to detach the leaders from the wheel-horses. This, with our aid, was
284soon done; and my companion remaining with the leaders on one side, Samson and I made a dash at the frozen brook, and, breaking through in the midst, the horses gave such a spring to free themselves from the wagon that the swingletree-bolt snapped; and had not the heroic little champion held on to the reins as tenaciously as did his namesake to the gates of Gaza, we might have been left a prey to the next drove of Philistinean wolves that should rove the prairie in quest of a supper. Samson, however, was true to his name; and with a mighty arm bringing up his foaming steeds all standing, we crawled over the-head of the rampant wagon (the hind-wheels only had gone through the ice), and sprang to the firm ground. The swingle-tree was soon tinkered fast again; but now came the difficulty of getting the unwilling leaders over, who, it is presumed, had been no uninterested spectators of what had just been going forward; coaxing and whipping availed nothing; and we at last succeeded only by buckling two pair of reins together and passing them over the brook, two of us pulling on the horses' mouths, while the third applied a smart castigation behind. One of the poor animals again broke in, and floundered dreadfully before he reached a firm footing on the other side. But this was not the worst; our poor little
285Samson, in attempting to jump, plunged in to his knees, and suffered much inconvenience from it afterward. The evening was indeed so cold that our wheel-horses, who were coated with ice, their long tails being actually frozen solid, were in danger of freezing to death, had we been compelled to delay much longer. But, placing now the leaders on the firm ground beyond them, one smart pull served to extricate the wagon from the hole, and deliver us from our quandary.
We had five or six miles still to go before reaching a house, and feeling some anxiety about Samson's wet feet, we urged him to put the horses — nothing loath when once started — to the top of their speed. He did indeed drive furiously; but when we arrived at the house whence I write, the poor fellow's feet were frozen. Rushing at once to the fire, he would undoubtedly have lost them, had there not chanced to be a physician present, who directed us what to do. The good-humoured little patient was removed without delay to the back part of the room; and we commenced pouring water into his boots until they melted from his feet, the temperature of the water being gradually heightened till it became blood-warm, while a bucket of ice-water stood by for the sufferer to thrust his feet in, whenever the returning circulation
286became too violent for him to endure. In the morning, though his feet were dreadfully swollen, he was enabled, by tying them up in thick horse-blankets, to move about, and even return with his team. To the simple and judicious suggestions of the travelling-physician present our little hero was, in all probability, indebted for escaping a most awful calamity: — a settler in this neighbourhood having lost both legs a few days since by an exposure similar to Samson's.
I am now staying at the house of a nourishing farmer, whose sturdy frame, bold features, and thick long black hair would, with his frank address, afford as fine a specimen of the western borderer as one could meet with, and never allow you to suspect that ten or fifteen years ago he was a New-York tradesman. He lives, like all other people of this country, in a log-cabin, which has many comforts about it, however, not usually found in these primitive domicils. Having a large family, with no neighbours nearer than ten miles on one side, and twenty on the other, he maintains a schoolmaster to instruct his children: the room I occupy at night being fitted up with desks and benches as a school-room. His farm, which lies along the edge. of a beautiful and well-watered grove, supplies him with almost every thing that he wants;
287and having once pursued a different mode of life, he seems now to realize the full independence of his situation, more even than those who have always been brought up as farmers. I told him this morning, as he sallied out to chop, with his two sons, axe in hand, all clad in their belted capotes and white woollen hoods, that I should like to meet his sun-burnt features and independent step in Broadway, to see how many of his old acquaintances would recognise the pale mechanic in the brown back-woodsman. He promised me, if he came in winter, to appear with the guise in which I then beheld him, adding, in western phraseology, "The way in which folks'll stare, squire, will be a caution."
After being detained here some days, waiting for the St. Louis mail-wagon, and losing my travelling-companion, who, having bought a horse, has gone on by himself, I have concluded that it would never do to go out of this country without visiting Galena and the mining country: and as there is now a public conveyance thither, I shall take the first opportunity to go with it. I have amused myself for the last three nights in watching for wolves by moonlight, at the edge of the wood, a few hundred yards from the house. They come howling round the house after nightfall, and if on
288is "in luck" at all, are easily shot. But last night, after leaving my position but for five minutes, I heard the report of a rifle, and hastening to the spot, where a lad staid to fill my place for a moment, I found that a gray and a black wolf, of the largest kind, had approached suddenly within two or three yards of the muzzle of his gun, and startled him so that he missed them both. In the confident hope of their return — for the bait that we had thrown about the place was still there — I took the little fellow's place, and wrapping myself in a buffalo skin, lay watching on the ground till nearly daybreak; and the enemy then not making his appearance, I was glad to creep shivering to bed.
Upon entering my room, which contained two beds, I observed, after striking a light, that the one opposite to mine was occupied by some newcomers, while a sheet suspended from the ceiling near the pillow, and concealing the phrenology of its occupants from view, was evidently meant as a caveat against reconnoitring that part of the apartment. A respectable-looking traveller and a pretty young woman, who I was told was a bride on her way to St. Louis, breakfasted with us the next morning. But, alas! it completely destroyed the piquancy of my reflections, to see madam, after wrapping herself in a handsome cashmere shawl,
289while their sleigh was getting ready, raise her white lace veil, and place the stump of a pipe between her rosy lips! Can you conceive a more legitimate cause for divorce? "An American bride smoking a pipe!" What a subject for Cruickshank to illustrate, by way of frontispiece to the next edition of Captain Hamilton's "Men and Manners!"
You shall hear from me next at Galena. Till then, farewell.
Galena, Upper Mississippi, Feb. I.
A furious squall of snow, which would have rendered it impossible to keep a given road in crossing the prairie, subsided before night-fall, on the day that I left Boyd's Grove, bound for the Upper Mississippi; and as the calm clear sky of evening succeeded, our sleigh glided over the open plain at a rate which soon made the cabins behind us disappear in the distance; while four fleet horses, with a good driver, and but one passenger, swiftly accomplished the short stage of twelve miles, and brought us to the room where we were to pass the night. The intervening prairie, for the first six miles, was high and level, with not a stick of timber, — one broad snow-covered plain, where you could see the dark figure of a wolf for miles off, as it stood in relief against the white unbroken surface. A prospect more bleak, and lonely, when night is closing in, and you press towards some distant grove, whose tree-tops cannot yet be discovered above the monotonous plains, is inconceivable.
291Presently, however, you come to a break in the prairie; a slight descent next shelters you somewhat from the wind, and now you can discover a wood, which hitherto had appeared many miles off, or perhaps was not perceptible at all, that has pushed a scattered clump of trees here and there, like an advanced guard under cover of the ravine. You come to the brink of another platform, and you are on the edge of a grove; while for twenty miles ahead the eye ranges over what looks like a shallow basin of immense extent, broken occasionally by dusky masses, which seem rather to repose upon than to spring out of its surface; such was the view in advance, from a point about six miles from Boyd's Grove. The elevation from which we descended was not more than twenty feet, and it commanded a prospect of as many miles. It was like looking from the edge of a snow-covered desert upon a frozen lake, with its isles, headlands, and scattered rocks, and its waters riveted as fast as they. The rosy rays of the setting sun still lingered over the scene, as on one they longed to set free from the icy chains which bound it; while the calm pale moon grew momentarily more bright, as if her cold beams borrowed lustre from the extent of pure white surface over which they shone.
A single room, miserably built of logs, — the interstices of which were so unskilfully filled up with mud that I could hear the night-wind whistling through them as we drove up to the door, — was to be our lodging for the night. A couple of rifles, with a powder-horn and a pair of Indian blankets, lay without, and two painted Pottawattamies were crouched on the hearth, as I entered the cabin. One of them, a slight but elegantly-formed youth of twenty, sprang at once to his feet; while the other, a dark ill-looking negro-faced fellow, retained his squatting posture. They were dressed in complete suits of buckskin; both having their ears bored in several places, with long drops of silver pendent in thick bunches therefrom; while broad plates suspended over their chests, with armlets of the same metal, made quite a rich display. Their dress
293that crumpled around the crouching person of the other. A hard-featured borderer, with long sandy hair flowing from under a cap of wolfskin, and dressed in a bright green capote with an orange-coloured sash, sat smoking a pipe on the other side of the fireplace; while one foot dangled from the bed on which he had placed himself, and another rested on a Spanish saddle, whose holsters were brought so near to the fire, as it lay thus carelessly thrown in a corner, that the brazen butts of a pair of heavy pistols were continually exposed to view by the flickering light. A pale, sickly-looking woman, with an infant in her arms, and two small children clinging around her lap, sat in the centre, and completed the group. Her husband and another, a hanger-on of the establishment, had stepped out to look after our horses, as we drove up to the door. The apartment, which was not more than twenty feet square, was cumbered up with four beds; and when I thought how many there were to occupy them, and observed a thin cotton curtain flapping against a wide unglazed opening, which formed the only window of this forlorn chamber, I thought that the prospect of comfortable accommodation for the night was any thing but promising. Presently, however, the landlord entered, with an armful of burr-oak and
294split hickory, which crackled and sputtered at a rate that made the Indians withdraw from the ashes. The good woman placed her child in a rude cradle, and bestirred herself with activity and good-humour in getting supper; while the frontiers-man, knocking the ashes from his tomahawk-pipe, passed me a flask of Ohio whiskey, which, after my cold ride, had all the virtue of Monongahela. Some coarse fried pork, with a bowl of stewed hominy, hot rolls, and wild honey, did not then come amiss, especially when backed by a cup of capital coffee from the lower country; though the right good-will with which we all bent to this important business of eating did not prevent me from noticing the Frenchman-like particularity with which the Indians ate from but one dish at a time, though tasting every thing upon the table.
The best-looking of the two, though daubed with paint to a degree that made him look perfectly savage, was almost the only Indian I had yet found who could talk English at all; and he seemed both amused and interested while I read over to him a slight vocabulary of words in his own language, as I had taken down the terms occasionally in my pocket-book, and was evidently gratified when I added to their number from his lips. He spoke the
295language, indeed, with a clearness and distinctness of enunciation such as I have only heard before from a female tongue; and the words thus pronounced had a delicacy and music in their sound entirely wanting in the usual slovenly utterance of Indians. You would have been struck, too, in the midst of our philological task, to see the grim-looking savage bend over and rock the cradle, as the shivering infant would commence crying behind us. In this way the evening passed rapidly enough; and then the good dame with her husband and children taking one bed, the green rider and I took each another, while the stage-driver and remaining white man shared the fourth together. The Indians brought in their guns and blankets from without, and making a mattress of my buffalo-skin, they placed their feet to the fire, and after a chirping conversation of a few minutes beneath their woollen toggery, sunk to slumber.
The moon was still shining brightly above, as I sallied out an hour before dawn to wash in the snow, and finish in the open air the toilet commenced in the crowded shantee. Our sleigh, a low clumsy pine box on a pair of ox-runners, was soon after at the door, and covering up my extremities as well as I could in the wild-hay which
296filled the bottom (for the morning was intensely cold), I wound my fur robe around my head to keep my face from freezing, and soon found myself gliding at a prodigious rate over the smooth prairie. The sun was several hours high when we struck a fine grove of timber, through which the small but rapid river Huron takes its way, and thrashing through the wintry stream, we merely paused long enough at a shantee on the opposite side to adjust some of our harness which was broken while fording the torrent, and reached a comfortable log-cabin, in which we breakfasted at noon. There was an Indian encampment within gun-shot of the house, and seeing a melancholy-looking squaw with an infant in her arms, hanging about the farmhouse, I left my landlady turning some venison cutlets and grilled grouse, to see how the aborigines fared in this cold weather. A pretty Indian girl of fourteen, driving a couple of half-starved ponies, indicated the camp of her friends. They proved to be a very inferior band, having but two hunters, and those inefficient-looking fellows, to a score of women and children. Sheer necessity had compelled them to encamp near the settlement; and a more squalid, miserable-looking set of creatures I never beheld. The chief of the party, contrary to
297the usual Indian custom, had let his beard
Returning to the farm-house, I found a little girl playing on the floor with several strings of beads, which the squaw first mentioned had just parted with to purchase food for her starving infant. The family, however, though they suffered the child to
298retain the ornaments, supplied the poor woman with food and comforts to ten times their value. The Indian mother, I was told, though nearly fainting from exhaustion, asked for nothing except for her child; and seemed deeply affected when after, by signs, apprizing the whites of her situation, she obtained the required sustenance.
Upon emerging from this grove and getting out once more on the prairie, I could distinguish a solitary horseman, followed by his dog, coming towards us, at least a mile off; and remarking that as they approached us the distance between the man and his canine companion increased at a very unusual rate, I was induced to scan the appearance of the latter as he passed within rifle-shot of our sleigh after his master was out of hail. It proved to be an enormous wolf; and we actually tracked the fellow for eighteen miles, to a thick brake on the banks of a frozen stream, from which he had first leaped into the traveller's tracks, and steadily followed on in his horse's steps to the point where he passed us. The cowardly rascal, being hard pushed with hunger, though he could have no idea of attacking the traveller by himself, had probably just trudged along mile after mile in hope of raising a posse comitatus of his long-haired brethren along the road, or of availing himself after nightfall
299of some accident that might overtake the horseman, who was so unconscious of his volunteer escort. Had the man but turned his horse and run the wolf a hundred yards, he would have rid himself of a companion that circumstances might possibly have rendered inconvenient.
It was late in the afternoon when we reached the banks of Rock River, whose broad and limpid current was, of course, congealed by the rigours of winter. The enterprising and intelligent settler from the city of New York, who, though repeatedly driven off by the Indians, has been for fifteen years established at "Dixon's Ferry," detained me some time at dinner in expatiating upon the healthfulness of the adjacent country, and the abundance of fish and game of all kinds which frequent the waters of the fine stream upon which he resides. The river, which is navigable for boats of fifty tons nearly a hundred miles above the Mississippi, flows through a gentle valley, with the prairie sloping to its edge upon either side, except when a group of bold rocks, forming a cave, whose entrance has a perfect Gothic arch of some twenty feet high, rear their sudden pinnacles above the farther bank. The smoothness of the adjacent ground is broken here and there by an open grove, while an occasional thicket, with one or two rankly overgrown alluvial
300islands in the river, must constitute a beautiful landscape in summer. This spot was General Atkinson's head-quarters during the Black Hawk war, and may be considered about the centre of operations during the recent Indian difficulties. A sharp ride of twelve miles over the open prairie brought us after dark to Buffalo Grove, the scene of some of the most melancholy incidents that attended those commotions.
A party of four or five mounted travellers, bound from Galena for the lower country, were obliged to pass the grove on their route just after the difficulties with the Indians commenced. They had reached the edge of the grove, when one of the number, conceiving that it might harbour an ambush, suggested the expediency of deviating from the usual path, and taking a somewhat circuitous course. He was opposed, however, by his companions; and one of them, taunting him with an unnecessary regard to prudence, spurred his horse and advanced first into the fatal wood. His horse could have made but a few bounds — I have seen his grave, just within the edge of the grove — when an Indian bullet brought him to the ground; and his companions, wheeling on their track, for the present escaped further mischief. On arriving at Dixon's Ferry, it was proposed the next day to
301return and bury the poor fellow, who had thus fallen a victim to his own rashness. Eight persons, among whom was Mr. Savary, the Indian agent for the hostile tribes, volunteered upon the kind office, which was performed without molestation, and the agent, with the greater part of those present, then kept on his way to the upper country; the rest, among whom was my informant, returning to their home on Rock River. A confused account is given of what followed; as four of Mr. Savary's party, including himself, were slain in another ambush; and those who escaped by the speed of their horses had but little opportunity, after the first surprise, to observe how their companions met their fate. It is agreed, however, that the unfortunate agent, turning in his saddle after the first fire, was shot in the act of appealing to the Indians as their friend and "father," — the reply being a disclaimer of his official character, and the words, "We have no longer any white father," accompanying the discharge of the piece whose bullet pierced his brain. The head of the ill-fated gentleman, carried off by the Indians, is said to have been afterward recognised and recovered from the savage band. The Indians fired the house of the settler (an old New-Yorker) at Buffalo Grove, and the half-burnt timbers and lonely
302door-posts contrasted strangely, as I viewed them in passing, by the morning sun, with the neat new log-dwelling a few paces off, in which I had most comfortably spent the night before.
But these traces of savage war soon, by their frequency, become familiar.
The aspect of the country changes considerably soon after passing Rock River. The prairie is frequently broken by sudden ravines; the number of groves increases; the streams run more rapidly over their pebbly beds; and huge masses of crumbling rock rise like the ruined walls of old castles along the mimic vales through which they take their way. In these secluded dells a number of settlers had ventured to fix themselves along the Galena route; and though many have now returned to their precarious homes, the humble dwellings and various little improvements of others remain as they left them when fleeing with their families before the dreaded savage. With the appearance of one of these cottages I was struck particularly. The roots of a large tree, whose branches brushed a wall of rock opposite to it, had caused a sparkling brook to describe the form of a horse-shoe in winding through a small alluvial bottom, while a row of wild plum-trees across the little peninsula thus formed divided it from the
303rest of the valley, and just left room enough for the cabin of the settler, with a few acres for a garden around his door. A few acres more along the margin of the brook supplies another enclosure; and the fences and fixtures exhibited a degree of care and arrangement by no means common in this region. But the exiled owner had never returned to his tasteful though humble home. The open door swung loose upon a single hinge. The snow lay far within the threshold; and a solitary raven, perched upon the roof, seemed to consider the abode of desolation so much his own, that, heedless of a flock of his brothers which rose from some carrion near, as we approached the place, he only moved sideways along the rafter, and gave a solitary croak as we drove by.
Approaching Galena, the country becomes still more broken and rocky, until at last a few short hills, here called "knobs," indicated our approach to Fever River; the river itself at once became visible when we had wound round the last of these, and got among the broken ravines that seam the declivity, sloping down for nearly a mile to its margin. Short sudden hills, the bluffs of the prairie beyond, partly wooded and partly faced with rock, formed the opposite shore, while the town of
304Galena lay scattered along their broken outline, as if some giant had pitched a handful of houses against the hill-side, and the slimy mud (for which the streets of Galena are celebrated) had caused them to stick there. We crossed on the ice, and I am now once more in a frame-house.
Prairie du Chien, Upper Mississippi, Feb. 5th.
I had only been in Galena a few hours, when I learned that a mail-carrier was to start in the morning for Fort Crawford on the Upper Mississippi, and determined at once to accompany him; deferring an examination of the country around Galena till my return. It was about eleven o'clock of a fine clear cold day, when my compagnon de voyage, a bluff-faced curly-pated fellow, in a green blanket coat, drove up to the door in a better sleigh than I had seen on any of the post-routes below; and wrapping myself up in a couple of buffalo robes and sundry blankets, I found myself, after ascending the rugged bluffs of Fever River, armed at all points to encounter the biting wind which swept the open plain beyond. And here I may remark, that although the cold winds in this prairie country have a power that I had no idea of till I experienced it, yet the people dress so much more rationally than they do at the North on the seaboard, that health and even comfort are but little
306invaded. I remember, when first overtaken by the cold weather on the prairies, I was travelling with a simple furred wrapper as an overcoat and a pair of carpet socks over my boots; the last of which, from their clumsy and effeminate appearance, I long neglected to put on. But on arriving one night at a lonely shanty, I found an old Indian trader just disencumbering himself of his travelling gear, and the lesson has not been readily forgotten. His disrobing reminded me of the grave-digger in Hamlet with his sixteen jackets (a stale joke, by-the-by, which is now rarely practised upon the stage), — and a man-at-arms of the fifteenth century, with his armour of plate and triple coat of twisted mail, was not cased in better proof than was my Indian trader. Among the articles of dress that I recollect were a blanket-coat over an ordinary surtout, a plaid cloak upon that, and a buffalo robe trumping the whole; while three pair of woollen socks, buckskin moccasins, and long boots of buffalo-skin with the fur inside, assisted his leggins of green baize in keeping his extremities warm; and a huge hood and visor of fur set Jack Frost at defiance should he assail from above. I do not by any means mention all these defences as constituting the ordinary apparel of the country; for every one on the frontiers dresses just as he
307pleases, and whether he has his blankets and skins made up into coats and boots, or wears them loose about his person, no one comments upon it. The utmost freedom of dress prevails; and you may see the same person three days in succession with a leather hunting-shirt, a surtout of scarlet woollen, or a coat of superfine broadcloth just from St. Louis, all worn in any company with the same air of independence; and while several colours and textures frequently combine in the same dress, the result is of course an outrageous violation of taste in individual instances, but great picturesqueness of costume upon the whole: the very figure whose apparel is most obnoxious to the laws of good taste as last enacted by fashion, being often that which, of all others, a painter would introduce into a landscape to relieve its colours, or copy for some romantic charm of its own.
The country through which we now drove, though only interspersed here and there with woodland, presented a very different appearance from the open prairie below. In the vicinity of Galena it was much broken by rocky ravines and deep gullies — which, in the spring of the year, must afford a ready passage for the water created by the melting of large bodies of snow; and far away towards the Mississippi, the inequalities of the surface
308showed like a distant range of mountains, that on nearer approach resolved themselves into three or four distinct hills, which again on reaching their banks proved to be only rocky eminences, of a few hundred feet elevation — standing isolated on the vast plain, like excrescences thrown up by some eruption from its surface. Beyond these, again, the country became beautifully undulating; and when the warm light of sunset glanced along the tall yellow grass which raised its tapering spears above the snowy surface, and the purple light of evening deepened in the scattered groves that rested on its bosom, it required no exercise of fancy to conceive that these were sloping lawns, and smooth meadows, and open parks, which the gathering shades of night were stealing from the eye. But at last, just where the landscape was becoming almost too broken to keep up these associations of high cultivation, a distant light appeared glimmering at the bottom of a rocky valley, and slipping and floundering through the snow which partially smoothed the rugged descent, we entered a small hamlet of log-huts, and drove up to the door of a frame-building, which proved to be the public-house of" Mineral Point."
A portly Tennesseean, of some six feet high, received us warmly at the door, and hurried me into
309a room where a large fire of bur-oak, and a smoking supper of venison and hot corn-cakes were alike welcomed. Half a dozen miners in leather shirts or belted coats of Kentucky jean were lounging about the establishment, while a tall backwoodsman in a fringed hunting-frock was stretched on several chairs, with a pipe in one hand, and the other resting on a Pelham novel, which, with a volume of Shakspeare, an old Bible, and the "Western Songster," formed a pyramid beneath his brawny arm. "Whirling Thunder," the Winnebago chief, had, as I was informed, just left the establishment, or our party would have been perfect. The old fellow, who, I presume, is superannuated, had been breathing revenge and slaughter against the Sauks and Foxes, who, he says, have killed a number of his tribe, and he avows a determination to come down upon the enemy with seven hundred warriors, though I believe it is well known that there are not at present half the number in his tribe, and they scattered far and wide on their hunting expeditions
310company into which I was thrown in more than one way agreeable. They were civil and conversable; and when a cigar was handed me by a well-dressed
311gentleman engaged in the mines, who had sat down to supper with us, I stretched my legs before the fire, and soon felt myself perfectly at home. The rumours of Indian wars, with the incidents in those already gone by, being thoroughly discussed, feats of strength and activity were next introduced; whereat, a burly broad-shouldered fellow, with a head of hair like a boat's swab, jumped on his feet, and shaking the flaps of his rough kersey doublet like a pair of wings, he crowed and swore that he could throw any man of his weight in the mines. "Why, Bill Armstrong," cried a little old man, who I was assured was nearly eighty years of age, shaking the ashes from his pipe the while, "I could double up two such fellows as you in my time; and I think as it is (slowly rising and collaring the puissant Bill), I'll whip one of them now, for a treat;" they grappled at once, and Armstrong good-naturedly allowing the old man to put him down, a laugh was raised at his expense. But Bill was too much a cock of the walk to mind it, and striding up to the bar, he called out, "Come here, old fellow, and take your
312treat — you're a steamboat; but who couldn't be beat by a fellow that had forty years the advantage of him."
The next day's sun found us, when a few hours high, in a country which, though not a house was to be seen for miles, I can only compare, with its intermingling of prairies and groves, rocky ravines and rapid brooks of sparkling water, to the appearance which the beautiful cultivated districts along the Hudson would present, if the fences and farmhouses were taken away. Its varied aspect was far more pleasing to my eye than the immense 'plains of table-land below, where the sound of a water-fall is never to be heard, and a stone larger than a pebble is (unless on the banks of the Illinois) rarely met with. The soil, indeed, is not so rich, but the country is unquestionably more healthy; and though the climate is actually more severe in winter, yet the wind is so much broken by the numerous groves, and the general inequalities of surface, that one suffers much less from cold. A great error is committed by government in keeping the wild land of this region out of market, for the patches of woodland, though frequent, are not so dense as those below; and the number of smelting furnaces of lead ore, which are scattered over the whole country, between Rock River and the
313Ouisconsin tends to diminish them so rapidly, that a dozen years hence sufficient wood will hardly be left for the ordinary purposes of the farmer. Whatever measures are adopted, however — and I believe there is a bill in relation to these lands now pending in Congress — the pre-emption rights of the first settlers should be secured in the most liberal manner. Their sufferings from three Indian wars within ten years, and their endurance of every risk and privation, are almost incredible; and, considering that it will take them some time now to recover from the last affair of Black Hawk, government ought to give them several years' credit; but the early sale of the lands I believe to be indispensable to the future welfare of one of the finest regions in the world. The truth is, that no smelting should be done in the interior, but the mineral should be transported to points where fuel is more abundant, and the timber now growing upon the spot left for the use of the farmers and the miners, to whom it is indispensable for the prosecution of their labours. Such will hardly be the case until a property in lands is established, and individuals are no longer permitted to sweep grove after grove from the soil, till the country begins to assimilate in some places to those leafless
314tracts in Illinois, which will probably remain unsettled prairie for a century to come.
I was particularly struck with the bold life which these miners have long led — the chief dangers of which, it is presumed, are now over — by observing a strong block-house erected among a cluster of small shantees where two brothers lived, with whom we stopped to take some refreshment at noon. They were miners and farmers together; and carrying on their business remote from any other house or settlement, they probably sent the mineral and vegetable productions of their favoured soil to market at Galena in the same car. They had struck the vein of ore which they were working in badger-hunting — the habits of that animal being of great assistance to the miner in exploring for mineral. I saw at the same place a fine dog terribly gored by a wild boar — the descendant of the domestic hog, which runs wild in this region, and sometimes makes a good hunt.
Our route hither, which was by no means direct, carried us through a broken savage country, where a thousand clear streams seemed to have their birth among the rocks — singing away — though the earth was wrapped
315as if the leaves of June quivered over their crystal currents. At one time these crisped fountains were the only objects that gave life to a burnt forest through which we rode, where the tall branchless and charred trees stood motionless on the steep hill-side, or lay in wild disorder, as they had tumbled from the rocky heights into a ravins below. Emerging from this desolate region, where the tracks of bears and other wild animals were to be seen on every side, we launched out on one of the loveliest prairies I ever beheld. It was about a mile wide, and not more than four or five in length, and smooth as a billiard-table, with two small islets of wood in the centre. Our horses, which had seemed almost fagged out while slipping and stumbling among the rocks and fallen trees in the timbered land, now pricked up their ears and snorted with animation, as they made our light sleigh skim over the smooth plain.
It was afternoon on the third day after leaving Galena, that on descending an abrupt steppe of about fifty yards, we came to a small tributary of the Ouisconsin, winding through a narrow valley below. Following down the slender rill, whose banks exhibited no shrubbery save a few dwarf willows, we crossed a wooded bottom, where the long grass among the trees shot above the snow to the height