Charlotte Agnes (Uhlein) Pitcher.

The golden era of Trenton Falls online

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THE GOLDEN ERA OF TRENTON FALLS



THE GOLDEN ERA OF TRENTON
FALLS

By Charlotte A. Pitcher



"still in our ears the music of thy river

Sings on, with melody that shall not cease;
Thy memory in our hearts shall dwell forever
Like a deep dream of peace."




UTICA, N. Y.
1915






Copyright June 4, 1915

BY

Charlotte A. Pitcher



Fierstine Printing House

Utica, N. Y.

1915



JUN 12hjl5
©CI.A40(-)*>88



c



DEDICATED

TO

MY MOTHER



FOREWORD

THE true historic spirit has its inception and in-
spiration in the study of one's local environment.
This is the logical stepping-stone to research in
wider fields. From a patriotic and civic standpoint,
surely, the study of history should begin at home. Fa-
miliarity with one's own is of prime importance, and
it is a matter for general congratulation that the his-
torical and Hterary associations of so many sections
of our country are to-day being recorded and preserved
in such attractive form. Our noble hills, our lovely
valleys, our streams of hving water, seem fairly to
speak through the written page of some faithful and
enthusiastic devotee of local history.

In recaUing the pahny days of Trenton Falls, that
"golden era" when their wondrous beauty attracted
thousands of visitors from all parts of the United
States and a constant procession of European trav-
elers, what vivid pictures of the early days have been
revealed! Perhaps we are most impressed with the
marvelous changes wrought in modes of transporta-
tion since the visitors to Trenton and Niagara accom-
phshed the long journey from Albany to Buffalo by
coach or packet boat. We cannot fail to observe that the
leisurely, good old-fashioned ways of traveling, made
it possible to enjoy and appreciate the landscape to a
degree unknown in this twentieth century epoch of



speed. Incidentally these chronicles of Trenton have
acquired increased value and charm through the many
glimpses given of life in the olden days. Withal, the
changes brought about in our own home city by
Time's magic fingers are forcibly called to our atten-
tion.

Surely, it has been worth while to revive and pre-
serve the record of Trenton's unique history, and may
the contents of this volume recall exquisite memory
pictures in the hearts of those with whom Trenton
Falls was a favorite resort.

C. A. P.



WRITTEN AT TRENTON FALLS

Come down! from where the everlasting hills
Open their rocky gates to let thee pass,
Child of a thousand rapid running rills,
And still lakes, where the skies their beauty glass.

With thy dark eyes, white feet, and amber hair,
Of heaven and earth thou fair and fearful daughter,
Through thy wide halls, and down thy echoing stair.
Rejoicing come — thou lovely "Leaping Water!"

Shout! till the woods beneath their vaults of green
Resound, and shake their pillars on thy way;
Fling wide thy glittering fringe of silver sheen.
And toss towards heaven thy clouds of dazzling spray.

The sun looks down upon thee with delight,
And weaves his prism around thee for a belt;
And as the wind waves thy thin robes of light.
The jewels of thy girdle glow and melt.

Ah! where be they, who first with human eyes
Beheld thy glory, thou triumphant flood!
And through the forest, heard with glad surprise.
Thy waters calling, like the voice of God!

Far towards the setting sun, wandering they go.
Poor remnant! left, from exile and from slaughter.
But still their memory, mingling with thy flow.
Lives in thy name — thou lovely, "Leaping Water."

Frances Anne Kemble.



THE GOLDEN ERA OF TRENTON FALLS

10NG ago, before the city of Utica had won for
itself the name and fame it now enjoys, there
was a magnet in the vicinity which attracted
strangers to its very doors. "Stopped off at Utica to
visit Trenton Falls," may be found recorded over and
over again by celebrated writers and tom*ists. It has
been a labor of love to garner the praises of Trenton.
"Voices of the Glen," this symposium, this treasure-
trove of literary gems may well be called.

The tide of travel, enroute to the Adirondacks or
the Thousand Islands, now sweeps by this one-time
much frequented resort. In the light of its palmiest
days, Trenton Falls is only a memory; but it is most
entertaining and delightful to recall its golden age
through the writings of the many distinguished vis-
itors who clambered through the glen and gave to the
world their impressions of its matchless beauty. I
have, therefore, woven a chaplet of glowing tributes
to one of Nature's loveliest shrines, for the fame of
Trenton was world-wide. Once every traveler of
note sought out this attractive spot in the heart of the
Empire State. Its varied charms brought all enthu-
siastic tourists of the early days to Utica, the gateway
of Trenton the Beautiful.

One Robert Hamilton, writing in 1842 in "The La-
dies' Companion," a periodical devoted "to every de-



10 THE GOLDEN ERA

partment of literature," says: "In the vicinity of
Utica are the romantic falls of Trenton, which of late
years have become the rage. This is not to be won-
dered at, for more beautiful scenery cannot be found
in our continent. The road to the spot is through a
country of extreme fertility, where some of the finest
farms of the Union are to be found, hewn out within
a few years from the primeval forest. Countless acres
are still standing in the pride of their strength and
beauty, where the remnants of the once proud and
mighty race of the Oneidas linger around the desolated
homes of their fathers."

John Sherman

In the year 1805 the Reverend John Sherman of
Connecticut, a graduate of Yale and grandson of Roger
Sherman, signer of the Declaration of Independence,
took the long journey to central New York to visit
Francis Adrian Van der Kemp and Col. Adam G.
Mappa, distinguished Dutch patriots who had settled
at Olden Rarneveld (Trenton village) , in the wilderness
of Oneida County. An ardent lover of nature, the
young clergyman explored the wild and beautiful re-
gion about him, penetrating the unbroken forest until
he reached the brink of Kauyahoora (the Indian
descriptive name for the falls, meaning "leaping wa-
ter.") Mr. Sherman was captivated with the wonders
of the ravine of the West Canada Creek, Kanata or
Amber river, and through his instrumentality the pub-




THE NARROWS AT FOOT OF STAIRCASE. WITH GLIMPSE OF
SHERMAN FALL



OF TRENTON FALLS 11

lie came to know of its remarkable series of cascades.

In 1806 he was installed pastor of the Unitarian
Church of Olden Barneveld, the first of this denomi-
nation in the state of New York. At the close of his
ministry, he established an Academy near the village
which he successfully conducted for many years.

Mr. Sherman's fascination for the beautiful falls in
the neighborhood, led him to purchase sixty acres of
land of the Holland Land Company in 1822, which
included the Sherman or First Fall. He then erected
a small building near the ravine for the temporary
accommodation of visitors, naming it the "Rural Re-
sort." The following year he brought his family to
this sylvan retreat, which thereafter became their per-
manent home. The first guests who slept in the house
were Philip Hone and Dominick Lynch of New York,
who came to Trenton in 1824 and wished to remain
over night. When Mr. Hone inquired of Mr. Sher-
man why he did not erect a building of sufficient size
to entertain guests, he received this reply: "Did you
ever know a clergyman who had any money .^^" Where-
upon Mr. Hone offered his host the loan of five thou-
sand dollars and the house was enlarged. Thus this
popular resort was first established through the gen-
erous act of that philanthropic, public-spirited citizen,
who was mayor of New York in 1826, the great social
leader of the metropolis in the first half of the last cen-
tury, who entertained every foreigner of note, and
every prominent American.

In 1827 the Reverend John Sherman wrote a most



i2 THE GOLDEN ERA

complete and picturesque description of the falls,
from which I take the following:

"This superb scenery of Nature, to which thousands
now annually resort — a scenery altogether unique in
its character, as combining at once the beautiful, the
romantic and the magnificent — all that variety of
rocky chasms, cataracts, cascades, rapids, elsewhere
separately exhibited in different regions — was, until
within five years, not accessible without extreme peril
and toil, and therefore not generally known. It is in
latitude 43° 23 ; fourteen miles north of the flourishing
city of Utica, the great thoroughfare of this region,
situated on a gentle ascent from the bank of the
Mohawk, amidst a charming and most fertile country.
Here every facihty can be had for a ride to Trenton
Falls, where a house of entertainment is erected near
the bank of the West Canada Creek, for the accom-
modation of visitors, and where they can tarry any
length of time which may suit their convenience.

"This creek is the main branch of the Mohawk
River, as the Missouri is of the Mississippi, having lost
its proper name because not so early explored. It in-
terlocks on the summit level with the Black River, the
distance being only three-fourths of a mile where the
waters of the one may be easily turned into the other.
It has chosen its course along the highlands, making
its way on the backbone of the country, and empties
into the Mohawk at Herkimer.

"The 'Rural Resort,' or house of entertainment at
the Falls, which is at the end of the road and inclosed



OF TRENTON FALLS 13

on three sides by the native forest, opens suddenly to
view upon elevated ground, at the distance of a mile
in a direct line of the road. From the dooryard you
step at once into the forest, and walking only twenty
rods, strike the bank at the place of descent. This is
about one hundred feet of nearly perpendicular rock
made easy and safe by five pair of stairs with railings.
You land on a broad pavement level with the water's
edge, a furious rapid being in front, that has cut down
the rock still deeper and which, at one place in times
of drought, does not exceed ten feet in width; but in
spring and fall floods, or after heavy rain, becomes
a tremendously foaming torrent, rising from fifteen to
twenty feet and sweeping the lowest flight of stairs.
Being now on the pavement, the river at your feet, per-
pendicular walls of solid rock on each side, and the
narrow zone of ethereal sky far overhead, your feelings
are at once excited. You have passed to a subterra-
nean world. The first impression is astonishment at
the change. But recovering instantly, your attention
is forthwith attracted to the magnificence, the grandeur,
the beauty and sublimity of the scene. You stand
and pause. You behold the operations of incalcula-
ble ages. You are thrown back to antediluvian times.
The adamantine rock has yielded to the flowing water
which has formed the wonderful chasm. You tread
on petrifactions, or fossil organic remains, imbedded
in the four-hundredth stratum, which preserve the
form, and occupy the place, of beings once animated
like yourselves, each stratum having been the deposit



iU THE GOLDEN ERA

of a supervening flood that happened successively,
Eternity alone knows when.

''At this station is a view of the outlet of the chasm,
forty-five rods below, and also of what is styled the
first fall, thirty-seven rods up the stream. The par-
apet of this fall, visible from the foot of the stairs is, in
dry time, a naked perpendicular rock thirty-three feet
high, apparently extending quite across the chasm,
the water retiring to the left and being hid from the
eye by intervening prominences. But in freshets, or
after heavy rains, it pours over from the one side of
the chasm to the other in a proud amber sheet. A
pathway to this has been blasted at a considerable ex-
pense, under an overhanging rock and around an ex-
tensive projection, directly beneath which rages and
roars a most violent rapid. Here some, unaccustomed
to such bold scenery, have been intimidated, and a
few have turned back. But the passage is level, with
a rocky wall to lean against, and rendered perfectly
safe at the turn of the projection by chains well riveted
in the side.

"In the midway of this projection five tons were
thrown off by a fortunate blast, affording a perfectly
level and broad space, where fifteen or twenty may
stand together and take a commanding view of the
whole scenery. A little to the left the rapid com-
mences its wild career. Directly underneath it rages,
foams and roars, driving with resistless fury, and forc-
ing a tortuous passage into the expanded stream on
the right. In front is a projection from the other side,



OF TliENTON FALLS '5

curved to a concavity of a semi-circle by the impetu-
ous waters. The top of this opponent projection has
been swept away and is entirely flat, exh.bitmg, from
its surface downwards, the separate strata as regular,
as distinct, and as horizontal as the mason-work m
the locks of the grand canal. Here, in old time, was
a lofty fall, now reduced to the rapid just described.

"Passing hence on a level of twenty feet above the
stream, we witness the amazing power of the waters
in the spring and autumnal freshets. Massive slabs
of rock lie piled in the middle of the river, thrown over
the falls above, weighing from ten to twenty tons.
These are occasionally swept on through the rapids,
and floated over the five-foot falls at the outlet of the
chasm. Such is their momentum that every bound
upon the bottom causes a vibration at the Hural tie-
sort ' and their stifled thunder, amid the agitated roar
of tiie waters, is sometimes very distinctly heard.

"A few rods above this pile of rocks we pass to the
left and suddenly come in full view of the descending
cataract, which is known as the Sherman Fall. It has
formed an immense excavation, having thrown out
thousands of tons from the parapet rock visible from
the stairs, and is annually forcing off slabs from the
west corner, against which it incessantly pours a sec-
tion of its powerful sheet.

"It is difficult to give a description of the scenery
here. A mass of naked rock extending up one hundred
and fifty feet to the summit of the bank, juts forward
with threatening aspect. The visitor ascends by nat-



16 THE GOLDEN ERA

ural steps to the throat of its yawning and, hke a son
of Hercules, Hterally shoulders the mountain above.
Here he stands free from the spray in a direct line of
the parapet wall, surveying at leisure the evergreens
which cover in contrast the opponent bank with a rich
foliage of the deepest verdure, and immediately at his
feet the operation of the cataract rushing down into
the spacious excavation it has formed. Back of this
thick amber sheet, the reaction of the water has worn
away the rock to an exact circular curve, eight or ten
feet in diameter, which exhibits a furiously boiling
cauldron of the very whitest foam. In the bosom of
the excavation a Fairy makes her appearance at a cer-
tain hour of sunshine, and dances through the mist,
modestly retiring as the visitor changes his position,
and blushing all colors when she finds him gazing at
her irised beauties. A few rods beyond this spot a
thin shelf puts out from the mountain, under which it
never rains, nor snows, nor shines. In front the river
hastens smoothly and rapidly to the fall below.

"Leaving this rocky shelf we pass a furious winding
rapid which, encroaching on the path, drives the vis-
itor close under a low projecting cliff that compels him
to stoop, and seems to demand homage as a prere-
quisite of admission to the splendid scenery just beyond.
Here all ages and sexes bow, who would pass from the
portico into the grand temple of Nature's magnificence,
to witness the display of her sublimer glories.

"This service performed, there opens upon us, when
the water is low, an expansion of flat rock, where we



OF TRENTON FALLS 17

are suddenly transported with a full view of the High
Falls. The eye, elevated at a considerable angle, be-
holds a perpendicular rock one hundred feet high, ex-
tending across the opening in a diagonal line from the
mountainous walls on each side rising seventy or eighty
feet still higher. Over this the whole river descends,
first perpendicularly about forty feet, the main body
rushing to the left. On the right it pours down in a
beautiful white sheet. For a short distance in the
middle the rock is left entirely naked, exhibiting a per-
pendicular and bold breastwork, as though reared by
art to divide the beautiful white sheet on the one side
from the overwhelming fury of the waters on the other.
They unite on a flat below; then, with a tumultuous
foam, veer suddenly down an inchnation of rocky
steps, whence the whole river is precipitated into a
wide, deep and dark basin forty feet underneath —
mountainous walls rising on each side of the stream
nearly two hundred feet — tall hemlocks and bending
cedars extending their branches on the verge above —
small shrubbery variegating here and there their stu-
pendous and naked sides. On the right of the basin
a charming verdure entirely overspreads a smoothly
rounding and majestic prominence, which reaches half
way up the towering summit, and over the whole, the
sky mingles with retiring evergreens, until verging in
perspective to the distant angle of incidence, they are
lost in the ethereal expanse beyond.

"Such are the High Falls which the pen may faintly
describe, and of which the pencil may portray the out-



i8 THE GOLDEN ERA

line, but Nature reserves to herself the prerogative of
giving the rapturous impression.

"The view of these falls varies exceedingly, accord-
ing to the plentitude or paucity of the waters. In the
autumnal floods, and particularly the spring freshets,
arising from the sudden liquefaction of snow in the
northern country, the river is swelled a hundred-fold,
and comes rushing in a vast body of tumultuous foam
from the summit rock into the broad basin at the bot-
tom. * * * *

"Passing up at the side we mount a grand level on
the top, where in dry times the stream retires to the
right, and opens a wide pavement for a large party to
walk abreast. Here a flight of stairs leads up to a house
of refreshment, styled the 'Rural Retreat,' twenty
feet above the summit of the High Falls and in a direct
line with them. * * * * Here the philosopher
and divine may make their sage remarks and draw
their grave conclusions; the weary rest from their la-
bors, and the hungry and dry recruit their exhausted
spirits, the sociable of all grades and nations converse
freely and unknown together; the facetious display
the coruscations of their wit, and the cheerful in dis-
position enjoy the innocent glee of hilarity. Greece,
embellished by immortal bards, cannot boast a spot
so highly romantic.

"The opening of the chasm now becomes consider-
ably enlarged, and a new style of scenery commences.
Forty rods beyond this is what is usually denominated
the 'Mill-Dam' Fall, fourteen feet high, stretching its



irmn\




OF TRENTON FALLS 19

broad sheet of water from the one side to the other of
the expanded chasm. This is also visible through the
branches of evergreens at the 'Rural Retreat.' As-
cending this fall we are introduced to another still
more expanded and extended platform of level
rock lined on each side with cedars, which extend
down to the walking level, whose branches all crowd
forward under their bending trunks, and whose backs
are as naked as the towering rocky walls, concealed in
contrast a rod or two behind them.

"This place may be justly denominated the ' Alham-
bra of Nature.' At the extremity of it is one of the
most interesting scenes imaginable; a scene that no
pen can describe to one who is not on the spot, and
where every landscape painter always drops his pencil.
It is far too much for art to imitate, or for eloquence to
represent. It is the prerogative of Nature alone to do
this; she has done it once, and stands without a rival
competitor. Here I ought to drop my pen. A naked
rock, sixty feet high, reaches gradually forward from
the mid-distance its shelving top, from which descends
a perpetual rill that forms a natural shower-bath. On
the very verge of its overhanging summit stands a tall
cedar, whose fingered apex towers aloft, pointing up
to the skies, and whose thick branches elongating
gradually towards the root, reach far down the pro-
jecting cliff with an impenetrable shade of deepest
verdure. On the left is a most wild cascade, where
the water rushes over the variously posited strata in
all directions, combining the gentle fall and the out-



W THE GOLDEN ERA

rageous cataract, which we term the 'Cascade of the
Alhambra.'

"Here the expansive opening suddenly contracts
and leaves a narrow aperture, through which the eye
beholds mountainous walls retiring in various curva-
tures and projections. Directly opposite the specta-
tor is a large perpendicular rock on the other side of
the stream, at whose base the raging waters become
still. Annexed to this is a lofty tower, rising in a vast
column at its side, commanding with imposing majesty
the scenery around. At your feet is a dark basin of
water forty feet deep, resting from its labors in the
wild cascade above, and relieved by collections of
whitest foam, which frequently assemble within an
eddy at the upper end, and dance to each other in fan-
tastic forms and, capped like caliphs, pursue the
course of all hands round in an eternal circle. On the
right the whole river descends gently down a charming
plain, until lost amidst evergreens as it passes over the
falls below.

"Ascending this cascade whose thwarting, raging,
foaming, dashing waters would seem to forbid a pass-
age at its side, you are introduced to a grand amphi-
theatre unseen before, where is a towering rock of
threatening majesty with a singular supporting col-
umn, from whose impending chfF have fallen enormous
slabs of strata, sixteen or eighteen inches thick. Be-
tween this deposited pile and the base it would seem
temerity to pass, lest you should be instantly crushed.
This danger may be avoided by keeping near the wa-



OF TRENTON FALLS 21

ter's edge. Just beyond the column is exhibited a
natural fireplace. Here, also, a rill descends, a few
feet below the summit shelf. A cedar extends down
within reach its elongated branches from the root, by
which a sailor could as easily ascend the bank as up
the shrouds of his ship ; and under this shelving summit
a solemnizing echo is generally heard, as of the dread-
ful roar of overwhelming floods rushing from on high.
It is caused by the cascade below. * * * * ppom
this, passing a high projection, we come to a place
where this wonderful chasm is fully demonstrated to
be the efi'ect of the operation of the stream. We see
the process actually going on. The curvatures here,
through which the water rushes for a considerable dis-
tance, are as regular as if drawn by the compass. One
of these is styled the 'Rocky Heart,' from its perfect
resemblance to that form on cards, which is so denom-
inated. In a flat rock at the side, there is nearly in
contact a circular hole, named by some the 'Potash
Kettle,' and by others 'Jacob's WeU.' * * * *
His must be ' a forlorn hope ' who can view the scenery
of nature in this wonderful chasm without correspond-
ing emotions of reverential piety. It is a scene where
the God of Nature himself preaches the most eloquent
and impressive lectures to every visitor; but more es-
pecially to the philosopher, whose mind is called to
ascend from the wonderful operations of nature, to
nature's more wonderful and incomprehensible cause;
for what is Nature, but the systematic course of divine
operation?



22 THE GOLDEN ERA

"At the 'Rocky Heart' it is customary to stop, see-
ing the passage beyond is attended with some danger,
and the scenery is, to a considerable degree, charac-
teristic of what follows.

"On your return to the 'Rural Resort' you ascend
the bank immediately behind the 'Rural Retreat,'
where many picturesque glimpses of the river may be
had, one particularly at Carmichael's Point. Thence,
carefully observing to keep the left hand footpath on
the summit near the creek, you pass through the cool
shade of the forest, until you arrive with a good appe-
tite at the place where you landed from your carriage."

Mr. Sherman adds to his description of the scenery


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Online LibraryCharlotte Agnes (Uhlein) PitcherThe golden era of Trenton Falls → online text (page 1 of 6)