J. E. A. (Joseph Edward Adams) Smith.

Taghconic; the romance and beauty of the hills. online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryJ. E. A. (Joseph Edward Adams) SmithTaghconic; the romance and beauty of the hills. → online text (page 1 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





■ 'M^



univ. of massachusetts/amherst







" Thou Shalt look
Upon the green and rolling forest tops,
And down into the Focrets of the glens
And streams, that with their bordering thickets strive
To hide xheir windnigs. Thou shalt gaze at once
Here on white villages and tilth and herds,
And swarming roads, and there on solitudes
That only hear the torrent and the wind,
And Eagle's shriek."




Charles T. Dillingham. S E. Nichols












82 State Street.



^ti Rummer lanidbUr^ m iU "gzxW^xxt %m.

Friends : —

From Vermont upon the north to Connecticut
upon the south, for fifty miles along the eastern
border of New York, extends Berkshire, the most
western county of Massachusetts. It is a region of
hill and valley, of lake and stream, of woodland,
farm and field. Its beauty is world renowned; for
the pens of Cullen Bryant and Catherine Sedgwick
early made it their favorite themes, and in later years
Holmes and Longfellow, Hawthorne, Melville and
Thoreau have invested it with the halo of their
genius. Within its limits lie Monument Mountain,
Icy Glen, the Stockbridge Bowl, Green River, Octo-
ber Mountain and a thousand other scenes of storied
or of unsung loveliness.

Bounding the valley on the north, from innumera-
ble points of view, the double peaks of Greylock
rise majestically three thousand five hundred feet
into the air, the mountain summit of the Common-
wealth. Along its western bordm-s, in curves of
marvelous grace, lie the dome-like hills of the Tagh~


conic range. Less graceful in outline, but even
more romantic with broken and precipitous ascents,
wild glens and tumbling brooks, the Hoosacs shut out
the world upon the east. Within this mountain-
walled amphitheatre lies cradled the upland valley
of the Housatonic, with all its fertile farms, its man-
sion homes, and frequent villages. Somebody has
called it the Piedmont of America. I do not know
how just the appellation may be, but I do know that
if Piedmont can rightly be called the Berkshire of
Euroi)e, it must be a very delightful region.

What we most admire in Berkshire scenery is its
freshness, boldness, and variety. Our hills boast no
astounding grandeur; there is nothing about them of
an Alpine character; they possess few scenes which
can properly rank with the sublime. The highest
mountain tops, the most precipitous cliffs — sutHcient
to claim our admiration, wild enough to be the mar-
vel of tourists from the tame coast country — cannot,
for a moment, compare with similar scenes among
the White Mountains, or the Alleghanies — not to
mention more unapproachable wonders of Nature.
Our deepest ravines, often penetrated by smooth,
flower-bordered roads, are very different things
indeed, from the earthquake-rifted chasms of other

If the traveller seek some object for a day's or a
week's wonder, some tremendous cataract or " Heaven
piercing Cordillera," he must seek it elsewhere. But
if he asks for a retreat among wild and picturesque
Bcenery, adorned by much that is pleasant and re-


fined in his city life, but far removed from its heat
and turmoil; where he can draw closer the silken
cord of social intercourse, and yet throw loose some
of its galling chains; where nature ennobles by her
greatness but never chills with a frown, he may find
it all amid the varied beauty of the Berkshire Hills.
The inexhaustible variety of our vistas is wonder-
ful. It is marvellous in what an endless series of
combinations, mountain, valley, lake, stream, rock,
field and wood, present themselves. Wherever you
go, you meet a constant succession of changes which
at once charm the eye and delight the heart. At
every turn

"You stand suddenly astonished,
You are gladdened unaware."

Through the long summer months you may daily
seek, and not in vain, some new object of beauty or
of romantic interest. But it may chance that you
will not. It often happens that a few spots become
so dear that one revisits them again and again, leav-
ing others of equal or surpassing charms for tliose to
whom they have become like a familiar friend.

So profusely indeed ha^ nature scattered her
wealth of beauty in this fair county that, to many,
it seems a useless labor to search out her more choice
and hidden gems; and they remain concealed from
those who pass their lives within a rifle-shot of

The traditions, too, which used to attach to most
of these scenes are rapidly fading with the fading
years of grey-haired men. " Yes, there was a story "


I have been often told, " Old Deacon Whitehead or
old Captain Grey used to tell it; but they are dead
and my memory of it is dim." *******

And now to you, whom I have presumed to call
my friends, and for whom these brief pages were
more particularly designed, I commend for your
kindness what is done. Every word was written in
sympathy with your admiration of these glorious
hills; a sympathy which seemed to ripen into per-
sonal friendship with yourselves. If I shall point
any of you to scenes of Nature's gladness, to which
you would otherwise have been strangers ; if I shall
contribute one moment of happiness to your summer
hours; if I shall hereafter recall more vividly to your
mind tliese rural scenes, when they shall be a little
faded, I shall be amply repaid; how much more, if I
shall add one pleasant thought to mingle with your
own, as you gaze upon the grand, the noble, or the
beautiful, in our dear mountain valley.

Old Feiends : —

Many years ago, in words like the above I ad-
dressed to you a little volume, which, somewhat
changed in form, but • not one whit in sentiment, I
now offer to you again. If the words I then wrote
were warm with the glow of first love, they seem
tame to express the affection which, in the inter-
course of years, has been inspired by each fair scene,
each now familiar mountain peak; so many of them
now inseparably associated with pleasant or tender

Do vou remember — it was but yesterday — stand-


ing on the beetling cliff's of Monument Mountain;
clambering through the rock-cumbered recesses of the
Icy Glen; lingering in pleasant Mahaiwe, blest of
nature and of art; watching the moon and the sun-
rise on the shaggy shoulders of Greylock; wading
and stumbling through the rushing brook up the
marble ravine that leads to the Natural Bridge;
dazed by the superb over-view from Perry's Peak;
climbing the cliff wood recesses of South Mountain;
letting the long summer days melt deliciously away,
with discourse of books and nature, on the leafy sum-
mits of Osceola and Yocun's Seat; in storm on
Otaneaque, in sunshine on Constitution Hill; floating
half sadly on Lake Onota or the Stockbridge Bowl;
in merry masquerade on Pontoosuc or the Lily Bowl;
Hstening to the lonely dash of Wahcoiiaii's Falls, or
the mirth-mingled murmurs of Lulu Cascade ; watch-
ing the summer-flash of life and fashion into the
romantic solitude of Lebanon; puzzling over the
potent charms of Lenox, loved of the literati;
rapt in the noble memories of old Stockbridge on the
Plain, and the no less noble memories of Poontoosuc,
home of patriots; lingering in many a nameless nook
or shaded woodroad, to be, perhaps, thenceforward
dearer than all ? You cannot have- forgotten all
this, for you know it was but a little, a very little
while ago when it all happened.

And of tale and tradition; how have they on
every hand answered to our seeking, and clothed
every scene anew, Avith old life. To be sure, I have
not deemed it necessary to severely criticise every


tradition that has been preserved. Enough that it
accorded with the spirit and the customs of the day
of which it was related, and did not knock its brains
out against some hard and ugly fact. Nay, I will
even make a more startling confession. When in
some dry old documentary history, or original docu-
ment yellowed by age, I have found a glimpse of
real life and real story, I have not been ashamed to
call in the spirit of any old fellow, whom I supposed
cognizant of the facts, to help me fill out the chroni-
cle. Living for years half buried in accounts of
these departed heroes and among the papers which
they Wrote — all the while striving with all my might
to do justice to their memories — I should have
thought it hard indeed if they could not now and then
tell me a little story at midnight, when other spirits,
bestow their time so freely upon those who have no
claim at all upon them. My old heroes were not so
ungrateful. It does not seem best, however, to quote
these spiritual authorities in foot notes, as e. g.

interview with Capt. Konkapot and Wampenuin.
'^ Spirits of Captains Aupaumut and Solomon.
^Tliiis Coochecomeek, but Mahtookamin seems to think
otherwise ; however, M. did not seem perfectly en rapport.

I am afraid this sort of thing would not do at all
for the Methuselah Society for the Perversion of
History. Nevertheless the testimony of eye-wit-
nesses of, or actors in, scenes which took place,
over two hundred years ago, is very satisfactory to
right-minded people; and if they are willing to leave
their happy hunting grounds or other places of com-


fortable spiritual abode and pleasure, to tell old tales
of their old home, I for one am grateful. If you
think otherwise, we will not quarrel about it: you
shall have the stories all the same, just as the dusky
shades of the heroes already quoted, and also Unka-
met, Honasada, Wanaubaugus and the gentle Wah-
conah, told them to me.

But, from whatever sources I may di*aw the inci-
dents and legends associated with the scenery of
Berkshire, I shall endeavor that none are inconsis-
tent with the most accurate history; that nothing
shall be told, but which at least " might have been."
And I trust that none of my readers will be so
dull as not to be able to detect what is literally
true and what partakes of the infirmities of tradi-
tion. In the description of scenery my aim will be
in all cases, without affecting any Pre-Raphaelite
precision, to paint a faithful likeness. If I err it
will not be in the intention.

I said that I address these little sketches to those
to whom they were first dedicated; but, with the
words, comes the thought that, of those favoring eyes
to which I should have looked for the kindliest judg-
ment, many have closed forever on the scenes of
earth; that there are some spots, once the most
joyous, which if we visit them for the purposes of
mirth, seem strangely changed:

" Happy places have grown holy ;

If we went where once we ^went,
Only tears would fall down slowly,

As at solemn sacrament."


And yet we know that those whom we miss
would have grieved sorely had they believed that
their departure would leave ^ shadow, their memory
could not brighten, upon the scenes that we enjoyed
together. For us who remain, it would have been
their wish that that memory should shed upon each
spot with which it is associated, a purer and holier,
but not less gladsome, light. To the living who
have lingered with me in loving admiration among
the hills of our dear old Berkshire, and to the memo-
ries of our dead, I then dedicate these pages.

We are most of us, still far from having lived out
the life which it is appointed for man to live; still
farther perhaps from having thoroughly earned the
grave which we would not willingly owe to the charity
of a soil to which we have given less than we have
received from it. And upon him whose duty it
is to live and strive, rests equally the obligation to
enjoy; for he who works sadly, works at ill advantage;
nor without enjoyment can there be any genuine and
heartfelt gratitude for the gifts of the Creator — of
which none speak more directly of Him than these
grand mountains, these noble hills, these fair and
fruitful valleys; among which let us hope that our
rambles are not yet ended.

Godfrey Greylock,
PiTTSFiELD, June 1st, 1879.




** Mine, and mine I loved, and mine I prized.
And mine iliat I was proud on : mine so much
That I was to myself not mine."

To be sure, the first claim which our town has
to notice is that it is ours. The propria affords
a paramount and never-to-be-disputed title to our
affections. That, all clear-sighted persons admit*
The very idea of property is genial to our hearts,
even if it be only in the travelled streets of a town,
with so much of Heaven's universal gifts as one can
there possess, use and enjoy, in common with some
thousands of copartners. Says Thoreau, with philoso-
phic acumen — and Southey has the same idea, some-
what enlarged, in " The Doctor " — "I think nothing
is to be hoped from you, if this bit of mold under
your feet is not sweeter for you to eat than any
other 11 this world — or any other world." " Mine '*
and more intensely " mine own," are terms of super-
lative endearment in the patois of the novel writers.


So inherent indeed in the human heart, is this cor-
respondence between ownership and affection, that
no sooner do we conceive a liking for our neighbor's
house, horse, or, anything that is his, than an uneasy,
feverish desire to transfer the possession betrays that
our hearts are out of unison with the harmony of

Nowhere is this natural law of relationship more
religiously honored than in the love which the good
people of Pittsfield bear to their beautiful town.
But, waiving this claim, which is in its terms not
binding upon a stranger, our town has a title to
affectionate admiration, Avhich not the most crabbed
traveller ever yet desired to impeach.

It is indeed a fair town; and, standing in the cen-
ter of that magnificent panorama of hills which en-
compasses the county of Berkshire, it is embosomed
in beauty — in beauty, whose excess and overwhelm-
ing profusion, in some of its broader and more compre-
hensive presentations, often raise it to the level of the
sublime. Branching from its central elm-shaded
green, delightful avenues invite into the most pictur-
esque regions. Through long vistas of elms, lindens
and maples, you look longingly away to tree-flecked
and grove-checkered hillsides, dappled also, it may be,
with passing cloud-shadows; to wooded mountain
tops, the nearer brightly green, the more distant some-
times dimly, sometimes darkly, blue, as the fickle
powers of the air may ordain. Over valleys lying
in goldenest sunshine, you look away to glens deepen-
ing into mysterious gloom, and — yet beyond — to


pastures, stretched at intervals along the topmost
heights, upon whose bright verdure the sunlight
lingers longest. Enchanted land, you will think
those Hoosac pastures, when, after a summer shower,
the rays of the setting sun suddenly burst upon
them, while they are overhung by such a rainbow as
is possible only among the mountains; its glorious
arch, gemlike in the living depths of its color, resting
upon pillars of -shadowy splendor which find their
bases among the foundations of the everlasting hills.
Regions these, one would say, in which much of
man's and much of nature's story must lie hid.
Very enticing regions they are in truth; the whole
broad landscape one grand volume of song and
legend, bound in the most gorgeous green and gold.
But, before we permit it to lure us away, I have a
story or two to tell, which must be told right here,
under this little cluster of elms; and nowhere else.



" Wise with the lore of centuries.
What tales, if there were tongues in trees.
That giant Elm could tell 1 "

You must have heard of the old Ehn of Pitts-
field Park. It has its place of fame among The Trees
of America; and has had this many a year. It is
not long since it rose here, among the young green
growth, the scarred and seared veteran of centuries.
Straight into the air it sprang, one hundred and
twenty-six feet; a tall grey pillar, bearing for sole
capital a few green branches, and a few withered,
shattered and bare limbs. From Greylock to Monu-
ment Mountain there was no inanimate thing so
revered and venerable. Nor had it grown thus with-
out a story, and one with which the stories of other,
and human, lives were closely entwined.

When it stood, a graceful sapling, in the forest,
wherein as yet no white man had his habitation, the
spot which is now our peaceful green, with a little
neighboring territory, was an upland wood sur -
'•ounded, except for a narrow space upon the north,


by impenetrable swamps: a most defensible camping
ground; such as the red engineers knew well how to

And here the St. Francois war parties, returning
from their merciless raids into the valley of the
Connecticut, were wont to bivouac, binding their
way-worn and woe-worn captives to the lithe but
firm-set young trees. Many a sorrowful sight must
have been witnessed by that lone oasis among the
hemlock thickets, but one tradition only speaks of
individual suffering and adventure.

Peril the First.

Once — as this half forgotten old story goes —
there came, among a group of captives, the daugh-
ter of one of those God-fearing pastors who, rather
than bow the knee to Baal and Archbishop Laud,
forsook their quiet and comfortable livings in Old
England to become the living springs of the New
England churches. Fair with the light of " Sunny
Devon by the sea," and graced by culture imbreathed
with the odor of honeysuckles and roses in the old
moss-covered rectory, Isabel Walton carried sun-
shine, melody and joy into the bare log cabin pre-
pared by the puritanic settlers for her widowed
father, in their narrow forest clearing.

But, one murderous night, torn from the dead
body of that father, and spared by the caprice oi
avarice of the savages, she was brought thus far on
her way to Canada. Here, broken with grief and
fatigue, she was doomed to death, as an encum-


brance to their march, and to death by fire. She
was ah-eady bound to the sapling Elm, and the
faggots piled about her feet, when, happily, the party
was joined by a small detachment of French sol-
diers under the command of a young lieutenant.
Touched by the maidenly modesty, as well as by
the brave and almost saintly bearing, of the victim,
this officer interposed so vehemently that, partly by
threats and partly by pledges of ransom, she was
rescued; and with her the young Elm escaped its
first peril at the hand of man. Supported with ten-
der care and reverent regard by her manly preserver,
Isabel reached Montreal in safety. And the garru-
lous old tradition, after the absurd manner of such
ancient chronicles, thinks it necessary to add that
weak, captive, and bereaved, as she was, she did not
find the long march altogether without its consola-
tions, or indeed at all tedious. I preserve this ad-
dendum solely for the benefit of elderly philosophers
in search of psychological data. I am quite sure, at
least, it will not be needed by any of my fair readers
who ever passed an October day in Berkshire woods,
rustling through the crisp carpet of many colored
leaves, tumbling over criss-crossed and tangled roots,
lunching sociably in sunny glades, climbing paths
so arduous that the liberal support of strong arms
was not to be dispensed with; and withal perform-
ing feats which would have made their teacher of
calisthenics open her pretty eyes very wide.

And now I must tell you of one thing which I
fear some of you will not so well like. But, ah me !


in any veracious narrative unpleasant facts will out.
Naturally there came a time in their wooing when
Pierre and Isabel spoke together of their difference
in religious faith. This was certainly after their
betrothal, but I think the weight of evidence indi-
cates that it was before their marriage; which the
records of the cathedral church fix with great pre-
cision at just one year after their arrival at Montreal.
The anniversary is a holiday with their descendants
even yet. But, whatever may have been the pre-
cise time when the lovers ventured upon this deli-
cate topic, it was not until Isabel had become so
accustomed to yield to the persuasive tones of her
preserver and guardian, that the protestant pastor's
daughter forsook the faith for which her father
suffered — for which she, as well, was ready to
suffer — and adopted that in whose communion she
could walk with her husband. Mightier than Laud's
power of prelacy, or fiercest Torquemada persecu-
tions, are the soft persuasions of love. I beseech
you not to think too unf orgivingly of the young bride
for this love-led back-sliding of hers. Rather than so,
I coujd wish you to disbelieve the story outright;
although that, besides being painful to my own feel-
ings, would be deemed impolite by the whole long
descended Lanaudiniere family of Montreal, whs
would consider it little that their great-great-great
grandfather — be the degree of his grandf athership
more or less — had rescued their grandmother in
like degree, from the flames of savage torture, had
he not also saved her from more enduring torments,


Should you visit them — these ancient Lanaudi-
nieres — in their ancient Montreal home, they will
show you, in a richly gilt frame, still more richly
adorned with the precious tarnish of two hundred
honorable years, the portrait of a young woman with
very blue eyes very widely expanded; with very
yellow hair, and plump cheeks, in which very red
roses meet the very white, but very, very decidedly
refuse to mingle. A silver crucifix, or it may be of
ivory — envious time has here blurred the coloring a
little — rests upon a very full and a very fully dis-
played bosom; while the faint suspicion of a halo,
half retiring into the obscure back-ground, as if
doubtful of its right to be there, hovers above the
yellow hair.

You will ffuess this remarkable picture to be
enlarged from a saintly feminine figure in the old
family missal; the "specimen piece" perhaps, of
some accomplished Lanaudiniere damsel of an elder
generation ; or possibly, a study by some artistic cadet
of the house, turned monk. Lacking the corrective
contemplation of living models, the imagination of
the cloistered artists, in their lonely cells, was wont
to play strange freaks with saintly personages of the
gentler sex; not excepting her lovely majesty, the
Queen of Heaven, herself.

But your guesses will be all wrong; as my friends,
the Lanaudinieres, will tell you, as politely as the cir-
cumstances will admit. And they will add, with
half offended pride, that this is the portrait of grand-
mother Isabel : a o-if t to orrandf ather Pierre from a


renowned Jesuit missionary, who painted it with his
own pious hand, that the world might not lose the
memory of the miracle of a New England Puritan
converted to the old faith. Many a year of patient
and fruitless labor among hundreds of that stiff
necked race, " captivated " and brought to Canada,
had taught the good father what a miracle that was.
He believed that it was, and would be, unique. But
you must remember that he was a celibate.

This preposterous painting is prized beyond mea-
sure by the present generation of Lanaudinieres,
although, in their hearts, they know as well as I do,
that it is not in the least like gentle grandma Isabel;
save perhaps in the modest halo, which may indeed
have glimmered above her golden hair, if saintly
heads are ever crowned with such manifestations of
Divine favor.

The neighbors of the owners of this portrait — the
Protestant neighbors I mean — maliciously aver that
the last genuine likeness of their ancestress departed
from the Dominion of Canada, when, after a cere-
mony that was not performed cathedral-wise, another
Isabel Lanaudinere sailed away, the bride of a young
lieutenant-commander in Her Britannic Majesty's

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryJ. E. A. (Joseph Edward Adams) SmithTaghconic; the romance and beauty of the hills. → online text (page 1 of 23)