1847; A tour to the river Saguenay...Philadelphia A summer in the wilderness...New York and Philadel.

Adventures in the wilds of the United States and British American provinces online

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for the distance of several hundred yards it entirely disappears
from view under a hill, after which it resumes its course as
naturally and unconcerned as if it had not perfonned a remark-
able feat. Throughout Its entire course it is hemmed in with
moderately high mountains, and- its bottom lands are narrow,
but fertile and well cultivated. Wheat is the principal product,
and the yield is sufficient to support a number of ^^ merchant
mills," which transport their flour to market by teams to Win-
chester and the Ohio Railroad. As to the fish of Capon River
the leather-mouthed varieties are the most abundant, although
I am informed that trout are frequently taken in the Lost
River and its tributaries, as also in the North river, which is a
branch of the Capon. In the way of game, the hill country is
well supplied with deer and foxes, both of which are hunted
with hounds.

The well known spot called Capon Springs we left about a
dozen miles on our left. It is one of the pleaeantest places for
a summer sojourn to be found in Virginia, located in a pictu-
resque hollow of the North Mountains, two miles from the
Capon River, and boasts of a handsome spring of water without
any particular virtue, of spacious and convenient bathing
houses and quite an elegant hotel, which has just been opened.
Within a dozen miles of Capon Springs I have thrown the flies
for trout with great success.*

And those who have a passion for caves will find a very sin-
gular one in this county, a knowledge of which is as yet mostly
confined to the bats that inhabit its secret chambers. It is
located on the top of a mountain called Long Lick, and while
the aperture at the mouth is only about four feet in diameter,
it enlarges as you descend, like an inverted funnel, and after
going down to the distance of seventy feet by means of a rope

* One month after the flj;>OYe was written it was my privilege to accompany
the Hon. Daniel Webster upon a visit to Capon Springs where he deliTered
one of his happiest after-dinner speeches.



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BOMNST. . 481

the explorer finds himself on a rocky floor, with several passages
on his right and left leading to other rooms which have never
been visited.

And now for a word about the little village of Bomney where
I am spending a couple of days. It is situated within half a mile
of the South Branch of the Potomac, flanked on the east by a
lot of miscellaneously planted hills, while on the western side is
a ridge of steep mountain lands, which, when thrown into shadow
at the sunset hour, presents the appearance of ^ an immense
rampart, ihe river flowing at its base answeringas a moat to the
fortification. The scenery all about Bomneyis quite beautiful,
some of it indeed might be termed imposing. This portion of
the South Potomac runs through, or rather along the western
side of a narrow but fertile bottom land, and at the two points
down the river, four, and Bix miles distant, there are perpen-
dicular bluSs, which I will describe presently. The population
of Eomney is estimated at six hundred souls, and the hand-
somest compliment that I can pay its inhabitants is to mention
the fact that they support two well-conducted boarding-schools.
One of them is in charge of the Episcopalians of the place, and
the other of the Presbyterians. The edifices are of brick,
neatly built and spacious, and surrounded with tastefully
arranged grounds. The town derives its chief importance from
being the county seat ; and that the people are fond of good
living (like all true Virginians) may be inferred from the fact
that venison, trout, corncakes, and maple molasses have been
my principal food since I arrived here; the venison was of that
peculiar quality which is denominated mountain mutUm^ and as
to the trouty they were chiefly taken by myself — and, though
the largest in the lot measured some fourteen inches, he cost
me a walk of just as many miles.'

Bomney, I forgot to mention, is also i;{|Km the line of a
capital road, connecting the Ohio and Potomac rivers, over
which there are constantly passing extensive herds of beef-cattle
bound to the Baltimore market. At least five hundred head,
have passed through the village since yesterday morning, and
I am informed that this business continues through every month
81



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482 . BOlfNET.

in the year. Some of the drovers are men who have raised and
fattened their cattle upon their own farms, while* others are
speculating drovers, who buy up their cattle, and take them to
market. The business of feeding these cattle on the road, is
quite lucrative to the feeder, but expensive to the drover, since
they travel only about a dozen miles per day, while pasturage
for a single night costs ten cents per head, and fodder about
fifteen. Some fine cattle are said to be sent to market from
Western Virginia, but it seems to be generally acknowledged
that the finest cattle come from beyond the Ohio. *

The bluffs alluded to above are known as the Hanging rocks,
and, though rather tame to one familiar with the scenery of the
Saguenay and Tallulah, they are decidedly worth seeing. The
nearest bluff is the most interesting, and rises from the eastern
margin of the Potomac to a height varying from two to three
hundred feet, and extending along the river for six hundred
yards. The lower strata of rock is limestone, and the upper
strata sandstone. When seen from a distance, and the oppo-
site bank of the river, (the waters of which are very clear, and
literally as green as emerald,) the rocks bear a striking resem-
blance to a block of very ancient six story stone houses, such
as we see pictured by the artists of the old world. Stained as
they are with almost every color, from yellow and red to black
and brown, to really requires but little fancy for one to discover
therein, doors and curtained windows, alcoves with pieces of
statuary, richly carved wainscotings and cornices, bird-cages
and flags, hanging porticoes, and fantastic sign-boards. The
whole bluff, indeed, looks like a specimen of magnificent but
rude masonry ; and at one point the rocks have formed them-
selves into a cluster of towers, which appear as we may imagine
the edifice of the Smithsonian Institution will appear a thousand
years hence, whq|^ overgrown with rank mosses and vines.
When you come to stand at the base of the bluff, however, its
aspect is greatly changed ; it toppji&s over your head in a fear-
ful manner, and is as scragged and jagged, and rugged, as un-
couth and wild as any thing of the kind, I have ever seen, (and
I have travelled much among the mountains of our land.) Tra-



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BOMKBY. 488

dition sajs that there was once a famous battle fought upon the
brow of the Hanging Rocks between two hostile tribes of Indians,
and this story may well be believed, for upon a field in full
yiew of the bluff are to be seen two hillocks marking the graves
of the slain ; and it is a singular circumstance that, though well
nigh a century has passed away since the red man were masters
of this soil, hatchets of steel, such as were then in use, have
frequently been brought to light from these very graves.



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MOOEFIELD-



I AM now writing some twentj-seyen miles further np the
South Branch of the Potomac than where my last letter was
dated. The intervening, country, bordering upon the river, is
mostly mountainous, but not remarkably picturesque, except-
ing at one point, about six miles from thi& place, where there
appears to be a second, but inferior, edition of the ^^ Hanging
Rocks." With the hamlet of Moor fields however, and espe-
cially the surrounding country, I have been much pleased. It
lies near the centre of a valley, which has appropriately been
termed the Garden of Virginia. It contains about five hun-
dred inhabitants, is ornamented with two handsome little
churches, (Methodist and Presbyterian,) and about the village,
the people, and* the country, there is a kind of Arcadian sim-
plicity, which is truly refreshing to one accustomed to city life.
As to the landlord and table of the Virginia House, where I
am staying, it affords me pleasure to say they would be an ac-
quisition in any of the eastern cities. The valley in question
is about twelve miles long, and from one to two miles wide,
level, and very fertile, and completely hemmed in by wood-
covered mountains of moderate elevation, from the summit of
which the beautiful Potomac may be seen, pursuing its serpen-
tine course. Many of the farmers in the valley are wealthy,
and none of them poor — ^the marketable price of the land aver-
aging about one hundred dollars per acre. Com is the prin-
cipal product ; and it is said that some of the fields have yielded
a good crop annually for upwards of thirty years. Hence the
reputation of the valley for its cattle, which are raised in great



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MooBimsLD. 485

nnmbers and of the finest quality ; and at this very moment
there is passing my window, bound to Washington, a drove of
one hundred. Indeed, the people here are pre-eminently inde-
pendent in outward circumstances as well as in their feelings.

On Sunday last I attended morning service in the Presby-
terian Church, and was particularly pleased with what I there
saw and heard. The audience was large, and consisted of a
goodly number of 1he sturdy and more aged of the yeomanry
of the valley, with their wives and children, and children's
children, who conducted themselves with a degree of propriety
that I have seldom seen excelled in communities boasting of all
the refinements of the age* In every particular the church
was plain, but perfectly neat and comfortable ; and instead of
an organ, with its attending flourishes and overtures, psalms
and hymns were sung by the congregation, to the good old tunes
of a century ago. The preacher was the Rev. William N.
Scott, a man venerable in years, and the father of two sons,
who are, as I am informed, eminent in the sacred profession of
their father. The text on the occasion was as follows, (Prov. iv.
18) : " The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth
more and more unto the perfect day ;'* and the sermon was a
tribute of respect to the memory of a young lady, who had
recently died of consumption* The preacheic spoke extempo-
raneously, with a soft and plaintive voice, using concise and
elegant language ; and, as he briefly commented upon the beau-
tiful and Christian character, of the deceased, I was forcibly
reminded of Living's touching essay entitled " The Pride of the
Village." The range of thought throughout the discourse was
elevated, and yet there was something about it in strict keep-
ing with the rural district in which it was delivered — ^the
imagery being drawn from the works of nature, as actually
seen in part from the pulpit which the preacher occupied.
For example, in speaking of the law of progression, (which was
the leading idea of the sermon,) he remarked to his hearers
that it was seen in the flowing streams of their valleys, and the
giant oaks upon their mountains, as well as in the planetary
worlds, the human intellect, and the light of revelation as de-



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486 MOORFIELD.

veloped in the human heart. Upon the whole, the sermon was
really an impressive one.

With regard to natural curiosities, the region of Moorfield
is rather meagre ; and it may afford to be without them, since
it can boast of the rarest scenery and superior agricultural re-
sources. In the way of interesting characters, ^however, it is
well supplied.

One story that I have picked up here, illustrates the character
of an old huntei;, who lives upon one of the neighboring moun-
tains. For many years past he has imposed upon the credulity
of his more ignorant brethren of the bush, by passing himself
off as a wizard, by which profession he managed to accumulate
a good deal of money. And the manner in which he originally
established his reputation, and made himself the terror of the
country, was as follows :

A brother hunter came to him with his rifle, declaring that
he had made many shots at deer and other wild animals, but
that he could never hit any of them, and he therefore supposed
it must be out of order. The wizard examined the gun, and
perceiving at a glance that the sight was only out of its proper
place, he mysteriously shook his head, and said that the gun
had a spell upon it, which could not be removed without the pay-
ment of three dollars. The man p'aid the money, and was told
to call on the morrow. The sight was then fixed in its proper
place, and when the man came after his gun, he gave it a fair
trial, and expressed himself as perfectly satisfied. The wizard
then told the man that he must perform another secret incanta-
tion over the gun, and that it would be ready to take away in
one hour ; whereupon he retired into a room alone, when he
proceeded to load the gun with a small charge of powder, using
for a wad a quantity of soft 9punh ; and this charge he con-
tinued to repeat till the barrel was filled within a foot of the
muzzle. He now came forth to deliver the gun into the hands
of its owner, and while giving him some particular directions
as to how he must hold the gun, and prohibiting him from
looking behind, while he was to hasten home with all possible
despatch, the wizard slyly dropped a coal of fire into the rifle,



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HOORFIELD. 487

and the man disappeared. Hardly had he gone a hundred
yards before bang! went the old gun, and the hunter was
alarmed ; a few moments more, and a second charge followed,
and he was astounded ; another brief period elapsed, and still
another report followed ; another, and still another, when the
poor hunter became almost frantic with fear, and throwing the
gun away, he ran for his home with all speed, while nearly
every dozen paces that he accomplished was measured by the
explosions of the spell-bound gun. Of course the narrow escape
which he had made was soon spread far and wide, and the
power as well as wickedness of the wizard were universally
acknowledged.

Of another eccentric character, a wealthy but improvident
farmer, long since deceased, I have heard the following parti-
culars' : He was famous for always being in a hurry, and on one
occasion he set out from home early in the morning, informing
his family that he was in a hurry, and would be back in a couple
of days. He departed, and was gone two years. On his return,
he stopped within a mile of his own habitation, where he met
an old acquaintance, who invited him to supper. '^ Oh, I am
in a hurry,". he replied, "and cannot." But he did dismount,
and spent two weeks with his friend. He once went to Wash-
ington with a drove of cattle, and, just as he was about ready
to return, he thought he would call and pay his respects to the
(then) President, Mr. Adams. He did so, riding directly up to
the front door of the White House. He happened to meet the
President at the threshold, who invited him to come in and
spend a little time. He was again " in a hurry, and had not
the liesure to spare," but finally had his horse sent to the stable,
and spent only ten days as the guest of the President. Towards
the latter part of his life, he was a good deal troubled by the
sheriff of the county, who was constantly trying, but in vain,
to execute a ea, sa, upon him. During this period he was par-
ticularly a "Aom€-body," and of course was constantly on the
watch for the o£Scer of justice ; and, whenever he saw that
officer approaching his dwelling, he would lock his doors, and
ascending to an upper window, would there safely hold a con-



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488 MOOKFIBLD,

versation with the sheriff, and also lower into his hands, by a
small cord, a glass of old rye whiskey, with cake and apples.
Four years before his death he was prosecuted for the non-pay-
ment of a large debt, which he declined settling upon any con-
ditions. The lawyers, after taking his personal property,
told him that unless he consented to give up his real estate, he
would have to be imprisoned. He was perverse in his opposi-
tion, and had to take up his abode in the county jail. He had
a room handsomely fitted up for his accommodation, where, in
the enjoyment of good liquor and all the luxuries of the coun-
try, he spent the remainder of his days. He was a great
favorite in this section of country, and his funeral was one of
the largest that ever took place in Moorfield.

As I looked out of my window yesterday morning, I chanced
to notice a young man mounted upon a horse, riding along the
street at a furious rate. He had a remarkably fine counte-
nance, with a head of hair of uncommon length, and was dressed
in a suit of Lincoln-green, with such a hat as artista love to
portray in their pictures, and he was followed by three dogs.
I inquired his name, and found it to be Charles W. Alexander^
and further ascertained that he had recently become a painter
by profession, and was now upon a hunt after a fox or a. deer.
I have this morning had the pleasure of being introduced to
this gallant hunter-artist, and exiCmined some of his pictures.
They consist of family portraits, and copies from such artists
as Stuart, Sully, and Nagle, and considering them as the pro-
ductions of a young and entirely self-taught artist, are full of
merit and truly astonishing. I have chronicled his name,
simply because I would prophecy for him, as a painter, (if he
will only apply Mm%eJf^ and spend his winters in New York or
Philadelphia,) a prominent C9.reer. But he must expect to la-
bor without ceasing.

But I must bring even this brief letter to a close, for my
horse, purchased in this place, is at the door, waiting to carry
me iijto what I have been led to imagine a peculiarly savage
mountain wilderness ; and as fortune will have it, I am to be
accompanied by a couple of venturesome friends.



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THE HERMIT WOMAN OF THE ALLEGHANIES.



My ride from Moorfield to Seneca Creek, a distance of thirty
miles, has been qidte interesting. The ten miles of road lying
between that town and Petersburg runs nearly all the way
through a rich bottom land, with nothing in particular, how-
ever, to rivet the attention but a picturesque bluff, on the
summit of which the rocks have been so curiously piled up, as
to resemble two pieces of statuary, representing a crouching
panther and a running deer. At the base of this bluff is a
fording place, in crossing which, a man was once thrown from
his horse, and having been drowned, his body was subsequently
found in a neighboring pool of the South Potomac, standing
erect, with both arms extended as if in supplication.

I spent a night with my companions in the dingy-looking
hamlet of Petersburg, where I picked up the following particu-
lars respecting an almost obsolete custom, peculiar to this
section of the country. It is termed rwaning for the bottle^ and
is a kind of interlude or episode in a marriage celebration.
When a buxom lady is about to be married, every body is
invited to the wedding, and two entire days are devoted to
feasting and dancing, when the time arrives that she is to be
taken to the residence of her lord and master. This change of
location is accomplished on horseback, and the groom and bride
are invariably accompanied by their guests, who combine to
form, as they journey in pairs, a truly imposing cavalcade,
varying, accotding to circumstances, from one to two hundred
persons. The day of the march is of course a pleasant one,
and the journey to be accomplished is perhaps, five miles. At



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490 THB HERMIT WOMAN OF THB ALLBGHANIES.

the residence of the groom every thing is in a state of prepa-
ration for the reception of the party, and with especial care, a
hottle of choice liqnor, richly decked out with ribands, has been
placed upon a high post at the front gate of the dwelling.
While the cavalcade are on the move, and have arrived within
one mile of the place, the master of ceremonies steps aside upon
his horse, and extends an invitation to all the gentlemen present,
to join in a race for the bottle, which is known to be in waiting
for the winner of the race, whose privilege it will be to drink
the health of the bride on her arrival. Fifty of the younger
men in the party have perphaps accepted the invitation extended
to them, and, leaving the procession, they start off at full speed
for the much-desired bottle. The road is winding, and perhaps
stony, and stumpy^ and muddy; but what matter? Away they
fly, like a party of Indians after buffalos; while along the road,
it may be, cattle are bellowing, sheep bleating, dogs barking,
hens cackling, and crows cawing. The goal is now in sight;
one effort more, and the foremost horseman is at the gate, and
has received from the hands of the groom's sister, the much
desired bottle ; then ascend the huzzas and shoutings of that
portion of the people assembled to welcome the bride.

Meanwhile, the cavalcade comes in sight, headed, as before,
by the groom and bride, and, as they approach the gate, the
winner of the bottle comes forth upon his horse, and pour-
ing a portion of liquor into a goblet, presents it to the bride,
and has the satisfaction of being the first to drink the good
health of her newly-married ladyship. The huzzas and shout-
ings continue, when, in the midst of the direst confusion, the
ladies are assisted into the house, the horses are stabled, and a
regular siege of two or three days dancing and feasting and
carousing succeeds, with which the wedding is terminated. But
to continue my journey.

The road from Petersburg to this place runs along the north
fork of the South Potomac, a wild and roaring, but very beau-
tiful mountain stream. The river itself is exceedingly serpen-
tine, but the road is vastly more so, and we had to ford the
former at least thirty times, often too, exposed to considerable



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THB HERMIT WOMAN OF THB ALLEGHANIES. 491

danger. The scenery throughout the entire route is truly su-
perb, fully equal, in many particulars, to that of the White and
Adirondac mountains. The hills are covered with forests of
luxuriant growth, rising in many places to the height of at
least three thousand feet, and for many miles presenting per-
pendicular walls from five hundred to fifteen hundred feet high.
The three most imposing of the natural structures here seen
are known as the Golding Gorge, the Fire Cliff, and the Seneca
Chasm. They are all of such a character as to be undescribable
by words ; they are indeed wonderful to a remarkable degree.
The first, for example, located some ten miles from the mouth
of the north fork, is a massive and narrow opening, through
which the stream forces itself, with a stupendous bluff on the
left hand, hanging or toppling over the stream. The second,
four miles further off on the left,, is a perpendicular but narrow,
and perfectly bare ridge of slate and sandstone towers and
turrets, looming against the sky to the height of more than a
thousand feet ; and, at the time I beheld it, the mountain, of
which it forms a part, was on fire, so that the picture which
the whole presented was magnificent. The third, which is di-
rectly at the mouth of Seneca creek, resembles the second in
its general formation, but is more lofty and fairy-like; jgorgeous
in the blended colors of the rainbow, and more frowning and
overhanging in some of its phases.

Delighted, however, and deeply impressed, asJE have been by
the scenery of this Alpine land, I have been far more interested
in an old woman, whom I have had the pleasure of seeing.
Her name is Elizabeth Golding, or Goldizon, and she resides
in a log cabin, entirely alone, directly at the foot of the gorge
which has taken her name. She is of German origin, and re-
presents herself as one hundred and twelve years of age. She
was bom, according to her own words, " within a two days'
ride of Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania," and her father was a
soldier in the Revolution under Washington, and she herself
was in the immediate vicinity of the American camp at the
defeat of General Braddock, of which event she habitually re-
counts a great number of interesting and thrilling incidents,



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492 THB HSBMII WOMAN OF THE ALUBQHAHIB0.

closing each paragrapli with the remark that the battle field
was wet, very wet, with blood. She has been hnsbandleBs and
childlesB for nearly half a century, and for many years has



Online Library1847; A tour to the river Saguenay...Philadelphia A summer in the wilderness...New York and PhiladelAdventures in the wilds of the United States and British American provinces → online text (page 41 of 43)