Charlotte Agnes (Uhlein) Pitcher.

The golden era of Trenton Falls online

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of the glen many interesting scientific observations,
which remind us that the highly fossiliferous strata of
the Trenton limestone has always made the gorge of
the West Canada Creek exceedingly attractive to stu-
dents of geology. The cabinets of rare fossils and
mineralogical specimens at the hotel eu-e vividly re-
called by every visitor to Trenton Falls in the olden

The ideal and most worthy first resident at Trenton
Falls passed away in 1828. He was laid to rest on the
hilltop crowned with pines in the rear of his simple
hostelry and within sound of the perpetual music of

"Here is peace and loveliness ever mingled;
Organ music of winds and birds and branches,
And a brooding presence which makes each moment
A benediction."



Mr. Michael Moore of New York, son-in-law of Mr.
Sherman, succeeded the founder in the proprietorship
of the popular inn at Trenton. He made extensive
additions to the original structure and, with the open-
ing of the Plank Road from Utica in 1851, the beau-
tiful ravine of the West Canada Creek became more
accessible to the pubUc. Under the Moore regime
the same atmosphere of culture and refinement ob-
tained at Trenton which had characterized the resort
from its estabhshment. Old-time patrons of Moore's
Hotel recall this feature as its unique and indescribable
charm. Poets, painters, scientists, nature-lovers, all
came to Trenton. It was the favorite haunt of scholars
and hterary celebrities. Foreigners of note bound
for Niagara did not fail to step aside at Utica to wit-
ness this less grand but more lovely exhibition of fall-
ing water. It was the rare combination of exquisite
natural accessories which rendered the place unique
and enraptured every visitor. Flowers, ferns, mosses,
majestic trees adorned the great gray chffs of the en-
chanted glen. One who considered the Trenton Gorge
unrivaled for picturesque beauty wrote of the view of
the High Falls: "It is a picture in water colors,
framed in rock, fringed with greenness, spangled with
wild flowers, and canopied by the blue vault of heav-
en." Trenton Falls early occupied a prominent posi-
tion in the hst of America's famous resorts. "The
Fashionable or Northern Tour," a guide book pub-
fished at Saratoga Springs and New York City in 1830
contains an extended account of "the renowned Tren-
ton FaUs" fourteen miles north of Utica.


Before taking up the fascinating descriptions of the
place which I have found in the writings of so many
past worthies, I must speak of the wonderful old-time
garden which once bedecked the charming vista in
front of Moore's Hotel, that perfect scene of rural
beauty stretching away to glorious hills and "fields of
living green." Who that has seen it will forget the
brilliant parterre of roses and peonies which bordered
the long graveled walk leading down to "the rocks"
where a fine view could be obtained of the stream after
its tumultuous passage over the ledges? Calmly now
it pursued its winding way to join the Mohawk, pass-
ing through some of the most beautiful scenery of the
state of New York. But we cannot linger in the lovely
valley of the West Canada; it is time to return to the

Nathaniel P. Willis

Let us enter the hospitable doorway and, after
studying the notable paintings of the falls which
grace the pleasant parlors, hsten to what N. P. Willis
says about the beauties of Trenton. He sought out
this romantic spot as early as 1828 and paid repeated
visits to the place. In 1851 he edited a dehghtful fittle
book at the request of Mr. Moore, pubhshed by George
P. Putnam, entitled "Trenton Falls, Picturesque and
Descriptive," from which I quote these words: "The
most enjoy ably beautiful spot among the resorts of
romantic scenery in our country is Trenton Falls, the


place above all others where it is a luxury to stay —
which one oftenest revisits — which one most com-
mends strangers to be sure to visit. In the long cor-
ridor of travel between New York and Niagara, this
place is a sort of alcove aside — a side-scene out of ear-
shot of the crowd. *****

"Most people talk of the subhmity of Trenton, but
I have haunted it by the week together for its mere
loveliness. The river in the heart of that fearful
chasm, is the most varied and beautiful assemblage of
the thousand forms and shapes of running water that
I know of in the world. The soil and the deep-striking
roots of the forest terminate far above you, looking
like a black rim on the enclosing precipices; the bed of
the river and its sky-sustaining walls are of sohd rock
and, with the tremendous descent of the stream —
forming for miles one continuous succession of falls
and rapids^the channel is worn into curves and cav-
ities which throw the clear waters into forms of incon-
ceivable briUiancy and variety. It is a sort of half
twilight below, with here and there a long beam of
sunshine reaching down to kiss the Up of an eddy, or
form a rainbow over a fall, and the reverberating and
changing echoes,

' Like a ring of bells whose sound the wind still alters, '

maintain a constant and most soothing music, vary-
ing at every step with the varying phase of the cur-
rent. ***** The pecuHarity of Trenton
Falls, I fancy, consists a good deal in the space in which


you are compelled to see them. You walk a few steps
from the hotel through the wood, and come to a de-
scending staircase of a hundred steps, the different
bends of which £U"e so overgrown with wild shrubbery,
that you cannot see the ravine until you are fairly
down upon its rocky floor. Your path hence up to
the first fall is along a ledge cut out of the base of the
cliff that overhangs the torrent, and when you get to
the foot of the descending sheet, you find yourself in
very close quarters with a cataract — rocky walls all
round you — and the appreciation of power and mag-
nitude somewhat heightened by the confinement of
the place.

"The usual walk (through this deep cave open at
the top) is about half a mile in length, and its almost
subterranean river, in that distance, plunges over four
precipices in exceedingly beautiful cascades. On the
successive rocky terraces between the falls, the torrent
takes every variety of rapids and whirlpools and, per-
haps, in all the scenery of the world there is no river
which, in the same space, presents so many of the va-
rious shapes and beauties of running and falling water.
The Indian name of the stream (the Kanata, which
means the Amber River) expresses one of its peculiar-
ities and, probably from the depth of shade cast by the
dark and overhanging walls 'twixt which it flows, the
water is everywhere of a peculiarly rich lustre and color,
and in the edges of one or two of the cascades, as yel-
low as gold. Artists, in drawing this river, fail in giv-
ing the impression of deep-down-itude which is pro-



duced by the close approach of the two lofty walls of
rock, capped by the over-leaning woods, and with the
sky apparently resting, hke a ceiHng, upon the leafy
architraves. * * * * Subterranean as this foam-
ing river looks by day, it looks like a river in cloud-land
by night. The side of the ravine which is in shadow,
is one undistinguishable mass of black with its wavy
upper edge in strong rehef against the sky and, as the
foaming stream catches the light from the opposite
and moonlit side, it is outhned distinctly on its bed of
darkness, and seems winding its way between hills of
clouds, half black, half luminous. Below, where all
is deep shadow except the river, you might fancy it a
silver mine laid open to your view amid subterranean
darkness by the wand of an enchanter. * * * *
"Beu'on de Trobriand* arrived here to-day, August
10, 1848. I had been reading a French novel of which
he is the author, and I am amused to see how he carries
out, in his impulsive and enthusiastic way of enjoying
scenery, the impression you get of his character from
his buoyant and brilliant style of writing. After one
look at the falls he came back and made a foray upon
the larder, got a tin kettle in which he packed the sim-
ple provender he might want, and went off with his
portfoho to sketch and ramble out the day. He re-
turned at night with his slight and elegant features
burned by the sun, wet to the knees with wading the
rapids, and rejoined the gay but more leisurely and

*Baron de Trobriand, a native of France, emigrated to the United States in
1841, enlisted in 1861 in the cause of the Union, and rendered gallant service
throughout the entire Civil War.


luxurious party with which he travels. Looking down
from one of the cliffs yesterday afternoon, I saw him
hard at work ankle deep in water bringing pieces of
rock and building a causeway across the shallows of
the stream, to induce the ladies to come to the edge of
the falls, otherwise inaccessible. He has made one or
two charming sketches of the ravine, being an admira-
ble artist."

The absence of display and garishness at the hotel
appealed strongly to Mr. Willis, particularly the quiet,
unobtrusive exterior. "Oh, those chalky universes in
rural places," he exclaims, "what miles around of
green trees and tender grass do they blaze out of all
recognition with their unescapable white-paint aggra-
vations of sunshine, and their stretch of unmitigated
collonade! You may as well look at a star with a
blazing candle in your eye, as enjoy a landscape in
which one of these mountains of illuminated clapboard
sits a-glare. Mr. Moore, the landlord at Trenton, is
proposing to build a larger house for the accommoda-
tion of the pubhc, but this sermon upon our Mont
Blanc Hotels, with their Dover Cliff porticoes is not
aimed at him. On subjects of taste he requires no
counsel. The engravings a man hangs up in his parlors
are a sufficient key to the degree of his refinement;
and those which are visible through the soft demi jour
of the apartments in this shaded retreat, might all be-
long to a connoisseur in art, and a fair example of the
proprietor's perception of the beautiful. In more than
one way he is the right kind of man for the Keeper of


this loveliest of Nature's bailiwicks of scenery. On
the night of our arrival I was lying awake somewhere
towards midnight, and watching from my window
the sifting of moonhght through the woods with the
stirring of the night air, when the low undertone of the
falls was suddenly varied with a strain of exquisite
music. It seemed scarcely a tune, but, with the rich-
est fullness of volume, one lingering and dreamy note
melted into another, as if it were the voluntary of a
player who unconsciously touched the keys as an ac-
companiment to his melancholy. What with the place
and time, and my ignorance that there was an instru-
ment of this character in the house, I was a good deal
surprised; but before making up my mind as to what it
could be, I was 'helped over the stile' into dreamland,
and made no inquiry till the next morning at break-
fast. The player was our landlord, Mr. Moore, who
thus, when his guests are gone to bed, steals an hour of
leisure from the night and, upon a fine organ which
stands in one of the inner parlors of his house, plays
with admirable taste and execution. *****
"Mr. Moore came here twenty years ago to enjoy the
scenery of which he had heard so much; and getting a
severe fall in chmbing the rocks, was for some time
confined to his bed at the hotel, then kept by Mr. Sher-
man. The kind care with which he was treated re-
sulted in an attachment for one of the daughters of the
family, his present wife; he came back, wedded his
fair nurse and Trenton for the remander of his Hfe,


and is now the owner and host of the very lovehest
scenery-haunt in all our picturesque country."

Willis speaks of the select character of the guests
whom he finds at the hotel, and he tells of lovely walks
through the forest along the edge of the cliff, and of
delicious hours spent in watching the procession of
visitors climbing through the ravine — every new group
changing and embellishing "the glorious combination
of rock, foliage and water." All that was wanting
to make the scene perfect, Willis declared, was a dash
of color in woman's attire. All were clad in the colors
of the rocks and wore slate-colored riding dresses and
bonnets to match up the dusty highways. When a
lady finally appeared accompanied by a gentleman
carrying a crimson shawl, it so heightened the scene
that he at once made a vow to appeal to the ladies of
the land to carry, at least, a scarf of red, white or blue
over the arm when mingling with the landscapes of
our romantic resorts, thus supplying all that was want-
ing at Trenton and Niagara.

Margaret Fuller

Trenton by moonlight! The poet Willis says he
walked the ravine till the "small hours" to witness
the marvelous transformation, but he would not at-
tempt to reproduce such "sublimities" on paper.

Margaret Fuller did, for she wrote verses upon Tren-
ton Falls as they appeared early in the morning, in
the afternoon, and by moonlight. June 2, 1835, when


a guest of the Harvard Professor of Astronomy and
family at Cambridge, she writes her father: "I have
something to tell you which I hope, oh, I hope will
give you as much pleasure as it does me. Mr. and
Mrs. Farrar propose taking me, with several other
dehghtful persons, to Trenton Falls this summer. The
plan is to set out about the 20th of July, go to New
York, then up the North River to West Point— pass a
day there, then on to Trenton, and devote a week to
that beautiful scenery. Oh, I cannot describe the
positive ecstacy with which I think of this journey."
Thomas Wentworth Higginson states, in his biography
of Margaret Fuller (Marchioness Ossoh) that she did
enjoy the anticipated treat, a journey rare in her day,
when ''Trenton Falls was accounted one of the glories
of America — the simple days when the wonders of
Colorado and the Yosemite were unknown."



Would you the genius of the place enjoy,
In all the charm contrast and color give?
Your eye and taste you now may best employ,
For this the hour when minor beauties live;
Scan ye the details as the sun rides high,
For with the morn these sparkling glories fly.


* * * * *

A calmer grace o'er these still hours presides;
Now is the time to see the might of form;
The heavy masses of the buttressed sides,
The stately steps o'er which the waters storm.



With what holiness did night invest

The eager impulse of impetuous life.

And hymn-like meanings clothed the waters' strife 1

With what a solemn peace the moon did rest

Upon the white crest of the waterfall;

The haughty guardian banks, by the deep shade.

In almost double height are now displayed.

Depth, height, speak things which awe, but not appall.

From elemental powers this voice has come,

And God's love answers from the azure dome.

Margaret Fuller


Catherine Maria Sedgwick

Catherine Maria Sedgwick, the gifted author of
"The New England Tale," "Redwood," "Hope Leslie,"
"The Linwoods," the co-temporary of Irving and
Cooper in the field of early American literature, was a
Trenton enthusiast. The beautiful falls of Kauya-
hoora furnished a picturesque setting for a part of her
story entitled "Clarence," first pubUshed in 1830,
one of the most romantic of her numerous novels. That
Miss Sedgwick was once widely read and popular is
proven by Chief Justice Marshall, who sent her this
message through their mutual friend. Judge Story:
"Tell Miss Sedgwick I have read with great pleasure
everything she has written and wish she would write
more." Indeed, Miss Sedgwick's name was associated
with that of Cooper's to the extent that, in a French
translation of "Redwood," which appeared in Paris
in 1824, he is given on the title page as the author.

The scene of "Clarence" is laid mainly in New York
City, but the family, whose name is given the story,
spend much time at their charming villa near one of
the most beautiful of the inland lakes of western New
York, and from this point they "jaunt" to Trenton.
In due time they arrive at the scene of enchantment
where the author says "nature reigns a queen of beau-
ty, every heart does her homage — the very trees as
they bend from their walled banks and almost embower


the sportive stream, seem in act of reverence." The
heroine, Gertrude Clarence, ventures out alone the
night of her arrival to see the falls by moonlight. She
has no fear, for she has been there before, and knows
the forest paths by heart. Not a breath of air is
stirring. All nature seems hushed to listen to the
music of the dashing waters. She descends the steps,
follows the margin of the stream, passes the most diffi-
cult places in safety and reaches the summit of the
first fall where she encounters a stranger, Gerald Ros-
coe, the hero of the tale. Fate brings this charming
pair together at Trenton, and by moonlight!

In the progress of the story Miss Sedgwick describes
the falls in this delightful and realistic manner : "Ger-
trude Clarence ascended to the summit of the first fall
by the natural and rough stairway and pursuing her
walk, canopied by the over-arching rocks, and creep-
ing along the shelving shore, she attained the side of the
foaming, deep abyss, into which the stream rushes at
two bold leaps. She stood for some moments gazing
on the torrent, almost deafened by its roar, when she
was startled by a footstep close to her. She turned
and saw the stranger who seemed destined to cross her
path at every turn. He bowed respectfully and said:
'This is fine scenery; I have been scrambling along
the bank for two miles above this place, and never
have I seen such various and startHng beauty. The
river has so many abrupt turns and graceful sweeps,
at every turn there is a new picture, as if you had
turned another leaf in the book of Nature. I have



seen three falls above this place of less magnitude,
and I have been told they occur at intervals for several
miles. But the falls are only one feature. The sides
of the stream are everywhere beautiful. In some
places richly wooded; in others the rocks are perpen-
dicular, bare and stern — now sending over their beet-
ling summits a little cascade that falls at your feet in
diamond drops — now receding and sloping, and mantled
with moss and fern, or sending out from their clefts
sturdy trees, sylvan sentinels on Nature's embattle-
ments. In one place the rocks recede and are con-
cave and the river appears like an imprisoned lake, or
a magician's well. There, I confess, I listened for an
'open sesame' and thought it possible I might see an
enchanted damsel walk forth with her golden pitcher.' "
I am extremely grateful to the Berkshire novehst for
this unique tribute, and for much more which she said
in praise of Trenton. She must have dearly loved the
spot, for she visited it many times, once with her
friend, Frances Anne Kemble.

Of the fashion, prevalent in her day, of comparing
Trenton with Niagara, many preferring the former,
Miss Sedgwick says: "Trenton is a younger favorite
and has the advantage of youth and novelty over the
sublime torrent. She has not been heard of by every-
body in the four quarters of the globe; nor been seen
and talked of by half the world. We feel something
of the pride of discoverers in vaunting her beauty.
She has, too, her caprices and changes, and does not
show the same face to all. This is one of her pecuHar


charms. There is such a pleasure in saying, 'Oh,
what a pity you did not see the falls as we did; we but
just escaped with our lives, immense rains had fallen,
and the passes were all but impassable.' There are
no such lucky chances of superiority at Niagara. Like
a monarch Niagara always appears in the same state
and magnificence. It pays no visible tribute to the
elements; it is neither materially abated nor augmented
by them. Niagara is like the ocean, alone and incom-
parable in its grandeur."

How perfectly Hawthorne interprets Miss Sedg-
wick's meaning: "Oh, that I had never heard of Ni-
agara till I beheld it! Blessed were the wanderers of
old who heard its deep roar sounding through the
woods, as the summons of an unknown wonder, and
approached its awful brink in all the freshness of na-
tive feeling."

Naturally the far-famed Mohawk Valley receives
its share of panegyric in this volume, for it was the
great highway traversed by all Trenton pilgrims, and
Utica "the gateway" calls forth much interesting and
entertaining comment. Miss Sedgwick says in "Clar-
ence": "We deplored the necessity of a few hours
delay at one of the noisiest inns of that noisiest of all
growing, forwarding towns, thronged, busy Utica. The
front windows looked into the most public, and par
excellence, the busiest street of the town, the avenue
to the great northern turnpike. Stage coaches were
waiting, arriving, departing, driving to and fro, as if
all the world were a stage coach and all the men and


women merely travellers. The window at the side of
the room afforded a view of the canal, and of the gen-
eral debouching place of its packet boats. There were
servants and porters hustling baggage off and on the
packet boats and stage coach proprietors persecuting
the jaded passengers with rival claims to patronage.
A fresh bustle broke out, Babel was nothing to it —
'Hurrah for the western passengers!' 'Gentlemen
and ladies for Sackett's Harbor, all ready!' 'Hurrah
for Trenton!' 'Pioneer Line, ready!' 'Gentlemen
and ladies for the Telegraph Line!' The exciting polit-
ical campaign of the day is denoted by the announce-
ments that 'The bell is ringing for the Adams' boat
going out!' 'The horn is blowing for the Jackson
boat coming in!'"

Miss Sedgwick's picture of early Utica rivals Mr.
Archibald Dunlap Moore's, (brother of the proprietor
at Trenton) who says of the place in his "Journal of
Travels through New York State" in 1822: "Here is
the confusion of Babel— stores and houses building,
horns blowing, canal boats with passengers arriving,
passing through and setting out. Stages, waggons,
men, women and children — everything denotes the
rapid growth of this would-be capital of the state. In-
deed, many of the people of Utica are perfectly wild
over the future size, influence and wealth of their
thriving village. They are entirely too sanguine,
although it must become one of the largest inland
towns in the United States, its situation giving it many
advantages from a commercial point of view. * * *


Wandered out after dark, no lamps, stumbled about
and concluded to go back to my lodgings at the Canal
House — engaged passage next day for Little Falls."

Mrs. Frances Trollope

Mrs. Frances Trollope was about completing her
sojourn of over three years in America, when she set
out from New York, May 30, 1831, for Niagara. She
had been reading "Clarence" and possibly it was Miss
Sedgwick's description of Trenton in this romance
which led her to visit the spot. "At two in the after-
noon," her account reads, "we started from Utica in
a very pleasant carriage for Trenton Falls, a delightful
drive of fourteen miles. These falls have become
within a few years only second in fame to Niagara.
The West Canada Creek has found its way through
three miles of rock, which at many points is one hun-
dred and fifty feet high. A forest of enormous cedars
is on their summit ; and many of that beautiful species
of white cedar which droops its branches like the weep-
ing-willow, grow in the clefts of the rock, and in some
places almost dip their dark foliage in the torrent.
Near the hotel a flight of very alarming steps leads
down to the bed of the stream, and on reaching it
you find yourself enclosed in a deep abyss of solid
rock, with no visible opening but that above your
head. The torrent dashes by with inconceivable
rapidity; its color is black as night, and the dark
ledge of rocks on which you stand is so treacherously


level with it, that nothing warns you of danger. With-
in the last three years, two young people, though sur-

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Online LibraryCharlotte Agnes (Uhlein) PitcherThe golden era of Trenton Falls → online text (page 2 of 6)