Charlotte Agnes (Uhlein) Pitcher.

The golden era of Trenton Falls online

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rounded by their friends, have stepped an inch too far
and disappeared from among theni as if by magic,
never to revisit earth again. This broad flat ledge
reaches but a short distance and then the perpendic-
ular wall appears to stop your farther progress. * *
By the aid of gunpowder a sufficient quantity of the
rock has been removed to afford a fearful footing around
a point, which, when doubled, discloses a world of cat-
aracts, all leaping forward in most magnificent confu-
sion. I suffered considerably before I reached the
spot where this grand scene is visible; a chain firmly
fastened to the rock serves to hang by, as you creep
along the giddy verge, and this enabled me to proceed
so far; but here the chain failed, and my courage with
it, though the rest of the party continued for some way
farther, and reported of still increasing sublimity.
But my knees tottered, and my head swam, so while
the rest crept onward, I sat down to wait their return
on the floor of the rock which had received us on quit-
ting the steps.

"A hundred and fifty feet of beu-e black rock on one
side, an equal height covered with solemn cedars on
the other, an unfathomed torrent roaring between
them, and the idea of my children clinging to
the dizzy path I had left, was altogether somber
enough. But I had not sat long before a tremendous
burst of thunder shook the air; the deep chasm an-
swered from either side, again, again, and again; the


whole eflfect was so exceedingly grand, that I had no
longer leisure to think of fear; my children immedi-
ately returned, and we enjoyed together the dsirkening
shadows cast over the abyss, the rival clamor of the
torrent and the storm, and the delightful exaltation
of the spirits which sets danger at defiance. A few
heavy raindrops alarmed us more than all the terrors
of the spot, and recalled our senses. We retreated by
the fearful steps and reached the hotel unwetted and
unharmed. The next morning we were again early
afoot; the storm had refreshed the air and renewed
our strength. We now took a different route and,
instead of descending as before, walked through the
dark forest along the cliff, catching glimpses of the
scene below." In due time Mrs. TroUope and party
reach the finest point to view the falls, the rustic rest-
house, commemorated in Miss Sedgwick's "Clarence,"
perched over the tremendous whirlpool at the Great
or High Falls. Here they bid farewell to the charms
of Trenton and return to Utica in time for dinner,
"where," says Mrs. TroUope, "we found we must
either wait until the next day for the Rochester coach
or again submit to the packet boat."


Captain Basil Hall

Captain Basil Hall of the Royal Navy, an earlier
British traveler in America, varied the vicissitudes of
the journey by canal from Albany to Buffalo by the
employment of an "Exclusive Extra." He made an
arrangement with the proprietor of one of the regular
lines of coaches who agreed to furnish him a stage ex-
clusively for himself and family, all the way from Al-
bany to the Falls of Niagara for one hundred and fif-
teen dollars. It was stipulated that the entire trip
could be accomplished in three days or it could, if de-
sired, be extended three weeks. "In no other part of
America," says Captain Hall, "are there such facih-
ties for traveUing as we found on the road in question.
On the 14th of June, 1827, we left Albany to proceed
to the western country. Our first grand stage was
Niagara, but on the way to that celebrated spot we
expected to see the grand Erie Canal, the newly set-
tled districts along its banks, and many other inter-
esting objects besides." One of these was Trenton

"Our first day's journey took us to Schenec-
tady," says Captain Hall, "where we boarded the
packet boat. I cannot conceive a more beautiful
combination of verdure than we found along the Mo-
hawk Valley and, as the winding of the canal brought
us in sight of fresh vistas, new cultivation, new vil-


lages, mills, scattered dwellings, churches, all span
new, a boundless vision of novel interest stretched
out before us. 'Bridge, passengers, mind the low
bridge,' broke in upon our day-dreams and disturbed
our pleasure, as we had so frequently to step down
from off the deck to pass under one of the innumer-
able little bridges which cross the canal. It was at
first rather amusing to hop down and then hop up,
but after a time it grew wearisome and marred the
tranquility of the day. At Caughnawaga we set out
again in our 'extra stage' — one day of the canal was
quite enough." Captain Hall arrived on the 18th
in Utica, "a town recently built, with several church
spires rising over it, and standing near the canal."
From this point he makes the excursion to Trenton
Falls, which he declares are well worth seeing, but as
he is not so sure of their being equally acceptable in
description, he passes them by, adding, "I would by
no means recommend travellers to follow such an ex-
ample." Captain Hall's lifelong ambition was to see
Niagara and now, when so near the goal, it must have
been at considerable sacrifice of personal feeling that
he de toured to visit Trenton. "When my expiecta-
tions were about to be realized," he writes, "my feel-
ings were akin to what I experienced at St. Helena
when waiting in Napoleon's outer room, conscious
that I was separated from this astounding person
only by a door which was about to open. So it was
with Niagara when I knew that, at the next turn of
the road, I should behold the most splendid sight on



Harriet Martineau

Harriet Martineau richly supplies what Captain
Hall and certain other visitors to Trenton lack in de-
scription, and I quote several pages from her "Retro-
spect of Western Travel":

*'We proceeded by railroad from Albany to Schen-
ectady (October, 1834) and there stepped into a canal
boat for Utica. Oa fine days it is pleasant enough
sitting outside (except for having to duck under the
bridges every quarter of an hour, under penalty of
having one's head crushed to atoms), and in dark even-
ings the approach of the boat lights on the water is a
pretty sight; but the horrors of night and of wet days
more than compensate for all the advantages these
vehicles can boast. The heat and noise, the known
vicinity of a compressed crowd, lying packed like her-
rings in a barrel, the bumping against the sides of the
locks, and the hissing of water therein, like an inunda-
tion startling one from sleep; these things eu'e very
disagreeable. In addition to other discomforts we
passed the fine scenery of Little Falls in the night. I
was not aware what we had missed till I traversed the
Mohawk Valley by a better conveyance nearly two
years afterward. I have described this valley in my
other work on America and must, therefore, restrain
my pen from dwelling on its beauties here." One
feature of the inns noted by Miss Martineau was the
American propensity for rocking chairs — the ladies


were always rocking, and rocking chairs were every-
where in evidence. "It is well," she says, "that the
gentlemen can be satisfied to sit still, or the world
might be treated with the spectacle of the subHme
American Senate see-sawing in full deliberation. * *

" I was out early in the misty morning and was pres-
ently joined by the rest of my party, all looking eagerly
for signs of Utica being near. By eight o'clock we were
at the wharf. We thought Utica the most extempore
place we had yet seen. The streets running into the
woods, seemed to betoken that the place had sprung
out of some sudden need. How much more ancient
and respectable did it seem, after my return from the
West, where I had seen towns so much newer still ! We
were civilly received and accommodated at Bagg's
Hotel, where we knew how to value cold water, spa-
cious rooms, and retirement after the annoyances of
the boat.

"Our baggage-master was fortunate in securing a
neat, clean stage to take us to Trenton Falls (14 miles)
where we promised ourselves the pleasure of spending
the whole day, on condition of being off by five the
next morning, in order to accomplish the distance to
Syracuse in the course of the day. The reason for
our economy of time was not merely that it was late
in the season, and every day which kept us from the
Falls of Niagara of consequence, but that our German
friend, Mr. 0., was obhged to be back in New York by
a certain day. We clapped our hands at the sight of
the 'Rural Resort,' the comfortable, hospitable
house of entertainment at Trenton standing in its gar-


den on the edge of the forest, so unlike hotels on the
high road."

The party registered at the hotel October 8, 1834,
as follows:

*Miss Martineau, England.

Mrs. Jeffrey,

Dr. Julius, Hamburg, Germany.

Mr. Higham, South CaroUna.

Mr. Oppenheim, Hamburg, Germany.

Mr. Sellem, Holland.

"We ordered," continues Miss Martineau, "a late
dinner and proceeded to the falls. We had only to
follow a path in the pine forest for a few paces, and
we were at the edge of the ravine which encloses the
cascades. It is a pity that the Indian name is not re-
tained. Trenton Falls are called Cayoharic (Kauy-
ahoora) by the Indians. They are occasioned by
the descent of West Canada Creek through a ravine,
where it makes a succession of leaps from platforms
of rock, six of these falls being pretty easily accessible
by travellers. Much has been said of the danger of
the enterprise of ascending the ravine; but I saw no
peril to persons who are neither rash nor nervous.
The two accidents which have happened have, I be-
lieve, been owing, the one to extreme rashness, and the
other to sudden terror. From the edge of the ravine
the black water, speckled with white foam, is seen
rushing below with a swiftness which half turns the

*During their voyage across the Atlantic, Miss Martineau and her com"
panion, Mrs. Jeffrey, made up a party to tour the State of New York with
certain of their shipmates including " a German and a Dutch gentleman and
the Prussian physician and young South Carolinian."


head of the stranger. We descended five flights of
wooden steps fixed against the steep face of the rock,
and at the bottom found ourselves at the brink of the

" I was never in so dark and chill a place in the open
air ; yet the sun was shining on the opposite face of the
rock, lighting the one scarlet maple which stood out
from among the black cedars and dark green elms.
We selected our footing with a care which we were
quite ready to ridicule when we came back; and were
not above grasping the chain which is riveted into the
rock where the shelf which forms the path is narrowest
and where the angles are sharpest. The hollow is
here so filled with the voice of many waters, that no
other can be heard; and after many irreverent shouts
had been attempted, we gave up all attempts to con-
verse till we reached a quieter place. Being impa-
tient to see the first fall I went on before the rest, and
having cHmbed the flight of wooden steps, so wetted
with the spray of the fall as to be slippery as ice, I
stood on the platform under a covert of rock foaming
with the thunder of the waters, and saw my compan-
ions, one by one, turn the angle of the path and pause
in front of the sheet of liquid amber sprinkled with
snow. The path on which they stood seemed too nar-
row for human foot and, when discerning me, they
waved their hands, I trembled lest, disregarding their
footing, they should be swept away by the furious tor-
rent. When we found our heads turning with the rush
of the dark waters, we amused ourselves with admir-


ing the little wells in the rock, and the drip from the
roots of a cedar projecting from the top of the ravine,
a never-failing glittering shower. Between the fifth
and sixth fall there is a long tranquil reach of water,
and here we Hngered to rest our bewildered senses be-
fore entering upon the confusion of rocks through which
the sixth forces its way. We see-sawed upon a fallen
trunk, sent autumn leaves whirling down the stream,
and watched the endless dance of the balls of foam
which had found their way into the tiny creeks and
bays opposite, and could not get out again.

"Gay butterflies seemed quite at home in this ra-
vine. They flit through the very spray of the falls.
It seemed wonderful that an insect could retain its
frail Hfe in the midst of such an uproar. When the
sun in its course suddenly shone full into the glen, how
the cascade was instantly dressed in glory, crowned
with a rainbow and invested with all radiant hues!
How the poor banished Indians must mourn when the
lights of their Cayoharic (Kauyahoora) visit their
senses again in the dreams of memory or of sleep!
The recollections of these poor exiles was an ever-pres-
ent saddening thought in the midst of all the most
beautiful scenes of the New World.

"When we had surmounted the sixth fall, we saw
indeed that we could go no farther. A round projec-
tion of rock, without trace of a foothold, barred us
from the privacy of the upper ravine. The falls there
are said to be as beautiful as any that we saw, and it
is to be hoped that, by blasting a pathway or by some


other means, they also may be laid open to the affec-
tions of happy visitors. They have been seen and re-
ported of. A friend of mine has told me, since I was
there, how Bryant the poet and himself behaved like
two thoughtless boys in this place. Clambering about
by themselves one summer day, when their wives had
gone back to the house, they were irresistibly tempted
to pass the barrier and see what lay beyond. They
met with so many difficulties and so much beauty
higher up, that they forgot all about time, till they
found themselves in utter darkness. They hastened
to grope their way homeward through the forest and
were startled after a while by shouts and moving lights.
Till that moment they never recollected how alarmed
their wives must be. It was past 10 o'clock and the
poor ladies had got people from the neighborhood to
go out with torches, little expecting to see their hus-
bands come walking home, with nothing the matter
with them but hunger and shame. I hope the ladies
were exceedingly angry when their panic was over.

"The forest at the top of the ravine was a study to
me, who had yet seen but little forest. Moss cush-
ioned all the roots of the trees ; hibiscus overspread the
ground; among the pine stems there was a tangle of
unknown shrubs, and a brilliant bird, scarlet except
its black wings, hovered about as if it had no fear of
us. Before we returned the moon hung like a gem
over the darkness of the ravine. I spent another
happy day among these falls some months after, and
was yet more impressed with their singularity and


beauty. * * * * We left the place a little after
five in the morning, in a dismal rain. While break-
fasting at Utica we engaged an 'Exclusive Extra' to
carry us to Bujffalo for eighty dollars, the precise route
being agreed upon, and the choice of times and sea-
sons to remain with us. On going out to our carriage
we found the steps of the hotel occupied by a number
of persons, some from Boston, who offered me wel-
come to the country, and any information or assistance
I might need. One gentleman put into my hand a
letter of introduction to an influential friend of his at
Cincinnati, as it was understood I was going there.
So from this strange place, where I had spent above
two hours, we drove off amid a variety of friendly

"This day I first saw a log house and first felt my-
self admitted into the sanctuary of the forest. These
things made the day full of interest to me, though the
rain scarcely ceased from morning till night. Well-
settled farms were numerous along the road, but in
the intervals were miles of forests; daik thronging
trees with their soft gay summits. Till now the au-
tumn woods had appeared at a distance too red and
rusty; these when looked into were the meeting of all
harmonious colors. The cleared hoflows and slopes,
with the forest ever advancing or receding, are as fine
to the imagination as any natural language can be. I
looked for an Indian or two standing on the forest
verge, within a shade as dusky as himself, but for this
I had to w£dt another day."


Miss Martineau paid her second visit to Trenton
Falls, June 2, 1836, in company with some of the warm-
est and noblest of the friends she made in America,
by her fearless espousal of the Abolition cause — Mr.
and Mrs. Ellis Gray Loring and Dr. and Mrs. Follen
of Boston.

Captain Frederick Marryat

In July, 1837, the EngHsh novelist, Captain Marryat,
came directly from Saratoga Springs to Utica on a
through express, to visit Trenton Falls. He says in
his "Diary in America": "There is one disadvan-
tage attending railroads. Travellers proceed more
rapidly, but they lose all the beauty of the country.
Railroads, of course, run through the most level por-
tions of the states, which are invariably uninteresting.
The road from Schenectady to Utica is one of the ex-
ceptions to this rule. There is not, perhaps, a more
beautiful variety of scenery to be found anywhere.
You run the whole way through the lovely valley of the
Mohawk on the banks of the river. It was really de-
lightful, but the motion was so rapid that you lamented
passing by so fast. The Utica railroad is one of the
best in America; the eighty miles are performed in
four hours and a half, stoppages for taking in water,
passengers and refreshments, included. The locomo-
tive was of great power, and as it snorted along with a
train of carriages of a half a mile in tow, it threw out
such showers of fire, that we were constantly in danger


"Time, glorious river, may change thy fall.
Never the picture on memory's wall"


of conflagration. The weather was too warm to ad-
mit of the windows being closed, and the ladies, as-
sisted by the gentlemen, were constantly employed in
putting out the sparks which settled on their clothes.
As the evening closed in we were actually whirled along
through a stream of fiery threads, a beautiful, although
humble imitation of the tail of a comet.

*'A tremendous thunder-storm, with torrents of
rain, prevented my leaving Utica for Trenton Falls
until late in the afternoon. The roads, ploughed up
by the rain, were anything but democratic; there was
no level in them, and we were jolted and shaken hke
peas in a rattle, until we were silent from absolute

" I rose the next morning (July 20th) at four o'clock.
There was a heavy fog in the air, and you could not
distinguish more than one hundred yards before you.
I followed the path pointed out to me the night before,
through a forest of majestic trees, and descending a
long flight of steps found myself below the falls. The
scene impressed me with awe — the waters roared
through the deep chasm between two waUs of rock,
one hundred and fifty feet high, waUs of black carbon-
ate of Hme in perfectly horizontal strata, so equaUy
divided that they appeared Hke sohd masonry. For
fifty or sixty feet above the rushing waters they were
smooth and bare; above that Une vegetation com-
menced with small bushes, reaching to their summits,
which were crowned with splendid forest trees, some
of them inclining over the chasm, as if they would


peep into the abyss below and witness the wild tumult
of the waters.

"From the narrowness of the pass, the height of the
rocks, and the superadded towering of the trees above,
but a small portion of the heavens was to be seen, and
this was not blue, but of a misty murky gray. The
first sensation was that of dizziness and confusion,
from the unusual absence of the sky above, and the
dashing frantic speed of the angry boihng waters. The
rocks have been blasted so as to form a path by which
you may walk up to the first fall; but this path was at
times very narrow, and you have to cling to the chain
which is let into the rock. The heavy storm of the
day before had swelled the torrent so that it rose nearly
a foot above this path ; and before I had proceeded far,
I found that the flood swept between my legs with a
force which would have taken some people off their
feet. The rapids below the falls are much grander
than the falls themselves; there was one down in a
chasm between two riven rocks which it was painful
to look upon, and watch with what a deep plunge — what
irresistible force the waters dashed down and then re-
turned to their own surface, as if strugghng and out
of breath. As I stood over them in their wild career,
listening to their roaring as if in anger, and watching
the madness of their speed, I felt a sensation of awe —
an inward acknowledgment of the tremendous power
of Nature; and, after a time, I departed with feehngs
of gladness to escape from thought which became
painful when so near to danger.


"I gained the lower falls, which now covered the
whole width of the rock, which they seldom do except
during freshets. They were extraordinary from their
variety. On the side where I stood, poured down a
rapid column of water; on the other it was running
over a clear, thin stream, as gentle and amiable as
water could be. That part of the fall reminded me
of ladies' hair in flowing ringlets, and the one nearest
me of Lord Chancellor Eldon, in all the pomposity
and frowning dignity of his full-bottomed wig. And
then I thought of the lion and the lamb, not lying
down, but falling down together; and then I thought
I was wet through, which was a fact." (Captain Mar-
ryat says, when he reached the hotel at the close of
the day, that he had no guides to pay, but that Na-
ture had made a very considerable levy upon his ward-
robe; his boots were bursting, his trousers were torn
to fragments, and his hat was ruined.) "I chmbed
up a ladder and came to a wooden bridge above the
fall, which conveyed me to the other side. The bridge
passes over a staircase of little falls, which is very pic-
turesque. On the other side I climbed up a ladder of
one hundred feet, and arrived at a little building where
travellers are refreshed. Here you have a view of aU
the upper falls, but these seem tame after witnessing
the savage impetuosity of the rapids below." Cap-
tain Marryat climbed still more steps and followed
the forest path until he reached the summit of the
cHff directly over the High Falls, where he says: "This
scene is splendid. The black perpendicular rocks on


the other side; the succession of falls; the rapids roaring
below; the forest trees rising to the clouds with occa-
sional ghmpses of the skies — all this induces you to
wander with your eyes from one point of view to an-
other, never tiring of its beauty, wildness and vastness:
if you do not exclaim with the Mussulman, God is
great! you feel it through every sense, and at every
pulsation of the heart."

Washington Irving

That Washington Irving was deeply impressed with
the scenic wonders of America after his second visit
to Europe, is shown in a letter written at Trenton Falls
to his brother Peter, residing in Paris. In the summer
of 1832, shortly after his return to his native land,
after seventeen years absence, accompanied by his
friends. Count de Pourtales and Charles J. Latrobe,
he set out upon an extensive western tour. From
Saratoga Springs the party proceeded to Trenton
Falls whence he writes his brother, August 15th:
"This place has arisen into notice since your depar-
ture from America. The falls are uncommonly beau-
tiful, and are situated on West Canada Creek, the
main branch of the Mohawk, within sixteen miles of
Utica. My tour thus far has been through a contin-
ued succession of beautiful scenes; indeed, the natural
beauties of the United States strike me infinitely more
than they did before my residence in Europe. We
are now in a clean, airy, well furnished hotel, on a hill


with a broad, beautiful prospect in front, and forests
on all the other sides. Our table is excellent and we
are enjoying as pure and dehghtful breezes as I did
in the Alhambra. The murmur of the neighboring
waterfalls lulls me to a dehcious summer nap, and in
the morning and evening I have glorious bathing in

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Online LibraryCharlotte Agnes (Uhlein) PitcherThe golden era of Trenton Falls → online text (page 3 of 6)