Charlotte Agnes (Uhlein) Pitcher.

The golden era of Trenton Falls online

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the clear waters of the Httle river."

The marvelous view of the High Falls which charmed
every visitor was fittingly christened "Irving Point,"
in commemoration of this great American's unbounded
admiration for the inspiring scene.

Latrobe's "Rambles in North America" con-
tains this allusion to the visit to Trenton Falls
referred to by Washington Irving. "On leaving
Saratoga Springs we proceeded up the lovely valley
of the Mohawk — the earth hardly contains one more
deserving of the epithet — to Utica about one hundred
miles distant. There we left the Great Western Road
and, turning to the northward, buried ourselves in the
delicious woods and dells of Trenton Falls, one of the
most interesting localities in the state. This clear
stream dashes over successive cascades in the depth
of one of the most interesting ravines, both for its
natural scenery and geological structure in the coun-
try."



56 THE GOLDEN ERA



William Dunlap

In 1814, when the British attacked the National
Capital, Washington Irving offered his services to his
country, and Governor Daniel B. Tompkins of New
York, immediately appointed him his aide and military
secretary. "Colonel" Washington Irving at once se-
cured material assistance for a struggling artist friend
by suggesting to Governor Tompkins the appointment
of William Dunlap, later founder of the National Acad-
emy of Design and a pupil of Benjamin West, as As-
sistant Paymaster General of the State of New York.
Mr. Dunlap was busily engaged painting portraits
when notified of his appointment, and he writes thus
of his itinerary through the state in the performance
of his duties: "In paying off mihtia from Montauk
Point to Lake Erie, I practiced my profession more
than ever as an artist. A habit of early rising and
pedestrian exercise gave me time to visit and make
drawings of interesting spots within several miles of
the place at which I was to labor the remainder of the
(jg^y ***** jjj ^Yie spring of 1823 I was in-
vited by James H. Hackett, since so well known as a
comedian, then keeping a store at Utica, to come to
that place, with assurances of his engaging some work
for my pencil. I proceeded from Albany, whence I
took letters from Samuel Hopkins and Stephen Van
Rensselaer to gentlemen in Utica, and in due time



OF TRENTON FALLS 57

arrived at Bagg's Hotel by stage, where I had boarded
for some time in 1815 when acting as paymaster. I
noted with astonishment the growth of the town since
my visit eight years before. Mr. Hackett received me
cordially, and I found old acquaintances in James and
Walter Cochrane, and made lasting friends in John H.
Lothrop, Esq., Cashier of the Bank of Ontario, Ed-
mund A. Wetmore, since his son-in-law, and Mr.
Walker and his son Thomas. In short, during a
spring and summer residence, I became much at home
in Utica and painted a number of portraits. With my
taste for the picturesque and more for rambhng, it
may be supposed that I did not miss the opportunity
the neighborhood afforded of visiting Trenton Falls,
to which place I rode once and once walked, stopping
a day and making sketches."

Alexander Mackaye

Among illustrious Enghshmen who came to Trenton
in the good old days, were Alexander Mackaye and
Anthony TroUope. The former, an eminent journal-
ist, traveled much in America and pubHshed in 1849
"The Western World," in three volumes, the most
complete work upon the United States which had yet
appeared. Mr Mackaye came from Niagara in the
month of August, 1847, and was charmed with the beau-
ties of the Genesee country as he journeyed through
western New York.

Like all foreigners he was amazed at the strangely



58 THE GOLDEN ERA

incongruous nomenclature of the region and says:
"Names are jumbled together in ludicrous juxtaposi-
tion ; sometimes one and the same county in the New
World contains two towns for which there was scarcely
room enough on two continents in the Old ; a singular
circumstance, when one considers the many beautiful
and expressive Indian names which might have been
appropriated. Leaving Niagara, one of the first places
you meet is Attica, from which a single stage brings
you to Batavia. A little to the east of Rochester you
pass through Egypt to Palmyra, whence you pro-
ceed to Vienna, and shortly afterwards arrive at
Geneva. Ithaca is some distance off to the right,
while Syracuse, Rome, Utica, follow in succession to
the eastward. It is a pity that the people have not
contented themselves with indigenous names."

Emerging from the long stretch of dense forest, the
"Oneida Woods," Mr. Mackaye reached the Mohawk
Valley and soon found himself in Utica, of which he
says: "This is a fine town with from twelve to fifteen
thousand inhabitants. The Erie Canal passes through
the center of it, and it is crossed at right angles by the
noble Genesee street which, as seen from the canal
bridge, is exceedingly striking." Mr." Mackaye was re-
minded of his visit to Utica a few years before, when
he strolled into the Supreme Court of the State, then
in session in the city, and found James Fenimore
Cooper trying his own case against William L. Stone,
editor of a New York paper, whom he had sued for
libel.



OF TRENTON FALLS 59

"The tourist," writes Mr. Mackaye, "should always
make a halt at Utica to visit the falls of Trenton in its
neighborhood. On the morning after my arrival I
hired a conveyance and proceeded to them. Imme-
diately upon leaving the city I crossed the Mohawk —
here a sluggish stream of insignificant dimensions.
Moore must have seen it much lower down, ere
he could speak of the 'mighty Mohawk.' The road
then led, for nearly a couple of miles, over a tract
of rich bottom land, as flat as the fertile levels of the
Genesee valley. It then rose for the next six miles
by a succession of gentle slopes, which constitute the
northern side of the valley of the Mohawk. On reach-
ing the summit I turned to look at the prospect behind
me. It was magnificent. The valley in its entire
breadth lay beneath me. As far as the eye could reach
it was cultivated like a garden. On the opposite side
of the river, whose serpentine course I could trace for
miles, lay Utica, its skylights and tin roofs glistening
like silver in the mid-day sun. The opposite side of
the valley was dotted with villages, some of which
were plainly visible to me, although from twelve to
twenty miles distant in a straight aerial line. For
the rest of the way to Trenton the road descended by
a series of sloping terraces, similar to those by which it
had risen from the valley.

"After taking some refreshment at the hotel, which
is beautifully situated, spacious and comfortable, and
which at the time was full of visitors, I descended the
precipitous bank to look at the falls. I dropped by a



60 THE GOLDEN ERA

steep, zigzag staircase of prodigious length, to the mar-
gin of the stream, which flowed in a volume as black
as ink over its gray rocky bed. Frowning precipices
rose for some distance on either side, overhung with
masses of rich, dark green foliage. A projecting mass
of rock immediately on my left seemed to interpose
an effectual barrier to my progress up the stream.
But on examining it more carefully, I found it begirt
with a narrow ledge overhanging the water, along which
a person with a tolerably cool head could manage to
proceed by laying hold of the chain, fastened for his
use to the precipice on his left. On doubling this point
the adventurous tourist is recompensed for all the
risks incurred by the sight which he obtains of the
lower fall. It is exceedingly grand, but it is the accom-
panying scenery, more than the cataract itself, that
excites your admiration. The opposite bank is high
and steep, but not precipitous, and is buried in ver-
dure; whilst that on which you stand rises for about
two hundred feet like a gray wall beside you. * * *
Climbing from ledge to ledge, the friendly chain aiding
you, every now and then in your course you find your-
self on a line with the upper level of the fall. Here the
cataract next in order comes in full view, and a mag-
nificent object it is, as its broken and irregular aspect
rivets your attention. It is by far the largest fall of
the whole series, being, in fact, more like two falls
close together, than one. There are two successive
plunges, the first being perpendicular, and the second,
a short but fierce rapid foaming between them, being



OF TRENTON FALLS 61

divided into a succession of short leaps by the jagged
and irregular ledge over which it is taken. By the
time you reach the level of the top of this fall, by
climbing the steep and slippery rock, you reach the
wooded part of the bank. Your progress is now com-
paratively easy, the path occasionally leading you be-
neath the refreshing shade of the large and lofty trees.
Below you had the naked rock rising in one unbroken
volume precipitously overhead; but you have now on
either side what may be regarded more as the ruin of
rock, the trees with which both banks are covered
springing, for most part, from between huge detached
masses, which seem to have been confusedly hurled
from some neighboring height.

"The channel of the stream is broad and shallow up
to the next fall, which in its dimensions and appearance,
resembles a mill-dam. Above, the river contracts
again, until in some places it is only a few yards wide,
where it foams and roars as it rushes in delicious whirl
over its rocky bed. A little way up is the last cataract,
the most interesting in some respects, although the
smallest of all (the Cascade of the Alhambra). To
pass it you have to turn a projecting point, the narrow
footpath bringing you almost in contact with the rush-
ing tide. Here the chain is almost indispensable for
safety. The gorge through which the West Can-
ada Creek here forces its way, is about two miles in
length. I managed with great difficulty, and with the
aid of a guide, to ascend it to the small village above,
returning to the hotel by the open road leading along
the top of the bank."



62 THE GOLDEN ERA



TRENTON FALLS

"Thine is the charm, O Kauyahoora bright!
'Tis not the infant cascade's airy dress
Nor old Niagara's sacerdotal robe
That clothes thy stream between these knightly cliffs;
But, in the amber, seemly and mature,
Of rich experience and hopeful strength
Thou'rt clad; and when Apollo from his height
Above the trees (Briareus-like that lift
Their hundred arms aloft in mute surprise)
Smiles on thee, thou in turn dost smile.
The golden glory of thy graceful form,
With silver sandals shod, moves down the slope
In conscious loveliness and majesty.
Far down below, I mark the fretted foam
Dash on the broad-tiled roof, beneath whose eaves
The water-sprites must dwell. These issue forth
Anon in merry troops to sweep away
The vagrant spray, that, like a diamond dust
Bestrews the verdure of thy lichened walls."

L. V. F. Randolph.




HIGH FALLS FROM IRVING POINT



OF TRENTON FALLS 63



Anthony Trollope

Hastening from Buffalo to New York in the fall of
1861, the novelist, Anthony Trollope, writes in his
work entitled "North America": "We had before
us only two points of interest — the Falls of Trenton
and West Point. The hotel at Trenton was closed for
the season, I was told, but even if there were no hotel
there the place can be visited without difficulty, as it
is within carriage drive of Utica, and there is a direct
railway from Utica with a station at Trenton Falls.
Utica is a town on the line of railway from Buffalo to
New York via Albany, and is like all the other towns
we have visited. There are broad streets, and ave-
nues of trees, and leirge shops, and excellent houses. A
general air of fat prosperity pervades them all, and is
strong at Utica as elsewhere.

"I remember to have been told thirty years ago that
a traveller might go far and wide in search of the pic-
turesque, without finding a spot more romantic in its
loveliness than Trenton Falls. The name of the river
is Canada Creek West; but as that is hardly euphoni-
ous, the course of the water which forms the falls has
been called after the town or parish. This course is
nearly two miles in length, and along the space it is
impossible to state where the greatest beauty exists.
To see Trenton aright one must be careful not to have
too much water. If there is too much the passage up



eU THE GOLDEN ERA

the rocks along the river is impossible. The way on
which the tourist should walk becomes the bed of the
stream, and the great charm of the place cannot be
enjoyed. That charm consists in descending into the
ravine of the river, down amidst the rocks through
which it has cut its channel, and in walking up the bed
against the stream, and in climbing the sides of the
various falls, every foot of the way being wildly beau-
tiful. * * * * Up i^eyond the summer-house the
passage along the river can be continued another mile,
but it is rough, and the climbing in some places rather
difficult for ladies. Every man, however, should do
it, for the succession of rapids, the twisting of the chan-
nels, and the forms of the rocks are as wild and beau-
tiful as the imagination can desire. The banks of the
river are closely wooded on each side; and though this
circumstance does not at first seem to add much to the
beauty, seeing that the ravine is so deep that the ab-
sence of wood above would hardly be noticed, still
there are broken clefts ever and anon through which
the colors of the foliage show themselves, and add to
the wildness and charm of the whole.

"The walk back from the summer-house through
the wood is very lovely; but it would be a disappoint-
ing walk to visitors who have been prevented by a
flood in the river from coming up the channel, for it
indicates plainly how requisite it is that the river
should be seen from below and not from above. The
best view of the larger fall is that seen from the wood
(Irving Point). We found a small hotel open at Tren-



OF TRENTON FALLS 65

ton, at which we got a comfortable dinner, and then
in the evening were driven back to Utica."

An entertaining book on the United States and
Canada, entitled "Life and Liberty in America,"
was published in 1859 by the EngHsh poet, author and
lecturer, Charles Mackaye. He did not visit the pop-
ular Trenton Falls, and he tells us why, in the sketches
of his tour in this country. "Early in November,
1857," Mr. Mackaye writes, "I took the train at Bos-
ton for Niagara. My first resting place was Albany,
the next Utica, where it was my original intention to
remain two or three days to visit the Trenton Falls, as
beautiful, though not so grand as Niagara, though by
many travellers preferred to the more stupendous
marvel of the two. But on learning that the hotel,
the only house in the place, had long been closed for
the season, I held on my way. A sudden fall of snow
just as I was debating the question, was the last feather
that broke the back of the camel of Doubt and made
me press on to my journey's end."

Mrs. M. C. Houstoun

In the thirties an English author, Mrs. Houstoun,
visited America, and the result was two volumes
of description of sights and scenes in the New World
entitled, "Hesperus, or Travels in the West." Mrs.
Houstoun landed in Boston in October, proceeded
to Albany, and pushed on to Niagara with all haste,
lest the trees should be denuded of their beautiful au-



66 THE GOLDEN ERA

tumn foliage before she reached the object of her
dreams. But Trenton lay in her way and she could
not pass it by ! Enroute the rich valley of the Mohawk
excited her admiration, of which she says: "After
passing Schenectady we travelled through some ex-
ceedingly beautiful scenery. During the latter part
of the day's journey we passed through several pleas-
ant looking villages, the beauty of one of which deserves
to be recorded by the magic pen of Miss Mitford her-
self. It lay imbedded between high granite rocks,
from the clefts in which the pine and the cypress shot
their dark green foliage; while a beautiful fall of the
Mohawk dashed along through the narrow valley, and
glistened and sparkled in the sunshine. Altogether, I
thought it one of the most lovely spots on which my
eye had ever rested. Its name is Little Falls. * * * *
I never saw so busy a place as Utica. The stores,
which are large and handsome, seem to contain every-
thing that the most unreasonable person could possi-
bly desire, and the demand was evidently as great as
the supply. This was the more remarkable, from the
circumstance that Utica has sprung up with mush-
room-Uke rapidity in the very heart of the wilderness.
The Erie Canal and the railroad, both of which run
through the town, have done wonders for it, and the
surrounding country is one of the richest and best cul-
tivated in the United States. We have taken up our
quarters at Bleecker's Hotel; it is an immense build-
ing, but a considerable portion of it is shut up for the
season.




THE CASCADE OF THE ALHAMBRA WHERE THE WATERS '"LEAP AND
FOAM AND play"



OF TRENTON FALLS 67

"Of course, the main object of our curiosity was
the celebrated Trenton Falls, and we lost no time grat-
ifying it. The morning after our arrival, therefore, we
arose betimes and having hired a hght barouche,
drawn by a pair of good shaped, active horses, we pre-
pared to set off on our expedition. The distance
to the falls is about fifteen miles, and the owner
of the vehicle informed us that the road was 'first-
rate.' The morning was fine, and a crowd of well-
wishers were assembled at the door of the hotel to
see the Britishers off. The landlord took especial
care in providing for our comfort, and as we rattled
off, there was a cheering shout 'AH right!' 'Go ahead!'
which was heard half way down the street. We
had not proceeded far when we began to suspect
that the 'first-rate' road of which we had heard ex-
isted only in the imagination of the livery stable
keeper. Nothing, in short, but the distant hope
of arriving at last at Trenton Falls would have sup-
ported us through the bumping and jolting we under-
went. (This was before the highway had been im-
proved by the building of the plank road in 1851.) In
the course of three hours, and not before— for there is
much up-hill and down-hill work— we reached the inn
to which travellers in search of the picturesque must
betake themselves, for it is the only house in sight of
the falls. The hotel is situated on the borders of the
forest, and looks over a great extent of country; but on
arriving at its door, which stood invitingly open, we
were quite unprepared to find such grand scenery so



68 THE GOLDEN ERA

immediately in its neighborhood. Owing to the late-
ness of the season, the house was nearly without in-
habitants.

"Guides or helps there were none, but we were told
that we could not mistake our way to the falls; so, with-
out delay, we followed the path pointed out to us. On
arriving at the high bank of the river, which is a few
hundred yeu-ds from the hotel, we descended the long
flight of steps and found ourselves at the bottom of a
chasm down which the river rushes with inconceivable
force. The platform on which we stood was a smooth
slab of stone, broad, level and slippery, and the black and
brawling stream was on a level with this natural pave-
ment. The river was not wide, and as we watched it
pursuing its vexed and tumultuous course within a few
feet of where we stood, I could almost have fancied it
some living thing, fretting at the vast and insurmount-
able impediments which nature had placed in its way.
On either side of it rose perpendicular rocks of black
limestone, the strata being so exactly horizontal and
equal in thickness, that one could hardly help imagining
it to be the work of human hands. About half way up
these natural and fearful boundaries grew small and
stunted trees, clinging for life to the narrow fissures
in the rocks and bending down their heads towards
the mighty torrent. Above these dwarf cypress and
hemlock shrubs, rose high in air the giant trees of
the primeval forests, which nearly met above our
heads. And there above was the glorious sky, reduced
to a narrow strip of blue by distance, and the awful



OF TRENTON FALLS 69

rocks on either side of us. We turned our eyes upward
to gaze on it, and then the sensation of awe and
wonder was complete.

"At this time the falls were still hidden from our
view by a projecting elbow in the rock, at the very
base of which the angry waters rushed with tenfold
impetuosity. Round this point it was absolutely nec-
essary that we should make our way, with the waters
boiling at our feet. The path along which we had to
creep was very narrow, and I clung to the chain with
a grasp rendered convulsive by a sense of the immi-
nent danger of our position. Having rounded the
point I was amply repaid for all the terror I had un-
dergone. The gorge beyond it becomes considerably
wider, and as we looked up the stream a succession of
magnificent waterfalls greeted our sight. The lowest
was spanned by a frail bridge, but to attempt to de-
scribe the scene upon which we gazed from it would
be in vain. A wild waste of glittering and turbulent
waters below, and the glorious forests above and about
us, formed a picture which must be seen ere it can be
appreciated.

"When we returned to our inn by the way we had
come, our host urged us to take a view of the falls from
some high ground about a mile and a half from the
house. The view from this point was, he assured us,
even more beautiful than the one we had seen. But we
had had (for that day at least) enough of such exciting
scenes, and we agreed to spend the night and put off
till the next day the sequel of sight-seeing. The sun



70 THE GOLDEN ERA

rose in all its bright autumnal beauty and saw us early
on foot; and that forest walk, even if there had been
no cataract view at the end of it, would, I think, have
repaid me for any exertion. We did not miss our way,
though we had great difficulty in tracing the path, so
completely was it hidden by fallen leaves. After a
time, however, the task became easier as the distant
roar of the falls guided us to the spot from whence we
were to view them. The trees grew very closely to-
gether, and much of their foliage was gone, though
enough still remained for beauty, and the tints were
exquisite. A thick undergrowth of sycamore and yew
covered the ground, while here and there a fallen tree,
green with the moss of years, and shaded by fern leaves,
offered a tempting seat. Many a little grey squirrel,
startled by our voices, tripped up the stems of the
trees, or sprang from one leafless bough to another for
greater security. I neither saw nor heard a single
bird, though the day was warm, and the sun shone
brightly. Many, I suppose, had already taken their
early flight to some brighter land, like sensible birds
as they were, for a winter in this rigorous climate
would not leave many alive to tell the tale of their
sufl'erings. The falls, above which, after many rest-
ings and delays, we arrived at last, are indeed beau-
tiful. I was able to approach near enough to feel
the light spray upon my face, and to find our voices
perfectly inaudible by the din of the falling waters.
There is a perpendicular rock over which the water
falls from the height of a hundred feet. In the cen-



OF TRENTON FALLS 71

ter the fierce torrent divides, leaving the rock bare
for a considerable space. At the base of the rock
the two torrents unite again on a broad flat surface
from which they again descend, boiHng and foaming
down rocky steps and gigantic stones, till the whole
falls together into the deep. natural basin I have be-
fore attempted to describe. ********
I have said what I could of Trenton Falls, but after
having done so, I 'am only the more convinced of the
utter impossibihty of conveying to the mind of another
any adequate idea of the reality of their overpowering
beauty."

James Russell Lowell

My keen enjoyment and zest in the compilation of
this offering to one of Nature's master-pieces reached
its culmination when I discovered James Russell Low-
ell and his lovely young wife, Maria White, at Trenton
Falls— and this in company with that captivating
little woman, the Swedish novehst, Fredrika Rremer!
In her "Homes of the New World," pubhshed in 1853,
she has presented no more charming picture than life
at Elmwood, as she found it when she visited the Low-
ell's in December, 1849.

"Such a handsome, happy couple," she writes, "one


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Online LibraryCharlotte Agnes (Uhlein) PitcherThe golden era of Trenton Falls → online text (page 4 of 6)