Charlotte Agnes (Uhlein) Pitcher.

The golden era of Trenton Falls online

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can hardly imagine. He is full of fife and youthful
ardor, and she is one of the most lovable women I have
met in this country, because her beauty is full of soul
and grace, as is everything which she does and says."


Lowell's impression of their honored guest is recorded
in this letter to an intimate friend: "Fredrika Bremer
stayed three weeks with us, and I do not like her, I love
her. She is one of the most beautiful persons I have
ever known — so clear, so simple, so right-minded and
hearted, and so full of judgment. I believe she liked
us, too, and had a good time."

Ideal traveling companions they, and we can fancy
with what enthusiasm the three planned a pleasure
trip together! Before Miss Bremer left Boston to
visit the southern states, she agreed to meet the "young
Lowells" the next summer to visit Niagara, which
Mrs. Lowell had never seen. I take up Miss Bre-
mer's account in September, 1850, when the paity set
out at Albany to enjoy the long anticipated treat:
"The journey was glorious through the beautiful,
fertile Mohawk Valley. The sun shone brilliantly
over the rich landscape as we flew along the excellent
railroad toward the West — the land of promise. My
young friends enjoyed it as much as I did.

" In the evening we arrived at Utica, where we were
to remain one night. And while Maria rested, and
James made arrangements for our next day's journey
to Trenton Falls, I went out on an exploratory journey
into the little city with the old republican name. 'I
will go and look after Cato,' thought I to myself; 'per-
haps he walks here once more.' And that he does,
although in metamorphosis; that is to say, I saw upon
the corners of two houses a printed placard, upon
which I read, ' The tailoresses of the city of Utica call


a meeting at , next Wednesday, to consider

what means can be taken to remove the oppressions
under which we labor, and how we can best obtain
cm* rights.'

"Stern old advocate of the rights of the people who
wouldst not live where thou sawest them destroyed
by the hands of Caesar! old magnanimous Cato, who
didst die for repubHcan freedom — thou art the victor
after all! That which thou desiredst, that for which
thou foughtest, is here in this new repubhc, a hving
reahty two thousand years afterward. I see and read
it here; even the lowest of the people may stand up
for their rights, may make their speeches in the state's
forum, equally with the most powerful, and obtain
justice. Old republican, thou hast conquered! Thy
spirit lives here mightier than in ancient Rome. 'The
tailoresses of the city of Utica' prove this in the city
which bears the name of thy birthplace. Pity only
that they had not drawn their advertisement better!
But that is of less consequence, as its purport is clear.

"Thus I returned home, glad to have met the spirit
of Cato, and to have seen in Utica many pretty and
tastefully built houses surrounded by plantations.
The streets in the lesser cities of America are a suc-
cession of small detached villas, with their grass plots,
elegant iron palisading, and fine trees in front of the
houses. It is only in those portions of the towns in
which shops are to be found that the houses are built
close together, and rather with an eye to the advan-
tage of business than for beauty. Still, a handsome


appearance and good proportion are never lost sight
of, and everywhere order and neatness prevail.

" 'Do you live happily and contentedly here in this
city?' inquired I of a young shopman, who looked par-
ticularly agreeable.

" 'Oh, yes, indeed,' replied he frankly and cor-
dially; 'we have good friends, good neighbors, and
everything good. We could not wish it better.' An
unusual state of happiness and contentment!

"The next day we went with a carriage and horses
to Trenton, in order to see the waterfall, which is
cousin to Niagara in reputation. It is a wild and vio-
lent fall, hurhng itself through an immense chasm of
rock directly down a height of certainly a quarter of
an English mile. The water, which has the color of
clear sherry, leaps from between the lofty, dark walls
of rock, Uke a Berserk, from ledge to ledge in the wild-
est tumult, gleaming in the sun, tumbling into abysses,
leaping up over masses of rock and trunks of trees,
rending down and overwhelming everything in its ca-
reer, flinging forth cascades of spray right and left into
the wood, which stands as if dumb and trembling while
the mighty giant hero passes by. It is magnificent;
but too violent, too headlong. One is deafened by
the thundering roar, and almost bhnded by the impet-
uosity with which the masses of water are hurled for-
ward. One becomes weeiried by it, as one does by
anything extravagant, let it be as grand as it may ; one
cannot hear one's own thoughts, much less those of
others, even if they are shouted into one's ears. One



is out-talked, outdone, out-maddened by the giant's
Berserker madness. Alone in its clear and glowing
color could I see the divine fire, and when standing on
a rocky terrace by the side of the fall, I took off my
bonnet and let the spray rain over me, as it was flung
down from the water like a mist; I then felt that the
Mighty One could be even gentle and refreshing.

"The scenery at Trenton is wild and picturesquely
beautiful, but circumscribed. It is of Berserker char-
acter. We spent the whole day at Trenton (Septem-
ber 3, 1850), in company with the giant and the scen-
ery around. The inn was a good and comfortable
one, as are nearly afl the inns in this country, and was
situated in a romantic stretch of dale scenery. We
ate weU and slept well, and the next day we returned
to Utica, and thence pursued our journey still farther


Five years later James Russell Lowell came to Tren-
ton again, but how different the scene, how changed
the circumstances! Kauyahoora's voice was still—
the ice king had conquered the giant Berserk— and he

was alone.

Some years ago when browsing in the rich field of
Lowell's correspondence I discovered his charming
description of Trenton Falls in winter, and withal a
lovely picture of the ideal family life at the inn. It
was in March, 1855, that this American poet and es-
sayist paused at Utica when enroute to the west to fill
several lecture engagements. After describing some
disagreeable features of his journey in a letter to a


Cambridge friend, dated Madison, Wisconsin, April
9, 1855, he says: "I like to keep my promises, and as
I have had one very pleasant adventure, I will try to
meike a letter of it. I have a nice httle oasis to talk
about. I arrived, then, at Bagg's Hotel in Utica,
which (the hotel) has a railroad running through it —
so you may fancy how pleasant it is — to dinner, and
it occurred to me that it was Saturday, that I was only
twelve miles from Trenton Falls, and that I had no
engagement till Monday evening. To the falls, then,
I would go and spend Sunday. Mr. Baggs assured
me that it would be in vain; that Mr. Moore at Tren-
ton would not 'take anybody in' (so he dubiously
phrased it) in winter; that I should have my cold drive
for my pains. I had travelled enough not to take
anything for granted — so I hired a 'cutter' and a pair
of horses and a huge buffalo skin coat to drive, and set
out. It was snowy and blowy and cold, and part of
the way the snow was level with the backs of the horses
(Bison-skin had prophesied it, but I did not believe
till I saw)— think of it, on the 24th of March! We
drove fast in spite of the deep snow, for we 'had the
pootiest pair o' colts that went out o' Utiky,' and in
about an hour and a half drew up in front of the huge
deserted hotel, its dark color looking drearier in con-
trast with the white snow and under the gathering
twilight. I tried the front door in vain. The roll of
skins suggested a door below. I went, knocked, and
a grave, respectable man in black (looking not the


least like an American landlord) opened the door and
said, 'Good evening, sir.'

" 'Good evening, sir. Mr. Moore, I believe?'

" 'That's my name, sir.'

" 'Can you lodge me till Monday?'

" 'We do not keep our house open in winter, and
prefer to live privately, sir.'

"This was said in such a quiet way that I saw there
was nothing more to be said on the tavern side — so I
changed my front.

" 'I have seen the falls several times in summer,'
(Mr. Lowell first visited Trenton July 31, 1836, when
a student at Harvard) 'and I thought I should like
to see them in their winter fashions. They must be
even more beautiful, I fancy. I hoped also to have a
quiet Sunday here, after a week's railroading' — and I
gave a despairing look at the gloomy weather and the
heap of bison skin.

"Mr. Moore loves his falls and I had touched him.

" 'I will ask Mrs. Moore, and see what she says; she
will have all the trouble.'

"He opened the door, said something I could not
hear, and instantly a sweet, motherly voice said:

" 'Certainly, by all means.'

" 'Mrs. Moore says she will be happy to have you
stay. Walk in, sir. I will have your luggage at-
tended to.'

"Meanwhile I had not told Mr. Moore my name, of
which (however illustrious) I feared he might never


have heard, and there was no mark on trunk or carpet-
bag by which he could discover it.

"Presently we sat down to tea and I was charmed
with the gentle and affectionate atmosphere of the
family. There was a huge son and two little girls and
a boy — I wish Wendell Holmes could have seen them —
the stoutest children I ever saw. Then there was a
daughter-in-law, a very sweet looking girl, with her first
child, a lovely baby of a year old who never cried. I
know that first babies never do — but he never did.
After tea Mr. Moore and I smoked and talked together.
I found him a man with tastes for medals, pictures,
engravings, music and fruit culture. He played very
well on a parlor organ and knew many artists whom I
also knew. Moreover, he was a Unitarian. So we
got along nicely. Mrs. Moore was handsome and
gentle, and a great grand-daughter of Roger Sherman.
After our cigars, Mr. Moore showed me his books, and
among others the 'Homes of American Authors'
(pubUshed by George P. Putnam in 1853). He asked
me if I had seen it. Here was a chance for me to in-
troduce myself quietly, so I said, ' Yes, and I will show
you where I live.' I showed him accordingly the pic-
ture of Elmwood, and he grew more friendly than ever.

"I went out in the night to get my first view of
the falls, refusing to be accompanied, and profusely
warned of the ravine's frozen and slippery edges.
They were shppery, but I did not tumble in, as you
see. As I looked down into the gorge, after wan-
dering through the giant hemlocks, nothing could


be finer. The edges of the stream were frozen
and covered with Hght, new-fallen snow, so that
by contrast the stream seemed black, wholly black.
The night gave mystery to the profound abyss, and
I fancied that it was the Water of Oblivion I was
gazing down at. From afar I heard the murmur
of the first fall, and though I thought I had under-
stood Goethe's 'Fisher' as I have sat by the side
of the sea, I never had fully till now. I felt again
a true poetic enthusiasm revive in me, dead for so long.
I feared to stay; there was such an impulse to leap
down. For the first time I became conscious of the
treachery of the ice-edge and walked back cautiously
into the wood. Then I made my way among the
trees and over fallen hemlock trunks, guided by the
increasing murmur, to the first fall. I now found
why there was so Httle roar. The fall was entirely
muffled in ice. I could just see it through the dark-
ness, a wall, or rather, veil of ice covering it whol-
ly. It was perfectly a frozen waterfall, as I dis-
covered the next morning, for the front of it had
thawed in the sun, so that it was pohshed as water,
and was ribbed and wrinkled like a cascade, while the
heap of snowy debris below made the spray.

"I went back to the house and (charming incon-
sistency of this double nature of ours!) with the tears
scarce dry in my eyes, sat down to smoke another
cigar with Mr. Moore and to play Dr. Busby with the
children," Here the letter is interrupted, but Mr.
Lowell adds the following at the Burnett House, Gin-


cinnati, April 12th: "In the morning Mr. Moore took
me out and showed the best points of view, after which
he considerately left me. It was a cold morning and
the spray, as it rose, crystalized in feathers on the
shrubs and trees and sides of the gorge. For a few
moments the sun shone and lighted up all these deli-
cate ice ferns, which in texture were like those star-
shaped flakes that fall from very cold clouds. After-
wEirds I saw Niagara, but he is a coarser artist and had
plastered all the trees like alabaster. He is a clumsy
fellow compared with Kauyahoora. The ice work
along the rocks at Trenton is very lovely. Sometimes
it hangs lightly, honeycombed by the sun, and bent
by the wind from the fall as it froze, looking like the
Venetian lace drapery of an altar. At other times it
has frozen in filtering stalactites, precisely like organ

George William Curtis

The following glowing tribute paid to Trenton by
George William Curtis abounds in exquisite imagery:
"In Longfellow's delicious proem to the 'Waif,' he in-
vokes the singing of a song of rest. Sometimes, urges
the poet, let us escape the battle cry and the bugle
call, and repose that we may the better wrestle.

" 'Such songs have the power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come hke the benediction
That follows after prayer.'


"Trenton is that summer song of rest.

"Only lovely images haunt its remembrance, beau-
tiful as the Iris which, in some happy moment of the
ramble through the ravine, spans the larger or lesser
fall. Beauty and grace are its praises. You hear
them from those who are either hurrying to the gran-
deur of Niagara, or from those who returning, step
aside at Utica to enjoy the music of the greater cata-
ract, softened here at Trenton into an exquisite echo.
It matters little when you see these falls, whether be-
fore or after Niagara. The charm of Trenton is
unique, and you will not scorn the violets and liHes
because you knelt to the passion-flowers and roses.
In the prime of a summer which, from the abundant
rains, is singularly unworn and unwithered, a day at
Trenton, because of its rare and picturesque attrac-
tions, is like a feast of flowers. In some choice niche
of memory you will lay it aside, not as a subHme
statue, but as a vase most delicate and symmetrical,
and chased with pastoral tracery.

"Poets' fancies only should image the falls, they
are so rich and rare a combination of picturesque
beauty! You descend from a lofty wood into a long,
rocky chasm, which the Germans would call a Grand,
for it is not a valley. It is walled and pavemented
with smooth rocks, and the thronging forest fringes
the summit of the waU. The chasm almost closes up
the river, and you see a foamy cascade above. Then,
as if the best beauty and mystery were beyond, you
creep along a narrow ledge in the rockside of the throat


of the gorge, the water whirling and bubbling beneath,
and reach the first fall. A slight spray enfolds you as
a baptism in the spirit of the place. A broad ledge
of the rock here offers firm and sufficient foothold
while you gaze at the falls. Before you is a level par-
apet of rock, and the river, after sliding very shallowly
over the broad bed above, concentrates mainly at one
point for a fall, and plunges in a solid amber sheet.

"Close by the side of this you climb, and pass along
the base of the overhanging mountain, and stooping
under the foot of an imperial cliff, stand before the
Great Fall, which has two plunges, a long one above,
from which the river sheers obliquely over a polished
floor of rock, and then again plunges. The river
bends here, and a high, square, regular bank projects
from the cliff, smooth as a garden terrace, and perpet-
ually veiled and softened by the spray. It is one of
the most beautiful and boldest points in the long ra-
vine, and when the late light of afternoon falls soft
upon it, there is a strange contrast in your feelings as
visions of Boccaccio's garden mingle with the wildness
of American woods."

"Howadji" found the "Rural Retreat," overlook-
ing the wonderful High Falls, an ideal spot to rest and
muse. Visions of many wild and beautiful scenes in
foreign lands came before his eyes, as he gazed upon
the enchanting scene. The spell, the witchery of the
ceaseless flowing amber fall conjured up names, places,
and memories, which he ever after associated
with Trenton Falls. Of the hotel he says: "There



is something especially pleasant in the tranquil, fam-
ily-like character of the house at Trenton. It is by
far the best hostelry of the kind that I have encoun-
tered in my summer wandering; and, lying away from
any town or railroad, the traveller seems to have
stepped back into the days when travelling was an
event and not a habit, and when the necessity of mod-
eration in speed imposed a corresponding leisure in

"Do not fail to see Trenton. It is various- voiced.
It is the playing of lutes on the moonhght lawn — as
Stoddard sings. It is well to listen for it in the steam-
shriek of our career. For if once your fancy hears its
murmur, you will be as the boatman who catches
through the roar of the Rhine, the song of the Lorelei,
and you too will be won to delicious repose."

Jenny Lind

Mr. Curtis gives a dehghtful account of his drive
to Trenton in the summer of 1851. Upon his arrival
at Utica he found that the regular coach had left for
the falls. He therefore engaged a little open wagon,
and thus describes the journey: "My charioteer
was a fine boy of sixteen. He whipped along over
the plank road and gossiped about the people and the
places we passed. He was sharp-eyed and clear-
minded — a bright boy who may one day be president.
As we were slowly climbing the hiU, he said:

" 'Have you heard Jenny Lind, sir?' 'Yes, often.'


"' Great woman, sir. Don't you think so?' 'I do.*

" ' She was here last week, sir.' 'Did you hear her?*
I asked.

" 'Yes, sir; and I drove her to the falls — that is, Tom
Higgins drove, and I sat on the box.' 'And was she

" 'Yes, sir; only when she was going to see the falls,
everybody in the hotel ran to the door to look at her,
so she went back to her room and then slipped out the
back door. But there was something better than that,
sir.' 'What was that?'

" 'She gave Tom Higgins fifty dollars when he drove
her back. But there was still something better than
that, sir.'

" 'Indeed! what was that?'

" 'Why, sir, as we came back, we passed a little wood,
and she stopped the carriage and stepped out with the
rest of the party, and me and Tom Higgins, and went
into the wood. It was toward sunset and the wood
was beautiful. She walked about a little and picked
up flowers, and sung, like to herself, as if it were pleas-
ant. By and by she sat down upon a rock and began
to sing aloud. But before she stopped, a little bird
came and sat upon a bough close by us.

" 'I saw it, sir, with my own eyes, the whole of it —
and when Jenny Lind had done, he began to sing and
shout away like she did. While he was singing she
looked delighted, and when he stopped she sang again,
and — oh! it was beautiful, sir. But the little bird
wouldn't give it up, and he sang again, but not until
she had done.


" 'Then Jenny Lind sang as well as ever she could.
Her voice seemed to fill the woods all up with music,
and when it was over, the little bird was still awhile,
but tried it again in a few moments. He couldn't do
it, sir. He sang very bad, and then the foreign gen-
tlemen with Jenny Lind laughed, and they all came
back to the carriage.'"

Uticans who heard the Swedish nightingale have
Trenton Falls to thank for the treat. As originally
planned, her Niagara tour included Albany, Syracuse,
Rochester and Buffalo. Utica was not mentioned.
The Utica Daily Gazette for July 1, 1851 states:
"Miss Jenny Lind will stop in Utica mainly to visit
Trenton Falls, and has consented to sing." An enter-
prising citizen had shrewdly sent her a copy of N. P.
WiUis' book just pubUshed, and the concert took place
Monday evening, July 14, 1851.

Frances Anne Kemble

Among the choice pictures which adorned the
walls of the family apartments at Moore's Hotel, was
an engraving of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria with
their eldest child, the Princess Royal (Empress Fred-
eric), styled "The Royal Family at Home." The
original, Landseer's painting, hangs in the Queen's
sitting room at Windsor. The copy at Trenton was
a gift to Mr. Moore from a distinguished visitor who
inscribed beneath the picture, "From your humble
servant, Frances Anne Kemble."


In response to my letter of inquiry, Owen Wister,
the author, writes: "I well remember visiting Tren-
ton Falls when a child with my parents, and of hearing
my grandmother, Mrs. Kemble, speak of her great
admiration for the beauties of the place." There are
those to-day who vividly recall Dr. Owen and Mrs.
Sarah Butler Wister of Philadelphia as among Tren-
ton's most charming guests! Mr. Wister secured for
me the following interesting reminiscence from a per-
sonal friend of Mrs. Kemble, Mrs. W. R. Emerson of
Milton, Mass., who accompanied her upon one of
her visits to Trenton Fedls:

*'I think it was in 1868 or 9 that I made a trip to
Trenton Falls with my cousins, Mr. and Mrs. Charles
Sedgwick of Syracuse and their children, and Mrs.
Kemble. Mr. Moore received us at the door of the
hotel and we all went at once into the garden before en-
tering the house. Mrs. Kemble was delighted with a
bunch of roses which Mr. Moore gathered for her as
we went along. Mr. Moore descended to the falls
with us. The weather was perfect and the hare-bells
fringed the stream. Mrs. Kemble had an intense love
for all streams, and her mind was divided between her
joy in the beauty of the place and her terror lest she
should lose her footing and plunge into the water. We
spent a week at Trenton, and both Mr. and Mrs. Moore
did everything to make our stay dehghtful."

Aside from the two poems written at Trenton Falls
contained in the volume of her verse, Mrs. Kemble
alludes to the place in the "Records" of her hfe. In


1833, during one of her early American Shakesperian
tours, she writes from Montreal to a friend in England :
"We have gone up the Hudson, seen Trenton the most
beautiful and Niageira the most awful of waterfalls."
Speaking of her intense love and fascination for "bright
water," Mrs. Kemble says: *'I think a very attached
maid of mine once saved my hfe by the tearful expos-
tulation with which she opposed the bewitching invi-
tations of the topaz colored, flashing rapids of Trenton
Falls, that looked to me in some paits so shallow, as
well as so bright, that I was just on the point of step-
ping into them, cheirmed by the exquisite confusion of
musical voices with which they were persuading me,
when suddenly a large tree-trunk shot down their
flashing surface and was tossed over the fall below,
leaving me to the natural conclusion, ' Just such a log
should I have been, if I had gone in there.' Indeed,
my worthy Marie, overcome by my importunity, hav-
ing selected what seemed to her a safe, and to me a
very tame, bathing place in another part of the stream,
I had every reason from my experience at the difli-
culty of withstanding its powerful current, to congrat-
ulate myself upon not having tried the experiment
nearer to one of the 'springs' of the lovely torrent,
whose Indian name is the 'Leaping Water.' "


Madame Emma Willard

Madame Emma Willard, founder of the famous
school at Troy, was a great lover of nature, and in the
summer of 1839 wrote her sister: "I have been to
Trenton Falls which, I think, could never have ap-
peared more beautiful, as there was a great deal of water,
and the trees were in full foliage, and yet in vernal
freshness. I was more venturesome in exploring the
shelving rocks than I intended to be. I seem, amid such
inspiring scenes, to lose the feeling of personal danger.

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Online LibraryCharlotte Agnes (Uhlein) PitcherThe golden era of Trenton Falls → online text (page 5 of 6)