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A Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America online

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of rocks, produces a very picturesque effect. The canal runs nearly
parallel with this river from Junction to Utica, crossing it twice, at an
interval of seven miles, over aqueducts nearly fifty rods in length,
constructed of solid beams of timber. The country is very beautiful, and
for the most part well cultivated. The soil possesses every variety of
good and bad. The farms along the canal are valuable, land being generally
worth from fifty to a hundred dollars per acre.

Above Schenectady, a very ancient town, the bed of the canal gave way,
which of course obliged us to come to a dead halt. I hired, for myself and
two others, a family waggon (dignified here with the appellation of
_carriage_) to take us beyond the break, in expectation of being able to
get a boat thence onwards, but unfortunately all the upward-bound boats
had proceeded. We were, therefore, obliged to wait until next morning. My
fellow travellers having light luggage, got themselves and it into a hut
at the other side of the lock; but I, having heavy baggage, which it was
impossible to carry across, was compelled to remain on the banks, between
the canal and the Mohawk, all night. On the river there were several
canoes, with fishermen spearing by torch-light; while on the banks the
boatmen and boys, Mulattos and whites, were occupied in gambling. They had
tables, candles, dice, and cards. With these, and with a _quantum
sufficit_ of spirits, they contrived to while away the time until
day-break; of course interlarding their conversation with a reasonable
quantity of oaths and imprecations. The breach being repaired early in the
morning, the boats came up, and we proceeded to Utica.

Seven miles above Utica is seated Rome, a small and dirty town, bearing no
possible resemblance to the "Eternal City," even in its more modern
condition, as the residence of the "Triple Prince;" but, on the contrary,
having, if one could judge from the habitations, every appearance of
squalid poverty. Fifteen miles further on, we passed the Little Falls. It
was night when we came to them, but it being moonlight, we had an
opportunity of seeing them to advantage. The crags are here
stupendous - irregular and massive piles of rocks, from which spring the
lofty pine and cedar, are heaped in frightful disorder on each other, and
give the scene a terrifically grand appearance.

From Rome to Syracuse, a distance of forty-six miles, the canal is cut
through a swampy forest, a great portion of which is composed of dead
trees. One of the most dismal scenes imaginable is a forest of charred
trees, which is occasionally to be met with in this country, especially in
the route by which I was travelling. It is caused by the woods being
fired, by accident or otherwise. The aspect of these blasted monuments of
ruined vegetation is strange and peculiar; and the air of desertion and
desolation which pervades their neighbourhood, reminds one of the stories
that are told of the Upas valley of Java, for here too not a bird is to
be seen. The smell arising from this swamp in the night, was so bad as to
oblige us to shut all the windows and doors of the boat, which, added to
the bellowing and croaking of the bull frogs - the harsh and incessant
noise of the grasshoppers, and the melancholy cry of the whip-poor-will,
formed a combination not of the most agreeable nature. Yet, in defiance of
all this, we were induced occasionally to brave the terrors of the night,
in order to admire that beautiful insect the fire-fly, or as it is called
by the natives, "lightning bug." They emit a greenish phosphorescent
light, and are seen at this season in every part of the country. The woods
here were full of them, and seemed literally to be studded with small
stars, which emitted a bright flickering light.

After you pass Syracuse, the country begins to improve; but still it is
low and marshy, and for the most part unhealthy, as the appearance of the
people clearly indicates. In this country, as in every other, the canals
are generally cut through comparatively low lands, and the low lands here,
with few exceptions, are all swampy; however, a great deal of the
unhealthiness which pervades this district, arises from want of attention.
A large portion of the inhabitants are Low Dutch, who appear never to be
in their proper element, unless when settled down in the midst of a swamp.
They allow rotten timber to accumulate, and stagnant pools to remain about
their houses, and from these there arises an effluvium which is most
unpleasant in warm weather, which, however, they do not seem to perceive.

We entered Rochester, through an aqueduct thirty rods in length, built of
stone, across the Genessee river. Rochester is the handsomest town on this
line. Some of the houses here are tastefully decorated. All the windows
have Venetian blinds, and generally there are one or two covered balconies
attached to the front of each house. Before the doors there are small
_parterres_, planted with rose-trees, and other fragrant shrubs. About
half a mile from the town are the Falls of Genessee. The water glides over
an even bed of limestone rock, ninety-six feet above the level of the
river below. There is a beautiful regularity in this fall, but its extreme
uniformity divests it of picturesque effect. Here the celebrated diver,
Sam. Patch, subsequently met his fate in diving off this precipice. He had
performed similar feats at the Falls of Niagara, without sustaining any
injury. He was not killed by the fall; but is supposed to have fainted
when midway from, his leap, as his arms were observed to relax, and his
legs to open, before he reached the water.

On my journey I met with an Englishman, a Mr. W - - . He dressed _à la Mungo
Park_, wearing a jacket and trowsers of jean, and a straw hat. He was a
great pedestrian; had travelled through most of the southern States, and
was now on his tour through this part of the country. He was a gentleman
about fifty, - silent and retiring in his habits. Enamoured of the
orange-trees of Georgia, he intended returning there or to Carolina, and
ending his days. We agreed to visit the Falls of Niagara together, and
accordingly quitted the boat at Tonawanta. When we had dined, and had
deposited our luggage in the safe keeping of the Niagara hotel-keeper, my
companion shouldered his vigne stick, and to one end of which he appended
a small bundle, containing a change of linen, &c., and I put on my
shooting coat of many pockets, and shouldered my gun. Thus equipped, we
commenced our journey to the Great Falls. The distance from Tonawanta to
the village of the Falls, now called Manchester, is about eleven miles.
The way lies through a forest, in which there are but a few scattered
habitations. A great part of the road runs close to the river Niagara; and
the occasional glimpses of this broad sheet of water, which are obtained
through the rich foliage of the forest, added to the refreshing breeze
that approached us through the openings, rendered our pedestrian excursion
extremely delightful.

Towards evening we arrived at the village, and proceeded to reconnoitre,
in order to fix our position for the night. After having done this
satisfactorily, we then turned our attention to the all-important
operation of eating and drinking. While supping, an eccentric-looking
person passed out through the apartment in which we were. His odd
appearance excited our curiosity, and we inquired who this
mysterious-looking gentleman was. We were informed that he was an
Englishman, and that he had been lodging there for the last six months,
but that he concealed his real name. He slept in one corner of a large
barrack room, in which there were of course several other beds. On a small
table by his bed-side there were a few French and Latin books, and some
scraps of poetry touching on the tender passion. These, and a German
flute, which we observed standing against the window, gave us some clue to
his character. He was a tall, romantic-looking young man, apparently about
twenty-seven or twenty-eight years of age. His dress was particularly
shabby. This the landlord told us was from choice, not from necessity, as
he had two trunks full of clothes nearly new. The reason he gave for
dressing as he did, was his knowing, he said, that if he dressed well,
people would be talking to him, which he wished to avoid; but, that by
dressing as he did, he made sure that no one would ever think of giving
him any annoyance of that kind. I thought this idea unique: and whether he
be still at Niagara, or has taken up his abode at the foot of the Rocky
mountains, I pronounce him to be a Diogenes without a tub. He has read at
least one page in the natural history of civilized man.

We visited the Falls, at the American side by moonlight. There was then an
air of grandeur and sublimity in the scene which I shall long remember.
Yet at this side they are not seen to the greatest advantage. Next morning
I crossed the Niagara river, below the Falls, into Canada. I did not
ascend the bank to take the usual route to the Niagara hotel, at which
place there is a spiral staircase descending 120 feet towards the foot of
the Falls, but clambered along at the base of the cliffs until I reached
the point immediately below the stairs. I here rested, and indeed required
it much, for the day was excessively warm, and I had unfortunately
encumbered myself with my gun and shot pouch. The Falls are here seen in
all their grandeur. Two immense volumes of water glide over perpendicular
precipices upwards of 170 feet in height, and tumble among the crags below
with a roaring that _we_ distinctly heard on our approach to the village,
at the distance of five miles up the river: and down the river it can be
heard at a much greater distance. The Falls are divided by Goat Island
into two parts. The body of water which falls to the right of the island
is much greater than that which falls to the left; and the cliffs to the
right assume the form of a horse-shoe. To the left there is also a
considerable indentation, caused by a late falling in of the rock; but it
scarcely appears from the Canadian side. The rushing of the waters over
such immense precipices - the dashing of the spray, which rises in a white
cloud at the base of the Falls, and is felt at the distance of a quarter
of a mile - the many and beautiful rainbows that occasionally
appear, - united, form a grand and imposing _coup d'oeil_.

The Fall is supposed to have been originally at the table-land near
Lewiston; and indeed, from the nature of the ground, and its present
condition below the Falls, no reasonable objection can be entertained to
that supposition. The upper part of the cliffs is composed of hard
limestone, and underneath is a bed of schistus. Now this schistus is
continually worn away by the water's dashing against it. This leaves the
upper part, or immediate bed of the river, without foundation. When,
therefore, from extraordinary floods, the pressure of the incumbent fluid
becomes more than usually great, the rock gives way; and thus, gradually,
the Falls have receded several miles.

I at length ascended the stairs, and popped my head into the shanty, _sans
ceremonie_, to the no small amazement of the cunning compounder of
"cock-tails," and "mint julaps" who presided at the bar. It was clear that
I had ascended the stairs, but how the deuce I had got down was the
question. I drank my "brandy sling," and retreated before he had recovered
from his surprise, and thus I escaped the volley of interrogatories with
which I should have been most unsparingly assailed. I walked for some
distance along the Canadian heights, and then crossed the river, where I
met my friend waiting my return under a clump of scrub oak.

We had previously determined on visiting the Tuscarora village, an Indian
settlement about eight miles down the river, and not far from Ontario.
This is a tribe of one of the six nations, the last that was admitted into
the Confederation. They live in a state of community; and in their
arrangements for the production and distribution of wealth, approach
nearer to the Utopean system than any community with which I am
acquainted. The squaws told us that no Indian there could claim any thing
but what was contained within his own cabin; that the produce of the land
was common property, and that they never quarrelled about its division. We
dined in one of their cabins, on lean mutton and corn bread. The interior
of their habitations is not conspicuous for cleanliness; nor are they so
far civilized as to be capable of breaking their word. The people at the
Niagara village told us, that with the exception of two individuals in
that community, any Indian could get from them on credit either money or
goods to whatever amount he required.

I here parted with my fellow traveller, perhaps for ever. He went to
Lewiston, whence he intended to cross into Canada, and to walk along the
shores of Ontario; whilst I made the best of my way back through the woods
to Manchester. I certainly think our landlord had some misgivings
respecting the fate of my companion. We had both departed together: I
alone was armed - and I alone returned. However, as I unflinchingly stood
examination and cross-examination, and sojourned until next morning, his
fears seemed to be entirely dispelled. Next day I took a long, last look
at Niagara, and departed for Tonawanta.

At Tonawanta I again took the canal-boat to Buffalo, a considerable town
on the shores of lake Erie, and at the head of the canal navigation. There
are several good buildings in this town, and some well-appointed hotels.
Lake schooners, and steam and canal boats are here in abundance, it being
an entrepôt for western produce and eastern merchandize. A few straggling
Indians are to be seen skulking about Buffalo, like dogs in Cairo, the
victims of the inordinate use of ardent spirits.

From Buffalo I proceeded in a steamer along lake Erie, to Portland in
Ohio, now called Sandusky City; the distance 240 miles. After about an
hour's sail, we entirely lost sight of the Canadian shores. The scenery on
the American side is very fine, particularly from Presqu' Isle onward to
the head of the lake, or rather from its magnitude, it might be termed an
inland sea.

On landing at Sandusky, I learned that there were several Indian reserves
between that place and Columbus, the seat of government. This determined
me on making a pedestrian tour to that city. Accordingly, having forwarded
my luggage, and made other necessary arrangements, I commenced my
pergrinations among the Aborigines.

The woods in the upper part of Ohio, nearest the lake, are tolerably open,
and occasionally interspersed with sumach and sassafras: the soil
somewhat sandy. I met with but few Indians, until my arrival at Lower
Sandusky, on the Sandusky river; here there were several groups returning
to their reserves, from Canada, where they had been to receive the annual
presents made them by the British government. In the next county (Seneca)
there is a reservation of about three miles square, occupied by Senecas,
Cayugas, and part of the Iroquois or six nations, once a most powerful
confederation amongst the red men.[1] In Crawford county there is a very
large reserve belonging to the Huron or Wyandot Indians. These, though
speaking a dialect of the Iroquois tongue, are more in connexion with the
Delawares than with the Iroquois. The Wyandots are much esteemed by their
white neighbours, for probity and good behaviour. They dress very
tastefully. A handsome chintz shawl tied in the Moorish fashion about the
head - leggings of blue cloth, reaching half way up the thigh, sewn at the
outside, leaving a hem of about an inch deep - mocassins, or Indian boots,
made of deer-skin, to fit the foot close, like a glove - a shirt or tunic
of white calico - and a hunting shirt, or frock, made of strong
blue-figured cotton or woollen cloth, with a small fringed cape, and long
sleeves, - a tomahawk and scalping knife stuck in a broad leather belt.
Accoutred in this manner, and mounted on a small hardy horse, called here
an Indian pony, imagine a tall, athletic, brown man, with black hair and
eyes - the hair generally plaited in front, and sometimes hanging in long
wavy curls behind - aquiline nose, and fearless aspect, and you have a fair
idea of the Wyandot and Cayuga Indian. The Senecas and Oneidas whom I met
with, were not so handsome in general, but as athletic, and about the same
average height - five feet nine or ten.

The Indians here, as every where else, are governed by their own laws, and
never have recourse to the whites to settle their disputes. That silent
unbending spirit, which has always characterized the Indian, has alone
kept in check the rapacious disposition of the whites. Several attempts
have been made to induce the Indians to sell their lands, and go beyond
the Mississippi, but hitherto without effect. The Indian replies to the
fine speeches and wily language of the whites, "We hold this small bit of
land, in the vast country of our fathers, by _your_ written talk, and it
is noted on _our_ wampums - the bones of our fathers lie here, and we
cannot forsake them. You tell us our great father (the president) is
powerful, and that his arm is long and strong - we believe it is so; but we
are in hopes that he will not strike his red children for their lands, and
that he will leave us this little piece to live upon - the hatchet is long
buried, let it not be disturbed."

Jackson has lately published a manifesto to all the Indian tribes within
the limits of the United States, commanding them to sell their reserves;
and with few exceptions, has been answered in this manner.

A circumstance occurred a few days previous to my arrival, in the Seneca
reserve, which may serve to illustrate the determined character of the
Indian. There were three brothers (chiefs) dwelling in this reservation.
"Seneca John," the eldest brother, was the principal chief of the tribe,
and a man much esteemed by the white people. He died by poison. The
chiefs in council, having satisfactorily ascertained that his second
brother "Red-hand," and a squaw, had poisoned him, decreed that Red-hand
should be put to death. "Black-snake," the other brother, told the chiefs
that if Red-hand must die, he himself would kill him, in order to prevent
feuds arising in the tribe. Accordingly in the evening he repaired to the
hut of Red-hand, and after having sat in silence for some time, said, "My
best chiefs say, you have killed my father's son, - they say my brother
must die." Red-hand merely replied, "They say so;" and continued to smoke.
After about fifteen minutes further silence, Black-snake said, pointing to
the setting sun, "When he appears above those trees" - moving his arm round
to the opposite direction - "I come to kill you." Red-hand nodded his head
in the short significant style of the Indian, and said "Good." The next
morning Black-snake came, followed by two chiefs, and having entered the
hut, first put out the squaw, he then returned and stood before his
brother, his eyes bent on the ground. Red-hand said calmly, "Has my
brother come that I may die?" - "It is so," was the reply. "Then,"
exclaimed Red-hand, grasping his brother's left hand with his own right,
and dashing the shawl from his head, "Strike sure!" In an instant the
tomahawk was from the girdle of Black-snake, and buried in the skull of
the unfortunate man. He received several blows before he fell, uttering
the exclamation "hugh," each time. The Indians placed him on the grass to
die, where the backwoodsman who told me the story, saw him after the lapse
of two hours, and life was not then extinct, - with such tenacity does it
cling to the body of an Indian. The scalping knife was at length passed
across his throat, and thus ended the scene.

From Sandusky city, in Huron county, I passed into Sandusky county, and
from thence through Seneca county. These three counties are entirely
woodlands, with the exception of a few small prairies which lay eastward
of my course. The land is generally fertile. Some light sandy soil is
occasionally to be met with, which produces more quickly than the heavier
soil, but not so abundantly. I saw in my travels through these counties a
few persons who were ill of ague-fever, as it is here called. The
prevalence of this disease is not to be attributed to a general
unhealthiness of the climate, but can at all times be referred to

I next entered Crawford county, and crossed the Wyandot prairie, about
seven miles in length, to Upper Sandusky. This was the first of those
extensive meadows I had seen, and I was much pleased with its
appearance - although this prairie is comparatively but small, yet its
beauty cannot be surpassed; and the groves, and clusters of trees, _iles
de bois_, with which it is interspersed, make it much resemble a beautiful

Attached to the Wyandot reserve (nine miles by sixteen) is that of the
Delawares (three miles square). On reaching Little Sandusky - Kahama's
curse on the town baptizers of America! - there are often five or six
places named alike in one state: upper and lower, little and big, great
and small - and invariably the same names that are given to towns in one
State, are to be found in every other. Then their vile plagiarisms of
European names causes a Babelonish confusion of ideas, enough to disturb
the equanimity of a "grisly saint;" and, with all humility, I disclaim
having any pretensions to that character. I have frequently heard a
long-legged, sallow-looking backwoodsman talk of having come lately from
Paris, or Mecca, when instead of meaning the capital of _La grande
nation_, or the city of "the holy prophet," he spoke of some town
containing a few hundred inhabitants, situated in the backwoods of
Kentucky, or amidst the gloomy forests of Indiana. The Americans too speak
in prospective, when they talk of great places; no doubt "calculating"
that, one day, all the mighty productions of the old world will be
surpassed by their ingenuity and perseverance.

I reached Little Sandusky about one o'clock in the day, and there learned
that there was a treaty being holden with the Delawares - accordingly I
repaired to the council ground. On a mat, under the shade of seven large
elm trees, which in more prosperous times had waved over the war-like
ancestors of this unfortunate people, were seated three old sachems, the
principal of the tribe. The oldest appeared to be nearly eighty years of
age, the next about seventy, and the last about fifty. On a chair to the
right of the Indians was seated a young "half-breed" chief, the son of one
of the sachems by a white squaw; and on their left, seated on another
chair, a Delaware dressed in the costume of the whites. This young man was
in the pay of the States, and acted as interpreter - he interpreting into
and from the Delaware language, and a gentleman of the mission (a Captain
Walker) into and from the Wyandot. At a table opposite the Indians were
seated the commissioners.

The Lenni Lenapé, or Delawares, as they were called by the English, from
the circumstance of their holding their great "Council-fire" on the banks
of the Delaware river, were once the most powerful of the several tribes
that spoke the Delaware tongue, and possessed an immense tract of country
east of the Alleghany mountains. This unfortunate people had been driven
from place to place, until at last they were obliged to accept of an
asylum from the Wyandot, whom they call their uncle; and now are forced to
sell this, and go beyond the Mississippi. To a reflecting mind, the scene
was touching beyond description. Here was the sad remnant of a great
nation, who having been forced back from the original country of their
fathers, by successive acts of rapacity, are now compelled to enter into
a compact which obliges them, half civilized as they are, to return to the
forest. The case is this, - the white people, or rather Jackson and the
southerns, say, that the Indians "retard improvement" - precisely in the
same sense that a brigand, when he robs a traveller, might say, that the
traveller retarded improvement - that is, retarded _his_ improvement,
inasmuch as he had in his pocket, what would improve the condition of the
brigand. The Indians have cultivated farms, and valuable tracts of land,
and no doubt it will improve the condition of the whites, to get
possession of those farms and rich lands, for _one tenth of their saleable
value_. The profits that have accrued to the United States from the
systematic plunder of the Indians, are immense, and a great portion of the

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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 2 of 15)