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

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"I believe we may confidently pronounce, that all the hypotheses which
attribute these works to Europeans are incorrect and fanciful: 1st. on
account of the present number of the works; 2d. on account of their
antiquity; having from every appearance been erected a long time before
the discovery of America; and, finally, their form and manner are varient
from European fortifications, either in ancient or modern times.

"It is equally clear that they were not the work of the Indians. Until the
Senecas, who are renowned for their national vanity, had seen the
attention of the Americans attracted to these erections, and had invented
the fabulous account of which I have spoken, the Indians of the present
day did not pretend to know any thing about their origin. They were beyond
the reach of all their traditions, and were lost in the abyss of
unexplored antiquity."

At the Bull shoals, east branch of White river in Missouri, several feet
below the surface of the banks, _reliqua_ were found which indicated that
this spot had formerly been the seat of metalurgical operations. The alloy
appeared to be lead united with silver. Arrow-heads cut out of flint, and
pieces of earthen pots which had evidently undergone the action of fire,
were also found here. The period of time at which these operations were
carried on in this place must have been very remote, as the present banks
have been since entirely formed by alluvial deposits.

Near the _Teel-te-nah_ (or dripping-fork), which empties itself into the
La Platte, and not far distant from its junction with that river, there is
an extensive cavern, in which are deposited several mummies. Some tribes
which roam this region have a tradition, that the first Indian ascended
through this aperture, and settled on the earth's surface.

A few years since, on the Merrimac river in St. Louis county, a number of
pigmy graves were discovered. The coffins were of stone; and the length of
the bodies which they contained, judging from that of the coffins, could
not have been more than from three feet and a half to four feet. The
graves were numerous, and the skeletons in some instances nearly entire.

In the month of June (1830), a party of gentlemen, whilst in pursuit of
wild turkeys, in Hart county, Kentucky, discovered, on the top of a small
knoll, a hole sufficiently large to admit a man's body. Having procured
lights, they descended, and at the depth of about sixty feet, entered a
cavern, sixteen or eighteen feet square, apparently hewn out of solid
rock. The whole chamber was filled with human skeletons, which they
supposed, _from the size_, to be those of women and children. The place
was perfectly dry, and the bones were in a state of great preservation.
They wished to ascertain how deep the bones lay, and dug through them
between four and seven feet, but found them quite as plentiful as at the
top: on coming to this depth, dampness appeared, and an unpleasant
effluvia arising, obliged them to desist. There was no outlet to the
cavern. A large snake, which appeared to be perfectly docile, passed
several times round the apartment whilst they remained.

In a museum at New York, I saw one of those mummies alluded to, which
appeared to be remarkably small; but I had not an opportunity of examining
it minutely. Those that have been found in the most perfect state of
preservation were deposited in nitrous caves, and were enveloped in a
manner so different from the practices of the Indians, that the idea
cannot be entertained of their being the remains of the ancestors of the
present race. Flint gives the following description of one of them which
he carefully examined. He says, "The more the subject of the past races of
men and animals in this region is investigated, the more perplexed it
seems to become. The huge bones of the animals indicate them to be vastly
larger than any that now exist on the earth. All that I have seen and
heard of the remains of the men, would seem to shew that they were smaller
than the men of our times. All the bodies that have been found in that
high state of preservation, in which they were discovered in nitrous
caves, were considerably smaller than the present ordinary stature of
men. The two bodies that were found in the vast limestone cavern in
Tennessee, one of which I saw at Lexington, were neither of them more than
four feet in height. It seems to me that this must have been nearly the
height of the living person. The teeth and nails did not seem to indicate
the shrinking of the flesh from them in the desiccating process by which
they were preserved. The teeth were separated by considerable intervals;
and were small, long, white, and sharp, reviving the horrible images of
nursery tales of ogres' teeth. The hair seemed to have been sandy, or
inclining to yellow. It is well known that nothing is so uniform in the
present Indian as his lank black hair. From the pains taken to preserve
the bodies, and the great labour of making the funeral robes in which they
were folded, they must have been of the 'blood-royal,' or personages of
great consideration in their day. The person that I saw, had evidently
died by a blow on the skull. The blood had coagulated there into a mass,
of a texture and colour sufficiently marked to shew that it had been
blood. The envelope of the body was double. Two splendid blankets,
completely woven with the most beautiful feathers of the wild turkey,
arranged in regular stripes and compartments, encircled it. The cloth on
which these feathers were woven, was a kind of linen of neat texture, of
the same kind with that which is now woven from the fibres of the nettle.
The body was evidently that of a female of middle age, and I should
suppose that her majesty weighed, when I saw her, six or eight pounds."

The silly attempts that have been made to establish an oriental origin for
the North American Indians, have never produced any other conviction in an
unbiased mind, than that the _facts_ brought forward to support that
theory existed only in the imaginations of those who advanced them. The
colour, the form, the manners, habits, and propensities of the Indians,
all combine to establish that they are a distinct race of human beings,
and could never have emanated from any people of European, Asiatic, or
African origin. The notion that climate would be sufficient to produce an
essential change in the appearance of any number of individuals, cannot
now be maintained; since from the discovery of America, Europeans,
Africans, and Indians have inhabited all regions of this vast continent,
without undergoing the slightest characteristic change from the
descendants of the original stock, who have remained in their primitive
locations. The Power that induces the existence of plants and lower
animals indigenous to the different sections of the earth, seems also to
induce the existence of a race of men peculiar to the regions in which
they are found.

The languages of America are radically different from those of the old
world; and no similitude can be traced between the tongues of the red
men, and those of any other people hitherto known. Jarvis, in his Paper on
the Religion of the Indian Tribes of North America, says, "The best
informed writers agree, that there are, exclusive of the Karalit or
Esquimaux, three radical languages spoken by the Indians of North America.
Mr. Heckwelder denominates them the Iroquois, the Lenapé, and the
Floridian. The Iroquois is spoken by the Six Nations, the Wyandots, or
Hurons, the Nandowessies, the Assiniboils, and other tribes beyond the St.
Lawrence. The Lenapé, which is the most widely extended language on this
side the Mississippi, was spoken by the tribes now extinct, who formerly
inhabited Nova Scotia and the present state of Maine, the Abenakis,
Micmacs, Canibas, Openangos, Soccokis, Etchemins, and Souriquois; dialects
of it are now spoken by the Miamis, the Potawatomies, Missisangoes, and
Kickapoos; the Eonestogas, Nanticokes, Shawanese, and Mohicans; the
Algonquins, Knisteneaux, and Chippeways. The Floridian includes the
languages of the Creeks, or Muskohgees, Chickesaws, Choctaws, Pascagoulas,
Cherokees, Seminolese, and several other tribes in the southern states and
Florida. These three languages are primitive; that is to say, are so
distinct as to have no perceivable affinity. All, therefore, cannot be
derived from the Hebrew; for it is a contradiction in terms to speak of
three languages radically different, as derived from a common source.
Which, then, we may well ask, is to be selected as the posterity of the
Israelites: the Iroquois, the Lenapé, or the southern Indians?

"Besides, there is one striking peculiarity in the construction of
American languages, which has no counterpart in the Hebrew. Instead of the
ordinary division of genders, they divide into animate and inanimate. It
is impossible to conceive that any nation, in whatever circumstances they
might be placed, could depart in so remarkable a manner from the idioms of
their native language."

M. Duponceau, a Frenchman settled at Philadelphia, who is perhaps one of
the first philologists of the age, concludes a treatise on the same
subject with the following deductions:

1. - "That the American languages, in general, are rich in words and in
grammatical forms; and that in their complicated construction, the
greatest order, method, and regularity prevail."

2. - "That these complicated forms, which I call polysinthetic, appear to
exist in all those languages, from Greenland to Cape Horn."[8]

3. - "That these forms appear to differ essentially from those of the
ancient and modern languages of the old hemisphere."

We intended to proceed direct from the banks of the Mississippi to
Edwardsville, which lies in a north-easterly direction from St. Louis, but
unfortunately got on the wrong track, an occurrence by no means uncommon
on the prairies, and by this casualty visited Troy, a _town_ containing
two houses, namely, a "groggery," and a farm-house, both owned by the one
person. The only resemblance this trans-Atlantic Ilium can possibly bear
to the city of the ten years' siege, lies in the difficulty of
ascertaining its location; for had we not been informed that here stood
the town of Troy, we should have passed through this, as we did through
many others, without ever suspecting the fact. Town-making is quite a
speculation in the western country; and the first thing a man does after
purchasing a few hundred acres of ground, is to "lay off a town lot:" this
causes the maps to be studded with little circular dots, and great big
names attached to them, which would lead one to suppose the population to
be much greater than it is in reality.

From Edwardsville, we proceeded by Ripley and Greenville, to Vandalia, the
seat of government of the state.

The prairies had lost much of the brilliant green colour which they
possessed when we before crossed them, and they were now assuming rather a
burnt appearance. Towards the close of autumn the grass generally becomes
so dry as to be easily ignited, which formerly took place by accident, or
otherwise, almost every year. The sight must be grand indeed; and we
almost regretted that we were not so fortunate as to be in danger of being
burnt alive - the sight would be worth the risk. There is a penalty
attached to the firing of the woods or prairies, as the plantations are
now becoming too numerously scattered over the country, and property is
likely to be injured by these conflagrations.

Towards the latter end of October, the season peculiar to this country,
denominated the "Indian summer," commences, and lasts for some weeks. At
this period, the atmosphere is suffused with a vapour which at a distance
has the appearance of smoke, arising as it were from fires in the forest.
The air is always calm and mild on those days, and the sun's disk assumes
a broad, reddish appearance.

Vandalia is the capital of Illinois, and is seated on the Kaskaskia river,
which is only navigable to this point during the "freshets" in autumn and
spring. The positions of the capitals are chosen for their centrality
alone, and not with reference to any local advantages they may possess.

Illinois is a free state, and its constitution is but a counterpart of
those of Ohio and Indiana. The extent is 380 miles from north to south,
and about 140 miles from east to west: area, 52,000 square miles, or
33,280,000 acres. The population in 1810, was 12,282; in 1820, 55,211:
white males, 29,401; white females, 24,387; slaves, 917; militia in 1821,
2,031. The present population is, according to the last census, 157,575.
The increase within the last ten years has been nearly 186 per cent.

This state is better circumstanced than any other in the west. It is
bounded on the north by the north-west territory; on the south by the
Ohio; on the east by the Wabash and Lake Michigan; and on the west by the
Mississippi. The Illinois river is navigable at almost all seasons to very
nearly its head waters; and by means of a very short portage a
communication is established between it and Lake Michigan. A canal is
contemplated between this lake and the Wabash.

The heath-hen (_tetrao cupido_), or as it is here called, the
'Prairie-hen,' abounds on the prairies, particularly in the neighbourhood
of barrens. This species of grouse, I believe, is not to be met with in
Europe; nor has it been accurately described by any ornithologist before
Wilson. One habit of the male of this bird is remarkable: at the season of
incubation, the cocks assemble every morning just before day-break,
outside the wood, and there exercise themselves tilting until the sun
appears, when they disperse. Hunters have not failed to note the
circumstance, and take advantage of it.

We were frequently amused with the movements of the "Turkey buzzard"
(_vultur aura_). This bird is well known in the southern and western
states; and in the former is considered of so much utility that a penalty
is inflicted on any person who may wantonly destroy it. It is perfectly
harmless, never attacking even the smallest living animal, and seems
always to prefer carrion when in a state of putrefaction. Except when
rising from the ground, the buzzard never flaps its wings, but literally
floats through the atmosphere, forming graceful ogees.

During our journeys across Illinois, we passed several large bodies of
settlers on their way to Sangamon and Morgan counties in that state. These
counties are situated on the Illinois river, and are said to be fertile
tracts. The mass of those persons were Georgians, Virginians, and
Kentuckians, whose comparative poverty rendered their residence in slave
states unpleasant.

Perhaps there is nothing more remarkable in the character of the Americans
than the indifference with which they leave their old habitations,
friends, and relations. Each individual is taught to depend mainly on his
own exertions, and therefore seldom expects or requires extraordinary
assistance from any man. Attachments seldom exist here beyond that of
ordinary acquaintances - these are easily found wherever one may go,
arising from a variety of circumstances connected with their institutions
and their necessities; and thus one of the great objections that present
themselves to change with Europeans scarcely exists here. Observe, I apply
this remark more particularly to the western and southern states; for the
eastern states being longer settled and more thickly populated, these
feelings, although they exist, yet they do so in a more modified degree.

The appearance presented by the forests at this season is very
beautiful - the trees are covered with leaves of almost every colour, from
bright crimson to nearly snow-white; the admixture of green, brown,
yellow, scarlet, &c., such as is almost peculiar to an American forest,
produces a very pleasing combination.

We again reached Albion, and retraced our steps from thence to Harmony,
where we deposited our friend B - - ; and after having remained there for a
few days to refresh ourselves and horse, set forward for Ohio. The weather
had now become unfavourable, and the frequent rains and high winds were
shaking the leaves down in myriads - the entire of our journey through
Indiana being across forests, we were under one constant shower of leaves
from Harmony to Cincinnati.

One day while getting our horse fed at a tavern in Indiana, the following
conversation took place between the persons there assembled. We were
sitting at the door, surrounded by captains, lawyers, and squires, when
one of the gentlemen demanded of another if there had not been a "gouging
scrape" at the "Colonel's tavern" the evening before. He replied in the
affirmative; and after having related the cause of quarrel, and said that
the lie had been given, he continued, "the judge knocked the major right
over, and jumped on to him in double quick time - they had it rough and
tumble for about ten minutes - Lord J - -s Alm - - y! - as pretty a scrape as
ever you _see'd_ - the judge is a wonderfully lovely fellow." Then followed
a description of the divers punishments inflicted by the combatants on
each other - the major had his eye nearly "gouged" out, and the judge his
chin almost bitten off. During the recital, the whole party was convulsed
with laughter - in which we joined most heartily.

We of course returned by a different route through Indiana, passing from
Princeton to Portersville, and from thence through Paoli, Salem, and New
Lexington, to Madison. The country about Madison is hilly and broken,
which makes travelling tedious in the extreme. From the mouth of the Big
Miami to Blue river, a range of hills runs parallel to the Ohio,
alternately approaching to within a few perches of the river, and receding
to a distance of one to two miles. Below Blue river the hills disappear,
and the land becomes level and heavily timbered. There is also another
range of hills, extending from the Falls of Ohio to the Wabash in a
south-westerly direction, which are called the "knobs:" to the west of
these are the "flats;" and from the Wabash to lake Michigan the country is

Indianopolis is the capital of Indiana, and is seated on the White river.
This state averages about 270 miles from north to south, and 144 miles
from east to west: area, 37,000 square miles, or 23,680,000 acres. The
population in 1810, was 24,520 - in 1820, 147,178: white males, 79,919;
white females, 69,107; slaves, 190; militia in 1821, 14,990. The present
population is 341,582.

Vast quantities of hogs are bred in the state of Indiana, and are suffered
to rove at large in the forests in search of mast. They are in general
perfectly wild, and when encountered suddenly bristle up like an enraged
porcupine. Their legs are long; bodies thin; and tail lengthy and
straight. I was informed that if one of those animals be wounded, its
screams will draw an immense concourse of its brethren around it, and that
the situation of a person under these circumstances, is by no means void
of danger; as they will not fail to attack him _en masse_. We were once
very nigh getting into a scrape of this description. Driving along through
the forest, we had to pass a tract covered with a thick growth of
brushwood - my friend seeing something stirring among the bushes, drew up,
and taking it for a deer, called out to me to fire - I stood up in the
vehicle, and levelled where I saw the movement, when, lo! out starts a
bristling hog, with a grunt just in time to escape with a whole skin.

One night having been accidently separated from my fellow-traveller, I had
to stay in a miserable-looking hut close to a creek, the habitation of a
backwoodsman. This person's appearance was extremely unprepossessing. The
air of ferocity and wildness which characterized his countenance, added to
his unhealthy, cadaverous aspect, would have been sufficient in any other
country to make one feel unpleasant at passing the night alone under his
roof. He resided in this unhealthy situation, because the land was
extremely fertile; but stated that every fall some one of his family was
ill, and none of them enjoyed good health. Now when we summed up the
consequent loss of labour incident to ill health, the balance of profit
seemed to be greatly against bottom land, and much in favour of the
healthful prairies.

The farmers use, almost exclusively, the sugar of the maple (_acer
saccharinum_) which they manufacture themselves. The space in which a
number of these trees are found, they call a "sugar camp." The process of
manufacturing is as follows: - After the first frost, the trees are tapped,
by perforating the trunk in an ascending direction. A spout of alder is
inserted in the perforation, and the sap drips through this conduit into a
trough of wood. The sap is then boiled with a spoonful of slacked lime,
the white of an egg or two, and about a pint of milk, to every fifteen
gallons. An ordinary tree commonly gives four pounds of good coarse brown
sugar, which when refined can be made equal to superior lump sugar.

A great portion of the roads through which we passed were mere horse
paths, full of stumps, with shrubs entangled across them so thickly, that
we were often obliged to dismount in order to cut away part of the
impediment. Large trees which have fallen across the road, frequently
intercept your passage, and you have no alternative but to lift the wheels
of the vehicle over them.

As we approached Cincinnati the difficulty of travelling became greatly
augmented. The rains had cut up the roads into ravines, sometimes full
three feet in depth, which, added to the clayey nature of the soil,
completely exhausted the horse, and rendered him incapable of proceeding
faster than a slow walk, even with the empty carriage.

There are a number of Baptists residing at Cincinnati, who frequently
entertain the inhabitants with public baptisms in the Ohio river. At one
of those ceremonies, about this time, rather a ludicrous occurrence took
place. The baptizing preacher stands up to his middle in the water, and
the person to be baptized is led to him by another preacher. On this
occasion the officiating clergyman was rather a slight man, and the lady
to be baptized was extremely large and corpulent - he took her by the
hands to perform the immersion, but notwithstanding his most strenuous
exertions, he was thrown off his centre. She finding him yield, held
still harder, until they both sowsed completely under the water, where
they lay floundering and struggling for some time, amidst the shouts and
laughter of the multitude assembled on shore. At length their brethren
extricated them from this perilous situation.


[8] M. Duponceau adduces the following examples: "In the Arancanian
language the word '_idnancloclavin_' means 'I do not wish to eat with
him.' There is a similar verb in the Delaware tongue - '_n'schingiwipona_,'
which means 'I do not like to eat with him.' To which may be added another
example in the latter tongue - '_machtitschwanne_,' - this must be
translated 'a cluster of islands with channels every way, so that it is
in no place shut up, or impassable for craft.' This term is applied to the
islands in the bay of New York."


The weather having become cold and disagreeable towards the latter end of
December, I set out for New Orleans. The larger class of steam-boats lay
then at Shippingsport, immediately below the falls of Ohio, the river not
being sufficiently high to enable them to pass over those rapids. Boats
drawing from nineteen to twenty-six inches water can almost at all seasons
ply on the Upper Ohio, and during the periods that the large boats are
detained below the Falls, they are constantly employed in transporting
produce, intended for the markets on the Mississippi, to Louisville, from
whence it is drayed round to Shippingsport and re-shipped. Flat-boats are
also employed for this purpose, and they are preferred, as they pass over
the Falls, and thus land-carriage is avoided.

Louisville is the chief town of Jefferson county, in Kentucky, and at
present it is estimated to contain about 12,000 inhabitants, including
slaves and free people of colour. The store-keepers here are more wealthy
than those of Cincinnati, and their manners less disagreeable. The
inhabitants of the latter town being mostly from the New England states,
have in their dealings and manners that dry shrewdness which is the true
Yankee characteristic. There are also located in Cincinnati some Irish
pedlars, who have by all manner of means acquired wealth, and are now the

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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 7 of 15)