Newman Hall.

From Liverpool to St. Louis online

. (page 7 of 16)
Online LibraryNewman HallFrom Liverpool to St. Louis → online text (page 7 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

a rope. He said he would first swim across to be
sure of the line of country. He swam out grandly,
but as he approached the middle his body suddenly
disappeared, and was found the next day in the whirl-

One day I jokingly asked a negro if there was a
place at the Falls where I could bathe. He seriously
recommended to me a spot below the hotel, and said

ioo Niagara.

he often swam across, and that it only required special
effort at one spot. He also proposed that his son
should show me a place where I might bathe, just
above the Fall. I declined.

I met a gentleman who told me that in his youth
he had walked from Boston, a distance of 700 miles,
to see the Falls. When within seven miles, he heard
what he thought might be the roar of the torrent, and
asked a man, who was at work on the road, if this
were so. The man replied that he didn't know ; it
might be, but he had never been there himself.
Yet he had lived within the sound all his life.

The Suspension Bridge is worth examining. It is
two miles below the Falls. It has a span of 800 feet
from tower to tower, and is 24 feet wide. It has two
stages. The railway track is above. Below, at a dis-
tance of 18 feet, are the carriage and foot-ways. The
whole is connected by open iron-work, and suspended
from four wire ropes of about 10 inches diameter.
The entire weight of the bridge is 800 tons, but it is
estimated as able to bear a weight of 12,000 tons.
It is suspended more than 200 feet above the torrent.

A little lower down the stream you come to a house,
from the grounds of which an excellent view is ob-

Environs and Outflow. 101

tained of the great Rapids. I looked down from the
edge of the rock into the ravine all filled with the
raging torrent. The channel is here very narrow —
not exceeding 600 feet. Through this gorge all the
water, which at the Falls occupied a breadth five times
greater, rushes at the rate of nearly 40 miles an hour.
No one can in the least appreciate the scene without
beholding it ; it is inferior only to the Great Fall itself.
A very good staircase descends along the face of the
rock to the edge of the torrent. Here I clambered
to the top of an immense rock which had fallen into
the stream, and on a safe perch, yet near enough to
be sprinkled with the spray, I abandoned myself to
the overpowering influences of the stupendous spec-
tacle. The torrent, supposed to be several hundred
feet deep, came roaring down between its restraining
cliffs in a very tempest of wrath. It heaved and
surged, and threw up big waves twenty feet high, and
every now and then tossed its spray half up the cliffs.
I could not see the opposite margin by reason of the
convexity of the flood. It has been ascertained by
admeasurement that the middle is ten feet above the
sides ! The torrent is a liquid glacier. The ice-seas
of the Alps, enclosed within narrow rocks, bulge up-

102 Niagara.

wards in the centre when the ravine narrows. The
pressure from above, and the uneven surface below,
throw up the ice into great hills and cliffs which re-
semble solid waves. What the mountains do with the
ice, the bed and sides of Niagara do with the water.
A glacier is a frozen Niagara. Niagara is a liquid
glacier, its form abiding, but its particles rushing with,
railroad velocity down into the valley, a never-ceasing

The whirlpool is on the Canada side, about half a
mile below the Suspension Bridge, and just below
these Rapids. The river makes a sudden bend at a
right angle. But the current, here most narrow and
most rapid, plunges forward as if to pursue its course
in a straight line, and thus has worn away a vast basin
in which the waters are ever whirling round and round
with opposing currents and eddies. From the mea-
dows I entered a wood, and presently found myself on
the verge of this great basin, half a mile in diameter.
An easy and beautiful descent amongst lovely ferns
and grand forest-trees, brought me to the rocky shore
of this maelstrom. I sat on a rock about twenty feet
above the water, and began to sketch. Again I was
fascinated by the utter solitude. No human being

Environs and Outflow. 103

was in sight. But there was the great river, an awful
Presence, in a new and terrible form, ever lifting up
its mighty voice. Round and round came the tide with
even pace and regular level. Suddenly, without the
slightest warning and with no apparent cause, the water
surged up ten feet, and as suddenly subsided. Had I
been on the margin I must certainly have been swept
away. I climbed the cliff, and sat for above an hour
watching the scene below me. I saw how the impe-
tuous tide, escaping from its narrow channel, divided ;
one portion hurrying round the bend of the river and
never pausing, in haste to reach its resting-place in the
lake ; the other escaping into this circular bay and
surrendering itself to the wildest gambols, as if de-
lighting in release from so long and close a restraint.
I watched several great pieces of timber which had
been carried over the Falls, and caught in the whirl-
pool. Let us fix our eyes on one of them. See, it is
spinning round and round on its own centre. Now it
is suddenly stationary. Now it is carried rapidly
onward by some current that catches it. Now it lifts
up its big arm perpendicularly in the air, as if for a
signal, and suddenly disappears altogether. A few
seconds elapse, and now, a long way off, it emerges

104 Niagara.

erect, as before, and then falls down on the surface of
the water. Again it resumes its gyrations. Now it
suddenly drives forward in a straight line, as a steamer
well steered may be driven against waves and tides.
And now again it is sent backward, the mere sport of
conflicting eddies. Another tree crosses its path, and
they seem to embrace. Together they swing round
and round, and then, like friends suddenly quarrel-
ling, they part asunder and pursue entirely opposite
courses. Poor timber, it seemed like the victim of
some vice struggling in vain, because too late, against
the whirlpool of evil habit. I began to feel for it as
though endowed with life, and I longed to see it set
free from that torment and pursue its way down to the
peaceful lake. But no sooner did it return towards the
main tide of the river, than some side-eddy seized it
and swung it helplessly and hopelessly back !

Many of these vortices had deep centres, and like
separate individualities went circling round the basin.
I was told that a few weeks before, a boat had been
upset above the Fall with two ladies and a gentleman,
and that the body of the latter was seen for more
than a day, black and naked, except the boots,
whirling round and round, occasionally lifting up its

Environs and Outflow. 105

hands as if calling for help. Only after great
efforts was it at length secured by a rope flung from
the shore.

A little steamer, the " Maid of the Mist," was built
just below the Falls, and used to run from bank
to bank, and to take passengers quite up to the very
Fall. But the erection of the bridge spoilt her trade,
and she was sold to a man at Montreal. But how
was she to be got there ? How could she pass the
Rapids, where the water was racing at the rate of thirty
miles an hour, and tossing up its mighty waves?
And how could she escape the dreaded whirlpool ?
A very daring boatman undertook, for a large reward,
the perilous enterprise. The vessel went down the
stream safely a little farther than the bridge. Here
she encountered the worst rapids. She gave a
great lunge, showing her keel ; the " smoke pipe "
broke off, the boiler was dislodged, two men at the
wheel were thrown down, yet she shot safely through
the terrible ravine, only, however, to be seized by the
whirlpool. Here she was swung round once, and they
who gazed expected every moment she would be
drawn under. But on approaching the main current
again, she was carried down the stream, and reached

io6 Niagara.

Montreal without further damage. The steersman,
quite satisfied with the adventure, said he would never
undertake the like again.

The railway route along the bank of the river from
the Suspension Bridge to Lewiston, a distance of
about five miles, will not soon be forgotten by the
traveller. After being carried for some distance along
the level, it enters the narrow gorge, and descends by
an incline cut on the face of the precipice. In some
places there seems nothing whatever between you and
the river, so that any accident would precipitate the
train into the foaming, roaring torrent below. The
station is at Lewiston, on the level of the water. It
is a little town seven miles below the Falls, where the
river becomes navigable. A few miles lower down
the river enters the lake.

On the opposite side of the river is Queenston, and
on the picturesque heights above is a monument to
the memory of the British general, Brock, who was
killed in 1812, when successfully defending the post
against the Americans. Then this whole region be-
came the scene of outrages on both sides, the toma-
hawk and scalping-knife adding to the horrors of what
is called more civilized warfare. The Americans burned

Environs and Outflow. 107

the town of Newark, at the mouth of the river ; and
the British burned the town of Buffalo. Then the
Americans won the battles of Chippewa and of
Lundy's Lane, on the Canadian side, near the Falls.
Let us hope that never again will the frontier be a
scene of conflict between nations whose interests are
identical, who are one family, and whose strife would
be fratricidal.

It may be well to insert here my notes of a trip
down the Niagara waters to Montreal. At Lewiston,
already described as seven miles below the Falls, we
leave the train for the steamer, which, aided by a very
strong current, soon brings us out into Lake Ontario.
Fort Niagara is at the mouth of the river, on the Ameri-
can side, and the small town of Niagara on the British
side. I was disappointed with the lake-scenery of
America. It is the ocean without its peculiar grandeur.
The shores are level, and there is the entire absence of
those special features of scenery which are associated
with the Swiss, Italian, and British lakes. The dis-
tance from Niagara across to Toronto is nearly forty
miles ; when half-way over we still saw the misty
column that rises from the Falls like the smoke of a
grand sacrifice.

io8 Niagara.

The lake is about 180 miles long. On the Ameri-
can shore is Oswego, famous for its flour -mills and the
preparation of American corn, which has made the
name so familiar. The shore, on one side, w r as seen
very indistinctly ; on the other it was quite invisible.
We awoke early next morning (September 28), when
the vessel called at the beautiful city of Kingston,
situated on the eastern extremity of the lake, where
the Niagara waters, now the River St. Lawrence, issue
forth on their journey to the sea, still nearly 800 miles
distant. The entire length of the river, including
the chain of lakes which feed it, extends 3,000 miles.
At its mouth it is nearly 100 miles wide. It is navi-
gable, by the aid of canals, through its whole extent,
vessels from Liverpool landing their cargoes at Chi-

The first part of the river, as it leaves the great
lake, is two or three miles wide, and is called the Lake
of the Thousand Islands : there are, in fact, nearly
fifteen hundred of them, of various sizes. The
largest is Wolf Island, about twenty miles long. After
leaving this we entered a perfect labyrinth • no de-
scription can give an adequate idea of the scene :
rocks of all forms and sizes, from several acres to a

Environs and Outflow. 109

few yards in area, rose from the broad river, covered
with the most beautiful foliage ; lichens, mosses, and
ferns, adorned the rich-coloured sandstone. Some-
times merely a rocky point was seen emerging, bald
and bare, like the snout or forehead of some levia-
than ; sometimes a few inches of water covered the
crags ; sometimes a precipice rose, abruptly, fifty feet
from the stream, crowned by gigantic pines or cedars.
Sometimes the channel which the steersman selected
was several hundred yards wide ; sometimes it was so
narrow that there was scarcely room for the boat : you
could drop a letter on shore, or receive one from the
hand of a friend, if any friend were there to give it.
The vessel almost grazes the rocks. Sometimes the
channel seems closed by an island right ahead, but
through some narrow passage you emerge to find
yourself in a still more intricate labyrinth of fairy
islets. Meanwhile you notice the strength of the cur-
rent j for the obstruction given to the stream reminds
one of the old bridges of the Thames, whose
projecting piers produced a rapid under every
arch. Sometimes steam was shut off altogether, and
we descended by the sheer force of the current. The
rapidity of our motion was tantalizing ; we saw a

no Niagara.

most lovely island ahead, with picturesque fea-
tures worth close and attentive study; just as we
were prepared to enjoy it, we left it far astern, and
other objects, ever varied, demanded attention. This
most beautiful and exciting portion of our voyage ex-
tended for about fifty miles.

During the Canadian rebellion a man, named John-
son, rendered himself obnoxious to the Government,
and sought safety here : there could not be a better hid-
ing-place for a good boatman. His daughter Kate aided
him in his seclusion, conveying provisions to him in
her canoe, with which she threaded the intricate chan-
nels, glided over the rapids, and eluded all pursuit as
she carried provisions to him in the different islets in
which he made his ever-shifting hiding-places. She
deserved her title of " Queen of the Thousand Is-

After emerging from this archipelago we passed
several towns and villages, very picturesquely situated
on the banks of the river, stopping at some of them to
take in passengers. We went down several rapids,
where the tossing waves reminded us of the ocean,
and seemed strangely out of place in a river elsewhere
smooth. One of these rapids is called the Long

Environs and Outflow. in

Sault, and extends for about nine miles, a distance
we accomplished in about fifteen minutes. Sometimes
the river becomes so wide that it has received in one
place the name of Lake St. Francis, and in another
that of Lake St. George. Approaching Montreal, we
passed the mouth of the Ottawa, which, after a course
•of about 700 miles, here enters the St. Lawrence. Its
discoloured waters strikingly contrast with the purity
of those it joins. Like the Rhone and the Arve
at Geneva, the two rivers flow along distinct, side
by side, for a long distance before they mingle.

But the great interest of the day was "shooting the
Lachine," the Rapids proper, nine miles from Mon-
treal. It was a question whether the captain would
attempt them. It was late in the season. The days
were getting short. There might not be light enough.
Certainly this would be the very last day for the ex-
ploit this year, but it was more than probable we
should have to go on shore and finish our journey by
rail, as had been done for several preceding days.
But the boat was in better time to-day, and the weather
was fine. I had set my heart on "shooting the
Rapids," and asked many questions as to the proba-
bility of being gratified. But the captain himself

1 1 2 Niagara.

was undecided. I leant over the stern watching the
setting sun. Glorious it was in the clear Canadian
sky; but every moment it got nearer the horizon, and
we were not yet in sight of Lachine. Now we are
approaching the entrance of the canal made to avoid
the difficulties of the river passage. Are we steering
towards the shore? There was a moment of doubt.
Hurrah ! we are past. Now for the Rapids. On-
ward we drive, for all steam is up, and the current is

Row brothers, row, the stream runs fast,
The rapids are near and the daylight's past.

We now approach the American shore on the star-
board side. Here is an Indian village, Caughnawaga,
where lives the native pilot to whose skill the vessel
is to be entrusted in its descent of the waters, which
till recently were never passed but by Red Indians in
their canoes. As we approach the village we see a
canoe put off. Two boys are paddling. A tall man
stands erect, steering with a paddle. We do not
seem to slacken speed. The Indian leaps on board,
and the canoe is far astern. He rushes along
to the head of the steamer, where the steering-wheel
is placed, on the upper deck, just above the prow.

Environs and Outflow. 113

On his way he throws off his coat, and then with bare
arms, as if well aware of the exertion to be called for,
takes his place at the wheel. Three other men also have
their hands on the spokes, ready to imitate his every
action. The wheel is connected with the rudder by
chains, which run along the deck over pulleys. Two
other men are at the stern, with their hands on the
tiller, in case of accident forward. I shall never forget
the aspect of that Indian pilot — his broad shoulders,
his brawny arms, his great head, his dark expressive
features, his keen eagle-eye, as he leant forward into
the gathering gloom.

What is that white appearance on the water about
a mile ahead of us ? The passengers cluster eagerly
on the fore-deck below the wheel. I take my place
above, alongside the pilot, but well out of range of
his motions. Steam is now shut off. There is a sud-
den and ominous quietness. We are driving on with
the current at the rate of twenty miles an hour.
Every second we are obviously nearing that white
mist. Presently we pass a rock close on our right.
The water, smooth, green, rapid, just covers it, and
then rises up beyond it in a wave which curls back-
ward, and breaks into foam. We are so close that we


114 Niagara.

could drop a stone on it. Were the vessel to touch it
she would be shivered, at the rate we are going. There
is another rock just ahead of us, over which an immense
wave is curling. We are driving right upon it with
lightning speed. But look at our pilot ! Under his
mighty hand the wheel whirls back, reversed to
its uttermost capacity — while his three assistants
put forth all their might, every muscle strained.
At the moment when we might suppose we should
be dashed to pieces on that rock we swing round at
a right angle ; but only to encounter a similar dan-
ger; for again, ahead of us, is another rock, and
the cataract is hurrying us downward straight upon
it. Again the wheel spins round. What inten-
sity and eagerness are displayed in every look and
action of our pilot ! How those six brawny arms aid
his own in every movement ! Again our course is
changed as suddenly as before, and we twist round
to the left.

The vessel seems to strike. She quivers all over
with the blow, and lies over on the starboard side.
" Did we strike a rock? " I asked. " No ; if we had,
we should have been all to pieces ; it was only an
under-current." We are now clear of rocks, but in a

Environs and Outflow. 115

very tempest of eddies. In another instant we shoot
through into calm water. The whole passage occu-
pied a shorter time than this inadequate description
has taken the reader to peruse. Then we seemed to
be driving right on to a rocky island, which we could
only dimly see, as it was almost dark. When within
a boat's length of the shore we suddenly twisted to
the right, and shot under the Victoria tubular bridge,
which crosses the river where it is two miles wide.
Immediately on the other side was a shoal, not easy
to avoid in the darkness. Then in a few minutes we
were alongside the quay of Montreal. The waters of
Niagara flow here, 350 miles from the Falls. .



Petroleum — Sleeping-cars — Detroit — Forests — Homestead-law
■ — Prices of Corn, and Wages — Politeness — Sunday at Chicago
— Negro-sermon.

ON Thursday, Sept. 1 2, we reluctantly left Niagara
" to go West." Our time was brief, as we had
public engagements at Buffalo on the Sunday week
following. Meanwhile, we purposed to see Chicago,
Lincoln's house and grave at Springfield, and St.
Louis on the Mississippi, returning thence to the neigh-
bourhood of Niagara. We spent a day at Hamilton,
and then went forward by the Great Western Railway
to London, Ontario. Here we were approaching the
famous oil regions. We were taken to see a " Derrick,"
a structure resembling a chimney, up which the rods
are worked when plunging for oil. This one had been
a failure; for, instead of oil, a stream of sulphur-
water was issuing from the deep bore. We saw the
process of refining. The barrels of oil, as obtained

Niagara to Chicago. 117

from the earth, are emptied into great tanks, from
which it is pumped up and sent by pipes into a num-
ber of stills, where the oil is evaporated, and then
condensed into a reservoir. What looked quite black
and thick in the tanks is now blue and clear. It is
then conducted by pipes into other vats, where soda
and sulphur, with large quantities of water, are mixed
up into it by a rotatory fan. The water is then drawn
off at the bottom, leaving the oil colourless and with-
out smell. It is then put into barrels, well lined with
glue, and painted outside. Oil was now a drug. The
raw petroleum could be had at the rate of half a
crown for 40 gallons ; when refined, the price was five-
pence per gallon.

We took the train at midnight, and had our first
experience of a " sleeping-car." On payment of six
shillings extra I had a " state-room," which resembled
a berth on board ship. There was, as usual, a passage
through the middle of the long carriage, on each side
of which the sleeping-berths were arranged, screened
by curtains. Big boots and tiny slippers were laid
out on the floor for cleaning, and now and then a
snore indicated the sleeping life on the tiers of shelves.
I clambered into a berth, following the example of

Ii8 Niagara to Chicago.

those who were now in their mid-sleep, and who, I
fear, had been disturbed by our entrance. I found a
not uncomfortable bed, and the rumble of the car-
riage soon sent me to sleep. At about 6 o'clock I
was roused by the steward, and had a comfortable
" wash-up " ; towels, soap, &c, being all provided
" on board." Our boots were ready for us, well
cleaned. Just as our toilet was completed, we reached
Windsor, where we had to leave the cars for the ferry-
boat, in which we crossed the " Detroit river," or
strait, which is about half a mile wide, and forms a
link in the great chain of lakes. By this the waters
of Lake Huron flow into Lake Erie.

Detroit is the chief city of Michigan : and a great
commercial depot, as all vessels between the Atlantic
and Mississippi pass it. It was founded by the French
in 1670. A corresponding train was waiting to
carry us on by the Michigan Central. The cars were
crowded with farmers who had been at the " State
Fair," at which all the produce of Michigan had been
" exposed." I had become somewhat trained to
endure a disgusting practice, much developed in
America ; but I was not prepared for such a display
as was now presented, and a floor on which soon

Niagara to Chicago. 119

there was not a dry spot remaining. The sights and the
sounds I cannot now, after twelve months, recall with-
out a shudder. Certainly, where there are no dis-
tinctions of carriages, there should be no difference
of class — all should be gentlemen. All cannot be rich
or intellectual, or versed in the etiquette of what is
called " society " ; but all may learn to consider the
feelings and convenience of others, and until they do,
promiscuous travelling will always have its martyrs.

We were now passing through a region where the
primaeval forest was giving way to cultivation. Some-
times we penetrated large tracts where no axe had
yet struck a blow. I was surprised that the trees
were not larger or older. I saw no trees throughout
my American journeys to equal in size and age the
forest trees of Great Britain. Sometimes we came to
a clearing. There were great stacks of wood piled
either for burning or transport. The elm, oak, and
pine are saleable ; but maple, beech, and other trees
are not worth carriage, and are burnt in great piles.
To save the trouble of cutting down the large trees,
the fires are kindled round their trunks so that they
are killed, and in a few years decay and rot off.
These naked trunks, with their gaunt, outstretched

120 Niagara to Chicago.

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryNewman HallFrom Liverpool to St. Louis → online text (page 7 of 16)