Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

Miscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel online

. (page 29 of 30)
Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 29 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

severe snow-storm, the weather became very cold on Sab-
bath night, which occasioned some misgiving as we looked
toward the elevated peaks of the Alleghany ; but loss of
time presented other difficulties worthy of consideration.
The anticipation of one whom the people delight to honor,
and his traveling party, just behind us, was already put-
ting the multitudes in motion. Office-seekers and pleas-
ure-takers were preparing to swell the train of him who
"never surrenders," and to be at "headquarters" in time
to witness the inauguration of General Taylor; all of
whom had to travel the same road by stage, in anticipa-
tion of which the stage fare was already on the rise. To
go with that multitude of aspirants after political pleasure
and official distinction did not serve our convenience, nor
suit our notion of comfort. We did not wish to follow the
train after every thing was eaten and worn out, neither
had we time to wait for all the eastern-bound pilgrims to
pass on before us; and, as we were in advance, we
resolved, if possible, to maintain that position, by leaving
on Monday morning. New bills were distributed, prom-
ising, of course, superior accommodations, on a "splendid
line of Troy-built coaches," etc. ; so that crossing the
mountains might have been regarded, by one not familiar
with the practical operation, as a mere pleasure- ride on a
summer's morning; but experience had taught us to throw
in one-half for shrinkage. Some of our fellow-passengers
on the Telegraph, forming a choice party, were promoted
to the mail-line, with the flattering prospect of getting on
in quick time; then four coaches of the accommodation



line were loaded, of which ours was one. From appear-
ance it had once been a second-class coach of its size, but
had seen its best days, and bore evident marks of a veteran
mountain pioneer; having inscribed upon its shield, in
small capitals, the significant title, "Rio Grande." It was
just large enough to accommodate six passengers of ordi-
nary stature, and more should not have been required of
it; but its unreasonable task-master piled on about one
thousand pounds of baggage to commence with ; and then
about fifteen hundred pounds of humanity were stowed
away inside, consisting of ten passengers, or, more tech-
nically, "nine and a half," one being under size, but not
as much under as some of us were over ; so that it was
not respectful in our way-bill to call us nine and a half,
for, on an average, we compared respectably with any ten
passengers in the train. Beside, we were favored with the
usual supply of baskets, sachels, extra robes, etc. Our
concern did not do a way-side business; we were all
through passengers ; and when once crowded in, and the
door forced to upon us, we experienced the practical defi-
nition of a squeeze. I will venture to say that the same lot
of individuals were never before compressed within the
same narrow space, and it is to be hoped they never will
be again. The word was given, "All set," and we dashed
off at a merry step, but not in a merry mood. To endure
the pressure we then felt during a trip of one hundred and
thirty- one miles, was a serious affliction, but one for which
there was no remedy. The state of the temperature did not
admit of any one riding outside. On reaching Washing-
ton, Pennsylvania, some of the mail-coach party becoming
indisposed from exposure, remained ; the balance held out
to Uniontown, but were so affected with the intensity of
cold as to abandon the coach, and lie over. While at
Washington we procured heated bricks for our ladies to
place under their feet, and a new blanket to spread over


them, which enabled them to endure the cold to Union-
town, where we renewed our preparations for the night,
and set oft for a lofty tumble over the mountains, having
to ride sixty-three miles to Cumberland, the next place
where we were allowed to warm, or receive any refresh-
ment, which took us from half-past six in the evening-
till half-past seven next morning. A night's ride of
thirteen hours, in the elevated and frozen regions of the
Laurel Hill and the Alleghany Mountains, in our cramped
condition, was really tedious, and attended with positive
suffering from both cramp and frost. The road was firm,
and tolerably smooth ; too much so for our safety on the
mountains. The icy descents were the more dangerous
from being covered by the recent fall of snow, conceal-
ing the points of difficulty from the driver's view till the
wheels commenced sliding. The lamps went out early in
the night, and were not relighted; the road was but par-
tially beaten down after the last snow, so that it was diffi-
cult to determine by sight when the stage was in the right
track, as every place had nearly the same appearance.
This was one source of danger. Another was the rapidity
with which we descended, to regain the time lost in
ascending the high mountains. Our drivers complained
of having "a salty load," meaning heavy. One driver,
while creeping up a long hill in a slow walk, became cold
and impatient, and, having gained the summit, and
reached the turning-point, jumped down, adjusted his
check-blocks, gave his horses an awful cursing to wake
them up, and a few lashes to raise their mettle for a lively
run down the mountain. The checks had some control
over the fore-wheels, but the hind ones w r ould slide which
ever way the weight of baggage leaned in the rear boot,
changing sides as the ground changed. The diminutive
old vehicle, reeling and screaking under its ponderous
Wd„ went sliding down with fearful speed, and, some-


times, almost sidewise, which, of course, was extremely-
perilous. We often had occasion to remember the Bible
truth, "A horse is a vain thing for safety;" though, in
some cases, the teams are more civil than their drivers.
Neither was to be trusted; therefore we committed
ourselves to the safe-keeping of the Most High, and
pleaded that his presence might go with us and keep us
from evil. To his superintending care, alone, we attrib-
uted our safety, amid perils visible and invisible to us.

On reaching Cumberland we felt thankful for whole
bones. As we crept out of the stage the bell summoned
us to breakfast. There was no time to rest or warm, as
it was near the regular time of leaving for Baltimore, and
we hurried in to the table, where we found only scraps left
from the regular breakfast. Those who preceded had
saved us the trouble of eating much. Our work of glean-
ing the fragments was soon accomplished, and we made
for the depot, mending our pace at each note of the whis-
tle, and just had time to pitch in our trunks and get
aboard before the train moved. The change from the
hard seats of our old, rickety coach to cushioned seats, in
a warm and spacious car, was very grateful to us cold and
weary travelers. The same evening we met a welcome
reception by r our Christian friends in Baltimore, where our
perils are past, and our toils are ended, for the present;
and, though nearly "used up" by the journey, we trust
no serious injury to our health has been inflicted. Mrs.
Morris endured the entire trip better than could have been
expected under all the circumstances, but suffers with
soreness and pain.

Yours, truly, T. A. Morris.

Baltimore, Feb. 22, 1849.




How striking is the contrast between city and country !
The former is preferable for winter residence, on account
of its facilities for business pursuits, social intercourse,
and church privileges; but, in summer, the country is
altogether more desirable. The few stinted shrubs and
shade-trees, seen about the city mansions of the wealthy,
are no more to the forests and gardens of nature, than the
maps of countries and the pictures of landscapes are to
the originals. Then the idea of being confined, during a
long summer, to a city, with all its noise, and dust, and
heat, compares indifferently with the freedom and pleasure
of the cool country shade. It is only because the few
months of relief allowed us from official business come in
the cold season, that we are willing to spend them amid
the bustle of crowded cities, while such a vast range of
rural territory is accessible, where one may roam in peace-
ful contemplation among the beauties and grandeur of this
wide world.

We have occasionally attempted brief sketches of west-
ern life and scenery, not for those familiar with them, but
for distant friends and readers. Now we propose to
reverse the order, and let our friends in the west have a
glimpse of some things which have come under our
observation in the east. In doing this, we hope to afford
some entertainment for esteemed friends that never saw
those things, and thereby discharge, in part, a debt of
gratitude justly due them. All we assume, however, is
to note down a few observations made in the summer of
1849, during a transient sojourn in "the land of steady
habits." We kept no journal, and were not on a tour of
observation particularly, but partly on a Gospel mission,


and partly on a tour of health and recreation, after a long
and severe campaign of official duty. Yet some objects
lying in our course made so strong an impression on our
mind, that we could not forget them, if we would, and
would not, if we could. A few of those scenes which
made the deepest impression on our memory, without
attempting any connected narrative, is all we think of
embracing in this article. Even on this limited scale, it is
embarrassing to decide where to begin, and where to end.
The Atlantic coast, with its bays and harbors, its capes
and fisheries, its commercial points and fashionable bath-
ing establishments, must all be omitted. Nor can we
allow room for a description of the Penobscot and the
Kennebec — those bold channels, with their islands, indent-
ations, and promontories, their bluff shores, abrupt peaks,
sloping borders, and fertile plains, ornamented with vil-
lages of white habitations and steeple-churches — however
pleasant it would be to do so. The beautiful hights, and
inclined planes between them, must share the same
neglect. Neither can we linger, gentle reader, along
the shady banks of the Merrimack, to examine its fac-
tories, growing young cities, rural retreats, and green val-
leys, though this would be delightful. We must hasten
along the iron road, crossing hills and vales, alternately
edging along cultivated plains, and cutting through
extended ledges of solid granite, till we reach Lebanon,
New Hampshire. Here let us pause awhile, amid the
combined beauties of nature and art.

Lebanon is a small place, uniting the manufacturing and
agricultural interests. In the center is a large hollow
6quare, on a clean sand-plain, partially covered with a
green grass-plat, bounded on two sides with business-
houses, and on the others with tasty private dwellings,
from which broad streets lead off in various directions.
The plain on which the village stands appears to be



iuclosed all round with gently-iising hills, which are used
as pasture-lands, dotted with numerous rocks, and shaded
with forest-trees, and enlivened with grazing herds of cat-
tle. There are, however, winding passes between those
hills. The Mascomy, a narrow river, fed by a small lake
of the same name a few miles east, cuts the west end of
the village, where, in passing about a hundred and fifty
yards, it falls some forty or fifty feet, over successive
ledges of rock, and thence, by a rapid movement of some
miles, loses itself in the Connecticut river. On one street,
leading west, you cross the falls, about midway, on a sub-
stantial bridge, affording a fine view of the descending
torrent. The railroad crosses near by, at the upper end
of the falls, on a covered way, and leads up, through a
deep cut, to the depot, in the north-east corner of the
village. On this line, connecting Boston and Montpelier,
six long trains pass daily, at regular hours ; four of them
crowded with passengers, and two conveying produce,
lumber, and live stock — sheep and cattle — to the Boston
market. The whole, taken together, renders Lebanon one
of the most romantic little places we have seen. It affords
excellent society, and, like most New England villages, is
well supplied with churches and seminaries. Withal, it is
remarkably healthy, in general ; in proof of which, we
made the acquaintance of some citizens over eighty years
old, and one over ninety. From this point we hailed some
two weeks in August, and found it a delightful summer


Now, suppose we roll down to the White river junction,
then turn north up the Connecticut Valley, along the state
line, between New Hampshire and Vermont, viewing a
series of green meadows and lovely villages on either side
of the river, altogether appearing as a vast, continuous
garden, inclosed with a wall of mountains. Among the
noted places, perhaps Haverhill, New Hampshire, and


Newberry, Vermont, are the most handsome. Here we
spent a pleasant Sabbath, attending religious service in
both places. In the latter is an excellent and flourishing
seminary. We, however, can not linger, even on this
beautiful landscape, lest we be tedious. A few miles
above Newberry we leave the cars, and pass, by stage, up
the Amonoosuc, through Lisbon and Littleton, toward the
mountain region. But without regard to exact order, let
us digress across the hill country, through that elevated,
uneven, but cultivated section of gardens and meadows,
cottages and stone fences, including the towns of Landaff,
Bethlehem, and Sugar Hill, and first take a view of Fran-
conia, a southern section of the general range of White

The most natural way to approach this group of won-
ders is from the east. Coming up the narrow thorough-
fare, between Mount Lafayette and Mount Jackson, along
the Pemegewasset, a tributary of the Merrimack, the first
stopping-place of note is Mr. Taft's Temperance Hotel, a
quiet, well-kept house. From his front piazza north, the
mountain view is at once grand and lovely. Here we
obtained a guide, who conducted us over hills and hol-
lows, by a winding path, through devious wilds and
roughs, across the river, some three-fourths of a mile, to
the Flume. This is a sheet of pure mountain water, two
rods wide, but shallow; passing, w r ith great rapidity, some
hundred and fifty yards, over an inclined plane of solid
stone, worn perfectly smooth by the action of the current,
and presenting a silver-white appearance, of surpassing
beauty. Above the Flume a fourth of a mile is the cata-
ract, formed by the same rivulet, falling some rods over a
precipice of cragged rocks. Just at the foot of the cata-
ract proper, the descending current enters an opening in a
massive rock, about one rod wide, twenty feet deep, and a
hundred yards long ; the side walls being perpendicular,

NOTES O F T B A V E L . 381

and smooth as if the channel had been wrought by
mechanical skill, though it was, no doubt, formed by
the action of the water itself, in the course of many long
centuries. Access to this point is obtained with difficulty,
bv clambering along the sides of the irregular cliffs, with
scarce room for foothold, over the rapid stream. The
whole scenery round the cataract, located in a ravine of
the mountain side, is wild and strange.

Proceeding up the road, perhaps a mile or more from
the tavern, and off to the right, as we understood, is the
Pool, a large body of water far down in a deep cavity,
among the rocks. This place is much resorted to by vis-
itors; but want of time, and the difficulty of descending
to the Pool, prevented our turning aside to examine it.
But the most beautiful object in the vicinity is the Basin,
immediately by the way on our left. It is formed by the
Pemegewasset tumbling, in wild confusion, down a preci-
pice of projecting rocks ; so that, in the descent, the water
is thrown to the left with violence, against a curving stone,
then forced to the right, giving it a whirling motion, which
has worn a basin in the rock that forms the bed of the
river, of an oval shape, about thirty by twenty feet, and
perhaps eight or ten feet deep. The Basin is always full,
and running over. The troubled element, after whirling
round in a circle, passes off at one corner, and pursues its
wonted zigzag course, amid the obstructing fragments of
rock below. The water is pure mountain spring, clear as
crystal, sufficiently cold for comfort, and delicious to the
taste ; of which we had ample proof, by slaking our thirst
at the Pool on a hot afternoon.

Above the Basin, some two or three miles, the scenery
changes from the beautiful to the sublime. Here the val-
ley becomes more narrow, and the mountains, on either
side, more elevated, abrupt, and imposing. Just below
the Notch House, kept by Mr. Gibbs, a place of much


resort, on account of its romantic location, and the spien-
<Jor of the surrounding scenery, is the Pond. Perhaps
this is nothing more than a collection of mountain waters,
detained by obstructions on a small level, similar to a large
canal basin. On the north side, near the road, is a post,
from which projects a finger-board, on which is inscribed,
"Profile." This points across the water, and directs
attention to "The Old Man of the Mountain." Viewed
from this position, the projecting points of rock on Mount
Jackson are so arranged as to form an exact profile of a
man's face on a large scale — forehead, eyes, nose, mouth,
chin, and all. He, however, does not conform to the
modern style of hat, with high crown and narrow rim, but
wears a kind of patriarchal cap, with an ample shade in
front, and looks as though he defied all the revolutions of
time. He is surmounted on a nearly-perpendicular cliff,
or pinnacle of rocks, at an elevation of about one thousand
feet, in an easy-sitting position, as if occupying a chair of
state, looking, I believe, north-east, with his eye firmly
fixed on the loftiest summit of Mount Lafayette, where he
has probably remained a faithful sentinel ever since Noah's
Flood, and perhaps for a longer period. Had he taken
his position on a mountain, in some heathen land, no doubt
but millions of the human family would have worshiped
him as a supernatural being.

The next object of note is the Lake, situated between
the mountains, being a collection of clear water supplied
by mountain springs, with a sand and gravel bottom, cov-
ering, perhaps, some forty acres. On this lake is a pleas-
ure-boat, which, at the time we passed by, was filled with
visitors, amusing themselves with a speaking trumpet, and
hearing themselves mocked by the mountain echo, which,
in that confined location, was very distinct, and rather
startling, as though some one was speaking from the caves
of the mountain.


Soon after leaving the Lake, we reached the main moun-
tain pass, wild and desolate, though rather inviting than
repulsive. From this point we began to descend, but not
rapidly, or abruptly ; for the road through the Franconia
Notch is pleasant for carriage-riding all the way. As we
came down, one chasm on our left made an imposing
appearance. It was a dark ravine, shaded with birch and
hemlock, but how deep we could not determine, as the
boughs, with their thick foliage, were so interlocked as to
exclude the sun's rays, and, consequently, obstructed our
vision, and, not being able to see the bottom, rendered it
the more terrific. So far as we could obtain a distinct
view from the carriage, the moss-covered rocks, resting
under a dense forest, gave a somber and venerable air to
the whole. Reaching the valley, and crossing the South
Amonoosuc, we soon gained the elevation called Sugar
Hill, some seven miles from the Franconia Notch. It was
that hour of peculiar interest, when the luminary of day
was about to disappear below the western horizon. Some
of his last rays were faintly resting on the mountain side,
while flitting clouds flung their moving shadows over other
parts : we paused, and turned round to enjoy a last, lin-
gering view of the mountain scenery, which had just left
such a deep impression upon our minds. The sight was
magnificent beyond description. Lafayette and Jackson
loomed up toward heaven ; fragments of their vapor clouds
were floating up through the gorge, and embracing the
bosoms of those mountains, but leaving their heads uncov-
ered to look out on the vast expanse below.

Now let us resume our route up the Amonoosuc proper,
and head toward the White Mountains. Here we are
again in a fertile vale, some parts highly cultivated,
others in nature's wildness, along the banks of a beau-
tiful little river, now gliding gently and silently through
the plain, then dashing with impetuosity over declining


ledges, overhung with pine and fir-trees, here veering off,
and leaving us in an extensive, smooth meadow, and there
returning to the base of the hill, and crowding us into
rocky narrows The main valley, through which this
crooked stream flows, is several miles wide. Off to our
right, in the distance, Mount Lafayette rears its proud
summit, like a spacious dome — for that is the form of it —
while, in our front, the whole series of White Mountains
would be visible from a favorable position; but Mount
Washington, like Saul among the armies of Israel, stands
head and shoulders above all the rest. In the evening,
after a journey of exceeding interest, we arrived at Mr.
Fabian's Hotel, a large, commodious establishment, capa-
ble of boarding and lodging a hundred and fifty visitors ;
and, at the proper season, every room is full, but con-
stantly changing between comers and goers. It is a white
frame building, with long wings of double rooms, and
halls and porticos; stands alone, and, in that lonely
retreat, makes a fine appearance. Fortunately for us,
Mrs. Morris and I obtained a comfortable room, which
had just been vacated, and remained till after breakfast
next morning. From the upper piazza, the view of Mount
Washington was fair, though to the summit, by any prac-
ticable route, was nine miles. It was a pleasant evening,
and nearly clear, excepting some light clouds of fog 01
mist, which are generally visible about those mountain
bights. When these would come square against the
mountain, then break, and pass in fragments on either
side, the sight was, to us, both novel and sublime. No
one needs to doubt this, when it is remembered that the
bight of Mount Washington is six thousand and four hun-
dred feet above the level of the sea, or about one mile and
a quarter. Yet large parties, of both sexes, visit its sum-
mit almost every clear day in summer. They go partly
on horses, walking over the most difficult places, and

. E s o r T k a v i: j..

attended by a guide familiar with the "bridle -path,"
which leaves the road a short distance above the hotel.
Each visitor, furnished with horse and guide, pays three
dollars. A party of nineteen returned to Fabian's from
such an expedition just after we arrived. They brought
up in double file, swinging their hats and wnite handker-
chiefs over their heads, and shouting as if they had not

only scaled the Alps, but conquered all the nations beyond.
Such a procession, in that mountain retreat, was, of
'••>ar-'. exciting; but it was pleasure dearly bought, for
some of the female adventurers were heard to say, next
morning, they were scarcely able to walk. We had not
the temerity to imitate their exploits, but resumed our
journey on wheels, in a comfortable carriage, drawn by
two well-trained ponies, in care of a careful and pleasant
young gentleman, who had joined us as a traveling com-

We soon passed the Giant's Grave, a mound, such as
are common in the west; but who would stop to survey a
mound with a mountain in view? As we neared the ele-
vated region, we saw proof of the humidity of the atmos-
phere in the pale-green moss growing on the boughs of
the trees, not of luxuriant growth, like the long gray moss
of the south, but shorter, and of a more sickly and deli-
cate appearance. About five miles of an almost imper
ceptible ascent, by a lonely road, through unbroken
ts, brought us to the Notch House, kept by Mr.
ford, ili»' younger, standing near a bluff point, in the
north-east section of a small level plain, a part of which,
.in- left, was a shallow pond, which seemed to be the

Online LibraryThomas A. (Thomas Asbury) MorrisMiscellany: consisting of essays, biographical sketches and notes of travel → online text (page 29 of 30)