Thomas A. (Thomas Asbury) Morris.

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

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source of one branch of the Amonoosuc, and running
meanders had marked our general course
thither, while a marshy-looking meadow, on our right,
appeared to be drained by forming the head-spring of the
Saco river, run -i ; the two streams rather inter-



locked, or reaching into each other's territory, but both
originating in that plain, -which, perhaps, included some
ten acres. But how the Saco, or we, could find any out-
let, was, at first, a mystery ; for all before us appeared to
be solid mountain, and impassable. However, passing
the hotel, and turning round a point of rocks, our road
formed a short curve to the left, and suddenly brought us
into a very narrow pass, between two perpendicular stone
walls, very high, leaving just room for a carriage and the
little foaming rivulet to pass. This was the "White
Mountain Notch." These huge masses of solid stone, on
either hand, one of which we judged to be over forty feet
high, looked as if they had been sundered by some terrible
convulsion of nature in days of yore ; while heaps of fallen
cliffs, in scattered fragments, partly filling up the chasms
below, corroborated the same idea. The plain above
described could never have been a lake, with sufficient
weight of water to force a passage through this immense
barrier of solid rock, some forty feet above the plain, and
as thick as high, because there was nothing to prevent the
water from passing off west by the way we came. If this
gorge was ever forced open by the element of water, it
must have occurred after "all the high hills that were
under the whole heaven were covered;" afttf "fifteen
cubits upward did the waters prevail, [above the sum-
mits,] and the mountains were covered;" we say, after all
this, when the Flood had so far abated as to form currents
through the lower parts or gaps of mountains, when
moved by the winds, then the water, if ever, here broke
through, and produced this opening and confusion of cliffs.
One thing is certain; that is, some of these ponderous
masses have been long since removed from their original
positions; but whether by the Flood which destroyed the
old world, or by earthquakes, who can tell? So soon as
we got through this narrow defile, all language would fail

* OTBS t TKA V 1. I . 387

to give any tolerable idea of the scene which was dis-
closed. On the right were hideous caverns, whose death-
like silence was broken only by gurgling rivulets, struggling
for outlet among ruined masses of stone, thrown in wildest
disorder, and overhung by ponderous mountain steeps,
while, on the left, one of the bluff peaks of the mountain
towered some thousands of feet above us. On these sub-
lime pyramids of nature one might gaze for hours; and
the longer he surveyed them the more he would become
overawed, and impressed with an idea of the infinite power
of that God whose hand formed "the everlasting hills."
Before these stupendous monuments of Omnipotence,
Atheism itself would stand abashed.

Leaving these scenes of wonder, we descended by the
only possible route, a well-wrought road, curving round
the irregular base of mammoth cliffs, the mountains appar-
ently rising higher and higher above us, as we approxi-
mated their lower foundations. After proceeding gradu-
ally downward, perhaps a half mile or more, we came to
two cascades, coming in on the left, both passing under
bridges, which formed parts of our road. How far up
they burst out of the mountain we had no means of
determining, but we could distinctly see one of them, some
five hundred, and the other about eight hundred feet
above us, and from that down to the ravine below us ; for,
descending over rocky beds, at an angle of about sixty
degrees, and broken into foam as white as milk, it was
easy to trace their rapid course, and delightful to hear
their soft music tones. At the time we saw them they
were flush of water, and made a splendid exhibition.
Before we reached the "Willey House," three miles
further down the gorge, a steady rain commenced falling,
which shut us in the balance of the day, and all night,
affording ample time for inquiry and reflection. This
house derives its name from its former occupants, the


excellent and lamented Willey family, who were over-
whelmed, and suddenly destroyed by the great avalanche,
on the night of August 28, 1826. Apprehensive of
danger, they had erected a shanty further from the base
of the mountain, a little lower down the valley, where the
slope was more gradual, as a refuge in case of alarm.
During heavy falls of rain, on the night above named, the
whole side of the mountain in the rear, for an extent of
some hundred and fifty or two hundred yards long, and
more than a thousand feet high, suddenly gave way, and
came down with a fearful crash, carrying earth, trees, and
loose rocks, in one confused mass of destruction. Had
the inmates remained within doors they would have been
secure, for just behind the house was a huge block of
granite, deeply imbedded in the plain, and inclining
toward the mountain, sufficiently strong to resist the
whole pressure, till it parted, so as to pass on either side
of the house, and reunite below, crushing the barn, and
filling the garden and small meadow in front, but leaving
the house on its proper foundation, and uninjured. But
the family, consisting of Captain Willey, wife, five chil-
dren, and two hired men, attempting to gain the shanty,
were, with it, suddenly overwhelmed and crushed by the
desolating slide. No one of the nine escaped to tell the
fate of the others ; but, by excavation, most of the bodies
were found, and collected into one general deposit at the
lower extremity of the sand- bank formed by the slide,
where a heap of loose stones serves as a rude monument
to designate the ever-memorable spot, though the remains,
we are told, have since been removed to a neighboring
cemetery. In the same habitation where the Willeys once
enjoyed life, to which, however, additions have been made,
we took shelter, during a day and night of rain and storm,
and felt it to be the safest place within reach, as there was
nothing left above to fall on us, but the solid strata of

N OTE8 1 1 K .-. \ i. ].. 389

stone. Next dav was dear, calm, and exhilarating, when
we -lowly retraced our steps through the mountain pass,
completing the observations before noted. They faintly
our own first impressions. The general appearance
of these mountains is what Field, Vines, and others
described it to be, when they first visited them, more than
two hundred years ago, and reported them under the
name of the "Crystal Hills;'' and the fair inference is,
that, in the main, they are now as they were when lirst
formed by the great Creator. The chief range of moun-
tain bights is twenty miles long, and ten miles wide at the
base, situated .sixty-live miles from the ocean; and yet it
is said that, on a clear day in winter, their snow-capped
summits are visible fifty miles from shore, resting, like a
silvered cloud, in the western horizon.

We must of necessity omit all observations made in
passing west through Vermont, till we reach Lake Cham-
plain, and can only notice it briefly. It is one hundred
and twenty-eight miles long, and its greatest width fifteen
or twenty miles, interspersed with islands of various forms
and sizes, which, together with the points and indentations
of its ever-varying shores, give it an air of romance and
beauty equal to any thing of the kind. While ascending
that lake, views are often presented from the upper deck
of a steamboat at once grand and delightful. To the left,
the Camel's Hump, and other peaks of the Green Moun-
tains, have a most commanding and exhilarating appear-
ance; the rugged bights in the "empire slate," to the
right, are scarcely less so, while all between these
extended ranges is apparently made up of gentle swells,
fertile vales, cultivated fields, living streams, and white
cottages, including the lake and its numerous villages
along the shores. The scene is really enchanting. It is
no cause of marvel, to one familiar with it, that Dr.
Dixon, on first view of it, for awhile forgot his native


land, home, and friends, and felt like pitching his tent,
and remaining there forever. At Ticonderoga Point,
New York, famous in the history of the American Revo-
lution, we went ashore, and found a quiet and agreeable
hotel, in a cool, shady forest, a little below the ruins of
the old fort, where we rested two hours, and enjoyed a
comfortable dinner. Five miles staging brought us to
Lake George, which, by a narrow outlet, is connected
with Lake Champlain. It is thirty-three miles long, and
about two miles wide, through which, in a small steam-
boat, we softly glided, on a bright afternoon, amid numer-
ous green islands of limited dimensions, but handsome
cliffs and shrubbery. The lake is rather crooked, so that,
after proceeding a few miles, and curving round the bold
point of a hill, we soon lost sight of the narrow pass
through which we came. From that to midway of the
lake, the mountains became higher, steeper, and more
magnificent on both sides. At one point, four of these,
two on either side, nearly opposite, whose respective bases
were washed by the deep and narrow channel, and formed
its rock-bound shores, brought even their lofty summits
into such proximity, that it seemed as though friends
standing on each might hail each other, if not converse
together, across this lovely little sea. From thence to the
end of the voyage the mountains gradually receded. In
the evening, toward sundown, we rounded to opposite the
Lake House, a very delightful retreat, at the head of nav-
igation, which we entered by an easy ascent, through a
wilderness of shrubbery and flowers, of which we
obtained a fuller view from the upper piazza, overlook-
ing, at the same time, part of the lake and its sur-
rounding objects. Upon the whole, the voyage up Lake
George is not excelled, in real interest, by any of the
same extent. Here this sketch of rural scenery, already
too extended, must terminate.


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