Timothy Flint.

A condensed geography and history of the western states, or the Mississippi valley online

. (page 19 of 85)
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pelled by tread wheels; and we have, more dian once,
seen a boat moved rajncUy up stream by wheels, afr^ the
steam boat ccmstmction, propelled by a man, taming a
crank.

But the boats of passage and conveyance, that remain
after the invention of «team boats, and are still important
to those olyects, are keel boats and flats. The flat boats
are called, in the vernacular phrase, ^ Kentucky flats,' or
^ broad hwns.' They are simply an oblong ark, widi a
roof of circular slope, to shed raia They are generally
about fifteen fo^ wide, and from fifty to ei^ty, and some-
times an .hundred fe^ in l^agth. The timbers of the
bottom are massive beams; and they we intended to
be of great strength; and to carry a burthen of firom



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^ to four iiundred barrela GrMt numbers of catde^
hogs and horses are c<mreyed to iMrket in ifaenii We
have seen ^mtly boats of tii^ descripdon, itted up for the
descent of fiunities to the lower country, with a stove, com-
fortable apartments, beds, ftnd arrangements for commo*
dious habitancy^ We see in them ladies, servants, cattle,
horses, sheep, dogs and poultry, all floating on the same
bottom; and on the roof the looms, plou^s, spinning
wheels and domestic implements o( the flimily.

Nine tendis of the produce of the upper country, even
after the invention of steam boats, continues to descend to
New Orleans in Kentucky flats. They generally carry
three hands; and perhaps a superliumeraiy fourth hand,
a kind of supercargo. This boat, in the form 6f d paral-*
lelogram, lying flat and dead in the water, and wift square
timbers below its bottom planks, and carrying such a great
weight, runs on to a sandbar with a strong headway, and
ploughs ite timbers into the sand ; and it is, of course, a
work of extreme labor to get the boat afloat again. Its
form and its w^ht render it difficult to give it a direction
witfi any power of oars. H^ice, in the diallow waters, it
often gets aground. When it has at length clear^ the
shallow waters, and gained the heavy current of the Mis-
sissippi, the landing such ati unwieldy water crafl, in such
a current, is a matter of no litde difficulty and danger.

All the toil, and danger, and exposure, and moving ac*
cidents of this long and perilous voyage, are hidden, how-
ever, from the inhabitants, who contemplate the boats floaf-
ing by their dwellings on beautifiil spring mornings, when
the verdant forest, the mild and delicious temperature of
the air, the delightfol azure of the sky of this country, the
fine bottom on Uie one hand, and the romantic bluff on
the other, the broad and smooth stream rolling calmly
down the forest, and floating the boat gendy forward,



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Mjimms OF tua ^bople. S33

present deli^it&l images and associatioiis to the beholdeiu
At this time there is no visible danger, or call for labor.
The boat takes oare of itself) and little do the beholders
imaging how different a scene may be presented in half
an hom-i Meantime one of the hands scrapes a violin, and
the others danca Greetings, or rude defiances, or trials
<^ wit, or proflfers of love to the girls on the shore, or saucy
messages, are. .scattered between them and the spectators
along the banka The boat glides on, until it disappears
behind the point of wood At this moment^ perhaps, the
bqgle, with which all the boats are provided, strikes up its
note in the distance over the water. These scenes,and these
notes, echoing from the blufl^ of the beautiful Ohio, have
a charm finr the imagination, which, although we have
heard them a thousand times repeated, at all hours and in
«11 positions, even to us present the image of a tempting
and charmii^ youthful existence^ that almost inspires a
wish, &at we were boattnea

No wonder^ that the youngs who are reared in these re-
mote r^ions, mth that restless curiosity, which is fostered
by solitude and silence, who witness scenes like this so
.fireqo^idy, no wonder, that the severe and unremitting la-
bors of agriculture, performed directly in the view of such
scenes^ should become tasteless and iiksome. No wonder,
that the y<Hing^ al<Hig the banks of the great streaqfis,
should detest the labors of the field, and embrace every
of^iortumty, either openly, or, if minors, covertly to escape,
and devote Aemselves to the pernicious employment of
boating. In this view we may account for the detestation
of the inhabitants, along these great streamy, towards steam
boats, whicb are continually diminishing the number of
all odier hoate and boatmen, and which have already with-
drawn, probably, ten thousand Grom that employment. We
have se^i, what is the character of this employment, no^-

▼ou I. 30



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^34 MiansBim taixey.

withstaiiding atl iIb seductk»i6. In no employment do dM
hands so soon ^¥ear«oai It is, comparatively, but a few
years, since these waters have been navigated in any way.
Yet at every b^id, and every high point of the rivers,
wh^« you go <Ni lAore for a nuMiieDt, you may expect to
see the narrow mound, and the rude monumem, and the
coarse memorial carved <ln an adj(Mning tree by a brother
boatman, to mark the spot, where an exhausted boatman
yielded his breath, and was buried.

The bayou at New Madrid has an extendve and fine
eddy, into which boats float, almost without exertion, and
land in a remarkably fine harbor. It may be fiiirly con-
sidered the central point, or the chief mer^ian of boats,
in the Mississippi valley. This bayou g^fieraHy brings up
die descending and ascending boats; and this is an excd-
lent point of observation, fi*om which to contemplate their
aspect, die character of boating, and the descriptions and
the amount of produce Grom the upper country. You can
here take an imaginary voyage to the fidls of St Andicmy,
or Bfissouri ; to the lead mines of Rock nrer, or Chicago
of lake Michigan ; to Tippicanoe of the Wabadi, Oleanne
point of the Alleghany, Brownsville of the M<mongahela,
Che Saline of the Kenhawa, or die mountiuns, round whose
bases wkids the Tennessee; or, if you choose, you may
take the oheap and rajHd journey of diou|^t along the
courses oF an hundred other rivers; and-in the lapse of a
^w days^ residence in die spring, at this point, you may see
boats, which have arrived here fi*om all di^ imagined
placea One hundred boats have landed here in a day. —
The boisterous gaiety of the hands, the congratulations cf
acquaintances,who have met here from immleiise distances,
^le moving picture <^ Hfe on board the boats, in the nu-
merous animals, large and small, which they carry, dieir
different ladings, die evidence of die increasing agriculture



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vwrncwrB of tbb neePLK WK-

albeye, and, more Aan dl, die immmse (Ustinoes, whidi
tbey have already tayersed, aflbrd a copious fund of medi-
latioa In one place there are boats loaded with pine
plaidc, from the pine forests of the southwest of New York
In another quarter there are numerous boats with the ^ Yan^
kee notions' of Ohio. In another quarter are landed to-
gether the Ixmts of ^ old Kentucky,' with th^r whiskey,
hemp, tobacco, begging and bale rope; with aU the other
articles of the produce of their soil From Tennessee-
there are t^ same articles, tc^ther with boats loaded with
bales of cottoa From Illinois and Missouri, cattle,^horses,
and the general produce of the western country, together
with peltry and l^d from Missouri Some boats are'
loaded with corn in bulk, and in the ear. Others are
loaded with pork in bulk. Others with barrels of apples
and potatoes, and great quantities of dried apples and
peaches. Others have loads of cider, and what is called
^ ci^r royal,' or cider, that has been strength^tied by boil-
ing, or fireo^ii^. Other boats are loaded with furniture,
tools, dom^c and agricultural implements; in short, tl^
immerous products of the ingenuity, speculalicm, manufiio-
tore and agriculture of the whole upper country of the
West They have i^ome from regions, thousands of miles
apart They have floated to a conuiKm p<»nt of umon. —
The sQsikees of the boats cover some acres. Dunghill
£>wJs are 0utteriD^ over die rw^ as invariaUe iq^ien-
dagtf. The piercing note of the chanticleer is heard^r-^
The cattle low. The hwses trample, as in their stables.
Tlto^pirine uitorthe criest>f fightii^ with each o^r. The
mHteyft fobble The do^ ef an hundred regions become
aO(|iiaititad. The boatornitrHvelahout from boat to boat,
msd^ eaqnifias and acquamlances, i^ree to ^lash boats,'
«ii iseaUfd, and fomi atti^nces to yield mutual assistance
ta meh o^ber 09 the way to New Orleans. After an hour



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S36 vamukoNi vauby.

w two pftflfsed in this way, they ^riiig on shore, to * raise
the wind^ in the village. If they tarry all night, as is gene*
rally the case, it is well ^r the people of the to\m, if they
do not become riotous in die course of the evening; in
which case, 8trQ|p measures are adopted, and the proceed-
ings on both sides are summary and decisive. With the
first dawn all is bustle and motion ; and amidst shouts, and
trampling of cattle, and barking of dogs, and crowing of
the dunghill fowls, the fleet is in a half an hour all undor
way; and when die sun rises, nothing is seen, but the
broad stream rolling on, as before. Th^e boats unite
once more at Nat6he2 and New Orleans; and altbdu^
they live on the same river, it is improbable, tltttt they will
ever meet again on the earth.

In passing below, we often see a numb^ of boats lasiied,
and floadng together. In travelling over the roofe of thi^
floating town, you have a Considerable walk. These as-
sociations have various objecta Boats so united, as is
well known, float considerably &ster. Peiliaps the object
is to barter, and obtain supplies. Perhaps to kill beef, or
pork, for fre^ provisions. Apples, cider, nots^ dried fruit,
whiskey, cider and peach brandy, and drams, lure retailed ;
and the concern.is for a while one of great merriment and
good will Unforeseen moral storms arise ; and the part-
nership, which iMBgan in a frolio, ends in a quarrel The
aggrieved discharge a few mutual volleys of the eomj^i-
ments, usually interchanged on such occa^c^is, unlasb, and
each one manage his boat iirhk own way.

The order of things in the tires^^ti couMy nttitfally
fosters a propensity for a floatiBg life on the wal^. The
inhabitants will ultimately become as femous, as ihe Chi-
nese, for having their habitaney in boats, bitime of high
ivaters at the mouth of the Ohio, we were on board an
immensely large flat boat, on w^iich waa ^ k^ a town,'



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FCKHiriTS OF THE PSOPLS. 331

ivlijch had i^red in the papers, as a place, diat bade fair
to rival the anci^it metropolis of the Delta of the Nile. —
The tavern, the retail and dram shops, together with the in-
habitants, and no small number of very merry customers,
floated on the same bottom. We have seen a large tin-
ner^s establishment floating dovm the Mississippi. It was
*a respectable manu&ctory; and the articles were sold,*
wholesale and retail. There were three apartments, and
a number o( hands. When they had mended all the tin,
and vended all, that they could sell in one place, they
floated on to another. We have heard of a large floating
blacksmiths estsiblisment; and of another, in which it was
contemplated to work a trip hammer. Beside the nume-
rous periogues, or singular looking Spanidii and French
trading retail boats, commonly called ^chicken thieves,^
which scour the rivers within an hundred leagues of New
Orleans, Acre are on all the waters of the West retail tra-
ding boats. They are oflen fitted up vnth no inconsidera-
ble ing^iQ^ and show. The goods are fancifiilly ar-
ranged oh dielves. The delicate hands of the vender
would bear a compariscm with those of the spruce clerk
behind our city countera Every considerable landing
pkee on die waters of the Ohio and die Mississippi has in
the spring a number of stationary and inhabited boats,
lying by at the shores. They are too often dram shops,
and resorts of all kind; of bad company. A severe en-
iquiry ou^ to be instituted at all diese points, respecting
the imnates and pracdees of diese floating mansions of
iniqaily.

Hiere is no pMtioii of the globe, where the invention of
steam boats ought to be so highly appreciated, as in the
vidiey of die Mississippi That invention ought to be es-
^mated die most memorable era of the West; and the
HMtie of die invontw ought to be bawled down wdth glory



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$39 MliSISSIPPI VALL£¥.

to the generaUoQs to c^mia No trmniph of art over llie
obstacles of nature has ever been so complete. But for
this invention, this valley might have sustained a nation of
&rmers and planters; and the comforts, the arts, refine^
ments and intelligence of the day would have made their
viray slowly from New Orleans to the lakes, the sources of
the Mississippi, and the Rocky mountains. Thousands of
boatmen would have been slowly and laboriously warping^
and rowing, and poling^^and cordelling their boats, in a three
months trip up these mighty and long streams^which are now
ascended by steam boats in ten days. It may be safely ai-
8erted,that in many respects, the improvements of fifty yean
vrithout steam boats, were brought to this ccmn^ in five
years, afier their invention. The distant points of the Ohio
and the Mississi}^ used to be separated by distances and
obstacles of transit more formidable, in the passing, than
die Atlantie* These points are now brought into juztap
po6itie& Distances on the rivers are not indeed anni*
hilated; but they are diminished to about an eighth of
their former ext^t; and their difi!iculties and dangers are
lieduoed even more than that All the advantages of long
fivers^sucb as varied of soil, dimate, productions, remain^
divested of all the disadvantages (^distance and difficut^
d* ascent The day, that commemmues this inventicm,
ought with w to be a holiday of interest, only sooond to
tlHtt, which gave birth to the nation.

It is, perliaps, neceisary. to have somedaniig of the exfe^r
fieiiee^ which we have bad, of the slowness, difficulty «q4
danger of propelling boats agamst the current of these Um^
rivets, fiiUy to estimate die advantages of this invention. —
We have ascended ttwMiswfaBJppi intbiswayfoBrfifiydajs
tt socoessioa We have bad b«t t» umA o( the sane
kind of e^iperience on the other atreawa Weeoosidecod
tm miles a day, as good progresa It is now refresUng,



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"WBMVrrB OP THE PEOPLE, tSt

ttftd it imparts a feeling of energy and power to ^e be-
holder, to see the large and beautiful steam boats scud^
ding up the eddies, as though on the wing. When diey
have run out the eddy, and strike the current, it is a still
more noble spectacle. The foam bursts in a sheet quite
over the deck. The boat quivers for a moment with Ae
eoncusfflon, and then, as though she had coltected her
energy, and vanquished her enemy, she resumes her stately
march, and mounts against the current five or six miles an
hour. We have travelled ten days together, between New
Orleans and Louisville, more than an hundred miles in a
day against the stream. The difficulty of ascending used to
be the only one, Aat was dreaded in ihe anticipation (rf'a
voyage of thk kind. This difficulty has now disappeared,
and die only <me, that remains, is to ftimish moiiey for the
trip. Even the expense, considering the hixury of the fue,
atMl accoouBO^tion, is mwe moderate, than oooU be
expected A iunily in Pittsburg wishes to make a sockd
visit to a kindred fitnttly on Red rivw. The trip, as mat-
ta« now stand, is but two thousand itiiles. Servants, bag-
gage, or ^ plunder,' as the phrase is, the fitmily and the
fiunily dog, cat and parrot, all go together. In twdve days
diey reach the point proposed. Ev^ the return is but a
dMNTt voyage. Sm^ly we must resist strong temptations, if
we dd not become a social people. You are invited to a
breakftst at sev^f^ miles distance. You go on board the
pasmg Meani boat, and are transported, during the ni^t,
so as to go otgi in the mony^g, and reach your appom^
ttent Itie dmy will ptdbMy come, when the inhabitants
ef the warm and suddy regions c£ the lower points of the
MMflsippi wffl take their periodical migrations to die
nordi, widi ifae geese and swans, and widi them remm to
die soiidi in the a«tamn.



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3^. * MI86I8SIPPI VALLEY;

We have compared the most beautiful steam boats of
the Atlantic waters with those of the Mississippi; and we
have seen ncme, which in splendor and striking effect upon
die eye, and the luxury and comfort of acconmiodation,
could equal theWa^ngton^PhiladelphiaJLady of theLake^
Florida, and some others, on these waters. We have been
amused in observing an Adantic stranger, who had heard
us described by the phrase ^backwoods men,' taking his first
survey of such a steam boat If there be any ground of
complaint, it is, that so much goi^eousness offisnds good
taste, and seems to be in opposition to that social ease and
comfort, which one would desire in such a place. Cer-
tainly, there can be no comparison between the comfoa*t of
the passage firom Ginckmmi to New Orl^ms in such a
steam boat,and a voyage at sea. The barren and bound-
less expanse of waters soon tires upon every eye, but a
seaman'a And then there are storms, and &stening oi
die tables, and the necessity of holding lo something, to
keep in bed. There is the insupportable nausea of sea
sickness, and there is danger. Here you are always near
the shore, always see the green eardi ; can always eatt
write, and study undisturbed. You can always obtain
cream, fowls, vegetables, fruit, fresh meat, and mid gamo,
in thdr season, from the shore

A stranger to this mode of travelling wonkl find it di&
Qult to describe his impressions upon descending the Mia*
8i8si{q[>i for the first time in one 4^ these steam boals, whioh
we have named. He coi^n^ikUes the prodigious construe*
tion, with its double tiers of cabins, and ita separate eetab-
liiriunent for the ladies, and its commodious arrangements
for the deck passengers and the servanta Over head, about
him, and below him, all is life and movements He con*
templates die splendor of the calnn, its beautifid ftushings
of the richest woods, its ridi caipeting, its niirrors and



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i^iyums OF Tiffi rmphSL Ml

tine fiiraitare, its sliding tables, its bar room, aiS all its
arrangem^its for the accommodation of eighty cabin pas-
sengera The &re is sumptuous, and every thing in a
style of sfdiendor, order, qtiiet and regularity, &r exceeding
tliat of most city taverns. You read. You converse, or.
walk, or 6leep<, as you chooser Custom W prescribedi
that every thing shall he ^ sans ceremonie.\ The varied
and verdant scenery shifts about you. The trees, thi^
green islands, ihe houses on the shore, every dling has
Aa appearance, as by enchantmient» of moving past you.
The river fowl, with their white aiid extended lines, are
wheelii^ theii^ flight above you. The sky is bright The
river is dotted with boats above you, beside, and beloW
you. You hear the echo of their bugle reverberating from
die woods. Behind the wooded point you see the ascend-
ing column of smoke, rising over the tre^, which an-
nounces, that another steam bokt is approachinjg you. The
moving pa^geant glides through a harrow passage, .betweea
an island, thick set with young cotton woods, so even, so
beautiful, and regular, that they seen: to have been planted
ibr a pleasure ground, and the main shore. As you shoot
out again into the broad stream, you come in view of a
plantation, with all its busy and cheerful accompaniments.
At other times you are sweeping along for many league^
toge^ier, where either shore is a boundless and pathless
wildemeflB. A contrast is thus strongly forced upon th^
mind, of tfie highest imj^vement and die latest pre-emi-
nent invention of art with the most lonely aspect of a grand
but desolate iwturev— the most striking and complete as*
•emlMage of sfdendor and comfort, the cheerfulness of a
floating hotels which carries, perhaps, two hundred gues^,
with a vnld and uninhabited forest, it may be an hundrM
miles in width, the abode only of bears, owls and m^Mm
animak

VOL. r 31



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^ti42 ^ ^tflSSlSSIPFI VALLEY.

The Mississippi may be fairly considered, as the grand
trunk of water communication, and the Missouri, lUinois,
Ohio, White, Arkansas and Red rivers the main arteries.
Each of these has again its own isystem of circulatioa In
looking, from the lakes, the highest boatable waters of the
Alleghany, Monongahela, Kenhawa, Cumberland, Ten-
nessee, Yazoo, upper Mississippi, Missouri, Arkansas and
Red rivers, at die immense distances, thus brought into
boatable conimunication ; in contemplating two canals,
<me of three hundred miles in extent, and the other nearly
seventy, which will shortly be boatable, and considering
^at these will be the precursors of multitudes of future
connections of boatable waters, united in die same way,
and we may safely assert, that this valley is a sample en-
tirely by itself oh our globe of the ea3e and extent of in-
land water communications. New Orleans can not have
less than 40,000 miles of interior navigation on all her
lakes, bayous, and hundreds of boatable streams; without
taking into view the added extent of the northern lakes,
whidi will be connected with her by the Ohio canal For
water commvmication she has no rival nor compeer; and
she may be jusdy denominated the queen of rivers; and
the whole western country is as strongly marked off from
any other region by the number and extent of its naviga-
ble waters as it is by the greater magnitude of its valley.
We annex the subjoined table, as a complete list of the
names and the tonnage of the steam boats at present on
the western waters.*

History. It will be obvious to the smallest degree of
reflection, that the limits prescribed to us will prevent our
ireating this article with the copiousness and minuteness.

* See Appendix, table No. VIII.



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HISTORY. 34S^

which ordinarily characterizes history. The or^pn and
progress of the dii^utes and contests of the Spanish, French
and Anglo-American ccJonies in the valley of the Mis-
sissippi, thus treated, would alone form a very considera-
ble work. Our object is, to give a connected and synop-
tical view of the commencement and progress of the popu-
lation of the whites in these forests down to thisdme; and
we shall condense the article, as far as possible, and give
it in the unpretending form of annals, premising, that,
having compared different authorities for th^ French and
Spanish part of it, we tiave mostly relied on the manuscript,,
and as yet untranslated authority of JiH. de La Harpe..

The English and the Spanish dispute the honor of the
discovery of this country. There seems to be su^ciently
authentic testimony to the fact, that Sebastian Cabot sailed
along the shores of the country, since called Florida, but
a few years after America had been discovered by Colum-
bus. The Spanish contend, that it was discovered in the
thirtieth degree of north latitude by Juan Ponce de Leon,
in 151SL This Spanish navigator is said to have been led
to undertake thisvoyage,in consequenceof atradition,whiclL
he had heard at Cuba, probably derived from the intercourse
of the Indians of that island with those ofFlorida, that there
existed, somewhere in this r^on, a fountain, which had
the property of operating rejuvenescence upon old age, and
afterwards perpetuating youth. This would have been a
discovery still more precious, than the gold of Montezuma
and the Incas. He fitted out a small squadron, and di-
rected his path over the ocean to the supposed point of
these precious waters. He discovered land on Easter day,
and gave it the name of Florida, fit>m the Spanish name
of that fesuyslypasquadejlores — the festival of flowers,
or, according to Herrerra,. fi'om tlie appearance of the
country, the trees of which, at that time were covered wi^



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!244 ynssimiFFt valley.

aVmdant and beautiful blossoms. The name imports the
country of flowers.

He wandered in the flowering forest, searching in vain
for the fountains of rejuvenescence^ Instead of those foun-
tains, he encountered fierce and determined savages, very
different from the timid and efieminaie Indians of Cuba;



Online LibraryTimothy FlintA condensed geography and history of the western states, or the Mississippi valley → online text (page 19 of 85)