Lippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science Volume 26, September, 1880 online

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in it. Two on 'em was kinder dark-lookin', but I never thort much of
that till the man that was drivin' stopped and axed me ef I knowed who
he had in behind. It was them two chiefs, sure 'nough: right
good-lookin' fellers they was, too."

We had left the sandhills of the Ridge, and had reached the borders of
the Scrub, but there was yet another of the new Northern settlements to
visit. It lay a few miles beyond Geneva Lake, in the flat woods to the
south of Santa Fé Lake, the largest and best known of the group.

Who does not know the dreary flat-woods villages of the South, with
their decaying log cabins and hopelessly unfinished frame houses - with
their white roads, ankle-deep in sand, wandering disconsolately among
fallen trees and palmetto scrub and blackened stumps? Melrose is like
them all, but with a difference. The decaying cabins, new two years
ago, are deserted in favor of the great frame houses, which, unfinished
indeed, have yet a determined air, as if they meant to be finished some
day. The sandy roads are alive with long trains of heavy log-trucks or
lighter freight-wagons; there are men actually buying things in the
three stores; there is a school, with live children playing before the
door; there are saw- and grist-mills buzzing noisily; there is a
post-office, which connects us with the outer world as we receive our
waiting letters; there is a stir of enterprise in the air which speaks
quite plainly of Chicago and the Northern States, whence have come the
colonists; there is talk of a railroad to the St. John's on the east,
and of a canal which shall connect the lakes with one another and with
the railway on the west; there is a really good hotel, where we spend
the night in unanticipated luxury upon a breezy eminence overlooking
the silver sheet of Santa Fé Lake, which stretches away for miles to
the north and eastward.


The morrow was almost spent while we lingered in the neighborhood of
the lake. The road makes a wide circuit to avoid its far-reaching arms
and bays: only here and there are glimpses of the water seen through
the trees and cart-tracks leading off to exquisite points of view upon
its banks. We are in the flat woods again - palmetto-clumps under the
pine trees, pitcher-plants and orchis in the low spots, violets and
pinguicula beside the ditches, vetches and lupines and pawpaw and the
trailing mimosa in the sand. The park-like character of the woods is
gone. Still, there are here and there gentle undulations upon which the
long lines of western sunlight slope away; the lake gleams silvery
through the trees; the air is pure and sparkling as in high altitudes.

It was evening before we could leave the lakeside and plunge into the
dense new growth which adds to the ancient name of Ekoniah the modern
appellation of "Scrub." Amid its close-crowding thickets night came
upon us speedily. How hospitably we were received in the bare new
"homestead" of Parson H - - ; how generously our hosts relinquished
their one "barred" bed and passed a night of horror exposed to the fury
of myriad mosquitos, whose songs of triumph we heard from our own
protected pillows; how basely Barney requited all this kindness by
breaking into the corn-crib and "stuffing himself as full as a
sausage," as the Small Boy reported, - may not here be dwelt upon.

The early morning was exquisite. Soft mists veiled all the glorious
colors; great spider-webs, strung thick with diamonds, stretched from
tree to tree; a little "pot-hole" pond of lilies exhaled sweet odors;
the lark's ecstatic song thrilled down from upper air. There was a
gentle hill before us, and halfway up a view to the right of a broad
lake, with the log huts of a "settle_ment_" on the high bank. The sun
has drunk up all the mists, and shines bright upon the soft gray satin
of the girdled pine trees in the clearing; flowers are crowding
everywhere - orange milkweed, purple phlox, creamy pawpaw, azure
bluebells, spotted foxgloves, rose-tinted daisies, brown-eyed
coreopsias and unknown flowers of palest blue. Butterflies flit
noiselessly among them, and mocking-birds sing loud in the leafy
screens above. A red-headed woodpecker taps upon a resounding tree and
screams in exultation as he seizes his prey.

We skirted Viola Lake, cresting the high hill, and descending to a
shaded valley where the lapping waters plashed upon the roadside: then
mounted another hill, among thick clustering oaks and giant pines, to
where three lakes are seen spreading broadly out upon a grassy plain
between high wooded slopes. And these are Ekoniah! Twenty years ago a
tiny rivulet, wandering through broad prairies; eight years later a
wider stream, already beginning to encroach upon the grassy borderland;
now a chain of ever-broadening lakes, already drawing near to the hills
which frame in the widespread plain. Famous grazing-lands these were
once, the favored haunts of cattle-drovers, more famous hunting-grounds
in older days, before firm prairie had given place to watery savanna.
There were Indian villages upon the heights above and bloody battles in
the plains below. But who shall tell the story of those days? The
Indians are gone; the cattle-drovers have followed them to the far
South; the new settler of twenty years ago cared nothing for
antiquities or for the legends of an older time. The dead past is
buried: even the sonorous old Indian name has been softened down to
Etonia: be it the happy lot of this chronicler to rescue it from

The lakes of the lately-traversed "Lake Region," frequent as they had
been, were as nothing to those of Ekoniah Scrub. The road rose and fell
over a succession of low hills, each ascent gained discovering a new
sheet of water to right, to left or before us, deep sunk among
thick-clustering trees. At rare intervals the forest would fall away on
either hand, opening up a wide view of cultivated fields, sweeping
grandly down in long stripes of tender green to the billowy verdure of
the broad savanna, where silvery-sparkling lakes lay imbedded and great
round "hummocks" of dark trees uprose like islands in the grassy sea.
In the distance would be barren slopes of rich dark red and silvery
gray, swelling upward to the far dim mystery of pine woods and the blue
arch above.

We ate our dinner beside Lake Rosa, a circular basin of clearest water
rippling and dimpling under the soft breeze. Toward evening we found
the ford, which a paralytic old woman sitting in a sunny corner of a
farm-house piazza had indicated to us as "right pretty." Pretty it was,
indeed, as we came down to it through the most luxuriant of hummocks of
transparent-foliaged sweet-gums and shining-leaved magnolias with one
great creamy flower. "Right pretty" it was, too, in the old woman's
meaning of the word, for Barney drew us through in safety, scarce up to
his knees in the transparent water which reflected so perfectly every
flower and leaf of the dense water-growth. The road beyond was cut
through an arch of close-meeting trees, and farther on it skirted a
broad lake, which already, in its slow, sure, upward progress, had
covered the roadway and was reaching even to the fence which bounds the
field above. In this field is a large mound, never investigated,
although the farmer who owns the property says he has no doubt that it
is the site of an Indian village, for the plough turns up in the fields
around not only arrow-heads, but fragments of pottery and household
utensils. It was not our good-fortune to obtain any of those relics, as
they have not been preserved, and this was the only mound of any extent
which we saw. Such mounds are said, however, to be not infrequent in
this district, and Indian relics are found everywhere.

As we drove along the hillside we began to notice frequent basin-like
depressions of greater or less size, always perfectly circular, always
with the same saucer-shaped dip, always without crack or fissure, yet
appearing to have been formed by a gradual receding of the
substructure, reminding one of the depression in the sand of an
hour-glass or of the grain in a hopper. Many of these concaves were
dry; others had a little water in the bottom; all of them had trees
growing here and there, quite undisturbed, whether in the water or not;
and there was no one who had cared to note how long a time had elapsed
since they had begun their "decline and fall." There is little doubt,
however, that the future traveller will find them developed into lakes,
as, indeed, we found one here and there upon the hilltops.

[Illustration: "THE ONLY GIRL IN THE PLACE."]

How many times we got lost among the lakes and "pot-holes," the fallen
trees and thickets of Ekoniah Scrub, it would be tedious to relate. How
many times we came down to the prairie-level, and, fearful to trust
ourselves upon the treacherous, billowy green, were forced to "try
back" for a new road along the hillside, it would be difficult to say.
The county clerk's itinerary had ended here, and William Townsend
proved to be less ubiquitous than we had been led to expect. Thus it
was that night came down upon us one evening before we had reached a
place of shelter - suddenly, in the thick scrub, not lingeringly, as in
the long forest glades of the lake country. For an hour we pushed on,
trusting now to Barney's sagacity, now to the pioneering abilities of
Artist and Scribe, who marched in the van. Fireflies flitted about,
their unusual brilliancy often cheating us into the fond hope that
shelter was at hand. The ignes-fatui in the valley below often added to
the deception, and after many disappointments we were about to spread
our blankets upon the earth and prepare for a night's rest _al fresco_
when we heard a distant cow-call. Clear and melodious as the far-off
"Ranz des Vaches" it broke upon the stillness, gladdening all our
hearts. How we answered it, how we hastened over logs and through
thickets in the direction of answering voices and glancing lights - no
ignes-fatui now - how we were met halfway by an entire family whom we
had aroused, and with what astonishment we heard ourselves addressed by
name, - can better be imagined than described. By the happiest of
chances we had come upon the home of some people whom we had casually
met upon the St. John's River only a few weeks before, and our dearest
and oldest friends could not have welcomed us more cordially or have
been more gladly met by us.

In the early morning we heard again, between sleeping and waking, the
musical cow-call. It echoed among the hills and over the lakes: there
were the tinkling of bells, the pattering of hoofs, the eager,
impatient sounds of a herd of cattle glad of morning freedom. It was
like a dream of Switzerland. And, hastening out, we found the dream but
vivified by the intense purity of the air surcharged with ozone, the
exquisite clearness of the outlines of the hills, the sparkling
brightness of the lakes in the valley, the freshness of glory and
beauty which overspread all like a world new made.

One of the great events of that day was a desperate fight between two
chameleons in a low oak-scrub on the hilltop. The little creatures
attacked each other with such fury, with such rapid changes of color
from gray to green and from green to brown, with such unexpected
mutations of shape from long and slender to short and squat, with such
sudden dartings out and angry flamings of the transparent membrane
beneath the throat, with such swift springs and flights and glancings
to and fro, as were wonderful to see. It seemed as though both must
succumb to the fierce scratchings and clawings; and when at last one
got the entire head of his adversary in his mouth and proceeded
deliberately to chew it up, we thought that the last act in the tragedy
was at hand. The Small Boy made a stealthy step forward with a view to
a capture, when, presto! change! two chameleons with heads intact were
calmly gazing down upon us with that placid look of their kind which
seemed to assure us that fighting was the last act of which they were

That day, too, is memorable for the charming scenes it brought us,
impossible for the pencil to reproduce with all their sweet
accessories. We have found the ford at last, where the blue ribbon of
the stream lies across the white sand of our road. The prairie
stretches out broad and green with many circular islets of tree-mounds
in the ocean-like expanse. The winding road beyond the ford leads,
between cultivated fields on one side and the tree-bordered prairie on
the other, up to the low horizon, where soft white thunderheads are
heaped in the hazy blue. The tinkling of cow-bells comes sweetly over
the sea of grass; slow wavelets sob softly in the sedges of the stream;
fish glance through the water; a duck flies up on swiftly-whirring
wing. A great moss-draped live-oak leans over the stream, and the
perfume of the tender grapes which crown it floats toward us on the

Again, after we have climbed the hill to Swan Lake, and have dined
beside Half-moon Pond, and have "laid our course," as the sailors say,
by our map and the sun, straight through the Scrub to visit Lake Ella,
we come out upon the heights above Lake Hutchinson. The dark greens of
the foreground soften into deep-blue shadows in the middle distance.
Lake Hutchinson sparkles, a vivid sapphire, against the distant
silvery-gray of Lake Geneva, while far away the low blue hills melt,
range behind range, into the pale-blue sky.

[Illustration: SANTA FÉ LAKE.]

Our faces were turned homeward, but there were yet many miles of the
Ekoniah country running to northward on the east of the Ridge, and
lakes and lakes and lakes among the scrub-clothed hills. A new feature
had become apparent in many of them: a low reef of marsh entirely
encircling the inner waters and separating them from a still outer
lagoon, reminding us, with a difference, of coral-reefs encircling
lakes in mid-ocean. The shores of these lakes were not marshy, but firm
and hard, like the lakes of the hilltops, with the same smooth
forest-slope surrounding. Is a reverse process going on here, we
wondered, from that we have seen in the prairies, and are these sheets
of water to change slowly into marsh, and so to firm land again? There
are a number of such lakes as these, and on the heights above one of
the largest, which they have called Bethel, a family of Canadian
emigrants have recently "taken up a homestead."

There was still another chain of prairie-lakes, the "Old Field Ponds,"
stretching north and south on our right, and as we wound around them,
plashing now and again through the slowly-encroaching water, we had
'Gator-bone Pond upon our right. The loneliness of the scene was
indescribable: for hours we had been winding in and out among the still
lagoons or climbing and descending the ever-steeper, darker hills.
Night was drawing on; stealthy mists came creeping grayly up from the
endless Old Field Ponds; fireflies and glow-worms and will-o'-the-wisps
danced and glowered amid the intense blackness; frogs croaked,
mosquitos shrilled, owls hooted; Barney's usual deliberate progress
became a snail's pace, which hinted plainly at blankets and the
oat-sack, - when, all at once, a bonfire flamed up from a distant
height, and the sagacious quadruped quickened his pace along the steep

A very pandemonium of sounds saluted our ears as we emerged from the
forest - lowings and roarings and shriekings of fighting cattle, wild
hoots from hoarse masculine throats, the shrill tones of a woman's
angry voice, the discordant notes of an accordion, the shuffle of heavy
dancing feet. We had but happened upon a band of cow-hunters returning
homeward with their spoils, and the fightings of their imprisoned
cattle were only less frightful than their own wild orgies. If we had
often before been reminded of Italian skies and of the freshness and
brightness of Swiss mountain-air, now thoughts of the Black Forest,
with all of weird or horrible that we had ever read of that storied
country, rushed to our minds - robber-haunted mills, murderous inns,
treacherous hosts, "terribly-strange beds." Not that we apprehended
real danger, but to our unfranchised and infant minds the chills and
fevers which mayhap lurked in the mist-clothed forest, or even a
wandering "cat," seemed less to be dreaded than the wild bacchanals who
surrounded us. We would fain have returned, but it was too late. Barney
was already in the power of unseen hands, which had seized upon him in
the darkness; an old virago had ordered us into the house; and when we
had declined to partake of the relics of a feast which strewed the
table, we were ignominiously consigned to a den of a lean-to opening
upon the piazza. A "terribly-strange bed" indeed was the old
four-poster, which swayed and shrieked at the slightest touch, and
myriad the enemies which there lay in wait for our blood. We were not
murdered, however, nor did our unseen foes - as had once been predicted
by a Cracker friend - _quite_ "eat us plum up, bodaciously alive." In
the early morning we fled, though not until we had seen how beautiful a
home the old plantation once had been. These were not Crackers among
whom we had passed the night, but the "native and best." Not a fair
specimen of this class, surely, but such as here and there, in the
remoter corners of the South, are breeding such troubles as may well
become a grave problem to the statesman - the legitimate outgrowth of
the old régime. War-orphaned, untutored, unrestrained, contemning
legitimate authority, spending the intervals of jail-life in wild
revels and wilder crimes, - such were the men in whose ruined home we
had passed the night.

There was yet one more morning among the gorgeous-foliaged
"scrub-hills," one more gypsy meal by a lakeside, one more genial
welcome to a hospitable Cracker board, and we were at home again in the
wide sea of pines which stretches to the St. John's. In the ten days of
our journey we had seen, within a tract of land some thirty miles long
by forty in breadth, more than fifty isolated lakes and three
prairie-chains; had visited four enterprising Northern colonies and
numerous thrifty Southern farms; had found an air clear and
invigorating as that of Switzerland, soft and balmy as in the tropics,
while the gorgeous colorings of tree and flower, of water and sky, were
like a dream of the Orient.

"But there!" said the Small Boy, stopping suddenly with a
half-unbuckled strap of Barney's harness in his hand: "we forgot one
thing, after all: never found William Townsend!" - LOUISE SEYMOUR



[Illustration: A LYNX STIRS UP THE CAMP.]

Itasca Lake was first seen of white men by William Morrison, an old
trader, in 1804. Several expeditions attempted to find the source of
the Great River, but the region was not explored till 1832 - by
Schoolcraft, who regarded himself as the discoverer of Itasca. Much
interesting matter concerning the lake and its vicinity has been
written by Schoolcraft, Beltrami and Nicollet, but the exceeding
difficulty of reaching it, and the absence of any other inducements
thither than a spirit of adventure and curiosity, make visitors to its
solitudes few and far between. Itasca is fed in all by six small
streams, each too insignificant to be called the river's source. It has
three arms - one to the south-east, about three and a half miles long,
fed by a small brook of clear and lively water; one to the south-west,
about two miles and a half long, fed by the five small streams already
described; and one reaching northward to the outlet, about two and a
half miles. These unite in a central portion about one mile square. The
arms are from one-fourth of a mile to one mile wide, and the lake's
extreme length is about seven miles. Its water is clear and warm. July
thirteenth, when the temperature of the air was 76°, the water in the
largest arm of the lake varied between 74° and 80°. We saw no springs
nor evidences of them, and the water's temperature indicates that it
receives nothing from below. Still, it is sweet and pure to the taste
and bright and sparkling to the eye. Careful soundings gave a depth
varying between fourteen and a half and twenty-six feet. The only
island is that named by Schoolcraft after himself in 1832. It is in the
central body of the lake, and commands a partial view of each arm. It
is about one hundred and fifty feet wide by three hundred feet long,
varying in height from its water-line to twenty-five feet, and is
thickly timbered with maple, elm, oak and a thicket of bushes.

On Tuesday morning, July 14, at six o'clock, we paddled away from the
island to the foot of the lake. The outlet is entirely obscured by
reeds and wild rice, through which the water converges in almost
imperceptible current toward the river's first definite banks. This
screen penetrated, I stopped the Kleiner Fritz in mid-stream and
accurately measured width, depth and current. I found the width twenty
feet, the depth on either side of my canoe as she pointed down the
stream thirty-one inches, and the speed of the current two and
one-tenth miles to the hour. The first four miles of the infant's
course is swift and crooked, over a bed of red sand and gravel, thickly
interspersed with mussel and other small shells, and bordered with
reeds. Through these, at two points, we beat our way on foot, dragging
the canoes through unmade channels. Indeed, nearly all of these first
four miles demanded frequent leaps from the boats to direct their swift
and crooked course, until we came to a stretch of savanna country,
through which the river washes its way in serpentine windings for nine
miles with a gentle current from thirty to sixty feet wide, bordered by
high grass, bearing the appearance and having the even depth of a
canal. An easy, monotonous paddle through these broad meadows brought
us to the head of the first rapids, the scene of our two days' upward
struggle. These rapids extend about twelve miles as the river runs,
alternating between rattling, rocky plunges and swift, smooth water,
for the most part through a densely-wooded ravine cleft through low but
abrupt hills, and as lonely and cheerless as the heart of Africa. The
solitude is of that sort which takes hold upon the very soul and weaves
about it hues of the sombrest cast. From our parting with the Indians
on first reaching the river we had neither seen nor heard a human
being, nor were there save here and there remote traces of man's hand.
No men dwell there: nothing invites men there. A few birds and fewer
animals hold absolute dominion. Wandering there, one's senses become
intensely alert. But for the hoot of the owl, the caw of the crow, the
scream of the eagle, the infrequent twitter of small birds, the mighty
but subdued roar of insects, the rush of water over the rocks and the
sigh and sough of the wind among the pines, the lonely wanderer has no
sign of aught but the rank and dank vegetation and a gloomy, oppressive
plodding on and on, without an instant's relief in the sights and
sounds of human life. We entered upon the descent of the rapids in no
very cheerful mood.

The downward way was easier, and we had cleared away, in the upward
struggle, such obstructions as were within our control. Still, we
travelled slowly and wearily, and came out of our first day's homeward
work wet and worn into a camp in the high grass a good twenty miles
from the start of the morning. We drew the canoes from the water, made
our beds of blankets inside, lashed our paddles to the masts for
ridge-poles, thatched our little cabins with our rubber blankets, hung
our mosquito-bars beneath, then cooked and ate under the flare of our
camp-fire, and sought our canoe-beds for that sweet sleep which comes
of weariness of body, but not of mind, under the bright stars and
broad-faced moon shining with unwonted clearness in that clear air.

The night proved very cool. Our outer garments, wet from so much
leaping in and out of the canoes, and rolled up for storage on the
decks over night, were found in the early morning frozen stiff, and had
to be thawed before we could unroll them. The thermometer registered
33° after six o'clock, and frost lay upon all our surroundings.

For two and a half days our course was down a stream winding gracefully
through a broad region of savanna country, occasionally varied by the
crossing of low sandy ridges beautifully graved by lofty yellow pines.
In the savannas the shores are made of black soil drifted in, and

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Online LibraryVariousLippincott's Magazine of Popular Literature and Science Volume 26, September, 1880 → online text (page 2 of 20)