« PreviousContinue »
BURNABY'S TRAVELS IN VIRGINIA, IN 1759.
Continued from our last number, and concluded in this. During my stay in Virginia, I made several excursions into different parts of the country: one in particular to the great falls of Potowmac, of which, as I expected to be highly entertained, I kept a journal.
I departed from Williamsburg, Oct. 1, 1759, in company with another gentleman; and we travelled that day about forty miles, to a plantation in King William county ; beautifully situated upon a high hill, on the north side of Pamunky river. A little below this place stands the Pamunky Indian town; where at present are the few remains of that large tribe; the rest having dwindled away through intemperance and disease. They live in little wigwams or cabins upon the river; and have a very fine tract of land of about 2000 acres, which they are restrained from alienating by act of assembly. Their employment is chiefly hunting or fishing, for the neighbouring gentry. They commonly dress like the Virginians, and I have sometimes mistaken them for the lower sort of that people. The night I spent here, they went out into an adjoining marsh to catch soruses; and one of them, as I was informed in the morning, caught near a hundred dozen. The manner of taking these birds is remarkable. The sorus is not known to be in Virginia, except for about six weeks from the latter end of September: at that time they are found in the marshes in prodigious numbers, feeding upon the wild oats. at first they are exceedingly lean, but in a short time grow so fat, as to be unable to fly: in this state they lie upon the reeds, and the Indians go out in canoes and knock them on the head with their paddles. They are rather bigger than a lark, and are delicious eating. During the time
of their continuing in season, you meet with them at the tables of most of the planters, breakfast, dinner, and sup
Oct. 2. We went to another plantation about twentyfour miles distant, belonging to a private gentleman, upon Mattapony river. We staid there all that and the next day on account of rain.
Oct. 4. We travelled twenty-five miles to another gentleman's house; and from thence, the day following, about twenty-five miles farther, to a lown called Fredericsburg.
Fredericsburg is situated about a mile below the Falls of Rappahannoc: it is regularly laid out, as most of the towns in Virginia ate, in parallel streets. Part of it is built upon an eminence, and commands a delightful prospect; the rest upon the edge of the water for the convenience of warehouses. The town was begun about thirty-two years ago, for the sake of carrying on a trade with the back settlers; and is at present by far the most flourishing one in
We left Fredericsburg the 6th instant, and went to see the Falls. At this place is a small mercantile town called Falmouth ; whose inhabitants are endeavouring to rival the Fredericsburghers in their trade. It is built upon the north side of the river, and consists of eighteen or twenty houses.
The Falls of Rappahannoc are similar to those of James river, except that they are not upon so large a scale. The whole range scarcely exceeds half a mile, and the breadth not a hundred yards. At the time of our going to see them, there was a fresh in the river, which added very
much * In several parts of Virginia the ancient custom of eating meat at breakfast still continues. At the top of the table, where the lady of the house presides, there is constantly tea and coffee; but the rest of the table is garnished out with roasted fowls, ham, venison, game, and other dainties. Even at Williamsburg, it is the custom to have a plate of cold ham upon the table ; and there is scarcely a Virginian lady who breakfasts without it.
to their beauty. The center of view was an island of about an hundred acres covered with trees; this divided the river into two branches, in each of which, at regular distances of fifteen or twenty yards, was a chain of six or seven falls, one above another, the least of them a foot perpendicular. The margin was beautifully variegated with rocks and trees, and the whole formed a pleasing romantic scene.
At this place we met with a person who informed us of his having been, a few days before, a spectator of that extraordinary phenomenon in nature, the fascinating power of the rattle-snake. He observed one lying coiled near a tree, looking directly at a bird which had settled there. The bird was under great agitation, uttered the most doleful cries, hopped from spray to spray, and at length flew directly down to the snake, which opened its mouth and swallowed it.
From hence we ascended up the river, about fifteen miles, to Spotswood's iron-mines; and in our way had a fine view of the Apalachian mountains, or Blue Ridge, at the distance of seventy miles. At this place I was much affected with the following incident. A gentleman in our company, which was now increased, had a small Negroe boy with him, about fourteen years of age, that had lived with him in a remote part of the country some time as a servant; an old woman who was working in the mines, and who proved to be the boy's grandmother, accidentally cast her eyes on him; she viewed him with great attention for some time; then screamed out, saying that it was her child, and flung herself down upon the ground. She lay there some seconds; rose up, looked on him again in an extasy of joy, and fell upon his neck and kissed him.
After this, she retired a few paces, examined him afresh with fixed attention, and immediately seemed to lose herself in thoughtful and profound melancholy. The boy all this
while stood silent and motionless; reclining his head on one side, pale and affected beyond description. Upon the whole, it would not have been in the power of Raphael, to have imagined a finer picture of distress,
We returned from this place the next day to Fredericsburg; and ferrying over the Rappahannoc into the Northern Neck, travelled about seventeen miles to a gentleman's house in Stafford county: in the morning we proceeded through Dumfries, and over Occoquan river to Colchester, about twenty-one miles.
These are two small towns lately built for the sake of the back trade; the former on Acquia creek, the other upon Occoquan river, both of which fall into the Potowmac. About two miles above Colchester there is an iron furnace, a forge, two saw-mills, and a bolting-mill: at our return we had an opportunity of visiting them: they have every convenience of wood and water, that can be wished for. The ore wrought here is brought from Maryland; not that there is any doubt of there being plenty enough in the adjacent hills; but the inhabitants are discouraged from trying for it by the proprietor's (viz. lord Fairfax) having reserved to himself a third of all ore that may be discovered in the Northern Neck.
From Colchester we went about twelve miles farther to Mount Vernon. This place is the property of colonel Washington, and truly deserving of its owner.* The house is most beautifully situated upon a very high hill on the
* I cannot omit this opportunity of bearing testimony to the gallant and public spirit of this gentleman. Nov. 1, 1753, Lieut. Gov. Dinwiddie hav. ing informed the assembly of Virginia, that the French had erected a fort upon the Ohio, it was resolved to send somebody to M. St. Pierre the commander, to claim that country as belonging to his Britannic Majesty, and to order him to withdraw. Mr. Washington, a young gentleman of for. tune just arrived at age, offered his service on this important occasion. The distance was more than 400 miles; 200 of which lay through a trackless
banks of the Potowmac; and commands a noble prospect of water, of cliffs, of woods, and plantations. The river is near two miles broad, though two hundred from the mouth; and divides the dominions of Virginia from Maryland.* We rested here one day, and proceeded up the river about twenty-six miles, to take a view of the Great Falls. These are formed in some respect like those of the Rappahannoc; but are infinitely more noble. The channel of the river is contracted by hills; and is as narrow, 1 was told, as at Fort Cumberland, which is an hundred and fifty miles higher up. It is clogged moreover with innumerable rocks; so that the water for a mile or two flows with accelerated velocity. At length coming to a ledge of rocks, which runs diametrically cross the river, it divides into two spouts, each about eight yards wide, and rushes down a precipice with incredible rapidity. The spout on the Virginian side makes three falls, one above another ;
desert, inhabited by eruel and merciless savages; and the season was un commonly severe. otwithstanding these discouraging circumstances, Mr. Washington, attended by one companion only, set out upon this dangerous enterprise: travelled from Winchester on foot, carrying his provisions on his back, executed his commission; and after incredible hardships, and many providential escapes, returned safe to Williamsburg, and gave an aca count of his negociation to the assembly, the 14th day of February fol. lowing.
* A very curious sight is frequently exhibited upon this and the other great rivers in Virginia, which for its novelty is exceedingly diverting to strangers. During the spring and summer months the fishing-hawk is often seen hovering over the rivers, or resting on the wing without the least visi. ble change of place for some minutes, then suddenly darting down and plunging into the water, from whence it seldom rises again without a rock fish, or some other considerable fish in its talons. It immediately shakes off the water like a mist, and makes the best of its way towards the woods. The bald eagle, which is generally upon the watch, instantly pursues, and if it can overtake, endeavours to soar above it. The hawk growing solicitous for its own safety drops the fish, and the bald-eagle immediately stoops, and seldom fails to catch it in its pounces before it reaches the water