« PreviousContinue »
similar length to those that compose the body of the house, but not quite so thick, and gradually sloped on each side. Two doors, which often supply the place of windows, are made by sawing away a part of the trunks that form the body of the house. The chimney, always placed at one of the extremities, is likewise made with the trunks of trees of a suitable length ; the back of the chimney is made of clay about six inches thick, which separates the fire from the wooden walls. Notwithstanding this want of precaution, fires very seldom happen in the country places. The space between these trunks of trees is filled up with clay, but so very carelessly, that the light may be seen through in every part ; in consequence of which these huts are exceedingly cold in winter, notwithstanding the amazing quantity of wood that is burnt. The doors move upon wooden linges, and the greater part of them have no locks. In the night time they only push them to, or fasten them with a wooden peg. Four or five days are sufficient for two men to finish one of these houses, in which not a nail is used. Two great beds receive the whole family. It frequently happens that in the summer the children sleep upon the ground, in a kind of rug. The floor is raised from one to two feet above the surface of the ground, and boarded. They generally make use of feather beds, or feathers alone, and not mattresses. Sheep being very scarce, the wool is very dear ; at the same time they reserve it to make stockings. The clothes belonging to the family are hung up round the room, or suspended upon a long pole.” P. 38–30.
Our author had not yet crossed the Alleghanies, or extended his course beyond the confines of Philadelphia, when we find the singular remark, that during the war, in the time of the French revolution, the inhabitants of the neighborhood of Bedford found it more to their advantage to send their corn to Pittsburgh, and from thence to New Orleans, by the Ohio and Mississippi, a course of more than 2,000 miles, than to Philadelphia or Baltimore, not exceeding 200 or 250 miles. If this be generally true, what a prospect does it afford of the future prosperity of the western-country !
The passage of the Alleghanies offers few remarks of interest or importance. On these mountains our author searched for a species of the Azalea, a plant of singular importance, since to the valuable qualities of the olive tree, it adds the power of bearing the cold of the most northern climates. He found it, and recognised it to be the same plant which his father had discovered ; but the seeds had failed, in consequence of their soon growing rancid. We trust our author has been more fortunate, though of his success we have no information. It is a dioecious plant, not above five feet in height : its roots spread horizontally, and give birth to several shoots. The plant grows only in cool shady places, and in a fertile soil; the roots are of a citron colour. On these high grounds coal is not uncommon, but little attended to, as it is necessary to clear the ground from the trees. Labour is, however, dear, and the contest between expense and convenience, of course, frequent.
The vast river, the Ohio, is formed by the conflux of the Mo
nongahela and Alleghany rivers. At this junction Pittsburg is built, which was the site of Fort Duquesne, and the key of the western country. It is no longer of importance in a military view, but it is the connecting medium of the eastern and western states, and, as a commercial depôt, of peculiar value. Corn, hams, dried pork, bar iron, coarse linen, bottles, whiskey, and salt butter, from its dependencies, are embarked on the Ohio for the Caribbees, through New Orleans. At the latter port, they receive in exchange cotton, raw sugar, and indigo. These are sent by sea to Philadelphia and Baltimore ; and the bargemen return to these ports, from which they go again by land to Pittsburgh.
“What many perhaps are ignorant of in Europe, is, that they build large vessels on the Ohio, and at the town of Pittsburgh. One of the principal ship-yards is upon the Monongahela, about two hundred fathoms beyond the last houses in the town. The timber they make use of is the white oak, or quercus alba ; the red oak, or quercus rubra ; the black oak, or quercus tinctoria; a kind of nut tree, or juglans minima: the Virginia cherry-tree, or cerasus Virginia ; and a kind of pine which they use for masting, as well as for the sides of the vessels, which require a slighter wood. The whole of this timber being near at hand,the expenses of building is not so great as in the ports of the Atlantick states. The cordage is manufactured at Redstone and Lexington, where there are two extensive rope-walks, which also supply ships with rigging that are built at Marietta, and Louisville. On my journey to Pitts
Pittsburgh, in the month of July, 1802, there was a three-mast vessel of two-hundred and fifty tons, and a smaller one of ninety, which was on the point of being finished. These ships were to go in the spring following to New Orleans, loaded with the produce of the country, after having made a passage of two thousand two hundred miles before they got into the Ocean. There is no doubt but they can, by the same rule, build ships two hundred leagues beyond the mouth of the Missouri, fifty from that of the river Illinois, and even in the Mississippi, two hundred beyond the place whence these rivers flow ; that is to say, six hundred and fifty leagues from the sea ; as their bed in the appointed space is as deep as that of the Ohio at Pittsburgh. In consequence of which it must be a wrong conjecture to suppose that the immense tract of country, watered by these rivers, cannot be populous enough to execute such undertakings. The rapid population of the three new western states, under less favourable circumstances, proves this assertion to be true. Those states, where thirty years ago there was scarcely three hundred inhabitants, are now computed to contain upwards of a hundred thousand ; and though the plantations on the roads are scarcely four miles distant from each other, it is very rare to find one, even among the most flourishing, where one cannot with confidence ask the owner, whence he has emigrated ; or, according to the trivial manner of the Americans, “what part of the world do you come from ?” as if these immense and fertile regions were to be the asylum common to all the inhabitants of the globe. Now if we consider these astonishing and rapid ameliorations, what ideas must we not form of the height of prosperity to which the western country is rising, and of the recent spring that the commerce, population, and culture of the country is taking, by uniting Louisiana to the American territory.” P. 63–65.
When it is recollected, that the distance from Pittsburgh to New Orleans exceeds 2,000 miles, and that the Ohio, before its junction with the Mississippi, runs through half this space, what must our ideas be in contemplating vessels of more than 200 tons seeking the ocean through such devious tracts, and in so extensive a course | Let us improve our acquaintance with the means by which this intercourse is facilitated :
“ The Ohio, formed by the union of the Monongahela and Alleghany rivers, appears to be rather a continuance of the former than the latter, which only haftsmens obliquely at the conflux. The Ohio may be at Pittsburgh two hundred fathoms broad. The current of this immense and magnificent river inclines at first north-west for about twenty miles, then bends gradually west south-west. It follows that direction for about the space of five hundred miles; turns thence south-west a hundred and sixty miles ; then west two hundred and seventy-five ; at length runs into the Mississippi,in a southwesterly direction, in the latitude of 36° 46", about eleven hundred miles from Pittsburgh, and nearly the same distance from Orleans. This river runs so extremely serpentine, that, in going down it, you appear following a tract directly opposite to the one you mean to take. Its breadth varies from two
hundred to a thousand fathoms. The islands that are to be met with in its current are very numerous. We counted upwards of fifty in the space of three hundred and eighty miles. Some contain but a few acres, and others more than a thousand in length. Their banks are very low, and must be subject to inundations. These islands are a great impediment to the navigation in the summer. The sands that the river drives up, form, at the head of some of them, a number of little shoals; and in this season of the year the channel is so narrow, from the want of water, that the few boats, even of a middling size, that venture to go down, are frequently run aground, and it is with great difficulty that they are got afloat; notwithstanding which there is at all times a sufficiency of water for a skiff or a canoe. As these little boats are very light, when they strike upon the sands it is very easy to push them off into a deeper part. In consequence of this it is only in the spring and autumn that the Ohio is navigable, at least as far as Limestone, about one hundred and twenty miles fromPittsburg. During these two seasons the water rises to such a height, that vessels of three hundred tons, piloted by men who are acquainted with the river, may go down in the greatest safety. The spring season begins at the end of February, and lasts three months; the autumn begins in October, and only lasts till the first of December. In the meantime these two epochs fall sooner or later, as the winter is more or less rainy,or the rivers are a shorter or a longer time thawing. Again, it so happens, that in the course of the summer, heavy and incessant rains fall in the Alleghany mountains, which suddenly swell the Ohio : at that time persons may go down it with the greatest safety ; ; but such circumstances are not always to be depended on.” P. 68–70. The Mississippi is interspersed with numerous shoals and islands, so that its navigation is far more dangerous than that of the Ohio, at least from Natches to New Orleans, a course of more than 700 miles. The rapidity of the Ohio is very considerable, and rowing is unnecessary. The appearance of the banks of the river, on leaving Pittsburgh, merits our attention :
“Leaving Pittsburgh, the Ohio flows between two ridges, or lofty mountains, nearly of the same height, which we judged to be about two hundred fathoms. Frequently they appeared undulated at their summit, at other times it seemed as though they had been completely level. These hills continue uninterruptedly for the space of a mile or more, then a slight interval is observed, that sometimes affords a passage to the rivers that empty themselves into the Ohio ; but most commonly another hill of the same height begins at a very short distance from the place where the preceding one left off. These mountains rise successively for the space of three hundred miles, and from our canoe we were enabled to observe them more distinctly, as they were more or less distant from the borders of the river. Their direction is parallel to the chain of the Alleghanies ; and although they are at times from forty to a hundred miles distant from them, and that for an extent of two hundred miles, one cannot help looking upon them as belonging to these mountains. All that part of Virginia, situated upon the left bank of the Ohio, is
excessively mountainous, covered with forests, and almost uninhabited ; where, I have been told by those who live on the banks of the Ohio, they go every winter to hunt bears.” P. 84.
The flat woody ground between the river and these mountains consists of a vegetable mould, from decaying leaves, and even from the decayed trunks of trees. Thebest land in Kentucky and Tennessee is of the same kind, and its vegetative quality peculiarly strong. The plane-tree grows to an immense size ; and the next in bulk is the liriodendron tulipifera. Other trees, which adorn and diversify the forests of the country, are the beech, magnolia acuminata, the celtis occidentalis, the acacia, the sugar and red maple, the black poplar, &c.
In this tract our author falls in with towns, consisting of from 70 to 200 houses, which till within a very few years had no existence, and are generally placed on the Ohio, or some of its tributary rivers, where the receding mountains leave a vacant and level spot. Below Marietta, a town on the Muskingum, at its conflux with the Ohio, the mountains recede still farther, and offer the following beautiful prospect :
“On the 23d of July, about ten in the morning, we discovered Point Pleasant, situated a little above the mouth of the great Kenhawa, at the extremity of a point formed by the right bank of this river, which runs nearly in a direct line as far as the middle of the Ohio. What makes the situation more beautiful, is, that for four or five miles on this side the point, • the Ohio, four hundred fathoms broad, continues the same breadth the whole of that extent, and presents on every side the most perfect line. Its borders, sloping and elevated from twenty-five to forty feet, are, as in the whole of its windings, planted at their base with willows from fifteen to eighteen feet in height, the drooping branches and foliage of which form a pleasing contrast to the sugar maples, red maples, and ash trees, situated immediately above. The latter, in return, are overlooked by palms, poplars, beeches, magnolias of the highest elevation, the - enormous branches of which, attracted by a more splendid Hight and easier expansion, extend toward the borders, overshadowing the river, at the same time completely covering the trees situated under them. This natural display which reigns upon the two banks, affords on each side a regular arch, the shadow of which, reflected by the chrystal stream, embellishes, in an extraordinary degree, this magnificent coup d'oeil.” P.95,96.
The banks of the Ohio are alluvial, and, where not covered with vegetable mould, are of a calcareous nature. The stones are flinty, and chiefly from the separation of the limestone masses. A species of mulette is chiefly employed in making buttons, as the pearly nacre is very thick. It is arranged by Bosc under the genus Unio, with the trivial, name of Ohiotensis. The tyrant of the river is the cat fish, silurus felis : its upper fins are strong and pointed, and, by swimming under his prey, he is enabled to wound it where se skin is thinnest. The inhabitants of the banks are chiefly hunters, for the sake of the skins : a few acres only are cultivated for their cows, whose milk they greatly depend on. Plantations occur every
three or four miles, and travellers are accommodated, in their miserable log-houses, with bread, Indian corn, dried ham, milk and butter. They themselves feed only on Indian corn : the wheat which is cultivated is exported in the form of flour. The peach and
apple are their only fruit trees :
the former is preferred, as hogs are fed, and brandy distilled from the fruit. The price of the best land does not exceed 15s. per acre. The sellers are seldom constant in their attachments, and few of those who first clear the ground, or who immediately succeed them, remain on it. The same restless
principle urges them forward, and
the Americans have now penetrated to the banks of the Missouri, forty miles above its union with the Mississippi. There are, it is said, more than 3,000 inhabitants on its banks, allured by a fertile soil, the
numerous herds of beavers, elks,
and bisons, Our author leaves the banks of the Ohio, to direct his course south and south-west, towards Charleston. He stops in this journey at a salt-mine. In this elevated region there are many strata of rock salt, and salt springs often rise to the surface, leaving, in consequence of the evaporation, a saline efilorescence. To these spots, the original inhabitants of the forest, the wild beasts, usually repaired. Salt seems to numerous animals a condiment almost essential to their existence ; and we find, in these spots, the remains of some species at present unknown, probably The soil round these “licks” is dry and sandy ; the stones are flat and chalky, rounded at the edges, and of a bluish cast inside. The soil is barren, and the few trees thin and stinted. Frankfort is the seat of govern