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I was much pleased with my voyage down the Ohio, which is indeed a most majestic river. The vast trees, some of which cover the neighbouring hills and mountains, while others are growing almost out of the water, present a scene that is quite novel to the eye of an Englishman.
Nothing can impress the mind with a stronger idea of the amazing importance of the steamengine, and of the æra which its invention will form in the history of the world, than its enabling one to descend such a river as the Ohio, in so agreeable a manner. I found myself navigating a stream, which runs for the most part through a country remaining in a state of nature; yet I fared excellently, was surrounded with every accommodation, and at the same time was proceeding night and day, at such a rate, that places far removed from one another, seemed almost brought into contact. I disembarked on the Kentucky side of the river, at Maysville (otherwise called Limestone) 370 miles below Wheeling.
Maysville is situated at the foot of a very lofty ridge of hills. It is a town of considerable traffic, but from its extreme dirtiness is an unpleasant place to stop at.
During the fine weather, a sort of stage-coach
goes regularly from hence to Lexington; but it cannot be depended upon during the autumn and winter, which latter season was beginning to set in when I was at Maysville. The roads being very bad, I determined to buy a horse, and indeed riding is the only practicable and safe manner of travelling through most of the Western States. I knew, moreover, that beyond Lexington I could not have proceeded otherwise. For this determination I had afterwards reason to applaud myself, as the road was beyond all comparison the worst I had ever seen.
It was full of holes, and in many places nearly up to the horse's knees, in mud intermixed with large stones and pieces of rock, which seemed as if put there on purpose to annoy equestrians. To convey any idea of such a road by mere description is impossible. Moreover, the road is a natural one, that is to say, it is a track left open and cleared, but which has never had a single cart load of gravel or stones thrown upon
it. Add to this, a great many heavily laden waggons are obliged to travel over it, when carrying goods to Lexington. The natural roads are, of course, worse than usual, if, as was the case here, the country through which they run, is fertile.
Notwithstanding I got up at day-break, and rode till it was dark, during which time I only stopped an hour and a half to rest and feed my horse, yet I found it impossible to proceed more than from thirty to thirty-five miles in the twentyfour hours. Not to mention the badness of the road, my journey was impeded by several creeks and rivers of no inconsiderable depth. On coming to one of them after a fall of rain, the traveller is obliged either to halt or to swim; for in the whole distance between Maysville and Lexington, there are only two bridges.
Twenty-five miles from Maysville, I came to the Blue Lick, where there is a spring so strongly impregnated with sulphur, that, in descending the hill, near a quarter of a mile from it, I perceived the disagreeable smell which it emitted.
The spots called “ Licks” are common in all the Western States, and particularly in Kentucky. Deer and buffalo * used to resort to these places in great numbers, for the sake of the salt which abounds in them, and which the animals obtained by licking the earth, a great quantity of which they swallowed at the same time. In this manner, they have often licked such considerable holes, that at first sight, it is difficult to believe they could have been thus formed. In the more wild and unfrequented parts of the country, these spots are still the favourite resorts of the deer.
The Blue Lick is situated in a hollow, surrounded with wooded hills; and the country, for several miles immediately round it, is not cultivated, owing to the rocky nature of the ground.
* The animal called the buffalo by the Indians and the Americans is the Bison. Some of my readers may
have seen one exhibited in London, under the absurd name of the Bo
The water holds in solution not only sulphur, but also a great deal of common salt, or muriate of soda: and as it is much esteemed for the cure of cutaneous and other diseases, many sick persons come to it. Even when I was there, and when there were only two very indifferent houses at the place, I was informed that it was visited by several families every summer.
An old hunter told me, that forty years ago, he had seen several thousand buffalo assembled at the spring at one time. The roads they made, in going from, and coming to, the place, are still very visible : indeed, part of the present road is on an old buffalo trace. But so much has population increased, and cultivation been extended, that at present there is not a buffalo within five or six hundred miles. The neighbourhood, however, abounds in deer and turkeys, which afford excellent sport for a hunter.
Not far from hence the road passes through the spot where a bloody battle was fought between the first settlers and the Indians. Further on, about eighteen miles before arriving at Lexington, I came to Paris, a very thriving town, containing about 1400 inhabitants.
The country on each side is pretty well cultivated, and the land is remarkably fertile. Here the Indian corn grows from eight to twelve feet high, and bears several ears on each stalk. The average produce of the fields per acre, is from
thirty-five to forty-five bushels of Indian corn, and from fifteen to twenty of wheat. This, considering the negligent manner in which the land is cultivated, compared to what it would be in England, is very
considerable. Lexington is the largest and best built town in Kentucky, and contains about 5000 inhabitants. There are many manufactories here, but they have latterly rather declined, as the whole country is inundated by the importation of British goods.
Lexington not only contains several good churches and a court-house, but also a college, called the Transylvanian University, and which is by far the best of all those west of the Alleghany mountains. When I was there, a great many students were resident; and indeed it was chiefly owing to this influx of young men, that the town had not suffered more, by the great distress, occasioned by the abuse of a paper currency.
The celebrity of this college may be principally attributed to the talents and exertions of Mr. Holly the President. This gentleman, a New Englander by birth, threw off, at an early age, the puritanical superstition of his ancestors, and embraced Unitarianism. He has, in consequence, endured a violent persecution from his neighbours,
Fanaticism has indeed very much deserted New England, its ancient strong hold, in order to take root in the West; but, like all other weaknesses of the mind, it must gradually be annihilated by