« AnteriorContinuar »
Monangahela, whose united streams form the great river Ohio. The sources of the Alleghany are distributed along the southeastern shore of Lake Erie, and so near to it, that the two navigations are interrupted only by a portage of fifteen miles. Other rivers open, with slill less interruption, a communication by water between the gulfs of St. Lawrence and Mexico, as we shall notice hereafter. Pittsburgh, it is said, owes its prosperity mainly to the beds of coal which abound in its neighbourhood; which are about six feet thick, and are worked by horizontal drifts* Immediately under the coal is a stratum of micaceous sandstone, and beneath this, calcareous rock, containing masses of terebratulites. At Wheeling, lower down on the Ohio, is also a bed of coal of the same thickness, but it lies beneath the limestone, and on that account is considered by Mr. Nuttall as a second bed.
The coal formation would seem to be of vast extent along the banks of the Alleghany; indications of it appear at the distance of one hundred miles above Pittsburgh, where there is a spring which throws up such quantities of a bituminous oil, that a single person may collect several gallons daily. The same indications every where present themselves along the whole western slope of the Alleghany Mountains to the mouth of the Ohio. 'Whenever/ says Mr. James, 'we have had the opportunity of observing brinesprings, we have usually found them in connection with an argillaceous sandstone, bearing impressions of phytolyies, culmaria, and those tessellated zoophytes, so common about many coal-beds.' At the very summit of the Laurel Ridge of the Alleghanies, the sandstones of the coal formation begin to appear, alternating with narrow beds of bituminous clay-slate. 'Here,' continues Mr. James, 'coal-beds have been explored, and, at the time of our visit, coals were sold at the pit for ten cents (sixpence) the bushel.'
The town of Wheeling, from its more favourable situation on the Ohio and its beds of coal, has of late years become a formidable rival to Pittsburgh. It is here that the great national road from Cumberland terminates, being carried over a distance of one hundred and forty miles, at an expense of one million eight hun dred thousand dollars. From hence it is intended to cross the Ohio, and running in a direct line, about west by north, close to the southern extremity of Lake Michigan, to strike the Mississippi in lat. 41° 50' N. long. 89° 50' W.
Half-way between Pittsburgh and the mouth of the Ohio is the town of Cincinnati, which, from 2500 inhabitants, the number it contained in 1810, had increased, in 1819, to about 12,000. The intermediate country is described as eminently beautiful, consisting of hill and dale, the swells being not more than two or three hundred feet high, covered with an almost unbroken forest, and em
A 2 bosoming bosoming a ealm and majestic river—' from whose unruffled surface,' says Mr. James,' the broad outline of the hills is reflected with a distinctness equal to that with which it is imprinted upon the azure vault of the sky.' The rolling surface, as it is called, is generally fertile, and will produce, by the rude ordinary culture, about fifty bushels of maize per acre. The trees of most luxuriant growth towards the upper part of the river, are the hemlock spruce, and the great Weymouth pine; the latter being one of the most beautiful as well as lofty of the American forest. The smooth straight trunk of five or six feet diameter runs to seventy or eighty feet high, and, crowned with a dense conical top, towers above all other trees of the forest, like the palms of the tropics. Next to these are the beech, birch, sugar-maple, elm, and hickory. Two species of aesculus, or horse-chestnut, are common; the fruit of one of them having upon it an oblong spot, gives to the tree the name of the buck-eye; and as it is only found in the western states, the indigenous back-woodsman is often called Buck-ei/e, in .contradistinction to the eastern emigrants, who rejoice in the name of Yankees.
The river at the falls or rapids, near Louisville, descends about twenty-two feet in a distance of less than two miles; and at the foot of these is the town of Shippingsport. From hence to its junction with the Mississippi, the banks gradually descend, till, at the distance of twelve miles from their confluence, the whole surface ou both sides, and between the rivers, is one continued inundation to the depth of twelve or fourteen feet in time of floods. The soil is of course alluvial, and covered with dense forests; among which occur large patches of what Mr. Nuttall calls ' impenetrable and sempervirent Cane-brakes.' These reedy plants (Arundinaria •Macrosperma), rising to thirty feet in height, exclude by their opaque shade nearly every herbaceous plant. The lowness of the country may be inferred from the circumstance of the floods of the Mississippi causing a reflux of the waters of the Ohio for more than thirty miles, and those of the Ohio retarding the current of the former fully to the same extent.
'The forests here are deep and gloomy, swarming with innumerable mosquitoes, and the ground overgrown with enormous nettles. There is no point near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi, from which a distant prospect can be had. Standing in view of the junction of these magnificent rivers, meeting almost from opposite extremities of the continent, and each impressed with the peculiar character of the regions from which it descends, we seem to imagine ourselves capable of comprehending at one view all that vast region between the summits of the Alleghanies and of the Rocky Mountains, and feel a degree of impatience at finding all our prospects limited by an inconsiderable extent of low muddy bottom lands, and the unrelieved, unvaried, gloom of the forest.'—James, vol. i. p. 41.
The length of the course of the Ohio is stated by Mr. James at one thousand aud thirty-three miles; maintaining, with few exceptions, an uniform gentle current of clear transparent water, whose rapidity on an average is not more than two and a half miles an hour, with a descent of nine inches a mile, (four inches and a half come nearer the truth;) the range of high and low water, between the highest and lowest ebbs, upwards of sixty feet. When flooded, vessels of 300 tons burden may ascend as high as Cincinnati. The larger steam-boats however, which run on the Mississippi and the Ohio, usually stop at Shippingsport; the smaller kinds only, not exceeding seventy tons, proceeding to Pittsburgh, and those only for a few months in the year. Chains of rocks crossing the river in two or three places, and shallow beds of sand and gravel, are not the only impediments to the navigation of the Ohio; a more constant source of danger arises from the roots and stems of sunken trees, or those which are floating level with the surface of the water, known, by nice distinctions, under the sonorous and classical names of snags, mags, sawyers, and planters. On the Alleghany and upper part of the Ohio, flats or rafts, here called arks, are the common vessels of burden, long fleets of which may be seen dropping down with the current, and bearing to that land of promise, which lies 'beyond the place where the sun goes down,' whole families who have embarked on one frail bottom their horses, cattle, household furniture, implements of husbandry, and, in short, all their worldly goods. The principal tributaries to the Ohio are the Wabash and its branches, the Miami, the Sioto, and the Muskingum, from the northward; the Great Kenaway, the Kentucky, the Cumberland, and the Tennessee from the south-east. The last-mentioned river, running in a contrary direction for two hundred miles nearly, at no great distance from and parallel to the Mississippi, is a proof of the general low level of the surface on this part of the great valley.
On the 1st of June, the ' Western Engineer' entered the Mississippi, where we must leave her for the present, to accompany Mr. Schoolcraft, who considers himself 'as the only man living who has visited both the source and the mouth of this wonderful river.' His account of it is clearly giveu, and, with a few exceptions, we doubt not, with sufficient accuracy.
The Mississippi originates in a region of lakes and swamps, which are scattered over a table-land, extending from the Rocky Mountains nearly, to the shores of Lake Superior, between the 48th and 49th parallels of latitude—some of which pour their waters north into the Polar Sea—others, north-east, into Hudson's Bay—
A 3 others others again east, into the St. Lawrence—and others, south, into the Gulf of Mexico. Mr. Schoolcraft assumes the Red Cedar Lake (which, in compliment to Governor Cass, he is pleased to call Cassina Lake) as the source of the Mississippi, though he admits that a river falls into it from Beesh Lake, sixty miles to the north-west. Calculating from Cassina, he makes the whole course of the river to its embouchure 2978 miles, and from the Beesh, 3038 miles—comprehending every variety of climate, from almost constant winter (they had ice in July) to the regions of perpetual verdure. He considers its physical character under four natural divisions, as indicated by the rock formation of its bed and banks, the forest trees and other vegetable productions, the falls and rapids which oppose navigation, and the general appearances of the adjacent country.
The first division extends from Cassina Lake to the Falls of Peckagama, a distance of 230 miles, through which it meanders with a gentle current of about a mile and a half an hour, with a descent of three inches per mile, increasing in width from 60 to 100 feet, the country on each side being a low prairie or savannah covered with wild rice, rushes, sword-grass, and other aquatic plants. A few yellow pines appear in the dry sandy elevations which terminate the prairies at the distance of a few miles on each side of the river, which, however, in its extraordinary sinuosities, sometimes approaches them. The nature of these savannahs (under the fascinating name of prairies) will best be understood from Mr. Schoolcraft's description:
'While sitting in our canoes, in the centre of this prairie, the rank growth of grass, rushes, &c. completely hid the adjoining forests from view, and it appeared as if we were lost in a boundless field of waving grass. Nothing was to be seen but the sky above, and the lofty fields of nodding grass, oats, and reeds upon each side of the stream. The monotony of the view can only be conceived by those who have been at sea,—and we turned away with the same kind of interest to admire the birds and water-fowl, who have chosen this region for their abode. The current of the river is gentle, its velocity not exceeding one mile per hour:—its width is about eighty feet.'—Schoolcraft, pp. 242, 243.
In this region of gloom and desolation, were found two Frenchmen located, for the purpose of trading with the Indians:
'In the person of one of these, Mons. D , we witnessed one
of the most striking objects of human misery. It appears that, in the prosecution of the fur trade, he had, according to the custom of the country, taken an Indian wife, and spent several winters in that inclement region. During the last, he was, however, caught in a severe snow storm, and froze both his feet in such a manner, that they dropped off shortly after his return to his wigwam. In this helpless situation, he was supported some time by his wife, who caught fish in the lake; but she at last deserted him; and on our arrival, he had subsisted several months upon the pig weed which grew around his cabin. As he was unable to walk, this had been thrown in by his countryman, or by the Indians, and appeared to have been the extent of their benevolence. We found him seated in a small bark cabin, on a rush mat, with the stumps of his legs tied up with deerskins, and wholly destitute of covering. He was poor and emaciated to the last degree—his beard was long—cheeks fallen in—eyes sunk, but darting a look of despair— and every bone in his body visible through the skin. He could speak no English, but was continually uttering curses in his mother tongue, upon his own existence, and apparently, upon all that surrounded him. We could only endure the painful sight for a moment, and hastened from this abode of human wretchedness; but before leaving the village, Governor Cass sent him a present of Indian goods, groceries, and ammunition, and engaged a person to convey him to the American Fur Company's Fort at Sandy Lake, where he could still receive the attention due to suffering humanity.'—Id. pp. 252, 253.
The second division commences at the Falls of Peckagama, where the first rock stratum and the first wooded island occur, and extends to the Falls of St. Anthony, a distance of 685 miles; the width mcreasmg from 300 to 800 feet, from the numerous tributary streams falling in on the east and on the west; in which space the impediments to navigation consist of thirty-five rapids, nineteen ripples, and the Big and Little Falls; exclusive of which, the mean descent is reckoned at six inches a mile, and its velocity at three miles an hour. At the Falls of the Peckagama the savannahs cease, and are succeeded by forests of elm, maple, larch, oak, poplar and ash. About 100 miles lower down, the black-walnut, and at 300, the sycamore, begin to make their appearance; and here also are the ' dry prairies,' which continue to the Falls of St. Anthony, on the east side of the river, the resort of the buffalo, the moose, and other species of deer. Granite in detached masses and in beds appears at the rapids, rising in some places from one to two hundred feet above the river; but the banks are generally alluvial, and the shores abound with a fresh water muscle of enormous size. In this part of the river, Mr. Schoolcraft complains bitterly of the 'voracious hordes of mosquitoes,' whose ravenous attacks, he tells us, require a different species of philosophy to resist from that which we are called upon to exercise upon the sudden occurrence of any of the great calamities and misfortunes of life: 'the traveller,' he emphatically adds,' who is prepared to withstand the savage scalping knife and the enraged bear, has nothing to oppose to the attacks of an enemy which is too minute to be dreaded, and too numerous to be destroyed.'
The third division, or characteristic change in the river, is said to extend from the Falls of St. Anthony to the confluence of the
A 4 Missouri,