Spellings and hyphenations are as in the original document. Hyphenation was inconsistent, with the following words appearing both with and without hyphens: saw-mill, tread-mill, drift-wood, back-set, cotton-wood, farm-house, semi-circular, search-light, fire-brick, out-door, ship-yard(s), and house-boat(s). The name "Celeron" is used interchangebly with "Celoron".
AFLOAT ON THE OHIO
An Historical Pilgrimage of a Thousand Miles in a Skiff, from Redstone to Cairo
REUBEN GOLD THWAITES
Secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Editor of "The Jesuit Relations," Author of "The Colonies, 1492-1750," "Historic Waterways," "The Story of Wisconsin," "Our Cycling Tour in England," etc., etc.
Chicago Way & Williams 1897
Copyright by Reuben Gold Thwaites A.D., 1897
To FREDERICK JACKSON TURNER, Ph. D., Professor of American History in the University of Wisconsin, who loves his native West and with rare insight and gift of phrase interprets her story, this Log of the "Pilgrim" is cordially inscribed.
On the Monongahela—The over-mountain path—Redstone Old Fort—The Youghiogheny—Braddock's defeat. 1
First day on the Ohio—At Logstown. 22
Shingis Old Town—The dynamiter—Yellow Creek. 29
An industrial region—Steubenville—Mingo Bottom—In a steel mill—Indian character. 39
House-boat life—Decadence of steamboat traffic—Wheeling, and Wheeling Creek. 50
The Big Grave—Washington and Round Bottom—A lazy man's paradise—Captina Creek—George Rogers Clark at Fish Creek—Southern types. 64
In Dixie—Oil and natural gas, at Witten's Bottom—The Long Reach—Photographing crackers—Visitors in camp. 77
Life ashore and afloat—Marietta, "the Plymouth Rock of the West"—The Little Kanawha—The story of Blennerhassett's Island. 87
Poor whites—First library in the West—An hour at Hockingport—A hermit fisher. 99
Cliff-dwellers, on Long Bottom—Pomeroy Bend—Letart's Island, and Rapids—Game, in the early day—Rainy weather—In a "cracker" home. 109
Battle of Point Pleasant—The story of Gallipolis—Rosebud—Huntington—The genesis of a houseboater. 125
In a fog—The Big Sandy—Rainy weather—Operatic gypsies—An ancient tavern. 139
The Scioto, and the Shawanese—A night at Rome—Limestone—Keels, flats, and boatmen of the olden time. 150
Produce-boats—A dead town—On the Great Bend—Grant's birthplace—The Little Miami—The genesis of Cincinnati. 168
The story of North Bend—The "shakes"—Driftwood—Rabbit hash—A side-trip to Big Bone Lick. 182
New Switzerland—An old-time river pilot—Houseboat life on the lower reaches—A philosopher in rags—Wooded solitudes—Arrival at Louisville. 202
Storied Louisville—Red Indians and white—A night on Sand Island—New Albany—Riverside hermits—The river falling—A deserted village—An ideal camp. 218
Village life—A traveling photographer—On a country road—Studies in color—Again among colliers—In sweet content—A ferry romance. 233
Fishermen's tales—Skiff nomenclature—Green River—Evansville—Henderson—Audubon and Rafinesque—Floating shops—The Wabash. 251
Shawneetown—Farm-houses on stilts—Cave-in-Rock—Island nights. 267
The Cumberland and the Tennessee—Stately solitudes—Old Fort Massac—Dead towns in Egypt—The last camp—Cairo. 280
Appendix A.—Historical outline of Ohio Valley settlement. 296
Appendix B.—Selected list of Journals of previous travelers down the Ohio. 320
There were four of us pilgrims—my Wife, our Boy of ten and a half years, the Doctor, and I. My object in going—the others went for the outing—was to gather "local color" for work in Western history. The Ohio River was an important factor in the development of the West. I wished to know the great waterway intimately in its various phases,—to see with my own eyes what the borderers saw; in imagination, to redress the pioneer stage, and repeople it.
A motley company have here performed their parts: Savages of the mound-building age, rearing upon these banks curious earthworks for archaeologists of the nineteenth century to puzzle over; Iroquois war-parties, silently swooping upon sleeping villages of the Shawanese, and in noisy glee returning to the New York lakes, laden with spoils and captives; La Salle, prince of French explorers and coureurs de bois, standing at the Falls of the Ohio, and seeking to fathom the geographical mysteries of the continent; French and English fur-traders, in bitter contention for the patronage of the red man; borderers of the rival nations, shedding each other's blood in protracted partisan wars; surveyors like Washington and Boone and the McAfees, clad in fringed hunting-shirts and leathern leggings, mapping out future states; hardy frontiersmen, fighting, hunting, or farming, as occasion demanded; George Rogers Clark, descending the river with his handful of heroic Virginians to win for the United States the great Northwest, and for himself the laurels of fame; the Marietta pilgrims, beating Revolutionary swords into Ohio plowshares; and all that succeeding tide of immigrants from our own Atlantic coast and every corner of Europe, pouring down the great valley to plant powerful commonwealths beyond the mountains. A richly-varied panorama of life passes before us as we contemplate the glowing story of the Ohio.
In making our historical pilgrimage we might more easily have "steamboated" the river,—to use a verb in local vogue; but, from the deck of a steamer, scenes take on a different aspect than when viewed from near the level of the flood; for a passenger by such a craft, the vistas of a winding stream change so rapidly that he does not realize how it seemed to the canoeist or flatboatman of old; and there are too many modern distractions about such a mode of progress. To our minds, the manner of our going should as nearly as possible be that of the pioneer himself—hence our skiff, and our nightly camp in primitive fashion.
The trip was successful, whatever the point of view. Physically, those six weeks "Afloat on the Ohio" were a model outing—at times rough, to be sure, but exhilarating, health-giving, brain-inspiring. The Log of the "Pilgrim" seeks faintly to outline our experiences, but no words can adequately describe the wooded hill-slopes which day by day girt us in; the romantic ravines which corrugate the rim of the Ohio's basin; the beautiful islands which stud the glistening tide; the great affluents which, winding down for a thousand miles, from the Blue Ridge, the Cumberland, and the Great Smoky, pour their floods into the central stream; the giant trees—sycamores, pawpaws, cork elms, catalpas, walnuts, and what not—which everywhere are in view in this woodland world; the strange and lovely flowers we saw; the curious people we met, black and white, and the varieties of dialect which caught our ear; the details of our charming gypsy life, ashore and afloat, during which we were conscious of the red blood tingling through our veins, and, alert to the whisperings of Nature, were careless of the workaday world, so far away,—simply glad to be alive.
For the better understanding of the numerous historical references in the Log, I have thought it well to present in the Appendix a brief sketch of the settlement of the Ohio Valley. To this Appendix, as a preliminary reading, I invite those who may care to follow "Pilgrim" and her crew upon their long journey from historic Redstone down to the Father of Waters.
A selected list of Journals of previous travelers down the Ohio, has been added, for the benefit of students of the social and economic history of this important gateway to the continental interior.
R. G. T.
Madison, Wis., October, 1897.
AFLOAT ON THE OHIO
On the Monongahela—The over-mountain path—Redstone Old Fort—The Youghiogheny—Braddock's defeat.
In camp near Charleroi, Pa., Friday, May 4.—Pilgrim, built for the glassy lakes and smooth-flowing rivers of Wisconsin, had suffered unwonted indignities in her rough journey of a thousand miles in a box-car. But beyond a leaky seam or two, which the Doctor had righted with clouts and putty, and some ugly scratches which were only paint-deep, she was in fair trim as she gracefully lay at the foot of the Brownsville shipyard this morning and received her lading.
There were spectators in abundance. Brownsville, in the olden day, had seen many an expedition set out from this spot for the grand tour of the Ohio, but not in the personal recollection of any in this throng of idlers, for the era of the flatboat and pirogue now belongs to history. Our expedition is a revival, and therein lies novelty. However, the historic spirit was not evident among our visitors—railway men, coal miners loafing out the duration of a strike, shipyard hands lying in wait for busier times, small boys blessed with as much leisure as curiosity, and that wonder of wonders, a bashful newspaper reporter. Their chief concern centered in the query, how Pilgrim could hold that goodly heap of luggage and still have room to spare for four passengers? It became evident that her capacity is akin to that of the magician's bag.
"A dandy skiff, gents!" said the foreman of the shipyard, as we settled into our seats—the Doctor bow, I stroke, with W—— and the Boy in the stern sheets. Having in silence critically watched us for a half hour, seated on a capstan, his red flannel shirt rolled up to his elbows, and well-corded chest and throat bared to wind and weather, this remark of the foreman was evidently the studied judgment of an expert. It was taken as such by the good-natured crowd, which, as we pushed off into the stream, lustily joined in a chorus of "Good-bye!" and "Good luck to yees, an' ye don't git th' missus drowndid 'fore ye git to Cairo!"
The current is slight on these lower reaches of the Monongahela. It comes down gayly enough from the West Virginia hills, over many a rapid, and through swirls and eddies in plenty, until Morgantown is reached; and then, settling into a more sedate course, is at Brownsville finally converted into a mere mill-pond, by the back-set of the four slack-water dams between there and Pittsburg. This means solid rowing for the first sixty miles of our journey, with a current scarcely perceptible.
The thought of it suggests lunch. At the mouth of Redstone Creek, a mile below Dunlap Creek, our port of departure, we turn in to a shaly beach at the foot of a wooded slope, in semi-rusticity, and fortify the inner man.
A famous spot, this Redstone Creek. Between its mouth and that of Dunlap's was made, upon the site of extensive Indian fortification mounds, the first English agricultural settlement west of the Alleghanies. It is unsafe to establish dates for first discoveries, or for first settlements. The wanderers who, first of all white men, penetrated the fastnesses of the wilderness were mostly of the sort who left no documentary traces behind them. It is probable, however, that the first Redstone settlement was made as early as 1750, the year following the establishment of the Ohio Company, which had been chartered by the English crown and given a half-million acres of land west of the mountains and south of the Ohio River, provided it established thereon a hundred families within seven years.
"Redstone Old Fort"—the name had reference to the aboriginal earthworks—played a part in the Fort Necessity and Braddock campaigns and in later frontier wars; and, being the western terminus of the over-mountain road known at various historic periods as Nemacolin's Path, Braddock's Road, and Cumberland Pike, was for many years the chief point of departure for Virginia expeditions down the Ohio River. Washington, who had large landed interests on the Ohio, knew Redstone well; and here George Rogers Clark set out (1778) upon flatboats, with his rough-and-ready Virginia volunteers, to capture the country north of the Ohio for the American arms—one of the least known, but most momentous conquests in history.
Early in the nineteenth century, Redstone became Brownsville. But, whether as Redstone or Brownsville, it was, in its day, like most "jumping off" places on the edge of civilization, a veritable Sodom. Wrote good old John Pope, in his Journal of 1790, and in the same strain scores of other veracious chroniclers: "At this Place we were detained about a Week, experiencing every Disgust which Rooks and Harpies could excite." Here thrived extensive yards in which were built flatboats, arks, keel boats, and all that miscellaneous collection of water craft which, with their roisterly crews, were the life of the Ohio before the introduction of steam rendered vessels of deeper draught essential; whereupon much of the shipping business went down the river to better stages of water, first to Pittsburg, thence to Wheeling, and to Steubenville.
All that is of the past. Brownsville is still a busy corner of the world, though of a different sort, with all its romance gone. To the student of Western history, Brownsville will always be a shrine—albeit a smoky, dusty shrine, with the smell of lubricators and the clang of hammers, and much talk thereabout of the glories of Mammon.
The Monongahela is a characteristic mountain trough. From an altitude of four or five hundred feet, the country falls in sharp steeps to a narrow alluvial bench, and then a broad beach of shale and pebble; the slopes are broken, here and there, where deep, shadowy ravines come winding down, bearing muddy contributions to the greater flood. The higher hills are crowned with forest trees, the lower ofttimes checkered with brown fields, recently planted, and rows of vines trimmed low to stakes, as in the fashion of the Rhine. The stream, though still majestic in its sweep, is henceforth a commercial slack-water, lined with noisy, grimy, matter-of-fact manufacturing towns, for the most part literally abutting one upon the other all of the way down to Pittsburg, and fast defiling the once picturesque banks with the gruesome offal of coal mines and iron plants. Surprising is the density of settlement along the river. Often, four or five full-fledged cities are at once in view from our boat, the air is thick with sooty smoke belched from hundreds of stacks, the ear is almost deafened with the whirr and roar and bang of milling industries.
Tipples of bituminous coal-shafts are ever in sight—begrimed scaffolds of wood and iron, arranged for dumping the product of the mines into both barges and railway cars. Either bank is lined with railways, in sight of which we shall almost continually float, all the way down to Cairo, nearly eleven hundred miles away. At each tipple is a miners' hamlet; a row of cottages or huts, cast in a common mold, either unpainted, or bedaubed with that cheap, ugly red with which one is familiar in railway bridges and rural barns. Sometimes these huts, though in the mass dreary enough, are kept in neat repair; but often are they sadly out of elbows—pigs and children promiscuously at their doors, paneless sash stuffed with rags, unsightly litter strewn around, misery stamped on every feature of the homeless tenements. Dreariest of all is a deserted mining village, and there are many such—the shaft having been worked out, or an unquenchable subterranean fire left to smolder in neglect. Here the tipple has fallen into creaking decrepitude; the cabins are without windows or doors—these having been taken to some newer hamlet; ridge-poles are sunken, chimneys tottering; soot covers the gaunt bones, which for all the world are like a row of skeletons, perched high, and grinning down at you in their misery; while the black offal of the pit, covering deep the original beauty of the once green slope, is in its turn being veiled with climbing weeds—such is Nature's haste, when untrammeled, to heal the scars wrought by man.
A mile or two below Charleroi is Lock No. 4, the first of the quartet of obstructions between Brownsville and Pittsburg. We are encamped a mile below the dam, in a cozy little willowed nook; a rod behind our ample tent rises the face of an alluvial terrace, occupied by a grain-field, running back for an hundred yards to the hills, at the base of which is a railway track. Across the river, here some two hundred and fifty yards wide, the dark, rocky bluffs, slashed with numerous ravines, ascend sharply from the flood; at the quarried base, a wagon road and the customary railway; and upon the stony beach, two or three rough shelter-tents, housing the Black Diamond Brass Band, of Monongahela City, out on a week's picnic to while away the period of the strike.
It was seven o'clock when we struck camp, and our frugal repast was finished by lantern-light. The sun sets early in this narrow trough through the foothills of the Laurel range.
* * * * *
McKeesport, Pa., Saturday, May 5th.—Out there on the beach, near Charleroi, with the sail for an awning, Pilgrim had been converted into a boudoir for the Doctor, who, snuggled in his sleeping-bag, emitted an occasional snore—echoes from the Land of Nod. W—— and our Boy of ten summers, on their canvas folding-cots, were peacefully oblivious of the noises of the night, and needed the kiss of dawn to rouse them. But for me, always a light sleeper, and as yet unused to our airy bedroom, the crickets chirruped through the long watches.
Two or three freighters passed in the night, with monotonous swish-swish and swelling wake. It arouses something akin to awe, this passage of a steamer's wake upon the beach, a dozen feet from the door of one's tent. First, the water is sucked down, leaving for a moment a wet streak of sand or gravel, a dozen feet in width; in quick succession come heavy, booming waves, running at an acute angle with the shore, breaking at once into angry foam, and wasting themselves far up on the strand, for a few moments making bedlam with any driftwood which chances to have made lodgment there. When suddenly awakened by this boisterous turmoil, the first thought is that a dam has broken and a flood is at hand; but, by the time you rise upon your elbow, the scurrying uproar lessens, and gradually dies away along a more distant shore.
We were slow in getting off this morning. But the dense fog had been loath to lift; and at first the stove smoked badly, until we discovered and removed the source of trouble. This stove is an ingenious contrivance of the Doctor's—a box of sheet-iron, of slight weight, so arranged as to be folded into an incredibly small space; a vast improvement for cooking purposes over an open camp-fire, which Pilgrim's crew know, from long experience in far distant fields, to be a vexation to eyes and soul.
Coaling hamlets more or less deserted were frequent this morning—unpainted, windowless, ragged wrecks. At the inhabited mining villages, either close to the strand or well up on hillside ledges, idle men were everywhere about. Women and boys and girls were stockingless and shoeless, and often dirty to a degree. But, when conversed with, we found them independent, respectful, and self-respecting folk. Occasionally I would, for the mere sake of meeting these workaday brothers of ours, with canteen slung on shoulder, climb the steep flight of stairs cut in the clay bank, and on reaching the terrace inquire for drinking water, talking familiarly with the folk who came to meet me at the well-curb.
There are old-fashioned Dutch ovens in nearly every yard, a few chickens, and often a shed for the cow, that is off on her daily climb over the neighboring hills. Through the black pall of shale, a few vegetables struggle feebly to the light; in the corners of the palings, are hollyhocks and four-o'clocks; and, on window-sills, rows of battered tin cans, resplendent in blue and yellow labels, are the homes of verbenas and geraniums, in sickly bloom. Now and then, a back door in the dreary block is distinguished by an arbored trellis bearing a grape-vine, and furnishing for the weary housewife a shady kitchen, al fresco. As a rule, however, there is little attempt to better the homeless shelter furnished by the corporation.
We restocked with provisions at Monongahela City, a smart, newish town, and at Elizabeth, old and dingy. It was at Elizabeth, then Elizabethtown, that travelers from the Eastern States, over the old Philadelphia Road, chiefly took boat for the Ohio—the Virginians still clinging to Redstone, as the terminus of the Braddock Road. Elizabethtown, in flatboat days, was the seat of a considerable boat-building industry, its yards in time turning out steamboats for the New Orleans trade, and even sea-going sailing craft; but, to-day, coal barges are the principal output of her decaying shipyards.
By this time, the duties of our little ship's company are well defined. W—— supervises the cuisine, most important of all offices; the Doctor is chief navigator, assistant cook, and hewer of wood; it falls to my lot to purchase supplies, to be carrier of water, to pitch tent and make beds, and, while breakfast is being cooked, to dismantle the camp and, so far as may be, to repack Pilgrim; the Boy collects driftwood, wipes dishes, and helps at what he can—while all hands row or paddle through the livelong day, as whim or need dictates.
Lock No. 3, at Walton, necessitated a portage of the load, over the left bank. It is a steep, rocky climb, and the descent on the lower side, strewn with stone chips, destructive to shoe-leather. The Doctor and I let Pilgrim herself down with a long rope, over a shallow spot in the apron of the dam.
At six o'clock a camping-ground for the night became desirable. We were fortunate, last evening, to find a bit of rustic country in which to pitch our tent; but all through this afternoon both banks of the river were lined with village after village, city after city, scarcely a garden patch between them—Wilson, Coal Valley, Lostock, Glassport, Dravosburg, and a dozen others not recorded on our map, which bears date of 1882. The sun was setting behind the rim of the river basin, when we reached the broad mouth of the Youghiogheny (pr. Yock-i-o-gai'-ny), which is implanted with a cluster of iron-mill towns, of which McKeesport is the center. So far as we could see down the Monongahela, the air was thick with the smoke of glowing chimneys, and the pulsating whang of steel-making plants and rolling-mills made the air tremble. The view up the "Yough" was more inviting; so, with oars and paddle firmly set, we turned off our course and lustily pulled against the strong current of the tributary. A score or two of house-boats lay tied to the McKeesport shore or were bolstered high upon the beach; a fleet of Yough steamers had their noses to the wharf; a half-dozen fishermen were setting nets; and, high over all, with lofty spans of iron cobweb, several railway and wagon bridges spanned the gliding stream.
It was a mile and a half up the Yough before we reached the open country; and then only the rapidly-gathering dusk drove us ashore, for on near approach the prospect was not pleasing. Finally settling into this damp, shallow pocket in the shelving bank, we find broad-girthed elms and maples screening us from all save the river front, the high bank in the rear fringed with blue violets which emit a delicious odor, backed by a field of waving corn stretching off toward heavily-wooded hills. Our supper cooked and eaten by lantern-light, we vote ourselves as, after all, serenely content out here in the starlight—at peace with the world, and very close to Nature's heart.
There come to us, on the cool evening breeze, faint echoes of the never-ceasing clang of McKeesport iron mills, down on the Monongahela shore. But it is not of these we talk, lounging in the welcome warmth of the camp-fire; it is of the age of romance, a hundred and forty odd years ago, when Major Washington and Christopher Gist, with famished horses, floundered in the ice hereabout, upon their famous midwinter trip to Fort Le Boeuf; when the "Forks of the Yough" became the extreme outpost of Western advance, with all the accompanying horrors of frontier war; and later, when McKeesport for a time rivaled Redstone and Elizabethtown as a center for boat-building and a point of departure for the Ohio.
* * * * *
Pittsburg, Sunday, May 6th.—Many of the trees are already in full leaf. The trillium is fading. We are in the full tide of early summer, up here in the mountains, and our long journey of six weeks is southward and toward the plain. The lower Ohio may soon be a bake-oven, and the middle of June will be upon us before far-away Cairo is reached. It behooves us to be up and doing. The river, flowing by our door, is an ever-pressing invitation to be onward; it stops not for Sunday, nor ever stops—and why should we, mere drift upon the passing tide?
There was a smart thunder-shower during breakfast, followed by a cool, cloudy morning. At eleven o'clock Pilgrim was laden. A south-eastern breeze ruffled the waters of the Yough, and for the first time the Doctor ordered up the sail, with W—— at the sheet. It was not long before Pilgrim had the water "singing at her prow." With a rush, we flew past the factories, the house-boats, and the shabby street-ends of McKeesport, out into the Monongahela, where, luckily, the wind still held.
At McKeesport, the hills on the right are of a relatively low altitude, smooth and well rounded. It was here that Braddock, in his slow progress toward Fort Duquesne, first crossed the Monongahela, to the wide, level bottom on the left bank. He had found the inner country to the right of the river and below the Yough too rough and hilly for his march, hence had turned back toward the Monongahela, fording the river to take advantage of the less difficult bottom. Some four miles below this first crossing, hills reapproach the left bank, till the bottom ceases; the right thenceforth becomes the more favorable side for marching. With great pomp, he recrossed the Monongahela just below the point where Turtle Creek enters from the east. Within a hillside ravine, but a hundred yards inland, the brilliant column fell into an ambuscade of Indians and French half-breeds, suffering that heart-sickening defeat which will ever live as one of the most tragic events in American history.
The noisy iron-manufacturing town of Braddock now occupies the site of Braddock's defeat. Not far from the old ford stretches the great dam of Lock No. 2, which we portaged, with the usual difficulties of steep, stony banks. Braddock is but eight miles across country from Pittsburg, although twelve by river. We have, all the way down, an almost constant succession of iron and steel-making towns, chief among them Homestead, on the left bank, seven miles above Pittsburg. The great strike of July, 1892, with its attendant horrors, is a lurid chapter in the story of American industry. With shuddering interest, we view the famous great bank of ugly slag at the base of the steel mills, where the barges housing the Pinkerton guards were burned by the mob.
To-day, the Homesteaders are enjoying their Sunday afternoon outing along the town shore—nurses pushing baby carriages, self-absorbed lovers holding hands upon riverside benches, merry-makers rowing in skiffs or crossing the river in crowded ferries; the electric cars, following either side of the stream as far down as Pittsburg, crowded to suffocation with gayly-attired folk. They look little like rioters; yet it seems but the other day when Homestead men and women and children were hysterically reveling in atrocities akin to those of the Paris commune.
Approaching Pittsburg, the high steeps are everywhere crowded with houses—great masses of smoke-color, dotted all over with white shades and sparkling windows, which seem, in the gray afternoon, to be ten thousand eyes coldly staring down at Pilgrim and her crew from all over the flanking hillsides.
Lock No. 1, the last barrier between us and the Ohio, is a mile or two up the Monongahela, with warehouses and manufacturing plants closely hemming it in on either side. A portage, unaided, appears to be impossible here, and we resolve to lock through. But it is Sunday, and the lock is closed. Above, a dozen down-going steamboats are moored to the shore, waiting for midnight and the resumption of business; while below, a similar line of ascending boats is awaiting the close of the day of rest. Pilgrim, however, cannot hang up at the levee with any comfort to her crew; it is necessary, with evening at hand, and a thunder-storm angrily rising over the Pittsburg hills, to get out of this grimy pool, flanked about with iron and coal yards, chimney stacks, and a forest of shipping, and to quickly seek the open country lower down on the Ohio. The lock-keepers appreciated our situation. Two or three sturdy, courteous men helped us carry our cargo, by an intricate official route, over coils of rope and chains, over lines of shafting, and along dizzy walks overhanging the yawning basin; while the Doctor, directed to a certain chute in midstream, took unladen Pilgrim over the great dam, with a wild swoop which made our eyes swim to witness from the lock.
We had laboriously been rowing on slack-water, all the way from Brownsville, with the help of an hour's sail this morning; whereas, now that we were in the strong current below the dam, we had but to gently paddle to glide swiftly on our way. A hundred steamers, more or less, lay closely packed with their bows upon the right, or principal city wharf. It was raining at last, and we donned our storm wraps. No doubt yellow Pilgrim,—thought hereabout to be a frail craft for these waters,—her crew all poncho-clad, slipping silently through the dark water swishing at their sterns, was a novelty to the steamboat men, for they leaned lazily over their railings, the officers on the upper deck, engineers and roustabouts on the lower, and watched us curiously.
Our period of elation was brief. Black storm-clouds, jagged and portentous, were scurrying across the sky; and by the time we had reached the forks, where the Monongahela, in the heart of the city, joins forces with the Alleghany, Pilgrim was being buffeted about on a chop sea produced by cross currents and a northwest gale. She can weather an ordinary storm, but this experience was too much for her. When a passing steamer threw out long lines of frothy waves to add to the disturbance, they broke over our gunwales; and W—— with the coffee pot and the Boy with a tin basin were hard pushed to keep the water below the thwarts.
Seeking the friendly shelter of a house-boat, of which there were scores tied to the left bank, we trusted our drenched luggage to the care of its proprietor, placed Pilgrim in a snug harbor hard by, and, hurrying up a steep flight of steps leading from the levee to the terrace above, found a suburban hotel just as its office clock struck eight.
Across the Ohio, through the blinding storm, the dark outlines of Pittsburg and Allegheny City are spangled with electric lamps which throw toward us long, shimmering lances of light, in which the mighty stream, gray, mysterious, tempest-tossed, is seen to be surging onward with majestic sweep. Upon its bosom we are to be borne for a thousand miles. Our introduction has been unpropitious; it is to be hoped that on further acquaintance we may be better pleased with La Belle Riviere.
First day on the Ohio—At Logstown.
Beaver River, Monday, May 7th.—We have to-day rowed and paddled under a cloudless sky, but in the teeth of frequent squalls, with heavy waves freely dashing their spray upon us. At such times a goodly current, aided by numerous wing-dams, appears of little avail; for, when we rested upon our oars, Pilgrim would be unmercifully driven up stream. Thus it has been an almost continual fight to make progress, and our five-and-twenty miles represent a hard day's work.
We were overloaded, that was certain; so we stopped at Chartier, three miles down the river from Pittsburg, and sent on our portly bag of conventional traveling clothes by express to Cincinnati, where we intend stopping for a day. This leaves us in our rough boating costumes for all the smaller towns en route. What we may lose in possible social embarrassments, we gain in lightened cargo.
Here at the mouth of Chartier's Creek was "Chartier's Old Town" of a century and a third ago; a straggling, unkempt Indian village then, but at least the banks were lovely, and the rolling distances clothed with majestic trees. To-day, these creek banks, connected with numerous iron bridges, are the dumping-ground for cinders, slag, rubbish of every degree of foulness; the bare hillsides are crowded with the ugly dwellings of iron-workers; the atmosphere is thick with smoke.
Washington, one of the greatest land speculators of his time, owned over 32,000 acres along the Ohio. He held a patent from Lord Dunmore, dated July 5, 1775, for nearly 3,000 acres lying about the mouth of this stream. In accordance with the free-and-easy habit of trans-Alleghany pioneers, ten men squatted on the tract, greatly to the indignation of the Father of his Country, who in 1784 brought against them a successful suit for ejectment. Twelve years later, more familiar with this than with most of his land grants, he sold it to a friend for $12,000.
Just below Chartier are the picturesque McKee's Rocks, where is the first riffle in the Ohio. We "take" it with a swoop, the white-capped waves dancing about us in a miniature rapid. Then we are in the open country, and for the first time find what the great river is like. The character of the banks, for some distance below Pittsburg, differs from that of the Monongahela. The hills are lower, less precipitous, more graceful. There is a delightful roundness of mass and shade. Beautiful villas occupy commanding situations on hillsides and hilltops; we catch glimpses of spires and cupolas, singly or in groups, peeping above the trees; and now and then a pretty suburban railway station. The railways upon either bank are built on neat terraces, and, far from marring the scene, agreeably give life to it; now and then, three such terraces are to be traced, one above the other, against the dark background of wood and field—the lower and upper devoted to rival railway lines, the central one to the common way. The mouths of the beautiful tributary ravines are crossed either by graceful iron spans, which frame charming undercut glimpses of sparkling waterfalls and deep tangles of moss and fern, or by graceful stone arches draped with vines. There are terraced vineyards, after the fashion of the Rhineland, and the gentle arts of the florist and the truck-gardener are much in evidence. The winding river frequently sweeps at the base of rocky escarpments, but upon one side or the other there are now invariably bottom lands—narrow on these upper reaches, but we shall find them gradually widen and lengthen as we descend. The reaches are from four to seven miles in length, but these, too, are to lengthen in the middle waters. Islands are frequent, all day. The largest is Neville's, five miles long and thickly strewn with villas and market-gardens; still others are but long sandbars grown to willows, and but temporarily in sight, for the stage of water is low just now, not over seven feet in the channel.
Emerging from the immediate suburbs of Pittsburg, the fields broaden, farmsteads are occasionally to be seen nestled in the undulations of the hills, woodlands become more dense. There are, however, small rustic towns in plenty; we are seldom out of sight of these. Climbing a steep clay slope on the left bank, we visited one of them—Shousetown, fourteen miles below the city. A sad-eyed, shabby place, with the pipe line for natural gas sprawling hither and yon upon the surface of the ground, except at the street crossings, where a few inches of protecting earth have been laid upon it. The tariff levied by the gas company is ten cents per month for each light, and a dollar and a half for a cook-stove.
We passed, this afternoon, one of the most interesting historic points upon the river—the picturesque site of ancient Logstown, upon the summit of a low, steep ridge on the right bank, just below Economy, and eighteen miles from Pittsburg. Logstown was a Shawanese village as early as 1727-30, and already a notable fur-trading post when Conrad Weiser visited it in 1748. Washington and Gist stopped at "Loggestown" for five days on their visit to the French at Fort Le Boeuf, and several famous Indian treaties were signed there. A short distance below, Anthony Wayne's Western army was encamped during the winter of 1792-93, the place being then styled Legionville. In 1824 George Rapp founded in the neighborhood a German socialist community, and this later settlement survives to the present day in the thriving little rustic town of Economy.
At four o'clock we struck camp on a heavily-willowed shore, at the apex of the great northern bend of the Ohio (25 miles).[A] Across the river, on a broad level bottom, are the manufacturing towns of Rochester and Beaver, divided by the Beaver River; in their rear, well-rounded hills rise gracefully, checkered with brown fields and woods in many shades of green, in the midst of which the flowering white dogwood rears its stately spray. Our sloping willowed sand-beach, of a hundred feet in width, is thick strewn with driftwood; back of this a clay bank, eight feet sheer, and a narrow bottom cut up with small fruit and vegetable patches; the gardeners' neat frame houses peeping from groves of apple, pear and cherry, upon the flanking hillsides. A lofty oil-well derrick surmounts the edge of the terrace a hundred yards below our camp. The bushes and the ground round about the well are black and slimy with crude petroleum, that has escaped during the boring process, and the air is heavy with its odor. We are upon the edge of the far-stretching oil and gas-well region, and shall soon become familiar enough with such sights and smells in the neighborhood of our nightly camps.
No sooner had Pilgrim been turned up against a tree to dry, and a smooth sandy open chosen for the camp, than the proprietor of the soil appeared—a middling-sized, lanky man, with a red face and a sandy goatee surmounting a collarless white shirt all bestained with tobacco juice. He inquired rather sharply concerning us, but when informed of our innocent errand, and that we should stay with him but the night, he promptly softened, explaining that the presence of marauding fishermen and house-boat folk was incompatible with gardening for profit, and he would have none of them touch upon his shore. As to us, we were welcome to stop throughout our pleasure, an invitation he reinforced by sitting upon a stump, whittling vigorously meanwhile, and glibly gossiping with the Doctor and me for a half-hour, on crop conditions and the state of the country—"bein' sociable like," he said, "an' hav'n' nuth'n 'gin you folks, as knows what's what, I kin see with half a eye!"
[Footnote A: Figures in parentheses, similarly placed throughout the volume, indicate the meandered river mileage from Pittsburg, according to the map of the Corps of Engineers, U.S.A., published in 1881. The actual mileage of the channel is a trifle greater.]
Shingis Old Town—The dynamiter—Yellow Creek.
Kneistley's Cluster, W. Va., Tuesday, May 8th.—We were off at a quarter past seven, and among the earliest shoppers in Rochester, on the east bank of the Beaver, where supplies were laid in for the day. This busy, prosperous-looking place bears little resemblance to the squalid Indian village which Gist found here in November, 1750. It was then the seat of Barney Curran, an Indian trader—the same Curran whom Washington, three years later, employed in the mission to Venango. But the smaller sister town of Beaver, on the lower side of the mouth,—or rather the western outskirts of Beaver a mile below the mouth,—has the most ancient history. On account of a ford across the Beaver, about where is now a slack-water dam, the neighborhood became of early importance to the French as a fur-trading center. With customary liberality toward the Indians, whom they assiduously cultivated, the French, in 1756, built for them, on this site, a substantial town, which the English indifferently called Sarikonk, Sohkon, King Beaver's Town, or Shingis Old Town. During the French and Indian War, the place was prominent as a rendezvous for the enemies of American borderers; numerous bloody forays were planned here, and hither were brought to be adopted into the tribes, or to be cruelly tortured, according to savage whim, many of the captives whose tales have made lurid the history of the Ohio Valley.
Passing Beaver River, the Ohio enters upon its grand sweep to the southwest. The wide uplands at once become more rustic, especially those of the left bank, which no longer is threaded by a railway, as heretofore all the way from Brownsville. The two ranges of undulating hills, some three hundred and fifty feet high, forming the rim of the basin, are about a half mile apart; while the river itself is perhaps a third of a mile in width, leaving narrow bottoms on alternate sides, as the stream in gentle curves rebounds from the rocky base of one hill to that of another. When winding about such a base, there is at this stage of the water a sloping, stony beach, some ten to twenty yards in width, from which ascends the sharp steep, for the most part heavily tree-clad—maples, birches, elms and oaks of goodly girth, the latter as yet in but half-leaf. On the "bottom side" of the river, the alluvial terrace presents a sheer wall of clay rising from eight to a dozen feet above the beach, which is often thick-grown with willows, whose roots hold the soil from becoming too easy a prey to the encroaching current. Sycamores now begin to appear in the bottoms, although of less size than we shall meet below. Sometimes the little towns we see occupy a narrow and more or less rocky bench upon the hill side of the stream, but settlement is chiefly found upon the bottoms.
Shippingsport (32 miles), on the left bank, where we stopped this noon for eggs, butter, and fresh water, is on a narrow hill bench—a dry, woe-begone hamlet, side-tracked from the path of the world's progress. While I was on shore, negotiating with the sleepy storekeeper, Pilgrim and her crew waited alongside the flatboat which serves as the town ferry. There they were visited by a breezy, red-faced young man, in a blue flannel shirt and a black slouch hat, who was soon enough at his ease to lie flat upon the ferry gunwale, his cheeks supported by his hands, and talk to W—— and the Doctor as if they were old friends. He was a dealer in nitroglycerin cartridges, he said, and pointed to a long, rakish-looking skiff hard by, which bore a red flag at its prow. "Ye see that? Thet there red flag? Well, thet's the law on us glysereen fellers—over five hundred poun's, two flags; un'er five hundred, one flag. I've two hundred and fifty, I have. I tell yer th' steamboats steer clear o' me, an' don' yer fergit it, neither; they jist give me a wide berth, they do, yew bet! 'n' th' railroads, they don' carry no glysereen cartridge, they don't—all uv it by skiff, like yer see me goin'."
These cartridges, he explained, are dropped into oil or gas wells whose owners are desirous of accelerating the flow. The cartridge, in exploding, enlarges the hole, and often the output of the well is at once increased by several hundred per cent. The young fellow had the air of a self-confident rustic, with little experience in the world. Indeed, it seemed from his elated manner as if this might be his first trip from home, and the blowing of oil wells an incidental speculation. The Boy, quick at inventive nomenclature, and fresh from a reading of Robert Louis Stevenson, called our visitor "the Dynamiter," and by that title I suppose we shall always remember him.
The Dynamiter confided to his listeners that he was going down the river for "a clean hundred miles, and that's right smart fur, ain't it? How fur down be yees goin'?" The Doctor replied that we were going nine hundred; whereat the man of explosives gave vent to his feelings in a prolonged whistle, then a horse laugh, and "Oh come, now! Don' be givin' us taffy! Say, hones' Injun, how fur down air yew fellers goin', anyhow?" It was with some difficulty that he could comprehend the fact. A hundred miles on the river was a great outing for this village lad; nine hundred was rather beyond his comprehension, although he finally compromised by "allowing" that we might be going as far as Cincinnati. Wouldn't the Doctor go into partnership with him? He had no caps for his cartridges, and if the Doctor would buy caps and "stan' in with him on the cost of the glysereen," they would, regardless of Ohio statutes, blow up the fish in unfrequented portions of the river, and make two hundred dollars apiece by carrying the spoils in to Wheeling. The Doctor, as a law-abiding citizen, good-naturedly declined; and upon my return to the flat, the Dynamiter was handing the Boy a huge stick of barber-pole candy, saying, "Well, yew fellers, we'll part friends, anyhow—but sorry yew won't go in on this spec'; there's right smart money in 't, 'n' don' yer fergit it!"
By the middle of the afternoon we reached the boundary line (40 miles) between Pennsylvania on the east and Ohio and West Virginia on the west. The last Pennsylvania settlements are a half mile above the boundary—Smith's Ferry (right), an old and somewhat decayed village, on a broad, low bottom at the mouth of the picturesque Little Beaver Creek;[A] and Georgetown (left), a prosperous-looking, sedate town, with tidy lawns running down to the edge of the terrace, below which is a shelving stone beach of generous width. Two high iron towers supporting the cable of a current ferry add dignity to the twin settlements. A stone monument, six feet high, just observable through the willows on the right shore, marks the boundary; while upon the left bank, surmounting a high, rock-strewn beach, is the dilapidated frame house of a West Virginia "cracker," through whose garden-patch the line takes its way, unobserved and unthought of by pigs, chickens and children, which in hopeless promiscuity swarm the interstate premises.
For many days to come we are to have Ohio on the right bank and West Virginia on the left. There is no perceptible change, of course, in the contour of the rugged hills which hem us in; yet somehow it stirs the blood to reflect that quite within the recollection of all of us in Pilgrim's crew, save the Boy, that left bank was the house of bondage, and that right the land of freedom, and this river of ours the highway between.
East Liverpool (44 miles) and Wellsville (48 miles) are long stretches of pottery and tile-making works, both of them on the Ohio shore. There is nothing there to lure us, however, and we determined to camp on the banks of Yellow Creek (51 miles), a peaceful little Ohio stream some two rods in width, its mouth crossed by two great iron spans, for railway and highway. But although Yellow Creek winds most gracefully and is altogether a charming bit of rustic water, deep-set amid picturesque slopes of field and wood, we fail to find upon its banks an appropriate camping-place. Upon one side a country road closely skirts the shore, and on the other a railway, while for the mile or more we pushed along small farmsteads almost abutted. Hence we retrace our path to the great river, and, dropping down-stream for two miles, find what we seek upon the lower end of the chief of Kneistly's Cluster—two islands on the West Virginia side of the channel.
It is storied ground, this neighborhood of ours. Over there at the mouth of Yellow Creek was, a hundred and twenty years ago, the camp of Logan, the Mingo chief; opposite, on the West Virginia shore, Baker's Bottom, where occurred the treacherous massacre of Logan's family. The tragedy is interwoven with the history of the trans-Alleghany border; and schoolboys have in many lands and tongues recited the pathetic defense of the poor Mingo, who, more sinned against than sinning, was crushed in the inevitable struggle between savagery and civilization. "Who is there to mourn for Logan?"
We are high and dry on our willowed island. Above, just out of sight, are moored a brace of steam pile-drivers engaged in strengthening the dam which unites us with Baker's Bottom. To the left lies a broad stretch of gravel strand, beyond which is the narrow water fed by the overflow of the dam; to the right, the broad steamboat channel rolls between us and the Ohio hills, while the far-reaching vista downstream is a feast of shade and tint, by land and water, with the lights and smoke of New Cumberland and Sloan's Station faintly discernible near the horizon. All about us lies a beautiful world of woodland. The whistle of quails innumerable broke upon us in the twilight, succeeding to the calls of rose-breasted grosbeaks and a goodly company of daylight followers; in this darkening hour, the low, plaintive note of the whip-poor-will is heard on every hand, now and then interrupted by the hoarse bark of owls. There is a gentle tinkling of cowbells on the Ohio shore, and on both are human voices confused by distance. All pervading is the deep, sullen roar of a great wing-dam, a half mile or so down-stream.
The camp is gypsy-like. Our washing lies spread on bushes, where it will catch the first peep of morning sun. Perishable provisions rest in notches of trees, where the cool evening breeze will strike them. Seated upon the "grub" box, I am writing up our log by aid of the lantern hung from a branch overhead, while W——, ever busy, sits by with her mending. Lying in the moonlight, which through the sprawling willows gayly checkers our sand bank, the Doctor and the Boy are discussing the doings of Br'er Rabbit—for we are in the Southland now, and may any day meet good Uncle Remus.
[Footnote A: On this creek was the hunting-cabin of the Seneca (Mingo) chief, Half King, who sent a message of welcome to Washington, when the latter was on his way to Great Meadows (1754).]
An industrial region—Steubenville—Mingo Bottom—In a steel mill—Indian character.
Mingo Junction, Ohio, Wednesday, May 9th.—We had a cold night upon our island. Upon arising this morning, a heavy fog enveloped us, at first completely veiling the sun; soon it became faintly visible, a great ball of burnished copper reflected in the dimpled flood which poured between us and the Ohio shore. Weeds and willows were sopping wet, as was also our wash, and the breakfast fire was a comfortable companion. But by the time we were off, the cloud had lifted, and the sun gushed out with promise of a warm day.
Throughout the morning, Pilgrim glided through a thickly settled district, reminding us of the Monongahela. Sewer-pipe and vitrified-brick works, and iron and steel plants, abound on the narrow bottoms. The factories and mills themselves generally wear a prosperous look; but the dependent towns vary in appearance, from clusters of shabby, down-at-the-heel cabins, to lines of neat and well-painted houses and shops.
We visited the vitrified-brick works at New Cumberland, W. Va. (56 miles), where the proprietor kindly explained his methods, and talked freely of his business. It was the old story, too close a competition for profit, although the use of brick pavements is fast spreading. Fire clay available for the purpose is abundant on the banks of the Ohio all the way from Pittsburg to Kingston (60 miles). A few miles below New Cumberland, on the Ohio shore, we inspected the tile works at Freeman, and admired the dexterity which the workmen had attained.
But what interested us most of all was the appalling havoc which these clay and iron industries are making with the once beautiful banks of the river. Each of them has a large daily output of debris, which is dumped unmercifully upon the water's edge in heaps from fifty to a hundred feet high. Sometimes for nearly a mile in length, the natural bank is deep buried out of sight; and we have from our canoe naught but a dismal wall of rubbish, crowding upon the river to the uttermost limit of governmental allowance. Fifty years hence, if these enterprises multiply at the present ratio, and continue their present methods, the Upper Ohio will roll between continuous banks of clay and iron offal, down to Wheeling and beyond.
Before noon we had left behind us this industrial region, and were again in rustic surroundings. The wind had gone down, the atmosphere was oppressively warm, the sun's reflection from the glassy stream came with almost scalding effect upon our faces. We had rigged an awning over some willow hoops, but it could not protect us from this reflection. For an hour or two—one may as well be honest—we fairly sweltered upon our pilgrimage, until at last a light breeze ruffled the water and brought blessed relief.
The hills are not as high as hitherto, and are more broken. Yet they have a certain majestic sweep, and for the most part are forest-mantled from base to summit. Between them the river winds with noble grace, continually giving us fresh vistas, often of surpassing loveliness. The bottoms are broader now, and frequently semicircular, with fine farms upon them, and prosperous villages nestled in generous groves. Many of the houses betoken age, or what passes for it in this relatively new country, being of the colonial pattern, with fan-shaped windows above the doors, Grecian pillars flanking the front porch, and wearing the air of comfortable respectability.
Beautiful islands lend variety to the scene, some of them mere willowed "tow-heads" largely submerged in times of flood, while others are of a permanent character, often occupied by farms. We have with us a copy of Cuming's Western Pilot (Cincinnati, 1834), which is still a practicable guide for the Ohio, as the river's shore lines are not subject to so rapid changes as those of the Mississippi; but many of the islands in Cuming's are not now to be found, having been swept away in floods, and we encounter few new ones. It is clear that the islands are not so numerous as sixty years ago. The present works of the United States Corps of Engineers tend to permanency in the status quo; doubtless the government map of 1881 will remain an authoritative chart for a half century or more to come.
W——'s enthusiasm for botany frequently takes us ashore. Landing at the foot of some eroded steep which, with ragged charm, rises sharply from the gravelly beach, we fasten Pilgrim's painter to a stone, and go scrambling over the hillside in search of flowers, bearing in mind the Boy's constant plea, to "Get only one of a kind," and leave the rest for seed; for other travelers may come this way, and 'tis a sin indeed to exterminate a botanical rarity. But we find no rarities to-day—only solomon's seal, trillium, wild ginger, cranebill, jack-in-the-pulpit, wild columbine. Poison ivy is on every hand, in these tangled woods, with ferns of many varieties—chiefly maidenhair, walking leaf, and bladder. The view from projecting rocks, in these lofty places, is ever inspiring; the country spread out below us, as in a relief map; the great glistening river winding through its hilly trough; a rumpled country for a few miles on either side, gradually trending into broad plains, checkered with fields on which farmsteads and rustic villages are the chessmen.
At one o'clock we were at Steubenville, Ohio (67 miles), where the broad stoned wharf leads sharply up to the smart, well-built, substantial town of some sixteen thousand inhabitants. W—— and I had some shopping to do there, while the Doctor and the Boy remained down at the inevitable wharf-boat, and gossiped with the philosophical agent, who bemoaned the decadence of steamboat traffic in general, and the rapidly falling stage of water in particular.
Three miles below Steubenville is Mingo Junction, where we are the guests of a friend who is superintendent of the iron and steel works here. The population of Mingo is twenty-five hundred. From seven to twelve hundred are employed in the works, according to the exigencies of business. Ten per cent of them are Hungarians and Slavonians—a larger proportion would be dangerous, our host avers, because of the tendency of these people to "run the town" when sufficiently numerous to make it possible. The Slavs in the iron towns come to America for a few years, intent solely on saving every dollar within reach. They are willing to work for wages which from the American standard seem low, but to them almost fabulous; herd together in surprising promiscuity; maintain a low scale of clothing and diet, often to the ruin of health; and eventually return to Eastern Europe, where their savings constitute a little fortune upon which they can end their days in ease. This sort of competition is fast degrading legitimate American labor. Its regulation ought not to be thought impossible.
A visit to a great steel-making plant, in full operation, is an event in a man's life. Particularly remarkable is the weird spectacle presented at night, with the furnaces fiercely gleaming, the fresh ingots smoking hot, the Bessemer converter "blowing off," the great cranes moving about like things of life, bearing giant kettles of molten steel; and amidst it all, human life held so cheaply. Nearer to mediaeval notions of hell comes this fiery scene than anything imagined by Dante. The working life of one of these men is not over ten years, B—— says. A decade of this intense heat, compared to which a breath of outdoor air in the close mill-yard, with the midsummer sun in the nineties, seems chilly, wears a man out—"only fit for the boneyard then, sir," was the laconic estimate of an intelligent boss whom I questioned on the subject.
Wages run from ninety cents to five dollars a day, with far more at the former rate than the latter. A ninety-cent man working in a place so hot that were water from a hose turned upon him it would at once be resolved into scalding steam, deserves our sympathy. It is pleasing to find in our friend, the superintendent, a strong fellow-feeling for his men, and a desire to do all in his power to alleviate their condition. He has accomplished much in improving the morale of the town; but deep-seated, inexorable economic conditions, apparently beyond present control, render nugatory any attempts to better the financial condition of the underpaid majority.
Mingo Junction—"Mingo Bottom" of old—was an interesting locality in frontier days. On this fertile river beach was long one of the strongest of the Mingo villages. During the last week of May, 1782, Crawford's little army rendezvoused here, en route to Sandusky, a hundred and fifty miles distant, and intent on the destruction of the Wyandot towns. But the Indians had not been surprised, and the army was driven back with slaughter, reaching Mingo the middle of June, bereft of its commander. Crawford, who was a warm friend of Washington, suffered almost unprecedented torture at the stake, his fate sending a thrill of horror through all the Western settlements.
Let us not be too harsh in our judgment of these red Indians. At first, the white colonists from Europe were regarded by them as of supernatural origin, and hospitality, veneration, and confidence were displayed toward the new-comers. But the mortality of the Europeans was soon made painfully evident to them. When the early Spaniards, and afterward the English, kidnaped tribesmen for sale into slavery, or for use as captive guides, and even murdered them on slight provocation, distrust and hatred naturally succeeded to the sentiment of awe. Like many savage races, like the earlier Romans, the Indian looked upon the member of every tribe with which he had not made a formal peace as a public enemy; hence he felt justified in wreaking his vengeance on the race, whenever he failed to find individual offenders. He was exceptionally cruel, his mode of warfare was skulking, he could not easily be reached in the forest fastnesses which he alone knew well, and his strokes fell heaviest on women and children; so that whites came to fear and unspeakably to loathe the savage, and often added greatly to the bitterness of the struggle by retaliation in kind. The white borderers themselves were frequently brutal, reckless, lawless; and under such conditions, clashing was inevitable. But worse agents of discord than the agricultural colonists were the itinerants who traveled through the woods visiting the tribes, exchanging goods for furs; these often cheated and robbed the Indian, taught him the use of intoxicants, bullied and browbeat him, appropriated his women, and in general introduced serious demoralization into the native camps. The bulk of the whites doubtless intended to treat the Indian honorably; but the forest traders were beyond the pale of law, and news of the details of their transactions seldom reached the coast settlements.
As a neighbor, the Indian was difficult to deal with, whether in the negotiation of treaties of amity, or in the purchase of lands. Having but a loose system of government, there was no really responsible head, and no compact was secure from the interference of malcontents, who would not be bound by treaties made by the chiefs. The English felt that the red men were not putting the land to its full use, that much of the territory was growing up as a waste, that they were best entitled to it who could make it the most productive. On the other hand, the earlier cessions of land were made under a total misconception; the Indians supposed that the new-comers would, after a few years of occupancy, pass on and leave the tract again to the natives. There was no compromise possible between races with precisely opposite views of property in land. The struggle was inevitable—civilization against savagery. No sentimental notions could prevent it. It was in the nature of things that the weaker must give way. The Indian was a formidable antagonist, and there were times when the result of the struggle seemed uncertain; but in the end he went to the wall. In judging the vanquished enemy of our civilization, let us not underestimate his intellect, or the many good qualities which were mingled with his savage vices, or fail to credit him with sublime courage, and a tribal patriotism which no disaster could cool.
Houseboat life—Decadence of steamboat traffic—Wheeling, and Wheeling Creek.
Above Moundsville, W. Va., Thursday, May 10th.—Our friends saw us off at the gravelly beach just below the "works." There was a slight breeze ahead, but the atmosphere was agreeable, and Pilgrim bore a happy crew, now as brown as gypsies; the first painful effects of sunburn are over, and we are hardened in skin and muscle to any vicissitudes which are likely to be met upon our voyage. Rough weather, river mud, and all the other exigencies of a moving camp, are beginning to tell upon clothing; we are becoming like gypsies in raiment, as well as color. But what a soul-satisfying life is this gypsying! We possess the world, while afloat on the Ohio!
There are, in the course of the summer, so many sorts of people traveling by the river,—steamboat passengers, campers, fishers, house-boat folk, and what not,—that we attract little attention of ourselves, but Pilgrim is indeed a curiosity hereabout. What remarks we overhear are about her,—"Honey skiff, that!" "Right smart skiff!" "Good skiff for her place, but no good for this yere river!" and so on. She is a lap-streak, square-sterned craft, of white cedar three-eighths of an inch thick; fifteen feet in length and four of beam; weighs just a hundred pounds; comfortably holds us and our luggage, with plenty of spare room to move about in; is easily propelled, and as stanch as can be made. Upon these waters, we meet nothing like her. Not counting the curious floating boxes and punts, which are knocked together out of driftwood, by boys and poor whites, and are numerous all along shore, the regulation Ohio river skiff is built on graceful lines, but of inch boards, heavily ribbed, and is a sorry weight to handle. The contention is, that to withstand the swash of steamboat wakes breaking upon the shore, and the rush of drift in times of flood, a heavy skiff is necessary; there is a tendency to decry Pilgrim as a plaything, unadapted to the great river. A reasonable degree of care at all times, however, and keeping the boat drawn high on the beach when not in use,—such care as we are familiar with upon our Wisconsin inland lakes,—would render the employment of such as she quite practicable, and greatly lessen the labor of rowing on this waterway.
The houseboats, dozens of which we see daily, interest us greatly. They are scows, or "flats," greatly differing in size, with low-ceilinged cabins built upon them—sometimes of one room, sometimes of half a dozen, and varying in character from a mere shanty to a well-appointed cottage. Perhaps the greater number of these craft are afloat in the river, and moored to the bank, with a gang-plank running to shore; others are "beached," having found a comfortable nook in some higher stage of water, and been fastened there, propped level with timbers and driftwood. Among the houseboat folk are young working couples starting out in life, and hoping ultimately to gain a foothold on land; unfortunate people, who are making a fresh start; men regularly employed in riverside factories and mills; invalids, who, at small expense, are trying the fresh-air cure; others, who drift up and down the Ohio, seeking casual work; and legitimate fishermen, who find it convenient to be near their nets, and to move about according to the needs of their calling. But a goodly proportion of these boats are inhabited by the lowest class of the population,—poor "crackers" who have managed to scrape together enough money to buy, or enough energy and driftwood to build, such a craft; and, near or at the towns, many are occupied by gamblers, illicit liquor dealers, and others who, while plying nefarious trades, make a pretense of following the occupation of the Apostles.
Houseboat people, whether beached or afloat, pay no rent, and heretofore have paid no taxes. Kentucky has recently passed, more as a police regulation than as a means of revenue, an act levying a State tax of twenty-five dollars upon each craft of this character; and the other commonwealths abutting upon the river are considering the policy of doing likewise. The houseboat men have, however, recently formed a protective association, and propose to fight the new laws on constitutional grounds, the contention being that the Ohio is a national highway, and that commerce upon it cannot be hampered by State taxes. This view does not, however, affect the taxability of "beached" boats, which are clearly squatters on State soil.
Both in town and country, the riffraff of the houseboat element are in disfavor. It is not uncommon for them, beached or tied up, to remain unmolested in one spot for years, with their pigs, chickens, and little garden patch about them, mayhap a swarm or two of bees, and a cow enjoying free pasturage along the weedy bank or on neighboring hills. Occasionally, however, as the result of spasmodic local agitation, they are by wholesale ordered to betake themselves to some more hospitable shore; and not a few farmers, like our friend at Beaver River, are quick to pattern after the city police, and order their visitors to move on the moment they seek a mooring. For the truth is, the majority of those who "live on the river," as the phrase goes, have the reputation of being pilferers; farmers tell sad tales of despoiled chicken-roosts and vegetable gardens. From fishing, shooting, collecting chance driftwood, and leading a desultory life along shore, like the wreckers of old they naturally fall into this thieving habit. Having neither rent nor taxes to pay, and for the most part not voting, and having no share in the political or social life of landsmen, they are in the State, yet not of it,—a class unto themselves, whose condition is well worthy the study of economists.
Interspersed with the houseboat folk, although of different character, are those whose business leads them to dwell as nomads upon the river—merchant peddlers, who spend a day or two at some rustic landing, while scouring the neighborhood for oil-barrels and junk, which they load in great heaps upon the flat roofs of their cabins, giving therefor, at goodly prices, groceries, crockery, and notions,—often bartering their wares for eggs and dairy products, to be disposed of to passing steamers, whose clerks in turn "pack" them for the largest market on their route; blacksmiths, who moor their floating shops to country beach or village levee, wherever business can be had; floating theaters and opera companies, with large barges built as play-houses, towed from town to town by their gaudily-painted tugs, on which may occasionally be perched the vociferous "steam piano" of our circus days, "whose soul-stirring music can be heard for four miles;" traveling sawyers, with old steamboats made over into sawmills, employed by farmers to "work up" into lumber such logs as they can from time to time bring down to the shore—the product being oftenest used in the neighborhood, but occasionally rafted, and floated to the nearest large town; and a miscellaneous lot of traveling craftsmen who live and work afloat,—chairmakers, upholsterers, feather and mattress renovators, photographers,—who land at the villages, scatter abroad their advertising cards, and stay so long as the ensuing patronage warrants.
A motley assortment, these neighbors of ours, an uncultivated field for the fiction writers. We have struck up acquaintance with many of them, and they are not bad fellows, as the world goes. Philosophers all, and loquacious to a degree. But they cannot, for the life of them, fathom the mystery of our cruise. We are not in trade? we are not fishing? we are not canvassers? we are not show-people? "What 'n 'tarnation air ye, anny way? Oh, come now! No fellers is do'n' th' river fur fun, that's sartin—ye're jist gov'm'nt agints! That's my way o' think'n'. Well, 'f ye kin find fun in 't, then done go ahead, I say! But all same, we'll be friends, won't we? Yew bet strangers! Ye're welcome t' all in this yere shanty boat—ain't no bakky 'bout yer close, yew fellers?" We meet with abundant courtesy of this rude sort, and weaponless sleep well o' nights, fearing naught from our comrades for the nonce.
We again have railways on either bank. The iron horse has almost eclipsed the "fire canoe," as the Indians picturesquely styled the steamboat. We occasionally see boats tied up to the wharves, evidently not in commission; but, in actual operation, we seldom meet or pass over one or two daily. To be sure, the low stage of water,—from six to eight feet thus far, and falling daily,—and the coal strike, militate against navigation interests. But the truth is, there is very little business now left for steamboats, beyond the movement of coal, stone, bricks, and other bulky material, some way freight, and a light passenger traffic. The railroads are quicker and surer, and of course competition lowers the charges.
The heavy manufacturing interests along the river now depend little upon the steamers, although originally established here because of them. I asked our friend, the superintendent at Mingo, what advantage was gained by having his plant upon the river. He replied: "We can get all the water we want, and we use a great deal of it; and it is convenient to empty our slag upon the banks; but our chief interest here is in the fact that Mingo is a railway junction." By rail he gets his coal and ore, and ships away his product. Were the coal to come a considerable distance, the river would be the cheaper road; but it is obtained from neighboring hill mines that are practically owned by the railways. This coal, by the way, costs $1.10 at the shaft mouth, and $1.75 landed at the Mingo works. As for the sewer-pipe, brick, and pottery works, they are along stream because of the great beds of clay exposed by the erosion of the river.
It is fortunate for the stability of these towns, that the Ohio flows along the transcontinental pathway westward, so that the great railway lines may serve them without deflection from their natural course. Had the great stream flowed south instead of west, the industries of the valley doubtless would gradually have been removed to the transverse highways of the new commerce, save where these latter crossed the river, and thus have left scores of once thriving communities mere 'longshore wrecks of their former selves. This is not possible, now. The steamboat traffic may still further waste, until the river is no longer serviceable save as a continental drainage ditch; but, chiefly because of its railways, the Ohio Valley will continue to be the seat of an industrial population which shall wax fat upon the growth of the nation's needs.
By the middle of the afternoon, we were at Wheeling (91 miles). The town has fifty thousand inhabitants, is substantially built, of a distinctly Southern aspect; well stretched out along the river, but narrow; with gaunt, treeless, gully-washed hills of clay rising abruptly behind, giving the place a most forbidding appearance from the water. There are several fine bridges spanning the Ohio; and Wheeling Creek, which empties on the lower edge of town, is crossed by a maze of steel spans and stone arches; the well-paved wharf, sloping upward from the Ohio, is nearly as broad and imposing as that of Pittsburg;[A] houseboats are here by the score, some of them the haunts of fishing clubs, as we judge from the names emblazoned on their sides—"Mystic Crew," "South Side Club," and the like.
For the first time upon our tour, negroes are abundant upon the streets and lounging along the river front. They vary in color from yellow to inky blackness, and in raiment from the "dude," smart in straw hat, collars and cuffs, and white-frilled shirt with glass-diamond pin, to the steamboat roustabout, all slouch and rags, and evil-eyed.
Wheeling Island (300 acres), up to thirty years ago mentioned in travelers' journals as a rare beauty-spot, is to-day thick-set with cottages of factory hands and small villas, and commonplace; while smoky Bridgeport, opposite on the Ohio side, was from our vantage-point a mere smudge upon the landscape.
Wheeling Creek is famous in Western history. The three Zane brothers, Ebenezer, Jonathan and Silas,—typical, old-fashioned names these, bespeaking the God-fearing, Bible-loving, Scotch-Presbyterian stock from which sprang so large a proportion of trans-Alleghany pioneers,—explored this region as early as 1769, built cabins, and made improvements—Silas at the forks of the creek, and Ebenezer and Jonathan at the mouth. During three or four years, it was a hard fight between them and the Indians; but, though several times driven from the scene, the Zane brothers stubbornly reappeared, and rebuilt their burned habitations.
Before the Revolutionary War broke out, the fortified home of the Zanes, at the creek mouth, was a favorite stopping stage in the savage-haunted wilderness; and many a traveler in those early days has left us in his journal a thankful account of his tarrying here. The Zane stockade developed into Fort Fincastle, in Lord Dunmore's time; then, Fort Henry, during the Revolution; and everyone who knows his Western history at all has read of the three famous sieges of Wheeling (1777, 1781, and 1782), and the daring deeds of its men and women, which help illumine the pages of border annals. Finally, by 1784, the fort at Wheeling, that had never surrendered, was demolished as no longer necessary, for the wall of savage resistance was now pushed far westward. Wheeling had become the western end of a wagon road across the Panhandle, from Redstone, and here were fitted out many flatboat expeditions for the lower Ohio; later, in steamboat days, the shallow water of the upper river caused Wheeling to be in midsummer the highest port attainable; and to this day it holds its ground as the upper terminus of several steamboat lines.
Below Wheeling are several miles of factory towns nestled by the strand, and numerous coal tipples, with their begrimed villages. Fishermen have been frequent to-day, in houseboats of high and low degree, and in land camps composed of tents and board shanties, with rows of seines and tarred pound-nets stretched in the sun to dry; tow-headed children abound, almost as nude as the pigs and dogs and chickens amongst which they waddle and roll; women-folk busy themselves with the multifarious cares of home-keeping, while their lords are in shady nooks mending nets, or listlessly examining trout lines which appear to yield but empty hooks; they tell us that when the river is falling, fish bite not, and yet they serenely angle on, dreaming their lives away.
A half mile above Big Grave Creek (101 miles), we, too, hurry into camp on a shelving bank of sand, deep-fringed with willows; for over the western hills thunder-clouds are rising, with wind gusts. Level fields stretch back of us for a quarter of a mile, to the hills which bound the bottom; at our front door majestically rolls the growing river, perhaps a third of a mile in width, black with the reflection of the sky, and wrinkled now and then with squalls which scurry over its bubbling surface.[B]
The storm does not break, but the bending tree-tops crone, and toads innumerable rend the air with their screaming whistles. We had great ado, during the cooking of dinner, to prevent them from hopping into our little stove, as it gleamed brightly in the early dusk; and have adopted special precautions to keep them from the tent, as they jump about in the tall grass, appeasing their insectivorous appetites.
[Footnote A: Upon the Ohio and kindred rivers, the term "wharf" applies to the river beach when graded and paved, ready for the reception of steamers. Such a wharf must not be confounded with a lake or seaside wharf, a staging projected into the water.]
[Footnote B: It was in this neighborhood, a mile or two above our camp, where the bottom is narrower, that Capt. William Foreman and twenty other Virginia militiamen were killed in an Indian ambuscade, Sept. 27, 1777. An inscribed stone monument was erected on the spot in 1835, but we could not find it.]
The Big Grave—Washington, and Round Bottom—A lazy man's Paradise—Captina Creek—George Rogers Clark at Fish Creek—Southern types.
Near Fishing Creek, Friday, May 11th.—There had been rain during the night, with fierce wind gusts, but during breakfast the atmosphere quieted, and we had a genial, semi-cloudy morning.
Off at 8 o'clock, Pilgrim's crew were soon exploring Moundsville. There are five thousand people in this old, faded, countrified town. They show you with pride the State Penitentiary of West Virginia, a solemn-looking pile of dark gray stone, with the feeble battlements and towers common to American prison architecture. But the chief feature of the place is the great Indian mound—the "Big Grave" of early chroniclers. This earthwork is one of the largest now remaining in the United States, being sixty-eight feet high and a hundred in diameter at the base, and has for over a century attracted the attention of travelers and archaeologists.
We found it at the end of a straggling street, on the edge of the town, a quarter of a mile back from the river. Around the mound has been left a narrow plat of ground, utilized as a cornfield; and the stout picket fence which encloses it bears peremptory notice that admission is forbidden. However, as the proprietor was not easily accessible, we exercised the privilege of historical pilgrims, and, letting ourselves in through the gate, picked our way through rows of corn, and ascended the great cone. It is covered with a heavy growth of white oaks, some of them three feet in diameter, among which the path picturesquely zigzags. The summit is fifty-five feet in diameter, and the center somewhat depressed, like a basin. From the middle of this basin a shaft some twenty-five feet in diameter has been sunk by explorers, for a distance of perhaps fifty feet; at one time, a level tunnel connected the bottom of this shaft with the side of the cone, but it has been mostly obliterated. A score of years ago, tunnel and shaft were utilized as the leading attractions of a beer garden—to such base uses may a great historical landmark descend!
Dickens, who apparently wrote the greater part of his American Notes while suffering from dyspepsia, has a note of appreciation for the Big Grave: "... the host of Indians who lie buried in a great mound yonder—so old that mighty oaks and other forest trees have struck their roots into its earth; and so high that it is a hill, even among the hills that Nature planted around it. The very river, as though it shared one's feelings of compassion for the extinct tribes who lived so pleasantly here, in their blessed ignorance of white existence, hundreds of years ago, steals out of its way to ripple near this mound; and there are few places where the Ohio sparkles more brightly than in the Big Grave Creek."
There is a sharp bend in the river, just below Moundsville, with Dillon's Bottom stretching long and wide at the apex on the Ohio shore—flat green fields, dotted with little white farmsteads, each set low in its apple grove, and a convoluted wall of dark hills hemming them in along the northern horizon. Then below this comes Round Bottom, its counterpart on the West Virginia side, and coursing through it a pretty meadow creek, Butler's Run.
Writes Washington, in 1781, to a correspondent who is thinking of renting lands in this region: "I have a small tract called the round bottom containing about 600 Acres, which would also let. It lyes on the Ohio, opposite to pipe Creek, and a little above Capteening." Across the half mile of river are the little levels and great slopes of the Ohio hills, through which breaks this same Pipe Creek; and hereabout Cresap's band murdered a number of inoffensive Shawanese, a tragedy which was one of the inciting causes of Lord Dunmore's War (1774).