FOUR MONTHS IN A SNEAK-BOX.
A BOAT VOYAGE OF 2600 MILES DOWN THE OHIO AND MISSISSIPPI RIVERS, AND ALONG THE GULF OF MEXICO.
BY NATHANIEL H. BISHOP
AUTHOR OF "A THOUSAND MILES' WALK ACROSS SOUTH AMERICA," AND "VOYAGE OF THE PAPER CANOE."
TO THE OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE LIGHT HOUSE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE UNITED STATES This Book is Dedicated BY ONE WHO HAS LEARNED TO RESPECT THEIR HONEST, INTELLIGENT AND EFFICIENT LABORS IN SERVING THEIR GOVERNMENT, THEIR COUNTRYMEN, AND MANKIND GENERALLY.
EIGHTEEN months ago the author gave to the public his "VOYAGE OF THE PAPER CANOE:—A GEOGRAPHICAL JOURNEY OF 2500 MILES FROM QUEBEC TO THE GULF OF MEXICO, DURING THE YEARS 1874-5."
The kind reception by the American press of the author's first journey to the great southern sea, and its republication in Great Britain and in France within so short a time of its appearance in the United States, have encouraged him to give the public a companion volume,— "FOUR MONTHS IN A SNEAK-BOX,"—which is a relation of the experiences of a second cruise to the Gulf of Mexico, but by a different route from that followed in the "VOYAGE OF THE PAPER CANOE." This time the author procured one of the smallest and most comfortable of boats—a purely American model, developed by the bay-men of the New Jersey coast of the United States, and recently introduced to the gunning fraternity as the BARNEGAT SNEAK-BOX. This curious and stanch little craft, though only twelve feet in length, proved a most comfortable and serviceable home while the author rowed in it more than 2600 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, until he reached the goal of his voyage—the mouth of the wild Suwanee River—which was the terminus of his "VOYAGE OF THE PAPER CANOE."
The maps which illustrate the contours of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, like those in the other volume, are the most reliable ever given to the public, having been drawn and engraved, by contract for the work, by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey Bureau.
LAKE GEORGE, WARREN CO., NEW YORK STATE,
SEPTEMBER 1st, 1879.
CHAPTER I. THE BOAT FOR THE VOYAGE. CANOES FOR SHALLOW STREAMS AND FREQUENT PORTAGES.— SNEAK-BOXES FOR DEEP WATERCOURSES.— HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION OF THE BARNEGAT SNEAK- BOX.— A WALK DOWN EEL STREET TO MANAHAWKEN MARSHES.— HONEST GEORGE, THE BOAT-BUILDER.— THE BUILDING OF THE SNEAK-BOX "CENTENNIAL REPUBLIC."— ITS TRANSPORTATION TO THE OHIO RIVER.
CHAPTER II. SOURCES OF THE OHIO RIVER. DESCRIPTION OF THE MONONGAHELA AND ALLEGHANY RIVERS.— THE OHIO RIVER.— EXPLORATION OF CAVELIER DE LA SALLE.— NAMES GIVEN BY ANCIENT CARTOGRAPHERS TO THE OHIO.— ROUTES OF THE ABORIGINES FROM THE GREAT LAKES TO THE OHIO RIVER.
CHAPTER III. FROM PITTSBURGH TO BLENNERHASSET'S ISLAND. THE START FOR THE GULF.— CAUGHT IN THE ICE-RAFT.— CAMPING ON THE OHIO.— THE GRAVE CREEK MOUND.— AN INDIAN SEPULCHRE.— BLENNERHASSET'S ISLAND.— AARON BURR'S CONSPIRACY.— A RUINED FAMILY.
CHAPTER IV. FROM BLENNERHASSET'S ISLAND TO CINCINNATI. RIVER CAMPS.— THE SHANTY-BOATS AND RIVER MIGRANTS.— VARIOUS EXPERIENCES.— ARRIVAL AT CINCINNATI.— THE SNEAK-BOX FROZEN UP IN PLEASANT RUN.— A TAILOR'S FAMILY.— A NIGHT UNDER A GERMAN COVERLET.
CHAPTER V. FROM CINCINNATI TO THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. CINCINNATI.— MUSIC AND PORK IN PORKOPOLIS.— THE BIG BONE LICK OF FOSSIL ELEPHANTS.— COLONEL CROGHAN'S VISIT TO THE LICK.— PORTAGE AROUND THE "FALLS," AT LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY.— STUCK IN THE MUD.— THE FIRST STEAMBOAT OF THE WEST.— VICTOR HUGO ON THE SITUATION.— A FREEBOOTER'S DEN.— WHOOPING AND SAND-HILL CRANES.— THE SNEAK-BOX ENTERS THE MISSISSIPPI.
CHAPTER VI. DESCENT OF THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER. LEAVE CAIRO, ILLINOIS.— THE LONGEST RIVER IN THE WORLD.— BOOK GEOGRAPHY AND BOAT GEOGRAPHY.— CHICKASAW BLUFF.— MEETING WITH THE PARAKEETS.— FORT DONALDSON.— EARTHQUAKES AND LAKES.— WEIRD BEAUTY OF REELFOOT LAKE.— JOE ECKEL'S BAR.— SHANTY-BOAT COOKING.— FORT PILLOW.— MEMPHIS.— A NEGRO JUSTICE.— "DE COMMON LAW OB MISSISSIPPI."
CHAPTER VII. DESCENT OF THE MISSISSIPPI TO NEW ORLEANS. A FLATBOAT BOUND FOR TEXAS.— A FLAT-MAN ON RIVER PHYSICS.— ADRIFT AND ASLEEP.— SEEKING THE EARTH'S LITTLE MOON.— VICKSBURGH.— JEFFERSON DAVIS'S COTTON PLANTATION, AND ITS NEGRO OWNER.— DYING IN HIS BOAT.— HOW TO CIVILIZE CHINESE.— A SWIM OF ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY MILES ON THE MISSISSIPPI.— TWENTY-FOUR HOURS IN THE WATER.— ARRIVAL IN THE CRESCENT CITY.
CHAPTER VIII. NEW ORLEANS. BIENVILLE AND THE CITY OF THE PAST.— FRENCH AND SPANISH RULE IN THE NEW WORLD.— LOUISIANA CEDED TO THE UNITED STATES.— CAPTAIN EADS AND HIS JETTIES.— TRANSPORTATION OF CEREALS TO EUROPE.— CHARLES MORGAN.- - CREOLE TYPES OF CITIZENS.— LEVEES AND CRAWFISH.— DRAINAGE OF THE CITY INTO LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN.
CHAPTER IX. ON THE GULF OF MEXICO. LEAVE NEW ORLEANS.— THE ROUGHS AT WORK.— DETAINED AT NEW BASIN.— SADDLES INTRODUCES HIMSELF.— CAMPING AT LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN.— THE LIGHT-HOUSE OF POINT AUX HERBES.— THE RIGOLETS.— MARSHES AND MOSQUITOES.— IMPORTANT USE OF THE MOSQUITO AND BLOW-FLY.— ST. JOSEPH'S LIGHT.— AN EXCITING PULL TO BAY ST. LOUIS.— A LIGHT-KEEPER LOST IN THE SEA.— BATTLE OF THE SHARKS.— BILOXI.— THE WATER-CRESS GARDEN.— LITTLE JENNIE.
CHAPTER X. FROM BILOXI TO CAPE SAN BLAS. POINTS ON THE GULF COAST.— MOBILE BAY.— THE HERMIT OF DAUPHINE ISLAND.— BON SECOURS BAY.— A CRACKER'S DAUGHTER.— THE PORTAGE TO THE PERDIDO.— THE PORTAGE FROM THE PERDIDO TO BIG LAGOON.— PENSACOLA BAY.— SANTA ROSA ISLAND.— A NEW LONDON FISHERMAN.— CATCHING THE POMPANO.— A NEGRO PREACHER AND WHITE SINNERS.— A DAY AND A NIGHT WITH A MURDERER.— ST. ANDREW'S SOUND.— ARRIVAL AT CAPE SAN BLAS.
CHAPTER XI. FROM CAPE SAN BLAS TO ST. MARKS. A PORTAGE ACROSS CAPE SAN BLAS.— THE COW-HUNTERS.— A VISIT TO THE LIGHT-HOUSE.— ONCE MORE ON THE SEA.— PORTAGE INTO ST. VINCENT'S SOUND.— APALACHICOLA.— ST. GEORGE'S SOUND AND OCKLOCKONY RIVER.— ARRIVAL AT ST. MARKS.— THE NEGRO POSTMASTER.— A PHILANTHROPIST AND HIS NEIGHBORS.— A CONTINUOUS AND PROTECTED WATER-WAY FROM THE MISSISSIPPI TO THE ATLANTIC COAST.
CHAPTER XII. FROM ST. MARKS TO THE SUWANEE RIVER. ALONG THE COAST.— SADDLES BREAKS DOWN.— A REFUGE WITH THE FISHERMEN.— CAMP IN THE PALM FOREST.— PARTING WITH SADDLES.— OUR NEIGHBOR THE ALLIGATOR.— DISCOVERY OF THE TRUE CROCODILE IN AMERICA.- - THE DEVIL'S WOOD-PILE.— DEADMAN'S BAY.— BOWLEGS POINT.— THE COAST SURVEY CAMP.— A DAY ABOARD THE "READY."— THE SUWANEE RIVER.— THE END.
DRAWN BY F. T. MERRILL. ENGRAVED BY JOHN ANDREW & SON.
SHANTY-BOATS—THE CHAMPION FLOATERS OF THE WEST....... FRONTISPIECE. DIAGRAM OF PARTS OF BOAT...14 INDIAN IN CANOE...28 THE START—HEAD OF THE OHIO RIVER ...31 COAL-STOVE. . .39 INDIAN MOUND AT MOUNDSVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA...54 A NIGHT UNDER A GERMAN COVERLET...78 POPULAR IDEA OF THE NESTING OF CRANES...111 STERN-WHEEL WESTERN TOW-BOAT PUSHING FLATBOATS...114 MEETING WITH THE PARAKEETS...125 DYING IN HIS BOAT...177 BOYTON DESCENDING THE MISSISSIPPI...187 NEW ORLEANS ROUGHS AMUSING THEMSELVES...214 ARRIVAL AT THE GULF OF MEXICO—CAMP MOSQUITO...239 THE PORTAGE ACROSS CROOKED ISLAND...269 SADDLES BREAKS DOWN...292 PARTING WITH SADDLES...302 LAST NIGHT ON THE GULF OF MEXICO...322
LIST OF MAPS
DRAWN AND ENGRAVED BY THE UNITED STATES COAST AND GEODETIC SURVEY BUREAU TO ILLUSTRATE N. H. BISHOP'S BOAT VOYAGES.
1. GENERAL MAP OF ROUTES FOLLOWED BY THE AUTHOR DURING HIS TWO VOYAGES MADE TO THE GULF OF MEXICO, IN THE YEARS 1874-6.....OPPOSITE PAGE 1
GUIDE MAPS OF ROUTE FOLLOWED
IN DUCK-BOAT "CENTENNIAL REPUBLIC," ALONG THE GULF OF MEXICO, IN 1876
2. FROM NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA, TO MOBILE BAY, ALABAMA. . . .OPPOSITE 209
3. FROM MOBILE BAY, ALABAMA, TO CAPE SAN BLAS, FLORIDA. . . .OPPOSITE 247
4. FROM CAPE SAN BLAS, FLORIDA, TO CEDAR KEYS, FLORIDA. . . .OPPOSITE 273
MAP SHOWING RIVER AND PORTAGE ROUTES
ACROSS FLORIDA FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO TO THE ATLANTIC OCEAN.
5. ROUTE FOLLOWED BY THE AUTHOR IN PAPER CANOE "MARIA THERESA," IN 1875. . . . OPPOSITE 319
[MAP OF ROUTES FOLLOWED BY N. H. BISHOP IN PAPER CANOE "MARIA THERESA" AND DUCK-BOAT "CENTENNIAL REPUBLIC" 1874-1876]
Four Months in a Sneak-Box
THE BOAT FOR THE VOYAGE
CANOES FOR SHALLOW STREAMS AND FREQUENT PORTAGES.— SNEAK-BOXES FOR DEEP WATERCOURSES.— HISTORY AND DESCRIPTION OF THE BARNEGAT SNEAK- BOX.— A WALK DOWN EEL STREET TO MANAHAWKEN MARSHES.— HONEST GEORGE, THE BOAT-BUILDER.— THE BUILDING OF THE SNEAK-BOX "CENTENNIAL REPUBLIC."— ITS TRANSPORTATION TO THE OHIO RIVER.
THE READER who patiently followed the author in his long "VOYAGE OF THE PAPER CANOE," from the high latitude of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the warmer regions of the Gulf of Mexico, may desire to know the reasons which impelled the canoeist to exchange his light, graceful, and swift paper craft for the comical-looking but more commodious and comfortable Barnegat sneak-box, or duck-boat. Having navigated more than eight thousand miles in sail-boats, row-boats, and canoes, upon the fresh and salt watercourses of the North American continent (usually without a companion), a hard-earned experience has taught me that while the light, frail canoe is indispensable for exploring shallow streams, for shooting rapids, and for making long portages from one watercourse to another, the deeper and more continuous water- ways may be more comfortably traversed in a stronger and heavier boat, which offers many of the advantages of a portable home.
To find such a boat—one that possessed many desirable points in a small hull—had been with me a study of years. I commenced to search for it in my boyhood—twenty-five years ago; and though I have carefully examined numerous small boats while travelling in seven foreign countries, and have studied the models of miniature craft in museums, and at exhibitions of marine architecture, I failed to discover the object of my desire, until, on the sea-shore of New Jersey, I saw for the first time what is known among gunners as the Barnegat sneak-box.
Having owned, and thoroughly tested in the waters of Barnegat and Little Egg Harbor bays, five of these boats, I became convinced that their claims for the good-will of the boating fraternity had not been over-estimated; so when I planned my second voyage from northern America to the Gulf of Mexico, and selected the great water-courses of the west and south (the Ohio and Mississippi rivers) as the route to be explored and studied, I chose the Barnegat sneak-box as the most comfortable model combined with other advantages for a voyager's use. The sneak-box offered ample stowage capacity, while canoes built to hold one person were not large enough to carry the amount of baggage necessary for the voyage; for I was to avoid hotels and towns, to live in my boat day and night, to carry an ample stock of provisions, and to travel in as comfortable a manner as possible. In fact, I adopted a very home-like boat, which, though only twelve feet long, four feet wide, and thirteen inches deep, was strong, stiff, dry, and safe; a craft that could be sailed or rowed, as wind, weather, or inclination might dictate,—the weight of which hardly exceeded two hundred pounds,—and could be conveniently transported from one stream to another in an ordinary wagon.
A Nautilus, or any improved type of canoe, would have been lighter and more easily transported, and could have been paddled at a higher speed with the same effort expended in rowing the heavier sneak-box; but the canoe did not offer the peculiar advantages of comfort and freedom of bodily motion possessed by its unique fellow-craft. Experienced canoeists agree that a canoe of fourteen feet in length, which weighs only seventy pounds, if built of wood, bark, canvas, or paper, when out of the water and resting upon the ground, or even when bedded on some soft material, like grass or rushes, cannot support the sleeping weight of the canoeist for many successive nights without becoming strained.
Light indeed must be the weight and slender and elastic the form of the man who can sleep many nights comfortably in a seventy-pound canoe without injuring it. Cedar canoes, after being subjected to such use for some time, generally become leaky; so, to avoid this disaster, the canoeist, when threatened with wet weather, is forced to the disagreeable task of troubling some private householder for a shelter, or run the risk of injuring his boat by packing himself away in its narrow, coffin-like quarters and dreaming that he is a sardine, while his restless weight is every moment straining his delicate canoe, and visions of future leaks arise to disturb his tranquillity.
The one great advantage possessed by a canoe is its lightness. Canoeists dwell upon the importance of the LIGHT WEIGHT of their canoes, and the ease with which they can be carried. If the canoeist is to sleep in his delicate craft while making a long journey, she must be made much heavier than the perfected models now in use in this country, many of which are under seventy-five pounds' weight. This additional weight is at once fatal to speed, and becomes burdensome when the canoeist is forced to carry his canoe upon his OWN shoulders over a portage. A sneak-box built to carry one person weighs about three times as much as a well-built cedar canoe.
This remarkable little boat has a history which does not reach very far back into the present century. With the assistance of Mr. William Errickson of Barnegat, and Dr. William P. Haywood of West Creek, Ocean County, New Jersey, I have been able to rescue from oblivion and bring to the light of day a correct history of the Barnegat sneak-box.
Captain Hazelton Seaman, of West Creek village, New Jersey, a boat- builder and an expert shooter of wild-fowl, about the year 1836, conceived the idea of constructing for his own use a low-decked boat, or gunning-punt, in which, when its deck was covered with sedge, he could secrete himself from the wild-fowl while gunning in Barnegat and Little Egg Harbor bays.
It was important that the boat should be sufficiently light to enable a single sportsman to pull her from the water on to the low points of the bay shores. During the winter months, when the great marshes were at times incrusted with snow, and the shallow creeks covered with ice,—obstacles which must be crossed to reach the open waters of the sound,—it would be necessary to use her as a sled, to effect which end a pair of light oaken strips were screwed to the bottom of the sneak-box, when she could be easily pushed by the gunner, and the transportation of the oars, sail, blankets, guns, ammunition, and provisions (all of which stowed under the hatch and locked up as snugly as if in a strong chest) became a very simple matter. While secreted in his boat, on the watch for fowl, with his craft hidden by a covering of grass or sedge, the gunner could approach within shooting-distance of a flock of unsuspicious ducks; and this being done in a sneaking manner (though Mr. Seaman named the result of his first effort the "Devil's Coffin" the bay-men gave her the sobriquet of "SNEAK-BOX"; and this name she has retained to the present day.
Since Captain Seaman built his "Devil's Coffin," forty years ago, the model has been improved by various builders, until it is believed that it has almost attained perfection. The boat has no sheer, and sets low in the water. This lack of sheer is supplied by a light canvas apron which is tacked to the deck, and presents, when stretched upward by a stick two feet in length, a convex surface to a head sea. The water which breaks upon the deck, forward of the cockpit, is turned off at the sides of the boat in almost the same manner as a snow-plough clears a railroad track of snow. The apron also protects the head and shoulders of the rower from cold head winds.
The first sneak-box built by Captain Seaman had a piece of canvas stretched upon an oaken hoop, so fastened to the deck that when a head sea struck the bow, the hoop and canvas were forced upward so as to throw the water off its sides, thus effectually preventing its ingress into the hold of the craft. The improved apron originated with Mr. John Crammer, Jr., a short time after Captain Seaman built the first sneak-box. The second sneak-box was constructed by Mr. Crammer; and afterwards Mr. Samuel Perine, an old and much respected bay-man, of Barnegat, built the third one. The last two men have finished their voyage of life, but "Uncle Haze,"—as he is familiarly called by his many admirers,—the originator of the tiny craft which may well be called multum in parvo, and which carried me, its single occupant, safely and comfortably twenty-six hundred miles, from Pittsburgh to Cedar Keys, still lives at West Creek, builds yachts as well as he does sneak-boxes, and puts to the blush younger gunners by the energy displayed and success attained in the vigorous pursuit of wildfowl shooting in the bays which fringe the coast of Ocean County, New Jersey.
A few years since, this ingenious man invented an improvement on the marine life-saving car, which has been adopted by the United States government; and during the year 1875 he constructed a new ducking-punt with a low paddle-wheel at its stern, for the purpose of more easily and secretly approaching flocks of wild-fowl.
The peculiar advantages of the sneak-box were known to but few of the hunting and shooting fraternity, and, with the exception of an occasional visitor, were used only by the oystermen, fishermen, and wild-fowl shooters of Barnegat and Little Egg Harbor bays, until the New Jersey Southern Railroad and its connecting branches penetrated to the eastern shores of New Jersey, when educated amateur sportsmen from the cities quickly recognized in the little gunning-punt all they had long desired to combine in one small boat.
Mr. Charles Hallock, in his paper the "Forest and Stream," of April 23, 1874, gave drawings and a description of the sneak-box, and fairly presented its claims to public favor.
The sneak-box is not a monopoly of any particular builder, but it requires peculiar talent to build one,—the kind of talent which enables one man to cut out a perfect axe-handle, while the master- carpenter finds it difficult to accomplish the same thing. The best yacht-builders in Ocean County generally fail in modelling a sneak- box, while many second-rate mechanics along the shore, who could not possibly construct a yacht that would sail well, can make a perfect sneak-box, or gunning-skiff. All this may be accounted for by recognizing the fact that the water-lines of the sneak-box are peculiar, and differ materially from those of row-boats, sailboats, and yachts. Having a spoon-shaped bottom and bow, the sneak-box moves rather over the water than through it, and this peculiarity, together with its broad beam, gives the boat such stiffness that two persons may stand upright in her while she is moving through the water, and troll their lines while fishing, or discharge their guns, without careening the boat; a valuable advantage not possessed by our best cruising canoes.
The boat sails well on the wind, though hard to pull against a strong head sea. A fin-shaped centre-board takes the place of a keel. It can be quickly removed from the trunk, or centre-board well, and stored under the deck. The flatness of her floor permits the sneak-box to run in very shallow water while being rowed or when sailing before the wind without the centre-board. Some of these boats, carrying a weight of three hundred pounds, will float in four to six inches of water.
The favorite material for boat-building in the United States is white cedar (Cupressus thyoides), which grows in dense forests in the swamps along the coast of New Jersey, as well as in other parts of North America. The wood is both white and brown, soft, fine-grained, and very light and durable. No wood used in boat-building can compare with the white cedar in resisting the changes from a wet to a dry state, and vice versa. The tree grows tall and straight. The lower part of the trunk with the diverging roots furnish knee timbers and carlines for the sneak-box. The ribs or timbers, and the carlines, are usually 1 1/4 x 1 1/4 inches in dimension, and are placed about ten inches apart. The frame above and below is covered with half-inch cedar sheathing, which is not less than six inches in width. The boat is strong enough to support a heavy man upon its deck, and when well built will rank next to the seamless paper boats of Mr. Waters of Troy, and the seamless wooden canoes of Messrs. Herald, Gordon & Stephenson, of the province of Ontario, Canada, in freedom from leakage.
During a cruise of twenty-six hundred miles not one drop of water leaked through the seams of the Centennial Republic. Her under planking was nicely joined, and the seams calked with cotton wicking, and afterwards filled with white-lead paint and putty. The deck planks, of seven inches width, were not joined, but were tongued and grooved, the tongues and grooves being well covered with a thick coat of white-lead paint.
The item of cost is another thing to be considered in regard to this boat. The usual cost of a first-class canoe of seventy pounds' weight, built after the model of the Rob Roy or Nautilus, with all its belongings, is about one hundred and twenty-five dollars; and these figures deter many a young man from enjoying the ennobling and healthful exercise of canoeing. A first-class sneak-box, with spars, sail, oars, anchor, &c., can be obtained for seventy-five dollars, and if several were ordered by a club they could probably be bought for sixty-five dollars each. The price of a sneak-box, as ordinarily built in Ocean County, New Jersey, is about forty dollars. The Centennial Republic cost about seventy-five dollars, and a city boat-builder would not duplicate her for less than one hundred and twenty-five dollars. The builders of the sneak-boxes have not yet acquired the art of overcharging their customers; they do not expect to receive more than one dollar and fifty cents or two dollars per day for their labor; and some of them are even so unwise as to risk their reputation by offering to furnish these boats for twenty-five dollars each. Such a craft, after a little hard usage, would leak as badly as most cedar canoes, and would be totally unfit for the trials of a long cruise.
[Diagram of Sneak-Box "Centennial Republic"]
The diagram given of the Centennial Republic will enable the reader of aquatic proclivities to understand the general principles upon which these boats are built. As they should be rated as third-class freight on railroads, it is more economical for the amateur to purchase a first-class boat at Barnegat, Manahawken, or West Creek, in Ocean County, New Jersey, along the Tuckerton Railroad, than to have a workman elsewhere, and one unacquainted with this peculiar model, experiment upon its construction at the purchaser's cost, and perhaps loss.
One bright morning, in the early part of the fall of 1875, I trudged on foot down one of the level roads which lead from the village of Manahawken through the swamps to the edge of the extensive salt marshes that fringe the shores of the bay. This road bore the euphonious name of Eel Street,—so named by the boys of the town. When about half-way from its end, I turned off to the right, and followed a wooded lane to the house of an honest surf-man, Captain George Bogart, who had recently left his old home on the beach, beside the restless waves of the Atlantic, and had resumed his avocation as a sneak-box builder.
The house and its small fields of low, arable land were environed on three sides by dense cedar and whortleberry swamps, but on the eastern boundary of the farm the broad salt marshes opened to the view, and beyond their limit were the salt waters of the bay, which were shut in from the ocean by a long, narrow, sandy island, known to the fishermen and wreckers as Long Beach,—the low, white sand-dunes of which were lifted above the horizon, and seemed suspended in the air as by a mirage. Across the wide, savanna-like plains came in gentle breezes the tonic breath of the sea, while hundreds, aye, thousands of mosquitoes settled quietly upon me, and quickly presented their bills.
In this sequestered nook, far from the bustle of the town, I found "Honest George," so much occupied in the construction of a sneak-box, under the shade of spreading willows, as to be wholly unconscious of the presence of the myriads of phlebotomists which covered every available inch of his person exposed to their attacks. The appropriate surroundings of a surf-man's house were here, scattered on every side in delightful confusion. There were piles of old rigging, iron bolts and rings, tarred parcelling, and cabin-doors,—in fact, all the spoils that a treacherous sea had thrown upon the beach; a sea so disastrous to many, but so friendly to the Barnegat wrecker,—who, by the way, is not so black a character as Mistress Rumor paints him. A tar-like odor everywhere prevailed, and I wondered, while breathing this wholesome air, why this surf-man of daring and renown had left his proper place upon the beach near the life-saving station, where his valuable experience, brave heart, and strong, brawny arms were needed to rescue from the ocean's grasp the poor victims of misfortune whose dead bodies are washed upon the hard strand of the Jersey shores every year from the wrecks of the many vessels which pound out their existence upon the dreaded coast of Barnegat? A question easily answered,—political preferment. His place had been filled by a man who had never pulled an oar in the surf, but had followed the occupation of a tradesman.
Thus Honest George, rejected by "the service," had left the beach, and crossing the wide bays to the main land, had taken up his abode under the willows by the marshes, but not too far from his natural element, for he could even now, while he hammered away on his sneak-boxes, hear the ceaseless moaning of the sea.
A verbal contract was soon made, and George agreed to build me for twenty-five dollars the best boat that had ever left his shop; he to do all the work upon the hull and spars, while the future owner was to supply all the materials at his own cost. The oars and sail were not included in the contract, but were made by other parties. In November, when I settled all the bills of construction, cost of materials, oar- locks, oars, spars, sail, anchor, &c., the sum-total did not exceed seventy-five dollars; and when the accounts of more than twenty boats and canoes built for me had been looked over, I concluded that the little craft, constructed by the surf-man, was, for the amount it cost and the advantages it gave me, the best investment I had ever made in things that float upon the water. Without a name painted upon her hull, and, like the "Maria Theresa" paper canoe, without a flag to decorate her, but with spars, sail, oars, rudder, anchor, cushions, blankets, cooking-kit, and double-barrelled gun, with ammunition securely locked under the hatch, the Centennial Republic, my future travelling companion, was ready by the middle of November for the descent of the western rivers to the Gulf of Mexico.
Captain George Bogart, attentive to the last to his pet craft, affectionately sewed her up in a covering of burlap, to protect her smooth surface from scratches during the transit over railroads. The two light oaken strips, which had been screwed to the bottom of the boat, kept the hull secure from injury by contact with nails, bolt- heads, &c., while she was being carried in the freight-cars of the Tuckerton, New Jersey, Southern and Pennsylvania railroads to Philadelphia, where she was delivered to the freight agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad, to be sent to Pittsburgh, at the head of the Ohio River.
Here I must speak of a subject full of interest to all owners of boats, hoping that when our large corporations have their attention drawn to the fact they will make some provision for it. There appears to be no fixed freighting tariff established for boats, and the aquatic tourist is placed at the mercy of agents who too frequently, in their zeal for the interests of their employers, heavily tax the owner of the craft. The agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad in Philadelphia was sorely puzzled to know what to charge for a BOAT. He had loaded thousands of cars for Pittsburgh, but could find only one precedent to guide him. "We took a boat once to Pittsburgh," he said, "for twenty-five dollars, and yours should be charged the same." The shipping-clerk of a mercantile house, who had overheard the conversation, interrupted the agent with a loud laugh. "A charge of twenty-five dollars freight on a little thing like that! WHY, MAN, THAT SUM IS NEARLY HALF HER VALUE! How LARGE was the boat you shipped last fall to Pittsburgh for twenty-five dollars?" "Oh, about twice the size of this one," answered the agent; "but, size or no size, a boat's a boat, and we handle so few of them that we have no special tariff on them." "But," said the clerk, "you can easily and honestly establish a tariff if you will treat a boat as you do all other freight of the same class. Now, for instance, how do common boats rank, as first or third class freight?" "Third class, I should think," slowly responded the agent. "Ease your conscience, my friend," continued the clerk, "by weighing the boat, and charging the usual tariff rate for third class freight."
The boat, with its cargo still locked up inside, was put upon the scales, and the total weight was three hundred and ten pounds, for which a charge of seventy-two cents per one hundred pounds was made, and the boat placed on some barrels in a car. Thus did the common- sense and business-like arrangement of the friendly clerk secure for me the freight charge of two dollars and twenty-three cents, instead of twenty-five dollars, on a little boat for its carriage three hundred and fifty-three miles to Pittsburgh, and saved me not only from a pecuniary loss, but also from the uncomfortable feeling of being imposed upon.
In these days of canoe and boat voyages, when portages by rail are a necessary evil, a fixed tariff for such freight would save dollars and tempers, and some action in the matter is anxiously looked for by all interested parties.
I gave a parting look at my little craft snugly ensconced upon the top of a pile of barrels, and smiled as I turned away, thinking how precious she had already become to me, and philosophizing upon the strange genus, man, who could so readily twine his affections about an inanimate object. Upon consideration, it did not seem so strange a thing, however, for did not this boat represent the work of brains and hands for a generation past? Was it not the result of the study and hard-earned experiences of many men for many years? Men whose humble lives had been spent along the rough coast in daily struggles with the storms of ocean and of life? Many of them now slept in obscure graves, some in the deep sea, others under the tender, green turf; but here was the concentration of their ideas, the ultimatum of their labors, and I inwardly resolved, that, since to me was given the enjoyment, to them should be the honor, and that it should be through no fault of her captain if the Centennial Republic did not before many months reach her far-distant point of destination, twenty-six hundred miles away, on the white strands of the Gulf of Mexico.
SOURCES OF THE OHIO RIVER
DESCRIPTION OF THE MONONGAHELA AND ALLEGHANY RIVERS.— THE OHIO RIVER.— EXPLORATION OF CAVELIER DE LA SALLE.— NAMES GIVEN BY ANCIENT CARTOGRAPHERS TO THE OHIO.— ROUTES OF THE ABORIGINES FROM THE GREAT LAKES TO THE OHIO RIVER.
THE southerly branch of the Ohio River, and one of its chief affluents, is made by the union of the West Fork and Tygart Valley rivers, in the county of Marion, state of Virginia, the united waters of which flow north into Pennsylvania as the Monongahela River, and is there joined by the Cheat River, its principal tributary. The Monongahela unites with the Alleghany to form the Ohio, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The length of the Monongahela, without computing that of its tributaries, is about one hundred and fifty miles; but if we include its eastern fork, the Tygart Valley River, which flows from Randolph County, Virginia, the whole length of this tributary of the Ohio may exceed three hundred miles. It has a width at its union with the Alleghany of nearly one-fourth of a mile, and a depth of water sufficient for large steamboats to ascend sixty miles, to Brownsville, Pennsylvania, while light-draught vessels can reach its head, at Fairmont, Virginia.
The northern branch of the Ohio, known as the Alleghany River, has a length of four hundred miles, and its source is in the county of Potter, in northern Pennsylvania. It takes a very circuitous course through a portion of New York state, and re-enters Pennsylvania flowing through a hilly region, and at the flourishing city of Pittsburgh mingles its waters with its southern sister, the Monongahela.
The region traversed by the Alleghany is wild and mountainous, rich in pine forests, coal, and petroleum oil; and the extraction from its rocky beds of the last-named article is so enormous in quantity, that at the present time more than four million barrels of oil are awaiting shipment in the oil districts of Pennsylvania. The smaller steamboats can ascend the river to Olean, about two hundred and fifty miles above Pittsburgh. At Olean, the river has a breadth of twenty rods.
In consequence of its high latitude, the clear waters of the Alleghany usually freeze over by the 25th of December, after having transported upon its current the season's work, from the numerous saw-mills of the great wilderness through which it flows, in the form of rafts consisting of two hundred million feet of excellent lumber.
The Ohio River has a width of about half a mile below Pittsburgh, and this is its medial breadth along its winding course to its mouth at Cairo; but in places it narrows to less than twenty-five hundred feet, while it frequently widens to more than a mile. A geographical writer says, that, "In tracing the Ohio to its source, we must regard the Alleghany as its proper continuation. A boat may start with sufficient water within seven miles of Lake Erie, in sight sometimes of the sails which whiten the approach to the harbor of Buffalo, and float securely down the Conewango, or Cassadaga, to the Alleghany, down the Alleghany to the Ohio, and thence uninterruptedly to the Gulf of Mexico."
There are grave reasons for doubting that part of the statement which refers to a boat starting from a point within seven miles of Lake Erie. It is to be hoped that some member of the New York Canoe Club will explore the route mentioned, and give the results of his investigations to the public. He would need a canoe light enough to be easily carried upon the shoulders of one man, with the aid of the canoeist's indispensable assistant—the canoe-yoke.
It will be seen that the Ohio with its affluents drains an immense extent of country composed of portions of seven large states of the Union, rich in agricultural wealth, in timber, iron, coal, petroleum, salt, clays, and building-stone. The rainfall of the Ohio Valley is so great as to give the river a mean discharge at its mouth (according to the report of the United States government engineers) of one hundred and fifty-eight thousand cubic feet per second. This is the drainage of an area embracing two hundred and fourteen thousand square miles.
The head of the Ohio River, at Pittsburgh, has an elevation of eleven hundred and fifty feet above the sea, while in the long descent to its mouth there is a gradual fall of only four hundred feet; hence its current, excepting during the seasons of freshets, is more gentle and uniform than that of any other North American river of equal length. During half the year the depth of water is sufficient to float steamboats of the largest class along its entire length. Between the lowest stage of water, in the month of September, and the highest, in March, there is sometimes a range of fifty feet in depth. The spring freshets in the tributaries will cause the waters of the great river to rise twelve feet in twelve hours. During the season of low water the current of the Ohio is so slow, as flatboat-men have informed me, that their boats are carried by the flow of the stream only ten miles in a day. The most shallow portion of the river is between Troy and Evansville. Troy is twelve miles below the historic Blennerhasset's Island, which lies between the states of Ohio and Virginia. Here the water sometimes shoals to a depth of only two feet.
Robert Cavelier de la Salle is credited with having made the discovery of the Ohio River. From the St. Lawrence country he went to Onondaga, and reaching a tributary of the Ohio River, he descended the great stream to the "Fa1ls," at Louisville, Kentucky. His men having deserted him, he returned alone to Lake Erie. This exploration of the Ohio was made in the winter of 1669-70, or in the following spring.
The director of the Dpt des Cartes of the Marine and Colonies, at Paris, in 1872 possessed a rich mass of historical documents, the collection of which had covered thirty years of his life. This material related chiefly to the French rule in North America, and its owner had offered to dispose of it to the French government on condition that the entire collection should be published. The French government was, however, only willing to publish parts of the whole, and the director retained possession of his property. Through the efforts of Mr. Francis Parkman, the truthful American historian, supported by friends, an appropriation was made by Congress, in 1873, for the purchase and publication of this valuable collection of the French director; and it is now the property of the United States government. All that relates to the Sieur de la Salle—his journals and letters—has been published in the original French, in three large volumes of six hundred pages each. La Salle discovered the Ohio, yet the possession of the rich historical matter referred to throws but little light upon the details of this important event. The discoverer- -of the great west, in an address to Frontenac, the governor of Canada, made in 1677, asserted that he had discovered the Ohio, and had descended it to a fall which obstructed it. This locality is now known as the "Falls of the Ohio," at Louisville, Kentucky.
The second manuscript map of Galine'e, made about the year 1672, has upon it this inscription: "River Ohio, so called by the Iroquois on account of its beauty, which the Sieur de la Salle descended." It was probably the interpretation of the Iroquois word Ohio which caused the French frequently to designate this noble stream as "La belle rivire."
A little later the missionary Marquette designed a map, upon which he calls the Ohio the "Ouabouskiaou." Louis Joliet's first map gives the Ohio without a name, but supplies its place with an inscription stating that La Salle had descended it. In Joliet's second map he calls the Ohio "Ouboustikou."
After the missionaries and other explorers had given to the world the knowledge possessed at that early day of the great west, a young and talented engineer of the French government, living in Quebec, and named Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin, completed, in 1684, the most elaborate map of the times, a carefully traced copy of which, through the courtesy of Mr. Francis Parkman, I have been allowed to examine. The original map of Franquelin has recently disappeared, and is supposed to have been destroyed. This map is described in the appendix to Mr. Parkman's "Discovery of the Great West," as being "six feet long and four and a half wide." On it, the Ohio is called "Fleuve St. Louis, ou Chucagoa, ou Casquinampogamou;" but the appellation of "River St. Louis" was dropped very soon after the appearance of Franquelin's map, and to the present time it justly retains the Iroquois name given it by its brave discoverer La Salle.
It would be interesting to know by which of the routes used by the Indians in those early days La Salle travelled to the Ohio. After the existence of the Ohio was made known, the first route made use of in reaching that river by the coureurs de bois and other French travellers from Canada, was that from the southern shore of Lake Erie, from a point near where the town of Westfield now stands, across the wilderness by portage southward about nine miles to Chautaugue Lake. These parties used light bark canoes, which were easily carried upon the shoulders of men whenever a "carry" between the two streams became necessary. The canoes were paddled on the lake to its southern end, out of which flowed a shallow brook, which afforded water enough in places to float the frail craft. The shoal water, and the obstructions made by fallen trees, necessitated frequent portages. This wild and tortuous stream led the voyagers to the Alleghany River, where an ample depth of water and a propitious current carried them into the Ohio.
The French, finding this a laborious and tedious route, abandoned it for a better one. Where the town of Erie now stands, on the southern shore of the lake of the same name, a small stream flows from the southward into that inland sea. Opposite its mouth is Presque Isle, which protects the locality from the north winds, and, acting as a barrier to the turbulent waves, offers to the mariner a safe port of refuge behind its shores. The French ascended the little stream, and from its banks made a short portage to the Rivire des boeuf, or some tributary of French Creek, and descended it to the Alleghany and the Ohio. This Erie and French River route finally became the military highway of the Canadians to the Ohio Valley, and may be called the second route from Lake Erie.
The third route to the Ohio from Lake Erie commenced at the extreme southwestern end of that inland sea. The voyagers entered Maumee Bay and ascended the Maumee River, hauling their birch canoes around the rapids between Maumee City and Perrysburgh, and between Providence and Grand Rapids. Surmounting these obstacles, they reached the site of Fort Wayne, where the St. Joseph and St. Mary rivers unite, and make, according to the author of the "History of the Maumee Valley," the "Maumee," or "Mother of Waters," as interpreted from the Indian tongue. At this point, when ninety-eight miles from Lake Erie, the travellers were forced to make a portage of a mile and a half to a branch called Little River, which they descended to the Wabash, which stream, in the early days of French exploration, was thought to be the main river of the Ohio system. The Wabash is now the boundary line for a distance of two hundred miles between the states of Indiana and Illinois. Following the Wabash, the voyager would enter the Ohio River about one hundred and forty miles above its junction with the Mississippi.
The great Indian diplomatist, "Little Turtle," in making a treaty speech in 1795, when confronting Anthony Wayne, insisted that the Fort Wayne portage was the "key or gateway" of the tribes having communication with the inland chain of lakes and the gulf coast. It is now claimed by many persons that this was the principal and favorite route of communication between the high and low latitudes followed by the savages hundreds of years before Europeans commenced the exploration of the great west.
There was a fourth route from the north to the tributaries of the Ohio, which was used by the Seneca Indians frequently, though rarely by the whites. It was further east than the three already described. The Genesee River flows into Lake Ontario about midway between its eastern shores and the longitude of the eastern end of Lake Erie. In using this fourth route, the savages followed the Genesee, and made a portage to some one of the affluents of the Alleghany to reach the Ohio River.
[Indian in canoe]
FROM PITTSBURGH TO BLENNERHASSET'S ISLAND
THE START FOR THE GULF.— CAUGHT IN THE ICE-RAFT.— CAMPING ON THE OHIO.— THE GRAVE CREEK MOUND.— AN INDIAN SEPULCHRE.— BLENNERHASSET'S ISLAND.— AARON BURR'S CONSPIRACY.— A RUINED FAMILY.
UPON arriving at Pittsburgh, on the morning of December 2d, 1875, after a dreary night's ride by rail from the Atlantic coast, I found my boat—it having preceded me—safely perched upon a pile of barrels in the freight-house of the railroad company, which was conveniently situated within a few rods of the muddy waters of the Monongahela.
The sneak-box, with the necessary stores for the cruise, was transported to the river's side, and as it was already a little past noon, and only a few hours of daylight left me, prudence demanded an instant departure in search of a more retired camping-ground than that afforded by the great city and its neighboring towns, with the united population of one hundred and eighty thousand souls. There was not one friend to give me a cheering word, the happy remembrance of which might encourage me all through my lonely voyage to the Gulf of Mexico.
The little street Arabs fought among themselves for the empty provision-boxes left upon the bank as I pushed my well-freighted boat out upon the whirling current that caught it in its strong embrace, and, like a true friend, never deserted or lured it into danger while I trusted to its vigorous help for more than two thousand miles, until the land of the orange and sugar-cane was reached, and its fresh, sweet waters were exchanged for the restless and treacherous waves of the briny sea. Ah, great river, you were indeed, of all material things, my truest friend for many a day!
The rains in the south had filled the gulches of the Virginia mountains, the sources of the Monongahela, and it now exhibited a great degree of turbulence. I was not then aware of the tumultuous state of the sister tributary, the Alleghany, on the other side of the city. I supposed that its upper affluents, congealed during the late cold weather, were quietly enjoying a winter's nap under the heavy coat in which Jack Frost had robed them. I expected to have an easy and uninterrupted passage down the river in advance of floating ice; and, so congratulating myself, I drew near to the confluence of the Monongahela and Alleghany, from the union of which the great Ohio has its birth, and rolls steadily across the country a thousand miles to the mightier Mississippi.
The current of the Monongahela, as it flowed from the south, covered with mists rising into the wintry air,—for the temperature was but a few degrees above zero,—had not a particle of ice upon its turbid bosom.
I rowed gayly on, pleased with the auspicious beginning of the voyage, hoping at the close of the month to be at the mouth of the river, and far enough south to escape any inconvenience from a sudden freezing of its surface, for along its course between its source at Pittsburgh and its debouchure at Cairo the Ohio makes only two hundred and twelve miles of southing,—a difference of about two and a half degrees of latitude. It is not surprising, therefore, that this river during exceedingly cold winters sometimes freezes over for a few days, from the state of Pennsylvania to its junction with the Mississippi.
In a few minutes my boat had passed nearly the whole length of the Pittsburgh shore, when suddenly, upon looking over my shoulder, I beheld the river covered with an ice-raft, which was passing out of the Alleghany, and which completely blocked the Ohio from shore to shore. French Creek, Oil Creek, and all the other tributaries of the Alleghany, had burst from their icy barriers, thrown off the wintry coat of mail, and were pouring their combined wrath into the Ohio.
This unforeseen trouble had to be met without much time for calculating the results of entering the ice-pack. A light canoe would have been ground to pieces in the multitude of icy cakes, but the half-inch skin of soft but elastic white swamp-cedar of the decked sneak-box, with its light oaken runner-strips firmly screwed to its bottom, was fully able to cope with the difficulty; so I pressed the boat into the floating ice, and by dint of hard work forced her several rods beyond the eddies, and fairly into the steady flow of the strong current of the river.
[The start—head of the Ohio River.]
There was nothing more to be done to expedite the journey, so I sat down in the little hold, and, wrapped comfortably in blankets, watched the progress made by the receding points of interest upon the high banks of the stream. Towards night some channel-ways opened in the pack, and, seizing upon the opportunity, I rowed along the ice-bound lanes until dusk, when happily a chance was offered for leaving the frosty surroundings, and the duck-boat was soon resting on a shelving, pebbly strand on the left bank of the river, two miles above the little village of Freedom.
The rapid current had carried me twenty-two miles in four hours and a half.
Not having slept for thirty-six hours, or eaten since morning, I was well prepared physically to retire at an early hour. A few minutes sufficed to securely stake my boat, to prevent her being carried off by a sudden rise in the river during my slumbers; a few moments more were occupied in arranging the thin hair cushions and a thick cotton coverlet upon the floor of the boat. The bag which contained my wardrobe, consisting of a blue flannel suit, &c., served for a pillow. A heavy shawl and two thin blankets furnished sufficient covering for the bed. Bread and butter, with Shakers' peach-sauce, and a generous slice of Wilson's compressed beef, a tin of water from the icy reservoir that flowed past my boat and within reach of my arm, all contributed to furnish a most satisfactory meal, and a half hour afterwards, when a soft, damp fog settled down upon the land, the atmosphere became so quiet that the rubbing of every ice-cake against the shore could be distinctly heard as I sank into a sweeter slumber than I had ever experienced in the most luxurious bed of the daintiest of guest-chambers, for my apartment, though small, was comfortable, and with the hatch securely closed, I was safe from invasion by man or beast, and enjoyed the well-earned repose with a full feeling of security. The owl softly winnowed the air with his feathery pinions as he searched for his prey along the beach, sending forth an occasional to-hoot! as he rested for a moment on the leafless branches of an old tree, reminding me to take a peep at the night, and to inquire "what its signs of promise" were.
All was silence and security; but even while I thought that here at least Nature ruled supreme, Art sent to my listening ear, upon the dense night air, the shrill whistle of the steam-freighter, trying to enter the ice-pack several miles down the river.
So the peaceful night wore away, and in the early dawn, enveloped in a thick fog, I hastily dispatched a cold breakfast, and at half-past eight o'clock pushed off into the floating ice, which became more and more disintegrated and less troublesome as the day advanced. The use of the soft bituminous coal in the towns along the river, and also by the steamboats navigating it, filled the valley with clouds of smoke. These clouds rested upon everything. Your five senses were fully aware of the presence of the disagreeable, impalpable something surrounding you. Eyes, ears, taste, touch, and smell, each felt the presence. Smoky towns along the banks gave smoky views. Smoky chimneys rose high above the smoky foundries and forges, where smoke-begrimed men toiled day and night in the smoky atmosphere. Ah, how I sighed for a glimpse of God's blessed sunlight! and even while I gazed saw in memory the bright pure valleys of the north-east; the sparkling waters of lakes George and Champlain, and the majestic scenery, with the life-giving atmosphere, of the Adirondacks. The contrast seemed to increase the smoke, and no cheerfulness was added to the scene by the dismal- looking holes in the mountain-sides I now passed. They were the entrances to mines from which the bituminous coal was taken. Some of them were being actively worked, and long, trough-like shoots were used to send the coal by its own gravity from the entrance of the mine to the hold of the barge or coal-ark at the steam-boat landing. Some of these mines were worked by three men and a horse. The horse drew the coal on a little car along the horizontal gallery from the heart of the mountain to the light of day.
During the second day the current of the Ohio became less violent. I fought a passage among the ice-cakes, and whenever openings appeared rowed briskly along the sides of the chilly raft, with the intent of getting below the frosty zone as soon as possible.
About half-past eight o'clock in the evening, when some distance above King's Creek, the struggling starlight enabled me to push my boat on to a muddy flat, destined soon to be overflowed, but offering me a secure resting-place for a few hours. Upon peeping out of my warm nest under the hatch the next day, it was a cause of great satisfaction to note that a rise in the temperature had taken place, and that the ice was disappearing by degrees.
An open-air toilet, and a breakfast of about the temperature of a family refrigerator, with sundry other inconveniences, made me wish for just enough hot water to remove a little of the begriming results of the smoky atmosphere through which I had rowed.
At eleven o'clock, A. M., the first bridge that spans the Ohio River was passed. It was at Steubenville, and the property of the Pan-Handle Railroad.
Soon after four o'clock in the afternoon the busy manufacturing city of Wheeling, West Virginia, with its great suspension bridge crossing the river to the state of Ohio, loomed into sight.
This city of Wheeling, on the left bank of the river, some eighty miles from Pittsburgh, was the most impressive sight of that dreary day's row. Above its masses of brick walls hung a dense cloud of smoke, into which shot the flames emitted from the numerous chimneys of forges, glass-works, and factories, which made it the busy place it was. Ever and anon came the deafening sound of the trip-hammer, the rap-a-tap-tap of the rivet-headers' tools striking upon the heavy boiler-plates; the screeching of steam-whistles; the babel of men's voices; the clanging of deep-toned bells. Each in turn striking upon my ear, seemed as a whole to furnish sufficient noise-tonic for even the most ardent upholder of that remedy, and to serve as a type for a second Inferno, promising to vie with Dante's own. Yet with all this din and dirt, this ever-present cloud of blackness settling down each hour upon clean and unclean in a sooty coating, I was told that hundreds of families of wealth and refinement, whose circumstances enabled them to select a home where they pleased, lingered here, apparently well satisfied with their surroundings. We are, indeed, the children of habit, and singularly adaptable. It is, perhaps, best that it should be so, but I thought, as I brushed off the thin layer of soot with which the Wheeling cloud of enterprise had discolored the pure white deck of my little craft, that if this was civilization and enterprise, I should rather take a little less of those two commodities and a little more of cleanliness and quiet.
At Wheeling I left the last of the ice-drifts, but now observed a new feature on the river's surface. It was a floating coat of oil from the petroleum regions, and it followed me many a mile down the stream.
The river being now free from ice, numerous crafts passed me, and among them many steam-boats with their immense stern-wheels beating the water, being so constructed for shallow streams. They were ascending the current, and pushing their "tows" of two, four, and six long, wide coal-barges fastened in pairs in front of them. How the pilots of these stern-wheel freighters managed to guide these heavily loaded barges against the treacherous current was a mystery to me.
It suddenly grew dark, and wishing to be secure from molestation by steamboats, I ran into a narrow creek, with high, muddy banks, which were so steep and so slippery that my boat slid into the water as fast as I could haul her on to the shore. This difficulty was overcome by digging with my oar a bed for her to rest in, and she soon settled into the damp ooze, where she quietly remained until morning.
During this part of my journey particularly, the need of a small coal- oil stove was felt, as the usual custom of making a camp-fire could not be followed for many days on the upper Ohio River. The rains had wet the fire-wood, which in a settled and cultivated country is found only in small quantities on the banks of the stream. The driftwood thrown up by the river was almost saturated with water, and the damp, wild trees of the swamp afforded only green wood.
In a less settled country, or where there is an old forest growth, as along the lower Ohio and upon the banks of the Mississippi, fallen trees, with resinous, dry hearts, can be found; and even during a heavy fall of rain a skilful use of the axe will bring out these ancient interiors to cheer the voyager's heart by affording him excellent fuel for his camp-fire.
The recently perfected coal-oil stove does not give out disagreeable odors when the petroleum used is refined, like that known in the market as Pratt's Astral Oil. This brand of oil does not contain naphtha, the existence of which in the partially refined oils is the cause of so many dangerous explosions of kerosene lamps.
Recent experiences with coal-oil burners lead me to adopt, for camp use, the No.0 single-wick stove of the "Florence Machine Co.," whose excellent wares attracted so much attention at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The No. 0 Florence stove will sustain the weight of one hundred and fifty pounds, and is one of the few absolutely safe oil stoves, with perfect combustion, and no unpleasant odor or gas. This statement presupposes that the wicks are wiped along the burnt edges after being used, and that a certain degree of cleanliness is observed in the care of the oil cistern. I do not stand alone in my appreciation of this faithful little stove, for the company sold forty thousand of them in one year. In Johnson's Universal Cyclopdia, Dr. L. P. Brockett, of Brooklyn, N.Y., expresses himself in the most enthusiastic terms in regard to this stove. He says: "For summer use it will be a great boon to the thousands of women whose lives have been made bitter and wretched by confinement in close and intensely heated kitchens; in many cases it will give health for disease, strength for weakness, cheerfulness for depression, and profound thankfulness in place of gloom and despair."
Boatmen and canoeists should never travel without one of these indispensable comforts. Alcohol stoves are small, and the fuel used too expensive, as well as difficult to obtain, while good coal-oil can now be had even on the borders of the remote wilderness. The economy of its use is wonderful. A heat sufficient to boil a gallon of water in thirty minutes can be sustained for ten hours at the cost of three cents.
For lack of one of these little blessings—which the prejudice of friends had influenced me to leave behind—my daily meals for the first two or three weeks generally consisted of cold, cooked canned beef, bread and butter, canned fruits, and cold river water. The absence of hot coffee and other stimulants did not affect my appetite, nor the enjoyment of the morning and evening repasts, cold and untempting as they were. The vigorous day's row in the open air, the sweet slumbers that followed it at night in a well-ventilated apartment, a simple, unexciting life, the mental rest from vexatious business cares, all proved superior to any tonic a physician could prescribe, and I became more rugged as I grew accustomed to the duties of an oarsman, and gained several pounds avoirdupois by the time I ended the row of twenty-six hundred miles and landed on the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Sunday broke upon me a sunless day. The water of the creek was too muddy to drink, and the rain began to fall in torrents. I had anticipated a season of rest and quiet in camp, with a bright fire to cheer the lonely hours of my frosty sojourn on the Ohio, but there was not a piece of dry wood to be found, and it became necessary to change my position for a more propitious locality; so I rowed down the stream twelve miles, to Big Grave Creek, below which, and on the left bank of the Ohio, is the town of Moundsville. One of the interesting features of this place is its frontage on a channel possessing a depth of fifteen feet of water even in the dryest seasons. Wheeling, at the same time of the year, can claim but seven feet. Here, also, is the great Indian mound from which it derives its name.
The resting-place of my craft was upon a muddy slope in the rear of a citizen's yard which faced the river; but when the storm ended, on Monday morning, my personal effects were hidden from the gaze of idlers by securely locking the hatch, which was done with the same facility with which one locks his trunk—and the former occupant was at liberty to visit the "Big Grave."
I walked through the muddy streets of the uninteresting village to the conspicuous monument of the aboriginal inhabitant of the river's margin. It was a conical hill, situated within the limits of the town, and known to students of American pre-historic races as the "Grave Creek Mound." This particular creation of a lost race is the most important of the numerous works of the Mound Builders which are found throughout the Ohio Valley. Its circumference at the base is nine hundred feet, and its height seventy feet. In 1838 the location was owned by Mr. Tomlinson, who penetrated to the centre of the mound by excavating a passage on a level with the foundation of the structure. He then sank a shaft from the apex to intercept the ground passage. Mr. Tomlinson's statement is as follows:
"At the distance of one hundred and eleven feet we came to a vault which had been excavated before the mound was commenced, eight by twelve feet, and seven in depth. Along each side, and across the ends, upright timbers had been placed, which supported timbers thrown across the vault as a ceiling. These timbers were covered with loose unhewn stone common to the neighborhood. The timbers had rotted, and had tumbled into the vault. In this vault were two human skeletons, one of which had no ornaments; the other was surrounded by six hundred and fifty ivory (shell) beads, and an ivory (bone) ornament six inches long. In sinking the shaft, at thirty-four feet above the first, or bottom vault, a similar one was found, enclosing a skeleton which had been decorated with a profusion of shell beads, copper rings, and plates of mica."
Dr. Clemmens, who was much interested in the work of exploration here, says: "At a distance of twelve or fifteen feet were found numerous layers composed of charcoal and burnt bones. On reaching the lower vault from the top, it was determined to enlarge it for the accommodation of visitors, when ten more skeletons were discovered. This mound was supposed to be the tomb of a royal personage."
At the time of my visit, the ground was covered with a grassy sod, and large trees arose from its sloping sides. The horizontal passage was kept in a safe state by a lining of bricks, and I walked through it into the heart of the Indian sepulchre. It was a damp, dark, weird interior; but the perpendicular shaft, which ascended to the apex, kept up an uninterrupted current of air. I found it anything but a pleasant place in which to linger, and soon retraced my steps to the boat, where I once more embarked upon the ceaseless current, and kept upon my winding course, praying for even one glimpse of the sun, whose face had been veiled from my sight during the entire voyage, save for one brief moment when the brightness burst from the surrounding gloom only to be instantly eclipsed, and making all seem, by contrast, more dismal than ever.
It would not interest the general reader to give a description of the few cities and many small villages that were passed during the descent of the Ohio. Few of these places possess even a local interest, and the eye soon wearies of the air of monotony found in them all. Even the guide-books dispose of these villages with a little dry detail, and rarely recommend the tourist to visit one of them.
One feature may be, however, remarked in descending the Ohio, and that is the ambition displayed by the pioneers of civilization in the west in naming hamlets and towns—which, with few exceptions, are still of little importance—after the great cities of the older parts of the United States, and also of foreign lands. These names, which occupy such important positions on the maps, excite the imagination of the traveller, and when the reality comes into view, and he enters their narrow limits, the commonplace architecture and generally unattractive surroundings have a most depressing effect, and he sighs, "What's in a name?" We find upon the map the name and appearance of a city, but it proves to be the most uninteresting of villages, though known as Amsterdam. We also find many towns of the Hudson duplicated in name on the Ohio, and pass Troy, Albany, Newburg, and New York. The cities of Great Britain are in many instances perpetuated by the names of Aberdeen, Manchester, Dover, Portsmouth, Liverpool, and London; while other nations are represented by Rome, Carthage, Ghent, Warsaw, Moscow, Gallipolis, Bethlehem, and Cairo. Strangely sandwiched with these old names we find the southern states represented, as in Augusta, Charleston, &c.; while the Indian names Miami, Guyandot, Paducah, Wabash, and Kanawha are thrown in for variety.
In the evening I sought the shelter of an island on the left side of the river, about three miles above Sisterville, which proved to be a restful camping-place during the dark night that settled down upon the surrounding country.
Tuesday being a rainy day, I was forced by the inclemency of the weather to seek for better quarters in a retired creek about three miles above the thriving town of Marietta, so named in honor of Maria Antoinette of Austria.
The country was now becoming more pleasing in character, and many of the islands, as I floated past them on the current, gave evidence of great fertility where cultivation had been bestowed upon them. Some of these islands were connected to one shore of the river by low dams, carelessly constructed of stones, their purpose being to deepen the channel upon the opposite side by diverting a considerable volume of water into it. When the water is very low, the tops of these dams can be seen, and must, of course, be avoided by boatmen; but when the Ohio increases its depth of water, these artificial aids to navigation are submerged, and even steamboats float securely over them.
On Wednesday the river began to rise, in consequence of the heavy rains; so, with an increased current, the duck-boat left her quarters about eleven o'clock in the forenoon. Early in the afternoon, Parkersburgh, situated at the mouth of the Little Kanawha River, in Virginia, came into view. This is the outlet of the petroleum region of West Virginia, and is opposite the little village of Belpr, which is in the state of Ohio. These towns are connected by a massive iron bridge, built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company.
Two miles below Belpr lay the beautiful island, formerly the home of Blennerhasset, an English gentleman of Irish descent, of whom a most interesting account was given in a late number of Harper's Magazine. Mr. Blennerhasset came to New York in 1797, with his wife and one child, hoping to find in America freedom of opinion and action denied him at home, as his relations and friends were all royalists, and opposed to the republican principles he had imbibed. Here, on this sunny island, under the grand old trees, he built a stately mansion, where wealth and culture, combined with all things rich and rare from the old world, made an Eden for all who entered it.
Ten negro servants were bought to minister to the daily needs of the household. Over forty thousand dollars in gold were spent upon the buildings and grounds. A telescope of high power to assist in his researches, books of every description, musical instruments, chemical and philosophical apparatus, everything, in fact, that could add to the progress and comfort of an intellectual man, was here collected. Docks were built, and a miniature fleet moored in the soft waters of the ever-flowing Ohio. Nature had begun, Blennerhasset finished; and we cannot wonder when we read of the best families in the neighboring country going often thirty and forty miles to partake of the generous hospitality here offered them. Mrs. Blennerhasset, endowed by nature with beauty and winsome manners, was always a charming and attractive hostess, as well as a true wife and mother.
For eight years Blennerhasset lived upon his island, enjoying more than is accorded to the lot of most mortals; but the story of his position, his intelligence, his wealth, his wonderful social influence upon those around him, reached at length the ear of one who marked him for his prey.
Aaron Burr had been chosen vice-president of the United States in 1800, with Thomas Jefferson as president; but in 1804, when Jefferson was re-elected, Burr was not. The brain of this brilliant but ill- balanced and unprincipled man was ever rife with ambitious schemes, and the taste of political power in his position as vice-president of the United States seemed to have driven him towards the accomplishment of one of the boldest and most extravagant dreams he ever imagined. Mexico he thought could be wrested from Spain, and the then almost unpeopled valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi taken from the United States. This fair region, with its fertile soil and varied climate, should be blended into one empire. On the north, the Great Lakes should be his boundary line, while the Gulf of Mexico should lave with its salt waters his southern shores. The high cliffs of the Rocky Mountains should protect the western boundary, and on the east the towering Alleghanies form a barrier to invading foe.
Such was the dream, and a fair one it was. Of this new empire, Aaron Burr would of course be Imperator; and the ways and means for its establishment must be found. The distant Blennerhasset seemed to point to the happy termination of at least some of the difficulties. His wealth, if not his personal influence, must be gained, and no man was better suited to win his point than the fascinating Aaron Burr. We will not enter into the plans of the artful insinuator made to enlist the sympathies of the unsuspecting Englishman, but we must ever feel sure that the cloven foot was well concealed until the last, for Blennerhasset loved the land of his adoption, and would not have listened to any plan for its impoverishment. His means were given lavishly for the aid of the new colony, as Burr called it, and his personal influence made use of in enlisting recruits. Arms were furnished, and the Indian foe given as an excuse for this measure.
Burr during this time resided at Marietta, on the right bank of the river, fifteen miles above Blennerhasset's Island. He occupied himself in overseeing the building of fifteen large bateaux in which to transport his colony. Ten of these flat-bottomed boats were forty feet long, ten feet wide, and two and a half feet deep. The ends of the boats were similar, so that they could be pushed up or down stream. One boat was luxuriously fitted up, and intended to transport Mr. Blennerhasset and family, proving most conclusively that he knew nothing of any treasonable scheme against the United States.
The boats were intended to carry five hundred men, and the energy of Colonel Burr had engaged nearly the whole number. The El Dorado held out to these young men was painted in the most brilliant hues of Burr's eloquence. He told them that Jefferson, who was popular with them all, approved the plan. That they were to take possession of the immense grant purchased of Baron Bastrop, but that in case of a war between the United States and Spain, which might at any time occur, as the Mexicans were very weary of the Spanish yoke, Congress would send an army to protect the settlers and help Mexico, so that a new empire would be founded of a democratic type, and the settlers finding all on an equality, would be enabled to enrich themselves beyond all former precedent.
About this time rumors were circulated that Aaron Burr was plotting some mischief against the United States. Jefferson himself became alarmed, knowing as he so well did the ambition of Burr and his unprincipled character. A secret agent was sent to make inquiries in regard to the doings at Blennerhasset's Island and Marietta. This agent, Mr. John Graham, was assured by Mr. Blennerhasset that nothing was intended save the peaceful establishment of a colony on the banks of the Washita.
Various reports still continued to greet the public ear, and of such a nature as to make Blennerhasset's name disliked. Some said treason was lurking, and blamed him for it. He was openly spoken of as the accomplice of Burr. The legislature of Ohio even made a law to suppress all expeditions found armed, and to seize all boats and provisions belonging to such expeditions. The governor was ready at a moment's notice to call out the state militia. A cannon was placed on the river-bank at Marietta, and strict orders given to examine every boat that descended the stream.
Mr. Blennerhasset had no idea of resisting the authorities, and gave up the whole scheme, determined to meet his heavy losses as best he might.
Four boats, with about thirty men, had been landed upon Blennerhasset's Island a short time before these rigorous measures had been taken. They were under the care of Mr. Tyler, one of Burr's agents from New York, and he did all in his power to urge Blennerhasset not to retire at so critical a moment. It was, however, too late to avert calamity, and the unfortunate family was doomed to misfortune.
The alarming intelligence now reached the island that the Wood County militia was en route for that place, that the boats would be seized, the men taken prisoners, and probably the mansion burned, as the most desperate characters in the surrounding country had volunteered for the attack. Urged by his friends, Blennerhasset and the few men with him escaped by the boats. His flight was not a moment too soon, for having been branded as a traitor, no one knows what might have befallen him had the lawless men who arrived immediately after his departure found him in their power. Colonel Phelps, the commander of the militia, started in pursuit, and the remainder of his men, with no one to restrain them, gave full play to their savage feelings. Seven days of riot followed. They took possession of the house, broke into the cellars, and drank the choice wines, until, more like beasts than men, they made havoc of the rich accumulation of years. Everything was destroyed. The paintings, the ornaments, rare glass and china, family silver, furniture, and, worst vandalism of all, the flames were fed with the choicest volumes, many of which never could be duplicated, for the value of Blennerhasset's library was known through all the country.
Mrs. Blennerhasset had remained upon the island during this week of terror, hoping by her presence to restrain the lawless band, but the brave woman was at last obliged to fly with her two little sons, taking refuge on one of the flat river boats sent by a friend to afford her a way of escape.
Mr. Blennerhasset was afterwards arrested for treason, but no evidence could be found against him, and he was never brought to trial. He invested the little means left him in a cotton plantation near Natchez, where, with his devoted wife, he tried to retrieve his fallen fortunes. The second war with England rendered his plantation worthless, and returning by way of Montreal to his native land, he died a broken-hearted man, leaving his wife in destitute circumstances. An attempt was made by her friends to obtain some return for the destruction of their property from the United States government, but all proved of no avail, and she who had always been surrounded by wealth and luxury, was, during her last hours, dependent upon the charity of a society of Irish ladies in New York city, who with tenderness nursed her unto the end, and then took upon themselves the expenses of her interment.
Such is the sad story of Blennerhasset and his wife; and I thought, as I quietly moored my boat in a little creek that mingled its current with the great river, near the lower end of the island which was once such a happy home, of the uncertainty of all earthly prosperity, and the necessity there was for making the most of the present,—which last idea sent a sleepy sailor hastily under his hatch.
[Indian mound, at Moundsville, West Virginia.]
FROM BLENNERHASSET'S ISLAND TO CINCINNATI
RIVER CAMPS.— THE SHANTY-BOATS AND RIVER MIGRANTS.— VARIOUS EXPERIENCES.— ARRIVAL AT CINCINNATI.— THE SNEAK-BOX FROZEN UP IN PLEASANT RUN.— A TAILOR'S FAMILY.— A NIGHT UNDER A GERMAN COVERLET.
ABOUT this time the selection of resting places for the night became an important feature of the voyage. It was easy to draw the little craft out of the water on to a smooth, shelving beach, but such places did not always appear at the proper time for ending the day's rowing. The banks were frequently precipitous, and, destitute of beaches, frowned down upon the lonely voyager in anything but a hospitable manner. There were also present two elements antagonistic to my peace of mind. One was the night steamer, which, as it struggled up stream, coursing along shore to avoid the strong current, sent swashy waves to disturb my dreams by pitching my little craft about in the roughest manner. A light canoe could easily have been carried further inland, out of reach of the unwelcome waves, and would, so far as that went, have made a more quiet resting-place than the heavy duck-boat; but then, on the other hand, a sleeping-apartment in a canoe would have lacked the roominess and security of the sneak-box.
After the first few nights' camping on the Ohio, I naturally took to the channelless side of one of the numerous islands which dot the river's surface, or, what was still better, penetrated into the wild- looking creeks and rivers, more than one hundred of which enter the parent stream along the thousand miles of its course. Here, in these secluded nooks, I found security from the steamer's swash.
The second objectionable element on the Ohio was the presence of tramps, rough boatmen, and scoundrels of all kinds. In fact, the Ohio and Mississippi rivers are the grand highway of the West for a large class of vagabonds. One of these fellows will steal something of value from a farm near the river, seize the first bateau, or skiff, he can find, cross the stream, and descend it for fifty or a hundred miles. He will then abandon the stolen boat if he cannot sell it, ship as working-hand upon the first steamer or coal-ark he happens to meet, descend the river still further, and so escape detection.
To avoid these rough characters, as well as the drunken crews of shanty-boats, it was necessary always to enter the night's camping- ground unobserved; but when once secreted on the wooded shore of some friendly creek, covered by the dusky shades of night, I felt perfectly safe, and had no fear of a night attack from any one. Securely shut in my strong box, with a hatchet and a Colt's revolver by my side, and a double-barrelled gun, carefully charged, snugly stowed under the deck, the intruder would have been in danger, and not the occupant of the sneak-box.
The hatch, or cover, which rested upon the stern of the boat during rowing-hours, was at night dropped over the hold, or well, in such a way as to give plenty of ventilation, and still, at the same time, to be easily and instantly removed in case of need.
I must not fail here to mention one characteristic feature possessed by the sneak-box which gives it an advantage over every other boat I have examined. Its deck is nowhere level, and if a person attempts to step upon it while it is afloat, his foot touches the periphery of a circle, and the spoon-shaped, keelless, little craft flies out as if by magic from under the pressure of the foot, and without further warning the luckless intruder falls into the water.
At the summer watering-places in Barnegat Bay it used to be a great source of amusement to the boatmen to tie a sneak-box to a landing, and wait quietly near by to see the city boys attempt to get into her. Instead of stepping safely and easily into the hold, they would invariably step upon the rounded deck, when away would shoot the slippery craft, and the unsuccessful boarder would fall into two feet of water, to the great amusement of his comrades. When once inside of the sneak-box, it becomes the stiffest and steadiest of crafts. Two men can stand upright upon the flooring of the hold and paddle her along rapidly, with very little careening to right or left.
By far the most interesting and peculiar features of a winter's row down the Ohio are the life-studies offered by the occupants of the numerous shanty-boats daily encountered. They are sometimes called, and justly too, family-boats, and serve as the winter homes of a singular class of people, carrying their passengers and cargoes from the icy region of the Ohio to New Orleans. Their annual descent of the river resembles the migration of birds, and we invariably find those of a feather flocking together. It would be hard to trace these creatures to their lair; but the Alleghany and Monongahela region, with the towns of the upper Ohio, may be said to furnish most of them. Let them come from where they may (and we feel sure none will quarrel for the honor of calling them citizens), the fall of the leaf seems to be the signal for looking up winter-quarters, and the river with its swift current the inviting path to warmer suns and an easy life.
The shanty-boatman looks to the river not only for his life, but also for the means of making that life pleasant; so he fishes in the stream for floating lumber in the form of boards, planks, and scantling for framing to build his home. It is soon ready. A scow, or flatboat, about twenty feet long by ten or twelve wide, is roughly constructed. It is made of two-inch planks spiked together. These scows are calked with oakum and rags, and the seams are made water-tight with pitch or tar. A small, low house is built upon the boat, and covers about two- thirds of it, leaving a cockpit at each end, in which the crews work the sweeps, or oars, which govern the motions of the shanty-boat. If the proprietor of the boat has a family, he puts its members on board,—not forgetting the pet dogs and cats,—with a small stock of salt pork, bacon, flour, potatoes, molasses, salt, and coffee. An old cooking-stove is set up in the shanty, and its sheet-iron pipe, projecting through the roof, makes a chimney a superfluity. Rough bunks, or berths, are constructed for sleeping-quarters; but if the family are the happy possessors of any furniture, it is put on board, and adds greatly to their respectability. A number of steel traps, with the usual double-barrelled gun, or rifle, and a good supply of ammunition, constitute the most important supplies of the shanty-boat, and are never forgotten. Of these family-boats alone I passed over two hundred on the Ohio.