Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Voyage of the Paper Canoe, by N. H. Bishop

Voyage of the Paper Canoe, by N. H. Bishop, 1878
The author left Quebec, Dominion of Canada,
July 4, 1874, with a single assistant, in a wooden
canoe eighteen feet in length, bound for the Gulf of
Mexico. It was his intention to follow the natural
and artificial connecting watercourses of the
continent in the most direct line southward to the gulf
coast of Florida, making portages as seldom as
possible, to show how few were the interruptions to
a continuous water-way for vessels of light draught,
from the chilly, foggy, and rocky regions of the Gulf
of St. Lawrence in the north, to the semi-tropical
waters of the great Southern Sea, the waves of which
beat upon the sandy shores of the southernmost
United States. Having proceeded about four
hundred miles upon his voyage, the author reached
Troy, on the Hudson River, New York state, where
for several years E. Waters & Sons had been
perfecting the construction of paper boats.
The advantages in using a boat of only fifty-eight
pounds weight, the strength and durability of which
had been well and satisfactorily tested, could not
be questioned, and the author dismissed his
assistant, and "paddled his own canoe" about two
thousand miles to the end of the journey. Though
frequently lost in the labyrinth of creeks and marshes
which skirt the southern coast of his country, the
author's difficulties were greatly lessened by the use
of the valuable and elaborate charts of the United
States Coast Survey Bureau, to the faithful
executers of which he desires to give unqualified and
grateful praise.
To an unknown wanderer among the creeks, rivers,
and sounds of the coast, the courteous treatment of
the Southern people was most gratifying. The
author can only add to this expression an extract
from his reply to the address of the Mayor of St.
Mary's, Georgia, which city honored him with an
ovation and presentation of flags after the
completion of his voyage:
"Since my little paper canoe entered southern
waters upon her geographical errand, -- from the
capes of the Delaware to your beautiful St. Mary's,
-- I have been deeply sensible of the value of
Southern hospitality. The oystermen and fishermen
living along the lonely beaches of the eastern shore
of Maryland and Virginia; the surfmen and
lighthouse keepers of Albemarle, Pamplico, and Core
sounds, in North Carolina; the ground-nut planters
who inhabit the uplands that skirt the network of
creeks, marshes, ponds, and sounds from Bogue
Inlet to Cape Fear; the piny-woods people,
lumbermen, and turpentine distillers on the little bluffs
that jut into the fastnesses of the great swamps of the
crooked Waccamaw River; the representatives of
the once powerful rice-planting aristocracy of the
Santee and Peedee rivers; the colored men of the
beautiful sea-islands along the coast of Georgia;
The Floridians living between the St. Mary's River
and the Suwanee -- the wild river of song; the
islanders on the Gulf of Mexico where I terminated
my long journey; -- all have contributed to make the
'Voyage of the Paper Canoe' a success."
After returning from this paper-canoe voyage, the
author embarked alone, December 2, 1875, in a cedar
duck-boat twelve feet in length, from the head of
the Ohio River, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and
followed the Ohio and Mississippi rivers over two
thousand miles to New Orleans, where he made a
portage through that city eastwardly to Lake
Pontchartrain, and rowed along the shores of the Gulf
of Mexico six or seven hundred miles, to Cedar
Keys, Florida, the terminus of his paper-canoe
While on these two voyages, the author rowed over
five thousand miles, meeting with but one accident,
the overturning of his canoe in Delaware Bay.
He returned to his home with his boats in good
condition, and his note-books, charts, &c., in an
excellent state of preservation.
At the request of the "Board on behalf of the
United States Executive Department" of the
Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, the paper canoe
"Maria Theresa," and the cedar duck-boat "Centennial
Republic," were deposited in the Smithsonian
Department of the United States Government
building, during the summer and fall of 1876.
The maps, which show the route followed by
the paper canoe, have been drawn and engraved
by contract at the United States Coast Survey
Bureau, and are on a scale of 1/1,500,000. As the work
is based on the results of actual surveys, the
maps may be considered, for their size, the most
complete of the United States coast ever presented
to the public.
Much credit is due to Messrs. Waud and Merrill
for the artistic results of their pencils, and to Messrs.
John Andrew & Son for their skill in engraving the
To the readers of the author's first book of
travels, "The Pampas and Andes: a Thousand Miles'
Walk across South America," which journey was
undertaken when he was but seventeen years of
age, the writer would say that their many kind and
appreciative letters have prompted him to send forth
this second book of travels -- the "Voyage of the
Paper Canoe."
JANUARY 1, 1878.
GREAT AUK (Alca impennis). Extinct.
Photographed at Disco, Greenland.
While on his passage to the ports of the
St. Lawrence River, the mariner first
sights the little island of St. Paul, situated in
the waste of waters between Cape Ray, the
southwestern point of Newfoundland on the north,
and Cape North, the northeastern projection of
Cape Breton Island on the south. Across this
entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence from cape
to cape is a distance of fifty-four nautical miles;
and about twelve miles east-northeast from Cape
North the island of St. Paul, with its three hills
and two light-towers, rises from the sea with
deep waters on every side.
This wide inlet into the gulf may be called the
middle portal, for at the northern end of
Newfoundland, between the great island and the
coast of Labrador, another entrance exists,
which is known as the Straits of Belle Isle,
and is sometimes called "the shorter passage
from England." Still to the south of the
middle entrance is another and a very narrow one,
known as the Gut of Canso, which separates
the island of Cape Breton from Nova Scotia.
Through this contracted thoroughfare the tides
run with great force.
One hundred years ago, as the seaman
approached the dangerous entrance of St. Paul,
now brightened at night by its light-towers, his
heart was cheered by the sight of immense
flocks of a peculiar sea-fowl, now extinct.
When he saw upon the water the Great Auk
(Alca impennis), which he ignorantly called
"a pengwin," he knew that land was near at
hand, for while he met other species far out
upon the broad Atlantic, the Great Auk, his
"pengwin," kept near the coast. Not only was
this now extinct bird his indicator of proximity
to the land, but so strange were its habits, and
so innocent was its nature, that it permitted
itself to be captured by boat-loads; and thus
were the ships re-victualled at little cost or
trouble. Without any market-value a century
ago, the Great Auk now, as a stuffed skin,
represents a value of fifteen hundred dollars in
gold. There are but seventy-two specimens of
this bird in the museums of Europe and
America, besides a few skeletons, and sixty-five of its
eggs. It was called in ancient days Gare-fowl,
and was the Goiful of the Icelander.
Captain Whitbourne, who wrote in the reign
of James the First, quaintly said: "These
Pengwins are as bigge as Geese, and flye not, for
they have but a little short wing, and they
multiply so infinitely upon a certain flat island that
men drive them from thence upon a board into
their boats by hundreds at a time, as if God had
made the innocency of so poor a creature to
become such an admerable instrument for the
sustenation of man."
In a copy of the English Pilot, "fourth book,"
published in 1761, which I presented to the
library of the United States Coast Survey, is
found this early description of this now extinct
American bird: "They never go beyond the
bank [Newfoundland] as others do, for they are
always on it, or in it, several of them together,
sometimes more but never less than two
together. They are large fowls, about the size
a goose, a coal-black head and back, with a
white belly and a milk-white spot under one of
their eyes, which nature has ordered to be under
their right eye."
Thus has the greed of the sailor and
pothunter swept from the face of the earth an old
pilot -- a trusty aid to navigation. Now the
light-house, the fog-gun, and the improved chart
have taken the place of the extinct auk as aids
to navigation, and the sailor of to-day sees the
bright flashes of St. Paul's lights when nearly
twenty miles at sea. Having passed the little
isle, the ship enters the great Gulf of St.
Lawrence, and passes the Magdalen Islands, shaping
its course as wind and weather permit towards
the dreaded, rocky coast of Anticosti. From the
entrance of the gulf to the island of Anticosti
the course to be followed is northwesterly about
one hundred and thirty-five nautical miles. The
island which divides an upper arm of the gulf
into two wide channels is one hundred and
twenty-three miles long, and from ten to thirty
miles wide. Across the entrance of this great
arm, or estuary, from the high cape of Gaspe
on the southern shore of the mainland to
Anticosti in the narrowest place, is a distance of
about forty miles, and is called the South
Channel. From the north side of the island and near
its west end to the coast of Labrador the North
Channel is fifteen miles wide. The passage from
St. Paul to Anticosti is at times dangerous. Here
is an area of strong currents, tempestuous winds,
and dense fogs. When the wind is fair for an
upward run, it is the wind which usually brings
misty weather. Then, from the icy regions of
the Arctic circle, from the Land of Desolation,
come floating through the Straits of Belle Isle
the dangerous bergs and ice-fields. Early in the
spring these ice rafts are covered with colonies
of seals which resort to them for the purpose of
giving birth to their young. On these icy
cradles, rocked by the restless waves, tens of
thousands of young seals are nursed for a few days;
then, answering the loud calls of their mothers,
they accompany them into the briny deep, there
to follow the promptings of their instincts. The
loud roarings of the old seals on these ice rafts
can be heard in a quiet night for several miles,
and strike terror into the hearts of the
superstitious sailor who is ignorant of the origin of
the tumult.
Frequently dense fogs cover the water, and
while slowly moving along, guided only by the
needle, a warning sound alarms the watchful
master. Through the heavy mists comes the
roar of breaking waters. He listens. The dull,
swashy noise of waves meeting with resistance
is now plainly heard. The atmosphere becomes
suddenly chilled: it is the breath of the
Then the shrill cry of "All hands on deck!"
startles the watch below from the bunks.
Anxiously now does the whole ship's company lean
upon the weather-rail and peer out into the thick
air with an earnestness born of terror. "Surely,"
says the master to his mate, "I am past the
Magdalens, and still far from Anticosti, yet we have
breakers; which way can we turn?" The riddle
solves itself; for out of the gloom come whitened
walls, beautiful but terrible to behold.
Those terror-stricken sailors watch the slowly
moving berg as it drifts past their vessel, fearing
that their own ship will be drawn towards it
from the peculiar power of attraction they believe
the iceberg to possess. And as they watch,
against the icy base of the mountain in the sea
the waves beat and break as if expending their
forces upon a rocky shore. Down the furrowed
sides of the disintegrating berg streamlets trickle,
and miniature cascades leap, mingling their
waters with the briny sea. The intruder slowly
drifts out of sight, disappearing in the gloom,
while the sailor thanks his lucky stars that he has
rid himself of another danger. The ill-omened
Anticosti, the graveyard of many seamen, is yet
to he passed. The ship skirts along its southern
shore, a coast destitute of bays or harbors of
any kind, rock-bound and inhospitable.
Wrecks of vessels strew the rocky shores, and
four light-houses warn the mariner of danger.
Once past the island the ship is well within the
estuary of the gulf into which the St. Lawrence
River flows, contributing the waters of the great
lakes of the continent to the sea. As the north
coast is approached the superstitious sailor is
again alarmed if perchance, the compass-needle
shows sympathy with some disturbing element,
the cause of which he believes to exist in the
mountains which rise along the shore. He
repeats the stories of ancient skippers, of vessels
having been lured out of their course by the
deviation of the guiding-needle, which
succumbed to the potent influence exerted in those
hills of iron ore; heeding not the fact that the
disturbing agent is the iron on board of his own
ship, and not the magnetic oxide of the distant
The ship being now within the estuary of the
St. Lawrence River, must encounter many risks
before she reaches the true mouth of the river,
at the Bic Islands.
The shores along this arm of the gulf are wild
and sombre. Rocky precipices frown upon the
swift tidal current that rushes past their bases.
A few small settlements of fishermen and pilots,
like Metis, Father Point, and Rimousky, are
discovered at long intervals along the coast.
In these St. Lawrence hamlets, and
throughout Lower Canada, a patois is spoken which is
unintelligible to the Londoner or Parisian; and
these villagers, the descendants of the French
colonists, may be said to be a people destitute
of a written language, and strangers to a
While holding a commission from Francis the
First, king of France, Jacques Cartier discovered
the Gulf of St. Lawrence, during his first
voyage of exploration in the new world. He
entered the gulf on St. Lawrence's day, in the
spring of 1534, and named it in honor of the
event. Cartier explored no farther to the west
than about the mouth of the estuary which is
divided by the island of Anticosti. It was
during his second voyage, in the following year,
that he discovered and explored the great river.
Of the desolate shores of Labrador, on the
north coast, he said, "It might as well as not
be taken for the country assigned by God to
The distance from Quebec to Cape Gaspe,
measured upon a course which a steamer would
be compelled to take, is four hundred and seven
statute miles. The ship first enters the current
of the river St. Lawrence at the two Bic
Islands, where it has a width of about twenty
miles. By consulting most maps the reader will
find that geographers carry the river nearly two
hundred miles beyond its usual current. In fact,
they appropriate the whole estuary, which, in
places, is nearly one hundred miles in width,
and call it a river -- a river which lacks the
characteristics of a river, the currents of which
vary with the winds and tidal influences, and
the waters of which are as salt as those of the
briny deep.
Here, in the mouth of the river, at the Bics,
secure anchorage for vessels may be found; but
below, in the estuary, for a distance of more
than two hundred and forty-five miles, to Gaspe,
there is but one port of refuge, that of Seven
Islands, on the north coast.
As the ship ascends the river from Bic Islands,
a passage of about one hundred and sixty statute
miles to Quebec, she struggles against a strong
current. Picturesque islands and little villages,
such as St. Andre, St. Anne, St. Rogue, St. Jean,
and St. Thomas, relieve the monotony. But very
different is the winter aspect of this river, when
closed to navigation by ice from November until
Spring. Of the many tributaries which give
strength to the current of the St. Lawrence and
contribute to its glory, the Saguenay River with
its remarkable scenery is counted one of the
wonders of our continent. It joins the great
river from the north shore, about one hundred
and thirty-four statute miles below Quebec.
Upon the left bank, at its mouth, nestles the
little village of Tadousac, the summer retreat
of the governor-general of the Dominion of
American history claims for the Roman
Catholic church of this settlement an age second
only to that of the old Spanish cathedral at St.
Augustine, Florida. For three hundred years
the storms of winter have beaten upon its walls,
but it stands a silent yet eloquent monument of
the pious zeal of the ancient Fathers, who came
to conquer Satan in the wilderness of a new
world. The Saguenay has become the "Mecca"
of northern tourists, ever attracting them with
its wild and fascinating scenery. Capes Eternity
and Trinity guard the entrance to Eternity Bay.
The first towers sublimely to a height of
eighteen hundred feet, the other is only a little
lower. A visit to this mysterious river, with its
deep, dark waters and picturesque views, will
repay the traveller for the discomforts of a long
and expensive journey.
Where the turbulent current of the Saguenay
mingles angrily with that of the St. Lawrence,
there may be seen disporting in the waves the
white whale of aquariums, which is not a whale
at all, but a true porpoise (Delphinopterus
Catodon, as he is now called by naturalists), having
teeth in the jaws, and being destitute of the
fringed bone of the whalebone whales. This
interesting creature is very abundant in the
Arctic Ocean on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides,
and has its southern limits in the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, although one is occasionally seen in
the Bay of Fundy, and it is reported to have
been observed about Cape Cod, on the
Massachusetts coast.
As the ship nears the first great port of the
St. Lawrence River, the large and well
cultivated island of Orleans is passed, and the bold
fortifications of Quebec, high up on the face of
Point Diamond, and flanked by the houses of the
French city, break upon the vision of the mariner.
To the right, and below the city, which
Champlain founded, and in which his unknown
ashes repose, are the beautiful Falls of
Montmorency, gleaming in all the whiteness of their
falling waters and mists, like the bridal veil of a
giantess. The vessel has safely made her
passage, and now comes to anchor in the Basin of
Quebec. The sails are furled, and the heart of
the sailor is merry, for the many dangers which
beset the ship while approaching and entering
the great water-way of the continent are now
The canoe traveller can ascend the St.
Lawrence River to Lake Ontario, avoiding the
rapids and shoals by making use of seven canals
of a total length of forty-seven miles. He may
then skirt the shores of Lake Ontario, and enter
Lake Erie by the canal which passes around the
celebrated Falls of Niagara. From the last great
inland sea he can visit lakes Huron, Michigan,
and, with the assistance of a short canal, the
grandest of all, Superior. When he has reached
the town of Duluth, at the southwestern end of
Superior, which is the terminus of the Northern
Pacific Railroad, our traveller will have paddled
(following the contours of the land) over two
thousand miles from salt water into the
American continent without having been compelled to
make a portage with his little craft. Let him
now make his first portage westward, over the
road one hundred and fifteen miles from
Duluth to the crossing of the Mississippi River at
Brainerd, and launch his boat on the Father of
Waters, which he may descend with but few
interruptions to below the Falls of St. Anthony,
at Minneapolis; or, if he will take his boat by
rail from Duluth, one hundred and fifty-five miles,
to St. Paul, he can launch his canoe, and follow
the steamboat to the Gulf of Mexico. This is
the longest, and may be called the canoeist's
western route to the great Southern Sea. In
St. Louis County, Minnesota, the water from
"Seven Beaver Lakes" flows south-southwest,
and joins the Flood-Wood River; there taking
an easterly course towards Duluth, it empties
into Lake Superior. This is the St. Louis River,
the first tributary of the mighty St. Lawrence
system. From the head waters of the St. Louis
to the mouth of the St. Lawrence at Bic Islands,
where it enters the great estuary, the length of
this great water system, including the great
Lakes, is about two thousand miles. The area thus
drained by the St. Lawrence River is nearly six
millions of square miles. The largest craft can
ascend it to Quebec, and smaller ones to
Montreal; above which city, navigation being
impeded by rapids, the seven canals before
mentioned have been constructed that vessels may
avoid this danger while voyaging to Lake Ontario.
The southern and shorter coast route to the
gulf leaves the great river at the Acadian town
of Sorel, where the quiet Richelieu flows into
the St. Lawrence River. Of the two long routes
offered me I selected the southern, leaving the
other to be traversed at some future time. To
follow the contours of rivers, bays, and sounds,
a voyage of at least twenty-five hundred miles
was before me. It was my intention to explore
the connecting watercourses southward, without
making a single portage, as far as Cape
Henlopen, a sandy headland at the entrance of
Delaware Bay; there, by making short portages from
one watercourse to another, to navigate along
the interior of the Atlantic coast to the St. Mary's
River, which is a dividing line between Georgia
and Florida. From the Atlantic coast of
southern Georgia, I proposed to cross the peninsula
of Florida by way of the St. Mary's River, to
Okefenokee Swamp; thence, by portage, to the
Suwanee River, and by descending that stream
(the boundary line of a geographical division --
eastern and middle Florida), to reach the coast
of the Gulf of Mexico, which was to be the
terminal point of my canoe journey. Charts, maps
and sea-faring men had informed me that about
twenty-three hundred miles of the trip could be
made upon land-locked waters, but about two
hundred miles of voyaging must be done upon
the open Atlantic Ocean.
As I now write, I smilingly remember how
erroneous were my advisers; for, while
prosecuting my voyage, I was but once upon the open
sea and then through mistake and for only a
few minutes. Had I then known that I could
have followed the whole route in a small boat
upon strictly interior waters, I should have
paddled from the Basin of Quebec in the light
paper canoe which I afterwards adopted at Troy,
and which carried me alone in safety two
thousand miles to the warm regions of the Gulf of
Mexico. The counsels of old seamen had
influenced me to adopt a large wooden clinker-built,
decked canoe, eighteen feet long, forty-five inches
beam, and twenty-four inches depth of hold,
which weighed, with oars, rudder, mast and sail,
above three hundred pounds. The Mayeta was
built by an excellent workman, Mr. J. S.
Lamson, at Bordentown, New Jersey. The boat was
sharp at each end, and the lines from amidships
to stem, and from amidships to stempost, were
alike. She possessed that essential characteristic
of seaworthiness, abundant sheer. The deck was
pierced for a cockpit in the centre, which was
six feet long and surrounded by a high combing
to keep out water. The builder had done his
best to make the Mayeta serve for rowing and
sailing -- a most difficult combination, and one
not usually successful.
On the morning of July 4, 1874, I entered
the Basin of Quebec with my wooden canoe
and my waterman, one David Bodfish, a
"shoreman" of New Jersey. After weeks of
preparation and weary travel by rail and by water, we
had steamed up the Gulf and the River of St.
Lawrence to this our most northern point of
departure. We viewed the frowning heights
upon which was perched the city of Quebec
with unalloyed pleasure, and eagerly scrambled
up the high banks to see the interesting old city.
The tide, which rises at the city piers eighteen
feet in the spring, during the neaps reaches only
thirteen feet. Late in the afternoon the
incoming tide promised to assist us in ascending the
river, the downward current of which runs with
torrent-like velocity, and with a depth abreast
the city of from sixteen to twenty fathoms.
Against this current powerful steamers run one
hundred and eighty miles up the river to
Montreal in eighteen hours, and descend in fourteen
hours, including two hours' stoppages at Sorel
and Three Rivers. At six o'clock P. M. we
pushed off into the river, which is about
two-thirds of a mile wide at this point, and
commenced our voyage; but fierce gusts of wind
arose and drove us to the shelter of Mr.
Hamilton's lumber-yard on the opposite shore, where
we passed the night, sleeping comfortably upon
cushions which we spread on the narrow floor
of the boat. Sunday was to be spent in camp;
but when dawn appeared we were not allowed
build a fire on the lumber pier, and were
forced to ascend the St. Lawrence in quest of a
retired spot above the landing of St. Croix, on
the right bank of the river. The tide had been
a high one when we beached our boat at the foot
of a bluff. Two hours later the receding tide
left us a quarter of a mile from the current.
The river was fully two miles wide at this point,
and so powerful was its current that steamers
anchored in it were obliged to keep their wheels
slowly revolving to ease the strain on their
anchors. Early on Monday morning we beheld
with consternation that the tide did not reach
our boat, and by dint of hard labor we
constructed a railroad from a neighboring fence,
and moved the Mayeta on rollers upon it over
the mud and the projecting reef of rocks some
five hundred feet to the water, then embarking,
rowed close along the shore to avoid the current.
A deep fog settled down upon us, and we were
driven to camp again on the left bank, where a
cataract tumbled over the rocks fifty or more
feet. Tuesday was a sunny day, but the usual
head wind greeted us. The water would rise
along-shore on the flood three hours before the
downward current was checked in the channel
of the river. We could not place any
dependence in the regularity of the tides, as strong
winds and freshets in the tributaries influence
them. Earlier in the season, as a writer
remarks, "until the upland waters have all run
down, and the great rivers have discharged the
freshets caused by thawing of the snows in the
spring of the year, this current, in spite of tides,
will always run down." To the uninitiated the
spectacle is a curious one, of the flood tide rising
and swelling the waters of a great river some
eight to ten feet, while the current at the surface
is rapidly descending the course of the stream.
Finding that the wind usually rose and fell
with the sun, we now made it a rule to anchor
our boat during most of the day and pull against
the current at night. The moon and the bright
auroral lights made this task an agreeable one.
Then, too, we had Coggia's comet speeding
through the northern heavens, awakening many
an odd conjecture in the mind of my old salt.
In this high latitude day dawned before three
o'clock, and the twilight lingered so long that
we could read the fine print of a newspaper
without effort at a quarter to nine o'clock P. M.
The lofty shores that surrounded us at Quebec
gradually decreased in elevation, and the tides
affected the river less and less as we approached
Three Rivers, where they seemed to cease
altogether. We reached the great lumber station
of Three Rivers, which is located on the left
bank of the St. Lawrence, on Friday evening,
and moved our canoe into quiet waters near the
entrance of Lake of St. Peter. Rain squalls
kept us close under our hatch-cloth till eleven
o'clock A. M. on Saturday, when, the wind being
fair, we determined to make an attempt to reach
Sorel, which would afford us a pleasant
camping-ground for Sunday.
Lake of St. Peter is a shoal sheet of water
twenty-two miles long and nearly eight miles
wide, a bad place to cross in a small boat in
windy weather. We set our sail and sped
merrily on, but the tempest pressed us sorely,
compelling us to take in our sail and scud under
bare poles until one o'clock, when we
double-reefed and set the sail. We now flew over the
short and swashy seas as blast after blast struck
our little craft. At three o'clock the wind
slackened, permitting us to shake out our reefs and
crowd on all sail. A labyrinth of islands closed
the lake at its western end, and we looked with
anxiety to find among them an opening through
which we might pass into the river St.
Lawrence again. At five o'clock the wind veered
to the north, with squalls increasing in intensity.
We steered for a low, grassy island, which
seemed to separate us from the river. The wind
was not free enough to permit us to weather it,
so we decided to beach the boat and escape the
furious tempest. But when we struck the marshy
island we kept moving on through the rushes
that covered it, and fairly sailed over its
submerged soil into the broad water on the other
side. Bodfish earnestly advised the propriety of
anchoring here for the night, saying, "It is too
rough to go on;" but the temptation held out
by the proximity to Sorel determined me to
take the risk and drive on. Again we bounded
out upon rough water, with the screeching
tempest upon us. David took the tiller, while I sat
upon the weather-rail to steady the boat. The
Mayeta was now to be put to a severe test; she
was to cross seas that could easily trip a boat of
her size; but the wooden canoe was worthy of
her builder, and flew like an affrighted bird over
the foaming waves across the broad water, to
the shelter of a wooded, half submerged island,
out of which rose, on piles, a little light-house.
Under this lee we crept along in safety. The
sail was furled, never to be used in storm again.
The wind went down with the sinking sun, and
a delightful calm favored us for our row up the
narrowing river, eight miles to the place of
Soon after nine o'clock we came upon the
Acadian town, Sorel, with its bright lights
cheerily flashing out upon us as we rowed past its
river front. The prow of our canoe was now
pointed southward toward the goal of our
ambition, the great Mexican Gulf; and we were about
to ascend that historic stream, the lovely
Richelieu, upon whose gentle current, two hundred
and sixty-six years before, Champlain had
ascended to the noble lake which bears his name,
and up which the missionary Jogues had been
carried an unwilling captive to bondage and to
We ascended the Richelieu, threading our
way among steam-tugs, canal-boats, and rafts,
to a fringe of rushes growing out of a shallow
flat on the left bank of the river, just above
the town. There, firmly staking the Mayeta
upon her soft bed of mud, secure from danger,
we enjoyed a peaceful rest through the calm
night which followed; and thus ended the rough
passage of one week's duration -- from Quebec
to Sorel.
Quebec was founded by Champlain, July 3,
1680. During his first warlike expedition
into the land of the Iroquois the following year,
escorted by Algonquin and Montagnais Indian
allies, he ascended a river to which was
afterwards given the name of Cardinal Richelieu,
prime minister of Louis XIII. of France. This
stream, which is about eighty miles long,
connects the lake (which Champlain discovered
and named after himself) with the St. Lawrence
River at a point one hundred and forty miles
above Quebec, and forty miles below Montreal.
The waters of lakes George and Champlain
flow northward, through the Richelieu River
into the St. Lawrence. The former stream flows
through a cultivated country, and upon its banks,
after leaving Sorel, are situate the little towns
of St. Ours, St. Rock, St. Denis, St. Antoine, St.
Marks, Beloeil, Chambly, and St. Johns. Small
steamers, tug-boats, and rafts pass from the St.
Lawrence to Lake Champlain (which lies almost
wholly within the United States), following the
Richelieu to Chambly, where it is necessary, to
avoid rapids and shoals, to take the canal that
follows the river's bank twelve miles to St. Johns,
where the Canadian custom-house is located.
Sorel is called William Henry by the Anglo-Saxon
Canadians. The paper published in this
town of seven thousand inhabitants is La
Gazette de Sorel. The river which flows past the
town is called, without authority, by some
geographers, Sorel River, and by others St. Johns,
because the town nearest its source is St. Johns,
and another town at its mouth is Sorel. There
are about one hundred English-speaking families
in Sorel. The American Waterhouse Machinery
supplies the town with water pumped from the
river at a cost of one ton of coal per day. At
ten o'clock on Monday morning we resumed
our journey up the Richelieu, the current of
which was nothing compared with that of the
great river we had left. The average width of
the stream was about a quarter of a mile, and the
grassy shores were made picturesque by groves
of trees and quaintly constructed farm-houses.
It was a rich, pastoral land, abounding in fine
herds of cattle. The country reminded me of
the Acadian region of Grand Pre, which I had
visited during the earlier part of the season.
Here, as there, were delightful pastoral scenes
and rich verdure; but here we still had the
Acadian peasants, while in the land of beautiful
Evangeline no longer were they to be found,
The New Englander now holds the titles to
those deserted old farms of the scattered
colonists. Our rowing was frequently interrupted
by heavy showers, which drove us under our
hatch-cloth for protection. The same large,
two-steepled stone churches, with their
unpainted tin roofs glistening like silver in the sunlight,
marked out here, as on the high banks of the
St. Lawrence River, the site of a village.
Twelve miles of rowing brought us to St. Ours,
where we rested for the night, after wandering
through its shaded and quaint streets. The
village boys and girls came down to see us off the
next morning, waving their kerchiefs, and
shouting "Bon voyage!" Two miles above the town
we encountered a dam three feet high, which
deepened the water on a shoal above it. We
passed through a single lock in company with
rafts of pine logs which were on the way to New
York, to be used for spars. A lockage fee of
twenty-five cents for our boat the lock-master
told us would be collected at Chambly Basin.
It was a pull of nearly six miles to St. Denis,
where the same scene of comfort and plenty
prevailed. Women were washing clothes in large
iron pots at the river's edge, and the hum of the
spinning-wheels issued from the doorways of
the farm-houses. Beehives in the well-stocked
gardens were filled with honey, and the
strawthatched barns had their doors thrown wide
open, as though waiting to receive the harvest.
At intervals along the highway, over the grassy
hills, tall, white wooden crosses were erected;
for this people, like the Acadians of old, are very
religious. Down the current floated "pin-flats,"
a curious scow-like boat, which carries a square
sail, and makes good time only when running
before the wind. St. Antoine and St. Marks
were passed, and the isolated peak of St. Hilaire
loomed up grandly twelve hundred feet on the
right bank of the Richelieu, opposite the town
Beloeil. One mile above Beloeil the Grand
Trunk Railroad crosses the stream, and here we
passed the night. Strong winds and rain squalls
interrupted our progress. At Chambly Basin
we tarried until the evening of July 16, before
entering the canal. Chambly is a
watering-place for Montreal people, who come here to
enjoy the fishing, which is said to be fair.
We had ascended one water-step at St. Ours.
Here we had eight steps to ascend within the
distance of one mile. By means of eight locks,
each one hundred and ten feet long by
twenty-two wide, the Mayeta was lifted seventy-five
feet and one inch in height to the upper level of
the canal. The lock-masters were courteous,
and wished us the usual "Bon voyage!" This
canal was built thirty-four years prior to my visit.
By ten o'clock P. M. We had passed the last lock,
and went into camp in a depression in the bank
of the canal. The journey was resumed at half
past three o'clock the following morning, and
the row of twelve miles to St. Johns was a
delightful one. The last lock (the only one at St.
Johns) was passed, and we had a full clearance
at the Dominion custom-house before noon.
We were again on the Richelieu, with about
twenty-three miles between us and the boundary
line of the United States and Canada, and with
very little current to impede us. As dusk
approached we passed a dismantled old fort,
situated upon an island called Ile aux Noix, and
entered a region inhabited by the large bull-frog,
where we camped for the night, amid the
dolorous voices of these choristers. On Saturday,
the 18th, at an early hour, we were pulling for
the United States, which was about six miles
from our camping-ground. The Richelieu
widened, and we entered Lake Champlain, passing
Fort Montgomery, which is about one thousand
feet south of the boundary line. Champlain has
a width of three fourths of a mile at Fort
Montgomery, and at Rouse's Point expands to two
miles and three quarters. The erection of the
fort was commenced soon after 1812, but in
1818 the work was suspended, as some one
discovered that the site was in Canada, and the
cognomen of Fort Blunder was applied. In the
Webster treaty of 1842, England ceded the
ground to the United States, and Fort
Montgomery was finished at a cost of over half a
million of dollars.
At Rouse's Point, which lies on the west shore
of Lake Champlain about one and one-half miles
south of its confluence with the Richelieu, the
Mayeta was inspected by the United States
custom-house officer, and nothing contraband being
discovered, the little craft was permitted to
continue her voyage.
At the northern end of the harbor of Rouse's
Point is the terminus of the Ogdensburg and the
Champlain and St. Lawrence railroads. The
Vermont Central Railroad connects with the
above by means of a bridge twenty-two hundred
feet in length, which crosses the lake. Before
proceeding further it may interest the reader of
practical mind to know that a very important
movement is on foot to facilitate the navigation
of vessels between the great Lakes, St. Lawrence
River, and Champlain, by the construction of
a ship-canal. The Caughnawaga Ship Canal
Company, "incorporated by special act of the
Dominion of Parliament of Canada, 12th May,
1870," (capital, three million dollars; shares, one
hundred dollars each,) with a board of directors
composed of citizens of the United States and
Canada, has issued its prospectus, from which I
extract the following:
"The commissioners of public works, in
their report of 1859, approved by government,
finally settled the question of route, by declaring
that, 'after a patient and mature consideration of
all the surveys and reports, we are of opinion
that the line following the Chambly Canal and
then crossing to Lake St. Louis near
Caughnawaga, is that which combines and affords in the
greatest degree all the advantages contemplated
by this improvement, and which has been
approved by Messrs. Mills, Swift, and Gamble.'
"The company's Act of Incorporation is in
every respect complete and comprehensive in its
details. It empowers the company to survey, to
take, appropriate, have and hold, to and for the
use of them and their successors, the line and
boundaries of a canal between the St. Lawrence
and Lake Champlain, to build and erect the
same, to select such sites as may be necessary
for basins and docks, as may be considered
expedient by the directors, and to purchase and
dispose of same, with any water-power, as may
be deemed best by the directors for the use and
profit of the company.
"It also empowers the company to cause their
canal to enter into the Chambly Canal, and to
widen, deepen, and enlarge the same, not less in
size than the present St. Lawrence canals; also
the company may take, hold, and use any
portion of the Chambly Canal, and the works
therewith connected, and all the tolls, receipts, and
revenues thereof, upon terms to be settled and
agreed upon between the company and the
governor in council.
"The cost of the canal, with locks of three
hundred feet by forty-five, and with ten feet six
inches the mitre-sill, is now estimated at two
million five hundred thousand dollars, and the
time for its construction may not exceed two
years after breaking ground.
"Probably no question is of more vital
importance to Canada and the western and eastern
United States than the subject of transportation.
The increasing commerce of the Great West, the
rapidity with which the population has of late
flowed into that vast tract of country to the west
and northwest of lakes Erie, Michigan, Huron,
and Superior, have served to convince all
well-informed commercial men that the means of
transit between that country and the seaboard
are far too limited even for the present
necessities of trade; hence it becomes a question of
universal interest how the products of the field, the
mine, and the forest can be most cheaply
forwarded to the consumer. Near the geographical
centre of North America is a vast plateau two
thousand feet above the level of the sea, drained
by the Mississippi to the south, by the St.
Lawrence to the east and by the Saskatchewan and
McKenzie to the north. This vast territory
would have been valueless but for the water
lines which afford cheap transport between it
and the great markets of the world.
"Canada has improved the St. Lawrence by
canals round the rapids of the St. Lawrence, and
by the Welland Canal, connecting lakes Erie and
Ontario, twenty-eight miles in length with a fall
of two hundred and sixty feet, capable of
passing vessels of four hundred tons. The St.
Lawrence, from the east end of Lake Ontario, has a
fall of two hundred and twenty feet, overcome
by seven short canals of an aggregate length of
forty-seven miles, capable of passing vessels of
six hundred and fifty tons. The Richelieu River
is connected with Lake Champlain by a canal
of twelve miles from Chambly. A canal of one
mile in length, at the outlet of Lake Superior,
connects that lake with Lake Huron, and has
two locks, which will pass vessels of two
thousand tons. New York has built a canal from
Buffalo, on Lake Erie, and from Oswego, on
Lake Ontario, to Albany, on the Hudson River,
of three hundred and sixty and of two hundred
and nine miles, capable of passing boats of two
hundred and ten tons; and she has also
constructed a canal from the Hudson River into
Lake Champlain of sixty-five miles, which can
pass boats of eighty tons.
"Such is the nature of the navigation between
tide-water on the Hudson and St. Lawrence and
the upper lakes. The magnitude of the
commerce of the Northwest has compelled the
enlargement of the Erie and Oswego canals from
boats of seventy-eight to two hundred and ten
tons, while the St. Lawrence and Welland canals
have also been enlarged since their first
construction. A further enlargement of the Erie
and Champlain canals is now strongly urged in
consequence of the want of the necessary
facilities of transport for the ever increasing western
trade. The object of the Caughnawaga Ship-canal
is to connect Lake Champlain with the St.
Lawrence by the least possible distance, and
with the smallest amount of lockage. When
built, it will enable the vessel or propeller to
sail from the head of lakes Superior or Michigan
without breaking bulk, and will enable such
vessels to land and receive cargo at Burlington and
Whitehall, from whence western freights can be
carried to and from Boston, and throughout New
England, by railway cheaper than by any other
"It will possess the advantage, when the
Welland Canal is enlarged and the locks of the St.
Lawrence Canal lengthened, of passing vessels
of eight hundred and fifty tons' burden, and with
that size of vessel (impossible on any other route)
of improved model, with facilities for loading and
discharging cargoes at both ends of the route, in
the length of the voyage without transshipment,
in having the least distance between any of
the lake ports and a seaport, and in having the
shortest length of taxed canal navigation. The
Construction of the Caughnawaga Canal, when
carried out, will remedy the difficulties which
now exist and stand in the way of an
uninterrupted water communication between the
western states and the Atlantic seaboard."
From Rouse's Point we proceeded to a
picturesque point which jutted into the lake below
Chazy Landing, and was sheltered by a grove
of trees into which we hauled the Mayeta.
Bodfish's woodcraft enabled him to construct a
wigwam out of rails and rubber blankets, where we
quietly resided until Monday morning. The
owner of the point, Mr. Trombly, invited us to
dinner on Sunday, and exhibited samples of a
ton of maple sugar which he had made from the
sap of one thousand trees.
On Monday, July 20th, we rowed southward.
Our route now skirted the western shore of
Lake Champlain, which is the eastern boundary
of the great Adirondack wilderness. Several of
the tributaries of the lake take their rise in this
region, which is being more and more visited
by the hunter, the fisherman, the artist, and the
tourist, as its natural attractions are becoming
known to the public. The geodetical survey
of the northern wilderness of New York state,
known as the Adirondack country, under the
efficient and energetic labors of Mr. Verplanck
Colvin, will cover an area of nearly five
thousand square miles. In his report of the great
work he eloquently says:
"The Adirondack wilderness may be
considered the wonder and the glory of New York.
It is a vast natural park, one immense and
silent forest, curiously and beautifully broken
by the gleaming waters of a myriad of lakes,
between which rugged mountain-ranges rise as
a sea of granite billows. At the northeast the
mountains culminate within an area of some
hundreds of square miles; and here savage,
treeless peaks, towering above the timber line, crowd
one another, and, standing gloomily shoulder to
shoulder, rear their rocky crests amid the frosty
clouds. The wild beasts may look forth from
the ledges on the mountain-sides over unbroken
woodlands stretching beyond the reach of sight
-- beyond the blue, hazy ridges at the horizon.
The voyager by the canoe beholds lakes in
which these mountains and wild forests are
reflected like inverted reality; now wondrous
in their dark grandeur and solemnity, now
glorious in resplendent autumn color of pearly
beauty. Here -- thrilling sound to huntsman --
echoes the wild melody of the hound,
awakening the solitude with deep-mouthed bay as he
pursues the swift career of deer. The quavering
note of the loon on the lake, the mournful hoot
of the owl at night, with rarer forest voices
have also to the lover of nature their peculiar
charm, and form the wild language of this forest.
"It is this region of lakes and mountains --
whose mountain core is well shown by the
illustration, 'the heart of the Adirondacks' -- that
our citizens desire to reserve forever as a public
forest park, not only as a resort of rest for
themselves and for posterity, but for weighty reasons of
political economy. For reservoirs of water for the
canals and rivers; for the amelioration of spring
floods by the preservation of the forests
sheltering the deep winter snows; for the salvation of
the timber, -- our only cheap source of lumber
supply should the Canadian and western markets
be ruined by fires, or otherwise lost to us, -- its
preservation as a state forest is urgently
demanded. To the number of those chilly peaks amid
which our principal rivers take their rise, I have
added by measurement a dozen or more over
four thousand feet in height, which were before
either nameless, or only vaguely known by the
names given them by hunters and trappers.
"It is well to note that the final hypsometrical
computations fully affirm my discovery that in
Mount Haystack we have another mountain of
five thousand feet altitude. It may not be
uninteresting also to remark that the difference
between the altitudes of Mount Marcy and Mount
Washington of the White Mountains of New
Hampshire is found to be quite eight hundred
feet. Mount Marcy, Mount MacIntyre, and
Mount Haystack are to be remembered as the
three royal summits of the state.
"The four prominent peaks are --
Mount Marcy{ Mount Tahawus -- "I cleave the clouds,"} 5,402.65
Mount Haystack, 5,006.73
Mount Maclntyre, 5,201.80
Mount Skylight, 4,977.76."
If the general reader will pardon a seeming
digression to gratify the curiosity of some of my
boating friends, I will give from the report of
the Adirondack Survey Mr. Colvin's account
of his singular boat, -- one of the lightest yet
constructed, and weighing only as much as
a hunter's double-barrelled gun.
Mr. Colvin says:
"I also had constructed a canvas boat, of my
own invention, for use in the interior of the
wilderness on such of the mountain lakes as were
inaccessible to boats, and which it would be
necessary to map. This boat was peculiar; no
more frame being needed than could be readily
cut in thirty minutes in the first thicket. It was
twelve feet long, with thin sheet brass prows,
riveted on, and so fitted as to receive the keelson,
prow pieces, and ribs (of boughs), when
required; the canoe being made water-proof with
pure rubber gum, dissolved in naphtha, rubbed
into it."
Page 43 of Mr. Colvin's report informs the
reader how well this novel craft served the
purpose for which it was built.
"September 12 was devoted to levelling and
topographical work at Ampersand Pond, a solitary
lake locked in by mountains, and seldom visited.
There was no boat upon its surface, and in order
to complete the hydrographical work we had
now, of necessity, to try my portable canvas boat,
which had hitherto done service as bed or tent.
Cutting green rods for ribs, we unrolled the boat
and tied them in, lashing poles for gunwales at
the sides, and in a short time our canvas canoe,
buoyant as a cork, was floating on the water.
The guides, who had been unable to believe that
the flimsy bag they carried could be used as a
boat, were in ecstasies. Rude but efficient
paddles were hastily hewn from the nearest tree,
and soon we were all gliding in our ten-pound
boat over the waves of Ampersand, which
glittered in the morning sunlight. To the guides
the boat was something astonishing; they could
not refrain from laughter to find that they were
really afloat in it, and pointed with surprise at
the waves, which could be seen through the
boat, rippling against its sides. With the aid of
the boat, with prismatic compass and sextant, I
was able to secure an excellent map of the lake;
and we almost succeeded in catching a deer,
which was driven into the lake by a strange
hound. The dog lost the trail at the water, and
desiring to put him on the track, we paddled to
him. He scrambled into the boat with an air of
satisfaction, as if he had always travelled in just
such a thing. Soon we had regained the trail,
and making the mountains echo to his voice,
he again pursued the deer on into the trackless
"Continuing our work, we passed down into
the outlet, where, in trying to effect a landing,
we suddenly came face to face with a large
panther, which had evidently been watching us.
He fled at our approach.
"Our baggage was quickly packed, and the
temporary frame of the canoe having been taken
out and thrown away, we rolled up our boat and
put it in the bottom of a knapsack. . . . The same
day by noon we reached Cold Brook again, here
navigable. In an hour and a half we had
re-framed the canvas, cut out two paddles from a
dry cedar-tree, had dinner, loaded the boat, and
were off; easily gliding down stream to the
Saranac River. Three men, the heaped baggage in
the centre, and the solemn hound, who seemed
to consider himself part of the company, sitting
upright near the prow, forming in all a burden
of about one third of a ton, was a severe test of
the green boughs of which we had made the frame.
"Ascending the Saranac River, we struck out
into the broad Saranac Lake, some six miles
in length, and though the winds and the waves
buffeted us, the canvas sides of the boat
responding elastically to each beat of the waves, we got
safely along till near the Sister Islands, when, the
wind blowing very fresh, the white-capped
rollers began to pitch into the boat. The exertions
of the guides brought us under the lee shore, and
at evening we disembarked at Martin's."
Geographies, guide-books, and historical works
frequently give the length of Lake Champlain as
one hundred and fifty, or at the least one hundred
and forty miles. These distances are not correct.
The lake proper begins at a point near
Ticonderoga and ends not far from the boundary line of
the United States and Canada. Champlain is not
less than one hundred nor more than one hundred
and twelve miles long. The Champlain Canal,
which connects the river that flows from
Whitehall into the lake with the Hudson River, is
sixty-four miles long, ending at the Erie Canal at
Junction Lock, near Troy. From Junction Lock
to Albany, along the Erie Canal, it is six miles;
or seventy miles from Whitehall to Albany by
canal route. This distance has frequently been
given as fifty-one miles.
From the United States boundary line south-ward
it is a distance of seven miles to Isle la
Motte, which island is five and a half miles long
by one and three quarters wide, with a
lighthouse upon its northwest point. From the New
York shore of Monti Bay, across the end of Isle
la Motte to St. Albans, Vermont, is a distance of
thirteen and a half miles. Two miles south of
the island, on the west shore, is Point au Roche
light; and two miles and three quarters south of
it is Rocky Point, the terminus of Long Point.
Next comes Treadwell Bay, three miles across;
then two miles further on is Cumberland Head
and its light-house. West from Cumberland,
three miles across a large bay, is Plattsburgh, at
the mouth of the Saranac River, a town of five
thousand inhabitants. In this vicinity
Commodore Macdonough fought the British fleet in 1814.
These are historic waters, which have witnessed
the scene of many a bloody struggle between
French, English, and Indian adversaries. Off
Cumberland Head, and dividing the lake, is
Grand Isle, twelve miles in length and from
three to four in width.
The village of Port Kent is near the mouth of
the Ausable River, which flows out of the
northern Adirondack country. A few miles from the
lake is the natural wonder, the Ausable Chasm,
which is nearly two miles in length. The river
has worn a channel in the Potsdam sandstone
formation to a depth, in places, of two hundred
feet. Between high walls of rock the river is
compressed in one place to ten feet in breadth,
and dashes wildly over falls and rapids on its
way to Lake Champlain. It is said to rival the
famous Swiss Gorge du Triant.
Schuyler's Island, upon the shore of which we
passed Tuesday night, is nearly in the latitude of
Burlington, Vermont. The distance from Port
Douglass on the west, to Burlington on the east
side of Champlain, over an open expanse of
water, is nine miles and three quarters. We
breakfasted by starlight, and passed Ligonier's
Point early in the day. One mile and a half east
of it is the group of little islands called Four
Brothers. The lake grew narrower as we rowed
southward, until, after passing Port Henry Iron
Works, and the high promontory of Crown Point,
upon which are the ruins of the French Fort
Frederic, built in 1731, it has a width of only
two miles.
At eight o'clock P. M. we dropped anchor
under the banks of Ticonderoga, not far from the
outlet of Lake George. It is four miles by road
between the two lakes. The stream which
connects them can be ascended from Champlain
about two miles to the Iron Works, the
remainder of the river being filled with rapids.
A railroad now (1867) connects lakes George
and Champlain, over which an easy portage can
be made. The ruined walls of Fort
Ticonderoga are near the railroad landing. A little
south of this the lake grows so narrow as to
resemble a river. At its southern end,
twenty-four miles from Ticonderoga, is situated the
town of Whitehall, where the Champlain and
Hudson River Canal forms a junction with Lake
Champlain. This long river-like termination of
Champlain gave to the Indians the fancy of
calling it Tisinondrosa -- "the tail of the lake;"
which in mouths inexperienced with the savage
tongue became corrupted into Ticonderoga.
Wednesday broke upon us a glorious day.
Proceeding three miles to Patterson's Landing,
into the "tail of the lake," I left the Mayeta to
explore on foot the shores of Lake George,
promising Bodfish to join him at Whitehall when
my work should be finished.
In the last chapter I gave, from seemingly
good authority, the appellation of the narrow
terminal water of the southern end of Lake
Champlain, "the tail of the lake." Another
authority, in describing Lake George, says:
"The Indians named the lake, on account of the
purity of its waters, Horicon, or 'silvery water;'
they also called it Canderi-oit, or 'the tail of
the lake,' on account of its connecting with Lake
Champlain." Cooper, in his "Last of the
Mohicans," says: "It occurred to me that the
French name of the lake was too complicated,
the American too commonplace, and the Indian
too unpronounceable for either to be used
familiarly in a work of fiction." So he called it
History furnishes us with the following facts
in regard to the discovery of the lake. While
journeying up the St. Lawrence in a fleet of
twelve canoes, on a mission to the friendly
Huron aborigines, Father Isaac Jogues and his two
friends, donnes of the mission, Rene Goupil and
Guillaume Couture, with another Frenchman,
were captured at the western end of Lake of
St. Peter by a band of Iroquois, which was on a
marauding expedition from the Mohawk River
country, near what is now the city of Troy. In
the panic caused by the sudden onslaught of the
Iroquois, the unconverted portion of the thirty-six
Huron allies of the Frenchmen fled into the
woods, while the christianized portion defended
the white men for a while. A reinforcement of
the enemy soon scattered these also, but not
until the Frenchmen and a few of the Hurons
were made captive. This was on the 2d of
August, 1642.
According to Francis Parkman, the author of
"The Jesuits in North America," the savages
tortured Jogues and his white companions,
striping off their clothing, tearing out their
fingernails with their teeth, and gnawing their fingers
with the fury of beasts. The seventy Iroquois
returned southward, following the River
Richelieu, Lake Champlain, and Lake George, en
route for the Mohawk towns. Meeting a war
party of two hundred of their own nation on
one of the islands of Champlain, the Indians
formed two parallel lines between which the
captives were forced to run for their lives, while
the savages struck at them with thorny sticks
and clubs. Father Jogues fell exhausted to the
ground, bathed in his own blood, when fire was
applied to his body. At night the young
warriors tormented the poor captives by opening
their wounds and tearing out their hair and
beards. The day following this night of torture
the Indians and their mangled captives reached
the promontory of Ticonderoga, along the base
of which flowed the limpid waters, the outlet of
Lake George. Here the party made a portage
through the primeval forests, carrying their
canoes and cargoes on their backs, when suddenly
there broke upon their view the dark blue waters
of a beautiful lake, which Mr. Parkman thus
eloquently describes:
"Like a fair naiad of the wilderness it
slumbered between the guardian mountains that
breathe from crag and forest the stern poetry of
war. But all then was solitude; and the clang
of trumpets, the roar of cannon, and the deadly
crack of the rifle had never as yet awakened
their angry echoes. Again the canoes were
launched and the wild flotilla glided on its way,
now in the shadow of the heights, now on the
broad expanse, now among the devious
channels of the Narrows, beset with woody islets
where the hot air was redolent of the pine, the
spruce, and the cedar,-- till they neared that
tragic shore where, in the following century,
New England rustics battled the soldiers of
Dieskau, where Montcalm planted his batteries,
where the red cross waved so long amid the
smoke, and where, at length, the summer night
was hideous with carnage, and an honored name
was stained with a memory of blood. The
Indians landed at or near the future site of Fort
William Henry, left their canoes, and with their
prisoners began their march for the nearest
Mohawk town."
Father Jogues lived among his captors until
the fall of 1643, when he escaped in a vessel
from the Dutch settlement of Rensselaerswyck
(Albany), to which place the Iroquois had gone
to trade with the inhabitants. He arrived at the
Jesuit college of Rennes, France, in a most
destitute condition, on the 5th of January, 1644,
where he was joyfully received and kindly cared
for. When he appeared before Queen Anne of
Austria, the woman who wore a diadem thought
it a privilege to kiss his mutilated hands. -- In the
Roman Catholic church a deformed or mutilated
priest cannot say mass; he must be a perfect
man in body and mind before the Lord. Father
Jogues wished to return to his old missionary
field; so, to restore to him his lost right of saying
mass, the Pope granted his prayer by a special
dispensation. In the spring of 1643 he returned
to the St. Lawrence country to found a new
mission, to be called the Mission of Martyrs. His
Superior at Montreal ordered him to proceed to
the country of the Mohawks, and in company
with Sieur Bourdon, a government engineer, and
six Indians, he followed the Richelieu and
Champlain, which the savages called "the doorway
of the country," until the little party stood on
the northern end of Lake George, on the
evening of Corpus Christi; and with the catholic
spirit of the Jesuit missionary he christened it
Lac St. Sacrement, and this name it bore for a
whole century. On the 18th of October, 1646,
the tomahawk of the savage ended the life
of Father Jogues, who, after suffering many
tortures and indignities from his Iroquois captors,
died in their midst while working for their
salvation in his field of Christian labor.
The right of a discoverer to name new lakes
and rivers is old and unquestioned. A
missionary of the cross penetrated an unexplored
wilderness and found this noblest gem of the lower
Adirondacks, unknown to civilized man.
Impressed with this sublime work of his Creator,
the martyred priest christened it St. Sacrement.
One hundred years later came troops of soldiers
with mouths filled with strange oaths, cursing
their enemies. What respect had they for the
rights of discoverers or martyred missionaries?
So General Johnson, "an ambitious Irishman,"
discarded the Christian name of the lake and
replaced it with the English one of George.
He did not name it after St. George, the patron
saint of England, of whom history asserts that
he "was identical with a native of either
Cappadocia or Cilicia, who raised himself by flattery
of the great from the meanest circumstances to
be purveyor of bacon for the army, and who was
put to death with two of his ministers by a mob,
for peculations, A. D. 361;" but he took that of
a sensual king, George of England, in order to
advance his own interests with that monarch.
For more than a century Lake George was the
highway between Canada and the Hudson River.
Its pure waters were so much esteemed as to be
taken regularly to Canada to be consecrated and
used in the Roman Catholic churches in
baptismal and other sacred rites. The lake was
frequently occupied by armies, and the forts George
and William Henry, at the southern end, possess
most interesting historical associations. The
novelist Cooper made Lake George a region of
romance. To the young generation of
Americans who yearly visit its shores it is an El
Dorado, and the very air breathes love as they
glide in their light boats over its pellucid waters,
adding to the picturesqueness of the scene, and
supplying that need ever felt, no matter what
the natural beauty, -- the presence of man. I
believe even the Garden of Eden itself could
not have been perfect till among its shady
groves fell the shadows of our first parents.
The cool retreats, the jutting promontories, the
moss-covered rocks against which the waves
softly break, -- if these had tongues, they would,
like Tennyson's Brook, "go on forever," for
surely they would never have done telling the
tender tales they have heard. Nor would it be
possible to find a more fitting spot for the
cultivation of love and sentiment than this charming
lake affords; for Nature seems to have created
Lake George in one of her happiest moments.
This lake is about thirty-four miles long, and
varies in width from one to four miles. Its
greatest depth is about the same as that of
Champlain. It possesses (like all the American
lakes when used as fashionable watering-places)
the usual three hundred and sixty-five islands.
When I left the Mayeta I followed a narrow
footpath to a rough mountain road, which in
turn led me through the forests towards Lake
George. In an isolated dell I found the home
of one Levi Smith, who piloted me through the
woods to the lake, and ferried me in a skiff
across to Hague, when I dined at the hotel, and
resumed my journey along the shores to Sabbath
Day Point, where at four o'clock P. M. a steamer
on its trip from Ticonderoga to the south end of
the lake stopped and took me on board. We
steamed southward to where high mountains
shut in the lake, and for several miles threaded
the "Narrows" with its many pretty islands,
upon one of which Mr. J. Henry Hill, the
hermit-artist, had erected his modest home, and
where he toiled at his studies early and late,
summer and winter. Three goats and a squirrel
were his only companions in this lonely but
romantic spot.
During one cold winter, when the lake was
frozen over to a depth of two feet, and the
forests were mantled in snow, Mr. Hill's brother,
a civil engineer, made a visit to this icy region,
and the two brothers surveyed the Narrows,
making a correct map of that portion of the lake,
with all its islands carefully located. Mr. Hill
afterwards made an etching of this map,
surrounding it with an artistic border representing
objects of interest in the locality.
Late in the afternoon the steamer landed me
at Crosbyside, on the east shore, about a mile
from the head of the lake, resting beneath the
shady groves of which I beheld one of the most
charming views of Lake George. Early the
following morning I took up my abode with a
farmer, one William Lockhart, a genial and
eccentric gentleman, and a descendant of Sir
Walter Scott's son-in-law. Mr. Lockhart's little
cottage is half a mile north of Crosbyside, and
near the high bluff which Mr. Charles O'Conor,
the distinguished lawyer of New York city,
presented to the Paulist Fathers, whose
establishment is on Fifty-ninth Street in that metropolis.
Here the members of the new Order come to
pass their summer vacations, bringing with them
their theological students. The Paulists are hard
workers, visiting and holding "missions" in
Minnesota, California, and other parts of the United
States. They seem to feel forcibly the truth
expressed in these lines, which are to be found
in "Aspirations of Nature," a work written by
the founder of their order, Father Hecker:
"Existence is not a dream, but a solemn reality.
Life was not given to be thrown away on
miserable sophisms but to be employed in earnest
search after truth."
Mr. Lockhart kindly offered to escort me to the
convent of St. Mary's on the Lake; and after
following the mountain road for a quarter of a
mile to the north of the cottage of my companion,
we entered the shady grounds of the convent and
were kindly received on the long piazza by the
Father Superior, Rev. A. F. Hewit, who
introduced me to several of his co-laborers, a party
of them having just returned from an excursion
to the Harbor Islands at the northern end of the
Narrows, which property is owned by the Order.
I was told that the members of this new religious
establishment numbered about thirty, and that all
but four were converts from our Protestant faith.
Their property in New York city is probably
worth half a million of dollars, and the Sunday
schools under their charge contain about
fifteen hundred scholars. Here, among others,
I saw Father D____, who gave up his
distinguished position as instructor of the art of war
at the Military Academy of West Point, to
become a soldier of the Cross, preferring to serve
his Master by preaching the gospel of peace
to mankind. Under an overhanging rock at a
little distance were conversing, most happily,
two young priests, who a few years before had
fought on opposite sides during the civil strife
which resulted in the preservation of the Great
A mathematician and astronomer from the
Cambridge and also from a government
observatory, who had donned the cassock, gave me
much valuable information in regard to the
mountain peaks of Lake George,* which he had
carefully studied and accurately measured. Through
his courtesy and generosity I am enabled to give
on the preceding page the results of his labors.
* Heights of mountains of Lake George, New York state,
obtained by Rev. George M. Searle, C. S. P.
Finch, between Buck and Spruce, 1595 feet.
Cat-Head, near Bolton, 1640 feet.
Prospect Mountain, west of Lake George village, 1730 feet.
Spruce, near Buck Mountain, 1820 feet.
Buck, east shore, south of Narrows, 2005 feet.
Rear, between Buck and Black, 2200 feet.
Black, the monarch of Lake George, 2320 feet.
From another authority I find that Lake Champlain is ninety-three
feet above the Atlantic tide-level, and that Lake George is
two hundred and forty feet above Lake Champlain, or three
hundred and thirty-three feet above the sea.
The interesting conversation was here
interrupted by the tolling of the convent bell. A
deep silence prevailed, as, with uncovered heads
and upon bended knees, the whole company most
devoutly crossed themselves while repeating
a prayer. I felt much drawn towards a young
priest with delicate and refined features, who
now engaged me in conversation. He was an
adept in all that related to boats. He loved the
beautiful lake, and was never happier than when
upon its mirrored surface, except when laboring
at his duties among the poor of the ninth
district of New York. The son of a distinguished
general, he inherited rare talents, which were
placed at his Saviour's service. His Christianity
was so liberal, his aspirations so noble, his
sympathies so strong, that I became much interested
in him; and when I left the lake, shortly after,
he quietly said, "When you return next summer
to build your cottage, let me help you plan the
boat-house." But when I returned to the shores
of Lake George, after the completion of my
voyage to the Gulf of Mexico, no helping hand was
there, and I built my boat-house unassisted; for
the gentle spirit of the missionary Paulist had
gone to God who gave it, and Father Rosencranz
was receiving his reward.
When I joined my travelling companion, David
Bodfish, he grievously inveighed against the
community of Whitehall because some dishonest
boatmen from the canal had appropriated the
stock of pipes and tobacco he had laid in for his
three or four days' voyage to Albany. "Sixty
cents' worth of new pipes and tobacco," said
David, in injured tones, "is a great loss, and a
Bodfish never was worth anything at work without
his tobacco. I used to pour speerits down to keep
my speerits up, but of late years I have depended
on tobacco, as the speerits one gets nowadays
isn't the same kind we got when I was a boy and
worked in old Hawkin Swamp."
Canal voyaging, after one has experienced the
sweet influences of lakes George and
Champlain, is indeed monotonous. But to follow
connecting watercourses it was necessary for the
Mayeta to traverse the Champlain Canal
(sixty-four) and the Erie Canal (six miles) from
Whitehall to Albany on the Hudson River, a total
distance of seventy miles.
There was nothing of sufficient interest in the
passage of the canal to be worthy of record save
the giving way of a lock-gate, near Troy, and
the precipitating of a canal-boat into the vortex
of waters that followed. By this accident my
boat was detained one day on the banks of the
canal. On the fourth day the Mayeta ended her
services by arriving at Albany, where, after a
journey of four hundred miles, experience had
taught me that I could travel more quickly in a
lighter boat, and more conveniently and
economically without a companion. It was now about
the first week in August, and the delay which
would attend the building of a new boat
especially adapted for the journey of two thousand
miles yet to be travelled would not be lost, as by
waiting a few weeks, time would be given for
the malaria on the rivers of New Jersey,
Delaware, and Maryland, and even farther south, to
be eradicated by the fall frosts. David returned
to his New Jersey home a happy man, invested
with the importance which attaches itself to a
great traveller. I had unfortunately contributed
to Mr. Bodfish's thirst for the marvellous by
reading to him at night, in our lonely camp,
Jules Verne's imaginative "Journey to the
Centre of the Earth." David was in ecstasies over
this wonderful contribution to fiction. He
preferred fiction to truth at any time. Once, while
reading to him a chapter of the above work, his
credulity was so challenged that he became
excited, and broke forth with, "Say, boss, how do
these big book-men larn to lie so well? does it
come nat'ral to them, or is it got by edication?"
I have since heard that when Mr. Bodfish arrived
in the pine-wood regions of New Jersey he
related to his friends his adventures "in furrin
parts," as he styled the Dominion of Canada,
and so interlaced the facts of the cruise of the
Mayeta with the fancies of the "Journey to the
Centre of the Earth," that to his neighbors the
region of the St. Lawrence has become a
country of awful and mysterious associations, while
the more knowing members of the community
which David honors with his presence are firmly
convinced that there never existed such a boat
as the Mayeta save in the wild imagination of
David Bodfish.
Mr. Bodfish's fictitious adventures, as related
by him, covered many thousand miles of canoe
voyaging. He had penetrated the region of ice
beyond Labrador, and had viewed with
complacency the north pole, which he found to be
a pitch-pine spar that had been erected by
the Coast Survey "to measure pints from."
He roundly censured the crews of whale-ships
which had mutilated this noble government
work by splitting much of it into kindling-wood.
Fortunately about two-thirds of Mr. Bodfish's
audience had no very clear conceptions of the
character of the north pole, some of them having
ignored its very existence. So they accepted
this portion of his narrative, while they rejected
the most reasonable part of his story.
The Mayeta was sent to Lake George, and
afterwards became a permanent resident. Two
years later her successor, the Paper Canoe, one
of the most happy efforts of the Messrs. Waters,
of Troy, was quietly moored beside her; and
soon after there was added to the little fleet a
cedar duck-boat, which had carried me on a
second voyage to the great southern sea. Here,
anchored safely under the high cliffs, rocked
gently by the loving waters of Lake George, rest
these faithful friends. They carried me over
five thousand miles, through peaceful rivers and
surging seas. They have shared my dangers;
they now share my peace.
Inquiries regarding the history and
durability of paper boats occasionally reach me
through the medium of the post-office. After
all the uses to which paper has been put during
the last twenty years, the public is yet hardly
convinced that the flimsy material, paper, can
successfully take the place of wood in the
construction of light pleasure-boats, canoes, and
racing shells. Yet the idea has become an
accomplished fact. The success of the victorious
paper shells of the Cornell College navy, which
were enlisted in the struggles of two seasons at
Saratoga, against no mean antagonists, -- the
college crews of the United States, -- surely proves
that in strength, stiffness, speed, and fineness of
model, the paper boat is without a rival.
When used in its own peculiar sphere, the
improved paper boat will be found to possess the
following merits: less weight, greater strength,
stiffness, durability, and speed than a wooden
boat of the same size and model; and the moulded
paper shell will retain the delicate lines so
essential to speed, while the brittle wooden shell yields
more or less to the warping influences of sun and
moisture. A comparison of the strength of wood
and paper for boats has been made by a writer in
the Cornell Times, a journal published by the
students of that celebrated New York college:
"Let us take a piece of wood and a piece of
paper of the same thickness, and experiment
with, use, and abuse them both to the same
extent. Let the wood be of one-eighth of an inch
in thickness -- the usual thickness of shell-boats,
and the paper heavy pasteboard, both one foot
square. Holding them up by one side, strike
them with a hammer, and observe the result.
The wood will be cracked, to say the least;
the pasteboard, whirled out of your hand, will
only be dented, at most. Take hold and bend
them: the wood bends to a certain degree, and
then splits; the pasteboard, bent to the same
degree, is not affected in the least. Take a knife
and strike them: the wood is again split, the
pasteboard only pierced. Place them on the
water: the wood floats for an indefinite time; the
pasteboard, after a time, soaks, and finally sinks,
as was to be expected. But suppose we soak the
pasteboard in marine glue before the experiment,
then we find the pasteboard equally as
impervious to the water as wood, and as buoyant, if of
the same weight; but, to be of the same weight,
it must be thinner than the wood, yet even then
it stands the before-mentioned tests as well as
when thicker; and it will be found to stand all
tests much better than wood, even when it
weighs considerably less.
"Now, enlarging our pieces, and moulding
them into boats of the same weight, we find the
following differences: Wood, being stiff and
liable to split, can only be moulded into
comparative form. Paper, since it can be rendered
perfectly pliable, can be pressed into any shape
desirable; hence, any wished-for fineness of lines
can be given to the model, and the paper will
assume the identical shape, after which it can be
water-proofed, hardened, and polished. Paper
neither swells, nor shrinks, nor cracks, hence it
does not leak, is always ready for use, always
serviceable. As to cost, there is very little
difference between the two; the cost being within
twenty-five dollars, more or less, the same for
both. Those who use paper boats think them
very near perfection; and surely those who have
the most to do with boats ought to know,
prejudice aside, which is the best."
An injury to a paper boat is easily repaired by
a patch of strong paper and a coating of shellac
put on with a hot iron. As the paper boat is
a novelty with many people, a sketch of its early
history may prove interesting to the reader. Mr.
George A. Waters, the son of the senior member
of the firm of E. Waters & Sons, of Troy, New
York, was invited some years since to a
masquerade party. The boy repaired to a toy shop to
purchase a counterfeit face; but, thinking the
price (eight dollars) was more than he could
afford for a single evening's sport, he borrowed
the mask for a model, from which he produced a
duplicate as perfect as was the original. While
engaged upon his novel work, an idea impressed
itself upon his ingenious brain. "Cannot," he
queried, "a paper shell be made upon the wooden
model of a boat? And will not a shell thus
produced, after being treated to a coat of varnish,
float as well, and be lighter than a wooden boat?"
This was in March, 1867, while the youth was
engaged in the manufacture of paper boxes.
Having repaired a wooden shell-boat by
covering the cracks with sheets of stout paper cemented
to the wood, the result satisfied him; and he
immediately applied his attention to the further
development of his bright idea. Assisted by his
father, Mr. Elisha Waters, the enterprise was
commenced "by taking a wooden shell, thirteen
inches wide and thirty feet long, as a mould,
and covering the entire surface of its bottom and
sides with small sheets of strong Manila paper,
glued together, and superposed on each other, so
that the joints of one layer were covered by the
middle of the sheet immediately above, until a
sheet of paper had been formed one-sixteenth of
an inch in thickness. The fabric thus
constructed, after being carefully dried, was
removed from the mould and fitted up with a
suitable frame, consisting of a lower keelson, two
inwales, the bulkhead; in short, all the usual
parts of the frame of a wooden shell, except the
timbers, or ribs, of which none were used -- the
extreme stiffness of the skin rendering them
unnecessary. Its surface was then carefully
waterproofed with suitable varnishes, and the work was
completed. Trials proved that, rude as was this
first attempt compared with the elegant craft
now turned out from paper, it had marked merits,
among which were, its remarkable stiffness, the
symmetry of the hull with respect to its long
axis, and the smoothness of the water-surface."
A gentleman, who possesses excellent
judgment and long experience in all that relates to
paper boats, furnishes me with the following
valuable information, which I feel sure will
interest the reader.
"The process of building the paper shell-boat
is as follows: The dimensions of the boat having
been determined upon, the first step is to
construct a wooden model, or form, an exact
facsimile of the desired boat, on which to mould
the paper skin. For this purpose the lines of the
boat are carefully drawn out of the full size, and
from the drawings thus made the model is
prepared. It is built of layers of well-seasoned
pine, securely fastened together to form one solid
mass; which, after having been laid up of the
general outline required, is carefully worked off,
until its surface, which is made perfectly smooth,
exactly conforms to the selected lines, and its
beam, depth, and length are those of the given
boat. During the process of its construction,
suitable rabbets are cut to receive the lower
keelson, the two inwales, and the bow and stern
deadwoods, which, being put in position, are
worked off so that their surfaces are flush with
that of the model, and forming, as it were, an
integral part of it. It being important that these
parts should, in the completed boat, be firmly
attached to the skin, their surface is, at this part
of the process, covered with a suitable adhesive
"The model is now ready to be covered with
paper. Two kinds are used: that made from the
best Manila, and that prepared from pure
unbleached linen stock; the sheets being the full
length of the model, no matter what that may
be. If Manila paper is used, the first sheet is
dampened, laid smoothly on the model, and
securely fastened in place by tacking it to
certain rough strips attached to its upper face.
Other sheets are now superposed on this and on
each other, and suitably cemented together; the
number depending upon the size of the boat and
the stiffness required. If linen paper is used, but
one sheet is employed, of such weight and
dimensions that, when dry, it will give just the
thickness of skin necessary. Should the surface
of the model be concave in parts, as in the run
of boats with square sterns for instance, the paper
is made to conform to these surfaces by suitable
convex moulds, which also hold the paper in
place until, by drying, it has taken and will
retain the desired form. The model, with its
enveloping coat of paper, is now removed to the
dry-room. As the paper skin dries, all wrinkles
disappear, and it gradually assumes the desired
shape. Finally, when all moisture has been
evaporated, it is taken from the mould an exact
fac-simile of the model desired, exceedingly stiff,
perfectly symmetrical, and seamless.
"The paper is now subjected to the water-proof
process, and the skin, with its keelson, inwales,
and dead-woods attached, is then placed in the
carpenter's hands, where the frame is completed
in the usual manner, as described for wooden
boats. The paper decks being put on, it is then
ready for the brass, iron, and varnish work. As
the skins of these boats (racing-shells) vary from
one-sixteenth of an inch in the singles, to
one-twelfth of an inch in the six-oared outriggers, the
wooden frame becomes necessary to support and
keep them in shape. In applying this invention
to gigs, dingys, canoes, and skiffs, a somewhat
different method is adopted. Since these boats
are subjected to much hard service, and must be
so constructed as to permit the occupant to move
about in them as is usual in such craft, a light
and strong frame of wood is prepared, composed
of a suitable number of pairs of ribs, with stem
and stern pieces cut from the natural crooks of
hackmatack roots. These are firmly framed to
two gunwales and a keelson, extending the
length of the boat; the whole forming the
skeleton shape of the desired model. The forms for
these boats having been prepared, as already
described for the racing-shells, and the frame
being let into this form, so that the outer surface
of the ribs, stem and stern pieces will conform
with its outer surface, the paper skin is next laid
upon it. The skin, manufactured from new,
unbleached linen stock, is carefully stretched in
place, and when perfectly dry is from one-tenth
to three-sixteenths of an inch thick. Removed
from the model, it is water-proofed, the frame
and fittings completed, and the boat varnished.
In short, in this class of boats, the shape, style,
and finish are precisely that of wooden ones, of
corresponding dimensions and class, except that
for the usual wooden sheathing is substituted the
paper skin as described.
"The advantages possessed by these boats over
those of wood are:
"By the use of this material for the skins of
racing-shells, where experience has demonstrated
the smooth bottom to be the best, under-water
lines of any degree of fineness can be developed,
which cannot successfully be produced in those
of wood, even where the streaks are so reduced
in thickness that strength, stiffness, and
durability are either wholly sacrificed or greatly
impaired. In the finer varieties of 'dug-outs'
equally fine lines can be obtained; but so delicate
are such boats, if the sides are reduced to
three-sixteenths of an inch or less in thickness, that it
is found practically impossible to preserve their
original forms for any length of time. Hence,
so far as this point is concerned, it only remains
for the builder to select those models which
science, guided by experience, points out as the
The paper skin, after being water-proofed, is
finished with hard varnishes, and then presents a
solid, perfectly smooth, and horny surface to the
action of the water, unbroken by joint, lap, or
seam. This surface admits of being polished as
smooth as a coach-panel or a mirror. Unlike
wood, it has no grain to be cracked or split, it
never shrinks, and, paper being one of the best
of non-conductors, no ordinary degree of heat
or cold affects its shape or hardness, and hence
these boats are admirably adapted for use in all
climates. As the skin absorbs no moisture,
these boats gain no weight by use, and, having
no moisture to give off when out of the water,
they do not, like wooden boats, show the effect
of exposure to the air by leaking. They are,
therefore, in this respect always prepared for
The strength and stiffness of the paper shells
are most remarkable. To demonstrate it, a
single shell of twelve inch beam and twenty-eight
feet long, fitted complete with its outriggers,
the hull weighing twenty-two pounds, was
placed on two trestles eight feet apart, in such a
manner that the trestles were each the same
distance from the centre of the cockpit, which
was thus entirely unsupported. A man
weighing one hundred and forty pounds then seated
himself in it, and remained in this position three
minutes. The deflection caused by this strain,
being accurately measured, was found to be
one-sixteenth of an inch at a point midway between
the supports. If this load, applied under such
abnormal conditions, produced so little effect, we
can safely assume that, when thus loaded and
resting on the water, supported throughout her
whole length, and the load far more equally
distributed over the whole frame, there would be
no deflection whatever.
"Lightness, when combined with a proper,
stiffness and strength, being a very desirable quality,
it is here that the paper boats far excel their
wooden rivals. If two shells are selected, the one of
wood and the other with a paper skin and deck,
as has been described, of the same dimensions
and equally stiff, careful experiment proves that
the wooden one will be thirty per cent. the
heaviest. If those of the same dimensions and
equal weight are compared, the paper one will
be found to exceed the wooden one in stiffness
and in capacity to resist torsional strains in the
same proportion. Frequent boasts are made that
wooden shells can be and are built much lighter
than paper ones; and if the quality of lightness
alone is considered, this is true; yet when the
practical test of use is applied, such extremely
light wooden boats have always proved, and will
continue to prove, failures, as here this quality
is only one of a number which combine to make
the boat serviceable. A wooden shell whose
hull weighs twenty-two pounds, honest weight,
is a very fragile, short-lived affair. A paper
shell of the same dimensions, and of the same
weight, will last as long, and do as much work,
as a wooden one whose hull turns the beam at
thirty pounds.
"An instance of their remarkable strength is
shown in the following case. In the summer of
1870, a single shell, while being rowed at full
speed, with the current, on one of our
principal rivers, was run into to the stone abutment of a
bridge. The bow struck squarely on to
obstacle, and such was the momentum of the mass that
the oarsman was thrown directly through the
flaring bow of the cockpit into the river.
Witnesses of the accident who were familiar with
wooden shells declared that the boat was ruined;
but, after a careful examination, only the bow-tip
was found to be twisted in a spiral form, and the
washboard broken at the point by the oarsman
as he passed between the sides. Two dollars
covered the cost of repair. Had it been a
wooden shell the shock would have crushed its
stem and splintered the skin from the bow to the
Old and cautious seamen tried to dissuade me
from contracting with the Messrs. Waters for the
building of a stout paper canoe for my journey.
Harvard College had not adopted this "
newfangled notion" at that time, and Cornell had
only begun to think of attempting to out-row
other colleges at Saratoga by using paper boats.
The Centennial year of the independence of the
United States, 1876, settled all doubts as to the
value of the result of the years of toil of the
inventors of the paper boat. During the same
year the incendiary completed his revengeful
work by burning the paper-boat manufactory
at Troy. The loss was a heavy one; but a few
weeks later these unflinching men were able to
record the following victories achieved that
single season by their boats.
The races won by the paper boats were:
The Intercollegiate Championship:
Freshmen and University.
The International Championship at Saratoga:
Singles, Doubles, and Fours.
The National Championship, N. A. of A. 0.:
Singles, Doubles, and Fours.
The World's Championship at Centennial Exhibition:
Singles, Doubles, and Fours.
The Professional Championship of the United States.
And every other important race of the season,
besides receiving the highest honors at the
Centennial Exhibition. The right to make boats of
paper in Canada and in the United States is
exclusively held by the Messrs. Waters, and they
are the only manufacturers of paper boats in
the world.
It is not many years since Mr. McGregor, of
London, built the little Rob Roy canoe, and in it
made the tour of interesting European waters.
His example was followed by an army of tourists,
and it is now a common thing to meet canoe
voyagers in miniature flotillas upon the
watercourses of our own and foreign lands. Rev.
Baden Powell, also an Englishman, perfected
the model of the Nautilus type of canoe, which
possesses a great deal of sheer with fullness of
bow, and is therefore a better boat for rough
water than the Rob Roy. The New York Canoe
Club have adopted the Nautilus for their model.
We still need a distinctive American type for our
waters, more like the best Indian canoe than the
European models here presented. These
modern yacht-like canoes are really improved kyaks,
and in their construction we are much indebted
to the experience of the inhabitants of the Arctic
Circle. Very few of the so-called Rob Roy
canoes, built in the United States, resemble the
original perfected boat of Mr. McGregor -- the
father of modern canoe travelling. The
illustrations given of English canoes are from
imported models, and are perfect of their type.
My canoe of the English "Nautilus" type
was completed by the middle of October;
and on the cold, drizzly morning of the 21st of
the same month I embarked in my little
fifty-eight pound craft from the landing of the
paper-boat manufactory on the river Hudson, two miles
above Troy. Mr. George A. Waters put his
own canoe into the water, and proposed to
escort me a few miles down the river. If I
had any misgivings as to the stability of my
paper canoe upon entering her for the first time,
they were quickly dispelled as I passed the
stately Club-house of the Laureates, which
contained nearly forty shells, all of paper.
The dimensions of the Maria Theresa were:
length, fourteen feet; beam, twenty-eight inches;
depth, amidships, nine inches; height of bow
from horizontal line, twenty-three inches; height
of stern, twenty inches. The canoe was
one-eighth of an inch in thickness, and weighed
fifty-eight pounds. She was fitted with a pair
of steel outriggers, which could be easily
unshipped and stowed away. The oars were of
spruce, seven feet eight inches long, and weighed
three pounds and a quarter each. The double
paddle, which was seven feet six inches in length,
weighed two pounds and a half. The mast
and sail -- which are of no service on such a
miniature vessel, and were soon
discarded -- weighed six pounds. When I took on board at
Philadelphia the canvas deck-cover and the
rubber strap which secured it in position, and the
outfit, -- the cushion, sponge, provision-basket,
and a fifteen-pound case of charts, -- I found that,
with my own weight included (one hundred and
thirty pounds), the boat and her cargo, all told,
provisioned for a long cruise, fell considerably
short of the weight of three Saratoga trunks
containing a very modest wardrobe for a lady's
four weeks' visit at a fashionable watering-place.
The Aboriginal Type (Kayak)<br />- The Improved Type (Maria Theresa)
The rain ceased, the mists ascended, and the
sunlight broke upon us as we swiftly descended
upon the current of the Hudson to Albany. The
city was reached in an hour and a half. Mr.
Waters, pointing his canoe northward, wished me
bon voyage, and returned to the scene of the
triumphs of his patient labors, while I settled down
to a steady row southward. At Albany, the
capital of the state, which is said to be one
hundred and fifty miles distant from New York city,
there is a tidal rise and fall of one foot.
A feeling of buoyancy and independence came
over me as I glided on the current of this noble
stream, with the consciousness that I now
possessed the right boat for my enterprise. It had
been a dream of my youth to become acquainted
with the charms of this most romantic river of
the American continent. Its sources are in the
clouds of the Adirondacks, among the cold peaks
of the northern wilderness; its ending may be
said to be in the briny waters of the Atlantic,
for its channel-way has been sounded outside
of the sandy beaches of New York harbor in
the bosom of the restless ocean. The highest
types of civilized life are nurtured upon its banks.
Noble edifices, which contain and preserve the
works of genius and of mechanical art, rear their
proud roofs from among these hills on the lofty
sites of the picturesque Hudson. The wealth
of the great city at its mouth, the metropolis of
the young nation, has been lavished upon the
soil of the river's borders to make it even more
beautiful and more fruitful. What river in
America, along the same length of coast-lines
as from Troy to New York (one hundred and
fifty-six miles), can rival in natural beauty
and artificial applications of wealth the lovely
Hudson? "The Hudson River," says its genial
historian, Mr. Lossing, "from its birth among
the mountains to its marriage with the ocean,
measures a distance of full three hundred
Captain John Smith's friend, the Englishman
Henry Hudson, while in the employ of the
Dutch East India Company, in his vessel of
ninety tons, the Half-Moon, being in search
of a northwest passage south of Virginia, cast
anchor outside of Sandy Hook, September 3,
1609, and on the 11th passed up through the
Narrows into the present bay of New York.
Under the firm conviction that he was on his
way to the long-sought Cathay, a day later he
entered the Hudson River, where now stands
the proud metropolis of America. As the Half-Moon
ascended the river the water lost its
saltness, and by the time they were anchored where
the city of Albany now stands all hopes of Cathay
faded from the heart of the mariner. Englishmen
called this river in honor of its discoverer, but the
Dutch gave it the name of North River,
the Delaware had been discovered and named
South River. Thus, while in 1609 Samuel
Champlain was exploring the lake which bears
his name, Hudson was ascending his river upon
the southern water-shed. The historian tells us
that these bold explorers penetrated the
wilderness, one from the north and the other from the
south, to within one hundred miles of each other.
The same historian (Dr. Lossing) says: "The
most remote source of the extreme western
branch of our noble river is Hendricks Spring,
so named in honor of Hendricks Hudson. We
found Hendricks Spring in the edge of a swamp,
cold, shallow, about five feet in diameter,
shaded by trees, shrubbery, and vines, and fringed
with the delicate brake and fern. Its waters,
rising within half a mile of Long Lake, and upon
the same summit-level, flow southward to the
Atlantic more than three hundred miles; while
those of the latter flow to the St. Lawrence, and
reach the same Atlantic a thousand miles away
to the far northeast."
Since Dr. Lossing visited the western head of
the Hudson River, the true and highest source
of the stream has probably been settled by a
gentleman possessing scientific acquirements and
inflexible purpose. On the plateau south of
Mount Marcy, State-Surveyor Colvin found
the little Lake Tear-of-the-Clouds to be the
loftiest sheet of water in the state, -- four
thousand three hundred and twenty-six feet above
the sea, -- and proved it to be the lake-head of
the great river Hudson. A second little pond in
a marsh on a high plateau, at the foot of Mount
Redfield, was also discovered, -- "margined and
embanked with luxuriant and deep sphagnous
moss," -- which was named by the party Moss
Lake. It was found to flow into the Hudson.
A beautiful little bivalve shell, three-sixteenths
of an inch in diameter, of an undescribed species,
was found in the pellucid water, and thus a new
shell was handed over to conchology, and a new
river source to geography, in the same hour.
This pool is four thousand three hundred and
twelve feet above tide-water, and only a few feet
lower than its sister, Tear-of-the-Clouds -- the
highest source of the Hudson.
Should the state of New York adopt Mr.
Colvin's suggestion, to reserve six hundred square
miles of the Adirondack region for a public park,
the pool Tear-of-the-Clouds will be within the
reservation. The waters of these baby
fountains are swollen by contributions from the
streams, ponds, and lakes of the Adirondack
wilderness, until along the banks of Fishing
Brook, a tributary of the Hudson, the water is
utilized at the first saw-mill. A few miles lower
down the forests are vexed by the axe of the
lumbermen, and logs are floated down the river
one hundred miles to Glens Falls, where the
State Dam and Great Boom are located. Half
a million logs have been gathered there in a
single spring.
It was upon the Hudson that the first
successful steamboat, built by Robert Fulton, made
its voyage to Albany, the engine having been
built by Watt & Bolton, in England.
From Mr. Lossing we obtain the following.
"The Clermont was one hundred feet long,
twelve feet wide, and seven feet deep. The
following advertisement appeared in the Albany
Gazette on the 1st of September, 1807:
"The North River steamboat will leave Paulus Hook (Jersey
City) on Friday, the 4th of September, at 9 in the morning, and
arrive at Albany on Saturday at 9 in the afternoon. Provisions,
good berths, and accommodations are provided. The charge to
each passenger is as follows:
To Newburgh, . . . . 3 Dollars. . . Time, 14 hours.
" Poughkeepsie, . . 4 " . . . . " 17 "
" Esopus, . . . . 5 " . . . . " 20 "
" Hudson, . . . . 5-1/2" . . . . " 30 "
" Albany, . . . . 7 " . . . . " 36 " ."
The trip, which was made against a strong
head wind, was entirely successful. The large
steamers can now make the trip from New York
to Albany in about ten hours.
As I pulled easily along the banks of the river,
my eyes feasted upon the gorgeous coloring of
the autumnal foliage, which formed a scene of
beauty never to be forgotten. The rapid
absorption of oxygen by the leaves in the fall months
produces, in northern America, these vivid tints
which give to the country the appearance of a
land covered with a varied and brilliant garment,
"a coat of many colors." A soft hazy light
pervaded the atmosphere, while at the same time
the October air was gently exhilarating to the
nervous system. At six o'clock P. M. the canoe
arrived at Hudson City, which is on the east
bank of the river, and I completed a row of
thirty-eight statute miles, according to local
authority; but in reality forty-nine miles by the
correct charts of the United States Coast Survey.
After storing the Maria Theresa in a shed, I
repaired to a dismal hotel for the night.
At seven o'clock the next morning the river
was mantled in a dense fog, but I pushed off and
guided myself by the sounds of the running
trains on the Hudson River Railroad. This
corporation does such an immense amount of
freighting that, if their freight trains were
connected, a continuous line of eighty miles would
be constructed, of which sixteen miles are
always in transit day and night. Steamboats
and tugs with canal-boats in tow were groping
about the river in the misty darkness, blowing
whistles every few minutes to let people know
that the pilot was not sleeping at the wheel.
There was a grand clearing up at noon; and as
the sun broke through the mist, the beautiful
shores came into view like a vivid flame of
scarlet, yellow, brown, and green. It was the
death-song of summer, and her dying notes the
tinted leaves, each one giving to the wind a sad
strain as it softly dropped to the earth, or was
quickly hurled into space.
A few miles south of Hudson City, on the
west bank, the Catskill stream enters the river.
From this point the traveller may penetrate the
picturesque country of the Appalachian range,
where its wild elevations were called Onti Ora,
or "mountains of the sky," by the aborigines.
Roundout, on the right bank of the Hudson,
is the terminus of the Delaware and Hudson
Canal, which connects it with Port Jervis on the
Delaware, a distance of fifty-four miles. This
town, the outlet of the coal regions, I passed
after meridian. As I left Hudson on the first of
the flood-tide, I had to combat it for several
hours; but I easily reached Hyde Park Landing
(which is on the left bank of the stream and, by
local authority, thirty-five miles from Hudson
City) at five o'clock P. M. The wharf-house
sheltered the canoe, and a hotel in the village,
half a mile distant on the high plains, its owner.
I was upon the river by seven o'clock the next
morning. The day was varied by strong gusts
of wind succeeded by calms. Six miles south
of Hyde Park is the beautiful city of
Poughkeepsie with its eighteen thousand inhabitants,
and the celebrated Vassar Female College. Eight
miles down the river, and on the same side, is a
small village called New Hamburg. The rocky
promontory at the foot of which the town is
built is covered with the finest arbor vitae forest
probably in existence. Six miles below, on
west bank, is the important city of Newburg,
one of the termini of the New York and Erie
Railroad. Four miles below, the river narrows
and presents a grand view of the north entrance
of the Highlands, with the Storm King Mountain
rising fully one thousand five hundred feet above
the tide. The early Dutch navigators gave to
this peak the name of Boter-burg (Butter-Hill),
but it was rechristened Storm King by the
author N. P. Willis, whose late residence, Idlewild,
commands a fine view of Newburg Bay.
When past the Storm King, the Crow-Nest and
the almost perpendicular front of Kidd's Plug
Cliff tower aloft, and mark the spot where Kidd
(as usual) was supposed to have buried a
portion of that immense sum of money with which
popular belief invests hundreds of localities
along the watercourses of the continent. Now
the Narrows above West Point were entered
and the current against a head-wind made the
passage unusually exciting. The paper canoe
danced over the boiling expanse of water, and
neared the west shore about a mile above the
United States Military Academy, when a shell,
from a gun on the grounds of that institution
burst in the water within a few feet of the boat.
I now observed a target set upon a little flat at
the foot of a gravelly hill close to the beach.
As a second, and finally a third shell exploded
near me, I rowed into the rough water, much
disgusted with cadet-practice and military etiquette.
After dark the canoe was landed on the deck of
a schooner which was discharging slag or cinder
at Fort Montgomery Landing. I scrambled up
the hill to the only shelter that could be found, a
small country store owned by a Captain Conk
who kept entertainment for the traveller. Rough
fellows and old crones came in to talk about the
spooks that had been seen in the neighboring
hills. It was veritable "Sleepy Hollow" talk.
The physician of the place, they said, had been
"skert clean off a bridge the other night."
Embarking the following morning from this
weird and hilly country, that prominent natural
feature, Anthony's Nose, which was located on
the opposite shore, strongly appealed to my
imagination and somewhat excited my mirth. One
needs a powerful imagination, I thought, to live
in these regions where the native element, the
hill-folk, dwell so fondly and earnestly upon the
ghostly and mysterious. Three miles down the
river, Dunderberg, "the thundering mountain,"
on the west bank, with the town of Peekskill on
the opposite shore, was passed, and I entered
Haverstraw Bay, the widest part of the river.
"Here," says the historian, "the fresh and salt
water usually contend, most equally, for the
mastery; and here the porpoise is often seen in
large numbers sporting in the summer sun. Here
in the spring vast numbers of shad are caught
while on their way to spawning-beds in
freshwater coves." Haverstraw Bay was crossed, and
Tarrytown passed, when I came to the
picturesque little cottage of a great man now gone
from among us. Many pleasant memories of
his tales rose in my mind as I looked upon
Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving,
nestled in the grove of living green, its white
stuccoed walls glistening in the bright sunlight,
and its background of grand villas looming up on
every side. At Irvington Landing, a little further
down the river, I went ashore to pass Sunday
with friends; and on the Monday following, in a
dense fog, proceeded on my route to New York.
Below Irvington the far-famed "Palisades,"
bold-faced precipices of trap-rock, offer their
grandest appearance on the west side of the
Hudson. These singular bluffs, near Hoboken,
present a perpendicular front of three hundred or
four hundred feet in height. Piles of broken rock
rest against their base: the contribution of the
cliffs above from the effects of frost and sun.
While approaching the great city of New
York, strong squalls of wind, blowing against
the ebb-tide, sent swashy waves into my open
canoe, the sides of which, amidships, were only
five or six inches above water; but the great
buoyancy of the light craft and its very smooth
exterior created but little friction in the water
and made her very seaworthy, when carefully
watched and handled, even without a deck of
canvas or wood. While the canoe forged ahead
through the troubled waters, and the breezes
loaded with the saltness of the sea now near at
hand struck my back, I confess that a longing to
reach Philadelphia, where I could complete my
outfit and increase the safety of my little craft,
gave renewed vigor to my stroke as I exchanged
the quiet atmosphere of the country for the
smoke and noise of the city. Every instinct was
now challenged, and every muscle brought into
action, as I dodged tug-boats, steamers, yachts,
and vessels, while running the thoroughfare
along the crowded wharves between New York
on one side and Jersey City on the other. I
found the slips between the piers most excellent
ports of refuge at times, when the ferry-boats,
following each other in quick succession, made
the river with its angry tide boil like a vortex.
The task soon ended, and I left the Hudson at
Castle Garden and entered the upper bay of New
York harbor. As it was dark, I would gladly
have gone ashore for the night, but a great city
offers no inducement for a canoeist to land as a
stranger at its wharves.
A much more pleasant reception awaited me
down on Staten Island, a gentleman having
notified me by mail that he would welcome the
canoe and its owner. The ebb had ceased, and
the incoming tide was being already felt close
in shore; so with tide and wind against me,
and the darkness of night settling down gloomily
upon the wide bay, I pulled a strong oar for five
miles to the entrance of Kill Van Kull Strait,
which separates Staten Island from New Jersey
and connects the upper bay with Raritan Bay.
The bright beams from the light-house on
Robbin's Reef, which is one mile and a quarter
off the entrance of the strait, guided me on my
course. The head-sea, in little, splashy waves,
began to fill my canoe. The water soon reached
the foot-rest; but there was no time to stop to
bale out the boat, for a friendly current was near,
and if once reached, my little craft would enter
smoother waters. The flood which poured into
the mouth of Kill Van Kull soon caught my
boat, and the head-tide was changed to a favorable
current which carried me in its strong arms
far into the salt-water strait, and I reached West
New Brighton, along the high banks of which I
found my haven of rest. Against the sky I
traced the outlines of my land-mark, three
poplars, standing sentinel-like before the house of
the gentleman who had so kindly offered me his
hospitality. The canoe was emptied of its
shifting liquid ballast and carefully sponged dry.
My host and his son carried it into the main hall
of the mansion and placed it upon the floor,
where the entire household gathered, an
admiring group. Proud, indeed, might my dainty
craft have been of the appreciation of so lovely
a company. her master fully appreciated the
generous board of his kind host, and in present
comfort soon forgot past trials and his wet pull
across the upper bay of New York harbor.
My work for the next day, October 27th, was
the navigation of the interesting strait of the old
Dutch settlers and the Raritan River, of New
Jersey, as far as New Brunswick. The average
width of Kill Van Kull is three-eighths of a mile.
From its entrance, at Constable's Point, to the
mouth of Newark Bay, which enters it on the
Jersey side, it is three miles, and nearly two
miles across the bay to Elizabethport. Bergen
Point is on the east and Elizabethport on the west
entrance of the bay, while on Staten Island, New
Brighton, Factoryville, and North Shore, furnish
homes for many New York business men.
At Elizabethport the strait narrows to one
eighth of a mile, and as the mouth of the
Rahway is approached it widens. It now runs
through marshes for most of the way, a distance
of twelve miles to Raritan Bay, which is an arm
of the lower bay of New York harbor. The
strait, from Elizabethport to its mouth, is called
Arthur Kill; the whole distance through the
Kills, from Constable's Point to Raritan Bay, is
about seventeen statute miles. At the mouth of
Arthur Kill the Raritan River opens to the bay,
and the city of Perth Amboy rests on the point
of high land between the river and the strait.
Roseville and Tottenville are on the Staten
Island shores of Arthur Kill, the former six
miles, the latter ten miles from Elizabethport.
The tide runs swiftly through the Kills.
Leaving Mr. Campbell's residence at nine A. M., with
a tide in my favor as far as Newark Bay, I soon
had the tide against me from the other Kill until
I passed the Rahway River, when it commenced
to ebb towards Raritan Bay. The marshy shores
of the Kills were submerged in places by the
high tide, but their monotony was relieved by
the farms upon the hills back of the flats.
At one o'clock my canoe rounded the heights
upon which Perth Amboy is perched, with its
snug cottages, the homes of many oystermen
whose fleet of boats was anchored in front of the
town. Curious yard-like pens constructed of
poles rose out of the water, in which boats could
find shelter from the rough sea.
The entrance to the Raritan River is wide,
and above its mouth it is crossed by a long
railroad bridge. The pull up the crooked river
(sixteen miles) against a strong ebb-tide, through
extensive reedy marshes, was uninteresting. I
came upon the entrance of the canal which connects
the rivers Raritan and Delaware after six
o'clock P. M., which at this season of the year
was after dark. Hiding the canoe in a secure
place I went to visit an old friend, Professor
George Cook, of the New Jersey State Geological
Survey, who resides at New Brunswick. In the
morning the professor kindly assisted me, and
we climbed the high bank of the canal with the
canoe upon our shoulders, putting it into the
water below the first two locks. I now
commenced an unexciting row of forty-two miles to
Bordentown, on the Delaware, where this
artificial watercourse ends.
This canal is much travelled by steam tugs
towing schooners of two hundred tons, and by
barges and canal-boats of all sizes drawing not
above seven feet and a half of water. The
boats are drawn through the locks by stationary
steam-engines, the use of which is discontinued
when the business becomes slack; then the
boatmen use their mules for the same purpose. To
tow an average-sized canal-boat, loaded, requires
four mules, while an empty one is easily drawn
by two. It proved most expeditious as well as
convenient not to trouble the lock-master to open
the gates, but to secure his assistance in carrying
the canoe along the tow-path to the end of the
lock, which service occupied less than five
minutes. In this way the canoe was carried around
seven locks the first day, and when dusk
approached she was sheltered beside a paper shell
in the boat-house of Princeton College Club,
which is located on the banks of the canal about
one mile and a half from the city of Princeton.
In this narrow watercourse these
indefatigable collegians, under great disadvantages, drill
their crews for the annual intercollegiate struggle
for championship. One Noah Reed provided
entertainment for man and beast at his country
inn half a mile from the boat-house, and thither
I repaired for the night.
This day's row of twenty-six miles and a
half had been through a hilly country,
abounding in rich farm lands which were well
cultivated. The next morning an officer of the
Princeton Bank awaited my coming on the banks
of the sluggish canal. He had taken an early
walk from the town to see the canoe. At
Baker's Basin the bridge-tender, a one-legged man,
pressed me to tarry till he could summon the
Methodist minister, who had charged him to
notify him of the approach of a paper canoe.
Through all my boat journeys I have remarked
that professional men take more interest in canoe
journeys than professional oarsmen; and nearly
all the canoeists of my acquaintance are
ministers of the gospel. It is an innocent way of
obtaining relaxation; and opportunities thus offered
the weary clergyman of studying nature in her
ever-changing but always restful moods, must
indeed be grateful after being for months in daily
contact with the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The tendency of the present age to liberal ideas
permits clergymen in large towns and cities to
drive fast horses, and spend an hour of each day
at a harmless game of billiards, without giving
rise to remarks from his own congregation, but
let the overworked rector of a country village
seek in his friendly canoe that relief which nature
offers to the tired brain, let him go into the
wilderness and live close to his Creator by studying
his works, and a whole community vex him on
his return with "the appearance of the thing."
These self-constituted critics, who are generally
ignorant of the laws which God has made to
secure health and give contentment to his creatures,
would poison the sick man's body with drugs and
nostrums when he might have the delightful and
generally successful services of Dr. Camp Cure
without the after dose of a bill. These
hardworked and miserably paid country clergymen,
who are rarely, nowadays, treated as the head
of the congregation or the shepherd of the flock
they are supposed to lead, but rather as victims
of the whims of influential members of the
church, tell me that to own a canoe is indeed a
cross, and that if they spend a vacation in the
grand old forests of the Adirondacks, the
brethren are sorely exercised over the time wasted in
such unusual and unministerial conduct.
Everywhere along the route the peculiar
character of the paper canoe attracted many remarks
from the bystanders. The first impression given
was that I had engaged in this rowing enterprise
under the stimulus of a bet; and when the
curious were informed that it was a voyage of
study, the next question was "How much are you
going to make out of it?" Upon learning that
there was neither a bet nor money in it, a shade
of disappointment and incredulity rested upon
the features of the bystanders, and the canoeist
was often rated as a "blockhead" for risking his
life without being paid for it.
At Trenton the canal passes through the city
and here it was necessary to carry the boat
around two locks. At noon the canoe ended
her voyage of forty-two miles by reaching the
last lock, on the Delaware River, at Bordentown,
New Jersey, where friendly arms received the
Maria Theresa and placed her on the trestles
which had supported her sister craft, the Mayeta,
in the shop of the builder, Mr. J. S. Lamson,
situated under the high cliffs along the crests of
which an ex-king of Spain, in times gone by,
was wont to walk and sadly ponder on his exile
from la belle France.
The Rev. John H. Barkeley, proprietor as well
as principal of the Bordentown Female
Seminary, took me to his ancient mansion, where
Thomas Paine, of old Revolutionary war times,
had lodged. Not the least attraction in the
home of my friend was the group of fifty young
ladies, who were kind enough to gather upon a
high bluff when I left the town, and wave
graceful farewell to the paper canoe as she
entered the tidal current of the river Delaware en
route for the Quaker city.
During my short stay in Bordentown Mr.
Isaac Gabel kindly acted as my guide and we
explored the Bonaparte Park, which is on the
outskirts of the town. The grounds are
beautifully laid out. Some of the old houses of the
ex-king's friends and attendants still remain in a
fair state of preservation. The elegant residence
of Joseph Bonaparte, or the Count de
Surveilliers, which was always open to American
visitors of all classes, was torn down by Mr. Hairy
Beckon, an Englishman in the diplomatic
service of the British government, who purchased
this property some years after the Count returned
to Europe, and erected a more elaborate
mansion near the old site. The old citizens of
Bordentown hold in grateful remembrance the
favors showered upon them by Joseph Bonaparte
and his family, who seem to have lived a
democratic life in the grand old park. The Count
returned to France in 1838, and never visited
the United States again. New Jersey had
welcomed the exiled monarch, and had given him
certain legal privileges in property rights which
New York had refused him; so he settled upon
the lovely shores of the fair Delaware, and
lavished his wealth upon the people of the state
that had so kindly received him. The citizens
of neighboring states becoming somewhat
jealous of the good luck that had befallen New
Jersey in her capture of the Spanish king, applied
to the state the cognomen of "New Spain,"
and called the inhabitants thereof "Spaniards."
The Delaware River, the Makeriskitton of the
savage, upon whose noble waters my paper
canoe was now to carry me southward, has its
sources in the western declivity of the Catskill
Mountains, in the state of New York. It is fed
by two tributary streams, the Oquago (or
Coquago) and the Popacton, which unite their
waters at the boundary line of Pennsylvania, at
the northeast end of the state, from which it
flows southward seventy miles, separating the
Empire and Keystone states. When near Port
Jervis, which town is connected with Rondout
on the Hudson River, by the Hudson and
Delaware Canal, the Delaware turns sharply to the
southwest, and becomes the boundary line
between the states of New Jersey and
Pennsylvania. Below Easton the river again takes a
Southeasterly course, and flowing past Trenton,
Bristol, Bordentown, Burlington, Philadelphia,
Camden, Newcastle, and Delaware City, empties
its waters into Delaware Bay about forty miles
below Philadelphia.
This river has about the same length as the
Hudson -- three hundred miles. The tide
reaches one hundred and thirty-two miles from
the sea at Cape May and Cape Henlopen.
Philadelphia is the head of navigation for vessels of
the heaviest tonnage; Trenton for light-draught
steamboats. At Bordentown the river is less
than half a mile wide; at Philadelphia it is
three-fourths of a mile in width; while at
Delaware City it widens to two miles and a half.
Delaware Bay is twenty-six miles across in the
widest part, which is some miles within the
entrance of the Capes.
October 31st was cool and gusty. The river
route to Philadelphia is twenty-nine statute miles.
The passage was made against a strong head-wind,
with swashy waves, which made me again regret
that I did not have my canoe-decking made at
Troy, instead of at Philadelphia. The
highly cultivated farms and beautiful country-seats along
both the Pennsylvania and New Jersey sides
of the river spoke highly of the rich character
of the soil and the thrift of the inhabitants.
These river counties of two states may be called
a land of plenty, blessed with bountiful
Quaker industry and wise economy in
managing the agricultural affairs of this section in
the early epochs of our country's settlement
have borne good fruit. All praise to the
memory of William Penn of Pennsylvania and his
worthy descendants. The old towns of
Bristol on the right, and Burlington on the left
bank, embowered in vernal shades, have a most
comfortable and home-like appearance.
At five o'clock P. M. I arrived at the city pier
opposite the warehouse of Messrs. C. P. Knight
& Brother, No. 114 South Delaware Avenue,
where, after a struggle with wind and wave for
eight hours, the canoe was landed and deposited
with the above firm, the gentlemen of which
kindly offered to care for it while I tarried in
the "City of Brotherly Love."
Among the many interesting spots hallowed
by memories of the past in which Philadelphia
abounds, and which are rarely sought out by
visitors, two especially claim the attention of
the naturalist. One is the old home of
William Bartram, on the banks of the Schuylkill at
Grey's Ferry; the other, the grave of Alexander
Wilson, friends and co-laborers in nature's
extended field; -- the first a botanist, the second the
father of American ornithology.
William Bartram, son of the John Bartram
who was the founder of the Botanic Garden on
the west bank of the Schuylkill, was born at
that interesting spot in 1739. All botanists are
familiar with the results of his patient labors and
his pioneer travels in those early days, through
the wilderness of what now constitutes the
southeastern states. One who visited him at his
home says: "Arrived at the botanist's garden,
we approached an old man who, with a rake in
his hand, was breaking the clods of earth in a
tulip-bed. His hat was old, and flapped over
his Etee; his coarse shirt was seen near his neck,
as he wore no cravat nor kerchief; his waistcoat
and breeches were both of leather, and his shoes
were tied with leather strings. We approached
and accosted him. He ceased his work, and
entered into conversation with the ease and
politeness of nature's nobleman. His
countenance was expressive of benignity and
happiness. This was the botanist, traveller and
philosopher we had come to see."
William Bartram gave important assistance
and encouragement to the friendless Scotch
pedagogue, Alexander Wilson, while the latter was
preparing his American Ornithology for the
press. This industrious and peaceable botanist
died within the walls of his dearly-loved home
a few minutes after he had penned a description
of a plant. He died in 1823, in the eighty-fifth
year of his age. The old house of John and
William Bartram remains nearly the same as
when the last Bartram died, but the grounds
have been occupied and improved by the present
proprietor, whose fine mansion is near the old
residence of the two botanists.
Without ample funds to enable him to carry
out his bold design, Alexander Wilson labored
and suffered in body and mind for several years,
until his patient and persistent efforts achieved
the success they so richly merited. All but the
last volume of his American Ornithology were
completed when the overworked naturalist died.
The old Swedes' Church is the most ancient
religious edifice in Philadelphia, and is located
near the wharves in the vicinity of Christian and
Swanson streets, in the old district of
Southwark. The Swedes had settlements on the
Delaware before Penn visited America. They built
a wooden edifice for worship in 1677, on the
spot where the brick "Swedes' Church" now
stands, and which was erected in 1700.
Threading narrow streets, with the stenographic
reporter of the courts, Mr. R. A. West, for my
guide, we came into a quiet locality where the
ancient landmark reared its steeple, like the
finger of faith pointing heavenward. Few indeed
must be the fashionable Christians who worship
under its unpretentious roof, but there is an air
of antiquity surrounding it which interests every
visitor who enters its venerable doorway.
The church-yard is very contracted in area
yet there is room for trees to grow within its
sacred precincts, and birds sometimes rest there
while pursuing their flight from the Schuylkill
to the Delaware. Among the crowded graves
is a square brick structure, covered with an
horizontal slab of white marble, upon which I read:
ON THE 23 AUGUST, 1813, AGED 47.
Ingenio stat sine morte decus."
Philadelphia has been called the, "city of
homes," and well does she merit that
comfortably sounding title, for it is not a misnomer.
Unlike some other large American cities, the
artisan and laborer can here own a home by
becoming a member of a building association
and paying the moderate periodical dues. Miles
upon miles of these cosy little houses, of five or
six rooms each, may be found, the inmates of
which are a good and useful class of citizens,
adding strength to the city's discipline and
The grand park of three thousand acres, one
of, if not the largest in the world, is near at
hand, where the poor as well as the rich can
resort at pleasure. I took leave of the beautiful
and well laid-out city with a pang of regret not
usual with canoeists, who find it best for their
comfort and peace of mind to keep with their
dainty crafts away from the heterogeneous and
not over-civil population which gathers along
the water-fronts of a port.
Monday, November 9, was a cold, wet
day. Mr. Knight and the old,
enthusiastic gunsmith-naturalist of the city, Mr. John
Krider, assisted me to embark in my now
decked, provisioned, and loaded canoe. The
stock of condensed food would easily last me a
month, while the blankets and other parts of the
outfit were good for the hard usage of four or
five months. My friends shouted adieu as the
little craft shot out from the pier and rapidly
descended the river with the strong ebb-tide
which for two hours was in her favor. The
anchorage of the iron Monitor fleet at League
Island was soon passed, and the great city sank
into the gloom of its smoke and the clouds of
rainy mist which enveloped it.
This pull was an exceedingly dreary one. The
storms of winter were at hand, and even along
the watercourses between Philadelphia and
Norfolk, Virginia, thin ice would soon be forming in
the shallow coves and creeks. It would be
necessary to exert all my energies to get south
of Hatteras, which is located on the North
Carolina coast in a region of storms and local
disturbances. The canoe, though heavily laden,
behaved well. I now enjoyed the advantages
resulting from the possession of the new canvas
deck-cover, which, being fastened by buttons
along each gunwale of the canoe, securely
covered the boat, so that the occasional swash sent
aboard by wicked tug-boats and large schooners
did not annoy me or wet my precious cargo.
By two o'clock P. M. the rain and wind caused
me to seek shelter at Mr. J. C. Beach's cottage,
at Markus Hook, some twenty miles below
Philadelphia, and on the same side of the river.
While Mr. Beach was varnishing the little craft,
crowds of people came to feel of the canoe,
giving it the usual punching with their finger-nails,
"to see if it were truly paper." A young
Methodist minister with his pretty wife came also to
satisfy their curiosity on the paper question, but
the dominie offered me not a word of
encouragement in my undertaking. He shook his head
and whispered to his wife: "A wild, wild
enterprise indeed." Markus Hook derived its name
from Markee, an Indian chief, who sold it to the
civilized white man for four barrels of whiskey.
The next morning, in a dense fog, I followed
the shores of the river, crossing the Pennsylvania
and Delaware boundary line half a mile below
the "Hook;" and entered Delaware, the little state
of three counties. Thirty-five miles below, the
water becomes salt. Reaching New Castle,
which contained half its present number of
inhabitants before Philadelphia was founded, I
pulled across to the New Jersey side of the river
and skirted the marshy shore past the little Pea
Patch Island, upon which rises in sullen
dreariness Fort Delaware. West of the Island is
Delaware City, where the Chesapeake and
Delaware Canal, fourteen miles in length, has one
of its termini, the other being on a river which
empties into Chesapeake Bay. Philadelphia and
Baltimore steamboat lines utilize this canal in
the passage of their boats from one city to the
After crossing Salem Cove, and passing its
southern point, Elsinborough, five miles and a
half below Fort Delaware, the inhospitable
marshes became wide and desolate, warning me
to secure a timely shelter for the night. Nearly
two miles below Point Elsinborough the high
reeds were divided by a little creek, into which I
ran my canoe, for upon the muddy bank could be
seen a deserted, doorless fish-cabin, into which I
moved my blankets and provisions, after cutting
with my pocket-knife an ample supply of dry
reeds for a bed. Drift-wood, which a friendly
tide had deposited around the shanty, furnished
the material for my fire, which lighted up the
dismal hovel most cheerfully. And thus I kept
house in a comfortable manner till morning,
being well satisfied with the progress I had
made that day in traversing the shores of three
states. The booming of the guns of wild-fowl
shooters out upon the water roused me before
dawn, and I had ample time before the sun arose
to prepare breakfast from the remnant of canned
ox-tail soup left over from last night's supper.
I was now in Delaware Bay, which was
assuming noble proportions. From my camp I crossed
to the west shore below Reedy Island, and, filling
my water-bottles at a farm-house, kept upon that
shore all day. The wind arose, stirring up a
rough sea as I approached Bombay Hook, where
the bay is eight miles wide. I tried to land upon
the salt marshes, over the edges of which the
long, low seas were breaking, but failed in
several attempts. At last roller after roller,
following in quick succession, carried the little craft on
their crests to the land, and packed her in a
thicket of high reeds.
I quickly disembarked, believing it useless to
attempt to go further that day. About an eighth
of a mile from the water, rising out of the salt
grass and reeds, was a little mound, covered by
trees and bushes, into which I conveyed my
cargo by the back-load, and then easily drew the
light canoe over the level marsh to the camp.
A bed of reeds was soon cut, into which the
canoe was settled to prevent her from being
strained by the occupant at night, for I was
determined to test the strength of the boat as
sleeping-quarters. Canoes built for one person are
generally too light for such occupancy when out
of water. The tall fringe of reeds which
encircled the boat formed an excellent substitute for
chamber walls, giving me all the starry blue
heavens for a ceiling, and most effectually
screening me from the strong wind which was blowing.
As it was early when the boat was driven ashore
I had time to wander down to the brook, which
was a mile distant, and replenish my scanty stock
of water.
With the canvas deck-cover and rubber
blanket to keep off the heavy dews, the first night
passed in such contracted lodgings was endurable,
if not wholly convenient and agreeable. The
river mists were not dispelled the next day until
nine o'clock, when I quitted my warm nest in
the reeds and rowed down the bay, which seemed
to grow broader as I advanced. The bay was
still bordered by extensive marshes, with here
and there the habitation of man located upon
some slight elevation of the surface. Having
rowed twenty-six miles, and being off the mouth
of Murderkill Creek, a squall struck the canoe and
forced it on to an oyster reef, upon the sharp
shells of which she was rocked for several
minutes by the shallow breakers. Fearing that the
paper shell was badly cut, though it was still
early in the afternoon, I ascended the creek of
ominous name and associations to the landing of
an inn kept by Jacob Lavey, where I expected to
overhaul my injured craft. To my surprise and
great relief of mind there were found only a few
superficial scratches upon the horn-like
shellacked surface of the paper shell. To apply
shellac with a heated iron to the wounds made
by the oyster-shells was the work of a few
minutes, and my craft was as sound as ever. The
gunner's resort, "Bower's Beach Hotel,"
furnished an excellent supper of oyster fritters,
panfish, and fried pork-scrapple. Mine host, before
a blazing wood fire, told me of the origin of the
name of Murderkill Creek.
"In the early settlement of the country,"
began the innkeeper, "the white settlers did all
they could to civilize the Indians, but the cussed
savages wouldn't take to it kindly, but worried
the life out of the new-comers. At last a great
landed proprietor, who held a big grant of land
in these parts, thought he'd settle the troubles.
So he planted a brass cannon near the creek,
and invited all the Indians of the neighborhood
to come and hear the white man's Great Spirit
talk. The crafty man got the savages before the
mouth of the cannon, and said, 'Now look into
the hole there, for it is the mouth of the white
man's Great Spirit, which will soon speak in tones
of thunder.' The fellow then touched off the
gun, and knocked half the devils into splinters.
The others were so skeerd at the big voice they
had heard that they were afraid to move, and
were soon all killed by one charge after another
from the cannon: so the creek has been called
Murderkill ever since."
I afterwards discovered that there were other
places on the coast which had the same legend
as the one told me by the innkeeper. Holders
of small farms lived in the vicinity of this tavern,
but the post-office was at Frederica, five miles
inland. Embarking the next day, I felt sure of
ending my cruise on Delaware Bay before night,
as the quiet morning exhibited no signs of rising
winds. The little pilot town of Lewes, near
Cape Delaware, and behind the Breakwater, is a
port of refuge for storm-bound vessels. From
this village I expected to make a portage of six
miles to Love Creek, a tributary of Rehoboth
Sound. The frosty nights were now exerting a
sanitary influence over the malarial districts
which I had entered, and the unacclimated
canoeist of northern birth could safely pursue his
journey, and sleep at night in the swamps along
the fresh-water streams if protected from the
dews by a rubber or canvas covering. My hopes
of reaching the open sea that night were to be
drowned, and in cold water too; for that day,
which opened so calmly and with such smiling
promises, was destined to prove a season of trial,
and before its evening shadows closed around
me, to witness a severe struggle for life in the
cold waters of Delaware Bay.
An hour after leaving Murderkill Creek the
wind came from the north in strong squalls.
My little boat taking the blasts on her quarter,
kept herself free of the swashy seas hour after
hour. I kept as close to the sandy beach of the
great marshes as possible, so as to be near the
land in case an accident should happen.
Mispillion Creek and a light-house on the north of
its mouth were passed, when the wind and seas
struck my boat on the port beam, and continually
crowded her ashore. The water breaking on
the hard, sandy beach of the marshy coast made
it too much of a risk to attempt a landing, as the
canoe would be smothered in the swashy seas if
her head way was checked for a moment.
Amidships the canoe was only a few inches out of
water, but her great sheer, full bow, and
smoothness of hull, with watchful management, kept her
from swamping. I had struggled along for
fourteen miles since morning, and was fatigued
by the strain consequent upon the continued
manoeuvring of my boat through the rough waves.
I reached a point on Slaughter Beach, where the
bay has a width of nearly nineteen miles, when
the tempest rose to such a pitch that the great
raging seas threatened every moment to wash
over my canoe, and to force me by their violence
close into the beach. To my alarm, as the boat
rose and fell upon the waves, the heads of
sharp-pointed stakes appeared and disappeared in the
broken waters. They were the stakes of
fishermen to which they attach their nets in the season
of trout-fishing. The danger of being impaled
on one of these forced me off shore again.
There was no undertow; the seas being driven
over shoals were irregular and broken. At last my
sea came. It rolled up without a crest, square
and formidable. I could not calculate where it
would break, but I pulled for life away from it
towards the beach upon which the sea was
breaking with deafening sound. It was only for
a moment that I beheld the great brown wave,
which bore with it the mud of the shoal, bearing
down upon me; for the next, it broke astern,
sweeping completely over the canoe from stern
to stem, filling it through the opening of the
canvas round my body. Then for a while the
watery area was almost smooth, so completely
had the great wave levelled it. The canoe
being water-logged, settled below the surface,
the high points of the ends occasionally
emerging from the water. Other heavy seas followed
the first, one of which striking me as high as my
head and shoulders, turned both the canoe and
canoeist upside-down.
A Capsize in Delaware Bay (100K)
Kicking myself free of the canvas deck, I
struck out from under the shell, and quickly
rose to the surface. It was then that the words
of an author of a European Canoe Manual came
to my mind: "When you capsize, first right the
canoe and get astride it over one end, keeping
your legs in the water; when you have crawled
to the well or cockpit, bale out the boat with
your hat." Comforting as these instructions
from an experienced canoe traveller seemed
when reading them in my hermitage ashore, the
present application of them (so important a
principle in Captain Jack Bunsby's log of life)
was in this emergency an impossibility; for my
hat had disappeared with the seat-cushion and
one iron outrigger, while the oars were floating
to leeward with the canoe.
The boat having turned keel up, her great
sheer would have righted her had it not been for
the cargo, which settled itself on the canvas
deck-cloth, and ballasted the craft in that
position. So smooth were her polished sides that it
was impossible to hold on to her, for she rolled
about like a slippery porpoise in a tideway.
having tested and proved futile the kind
suggestions of writers on marine disasters, and
feeling very stiff in the icy water, I struck out in an
almost exhausted condition for the shore. Now
a new experience taught me an interesting
lesson. The seas rolled over my head and
shoulders in such rapid succession, that I found I
could not get my head above water to breathe,
while the sharp sand kept in suspension by the
agitated water scratched my face, and filled my
eyes, nostrils, and ears. While I felt this
pressing down and burying tendency of the seas, as
they broke upon my head and shoulders, I
understood the reason why so many good
swimmers are drowned in attempting to reach the
shore from a wreck on a shoal, when the wind,
though blowing heavily, is in the victim's favor.
The land was not over an eighth of a mile away,
and from it came the sullen roar of the breakers,
pounding their heavy weight upon the sandy
shingle. As its booming thunders or its angry,
swashing sound increased, I knew I was rapidly
nearing it, but, blinded by the boiling waters, I
could see nothing.
At such a moment do not stop to make vows
as to how you will treat your neighbor in future
if once safely landed, but strike out, fight as you
never fought before, swallowing as little water
as possible, and never relaxing an energy or
yielding a hope. The water shoaled; my feet
felt the bottom, and I stood up, but a roller laid
me flat on my face. Up again and down again,
swimming and crawling, I emerged from the
sea, bearing, I fear, a closer resemblance to Jonah
(being at last pitched on shore) than to
Cabnel's Venus, who was borne gracefully upon
the rosy crests of the sky-reflecting waves to
the soft bed of sparkling foam awaiting her.
Wearily dragging myself up the hard shingle,
I stood and contemplated the little streams of
water pouring from my woollen clothes. A new
danger awaited me as the cold wind whistled
down the barren beach and across the desolate
marshes. I danced about to keep warm, and for
a moment thought that my canoe voyage had
come to an unfortunate termination. Then a
buoyant feeling succeeded the moment's
depression, and I felt that this was only the first
of many trials which were necessary to prepare
me for the successful completion of my
undertaking. But where was the canoe, with its
provisions that were to sustain me, and the charts
which were to point out my way through the
labyrinth of waters she was yet to traverse?
She had drifted near the shore, but would not
land. There was no time to consider the
propriety of again entering the water. The struggle
was a short though severe one, and I dragged
my boat ashore.
Everything was wet excepting what was most
needed, -- a flannel suit, carefully rolled in a
water-proof cloth. I knew that I must change
my wet clothes for dry ones, or perish. This
was no easy task to perform, with hands
benumbed and limbs paralyzed with the cold. O
shade of Benjamin Franklin, did not one of thy
kinsmen, in his wide experience as a traveller,
foresee this very disaster, and did he not, when
I left the "City of Brotherly Love," force upon
me an antidote, a sort of spiritual fire, which my
New England temperance principles made me
refuse to accept? "It is old, very old," he
whispered, as he slipped the flask into my coatpocket,
"and it may save your life. Don't be foolish.
I have kept it well bottled. It is a pure article,
and cost sixteen dollars per gallon. I use it only
for medicine." I found the flask; the water
had not injured it. A small quantity was taken,
when a most favorable change came over my
entire system, mental as well as physical, and I
was able to throw off one suit and put on
another in the icy wind, that might, without the
stimulant, have ended my voyage of life.
I had doctored myself homoeopathically under
the old practice. Filled with feelings of
gratitude to the Great Giver of good, I reflected, as
I carried my wet cargo into the marsh, upon the
wonderful effects of my friend's medicine when
taken only as medicine. Standing upon the cold
beach and gazing into the sea, now lashed by
the wild frenzy of the wind, I determined never
again to do so mean a thing as to say a
word against good brandy.
Having relieved my conscience by this just
resolve, I transported the whole of my wet but
still precious cargo to a persimmon grove, on
a spot of firm land that rose out of the marsh,
where I made a convenient wind-break by
stretching rubber blankets between trees. On
this knoll I built a fire, obtaining the matches
to kindle it from a water-proof safe presented to
me by Mr. Epes Sargent, of Boston, some years
before, when I was ascending the St. Johns
River, Florida.
Before dusk, all things not spoiled by the
water were dried and secreted in the tall sedge
of the marshes. The elevation which had given
me friendly shelter is known as "Hog Island."
The few persimmon-trees that grew upon it
furnished an ample lunch, for the frosts had
mellowed the plum-like fruit, making it sweet and
edible. The persimmon (Diospyrus
Virginiana) is a small tree usually found in the middle
and southern states. Coons and other animals
feast upon its fruit. The deepening gloom
warned me to seek comfortable quarters for the
Two miles up the strand was an old gunners'
inn, to which I bent my steps along Slaughter
Beach, praying that one more day's effort would
take me out of this bleak region of ominous
names. A pleasant old gentleman, Mr. Charles
Todd, kept the tavern, known as Willow Grove
Hotel, more for amusement than for profit. I
said nothing to him about the peculiar manner
in which I had landed on Slaughter Beach; but
to his inquiry as to where my boat was, and
what kind of a boat it was to live in such a
blow, I replied that I found it too wet and cold
on the bay to remain there, and too rough to
proceed to Cape Henlopen, and there being no
alternative, I was obliged to land much against
my inclination, and in doing so was drenched to
the skin, but had managed to get dry before a
fire in the marshes. So the kind old man piled
small logs in the great kitchen fireplace, and
told me tale upon tale of his life as a
schoolmaster out west; of the death of his wife there,
and of his desire to return, after long years of
absence, to his native Delaware, where he could
be comfortable, and have all the clams, oysters,
fish, and bay truck generally that a man could
wish for.
"Now," he added, "I shall spend my last
days here in peace." He furnished an excellent
supper of weak-fish or sea trout (Otolithus
regalio), fried oysters, sweet potatoes, &c.
This locality offers a place of retirement for
men of small means and limited ambition. The
broad bay is a good sailing and fishing ground,
while the great marshes are the resort of many
birds. The light, warm soil responds generously
to little cultivation. After a day of hunting and
fishing, the new-comer can smoke his pipe in
peace, to the music of crackling flames in the
wide old fireplace. Here he may be
comfortable, and spend his last days quietly vegetating,
with no criticisms on his deterioration, knowing
that he is running to seed no faster than his
The wind had gone to rest with the sun, and
the sharp frost that followed left its congealed
breath upon the shallow pools of water nearly
half an inch in thickness by morning. From
my bed I could see through the window the
bright flashes from Cape May and Cape
Henlopen lights. Had not misfortune beset me, a
four-hours' pull would have landed me at Lewes.
There was much to be thankful for, however.
Through a merciful Providence it was my
privilege to enjoy a soft bed at the Willow Grove
Inn, and not a cold one on the sands of
Slaughter Beach. So ended my last day on Delaware
My first thought the next morning was of the
lost outrigger, and how I should replace
it. My host soon solved the problem for me.
I was to drive to the scene of the late disaster in
his light, covered wagon, load it with the canoe
and cargo, and take the shortest route to Love
Creek, six miles from Lewes, stopping on the
way at a blacksmith's for a new outrigger.
We drove over sandy roads, through forests of
pine and oak, to the village of Milton, where a
curious crowd gathered round us and facetiously
asked if we had "brought the canoe all the way
from Troy in that 'ere wagon." The village
smith, without removing the paper boat from her
snug quarters, made a fair outrigger in an hour's
time, when we continued our monotonous ride
through the dreary woods to a clearing upon the
banks of a cedar swamp, where in a cottage
lived Mr. George Webb, to whom Bob Hazzle,
my driver, presented me. Having now reached
Love Creek, I deposited my canoe with Mr.
Webb, and started off for Lewes to view the
town and the ocean.
Across the entrance of Delaware Bay, from
Cape Henlopen Light to Cape May Light on the
southern end of New Jersey, is a distance of
twelve statute miles. Saturday night and
Sunday were passed in Lewes, which is situated
inside of Cape Henlopen, and behind the
celebrated stone breakwater which was constructed
by the government. This port of refuge is much
frequented by coasters, as many as two or three
hundred sails collecting here during a severe
gale. The government is building a
remarkable pier of solid iron spiles, three abreast, which,
when completed, will run out seventeen
hundred feet into the bay, and reach a depth of
twenty-three feet of water. Captain Brown, of
the Engineers, was in charge of the work. By the
application of a jet of water, forced by an
hydraulic pump through a tube down the outside of
the spile while it is being screwed into the sand,
a puddling of the same is kept up, which
relieves the strain upon the screw-flanges, and
saves fourteen-fifteenths of the time and labor
usually expended by the old method of inserting
the screw spile. This invention was a happy
thought of Captain Brown.
The government has purchased a piece of land
at Lewes for the site of a fort. Some time in the
future there will be a railroad terminating on the
pier, and coal will be brought directly from the
mines to supply the fleets which will gather
within the walls of the Breakwater. Here, free from
all danger of an ice blockade, this port will
become a safe and convenient harbor and
coaling station during the winter time for government
and other vessels.
At dusk on Sunday evening the collector of
the port, Captain Lyons, and his friends, took
me in their carriage back to Love Creek, where
Mr. Webb insisted upon making me the
recipient of his hospitality for the night. A little
crowd of women from the vicinity of the swamp
were awaiting my arrival to see the canoe. One
ancient dame, catching sight of the alcohol-stove
which I took from my vest-pocket, clapped her
thin hands and enthusiastically exclaimed, "What
a nice thing for a sick-room-the best nuss-lamp
I ever seed!" Having satisfied the curiosity of
these people, and been much amused by their
quaint remarks, I was quietly smuggled into Mr.
Webb's "best room," where, if my spirit did not
make feathery flights, it was not the fault of the
downy bed in whose unfathomable depths I now
lost myself.
Before leaving Delaware I feel it an
imperative duty to the public to refer to one of her
time-honored institutions.
Persons unacquainted with the fact will find
it difficult to believe that one state of the great
American Republic still holds to the practice of
lashing men and women, white and black.
Delaware -- one of the smallest states of the Union,
the citizens of which are proverbially generous
and hospitable, a state which has produced a
Bayard -- is, to her shame we regret to say, the
culprit which sins against the spirit of civilization
in this nineteenth century, one hundred years
after the fathers of the Republic declared equal
rights for all men. In treating of so delicate a
subject, I desire to do no one injustice; therefore
I will let a native of Delaware speak for his
"DOVER, DELAWARE, August 2, 1873.
"EDITOR CAMDEN SPY: According to
promise, I now write you a little about Delaware.
Persons in your vicinity look upon the 'Little
Diamond State' as a mere bog, or marsh, and
mud and water they suppose are its chief
productions; but, in my opinion, it is one of the
finest little states in the Union. Although small,
in proportion to the size it produces more grain
and fruit than any other state in the country, and
they are unexcelled as regards quality and flavor.
Crime is kept in awe by that best of institutions,
the whipping post and pillory! These are the
bugbear of all the northern newspapers, and
they can say nothing too harsh or severe against
them. The whipping-post in Kent County is
situated in the yard of the jail, and is about six
feet in height and three feet in circumference; the
prisoner is fastened to it by means of bracelets,
or arms, on the wrist; and the sheriff executes
the sentence of the law by baring the convict to
the waist, and on the bare back lashing him
twenty, forty, or sixty times, according to the
sentence. But the blood does not run in streams
from the prisoner's back, nor is he thrown into a
barrel of brine, and salt sprinkled over the lashes.
On the contrary, I have seen them laugh, and
coolly remark that 'it's good exercise, and gives
us an appetite.' But there are others who raise
the devil's own row with their yells and horrible
cries of pain. The whipping is public, and is
witnessed each time by large numbers of people
who come from miles around to see the culprit
"A public whipping occurred not very long
ago, and the day was very stormy, yet there
were fully three hundred spectators on the ground
to witness this wholesome punishment! A
person who has been lashed at the whipping-post
cannot vote again in this state; thus, most of the
criminals who are whipped leave the state in
order to regain their citizenship. The newspapers
can blow until they are tired about this 'horrible,
barbaric, and unchristian punishment,' but if their
own states would adopt this form of punishment,
they would find crime continually on the
decrease. What is imprisonment for a few months
or years? It is soon over with; and then they
are again let out upon the community, to beg,
borrow, and steal. But to be publicly whipped
is an everlasting disgrace, and deters men from
committing wrong. Women are whipped in the
same manner, and they take it very hard; but, to
my recollection, there has not been a female
prisoner for some time. I did not intend to
comment so long upon the whipping-posts in the
state of Delaware.
"The pillory next claims our attention. This
is a long piece of board that runs through the
whipping-post at the top, and has holes [as per
engraving] for the neck and arms to rest in a
very constrained position. The prisoner is
compelled to stand on his toes for an hour with his
neck and arms in the holes, and if he sinks from
exhaustion, as it sometimes happens, the neck is
instantly broken. Josiah Ward, the villain who
escaped punishment for the murder of the man
Wady in your county, came into Delaware,
broke into a shoe-store, succeeded in stealing one
pair of shoes, -- was arrested, got sixty lashes at
the post, was made to stand in the pillory one
hour, is now serving out a term of two years'
imprisonment, -- and he never got the shoes!
The pillory is certainly a terrible and cruel
punishment, and, while I heartily favor the
whipping-post, I think this savage punishment should be
"Since writing the above, I have heard that a
colored woman was convicted of murder in the
second degree last May, and on Saturday the
17th of that month received sixty lashes on her
bare back, and stood in the pillory one hour.
"What do you think of Delaware law, after
what I have written? I have written enough
for the present, so I will close, ever remaining,
Yours very truly, P. P."
For twenty years past, Delaware and
Maryland farmers have given much attention to peach
culture, which has gradually declined in New
Jersey and states further north. There are said
to be over sixty thousand acres of land on the
peninsula planted with peach-trees, which are
estimated to be worth fifty dollars per acre, or
three million dollars. To harvest this crop
requires at least twenty-five thousand men, women,
and children. The planting of an acre of
peach-trees, and its cultivation to maturity, costs from
thirty to forty dollars. The canners take a large
portion of the best peaches, which are shipped
to foreign as well as to domestic markets.
The low lands and river-shores of the
peninsula exhale malaria which attacks the inhabitants
in a mild form of ague. During the spring,
summer, and early fall months, a prudent man
will not expose himself to the air until after
the sun has risen and dispelled the mists of
morning. The same caution should be observed
all through the low regions of the south, both
as to morning and evening exercise. Chills and
fever are the bane of the southern and middle
states, as this disease affects the health and
elastic vigor of the constitution, and also
produces great mental depression. Yet those who
suffer, even on every alternate day, from chills,
seem to accept the malaria as nothing of much
importance; though it is a well-known fact that
this form of intermittent fever so reduces the
strength, that the system is unable to cope with
other and more dangerous diseases for which it
paves the way.
Upon a little creek, tributary to St. Martin's
River, and near its confluence with the Isle of
Wight Bay, a long day's pull from the swamp of
Love Creek, was the old plantation home of a
friend of my boyhood, Mr. Taylor, who about
this time was looking out for the arrival of the
paper canoe. It was a question whether I could
descend Love Creek three miles, cross Rehoboth
and Indian River sounds, ascend White's Creek,
make a portage to Little Assawaman Bay, thread
the thoroughfare west of Fenwick's Island Light,
cross the Isle of Wight Bay, ascend and cross St.
Martin's River to Turval's Creek, and reach the
home of my friend, all in one day. But I
determined to attempt the task. Mr. Webb roused his
family at an early hour, and I rowed down Love
Creek and crossed the shallow waters of
Rehoboth Bay in the early part of the day.
From Cape Henlopen, following the general
contour of the coast, to Cape Charles at the
northern entrance of Chesapeake Bay, is a
distance of one hundred and thirty-six miles; from
Cape Charles across the mouth of Chesapeake
Bay to Cape Henry is thirteen miles; from
Henlopen south, the state of Delaware occupies
about twenty miles of the coast; the eastern
shore of Maryland holds between thirty and
forty miles, while the eastern shore of Virginia,
represented by the counties of Accomac and
Northampton, covers the peninsula to Cape
Commencing at Rehoboth Bay, a small boat
may follow the interior waters to the Chesapeake
Bay. The watercourses of this coast are
protected from the rough waves of the ocean by
long, narrow, sandy islands, known as beaches,
between which the tides enter. These passages
from the sea to the interior waters are called
inlets, and most of them are navigable for
coasting vessels of light draught. These inlets are so
influenced by the action of storms, and their
shores and locations are so changed by them,
that the cattle may graze to-day in tranquil
happiness where only a generation ago the old skipper
navigated his craft. During June of the year
1821 a fierce gale opened Sandy Point Inlet with
a foot depth of water, but it closed in 1831.
Green Point Inlet was cut through the beach
during a gale in 1837, and was closed up seven
years later. Old Sinepuxent Inlet, which was
forced open by the sea more than sixty years
ago, closed in 1831. These three inlets were
within a space of three miles, and were all north
of Chincoteague village. Green Run Inlet,
which had a depth of about six feet of water for
nearly ten years, also closed after shifting half a
mile to the south of its original location. The
tendency of inlets on this coast is to shift to the
southward, as do the inlets on the coast of New
Oystermen, fishermen, and farmers live along
the upland, and in some cases on the island
beaches. From these bays, timber, firewood,
grain, and oysters are shipped to northern ports.
The people are everywhere kind and hospitable
to strangers. A mild climate, cheap and easily
worked soils, wild-fowl shooting, fine oysters and
fishing privileges, offer inducements to
Northerners and Europeans to settle in this country;
the mild form of ague which exists in most
of its localities being the only objection. While
debating this point with a native, he attacked my
argument by saying:
"Law sakes! don't folks die of something,
any way? If you don't have fever 'n' ague round
Massachusetts, you've got an awful lot of things
we hain't got here -- a tarnashun sight wuss ones,
too; sich as cumsempsun, brown-critters, mental
spinageetis, lung-disease, and all sorts of
brownkill disorders. Besides, you have such awful
cold winters that a farmer has to stay holed four
months out of the year, while we folks in the
south can work most of the time out of doors.
I'll be dog-goned if I hadn't ruther live here in
poverty than die up north a-rolling in riches.
Now, stranger, as to what you said about
sickness, why we aren't no circumstance to you
fellows up north. Why, your hull country is
chuckfull of pizenous remedies. When I was a-coasting
along Yankeedom and went ashore, I found
all the rocks along the road were jist kivered
with quack-medicine notices, and all the farmers
hired out the outsides of their barns to advertise
doctor's stuff on."
In no portion of America do the people seem
to feel the burden of earning a livelihood more
lightly. They get a great deal of social
enjoyment out of life at very little cost, and place
much less value on the "mighty dollar" than do
their brother farmers of the northern section of
the states. The interesting inquiry of "Who was
his father?" commences at Philadelphia, and its
importance intensifies as you travel southward.
Old family associations have great weight among
all classes.
It was six miles from the mouth of Love Creek
across the little sound to Burton's marshy island
at the entrance of Indian River Sound. Indian
River supplies its bay with much of its fresh
water, and the small inlet in the beach of the
same name with the salt water of the ocean.
Large flocks of geese and ducks were seen upon
the quiet waters of the sound. Pursuing my
southward course across Indian River Sound
three miles, I entered a small creek with a wide
mouth, which flows north from the cedar swamp,
known as White's Creek, which I ascended until
the stream became so narrow that it seemed
almost lost in the wilderness, when suddenly
an opening in the forest showed me a clearing
with the little buildings of a farm scattered
around. It was the home of a Methodist
exhorter, Mr. Silas J. Betts. I told him how
anxious I was to make a quick portage to the
nearest southern water, Little Assawaman Bay,
not much more than three miles distant by road.
After calmly examining my boat, he said: "It
is now half-past eleven o'clock. Wife has dinner
about ready. I'll hurry her up a little, and while
she is putting it on the table we will get the cart
ready." The cart was soon loaded with pine
needles as a bed for the canoe. We lashed her
into a firm position with cords, and went in to
In a short time after, we were rattling over a
level, wooded country diversified here and there
by a little farm. The shallow bay, the east side
of which was separated from the ocean by sandy
hills, was bounded by marshes. We drove close
to the water and put the Maria Theresa once
more into her true element. A friendly shake
of the hand as I paid the conscientious man his
charge of one dollar for his services, with many
thanks for his hospitality, for which he would
accept nothing -- and the canoe was off, threading
the narrow and very shallow channel-way of this
grassy-bottomed bay.
The tall tower of Fenwick's Island Light,
located on the boundary line of Delaware and
Maryland, was now my landmark. It rises out
of the low land that forms a barrier against
which the sea breaks. The people on the coast
pronounce Fenwick "Phoenix." Phoenix Island,
they say, was once a part of the mainland, but a
woman, wishing to keep her cattle from
straying, gave a man a shirt for digging a narrow
ditch between Little and Great Assawaman
bays. The tide ebbed and flowed so strongly
through this new channel-way that it was worn
to more than a hundred feet in width, and has
at high tide a depth in places of from ten to
fifteen feet of water. The opening of this new
thoroughfare so diminished the flow of water
through the Little Assawaman Inlet to the sea,
that it became closed. The water was almost
fresh here, as the nearest inlet which admits salt
water at high tide is at Chincoteague Island,
some fifty miles distant.
Passing to the west of the light-house through
this passage, I thought of what a woman could
do, and almost expected to hear from the rippling
waters the "Song of the Shirt," which would
have been in this case a much more cheerful
one than Hood's. I now entered Great
Assawaman Bay, the waters of which lay like a
mirror before me; and nearly five miles away, to the
southwestern end, the tall forests of the Isle of
Wight loomed up against the setting sun. Ducks
rose in flocks from the quiet waters as my canoe
glided into their close vicinity. If I could have
taken less cargo, I should have carried a light
gun; but this being impossible, a pocket
revolver was my only fire-arm: so the ducks and
other wild-fowl along my route had reason to
hold the paper canoe in grateful remembrance.
Upon reaching the shores of the Isle of Wight
I entered the mouth of St. Martin's River, which
is, at its confluence with Isle of Wight Bay, more
than two miles wide. I did not then possess the
fine Coast Chart No.28, or the General Chart
of the Coast, No.4, with the topography of the
land clearly delineated, and showing every man's
farm-buildings, fields, landings, &c., so plainly
located as to make it easy for even a novice to
navigate these bays. Now, being chartless so
far as these waters were concerned, I peered
about in the deepening twilight for my friend's
plantation buildings, which I knew were not far
off; but the gloomy forests of pine upon the
upland opened not the desired vista I so longed
to find.
Crossing the wide river, I came upon a long
point of salt-marsh, which I hoped might be
Keyser's Point, for I knew that to the west of
this point I should find Turval's Creek. While
rowing along the marsh I came upon two
duck-shooters in their punt, but so enveloped were
they in the mist that it was impossible to do
more than define their forms. I, however,
ventured a question as to my locality, when, to my
utter astonishment, there came back to me in
clear accents my own name. Never before had
it sounded so sweet to my ears. It was the
voice of my friend, who with a companion
was occupied in removing from the water the
flock of decoys which they had been
guarding since sunrise. Joyful was the unexpected
We rowed around Keyser's Point, and up
Turval's Creek, a couple of miles to the plantation
landing. There, upon the old estate in the little
family burial-ground, slept, "each in his narrow
cell," the children of four generations. Our
conversation before the blazing wood-fire that night
related to the ground travelled over during the day,
a course of about thirty-five miles. Mr. Taylor's
father mentioned that a friend, during one week
in the previous September, had taken upon his
hook, while fishing from the marshes of
Rehoboth Bay, five hundred rock-fish, some of which
weighed twenty pounds. The oysters in
Rehoboth and Indian River bays had died out,
probably from the decrease in the amount of
salt water now entering them. A delightful
week was spent with my friends at Winchester
Plantation, when the falling of the mercury
warned me to hurry southward.
On Wednesday, November 25, I descended
the plantation creek and rowed out of St.
Martin's River into the Bay. My course southward
led me past "the Hommack," an Indian mound
of oyster-shells, which rises about seven feet
above the marsh on the west side of the entrance
to Sinepuxent bay, and where the mainland
approaches to within eight hundred feet of the
beach. This point, which divides the Isle of
Wight Bay from Sinepuxent, is the terminus of
the Wicomico and Pocomoke Railroad, which
has been extended from Berlin eastwardly seven
miles. A short ferry conveys the passengers
across the water to a narrow island beach, which
is considered by Bayard Taylor, the author, the
finest beach he has ever visited. This new
watering-place is called Ocean City; and my
friend, B. Jones Taylor, was treasurer of the
company which was engaged in making the
much-desired improvements. The shallow bays
in the vicinity of Ocean City offer safe and
pleasant sailing-grounds. The summer fishing
consists chiefly of white perch, striped bass, sheep's-head,
weak-fish, and drum. In the fall, bluefish
are caught. All of these, with oysters, soft
crabs, and diamond-backed terrapin, offer
tempting dishes to the epicure. This recently isolated
shore is now within direct railroad
communication with Philadelphia and New York, and can
be reached in nine hours from the former, and
in twelve hours from the latter city.
From the Hommack to South Point is included
the length of Sinepuxent Bay, according to Coast
Survey authority. From South Point to below
the middle of Chincoteague Island the bay is
put down as "Assateague," though the oystermen
do not call it by that name. The celebrated
oyster-beds of the people of Chincoteague
commence about twenty miles south of the
Hornmack. There are two kinds of oysters shipped
from Chincoteague Inlet to New York and
other markets. One is the long native plant
the other, that transplanted from Chesapeake
Bay: this bivalve is rounded in form, and the
most prized of the two. The average width of
Sinepuxent was only a mile. When I turned
westwardly around South Point, and entered
Assateague Bay, the watery expanse widened,
between the marshes on the west and the
sandy-beach island on the east, to over four miles.
The debouchure of Newport Creek is to the
west of South Point. The marshes here are
very wide. I ascended it in the afternoon to
visit Dr. F. J. Purnell, whose attempts to
introduce the pinnated grouse and California
partridges on his plantation had attracted the
attention of Mr. Charles Hallock, editor of "Forest
and Stream"; and I had promised him, if
possible, to investigate the matter. This South Point
of Sinepuxent Neck is a place of historical
interest, it being now asserted that it is the
burial place of Edward Whalley, the regicide.
Early in 1875, Mr. Robert P. Robins found in a
bundle of old family documents a paper containing
interesting statements written by his great-great-grandfather,
Thomas Robins, 3d, of South Point,
Worcester County, Maryland, and dated July 8,
1769. We gather from this reliable source that
Edward Whalley left Connecticut and arrived in
Virginia in 1618, and was there met by a portion
of his family. From Virginia he travelled to
the "province of Maryland, and settled first at
ye mouth of ye Pokemoke River; and finding
yt too publick a place he came to Sinepuxent, a
neck of land open to ye Atlantic Ocean, where
Colonel Stephen was surveying and bought a
tract of land from him and called it Genezar; it
contained two thousand two hundred acres, south
end of Sinepuxent; and made a settlement on ye
southern extremity, and called it South Point; to
ye which place he brought his family about 1687,
in ye name of Edward Middleton. His own name
he made not publick until after this date, after ye
revolution in England, (in ye year of our Lord
1688,) when he let his name be seen in publick
papers, and had ye lands patented in his own
The writer of the above quotation was the
great-grandson of Edward Whalley (alias Edward
Middleton), the celebrated regicide.
Four miles from South Point I struck the
marshes which skirted Dr. Purnell's large
plantation, and pushing the canoe up a narrow branch
of the creek, I waded through the partially
submerged herbage to the firm ground, where the
doctor was awaiting me. His house was close
at hand, within the hospitable walls of which I
passed the night. Dr. Purnell has an estate of
one thousand five hundred acres, lying along the
banks of Newport Creek. Since the civil war it
has been worked by tenants. Much of it is
woodland and salt-marshes. Five years before
my visit, a Philadelphian sent the doctor a few
pairs of prairie-chickens, and a covey of both the
valley and the mountain partridge. I am now
using popular terms. The grouse were from a
western state; the partridges had been obtained
from California. The partridges were kept caged
for several weeks and were then set at liberty.
They soon disappeared in the woods, with the
exception of a single pair, which returned daily
to the kitchen-door of a farm tenant to obtain
food. These two birds nested in the garden
close to the house, and reared a fine brood of
young; but the whole covey wandered away, and
were afterwards heard from but once. They
had crossed to the opposite side of Newport
Creek, and were probably shot by gunners.
The prairie-chickens adapted themselves to
their new home in a satisfactory manner, and
became very tame. Their nests, well filled with
eggs, were found along the rail-fences of the fields
in the close vicinity of the marshes, for which
level tracts they seemed to have strong
attachment. They multiplied rapidly, and visited the
cattle-pens and barn-yards of the plantation.
The Maryland legislature passed a law to
protect all grouse introduced into the state; but a
new danger threatened these unfortunate birds.
A crew of New Jersey terrapin-hunters entered
Chincoteague Inlet, and searched the ditches and
little creeks of the salt-marshes for the
"diamondbacks." While thus engaged, the gentle grouse,
feeding quietly in the vicinity, attracted their
attention, and they at once bagged most of them.
A tenant on the estate informed me that he had
seen eighteen birds in a cornfield a few days
before -- the remnant of the stock.
The Ruffled Grouse (Bonasa umbellas), so
abundant in New Jersey, is not a resident of the
peninsula. Dr. Purnell's first experiment with
the Pinnated Grouse (Cupidonia cupido) has
encouraged others to bring the ruffled grouse to
the eastern shore of Maryland. That
unapproachable songster of the south, the American
Mocking-bird (Mimus polyglottus), is becoming
scarce in this region, from the inroads made by
bird-catchers who ship the young to northern
cities. This delightful chorister is only an
accidental visitor in the New England states.
Indeed as far south as Ocean County, New Jersey,
I saw but one of these birds, in a residence of
nine years on my cranberry plantations; though I
have heard that their nests are occasionally found
about Cape May, at the extreme southern end of
New Jersey.
My time being limited, I could enjoy the
doctor's hospitality for but one night. The next
morning the whole family, with tenants both
black and white, assisted me to embark. By
dusk I had crossed the division line of two states,
and had entered Virginia near the head of
Chincoteague Island, a locality of peculiar interest to
the student of American character. The
ebb-tide had left but little water around the rough pier
abreast of the town, and heaps of oyster-shells
rose from the mud flats and threatened the
safety of my canoe. I looked up through the
darkness to the light pier-head above me, and
called for assistance. Two men leaned over to
inquire, "What's the row now, stranger? " To
which I replied, "I wish to land a light boat on
your pier; and as it is made of paper, it should
be carefully handled." For a moment the
oystermen observed a silence, and then, without one
word of explanation, disappeared. I heard their
heavy boots tramping up the quay towards the
tavern. Soon a low murmur arose on the night
air, then hoarse shouts, and there came
thundering down the wharf an army of men and boys.
"Pass her up, stranger!" they cried. "Here,
give us your bow and starn painters, and jest
step overboard yourself, and we'll hist her up."
Some of the motley crew caught me by the
shoulders, others "histed away," and the canoe
and its captain were laid roughly upon the
There was a rush to feel of the paper shell.
Many were convinced that there was no humbug
about it; so, with a great shout, some of the men
tossed it upon their shoulders, while the rest
seized upon the miscellaneous cargo, and a rush
was made for the hotel, leaving me to follow at
discretion and alone. The procession burst open
the doors of the tavern, and poured through
the entrance to a court-yard, where they laid
the boat upon a long table under a shed, and
thought they had earned "drinks." This was the
spontaneous way in which the Chincoteague
people welcomed me. "If you don't drink, stranger,
up your way, what on airth keeps your buddies
and soulds together?" queried a tall oysterman.
A lady had kindly presented me with a peck of fine
apples that very morning; so, in lieu of "drinks,"
I distributed the fruit among them. They joked
and questioned me, and all were merry save one
bilious-looking individual, not dressed, like the
others, in an oysterman's garb, but wearing, to
use a term of the place, "store clothes."
After the crowd had settled in the bar-room,
at cards, &c., this doubting Thomas remained
beside the boat, carefully examining her. Soon
he was scraping her hull below the gunwale,
where the muddy water of the bay had left a
thin coat of sediment which was now dry. The
man's countenance lighted up as he pulled the
bartender aside and said, "Look ahere;
I tell you that boat looked as if she was made to
carry on a deck of a vessel, and to be a-shoved off
into the water at night jest abreast of a town to
make fools of folks, and git them to believe that
that fellow had a-rowed all the way ahere?
Now see, here is dust, dry dust on her hull.
She ahain't ben in the water mor'n ten minutes,
I sware," It required but a moment's
investigation of my Chincoteague audience to discover
that the dust was mud from the tide, and the
doubter brought down the ridicule of his more
discriminating neighbors upon him, and slunk
away amid their jeers.
Of all this community of watermen but one
could be found that night who had threaded the
interior watercourses as far as Cape Charles, and
he was the youngest of the lot. Taking out my
note-book, I jotted down his amusing directions.
"Look out for Cat Creek below Four Mouths,"
he said; "you'll catch it round there." "Yes,"
broke in several voices, "Cat Creek's an awful
place unless you run through on a full ebb-tide.
Oyster boats always has a time a-shoving through
Cat Creek," &c.
After the council with my Chincoteague
friends had ended, the route to be travelled the
next day was in my mental vision "as clear as
mud." The inhabitants of this island are not all
oystermen, for many find occupation and profit
in raising ponies upon the beach of Assateague,
where the wild, coarse grass furnishes them a
livelihood. These hardy little animals are called
"Marsh Tackies," and are found at intervals
along the beaches down to the sea-islands of the
Carolinas. They hold at Chincoteague an annual
fair, to which all the "pony-penners," as they
are called, bring their surplus animals to sell.
The average price is about ninety dollars for a
good beast, though some have sold for two
hundred and fifty dollars. All these horses are sold
in a semi-wild and unbroken state.
The following morning Mr. J. L. Caulk,
ex-collector of the oyster port, and about fifty
persons, escorted me to the landing, and sent me
away with a hearty "Good luck to ye."
It was three miles and three quarters to the
southern end of the island, which has an inlet
from the ocean upon each side of that end -- the
northern one being Assateague, the southern one
Chincoteague Inlet. Fortunately, I crossed the
latter in smooth water to Ballast Narrows in
the marshes, and soon reached Four Mouths,
where I found five mouths of thoroughfares, and
became perplexed, for had not the pilots of
Chincoteague called this interesting display of
mouths "Four Mouths"? I clung to the authority
of local knowledge, however, and was soon in a
labyrinth of creeks which ended in the marshes
near the beach.
Returning over the course, I once more faced
the four, or five mouths rather, and taking a new
departure by entering the next mouth to the one
I had so unsatisfactorily explored, soon entered
Rogue's Bay, across which could be seen the
entrance to Cat Creek, where I was to
experience the difficulties predicted by my Chincoteague
friends. Cat Creek furnished at half tide
sufficient water for my canoe, and not the
slightest difficulty was experienced in getting through
it. The oystermen had in their minds their own
sloop-rigged oyster-boats when they discoursed
to me about the hard passage of Cat Creek.
They had not considered the fact that my craft
drew only five inches of water.
Cat Creek took me quite down to the beach,
where, through an inlet, the dark-blue ocean,
sparkling in its white caps, came pleasantly into
view. Another inlet was to be crossed, and
again I was favored with smooth water. This
was Assawaman Inlet, which divided the beach
into two islands -- Wallops on the north, and
Assawaman on the south.
It seemed a singular fact that the two
Assawaman bays are forty-five miles to the north of an
inlet of the same name. In following the creeks
through the marshes between Assawaman Island
and the mainland, I crossed another shoal bay,
and another inlet opened in the beach, through
which the ocean was again seen. This last was
Gargathy Inlet. Before reaching it, as night was
coming on, I turned up a thoroughfare and rowed
some distance to the mainland, where I found
lodgings with a hospitable farmer, Mr. Martin R.
Kelly. At daybreak I crossed Gargathy Inlet.
It was now Saturday, November 28; and being
encouraged by the successful crossing of the
inlets in my tiny craft, I pushed on to try the less
inviting one at the end of Matomkin Island.
Fine weather favored me, and I pushed across
the strong tide that swept through this inlet
without shipping a sea. Assawaman and
Gargathy are constantly shifting their channels. At
times there will be six feet of water, and again
they will shoal to two feet. Matomkin, also, is
not to be relied on. Every northeaster will shift
a buoy placed in the channels of these three
inlets, so they are not buoyed.
Watchapreague Inlet, to the south of the three
last named, is less changeable in character, and
is also a much more dangerous inlet to cross in
rough weather. From Matoinkin Inlet the
interior thoroughfares were followed inside of Cedar
Island, when darkness forced me to seek shelter
with Captain William F. Burton, whose
comfortable home was on the shore of the mainland,
about five miles from Watchapreague Inlet.
Here I was kindly invited to spend Sunday.
Captain Burton told me much of interest, and
among other things mentioned the fact that
during one August, a few years before my visit, a
large lobster was taken on a fish-hook in
Watchapreague Inlet, and that a smaller one was
captured in the same manner during the summer
of 1874.
Monday was a gusty day. My canoe scraped
its keel upon the shoals as I dodged the broken
oyster reefs, called here "oyster rocks," while on
the passage down to Watchapreague Inlet. The
tide was very low, but the water deepened as
the beach was approached. A northeaster was
blowing freshly, and I was looking for a lee
under the beach, when suddenly the canoe shot
around a sandy point, and was tugging for life in
the rough waters of the inlet. The tide was
running in from the sea with the force of a rapid,
and the short, quick puffs of wind tossed the
waves wildly. It was useless to attempt to turn
the canoe back to the beach in such rough water,
but, intent on keeping the boat above the caps, I
gave her all the momentum that muscular power
could exert, as she was headed for the southern
point of the beach, across the dangerous inlet.
Though it was only half a mile across, the
passage of Watchapreague taxed me severely.
Waves washed over my canoe, but the gallant
little craft after each rebuff rose like a bird to
the surface of the water, answering the slightest
touch of my oar better than the best-trained
steed. After entering the south-side swash, the
wind struck me on the back, and seas came
tumbling over and around the boat, fairly forcing me
on to the beach. As we flew along, the
tumultuous waters made my head swim; so, to
prevent mental confusion, I kept my eyes only upon
the oars, which, strange to say, never betrayed
me into a false stroke.
As a heavy blast beat down the raging sea for
a moment, I looked over my shoulder and
beheld the low, sandy dunes of the southern shore
of the inlet close at hand, and with a severe jolt
the canoe grounded high on the strand. I
leaped out and drew my precious craft away
from the tide, breathing a prayer of thankfulness
for my escape from danger, and mentally vowing
that the canoe should cross all other treacherous
inlets in a fisherman's sloop. I went into camp
in a hollow of the beach, where the sand-hills
protected me from the piercing wind. All that
afternoon I watched from my burrow in the
ground the raging of the elements, and towards
evening was pleased to note a general subsidence
of wind and sea.
The canoe was again put into the water and
the thoroughfare followed southward for a mile
or two, when the short day ended, leaving me
beside a marshy island, which was fringed with
an oyster-bed of sharp-beaked bivalves.
Stepping overboard in the mud and water, the oars
and paddle were laid upon the shell reef to
protect the canoe, which was dragged on to the
marsh. It grew colder as the wind died out.
The marsh was wet, and no fire-wood could be
found. The canvas cover was removed, the cargo
was piled up on a platform of oars and shells to
secure it from the next tide, and then I slowly
and laboriously packed myself away in the narrow
shell for the night. The canvas deck-cover
was buttoned in its place, a rubber blanket
covered the cockpit, and I tried to sleep and dream
that I was not a sardine, nor securely confined in
some inhospitable vault. It was impossible to
turn over without unbuttoning one side of the
deck-cover and going through contortions that
would have done credit to a first-class acrobat.
For the first time in my life I found it necessary
to get out of bed in order to turn over in it.
At midnight, mallards (Anas boschas) came
close to the marsh. The soft whagh of the
drake, which is not in this species blessed with
the loud quack of the female bird, sufficiently
established the identity of the duck. Then
muskrats, and the oyster-eating coon, came
round, no doubt scenting my provisions. Brisk
raps from my knuckles on the inside shell of the
canoe astonished these animals and aroused their
curiosity, for they annoyed me until daybreak.
When I emerged from my narrow bed, the
frosty air struck my cheeks, and the cold, wet
marsh chilled my feet. It was the delay at
Watchapreague Inlet that had lodged me on this
inhospitable marsh; so, trying to exercise my
poor stock of patience, I completed my toilet,
shaking in my wet shoes. The icy water, into
which I stepped ankle-deep in order to launch
my canoe, reminded me that this wintry morning
was in fact the first day of December, and that
stormy Hatteras, south of which was to be found
a milder climate, was still a long way off.
The brisk row along Paramore's Island (called
Palmer's by the natives) to the wide, bay-like
entrance of Little Machipongo Inlet, restored
warmth to my benumbed limbs. This wide
doorway of the ocean permitted me to cross its
west portal in peace, for the day was calm.
From Little to Great Machipongo Inlet the
beach is called Hog Island. The inside
thoroughfare is bounded on the west by Rogue's
Island, out of the flats of which rose a solitary
house. At the southern end of Hog Island
there is a small store on a creek, and near the
beach a light-house, while a little inland is
located, within a forest of pines, a small
At noon, Great Machipongo Inlet was crossed
without danger, and Cobb's Island was skirted
several miles to Sand Shoal Inlet, near which
the hotel of the three Cobb brothers rose
cheerfully out of the dreary waste of sands and
marshes. The father of the present proprietors
came to this island more than thirty years ago,
and took possession of this domain, which had
been thrown up by the action of the ocean's
waves. He refused an offer of one hundred
thousand dollars for the island. The locality is
one of the best on this coast for wild-fowl
shooting. Sand Shoal Inlet, at the southern end of
Cobb's Island, has a depth of twelve feet of
water on its bar at low tide.
In company with the regular row-boat ferry I
crossed, the next day, the broad bay to the
mainland eight miles distant, where the canoe was
put upon a cart and taken across the peninsula
five miles to Cherrystone, the only point near
Cape Charles at which a Norfolk steamer stopped
for passengers. It was fully forty miles across
Chesapeake Bay from Cherrystone Landing to
Norfolk, and it was imperative to make the
portage from this place instead of from Cape Charles,
which, though more than fifteen miles further
south, and nearer to my starting-point on the
other side, did not possess facilities for
transportation. The slow one-horse conveyance arrived
at Cherrystone half an hour after the steamer
N. P. Banks had left the landing, though I
heard that the kind-hearted captain, being told
I was coming, waited and whistled for me till
his patience was exhausted.
The only house at the head of the pier was
owned by Mr. J. P. Powers, and fortunately
offered hotel accommodations. Here I remained
until the next trip of the boat, December 4.
Arriving in Norfolk at dusk of the same day, I
stored my canoe in the warehouse of the Old
Dominion Steamship Company, and quietly
retired to a hotel which promised an early meal
in the morning, congratulating myself the while
that I had avoided the usual show of curiosity
tendered to canoeists at city piers, and above all
had escaped the inevitable reporter. Alas! my
thankfulness came too soon; for when about to
retire, my name was called, and a veritable
reporter from the Norfolk Landmark cut off
my retreat.
"Only a few words," he pleadingly
whispered. "I've been hunting for you all over the
city since seven o'clock, and it is near midnight
He gently took my arm and politely furnished
me with a chair. Then placing his own directly
before me, he insinuatingly worked upon me
until he derived a knowledge of the log of the
Paper Canoe, when leaning back in his chair he
leisurely surveyed me and exclaimed:
"Mr. Bishop, you are a man of snap. We
like men of snap; we admire men of snap;
in fact, I may say we cotton to men of snap, and
I am proud to make your acquaintance. Now
if you will stop over a day we will have the
whole city out to see your boat."
This kind offer I firmly refused, and we were
about to part, when he said in a softly rebuking
"You thought, Mr. Bishop, you would give us
the slip -- did you not? I assure you that would
be quite impossible. Eternal Vigilance is our
motto. No, you could not escape us. Good
evening, sir, and the 'Landmark's' welcome to
Six hours later, as I entered the restaurant of
the hotel with my eyes half open, a newsboy
bawled out in the darkness: "'Ere's the
Landmark.' Full account of the Paper Canoe," &c.
And before the sun was up I had read a column
and a half of "The Arrival of the Solitary
Voyager in Norfolk." So much for the zeal of Mr.
Perkins of the "Landmark," a worthy example
of American newspaper enterprise. Dreading
further attentions, I now prepared to beat a hasty
retreat from the city.
On Saturday morning, December 5, I left the
pier of the Old Dominion Steamship
Company, at Norfolk, Virginia, and, rowing across the
water towards Portsmouth, commenced
ascending Elizabeth River, which is here wide and
affected by tidal change. The old navy yard,
with its dismantled hulks lying at anchor in the
stream, occupies both banks of the river. About
six miles from Norfolk the entrance to the
Dismal Swamp Canal is reached, on the left bank
of the river. This old canal runs through the
Great Dismal Swamp, and affords passage for
steamers and light-draught vessels to Elizabeth
City, on the Pasquotank River, which empties
into Albemarle Sound to the southward. The
great cypress and juniper timber is penetrated by
this canal, and schooners are towed into the
swamp to landings where their cargoes are
In the interior of the Dismal Swamp is
Drummond's Lake, named after its discoverer. It is
seven miles long by five miles wide, and is the
feeder of the canal. A branch canal connects it
with the main canal; and small vessels may
traverse the lake in search of timber and shingles.
Voyagers tell me that during heavy gales of
wind a terrible sea is set in motion upon this
shoal sheet of water, making it dangerous to
navigate. Bears are found in the fastnesses of
the swamp. The Dismal Swamp Canal was dug
in the old days of the wheelbarrow and spade.
The Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, the
entrance to which is sixteen miles from Norfolk,
on the right or east bank of the Elizabeth River,
and generally known as the "new canal," was
commenced about the year 1856, and finished in
1859. It is eight miles and a half in length,
and connects the Elizabeth and North Landing
rivers. This canal was dug by dredging-machines.
It is kept in a much better state for
navigation, so far as the depth of water is
concerned, than the old canal, which from
inattention is gradually shoaling in places; consequently
the regular steam-packets which ply between
Elizabeth City and Norfolk, as well as steamers
whose destinations are further north, have given
up the use of the Dismal Swamp Canal, and
now go round through Albemarle Sound up the
North River, thence by a six-mile cut into
Currituck Sound, up North Landing River, and
through the new canal to the Elizabeth River
and into Chesapeake Bay. The shores of the
Elizabeth are low and are fringed by sedgy
marshes, while forests of second-growth pine
present a green background to the eye. A few
miles above Norfolk the cultivation of land
ceases, and the canoeist traverses a wilderness.
About noon I arrived at the locks of the
Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. The telegraph
operator greeted me with the news that the
company's agent in Norfolk had telegraphed to the
lock-master to pass the paper canoe through with
the freedom of the canal -- the first honor of the
kind that had fallen to my lot. The tide rises
and falls at the locks in the river about three feet
and a half. When I passed through, the
difference in the level between the ends of the locks
did not reach two feet. The old lock-master
urged me to give up the journey at once, as I
never could "get through the Sounds with that
little boat." When I told him I was on my
second thousand miles of canoe navigation since
leaving Quebec, he drew a long breath and
gave a low groan.
When once through the canal-gates, you are
in a heavy cypress swamp. The dredgings
thrown upon the banks have raised the edge of
the swamp to seven feet above the water. Little
pines grow along these shores, and among them
the small birds, now on their southern migrations,
sported and sang. Whenever a steamer or
tugboat passed me, it crowded the canoe close to
the bank; but these vessels travel along the
canal at so slow a rate, that no trouble is
experienced by the canoeist from the disturbance
caused by their revolving screws. Freedmen,
poling flats loaded with shingles or frame stuff,
roared out their merry songs as they passed.
The canal entered the North Landing River
without any lockage; just beyond was North
Landing, from which the river takes its name.
A store and evidences of a settlement meet the
eye at a little distance. The river is tortuous,
and soon leaves the swamp behind. The pine
forest is succeeded by marshes on both sides of
the slow-flowing current.
Three miles from North Landing a single
miniature house is seen; then for nearly five
miles along the river not a trace of the presence
of man is to be met, until Pungo Ferry and
Landing loom up out of the low marshes on the east
side of the river. This ferry, with a store
three-quarters of a mile from the landing, and a farm
of nearly two hundred acres, is the property of
Mr. Charles N. Dudley, a southern gentleman,
who offers every inducement in his power to
northern men to settle in his vicinity. Many of
the property-holders in the uplands are willing
to sell portions of their estates to induce
northern men to come among them.
It was almost dark when I reached the
storehouse at Pungo Ferry; and as Sunday is a sacred
day with me, I determined to camp there until
Monday. A deformed negro held a lease of the
ferry, and pulled a flat back and forth across
the river by means of a chain and windlass. He
was very civil, and placed his quarters at my
disposal until I should be ready to start southward
to Currituck Sound. We lifted the canoe and
pushed it through an open window into the little
store-room, where it rested upon an unoccupied
counter. The negro went up to the loft above,
and threw down two large bundles of flags for a
bed, upon which I spread my blankets. An old
stove in a corner was soon aglow with burning
light wood. While I was cooking my supper,
the little propeller Cygnet, which runs between
Norfolk and Van Slyck's Landing, at Currituck
Narrows, touched at Pungo Ferry, and put off
an old woman who had been on a two years'
visit to her relatives. She kindly accosted the
dwarfed black with, "Charles, have you got a
match for my pipe?"
"Yes, missus," civilly responded the negro,
handing her a light.
"Well, this is good!" soliloquized the ancient
dame, as she seated herself on a box and puffed
away at the short-stemmed pipe. Ah, good
indeed to get away from city folks, with their
stuck-up manners and queer ways, a-fault-finding
when you stick your knife in your mouth in
place of your fork, and a-feeding you on China
tea in place of dear old yaupon. Charles, you
can't reckon how I longs to get a cup of good
As the reader is about entering a country
where the laboring classes draw largely upon
nature for their supply of "the cup that cheers
but not inebriates," I will describe he shrub
which produces it.
This substitute for the tea of China is a holly
(ilex), and is called by the natives "yaupon"
(I. cassine, Linn.). It is a handsome shrub,
growing a few feet in height, with alternate,
perennial, shining leaves, and bearing small scarlet
berries. It is found in the vicinity of salt water,
in the light soils of Virginia and the Carolinas.
The leaves and twigs are dried by the women,
and when ready for market are sold at one dollar
per bushel. It is not to be compared in
excellence with the tea of China, nor does it approach
in taste or good qualities the well-known
yerbamate, another species of holly, which is found
in Paraguay, and is the common drink of the
people of South America.
The old woman having gone on her way, and
we being again alone in the rude little shanty,
the good-natured freedman told me his history,
ending with, -
"O that was a glorious day for me,
When Massa Lincoln set me free."
He had too much ambition, he said, deformed as
he was, to be supported as a pauper by the
public. "I can make just about twelve dollars a
month by dis here ferry," he exclaimed. "I
don't want for nuffin'; I'se got no wife -- no
woman will hab me. I want to support myself
and live an honest man."
About seven o'clock he left me to waddle up
the road nearly a mile to a little house.
"I an' another cullo'd man live in
partnership," he said. He could not account for the
fact that I had no fear of sleeping alone in the
shanty on the marshes. He went home for the
company of his partner, as he "didn't like to
sleep alone noways."
Though the cold wind entered through broken
window-lights and under the rudely constructed
door, I slept comfortably until morning. Before
Charles had returned, my breakfast was cooked
and eaten.
With the sunshine of the morning came a
new visitor. I had made the acquaintance of
the late slave; now I received a call from the
late master. My visitor was a pleasant,
gentlemanly personage, the owner of the surrounding
acres. His large white house could be seen
from the landing, a quarter of a mile up the
"I learned that a stranger from the north was
camped here, and was expecting that he would
come up and take breakfast with me," was his
kindly way of introducing himself.
I told him I was comfortably established in
dry quarters, and did not feel justified in
forcing myself upon his hospitality while I had so
many good things of this life in my
Mr. Dudley would take no excuse, but
conducted me to his house, where I remained that
day, attending the religious services in a little
church in the vicinity. My kind host introduced
me to his neighbors, several of whom returned
with us to dinner. I found the people about
Pungo Ferry, like those I had met along the
sounds of the eastern shore of Maryland and
Virginia, very piously inclined, -- the same
kindhearted, hospitable people.
My host entertained me the next day, which
was rainy, with his life in the Confederate army,
in which he served as a lieutenant. He was a
prisoner at Johnson's Island for twenty-two
months. He bore no malice towards northern
men who came south to join with the natives in
working for the true interests of the country.
The people of the south had become weary of
political sufferings inflicted by a floating
population from the north; they needed actual settlers,
not politicians. This sentiment I found
everywhere expressed. On Tuesday I bade farewell
to my new friends, and rowed down the North
Landing River towards Currituck Sound.
The North Carolina line is only a few miles
south of the ferry. The river enters the head
of the sound six or eight miles below Pungo
Ferry. A stiff northerly breeze was blowing,
and as the river widened, on reaching the head
of the sound, to a mile or more, and bays were
to be crossed from point to point, it required
the exercise of considerable patience and
muscular exertion to keep the sea from boarding
the little craft amidship. As I was endeavoring
to weather a point, the swivel of one of the
outriggers parted at its junction with the row-lock,
and it became necessary to get under the south
point of the marshes for shelter.
The lee side offered a smooth bay. It was
but a few minutes' work to unload and haul the
canoe into the tall rushes, which afforded ample
protection against the cold wind. It was three
hours before the wind went down, when the
canoe was launched, and, propelled by the double
paddle, (always kept in reserve against accidents
to oars and row-locks,) I continued over the
waters of Currituck Sound.
Swans could now be seen in flocks of twenties
and fifties. They were exceedingly wary, not
permitting the canoe to approach within rifle
range. Clouds of ducks, and some Canada
geese, as well as brant, kept up a continuous
flutter as they rose from the surface of the water.
Away to the southeast extended the glimmering
bosom of the sound, with a few islands relieving
its monotony. The three or four houses and two
small storehouses at the landing of Currituck
Court House, which, with the brick court-house,
comprise the whole village, are situated on the
west bank; and opposite, eight miles to the
eastward, is the narrow beach island that serves as
a barrier to the ingress of the ocean.
At sunset I started the last flock of white
swans, and grounded in the shoal waters at the
landing. There is no regular hotel here, but a
kind lady, Mrs. Simmons, accommodates the
necessities of the occasional traveller. The
canoe was soon locked up in the landing-house.
Fortunately a blacksmith was found outside the
village, who promised to repair the broken
rowlock early upon the following morning. Before
a pleasant wood fire giving out its heat from a
grand old fireplace, with an agreeable visitor,
-- the physician of the place, the tediousness of
the three-hours' camp on the marshes was soon
forgotten, while the country and its resources
were fully discussed until a late hour.
Dr. Baxter had experimented in grape culture,
and gave me many interesting details in regard
to the native wine. In 1714, Lawson described
six varieties of native grapes found in North
Carolina. Our three finest varieties of native
grapes were taken from North Carolina. They
are the Scuppernong, the Catawba, and the
Isabella. The Scuppernong was found upon the
banks of the stream bearing that name, the
mouth of which is near the eastern end
of Albemarle Sound. The Catawba was originally
obtained on the Catawba River, near its head-waters
in Buncombe County. The Long Island stock
of the Isabella grape was brought to New York
by Mrs. Isabella Gibbs: hence the derivation of
the name.
Of the six varieties of North Carolina grapes,
five were found in Tyrrel County by Amadas
and Barlow. Tradition relates that these
travellers carried one small vine to Roanoke Island,
which still lives and covers an immense area of
ground. There are five varieties of the grape
growing wild on the shores of Albemarle Sound,
all of which are called Scuppernong, -- the
legitimate Scuppernong being a white grape, sweet
and large, and producing a wine said to resemble
somewhat in its luscious flavor the Malmsey
made on Mount Ida, in Candia.
The repairing of the outrigger detained me
until nearly noon of the next day, when the
canoe was got under way; but upon rowing off
the mouth of Coanjock Bay, only four miles from
Currituck Court House, a strong tempest arose
from the south, and observing an old
gentleman standing upon Bell Island Point, near his
cottage, beckoning me to come ashore, I obeyed,
and took refuge with my new acquaintance,
Captain Peter L. Tatum, proprietor of Bell Island.
"The war has left us without servants," said
the captain, as he presented me to his wife, "so
we make the best of it, and if you will accept
our hospitality we will make you comfortable."
Captain Tatum drew my attention to the flocks
of swans which dotted the waters in the offing,
and said: "It is hard work to get hold of a swan,
though they are a large bird, and abundant in
Currituck Sound. You must use a good rifle
to bring one down. After a strong norther has
been blowing, and the birds have worked well
into the bight of the bay, near Goose Castle Point,
if the wind shifts to the south suddenly, gunners
approach from the outside, and the birds
becoming cramped in the cove are shot as they rise
against the wind."
More than forty years ago old Currituck Inlet
closed, and the oysters on the natural beds, which
extended up North Landing River to Green
Point, were killed by the freshening of the
water. Now winds influence the tides which
enter at Oregon Inlet, about fifty-five miles
south of the Court House. The difference
between the highest and lowest tide at Currituck
Court House is three feet. The sound is filled
with sandy shoals, with here and there spots of
mud. The shells of the defunct oysters are
everywhere found mixed with the debris of the
bottom of the sound. This is a favorite locality
with northern sportsmen. The best "gunning
points," as is the case in Chesapeake Bay, are
owned by private parties, and cannot be used
by the public.
Thursday, the 10th of December, was cold,
and proved as tempestuous as the previous day;
but the wind had changed to the north, and I
embarked amid a swashy beam-sea, with the
hope of reaching Van Slyck's Landing at
Currituck Narrows. The norther, however, proved
too much for my safety. My course would be
easterly until I had passed the mouth of
Coanjock Bay and Goose Castle Point, then following
the trend of the west shore southerly down the
sound; but the wind raised such a rough sea
that I was obliged to turn southward into
Coanjock Bay, ascend it five miles, and seek for a
crossing-place overland to the sound again,
which I found near the entrance of the
lockless canal that is used by steamers to pass from
North Landing River to North River and
Albemarle Sound.
A fire was soon built, upon which I placed
long, light poles taken from the drift-wood, and
burning them in pieces of the required lengths,
(no axe being at hand,) I was prepared to make
the portage. Laying these pieces of wood on
the ground, I drew my canoe over them to the
shore of Currituck Sound; then, by making up
back-loads of the cargo, transported everything
to the point of embarkation, which was just
inside the mouth of a little creek.
The row to Currituck Narrows was not
difficult, as the north wind was a fair one. Along
the west shore of the sound there were many
little houses upon the high banks, and a
windmill supplied the place of a water-power for
grinding corn. The improvements made by Mr.
Van Slyck, of New York, were in cheering
contrast to what had been seen since leaving
Norfolk. Here a comfortable hotel welcomes the
northern sportsmen, few of whom, for lack of
accommodations and travelling conveniences, go
much south of this locality, in this state, to shoot
wild-fowl. Currituck Sound has an average
width of four miles. Its length is about
thirty-five miles. At the Narrows, a group of marshy
islands divides it into two sections, the northern
one being the longest.
The keen, cold air of the next day made
rowing a pleasant exercise. After passing through
the tortuous channel, I should have crossed to the
beach and followed it; but this part of the bay
is very shallow, and deeper water was found on
the west side. It was an enjoyable morning,
for gunners were passed, secreted behind their
"blinds," or pens, of pine brush, which looked like
little groves of conifera growing out of the shoal
water. Geese were honking and ducks were
quacking, while the deep booming of guns was
heard every few minutes. Decoy-birds were
anchored in many places near the marshes.
Every sportsman gave me a cheering word as
the canoe glided over the smooth water, while
here and there the violet-backed swallow
darted about over the marshes as though it were
When opposite Dew's Quarter Island, several
men hailed me from a newly constructed shanty.
When the oldest man in the company, who had
never seen a shell like the paper canoe, had
examined it, he shook his head ominously; and
when I told him Nag's Head must be reached
that day, he grew excited, exclaiming, "Then be
off now! now! Git across the bay under Bald
Beach as soon as ye can, and hug the shore, hug
it well clean down to Collington's, and git across
the sound afore the wind rises. Sich a boat as
that aren't fit for these here waters."
Taking this kindly meant advice, I pulled to
the east side, where there was now a good depth
of water for the canoe. On this high beach the
hills were well covered with yellow pines, many
of which were noble old trees. On a narrow
point of the shore was the comfortable house of
Hodges Gallup, the Baptist minister, a generous
old gentleman, who seemed to be loved by all
the watermen along the sound. He was
described as being "full of fun and hospitality."
His domain extended for several miles along
the beach, and, with deer quietly browsing in his
grand old woods, formed a pretty picture.
The beach shore now became more thickly
settled, while out in the water, a few rods from
each little house, arose the duck-blind, with the
gunner and his boat inside, anxiously watching
for birds, while their decoys floated quietly on
the surface of the water. A few miles below
Mr. Gallup's estate the canoe entered upon the
broad waters of Albemarle Sound, and at dusk I
approached Roanoke Island. The large
buildings of the hotels of Nag's Head on the beach
rose up as boldly to the eye as a fortification.
The little sound between Roanoke Island and
the beach was traversed at dusk as far as the first
long pier of Nag's head, upon which with great
difficulty I landed, and was soon joined by the
keeper of the now deserted summer watering
place, Mr. C. D. Rutter, who helped me to carry
my property into a room of the old hotel.
Nag's Head Beach is a most desolate locality,
with its high sand-hills, composed of fine sand,
the forms of which are constantly changing with
the action of the dry, hard, varying winds. A
new and very large hotel was located south of
the first one, and was inhabited by the family of
Captain Jasper Toler, who furnished me with
lodgings. A few fishermen have their homes on
this dreary beach, but the village, with its one
store, is a forlorn place.
The bright flashes of Body Island Light, ten
miles distant, on the north side of Oregon Inlet,
showed me my next abiding-place.
The beach from Nag's Head to Oregon Inlet
is destitute of trees, and the wind sweeps across
it, from the ocean to the sound, with great
violence, forcing the shallow waters to retire, and
leaving the bottom dry as far out as three miles.
The next day was very windy, and the long,
finger-like, sandy shoals, which extended one or
two miles out into the sound, were covered with
only from three to eight inches of water. I could
not hug the beach for protection, but was forced
to keep far out in the sound. Frequently it
became necessary to get overboard and wade,
pushing my boat before me. Then a deep channel
between the shoals would be crossed; so, by
walking and rowing in Roanoke Sound, with
the wind blowing the water over the canoe and
drenching its captain, the roundabout twelve
miles' passage to Oregon Inlet was at last
accomplished, and a most trying one it was.
Body Island Lighthouse was erected in 1872,
on the north side of Oregon Inlet, to take the
place of the old tower on the south shore. It is
in latitude 35 deg 48', and longitude 75 deg 33'.
Captain William F. Hatzel, a loyal North Carolinian,
is the principal keeper, and a most efficient one
he is.
The temperature was falling rapidly when I
crawled into the high rushes of the wet marsh
near the light-house to seek shelter from the
strong wind that was blowing. As this treeless
beach was destitute of fire-wood, or natural
shelter of any kind, necessity compelled me to have
recourse to other means for procuring them. I
carried in my pocket a talisman which must
open any light-keeper's door; from Maine to the
Rio Grande, from Southern California to Alaska,
even to the vicinity of the Arctic Circle, the
Lighthouse Establishment of the United States has
planted a tower or erected a light. While
shivering in wet clothes on this desolate beach, most
thankfully did I remember that kind and thoughtful
friend, who through his potent influence had
supplied me with this open sesame to
There resides in Washington, when not
engaged elsewhere in the important duties of the
Commission of Fisheries, a genial gentleman, an
ardent naturalist, a great scientist. To him the
young naturalists of America turn for information
and advice, and to the humblest applicant
Professor Spencer F. Baird never turns a deaf ear.
How this distinguished author can attend to so
many and such varied duties with his laborious
investigations, and can so successfully keep up a
large correspondence with perhaps one thousand
scientific associations of nearly every nation of
the universe, is a difficult thing to imagine; but
the popular and much beloved Assistant
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, seemingly
ubiquitous in his busy life, does all this and much
more. America may well feel proud of this man
of noble nature, shedding light and truth
wheresoever he moves, encouraging alike old and
young with his kindly sympathy; -- now taking
his precious moments to answer with his own
busy hand the question in the letter of some boy
naturalist about beasts, birds, reptiles, or fishes,
with which epistles his desk is always covered;
now stimulating to further effort the old man of
science as he struggles with the cares of this
world, striving, sometimes vainly, save for this
ever ready aid, to work out patiently theories
which are soon to blaze forth as substantial facts.
The young generation of naturalists, which is
soon to fill the place of their predecessors, have
in this man the type of all they need ever strive
to attain. How many, alas, will fall far short
of it!
Since boyhood the counsels of this friend had
guided me on many a journey of exploration.
He had not deserted me even in this experiment,
which my friends called "your wildest and most
foolish undertaking." He had obtained from the
Light House Board a general letter to the
lightkeepers of the United States, signed by the
naval secretary, Mr. Walker, in which the
keepers were authorized to grant me shelter, &c.,
when necessary. I did not have occasion to use
this letter more than twice during my journey.
Having secreted my canoe in the coarse grass
of the lowland, I trudged, with my letter in hand,
over the sands to the house of the light-keeper,
Captain Hatzel, who received me cordially; and
after recording in his log-book the circumstances
and date of my arrival, conducted me into a
comfortable room, which was warmed by a
cheerful fire, and lighted up by the smiles of his
most orderly wife. Everything showed
discipline and neatness, both in the house and the
light-tower. The whitest of cloths was spread
upon the table, and covered with a well-cooked
meal; then the father, mother, and two sons,
with the stranger within their gates, thanked the
Giver of good gifts for his mercies.
Joining the night-watch of the chief
lightkeeper, I also joined in the good man's
enthusiasm for his wonderful "fixed white light," the
bright beams of which poured out upon the
surrounding waters a flood if brilliancy, gladdening
hearts far out at sea, even though twenty miles
away, and plainly saying, "This is Body Island
Beach: keep off!" How grand it was to walk
out on this gallery in the sky! Looking
eastward, a limitless expanse of ocean; gazing
westward, the waters of the great sound, the shores
of which were low marshes miles away. Below
me could be heard the soft cackle of the
snow-goose (Anser hyperboreus), which had left its
nesting-place on the barren grounds of arctic
America, and was now feeding contentedly in its
winter home in the shallow salt-ponds; which the
gentle shur-r-r- of the waves softly broke on
the strand. Above, the star-lit heavens, whose
tender beauty seemed almost within my grasp.
Perched thus upon a single shaft, on a narrow
strip of sand far out in the great water, the many
thoughts born of solitude crowded my mind,
when my reverie was abruptly broken by an
exclamation from Captain Hatzel, who threw
open the door, and exclaimed, with beaming
eyes peering into the darkness as he spoke, "I
see it! Yes, it is! Hatteras Light, thirty-five
miles away. This night, December 13th, is the
first time I have caught its flash. Tell it to the
Hatteras keeper when you visit the cape."
From Captain Hatzel I gleaned some facts of
deep interest in regard to the inhabitants of the
sound. Some of them, he told me, had Indian
blood in their veins; and to prove the truth of his
assertion he handed me a well-worn copy of the
"History of North Carolina," by Dr. Francis L.
Hawks, D. D. From this I obtained facts which
might serve for the intricate mazes of a romance.
It had been a pet scheme with Sir Walter
Raleigh to colonize the coast of North Carolina,
then known as Virginia, and though several
expeditions had been sent out for that object, each
had failed of successful issue. One of these
expeditions sent by Sir Walter to Roanoke
Island consisted of one hundred and twenty-one
persons, of whom seventeen were women and
six children. Of all these souls only two men
returned to the old country, the fate of the
remainder being unknown, and shrouded in the
gloom which always attends mystery. England
did not, however, leave her children to perish on
a barren shore in the new land without at least an
effort to succor them.
On March 20, in the year 1590, there sailed
from Plymouth three ships, the Hopewell, John
Evangelist, and Little John, taking in tow two
shallops which were afterwards lost at sea. In
these days the largest vessels of a fleet did not
exceed one hundred to one hundred and forty
tons burden. This expedition was under the
charge of Admiral John White, governor of the
colony of Sir Walter Raleigh on Roanoke Island,
and who had left the feeble band on the island
in 1587. In thirty-six days and eight hours these
small vessels arrived off "Hatorask" -- Hatteras
Beach. The fleet dropped anchor three leagues
off the beach, and sent a well-manned boat
through an inlet to Pamplico Sound.
There existed in those days passages from the
ocean through the beaches into the sounds,
which have since been filled up by the action
of the sea. Old Roanoke Inlet, now closed,
which was about four miles north of the
modern Oregon Inlet, is supposed to be the one used
by Sir Walter Raleigh's expeditions. It is only
four miles from the site of this closed inlet to
Shallowbag Bay, on Roanoke Island. At the
southern entrance of the bay, near Ballast Point,
some vessel evidently grounded and threw
overboard her stone ballast; hence the name of the
point. Captain Hatzel has examined this stone,
and gives his opinion, as an old pilot, that it is
foreign in character. He never met with similar
stones, and believes that this ballast was
deposited at Shallowbag Bay by some of the vessels
of Sir Walter's expeditions.
As the boat's crew above mentioned rowed
northward to Roanoke Island -- made famous
two hundred and seventy-two years later by
the National and Confederate struggles -- they
sounded their trumpets and sang familiar songs,
which they hoped might be borne to their
countrymen on the shore; but the marshes and
upland wilderness returned no answering voice.
At daybreak the explorers landed upon
Roanoke Island, which is twelve miles long by two
and a half wide, and found the spot where
Admiral White had left the colony in 1587.
Eagerly searching for any tokens of the lost ones, they
soon traced in the light soil of the island the
imprint of the moccasin of the savage, but
looked in vain for any footprint of civilized
man. What had become of their countrymen?
At last some one spied a conspicuous tree,
far up on a sandy bank, blazed and carved.
There were but three letters cut upon it, C.R.O.,
but these simple symbols possessed a world of
meaning. Three years before, when the sad
farewells were being spoken, and the ships were
ready to set sail for England, this feeble band, left
to struggle in the wilds of the new land with sad
forebodings of their possible fate, had agreed
upon a signal, and had promised Admiral White
that if driven to starvation upon the island, they
would plant their colony fifty miles inland, near
a tribe of friendly Indians. Indeed, before the
ships sailed for England, they were making
preparations for this move. Admiral White requested
them to carve upon a tree the name of the
locality to which they should remove, and if distress
had overtaken them they were to add a cross
over the lettering. Anxiously gathering round
this interesting relic of the lost Englishmen, the
rude chirography was eagerly scanned, but no
vestige of a cross was found.
Much relieved in mind, the little company
continued their investigations, when, farther on,
almost in their very pathway, there rose a noble
tree, pointing its top heavenward, as though to
remind them in whose care their lost ones had
been. Approaching this giant, who had stood
a silent sentinel through winter storms and
summer skies, they found he bore upon his body
a message for them. Stripped of its bark, five
feet upward from the ground there appeared
upon the bare surface in bold lettering the word
so full of hope -- Croatan; and now also, as in
the last case, without the graven cross. Cheered
by these signs, and believing that the lost
colonists had carried out their early intentions, and
were now located among the friendly tribe of
Croatans, wheresoever their country might be,
the boat's company decided to go at once to the
ships, and return the next day in search of the
lost colony.
One of the ships, in moving its position from
the unprotected anchorage-ground, parted its
cable and left an anchor on the bottom -- the
second that had been lost. The wind drove the
ships towards the beach, when a third anchor
was lowered; but it held the little fleet so
close in to the breakers, that the sailors were
forced to slip their cable and work into a
channel-way, where, in deeper water, they held their
In debating the propriety of holding on and
attempting to wear out the gale, the scarcity of
their provisions, and the possession of but one
cask of water, and only one anchor for the fleet
to ride at, decided them to go southward in quest
of some favorable landing, where water could be
found. The council held out the hope of
capturing Spanish vessels in the vicinity of the
West Indies; and it was agreed that, if
successful they should return, richly laden with spoil,
to seek their exiled countrymen. One of these
vessels returned to England, while the Admiral
laid his course for Trinidad; and this was the
last attempt made to find the colonists.
More than a century after Admiral White had
abandoned his colony, Lawson, in writing about
the Hatteras Indians, says: "They said that
several of their ancestors were white people, and
could talk in a book as we do; the truth of
which is confirmed by grey eyes being frequently
found among them, and no others. They value
themselves extremely for their affinity to the
English, and are ready to do them all friendly
offices. It is probable that the settlement
miscarried for want of supplies from England, or
through the treachery of the natives; for we
may reasonably suppose that the English were
forced to cohabit with them for relief and
conversation, and that in process of time they
conformed themselves to the manners of their
Indian relations."
Dr. Hawks thinks, "that, driven by starvation,
such as survived the famine were merged into
the tribes of friendly Indians at Croatan, and,
alas! lost ere long every vestige of Christianity
and civilization; and those who came to shed
light on the darkness of paganism, in the
mysterious providence of God ended by relapsing
themselves into the heathenism they came to
remove. It is a sad picture of poor human
It needed not the fierce gusts of wind that
howled about the tall tower, causing it to vibrate
until water would be spilled out of a pail resting
upon the floor of the lantern, blowing one day
from one quarter of the compass, and changing
the next to another, to warn me that I was near
the Cape of Storms.
Refusing to continue longer with my new
friends, the canoe was put into the water on the
16th, and Captain Hatzel's two sons proceeded
in advance with a strong boat to break a
channelway through the thin ice which had formed in
the quiet coves. We were soon out in the sound,
where the boys left me, and I rowed out of the
southern end of Roanoke and entered upon the
wide area of Pamplico Sound. To avoid shoals,
it being calm, I kept about three miles from the
beach in three feet of water, until beyond Duck
Island, when the trees on Roanoke Island slowly
sank below the horizon; then gradually drawing
in to the beach, the two clumps of trees of north
and south Chicamicomio came into view. A
life-saving station had recently been erected
north of the first grove, and there is another
fourteen miles further south. The two
Chicamicomio settlements of scattered houses are
each nearly a mile in length, and are separated
by a high, bald sand-beach of about the same
length, which was once heavily wooded; but the
wind has blown the sand into the forest and
destroyed it. A wind-mill in each village raised
its weird arms to the breeze.
Three miles further down is Kitty Midget's
Hammock, where a few red cedars and some
remains of live-oaks tell of the extensive forest
that once covered the beach. Here Captain
Abraham Hooper lives, and occupies himself in
fishing with nets in the ocean for blue-fish, which
are salted down and sent to the inland towns for
a market. I had drawn my boat into the sedge
to secure a night's shelter, when the old captain
on his rounds captured me. The change from a
bed in the damp sedge to the inside seat of the
largest fireplace I had ever beheld, was indeed
a pleasant one. Its inviting front covered almost
one side of the room. While the fire flashed up
the wide chimney, I sat inside the fireplace with
the three children of my host, and enjoyed the
genial glow which arose from the fragments of
the wreck of a vessel which had pounded
herself to death upon the strand near Kitty Midget's
Hammock. How curiously those white-haired
children watched the man who had come so far
in a paper boat! "Why did not the paper boat
soak to pieces?" they asked. Each explanation
seemed but to puzzle them the more; and I
found myself in much the same condition of
mind when trying to make some discoveries
concerning Kitty Midget. She must, however,
have lived somewhere on Clark's Beach long
before the present proprietor was born. We
spent the next day fishing with nets in the surf
for blue-fish, it being about the last day of
their stay in that vicinity. They go south as
far as Cape Hatteras, and then disappear in deep
water; while the great flocks of gulls, that
accompany them to gather the remnants of fish
they scatter in their savage meals, rise in the air
and fly rapidly away in search of other dainties.
On Thursday I set out for Cape Hatteras.
The old sailor's song, that -
"Hatteras has a blow in store
For those who pass her howling door,"
has far more truth than poetry in it. Before
proceeding far the wind blew a tempest, when a
young fisherman in his sailboat bore down upon
me, and begged me to come on board. We
attempted to tow the canoe astern, but she filled
with water, which obliged us to take her on
board. As we flew along before the wind,
dashing over the shoals with mad-cap temerity,
I discovered that my new acquaintance, Burnett,
was a most daring as well as reckless sailor.
He told me how he had capsized his father's
schooner by carrying sail too long. "This 'ere
slow way of doing things" he detested. His
recital was characteristic of the man.
"You see, sir, we was bound for Newbern
up the Neuse River, and as we were well into
the sound with all sail set, and travelling along
lively, daddy says, 'Lorenzo, I reckon a little
yaupon wouldn't hurt me, so I'll go below and
start a firs under the kittle.' Do as you likes,
daddy,' sez I. So down below he goes, and I
takes command of the schooner. A big black
squall soon come over Cape Hatteras from the
Gulf Stream, and it did look like a screecher.
Now, I thought, old woman, I'll make your sides
ache; so I pinted her at it, and afore I could luff
her up in the wind, the squall kreened her on to
her beam-ends. You'd a laughed to have split
yourself, mister, if you could have seen daddy
a-crawling out of the companion-way while the
water was a-running down stairs like a crick.
Says he, ruther hurriedly, 'Sonny, what's up?'
It isn't what's up, daddy; but what's down,'
sez I; it sort o' looks as if we had capsized.'
Sure 'nuff,' answered dad, as the ballast shifted
and the schooner rolled over keel uppermost.
We floundered about like porpoises, but managed
to get astride her backbone, when dad looked
kind of scornfully at me, and burst out with,
'Sonny, do you call yourself a keerful sailor?'
'Keerful enough, dad,' sez I, 'for a smart one.
It's more credit to a man to drive his vessel like
a sailor, than to be crawling and bobbing along
like a diamond-backed terrapin.' Now, stranger,
if you'll believe me, that keerful old father of
mine would never let me take the helum again,
so I sticks to my aunt at the cape."
I found that the boat in which we were sailing
was a dug-out, made from two immense cypress
logs. Larger boats than this are made of three
logs, and smaller ones are dug out of one.
Burnett told me that frame boats were so easily
pounded to pieces on the shoals, that dug-outs
were preferred -- being very durable. We soon
passed the hamlet of North Kinnakeet, then
Scarsborough with its low houses, then South
Kinnakeet with its two wind-mills, and after
these arose a sterile, bald beach with Hatteras
light-tower piercing the sky, and west of it
Hatteras woods and marshes. We approached the
low shore and ascended a little creek, where
we left our boats, and repaired to the cottage
of Burnett's aunt.
After the barren shores I had passed, this
little house, imbedded in living green, was like
a bright star in a dark night. It was hidden
away in a heavy thicket of live-oaks and cedars,
and surrounded by yaupons, the bright red
berries of which glistened against the light green
leaves. An old woman stood in the doorway
with a kindly greeting for her "wild boy,"
rejoicing the while that he had "got back to his
old aunty once more."
"Yes, aunty," said my friend Lorenzo, "I am
back again like a bad penny, but not
empty-handed; for as soon as our season's catch of
blue-fish is sold, old aunty will have sixty or
seventy dollars."
"He has a good heart, if he is so head-strong,"
whispered the motherly woman, as she wiped a
tear from her eyes, and gazed with pride upon
the manly-looking young fellow, and -- invited
us in to tea -- YAUPON.
Cape Hatteras is the apex of a
triangle. It is the easternmost part of the
state of North Carolina, and it extends farther
into the ocean than any Atlantic cape of the
United States. It presents a low, broad, sandy
point to the sea, and for several miles beyond it,
in the ocean, are the dangerous Diamond Shoals,
the dread of the mariner.
The Gulf Stream, with its river-like current
of water flowing northward from the Gulf of
Mexico, in its oscillations from east to west
frequently approaches to within eighteen or twenty
miles of the cape, filling a large area of
atmosphere with its warmth, and causing frequent
local disturbances. The weather never remains
long in a settled state. As most vessels try to
make Hatteras Light, to ascertain their true
position, &c., and because it juts out so far into the
Atlantic, the locality has become the scene of
many wrecks, and the beach, from the cape
down to Hatteras Inlet, fourteen miles, is strewn
with the fragments of vessels.
The coast runs north and south above, and
east and west south of the cape. The old light
house had been replaced by the finest light-tower
I had ever examined, which was completed in
1870. It is one hundred and ninety feet in
height, and shows a white, revolving light.
Body Island Light, though forty feet less in
elevation, is frequently seen by the Hatteras
light-keeper, while the splendid Hatteras Light
had been seen but once by Captain Hatzel, of
Body Island. One nautical mile south of
Hatteras Light is a small beacon light-tower, which
is of great service to the coasting-vessels that
pass it in following the eighteen-feet curve of
the cape two miles from the land inside of
Diamond Shoals.
While speaking of light-houses, it may be
interesting to naturalists who live far inland to
know that while (as they are well aware)
thousands of birds are killed annually during their
flights by striking against telegraphic wires,
many wild-fowls are also destroyed by dashing
against the lanterns of the light- towers during
the night. While at Body Island Beach, Captain
Hatzel remarked to me that, during the first
winter after the new light-tower was completed,
the snow-geese, which winter on the island, would
frequently at night strike the thick glass panes
of the chamber, and fall senseless upon the floor
of the gallery. The second season they did not
in a single instance repeat the mistake, but had
seemingly become educated to the character of
the danger.
I have seen one lantern damaged to the
amount of five hundred dollars, by a goose
breaking a pane of glass and striking heavily
upon the costly lens which surrounds the lamp.
Light-keepers sometimes sit upon the gallery,
and, looking along the pathway of light which
shoots into the outer darkness over their heads,
will see a few dark specks approaching them in
this beam of radiance. These specks are birds,
confused by the bright rays, and ready to fall an
easy prey to the eager keeper, who, quickly
levelling his double-barrelled gun, brings it to bear
upon the opaque, moving cloud, and with the
discharge of the weapon there goes whirling
through space to the earth below his next
morning's breakfast of wild-fowl.
I found Mr. W. R. Jennett and his first
assistant light-keeper, Mr. A. W. Simpson, intelligent
gentlemen. The assistant has devoted his time,
when off duty, to the study of the habits of
food-fishes of the sound, and has furnished the
United States Commission of Fisheries with
several papers on that interesting subject.
Here also was Mr. George Onslow, of the
United States Signal Service, who had completed
his work of constructing a telegraph line from
Norfolk along the beach southward to this point,
its present terminus. With a fine telescope he
could frequently identify vessels a few miles
from the cape, and telegraph their position to
New York. He had lately saved a vessel by
telegraphing to Norfolk its dangerous location
on Hatteras beach, where it had grounded. By
this timely notice a wrecking-steamer had
arrived and hauled the schooner off in good
A low range of hills commences at Cape
Hatteras, in the rear of the light-house, and extends
nearly to Hatteras Inlet. This range is heavily
wooded with live-oaks, yellow pines, yaupons,
cedars, and bayonet-plants. The fishermen and
wreckers live in rudely constructed houses,
sheltered by this thicket, which is dense enough to
protect them from the strong winds that blow
from the ocean and the sound.
I walked twelve miles through this pretty,
green retreat, and spent Sunday with Mr. Homer
W. Styron, who keeps a small store about two
miles from the inlet. He is a self-taught
astronomer, and used an ingeniously constructed
telescope of his own manufacture for studying
the heavens.
I found at the post-office in his store a letter
from a yachting party which had left Newbern,
North Carolina, to capture the paper canoe and
to force upon its captain the hospitality of the
people of that city, on the Neuse River, one
hundred miles from the cape. Judge I.E. West,
the owner of the yacht "Julia," and his friends,
had been cruising since the eleventh day of the
month from Ocracoke Inlet to Roanoke Island
in search of me. Judge West, in his letter,
expressed a strong desire to have me take my
Christmas dinner with his family. This
generous treatment from a stranger was fully
appreciated, and I determined to push on to
Morehead City, from which place it would be
convenient to reach Newbern by rail without
changing my established route southward, as I
would be compelled to do if the regular water
route of the Neuse River from Pamlico Sound
were followed.
On this Saturday night, spent at Hatteras Inlet,
there broke upon us one of the fiercest tempests
I ever witnessed, even in the tropics. My
pedestrian tramp down the shore had scarcely ended
when it commenced in reality. For miles along
the beach thousands of acres of land were soon
submerged by the sea and by the torrents of
water which fell from the clouds. While for a
moment the night was dark as Erebus, again
the vivid flash of lightning exposed to view the
swaying forests and the gloomy sound. The sea
pounded on the beach as if asking for admission
to old Pamplico. It seemed to say, I demand a
new inlet; and, as though trying to carry out its
desire, sent great waves rolling up the shingle
and over into the hollows among the hills,
washing down the low sand dunes as if they also
were in collusion with it to remove this frail
barrier, this narrow strip of low land which
separated the Atlantic from the wide interior
sheet of water.
The phosphorescent sea, covered with its tens
of millions of animalcula, each one a miniature
light-house, changed in color from inky blackness
to silver sheen. Will the ocean take to itself
this frail foothold? -- we queried. Will it
ingulf us in its insatiable maw, as the whale did
Jonah? There was no subsidence, no pause in
the storm. It howled, bellowed, and screeched
like a legion of demons, so that the crashing of
falling trees, and the twisting of the sturdy
live oak's toughest limbs, could hardly be heard in
the din. Yet during this wild night my
storm-hardened companion sat with his pretty wife by
the open fireplace, as unmoved as though we
were in the shelter of a mountain side, while he
calmly discoursed of storms, shipwrecks, and
terrible struggles for life that this lonely coast
had witnessed, which sent thrills of horror to
my heart.
While traversing the beach during the
afternoon, as wreck after wreck, the gravestones of
departed ships, projected their timbers from the
sands, I had made a calculation of the number
of vessels which had left their hulls to rot on
Hatteras beach since the ships of Sir Walter
Raleigh had anchored above the cape, and it
resulted in making one continuous line of vessels,
wreck touching wreck, along the coast for many,
many miles. Hundreds of miles of the Atlantic
coast beaches would have been walled in by the
wrecks could they have come on to the strand
at one time, and all the dwellers along the coast,
outside of the towns, would have been placed
in independent circumstances by wrecking their
During this wild night, while the paper canoe
was safely stowed in the rushes of the marsh at
the cape, and its owner was enjoying the warmth
of the young astronomer's fire at the inlet, less
than twenty miles from us, on the dangerous
edge of Ocracoke shoals, the searching party of
the yacht Julia were in momentary expectation
of going to the bottom of the sound. For hours
the gallant craft hung to her anchors, which
were heavily backed by all the iron ballast that
could be attached to the cables. Wave after
wave swept over her, and not a man could put
his head above the hatches. Then, as she rolled
in the sea, her cabin-windows went under, and
streams of water were forced through the ports
into the confined space which was occupied by the
little party. For a time they were in imminent
danger, for the vessel dragged anchor to the edge
of the shoal, and with a heavy thud the yacht
struck on the bottom. All hopes of ever
returning to Newbern were lost, when the changing
tide swung the boat off into deeper water, where
she rode out the storm in safety.
Before morning the wind shifted, and by nine
o'clock I retraced my steps to the cape, and on
Tuesday rowed down to Hatteras Inlet, which
was reached a little past noon. Before
attempting to cross this dangerous tidal gate-way of the
ocean I hugged the shore close to its edge, and
paused to make myself familiar with the
sandhills of the opposite side, a mile away, which
were to serve as the guiding-beacons in the
passage. How often had I, lying awake at night,
thought of and dreaded the crossing of this
ill-omened inlet! It had given me much mental
suffering. Now it was before me. Here on my
right was the great sound, on my left the
narrow beach island, and out through the portal
of the open inlet surged and moaned under a
leaden sky that old ocean which now seemed to
frown at me, and to say: "Wait, my boy, until
the inlet's waves deliver you to me, and I will
put you among my other victims for your
As I gazed across the current I remarked that
it did not seem very rough, though a strong ebb
was running out to the sea, and if crossed
immediately, before the wind arose, there could be
no unreasonable risk. My canvas deck-cover
was carefully pulled close about my waist, and a
rigid inspection of oars and row-locks was made;
then, with a desire to reserve my strength for
any great demand that might be made upon it a
little later, I rowed with a steady stroke out into
Hatteras Inlet. There was no help nearer than
Styron's, two miles away on the upper shore,
while the beach I was approaching on the other
side was uninhabited for nearly sixteen miles, to
the village at its southern end, near Ocracoke
Inlet. Upon entering the swash I thought of the
sharks which the Hatteras fishermen had told
me frequently seized their oars, snapping the
thin blades in pieces, assuring me, at the same
time, that mine would prove very attractive,
being so white and glimmering in the water, and
offering the same glittering fascination as a
silver-spoon bait does to a blue-fish. These
cheerful suggestions caused a peculiar creeping
sensation to come over me, but I tried to quiet
myself with the belief that the sharks had
followed the blue-fish into deeper water, to escape
cold weather.
The canoe crossed the upper ebb, and entered
an area where the ebb from the opposite side of
the inlet struck the first one. While crossing
the union of the two currents, a wind came in at
the opening through the beach, and though not
a strong one, it created a great agitation of the
water. The dangerous experience at
Watchapreague Inlet had taught me that when in such
a sea one must pull with all his strength, and
that the increased momentum would give greater
buoyancy to the shell; for while under this
treatment she bounced from one irregular wave to
another with a climbing action which greatly
relieved my anxiety. The danger seemed to be
decreasing, and I stole a furtive glance over my
shoulder at the low dunes of the beach shore
which I was approaching, to see how far into the
inlet the tide had dragged me. The white water
to leeward warned me of a shoal, and forced me
to pull hard for the sound to escape being drawn
into the breakers. This danger was hardly
passed, when suddenly the waters around me
seethed and foamed, and the short waves parted
and closed, as great creatures rose from the
deep into the air several feet, and then fell
heavily into the sea. My tiny shell rocked and
pitched about wildly as these animals appeared
and disappeared, leaping from the waves all around
me, diving under the boat and reappearing on
the opposite side. They lashed the current with
their strong tails, and snorted or blowed most
dismally. For an instant surprise and alarm took
such possession of me that not a muscle of my
arms obeyed my will, and the canoe commenced
to drift in the driving stream towards the open
sea. This confusion was only momentary, for as
soon as I discovered that my companions were
porpoises and only old acquaintances, I
determined to avoid them as soon as possible.
With a quick glance at my stern range, a
sandhill on the shore of the inlet, and another look
over my shoulder for the sand dunes of the other
side, I exerted every muscle to reach the beach;
but my frisky friends were in no mood to leave
me, but continued their fun with increased
energy as reinforcements came up from all directions.
The faster I rowed the more they multiplied,
ploughing the sea in erratic courses. They were
from five to seven feet in length, and must have
weighed from two hundred to four hundred
pounds each. Though their attentions were
kindly meant, their brusqueness on such an unsteady
footing was unpardonable. I most feared the
strong, shooting movements of their tails in the
sudden dives under my canoe, for one sportive
touch of such a caudality would have rolled
me over, and furnished material for a tale the
very anticipation of which was unpleasant.
Crossing Hatteras Inlet (112K)
The aquatic gambols of the porpoises lasted
but a few minutes after they had called in all
their neighbors, and had chased me into three
feet depth of water. They then spouted a nasal
farewell, which sounded more catarrhal than
guitaral, and left me for the more profitable
occupation of fishing in the tide-way of the inlet,
while I rowed into a shallow cove, out of the
ebb, to rest, and to recover from the effects of
my fright.
As I pulled along the beach the tide receded
so rapidly that the canoe was constantly
grounding, and wading became necessary, for I could
not get within several feet of the shore. When
five miles from Hatteras Inlet I espied an empty
grass cabin, which the fishermen used in
February while catching shad; and, as a southerly wind
was now blowing from the sea, and rain was
falling, it offered a night's shelter for the traveller.
This Robinson Crusoe looking structure was
located upon the low land near the sound, while
bleak, sharp-pointed, treeless and grassless
sandhills, blown into shape by the winds, arose in the
background, and cut off a view of the ocean,
which, judging from the low, melancholy
moaning coming over the dunes, was in a sad mood.
The canoe was hauled into the bushes and
tied securely for fear a deceptive tide might bear
it away. The provisions, blankets, &c., were
moved into the grass hut, which needed
repairing. The holes in the south wall were soon
thatched, and a bed easily prepared from the
rushes of the marsh. It mattered not that they
were wet, for a piece of painted canvas was
spread over them, and the inviting couch
As fresh water can usually be obtained on all
these low beaches by digging two or three feet
into the sand, I looked for a large clam-shell, and
my search being rewarded, I was soon engaged
in digging a well near the cabin.
Upon looking up from my work a curious
sight met my gaze. In some mysterious way
every sharp-pointed sand-hill had been covered
by a black object, which swayed about and
nodded up and down in a strange manner. As I
watched the development of this startling
phenomenon, the nodding, black objects grew in
size until the head, body, and four legs of a
horse were clearly cut against the sky. A little
later every crest was surmounted by the comical
figure of a marsh-tacky. Then a few sheep came
out of the hollows among the hills and browsed
on the coarse grass near the cabin, as though
they felt the loneliness of their situation so far
removed from mankind. With the marsh-ponies,
the sheep, the wild-fowls of the sound, and the
sighing sea for companions, the night passed
The bright moonlight roused me at five o'clock
in the morning, and I pushed off again in shoal
water on an ebb-tide, experiencing much
difficulty in dragging the canoe over shallow places
until deep water was entered, when the row to
Ocracoke became an agreeable one. The
landing-place at Ocracoke, not far from the
lighthouse, was reached at noon, and the people
gathered to see the paper boat, having been
notified of my proximity by fishermen.
The women here can pull a pretty good stroke,
and frequently assist their husbands in the
fisheries. These old dames ridiculed the idea of
having a boat so small and light as the canoe.
One old lady laid aside her pipe and
snuff-paddle (snuff-rubbing is a time-honored
institution in the south), and roughly grasping the
bow of the craft, lifted it high in the air, then,
glancing at the fine model, she lowered it slowly
to the ground, exclaiming, "I reckon I wouldn't
risk my life acrossing a creek in her."
These people told me that the yacht Julia had
stopped there to make inquiries for me, and had
departed for Newbern.
It was more than a mile from the landing to
Ocracoke Inlet, and a mile and three quarters
across it to the beach. A straight course from
the landing to the village of Portsmouth, on the
lower side of the inlet, was a distance of five
miles, and not one of the hardy watermen, who
thumped the sides of my boat with their hard
fists to ascertain its strength, believed that I
could cross the sound to the other village
without rolling over. One kind-hearted oysterman
offered to carry myself and boat to Portsmouth,
but as the day was calm, I rowed away on the
five-mile stretch amid doleful prognostications,
such as: "That feller will make a coffin for
hisself out of that yere gimcrack of an egg-shell.
It's all a man's life is wurth to go in her," &c.
While approaching the low Portsmouth shore
of the sound, flocks of Canada geese flew within
pistol-shot of my head. A man in a dug-out
canoe told me that the gunners of the village
had reared from the egg a flock of wild geese
which now aggregated some seven or eight
hundred birds, and that these now flying about were
used to decoy their wild relatives.
Near the beach a sandy hill had been the place
of sepulture for the inhabitants of other
generations, but for years past the tidal current had
been cutting the shore away until coffin after
coffin with its contents had been washed into
the sound. Captain Isaac S. Jennings, of Ocean
County, New Jersey, had described this spot to
me as follows:
"I landed at Portsmouth and examined this
curious burial-ground. Here by the water were
the remains of the fathers, mothers, brothers,
and sisters of the people of the village so near at
hand; yet these dismal relics of their ancestors
were allowed to be stolen away piecemeal by
the encroaching ocean. While I gazed sadly
upon the strata of coffins protruding from the
banks, shining objects like jewels seemed to be
sparkling from between the cracks of their
fractured sides; and as I tore away the rotten wood,
rows of toads were discovered sitting in
solemn council, their bright eyes peering from
among the debris of bones and decomposed
Portsmouth Island is nearly eight miles long.
Whalebone Inlet is at its lower end, but is too
shallow to be of any service to commerce.
Hatteras and Ocracoke inlets admit sea-going
vessels. It is thirty-eight miles from Whalebone
Inlet to Cape Lookout, which projects like a
wedge into the sea nearly three miles from the
mainland, and there is not another passage
through the narrow beach in all that distance
that is of any use to the mariner. Following
the trend of the coast for eleven miles from the
point of Cape Lookout, there is an inlet, but,
from the character of its channel and its
shallowness, it is not of much value.
Leaving Portsmouth, the canoe entered Core
Sound, which grew narrower as the shoals inside
of Whalebone Inlet were crossed, partly by
rowing and partly by wading on the sand-flats. As
night came on, a barren stretch of beach on my
left hand was followed until I espied the only
house within a distance of sixteen miles along
the sea. It was occupied by a coasting skipper,
whose fine little schooner was anchored a long
distance from the land on account of the
shoalness of the water. Dreary sand-hills protected
the cottage from the bleak winds of the ocean.
While yet a long distance from the skipper's
home, a black object could be seen crawling up
the sides of a mound of white sand, and after it
reached the apex it remained in one position,
while I rowed, and waded, and pulled my canoe
towards the shore. When the goal was reached,
and the boat was landed high up among the
scrub growth, I shouldered my blankets and
charts, and plodded through the soft soil towards
the dark object, which I now recognized to be a
man on a lookout post. He did not move from
his position until I reached the hillock, when he
suddenly slid down the bank and landed at my
feet, with a cheery --
"Well, now, I thought it was you. Sez I to
myself, That's him, sure, when I seed you
four miles away. Fust thinks I, It's only a
log, or a piece of wrak-stuff afloating. Pretty
soon up comes your head and shoulders into
sight; then sez I, It's a man, sure, but where is
his boat? for you see, I couldn't see your boat, it
was so low down in the water. Then I reckoned
it was a man afloating on a log, but arter a
while the boat loomed up too, and I says, I'll be
dog-goned if that isn't him. I went up to
Newbern, some time ago, in the schooner, and the
people there said there was a man coming down
the coast a-rowing a paper boat on a bet. The
boat weighed only fifty-eight pounds, and the
man had a heft of only eighty pounds. When
pa and me went up to the city agin, the folks
said the man was close on to us, and this time
they said the man and his boat together weighed
only eighty pounds. Now I should think you
weighed more than that yourself, letting alone
the boat."
Having assured the young man that I was
indeed myself, and that the Newbern people had
played upon his credulity, we walked on to the
house, where the family of Captain James Mason
kindly welcomed me to a glowing wood-fire and
hearty supper. Though I had never heard of
their existence till I entered Core Sound, the
kindness of these people was like that of old
Half a mile below Captain Mason's home, a
short time before my visit, a new breach had
been made by the ocean through the beach.
About twenty years before a similar breach had
occurred in the same locality, and was known
during its short life as "Pillintary Inlet." The
next day I crossed the sound, which is here four
miles in width, and coasted along to the
oystermen's village of Hunting Quarters, on the
mainland. The houses were very small, but the
hearts of the poor folks were very large. They
came to the water's edge and carried the canoe
into the only store in the neighborhood. Its
proprietor, Mr. William H. Stewart, insisted
upon my sharing his bachelor's quarters in an
unfinished room of the storehouse. My young
host was hardly out of his teens. In his boyish
way he kindly remarked:
"I am here all alone. Father told me, before
he died, never to let a stranger pass my door but
to make him share my lodgings, humble though
they are; and now, any way, you're just in time
for the fun, for we are to have three weddings
to-night, and all the boys and girls of the
neighborhood will be at Hunting Quarters."
I entered a mild protest against joining in the
festivities, on the plea of not having received an
invitation; at which the handsome youth laughed
"Invitation!" he exclaimed; "why, no one
ever gives out invitations in Hunting Quarters.
When there is to be a 'jolliflcation' of any sort,
everybody goes to the house without being
asked. You see we are all neighbors here. Up
at Newbern and at Beaufort, and other great
cities, people have their ways, but here all are
So we went to the little house in the piny
forest, where two hearts were to be made one.
The only room on the first floor was crowded
with people. The minister had not arrived, and
the crowd was gazing at the young groom and his
pretty bride-elect as they sat in two chairs in the
middle of the company, with their arms around
each other, never speaking a word to any one.
The heavy weight of people began to settle the
floor, and as two joists gave way I struggled to
escape through an open window, thinking we
would be precipitated into the cellar below.
But the good-natured company took no notice
of the snapping timbers, only ejaculating, "She'll
soon touch bottom;" and to my inquiries about
the inconvenience of being pitched through to
the cellar, a rustic youth, with great merriment
depicted upon his countenance, replied:
"Sullers, captain, why, there ain't a suller to a
buildin' within thirty miles of the Quarters. We
never uses sullers hereabouts."
By my side was a young fisherman, who had
got home from a cruise, and was overflowing
with affection towards every girl present. "O,
gals," he would cry, "you don't know how nice
I feels to get back to you once more!"
Throwing his arms around a bright-eyed girl, who
vainly tried to escape him, he said, "O, weary
mariner, here is thy rest! No more shall he
wander from thee."
This sentimental strain was interrupted by an
old lady, who reached her arm over my
shoulder to administer a rebuke. "Sam, ye're a fool!"
she cried; "ye're beside yourself to-night, and
afore this paper-canoe captain, too. Ef I was
a gal I'd drap yere society, wid yere familiar
ways right in company."
The blow and the admonition fell harmlessly
upon the head and the heart of the sailor, who
replied, "Aunty, I knows my advantages in
Hunting Quarters -- women is plenty, and men
is few."
The crowd roared with laughter at this truism,
but were quieted by the shout of a boy that
the preacher was a-coming; whereupon the
reverend gentleman elbowed his way through
the guests to the quiet couple, and requested
them to stand up. A few hurried words by the
clergyman, a few bashful replies from the young
people, and the two were made one. The crowd
rushed outside of the house, where a general
scramble took place among the boys for their
girls. Then a procession was formed, headed
by the clergyman, which marched along the
sandy road to another house in the woods, where
the second marriage was to be celebrated.
It was amusing to see the young men dash
away from the procession, to run to the village store
for candy at twenty-five cents per pound,
containing as much terra alba (white clay) as sugar.
With well-filled pockets they would run back to
the procession and fill the girls' aprons with the
sweets, soon repeating the process, and
showering upon the fair ones cakes, raisins, nuts, and
oranges. The only young man who seemed to
find no favor in any woman's eyes invested
more capital in sweetmeats than the others; and
though every girl in the procession gave him a
sharp word or a kick as he passed, yet none
refused his candies as he tossed them at the
maidens, or stuffed them into the pockets of their
The second ceremony was performed in about
three minutes, and the preacher feeling faint from
his long ride through the woods, declared he must
have some supper. So, while he was being
served, the girls chatted together, the old ladies
helped each other to snuff with little wooden
paddles, which were left protruding from one corner
of their mouths after they had taken "a dip,"
as they called it. The boys, after learning that
the preacher had postponed the third marriage
for an hour, with a wild shout scampered off
to Stewart's store for more candies. I took
advantage of the interim to inquire how it was
that the young ladies and gentlemen were upon
such terms of pleasant intimacy.
"Well, captain," replied the person
interrogated, "you sees we is all growed up together,
and brotherly love and sisterly affection is our
teaching. The brethren love the sisteren; and
they say that love begets love, so the sisteren
loves the brethren. It's parfecly nateral. That's
the hull story, captain. How is it up your way?"
At last the preacher declared himself satisfied
with all he had eaten, and that enough was as
good as a feast; so the young people fell into line,
and we trudged to the third house, where, with
the same dispatch, the third couple were united.
Then the fiddler scraped the strings of his
instrument, and a double-shuffle dance commenced.
The girls stamped and moved their feet about in
the same manner as the men. Soon four or five
of the young ladies left the dancing-party, and
seated themselves in a corner, pouting
discontentedly. My companion explained to me that
the deserters were a little stuck-up, having
made two or three visits on a schooner to the
city (Newbern), where they had other ways
of dancing, and where the folks didn't think
it pretty for a girl to strike her heels upon the
floor, &c.
How long they danced I know not, for the
prospect of a long row on the morrow sent me
to rest in the storehouse, from which I was called
by a kind old couple sending for me to take tea
with them at half an hour after midnight.
Unwilling to wound the sensitive feelings of these
hospitable people, I answered the summons in
propia persona, and found it was the mother
of bride No. 1, to whom I was indebted for
the invitation. A well-filled table took up the
space in the centre of the room, where a few
hours before the timbers creaked beneath the
weight of the curious crowd; and there, sitting
on one side in the same affectionate manner I
have described, were the bride and groom,
apparently unmoved by the change of scene, while
the bride's mother rocked in her chair, moaning,
"O John, if you'd taken the other gal, I might
have stood it, but this yere one has been my
At dawn the canoe was put into Core Sound,
and I followed the western shore, cheered by the
bright sun of our Saviour's natal day. At noon
the mouth of the thoroughfare between Harker's
Island and the mainland was unintentionally
passed, and I rowed along by the side of the
island next Fort Macon, which is inside of the
angle made by Cape Lookout.
Finding it impossible to reach Newbern via
Morehead City that day, the canoe was beached
upon the end of Harker's Island, where I
breakfasted at the fashionable hour of two P. M., with
men, women, and children around me. My
mode of cooking the condensed food and liquid
beef; so quickly prepared for the palate, and the
remarkable boat of paper, all filled the islanders
with wonder. They were at first a little shy,
looking upon the apparition -- which seemed in
some wonderful way to have dropped upon
their beach -- with the light of curiosity in their
Then, as I explained the many uses to which
paper was put, even to the paying off of great
national debts, my audience became very
friendly, and offered to get me up a Christmas dinner
in their cabins among the groves of trees near
the strand, if I would tarry with them until night.
But time was precious; so, with thanks on my
part for their kind offers, we parted, they helping
me launch my little boat, and waving a cheerful
adieu as I headed the canoe for Beaufort, which
was quietly passed in the middle of the afternoon.
Three miles further on, the railroad pier of
Morehead City, in Bogue Sound, was reached,
and a crowd of people carried the canoe into
the hotel. A telegram was soon received from
the superintendent of the railroad at Newbern,
inviting me to a free ride to the city in the first
train of the following morning.
The reader who has followed me since I left
the chilly regions of the St. Lawrence must not
have his patience taxed by too much detail, lest
he should weary of my story and desert my
company. Were it not for this fear, it would
give me pleasure to tell how a week was passed
in Newbern; how the people came even from
interior towns to see the paper canoe; how
some, doubting my veracity, slyly stuck the
blades of their pocket-knives through the thin
sides of the canoe, forgetting that it had yet to
traverse many dangerous inlets, and that its
owner preferred a tight, dry boat to one
punctured by knives. Even old men became
enthusiastic, and when I was absent from my little
craft, an uncontrollable ambition seized them,
and they got into the frail shell as it rested upon
the floor of a hall, and threatened its
destruction. It seemed impossible to make one
gentleman of Newbern understand that when the
boat was in the water she was resting upon all
her bearings, but when out of water only upon
a thin strip of wood.
"By George," said this stout gentleman in a
whisper to a friend, "I told my wife I would get
into that boat if I smashed it."
"And what did the lady say, old fellow?"
asked the friend.
"O," he replied, '"she said, 'Now don't make
a fool of yourself, Fatness, or your ambition may
get you into the papers,'" and the speaker fairly
shook with laughter.
While at Newbern, Judge West and his brother
organized a grand hunt, and the railroad
company sent us down the road eighteen miles to a
wild district, where deer, coons, and wild-fowl
were plentiful, and where we hunted all night for
coons and ducks, and all day for deer. Under
these genial influences the practical study of
geography for the first time seemed dull, and I
became aware that, under the efforts of the
citizens of Newbern to remind me of the charms
of civilized society, I was, as a travelling
geographer, fast becoming demoralized.
Could I, after the many pleasures I was daily
enjoying, settle down to a steady pull and one
meal a day with a lunch of dry crackers; or
sleep on the floor of fishermen's cabins, with
fleas and other little annoyances attendant
thereon? Having realized my position, I tore myself
away from my many new friends and retraced
my steps to Morehead City, leaving it on
Tuesday, January 5th, and rowing down the little
sound called Bogue towards Cape Fear.
As night came on I discovered on the shore a
grass cabin, which was on the plantation of Dr.
Emmett, and had been left tenantless by some
fisherman. This served for shelter during the
night though the struggles and squealings of a
drove of hogs attempting to enter through the
rickety door did not contribute much to my
The watercourses now became more
intricate, growing narrower as I rowed southward.
The open waters of the sound were left behind,
and I entered a labyrinth of creeks and small
sheets of water, which form a network in the
marshes between the sandy beach-islands and
the mainland all the way to Cape Fear River.
The Core Sound sheet of the United States
Coast Survey ended at Cape Lookout, there
being no charts of the route to Masonboro. I was
therefore now travelling upon local knowledge,
which proves usually a very uncertain guide.
In a cold rain the canoe reached the little
village of Swansboro, where the chief personage
of the place of two hundred inhabitants, Mr.
McLain, removed me from my temporary
camping-place in an old house near the turpentine
distilleries into his own comfortable quarters.
There are twenty mullet fisheries within ten
miles of Swansboro, which employ from fifteen
to eighteen men each. The pickled and dried
roe of this fish is shipped to Wilmington and to
Cincinnati. Wild-fowls abound, and the
shooting is excellent. The fishermen say flocks of
ducks seven miles in length have been seen on
the waters of Bogue Sound. Canvas-backs are
called "raft-ducks" here, and they sell from
twelve to twenty cents each. Wild geese bring
forty cents, and brant thirty.
The marsh-ponies feed upon the beaches, in
a half wild state, with the deer and cattle, cross
the marshes and swim the streams from the
mainland to the beaches in the spring, and graze there
until winter, when they collect in little herds,
and instinctively return to the piny woods of
the uplands. Messrs. Weeks and Taylor had
shot, while on a four-days' hunt up the White
Oak River, twenty deer. Captain H. D. Heady,
of Swansboro, informed me that the ducks and
geese he killed in one winter supplied him with
one hundred pounds of selected feathers.
Captain Heady's description of Bogue Inlet was not
encouraging for the future prosperity of this
coast, and the same may be said of all the inlets
between it and Cape Fear.
Rainy weather kept me within doors until
Friday, the 7th of January, when I rowed down
White Oak River to Bogue Inlet, and turned
into the beach thoroughfare, which led me three
miles and a half to Bear Inlet. My course now
lay through creeks among the marshes to the
Stand-Back, near the mainland, where the tides
between the two inlets head. Across this shoal
spot I traversed tortuous watercourses with mud
flats, from which beds of sharp raccoon oysters
projected and scraped the keel of my boat.
The sea was now approached from the
mainland to Brown's Inlet, where the tide ran like
a mill-race, swinging my canoe in great circles
as I crossed it to the lower side. Here I took
the widest thoroughfare, and left the beach only
to retrace my steps to follow one nearer the
strand, which conducted me to the end of the
natural system of watercourses, where I found a
ditch, dug seventy years before, which connected
the last system of waters with another series of
creeks that emptied their waters into New River
Emerging from the marshes, my course led
me away from New River Inlet, across open
sheets of water to the mainland, where Dr.
Ward's cotton plantation occupied a large and
cultivated area in the wilderness. It was nearly
two miles from his estate down to the inlet.
The intervening flats among the island marshes
of New River were covered with natural beds
of oysters, upon which the canoe scraped as I
crossed to the narrow entrance of Stump Sound.
Upon rounding a point of land I found, snugly
ensconced in a grove, the cot of an oysterman,
Captain Risley Lewis, who, after informing me
that his was the last habitation to be found in
that vicinity, pressed me to be his guest.
The next day proved one of trial to patience
and muscle. The narrow watercourses, which
like a spider's web penetrate the marshes with
numerous small sheets of water, made travelling
a most difficult task. At times I was lost, again
my canoe was lodged upon oyster-beds in the
shallow ponds of water, the mud bottoms of
which would not hear my weight if I attempted
to get overboard to lighten the little craft.
Alligator Lake, two miles in width, was crossed
without seeing an alligator. Saurians are first
met with, as the traveller proceeds south, in the
vicinity of Alligator Creek and the Neuse River,
in the latitude of Pamplico Sound. During the
cold weather they hide themselves in the soft,
muddy bottoms of creeks and lagoons. All the
negroes, and many of the white people of the
south, assert, that when captured in his winter
bed, this huge reptile's stomach contains the hard
knot of a pine-tree; but for what purpose he
swallows it they are at a loss to explain.
In twelve miles of tortuous windings there
appeared but one sign of human life -- a little
cabin on a ridge of upland among the fringe
of marshes that bordered on Alligator Lake. It
was cheering to a lonely canoeist to see this
house, and the clearing around it with the
season's crop of corn in stacks dotting the field.
All this region is called Stump Sound; but that
sheet of water is a well-defined, narrow,
lake-like watercourse, which was entered not long
after I debouched from Alligator Lake. Stump
Inlet having closed up eighteen months before
my visit, the sound and its tributaries received
tidal water from New Topsail Inlet.
It was a cold and rainy evening when I sought
shelter in an old boat-house, at a landing on
Topsail Sound, soon after leaving Stump Sound.
While preparing for the night's camp, the son
of the proprietor of the plantation discovered
the, to him, unheard-of spectacle of a paper boat
upon the gravelly strand. Filled with curiosity
and delight, he dragged me, paddle in hand,
through an avenue of trees to a hill upon which
a large house was located. This was the boy's
home. Leaving me on the broad steps of the
veranda, he rushed into the hall, shouting to
the family, "Here's a sailor who has come from
the north in a PAPER boat."
This piece of intelligence roused the good
people to merriment. "Impossible!" "A boat
made of paper!" "Nonsense!"
The boy, however, would not be put down.
"But it is made of paper, I tell you; for I
pinched it and stuck my nails into it," he
replied earnestly.
"You are crazy, my boy," some one
responded; "a paper boat never could go through
these sounds, the coon oysters would cut it in
pieces. Now tell us, is the sailor made of
paper, like his boat?"
"Indeed, mother, what I tell you is true; and,
O, I forgot! here's the sailor on the steps, where
I left him." In an instant the whole family were
out upon the veranda. Seeing my
embarrassment, they tried, like well-bred people, to check
their merriment, while I explained to them the
way in which the boy had captured me, and
proposed at once returning to my camp. To
this, however, they would not listen; and the
charming wife of the planter extended her hand
to me, as she said, "No, sir, you will not go back
to the wet landing to camp. This is our home,
and though marauding armies during the late
war have taken from us our wealth, you must
share with us the little we have left." This lady
with her two daughters, who inherited her beauty
and grace of manner, did all in their power to
make me comfortable.
Sunday was the coldest day of the season; but
the family, whose hospitality I enjoyed, rode
seven miles through the woods, some on
horseback, some in the carriage, to the little church
in a heavy pine forest. The next day proved
stormy, and the driving sleet froze upon the
trees and bound their limbs and boughs together
with an icy veneer. My host, Mr. McMillan,
kindly urged me to tarry. During my stay with
him I ascertained that he devoted his attention
to raising ground-peas, or peanuts. Along the
coast of this part of North Carolina this nut is
the chief product, and is raised in immense
quantities. The latter state alone raises annually
over one hundred thousand bushels; while
Virginia and Tennessee produce, some years, a crop
of seven hundred thousand bushels.
Wednesday opened with partially clearing
weather, and the icy covering of the trees
yielded to the softening influences of a southern
wind. The family went to the landing to see
me off, and the kind ladies stowed many
delicacies, made with their own hands, in the bow of
the boat. After rowing a half-mile, I took a
lingering look at the shore, where those who
four days ago were strangers, now waved an
adieu as friends. They had been stript of their
wealth, though the kind old planter had never
raised his hand against the government of his
fathers. This family, like thousands of people
in the south, had suffered for the rash deeds of
others. While the political views of this
gentleman differed from those of the stranger from
Massachusetts, it formed no barrier to their
social intercourse, and did not make him forget
to exhibit the warm feelings of hospitality which
so largely influence the Southerner. I went to
him, as a traveller in search of truth, upon an
honest errand. Under such circumstances a
Northerner does not require a letter of
introduction to nine out of ten of the citizens of the
fifteen ex-slave states, which cover an area of
eight hundred and eighty thousand square miles,
and where fourteen millions of people desire to
be permitted to enjoy the same privileges as the
Constitution of the United States guarantees to
all the states north of Mason and Dixon's line.
From Sloop Landing, on my new friends'
plantation, to New Topsail Inlet I had a brisk
row of five miles. Vessels drawing eight feet of
water can reach this landing from the open sea
upon a full tide. The sea was rolling in at this
ocean door as my canoe crossed it to the next
marsh thoroughfare, which connected it with
Old Topsail Inlet, where the same monotonous
surroundings of sand-hills and marshes are to be found.
The next tidal opening was Rich Inlet, which
had a strong ebb running through it to the
sea. From it I threaded the thoroughfares up
to the mainland, reaching at dusk the "Emma
Nickson Plantation." The creeks were growing
more shallow, and near the bulkhead, or
middleground, where tides from two inlets met, there
was so little water and so many oyster reefs, that,
without a chart, the route grew more and more
perplexing in character. It was a distance of
thirty miles to Cape Fear, and twenty miles
to New Inlet, which was one of the mouths
of Cape Fear River. From the plantation to
New Inlet, the shallow interior sheets of water
with their marshes were called Middle,
Masonboro, and Myrtle sounds. The canoe could
have traversed these waters to the end of
Myrtle Sound, which is separated from Cape Fear
River by a strip of land only one mile and a
half wide, across which a portage can be made
to the river. Barren and Masonboro are the only
inlets which supply the three little sounds above
mentioned with water, after Rich Inlet is passed.
The coast from Cape Fear southward eighty
miles, to Georgetown, South Carolina, has several
small inlets through the beach, but there are no
interior waters parallel with the coast in all that
distance, which can be of any service to the
canoeist for a coast route. It therefore became
necessary for me to follow the next watercourse
that could be utilized for reaching Winyah Bay,
which is the first entrance to the system of
continuous watercourses south of Cape Fear.
The trees of the Nickson Plantation hid the
house of the proprietor from view; but upon
beaching my canoe, a drove of hogs greeted me
with friendly grunts, as if the hospitality of their
master infected the drove; and, as it grew dark,
they trotted across the field, conducting me up
to the very doors of the planter's home, where
Captain Mosely, late of the Confederate army,
gave me a soldier's hearty welcome.
"The war is over," he said, "and any northern
gentleman is welcome to what we have left."
Until midnight, this keen-eyed, intelligent officer
entertained me with a flow of anecdotes of the
war times, his hair-breadth escapes, &c.; the
conversation being only interrupted when he
paused to pile wood upon the fire, the
chimney-place meantime glowing like a furnace. He
told me that Captain Maffitt, of the late
Confederate navy, lived at Masonboro, on the sound;
and that had I called upon him, he could have
furnished, as an old officer of the Coast Survey,
much valuable geographical information. This
pleasant conversation was at last interrupted
by the wife of my host, who warned us in her
courteous way of the lateness of the hour. With
a good-night to my host, and a sad farewell
to the sea, I prepared myself for the morrow's
To reach my next point of embarkation a
portage was necessary. Wilmington was
twelve miles distant, and I reached the railroad
station of that city with my canoe packed in a
bed of corn-husks, on a one-horse dray, in time
to take the evening train to Flemington, on Lake
Waccamaw. The polite general freight-agent,
Mr. A. Pope, allowed my canoe to be transported
in the passenger baggage-car, where, as it had
no covering, I was obliged to steady it during
the ride of thirty-two miles, to protect it from
the friction caused by the motion of the train.
Mr. Pope quietly telegraphed to the few families
at the lake, "Take care of the paper canoe;" so
when my destination was reached, kind voices
greeted me through the darkness and offered me
the hospitalities of Mrs. Brothers' home-like inn
at the Flemington Station. After Mr. Carroll had
conveyed the boat to his storehouse, we all sat
down to tea as sociably as though we were old
On the morrow we carried the Maria Theresa
on our shoulders to the little lake, out of which
the long and crooked river with its dark cypress
waters flowed to the sea. A son of Mr. Short,
a landed proprietor who holds some sixty
thousand acres of the swamp lands of the Waccamaw,
escorted me in his yacht, with a party of ladies
and gentlemen, five miles across the lake to my
point of departure. It was now noon, and our
little party picnicked under the lofty trees which
rise from the low shores of Lake Waccamaw.
A little later we said our adieu, and the paper
canoe shot into the whirling current which rushes
out of the lake through a narrow aperture into
a great and dismal swamp. Before leaving the
party, Mr. Carroll had handed me a letter
addressed to Mr. Hall, who was in charge of a
turpentine distillery on my route. "It is twenty
miles by the river to my friend Hall's," he said,
"but in a straight line the place is just four
miles from here." Such is the character of the
Waccamaw, this most crooked of rivers.
I had never been on so rapid and continuous
a current. As it whirled me along the narrow
watercourse I was compelled to abandon my
oars and use the paddle in order to have my face
to the bow, as the abrupt turns of the stream
seemed to wall me in on every side. Down
the tortuous, black, rolling current went the
paper canoe, with a giant forest covering the
great swamp and screening me from the light
of day. The swamps were submerged, and as
the water poured out of the thickets into the
river it would shoot across the land from one
bend to another, presenting in places the
mystifying spectacle of water running up stream, but
not up an inclined plain. Festoons of gray
Spanish moss hung from the weird limbs of
monster trees, giving a funeral aspect to the
gloomy forest, while the owls hooted as though
it were night. The creamy, wax-like berries
of the mistletoe gave a Druidical aspect to the
woods, for this parasite grew upon the branches
of many trees.
One spot only of firm land rose from the water
in sixteen miles of paddling from the lake, and
passing it, I went flying on with the turbulent
stream four miles further, to where rafts of logs
blocked the river, and the sandy banks, covered
with the upland forest of pines, encroached upon
the lowlands. This was Old Dock, with its
turpentine distillery smoking and sending out
resinous vapors.
Young Mr. Hall read my letter and invited
me to his temporary home, which, though
roughly built of unplaned boards, possessed two
comfortable rooms, and a large fireplace, in
which light-wood, the terebinthine heart of the
pine-tree, was cheerfully blazing.
I had made the twenty miles in three hours,
but the credit of this quick time must be given
to the rapid current. My host did not seem
well pleased with the solitude imposed upon
him. His employers had sent him from
Wilmington, to hold and protect "their turpentine
farm," which was a wilderness of trees covering
four thousand acres, and was valued, with its
distillery, at five thousand dollars. An old
negro, who attended the still and cooked the
meals, was his only companion.
We had finished our frugal repast, when a
man, shouting in the darkness, approached the
house on horseback. This individual, though
very tipsy, represented Law and Order in that
district, as I was informed when "Jim Gore," a
justice of the peace, saluted me in a boisterous
manner. Seating himself by the fire, he
earnestly inquired for the bottle. His stomach, he
said, was as dry as a lime-kiln, and, though
water answers to slake lime, he demanded
something stronger to slake the fire that burned
within him. He was very suspicious of me when
Hall told him of my canoe journey. After
eying me from head to toe in as steady a manner
as he was capable of, he broke forth with: "Now,
stranger, this won't do. What are ye a-travel'ing
in this sort of way for, in a paper dug-out?"
I pleaded a strong desire to study geography,
but the wise fellow replied:
"Geography! geography! Why, the fellers
who rite geography never travel; they stay at
home and spin their yarns 'bout things they
never sees." Then, glancing at his poor
butternut coat and pantaloons, he felt my blue woollen
suit, and continued, in a slow, husky voice:
"Stranger, them clothes cost something; they
be store-clothes. That paper dug-out cost money,
I tell ye; and it costs something to travel the hull
length of the land. No, stranger; if ye be not
on a bet, then somebody's a-paying ye well for it."
For an hour I entertained this roughest of law
dignitaries with an account of my long row, its
trials and its pleasures. He became interested
in the story, and finally related to me his own
aspirations, and the difficulties attending his
efforts to make the piny-woods people respect the
laws and good government. He then described
the river route through the swamps to the sea,
and, putting his arm around me in the most
affectionate manner, he mournfully said:
"O stranger, my heart is with ye; but O, how
ye will have to take it when ye go past those
awful wretches to-morrow; how they will give
it to ye! They most knocked me off my raft,
last time I went to Georgetown. Beware of
them; I warn ye in time. Dern the hussies."
Squire Jim so emphasized the danger that I
became somewhat alarmed, for, more than
anything else, I dreaded an outbreak with rough
women. And then, too, my new acquaintance
informed me that there were four or five of these
wretches, of the worst kind, located several
miles down the stream. As I was about to
inquire into the habits of these ugly old crones,
Mr. Hall, wishing to give Squire James a hint,
remarked that Mr. B_____ might at any time
retire to the next room, where half the bed was at
his disposal.
"Half the bed!" roared the squire; "here
are three of us, and where's my half?"
"Why, squire," hesitatingly responded my
host, Mr. B_____ is my guest, and having but
one bed, he must have half of it -- no less."
"Then what's to become of me?" thundered
his Majesty of the law.
Having been informed that a shake-down
would have been ready had he given notice of
his visit, and that at some future time, when not
so crowded, he could be entertained like a
gentleman, he drew himself up, wrapped in the
mantle of dignity, and replied:
"None of that soft talk, my friend. This
man is a traveller; let him take travellers'
luck -- three in a bed to-night. I'm bound
to sleep with him to-night. Hall, where's the
I now retired to the back room, and, without
undressing, planted myself on the side of the
bed next the wall. Sleep was, however, an
unattainable luxury, with the squire's voice in the
next room, as he told how the country was going
to the dogs, because "niggers and white folks
wouldn't respect the laws. It took half a man's
time to larn it to 'em, and much thanks he ever
got by setting everybody to rights." He wound
up by lecturing Hall for being so temperate,
his diligent search in all directions for bottles or
jugs being rewarded by finding them filled with
unsatisfactory emptiness.
He then tumbled into the centre of the bed,
crowding me close against the wall. Poor Hall,
having the outside left to him, spent the night in
exercising his brain and muscles in vain attempts
to keep in his bed; for when his Majesty of the
law put his arms akimbo, the traveller went to
the wall, and the host to the floor. Thus passed
my first night in the great swamps of the
Waccamaw River.
The negro cook gave us an early breakfast of
bacon, sweet potatoes, and corn bread. The
squire again looked round for the bottle, and
again found nothing but emptiness. He helped
me to carry my canoe along the unsteady footing
of the dark swamp to the lower side of the
raft of logs, and warmly pressed my hand as he
whispered: "My dear B____, I shall think of
you until you get past those dreadful 'wretches.'
Keep an eye on your little boat, or they'll devil
Propelled by my double paddle, the canoe
seemed to fly through the great forest that rose
with its tall trunks and weird, moss-draped
arms, out of the water. The owls were still
hooting. Indeed, the dolorous voice of this bird
of darkness sounded through the heavy woods
at intervals throughout the day. I seemed to
have left the real world behind me, and to have
entered upon a landless region of sky, trees, and
"Beware of the cut-offs," said Hall, before I
left. Only the Crackers and shingle-makers
know them. If followed, they would save you
many a mile, but every opening through the
swamp is not a cut-off. Keep to the main
stream, though it be more crooked and longer.
If you take to the cut-offs, you may get into
passages that will lead you off into the swamps
and into interior bayous, from which you will
never emerge. Men have starved to death in
such places."
So I followed the winding stream, which
turned back upon itself, running north and south,
and east and west, as if trying to box the
compass by following the sun in its revolution. After
paddling down one bend, I could toss a stick
through the trees into the stream where the canoe
had cleaved its waters a quarter of a mile
behind me.
The thought of what I should do in this
landless region if my frail shell, in its rapid flight to
the sea, happened to be pierced by a snag, was,
to say the least, not a comforting one. On what
could I stand to repair it? To climb a tree
seemed, in such a case, the only resource; and
then what anxious waiting there would be for
some cypress-shingle maker, in his dug-out
canoe, to come to the rescue, and take the traveller
from his dangerous lodgings between heaven and
earth; or it might be that no one would pass that
way, and the weary waiting would be even unto
But sounds now reached my ears that made
me feel that I was not quite alone in this desolate
swamp. The gray squirrels scolded among the
tree-tops; robins, the brown thrush, and a large
black woodpecker with his bright red head,
each reminded me of Him without whose notice
not a sparrow falleth to the ground.
Ten miles of this black current were passed
over, when the first signs of civilization appeared,
in the shape of a sombre-looking, two-storied
house, located upon a point of the mainland
which entered the swamp on the left shore of
the river. At this point the river widened to five
or six rods, and at intervals land appeared a few
inches above the water. Wherever the pine
land touched the river a pig-pen of rails offered
shelter and a gathering-place for the hogs,
which are turned loose by the white Cracker
to feed upon the roots and mast of the
Reeve's Ferry, on the right bank, with a little
store and turpentine-still, twenty miles from Old
Dock, was the next sign of the presence of man
in this swamp. The river now became broad as
I approached Piraway Ferry, which is two miles
below Piraway Farm. Remembering the
warnings of the squire as to the "awful wretches in
the big pine woods," I kept a sharp lookout for
the old women who were to give me so much
trouble, but the raftsmen on the river explained
that though Jim Gore had told me the truth, I
had misunderstood his pronunciation of the word
reaches, or river bends, which are called in
this vicinity wretches. The reaches referred to
by Mr. Gore were so long and straight as to
afford open passages for wind to blow up them,
and these fierce gusts of head winds give the
raftsmen much trouble while poling their rafts
against them.
My fears of ill treatment were now at rest, for
my tiny craft, with her sharp-pointed bow, was
well adapted for such work. Landing at the
ferry where a small scow or flat-boat was resting
upon the firm land, the ferryman, Mr. Daniel
Dunkin, would not permit me to camp out of
doors while his log-cabin was only one mile
away on the pine-covered uplands. He told me
that the boundary-line between North and South
Carolina crossed this swamp three and a half
miles below Piraway Ferry, and that the first
town on the river Waccamaw, in South Carolina,
Conwayborough, was a distance of ninety miles
by river and only thirty miles by land. There
was but one bridge over the river, from its head
to Conwayborough, and it was built by Mr.
James Wortham, twenty years before, for his
plantation. This bridge was twenty miles below
Piraway, and from it by land to a settlement on
Little River, which empties into the Atlantic,
was a distance of only five miles. A short canal
would connect this river and its lumber regions
with Little River and the sea.
For the first time in my experience as a
traveller I had entered a country where the miles
were short. When fifteen years old I made my
first journey alone and on foot from the vicinity
of Boston to the White Mountains of New
Hampshire. This boyish pedestrian trip
occupied about twenty-one days, and covered some
three hundred miles of hard tramping. New
England gives honest measure on the
finger-posts along her highways. The traveller learns
by well-earned experience the length of her
miles; but in the wilderness of the south there
is no standard of five thousand two hundred and
eighty feet to a statute mile, and the watermen
along the sea-coast are ignorant of the fact that
one-sixtieth of a degree of latitude (about six
thousand and eighty feet) is the geographical
and nautical mile of the cartographer, as well
as the "knot" of the sailor.
At Piraway Ferry no two of the raftsmen and
lumbermen, ignorant or educated, would give the
same distance, either upon the lengths of surveyed
roads or unmeasured rivers. "It is one hundred
and sixty-five miles by river from Piraway Ferry
to Conwayborough," said one who had travelled
the route for years. The most moderate estimate
made was that of ninety miles by river. The
reader, therefore, must not accuse me of
overstating distances while absent from the seaboard,
as my friends of the Coast Survey Bureau have
not yet penetrated into these interior regions with
their theodolites, plane-tables, and
telametrerods. To the canoeist, who is ambitious to score
up miles instead of collecting geographical notes,
these wild rivers afford an excellent opportunity
to satisfy his aims.
From sixty to eighty miles can be rowed in
ten hours as easily as forty miles can be gone
over upon a river of slow current in the
northern states. There is, I am sorry to say,
a class of American travellers who "do" all the
capitals of Europe in the same business-like way,
and if they have anything to say in regard to
every-day life in the countries through which
they pass, they forget to thank the compiler of
the guide-book for the information they possess.
There was but one room in the cabin of my
new acquaintance, who represented that class of
piny-woods people called in the south -- because
they subsist largely upon corn, -- Corn Crackers,
or Crackers. These Crackers are the "poor white
folks" of the planter, and "de white trash" of
the old slave, who now as a freedman is
beginning to feel the responsibility of his position.
These Crackers are a very kind-hearted people,
but few of them can read or write. The children
of the negro, filled with curiosity and a
newborn pride, whenever opportunity permits,
attend the schools in large numbers; but the very
indolent white man seems to be destitute of all
ambition, and his children, in many places in the
south, following close in the father's footsteps,
grow up in an almost unimaginable ignorance.
The news of the arrival of the little Maria
Theresa at Piraway Ferry spread with
astonishing rapidity through the woods, and on Sunday,
after "de shoutings," as the negroes call their
meetings, were over, the blacks came in
numbers to see "dat Yankee-man's paper canno."
These simple people eyed me from head to foot
with a grave sort of curiosity, their great mouths
open, displaying pearly teeth of which a white
man might well be proud. "You is a good man,
capt'n -- we knows dat," they said; and when I
asked why, the answer showed their childlike
faith. "'Cause you couldn't hab come all dis
way in a paper boat if de Lord hadn't helped
you. He dono help only good folks."
The Cracker also came with his children to
view the wonder, while the raftsmen were so
struck with the advantages of my double paddle,
which originated with the inhabitants of the
Arctic regions, that they laid it upon a board and
drew its outlines with chalk. They vowed they
would introduce it upon the river.
These Crackers declared it would take more
than "de shoutings," or any other religious
service, to improve the moral condition of
the blacks. They openly accused the colored
preachers of disturbing the nocturnal rest of
their hens and turkeys; and as to hog-stealing
and cow-killing, "Why, we won't have any
critters left ef this carpet-bag government lasts much
longer!" they feelingly exclaimed.
"We does nothing to nobody. We lets the
niggers alone; but niggers will steal -- they can't
help it, the poor devils; it's in 'em. Now, ef they
eats us out of house and home, what can a poor
man do? They puts 'em up for justices of peace,
and sends 'em to the legislature, when they can't
read more'n us; and they do say it's 'cause we
fit in the Confederate sarvice that they razes the
nigger over our heads. Now, does the folkes up
north like to see white people tyrannized over
by niggers? Jes tell 'em when you go back,
stranger, that we's got soulds like yours up
north, and we's got feelings too, by thunder! jes
like other white men. This was a white man's
country once -- now it's all niggers and dogs.
Why, them niggers in the legislature has
spitboxes lined with gold to spit in! What's this
country a-coming to? We wish the niggers no
harm if they lets our hogs and chickens alone."
After this tirade it was amusing to see how
friendly the whites and blacks were. The
Crackers conversed with these children of Ham, who
had been stealing their hams for so long a time,
in the most kindly way, realizing, perhaps, that
they had various peculiar traits of their own, and
must, after all, endure their neighbors.
A traveller should place facts before his
readers, and leave to them the drawing of the moral.
Northern men and women who go to the
southern states and reside for even the short space of
a year or two, invariably change their life-long
views and principles regarding the negro as a
moral and social creature. When these people
return to their homes in Maine or Massachusetts
(as did the representatives of the Granges of the
northern states after they had visited South
Carolina in 1875) a new light, derived from contact
with facts, dawns upon them, while their
surprised and untravelled neighbors say: "So you
have become Southern in your views. I never
would have thought that of you."
The railroad has become one of the great
mediums of enlightenment to mankind, and joins in
a social fraternity the disunited elements of a
country. God grant that the resources of the
great South may soon be developed by the
capital and free labor of the North. Our sister states
of the South, exhausted by the struggles of the
late war which resulted in consolidating more
firmly than ever the great Union, are now ready
to receive every honest effort to develop their
wealth or cultivate their territory. Let every
national patriot give up narrowness of views and
sectional selfishness and become acquainted with
(not the politicians) the people of the New
South, and a harmony of feeling will soon
possess the hearts of all true lovers of a government
of the people.
The swamp tributaries were swelling the river
into a very rapid torrent as I paddled away from
the ferry on Monday, January 18. A warmer
latitude having been reached, I could dispense
with one blanket, and this I had presented to my
kind host, who had refused to accept payment
for his hospitality. He was very proud of his
present, and said, feelingly, "No one shall touch
this but me." His good wife had baked some
of a rich and very nice variety of sweet-potatoes,
unlike those we get in New Jersey or the other
Middle States-which potatoes she kindly added
to my stores. They are not dry or mealy when
cooked, but seem saturated with honey. The
poor woman's gift now occupied the space
formerly taken up by the blanket I had given her
From this day, as latitude after latitude was
crossed on my way southward, I distributed
every article I could spare, among these poor,
kind-hearted people. Mr. McGreggor went in
his Rob Roy canoe over the rivers of Europe,
"diffusing cheerfulness and distributing
Evangelical tracts." I had no room for tracts, and if I
had followed the example of my wellintentioned
predecessor in canoeing, it would have
served the cause of truth or creed but little.
The Crackers could not read, and but few of
the grown negroes had been taught letters.
They did not want books, but tobacco. Men
and women hailed me from the banks as I glided
along in my canoe, with, "Say, captain, hab you
eny 'bacca or snuff for dis chile?" Poor
humanity! The Cracker and the freedman fill
alike their places according to the light they
possess. Do we, who have been taught from
our youth sacred things, do more than this?
Do we love our neighbor as ourself?
For twenty miles (local authority) I journeyed
down the stream, without seeing a human being
or a dwelling-place, to Stanley's house and the
bridge; from which I urged the canoe thirty-five
miles further, passing an old field on a bluff,
when darkness settled on the swamps, and a
heavy mist rose from the waters and enveloped
the forests in its folds. With not a trace of land
above water I groped about, running into what
appeared to be openings in the submerged land,
only to find my canoe tangled in thickets. It
was useless to go further, and I prepared to
ascend to the forks of a giant tree, with a light
rope, to be used for lashing my body into a safe
position, when a long, low cry engaged my
"Waugh! ho! ho! ho! peig -- peig - pe-ig -
pe-ig," came through the still; thick air. It was
not an owl, nor a catamount that cried thus; nor
was it the bark of a fox. It was the voice of a
Cracker calling in his hogs from the forest.
This sound was indeed pleasant to my ears,
for I knew the upland was near, and that a
warm fire awaited my benumbed limbs in the
cabin of this unknown man. Pushing the canoe
towards the sound, and feeling the submerged
border of the swamp with my paddle, I struck
the upland where it touched the water, and
disembarking, felt my way along a well-trodden
path to a little clearing. Here a drove of hogs
were crowding around their owner, who was
scattering kernels of corn about him as he
vociferated, "pe-ig -- pe-ig - pe-ig - pig - pig -
pig." We stood face to face, yet neither could
see the face of the other in the darkness. I told
my tale, and asked where I could find a sheltered
spot to camp.
"Stranger," slowly replied the Cracker, "my
cabin's close at hand. Come home with me.
It's a bad night for a man to lay out in; and the
niggers would steal your traps if they knew you
had anything worth taking. Come with me."
In the tall pines near at hand was a cabin of
peeled rails, the chinks between them being
stuffed with moss. A roof of cypress shingles
kept the rain out. The log chimney, which was
plastered with mud, was built outside of the
walls and against an end of the rustic-looking
structure. The wide-mouthed fireplace sent
forth a blaze of light as we entered the poor
man's home. I saw in the nicely swept floor,
the clean bed-spreads, and the general neatness
of the place, the character of Wilson Edge's
"Hog and hominy's our food here in the piny
woods," said Mr. Edge, as his wife invited us to
the little table; "and we've a few eggs now and
then to eat with sweet potatoes, but it's up-hill
work to keep the niggers from killing every fowl
and animal we have. The carpet-bag politicians
promised them every one, for his vote, forty acres
of land and a mule. They sed as how the
northern government was a-going to give it to
um; but the poor devils never got any thanks
even for their votes. They had been stuffed
with all sorts of notions by the carpet-baggers,
and I don't blame um for putting on airs and
trying to rule us. It's human natur, that's all.
We don't blame the niggers half so much as
those who puts it in their heads to do so; but it's
hard times we've had, we poor woods folks.
They took our children for the cussed war, to
fight fur niggers and rich people as owned um.
"We never could find out what all the fuss
was about; but when Jeff Davis made a law to
exempt every man from the army who owned
fifteen niggers, then our blood riz right up,
and we sez to our neighbors, 'This ere thing's
a-getting to be a rich man's quarrel and a poor
man's fight.' After all they dragged off my boy
to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and killed him
a fighting for what? Why, for rich nigger
owners. Our young men hid in the swamps,
but they were hunted up and forced into the
army. Niggers has been our ruin. Ef a white
man takes a case before a nigger justice, he
gives the nigger everything, and the white man
has to stand one side. Now, would you folks up
north like to have a nigger justice who can't
read nor count ten figgurs?"
I tried to comfort the poor man, by assuring
him that outside of the political enemies of our
peace, the masses in the north were honestly
inclined towards the south now that slavery
was at an end; and that wrong could not long
prevail, with the cheerful prospect of a new
administration, and the removal of all
unconstitutional forces that preyed upon the south.
The two beds in the single room of the cabin
were occupied by the family; while I slept upon
the floor by the fire, with my blankets for a
couch and a roll of homespun for a pillow,
which the women called "heading." They
often said, "Let me give you some heading for
your bed." We waited until eight o'clock the
next day for the mists to rise from the swamps.
My daily trouble was now upon me. How could
I remunerate a southerner for his cost of
keeping me, when not, in the true sense of the word,
an invited guest to his hospitality?
Wilson Edge sat by the fire, while his wife
and little ones were preparing to accompany me
to see the paper boat. "Mr. Edge," I
stammered, "you have treated me with great
kindness, your wife has been put to some
inconvenience as I came in so unexpected a manner, and
you will really oblige me if you will accept a
little money for all this; though money cannot
pay for your hospitality. Grant my wish, and
you will send me away with a light heart."
The poor Cracker lowered his head and slowly
ran his fingers through his coal black hair. For
a moment he seemed studying a reply, and then
he spoke as though HE represented the whole
generous heart of the south.
"Stranger," he slowly articulated,"Stranger,
I have known white men to be niggers enough
to take a stranger's money for lodgings and
vittles, but I am not that man."
We found the canoe as it had been left the
night before, and I was soon pulling down the
river. The great wilderness was traversed thirty
miles to the county town of Conwayborough,
where the negroes roared with laughter at the
working of the double paddle, as I shot past the
landing-place where cotton and naval stores
were piled, waiting to be lightered nine miles to
Pot Bluff, -- so called from the fact of a pot
being lost from a vessel near it, -- which place
is reached by vessels from New York drawing
twelve feet of water. Though still a long
distance from the ocean, I was beginning to feel its
tidal influences. At Pot Bluff, the landing and
comfortable home of its owner, Mr. Z. W.
Dusenberry, presented a pleasant relief after the
monotony of the great pine forests. This
enterprising business man made my short stay a very
pleasant one.
Wednesday, January 20th, was cold for this
latitude, and ice formed in thin sheets in the
water-pails. Twenty-two miles below Pot Bluff,
Bull Creek enters the Waccamaw from the
Peedee River. At the mouth of this connecting
watercourse is Tip Top, the first rice plantation
of the Waccamaw. The Peedee and its sister
stream run an almost parallel course from Bull
Creek to Winyah Bay, making their debouchure
close to the city of Georgetown. Steam
sawmills and rice plantations take the place of the
forests from a few miles below Tip Top to the
vicinity of Georgetown.
Mr. M. L. Blakely, of New York, one of the
largest shingle manufacturers of the south,
occupied as his headquarters the Bates Hill
Plantation, on the Peedee. This gentleman had invited
me, through the medium of the post-office, to
visit him in the rice-growing regions of South
Carolina. To reach his home I took the short
"cut-off" which Bull Creek offered, and entered
upon the strongest of head-currents. The thick
yellow, muddy torrent of the Peedee rushed
through Bull Creek with such volume, that I
wondered if it left much water on the other side
to give character to the river, as it followed its
own channel to Winyah Bay.
One and a half miles of vigorous paddling
brought me to a branch of the watercourse,
which is much narrower than the main one, and
is consequently called Little Bull Creek. This
also comes from the Peedee River, and its source
is nearer to the Bates Hill plantation than the
main Bull Creek. To urge the canoe up this
narrow stream three miles and a half to the
parent river Peedee, was a most trying ordeal.
At times the boat would not move a hundred
feet in five minutes, and often, as my strength
seemed failing me, I caught the friendly branches
of trees, and held on to keep the canoe from
being whirled down the current towards the
Waccamaw. After long and persistent efforts
had exhausted my strength, I was about to seek
for a resting-place in the swamp, when a view
of the broad Peedee opened before me, and with
vigorous strokes of the paddle the canoe slowly
approached the mighty current. A moment
more and it was within its grasp, and went flying
down the turbulent stream at the rate of ten
miles an hour.
A loud halloo greeted me from the swamp,
where a party of negro shingle-makers were at
work. They manned their boat, a long cypress
dug-out, and followed me. Their employer, who
proved to be the gentleman whose abiding-place
I was now rapidly approaching, sat in the stern.
We landed together before the old
plantation house, which had been occupied a few years
before by members of the wealthy and powerful
rice-planting aristocracy of the Peedee, but was
now the temporary home of a northern man,
who was busily employed in guiding the labors
of his four hundred freedmen in the swamps of
North and South Carolina.
The paper canoe had now entered the regions
of the rice-planter. Along the low banks of the
Peedee were diked marshes where, before the
civil war, each estate produced from five
thousand to forty thousand bushels of rice annually,
and the lords of rice were more powerful than
those of cotton, though cotton was king. The
rich lands here produced as high as fifty-five
bushels of rice to the acre, under forced slave
labor; now the free blacks cannot wrest from
nature more than twenty-five or thirty bushels.
Fine old mansions lined the river's banks, but
the families had been so reduced by the ravages
of war, that I saw refined ladies, who had been
educated in the schools of Edinburgh, Scotland,
overseeing the negroes as they worked in the
yards of the rice-mills. The undaunted spirit of
these southern ladies, as they worked in their
homes now so desolate, roused my admiration.
A light, graceful figure, enveloped in an old
shawl, and mounted on an old horse, flitted about
one plantation like a restless spirit.
"That lady's father," said a gentleman to me,
"owned three plantations, worth three millions
of dollars, before the war. There is a rice-mill
on one of the plantations which cost thirty
thousand dollars. She now fights against misfortune,
and will not give up. The Confederate war
would not have lasted six months if it had not
been for our women. They drove thousands of
us young men into the fight; and now, having
lost all, they go bravely to work, even taking the
places of their old servants in their grand old
homes. It's hard for them, though, I assure
On Tuesday, January 25th, I paddled down the
Peedee, stopping at the plantations of Dr.
Weston and Colonel Benjamin Allston. The latter
gentleman was a son of one of the governors of
South Carolina. He kindly gave me a letter of
introduction to Commodore Richard Lowndes,
who lived near the coast. From the Peedee I
passed through a cut in the marshes into the
broad Waccamaw, and descended it to Winyah
Georgetown is located between the mouths of
the Peedee and Sampit rivers. Cautiously
approaching the city, I landed at Mr. David
Risley's steam saw-mills, and that gentleman kindly
secreted my boat in a back counting-room, while
I went up town to visit the post-office. By some,
to me, unaccountable means, the people had
heard of the arrival of the paper boat, and three
elaborately dressed negro women accosted me
with, "Please show wees tree ladies de little
paper boat."
Before I had reached my destination, the
post-office, a body of men met me, on their way to
the steam-mill. The crowd forced me back to
the canoe, and asked so many questions that I
was sorely taxed to find answers for these
gentlemen. There were three editors in the crowd:
two were white men, one a negro. The young
men, who claimed the position of representatives
of the spirit of the place and of the times,
published "The Comet," while the negro, as though
influenced by a spirit of sarcasm, conducted
"The Planet." The third newspaper
represented at the canoe reception was the "
Georgetown Times," which courteously noticed the
little boat that had come so far. "The Planet"
prudently kept in the dark, and said nothing, but
"The Comet," representing the culture of the
young men of the city, published the following
notice of my arrival:
"Tom Collins has at last arrived in his
wonderful paper boat. He has it hitched to Mr.
Risley's new saw-mill, where every one can
have a view. He intends shooting off his
six-pounder before weighing anchor in the morning.
Hurrah for Collins."
I left Mr. Risley's comfortable home before
noon the next day, and followed the shores of
Winyah Bay towards the sea. Near Battery
White, on the right shore, in the pine forests,
was the birth-place of Marion, the brave patriot
of the American revolution, whose bugle's call
summoned the youth of those days to arms.
When near the inlet, the rice-plantation
marshes skirted the shore for some distance.
Out of these wet lands flowed a little stream,
called Mosquito Creek, which once connected
the North Santee River with Winyah Bay, and
served as a boundary to South Island. The
creek was very crooked, and the ebb-tide strong.
When more than halfway to Santee River I was
forced to leave the stream, as it had become
closed by tidal deposits and rank vegetation.
The ditches of rice plantations emptied their
drainage of the lowlands into Mosquito Creek.
Following a wide ditch to the right, through fields
of rich alluvial soil, which had been wrested by
severe toil from nature, the boat soon reached
the rice-mill of Commodore Richard Lowndes.
A little further on, and situated in a noble grove
of live-oaks, which were draped in the weird
festoons of Spanish moss, on the upland arose
the stately home of the planter, who still kept his
plantation in cultivation, though on a scale of less
magnitude than formerly. It was, indeed, a
pleasant evening that I passed in the company of the
refined members of the old commodore's
household, and with a pang of regret the next day I
paddled along the main canal of the lowlands,
casting backward glances at the old house, with
its grand old trees. The canal ended at North
Santee Bay.
While I was preparing to ascend the river a
tempest arose, which kept me a weary prisoner
among the reeds of the rice marsh. The hollow
reeds made poor fuel for cooking, and when the
dark, stormy night shut down upon me, the damp
soil grew damper as the tide arose, until it
threatened to overflow the land. For hours I lay in my
narrow canoe waiting for the tidal flood to do its
worst, but it receded, and left me without any
means of building a fire, as the reeds were wet
by the storm. The next afternoon, being tired
of this sort of prison-life, and cramped for lack
of exercise, I launched the canoe into the rough
water, and crossing to Crow Island found a lee
under its shores, which permitted me to ascend
the river to the mouth of Atchison Creek, through
which I passed, two miles, to the South Santee
All these rivers are bordered by rice
plantations, many of them having been abandoned to
the care of the freedmen. I saw no white men
upon them. Buildings and dikes are falling into
ruins, and the river freshets frequently inundate the
land. Many of the owners of these once valuable
estates are too much reduced in wealth to attempt
their proper cultivation. It is in any case
difficult to get the freedmen to work through an
entire season, even when well paid for their
services, and they flock to the towns whenever
opportunity permits.
The North and South Santee rivers empty into
the Atlantic, but their entrances are so shallow
that Georgetown Entrance is the inlet through
which most of the produce of the country -
pitch, tar, turpentine, rice, and lumber -- finds
exit to the sea. As I left the canal, which, with
the creek, makes a complete thoroughfare for
lighters and small coasters from one Santee River
to the other, a renewal of the tempest made me
seek shelter in an old cabin in a negro settlement,
each house of which was built upon piles driven
into the marshes. The old negro overseer of the
plantation hinted to me that his "hands were
berry spicious of ebbry stranger," and advised me
to row to some other locality. I told him I was
from the north, and would not hurt even one of
the fleas which in multitudes infested his negroes'
quarters; but the old fellow shook his head, and
would not be responsible for me if I staid there
all night. A tall darkey, who had listened to the
conversation, broke in with, "Now, uncle, ye
knows dat if dis gemmum is from de norf he is
one of wees, and ye must du fur him jis dis
time." But "Uncle Overseer" kept repeating,
"Some niggers here is mity spicious. Du not
no who white man is anyhow." "Well, uncle,"
replied the tall black, "ef dis man is a
Yankeemans, Ise will see him froo."
Then he questioned me, while the fleas,
having telegraphed to each other that a stranger had
arrived, made sad havoc of me and my patience.
"My name's Jacob Gilleu; what's yourn?" I
gave it. "Whar's your home?" came next. "I
am a citizen of the United States," I replied.
"De 'Nited States -- whar's dat? neber hurd
him afore," said Jacob Gilleu. Having
informed him it was the land which General Grant
governed, he exclaimed: "O, you's a Grant man;
all rite den; you is one of wees -- all de same as
wees. Den look a-here, boss. I send you to one
good place on Alligator Creek, whar Seba
Gillings libs. He black man, but he treat you jes
like white man."
Jacob helped me launch my boat through the
soft mud, which nearly stalled us; and following
his directions I paddled across the South Santee
and coasted down to Alligator Creek, where
extensive marshes, covered by tall reeds, hid the
landscape from my view. About half a mile
from the mouth of the creek, which watercourse
was on my direct route to Bull's Bay, a large
tide-gate was found at the mouth of a canal.
This being wide open, I pushed up the canal to
a low point of land which rose like an island out
of the rushes. Here was a negro hamlet of a
dozen houses, or shanties, and the ruins of a
rice-mill. The majority of the negroes were
absent working within the diked enclosures of
this large estate, which before the war had
produced forty thousand bushels of rice annually.
Now the place was leased by a former slave,
and but little work was accomplished under the
present management.
Seba Gillings, a powerfully built negro, came
to the dike upon which I had landed the canoe.
I quickly told him my story, and how I had been
forced to leave the last negro quarters. I used
Jacob Gilleu's name as authority for seeking
shelter with him from the damps of the
half-submerged lands. The dignified black man bade
me "fear nuffing, stay here all de night, long's
you please; treat you like white man. I'se
mity poor, but gib you de berry best I hab."
He locked my boat in a rickety old storehouse,
and gave me to understand "dat niggers will
steal de berry breff from a man's mouff."
He took me to his home, and soon showed me
how he managed "de niggers." His wife sat
silently by the fire. He ordered her to "pound
de rice;" and she threw a quantity of unhulled
rice into a wooden mortar three feet high planted
in the ground in front of the shanty. Then, with
an enormous pestle, the black woman pounded
the grains until the hulls were removed, when,
seating herself upon the floor of the dark, smoky
cabin, she winnowed the rice with her breath,
while her long, slim fingers caught and removed
all the specks of dirt from the mass. It was
cooked as the Chinese cook it -- not to a
glutinous mass, as we of the north prepare it- but
each grain was dry and entire. Then eggs and
bacon were prepared; not by the woman, but by
the son, a lad of fourteen years.
All these movements were superintended by
old Seba, who sat looking as dark and as solemn
and as learned as an associate judge on the
bench of a New Jersey county court. On the
blackest of tables, minus a cloth, the well-cooked
food was placed for the stranger. As soon as
my meal was finished, every member of the
family made a dash for the fragments, and the board
was cleared in a wonderfully short space of time.
Then we gathered round the great,
black-mouthed fireplace, and while the bright coals of
live-oak spread a streak of light through the
darkness, black men and black women stole into
the room until everything from floor to ceiling,
from door to chimney-place, seemed to be
growing blacker and blacker, and I felt as black as
my surroundings. The scant clothing of the
men only half covered their shiny, ebony skins.
The whole company preserved a dignified
silence, which was occasionally broken by deep
sighs coming from the women in reply to a
half-whispered "All de way from de norf in a paper
canno -- bless de Lord! bless de Lord!"
This dull monotony was broken by the
entrance of a young negro who, having made a
passage in a sloop to Charleston through Bull's
Bay, was looked upon as a great traveller, and
to him were referred disputes upon nautical
matters. He had not yet seen the boat, but he
proceeded to tell the negroes present all about it.
He first bowed to me with a "How'dy, how'dy,
cap'n," and then struck an attitude in the middle
of the floor. Upon this natural orator Seba
Gillings' dignity had no effect -- was he not a
travelled man?
His exordium was: "How fur you cum, sar?"
I replied, about fourteen hundred miles. "
Fourteen hundred miles!" he roared; "duz you
knows how much dat is, honnies? it's jes one
thousand four hundred miles." All the women
groaned out, "Bless de Lord! bless de Lord!"
and clapped their shrivelled hands in ecstasy.
The little black tried to run his fingers through
his short, woolly hair as he continued: "What is
dis yere world a-coming to? Now, yous ere
folks, did ye's eber hear de likes o' dis -- a
paper boat?" To which the crones replied,
clapping their hands, "Bless de Lord! bless de
Lord! Only the Yankee-mens up norf can
make de paper boats. Bless de Lord!"
"And what," continued the orator, "and what
will the Yankee-mens do next? Dey duz ebery
ting. Can dey bring a man back agen? Can
dey bring a man back to bref?" "No! no!"
howled the women; "only de Lord can bring a
man back agen -- no Yankee-mens can do dat.
Bless de Lord! bless de Lord!" "And what sent
dis Yankee-man one tousand four hundred miles
in his paper boat?" "De Lord! de Lord!
bless de Lord!" shouted the now highly excited
women, violently striking the palms of their
hands together.
"And why," went on this categorical negro,
"did de Lord send him down souf in de paper
boat?" "Kase he couldn't hab cum in de paper
boat ef de Lord hadn't a-sent him. O, bless de
Lord! bless de Lord!" "And what duz he call
his paper boat?" "Maria Theresa," I replied.
"Maria Truss Her," cried the orator. "He calls
her Maria Truss Her. Berry good, berry good
name; kase he truss his life in her ebry day, and
dat's why he calls his little boat Truss Her.
Yes, de Yankee-mans makes de gunboats and
de paper boats. Has de gemmin from de norf
any bacca for dis yere chile?"
As the women had become very piously
inclined, and were in just the state of nervous
excitement to commence "de shoutings," old
Uncle Seba rudely informed them that "de
Yankee-mans wants sleep," and cleared the room of
the crowd, to my great relief, for the state of the
atmosphere was beyond description. Seba had
a closet where he kept onions, muskrat skins,
and other pieces of personal property. He now
set his wife to sweeping it out, and I spread my
clean blankets with a sigh upon the black floor,
knowing I should carry away in the morning more
than I had brought into Seba's dwelling.
I will not now expatiate upon the small
annoyances of travel; but to the canoeist who may
follow the southern watercourses traversed by
the paper canoe, I would quietly say, "Keep
away from cabins of all kinds, and you will by
so doing travel with a light heart and even
When I cast up my account with old Seba
the next morning, he said that by trading the
rice he raised he could obtain "bout ebbry ting
he wanted, 'cept rum." Rum was his medicine.
So long as he kept a little stowed away, he
admitted he was often sick. Having been
destitute of cash, and consequently of rum for some
time, he acknowledged his state of health
remarkable; and he was a model of strength and
manly development. All the other negroes were
dwarfish-looking specimens, while their hair was
so very short that it gave them the appearance
of being bald.
When the canoe was taken out of the
storehouse to be put into the canal, these half-naked,
ebony-skinned creatures swarmed about it like
bees. Not a trace of white blood could be
detected in them. Each tried to put a finger upon
the boat. They seemed to regard it as a Fetich;
and, I believe, had it been placed upon an end
they would have bowed down and paid their
African devotions to it. Only the oldest ones
could speak English well enough to be
understood. The youths chattered in African tongue,
and wore talismans about their necks. They
were, to say the least, verging on barbarism.
The experience gathered among the blacks of
other lands impressed me with the well-founded
belief, that in more than one place in the south
would the African Fetich be set up and
worshipped before long, unless the church bestirs
herself to look well to her home missions.
In all my travels, outside of the cities, in the
south it has not been my good fortune to find an
educated white man preaching to negroes, yet
everywhere the poor blacks gather in the
log-cabin, or rudely constructed church, to listen to
ignorant preachers of their own color. The
blind leading the blind.
A few men of negro extraction, with white
blood in their veins, not any more negro than
white man, consequently not negroes in the true
sense of the word, are sent from the negro
colleges of the south to lecture northern
congregations upon the needs of their race; and these
one-quarter, or perhaps three-quarters, white
men are, with their intelligence, and sometimes
brilliant oratory, held up as true types of the
negro race by northerners; while there is, in
fact, as much difference between the
pureblooded negro of the rice-field and this false
representative of "his needs," as can well be
An Irishman, just from the old country,
listened one evening to the fascinating eloquence
of a mulatto freedman. The good Irishman had
never seen a pure-blooded black man. The
orator said, "I am only half a black man. My
mother was a slave, my father a white planter."
"Be jabbers," shouted the excited Irishman,
who was charmed with the lecturer, "if you are
only half a nigger, what must a whole one be
The blacks were kind and civil, as they usually
are when fairly treated. They stood upon the
dike and shouted unintelligible farewells as I
descended the canal to Alligator Creek. This
thoroughfare soon carried me on its salt-water
current to the sea; for I missed a narrow
entrance to the marshes, called the Eye of the
Needle (a steamboat thoroughfare), and found
myself upon the calm sea, which pulsated in
long swells. To the south was the low island
of Cape Roman, which, like a protecting arm,
guarded the quiet bay behind it. The marshes
extended from the main almost to the cape,
while upon the edge of the rushy meadows, upon
an island just inside of the cape, rose the tower
of Roman Light.
This was the first time my tiny shell had
floated upon the ocean. I coasted the sandy
beach of the muddy lowlands, towards the
lighthouse, until I found a creek debouching from
the marsh, which I entered, and from one
watercourse to another, without a chart, found my
way at dusk into Bull's Bay. The see was
rolling in and breaking upon the ashore, which I was
forced to hug closely, as the old disturbers of my
peace, the porpoises were visible; fishing in
numbers. To escape the dangerous raccoon
oyster reefs of the shoal water the canoe was
forced into a deeper channel, when the lively
porpoises chased the boat and drove me back
again on to the sharp-lipped shells. It was fast
growing dark, and no place of refuge nearer
than the upland, a long distance across the soft
marsh, which was even now wet with them.
The rough water of the sound, the oyster reefs
which threatened to pierce my boat, and a coast
which would be submerged by the next
floodtide, all seemed to conspire against me.
Suddenly my anxiety was relieved, and gratitude
filled my heart, as the tall masts of a schooner
rose out of the marshes not far from the upland,
telling me that a friendly creek was near at hand.
Its wide mouth soon opened invitingly before
me, and I rowed towards the beautiful craft
anchored in its current, the trim rig of which
plainly said -- the property of the United States.
An officer stood on the quarterdeck watching
my approach through his glass; and, as I was
passing the vessel, a sailor remarked to his
mates, "That is the paper canoe. I was in
Norfolk, last December, when it reached the
Elizabeth River."
The officer kindly hailed me, and offered me
the hospitality of the Coast-Survey schooner
"Caswell." In the cosiest of cabins, Mr. W. H.
Dennis, with his co-laborers Messrs. Ogden and
Bond, with their interesting conversation soon
made me forget the discomforts of the last three
days spent in the muddy flats among the lowland
negroes. From poor, kind Seba Gillings' black
cabin-floor, to the neat state-room, with its snowy
sheets and clean towels, where fresh, pure water
could be used without stint, was indeed a
transition. The party expected to complete their
work as far as Charleston harbor before the
season closed.
The Sunday spent on the "Caswell" greatly
refreshed me. On Saturday evening Mr. Dennis
traced upon a sheet of paper my route through
the interior coast watercourses to Charleston
harbor; and I left the pretty schooner on
Monday, fully posted for my voyage. The tide
commenced flooding at eleven A. M., and the flats
soon afforded me water for their passage in the
vicinity of the shore. Heavy forests covered
the uplands, where a few houses were visible.
Bull's Island, with pines and a few cabbage palms,
was on my left as I reached the entrance of the
southern thoroughfare at the end of the bay.
Here, in the intricacies of creeks and passages
through the islands, and made careless by the
possession of Mr. Dennis' chart, I several times
blundered into the wrong course; and got no
further that afternoon than Price's Inlet, though
I rowed more than twenty miles. Some eight
miles of the distance rowed was lost by
ascending and descending creeks by mistake.
After a weary day's work shelter was found
in a house close by the sea, on the shores of
Price's Inlet; where, in company with a young
fisherman, who was in the employ of Mr.
Magwood, of Charleston, I slept upon the floor in my
blankets. Charles Hucks, the fisherman, asserted
that three albino deer were killed on Caper's
Island the previous winter. Two were shot by
a negro while he killed the third. Messrs.
Magwood, Terry, and Noland, of Charleston, one
summer penned beside the water one thousand
old terrapin, to hold them over for the winter
season. These "diamond-backs" would
consume five bushels of shrimps in one hour when
fed. A tide of unusual height washed out the
terrapins from their "crawl," and with them
disappeared all anticipated results of the experiment.
The next day, Caper's Island and Inlet,
Dewees' Inlet, Long Island, and Breach Inlet were
successively passed, on strong tidal currents.
Sullivan's Island is separated from Long Island
by Breach Inlet. While following the creeks in
the marshes back of Sullivan's Island, the
compact mass of buildings of Moultrieville, at its
western end, at the entrance of Charleston
harbor, rose imposingly to view.
The gloomy mantle of darkness was settling
over the harbor as the paper canoe stole quietly
into its historic waters. Before me lay the quiet
bay, with old Fort Sumter rising from the watery
plain like a spectral giant, as though to remind
one that this had been the scene of mighty
struggles. The tranquil waters softly rippled a
response to the touch of my oars; all was peace
and quiet here, where, only a few short years
before, the thunder of cannon woke a thousand
echoes, and the waves were stained with the
lifeblood of America, -- where war, with her iron
throat, poured out destruction, and God's
creatures, men, made after his own image,
destroyed each other ruthlessly, having never, in all
that civilization had done for them, discovered
any other way of settling their difficulties than
by this wholesale murder.
The actors In this scene were scattered now;
they had returned to the farm, the workshop,
the desk, and the pulpit. The old flag again
floated upon the ramparts of Sumter, and a
government was trying to reconstruct itself, so that
the Great Republic should become more
thoroughly a government of the people, founded
upon equal rights to all men.
A sharp, scraping sound under my boat roused
me from my revery, for I had leaned upon my
oars while the tide had carried me slowly but
surely upon the oyster-reefs, from which I
escaped with some slight damage to my paper
shell. Newspaper reading had impressed upon
me a belief that the citizens of the city which
played so important a part in the late civil war
might not treat kindly a Massachusetts man. I
therefore decided to go up to the city upon the
ferry-boat for the large mail which awaited my
arrival at the Charleston post-office, after
receiving which I intended to return to Mount
Pleasant, and cross the bay to the entrance of
the southern watercourses, leaving the city as
quietly as I entered it.
My curiosity was, however, aroused to see
how, under the new reconstruction rule, things
were conducted in the once proud city of
Charleston. As I stood at the window of the
post-office delivery, and inquired through the
narrow window for my letters, a heavy shadow
seemed to fall upon me as the head of a negro
appeared. The black post-office official's
features underwent a sudden change as I
pronounced my name, and, while a warm glow of
affection lighted up his dark face, he thrust his
whole arm through the window, and grasped my
hand with a vigorous shake in the most friendly
manner, as though upon his shoulders rested the
good name of the people.
"Welcome to Charleston, Mr. B____, welcome
to our beautiful city," he exclaimed. So this
was Charleston under reconstruction.
After handing me my mail, the postmaster
graciously remarked, "Our rule is to close the
office at five o'clock P. M., but if you are belated
any day, tap at the door, and I will attend you."
This was my first welcome to Charleston; but
before I could return to my quarters at Mount
Pleasant, members of the Chamber of
Commerce, the Carolina Club, and others, pressed
upon me kind attentions and hospitalities, while
Mr. James L. Frazer, of the South Carolina
Regatta Association, sent for the Maria Theresa,
and placed it in charge of the wharfinger of the
Southern Wharf, where many ladies and
gentlemen visited it.
When I left the old city, a few days later, I
blushed to think how I had doubted these people,
whose reputation for hospitality to strangers had
been world-wide for more than half a century.
While here I was the guest of Rev. G. R.
Brackett, the well-loved pastor of one of
Charleston's churches. It was with feelings of
regret I turned my tiny craft towards untried
waters, leaving behind me the beautiful city of
Charleston, and the friends who had so kindly
cared for the lonely canoeist.
Captain N. L. Coste, and several other
Charleston pilots, drew and presented to
me charts of the route to be followed by the
paper canoe through the Sea Island passages,
from the Ashley to the Savannah River, as some
of the smaller watercourses near the upland were
not, in 1875, upon any engraved chart of the
Coast Survey.
Ex-Governor William Aiken, whose rice
plantation on Jehossee Island was considered, before
the late war, the model one of the south, invited
me to pass the following Sunday with him upon
his estate, which was about sixty-five miles from
Charleston, and along one of the interior water
routes to Savannah. He proposed to leave his
city residence and travel by land, while I paddled
my canoe southward to meet him. The genial
editor of the "News and Courier" promised to
notify the people of my departure, and have the
citizens assembled to give me a South Carolina
adieu. To avoid this publicity, -- so kindly
meant, -- I quietly left the city from the south
side on Friday, February 12th, and ascended the
Ashley to Wappoo Creek, on the opposite bank
of the river.
A steamboat sent me a screaming salute as the
mouth of the Wappoo was reached, which made
me feel that, though in strange waters, friends
were all around me. I was now following one
of the salt-water, steamboat passages through
the great marshes of South Carolina. From
Wappoo Creek I took the "Elliot Cut" into the
broad Stono River, from behind the marshes of
which forests rose upon the low bluffs of the
upland, and rowed steadily on to Church Flats,
where Wide Awake, with its landing and store,
nestled on the bank.
A little further on the tides divided, one
ebbing through the Stono to the sea, the other
towards the North Edisto. "New Cut" connects
Church Flats with Wadmelaw Sound, a sheet
of water not over two miles in width and the
same distance in length. From the sound the
Wadmelaw River runs to the mouth of the
Dahoo. Vessels drawing eight and a half feet of
water can pass on full tides from Charleston over
the course I was following to the North Edisto
Leaving Wadmelaw Sound, a deep bend of
the river was entered, when the bluffs of
Enterprise Landing, with its store and the ruins of
a burnt saw-mill, came into view on the left.
Having rowed more than thirty miles from the
Ashley, and finding that the proprietor of
Enterprise, a Connecticut gentleman, had made
preparations to entertain me, this day of pleasant
journeying ended.
The Cardinal-bird was carolling his mating
song when the members of this little New
England colony watched my departure down the
Wadmelaw the next morning. The course was
for the most part over the submerged phosphate
beds of South Carolina, where the remains of
extinct species were now excavated, furnishing
food for the worn-out soils of America and
Europe, and interesting studies and speculations for
men of science. The Dahoo River was reached
soon after leaving Enterprise. Here the North
Edisto, a broad river, passes the mouth of the
Dahoo, in its descent to the sea, which is about
ten miles distant.
For two miles along the Dahoo the porpoises
gave me strong proof of their knowledge of the
presence of the paper canoe by their rough
gambols, but being now in quiet inland waters,
I could laugh at these strange creatures as they
broke from the water around the boat. At four
o'clock P. M. the extensive marshes of Jehossee
Island were reached, and I approached the
village of the plantation through a short canal.
Out of the rice-fields of rich, black alluvium
rose an area of higher land, upon which were
situated the mansion and village of Governor
Aiken, where he, in 1830, commenced his duties
as rice-planter. A hedge of bright green casino
surrounded the well-kept garden, within which
magnolias and live-oaks enveloped the solid old
house, screening it with their heavy foliage from
the strong winds of the ocean, while flowering
shrubs of all descriptions added their bright and
vivid coloring to the picturesque beauty of the
The governor had arrived at Jehossee before
me, and Saturday being pay-day, the faces of the
negroes were wreathed in smiles. Here, in his
quiet island home, I remained until Monday with
this most excellent man and patriot, whose soul
had been tried as by fire during the disturbances
caused by the war.
As we sat together in that room where, in
years gone by, Governor Aiken had entertained
his northern guests, with Englishmen of noble
blood, a room full of reminiscences both
pleasant and painful, -- my kind host freely told
me the story of his busy life, which sounded like
a tale of romance. He had tried to stay the wild
storm of secession when the war-cloud hung
gloomily over his state. It broke, and his
unheeded warnings were drowned in the thunders
of the political tempest that swept over the fair
South. Before the war he owned one thousand
slaves. He organized schools to teach his
negroes to read and write. The improvement of
their moral condition was his great study.
The life he had entered upon, though at first
distasteful, had been forced upon him, and he
met his peculiar responsibilities with a true
Christian desire to benefit all within his reach.
When a young man, having returned from the
tour of Europe, his father presented him with
Jehossee Island, an estate of five thousand acres,
around which it required four stout negro
oarsmen to row him in a day. "Here," said the
father to the future governor of South Carolina,
as he presented the domain to his son, -- "here
are the means; now go to work and develop
William Aiken applied himself industriously
to the task of improving the talents given him.
His well-directed efforts bore good fruit, as year
after year Jehossee Island, from a half
submerged, sedgy, boggy waste, grew into one of
the finest rice-plantations in the south. The
new lord of the manor ditched the marshes, and
walled in his new rice-fields with dikes, to keep
out the freshets from the upland and the tides
from the ocean, perfecting a complete system of
drainage and irrigation. He built comfortable
quarters for his slaves, and erected a church and
schoolhouse for their use. From the original
two hundred and eighty acres of cultivated rice
land, the new proprietor developed the wild
morass into sixteen hundred acres of rice-fields,
and six hundred acres of vegetable, corn, and
provender producing land.
For several seasons prior to the war, Jehossee
yielded a rice crop which sold for seventy
thousand dollars, and netted annually fifty thousand
dollars income to the owner. At that time
Governor Aiken had eight hundred and seventy
three Slaves on the island, and about one hundred
working as mechanics, &c., in Charleston. The
eight hundred and seventy-three Jehossee slaves,
men, women, and children, furnished a working
force of three hundred for the rice-fields.
Mr. Aiken would not tolerate the loose
matrimonial ways of negro life, but compelled his
slaves to accept the marriage ceremony; and
herein lay one of his chief difficulties, for, to
whatever cause we attribute it, the fact remains
the same, namely, that the ordinary negro has
no sense of morality. After all the attempts
made on this plantation to improve the moral
nature of these men and women, Governor Aiken,
during a yellow-fever season in Savannah after
the war, while visiting the poor sufferers, intent
upon charitable works, found in the lowest
quarter of the city, sunk in the most abject depths of
vice, men and women who had once been good
servants on his plantations.
In old times Jehossee was a happy place for
master and for slave. The governor rarely
locked the door of his mansion. The family
plate, valued at fifteen thousand dollars, was
stored in a chest in a room on the ground-floor
of the house, which had for its occupants, during
four months of the year, two or three negro
servants. Though all the negroes at the quarters,
which were only a quarter of a mile from the
mansion, knew the valuable contents of the
chest, it was never disturbed. They stole small
things, but seemed incapable of committing a
When the Union army marched through
another part of South Carolina, where Governor
Aiken had buried these old family heirlooms and
had added to the original plate thirty thousand
dollars' worth of his own purchasing, the soldiers
dug up this treasure-trove, and forty-five
thousand dollars' worth of fine silver went to enrich
the spoils of the Union army. Soon after, three
thousand eight hundred bottles of fine old wines,
worth from eight to nine dollars a bottle, were
dug up and destroyed by a Confederate officer's
order, to prevent the Union army from capturing
them. Thus was plundered an old and revered
governor of South Carolina -- one who was a
kind neighbor, a true patriot, and a Christian
The persecutions of the owner of Jehossee
did not, however, terminate with the war; for
when the struggle was virtually ended, and the
fair mansion of the rice-plantation retained its
heirlooms and its furniture, Beaufort, of South
Carolina, was still under the influence of the
Freedman's Bureau; and when it was whispered
that Aiken's house was full of nice old furniture,
and that a few faithful servants of the good old
master were its only guards, covetous thoughts
at once stirred the evil minds of those who were
the representatives of law and order. This house
was left almost without protection. The war was
over. South Carolina had bent her proud head
in agony over her burned plantations and
desolate homes. The victorious army was now
proclaiming peace, and generous treatment to a
fallen foe. Then to what an almost
unimaginable state of demoralization must some of the
freedmen's protectors have fallen, when they
sent a gunboat to Jehossee Island, and rifled the
old house of all its treasures!
To-day, the governor's favorite sideboard
stands in the house of a citizen of Boston, as
a relic of the war. O, people of the north,
hold no longer to your relics of the war, stolen
from the firesides of the south! Restore them
to their owners, or else bury them out of the
sight of your children, that they may not be led
to believe that the war for the preservation of
the Great Republic was a war for plunder; -- else
did brave men fight, and good women pray in
vain. Away with stolen pianos, "captured"
sideboards, and purloined silver! What but
this petty plundering could be expected of men
who robbed by wholesale the poor negro, to
protect whose rights they were sent south?
The great political party of the north became
the pledged conservator of the black man's
rights, and established a Freedman's Bureau,
and Freedman's banks to guard his humble
earnings. All know something of the workings
of those banks; and to everlasting infamy must
be consigned the names of many of those
conducting them, -- men who robbed every one
of these depositories of negro savings, and left
the poor, child-like freedman in a physical state
of destitution, and in a perfect bewilderment of
mind as to who his true friend really was.
A faithful negro of Jehossee Island was but
one among thousands of such cases. While the
tumult of war vexed the land, the faithful negro
overseer remained at his post to guard his late
master's property, supporting himself by the
manufacture of salt, and living in the most
frugal manner to be able to "lay by" a sum for his
old age. Having saved five hundred dollars, he
deposited them in the nearest Freedman's bank,
which, though fathered by the United States
government, failed; and the now destitute negro
found himself stripped in the same moment of
his hard-earned savings, and his confidence in
his new protectors.
As the war of the rebellion was slowly
drawing to its close, Mr. Lincoln's kind heart was
drawn towards his erring countrymen, and he
made a list of the names of the wisest and best
men of the south, who, not having taken an
active part in the strife, might be intrusted with
the task of bringing back the unruly states to
their constitutional relations with the national
government. Governor Aiken was informed
that his name was upon that list; and he would
gladly have accepted the onerous position, and
labored in the true interests of the whole people,
but the pistol of an assassin closed the life of
the President, whose generous plans of
reconstruction were never realized.
In the birth of our new Centennial let us
eschew the political charlatan, and bring
forward our statesmen to serve and govern a
people, who, to become a unit of strength, must
ever bear in mind the words of the great
southern statesman, who said he knew "no north, no
south, no east, no west; but one undivided
On Monday, at ten A. M., two negroes assisted
me to launch my craft from the river's bank at
the mouth of the canal, for the tide was very
low. As I settled myself for a long pull at the
oars, the face of one of the blacks was seemingly
rent in twain, as a huge mouth opened, and a
pair of strong lungs sent forth these parting
words: "Bully for Massachusetts!"
"How did you know I came from
Massachusetts?" I called out from the river.
"I knows de cuts ob dem. I suffered at Fort
Wagner. Dis chile knows Massachusetts."
Two miles further on, Bull Creek served me
as a "cut-off," and half an hour after entering it
the tide was flooding against me. When Goat
Island Creek was passed on the left hand, knots
of pine forests rose picturesquely in places out
of the bottom-lands, and an hour later, at
Bennett's Point, on the right, I found the watercourse
a quarter of a mile in width.
The surroundings were of a lovely nature
during this day's journey. Here marshes,
diversified by occasional hammocks of timber dotting
their uninteresting wastes; there humble
habitations of whites and blacks appearing at intervals
in the forest growth. As I was destitute of a
finished chart of the Coast Survey, after rowing
along one side of Hutchinson's Island I became
bewildered in the maze of creeks which
penetrate the marshes that lie between Bennett's
Point and the coast.
Making a rough topographical sketch of the
country as I descended Hutchinson's Creek, or
Big River, -- the latter appellation being the
most appropriate, as it is a very wide
watercourse, -- I came upon a group of low islands,
and found upon one of them a plantation which
had been abandoned to the negroes, and the little
bluff upon which two or three rickety buildings
were situated was the last land which remained
unsubmerged during a high tide between the
plantation and the sea.
I was now in a quandary. I had left the
hospitable residence of Governor Aiken at ten o'clock
A. M., when I should have departed at sunrise in
order to have had time to enter and pass through
St. Helena Sound before night came on. The
prospect of obtaining shelter was indeed dismal.
Just at this time a loud shout from the negroes
on shore attracted my attention, and I rested
upon my oars, while a boat-load of women and
children paddled out to me.
"Is dat de little boat?" they asked, viewing
my craft with curious eyes. "And is dat boat
made of paper?" they continued, showing that
negro runners had posted the people, even in
these solitary regions, of the approach of the
paper canoe. I questioned these negro women
about the route, but each gave a different
answer as to the passage through the Horns to St.
Helena Sound. Hurrying on through tortuous
creeks, the deserted tract called "the Horns" was
entered, and until sunset I followed one short
stream after another, to its source in the reedy
plain, constantly retracing the route, with the
tide not yet ebbing strong enough to show me a
course to the sound. Presently it ebbed more
rapidly, and I followed the tide from one
intricacy to another, but never found the principal
While I was enveloped in reeds, and at a loss
which way to go, the soft ripple of breaking
waves struck my ear like sweet music. The sea
was telling me of its proximity. Carefully
balancing myself, I stood up in the cranky canoe,
and peering over the grassy thickets, saw before
me the broad waters of Helena Sound. The
fresh salt breeze from the ocean struck upon
my forehead, and nerved me to a renewal of my
efforts to get within a region of higher land, and
to a place of shelter.
The ebbing tide was yet high, and through
the forest of vegetation, and over the submerged
coast, I pushed the canoe into the sound. Now I
rowed as though for my life, closely skirting the
marshes, and soon entered waters covered by a
chart in my possession. My course was to skirt
the coast of the sound from where I had entered
it, and cross the mouths of the Combahee and
Bull rivers to the entrance of the broad Coosaw.
This last river I would ascend seven miles to the
first upland, and camp thereon until morning.
The tide was now against me, and the night
was growing darker, as the faithful craft was
forced along the marshes four miles to the mouth
of the Combahee River, which I had to ascend
half a mile to get rid of a shoal of frisky
porpoises, who were fishing in the current.
Then descending it on the opposite shore, I
rowed two miles further in the dark, but for half
an hour previous to my reaching the wide
debouchure of Bull River, some enormous
blackfish surged about me in the tideway and sounded
their nasal calls, while their more demonstrative
porpoise neighbors leaped from the water in the
misty atmosphere, and so alarmed me and
occupied my attention, that instead of crossing to the
Coosaw River, I unwittingly ascended the Bull,
and was soon lost in the contours of the river.
As I hugged the marshy borders of the stream
to escape the strong current of its channel, and
rowed on and on in the gloom, eagerly scanning
the high, sedge-fringed flats to find one little spot
of firm upland upon which I might land my
canoe and obtain a resting-spot for myself for
the night, the feeling that I was lost was not the
most cheerful to be imagined. In the thin fog
which arose from the warm water into the cool
night air, objects on the marshes assumed
fantastical shapes. A few reeds, taller than the rest,
had the appearance of trees twenty feet high.
So real did these unreal images seem, that I
drove my canoe against the soft, muddy bank,
repeatedly prompted to land in what seemed a
copse of low trees, but in every instance I was
deceived. Still I pulled up that mysterious
river, ignorant at the time of even its name,
praying only for one little spot of upland where
I might camp.
While thus employed, I peered over my
shoulder into the gloom, and beheld what
seemed to be a vision; for, out of a cloud of
mist rose the skeleton lines of a large ship,
with all its sails furled to the yards. "A ship at
anchor, and in this out-of-the-way place!" I
ejaculated, scarcely believing my eyes; but when I
pointed the canoe towards it, and again looked
over my shoulder, the vision of hope was gone.
Again I saw tall masts cutting through the
mists, but the ship's hull could not be
distinguished, and as I rowed towards the objects, first
the lower masts disappeared, then the topmasts
dissolved, and later, the topgallant and royal
masts faded away. For half an hour I rowed
and rowed for that mysterious vessel, which was
veiled and unveiled to my sight. Never did so
spectral an object haunt or thwart me. It
seemed to change its position on the water, as
well as in the atmosphere, and I was too busily
employed in trying to reach it to discover in the
darkness that the current, which I could not
distinguish from smooth water, was whirling me
down stream as fast as I would approach the
weird vessel.
Drawing once more from the current, I
followed the marsh until the canoe was opposite
the anchorage of a real ship; then, with hearty
pulls, I shot around its stern, and shouted: "Ship
No one answered the hail. The vessel looked
like a man-of-war, but not of American build.
Not a light gleamed from her ports, not a
footfall came from her decks. She seemed to be
deserted in the middle of the river, surrounded
by a desolate waste of marshes. The current
gurgled and sucked about her run, as the
ebbtide washed her black hull on its way to the sea.
The spectacle seemed now even more
mysterious than when, mirage-like, it peered forth
from a cloud of mist. But it was real, and not
fantastic. Another hail, louder than the first,
went forth into the night air, and penetrated to
the ship's forecastle, for a sailor answered my
call, and reported to the captain in the cabin the
presence of a boat at the ship's side.
A quick, firm tread sounded upon the deck;
then, with a light bound, a powerfully-built
young man landed upon the high rail of the
vessel. He peered down from his stately ship upon
the little speck which floated upon the gurgling
current; then, with a voice "filled with the fogs
of the ocean," he thundered forth, as though he
were hailing a man-of-war: "What boat's that?"
"Paper canoe Maria Theresa," I replied, in as
foggy a voice as I could assume.
"Where from, and where bound?" again
roared the captain.
"From Quebec, Canada, and bound to sleep
on board your vessel, if I can ever get up there,"
I politely responded, in a more subdued voice,
for I soon discovered that nature had never
intended me for a fog-trumpet.
"Ah, is it you?" cheerily responded the
captain, suddenly dispensing with all his fogginess;
"I've been looking for you this long time. Got a
Charleston paper on board; your trip all in it.
Come up, and break a bottle of wine with me."
"All hands" came from the forecastle, and
Finland mates and Finland sailors, speaking both
English and Russian, crowded to the rail to
receive the paper canoe, which had first been
described to them by English newspapers when
the vessel lay in a British port, awaiting the
charter-party which afterwards sent them to Bull
River, South Carolina, for a load of phosphates.
The jolly crew lowered buntlines and
clewlines, to which I attached my boat's stores.
These were hoisted up the high sides of the
ship, and, after bending on a line to the bow and
stern rings of the canoe, I ascended by the
ladder, while Captain Johs. Bergelund and his
mates claimed the pleasure of landing the paper
canoe on the deck of the Rurik. The tiny shell
looked very small as she rested on the broad,
white decks of the emperor of Russia's old steam
yacht, which bore the name of the founder of
the Russian empire. Though now a bark and
not a steamer, though a freighter and not a
royal yacht, the Rurik looked every inch a
government vessel, for her young captain, with a
sailor's pride, kept her in a thorough state of
cleanliness and order. We went to supper.
The captain, his mates, and the stranger
gathered around the board, while the generous sailor
brought out his curious bottles and put them by
the side of the still more curious dishes of food.
All my surroundings were those of the
country of the midnight sun, and I should have felt
more bewildered than when in the fog I viewed
and chased this spectral-looking ship, had not
Captain Bergelund, in most excellent English,
entertained me with a flow of conversation which
put me at my ease. He discoursed of Finland,
where lakes covered the country from near
Abo, its chief city, to the far north, where the
summer days are "nearly all night long."
Painting in high colors the delights of his
native land, he begged me to visit it. Finally, as
midnight drew near, this genial sailor insisted
upon putting me in his own comfortable
stateroom, while he slept upon a lounge in the cabin.
One mile above the Rurik's anchorage was the
phosphate-mill of the Pacific Company, which
was supplying Captain Bergelund, by lighters,
with his freight of unground fertilizer.
The next morning I took leave of the Rurik,
but, instead of descending the Bull River to the
Coosaw, I determined to save time by crossing
the peninsula between the two rivers by means
of two short creeks which were connected at
their sources by a very short canal near "the
mines" of the Phosphate Company. When I
entered Horse Island Creek, at eleven o'clock,
the tide was on the last of the ebb, and I sat in
the canoe a long time awaiting the flood to float
me up the wide ditch, which would conduct me
to the creek that emptied into the Coosaw.
Upon the banks of the canal three hours were
lost waiting for the tide to give me one foot of
water, when I rowed into the second
watercourse, and late in the afternoon entered the wide
Coosaw. The two creeks and the connecting
canal are called the Haulover Creek.
As I turned up the Coosaw, and skirted the
now submerged marshes of its left bank, two
dredging-machines were at work up the river
raising the remains of the marine monsters of
antiquity. The strong wind and swashing seas
being in my favor, the canoe soon arrived
opposite the spot of upland I had so longed to reach
the previous night.
This was Chisolm's Landing, back of which
were the phosphate works of the Coosaw
Mine Company. The inspector of phosphates,
Mr. John Hunn, offered me the hospitality of
Alligator Hall, where he and some of the
gentlemen employed by the company resided in
bachelor retirement. My host described a
mammal's tooth that weighed nearly fourteen pounds,
which had been taken from a phosphate mine;
it had been sent to a public room at Beaufort,
South Carolina. A fossil shark's tooth, weighing
four and a half pounds, was also found, and a
learned ichthyologist has asserted that the owner
of this remarkable relic of the past must have
been one hundred feet in length.
Beaufort was near at hand, and could be easily
reached by entering Brickyard Creek, the
entrance of which was on the right bank of the
Coosaw, nearly opposite Chisolm's Landing. It
was nearly six miles by this creek to Beaufort,
and from that town to Port Royal Sound, by
following Beaufort River, was a distance of eleven
miles. The mouth of Beaufort River is only two
miles from the sea. Preferring to follow a more
interior water route than the Beaufort one, the
canoe was rowed up the Coosaw five miles to Whale
Branch, which is crossed by the Port Royal
railroad bridge. Whale Branch, five miles in length,
empties into Broad River, which I descended
thirteen miles, to the lower end of Daw Island,
on its right bank. Here, in this region of marshy
shores, the Chechessee River and the Broad River
mingle their strong currents in Port Royal Sound.
It was dusk when the sound was entered from
the extreme end of Daw Island, where it became
necessary to cross immediately to Skull Creek, at
Hilton Head Island, or go into camp for the night.
I looked down the sound six miles to the broad
Atlantic, which was sending in clouds of mist on
a fresh breeze. I gazed across the mouth of the
Chechessee, and the sound at the entrance of the
port of refuge. I desired to traverse nearly three
miles of this rough water. I would gladly have
camped, hut the shore I was about to leave offered
to submerge me with the next high water. No
friendly hammock of trees could be seen as I
glided from the shadow of the high rushes of
Daw Island. Circumstances decided the point
in debate, and I rowed rapidly into the sound.
The canoe had not gone half a mile when the
Chechessee River opened fully to view, and a
pretty little hammock, with two or three shanties
beneath its trees, could be plainly seen on Daw's
It was now too late to return and ascend the
river to the hammock, for the sound was
disturbed by the freshening breeze from the sea
blowing against the ebb-tide, which was increased
in power by the outflowing flume of water from
the wide Chechessee. It required all the energy
I possessed to keep the canoe from being
overrun by the swashy, sharp-pointed seas. Once or
twice I thought my last struggle for life had
come, but a merciful Power gave me the strength
and coolness that this trying ordeal required, and
I somehow weathered the dangerous oyster reefs
above Skull Creek, and landed at "Seabrook
Plantation," upon Hilton Head Island, near two
or three old houses, one of which was being fitted
up as a store by Mr. Kleim, of the First New
York Volunteers, who had lived on the island
since 1861. Mr. Kleim took me to his bachelor
quarters, where the wet cargo of the Maria
Theresa was dried by the kitchen fireplace.
The next day, February 18, I left Seabrook
and followed Skull Creek to Mackay's Creek,
and, passing the mouth of May River, entered
Calibogue Sound, where a sudden tempest arose
and drove me into a creek which flowed out of
the marshes of Bull Island. A few negro huts
were discovered on a low mound of earth. The
blacks told me their hammock was called Bird
The tempest lasted all day, and as no shelter
could be found on the creek, a darky hauled my
canoe on a cart a couple of miles to Bull Creek,
which enters into Cooper River, one of the
watercourses I was to enter from Calibogue Sound.
Upon reaching the wooded shores of Bull Creek,
my carter introduced me to the head man of the
settlement, a weazened-looking little old
creature called Cuffy, who, though respectful in his
demeanor to "de Yankee-mans," was cross and
overbearing to the few families occupying the
shanties in the magnificent grove of live-oaks
which shaded them.
Cuffy's cook-house, or kitchen, which was a
log structure measuring nine by ten feet, with
posts only three feet high, was the only building
which could be emptied of its contents for my
accommodation. Our contract or lease was a
verbal one, Cuffy's terms being "whateber de
white man likes to gib an ole nigger." Cuffy
cut a big switch, and sent in his "darter," a girl
of about fourteen years, to clean out the shanty.
When she did not move fast enough to suit the
old man's wishes, he switched her over the
shoulders till it excited my pity; but the girl
seemed to take the beating as an every-day
amusement, for it made no impression on her
hard skull and thick skin.
After commencing to "keep house," the old
women came to sell me eggs and beg for
"bacca." They requested me never to throw
away my coffee-grounds, as it made coffee "good
'nuf for black folks." I distributed some of my
stores among them, and, after cutting rushes and
boughs for my bed, turned in for the night.
These negroes had been raising Sea-Island
cotton, but the price having declined to five
cents a pound, they could not get twenty-five
cents a day for their labor by cultivating it.
The fierce wind subsided before dawn, but a
heavy fog covered the marshes and the creek.
Cuffy's "settlement" turned out before sunrise
to see me off; and the canoe soon reached the
broad Cooper River, which I ascended in the
misty darkness by following close to the left
bank. Four miles up the Cooper River from
Calibogue Sound there is a passage through the
marshes from the Cooper to New River, which
is called Ram's Horn Creek. On the right of
its entrance a well-wooded hammock rises from
the marsh, and is called Page Island. About
midway between the two rivers and along this
crooked thoroughfare is another piece of upland.
called Pine Island, inhabited by the families of
two boat-builders.
While navigating Cooper River, as the heavy
mists rolled in clouds over the quiet waters, a
sail-boat, rowed by negroes, emerged from the
gloom and as suddenly disappeared. I shouted
after them: "Please tell me the name of the next
creek." A hoarse voice came back to me from
the cloud: "Pull and be d---d." Then all was;
still as night again. To solve this seemingly
uncourteous reply, so unusual in the south
I consulted the manuscript charts which the
Charleston pilots had kindly drawn for my use,
and found that the negroes had spoken
geographically as well as truthfully, for Pine Island
Creek is known to the watermen as "Pull and
be d---d Creek," on account of its tortuous
character, and chiefly because, as the tides head in
it, if a boat enters it from one river with a
favorable tide, it has a strong head current on the
other side of the middle ground to oppose it.
Thus pulling at the oars at some parts of the
creek becomes hard work for the boatmen;
hence this name, which, though profane, may
be considered geographical.
After leaving the Cooper River, the
watercourses to Savannah were discolored by red or
yellow mud. From Pine Island I descended
New River two miles and a half to Wall's Cut,
which is only a quarter of a mile in length, and
through which I entered Wright's River,
following it a couple of miles to the broad,
yellow, turbulent current of the Savannah.
My thoughts now naturally turned to the early
days of steamboat enterprise, when this river, as
well as the Hudson, was conspicuous; for though
the steamer Savannah was not the first
steam-propelled vessel which cut the waves of the
Atlantic, she was the first steamer that ever
crossed it. Let us examine historical data.
Colonel John Stevens, of New York, built the
steamboat Phoenix about the year 1808, and was
prevented from using it upon the Hudson River
by the Fulton and Livingston monopoly charter.
The Phoenix made an ocean voyage to the
Delaware River. The first English venture was
that of the steamer Caledonia, which made a
passage to Holland in 1817. The London Times
of May 11, 1819, printed in its issue of that date
the following item:
"GREAT EXPERIMENT. -- A new vessel of three hundred tons
has been built at New York for the express purpose of carrying
passengers across the Atlantic. She is to come to Liverpool
This ship-rigged steamer was the "Savannah,"
and the bold projector of this experiment of
sending a steamboat across the Atlantic was Daniel
Dodd. The Savannah was built in New York, by
Francis Ficket, for Mr. Dodd. Stephen Vail, of
Morristown, New Jersey, built her engines, and
on the 22d of August, 1818, she was launched,
gliding gracefully into the element which was to
bear her to foreign lands, there to be crowned
with the laurels of success. On May 25th this
purely American-built vessel left Savannah, and
glided out from this waste of marshes, under
the command of Captain Moses Rogers, with
Stephen Rogers as navigator. The port of New
London, Conn., had furnished these able seamen.
The steamer reached Liverpool June 20th, the
passage having occupied twenty-six days, upon
eighteen of which she had used her paddles. A
son of Mr. Dodd once told me of the sensation
produced by the arrival of a smoking vessel on
the coast of Ireland, and how Lieutenant John
Bowie, of the king's cutter Kite, sent a boat-load
of sailors to board the Savannah to assist her
crew to extinguish the fires of what his Majesty's
officers supposed to be a burning ship.
The Savannah, after visiting Liverpool,
continued her voyage on July 23d, and reached St.
Petersburg in safety. Leaving the latter port on
October 10th, this adventurous craft completed
the round voyage upon her arrival at Savannah,
November 30th.
I pulled up the Savannah until within five miles
of the city, and then left the river on its south
side, where old rice-plantations are first met, and
entered St. Augustine Creek, which is the
steamboat thoroughfare of the inland route to Florida.
Just outside the city of Savannah, near its
beautiful cemetery, where tall trees with their
graceful drapery of Spanish moss screen from wind
and sun the quiet resting-places of the dead, my
canoe was landed, and stored in a building of the
German Greenwich Shooting Park, where Mr.
John Hellwig, in a most hospitable manner, cared
for it and its owner.
While awaiting the arrival of letters at the
Savannah post-office, many of the ladies of that
beautiful city came out to see the paper canoe.
They seemed to have the mistaken idea that my
little craft had come from the distant Dominion
of Canada over the Atlantic Ocean. They also
looked upon the voyage of the paper canoe as a
very sentimental thing, while the canoeist had
found it an intensely practical affair, though
occasionally relieved by incidents of romantic or
amusing character. As the ladies clustered
round the boat while it rested upon the
centre-table of Mr. Hellwig's parlor, they questioned me
"Tell us," they said, "what were your thoughts
while you rowed upon the broad ocean in the
lonely hours of night?"
Though unwilling to break their pleasing
illusions, I was obliged to inform them that a
sensible canoeist is usually enjoying his needed rest
in some camp, or sleeping in some sheltered
place, -- under a roof if possible, -- after it is too
dark to travel in safety; and as to ocean
travelling, the canoe had only once entered upon the
Atlantic Ocean, and then through a mistake.
"But what subjects occupy your thoughts as
you row, and row, and row all day by yourself;
in this little ship?" a motherly lady inquired.
"To tell you honestly, ladies, I must say that
when I am in shallow watercourses, with the
tides usually ebbing at the wrong time for my
convenience, I am so full of anxiety about getting
wrecked on the reefs of sharp coon-oysters,
that I am wishing myself in deep water; and
when my route forces me into the deep water of
sounds, and the surface becomes tossed into wild
disorder by strong currents and stronger winds,
and the porpoises pay me their little attentions,
chasing the canoe, flapping their tails, and
showing their sportive dispositions, I think longingly
of those same shoal creeks, and wish I was once
more in their shallow waters."
"We ladies have prayed for your safety," said
a kind-looking German lady, "and we will pray
that your voyage may have a happy and
successful end."
When the ladies left, two Irish laborers, dressed
in sombre black, with high hats worn with the
air of dignity, examined the boat. There was an
absence of the sparkle of fun usually seen in
the Irish face, for this was a serious occasion.
They did not see any romance or sentiment in
the voyage, but took a broad, geographical view
of the matter. They stood silently gazing at
the canoe with the same air of solemnity they
would have given a corpse. Then one addressed
the other, as though the owner of the craft was
entirely out of the hearing of their conversation.
Said No. 1, "And what did I tell ye, Pater?"
"And so ye did," replied No. 2. "And didn't I
say so?" continued No. 1. "Of course ye did;
and wasn't me of the same mind, to be sure?"
responded No.2. "Yes, I told ye as how it is
the men of these times is greater than the men of
ould times. There was the great Coolumbus, who
came over in three ships to see Americky. What
did he know about paper boats? Nothing at all,
at all. He cum over in big ships, while this young
feller has cum all the way from Canada. I tell ye
the men of ould times was not up to the men of
these times. Thin there's Captain Boyton, who
don't use any boat or ship at all, at all, but goes
aswimming in rubber clothes to keep him dry all
over the Atlantic Oshin. Jis' look, man, how he
landed on the shores of ould Ireland not long since.
Now what's Coolumbus, or any other man of the
past ages, to him? Coolumbus could not hold a
candle to Boyton! No, I tell ye agen that the men
of this age is greater than the men of the past
ages." "And," broke in No.2, "there's a
Britisher who's gone to the River Niles in a
canoe." "The River Niles!" hotly exclaimed
No. 1; "don't waste your breath on that thing.
It's no new thing at all, at all. It was diskivered
a long time a go, and nobody cares a fig for it
now." "Yet," responded No.2, "some of those
old-times people were very enterprising. There
was that great traveller Robinson Crusoe: ye must
confess he was a great man for his time." "The
same who wint to the South Sea Islands and
settled there?" asked the first biographer. "The
"very same man," replied No.2, with animation.
This instructive conversation was here
interrupted by a party of ladies and gentlemen, who
in turn gave their views of canoe and canoeist.
On February 24th, the voyage was again
resumed. My route lay through the coast
islands of Georgia, as far south as the state
boundary, Cumberland Sound, and the St.
Mary's River. This part of the coast is very
interesting, and is beautifully delineated on the Coast
Charts No. 56-57 of the United States Coast
Survey, which were published the year after my
voyage ended.
Steamers run from Savannah through these
interesting interior water-ways to the ports of
the St. John's River, Florida, and by taking this
route the traveller can escape a most
uninteresting railroad journey from Savannah to
Jacksonville, where sandy soils and pine forests present
an uninviting prospect to the eye. A little
dredging, in a few places along the steamboat
route, should be done at national cost, to make
this a more convenient and expeditious tidal
route for vessels.
Leaving Greenwich, Bonaventure, and
Thunderbolt behind me on the upland, the canoe
entered the great marshy district of the coast along
the Wilmington and Skiddaway rivers to
Skiddaway Narrows, which is a contracted, crooked
watercourse connecting the Skiddaway with the
Burnside River. The low lands were made
picturesque by hammocks, some of which were
In leaving the Burnside for the broad Vernon
River, as the canoe approached the sea, one of
the sudden tempests which frequently vex these
coast-waters arose, and drove me to a hammock
in the marshes of Green Island, on the left bank
and opposite the mouth of the Little Ogeechee
River. Green Island has been well cultivated
in the past, but is now only the summer home
of Mr. Styles, its owner. Two or three families
of negroes inhabited the cabins and looked after
the property of the absent proprietor.
I waded to my knees in the mud before the
canoe could be landed, and, as it stormed all
night, I slept on the floor of the humble cot of
the negro Echard Holmes, having first treated
the household to crackers and coffee. The
negroes gathered from other points to examine the
canoe, and, hearing that I was from the north,
one grizzly old darky begged me to "carry"
his complaints to Washington.
"De goberment," he said, "has been berry
good to wees black folks. It gib us our
freedom, -- all berry well; but dar is an noder ting
wees wants; dat is, wees wants General Grant to
make tings stashionary. De storekeeper gibs a
poor nigger only one dollar fur bushel corn,
sometimes not so much. Den he makes poor nigger
gib him tree dollars fur bag hominy, sometimes
more'n dat. Wees wants de goberment to make
tings stashionary. Make de storekeeper gib
black man one dollar and quarter fur de bushel
of corn, and make him sell de poor nigger de
bag hominy fur much less dan tree dollars.
Make all tings stashionary. Den dar's one ting
more. Tell de goberment to do fur poor darky
'nodder ting, -- make de ole massa say to me,
You's been good slave in ole times, -- berry
good slave; now I gib you one, two, tree, five
acres of land for yoursef.' Den ole nigger be
happy, and massa be happy too; den bof of um
bees happy. Hab you a leetle bacca fur dis ole
From the Styles mansion it was but three
miles to Ossabaw Sound. Little Don Island
and Raccoon Key are in the mouth of the
Vernon. Between the two flat islands is a deep
passage through which the tides rush with great
force; it is called Hell Gate. On the south
side of Raccoon Key the Great Ogeechee River
pours its strong volume of water into Ossabaw
I entered the Great Ogeechee through the
Don Island passage, and saw sturgeon-fishermen
at work with their nets along the shores of
Ossabaw, one of the sea islands. Ossabaw Island
lies between Ossabaw and St. Catherine's
sounds, and is eight miles long and six miles
wide. The side towards the sea is firm upland,
diversified with glades, while the western
portion is principally marshes cut up by numerous
creeks. All the sea islands produce the long
staple cotton known as sea-island cotton, and
before the war a very valuable variety. A few
negroes occupy the places abandoned by the
proprietor, and eke out a scanty livelihood.
There are many deer in the forests of
Ossabaw Island. One of its late proprietors
informed me that there must be at least ten
thousand wild hogs there, as they have been
multiplying for many years, and but few were shot
by the negroes. The domestic hog becomes a
very shy animal if left to himself for two or
three years. The hunter may search for him
without a dog almost in vain, though the woods
may contain large numbers of these creatures.
The weather was now delightful, and had I
possessed a light tent I would not have sought
shelter at night in a human habitation anywhere
along the route. The malaria which arises from
fresh-water sinks in many of the sea islands
during the summer months, did not now make
camping-out dangerous to the health. Crossing
the Great Ogeechee above Middle Marsh Island,
I followed the river to the creek called Florida
Passage, through which I reached Bear River,
with its wide and long reaches, and descended it
to St. Catherine's Sound.
Now the sea opened to full view as the canoe
crossed the tidal ocean gateway two miles to
North Newport River. When four miles up the
Newport I entered Johnson's Creek, which flows
from North to South Newport rivers. By
means of the creek and the South Newport
River, my little craft was navigated down to the
southern end of St. Catherine's Island to the
sound of the same name, and here another inlet
was crossed at sunset, and High Point of Sapelo
Island was reached.
From among the green trees of the high bluff
a mansion, which exhibited the taste of its
builder, rose imposingly. This was, however,
but one of the many edifices that are tombs of
buried hopes. The proprietor, a northern
gentleman, after the war purchased one-third of
Sapelo Island for fifty-five thousand dollars in
gold. He attempted, as many other enterprising
northerners had done, to give the late slave a
chance to prove his worth as a freedman to the
"Pay the negro wages; treat him as you
would treat a white man, and he will reward
your confidence with industry and gratitude."
So thought and so acted the large-hearted
northern colonel. He built a large mansion, engaged
his freedmen, paid them for their work, and
treated them like men. The result was ruin,
and simply because he had not paused to
consider that the negro had not been born a
freedman, and that the demoralization of slavery was
still upon him. Beside which facts we must
also place certain ethnological and moral
principles which exist in the pure negro type, and
which are entirely overlooked by those
philanthropic persons who have rarely, if ever, seen a
full-blooded negro, but affect to understand him
through his half-white brother, the mulatto.
Mud River opened its wide mouth before me
as I left the inlet, but the tide was very low, and
Mud River is a sticking-point in the passage of
the Florida steamers. It became so dark that I
was obliged to get near the shore to make a
landing. My attempt was made opposite a
negro's house which was on a bluff but the water
had receded into the very narrow channel of
Mud River, and I was soon stuck fast on a flat.
Getting overboard, I sank to my knees in the
soft mud. I called for help, and was answered
by a tall darky, who, with a double-barrelled gun,
left his house and stood in a threatening manner
on the shore. I appealed for help, and said I
wished to go ashore. "Den cum de best way
you can," he answered in a surly manner. "What
duz you want 'bout here, any way? What duz
you want on Choc'late Plantation, anyhow?"
I explained to this ugly black that I was a
northern man, travelling to see the country, and
wished to camp near his house for protection,
and promised, if he would aid me to land, that I
would convince him of my honest purpose by
showing him the contents of my canoe, and
would prove to him that I was no enemy to the
colored man. I told him of the maps, the
letters, and the blankets which were in the little
canoe now so fast in the mud, and what a loss it
would be if some marauder, passing on the next
high tide, should steal my boat.
The fellow slowly lowered his gun, which had
been held in a threatening position, and said:
"Nobody knows his friends in dese times. I'se
had a boat stealed by some white man, and spose
you was cumin to steal sumting else. Dese folks
on de riber can't be trussed. Dey steals
ebryting. Heaps o' bad white men 'bout nowadnys
sens de war. Steals a nigger's chickens, boats,
and ebryting dey lays hands on. Up at de big
house on High Pint (norfen gemmin built him,
and den got gusted wid cotton-planting and went
home) de white folks goes and steals all de
cheers and beds, and ebryting out ob de house.
Sens de war all rascals."
It was a wearisome and dangerous job for me
to navigate the canoe over the soft, slippery mud
to the firm shore, as there were unfathomed
places in the flats which might ingulf or entomb
me at any step; but the task was completed, and
I stood face to face with the now half tranquillized
negro. Before removing the mud that hung upon
me to the waist in heavy clods, I showed the
darky my chart-case, and explained the object
of my mission. He was very intelligent, and,
after asking a few questions, said to his son:
"Take dis gun to de house;" and then turning
to me, continued: "Dis is de sort ob man I'se am.
I'se knows how to treat a friend like a white man,
and I'se can fight wid my knife or my fist or my
gun anybody who 'poses on me. Now I'se knows
you is a gemmin I'se won't treat you like a
nigger. Gib you best I'se got. Cum to de house."
When inside of the house of this resolute
black, every attention was paid to my comfort.
The cargo of the paper canoe was piled up in
one corner of the room. The wife and children
sat before the bright fire and listened to the story
of my cruise. I doctored the sick pickaninny of
my host, and made the family a pot of strong
coffee. This negro could read, but he asked me to
address a label he wished to attach to a bag of
Sea-Island cotton of one hundred and sixty
pounds' weight, which he had raised, and was
to ship by the steamboat Lizzie Baker to a
mercantile house in Savannah.
As I rested upon my blankets, which were
spread upon the floor of the only comfortable
room in the house, at intervals during the night
the large form of the black stole softly in and bent
over me to see if I were well covered up, and he
as noiselessly piled live-oak sticks upon the dying
embers to dry up the dampness which rose from
the river.
He brought me a basin of cold water in the
morning, and not possessing a towel clean enough
for a white man, he insisted that I should use his
wife's newly starched calico apron to wipe my
face and hands upon. When I offered him
money for the night's accommodation and the
excellent oyster breakfast that his wife prepared
for me, he said: "You may gib my wife
whateber pleases you for her cooking, but nuffin for
de food or de lodgings. I'se no nigger, ef I is
a cullud man."
It was now Saturday, and as I rowed through
the marsh thoroughfare called New Tea Kettle
Creek, which connects Mud River with Doboy
Sound near the southern end of Sapelo Island, I
calculated the chances of finding a resting-place
for Sunday. If I went up to the mainland
through North and Darien rivers to the town of
Darien, my past experience taught me that
instead of enjoying rest I would become a forced
exhibiter of the paper canoe to crowds of people.
To avoid this, I determined to pass the day in
the first hammock that would afford shelter and
fire-wood; but as the canoe entered Doboy
Sound, which, with its inlet, separates Sapelo
from the almost treeless Wolf Island, the wind
rose with such violence that I was driven to take
refuge upon Doboy Island, a small marshy
territory, the few firm acres of which were occupied
by the settlement and steam saw-mill of Messrs.
Hiltons, Foster & Gibson, a northern lumber firm.
Foreign and American vessels were anchored
under the lee of protecting marshes, awaiting
their cargoes of sawed deals and hewn timber;
while rafts of logs, which had been borne upon
the currents of the Altamaha and other streams
from the far interior regions of pine forests, were
collected here and manufactured into lumber.
One of the proprietors, a northern gentleman,
occupied with his family a very comfortable
cottage near the store and steam saw-mill. As the
Doboy people had learned of the approach of the
paper canoe from southern newspapers, the little
craft was identified as soon as it touched the low
shores of the island.
I could not find any kind of hotel or
lodging-place in this settlement of Yankees, Canadians,
and negroes, and was about to leave it in search
of some lone hammock, when a mechanic kindly
offered me the floor of an unfinished room in an
unfinished house, in which I passed my Sunday
trying to rest, and obtaining my meals at a
restaurant kept by a negro.
A member of the Spaulding family, the
owners of a part of Sapelo Island, called upon me,
and seeing me in such inhospitable quarters,
with fleas in hundreds invading my blankets,
urged me to return with him to his island
domain, where he might have an opportunity to
make me comfortable. The kind gentleman
little knew how hardened I had become to such
annoyances as hard floors and the active flea.
Such inconveniences had been robbed of their
discomforts by the kind voices of welcome
which, with few exceptions, came from every
southern gentleman whose territory had been
invaded by the paper canoe.
There was but one place of worship on the
island, and that was under the charge of the
negroes. Accepting the invitation of a nephew of
the resident New England proprietor of Doboy
Island to attend "de shoutings," we set out on
Sunday evening for the temporary place of negro
worship. A negro girl, decked with ribbons,
called across the street to a young colored
delinquent: "You no goes to de shoutings, Sam!
Why fur? You neber hears me shout, honey,
and dey do say I shouts so pretty. Cum 'long
wid me now."
A few blacks had collected in the small shanty
and the preacher, an old freedman, was about to
read a hymn as we entered. At first the singing
was low and monotonous, but it gradually swelled
to a high pitch as the negroes became excited.
Praying followed the singing. Then the black
preacher set aside "de shouting" part of the
service for what he considered more important
interests, and discoursed upon things spiritual
and temporal in this wise:
"Now I'se got someting to tell all' of yese
berry 'portant." Here two young blacks got up
to leave the room, but were rudely stopped by a
negro putting his back against the door. "No,
no," chuckled the preacher, "yese don't git off
dat a-way. I'se prepared fur de ockasun.
Nobody gits out ob dis room till I'se had my say.
Jes you set down dar. Now I'se goin' to do one
ting, and it's dis: I'se goin' to spread de Gospel
all ober dis yere island of Doboy. Now's de
time; talked long 'nuf, too long, 'bout buildin'
de church. Whar's yere pride? whar is it? Got
none! Look at dis room for a church! Look
at dis pulpit -- one flour-barrel wid one candle
stickin' out ob a bottle! Dat's yere pulpit. Got
no pride! Shamed o' yeresefs! Here white
men comes way from New York to hear de
Gospel in dis yere room wid flour-barrel fur
pulpit, and empty bottle fur candlestick. No
more talk now. All go to work. De mill
pebple will gib us lumber fur de new church;
odders mus' gib money. Tell ebbry cullud
pusson on de island to cum on Tuesday and carry
lumber, and gib ebbry one what he can, -- one
dollar apiece, or ten cents if got no more. De
white gemmins we knows whar to find when we
wants dar money, but de cullud ones is berry
slippery when de hat am passed round."
At the termination of the preacher's
exhortation, I proposed to my companion that I should
present the minister with a dollar for his new
church, but, with a look of dismay, he replied:
"Oh, don't give it to the preacher. Hand it to
that other negro sitting near him. We never
trust the preacher with money; he always
spends the church-money. We only trust him
for preaching."
Monday, March 1st, opened fair, but the wind
arose when the canoe reached Three Mile Cut,
which connects the Darien with Altamaha River.
I went through this narrow steamboat passage,
and being prevented by the wind from entering
the wide Altamaha, returned to the Darien
River and ascended it to General's Cut, which,
with Butler River, affords a passage to the
Altamaha River. Before entering General's Cut,
mistaking a large, half submerged alligator for a
log on a mud bank, the canoe nearly touched the
saurian before he was roused from his nap to
retire into the water. General's Cut penetrates
a rice plantation opposite the town of Darien,
to Butler's Island, the estate of the late Pierce
Butler, at its southern end. Rice-planting, since
the war, had not proved a very profitable
business to the present proprietors, who deserve
much praise for the efforts they have made to
educate their freedmen. A profitable crop of
oranges is gathered some seasons from the
groves upon Butler's Island.
From the mouth of General's Cut down
Butler River to the Altamaha was but a short row.
The latter stream would have taken me to
Altamaha Sound, to avoid which I passed through
Wood's Cut into the South Altamaha River, and
proceeded through the lowland rice-plantations
towards St. Simon's Island, which is by the sea.
About the middle of the afternoon, when close
to Broughton Island, where the South Altamaha
presented a wide area to the strong head-wind
which was sending little waves over my canoe,
a white plantation-house, under the veranda of
which an elderly gentleman was sitting, attracted
my attention. Here was what seemed to be the
last camping-ground on a route of several miles
to St. Simon's Island.
If the wind continued to blow from the same
quarter, the canoe could not cross Buttermilk
Sound that night; so I went ashore to inquire if
there were any hammocks in the marshes by the
river-banks between the plantation and the sound.
The bachelor proprietor of Broughton Island,
Captain Richard A. Akin, posted me as to the
route to St. Simon's Island, but insisted that the
canoe traveller should share his comfortable
quarters until the next day; and when the next
day came round, and the warm sun and smooth
current of the wide Altamaha invited me to
continue the voyage, the hospitable rice-planter
thought the weather not settled enough for me
to venture down to the sound. In fact, he held
me a rather willing captive for several days, and
then let me off on the condition that I should
return at some future time, and spend a month
with him in examining the sea islands and game
resources of the vicinity.
Captain Akin was a successful rice-planter on
the new system of employing freedmen on
wages, but while he protected the ignorant blacks
in all their newly-found rights, he was a
thorough disciplinarian. The negroes seemed to
like their employer, and stuck to him with
greater tenacity than they did to those planters
who allowed them to do as they pleased. The
result of lax treatment with these people is
always a failure of crops. The rivers and swamps
near Broughton Island abound in fine fishes and
terrapin, while the marshes and flats of the sea
islands afford excellent opportunities for the
sportsman to try his skill upon the feathered
On Monday, March 9th, the Maria Theresa
left Broughton Island well provisioned with the
stores the generous captain had pressed upon
my acceptance. The atmosphere was softened
by balmy breezes, and the bright sunlight played
with the shadows of the clouds upon the wide
marshes, which were now growing green with
the warmth of returning spring. The fish
sprang from the water as I touched it with my
light oars.
St. Simon's Island, -- where Mr. Pierce Butler
once cultivated sea-island cotton, and to which
he took his English bride, Miss Kemble, -- with
its almost abandoned plantation, was reached
before ten o'clock. Frederica River carried me
along the whole length of the island to St.
Simon's Sound. When midway the island, I
paused to survey what remains of the old town
of Frederica, of which but few vestiges can be
discovered. History informs us that Frederica
was the first town built by the English in
Georgia, and was founded by General
Oglethorpe, who began and established the colony.
The fortress was regular and beautiful, and was
the largest, most regular, and perhaps most
costly of any in North America of British
construction. Pursuing my journey southward, the
canoe entered the exposed area of St. Simon's
Sound, which, with its ocean inlet, was easily
crossed to the wild and picturesque Jekyl Island,
upon which the two bachelor brothers Dubignon
live and hunt the deer, enjoying the free life of
lords of the forest. Their old family mansion,
once a haven of hospitality, where the northern
tourist and shipwrecked sailor shared alike the
good things of this life with the kind host, was
used for a target by a gunboat during the late
war, and is now in ruins.
Here, twenty years ago, at midnight, the
slave-yacht "Wanderer" landed her cargo of African
negroes, the capital for the enterprise being
supplied by three southern gentlemen, and the
execution of the work being intrusted, under
carefully drawn contracts, to Boston parties.
The calm weather greatly facilitated my
progress, and had I not missed Jekyl Creek, which is
the steamboat thoroughfare through the marshes
to Jekyl and St. Andrew's Sound, that whole
day's experience would have been a most happy
one. The mouth of Jekyl Creek was a narrow
entrance, and being off in the sound, I passed it
as I approached the lowlands, which were
skirted until a passage at Cedar Hammock
through the marsh was found, some distance
from the one I was seeking. Into this I entered,
and winding about for some time over its
tortuous course, at a late hour in the afternoon the
canoe emerged into a broad watercourse, down
which I could look across Jekyl Sound to the
This broad stream was Jointer Creek, and I
ascended it to find a spot of high ground upon
which to camp. It was now low water, and the
surface of the marshes was three or four feet
above my head. After much anxious searching,
and a great deal of rowing against the last of the
ebb, a forest of pines and palmetto-trees was
reached on Colonel's Island, at a point about four
miles -- across the marshes and Brunswick River
-- from the interesting old town of Brunswick,
Home of the Alligator (101K)
The soft, muddy shores of the hammock were
in one place enveloped in a thicket of reeds, and
here I rested upon my oars to select a
convenient landing-place. The rustling of the reeds
suddenly attracted my attention. Some animal
was crawling through the thicket in the direction
of the boat. My eyes became fixed upon the
mysterious shaking and waving of the tops of the
reeds, and my hearing was strained to detect the
cause of the crackling of the dry rushes over
which this unseen creature was moving. A
moment later my curiosity was satisfied, for there
emerged slowly from the covert an alligator
nearly as large as my canoe. The brute's head
was as long as a barrel; his rough coat of mail
was besmeared with mud, and his dull eyes were
fixed steadily upon me. I was so surprised and
fascinated by the appearance of this huge reptile
that I remained immovable in my boat, while he
in a deliberate manner entered the water within
a few feet of me. The hammock suddenly lost
all its inviting aspect, and I pulled away from
it faster than I had approached. In the gloom I
observed two little hammocks, between Colonel's
Island and the Brunswick River, which seemed
to be near Jointer's Creek, so I followed the
tortuous thoroughfares until I was within a quarter
of a mile of one of them.
Pulling my canoe up a narrow creek towards
the largest hammock, until the creek ended in
the lowland, I was cheered by the sight of a
small house in a grove of live-oaks, to reach
which I was obliged to abandon my canoe and
attempt to cross the soft marsh. The tide was
now rising rapidly, and it might be necessary for
me to swim some inland creek before I could
arrive at the upland.
An oar was driven into the soft mud of the
marsh and the canoe tied to it, for I knew that
the whole country, with the exception of the
hammock near by, would be under water at
flood-tide. Floundering through mud and
pressing aside the tall, wire-like grass of the lowland,
which entangled my feet, frequently leaping
natural ditches, and going down with a thud in
the mud on the other side, I finally struck the
firm ground of the largest Jointer Hammock,
when the voice of its owner, Mr. R. F. Williams,
sounded most cheerfully in my ears as he
exclaimed: "Where did you come from? How
did you get across the marsh?"
The unfortunate position of my boat was
explained while the family gathered round me,
after which we sat down to supper. Mr.
Wilhams felt anxious about the cargo of my boat.
The coons, he said, "will scent your
provisions, and tear everything to pieces in the
boat. We must go look after it immediately."
To go to the canoe we were obliged to follow a
creek which swept past the side of the hammock,
opposite to my landing-place, and row two or
three miles on Jointer Creek. At nine o'clock
we reached the locality where I had abandoned
the paper canoe. Everything had changed in
appearance; the land was under water; not a
landmark remained except the top of the oar,
which rose out of the lake-like expanse of
water, while near it gracefully floated my little
companion. We towed her to the hammock;
and after the tedious labor of divesting myself
of the marsh mud, which clung to my clothes,
had been crowned with success, the comfortable
bed furnished by my host gave rest to limbs and
nerves which had been severely overtaxed since
sun set.
The following day opened cloudy and windy.
The ocean inlet of Jekyl and St. Andrew's sounds
is three miles wide. From the mouth of Jointer
Creek, across these unprotected sounds, to
High Point of Cumberland Island, is eight
miles. The route from the creek to Cumberland
Island was a risky one for so small a boat as the
paper canoe while the weather continued
unpropitious. After entering the sounds there was
but one spot of upland, near the mouth of the
Satilla River, that could be used for camping
purposes on the vast area of marshes.
During the month of March rainy and windy
weather prevail on this coast. I could ill afford
to lose any time shut up in Jointer's Hammock
by bad weather, as the low regions of
Okefenokee Swamp were to be penetrated before the
warm season could make the task a disagreeable
one. After holding a consultation with Mr.
Williams, he contracted to take the canoe and
its captain across St. Andrew's Sound to High
Point of Cumberland Island that day. His little
sloop was soon under way, and though the short,
breaking waves of the sound, and the furious
blasts of wind, made the navigation of the shoals
disagreeable, we landed quietly at Mr. Chubbs'
Oriental Hotel, at High Point, soon after noon.
Mr. Martin, the surveyor of the island,
welcomed me to Cumberland, and gave me much
information pertaining to local matters. The
next morning the canoe left the high bluffs of
this beautiful sea island so filled with historic
associations, and threaded the marshy
thoroughfare of Cumberland and Brickhill River to
Cumberland Sound. As I approached the mouth of
the St. Mary's River, the picturesque ruins of
Dungeness towered above the live-oak forest
of the southern end of Cumberland Island.
It was with regret I turned my back upon that
sea, the sounds of which had so long struck
upon my ear with their sweet melody. It
seemed almost a moan that was borne to me
now as the soft waves laved the sides of my
graceful craft, as though to give her a last,
loving farewell.
I now ascended the beautiful St. Mary's River,
which flows from the great Okefenokee
Swamp. The state of Georgia was on my right
hand, and Florida on my left. Pretty hammocks
dotted the marshes, while the country presented
peculiar and interesting characteristics. When
four miles from Cumberland Sound, the little city
of St. Mary's, situated on the Georgia side of
the river, was before me; and I went ashore to
make inquiries concerning the route to
Okefenokee Swamp.
My object was to get information about the
upper St. Mary's River, from which I proposed
to make a portage of thirty-five or forty miles in
a westerly direction to the Suwanee River,
upon arriving at which I would descend to the
Gulf of Mexico. My efforts, both at St. Mary's
and Fernandina, on the Florida side of
Cumberland Sound, to obtain any reliable information
upon this matter, were unsuccessful. A
settlement at Trader's Hill, about seventy-five miles
up the St. Mary's River, was the geographical
limit of local knowledge, while I wished to
ascend the river at least one hundred miles
beyond that point.
Believing that if I explored the uninhabited
sources of the St. Mary's, I should be compelled
to return without finding any settler upon its
banks at the proper point of departure for a
portage to the Suwanee, it became necessary to
abandon all idea of ascending this river. I could
not, however, give up the exploration of the
route. In this dilemma, a kindly written letter
seemed to solve the difficulties. Messrs. Dutton
& Rixford, northern gentlemen, who possessed
large facilities for the manufacture of resin and
turpentine at their new settlements of Dutton,
six miles from the St. Mary's River, and at
Rixford, near the Suwanee, kindly proposed that I
should take my canoe by railroad from
Cumberland Sound to Dutton. From that station Mr.
Dutton offered to transport the boat through the
wilderness to the St. Mary's River, which could
be from that point easily descended to the sea.
The Suwanee River, at Rixford, could be
reached by rail, and the voyage would end at
its debouchure on the marshy coast of the Gulf
of Mexico.
Hon. David Yulee, president and one-third
owner of the A. G. & W. I. T. C. Railroad, which
connects the Atlantic coast at Fernandina with
the Gulf coast at Cedar Keys, offered me the
free use of his long railroad, for any purpose of
exploration, &c., while his son, Mr. C.
Wickliffe Yulee, exerted himself to remove all
impediments to delay.
These gentlemen, being native Floridians,
have done much towards encouraging all
legitimate exploration of the peninsula, and have
also done something towards putting a check on
the outrageous impositions practised on northern
agricultural emigrants to Florida, by encouraging
the organization of a railroad land-company,
which offers a forty-acre homestead for fifty
dollars, to be selected out of nearly six hundred
thousand acres of land along their highway
across the state. A man of comparatively
small means can now try the experiment of
making a home in the mild climate of Florida,
and if he afterwards abandons the enterprise
there will have been but a small investment of
capital, and consequently little loss.
The turpentine distillery of Dutton was situated
in a heavy forest of lofty pines. Major C. K.
Dutton furnished a team of mules to haul the
Maria Theresa to the St. Mary's River, the
morning after my arrival by rail at Dutton
Station. The warm sunshine shot aslant the tall
pines as the teamster followed a faintly
developed trail towards the swamps. Before noon the
flashing waters of the stream were discernible,
and a little later, with paddle in hand, I was
urging the canoe towards the Atlantic coast. A
luxurious growth of trees and shrubs fringed
the low, and in some places submerged, river
shores. Back, on the higher, sandy soils, the
yellow pine forests, in almost primeval grandeur,
arose, shutting out all view of the horizon. Low
bluffs, with white, sandy beaches of a few rods
in extent, offered excellent camping-grounds.
When the Cracker of Okefenokee Swamp is
asked why he lives in so desolate a region, with
only a few Cattle and hogs for companions, with
mosquitoes, fleas, and vermin about him, with
alligators, catamounts, and owls on all sides,
making night hideous, he usually replies, "Wal,
stranger, wood and water is so powerful handy.
Sich privileges ain't met with everywhar."
As I glided swiftly down the dark current I
peered into the dense woods, hoping to be
cheered by the sight of a settler's cabin; but in
all that day's search not a clearing could be
found, nor could I discern rising from the
treetops of the solitary forest a little cloud of smoke
issuing from the chimney of civilized man. I
was alone in the vast wilds through which the
beautiful river flowed noiselessly but swiftly to
the sea. Thoreau loved a swamp, and so do all
lovers of nature, for nowhere else does she so
bountifully show her vigorous powers of growth,
her varied wealth of botanical wonders. Here
the birds resort in flocks when weary of the hot,
sandy uplands, for here they find pure water,
cool shade, and many a curious glossy berry for
their dainty appetites.
As the little Maria Theresa sped onward
through the open forest and tangled wild-wood,
through wet morass and piny upland, my
thoughts dwelt upon the humble life of the
Concord naturalist and philosopher. How he
would have enjoyed the descent of this wild
river from the swamp to the sea! He had left
us for purer delights; but I could enjoy his
"Walden" as though he still lived, and read of his
studies of nature with ever-increasing interest.
Swamps have their peculiar features. Those
of the Waccamaw were indeed desolate, while
the swamps of the St. Mary's were full of
sunshine for the traveller. Soon after the canoe
had commenced her river journey, a sharp sound,
like that produced by a man striking the water
with a broad, flat stick, reached my ears. As
this sound was frequently repeated, and always
in advance of my boat, it roused my curiosity.
It proved to come from alligators. One after
another slipped off the banks, striking the water
with their tails as they took refuge in the river
from the disturber of their peace. To observe
the movements of these reptiles I ran the canoe
within two rods of the left shore, and by rapid
paddling was enabled to arrive opposite a
creature as he entered the water. When thus
confronted, the alligator would depress his ugly
head, lash the water once with his tail, and dive
under the canoe, a most thoroughly alarmed
animal. All these alligators were mere babies,
very few being over four feet long. Had they
been as large as the one which greeted me at
Colonel's Island, I should not have investigated
their dispositions, but would have considered
discretion the better part of valor, and left them
undisturbed in their sun-baths on the banks.
In all my experience with the hundreds of
alligators I have seen in the southern rivers
and swamps of North America, every one, both
large and small, fled at the approach of man.
The experience of some of my friends in their
acquaintance with American alligators has been
of a more serious nature. It is well to exercise
care about camping at night close to the water
infested with large saurians, as one of these
strong fellows could easily seize a sleeping man
by the leg and draw him into the river. They
do not seem to fear a recumbent or bowed
figure, but, like most wild animals, flee before the
upright form of man.
Late in the afternoon I passed an island, made
by a "cut-off" through a bend of the river, and,
according to previous directions, counted
fourteen bends or reaches in the river which was to
guide me to Stewart's Ferry, the owner of which
lived back in the woods, his cabin not being
discernible from the river. Near this spot, which
is occasionally visited by lumbermen and
pinywoods settlers, I drew my canoe on to a sandy
beach one rod in length. A little bluff, five or
six feet above the water, furnished me with the
broad leaves of the saw-palmetto, a dwarfish sort
of palm, which I arranged for a bed. The
provision-basket was placed at my head. A little
fire of light-wood cheered me for a while, but its
bright flame soon attracted winged insects in
large numbers. Having made a cup of
chocolate, and eaten some of Captain Akin's chipped
beef and crackers, I continued my preparations
for the night. Feeling somewhat nervous about
large alligators, I covered myself with a piece of
painted canvas, which was stiff and strong, and
placed the little revolver, my only weapon, under
my blanket.
As I fully realized the novelty of my strange
position in this desolate region, it was some time
before I could compose myself and sleep. It
was a night of dreams. Sounds indistinct but
numerous troubled my brain, until I was fully
roused to wakefulness by horrible visions and
doleful cries. The chuck-will's-widow, which
in the south supplies the place of our
whippoorwill, repeated his oft-told tale of "
chuckwill's-widow, chuck-will's-widow," with
untiring earnestness. The owls hooted wildly, with
a chorus of cries from animals and reptiles not
recognizable by me, excepting the snarling voices
of the coons fighting in the forest. These last
were old acquaintances, however, as they
frequently gathered round my camp at night to pick
up the remains of supper.
While I listened, there rose a cry so hideous in
its character and so belligerent in its tone, that I
trembled with fear upon my palm-leaf mattress.
It resembled the bellowing of an infuriated bull,
but was louder and more penetrating in its effect.
The proximity of this animal was indeed
unpleasant, for he had planted himself on the
river's edge, near the little bluff upon which my
camp had been constructed. The loud roar was
answered by a similar bellow from the other side
of the river, and for a long time did these two
male alligators keep up their challenging cries,
without coming to combat. Numerous
wood-mice attacked my provision-basket, and even
worked their way through the leaves of my
palmetto mattress.
Thus with an endless variety of annoyances
the night wore wearily away, but the light of the
rising sun did not penetrate the thick fog which
enveloped the river until after eight o'clock,
when I embarked for a second day's journey
upon the stream, which had now attained a width
of five or six rods. Rafts of logs blocked the
river as I approached the settlement of Trader's
Hill, and upon a most insecure footing the canoe
was dragged over a quarter of a mile of logs,
and put into the water on the lower side of the
"jam." Crossing several of these log "jams,"
which covered the entire width of the St. Mary's,
I became weary of the task, and, after the last
was reached, determined to go into camp until
the next day, when suddenly the voices of men
in the woods were heard.
Soon a gentleman, with two raftsmen,
appeared and kindly greeted me. They had been
notified of my approach at Trader's Hill by a
courier sent from Dutton across the woods, and
these men, whose knowledge of wood-craft is
wonderful, had timed my movements so
correctly that they had arrived just in time to meet
me at this point. The two raftsmen rubbed the
canoe all over with their hands, and expressed
delight at its beautiful finish in their own
peculiar vernacular.
"She's the dog-gonedest thing I ever seed,
and jist as putty as a new coffin!" exclaimed one.
"Indeed, she's the handsomest trick I ever
did blink on," said the second.
The two stalwart lumbermen lifted the boat as
though she were but a feather, and carried her,
jumping from log to log, the whole length of the
raft. They then put her gently in the water, and
added to their farewell the cheering intelligence
that "there's no more jams nor rafts 'twixt here
and the sea, and you can go clar on to New
York if you like."
Trader's Hill, on a very high bluff on the left
bank, was soon passed, when the current seemed
suddenly to cease, and I felt the first tidal effect
of the sea, though many miles from the coast.
The tide was flooding. I now laid aside the
paddle, and putting the light steel outriggers in
their sockets, rapidly rowed down the now broad
river until the shadows of night fell upon forest
and stream, when the comfortable residence of
Mr. Lewis Davis, with his steam saw-mill, came
into sight upon Orange Bluff, on the Florida side
of the river. Here a kind welcome greeted me
from host and hostess, who had dwelt twenty
years in this romantic but secluded spot. There
were orange-trees forty years old on this
property, and all in fine bearing order. There was
also a fine sulphur spring near the house.
Mr. Davis stated that, during a residence of
twenty years in this charming locality, he had
experienced but one attack of chills. He
considered the St. Mary's River, on account of the
purity of its waters, one of the healthiest of
southern streams. The descent of this beautiful
river now became a holiday pastime. Though
there were but few signs of the existence of
man, the scenery was of a cheering character.
A brick-kiln, a few saw-mills, and an abandoned
rice-plantation were passed, while the low
saltmarshes, extending into the river from the forest-covered
upland, gave evidence of the proximity
to the sea. Large alligators were frequently seen
sunning themselves upon the edges of the banks.
At dusk the town of St. Mary's, in its wealth
of foliage, opened to my view from across the
lowlands, and soon after the paper canoe was
carefully stored in a building belonging to one
of its hospitable citizens, while local authority
asserted that I had traversed one hundred and
seventy-five miles of the river.
One evening, while enjoying the hospitality
of Mr. Silas Fordam, at his beautiful winter
home, "Orange Hall," situated in the heart of
St. Mary's, a note, signed by the Hon. J. M.
Arnow, mayor of the city, was handed me. Mr.
Arnow, in the name of the city government,
invited my presence at the Spencer House. Upon
arriving at the hotel, a surprise awaited me.
The citizens of the place had gathered to
welcome the paper canoe and its owner, and to
express the kindly feelings they, as southern
citizens, held towards their northern friends. The
hotel was decorated with flags and floral
emblems, one of which expressed, in its ingeniously
constructed words, wrought in flowers, "One
hundred thousand Welcomes."
The mayor and his friends received me upon
the veranda of the hotel with kind words of
welcome. Bright lights glimmered at this
moment through the long avenue of trees, and
music arose upon the night air. It was a
torchlight procession coming from the river, bearing
upon a framework structure, from which hung
Chinese lanterns and wreaths of laurel, the little
paper canoe. The Base-ball Club of the city,
dressed in their handsome uniform, carried the
"Maria Theresa," while the sailors from the
lumber fleet in the river, with the flags of several
nationalities, brought up the rear.
When the procession arrived in front of the
hotel, three hearty cheers were given by the
people, and the mayor read the city's address of
welcome to me; to which I made reply, not only
in behalf of myself, but of all those of my
countrymen who desired the establishment of a pure
and good government in every portion of our
dear land.
Mayor Arnow presented me with an engrossed
copy of his speech of welcome, in which he
invited all industrious northerners to come to his
native city, promising that city ordinances should
be passed to encourage the erection of
manufactories, &c., by northern capital and northern
labor. After the address, the wife of the mayor
presented me with two memorial banners, in the
name of the ladies of the city. These were made
for the occasion, and being the handiwork of the
ladies themselves, were highly appreciated by
the recipient. When these graceful tributes had
been received, each lady and child present
deposited a bouquet of flowers, grown in the gardens
of St. Mary's, in my little craft, till it contained
about four hundred of these refined expressions
of the good-will of these kind people. Not only
did the native population of the town vie with
each other to accord the lonely voyager a true
southern welcome, but Mr. A. Curtis, an English
gentleman, who, becoming fascinated with the
fine climate of this part of Georgia, had settled
here, did all he could to show his appreciation
of canoe-travelling, and superintended the
marine display and flag corps of the procession.
I left St. Mary's with a strange longing to
return to its interesting environs, and to study here
the climatology of southern Georgia, for, strange
to say, cases of local "fever and chills" have
never originated in the city. It is reached from
Savannah by the inside steamboat route, or by
rail, to Fernandina, with which it is connected
by a steamboat ferry eight miles in length.
Speculation not having yet affected the low valuation
placed upon property around St. Mary's, northern
men can obtain winter homes in this attractive
town at a very low cost. This city is a port of
entry. Mr. Joseph Shepard, a most faithful
government officer, has filled the position of
collector of customs for several years.
As vessels of considerable tonnage can ascend
the St. Mary's River from the sea on a full tide
to the wharves of the city, its citizens prophesy a
future growth and development for the place
when a river and canal route across the
peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of
Mexico shall have been completed. For many
years Colonel Raiford has been elaborating his
plan "for elongating the western and southern
inland system of navigation to harbors of the
Atlantic Ocean." He proposes to unite the natural
watercourses of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico
by short canals, so that barges drawing seven feet
of water, and freighted with the produce of the
Mississippi River and its tributaries, may pass
from New Orleans eastward to the southern ports
of the Atlantic States. The great peninsula of
Florida would be crossed by these vessels from
the Suwanee to the St. Mary's River by means
of a canal cut through the Okefenokee Swamp,
and this route would save several hundred miles
of navigation upon open ocean waters. The
dangerous coral reefs of the Florida and Bahama
shores would be avoided, and a land-locked
channel of thirty thousand miles of navigable
watercourses would be united in one system.
Lieutenant-Colonel Q. A. Gilmore's report on
"Water Line for Transportation from the Mouth
of the St. Mary's River, on the Atlantic Coast,
through Okefenokee Swamp and the State of
Florida to the Gulf of Mexico," in which the
able inquirer discusses this water route, has
recently been published. I traversed a portion of
this route in 1875-6, from the head of the Ohio
River to New Orleans, and along the shores of
the Gulf of Mexico to Cedar Keys, in a cedar
duck-boat; and as the results of my observations
may some day be made public, I will at this
time refer the reader, if he be interested in the
important enterprise, to the Congressional reports
which describe the feasibility of the plan.
Another portage by rail was made in order to
complete my journey to the Gulf of Mexico, and
Rixford, near the Suwanee River, was reached
via the A. G. & W. I. T. C. Railroad to Baldwin,
thence over the J. P. & M. Railroad to Live Oak,
where another railroad from the north connects,
and along which, a few miles from Live Oak,
Messrs. Dutton & Rixford had recently
established their turpentine and resin works.
At Rixford I found myself near the summit, or
backbone of Florida, from which the tributaries
of the water-shed flow on one side to the
Atlantic Ocean, and on the other to the Gulf of Mexico.
It was a high region of rolling country, heavily
wooded with magnificent pine forests, rich in
terebinthine resources. The residence of the
proprietor, the store and the distillery, with a few
log cabins inhabited by negroes and white
employees, made up the establishment of Rixford.
The Crackers and negroes came from long
distances to see the paper boat. One afternoon,
when a number of people had gathered at
Rixford to behold the little craft, I placed it on one
of those curious sheets of water of crystal purity
called in that region a sink; and though this
nameless, mirror-like lakelet did not cover over
an acre in extent, the movements of the little
craft, when propelled by the double paddle,
excited an enthusiasm which is seldom exhibited
by the piny-woods people.
As the boat was carefully lifted from the
silvery tarn, one woman called out in a loud voice,
"Lake Theresa!" and thus, by mutual consent
of every one present, did this lakelet of crystal
waters receive its name.
The blacks crowded around the canoe, and
while feeling its firm texture, and wondering at
the long distance it had traversed, expressed
themselves in their peculiar and original way.
One of their number, known as a "tonguey
nigger," volunteered to explain the wonder to the
somewhat confused intellects of his companions.
To a question from one negro as to "How did
dis yere Yankee-man cum all dis fur way in de
paper canoe, all hissef lone?" the "educated"
negro replied: "It's all de Lord. No man ken
cum so fur in paper boat ef de Lord didn't help
him. De Lord does eberyting. He puts de tings
in de Yankee-man's heads to du um, an' dey duz
um. Dar was de big Franklin up norf, dat made
de telegraf. Did ye eber bar tell ob him?"
"Neber, neber!" responded all the negroes.
Then, with a look of supreme contempt for
the ignorance of his audience, the orator
proceeded: "Dis great Franklin, Cap'n Franklin,
he tort he'd kotch de litening and make de
telegraf, so he flies a big kite way up to de heabens,
an' he puts de string in de bottle dat hab nufing
in it. Den he holds de bottle in one hand, an' he
holds de cork in de udder hand. Down cums
de litening and fills de bottle full up, and Cap'n
Franklin he dun cork him up mighty quick, and
kotched de litening an' made de telegraf. But
it was de Lord -- de Lord, not Cap'n
Franklin dat did all dis."
It was amusing to watch the varied expression
of the negroes, as they listened to this description
of the discovery of electricity, and the origin of
the telegraph. Their eyes dilated with wonder,
and their thick lips parted till the mouth,
growing wider and wider, seemed to cover more than
its share of the face. The momentary silence was
soon broken by a deep gurgle proceeding from a
stolid-looking negro, as he exclaimed: "Did he
kotch de bottle full ob litening, and cork him
up. Golly! I tort he wud hab busted hissef!"
"So he wud! so he wud!" roared the orator,
"but ye see 'twas all de Lord -- de Lord's
a-doing it."
While in Florida I paid some attention to the
negro method of conducting praise meetings,
which they very appropriately call "de
shoutings." If I give some verbatim reports of the
negro's curious and undignified clerical efforts,
it is not done for the purpose of caricaturing
him, nor with a desire to make him appear
destitute of mental calibre; but rather with the hope
that the picture given may draw some sympathy
from the liberal churches of the north, which do
not forget the African in his native jungle, nor the
barbarous islanders of the South Seas. A
well-informed Roman Catholic priest told me that
he had been disappointed with the progress his
powerfully organized church had made in
converting the freedmen. Before going among them
I had supposed that the simple-minded black,
now no longer a slave, would be easily attracted
to the impressive ceremonies of the Church of
Rome; but after witnessing the activity of their
devotions, and observing how anxious they are
to take a conspicuous and a leading part in all
religious services, it seemed to me that the free
black of the south would take more naturally to
Methodism than to any other form of
The appointment of local preachers would be
especially acceptable to the negro, as he would
then be permitted to have ministers of his own
color, and of his own neighborhood, to lead the
meetings; while the Roman Catholic priest
would probably treat him more like a child, and
would therefore exercise a strong discipline over
In one of their places of worship, at my
request, a New York lady, well skilled in rapid
writing and familiar with the negro vernacular,
reported verbatim the negro preacher's sermon.
The text was the parable of the ten virgins; and
as the preacher went on, he said: "Five ob dem
war wise an' five of dem war foolish. De wise jes
gone an' dun git dar lamps full up ob oil and
git rite in and see de bridegoom; an' de foolish
dey sot dem rite down on de stool ob do-noting,
an' dar dey sot till de call cum; den dey run,
pick up der ole lamps and try to push door in,
but de Lord say to dem, Git out dar! you jes git
out dar!' an' shut door rite in dar face.
"My brudders and my sisters, yer must fill de
lamps wid de gospel an' de edication ob Moses,
fur Moses war a larned man, an' edication is de
mos estaminable blessin' a pusson kin hab in
dis world.
"Hole-on to de gospel! Ef you see dat de
flag am tore, get hole somewhar, keep a grabblin
until ye git hole ob de stick, an' nebah gib up de
stick, but grabble, grabble till ye die; for dough
yer sins be as black as scarlet, dey shall be whit
as snow."
The sermon over, the assembled negroes then
sung in slow measure:
"Lit-tell chil-ern, you'd bet-tar be-a-lieve -
Lit-tell chil-ern, you'd bet-tar be-a-lieve -
Lit-tell chil-ern, you'd bet-tar be-a-lieve -
I'll git home to heav-en when I die.
Sweet heav-en am-a-my-am,
Sweet heav-en am-a-my-am,
Sweet heav-en am-a-my-am,
I'll git home to heav-en when I die.
Lord wish-ed I was in heav-en,
Fur to see my mudder when she enter,
Fur to see her tri-als an' long white robes:
She'll shine like cristul in de sun.
Sweet heav-en am-a-my-am,
Sweet heav-en am-a-my-am,
Sweet heav-en am-a-my-am,
I'll git home to heav-en when I die,"
While visiting a town in Georgia, where the
negroes had made some effort to improve their
condition, I made a few notes relating to the
freedman's debating society of the place.
Affecting high-sounding words, they called their
organization, "De Lycenum," and its doings were
directed by a committee of two persons, called
respectively, "de disputaceous visitor," and "de
lachrymal visitor." What particular duties devolved
upon the "lachrymal visitor," I could
never clearly ascertain. One evening these
negroes debated upon the following theme,
"Which is de best -- when ye are out ob a ting,
or when ye hab got it?" which was another form
of expressing the old question, "Is there more
pleasure in possession than in anticipation?"
Another night the colored orators became
intensely excited over the query, "Which is de
best, Spring Water or Matches?"
The freedmen, for so unfortunate a class, seem
to be remarkably well behaved. During several
journeys through the southern states I found
them usually temperate, and very civil in their
intercourse with the whites, though it must be
confessed that but few of them can apply
themselves steadily and persistently to manual labor,
either for themselves or their employers.
Some friends, among whom were Colonel
George W. Nason, Jr., of Massachusetts,
and Major John Purviance, Commissioner of
Suwanee County, offered to escort the paper
canoe down "the river of song" to the Gulf of
Mexico, a distance, according to local authority,
of two hundred and thirty-five miles. While
the members of the party were preparing for the
journey, Colonel Nason accompanied me to the
river, which was less than three miles from
Rixford, the proprietors of which sent the canoe
after us on a wagon drawn by mules. The point
of embarkation was the Lower Mineral Springs,
the property of Judge Bryson.
The Suwanee, which was swollen by some
recent rains in Okefenokee Swamp, was a wild,
dark, turbulent current, which went coursing
through the woods on its tortuous route with
great rapidity. The luxurious foliage of the
river-banks was remarkable. Maples were in
blossom, beech-trees in bloom, while the
buckeye was covered with its heavy festoons of red
flowers. Pines, willows, cotton-wood, two kinds
of hickory, water-oak, live-oak, sweet-gum,
magnolia, the red and white bay-tree, a few
red cedars, and haw-bushes, with many species not
known to me, made up a rich wall of verdure on
either side, as I sped along with a light heart to
Columbus, where my compagnons de voyage
were to meet me. Wood-ducks and egrets, in
small flocks, inhabited the forest. The
limestone banks of the river were not visible, as the
water was eighteen feet above its low summer
I now passed under the railroad bridge which
connects Live Oak with Savannah. After a
steady row of some hours, my progress was
checked by a great boom, stretched across the
river to catch the logs which floated down from
the upper country. I was obliged to disembark
and haul the canoe around this obstacle, when,
after passing a few clearings, the long bridge of
the J. P. & M. Railroad came into view, stretching
across the now wide river from one wilderness
to the other. On the left bank was all that
remained of the once flourishing town of
Columbus, consisting now of a store, kept by Mr.
Allen, and a few buildings. Before the railroad
was built, Columbus possessed a population of
five hundred souls, and it was reached, during
favorable stages of water, by light-draught
steamboats from Cedar Keys, on the Gulf of Mexico.
The building of railroads in the south has
diverted trade from one locality to another, and
many towns, once prosperous, have gone to
The steam saw-mills and village of Ellaville
were located on the river-bank opposite
Columbus, and this lumber establishment is the only
place of importance between it and Cedar Keys.
This far-famed river, to which the heart of the
minstrel's darky "is turning eber," is, in fact,
almost without the "one little hut among de
bushes," for it is a wild and lonely stream.
Even in the most prosperous times there were
but few plantations upon its shores. Wild
animals roam its great forests, and vile reptiles
infest the dense swamps. It is a country well
fitted for the hunter and lumberman, for the
naturalist or canoeist; but the majority of people
would, I am sure, rather hear of it poured forth
in song from the sweet lips of Christina Nilsson,
than to be themselves "way down upon the
Suwanee Ribber."
On Monday, March 22d, Messrs. Nason,
Purviance, and Henderson joined me. The party
had obtained a northern-built shad-boat, which
had been brought by rail from Savannah. It
was sloop-rigged, and was decked forward, so
that the enthusiastic tourists possessed a
weatherproof covering for their provisions and blankets.
With the strong current of the river, a pair of
long oars, and a sail to be used when favorable
winds blew, the party in the shad-boat could
make easy and rapid progress towards the Gulf,
while my lightly dancing craft needed scarcely
a touch of the oar to send her forward.
On Tuesday, the 23d, we left Columbus, while
a crowd of people assembled to see us off; many
of them seeming to consider this simple and
delightful way of travelling too dangerous to be
attempted. The smooth but swift current rolled
on its course like a sea of molten glass, as the
soft sunlight trembled through the foliage and
shimmered over its broad surface.
Our boats glided safely over the rapids, which
for a mile and a half impede the navigation of
the river during the summer months, but which
were now made safe by the great depth of water
caused by the freshet. The weather was
charming, and our little party, fully alive to all the
beautiful surroundings, woke many an echo with
sounds meant to be sweet. Of course the good
old song was not forgotten. Our best voice
"Way down up-on de Suwanee Rib-ber,
Far, far away,
Dere's whar my heart is turn-ing eb-ber,
Dere's whar de old folks stay.
All up and down de whole creation
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for de old plantation,
And for de old folks at home.
"All round de little farm I wander'd
When I was young;
Den many happy days I squan-der'd -
Many de songs I sung.
When I was playing wid my brud-der,
Hap-py was I.
O! take me to my kind old mud-der,
Dere let me live and die!
"One little hut among de bushes, -
One dat I love, -
Still sadly to my mem'ry rushes,
No matter where I rove.
When will I see de bees a-hum-ming
All round de comb?
When will I hear de ban-jo tum-ming
Down in my good old home?"
We all joined in the chorus at the end of each verse:
"All de world am sad and dreary
Eb-ry-whar I roam.
O, darkies, how my heart grows weary,
Far from do old folks at home."
We soon entered forests primeval which were
quiet, save for the sound of the axe of the log-thief;
for timber-stealing is a profession which
reaches its greatest perfection on the Florida
state lands and United States naval reserves.
Uncle Sam's territory is being constantly
plundered to supply the steam saw-mills of private
individuals in Florida. Several of the party told
interesting stories of the way in which log-thieves
managed to steal from the government legally.
"There," said one, "is X, who runs his mill
on the largest tract of pine timber Uncle Sam
has got. He once bought a few acres' claim
adjacent to a fine naval reserve. He was not,
of course, able to discover the boundary line
which separated his little tract from the rich
government reserve, so he kept a large force
of men cutting down Uncle Sam's immense
pines, and, hauling them to the Suwanee, floated
them to his mill. This thing went on for some
time, till the government agent made his
appearance and demanded a settlement.
"The wholesale timber-thief now showed a
fair face, and very frankly explained that he
supposed he had been cutting logs from his own
territory, but quite recently he had discovered
that he had really been trespassing on the
property of his much-loved country, and as he was
truly a loyal citizen, he desired to make
restitution, and was now ready to settle.
"The government agent was astonished at the
seeming candor of the man, who so worked upon
his sympathy that he promised to be as easy
upon him as the law allowed. The agent
settled upon a valuation of fifty cents an acre for
all the territory that had been cut over. 'And
now,' said he, 'how many acres of land have
you "logged" since you put your lumbermen
into the forest?'
"Mr. X declared himself unable to answer
this question, but generously offered to permit
the agent to put down any number of acres he
thought would represent a fair thing between
a kind government and one of its unfortunate
citizens. Intending to do his duty faithfully, the
officer settled upon two thousand acres as having
been trespassed upon; but to his astonishment the
incomprehensible offender stoutly affirmed that he
had logged fully five thousand acres, and at once
settled the matter in full by paying twenty-five
hundred dollars, taking a receipt for the same.
"When this enterprising business-man visited
Jacksonville, his friends rallied him upon
confessing judgment to government for three
thousand acres of timber more than had been claimed
by the agent. This true patriot winked as he
"'It is true I hold a receipt from the
government for the timber on five thousand acres at
the very low rate of fifty cents an acre. As I
have not yet cut logs from more than one-fifth
of the tract, I intend to work off the timber on
the other four thousand acres at my leisure, and
no power can stop me now I have the
government receipt to show it's paid for.'"
The sloop and the canoe had left Columbus a
little before noon, and at six P. M. we passed
Charles' Ferry, where the old St. Augustine
and Tallahassee forest road crosses the river.
At this lonely place an old man, now dead,
owned a subterranean spring, which he called
"Mediterranean passage." This spring is
powerful enough to run a rickety, "up-and-down"
saw-mill. The great height of the water
allowed me to paddle into the mill with my canoe.
At half past seven o'clock a deserted log
cabin at Barrington's Ferry offered us shelter for
the night. The whole of the next day we rowed
through the same immense forests, finding no
more cultivated land than during our first day's
voyage. We landed at a log cabin in a small
clearing to purchase eggs of a poor woman,
whose husband had shot her brother a few days
before. As the wife's brother had visited the
cabin with the intention of killing the husband,
the woman seemed to think the murdered man
had "got his desarts," and, as a coroner's jury
had returned a verdict of "justifiable homicide,"
the affair was considered settled.
Below this cabin we came to Island No. 1,
where rapids trouble boatmen in the summer
months. Now we glided gently but swiftly over
the deep current. The few inhabitants we met
along the banks of the Suwanee seemed to carry
with them an air of repose while awake. To
rouse them from mid-day slumbers we would
call loudly as we passed a cabin in the woods,
and after considerable delay a man would appear
at the door, rubbing his eyes as though the genial
sunlight was oppressive to his vision. It was
indeed a quiet, restful region, this great
wilderness of the Suwanee.
We passed Mrs. Goodman's farm and log
buildings on the left bank, just below Island
No. 8, before noon, and about this time Major
Purviance shot at a large wild turkey (Meleagris
gallopavo), knocking it off a bank into the
water. The gobbler got back to land, and led
us a fruitless chase into the thicket of saw-palmetto.
He knew his ground better than we, for,
though wounded, he made good his escape.
We stopped a few moments at Troy, which,
though dignified in name, consists only of a
store and some half dozen buildings.
A few miles below this place, on the left
bank of the river, is an uninhabited elevation
called Rolins' Bluff, from which a line running
north 220 east, twenty-three miles and a half in
length, will strike Live Oak. A charter to
connect Live Oak with this region of the Suwanee
by means of a railroad had just passed the
Florida legislature, but had been killed by the veto
of the governor. After sunset the boats were
secured in safe positions in front of a deserted
cabin, round which a luxuriant growth of
bitter-orange trees showed what nature could do for
this neglected grove. The night air was balmy,
and tremulous with insect life, while the
alligators in the swamps kept up their bellowings till
After breakfast we descended to the mouth of
the Santa Fe River, which was on the left bank
of the Suwanee. The piny-woods people called
it the Santaffy. The wilderness below the Santa
Fe is rich in associations of the Seminole Indian
war. Many relics have been found, and, among
others, on the site of an old Indian town,
entombed in a hollow tree, the skeletons of an
Indian adult and child, decked with beads, were
discovered. Fort Fanning is on the left bank,
and Old Town Hammock on the right bank of
the Suwanee.
During the Seminole war, the hammock and
the neighboring fastnesses became the
hiding-places of the persecuted Indians, and so wild
and undisturbed is this region, even at this time,
that the bear, lynx, and panther take refuge from
man in its jungles.
Colonel J. L. F. Cottrell left his native
Virginia in 1854, and commenced the cultivation of
the virgin soil of Old Town Hammock. Each
state has its peculiar mode of dividing its land,
and here in Florida this old plantation was in
township 10, section 24, range 13. The estate
included about two thousand acres of land, of
which nearly eleven hundred were under
cultivation. The slaves whom the colonel brought
from Virginia were now his tenants, and he
leased them portions of his arable acres. He
considered this locality as healthy as any in the
Suwanee country. The old planter's home, with
its hospitable doors ever open to the stranger,
was embowered in live-oaks and other trees,
from the branches of which the graceful festoons
of Spanish moss waved in the soft air, telling of
a warm, moist atmosphere.
A large screw cotton-press and corn-cribs,
with smoke-house and other plantation buildings,
were conveniently grouped under the spreading
branches of the protecting oaks. The estate
produced cotton, corn, sweet potatoes, cattle,
hogs, and poultry. Deer sometimes approached
the enclosed fields, while the early morning call
of the wild turkey came from the thickets of the
hammock. In this retired part of Florida,
cheered by the society of a devoted wife and
four lovely daughters, lived the kind-hearted
gentleman who not only pressed on us the
comforts of his well-ordered house, but also
insisted upon accompanying the paper canoe from
his forest home to the sea.
When gathered around the firesides of the
backwoods people, the conversation generally
runs into hunting stories, Indian reminiscences,
and wild tales of what the pioneers suffered
while establishing themselves in their forest
homes. One event of startling interest had
occurred in the Suwanee country a few weeks
before the paper canoe entered its confines.
Two hunters went by night to the woods to
shoot deer by firelight. As they stalked about,
with light-wood torches held above their heads,
they came upon a herd of deer, which, being
bewildered by the glare of the lights, made no
attempt to escape. Sticking their torches in the
ground, the hunters stretched themselves flat
upon the grass, to hide their forms from the
animals they hoped to kill at their leisure. One
of the men was stationed beneath the branches
of a large tree; the other was a few yards distant.
The Panther's Leap (106K)
Before the preconcerted signal for discharging
their rifles could be given, the sound of a heavy
body falling to the ground, and an accompanying
smothered shriek, startled the hunter who was
farthest from the tree. Starting up in alarm, he
flew to the assistance of his friend, whose
prostrate form was covered by a large panther, which
had pounced upon him from the overhanging
limb of the great oak. It had been but the
work of an instant for the powerful cougar to
break with his strong jaws the neck of the poor
In this rare case of a panther (Felis concolor)
voluntarily attacking man, it will be noted by
the student of natural history that the victim was
lying upon the ground. Probably the animal
would not have left his perch among the
branches of the oak, where he was evidently
waiting for the approach of the deer, if the
upright form of the man had been seen. Go to a
southern bayou, which is rarely, if ever, visited
by man, and where its saurian inhabitants have
never been annoyed by him, -- place your body
in a recumbent position on the margin of the
lagoon, and wait until some large alligator slowly
rises to the surface of the water. He will eye
you for a moment with evident curiosity, and
will in some cases steadily approach you.
When the monster reptile is within two or three
rods of your position, rise slowly upon your feet
to your full height, and the alligator of the
southern states -- the A. Mississippiensis - will, in
nine cases out of ten, retire with precipitation.
There are but few wild animals that will
attack man willingly when face to face with him;
they quail before his erect form. In every case
of the animals of North America showing fight
to man, which has been investigated by me, the
beasts have had no opportunity to escape, or
have had their young to defend, or have been
wounded by the hunter.
It was nearly ten o'clock A. M. on Friday,
March 26th, when our merry party left Old
Town hammock. This day was to see the end
of the voyage of the paper canoe, for my tiny
craft was to arrive at the waters of the great
southern sea before midnight. The wife and
daughters of our host, like true women of the
forest, offered no forebodings at the departure of
the head of their household, but wished him, with
cheerful looks, a pleasant voyage to the Gulf.
The gulf port of Cedar Keys is but a few miles
from the mouth of the Suwanee River. The
railroad which terminates at Cedar Keys would,
with its connection with other routes, carry the
members of our party to their several homes.
The bright day animated our spirits, as we
swept swiftly down the river. The party in the
shad-boat, now called "Adventurer," rowed
merrily on with song and laughter, while I made an
attempt to examine more closely the character
of the water-moccasin -- the Trigono
cephaluspiscivorus of Lacepede, -- which I had more
cause to fear than the alligators of the river.
The water-moccasin is about two feet in length,
and has a circumference of five or six inches.
The tail possesses a horny point about half an
inch in length, which is harmless, though the
Crackers and negroes stoutly affirm that when
it strikes a tree the tree withers and dies, and
when it enters the flesh of a man he is poisoned
unto death. The color of the reptile is a dirty
brown. Never found far from water, it is
common in the swamps, and is the terror of the
rice-field negroes. The bite of the water-moccasin
is exceedingly venomous, and it is considered
more poisonous than that of the rattlesnake, which
warns man of his approach by sounding his
The moccasin does not, like the rattlesnake,
wait to be attacked, but assumes the offensive
whenever opportunity offers, striking with its
fangs at every animated object in its vicinity.
All other species of snakes flee from its presence.
It is found as far north as the Peedee River of
South Carolina, and is abundant in all low
districts of the southern states. As the Suwanee
had overflowed its banks below Old Town
Hammock, the snakes had taken to the low limbs
of the trees and to the tops of bushes, where
they seemed to be sleeping in the warmth of the
bright sunlight; but as I glided along the shore
a few feet from their aerial beds, they discovered
my presence, and dropped sluggishly into the
water. It would not be an exaggeration to say
that we passed thousands of these dangerous
reptiles while descending the Suwanee.
Raftsmen told me that when traversing lagoons in
their log canoes, if a moccasin is met some
distance from land he will frequently enter the canoe
for refuge or for rest, and instances have been
known where the occupant has been so alarmed
as to jump overboard and swim ashore in order
to escape from this malignant reptile.
The only place worthy of notice between Old
Town Hammock and the gulf marshes is Clay
Landing, on the left bank of the river, where
Mrs. Tresper formerly lived in a very
comfortable house. Clay Landing was used during the
Confederate war as a place of deposit for
blockade goods. Archer, a railroad station, is but
twenty miles distant, and to it over rough roads
the contraband imports were hauled by mule
teams, after having been landed from the fleet
As the sun was sinking to rest, and the
tree shadows grew long on the wide river's bosom,
we tasted the saltness in the air as the briny
breezes were wafted to us over the forests
from the Gulf of Mexico. After darkness had
cast its sombre mantle upon us, we left the
"East Pass" entrance to the left, and our boats
hurried on the rapidly ebbing tide down the broad
"West Pass" into the great marshes of the coast.
An hour later we emerged from the dark forest
into the smooth savannas. The freshness of the
sea-air was exhilarating The stars were shining
softly, and the ripple of the tide, the call of the
heron, or the whirr of the frightened duck, and
the leaping of fishes from the water, were the
only sounds nature offered us. It was like
entering another world. In these lowlands, near the
mouth of the river, there seemed to be but one
place above the high-tide level. It was a little
hammock, covered by a few trees, called
Bradford's Island, and rose like an oasis in the desert.
The swift tide hurried along its shores, and a
little farther on mingled the waters of the great
wilderness with that of the sea.
Our tired party landed on a shelly beach, and
burned a grassy area to destroy sand-fleas. This
done, some built a large camp-fire, while others
spread blankets upon the ground. I drew the
faithful sharer of my long voyage near a thicket
of prickly-pears, and slept beside it for the last
time, never thinking or dreaming that one year
later I should approach the mouth of the
Suwanee from the west, after a long voyage of
twenty-five hundred miles from the bead of the Ohio
River, and would again seek shelter on its banks.
It was a night of sweet repose. The camp-fire
dissipated the damps, and the long row made
rest welcome.
A glorious morning broke upon our party as
we breakfasted under the shady palms of the
island. Behind us rose the compact wall of
dark green of the heavy forests, and along the
coast, from east to west, as far as the eye could
reach, were the brownish-green savanna-like
lowlands, against which beat, in soft murmurs,
the waves of that sea I had so longed to reach.
From out the broad marshes arose low
hammocks, green with pines and feathery with
palmetto-trees. Clouds of mist were rising, and
while I watched them melt away in the warm
beams of the morning sun, I thought they were
like the dark doubts which curled themselves
about me so long ago in the cold St. Lawrence,
now all melted by the joy of success. The
snowclad north was now behind me. The Maria
Theresa danced in the shimmering waters of
the great southern sea, and my heart was light,
for my voyage was over.
[ Etext Editor: The book includes an advertisement for Bishop's previous book:
A Thousand Miles' Walk Across South America, N. H. Bishop ]
12mo. Cloth. Illustrated. Price, $1.50
Notices of the Work.
His Excellency Don Domingo F. Sarmiento, President of the Argentine
Confederation, South America, in a letter written to the author during 1877. says: "Your
book of
travels possesses the merit of reality in the faithful descriptions of scenes and customs as
they existed at that time.
"It has delighted me to follow you, step by step by the side of the ancient and
picturesque carts that cross the vast plains which stretch between the Parana River and the
base of the Andes. As I have written about the same region, your book of travels
becomes a valuable reminder of those scenes; and I shall have to consult your work in the
future when I again write about those countries."
"Nathaniel H. Bishop, a mere lad of seventeen; who, prompted by a love of nature,
starts off from his New England home, reaches the La Plata River and coolly walks to
Valparaiso, across Pampa and Cordillera, a distance of more than a thousand miles! It
is not the mere fact of pedestrianism that will gain for Master Nathaniel Bishop a high
place among travellers; nor yet the fact of its having been done in the face of dangers
and difficulties, -- but that, throughout the walk, he has gone with his eyes open, and
gives us a book, written at seventeen, that will make him renowned at seventy. It is
teeming with information, both on social and natural subjects, end will take rank among
books of scientific travel -- the only ones worth inquiring for. One chapter from the
book of an educated traveller (we don't mean the education of Oxford and Cambridge) is
worth volumes of the stuff usually forming the staple of books of travels. And in this
unpretending book of the Yankee boy -- for its preface is signally of this sort - we have
scores of such chapters. The title is not altogether appropriate. It is called 'A
Thousand Miles' Walk across South America.' It is more than a mere walk. It is an
exploration into the kingdom of Nature.
"Sir Francis Head has gone over the same ground on horseback, end given us a good
account of it. But this quiet 'walk' of the American boy is worth infinitely more than
the 'Rough Rides' of the British baronet. The one is common talk and superficial
observation. The other is a study that extends beneath the surface." - Captain Mayne
"Regarded simply as a piece of adventure, this were interesting, especially when told
of in a tone of delightful modesty. But the book has other recommendations. This
boy has an admirable eye for manners, customs, costumes, &c., to say nothing of his
attention to natural history. The reader seems to travel by his side, and concludes the
book with a sense of having himself trodden the Pampas, and mingled with their
barbarous inhabitants. So far as writing goes, this is the supreme merit of a book of
travels. Let those explore who not only see for themselves, but have the rare ability to
their eyes to others. Mr. Bishop is one of the few who can do this; the graphic
simplicity of his narrative is above praise. Meanwhile, his personal impression is very
charming. The quiet patience with which he accepted all the hardships of his position
without the slightest parade of patience, however -- is beyond measure attractive. But
the brave youth goes on quietly enduring what was to be borne, and not ever allowing his
observation to be dulled by the infelicities of his situation." -- Boston Commonwealth

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