Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

clearly indicate the action of a cataract: but I am, notwithstanding, led to agree with Dr. Drake's hypothesis, which explains the formation of the higher bottom land, as being the alluvion of the Ohio at a time when that river was much larger than at present. The facts relating to this subject that have come within the reach of my own observation, may perhaps be inserted in a well-known scientific journal. In the meantime, it may be sufficient to say, it is now ascertained, that the was ters of Erie, and other great lakes, formerly flowed southward into the valley of the Ohio; and that a cataract, more tremendous than the falls of Niagara, raged among the rocks of Silver Creek hills.

In the neighbourhood of Salt River and Green River, in Kentucky, there are extensive tracks of barren wastes. Small hazel bushes from two to three feet in height abound in these; and the quantity of nuts produced exceeds any thing of the kind which I have ever seen. The soil of these wastes seems to be very similar to that of the adjoining woods and on account of the trees diminishing gradually in size, from the forest towards the waste, it is sometimes impossible to discover a line where the one stops and the other begins. This, being told by an old settler, that some small saplings which stood on his farm twenty years ago, are now become tall trees, leads me to adopt the opinion entertained by some, that the wastes or barrens owe their characteristic form to the Indians, who set fire to dried grass and other vegetables with the design of facilitating their hunting.

Salt River is between 100 and 150 yards wide where it unites with the Ohio, and is navigable for about sixty miles. The name is derived from salt springs in its vicinity that are now wrought. Opposite to the mouth of this river, on the north

bank of the Ohio, stands a sycamore tree of stupendous size, which is hollow within. I measured the cavity, and found one diameter to be twentyone feet, and the other twenty feet. In one side of it, a hole is cut sufficiently large to admit a man on horseback. It was probably a sycamore considerably less than this that is noticed in the Pittsburg Navigator, (edition printed in 1818, p. 29,) in the following words: There is one of these huge trees in Sciota county, Ohio, on the land of a Mr. Abraham Miller, into whose hollow thirteenmen rode on horseback, June 6, 1808; the fourteenth did not enter, his horse being skittish, and too fearful to advance into so curious an apartment, but there was room enough for two more."

There is perhaps no vegetable in this country that strikes the mind with greater surprise than the wild vine. I have seen one with a stem nine inches in diameter, and heard of others measuring eleven inches. Some detached trees have their tops closely wreathed with the vines in a manner that forms an elegant and umbrageous canopy, into which the eye cannot penetrate. In the woods they overtop the tallest trees, and from thence hang their pendulous twigs almost to the ground, or pass their ramifications from the branches of one tree to others, overshadowing a considerable space. In many instances their roots are at the distance of several feet from any tree, and their tops attached to branches at the height of sixty or eighty feet, without coming into contact with the trunks of trees, or any other intermediate support. To make the case plain, I have only to say, that the positions of some of these vines have a near resemblance to the stays, and some other ropes of a ship. The question, how they have erected themselves in this manner? is frequently put. Boats that descend the

[ocr errors]

Ohio are often moored without any other cable than a small vine. If a notch is cut in the stem of a vine in the spring season, clear and tasteless water runs out, not in drops, but in a continued stream. I have several times quenched my thirst from sources of this kind.

For upwards of two months, the Ohio has been low; steam-boats cannot now pass from the falls at this place to the Mississippi, nor can boats, descending with produce, get down the same rapids without unloading the greater part of their cargoes. The trade of the country is of consequence much interrupted. In spring, 1818, there were thirty-one steam-boats on the Mississippi and Ohio; at present there are sixty on these waters. This increase of craft, together with the decreasing quantity of goods imported, has lowered the freight from New Orleans to the falls of the Ohio, from six cents to two cents per pound. The rates paid by passengers, however, are not reduced in the same proportion.

The falls of the Ohio are occasioned by a bed of horizontal limestone that stretches across the river, which is upwards of a mile in breadth. At the head of the falls, the river is about a mile broad, including a small island, but in dry seasons of the year the waters are much contracted in breadth, leaving a great portion of the rocky bottom entirely dry. The interruption to the navigation is not a precipitous cascade, as the name would imply, but a rapid, which is extremely shallow at the head in dry weather, and runs over an uneven bottom, at the rate of about fourteen miles an hour. After passing the upper, or principal shoot, nearly the whole of the waters are collected into a deep but narrow channel, close by the Indiana shore, leaving some small islands toward the opposite side;

the second, or lower shoot, is less violent, having deeper water, and is always navigable for loaded boats passing downward. The lives of a number of strangers have lately been lost, by venturing down without pilots. The whole fall, at the lowest known stage of water, is nearly twenty-four feet; but in floods the declivity is distributed over a large portion of the river, and is imperceptible to the eye. The rocks contain vast quantities of organic remains, as madrepores, millepores, favocites, alcyonites, corals, several species of terebratulæ, trilobites, trochites, &c. &c. These re

mains being harder than the water-worn rocks, appear prominent, as if in relief, and many of them almost entirely detached. They are so numerous, that the surface is literally studded with them. Volney, who visited this place, has represented the rocks to be destitute of such subjects. It must have been at a time when they were covered by

water.

The inhabitants in the neighbourhood of the Falls have been visited by attacks of bilious fever and ague. A considerable number of persons have been carried off by the former of these complaints, and the convalescent of both are much debilitated. A surmise lately appeared in a Louisville newspaper, that many poor people had suffered from the want of medical assistance, and hazarded the opinion, that a number had died in cases where seasonable applications might have been efficacious. Accounts from Vincennes say, that about a third part of the people there are confined to bed by sickness, and that much of the Wabash country, both in Indiana and Illinois, are now subject to the same evil. Reports from the settlements on the lower parts of White river represent that sickness prevails there and along other water courses. There are many peo

ple who act as if they were not sufficiently sensible of the disadvantages resulting from settling in unhealthy situations. Fertility of soil and commercial advantages are the great attractions, but men who look to these as primary considerations, obviously undervalue some of the strongest checks to population and public prosperity. The endemical distempers of this country, so far from being chiefly confined to the weak and the aged, seem to commit their greatest devastations amongst the young and the strong. Surviving sufferers are frequently rendered unfit for labour for a third or fourth part of the year, and receive an irreparable injury to their constitutions; regimen and medicine become almost as indispensable as food; productive labour is thus diminished, and an additional cost imposed on life.

Tavern-keepers observe that travellers are not nearly so numerous as they were last year. The change is to be imputed solely to the decline in trade, and to depression in the price of lands. The fact shows that a proportion of the populace remains at home through necessity or economical motives. Happy it is for them, that the pressure of the times does not, as in certain other countries, turn out a numerous class in the condition of houseless poor. Travellers, however, are still so numerous, that a stranger, not fully aware of the rapidity with which new settlements are forming, and of the great populace of eastern States, might be apt to imagine that Americans are a singularly volatile people.

In the whole of my correspondence with the unlettered part of the people of the western country, I have observed a brevity of language, that seems to be occasioned by their not being acquainted with

« AnteriorContinuar »