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Early western travels 1748-1846 : a series of annotated reprints of some of the best and rarest contemporary… Thwaites, Reuben Gold, 1853-1913 1905

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       Early Western Travels
Volume XXVI
K3 I
"«"*» wnwMinwiiwimMiwii Early Western Travels
A Series of Annotated Reprints of some of the best
and rarest contemporary volumes of travel, descriptive of the Aborigines and Social and
Economic Conditions in the Middle
and Far West, during the Period
of Early American Settlement
Edited with Notes, Introductions, Index, etc., by
Reuben Gold Thwaites, LL.D.
Editor of "The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents,"  "Original
Journals ofthe Lewis and Clark Expedition," "Hennepin's
New Discovery," etc.
Volume  XXVI
Part I of Flagg's The Far West, 1836-1837
Cleveland, Ohio
The Arthur H. Clark Company
1906 Copyright 1906, by
t£f)t H-aftesfUt $ress»
Preface to Volumes XXVI and XXVTI.    The Editor
The Far West: or, A Tour beyond the Mountains. Embracing Outlines of Western Life and Scenery; Sketches
of the Prairies, Rivers, Ancient Mounds, Early Settlements
of the French, etc. etc. (The first thirty-two chapters,
being all of Vol. I of original, and pp. 1-126 of Vol. n.)
Edmund Flag g.
Copyright Notice   .....
Author's Dedication        ....
Author's Preface    .....
Author's Table of Contents
Text (chapters i-xxxii; the remainder appearing in our
volume xxvii) .......
43  INi
Map of Oregon; drawn by H. J. Kelley, 1830 24
Facsimile of title-page to Vol. I of Flagg's The Far West       .        25
H •#.
These two volumes are devoted to reprints of Edmund
Flagg's The Far West (New York, 1838), and Father
Pierre Jean de Smet's Letters and Sketches, with a Narrative of a Year's Residence among the Indian Tribes of the
Rocky Mountains (Philadelphia, 1843). Flagg's two-volume
work occupies all of our volume xxvi and the first part of
volume xxvii, the remaining portion of the latter being
given to De Smet's book.
Edmund Flagg was prominent among early American
prose writers, and also ranked high among our minor poets.
A descendant of the Thomas Flagg who came to Boston
from England, in 1637, Edmund was born November 24,
1815, at Wescasset, Maine. Being graduated with distinction from Bowdoin College in 1835, m the same year he
went with his mother and sister Lucy to Louisville, Kentucky. Here, in a private school, he taught the classics to
a group of boys, and contributed articles to the Louisville
Journal, a paper with which he was intermittently connected, either as editorial writer or correspondent, until
The summer and autumn of 1836 found Flagg travelling
in Missouri and Illinois, and writing for the Journal the
letters which were later revised and enlarged to form The
Far West, herein reprinted. Tarrying at St. Louis in the
autumn of 1836, our author began the study of law, and
the following year was admitted to the bar; but in 1838
he returned to newspaper life, taking charge for a time of
the St. Louis Commercial Bulletin. During the winter of
1838-39 he assisted George D. Prentice,   founder of the p
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
Louisville Journal, in the work of editing the Louisville
Literary News Letter. Finding, however, that newspaper
work overtaxed his health, Flagg next accepted an invitation to enter the law office of Sergeant S. Prentiss at Vicks-
burg, Mississippi, where in addition to his legal duties he
found time to edit the Vicksburg Whig. Having been
wounded in a duel with James Hagan of the Sentinel in
that city, Flagg returned to the less excitable North and
undertook editorial duties upon the Gazette at Marietta, Ohio
(1842-43), and later (1844-45) upon the St. Louis Evening
Gazette. He also served as official reporter of the Missouri
state constitutional convention the following year, and published a volume of its debates; subsequently (until 1849)
acting as a court reporter in St. Louis.
The three succeeding years were spent abroad; first
as secretary to Edward A. Hannegan, United States minister to Berlin, and later as consul at Venice. In February,
1852, he returned to America, and during the presidential
campaign of that year edited a Democratic journal at St.
Louis, known as the Daily Times. Later, as a reward for
political service, he was made superintendent of statistics
in the department of state, at Washington — a bureau
having special charge of commercial relations. Here he
was especially concerned with the compilation of reports on
immigration and the cotton and tobacco trade, and pub-
fished a Report on Commercial Relations of the United States
with all Foreign Nations (4 vols., Washington, 1858).
Through these reports, particularly the last named, Flagg's
name became familiar to merchants in both the United
States and Europe. From 1857 to i860 he was Washington correspondent for several Western newspapers, and from
1861 to 1870 served as librarian of copyrights in the department of the interior. Having in 1862 married Kate Adeline,
daughter of Sidney S. Gallaher, of Virginia, he moved to
^»BB»t*«(««IHIHBWBW«HmaBr 1836-1842]
Highland View in that state (1870), and died there November 1, 1890.
In addition to his labors in the public service and as a
newspaper man, Flagg found time for higher literary work,
and won considerable distinction in that field. His first
book, The Far West, although somewhat stilted in style,
possesses considerable literary merit. Encouraged by the
success of his initial endeavor, he wrote the following year
(1839) the Duchess of F err ara and Beatrice of Padua, two
novels, each of which passed through at least two editions.
The Howard Queen (1848) and Blanche of Artois (1850) were
prize productions. De Molai (1888), says the New York
Sun of the period, is " a powerful, dramatic tale which
seems to catch the very spirit of the age of Philip of France.
It is rare to find a story in which fact and invention are so
evenly and adroitly balanced." Our author also wrote several dramas, which were staged in Louisville, Cincinnati,
St. Louis, and New York; he also composed numerous
poems for newspapers and magazines. His masterpiece,
however, was a history dedicated to his lifelong friend and
colleague, George D. Prentice, entitled The City of the Sea
(2 vols., New York, 1853). This work was declared by
the Knickerbocker to be"a carefully compiled, poetically-
written digest of the history of the glorious old Venice —
a passionate, thrilling, yet accurate and sympathetic account
of the last struggle for independence." At the time of his
death Flagg had in preparation a volume of reminiscences,
developed from a diary kept during forty years, but this has
never been published.1
I In hope of renovating the energies of a shattered constitution," we are told, Flagg started in the early part of
1 For a list of Flagg's prose and poetical writings, contributions to periodicals,
and editorial works, see " Annual Report of the Librarian of Bowdoin College for
the year ending June i, 1891," in Bowdoin College Library Bulletin (Brunswick,
Maine, 1895). 12
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
June, 1836, on a journey to what was then known as the
Far West. Taking a steamboat at Louisville, he went to
St. Louis by way of the Ohio and the Mississippi, and after
a brief delay ascended the latter to the mouth of the Illinois, and thence on to Peoria. Prevented by low water
from proceeding farther, he returned by the same route to
St. Louis, whence after three weeks' stay, spent either in the
sick chamber or in making short trips about the city and its
environs, the traveller crossed the Mississippi and struck out
on horseback across the Illinois prairies, visiting Edwardsville, Alton, Carlinsville, Hillsborough, Carlisle, Lebanon,
Belleville, and the American Bottoms. In July, after
recrossing the Mississippi, he visited in like manner St.
Charles, Missouri, by way of Beliefontaine and Florissant;
crossed the Mississippi near Portage des Sioux, and passed
through the Illinois towns of Grafton, Carrollton, Manchester, Jacksonville, Springfield, across Grand Prairie to
Shelbyville, Mount Vernon, Pinkneyville, and Chester, and
returned to St. Louis by way of the old French settlements
of Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, and Cahokia.
During this journey Flagg wrote for the Louisville Journal,
as already stated, a series of letters describing the country
through which he travelled. Hastily thrown together from
the pages of his note book, this correspondence appeared
anonymously under the title, " Sketches of a Traveller."
They were, however, soon attributed to Flagg, and two years
later were collected by the author and published in two
small volumes by Harper and Brothers (New York, 1838),
as The Far West. These volumes are in many respects
the best description of the Middle West that had appeared
up to the time they were written. Roughly following the
journals of Michaux, Harris, and Cuming by forty, thirty,
and twenty years respectively, Flagg skillfully shows the
remarkable growth and development of the Western coun-
wu«mt»«mBfflw«i«Hw 1836-1842]
try. His descriptions of the Ohio, Mississippi, and Illinois
rivers are still among the best in print, particularly from
the artistic standpoint. His account of the steamboat traffic is valuable for the history of navigation on the Western
rivers, and shows vividly the obstacles which still confronted
merchants of that time. Chapters xi, xii, and xiii, dealing
with St. Louis and its immediate vicinity, are the most detailed in our series, while the descriptions of St. Charles
and the Blinois towns through which Flagg passed, are excellent.
The modern reader cannot but wish that Flagg had
devoted less space to his youthful phfiosopliizing, but the
atmosphere is at least wholesome. Unlike Harris, whose
criticism of Western society was keen and acrid, Flagg was
a man of broad sympathies, possessing an insight into human
nature remarkable for so youthful a writer — for he was
but twenty years of age at the time of his travels, and twenty-
two when the book was published. Although mildly reproving the old French settlers for their lack of enterprise,
he fully appreciates their domestic virtues, and gives a faithful picture of these pleasure-loving, contented, unprogressive
people. His description of the once thriving villages of
Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, and Cahokia, are valuable
historically, as showing the decay settling upon the French
civilization after a few years of American occupation. Our
author's interview with the Mormon convert, his conversations with early French and American settlers, his accounts
of political meetings, his anecdotes illustrating Western curiosity, and particularly his carefully-recounted local traditions,
throw much light on the beliefs, manners, and customs of
the Western people of his time. The Far West is thus not
only a graphic and often forceful description of the interesting region through which the author travelled, but a sympathetic synopsis of its local annals, affording much varied
Ml 14
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
information not otherwise obtainable. The present reprint,
with annotations that seek to correct its errors, will, we
think, prove welcome in our series.
In the Letters and Sketches of Father de Smet, we reprint
another Western classic, related to the volumes of Flagg
by their common terminus of travel at St. Louis.
No more interesting or picturesque episode has occurred
in the history of Christian missions in the New World, than
the famous visit made in the autumn of 1831 to General
William Clark at St. Louis by the Flathead chiefs seeking
religious instruction for their people. Vigorously exploited
in the denominational papers of the East, this delegation
aroused a sentiment that led to the founding of Protestant
missions in Oregon and western Idaho, and incidentally to
the solution of the Oregon question. But in point of fact,
the Flathead deputation was sent to secure a Catholic missionary; and not merely one but four such embassies embarked for St. Louis before the great desideratum, a | black
robe I priest, could be secured for ministration to this far-
distant tribe. Employed in the Columbian fur-trade were
a number of Christian Iroquois from Canada, who had been
carefully trained at St. Regis and Caughnawaga in all the
observances of the Roman Catholic church. Upon the
Pacific waterways and in the fastnesses of the Rockies, these
Iroquois taught their fellow Indians the ordinances of the
church and the commands of the white man's Great Spirit.
John Wyeth (see our volume.xxi) testifies to the honesty
and humanity of the Flathead tribe: | they do not lie, steal,
nor rob any one, unless when driven too near to starvation."
He also testifies that they | appear to keep the Sabbath;"
and that their word is " as good as the Bible." These were
the neophytes who craved instruction, and to whom was
assigned that remarkable Jesuit missionary, Father Jean
Pierre de Smet.
»mtw«»««>m*«mm«m»HH«r' 1836-1842]
Born in Belgium in 1801, young De Smet was educated
in a religious school at Malines. When twenty years of
age he responded to an appeal to cross the Atlantic and
carry the gospel to the red men of the Western continent.
Arrived in Philadelphia (1821), the young Belgian was astonished to see a well-built town, travelled roads, cultivated
farms, and other appurtenances of civilization; he had expected only a wilderness and savages. Two years were
spent in the Jesuit novitiate in Maryland, before the zealous
youth saw any traces of frontier life. Then the youthful
novice was removed to Florissant, Missouri, not far from
St. Louis, where the making of a log-cabin and the breaking of fresh soil furnished a mild foretaste of his future
career. Still more years elapsed before the cherished project
of missionary labor could be realized. In 1829 St. Louis
University was founded, and herein the young priest, who
had been ordained in 1827, was employed upon the instructional force. Later years (1833-37) were spent in Europe,
while recruiting his health and securing supplies for
the infant university. It was not until 1838 that the first
missionary enterprise was undertaken by Father de Smet,
when a chapel for the Potawatomi was built on the site of
the modern Council Bluffs. There, in 1839, the fourth
Flathead deputation rested after the long journey from their
Rocky Mountain home; and at the earnest solicitation of the
young missioner, he was in the spring of 1840, detailed by
bis superior to ascertain and report upon the prospects of a
mission to the mountain Indians.
Of the two tribesmen who had come down to St. Louis,
Pierre the Left-handed (Gaucher) was sent back to bis
people with news of the success of the embassy, while his
colleague Ignace was detained to serve as guide to the
adventurous Jesuit who in April, 1840, set forth for the
Flathead country with the annual fur-trade caravan.   The
Sf Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
route traversed was the well-known Oregon Trail as far as
the Green River rendezvous; there the father was rejoiced
to meet a deputation of ten Flatheads, sent to escort him to
their habitat, and at Prairie de la Messe was celebrated for
them the first mass in the Western mountains. The trail led
them on through Jackson's and Pierre's Holes; and in the
latter valley the waiting tribesmen to the number of sixteen
hundred had collected, and received the % black robe " as
a messenger from Heaven. Chants and prayers were heard
on every side; "in a fortnight," reports the delighted missionary, " all knew their prayers." After two months spent
among his " dear Flatheads," wandering with them across
the divide, and encamping for some time at the Three Forks
of the Missouri — where nearly forty years before Lewis
and Clark first encountered the Western I ndians — De Smet
took leave of his neophytes. Protected by a strong guard
through the hostile Blackfeet country, he arrived at last at
the fur-trade post of Fort Union at the junction of the
Missouri and the Yellowstone. Descending thence to St.
Louis he arrived there on the last day of December,
The remainder of the winter was occupied in preparations
for a new journey, and in securing men and supplies for
the equipment of the far-away mission begun under such
favorable auspices. Once more the father departed from
Westport — this time in May, 1841. The little company
consisted, besides himself, of two other priests and three lay
brothers, all of the latter being skilled mechanics. Among
the members of the caravan were a number of California
pioneers, one of whom has thus related his impressions of
the young missionary: | He was genial, of fine presence,
and one of the saintliest men I have ever known, and I cannot wonder that the Indians were made to believe him
divinely protected.   He was a man of great kindness and
t-JwwtwwHimHHttmroimHmiasr «
great affability under all circumstances; nothing seemed to
disturb his temper."2
Father de Smet's letters describe in detail the scenery and
incidents of the route from the eastern border of Kansas
to Fort Hall, in Idaho, where the British factor received the
travellers with abounding hospitality. Here some of the
Flatheads were in waiting to convey the missionaries to the
tribe, the chiefs of which met them in Beaver Head Valley,
Montana, and testified their welcome with dignified simplicity. Passing over to the waters of the Columbia, they
founded the mission of St. Mary upon the first Sunday in
October, in the beautiful Bitter Root valley at the site of the
later Fort Owen. Thence Father de Smet made a rapid
journey in search of provisions to Fort Colville, on the upper
Columbia, but was again at his mission stockade before the
close of the year. In April a longer journey was projected,
as far as Fort Vancouver, on the lower Columbia, where Dr.
McLoughlin, the British factor, received the good priest with
that cordial greeting for which he was already famous.
During this journey the father narrowly escaped drowning in
the turbulent rapids of the Columbia, where five of his boatmen perished. Returned to St. Mary's, the prospects for
a harvest of souls both among the Flatheads and the neighboring tribes appeared so promising that the missionary
determined to seek re-enforcement and further aid in Europe.
Thereupon he left his companions in charge of the " new
Paraguay " of his hopes, and once more undertook the long
and adventurous journey to the settlements, this time by
way of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, arriving at
St. Louis the last of October, 1842. At this point the journeys detailed in the volume here reprinted come to an end.
The later career of Father de Smet and his subsequent
* John Bidwell, " First Emigrant Train to California," in Century Magazine,
new series, six, pp. 113, 114. i8
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
journeyings will be detailed in the preface to volumes xxviii
and xxix, in the latter of which will appear his Oregon
Father de Smet's writings on missionary subjects ended
only with his death, and were increasingly voluminous and
detailed. The Letters and Sketches were his first published work, with the exception of a portion of a compilation that appeared in 1841, on the Jesuit missions of
Missouri. We find therefore, in the present reprint, the
vitality and enthusiasm of the young traveller relating new
scenes, and the abounding joy of the successful missionary
uplifting a barbaric race. The book was written with the
avowed purpose of creating interest in his newly-organized
work, and securing contributions therefor. The freshness
of description, the wholesome simplicity of the narrative,
the frank presentation of wilderness life, charm the reader,
and make this book a classic of early Western exploration.
Cast in the form of letters, wherein there is more or less
repetition of statement, it is neverthelessievident that these
have been subjected to a certain editorial revision, and that
literary quality has been considered. Aside from the interest evoked by the personality of the writer, and the
events of his narrative, the work throws much fight upon
wilderness travel, the topography and scenery of the Rocky
Mountain region, and above all upon the habits and
customs, modes of thought, social standards, and religious
conceptions of the important tribes of the interior.
After the present series of reprints had been planned for,
and announced in a detailed prospectus, there was issued
from the press of Francis P. Harper of New York the important volumes edited by Major H. M. Chittenden and
Alfred Talbot Richardson, entitled Life, Letters, and Travels
of Father Pierre Jean de Smet, S. J., 1801-73. This publication contains much new material, derived from manu-
mtmmffiitttmwmHiHHimmtmmmtiwmnar 1836-1842]
script sources, which has been interwoven in chronological
order with the missionary's several books; and to it all have
been added an adequate biography and bibliography of
De Smet. This scholarly work has been of great service
to us in preparing for accurate reprint the original editions
of the only two of Father de Smet's publications that fall
within the chronological field of our series.
In the preparation for the press of Flagg's The Far West,
the Editor has had the assistance of Clarence Cory Crawford, A. M.; in editing Father de Smet's Letters and Sketches,
his assistant has been Louise Phelps Kellogg, Ph.D.
R. G. m
Madison, Wis., April, 1906. WBm^WWtttffiffltWWHHHroJWfflBttmwHI Part I of Flagg's The Far West, 1836-1837
Reprint of Volume I, and chapters xxiii-xxxii of Volume II, of
original edition:   New York, 1838
m ïï
(ttm«aa«*fiwBHt"imHHinmi»H»*iii!ar THE   FAR   WEST
outlines op westers life and scenery ; sketches of
the  prairies, biters, ancient mounds, early
settlements 01* the french, etc., etc.
« IT thon be a severe, wor-eomplexioned man, tben I here disallow thee to
Tie a competent 'ndfe."—Izua Walton.
" I pity the man who can travel from San to Beerabeba, aad cry, "Tie all
barren.' "—Stïrhs.
"Chacun a eon stile ; le mien, comme tous voyez, n'es» pas laconique."—
Me. se SsviGHjt.
m PB
[Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1838, by
Harper & Brothers,
in the Clerk's Office of the Southern District of New-York.]
BttRttttffiffflHMWMroiUmfflBIHttH'IIHS-sr  rr
iinmiHiirmimniMiminimni To  One—
" He that writes
Or makes a feast, more certainly invites
His judges than his friends; there's not a guest
But will find something wanting or ill dress'd."
In laying before the majesty of the publie a couple of
volumes like the present, it has become customary for the
author to disclaim in his preface all original design of perpetrating a book, as if there were even more than the admitted quantum of sinfulness in the act. Whether or not such
disavowals now-a-day receive all the credence they merit,
is not for the writer to say; and whether, were the prefatory
asseveration, as in the present case, diametrically opposed
to what it often is, the reception would be different, is even
more difficult to predict. The articles imbodied in the following volumes were, a portion of them, in their original,
hasty production, designed for the press; yet the author
unites in the disavowal of his predecessors of all intention
at that time of perpetrating a book.
In the early summer of '36, when about starting upon a
ramble over the prairies of the " Far West," in hope of renovating the energies of a shattered constitution, a request was
made of the writer, by the distinguished editor of the Louisville Journal, to contribute [vi] to the columns of that
periodical whatever, in the course of his pilgrimage, might be
deemed of sufficient interest.1   A series of articles soon after
1 George D. Prentice (1802-70), founder of the Louisville Journal, was graduated from Brown University in 1823. Two years later he became editor of the
Connecticut Mirror and in 1828-30 had charge of the New England Weekly Review.
In the spring of 1830, at the earnest solicitation of several influential Connecticut
Whigs, he went West to gather data for a life of Henry Clay. Once in Kentucky
he threw all the force of his political genius in support of Clay's policy.    On No-
%\ 3°
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
made their appearance in that paper under the title,il Sketches
of a Traveller." They were, as their name purports, mere
sketches from a traveller's portfeuille, hastily thrown upon
paper whenever time, place, or opportunity rendered convenient; in the steamboat saloon, the inn bar-room, the log-
cabin of the wilderness, or upon the venerable mound of
the Western prairie. With such favour were these hasty
productions received, and so extensively were they circulated, that the writer, on returning from his pilgrimage to
I the shrine of health," was induced, by the solicitations of
partial friends, to enter at his leisure upon the preparation
for the press of a mass of MSS. of a similar character, written
at the time, which had never been published; a thorough
revision and enlargement of that which had appeared, united
with this, it was thought, would furnish a passable volume
or two upon the " Far West." Two years of residence in
the West have since passed away; and the arrangement for
the press of the fugitive sheets of a wanderer's sketch-book
would not yet, perhaps, have been deemed of sufficient importance to warrant the necessary labour, had he not been
daily reminded that his productions, whatever their merit,
were already public property so far as could be the case,
and at the mercy of every one who thought proper to assume
paternity. | Forbearance ceased to! be longer a virtue,'' and
the result is now before the [vii] reader. But, while alluding
to that aid which his labours may have rendered to others,
vember 24,1830, he issued the first number of the Louisville Journal, which through
his able management was soon recognized as the chief Whig organ in the West.
Wholly devoted to Clay's cause, its own reputation [rose and declined with that
of its champion. The Journal maintained an existence till 1868, when Henry
Watterson consolidated it with the Courier, under the title of Courier-Journal.
Prentice is reputed to have been the originator of the short, pointed paragraph in
journalism. His Life oj Henry Clay (Hartford, 1831) is well known. In 1859
he published a collection of poems under the name Prenticeana (New York).
It was reprinted in 1870 with a biography of the author by G. W. Griffin
(Philadelphia).— Ed.
miiiiimmmanmiiimiH 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
the author would not fail fully to acknowledge his own indebtedness to those distinguished writers upon the West who
have preceded him. To Peck, Hall, Flint, Wetmore, and
to others, his acknowledgments are due and are respectfully
In extenuation of the circumstance that some portions
2 John M. Peck, a Baptist minister, went as a missionary to St. Louis in 1817.
After nine years of preaching in Missouri and Illinois, he founded (1826) the Rocky
Spring Seminary for training teachers and ministers. It is said that he travelled
more than six thousand miles collecting money for endowing this school. In 1828
Peck began publishing the Western Pioneer, the first official organ of the Baptist
church in the West, and served as the corresponding secretary and financial agent of
the American Baptist Publication Society from 1843 to 1845. He died at Rocky
Springs, Illinois, in 1858. Peck made important contributions to the publications of
the early historical societies in the Northwest. His chief independent works are:
A Guide for Emigrants (Boston, 1831), republished as A New Guide for Emigrants
(Boston, 1836); Gazetteer oj Illinois (Jacksonville, 1834 and 1837); Father Clark or
the Pioneer Preacher (New York, 1855); and " Life of Daniel Boone," in Jared
Sparks, American Biography.
Judge James Hall was born in Philadelphia (1793), and died near Cincinnati
in 1868. He was a member of the Washington Guards during the War of i8i2'i5,
was promoted to the 2nd United States artillery, and accompanied Decatur on his
expedition to Algiers (1815). Resigning in 1818, he practiced law at Shawneetown,
Illinois (1820-27), and filled the office of public prosecutor and judge of the circuit
court. He moved to Vandalia (1827) and began editing the Illinois Intelligencer
and the Illinois Monthly Magazine. From 1836 to 1853 he was president of the
commercial bank at Cincinnati, and acted as state treasurer. He published: Letters from the West (London, 1828); Legends of the West (1832); Memoirs of the
Public Services of General William Henry Harrison (Philadelphia, 1836) ; Sketches
of History, Life and Manners oj the West (Philadelphia, 1835); Statistics of the
West at the Close oj 1836 (Cincinnati, 1836); Notes on the Western States (Philadelphia, 1838) ; History and Biography of the Indians oj North America (3 volumes,
1838-44); The West, its Soil, Surface, etc. (Cincinnati, 1848); The West, its Commerce and Navigation (Cincinnati, 1848); besides a few historical novels. For a
contemporary estimate of the value of Hall's writings see American Monthly Magazine (New York, 1835), v, pp. 9-15.
For Timothy Flint, see Pattie's Narrative, in our volume xviii, p. 25, note 1.
Major Alphonso Wetmore (1793-1849) was of much less importance as a writer
on Western history than those above mentioned. He entered the 23rd infantry
in 1812, and subsequently was transferred to the 6th. He served as paymaster
for his regiment from 1815 to 1821, and was promoted to a captaincy (1819). In
1816 he moved with his family to Franklinton, Missouri, and later practiced law
in St. Louis. His chief contribution to Western travel is a Gazetteer of Missouri
(St. Louis, 1837).— Ed. 32
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
of these volumes have already appeared, though in a crude
state, before the public, the author has but to suggest that
many works, with which the present will not presume to
compare, have made their debut on the unimposing pages of
a periodical. Not to dwell upon the writings of Addison
and Johnson, and other classics of British literature, several
of Bulwer's most polished productions, the elaborate Essays
of Elia, Wirt's British Spy, Hazlitt's Philosophical Reviews,
Coleridge's Friend, most of the novels of Captain Marryatt
and Theodore Hook, and many of the most elegant works
of the day, have been prepared for the pages of a magazine.
And now, with no slight misgiving, does the author commit his firstborn bantling to the tender mercies of an impartial public. Criticism he does not deprecate, still less
does he brave it; and farther than either is he from soliciting
undue favour. Yet to the reader, as he grasps him by the
hand in parting, would he commit his book, with the quaint
injunction of a distinguished but eccentric old English writer
upon an occasion somewhat similar:
" I exhort all people, gentle and simple, men, [viii] women,
and children, to buy, to read, to extol these labours of mine.
Let them not fear to defend every article; for I will bear
them harmless. I have arguments good store, and can easily
confute, either logically, theologically, or metaphysically, all
those who oppose me."
E. F.
New-York, Oct., 1838.
BWtttiwwmi'iHBWiummtttBar CONTENTS
The Western Steamboat-landing — Western Punctuality — An
Accident — Human Suffering — Desolation of Bereavement —
A Contrast — Sublimity — An Ohio Freshet — View of Louisville — Early History — The Ohio Falls — Corn Island — The
Last Conflict        ...... ...
The Early Morn—"Sleep no more!"—The Ohio— "La Belle
Riviere! " — Ohio Islands — A Cluster at Sunset — " Ohio
Hills "— The Emigrant's Clearing — Moonlight on the Ohio —
A Sunset-scene — The Peaceful Ohio — The Gigantic Forest-
trees —The Bottom-lands — Obstructions to Navigation —
Classification — Removal — Dimensions of Snags — Peculiar
difficulties on the Ohio — Leaning Trees — Stone Dams —
A Full Survey — The Result	
An Arrest — Drift-wood — Ohio Scenery — Primitive River-
craft — Early Scenes on the Western Waters — The Boatmen
— Life and Character — Annus Mirabilis — The Steam-engine in the West — The Freshet — The Comet — The Earthquakes— The first Steamboat — The Pinelore — The Steam-
engine — Prophecy of Darwin — Results — Sublimity — Villages — A new Geology — Rivers — Islands — Forests — The
Wabash and its Banks — New Harmony — Site — Settlement
— Edifices — Gardens — Owen and the " Social System "—
Theory and Practice — Mental Independence — Dissension — Abandonment — Shawneetown — Early    History
— Settlement — Advancement — Site — United States' Salines
— Ancient Pottery ........
Geology of the Mississippi Valley — Ohio Cliffs — The Iron
Coffin — " Battery Rock "—" Rock-Inn-Cave " — Origin of
Name — [x] A Visit — Outlines and Dimensions — The Indian
Manito — Island opposite — The Freebooters —" The Outlaw "— The Counterfeiters — Their Fate — Ford and his
Gang —Retributive Justice —" Tower Rock"—The Tradition — The Cave of Hieroglyphics — Islands — Golconda —
The Cumberland — Aaron Burr's Island — Paducah — Name
59 r*f-'
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
— Ruins of Fort Massac — The Legend — Wilkinsonville —
The " Grand Chain "— Caledonia — A Storm — Sunset —
I The Meeting of the Waters " — Characteristics of the
Rivers —" Willow Point "— The place of Meeting — Disappointment— A Utopian   City — America
Darkness Visible — The " Father of Waters "— The Power of
Steam —The Current —" English Island"—The Sabbath
— A Blessed Appointment — Its Quietude — The New-England Emigrant — His Privations — Sorrows — Loneliness —
"The Light of Home"—Cape Girardeau—Site — Settlement— Effects of the Earthquakes — A severer Shock —
Staples of Trade — The Spiral Water-wheels — Their Utility —" Tyowapity Bottom "— Potter's Clay — A Manufactory — Rivière au Vase — Salines — Coal-beds —" Fountain
Bluff "— The " Grand Tower "— Parapet of Limestone —
Ancient Cataract — The Cliffs — Divinity of the Boatmen —
The " Devil's Oven "— The " Tea-table "— Volcanic and
Diluvial Action — The Torrent overcome — A Race —
Breathless Interest — The Engineer — The Fireman — Last
of the " Horse and Alligator " species — " Charon "— A
Triumph — A Defeat     ...        .....
Navigation of the Mississippi — The First Appropriation — Improvements of Capt. Shreve — Mississippi and Ohio Scenery
contrasted — Alluvial Deposites — Ste. Genevieve — Origin —
Site — The Haunted Ruin — The old "Common Field"—
Inundation of '85 — Minerals — Quarries — Sand-caves —
Fountains — Salines — Indians — Ancient Remains — View
of Ste. Genevieve — Landing — Outrage of a Steamer —
Indignation — The Remedy — A Snag and a Scene — An
Interview with " Charon "— Fort Chartres      ....
[xi] VH
The Hills! the Hills! — Trosachs of Loch Katrine — Alluvial
Action — Bluffs of Selma and Herculaneum — Shot-towers —
Natural Curiosities — The " Cornice Cliffs "— The Merri-
mac — Its Riches — Ancient Lilliputian Graves — Mammoth Remains — Jefferson Barracks — Carondelet — Cahokia
— U. S. Arsenal — St. Louis in the Distance — Fine View
— Uproar of the Landing — The Eternal River — Character
— Features —Sublimity— Statistics— The Lower Mississippi — I Bends " — " Cut-offs " — Land-slips — The Pioneer Cabin       ..........    102 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
i Once more upon the Waters!"—" Uncle Sam's Tooth-pullers "— Mode of eradicating a Snag — River Suburbs of North
St. Louis — Spanish Fortifications — The Waterworks — The
Ancient Mounds — Country Seats— The Confluence —
Charlevoix's Description — A Variance — A View — The
Upper Mississippi — Alton in distant View — The Penitentiary
and Churches — " Pomp and Circumstance " — The City of
Alton — Advantages — Objections — Improvements — Prospects — Liberality — Railroads — Alton Bluffs — " Departing Day"— The Piasa Cliffs — Moonlight Scene      .        .        .    113
The Coleur dç Rose — The Piasa — The Indian Legend —
Caverns — Human Remains — The Illinois — Characteristic
Features — The Canal — The Banks and Bottoms — Poisonous Exhalations — Scenes on the Illinois — The " Military
Bounty Tract "— Cape au Gris — Old French Village —
River Villages — Pekin — " An Unco Sight " — Genius of
the Bacchanal — A " Monkey Show " — Nomenclature of
Towns — The Indian Names       ..... .    122
An Emigrant Farmer — An Enthusiast — Peoria — The Old
Village and the New — Early History — Exile of the French
— Fort Clarke '— Indian Hostilities — The Modern Village —
Site — Advantages — Prospects — Lake Pinatahwee — Fish —
The Bluffs and Prairie — A Military Spectacle — The " Helen
Mar"—Horrors of Steam! — A Bivouac — The Dragoon
Corps — Military [xii] Courtesy — "Starved Rock "— The
Legend—Remains — Shells — Intrenchments — Music—The
Moonlight Serenade — A Reminiscence       ....
Delay —" A Horse ! "— Early French Immigration in the West —
The Villages of the Wilderness — St. Louis — Venerable Aspect — Site of the City — A French Village City — South St.
Louis — The Old Chateaux — The Founding of the City —
The Footprints in the Rock — The First House — Name of
City — Decease of the Founders —Early Annals—Administration of St. Ange—The Common Field—Cession and Recession —" VAnnée du Grand Coup "—" L'Année des Grandes
Eaux "— Keel-boat Commerce — The Robbers Culbert and
Magilbray —" L'Année des Bateaux "— The First Steamboat
at St. Louis — Wonder of the Indians — Opposition to Improvement — Plan of St. Louis — A View — Spanish Fortifications
— The Ancient Mounds — Position — Number — Magnitude
132 36 Early Western Travels [Vol. 26
— Outlines — Arrangement — Character — Neglect — Moral
Interest — Origin — The Argument of Analogy       .       .       .142
View from the " Big Mound "   at  St. Louis — The Sand-bar
— The Remedy — The " Floating Dry-dock "— The Western Suburbs — Country Seats — Game — Lakes — Public
Edifices — Catholic Religion —" Cathedral of St. Luke "—
Site — Dimensions — Peal of Bells — Porch — The  Interior
— Columns — Window Transparencies — The Effect — The
Sanctuary — Galleries — Altar-piece — Altar and Tabernacle
— Chapels — Paintings — Lower Chapel — St. Louis University — Medical School — The Chapel — Paintings — Library — Ponderous Volumes — Philosophical Apparatus —
The Pupils 160
An Excursion of Pleasure — A fine Afternoon — Our Party —
The Bridal Pair — South St. Louis — Advantages for Manufactures — Quarries — Farmhouses — The " Eagle Powder-
works "— Explosion — The Bride — A Steeple-chase — A
Descent —The Arsenal — Grounds — Structures—Esplanade
— Ordnance — Warlike Aspect — Carondelet — Sleepy-Hollow — River-reach [xiii] —Time Departed— Inhabitants —
Structures — Gardens — Orchards — Cabarets — The Catholic Church—Altar-piece — Paintings — Missal — Crucifix —
Evergreens — Deaf and Dumb Asylum — Distrust of Villagers — Jefferson Barracks — Site — Extent — Buildings —
View from the Terrace — The Burial Grounds — The
Cholera — Design of the Barracks — Corps de Reserve — A
remarkable Cavern — Our Guide — Situation of Cave — Entrance — Exploration — Grotesque Shapes — A Foot — Boat
— Coffin in Stone — The Bats — Rivière des Pères — An
Ancient Cemetery — Antiquities — The Jesuit Settlers —
Sulphur Spring — A Cavern — A Ruin .....    170
City and   Country   at Midsummer — Cosmorama of St. Louis
— The American Bottom — Cahokia Creek — A Pecan Grove
— The Ancient Mounds — First Group — Number — Resemblance — Magnitude — Outline — Railroad   to the Bluffs
— Pittsburg — The Prairie — Landscape — The " Cantine
Mounds §—i Monk Hill "— First Impressions — Origin —
The Argument — Workmanship of Man — Reflections suggested— Our Memory — The Craving of the Heart — The
Pyramid-builders — The Mound-builders — A hopeless Aspiration —" Keep the Soul embalmed "     .       .        .       .        .    180
.mmfiw*--tw*-»t---^^ 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
The Antiquity of Monk Mound — Primitive Magnitude —
Fortifications of the Revolution — The Ancient Population — Two Cities — Design of the Mounds — The " Cantine
Mounds " — Number — Size — Position — Outline — Features  of   Monk  Mound — View from the Summit — Prairie
— Lakes — Groves — Bluffs — Cantine Creek — St. Louis in
distance — Neighbouring Earth-heaps — The Well — Interior
of the Mound — The Monastery of La Trappe — Abbé Armand   Ranee — The Vows — A Quotation — Reign of Terror
— Immigration of the Trappists — Their Buildings — Their
Discipline — Diet — Health — Skill — Asylum Seminary —
Worldly Charity — Palliation — A strange Spectacle
[xiv] XVI
Edwardsville — Site and Buildings — Land Mania — A " Down-
east " Incident — Human Nature — The first Land Speculator — Castor-oil Manufacture — Outlines of Edwardsville —
Collinsville — Route to Alton— Sultriness — The Alton Bluffs
— A Panorama — Earth-heaps — Indian Graves — Upper Alton — Shurtliff College — Baptized Intelligence — Knowledge
not Conservative — Greece — Rome — France — England —
The Remedy     197
The Traveller's Whereabout — The Prairie in a Mist — Sense of
Loneliness — The Backwoods Farmhouse — Structure — Outline — Western Roads — A New-England Emigrant — The
" Barrens "— Origin of Name — Soil — The " Sink-holes "—
The Springs — Similar in Missouri and Florida —" Fount
of Rejuvenescence "— Ponce de Leon —" Sappho's   Fount "
— The Prairies — First View — The Grass — Flowers —
Island-groves — A Contrast — Prairie-farms — A Buck and
Doe — A Kentucky Pioneer — Events of Fifty Years — The
" Order Tramontane "— Expedition of Gov. Spotswood —
The Change — A Thunderstorm on the Prairies —" A Sharer
in the Tempest "—Discretionary Valour       ....   207
Morning after the Storm — The Landscape — The sprinkled
Groves — Nature in unison with the Heart — The Impress of
Design — Contemplation of grand Objects elevates — Nature
and the Savage — Nature and Nature's God — Earth praises
God — Indifference and Ingratitude of Man —" All is very
Good "— Influence of Scenery upon Character — The Swiss
Mountaineer — Bold Scenery most Impressive — Freedom
among the Alps — Caucasus — Himmalaya — Something   to 38
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
Love — Carlinville —| Grand Menagerie "— A Scene — The
Soil — The Inn — Macoupin Creek — Origin of Nam e— A
Vegetable — An Indian Luxury —• Carlinville — Its Advantages
and Prospects — A " Fourth-of-July " Oration — The thronging Multitudes — The huge Cart — A Thunder-storm — A
Log-cabin — Women and Children — Outlines of the Cabin
— The Roof and Floor — The Furniture and Dinner-pot —
A Choice of Evils — The Pathless Prairie       .        .        .        .219
[xv] XIX
Ponce de Leon — The Fount of Youth — The " Land of Flowers "— Ferdinand de Soto —" El Padre de los Aguas "—
The Canadian Voyageurs —" La Belle Rivière "— Sieur La
Salle — I A Terrestrial Paradise "— Daniel Boone —" Old
Kentucke "—" The Pilgrim from the North "— Sabbath
Morning — The   Landscape — The Grass and Prairie-flower
— Nature at Rest — Sabbath on the Prairie — Alluvial Aspect
of the Prairies — The Soil — Lakes — Fish — The Annual
Fires — Origin — A Mode of Hunting — Captain Smith —
Mungo Park — Hillsborough — Major-domo of the Hostelrie
— His Garb and Proportions — The Presbyterian Church —
Picturesqueness — The " Luteran Church "— Practical Utility
— The Dark Minister — A Mistake — The Patriotic Dutchman —A Veritable Publican — Prospects of Hillsborough — A
Theological Seminary — Route to Vandalia— The Political
Sabbath         .        .    230
The Race of Vagabonds —" Yankee Enterprise "— The Virginia
Emigrant — The Western Creeks and Bridges — An Adventure
in Botany — Unnatural Rebellion — Christian Retaliation —
Vandalia —" First Impressions "— The   Patriotic   Bacchanal
— The   High-priest — A Distinction Unmerited — The Cause
— Vandalia — Situation — Public Edifices — Square — Church
—Bank—Land-office—"Illinois Magazine"—Tardy Growth
— Removal of Government — Adventures of the First Legislators— The Northern Frontier — Magic of Sixteen Years —
Route to Carlisle — A Buck and Doe — An old Hunter —
" Hurricane Bottom "— Night on the Prairies — The Emigrant's Bivouac — The Prairie-grass — Carlisle — Site — Advantages — Growth —i Mound Farm " 238
The Love of Nature — Its Delights — The Wanderer's Reflections — The Magic Hour — A Sunset on the Prairies — " The
Sunny Italy " — The Prairie Sunset — Route to Lebanon —
Silver Creek — Origin of Name — The "Looking-glass Prairie"
— The Methodist Village — Farms — Country Seats — Maize-
rfmffyrofflirminuiriww 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
fields — Herds — M'Kendreean College — " The Seminary! "
— Route to Belleville — The Force of Circumstance — A
Contrast — Public [xvi] Buildings — A lingering Look —
Route to St. Louis —The French Village —The Coal
Bluffs — Discovery of Coal — St. Clair County — Home of
Clouds — Realm of Thunder — San Louis       ....    248
Single Blessedness — Text and Comment — En Route — North
St. Louis — A Delightful Drive — A Delightful Farm-cottage
— The Catholic University — A Stately Villa —Belle Fontaine— A Town plat — A View of the Confluence — The
Human Tooth — The Hamlet of Florissant — Former Name
— Site — Buildings — Church — Seminary — Tonish—Owen's
Station—Scenery upon the Route—La Charbonnière — The
Missouri   Bottom B| The   Forest-Colonnade—The Missouri
— Its Sublimity — Indian Names —Its Turbid Character —
Cause — An Inexplicable Phenomenon — Theories — Navigation Dangerous — Floods of the Missouri — Alluvions —
Sources of the Missouri and Columbia — Their Destinies —
Human Life — The Ocean of Eternity — Gates of the Rocky
Mountains — Sublimity — A   Cataract — The Main Stream
— Claims stated       .......
[iii]  XXIII
View of St. Charles and the Missouri — The Bluffs —" A stern
round Tower"—Its Origin — The Windmill — A sunset
Stroll — Rural Sights and Sounds — The River and Forest —
The Duellist's Grave — The Hour   and   Scene — Requiescat
— Reflections — Duelling — A sad Event — Young B . —
His Request — His Monument — " Blood Island " — Its
Scenes and Annals — A visit to "Les Mamelles "—The Forest-path — Its Obscurity — Oudines of the Bluffs — Derivation
of Name — Position — Resemblance — The  Missouri  Bluffs
— View    from   The    Mamelle — The   Missouri   Bottom
— The Mamelle Prairie — The distant Cliffs and Confluences — Extent of Plain — Alluvial Origin — Lakes — Bed of
the Rivers — An ancient Deposite	
St. Charles — Its Origin — Peculiarities — Early Name —
Spanish Rule — Heterogeneous Population — Germans — The
Wizard Spell — American Enterprise — Site  of the Village
— Prospects — The Baltimore Settlement — Catholic Religion
and Institutions — "St. Charles College"—The Race of
Hunters — A Specimen — The Buffalo — Indian Atrocities —
The " Rangers "—Daniel Boone—"Too Crowded!"—"The
"Regulators"—Boone's Lick — His Decease — His Memory— The   Missouri   Indians — The   Stoccade Fort — Ad-
268 «r»
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
venture of a Naturalist — Route from St. Charles — A Prairie
without a Path — Enormous Vegetation — The Cliffs — The
Column of Smoke — Perplexity — A delightful Scene — A
rare Flower — The Prairie Flora in Spring — In Summer — In
Autumn — The Traveller loiters .        .        .        . .276
[iv] XXV
Novel Feature of the Mamelle Prairie — A Footpath — An old
French Village — Bewilderment — Mystery — A Guide —
Portage des Sioux — Secluded Site — Advantages —" Common
Field "— Garden-plats — A brick Edifice — A courteous Welcome — An amiable Personage— History of the Village —
Origin — Earthquakes — Name — An Indian Legend — Tea-
table Talk — Patois of the French Villages — An Incident ! —
A Scene ! — A civil Hint — A Night of Beauty — The Flush of
Dawn — The weltering Prairie — The Forest — The river
Scene — The Ferry-horn — Delay — Locale of Grafton —
Advantages and Prospects 288
Cave in the Grafton Cliffs — Outlines — Human Remains —
Desecration of the Coopers — View from the Cave's Mouth —
The Bluffs — Inclined Planes — The Railroad — A Stone-
heap— A beautiful Custom — Veneration for the Dead —
The Widow of Florida — The Canadian Mother — The Orientals — An extensive View — The River — The Prairie —
The Emigrant Farm — The Illinois — A tortuous Route —
Macoupin Settlement — Carrolton — Outlines of a Western
Village —Religious Diversity— An agricultural Village —
Whitehall — The Emigrant Family en route — A Western Village — Its rapid Growth — Fit Parallels — Manchester —
The Scarcity of Timber not   an   insurmountable   Obstacle
— Substitutes — Morgan County — Prospects — Soil of the
Prairies — Adaptation to coarse Grains — Rapid Population
— New-England Immigrants — The Changes of a few Years
— Environs of Jacksonville — Buildings of " Illinois College "
— The Public Square  295
Remark of Horace Walpole — A Word from the Author — Jacksonville — Its rapid Advancement — Its Site — Suburbs —
Public Square — Radiating Streets — The Congregational
Church — The Pulpit — A pleasant Incident — The " New-
England of the West "— Immigrant Colonies — " Illinois College "— The  Site — Buildings —" Manual Labour System "
— The Founders — Their Success — Their Fame— Jacksonville — Attractions for the Northern Emigrant — New England    Character — A   faithful   [v]   Transcript —" The   Pil- 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
grim Fathers "— The " Stump "— Mr. W. and his Speech
— Curious Surmisings — Internal Improvements — Route
to Springfield — A " Baptist   Circuit-rider " — An Evening
The Nature of Man — Facilities for its Study — A Pilgrimage of
Observation — Dissection of Character, Physical and Moral —
The young Student — The brighter Features of Humanity —
An unwitting Episode — Our World a Ruin — Sunrise on the
Prairies — Springfield — Its Location — Advantages — Structures — Society — Prospects — The Sangamon River — Its
Navigation — Bottom-lands—Aged Forests — Cathedral Pomp
— A splendid Phenomenon — Civic Honours —" Sic itur ad
astra! "— A Morning Ride —" Demands of Appetite "—" Old
Jim "— A tipsy Host — A revolting Exhibition — Jacob's
Cattle and the Prairie-wolves — An Illinois Table — The
Staples — A Tea Story — Poultry and Bacon — Chicken
Fixens and Common Doins—An Object of Commiseration    .    315
The Burial-ground — A holy Spot—Our culpable Indifference— Cemeteries in our Land—A sad Reflection — The
last Petition — Reverence for the Departed — Civilized and
Savage Nations — The last Resting-place —Worthy of
Thought — A touching Expression of the Heart— Franklin
— The Object of Admiration and Love — The Burial-ground
of Decatur — The dying Emigrant — The Spirit's Sympathy
— A soothing Reflection to Friends — The " Grand Prairie "
— The "Lost Rocks"—Decatur — Site and Prospects —
A sunset Scene — The Prairie by Moonlight — The Log-
cabin — The Exotic of the Prairie — The Heart — The
Thank-offering — The Pre-emption Right — The Mormon-
ites — Their Customs — Millennial Anticipations — The Angelic Visitant — The dénouement — The Miracle! — The System of "New Light"—Its Rise and Fall — Aberrations of
the Mind — A melancholy Reflection — Absurdity of Mor-
A wild Night — An Blusion — Sleeplessness — Loneliness — A
Storm-wind on the Prairies — A magnificent Scene — Beauty
of [vi] the lesser Prairies — Nature's chef d'œuvre — Loveliness lost in   Grandeur—Waves of   the   Prairie—Ravines
— Light and Shade—"Alone, alone, all, all alone!"—
Origin of the Prairie — Argument for Natural Origin —
Similar Plains — Derivation of " Prairie"— Absence of Trees
325 42
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
accounted for — The Diluvial Origin — Prairie Phenomena
explained — The Autumnal Fires — An Exception — The
Prairie sui generis — No Identity with other Plains — A Bed
of the Ocean — A new Hypothesis — Extent of Prairie-
surface — Characteristic Carelessness — Hunger and Thirst —
A tedious Jaunt — Horrible Suggestions ! — Land ho ! —
A Log-cabin — Hog and Honey .....
Cis-atlantic Character — Avarice — Curiosity — A grand Propel-
lant — A Concomitant and Element of Mental Vigour—An
Anglo-American Characteristic — Inspection and Supervision
—"Uncle Bill"—The Quintessence of Inquisitiveness — A
Fault "on Virtue's Side"—The People of Illinois — A Hunting Ramble—A Shot — Tempis fugit — Shelbyville — Dame
Justice in Terrorem — A Sulphur Spring — The Inn Register — Chill Atmosphere of the Forest — Contrast on the
Prairie — The " Green-head " Prairie-fly — Effect upon a
Horse — Numerous in '35 — The " Horse- guard "— The
Modus Bellandi—Cold Spring — A presuming Host—Musty
Politics — The Robin Redbreast — Ornithology of the West
— The Turtle-dove — Pathos of her Note — Paley's Remark — Eloquence of the Forest-bird — A Mormonite,
Zionw&rd — A forensic Confabulation — Mormonism Developed — The     seduced     Pedagogue — Mount Zion Stock
— The Grand Tabernacle — Smith and Rigdom — The Bank
— The Temple — The School — Appearance of Smith —
Of Rigdom — Their Disciples — The National Road — Its
Progress — Structure — Terminus — Its enormous Character
— A Contrast —" Shooting a Beeve "— The Regulations —
Salem — A New-England Seaport — The Location — The
Village Singing-school — The Major     .....
Rest after Exertion — A Purpose —" Mine Ease in mine Inn"
— The " Thread of Discourse "— A Thunder-gust — Its Approach and Departure — A Bolt — A rifted Ëlm — An impressive [vii] Scene — Gray's Bard — Mount Vernon —
Courthouse — Site — Medicinal  Water — A misty Morning
— A blind Route —" Muddy Prairie "— Wild Turkeys —
Something Diabolical ! — The direct Route — A vexatious
Incident — The unerring Guide — A Tug for a Fixen —
An evening Ride — Pinkneyville — Outlines   and Requisites
— The blood-red Jail — The Traveller's Inn — " 'Tis true,
and Pity 'tis "— A " Soul in Purgatory " — An unutterable
111 — Incomparable —An Unpitied and  unenviable Situation
— A laughable Bewilderment — Host and Hostess — The
Mischief of a Smile — A Retaliation .....
" I do remember me, that, in my youth,
When I was wandering — "
It was a bright morning in the early days of " leafy June."
Many a month had seen me a wanderer from distant New-
England; and now I found myself " once more upon the
waters," embarked for a pilgrimage over the broad prairie-
plains of the sunset West. A drizzly, miserable rain had
for some days been hovering, with proverbial pertinacity,
over the devoted " City of the Falls," and still, at intervals,
came lazily pattering down from the sunlighted clouds, reminding one of a hoiden girl smiling through a shower of
April tear-drops, while the quay continued to exhibit all that
wild uproar and tumult, " confusion worse confounded,"
which characterizes the steamboat commerce of the Western
Valley. The landing at the time was thronged with steamers,
and yet the incessant " boom, boom, boom," of the high-pressure engines, the shrill hiss of scalding steam, and the fitful
port-song of the negro firemen rising ever and anon upon the
breeze, gave notice of a constant [14] augmentation to the
number. Some, too, were getting under way, and their lower
guards were thronged by emigrants with their household
and agricultural utensils. Drays were rattling hither and
thither over the rough pavement; Irish porters were cracking their whips and roaring forth alternate staves of blasphemy and song; clerks hurrying to and fro, with fluttering
note-books, in all the fancied dignity of | brief authority;" I
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
hackney-coaches dashing down to the water's edge, apparently with no motive to the nervous man but noise; while
at intervals, as if to fill up the pauses of the Babel, some
incontinent steamer would hurl forth from the valves of her
overcharged boilers one of those deafening, terrible blasts,
echoing and re-echoing along the river-banks, and streets, and
among the lofty buildings, till the very welkin rang again.
To one who has never visited the public wharves of the
great cities of the West, it is no trivial task to convey an
adequate idea of the spectacle they present. The commerce
of the Eastern seaports and that of the Western Valley are
utterly dissimilar; not more in the staples of intercourse
than in the mode in which it is conducted; and, were one
desirous of exhibiting to a friend from the Atlantic shore a
picture of the prominent features which characterize commercial proceedings upon the Western waters, or, indeed,
of Western character in its general outline, at a coup d'œM,
he could do no better than to place him in the wild uproar
of the steamboat quay. Amid the "crowd, the hum, [15]
the shock " of such a scene stands out Western peculiarity
in all its stern proportion.
Steamers on the great waters of the West are well known
to indulge no violently conscientious scruples upon the subject of punctuality, and a solitary exception at our behest,
or in our humble behalf, was, to be sure, not an event to be
counted on. | There's dignity in being waited for; " hour
after hour, therefore, still found us and left us amid the
untold scenes and sounds of the public landing. It is true,
and to the unending honour of all concerned be it recorded,
very true it is our doughty steamer ever and anon would
puff and blow like a porpoise or a narwhal; and then would
she swelter from every pore and quiver in every limb with
the ponderous labouring of her huge enginery, and the
steam would shrilly whistle and shriek like a spirit in its
Rfmn-fwnmn 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
confinement, till at length she united her whirlwind voice
to the general roar around; and all this indicated, indubitably, an intention to be off and away; but a knowing
one was he who could determine the when.
Among the causes of our wearisome detention was one of
a nature too melancholy, too painfully interesting lightly to
be alluded to. Endeavouring to while away the tedium of
delay, I was pacing leisurely back and forth upon the guard,
surveying the lovely scenery of the opposite shore, and the
neat little houses of the village sprinkled upon the plain beyond, when a wild, piercing shriek struck upon my ear. I
was hurrying immediately forward to the spot whence it
seemed to proceed, [16] when I was intercepted by some of
our boat's crew bearing a mangled body. It was that of
our second engineer, a fine, laughing young fellow, who had
been terribly injured by becoming entangled with the flywheel of the machinery while in motion. He was laid upon
the passage floor. I stood at his head; and never, I think,
shall I forget those convulsed and agonized features. His
countenance was ghastly and livid; beaded globules of cold
sweat started out incessantly upon his pale brow; and, in
the paroxysms of pain, his dark eye would flash, his nostril
dilate, and his lips quiver so as to expose the teeth gnashing
in a fearful manner; while a muttered execration, dying
away from exhaustion, caused us all to shudder. And then
that wild despairing roll of the eyeball in its socket as the
miserable man would glance hurriedly around upon the
countenances of the bystanders, imploring them, in utter
helplessness, to lend him relief. Ah! it is a fearful thing to
look upon these strivings of humanity in the iron grasp of
a power it may in vain resist ! From the quantity of blood
thrown off, the oppressive fulness of the chest, and the
difficult respiration, some serious pulmonary injury had
evidently been sustained; while a  splintered clavicle and 46
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
limbs shockingly shattered racked the poor sufferer with
anguish inexpressible. It was evident he believed hunself
seriously injured, for at times he would fling out his arms,
beseeching those around him to | hold him back," as if
even then he perceived the icy grasp of the death angel
creeping over his frame.
[17] Perhaps I have devoted more words to the detail of
this melancholy incident than would ptherwise have been
the case, on account of the interest which some circumstances in the sufferer's history, subsequently received from
the captain of our steamer, inspired.
i Frank, poor fellow," said the captain, " was a native
of Ohio, the son of a lone woman, a widow. He was all
her hope, and to his exertions she was indebted for a humble
Here, then, were circumstances to touch the sympathies
of any heart possessed of but a tithe of the nobleness of our
nature; and I could not but reflect, as they were recounted,
how like the breath of desolation the first intelligence of
her son's fearful end must sweep over the spirit of this lonely
widow; for, like the wretched Constance, she can I never,
never behold him more."3
" Her life, her joy, her food, her all the world!
Her widow-comfort, and her sorrow's cure! "
While indulging in these sad reflections a gay burst of
music arrested my attention; and, looking up, I perceived
the packet-boat " Lady Marshall " dropping from her mooring at the quay, her decks swarming with passengers, and
under high press of steam, holding her bold course against
the current, while the merry dashing of the wheels, mingling with the wild clang of martial music, imparted an air
almost of romance to the scene. How strangely did this
contrast with that misery from which my eye had just turned !
* The reference is to Shakespeare's King John, III, iv.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
There are few objects more truly grand — I had [18]
almost said sublime — than a powerful steamer struggling
triumphantly with the rapids of the Western waters. The
scene has in it a something of that power which we feel upon
us in viewing a ship under full sail; and, in some respects,
there is more of the sublime in the humbler triumph of man
over the elements than in that more vast. Sublimity is a
result, not merely of massive, extended, unmeasured greatness, but oftener, and far more impressively, does the sentiment arise from a combination of vast and powerful objects.
The mighty stream rolling its volumed floods through half a
continent, and hurrying onward to mingle its full tide with
the " Father of Waters," is truly sublime; its resistless power
is sublime; the memory of its by-gone scenes, and the ven-
erable moss-growji forests on its banks, are sublime; and,
lastly, the noble fabric of man's workmanship struggling
and groaning in convulsed, triumphant effort to overcome
the resistance offered, completes a picture which demands
not the heaving ocean-waste and the " oak leviathan " to
It was not until the afternoon was far advanced that we
found ourselves fairly embarked. A rapid freshet had
within a few hours swollen the tranquil Ohio far beyond its
ordinary volume'and velocity, and its turbid waters were rolling onward between the green banks, bearing on'their bosom
all the varied spoils of their mountain-home, and of the rich
region through which they had been flowing. The finest
site from which to view the city we found to be the channel
of the Falls upon the Indiana side of the stream, called the
Indian [19] chute, to distinguish it from two others, called
the Middle chute and the Kentucky chute. The prospect
from this point is noble, though the uniformity of the structures, the fewness of the spires, the unimposing character
of the public edifices, and the depression of the site upon ^
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
which the city stands, give to it a monotonous, perhaps a
lifeless aspect to the stranger.
It was in the year 1778 that a settlement was first commenced upon the spot on which the fair city of Louisville
now stands.4 In the early spring of that year, General George
Rodgers Clarke, under authority of the State of Virginia,
descended the Ohio with several hundred men, with the design of reducing the military posts of Kaskaskia, Cahokia,
and Fort Vincent, then held by British troops. Disembarking upon Corn Island at the Falls of the Ohio, opposite the
present city, land sufficient for the support of six families,
which were left, was cleared and planted with corn. From
this circumstance the island received a name which it yet
retains. General Clarke proceeded upon his expedition,
and, in the autumn returning successful, the emigrants were
removed to the main land, and a settlement was commenced
where Louisville now stands. During the few succeeding
years, other families from Virginia settled upohthe spot, and
in the spring of 1780 seven stations were formed upon Bear-
grass Creek,5 which here empties into the Mississippi, and
Louisville commenced its march to its present importance.
The view of the city from the Falls, as I have remarked,
is not at all imposing; the view of the [20] Falls from the
city, on the contrary, is one of beauty and romance. They
are occasioned by a parapet of limestone extending quite
across the stream, which is here about one mile in width;
and when the water is low the whole chain sparkles with
bubbling foam-bells.   When the stream is full the descent
4 For a brief sketch of the history of Louisville, see Croghan's Journals, in our
volume i, p. 136, note 106.— Ed.
5 The seven stations formed on Beargrass Creek in the fall of 1779 and
spring of 1780 were: Falls of the Ohio, Linnis, Sullivan's Old, Hoagland's, Floyd's,
Spring, and Middle stations. Beargrass Creek, a small stream less than ten miles
in length, flows in a northwestern trend and uniting with two smaller creeks, South
and Muddy forks, enters the Ohio (not the Mississippi) immediately above the
Falls of the Ohio (Louisville).— Ed. 1836-1837] Fogg's Far West 49
is hardly perceptible but for the increased rapidity of
the current, which varies from ten to fourteen miles an
hour.6 Owing to the height of the freshet, this was the case
at the time when we descended them, and there was a wild
air of romance about the dark rushing waters: and the green
woodlands upon either shore, overshadowed as they were
by the shifting light and shade of the flitting clouds, cast
6 It is only at high stages of the river that boats even of a smaller class can pass
over the Falls. At other times they go through the " Louisville and Portland
Canal." In 1804 the Legislature of Kentucky incorporated a company to cut a
canal around the falls. Nothing effectual, however, beyond surveys, was done
until 1825, when on the 12th of January of that year the Louisville and Portland
Canal Company was incorporated by an act of the legislature, with a capital
of $600,000, in shares of $100 each, with perpetual succession. 3665 of the
shares of thejcompany are in the hands of individuals, about seventy in number,
residing in the following states: New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, New-York,
Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and Missouri, and 2335 shares belong
.to the government of the United States.
In December, 1825, contracts were entered into to complete the work of this
canal within two years, for about $375,000, and under these contracts the work
was commenced in March, 1826. Many unforeseen difficulties retarded the work
until the close of the year 1828. At this time the contractors failed; new contracts
were made at advanced prices, and the canal was finally opened for navigation
December 5th, 1830. When completed it cost about $750,000. Owing to the
advanced season at which it was opened, the deposites of alluvial earth at the
lower extremity of the canal, or debouchure, could not be removed; and also from
the action of the floods during the succeeding severe winter on the stones that had
been temporarily deposited on the sides of the canal, causing them to be precipitated into the canal, it was not used to the extent that it otherwise would have
been. During the year 1831, 406 steamboats, 46 keelboats, and 357 flatboats,
measuring 76,323 tons, passed through the locks, which are about one fourth the
number that would have passed if all the obstructions had been removed.
The Louisville and Portland Canal is about two miles in length; is intended
for steamboats of the largest class, and to overcome a fall of 24 feet, occasioned
by an irregular ledge of limerock, through which the entire bed of the canal is
excavated, a part of it, to the depth of 12 feet, is overlaid with earth. There
is one guard and three lift locks combined, all of which have their foundation on
the rock. One bridge of stone 240 feet long, with an elevation of 68 feet to top of
the parapet wall, and three arches, the centre one of which is semi-elliptical, with
a transverse diameter of 66, and a semi-conjugate diameter of 22 feet. The two
side arches are segments of 40 feet span. The guard lock is 190 feet long in
the clear, with semicircular heads of 26 feet in diameter, 50 feet wide, and 42 feet
high, and contains 21,775 perches of mason-work. The solid contents of this
lock are equal to 15 common locks, such as are built on the Ohio and New-York
■"-.{'; Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
over the scene a bewitching fascination. " Corn Island,"
with its legendary associations, rearing its dense clump of
foliage as from the depths of the stream, was not the least
beautiful object of the panorama; while the receding city,
with its smoky roofs, its bustling quay, and the glitter and
animation of an extended line of steamers, was alone neces-
canals. The lift locks are of the same width with the guard lock, 20 feet high,
and 183 feet long in the clear, and contain 12,300 perches of mason-work. The
entire length of the walls, from the head of the guard lock to the end of the outlet
lock, is 921 feet. In addition to the amount of mason-work above, there are three
culverts to drain off the water from the adjacent lands, the mason-work of which,
when added to the locks and bridge, give the whole amount of mason-work
41,989 perches, equal to about 30 common canal locks. The cross section of the
canal is 200 feet at top of banks, 50 feet at bottom, and 42 feet high, having a
capacity equal to that of 25 common canals; and if we keep in view the unequal
quantity of mason-work compared to the length of the canal, the great difficulties
of excavating earth and rock from so great a depth and width, together with the
contingencies attending its construction from the fluctuations of the Ohio River,
it may not be considered as extravagant in drawing the comparison between the
work in this and in that of 70 or 75 miles of common canalling.
In the upper sections of the canal, the alluvial earth to the average depth of
twenty feet being removed, trunks of trees were found more or less decayed, and
so imbedded as to indicate a powerful current toward! the present shore, some
of which were cedar, which is not now found in this region. Several fireplaces
of a rude construction, with partially burnt wood, were discovered near the rock,
as well as the bones of a variety of small animals and several human skeletons;
rude implements formed of bone and stone were frequently seen, as also several
well-wrought specimens of hematite of iron, in the shape of plummets or sinkers,
displaying a knowledge in the arts far in advance of the present race of Indians.
The first stratum of rock was a light, friable slate, in close contact with the
limestone, and difficult to disengage from it; this slate did not, however, extend
over the whole surface of the rock, and was of various thicknesses, from three
inches to four feet.
The stratum next to the slate was a close, compact limestone, in which petrified
seashells and an infinite variety of coralline formations were imbedded, and frequent cavities of crystalline incrustations were seen, many of which still contained
petroleum of a highly fetid smell, which gives the name to this description of
limestone. This description of rock is on an average of five feet, covering a substratum of a species of cias limestone of a bluish colour, imbedding nodules of
hornstone and organic remains. The fracture of this stone has in all instances
been found to be irregularly conchoidal, and on exposure to the atmosphere
and subjection to fire, it crumbles to pieces. When burnt and ground, and mixed
with a due proportion of silicious sand, it has been found to make a most superior
kind of hydraulic cement or water-lime.
immnmniw 1836-18373
Flagg's Far West
sary to fill up a scene for a limner.7 And our steamer
swept onward [21] over the rapids, and threaded their maze
of beautiful islands, and passed along the little villages at
their foot and the splendid steamers along their shore, till
twilight had faded, and the dusky mantle of departed day
was flung over forest and stream.
Ohio River.
The discovery of this valuable limestone has enabled the canal company to
construct their masonry more solidly than any other known in the United States.
A manufactory of this hydraulic cement or water-lime is now established
on the bank of the canal, on a scale capable of supplying the United States with
this much-valued material for all works in contact with water or exposed to moisture; the nature of this cement being to harden in the water; the grout used on
the locks of the canal is already harder than the stone used in their construction.
After passing through the stratum which was commonly called the water-
lime, about ten feet in thickness, the workmen came to a more compact mass
of primitive gray limestone, which, however, was not penetrated to any great
depth. In many parts of the excavation masses of a bluish white flint and horn-
stone were found enclosed in or incrusting the fetid limestone. And from the
large quantities of arrow-heads and other rude formations of this flint stone, it
is evident that it was made much use of by the Indians in forming their weapons
for war and hunting; in one place a magazine of arrow-heads was discovered,
containing many hundreds of these rude implements, carefully packed together
and buried below the surface of the ground.
The existence of iron ore in considerable quantities was exhibited in the progress of the excavation of the canal, by numerous highly-charged chalybeate springs
that gushed out, and continued to flow during the time that the rock was exposed,
chiefly in the upper strata of limestone.— Louisville Directory for 1835.— Flagg.
7 A circumstance, too, which adds not a little of interest to the spot, is the old
Indian tradition that here was fought the last battle between their race and the
former dwellers in Kentucky — the white mound-builders — in which the latter
were exterminated to a man. True or false, vast quantities of human remains have,
at low stages of the Ohio, been found upon the shores of Sandy Island, one mile
below, and an extensive graveyard once existed in the vicinity of Shipping-port.
— Flagg.
m m
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
" How beautiful is this visible world!
How glorious in its action and itself 1 "
" The woods — oh! solemn are the boundless woods
Of the great Western World when day declines,
And louder sounds the roll of distant floods."
Long before the dawn on the morning succeeding our
departure we were roused from our rest by the hissing of
steam and the rattling of rnachinery as our boat moved
slowly out from beneath the high banks and lofty sycamores of the river-side, where she had in safety been
moored for the night, to resume her course. Withdrawing
the curtain from the little rectangular window of my stateroom, the dark shadow of the forest was slumbering in
calm magnificence upon the waters^1 and glancing upward
my eye, the stars were beaming out in silvery brightness;
while all along the eastern horizon, where
" The gray coursers of the morn
Beat up the light with their bright silver hoofs
And drive it through the sky,"
[22] rested a broad, low zone of clear heaven, proclaiming
the coming of a glorious dawn. The hated clang of the
bell-boy was soon after heard resounding far and wide in
querulous and deafening clamour throughout the cabins,
vexing the dull ear of every drowsy man in the terrible
language of Macbeth's evil conscience, " sleep no more ! "
In a very desperation of self-defence I arose. The mists
of night had not yet wholly dispersed, and the rack and
fog floated quietly upon the placid bosom of the stream, or
ascended in ragged masses from the dense foliage upon
its banks.   All this melted gently away like " the baseless
Twwwwrnmrwwtw 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
fabric of a vision," and " the beauteous eye of day " burst
forth in splendour, lighting up a scene of unrivalled loveliness.
Much, very much has been written of | the beautiful
Ohio;" the pens of an hundred tourists have sketched its
quiet waters and its venerable groves; but there is in its
noble scenery an ever salient freshness, which no description, however varied, can exhaust; new beauties leap forth
to the eye of the man of sensibility, and even an humble
pen may not fail to array them in the drapery of their own
loveliness. There are in this beautiful stream features
peculiar to itself, which distinguish it from every other that
we have seen or of which we have read; features which
render it truly and emphatically sui generis. It is not " the
blue-rushing of the arrowy Rhone," with castled crags and
frowning battlements; it is not the dark-rolling Danube,
shadowy with the legend of departed time, upon whose
banks armies have met and battled; it is not [23] the
lordly Hudson, roaming in beauty through the ever-varying
romance of the Catskill Highlands; nor is it the gentle
wave of the soft-flowing Connecticut, seeming almost to
sleep as it glides through the calm, " happy valley " of
New-England: but it is that noble stream, bounding forth,
like a young warrior of the wilderness, in all the joyance
of early vigour, from the wild twin-torrents of the hills; rolling onward through a section of country the glory of a new
world, and over the wooded heights of whose banks has
rushed full many a crimson tide of Indian massacre. Ohio,8
"The River of Blood," was its fearfully significant name from
the aboriginal native; La Belle Rivière was its euphonious
distinction from the simple Canadian voyageur, whose light
pirogue first glided on its blue bosom. | The Beautiful
River! "— it is no misnomer — from its earliest commence-
1 Kentucke is said to have a similar meaning.— Flagg. 54
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
ment to the broad embouchure into the turbid floods of the
Mississippi, it unites every combination of scenic loveliness
which even the poet's sublimated fancy could demand.9 Now
it sweeps along beneath its lofty bluffs in the conscious
grandeur of resistless might; and then its clear, transparent
waters glide in undulating ripples over the shelly bottoms
and among the pebbly heaps of the white-drifted sandbars, or in the calm magnificence of their eternal wandering,
" To the gentle woods all night
Sing they a sleepy tune."
From either shore streams of singular beauty and euphonious names come pouring in their tribute [24] through the
deep foliage of the fertile bottoms; while the swelling, vol-
umed outlines of the banks, piled up with ponderous verdure rolling and heaving in the river-breeze like life, recur
in such grandeur and softness, and such ever-varying combinations of beauty, as to destroy every approach to monotonous effect. From the source of the Ohio tô its outlet its
waters imbosom more than an hundred islands, some of
such matchless loveliness that it is worthy of remark that
such slight allusion has been made to them in the numerous
pencillings of Ohio scenery. In the fresh, early summertime, when the deep green of vegetation is in its luxuriance,
they surely constitute the most striking feature of the river.
Most of them are densely wooded to the water's edge; and
the wild vines and underbrush suspended lightly over the
waters are mirrored in their bosom or swept by the current
into attitudes most graceful and picturesque. In some of
those stretched-out, endless reaches which are constantly
recurring, they seem bursting up like beautiful bouquets of
8 Ohio is thought by some philologists to be a corruption of the Iroquois word,
" Ohionhiio," meaning " beautiful river," which the French rendered as La Belle
Rivière; see also Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv, p. 92, note 49.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
sprinkled evergreens from the placid stream; rounded and
swelling, as if by the teachings of art, on the blue bosom
of the waters. A cluster of these " isles of light " I well
remember, which opened upon us the eve of the second day
of our passage. Two of the group were exceedingly small,
mere points of a deeper shade in the reflecting azure; while
the third, lying between the former, stretched itself far away
in a narrow, well-defined strip of foliage, like a curving gash
in the surface, parallel to the [25] shore; and over the lengthened vista of the waters ghding between, the giant branches
bowed themselves, and wove their mingled verdure into an
immense Gothic arch, seemingly of mterminable extent, but
closed at last by a single speck of crimson skylight beyond.
Throughout its whole course the Ohio is fringed with wooded
bluffs; now towering in sublime majesty hundreds of feet
from the bed of the rolling stream, and anon sweeping inland for miles, and rearing up those eminences so singularly
beautiful, appropriately termed " Ohio hills," while their
broad alluvial plains in the interval betray, by their enormous vegetation, a fertility exhaustless and unrivalled. Here
and there along the green bluffs is caught a glimpse of the
emigrant's low log cabin peeping out to the eye from the
dark foliage, sometimes when miles in the distance; while
the rich maize-fields of the bottoms, the girdled forest-trees
and the lowing kine betray the advance of civilized existence.
But if the scenes of the Ohio are beautiful beneath the broad
glare of the morning sunlight, what shall sketch their lineaments when the coarser etchings of the picture are mellowed
down by the balmy effulgence of the midnight moon of summer! When her floods of light are streaming far and wide
along the magnificent forest-tops ! When all is still — still !
and sky, and earth, and wood, and stream are hushed as a
spirit's breathing! When thought is almost audible, and
memory is busy with the past!   When the distant  bluffs,
III 56 Early Western Travels [Vol. 26
bathed in molten silver, gleam like beacon-lights, and the
far-off vistas of the [26] meandering waters are flashing
with the sheen of their ripples ! When you glide through
the endless maze, and the bright islets shift, and vary, and
pass away in succession like pictures of the kaleidoscope
before your eye ! When imagination is awake and flinging
forth her airy fictions, bodies things unseen, and clothes
reality in loveliness not of earth! When a scene like this
is developed, what shall adequately depict it? Not the
Such, such is the beautiful Ohio in the soft days of early
summer; and though hackneyed may be the theme of its
loveliness, yet, as the dying glories of a Western sunset flung
over the landscape the mellow tenderness of its parting smile,
I fading, still fading, as the day was declining," till night's
dusky mantle had wrapped the " woods on shore " and the
quiet stream from the eye, I could not, even at the hazard
of triteness, resist an inclination to fling upon the sheet
a few hurried lineaments of Nature's beautiful creations.
There is not a stream upon the continent which, for the
same distance, rolls onward so calmly, and smoothly, and
peacefully as the Ohio. Danger rarely visits its tranquil
bosom, except from the storms of heaven or the reckless
folly of man, and hardly a river in the world can vie with it
in safety, utility, or beauty. Though subject to rapid and
great elevations and depressions, its current is generally uniform, never furious. The forest-trees which skirt its banks
are the largest in North America, while the variety is end-'
less; several sycamores were pointed out to us upon the
shores from thirty to fifty feet in circumference. Its alluvial [27] bottoms are broad, deep, and exhaustlessly fertile;
its bluffs are often from three to four hundred feet in height;
its breadth varies from one mile to three, and its navigation, >»
Flagg's Far West
since the improvements commenced, under the authority of
Congress, by the enterprising Shreve, has become safe and
easy.10 The classification of obstructions is the following:
snags, trees anchored by their roots; fragments of trees of
various forms and magnitude; wreck-heaps, consisting of several of these stumps, and logs, and branches of trees lodged in
one place; rocks, which have rolled from the cliffs, and varying from ten to one hundred cubic feet in size; and sunken
boats, principally flat-boats laden with coal. The last remains one of the most serious obstacles to the navigation of
the Ohio. Many steamers have been damaged by striking
the wrecks of the Baltimore, the Roanoke, the William Hul-
burt,11 and other craft, which were themselves snagged; while
10 At the age of twenty-five, Henry M. Shreve (1785-1854) was captain of a
freight boat operating on the Ohio. In 1814 he ran the gauntlet of the British
batteries at New Orleans, and carried supplies to Fort St. Phillip. The following
year, in charge of the " Enterprise " he made the first successful steamboat trip
from New Orleans to Louisville. Later he constructed the " Washington," making
many improvements on the Fulton model. Fulton and Livingstone brought suit
against him but lost in the action. May 24,1824, at the instigation of J. O Calhoun,
then secretary of war, Congress appropriated seventy-five thousand dollars (not
$105,000, as Flagg says) for the purpose of removing obstructions from the
Ohio and Mississippi rivers. As early as 1821, Shreve had invented a device
for removing snags and sawyers from river beds. But it was not until after two
years' fruitless trials with a scheme devised by John Bruce of Kentucky, that Barbour, at Calhoun's suggestion, appointed Shreve superintendent of improvements
on Western rivers (December 10, 1826). This position he held until September
11, 1841, when he was dismissed for political reasons. In the face of discouraging opposition Shreve constructed (1829) with government aid the snagboat
" Heleopolis " with which he later wrought a marvellous improvement in navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi. From 1833 to 1838 he was engaged in removing
the Red River " raft " for a distance of a hundred and sixty miles, thus opening
that important river for navigation. For a good biography of Shreve, see the
Democratic Review, xxii (New York, 1848), pp. 159-171, 241-251. A fair estimate
of the importance of his work can be gained from the following statistics; from
1822-27 the l°ss from snags alone, of property on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers,
including steam and flat-boats and their cargoes, amounted to $1,362,500; the like
loss from 1827-32 was reduced to $381,000, although the volume of business had
greatly increased.— Ed.
u The " Baltimore " (73 tons) was built at Pittsburg in 1828; the " Roanoke "
(100 tons), at Wheeling in 1835.    It is reported that from 1831 to 1833, of the
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
keel and flat-boats "without number have been lost from the
same cause.12 Several thousands of the obstacles mentioned
have been removed since improvements were commenced,
and accidents from this cause are now less frequent. Some
of the snags 'torn up from the bed of the stream, where they
have probably for ages been buried, are said to have exceeded
a diameter of six feet at the root, and were upward of an
hundred feet in length. The removal of these obstructions
on the Ohio presents a difficulty and expense not encountered upon the Mississippi. In the latter stream, the root
of the snag, when eradicated, is deposited in some deep
[28] pool or bayou along^the banks, and immediately imbeds itself in alluvial deposite; but on the Ohio, owing to the
nature of its banks in most of its course, there is no opportunity for such a disposal, and the^boatmen are forced to
blast the logs with gunpowder to prevent them from again
forming obstructions. The cutting down and clearing away
of all leaning and falling trees from the banks constitutes an
essential feature in the scheme of improvement; since the
facts are well ascertained that trees seldom plant themselves
far from the spot where they fall; and that, when once under
the power of the current, they seldom anchor themselves
and form snags. The policy of removing the leaning and
fallen trees is, therefore, palpable, since, when this is once
thoroughly accomplished, no material for subsequent formation can exist. The construction of stone dams, by which
to concentrate into a single channel all the waters of the
river, where they are divided by islands, or from other causes
are spread over a broad extent, is another operation now in
sixty-six steamboats which went out of service, twenty-four were snagged, fifteen
burned, and five destroyed by collision with other boats. See James Hall, Notes
on the Western States (Philadelphia, 1838), p. 239.— Ed.
u The keel-boat Hindoo, with merchandise to the amount of $50,000, is a late
instance.— Flagg. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
execution. The dams at " Brown's Island,"1S the shoalest
point on the Ohio, have been so eminently successful as fully
to establish the efficiency of the plan. Several other works
of a similar character are proposed; a full survey of the
stream, hydrographical and topographical, is recommended;
and, when all improvements are completed, it is believed
that the navigation of the " beautiful Ohio " will answer
every purpose of commerce and the traveller, from its source
to its mouth, at the lowest stages of the water.
Ohio River.
" The sure traveller,
Though he alight sometimes, still goeth on."
" A race —
Now like autumnal leaves before the blast
Wide scattered." Sprague.
Thump, thump, crash! One hour longer, and I was at
length completely roused from a troublous slumber by our
boat coming to a dead stop. Casting a glance from the
window, the bright flashing of moonlight showed the whole
surface of the stream covered with drift-wood, and, on
inquiry, I learned that the branches of an enormous oak,
some sixty feet in length, had become entangled with
one of the paddle-wheels of our steamer, and forbade all
We were soon once more in motion; the morning mists
were dispersing, the sun rose up behind the forests, and his
bright beams danced lightly over the gliding waters. We
passed many pleasant little villages along the banks, and it
a Brown's Island, two miles and a half long by half a mile at its greatest width,
is located six or seven miles above Steubenville, Ohio, following the course of the
river.— Ed. r^RP
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
was delightful to remove from the noise, and heat, and confusion below to the lofty hurricane deck, and lounge away
hour after hour in gazing upon the varied and beautiful
scenes which presented themselves in constant succession
to the eye. Now we were gliding quietly on through the
long island [30] chutes, where the daylight was dim, and
the enormous forest-trees bowed themselves over us, and
echoed from their still recesses the roar of our steam-pipe;
then we were sweeping rapidly over the broad reaches of
the stream, miles in extent; again we were winding through
the mazy labyrinth of islets which fleckered the placid surface
of the stream, and from time to time we passed the lonely
cabin of the emigrant beneath the venerable and aged sycamores. Here and there, as we glided on, we met some relic
of those ancient and primitive species of river-craft which
once assumed ascendency over the waters of the West, but
which are now superseded by steam, and are of too infrequent occurrence not to be objects of peculiar interest. In
the early era of the navigation of the Ohio, the species
of craft in use were numberless, and many of them of a
most whimsical and amusing description. The first was
the barge, sometimes of an hundred tons' burden, which
required twenty men to force it up against the current a
distance of six or seven miles a day; next the keel-boat,
of smaller size and lighter structure, yet in use for the
purposes of inland commerce; then the Kentucky flat,
or broad-horn of the emigrant; the enormous ark, in
magnitude and proportion approximating to that of the
patriarch; the fairy pirogue of the French voyageur; the
birch caique of the Indian, and log skiffs, gondolas, and
dug-outs of the pioneer without name or number."   But
14 The keel-boat was usually from sixty to seventy feet long, and fifteen to eighteen broad at beam, with a keel extending from bow to stern, and had a draft
of twenty to thirty inches.    When descending the stream, the force of the current,
iimniMmmmmi 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
since the introduction of steam upon the Western waters,
most of these unique and primitive contrivances [31] have
disappeared; and with them, too, has gone that singular
race of men who were their navigators. Most of the
younger of the settlers, at this early period of the country,
devoted themselves to this profession. Nor is there any
wonder that the mode of life pursued by these boatmen
should have presented irresistible seductions to the young
people along the banks. Fancy one of these huge boats
dropping lazily along with the current past their cabins
on a balmy morning in June. Picture to your imagination
the gorgeous foliage; the soft, delicious temperature of the
atmosphere; the deep azure of the sky; the fertile alluvion,
with its stupendous forests and rivers; the romantic bluffs
sleeping mistily in blue distance; the clear waters rolling
calmly adown, with the woodlands outlined in shadow on
the surface; the boat floating leisurely onward, its heterogeneous crew of all ages dancing to the violin upon the
deck, flinging out their merry salutations among the settlers,
who come down" to the water's edge to see the pageant pass,
with occasional aid from the pole, was the usual mode of locomotion. In ascending the stream, however, sails, poles, and almost every known device were used;
not infrequently the vessel was towed by from twenty to forty men, with a rope
several hundred feet in length attached to the mast. These boats were built in
Pittsburg at a cost of two to three thousand dollars each.
The barge was constructed for narrow, shallow water. As a rule it was larger
than the keel-boat; but of less draft, and afforded greater accommodations for
Broad-horn was a term generally applied to the Mississippi and Ohio flat-boat,
which made its advent on the Western waters later than the barge or the keel-boat-
it was a large, unwieldy structure, with a perfectly flat bottom, perpendicular sides,
and usually covered its entire length.    It was used only for descending the stream.
" The earliest improvement upon the canoe was the pirogue, an invention of
the whites. Like the canoe, this is hewed out of the solid log; the difference is,
that the pirogue has greater width and capacity, and is composed of several pieces
of timbers — as if the canoe was sawed lengthwise into two equal sections, and a
broad flat piece of timber inserted in the middle, so as to give greater breadth of
beam to the vessel."   Hall, Notes on the Western States, p. 218.— Ed.
■m 6 2 Early Western Travels [Vol. 26
until, at length, it disappears behind a point of wood, and
the boatman's bugle strikes up its note, dying in distance
over the waters; fancy a scene like this, and the wild bugle-
notes echoing and re-echoing along the bluffs and forest
shades of the beautiful Ohio, and decide whether it must
not have possessed a charm of fascination resistless to the
youthful mind in these lonely solitudes. No wonder that
the severe toils of agricultural life, in view of such scenes,
should have become tasteless and irksome.1* The lives of
these [32] boatmen were lawless and dissolute to a proverb.
They frequently stopped at the villages along their course,
and passed the night in scenes of wild revelry and merriment.
Their occupation, more than any other, subjected them to
toil, and exposure, and privation; and, more than any other,
it indulged them, for days in succession, with leisure, and
ease, and indolent gratification. Descending the stream,
they floated quietly along without an effort, but in ascending
against the powerful current their life was an uninterrupted
series of toil. The boat, we are told, was propelled by poles,
against which the shoulder was placed and the whole strength
applied; their bodies were naked to the waist, for enjoying
the river-breeze and for moving with facility; and, after
the labour of the day, they swallowed their whiskey and
supper, and throwing themselves upon the deck of the boat,
with no other canopy than the heavens, slumbered soundly
on till the morning. Their slang was peculiar to the race,
their humour and power of retort was remarkable, and in
their frequent battles with the squatters or with their fellows,
their nerve and courage were unflinching.
It was in the year 1811 that the steam-engine commenced
its giant labours in the Valley of the West, and the first
vessel propelled by its agency glided along the soft-flowing
" Flint.— Flagg.
'Ill Ml HIM I	 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
wave of the beautiful river.18 Many events, we are told,
united to render this year a most remarkable era in the annals
of Western history.17 The spring-freshet of the rivers buried
the whole valley from Pittsburgh to New-Orleans [33] in a
flood; and when the waters subsided unparalleled sickness
and mortality ensued. A mysterious spirit of restlessness possessed the denizens of the Northern forests, and in
myriads they migrated towards the South and West. The
magnificent comet of the year, seeming, indeed, to verify
the terrors of superstition, and to " shake from its horrid
hair pestilence and war," all that summer was beheld blazing
along the midnight sky, and shedding its lurid twilight over
-forest and stream; and when the leaves of autumn began
to rustle to the ground, the whole vast Valley of the Mississippi rocked and vibrated in earthquake-convulsion!
forests bowed their heads; islands disappeared from their
sites, and new one's rose; immense lakes and hills were
formed; the graveyard gave up its sheeted and ghastly tenants; huge relics of the mastodon and megalonyx, which for
ages had slumbered in the bosom of earth, were heaved up
to the sunlight; the blue lightning streamed and the thunder
muttered along the leaden sky, and, amid all the elemental
war, the mighty current of the " Father of Waters " for hours
rolled back its heaped-up floods towards its source! All
this was the prologue to that mighty drama of Change which,
from that period to the present, has been sweeping over the
Western Valley; it was the fearful welcome-home to that
all-powerful agent which has revolutionized the character of
" For an account of the first steamboat on the Ohio, see Flint's Letters, in
our volume ix, p. 154, note 76.— Ed.
" Latrobe.— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. Charles J. Latrobe (1801-75) visited the United States in
1832-33. His Rambles in North America in 1832-3 (New York, 1835) and Rambles in Mexico (New York and London, 1836) have much value in the history of
Western travel. 64 Early Western Travels [Vol. 26
half a continent; for at that epoch of wonders, and amid
them all, the first steamboat was seen descending the great
rivers, and the awe-struck Indian [34] on the banks beheld
the Pinelore flying through the troubled waters.18 The rise
and progress of the steam-engine is without a parallel in the
history of modern improvement. Fifty years ago, and the
prophetic declaration of Darwin was pardoned only as the
enthusiasm of poetry; it is now little more than the detail
of reality:
" Soon 'shall thy arm, unconquer/d steam, afar
Drag the slow barge or drive the rapid car;
Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear
;The flying chariot through the fields of air;
Fair crews triumphant, leaning from above,
Shall wave their fluttering kerchiefs as they move,
Or warrior bands alarm the gaping crowd,
And armies shrink beneath the shadowy cloud." *'
The steam-engine, second only to the press in power, has
in a few years anticipated results throughout the New World
which centuries, in the ordinary course 'of cause and event,
would have failed to produce. The dullest forester, even
the cold, phlegmatic native of the wilderness, gazes upon
its display of beautiful mechanism, its majestic march upon
its element, and its sublimity of power, with astonishment
and admiration.
Return we to the incidents of our passage. During the
morning of our third day upon the Ohio we [35] passed,
among others, the villages of Rome, Troy, and Rockport.20
18 The first steamer upon the waters of the Red River was of a peculiar construction: her steam scape-pipe, instead of ascending perpendicularly from the
hurricane deck, projected from the bow, and terminated in the form of a serpent's
head. As this monster ascended the wilds of the stream, with her furnaces blazing,
pouring forth steam with a roar, the wondering Choctaws upon the banks gave
her the poetic and appropriate name of Pinelore, "the Fire-Canoe."— Flagg.
19 This quotation is from Botanic Gardens, book i, chapter i, by Erasmus
Darwin (i 731-1802).— Ed.
20 For Rome, see Maximilian's Travels, in our volume xxii, p. 160, note 77.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
The latter is the most considerable place of the three, notwithstanding imposing titles. It is situated upon a green
romantic spot, the summit of a precipitous pile of rocks some
hundred feet in height, from which sweeps off a level region
of country in the rear. Here terminates that series of beautiful bluffs commencing at the confluence of the mountain-
streams, and of which so much has been said. A new
geological formation commences of a bolder character than
any before; and the face of the country gradually assumes
those features which are found near the mouth of the river.
Passing Green River with its emerald waters,21 its "Diamond
Island,"22 the largest in the Ohio, and said to be haunted,
and very many thriving villages, among which was Hender-
sonville,23 for some time the residence of Audubon,24 the
ornithologist, we found ourselves near midday at the mouth
of the smiling Wabash, its high bluffs crowned with groves
of the walnut and pecan, the carya olivœformis of Nuttal,
and  its deep-died  surface reflecting the yet deeper tints
M Green River, rising in central Kentucky, flows west through the coal fields to
its junction with the Big Barren; thence it turns north, and empties into the Ohio
nine miles above Evansville, Indiana. Beginning with 1808 the state legislature
expended large sums of money for improving navigation on Green River. As a
consequence small steamboats may ascend it to a distance of more than a hundred
and fifty miles. The length of the stream is estimated at three hundred and fifty
miles.— Ed.
a Diamond Island, densely wooded, is located thirty-six miles below the mouth
of Green River, and seven miles above Mount Vernon. Its name is perhaps derived from its shape, being five miles long and one and a half wide.— Ed.
a For note on Hendersonville, see Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv, p. 267,
note 175.— Ed.
24 John J. Audubon, born in Louisiana (1780), was a son of a wealthy French
naval officer; his mother was a Spanish créole. Educated in France, he returned
to America (1798) and settled near Philadelphia, devoting his time to the study
of birds. In 1808 he went west and until 1824 made fruitless attempts to establish himself in business in Kentucky and Louisiana. He issued in London (1827-
38) his noted publication on the Birds of America, which was completed in eighty-
seyen parts. During 1832-39 he published five volumes entitled Ornithological
Biographies. Audubon died in 1851. See M. R. Audubon, Audubon and his
Journals (New York, 1897).— Ed.
■H ;■*.
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
of its verdure-clad banks, as the far-winding stream gradually opened upon the eye, and then retreated in the distance.
The confluence of the streams is at a beautiful angle; and,
on observing the scene, the traveller will remark that the
forests upon one bank are superior in magnitude to those
on the other, though of the same species. The appearance is somewhat singular, and the fact is to be accounted
for only from the reason that the soil [36] differs in alluvial
character. It has been thought that no stream in the
world, for its length and magnitude, drains a more fertile
and beautiful country than the Wabash and its tributaries.25
Emigrants are rapidly settling its banks, and a route has
been projected for uniting by canal its waters with those
of Lake Erie; surveys by authority of the State of Indiana
have been made, and incipient measures taken preparatory
to carrying the work into execution.28
About one hundred miles from the mouth of the Wabash
is situated the village of New-Harmony, far famed for the
singular events of which it has been the scene.27 It is said
to be situated on a broad and beautiful plateau overlooking
the stream, surrounded by a fertile and heavily-timbered
25 For the historical importance of the Wabash River, see Croghan's Journals,
in our volume i, p. 137, note 107.— Ed.
28 The Wabash and Erie Canal, which connects the waters of Lake Erie with
the Ohio River by way of the Maumee and Wabash rivers, has played an active
rôle in the development of Indiana, her most important cities being located
upon its route. The Ohio section was constructed during the years 1837-43, and
the Indiana section as far as Lafayette in 1832-40; the canal being later continued
to Terre Haute and the Ohio River near Evansville. Although the federal government granted Indiana 1,505,114 acres for constructing the canal, the state was
by this work plunged heavily in debt. After the War of Secession the canal lost
much of its relative importance for commerce. June 14,188o, Congress authorized
the secretary of war to order a survey and estimate of cost and practicability of
making a ship canal out of the old Wabash and Erie Canal. The survey and
estimate were made, but the matter was allowed to drop. See Senate Docs., 46
Cong., 3 sess., iii, 55.— Ed.
27 For an account of New Harmony and its founder, George Rapp, see Hulme's
Journal, in our volume x, p. 50, note 22, and p. 54, note 25.— Ed.
J 1836-1837] Flagg's Far West 67
country, and blessed with an atmosphere of health. It was
first settled in 1814 by a religious sect of Germans called
Harmonites, resembling the Moravians in their tenets, and
under the control of George Rapp, in whose name the land
was purchased and held. They were about eight hundred in
number, and soon erected a number of substantial edifices,
among which was a huge House of Assemblage an hundred
feet square. They laid out their grounds with beautiful regularity, and established a botanic garden and an extensive
greenhouse. For ten years the Harmonites continued to
live and labour in love, in the land of their adoption,
when the celebrated Robert Dale Owen,28 of Scotland, came
among them, and, at the sum of one hundred and ninety
thousand dollars, purchased the establishment entire. His
design was of rearing up a community [37] upon a plan styled
by him the | Social System." The peculiar doctrines he
inculcated were a perfect equality, moral, social, political,
and religious. He held that the promise of never-ending
love upon marriage was an absurdity; that children should
become no impediment to separation, as they were to be
considered members of the community from their second
year; that the society should have no professed religion, each
individual being indulged in his own faith, and that all temporal possessions should be held in common. On one night
of every week the whole community met and danced; and
on another they united in a concert of music, while the Sabbath was devoted to philosophical lectures. Many distinguished individuals are said to have written to the society
inquiring respecting its principles and prospects, and expressing the wish at a future day to unite with it their desti-
28 Flagg is evidently referring to Robert Owen, the active promoter of the scheme.
A brief history of his activities is given in Hulme's Journal, in our volume x, p. 50,
note 22.
For Robert Dale Owen see Maximilian's Travels, in our volume xxiv, p. 133,
note 128.— Ed. «J
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
nies. Mr. Owen was sanguine of success. On the 4th of
July, 1826, he promulgated his celebrated declaration of
mental independence;20 a document which, for absurdity,
has never, perhaps, been paralleled. But all was in vain.
Dissension insinuated itself among the members; one after
another dropped off from the community, until at length
Mr. Owen retired in disgust, and, at a vast sacrifice, disposed of the establishment to a wealthy Scotch gentleman
by the name of M'Clure, a former coadjutor.80 Thus was
abandoned the far-famed social system, which for a time
was an object of interest and topic of remark all over the
United States and even in Europe. The Duke of Saxe
Weimar passed here a [38] week in the spring of 1826, and
has given a detailed and amusing description of his visit.
About ten miles below the mouth of the Wabash is
situated the village of Shawneetown, once a favourite
dwelling-spot of the turbulent Shawnee Indian, the tribe of
Tecumseh.81 Quite a village once stood here; but, for
some cause unknown, it was forsaken previous to its settlement by the French, and two small mounds are the only
vestige of its existence which are now to be seen. A
trading-post was established by the early Canadian
voyageurs; but, on account of the sickliness of the site,
was abandoned, and the spot was soon once more a
wilderness. In the early part of 1812 a land-office was
here   located,   and   two   years   subsequent  a   town was
28 " Declaration of Mental Independence " delivered by Robert Owen (not
Robert Dale Owen) on July 4, 1826, was printed in the New Harmony Gazette
for July 12, 1826. An extended quotation is given in George B. Lockwood, The
New Harmony Communities (Marion, Indiana, 1902), p. 163.— Ed.
80 For an account of William Maclure, see Maximilian's Travels, in our volume
xxii, p. 163, note 81.
In reference to the Duke of Saxe Weimar, see Wyeth's Oregon, in our volume
xxi, p. 71, note 47.— Ed.
81 On Shawneetown and the Shawnee Indians see our volume i, p. 23, note 13,
and p. 138, note 108.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
laid off by authority of Congress, and the lots sold as
other public lands. Since then it has been gradually
becoming the commercial emporium of southern Illinois.
The buildings, among which are a very conspicuous bank,
courthouse, and a land-office for the southern district of
Illinois, are scattered along upon a gently elevated bottom,
swelling up from the river to the. bluffs in the rear, but
sometimes submerged. From this latter cause it has formerly been subject to disease; it is now considered healthy;
is the chief commercial port in this section of the state, and
is the principal point of debarkation for emigrants for the
distant West. Twelve miles in its rear are situated the Gallatin Salines, from which the United States obtains some
hundred thousands of bushels of salt annually.32 It is manufactured by [39] the evaporation of salt water. This is
said to abound over the whole extent of this region, yielding
from one eighth to one twelfth of its weight in pure muriate
of soda. In many places it bursts forth in perennial springs;
but most frequently is obtained by penetrating with the augur
a depth of from three to six hundred feet through the solid limestone substratum, when a copper tube is introduced,
and the strongly-impregnated fluid gushes violently to the
surface. In the vicinity of these salines huge fragments
of earthenware, apparently of vessels used in obtaining
salt, and bearing the impress of wickerwork, have been
thrown up from a considerable depth below the surface.
Appearances of the same character exist near Portsmouth,
in the State of Ohio, and other places. Their origin is a
mystery! the race which formed them is departed!83
Ohio River.
82 For a brief statement on the salines, see James's Long's Expedition, in our
volume xiv, p. 58, note n.— Ed.
88 An excellent account of the Mound Builders is given by Lucien Carr in Smithsonian Institution Report, 1891 (Washington, 1893), pp. 503-599; see also Cyrus
Thomas, " Report on Mound Explorations " in United States Bureau of Ethnology
Report (1890-91).— Ed. J*
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
" Who can paint
Like Nature ?    Can imagination boast,
Amid its gay creations, hues like hers?
Or can it mix them with that matchless skill,
And lose them in each other, as appears
In every bud that blooms? "
" Precipitous, black, jagged rocks,
For ever shattered, and the same forever."
It was near noon of the third day of our passage that we
found ourselves in the vicinity of that singular series of massive rock formations, stretching along for miles upon the
eastern bank of the stream. The whole vast plain, extending
from the Northern Lakes to the mouth of the Ohio, and
from the Alleghany slope to the boundless prairies of the
far West, is said by geologists to be supported by a bed of
horizontal limestone rock, whose deep strata have never been
completely pierced, though penetrated many hundred feet
by the augur. This limestone is hard, stratified, imbedding
innumerable shells of the terebratulœ, encrinites, orthocer-
ites, trilobites, productus, and other species. Throughout
most of its whole extent it supports a stratum of bituminous
coal, various metals, and saline impregnations: its constant
decomposition has fertilized the soil, and its absorbent and
cavernous nature has prevented swamps from accumulating upon the surface. Such, in general outline, is this
vast limerock substratum [41] of the Western Valley. It
generally commences but a few feet below the vegetable
deposite; at other places its range is deeper, while at
intervals it rises from the surface, and frowns in castellated
grandeur over objects beneath. These huge masses of
limestone sometimes exhibit the most picturesque and
remarkable forms along the banks of the western rivers, 1836-1837] Flagg's Far West 71
and are penetrated in many places by vast caverns. The
region we were now approaching was a locality of these
singular formations, and for miles before reaching it, as
has been remarked, a change in scenery upon the eastern
bank is observed. Instead of the rounded wooded summits
of the I Ohio hills " sweeping beautifully away in the distance, huge, ponderous rocks, heaped up in ragged masses,
I Pelion upon Ossa, " are beheld rearing themselves
abruptly from the stream, and expanding their Briarean
arms in every direction. Some of these cliffs present a
uniform, jointed surface, as if of masonry, resembling
ancient edifices, and reminding the traveller of the giant
ruins of man's creations in another hemisphere, while
others appear just on the point of toppling into the river.
Among this range of crags is said to hang an iron coffin,
suspended, like Mohammed's, between heaven and earth.
It contains the remains of a man of singular eccentricity,
who, previous to his decease, gave orders that they should
be deposited thus; and the gloomy object at the close of
the year, when the trees are stripped of their foliage, may
be perceived, it is said, high up among the rocks from
the deck of the passing [42] steamer. This story probably
owes its origin to an event of actual occurrence somewhat
similar, at a cliff called by the river-pilots " Hanging
Rock." 34 It is situated in the vicinity of 1 Blennerhasset's
Island."35 The first of these singular cliffs, called " Battery
Rock, " stretches along the river-bank for half a mile, presenting a uniform and perpendicular façade upward of eighty
feet in height. The appearance is striking, standing, as it
does, distinct from anything of a kindred character for miles
M Hanging Rock is the name given to a high sandstone escarpment on the
right bank of the river, three miles below Ironton, Ohio.— Ed.
35 Blennerhasset's Island is two miles below Parkersburg, West Virginia. For
its history, see Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv, p. 129, note 89.— Ed. !i
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
above and for some distance below. Passing several fine
farms, which sweep down to the water's edge, a second range
of cliffs are discovered, similar to those described in altitude
and aspect; but near the base, through the dark cypresses
skirting the water, is perceived the ragged entrance to a
large cavernous fissure, penetrating the bluff, and designated by the name of "Rock-Inn-Cave."38 It is said to
have received this significant appellation from emigrants,
who were accustomed to tarry with their families for
weeks at the place when detained by stress of weather, stage
of the river, or any other circumstance unfavourable to
their progress.
It was near noon of a beautiful day when the necessary
orders for landing were issued to the pilot, and our boat
rounded up to the low sand-beach just below this celebrated
cavern. As we strolled along the shore beneath | the precipitous, black, jagged rocks " overhanging the winding and
broken pathway towards the entrance, we could not but
consider its situation wild and rugged enough to please the
rifest fancy. The entrance, [43] at first view, is exceedingly imposing; its broad massive forehead beetling over
the visiter for some yards before he finds himself within.
The mouth of the cavern looks out upon the stream
rushing along at the base of the cliff, and is delightfully
shaded by a cluster of cypresses, rearing aloft their huge
shafts, almost concealed in the luxuriant ivy-leaves
clinging to their bark. The entrance is formed into a
semi-elliptical arch, springing boldly to the height of forty
feet from a heavy bench of rock on either side, and eighty
feet in width at the base, throwing over the whole a
massive roof of uniform concavity, verging to a point near
the  centre  of   the   cave.   Here   may   be  seen  another
88 A brief description of Rock Inn Cave (or Cave-in-Rock) may be found in
Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv, p. 273, note 180.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
opening of some size, through which trickles a limpid
stream, and forming an entrance to a second chamber, said
to be more extensive than that below. The extreme length
of this cavern is given by Schoolcraft37 as one hundred
and sixty feet, the floor, the roof, and the walls gradually
tapering to a point. The rock is a secondary limestone,
abounding with testacea and petrifactions, a fine specimen
of which I struck from the ledge while the rest of our
party were recording their names among the thousand
dates and inscriptions with which the walls are defaced.
Like all other curiosities of Nature, this cavern was, by
the Indian tribes, deemed the residence of a Manito 38 or
spirit, evil or propitious, concerning [44] whom many a
wild legend yet lives among their simple-hearted posterity.
They never pass this dwelling-place of the divinity without discharging their guns (an ordinary mark of respect),
or making some other offering propitiatory of his favour.
These tributary acknowledgments, however, are never of
much value. The view of the stream from the left bench
at the cave's mouth is most beautiful. Immediately in
front extends a large and densely-wooded island, known by
the name of the Cave, while the soft-gliding waters flow
between, furnishing a scene of natural beauty worthy an
Inman's pencil; and, if I mistake not, an engraving of
the spot has been published, a ferocious-looking personage,
pistol in hand, crouched at the entrance, eagerly watching
an ascending boat. This design originated, doubtless, in
the tradition yet extant, that in the latter part of the last
century this cavern was the rendezvous of a notorious band
87 For Schoolcraft, see Gregg's Commerce of the Prairies, in our volume xx,
p. 286, note 178.— Ed.
88 It is a remarkable circumstance, that this term is employed to signify the same
thing by all the tribes from the Arkansas to the sources of the Mississippi; and,
according to Mackenzie, throughout the Arctic Regions.— Flagg.
I ***" ■ **ÎT
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
of freebooters which then infested the region, headed by
the celebrated Mason,39 plundering the boats ascending
from New-Orleans and murdering their crews. From these
circumstances this cave has become the scene of a poem
of much merit, called the | Outlaw," and has suggested a
spirited tale from a popular writer. Many other spots in
the vicinity were notorious, in the early part of the present
century, for the murder and robbery of travellers, whose
fate long remained enveloped in mystery. On the summit of a
lofty bluff, not far from the | Battery Rock," was pointed
out to us a solitary house, with a single chimney rising from
its roof. Its [45] white walls may be viewed for miles before
reaching the place on descending the river. It was here
that the family of Sturdevant carried on their extensive
operations as counterfeiters for many years unsuspected;
and on this spot, in 1821, they expiated their crimes with
their lives. A few miles below is a place called | Ford's
Ferry,"40 where murder, robbery, forgery, and almost every
crime in the calendar were for years committed, while not
a suspicion of the truth was awakened. Ford not only
escaped unsuspected, but was esteemed a most exemplary
man. Associated with him were his son and two other individuals, named Simpson and Shouse. They are all now
gone to their account. The old man was mysteriously shot
by some person who was never discovered, but was supposed to have been Simpson, between whom and himself a
misunderstanding had arisen. If it were so, the murderer
was met by fitting retribution, for he fell in a similar manner.
Shouse and the son of Ford atoned upon the gallows their
crimes in 1833.    Before reaching this spot the traveller passes
88 See Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv, p. 268.— Ed.
40 Ford's Ferry is today a small hamlet in Crittenden County, Kentuckv, twenty-
five miles below Shawneetown. Flagg is referring probably to the Wilson family.
Consult Lewis Collins, History oj Kentucky (Covington, 1874), i, p. 147.— Ed.
J 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
a remarkable mass of limestone called " Tower Rock." It
is perpendicular, isolated, and somewhat cylindrical in
outline. It is many feet in altitude, and upon its summit
tradition avers to exist the ruins of an antique tumulus;
an altar, mayhap, of the ancient forest-sons, where
" Garlands, ears of maize, and skins of wolf
And shaggy bear, the offerings of the tribe
Were made to the Great Spirit. "
In the vicinity of the cliff called " Tower Rock," and not
far from Hurricane Island, is said to exist a [46] remarkable
cavern of considerable extent. The cave is entered by an
orifice nine feet in width and twelve feet high; a bench of
rock is then ascended a few feet, and an aperture of the
size of an ordinary door admits the visiter into a spacious
hall. In the mouth of the cavern, on the façade of the cliff,
at the altitude of twenty-five feet, are engraved figures resembling a variety of animals, as the bear, the buffalo, and
even the lion and lioness. All this I saw nothing of, and
am, of course, no voucher for its existence; but a writer in
the Port Folio, so long since as 1816, states the fact, and,
moreover, adds that the engraving upon the rock was executed in " a masterly style." "
41 Since the remarks relative to " the remarkable cavern in the vicinity of Tower
Rock, and not far from Hurricane Island," were in type, the subjoined notice of a
similar cave, probably the same referred to, has casually fallen under my observation. The reader will recognise in this description the outlines of Rock-Inn-Cave,
previously noticed. It is not a little singular that none of our party, which was
a numerous one, observed the " hieroglyphics " here alluded to. The passage is
from Priest's " American Antiquities."
" A Cavern oj the West, in which are jound many interesting Hieroglyphics, supposed to have been made by the Ancient Inhabitants.
" On the Ohio, twenty miles below the mouth of the Wabash, is a cavern in
which are found many hieroglyphics and representations of such delineations as
would induce the belief that their authors were indeed comparatively refined
and civilized. It is a cave in a rock, or ledge of the mountain, which presents
itself to view a little above the water of the river when in flood, and is situated
close to the bank. In the early settlement of Ohio this cave became possessed by
a party of Kentuckians called'Wilson's Gang.'    Wilson, in the first place, brought «"«"
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
From this spot the river stretches away in a long delightful reach,  studded with beautiful islands,  among which
his family .to this cave, and fitted it up as a spacious dwelling; erected a signpost
on the water side, on which were these words: ' Wilson's Liquor Vault and House
of Entertainment.' The novelty of such a tavern induced almost all the boats descending the river to call for refreshments and amusement. Attracted by these
circumstances, several idle characters took up their abode at the cave, after which
it continually resounded with the shouts of the licentious, the clamour of the riotous,
and the blasphemy of gamblers. Out of such customers Wilson found no difficulty
in forming a band of robbers, with whom he formed the plan of murdering the
crews of every boat that stopped at his tavern, and of sending the boats, manned
by some of his party, to New-Orleans, and there sell their loading for cash, which
was to be conveyed to the cave by land through the States of Tennessee and Kentucky; the party returning with it being instructed to murder and rob on all good
occasions on the road.
" After a lapse of time the merchants of the upper country began to be alarmed
on finding their property make no returns, and their people never coming back.
Several families and respectable men who had gone down the river were never heard
of, and the losses became so frequent that it raised, at length, a cry of individual
distress and general dismay. This naturally led to an inquiry, and large rewards
were offered for the discovery of the perpetrators of such unparalleled crimes. It
soon came out that Wilson, with an organized party of forty-five men, was the
cause of such waste of blood and treasure; that he had a station at Hurricane
Island to arrest every boat that pa ssed by the mouth of the cavern, and that he
had agents at Natchez and New-Orleans, of presumed respectability, who converted his assignments into cash, though they knew the goods to be stolen or
obtained by the commission of murder.
" The publicity of Wilson's transactions soon broke up his party; some
dispersed, others were taken prisoners, and he himself was killed by one of his
associates, who was tempted by the reward offered for the head of the captain
of the gang.
" This cavern measures about twelve rods in length and five in width; its entrance presents a width of eighty feet at its base and twenty-five feet high. The
interior walls are smooth rock. The floor is very remarkable, being level through
the whole length of its centre, the sides rising in stony grades, in the manner of
seats in the pit of a theatre. On a diligent scrutiny of the walls, it is plainly discerned that the ancient inhabitants at a very remote period had made use of the
cave as a house of deliberation and council. The walls bear many hieroglyphics
well executed, and some of them represent animals which have no resemblance to
any now known to natural history.
" This cavern is a great natural curiosity, as it is connected with another still
more gloomy, which is situated exactly above, united by an aperture of about fourteen feet, which, to ascend, is like passing up a chimney, while the mountain is
yet far above. Not long after the dispersion and arrest of the robbers who had
infested it, in the upper vault were found the skeletons of about sixty persons, who.
had been murdered by the gang of Wilson, as was supposed. 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
I Hurricane Island," a very large one, is chief.42 Passing
the compact little village of Golconda with its neat courthouse, and the mouth of the Cumberland River with its
green island, once the rendezvous of Aaron Burr and his
chivalrous band, we next reached the town of Paducah, at
the outlet of the Tennessee.43 This is a place of importance,44
though deemed unhealthy: it is said to have derived its name
from a captive Indian woman, who was here sacrificed by
a band of the Pawnees after having been assured of safety.
About eight miles below Paducah are situated the ruins of
" But the tokens of antiquity are still more curious and important than a
description of the mere cave, which are found engraved on the sides within, an
account of which we proceed to give:
" The sun in different stages of rise and declension; the moon under various
phases; a snake biting its tail, and representing an orb or circle; a viper; a vulture;
buzzards tearing out the heart of a prostrate man; a panther held by the ears by
a child; a crocodile; several trees and shrubs; a fox; a curious kind of hydra serpent; two doves; several bears; two scorpions; an eagle; an owl; some quails; eight
representations of animals which are now unknown. Three out of the eight are
like the elephant in all respects except the tusk and the tail. Two more resemble
the tiger; one a wild boar; another a sloth; and the last appears a creature of
fancy, being a quadruman instead of a quadruped; the claws being alike before
and behind, and in the act of conveying something to the mouth, which lay in the
centre of the monster. Besides these were several fine representations of men and
women, not naked, but clothed; not as the Indians, but much in the costume of
Greece and Rome."— Flagg.
Comment by Ed. This same account is given by Collins {op. cit., in note 40),
and is probably true.
42 Hurricane Island, four miles below Cave-in-Rock, is more than five miles in
length. The " Wilson gang " for some time used this island for a seat of operation.— Ed.
43 Golconda is the seat of Pope County, Illinois. See Woods's English Prairie,
in our volume x, p. 327, note 77.
On or just before Christmas, 1806, Aaron Burr came down the Cumberland
River from Nashville and joined Blennerhasset, Davis Floyd, and others who were
waiting for him at the mouth of the river, and together they started on Burr's ill-
fated expedition (December 28, 1806). Their united forces numbered only nine
batteaux and sixty men. See W. F. McCaleb, Aaron Burr's Conspiracy (New
York, 1903), p. 254 ff.
For a short account of Paducah, see Maximilian's Travels, in our volume xxii,
p. 203, note no.— Ed.
44 It has since been nearly destroyed by fire.— Flagg.
M 78
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
Fort Massac, once a French military post of importance.45
There is a singular legend respecting this fort still popular
among the inhabitants of the neighbouring region, the outlines of which [47] are the following: The fortress was
erected by the French while securing possession of the Western Valley, and, soon after, hostilities arising between them
and the natives, the latter contrived a stratagem, in every
respect worthy the craft and subtlety of the race, to obtain
command of this stronghold. Early one morning a body
of Indians, enveloped each in a bearskin, appeared upon
the opposite bank of the Ohio. Supposing them the animal so faithfully represented, the whole French garrison in
a mass sallied incontinently forth, anticipating rare sport,
while the remnant left behind as a guard gathered themselves
upon the glacis as spectators of the scene. Meanwhile, a
large body of Indians, concealed in rear of the fort, slipped
silently from their ambush, and few were there of the French
who escaped to tell the tale of the scene that ensued. They
were massacred almost to a man, and hence the name of
Massac to the post. During the war of the revolution a
garrison was stationed upon the spot for some years, but
the structures are now in ruins. A few miles below is a
small place consisting of a few farmhouses, called Wilkin-
sonviile,46 on the site where Fort Wilkinson once stood; just
opposite, along the shore, commences the | Grand Chain "
of rocks so famous to the Ohio pilot, extending four miles.
The little village of Caledonia is here laid off among the
48 On Fort Massac, see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume iii, p. 73, note
139.— Ed.
48 Wilkinsonville, named for General James Wilkinson, was a small hamlet located on the site of the Fort Wilkinson of 1812, twenty-two miles above Cairo.
Two or three farm houses are today the sole relics of this place; see Thwaites,
On the Storied Ohio, p. 291.
Caledonia is still a small village in Pulaski County, Illinois. Its post-office is
Olmstead.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
bluffs.   It has a good landing, and is the proposed site of a
marine hospital.
It was sunset when we arrived at the confluence of the rivers.
In course of the afternoon we had been visited by a violent
thunder-gust, accompanied [48] by hail. But sunset came,
and the glorious | bow of the covenant " was hung out
upon the dark bosom of the clouds, spanning woodland and
waters with its beautiful hues. And yet, though the hour
was a delightful one, the scene did not present that aspect
of vastness and sublimity which was anticipated from the
celebrity of the streams. For some miles before uniting
its waters with the Mississippi, the Ohio presents a dull
and uninteresting appearance. It is no longer the clear,
sparkling stream, with bluffs and woodland painted on its
surface; the volume of its channel is greatly increased by its
union with two of its principal tributaries, and its waters
are turbid; its banks are low, inundated, and clothed with
dark groves of deciduous forest-trees, and the only sounds
which issue from their depths to greet the traveller's ear
are the hoarse croakings of frogs, or the dull monotony of
countless choirs of moschetoes. Thus rolls on the river
through the dullest, dreariest, most uninviting region
imaginable, until it sweeps away in a direction nearly
southeast, and meets the venerable Father of the West advancing to its embrace. The volume of water in each seems
nearly the same; the Ohio exceeds a little in breadth, their
currents oppose to each other an equal resistance, and the
résultant of the forces is a vast lake more than two miles
in breadth, where the united waters slumber quietly and
magnificently onward for leagues in a common bed. On
the right come roiling in the turbid floods of the Mississippi;
and on looking upon it for the first time with preconceived
ideas of the magnitude of the mightiest [49] river on the
globe, the spectator is always disappointed.   He considers w "■"
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
only its breadth when compared with the Ohio, without
adverting to its vast depth. The Ohio sweeps in majestically from the north, and its clear waters flow on for miles
without an intimate union with its turbid conqueror. The
characteristics of the two streams are distinctly marked
at their junction and long after. The banks of both are
low and swampy, totally unfit for culture or habitation.
i Willow Point," which projects itself into the confluence,
presents an elevation of twenty feet; yet, in unusual inundations, it is completely buried six feet below the surface,
and the agitated waters, rolling together their masses, form
an enormous lake. How strange it seemed, while gazing
upon the view I have attempted to delineate, now fading
away beneath the summer twilight — how very strange was
the reflection that these two noble streams, deriving their
sources in the pellucid lakes and the clear icy fountains of
their highland-homes, meandering majestically through scenes
of nature and of art unsurpassed in beauty, and draining,
and irrigating, and fertilizing the loveliest valley on the globe
— how strange, that the confluence of the waters of such
streams, in their onward rolling to the deep, should take
place at almost the only stage in their course devoid entirely
of interest to the eye or the fancy; in the heart of a dreary
and extended swamp, waving with the gloomy boughs of
the cypress, and enlivened by not a sound but the croaking of bullfrogs, and the deep, surly misery note of [50]
moschetoes! Willow Point is the property of a company
of individuals, who announce it their intention to elevate
the delta above the power of inundations, and here to
locate a city.47 There are as yet, however, but a few
storehouses on the spot; and when we consider the incalculable expense the only plan for rendering it habitable
4' For account of the attempt at settlements at the confluence of the Ohio and
Mississippi, see Maximilian's Travels, in our volume xxii, p. 204, note in, — Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
involves, we can only deem the idea of a city here as the
chimera of a Utopian fancy. For more than twelve
miles above the confluence, the whole alluvion is annually
inundated, and forbids all improvement; but were this site
an elevated one, a city might here be founded which
should command the immense commerce of these great
rivers, and become the grand central emporium of the
Western Valley.
Upon the first elevated land above the confluence stands
the little town called America. This is the proposed terminus to the grand central railroad of the Internal Improvement scheme of Illinois, projected to pass directly through
the state,48 uniting its northern extremity with the southern.
The town is said to have been much retarded in its
advancement by the circumstance of a sand-bar obstructing the landing. It has been contemplated to cut a basin,
extending from the Ohio to a stream called " Humphrey's
Creek," which passes through the place, and thus secure
a harbour. Could this plan be carried into execution,
America would soon become a town of importance.
Ohio River.
48 For America see Ogden's Letters, our volume xix, p. 44, note 30, and Woods's
English Prairie, our volume x, p. 327, note 77.
The scheme known as the " Internal Improvement Policy " was authorized
over the governor's veto by the Illinois general assembly on February 27, 1837,
in response to the popular clamor for its adoption. The object was to open the
country for immigration and hasten its natural development by constructing railroads and canals as yet not needed commercially. Ten million two hundred
thousand dollars were appropriated by the act, including two hundred thousand
dollars to be given directly to the counties not favored. Surveys were made, and
speculation was rife. Then followed a collapse, and six million five hundred thousand dollars were added to the state debt. The scheme was later referred to as
the General Insanity Bill.— Ed.
1 82
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
" The groves were God's first temples."
I Ohl it's hame, and it's hame, it's hame wad I be,
Hame, hame, hame, to my ain couhtrie."
" Those Sabbath bells, those Sabbath bells,
I hear them wake the hour of prime."
" She walks the waters like a thing of life."
It was late before we had passed the confluence of the
Ohio with the dark-rolling tide of the | endless river," and
the mellow gorgeousness of summer sunset had gently
yielded to the duskiness of twilight, and that to the inky
pall of night. The moon had not risen, and the darkness
became gradually so dense that doubts were entertained
as to the prudence of attempting to stem the mighty
current of the Mississippi on such a night. These, however,
were overruled; and, sweeping around the low peninsula
of Cairo, our steamer met the torrent and quivered in
every limb. A convulsed, motionless struggle ensued, in
which the heavy labouring of the engine, the shrill
whistle of the safety-valve, the quick, querulous crackling
of the furnaces, the tumultuous rushing of the wheels, and
the stern roar of the scape-pipe, gave evidence of the fearful power summoned up to overcome the flood. At length
we began very slowly to ascend the stream. [52] Our
speed was about five miles an hour, and the force of the
current nearly the same, which so impedes advancement
that it requires as long to ascend from the confluence to
St. Louis as to descend to the same point from the Falls,
though the distance is less than half. All night our steamer
urged herself slowly onward against the current, and the
morning found us threading a narrow channel   amid a I836-I837J
Flagg's Far West
cluster of islands, from whose dense foliage the night-mists
were rising and settling in dim confusion. Near the
middle of the stream, above this collection, lays a very
large island, comprising eight or ten thousand acres. It is
called English Island;49 is heavily timbered; huge vines
of the wild grape are leaping like living things from branch
to branch, and the wild pea flourishes all over the surface
of the soil in most luxuriant profusion. The stream here
expands itself to the breadth of four miles, and abounds
with islands.
As the morning advanced the sun burst gloriously forth
from the mists; and as I gazed with ttanquillized delight
upon the beautiful scenery it unrolled, I remembered that
it was the morning of the Sabbath — the peaceful Sabbath.
It is a sweet thing to pass the hours of holy time amid the
eloquent teachings of inanimate nature. It is pleasant to
yield up for a season the sober workings of reason to the
warm gushings of the heart, and to suffer the homage of
the soul to go up before the Author of its being unfettered
by the chill formalities, the bustling parade, the soulless
dissembling of the unbending courtesies of ordinary life.
Amid the [53] crowded assemblage, there is but little of that
humbleness of spirit and that simple-hearted fervour of
worship which it is in man to feel when communing within
the shadowy solitudes of Nature with his God. There are
moments, too, when the soul of man is called back from
the heartlessness of life, and pours forth its emotions, gush
upon gush, in all the hallowed luxuriance of its nature;
when, from the fevered turmoil of daily existence, it retires
to well up its sympathies alone beneath the covert of a lulled
and peaceful bosom; and surely such a season is the calm,
48 The English Island of 1836 is probably the Power's Island of today. It is
three miles long, and forms a part of Scott County, Missouri, more.than twenty
miles above Cairo.— Ed.
m 84
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
waveless hour of Sabbath sacredness. And it is a blessed
appointment that, in a world whose quietude too often is
disturbed by the untamed heavings of unholy feeling, there
should yet be moments when the agitated events of the past
are forgotten, when the apprehensions of the future are un-
thought of, and the generous emotions of the heart are no more
repressed. Such moments are the crystal fount of the oasis,
girt, indeed, by the sands and barrenness of the desert; yet
laughing forth in tinkling melody amid its sprinkled evergreens, in all the sparkling freshness of rmmic life, to bathe
the languid lip of the weary one. Such moments are the
mellow radiance of the departing sun when the trials of the
day are over; and tenderly and softly do their influences
descend upon the heart. Like the pure splendour of the
star of even, how calmly does the sacred Sabbath-time beam
out from the dark, unquiet firmament of life! 'Tis the
blessed rainbow of promise and of consolation amid the
rough storms of our pilgrimage, [54] and its holy influences
elicit all the untold richness of the heart. It is a season
soft as the memorial of buried affection, mild as the melody
of departed years, pure as the prayer of feebleness from the
lip of childhood, beautiful as yon floating islet sleeping in
sunset radiance on the blue evening wave. " Gone, gone
for ever ! " Another Sabbath is over, and from its gathering shades it is good to cast back a glance of reflection.
A company of emigrants, in course of the morning, were
landed from our boat at a desolate-looking spot upon the
Missouri shore; men, women, and little ones, with slaves,
household stuff, pots, kettles, dogs, implements of husbandry,
and all the paraphernalia of the backwood's farm heaped
up promiscuously in a heterogeneous mass among the undergrowth beneath the lofty trees. A similar party from the
State of Vermont were, during our passage, landed near
the mouth of the Wabash, one of whom was a pretty, delicate 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
female, with an infant boy in her arms. They had been
deck-passengers, and we had seen none of them before; yet
their situation could not but excite interest in their welfare.
Poor woman! thought I, as our boat left them gazing anxiously after us from the inhospitable bank, little do you
dream of the trials and the privations to which your destiny
conducts, and the hours of bitter retrospection which are to
come over your spirit like a blight, as, from these cheerless
solitudes, you cast back many a lingering thought to your
dear, distant home in New-England; whose very mountain-
crags and fierce storms [55] of winter, harsh and unwelcome
though they might seem to the stranger, were yet pleasant
to you:
" My native land! my native land!
Though bare and bleak thou be,
And scant and cold thy summer smile,
Thou'rt all the world to me."
A few years, and all this will have passed away. A new
home and new ties will have sprung up in the wilderness
to soothe the remembrance of the old. This broad valley
will swarm with population; the warm breath of man will
be felt upon the cheek, and his tread will be heard at the
side; the glare of civilization and the confused hum of business will have violated these solitudes and broken in upon
their gloom, and here empire shall have planted her throne;
and then, perchance, that playful boy upon the bosom may
rise to wield the destinies of his fellows. But many a year
of toil and privation must first have passed away; and who
shall record their annals? A thousand circumstances, all
unlooked for, will seize upon the feelings of the emigrant;
the harshness of strangers, the cold regard of recent acquaintance, the absence of relatives and of friends long cherished,
the distance which separates him from his native home, and
the dreary time which must elapse between all communications of the pen.   And then the sweet chime of the Sab- 86
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
bath-bell of New-England, pealing out in " angels' music " 50
on the clear mountain-air, to usher in the hours of holy
time, and to summon the soul of man to communion with
its Maker; will this be heard amid the forest solitude? and
all that quiet [56] mtermingling of heart with heart which
divests grief of half its bitterness by taking from it all its
loneliness? And the hour of sickness, and of death, and
of gushing tears, as they come to all, may not be absent
here; and where are the soothing consolations of religious
solemnity, and the sympathies of kindred souls, and the
unobtrusive condolence of those who alone may enter the
inner temple of the breast, where the stranger intermed-
dleth not ? Yes, it must be — notwithstanding the golden
anticipations indulged by every humble emigrant to this El
Dorado of promise — it must be that there will arise in his
bosom, when he finds himself for the first time amid these
vast forest solitudes, attended only by his wife and children, a feeling of unutterable loneliness and desertion. Until this moment he has been sustained by the buoyancy of
anticipated success, the excitement of change, the enlivening influences of new and beautiful scenes; and the effect
of strange faces and strange customs has been to divert the
attention, while the farewell .pressure of affection yet has
warmly lingered. All this is over now, and his spirit, left
to its own resources, sinks within liim. The sacred spot
of his nativity is far, far away towards the morning sun;
and there is the village church and the village graveyard,
hallowed by many a holy remembrance; there, too, are
the playmates and the scenes of his boyhood-days; thetryst-
ing-place of youthful love and of youthful friendship, spots
around which are twined full many a tendril of his heart;
and he has turned from them all for ever. Henceforth he
is a wanderer, and a distant soil must [57] claim his ashes.
*° Herbert.— Flagg. 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
He who, with such reflections, yearns not for the home of
his fathers, is an alien, and no true son of New-England.
It was yet early in the morning of our first day upon the
Mississippi that we found ourselves beneath the stately
bluff upon which stands the old village of Cape Girardeau.51
Its site is a bold bank of the stream, gently sloping to the
water's edge, upon a substratum of limerock. A settlement
was commenced on this spot in the latter part of the last
century. Its founders were of French and German extraction, though its structures do not betray their origin. The
great earthquakes of 1811, which vibrated through the whole
length of the Western Valley, agitated the site of this village
severely; many brick houses were shattered, chimneys
thrown down, and other damage effected, traces of the
repairs of which are yet to be viewed. The place received
a shock far more severe, however, in the removal of the seat
of justice to another town in the county: but the landing is
an excellent one; iron ore and other minerals are its staples
of trade, and it is again beginning to assume a commercial character. The most remarkable objects which struck
our attention in passing this place were several of those
peculiarly novel mills put in motion by a spiral water-wheel,
acted on by the current of the river. These screw-wheels
float upon the surface parallel to the shore, rising or falling
with the water, and are connected with the gearing in the
millhouse upon the bank by a long shaft. The action of
the current upon [58] the spiral thread of the wheel within
its external casing keeps it in constant motion, which is
communicated by the shaft to the machinery of the mills.
The contrivance betrays much ingenuity, and for purposes
where a motive of inconsiderable power is required, may be
a For a sketch of Cape Girardeau, see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume iii,
p. 80, note 154.— Ed. Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
useful; but for driving heavy millstones or a saw, the utility
is more than problematical.
In the vicinity of Cape Girardeau commences what is
termed the " Tyowapity Bottom," a celebrated section of
country extending along the Missouri side of the stream some
thirty miles, and abounding with a peculiar species of potter's clay, unctuous in its nature, exceedingly pure and white,
and plastic under the wheel.52 This stratum of clay is said
to vary from one foot to ten in depth, resting upon sandstone, and covered by limestone abounding in petrifactions.
A manufactory is in operation at Cape Girardeau, in which
this substance is the material employed. Near the northern
extremity of this bottom the waters of the Muddy River enter the Mississippi from Illinois.53 This stream was discovered by the early French voyageurs, and from them received
the name of Rivière au Vase, or Vaseux. It is distinguished
for the salines upon its banks, for its exhaustless beds of
bituminous coal, for the fertility of the soil, and for a singularly-formed eminence among the bluffs of the Mississippi,
a few miles from its mouth. Its name is | Fountain Bluff,"
derived from the circumstance that from its base gush out
a number of limpid springs.54 It is said to measure eight
miles [59] in circumference, and to have an altitude of several hundred feet. Its western declivity looks down upon
the river, and its northern side is a precipitous crag, while that
62 A superior quality of kaolin, or china clay, is mined in large quantities in
Cape Girardeau County. Marble ninety-nine per cent pure, is procured in
abundance.— Ed.
63 "Muddy River," usually called " Big Muddy," is the English translation of
the French Rivière au Vase, or Vaseux. Formed by the union of two branches
rising in Jefferson County, Illinois, it flows in a southwesterly direction and empties into the Mississippi about twenty-five miles above Cape Girardeau. It is one
hundred and forty miles long.— Ed.
54 Fountain Bluff is six miles above the mouth of the Big Muddy. Flagg's descriptions are in the main accurate.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
upon the south slopes away to a fertile plain, sprinkled with
A few miles above the Big Muddy stands out from the
Missouri shore a huge perpendicular column of limestone,
of cylindrical formation, about one hundred feet in circumference at the base, and in height one hundred and fifty feet,
called the " Grand Tower."55 Upon its summit rests a thin
stratum of vegetable mould, supporting a shaggy crown of
rifted cedars, rocking in every blast that sweeps the stream,
whose turbid current boils, and chafes, and rages at the
obstruction below. This is the first of that celebrated range
of heights upon the Mississippi usually pointed out to the
tourist, springing in isolated masses from the river's brink
upon either side, and presenting to the eye a succession of
objects singularly grotesque. There are said to exist, at this
point upon the Mississippi, indications of a huge parapet
of limestone having once extended across the stream, which
must have formed a tremendous cataract, and effectually
inundated all the alluvion above. At low stages of the
water ragged shelves, which render the navigation dangerous, are still to be seen. Among the other cliffs along this
precipitous range which have received names from the boatmen are the " Devil's Oven," " Teatable," " Backbone,"
&c, which, with the | Devil's Anvil," | Devil's Island," &c,
indicate pretty plainly the divinity most religiously propitiated [60] in these  dangerous passes.58    The   " Oven "
** Grand Tower, seventy-five feet high, and frequently mentioned by early writers, is a mile above the island of the same name, at the mouth of the Big Muddy,
and stands out some distance from the Missouri side. Grand Tower Island was
an object of much dread to boatmen during the days of early navigation on the
Mississippi. A powerful current sweeping around Devil's Oven, frequently seized
frail or unwieldy craft to dash it against this rock. Usually the boatmen landed,
and by means of long ropes towed their vessels along the Illinois side, past this
perilous rock.— Ed.
*• The Mississippi between the mouth of the Kaskaskia River and Cape Girardeau offered many obstructions to early navigation.    As at Grand Tower, the
■B 9°
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
consists of an enormous promontory of rock, about one
hundred feet from the surface of the river, with a hemispherical orifice scooped out of its face, probably by the
action, in ages past, of the whirling waters now hurrying
on below. It is situated upon the left bank of the stream,
about one mile above the " Tower," and is visible from the
river. In front rests a huge fragment of the same rock,
and in the interval stands a dwelling and a garden spot.
The i Teatable " is situated at some distance below, and
the other spots named are yet lower upon the stream.
This whole region bears palpable evidence of having been
subjected, ages since, to powerful volcanic and diluvial
action; and neither the Neptunian or Vulcanian theory can
advance a superior claim.
For a long time after entering the dangerous defile in
the vicinity of the Grand Tower, through which the current
rushes like a racehorse, our steamer writhed and groaned
against the torrent, hardly advancing a foot. At length,
as if by a single tremendous effort, which caused her to
quiver and vibrate to her centre, an onward impetus was
gained, the boat shot forward, the rapids were overcome,
and then, by chance, commenced one of those perilous
feats of rivalry, formerly, more than at present, frequent
upon the Western waters, a race. Directly before us, a
steamer of a large class, deeply laden, was roaring and
struggling against the torrent under her highest pressure.
During our passage we had several times passed and
repassed each other, as either boat was delayed [61] at the
various woodyards along the route; but now, as the evening
boatmen frequently found it necessary to land and tow their boats past the dangerous points, and here the Indians would lie in ambush to fall upon the unfortunate whites. The peril of these places doubtless lent color to their nomenclature.
Flagg's descriptions are fairly accurate except in the matter of dimensions, wherein
he tends to exaggeration.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
came on, and we found ourselves gaining upon our antagonist, the excitement of emulation flushed every cheek.
The passengers and crew hung clustering, in breathless
interest, upon the galleries and the boiler deck, wherever
a post for advantageous view presented; while the hissing
valves, the quick, heavy stroke of the piston, the sharp
clatter of the eccentric, and the cool determination of the
pale engineer, as he glided like a spectre among the fearful elements of destruction, gave evidence that the challenge
was accepted. But there was one humble individual, above
all others, whose whole soul seemed concentrated in the
contest, as from time to time, in the intervals of toil, his
begrimed and working features were caught, glaring through
the lurid light of the furnaces he was feeding. This was no
less a personage than the doughty fireman of our steamer;
a long, lanky individual, with a cute cast of the eye, a knowing tweak of the nose, and an interminable longitude of phiz.
His checkered shirt was drenched with perspiration; a huge
pair of breeches, begirdling his loins by means of a leathern
belt, covered his nether extremities, and two sinewy arms
of I whipcord and bone " held in suspension a spadelike
brace of hands. During our passage, more than once did
I avail myself of an opportunity of studying the grotesque,
good-humoured visage of this unique individual; and it required no effort.of fancy to imagine I viewed before me
some lingering remnant of that | horse and alligator
race," now, like [62] the poor Indian, fast fading from the
West before the march of steamboats and civilization, videlicet, " the Mississippi boatman." And, on the occasion of
which I speak, methought I could catch no slight resemblance in my interesting fireman, as he flourished his ponderous limbs, to that faithful portraiture of his majesty of the
Styx in Tooke's Pantheon! though, as touching this latter,
I must confess me of much dubiety in boyhood days,
— Ç2
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
with the worthy " gravedigger " Young, having entertained
shrewd suspicions whether the § tyrant ever sat."
But in my zeal for the honest Charon I am forgetting
the exciting subject of the race. During my digression, the
ambitious steamers have been puffing, and sweating, and
glowing in laudable effort, to say nothing of stifled sobs said
to have issued from their labouring bosoms, until at length
a grim smile of satisfaction lighting up the rugged features
of the worthy Charon, gave evidence that not in vain he had
wielded his mace or heaved his wood. A dense mist soon
after came on, and the exhausted steamers were hauled up
at midnight beneath the venerable trees upon the banks of the
stream. On the first breakings of dawn all was again in
motion. But, alas ! alas ! in spite of all the strivings of our
valorous steamer, it soon became but too evident that her
mighty rival must prevail, as with distended jaws, like to
some huge fish, she came rushing up in our wake, as if our
annihilation were sure. But our apprehensions proved
groundless; like a civil, well-behaved rival, she speeded on,
hurling forth a triple bob-major of [63] curses at us as
she passed, doubtless by way of salvo, and disappeared
behind a point. When to this circumstance is added that
a long-winded racer of a mail-boat soon after swept past
us in her onward course, and left us far in the rear, I shall
be believed when it is stated that the steamer on which we
were embarked was distinguished for anything but speed;
a circumstance by none regretted less than by myself.
Mississippi River. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
" I linger yet with Nature."
" Onward still I press,
Follow thy windings still, yet sigh for more."
" God's my life, did you ever hear the like!
What a strange man is this! "
Ben Jonson.
But a very few years have passed away since the navigation of the Mississippi was that of one of the most dangerous streams on the globe; but, thanks to the enterprising
genius of the scientific Shreve, this may no longer with
truth be said. In 1824 the first appropriation " was voted
by Congress for improving the navigation of the Western
rivers; and since that period thousands of snags, sawyers,
[64] planters, sand-bars, sunken rocks, and fallen trees have
been removed, until all that now remains is to prevent new
obstacles from accumulating where the old have been
eradicated. For much of its course in its lower sections,
the Mississippi is now quite safe; and as the progress of
settlements advances upon its banks, the navigation of this
noble stream will doubtless become unobstructed in its
whole magnificent journey from the falls of the " Laughing
Water" to the Mexican Gulf. The indefatigable industry,
the tireless perseverance, the indomitable enterprise, and the
enlarged and scientific policy of Captain Shreve, the projector and accomplisher of the grand national operations
upon the Western rivers, can never be estimated beyond
their merit. The execution of that gigantic undertaking, the
removal of the Red River Raft, has identified his history
with that of the empire West;68 his fame will endure so long
" $105,000.— Flagg.
68 For Red River raft, see James's Long's Expedition, in our volume xvii, p. 70,
note 64.— Ed. 94
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
as those magnificent streams, with which his name is associated, shall continue to roll on their volumed waters to the deep.
These remarks have been suggested by scenes of constant
recurrence to the traveller on the Mississippi. The banks,
the forests, the islands all differ as much as the stream
itself from those of the soft-gliding Ohio. Instead of those
dense emerald masses of billowy foliage swelling gracefully
up from the banks of " the beautiful river," those of the
Mississippi throw back a rough, ragged outline; their sands
piled with logs and uprooted trees, while heaps of wreck
and drift-wood betray the wild ravages of the stream. In
the midst of [65] the mass a single enormous sycamore often
rears its ghastly limbs, while at its foot springs gracefully
up a light fringe of the pensile willow. Sometimes, too, a
huge sawyer, clinging upon the verge of the channel, heaves
up its black mass above the surface, then falls, and again
rises with the rush of the current. Against one of these
sawyers is sometimes lodged a mass of drift-wood, pressing
it firmly upon the bottom, till, by a constant accumulation,
a foundation is gradually laid and a new island is formed:
this again, by throwing the water from its course, causes
a new channel, which, infringing with violence upon the
opposite bank, undermines it with its colonnade of enormous trees, and thus new material in endless succession is
afforded for obstructions to the navigation. The deposites
of alluvion along the banks betray a similar origin of.
gradual accumulation by the annual floods. In some
sections of the American Bottom,89 commencing at its
southern extremity with the Kaskaskia River, the mould,
upward of thirty feet in depth, is made up of numerous
strata of earth, which may be readily distinguished and
counted by the colours.
** In reference to the American Bottom, see Ogden's Letters, in our volume xix,
p. 62, note 48.— Ed. 1836-183 7l
Flagg's Far West
About twenty miles above the mouth of the Kaskaskia
is situated Ste. Genevieve, grand deposite of the lead of the
celebrated ancient mines La Motte, and A'Burton, and
others, some thirty miles in the interior, and the market
which supplies all the mining district of the vicinity.80 It
was first commenced about the year 1774 by the original
settlers of Upper Louisiana; and the Canadian [66] French,
with their descendants, constitute a large portion of its present inhabitants. The population does not now exceed eight
hundred, though it is once said to have numbered two
thousand inhabitants. Some of the villagers are advanced
in years, and among them is M. Valle, one of the chief
proprietors of Mine la Motte, who, though now some ninety
years of age, is almost as active as when fifty.61   Ste. Gene-
"° For an account of Ste. Genevieve, see Cuming's Tour, in our volume iv,
p. 266, note 174.
According to Austin, cited below, La Motte (or La Mothe) Cadillac, governor
of Louisiana, went on an expedition (1715) to the Illinois in search of silver, and
found lead ore in a mine which had been shown him fifteen miles west of the Mississippi. It is believed by some authorities that this was the famous " Mine la
Mothe," at the head of the St. Francis River. Schoolcraft, however, says that
Philip Francis Renault, having received mining grants from the French government, left France in 1719, ascended the Mississippi, established himself the following year near Kaskaskia, and sent out small companies in search of precious metals;
and that La Mothe, who had charge of one of these companies, soon discovered
the mine that still bears bis name. It was operated only at intervals, until after
the American occupation, when its resources were developed. Under the Spanish
domination (1762-1800), little was done to develop the mine. In 1763, however,
Francis Burton discovered the " Mine à Burton," on a branch of Mineral Fork.
Like the " Mine la Mothe," it was known to the Indians before the discovery by
the whites, and both are still operated. Burton was said to have been alive in
1818, at the age of a hundred and six; see Colonel Thomas Benton's account of
him in St. Louis Enquirer, October 16, 1818.
For an account of primitive mining operations, see Thwaites, Wisconsin Historical Collections, xiii, pp. 271-292; Moses Austin, " Lead Mines of Ste. Geneviève
and St. Louis Counties," American State Papers (Public Lands), iii, pp. 609-613;
and H. R. Schoolcraft, Lead Mines oj Missouri (New York, 1819).— Ed.
a From 1738 to 1744, the mines were considered as public property: but in
the year last mentioned François Vallé received from the French government a
grant of two thousand arpents of land (1,666 acres) including " Mine la Mothe,"
and eighteen years later twenty-eight thousand arpents (23,333 acres) additional.
Ik 96
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
vieve is situated about one mile from the Mississippi, upon a
broad alluvial plain lying between the branches of a
small stream called Gabourie. Beyond the first bottom rises
a second steppe, and behind this yet a third, attaining an
elevation of more than a hundred feet from the water's edge.
Upon this elevated site was erected, some twenty years since>
a handsome structure of stone, commanding a noble prospect
of the river, the broad American Bottom on the opposite
side, and the bluffs beyond the Kaskaskia. It was intended
for a literary institution; but, owing to unfavourable reports
with regard to the health of its situation, the design was
abandoned, and the edifice was never completed. It is now
in a state of | ruinous perfection," and enjoys the reputation, moreover, of being haunted. In very sooth, its aspect,
viewed from the river at twilight, with its broken windows
outlined against the western sky, is wild enough to warrant
such an idea or any other. A courthouse and Catholic
chapel constitute the public buildings. To the south of the
village, and lying upon the river, is situated the common
field, originally comprising [67] two thousand arpens; but it
is now much less in extent, and is yearly diminishing from
the action of the current upon the alluvial banks. These
common fields were granted by the Spanish government,
as well as by the French, to every village settled under their
domination. A single enclosure at the expense of the villagers was erected and kept in repair, and the lot of every
individual was separated from his neighbour's by a double
furrow. Near this field the village was formerly located;
but in the inundation of 1785, called by the old habitons
i L'année des grandes eaux," so much of the bank was
At Vallé's death the land passed to his sons, François and John, and Joseph Pratt,
a transfer confirmed by Congress in 1827. The next year it was sold to C C
Vallé, L. E. Linn, and Everett Pratt. In 1830 it was sold in part and the remainder
leased.    In 1868 the estate passed from the hands of the Vallès.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
washed away that the settlers were forced to select a more
elevated site. The Mississippi was at this time swelled
to thirty feet above the highest water-mark before known;
and the town of Kaskaskia and the whole American Bottom were inundated.
Almost every description of minerals are to be found in
the county, of which Ste. Genevieve is the seat of justice.
But of all other species, iron ore is the most abundant.
The celebrated Iron Mountain and the Pilot Knob are but
forty miles distant.82 Abundance of coal is found in the
opposite bluffs in Illinois. About twelve miles from the
village has been opened a quarry of beautiful white marble,
in some respects thought not inferior to that of Carrara.
There are also said to be immense caves of pure white
sand, of dazzling lustre, quantities of which are transported
to Pittsburg for the manufacture of flint glass. There are a
number of beautiful fountains in the neighbourhood, one of
which is said to be of surpassing loveliness. It is several
[68] yards square, and rushes up from a depth of fifteen
or twenty feet, enclosed upon three sides by masses of
living rock, over which, in pensile gracefulness, repose the
long glossy branches of the forest trees.
The early French settlers manufactured salt a few miles
from the village, at a saline formerly occupied by the aborigines, the remains of whose earthen kettles are yet found on
the spot. About thirty years since a village of the Peoria
Indians was situated where the French common field now
stands;88 and from the ancient mounds found in the vicinity,
62 Pilot Knob is a conical-shaped hill, a mile in diameter, in Iron County, Missouri, seventy-five miles southwest of St. Louis, and is rich in iron ore. In the
War of Secession it was the scene of a battle between General Ster ling Price and
General Hugh B. Ewing (September 26, 27, 1864).
Iron Mountain is an isolated knob of the St. François Mountains in St. François County, eighty miles south of St. Louis. One of the richest and purest iron
mines in the United States is found there.—Ed.
" The Peoria were one of the five principal tribes of the Illinois Confederation. 391
I i
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
and the vast quantities of animal and human remains, and
utensils of pottery exhumed from the soil, the spot seems
to have been a favourite location of a race whose destiny,
and origin, and history are alike veiled in oblivion. The
view of Ste. Genevieve from the water is picturesque and
beautiful, and its landing is said to be superior to any between the mouth of the Ohio and the city of St. Louis. The
village has that decayed and venerable aspect characteristic
of all these early French settlements.
As we were passing Ste. Genevieve an accident occurred
which had nearly proved fatal to our boat, if not to the lives
of all on board of her. A race which took place between
another steamer and our own has been noticed. In some
unaccountable manner, this boat, which then passed us, fell
again in the rear, and now, for the last hour, had been
coming up in our wake under high steam. On overtaking
us, she attempted, contrary to all rules and regulations [69]
for the navigation of the river provided, to pass between
our boat and the bank beneath which we were moving; an
outrage which, had it been persisted in a moment longer
than was fortunately the case, would have sent us to the
bottom. For a single instant, as she came rushing on, contact seemed inevitable; and, as her force was far superior
to our own, and the recklessness of many who have the
guidance of Western steamers was well known to us all, the
passengers stood clustering around upon the decks, some
pale with apprehension, and others with firearms in their
hands, flushed with excitement, and prepared to render back
prompt retribution on the first aggression. The pilot of the
hostile boat, from his exposed situation and the virulent
feelings against him, would have met with certain death;
They resided around the lake in the central portion of Illinois, which bears their
name. In 1832 they were removed to Kansas, and in 1854 to Indian Territory,
where, united with other tribes, they still reside.—Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
and he, consequently, contrary to the express injunctions
of the master, reversed the motion of the wheels just at the
instant to avoid the fatal encounter. The sole cause for
this outrage, we subsequently learned, was a private pique
existing between the pilots of the respective steamers. One
cannot restrain an expression of indignant feeling at such
an exhibition of foolhardy recklessness. It is strange, after
all the fearful accidents of this description upon the Western
waters, and that terrible prodigality of human life which
for years past has been constantly exhibited, there should
yet be found individuals so utterly regardless of the safety
of their fellow-men, and so destitute of every emotion of
generous feeling, as to force their way heedlessly onward
into [70] danger, careless of any issue save the paltry gratification of private vengeance. It is a question daily
becoming of more startling import, How may these fatal
occurrences be successfully opposed? Where lies the fault?
Is it in public sentiment ? Is it in legal enactment ? Is it in
individual villany? However this may be, our passage
seemed fraught with adventure, of which this is but an
incident. After the event mentioned, having composed the
agitation consequent, we had retired to our berths, and were
just buried in profound sleep, when crash — our boat's bow
struck heavily against a snag, which, glancing along the
bottom, threw her at once upon her beams, and all the passengers on the elevated side from their berths. No serious
injury was sustained, though alarm and confusion enough
were excited by such an unceremonious turn-out. The
dismay and tribulation of some of our worthy company
were entirely too ludicrous for the risibles of the others, and
a hearty roar of cax"hinnation was heard even above the
ejaculations of distress; a very improper thing, no doubt,
and not at all to be recommended on such occasions, as
one would hardly wish to make a grave " unknell'd and un-
I .#"-"
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
coffin'd " in the Mississippi, with a broad grin upon his
In alluding to the race which took place during our passage, honourable mention was made of a certain worthy
individual whose vocation was to feed the furnaces; and
one bright morning, when all the others of our company
had bestowed themselves in their berths because of the intolerable [71] heat, I took occasion to visit the sooty Charon
in the purgatorial realms over which he wielded the sceptre.
i Grievous work this building fires under a sun like that,"
was the salutation, as my friend the fireman had just
completed the toilsome operation once more of stuffing the
furnace, while floods of perspiration were coursing down a
chest hairy as Esau's in the Scripture, and as brawny. Hereupon honest Charon lifted up his face, and drawing a dingy
shirt sleeve with emphasis athwart his eyes, bleared with
smut, responded, | Ay, ay, sir; it's a sin to Moses, such a
trade;" and seizing incontinently upon a fragment of tin,
fashioned by dint of thumping into a polygonal dipper of
unearthly dimensions, he scooped up a quantity of the turbid fluid through which we were moving, and deep, deep
was the potation which, like a succession of rapids, went
gurgling down his throat. Marvellously refreshed, the
worthy genius dilated, much to my edification, upon the
glories of a fireman's life. | Upon this hint I spake " touching the topic of our recent race; and then were the strings
of the old worthy's tongue let loose; and vehemently amplified he upon | our smart chance of a gallop " and | the
slight sprinkling of steam he had managed to push up."
1 Ah, stranger, I'll allow, and couldn't I have teetotally
obfusticated her, and right mightily used her up, hadn't it
been I was sort of bashful as to keeping path with such
a cursed old mud-turtle! But it's all done gone;" and
the droughty Charon seized another swig  from  the un- 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
earthly dipper; and closing hermetically his lantern jaws,
and resuming his infernal- [72] labours, to which those of
Alcmena's son or of Tartarean Sysiphus were trifles, I had
the discretion to betake myself to the upper world.
During the night, after passing Ste. Genevieve, our steamer
landed at a woodyard in the vicinity of that celebrated old
fortress, Fort Chartres, erected by the French while in possession of Illinois; once the most powerful fortification in
North America, but now a pile of ruins. "4 It is situated about
three miles from Prairie de Rocher, .a little antiquated French
hamlet, the scene of one of Hall's Western Legends.,5 We
could see nothing of the old fort from our situation on the
boat; but its vast ruins, though now a shattered heap, and
shrouded with forest-trees of more than half a century's
growth, are said still to proclaim in their finished and ponderous masonry its ancient grandeur and strength. In front
stretches a large island in the stream, which has received
from the old ruin a name. It is not a little surprising that
there exists no description of this venerable pile worthy its
origin and eventful history.
Mississippi River.
64 For a short account of Fort Chartres, see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume
iii, p. 71, note 136.— Ed.
™ For Prairie du Rocher see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume iii, p. 70,
note 133. The legend referred to is, " Michel de Couce " by James Hall, in his
Legends oj the West.
Contrary to Flagg's statement that there exists no description of Fort Chartres
worthy of its history, Philip Pittman, who visited the place in 1766, gives a good
detailed description of the fort in his Present State oj the European Settlements on
the Missisippi (London, 1770), pp. 45, 46.— Ed.
E .!>f " ***^^*^psv^
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
I     r
" The hills!   our mountain-wall, the hills! "
Alpine Omen.
" But thou, exulting and abounding river!
Making thy waves a blessing as they flow
Through banks whose beauty would endure for ever,
Could man but leave thy bright creation so —"
Childe Harold.
There are few objects upon the Mississippi in which
the geologist and natural philosopher may claim a deeper
interest than that singular series of limestone cliffs already
alluded to, which, above its junction with the Ohio, present
themselves to the traveller all along the Missouri shore. The
principal ridge commences a few miles above Ste. Genevieve; and at sunrise one morning we found ourselves beneath a huge battlement of crags, rising precipitously from
the river to the height of several hundred feet. Seldom have
I gazed upon a scene more eminently imposing than that
of these hoary old cliffs, when the midsummer-sun, rushing
upward from the eastern horizon, bathed their splintered
pinnacles and spires and the rifted tree-tops in a flood of
golden effulgence. The scene was not unworthy Walter
Scott's graphic description of the view from the Trosachs
of Loch Katrine, in the | Lady of the Lake: "
" The eastern waves of rising day
Roll'd o'er the stream their level way;
Each purple peak, each flinty spire,
Was bathed in floods of living fire.
**f« Sp 3|S *|C SJC
Their rocky summits, split and rent,
Form'd turret, dome, or battlement,
Or seem'd fantastically set
With cupola or minaret,
Wild crests as pagod ever decked
Or mosque of eastern architect."
[74] All of these precipices, not less than those on the 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
Ohio, betray palpable indication of having once been swept
by the stream; and the fantastic excavations and cavernous
fissures which their bold escarpments expose would indicate a current far more furious and headstrong than that,
resistless though it be, which now rolls at their base. The
idea receives confirmation from the circumstance that opposite extends the broad American Bottom, whose alluvial
character is undisputed. This tract once constituted our
western border, whence the name.
The bluffs of Selma and Herculaneum are distinguished
for their beauty and grandeur, not less than for the practical utility to which they have been made subservient. Both
places are great depositories of lead from the mines of the
interior, and all along their cliffs, for miles, upon every
eligible point, are erected tall towers for the manufacture
of shot. Their appearance in distant view is singularly
picturesque, perched lightly upon the pinnacles of towering
cliffs, beetling over the flood, which rushes along two hundred feet below. Some of these shot manufactories have
been in operation [75] for nearly thirty years.** Herculaneum has long been celebrated for those in her vicinity.
The situation of the town is the mouth of Joachim Creek;
and the singular gap at this point has been aptly compared
to an enormous door, thrown open in the cliffs for the
passage of its waters. A few miles west of this village is
said to exist a great natural curiosity, in shape of a huge
•• For location and date of settlement of Herculaneum, see Maximilian's Travels,
in our volume xxii, p. 212, note 122.
On a perpendicular bluff, more than a hundred feet in height, in the vicinity
of Herculaneum, J. Macklot erected (1809) what was probably the first shot-tower
this side of the Atlantic. The next year one Austin built another tower at the same
point. According to H. R. Schoolcraft in his View oj the Lead Mines oj Missouri
(New York, 1819), pp. 138, 139, there were in 1817 three shot-towers near Herculaneum, producing in the eighteen months ending June 1 of that year, 668,350
pounds of shot. From the top of small wooden towers erected on the edge of the
bluff, the melted lead was poured through holes in copper pans or sieves.— Ed.
fi'Mi -**
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
rock of limestone, some hundred feet in length, and about
fifty feet high. This rock is completely honeycombed with
perforations, and has the appearance of having been pierced
by the mytilus or some other marine insect.
A few miles above Herculaneum comes in the Platine
Creek;87 and here commence the | Cornice Rocks," a magnificent escarpment of castellated cliffs some two or three
hundred feet in perpendicular altitude from the bed of the
stream, and extending along the western bank a distance
of eight or ten miles. Through the façade of these bluffs
pours in the tribute of the Merrimac, a bright, sparkling,
beautiful stream.88 This river is so clear and limpid that it
was long supposed to glide over sands of silver; but the idea
has been abandoned, and given place to the certainty of an
abundant store of lead, and iron, and salt upon its banks,
while its source is shaded by extensive forests of the white
pine, a material in this section of country almost, if not
quite, as valuable." Ancient works of various forms are
also found upon the banks of the Merrimac.    There is an
67 For the location of the Platine (usually spelled Plattin), see Maximilian's
Travels, in our volume xxii, p. 212, note 123. Lead mining has been carried on in
this district, intermittently, since 1824.— Ed.
68 See Maximilian's Travels, in our volume xxii, p. 212, note 123.— Ed.
•* The following extract from the Journal of Charlevoix, one of the earliest historians of the West, with reference to the Mines upon the Merrimac, may prove
not uninteresting.    The work is a rare one.
" On the 17th (Oct., 1721), after sailing five leagues farther, I left, on my right,
the river Marameg, where they are at present employed in searching for a silver
mine. Perhaps your grace may not be displeased if I inform you what success
may be expected from this undertaking. Here follows what I have been able to
collect about this affair, from a person who is well acquainted with it, and who
has resided for several years on the spot.
" In the year 1719, the Sieur de Lochon, being sent by the West India Company,
in quality of founder, and having dug in a place which had been marked out to
him, drew up a pretty large quantity of ore, a pound whereof, which took up four
days in smelting, produced, as they say, two drachms of silver; but some have
suspected him of putting in this quantity himself. A few months afterward he
returned thither, and, without thinking any more of the silver, he extracted from
two or three thousand weight of ore fourteen pounds of very bad lead, which stood 1836-183 7]
Flagg's Far West
immense cemetery near the village of Fenton, containing
[76] thousands of graves of a pigmy size, the largest not
exceeding four feet in length. This cemetery is now enclosed
and cultivated, so that the graves are no longer visible; but,
previous to this, it is said that headstones were to be seen
bearing unintelligible hieroglyphical inscriptions.70 Human
remains, ancient pottery, arrow-heads, and stone axes are
daily thrown up by the ploughshare, while the numerous
him in fourteen hundred francs. Disgusted with a labour which was so unprofitable, he returned to France.
" The company, persuaded of the truth of the indications which had been given
them, and that the incapacity of the founder had been the sole cause of their bad
success, sent, in his room, a Spaniard called Antonio, who had been taken at the
siege of Pensacola; had afterward been a galley-slave, and boasted much of his
having wrought in a mine at Mexico. They gave him very considerable appointments, but he succeeded no better than had done the Sieur de Lochon. He was
not discouraged himself, and others inclined to believe that he had failed from his
not being versed in the construction of furnaces. He gave over the search after
lead, and undertook to make silver; he dug down to the rock, which was found
to be eight or ten feët in thickness; several pieces of it were blown up and put into
a crucible, from whence it was given out that he extracted three or four drachms
of silver; but many are still doubtful of the truth of this fact.
" About this time arrived a company of the King's miners, under the direction
of one La Renaudiere, who, resolving to begin with the lead mines, was able to do
nothing; because neither he himself nor any of his company were in the least acquainted with the construction of furnaces. Nothing can be more surprising than
the facility with which the company at that time exposed themselves to great
expenses, and the little precaution they took to be satisfied of the capacity of those
they employed. La Renaudiere and his miners not being able to procure any lead,
a private company undertook the mines of the Marameg, and Sieur Renault, one
of the directors, superintended them with care. In the month of June last he
found a bed of lead ore two feet in thickness, running to a great length over a chain
of mountains, where he has now set his people to work. He flatters himself that
there is silver below the lead. Everybody is not of his opinion, but will discover
the truth."— Flagg.
,0 Flagg's account agrees with a much longer treatment by Lewis C Beck, in
his Gazetteer oj the States oj Illinois and Missouri (Albany, 1823), with the exception that the latter says there were no inscriptions to be found on the gravestones.
Beck himself makes extended quotations from the Missouri Gazette, November 6,
1818, and subsequent numbers. Though no doubt exaggerated, these accounts
were probably based on facts, for a large number of prehistoric remains have been
found in St. Louis County and preserved in the Peabody Museum at New Haven,
Connecticut, and elsewhere.— Ed. io6
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
mounds in the vicinity are literally composed of the same
materials. Mammoth bones, such as those discovered on
the Ohio and in the state of New-York, are said also to
have been found at a salt-lick near this stream.
It was a bright morning, on the fifth day of an exceedingly
long passage, that we found ourselves approaching St. Louis.
At about noon we were gliding beneath the broad ensign
floating from the flagstaff of Jefferson Barracks.71 The sun
was gloriously bright; the soft summer wind was rippling
the waters, and the clear cerulean of the heavens was
imaged in their depths. The site of the quadrangle of
the barracks enclosing the parade is the broad summit of a
noble bluff, swelling up from the water, while the outbuildings are scattered picturesquely along the interval beneath;
the view from the steamer cannot but strike the traveller as
one of much scenic beauty. Passing the venerable village of
Carondelet, with its whitewashed cottages crumbling with
years, and old Cahokia buried in the forests on the opposite
bank, the gray walls of the Arsenal next stood out before
us in the rear of its beautiful esplanade.72 A fine quay is
erected upon the river in front, and the extensive grounds
[77] are enclosed by a wall of stone. Sweeping onward,
the lofty spire and dusky walls of St. Louis Cathedral, on
rounding a river bend, opened upon the eye, the gilded cru-
71 For an account of Jefferson Barracks, see Townsend's Narrative, in our volume xxi, p. 122, note 2.— Ed.
72 For the history of Carondelet, see Maximilian's Travels, in our volume xxii,
p. 215, note 124.
For reference to Cahokia, see A. Michaux's Travels, in our volume iii, p. 70,
note 135.
On May 20, 1826, Congress made an appropriation of fifteen thousand dollars
to the secretary of war, for the purpose of purchasing the site for the erection of
an arsenal in the vicinity of St. Louis. Lands now far within the southeastern
limits of the city were purchased, and the buildings erected which were used for
arsenals until January 16, 1871, when they were occupied as a depot for the general mounted recruiting service.— Ed. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
cifix gleaming in the sunlight from its lofty summit; and
then the glittering cupolas and church domes, and the fresh
aspect of private residences, mingling with the bright foliage
of forest-trees interspersed, all swelling gently from the
water's edge, recalled vividly the beautiful | Mistress of the
North," as my eye has often lingered upon her from her
magnificent bay. A few more spires, and the illusion would
be perfect. For beauty of outline in distant view, St. Louis
is deservedly famed. The extended range of limestone
warehouses chcling the shore give to the city a grandeur
of aspect, as approached from the water, not often beheld;
while the dense-rolling forest-tops stretching away in the
rear, the sharp outline of the towers and roofs against the
western sky, and the funereal grove of steamboat-pipes lining the quay, altogether make up a combination of features
novel and picturesque. As we approached the landing all
the uproar and confusion of a steamboat port was before
us, and our own arrival added to the bustle.
And now, perchance, having escaped the manifold perils
of sawyer and snag, planter, wreck-heap, and sand-bar, it
may not be unbecoming in me, like an hundred other tourists, to gather up a votive offering, and — if classic allusion
be permissible on the waters of the wilderness West — hang
it up before the shrine of the " Father of Floods."
[78] It is surely no misnomer that this giant stream has
been styled the " eternal river," the | terrible Mississippi; "73
for we may find none other imbodying so many elements
of the fearful and the sublime. In the wild rice-lakes of
the far frozen north, amid a solitude broken only by the
shrill clang of the myriad water-fowls, is its home. Gushing out from its fountains clear as the air-bell, it sparkles
over the white pebbly sand-beds, and, breaking over the
78 A name of Algonquin origin -
Missi signifying great, and sepe a river.- io8
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
I     :
beautiful falls of the | Laughing Water," 74 it takes up its
majestic march to the distant deep. Rolling onward through
the shades of magnificent forests, and hoary, castellated cliffs,
and beautiful meadows, its volume is swollen as it advances,
until it receives to its bosom a tributary, a rival, a conqueror,
which has roamed three thousand miles for the meeting, and
its original features are lost for ever. Its beauty is merged
in sublimity ! Pouring along in its deep bed the heaped-up
waters of streams which drain the broadest valley on the
globe; sweeping onward in a boiling mass, furious, turbid,
always dangerous; tearing away, from time to time, its deep
banks, with their giant colonnades of living verdure, and
then, with the stern despotism of a conqueror, flinging them
aside again; governed by no principle but its own lawless will,
the dark majesty of its features summons up an emotion of
the sublime which defies contrast or parallel. And then,
when we think of its far, lonely course, journeying onward in
proud, dread, solitary grandeur, [79] through forests dusk
with the lapse of centuries, pouring out the ice and snows
of arctic lands through every temperature of clime, till at
last it heaves free its mighty bosom beneath the Line, we
are forced to yield up ourselves in uncontrolled admiration
of its gloomy magnificence. And its dark, mysterious history, too; those fearful scenes of which it has alone been
the witness; the venerable tombs of a race departed which
shadow its waters; the savage tribes that yet roam its forests;
the germes of civilization expanding upon its borders; and
the deep solitudes, untrodden by man, through which it
rolls, all conspire to throng the fancy. Ages on ages and
cycles upon cycles have rolled away; wave after wave has
swept the broad fields of the Old World; an hundred generations have arisen from the cradle and flourished in their
freshness, and, like autumn leaflets, have withered in the
74 Indian name for the " Falls of St. Anthony." — Flagg. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
tomb; and the Pharaohs and the Ptolemies, the Caesars
and the Caliphs, have thundered over the nations and
passed away; and here, amid these terrible solitudes, in
the stern majesty of loneliness, and power, and pride,
have rolled onward these deep waters to their, destiny !
" Who gave you your invulnerable life,
Your strength, your speed, your fury, and your joy ?
God! let the torrents, like a shout of nations,
There is, perhaps, no stream which presents a greater
variety of feature than the Mississippi, or phenomena of
deeper interest, whether we regard the soil, productions,
and climate of its valley, its individual character and that
of its tributaries, or [80] the outline of its scenery and
course. The confluents of this vast stream are numerous,
and each one brings a tribute of the soil through which
it has roamed. The Missouri pours out its waters heavily
charged with the marl of the Rocky Mountains, the saffron sands of the Yellow Stone, and the chalk of the White
River; the Ohio holds in its floods the vegetable mould
of the Alleghanies, and the Arkansas and Red Rivers
bring in the deep-died alluvion of their banks. Each
tributary mingles the spoils of its native hills with the
general flood. And yet, after the contributions of so many
streams, the remarkable fact is observed that its breadth
and   volume   seem  rather   diminished   than   increased.75
n That the Mississippi, the Missouri, and, indeed, most of the great rivers of
the West, are annually enlarging, as progress is made in clearing and cultivating
the regions drained by them, scarcely admits a doubt. Within the past thirty years,
the width of the Mississippi has sensibly increased; its overflows are more frequent,
while, by the diminution of obstructions, it would seem not to have become proportionally shallow. In 1750, the French settlements began upon the river above
New-Orleans, and for twenty years the banks were cultivated without a levee. Inundation was then a rare occurrence: ever since, from year to year, the river has
continued to rise, and require higher and stronger embankments. A century hence,
if this phenomenon continues, what a magnificent spectacle will not this river present!   How terrific its freshets!   The immense forest of timber which lies concealed I IO
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
Above the embouchure of the Missouri, fifteen hundred
miles from the Mexican gulf, it is broader than at New-
Orleans, with scarce one tenth of its waters; and at the
foot of St. Anthony's Falls its breadth is but one third less.
This forms a striking characteristic of the Western rivers,
and owes, perhaps, its origin partially to the turbid character of their waters: as they approach their outlet they
augment in volume, and depth, and impetuosity of current, but contract their expanse. None, however, exhibit
these features so strikingly as the grand central stream;
and while, for its body of water, it is the narrowest stream
known, it is charged with heavier solutions and has broader
alluvions than any other. The depth of the stream is constantly varying. At New-Orleans it exceeds one hundred
feet. Its width is from half of one mile to two miles; the
breadth of its valley [81] from six miles to sixty; the rapidity of its current from two miles to four; its mean descent
six inches in a mile, and its annual floods vary from twelve
feet to sixty, commencing in March and ending in May.
Thus much for Statistics.
Below its confluence with its turbid tributary, the Mississippi, as has been observed, is noponger the clear, pure,
limpid stream, gushing forth from the wreathy snows of the
Northwest; but it whirls along against its ragged banks a
resistless volume of heavy, sweeping floods, and its aspect
of placid magnificence is beheld no more. The turbid torrent heaves onward, wavering from side to side like a Hving
creature, as if to overleap its bounds; rolling along in a deep-
cut race-path, through a vast expanse of lowland meadow,
from whose exhaustless mould are reared aloft those enormous shafts shrouded in the fresh emerald of their tasselled
parasites, for which its alluvial bottoms are so famous.   And
beneath its depths, as evinced by the great earthquakes of 1811, demonstrates that,
for centuries, the Mississippi has occupied its present bed.— Flagg. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
yet the valley of the " endless river " cannot be deemed
heavily timbered when contrasted with the forested hills
of the Ohio. The sycamore, the elm, the linden, the cottonwood, the cypress, and other trees of deciduous foliage, may
attain a greater diameter, but the huge trunks are more
sparse and more isolated in recurrence.
But one of the most striking phenomena of the Mississippi, in common with all the Western rivers, and one which
distinguishes them from those which disembogue their waters into the Atlantic, is the uniformity of its meanderings.
The river, in its onward course, makes a semicircular sweep
almost [82] with the precision of a compass, and then is
precipitated diagonally athwart its channel to a curve of
equal regularity upon the opposite shore. The deepest channel and most rapid current is said to exist in the bend;
and thus the stream generally infringes upon the bend-side,
and throws up a sandbar on the shore opposite. So constantly do these sinuosities recur, that there are said to be
but three reaches of any extent between the confluence of the
Ohio and the Gulf, and so uniform that the boatmen and
Indians have been accustomed to estimate their progress by
the number of bends rather than by the number of miles.
One of the sweeps of the Missouri is said to include a distance of forty miles in its curve, and a circuit of half that
distance is not uncommon. Sometimes a " cut-off," in the
parlance of the watermen, is produced at these bends,
where the stream, in its headlong course, has burst through
the narrow neck of the peninsula, around which it once
circled. At a point called the " Grand Cut-off," steamers
now pass through an isthmus of less than one mile, where
formerly was required a circuit of twenty. The current, in
its more furious stages, often tears up islands from the bed
of the river, removes sandbars and points, and sweeps off
whole acres of alluvion with their superincumbent forests. "•Ht*
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
1 *l
In the season of flood the settlers, in their log-cabins along
the banks, are often startled from their sleep by the deep,
sullen crash of a | land-slip," as such removals are called.
The scenery of the Mississippi, below its confluence [83]
with the Missouri, is, as has been remarked, too sublime
for beauty; and yet there is not a little of the picturesque
in the views which meet the eye along the banks. Towns
and settlements of greater or less extent appear at frequent
intervals; and then the lowly log-hut of the pioneer is not
to be passed without notice, standing beneath the tall, branchless columns of the girdled forest-trees, with its luxuriant
maize-fields sweeping away in the rear. One of these humble habitations of the wilderness we reached, I remember,
one evening near twilight; and while our boat was delayed
at the woodyard, I strolled up from the shore to the gateway, and entered easily into confabulation with a pretty,
slatternly-looking female, with a brood of mushroom, flaxen-
haired urchins at her apron-string, and an infant at the
breast very quietly receiving his supper. On inquiry I
learned that eighteen years had seen the good woman a
denizen of the wilderness; that all the responsibilities
appertained unto herself, and that her | man " was proprietor of some thousand acres of bottom in the vicinity.
Subsequently I was informed that the worthy woodcutter
could be valued at not less than one hundred thousand!
yet, en verite, reader mine, I do asseverate that my latent
sympathies were not slightly roused at the first introduction, because of the seeming poverty of the dirty cabin
and its dirtier mistress!
St. Louis. 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
" Once more upon the waters, yet once more! "
Childe Harold.
" I believe this is the finest confluence in the world."
" 'Tis twilight now;
The sovereign sun behind his western hilli
In glory hath declined "
Blackwood's Magazine.
A bright, sunny summer morning as ever smiled from
the blue heavens, and again I found myself upon the
waters. Fast fading in the distance lay the venerable little
city of the French, with its ancient edifices and its narrow
streets, while in anticipation was a journeying of some hundred miles up the Illinois. Sweeping along past the city and
the extended line of steamers at the landing, my attention
was arrested by that series of substantial stone mills situated
upon the shore immediately above, and a group of swarthy
little Tritons disporting themselves in the turbid waters
almost beneath our paddle-wheels. Among other singular
objects were divers of those nondescript inventions of
Captain Shreve, yclept by the boatmen 1 Uncle Sam's
Tooth-pullers;" and, judging from their ferocious physiognomy, and the miracles they have effected in the navigation
of the great waters of the West, well do they correspond to
the soubriquet. [85] The craft consists of two perfect hulls,
constructed with a view to great strength; united by heavy
beams, and, in those parts most exposed, protected by an
armature of iron. The apparatus for eradicating the snags
is comprised in a simple wheel and axle, auxiliary to a pair
of powerful steam-engines, with the requisite machinery for
locomotion, and a massive beam uniting the bows of the
hulls, sheathed with iron. The modus operandi in tearing
up a snag, or sawyer, or any like obstruction from the bed
'' ii4
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
of the stream, appears to be this: Commencing at some distance below, in order to gain an impetus as powerful as
possible, the boat is forced, under a full pressure of steam,
against the snag, the head of which, rearing itself above the
water, meets the strong transverse beam of which I have
spoken, and is immediately elevated a number of feet above
the surface. A portion of the log is then severed, and the
roots are torn out by the windlass, or application of the main
strength of the engines; or, if practicable, the first operation
is repeated until the obstacle is completely eradicated. The
efficiency of this instrument has been tested by the removal
of some thousand obstructions, at an average expense of
about twelve or fifteen dollars each.
Along the river-banks in the northern suburbs of the city
lie the scattered ruins of an ancient fortification of the Spanish government, when it held domination over the territory;
and one circular structure of stone, called " Roy's Tower,"
now occupied as a dwelling, yet remains entire. There is
also an [86] old castle of stone in tolerable preservation,
surrounded by a wall of the same material.78 Some of these
venerable relics of former time — alas ! for the irreverence
of the age — have been converted into limekilns, and into
lime itself, for aught that is known to the contrary! The
waterworks, General Ashley's beautiful residence, and that
series of ancient mounds for which St. Louis is famous, were
next passed in succession, while upon the right stretched
78 In 1764 Auguste Chouteau made tentative plans for the fortification of St.
Louis. In obedience to an order by Don Francisco Cruzat, the lieutenant-governor, he made a survey in 1781 for the purpose of perfecting these earlier plans.
In the same year the stockade was begun immediately south of the present site of
the courthouse. In 1797 the round stone tower which Flagg mentions was constructed and preparations made for building four additional towers; the latter were
never completed. From 1804 to 1806 these fortifications were used by the United
States troops, and then abandoned for military purposes. The commandant's
house served as a courthouse from 1806 to 1816; and the tower as a jail until 1819.
For a detailed description of the plans, see J. F. Scharf, St. Louis City and County
(Philadelphia, 1883), p. 136 ff.— Ed. *
Flagg's Far West
out the long low outline of " Blood Island " in the middle
of the stream.77 For several miles above the city, as we
proceeded up the river, pleasant villas, with their white walls
and cultivated grounds, were caught from time to time by
the eye, glancing through the green foliage far in the interior. It was a glorious day. Silvery cloudlets were floating along the upper sky like spiritual creations, and a fresh
breeze was rippling the waters: along the banks stood out
the huge spectral Titans of the forest, heaving aloft their
naked limbs like monuments of " time departed, " while
beneath reposed the humble hut and clearing of the settler.
It was nearly midday, after leaving St. Louis, that we
reached the embouchure of the Missouri. Twenty miles
before attaining that point, the confluent streams flow along
in two distinct currents upon either shore, the one White,
clayey, and troubled, the other a deep blue. The river
sweeps along, indeed, in two distinct streams past the city
of St. Louis, upon either side of Blood Island, nor does it
unite its heterogeneous floods for many miles below. At
intervals, as the huge mass rolls itself [87] along, vast whirls
and swells of turbid water burst out upon the surface, producing an aspect not unlike the sea in a gusty day, mottled
by the shadows of scudding clouds. Charlevoix,78 the chronicler of the early French explorations in North America,
"For a brief sketch of William H. Ashley see Maximilian's Travels, in our
volume xxii, p. 250, note 198. He purchased (1826 or 1827) eight acres on the
present site of Broadway, between Biddle and Bates streets, St. Louis, where he
built a handsome residence.
Bloody Island, now the Third Ward of East St. Louis, was formed about 1800
by the current cutting its way through the neck in a bend of the river. For a long
time it was not determined to what state it belonged, and being considered neutral ground many duels were fought there, notably those between Thomas H. Benton
and Charles Lucas (1817), United States District Attorney Thomas Rector and
Joshua Barton (1823), and Thomas Biddle and Spencer Pettis (1830). The
name was derived from these bloody associations.— Ed.
78 For a sketch of Charlevoix, see Nuttall's Journal, in our volume xiii, p. 116,
note 81.— Ed. n6
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
with reference to this giant confluence, more than a century
since thus writes: " I believe this is the finest confluence in
the world. The two rivers are much of the same breadth,
each about half a league, but the Missouri is by far the most
rapid, and seems to enter the Mississippi like a conqueror,
through which it carries its white waves to the opposite shore
without mixing them. Afterward it gives its colour to the
Mississippi, which it never loses again, but carries quite down
to the sea." This account, with all due consideration for
the venerable historian, accords not precisely with the scene
of the confluence at the present day, at least not as it has
appeared to myself. The Missouri, indeed, rolls in its heavy
volume with the impetuosity and bearing of a " conqueror "
upon the tranquil surface of its rival; but entering, as it
does, at right angles, its waters are met in their headlong
course, and almost rolled back upon themselves for an instant by the mighty momentum of the flood they strike.
This is manifested by, and accounts for, that well-defined
line of light mud-colour extending from bank to bank across
its mouth, bounded by the dark blue of the Upper Mississippi, and flowing sluggishly along in a lengthened and
dingy stain, like a fringe upon the western shore. The
breadth of the embouchure is about one mile, and its [88]
channel lies nearly in the centre, bounded by vast sand-bars
— sediment of the waters — upon either side. The alluvial
deposites, with which it is heavily charged, accumulate also
in several islands near the confluence, while the rivers united
spread themselves out into an immense lake. As the steamer
glides along among these islands opposite the Missouri, the
scene with its associations is grand beyond description. Far
up the extended vista of the stream, upon a lofty bluff, stands
out a structure which marks the site of the ancient military
post of "Belle Fontaine;"79 while on the opposite bank,
79 D'Ulloa, the first Spanish governor of Louisiana, sent a detachment of sol- 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
stretching inland from the point heavily wooded, lies the
broad and beautiful prairie of the " Mamelles."80 Directly
fronting the confluence stand a range of heights upon the
Blinois shore, from the summit of which is spread out, like
a painting, one of the most extraordinary views in the world.
The Mississippi, above its junction with its turbid tributary, is, as has been remarked, a clear, sparkling, beautiful
stream; now flashing in silvery brilliance over its white
sand-bars, then retreating far into the deep indentations
of its shady banks, and again spreading out its waters into
a tranquil, lakelike basin miles in extent, studded with
The far-famed village of Alton, situated upon the Illinois
shore a few miles above the confluence, soon rose before
us in the distance. When its multiform declivities shall have
been smoothed away by the hand of enterprise and covered
with handsome edifices, it will doubtless present a fine appearance [89] from the water; as it now remains, its aspect
is rugged enough. The Penitentiary, a huge structure of
stone, is rather too prominent a feature in the scene. Indeed, it is the first object which strikes the attention, and
reminds one of a gray old baronial castle of feudal days
diers to St. Louis in 1767. Later, these troops were transferred to the south bank
of the Missouri, a few miles above its mouth, where " Old Fort St. Charles the
Prince " was erected. General Wilkinson built Fort Bellefontaine on this site in
1805. From 1809 to 1815 this was the headquarters of the military department
of Louisiana (including Forts Madison, Massac, Osage, and Vincennes). It was
the starting point of the Pike, Long, and Atkinson expeditions. On July 10, 1826,
it was abandoned for Jefferson Barracks, but a small arsenal of deposits was maintained here until 1834. The land was eventually sold by the government (1836) .
See Walter B. Douglas's note in Thwaites, Original Journals oj the Lewis and
Clark Expedition (New York, 1905), v, pp. 392,393.— Ed.
80 North of Missouri River, twenty miles above its confluence with the Mississippi, where the bluffs of the two streams unite, two smooth, treeless, grass-covered
mounds stand out from the main bluffs. These mounds, a hundred and fifty feet
in height, were called by the early French " mamelles " from their fancied resemblance to the human breast.— Ed. n8
Early Western Travels
[Vol. 26
more than of anything else. The churches, of which there are
several, and the extensive warehouses along the shore, have
an imposing aspect, and offer more agreeable associations.
As we drew nigh to Alton, the fireman of our steamer deemed
proper, in testimonial of the dignity of our arrival, to let
off a certain rusty old swivel which chanced to be on board;
and to have witnessed the marvellous fashion in which this
important manoeuvre was executed by our worthies, would
have pardoned a smile on the visage of Heraclitus himself.
One lanky-limbed genius held a huge dipper of gunpowder;
another, seizing upon the extremity of a hawser, and severing a generous fragment, made use thereof for wadding;
a third rammed home the charge with that fearful weapon
wherewith he poked the furnaces; while a fourth, honest
wight — all preparation being complete — advanced with a
shovel of glowing coals, which, poured upon the touchhole,
the old piece was briefly delivered of its charge, and the
woods, and shores, and welkin rang again to the roar.
If we made not our entrance into Alton with " pomp and
circumstance," it was surely the fault of any one but our
worthy fireman.
The site of Alton, at the confluence of three large and
navigable streams; its extensive back country {90] of great
fertility; the vast bodies of heavy timber on every side; its
noble quarries of stone; its inexhaustible beds of bituminous
coal only one mile distant, and its commodious landing, all
seem to indicate the design of Nature that here should arise
a populous and wealthy town. The place has been laid off
by its proprietors in liberal style; five squares have been
reserved for public purposes, with a promenade and landing, and the corporate bounds extend two miles along the
river, and half a mile into the interior. Yet Alton, with all
its local and artificial advantages, is obnoxious to objections.    Its situation, in one section abrupt and precipitous, 1836-1837]
Flagg's Far West
while in another depressed and confined, and the extensive
alluvion lying between the two great rivers opposite, it is
believed, will always render it more or less unhealthy; and
its unenviable proximity to St. Louis will never cease to
retard its commercial advancement.
The city of Alton, as it is now styled by its charter, was
founded in the year 1818 by a gentleman who gave the place
his name;81 but, until within the six years past, it could
boast but few houses and little business. Its population
now amounts to several thousands, and its edifices for business, private residence, or public convenience are large and
elegant structures. Its stone churches present an imposing
aspect to the visiter. The streets are from forty to eighty
feet in width, and extensive operations are in progress to
render the place as uniform as its site will admit. A contract
has been recently entered upon to construct a culvert over
the Little Piasa Creek, [91] which passes through the centre
of the town, upon which are to be extended streets. The
expense is estimated at sixty thousand dollars. The creek
issues from a celebrated fountain among the bluffs called
I Cave Spring." Alton is not a little celebrated for its liberal contribution to the moral improvements of the day. To
mention but a solitary instance, a gentleman of the place
recently made a donation of ten thousand dollars for the
endowment of a female seminary at Monticello,82 a village
five miles to the north; and measures are in progress to
81 Alton, twenty-fiv