« PreviousContinue »
of nature, and entering inventories of her charms in their port-folios. The elegant and accurate descriptions, the minute and faithful delineations of the stupendous features of scenery, associated with the brightest remembrances of our History, which have enriched the columns of our periodical folios of four pages, are so many cotemporary witnesses attesting to the industrious research and accurate observation of the legion of pilgrims.
For those who follow in the paths they have trodden little remains. The rich harvests have been gathered, and the scattered straws of information remaining on the fields of their labors are few and far between. The freshness of novelty has departed from our borders, and he who could now successfully catch the Aeeting beau. . ties of the landscape, or bring out from the stores of history the records of other times, would not present unknown portraits or unheard tales to his readers. Yet it is not unproấtable to brighten the memory of the incidents of former days, nor useless to repeat the facts once, perhaps, familiar as the faces of our kindred.-Therefore we have proposed to set in order a few of the recollections of a brief sojourn in the Canadian Provinces of his Britannic Majesty, believing they may afford gratification to some whose eyes will rest upon the pages they occupy.
The engagements of business and the hope of amusement rendered it convenient to the writer, during the sultry period of the summer now passed, to pursue the road leading to Quebec along the banks of the beautiful Kennebec. This route, wild and rude as it is, borrows no little interest from association with Arnold, the bravest and basest of his time, the man for whom our language has no name sufficiently expressive of contempt, who united the bold and fearless bearing of the soldier with the dissimulation and perfidy of the traitor, who regarded dangers as playthings, and the most solemn obligations imposed by the laws of human society and sanctioned by the commands of God, as cobwebs. At the very commencement of the struggle between the then colonies and the mother country, he led that ill-fated and romantic expedition through the wilderness which terminated beneath the walls of Quebec in defeat and irretrievable loss. Proposing hereafter to trace his march, and review the sufferings of the gallant and patriotic band, who encountered all the difficulties of a journey through the tangled forest in the most inclement season of the year, we shall not now pause to estimate their exertions or appreciate their merits.
.: The principal source of the Kennebec River, which we must introduce to our readers as their guide in the weary passage we are commencing, is the Moose Head Lake, a noble sheet of water, thirty miles in length and about fifteen of average breadth, embosomed in the forest region of Maine. The stream issuing from this inland sea receives the appellation of Moose River; at the distance of about thirty miles from its fountain it is joined by the Dead River, collecting its supplies among the distant western hills, and flowing with an indolent and sluggish motion. After the junction of these two great streams, their separate names and individual character are equally lost, and their united waters go down together to the sea, under the title of Kennebec, borrowed from the Sachem Kannabis, the Indian King whose dominions once extended along its tranquil and placid stream. Traversing a region unbroken by craggy precipices or lofty elevations, it is not interrupted by many cataracts or rapids, or forced to burst its way through obstructing rocks. Sinking below the surface, the steep banks on either side restrain its floods within narrow limits, and prevent them from contributing by their annual deposits to the fertility of the soil over a wide tract of country. It is a singular fact that there is a greater extent of alluvion on those rivers of New England rising among the mountain heights, than on those fed from the fountains of comparatively level places. The waters collected on the lofty peaks from the dissolving snows and from the clouds and vapors of higher regions, are poured down suddenly into the vallies at their feet; then sweeping along the rapid descents, they tear away the opposing masses, and year after year enlarge their channels into wide plains fertilized by their inundations. The Rivers passing over scenes less marked by bold and prominent features, hollow out for themselves deep channels in the sand, and unvexed by impediments, go on with a silent and lazy motion.
The beautiful little village of Norridgewock is the remotest settlement on the American side of the line, which can justly claim the dignified appellation of a town, and is the point where the expedition commences. Seated on the very margin of the clear river, and overshadowed with noble trees, the traveller reluctantly deserts its quiet retreat, to encounter the privations and hardships of the hunter's life. It is not however from its neat edifices or its cool and shaded walks that it derives its strongest claim on his affectionate recollection. Not far distant, where the Sandy River joins its tributary waters to the great stream, was the ancient seat of the once powerful tribe, the Norridgewocks. There too was the residence of Father Ralle of that extraordinary man who forsook the luxuries of civilized life to build his tent with the savage and extend the empire of christianity in the regions of the West. There it was be fell and his people with him perished from existence. A broad and green field now spreads out where the wigwams of the red nations once stood ; their bones have been mixed with the earth, and their blood has fertilized the soil.
From Norridgewock, the road, parting to both sides of the River, advances northward, through the picturesque scenery of a region scarcely yet redeemed from the wild beast. The Eastera branch leads onward through the plantations designated by the imposing appellations of Madison, Solon, Bingham, and Moscow, much more considerable in territorial extent, than noted for population or wealth. The hardy emigrants have erected their rude houses in the little spots hollowed out from the woods, and encompassed with noble trees. There are tracts extending for miles, where the fires in their annual visits have scorched and blasted the patriarchal possessors of the land: long lines of blackened trunks still stand as witpesses against the destroying element, to be overthrown by the winter tempests or wasted by the summer sun. The earth beneath is covered with a luxuriant growth of blossomed weeds, whose gaudy flowers form a strange contrast with the desolation and solitude around. Views more interesting than these are often presented, surpassing in elegance the more regular and formal graces of elder sections. Sometimes the path way after climbing over rocks and steeps and descending deep glens and defiles, enters some quiet little valley, and seems to terminate within the circle of giant hills. Mountains rise around enclosing the habitation of the settler who had wandered away from society and chosen a resting place so solitary. All the objects we love best to contemplate may be seen grouped in the narrow circuit. The waving foliage of the trees clothing the mountain sides, the silvery brightness of the stream glittering with the rays of the setting sun, fields of grain waved by the gentle breath of summer wind, the wreathes of smoke curling gracefully upward from the few buildings scattered over the green meadows, and around them the herds lowing at the hour of eventide, are often blended in a picture of still and quiet beauty.
As we advance, the traces of cultivation become less frequent, and finally disappear, when we plunge into the immense forest stretching from one ocean to the other. Those accustomed to an intimacy with the groves scattered among the bills where a dense population is collected, and where the axe in successive years bas hewn away the noblest stems, would imagine, that trees of gigantic stature and colossal proportions were in the solitude. But the fact is otherwise. A republican equality prevails in the democracy of the forest, except when some aristocratic Pine towers up and holds its head above its humbler neighbors. There is a renovating power continuing all in immortal youth and vigor. We see few individuals bearing on their wrinkled fronts the marks of ancient patriarchal existence ; few which tell of the lapse of time ; few which have stood from age to age, unharmed by the storms, while the races of men have passed away. On looking around in the wilderness, wherever our eyes rest, they find green and flourishing plants.The aged decay for a short period, and then are prostrated by the winds: a new generation rises immediately to fill the vacancy left by the fall of their predecessors.
From the spot where carriage transportation ends till the traveller emerges from the shade into the beautiful fields of the Canadian border, a distance of ninety miles, he can enjoy the shelter of a roof and the hospitality of a civilized being but twice. His solitary ramble commences on 6 the Million Acres," as it is called, a portion of the princely estates left by the late William Bingham, formerly one of the richest landed proprietors in our country. This tract, together with 1,107,000 acres, situated in the Eastern part of the now State of Maine, with unestimated and uncounted possessions in other states, descended at his decease, to a son and heir, now residing in Montreal, who has acquired by marriage the title to an extensive Canadian seignory, and to two daughters, wives of the Barings, the well known bankers in London. Through the property of this family a passage has been made, by clearing away the trees for the width of four rods, removing the undergrowth for the space of fifteen feet, and throwing “gridiron bridges” across the desperate sloughs and riotous but inconsiderable streams. The rapid, wide, and deep current of the Moose River must be forded near its confluence with the Kennebec, and fortunate will be the adventurer, if, in working his passage over the rough and stony channel, he be not precipitated among the rocks whose acute angles or smooth surfaces are too slimy and slippery to afford secure foothold. A walk of nearly two miles will afford him an opportunity of drying his wet garments in the neat habitation of a bold settler who has advanced thus far into the depth of the forest.
Crossing the line of the Bingham Purchase and entering on the public lands, the path becomes more broken and difficult. Originally cleared only two rods in width, the sun cannot penetrate the overshadowing canopy of thick branches, to dry the moisture constantly flowing from the springs of a soil liberally supplied with moisture. It has not, like the road Southward, been planted with grass, affording a pleasant bed to rest the tired limbs, and acceptable food for the Rocks and herds that yearly journey towards Canada; nor has so great care been taken to render it safe, and lessen the fatigues of the expedition. Much expense has been incurred, and large sums from the public treasury judiciously expended in the construction, but much still remains to be done to render it more than passible.
A tree, inscribed with the names of the Commissioners authorized by the Legislature of Massachusetts to explore this route, standing upon the height of land dividing the waters flowing into the Atlantic from those which convey their tribute to the majestic Saint Lawrence, at the distance of twenty nine miles from the Canadian settlements, marks the supposed boundary between the United States and the provincial dominions of England. A rude image, not in the likeness of any created thing, carved from a forked stick, has been set up, as the representative of the majesty of the sea girt isle, that the good subject may here pour out a libation in honor of his King. Those who cross the limit separating the possessions of the two nations, for the first time, are bound in honor, if thereto required by more experienced companions, to perform ceremonies and submit to operations analogous to those exacted by Neptune bimself from those who pass the equatorial line of his azure dominions. Proceeding onwards, a most deplorable deterioration takes place in the condition of the road, indicating entire neglect. Trees overthrown interpose their branches or trunks, with an intervening space of a few paces only, and severely exercise the weary limbs in scrambling through, climbing over, or avoiding by wide circuits, the obstructions they interpose. The patience of the most enduring is almost exhausted,
" Where wilds immeasurably spread,
Seem lengthening as they go.” At the time when the expedition was made, wherein these particulars were collected, although in the midst of summer, the clouds above and the earth beneath were filled with water. The rains rell copiously, and the streams went brawling along in their courses,