« ForrigeFortsett »
RETROCESSION OF THE FALLS.
rior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie, with all the rivers flowing into them; but it certainly excites surprise to see, a mile or two below the Falls, into what a narrow compass the whole of this surplus water is compressed, inducing a belief that there may be large cavernous openings at the foot of the Falls, through which a great portion of the water finds its way by subterraneous channels into the Lake Ontario, and beneath the natural bed of the Niagara Strait; a supposition which is greatly strengthened by the existence of many cavernous hollows beneath the Falls in the cliffs over which they are precipitated.
An opinion is generally entertained that the cataracts were once much lower down, near Lake Ontario; and that they have receded gradually, are still receding, and will continue to do so to the end of time. The appearances of the opposite cliffs on either bank warrant this belief; besides which, if the rock be operated upon at all by the friction of water, it must, in the course of centuries, gradually diminish. Now the rock of Niagara cliffs is not granitic or basaltic, but a slaty shale, lying in horizontal layers, and thus presenting those level surfaces called table-rocks. The process of its decay is visible on all sides, the usual order of that decay being first the decomposition and gradual crumbling away of the looser and more earthy parts beneath the actual edge of the cliff, thus leaving a shelving or overhanging rock projecting at the upper edge, and this, gradually losing its support, ultimately breaks away, borne down by the pressure of the rushing flood.
Underneath, or rather behind, the Canada Falls, this hollowness of the cliff is so great that some parts of it are 50 feet within the outer line of the falling water; and it is in this concave recess that visiters walk along when they descend and go behind the falls ; that is, between the great mass of falling waters and the cliff over which it is hurled --so that they have cavernous hollows on the one side of their slippery path, and the rushing torrent of millions of tons of water descending on the other, the fluid element being the only medium through which the light is admitted, and the dashing spray, the eddy, winds, and the whirlpools of dust, sand, and water besetting every step of their way.
The mass called Table Rock at p-esent projects from 40 to 50 feet at its upper edge, with a deeply-curved hollow underneath it; and from the appearance of large fractures in different parts of it, many years will probably not elapse before the projecting, portion will fall off into the stream. A gentleman of Buffalo, whom we met at the Falls, remembered distinctly the separation of a large projecting mass from the American side, covering, as he thought, at least half an acre ia area; and, indeed, all along the foot of the American Fall are huge masses of rock, which have from time to time been separated from the cliff above by the wearing power of the water, and thus hurled into the stream.
It is worthy of mention, as an instance of the singular taste of individuals, that a person named Sam Patch, who had acquired some celebrity for his power of leaping from great heights into the water, as from the mastheads and yardarms of ships into the sea, grew more ambitious as his fame increased, and made a round of visits to the greatest falls of the interior to repeat his feats of daring. At a point called Biddle's Staircase, where a descending flight of steps was constructed to facilitate the going beneath the American Falls, at the expense of Mr. Nicholas Biddle, the president of the United States Bank, Patch made a leap of 118 feet into the stream of the Niagara below, and came up uninjured. Subsequently to this, however, he fell a victim to his own ambition and folly combined; for in attempting, in the year 1829, to accomplish a still greater feat, by leaping from a point of rock above the centre of the Genesee Falls, at a height of 125 feet above the river, he met his death. His body never rose again to the surface after it first sunk below it; nor was it, indeed, found until some months afterward, when it appeared at the mouth of the Genesee River, about six miles below the spot from which he took this fatal leap.
The appearance of Niagara Falls in winter is said to be extreme ly beautiful, but few travellers find it agreeable or convenient to visit them at that inclement season. The inhabitants of the surrounding country, however, often come here during the winter, and they all bear testimony to the grandeur and beauty of the scene. The waters, of course, continue to descend then with the same force, and in the same quantity or mass, as in the summer. But about a mile or two above the cataract, and a mile or two below, the water is completely frozen over, so that passengers can walk across in perfect safety. The waters then rush out from under the ice of the upper level to supply the cataract, and pass under the ice of the lower level in their way to the St. Lawrence, for the entire surface of the Lakes Erie and Ontario are then frozen over.
The surrounding trees, instead of being clothed with foliage, are covered with the most brilliant and sparkling coruscations of snow and ice; and in a bright sunshine, the splendour of the scene is enchanting: At this period, masses of floating ice, dissevered from the frozen lake and stream above, are precipitated over the Falls in blocks of several tons each. These often remain at the foot of the cataract without going farther, from the stream being closed below; and as they accumulate, they get progressively piled up, like a Cyclopean wall, built of huge blocks of ice instead of stone. This singular masonry of nature gets cenented by the spray, which, rising in clouds of mist as usual from the foot of the Falls, attaches itself in its upward progress to the icy wall, and soon gets frozen with the rest of the mass, helping to fill up the interstices between the larger blocks of which this architecture is composed. This process, when the winter is severe, goes on for several months, from
EARLY VISITERS TO THE FALLS.
December to April; and a gentleman of Buffalo mentioned to us that, four winters ago, a gigantic mound of this description was progressively built up right in front of the American Falls, to a height of about 20 feet above the level of the upper stream. The outer front of this icy wall or mound was nearly perpendicular, but the inner front, or that immediately facing the cataract, was an inclined plane, at an angle of from 60 to 70 degrees, the thickness being greatest at the base, and constantly diminishing, and the distance of the mound from the water, as it fell over the cliff, scarcely exceeding 100 feet. Being anxious to ascend to its summit, he procured two labourers of the neighbourhood, with a pickaxe and shovel, by which steps were easily cut on the sloping ascent, when, providing themselves with worsted mittens for the hands, they all succeeded in scaling this icy mound, and stood upon the summit of it, 20 feet above the upper edge of the Falls, and nearly 200 feet in perpendicular height from the ordinary level of the stream below. The mound did not begin to diminish much till May, and did not entirely disappear till June.
This wonder of nature does not appear to have attracted such early attention from voyagers and travellers as might have been expected. The French travellers Champlain and Le Roux visited Lake Ontario, the former in 1604, the latter in 1628, but neither of them make the least mention of these Falls at Niagara. In a work on the Geography of Upper Canada, by Michael Smith, the third edition of which was published at Philadelphia in 1813, the writer says he discovered two dates cut on the rocks near Niagara as early as 1606. Mr. Ingraham, however, the author of the Guide to Niagara, could find none earlier than 1711 or 1712, though those of 1606 may have escaped his search or become obliterated, or the very rock itself on which they were inscribed may have crumbled or broken away. Dr. Banton, in the Philadelphia Medical and Physical Journal of 1798, says that the Falls were delineated by the French artists in 1638, and that their present appearance is just that which they bore then. Their position is inserted on Sanson's Map of Canada, published in 1657, and on Creuxio's map of the same country in 1660, though it is remarkable that in his work "Historiæ Canadensis," to which this
map pended, no description of these Falls is given. Father Hennepin, à French ecclesiastic, describes them in 1678, and gives an engraved view of them as they appeared at the same period.
The number of travellers that have since visited this interesting spot has caused villages, towns, and hotels to spring up for their accommodation, and led to their keeping a manuscript register of the names of the visiters, which already fills many volumes. I took the opportunity of inspecting a few of these volumes of the most recent date, and was really surprised to find so large a proportion of the remarks entered opposite the names frivolous and contempt
ible in the extreme, so much so as to justify the appropriate remark made by one writer, who says, “ One has but to look first on the cataract, and then on this register of its visiters, to be satisfied of the truth of the saying, that there is but one step between the sublime and the ridiculous.”
The village that has sprung up on the American side of Niagara is called Manchester, because it was hoped by its founders that the great extent of water-power which could here be brought into operation for mills and manufactories would make it the Manchester of the West. This expectation has not yet been realized, however, nor does it appear probable that it ever will. At present there is a large paper-mill on Goat Island, which makes about 10,000 reams of paper annually; and there are some saw-mills, flour-mills, and a hat manufactory on the bank; but the village is very insignificant, and derives all its importance from the visiters to the Falls.
On the Canada side there is at present no town, though a place has been mapped out on paper in the American fashion, called “ The City of the Falls ;” but not a single house of the projected city has yet been erected. There are three hotels on this side, the Clifton, the Pavilion, and the Ontario. The last is at present occupied as barracks or quarters for the officers of the 43d regiment of The British, the troops being encamped on the heights; and the second is occupied chiefly also by the officers for their mess, so that the Clifton is the only one now much frequented by visiters.
The hotels on both sides, like all those we had stopped at in our journey across from Saratoga to Niagara, are all built on too large a scale for comfort. There are spacious drawing-rooms, vast dining-rooms, ample piazzas, and large bar-rooms and halls; but the bedrooms are all miserably small and ill-furnished; and the provender, though abundant enough in quantity, is worse in quality, badly cooked, carelessly served up, hacked and torn to pieces rather than carved, and handed about by disgustingly dirty waiters. From the great length of the tables and the number of dishes to set on, and from the absence of covers and warm plates, the first dish is always cold before the last is brought on; and the miserable quality and fewness of the vegetables, and the greasy mixtures and messes scattered over the table, are calculated to take away the appetite by their very aspect. Yet the great majority of the guests are evidently satisfied, and appear wholly insensible to the defects mentioned, so effectually does habit reconcile men to all things.
EXCURSION TO THE TUSCARORA SETTLEMENT.
Excursion to the Tuscarora Settlement.-History of this Tribe of Indians.-Council of
the Sachems, Chiefs, and Warriors. -Object of the Meeting.--Women and Children present at the Council.--Description of the mixed Assembly.—Terms proposed to the Indians.- Translation of the English Speech into the Tuscarora Tongue.- Opposition made to the Treaty.-Final Assent of the Chiefs.-Signatures and Ratification by Witnesses. -Statistics of the Tribe in Numbers and Lands. --Mode of Government and State of Property.- Missionary Labours, Religion, and Education.-Difficulty in teaching the Women and Children.- Return to Niagara along the Banks,- Extensive Forests towards Lake Ontario.-- Brock's Monument.-Outlet of Niagara.- Description of the Devil's Hole and Whirlpool.- Finest distant View of the Cataract.-Passage of the Ferry after Sunset.-Grandeur of this Night-view of the Cataract.- Last Look at the Falls from Table Rock.- Increased Beauty and Sublinity of the Scene.
During one of the days of our stay at Niagara, we were invited by General Gillett and Mr. Allen, two of the commissioners of the United States' Government for Indian affairs, to visit, with them, the settlement of the Tuscarora Indians, at a distance of about seven miles only from the village on the American side of the Falls, as they were going there to hold a council of the sachems, chiefs, and warriors of that nation, to present to them an amended treaty, as approved by the Senate, and awaiting only their ratification. We readily availed ourselves of so favourable an opportunity of seeing Indian life and manners; and, accordingly, left Niagara at noon on Tuesday, the 14th of August, in company with these gentlemen and Mrs. General Gillett, for the spot, in an extra-coach and four, and reached the settlement in little more than an hour.
The Tuscarora Indians were originally a northern tribe, and very powerful; about three centuries ago, and, consequently, long before the visit of any settlers of the white race, they were led by their wars and successes as far south as the Carolinas, but, after remaining there some years, they were driven out by a more powerful enemy from that quarter, and returned to the North again as their original home. Since then they have always lived within the State of New-York, having formed the sixth tribe of that powerful confederacy of Indians called " The Six Nations.” In process of time, the State Government and the General Government, acting in concert, prevailed upon them to part with the greatest portion of their lands, but kept for them a certain tract, wlich is called the “Tuscarora Reservation,” induced them to put aside many of their Indian habits, and become agriculturists. They have now followed this mode of life for nearly fifty years; but so slow is the progress of the Indians in acquiring the habits of more civilized people, that they are a full century behind all their surrounding neighbours, both in the condition of their lands, their cattle, their dwellings, and themselves.