« ForrigeFortsett »
for 1s. 8 1-4d. and Indian corn for 6 3.4d. But this is not all; money is scarcely ever seen, for every thing is transacted by way of barter, which is here called trade. Now suppose A. and B., two of Mr. Birkbeck's neighbours, wishing to transact business, the mode would be this: A. has a cow which he values at fifteen dol. lars, and B. has wheat worth thirty-seven and a half cents per bushel, B. gives A. forty bushels for his cow, and so the bargain is closed.
You hinted at the eligibility which prairies possess over timbered lands, as regards the first expense of cultivation. In part you are correct, but what signifies clearing or cultivating the soil, beyond what is necessary for family consumption, where there is no marketë Would you not consider the enjoyinent of health, and a comparative proximity to the cities and sea ports, more than balancing a little extra labour, in subduing the original wilderness? The timber growing near the upland prairies (where timber is found at all) is principally white oak, which certainly is not among the most valuable of American forest trees. Maple, so abundant and useful in some parts eastward of the Alleghany mountains, is not to be met with among the prairies. In the early part of the spring a juice or sap is extracted from this tree, which yields a considerable quantity of sugar, of a good quality, and very agreeable flavour. A good sized tree will yield from four to eight pounds in the season, which commonly lasts for three or four weeks; and an honest quaker informed me the other day, that he made four hundred and twenty pounds of sugar from forty-seven trees, in the early part of this present spring, which gives an average of ten pounds to each tree.
(To be continued.)
WIER'S CAVE IN VIRGINIA.
ART. IV.-Description of Wier's cave in Augusta county, Virgi
nia, in a letter from General Calvin Jones, of Raleigh, to his Excellency William Hawkins, governor of North Carolina, da
ted Botetourt county, Virginia, 17th March, 1815. MY DEAR SIR, SINCE my
last from Winchester, I have visited the cave in Augusta, and the Natural bridge in the county to which it has given a name. The former exceeded, but the latter did not equal, my expectations. I saw the bridge, I presume, under circumstances that were not favourable to the emotions of the sublime. I had a little before seen the grand romantic scenery around Harper's ferry, where the Potomac passes through the Blue ridge. I had just beheld the wondrous subterranean palaces in Augusta: every step as I advanced up the rich and beautiful valley of Shenandoah, bounded on one side by the blue ridge, and on the other by the North mountains, presented objects, calculated to keep the sublime emotions in a constant state of excitement. Besides, my expectations concerning the bridge had been too highly raised by Mr. Jefferson's splendid and fanciful description of it. When I saw it I felt disappointment. I walked to the edge and looked down without any feeling of terror-I went below and looked up and was not astonished. It indeed possesses in a great degree grandeur and sublimity. But Weir's Cave is much more worthy the attention of the traveller. There, every thing that the mind can conceive of grand and beautiful is realized. The bridge affords only two or three views--the cave a thousand.
In my progress up the valley I was attracted to Madison's cave by Mr. Jefferson's description, but had some difficulty in obtaining directions where to find it, other than those contained in the Notes. Maps of Virginia I could no where meet with, though I made diligent inquiry, except the old one of Fry and Jeffreys, which I saw at Fravels in Woodstock; so it was not until I arrived within twenty miles of the cave that I could ascertain its location, and I there learned, for the first time, that another cave had recently been discovered near it, and so far surpassing it in extent and grandeur, that Madison's, had ceased to be an object of curiosity.
I found the cave to be in the North East corner of Augusta county, very near the Rockingham line, two miles from Port Republic, a little town at the confluence of the two branches of the Shenandoah,* a little out of the direct route from New Market to Staunton, thirty miles from the former place and seventeen from the latter, increasing the distance between the two places three or four miles, but more than compensating the traveller, (putting other considerations out of the question) at this season of the year, by the superior quality of the road. This place may be visited from Charlotteville, on the other side of the Blue Ridge, thirtytwo miles distant, by a turnpike road through Brown's gap. To Richmond is one hundred and twenty miles. I think you would prefer the route by Brown's gap as Monticello would then be in your way.
The hill, in which the caves are, presents a perpendicular front of two hundred feet in height to the South branch of the Shenandoah, looking North-eastwardly towards the Blue Ridge, three miles distant beyond the river. Its front along the river is about half a mile; in the road it declines in height as it recedes back until its dissolves into the plain. Of Madison's cave I shall say but little, Mr. Jefferson's description of it being ample. It derives its name from the father of the late bishop Madison, who resided near it, and who was famed for his hospitality, his convivial disposition and his practical wit. It has been known sixty
* Pronounced with a full accent on the first and last syllables—“Shannondore."
or seventy years and is now little visited as a curiosity. The earth in it affords salt-petre in the proportion of from two to four pounds to the bushel. Two thousand weight has been manufactured here within the two last years. The earth when brought out, is, at the mouth of the cave put into a plank gutter which conducts it to the margin of the river, where it is thrown into vats mixed with wood ashes, water is passed through it and this is evaporated to a salt by boiling. The lakes of water which are found at the extremity of the cave, have been navigated by a boat and thoroughly explored since Mr. Jefferson wrote. They are thirty or forty feet in depth, and further bounded on their extremity by rocks, so abrupt that a footing can no where be had, limiting for the present all discoveries in that direction. I advised the proprietor to put fish into these lakes, which he promised to do, so that visitants may probably, in a few years, add fishing to the entertainments afforded by the excursion.
Madison's cave, as you know from Mr. Jefferson's description, has its entrance about two thirds of the way to the top of the hill, immediately over the river. The mouth of Wier's cave is parallel to it in the same hill, two or three hundred yards further up the river. Madison's cave penetrates one hundred and twenty yards; Wier's nine hundred. This last was discovered in February 1806, by the man whose name I have taken the liberty of giving to it. Of this cave I propose to give you some faint idea by a brief description, which must necessarily be very imperfect. But in some measure to obviate its deficiences, and aid your comprehension I shall furnish you with a map of the outlines of its course and apartments, incorrect no doubt, but bearing some resemblance to what it would represent, and the best I am able to offer. The letters in the plan will be referred to in the course of our route. The index points to the entrance: the arrows mark the descent in places where it is most considerable.
The cave is of solid lime stone, sometimes ascending, but more commonly descending in its course; narrow and low at the entrance, but increasing in height as you advance, until it becomes eighty or ninety feet high. Water is constantly dropping from the top and dripping down the sides; but not in quantities sufficient to affect the light or incommode visiters. This forms stalactites of
every possible form and of every variety of beauty. The colours are for the most part white, but sometimes red, occasionally variegated. It is not every where that stone is formed by this percolation of the water. Sometimes it finds little basins formed to receive it, and again there are sinks through which it falls and disappears. The entrance is closed by a door two feet and a half or three You grope through a narrow passage until
you reach the anti-chamber, (A.) whose arch twelve or fifteen feet high is supported by stalactite pillars in the centre. On the left is a recess, difficult to traverse on account of the huge masses of rock which are every where thrown rudely about. From the anti-chamber you enter a narrow passage, creep in one place, and incline your body to the left between two sheets of rock in another. Descending some hewn slips and a wooden ladder, you come into Solomon's Temple, (B.) On the left is a large fluted column called Solomon's pillar, and on the sides of the apartment are curtains of stone, exactly resembling drapery, descending in wavelike folds from the ceiling to the floor. This is twenty-five feet high. A recess on the left, containing a few basins of pure water, is called the bar room. Going forward you ascend a ladder and find yourself on a steep, narrow rock, from which you look back and see the various beauties of the temple to great advantage. By another ladder you descend into the curtain room, (C.) which is profusely ornamented with a great variety of beautiful drapery. There is such elegance and regularity in those ornaments that if seen in small detached portions, it would be difficult to persuade one they were not works of art. The curtains usually descend from the arch to the floor on the sides of the cave, and are from five to six feet in width, and from half an inch, to two inches in thickness. They hang from six to twelve inches asunder and are commonly very white and transparent. As the drapery in this apartment is the most remarkable, though it is found in lesser quantities in every part of the cavern, it may be well here, once for all, to take notice of two forms that most frequently occur in every place. The explorer will see the best examples of each in the sofa and gallery presently to be mentioned. At the upper edge of the valance where the depending part commences, there is a cord