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Passage through the Wind-gap. The great Walk. Roscommon Tavern. An Office-hunter.
abroad, and we were within half a mile of the Wind-gap. I again mounted the driver's box, for all around us Nature was displaying her attractions in the plenitude of her magnificence and beauty. Before us, and in close proximity, were the Blue Mountains, their summits curtained in a white fog that was rising toward the loftier clouds. Behind us, far down into the valleys and intervales, orchards, corn-fields, forests, and meadows were spread out like a carpet of mellow tints, and on every side the gentle breeze was shaking the rain-drops from the boughs in diamond showers, glittering in the first rays of the morning sun. While the bleating of sheep and the bellowing of cattle reminded us of cultivated fields behind us, the whirring of the pheasant, the drumming of the partridge, and the whistling of the quail among the rocks and lofty evergreens around betokened the uncultivated wilderness. The Wind-gap, unlike the far-famed Water-gap' in the same cluster of mountains, is a deep depression of the summit of the range, is quite level on both sides of the road for a considerable distance, and exhibits none of the majestic precipices of the latter. The earth is covered with masses of angular rocks, among which shoot up cedar and other trees and shrubs, chiefly of the coniferae order; but the road, by industry, is made quite smooth. The hills rise on each side of the Gap to an altitude of eight hundred feet, clothed and crowned with trees. It was through this pass in the mountains that two expert walkers crossed to a spur of the Pocono when measuring the extent of a district of country northwest of the Delaware, for the proprietors of Pennsylvania, in 1737. The Indians had agreed, for a certain consideration, to sell a tract of land included within prescribed points on the river, and extending back as far as a man could “walk in a day and a half.” The proprietors immediately advertised for the most expert walkers in the province, and they performed a journey, in the day and a half of eighty-six miles! The Indians were greatly dissatisfied, for they had no idea that such a distance could be accomplished, and it included some of their finest lands. The walkers ran a considerable portion of the way. They ate as they traveled, and never stopped from sunrise until sunset. One old Indian said, bitterly, when complaining of the cheat, “No sit down to smoke—no shoot a squirrel, but lun, lun, lun, all day long.” The Indians, supposing the walk would end not far from the Wind-gap, had collected there in great numbers; but, to their astonishment, the walkers reached that point on the evening of the first day. The turnpike road through the Wind-gap, and across the valleys and mountains, to Wilkesbarre, was made by Sullivan for the passage of his troops in 1779, when marching to join General Clinton on the Tioga. Before that time the pass was little more than a rough Indian war-path, and its obscurity made the hurried flight of the people from Wyoming over the solitary region more perplexing and dreadful than it would be now. We descended from the Wind-gap, on the western side of the mountain, along a steep and winding road, skirting a precipice, crossed a beautiful mountain stream, and alighted at the Roscommon Tavern, among the hills, where we breakfasted at seven o'clock. At the table we were honored by the presence of one of the five candidates for the office of sheriff of Monroe county. He was out canvassing the district for votes, and a more earnest, intelligent, good-humored man I have seldom met. His strongest claim to the honors and emoluments of the office seemed to rest upon the fact that he was a representative of New England pedagogueism in the Wyoming Valley as early as “forty years ago;” had taught the “ young ideas” of the fathers of three Wilkesbarre lawyers “how to shoot,” and, therefore, he assumed to have an undisputed right to the privilege of hanging the inhabitants of a neighboring county. He accompanied us to the next tavern, the proprietor of which, a fat little man, though already bearing upon his shoulders the responsibilities of a postmaster, was another aspirant ambitiously wheezing for the office of sheriff. Both were too good-natured to be made rivals;
* The Water-gap is the passage through the Kittatinny or Blue Mountains of the Delaware River, about three miles from Stroudsburg. This village is upon the Delaware, twenty-four miles above Easton, and was the first settlement which the fugitives from Wyoming reached when fleeing from the valley in 1778. There was a fort there, called Hamilton, during the French and Indian war, and near the eastern end of the village Fort Penn was built during the Revolution.
Ascent of the Pocono. The Mountain Scenery. Solitude of the Region. A Soldier Coachman. First view of wyoming.
they were only different candidates professing the same political faith. We left them comparing notes over a glass of whisky, and in the course of a few hours we had crossed fertile little valleys and parallel ranges of mountains, and begun the toilsome ascent of the famous Pocono. From base to summit, the distance, by the road, is about three miles, one third of which is a straight line up the mountain at an angle of thirty-five degrees. Then our way was along the precipitous sides of the hills, from which we could look upon the tops of tall trees, hundreds of feet below. It was noon when we reached the level summit, two thousand feet above tide water; and there, three fourths of a mile from the eastern brow of the mountain, John Smith keeps a tavern, and furnished us with an excellent dinner. The road upon the top of Pocono is perfectly level a distance of four miles; and all the way to the Wilkesbarre Mountains, twenty miles, there is but little variation in the altitude. On the left, near Smith's, is an elevation called the Knob, about two hundred feet above the general level, from the apex of which it is said the highest peaks of the Catskills, sixty miles distant, may be distinctly seen on a clear morning. All around is a perfect wilderness as far as the eye can reach, and so trifling are the variations from a level, that the country appears like a vast plain. The whole is covered with shrub oaks, from three to ten feet in height, from which rise lofty pines, cedars, and tamaracks, interspersed with a few birch and chestnut trees, and occasionally a mountain ash with its blazing berries. The shrub oaks, at a distance, appeared like the soft light green grass of a meadow, and groups of lofty evergreens dotted the expanse like orchards upon a prairie. Here and there a huge blasted pine, black and leafless, towered above the rest, a
*Stern dweller of the mountain with its feet
Vast cranberry marshes spread out upon this high, rolling table-land, and supply the surrounding settlements with an abundance of that excellent fruit. Indeed, the whole region is almost a continuous morass, and the road, a large portion of the way, is a causeway made of logs. Here the gray eagle wheels undisturbed, the bear makes his lair, and the wild deer roam in abundance. These, with the flocks of pheasants, and the numerous rabbits that burrow upon this wild warren, invite the adventurous huntsman, willing to “camp out” in the wilderness. No settlements enliven the way; and the cabins and saw-mills of lumbermen, where the road intersects the streams, are the only evidences of a resident population, except three or four places where a few acres have been redeemed from the poverty of nature. This wilderness extends more than a hundred miles between the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers, and a death-like solitude broods over the region. I kept my seat upon the driver's box all the way from the Wind-gap to Wilkesbarre, charmed by the romance of the scene, rendered still more wild and picturesque by the dark masses of cumulous clouds that overspread the heavens in the afternoon. The wind blew very cold from the northwest, and the driver assured me that, during the hottest weather in summer, the air is cool and bracing upon this lofty highway. Poor fellow, he was an emaciated, blue-lipped soldier, recently returned from the battle-fields of Mexico, where the vomito and ague had shattered a hitherto strong constitution, and opened his firm-knit system to the free entrance of diseases of every kind. He was at Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo. He lay sick a whole summer at Perote, and now had resumed the whip with the feeble hope of regaining lost health. We crossed the upper waters of the Lehigh at Stoddartsville, in the midst of the great lumber country, and reached the brow of the Wilkesbarre Mountains just before sunset. There a scene of rare grandeur and beauty was revealed, heightened by contrast with the rugged and forbidding aspect of the region we had just traversed. The heavy clouds, like a thick curtain, were lifted in the west to the apparent height of a celestial degree, and allowed the last rays of the evening sun to flood the deep valley below us with their golden light. The natural beauties of the vale, reposing in shadow, were for a moment brought
A charming Landscape. Arrival at Wilkesbarre. Charles Minor, Esq. His Picture of old Wyoming.
out in bold outline; and from our point of view we gazed upon a picture such as the painter's art can not imitate. Like a thread of silver the Susquehanna appeared, in its winding course, among the lofty, overshadowing trees, upon its margin, and the villages, hamlets, green woodlands, rich bottoms, and fruitful intervales of Wyoming, twenty miles in extent, and the purple mountains on its western borders were all included in the range of our vision. The thought, impious though it may be, came into my mind, that if Satan, when he took Immanuel to the top of an “exceeding high mountain,” exhibited a scene like this, the temptation was certainly great. Wilkesbarre," apparently at our feet, was three miles distant, and it was dark when we reached the Phoenix Hotel, upon the bank of the river. It had been a fatiguing day's journey of sixty miles; but a supper of venison, warm biscuit, and honey, and a comfortable bed, made me feel persectly vigorous in the morning, and prepared for a ramble over the historic portions of the valley. September 16, After an early breakfast I rode to the residence of Charles Minor, Esq., about 1848. two miles from the village, expecting to rely chiefly upon his varied and extensive knowledge of the history of the valley for information concerning the localities of interest, but was disappointed.” He was suffering from a severe attack of an epidemic fever then prevailing in the valley, and was unable even to converse much, yet I have not forgotten the sincere regrets and kind wishes he expressed. He referred me to several gentlemen in the village, descendants of the first settlers in the valley, and to one of them (Mr. Lord Butler, a grandson of Colonel Zebulon Butler) I am indebted for many kind services while I remained there. He accompanied me to the several localities of interest in the valley, and furnished me with such facilities for acquiring information as only a stranger can appreciate. We visited Kingston, Forty Fort, the monument, the chief battle-ground, Fort Wintermoot, Monocasy Island, &c.; but a record of the day's ramble will be better understood after a consultation of the history, and we will, therefore, proceed to unclasp the old chronicle. History and song have hallowed the Valley of Wyoming, and everything appertaining to it seems to be wrapped in an atmosphere of romance. Its Indian history, too, long antecedent to the advent of the whites there, is full of the poetry which clusters around the progress of the aborigines. Mr. Minor gives a graphic picture of the physical aspect of the valley. “It is diversified,” he says, “by hill and dale, upland and intervale. Its character of extreme richness is derived from the extensive flats, or river bottoms, which, in some places, extend from one to two miles from the stream, unrivaled in expansive beauty, unsurpassed in luxuriant fertility. Though now generally cleared and cultivated, to protect the soil from floods a fringe of trees is left along each bank of the river—the sycamore, the elm, and more especially the black walnut, while here and there, scattered through the fields, a huge shellbark yields its summer shade to the weary laborers, and its autumn fruit to the black and gray squirrel, or the rival plow-boys. Pure streams of water come leaping from the mountains, imparting health and pleasure in their course; all of them abounding with the delicious trout. Along those brooks, and in the swales, scattered through the uplands, grow
*This name is compounded of two, and was given in honor of John Wilkes and Colonel Barre, two of the ablest advocates of America, through the press and on the floor of the British House of Commons, during the Revolution.
* Mr. Minor is the author of a “History of Wyoming,” a valuable work of nearly six hundred pages, and possessing the rare merit of originality, for a large proportion of its contents is a record of information obtained by him from the lips of old residents whose lives and memories ran parallel with the Revolutionary history of the valley, and events immediately antecedent thereto. He folded up little books of blank paper, took pens and ink, and, accompanied by his daughter Sarah, who, though blind, was a cheerful and agreeable companion, and possessed a very retentive memory, visited thirty or forty of the old people who were in the valley at the time of the invasion in 1778. “We have come,” he said to them, “to inquire about old Wyoming; pray tell us all you know. We wish an exact picture, such as the valley presented sixty years ago. Give us its lights and shadows, its joys and sorrows.” At night, on returning home, he read over to his daughter what he had taken down, and carefully corrected, by the aid of her memory, “any error into which the pen had fallen.” In this way Mr. Minor collected a great amount of local history, which must otherwise have perished with the source whence he derived it. I shall draw liberally upon his interesting volume for many of my historic facts concerning Wyoming.
Ancient Beauty and Fertility of Wyoming. Campbell's "Gertrude of Wyoming.” Its Errors. First Tribes in the Valley.
the wild plum and the butter-nut, while, wherever the hand of the white man has spared it, the native grape may be gathered in unlimited profusion. I have seen a grapevine bending beneath its purple clusters, one branch climbing a butter-nut, loaded with fruit, another branch resting upon a wild plum, red with its delicious burden; the while, growing in the shade, the hazel-nut was ripening its rounded kernel. “Such were the common scenes when the white people first came to Wyoming, which seems to have been founded by Nature, a perfect Indian Paradise. Game of every sort was abundant. The quail whistled in the meadow; the pheasant rustled in its leafy covert; the wild duck reared her brood and bent the reed in every inlet; the red deer fed upon the hills; while in the deep forests, within a few hours' walk, was found the stately elk. The river yielded at all seasons a supply of fish; the yellow perch, the pike, the catfish, the bass, the roach, and, in the spring season, myriads of shad.”
“Delightful Wyoming ! beneath thy skies
The happy shepherd swains had naught to do
But feed their flocks on green declivities,
From morn till evening's sweeter pastime grew,
Thy lovely maidens would the dance renew;
“Then, when of Indian hills the daylight takes
His leave, how might you the flamingo see,
Disporting like a meteor on the lakes—
And every sound of life was full of glee,
While hearkening, fearing naught their revelry,
Wyoming, in the Delaware language, signifies “large plains.” By what particular Indian nation or tribe it was first settled is not certainly known, but it is probable that the Delawares held dominion there long before the powerful confederacy of the Five Nations, by whom they were subjugated, was formed. The tribes known as the Wyoming Indians, unto whom Zinzendorf and his Moravian brethren preached the Gospel, and who occupied the plains when the white settlers from Connecticut first went there, were of the Seneca and
* Minor's History of Wyoming, preliminary chapter, p. xiv.
* Gertrude of Wyoming. This beautiful poem is full of errors of every kind. The “lakes,” the “flamingo,” and the “mock bird” are all strangers to Wyoming; and the historical allusions in the poem are quite as much strangers to truth. But it is a charming poem, and hypercriticism may conscientiously pass by and leave its beauties untouched.
Count Zinzendorf. His Visit to Wyoming. Jealousy of the Indians. Attempt to murder him. providential Circumstance.
Oneida nations, connected by intermarriage with the Mingoes, and the subjugated LeniLenapes, or Delawares. As it is not my province to unravel Indian history, we will pass to a brief consideration of the white settlements there. The first European whose feet trod the Valley of Wyoming was Count Zinzendorf, who, while visiting his Mo- Mack, and his wife, ravian brethren at - who accompanied him, Bethlehem and Naza- he pitched his tent reth, in 1742, extend- upon the western bank ed his visits among the of the Susquehanna, a neighboring Indians. little below the present His warm heart had village of Kingston, at been touched by the the foot of a high hill, accounts he had re- and near a place in the ceived of the moral river known as Toby's degradation of the sav- Eddy. A tribe of the ages, and, unattended, Shawnees had a vilexcept by an interpret- lage upon the site of er, he traversed the Kingston. They held wilderness and preach- a council to listen to ed salvation to the red the communications of men. In one of these the missionaries, but, excursions he crossed suspicious of all white the Pocono, and pen- men, they could not beetrated to the Valley - lieve that Zinzendorf of Wyoming. With Count Zinzendorf.1 and his companions a missionary named - had crossed the Atlantic for the sole purpose of promoting the spiritual welfare of the Indians. They concluded that the strangers had come to “spy out their country” with a view to dispossess them of their lands; and, with such impressions, they resolved to murder the count. The savages feared the English, and instructed those who were appointed to assassinate Zinzendorf to do it with all possible secrecy. A cool September night was chosen for the deed, and two stout Indians proceeded stealthily from the town to the tent of the missionary. He was alone, reclining upon a bundle of dry weeds, engaged in writing, or in devout meditation. A blanket curtain formed the door of his tent, and, as the Indians cautiously drew this aside, they had a full view of their victim. The benignity of his countenance filled them with awe, but an incident (strikingly providential) more than his appearance changed the current of their feelings. The tent-cloth was suspended from the branch of a huge sycamore, in such a manner that the partially hollow trunk of the tree was within its folds. At its foot the count had built a fire, the warmth of which had aroused a rattlesnake in its den; and at the moment when the savages looked into the tent the venomous reptile was gliding harmlessly across the legs of their intended victim, who did not see either the serpent or the lurking murderers. They at once regarded him as under the special protection of the Great Spirit, were
* Nicolas Lewis, Count Zinzendorf, was descended from an ancient Austrian family, and was the son of a chamberlain of the King of Poland. He was born in May, 1700, and was educated at Halle and Utrecht. When about twenty-one years of age, he purchased the lordship of Berthholdsdorp, in Lusatia. Some poor Christians, followers of John Huss, soon afterward settled upon his estate. Their piety attracted his attention, and he joined them. From that time until his death he labored zealously for the good of mankind. The village of Hernhutt was built upon his estate, and soon the sect spread throughout Bohemia and Moravia. He traveled through Germany, Denmark, and England, and in 1741 came to America, and preached at Germantown and Bethlehem. He returned to Europe in 1743, and died at Hernhutt in 1760. The Moravian missionaries were very successful in their operations. They established stations in various parts of Europe, in Greenland, in the West Indies, and in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Piety, zeal, benevolence, and self-denial always marked the Moravians, and at the present day they bear the character of “the best of people.”