An 1841 Anti-Slavery Tour Of the White Hills
Nathaniel Peabody Rogers
A CORVUS EDITION
ANTI-SLAVERY JAUNT TO THE MOUNTAINS
[from the Herald of Freedom of Sept. 10,1841.]
We meant, from the several stages of our hurried expedition, to drop back for the Herald some of its incidents, detailed while events and impressions were fresh. But we could not find opportunity. The rapidity of our movement and constant occupation during intervals of anti-slavery action, compelled us to defer attempting it, and we must now give our readers a dull reminiscence.
In company with brother Garrison, we left Concord the morning of 23d of August. The morning was clear and pleasant after the rains of Saturday night and Sunday. The air was purified and refreshed from the parching drought, and the earth joyous as the “shining morning face” of a new-washed school boy. The dust was laid, and travelling beautiful. We crossed the Merrimack, hailing it as our native stream, brother G. at its mouth, and we up its coldest tributary, and rode over Canterbury high hills with that lightness of heart and freedom of spirit, which God vouchsafes, in our land and day, only to the faithful abolitionists. Others may “labor” “and seek rest” as they may. They don’t find it. Kearsarge mountain, looming in the western distance, at solemn height, gave us promise of the mightier peaks in the great chain to which we were journeying, standing alone, in advance of its high peers, like an advance guard, encouraging us by its great, but subordinate elevation, to expect altitudes equal to our loftiest wishes. Speeding on by many a bold home on the hills, and many a valley whose retired beauty recalled to delighted recollection the vales of Scotland, we approached the tributary stream paid to the Merrimack, from out New Hampshire’s chiefest lake, and which bears its name, the Winnipisockee. This, with our own little native river, the cold and swift Pemigewasset, from the Franconia Notch, conspiring a short distance to the left of our way, in the formation of the Merrimack. Just before crossing Winnipisockee river, we passed the brick “steeple house,” where the honorable Samuel Tilton, at the instigation of the honorable Daniel Atkinson, and supported by an honorable mob—“all honorable men”—arrested George Storrs for the felony of an anti-slavery prayer. What a sign that event of republican and christian times! And they tried him, for his anticipated anti-slavery lecture, before a New Hampshire justice of the peace! a fact that will be picked up by the future Belknap for our history, and which will afford a sort of immortality to some on the banks of the Winnipisockee, who otherwise might have enjoyed a comfortable oblivion.
On the high lands of Sanbornton (taking the old road for prospect) the glorious mountains of the North showed us their blue outline, the broad, whale-like back of Moosehillock, and the pyramid-looking Haystacks, blending with the sky, and bedimmed with vapor and cloud. They called to mind the first discovered land, last summer, on our voyage to England—the dim Irish shores, and the misty mountains of Wales. Towards sunset our own home-hills greeted our sight, and the once loved spires of the village where we were born, their clean white showing picturesquely among the green of the woods beyond them. Old North Hill, with its bare forehead and commanding peak, which in Scotland would have been crowned with immortality in a hundred songs, standing there unhonored and unsung, a bleak hill top, climbed now and then for prospect, but chiefly for the blueberries that grow upon its brow, or the sheep and young cattle and wild colts that pasture up its sides. Few places, of so little note, strike the eye of the traveller so pleasantly as the town of Plymouth in Grafton county. A beautiful expanse of intervale opens on the eye like a lake among the hills and woods, and the pretty river Pemigewasset, refreshed with its recent tributary, Baker’s river, from the foot of Moosehillock, and bordered along its crooked sides with rows of maple, meanders widely from upland to upland through the meadows, and realizes to the mind some of the sequestered spots in the valleys of the Swiss cantons. It was with no small interest that we introduced the editor of the Liberator to the scene of our birth and boyhood. It was the birth-place of New Hampshire anti-slavery, too. We are sad to say, it is not now anti-slavery’s dwelling place. The spirit that once animated it, has faded under the influence of the proslavery pulpit.
We had been led to expect somewhat that the Congregational meeting-house, a very tasty synagogue, which we helped largely to erect a few years before our removal from the village, would be opened to brother Garrison for a lecture. We did not expect it from the character of its pulpit, but from the majority of the committee in charge of it, professed abolitionists, as well as from the prudence of the minority, though not interested in the antislavery cause. We supposed all had the necessary curiosity, if not the good taste, to want to hear the man of whom so many bugbear stories had been told in the village, and whose name had, they knew, become renowned on both sides the Atlantic. But a petty bigotry and priest-ridden prejudice prevailed. Perhaps the church malignity towards his fellow-traveller moved them to shut the meeting-house. No matter for the reason. They refused the house, unless upon a condition which abolitionists could not accept, and which honorable men would never have offered.
The Methodist meeting-house was also refused, but more honestly than the other, with a broad, ill-mannered No, from the temporary divine who tends it. Let them be forever shut against the cause of bleeding humanity. They are abandoned to their uses. As is ever the case, in the overruling of Providence, the paltry refusal of the meeting-houses served greatly to advance our cause, and magnify the occasion. Driven from the synagogues, the abolitionists applied for a grove across the river, on the land of Mr. Joy, of Holderness. He readily allowed them the use of it;—one spot was found in the neighborhood of Plymouth steeples, not dedicated and given over to slavery, and to soulless, heartless, ungodly sect. One temple there was, not made with hands, of God’s own building, roofed with the blue sky and pillared about with the trees of the wood, and floored and carpeted with the glorious, green earth, dedicated, not to imitations of Jewish ceremonials, or the rites of heathenism, but to that worship of the Father, which He requireth of them, who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Thither anti-slavery repaired to hold her assembly, and hear the advocate of the Savior’s poor. Semicircular seats, backed against a line of magnificent trees, to accommodate, we should judge, from two to three hundred, though we did not think about numbers, were filled principally with women, and the men who could not find seats stood on the green sward on either hand, and at length, when wearied with standing, seated themselves on the ground. Garrison mounted on a rude platform in front, lifted up his voice and spoke to them in prophet tones and surpassing eloquence, from half past three till I saw the rays of the setting sun playing through the trees on his head. It was at his back—but the auditory could see it, if they had felt at leisure to notice the decline of the sun or the lapse of time. They heeded it not, any more than he, but remained till he ended, apparently undisposed to move, though some came from six, eight, and even twelve miles distance. A vastly better impression was made than would have been, had poor, pitiful sect opened its portals. More attended. It was a different and a far better auditory than would have been gathered in the meeting-house, especially if the pastors had countenanced the meeting and led in their implicit flocks. The auditory was not the village aristocracy from under the eaves of Bank, Court House, Seminary, or the Steeple House, as George Fox used to call it. Such would have had as little heart to hear or to act as any of their corporations which admittedly “have no soul.” Pearls cast before them would have been cast contrary to the scripture injunction. They could not have listened with hearing ears or understanding hearts. Their ears and hearts are kept by their pastors. Driven from the sanctuaries, we had another and freer auditory. They were politicians, to be sure, many of them; but a politician has more of a heart left in him than a sectarian. Politics is not such a soul-canker as sect. Sect eats the heart all up. It leaves nothing in a man. He can’t say his soul is his own, or that he has one, belonging to any body. He is a poor, creeping, formal idolater, bowing down to an image he has helped to set up, and to the wooden perch on which he mounts his idol for exhibition and worship. No, the politicians have their humanity left, at least a portion of it. And if it appeals to them, they are not afraid to hear it. It is not irreligious in their estimation to have “flesh in their hearts,” and pity for bleeding humanity. The meeting in the grove called out many of them who would not have entered the house, and we confess they have reason to suspect the motives of even an anti-slavery lecturer, who is admitted by the pastor into a pulpit. We don’t blame them for their jealousy of meeting-house lecturers. It is a sign, if they are let into pulpits, that they have not at heart the interests of humanity. The rejection from the house gave Garrison many auditors of this kind. And though he told them the stern truth about their politics, they knew it was told in honesty. They knew there was no speculation or hypocrisy or party in it. They felt it was true, or at least honest. They understood it, and can repeat it. And they are the men to spread it among the people, at least some of them. Now let the little papacy of Plymouth village prate of Garrison’s infidelity. The people have seen him and heard him, infidelity and all. And they heard more of christian truth and gospel preaching, in that one, river-bank discourse, than those yoked and fettered meeting-houses can ever afford from the day of their dedication to the time when not one stone of them shall be left upon another.
Garrison spoke the better for being driven to the open air. The injustice and meanness of it aroused his spirit, and the beauty of the scene animated his eloquence. We never heard him speak so powerfully; and as he spoke the more earnestly, the people, from like cause, heard with deeper interest. He scarcely alluded to the miserable jesuitry that excluded us from the synagogue. We are thankful it all happened so. To God be the praise.
We must defer, for another week, further account of our journey, our ascent of North Hill, our jaunt to the Franconia Notch, to the Littleton convention—by the way, gloriously attended and conducted—and to Mount Washington, and our passage of its tremendous gap, side by side with the infant Saco, not wider there than the narrow path, but soon expanding into a bridged and boated river in the beautiful champaign region below the mountains.
[From the Herald of Freedom of Sept. 17, 1841.]
We meant to have gone on with our begun account of the White Mountain journey this week, but the fatigue and excitement of the Dover meetings have jaded us out, and we have no more power left to tell the story of the White Hills, than of bodily vigor to climb again their inaccessible peaks. We spare our readers another week from reading a tame attempt at it. We will go with them up North Hill, though. This is no contemptible ascent, and if it stood where some of those renowned Scottish Bens do, and had undergone the poetic handling of their Burnses and Scotts, people would cross the ocean to see the sights from its top.
We went up it the morning of Garrison’s lecture among the Holderness maples. It is one of the most charming rides in the world, for the two or three miles up the Pemigewassett, before you begin to ascend. It was a glorious morning, just such as you would choose to go to such a show. A little above our starting, the Baker’s river pays its quiet and humble tribute to the brave Pemigewassett, and tradition tells a thrilling story of an Indian right with a party of hunters under Capt. Baker, fought a long time ago, at the forks of the streams. The Indians were beaten off, the story goes, but not defeated, and the white men fled down the river toward the New England settlements. When they had retreated through the trackless woods as far as they had strength to run without fainting for hunger, they halted near the confluence of the streams that form the Merrimack. Upon that solitude now stands the populous and stirring village of Franklin. They knew the Indians were after them, and feared they would have them if they could not contrive to divert them from the pursuit. They had among them one friendly Indian. His aboriginal sagacity found a way to deliver them from their perilous predicament. He struck a line of fires along the margin of the little brook, that tumbles down from the high hills west of the village, and which in its descent now turns many a mill wheel, whose music was then unheard amid the woods. It crosses the road and empties into the Pemigewassett just above its junction with the river of the lake. The Indian knew the children of the forest would pause and study that hurried encampment. He thought of cheating them with tokens of a reinforcement; he cut some two hundred twigs of willow from the margin of the little brook, and stuck them up along beside the range of fires he had kindled, as spits for roasting their morsel of meat. Whether they stopped to roast any, or to eat, is not remembered. They retreated a short distance and secreted themselves, when the Canadian prowlers appeared upon the banks of the brook. They saw the ashes, and the signs of the hasty meal, and the smoked and scorched willow twigs. They counted them, and learned to their dismay that the hunters had got reinforced from the settlements, and were probably hard by in ambush. They took the back track, without delay, and Captain Baker’s handful army joyously made the best of their way in right the opposite direction. We do not vouch for the accuracy of this history, though we have told it many a time, and we forget with what embellishments, in the story-telling days of our boyhood. We used to think as much of Captain Baker, we remember, as we now do of Bonaparte or the Duke of Marlborough, and do still, for the matter of that. Fertile expanses of green intervale now smile along the mouth of Baker’s river, and fifteen miles up its banks among the Rumney mountains, all which distance it has not a fall or hardly a ripple—a track for the future rail-way from the Pemigewassett to the Connecticut. It would look exceedingly wild and spirited, as the locomotive streamed panting and smoking up that narrow vale!
Two miles above the meeting of the little rivers, you cross a picturesque bridge at “the Falls,” a scene for the painters when the land shall become like the old world, the home of the fine arts. Art paints nothing among us now. All our pictures are originals, from the hand of Him who made the world. A carriage road of a mile or two, at an angle with the horizon that would discourage the dwellers by the sea-side, but which is all a level to the free people of the hills, brought us to the end of wheel navigation, and two of our company took to the saddle,—brother Garrison, having never been on horse-back, except his ride on a Shetland pony from Loch Katrine to Loch Lomond last year in the Scottish Highlands, preferring to try his fortune on foot. Suffice it to say, that in some three quarters of an hour we reached the commanding peak of the hill. The earth sphered up all around us in every quarter of the horizon, like the crater of a vast volcano, and the great hollow within the circle was scarcely less smoky than that of Vesuvius or Etna during their recess of eruption. The little village of Plymouth lay right at our feet, the ingle of observation seeming far steeper from the top downward, than from the village to the top of the mountain. Off the declivity, on the western side, lay tidy farms and snug houses, along a good road where since our remembrance settlements had not penetrated, and which still bears the name of the “New Discovery.”
To the south stretches a broken, swelling upland country, but champaign from the top of North Hill, patched all over with grain fields and green wood lots, the roofs of the farm-houses shining in the sun. South-west, the Cardigan mountain showed its bald forehead among the smokes of a thousand fires, kindled in the woods in the long drought. Westward, Moosehillock heaved up its long back, black as a whale; and turning the eye on northward, glancing down the while on the Baker’s river valley, dotted over with human dwellings like shingle bunches for size, you behold the great Franconia Range, its “Notch” and its Haystacks, the Elephant mountain on the left, and Lafayette (Great Haystack) on the right, shooting its peak in solemn loneliness high up into the desert sky, and o’ertopping all the neighboring Alps but Mount Washington itself. The prospect of these is most impressive and satisfactory. We don’t believe the earth presents a finer mountain display. The Haystacks stand there like the Pyramids on the wall of mountains. One of them eminently has this Egyptian shape. It is as accurate a pyramid to the eye as any in the old valley of the Nile, and a good deal bigger than any of those hoary monuments of human presumption, of the impious tyranny of monarchs and priests, and of the appalling servility of the erecting multitude. Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh does not more finely resemble a sleeping lion than the huge mountain on the left of the Notch does an elephant, with his great, overgrown rump turned uncivilly toward the gap where the people have to pass! Following round the Panorama, you come to the Ossipees and the Sandwich mountains, peaks innumerable and nameless, and of every variety of fantastic shape. Down their vast sides are displayed the melancholy looking slides, contrasting with the fathomless woods.
But the lakes—you see lakes, as well as woods and mountains, from the top of North Hill. Newfound lake in Hebron, only eight miles distant, you can’t see, which we can’t account for, but that it lies too deep among the hills, Ponds show their small blue mirrors from various quarters of the great picture. Worthen’s Mill Pond and the Hardhack, where we used to fish for trout in truant, bare-footed days, Blair’s Mill Pond, White Oak Pond, and Long Pond, and the Little Squam, a beautiful, dark sheet of deep, blue water, about two miles long, stretched amid the green hills and woods, with a charming little beach at its eastern end, and without an island. And then the Great Squam, connected with it on the east by a short, narrow stream, the very queen of ponds, with its fleet of islands, surpassing in beauty all the foreign waters we have seen, in Scotland or elsewhere—the islands, covered with evergreens, which impart their hue to the mass of the lake, as it stretches seven miles on east from its smaller sister, towards the peerless Winnipisockee. Great Squam is as beautiful as water and island can be. But Winnipisockee—it is the very “Smile of the Great Spirit.” And the Indians gave it the name to signify that smile. And, verily, if the propitious glance of creative Power could be left upon its inanimate works, we should think it would play there in the form of this glorious lake. Its finest view, however, is not from North Hill. Red Hill is the place to behold it, and there the Indians must have stood when they gave it its name. Red Hill is near its northern extremity, and we never saw such an object in nature as Winnipisockee seen from its top. It looks as if it had a thousand islands. They tell of three hundred and sixty-five, one for every day in the year. But there must be many more, some of them large enough for little towns, and others not bigger than a swan or a wild duck swimming on its surface of glass. Days might be spent to gratification and profit on the top of North Hill; but we had not the time. Garrison was to speak to the people on American slavery in the afternoon, and we had to curtail our stay. It was with emotions that we can’t describe, that we cast our farewell gaze over all that well-remembered, intimately known, native region, that lay beneath our feet. It was the scene of most of our mortal existence. Our young footsteps had wandered over most of its localities. Time had cast it all far back. That Pemigewassett, with its meadows and its border trees! That little village, whitening on the margin of its intervale, and that one house we could distinguish among them, where the mother that watched over and endured our wayward childhood, totters at fourscore! We had to turn away and seek refuge from it all in God and Anti-slavery, and descended the hill with what cheer we might. O that we could have found an anti-slavery people in the valley below! But they were absorbed in the miserable business of scraping up more than is needful or innocent, of the perishing trash of this world, and in the paltry village habitudes that belong to mercenary life. The interest once felt for humanity, there in the breasts of a choice corps of abolitionists, had faded out under the influence of selfishness, politics and sect. The little minister had got the better of their philanthropy, and they were quietly in his harness at the call of the steeple bell.
FRANCONIA NOTCH AND THE MEETING AT LITTLETON.
[From the Herald of Freedom of Oct. 1, 1841.]
We bargained last year with our beloved fellow-traveller Garrison, in the Scottish Highlands, either on Loch Katrine, on board the barge rowed by McFarlan and his three Highlanders, or else as we rode the Shetland ponies from Katrine to Loch Lomond, through “Rob Roy’s country,” and along his “native heath,” and when we were gazing upward at the mist-clad mountains, that if ever we lived to get home again to our dear New England, we would go and show him New Hampshire’s sterner and loftier summits, her Haystacks and her White Hills, and their Alpine passes. God in His tender mercy preserved us homeward o’er the terrible sea, and has kept us since amid the vicissitudes of the rolling year. We have performed our promise, and been our stipulated journey. We had gazed together on the Scottish trosachs and Caledonia’s mountains, and now have beheld New Hampshire’s highlands and her eternal notches and gaps, her lonely mountain peaks and boundless woods. Scotland’s “Crags” are “ wild and majestic”—but they are no match for ours. They are but island mountains. Ours are continental. The Ben Lomonds and Ben Nevises of old Scotland rise abruptly from the lowland plains, in distinct and naked elevation. Our great Haystacks and our Mount Washingtons lay away from the sea and the level country, enshrouded by illimitable woods, amid piled-up hills, and you have to climb as high almost as the Scottish summits, before you get to their feet, and you view them at last, not in the full vigor of untired imagination, as you come to the “Highlands,” and with your fancy all afire with poetry and song, but you reach them with imagination jaded and wearied out with hills on hills in everlasting succession, more than you can remember or cope, and they stand there all unsung to speak for themselves, and you have to take them as they are. But we cannot compare them, any more than we can the great men of the old world and the new. We cannot bring them together, that they may show themselves at once before us.
We started from the home of cur dear Plymouth kindred, Wednesday morning, the 25th of August, and took our way up the wild Pemigewassett. The road follows that stream some thirty miles to its source in the very notch of the great Franconia mountains, and is perhaps the levelest, as it undoubtedly is the pleasantest of any road of that length, any where in New Hampshire, if not in New England. The mountains shut down upon the river so that the settlers had to stick to the stream. They could not leave it far without coming upon a surface a little too perpendicular for even the travelling and inhabiting ambition of the northern regions of the Granite State. The road courses along the diminishing river, and up the narrowing intervales, and between the converging and threatening uplands, that soon degenerate into mountains, which though nameless, in a land whose staple commodity is hills, would still rank respectably among the chief summits of more southern New England. Beautiful strips of intervale continue all the way up through Campton, Thornton and Woodstock, the picturesque and appropriate name of what was once Peeling, and at the head of plough navigation. Woodstock is the last of the towns, though Lincoln has ventured up above her, into the very notch, and has some families besides her town officers. Lincoln may be made, however, a comfortable town by temperance and hardy industry. Temperate industry can prosper any where, in spite of mountains and winter; but we would have advised men to stop in their career of emigration toward the Franconia range, as far short of it at least as Woodstock, until the population, so far up, was a little thicker. Woodstock has a noble population of abolitionists. It was once the haunt of rank party politics; but the temperance reform overrun it some years ago, and then a revival of religion, which seems naturally enough to follow tee-totalism on principle, and being aloof from the more influential sects, the free inhabitants embraced quite generally the doctrines of abolitionism when they were first presented. New Organization, we believe, has not been able to seduce them from their fidelity. If all New Hampshire was as humane and free as Woodstock, she would be the queen State of the Union.
The scenery through Thornton strongly resembles the rural districts of Scotland. It is so like it, that many years ago a considerable number of Scottish emigrants, on their way perhaps to Barnet and Ryegate, settlements of their countrymen in Vermont, were induced to stop short and settle here. The McLellans, the Robertsons, the McDearmids and the McNortons. We remember their musical accent and foreign look, in our boyish days. They have passed away now, and their places are supplied by their half-yankee descendants.
At Tilton’s tavern, about twelve miles above Plymouth, we halted for Parnell Beach and Ezekiel Rogers, who were to meet us here from East Campton, and accompany us to the Littleton convention. Nothing seemed wanting to make Tilton’s inn a beautiful and very refreshing place for the traveller, but that a horrible, satanical beverage was sold in it, that they call rum. People buy it to drink! It is “an enemy.” They “take it into their mouths to steal away their brains.” “Every cup of it is unblest, and its ingredient is a devil.” We saw two men buy some of it, and swallow it down deliberately. We remonstrated with them for their suicidal desperation, and with the taverner for furnishing it to them. His excuse was, that folks would have it, and he felt obliged to keep it or lose the patronage of the travelling community.
Friends Beach and Rogers arrived, and we all resumed our journey to the mountains. About a dozen miles of excellent road carried us to Garnsey’s tavern, in the immediate neighbor hood of the great peaks. We stopped there to refresh ourselves and horses, and to go out to visit the celebrated Flume. We refreshed ourselves, for we had brought some wholesome bread along with us, and got some spring water. Whether our horses got any refreshment, we doubted—for poor Garnsey was so stupidly besotted when we returned from the Flume, that he could not convince us whether he had fed them or not. He run of a notion he had. He thought he had watered them too; but the horses denied that as soon as we led them to the trough. We went out east, to see the Flume, about a mile into the wood. The way was exceedingly romantic. It was a foot-path through the very deepest-and heaviest growth of New Hampshire woods. We passed birches as big as mast pines. About a quarter of a mile from the high road, the path pitched down two or three hundred feet, very precipitously, at the bottom of which roared a mountain stream among the rocks, as clear as crystal, and as cold as a well. Our way lay across it on the trunk of a fallen spruce, that required some steadiness to pass. We crossed this stream three or four times more, and came to the cascade. The bed of the stream is here a bare, smooth rock, ascending some ten or fifteen degrees. It is about twice as wide as the stream, which glides down over it, barely covering the mossy rock. It continues up, we should think, several hundred feet. At the foot of it the water dashes into a basin. We walked up dry shod the whole length of the cascade to where the rocks began to wall up on each side and form the entrance way to the Flume. This is a tremendous chasm, cut directly up into the bosom of the mountain—the walls rising on each side, in the highest parts sixty or a hundred feet, as if they had been chiselled in the solid rock. We took no dimensions, but should say the great sluice-way was fifteen or twenty feet wide, and as many rods long. It may be longer. The stream was along the bottom of it, among enormous rocks that have got there, we could not conjecture how. The Flume bends about at the upper end, and we could not see its termination. There seemed no place, from which the rocks could have been rent, in the stupendous walls of the chasm, which rose up smooth to the top, and we thought they must have been tumbled along down the great trough by the headlong water in time of flood. We were struck with awe at entering it, as we gazed up the giant trench, to spy a massy rock, weighing, we should think, a hundred ton, hanging in the very jaws of the chasm, suspended in the air. It looks, at first sight, as if it was about to fall. It must have dropped into the rift, we imagined, when it was rent asunder by the volcano or earthquake or other mountain throe that opened it, or mayhap some Titan wantonly hurled it down there from the peak of Great Haystack. A wild and picturesque-looking bridge stretches over the chasm a little way from the pendant rock. It is made by the trunk of a mighty tree fallen across there by some hurricane that swept the mountain side. Brother Beach had entered the Flume ahead of the rest of us, and when we had advanced a little way into it, we discovered him, beyond the accessible path, clambering by the hands along the side of the great wall. He had doffed his hat, coat and waistcoat, and boots and stockings, and was adventuring for the upper end of the cavern. We feared he would “catch his death of cold”—if he did not get dashed to pieces—for it was as cold and damp as a dungeon. We shouted to him at the top of our voices; but he could not hear us, for the roar of the cataract, and the distance. He soon disappeared at the bend of the Flume, and we saw no more of him, till a cry overhead made us look up, and we beheld him midway of the bridge. If Walter Scott could have had such an incident, he would have made a picture out of it, to immortalize some of his Rob Roys or Helen Mc Gregors. We told brother Beach, after his descent, that we would now risk him for an old-organized anti-slavery agent, and advised him to take the field. We all sung Old Hundred at the foot of the cascade, and made our way back to Garnsey’s. After giving the poor benumbed, besotted taverner what exhortation he had sense enough to hear, we paid him for his problematical oats, and rode on for the Notch.
The way was most beautiful, through the still, solitary, primeval woods. We hoped a deer would show himself from the wild—but he would not—not knowing that we were no hunters. The Pemigewassett brawled along our road side, no longer a river, but a mountain brook—foaming among the rounded rocks and cold enough to drink. The air was moist. “The summer solstice” had scarce “tempered” it. The road was exceedingly fine, and remarkably level, and the trees of the most majestic size. We came to a causeway or kind of bridge over the channel of a little stream, now dried up—that ordinally paid its hurrying tribute to the river, and halted to see “the Basin.” We can hardly give a description of it. It is carved by the chisel of the whirling stream out of the solid rock—some twenty feet across, the curve on one side rising about that height, leaning over the pool, and the dark evergreens on its brink looking down into its deep, pellucid, agitated bed. The water is mackerel color, but so clear, that the sandy bottom, though fifteen or twenty feet down, looks to be within two or three feet of the surface. It is said that two scientific pedestrians halted here to view it one hot day, and feeling desirous of bathing their feet, bantered one another to jump in: one of them tried it, and it was some time before he reappeared to his amazed companion—who, of course, refrained his feet from imitating him. You roll along a mile or two, the road gently undulating through the majestic woods, and fringed with bushes of delightful green—when a vast and overwhelming opening breaks upon you, a boundless Room among the mountains, walled on the left by the great Elephant mountain, the rock covered by stunted evergreens precipicing up two thousand feet—the blue sky itself scarce visible over its eternal ridge. Before you, at the farther extremity, opens the Notch, curtained by the sky of Vermont, which there comes down upon it; and on the right, the wooded, steep side of Lafayette, or Great Haystack. Nothing can exceed the awful sublimity of the great wall on the left. The vast mountain side is clothed with scales of rock, as with a coat of mail, scarred here and there with the old avalanches—while, opposite, the forest side of Lafayette is striped down with the deep green of modern woods, which have grown in the paths of the “slides.” At the northern extremity of the great Room you come to view “the Old Man of the Mountain.” It is on your left, up, say fifteen hundred feet, a perfect profile of an aged man, jutting out boldly from the sheer precipice, with a sort of turban on the head and brow; nose, mouth, lip, chin and fragment of neck, all perfect and to the life—and with a little fancy you supply the cheek and ear. It looks off south-east. It needs no imagination to complete it. It is perfect, as if done by art. But it is up where art has never climbed.
The pond which heads the Pemigewassett lies a mirror at the foot of the almost perpendicular mountain. We followed a footpath down to its margin, and wandered along its narrow beach to the northern extremity. The view south from here is truly wonderful. The sheer precipice of rock, rising to the sky on the right, and the forest side of Lafayette, as high and almost as steep, on the left, both coming down at the southern extremity of the great apartment in the form of a notch, and the whole floored by the green lake. While we stood pondering the magnificent scene, two or three wagons from the north drove rapidly through the pass. The rattle of their wheels sounded through the vast hollow like the running of a hundred chariots.
The printer calls for copy. We have fallen into a particularity of detail which would take a volume before we got to Littleton, but we have not time to abridge. We must resume our sketch another week, and hope then to reach the White Mountains, and to conduct our readers to their summit, and let them off through their tremendous Gap, in a less tedious manner than we are wearying them with here. No writing is so difficult as this sort of narrative—the selection of facts among so many, and all so interesting, and the difficulty of conveying to the reader the impression made upon yourself, and of sketching scenes that have begun to fade from the memory. To travel well and see well, is rare enough; to tell the story accurately and well, rarer still. It wants, among other things, the plain, colloquial, every-day style, which few writers are refined enough and courageous enough to adopt.
LITTLETON CONVENTION AND THE WHITE MOUNTAINS.
[From the Herald of Freedom of Oct. 8, 1841.]
Whoever would take a week’s ride of more interest, gratification and instruction, than any other in New England, will find it from Plymouth, in this State, to the White Mountains, by way of the Franconia Notch,—returning thence to Plymouth by Conway and the Winnipisockee lake. This circuit embraces a greater variety of beauty and grandeur in natural scenery than any the like distance in our knowledge. The White Mountain Notch, it is said, is best seen passed in the other direction, from Conway up. You then ascend it instead of descending, and get the sublime impressions of an enhancing approach to those awful piles in the great architecture of God. The other way you get the terrible and the appalling, as you precipitate from the level where flows the infant Saco, down through the jaws of the sundered mountain, and seem to be plunging almost to the bottomless abyss—with those frightful masses of fallen rock on every hand, bidding you gaze up to behold other hideous masses toppling to their descent. But the effect of the whole circle of impressions is best attained by witnessing Franconia first. This is sublime enough till you have seen the White mountains. It is indeed grand and awful in itself—but most so before the imagination has been shattered and outraged by encountering those scenes of elemental strife and havoc, where thunder and earthquake have played their terrible antics about the great rival mountains. To be sure, in the course we prescribe, you visit Winnipisockee and Red Hill after both these giant views. But you go for mere beauty there. And the degree of this is such, that no previous grandeur—or previous beauty even—can diminish the sense of it. The picture from Red Hill defies competition, as it transcends description. It is the perfection of earthly prospect—only have a clear air and a fair day. The rest is there, and nothing can mar it or detract from it. Plymouth village, too, is a very pleasant spot to the stranger to rest in, both before and after he has gone this grand round of excitement. Not that it would be pleasant to the anti-slavery traveller (and he is the only one who can enjoy this scenery, or any other, with the emotions of a man; others may appreciate a good road and a good tavern) to look at its pretty meeting-house, all gagged and glued up against the free gospel of Him who came to preach deliverance to the captive, or to consider its smart population ridden to servility by a vain and superficial pro-slavery minister. That would be mortifying, but for the present must be borne with. Time will cure it, and a short time.
Our readers left us last week standing on the margin of the pond at the foot of the “Old Man of the Mountain.” We wish we could transport each one of them thither to enjoy the enchantment of that lonely and magnificent spot. But anti-slavery has not leisure to linger about enchanting places. We must away to our labors. We left the pond and the “guide board,” that points the eye (not the foot) to the Old Genius of the Notch in his house up there above the eagle’s haunt, and resumed our ride to Lafayette House, a tavern in the narrowest part of the pass. We did not go into it, and know nothing of its keeping; but its location is picturesque beyond all tavern stands we have ever seen. “The Stuarts’ Inn,” in the trosachs of Scotland, was romantically located—but it could not match this. Behind the house rises a mountain wall a thousand feet on high, hung with woods of evergreen that anchor from top to bottom in the rifts of the rock. You may pretty accurately measure its elevation by the tiers of spruces that grow one above another all the way up, and of nearly equal height. The great cliffs at the summit seem to jut out over the inn. It were almost worth the journey there to drink a draught from the lead pipe water-spout that stands across the road, and pours out living water, equal to any that ever bubbled up from a white sand spring, enough to water a whole village.
We resumed our ride. It led down a most beautiful scolloping road, gently descending through the majestic woods. We passed another pond on our right—the head-water of the wild Ammonoosuck.
It is scarce a bow-shot distance from the head pond of Pemigewassett. There these waters start on their distant destinations; one to seek the sea at Newburyport, by way of the freshety Merrimack, and the other at Long Island Sound by the sluggish Connecticut, and its fat, Lethean, pro-slavery valley The Ammonoosuck pond is an enchanting sheet of water. It is embosomed closely among these solitary woods. It is hard by the Lafayette House, and abounds with trout. The water fowl have probably not discovered it. What a place for the invalid from the pent-up city to come and sail on, in the hot summer months, in a beautiful highland barge! Let them come and inhale health and invigoration with these mountain breezes—but don’t let them bring their paltry fishing gear or their sporting ‘coutrements. Let no man cast a knavish hook into these peopled waters, or discharge a felon gun at the gentle deer that stoops to drink on their wild margin. Humanity does not sport with fowling pieces or fish-hooks. Let poverty on the sea-board—provided it can’t get bread out of the generous earth—sustain itself on the uncouth cod and halibut, that are fools enough to speculate on the temptations it may throw in their way. But the pretty mountain trout—let them live, and the bounding deer. There is enough to eat in New Hampshire without resorting to take their lives.
A few miles descending ride brought us out of the woods and opened upon us a new world. From the very heart of the mountains you emerge on an expanded level, stretching away to the Connecticut, and terminating with the distant hills of Vermont. Some half dozen miles from Lafayette tavern, you settle down into the village at the Franconia Iron Works—the famous region for cold, where the mercury sinks down as far below zero, as the bottom of the valley does below the peak of Great Haystack. Emerging from the woods, this giant mountain shows itself, as you look back, in all its Alpine majesty. You behold its naked summit, with its quarter mile of bare cliff, reposing solemnly in “the upper sky”—the fugitive clouds ever and anon hurrying past its top, while down its mighty ravine from the extreme of vegetation to its base, descends the dreadful slide, gathering inward from the slopes on either hand, like the great British side of the Niagara; where the waters of the lakes concentrate to their final fall. The resemblance of this slide to the great cataract at the curve of the Horse-shoe is very palpable, and struck us instantly at beholding it.
As we rode through the Notch after friends Beach and Rogers, we were alarmed at seeing smoke issue from their chaise top, and cried out to them that their chaise was a-fire! We were more than suspicious, however, that it was something worse than that, and that the smoke came out of friend Rogers’ mouth. And it so turned out. This was before we reached the Notch tavern. Alighting there to water our beasts, we gave him, all round, a faithful admonition. For anti-slavery does not fail to spend its intervals of public service in mutual and searching correction of the faults of its friends. We gave it soundly to friend Rogers,—that he, an abolitionist, on his way to an anti-slavery convention, should desecrate his anti-slavery mouth and that glorious Mountain Notch, with a stupifying tobacco weed. We had halted at the Iron Works tavern to refresh our horses, and, while they were eating, walked to view the Furnace. As we crossed the little bridge, friend Rogers took out another cigar, as if to light it when we should reach the fire. “Is it any malady you have got, brother Rogers,” said we to him, “that you smoke that thing, or is it habit and indulgence merely?” It is nothing but habit, said he, gravely, or I would say it was nothing else, and he significantly cast the little roll over the railing into the Ammonoosuck. “A revolution,” exclaimed Garrison, “a glorious revolution without noise or smoke;” and he swung his hat cheerily about his head. It was a pretty incident, and we joyfully witnessed it, and as joyfully record it. It was a vice abandoned, a self-indulgence denied, and from principle. It was quietly and beautifully done. We call on any smoking abolitionist to take notice and to take pattern. Anti-slavery wants her mouths for other uses than to be flues for besotting tobacco smoke. They may as well almost be rum-ducts as tobacco-funnels. And we rejoice that so few mouths or noses in our ranks are thus profaned. Abolitionists are generally as crazy in regard to rum and tobacco, as in regard to slavery. Some of them refrain from eating flesh and drinking tea and coffee. Some are so bewildered that they won’t fight in the way of christian retaliation, to the great disturbance of the churches they belong to, and the annoyance of their pastors. They do not embrace these “new-fangled notions” as abolitionists—but then one fanaticism leads to another, and they are getting to be monomaniacs, as the Reverend brother Punchard called us, on every subject.
The Furnace was not in blast. Its fires were out, and we walked on the white incrustations at the bottom of its lofty chimney, and looked up its ample tube which we had once seen filled to the top with glowing red coal and ore, burning for months with a heat that distilled the liquid iron like rain down into a fiery sea that weltered below. It was cold and void now. Had any of us faith enough to walk unharmed in it, should “Public Sentiment” arouse again in our midst, and heat it seven times beyond its wont! Its enormous bellows, whose breathing when in action was like a hurricane in the Notch, was at rest, and we could lay our hand with impunity on its giant muzzle. We have seen the glowing ore blaze under its influence, with the intense brilliancy of a star. There is something depressing in a great suspended establishment like this. The absence of the busy men, and the cessation of the machinery and of the hum and bustle of their labor, fill the place with vacuity and solitude.
We rode on five miles to Littleton, and brother Garrison and ourself were welcomed most heartily and affectionately by Edmund Carleton and his interesting family. Other open hearts in the village welcomed our companions. Littleton is a very considerable village, a place of a good deal of enterprise, activity, intelligence and taste. It has a goodly number of sterling abolitionists. The commanding influences of the village are far enough from anti-slavery, but they are altogether above that petty pro-slavery that shuts up meeting-houses, or flings clubs or unmerchantable eggs at abolitionists. Whether it is pride, or good taste, or sagacious opposition, we do not say. The place is not parson-ridden, like our poor town of Plymouth. We held our meeting in the meeting-house. Not the Reverend Mr. Worcester’s—though he preaches in it. He does not own it. He does not say, “my pulpit,” or “I dwell among mine own people,” like the reverend master in Israel who insolently shut William Lloyd Garrison out of the Plymouth meeting-house the other day, and compelled the people who wanted to hear him, to go over the river into the woods. Reverend Mr. Worcester does not own the Littleton people or their public buildings. The Plymouth pastor does. He dwells among his own people. To be sure, they neither love him nor respect him, if they speak the truth—but they are afraid, and they dread and hate anti-slavery, and they worship their temple and their sect, and they are obliged to keep their superficial minister, and exhaust themselves to afford him a genteel maintenance. They have no respect for him, though they feel some vanity on the score of his genteel breeding. They selected him, we remember, with especial reference to his gentility. The ambitious young folks had got so popular that they felt ashamed of poor, old, unfashionable Parson Ward, and sent off to Andover to get a genteeler minister. They got one, and turned the old gentleman away. We did what we could to prevent it. Parson Ward was an inveterate sectarian; but then he had mind and humility, and there was some heart and gospel in his preaching. He would have been an abolitionist but for his sectarianism. He meant to be a minister of Christ; and a minister of Christ would hardly, we should think, have consented to go into a place from which such an elder brother had been ejected, and for such a cause. But friend Punchard probably saw the spiritual wants of the people on the score of manners, and sacrificed his scruples at father Ward’s treatment, out of love to the cause. He hired with them, at a genteel salary. They could not give father Ward $333.33. They readily raised $500 and over for his accomplished successor. It was done by the fashionable influences that had moved in from more popular regions. The old Plymouth folks had to stand round. The modern divine was settled, and he—“dwells among his own people.” We are digressing—but it is all in the way of the cause. The Plymouth divine insults anti-slavery, when it comes to address the people on behalf of the bleeding slave, and the people can’t have a chance to hear in their own meeting-house! And it behoves us to proclaim it.
The Reverend Mr. Worcester did not show his head at the convention. He was at home, and well enough to attend, for we saw him next morning at work about his door yard, in his shirt sleeves, as we passed his elegant dwelling. It would have been a compromise of his clerical dignity to meet with Garrison, and last of all would the son of “Cephas” be seen at a convention with the editor of the Herald of Freedom! We are ashamed for friend Worcester, for he has some mind, and ought to be above this clerical foppery.
A goodly attendance of the people was at the convention. The flower of the village intelligence and education was there, but we had rather met the laboring poor—the humble men and the humble women. Anti-slavery will make sudden work of it, when those classes dare venture to our meetings. They are now kept back by prejudice and influence.
Jonathan P. Miller from Montpelier was present—Mr. Marsh from Danville—and Dr. John Dewey from Guildhall, Vermont, and all took active and interesting part in the meeting. We had a fragment of the proceedings put into our hand, but have mislaid it. Edmund Carleton was President, and a brother from the other side the Connecticut, Secretary. Garrison, Beach, and Dewey, we believe, Business Committee. T. P. Beach prayed at opening of the meeting,—not by appointment of the President,—but of his own accord. We hope he prayed in fact, as well as form—a thing, we fear, not often done in public. The resolutions passed were, one declaring abolitionists had abundant reason to thank God and take courage in view of the past, and another that slavery was not a southern but a national institution, and one for which the North was eminently answerable—and that here was the place—this the very people, and now the time, when, among whom, and where, to agitate the anti-slavery question, and overthrow the slave system.
Garrison let out his giant moral strength in full swing on both these resolutions. It was exalting and soul-refreshing to hear him. We were rejoiced that some of our Woodstock friends were there to hear him. If we mistook not, they got a glorious feast Two of the respectable citizens of Littleton were manly enough and unacquainted enough with the anti-slavery question, to venture into the arena of discussion against Garrison. They were Major George Little and J. N. Bellows, Esq., an instructor in the village. They were of course quickly discomfited. It is no disparagement to them—nor do we mention it in any trifling feeling. They ought to be abolitionists, and we publicly tell them so. And if they appeared awkwardly in the hands of Garrison, it is only what the first pro-slavery talent in the country would do, were it honest enough and manly enough to venture the trial. The law champions and the divinity champions, and the doctors of all sorts would be mere fuel for the fire in the hands of the despised and abhorred Garrison. Able and interesting speeches were made by brothers Beach and Ezekiel Rogers. Brother Beach was calm, quiet and argumentative,—not so animated as we expected from a captive who had so recently “burst his cerements,” and escaped his thraldom. Perhaps he remembered his clerical brethren yet in bondage, and their blind, stumbling, ditch-going followers. Ezekiel Rogers was original, humorous and forcible, as he is wont to be. He gave it to us in genuine cordwainer style. He is a kind of John Hawkins in our enterprise. Hawkins is a hatter. If he were a gentleman of liberal education, he would be shorn of chief his power. We are glad friend Rogers is a shoe-maker. Pro-slavery has learned that he wields awl, knife and hammer. He takes a strong anti-slavery stitch, and his work don’t rip.
Garrison lectured to a full auditory in the evening, and we mistake if he did not make a deep, convicting impression on many minds. Why then don’t they espouse our cause? Why don’t they come forward, as the hearers of the ancient apostles sometimes did, with a “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Why, it would destroy their respectability, and they, therefore, “do not like our measures.”
Friday noon—the 27 August, having visited as many of our dear anti-slavery friends as we could—we parted with our kind entertainers, and took our way to the great mountains. The day was lowering and threatened us a rainy time; but we gave weather and all else cheerily into the Hands that alone can regulate them, and wended our way in high spirits. We passed the pleasant village of Bethlehem. It is a name connected with memorable events in the history of the human family. Nothing occurred to attract our notice in this modern Bethlehem, but the tokens it afforded us of vicinity to the great elevations we were going to visit. We looked out for the summits. We had ourself once before been there, but the atmosphere was so surcharged with smoke and mist, that we could recognize but little that we remembered. We descried several summits on our way that might have challenged the high distinction we were looking to bestow, but we withheld all allegiance, till within a mile or two of the first Mountain tavern, when we descried through the thick atmosphere a gloomy range of mountain—its summit, or summits, hid in thick clouds, and its awful breast gashed and lacerated with the mighty slides. We at once recognized it as the high object of our journey. Nothing could exceed its awful majesty and vastness. Every thing around us had for some time betokened that we were in the suburbs of one of the capitals of nature. The majestic woods, the tremendous elevation of the mountain ranges, and the vastness of the forest—the stillness in the air, and its altered temperature; and the majestic roar of the Ammonoosuck along its bed of precipices spoke of its mountain descent, and that its fountains could not be far distant. It was a glorious hour. We rejoiced to introduce our beloved companion to these regal solitudes of our native State, and to find him full of appreciation, and ready to acknowledge the fulfilment of our pledge in the Scottish Highlands to show him an overmatch of Caledonia’s mountains, on our own side of the Atlantic. It began to rain a little just as we entered the great level, and we hastened forward, and in good time to avoid the wet, reached Fabyan’s “White Mountain House,” formerly kept by the mountaineer Ethan Allen Crawford.
A storm appeared drifting up from the neighborhood of the Notch, which lay four miles to the south-east of us; but it blew by, and we had the prospect of fair weather the next day to ascend the mountain. We sallied out to view the objects of interest about the house. A pair of immense moose horns hung suspended on the front of the inn. The wearer of them had once trotted among these mountains. He was taken, we believe, and despoiled of his branching honors by old Ethan Crawford. Near them hung the sign of the “White Mountain Post Office.” A pleasant idea—as it was for the accommodation of visiters, while here away from their homes. A poor little raccoon was semi-circling the length of his brief chain by the fence in the yard. Garrison characteristically insisted that he should have more range. Over the fence a full-grown bear ranged round a tall post in the centre of his precinct. The bear corresponded with the general scene better than the post. That would have better become a zoological garden or menagerie—for it stood in sight of the bear’s native woods. We would have been glad to see the noble savage break loose from his chain and off to the woods on the side of Mount Washington. We crossed the road, and went up on to the Giant’s Grave—the appropriate name of a mound rising out of the level plain, one hundred and fifty or two hundred feet long, some sixty broad, and thirty or forty feet high. The Ammonoosuck glides pleasantly past its head. Ethan Crawford used to fire his swivel on the top of it at nightfall, to thunder up the mountain echoes. We found the breech of the old gun, blown off about mid way from the mouth. At sunset a party came in from the mountain on horseback—of gentlemen and ladies. It was quite picturesque to “ see them on their winding way” and hear their merry shouts. We were glad to find some civil old acquaintance among them—civility in old acquaintance not being so frequent a thing now with us, as it was once. A pleasanter thing still was to find an anti-slavery young lady in the party. We are sorry not to have learned her name.
We found a very neat and elegant table at Fabyan’s, and every accommodation about the house of corresponding character, except that drink was to be had at his bar. It was drink that brought down the great strength of Ethan Crawford to the ground. Let friend Fabyan take timely warning, and banish that Devil from his premises.
We were surprised at the blast of a bugle from out before the house just at dusk, and more so, when we got out, to hear its echoes. Across the great meadow out westward from the road lay a pretty high mountain, stretching parallel with the road, and covered with a heavy growth of evergreen forest. The echoes came from that mountain. A young man had a tin trumpet about six feet long, which he blew and was answered in the most extraordinary manner from the mountain. He was rather awkward at it; but presently Fabyan himself came out and wound that tin horn with a spirit and power that we never before witnessed—and the responses that came back from the mountain surpassed all music we ever heard from man. It was a simple, straight tin horn. Fabyan said that more than two thousand men had blown it; “but,” said he, “there is not a man in the United States that can blow it with me.” We could readily believe it. He had not the giant size of Crawford, but there was a good deal of the hero in him, and the gallant manner in which he winded that tin tube was most inspiring. He poised it against the dark, hemlock mountain side, and mustering his breath, sent it towards the woods, with an energy and spirit that made us start from our feet. A bold, abrupt bursting clarion blast trumped out from it, in three or four wild bugle notes. This of itself completely satisfied our inordinate love of wild music; but after a few moments the answer would come from the mountain—first in distinct but softened echo, tone for tone, and as if from the extreme right of the woods, shortly after it echoed again, less distinctly and from a little toward the left—shortly after again still farther on, and still less distinctly, and so moving along the face of the woods as if a band of the Spirits of the mountain were marching there, to their unearthly alchemy, till it terminated in a blast of all the echoes at once, mingled together and shed forth from the whole woods in one harmonious, trembling, ravishing strain, dying away over the ridge among the hollows of the mountains. Again the gallant trumpeter challenged the echoes on a different key, and the woods and mountains answered him accordingly, and he went through all the compass of the natural bugle. We cannot describe it. It was the more striking for the homely simplicity of the instrument—made by a Littleton tinker—and from its being totally unexpected. We have an ear for music, that we would not swap with any body. We know good sounds. And we have heard music before. We have heard the bursts from the orchestra of the theatre, (a good while ago;) the Handel and Hayden concerts, and Zeuner’s organ; we have heard the wild lament of the Boston Brass Band, as with their nodding, black ostrich feathers, they swept through Summer street. We have heard the chants in Westminster Abbey, and the breath of the mighty organ towering up from its chancel like a little church, as it reverberated away among its arches, and along its interminable aisles. But we never heard mortal sounds to be named with the echoes of Fabyan’s tin horn! We summon brother Garrison to bear witness.
The sun rose fair next morning, and immediately after breakfast we prepared to set out for the mountains. We got a fair view this morning, for the first time, of the top of Mount Washington. We borrowed a fraction of a straw hat from friend Fabyan, and a coat that had seen White Mountain service. Our party consisted of eight, beside the guide. Three gentlemen, one of them a learned Professor, and three ladies, one the Professor’s wife, the others, maiden ladies, we believe—a daughter of Dr. Payson, and a sister of the poet and literary trifler N. P. Willis. The guide was Oliver Fabyan, brother of our host. After riding perhaps a mile, we turned off to the left into the path to the mountain. Garrison’s horse was “The Lady Wilder”—ours “The Fanny Ellsler,” an Arabian and a fleet, beautiful traveller, but of a very mischievous disposition. She struck at us with her fore foot very spitefully, as we were passing, in the piazza of the tavern in the morning, where she stood tied. Thereupon we selected her to carry us up the mountain.
At entering the woods the guide directed us to ride single file, and to take distance, a precaution we soon found needful, for the gentleman who followed us coming up too near, Fanny Ellsler kicked up at him with great vivacity. We crossed the Ammonoosuck into a meadow, and had a capital view of the mountains. Our path lay through woods most of the way for six miles to the foot of Mount Washington. The growth was very large—some birches and pines the very largest we ever saw growing. Fires were burning about, and had consumed the very soil, and the tree roots. Our company had ascertained our names, and consequently demeaned themselves towards brother Garrison and ourself as became persons of respectability towards persons of notoriety. There were no positive manifestations of annoyed reputability, that we noticed—but a very uncomfortable lack of freedom of remark and action. We did not humor it a great deal; but it would have been far pleasanter to us to have had the congenial company we enjoyed in the Franconia woods. We hope anti-slavery will, by and by, be reckoned less ungenteel.
We crossed the Ammonoosuck for the last time at the very foot of the mountain, and began our two mile ascent. The guide ordered us to mind our distance, to bear forward as hard on the mane as possible, give the horses the entire reins, and take courage. We commenced our clamber, and found it an awkward business to keep the saddle. About a hundred rods up, the guide ordered a halt at a spring. We had got thirsty, and the water was glorious. The Professor took out his thermometer and thrust it into it; but we were so dry, we did not learn what he declared was the temperature. He had said something about barometers on the way, and about his being able to make one out of cane. We resumed our climbing, which soon began to try the breath of our steeds very sorely. Miss Ellsler would have cut a sorry figure on the dancing boards before we got half way up—though she retained her good temper to the top. Garrison’s Lady lost two shoes. We persevered—not talking much—for it was terrible steep, and we had to mind our ways, crawling up precipices, and between trees, and round sharp rocks and among roots. We passed a wigwam or two, covered with spruce bark. We were obliged to halt frequently to breathe the panting horses. The dignified reserve of our fellow-travellers abated a little before we got up out of the woods, and appeared considerably spent before we reached the verge of vegetation. The lessening trees at length announced that we were nearing the bare mountain side, which was an encouragement that we began to need—and our poor steeds more than we. They panted pitifully, and looked as if they would implore us not to go any farther, though they seemed to understand what they were about, and as if they had been there before. The trees diminished till our heads were among their boughs, and kept lessening—preserving their entire form, till they were mere dwarfs—very ugly looking, with their stout trunks not more than a foot high, and their sturdy, scraggy boughs. At last they became mere roots, crooking about on the surface of the soil. Then followed some kind of berry bush, very stinted, and lastly moss, and the dismal, naked, weather-worn rocks.
After we got out on to the naked ridges, the climbing was appalling. We did not dare look at it. Occasionally, as we cast an eye to right and left, across our hip, we saw clear down the mountain a thousand feet or two, and so horribly precipitous that a false step would seem to have sent us to the very bottom. We should not have dared climb a step farther—scarcely on foot; but people had ridden up and down there in safety—they had the day before, and said there was no danger. We inferred therefore it was safe. But to get down that steep we did not see it could be possible—any more than riding down the dome of St. Paul’s. Miss Payson’s heart failed her, and she said she could go no farther. We told her there could be no danger, and that we did not dare be afraid, and there was nothing to do but to go on. Ladies had gone up and down yesterday, we told her, on these very horses. She thereupon ventured on again awhile; but it grew so frightful, she had to desist, and stopped. The Professor stopped with her, and we saw no more of them till we got half way back to Fabyan’s from the foot of the mountain.
When we passed the most dizzy ridges, our guide would hasten his ascent, and sing his wild songs to divert our apprehensions. We see him now—on his red horse, with our commissariat saddle-bags flapping against his sides,—high above our head, turning the point of a cliff, and singing “Some love to roam,” at the top of his cry. “A chosen band, in a mountain land.” We could realize the “land”—but for his next line,
“And a life in the woods for me,”
we had little fancy,—though we wished we were down somewhere in the neighborhood of woods again. We felt a desperate inclination, however, to go on up. We reached at length a more level region, and descried at some little distance in the thick mist the stone tavern. It is about a quarter of a mile from the summit of the mountain. It is built of stones laid in moss, and roofed with rafters and long shingle. We saw on the way up where they made them, as high up, of course, as they could find shingle timber. We dined at the stone tavern, and the guide had brought up some water from the spring—luckily, for the mountain springs in the neighborhood of the tavern were all dried up—a thing the guide said he had never known before. The walls of the inn were inscribed around with the names of travellers who had stopped there. We left the horses here, and proceeded to the summit on foot. We can hardly conceive a more desolate spot than that stone tavern, or idea than of being alone there in the night, in a storm, or in the winter. It would truly be “out of Humanity’s reach.” Near the tavern the road came in from Tom Crawford’s, who keeps at the Notch four miles from Fabyan’s. But we noticed there was no guide board up.
We reached the top of Mount Washington about one o’clock. We could see nothing but a few rods of bare rocks around us, so thick was the white mist. A pile of stones, surmounted- by a limb of a tree stuck up for a flag staff perhaps,—a few feet high, marked the highest spot on the summit. There we were, but had no prospect at all. Found some disabled honey bees crawling about on the stone heap. The surface of the rocks was exceedingly ragged. Some cold cloud water lay in the hollows worn into them. The air was warmer than we expected to find it, and we felt no difference in breathing it on account of its rarity. The Professor could have told us why it was no colder up there. After staying about there something like an hour, waiting for a breath to clear away the mist and let us look off towards the ocean and Old England, &c., we were obliged to set out to go down. Somewhere near the stone tavern, however, the clouds went off and disclosed us a glorious prospect off to the westward. We could see the Franconia mountains, the entire White Mountain range as far as to the Notch, the successive peaks Jefferson Monroe and others, and the vast sweep from top to bottom of their sides, immense ridges, covered with woods and torn with slides, extending from each summit down to the world below. Mount Adams was on our right—the others on the left. We are sorry they bear these presidential names. Mount Washington is well enough, though he was nothing but a statesman, a hero, and a slaveholder. Mount Adams is something—and connecting it with John Quincy, carries something of moral sublimity. But who can sublimate at the name of Monroe? We shall have a Mount Jackson, and a Mount Van Buren next, and a Mount Tyler! Brother Leavitt, of the Emancipator, would put in for Mount Birney, and friend Tracy of the People’s Advocate, for a Mount Hoyt! We wish somebody had named the White Hills besides our president-worshippers. It belittles them mightily to associate them with that petty office. We like better the sound of Mont Blanc, or Chimborazo, or our own Moosehillock, or Monadnock. But every one to their taste.
We discovered on the ridge off down at our left two small, clear, beautiful ponds—as blue as the sky, and about as large as a pair of spectacles—the fountains of the Ammonoosuck. We could trace that stream from the foot of the mountain down below them, all the way through the seven mile woods to Fabyan’s. All the vast valley lay revealed at our feet, or far, far down below us in a lower world, from which we seemed to be entirely removed and separated. To the north-east we had a prospect as far as the Green Mountains—and under an opening in the cloud, we saw the distinct summit of the great Mansfield Mountain, their highest peak—which showed very finely. But we must hasten down, after turning aside towards Mount Adams, which now lay clear before us, and taking the view to the north-east. A tremendous precipice falls off behind the neck between Mounts Washington and Adams, apparently down to the very base, and nearly perpendicular. We saw a brook in the valley below. It was the Androscoggin, and we could trace that stream from there all the way along an immense stretch of country, till it enlarged into a considerable river.
As to our descent, we were astonished to find it not only practicable, but comparatively easy and safe. We gave our sagacious and careful horses the reins—leaned back as far as we could on the saddles, and let them pick their way down the awful steeps. The world below looked to us as it must to a ballooner looking over his car-railing,—only we were connected with it by something besides air. We descended some of the steepest parts on foot, and let the horses go loose. Before we got down half way, however, we felt entirely at ease, and brother Garrison and we sung psalms, in good time and harmony, a long way down through the woods. We reached the bottom in safety, and a little before sunset reached Fabyan’s. We shall say no more of our entertainments there, than that our gallant landlord treated us to another serenade in the evening on his horn, with accompaniments from the echo band in the mountains. He added to it this evening a shot or two from the fragment of the old gun,—which he made speak to fine effect by ramming and hammering it full of powder brought that day from below the Notch. The echoes were very impressive and awful. The Professor remarked, in the midst of Fabyan’s concert, that it was the opinion of President Edwards that every leaf of a forest helped add something to the power of an echo. There was a glorious moon over head. Some one of us noticed its splendor, when the Professor informed us that the mountains in it were about as high as the White Mountains.
The next morning we took leave of our tavern company, and rode to spend Sunday in the broad aisle of the Notch. It was a fair morning, and we enjoyed a most pleasant and instructive ride with our beloved companion along the valley road. How much more pleasant and profitable, and, we trust, more acceptable to God, than if spent in the temples of sect and superstition, proffering the sacrifices of Jerusalem and the mountains of Samaria to Him who is a Spirit, and who “seeketh such to worship Him, as worship in spirit and in truth!” Christianity feels itself at home every where and at all times,—none the more, however, among the mountains than on the plains. It does not have to go to the stupendous works of God to find evidence of His existence or His presence. It sees Him in the grass blade by the roadside, or the dust of the street, as well as in the mountain or the cloud. It feels the kingdom of God within the heart that has embraced it,—and goes not to find God in temples made with hands.
We passed Thomas Crawford’s “Notch House” four miles from Fabyan’s. A little below his house we entered a chasm in the rocks—a precipice, almost perpendicular on the left hand, and sloping but little on the right. The pass is just wide enough to admit the narrow road and the narrower stream which flows beside it, and which is the river Saco. Passing a little on, the road turns suddenly to the left, and leaves you abruptly upon a frightful abyss. It opens directly before you, and you seem about to plunge into it. It is a gulf some hundred feet in depth. The little stream is lost in it and disappears,—while you avoid the same fate, by turning to the left under the very eaves of the precipice which seems to overhang your path. Overawed and humbled, you move timidly down the steep and narrow road,—precipice above you on the left and below you on the right, guarded only by a fragile railing. Adown the channel of the stream lay hideous rocks in the attitude of having fallen there from the high cliffs above on your left, while along their terrible walls other masses of the cliffs look as if they were loosening to their fall, and you can hardly help feeling that the time of their descent has come. The mountain wall rises on either side apparently two thousand feet, and the scene between them is beyond description. The sides of the mountains on either hand are torn all to pieces, and you see nothing but havoc and ruin and desolation on every side, and on the vastest scale. Every thing looks as if thunder and lightning had struck it, or volcano hove it up—or earthquake rent it, or deluge flooded and washed it away. Rocks and gravel and sand, that have come down in slides from the mountains all along the Notch for half a dozen miles, present you with a hideous picture, relieved by nothing but its vastness. The road crosses and recrosses the little stream, which seems to have been driven to shift its channel, from time to time, by the damming up of the slides. Soon after you enter the Notch, a cascade is seen descending eight hundred or a thousand feet from the mountain on the left. The long drought had nearly exhausted it, and its perpendicular bed was bare. In ordinary seasons it is a gorgeous sight to see its high cascades leaping down the inaccessible ledges, and flashing in the sun. A few small trees and bushes grow along the bottom of the great gulf, to enliven the general desolation. The contrast in this respect with the verdant Franconia Pass is complete.
We descended along the gravelly road, whose materials had been furnished from regions far above, about two miles from the entrance of the Notch, when we descried a solitary house—standing a little elevated from the road on the right—uninhabited, and grown about with raspberry bushes, and an empty barn nearly opposite to it on the left. A tremendous slide, apparently of modern occurrence, had channeled down the mountain directly above it, to within a few rods of the dwelling, where a ledgy mound diverted it to the left until it reached the foot, when it curved about to the right, and in a flood of gravel, rocks and sand swept just past the corner of the barn, across the valley. It was “The Willey House.” Its dreadful story is well known. We explored its desolate interior. We went into the bed rooms where the slumbers of the ill-fated inmates had been broken on that terrible night by the voice of the slide, and into the kitchen where they had lived, with the desolate hearth around which they had often gathered and heard the evening storms howling along the Notch. The old cupboards and the chambers—we explored all, where these our fellow-creatures had once occupied. The walls and plastering were scrawled over with names. We wrote brother Garrison’s and our own linked together on the wall with a fragment of coal. It might interest some abolitionist who should explore there after we are at rest. We went up the Slide nearly to its centre. It was of tremendous depth, and had ploughed out the ledges of rock and swept them to the gulf below with a terrible power. The house stood directly in its path, and had it gone a few rods farther in its first direction, it would have passed right over it. The little mound of defence turned it aside, and the affrighted family rushed out of safety into its current, and perished.
The aspect of the region here is peculiarly desolate, and this lonely house is in, full keeping with the scenery around. As far up the Notch as you can see, all is torn and ravaged with the successive slides, as if Ruin had driven its mighty ploughshare over and over again from top to bottom of the lacerated mountains. The rains are said to fall here in floods, and the darkness and cold in winter to be of almost polar intensity. After lingering some hours in this valley of death, we resumed our way along a most beautiful and gently descending road—fringed with flowers and wild grass—about six miles to the elder Crawford’s, at the south-eastern terminus of the Notch. The mountains retreated gradually as we went on, till the narrow pass expanded into the broad intervales along the Saco, and that stream, which had entered the Notch side by side with us, sharing equally the contracted passage with our scanty road, had grown a river, with its toll bridges and its canoes—when we reached the pretty town of Conway. We there passed the night, meeting a gang of slave owners from the South, mousing their heartless way up to see our White Mountains. We could hardly imagine what they wanted to go there for. We should think they would much rather go alligatoring in Oakafennoke or Dismal Swamp! They found out Garrison, and the way they glowered at him next morning from behind one another, would have “been a caution” to a painter. They told the tavern folks they wished they had him at the South. Poor nerveless murderers! They would not dare look him in the face.
But we must break off—our sheet is overflowed, our pen-arm tired out, and our readers’ patience spent. We promise to write no more of these mountain jaunts, but short articles in future, on less “extraneous topics.” We hope our beloved fellow-traveller will give his own continuance of our tour as he has begun it. If he will, we will furnish it to our readers, by way of compensation and atonement.