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Description of the Kaatskill Mountains. Extensive Pro

spect from the Sunmit. Journey to Utica. Hamilton College. Cavities worn by the Mohawk in the Rocks at Little Falls. Return.


On the 20th September, 1815, in company with Mr. D., I set out upon an excursion to the western parts of the state of New York, At Litchfield I was detained until the 26th, by the violent equinoctial storm, which ravaged in an unprecedented manner a considerable part of the eastern and southern coast of New-England. On the 26th I proceeded to Sheffield, and on the next day to Kaatskill, and found it not a little improved in the number and value of its buildings, and in the good order, morals, and religion of its inhabitants.

On the 28th, in company with several gentlemen of that village, I ascended the Kaatskill mountains. The turnpike road, made some years since over these heights from Kaatskill to Windham, enabled us to gain the summit without any other difficulty, except what arises from their great elevation. Waggons, and at times even chaises, though it must be confessed with many a hard struggle, climb this ascent. gained it partly on horseback, and partly on foot. On a height, more than two thousand feet above the common surface, we found two lakes; the northern dull and dreary, disfigured by a variety of gloomy aquatic plants, and encircled by a dismal - border of swamp shrubbery; the southern clean, handsome, and surrounded by a neat shore. Both together are about a mile in length. A brook, issuing from the former, discharges its waters into the latter. Across this stream lay


our road. Soon after, we entered the forest on the south ; and, after penetrating it about a mile, came to a scene which amply repaid us for our toil. On the rear of the great ridge stretched out before us two spurs of a vast height. Between them sunk a ravine, extending several miles in length, and in different places from a thousand to fifteen hundred feet in depth. The mountains on either side were steep, wild and shaggy, covered almost everywhere with a dark forest, the lofty trees of which approached nearer and nearer to each other as the eye wandered towards the bottom. In some places their branches became united; in others, separated by a small distance, they left a line of absolute darkness, resembling in its dimensions a winding rivulet, here somewhat wider, there narrower, and appearing as if it were a solitary bye-path to the nether world. All beneath seemed to be midnight, although the day was uncommonly bright and beautiful; and all above a dreary solitude, secluded from the world, and destined never to be wandered over by the feet of man. At the head of this valley stood a precipice; here descending perpendicularly, there overhanging with a stupendous and awful grandeur. Over a bed of stone beside our feet ran a mill-stream; which discharged the waters of the lakes, and from the brow of the precipice rushed in a perpendicular torrent, perfectly white and glittering, nearly three hundred feet in length. This magnificent current, after dashing upon a shelf, falls over a second precipice of one hundred feet; when it vanishes in the midnight beneath, and rolls over a succession of precipices until it finally escapes from the mountains, and empties its waters into the river Kaaterskill. A cloud of vapour, raised by the dashing of this stream on the successive shelves in its bed, rises above the forests which shroud the bottom of the valley, and winds beautifully away from the sight until it finally vanishes in the bewildered course of this immense chasm. On the bosom of this elegant volume of mist appears to the eye, placed in a proper position, a succession of rain-bows, floating slowly and gracefully down the valley, and reluctantly yielding their place to others by which they are continually followed. No contrast can be more perfect than that of these circles of light to the rude scenery by which they are environed; and no object of this nature which I have seen awakens emotions of such grandeur, as are here excited, except the Falls of Niagara.

On the brow of this precipice we regaled ourselves with an excellent dinner, and then proceeded to the eastern front of the mountains. From a height of three thousand feet we beheld a part of the counties of Albany, Greene, Ulster, and Orange, on the west side of the Hudson, a part of the county of Putnam, and the whole of Dutchess, Columbia, and Rensselaer, on the east; together with a part of Berkshire in Massachusetts, and Litchfield in Connecticut, lying in full view beneath us. The whole area was more than one hundred miles in length, and not far from fifty in breadth. This vast field was chiefly formed by the great valley of the Hudson lying north of the highlands. A more distinct and perfect view of a landscape cannot be imagined. On the western side, it is forested to a much greater extent than I had been prepared to expect; a fact owing, as I was told, to the reluctance with which the Dutch farmers consent to any alteration in the state of their possessions. On the eastern side, the counties of Dutchess, Columbia, and Rensselaer, everywhere settled and cultivated, were beautifully spotted with an

Iternation of farms and groves, diffused over the whole surface in such a manner, that there seemed to be scarcely room left for a single additional farmer. At the bottom of this valley, the Hudson stretched in clear view over a length of fifty miles ; and even here maintained the appearance of a magnificent river. On its waters were moving in various directions a multitude of vessels, in the form of dim white spots. One of these with a telescope we discovered to be the steam-boat, making a rapid progress under the shore of Rhinebeck. In this great field a series of towns and villages met the eye; among which the town of Kaatskill, and the city of Hudson, almost under us, were particularly conspicuous.

The eastern prospect was chiefly limited by the Taghkannuc range, in which the Taghkannuc and Saddle Mountains ascended with great magnificence. In various places, summits in the range of the Green Mountains were visible.

On the west, nothing was seen but the heights and forests in the neighbourhood.

The base of these mountains, so far as we had opportunity to observe it, is formed of brown argillaceous slate resting upon sand stone. This, at high elevations, is surmounted by a vast body of sand stone. The structure of these mountains, as far westward as Meredith, and not improbably much farther, is the same; all the spurs, so far as I was able to obtain information, having the same character.

On the height, whence we took our prospect, we found whortle-berries in abundance and in perfection. Some of them were green; and very

few which we saw indicated any decay. We ate of them freely, and found them very fine. The date of this excursion was about two months later than the time of their perfection at New Haven. On Friday, 1st of October, 1813, I found them in perfection on the Red Mountains at the head of Lake Wentworth in New Hampshire. This fact, in both instances, is a proof of the coolness of the atmosphere in the places where the fruit was found. Allowance is however to be made for the superior latitude of the Red mountains in the one case, and for the superior elevation of the Kaatskill mountains in the other.

We descended from these heights a little before sunset; and, after a disagreeable delay, occasioned by breaking through a bridge, where we had well nigh lost our horses, we reached Kaatskill a little after ten in the evening.

On Friday I proceeded along the Susquehannah turnpike, through the townships formerly mentioned, and reached Meredith. On Monday I left Meredith, and proceeded to Easton, a township lately incorporated from the eastern side of Oxford. On Tuesday, October 3d, I passed through Oxford and Norwich to Sherburn; and on Wednesday through Madison and Sangerfield to Clinton, where I lodged with the Rev. Dr. Backus, president of Hamilton college.

On Thursday, in company with Dr. Backus, I visited Jesse Dean, Esq., an inhabitant of Westmoreland; who, in the most obliging manner, communicated to me much valuable information concerning the Iroquois. On Friday I proceeded to Utica, where I continued till Monday morning.

The road from Kaatskill to Oxford I found generally bad, as having been long neglected. The first twenty miles were tolerable, the last twenty absolutely intolerable.

Kaatskill has become a considerable town, containing many valuable houses and stores, a court-house and Presbyterian church, both new and handsome. Its moral aspect is also materially changed. Religion has spread, and is still spreading, extensively over this settlement. A Bible society for the county of Greene was formed here on the day of my arrival, with a zeal and liberality very honourable to the gentlemen concerned.

Cairo, formerly Canton, which was little more than a wilderness in 1804, is now become a promising settlement, adorned with a neat village, surrounding a Presbyterian church of the same character.

New-Durham is completely settled; all the farms being occupied and cultivated. Of this fine tract I had a delightful view from the ridge of the Kaatskill mountains, lying on the west, and formerly mentioned in these Letters. It wore the aspect of a country long inhabited; and with its fine surface, rich farms, and high groves, exhibited a very beautiful landscape.

The valley beyond this ridge, which in 1804 was an almost absolute solitude, was now parcelled out into farms, and set with human habitations. A handsome bridge of one arch has been erected over the Scoharie.

In Blenheim, Jefferson, and Stamford, the alterations, though considerable, were not very striking. Stamford, however, contains a thriving village, named Waterville, lying south of the road at the distance of five or six miles.

Harpersfield is completely occupied, and wears the appearance of an old settlement.

Kortright has increased its population, but has an unpromising aspect, and struck my eye as less pleasant than formerly.

Meredith is settled to a considerable extent, and shows the beauty of its surface with increased advantage.

The population of both Franklin and Sydney has considerably increased; and, in the former place, religion has extensively prevailed.

Unadilla is becoming a very pretty village. It is built on a delightful ground along the Susquehannah; and the number of houses, particularly of good ones, has much increased. A

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