« PreviousContinue »
3.-Large bark canoes were sometimes employed in bays and along the coast.
Also showing a sailing vessel made by laying a deck on the transverse timbers which united two canoes. This principle was afterward used in small craft on interior rivers. See illustration No. 89.
pleasure at such undesirable conditions, and suggest the ending of them forthwith. That particular series of events is constantly recurring even until to-day. But the imposition, public awakening and compelling of drastic though necessary reform which is now occasionally apparent is attended with less of popular outcry than formerly accompanied such situations. We have become more self-contained, and, in addition, the transportation system in all its ramifications has learned that the comfort and safety of the traveller must be considered before all else.
The subject to which these pages are devoted is the foundation whereon the country, considered as a social and industrial organization, has been built. A few years ago
- until as late a date as 1806 — the six or seven million people of America were contentedly visiting their friends, or moving about on business, in flatboats, dogsleds, stage-coaches, strange wagons or canoes.
Those were the only vehicles of travel and when they were not available, as was very often the case, the traveller walked or else rode upon a horse. To go from the Atlantic seacoast to such remote regions as Cincinnati or St. Louis or Fort Dearborn - now Chicago - in those days meant a journey of many weary weeks, with possibly the loss of a scalp. Such a thing as a trip across the continent and back was not within the range of thought of the ordinary man. A vast undertaking like that, requiring years for its accomplishment, demanded the resources of the national government and an elaborate exploring expedition. When at last it was performed, the successful making of a transcontinental journey became the subject of a universal interest and acclaim. Books were written about it. To-day we are annoyed if we are late for breakfast in
Chicago or Cincinnati after having left the Atlantic coast in the middle of the previous afternoon, and the railway apologizes, and returns part of our money. Also we are ninety millions instead of seven, and by the waters of the Pacific sit great cities but five days separated from their sisters of the East.
The stage-coach, canal-boat, canoe, dog-sled and prairie schooner, and the archaic steamboat and railway train also, have become fossils in the geology of modern life. But the tale of the part they played in the growth and development of the country still remains. It is the one story written by all Americans in collaboration.
In this present realm of four-day ocean steamships, of trains that dive beneath rivers or plunge through a thousand miles in twenty hours, of subways, motor-cars, submarine boats, and with the flying machine just beginning to dot the sky, we are privileged to remember, if we choose, that once upon a time the express boats on the canals maintained a speed of three miles an hour for day after day, and that the Pioneer Fast Line advertised it would rush its passengers through from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in four days — and often nearly kept its word.
THE CONDITION AND APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY IN
EARLY DAYS — DIFFICULTY OF TRAVEL THROUGH THE
NE of the best records of the difficulties and methods
of American travel in the early days is contained in a few words of a lately discovered document written in 1694.' In that year Benjamin Fletcher, Governor of His Majesty's Province of New York, was planning an attack on the French in Canada, and he called on his subordinates for a report which should show the strength of the enemy and by what route and method of travel he could most easily reach them.
The answer to Governor Fletcher's demand, recently brought to light, was written by William Pinhorne and N. Bayard at New York, on July 25 of the year named, and in it they said:
“It is Impossible to march with any party of men to Canada by Land, either in winter or summer, but they must passe a Considerable Part of ye way over ve Lake," ye Land on each side being extream steep and Rocky,
? Now in the New York Historical Society's collection. 2 Lake Champlain.
mountains or els a meer morasse cumbred with underwood, where men cannot goe upright, but must creep throu Bushes for whole days' marches, and impossible for horses to goe at any time of ye year.”
And in a letter written by Deputy Governor Hinckley of Plymouth Colony, about 1680, in which he appeals to the English officials in London for certain favors, he argues that the colony is entitled to what he asks because it was "the first that broke the ice, and underwent ye brunt, at our own charge, for the enlargement of his Majesties' dominions in this heretofore most howling wilderness, amidst wild men and wild beasts."
In these two quotations may be found the essential outlines of the conditions under which the people of America in those days, and for long afterward, lived and moved about the country. It was, indeed, a “most howling wilderness,” so immense in its extent and unconquerable in its aspect that for more than a century and a half the white population sat, helpless and afraid, along a little strip of seacoast but a hundred and fifty miles in width. Yet the interior of North America is more easily accessible for travel, when approached and entered from the Atlantic seaboard, than is the corresponding region of any other continent.
There are few descriptions that were written in those very early days expressly to show the methods and hardships of travel. No doubt the lack of such narratives is due to the state of mind revealed by every people, in every period, toward those things that, to them, are commonplace and familiar. The Americans of two hundred and fifty years ago prepared many long and careful accounts of such things as they saw but once in a lifetime, but of records far more interesting to us, records illumi