Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XV.

PENNSYLVANIA. *

SITUATION AND BOUNDARIES.-Pennsylvania is situated between 39°, 43°, and 42° of north latitude, and 2° 20' east, and 9° 30' west longitude from Washington. It is bounded on the north by New York and Lake Erie ; south by Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia ; east by New York and New Jersey ; west by Ohio and Virginia. The form of this state is nearly a parallelogram, the length of which, from east to west, is about 273 miles, and the breadth from north to south 153; area, 24,500 square miles, or 27,200,000 acres.

Aspect of the Country and Nature of the Soil.The great chain of mountains, called the Alleghany, runs across the state from north-east to south-west. Between their numerous ridges there are delightful vallies, with a very rich soil. Every kind of soil is to be found in this state ; but a great proportion of the land is of an excellent quality. The poorest soil is in

• So called from Penn, the name of the original proprietor ; to which Sylva was added, on account of the fine forests which covered the whole surface at the time of his arrival, in 1681.

the maritime parts, where it consists generally of a light sandy loam. The soil of the southern and northwestern parts, anu of all the vallies, is a black mould, or rich loam, which is extremely fertile. All the new forest land in general has several inches of a light black mould, formed by the decay of vegetable substances. In some places, especially in the western counties, the sides of hills, which have been washed by heavy rains, are thin and stoney. Erie county, near the lake of that name, is very productive, the soil consisting of a sandy loam, in some places intermixed with gravel, covered by two or three inches of vegetable mould. In Lancaster, Berks, Lebanon, and Dauphin counties, the soil is excellent. The two first are remarkably populous and wealthy. The farmers, who are mostly Germans, have generally in hand from 50 to 400 acres of land. In the counties of Dauphin and Lancaster, which are watered by the Susquehannah, thriving towns and villages appear at the distance of every four or five miles. The Cumberland valley, extending from the river Susquehannah to the county of Washington in Maryland, has a fine soil, reposing on a bed of limestone. In crossing the north mountain, which bounds this valley to the north-west, the country becomes hilly and less fertile. .

Temperature. The upper parts of this state, though lying under the same latitude as Naples in Italy, and Montpellier in France, are far from enjoying a similar climate. The low maritime, the hilly, and the mountainous tracts, are all liable to a great change of temperature ; but, upon the whole, this is considered one

of the most agreeable and temperate states in the Union. The season of frost and snow seldom exceeds three months; the winter commencing from the Ist to the 15th of December, and terminating from the 1st to the 15th of March. The heat of summer is seldom oppressive, except in low situations. In all the hilly parts the air is healthy ; but near the sea-coast the temperature of winter is severe, varying in the months of January and February from fourteen to twentyeight degrees. The warm wind from the south and south-east brings, on a sudden thaw, which instantly changes to frost when it shifts to the north-east and north-west. Such changes also take place in summer, and the difference of temperature between the afternoon and morning is often from twenty to thirty degrees, or even more after storms of rain and thunder. In the elevated parts the temperature is more regular, It is described by an accurate observer, Dr Rush, as a compound of all other climates. “In spring it has the moisture of Britain ; in summer, the heat of Africa; the temperature of Italy in June; the sky of Egypt in autumn ; in winter the cold and snow of Norway, and ice of Holland ; the tempests of the West Indies in every season, and the monthly variable winds and weather of Great Britain.”* The most agreeable

* According to the calculation of Baron de Humboldt, the mean annual temperature of Philadelphia, in latitude 50° 56,' is 120 7 of the centigrade thermometer. Of winter, 1° 1'; of spring, 11° 7'; of summer, 24° 0'; of autumn, 13° 4'; of the coldest month, n° 4'; of the warmest, 29° 0'. (Nova Genera et Species Plantarum Alexandri de Humboldt, prolegomena.)

months are April, May, the 1st half of June, September, and part of October. The birds of passage begin to return about the middle of March. Cherries are ripe by the 25th of May; and wheat is commonly reaped before the middle of July.

Earthquakes.—A slight shock was felt at Philadelphia on the 5th of September 1732, which extended to Boston and Montreal in Canada ; another more considerable, which lasted half a minute, was felt in the month of November 1737.

Rivers.—The Susquehannah river rises in the state of New York, from the lakes Otsego and Otego, and runs across the state of Pennsylvania, to its outlet at the head of the Chesapeak bay, where it is more than a mile across. In its course it receives several important streams. The Tioga river, which runs eastwardly from the Alleghany mountains, joins it at Tioga Point, in latitude 41° 57', three miles south of the boundary line. The western branch of the Susquehannah rises near the Connemagh branch of the Alleghany river, passes through the whole range of Alleghany mountains, and unites with the eastern at Sunbury, in lati. tude 41', from which it is navigable for boats of 40 tons to the distance of 140 miles. The Juniata branch rises in the great chain of mountains, through which it winds a considerable distance; and after a course of 180 miles, unites its waters with the Susquehannah, about 15 miles above Harrisburg. The Juniata is navigable from Bedford to its mouth, a distance of 150 miles. On the east side this river receives the Swetara, and Conostoga, each running in a south-west course of about forty miles. The former is boatable to the distance of fifteen miles from its mouth. The Tioga branch is boatable fifty miles; but the Susquehannah itself is not navigable for more than twenty miles for ships of any burden, owing to the rapidity of the current, and numerous small rocks, that in many places reach the surface, or rise above it. If this river were navigable for boats, it would be of great utility, as the source of the east branch is in the Mohawk country, above 700 miles from the outlet in the Chesapeak.

Delaware River.-Ships of the line of 1200 tons ascend to Philadelphia, 120 miles from the sea, sloops of 90 tons to Trenton, 35 miles higher; boats of eight tons ascend 100 miles nearer its source, and Indian canoes 150; so that the whole length of boat navigation is 255 miles. The width of the river at Philadelphia is about a mile. The tice, which reaches as high as the falls of Trenton, flows at the rate of four miles an hour, and rises six feet. The Shuylkill branch descends from the north-west side of the Kittatiny, or Blue Mountains, and, after a south-easterly course of 120 miles, it unites with the Delaware, six miles below Philadelphia. The Leheigh, another branch, rising near Wilkesbarre, takes a course of 75 miles through the Blue Mountains, and is boatable 30 miles from its mouth at Easton.

The Alleghany river traverses the north western parts of the state. Towards the north it crosses the line of boundary, passes through a part of the state of New York, and, re-entering Pennsylvania, holds on a

« PreviousContinue »