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Journey in New Brunswick and Maine

The morning after that which we had spent with Sir Archibald Campbell, and his delightful family, saw us proceeding along the shores of the St. John’s River in the British province of New Brunswick. As we passed the Government-house our hears bade its generous inmates adieu; and as we left Frederickton behind, the recollection of the many acts of kindness which we had received from its inhabitants, came powerfully on our minds. Slowly advancing over the surface of the translucent stream, we still fancied our ears saluted by the melodies of the unrivaled band of the 43d Regiment. In short, with the remembrance of kindness experienced, the feeling of expectations gratified, the hope of adding to our knowledge, and the possession of health and vigour, we were luxuriating in happiness.

The “Favourite,” the bark in which we were, contained not only my whole family, but nearly a score and a half of individuals of all descriptions, so that the crowded state of her cabin soon began to prove rather disagreeable. The boat itself was a mere scow, commanded by a person of rather uncouth aspect and rude manners. Two sorry nags he had fastened to the end of a long tow-line, on the nearer of which rode a Negro youth, less than half clad, with a long switch in one hand, and the joined bridles in the other, striving with all his might to urge them on at the rate of something more than two miles an hour.

How fortunate is it for one to possess a little of the knowledge of a true traveller! Following the advice of a good and somewhat aged one, we had provided ourselves with a large basket, which was not altogether empty when we reached the end of our aquatic excursion. Here and there the shores the river were delightful, the space between it and the undulatory hills that bounded the prospect being highly cultivated, while now and then its abrupt and rocky banks assumed a most picturesque appearance. Although it was late in September, the mowers were still engaged in cutting the grass, and the gardens of the farmers shewed patches of green pease [sic]. The apples were still green, and the vegetation in general reminded us that we were in a northern latitude.

Gradually and slowly we proceeded, until in the afternoon we landed to exchange our jaded horses. We saw a house on an eminence, with groups of people assembled round it, but there no dinner could be obtained, because, as the landlord told us, an election was going on. So the basket was had recourse to, and on the green sward we refreshed ourselves with its contents. This done, we returned to the scow, and resumed our stations. As usual in such cases, in every part of the world that I had visited, our second set of horses was worse than the first. However, on we went. To tell you how often the tow-line gave way, would not be more amusing to you than it was annoying to us. Once our commander was in consequence plunged into the stream, but after some exertion he succeeded in regaining his gallant bark, when he consoled himself by giving utterance to a volley of blasphemies, which it would as ill become me to repeat as it would be disagreeable to you to hear. We slept somewhere that night; it does not suit my views of traveling to tell you where.

Before day returned to smile on the “Favourite,” we proceeded. Some “rapids” we came to, when every one, glad to assist her, leaped on shore, and tugged à la cordelle. Some miles farther we passed a curious cataract, formed by the waters of the Pokioke. There Sambo led his steeds up the sides of a high bank, when, lo! the whole party came tumbling down, like so many hogsheads of tobacco rolled from a storehouse to the banks of the Ohio. He at the steering oar hoped “the black rascal” had broken his neck, and congratulated himself in the same breath for the safety of the horses, which presently got on their feet. Sambo, however, alert as an Indian chief, leaped on the naked back of one, and, shewing his teeth, laughed at his master’s curses. Shortly after this we found our boat very snugly secured on the top of a rock, midway in the stream, just opposite the mouth of Eel River.

Next day at noon, none injured, but all chapfallen, we were landed at Woodstock village, yet in its infancy. After dining there, we procured a cart and an excellent driver, and proceeded along an execrable road towards Houlton, in Maine, glad enough, after all our mishaps, at finding ourselves in our own country. But before I bid farewell to the beautiful river of St. John, I must tell you, that its navigation seldom exceeds eight months each year, the passage during the rest being performed on the ice, of which we were told that, last season, there was an unusual quantity, so much, indeed, as to accumulate, by being jammed at particular spots, to the height of nearly fifty feet above the ordinary level of the river, and that when it broke loose in spring, the crash was awful. All the low grounds along the river were suddenly flooded, and even the elevated plain on which Frederickton stands was covered to the depth of four feet. Fortunately, however, as on the greater streams of the Western and Southern Districts, such an occurrence seldom takes place.

Major Clarke, commander of the United States garrison, received us with remarkable kindness. The next day was spent in a long though fruitless ornithological excursion, for although we were accompanied by officers and men from the garrison, not a bird did any of our party procure that was of any use to us. We remained a few days, however, after which, hiring a cart, two horses, and a driver, we proceeded in the direction of Bangor.

Houlton is a neat village, consisting of some fifty houses. The fort is well situated, and commands a fine view of Mar’s Hill, which is about thirteen miles distant. A custom-house has been erected here, the place being on the boundary line of the United States and the British Provinces. The road which was cut by the soldiers of the garrison, from Bangor to Houlton, through the forests, is at this moment a fine turnpike, of great breadth, almost straight in its whole length, and perhaps the best now in the Union. It was incomplete, however, for some miles, so that our traveling over that portion was slow and disagreeable. The rain which fell in torrents, reduced the newly raised earth to a complete bed of mud, and at one time our horses became so completely mired, that had we not been extricated by two oxen, we must have spent the night near the spot. Jogging along at a very slow pace, we were overtaken by a gay waggoner, who had excellent horses, two of which a little “siller” induced him to join to ours, and we were taken to a tavern at the “Cross Roads,” where we spent the night in comfort. While supper was preparing, I made inquiries respecting birds, quadrupeds, and fishes, and was pleased to hear that all these animals abounded in the neighbourhood. Deer, bears, trouts and grouse were quite plentiful, as was the Great Gray Owl!

When we resumed our journey next morning, Nature displayed all her loveliness; and Autumn, with her mellow tints, her glowing fruits, and her rich fields of corn, smiled in placid beauty. Many of the fields had not yet been reaped, the fruits of the forests and orchards hung clustering around us, and as we came in view of the Penobscot River, our hearts thrilled with joy. Its broad transparent waters here spread out their unruffled surface, there danced along the rapids, while canoes filled with Indians swiftly glided in every direction, raising before them the timorous waterfowl that had already flocked in from the north. Mountains, which you well know are indispensable in a beautiful landscape, reared their majestic crests in the distance. The Canada Jay leaped gaily from branch to twig; the King Fisher, as if vexed at being suddenly surprised, rattled loudly as it swiftly flew off; and the Fish Hawk and Eagle spread their broad wings over the waters. All around was beautiful, and we gazed on the scene with delight, as seated on a verdant bank, we refreshed our frames from our replenished stores. A few rare birds were procured here, and the rest of the road being level and firm, we trotted on at a good pace for several hours, the Penobscot keeping company with us.

Now we came to a deep creek of which the bridge was undergoing repairs, and the people saw our vehicle approach with much surprise. They however assisted us with pleasure, by placing a few logs across, along which our horses one after the other were carefully led, and the cart afterwards carried. These good fellows were so averse to our recompensing them for their labour, that after some altercation we were obliged absolutely to force what we deemed a suitable reward upon them.

Next day we continued our journey along the Penobscot, the country changing its aspect at every mile, and when we first descried Old Town, that village of saw-mills looked like an island covered with manufactories. The people here are noted for their industry and perseverance, and any one possessing a mill, and attending to his saws and the floating of the timber into his dams, is sure to obtain a competency in a few years. Speculations in land covered with pine, lying to the north of this place, are carried on to a great extent, and to discover a good tract of such ground many a miller of Old Town undertakes long journeys. Reader, with your leave, I will here introduce one of them.

Good luck brought us into acquaintance with Mr. Gillies who we happened to meet in the course of our travels, as he was returning from an exploratory tour. About the first of August he formed a party of sixteen persons, each carrying a knapsack and an axe. Their provisions consisted of 250 pounds of pilot bread, 150 of salted pork, 4 of tea, 2 large loaves of sugar, and some salt. They embarked in light canoes, twelve miles north of Bangor, and followed the Penobscot as far as Wassataquoik River, a branch leading to the north-west, until they reached the Seboois Lakes, the principal of which lie in a line, with short “portages” between them. Still proceeding north-west, they navigated these lakes, and then turning west, carried their canoes to the great lake “Baamchenunsgamook”; thence north to Wallaghasquegantook Lake, then along a small stream to the upper Umsaskiss Pond, when they reached the Albagash River, which leads into the St. John’s, in about latitude 47° 3’. Many portions of that country had not been visited before even by the Indians, who assured Mr. Gillies of this fact. They continued their travels down the St. John’s to the Grand Falls, where they met with a portage of half a mile, and having reached Meduxmekeag Creek, a little above Woodstock, the party walked to Houlton, having travelled twelve hundred miles, and described almost an oval over the country by the time they returned to Old Town, on the Penobscot.

While anxiously looking for “lumber lands,” they ascended the eminences around, then climbed the tallest trees, and by means of a good telescope, inspected the pine woods in the distance. And such excellent judges are these persons of the value of the timber which they thus observe, when it is situated at a convenient distance from water, that they never afterwards forget the different spots at all worthy of their attention. They had observed only a few birds and quadrupeds, the latter principally porcupines. The borders of the lakes and rivers afforded them fruits of various sorts, and abundance of cranberries, while the uplands yielded plenty of wild white onions, and a species of black plum. Some of the party continued their journey in canoes down the St. John’s, ascended Eel River, and the lake of the same name, to Matanemheag River, due southwest of the St. John’s, and after a few portages fell into the Penobscot.

I had made arrangements to accompany Mr. Gillies on a journey of this kind, when I judged it would be more interesting as well as useful to me to visit the distant country of Labrador.

The road which we followed from Old Town to Bangor was literally covered with Penobscot Indians returning from market. On reaching the latter beautiful town, we found very comfortable lodging in an excellent hotel; and next day we proceeded by the mail to Boston.