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Day of tears and late repentance,
Benson John Lossing.
BORN in Beekman, Dutchess Co., N. Y., 1813.
OLD-TIME LIFE IN ALBANY.
[The Life and Times of Philip Schuyler. Revised Edition. 1872.]
OTWITHSTANDING there was great equality in Albany society, there was a peculiar custom prevalent until near the time of the kindling of the Revolution, which appeared somewhat exclusive in its character. The young people were arranged in congenial companies, composed of an equal number of both sexes. Children from five to eight years of age were admitted into these companies and the association continued until maturity. Each company was generally under a sort of control by authority lodged in the hands of a boy and girl, who happened to possess some natural preeminence in size or ability. They met frequently, enjoyed amusements together, grew up to maturity with a perfect knowledge of each other, and the results, in general, were happy and suitable marriages. In the season of early flowers, they all went out together to gather the gaudy blossoms of the May-apple; and in August they went together to the forests on the neighboring hills to gather whortleberries, or, later still, to pluck the rich clusters of the wild grape, each being furnished with a light basket made by the expert Indian
Each member of a company was permitted to entertain all the rest on his or her birthday, on which occasion the elders of the family were bound to be absent, leaving only a faithful servant to have a general supervision of affairs, and to prepare the entertainment. This gave the young people entire freedom, and they enjoyed it to the fullest extent. They generally met at four o'clock in the afternoon, and separated at nine or ten in the evening. On these occasions there would be ample provisions of tea, chocolate, fresh and preserved fruits, nuts, cakes, cider, and syllabub.
These early and exclusive intimacies naturally ripened into pure and lasting friendships and affectionate attachments, and happy marriages
resulted. So universal was the practice of forming unions for life among the members of these circles, that it came to be considered a kind of apostacy to marry out of one's "company." Love, thus born in the atmosphere of innocence and candor, and nourished by similarity of education, tastes, and aspirations, seldom lost any of its vitality; and inconstancy and indifference among married couples were so rare as to be almost unheard of exceptions to the general rule. They usually married early, were blessed with high physical and mental health, and the extreme love which they bore for their offspring made those parents ever dear to each other under the discipline of every possible vicissitude. The children were reared in great simplicity; and except being ́taught to love and adore the great Author of their being and their blessings, they were permitted to follow the dictates of their nature, ranging at full liberty in the open air, covered in summer with a light and cheap garment, which protected them from the sun, and in winter with warm clothing, made according to the dictates of convenience, comfort, and health.
The summer amusements of the young were simple, healthful, and joyous. Their principal pleasure consisted in what we now call pic-nics, enjoyed either upon the beautiful islands in the river near Albany, which were then covered with grass and shrubbery, tall trees and clustering vines, or in the forests on the hills. When the warm days of spring and early summer appeared, a company of young men and maidens would set out at sunrise in a canoe for the islands, or in light wagons for "the bush," where they would frequently meet a similar party on the same delightful errand. Each maiden, taught from early childhood to be industrious, would take her work-basket with her, and a supply of tea, sugar, coffee, and other materials for a frugal breakfast, while the young men carried some rum and dried fruit to make a light cool punch for a mid-day beverage. But no previous preparations were made for dinner except bread and cold pastry, it being expected that the young men would bring an ample supply of game and fish from the woods and waters, provisions having been made by the girls of apparatus for cooking, the use of which was familiar to them all. After dinner the company would pair off in couples, according to attachments and affinities, sometimes brothers and sisters together, and sometimes warm friends or ardent lovers, and stroll in all directions, gathering wild strawberries or other fruit in summer, and plucking the abundant flowers, to be arranged into bouquets to adorn their little parlors and give pleasure to their parents. Sometimes they would remain abroad until sunset, and take tea in the open air; or they would call upon some friend on their way home and partake of a light evening meal. In all this there appeared no conventional restraints upon the innocent inclinations of
nature. The day was always remembered as one of pure enjoyment, without the passage of a single cloud of regret.
The winter amusements in Albany were few and simple, but, like those of summer, pure, healthful, and invigorating. On fine winter days the icy bosom of the Hudson would be alive with skaters of both sexes, and vocal with their merry laugh and joyous songs and ringing shouts; and down the broad and winding road from the verge of Pinkster Hill, whereon the State capitol now reposes, scores of sleighs might be seen every brilliant moonlight evening, coursing with ruddy voyagers-boys and girls, young men and maidens-who swept past the Dutch Church at the foot, and halted only on the banks of the river. It was a most animating scene, and many a fair spectator would sit or stand on the margin of the slope until ten or eleven o'clock, wrapped in furs, to enjoy the spectacle.
Evening parties, the company seldom numbering over a dozen, were . quite frequent. These were often the sequels of quilting parties; and princktums, games, simple dances, and other amusements were indulged in, but never continued very late. The young men sometimes spent an evening in conviviality at one of the two taverns in the town, and sometimes their boisterous mirth would disturb the quiet city at a late hour. Habitual drunkenness, however, was extremely rare, and these outbreaks were winked at as comparatively harmless.
John Charles Frémont.
BORN in Savannah, Ga., 1813.
THE FIRST EXPLORATION OF THE GREAT SALT LAKE.
[Memoirs of My Life. 1887.]
channel in a short distance became so shallow that our navigation was at an end, being merely a sheet of soft mud, with a few inches of water, and sometimes none at all, forming the low-water shoreof the lake. All this place was absolutely covered with flocks of screaming plover. We took off our clothes, and, getting overboard, commenced dragging the boat-making, by this operation, a very curious trail, and a very disagreeable smell in stirring up the mud, as we sank above the knees at every step. The water here was still fresh, with only an insipid and disagreeable taste, probably derived from the bed of fetid mud. After proceeding in this way about a mile, we came to a small black
ridge on the bottom, beyond which the water became suddenly salt, beginning gradually to deepen, and the bottom was sandy and firm. It was a remarkable division, separating the fresh water of the rivers from the briny water of the lake, which was entirely saturated with common salt. Pushing our little vessel across the narrow boundary, we sprang on board, and at length were afloat on the waters of the unknown sea.
We did not steer for the mountainous islands, but directed our course toward a lower one which it had been decided we should first visit, the summit of which was formed like the crater at the upper end of Bear River Valley. So long as we could touch the bottom with our paddles, we were very gay; but gradually, as the water deepened, we became more still in our frail bateau of gum-cloth distended with air, and with pasted seams. Although the day was very calm, there was a considerable swell on the lake: and there were white patches of foam on the surface, which were slowly moving to the southward, indicating the set of a current in that direction and recalling the recollection of the whirlpool stories. The water continued to deepen as we advanced; the lake becoming almost transparently clear, of an extremely beautiful brightgreen color; and the spray, which was thrown into the boat and over our clothes, was directly converted into a crust of common salt, which covered also our hands and arms.
"Captain," said Carson, who for some time had been looking suspiciously at some whitening appearances outside the nearest islands, "what are those yonder ?-won't you just take a look with the glass?" We ceased paddling for a moment, and found them to be the caps of the waves that were beginning to break under the force of a strong breeze that was coming up the lake. The form of the boat seemed to be an admirable one, and it rode on the waves like a water-bird; but, at the same time, it was extremely slow in its progress. When we were a little more than half-way across the reach, two of the divisions between the cylinders gave way, and it required the constant use of the bellows to keep in a sufficient quantity of air. For a long time we scarcely seemed to approach our island, but gradually we worked across the rougher sea of the open channel into the smoother water under the lee of the island, and began to discover that what we took for a long row of pelicans ranged on the beach were only low cliffs whitened with salt by the spray of the waves; and about noon we reached the shore, the transparency the water enabling us to see the bottom at a considerable depth.
It was a handsome broad beach where we landed, behind which the hill, into which the island was gathered, rose somewhat abruptly; and a point of rock at one end enclosed it in a sheltering way; and as there was an abundance of drift-wood along the shore, it offered us a pleasant encampment. We did not suffer our fragile boat to touch the sharp
rocks; but, getting overboard, discharged the baggage, and, lifting it gently out of the water, carried it to the upper part of the beach, which was composed of very small fragments of rock.
Mr. Walker was associated with Captain Bonneville in his expedition to the Rocky Mountains; and had since that time remained in the country, generally residing in some one of the Snake villages, when not engaged in one of his numerous trapping expeditions, in which he is celebrated as one of the best and bravest leaders who have ever been in the country.
The cliffs and masses of rock along the shore were whitened by an incrustation of salt where the waves dashed up against them; and the evaporating water which had been left in holes and hollows on the surface of the rocks was covered with a crust of salt about one eighth of an inch in thickness. It appeared strange that, in the midst of this grand reservoir, one of our greatest wants lately had been salt. Exposed to be more perfectly dried in the sun, this became very white and fine, having the usual flavor of very excellent common salt, without any foreign taste; but only a little was collected for present use, as there was in it a number of small black insects.
Carrying with us the barometer and other instruments, in the afternoon we ascended to the highest point of the island-a bare rocky peak, eight hundred feet above the lake. Standing on the summit we enjoyed an extended view of the lake, enclosed in a basin of rugged mountains, which sometimes left marshy flats and extensive bottoms between them and the shore, and in other places came directly down into the water with bold and precipitous bluffs. Following with our glasses the irregular shores, we searched for some indications of a communication with other bodies of water, or the entrance of other rivers; but the distance was so great that we could make out nothing with certainty. To the southward several peninsular mountains, three thousand or four thousand feet high, entered the lake, appearing, so far as the distance and our position enabled us to determine, to be connected, by flats and low ridges, with the mountains in the rear.
At the season of high waters in the spring, it is probable that all the marshes and low grounds are overflowed, and the surface of the lake considerably greater. In several places the view was of unlimited extenthere and there a rocky island appearing above the water at a great distance; and beyond, everything was vague and undefined. As we looked over the vast expanse of water spread out beneath us, and strained our eyes along the silent shores over which hung so much doubt and uncertainty, and which were so full of interest to us, I could hardly repress the almost irresistible desire to continue our exploration; but the lengthening snow on the mountains was a plain indication of the advanc