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From Pittsburgh to Blennerhasset's Island
THE START FOR THE GULF.-- CAUGHT IN THE ICE-RAFT.-- CAMPING ON THE OHIO.-- THE GRAVE CREEK MOUND.-- AN INDIAN SEPULCHRE.-- BLENNERHASSET'S ISLAND.-- AARON BURR'S CONSPIRACY.-- A RUINED FAMILY.
UPON arriving at Pittsburgh, on the morning of December 2d, 1875, after a dreary night's ride by rail from the Atlantic coast, I found my boat--it having preceded me--safely perched upon a pile of barrels in the freight-house of the railroad company, which was conveniently situated within a few rods of the muddy waters of the Monongahela.
The sneak-box, with the necessary stores for the cruise, was transported to the river's side, and as it was already a little past noon, and only a few hours of daylight left me, prudence demanded an instant departure in search of a more retired camping-ground than that afforded by the great city and its neighboring towns, with the united population of one hundred and eighty thousand souls. There was not one friend to give me a cheering word, the happy remembrance of which might
encourage me all through my lonely voyage to the Gulf of Mexico.
The little street Arabs fought among themselves for the empty provision-boxes left upon the bank as I pushed my well-freighted boat out upon the whirling current that caught it in its strong embrace, and, like a true friend, never deserted or lured it into danger while I trusted to its vigorous help for more than two thousand miles, until the land of the orange and sugar-cane was reached, and its fresh, sweet waters were exchanged for the restless and treacherous waves of the briny sea. Ah, great river, you were indeed, of all material things, my truest friend for many a day!
The rains in the south had filled the gulches of the Virginia mountains, the sources of the Monongahela, and it now exhibited a great degree of turbulence. I was not then aware of the tumultuous state of the sister tributary, the Alleghany, on the other side of the city. I supposed that its upper affluents, congealed during the late cold weather, were quietly enjoying a winter's nap under the heavy coat in which Jack Frost had robed them. I expected to have an easy and uninterrupted passage down the river in advance of floating ice; and, so congratulating myself, I drew near to the confluence of the Monongahela and Alleghany, from the union of which the great Ohio has its birth, and rolls
steadily across the country a thousand miles to the mightier Mississippi.
The current of the Monongahela, as it flowed from the south, covered with mists rising into the wintry air,--for the temperature was but a few degrees above zero,--had not a particle of ice upon its turbid bosom.
I rowed gayly on, pleased with the auspicious
beginning of the voyage, hoping at the close of the month to be at the mouth of the river, and far enough south to escape any inconvenience from a sudden freezing of its surface, for along its course between its source at Pittsburgh and its debouchure at Cairo the Ohio makes only two hundred and twelve miles of southing,--a difference of about two and a half degrees of latitude. It is not surprising, therefore, that this river during exceedingly cold winters sometimes freezes over for a few days, from the state of Pennsylvania to its junction with the Mississippi.
In a few minutes my boat had passed nearly the whole length of the Pittsburgh shore, when suddenly, upon looking over my shoulder, I beheld the river covered with an ice-raft, which was passing out of the Alleghany, and which completely blocked the Ohio from shore to shore. French Creek, Oil Creek, and all the other tributaries of the Alleghany, had burst from their icy barriers, thrown off the wintry coat of mail, and were pouring their combined wrath into the Ohio.
This unforeseen trouble had to be met without much time for calculating the results of entering the ice-pack. A light canoe would have been ground to pieces in the multitude of icy cakes, but the half-inch skin of soft but elastic white swamp-cedar of the decked sneak-box, with its
light oaken runner-strips firmly screwed to its bottom, was fully able to cope with the difficulty; so I pressed the boat into the floating ice, and by dint of hard work forced her several rods beyond the eddies, and fairly into the steady flow of the strong current of the river.
[The start--head of the Ohio River.] [40KB]
There was nothing more to be done to expedite the journey, so I sat down in the little hold, and, wrapped comfortably in blankets, watched the progress made by the receding points of interest upon the high banks of the stream. Towards night some channel-ways opened in the pack, and, seizing upon the opportunity, I rowed along the ice-bound lanes until dusk, when happily a chance was offered for leaving the frosty surroundings, and the duck-boat was soon resting on a shelving, pebbly strand on the left bank of the river, two miles above the little village of Freedom.
The rapid current had carried me twenty-two miles in four hours and a half.
Not having slept for thirty-six hours, or eaten since morning, I was well prepared physically to retire at an early hour. A few minutes sufficed to securely stake my boat, to prevent her being carried off by a sudden rise in the river during my slumbers; a few moments more were occupied in arranging the thin hair cushions and a thick cotton coverlet upon the floor of the boat. The bag which contained my wardrobe,
consisting of a blue flannel suit, &c., served for a pillow. A heavy shawl and two thin blankets furnished sufficient covering for the bed. Bread and butter, with Shakers' peach-sauce, and a generous slice of Wilson's compressed beef, a tin of water from the icy reservoir that flowed past my boat and within reach of my arm, all contributed to furnish a most satisfactory meal, and a half hour afterwards, when a soft, damp fog settled down upon the land, the atmosphere became so quiet that the rubbing of every ice-cake against the shore could be distinctly heard as I sank into a sweeter slumber than I had ever experienced in the most luxurious bed of the daintiest of guest-chambers, for my apartment, though small, was comfortable, and with the hatch securely closed, I was safe from invasion by man or beast, and enjoyed the well-earned repose with a full feeling of security. The owl softly winnowed the air with his feathery pinions as he searched for his prey along the beach, sending forth an occasional to-hoot! as he rested for a moment on the leafless branches of an old tree, reminding me to take a peep at the night, and to inquire "what its signs of promise" were.
All was silence and security; but even while I thought that here at least Nature ruled supreme, Art sent to my listening ear, upon the dense night air, the shrill whistle of the steam-freighter, trying to enter the ice-pack several miles down the river.
So the peaceful night wore away, and in the early dawn, enveloped in a thick fog, I hastily dispatched a cold breakfast, and at half-past eight o'clock pushed off into the floating ice, which became more and more disintegrated and less troublesome as the day advanced. The use of the soft bituminous coal in the towns along the river, and also by the steamboats navigating it, filled the valley with clouds of smoke. These clouds rested upon everything. Your five senses were fully aware of the presence of the disagreeable, impalpable something surrounding you. Eyes, ears, taste, touch, and smell, each felt the presence. Smoky towns along the banks gave smoky views. Smoky chimneys rose high above the smoky foundries and forges, where smoke-begrimed men toiled day and night in the smoky atmosphere. Ah, how I sighed for a glimpse of God's blessed sunlight! and even while I gazed saw in memory the bright pure valleys of the north-east; the sparkling waters of lakes George and Champlain, and the majestic scenery, with the life-giving atmosphere, of the Adirondacks. The contrast seemed to increase the smoke, and no cheerfulness was added to the scene by the dismal-looking holes in the mountain-sides I now passed. They were the entrances to mines from which the bituminous coal was taken. Some of them were being actively worked, and long, trough-like shoots were used to send the coal by
its own gravity from the entrance of the mine to the hold of the barge or coal-ark at the steam-boat landing. Some of these mines were worked by three men and a horse. The horse drew the coal on a little car along the horizontal gallery from the heart of the mountain to the light of day.
During the second day the current of the Ohio became less violent. I fought a passage among the ice-cakes, and whenever openings appeared rowed briskly along the sides of the chilly raft, with the intent of getting below the frosty zone as soon as possible.
About half-past eight o'clock in the evening, when some distance above King's Creek, the struggling starlight enabled me to push my boat on to a muddy flat, destined soon to be overflowed, but offering me a secure resting-place for a few hours. Upon peeping out of my warm nest under the hatch the next day, it was a cause of great satisfaction to note that a rise in the temperature had taken place, and that the ice was disappearing by degrees.
An open-air toilet, and a breakfast of about the temperature of a family refrigerator, with sundry other inconveniences, made me wish for just enough hot water to remove a little of the begriming results of the smoky atmosphere through which I had rowed.
At eleven o'clock, A. M., the first bridge that
spans the Ohio River was passed. It was at Steubenville, and the property of the Pan-Handle Railroad.
Soon after four o'clock in the afternoon the busy manufacturing city of Wheeling, West Virginia, with its great suspension bridge crossing the river to the state of Ohio, loomed into sight.
This city of Wheeling, on the left bank of the river, some eighty miles from Pittsburgh, was the most impressive sight of that dreary day's row. Above its masses of brick walls hung a dense cloud of smoke, into which shot the flames emitted from the numerous chimneys of forges, glass-works, and factories, which made it the busy place it was. Ever and anon came the deafening sound of the trip-hammer, the rap-a-tap-tap of the rivet-headers' tools striking upon the heavy boiler-plates; the screeching of steam-whistles; the babel of men's voices; the clanging of deep-toned bells. Each in turn striking upon my ear, seemed as a whole to furnish sufficient noise-tonic for even the most ardent upholder of that remedy, and to serve as a type for a second Inferno, promising to vie with Dante's own. Yet with all this din and dirt, this ever-present cloud of blackness settling down each hour upon clean and unclean in a sooty coating, I was told that hundreds of families of wealth and refinement, whose circumstances enabled them to select a home where they pleased, lingered here,
apparently well satisfied with their surroundings. We are, indeed, the children of habit, and singularly adaptable. It is, perhaps, best that it should be so, but I thought, as I brushed off the thin layer of soot with which the Wheeling cloud of enterprise had discolored the pure white deck of my little craft, that if this was civilization and enterprise, I should rather take a little less of those two commodities and a little more of cleanliness and quiet.
At Wheeling I left the last of the ice-drifts, but now observed a new feature on the river's surface. It was a floating coat of oil from the petroleum regions, and it followed me many a mile down the stream.
The river being now free from ice, numerous crafts passed me, and among them many steam-boats with their immense stern-wheels beating the water, being so constructed for shallow streams. They were ascending the current, and pushing their "tows" of two, four, and six long, wide coal-barges fastened in pairs in front of them. How the pilots of these stern-wheel freighters managed to guide these heavily loaded barges against the treacherous current was a mystery to me.
It suddenly grew dark, and wishing to be secure from molestation by steamboats, I ran into a narrow creek, with high, muddy banks, which were so steep and so slippery that my boat slid
into the water as fast as I could haul her on to the shore. This difficulty was overcome by digging with my oar a bed for her to rest in, and she soon settled into the damp ooze, where she quietly remained until morning.
[Coal-oil stove.] [10KB]
During this part of my journey particularly, the need of a small coal-oil stove was felt, as the usual custom of making a camp-fire could not be followed for many days on the upper Ohio River. The rains had wet the fire-wood, which in a settled and cultivated country is found only in small quantities on the banks of the stream. The driftwood thrown up by the river was almost saturated with water, and the damp, wild trees of the swamp afforded only green wood.
In a less settled country, or where there is an old forest growth, as along the lower Ohio and upon the banks of the Mississippi, fallen trees, with resinous, dry hearts, can be found; and even during a heavy fall of rain a skilful use of the axe will bring out these ancient interiors to cheer the voyager's heart by affording him excellent fuel for his camp-fire.
The recently perfected coal-oil stove does not give out disagreeable odors when the petroleum used is refined, like that known in the market as Pratt's Astral Oil. This brand of oil does not contain naphtha, the existence of which in the
partially refined oils is the cause of so many dangerous explosions of kerosene lamps.
Recent experiences with coal-oil burners lead me to adopt, for camp use, the No. 0 single-wick stove of the "Florence Machine Co.," whose excellent wares attracted so much attention at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The No. 0 Florence stove will sustain the weight of one hundred and fifty pounds, and is one of the few absolutely safe oil stoves, with perfect combustion, and no unpleasant odor or gas. This statement presupposes that the wicks are wiped along the burnt edges after being used, and that a certain degree of cleanliness is observed in the care of the oil cistern. I do not stand alone in my appreciation of this faithful little stove, for the company sold forty thousand of them in one year. In Johnson's Universal Cyclopædia, Dr. L. P. Brockett, of Brooklyn, N.Y., expresses himself in the most enthusiastic terms in regard to this stove. He says: "For summer use it will be a great boon to the thousands of women whose lives have been made bitter and wretched by confinement in close and intensely heated kitchens; in many cases it will give health for disease, strength for weakness, cheerfulness for depression, and profound thankfulness in place of gloom and despair."
Boatmen and canoeists should never travel without one of these indispensable comforts. Alcohol stoves are small, and the fuel used too expensive, as well as difficult to obtain, while good coal-oil can now be had even on the borders of the remote wilderness. The economy of its use is wonderful. A heat sufficient to boil a gallon of water in thirty minutes can be sustained for ten hours at the cost of three cents.
For lack of one of these little blessings--which the prejudice of friends had influenced me to leave behind--my daily meals for the first two or three weeks generally consisted of cold, cooked canned beef, bread and butter, canned fruits, and cold river water. The absence of hot coffee and other stimulants did not affect my appetite, nor the enjoyment of the morning and evening repasts, cold and untempting as they were. The vigorous day's row in the open air, the sweet slumbers that followed it at night in a well-ventilated apartment, a simple, unexciting life, the mental rest from vexatious business cares, all proved superior to any tonic a physician could prescribe, and I became more rugged as I grew accustomed to the duties of an oarsman, and gained several pounds avoirdupois by the time I ended the row of twenty-six hundred miles and landed on the sunny shores of the Gulf of Mexico.
Sunday broke upon me a sunless day. The water of the creek was too muddy to drink, and the rain began to fall in torrents. I had anticipated a season of rest and quiet in camp, with a
bright fire to cheer the lonely hours of my frosty sojourn on the Ohio, but there was not a piece of dry wood to be found, and it became necessary to change my position for a more propitious locality; so I rowed down the stream twelve miles, to Big Grave Creek, below which, and on the left bank of the Ohio, is the town of Moundsville. One of the interesting features of this place is its frontage on a channel possessing a depth of fifteen feet of water even in the dryest seasons. Wheeling, at the same time of the year, can claim but seven feet. Here, also, is the great Indian mound from which it derives its name.
The resting-place of my craft was upon a muddy slope in the rear of a citizen's yard which faced the river; but when the storm ended, on Monday morning, my personal effects were hidden from the gaze of idlers by securely locking the hatch, which was done with the same facility with which one locks his trunk--and the former occupant was at liberty to visit the "Big Grave."
I walked through the muddy streets of the uninteresting village to the conspicuous monument of the aboriginal inhabitant of the river's margin. It was a conical hill, situated within the limits of the town, and known to students of American pre-historic races as the "Grave Creek Mound." This particular creation of a lost race is the most important of the numerous works of
the Mound Builders which are found throughout the Ohio Valley. Its circumference at the base is nine hundred feet, and its height seventy feet. In 1838 the location was owned by Mr. Tomlinson, who penetrated to the centre of the mound by excavating a passage on a level with the foundation of the structure. He then sank a shaft from the apex to intercept the ground passage. Mr. Tomlinson's statement is as follows:
"At the distance of one hundred and eleven feet we came to a vault which had been excavated before the mound was commenced, eight by twelve feet, and seven in depth. Along each side, and across the ends, upright timbers had been placed, which supported timbers thrown across the vault as a ceiling. These timbers were covered with loose unhewn stone common to the neighborhood. The timbers had rotted, and had tumbled into the vault. In this vault were two human skeletons, one of which had no ornaments; the other was surrounded by six hundred and fifty ivory (shell) beads, and an ivory (bone) ornament six inches long. In sinking the shaft, at thirty-four feet above the first, or bottom vault, a similar one was found, enclosing a skeleton which had been decorated with a profusion of shell beads, copper rings, and plates of mica."
Dr. Clemmens, who was much interested in the work of exploration here, says: "At a
distance of twelve or fifteen feet were found numerous layers composed of charcoal and burnt bones. On reaching the lower vault from the top, it was determined to enlarge it for the accommodation of visitors, when ten more skeletons were discovered. This mound was supposed to be the tomb of a royal personage."
At the time of my visit, the ground was covered with a grassy sod, and large trees arose from its sloping sides. The horizontal passage was kept in a safe state by a lining of bricks, and I walked through it into the heart of the Indian sepulchre. It was a damp, dark, weird interior; but the perpendicular shaft, which ascended to the apex, kept up an uninterrupted current of air. I found it anything but a pleasant place in which to linger, and soon retraced my steps to the boat, where I once more embarked upon the ceaseless current, and kept upon my winding course, praying for even one glimpse of the sun, whose face had been veiled from my sight during the entire voyage, save for one brief moment when the brightness burst from the surrounding gloom only to be instantly eclipsed, and making all seem, by contrast, more dismal than ever.
It would not interest the general reader to give a description of the few cities and many small villages that were passed during the descent of the Ohio. Few of these places possess even a local interest, and the eye soon wearies of the air
of monotony found in them all. Even the guide-books dispose of these villages with a little dry detail, and rarely recommend the tourist to visit one of them.
One feature may be, however, remarked in descending the Ohio, and that is the ambition displayed by the pioneers of civilization in the west in naming hamlets and towns--which, with few exceptions, are still of little importance--after the great cities of the older parts of the United States, and also of foreign lands. These names, which occupy such important positions on the maps, excite the imagination of the traveller, and when the reality comes into view, and he enters their narrow limits, the commonplace architecture and generally unattractive surroundings have a most depressing effect, and he sighs, "What's in a name?" We find upon the map the name and appearance of a city, but it proves to be the most uninteresting of villages, though known as Amsterdam. We also find many towns of the Hudson duplicated in name on the Ohio, and pass Troy, Albany, Newburg, and New York. The cities of Great Britain are in many instances perpetuated by the names of Aberdeen, Manchester, Dover, Portsmouth, Liverpool, and London; while other nations are represented by Rome, Carthage, Ghent, Warsaw, Moscow, Gallipolis, Bethlehem, and Cairo. Strangely sandwiched with these old names we find the southern
states represented, as in Augusta, Charleston, &c.; while the Indian names Miami, Guyandot, Paducah, Wabash, and Kanawha are thrown in for variety.
In the evening I sought the shelter of an island on the left side of the river, about three miles above Sisterville, which proved to be a restful camping-place during the dark night that settled down upon the surrounding country.
Tuesday being a rainy day, I was forced by the inclemency of the weather to seek for better quarters in a retired creek about three miles above the thriving town of Marietta, so named in honor of Maria Antoinette of Austria.
The country was now becoming more pleasing in character, and many of the islands, as I floated past them on the current, gave evidence of great fertility where cultivation had been bestowed upon them. Some of these islands were connected to one shore of the river by low dams, carelessly constructed of stones, their purpose being to deepen the channel upon the opposite side by diverting a considerable volume of water into it. When the water is very low, the tops of these dams can be seen, and must, of course, be avoided by boatmen; but when the Ohio increases its depth of water, these artificial aids to navigation are submerged, and even steamboats float securely over them.
On Wednesday the river began to rise, in
consequence of the heavy rains; so, with an increased current, the duck-boat left her quarters about eleven o'clock in the forenoon. Early in the afternoon, Parkersburgh, situated at the mouth of the Little Kanawha River, in Virginia, came into view. This is the outlet of the petroleum region of West Virginia, and is opposite the little village of Belpré, which is in the state of Ohio. These towns are connected by a massive iron bridge, built by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company.
Two miles below Belpré lay the beautiful island, formerly the home of Blennerhasset, an English gentleman of Irish descent, of whom a most interesting account was given in a late number of Harper's Magazine. Mr. Blennerhasset came to New York in 1797, with his wife and one child, hoping to find in America freedom of opinion and action denied him at home, as his relations and friends were all royalists, and opposed to the republican principles he had imbibed. Here, on this sunny island, under the grand old trees, he built a stately mansion, where wealth and culture, combined with all things rich and rare from the old world, made an Eden for all who entered it.
Ten negro servants were bought to minister to the daily needs of the household. Over forty thousand dollars in gold were spent upon the buildings and grounds. A telescope of high
power to assist in his researches, books of every description, musical instruments, chemical and philosophical apparatus, everything, in fact, that could add to the progress and comfort of an intellectual man, was here collected. Docks were built, and a miniature fleet moored in the soft waters of the ever-flowing Ohio. Nature had begun, Blennerhasset finished; and we cannot wonder when we read of the best families in the neighboring country going often thirty and forty miles to partake of the generous hospitality here offered them. Mrs. Blennerhasset, endowed by nature with beauty and winsome manners, was always a charming and attractive hostess, as well as a true wife and mother.
For eight years Blennerhasset lived upon his island, enjoying more than is accorded to the lot of most mortals; but the story of his position, his intelligence, his wealth, his wonderful social influence upon those around him, reached at length the ear of one who marked him for his prey.
Aaron Burr had been chosen vice-president of the United States in 1800, with Thomas Jefferson as president; but in 1804, when Jefferson was re-elected, Burr was not. The brain of this brilliant but ill-balanced and unprincipled man was ever rife with ambitious schemes, and the taste of political power in his position as vice-president of the United States seemed to have driven him towards the accomplishment of one
of the boldest and most extravagant dreams he ever imagined. Mexico he thought could be wrested from Spain, and the then almost unpeopled valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi taken from the United States. This fair region, with its fertile soil and varied climate, should be blended into one empire. On the north, the Great Lakes should be his boundary line, while the Gulf of Mexico should lave with its salt waters his southern shores. The high cliffs of the Rocky Mountains should protect the western boundary, and on the east the towering Alleghanies form a barrier to invading foe.
Such was the dream, and a fair one it was. Of this new empire, Aaron Burr would of course be Imperator; and the ways and means for its establishment must be found. The distant Blennerhasset seemed to point to the happy termination of at least some of the difficulties. His wealth, if not his personal influence, must be gained, and no man was better suited to win his point than the fascinating Aaron Burr. We will not enter into the plans of the artful insinuator made to enlist the sympathies of the unsuspecting Englishman, but we must ever feel sure that the cloven foot was well concealed until the last, for Blennerhasset loved the land of his adoption, and would not have listened to any plan for its impoverishment. His means were given lavishly for the aid of the new colony, as Burr
called it, and his personal influence made use of in enlisting recruits. Arms were furnished, and the Indian foe given as an excuse for this measure.
Burr during this time resided at Marietta, on the right bank of the river, fifteen miles above Blennerhasset's Island. He occupied himself in overseeing the building of fifteen large bateaux in which to transport his colony. Ten of these flat-bottomed boats were forty feet long, ten feet wide, and two and a half feet deep. The ends of the boats were similar, so that they could be pushed up or down stream. One boat was luxuriously fitted up, and intended to transport Mr. Blennerhasset and family, proving most conclusively that he knew nothing of any treasonable scheme against the United States.
The boats were intended to carry five hundred men, and the energy of Colonel Burr had engaged nearly the whole number. The El Dorado held out to these young men was painted in the most brilliant hues of Burr's eloquence. He told them that Jefferson, who was popular with them all, approved the plan. That they were to take possession of the immense grant purchased of Baron Bastrop, but that in case of a war between the United States and Spain, which might at any time occur, as the Mexicans were very weary of the Spanish yoke, Congress would send an army to protect the settlers and help Mexico,
so that a new empire would be founded of a democratic type, and the settlers finding all on an equality, would be enabled to enrich themselves beyond all former precedent.
About this time rumors were circulated that Aaron Burr was plotting some mischief against the United States. Jefferson himself became alarmed, knowing as he so well did the ambition of Burr and his unprincipled character. A secret agent was sent to make inquiries in regard to the doings at Blennerhasset's Island and Marietta. This agent, Mr. John Graham, was assured by Mr. Blennerhasset that nothing was intended save the peaceful establishment of a colony on the banks of the Washita.
Various reports still continued to greet the public ear, and of such a nature as to make Blennerhasset's name disliked. Some said treason was lurking, and blamed him for it. He was openly spoken of as the accomplice of Burr. The legislature of Ohio even made a law to suppress all expeditions found armed, and to seize all boats and provisions belonging to such expeditions. The governor was ready at a moment's notice to call out the state militia. A cannon was placed on the river-bank at Marietta, and strict orders given to examine every boat that descended the stream.
Mr. Blennerhasset had no idea of resisting the authorities, and gave up the whole scheme,
determined to meet his heavy losses as best he might.
Four boats, with about thirty men, had been landed upon Blennerhasset's Island a short time before these rigorous measures had been taken. They were under the care of Mr. Tyler, one of Burr's agents from New York, and he did all in his power to urge Blennerhasset not to retire at so critical a moment. It was, however, too late to avert calamity, and the unfortunate family was doomed to misfortune.
The alarming intelligence now reached the island that the Wood County militia was en route for that place, that the boats would be seized, the men taken prisoners, and probably the mansion burned, as the most desperate characters in the surrounding country had volunteered for the attack. Urged by his friends, Blennerhasset and the few men with him escaped by the boats. His flight was not a moment too soon, for having been branded as a traitor, no one knows what might have befallen him had the lawless men who arrived immediately after his departure found him in their power. Colonel Phelps, the commander of the militia, started in pursuit, and the remainder of his men, with no one to restrain them, gave full play to their savage feelings. Seven days of riot followed. They took possession of the house, broke into the cellars, and drank the choice wines, until, more like beasts
than men, they made havoc of the rich accumulation of years. Everything was destroyed. The paintings, the ornaments, rare glass and china, family silver, furniture, and, worst vandalism of all, the flames were fed with the choicest volumes, many of which never could be duplicated, for the value of Blennerhasset's library was known through all the country.
Mrs. Blennerhasset had remained upon the island during this week of terror, hoping by her presence to restrain the lawless band, but the brave woman was at last obliged to fly with her two little sons, taking refuge on one of the flat river boats sent by a friend to afford her a way of escape.
Mr. Blennerhasset was afterwards arrested for treason, but no evidence could be found against him, and he was never brought to trial. He invested the little means left him in a cotton plantation near Natchez, where, with his devoted wife, he tried to retrieve his fallen fortunes. The second war with England rendered his plantation worthless, and returning by way of Montreal to his native land, he died a broken-hearted man, leaving his wife in destitute circumstances. An attempt was made by her friends to obtain some return for the destruction of their property from the United States government, but all proved of no avail, and she who had always been surrounded by wealth and luxury, was, during her last
hours, dependent upon the charity of a society of Irish ladies in New York city, who with tenderness nursed her unto the end, and then took upon themselves the expenses of her interment.
Such is the sad story of Blennerhasset and his wife; and I thought, as I quietly moored my boat in a little creek that mingled its current with the great river, near the lower end of the island which was once such a happy home, of the uncertainty of all earthly prosperity, and the necessity there was for making the most of the present,--which last idea sent a sleepy sailor hastily under his hatch.
[Indian mound, at Moundsville, West Virginia.] [16KB]