Diary of Charles Francis Adams, volume 7

Wednesday. 29th.

Friday. July 1.

Thursday 30th. CFA


Thursday 30th. CFA
Thursday 30th.
Niagara Falls

The morning was fine and immediately after breakfast we got into a couple of rowboats of Mr. White’s and were transported with our things to Grand Island, where the Steamer from Buffalo takes passengers up in her way to Chippewa. This Island is the purchase which Mr. White has made and is the spot upon which he has put at stake his whole fortune. He talks with the greatest confidence of it’s success and tells me he has refused an offer of three times as much as it cost him made by people in New York, but I think I perceive a degree of anxiety of mind about him which does not correspond with his language.

The Island appears to be a rich, well-wooded spot, situated rather low, or in other words the water is very high, for the level is here five hundred feet above the ocean. For all purposes however the effect is the same. A very large sawmill has been erected here by the parties concerned, carrying six gangs of ten saws each, and by the operation of a steam engine of seventy horse power drawing in the longest log, carrying it through the saws by one operation, and then pushing it out ready to be assorted in plank of sizes varying from one inch to seven. Thirty thousand feet of oak, or fifty thousand of pine can be got out in a day. The plank are put into boats and sent down the Canal. There are many loghouses about the Mill and a few scattered over the Island. They are occupied by the people in the owners’ employ.

Mr. White has associated with him his son in law, Mr. Paige, Mr. F. J. Oliver and one other person, a New York gentleman. His enterprise deserves to succeed, for who would think of leaving a very handsome independence in a pleasant and luxurious city, for a loghouse and the forest, but a man with the passion for advancing strong upon 23him. There is no such thing as quietude in this Country. Every thing is going ahead. The acquisition of property is not for enjoyment but for the sake of enlarging the next adventure in the same field.

After spending an hour or two in looking about, we were called away by the arrival of the Steamer Victory and took our leave of all our party excepting Mr. Cramer who decided to come down with us. I cannot say that I felt the loss severely, for I can image to myself a far more refined and agreeable set of companions and yet I regretted them as contrasted with the prospect of our loneliness. To Mr. White individually I expressed the thanks I felt for the uniform gentleness and civility which he had manifested to me. To the remainder of his family my adieus were more civil and less feeling.

On board of the boat which is a small and very poor one, we found a considerable number of persons. The day was warm and the sun scorching. We found amusement in the company of Mr. Cramer who is a good hearted pleasant young man. Our course was first to the American landing which is called Schlosser’s and then to the town of Chippewa, each on its respective side about two miles above the Falls. As we approached, we saw the wreath of white mist over the spot and my sensation of awe which I had yesterday was renewed with increased force. Such a fearful gulf and ourselves floating just above it depending for our protection upon a feeble engine and the working of a steam boiler. I must confess however this peril did not occur to me at first. I had formed no idea of the velocity of the current nor of the distance to the fall until I saw it from below. Then indeed I began to listen to my Wife’s exclamations upon the extent of the hazard. A Steamer with two boilers and engines ought to be put on which would remedy the evil.

Arrived at Chippewa, we took Stages and travelled an extremely bad road at walking pace two miles to the Pavilion. A very large proportion of those who came down took the same direction. We had heard the House spoken of as the best of those on either side of the river and although disappointed in that regard, we found the superiority of the site amply compensated us. After the usual arrangements, I went to the back portico of the House to take a glance at the great spectacle. I saw the upper part of what is called the Horse shoe Fall and could not at all realize its character.

We then returned to dress for dinner and to wait for the afternoon to see the thing more nearly. Accordingly, having got through and dressed ourselves thin for the spray we descended the bank below the House and proceeded to the Table rock and from thence below to the 24descent under the sheet of water. Cramer and a party of gentlemen together with a couple of young ladies dressed themselves to go under the sheet, and I was much tempted but thought of my children and the folly of hazarding a life valuable to them for a momentary gratification. To be sure nobody ever was injured but that would be a bad argument if I should have proved the first instance. The ladies came out frightened to death and the gentlemen having much enjoyed their expedition.

I occupied myself in gazing at the Fall and going as near to it as the spray would permit. To describe it is impossible, to take in the idea of it at once is equally difficult. I looked with that kind of wonder which is not satisfied with seeing and continues under the impression till the mind ceases to be conscious of the cause operating upon it. I was under constant excitement while at Niagara, never ceasing to take pleasure at observing the Fall from the various positions, although I could not analyze in what that pleasure consisted. The view from Table Rock is very fine but another must be taken from below.

Our scrambles which lasted all the afternoon brought us somewhat acquainted with a company of persons who had been fellow passengers in the boat with us and whose appearance prepossessed us. The same effect must have taken place upon them for they were exceedingly civil in the little advances to acquaintance which persons mutually disposed generally make. A hand extended to help a lady from a rock or down a precipitous descent soon brought on conversation, and through Cramer who had a slight acquaintance with them as New York people we were by evening quite well settled. The party proved to be a bridal party—Dr. Wilkes and his Wife, a daughter of James G. King of New York, his sister Miss Wilkes with a married one, Mrs. Colden and her husband, a son of Cadwallader Colden, and together with these were travelling, a Mr. James Peacock and two daughters whom we recollected seeing at West Point where he was one of the visiting Board. In the evening, conversation and a simple, pleasing song from Miss Mary Peacock, the younger of the two. After which we retired fatigued by our day’s exertion.