Travels in America...
(London: Richard Phillips, 1808)
T R A V E L S
A M E R I C A,
PERFORMED IN THE YEAR 1806,
For the Purpose of Exploring the
R I V E R S
ALLEGHANY, MONONGAHELA, OHIO
ASCERTAINING THE PRODUCE AND CONDITION
THEIR BANKS AND VICINITY
BY THOMAS ASHE, ESQ.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
L O N D O N,
PRINTED FOR RICHARD PHILLIPS, BRIDGE STREET;
By John Abraham, Clement's Lane.
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LETTER II.Sun-rise in a deep valley -- Breakfast at an inn -- American forests generally free from under-wood -- The Author kills a large bear in the forest: its deliberate precaution on being shot -- An Indian camp: gradual expulsion of the Indians into the interior, and their approximate extermination --Grandeur and beautiful tints of an autumnal scene -- Laurel-hill -- Delightful vale leading to Pittsburg -- Expences at the American inns -- Comfort a term of very various application.
LETTER III.Situation and description of Pittsburg -- its manufactories -- ship-building, and population -- State of education here -- Character and Persons of the Ladies -- Religious sects -- Schools -- Market-house, and prices of provisions -- Price of land -- Amusements.
LETTER IV.The subject of emigration from Britain considered -- History of an emigrant farmer -- Kentucky peopled by a puffing publication -- Lord Selkirk's colonizations -- District least pernicious for emigrants.
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LETTER VI.Town of Erie -- Description of the Alleghany River -- Trade on it -- Its rise and progress -- Towns and other remarkable places in its course -- Waterford, and journey thence to Meadville -- Big sugar creek and Franklin -- Montgomery's falls -- Ewalt's defeat -- Freeport -- Sandy-creek -- The navigation of the Alleghany dangerous -- Bituminous well -- Alleged virtues of the water of the river -- Onandargo Lake and salt-springs round it -- Fondness of the animals here for salt -- Buffaloes: interesting narrative respecting the destruction of those animals -- Destruction of deer -- Birds frequenting the saline waters -- Doves -- Unhealthiness of the climate and cautions on that subject -- The most salubrious situations -- Details of the manner in which the commerce of the two rivers is conducted -- Immense circuitous journey performed by those chiefly engaged in it -- Every thing done without money -- A store described, and its abuses --Anecdote.
LETTER VII.Traces of a general deluge -- Other great natural phenomena, difficult to be accounted for -- Peculiar wonders of the vegetable and of the fossil kingdom -- List of native plants classed into medicinal, esculent, ornamental, and useful -- Vegetable products of the earth -- Important inquiries and suggestions concerning some of them -- Abundance of vegetable and of mineral productions here, which might be turned to great account if properly explored -- American warriors -- statesmen, and debates in Congress -- divines, lawyers, physicians, and
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LETTER VIII.General view of the River Ohio, and its beauties -- its advantage -- its cource -- its islands -- its depth and navigation -- its obstructions might easily be removed -- Advice to persons wishing to descend the Ohio.
LETTER IX.Proper season to descend the Ohio -- a Monongahela, or Kentucky boat described -- Confluence of the Monongahela and Alleghany waters -- Sublime scenery -- Hamilton's island -- Irwin's island -- difficulties in the course -- Hogs' and Crows' islands -- Mactintosh's town -- Warren's town -- Young's town -- Grape island -- its inhabitants -- cause and manner of their settlement -- its grape vines -- George town -- a spring producing an oil similar to Seneca oil -- experiments to discover its cause -- deductions from them.
LETTER X.Course of the Ohio to Stubenville -- Custard island -- Stubenville -- Congress lands -- Indian honorable confederacy -- Insidious means of some ill disposed whites to possess the country and exterminate its inhabitants -- the Indians become undeceived, and resume the great federal tomahawk -- They put to death many of their cruel invaders, who place themselves under the protection of Congress, and receive its support -- Events of an Indian war -- Peace restored -- its terms -- Finesse of Congress to possess the Indian lands -- Hence arose the North-west territory, now the Ohio State -- The subject of Congress lands continued -- nature of their sales, and price of these lands -- their great profit to land-jobbers -- increase of population of the State -- a Dutch purchaser, his sentiments after experience.
LETTER XI.Charlestown -- Vicious taste in building to the river -- copied from
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LETTER XII.A mail coach road from Philadelphia to Lexington in Kentucky, seven hundred miles -- accommodations on the road -- enchanting valley and creeks -- their origin -- history of the first settlement of Cooandanaga by Irish emigrants -- its judicious regulations -- Mr. Fitzpatrick its head -- manner of passing Sunday in the little republic -- general situation of its inhabitants -- Long Reach -- Indian imitations of animals.
LETTER XIII.Fogs -- night and day currents, their variation, advantages and disadvantages -- Indian practical philosophy -- a sublime prospect -- an interesting breakfast -- settlement of the banks of Long Reach -- description of them -- passage to Marietta -- a dangerous fall -- Little Muskingum River -- Marietta, a flourishing town deserted -- ship building and commercial enterprize -- has the only church from Pittsburg, one hundred and eighty miles distant -- the laws strictly enforced -- its tradesmen, generals, colonels, majors, &c.
LETTER XIV.Marietta -- an inundation -- Fort Harmer -- Indian antiquities -- Be a lover of truth, the maxim of the Western world -- Indian tradition -- an anecdote -- an excursion -- the Muskingum River -- a prospect -- discovery of a vault -- a beautiful tessellated pavement and other remarkable remains of Indian antiquity -- large human skeleton and other curious antiques -- the depository remains of a chief in ancient times -- the author's remarks on these remains of antiquity -- predilection of the Indians for tall and robust chiefs -- wild turkeys.
LETTER XV.Indian incantations and charms -- priests -- their extraordinary knowledge and gifts -- interesting explanations of the cause -- very remarkable antiquities -- encounter with a rattle-snake, which is killed -- deer -- wild turkeys -- Zanesville -- further very remote and grand antiquities -- golden treasure found -- the bubble bursts.
(remainder of contents not transcribed)
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[ 1 ]
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, October, 1806.DEAR SIR.
I THOUGHT that yon knew my heart too well, to attribute my silence to a decay of affection; and I had hopes that you entertained too just an opinion of my head, to expect from me extraordinary discoveries in philosophy or
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politics. At the same time, I hope to convince yon that my supposed neglect has operated to the advantage of my correspondence.
The American states through which I have passed, are unworthy of your observation. Those to the north-east are indebted to nature for but few gifts: they are better adapted for the business of grazing than for corn. The climate is equally subject to the two extremes of burning heat and excessive cold; and bigotry, pride, and a malignant hatred to the mother-country, characterize the inhabitants. The middle States are less contemptible: they produce grain for exportation; but wheat requires much labour, and is liable to blast on the sea-shore. The national features here are not strong and those of different emigrants have not yet composed a face of local deformity: we still see the liberal English, the ostentatious
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Scotch, the warm-hearted Irish the penurious Dutch, the proud German, the solemn Spaniard, the gaudy Italian, and the profligate French. What kind of character is hereafter to rise from an amalgamation of such discordant materials, I am at a loss to conjecture.
For the southern States, nature has done much, but man little. Society is here in a shameful degeneracy: an additional proof of the pernicious tendency of those detestable principles of political licentiousness, which are not only adverse to the enjoyment of practical liberty, and to the existence of regular authority, but destructive also of comfort and security in every class of society; doctrines here found by experience, to make men turbulent citizens, abandoned Christians, inconstant husbands, unnatural fathers, and treacherous friends. I shun the humiliating
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delineation, and turn my thoughts to happier regions which afford contemplation without disgust; and where mankind, scattered in small associations, are not totally depraved or finally corrupt. Under such impressions, I shall write to you with pleasure and regularity; trusting to your belief, that my propensity to the cultivation of literature has not been encouraged in a country where sordid speculators alone succeed, where classic fame is held in derision, where grace and taste are unknown, and where the ornaments of style are condemned or forgotten. Thus guarding you against expectations that I should fear to disappoint, I proceed to endeavour at gratifying the curiosity which my ramblings excite in your mind.
The town of Pittsburg * is distant
* Situated in latitude 40 degrees 26 minutes north, and longitude 79 degrees 48 minutes west from London.
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rather more than 300 miles from Philadelphia: of which space, 150 miles are a continued succession of mountains, serving as a barrier against contending seas; and as a pregnant source of many waters, which take opposite directions, and after fertilizing endless tracts and enriching various countries, are lost in the immensity of the Mexican Gulf and the Atlantic Ocean. Knowing the road to be mountainous and stony, I preferred travelling on horseback to going in a stage-coach, that is seven or eight days on the road; and the fare in which, for the whole journey, is twenty-four dollars. The first sixty miles were a turnpike road; and my horse, which cost me only eighty dollars, arrived tolerably fresh at the end of them in twelve hours.
The place at which I stopped was Lancaster, the county-town of Pennsylvania. T he inhabitants are chiefly Dutch and Irish, or of Dutch and Irish
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extraction: they manufacture excellent rifle guns and other hardware. The town is large, clean, and well built; but in spite of these attractions, I quitted it the next morning by sun-rise. Dr. Johnson was never more solicitous to leave Scotland, than I was to be out of the Atlantic States.
In hurrying along the next day, my career was interrupted by the rapid Susquehanna. The peevishness and dissatisfaction which before possessed me were now compelled to yield to contrary sensations. The breadth and beauty of the river, the height and grandeur of its banks, the variation of scenery, the verdure of the forests, the murmur of the water, and the melody of birds, all conspired to fill my mind with vast and elevated conceptions.
Harrisburg, a handsome Dutch town, stands on the east bank of this river. I did not stop however, but pursued
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my course to Carlisle; which has a college, and the reputation of a place of learning. This may be so but, I have the misfortune to dispute it; for though indeed I saw an old brick building called the university, in which the scholars had not left a whole pane of glass, I did not meet a man of decent literature in the town. I found a few who had learning enough to be pedantic and imprudent in the society of the vulgar, but none who had arrived at that degree of science which could delight and instruct the intelligent.
Having thus no motive for delay here, I passed on to Shippensburg and Strasburg both German or Dutch towns; the latter at the foot of the stupendous mountains before alluded to, and which are called the Alleghany. During the first and second days I met with no considerable objects but such as I was prepared to expect; immense hills, bad
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(pages 8-71 not yet transcribed)
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apples, peach-brandy, bacon, iron, glass, earthen ware, cabinet-work, &c. all being the produce and manufacture of the country, and destined for Kentuckey and New Orleans; and the latter carrying furniture, utensils, and tools for the cultivation of the soil. No scene can be more pleasing to a philosophic mind than this: which presents to view a floating town, as it were, on the face of a river whose gentle rapidity and flowered banks add sublimity to cheerfulness; and the sweet harmony of the songsters of the woods, to the hoarseness of the falling cataract or the murmur of the quiet stream.
Eight miles below this town is Cheat river, the mouth of which is obstructed by a long and difficult shoal: a pilot should always be taken to guide a stranger through this. Twelve miles from this shoal, and on the east side, is George's creek: below the mouth of
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which is situated New Geneva a thriving town, and distinguished for extensive manufactories in its vicinity which make and export large quantities of good glass. Kentuckey and other boats are built here. A little below and on the opposite side of the river, lies Greensburg; a small village, of which nothing favourable can be said.
Thirty-one miles from this last place is Brownsville, formerly called Redstone. This town is well known to those who migrate down the rivers. It is handsomely situated, but somewhat divided: a part lying on the first bank, but more on a second and higher one; both the banks being formed by the gradual subsidence of the water. It is a place of much business, and contains about a hundred houses and six hundred souls. The settlement round it is excellent: having some of the best mills to be found in the country; and among them
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an extensive paper-mill, which is the only one at this side of the mountains except that lately erected in Kentuckey. A variety of boats are built here, and an extensive rope-walk is carried on, with various other valuable manufactories. The inhabitants are principally German and Dutch; and this accounts at once for the wealth, morals, and industry, of the place.
William's-port lies nineteen miles below Brownsville. The town is small, but well situated: and is increasing in business; as it has a fine settlement, and lies on the direct road from Philadelphia to Whulan [sic] on the Ohio, and other places of conveyance.
Beautifully situated, eleven miles further down the stream, stands Elizabeth-town; where considerable business is done in the boat and ship-building way. A ship called the Monongahela Farmer, and sevensl otber vessels of
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considerable burthen, were built here; and, loaded with the produce of the adjacent country, passed from the midst of the mountains to the bosom of the sea through circuitous fresh-water streams that enrich provinces for an extent of nearly 2,400 miles.
Mackee's-port, also pleasantly situated, lies eight miles still lower, and just beyond the junction of the Yougheogheny and the Monongahela. Many boats are built here and on that account, migrators to the lower country generally choose this place for embarking. It is increasing in business, and indicates a likelihood to rise to some importance. A spot on the east side of the river, end eight miles from Mackee's-port, is called Braddock's-defeat, in commemoration of the melancholy destruction of that British general and his force by the Indians in the American war. Nine
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miles further down stands Pittsburg, which I have already described.
As I did not stop to interrupt my rapid sketch of this river by mentioning a variety of interesting particulars which occur on its banks, I shall now return to a few of them.
The neighbourhood of Brownsville, or Redstone, abounds with monuments of Indian antiquity. They consist of fortified camps, barrows for the dead, images and utensils, military appointments, &c.
A fortified camp (which is a fortification of a very complete nature, on whose ramparts timber of five feet in diameter now grows) commands the town of Brownsville, which undoubtedly was once an Indian settlement. This camp contains about thirteen acres, enclosed in a circle, the elevation of which is seven feet above the adjoining ground. Within the circle, a pentagon is accurately
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described; having its sides four feet high, and its angles uniformly three feet from the circumference of the circle, thus leaving an unbroken communication all round. Each side of the pentagon has a postern, opening into the passage between it and the circle; but the circle itself has only one grand gateway which directly faces the town. Exactly in the centre stands a mound, about thirty feet high, hitherto considered as a repository of the dead; and which any correct observer can perceive to have been a place of look-out. I confess that I examined these remains of the former power of man with much care and veneration; nor could I resist reproaching those writers who have ignorantly asserted, "We know of no such thing existing as an Indian monument of respectability; for we would not honour with that name arrow-points, stone hatchets, stone pipes, half-shapen images, &c."
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I ask those writers, what opinion they entertain of the object which I now describe: and I request them, when they are again disposed to enlighten the world with their lucubrations, to visit the countries which they profess to delineate; and diligently search for materials there, before they presume to tell us that such have no existence.
At an inconsiderable distance from the fortification, was a small rising ground; on the side of which I perceived a large projecting stone, a portion of the upper surface of which was not entirely concealed in the bank. If the perceptible portion of it had been marked with the irregular traces that distinguish the hand of Nature, I might have sat on this stone in silent meditation on the object which it immediately commanded; but I conceived that the surface had that uniform and even character which exhibits the result of industry and art.
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Animated by a variety of conjectures, I hastened to the town to engage assistance: and quickly returned to clear away the earth; which bore strong indications of having fallen on the stone, and not having primitively engendered it. In proportion as I removed the obstruction, I paused to dwell on the nature of the discovery: my heart beat as I proceeded, and my imagination traced various symbols which vanished before minute investigation. The stone was finally cleared in a rough manner; and represented to our view a polygon with a smooth surface of eight feet by five. I could not immediately form any conclusion, yet I persisted in the opinion that the hand of man had been busy in the formation of this object; nor was I diverted from this idea by the discouragement of the persons whom I employed, and the laughter of the multitude that followed me from the town to
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gaze on my labour and delight in my disappointment. Though the earth was now cleaned from the general surface of the stone, small quantities of it remained in certain irregular traces; and this I determined to remove before abandoning expectations which I entertained with so much zeal. I accordingly commenced this operation, to the no small amusement of the spectators, and with considerable anxiety: for none of the indentions traversed the stone in right and parallel lines; but they lay scattered without any apparent order, and I cherished the hope of decyphering a systematic inscription. With a pointed stick I followed the nearest indention, and soon discovered that it described a circle which completed its revolution at the spot where I had commenced clearing it. A ray of triumph now shone in my countenance: the people no longer ridiculed me, but a silent expectation manifested
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a desire that I might be crowned with further success. On continuing, I cleared a right line which made a segment on the circle, though it did not touch the circumference at either end. I cleared in succession four other lines of this description; and the general view then presented a circle inclosing a regular pentagon, whose angles were two inches from the circumference. The multitude shouted applause: some of them even entered into the spirit of my design, and returned to their homes for water and brushes to scrub the stone. When this task was effected, there appeared a figure of the head of an Indian warrior etched in the centre. Each side of the pentagon was intersected by a small bar, and the circle was also cut by one bar immediately opposite to a right line drawn from the head of the man. Near each line were an equal number of little dots: and the circle was surrounded by many
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more; all uniform in their srze, and in their distance from the circle amd from each other.
The deductions from this very interesting spectacle, did not however give me the pride and delight that I ought to have felt; for in reality they destroyed my most favourite conceptions, -- that the predecessors of the Indians were not only enlightened by the arts and sciences, but were a different sort of men from the present race, superior both in corporeal structure and mental endowment, and equal in the latter respect to the inhabitants of polished Europe. I was obliged to allow that the fact before my eyes abolished my theory entirely, for the representation on the stone was nothing more than a rude sketch of the adjoining fort which I have just described. The bars on the lines in the etching, designated the posterns and gateway; the dots denoted the
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length of the lines, and the extent of the circumference of the circle; and the warrior's head justified the opinion which l had entertained, that the mound in the centre of the fort was a place for a sentinel of observation. The etching is deep and executed with considerable accuracy; yet the whole has an Indian air: the head is indelibly marked with savage features, and resembles many which the modern tribes carve on their pipes and tomahawkes.
Two barrows or burial-places lie contiguous to the fort: I perforated them in many places, to discover whether the bones lay in positions which announced any particular religious or customary injunction; but could discover nothing on which to form an opinion with any certainty: though I was influenced by a tradition extant among the native Indians, that when their ancestors settled in a town, the first person who
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died was placed erect, and earth put about him so as to cover and support him; and that when another died, a narrow passage was dug to the first, against whom he was reclined, and the cover of the earth then replaced; and so on. Most barrows hitherto discovered have been of a spheroidical form, which favours this tradition. The one which I here opened, might have been originally a parallelogram, sixty feet by twenty, and thirty feet high, whose upper surface and angles have been rounded by the long influence of time and accident; for we are not to conceive that the form of ancient works is exactly similar to that which they first possessed. Such indeed as are built of stone, and have not been exposed to dilapidation, do not experience any material change: but all those monuments (and they are by far the most numerous) which are composed of earth, must have undergone
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considerable alteration and waste, and therefore afford a very scanty evidence of their original dimensions, or (except where bones are found) of their purpose.
The bones in the barrows of this neighbourhood were directed to every point without any regard to system or order. This surprised me the more, as I am well convinced that in general most of the ancient aboriginal nations and tribes had favourite positions for their dead, and even favourite strata with which to cover them; as I shall have occasion to explain to you when on the spot where the primitive Indian tribes resided. Perhaps the irregularities in the barrows of this place may arise from the bones deposited in them, having been those of persons killed in battle, and collected by the survivors in order to be buried under one great mound. This conjecture is the more probable, as there is abundant testimony that Indians dying naturally have been
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always interred with great pomp, and certain rites and positions existing to this day among them, which they are instructed to maintain by their most respected traditions.
At the same time and place I found in my researches a few carved stone pipes and hatchets, flints for arrows, and pieces of earthenware. I cannot take upon me to say that the workmanship of any of these articles surpasses the efforts of some of the present race of Indians; but it certainly destroys an opinion which prevailed, that the inhabitants in the most remote times had the use of arms, utensils, and instruments, made of copper, iron, and steel. The discovery however of these objects mixed with the bones of the dead, proves the high antiquity of the custom of burying with deceased persons such things as were of the most utility and comfort to them in life.
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Marietta, June, 1806.I MENTIONED in my last, that this town is built on a very high plain, inclined to the mountain, and that the part of the bank on which it more immediately stands, is near sixty feet above the surface of low water. I should have been satisfied that the situation was admirably calculated for the comfort and health of the inhabitants, and would possibly have recommended it as the best site I had yet seen for a city, had I not perceived, while at breakfast this morning, that the parlour in which I sat, was distinctly marked all round with a water-mark from seven to eight inches high. As I could by no means admit the idea of inundation, I could in no manner account for the appearance and was compelled to seek information from others. I give you the result of my enquiries.
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In the spring of 1805, the Ohio and the Muskingum rose at the same time to a more than ordinary height. The first flowed in a volume so impetuous across the mouth of the latter, that it entirely stopped its course, and forced a return of the water by the revolving instrument of a newly created counter-current. The Ohio remaining for near six weeks as a strong wall and rampart against the mouth of the Muskingum, caused that rivers's waters at length to back and multiply to such a degree, that they overflowed its banks, and inundated every plain to which it could gain access. This inundation being obstructed by the mountain in the rear of Marietta, was thrown towards the Ohio, and taking Marietta in its course, did great injury to the town; destroyed gardens and fences; carried off several frame-houses not firmly attached to the ground, and swept away
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every loose object and every living thing not endowed with the faculty of holding on, and of consulting the best means of self-preservation The flood descending rapidly into the Ohio, did her bank considerable injury; wore it into canals and gullies, and abridged the quay and promenade of the inhabitants. I consider this event as very alarming its recurrence may, in some future period, with redoubled force, bear off the town and bank, "leaving not a wreck behind."
Fort Harmer, erected by the Americans when subjugating the Indians, is situated on the Muskingum, opposite to this town, and the town itself has in its centre, the remains of an old Log-Guard, built at the same time, and for similar purposes
Whoever delights in Indian antiquity, should explore this neighbourhood; and give the world some minute and historical
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sketches of the variety of its remains said to consist of camps, forts, burial-grounds, &c. &c. As this must be a work of time connected with much perseverance, erudition, and interest, it is entirely out of my province; and I must leave it to those whose curiosity, leisure, and intelligence, may concur to induce them to make such interesting researches. Notwithstanding, I could not leave the place without taking a ramble to the spots where by tradition, the monuments of Indian antiquity were said to abound: -- the places pointed at, were the banks, hills, and head waters of the Muskinghum. You may be surprised to find me put so much faith in tradition, which you may conceive to be nothing more than fables founded on superstition, and clothed in the garb of an obscure mystery, calculated to deceive and mislead the multitude, with the view of working on their
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passions; and reducing them to an observance of certain rites, habits, and moral or religious institutions. This definition may apply to the traditions of the Eastern, but not to those of the Western world. Of the few axioms which compose the system of savage instruction, this is the principal, "Be a lover of Truth." It is natural then to believe, that the traditions of a people so instructed should be grounded on a fact, and though that fact might be disguised by embellishment and strained by fancy, its immutability remains inviolate and continues for ever the same. I am strengthened in these opinions, by the following anecdote which, also proves, that a geographical accuracy exists in tradition equal to the most historical guide.
A barrow of considerable extent and magnitude exists in a remote part of Virginia, and several miles distant from
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any public road. That portion of the country was formerly the property of a nation of Indians, who, driven from their possessions, crossed the mountains, descended towards "the land of the sleeping sun," and finally pitched their tents in the plains of Indiana, where the Great Spirit was often known to dwell, and to interpose his strength in favor of the unhappy
After a lapse of eighty years of continued sufferings and adversity; after the conclusion of the Indian war, carried on by the States, with the design to annihilate the Indian name and power, a party of the descendants of this nation proceeded through Virginia with an interpreter, to Congress, in order to demand their rights, or to sue for a remuneration of those so unjustly violated, and torn from them. On coming into the latitude of the barrow of their ancestors, where were deposited
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the bones of their fathers," they struck to it directly through the woods, without any instructions or enquiry; and having staid about it some time, with expressions which were construed to be those of sorrow, they returned to the high road, which they had purposely left for several miles, to pay this solemn and pious visit, and then pursued their journey.
Can you now deny some degree of belief to Indian tradition? Surely this anecdote is of the finest interest, and induces the mind, not only to belief, but to admiration; and to every sentiment which distinguishes the moral and human part of the world.
Having made arrangements for an absence of a few days, I provided myself with an excellent tinder-box, some biscuit and salt (articles absolutely necessary to an explorer) and arming Cuff with a good axe and rifle, taking
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myself a fowling-piece oft tried, and followed by a faithful dog, I crossed the ferry of the Muskingum, having learned that the left-hand side of that river was the most accessible, and the most abundant in the curiosities and other objects of my research. The Muskingum is two hundred and eighty yards wide at its mouth, and two hundred yards at the lower Indian towns, one hundred and fifty miles upwards. It is navigable for small batteaus, to within one mile of a navigable part of Cayahoga River, which runs into Lake Eric.
On traversing the valley between Fort Harmer and the mountains, I determined to take the high grounds, and after some difficulty ascended an eminence which commanded a view in one direction from off the river into the Ohio; in another up the river a few miles and over a large tract of hilly back country;
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and, nearly directly across the Muskinghum could be seen Marietta; her gardens popular trees, ship yards, public buildings, and her highly cultivated plains; extending in a narrow breadth along the Ohio many interesting miles. After a very short inspection, and cursory examination, it was very evident that the spot on which I stood, had been occupied by the Indians, either as a place of observation or a strong hold, The exact summit of the hill I found to be artificial it expressed an oval (agreeing with the natural form of the foundation) forty-five feet by twenty-three, and was composed apparently of earth and stone, though no stone of a similar character appeared near. The base of the oval was girded by a wall in a state of too great decay to justify any calculation; and the whole was so covered with heavy timber, and a bed of such thick bars, that I despaired of gaining
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any farther knowledge, and would have instantly left the place, had I not been detained by Cuff, whom I saw occupied in endeavouring to introduce a pole in a small opening between two flags near the root of a tree which grew on the crown of the oval or summit of the hill. He told me he was sure that he had found the burrow of a ground-hog, or rattle-snake's nest, and as I had brought no provision but biscuit, it might be well to look out for supper in time. Though this fare was not of a very inviting nature, or consistent with my feelings and habits, I gratified the fellow's whim, and assisted him to remove, first, all the leaves and rubbish, and next the large stones, under which we expected to find a litter of wild pigs, or a nest of rattle-snakelings.
The flags were too heavy to be removed by the mere power of hands. Two good oak poles were cut in lieu of
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leavers and crows. Clapping these into the orifice first discovered we weighed a large flag stone, and on tilting it over we each assumed a guard, and waited a few moments, in silent expectation of hearing the hissing of vermin, or the rustling of beasts. Nothing was heard. We resumed our labour, cast out a number of stones, leaves, and earth, and cleared a surface seven feet by five, which had been covered upwards of fifteen inches deep, with flat stones principally, lying on each other with their edges pointing above the horizon. The surface we had cleared offered insuperable difficulties It was a plain superficies composed of but three stones of such apparent magnitude, that Cuff began to think we should find under them neither snake or wild hog. "If we look for supper under these stones," says my humble companion, "the moon will shine on an empty stomach,
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and that is not lucky the first night of a voyage." Having once begun, I was not to be diverted from the task. Stimulated by obstruction, and animated by other views than hogs, snakes, and supper, I had made a couple of paddles of hickary shovels, and setting to work, undermined the surface; and, after much toil and exertion, slid the stones off, and laid the space open to my view. I expected to find a cavern. In fact, my imagination was warmed by a certain design, I thought I discovered. The manner the stones were placed led me to conceive the existence of a vault filled with the riches of antiquity, or crowded with the treasures of the most ancient world. A bed of sand was all that appeared under the flags I cast off, and as I knew sand not to be nearer than the bed of the Muskingum, a design was again so manifest as to eneourage my proceeding, and the sand,
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(note: page number 312 is misnumbered as "314")which was about a foot deep, was soon removed. The design and labour of man was now unequivocal. The space out of which these materials were taken, left a hollow in an oblong square, lined with stone on the ends and sides; and paved with square stones, on the apparent bottom or upper surface, exactly fitting together, in diameter about nine inches. I picked these up with the nicest care, and again came to a bed of sand, the removal of which left my vault, as it now evidently shewed itself, near three feet deep, presenting another bottom or surface composed of small square cut stones, fitted with such art that I had much difficulty in discovering many of the places where they met. These displaced, I came to a substance, which, on the most critical examination, I judged to be a mat or mats in a state of entire decomposition and decay. Reverence and care encreasing with the progress already made, I took up
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this impalpable powder with my hands, and fanned off the remaining dust with my hat. Great indeed was my recompence for this industry! Grand was the reward of my persevering labor and strengthened hopes! There appeared before me; there existed under my feet, a beautiful tessellated pavement of small coloured stones; the colors and stones arranged in such a manner as to express harmony and shades, and to pourtray the full-length figure of a warrior, under whose feet a snake was exhibited in ample folds. To tread on a pavement of such exquisite beauty and workmanship, formed by hands centuries ago, and by the ancestors of a race of people now rejected and despised, could not be done without an awful emotion.
Overcome by feelings I could neither combat or suppress, I remained for sometime silent and inactive, and at length
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rose out of the vault to recover my usual energy and strength of mind. I had also spent the best part of the day; evening was fast approaching, and I had formed no plan for the accommodation of the night. I resolved to remain where I was. A good fire being made, I sent Cuff with the rifle into the woods, that is into a part which appeared likely to harbour wild turkeys, and directed him to steer for my fire on his return, and not to remain after the fall of night. Overjoyed at the prospect of his excursion, he had not left me two minutes before he commenced his notes. They at first appeared high and multifareous, or without any ultimate end, but before he bad gone three hundred yards, they subsided into the proper modulation of a parent turkey calling around her tender young. From this he never varied while he could be heard.
Left to myself I felt more at liberty,
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Like a miser, I wished, uninterrupted to examine my treasure. I again descended into the vault, occupied with the desire of being able to separate the pavement in such a manner, and to imprint on every stone such marks as would enable me to put it together at any future period, and bring it home for the advantage and delight of the curious world. I had made but very little progress before I discovered the impracticability of my intention. No part of the pavement was exactly of the tessalate character except the space between the outlines of the: figures and the sides and ends of the entire space. The body of the figures was composed of dyed woods, bone, and a variety of small bits of terreous and testacious substances, most of which crumbled into dust on being removed and exposed to the open air. My regret and disappointment were very great, as I had flattered myself, that the whole was stone
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and susceptible of being taken up in high preservation. Little more than the actual pavement could be preserved; it is composed of flat stones one inch deep, two inches square, and the prevailing colours are white, green, dark-blue, and pale spotted red: all of which are peculiar to the lakes and not to be had nearer. They are evidently known and filled with a precision which proves them to have been but from one common example. The whole was affixed in a thin layer of sand which covered a large piece of beech-bark in great decay, whose removal exposed what I was fully prepared to discover from all the previous indications, the remains of a human skeleton of uncommon magnitude, extended in a bark shell, which also contained, 1st. An earthen urn, or rather pot of earthen ware in which were several small broken bones and some white sediment. The urn appears to be made of sand and flint
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vitrified, rings like a rummer glass, holds about two gallons, has a top or cover of the same material, and resists fire as completely as iron or brass. 2. A stone hatchet with a groove round the pole by which it was fastened with a withe to the handle. 3. Twenty-four arrow points made of flint and bone, and lying in a position which betrayed their having belonged to a quiver. 4. A quantity of beads, round, oval and square; coloured green, black, white, blue and yellow. 5. A conch shell decomposed into a substance like chalk. This shell is fourteen inches long and twenty-three in circumference: larger than any other I have seen or heard of the kind. 6. Under a heap of dust, and tenuous shreds of feathered cloth and hair, a parcel of brass rings cut by an art unknown to me, out of a solid piece of that metal, and in such a manner that the rings are suspended from each other, without the
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aid of solder or any other visible agency whatever. Each ring is three inches in diameter, and has an horizontal circumference half an inch wide, on both sides of which are strongly etched, a variety of characters resembling Chinese, the decyphering of which my scanty erudition has no pretentions to reach.
Of the skeleton I have preserved a small part of the vertebral column; a portion of the skull; a part of the under jaw inclosing two grinders of great size; the bones of the thighs and legs, and some melecarpi of the hands and feet. The ribs, clavicles, vertebrae of the neck and spine, &c. were nearly an impalpable powder, or entirely consum. Judging from comparison and analogy, the being to whom these remains belonged could not have been less than seven foot high. That he was a king, sachem or chief of a very remote period there can be no manner of doubt. The distinction, ingenuity,
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labor, and care, with which he was buried, and the mausoleum constructed for him alone, on an eminence above the multitude, and its disregarded dead, proclaims this beyond dispute; and, from the subjects found in the interments, the following (at least, and perhaps many more) useful conclusions may be drawn. 1. The Indians of the most remote antiquity possessed the art of making potters' ware in a perfection unknown to the present times, in as much their's is light, strong, transparent, and capable of enduring fires. 2. It does not appear that they were acquainted with the use of iron when they employed stone hatchets and flint and bone arrow points. 5. That they had the science of impregnating stones wood and shells, with a variety of colours, is manifest from the pavement and beads and figures which have tints which we know they are by nature denied. 4. That they had a communication
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with the sea though distant from them two thousand miles, or that the sea was once more in their vicinity, is implied by the conch which contained a marine animal incapable of subsisting in any other than salt water. 5. The tenuous shreds of feathered cloth, worked on woven hair, announce some intercourse with South America and a knowledge of its manufactures as the feathers of the northern birds are not calculated for show, nor are any nations north of Mexico acquainted with their fabrication. 6. That they knew the use and properties of brass is very clear, and that they could work it with skill, is equally evident. 7. If the characters on the rings be in fact Chinese, or if they bear a strong and significant analogy to them, it again justifies a suspicion which formerly prevailed that a communication existed between Asia and America since destroyed by some violent agitation of the earth
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at the Straits of Bearing, or by a reverse of climate which renders that passage inaccessible, and too difficult and cold for the powers and temperament now accorded to men. 8. If the characters on the rings be original and unknown to any other of the nations of the earth it must shew that the use of letters: and the art of engraving were known to American tribes many ages since and also prove that when we speak of America as a new country, on which science never shone and in which social arts, agriculture and commerce, never flourished, we arrogate to ourselves more information than we are entitled to, and betray a presumption and ignorance for which we ought to blush. And 9. The remarkable size of the skeleton would signify that the Indians of every time were fond of associating in their chiefs, physical as well as mental endowments. That this king should unite a gigantic form to wisdom and intrepidity
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of heart appears to have been ever their favourite principle. Even the few scattered nations which still remain, and whose monarchs are elective, betray this passion in their choice, and pay much more deference to a prince of inordinate stature than to one of common magnitude. The present chief of the Osage, a warlike nation inhabiting the borders of the Missouri, is full seven feet high, and every way proportionate; a distinctive qualification well known of various other American chiefs. It is true, at the same time, that the principal of the great Miami tribe, living near the waters of Antaria, is a poor diminutive creature called by his people the "Little Snake," but his instance is a very honourable exception to a vulgar and general predilection. The "Little Snake," during the Indian war, was the first in the council and second to none in the field. In proportion as he became terrible to
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his enemies, he was the pride and praise of his friends: the title of the "Little Snake" (implying his wisdom and power to injure) was conferred upon him; he was unanimously elected chief, and the world had to witness the fine spectacle of several thousand Indians casting off their prejudices and doing homage to virtue and the endowments of the mind.
There is no doubt but that this monument and these remains merit a more ample speculation than I have afforded them. Perhaps my few remarks may suggest to you and others ideas of a happier and more material nature. If they cause a brighter coruscation of genius to break from minds of stronger cast than mine, or if they produce arguments and philosophy of a more judicious and less feeble character than themselves, formed as they were at the moment from the impulse of feelings and the tyranny of circumstance, I shall be content, and in
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the place of imposing instruction, I shall be found solicitous to receive information.
I returned the particular objects nearly to their respective situations and with the assistance of Cuff, who had but just returned, carried them in such a manner that they could not be injured by the weather or violated by other hands: it being my intention on my return down the river to secure them with care and take them into my boat.
Cuff had succeeded so well that he had great hopes his residence among Christians had not entirely obliterated his savage virtues. His imitative powers were still in such perfection that the wild turkeys acknowledged his voice, and the life of one of them paid for their credulity. He brought me a fine turkey of the last year, fat, and weighing about sixteen pounds. As the night was well set in and the day had been laborious, no time
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was lost in preparing supper, that is in broiling a part of the turkey on some bright embers, and laying it on some green leaves before us, with some good biscuit and a bottle of water from an adjacent spring. I relished this primitive entertainment as well as any of the sumptuous banquets it has, at times fallen to my lot to partake of in Europe.
The wild turkey is excellent food, and has this remarkable property, that the fat is never offensive to the stomach.
When Kentucky was first settled it abounded with turkeys to such a degree that the settlers said the light was often interrupted by them, Though this may be considered a figure, still it is well known that they were extremely numerous, so much so that he was esteemed an indifferent sportsman who could not kill a dozen in a day. Even at this time they are sold in Lexington market for half a dollar a pair. They are, notwithstanding,
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becoming very scarce, and, addicted as all classes of people in that state are to an intemperate predilection for destroying every living aboriginal creature, their total extinction must be near at hand. They yet abound in this Ohio State, and possibly will, for many years; till it becomes more peopled.
I cannot pretend that wild turkeys differ in any striking manner from the domestic ones I have every where seen, except the length of their wings; their superior plumage, their attitude and lively expression in walking. The cock too has a beard composed of about one hundred hairs which hangs in a streamer from under the bick. The hair is thicker than a pig's bristle, and the length accords with the age. In the young the beard is hardly perceptible, in the old it descends more than half a foot. I have killed a wild turkey cock which weighed thirty pounds and whose beard was ten
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inches long: the flesh was execrable, nearly as hard as iron, and as black as jet. The young on the contrary are white and tender, delicate meat, and of exquisite flavor.
Wild turkeys are gregarious. The flocks from fifty to sixty. They are migratory. They winter to the southward and return in the spring to the deepest recesses of the woods, where they construct their nests with such care and concealment, that few instances ever occur of the eggs or young being found. Where eggs have been obtained and hatched under a domestic turkey, the young shew a great disposition to thrive and remain about the house very contentedly till their first spring, when they rise, without indicating a previous talent for flying, into the air, take a few circles round the heads of their old friends and make for a wilderness whence they never more return.
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Having chatted with my Mandan associate for some time on this and other subjects, the hours were so much beguiled, that it was full time to make some kind of shade under which to rest. This was done in a few moments: two forked poles were cut and driven in the ground six feet from each other. A third pole was cut and placed on three forks. Against this upper cross pole were laid branches so matted with shrubs, that by lying to leeward no wind could he felt, and by making a bed of dry leaves of good depth, and keeping the feet towards the fire, no cold or inconvenience could be apprehended. For fear this preparatory business should expose you to too sleepy a visitation, and my letter to contempt, I close for the present.
THE END OF VOL. I.
T R A V E L S
A M E R I C A,
PERFORMED IN THE YEAR 1806,
For the Purpose of Exploring the
R I V E R S
ALLEGHANY, MONONGAHELA, OHIO
ASCERTAINING THE PRODUCE AND CONDITION
THEIR BANKS AND VICINITY
BY THOMAS ASHE, ESQ.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
L O N D O N,
PRINTED FOR RICHARD PHILLIPS, BRIDGE STREET;
By John Abraham, Clement's Lane.
( 1 )
Marietta, June, 1806.I PASSED the night near the mausoleum without any other interruption than what proceeded from the howl of hungry wolves exasperated on seeing a fire keep from them victims they durst
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not approach. I also had to renew the fire, and to suffer Cuff to perform certain rites and incantations, in the manner of his country, and which had the faculty of checking the advances of snakes. He expressed these offices by stalking several times round our tent His gesticulation was strong, and his cries horrible. He also uttered some barbarous words; described a circle on each round with the end of a stick, and, after shedding certain leaves on the circle, he concluded with three more infernal yells; and then, under a decided impression or strong conviction of safety, cast himself near me on his berth. It would seem, that priestcraft, connected as it is in the native ministers of this country, with an affectation of sorcery and supernatural power, gains great dominion over every savage mind, and disposes to the belief and practice of every absurdity. There are,
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therefore, no people more under the subjugation of superstition, or who exercise such a variety of charms and exorcisms, as the Indians; in the uses and particular terms and applications of which they are instructed with the utmost precision, by their priests and physicians: those two professions being always united in one character. The priests, savage and untutored as they were, saw, at a very early period, that to establish their fame, and an ample sway over the public mind, it was necessary for them on every essential occasion, to manifest infinite skill; and to prove that they were the favorite children of the Great Spirit, by his having endowed them with a portion of his power, and given them permission to display that power in public exhibitions of extraordinary miracles. Hence from the most early ages, have they been going about healing wounds, curing
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inveterate diseases, and giving ocular demonstration of their dominion over all descriptions of envenomed and noxious reptiles, by suffering them to twine round their bodies, and passing through their fingers and hair without inflicting on them any manner of injury. So complete is the tyranny they have established over rattle-snakes, and others armed with weapons equally deadly, that they lure them from their deepest retreats, and make them fly from or follow them by apparent command. *
As this preternatural knowledge and powers are exhibited in the face of day before multitudes, the respect shewn to the priest, and the observance paid their instruction and precepts, ceases to
* It is remarkable, that in Egypt, the sect of Sadi possess similar power over snakes.
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be the object of surprize, and the mind fastens on a true ground for admiration and astonishment and asks from what authority do the Indian priests derive the power of curing disease and of subjugating the most malignant creatures of the reptile world? The question is very comprehensive, and, no doubt, sufficient to invite the investigation of the learned. For my part, not having taste for elaborate discussion, or talent for metaphisical research, I am reduced to answer the question nearly in a word. "They derive their knowledge and their power from the great book of nature which a beneficent God has laid open before them." On assuming the united offices of physician and priest, they soon became conscious that any attribute or reverence to be accorded to their character of priest, was to be drawn from the skill and acquirements they could display in their profession of physician,
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To obtain that skill and those acquirements they have to study nature, and that they do with the most unwearied assiduity and application. Their own particular saying is, "Nature produces nothing for nothing:" implying that whatever is, is for some particular end and purpose. This leads them to investigate the properties of things, the qualities of plants, and the nature of simples, in order to make them subservient to their will, and applicable to their exigencies. They were evidently conducted to these interesting enquiries, and to the useful knowledge resulting from them, by observing, that the animals of the forests and fields, with whom they in a manner associated, on eating any noxious herb, had immediate resource to a salutary one, which counteracted the poison of the other, They also observed, that many plants and herbs were purgative, others
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astringent. To these and many others, they perceived animals, in a state of sickness drawn by a secret impulse, whilst those in health past them by in disgust. Animals bitten by venomous reptile, and impregnated by the strongest vines, were seen to seek a peculiar plant to recover their energy and strength; and these reptiles in their turn, have been known to betray violent apprehension at the approach of a hog, and to shew such antipathy to certain herbs, trees, and plants, as to suffer death sooner than avoid it by passing over them. Objects, too, have been discovered to which snakes in particular, have such passion and attachment, that they abandon their security, and face every danger to enjoy them.
Armed with all this knowledge, the priests come before the world as persons inspired. Knowing that their science would have little eclat if known to have
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been acquired in the fields, and from the animals in the forests and woods they never display any part of it without wild cries and horrid gesticulation. Hence, whenever they administer the simple applicable to the disorder, they express cabalistical ejaculations, shrieks and contortions, to impress on the patient's and public mind an idea that the cure is to proceed from their mysterious proceedings, which alone gives operation and virtue to the remedies they administer. On healing sores with warm medicaments; on curing agues in baths of hot vegetable steam; on removing stitches, spasms, and pluracies by soporifics, and the diarrhaea by astringents, &c. &c. they perform a multitude of rites, and as their patient for the most part recover, the whole is ascribed to the charm, and the people adopt the words, spells, incantations, and exorcisms of the priests, under
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every affliction and disease, -- whether proceeding from an unknown cause or from the bite of venomous animals. From their habits of life, Indians are exposed to this last calamity, and the priests, in consequence, have to instruct each individual to know the antidote and to give it efficacy by gesture and incantation. They also instruct the whole tribe in a manner of sleeping in the open air, and in the utmost safety, though surrounded by snakes, not one of which dare approach them. The instruction consists in taking a stick and leaves from a certain tree; with the point of the stick describe a ring round the sleeping-ground; place on the ring the leaves, and on doing this perform certain ceremonies. This process to be renewed at intervals of waking. This is all the knowledge they impart to the tribe, and this is highly efficacious and valuable; for, rejecting
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the folly of the use of words and exorcism, merely given to convey a high notion of superior power, the antidotes and herbs pointed out are certain cures, and the simple action of drawing a line with a black ash stick, and strewing on the line some leaves the same tree, is known to be entirely sufficient to hinder any snake from crossing the line, and to deter him from interrupting any thing within side of it. So great is their terror to this timber, that they are never known to inhabit where it grows; and, if a branch of black ash be suddenly cast before a rattle-snake, apprehension and fear instantly seize him; his rattle ceases; his passion subsides; and groveling, timid, yet disquiet, he takes a large circuit to pass the branch, or, more probably entirely retires.
The renewal of the operation of describing the circle, and strewing the
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leaves is evidently for fear the smell should be faded, or the leaves driven off by the wind
As to the familiarity subsisting between the priests and the snakes, the principle of which they withhold from the multitude, it is to he accounted for in a way no doubt equally simple. They are, as I observed, acquainted with herbs and other substances, for which the snakes entertain the most inordinate apprehension and antipathy, or else the most decided attachment and attraction. Alternately armed with these, the priests make them fly from or approach them; and when their hands and bodies are washed with a decoction of the black ash-leaves or trunk, the snakes will writhe about them in a kind of suffering and terror, but never attempt to bite. Making the snakes dance and move in a variety of forms in a certain place, is nothing
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more than what I have so often stated, either marking or strewing the borders, of the enclosure with the objects for which they entertain the greatest antipathy, or, what is more likely, the greatest terror and apprehension. I need hardly tell you that the stick and leaves employed by Cuff were of the black ash, which he purposely brought out of the low woods for our protection. His words, cries, and features, exactly accord to the instructions, I given his tribe; and to them alone he attributes any virtue: the stick and leaves being only as a wand, or necessary instrument in the great work. I asked him whether he would not the next time merely describe the circle an strew the leaves, he answered, "he durst not, as the Great Spirit might be angry if he attempted to take from him the power and the praise." I saw it was in vain to make him think otherwise,
A M E R I C A. 13
and deemed it almost a crime to shake such firm belief: I therefore hastened my departure, and left the mausoleum by the first light of day.
On quitting the spot, a variety of appearances confirmed my original opinion that it had been an advanced guard picket post, or place of look-out. That the oval and rampart were not constructed for a barrow, or for an individual's monument in the first instance, is very certain, as in either case, the skeletons or skeleton would have been deposited at the base, this being the practice of all Indian tribes.
Apprehending that a camp and Indian settlement of antiquity could not be far distant, I took a north-westerly direction, leaving on my right the river, whose course was N.E. by S.W. I had walked but one hour before I arrived at a place which bore strong indications of the object of my research. It was
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a small valley between two mountains, which suffered the waters of a clear creek to find a passage to the Muskingum. On exploring some time, I discovered the actual remains of a very ancient settlement. They consisted of, first, a wall or rampart of earth, of about nine feet perpendicular elevation, and thirty feet across the base. The rampart was of a semi-circular form; its diameter one hundred paces, bounded by the creek. On crossing the creek I found a similar rampart placed in such a position, that the work must have been a true circle intercepted by the stream. After a minute examination, I could perceive very visible remains of elevated stone abutments of bridges, which served to connect the two semi-circles in the centre and at their divisions above and below the stream. The timber growing on the rampart and within its circumference,
A M E R I C A. 15
is principally red oak of great age and magnitude, some of the trees in a state of decay, being not less than seven feet diameter. Second, higher up, and to where the creek runs in a very contracted channel, caused by the approach of the mountains the sides and passage through which appear entirely inaccessible, are several mounds of earth, standing at equal distances from each other; and forming three semi-circular streets, which crossed the creek, or, perhaps, I may be better understood by saying, that sixty mounds, placed so as to describe portions of a very large circle, and expressing the figure of a quadrant, lay at each side of the creeks: and, as these two quadrants were also united together by two bridges, whose remains are distinct, when taken in one point of view, they should represent a semi-circle, whose base would be exactly above the camp. On each side of the mountain
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and parallel with the mounds are two barrows nearly thirty feet long, twelve high, and seventeen wide at the base. These barrows are composed principally of stone taken out of the creek -- notwithstanding here is produced, timber of fine growth.
The mounds hitherto discovered in America have been taken for tumuli, or mausoleums of the distinguished dead -- the barrows, for the common sepulchres of the multitude. The judgement on the latter subject is perfectly correct, that of the former I presume erroneous. That the mounds in question are not tumuli, there can be no manner of question. Their order, number, and arrangement are such, as entirely to preclude an idea of the kind. In all probability they are the ruins of the houses of an Indian village, which, having fallen in on desertion, earth, leaves, and various substance drifted on them
A M E R I C A. 17
by the winds of ages, filled up all inequalities, and gave them the conical figure they now possess. Their proximity to, and the protection afforded them by the circular fort, is another evidence of their having been the houses of a town, the dead of which were deposited in the adjacent barrows.
Presuming it to have been a small town, I can conceive nothing more safe or romantic than its site. The country behind it inaccessable high mountains on each side, and a beautiful stream valley and fortification, in front. It is more than probable that the post at which I passed the night was the advanced guard of the camp -- that post could convey an alarm if any thing important occurred on the Ohio side. Encouraging this idea, and seeing a very commanding eminence about three miles higher up, and near the Muskingum, I
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directly made for it, and immediately discovered it to be nearly similar to the ground on which I had slept the night before. The appearances were too strong to admit of but one opinion, which was, that it was a place of look out, or beacon, communicating with the former one, and with the settlement I had just left. I took the pains of clearing the top of the eminence, which was more of an oblated circle than an oval, but I could not discover any stone or any mark which might lead to a supposition of its being a barrow or place of interment. The country above was hilly, yet not so high as to intercept the view for a presumed distance of twenty miles. After a hasty repast, I proceeded toward that range, and encountered nothing remarkable, if I except the immense quantity of quails I met in the valleys, thirteen of which I killed in three shots. I also saw for
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the first time this season, several rattlesnakes sunning themselves on the south sides of stony banks. On hearing my dog bark as if at an object he durst no spring upon, and at the same time hearing a quick and irritated rattle, I passed: to the direction of the noise, and found the dog running at and from a rattle-snake, whose head stood erect about four feet from a coil of several folds, and whose tail, moving with rapid vibration, was disengaged from the coil to emit a warning. or deadly sound. The dog refused to be called off and in proportion as he barked and ran in and off, the snake ecreased in agitation and fury -- at times feigning to strike, and others casting off a wind of his coil, awaiting a grand opportunity of striking in reality. He emitted his crimson tongue with great velocity, his eyes glared fire, his head swelled to a violent degree, and his throat shone in
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great variety of beautiful and vivid colours. He had arrived at the acme of his choler; he was even poising himself with the determination to give the fatal blow, when, attachment to my dog, sinking all considerations of personal safety, I rushed on and dragged him off. The poor Mandanean took the same eventful instant to strike the snake with a long stick he had prepared for the purpose. The first blow brought him down, but with unimpaired vigour, till he fastened on the stick, with the
intention of wreaking on it the whole of his wrath and vengeance. So much was he occupied by this determined spirit, and engaged on the stick, that Cuff, on giving him a blow or two more, run in and struck his head off with the axe. The last act produced a horrid effect, the body, preserving all the principles of life, described a sphere from the ground under which a man could
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pass; it then assumed as many undulations as its length and volume would allow, and finally rolled along the earth till it came in contact with a tree, round which it once more coiled, and against which it beat its extremities with a violence that soon destroyed the
power of action and resistance, and left the creature with unfolded involutions, exanimate round the root of the tree. The head remained attached so firmly to the stick, as not to be shaken off, nor was I disposed to make many efforts for that purpose. Cuff was tempted very strongly to carry away a piece of the snake which he asserted to be most delicious meat and far superior to the birds he carried in his bag. To this I could not listen, but directed him cautiously to separate the rattle from the body, and lay it carefully up, I also extended the whole animal, though he was far from being dead, and found
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his length to be, allowing for rattle and head, twelve feet and his circumference over the shoulders fifteen inches. The rattle was composed of eleven joints. The head was so inflated, and expressive of much horror and poisonous malignity, that I had not courage to give it any investigation. I pursued my journey, and, confess to you without any desire of meeting a Quixote adventure. On the contrary I had to walk several hours before I could shake off the influence of terror and the gloom of apprehension.
Reaching, by four o'clock, a very fine spring and being considerably weary, I halted, made a fire, and dressed a few quails on the embers. In size and flavor they resemble your English partridges, but their habits and form rank them under the species of quail. Without disturbing myself respecting their natural history, I made an excellent repast and resumed my route much
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refreshed, and resolved by night to gain the top of the mountain, which I had previously pitched upon and observed in the morning. On the way I was crossed by a very fine herd of deer, exactly like the European, only somewhat larger in size. They turned to gaze and passed on a round trot till I fired a rifle shot, which bringing one of them down, the rest went off with the speed of the wind, nor heeded Cuff, who essayed all their various plaints and cries to retard and allure them.
As evening approached, I was much pleased to come in view of a flock of wild turkeys. I wished to have an opportunity of observing their action -- the one afforded me was of the best it possibly could be: they were travelling before me -- therefore occasioned no loss of way. The flock consisted of about thirty-four, on the ground, searching for food: they were not considerably a armed
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till I had approached them within sixty yards. They then moved on a kind of long hop and run, stopped, and as we gained on them proceeded in the same way. On a nearer approach, they took short flights, rose above the trees, and lighted upon them at intermediate spaces of about thirty rods. At every rest I instructed Cuff to gobble in their manner. This act appeared to attract their attention and retard their flight; and, what was of more consequence, they made responses, which guided our pursuit when they were obstructed from view by the thick ombrage of the woods, and the fast approach of night. They finally went a more considerable distance; and as I judged, to a favorite place of roost. I still had the good fortune to keep in their track, and to come directly on the spot they had chosen for their rest. They rose up with much perturbation and noise, and again
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descended to rest. The whole gang occupied four trees, and still they rose, fell, and acted with one accord. I resolved to fire on them. I had heard, that whenever wild turkeys settled to roost, there they remained in despite of all opposition. My motive in firing then was to ascertain the fact. On the first shot they all rose with great clamour about thirty yards above the summits of the trees, and as instantaneously descended direct upon them. On firing again, similar circumstances occurred, and at a third discharge no variation succeeded, nor did they betray the least disposition to depart effectually and remove their quarters. My first discharge was with ball, which brought down a very fine bird, the two last merely powder -- but I regard the fact to be ascertained as firmly as if I had killed the whole flock. This dull propensity in these animals must ultimately
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operate to their destruction. There is no manner of doubt but had such a flock come within reach of a sportsman of the Virginia shore, he would have brought every one of them to the ground.
We proceeded to Zaneville, where learning from the inhabitants, that the neighbourhood was surrounded by Indian remains, and they offering their assistance, we agreed to proceed together, and make one grand scrutiny and systematic research. Enquiry soon instructed us in what direction to seek the most extensive ruins of the labors of former times. We found it to be five miles due west. The ruins were magnificent in a high degree, and consisted of mounds, barrows and ramparts, but of such variety of form, and covering so immense a track of ground, that it would take ten days to survey, still more to describe them. I made out an authority however to back an opinion I entertained,
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that the Indians, though they generally preferred a circular fort to all others, still built forts of a different construction, when confined by ground and other particular exigencies. In the present instance, it was evident, that the whole ruins were situated in a plain of a triangular figure, formed by the intersection of one mountain with another. Towards the angle bounded by the junction of the mountains, were placed the mounds and barrows, and in the front the ramparts, extended in the figure of a triangle, composed of two acute and one obtuse angle -- the obtuse forming the centre and front of the plain. The exact length of the sides I could not ascertain, both from obstruction and their extent. I made an effort and advanced three hundred yards, but did not at all approach the conclusion of one side. Some swamps and a multitude
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of snakes prevented my proceeding.
The principal object was, however, to ascertain the contents of the different objects. I give you my notes. First, a large barrow to the south was thrown open by making a ditch across it from east to west. Three feet below the surface was fine mould, underneath which were small flat stones lying regularly on a strata of gravel brought from the mountain in the vicinity. This last covered the remains of a human skeleton, which fell into impalpable powder when touched and exposed to air. Towards the base of the barrow we came to three tier more of substances placed in similar rotation and regularity. And, as the skeletons formed two rows four tier deep, separated by little more than a flag stone between the feet of one skeleton and the head of another, it is probable, that the entire barrow contained
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about two thousand skeletons, in a greater state of decay than any I ever yet examined. In this search a well carved stone-pipe, expressing a bear's head, and some arrow flint-points were found, together with some fragments of pottery of fine texture. Second, we perforated, and even perfectly laid open several mounds: they contained nothing whatever remarkable, except some pieces of black substance representing mineral coal; but which, on a nearer inspection, appeared to have been wood, and to have retained every trace and character of timber but colour and weight; the one being a deep black, and the other of three times the density of ebony or iron wood. When put into a fire made by the people, it emitted much smoke, blue blaze, smell of sulphur, and very gradually consumed. Third, the rampart, though opened in three distinct places, afforded no variety.
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The composition was earth and stones lying in a manner that betrayed some design in the original construction. The plain, and all the artificial objects upon its surface, grew some of the heaviest timber in the western [sic]. Taking this for date, the ruins may be deemed as ancient as any in the world
Our views effected, and on our return from the mounds, through the angular fort, our attention was attracted by a small swell on a part of the ground which might have been nearly the centre of the fort. Some thought it a natural wave of the earth, and of this opinion I should have been, had I not perceived a remarkable singularity. Although more than thirty feet in diameter, it had on it neither shrub, tree, nor any thing but a multitude of pink and purple flowers. We Came to an opinion that it was artificial, and as it differed in form and character from the mounds,
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we resolved to lay it open, though not before every person surmised its contents and properties. It was cast open to the level of the plain, without rewarding labor or curiosity. Vexed at such ill success, I jumped from the bank among the hands, in order to take a spade and encourage them to dig somewhat deeper. At this instant the ground gave way and involved us all in earth and ruin! You may conceive what a cry issued from such an unexpected tomb! But it was soon followed by much mirth and laughter. No person was hurt. Nor was the fall above three feet. I had great difficulty to prevail on any person to resume the labor -- and had to explore the place myself, and sound it with a pole before we could renew our pursuit. At length we removed the earth, and found that a parcel of timbers had given way, which covered the orifice of a square hole
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seven feet by four, and four deep -- nearly under the centre of the swell or mound. That it was a sepulchre was unanimously agreed, till we found it in vain to look for bones or any substance similar to them in decomposition. At the depth of three feet however, we struck an object which would neither yield to the spade nor emit any sound; on persevering still further, we found the obstruction, which was uniform through the pit, to proceed from rows of large spherical bodies -- at first taken to be stones. Several of them were cast up to the surface: they were exactly alike: perfect globes, nine inches in diameter, and about twenty pounds weight. The superficies of one when cleaned and scraped with knives, appeared like a ball of base metal, so strongly impregnated with the dust of gold, that the baseness of the metal itself was nearly altogether obscured. The clamour was
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great, and the joy so exuberant, that no opinion but one was admitted, and no voice could be heard while the cry of "'tis gold! 'tis gold!" resounded through the groves. Having determined on this important point, we formed a council respecting the distribution of the treasure, and each individual in the joy of his heart, declared publicly the use he proposed to make of the part allotted to his share. The Englishman concluded that he would return to England, being certain, from experience, that there was no country like it. A German of our party said he would never have quitted the Rhine, had he had money enough to rebuild his barn which was blown down by a high wind but that he would return to the very spot from whence he came, and prove to his neighbours that he loved his country as well as another when he had the means of doing well. An
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Irishman swore damnation the day longer he'd stay m America, but gave no motive for his determination, and my Mestizo appeared to think that were he to purchase some beads, rum, and blankets, and return to his own nation, he might become Sachem and keep the finest Syaws of it. For my part, I saw in the treasure the ample means of visiting other climes, and my imagination traversed South America, Africa, Asia, and the few parts of Europe I had not before explored. Such were our various views. The most remarkable trait they suggest is, that though in America, and filled with all the dreams that have been related of its felicities and wealth, not one of the party had ever thought of remaining or of making it a perpetual residence!
Reserving but one globe of gold; or at least one ball of mixed gold, we carefully secured the remainder of the
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treasure and returned to Zaneville, famished and weary, yet elated, and after a hasty repast, we, with much privacy and precaution subjected our gold to the ordeal of fire, and stood around its operation in silence, and fearful to regard each other or to breathe. The dreadful element which was to confirm or consume our hopes soon began to exercise its various powers. In a few moments the ball turned black; filled the room with sulphurous smoke, emitted sparks and intermittent flames, and burst into ten thousand pieces! So great was the terror and suffocation, that all rushed into the street and gazed on each other with a mixed expression of doubt and astonishment. The German took advantage of the interval to ask me to lend him a dollar, with which he walked away, without returning to examine the gold. The smoke subsided, we were enabled to discover the
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elements of our treasure: they consisted of some very fine ashes and a great quantity of cinders perforated through and through. The disappointment soon wore off; we laughed hardily at our visionary views, and resolved not to be deceived by a ball of sprite another time. A ball of sprite! -- It was nothing more. I understand the mountains abound with it; but how the Indians came to form it into spheres, and to preserve it in their camps, I remain entirely ignorant. They may have used them in religions rites, or in gymnastic exercises, for ought I know; or, what is still more interesting, they might have made them instrumental to purposes of war. I shall, however, extend my enquiries on this subject, and with some small hopes of success, as I learn that Colonel Ludlow of Cincinnati, has found balls of a similar composition and structure,
(the remainder of this volume has not been transcribed)
According to some accounts, the Irishman Thomas Ashe was "a slippery character" whose "entire career was checkered with intrigue, misrepresentation, and fraud." Be this as it may there is no reason to suspect that explorer Ashe did not actually make an extensive trip on a flatboat, down the Ohio and parts of the Mississippi in 1806. The modern reader should be on guard for Ashe's misrepresentation and exaggeration, here and there, but his account certainly gives the flavor of life on America's frontier rivers during the period when he conducted his journey.
Mr. Ashe's account is of particular interest to anyone seeking to envision the process and results encountered in examining the early Republic's "western antiquities and monuments." Unlike many contemporary observers, Thomas Ashe concluded that the mounds and related earthworks of the American wilderness were the handiwork of ancient Indians, and not the long forgotten importation of exotic labor and workmanship from the Old World. In ascribing the mounds to the ancestors of the American tribes, Ashe avoids altogether any pretentious discussion of an ancient white race living in the Americas, of Welsh Indians, or wandering Israelite tribes.
Thomas Ashe and Solomon Spalding
Ashe's three volume work was reprinted in Newburyport, Massachusetts, the very same year is it first appeared in London (1808) and it is likely that Solomon Spalding had access to the American edition. In 1809 Spalding moved to the Ohio frontier, but previous to his relocation there he was living in Otsego Co., New York and probably was able to purchase an occasional book in the Cooperstown or Albany book-shops. Ashe's book would have been an interesting literary production, newly available, just as Spalding was making plans to pack his belongings and move to the Conneaut Creek region of northeastern Ohio. It is not unreasonable to suspect that he took with him a copy of Travels in America, or, at least obtained the loan of the book at some point before he departed Ohio for Pittsburgh in the fall of 1812.
There are numerous instances in Spalding's extant writings where it appears that he imitated or paraphrased Ashe's accounts regarding the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and their remarkable artifacts. In his Letter V Ashe tells of visiting ancient Indian mounds in the "neighbourhood of Brownsville," Fayette Co., Pennsylvania in 1806. This was not too far distant from the town of Amity, in Washington Co., where Solomon Spalding died ten years later. While exploring the Brownsville area Ashe says he came upon a peculiar slab of stone, something like a large tablet, half buried in the ground, in the vicinity of an ancient fort, and covered on one side with strange engravings. This account, along with Ashe's futile attempt to read anything intelligible on the inscribed stone, reads much like Solomon Spalding's fictional description of a similar tablet. However, in Spalding's story the find excites his anticipation of find evidence of a forgotten civilized people -- in Ashe's case the stone was only a disappointment, convincing him "that the predecessors of the Indians were not... a different sort of men from the present race... [and were not] equal ... to the inhabitants of polished Europe."
The large number of ill-buried skeletons Ashe found in the Brownsville mounds led him to a probable explanation later shared by Solomon Spalding, that the "irregularities in the barrows" arose "from the [ancient] bones deposited in them, having been those of persons killed in battle, and collected by the survivors in order to be buried under one great mound." Spalding puts forth this notion at the beginning of his Oberlin manuscript and in that same work of fiction gives an account of just such a grave mound being thrown up over bodies of warriors killed in a terrible battle in antiquity.
Again, Ashe decided that the mound-builders did not make use of "iron, and steel." At first he includes copper as a metal unknown to the ancient Indians, but later in his book concedes their use of "brass." In this particular Solomon Spalding's fiction departs from Ashe's candid reporting -- Spalding allowed his ancient Americans the use of iron, some pieces of which were almost of the quality of steel. Perhaps in deference to opinions such as those expressed by Thomas Ashe, Spalding made his mound-builder iron a great rarity, the value of which was so high that its owners used pieces of the metal as money.
When Ashe had descended the Ohio as far as the road to Marietta, he again indulged his curiosity about the mounds. In his Letter XIV Ashe describes "taking a ramble to the spots where by tradition, the monuments of Indian antiquity were said to abound." Not far from the bank of the Muskingum, opposite Marietta, Ashe tells of mounting the "summit of the hill" which he soon "found to be artificial." The opening scene described in Spalding's Oberlin manuscript provides a striking literary parallel with Ashe's account. Like Ashe, Spalding envisions himself "on the top" of a similar mound, while out in the countryside on a similar ramble. On the "summit of the hill" Ashe discovers some flagstones which he and his helper lift with poles "cut in lieu of leavers." In Spalding's account, he says: "With the assistance of a leaver I raised the stone." Ashe says: "The manner the stones were placed led me to conceive the existence of a vault filled with the riches of antiquity." Spalding says in lifting his flagstone, he found it was the "cover to an artificial cave."
Ashe's and Spalding's "Awful" Experience
Having lifted the flagstones atop the ancient mound near Marietta, Thomas Ashe describes the aperture he finds beneath the cover: "The space out of which these materials were taken, left a hollow in an oblong square, lined with stone on the ends and sides; and paved with square stones, on the apparent bottom or upper surface, exactly fitting together, in diameter about nine inches." Spalding describes the somewhat larger aperture beneath the stone he lifted thusly: "an artificial cave... its sides lined with stones." In making further excavation, Ashe says he is halted by a sudden rush of feeling: "To tread on [the ancient work]... could not be done without an awful emotion. Overcome by feelings I could neither combat or suppress, I remained for sometime silent and inactive." Spalding says much the same: "My mind filled with awful sensations which crowded fast upon me..." Not long after this, both Ashe and Spalding climb out of their respective mound-builder vaults. Ashe later returns to his mound and discovers in the vault "a human skeleton of uncommon magnitude." Spalding, on the other hand, recovers an ancient record in his vault. Although he does not mention skeletons at this point, Spalding does speak of the "venerable dead," the remains of "thousands" of which are interred in or near the mound.
Ashe's and Spalding's Discovery of Writing
While exploring the vault in the top of the mound near Marietta, Ashe discovers "a parcel of brass rings...three inches in diameter" with an horizontal circumference [metal portion] half an inch wide..." What is especially remarkable about the flat surfaces of these hollow disks, is that "on both sides" they "are strongly etched [with] a variety of characters resembling Chinese..." The effect Ashe here attempts to describe must be rather similar to that provided by large old Chinese coins, some of which have their centers punched out and are inscribed or impressed with writing on both their obverse and reverse surfaces. Spalding finds nothing so wondrous -- his trove of ancient writing, supposedly recovered from the vault, is nothing but Latin writing on a bundle of scrolls. Has Spalding made a claim for finding characters on brass or golden plates, the parallel with Ashe would, of course, been much stronger.
It is, however, noteworthy that Spalding does subsequently describe the writing of his extinct mound-builders. These people, he says, "had characters which represent words," and that they wrote these characters, Chinese-style, in columns. He further says that the man who introduced this kind of writing among the ancient Americans came from "a great distance from the westward," implying he came from eastern Asia.
Ashe's and Spalding's "Giant Chief"
In describing the body with which the inscribed metal disks were found, Ashe says: "the being to whom these remains belonged could not have been less than seven foot high." He subsequently tells how "The remarkable size of the skeleton would signify that the Indians of every time were fond of associating in their chiefs, physical as well as mental endowments." In other words, Ashe felt that both ancient and modern American Indians had a tradition of selecting giants as their rulers, when possible. Spalding parallels Ashe in this notion, telling how his mound-builders were large people to begin with, and how one of their kings (Sambul of Sciota) was a giant, even among those big ancients. The fact that Solomon Spalding made his extinct people very large need not be attributed to his borrowing from Thomas Ashe: very large "mound-builder" skeletons were common discoveries in the part of Ohio where Spalding was living when he wrote his Oberlin manuscript. The fact that Spalding makes a giant out of one of his most notable chiefs in that story supplies the clearer literary parallel with Ashe's account.
Ashe's and Spalding's "Mamoons"
In a separate account, published in 1806, Thomas Ashe pays some special attention to ancient American elephants. The book was entitled: Memoirs of Mammoth... Found in the Vicinity of Ohio... This publication shows that Thomas Ashe, as well as Solomon Spalding, was fascinated with mastodons and mammoths, the preserved remains of which were first being sorted out and properly identified during the first years of the 1800s. Solomon Spalding called his huge elephants "mamoons," while Ashe used the more proper term, "Mammoths." Like Ashe, Spalding had the mistaken view that extinct American elephants were considerably larger than their African and Asian counterparts. It is not unlikely that Solomon Spalding read Ashe's Memoirs of Mammoth before he wrote the Oberlin manuscript.