September 26, 1832
26 September: Early today the stage was delayed quite a while, but it finally brought us Messrs. Bodmer and Saynisch, and since they were now tired out, they took our rooms while we departed with the mail coach in their place. There is continuous tall forest where occasional bare spots remain uncultivated, with tall, aged, mostly dried-up timber still standing; that is to say, with individual trees here and there. Precisely in this elevated region, the forest was by far the wildest and most unbroken. The road crosses it in a straight line. Deciduous and coniferous timber is wildly intermingled. Ancient fallen tree trunks everywhere; on them a world of lower plants, ferns, and mosses. Tall hemlocks and beeches strive upward, straight like ships’ masts.
In the cool of the morning, with the sun’s first rays, two hunters stepped out of the thicket onto the road and immediately went to the opposite side to continue their pleasant activity. Here and there we came to small log cabins where settlers not very long ago had cleared the forest and planted small fields. Individual raccoon hides were hanging here outside on their cabins, stretched out and pegged up to dry. At an inn the horses were given water. Reddish brown pigs ran about; in this region they are not uncommon and usually have small coal-black spots.[Page 1:103] Not far from there, we came upon a field of oats, which was just beginning to ripen. Here oats are sowed in May, and the grain matures four weeks later than west of the Alleghenies. The tall, sturdy maples already had their beautiful vermilion red and yellow colors. Ash trees like ships’ masts intermingled here with the beeches and hemlocks. Along the road beautiful birds appeared, including Columba migratoria, the bluebird, [and] an ash-blue Loxia with a white belly.
Seven miles from Ebensburg, still on these high hills, we reached the boundary of the so-called Alleghenies, and now begins what one here calls the Laurel Hills. The forest soon changes its character; the oaks (Quercus alba, coccinea, rubra, tinctoria, prinus), chestnuts, black locusts (Robinia), and other trees take the place of hemlocks and beeches. The forest is less tall, wild, and unbroken. Looking back from a high point along the road, there is a beautiful view of the Alleghenies and their long, darkly wooded ridges. The region now becomes more open, the forests less dense, though forest everywhere.
Near several habitations we saw fine cattle and sheep of a large species. Grain-fields are found here on the gentle hills. The fruit trees were laden with apples. The horses were watered again. We then proceeded up and down sizable hills, where we noticed several new trees. In the valley, green alder (Alnus crispa) and aspen (Populus tremuloides) were interwoven among bushes. In the thickets stood the gum trees (Nyssa sylvatica), with scarlet red foliage; many of them had also lost almost all their foliage. The cucumber tree (Magnolia acuminata), completely green, had still retained its large leaves; its fruits were a beautiful red. They are said to have a very bitter taste
perhaps this tree is an Annona [illegible] I could not investigate. They are soaked in brandy to make the beverage bitter. Here, beautifully intermingled, grew Kalmia latifolia, sassafras, Nyssa, and chestnut oak, intertwined here and there by Smilax, Vitis, and Hedera quinquefolia. When we had again reached a high elevation, the forest was ruined and rocky.
We reach the tavern Laurel Hill [about] 12 miles from Ebensburg. Many freight wagons were moving along the road as usual. The large blue wagons are flared like those described above, and in some cases had matched horses. Here, too, there is soon a place with a nice view back to the mountains. Valleys and elevations alternate. Before us a broad, deep valley opens up in which the Conemaugh River flows and beyond which a long, wooded ridge extends, which is called Chestnut Ridge. In it an opening (gap) appears through which the Pennsylvania Canal and the Conemaugh make their way. The mountains are uniformly covered with forest. Chestnut and chestnut oak seem to be the principal trees here.
Two miles from the tavern Laurel Hill, we reached another one, called Farther Laurel Hill. Here we changed horses and then traveled 5 miles through intermittently open areas until we reached Armagh, a village; here again we obtained fresh horses. Soon we saw the gap through which the Conemaugh and the canal pass. Behind us the tall, dark forests provide a beautiful sight. From here on, the road is bad. High hills and mountains alternate. Stones, deep ruts, and tree trunks, some in our way. In several places work is being done on the road. One sees that once this entire country was an impenetrable forest, for trunks still stand in the meadows and even in the cultivated fields. The farmers’ habitations are not numerous here and are small and poor besides. Many Irishmen are said to live here; they are not praised, because they are poor farmers and often drunkards. The descendants of Germans, who often have very well cultivated fields here, are praised much more.
Eight miles from Armagh we watered our horses; they had had to do very heavy pulling in the mountains. In the woods we saw everywhere, on all kinds of trees, the tips of branches hanging down about a half or a foot long, black, withered, and dry. This is said to be caused by cicadas (locusts),M7Cicada septem-decem. This insect appears only once every seventeen years in enormous numbers, but not in ever place simultaneously, so that it is often possible to find some.which, four weeks ago, were so numerous here that a human voice, people say, could barely be heard above their din. If one examines the branches, one finds the bark scratched open in many places, the wood completely dried out, and inside in the pith, a whitish material that consists of their eggs. As we rapidly rode down over the elevations, we had before us the vast Conemaugh Valley, filled in large part with forest, gradually ascending on all sides, and we saw farther up on the right the hamlet, or market town, of Indiana.
At a tavern (Black Bear), the signboard of which was decorated with deer antlers, we watered the horses and then rapidly continued onward.[Page 1:104] One sees enormous woodlands in all directions. Here the road was good. After a while we had to our left, scarcely a few hundred paces away, a deep, steep precipice at the bottom of which the Conemaugh and the canal flow. One reaches a tollhouse beside which a wooden gateway has been constructed over the road. The stage does not pay, however; instead, the company pays the toll every three months. From here one soon reaches a gradual elevation from which one sees a wide, beautiful valley ahead where Blairsville has been built.
Blairsville is an attractive little place with some very nice homes and good inns. The town is built on a broad thoroughfare straight through the valley, where, again, many new houses were being constructed. Beyond the town flows the Conemaugh, which here is no longer a creek but a small river with a covered bridge. We obtained fresh horses and quickly departed. The region is hilly, partly mountainous, and much of it is cultivated. One also sees attractive farmhouses. Formerly everything here was primeval forest. We passed through beautiful forests of oak, walnut, maple, dogwood (Cornus florida), etc., which, however, are all clear on the ground. Remnants of felled trees stand in the meadows and fields. We met many gentlemen on horseback, as well as farmers’ wives with their big black hats. Some of them were smoking their pipes. It is 10 miles from Blairsville to New Alexandria, a market town or large village with rather good wooden houses, some of them painted. The town has a pretty location on the gradual slope of a mountain, fields everywhere surrounded by forest. Beyond the town flows a small river, now very shallow, the Loyalhanna, over which a covered bridge was just being built. Then one climbs high hills. We traverse beautiful oak forests, all with sparse undergrowth. The mountainous region alternates between forest and field. Several tall maples were already without foliage. At nightfall we reached New Salem and later Millersburg, where we had supper. We traveled all night past these valleys and after midnight reached Pittsburgh.