August 25, 1832
[25 August:] Early on the twenty-fifth we made ready to travel. A man from the neighborhood brought us a white-tailed deer (Cervus virginianus) antler, which I bought. I had already obtained three of this kind yesterday. Deer and other large animals have already become rare in these regions, but from time to time they come across the Delaware, for there are still supposed to be more in New Jersey. In order to search for all these animals, we intended today to go to the Poconos, the second high ridge of the Allegheny Mountains, which runs somewhat parallel to the one on which we now were. We ate breakfast together and then left. Mr. Bodmer remained here today to finish his sketch, after which he would follow us. Our way led in a southwesterly direction, up along the Cherry Creek in a gentle, beautiful valley with intermittent meadows, thickets, and woods in which one gradually climbs higher and higher. Cherry Creek is bordered by beautiful tall thickets and, for the most part, flows through a strip of beautiful tall forest. The elevations on both sides of this high valley are covered with deciduous forest consisting of oaks, walnut, and other trees. Clover, buckwheat, and cornfields, like the pastures, are all completely enclosed with fences, on which one frequently sees the fence mouse (Sciurus striatus) running. In the pastures and enclosures, cattle were grazing, the bells of which often rang out harmoniously.
The farmers were already occupied with various tasks. All of them spoke German, and only a few individuals are of English descent. Near the farmsteads one sees many cattle and horses, which are of very good quality, as well as many fat hogs and large sheep. The latter degenerate very easily here. On a trial basis, merino sheep were brought from Europe to New York and Philadelphia, where a ram sold for 300 dollars. Many estate owners have established such sheep farms, and although the wool initially sold for a good price, other periods followed when the price was very low, and many persons suffered great losses. Here the unrenewed race [breed] of sheep is said to degenerate and become small.
Chickens and turkeys are seen on all farmsteads, also geese and ducks, even guinea hens not infrequently. Most of the chickens have yellow feet. Sometimes the turkeys go into the forest, hatch their eggs there, and then come back with their brood. These beautiful birds are no longer found here in the wild state; too many hunters comb the forests everywhere. The farmers’ houses are all made of wood, boarded on the sides and roofed with shingles. They are often very small. Poor people often have only one window beside the door; often they are merely log houses made of logs laid one on top of the other. Stables and barns are usually built in such a way that the wind blows between the tree trunks. During winter the livestock must become well accustomed to cold since it becomes very cold here. In the entire Cherry Creek valley one does not find any villages but only [Page 1:70] scattered, individual farmsteads; yet one can always see from one to the other.
The road constantly runs between fences, gradually upward and downward over small hills, samples of which revealed that they are part of the limestone formation. In several places limestone was burned; heaps of this fertilizer also lay piled up in rows on the fields. Today it was and remained cold all day long, for a cold wind blew the whole day, which compelled us to keep our coats on and blew my straw hat off my head and out of the wagon at least ten times.
Today for the first time, we saw the beautiful large passenger pigeon (Columba migratoria) and several birds of prey in a nice oak forest but did not bag anything. Along the roads and in the hedges, Eupatorium, Solidago, Phytolacca, Sambucus canadensis, [and] Rhus typhinum bloomed and bore fruit. Along the water the beautiful Lobelia cardinalis blossomed a magnificent red, like a flame. A Sagittaria with white blossoms. In the forest one often saw the tall Actaea racemosa.
We gradually climbed higher and higher. On the elevations the wind blew through our clothing, and we reached an isolated church with several adjacent dwellings. When we asked the name of this town, a well-dressed woman told us she herself did not know the name; it belonged to [——]. The pastor has to come here from Mount Bethel, [——] miles away. He is a German and usually preaches here every four weeks. Before long we came to the turnpike road from Easton to Clarksville and followed it to an isolated inn, where we soon watered our horses. The bread that is baked here from rye is especially fine and as white as wheat bread. The flour is sifted with greater care than in Germany. We were told that here there were many ruffed grouse (Tetrao umbellatus Linn.) in the forests. Here they called these birds Fasanden. Deer (Cervus virginianus) are rare. Though elevated, this region was cultivated everywhere and in some areas closely resembled our homeland.
We drove past a pretty lake which is surrounded on both sides by beautiful woods and is about a mile long. Then we went up a mountain through a shady forest of deciduous timber and pines mixed with hemlock. We followed the wagon on foot with our hunting rifles, but not a single bird could be seen. When we were past the summit, we caught sight of the second high ridge of the Allegheny Mountains before us, called the Poconos. Unbroken forest covers this entire mountain region. We came into continuously higher and more rugged areas; pines and hemlocks more and more gained the upper hand in the deciduous woods. The ground scrub oak (Quercus banisteri), a low, shrublike oak about 8 to 10 feet high, which now hung full of fruit, often comprised the understory of the woods, whereas the a 2- to 2 1/2-foot-high Vaccinium ([the specific name] escapes me), with its blueblack fruits similar to blueberries, formed a cover on the ground of the sparser woodlands. On an elevated plain, we were surrounded as far as the eye can see by woods, which consisted of short oak thickets out of which arose a large number of half-dead slender, tall pines with short branches (Pinus rigida). This woodland has its own peculiar character, but most of the pines here have been half burned by forest fires, since the woods are frequently ignited.
On the part of the plateau cleared of timber, over which the road leads, a row of wooden houses had recently been built, and it seemed that most people here earned their living from woodworking. Everywhere lay boards and shingles, which are also shipped out. At a place like this, occasionally a store is also found, where most of the usual necessities can be purchased. In all these regions, [there] [Page 1:71] is grown very much buckwheat, which flourishes. On the other hand, corn does badly [although] farther down it grows tall and sturdy and often matures earlier, usually, however, in October. From this region called Chestnut Hill—because many chestnut trees grow in some of the woodlands—the road again descends somewhat, and we saw everywhere a large number of sawmills, which consume the main product of the region. The outer, or bark, planks of the pines are almost never used here, and they can be purchased for a trifle.
We crossed Pokonbochko Creek about five or six times, since it has a very twisting course. Its banks are bordered in part most picturesquely by nice thickets of alder (Alnus), birches (Betula), Spiraea salicifolia, and others; along the water the red color of the Lobelia cardinalis glowed beautifully. At one place we found a tanner’s house, where hides of raccoon, gray and red foxes, and wildcats (lynx) hung outside. Upon inquiring, we learned that deer are numerous here and that hunting is productive. We were immediately asked, in this somewhat crude German, whether we were out hunting “Buschhinkel”; that is what they call a species of Tetrao here, which is not infrequent in the Poconos. Rattlesnakes are very common in this region. We saw the skin of such a snake hanging outside a house, and somewhat farther on we were shown two stuffed skins of this dangerous snake. They are eaten here to some extent; that is, some individuals do not disdain them, for people believe that, if they are preserved and prepared in a special way, they are an effective remedy for certain illnesses. In exactly the same way, similar superstitions are also current in Brazil regarding the rattlesnake (Cobra cascavela).
Since we hoped to find all these interesting natural history objects in the Pocono Mountains, where man will probably not drive away the animals so quickly, we did not stop but instead hurried closer and closer to the uninhabited higher, wilder regions. Soon a mixed forest of deciduous and coniferous timber increased. At one isolated inn (at Meerwein’s), we stopped and ate lunch. Forest closely surrounded the meadows and fields around the house. In the former, snipe (Scolopax minor Gm.?) were abundant. During a short walk in the forest, we found splendid Rhododendron, Kalmia, Andromeda, rhodora, Vaccinium, Ceanothus americanus, and the beautiful Orchis ciliata, with its magnificent orange-colored flowers, which also grows more in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
Our service in the remote inn was tolerable and inexpensive. We stayed All the people except one spoke German. If we had remained here overnight, they would have gone hunting for us, because there are deer and pheasants (Tetrao umbellatus) in the vicinity. We continued our journey after we had delivered to the Bethlehem stage, which hastened by, the deer antlers and other natural history objects we had been carrying. From here the road soon climbs through magnificent dense forest, which at first alternates with small meadows and several times crosses the brook. Soon, however, the forest becomes wild. Rhododendron and Kalmia latifolia form a dense high understory. Oak, walnut, chestnuts, hemlocks, and pines comprise the canopy. Soon the road continues directly up over the crest, and the forest becomes uniform and strange. An understory of low oaks and many chestnuts, in particular, spreads uniformly far and wide. From it rise the aforementioned pines, which for the most part have been damaged by fire. Here all the tall trees have been destroyed by fire, for forest fires occur frequently, mostly because of hunters in very dry weather, and one saw traces of the fires in the coniferous [Page 1:72]forest. Even now, as we looked about, we noticed a forest fire in the distance, where the smoke drifted far and wide. The path is partly overlaid with wood and covered with earth, and this requires a wagon with good springs.
When one has reached the crest in this extensive wilderness, one turns around and perceives an imposing panorama. High ridges rise one after another in a narrow cleft, everything darkly covered with forest. To the right and left, high walls of forest form the cleft. Mr. von Schweinitz has compiled a list of the plants that grow here on the Poconos. (See p. 271 of this journal.) We soon reached the crest of the Poconos, the second ridge of the Alleghenies. The road runs straight ahead through ruined forest, previously burnt to the ground, the understory of which consists of small brushy scrub oak;M24The fruits of this oak do not mature until the second summer. [Ed.: The fruit of Quercus ilicifolia takes two years to mature.] several kinds of Vaccinium, Andromeda, Cornus, Rhamnus; and many low plants, with sprouts of chestnut, oak, alder; in this underwood are thin, half-burned pines as the overstory. This ruined, desolate wild forest uniformly covers all the rounded summits and ridges of the Poconos, and only in a few places, four or five of them, do people live who have cleared some fields for tillage.
We soon reached the home of a physician, who showed us a rattlesnake preserved in spirits and sold [it] to us. Up here these creatures are said to be very numerous. The doctor had also had a live snake like this one, which, however, had recently died. A half mile farther on we found the inn of a certain Sachs, whose father came from Saxony. Here we stayed overnight. This house provides fresh horses for stages. It is situated in the midst of a vast wilderness, where bear, deer, and two different kinds of forest fowl, ruffed grouse (Tetrao umbellatus) and grouse (Tetrao cupido), are not uncommon. Hunting in the dense, low woods is difficult and very troublesome. We went out, found various kinds of plants, almost all of them with mostly ripe fruits, and shot only a few small birds. Formerly, during the time of the Indians, who have long since left these regions, there were tall forests here, as everywhere in America. But the many forest fires, which are caused especially by hunters and also in order to produce fresh forage for cattle, have completely ruined the lofty forest.