Afloat on the Ohio: an historical pilgrimage of a thousand by Reuben Gold Thwaites

By Reuben Gold Thwaites

Nineteenth-century American trip literature offers interesting glimpses into the lives of normal humans and into the historical past of the nation's payment. Reuben Gold Thwaites's Afloat at the Ohio is a great instance of the style, wealthy in Ohio River personalities, legends, and heritage as noticeable via Thwaites's eyes. His six-week trip via skiff coated 1000 miles from Redstone, Pennsylvania, to Cairo, Illinois, the place the Ohio River meets the Mississippi. Thwaites's voyage echoes these taken via early explorers, pioneers, and settlers who spread out the West via river commute from the East.This variation is a reprinting of the unique 1897 edition. 

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Early in the nineteenth century, Redstone became Brownsville. But, whether as Redstone or Brownsville, it was, in its day, like most "jumping off" places on the edge of civilization, a veritable Sodom. " Here thrived extensive yards in which were built flatboats, arks, keel boats, and all that miscellaneous collection of water craft which, with their roisterly crews, were the life of the Ohio before the introduction of steam rendered vessels of deeper draught essential; whereupon much of the shipping business went down the river to better stages of water, first to Pittsburg, thence to Wheeling, and to Steubenville.

W and our Boy of ten summers, on their canvas folding-cots, were peacefully oblivious of the noises of the night, and needed the kiss of dawn to rouse them. But for me, always a light sleeper, and as yet unused to our airy bedroom, the crickets chirruped through the long watches. Two or three freighters passed in the night, with monotonous swish-swish and swelling wake. It arouses something akin to awe, this passage of a steamer's wake upon the beach, a dozen feet from the door of one's tent. First, the water is sucked down, leaving for a moment a wet streak of sand or gravel, a dozen Page 10 feet in width; in quick succession come heavy, booming waves, running at an acute angle with the shore, breaking at once into angry foam, and wasting themselves far up on the strand, for a few moments making bedlam with any driftwood which chances to have made lodgment there.

In 1824 George Rapp founded in the neighborhood a German socialist community, and this later settlement survives to the present day in the thriving little rustic town of Economy. * Across the river, on a broad level bottom, are the manufacturing towns of Rochester and Beaver, divided by the Beaver River; in their rear, well-rounded hills rise gracefully, checkered with brown fields and woods in many shades of green, in the midst of which the flowering white dogwood rears its stately spray. Our sloping willowed sand-beach, of a hundred feet in width, is thick strewn with driftwood; back of this a clay bank, eight feet sheer, and a narrow bottom cut up with small fruit and vegetable patches; the gardeners' neat frame houses peeping from groves of apple, pear and cherry, upon the flanking hillsides.

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