Saturday, July 7, 2012

Norwich Connecticut Armories in 1864

By Richard T. Addison

Norwich Armory in 1864
Norwich, the scene of our present story, is a beautiful city of Connecticut, at the head of navigation on the Thames, where that pleasant river is formed by the confluence of the Yantic and Shetucket.

It is a wide-awake little town, and as vociferous in sounds of busy and thriving industry as any place of its size in the good old State of steady habits, or, indeed, in all the thronged length and breadth of Yankeedom. The natu­ral features of the neighborhood are so surpass­ingly picturesque that the stranger might well fancy himself in some famous summer resort far off from the strife and the din of commerce and of common life; while, on the other hand, its noble lines of manorial and palatial residences smack most fragrantly of the elegance and sump­tuosity of the favored suburban aside some great metropolis.

Besides these unexpected landscape charms, and these unwonted social delights of the old place, many a chronicle of historic interest has embellished its wild hills and glens during its long life of more than two centuries; chronicles which it might he pleasant and profitable to read, were it not that we find there scenes of yet greater and fresher attraction in the resound­ing halls of the great armories which the exigen­cies of the times and the boundless capacity of American will and skill have so magically con­jured up during the past two or three eventful years.

Winter on the Plains in 1869

By Theodore R. Davis

Indian village in winter
A camp or bivouac on the Plains can have no better safeguard during the dark hours of night than that which is furnished unasked by the coyotes and gray wolves, that usually put in an appearance just as the second or reflected sunset tinge is fading from the higher clouds. During the winter season night falls so quickly on the Plains that the twilight hour is a thing of name rather than fact. The last of sunset is the commencement of night. At this hour you may hear far in the distance the quick bark of a single coyote. A moment after the yelping of a number of wolves answers this first call. The pack is assembling rapidly, and by the time darkness has shut out your view of the nearer surroundings you will listen to a howling-match - a sort of preliminary trial of voice, which in­variably denotes the surrounding of your camp by the new-comers. This howl is short, and seems to be executed by a chosen few. A silence of a few moments' duration follows. Then the whole band breaks oat, and the un­earthly noise which greets your ear is second to nothing in all the long catalogue of noises. Kit Carson averred that it was "only a little dis­pute as to which coyote had, as the winner of the match, the right to take the stakes (steaks)." It is quite impossible to do full justice to this wolf music. There is no racket known to the inhabitants of the more civilized sections of our country which will compare with it. All the felines in a neighborhood would not make a noise which would begin to equal wolf music. The hubbub to be heard at a session of the Board of Brokers is a faint comparison.

Washoe Mining Area – Virginia City

By J. Ross Browne

Virginia City
I was prepared to find great changes on the route from Carson to Virginia City. At Empire City - which was nothing but a sage-desert inhabited by Dutch Nick on the occasion of my early explorations - I was quite bewildered with the busy scenes of life and industry. Quartz-mills and saw-mills had completely usurped the valley along the head of the Carson River; and now the hammering of stamps, the hissing of steam, the whirling clouds of smoke from tall chimneys, and the confused clamor of voices from a busy multitude, reminded one of a man­ufacturing city. Here, indeed, was progress of a substantial kind.

Further beyond, at Silver City, there were similar evidences of prosperity. From the descent into the canon through the Devil's Gate, and up the grade to Gold Hill, it is almost a continuous line of quartz-mills, tunnels, dumps, sluices, water-wheels, frame shanties, and grog-shops.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hampton Normal & Agricultural Institute

By Helen W. Ludlow.
Hampton Institute in 1873

The ten years that separate us from the Proclamation of Emancipation have wrought some natural but curious changes in public sentiment both North and South. The nation that was born in a day has shown no signs of possessing an ephemeral nature. It does not seem to be obligingly melting away before the consuming presence of a superior race, nor has it taken itself en masse to Liberia out of our way. Its ex­istence and its continuance seem to be un­doubted facts, and it is wonderful how we have become hardened to them. We do not trouble ourselves much more as to what we shall do with our prize elephant. That un­blessed word, "miscegenation," has ceased to frighten us. We do not anticipate a Sa­bine raid from Dixie's land, or suspect the daughter of our people of Desdemona's leanings.

One of the most important questions that the years have settled is that of negro edu­cation. The best thinkers of the North and South, however distant their stand-points, are no longer apart in the conclusion that it is of vital importance to the nation. This conviction is shown at the South by the ac­tion taken by most of the reconstructed States in embodying some provision for the negroes in their free-school system, and quite as remarkably by the increasing favor, or tolerance, to say the least, extended to the schools and colleges for freedmen established in them by Northern benevolence. In other directions there may be no great change. However the negro may be feared as a po­litical power, or made the tool of demagogues of both parties - and this is his greatest dan­ger - most of our Southern friends would doubtless sympathize with the constituent of a certain honorable gentleman in the Vir­ginia Legislature who thus feelingly set forth the case:

A Trip To Bodie Bluff and the Dead Sea of the West (Part 2)

By J. Ross Browne.

Watching a badger fight
AT the town of Bodie I witnessed one of those impressive Sunday exhibitions which seem to be the popular mode of recreation in this coun­try - a badger fight. Some Indians from Mono Lake came in during the forenoon with a re­markably large badger, which they offered for sale to the miners. The price demanded was ten dollars. As that amount of ready cash did not seem to be within the resources of the multi­tude, the diggers, upon consultation, agreed to take three, which was finally made up by some enterprising members of the community. The usual mode of digging a hole in the ground, as a fortification for the badger, was deemed un­necessary, owing to the formidable proportions and ferocious temper of the animal on hand: and it was decided that there should be a pitched battle in the open valley. All who had dogs were invited to bring them forward and enter the ring gratis. In about ten minutes there were about half a dozen dogs brought to the scratch, and the battle opened cautiously on both sides. The badger was fresh and vigor­ous. Long experience in the noble art of self-defense had taught him skill in the use of his natural weapons. He lay close down to the ground, flattening himself as the rattlesnake flattens his head prior to the fatal dart. With a keen and wary eye he watched the dogs. First a large, ill-favored, yellow cur was let loose upon him. The badger never moved till the mouth of his enemy was within an inch of his tail, when, with a motion as quick as light­ning, he had him by the under-lip, and a fierce struggle ensued. The dog howled, the badger held on, the dust flew up front the dry earth, over and over the combatants rolled; the spec­tators crowded in, laughing, shouting, clapping their hands, and urging on the yelling cur, whose grand object seemed to be to get away. A favorable turn enabled him to break loose. Panting, whining, and with bleeding mouth, he sneaked off amidst the jeers of the crowd. 

A Trip to Bodie Bluff and the Dead Sea of the West (Part 1)

Wagon headed into Bodie Bluff
By J. Ross Browne.

I had enjoyed to my heart's content the a amenities of social life in Aurora; had wit­nessed a Sunday procession to the badger fight of Mr. T. Jefferson Phelan, a high-toned European; had barely missed seeing a man shot dead in front of the Sazerac Saloon for throw­ing brickbats at another man's house; had taken a general view of the country from the top of Mount Brayley and the bottom of the Real del Monte. I reserve for another occasion an ac­count of my observations and adventures in this region. I was now prepared to vary my ex­perience by a trip to Bodie Bluff and Mono Lake, the "Dead Sea of the West."

Of the Bodie district I had heard the most enthusiastic accounts. It was represented to be a region of peculiar interest in a mineralogical point of view; and the scenery was reputed to be as barren as anything I had enjoyed during my recent tour through Arizona. For the mat­ter of comfort, I was assured that if an utter lack of accommodation for man or beast, and a reasonable chance of suffering from chilly nights and dusty roads, could he accounted among the luxuries of travel, I would not be likely to re­gret the trip.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Monticello – Home of Thomas Jefferson

Monticello – Home of Thomas Jefferson
By Benson J. Lossing

Signers of Declaration of Independence
The author of the Declaration of Independence yet lingered in his glo­rious retreat from the turmoil of public life, in the quiet bosom of Central Virginia, the saloon and the table at Monticello almost daily received guests from far and near, who came to make the obeisance of reverent admiration and affectionate regard to the Patriot and Sage. Noblemen of every degree - noblemen by kingly patent or hereditary right - noblemen knighted by the touch of public opinion in its awards for intel­lectual achievements, and noblemen in homely guise of mind and person, but lofty patriotism all flocked to Monticello, not to bow to the rising sun with selfish orisons, but to pay grate­ful homage to its beneficence, while the splen­dors of its declining hours yet illumined this western horizon.

For more than ten years pilgrimages to Mount Vernon had almost ceased, for the idol which the good and great went to worship there had been hidden from sight in the secret shrine of the grave; and then this new Mecca, far away from the Federal city and the tide-water marts of commerce, among the broad, undulating val­leys toward the Blue Ridge, became the resort of men of science and political acumen, from Europe, and of those of our several States, dis­tinguished in various pursuits.