Ocean to Ocean on Horseback
Ocean to Ocean on Horseback
Willard W. Glazier
Ocean to Ocean on Horseback Being the Story of a Tour in the Saddle from the Atlantic to the Pacific; with Especial Reference to the Early History and Development of Cities and Towns Along the Route; and Regions Traversed Beyond the Mississippi; Together with Incidents, Anecdotes and Adventures of the Journey
It was the intention of the writer to publish a narrative descriptive of his overland tour from the Atlantic to the Pacific soon after returning from California in 1876, and his excuse for the delay in publication is that a variety of circumstances compelled him to postpone for a time the duty of arranging the contents of his journal until other pressing matters had been satisfactorily attended to. Again, considerable unfinished literary work, set aside when he began preparation for crossing the Continent, had to be resumed, and for these reasons the story of his journey from "Ocean to Ocean on Horseback" is only now ready for the printer. In view of this delay in going to press, the author will endeavor to show a due regard for the changes time has wrought along his line of march, and while noting the incidents of his long ride from day to day, it has been his aim so far as possible to discuss the regions traversed, the growth of cities and the development of their industries from the standpoint of the present.
Albany, New York,
August 22, 1895.
From earliest boyhood it had been my earnest desire to see and learn from personal observation all that was possible of the wonderful land of my birth. Passing from the schoolroom to the War of the Rebellion and thence back to the employments of peace, the old longing to make a series of journeys over the American Continent again took possession of me and was the controlling incentive of all my ambitions and struggles for many years.
To see New England – the home of my ancestors; to visit the Middle and Western States; to look upon the majestic Mississippi; to cross the Great Plains; to scale the mountains and to look through the Golden Gate upon the far-off Pacific were among the cherished desires through which my fancy wandered before leaving the Old Home and village school in Northern New York.
The want of an education and the want of money were two serious obstacles which confronted me for a time. Without the former I could not prosecute my journeys intelligently and for want of the latter I could not even attempt them.
Aspiring to an academic and collegiate course of study, but being at that period entirely without means for the accomplishment of my purpose, I left the district school of my native town and sought to raise the necessary funds by trapping for mink and other fur-bearing animals along the Oswegatchie and its tributary streams. This venture proving successful I entered the academy at Gouverneur in August, 1857, from which institution I was appointed to the State Normal College at Albany in the fall of 1859.
I had been in Albany but six weeks when it became apparent that if I continued at the Normal I would soon be compelled to part with my last dollar for board and clothing.
The years 1859-60 were spent alternately at Albany as student and in the village schools of Rensselaer County as teacher – the latter course being resorted to whenever money was needed with which to meet current expenses at the Normal School.
Then came our great Civil Conflict overriding every other consideration. Books were thrown aside and the pursuits of the student and teacher supplanted by the sterner and more arduous duties of the soldier.
During my three years of camping and campaigning with the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac I was enabled to gratify to some extent my desire for travel and to see much of interest as the shifting scenes of war led Bayard, Stoneman, Pleasonton, Gregg, Custer, Davies and Kilpatrick and their followers over the hills and through the valleys of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Being captured in a cavalry battle between Kilpatrick and Stuart in October, 1863, I was imprisoned successively at Richmond, Danville, Macon, Savannah, Charleston and Columbia, from which last prison I escaped in November, 1864; was recaptured and escaped a second and third time, traversing the States of South Carolina and Georgia in my long tramp from Columbia to Savannah.
The marches, raids, battles, captures and escapes of those days seem to have increased rather than diminished my ardor for travel and adventure and hence it is possibly not strange that on leaving the army I still looked forward to more extended journeys in the East and exploratory tours beyond the Mississippi.
With the close of the war and mustering out of service came new duties and responsibilities which I had hardly contemplated during my school days. The question of ways and means again confronted me. I desired first to continue the course of study which had been interrupted by my enlistment, and secondly to carry out my cherished plans for exploration. Having a journal kept during my incarceration in and escapes from Southern prisons, I was advised and decided to amplify and publish it if possible with a view to promoting these projects.
Going to New York, I at once sought the leading publishers. My manuscript was submitted to the Harpers, Appletons, Scribners, and some others, but as I was entirely unknown, few cared to undertake the publication and none seemed disposed to allow a royalty which to me at least seemed consistent with the time and labor expended in preparation. I had now spent my last dollar in the Metropolis in pursuit of a publisher, and in this dilemma it was thought best to return to Albany, where I had friends and perhaps some credit, and endeavor to bring out the book by subscription. This course would compel me to assume the cost of production, but if successful would prove much more lucrative than if issued in the usual way through the trade.
Fully resolved upon retracing my steps to Albany, I was most fortunate in meeting an old comrade and friend to whom I frankly stated my plans and circumstances. He immediately loaned me twenty dollars with which to continue my search for a publisher and to meet in the meantime necessary current expenses.
On reaching Albany an attic room and meals were secured for a trifling sum, arrangements made with a publisher, and the work of getting out the book begun. While the printer was engaged in composing, stereotyping, printing and binding the work, I employed my spare time in a door-to-door canvass of the city for subscriptions, promising to deliver on the orders as soon as the books came from the press. In this way the start was made and before the close of the year hundreds of agencies were established throughout the country.
The venture proved successful beyond my most sanguine expectations, and where I had expected to dispose of two or three editions and to realize a few hundred dollars from the sale of "Capture, Prison-Pen and Escape," the book had a sale of over 400,000 copies and netted me $75,000, This remarkable success, rivalling in its financial results even "Uncle Tom's Cabin," which had just had a run of 300,000 copies, was most gratifying and led to the publication, at intervals, of "Three Years in the Federal Cavalry," "Battles for the Union," and "Heroes of Three Wars."
The temptation to make the most of my literary ventures lured me on from year to year until 1875, when I laid down the pen and began preparation for my long contemplated and oft deferred journey across the Continent. Being now possessed of ample means, I proposed to ride at leisure on a tour of observation from OCEAN TO OCEAN ON HORSEBACK.
My preference for an equestrian journey was in a great measure due to early associations with the horse, in jaunts along country highways and over the hills after the cows, as well as numerous boyhood adventures in which this noblest of animals frequently played a conspicuous part. Then, too, my experience in the cavalry largely influenced me to adopt the saddle as the best suited to my purpose.
Reflecting further upon the various modes of travel, I was led to conclude as the result of much experience that he who looks at the country from the windows of a railway car, can at best have only an imperfect idea of the many objects of interest which are constantly brought to his notice. Again, a journey in the saddle, wherein the rider mounts and dismounts at will as he jogs along over the highway, chatting with an occasional farmer, talking with the people in town and gazing upon rural scenes at his pleasure, presents many attractive features to the student and tourist who wishes to view the landscape, to commune with nature, to see men and note the products of their toil and to learn something of their manners and customs.
Having therefore decided to make my journey in the saddle, I at once set about to secure such a horse as was likely to meet the requirements of my undertaking. As soon as my purpose was known, horses of every grade, weight and shade were thrust upon my attention and after some three weeks spent in advertising, talks with horse fanciers and in the livery and sale stables of Boston, my choice fell upon a Kentucky Black Hawk, one of the finest animals I had ever seen and, as was subsequently established, just the horse I wanted for my long ride from sea to sea.
His color was coal black, with a white star in the forehead and four white feet; long mane and tail; height fifteen hands; weight between ten and eleven hundred pounds, with an easy and graceful movement under the saddle; his make-up was all that could be desired for the objects I had in view. The price asked for this beautiful animal was promptly paid, and it was generally conceded that I had shown excellent judgment in the selection of my equine companion.
A few days after my purchase I learned that my four-legged friend had been but a short time before the property of an ex-governor of Massachusetts and that the reason he had but recently found his way into a livery stable on Portland street, was that he had acquired the very bad habit of running away whenever he saw a railway train or anything else, in short, that tended to disturb his naturally excitable nature. This information led to no regrets, however, nor did it even lessen my regard for the noble animal which was destined soon to be my sole companion in many a lonely ride and adventure.
The unsavory reputation he had made, and possibly of which he was very proud, of running away upon the slightest provocation, smashing up vehicles and scattering their occupants to the four winds, was considered by his new master a virtue rather than a fault, so long as he ran in the direction of San Francisco, and did not precipitate him from his position in the saddle.
As soon as I was in possession of my horse the question of a suitable name arose and it was agreed after some discussion among friends that he should be christened Paul Revere, after that stirring patriot of the Revolution who won undying fame by his ride from Boston and appeals to the yeomanry the night before the Battle of Lexington.
BOSTON AND ITS ENVIRONS
The month of April, 1876, found myself and horse fully equipped and ready to leave Boston, but I will not ride away from the metropolis of New England without some reference to its early history and remarkable development, nor without telling the reader of my lecture at Tremont Temple and other contemplated lectures in the leading cities and towns along my route.
Boston, standing on her three hills with the torch of learning in her hand for the illumination of North, South, East and West, is not one of your ordinary every-day cities, to be approached without due introduction. Like some ancient dame of historic lineage, her truest hospitality and friendliest face are for those who know her story and properly appreciate her greatness, past and present. Before visiting her, therefore, I recalled to memory those facts which touch us no more nearly than a dream on the pages of written history, but when studied from the living models and relics gain much life, color and verisimilitude.
Boston Harbor, with its waters lying in azure placidity over the buried boxes of tea which the hasty hands of the angered patriots hurled to a watery grave; Boston Common, whose turf grows velvet-green over ground once blackened by the fires of the grim colonial days of witch-burning, and again trampled down by innumerable soldierly feet in Revolutionary times; the Old State House, from whose east window the governor's haughty command, "Disperse, ye rebels!" sounded on the occasion of the "Boston Massacre," the first shedding of American blood by the British military; and the monument of Bunker Hill – these, with a thousand and one other reminders of the city's brilliant historical record, compose the Old Boston which I was prepared to see. The first vision, however, of that many-sided city was almost bewilderingly different from the mental picture. Where was the quaint Puritan town of the colonial romances? Where were its crooked, winding streets, its plain uncompromising meeting-houses, darkened with time, its curious gabled houses, stooping with age? Around me everything was shining with newness – the smooth wide streets, beautifully paved, the splendid examples of fin de siècle architecture in churches, public buildings, school houses and dwellings.
Afterwards I realized that there was a New Boston, risen Phoenix-like from the ashes of its many conflagrations, and an Old Boston, whose "outward and visible signs" are best studied in that picturesque, shabby stronghold of ancient story, now rapidly degenerating into a "slum" district – the North End.
Boston, viewed without regard to its history, is indeed "Hamlet presented without the part of Hamlet." It would be interesting to conjecture what the city's present place and condition might be, had Governor Winthrop's and Deputy-Governor Dudley's plan of making "New-towne" – the Cambridge of to-day – the Bay Colony's principal settlement, been executed. Instead, and fortunately, Governor Winthrop became convinced of the superiority of Boston as an embryo "county seat." "Trimountain," as it was first called, was bought in 1630 from Rev. William Blackstone, who dwelt somewhere between the Charles River and what is now Louisburg Square, and held the proprietary right of the entire Boston Peninsula – a sort of American Selkirk, "monarch of all he surveyed, and whose right there was none to dispute." He was "bought off," however, for the modest sum of £30, and retired to what was then the wilderness, on the banks of the Blackstone River – named after him – and left "Trimountain" to the settlers. Then Boston began to grow, almost with the quickness of Jack's fabled beanstalk. Always one of the most important of colonial towns, it conducted itself in sturdy Puritan style, fearing God, honoring the King – with reservations – burning witches and Quakers, waxing prosperous on codfish, and placing education above every earthly thing in value, until the exciting events of the Revolution, which has left behind it relics which make Boston a veritable "old curiosity shop" for the antiquarian, or indeed the ordinary loyal American, who can spend a happy day, or week, or month, prowling around the picturesque narrow streets, crooked as the proverbial ram's horn, of Old Boston.
He will perhaps turn first, as I did, to the "cradle of Liberty" – Faneuil Hall. A slight shock will await him, possibly, in the discovery that under the ancient structure, round which hover so many imperishable memories of America's early struggles for freedom, is a market-house, where thrifty housewives and still more thrifty farmers chaffer, chat and drive bargains the year round, and which brings into the city a comfortable annual income of $20,000. But the presence of the money-changers in the temple of Freedom does not disturb the "solid men of Boston," who are practical as well as public-spirited. The market itself is as old as the hall, which was erected by the city in 1762, to take the place of the old market-house, which Peter Faneuil had built at his own expense and presented to the city in 1742, and which was burned down in 1761.
The building is an unpretending but substantial structure, plainly showing its age both in the exterior and the interior. Its size – seventy-four feet long by seventy-five feet wide – is apparently increased by the lack of seats on the main floor and even in the gallery, where only a few of these indispensable adjuncts to the comfort of a later luxurious generation are provided. The hall is granted rent free for such public or political meetings as the city authorities may approve, and probably is only used for gatherings where, as in the old days, the participants bring with them such an excess of effervescent enthusiasm as would make them unwilling to keep their seats if they had any. The walls are embellished by portraits of Hancock, Washington, Adams, Everett, Lincoln, and other great personages, and by Healy's immense painting – sixteen by thirty feet – of "Webster Replying to Hayne."
For a short time Faneuil Hall was occupied by the Boston Post Office, while that institution, whose early days were somewhat restless ones, was seeking a more permanent home. For thirty years after the Revolution, it was moved about from pillar to post, occupying at one time a building on the site of Boston's first meeting-house, and at another the Merchants' Exchange Building, whence it was driven by the great fire of 1872. Faneuil Hall was next selected as the temporary headquarters, next the Old South Church, after which the Post Office – a veritable Wandering Jew among Boston public institutions – was finally and suitably housed under its own roof-tree, the present fine building on Post Office Square.
To the Old South Church itself, the sightseer next turns, if still bent on historical pilgrimages. This venerable building of unadorned brick, whose name figures so prominently in Revolutionary annals, stands at the corner of Washington and Milk streets. Rows of business structures, some of them new and clean as a whistle and almost impertinently eloquent of the importance of this world and its goods, cluster around the old church and hem it in, but are unable to jostle it out of the quiet dignity with which it holds its place, its heavenward-pointing spire preaching the sermons against worldliness which are no longer heard within its ancient walls. To every window the fanciful mind can summon a ghost – that of Benjamin Franklin, who was baptized and attended service here; Whitfield, who here delivered some of the soul-searching, soul-reaching sermons, which swept America like a Pentecostal flame; Warren, who here uttered his famous words on the anniversary of the Boston Massacre; of the patriot-orators of the Revolution and the organizers of the Boston Tea-Party, which first took place as a definite scheme within these walls. Here and there a red-coated figure would be faintly outlined – one of the lawless troop of British soldiers who in 1775 desecrated the church by using it as a riding-school.
At present the church is used as a museum, where antique curiosities and historical relics are on exhibition to the public, and the Old South Preservation Committee is making strenuous efforts to save the building from the iconoclastic hand of Progress, which has dealt blows in so many directions in Boston, destroying a large number of interesting landmarks. Its congregation left it long ago, in obedience to that inexorable law of change and removal, which leaves so many old churches stranded amid the business sections of so many of our prominent cities, and settled in the "New Old South Church" at Dartmouth and Boylston streets.
It is curious and in its way disappointing to us visitors from other cities to see what "a clean sweep" the broom of improvement has been permitted in a city so intensely and justly proud of its historical associations as Boston. Year by year the old landmarks disappear and fine new buildings rise in their places and Boston is apparently satisfied that all is for the best. The historic Beacon, for which Beacon Hill was named and which was erected in 1634 to give alarm to the country round about in case of invasion, is not only gone, but the very mound where it stood has been levelled, this step having been taken in 1811. The Beacon had disappeared ten years before and a shaft sixty feet high, dedicated to the fallen heroes of Bunker Hill, had been erected on the spot and of course removed when the mound was levelled. The site of Washington's old lodgings at Court and Hanover street – a fine colonial mansion, later occupied by Daniel Webster and by Harrison Gray Otis, the celebrated lawyer – is now taken up by an immense wholesale and retail grocery store; the splendid Hancock mansion, where the Revolutionary patriot entertained Lafayette, D'Estaing, and many other notabilities of the day, was torn down in 1863, despite the protests of antiquarian enthusiasts. The double house, in one part of which Lafayette lived in 1825, is still standing; the other half of it was occupied during his lifetime by a distinguished member of that unsurpassed group of literati who helped win for Boston so much of her intellectual pre-eminence – George Ticknor, the Spanish historian, the friend of Holmes, Lowell, Whittier and Longfellow, from whom the latter is supposed to have drawn his portrait of the "Historian" in his "Tales of a Wayside Inn." The Boston Public Library, that magnificent institution, which has done so much to spread "sweetness and light," to use Matthew Arnolds' celebrated definition of culture, among the people of the "Hub," counts Mr. Ticknor among the most generous of its benefactors.
One interesting spot for the historical pilgrim is the oldest inn in Boston, the "Hancock House," near Faneuil Hall, which sheltered Talleyrand and Louis Philippe during the French reign of terror.
In addition to the fever for improvement, Boston owes the loss of many of her time-hallowed buildings to a more disastrous agency – that of the conflagrations which have visited her with strange frequency. A fire in 1811, which swept away the little house on Milk street where Franklin was born – and which is now occupied by the Boston Post– another in 1874, in which more than one hundred buildings were destroyed; and the "Great Boston Fire" of 1872, followed by conflagrations in 1873, 1874, 1877 and 1878, seemed to indicate that the fire fiend had selected Boston as his especial prey. To the terrible fire of 1872 many precious lives, property valued at eighty millions of dollars, and the entire section of the city enclosed by Summer, Washington, Milk and Broad streets were sacrificed. The scene was one a witness never could forget. Mingled with the alarum of the fire-bells and the screams and shouts of a fear-stricken people came the sound of terrific explosions, those of the buildings which were blown up in the hope of thus "starving out" the fire by making gaps which it could not overstep, and to still further complete the desolation, the gas was shut off, leaving the city in a horror of darkness; but the flames swept on like a pursuing Fury, wrapping the doomed city still closer in her embrace of death, and who was not satisfied until she had left the business centre of Boston a charred and blackened ruin.
This same district is to-day, however, the most prosperous and architecturally prepossessing of the business sections of the city, practically illustrating another phase of that same spirit of improvement and civic pride which has overturned so many ancient idols and to-day threatens others. Indeed, it would be a churlish disposition which would lament the disappearance of the old edifices, the straightening of the thoroughfares, the alterations without number which have taken place, and which have resulted in the Boston of to-day, one of the most beautiful, prosperous and public-spirited cities in the world. The intelligence and local loyalty, for which her citizens are renowned, have been set to work to attain one object – the modest goal of perfection. Obstacles which some cities might have contentedly accepted as unavoidable have been swept away; advantages with which other cities might have been satisfied have been still further extended and improved. The 783 acres originally purchased by the settlers of Boston from William Blaxton for £30 has been increased over thirty times, until the city limits comprise 23,661 acres; this not by magic as it would seem, but by annexation of adjoining boroughs – Roxbury, Dorchester, Charlestown, and others – and by reclamation of the seemingly hopeless marshy land to the north and south of the city. The "Back-Bay" district, the very centre of Boston's wealth, fashion and refinement, the handsomest residence quarter in America, is built upon this "made land," which it cost the city about $1,750,000 to fill in and otherwise render solid.
All good Bostonians, like the rest of their countrymen, may wish to go to Paris when they die – that point cannot be settled; but it is certain that they all wish to go to the Back-Bay while they live. And who can wonder? To drive at night down Commonwealth avenue, the most aristocratic street in this aristocratic quarter, is to view a scene from fairyland. "The Avenue" itself is 250 feet wide from house to house and 175 feet wide from curb to curb, and in the centre a picturesque strip of parkland, adorned with statues and bordered with ornamental trees and shrubs, follows its entire length. On either side of the street stand palatial hotels and magnificent private residences, from whose innumerable windows twinkle innumerable lights, which, mingling with the quadruple row of gas-lamps which look like a winding ribbon of light, make the vista perfectly dazzling in its beauty. By day, when the Back Bay Park, the Public Garden, the fine bridge over the park water-way extension and the handsome surrounding and intersecting streets can be seen, the view is even more attractive.
In the newer parts of Boston the reproach of crooked streets, which has given her sister cities opportunity for so much good-natured "chaff," is removed, and the thoroughfares are laid out with such precision that "the wayfaring man, though a fool," can hardly "err therein." In the business district much money has been spent on the straightening process, a fact whose knowledge prompts the bewildered stranger to exclaim, "Were they ever worse than this?" Stories aimed at this little peculiarity of the "Hub" are innumerable, the visitor being told with perfect gravity that if he follows a street in a straight line he will find himself at his original starting-point – a statement the writer's experience can pretty nearly verify. The best, if not the most credible, of these tales relates how a puzzled pedestrian, becoming "mixed up in his tracks," endeavored to overtake a man who was walking ahead of him, and inquire his way. The faster he walked, however, the faster the other man walked, until it became a regular chase, and the now thoroughly confused stranger had but one idea – to catch his fellow-pedestrian by the coat-tails, if need be, and demand to be set on his homeward way. Finally, by making a frantic forward lurch, he succeeded – and discovered that the coat-tails he was grasping were his own!