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sublimity. Tradition informs us that an Englishman by the name of Powell, at the early settlement of our country, discovered silver ore in the West Fort mountain, and commenced the business of money coining ; and when any attempts were made to arrest him, he would escape into the mountain and conceal himself. From this circumstance it acquired the name of Powell's Fort. The late Capt. Isaac Bowman, about thirty years ago pointed out to the author the site of Powell's shop, where it was said he wrought his metal, the ruins of which were then to be seen. Capt. Bowman also informed the author that several crucibles and other instruments, which he had frequently seen, had been found about the ruins of this shop, so that there is no doubt of the truth of the tradition that this man Powell was in the practice of melting down some kind of metal, if he did not actually counterfeit money.
The grandeur and sublimity of this extraordinary work of nature consist in its tremendous hight and singular formation. On entering the mouth of the fort, we are struck with the awful hight of the mountains on each side, probably not less than a thousand feet. Through a very narrow passage, a bold and beautiful stream of water rushes, called Passage creek, which a short distance below works several fine merchant mills. After traveling two or three miles, the valley gradually widens, and for upwards of twenty miles furnishes arable land, and affords settlements for eighty or ninety families, several of whom own very valuable farms. The two mountains run parallel about 24 or 25 miles, and are called the East and West Fort mountains, and then are merged into one, anciently called Mesinetto, now Masinutton mountain. The Masinutton mountain continues its course about 35 or 36 miles southerly, and abruptly terminates nearly opposite Keisletown, in the county of Rockingham. This range of mountains divides the two great branches of the Shenandoah river, called the South and North forks. This mountain, upon the whole, presents to the eye something of the shape of the letter Y, or perhaps more the shape of the houns and tongue of a wagon.
The turnpike road from Newmarket, crossing Masinutton and Blue ridge into the county of Culpeper, is held as private property. The dwelling-house where the toll is received stands on the summit of Masinutton, from which each of the valleys of the North and South rivers presents to the delighted vision of the traveler a most enchanting view of the country for a vast distance. The little thrifty village of Newmarket, with a great number of farms and their various improvements, are seen in full relief. On the east side of the mountain, on the South river and Hawksbill creek, are to be seen a number of fine farms, many of them studded with handsome brick buildings. Upon the whole, the traveler is amply rewarded, by this gratifying sight, for his labor and fatigue in ascending the mountain, which is said to be two miles from its base to its summit. There is a considerable depression where the road crosses at this place, called Masinutton gap.
From the East Fort mountain, at a point nearly opposite Woodstock, the South river presents to the eye precisely the appearance of three distinct streams of water crossing the valley from the western base of the Blue ridge to the foot of the Fort mountain. At the northern end of the West Fort mountain, from an eminence, Winchester can be distinctly seen, at a distance of not less than sixteen miles, air measure, and a great portion of the county of Frederick can be overlooked from this elevated point. There is also an elevated point about five miles south of Front Royal, on the road leading from thence to Luray, from which there is a most ravishing view of the eastern section of the county of Frederick, and the tops of the mountains bordering on the north side of the Cohongoruton.
After leaving this eminence, and proceeding southerly towards Luray, from the undulating form of the country between the South river and Blue ridge, for a distance of 14 or 15 miles, it appears constantly to the
traveler as if he were nearly approaching the foot of a considerable mountain, and yet there is none to cross
The South river, for 70 or 80 miles on each side, affords large proportions of fine alluvial lands—in many parts of it first-rate high lands, which are generally finely improved, and owned by many wealthy and highly respectable proprietors. The new county of Page, for its extent, contains as much intrinsic wealth as any county west of the Blue ridge, with the exception of Jefferson.
The valley of the North river, from the West Fort mountain to the eastern base of the Little North mountain, is generally fine limestone land, undulating, and finely watered. It is also highly improved, with a density of population perhaps unequaled by any section of Virginia; and it is believed there is more cash in the hands of its citizens than in any part of the state for the same extent.
It is hardly necessary to state that the three counties of Jefferson, Berkeley and Frederick, contain a greater proportion of fertile lands than any other section of the state; but unfortunately, it may with truth be affirmed that it is a badly watered country. There are many neighborhoods in which nothing like a spring of water is to be seen. It is however true, that there are many fine large limestone springs, remarkable for the great quantity of water which is discharged from them. But nature appears to have distributed her favors in this respect unequally.
The counties of Morgan, Hampshire and Hardy, are remarkable for their mountains and fine freestone was ter. From the mountainous character of this section, it is but sparsely inhabited in many parts of it. The South and North branches of the Cohongoruton (Potomac) afford considerable quantities of as fine fertile alluvial land as any part of the United States. Patterson's creek also furnishes a considerable body of fine land. Capon river, Lost river, and Back creek, furnish much fine land, and are all thickly populated
The western parts of Berkeley, Frederick and Shenandoah, include considerable portions of mountainous country. The Little North mountain commences near the Cohongoruton, having Back creek valley on the west, which extends about 35 miles into the interior, to the head waters of the creek. This mountain runs a southerly course, parallel with the Great North mountain, passing through the three counties just mentioned. This tract of mountainous land is comparatively poor and unproductive. It is, however, pretty thickly populated, by a hardy race of people. In our mountains generally, wherever spots of arable land are to be found (which are chiefly in the glens), there scattered settlers are to be found also.
East of the Shenandoah river the Blue ridge is thickly populated, and many fine productive farms are to be seen. The vast quantity of loose stone thickly scattered over the surface of this mountain, one would be ready to believe would deter individuals from attempting its cultivation ; but it is a common saying among those people, that if they can only obtain as much earth as will cover their seed grain, they are always sure of good crops.
A public road crosses the Blue ridge, from the South river valley into the county of Madison. From the western base of the mountain to the summit, is said to be five miles. On the top of the mountain, at this place, there is a large body of level land, covered almost exclusively with large chestnut timber, having the appearance of an extensive swamp, and producing vast quantities of the skunk cabbage. But little of it has been reclaimed and brought into cultivation. It produces fine crops of grass, rye, oats, potatoes and turnips; but it is said to be entirely too moist for the production of wheat, and too cool for the growth of Indian corn. The people in its neighborhood say that there is not a week throughout the spring, summer and autumn,without plentiful falls of rain, and abundant snows in the winter. In the time of long droughts on each side of the mountain, this elevated tract of country is abundantly supplied with rains. It is also said, that from this great hight nearly the whole county of Madison can be seen, presenting to the eye a most fascinating and delightful view.
On the summit of the West Fort mountain, about 15 miles south of Woodstock, there is also a small tract of land, remarkable for its depth of fine rich soil, but inaccessible to the approach of man with implements of husbandry. This tract produces immense quantities of the finest chestnut, though from the great difficulty of ascending the mountain, but little benefit is derived from it to the neighboring people.
In our western mountains small bodies of rich limestone lands are to be met with, one of the most remarkable of which is what is called the "Sugar hills," pretty high up the Cedar creek valley. This tract is said to contain four or five hundred acres, and lies at the eastern base of Paddy's mountain. It derives its name from two causes ; first, when discovered it was covered chiefly with the sugar maple ; and secondly, several of its knobs resemble in shape the sugar loaf. Its soil is peculiarly adapted to the production of wheat of the finest quality, of which, let the seasons be as they may, the land never fails to produce great crops, which generally commands seven or eight cents per bushel more than any other wheat grown in its neighborhood. The Hessian fly has not yet been known to injure the crops while growing
Paddy's mountain is a branch of the Great North mountain, and is about 18 or 20 miles long. It takes its name from an Irishman, whose name was Patrick Black, who first settled at what is now called Paddy's gap
in this mountain. This fact was communicated to the author by Moses Russell, Esq.