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History of Wyoming, 1845
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History of Wyoming
Charles Miner
1845

 
 
History of Wyoming, in a series of letters, from Charles Miner to his son William Penn Miner, Esq. 1845

Preliminary chapter,

containing a brief description of Wyoming.

Wyoming, it's more liquid siginification, is the name given to a valley on the Susquehanna River, about 20 miles in length from northeast to Southwest, and from three to four miles in width; but it's more in large sense, it is used to designate the part of the country within the limits the Pennsylvania, embraced within the 42nd degree of north latitude, claimed by Connecticut, and partially settled by a colony set forth under her auspices. Thus the inhabitants of Salem, Huntington, Providence, Exeter, and other townships, but not within the limits of the valley, have always been designated as "Wyoming Settlers."

The general aspect of the territory, out of the valley, is hilly, and no inconsiderable portion of the mountainous-ridge after ridge, and peak after peak, rising one above another in sublime elevation, wherein are interspersed extensive bodies of hill and vale, rough but fertile land, yielding to laborious culture remunerating returns. The Susquehanna River rising in Lake Otsego, running southerly, crosses the line dividing the 42nd and 43rd degrees of latitude; that's crosses his way, westerly, about 20 miles, when turning to the Northwest a wreak crosses the line, and pursuing its westerly course about 40 miles, began returns to the south, and presently receives the Chemung, at Tioga point, when it bears away southeasterly in a deep chasm, closely bounded by hills and mountains, rising precipitously from 500-1000 feet; the rockbound shore relieved, occasionally by patches of rich Intervale, until it comes to latitude 41 and about 20 minutes , when the breaks through its lofty barriers. Meeting the Lackawanna, it again changes its course and glides and a bright, broad and beautiful stream to the Southwest. Easterly, with a great bend of the River, the land (comprising parts of Wyoming, Bradford, and the whole Susquehanna counties) though used as hunting ground, was impervious to Indian labor, and remained until long after the Revolutionary war, untouched by the acts of the white man-majestic in the extent, the depth and the loftiness of its forest-sublime as it came from the hand of the Creator. A solitary Indian path from the Lackawanna to Oquago, marked the chord of the arc, being about 40 miles, while following the bow of the River, the distance exceeded 130 miles. But we are now in the valley; lovely as ever enthusiast dreamed of, or poet sung. Standing on the bank of the River, a little below the mouth of the Lackawanna, it appears as if by some power, little short of Omnipotent, the solid rock has been cloven down near a 1000 feet to open a passage to the water. being on the river bank, 12 years ago with the able and lamented Mr. Packer, then chairman of this editorial committee, to view the cold region of Luzerne, he pointed to a huge mass of broken and contorted rock, evidently out of place, which now lies at Pittston Ferry, between the canal and River, and expressed that decided and improbable, opinion, the in the consultant of nature, which separated the mountain above us, this mass must have been torn away, and borne by the rushing flood, to its present resting place. Twenty miles below, where the Susquehanna takes leave of the plains, the mountains are equally lofty and precipitous. In many places the rocks distinctly exhibit the abrasion of water, many feet above the highest pitch to which the River has ever been known to rise, going to show, that some very remote period, this had been a Lake, and indicating that there had been a chain of lakes, probably along the whole line of the stream. Banks of sand and, hills covered with a rounded stone, manifestly worn smooth by attrition, similar stones being found wherever wells are sunk, tend to confirm the opinion. The soil is chiefly alluvial, and the whole depth and surface, are so far as examined, show great changes by the violent action of water.

The geological structure of Wyoming affords to the Inquirer a matter of lively interest. Were I able to do the subject Justice, this would not, perhaps, be deemed the fitting place. The richness and beauty of the coal formation, however, at least demand a moment's notice. Other top of the Southern, or second range of mountains, strata of rocks make their appearance. The red shale, for instance, line by the pebbly conglomerate, (which is the cradle or bed in which the lower strata of anthracite reposes,) with other accompanying rocks, are apparent, and easily traceable. On the opposite, the Northwestern, or second mountain, the same rocks appear, though less distinctly, marking the outer limits of the coal basin, in that direction. Within the valley 16 strata of coal, varying in thickness from 4 to 26 feet, have been clearly ascertained. The quality of this mineral is unsurpassed in purity; several veins, in an especial manner, being particularly excellent for the fusion of ores and the working of iron. During the war the Revolution, several bold loads were taken down the Susquehanna, it is supposed, by Capt. Daniel Gore, for the use of the Armory forges at Carlisle.

Bog ores exist in limited extent; argillaceous ores are known to prevail in near proximity with veins of coal, and extensive stratum of mountain ore is now being wrought on one of the hills south of the Lackawanna. These brief culinary notices of the coal and ore of Wyoming have been made, that the distant reader may receive, at least, a partial idea of its slumbering wealth. The subject may be converted to more in detail hereafter, if our limits shall permit.

The valley, itself, is diversified by hill and dale, up land and intervale. Its character of extreme richness is derived from the extensive flats, or river bottoms, which in some places extend from one to two miles back from the stream, unrivaled in expansive beauty; unsurpassed in luxuriant fertility. Though now generally clear and cultivated, to protect the soil from floods, a fringe of trees is left along each bank of the River:-the sycamore, the elm, and more especially the black walnut, while here and there are scattered through the fields, a huge shell bark yields its summer shade to the weary labor, and it's autumn fruit to the black and gray squirrel, or the rival plowboy. Pure streams of water, leaping from the mountains, imparting health and pleasure in their course; all of them abounding with the delicious trout. Along those in Brooks and in the swales, scattered to the upland, grow the wild plum and the butternut, while, wherever the hand of white man has spared it, the native grape may be gathered in unlimited profusion. I have seen a grapevine bending beneath its purple clusters, one branch climbing a butternut, loaded with fruit; another branch resting on a wild plum, red with its delicious burden; the while growing in their shade, the hazelnut was ripening its rounded kernel.

Such were common scenes when the white people first came to Wyoming, which seems to have been formed by nature, a perfect Indian paradise. Game, of every sort, was abundant. The quail whistled in the meadow; the pheasant rustle in its leafy covert; the while duck reared her brood, and bent the reed in every inlet; the red deer fed upon the hills, well into deep forest, with a few hours walk, was found the stately elk. Several persons, now living, delight to relate their hunting prowess, in bringing down this noblest of our forest inhabitants. The River yielded, at all seasons, a supply of fish; the yellow perch, the pike, the catfish, the bass, the roach, and in the spring season, myriads of shad.

From various points, the valley may be seen to advantage. Prospect Rock, on the eastern mountain, near the turnpike, affords a very fine, though rather distant, view. From Ross’s Hill, on the Kingston side, looking up the River, Monockasy Island, seeming to repose so sweetly, on the glassy bosom of the Susquehanna, is a landscape worthy the ablest pencil. But from Inman’s Hill, the eye embracing part of Hanover, and the broad expanse of the Wilkes-Barre and Kingston Meadows, the Prospect is eminently picturesque; presenting a seen rich in a single aspect, but in detail, studded with innumerable beauties.

The name Wyoming was long supposed to mean, being interpreted, "A Field of Blood;" but Mr. Heckewelder, perfectly versed in Indian language, to the inquiry Mr. Chapman, replied "Wyoming is a corruption of Maughwauwama, by which it was designated by the Delaware Indians, being a compound of maughwau, meaning large, and wama, signifying plains, so that it may be translated "The Large Plains."

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