Friday, August 10, 2012

Mr. Hotchkiss Rambles Part 2

Part 2

It was arranged to start a deer, on the Pendleton mountain the next morning, for the benefit of my friend R__, as “no flocks that range the valley free, to slaughter I condemn,” so I took no part in the matter. We were up betimes, and after breakfast rode up to the mountain top, while two boys of our host (manly little fellows, by the way) went to start up the game with a dog. Our hunters waited at the stands for some time, but no deer came to hand, so said good morning to our host and his boys, and followed our guide along the top of the mountain. In passing, I might as well say that we went to look over the domain known as the Waterman Survey,[i] occupying nearly all the north-western end of Rockingham County, and formerly containing 93,000 acres of land, as surveyed by Alexander Herring, in 1795, he being county surveyor at that time. We can form an idea of the size of such a body of land, when we state that the bounding lines stretch about 60 miles, one of them being eleven miles long, in one direction. We found a good bridge path along the top of the mountain, and had a very fine view of the valleys of Pendleton; across the chains of the Alleghenies the view is bounded by Cheat mountain in the distance.

Soon after leaving the gap, through which the road to Franklin passes, we came to the gate of the mountain, a place so narrow that an ordinary gate would close it; thence the mountain top widens, and spreads into a broad mountain plateau. We soon came to Joseph’s Camp,[ii] and the Lawyer’s Spring, where there are several cleared fields, covered with a lovely carpet of blue grass, while the surrounding forest, although on the summit of the mountain, is open like a park, with a fine growth of grass and richweed under its shade. The Lawyer’s Spring is a fine fountain, gushing from beneath the roots of a large oak, not more than 50 feet lower than the summit of the mountain. In olden times, when the “limbs of the law” were not as abundant as in these days of “constitution tinkering,” the legal gentlemen used to go, by a bridle path, across the mountain at this place, on their way to Pendleton courts; here they stopped for rest and water, hence the name. The large mass of mountain, in the center of the fine view before us, preserves also a custom of the olden time in its name; it is called the Feedstone mountain, from the fact that a rock by the path side, near its base, full of pot holes, served as a manger for the lawyers to feed their horses in. It the rock could speak it could tell of many a practical joke that was there perpetrated. 

We found here the summer home of the snow birds, which were hopping about on all sides, sole occupants of the spot. They breed here, building their nests in sheltered holes in the ground. No wonder they come, at the first snow flake, with their cheerful chirp, for they can precipitate themselves in a few minutes from their lofty perches to the settlements,” as the mountain people call our Valley. The view from the crossing place is a very fine one, and with excellent land, and good unfailing water, a delightful summer residence might be made here. “The clouds drop fatness,” and the grass is green and fresh through all the summer from moisture, drawn as tribute, from every passing cloud. 

From the Lawyer’s Spring, (after looking in vain for “two black, red and Spanish oaks, on the summit of the last ridge where the path rises on the western side,” which marked the “point of beginning” of our “tract” two generations ago, although our guide showed us where they ought to be, and with full faith in human testimony, that they once existed somewhere,) [iii] we rode on. We passed through herds of cattle, grazing on the fine mountain pastures, with abundance of water everywhere, furnished by the natural ponds on the mountain top. The cattle were in fine order, some of them fit for market. As we passed on, ridge after ridge, abutting the main mountain, among them Grassy Ridge, The Tomahawk, &c., formed an immense tract of nearly level land, containing tens of thousands of acres heavily timbered, well watered, and “lying in the sun,” lands as good as square miles that are cultivated, successfully, in the elevated portions of New York and Pennsylvania. The soil is remarkably free from stones and rocks, while the abundant crop of weeds covering the surface, attest the fertility of the soil. We rode about 8 miles along this plateau, with perfect ease; in fact, a carriage road could be made through it in any direction, with little difficulty. We reached the old “Franklin and Winchester” road then, and followed it, stopping at Hall’s Spring, the head point of Dry River,[iv] to eat our dinners, while our horses filled themselves from the luxuriant growth of rich grass in the open spot around us. We saw the feet and head of a deer that had been recently killed there by some hunters. Our guide’s practiced eye detected the traces of game wherever we went; in fact, the mountains must be full of deer and bears. By the by, a bear, only a week before, carried off, in its arms, a large hog from Mr. J.A. Ruffner’s where we stayed last night; and , while speaking of game, we may say that Mr. R. had bagged and barreled twelve hundred fine trout a few days before we came. Think of that, ye disciples of the renowned “Izaak!”[v] After dinner we pursued the road “aforesaid,” gradually descending, but still keeping on the mountain top. After riding several miles, every now and then taking a peek at the lovely valley of the South Fork, and the half dozen other parallel valleys that stretched away on our left. As we were passing, a white object attracted our attention, far ahead: when we reached it we found a white finger-board, pointing down into the woods, along a well-worn path, inscribed “Water.” We followed the path, and, at a short distance, found a bold spring issuing from the roots of a large laurel. What a pleasing emotions are often awakened by the simplest things! What a kind feeling prompted the man that put that simple board there, to guide the thirsty traveler to a cooling fountain. We say blessings on the head of him that painted “water” on that board, and put it up amid the foliage here in the woody wilderness to awaken good feelings in the breasts of all that pass that way. 

After going several miles further, through a level region, we came into the midst of a number of well cultivated, thrifty looking fields, on the same plateau, and soon rode up to the comfortable cabin of Mr. Fulk,[vi] with its entire front corniced with thirty pairs of fine buck’s horns, and looking out upon one of the finest landscapes that it ever fell to the lot of man to gaze upon, from the door of his dwelling, and from every field of his daily toil. We, involuntarily, as it were, turned our horses heads and looked admiringly at the view spread before us. The whole Massanutten Mountain, from “The Peak” to “The Fort’s Mouth,” from summit to base, in all its proportions, rose before us. We could see over it even, to the long line of the Blue Ridge, that bounded that view before us; on the left we looked down the Valley, at least to Harper’s Ferry, and at the whole mass of the mountains of Rockingham and Augusta, as far as the House Mountain, of Rockbridge; just below us lay the region of Brock’s Gap, and the many valleys that find an outlet there for their waters; “Germany,” whence flows the stream of Democracy that votes until the elections are decided, I suppose; the village of New Market, and all the central and N.W. portions of the “Great Valley in Virginia,” rich in everything necessary for the comfort, convenience and enjoyment of man; as beautiful, for the eye to look upon, with its thousands of happy homes, glistening in the midst of fertile and well cultivated farms, as any land the sun shines upon in its daily circuit. At the distance of a few hundred yards, before the house, the vast table land, on which we had been travelling for several hours, breaks off, with a rapid descent, down, down to the valley below us, leaving the view unobstructed. We easily obtained permission to spend the night here, and were made comfortable, with all our wants well supplied, in this mountain home. The filled barn and house, his good-conditioned cattle, and above all, his ten hardy looking children, gave evidence of the fertility of the soil and the salubrity of the climate of his elevated region. This land was originally part of the Waterman tract, for which he paid from 30 to 75 cents an acre, and he now values his 440 acres at sixteen dollars the acre. 

End of Day 2

Mr. Hotchkiss' Ramble
Key To Mr. Hotchkiss' Ramble 
1. Rawley Springs8. Old Franklin/Winchester Rd.
2. Skidmore Fork9. Hall's Spring/Head of Dry River
3. Ruffner's Mtn. Foot Hotel10. Fulk Residence
4. Lawyer's Spring/Joseph Camp   11. Chestnut Ridge
5. Feed Stone Mtn.12. Bald Knob
6. Grassy Ridge (Brush Ridge)13. Dictum's Ridge
7. Tomahawk Mtn.14. Liberty Springs

[i] RC Survey A. 104 
[ii] Several Josephs owned property along the road between Rawley Springs and the mountain. In June 1859 Benjamin Ralston sold to Albert Joseph 40 acres on the west side of the Dry River at the foot of [ ? ] and crossing Skidmore Fork. RC Burnt Deed Book 34, 8. 
[iii] “…. Beginning two blacks, a red and chestnut oaks on the dry river…” Survey A. 
[iv] James Hall? Augustus Waterman to James Hall, September 1830. Land on the Dry River. RC BDB 10, 5. On a current Rockingham County map Hall Springs “Road” traverses the top of the Shenandoah Mountain from Rte. 33 to Little Dry River Road at the point where the old Franklin-Winchester route crosses into Pendleton County. 
[v] Izaak Walton (1593-1683). Best known as the author of The Complete Angler. 
[vi] John Fulk was referred to in the Ruffner pamphlet. In 1820 Asher Waterman sold land to David, Jacob, and Philip Fultz. Augustus Waterman in 1830 through 1851 sold land to John, David, and Christian Fulk. Many of these deeds are incomplete or lost.

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