Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Taughannock Falls

Today I visited one of the tallest waterfalls in the United States of America, in the charmingly named town of Ulysses, near Ithaca. The "sweet sister of Niagara"  was described in an 1866 guide book thus:

"At the bottom of the ravine and at the foot of the fall, looking up the great height, and watching the extremely graceful and beautiful descent of the spray, (for the water begins to break into spray almost at the moment when it begins its plunge over the precipice,) you feel that nowhere in the world can it be possible that a more perfectly beautiful waterfall can be in existence.

"The coquetting air takes the cataract by its curls on the very forehead of the crags, and tosses and frays it into millions of tiny, fleecy jets, and tangled, shining threads of diamonds and dewy light. Each drop gives way to the temptation of a separate display, and with white wings, as of a thousand doves or albatrosses, the vision lights softly at the bottom of the gorge, with no more noise than the wind makes when it stirs the leaves of a mighty forest."

The guidebook then goes on to discuss the waterfall's place in the area's history:

"No doubt the wild "children of the forest""felt awe as deep and reverential love" toward the Great Spirit, whose hand they recognized in the works of nature, as do many of their more enlightened pale-faced conquerors, who boast so loudly of their mental and moral superiority. 

"In no other part of North- America had the aborigines made such advances in civilization as upon the shores of these lakes and in the Genesee country. Those of our readers who have been accustomed to think of the Indians as wild and savage warriors will be astonished to learn how far they had advanced in the arts of peace.

"We quote from an authentic account of General Sullivan's expedition against the Indians, in 1779: 

"After the battle at Newtown [now Elmira] the American army pressed forward between Cayuga and Seneca lakes, driving the Indians before them. Here the lands were found to be cultivated, yielding corn abundantly. Extensive orchards presented fine fruits to the invader. The apple, pear, and plum were abundant. A regularity in the arrangement of their houses indicated long-continued prosperity and enjoyment of property. Many houses were rudely framed, with chimneys, and some few were painted. All, however, were destroyed." 

"We are informed, by early settlers, that, at the time of the first emigration of the whites into this region of country, there were unmistakable evidences that a large and long-establislied Indian Village had existed on the point now known as Goodwin's, below Taughannock Falls. At the time of the coming of the whites the village had been abandoned, probably on account of the gradual decimation of the tribes, but the Indians still cultivated corn-fields on this point, and had also an orchard here. 

"For many years hatchets and other Indian implements would often be turned up by the plow, and it was no uncommon thing for laborers in the cornfields to discover quantities of the wampum, or large red beads, used as money by the Indians. 

"The Indian apple orchard was near the mouth of the stream, and some of the trees were standing only a few years ago... Mr. George Goodwin, of Jacksonville, related that a long time after his father settled at 'the point', although the land had been nominally sold to the white men, the Indians claimed the fruit as their own."