Montana is a Northwestern State in fact as well as name. It is situated on the high plateau between the Continental Divide and the Bitter Root Range. Fully one-fifth of its area lies beyond the Rocky Mountains, and its northern boundary is the snow-covered region of Canada and British Columbia. The eastern portion of the State, bordering upon the Dakotas, is for the most part prairie land, rising rapidly in the direction of the west, and forming the approach to the mighty Rockies. The western portion, bordering upon Idaho, is much more mountainous in character. Some 50,000 square miles of hilly country are to be seen here, many of the peaks rising to heights exceeding 10,000 feet. The State alone is larger in area than the entire British Islands, and it is infinitely larger than the whole of New England. That it is a country of magnificent distances, is shown from the fact that the northern frontier equals in length the distance between the great seat of learning and culture in Massachusetts and the capital city of the short-lived Confederacy.
Although most of Montana is rich in either agriculture or mineral, a considerable area is occupied by the notorious Bad Lands. General Sully described these lands very accurately, or at least aptly, when he said that they reminded him of "the other place with the fires out." So many descriptions of the Bad Lands have been given, that we need scarcely refer to them at great length. The clay, rock and peculiar dust which lies all around this territory becomes, on the slightest provocation, the nastiest kind of quicksand. Nothing can thrive or prosper in the Bad Lands which, however, are full of evidences of prehistoric life and which, perhaps, at one time were the scenes of activity and even prosperity.
In exact contrast to the Bad Lands is the Gallatin Valley, about four hundred square miles in extent. It is stated to be one of the most fertile spots in the world, and by common consent it has been called the Egypt of Montana. A portion of it has been cultivated, and its yield per acre has been found to be prodigious. At no great distance from this fertile spot, two of America's most remarkable rivers have their rise. The greatest of these is the Missouri, which, measured from its source to final entrance into the Gulf of Mexico along the bed of the Mississippi River, is really the longest river in the world. Away up here in the mountains, the Missouri, which subsequently becomes one of the most treacherous and destructive rivers in the universe, runs through picturesque canons and over great gorges of rock, finally leaving the State a great river, though still insignificant in comparison with the volume it is to assume, and the drainage work it is to accomplish farther away from the mighty hills among which it had its source.
The Northern Pacific Railroad runs through this wonderful State, with so great a future before it. Helena, the capital city of Montana, was originally a mining camp, and early prophecies were that it would not outlive the mining enthusiasm. These prophecies, however, have proved entirely mistaken. It is no longer a mere mining town, with rough, busy, uncultured men rushing hither and thither in the eager pursuit of their daily avocation. It is now not only the judicial capital of Montana, but it is also the great center of educational advance. It has a number of very handsome public buildings, and is the home of many men, who, having made their fortunes in the mines of the new Northwest, have been so impressed with the beauties of scenery and climate, that they have decided to abide where at first they merely intended to sojourn. Helena is more than 4,000 feet above the sea level, and its 20,000 inhabitants are reputed to be worth more than $100,000,000. The apostle of socialism or communism who suggested an equal division among the 60,000,000 of our people of all the wealth of the nation, would find little encouragement in this great mountain city, where poverty, if not unknown, is very scarce.
Much more typical as a mining city is Butte. This is situated upon a hill quite peculiarly located, and is reached by a ride along the Silver Bow Valley. Close here is the wonderful Anaconda mine. The mines in the neighborhood have a reputation for immense yield, the annual extracts of gold, silver and copper being valued at more than $33,000,000. The Anaconda smelter, built some twelve years ago, is said to be the largest in the world, and the town itself seems to literally talk mining by its streets, its houses, its business, its habits and its people.
Missoula is the third largest city of Montana. Its site is a splendid one for a city. The Hell Gate Canon and River merge into a magnificent plain, the foot of the noted Bitter Root Valley. The Hell Gate River breaks out from the canon and mountains into the wide plain and sweeps majestically across the extreme northern limit of it, hugging closely the Mission Range to the north. At the western side of the valley the Bitter Root River combines with the Hell Gate, and together, and now under the name of the Missoula River, they flow westward between high mountains. The northern end of the valley is perhaps six miles or more wide. The great opening in the mountain is rather triangular in shape, with the apex of the triangle many miles up the valley to the south. Here is a city laid out and built up in perfect harmony with its location, as is evidenced by the tasteful manner in which the place is planned and the character of its business blocks and residences. Telephones, electric lights, and water supply are found even in the remote suburbs of Missoula.
The mountains literally hem them in. Immediately to the northeast is a bare hill that is startling in its resemblance to an animal. It is like a huge, recumbent elephant, the hind quarters of which form the northern end of Hell Gate Canon, around which the railroad curves as it issues from the canon. The "Mammoth Jumbo," as it is appropriately known, reclines with head to the north and trunk stretched out behind him. One eye is plainly seen, and one huge shoulder is visible. Down in the south, sharp, decisive, with a steep, rocky escarpment facing us, and a long ridge descending from it, is Lolo Peak, of the Bitter Root Range, a noted landmark. This overhangs Lolo Pass, through which Chief Joseph came in his famous retreat from General Howard in 1877, which terminated in the battle of the Bear Paw Mountains, October 5th, where the brave and able chieftain was captured with the rest-of his tribe, when almost within reach of freedom just across the Canadian border.
At the southern extremity of the valley on the banks of the Bitter Root River, and with the range serving as an effective background, is Fort Missoula, a pleasantly located military post. Several interpretations of the meaning of the word "Missoula" are given. Father Guidi, a priest of long residence in the country, gave me what he considers the true one, which also indicates the manner in which the Hell Gate Canon and River were christened. The spot where Missoula is located was once the scene of conflict between the various tribes of Indians. The "Flatheads" and "Blackfeet" were deadly enemies, and, presumably, may have fought over this lovely spot. At any rate, the ground just at the mouth of the Hell Gate Canon was covered long ago with skulls and human bones.
These Flathead Indians are noted for the fact that they have never adopted a hostile attitude towards white people. They are advanced in civilization, as readers of Chapter IX and its accompanying illustration will have noted. Tradition states that their religion demands that the head of every infant must be flattened by means of a board before the bones harden sufficiently to assume a shape. However this may be, none of the surviving members of the tribe have particularly flat heads, and all deny emphatically the statement that nature is ever interfered with in the manner stated. These Indians call themselves "Selish," a name apparently without reason or derivation. The Flathead Reservation was formed about forty years ago. On three sides it is walled in by high mountains, and it consists of about 2,240 square miles of territory. The railway station, Arlee, is so named after the last war chief of the Flatheads. Passengers are often amused by the gaudily decked Indians who are seen at this station, which is quite near the reservation.
An interesting story attaches to the Jocko River and Reservation. It is stated that an Irishman named Jacob Finley established a ranch on the river early in the present century. The French Canadians who settled in the neighborhood and intermarried with the Indians, called Finley by his Christian name with a peculiar French pronunciation, which made it sound very like much Jaco or Jocko—the latter name gradually becoming generally adopted. It was quite natural to call the river and the valley after the ranch owner, and the name finally became generally accepted as correct. This man Finley left behind him a family of seventeen, and before he had been dead many years his direct descendants numbered within three or four of an even century.
The Indians called the stream the Nlka, an unpronounceable combination of letters, resulting from a most interesting though variously described event.
Mrs. Ronan, the well-known writer, tells an interesting story of how names are given by Indians. Thus, her own daughter's name was Isabel, but the Indians called her "Sunshine." In February, 1887, the little girl was born. For some days prior to her birth the weather had been gloomy in the extreme. Almost simultaneously with the child's birth the sun, so long hidden under the clouds, burst forth to gladden the heart of man. With one accord, the Indians declared that the little one had brought sunshine with her, and hence the name, which, as subsequent events have proved, was exceptionally appropriate.
Accompanying this chapter is an illustration of Mount Tacoma. This mountain is one of the most attractive, as well as lofty, in the Northwest. As can easily be supposed, traditions without number are connected with it. No greater mistake can be made than to imagine that the Indians who are found in this region are naturally atheistic, as well as ignorant. To the student of religion there is rather an inherent belief in the Supreme Being among these people, with very strong proofs of the truth of the divine revelation. One of the traditions, told with much fervor and earnestness about Tacoma, involves in it a Savior of mankind. With great reverence and awe the good listener among the band of tourists is told that at one period—legends are seldom very specific in the matter of time or space—a Savior arrived in a copper canoe, his mission being to save the Siwash Indians, who were spoken of as the chosen people of the Great Unseen. That some prophet or missionary certainly came to this region and preached appears to be evident from the very definite survival of the doctrines taught by him. His creed seems to have been a very apt blending of all that is best in the teachings of Buddha, with many of the precepts of the "Sermon on the Mount" added.
Love to mankind, the evil of revenge, and the glories of forgiveness form the principal features of the doctrine. The legend, or tradition, goes on to say that so violent was the opposition to this crusader, who attacked local institutions so bitterly, that finally he was seized and nailed to a tree. This act of crucifixion resulted from a final sermon, in which the wanton destruction of human beings was denounced in terms of great vehemence. As nine, instead of seven or three, is the general number talked of in this section, it is not surprising that the story should go on to state that after nine days the "Mysterious One" was reanimated, and once more commenced his work of reformation and tuition.
Nothing in connection with the story can be objected to. By some it is supposed to be the result of casual immigration from the regions of Palestine, to which also is attributed the story of the flood.
Among nearly all the Indians of the Northwest there is a flood story, or legend, and there must be hundreds of Noahs in the minds of the story-tellers. We are told, for example, that when the Great Spirit flooded the entire earth, there was not quite enough water to cover the summit of Mount Tacoma. The man chosen to prevent the human race from being entirely obliterated was warned in a dream, or by some other means, to climb to the summit of this great mountain, where he remained until the wicked ones below him were annihilated, without a man, woman or child escaping. After the flood was over and the waters began to recede, the Great Spirit hypnotized or mesmerized this solitary human being, and created for him a wife of exceptional beauty. Together these two recommenced the battle of life, and, as the legend runs, every human being in existence can trace his lineage to them.
The mountain is surely worth all that has been said about it. Its great height has already been commented upon. Standing, as it does, with its summit 14,444 feet above the sea level, it is actually a sentinel for almost the entire State. Hazard Stevens, the first man to climb Tacoma, reported that it was so called by the Indians because the word means, in their vocabulary, "mountain," and was given to Tacoma because it was a veritable prince among hills. It was at one time called Rainier, after a British lord, but the Indian name has generally prevailed.
Tacoma has been described by many tourists as a rival to the most vaunted peaks of the Swiss Alps. As will be seen from the illustrations, which are remarkably good ones, there is a dim mistiness about the mountain. When the light is poor, there is a peculiar, almost unnatural, look about the cloud-topped peak. When the clouds are very white, the line of demarcation becomes faint in the extreme, and it is very hard to distinguish one from the other. Sometimes, for days together, the mountain is literally cloud-capped, and its peak hidden from view. Those who are fortunate enough to be able to appreciate the awful and unique in history, never tire of gazing upon Tacoma. They are glad to inspect it from every side. Some call it a whited sepulchre. There was a time when it was anything but the calm, peaceful eminence of to-day. Every indication points to the fact that it was once among the most active volcanoes in existence.
There is a town, or rather city, of the same name as the mountain. This is situated on Commencement Bay. It is under the very shadow of the great mountain of which we have spoken, and which seems to guard it against foes from inland. Fifteen years ago it was a mere village, of scarcely any importance. It has rapidly grown into a town of great importance. In 1873 the Northern Pacific Railroad Company decided to make it the western terminus of their important system. This resulted in renewed life, or rather in a genuine birth to the place, which now has a population of 40,000 people, and is an exceedingly wealthy and prosperous city. The Tacoma Land Company, ably seconded by the railroad, has fostered enterprise in this place in the most hearty manner, and now some of the large buildings of the town, of the very existence of which many Eastern people affected ignorance, are more than magnificent—they are majestic.
Seattle is another and even more brilliant diamond in Washington's crown. It is a great city, with a magnificent harbor, its name being that of a powerful Indian chief who, when the town was founded forty years ago, had things practically his own way. It grew in importance very rapidly, but in 1889 one of the largest fires of modern times destroyed $10,000,000 worth of property, including the best blocks and commercial structures of the city. People who had never seen Seattle at once assumed that the city was dead, and speculation was rife as to what place would secure its magnificent trade. Those who thus talked were entirely ignorant as to the nature of the men who had made Seattle what it was. Within a very few days the work of reconstruction commenced. The fire hampered the city somewhat, and checked its progress. But Seattle is better for the disaster, and stands to-day a monument to the "nil desperandum" policy of its leaders.
Spokane Falls is another wonderful instance of Northwestern push and energy. It is a very young city, the earliest records of its founding not going back farther than 1878. When the census of 1880 was taken, the place was of no importance, and received very little attention at the hands of the enumerators. In 1890 it had a population of some 20,000, and attracted the admiration of the entire country by the progress it had made in the matter of electricity. Its water power is tremendous, and taking full advantage of this, electricity is produced at low cost and used for every available and possible purpose.
The State of Washington, in which these three cities are situated, borders upon the Pacific Ocean, and is one of the greatest of our new States. The first modern explorer of the territory was a Spaniard, followed a few years later by English sailors. Just at the end of the last century, some Boston capitalists, for there were capitalists even in those days, although they reckoned their wealth by thousands rather than millions, sent two ships to this section to trade with the Indians for furs. One of these ships was the "Columbia," which gave the name to the region, part of which still retains it, although the section we are now discussing now owns and boasts of the name of the "Father" of his and our country.
Washington became a State five years ago. It is a great mining country, but is still more noted for its wonderful lumber resources. The trade from Puget Sound is tremendous. One company alone employs 1,250 men in saw mills and logging, and it is responsible for having introduced improved machinery of every type into the section. The early history of the great lumber business is full of interest, and this is one point alone in which the advance has been tremendous. Another great company cut up 63,000,000 feet of lumber in one year, and shipped more than half of it out of the country. White cedar of the most costly grade is very common in Washington, and it is used for the manufacture of shingles, which sell for very high prices, and are regarded as unusually and, indeed, abnormally good. White pine of immense quantity and size is also found. Some of the logs are so large that they are only excelled by the phenomenal big trees of abnormal growth which are found some hundreds of miles farther south on the great Pacific Slope.
Idaho is another of the great States of the great Northwest. It lies largely between the two States just described so briefly, and its shape is so peculiar that it has been spoken of as resembling a chair, with the Rocky Mountains and the Bitter Root Range as its front seat and back. Another simile likens it to a right-angled triangle, with the Bitter Root Range as its base. It is a vast tableland, wedge shape in character, and may be said to consist of a mass of mountain ranges packed up fold upon fold, one on top of the other.
Three names were submitted to Congress when the Territory was first named. They were Shoshone, Montana and Idaho. The last name was chosen, finally, because it is supposed to mean "The sight on the mountain." The more exact derivation of the name seems to be an old Shoshone legend, involving the fall of some mysterious object from the heavens upon one of the mountains. The scenery in this State is varied in everything save in beauty, which is almost monotonous. Bear Lake, one of its great attractions, is a fisherman's paradise. Its waters extend twenty miles in one direction and eight or nine miles in the other. This vast expanse of water is one of the best trout fishing resorts in the world. Although in a valley, Bear Lake is so high up in the mountains that its waters are frozen up for many months in the year, the ice seldom breaking up until well into April. At all times the water is cold, and hence especially favorable for trout culture. Lake Pen d'Oreilles is about thirty miles long and varies in width from an insignificant three miles to more than fifteen. It is studded with islands of great beauty and much verdure. Close by it is the Granite Mountain, with other hills and peaks averaging, perhaps, 10,000 feet in height. The lake has an immense shore line, extending as much as 250 miles. For fully a tenth of this distance the Northern Pacific tracks are close to the lake, affording passengers a very delightful view of this inland scene, which has been likened to the world-renowned Bavarian lake, Koenigs See.
The State is also well known on account of the reputation for weird grandeur won by the Snake River, also known as the Shoshone. This is a very rapid stream of water. By means of its winding course it measures fully a thousand miles in Idaho alone, and drains about two-thirds of the State. Near the headwaters of the Snake River, in the proximity of Yellowstone Park, there are very fertile bottoms, with long stretches of valley lands. The American Falls plunge over a mass of lava about forty feet high, with a railroad bridge so close that the roar of the water drowns the noise of the locomotive. For seventy miles the Shoshone River runs through a deep, gloomy canon, with a mass of cascades and many volcanic islands intervening. Then comes the great Shoshone Falls themselves, rivaling in many respects Niagara, and having at times even a greater volume of water. The falls are nearly a thousand feet in width, and the descent exceeds two hundred feet. Many writers have claimed that these falls have features of beauty not equaled in any part of the world. According to one description, they resemble a cataract of snow, with an avalanche of jewels amidst solid portals of lava.
Bancroft, in summing up the great features of this State, says very concisely that: "It was the common judgment of the first explorers that there was more of the strange and awful in the scenery and topography of Idaho than of the pleasing and attractive. A more intimate acquaintance with the less conspicuous features of the country revealed many beauties. The climate of the valleys was found to be far milder than, from their elevation, could have been expected. Picturesque lakes were discovered among the mountains, furnishing in some instances navigable waters. Fish and game abound. Fine forests of pine and firs cover the mountain slopes, except in the lava region; and nature, even in this phenomenal part of her domain, has not forgotten to prepare the earth for the occupation of man, nor neglected to give him a wondrously warm and fertile soil to compensate for the labor of subduing the savagery of her apparently waste places."
IN THE WARM SOUTHEAST.
Florida and its Appropriate Name—The First Portions of North America Discovered by White Men—Early Vicissitudes of its Explorers—An Enormous Coast Line—How Key West came to be a great Cigar Town—The Suwanee River—St. Augustine and its World-Renowned Hotel—Old Fort Marion.
Florida is the name given to one of the least known States in the Union. Ponce de Leon was the godfather of this southeastern corner of our native land. Its baptism took place in a remote period. The day of the event was Easter Sunday, which in the Spanish language is called Pascua Floria, which is literally interpreted "The Flowery Festival." Almost by accident, therefore, Florida received a name which is singularly appropriate and well chosen. From end to end, in either direction, there is a profusion of semi-tropical beauty and of flowers, some of them entirely peculiar to the immediate vicinity. There is an abundance of fruit as well, and frequently the blossoms on the fruit trees make a lovely flower show in themselves.
The State arms are very peculiar and appropriate. The main figure is that of an Indian lying upon a bank, scattering flowers around him. In the distance the sun is setting amid beautiful hills. In the center there is a river with a steamboat upon it, and with a large cocoanut tree growing by the side. The State's motto is one which has been adopted by many communities, but which is ever welcome for the purpose—"In God We Trust."
In regard to its climate, Florida can offer a great deal of variety. Consumptives by the tens of thousand have sought a renewed lease of life in the warmest sections of the State, and many have come back greatly benefited. The winters are of the Indian summer order, being singularly dry, healthy and free from dust. The Gulf Stream adds from five to ten degrees to the temperature in cold weather, and in the southern section the temperature rarely gets below freezing point. The exceptionally cold spell of 1894-95 may be quoted as quite an exception to the general rule, and the heavy loss to growing fruits was as great a surprise as it was a loss.
Florida has the honor of being the first portion of North America to be discovered by white people. Ponce de Leon, whose very name is suggestive of romance and poetry, explored a section of the country in the year 1513, when he proclaimed the sovereignty of Spain over it. In 1527, a Spanish company of soldiers attempted to drive out the native inhabitants. The attempt failed, but another one some fourteen years later was more successful. Spain was not given a clear title to the peninsula without protest. French Huguenots built Fort Caroline on St. John's River at about the middle of the century. Shortly after this enterprise, a Spanish fleet surprised and annihilated the pioneers, upon whose graves they placed the inscription, "Not as Frenchmen, but as Lutherans." This brutal attempt to give a religious aspect to the murder was resented very soon after. A French expedition captured the fort, hung the garrison one after the other, announcing that they did so, and hanged the ruffians "Not as Spaniards, but as traitors, thieves and murderers."
West Florida was settled at the close of the Seventeenth Century, and in 1763 the territory now included in the State was ceded to Great Britain in return for Cuba. Colonization followed, and a very large number of British Tories settled in the country. In 1814, the United States seized portions of the country, and four years later it became evident that European rule must cease in it. When in 1821 Spain ceded this territory to the United States, the number of white inhabitants was barely 600, although there were fully 4,000 Seminoles residing in it.
The Seminole War commenced in 1835, and continued for seven years. The war cost some $20,000,000, and over 1,500 American soldiers lost their lives during the campaign. Over 30,000 troops were engaged in the conflict, and the Indians by taking advantage of their knowledge of the country, held out against superior force for an extraordinary length of time. Gradually the savages were driven south, and at last the Seminoles were overpowered. Those who survived were for the most part sent west of the Mississippi River. A few are still found, however, on a reservation some fifteen miles from Fort Pierce on Indian River.
When the Southern States seceded, Florida went with them. In 1864, General Seymour led 7,000 troops nearly as far as Lake City. Jacksonville remained under Federal control, but the State fortunately escaped being made a battle-ground to any extent between the opposing forces.
Florida has a very interesting geological record. It was evidently founded on coral reefs, and the formations are so recent that few minerals are found. Phosphate rock is one of the most remarkable natural productions of the State, and the actual value of this has not yet been thoroughly ascertained. The State itself is naturally divided into two sections, the East and the West. East Florida includes a long peninsula, and extends westward to the Suwanee River, concerning which the negro melodist delights to sing. Western Florida is more inland in character. The measurements of the State are peculiar. Thus it is 700 miles from the Perdido River to Cape Sable. From the Atlantic to the extreme west the distance is about 400 miles, and from north to south the distance is slightly greater. The peninsula itself averages rather less than 100 miles in width throughout. Florida naturally possesses an enormous coast line. Of this nearly 500 miles is on the Atlantic seaboard, with some 700 miles on the Gulf of Mexico. Harbors abound on every side, and when Florida becomes a manufacturing State as well as a fruit-growing one, its resources for exporting will be an immense advantage to it in overcoming competition and opposition.
This coast line makes sea fishing one of the most profitable occupations in the State. About 10,000 men are kept constantly employed in this work. Some of the fish found here are choice and costly delicacies, and include red snapper, pompano, Spanish mackerel and sea trout. Of turtle there is an abundance, and tarpon fishing provides amusement to those who are more strictly sportsmanlike in disposition. Fishing for sponges is also a fairly remunerative occupation, which always excites much interest when watched by visitors from other States. Key West alone sends away sponges worth $500,000 every year, two great capitals of Europe being the best customers.
Key West is, however, better noted for its cigars. It is situated on what was originally called Bone Reef by the Spaniards, on account of great quantities of human bones being found on it by the early explorers. Eighty years ago, a number of New England fishermen located at Key West, which is about sixty miles from Florida proper and about ninety miles from Havana. The great revolution in the nature of the town's business and habits was brought about by the settlement in it, less than a quarter century ago, of a large band of Cuban exiles. These brought with them the secrets of the manufacture of cigars of the highest grade. They at once set about establishing factories as large as their means allowed, and the business has grown so rapidly that there are now facilities for manufacturing nearly 150,000,000 cigars every year. To the man who appreciates the difference between good and bad cigars it is hardly necessary to say that in quality, as well as quantity, the product of this Spanish-American island has progressed.
The harbor of Key West is the ninth port of entry in the country. It is so naturally impregnable that it escaped capture during the Civil War, when the Gulf Coast ports were a special source of attack and envy. Legend and history twine around the harbor stories of thrilling interest, many of which have formed the plots for successful and celebrated novels. The town has peculiar but attractive streets, with tropical trees on both sides. Seven miles distant is Key West, the most extreme southern point of United States territory. From the immense light-house pier the distance to the island of Cuba is less than eighteen miles.
Returning to the inland, we may spend a few minutes
'Way down 'pon de Suwanee Ribber, Far, far away— Dare's wha' my heart is turnin' ebber— Dare's wha' de ole folks stay.
This river, as we have seen, forms the western boundary of Eastern Florida. It is a very romantic stream, running through a country of surpassing beauty, with tropical trees and undergrowth coming right to the water's edge. It enters Florida from Southern Georgia, and runs through a country which varies from forest to plain and from upland to valley. Along its banks there are a number of little Southern homes, few of them boasting of the magnificence of which we often read, but all of them peaceful and attractive. Of one of these we give an illustration. At first glance they may not appear to be anything very remarkable about the little house and its surroundings, but on second thoughts and glances something more than poetical will be discovered. The old negro ballad from which we have quoted above gives in its lines a charming idea of the river and of the memories and thoughts which cling to it. Excursion parties are very frequent along the river. Some indulge in hunting, and take advantage of the profusion of game on every hand. Others prefer to indulge in peaceful reverie and to think only of the quaint old folks, who, as we are told in the song, still stay in the vicinity.
The Ocklawaha River resembles the Suwanee in many respects. Steamboats run along it for a considerable distance, and there is seldom difficulty in securing passengers. It is said that there are more alligators to a hundred square feet of water, in sections of this river, than can be found in any other water in the world. From the deck of a passenger steamer it is quite interesting to watch the peculiar proceedings of these dangerous creatures, and many conjectures are exchanged as to what would happen in the event of any one of the watchers falling overboard. On the banks of the river, cedar groves are frequently seen. Florida supplies the world with the wood required for lead pencils, and the inroads made into her cedar forests for this purpose threaten to eventually rob the State of one of its most unique features. Cypress, a wood which is just beginning to be appreciated at its true worth, is also abundant in this vicinity, and many of the much talked-of cypress swamps are passed. Pineapples are also seen growing vigorously, and also the vanilla plant, which resembles tobacco in its leaf. Vanilla leaf is gathered very largely, and sold for some purpose not very clearly defined or explained.
The banyan tree has to be seen to be understood. It is really an exclusive product of Florida and is found in the Key West country, where sea island cotton will grow all the year around, indifferent to changes of season. The banyan is almost a colony of trees in itself, having, apparently, a dozen trunks in one. All the upper boughs are more or less united, and the old proverb of "In union there is strength," seems to have in it a unique illustration and confirmation.
Lake Worth is one of the prettiest lakes in the South. It is a very beautiful sheet of water, broken only by Pitts' Island, which is located near its northern end. The most useful and desirable products of the North have here a congenial home, alongside those most loved in the region of the equator. A New Englander may find his potatoes, sweet corn, tomatoes and other garden favorites, and can pluck, with scarcely a change in his position, products that are usually claimed as Brazilian. He finds in his surroundings, as plentiful and as free as the water sprinkling before him, such strange neighbors as coffee, the tamarind, mango, pawpa, guava, banana, sapadillo, almond, custard apple, maumec apple, grape fruit, shaddock, Avadaco pear, and other equally new acquaintances.
And these are all neighbors, actual residents, natives of the soil, not imported immigrants or exacting visitors to be tenderly treated. Giant relatives, equally at home, are the rubber tree, mahogany, eucalyptus, cork tree and mimosa. All these, within forty hours' travel of New York, to be reached in winter by an all-rail trip, and to be enjoyed in a climate that is a perpetual May. It was but a few years ago (less than a dozen) that the beauties of Lake Worth were at first dimly reported by venturesome sportsmen, who had gazed upon its unspeakable loveliness.
To-day the taste and labor of wealthy capitalists from East and from West, have lined its fair shores with elegant homes. One of these, the McCormick Place, has for the past two years been famous for its wondrous beauty. It is situated at Palm Beach, on the eastern shore of the lake, and faces westward or inland. It thus receives the cool air from the lake and the breezes from the Atlantic, which is but a stroll distant. The entire estate comprises 100 acres, all under high cultivation. It has a water front on both lake and ocean of 1,200 feet. In this lovely spot Mr. McCormick built a castle, so handsomely finished, inside and out, so tastefully designed and so elegantly furnished, that one would imagine he expected to entertain royalty within its walls.
It is said that nowhere on the continent is so great a variety of vegetable growth presented in one locality, as is here to be seen in the full perfection of lusty growth. The cacti at this point are marvels of variety and beauty. One's idea of what a cactus is can never be complete until one has witnessed a scene such as this, and a collection of this magnitude. The fruit trees form a mass of groves. In some of these, huge cocoanuts tower away above all other growth, while alongside of these monarchs of arbory culture there are groves of dwarf trees, less tremendous but quite as interesting.
This region has been described as a mental quicksand. There is something in the atmosphere which makes the most industrious man contentedly idle. Here the nervous, irritable, fussy individual, who for years has never known what rest meant, and who has fidgeted when he could not work, finds himself relaxing, against his will, into a condition of what a celebrated statesman described as "innocuous desuetude." The balminess of the air, which is at once warm and invigorating and bracing, without being severe, brings about a natural feeling of rest. The fascination which this creates soon becomes overpowering. The longer the visitor remains the more completely and hopelessly does he give away to his feelings, until at last he only tears himself away by a painful effort.
Biscayne Bay stands at the terminus of the peninsula of Florida, and at the extreme southeastern end of the United States. The visitor who stands here is on what is frequently called the great projecting toe of the Union. South of him there are a number of islands, but of the main land there is no more. The bay is almost a lake. It sets well into the coast, but is not quite enclosed by land. It is between five and ten miles wide and is forty miles long. A score of little inlets feed it from the ocean. The water is blue and clear and of no great depth, making the lake one of the finest cruising places in the world. All along the shores there are picturesque little settlements, all of them distinctly Southern in their appearance, and concerning each of which the traveler can hear legend without number.
St. Augustine is perhaps the most talked-about city in Florida. It is a quaint old Spanish city with a great history. The evidences of the past seem to be disappearing rapidly, the retreat being forced by the introduction of modern ideas and immense sums of modern capital. Memorial Church is one of the features of the town, and behind it the traveler sees, as he approaches, turrets and towers of every shape and size. The pavements are almost uniformly good, and as one is driven along the streets for the first time, every turning seems to bring to light some new wonder and some unexpected beauty. Hedges formed of oleanders, arbor vitae, larches and cedars, to say nothing of masses of roses of all kinds, upset all his preconceived notions of tree, shrub and flower growth, and convince him that he has come to a land flowing indeed with milk and honey, where winters are practically unknown.
The Hotel Ponce de Leon is naturally the great object of his search, and if his purse affords it the tourist certainly stops here, if only for the sake of saying that he has slept, for one night at least, in this extraordinary and marvelously magnificent hostelry. If the Ponce de Leon were in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis or Chicago, it would excite murmurs of admiration on every hand. But its existence would not be regarded as something extraordinary, as it certainly is in a town of the size of St. Augustine. The enterprise which led to its construction has been commented on again and again, and the liberal methods of management have also been the subject of much comment. As the carriage passes through the arched gateway into the enclosed court, blooming all the year round with fragrance and beauty, the tourist begins to apologize mentally for the skepticism in which he has indulged, concerning this wonder of the age. After mounting several successive terraces of broad stone steps, he finds himself at last before the magnificent front of the great hotel. Before him there is the grand doorway, surmounted by the oft-described arch of Spanish shields in terra cotta. All around there are broad galleries and wide windows, with very costly, artistic cappings. The galleries are supported by massive but neat pillars, and the shaded nooks and quiet corners are full of romantic influence.
Everything is reminiscent of old Spain, although the magnificence and architecture is often that of the extreme East. There are five elegantly decorated salons, in which there are tables of costly onyx, and on whose walls there are paintings of great splendor. On the ceiling above him exquisite frescoes tell the story of the old cavalier after whom the hotel is named, and of his patient and faithful search for the fabled fountain of youth which no one has yet found. At dinner the visitor is almost appalled by the magnificence of the service, and his appetite is apt to be injured by his reflections as to the cost of the silver and porcelain set before him. Sometimes as many as a thousand guests sit down together, and the service seems to be perfect for an unlimited number of visitors.
This great hotel was erected like the great temple described in scripture, practically without hammer or nails. Being molded from concrete, it is practically proof against weather and time, and it is fireproof in a sense of the term far more literal than that generally adopted in large cities. There is no sham work, from basement to tower. Italian marble, terra cotta and Mexican onyx are the principal materials used, and nothing "equally as good" is tolerated.
The view from St. Augustine can hardly be excelled in any part of the world. The old city gates remind the tourist of Spanish stories and Oriental fables. Net far distant he sees Fort Marion, described as the oldest fortification in the United States. It was built by one of the Spanish Kings at great expense, and, according to the opinion of experts, is likely to survive many generations to come. It is constructed of cocquina cement, found only in Florida, and which seems to be everlasting in character.
Fort Marion has been the scene in years gone by of countless events of thrilling interest, and the student of history, who sees it for the first time, delights to conjure up reminiscences concerning it. In the old Indian war days there were several massacres at this point, in which the Indians occasionally outdid themselves in deeds of blood. About twenty years ago, the old fort was turned into an Indian prison, and to it were taken some of the worst and apparently most irreclaimable members of Indian tribes. This included Mochi, the Indian squaw who seemed to regard murder as a high art and a great virtue, "Rising Bull," "Medicine Water," "Big Mocassin" and other red ruffians who had proved themselves beyond all hope of reformation. The watch-tower of the fort stands high above surrounding buildings, and is probably one of the oldest watch-towers and light-houses in the world.
The old sea-wall runs from the fort past the historical old slave-market and the plaza, where cool breezes can be obtained on the hottest days. There is the cathedral, the oldest place of worship in the country, if the local historians are to be believed, with its chime of bells which first called the faithful to worship more than 200 years ago. On the east the smooth waters of the attractive bay rivet the attention of every visitor who has in him a particle of poetry, or appreciation of the beautiful. Not far away is Anastasia Island. At the north of Mananzas Bay is the spot where Sir Francis Drake, one of England's first admirals, landed, and close by is the oft-described lighthouse, with its old Spanish predecessor just north of it.
Not far from St. Augustine is the Carmonna vineyard. Here there are seventy-five acres of land covered with grape vines. The second year these vines yielded two and a half tons of grapes per acre. The sea of leaves, responding to the gentle breeze which generally blows up, presents an appearance of green very restful to the eye, and opens up new ideas as to color and expanse. All around Moultrie there are acres and acres of white Niagara grapes, and in a few years Florida shipments of this fruit will be enormous.