“the greatest effort of Nature”

Hannah Lawrence Schieffelin kept a diary when she and her husband traveled to Quebec and Detroit in 1780–1781. Here is her account of a visit to Niagara Falls which she thought lived up to its reputation as “the greatest effort of Nature.”

I proceeded … by slow and intricate windings up that rugged mountain, and contemplated the native wilderness of the scene through which we passed, till my ears were struck with the approaching sound of the falling torrent, and a sudden shower gave us to know that it could not be far distant, while innumberable isicles shook from the trees, on our heads, at every breath of wind, and were as quickly replaced by the constant succession of vapours condensing on the branches.

A considerable River first appeared, rolling down a gradual descent, and forming with the rapidity of its motion over the broken rocks, as we approached nearer the bank which had been worn away to an amazing depth, we were struck with motionless astonishment at the stupendous object that met our veiw, neither our surprize nor the deafening noise we heard, would admit of exclamation, we therefore stood gazing in silent awe and admiration. The whole River rushing abruptly down a terrific precipice, and rebounding in shattered particles, from the violence of its fall on said rocks, to nearly the height from whence it had precipitated itself. The earth seemed to tremble at the shock, and our sinking hearts corresponded with the idea. …

We prepared to descend [the path] to a level with the River … this with great difficulty, caution and the assistance of poles to prevent slipping we effected. … one of the gentlemen … then led me to a point of the rock that projected out in front of the Fall, from whence I could see the River descend as it were from the clouds, and with my eye follow its course, from its first rushing over the top, till it reached the margin of the stream below. … I grew giddy at the veiw. …

This excerpt is from In the Words of Women Chapter 9, page 263. The image above dates from 1774, a few years before the Schieffelins’ visit. It is an engraving published in London by the artist Richard Wilson, based on a sketch made at the falls by a British artilleryman, Lt. Pierie, in 1768. It is part of the Charles Rand Penney Collection of images of Niagara Falls.

posted January 12th, 2012 by Janet, CATEGORIES: Niagara Falls, Schieffelin, Hannah Lawrence, Travel


one comment so far »
  1. Don’t fall and keep your bungee cord tight.
    Very exciting for honeymooners. Brava. xox

    Comment by Me, Your Hub — January 12, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

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