Salem, July 11, 1871.
Dear Uncle Robert:—I was quite interested in your account of cats in the July number of the Museum, because I have a cat who can open our cellar door. It has a common latch upon it. The pantry door has a knob to it, and this our Minna cannot open. But she has tried it on several occasions, and as she is a young cat, perhaps she will master it in time. It looks funny enough to see her come swinging into the kitchen, hanging to the handle of the door. She learned herself without any assistance from any human being. It does seem as if the animal was gifted with reason like ourselves, but I suppose this cannot be.
Your interested friend,
L. S. M.
Boston, October 6, 1871.
Dear Uncle Robert:—The reporter on the White Mountain excursion tells you about a rough road which the party came across somewhere, a “corduroy” road, I believe he calls it. I didn’t have the good fortune to go over that. But I found one on my travels this week which I guess will match it. Shall I tell you about it?
A small party of us went to look at the Hoosac Tunnel last Monday. We stopped over night at the cosy little village on the east side of the mountains, at the entrance of the tunnel. In the morning we took a look at the great hole which now penetrates the Hoosac at this point, over a mile and a quarter. Here are the steam pumps, which send in the compressed air in iron pipes, to do the drilling, a mile and a quarter away! A little dummy locomotive (called the Governor Claflin) goes in every hour, taking in a lot of dirt cars, on which the broken rock is drawn out. Poor accommodations for travellers, but the best there is. So on we jumped, and in we went. In a few seconds we were in the blackest kind of darkness. Now and then the flicker of a light was just visible, and we could hear the sullen tamp, tamp, tamp, of the miners at work. The wheezy puffs of our little pony engine, too, seemed natural. But otherwise the ride is a frightful one.
At the extremity, where the gang of miners was at work, we alighted and stood a few moments, admiring the prospect! and then seated ourselves in a car filled with broken rocks, and rode out into daylight. I don’t care to go in again until I can go through at a reasonable pace and in a decent car. I like Governor Claflin pretty well, but his namesake is anything but a pleasant companion to have.
Well, having seen the east entrance, we set out for the middle shaft. We were told that there was a rough path over the mountain in a direct line—a surveyor’s path, I think they called it. But we concluded to try it. And such a road! Perpendicular more than half way, and what wasn’t up was down. Through woods, underbrush, and bushes; up ledges, over which a small brook came tumbling down in spray. But we felt that we could go anywhere the surveyors could. [Note: Some of our party doubted whether any human being had ever been there before.]
The top of the mountain at last was reached; and a prospect from it repaid [p. 244 ] us for our trouble. Down hill now, for a mile or so, brought us to the central shaft. Here a hole has been dug through rock, ten hundred and eighty feet deep, to reach the tunnel, so as to afford two extra working faces for the miners. Powerful machinery is erected at this point, propelled by steam, to pump in compressed air to drive the drills below, and to draw up the rock as soon as it is blasted. One great iron bucket goes down while another comes up. It takes less than three minutes to go to the bottom.
We stood some minutes looking at the operation. Occasionally a man would come up clinging to the bucket, with a complete oil-cloth suit on, begrimed with smoke, and dripping with water. We at once concluded that we wouldn’t go down.
Leaving the central shaft, we followed the line over another ridge of the mountain, where there is a better road, to the west portal. Here the mountain has been penetrated a long distance, but not as much as at the east entrance.
I must not forget to mention the Autumn tints of the trees and woods, all along our route. Their beauty was at its perfection for the season. No words of mine can describe the interesting spectacle which met our eyes. But we all saw it, and I know we appreciated it.
The west portal of the tunnel is near the village of North Adams, one of the very prettiest places I ever saw. Here we took the cars for home. And if any of the boys desire a model trip over a rough road, just let them try the one described; that’s all. I don’t know what a “corduroy” road may be, but if it is worse than the “surveyor’s path” over the Hoosac Mountain, why, all I can say is, I should want to take a rope-ladder along, if I should set out to go over it.
“corduroy” road: Bartlett 1848: “A road or causeway constructed with logs laid together over swamps or marshy places.” [John Russell Bartlett. Dictionary of Americanisms. New York: Bartlett and Welford, 1848.]
Governor Claflin: named for William Claflin (1818-1905), governor of Massachusetts, 1869-1872.
White Mountain excursion: In 1871, 22 male subscribers and at least one editor travelled to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Starting on 24 July from the Museum’s office in Boston, the group traveled by steamship, train, and foot to Mount Washington, climbed it, and took a stagecoach, train, and steamship back. The trip of several days cost each traveller about $16. It was written up as “The White Mountain Excursion” in the October issue.
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