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BY B. MATTHIAS.
“ Its bounding crystal frolicked in the ray,
It is probable there are but few individuals residing in the vicinity of Philadelphia, who have not heard, during some interval of business engagements, of Wissahiccon creek, a beautiful and romantic stream that falls into the no less romantic Schuylkill, about five miles above the city. The stream is visited, statedly, by but a small number of persons,
but as it is neither found on any map, nor marked in any gazetteer that I have ever examined, there may be some apology offered for the indifference to its magnificent scenery, manifested by hundreds and thousands of our citizens, who, though domiciled in its immediate vicinity, have never deemed it worthy of a visit. So true it is, that there is a proneness in human nature to undervalue the gifts of Providence which are placed within our reach, and to admire and covet those which are located at a distance. Were a fatiguing journey of several hundred miles necessary, in order to enjoy a ramble along the banks of the Wissahiccon, we should then, without doubt, view its placid waters, its sluggish meandering course, its richly covered banks, and its imposing precipices, with the admiration and enthusiasm which scenes of this character never fail to inspire in the minds of those who passionately love the untouched works of
the hand of Nature. But the delightful little stream courses along within a few miles of our doors, and a ride to its most picturesque views, is but an hour's excursion; hence, except to a few whose researches have discovered, and whose good taste enabled them to appreciate, the beauty, sublimity, and majesty of this stream, it is almost unknown.
But there are persons who have not been thus negligent of nature's treasures in this vicinity, and to these a visit to the fascinating Wissahiccon, calls up remembrances and associations of the most delightful character. To those who enjoy Nature in her majesty-free, uncontrolled, undespoiled of her beauty by the effacing efforts of human skill—there is no spot, within a circle of many miles, so rich in imagery, so imposing in appearance, so fascinating in attraction, as the banks of the Wissahiccon. The stream takes its rise from several springs in the upper part of Montgomery county, and flows, for a short distance, through a limestone country, remarkable for fertility and a high state of cultivation.—Thence it
passes, southwesterly, “a sweet smiling stream sleeping on the green sward,” into more undulating land, until it reaches the Chestnut ridge, from which it progresses, at times indolently, and at times with an impetuous current, through a narrow valley, hedged in on either side by high hills, steep and craggy cliffs and precipitous mountains, until it strikes the Schuylkill, about a mile above the falls. Along its whole course the scenery of the Wissahiccon is beautiful, but it is the portion lying within four or five miles of its mouth, that is generally regarded as the most attractive, as it exhibits, in bolder relief than any other portion, the peculiar sublimity and grandeur of the stream, and the imposing and majestic ledge of rock work through which it passes. It is along this dis
tance that I have been accustomed to ramble during leisure moments, for years, and it is under the shade of the forests of brilliant hue that line its banks, that I have often reclined, and enjoyed, undisturbed, the sweet melody of nature, issuing from the bursting green foliage around me. I love nature with enthusiasm, and whether standing on the bank of a running stream and listening to the sweet gushing sound of its waters, or seated on an eminence overlooking the waving fields of golden fruit that bless the labour of the husbandman; whether enchanted by the Siren song of nature's minstrels in the spring, or watching the many-coloured leaves of the forest, as they are borne through the air by the whistling winds of autumn-there is, in the scene before me, absorbing attraction, calling forth reflections which never fail to mellow down the selfish and unkind feelings of the heart, and to shed a peaceful consoling and happy influence-all-pervading and lasting in its impressions
over the heart. The wild and majestic are, however, the scenes to which I am most strongly attached and which invariably elicit, to a greater extent than those of a softer character, passionate emotions of wonder and admiration. I love to stand at the base of a mountain whose summit reaches the clouds, and to clamber among rocks and under precipices whose projecting cliffs threaten destruction to the hardy adventurer-I love to explore the dense forests of our bold and beautiful hills, and to bury myself in the hidden recesses of nature, where the foot of man has never trod, where the sound of civilisation has never been heard -I love to stand at the foot of Niagara, and watch the mighty torrent of a mighty inland sea, hurling its concentrated power into the gulf below, and to gaze deep, deep, into that awful abyss-unfathomable, destructive, appalling- I love to see the elements at war, to hear the rush of
the tornado and whirlwind, laying prostrate in their furious course every impediment to their destructive progress, and to witness the fall of the powerful oak and the whirlings of its cleft branches in the sea of matter above, crushing and overwhelming the most formidable obstacles of art. These are scenes in which the spirit of the enthusiast revels, and they are scenes which strike the soul with awe, speaking trumpet-tongued of the presence of an Almighty power! of the omnipotence of his authority, of the insignificance of human effort, and the frailty of human life.
The scenery near the mouth of the Wissahiccon is of a wild, romantic and imposing character, beautiful in its ever-varying aspect, and interesting in its mystic associations. High hills, occasionally assuming the appearance of mountains, rise on either side, covered with a dense and beautifully variegated foliage. The dogwood, with, its beautiful flowers, the chestnut, the locust, the melancholy willow, the sumac, the gum, with its vermillion leaves, and the gloomy hemlock, flourish here in all their native grandeur, and the lofty oak, the father of the forest, stretches out his thickly covered branches to afford shade and shelter to the weary pedestrian. Wild flowers, in great number and varieties, rivalling each other in loveliness, are found in the underwood, giving effect to the drapery of the verdant trees, by enlivening the dark hues of the thickly-growing and overshadowed forest. Some of these flowers and plants are of rare quality and surpassing beauty, and far eclipse in attraction many that are cul
ated with care and pride in our horticultural gardens; but here they spring up, year after year, in silence and solitude, being literally
In the valley of the stream along the eastern side of which, for a mile or two, a convenient road has been chiseled and scooped out of the sides of the stony hill, the vision is completely obstructed by the imposing banks, and hills rising above hills, on either shore, and but for the unpoetic noise of a labouring mill, and the span of a rude bridge which crosses to a small cavern or clevity in the rocky slope, there would be nothing to betray the presence of man, or to mark the contiguity of human enterprise. Alas! that not one spot—not even the glorious Wissahiccon_bearing the undoubted impress of the hand of the God of nature-can escape the desolating depredations and officious interference of the onward march of civilisation.
The carriage road commencing at the mouth of the Wissahiccon, crosses the stream on a covered bridge, about a mile and a half above, winds up a bill of considerable elevation and passes over to the Ridge. From the covered bridge access along the creek is obtained by means of a foot path, on the western side, which is marked through the forest, over crags and cliffs, rugged rocks and rooted trees, until it reaches a beautiful green lawn, a little parlour in the wilderness, celebrated as the resort of occasional pic nic parties of young ladies and gentlemen from the city, and where, on the grassy floor, youth and beauty have often mingled in the graceful dance, and joined in the merry song of innocence and gay hilarity. It is a sweet spot, and surrounded as it is, by scenery of the wildest and most romantic character, may, very appropriately, be designated the oasis of the Wissahiccon.”. Near this place, immediately on the water's edge, the ruins of an antiquated stone building are discovered, scattered over the ground, and as no trace of the original appearance of the edifice can be found, the imagination is