An English women visits Buffalo in 1854

It was just sunset, when we reached Buffalo, and moored at a wharf crowded with large steamers receiving and discharging cargo. Owing to the gale, we were two hours too late for the Niagara cars, and I slept at the Western Hotel, where I received every attention.

Buffalo is one of the best samples of American progress. It is a regularly laid out and substantially built city of 65,000 inhabitants. It is still in the vigour of youth, for the present town only dates from 1813. It stands at the foot of Lake Erie, at the opening of the Hudson canal, where the commerce of the great chain of inland lakes is condensed. It is very "going ahead;" its inhabitants are ever changing; its population is composed of all nations, with a very large proportion of Germans, French, and Irish. But their national characteristics, though not lost, are seen through a medium of pure Americanism. They all rush about--the lethargic German keeps pace with the energetic Yankee; and the Irishman, no longer in rags, "guesses" and "spekilates" in the brogue of Erin. Western travellers pass through Buffalo; tourists bound for Canada pass through Buffalo; the traffic of lakes, canals, and several lines of rail centres at Buffalo; so engines scream, and steamers puff, all day long. It has a great shipbuilding trade, and to all appearance is one of the most progressive and go-ahead cities in the Union.

I left Buffalo on a clear, frosty morning, by a line which ran between lumber-yards on a prodigious scale and the hard white beach of Lake Erie. Soon after leaving the city, the lake becomes narrow and rapid, and finally hurries along with fearful velocity. I knew that I was looking at the commencement of the rapids of Niagara, but the cars ran into some clearings, and presently stopped at a very bustling station, where a very officious man shouted, "Niagara Falls Station!" The name grated unpleasantly upon my ears. A man appeared at the door of the car in which I was the only passenger--"You for Lewiston, quick, this way!" and hurried me into a stage of uncouth construction, drawn by four horses. We jolted along the very worst road I ever travelled on--corduroy was Elysium to it. No level was observed; it seemed to be a mere track along waste land, running through holes, over hillocks and stumps of trees. We were one hour and three-quarters in going a short seven miles. If I had been better acquainted with the neighbourhood, I might, as I only found out when it was too late, have crossed the bridge at Niagara Falls, spent three hours in sight of Niagara, proceeding to Queenston in time for the steamer by the Canada cars!

On our way to Lewiston we met forty of these four-horse stages. I caught a distant view of the falls, and a nearer one of the yet incomplete suspension bridge, which, when finished, will be one of the greatest triumphs of engineering art.

Beyond this the scenery is very beautiful. The road runs among forest trees of luxuriant growth, and peach and apple orchards, upon the American bank of the Niagara river. This bank is a cliff 300 feet high, and from the edge of the road you may throw a stone into the boiling torrent below; yet the only parapet is a rotten fence, in many places completely destroyed. When you begin to descend the steep hill to Lewiston the drive is absolutely frightful. The cumbrous vehicle creaks, jolts, and swings, and, in spite of friction-breaks and other appliances, gradually acquires an impetus which sends it at full speed down the tremendous hill, and round the sharp corner, to the hotel at Lewiston. While I was waiting there watching the stages, and buying peaches, of which I got six for a penny, a stage came at full speed down the hill, with only two men on the driving-seat. The back straps had evidently given way, and the whole machine had a tendency to jump forward, when, in coming down the steepest part of the declivity, it got a jolt, and in the most ridiculous way turned "topsy-turvy," the roof coming down upon the horses' backs. The men were thrown off unhurt, but the poor animals were very much cut and bruised.

I crossed Lake Ontario to Toronto in the _Peerless_, a very smart, safe, iron steamer, with the saloon and chief weight below. The fittings of this beautiful little vessel are in perfect taste. We stopped for two hours at the wharf at Niagara, a town on the British side, protected once by a now disused and dismantled fort. The cars at length came up, two hours after their time, and the excuse given for the delay was, that they had run over a cow!

In grim contrast to the dismantled English Fort Massassaqua, Fort Niagara stands on the American side, and is a place of considerable strength. There I saw sentinels in grey uniforms, and the flag of the stars and stripes.

Captain D---- of the _Peerless_ brought his beautiful little vessel from the Clyde in 6000 pieces, and is justly proud of her. I sat next him at dinner, and found that we knew some of the same people in Scotland. Gaelic was a further introduction; and though so many thousand miles away, for a moment I felt myself at home when we spoke of the majestic Cuchullins and the heathery braes of Balquidder. In the _Peerless_ every one took wine or liqueurs. There was no bill of fare, but a long list of wines and spirits was placed by each plate. Instead of being disturbed in the middle of dinner by a poke on the shoulder, and the demand, "Dinner ticket, or fifty cents," I was allowed to remain as long as I pleased, and at the conclusion of the voyage a gentlemanly Highland purser asked me for my passage and dinner money together.

We passed a number of brigs and schooners under full sail, their canvass remarkable for its whiteness; their hulls also were snowy white. They looked as though "they were drifting with the dead, to shores where all was dumb."

Late in the evening we entered the harbour of Toronto, which is a very capacious one, and is protected by a natural mole of sand some miles in extent. Though this breakwater has some houses and a few trees, it is the picture of dreary desolation.