An Englishman's visit to Niagara Falls in the year 1830

The following account of a visit to Niagara Falls was published in 1832 by S. A. Ferrall in his book "A Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America."

The preface to the book is amusing for the reactions of his friends on being told he planned a trip to America
"All are on the tiptoe of expectation, to hear what the inducements can possibly be for travelling in America. America!! every one exclaims--what can you possibly see there? A country like America--little better than a mere forest--the inhabitants notoriously far behind Europeans in refinement--filled with wild Indians, rattle-snakes, bears, and backwoodsmen; ferocious hogs and ugly negros; and every other species of noxious and terrific animal!"

From Chapter 2, Ferrall has been travelling from Rochester, New York with a companion

We agreed to visit the Falls of Niagara together, and accordingly quitted the boat at Tonawanta. When we had dined, and had deposited our luggage in the safe keeping of the Niagara hotel-keeper, my companion shouldered his vigne stick, and to one end of which he appended a small bundle, containing a change of linen, &c., and I put on my shooting coat of many pockets, and shouldered my gun. Thus equipped, we commenced our journey to the Great Falls. The distance from Tonawanta to the village of the Falls, now called Manchester, is about eleven miles. The way lies through a forest, in which there are but a few scattered habitations. A great part of the road runs close to the river Niagara; and the occasional glimpses of this broad sheet of water, which are obtained through the rich foliage of the forest, added to the refreshing breeze that approached us through the openings, rendered our pedestrian excursion extremely delightful.

Towards evening we arrived at the village, and proceeded to reconnoitre, in order to fix our position for the night. After having done this satisfactorily, we then turned our attention to the all-important operation of eating and drinking. While supping, an eccentric-looking person passed out through the apartment in which we were. His odd appearance excited our curiosity, and we inquired who this mysterious-looking gentleman was. We were informed that he was an Englishman, and that he had been lodging there for the last six months, but that he concealed his real name. He slept in one corner of a large barrack room, in which there were of course several other beds. On a small table by his bed-side there were a few French and Latin books, and some scraps of poetry touching on the tender passion. These, and a German flute, which we observed standing against the window, gave us some clue to his character. He was a tall, romantic-looking young man, apparently about twenty-seven or twenty-eight years of age. His dress was particularly shabby. This the landlord told us was from choice, not from necessity, as he had two trunks full of clothes nearly new. The reason he gave for dressing as he did, was his knowing, he said, that if he dressed well, people would be talking to him, which he wished to avoid; but, that by dressing as he did, he made sure that no one would ever think of giving him any annoyance of that kind. I thought this idea unique: and whether he be still at Niagara, or has taken up his abode at the foot of the Rocky mountains, I pronounce him to be a Diogenes without a tub. He has read at least one page in the natural history of civilized man.

We visited the Falls, at the American side by moonlight. There was then an air of grandeur and sublimity in the scene which I shall long remember. Yet at this side they are not seen to the greatest advantage. Next morning I crossed the Niagara river, below the Falls, into Canada. I did not ascend the bank to take the usual route to the Niagara hotel, at which place there is a spiral staircase descending 120 feet towards the foot of the Falls, but clambered along at the base of the cliffs until I reached the point immediately below the stairs. I here rested, and indeed required it much, for the day was excessively warm, and I had unfortunately encumbered myself with my gun and shot pouch. The Falls are here seen in all their grandeur. Two immense volumes of water glide over perpendicular precipices upwards of 170 feet in height, and tumble among the crags below with a roaring that we distinctly heard on our approach to the village, at the distance of five miles up the river: and down the river it can be heard at a much greater distance. The Falls are divided by Goat Island into two parts. The body of water which falls to the right of the island is much greater than that which falls to the left; and the cliffs to the right assume the form of a horse-shoe. To the left there is also a considerable indentation, caused by a late falling in of the rock; but it scarcely appears from the Canadian side. The rushing of the waters over such immense precipices--the dashing of the spray, which rises in a white cloud at the base of the Falls, and is felt at the distance of a quarter of a mile--the many and beautiful rainbows that occasionally appear,--united, form a grand and imposing coup d'oeil_.

The Fall is supposed to have been originally at the table-land near Lewiston; and indeed, from the nature of the ground, and its present condition below the Falls, no reasonable objection can be entertained to that supposition. The upper part of the cliffs is composed of hard limestone, and underneath is a bed of schistus. Now this schistus is continually worn away by the water's dashing against it. This leaves the upper part, or immediate bed of the river, without foundation. When, therefore, from extraordinary floods, the pressure of the incumbent fluid becomes more than usually great, the rock gives way; and thus, gradually, the Falls have receded several miles.

I at length ascended the stairs, and popped my head into the shanty, sans ceremonie, to the no small amazement of the cunning compounder of "cock-tails," and "mint julaps" who presided at the bar. It was clear that I had ascended the stairs, but how the deuce I had got down was the question. I drank my "brandy sling," and retreated before he had recovered from his surprise, and thus I escaped the volley of interrogatories with which I should have been most unsparingly assailed. I walked for some distance along the Canadian heights, and then crossed the river, where I met my friend waiting my return under a clump of scrub oak.

We had previously determined on visiting the Tuscarora village, an Indian settlement about eight miles down the river, and not far from Ontario. This is a tribe of one of the six nations, the last that was admitted into the Confederation. They live in a state of community; and in their arrangements for the production and distribution of wealth, approach nearer to the Utopean system than any community with which I am acquainted. The squaws told us that no Indian there could claim any thing but what was contained within his own cabin; that the produce of the land was common property, and that they never quarrelled about its division. We dined in one of their cabins, on lean mutton and corn bread. The interior of their habitations is not conspicuous for cleanliness; nor are they so far civilized as to be capable of breaking their word. The people at the Niagara village told us, that with the exception of two individuals in that community, any Indian could get from them on credit either money or goods to whatever amount he required.

I here parted with my fellow traveller, perhaps for ever. He went to Lewiston, whence he intended to cross into Canada, and to walk along the shores of Ontario; whilst I made the best of my way back through the woods to Manchester. I certainly think our landlord had some misgivings respecting the fate of my companion. We had both departed together: I alone was armed--and I alone returned. However, as I unflinchingly stood examination and cross-examination, and sojourned until next morning, his fears seemed to be entirely dispelled. Next day I took a long, last look at Niagara, and departed for Tonawanta.