Beautiful Blue Juniata

A long, low bridge carries the Pennsylvania Rail-road across the river in front of Dauphin Gap, and a short distance above, in a delta of fertile islands, the Susquehanna receives its romantic tributary, the Juniata, flowing for a hundred miles from the heart of the Alleghenies, and breaking out of them through a notch cut down in the long ridge of the Tuscarora Mountain. Here is the iron-making town of Dun-cannon, settled by the sturdy Scotch-Irish, who were numerous along the Juniata and in its neighboring valleys, and who suffered greatly from Indian forays in the early days of the frontier. Upon Duncan’s Island, the chief one in the delta, at the mouth of the Juniata, was the place of the council-fire of the Indian tribes of all this region. Now, this island is mainly a pleasure-ground, having spacious and shady groves, while the canal, crossing it from the Susquehanna to the Juniata, goes directly through an extensive Indian mound and burial-place. We will enter the fastnesses of the Alleghenies by the winding gorge of the ” beautiful blue Juniata,” flowing through magnificent scenery from the eastern face of the main Allegheny range out to the great river. It breaks down ridge after ridge, stretching broadly across the country, and presents superb landscapes and impressive mountain views. The route is a series of bends and gorges, the river crossing successive valleys between the ridges, now running for miles northeast along the base of a towering mountain and then turning east or southeast to break through it by a romantic pass. The glens and mountains, with ever-changing views, give an almost end-less panorama. Softness of outline, massiveness and variety, are the peculiarities of Juniata scenery. The stream is small, not carrying a great amount of water in ordinary seasons, and it seems as much by strategy as by power to have overcome the obstacles and made its mountain passes. The rended mountains, steep tree-covered slopes and frequent isolated sentinel-like hills rising from the glens, have all been moulded into rounded forms by the action of the elements, leaving few abrupt precipices or naked rocks to mar the regularity of the natural beauties. The valleys and lower parts of the mountain sides are generally cultivated, the fields sloping up to the mantle of forest crowning the flanks and summits of the ridges. Every change of sunshine or shadow, and the steady progress of the seasons, give new tints to these glens and mountains. At times the ravines are deep and the river tortuous, and again it meanders across the rich flat bottom lands of a broad valley. In its winding course among these mountain ranges, this renowned river passes through and displays almost the whole geological formation of Pennsylvania. The primary rocks are to the eastward of the Susquehanna, and the bituminous coal measures begin on the western Allegheny slope, so that the river cuts into a rock stratification over six miles in thickness, as one after another formation comes to the surface.

We go through the narrow Tuscarora Gap, and are journeying over the lands of the Tuscaroras, one of the Iroquois Six Nations, who came up from the South, and were given the name of Tuscarora, or the ” shirt-wearer,” because long contact with the whites had led them to adopt that garment. Beyond the Gap, the Tuscarora Valley is enclosed on its northwest side by the Turkey Mountain, the next western ridge, and it was a region of terrible Indian conflicts and massacres in the pioneer days, when the first fort built there was burnt, and every settler either killed or carried off into captivity. Here was fought the “Grasshopper War” between the Tuscaroras and Delawares. They had villages on opposite sides of the river, and one day the children disputed about some grasshoppers. The quarrel involved first the squaws and then the men, a bloody battle following. Mifflin, an attractive town, is located here, and to the westward the Juniata breaks through the next great ridge crossing its path, passing a massive gorge formed by the Shade and Blue Mountains, flowing for miles in the deep and narrow winding canyon between them, the far-famed ” Lewistown or Long Narrows,” having the railway hanging upon one bank and the canal upon the other. Broken, slaty shingle covers most of the hill-slopes, and in the broad valley, above the lengthened gorge, is Lewistown, nestling at the base of a huge mountain at the outlet of the beautiful Kishicoquillas Valley, spreading up among the high hills to the northward—its name meaning “the snakes are already in their dens.” The hero of this attractive region in the eighteenth century, and then its most distinguished inhabitant, was Logan, the chief of the Mingoes and Cayugas, whose speeches, preserved by Thomas Jefferson, are a favorite in school declamation. He was of giant mould, nearly seven feet high, and lived at Logan’s Spring in the valley. He was the friend of the white men, but when the frontier became too well settled for him longer to find the deer on which he subsisted, selling their skins to the traders, he went westward to the Ohio River, locating near Wheeling. Here, without provocation, his family were cruelly massacred, and this ended Logan’s love for the whites. He became a relentless foe, wreaking indiscriminate vengeance, until killed in the Shawnee wars beyond the Ohio, having joined that hostile tribe. The Lewistown Narrows are the finest mountain pass of the Juniata, the peaks precipitously rising over a thousand feet above the river, which forces a passage between them for more than eight miles, the densely wooded cliffs so enclosing and overshadowing the gorge as to give it an appearance of deepest gloom.