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Description of Coal and Timber along the Ohio River, 1814

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-from "The Navigator," Cramer, Zadok, 1801

The hills on both sides of the Ohio, as low as Grave creek, below Wheeling, are filled with excellent coal.* Below this, coal grows scarce, and what is found, is not of so good a quality. Coal has been boated down from Grave creek to Marietta, Limestone, falls of the Ohio, &c. where it sells for 12 cents per bushel. Even at this price, it is not a very advantageous article of trade. It is also boated to Natchez from mines above the falls, and sells in that market to the blacksmiths at from 25 to 373 cents per bushel, and is preferred at that advanced price to the charcoal of that country. A mine of mineral coal has been observed lately at the Yellow Banks on the Ohio. The hills of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers are also filled with good coal mines up to their head waters; and in some places valuable iron ores are found in them.

The lands of the Ohio and its branches, are differently timbered according to their quality and situation. The high and dry lands are covered with red, white and black oak, hickory, walnut, red and white mulberry, ash, poplar, dogwood, some yellow pine, cucumber tree, sassafras, chestnut, and patches of grapevines are sometimes to be found on the south side of the hills. The low and bottom lands produce butter-nut, tulip tree, papaw, black willow, locust, honey-locust, buck-eye, cherry, mulberry, beech, elm, aspen, maple or sugar tree, plum tree, hickory, walnut, grapevine, remarkably large, spice wood, blackalder, & c. And below or southwardly of the Falls, are several cedar and cypress swamps, where the cedar and cypress trees grow remarkably large, and where also are a great abundance of canes, such as grow in South Carolina, and on the Mississippi.

The Sycamore seems to be the king of the forest on the banks of the Ohio. Their monstrous growth, towering height, and extended branches really fill the beholder with awe and astonishment. Between Wheeling and Marietta I measured several from 10 to 16 feet over, four feet above ground, and this seems to be but their common size. A gentleman of Marietta told me he knew of one 60 feet in circumference, and that in the hollow of another he had turned himself around with a ten foot pole in his hands, sweeping it at right angles with himself. And there is one of these huge trees in Sciota county, Ohio, on the land of a Mr. Abraham Miller, into whose hollow thirteen men rode on horseback, June 6, 1808, the fourteenth did not enter, his horse being skittish, and too fearful to advance into so curious an apartment, but there was room enough for two in more.

In the fall of the leaf, and when the year’s growth of bark begins to peal off these trees, the rays of the bright moon playing through their white branches, form a scene uncommonly brilliant, and quite cheering and amusing to the nightly traveller. 

The growth of the grapevines on the banks of the Ohio astonish the beholder not less than that of the sycamores—It is not uncommon to find them measure from 7 to 11 inches over, and so numerous, that in many places for 250 yards in circuit they form a complete canopy or covering of a great body and thickness, in which the tops of the trees are left in the entwining branches of the umbrageous vine leaves.—The number and manner of their hanging 60 or 80 feet from the tops of the tallest trees without touching the trunk, rather puzzles the spectator how they could thus fix themselves. A sailor might say they were first planted in the tops of the trees, as he first fastens his ropes to the masthead, and then grew downwards and fastened into the ground, at their leisure; they have this appearance but the principle does not answer the order of nature.

* The following observations on the soil and climate are taken from the Journal of a Col. Gordon, who passed down the Ohio as early as 1760: A coal mine was opened in the year 1760, opposite to Fort Pitt, on the Monongahela, for the use of that garrison. Hutchins.

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