Dear “Spirit.”—The following I have from a very reliable source, and do not doubt its truth, for there are many of our “backwoodsmen” who have never seen such a thing as a steamboat or a “rail-car.”

One evening, during the month of October last, a couple of “verdants” camped near the bank of ------ river, in this State, and after having partaken of their “homely fast,” were soon wrapped in the arms of Morpheus. The dogs lay close beside them, as sound asleep as their masters, and about half the night passed off quietly, when they were suddenly awakened by a most terrific noise. They looked towards the river, and there, to their still greater consternation, they discovered the cause of their alarm. They could clearly see some large object in the river, which was completely enveloped in smoke, and the shrill noise which issued therefrom—whiz-z-z-z-z-z—almost deafened them.

“ The river’s a-fire!” shouted Tom (the oldest of the two).

“ Shut up your tarnal mouth, Tom—ain’t you got sense enough to know the cussed critter’ll hear you?” whispered the other (who gloried in the name of Kirk).

“ Don’t you think we’d better run?” said Tom, now almost out of breath.

“ No,” said his companion, “such a big thing as that could catch you no matter where you go. You jist lay low and keep dark till it passes, and maybe we’ll ‘scape alive.”

Tom took the advice of his friend, and in a few moments the hanimal was out of sight, and in a few moments more out of hearing.

No sleeping was done around their camp-fire during the remainder of that night, as Kirk “ ‘low’d it mout be best to wait till mornin’.”

About sunrise the next morning my informant met the two “heroes,” (who imagined that they had providentially escaped a most horrible death through the wisdom and prudence of the “immortal” Kirk). They were plodding along in the direction of “ happy home.” My friend had already passed, when one of them shouted out—

"Hold on, stranger, I want to have a little talk with ye."

The stranger halted, and the “orator,” after inquiring into the affairs of health, &c., commenced--

“ See here, stranger, ‘bout 11 o’clock last night I heard the most terrificacious noise that I ever hearn.”

“ Well, what do you think [1] it was?”

“ That’s the thing, stranger, I don’t know what tew think ; it hollered wus ‘an a painter, de yeath fairly shook, and it skeered my dogs clean off, so I haint seen nothin’ more of ‘em.”

“ Well, but my friend, which way did the noise appear to be?”

“ Oh, the noise was rite in the river—some dingnation big thing was swimmin’ up the river.”

“ It was a steamboat,” said the stranger, as he stuck spurs to his horse and galloped off, laughing heartily.

“ But stop a minute, stranger, and let me know a little more about it, for I believe you’re jokin’,” cried Kirk, at the top of his voice.

The stranger galloped on and left the “youth” to consider the matter among themselves.



Source: New York Spirit of the Times 22.1 (21 February 1852): 2. University of Virginia Alderman Library.

Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.

[1] Original text reads “th ink.”

We would like to thank the staff of the Library of Virginia Archives and Special Collections, Alderman Library, and Barrett Collection for their assistance. This page contains material in the public domain and it may be reproduced in its entirety or cited for courses, scholarship, or other non-commercial uses. We ask that users cite the source and support the archives that have provided materials to the Spirit site.