In the spring of 1834, as work on the canal was in progress at Bools
Island, a riot, which seemed to have been the outcome of an ancient
feud, broke out between two factions of the Irish --the "Corkonians"
and the "Fardowns." These rioters did not use knives nor
shotguns, but whatever ammunition they could lay hold of the most
easily. One Sunday afternoon news came from the island to the townspeople
of a murderous affray up there, and the militia was sent for. They
appeared on the scene of action the following morning, but the rioters
had by that time quieted down. Still, these men, although few in
number, looked very imposing in their blue uniforms with red trimmings,
and their presence had a good effect on the two factions.
Of course the soldiers had many funny adventures to relate. One
story they told on their return was to the effect that when they
arrived in sight of the "enemy" the "Captain"
of the militia, being a timid man, turned to his men and said, "Dont
they always pick off the officers first?" and on being answered
in the affirmative, he replied, "Then, I guess I will get back
in the rear." The militia consisted of about half a dozen soldiers,
for the writer saw them leave the town, so one can imagine how ridiculous
must have been the leaders reply. Finding they would not be
needed, the militia returned the same evening, bringing with them,
however, two or three prisoners, who were put, for safe keeping,
in an unused wheelwright shop on Main street, a guard being placed
at each door and window to prevent their escape.
Later they were reprimanded very severely, ordered to keep the peace,
and finally dismissed, after which there were no further outbreaks.
On the 8th of January, 1841, occurred the greatest freshet the Delaware
has ever known. Although the writer remembers very distinctly every
incident connected with this most disastrous flood, such an accurate
account of it, from the pen of some Lambertville resident, not known,
was published in the Hunterdon Garette the day following that a
copy of said letter is found below:
LAMBERTVILLE. January 8, 1841. (Friday Evening.)
RAPID RISE IN THE DELAWARE RIVER -- GREAT DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY,
This has been a day of general excitement throughout the village
and neighborhood, and doubtless will be long remembered. We have
just returned from witnessing a scene that no pen can adequately
describe. At an early hour this morning we heard the roaring of
the waters and hastened to the scene of destruction. The river was
then filled with floating masses of timber, etc., consisting principally
of piles of lumber, logs, and fragments of buildings. The river
was then rising at a rapid rate, and continued to rise until ahout
three oclock, when it appeared to be at a stand. It is now
some five or six feet higher than was ever known before by the oldest
inhabitants. The canal had filled rapidly, in consequence of the
river breaking in above this place, and threatened destruction to
that part of
the town and to the extensive mills, etc.. on the Waterpower. The
citizens were preparing to leave their houses, when the large waste-weir,
opposite Holcombs basin -- about half a mile above the village
-- by the force of the water, gave way; which seemed providential
-- else the consequence might have been serious indeed, if the canal
had given way in the town. The lumber-yards, storehouses, mills,
etc., and other property situated along the river were in imminent
peril throughout the day.
About half-past ten oclock, fears began to be entertained
for the safety of the New Hope Delaware Bridge, as the river was
then nearly up to the floor.
The ice and drift-stuff increased, and struck the piers and timbers
of the bridge with tremendous force. Large coal-boats, heavy saw-logs,
and cakes of ice were lodging against it, and had forced apart one
or two of the piers on the Jersey side. About eleven oclock
we heard the astounding cry, from many voices, that Centre Bridge
was coming down, as we anticipated.
All eyes were fixed upon two large massive pieces of the bridge,
which were seen floating down a short distance above, by the resistless
current, in terrific grandeur. The feelings of the spectators, at
that moment, were deep and thrilling and may be imagined, but cannot
One of the pieces struck about midway, with an awful crash, passed
through, and carried away one of the arches of the bridge. The other
soon followed, and took with it another arch, on the Jersey side.
The Jersey pier soon gave way and the third arch followed, and lodged
a short distance below. Thus one-half of this noble structure, which
has stood the freshets for nearly thirty years, has been suddenly
carried away. The other part on the Pennsylvania side still remained
when we left, although much shattered. * * * If the river should
take a second rise, the consequences may be still more awful. To
describe the scenes we have witnessed to-day is painful in the extreme.
One instance relating to the flood is worth describing:
At the time "Centre Bridge" gave way, Mr. Fell, who had
engaged to attend to the receipts of toll at that place during the
temporary absence of the gatekeeper, was crossing over the bridge
for that purpose when it floated off. Fearing danger from the crushing
timbers overhead, and seeing a portion of the roof of the bridge
floating near him, he succeeded, by the aid of a plank, in reaching
it and freeing himself from the main body of the bridge. At this
place an heroic effort was made to rescue him from his perilous
position by Messrs. Hiram Scarborough and William M. Jones, using
a bateau, but they failed to accomplish their purpose. Mr. Fell
passed under the bridge, here lying flat upon the float,"
and was severely scratched and bruised by being raked over by the
floor of the structure. On he went, down this swelling flood. At
this time Mr. Henry Fell, his nephew, reached New Hope from Centre
Bridge on horseback, and was advised by Mr. William H. Murray and
others to take the river road on the Jersey side. This he did. Mr.
Murray mounted a spirited steed and was determined to follow Fell
over the same route, but so greatly was the bridge here endangered
that his friends entreated him not to attempt to cross it, Dr. Corson
even grasping the bridle reins with a firm hand. A lash from a halter-strap
upon the sides of the spirited animal made him plunge so excitedly
that to hold him was next to impossible, and he dashed away with
his rider at a rapid pace. Water was then floating inside the bridge,
some of the planks of the floor were, perhaps, moved from their
places, and in at least one case, where the horse made a leap of
about ten feet, the planks were gone entirely. He got safely across,
however, and joined Henry Fell on this side, barely in time to escape
the collision of the Centre Bridge wreck with the Jersey end of
the bridge here, when one-half of this time-honored structure between
the two States was swept away.
Messrs. Murray and Fell, on horseback, dashed along the river-side;
but at Goat Hill the road was impassable, and they had to take a
circuitous route to follow the man they were so eager to see saved.
They had to change horses once or twice, the fields traversed being
temporarily quagmired by the torrents of rainfall. The swift current
bore the helpless man in the river in a very winding course, first
near to one shore and then near the opposite shore. He had exhausted
his strength and given up hope, when below Yardleyville a man named
Nicholas went out in a boat and rolled Mr. Fell into his frail craft
(he being unable to help himself) and took him to shore. The two
horsemen mentioned arrived and helped to transport him to Lambertville.
Excitement on both sides of the river was intense.
In this city eleven persons belonging on the New Hope side were
"necessarily detained." Signal guns were fired, and large
transparencies that could be seen across the river gave in large
letters the information "All Are Safe."
The next day the "Sojourners" here took a boat and went
to within half a mile af Centre Bridge. Three men ventured in the
first trip across, including william H. Murray and Hiram Scarborough.
They pulled hard on the oars, came near capsizing, and landed in
As soon as possible after the rescue a horseman bore the glad news
to Mr. Fells family at Centre Bridge. After being satisfied
that his friends were apprised of his safety, he then retired to
bed and took a refreshing sleep, and, as soon as safety would permit,
crossed the river and returned to his anxious family. Mr. Fell liberally
rewarded the man who saved his life.
Five bridges between Easton and Trenton were swept away by this
freshet, and four of them were behind Mr. Fell. His escape under
such conditions was indeed miraculous.
It is probable that a small majority of our townspeople know that
James Wilson Marshall, the King of Gold-finders, was, from his infancy
until twenty-four years of age, a citizen of Lambertville, and that
it was he who blazed the way to California in 1848.
In the fall of 1834 Marshall left this city and went West, first
to Indiana, then to Illinois and subsequently to the "Platte
Purchase," near "Fort Leavenworth," Kansas.
Here he bought a farm, but, owing to malarial attacks, he was compelled,
in a few years, to sell out.
About that time people had begun to talk about the fertile valleys
and broad rivers of far-away "California," so on the first
day of May, eighteen hundred and forty-four, he, with a train, consisting
of one hundred wagons, set out for the almost unexplored West. After
a weary journey, full of adventures and vicissitudes, the party
reached California in June, eighteen hundred and forty-five, and
camped at "Cache Creek," about forty miles from where
Sacramento now stands.
Here the adventurers parted to continue their journeyings in different
directions. Marshall and a few others going to Sutters Fort,
El Dorado county, California, where Marshall went to work for General
Sutter. His life at this fort was an uneventful one, until the summer
of 46, when the Mexicans, hearing that a large body of American
emigrants were crossing the plains, resolved to prevent them from
entering California, and what was known as the "Bear Flag War"
was fought, Marshall taking a prominent part in all the engagements
of that short war.
When, at last, in March, 1847, the treaty was signed by which the
independence of California was secured, Marshall procured his discharge
from the "Volunteer" service, and returned to Sutters
Before the breaking out of the war just referred to he had purchased
two leagues of land on the north side of Butte creek, in what is
now Butte county. When he returned he found that the majority of
his stock had either strayed away or been stolen. However, he did
not waste his time in vain regrets, but set about to formulate a
plan to retrieve his fortune.
Having decided to go into the lumbering business, he fixed upon
"Coloma," in El Dorado county, as a good location for
a saw-mill. Sutter agreed to furnish the capital for this enterprise,
and Marshall was to be the active partner.
The articles of partnership were drawn up by General Bidwell, and
work was begun on the mill in August, 1847. (It was on the eighteenth
of January, the following year, in the race of that same mill, that
he made the discovery which accomplished, financially, the ruin
of both General Sutter and himself.) The gold in California was
not of itself the most valuable find in that astonishing commmonwealth.
This naturally attracted immigration, and the in-flowing population
found the climate and the soil of the country just as rich as its
gold mines. Real estate which had been bought for fifty dollars
was sold, thirty years later for one million.
At one time, it has been asserted by one who professed to know,
Mr. Marshall was worth at least one hundred thousand dollars, but
his generosity had no limit. He gave to all who asked of him. As
he had no business qualifications, sharpers took advantage of him,
and when shrewd business men came in and built up the little town
of Coloma, Mr. Marshall was soon cheated out of all his property.
His money he had given away, or lent it where it would never be
returned. His property rights were ignored by "squatters,"
his horses were stolen, his cattle and working oxen slaughtered
by hungry miners, until all was gone. There was no law to protect
him from the depredations of these men, and when, at last, there
was some "appeal," the rascals had left for parts unknown.
It has been said that Marshall was a man of great peculiarities.
He certainly was a man with varying moods, being sometimes free
and friendly with his associates, while at other times he was morbid
and ill-tempered. He was very visionary and a firm believer in Spiritualism.
The following quotation from a letter written by him to a friend
in Lambertville goes to show how keenly he felt the lack of faith
in those he had trusted. He says: "When I think of the past,
and look over the list, God forgive me if I have but little or no
confidence in Man." Be it told to the shame of the State of
California and the nation that he, by whom the great discovery of
gold was made, who himself became bankrupt, although he enriched
the nation, in gold alone, one billion dollars, James wilson Marshall,
at the age of seventy-four years, was permitted to die in a county
hospital, because he was homeless and penniless, when he should
have been liberally pensioned by the government.
A few years ago there was erected at Coloma, California, a monumental
statue of Mr. Marshall. It presents a very striking appearance.
It is ten feet high, weighs 65o pounds, and is made of zinc. The
figure is in an easy attitude. In the right hand, which is close
to the body, is a large nugget of gold, and the left hand is extended,
with the forefinger pointing downward to the historic mill-race,
where the gold was discovered.
In 1868, when the present Baptist Church edifice was commenced,
Mr. Marshall furnished a specimen of the gold to be placed in the
corner-stone of that building, his father and mother being two of
the five constituents of the first church in 1825.
Reflections on the Present and Past in Lambertville.
While resting on Mt. Hopes green hillside,
Looking down in the valley below,
A train of reflections possessed me
On the present and time long ago.
From workshops the whistles were shrieking,
The laborers ceased their employ;
Men and children went wearily homeward,
Their well-deserved rest to enjoy.
There were boats on the narrow mock river,
Which man for convenience had made,
That wealth might flow into his coffers
Through this link of connection with trade.
The telegraph, like a long clothesline,
Stretched as far as my vision could reach,
Bearing tiding of every description
By means of mysterious speech.
The coal train, a black, trailing serpent,
Seemed winding its way in great length,
While the engine, another huge monster,
Snorted steam in the pride of his strength.
Then I turned me and looked upon Nature;
Her familiar face, as of yore,
Was still green on memorys pages,
Alas, I could see it no more.
The hillsides are shorn of their forests,
Handsome dwellings adorn the plateau;
Whateer was romantic or rustic,
There is naught of it left that I know.
The old spring house where mineral water
To the ill gave promise of health,
Which is better by far than diamonds
Or mines of mineral wealth --
I remember, though long since it happened,
I remember, and now tell the tale,
That the spring house was guilty of selling
A drink that was not Adams ale.
The leisure of evenings and Sundays
To the lucrative business was given,
Yet to-day -- I am sorry to say it --
Men balance such profits gainst heaven.
But the wages of sin are accursed,
The actors are gone as a dream;
Suppressed was the death-giving water,
For the building was washed down the stream.
I remember the beech trees, whose branches,
Protecting us well with their shade,
Made a place of resort in my childhood,
Beneath them I often have played.
How we laid round the stones for a play-house,
And called it a palace so fine;
The greensward of earth was our carpet,
All flowered with bloom of wild thyme.
Adorned with our garland of daisies,
With bonnets and sashes of leaves,
Our tea-sets we made of the acorns,
Life brings us no pleasures like these.
The dates and the names of the gravers
Encircled the trees on their rind,
But the axe of the merciless woodman
Leaves no visitors record behind.
The changes I see in the valley
Recall the fancies that roam,
New scenes in the vision before me
Make me feel like a stranger at home.
And there is that city so silent,
Its inhabitants now not a few,
White tablets above them so spectral
Record names of the dear ones I knew.
Even there in lifes morning, in rambles,
How often Ive culled the wild flowers,
Gathered nuts in their season, and berries,
And sat in the shade of the bowers.
Noon and evening have followed the morning
For lifes emblematic of day,
And we all to that city are hastening,
Short at longest on earth is our stay.
And when, like our kindred and neighbors,
Our labors in this world shall cease,
God grant that for us theres a mansion
In the glorious City of Peace.
Author: Sarah A. Gallagher - 1873
Published & Printed: The ladies Improvement Band of the First
Baptist Church - MacCrellish & Quigley Printers 1903