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The Yenta

1703-1903 by Sarah Gallagher

In the spring of 1834, as work on the canal was in progress at Bool’s 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, "Don’t 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 leader’s 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.)


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 o’clock, 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 Holcomb’s 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 o’clock, 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 o’clock 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 be described.

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.

Yours, etc.,____________________

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, and
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 Phillip’s Eddy.

As soon as possible after the rescue a horseman bore the glad news to Mr. Fell’s 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 Sutter’s 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 Sutter’s Fort.

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. Hope’s 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 memory’s pages,
Alas, I could see it no more.

The hillsides are shorn of their forests,
Handsome dwellings adorn the plateau;
Whate’er 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 Adam’s 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 visitor’s 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 life’s morning, in rambles,
How often I’ve 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 life’s 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 there’s 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