Canada 1867
....Third Book of Reading Lessons, McPhail, 1867, by


WHERE the river Niagara leaves Lake Erie, it is three quarters of a mile in width. Before reaching the falls, it is a mile broad, and twenty-five feet deep, and flows with great swiftness, having a descent of fifty feet in half a mile. An island, on the verge of the cataract, divides it into two sheets of water. One of these, called from its shape the Horse-shoe Fall, is six hun- dred yards wide and a hundred and fifty-eight feet in height. The other, called the American Fall, is two hundred yards wide, and a hundred and sixty-four feet high.

About once in ten years, generally in January or the beginning of February, the ice, at the foot of the falls, makes a complete bridge from one shore to the other. A great frozen mass, of irregular shape, is formed on the edge next to the cataract, from masses of ice being forced under the surface and raising it up, and from the accumulation of frozen spray. When this breaks up in the spring, the crashing of the several fragments, driven together by the force of the waters, rivals the noise of the falls themselves. In a mild winter, the ice of lake Erie sometimes breaks up,--large pieces float over the falls,--they are smashed to atoms, and rise to the surface in immense quantities of a substance like wetted snow; a severe night's frost binds this into a solid mass, and forms a large portion of the bridge.

The rise and fall of the great body of the water are very slight at any season; but, as you watch the plunging stream, it seems to tumble down sometimes in gushes, as if an additional influence came into play every now and then. About the centre of the Horse- shoe, or Canadian Fall, there is a clear, unbroken spout of water twenty feet in depth before its leap; for seventy feet below it continues deep, and of a pure blue; presently it becomes shrouded in a soft spray, which waves like a plume in the wind, at times tinted with all the colors of the rainbow. When the weather is very calm, this beautiful mist rises to a great height into the air, becoming finer by degrees, till no longer perceptible.

There is already a list of fearful accidents at this place, though for so short a time frequented by civilized man: the last few years have been fertile in them. Per- haps the most frightful of all was one which happened in May, 1843.

A Canadian of the village of Chippewa was engaged in drawing sand from the river three miles above the town. Seated in his cart, he backed the horses into the water, ignorant of the depth. It sank: but a box on which he sat floated, and was soon driven by a high wind off from the land into the strong but smooth cur- rent; he, being unable to swim, clung to the box. A boat was on the shore, but, by the mismanagement of the bystanders, it was let loose into the stream, and floated past the unhappy man, empty and useless.

There was no other for two miles lower down; beyond that, aid was impossible. The people on the banks, instead of hastening to get a boat ready in time below, ran along the shore talking to him of help, which their stupidity rendered of no avail: he knew that he was doomed. "I'm Lost ! I'm lost !" sounded fainter and fainter as the distance widened. This dreadful pro- traction lasted nearly an hour, the stream being very slow. At first he scarcely appears to move, but the strength of the current increases, the waters become more troubled, he spins about in the eddies, still cling- ing with the energy of despair to his support. He passes close by an island, so close that the box touches and stop for one moment; but the next it twists slowly round, and is sucked into the current again. The last hope is, that a boat may be ready on the shore at Chippewa. It is in vain; there are none there but frail canoes, all high up on the bank. By the time one of them is launched, the boldest boatman dares not embark.

Just above the falls, they see the devoted victim whirled round and round in the foaming waves, with frantic gestures appealing for aid. His frightful screams pierce through the dull roar of the torrent, "I'm lost ! I'm lost !"

He is now in the smooth flood of blue unbroken water, twenty feet in depth, the centre of the Canadian Fall. Yet another moment, he has loosed his hold; his hands are clasped as if in prayer; his voice is silent. Smoothly, but quickly, as an arrow's flight, he glides over and is seen no more, nor any trace of him from that time.

--WARBURTON'S Hochelaga

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