National Geographic : 1947 Jul
Drums toDynamos on the Mohawk BY FREDERICK G.VOSBURGH With Illustrations from Photographs byB.Anthony Stewart HIGH on a hill north ofRome, New York, a honey-haired little farm girl filled her arms with bright "blue flag" -wild iris. Her bare feet splashed through the Mohawk River, for here that momentous stream isborn in a sky-colored patch ofiris swale inthe pas ture below the familyfarmhouse (Plate IV). "Water off my farm goes north and south," said Duane Carpenter, Barbara's soft-spoken young father. "Rainfalling on the roof ofthe barn drains in opposite directions." Topographic mapsbear him out. Raindrops striking one side ofthe ridgepole gonorth through the Black River toLake Ontario and the St. Lawrence. Drops falling on the other side beget the Mohawk, which flows down to the Hudson throughthe green heart ofNew York State (map, pages 76-77). River HereaPuny Brook A tiny stream trickling through an old stone fence, the infant Mohawk leaves the pasture in a "sudden sally,"like Tennyson's brook. "So this is your Mohawk," scoffed Pho tographer Tony. "Why, back home inVir ginia we wouldn't even call this arun." "Wait a while, 'Senator Claghorn,' "Iad vised. "It gets a little bigger." Though widely traveled, Tony was seeing my native valley for the first time. This Mo hawk country, of course, would invite com parison with other areas hehad seen-England and Scotland, Egypt,Italy, Greece, as well as his native Old Dominion. I thought I knew what his opinion would be by the time we had seen itall. Or was this confidence, I wondered, just aresult of my own elation at being home again after three years overseas? "Let's see you jump the Mohawk River, Champ," suggested Tony, setting down forty pounds of cameras and preparing for action. "Sure," said the lanky 15-year-old whom Tony called "Champ"because ofhis way of doing everything withall his might. Already nearly two yards tall,hewas sunned tothe color of old leather (opposite page). "But first," amendedTony, "hoist that rock out of the way. Ifwe're going totake a picture of the Mohawk River, we want a little water to show." We all had our turn atjumping the Mo hawk. Then we followed itsmeandering way down the hill tolearn the river's story. Stamped indelibly on river and valley isthe name ofthe warlike Indian nation known to enemy tribes asMohawk, meaning "Eaters of Living Things." These fierce and formidable fighting men long stood asGuardians ofthe Eastern Gate ofthe great Iroquois Confederacy.* But awhite tide lapped atthe Gate and undermined its foundations. Bloody Past and Busy Present Up the river came sturdy, pipe-puffing Dutch inquest offurs and farms. Down from Canada paddled and plodded intrepid black robed Jesuit priests intent on saving savage souls and giving anew God tothe Iroquois. The first ofthe"Black Robes" died martyrs' deaths under torture and tomahawk. Massacre smeared the Mohawk inthe long struggle between British and French which determined whether the continent should beGallic orAnglo-Saxon. Far worse was the fighting ofthe Revolution, when neighbor killed neighbor and Indians scalped even children as reprisal followed reprisal. The Revolution struck the hand ofthe Iroquois from New York's great gateway tothe West, and inendless procession, by canoe, bateau, cart, covered wagon, pioneer families poured through the Hudson and Mohawk Val leys, the only direct water-level route through the 1,300-mile Appalachian Mountain chain. Vision, and the brawn ofhard-fighting, hard drinking "canawlers," dug the Erie Canal. The old Iroquois trail and King's Highway, hugging the river, gave way torail and ribbons of road. Factories rose tosmudge the Valley skyand scatter gloves and guns, typewriters and teakettles, milking machines, rugs, cotton shirts, locomotives, and giant dynamos over the land and beyond the seas. Arrowheads and Atom Smasher Up from the steerage and Ellis Island came thousands ofItalians, Slovaks, Poles, towork inthe mills and mingle their genes with those ofthe English, Scots, and Irish, the Dutch and the Palatine Germans. The Valley had come of age inthe American way, complete *See, inthe NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "America's First Settlers, the Indians," by Matthew W. Stirling, November, 1937, and "New York-An Em pire Within aRepublic," by William Joseph Showal ter, November, 1933.