Letter from GEORGE PERKINS MARSH to SPENCER FULLERTON BAIRD, dated October 12, 1881.
Prof. Spencer F. Baird,c c
The excessive heat and drought of last summer drove every body, the government included, away from Rome &, though the sanitary condition of the city has improved in proportion as the "Popality" has lost in power, public distrust still continues, and Rome is almost deserted. For the first time in twenty years I have spent my vacation, not in the Alps, but in the Champagne country of Tuscany, and I have passed my time in giving a final revision to my works, even including , of the defects of which I am, I will not say as sensible as you can be, but still sufficiently so to be willing to devote a few hours of my remaining strength to making it, not good indeed, but less bad than it now is. I have this to say in its defence, that, though it has taught little, it has accomplished its end, which was to draw the attention of better prepared observers to several of the questions discussed in it.
I now wish to make available, if possible, some of my
early observations on facts of interest. The Vermont rivers, White River & Water Queechee, are nearly parallel in their general courses which are about ten miles distant from each other. I had in my boyhood a good acquaintance with the piscatory population of both, the species being most numerous in White River, whose bed lies some hundreds of feet lower than that of the Water Queechee, & is consequently less liable to severe frosts. The Connecticut River salmon in primitive times entered the mouths of both rivers, but their ascent was checked at Hartford on the Water Queechee by a natural dam of from 70 to 80 feet of nearly perpendicular height. But a was ever taken this dam--one, however, weighing six pounds, was caught above this fall about the close of the last century. Although it happened before my birth, this rare and important event, was a frequent subject of conversation afterwards among the elder brethren of the angle of whom I, like other truant boys, was a reverent follower. Before this "fish story" was , as the Germans say, another marvel was announced which threw Jonas's Whale into the shade. One of the genus , about 1810, was seen marching into town, dragging by a fish-line an weighing six or seven pounds which he had caught in the Water Queechee at a point where it flowed through my father's grounds, and of course I, as one of the heirs of the lord of the manor,
am responsible for the truth of the story-and besides, I knew the boy well myself, so one historical fact may be considered as fairly established. So much for Queechee River. In the of 1814, I was sent to school at Royalton, on White River, and I proceeded at once to investigate the truth of the boys' report that Royalton was in a different icthyological province from that of Woodstock. The very first day I caught several specimens of a fish unknown in the Water Queechee which the boys called , and I also secured several fresh-water clams, a bivalve equally unknown to my native waters. I was taken to a millpond in which, as I was credibly assured by a boy, were taken. This last surprising fact was accounted for, by the ancient fisherman of the region, from the circumstance that the banks of the White River were more generally cleared of woods than were those of the Water Queechee, it being a law of nature as those hoary sages affirmed, that eels were never found in forest-streams, but only in waters whose shores were cleared & brought under cultivation. How far are these observations in accordance with those of others, and do they suggest any food for thought to your gaping soul?
'Seeing' as Tom Fuller says, 'I have this much waste paper,' I will cover it with
another report. About the same period to which I have referred above, the small
the village of Woodstock was drawn off to repair a leaky dam, and were found clinging with their bills to the branches of the willows which fringed the pond This I did not see myself, but I heard it testified to a by a great number of the people of the village. You are therefore at liberty to believe or disbelieve, though as to the rest of this letter it is a matter of faith which you are to swallow unquestioningly whether you believe or not.
Love to Mary and Lucy.As ever, your old friendGeo P Marsh
References in this letter:
Man and Nature; or Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action, 1864.
German: died or faded away.