Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/La Mountain, John

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LA MOUNTAIN, John, aëronaut, b. in Wayne county, N. Y., in 1830; d. in Lansingburgh, N. Y., in 1878. He had but little education, and on the early death of his father he became the sole support of his mother. When a young man he was successful in making several minor ascensions. He then formed the idea of making a longer voyage than any on record, and constructed a large balloon of silk, having an approximate capacity of 70,000 cubic feet, which he named “The Atlantic.” The ascent was made from St. Louis, Mo., on 1 July, 1859, and several passengers, including John Wise, accompanied the aëronaut. The states of Illinois and Indiana were passed over during the night, and Ohio was reached in the morning. The balloon then passed across Lake Erie into New York, and to Lake Ontario, into which it descended, but rose again, and a landing was made in Henderson, Jefferson co., N. Y. The time occupied in making this journey was nineteen hours and fifty minutes, and the distance traversed 1,150 miles, or 826 in an air line. The honor of planning and executing this greatest of all aërial voyages is due to La Mountain alone, although the credit for it has been claimed by others. In September, 1859, he made an ascension from Watertown, N. Y., which was remarkable on account of his perilous experience. The ascension was made when the temperature was 84° F., but on reaching a height of three and one-half miles it had sunk to 18° F. As night came on, the balloon was over the Canadian wilderness, and a partial descent was made to “tie up” till daylight came, when he again proceeded in a northerly direction. Unwilling to continue farther, he descended during the day, and wandered in the wilderness for four days, without adequate food or clothing, until rescued by lumbermen 150 miles north of Ottawa, and 300 miles from Watertown. In 1862 he was appointed aëronautic engineer to the Army of the Potomac, under Thaddeus S. C. Lowe (q. v.) and in that capacity made several ascensions, but, owing to lack of cordiality between himself and Mr. Lowe, soon severed his connection with the army. Subsequently he made occasional ascensions, but none of importance.