Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/759

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739
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OHIO RIVER.

before pointed out, must be a society like that of ancient Peru, dreadful to contemplate, in which the mass of the people, elaborately regimented in groups of 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000, ruled by officers of corresponding grades, and tied to their districts, were superintended in their private lives as well as in their industries, and toiled hopelessly for the support of the governmental organization.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE OHIO RIVER.
By Prof. JOSEPH F. JAMES, M. Sc.

FAR up in one of the wildest regions of eastern North. America rise most of the streams which form the Ohio River. These streams are separated from the head-waters of the Potomac by a spur of the Appalachian Mountains only a few miles wide. This region, in Randolph County, West Virginia, was called, many years ago, and, for aught I can say to the contrary, may still be known as "Canaan." It is a wild, undeveloped tract of thousands of acres, with many deer and bears; surrounded by rugged mountains, abounding in leaping trout-streams, and full of laurel brakes impenetrable alike to man and beast. Within these precincts are the sources of one of the great rivers of the continent.

The picturesque birth of the Ohio River is a fitting prelude to its romantic history. Its physical history is almost that of the continent, for its birth dates back to a time when a large part of eastern North America rose for the last time above the surface of the sea. Centuries ago its valley was the home of the hairy mammoth and the lordly mastodon. In later times it saw the bison in countless herds reflected in its waters. The mound-builders have left some of their most wonderful works within the confines of its valley. Later still, its hills have re-echoed the shouts and battle-cries of Indian and of white; and now the hum of industry and the homes of civilized man fill its valley from end to end. "La belle rivière" it still remains, and to this it might add another epithet, "La méchante rivière" (or the wayward river), because of its astonishing variations in volume of water.

The Ohio River proper results from the union of two streams in the western portion of Pennsylvania. One of these—the Monongahela—rises in that "Canaan" already referred to, and is in its turn formed of two branches, the Cheat and the Tygart's Valley Rivers. These are formed again of minor streams, whose ultimate sources lie along the back-bone or high ridge which separates the sources of the rivers of the Atlantic coast from those of the Mississippi Valley. The Cheat is a wild and romantic stream,