A Visitor to Mount Savage published 1846 in The Ladies' Repository
We stopped two days at Cumberland, to visit the iron works at Mount Savage, and also hoping to find, among the many who throng that thorough fare of the West, some who would be willing to cross the mountains by daylight, contrary to arrangement then prevailing. Taking a light vehicle, with one of our company on we proceeded to Mount Savage horseback over a jolting road, shut in among the hills. The little village contains about three or four hundred inhabitants employed in the iron works and the adjacent coal vein.
We saw the iron in different stages of preparation,
tossed about by the workmen in red hot lumps, from one furnace to another, passing between
rollers like burning bands, or flowing in liquid fire into moulds, suggesting thoughts of
the lava currents that have sealed up cities from daylight, devastated Sicilian vineyards,
and filled the channel of Icelandic rivers with a molten wave that defied the frosts of
years. Large quantities of railroad iron are made there,
and the machinery is worked by steam power. The bituminous coal of the vicinity is used,
and a black pitchy smoke is continually ascending amongst the green foliage, making a
beautiful mountain dell resemble the entrance of Pandemonium, and in place of the caroling
of birds, the wild, unearthly shriek of the escaping steam and rings on the car like the
yell of a tortured and exasperated fiend. While my companions were gratifying their masculine
curiosity in examining some of the processes and machinery, I stood for a few alone
upon a height overlooking the dell
But it was not then the noise of human industry, the exulting voice of art triumphing over inanimate force, that rose from the dell, nor were those the smoke-wreaths of successful toil that curled over the trees,banners of peaceful conquest, waving over active hands, and humble but happy hearts but imagination was in the ascendant, and it was a place of torture for rebellious spirits. There they were smitten with blows that rang through the summer air there they were seared by unearthly flame, and now and then, the shriek of uncontrollable agony burst forth from one more fierce and yielding under the terrible suffering, for what but an imprisoned demon, chafing at his cage, could utter that impatient cry, so fierce, so wild, that the blood would chill to hear it ?
It was a strange waking dream, but a similar one often comes, when within hearing of the almost supernatural sounds of steam machinery. Whether on the deck of a high pressure steamer, or in railroad cars, a vague feeling arises, not fear, though partaking somewhat of awe, as I view the power of the invisible agent, whom we have chained, and harnessed to do our bidding, but who watches narrowly every rusty link or attenuate cord, to exert its pristine ferocity, and expend its gathered fury on those who compel its wild energies to bondage and labor.
About a half mile from Mount Savage are the coal veins,
supplying the furnaces. Some of these are only a few feet in depth, and in them the
miner works, not standing or sitting, but lying down, with
only his candle to light his progress. He earns by this wearisome employment the
wages of common day labor in our flourishing Atlantic cities.
Let those who repine as they till the fields, or murmur in the workshop, pause and think of the poor miner. They, at least, have the blessed air and sunlight, while he is shut out from these, and toils in a cramped, uncomfortable position, amidst darkness, splintered coal, and damp, from the beginning to the end of the year. And this is his prospect through life. Yet he is contented and cheerful. He doubtless feels, that, with all this discomfort, his condition is better than it was under the grinding oppression of the laws of the old world.
A little incident happened there, which some might consider trifling;not so, it seemed to me, for virtue, however clad in rags, or toil-seared, poverty smitten, has a beauty and interest above the trappings of fashion and wealth. It was a pleasant thing to see that the cabin of the poor miner, destitute as it was of ornament, and even what we should denominate comfort, yet cherished flowers that shall outlive the decorations wrought by human hands, and bloom in eternity. Two of us had set our hearts on entering a coal mine, and for that purpose had taken a long walk in the excessive heat. But when we arrived at the mouth of it, we found that we should be obliged to wait until the horses and cars should come out a half hour or so. While waiting there, one of the miners approached, and he informed us of the wages received mode of laboring, and other things in which we were curious, and a lad of eleven or twelve, brought a lighted candle to show us the way. But the words of the miner, and the narrow, depressed entrance rendered more repulsive by the prospect of going over shoes in the black mud, decided us to proceed no farther, and the lad who was still standing by with some others, blew out his candle. As we were leaving, one of the gentlemen said, ' Boy you shall not lose the lighting of your candle; here is a ' fip ' for your trouble.' But the boy whom he addressed, immediately answered, without offering to touch the money, ' It was not I, sir, who brought the candle, it was the other boy,' pointing to the cabin where he had disappeared. ' Well, take it and give it to him.' While he was gone, it was voted that he deserved a ' fip,' at least, for his honesty, and when the two lads returned, he received it with a lesson that may, at some future time, strengthen a hesitating virtue.