Schoolcraft's Ozark Journey

Jeffery's Cabin

Saturday, January 16th, 1819

On returning from the woods yesterday, the hunters had not yet arrived with our canoe, but made their appearance at dusk, accompanied by several neighbours and friends in their canoes, who also came down to trade, making a party of twelve or fourteen in all. Whisky soon began to circulate freely, and by the time they had unloaded their canoes, we began plainly to discover that a scene of riot and drinking was to follow. Of all this, we were destined to be unwilling witnesses; for as there was but one house, and that a very small one, necessity compelled us to pass the night together; but sleep was not to be obtained. Every mouth, hand, and foot, were in motion. Some drank, some sang, some danced, a considerable proportion attempted all three together, and a scene of undistinguishable bawling and riot ensued. An occasional quarrel gave variety to the scene, and now and then, one drunker than the rest, fell sprawling upon the floor, and for a while remained quiet. We alone remained listeners to this grand exhibition of human noises, beastly intoxication, and mental and physical nastiness. We did not lie down to sleep, for that was dangerous. Thus the night rolled heavily on, and as soon as light could be discerned in the morning we joyfully embarked in our canoe, happy in having escaped bodily disfiguration, and leaving such as could yet stand, vociferating with all their might like some delirious man upon his dying bed, who makes one desperate effort to arise, and then falls back in death.

Half-a-mile below Matney's, we passed the mouth of the Great North Fork, a stream which we had followed down, to within ten miles of its mouth, as detailed in the former part of this journal. Six miles below, we passed a swift run of water in the river called the Crooked Rapids. They are no wise dangerous or difficult to be passed.

Ten miles more brought us in sight of the Calico Rock, a noted bluff in a sudden bend of the river. It is one of those rare and fanciful works of nature which are seldom met with, and is approached under circumstances well calculated to heighten the effect of a scene in itself very striking and picturesque. On turning a bend in the river, suddenly the rock appears before you at the distance of 600 yards, and seems, as you glide toward it, to present a barrier to the progress of the river. It is a lofty smooth wall of stratified lime-stone rock, presenting a diversity of colour in squares, stripes, spots, or angles, all confusedly mixed and arranged according to the inimitable pencil of nature, and hence its name. People tell you, that all kinds of rocks are here to be found, and an opinion is prevalent that metallic substances of great value exist in these rocks. The deception is naturally created, and readily believed in by those who only look upon the surface of things; but a little examination shows the fallacy of appearances. Instead of being composed of many rocks differing in their component parts, it is one rock of the same substance, and internally of the same colour and texture, namely, floet lime-stone. This is overlayed by a stratum of ochery clay, and red and greenish coloured earths, full of ferruginous particles, which have been washed by rains into the crevices of the horizontal strata of stone, and thence oozing down the surface, have communicated to it different colours. These have been in some degree altered, variegated, or set by the acids and juices of oak and other leaves: also extracted by rains, giving to the surface of the rock a singular appearance, of what the German mineralogists, with peculiar significancy, term angelaufenen farben, (tarnished colours). Fourteen miles below the Calico Rock we stopped for the night, on the left bank of the river, at Jeffery's, having canoed thirty miles.

-Henry Schoolcraft

Missouri Humanities Council Logo

Funding for the Schoolcraft Journey project on Unlock the Ozarks has been provided by the Missouri Humanities Council.