Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

Again; we derive encouragement from the fact, that we may appeal to a portion of the students of our country, as members of the household of faith. They are the Lord's in body as well as in soul. We are not at liberty to injure the body, but are bound by the most solemn obligations to use it as a temple of the Holy Ghost. True, sickness and death are the common lot of men, do what we will to prevent them. But there are means of preserving health, and there are ways of destroying it. It is for the faithful use of the means of preserving it that we plead; and then we may leave the event with God. It is feared that few are aware how much of the coldness in religion among students is to be attributed to that bodily languor, which might often be entirely removed by three or four hours or more daily of wholesome labor. If this were the constant practice of all, what sweet, delightful serenity of mind might be enjoyed by multitudes whose minds are now strangers to the calm sunshine of peace! How unspeakably precious is such a peace to the Christian's soul! Who then, without guilt, can neglect the means of preserving this treasure, so dear to the soul, and so important to the success of the minister of Christ. Surely to neglect it, is to neglect an essential part of personal religion. If we wish for additional motives, we might go to parents, who have been called to weep over the early grave of a beloved son, once full of hope and promise ; and ask them why they can find no balm for their bleeding hearts. We might go to the student himself, who was once in the bloom of health, and who once fondly hoped to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified, it may be among the Gentiles, but who now seems on the brink of the grave, and ask him how he now regards this subject ?

May we not, then, be encouraged in presenting motives drawn from religion? If the youth of heathen antiquity patiently submitted to his daily task in physical, as well as intellectual culture, in the joyful hope of thus preparing to serve his country in the forum and in the field, shall not the Christian student blush, if he shrinks from that discipline which is to prepare him for usefulness as a minister of Christ ? Let us, then, carefully consider these things, and make up our minds in the light of eternity and the light of truth.

From Silliman's Journal.

THE PRAIRIES OF ALABAMA.

By W. W. MGuire. From the period of the first settlement of this state to the present time, the prairies have been objects of great curiosity, and have attracted much attention; still, although the field for scientific investigation is so rich and interesting, no one has, to my knowledge, attempted a minute examination of it. The striking peculiarities of the soil, of geological conformatior., and organic productions, especially in shells and other marine substances, which are found scattered indiscriminately over the prairies, are well adapted to attract attention, and to excite investigation respecting the period and the causes of the

formation of the prairies and their fossils. Many who have never conceived of the possibility of any great change of the surface of the earth, except that produced by the deluge recorded in the Pentateuch, attribute to that event the present position of these shells. Others, taking a still narrower view, believed them to have been removed by the agency of men from their native beds to the place where they are now to be found.

My own observations, although limited, have satisfied me that the prairies once constituted the boundary of the Atlantic Ocean. 'In support of this opinion there are still existing many satisfactory proofs, although ages must have elapsed since those changes took place. Strong evidence also exists that this great change has been effected by the elevating power of earthquakes, volcanoes, and subterranean heat. The face of the country, from the mountains to the prairies, is rough and uneven, presenting an outline differing from all other hilly or broken countries which I have ever seen, It abounds in iron pyrites and pebbles. 'Beds of good iron cre, of anthracite and bituminous coal, and of lime stone and sand stone, are found in several places.

The country lying between the prairies and the sea coast is generally, if not altogether, of the same character as that on the coast from the Potomac to St. Mary's-viz. level sandy plains, some fertile, some sterile, either dry or swampy, and covered with pine, oak, cypress, cane, &c; but it generally, perhaps universally, shows the distinctive peculiarities of the above-named coast. The changes in all places are sudden and abrupt, changing from the peculiar soil and character of the prairies to that of the coast which is sterile, in some places almost pure silicia, or of alluvial formation, along the rivers, swamps, and marshes, differing with sertility, according to the portions in which silicia and vegetable matter are mixed in their composition. This tract of country is from one hundred to one hundred and thirty miles wide, perhaps more.

In speaking of the prairies, the rock formation claims particular attention. It is uniformly found below the prairie soil, at various depths, ranging from ten to fifteen feet, and sometimes projecting over the ground. This rock is generally known by the name of rotten lime stone; when removed for several feet on the top, and exposed to the action of the atmosphere for some time, it assumes a beautiful white color. In its soft state it is easily quarried, and blocks of almost any dimensions can be procured. It has been dressed by planes, and other instruments, and used in building chimneys ; some of which have stood twelve or fifteen years without injury or decay. A summer's seasoning is requisite to fit it for building.

This rock has been penetrated by boring to depths varying from one hundred to five hundred and fifty feet. After the first six or seven feet, it is of a bluish or gray color, but still soft, except in a few instances, where flint strata of a foot thick or more have been met with. On penetrating the rock a full supply of good water is always obtained, which uniformly flows over the top. I have heard of no constant running stream of water over this rock, except one in Pickens county, near the lower line. The superincumbent earth is for a few feet composed principally of stiff clay of a whitish color, then comes the mould, or soil, which is very black. In wet weather it is extremely miry and stiff; and in dry, very hard and compact.

Shells, such as the oyster, muscle, periwinkle, and some other kinds, are found in great quantities throughout almost all the prairies of Alabama and Mississippi, the first named being the most numerous, mixed in every proportion with the others. The oyster shells are perfectly similar to those now obtained from the oyster banks on the shores of the Atlantic. The largest beds of shells in the open prairies seem to occupy rather elevated, but not the highest places. They have probably been removed from the more elevated situations by torrents of rain. It may be that the lowest places never contained any shells; or, if they did, as vegetable matter accumulates in greater quantities in low situations, they may have thus been covered. In some instances, I believe, they have been found in such places seven seet below the surface. They are not found in very large quantities in the timbered prairies; and, indeed, so far as I have observed, wherever the shells are numerous, vegetation is not so luxuriant as where there is a proper admixture of the decomposed or composing shells and vegetable matter.

These shells, and other decomposing materials, appear to have given a peculiar character to the prairie soil, which causes it to adhere so strongly to the legs of horses, and to the wheels of carriages, as to remain several days in travelling, unless washed or beaten off. Yet, when well broken up at the proper season, and regularly ploughed, it remains quite mellow, producing corn and cotton equal to the best alluvial bottoms, with, so far as it has been tried, increased fertility ; although, from the compact nature of the rock beneath, and the tenacity with which it retains moisture, crops are injured sometimes by rains, but seldom by drought.

There being no opening or fissures, except above the rock, by which to convey the water directly to the channels of creeks and rivers, there are consequently no reservoirs to contain supplies for fountains and springs. In the winter and spring seasons the streams overflow, and the land is literally submerged. In the summer and autumn neither springs nor wells are to be found, except below the rock; yet, notwithstanding this scarcity of water, there is seldom a lack of moisture for the purpose of vegetation. And at times, when the drought is such as to produce fissures two or three inches wide, and as many feet deep, the earth will be found quite moist at the depth of two or three inches.

As an evidence of the general moisture of the prairie soil below the surface, it may be remarked craw fishes are so very numerous in some situations as to prove very destructive to young corn, cotton, and other tender plants. After night fall they issue from their holes or dens, and commence their devastations. Their holes are of considerable depth, supposed to reach to the rock formation, a distance of from ten to fifteen feet; and on the surface of the ground regular and well-built mud walls, five or six inches high, are erected. fish is of the crustaceous class, perhaps differing but slightly, except in size, from the sea lobster. Their nocturnal peregrinations show that they differ at least in their habits from the common craw fish found in our brooks.

The craw

Much of the soil is sterile, presenting low hills, on which there is no timber; in other places, a small and stinted growth, such as black jack and post oak. In some places there are considerable hills, having a thin stratum of excellent vegetable mould, covered with timber, indicating good soil; but, from the close texture of the substratum, it is liable to be washed away, which has been the case in Washington and Clarke counties. In those counties, I am informed, the rock projects more than in any other part of the prairies, and there are cliffs fifteen or twenty feet high.

There are open prairies of every size, from one hundred to one thousand or twelve hundred acres, mixed and interspersed in every form and mode with timbered land of all kinds, some producing only black jack and post oak not exceeding fifteen or twenty feet in heighth; others again covered with most majestic oak, poplar, elm, hickory, walnut, pacaun, hackberry, grape vine, and cane, equal in size and beauty, I understand, to similar kinds in the Mississippi alluvions.

The extent in this country may not be unimportant. I am informed that traces of prairie soil may be seen in Georgia, perhaps as far east as Milledgeville. It is indeed said to exist in North Carolina ; but of this I have not evidence such as to warrant the assertion. That it stretches nearly five hundred miles eastward from the vicinity of the Mississippi, on the west, almost to Milledgeville, there is no doubt; and if it extends, as is said to be the fact, to North Carolina, it reaches four hundred or five hundred miles farther, being perhaps nine hundred or one thousand miles long, and from forty to sixty in breadth.

That the prairies were once the boundary of the Atlantic is evident. 1. From the fact, that on both sides they exhibit the indented and irregular appearance of a coast, uniformly stretching up the large water courses; and in general the sandy low country stretches in a corresponding degree up the rivers into the prairies, but except it is more or less alluvial, is unlike the prairies. 2. They are nearly or quite parallel to the present shore. 3. The great quantity of sea shells found scattered on so large a tract of country, very little of which is within one hundred miles of the sea coast, support the opinion now advanced. The idea of their having been carried thither by the action of winds or tides is precluded by the fact, that, in that case, they must have been raised three or four hundred feet; and, I presume, in no place less than one hundred above the level of the Gulf of Mexico.

That the change was the effect of earthquakes is evident from the appearance of the Mississippi. The father of rivers' bears strong marks, that, long before the earthquake of 1811-12, its course had been altered by some more powerful convulsion of nature ; for its mighty current runs strongly against the seven bluffs below its junction with the Ohio (except at St. Francisville,) seeming still to contend for its ancient channel. The prairies themselves afford strong proof of this position ; for in many places they present the appearance of having been lifted up; and they are in fact considerably higher than the surrounding country. Much of the country, of which I am speaking, beside the prairies, has that peculiar undulating appearance which corresponds with the expansive heavings of earthquakes.

To this theory an objection, at least, may be raised. Why is it that aquatic remains are not found between the prairies and the ocean? It may be replied, that the marine exuviæ in the low country have long since been decomposed, while the shells in the prairies have remained in some instances entire, for want of suitable agents to act upon them. Indeed the prairies themselves illustrate this observation ; for in places where vegetable matter in considerable quantities has been brought to act, the shells are rapidly decomposing, or have nearly passed through this process, and the vegetables have in consequence obtained a luxuriant growth. While, on the other hand, in situations where shells are found in nearly their original state, it is readily perceived that the mass of actually decomposing materials (except a partial influence of air and water,) is in small proportion to the whole accumulation.

The prairies present a more lovely and fascinating prospect in the spring and summer than the liveliest imagination can picture. They are then clothed in the richest livery of those seasons :

Plains immense, and interminable meads,
Lie stretch'd before ; where the wandering eye,
Unfix’d, is in verdant ocean lost.
Another Flora there, of bolder hues,
And richer sweets, beyond our garden's pride,
Plays o'er the fields and showers, with sudden hand,

Exuberant spring.' Herds of cattle and flocks of sheep are seen in the distance, cropping the fresh grass, or wandering at pleasure over the flowery region. Yet, the absence of large trees is amply repaid by the rich garniture of grass, flowers, and shrubbery. The odour of the wild rose, hawthorn, &c, load the summer's breeze with the most delicious perfumes. During the hottest and most sultry weather, when in other places every thing is drooping and withering from excessive heat, a cool breeze is . ever on the wing. This is owing to the elevation of the prairies, and the absence of timber.

During my last visit to the prairies, I found a substance existing in considerable quantities resembling the coral, of some of the zoophyctic families. It is nearly as hard as flint rock. I collected several specimens, but have lost them. Some months back I saw in the possession of a gentleman several very interesting prairie speci

They were said to be shark's teeth, from an inch to an inch and a half in length, slender and very sharp. Among them are also a species of the vertebræ of fishes. They were procured in a section of the prairies which I have never visited; which, abounding in specimens of the kind just mentioned, is the most interesting portion of this singular country.

It is a well-established fact, that the earth and sea have undergone frequent and violent revolutions; and that the change that left the prairies dry is the most recent is evident from the perfect state in which shells, &c, are now found, and from the fact that vegetation in many places has made but slow progress. The nature of the soil indicates some ingredient adverse to many kinds of plants. But it is evidently fast changing ; and it is not unlikely that, in the course of time, it will entirely lose its distinctive character, and become per

mens.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »