REMINISCENCES OF AMHERST COLLEGE

By Prof. Edward Hitchcock

Page 220

11. MOUNT HOLYOKE.

So extensively known is this eminence, and so often has it been described, that any new attempt of this sort is unnecessary. So far as I recollect, however, the building of a road along the western face of the ledges was the first of those mountain excursions that have since been so common from the College, and therefore some description of the occasion may be desirable.

The history of this effort is as follows: Formerly the only foot-path up the side of the mountain passed almost at right angles to the side and was very steep and rough. In the autumn of 1844 I happened to be in the woods near where this foot-path terminated, studying a large trap boulder lying there as late as November. Supposing the period of visiting the mountain to be past, I was greatly surprised to find a fleshy gentleman working his way from the top down the foot-path, and as he reached the bottom he complained bitterly of the rough road, and his torn garments bore testimony to the severity of his scramble. I found him to be a foreigner, from the West Indies I thought. Looking up to the almost perpendicular side of the mountain a new thought struck me and I said, "I believe I could make a path obliquely along that mountain which should be easy of ascent" "Well," said the gentleman, "you Yankees can do almost any thing, but I do not believe you can make a road there." The next season, however, I made a reconnaissance and satisfied myself that the work was feasible, though difficult. On stating my plan to Miss Lyon, Principal of Holyoke Female Seminary, she offered to meet us at twelve o'clock, at the foot of the mountain, with a dinner provided by her pupils, after we had completed the road. Under such circumstances it was not difficult to awaken the enthusiasm of my geological—then, I believe, the Senior Class. But fearful that the work would prove too much for them, we extended an invitation to the junior class to join us, and it was accepted. We also, through the newspapers, invited the citizens who live around the mountain to meet us with axe and spade in hand. But just before the appointed day, which was the 4th of July, 1845, we learnt that though they were quite friendly to the enterprise, they did not care to take hold of it, because instead of one-half day, it would, in their opinion, require a fortnight of labor, and they did not like to fail and be laughed at. Neither did we. When the morning came I told the classes that we must either make that path before noon or expect to be ridiculed. Out of my scanty stock of Greek I also quoted a few lines from Hesiod, as a motto for the day:—

[Who mindful of his work, draws a strait furrow: nor looks around among his companions, but keeps his mind upon his work.]

We were promptly on the ground, and never did I see a body of men go into any enterprise with such a will and with better success. Before eleven o'clock the road was so far opened that a gentleman rode horseback over it, and by twelve o'clock the young men had the work finished and had made their toilet as well as they could with nothing but rocks for a mirror, and were ready to descend and meet the Holyoke ladies with their dinner ready by the welcome spring. This disposed of, the whole party ascended the mountain where several gentlemen made addresses and toasts were offered.