BLTC Press Titles

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The Characters of Theophrastus


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

A. Conan Doyle


by John Franklin Meginness



On taking up this volume, the reader will probably ask, "Where is the West Branch Valley?" Anticipating such an interrogatory, it is thought advisable to define its geographical position, previous to entering upon a history of its first settlement.

The Susquehanna river flows through the interior of Pennsylvania. Two large streams running in opposite directions, unite at Northumberland, and form the main river. They are called the North and West Branches. The North Branch has its source in Otsego Lake; the West Branch rises near the head waters of the Alleghany river, in the mountains of the same name. It flows almost in an easterly direction till opposite Muncy, when it sweeps around Bald Eagle Mountain, and runs directly south to its confluence with the other stream. The length of this branch is about two hundred miles. The Aborigines called it the Otzinachson—hence the title of this book.

The Valley of the West Branch begins at Northumberland, and properly ends at Lock Haven. At this point the river bursts through a bold ridge of the Alleghanies, which rises from the water's edge to a great height.

The Valley is not wide. Several smaller ones put into it at various points, the most extensive of which is Buffalo. The spurs of the Appalachian chain are visible on every hand, lending an additional charm of beauty to the receding landscape. The scenery is varied, wild and picturesque; and it is impossible to form a correct idea of its variegated beauties without visiting the spot. The Valley is in a high state of cultivation, containing some of the finest farms and most flourishing towns in the interior of the State. It is embraced in the counties of Northumberland, Union, Lycoming and Clinton.

What a contrast does the beautiful vale of the Otzinachson now present, to the time when it was inhabited by the Aborigines? Let us, in imagination, look back to the period when the red man dwelt on the banks of the stream—roamed in the forest, or hunted the deer and the elk on the declivities of the surrounding mountains: when he built his humble wigwam in some shady dell, beneath the wide-spreading branches of the mighty oak. It was indeed a happy scene—his young papooses gamboled in their rude simplicity on the banks of the murmuring rivulet—the squaws cultivated their patches of corn and chanted songs of the spirit-land—and the dusky warrior plied his birch-bark canoe over the crystal waves of the beautiful Otzinachson. Happy scene! This Valley was then a fairy land—an Indian paradise— the cherished home of the rude, yet noble, children of the forest. But mighty changes were destined to occur— tragedies calculated to cause a thrill of horror to run through the frame, must transpire before their cup of destiny is filled.

The Valley has entirely changed, and the last red man has long since been gathered to his fathers. Highly cultivated farms occupy the spot where the Indian village stood, and the busy hum of enterprise is heard on every hand. In summer time the luxuriant grain waves over the graves that contain the cherished remains of their ancestors, and the rude hand of civilization has defaced the last mementoes reared to perpetuate their memory.

The climate of the Valley is truthfully portrayed in the following lines :—

"Beneath the temperate zone this vale doth lie,
Where heat and cold a grateful change supply.
To fifteen hours extends the longest day,
When Sol in cancer points his fervid ray.
Yet here the winter season is severe;
And summer's heat is difficult to bear:
But western winds oft cool the scorching ray,
And southern breezes warm the winter's day.
Yet oft tho' warm and fair the day begun,
Cold storms arise before the setting sun,
Nay oft so quick the change, so great its pow'r,
As summer's heat, and winter, in an hour 1"

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