Jacob T. Miers Business Card
contributed by Bruce Miers
Jacob T Miers was my Great Great Uncle. He built the Schoharie Free Library home originally. Cathy, the Director there, found this old business card in the home when they took it over. Bruce Miers
J. H. Boyce & Son
Scotty Teller Gulf Service
Being a former resident of Schoharie County, and twice a visitor to Howe's Cave,
once while in junior high school and once when returning home with my new wife from
California in 1974, you can imagine my pleasure when I came upon this passage in an
old book hidden on a dusty shelf at an estate sale.
The passage is drawn from the April, 1857 edition of NATIONAL MAGAZINE. It has been
transcribed exactly as I found it word for word with all the spellings and
punctuation of the period.
For more information on Howe's Cave might I suggest a book by local author Dana
Cudmore, titled, The Remarkable Howe Caverns Story, The Overlook Press, 1990. . . . . . . . .Enjoy, Jake Brouwer
The passage is drawn from the April, 1857 edition of NATIONAL MAGAZINE. It has been transcribed exactly as I found it word for word with all the spellings and punctuation of the period.
For more information on Howe's Cave might I suggest a book by local author Dana Cudmore, titled, The Remarkable Howe Caverns Story, The Overlook Press, 1990. . . . . . . . .Enjoy, Jake Brouwer
Howe's Cave, situated in Schoharie County, New York, on the banks of the Cobbleskill Creek, and two miles from the Schoharie River, was discovered about twelve years ago by Mr. Lester Howe, a Yankee, who has since kept a hotel for the entertainment of visitors to his under-ground possessions. The region of the country in which the cave is situated is nearly barren of attractive features, presenting numerous pits and holes filled or partly filled, with loose stones, and resembling in some sort, as have been fancifully said, a face damaged by the small-pox.
Opening upon the road that winds among these uninviting hollow's, the traveler is very glad to see a rude gate having "Howe's Cave" painted in great letters upon one of its bars, and still more glad, when, having turned aside from the main road and crossing a little strip of smiling landscape, he alights at the door of the Mineral Hotel, and receives the friendly hospitalities of the great cave explorer. As a first item of preparation for the dark journey, he invariably recommends an internal fortification, and as the best stimulus towards compliance, presents an array of coffee, beefsteaks, custard pies, and preserved fruits, before which the curiosity of the most inveterate adventurer is apt to subside for a time. Indeed, the imagination is delightfully feasted with some of the accounts of the cream-cakes, berries, and fat chickens to be found at the Mineral Hotel. So excellent a landlord is of course furnished with wardrobes containing such equipment as the law of the cave directs, jackets and trousers of coarse sacking, and a skull- cap of leather, for purple and fine linen are not suitable articles for the drawing- rooms of the nether world.
In one of the narratives of an expedition to this cave there is a particular description of the appearance which the platoon presented, and they are said to have lamented exceedingly their inability to send home to wives and daughters daguerreotypes taken in the uniforms worn on the occasion and thus have suggested a new study on the "Philosophy of clothes."
Lamps, luncheon, and matches are also a part of the necessary furniture of an expedition. At the time of the discovery of the cave the entrance to it was so small as to oblige all visitors to drag themselves through it, lengthwise along the ground, after the manner of our ancient enemy. Since them the inconvenience has been obligated by blasting rocks and removing the broken pieces, a work which may be supposed, not only to have startled the ancient echoes form their sleep, but that also
And now from out of the watery floor
A city rose, and well she wore
Her beauty and stupendous walls,
And towers that touch'd the stars, and halls
Pillow'd with whitest marble, whence
Palace against bright palace sprung,
An over all a green roof hung."
Since the early settlement of the part of Schoharie County in which the celebrated cavern is situated, it has been known, says one who has furnished some interesting particulars concerning it, that there was a spot somewhere along the ledge of rocks, north of Cobbleskill, from which issued a strong current of air, so cold and strong, indeed that in summer it chilled the hunter as he passed near it. It was familiarly called "The Blowing Rock," and no persons ventured to remove the underbrush and rubbish that obscured the entrance, lest some hobgoblin, wild beast, or "airy creature of the elements," should pounce upon him as its legal prey. When Mr. Howe took up his residence in the neighborhood he heard of the existence of this singular rock, and with a curiosity characteristic of his race, determined to visit it, which determination he carried into execution
Finding his observations uninterrupted by hobgoblins, or any or any other thing more formidable than
He renewed his visits from one time to another, each visit penetrating a little further, and making some new discovery, until finally, having explored the distance of a mile, his progress was interrupted by a lake of water. Not discouraged, however, he collected materials, constructed a boat, and had ere long the satisfaction of crossing the water and penetrating five miles beyond, still leaving "much land to be possessed."
The opening of the cave, now sufficiently wide and high to admit the tallest person walking in erect, is approached by a gradual decent, and having entered, the beginning of a world of wonders presents itself. A short distance from the mouth the passage widens to a breadth of fifty feet, but does not materially increase in height, and the roof, which seems to be the segment of a large circle, is smooth and even. For the next quarter of a mile the ceiling descends so low as to oblige the visitor to double himself down, and proceed slow and at a shambling pace. At the end of that distance the roof curiously and abruptly rises to a great height, and widens into what is called the Chapel. The name is not inappropriately derived from a beautiful combination of stalactites resembling an alter, and overhung with a drapery, fluted and fringed in a style of royal magnificence. Immediately above this alter is a conical opening in the roof, twenty or thirty feet across at the base, and of such immense height that no number of torches can more than partially illuminate it.
A good many similar openings are to be seen in different portions of the cave, and Mr. Howe has not inappropriately christened them belfries. Depending from the edges of some of these belfries are fringes of stalactites, and other fantastic ornaments, which require to be seen in the full glitter of the torch- lights to be appreciated, as written description falls immeasurably short of the reality.
Besides the alter, the chapel contains another curious formation of stalactites called the epaulet, from its striking resemblance to that soldierly appendage; none, however, but a giant could support its weight. The "Gallery" presents few attractions; not enough, indeed, to compensate for the trouble of an exploration, which can only be effected by stooping, walking on the hands and knees, and in some parts even dragging the slow length along, in inglorious likeness of the ancient beast, so narrow is the space between floor and ceiling.
Many a forlorn adventurer has been led to believe, as he wriggled through this damp darkness, flattening himself between the stony roof and floor, that "night and shade had joined with hell in triple knot against his unarmed weakness," and to put unction, elsewhere undreamed of, in the spirits soliloquy:
In this gap, or gallery, as it is called, there is a continuous draught of air, very cold, and so strong as to make it almost impossible keep the torches alive; some of them are always extinguished in every exploration, and too much precaution cannot be taken in regard to them, as the adventurer, who here loses his "upright shape, and downward falls into a groveling swine," cannot hope for
The danger of this passage has hitherto begotten caution, and no fatal accidents have taken place.
The path beyond this gallery is comparatively easy for the distance of a quarter of a mile, but as the lake is approached the ground is strewn with fragments of rocks that have fallen from the roof, and some caution has to be observed in order to the maintenance of an upright position.
The lake is situated at a distance of nearly a mile from the entrance of the cave, and Mr Howe has always in readiness a substantial boat for the convenience of visitors, which is arranged with the kindliest of regard to their comfort, for he feels a commendable pride in whatever pertains to his subterranean domains.
The boat is rowed across the water in a few minutes, the lake being only about fifty feet wide; its depth is some twelve feet. There is no danger whatever in the passage, as the lowest projections of the rocks still leave sufficient room for those being ferried across to retain their upright position.
Following the main avenue of the cave for about a mile beyond the further shore of the lake, the visitors attention is arrested by a rumbling noise like the sound of distant thunder, and he presently discovers an opening in the rocks at the left hand, passing through which and journeying forward, the roar increases in volume until it becomes almost deafening, and presently he discovers that he is standing on the level with the top of a cataract, which tumbles, and groans, and breaks itself into pieces on the rocks below with a momentum that shakes the very foundations of the cavern. Not withstanding the crash and dash of the water, there is said to be a soothing charm in its noise, and the traveler is apt to linger as if
The main passage of the cave presents the appearance of a long and spacious hall, occasionally widening out into ample rooms. Besides the main avenue there are innumerable side passages of greater or lesser extent, many of which have only been partially explored. It is known, however, that many of them branch out into what appears to be interminable distance, presenting a broad field for the inquiries of the curious. One of the largest of these side rooms is called the cotton factory. A stream of considerable size runs through it, and the roar of another one some half a mile distant is heard very distinctly. The sensation of the visitor is similar to that he experiences in witnessing the gathering of the most terrible storm, so awfully grand are the reverberations.
One of the passages winds for a long distance on the margin of a small stream, which has not been explored to its termination, but which, so far as it has been explored, abounds with curiosities in the shape of stalactites and stalagmites, some of them of such gigantic dimensions as to make the journey among them almost impractical. Most of these formations are suspended from the roof; some of them sufficiently high to offer no obstruction to the traveler, but others descending so low as to make it difficult even to crawl beneath them.
A most agreeable music may be obtained by playing upon these columns as upon an instrument, and a singer, by ingeniously regulating his strokes, may accompany himself very admirably, and produce music which all the artificial instruments in the world cannot equal, as has been said by those who have heard it. There is a clear ringing silverness about it that no other sound, or combination of sounds, come anywhere near producing. Perhaps some melodious genius may catch here some ideas, the embodiment of which shall command the admiration of the world.
A circuitous path, which obliges the visitor to sometimes stoop and sometimes to creep, conducts to a large apartment running up into a towering dome. One of the ornament s of this chamber is an exceedingly large stalagmite in the form of a pyramid, of a yellowish color, and presenting a surface smooth and shining as if it had been varnished, as indeed it has been by the continuous moisture of the ages.
Another one of the chambers is almost entirely filled by an enormously large stalagmite, sitting in everlasting darkness like one of the old divinities, "Who had wrapped his senses up in sweet oblivion of all thought, a piece of excellent beauty."
Many of the ceilings are hung with stalactites, and their uniformity of appearance through out the cave is remarkable; they resemble more than anything else huge mullen leaves growing in clusters.
The air of this, like that of the Mammoth Cave, appears to produce the most exhilarating and healthful effects. A traveler who has experienced them says; "Comparing the air with water, that of the cave is pure cool water of the fountain, and that of the earth the insipid water of the rain-vat," and on coming out, he experienced, he tells us, a sensation of lassitude wholly unknown to him while within the cave. These salutary effects are probably attributable to the niter which abounds in greater or less degree in all caverns, imparting an easy action to the respiratory organs, buoying the spirits, and invigorating the whole system. The efficacy of cave air in alleviating pulmonary diseases has been referred to in some of the previous articles of this series.
Howe's Cave possesses an advantage, in the great size of its curiosities, over most other caves, as they cannot easily be mutilated or removed by the unrighteousness ot visitors. It would be less tedious to the reader were we to enter into minute and elaborate descriptions of the many avenues, chambers, domes, and ceiling which this beautiful wonder of nature presents to the visitor, as most of it would seem a mere repetition of descriptions which have been previously given. It abounds in the most curious and beautiful formations, such as challenge the intensest and sincerest admiration of the beholder. "I found," says one of its explorers, "in the course of my wanderings, several square columns, with bases and cornices, apparently cut out of the solid rock, and noticed many arches overhead that looked like fine stone masonry; the white incrustations having the appearance of cement or mortar."
It is very hard to infuse into the imagination an idea of splendors, to which nothing the eye has seen bears a resemblance; not much, therefore, is to be hoped from such poor word-paintings as I can command. Any further attempt would be little more than an accumulation of words, leaving al the marvel, and mystery, and solemn magnificence still a great way off from the apprehension of the reader.
Those who have examined it carefully bear testimony to the fact that every step, so far as explored, gives the beholder more and more extended ideas of the awfully sublime mysteries of nature, and more and more impress the mind with a sense of its own littleness.
Were it not that love, and not power, is the name of Him who made all these things, we might justly fear that we should be lost and forgotten among the glories through which we creep about. But,
So thoroughly ventilated is Howe's Cave, with a current of air coming from no where knows where, and going no one guesses whither, that no danger need be apprehended from a visit to it; the niter, Too, is not only a preservative of the health, but a benefit to it.
That the cave was known before the settlement of the whites is a supposition underlying which is the argument that human bones, as well as pieces of charcoal, incrusted with a solid coating of carbonate of lime, of two or three inches in thickness, have been found at the distance of more than a mile from its entrance.
The action of water has in a great degree affected and varied the formation of the cave, but appears probable that the opening of the solid rock was first produced by some tremendous convulsion, and the splintered walls, together with the stupendous masses of rocks with which the floors are strewn, and which seem to have been torn from the roof, are indications favoring this idea.
Wherever the ceiling is smooth and sufficiently low, "it is covered with autographs and classic symbols done in lampsmoke," and showing that ambition survives the difficulties of the way. It is not unusual for the guide, on reaching a certain point, to undertake, like Salmoneus of old, to rival the thunders of Jupiter. "His firmament," says one who witnessed one of these vast attempts, "was comparatively narrow, and the fulminating machinery somewhat primitive, but there was nothing contemptible in the report of the thunderbolts." His method was to raise a heavy plank on one end, and by throwing his weight upon it, bring it in sudden contact with the floor. The nearest arches would catch up the sound, split it into ten thousand fragments, and multiply them into each other until they became a deafening peal; then they would cuff them this way and that, till they deepened into the angry bellow of an earthquake, sending them through the long-drawn aisles of the immense apartments, until every rock in those miles of cavern would be gifted with the voice of thunder. "We stood still, submerged in the awful noise," continues the narator; and he concludes by saying, "If Jupiter Tonans could have found any fault with the report of that fulminating plank, his idea of good thunder must have been different then our." The same writer says:
"A second experiment in acoustics was not less brilliant. Howe had brought a mysterious box under his arm, shaped like a babies coffin, from which he took out a violin, and resigning the insignia of Jove, he stepped abruptly into the character of the Ole Bull. Howe the thunderer had petrified us into speechlessness; converted us into momentary fossils; but Howe the fiddler re-executed the old Orphean feat, and made the human rocks eager to caper about him in wild excitement; his music went to the heels quicker than champagne ever went to the head, and the magic of the place transformed his humble instrument into something divine.... Our spirits, buoyed up by the music, kept up their elevation until we came in site of The Harlem Tunnel. This passage is half a mile long, and not more than five feet square. On entering the cave we had passed the Tunnel on stones thinly covered with water; now the stream had risen so high that there was only a foot of space between its surface and the roof of the passage. Howe drew near, and so held his lamp that we could clearly see the torrent rushing threw the tunnel. 'There,' said he, 'we must either wade through that passage or retrace our steps, and pass the night within the cave.' The water was fast and rising, and in twenty minutes would fill the tunnel. Before us were a warm supper, dry bedding, cheerful daylight, wives and sweethearts. Behind were darkness, hunger, cold, wet rocks, and a fearful looking for of death by flood or precipice. We gave the onward word, and followed our leader. The passage was well nigh a tragic affair, yet we managed to extract fun from it. We had only to look well after our lights, and avoid butting the rocks with our foreheads, and the rest was simple wading. Once through, we drained our boots, and pressed forward without obstruction. A hundred yards from the entrance, our eyes were greeted with a soft pale blue light, which grew larger, and whiter, and warmer as we advanced, until our lamps became dim, and we were again bathed with the glad and yellow sunshine. Howe was especially grateful for the preservation of his violin, while there lingered in all hearts
It is advisable that those persons proposing to make a subterranean journey should provide themselves with a suitable outfit before leaving home, over which one of the "court dresses," made and provided, may be worn; said dresses not unfrequently bearing evidence of service that makes the fastidious shink from immediate contact.
It is a little surprising, in view of the number and magnificence of our underground palaces, that they have not more especially attracted the attention of travelers, and not more frequently afforded inspiration to poets, particularly to our own poets, as they present not only the best quality of material for fancy to work with, but are also infinitely suggestive. So we will take our leave of Howe's Cave,