Young People at Chautauqua, A Boys Letter
Dear Tom,—I last saw you waving your cap as our train rolled out of the
station. That night I slept on a shelf in the sleeping-car, and the next
morning we got breakfast at Hornellsville; and it was a good one, I tell
you. About noon we got off the cars at Jamestown, and after dinner rode
over the hill in a stage, and came to what looked like a narrow river
winding among the trees.
This they said was the outlet of Chautauqua Lake. You would suppose that
the water runs into Lake Erie, which is only seven miles away from Lake
Chautauqua. But instead it goes into the Ohio River, and then down the
Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico.
We went on board a steamboat three stories high, with a big paddle-box
fastened on the stern, and steamed up the outlet for about three miles
through the wildest swamp I ever saw, until all at once the lake opened
before us. I thought that we would be at Chautauqua in a few minutes,
but the old stern-wheel kept pushing us on for a couple of hours. At
last I began to catch glimpses of cottages among the trees. Then we drew
up to a little wharf, and almost everybody went ashore. We followed the
crowd through the gate, and so we found ourselves at Chautauqua.
The first thing that I saw was a park, with flowers and fountains and
statues under the great trees. Then I came upon the model of a city,
with all its houses and churches. This was Jerusalem. A man was
explaining it to a crowd of people, and pointing out the places with a
long pole. There is an Oriental house, and a park laid out to look like
Palestine, with the top of Mount Hermon white-washed, and the Jordan
with real water. A frog winked his eye at me, and then jumped into the
Dead Sea. (That makes poetry, don't it?)
There are any number of streets laid out in the woods, and lined with
all sorts of cottages. We all asked uncle to let us live in a tent, and
you don't know how airy and pleasant it is. Cousin Jennie says she can't
find any places to hang up "her things"; but I put mine on the floor,
which is always handy.
I happened to be awake early the next morning after we came. Everything
was quiet and still until the bell rang for six o'clock. Then there was
a noise, as if all the boys in our school were hollering at once. I
jumped up, wondering if the Fourth of July had come again. But pretty
soon I found that it was only the newsboys (which means most of the boys
here) selling the morning paper, The Assembly Herald. I went out and
got a lot of papers, and made ten cents profit on them before breakfast.
There is a big bell on the upper part of the grounds. An old man rang it
while I was standing by, and all at once I saw dozens and dozens of boys
and girls running from all directions toward the corner where I stood. I
asked one fellow what it all meant, and he said, "Why, don't you
know?—it's the children's hour." So I just dropped into the stream,
and went up the street to a large building with a dome and some wings.
They call it "The Children's Temple." It was so full of young people
that I had hard work to crowd myself into the corner of a seat. There
was a platform in front, and a big black-board, and two gentlemen, both
with foreheads that went clear over to the back of their heads. There
was singing, and then one gentleman talked to us, and got us all to
answer and repeat, and we never knew that he was teaching us a lesson
until we had learned it. The other gentleman then came forward and drew
a picture so fast that it seemed like magic, and so funny that we all
laughed and laughed again. It's the jolliest "children's hour" I ever
saw, and I'm going every day.
I can't begin to tell you of the good times here for boys. When you read
in the papers about the big meetings and the long lectures, you might
suppose that young people don't have much chance; but you'd be mistaken.
We go boating on the lake, and fishing down at the Point, and bathing in
a safe place along the shore. This afternoon all the boys and girls are
going pilgriming through Palestine in a procession. Last evening I went
out with little Susie for a walk. We came upon an immense telescope. The
gentleman let me take a peek through it, and I saw the ring around the
planet Saturn. Then he held little Susie up in his arms, and let her see
There is a tent with a lot of microscopes, and two young ladies who show
people how to use them. I looked at a drop of water through one, and saw
in it an animal fierce enough and almost big enough to bite off your
And then there were the fire-works last night. I can't tell you how
gorgeous they were: fountains lit up with bright colors; Roman candles
flashing, and rockets soaring to the stars; the steamers all hung with
Chinese lanterns, and sailing round and round upon the lake; the woods
bright with the blazing electric lights overhead. Oh, it was grand!
I can't stop to write about the squirrels that run up and down the
trees, nor the big tent where we get our dinners, nor the little tent
where we sleep, nor the pictures at evening in the Amphitheatre (that's
a great hall where they hold meetings), nor lots of other things. Next
year I hope you'll come with us, and have a good time.
SCENES ON AND ABOUT THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL ASSEMBLY
GROUNDS AT CHATAUQUA LAKE, NEW YORK.
—From Sketches by Frank Beard.