Traveled to Niagara Falls

19-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday evening, August 21, 1914: Back again to you dear book and ready to tell you what all I have been doing.

Monday, August 17, 1914:  My mind was so filled with thoughts of the coming trip that I could not sleep sound last night. I was up before three this morning. We left here about five. Pa took Alma and me to town. Ruth came with Rachel. We left before they did. I was in such awful anxiety for fear they would not get there, for then it would be no go. We crossed the Susquehanna in a row-boat and got to the station in time for the train.

We changed cars at Williamsport. There were so many in the station getting tickets. We had to wait quite awhile before we could get ours. When we entered the train all the seats were taken. We were sent back in a Pullman. I thought it was simply grand; and wanted to stay there all day, however we had to move when we arrived at Corning. Arrived in Niagara after six. Was long enough to leave the cars.

We proceeded at once to the Temperance Hotel. We were on the fifth floor. It seemed rather monotonous climbing all those stairs. We washed and dressed and then went down to supper. It was the first time I had ever eaten in a hotel. Guess I didn’t commit any serious mistakes. From my place in bed I can look out over the lighted city.

Old postcard showing  Temperance House Hotel, Niagara Falls, New York
Old postcard showing Temperance Hotel, Niagara Falls, New York

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

When Grandma got home on the 21st, she wrote an entry for each day of the trip. Over the next several days, I’ll share the trip description on the appropriate day. I guess that I’m technically jumping ahead by posting this entry—but this is how Grandma organized the diary.

Wow, what an adventure for Grandma, her sister Ruth, their cousin Alma Derr, and their friend Rachel Oakes. . . from crossing the Susquehanna River at dawn in a row boat (The first bridge across the river at Watsontown was not built until 1927.) . . . to riding in a Pullman sleeping car for part of the trip. . . to eating in a hotel restaurant for the first time. . . to looking out on a city lit with (probably electric) lights!

Recent picture of the Susquehanna River at Watsontown
Recent picture of the Susquehanna River at Watsontown

37 thoughts on “Traveled to Niagara Falls

  1. Again,how wonderful that you have this journal and are sharing it with your readers. Can you imagine crossing the river in a row boat?? I can just see Grandma’s wide-eyed innocence as she experiences city life and the modern conveniences unfamiliar to her! I’m glad she’s writing in length about her trip!

    1. So am I. Everything during the first 3 1/2 years of the diary took place in such a small geographic area–and I find it amazing they were able to take this trip.

    1. The postcard picture really makes it easier for me to visualize how she might have felt when she arrived at the hotel–and climbed the flights of stairs to their room on the 5th floor.

    1. It continues to amaze me that they were able to pull off this trip. It would be a substantial trip even today–and it must have been a huge undertaking a hundred years ago.

  2. I had to laugh at the “Temperance Hotel.” I went looking, and found that in 1892, there were these hotels:

    Hotel Imperial
    Temperance House
    Hotel Porter
    United States Hotel
    Clifton Hotel
    Tower Hotel
    The Watson House
    The Converse Hotel
    The Harvey House (later Hotel Washington)
    Columbia Hotel (later Lambert Hotel)

    My suspicion (though I don’t know) is that the “temperance” House, aka Temperance Hotel, might have been perfectly managed for young ladies.

    1. Your suspicion makes sense to me. I’ve been surprised that Grandma’s parents allowed them to take this trip–but her parents may have felt more comfortable letting the girls go if they were staying at a hotel that specialized in being an appropriate place for young women to stay.

  3. I too love the postcard. Before the internet, the wife and I enjoyed selecting and writing them to the relatives when we were on vacation. A hand-written communication is different from an email or a tweet. It has more significance and deserves more respect, it seems to me. After all, one has to select and pay for it, and then take the time to compose the message. And it has a physical presence, often worth archiving in the family history. I think we’ve lost something in this process.

    This post also reminds me of the value of travel. Vacations, when you think about it, aren’t really logical. Your normal routine is upset, including your sleep cycle. Travel usually entails some extra danger and uncertainty. There’s exposure to more germs and illness, and of course expense. And yet, we all do it and like it. Exploring is fun and memorable, and perhaps the memories and the telling are the best parts. Hence, bucket lists.

    In the modern age I would suggest that a principal danger is that of over-recording. Too many tweets and photographs (unlimited by the expense of film now) can get in the way of the experience itself.

    1. Your comments make a lot of sense to me. I think that you’re right that the memories are the best part–actual trips can often be challenging.

      I think that post cards were a much more personalized way of sharing one’s travel experiences with friends and family. I used to carefully select post cards that I thought each individual would particularly like, and then I’d write somewhat different messages to each recipient.

    1. I think that there was a “service” that provided rowboat transportation across the river. I have vague memories of seeing something about it in a local history book.

  4. Wonderful story, for sure. She certainly did a nice job of really sharing the experience. The rowboat was remarkable. Her description of waiting to get a ticket in the train station was special, as was her description of her first hotel experience… and, the lights of the city. VERY Special. ;-)

  5. How exciting for her, I can’t imagine leaving your home for the first to a faraway place. I can’t wait to hear how she liked the falls. What fun they must have had on the train. Did they talk and drink in the sights? Play cards? Read? With all the excitement I am sure there was a lot of laughing and talking going on. I don’t live to far from the old train station in Williamsport I can picture them there changing the train. I often wish they would reopen the station and make it into a museum.

    1. It’s awesome that you know where the train station is located and can picture where they changed trains. Williamsport has such an interesting history–and it would be wonderful if they would somehow decide to open the train station as a museum.

  6. We love to hear stories about people from 100 or more years ago enjoying the same areas that we do such as Niagara Falls. We just love that step back in time and how the same place may have been different in their time. Plus how they dressed and approached life without all of the technology. We are often amazed by what they did way back in the day!

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