A Tour In The United States
( Originally Published 1921 )
DURING a considerable portion of the intervening years, Dr. Roget lived in Manchester, where he was for some time one of the Physicians to the Infirmary, an appointment which he retained till October 1808, when he finally settled in London and became a scientific writer and lecturer of eminence and versatility. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1815, and a record of his life and scientific activities is contained in an obituary note which appeared in the Proceedings of the Royal Society in 1870 (No. 119). On November 18, 1824, he married Mary Taylor Hobson, the daughter of Mr.' Jonathan Hobson, a merchant of Liverpool, and we are able to present a little variety to the series of' European journeyings under varying conditions which we are following, by breaking off here to give a few notes of a tour in part of the United States which was undertaken by Mrs. Roget's brother, Mr. Samuel Hobson, in 1818. Extracts from Mr. Hob-son's own journal are given below. The America depicted therein is somewhat different from that of today.
" May 18th.-Left Philadelphia in company with Mr. T. Hulme on a journey through the western portion of the United States, and arrived the same night at Elizabethtown, eighteen miles west of Lancaster. The greatest part of the road lay through a beautiful and fertile valley . bringing to my mind the best farmed districts of England. . . . Most of the farmers Dutch, plodding, industrious men, the independent owners of their farms. Lancaster is the largest inland town east of the Alleghany Mountains. As we passed it in the night, we could not form an opinion of the style of its buildings. From Philadelphia to Lancaster the road a turnpike and in good order.
May 29th.-Passed through Harrisburg and Carlisle to Chambersburg. From Harrisburg the roads very bad. Harrisburg, the seat of the State Government of Pennsylvania, is a neat little town on the east bank of the Susquehanna. Close to the town is a bridge of great length across the river, divided by an island into nearly equal parts. It is constructed of wood, except the piers, which are of stone, and to prevent injury from rain is covered with a roof. Our ride along the banks of the Susquehanna and across the bridge afforded us a beautiful specimen of wild, grand scenery. The wide river rolling slowly and majestically, and its high banks and islands covered with wood to the water's edge and varying their form at every reach, were set off to peculiar advantage by the clear, cloudless sky of a fine summer's morning. From a few miles west of Philadelphia to Chambers-burg the soil lies upon a bed of limestone, of which the farm-houses and outbuildings are many of them built. It is also in some places burnt and used as a manure.
May 30th.-Leaving Chambersburg, we commenced our journey over the successive ridges known as the Alleghany Mountains. Our first ascent was of Cove Mountain, from the top of which we had an extensive prospect of the surrounding country, an immense forest interspersed with patches of clear land. The highest hills being clothed with wood to their very summits gave the mountain a very different character from what I had been accustomed to. We ended our day's journey at McConnell's Town, a small place at the foot of Cove Mountain, hardly de-serving to be dignified by the name of town.
June 2nd.-Arrived at Guensburg by way of Bedford and Stoyistown, having performed our journey over the mountains without accident, over roads surely worse than any that were ever travelled over by a carriage intended for passengers. The roads, instead of winding round the mountains, are carried almost straight across them, and appear to have had very little more labour bestowed upon them at any time than that of clearing away the timber which grew upon them. No wonder, therefore, at their wretched condition, being daily crossed by numbers of wagons heavily laden, the wheels of which are nearly as narrow as those of an English postchaise. To those who have been accustomed to the level roads of England it would appear almost impossible that the stage could cross those without frequent upsets. For days together we were dragged from one hole to another, sometimes one side of the carriage elevated between two and three feet, and at others with all four wheels up to the naves in a mud-hole, continually changing our position to preserve our balance. Our travelling might be compared to going a-hunting, except that instead of being on horseback we were in an American stage. We struck off into the woods, where no carriage had ever been before, and performed the most wonderful leaps over logs and rocks. Extraordinary exertions were necessary to perform the journey. For hours together the powers of the horses were exerted to the utmost at a dead pull, and the skill of the driver in avoiding the deepest holes was truly astonishing.
June 3rd. Reached Pittsburg, distant from Philadelphia 298 miles, which we have been six and a half days in travelling, by the stage. The country I found more cultivated than I expected. From the views from the tops of the mountains, however, much the greatest part of the land appeared to be uncleared. Accommodation on the road we found much to our satisfaction, especially our meals.
Dinner on the mountains we had none, but with such excellent breakfasts and suppers we could well dispense with it. The very bad state of the road across the Alleghany Mountains is a severe tax on the western community. A new turnpike road is now, however, in progress, and will probably be completed in the course of two years. On approaching Pittsburg, a person accustomed to the Atlantic States is immediately struck with its black and gloomy appearance, owing to the quantity of smoke issuing from its numerous manufacturing establishments and the universal consumption of coal for fuel. Pittsburg is situated between the Alleghany and Monongehala rivers at the point where by their junction they form the Ohio. Being surrounded by hills, covered with wood, some of them of considerable height—particularly the Coal Hill, which rises abruptly from the edge of the Monongehala River opposite the town—its situation is highly picturesque. The rapid increase of the place is perhaps without a parallel. Sixty years ago it was little more than a British Fort, surrounded by settlements of Indians. It now is a place of much business, and is celebrated for the extent and variety of its manufactures. It is admirably adapted by nature as a site for manufactures. The rapid current of the Ohio forms an excellent water-carriage to all the Western States, and together with the Alleghany Mountains serves as a barrier to check the competition of foreign manufactures.
There is abundance of coal in the neighbourhood of the city, and the labour required to procure it' is comparatively trifling. The stratum of coal is found intersecting the hills for several miles round in a horizontal plane, and it is procured by driving a horizontal shaft through the mountain and wheeling the coal out in wheelbarrows. The Coal Hill takes its name from the quantity of coal found within it. The principal manufactures are those of iron and glass, and steam engines are exported from this place to all parts of the western country. During the war with England, the manufactures of Pittsburg of course flourished exceedingly. Since the war they have considerably declined.
June 6th.—We determined to prosecute our journey down the Ohio as being the easiest and most expeditious mode of travelling. Being invited by two gentlemen to become passengers with others on board a boat they had engaged to take them down to Cincinnati, our party accepted the invitation. Having laid in our stores, we all six of us set sail in as clumsy a contrivance for navigation as can well be conceived. We all agreed it was in shape more like an orange-box than anything else we could compare it to—its bottom square and quite flat, and the boards which composed its sides and roof in many places several inches apart. Such a thing as a plane had never been used at all in its construction. In this machine we floated 'with the current, not caring which side foremost, using a couple of planks as oars to help her from striking against obstacles. This night we tied our box to a tree, and slept in our clothes on straw mattresses, with our saddlebags for pillows, anxiously hoping that no thunderstorm might take advantage of our exposed situation to drench us and our beds."
In this manner the voyage was continued down the river, past the boundary of the State of Pennsylvania into Ohio, past Steubenville, Wheeling, where a brief landing was made, Marrietta, at the mouth of the Muskingham River, Belpre, Gallipolis, described as a small town settled by the French, Limestone (or Maysville). The travellers finally arrived at Cincinnati about midnight, June 13th, after having been seven and a half days floating down the river. The journal continues : ----
Our mode of travel did not admit of our seeing much of the country or gaining much information, as we seldom stopped our boat, and then did not stay much longer than was necessary to recruit our provisions. We had a little skiff with us, in which one or two of us frequently rowed to the farm-houses on the banks of the river for milk; but we generally made our visits as short as possible, as it took us some time to catch our floating box, which always continued travelling with indefatigable perseverance. The people dwelling on the banks of the river were generally reserved and uncourteous when we first accosted them, but were always civil. I never saw anything like rudeness amongst them. They required to be treated with respect and as equals, and when they found we did this, they always answered our questions very readily. Their mode of life is a complete picture of independence. The land they farm is their own, and they either grow or make almost everything they want. Their sugar they manufacture from the sap of the sugar maple. Wherever we went we were struck with the great number of children that roamed around every home. We saw several instances of very early sharpness and acuteness amongst them, and a great spirit of independence, particularly in one little fellow, apparently about ten or twelve years old, whom, with no one with him but a child much younger than himself, we met early one morning busy rowing a canoe, in which were several very fine fish, one or two of them five to six pounds apiece, which they had caught since daylight. With much difficulty we succeeded in bargaining with him for two of them (perch of about two pounds weight). We were, however, obliged to give him his own price for them of 12 1/2 cents each. He behaved as if he conferred quite as great a favour upon us as we did upon him.
June 14th.-We quitted our orange-box like pigs out of a sty and gladly took up our quarters at the Cincinnati Hotel. We breakfasted and dined in comfort with about fifty travellers, who just before the bell rang crowded round the doors of the dining-room like a mob at the door of a theatre and at the first clap of the bell rushed in, scrambled to the first seat, helped themselves to the first dish they laid hold of, pushed it back again, and having dispatched their meal as if they had been eating for a wager, left the room one after another, and in fifteen minutes no one was left at the table but ourselves.
Much as I had heard of this place, it surpasses my expectations. It is only about twenty-five years since its first establishment, and it is now not only a town, but a handsome one. Its streets are laid out at right angles, well paved and, as they yet extend, regularly built up. The rapidity of advancement has been astonishing. In the year 1800 it contained only 2,400 inhabitants, and they were afraid of going but a short distance out of the town for fear of the Indians. It has now nearly 10,000 inhabitants."
The travellers remained at Cincinnati, where they called on several business men to whom they had introductions, for two days.
" June 16th.-Left Cincinnati about ten o'clock for Louisville, in a covered skiff about twenty feet long, in company with Mr. H., Mr. R. and six others, two of whom were engaged to work their passage at the oar. Just before night we reached a farmhouse on the Indiana side, about fifty miles from Cincinnati, where we were provided with supper and bed. We found our landlord, the farmer, a very civil, intelligent man.
June 17th.-Breakfasted at Vevey, a small town of Indiana, beautifully situated on a high bank about a `quarter of a mile from the river, out of reach of inundations. It was laid out by a Swiss about three years ago and named after a town in Switzerland. While breakfast was preparing, I went to see a grist-mill, turned by three horses walking upon a large horizontal wheel. After breakfast we walked to the vineyards, commencing about a quarter of a mile below the town, cultivated by a few families, the first of whom arrived here about fifteen years ago. They cultivate entirely the Cape vine. After leaving Vevey, we stopped at Madisonville, a flourishing little place. We were informed that two years ago there were but two or three houses. In this place, like all the others we have seen since we left Pittsburg, the principal business carried on appears to be tavern keeping and store keeping.
June 18th.-Arrived at Louisville, where we stayed only a few hours, and then crossed the falls in our skiff. Mr. Hulme and I landed at Shipping Port, just at the foot of the falls on the Kentucky side, but the rest proceeded in the skiff to New Albany, a new town about two miles lower down, on the opposite side of the river.
Louisville is well known as a place of great importance. Being situated at the falls, which are impassable for large boats except when the water is very high, almost all the goods passing up and down the river must be landed at this place. A subscription has been opened to have a canal made on the Indiana side, so as to avoid the falls, which project the people of Louisville are said to be averse from, as they are afraid it will injure the trade of the city. We were told by some, however, that it would make but little difference, for that above the falls the river could not be navigated by boats . drawing more than two feet of water, whereas below the river would admit boats drawing four feet ; therefore the cargoes passing up and down the river would still have to be landed as heretofore. Within a few years the navigation of the Ohio has been very much improved by the use of steamers. There are eleven now plying between New Orleans and Louisville, from 80 to 300 tons. Next year, however, it is expected there will be at least fifty, amongst which one will be 500 and another 700 tons. Many steamboats are building in the neighbourhood of Louisville, which abounds in fine timber. The mode at present in use of ascending the Ohio is in what are called keel boats, to distinguish them from the flat boats or arks, which are built without any keel at all and are merely intended for floating down the river. These boats ,are forced against the stream all the way from New Orleans to Pittsburg by means of long poles, and sometimes by towing by a rope fastened to a tree on the bank of the river, all of which is performed by manual labour. The passage takes from four to six months.
At Shipping Port is a very large grist-mill on the falls, owned by a French gentleman of the name of Tarrascon, who very politely showed us through it. The mill is 102 feet high, and a wagonload of 50 bushels is received, weighed and lifted to the top of the mill in fifteen minutes, all by the power of machinery. The grain is lifted by means of a number of small buckets fastened to a leather strap, which turns round upon wheels.
June 20th.-Took leave of our friends and went down to New Albany. This place has not been established more than two or three years, but it is already of considerable importance as a shipping port for the State of Indiana. . . . At New Albany we disposed of our skiff and joined two young men from the State of New York, who were proceeding in a flat boat to the State of Tennessee. Our passage from Cincinnati to Louisville has cost us 4.75 dollars, including provisions. We recommenced our voyage down the river at about 9 a.m."
It is not necessary to give details of all the stops at farms for food, etc.
"June 23rd.-Breakfasted at Owensburg, Kentucky ; settled one year. We this day met a large steamboat, rolling away up the river, being the first we had seen under way on -the Ohio River. After rowing hard all day, in which we all took turns, we arrived about dusk at the mouth of Pigeon Creek. This place is very advantageously situated at the extremity of a great bend of the river, which takes a reach far into the State of Indiana. It is therefore likely to be the shipping port for a large tract of country. For our passage from Louisville to this place, about 200 miles by water, we paid only two dollars.
June 24th.-Hired a wagon to take us and our plunder to Princeton, thirty miles, for which we paid four dollars each. Our party was now reduced to the original number (three), having left our two companions to pursue their journey down the river. Our way to Princeton was through woods, with now and then a cleared spot. We saw plenty of squirrels, wild turkeys and almost wild pigs. These pigs were turned out into the woods by their owners to find their own living, and some of them had become nearly as savage as bears. We were informed that bears and panthers were occasionally seen in this part of the country. Amongst the animals, we saw a male opossum, which, being a slow animal, did not attempt to avoid us. They are said to be very destructive to poultry. Arrived at Princeton about dusk. At this, place we became acquainted with Mr. Fordham, a young English gentleman who accompanied Mr. Birbeck from England and had settled with him on his prairie in Illinois Territory, about thirty miles north-west of this place, across the Wabash. Spent the clay trying to purchase horses to carry us the rest of our journey, but our efforts proved unsuccessful.
We were shown a good many ugly-looking horses of suspicious character, but could not bargain for any of them, being unwilling to pay double their value. The whole tribe of horse sellers were in a league to jockey us, as it was well known we had no way of proceeding but on horseback.
June 26th.-Still detained at Princeton, owing to our not being able to procure horses. Mr. R., however, was accommodated by his friend Fordham with a horse, which he happened to have, and they therefore both set out for the prairie together.
Our tavern and an adjoining store we found a grand receptacle for loungers. Besides Mr. Hulme and myself, a lawyer and a doctor who boarded in the house, were two or three storekeepers, another doctor, and others whose profession we could not discover, who appeared to do little else all day long than sit with the backs of their chairs leaned against the wall. Why should there be so much idleness where labourers are so scarce and there is so much to be done ? Many people here seem to consider it a part of their rights as freemen not to work. They can get a livelihood with but little labour, and in order to obtain more they would make use of almost any means rather than work. They speculate in land, turn dry-goods merchants, etc. It would seem as if nothing would make mankind labour hard but compulsion. Is it not labour alone, however, which creates the wealth and power of a nation ? The dry-goods merchant and the land speculator add nothing to the common stock, but the weaver and spinner increase it a hundredfold. Though there was much lounging about in our tavern, there appeared to be very little drinking, and we saw nothing like disorderly behaviour.
June 27th.-This morning a man called at the tavern who said he had been riding eleven days, night and day, after two men who had stolen two horses. From the description he gave of one of them, he would have cut a figure in the annals of Newgate. Besides being guilty of numerous robberies and a frequent inmate of the prisons, he was a great gambler and had three wives, one of whom had lately married again. The man who had been pursuing him had lost him amongst a gang of thieves and forgers at Vincennes. So much for backwoods virtue. We asked the pursuer what he would have done with the thief had he come up with him. He replied he would immediately have shot him dead off his horse. So much for backwoods independence. This day we bought two horses, one for 135 dollars and the other for 125 dollars, good, able nags.
June 28th.-We mounted our new nags and sallied forth to visit Mr. Birbeck's settlement on the other side of the Wabash, in Illinois Territory. Our road was of course through woods, sometimes on a well-beaten road and at others along a mere path. The most difficult part of our journey was through a swamp of about a mile in length from the bank of the river. We first attempted to pass it on our horses, but mine beginning suddenly to sink, and plunging to extricate himself, I jumped off his back and left him to scramble out his own way, which he luckily did. Mr. Hulme followed my example in dismounting, and we waded through the mud, often nearly up to our knees, perspiring at every pore and tormented by crowds of mosquitoes. The swamp was full of timber, which rendered the air exceptionally close and hot and made the place far from being the most eligible for an exercise so laborious. After we had crossed the swamp, Mr. Hulme said that during one part of the journey he almost expected to have died three sorts of deaths—one-third buried, one-third burnt and the other third devoured by mosquitoes. We, however, arrived safe at the banks of the Wabash, where we found a ferry. This river is here apparently nearly as wide and quite as rapid as our old acquaintance the Ohio. In the low land on the banks of the river grows a sort of cane in great abundance. At the ferry we luckily met with a man who was riding to his home near Mr. Birbeck's and served us as a guide. On our way we forded across Bon Pas Creek, about seven miles from Mr. B.'s residence, and soon after entered the prairie land. The prairies are tracts of land free from timber, except that in some of them is here and there a small growth of young trees and brush. They are, however, surrounded with wood, being as it were interspersed in the forest like islands in an archipelago. They are covered with natural grass and weeds, in some places three or four feet high, and are of various sizes, from 50 or 100 acres to 25,000 or 30,000. After having been immersed in woods long, it was a gratification to find ourselves in an open country, and as we rode along we often expressed to each other our admiration of the beauty of the prospect. Some of the land is level, but there is also much variety of hill and dale, or, as it is termed in this country, rolling land. Pursuing a well-beaten track, sometimes through wood and sometimes through prairie, we reached Mr. Birbeck's about dusk, and as soon as he saw us he stepped from his log cabin to welcome us on our arrival. Soon after we were called to supper by the sound of a horn, and we partook of it in another small cabin a few paces distant. After supper we re-turned to the cabin we first entered, and before long stretched out a number of narrow mattresses and blankets which lay in a heap at one side of the cabin. Some with their clothes on and some with them off, all slept soundly till morning.
June 29th.-I took a ride to one or two prairies in the neighbourhood. We rambled about more than half a day, sometimes striking out a new path through thick brushwood, impervious to any horses but those accustomed to the country, and sometimes traversing an ocean of long grass, exposed to the rays of a burning sun, and busied in driving away the swarms of flies which continually tormented our horses. The flies are the pest of the prairies. They infest them for about three months, during the hottest part of the summer and autumn ; at which season, if a horse makes his appearance, numbers immediately attack him without mercy, and, being recruited by fresh swarms, never let him have a moment's respite. The flies we saw appeared to be of two kinds. One, called the prairie fly, being peculiar to the prairies, is about the size and form of the English horsefly, but of a glossy green and yellow colour. The other is also found in the woodlands, but not in such large numbers as on the prairies, and is about as large as a humble-bee.
June 30th.-Took a ride to the village prairie, about five miles from Mr. Birbeck's cabin, where some gentlemen from England, who have joined Mr. Birbeck since his arrival, have each built a small cabin for themselves and their families, on land they have purchased from him. To supply themselves with water they have begun to sink wells close to their cabins, which experiment, from the success Mr. Birbeck has met with, they have no doubt will answer. The cabins are built of the trunks of trees, with very little more preparation than having the bark stripped from them. They are notched together at the corners, and the space between them is filled up with pieces of wood. They intend plastering the walls with mortar, but this is not yet done, lime being difficult to be procured. The light is therefore admitted in abundance on all sides, which renders the single glass window fixed in the door for the present unnecessary. The cabins are roofed with split planks, fastened down with small logs. Though the whole house is built of wood, there is not a nail in it except to fasten down the planks which form the floor. The cabins being all only one story high, rooms are added by extending the ground floor. Such is the house of a backwoodsman."
The journal goes on to give various details of Mr. Birbeck's property which may be omitted.
" The mode of forming a new road through the woods is to set off with an axe in a direct line by the compass to the place intended, and with the axe to slash off a small piece of the bark from here and there a tree in the way. The mark thus made on the tree is called a blaze, and the road thus formed is called a blazed road. Succeeding travellers form a path, which serves very well as a road for horsemen. To make a wagon road of it, the trees in the way are cut down within six or eight inches of the ground. A road to a county town is distinguished by three notches upon the trees, one above another, and is termed a county or three-notch road. If a bridgeless river of but moderate width crosses the road, the backwoods-man plunges his horses into it and swims over it.
July lst.—Took leave of Mr. Birbeck and his friends and set off for Harmony. We proceeded without difficulty to Davis's ferry on the Wabash. As we were here informed there was little or no road for some distance on the other side, we hired a boy to conduct us. After taking us about half a mile, he told us we could easily find the way by keeping the track and observing the blazes on the trees. We therefore paid him and he left us. He had hardly, however, got out of hearing before we completely lost both track and blaze, and rambled about amongst the canes under the trees like blind puppies thrown into a millpond. We shouted, but to no purpose. It being about noon, we gazed at the sun, until we were nearly blind, to find our course, and after much conjecture set off in a direction which we judged must be south. It luckily was so, and brought us to a plantation, where we were directed on our way. We had not travelled far before we came to a bay or lagoon, being a considerable stream of water which separates from the river and joins it lower down, forming an island of a considerable tract of country. We crossed this bay in a canoe and our horses swam over. After fording the Black River we arrived in good time at Harmony, on the Wabash. For about a mile from the town our road lay close to the bank of the Wabash.
Harmony is the settlement of the Harmony Society, composed of about eighty Germans under the ecclesiastical government of their minister, the well-known Mr. Rapp. Here the American is shown a pattern of what industry can accomplish. The Harmonians removed hither from Pittsburg about four years ago. They have built themselves a small town of cabins and have 2,000 acres under cultivation, the low land covered with wheat and corn, growing in the utmost luxuriance, forming an immense field as far as the eye can reach, and the hilly ground covered with beautiful vineyards. In the town they manufacture almost all they want themselves, selling every year much of their surplus produce to all the country round, and buying little. They have a pretty extensive manufactory of woollen cloth, but have no manufactory of cotton goods. The women as well as the men are fully employed. Whilst we remained here the manufactories were nearly standing idle, all the community being employed in reaping the wheat. We saw hundreds working together, the women in one field and the men in another. I could not ascertain the rules of the Society ; they, however, have all their stock in common and each labours for the common good. Mr. Rapp is at their head, but how he came to be so, and to have a brick house like a palace when all the rest are log cabins, is to me a wonder. He appears to have the complete control of them ; so much so that, at his command, the husbands and wives separate and the young men and women refrain from marriage. The husbands and wives are at present allowed to live together, but we were told that the period of this privilege would soon expire. The men and women are at all times kept much separate. We were told that when any person joined this Society he was obliged to deposit his property in the common stock, and that he might leave it when he pleased, but in that case he was only allowed to take out the sum he originally deposited, without interest and without any remuneration for his labour in the meantime. - There was service in the church when we arrived. The bell sounded very soon after the reapers returned from the fields, and in an instant the whole town issued from their houses, like bees from their hives, and completely crowded the church, the women on one side and the men on the other. We entered among the rest, but understood not a word of the service, as it was given in Dutch.
Leaving Harmony, we travelled along a well-beaten wagon road to Princeton."
Here we must leave our travellers, as the account of the remainder of the trip and the return to Philadelphia is not preserved. Enough has been quoted to give some idea of the means of locomotion available in the America of the early years of the nineteenth century, when towns were beginning to spring up with great rapidity in the great country whose freedom was then but a few years old, As we have seen, the steam engine was in its infancy. Steamboats on the great rivers were just making their appearance, but the railway which now knits together the vast continent was unthought of.