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A RAMBLE OF SIX THOUSAND MILES THROUGH THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

BY S. A. FERRALL, ESQ.

LONDON, 1832






[Illustration: _Fac-simile of the first two Paragraphs of the Leading
Article in the "CHEROKEE PHOENIX" of July 31, 1830_]



PREFACE.


The few sketches contained in this small volume were not originally
intended for publication - they were written solely for the amusement of my
immediate acquaintances, and were forwarded to Europe in the shape of
letters. Subsequent considerations have induced me to publish them; and if
they be found to contain remarks on some subjects, which other travellers
in America have passed over unnoticed, the end that I have in view will be
fully answered.

Although I remained in the seaboard cities sufficiently long to have
collected much information; yet knowing that the statistics of those
places had been so often and so ably set before the public, I felt no
inclination to trouble my friends with their repetition.

In Europe, the name of America is so associated with the idea of
emigration, that to announce an intention of crossing the Atlantic, rouses
the interfering propensity of friends and acquaintances, and produces such
a torrent of queries and remonstrances, as will require a considerable
share of moral courage to listen to and resist. All are on the tiptoe of
expectation, to hear what the inducements can possibly be for travelling
in America. America!! every one exclaims - what can you possibly see there?
A country like America - little better than a mere forest - the inhabitants
notoriously far behind Europeans in refinement - filled with wild Indians,
rattle-snakes, bears, and backwoodsmen; ferocious hogs and ugly negros;
and every other species of noxious and terrific animal!

Without, however, any definite scientific object, or indeed any motive
much more important than a love of novelty, I determined on visiting
America; within whose wide extent all the elements of society, civilized
and uncivilized, were to be found - where the great city could be traced to
the infant town - where villages dwindle into scattered farms - and these to
the log-house of the solitary backwoodsman, and the temporary wig-wam of
the wandering Pawnee.

I have refrained nearly altogether from touching on the domestic habits
and manners of the Americans, because they have been treated of by
Captain Hall and others; and as the Americans always allowed me to act as
I thought proper, and even to laugh at such of their habits as I thought
singular, I am by no means inclined to take exception to them.




CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

Sail for New York in an American vessel - the crew - ostentation of the
Captain - a heavy gale - soundings - icebergs - bay of New York - Negros and
Negresses - White Ladies - climate - fires - vagrant pigs - Frances
Wright - Match between an Indian canoe and a skiff


CHAPTER II.

Depart for Albany - the Hudson - Albany - Cohoe's Falls - Rome - the Little
Falls - forest of charred trees - "stilly night" in a swamp - fire
fly - Rochester - Falls of Gennessee - Sam. Patch - an eccentric
character - Falls of Niagara - the Tuscarora Indians - Buffalo - Lake
Erie - the Iroquois - the Wyandots - death of Seneca John, and its
consequences - ague fever - Wyandot prairie - the Delawares' mode of dealing
with the Indians - the transporting of Negros to Canada


CHAPTER III.

Arrive at Marion - divorces - woodlands - Columbus - land offices - population,
&c. Shaking Quakers - kidnapping free Negros - Cincinnati - the farmers of
Ohio - a corn-husking frolic - qualifications necessary to Senators,
Legislators, and Electors - a camp-meeting - militia officers'
muster - Presbyterian parsons - price of land, cattle, &c. - fever and ague


CHAPTER IV.

Set out for New Harmony - the roads - a backwoodsman - the
journey - peaches - casualties - travelling - New Harmony - M. Le
Seur - barter - excursion down the Wabash - the co-operative
community - Robert Owen


CHAPTER V.

Depart for St. Louis - Albion - the late Messrs. Birkbeck and
Flowers - Hardgrove's prairie - the roads - the Grand prairie - prairie
wolf - mode of training dogs - Elliott's inn - inhabitants of
Illinois - ablutions - coal - soil and produce - the American Bottom - St
Louis - monopolies - Fur companies - incivility of a certain Major - trapping
expedition - trade with Santa Fé - lead mines - Carondalot - Jefferson
barracks - discipline - visit to a slave-holder - the Ioway hostages - Indian
investigation - character of the Indians.


CHAPTER VI

Leave St. Louis - Indian mounds - remains of ancient fortifications - burial
caverns - mummies - Flint's description of a mummy - the languages of
America - town making - the Indian summer - population, &c. of Illinois - the
prairie hen - the Turkey buzzard - settlers - forest in autumn - a gouging
scrape - the country - extent and population of Indiana - hogs - a settler in
bottom land - the sugar maple - roads - a baptism


CHAPTER VII

Set out for New Orleans - Louisville - Mississippi steam-boats - the
Ohio - the Mississippi - sugar plantations - the valley of the
Mississippi - New Orleans - Quadroons - slavery - a Methodist slavite - runaway
Negros - incendiary fires at Orleans - liberty of the press - laws passed by
the legislature of Louisiana - Miss Wright - public schools - yellow
fever - the Texas


CHAPTER VIII.

Depart for Louisville - tellandsea, or Spanish moss - Natchez - the yellow
fever - cotton plantations - Mississippi wood-cutters - freshets - planters,
sawyers, and snags - steam-boat blown up - the Chickesaws - hunting in
Tennessee - electioneering - vote by ballot - trade on the Ohio and
Mississippi rivers - the People - the President's veto - finances - government
banks - Kentucky - the Kentuckians - court-houses - an election - universal
suffrage - an Albino - Diluvian reliqua


CHAPTER IX.

The political condition of the Indians - Missionaries - the letter of
Red-jacket - the speech of the wandering Pawnee chief


CHAPTER X.

Kenhawa salt-works - coal - a
Radical - rattle-snakes - Baltimore - Philadelphia - taxation - shipping


CHAPTER XI.

"The Workies" - Miss Wright - the opening of the West India ports to
American vessels - voyage homeward - the stormy petrel - Gulf weed - the
remora - the molusca - quarantine


APPENDIX




CHAPTER I.


Following the plan I had laid down for myself, I sought and found a goodly
Yankee merchantman, bound for and belonging to the city of New York. Our
vessel was manned with a real _American_ crew, that is, a crew, of which
scarcely two men are of the same nation - which conveys a tolerably correct
notion of the population of the United States. The crew consisted of one
Russian, one German, one Italian, one Scotchman, one Newfoundlander, one
Irishman, two Englishmen, two New Englanders, and two Negros - the cook and
steward. The seamen of America are better paid, and better protected,
than those of any other nation; but work harder, and must understand their
duty well. Indeed if we had not had a good crew, our ship, being old,
might have suffered severely.

In selecting this ship, in addition to accommodations, I only took into
account her build; and so far was not disappointed, for when she _could_
carry sail, she scudded along in gallant style; but with ships as with
horses, the more they _have done_, the less they have _to do_.

I had a strong impression on my mind that a person travelling in America
as a professed tourist, would be unable to form a correct estimate of the
real character and condition of the people; for, from their great
nationality, they would be likely to show him the best side of every
thing. Of this kind of ostentation I very soon had a slight proof. Our
ship left port in gallant trim, but had no sooner gained the open sea,
than all hands were employed in stowing away the finery, and covering the
rigging with mats - even the very cabin doors were taken off the hinges,
and brass knobs and other ornaments which appeared to have been fixtures,
were unshipped and deposited below, where they remained until our approach
to New York, when the finery was again displayed, and all was placed once
more _in statu quo_.

For the first twelve days we had rather pleasant weather, and nothing
remarkable occurred, unless a swallow coming on board completely exhausted
with flying, fatigue made it so tame that it suffered itself to be
caressed; it however popped into the coop, and the ducks literally gobbled
it up alive. The ducks were, same day, suffered to roam about the decks,
and the pigs fell foul of one of them, and eat the breast off it. Passing
the cabouse, I heard the negro steward soliloquising, and on looking in,
perceived him cutting a hen's throat with the most heartfelt satisfaction,
as he grinned and exclaimed, by way of answer to its screams, "Poor
feller! I guess I wouldn't hurt you for de world;" I could not help
thinking with Leibnitz, that most sapient of philosophers, that this is
the best of all possible worlds.

On the thirteenth day we encountered a heavy gale, which continued to
increase for four successive days. During this period we were unable to
carry more canvass than was barely necessary to render the vessel
manageable. A heavy gale, for the first time, is rather interesting than
otherwise: the novelty of the sea's appearance - the anxiety of the crew
and officers - the promptitude with which commands are given and
executed - and the excitement produced by the other incidental occurrences,
tend to make even a storm, when encountered in open sea, by no means
destitute of pleasing interest. During this gale, the sailors appeared to
be more than ordinarily anxious only upon one occasion, and then only for
a minute - the circumstance was not calculated to create alarm in the mind
of a person totally ignorant of nautical affairs, but being somewhat of a
sailor, I understood the danger tolerably well. The helm was struck by a
sea, and strained at the bolts; from the concussion occasioned by the
blow, it was apprehended for a moment that it had been carried away.
Without a helm, in such weather, much was to be feared; for her timbers
being old, she could hardly meet the shock of an ocean wave upon her
broadside without suffering serious injury. The helmsman was knocked
down - the captain and mate jumped aft, to ascertain the extent of the
damage; while the sailors scowled along the deck, as they laid their
shoulders to the weather side of the ship - all was anxiety for the
instant. At length the mate cried, "helm all right," and the crew pulled
away as usual. At the close of the fourth day the storm subsided, and we
approached the banks of Newfoundland.

It is generally supposed that the colour of the sea is a sure indication
of the presence or absence of soundings; that is, that there are
soundings where the water is green, and that there are none where the
water is blue. The former is, I believe, true in every instance; but the
latter is certainly not so, as the first soundings we got here, were in
water as blue as indigo, depth fifty odd fathoms.

We were thirty days crossing these tiresome banks; during which time we
were befogged, and becalmed, and annoyed with all sorts of disagreeable
weather. The fogs or mists were frequently so dense, that it was
impossible to see more than thirty yards from the vessel. This course is
not that usually taken by ships bound for the United States, as they
generally cross the Atlantic at much lower latitudes, but our captain
"calculated" on escaping calms, and avoiding the influence of the Gulf
stream, and thus making a quicker passage; he was, however, mistaken, as a
packet ship that left Liverpool four days after, arrived at New York
sixteen days before us.

We found the thermometer of incalculable service, both for ascertaining
when we got into the stream, and for disclosing our dangerous proximity to
icebergs. That we had approached near icebergs we discovered one evening
to be the case by the mercury falling, suddenly, below 40°, in foggy
weather. We notwithstanding held on our course, and fortunately escaped
accident. Many vessels which depart from port with gallant crews, and are
never heard of more, are lost, I am convinced, by fatal collision with
these floating islands. From the beginning of spring to the latter end of
summer, masses of brash ice are occasionally encountered in these
latitudes.

Towards the evening of the fiftieth day we entered the bay of New York:
the bay is really beautiful, and at this season (summer) perhaps appeared
to the greatest advantage. The numerous islands with which it is
interspersed, were covered to the water's edge with foliage and verdure,
and here and there studded with handsome villas. The city appeared to be
literally surrounded by a thick grove of masts, from which floated the
flags of many nations - the scene, thus gradually unfolding itself to the
eyes of one who had been for so long a time immured within a vessel, was
really fascinating.

While at New York, I staid at the "Pearl-street Boarding-house," and
experienced from Messrs. Haskell and Perry, the proprietors, the most
polite attention. Most Europeans are astonished at the rapidity with which
the Americans despatch their meals; but I, having admitted the
proposition, that there was "nothing new under the sun," had long
previously ceased to be _astonished_ at any thing. On the first day of my
dining at the table d'hôte, one of those gentlemen told me, when we sat
down to dinner, that most of the persons at table were men of business,
who were in the habit of eating much quicker than he knew I was accustomed
to, and requested that that might not in the slightest interfere with my
habits, but that I should entirely suit my own comfort and convenience.
After that preface, I think I should have been most unreasonable to fall
into a passion with the New Yorkers, because they _bolted_ instead of
masticating.

New York is altogether a trading place, and different from any thing of
the same magnitude in Europe: scarcely a single street is exclusively
filled with private residences; - in a mercantile point of view, it is the
Liverpool of the United States.

The negros and mulattos constitute a considerable portion of the
population. It is impossible to imagine the extreme ugliness of some of
the sooty gentry; a decent ourang-outang might, without presumption, vie
with many of these people, even of the _fair sex_, and an impartial judge
should certainly decide that the said ourang-outang was the handsomer
animal. Many of them are wealthy, and dress remarkably well. The females,
when their shins and misshapen feet are concealed by long gowns, appear
to have good figures. A few days after my arrival, walking down "Broadway"
(the principal street) I was struck with the figure of a fashionably
dressed woman, who was sauntering before me. After passing, I turned
round, when - O angels and ministers of ugliness! - I beheld a face, as
black as soot - a mouth that reached from ear to ear - a nose, like nothing
human - and lips a full inch in diameter! On the following morning, whilst
dressing at my bed-room window, I heard a squeaking sort of voice warbling
forth, "Love was once a little Boy," and "I'd be a Butterfly." The strange
_melody_ and unusual intonations induced me to look out, when, to my
astonishment, I found that the _fair_ songstress was a most
hideous-looking negress! Such are the scenes that constantly present
themselves here, and remind a European that he is in a new region.

The white ladies dress fashionably, generally _à la Françoise_; have
straight figures, and with the help of a little cotton, judiciously
disposed, and sometimes, the smallest possible portion of rouge, contrive
to look rather interesting; in general, they are lamentably deficient in
_tournure_ and _en-bon-point_. The hands and feet of the greatest belle,
are _pas mignon_, and would be termed plebeian by the Anglo-Normans - the
aristocracy of England. Yet I have seen many girls extremely handsome
indeed, having a delicate bloom and fair skin; but this does not endure
long, as the variable nature of the climate - the sudden and violent
transitions of temperature which occur on this continent, destroy, in a
few years, the complexion of the finest woman. When she arrives at the age
of thirty, her skin is shrivelled and discoloured; she is thin, and has
all the indications of premature old age. The women of England retain
their beauty at least ten years longer than those of America.

The inhabitants of that part of New York nearest the shipping, are
extremely sallow and unhealthy looking, and many have a most cadaverous
aspect. Malaria certainly exists here in some degree. A man will tell you
that the city is perfectly healthy, whilst his own appearance most
unquestionably indicates disease. I speak now of the quays and adjacent
streets; and the cause is very apparent. The wharfs are faced with wood,
and the retiring of the tide exposes a rotten vegetable substance to the
action of an almost tropical sun, which, added to the filth that is
invariably found in the neighbourhood of shipping, is quite sufficient to
produce the degree of unhealthiness that exists. On going up the town, the
appearance of the inhabitants gradually improves, and approaching the
suburbs, the difference is striking, - in this district I have seen persons
as stout and healthy looking as any in England or Ireland.

On the night of my arrival, a fire broke out, by which several extensive
warehouses were entirely consumed. There is nothing more remarkable here
than the frequent occurrence of this calamity, except the excellent
arrangements that are made for arresting its progress. The engines,
apparatus, and _corps de pompiers_, are admirably maintained, and the
promptitude and regularity with which they arrive at the scene of
devastation truly astonishing: indeed, were this not the case, the city
must very soon be destroyed; for notwithstanding all their exertions,
every conflagration makes it minus several houses, and few nights pass
without bringing a misfortune of this nature.

There are several theatres, churches, and other public buildings,
dispersed throughout the city. The City Hall, which stands near the upper
end of a small enclosure, called the Park, is considered the handsomest
building in the United States. It was finished in 1812, and cost half a
million dollars.

The police regulations appear not to be so severe as they ought to be, for
droves of hogs are permitted to roam about the streets, to the terror of
fine ladies, and the great annoyance of all pedestrians.

New York was settled by the Dutch in 1615, and called by them New
Amsterdam. In 1634, it was conquered by the English, - retaken by the Dutch
in 1673, and restored in 1674. Its present population is estimated at
213,000.

Having heard that the celebrated Frances Wright, authoress of "A Few Days
in Athens," was publicly preaching and promulgating her doctrines in the
city, I determined on paying the "Hall of Science" a visit, in which
establishment she usually lectured. The address she delivered on the
evening I attended had been previously delivered on the fourth of July, in
the city of Philadelphia; but, at the request of a numerous party of
"Epicureans," she was induced to repeat it. The hall might contain perhaps
ten or twelve hundred persons, and on this occasion it was filled to
excess, by a well-dressed audience of both sexes.

The person of Frances Wright is tall and commanding - her features are
rather masculine, and the melancholy cast which her countenance ordinarily
assumes gives it rather a harsh appearance - her dark chestnut hair hangs
in long graceful curls about her neck; and when delivering her lectures,
her appearance is romantic and unique.

She is a speaker of great eloquence and ability, both as to the matter of
her orations, and the manner of their delivery. The first sentence she
utters rivets your attention; and, almost unconsciously, your sympathies
are excited, and you are carried onward by the reasonings and the
eloquence of this disciple of the Gardens. The impression made on the
audience assembled on that occasion was really wonderful. Once or twice,
when I could withdraw my attention from the speaker, I regarded the
countenances of those around me, and certainly never witnessed any thing
more striking. The high-wrought interest depicted in their faces, added to
the breathless silence that reigned throughout the building, made the
spectacle the most imposing I ever beheld. She was the Cumaean Sibyl
delivering oracles and labouring under the inspiration of the God of
Day. - This address was chiefly of a political character, and she took care
to flatter the prejudices of the Americans, by occasionally recurring to
the advantages their country possessed over European states - namely, the
absence of country gentlemen, and of a church establishment; for to the
absence of these the Americans attribute a large portion of the very great
degree of comfort they enjoy.

Near Hoboken, about three miles up North river, at the opposite side to
New York, a match took place between a boat rowed by two watermen, and a
canoe paddled by two Indians. The boat was long and narrow, similar in
form to those that ply on the Thames. The canoe was of the lightest
possible construction, being composed of thin hickory ribs covered with
bark. In calm weather, the Indians propel these vessels through the water
with astonishing velocity; but when the wind is high, and the water much
disturbed, their progress is greatly impeded. It so happened on this day
that the water was rough, and consequently unfavourable to the Aborigines.
At the appointed signal the competitors started. For a short distance the
Indians kept up with their rivals, but the long heavy pull of the oar soon
enabled the boatmen to leave them at a distance. The Indians, true to
their character, seeing the contest hopeless, after the first turn, no
longer contended for victory; they paddled deliberately back to the
starting place, stepped out, and carried their canoe on shore. The
superiority of the oar over the paddle was in this contest fully
demonstrated.




CHAPTER II.


Having determined on quitting "the London of the States," as my friends
the Yankees call New York, I had bag and baggage conveyed on board a
steamer bound for Albany. The arrangements and accommodations on board
this boat were superb, and surpassed any thing of the kind I ever met with
in Europe, on the same scale; and the groups of well-dressed passengers
fully indicated the general prosperity of the country.

The distance between New York and Albany is about 165 miles. The scenery
on the Hudson is said to be the most beautiful of any in America, and I
believe cannot be surpassed in any country. Many of the beauties of rich
European scenery are to be found along the banks of that noble river. In
the highlands, about fifty miles from New York, is West Point, on which
stands a strong fortress, containing an arsenal, a military-school, and a
garrison. It is romantically situated among lofty crags and mountains,
which rise above the level of the water from 1100 to 1500 feet. There are
many handsome country seats and villages between West Point and Hudson,
where the river is more than a mile wide.

After a passage of about sixteen or seventeen hours, we arrived at Albany.
The charge for passage, including dinner and tea, was only three dollars;
and the day following the cost was reduced, through the spirit of
opposition, to one dollar.

Albany is the legislative capital of New York. It is a handsome city, and
one of the oldest in the Union. Most of the houses are built of wood,
which, when tastefully painted (not often the case) have rather a pleasing
appearance. The situation of this city is advantageous, both from the
direct communication which it enjoys with the Atlantic, by means of sloops
and schooners, and the large tract of back country which it commands. A
trade with Canada is established by means of the Erie and Hudson canal.
The capitol, and other public buildings, are large and handsome, and being
constructed of either brick or stone, give the city a respectable
appearance.

Albany, in 1614, was first settled by the Dutch, and was by them called
Orange. On its passing into the hands of the English, in 1664, its present
name was given to it, in honour of the Duke of York. It was chartered in
1686.

From Albany I proceeded along the canal, by West Troy and Junction, and
near the latter place we came to Cohoe's Falls, on the Mohawk. The river
here is about 250 yards wide, which rushing over a jagged and uneven bed


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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 1 of 15)