S.A. Ferrall.

A Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America online

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to deliver an admonition. I admired this person much for the ingenuity he
displayed in introducing the subject of collection, and the religious
obligation of each and every individual to contribute largely to the
support of the preacher and his brothers of the vineyard. He set forth the
respectability of the county, as evinced by former contributions, and
thence inferred, most logically, that the continuance of that respectable
character depended on the amount of that day's collection. A conversation
took place behind me, during this part of the preacher's exhortation,
between three young farmers, which, as being characteristic, I shall

"The old man is wide awake, I guess."

"I reckon he knows a thing or two."

"I calculate he's been on board a flat afore now."

"Yes, I guess a Yankee 'd find it damned hard to sell him _hickory_

"It'd take a pretty smart man to poke it on to a parson any how."

"I guess'd it'd come to dollars and cents in the end."

After sunset the place was lighted up by beacon fires and candles, and the
scene seemed to be changing to one of more deep and awful interest. About
nine o'clock the preachers began to rally their forces - the candles were
snuffed - fuel was added to the fires - clean straw was shook in the
"penitents' pen" - and every movement "gave dreadful note of preparation."
At length the hour was sounded, and the faithful forthwith assembled. A
chosen leader commenced to harangue - he bellowed - he roared - he whined - he
shouted until he became actually hoarse, and the perspiration rolled down
his face. Now, the faithful seemed to take the infection, and as if
overcome by their excited feelings, flung themselves headlong on the straw
into the penitents' pen - the old dames leading the way. The preachers, to
the number of a dozen, gave a loud shout and rushed into the thick of the
penitents. A scene now ensued that beggars all description. About twenty
women, young and old, were lying in every direction and position, with
caps and without caps, screeching, bawling, and kicking in hysterics, and
profaning the name of Jesus. The preachers, on their knees amongst them,
were with Stentorian voices exhorting them to call louder and louder on
the Lord, until he came upon them; whilst their _attachées,_ with
turned-up eyes and smiling countenances, were chanting hymns and shaking
hands with the multitude. Some would now and then give a hearty laugh,
which is an indication of superior grace, and is called "the holy laugh."
The scene altogether was highly entertaining - penitents, parsons, caps,
combs, and straw, jumbled in one heterogeneous mass, lay heaving on the
ground, and formed at this juncture a grouping that might be done justice
to by the pencil of Hogarth, or the pen of the author of Hudibras; but of
which I fear an inferior pen or pencil must fail in conveying an adequate

The women were at length carried off, fainting, by their friends, and the
preachers began to prepare for another scene. From the time of those
faintings, the "new birth" is dated, which means a spiritual resurrection
or revival.

The scene that followed appeared to be a representation of "the Last
Supper." The preachers assembled round a table, and acted as disciples,
whilst one of them, the leader, presided. The bread was consecrated,
divided and eaten - the wine served much after the same manner. The
faithful, brothers and sisters, were now called upon to partake of the
Sacrament - proper warning, however, being given to the gentlemen, that
when the wine was handed to them, they were not to take a _drink_, as that
was quite unnecessary, as a small sup would answer every purpose. One
gentleman seemed to have forgotten this hint, and attempted to take rather
more than a sup; but he was prevented by the administering preacher
snatching the goblet from him with both hands. Many said they were obliged
to substitute _brandy and water_ for wine; but for this fact I cannot
vouch. Another straw-tumbling scene now began; and, as if by way of
variety, the inmates of five or six tents got up similar scenes among
themselves. The preachers left the field to join the tenters; and, if
possible, surpassed their previous exhibitions. The women were
occasionally making confessions, _pro bono publico_, when sundry
"backslidings" were acknowledged for the edification of the multitude. We
left the camp about two o'clock in the morning, when these poor fanatics
were still in full cry.

At Hell Town, near this place, there was an officer's muster held about
this time. Every citizen exercising the elective franchise is also
eligible to serve in the militia. There are two general musters held every
year in each county, and several company meetings. Previous to the general
muster there is an officer's muster, when the captains and subalterns are
put through their exercise by the field officers. At this muster, which I
attended, the superior officers in command certainly appeared to be
sufficiently conversant with tactics, and explained the rationale of each
movement in a clear and concise manner; but the captains and subalterns
went through their exercise somewhat in the manner of the yeomen of the
Green Island. When the gentlemen were placed in line, and attention was
commanded, the General turned round to converse with his coadjutors - no
sooner had he done this than about twenty heroes squatted _a l'Indien;_
no doubt deeming it more consistent, the day being warm, to sit than
stand. On the commander observing this movement, which he seemed to think
quite unmilitary, he remonstrated - the warriors arose; but, alas! the just
man _falls_ seven times a day, and the militia officers of Hamilton county
seemed to think it not derogatory to their characters to _squat_ five or
six. The offence was repeated several times, and as often censured. They
wheeled into battalions, and out of battalions, in most glorious
disorder - their _straight_ lines were _zig-zag._ In marching abreast, they
came to a fence next the road - the tavern was opposite, and the temptation
too great to be resisted - a number threw down their muskets - tumbled
themselves over the fence, and rushed into the bar-room to refresh! An
American's heart sickens at restraint, and nothing but necessity will
oblige him to observe discipline.

The question naturally arises, how would these forces resist the finely
disciplined troops of Europe? The answer is short: If the Americans would
consent to fight _à bataille rangée_ on one of the prairies of Illinois,
undoubtedly the disciplined troops would prevail; but as neither their
experience nor inclination is likely to lead them into such circumstances,
my opinion is, that send the finest army Europe can produce into this
country, in six months, the forests, swamps, and deadly rifle, united,
will annihilate it - and let it be remembered, that at the battle of New
Orleans, there were between two and three thousand British slain, and
there were only twelve Americans killed, and perhaps double that number
wounded. In patriotism and personal courage, the Americans are certainly
not inferior to the people of any nation.

There had been lately throughout the States a good deal of excitement
produced by an attempt, made by the Presbyterians, to stop the mails on
the sabbath. This party is headed by a Doctor Ely, of Philadelphia, a
would-be "lord spiritual," and they made this merely as a trial of
strength, preparatory to some other measures calculated to lead to a
church establishment. Their designs, however, have been detected, and
measures accordingly taken to resist them. At a meeting at which I was
present at Cincinnati, the people were most enthusiastic, and some very
strong resolutions were passed, expressive of their abhorrence of this
attempt to violate the constitution of America.

Good farms within about three or four miles of Cincinnati, one-third
cleared, are sold at from thirty to fifty dollars per acre. Cows sell at
from ten to twenty dollars. Horses, at from twenty-five to seventy-five
and one hundred dollars. Sheep from two to three dollars. There are some
tolerable flocks of sheep throughout this state, but they are of little
value beyond the price of the wool, a most unaccountable antipathy to
mutton existing among the inhabitants.

Whilst on the banks of Lake Erie, having heard a great deal of
conversation about the "lake fever," I made several inquiries from the
inhabitants on that subject, the result of which confirmed me in the
opinion, that the shores of the lakes are quite as healthy as any other
part of the country, and that here, as elsewhere, the disease arises from
stagnant pools, swamps, and masses of decayed animal and vegetable matter,
which are allowed to remain and accumulate in the vicinity of settlements.
When at New York, I met an old and wealthy farmer, who was himself,
although eighty years of age, in the enjoyment of rude health. He informed
me that he had resided in Canada, on the shores of Lake Erie, for the last
fifty years, and that neither he nor any one of his family had ever been
afflicted with fever of any description. The district in which he lived,
was entirely free from local nuisances, and the inhabitants he
represented as being as healthy as any in the United States.

My observations, so far, lead me to conclude, that this climate agrees
fully as well with Europeans as with the natives, indeed that the
susceptibility to fever and ague is greater in the natives than in
Europeans of good habits. The cause I conceive to be this: the early
settlers had to encounter swamps of the most pestilential description, and
dense forests through which the sun's rays had never penetrated, and which
industry and cultivation have since made in a great measure to disappear.
They notoriously suffered much from the ravages of malaria, and such as
survived the baleful effects of this disease, escaped with impaired
constitutions. Now this susceptibility to intermittent fever, appears to
me to have been transmitted to their descendants, and to act as the
predisposing cause. I have seen English and Irish people who have been in
the country upwards of thirty years, who look just as you would expect to
find persons of their age at home.

There are situations evidently unhealthy, such as river bottoms, and the
vicinity of creeks. The soil in those situations is alluvial, and its
extreme fertility often induces unfortunate people to reside in them. The
appearance of those persons in general is truly wretched.

The women here, although they live as long as those in the old country,
yet they fade much sooner, and, with few exceptions, have bad teeth.


Having decided on visiting New Harmony, in Indiana, where our friend B - -
had been for some time enjoying the delights of sylvan life, and the
refinements of backwoods-society, T - - and I purchased a horse, and
Dearborne, a species of light waggon used in this country for travelling.
We furnished ourselves with a small axe, hunting knives, and all things
necessary for encamping when occasion required, and so set out about the
beginning of September.

We crossed the Big-Miami river, and proceeded by a tolerable road, and
some good farms, to Lawrenceburg, a handsome town on the Ohio, within a
mile of the outlet of the Miami. From thence we drove on towards
Wilmington; but our horse becoming jaded, we found it expedient to "camp
out," within some miles of that town. Next morning we passed through
Wilmington, but lost the direct track through the forest, and took the
road to Versailles, which lay in a more northerly direction than the route
we had proposed to ourselves. This road was one of those newly cut through
the forest, and there frequently occurred intervals of five or six miles
between the settlements; and of the road itself, a tolerably correct idea
may be formed by noting the stipulations made with the contractors, which
are solely that the roads shall be of a certain width, and that no stump
shall be left projecting more than _fifteen inches_ above the ground.

On the night of the second day we reached the vicinity of Versailles, and
put up at the residence of a backwoodsman - a fine looking fellow, with a
particularly ugly _squaw_. He had come from Kentucky five years
before - sat down in the forest - "built him" a log-house - wielded his axe
to the tune of "The Hunters of Kentucky," and had now eighteen acres of
cleared land, and all the _et ceteras_ of a farm. We supped off
venison-steaks and stewed squirrel. Our host told us that there was "a
pretty smart chance of deer" in the neighbourhood, and that when he first
"located," "there was a small sprinkling of _baar_" (bear), but that at
present nothing of the kind was to be seen. There was very little comfort
in the appearance of this establishment; yet the good dame had a
side-saddle, hung on a peg in one of the apartments, which would not have
disgraced the lady of an Irish squireen. This appears to be an article of
great moment in the estimation of West-country ladies, and when nothing
else about the house is even tolerable, the side-saddle is of the most
fashionable pattern.

From Versailles, we took the track to Vernon, through a rugged and swampy
road, it having rained the night before. The country is hilly, and
interspersed with runs, which are crossed with some difficulty, the
descents and ascents being very considerable. The stumps, "corduroys"
(rails laid horizontally across the road where the ground is marshy)
swamps, and "republicans," (projecting roots of trees, so called from the
stubborn tenacity with which they adhere to the ground, it being almost
impossible to grub them up), rendered the difficulty of traversing this
forest so great, that notwithstanding our utmost exertions we were unable
to make more than sixteen miles from sunrise to sunset, when, both the
horse and ourselves being completely exhausted, we halted until morning. I
was awoke at sunrise by a "white-billed woodpecker," which was making the
woods ring by the rattling of its bill against a tree. This is a large
handsome bird, (the _picus principalis_ of Linnaeus), it is sometimes
called here the wood-cock. Pigeons, squirrels, and turtle-doves abound in
all these forests, and my friend being an expert gunner, we had always
plenty of game for dinner. The morning was still grey when we set forward.

We forded the Muskakituck river at Vernon, which stands on its head
waters, and is a country seat. We then directed our course to Brownstown,
on the east branch of White river. We found the roads still bad until we
came within about ten miles of that place. There the country began to
assume a more cultivated appearance, and the roads became tolerably good,
being made through a sandy or gravelly district. In the neighbourhood of
Brownstown there are some rich lands, and from that to Salem, a distance
of twenty-two miles, we were much pleased with the country. We had been
hitherto journeying through dense forests, and except when we came to a
small town, could never see more than about ten yards on either side. All
through Indiana the peaches were in great abundance this year, and such
was the weight of fruit the trees had to sustain, that the branches were
invariably broken where not propped.

From Salem we took a westward track by Orleans to Hindostan, crossed the
east branch of White river, and passed through Washington. At a short
distance from this town, we had to cross White river again, near the west
branch, which is much larger than the east branch. We attempted to ford
it, and had got into the middle of the stream before we discovered that
the bottom was quicksands. The horse was scared at the footing, - he
plunged and broke the traces; however, after a tolerable wetting, we
succeeded in getting safe out. A little above the place where we made the
attempt, we found there was a ferry-flat. The ferryman considered our
attempt as dangerous, for had we gone much further into the stream we
should have shot into the quicksands in the deep current. This day the
fates were most unpropitious to us; and had we had, like Socrates, a
familiar demon at our elbow, he most assuredly would have warned us not
to proceed. We had no sooner got into the ferry-flat, and pushed off from
shore, than the horse tumbled overboard, carriage and all, and was with
difficulty saved from drowning.

We passed through Petersburg to Princeton; but having lost the track, and
got into several _culs de sacs_, an occurrence which is by no means
pleasant - as in this case you are unable to turn the carriage, and have no
alternative but cutting down one or two small trees in order to effect a
passage. After a great deal of danger and difficulty, we succeeded in
returning on the true bridle-path, and arrived about ten at night in a
small village, through which we had passed three hours before. The gloom
and pitchy darkness of an American forest at night, cannot be conceived by
the inhabitants of an open country, and the traversing a narrow path
interspersed with stumps and logs is both fatiguing and dangerous. Our
horse seemed so well aware of this danger, that whenever the night set
in, he could not be induced to move, unless one of us walked a little in
advance before him, when he would rest his nose on our arm and then
proceed. We crossed the Potoka to Princeton, a neat town, surrounded by a
fast settling country, and so on to Harmony.

New Harmony is seated on the banks of the Wabash; and following the
sinuosities of that river, it is distant sixty-four or five miles from the
Ohio, but over land, not more than seventeen. This settlement was
purchased by Messrs. Mac Clure and Owen from Mr. Rapp, in the year 1823.
The Rappites had been in possession of the place for six years, during
which they had erected several large brick buildings of a public nature,
and sundry smaller ones as residences, and had cultivated a considerable
quantity of land in the immediate vicinity of the town. Mr. Owen intended
to have established here a community of union and mutual co-operation;
but, from a too great confidence in the power of the system which he
advocates, to _reform_ character, he has been necessitated to abandon that
design at present.

Harmony must have been certainly a desirable residence when it was the
abode of the many literary and scientific characters who composed a part
of that short-lived community. A few of these still linger here, and may
be seen stalking through the streets of Harmony, like Marius among the
ruins of Carthage, deploring the moral desolation that now reigns in this
once happy place.

Le Seur, the naturalist, and fellow traveller of Peron, in his voyage to
the Austral regions, is still here. The suavity of manners, and the
scientific acquirements of this gentleman, command the friendship and
esteem of all those who have the pleasure of his acquaintance. He has a
large collection of specimens connected with natural history, which the
western parts of this country yield in abundance. The advantages presented
here for the indulgence of retired habits, form at present the only
attractions sufficient to induce him to live out of _la belle France_.

Mr. Thomas Say, of Philadelphia, who accompanied Major Long on his
expedition to the Rocky Mountains, also resides here. He too is a recluse,
and is now preparing a work on his favourite subject, natural history. His
garden contains a tolerable collection of Mexican and other exotic plants.

Harmony is built on the second bottom of the Wabash, and is perhaps half a
mile from the river at low water, the first bottom being about that
breadth. Mosquitos abound here, and are extremely troublesome. There are
several orchards in the neighbourhood well stocked with apples, peaches,
&c.; and the soil being rich alluvion, the farms are productive - so much
as fifty dollars per acre is asked for cleared land, close to the town.
There is a great scarcity of money here, as in most parts of Indiana, and
trade is chiefly carried on by barter. Pork, lard, corn, bacon, beans,
&c., being given, by the farmers, to the store-keepers, in exchange for
dry goods, cutlery, crockery-ware, &c. The store-keepers either sell the
produce they have thus collected to river-traders, or forward it to New
Orleans on their own account.

We made an excursion down the river in true Indian style. Our party,
consisting of four, equipped in a suitable manner, the weather being then
delightfully warm, having stowed on board a canoe plenty of provisions,
paddled down the Wabash. The scenery on the banks of this river is
picturesque. The foliage in some places springs from the water's edge,
whilst at other points it recedes, leaving a bar of fine white sand. The
breadth of the Wabash, at Harmony, is about 200 yards, and it divides
frequently on its course to the Ohio, forming islands of various degrees
of beauty and magnitude. On one of these, about six miles from Harmony,
called the "Cut-off," we determined on encamping. Accordingly, we moored
our canoe - pitched our tent - lighted our fire - bathed - and having
acquired enormous appetites by exertion, commenced the very agreeable
operation of demolishing our provisions. We roamed about that and an
adjacent island, until evening, when we returned to regale. These islands
are generally covered with "cane brakes," and low brush wood, which
renders it difficult to effect a passage across them. Cotton-wood, beech,
maple, hickory, and white oak, are the trees in greatest abundance.
Spice-wood, sassafras, and dittany, are also plenty. Of these a decoction
is made, which some of the woods-people prefer to tea; but it is not in
general repute. The paw-paw tree (_annona triloba_) produces a fruit
somewhat resembling in taste and shape the fig-banana, but certainly much
inferior to that delicious fruit. We saw several deer in the woods, and
some cranes upon the shore. With smoking, &c., we passed the evening, and
then retired - not to bed, for we had none - but to a right good
substitute, a few dry leaves strewn upon the ground - our heads covered by
the tent, and at our feet a large fire, which we kept up the whole night.
Thus circumstanced, we found it by no means disagreeable.

We spent greater part of next day much after the manner of the preceding,
and concluded that it would be highly irrational to shoot game, having
plenty of provisions; yet I suspect our being too lazy to hunt, influenced
us not a little in that philosophical decision.

Whilst at Harmony, I collected some information relative to the failure of
the community, and I shall here give a slight sketch of the result of my
inquiries. I must observe that so many, and such conflicting statements,
respecting public measures, I believe never were before made by a body of
persons dwelling within limits so confined as those of Harmony. Some of
the _ci-devant_ "communicants" call Robert Owen a fool, whilst others
brand him with still more opprobrious epithets: and I never could get two
of them to agree as to the primary causes of the failure of that

The community was composed of a heterogeneous mass, collected together by
public advertisement, which may be divided into three classes. The first
class was composed of a number of well-educated persons, who occupied
their time in eating and drinking - dressing and promenading - attending
balls, and _improving the habits_ of society; and they may be termed the
_aristocracy_ of this Utopian republic. The second class was composed of
practical co-operators, who were well inclined to work, but who had no
share, or voice, in the management of affairs. The third and last class
was a body of theoretical philosophers - Stoics, Platonics, Pythagoreans,
Epicureans, Peripatetics, and Cynics, who amused themselves in _striking
out plans_ - exposing the errors of those in operation - caricaturing - and
turning the whole proceedings into ridicule.

The second class, disliking the species of co-operation afforded them by
the first class, naturally became dissatisfied with their inactivity - and
the third class laughed at them both. Matters were in this state for some
time, until Mr. Owen found the funds were completely exhausted. He then
stated that the community should divide; and that he would furnish land,
and all necessary materials, for operations, to such of them as wished to
form a community apart from the original establishment. This intimation
was enough. The first class, with few exceptions, retired, followed by
part of both the others, and all exclaiming against Mr. Owen's conduct. A
person named Taylor, who had entered into a distillery speculation with

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Online LibraryS.A. FerrallA Ramble of Six Thousand Miles through the United States of America → online text (page 4 of 15)